Sunday, 2 November 2008

As Meatloaf never said, "Two out of three is bad."

I hope it's not true that woes come in threes. I'm currently on two.

1.) David Tennant has announced that he will be leaving Doctor Who.

A loud cry of "Nooooooooooooooooooooooo!" echoed through the house following my learning of this via BBC News. Although I wasn't entirely surprised I was nevertheless rather distraught for the remainder of the evening. Tennant is The Doctor. Christopher Eccleston did a great job in revitalising the show but Tennant has inhabited the character for far longer and made it utterly his own. At least it's not a retirement with immediate effect. The gangly, mad-eyed but charming one will film four specials to be shown during 2009 before a new Doctor steps into those huge shoes for the 2010 series. I shall relish and delight in every moment of Doctor-y Tennant-ness remaining.

2.) I watch X-Factor. I'm not proud of this fact, but fact it is. I usually pride myself on my ability to cover up this sordid secret. Sadly today I must break my cover in order to rant about the stupidity of the British public. Before you ask, no I didn't vote but I won't hear any of that, "if you don't vote then you can't complain" malarkey. That may be true of politics and elections, but don't try and make it stick for TV talent shows.

Last night one of the most talented acts in the whole competition got voted out. Here he is:


Austin Drage. Awesome voice. Tons of potential. But he gets beaten by a number of vastly inferior acts. To be fair, this year's X-Factor is probably one of the strongest talent wise. But his leaving the competition so early is absurd. Perhaps it's that classic case of Joe Public assuming that the exceptionally talented ones are safe and giving their vote to the underdogs instead. Bah. He had Cowell as his mentor. Here's hoping that he gives him a chance after the show.

So as I say, I'm desperately hoping that bad things don't come in threes. Lewis Hamilton is racing for the World Championship tonight...

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Oh I do like to muse beside the seaside

I'm on holiday at the moment. But as I take a break from my busy schedule of relaxing and eating chips, chocolate and cake, I'd like to share a couple of thoughts with you.

Firstly, wouldn't it be funny (strange rather than haha) if everyone in the world (or perhaps just country would be more realistic) had to have a unique first name. That is, only one individual could bear any particular name. Only one Anna. One Sally. One Tullulabelle. I do think it would make life more interesting and parents more imaginative. Of course once someone with any given name died then the name would be open for use again. There would have to be some sort of rolling death name register!

Secondly - and I'm convinced that both every motorsport fan and non-petrol head will be with me on this - Formula One could be made a lot more interesting if another race took place at the same time. On the same track. In the other direction.

Toodle-pip for now.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Peter comma Blue

You know you're old when policemen/doctors/weathermen (delete as applicable) start to look young...

It's a well known saying and there is more than a modicum of truth in it. However I'd like to throw another hat into the "You know you're old when..." ring.

You know you're old when you don't recognise a single Blue Peter presenter.


I caught the end of a show on BBC2 yesterday that was celebrating 50 years of the Beeb's flagship children's programme. I loved Blue Peter as a kid. Actually I rather loved it as a teenager too. And I hope that one day I'll love it as a parent of a kid that loves it!

I am the proud owner of two Blue Peter badges. Sadly not the exciting shield shaped ones that you get it you actually appear on the show. Mine are lowly competition winners' badges. I was a runner-up in a seat belt safety campaign poster competition and also a photography one. My sister still harbours a grudge. How dare I have two when she never won one? Come to think of it, I think they stopped producing the badges a while back because people were flogging them on ebay. It's a sad world.

Every British kid belongs to a particular generation of Blue Peter viewers and has memories of specific presenters. For me it begins with what must have been the very back end of Mark Curry's tenure (he left in 1989). Following on from him in chronological order we have... Caron Keating, Yvette Fielding, John Leslie, Diane-Louise Jordan, Anthea Turner, Tim Vincent, Stuart Miles, Katy Hill, Roman D'Annunzio (can't say she made much of an impression but I do remember the way she was introduced... something to do with a cafe, milkshake serving type thing), Richard Bacon, Konnie Huq and Simon Thomas. 1999 must have been when I finally stopped watching it - I was 15!

I dipped in and out of it for a few years after and but I'm convinced that the best Blue Peter presenter I've been alive to see is Matt Baker. He rocked up in the middle of 1999 and whenever I caught the show he always stood out. Gymnast; dog lover; regionally accented; engaging and unpatronising - perfect Blue Peter material.

But I digress. What scared me yesterday was the shot of the 3 current Blue Peter presenters. I didn't recognise a soul. To be fair, two of them are mere baby presenters. According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, they only joined at the end of September. But the other chap has been there for 2 years. So it is with regret that I must declare myself old and past it. No matter, I shall simply wallow in memories of past glories; of Tracy Islands, pancake mishaps and retro totalisers! Good times.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

LA - I may need rehab

#You must remember this, a list is still a list...#

I feel that it is time for a list update. You may remember almost a year ago...

*cue wibbly wobbly time going backwards visual effect*

It was the 29th October 2007. Your heroine was wading through Charles Dickens's Bleak House. The chances of her finishing said book were looking slimmer and slimmer every day. Drowning in a sea of Jarndyce and Jarndyce and her dreams haunted by Mrs Dedlock, this blogger was in a sorry state. The outlook was as bleak as the house of Mr Dickens's conjuring.

But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?

The book twas finished and returned to the library from whence it came! Joy broke out and small children were heard to celebrate for Miss G. Licious had completed her troublesome task. The 56th book had been concluded.

*cue fast forwarding fuzzy visual effect*

But now the calendar reads 9th October 2008. What progress has our heroine made? The list now stands at 74 read. The magic three quarter mark beckons and only 400 pages stand between her and it. 400 pages of a 1400 page book. Vikram Seth has certainly set this writer a lofty challenge. But she has learnt from her previous mistakes. She ploughs on through the twisting, turning, twining plot and will not be distracted from her goal. No doubt joy of a hitherto unseen degree shall break forth when she turns the final page of A Suitable Boy.

P.S. You may be interested to know that A Suitable Boy is a much easier read than Bleak House. Just in case you find yourself standing in a library forced to make that decision.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

When I grow up...

What happened to kids wanting to be firemen and astronauts? These days if you ask a child what they want to be when they grow up then you're likely to get the answer; "Famous". Even in my day the answer would be more along the lines of, "a pop star" or "an actress". Now it's simply fame that they're after, no matter where that fame comes from.

It's a sad world. Even sadder when people start singing songs about it. Yes, Pussycat Dolls, I'm talking to you. Now don't you go trying to hide behind all that make-up, I can still see you. Quite frankly I can see far too much of you.

"Now I've got a confession
When I was young I wanted attention
And I promised myself that I’d do anything
Anything at all for the boys to notice me"

Well that's just a lovely example to set for young girls isn't it? If you want attention, then get it from boys - by any means necessary.

"But I ain't complaining
We all wanna be famous"

Er, I hate to rain on your parade but no we don't. In fact I often find myself wondering who in their right mind would want all the baggage that fame brings. Your every move followed, analysed and critiqued by utter strangers; your dirty laundry aired on 24-hour news channels; betrayal by people you once considered friends; oh yes, we all want that don't we?

"When I grow up
I wanna see the world
Drive nice cars
I wanna have groupies"

OK, so I'll give you travelling the world and driving nice cars, but groupies? Seriously? Deranged, sycophantic would-be stalkers obsessed with your every word and action? Right.

"But be careful what you wish for
'Cause you just might get it
But you just might get it
But you just might get it"

Ah, a disclaimer. Hello young impressionable children, you want all this exciting fame stuff don't you... oh yes... it's wonderful... oh and just so that you can't blame us when your life starts falling to pieces in your pursuit of fame, you can't say we didn't warn you. Remember the hook in When I Grow Up? No? Oh silly you... must have been blinded by all those cars, the glitz and glamour.

In conclusion: Kids, astronauts are way cool.


Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Paul Newman

I was saddened to hear of the death of Paul Newman over the weekend, as I'm sure were many others. The man seems to have been a true gentleman and I reckon you don't find a whole lot of those in Hollywood.

If you've never seen a Newman film then I suggest that you rectify that forthwith. I know that a lot of people turn their noses up at old films these days (heathens!) but there are some true gems out there. Chances are that you won't be able to find them in your local Blockbuster but if you're signed up with an online rental company then they should be easy to get hold of and if not, just take a gamble and buy one from Ebay or Amazon. I heartily recommend The Sting as your starting point. It's a joyous film; one of my all-time favourites. Newman and Redford have brilliant buddy chemistry, the plot is clever and the feel-good factor enormous. If you like that then Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid should be your next stop. You may have guessed that I have a bit of a thing for the Redford-Newman combo.

Personally my next port of call is Cool Hand Luke. It's one of Newman's most iconic roles and it has taken me far too long to get round to seeing it.

Frank Sinatra may be the official 'Ole Blue Eyes' but I'll take Paul Newman anyday.


Wednesday, 24 September 2008

I shop... markets don't drop...

I'm on a one woman mission to sort out the world economy. My weapon of choice? Shopping.

Selflessly I am giving up my worldly savings in order to get this recession off our backs. I started today. In Next. I won't pretend that it started out as a international plan of fiscal and monetary responsibility. I just rather liked the coat. And the slippers. And the jeans. And well you get the picture. But somewhere along the way I realised that my shopping was in fact making a hugely useful contribution to society. Economics 101: people buying things = people making/selling/transporting things = jobs = a growing economy of happiness.

So that's my plan. I hope that you all appreciate the lengths that I am going to in order to help others. I'm off to HMV.

P.S. This is not a picture of me. I do not own a 'so-small-it-may-as-well-be-a-rat-dog'. Nor am I so thin that I'm in danger of disappearing when I turn sideways. Thank you.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Been a long time...

Boo!

Ha. Did I scare you?

It's been very quiet around here for far too long.

I wanted to come back with a bang but I fear that it is like to be more of a pathetic mewing noise. No matter, I shall continue undeterred for I know how long you've all been holding your collective virtual breath, just waiting for Miss G. Raffe Alicious to end her silence.

So a few things to get off my chest.

1.) I turn my back on my blog for a couple of months and what happens? The country, nay the world goes into economic meltdown. Good grief. Banks are being bailed out. Stock markets are in panic. Banks are merging. Politicians are back-stabbing (although that's nothing new). Unemployment is rising. The Liberal Democrats are conferencing (not quite so interesting that bit). I can't read a paper or turn on a TV without hearing about the credit crunch or mortgage rates or investment bankers or A. N. Other huge company I've never heard of going into receivership. Perhaps I should be reading The Sun and watching Channel 5? My friends and fellow citizens of the world, I have the solution: STOP PANICKING! I'm convinced that we're talking ourselves into a far deeper recession than we'd otherwise have experienced. Please note that this is coming for a certified expert on the subject. That's not just any A-level I have, it's an Economics A-level.

2.) Finally a reality concept that I can get on board with - the Revels Eviction. Oh joy! It appears that no longer shall we have to face the horrors of the Coffee Revel! Please excuse me as I take this moment to do a little victory dance.

My victory dance has been sadly cut short by a rumour that they plan to replace said evil coffee flavoured confectionery with a mint creme centred creation. Now I nothing against mint per se
but it does have a terribly unfortunate habit of contaminating everything else that it comes into contact with. I fear a world of minty-orange revels, minty-caramel revels, minty-raisined revels and the like may be upon us. Oh the humanity!

3.) Weather people - I know that it is cruel to accuse them of inaccuracies, meteorology is a rather inaccurate science (or so I'm told) but honestly could they not just hold off on their declarations of 'an Indian summer is coming - get out your sunglasses!'. Indian summer? Indian summer my foot. I was wearing three layers of clothing today AND a scarf - inside! I mean I've never been to India but I'm pretty sure that's not what they wear in their summer.

And finally, I feel moved to utter a few cheers for certain individuals who have made a favourable impression on me over the last few months of blog inactivity.

Giraffe-a-licious salutes:
  • Andy Murray, for his wonderful run to the US Open final
  • Chris Hoy, for his 3 Olympic gold medals
  • In fact, I salute every British Olympic and Paralympic Gold Medallist (and some of the non-gold medallists too for that matter).
  • The Script, for their wonderful debut album
  • Christopher Nolan, for making the quite simply brilliant Dark Knight.
  • ITV4, for buying the rights to and showing the Guinness Premiership Rugby Highlights.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Boo Tyra Boo!

I'm pretty sure that each and every one of us has their own trashy TV secret. You know, a show that is low on quality but high on addiction factor? Mine is America's Next Top Model. Currently showing in the UK on Living, (at 9am and 6pm) ANTM as it's known, has been threatening to take over my life. It's on everyday. There have been at least 9 series. I keep getting to the end of a series and thinking, "Surely that must be the most recent one". But no, the next day they start all over again! I'm stuck in a cycle of trashy TV hell. Or should that be heaven?

Well today I wasn't quite so happy as I indulged in my now not-so-secret guilty pastime. Let's get something straight - I can deal with the skinny model thing. I may not be happy about it but it's pretty much a fact of life. The cool thing is that recently there has been greater move towards plus-sized models. ANTM has reflected that (although there is an argument that it has merely added a token plus-sized model to each series). But token or not, at least they're there. The series I'm currently watching (that's series 9, fact fans) is no exception. It features a lovely girl called Sarah. Now it just so happens that Sarah started losing some weight once she moved into the model house. She wasn't intending to, it just happened. This is where it gets ridiculous. The judges expressed their concern that she was now not big enough to work as a plus-sized model but nor was she skinny enough to be an average skinny model. What the heck?

So now size-ism has taken a new and twisted direction... if you're skinnier than the average woman then you can model; if you're bigger than the average woman then you can model; if you fall somewhere between the two and are in fact the size of an average woman then au revoir, arrivederci and goodbye! Bonkers.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Let the sunshine in

Finally! The sun is back - for the moment at least. I'm making the most of its most likely short lived stay by tapping this out in the back garden. The sun is shining, my bones are warming and I can barely read the screen due to the brightness of the aforementioned star.

There's no question that I feel better during the warmer months. Who knows why, but the warmer it is, the less pain I get. There is a bit of a trade-off involved - the heat is good for my aches but does tire me out fairly quickly. Still, I shall not moan for we have seen too little in the way of solar rays this June and July. Roll on August I say!

A mere 24 days to go now until the Olympics! Tell me, why have I arranged to be away with a group of 14-18 year olds for 10 precious days of the competition? Well it's a combination of stupidity and zeal for the gospel. If anyone asks, I will be focusing on the latter! Whatever events I do manage to catch, I hope that they don't involve Dwain Chambers. Chambers finds out on Thursday if his High Court case against the British Olympic Association's lifetime Olympic ban has been successful. I'm with the BOA on this one. He cheated. He admits he cheated. If he says sorry then I hope that the majority of people will forgive him. However, forgiving someone and allowing them to compete in an event that they have brought into disrepute are two very different things. In my mind, if you take illegal performance enhancing drugs then you forfeit the right to continue on in that sport, no matter how sorry you are. Chambers knew the rules and yet still broke them. He was in no way ignorant of the BOA's stance on drug cheats. He shouldn't be going to Beijing. Ironically this is quite the metaphorical storm in a tea cup. Chambers has as much chance of getting a medal next month as I do of marrying Jonny Wilkinson. Actually, he probably has less chance - my charms are not inconsiderable!

Thursday, 3 July 2008

They want to ride their bicycles...

Poor little blog. I think it feels neglected. This past week it has been rejected in favour of tennis and studying. Perhaps I should buy it some flowers.



It's not like I didn't give due warning though! Pretty much everything goes by the way side during Wimbledon fortnight. Anyhow, my first OU assignment has been submitted, Andy Murray is out of the Championships and rain is threatening. It seems like a pretty good time to make a comeback and give some much deserved TLC to Ponderings and Ruminations.

So what's been getting my goat recently? So many rants, so little time. From the serious (Mugabe, the C of E, the British government) to the mundane (cyclists and cinema adverts) - most things have the capacity to turn me into a grumpy old woman. Cyclists are my most recent nemesis and it being summer, they've all come out of the woodwork. It's such a hassle trying to pass them. I have to make sure that I don't knock them over, that I don't hit a car coming in the other direction, that I don't lunge for their water bottles when it's a particularly hot day. I'm all for environmentally friendly transport - just not when it gets in my way! So to cap it all, where has my younger sister decided to move to? Cambridge - land of cyclists! No doubt I'll be visiting quite regularly and that can only end well! Oh how I continue to long for the day that teleportation becomes reality. It's been months since I asked those scientists to get cracking on it. Slackers.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Henman and a hen party

It's Monday! It's the last week of June! It's Wimbledon baby!

Ahem.

Apologies for that tennis related outburst of joy. I just love these two weeks of the year. I get everything that needs to be done out of the way in the mornings and then settle down for some glorious afternoons of sport. This year I shall mostly be supporting... Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Mario Ancic and Jelena Jankovic. Plus of course all those plucky unseeded Brits that make Wimbledon so special, for the first week at least!
This is of course the first Wimbledon in 14 years not to feature Tim Henman in the draw. The legend retired last year and although it is of course sad for such a career to come to its end, there is also a part of me that is relieved not to be faced with the prospect of another emotionally draining Henman epic. Much as I like Andy Murray, he doesn't inspire quite the same amount of heartache. Henman is of course not entirely absent from SW19, he's joined the BBC commentary team. I say team, it's more like a squad these days. Just how many commentators does a broadcaster need? Before I move away (no doubt only temporarily) from my Wimbledon love affair, I should probably stick my neck out and make a prediction. So here goes: Nadal for the men's title and Ivanovic for the women's.

I had a lovely day on Saturday at a friend's hen party. Despite not knowing most of the girls there I still had a great day. We went to a craft place and painted ceramics, had lunch in a little tea-rooms and then headed back to the bridesmaids' house for more food, chat and a DVD. It struck me as to how much more enjoyable it was than any pub'n'club crawling hen night. I think it's sad that it appears to be the norm these days for hen parties to be accompanied by drunken antics and hangovers. Ladies, I say we vote no to this 'new' way of celebrating and revert back to the good old days. I mean honestly, can anything beat a good cup of tea, a piece of cake and a natter? I rest my case.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Science-y sport stuff!

Give me an O! O! Give me a U! U! Give me a... oh wait, that's it actually. I am officially an Open University student and I'm strangely excited about it. It's been almost 6 years since I last did any form of studying but I think I'm ready to get back on the bike. At least I hope it's a bike, if it's a horse then I'm doomed because I never learnt to ride one of them.

I made the decision not to dive headlong into one of the 9 month courses. That was my mistake 6 years ago which led to my M.E. enforced withdrawal from the OU after only a couple of months. Instead I am doing what they call an Openings course. It's only 5 months, with less pressure and more focus on getting back into studying, both practically and mentally. There are a wide variety of Openings subjects available but I have chosen this one.

Sport! Woohoo! I honestly think that this course was actually created for me! I'm particularly excited about the science-y aspect of it (although I don't think they'll be too impressed if I use the word 'science-y' in any of my assignments). I have a huge gap in my general knowledge where science should be. Having to leave school at 13 meant that my science education stopped right there. Although I managed to get English and Maths GCSEs and an Economics A-level, they aren't much use when it comes to explaining why plants are green or the moon can sometimes be seen during the day. Actually, I know that the green plant thing is chlorophyll (but I did have to stop myself from writing chloroform just then!). Now I'm not saying that a sports course is going to help me out with those scientific conundrums in particular, but it should be nice and informative about the biology of the body and nutrition etc.

Here's hoping that this is the start of an exciting scientific odyssey!

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

"So what do you do?"

I hate that question. It's the king of small talk questions. It's quite a strange one really. The vast majority of people don't seem to enjoy their work and yet it's the topic that always seems to end up being discussed. Society defines people by their jobs. I suppose it's because we spend so much of our lives working.

Whatever the reasons for the popularity of the question, I still hate it. I know exactly why I have such a problem with it. It's because I don't have a job! There's no easy answer available to me. Just saying, "I'm unemployed" doesn't cover it but giving a decent explanation takes far more time than the questioner really wants to spend on the topic!

For some reason I always begin my answer with, "Well, it's a bit complicated I'm afraid...". I'm pretty much apologising for the awkwardness of my answer from the get go! On the upside it has become a little easier over the last few years as far more people are aware of M.E. as a real illness. Whereas 5 years ago I used to get vacant looks from small talk perpetrators, at least nowadays I get an, "oh yes, my brother's wife's second cousin has that". Although that can actually cause more problems in itself. At least the ignorant usually knew they were ignorant. These days everyone is an expert.

Following on from the apology, my well-rehearsed answer to the evil question usually takes the road of ill 10 years-dropped out of school-no uni-can't work-do voluntary stuff when I can. I'm not one to brag but I like to think that I've refined it to a near perfect answer after all this time! I do the 'I'm struggling on through head-nod' - copyright G.Licious - and smile understandingly to let the question poser know that they don't have to be embarrassed. But let me make it clear (at least in this blog, if not to the big wide world); just because I can answer the question, doesn't mean I have to like doing it!

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Irony

You may have noticed that I've signed up with Adsense. Just thought I'd try it out for a while. Sadly I perceive a flaw in the 'only ads relating to your blog' theory. So far I have ads for random Christian sects who believe things that are light years away from my faith and for SATs revision techniques and download-able test papers. I am therefore advertising two products which I would dearly love to see disappear into a particularly large dustbin: dodgy theology and pointless exams. Sigh.

Monday, 26 May 2008

'Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel...'

Some days I feel compelled to throw rocks at the Church of England. Today is such a day.

According to The Daily Telegraph's front page report a row has broken out within the Church regarding evangelism to Muslims. The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali has voiced concerns that not enough is being done to bring people of other faiths to Christianity. In response, other church leaders have criticised him for failing to show sensitivity to those following non-Christian religions.

This whole debacle has left me pretty gob-smacked. Follow my logic: Christians believe that the bible is God's true and complete word (don't get me started on 'Christians' who don't believe that!). Within that Word is what is known as The Great Commission, given by Jesus to his disciples following his death and resurrection and just before he ascended into heaven.

'Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshipped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."' Matthew 28: 16-20

'Go and make disciples of all nations'. Not 'go and make disciples of the nations that haven't got their own religion. Please don't step on any toes.' All nations. I think that's pretty clear!
And why are Christians supposed to do this? Because 'whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned'. Mark 16: 16. Christians are called to spread the gospel out of love. Because of our longing for everyone to be saved from God's righteous judgement that is surely coming. I find it crazy that someone would be offended by my telling them about Jesus Christ because I am concerned for their eternal destiny. If someone of another faith evangelised to me in such a way - "I'm telling you this because I care about you and as such have a duty to tell you what I believe" - then I wouldn't be aghast at their arrogance. I would listen and thank them for their concern. I know that it wouldn't change my beliefs but neither would I have a paddy about their intolerance for my religion.

The largest misconception (clearly present in the Telegraph's report) appears to be that the idea that Christians want to evangelise to Musims because we see Islam as a threat to culture and religion. I can't speak for all Christians but I for one want to evangelise to all people (Muslims, Hindus, Jehovah's Witnesses, atheists, agnostics and everyone in between) in order that they might be saved by Jesus Christ and have assurance of a wonderful and eternal life with the Lord after our time on this earth is over.

There is no problem with debate over religion. It is natural and necessary. For some reason this country in particular has become afraid of such discussion. Why can't Christians be bold and tell the world of the amazing sacrifice made for us and of the limitless grace and mercy that God has for his children?

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Slopes and SATs

I hate hills. Or to be more specific; I hate slopes. Hills I just don't bother with. There's no point in trying. Slopes are deceptive. They don't look all that different from friendly flat ground. They lie! The difference they make is ridiculous. I genuinely think that it is at least 10 times more difficult for me to walk a slope than a stretch of bog standard, lovingly tarmacked pavement. I went to the library today; parked me car; walked down the small slope; did my library thang and walked back up said slope. Gah. It's hardly a steep incline but it was enough for my legs to scream and the rest of my body to give up on me for a few minutes. When I rule the world, I shall make everything flat. Well, maybe we can keep some pretty mountains but I'll need to get escalators installed. Although thinking about it, standing up for a long time will still be a problem. Darn it! My amazing plan has failed at the first hurdle.

No matter, I have a new project: the abolition of Sats. For any Americans reading I should clarify that British SATs are not the same as US SATs. I'm not entirely sure what American SATs are (I only have TV and films to go by - they seem to be some sort of test taken before you go to college or university) but they are most definitely different from the British version. SATs are tests taken by kids in England and Wales at the ages of 7, 11 and 14. They are taken in Science, Maths and English and are in theory designed to assess the level of attainment that each child has reached. In practice SATs have become less and less about the children and more and more about each school's position in the national league tables.

I agree that children should be continually assessed and tested up to a point. However, I don't believe that SATs are the way to do that and I certainly have problems with the pressure that schools put on pupils in order to reach their targets. My biggest quibble is with the Key Stage 3 exams taken at the age of 14. They appear to be utterly pointless. Once a child gets to secondary school he or she is given exams in almost every subject at the end of every single year. That is important and necessary; examinations from within the school help teachers to identify problem areas and individuals that are struggling. SATs are useless for this. The teachers don't set the questions nor do they mark the papers. I do not know if the papers are made available to teachers after marking but either way the SATs tests do nothing to improve the teachers' awareness of each child's standard of work.

The SATs system does also include teacher assessments. That's great, but it still doesn't give a real argument for the tests. GCSE and A level results can be used to distinguish the good schools from the bad. SATs results are unnecessary. Teachers end up teaching their pupils how to do well in the exams rather than using that time to inspire young minds. Children are given the impression that these exams are incredibly important when in actual fact they are insanely trivial.

This has all been brought to my mind by the reports in the media that MPs from the Commons School Select Committee are calling for the tests for 11 and 14 year-olds to be scrapped. Hurrah! Sad to say it will probably be a long time before anything is actually done about it, but at least someone has started to take notice. SATs are a waste of time, money and teachers.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

A cut above the rest

I had a haircut today. Not usually a blog worthy event, but the last time I took a trip to see the hairdresser was in September! It occurs to me that the length of my hair can give you a rough idea of what state I'm in health-wise. Here's a handy cut out and keep guide*:

If it's exceptionally long then this is either indicative of a good period of health or of a horrific relapse. Bear with me here! If I'm doing well then I tend to fill my time with things more important/more fun than a haircut - hence the length. However the excess hair can also be a result of being too ill to get to a salon (N.B. I know that salon sounds absurdly over the top but I've already said hairdresser's one too many times).

If my hair is mid-length (i.e. just cut) you can be pretty sure it's because I'm in the process of recovering from a relapse. I'm well enough to get a haircut (which I desperately need because it's exhausting to wash long hair) but not up to doing anything more fun!

Should you struggle to work out which type of long hair you are faced with then simply take a brief look at my skin tone. If I look like Dracula's ailing sister then you can be pretty sure it's the relapse enforced type.

*guide may not actually be cut out and kept.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Ain't that just the way

I've been rather absent from my blog recently. I think it's due to a combination of illness and a lack of inspiration. I've been rather up and down health wise in the last couple of weeks. Things were looking really good for a bit; I was operating at a fairly steady level of activity. It was then that I made my mistake. I started to plan stuff. Why, oh why, oh why (hello Points of View correspondent) is it that as soon as I start to make plans my health goes down the pan? I'm not talking huge, global domination-esque schemes - just a weekend away; a rugby match; a trip to see a comedian; a wedding. All of which were organised sensibly with time in between for recovery. Bah. Well watch me spit in your face M.E., because I've managed the rugby match - 1 down, 3 to go. It does mean that I'm Resty Resterson as at the moment. Resting at 12 Resting Lane, Resttown, Restingshire, RE5 TIN.

I'm blaming Scotland for a lot of stuff at the moment. I'm seriously unimpressed with those north of the border. No tuition fees; free prescriptions; better funding for people in education and on benefits; and yet they're still unhappy enough to go on strike and mess up the already pretty dire fuel situation.

Blimey, I sound grumpy today! I don't know what's got into me. I had better go and watch some soporific snooker (a great idea in theory but I do have a frustrating tendency to open my eyes to see every shot - doh!).

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Celebrity

I can't say that I'm a huge fan of celebrity culture. Strange as it may seem, in my book people should have done something of note in order to gain fame. And for that matter, fame these days is a very different kettle of fish to the fame of yesteryear - do we really need to know every minute aspect of these people's lives? I suppose it's a result of the instant media world we live in. It's also far too easy for those we admire to become idols. Whatever they might have achieved, no human deserves that kind of adulation and worship. But anyway, as I say I'm not a big celeb fan. Great sportspeople that have excelled in their chosen field? Yep, I'm on board with them being recognised. Film stars and musicians who have genuinely made an artistic impact on the world? All good. My current problem with celebrities lies in their unrivalled capacity to let you down.

I should probably stop writing in the abstract about now and get more specific. Please welcome Ms. Kelly Rowland and Ms. Beyonce Knowles to the debate; two thirds of the super-girl-group Destiny's Child and now solo stars in their own right. During the early 00s I was a huge DC fan, to some extent I still am. They made great pop/R'n'B music and nothing can change that. But that wasn't the only reason that I appreciated the group back then. Their attitude was that of empowered women with integrity. They made it clear that you could be sexy without having sex; that dressing and acting in a classy manner was far more attractive than walking around with half your clothes falling off. They recognised God's hand in their lives and even sang about 'not compromising their Christianity'. Which is why it saddens and even angers me to see their wildly different image and attitudes today.

These days both Rowland and Knowles seem to have no qualms about stripping off in their videos in a far from classy manner. Many of their songs are laden with sexual innuendo and a desire beyond all else, to please their man. I don't want to be judgemental. It's not my place. But it is so dispiriting to see these changes in the women that I looked up to as a teenager.

I'd be interested to know the thoughts of the other Destiny's Child member, Michelle Williams. When the group went their separate ways she went into gospel music and so I hope that she still holds the same values as she did back then. Sadly in the UK there is very little word of the gospel music industry so I'm not sure what she's up to these days.

I suppose it just goes to show that all humans fail. We are all far from perfect and whilst to some extent it is good to have role models, we should beware looking up to those we only know through magazines, TV and CDs. Our role models should be people around us in our day to day lives and of course, ultimately our role model should be Jesus Christ. He'll never let us down.

Affiliates

I've dipped my toe into the dark side of blogging; advertising! Fear not though, I am not completely lost to the practice of advert heavy blogging. You may have noticed a few links on the right hand bar. In order to keep my moral standards intact (!!) I have chosen just three banners, all of which I can claim to have first hand experience of. It's just a little experiment really. I'm often hearing about people making money from blogs and whilst it doesn't really interest me, I'm curious to see how it all works. So feel free to click away or ignore to your heart's content.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Olympic spirit

Honestly guys, just quit while you're behind. This Olympic torch debacle needs to be stopped.

I love the Olympics a great deal more than your average person. When I was really ill back in 1999, the thought of the Sydney Olympics in 2000 was a strange sort of encouragement to me. OK, so I might still be ill and stuck in the house but at least I'd have a month or so of amazing sport to soak up from the sofa.

The Olympics are unique. So many countries; so many sports; all meeting together to compete for the greatest prizes and provide a sporting spectacle like no other. Please note: a sporting spectacle.

I've been nervous about Beijing being awarded the games from the off. I believe that the decision to hold the games there was a political one and that it has set the scene for a potentially disastrous Olympics where the world's focus will not be on the sporting talent on show, but on the political actions of the Chinese government.

I won't pretend to know all the ins and outs of the Tibet situation but from what I've heard it seems fairly clear that China are knee-deep in a volatile and violent situation which they are exacerbating. Many people feel understandably strongly about this and they have a right to protest. I disagree with the way in which many have done so, but behind the headlines there are plenty of protesters using the Olympics and the relay in particular to make their voices heard, but peacefully with respect for the Games and the competitors. That's fine by me. Sport is a great tool for change but it should never be used at the expense of the sport itself.

Sadly this is the situation in which we find ourselves currently. Pictures of gangs of security guards and policemen surrounding the torch are doing nothing to bring the Olympic spirit to the world. Extinguishing the flame and sticking it on a bus? Absurd. Carrying on regardless will only damage the tournament more. China seem intent on carrying out their ridiculous plan to take the torch through Tibet and up to Mount Everest. It is utter folly. Mark it down as a lesson learned and get yourselves sorted for when the games actually begin. Either that or they need to get themselves out of Tibet.

On a slightly lighter note... what the Dickens were Denise Van Outen and Konnie Huq doing carry the torch? It's celebrity gone mad. In case you missed my point earlier: the Olympics is about sport! Is it so shocking to suggest that only sports-people take part in the relay?

Monday, 7 April 2008

A birthday, a bird and the brilliant Doctor Who.

It's my little sister's birthday today! She's not actually here, she's currently causing havoc on the canals of England. But Happy Birthday to Baby Hands anyway (she does have freakishly small hands). When I was younger I used to hate this part of the year, between her birthday and my own, because it looked as though there was only one year between us. Something to do with the older sibling equating age with importance I think. But I'm obviously getting on a bit because this time round I'm quite happy with the idea that I'm only a little older!

We've got a bird trapped in our chimney. There's no way of getting it out and it's understandably kicking up a hell of a fuss. Poor thing. And poor me. It's not nice to hear the sad little creature desperately trying to escape.

Hands up, who watched Doctor Who on Saturday night? *Giraffe-a-licious waves frantically* Wasn't it great? I have to say that I was rather disappointed with the Christmas special so it was a relief to see the show back on tip top form. Catherine Tate is an excellent addition to the cast. I can't say that I'm a fan of her comedy but she's landed herself a great character here and is making the most of it. It also means that the dynamic between the Doctor and his assistant has changed and as a result the show feels a lot fresher than for most of the last series. I suppose I should add a few words on the subject of David Tennant. How does charismatic, handsome and hilarious sound? Sigh.

Monday, 31 March 2008

Crossroads

No, I'm not talking about a dodgy British soap or Bon Jovi's Greatest Hits album and I'm definitely not referring to that hideous song by Blazin' Squad (thank goodness they seem to have gone for good eh?). I feel as though I'm at a crossroads, or perhaps a fork in the road to be more accurate. It's this writing business. For the last 9 months or so I've been trying to get my foot in the door to the world of freelance journalism. I've written on various different subjects and most of it has found its way onto the internet in one form or another. But I'm getting disheartened. To be perfectly honest I'm fed up of doing it all for free. I know that it's the way to get experience and all that jazz but it's rather demoralising when you send off e-mails and samples of your work, never to hear back from those people that could actually afford to pay you.

Perhaps I just don't have the ambition and motivation necessary to get ahead in the industry. It's not my dream to be a writer. It's just something that I happen to be able to do to a decent standard and which I would be able to fit around my health problems. Maybe I just don't want it enough.

So the writing malarkey is one prong of the metaphorical fork in the road that I spoke of. The other is to go back to studying. I've been having a look at the OU website recently and part of me would really like to get myself a little more educated. The problem is that I can't do both. I simply don't have enough energy to give follow both avenues. Which leaves me with a difficult choice; to write or to study? Theoretically I can do either at any time in future. However, if I give up the writing now I'm well aware that it will take me twice as long to make any progress next time. Gah! I'm not used to decisions like this. My M.E. dictates my life so much that usually there is only one option available to me in any given situation! Once more with feeling? GAH!

Monday, 24 March 2008

No business like snow business

Finally! I began to think that it would never happen. But oh joy, it did! Snow! I'd given up hope of being able to build a snowman this year. We had the bizarre flurry at the end of October, followed by a few half-hearted showers of the non-settling variety over the winter. Easter had come, surely all chance of snow was gone? Oh me of little faith.

Meet Jeffrey. Named after Mr Jeffrey Buttle, World Figure Skating champion! I'm sure you'll agree that the likeness is uncanny.

It almost didn't happen. For a long and boring reason, which I shall not force you to endure on these pages, I was woken up earlier than normal yesterday. I happened to poke my head through the curtains and was greeted by the magnificent sight of brilliant white snow. Sad to say that I didn't quite have the enthusiasm to run outside straight away. I went back to bed for half an hour or so for a lovely lie-in. However once those 30 minutes had passed I peeked out of the window again and noticed to my consternation that the lovely winter wonderland was already starting to melt away. I realised that if I wanted to make a snowman at all this year then now was the time for action! I kitted myself out with my woolliest garments, grabbed a hot-cross bun for sustenance and made my way into the back garden. After five minutes or so of intense snowman building I realised that this year's masterpiece was going to have to be on a slightly smaller scale than usual. Normally I'd have had some extra help in the form of my little sis, but seeing as she's still off gallavanting in the States, this time it was left to me and my not-so-hot energy levels. Nonetheless I'm still pretty pleased with my solo effort. Although upon my parents seeing Jeffrey I was greeted with a cry of, "That's my best scarf!" from my dad. Pah! I'd looked through all the scarves we had and chosen one that I'd never seen anyone wear! Hmmm... maybe that's because it's his best scarf! You know, like the whole best china that no-one ever uses because it might get damaged!

Jeffrey is still standing currently, although he is missing an eye and his nose is looking rather on the wobbly side! Anyway, roll on spring and summer. Snowman built, winter is now complete.

Friday, 21 March 2008

A few musings

I'm exhausted. Honestly. I've been running myself ragged over the last couple of weeks. Yesterday I was finally able to catch my breath and get some much needed rest. I don't quite know how I managed to get so busy. Places to go, people to see and all that. Anyway, I'm resting up for the next few days; recharging my batteries.

I was delighted to hear about the BBC regaining the rights to the F1 races. Another positive Lewis Hamilton effect. Don't try and tell me that the BBC would have even thought about bidding if it wasn't for the golden boy. But they have - hurrah! The Beeb have spent an alleged £150 million for 5 years worth of F1. It might seem like a lot but really they're just spending what they saved from dropping Neighbours. If I remember rightly the BBC were being asked to pay £100,000 for each episode of the Aussie soap. That's £500,000 a week. Neighbours is broadcast for about 45 weeks a year, so that's £22.5m each year, multiply by 5 = £112.5m. And F1 will provide far more entertainment for the money than Neighbours could ever hope to.

Of course the best part of this transfer away from ITV is that there'll be no more ad breaks at inconvenient moments! My only worry is whether or not they'll hang on to James Allen and Martin Brundle as commentators. I very much doubt that they could put together a better team. In fact, thinking about it a little more, I am beginning to get concerned that they may get bloomin' Suzy Perry involved. Oh please no. I'm going to get nightmares now.

Moving on to less scary things... the World Figure Skating Championship is taking place in Gothenburg this week (also the city where Jonathan Edwards achieved his triple jump World Records in 1995, fact fans!). Ice skating gets a bad press. It's perceived as girly and namby-pamby. Watch some of the top male skaters and you'll see that is far from being the case. They have to be so athletic! I don't think that Dancing on Ice has really helped with the image of ice skating either. That show is more full of sequins and divas than Strictly Come Dancing! The World Champs are being shown on Eurosport - give them a gander.

Brian Joubert during his James Bond short programme last year.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

The James Toseland Appreciation Society

Some people have it all; meet James Toseland.
James is 27 years old and hails from Doncaster. He has twice won the World Superbike Championship and this year made the step up to MotoGP. Easy on the eye, an accomplished pianist and as he revealed on Sport Relief on Friday he can blooming well sing too. Check out his piano skills in the video below. I'm off to work out how I can persuade him to marry me. That is once I've also convinced him that he's a sinner who needs to repent and turn to trust in Jesus Christ...

Friday, 14 March 2008

Darling schmarling

I'm not a happy bunny. Or a happy car owner for that matter. Let me make one thing clear before I start: I have no problem with the government wanting to cut CO2 emissions. In fact I'd go so far as to say that I am positively pro the idea. It is right that those buying new, emission heavy vehicles should pay for the right to pollute. Such taxes are a necessary evil in my mind. It is important to encourage people when buying a new car, to buy the more eco-friendly option.

My unhappy bunny status comes from Alastair Darling's plan for cars registered before 2001. These are the cars that didn't have their carbon emissions tested. Up until this week's budget they were taxed according to engine size: £120 a year for cars under 1549cc and £185 a year for cars over that level. Fine. I drive a 2000 Skoda Fabia 1.4 - off goes £120 each year to the Treasury. I can deal with that. However, following Mr Darling's budget I will now have to pay a flat rate of £200 a year for the privilege of having my car on the road. Now it's quite possible that this is in fact the right level of tax for my car if it's carbon emissions were measured. I have no idea. My problem is that the government is clearly discriminating against those of us who cannot afford to buy a new car. The only way to reduce the amount of road tax we pay is to buy a new (or at the most 7 year old) car with a low emission output. I have no doubt that that option is sadly out of reach for many, including myself. Why he couldn't just leave the current pre-2001 system in place is beyond me. Of course, it's a nice little earner for the Treasury isn't it? I'm growing cynical in my old age. But I blame that on the government too. Cynicism is born of dashed hopes, something that Gordon Brown and his friends seem to do a nice line in.
N.B. (added 17/03) It would appear that I have been misinformed by The Daily Telegraph. That'll teach me for believing everything I read! According to the official budget report on the Downing Street website, pre-2001 cars will continue to be taxed according to engine size. That is £120 for under 1549 ccs and £185 for cars over 1549ccs. In 2009/2010 the upper rate will increase to £200 whilst the lower will remain at £120. Hurrah! Perhaps I was a little harsh on Mr Darling.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Mamma mia, here I go again.

It's only a matter of time before I turn into my mother. I'm resigned to this fact. Already people are unable to distinguish between us on the phone; worryingly, even my dad can't tell us apart when he calls. My sister doesn't have this problem. She sounds different, looks different... sigh. I've got the same face, voice, temperament. Usually I am able to forget this fact. I can look to the future without seeing myself as my mother. Not at the moment though; my Nana is visiting. My Nana is my mum's mum and the similarities between them just serve to highlight the characteristics shared by me and my mum. I can imagine it must be quite scary for my dad to have three generations of women under the same roof at one time.

Thankfully it hasn't quite got to the point where I am indistinguishable from my Nana, but surely it is only a matter of time. I can only console myself with the fact that I'll always be taller! It's fascinating to look at other people and the traits and features that they've inherited from their parents and grandparents. But when you turn the tables and start looking at yourself it becomes less fascinating and more horrifying! I can't imagine what it must be like to not know your parents, either through tragic circumstances, family break-ups or perhaps because of adoption. I see so much of myself in my parents (whether I want to or not). Granted, it's likely that I see more because of the unusually large amount of time that I spend in their company. Most 23 year-olds would have lived away from home by now and even if they were still at home, I doubt they would see as much of their parents as I do. They drive me round the bend at times (I'm sure that also applies to the other way round!) but it's cool to know where I came from; where some of my weirder character traits emanate from. But on the flip side it's also nice to know which parts are 100% me!

P.S. So Brian Ashton has dropped dear Jonny from his starting XV on Saturday. Rubbish. He played badly, but no worse than the rest of the team. If Ashton's going to drop Jonny then he should drop every other player that was on that pitch last weekend. Bah.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Give Brian the boot

My word was it an appalling rugby match today. I'm referring to the Scotland vs England debacle. I can only hope that no-one watching rugby for the first time tuned in to it. They'll have been put off for life. Fair enough, the weather was atrocious but even taking that into account, the standard of play was far far below what it should be for an international fixture of that nature. England looked as though they didn't want to be there.

The only thing worse than their performance was Brian Moore's commentary. Somebody at the BBC needs to show that man the door. He was unbearable during the France match and no better today. Poor Eddie Butler is evidently losing patience with him and it's not difficult to see why. Moore is opinionated to the point of rudeness; loud; aggressive; belligerent. These are traits unwanted in a pundit, let alone a commentator. His job is to inform, observe and explain. Instead he rants and raves over refereeing decisions, player choices and tactics. He is the equivalent of a lager-filled fan sat at home on his sofa convinced that he could do a better job than every man on the pitch and given a microphone by which to makes his views known to the world. Moore was a fine player in his day (or so I'm told!) but he is clearly not suited to this type of media work. In print, he's fine - his Daily Telegraph column is obviously opinionated but if I'm not in the mood to hear his grumblings then I can turn the page. Any one of the BBC's current line-up of pundits would do a better job in the commentary box. You can hear the strain in Eddie Butler's voice. I wouldn't be surprised if come the match against Ireland next weekend we are audio witnesses to a murder! Moore believes his own opinion to be the only true one and will not hear a word otherwise. No matter how much experience he has had on the pitch, he is the junior in the commentary box and he should act like it. He shows no respect for his colleague, the officials, players or viewers.

Be gone Brian Moore and blight my ears no longer!

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

I'm the mother flippin'

Just a very short post for today because quite frankly nothing I say will match up to the genius of the video clip below. These guys are called Flight of the Conchords. They're a folky, parody type band from New Zealand with their own TV show (it was shown on BBC Four in the UK). Said TV show is basically an excuse for them to get their songs out there - hurrah for that I say. They have a great talent for lyrics and imitating any number of different styles of music. Check out this clip. To put this in context, they start singing it whilst being mugged. Those ker-razy Kiwis.




Sunday, 2 March 2008

The James Marsden Appreciation Society

You know, there are some actors that just never get the recognition they deserve. Case in point: James Marsden.

The phrase 'ridiculously good-looking' could have been created for him. That is if Derek Zoolander hadn't got a hold of it first. Charisma; charm; talent; he's got it all and yet too often he gets relegated to the Paul Walker 'cute but should have stuck to modelling' league.

So why am I such a fan? Well, let's review the evidence.

Exhibit A: X-Men. Under used (I love Bryan Singer but he made an error here) but still great as Cyclops. We never see his eyes! It's incredibly difficult to act without eyes! As for X3, the potential was there for a Cyclops centred story. But no! Not to give too much away, but Mr Marsden doesn't get to see a whole lot of action in The Last Stand.

Exhibit B: Ally McBeal. The US legal comedy/drama suffered a big hit in its 5th and final season due to the departure of Robert Downey Jr. Good old James helped to ease the pain with his easy charm and dulcet singing tones.

Exhibit C: Superman Returns. Perhaps Singer was trying to make things up to him by casting him as Lois Lane's squeeze in his Superman revamp. Sadly still a fairly peripheral character, Marsden nevertheless fleshed out his role in such a way that it truly left the viewer unsure which man Lane would choose.

Exhibit D: Hairspray. Utterly joyous. I love this film and you-know-who was perfect in the role of cheesy as can be TV show host, Corny Collins. Once more he got to show off those vocal talents and sends up his clean-cut looks and image a treat. See also Exhibit E.

Exhibit E: Enchanted. Marsden is hilarious as the Disney prince searching for his princess in an all too real New York. He flings himself headlong into the spirit of the film despite once again playing second fiddle in the leading man stakes, this time to Patrick Dempsey.

So there you have it. Undeniable proof of the genius of James Marsden. If this guy had been around in the 40s or 50s then he'd have been a matinee idol. It's just bad luck for him that these days audiences want their movie stars a little less slick and a bit rough around the edges.

James Marsden, I salute you!



Thursday, 28 February 2008

Listen very carefully...

I've spent the better part of this morning cowering downstairs in the living room. No, it's not because of another earthquake. I am simply the victim of my own overactive imagination. I keep hearing things. Noises coming from the roof. Except they seem to be coming from inside the roof - the loft, attic or whatever you like to call it.

I woke up to these noises, these 100% definitely there noises! To start with I thought it was just a bird scrabbling about on the roof but then the noises started to get louder. Surely too loud for a mere bird on a roof. I started to get a bit freaked out. You know when you're alone in the house and you hear something strange, your mind goes into a sort of paranoid overdrive. It's a cat in the roof... no, a rat... no, the earthquake shook the chimney loose and it's about to fall on top of me... no, it's the hot water tank about to explode... gah!

However I couldn't very well stay downstairs all morning so I took my courage in both hands and went up to have a shower. I thought it was very brave of me considering the possibility that the roof might fall down at any moment and I'd be stuck butt-naked in a pile of rubble, unsure as to whether or not I wanted the fire service to come and rescue me or not.

Shower dealt with I had to go back to my room to get dressed. Cue a loud radio. Ah-ha - now I cannot hear you, you freaky noises! Up and dressed I leg it down the stairs and stay there. Unfortunately, our house is a pretty creaky one anyway. It's not actually that old - I think it was built about 30 years ago - but it just loves to creak, often in new and unexpected ways. So now, every little sound that I hear it make is confirmation of my worst fears. Although come to think of it, I'm now entirely sure what my worst fear is. I was most worried about some living thing being up there but actually it would be far worse if it was actually the house making all those noises. Hmmm... I probably shouldn't dwell on this any longer. Time to watch some TV at an unnecessarily high volume.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Oscar, England and delusions of grandeur.

I'm not one to brag but I'm pretty chuffed with the Oscar predictions that I made last month. Six out of eight ain't bad. It's also a lesser known Meatloaf song!


I've also been perusing all the red carpet piccies. I'm no fashionista mind, I just like looking at the pretty dresses! Giraffe-a-licious props to Anne Hathaway and Jennifer Garner who both looked gorgeous and prompted great feelings of jealousy within your favourite blogger.

Now onto more important matters... rugby! What a brilliant match on Saturday night and with the all important right result.
England finally put in a decent second half performance. More Giraffe-a-licious props to Richard Wigglesworth, Nick Easter and Jamie Noon in particular. Plus Mr W of course. If you don't know who I mean by that, then there's no hope for you.

The extent of my sporting activities this weekend amounted to watching the rugby and having a game of tennis on a Wii. Whilst fun to imagine myself teaching Maria Sharapova a lesson in the finer points of the game, the speed at which these exertions zapped my energy reserves combined with the pain in my arm and shoulder this morning mean that she's unlikely to be challenged in the near future. I'll just have to keep relying on Justine Henin to beat her. Hmmm... maybe I could help Justine out by giving her a few pointers? Do you think she's in the Yellow Pages?

Thursday, 21 February 2008

A crafty little project

My granny like tendencies have raised their ugly heads again this week. However this time it's not moaning about the state of the nation or making that 'this requires a lot of effort' noise when I get up from a chair. It's knitting. The most granny-ish pastime of them all.

Over the years I've attempted many different arts and crafts projects with limited success. Card-making, cross-stitching, jewellery-making and painting little boxes to name but a few. You wouldn't believe the amount of random craft odds and ends that are dotted around the house. My problem is that I'm just not creative enough. If I were a Mr Men character I'd be Little Miss Analytical. It's not in my nature to be creative. I'm all about analysing other peoples' creativity! To put it simply, after a few weeks at a certain craft I hit a brick wall. I just run out of ideas! Solution? I just move on to the next one!

Anyway, the current craft du jour is knitting. However I am hopeful that this one may last a little longer. Firstly because it actually has a purpose behind it and secondly because the creative element stretches only to my deciding which colours to use! I've recently become aware of a charity called Samaritan's Purse. They are a Christian charity that aim to spread the Gospel whilst supplying practical everyday items to victims of war, poverty, natural disasters etc. One of their projects is Operation Christmas Child. Supporters are encouraged to pack a shoe box with toys, stationary, hygiene items (e.g. toothbrushes, soap, hairbrushes) and other nice things for children around the world who need them. One of their ideas is for knitted woolly hats to go in the boxes. Hence, my knitting frenzy. And yes, I know it's a long time until Christmas but I'm not exactly a professional knitter so I thought it would make sense to make a start now!

If you'd like to join my knitting crusade then check out http://www.samaritanspurse.uk.com/occ/knitting_for_occ.asp where you can download patterns in PDF format.

Altogether now..."Knit one, purl one, knit one, purl one..."

Monday, 18 February 2008

The week that will be

I've had one of those weeks that quite frankly I'm glad to see the back of. Various problems and stressful situations have marked it down as one to forget and so I'm more than happy to move on into the 'bound-to-be-much-better' week commencing Monday 18th February. Optimistic as I am, I see it going something like this:

Monday - write blog. Hear a knock at the door. It's the postman. Junk mail, junk mail, junk mail, ah an interesting letter. Dear Giraffe-a-licious... love your blog... blah blah blah... like to invite you to Buckingham Palace for a cup of tea... do say you'll come... love Liz.

Tuesday - spend a couple of hours in morning volunteering for Alzheimer's Society. Head home. Someone flags me down to asks for directions. It's David Tennant. So grateful for my help that he invites me to appear as his assistant in the next series of Doctor Who.

Wednesday - go for meal with friends in the evening. Waiter brings me wrong order. By way of an apology I can have my food for free. Plus, would madam like a Pina Colada on the house? Why yes, madam would.

Thursday - a nice restful day spoilt only by David Tennant's incessant phone calls.

Friday - Wake up and am miraculously cured of M.E. Hop on a plane to some far flung, exotic destination in celebration of miracle. Or see if I can nab some tickets to England v France. That's got the Jonny Wilkinson factor. Hmmmm.... decisions, decisions...

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

My funny Valentine

Valentine's Day tomorrow. Woop-de-doo. Can you tell that I'm single?

To be honest I take issue with the whole thing anyway but I promise that what follows is not some sort of bitter rant! No doubt I could deliver one if I so desired but I think it important that I do not indulge that side of myself!

Valentine's Day is the day when we are all told to be romantic. If we're told to be romantic, doesn't that rather negate the romance? Surely the romance of something is largely in the spontaneity of it? Who feels truly special when their other half buys them flowers or chocolates on Valentine's Day? It would be much better were they to choose some other day to express their love. Romance just isn't the same if it's been instigated by Clinton's Cards.

Of course I speak from vast experience. Ahem.

I'm in that strange position at the moment of not wanting to be in a relationship (too much hassle, demands on my time etc.) but wanting to know that there is one waiting somewhere around the corner for me. I have this recurring nightmare that I'm going to end up in a nursing home at 50 years old because my parents have kicked the bucket and I'm still not well enough to look after myself. A husband would solve that particular worry. From what I can gather, good husbands are pretty thin on the ground these days anyway and my (not self-imposed) stringent criteria aren't going to make finding one any easier.

Firstly, I'm a Christian and and the Bible tells me that I should only be going out with a guy that shares my beliefs. Wow - that pool of potential hubbys just shrunk quickly! Secondly, the chap needs to be able to deal with my illness (a lot easier said that done). Thirdly, somehow I'm going to have to come into contact with him (not easy when I generally travel the same distance from home as a particularly lazy tortoise travels in 24 hours). Once all those criteria are fulfilled we get down to the less important things - personality, sense of humour, the ability to actually get along with me...

Gah. Love, schmove. As a wise woman once said: "Love? I'd rather fall in chocolate."

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Brotherly love

Tennis post alert! Tennis post alert!

Tomorrow sees the start of Great Britain's Davis Cup tie against Argentina. For the first time in years we are back in the elite World Group and have been rewarded with one the most difficult ties that we could have drawn. Argentina have 11 players in the top 100, home advantage and the choice of surface. We have one top 100 player in the form of Andy Murray. To make matters worse, Murray withdrew from the tie last week, citing a knee injury that he was nervous of aggravating on the clay.

This leaves the loss of the tie as somewhat inevitable. Although I've been severely disappointed by the way that some of the press have approached the whole thing. Yes, barring a miracle the tie is over before it has even started, but we've got to give the guys playing some sort of support. If we show no faith in them at all then why should they have faith in themselves? The Davis Cup gives players like Jamie Baker a chance to step up and pitch himself against guys that he wouldn't usually have the opportunity to play. If that's not a motivation to play your best tennis and use the experience to head into the top 100, then I don't know what is.

Interestingly all the news today has been about a rift between Andy Murray and his doubles playing brother Jamie. Apparently Jamie is none too pleased about his little brother ducking out of the tie and hasn't spoken to him for a number of weeks! Considering their normally close relationship this is quite a big deal. The elder Murray is known for being far more relaxed and easy going than Andy and yet he evidently feels strongly about his brother's decision. It will be interesting to see how the 20-year-old reacts!

I'm always drawn to supporting people that have a strong relationship with a sibling. No doubt because my sister and I get on so well. We're best friends and I love to see that replicated in other brother and sister partnerships. It should go some way to explaining my desire to see Same Difference win X-Factor last year! I'm sure that Andy and Jamie will sort it all out soon enough. If they weren't so close in the first place then this disagreement wouldn't be such a big deal.

In the meantime - C'MON TEAM GB! You can take at least one match from them!

Monday, 4 February 2008

P...p...p...pick up a pancake

It's Shrove Tuesday tomorrow! That's Pancake Day to the less educated among us. Hurrah!

I'll admit it, I'm something of a pancake addict. In the Giraffe-a-licious household pancake consumption is not limited to merely Pancake Day. In fact, it has become something of a tradition for my sister and I to make a batch whenever our parents go away. As a result we do consider ourselves to be something in the way of conoisseurs when it comes to the humble pancake. Imagine my consternation when I read in the paper today that 1 in 5 of the British population didn't know that it was Shrove Tuesday tomorrow and that less than a third would definitely be making pancakes on that day.

So I call on you dear readers, to take up your frying pans and join the pancake cause. Say no to the stacked American forgeries and turn back to the classic, thin, big-as-a-dinner-plate variety! In order to inspire, I bring you some of the greatest pancake toppings/fillings ever tasted. All this in order to make your Pancake Day a day to remember!

1. Sometimes the simplest of toppings can be best eg. lemon juice and caster sugar or butter and sugar (take the pancake straight from the pan, spread some butter on it (must be butter, no margarine!), top with sugar).

2. Golden syrup. Use as a substitute for sugar. Works particularly well with orange juice (from an orange, not a carton!)

3. Fruit. Try blueberries and golden syrup. Or strawberries and chocolate spread.

4. Demerara sugar - used in combination with orange juice it gives a great texture.

5. Savoury, schmavoury - I'm all about the sweet stuff. If you absolutely have to have savoury then check out the BBC Food website (www.bbc.co.uk/food) Type 'pancakes' into their recipe finder and you'll be well away.

One final thing - try and eat them straight from the pan. If there is more than one of you eating then use the conveyor belt trick: Pancake 1 cooked, pancake 2 cooked whilst pancake 1 is topped, pancake 3 is cooked whilst pancake 1 is eaten and pancake 2 is topped, pancake 4 cooked whilst pancake 2 is eaten and pancake 3 topped...etc etc etc.

ENJOY!

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Back in the day

I spent quite a large chunk of last weekend in the company of my 8 year old self. Don't worry, I haven't invented some sort of time machine, created a time paradox by meeting myself, "the results of which could start a chain reaction that would unravel the very fabric of the space time continuum, and destroy the entire universe!" Take a bow, Dr Emmett Brown. Nothing so exciting I'm afraid. I've been watching home videos.

I've just got a fancy new bit of technology that enables to me to copy from VHS to DVD, so I've been doing that very thing with the home vids that my Dad made back in the mid-90s. It's been an odd experience. Mostly very fun - I was pretty amusing as a kid - but also quite poignant at times. Grandparents that are no longer here in reality are there on tape and the experience of seeing them there is quite different to that of looking at a still photo. It's a vivid reminder of their personalities and quirks.

It's bizarre to see myself up on the screen as a healthy child! Such a vast chunk of my life has been defined by the M.E. that is strange to remember that back then it wasn't.

I'm also unusually extroverted! Most people remember me as a shy child who wouldn't say boo to a goose. (I've never really understood that saying - a goose could be quite frightening if it wanted to. Surely it should be 'boo to a sparrow' or something along those lines?) Evidently when I was around familiar company and situations, I had no qualms about showing off or being overly loud.

I was also struck by the number of school concerts, plays, gym displays etc that we've got on tape. These days I expect that parents aren't allowed to film such things because they contain other people's kids. It's an understandable safety precaution but it is still sad that these records won't be around for the children of today to show their children.

Friday, 25 January 2008

And the Oscar goes to...

It's time for me to gaze into my metaphorical crystal ball again. I may be a few days behind the rest of the world (the nominations were announced on Tuesday) but I let me assure you that I have put much thought into these predictions. I definitely didn't decide to do this on a whim, find the list of nominees and have a bit of a guess... ahem. So without further ado: Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the winners of the 2008 Academy Awards!

Best Picture: No Country For Old Men

Best Director(s): Joel and Ethan Cohen - No Country For Old Men

Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood

Best Actress: Marion Cotillard - La Vie En Rose

Best Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem - No Country For Old Men

Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett - I'm Not There

Best Original Screenplay: Juno

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Diving Bell and The Butterfly

These things I say with the complete certainty of someone who has not seen a single one of the films mentioned. Shameful but true.

Feel free to comment with your own ker-razy predictions!

P.S. I fell down the stairs today. More on that story later.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Heath Ledger

I surprised myself tonight, by the extent to which I was saddened upon hearing of the death of Heath Ledger. On the one hand such sadness is completely understandable. He was only 28 years old, at the beginning of in all likelihood a long and successful career, and leaves behind a 2 year old daughter. It is utterly tragic.

But I don’t know him. I’ve never met the guy and have no idea of his true character or personality. I’ve merely watched a few of his films. Yet despite this fact, I was genuinely shocked and distressed at the news. The easiest way of explaining it would probably be to attribute it to today’s culture of celebrity. There are certainly some actors and actresses who make it their business to be in the papers every day, shamelessly promoting their latest piece of sub-standard entertainment and giving the public an intimate (if often false) portrait of their lives. But to my mind Ledger wasn’t one of those. He kept himself to himself, made good films (for the most part) and got on with his life.

I think that eventually it must come down to his work on the screen. Despite of (or perhaps because of) their lightweight nature, 10 Things I Hate About You and A Knight’s Tale are two of my favourite films. In both of them Ledger is charismatic and appealing, bringing an easy style of acting to his roles with very little fuss or bother. He puts in consistently good performances even when the films don’t quite match the standard of his acting; see Ned Kelly or The Brothers Grimm. No doubt he’ll be remembered largely for his Oscar nominated performance in Brokeback Mountain, although I have a feeling that his role as The Joker in the upcoming Batman film may prove more iconic.

No doubt it will be used over and over again in the coming days, but tragic really is the only word to describe it.

Monday, 21 January 2008

A Selby, a station and a sofa.


Just call me Mystic Meg!


I'm actually quite disproportionately proud at my successful snooker prediction! I think that perhaps I shall quit whilst I'm ahead and from here on in make no more sports-related forecasts. Yeah right. Like that's going to last for long!

Disregarding the warm glow I'm emitting having triumphed in this small matter, I actually feel rather like I've been hit by a bus this morning. All self-inflicted I assure you, well in the sense that I knew I'd end up feeling like this. Not that I actually took on the persona of my M.E. and beat myself over the head with it. It's as a result of my little London sojourn at the weekend. I knew that rather too much walking than was desired would take place, but I didn't count on my sister and I getting lost inside St. Pancras station and having to retrace our steps before we had got our bearings. So before we'd even left the station I'd walked too far! Eventually my walking turned into that sort of trudging pattern, where all that was keeping me going was momentum. I had to keep moving because if I stopped then it would probably take me hours to get started again!

Anyhow, I survived the day but I'm paying for it now. Surprise, surprise. Here's looking forward to a week of sofa-dwelling and ice-skating viewing!

Friday, 18 January 2008

Snooker loopy

#Pot the reds then, screw back
For the yellow, green, brown, blue, pink and black
Snooker loopy, nuts are we
We're all snooker loopy#

A bit of Chas 'n' Dave for you there, to brighten up your Friday morning. I have a strange relationship with snooker. Not quite love/hate but something akin to it. It all depends on my health at the time of a televised tournament. If I'm well then it drives me err... loopy! It's too slow and I get all fidgety whilst watching it. I'd be a disaster if I went to see it played live. I expect I'd develop a desperate urge to talk to someone during the game and I'd probably get asked to remove myself from the premises.

Snooker comes into its own when I'm ill; when I'm lolling on the sofa in a particularly pathetic state. Snooker soothes me; the slow but deliberate movement of the player and cue; the sound of ball against ball; muted applause; the dulcet tones of John Virgo - all far more relaxing than any pan-pipes CD or yoga video.

I mention this now because you may have noticed that snooker has once again taken over BBC2 this week. It's The Masters tournament in Wembley. It's been a bit of a good'un so far especially in terms of shock results. 3 of the big names fell before the quarter-final stage: John Higgins, Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O'Sullivan. I'm going to stick my neck out and say that Mark Selby will win the title. He's come back to win his last two matches 6-5. He just doesn't know when to lie down and die!

Monday, 14 January 2008

Gah x3

Today I was on the receiving end of a frankly horrific accidental text incident. My sister's text message to her boyfriend ended up winging its way to me. I almost vomited. The less said the better. I am attempting to wipe the memory from my mind, a la Ben Affleck in Paycheck.

The trip to the hospital last week actually turned out OK. I did see the man himself and he discharged me - woop, woop! He was disarmingly friendly. So much so that when he brought out his classic "the only cure for M.E. is exercise" chestnut I didn't have enough time for it to register or for me to react. Curses. Oh well at least I won't have to see him again! Honestly man, stick to your chosen field.

I'm having to take a step back this week and take some rest days. I've done rather a lot over the past 10 days or so and my body has started shouting at me. I'm supposed to be going to London on Saturday. Gah. Always a rather stressful undertaking. Shouldn't have to stray to far from St Pancras though thankfully. I can't deal with cities. I've often wondered how I would have coped with this illness had I lived in a city. I can't bear the thought of the noise and millions of people all squashed together. I like my suburbs just fine thanks. I've got the vital entertainment venues within reach (ie. shops and cinema) and lots of nice countryside too. That is until all those new houses go up... I'm going to have to emigrate aren't I? One problem - I have a feeling that no country is likely to want me. Bah. Degrees, schmegrees!

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Doctor, doctor...

Oh joy. A visit to the consultant awaits me today. Sadly not an M.E. consultant (no such thing exists in my area of the postcode lottery) but a thyroid doctor. I've had thyroid issues of one form or another for the past 6 years. It's pretty much stabilised now but I'm summoned to a check-up once a year. The problem is that this guy is rather deficient in the understanding of M.E. department. The last time I saw him he suggested I join a gym! If it was mere ignorance of the condition then I could give him some leeway. Unfortunately, he appears to have had some sort of experience with the illness which has led him to believe that he knows the cure! Goodness knows what kind of crackpot hospital he got this 'experience' at but quite frankly he should stick to his thyroid clinic. I can deal with people (even in the medical profession) being ignorant of my condition, providing that they are willing to listen to me and take on board what I have to say - I have been living with this illness for 10 years now, I think I probably know quite a bit more about it than the average doc. But what gets me so very annoyed (the polite way of putting it) is ignorance compounded by arrogance; the belief that they have the answers when in reality they don't even know the questions!

Mind you I'm probably making a fuss over nothing. In all likelihood I won't even get to see the head honcho. Mostly I get palmed off onto his registrars, the majority of which look blankly at me when I try to explain that I have M.E. I don't think they can cope with more than one illness at a time, poor little dears.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Technologically speaking...

I've spent the better part of this evening on my hands and knees in our lounge, making friends with dust and dead spiders. Why I hear you ask? All for the greater televisual viewing of the Giraffe-a-licious house.

We have a shiny new TV! This is highly unusual for us. We normally hang on to our old and out-dated technology until it simply doesn't work anymore. Very economical and all that, but rather boring. Anyway, now we have moved into the 21st Century and have a rather beautiful 32" Sony Bravia LCD. To make said beautiful TV watchable however, required rather a lot of cable switching, furniture moving and generally exhausting activity. The truth of it is that I'm the tech-savvy one of the family when it comes to this stuff. My sister's better with computers and the like; but TVs, VCRs, DVDs, Digiboxes etc are my domain. The worrying thing is that I get a strange satisfaction from the whole process. It's probably part of my whole list addiction thing but it soothes me to get things in order; to unplug and replug cables, knowing that my actions will bring me eventual joy! The problem is that such activities tend to be a little on the energy zapping side.

Stand up... sit down... careful not to damage the new glass TV stand... get a torch to see where this cable goes... oh no wrong place... bend down again to change it... Thankfully I was ably aided by the parental carbon units without whose furniture moving skills I would have been all at sea. The most shocking part about the whole thing was that my Dad was actually able to keep quiet during the process! Usually it's a case of "you don't want to do it like that...". Yes Dad, actually I do. Anyway, this time round he was a star. He must be mellowing in his old age.

Now please do excuse me whilst I go and curl up in a ball somewhere and sleep this technology hangover off.