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Posts Tagged ‘postaweek2011’

  1. Slow walking and slow wheeling

    October 28, 2011 by superlative

    OK, so after my ranting my weekend was actually not too bad. We managed to do some nice things, and even though it was quite different with Chris’ Mum and Nan there (and annoying at times), we did still have fun.

    We had the first 24 hours just with my brother- and sister-in-law (does she count as a sister-in-law to me? His wife anyway), so that was nice and relaxed and we did some fun things. We played crazy golf on the seafront, which I always enjoy rather too much and a lot more than I’m expecting to, and I had an amazing meal in a restaurant round the corner from here. If you’re local and you haven’t tried it before, you really should go to Twenty Four St Georges Restaurant in Kemp Town. I’ve been there a few times now and it’s just lovely; this time I gorged myself on squash risotto and the most delicious plaice with mushroom ravioli. Just gorgeous.

    Then we had a very hurried trek about on top of windy Devil’s Dyke the next morning, before hurrying back into town to meet our older visitors. And then everything started to move veeeeeerrrry sloooooooowwwwwwly. I love them to bits, but my GOD how long can it take to walk from Churchill Square to the pier? 40 minutes?? Really?! It’s just bonkers. You can fly to Paris in 40 minutes.

    The absolute best part of the weekend though was when all six of us went on the newly opened Brighton Wheel. It’s kind of like the London Eye but a lot smaller, and they’ve just thrown it up next to the pier. They weren’t entirely sure when it was going to open – I think they were waiting for some final permission or something – but then suddenly it was open and going round and round with people on it on Saturday so we thought we’d give it a go. And it was great!

    You don’t have to book, it’s not busy enough for that yet, so you just stroll straight up and pay your money and get on. It has about 20 or 30 pods big enough for six adults, so we had one all to ourselves, and I think we happened to go at one of the best times because the sun was just starting to set. You get nice views of the two piers and down the coast in either direction, and a bit of a view of the town, but that’s not so interesting to look at. We went round four times over about 15 minutes and got some lovely photos, and I really, really enjoyed it. I know some people don’t approve of the Wheel much and think it is a bit of an eyesore, but I really liked it.

    Since the weekend I’ve unfortunately had a cold, after having a glorious few months free of illness. So I’m stuffed up and fed up at home right now, watching rubbish television with a blanket on my legs (I actually am – it’s green and gloriously soft). I’m also brooding a bit about my career, or lack of, and wondering what to do about it. I need a new job I think, because I’m so horribly unfulfilled right now, but I just can’t think what or how to make a leap and do something else. I watched The Social Network last night and realised that Mark Zuckerberg has all the money in the world AND is three years younger than me, and it made me quite sad about not having achieved very much. I could have been anything, could have done anything! But I ended up with so many options that I basically did nothing and suddenly I’m 30.

    So hmmm to that. I’ll have to give it some more thought, and then probably do nothing a bit more, and whinge about it periodically. So look forward to that, won’t you? It’ll be marvellous.

  2. Gatecrashing relatives

    October 20, 2011 by superlative

    Well I did have nice plans for this weekend, but now I haven’t any more.

    We invited Chris’ brother and his wife to come and stay with us for the weekend, because we haven’t seen them for ages and we get on really well with them. They like Brighton too, and there are lots of things we haven’t managed to do with them on past visits that we thought we’d make up for this time. Nice little things like go up for a walk on Devil’s Dyke so they can see the views, maybe drive over to Lewes for a mosey about, play crazy golf on the sea front, go out for dinner. You know, normal things that people enjoy.

    Except now we can’t do half of them and I’m annoyed.

    Chris’ Mum (whom I love, don’t get me wrong) rather weirdly decided on Tuesday that she’d maybe get the train down and join us for a meal.

    Hmm, OK, if she really wants to, Chris and I thought. It’s quite a long way from Essex to Brighton for a meal though.

    “Oh and Nanny too. I’ll bring Nanny.”

    Riiiiight. OK.

    “Hmm, but it’s quite a long way isn’t it? I’ll see if there are any cheap hotel deals and we could stay overnight.”

    Erm, sorry?

    And now it’s booked, AND she’s suddenly decided they’ll need one of us to pick them up from the station.

    At what point were they even invited? AT NO POINT is the answer. Chris only saw her a week ago!

    And now the whole weekend of nice things like drinking wine with friends and going for walks and sitting up late has been thrown entirely out the window and has turned into a chore weekend of entertaining Chris’ Mum and Nan.

    We can’t do most of what we want to do because a) they can’t walk very far [one has had a double hip replacement, the other is 80], and b) when they do walk anywhere it is SO SLOW that we’re basically stationary. I only have to LEAN FORWARDS slightly to keep up with them, I don’t even have to move my fucking feet.

    So trekking about on Devil’s Dyke then having a drink in the pub? No.

    Playing crazy golf? No.

    Playing board games in the evening? No. (They can’t hear anything or understand the rules of any games)

    Going for nice meals out? No. (Nanny doesn’t like foreign muck, it doesn’t agree with her)

    So what exactly are we doing? Sitting on the sofa, all six of us, having a cup of tea and saying “Well this is nice isn’t it?”

    NO IT’S NOT.

    I know I sound really horrible, but his Mum and Nan have already been to visit twice since we moved and that was only three months ago. And they weren’t invited! It’s just rude! They’ve just muscled in and turned someone else’s weekend away into their weekend away.

    So I’m fed up, and Chris is quietly furious. Which means both of us are going to be touchy all weekend and we just want to cancel the whole thing. I hope that tunnel between London and Brighton collapses again so they can’t come. Selfish people.

  3. Party party

    October 14, 2011 by superlative

    Last weekend was Chris’ birthday, so we had a joint birthday party-cum-housewarming thing at ours. It was the first time we’ve had any number of people at our new flat, and we had a very nice time apart from one major DISASTER which I’ll come to in a minute.

    For his present, Chris has requested some awesomely cool shoes that he’s been in love with for some time. These are they:

    They’re very pretty, but unfortunately turned out to be limited edition and not easy to buy from anywhere. They also cost about £140, so in the end we decided he wasn’t allowed those. BUT, after rooting around on the internet for a bit, I found them for sale from a Chinese seller on an eBay-type site for £35 including postage. For that price it’s highly possible they’re not going to be genuine ones, we said, and they may never arrive as they’re coming from China, but it was only £35 to risk so we thought we’d give it a try.

    And they’re great! They arrived the day before his party, which was perfect because then he got to show them off to everyone and wear them round the house all day. They also look great, and were in a proper Adidas box and everything, so overall I was really pleased. If I were to scrutinise them, I’d say the stitching is possibly of suspect quality, but for the money they’re absolutely fine.

    Anyway, the party was pretty full and Chris had lots of his work friends over for it, which was nice because I haven’t met some of them. And some of them are FIT, so that made it extra nice. Now, on to the disaster.

    As you may remember, our living room is decorated with predominately white furniture. We had said to people before the party (only half jokingly [AKA deadly seriously]), YOU MUST NOT SPILL. We were very adamant about that. Spilling on the floor is acceptable, as it’s wood and can be wiped up. Spilling on the rug and spilling on the furniture are capital offences.

    I think you can tell what I’m going to say happened.

    One of our friends, let’s call him M for anonymity purposes, arrived at the party completely trashed having enjoyed a day of drinking with other acquaintances. Not 30 minutes after his arrival, came The Incident.

    This is an artist’s impression of my lovely white chair before The Incident.

    This is an artist’s impression of my lovely white chair after M and his cocktail were allowed near it.

    I am not joking. That is how much cocktail went on the chair.

    This is an artist’s impression of me.

    Now, I actually think I was very good about it. Sort of it. I was clearly furious, not because someone spilled, anyone can spill and it’s just an accident, but because he was wasted and was being clumsy and careless.

    Fortunately the cover on those chairs is removable and washable, so I spent the next 20 minutes of the party scrubbing it in the sink like a fucking old washerwoman, not being able to socialise with anyone, while M harangued me with apologies and offers to clean it until I snapped at him and told him to go away and leave me to it.

    Mr Chair Cover has since had a wash in the washing machine, and all of the stain has come out because I got it into water straight away. M left me a voicemail message the next day apologising some more, which I haven’t responded to, so he doesn’t actually know the chair is fine again. I’m going to let him stew for a bit and think about what he’s done.

    Next time we have a party, everything is going to be vacuum-packed in impregnable cellophane, including everyone’s drinks and including all the people holding said drinks.


    I don’t know why people think I’m highly strung, I really don’t. I can’t imagine someone more easy-going.

  4. The Icemaiden Goeth

    October 6, 2011 by superlative

    They’ve gone! Finally. What a fucking draining few days that was… It was nice in many ways, but some of it was horrific and more than once I thought “God, what have I done??”

    They came down on Sunday afternoon as planned but had quite a hard time getting into Brighton as it was so sunny and busy, so in the end it took more than three hours to get here. That completely wiped Mum out, so she arrived in a foul and very exasperated mood. So what did she do as soon as she arrived and the minute I turned my back? She snapped at Chris, or said something rude to him, that was only fairly minor I think, but given she was in our house and he’s not that fond of her at the best of times, he got really cross. He bit his tongue, bless him, but said to me later “I nearly threw that fucking woman straight out of here!”

    So that was a nice start.

    Then on Monday I had my own little episode when I tried to take them to the pub round the corner for lunch. Mum, who has M.E., has a very particular set of requirements when it comes to… oh, everything really. And they’re completely inflexible (because she’s ill) but she also doesn’t really help herself with the way she behaves and the way she communicates.

    She likes/requires: effectively no noise; lunch at 12.15am with very little margin for error; food that she ‘fancies’ or she can’t/won’t eat it; a precise temperature that varies and is impossible to predict.

    So, although she wants to go out for lunch because she never gets out much, it makes it SO hard. There is MUSIC in pubs, for a start.

    “Why do they always have to have music?” Mum said. “Do people like music?”

    What?? YES! Yes people like music! And it’s not even loud!

    And then the kitchen wasn’t going to be open until 12.30pm (note earlier time requirement), and THEN when we finally got a menu it only had things like confit of duck on it which was really expensive and wasn’t what I was expecting at all!

    “It’s too loud and it’s too expensive!” Mum proclaimed loudly, in full earshot of the woman behind the bar (we were the only ones in there). “Why don’t they do things like sandwiches and jacket potatoes? This sort of food doesn’t even suit this sort of pub! It’s only a crummy little place!” And she went on and on and on.

    I was so embarrassed.

    “Do you want any of this?” she asked me, gesturing in disgust at the menu.

    “No, I don’t want any of it now,” I said. “I’m going home because this has been a FUCKING DISASTER. I’ll see you there, I don’t want to walk with you.” And I stormed off.

    How old am I?? A bit old to be storming off! But it wasn’t because of her needs that I was cross, it was her behaviour, which was awful. So childish and so rude. I never tell her off, and I never swear in anger in front of her, and so actually it turned out to be quite powerful. She was very meek for the rest of the afternoon, and then Tuesday and Wednesday went much better and the rest of the trip was pretty much OK.

    I was probably the most stressed during the evening meals when Chris was there, because I was anxious for them to get on OK, but they were only a couple of hours each night and then they left us alone for the rest of the evening.

    Even Mum’s birthday on Wednesday went OK and she didn’t freak out too much about being 60. We opened her cards, and we had a nice lunch up on Devil’s Dyke, and she said it was really nice to do something different and be somewhere away from home and to see me.  So that was the highlight I suppose.

    They said they’d like to come again some time, which I suppose would be OK as they could be a bit more self-sufficient now they know where they’re going.  It WAS fine, but it was really tiring, and it’s really nice to have the flat to ourselves again now.

  5. The Icemaiden Cometh

    September 28, 2011 by superlative

    My mother is coming to visit. For four days.

    In order for that to sink in properly, imagine your own mother coming to visit you for four days and then add on a whole extra bag o’crazy. That’s what I’m facing.

    Dad’s coming too, obviously, but that’s not really what’s at issue here because he’s not mental, so let’s try to stay on topic.

    As a bonus, Mum will be turning 60 on the final day of her visit, and she is freaking out about it, so hooray! So much to look forward to!

    I being mean obviously, because I’m sure the visit will be fine, but I am a bit nervous about it nonetheless and I’m concerned that Chris will get annoyed with her. Thankfully, they aren’t staying with us – they have rented the flat above us, which I may have mentioned before is available for holiday lets from the woman who owns it. So they will have their own space, they won’t be in our (read- Chris’) face the whole time, and it will hopefully be fairly easy on Mum because she can just go and have a rest whenever she wants.

    They are coming down on Sunday and staying until Wednesday lunchtime. It’s sort of her treat for her 60th birthday, as they hardly ever go away and they certainly never come down to Brighton, but we’re not allowed to mention her birthday particularly as she doesn’t want to be 60. It’ll give her a chance to see our new flat, because she’s been moaning on that everyone else has seen it and she hasn’t, and it’ll be a change of scene for them, and she likes seeing me so hopefully that will give her a bit of a boost.

    I’m grateful that they’re coming on what are mostly weekdays because Chris will be out at work most of the time, and then we’ll have dinner, and then Mum’s said “Oh you don’t need to worry about us in the evening, we’ll be quite happy watching television upstairs so you can just do whatever you’d normally do.” It’s not that Chris isn’t fine with them, but he doesn’t see them often and Mum is hard work, and even if everything is going swimmingly I still get anxious trying to make sure they’re both OK and getting along and things.

    I’m not sure what to do with them while they’re here, but with any luck the sun will stay with us (not too hot, Mum doesn’t like the heat, something else you can put on the list of things she doesn’t like) so we can just sit out in the garden or go for a look at the sea. She likes the sea and is normally quite happy just to sit looking at it for a bit. She also suggested to me that I could take my Dad to the sealife centre, which I found a bit… odd. He’s not 11. But she claims he likes sealife centres and always wants to go to them, despite me having no memory of him going to one in the 30 years I’ve been alive. I think she might have confused “sealife centre” with “pub”, but I’ll give him both options and see which he picks (pub pub pub).

    So anyway, wish me luck! I will no doubt tweet about the experience as it unfolds and then do a little blog afterwards. If it goes really well they may want to come again. So, erm, here’s hoping it goes…. okaaaaaayish.

  6. The Way of Kings

    September 19, 2011 by superlative

    I recently finished reading The Way of Kings, book one of Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive, so I thought I’d write a short review of it.

    I first came across Brandon Sanderson when I read his Mistborn Trilogy. I’d never heard of him before, but the books were marked with a ‘Staff recommend’ sticker in Waterstones and so I thought I’d give them a go. I absolutely LOVED them and think they’re a great series of books, and I’m really looking forward to the fourth book he has written set in the Mistborn universe that is due out later this year. I’ve also since learnt that Sanderson is quite famous for his work on completing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, but I’ve never read any Jordan so that doesn’t mean a lot to me (it might to you, if you’re a fantasy buff).

    The Way of Kings is quite a mammoth book to pick up if you haven’t read any Sanderson before. It was originally published in two halves because it is so huge, but the edition I was bought combines the two into a hefty 1008 pages. Even at that length though I didn’t find it heavy going, and I think that’s due to the way it is structured (divided up into distinct parts and interludes) and the three separate story arcs that run through it. There are three protagonists, and each chapter is told from the viewpoint of one of them. I suppose that is partly why the book is so long, because there are three stories to be told, but it certainly stops you getting bored with any one arc, and at times it makes you desperate to read on when something exciting happens but the next chapter switches to a different character.

    One of the things Sanderson does well and has received acclaim for is what some people call ‘secondary creation’: the art of creating a detailed world with a rich history to set your story in. In both The Way of Kings and the Mistborn books, this also involves creating novel systems of magic, both of which really are unlike anything I’ve seen elsewhere. They take a bit of getting used to when you pick his books up, but once you have accepted them and learnt the terminology they aren’t distracting and make for some very exciting action scenes.

    The Way of Kings is very grand in scale at times, with large battles and a good deal of politicking between rival houses of noblemen, but also manages to focus down onto some believable, sympathetic and troubled characters. In that regard you get the best of both worlds, as it has an epic feel intertwined with the personal and emotional journeys of three individuals.

    If I had to make a criticism of the book, I’d say that it is quite frustrating and cannot be read as a standalone novel. It really is the first of a series, and you’re left desperate to pick up the second book straight after the first to find out what happens. Unfortunately it hasn’t been published yet, and I’m not sure how long I’ll have to wait before I get my hands on it.

    My other key criticism is of the combined edition I read, which contains by far the largest number of typographical and grammatical errors I’ve ever seen in a published novel. It’s almost as if it has never been proof-read, which seems bizarre given it must have come out after the publication of the two individual volumes. Gollancz, the publishers, should be ashamed of themselves, because although the errors aren’t a barrier to understanding what’s going on, they are distracting and disruptive to the flow of the narrative.

    I haven’t said very much about what happens in the story, but that’s because I didn’t want this to turn into a summary, and so much happens in the book that it would be hard to stop it doing so. You can read the product description on Amazon if you want to get a flavour of the content. I recommend The Way of Kings very highly if you enjoy fantasy novels though, and particularly if you enjoyed his Mistborn books. Of the two, I’d say the Mistborn novels are stronger, but The Way of Kings is only the first in the series and I’ll be very keen to see where he takes it next.

  7. Caravan Club

    September 15, 2011 by superlative

    I had a fun couple of nights staying up at a friend’s caravan in Essex last weekend. Her family owns a plot of land on the edge of one of the only private rivers in England (as she kept reminding us), on which they keep several caravans and have built a little bungalow thing. Here it is:

    I’ve been up there before, but I was quite a bit younger then (terrifyingly I was 12 years younger…) and we’ve never got round to using it again.

    I have to say that I was a little bit uncertain about going, simply because I’m the kind of person who likes his comforts and I suspected that a caravan in September might not be overflowing on the comfort scales. I was reassured that it would be fine though, and that the weather would “probably turn out alright” (which it did really), and so off we went.

    We were given a choice of accommodation on arrival, given the high caravan-to-people ratio, including our friend’s starting offer of this:

    Yes that is a kitchen, and yes that is where we would have slept. I couldn’t fit it all into the picture, but it was basically a one-room caravan with a pull-down bed thing next to that fridge. I graciously (sort of) declined to sleep there, and managed to haggle our way up to a room in the trailer in the middle of the plot in the first picture above. That was much better, because it was an actual bedroom and there wasn’t a cooker or a bicycle in it.

    It was, however, ridiculously 70s, which I quite enjoyed as it kind of set the tone for the whole weekend.

    It was lots of fun anyway, even if there wasn’t any hot water and it rained a couple of times.

    We went canoeing:

    and we played rounders, and we had rather too much fun playing Ludo:

    That photo isn’t posed by the way, that’s genuine excitement and shock on our faces at whatever had just happened to the little coloured men on the board.

    One of the highlights for me was playing the After Eights Game, where you have to get an After Eight from your forehead to your mouth without using your hands. I always enjoy that game because I EXCEL at it due to my bizarre rubber face that seems to have been designed specifically for manoeuvring After Eight mints.

    I also got dared during a drinking game to roll down the hill outside in only my pants, which as much to my surprise as everyone else’s I agreed to do.

    “It’ll be fine”, I thought, “It’s private land, so there will be nothing nasty on the grass. I’ll just roll down it, get a bit wet from the dew, and everyone will laugh at how outgoing I am.”

    So what did I do? I rolled in dog shit.

    Yes, somehow, wherever you are and no matter whether any dogs have ever actually been there, if you roll down a grassy hill you are guaranteed to roll in dog shit. And I did. But it was only a bit, and it seemed to amuse my friends rather a lot, so I suppose it’s OK.

    All in all it was a fun, boozy, outdoorsy weekend of giggling and being childish and cooking on an absurdly small stove. I’d certainly go again sometime. Maybe in another 12 years. But I might not roll down any hills.

  8. Orange vs giffgaff

    September 7, 2011 by superlative

    I have been trying out a SIM card I got from the mobile network giffgaff for the last week or so, to see how it compares to the service I get from Orange.

    Basically I have been with Orange for about four years, but the reception I get from them is a bit rubbish. The data connection I get when using the internet on my phone is awful, and it yo-yos up and down from HSDPA to 3G to 2G to no Gs at all. Coupled with that, Orange introduced the extremely useful function last year of customers being able to use the T-Mobile network as well as their own – which would be a benefit, were you able to get anything other than a 2G connection on it. So once your phone hops onto T-Mobile you get capped at 2G, and it’s really difficult to force your phone back onto Orange.

    Since we moved into our basement flat, my reception at home has been terrible and I have to leave my mobile in strategic positions round the house to make sure it has a signal. My reception at work has always been pretty poor, and again I have to leave my phone in the right place on my desk otherwise it drops off the network entirely.

    All in all, it makes my phone very hard to use for data, and given it’s a smartphone that’s kind of the point.

    So, as some of you may remember from previous posts, I have become a lot more proactive in the last year or two about taking my custom elsewhere if I’m not getting good enough service. I changed bank and I changed broadband provider, and now I’m thinking I might change mobile provider as well.

    giffgaff is a not so well known network that runs on O2’s infrastructure. It is similar in that way to companies such as Tesco Mobile and Virgin Mobile, which don’t actually have their own masts and instead pay to use those of one of the big proper networks.

    giffgaff sells itself as ‘the mobile network run by you’, in that it is a kind of community where members offer technical support to each other and customers are fairly tech-savvy and don’t need a lot of help from the company itself. For this reason they don’t offer telephone support of any kind, and that helps them to keep their costs down. If you look for a phone number on their website you won’t find one, or at least I haven’t managed to so far.

    They also offer an unusually cheap pay as you go package.

    At the moment, I really don’t spend a lot on my mobile. I buy the handset separately, so I do spend a bit on that, but month to month Orange has worked out very cheaply indeed. I’m on their Dolphin PAYG tariff, and if I top up by £10 in a month I get a free bundle of 400 texts and 100Mb of data to use. I never use that many texts, and 100Mb is sufficient just about for me given I only really use my data allowance on the way to and from work. After I have exhausted my bundle or my month is up, I still have the £10 of credit left that I put on it, and with it I can buy an ‘Extra’ (another bundle basically) of unlimited texts for £5 that lasts for a month, and another one of 250Mb of data for £5 for one month. My only other expenditure goes on the very occasional calls I make that require me to top up by a little bit more every now and then.

    But in total and on average, I would estimate I’m only spending about £7.50 per month on using my phone, which is really good.

    BUT it’s not so good if your reception is crappy and you can’t actually use the phone half the time.

    So I have been doing a comparison with giffgaff, and here are my results so far:

    Reception at home: not dissimilar, I still have to leave the phone in the right places. The signal is perhaps marginally stronger.
    Reception at work: much, much better. It stays on the network most of the time, and I can actually carry it round with me and it still works! It’s stupid that this is unusual for me, but it is.
    Data connection to and from work: AMAZINGLY BETTER. It basically stays on HSDPA the whole way, and only occasionally does down to 3G. It’s really fast, and generally very stable.

    How does it compare on price?

    Well giffgaff is pay as you go too, and they call their bundles ‘Goodybags’. All networks have to make up stupid names for their bundles, apparently.

    A £10 goodybag on giffgaff gets you:
    250 UK minutes to any mobile or landline
    Unlimited UK texts
    Unlimited data

    To get unlimited data on pay as you go is really unusual, and to get free minutes to any network is pretty unusual too. That goodybag would easily cover all my usage, and would allow me to use my phone a lot more for things like streaming music than I have ever been able to before. I’d have to buy a goodybag every month, so I’d be looking at spending a small amount more £10 every month rather than around £7.50.

    I did a little experiment yesterday to see how much data I’d use on my phone if I really used it. I left it on Orange, with 77Mb of data allowance remaining, and then I streamed Google Music all the way to work while tweeting every so often. I got to work, and my WHOLE allowance was gone and I’d spent £2 of credit! I was shocked that it was so much, and that was even streaming using a crappy connection that kept cutting out. So if I wanted to do that all the time, there is no way I could do it on Orange, I would need an unlimited data package like giffgaff.

    Reading all that back, it sounds like yes I should switch to giffgaff. I’ll be spending a bit more, but other than that I haven’t really found a downside. I just get a bit jittery about committing to something like this, in case I regret it later. But I can probably transfer my number back to Orange in future if I really want to, can’t I? Yes I probably can.

    So it looks like giffgaff it is then.


  9. Donate your stem cells and save a life

    August 30, 2011 by superlative

    Today I finished the process of joining the Anthony Nolan blood cancer donor register. They’re a charity that helps people with blood cancers, like leukemia, to find a suitable stem cell donor in order to save their life.

    I heard about the charity last week, as they are currently having a bit recruitment drive to try to get more men aged 18-30 on their register. One of the groups they have been targeting is gay men, because often gay men wouldn’t be aware that they can donate their stem cells in this way. Because of the stupid ban on gays donating blood, they think they can’t donate anything, and in this case it isn’t true.

    So after I had read about the charity and about what stem cell donation involves, I filled in an online form and then today I sent them a saliva sample that they can use for testing for tissue matches with people who need a transplant.

    I’m a bit surprised that I went through with it, because I’m quite scared of the prospect of having to donate. It’s not really that arduous, but I’m scared nonetheless. You basically have to have three injections over three days to stimulate your stem cell production, and then you either go and sit in a clinic for four hours hooked up to a machine that harvests the cells from your blood, or they give you an anaesthetic and take some bone marrow from your pelvis with a syringe. Neither of them cause you any lasting effects, although with the latter method you might be a bit bruised and you have to stay in hospital overnight.

    Reading that back now, it sounds like quite a lot of effort and disruption to go to, as you have to take time of work and things. But then throughout this whole process of joining, I’ve kept thinking “What if I needed a transplant? Even worse, what if Chris did?” Because when I think of it like that, and imagine some potential donor out there who could save Chris’ life but who is too scared or too lazy to do it, I think why on Earth am I hesitating? I’d be desperate, so desperate for a donor to come forward, and you could actually save someone’s life and stop people losing a loved one.

    So I’ve done it.

    The maximum number of times I can be asked to donate between now and when I’m 60 is twice, and if they actually found a tissue match for me there’s still a chance I’d be deemed too underweight to donate. But all I had to do was fill in a form and spit in a tube, and it might make all the difference to someone.

    So there, that’s a Good Deed that I’ve done. But I’m still a bit scared.

    If you want to find out more or join the register, see the Anthony Nolan website.

  10. Gardens and gas leaks

    August 26, 2011 by superlative

    It has been quite a busy week with house stuff, and we have managed to sort loads of things out and started to get it looking quite nice.

    Last weekend I spent about £150 in a garden centre, B&Q and Homebase, and got home clutching all my homely wares thinking ‘what the fuck has happened to me?’ I’ve never needed to do any of this sort of stuff before – DIY and buying pot plants and things – simply because we’ve never had any need to. And now that I need to do it (and want to do it, because I’m quite house proud) I feel like I’ve suddenly turned into my parents.

    Most of that money, and then a large part of Friday, Saturday AND Sunday, went on cleaning up our decked patio area at the back. Honestly, it was disgusting out there. I think the previous owners must never have cleaned it, and they pretty much just used it as a space for their massive horse-like dog to sit. We can add cleaning the decking to the long list of things they never did in the flat, of which more later.

    It was covered in grime, and bird crap, and weird mossy algae stuff, so that it was basically a murky grey with green bits. This is what it looked like when we bought the place:


    It’s not too bad in the picture I suppose, but it was pretty horrible close up, and you didn’t really want to walk around on it.

    So first of all we spent three hours on Friday sweeping it and the scrubbing it with soapy water. Then on Saturday Chris scrubbed it again with special decking cleaner that brought it up a lovely sandy sort of colour and which magically deleted all the green from it. Then he had to scrub it again to wash the cleaner off, so he pretty much spent the whole of Saturday on his knees while I had a little sit down on the sofa. Then on Sunday, finally, we gave it two coats of decking stain and put our new plants out there, and now it looks like this:

    It’s so much nicer! It’s really clean now, and it feels much nicer to go out there. Of course it has rained pretty much every day since we finished the decking, so I haven’t been able to enjoy it really, but at least it looks better.

    While we were out there, the lady who owns the flat upstairs came out to say hello, so I got to meet her and have a chat. I’ll refer to her as Upstairs Lady from now on. The family of elephant children have FINALLY fucked off, so we no longer have the noise of them pounding their fat little feet up and down over our heads all day, which has been great. Upstairs Lady is very nice, as is her partner guy. She’s a bit of a hippy, like I thought, and the flat is her second home that she rents out when she’s not using it. We seemed to get on quite well, and she says we’re welcome to sit up in her garden (at the top of those steps in the pictures) when she’s not there, as it gets much more sun up there than on our deck. I’m hoping that if she likes us, she might be more inclined to do right by us and ensure she doesn’t rent the flat out to any idiots. She’s fairly protective of it – you have to pay her a £300 security deposit when you rent it, even if you’re only staying a few nights – so hopefully it’ll be only nice people she lets stay there. It has certainly been a lot quieter having the two of them up there, so if it’s mainly adults I think it might not be too bad. The noise of them walking is fairly minimal and is ignorable, and although you can hear their television in our bedroom it so far hasn’t disturbed me too much. I really hope it turns out OK, as it has been the single biggest negative point about living here so far, and I suppose it was naive of me not to anticipate it when living in a basement flat.

    As well as all those housey things, today we had two gas engineers come round to service our boiler and gas fire. First of all, they were both about 20 and were FIT. Well one of them was anyway, the other was only after-four-or-five-vodkas doable. But that hardly ever happens! Tradesman are always 50 and paunchy. So I’ll definitely be using that company again anyway. In fact I might go and jam something into our boiler right now so I can call them out again.

    The previous owners, surprise surprise, had lived here for two years but had never had the boiler or fire serviced, had no idea when they were last serviced and had pretty much no maintenance history for either of them. This was a bit of an annoyance for me when we bought the flat, as it gave me the impression they hadn’t taken very good care of it. And lo and behold I turned out to be completely right! The gas guys came round, the fit one got on his hands and knees by the fire and showed off his pert behind for a few minutes, and then stood up and said “Yeah, this fire is unsafe and poses a risk to life. As a gas safe engineer, I’m legally obliged to disconnect it, as I can’t leave a dangerous appliance without disabling it.” So, er, thanks for that you stupid cunts!

    He said that basically the fire is too big not to have a proper air vent next to it, and should never have been installed. If you used it for a longish period of time it would eventually deplete the oxygen in the room and pollute the air with its waste gases, and presumably suffocate you to death if you’d fallen asleep or something. So what kind of twat installed that there then?? And why didn’t the owners ever check it? So GAH that was annoying. I now have a large, ugly, manky old fire in my hearth that I can’t use even if I wanted to. I’d rather it be disconnected and safe though – that was the whole point of us having everything serviced, as I didn’t want to get killed by faulty appliances.

    The boiler turned out to be fine, and the central heating all seems to work OK, which was my other main concern as we haven’t needed to switch the heating on yet. As part of their checks though, they went out to inspect the gas meter in the under-pavement storage vault outside. And guess what again??

    “Your meter’s got a gas leak from the nipple on the top.”

    “Say nipple a few more times for me, it’s turning me on.” (I only said this in my head, I’m not a pervert. I’m only an in-the-head pervert)

    “I have to report it to Transco, and they’ll come within two hours as it’s classed as a leak emergency to replace your meter. In the meantime I’m obliged to turn your gas off.”

    So fucking thanks again, owner twats! They said it was only a minor leak, but still, there were FLAMMABLE GASES leaking away outside my bedroom window.

    The Transco guys came within about half an hour, and initially said our address didn’t exist on their database so they weren’t allowed to change the meter and we weren’t allowed to have any gas. This was rather stressful, as obviously we DO have an address and there obviously IS gas going into it, but the guy was very nice and did some to-ing and fro-ing on his mobile to his office until finally they decided we either existed or it didn’t matter and they changed the meter.

    So hurrah! I now shouldn’t be living in a gassy deathtrap. No thanks to the previous owners though, who were apparently lazy wankers.

    That should, finally, be most of the major jobs done that we needed to do in the flat. We’ve got guests coming for the bank holiday weekend, so I hope they’re suitably impressed, and I hope that everything just stays fixed and working for a bit. I’m not sure I have the stamina to be sorting out anything else for a while!