Friday, 26 February 2010

A Site To Be Seen

Well today it was brought home to me how single minded I really can be when I get involved in something. I've been working on a website for the youth organisation I volunteer with, which we're right in the middle of launching. Whilst the backbone of the site was put together by a young woman in our Squadron, I have done the majority of content writing and tweaking - from the Boss' introduction, to the FAQ and the list of activities we offer. In addition to all this I have been taking, processing and editing photos to use for general publicity and on the site in particular, then uploading them and trying to get the dimensions right.

Today was spent setting up a Twitter feed, tweaking the widget so it fits on the page, notifying people that we have a Twitter stream (and a facebook, a blog and a site) and asking for co-operation from other Squadrons to do a link exchange. I was so absorbed in all this that I forgot to get dressed, forgot to drink anything and, most shocking of all to those who know me, forgot to eat lunch. I know - almost inconceivable, right? It was only when Hubby rang me at the end of his working day to let me know he was off to give blood that I realised what the time was.

All in all I feel it was time well spent. The Squadron now has a shiny new website that's both pretty and useful which will hopefully win them brownie points with the head honchos and attract new youngsters into the fold - something that's essential for the survival of the unit. On a more personal note, and something I only realised when a friend pointed it out to me, it makes an excellent addition to my CV. To have taken a unit with no media presence whatsoever and developed it within two months, albeit with the assistance of colleagues to some extent, so that it has full representation across the gamut of new media, some connection with the local press and to have supplied all the content myself - well, that can't hurt when I'm going for Media Communications jobs, can it?

If you're curious you can check the website here, do let me know what you think...

Oh, and if you have any connection with someone looking for a Media Comms assistant please pass my name along - I'll work for dry bread and water at the moment! lol

In other news I've dropped over half a stone now and am finally back in the trousers I was wearing when I met Hubby 5 and a half years ago. Only a stone and a half to go and I'm back at my ideal weight... we'll see :-)

Thursday, 25 February 2010

20/20 hindsight

So yeah, with hindsight it was not, perhaps, my wisest ever move to choose to listen to an album that reminds me so strongly of ten years ago when I'm tired and trying to sleep. An album that was practically a soundtrack for me during a short period that, looking back, I can point to and describe as my first and last few moments of untainted youth and freedom.

I was away from home for a week at a youth festival. I didn't eat enough or sleep enough and spent hours talking to random people I'd never see again. I remember one night where I sat on the beach (and this is Yorkshire in April, before you get too romantic a notion) with a young man two years older than me and we talked until 2 or 3 in the morning. I think I was in the throes of a pretty sturdy crush which must have been the main reason I agreed to buy the album he and his best friend had made. It cost me a fiver and I listened to it all week and for many weeks after. It's naive and foolish in places, but I can;t listen to it unbiased now - it holds too many emotions and memories entwined in its music. I've googled the man in question, but no luck so far. Hah - just decided to do it again and lookie lookie - they're on Wikipedia. Well I never... wonder if that demo album is worth something?

Anyway, to get back to my story - it wasn't long after that week away that I started getting sick... It took a year to really get hold and then it took another eight years to go away. I've been recovering for just about a year now and most of the time I'm fine, but occasionally it hits me with a surprising strength that I lost eight years of my life, my youth. Years just frittered away with waiting and making do. It hurts so much to think of the experiences I could have been having, the things I could have achieved. I doubt I'd be the same person I am now, but would I be better or worse or just different?

I'm certainly different to the hopeful, wide eyed teenager sitting on a cold English beach in the middle of the night making moon eyes at some future rock star. I haven't got all those possibilities in front of me any more, just ten more years of regrets and wistful memories. It makes me want to do something that I haven't done since I was so ill - cry and scream and hit out at something and yell about how unfair it all is. Because it was, it really was. Where did those years go? I had plans and dreams and now I'm just some sad housewife with a busy husband, two cats and a sideline hobby in writing that's blatantly not going to go anywhere. How did this happen? I was destined for something more, as we all are in our heads. I thought I was over this, but I've just sat around and wasted yet another year of my life and it's too precious. I can't believe the pain of wasted time and opportunities, it's like a hard knot in my stomach that won't go away and can't be expressed.

So Chris Russell, of The Lightyears, I doubt if you remember me, or if you'll ever read this blog, but I have your album, 'Bittersweetcalm', and I still listen to it and it still means something to me. I wish you every success. You were a hopeful nineteen year old with Leo di Caprio hair and dreams of making it in the music business - it makes me unbelievably happy to see you've achieved something. It would have saddened me so much to think of you differently to how I remembered you.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

So I got in from my knitting social at 9.45pm and, for some bizarre reason, it seemed like a good idea to clean the hob. Now I partly blame this on the up-tempo music on my iPod which frequently cons me into doing more up-tempo activity than my natural inclination would lead me to contemplate and partly I blame the fact the hob is black and I therefore couldn't see exactly how disgustingly filthy it was.

In retrospect it's good that I cleaned it, it being so filthy and all, but perhaps not late at night when I'm tired and hubby is already in bed... not that I'd get a lot of sense out of him necessarily if I was up there anyway.

I dunno why I did it - cleaning sprees like this normally only hit me when I have PMT...

Go figure.

Sweet dreams all.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Marriage in the modern world

I've just seen an interview with the queen of the Aga saga, Joanna Trollope. Well, I am now well and truly riled and here's why. She was proselytizing about how committed couples who had been co-habiting for years and had children and a life together didn;t share any of the same rights as married couples. Now I warn you, what I am about to say may be controversial in today's modern, touchy-feely, PC world, but why the hell should they? If you're prepared to make the commitment to live with someone and have babies with someone then you should be prepared to marry them or forgo the legal rights that you would receive in a marriage. Marriage is a big risk, emotionally and financially, but if you're not prepared to take that step then you can't expect any of the protection afforded by the legal institution of being married.

I fully support peoples' right to co-habit and have children together. I'm not so bloody outdated that I'm morally against that, but when a couple decides to do that, they need to be prepared for the fact that it does mean they're choosing to forgo some of the rights, protections and reliefs afforded to people who do choose to make that commitment. I'm a realist. I know marriages don't always work and that they're a massive risk, but no more so than having a child with someone and surely it's better, if you're going to be in a long-term committed relationship, to know that if something should happen to you, then your loved one is entitled to the inheritance tax breaks afforded by marriage, or if your other half clears off one day then you have some recourse to the law to claim alimony or support if they've left you high and dry. You don't have to do the big white wedding, nor do you have to change your name to theirs, but if you want the legal rights then you have to change your legal status. That's just fair, surely.

Just a thought, but if co-habiting for any length of time makes one subject to the law then perhaps it'll be that much harder to make the step from dating to living together. All of the couples I know who are married or engaged only got engaged after living together for a short time, even though in some cases the couple had been dating for years. Equally it gives people a chance to figure out if they *can* live together without the commitment to stay together forever before they make any permanent decisions. I think marriage is still a worthy institution, but if it's to retain that worth then it needs to be respected. If you want what marriage offers then get married or quit whining - you can't have it both ways, it doesn't work like that.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Happy Scratching!

Hubby and I finally found what we were looking for today - a scratching post for our boys! The one we bought before we got them is far too small: kitten sized and wobbly and they pull it over on top of themselves. Poor kitties. Now we have a glorious black and sisal three tier cat scratching post which we got for a song and]'# <>M:? (sorry, Bramble wanted a cuddle and didn't care that the laptop was already on my lap) is nice and sturdy.

The pet store sold it to us with £10 off because all the screws were missing, which hubby thought he could fix at home, turns out, when we got it home, that all the screws were screwed into place and only one was missing: evidently someone had bought it previously, tried to assemble it and failed. Oh well, bargain for us. The three tier post is currently a two-tier post while we wait for F-i-L to find us an appropriate bolt for the top-tier! Until then the kittens already adore their new toy and are fighting over who gets to go on the uppermost level so they can bat their brother on the ground floor level! They also immediately started scratching the scratching portions of the post - hurrah! Long live our wallpaper (and bed, and sofa and carpet...) - they've finally found an alternative to sharpen their toenails on!

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Films I would Like To See

OK, there is stuff I really ought to be doing right now, so it's list time again. The following list is by no means definitive and consists entirely of the films that occur to me off the top of my head as I'm writing this, so it's missing out the many many that it fleetingly occurs to me to watch over the many hours of my days.

- Love Story
- The Ugly Truth
- Stranger Than Fiction
- Brief Encounter
- 9 1/2 Weeks

Hrm, that was shorter than expected, though more will undoubtedly come to me as soon as I publish this post!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Digital Days

Every morning I get up and plug myself into my iPod. Loud music so I can drown out my own thoughts, any nagging doubts and grass-is-greener alternatives. The television covers up the silence of being alone, my mobile sends me bleets of encouragement that someone else is thinking about me, even if only briefly, the computer is my solace - a journal, friend, confessional, social world of people that I don't see.

Each of us struggles, reconciling dreams with realities, expectations with truth. I try not to think about it too deeply most days. I have pop and disco, some soft rock and indie alt, country and dance and I sing along, put other people first, do my duty as I see it, be a good wife, friend, daughter, sister and occasionally get blindsided by a stray thought that wonders what would happen if I just did as I wanted and world be damned. Would that simply mean baking and eating an entire tray of brownies, would I run off to join the circus, take all the money out of the bank that I could get my hands on and go on the longest, most luxurious holiday I could, or something even more selfish?

The long and short of it is that, until I get a job I have very few options anyway. I stay here or I go to my parents'. I may not be ill any more, but I'm still dependent and I hadn't really noticed - how did that happen?

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Happy Thoughts

Found £5o of John Lewis vouchers from the wedding and today I finally bought something with them - a delightful tea set that I adore and cannot wait to use! I must take photos, but it has flowers and funny little birds in all these sherbet colours and it is just adorable.

Visiting my friend and her baby and seeing how she's lost her mind and can do nothing but gaze at her son. Cute, hilarious and very unlike her usual, practical self.

Realising how much I love my knitting group and how I look forward to it each week because it's sociable and female and *mine*, just mine.

Cementing a new friendship with a massive long chat on the phone until you feel like BFF, to quote that horror, Paris Hilton.

A *seriously* cold walk in snow flurries when the sun peeks out from behind a cloud and makes everything bright and shiny, then that rosy-cheeked rush of warmth when you come back inside and sink, in a fuzzy haze, into a comfy chair with a hot cup of tea.

Friday, 5 February 2010

It was on a Tuesday morning that the Gas man came to call... and a Friday...

Yup. I have been visited by not one, but two gas/electricity men this week "come to read the meter, Love." Marvellous. As if it isn't bad enough answering the door to a strange man and haviong to invite him into your house when you're alone today I got caught on the hop just as I'd got out of the shower. Luckily my dressing gown is a real passion killer - thick, heavy pale-blue towelling that covers *everything* from neck to ankle barely even hinting at a waist, despite the cord around the middle, but all the same it was very unnerving to be standing there knowing I was naked underneath and knowing that the gas man probably knew too, since I had blatantly just got out of the shower and was streaming water onto the floor.

I fully realise that there is some kind of national stereotype of the bored housewife eagerly welcoming various labourers into her bored embrace, but 1) I am rarely bored and 2) ewww - have you seen the state of most of them? I don't do Grandads ;-) Especially not grubby ones in fraying t-shirts.

Right, that's my exciting update for the day, now I have to go see a man about a job... hopefully < crosses fingers >

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Going Native

So yesterday I had the opportunity to act as tour guide to Coventry for a friend of mine who came to stay. For a variety of reason this is a rare occurence, but I realised, whilst I was doing it, that despite Coventry's many downsides and limitations, I had become fond of the place and was proud to point out its good points, even whilst laughingly acknowledging its downside and many uglinesses.

Time was when Coventry was a beautiful and well-liked Medieval city, similar in many ways to Oxford or 'The Shambles' in York. Crooked tudor buildings, white-painted and criss-crossed with black beams, lumpy cobbled alleys that undulate under one's feet, even older buildings in the native red sandstone common to the Midlands with rooves even more undulating than the streets as they dip and sag under the weight of centuries. Now there are only pitiful remnants of this quaint and historic town, hedged in with concrete tower blocks, ugly bricked shopping centres and greying, decaying shopping precincts and malls. The saddest thing is that I've seen the plans made for the re-building of Coventry, post-war. They show shining pale concrete buildings, clean, safe streets, happy families smilingly strolling along continental-style vistas - little did they know that the concrete (a revolutionary building material at one point) would age in such an ugly fashion, become grey and dreary until the bright blue and yellow frontage of IKEA was the most appealing visual landmark in some places... and yet...

There are redeeming features of 'new' Coventry. The Cathedral, for example, a red stone building dating from 1300 AD that was partially destroyed in the Blitz was cleverly recreated in the 1950s so that the original remains of the cathedral stand, roofless and haunting, as a memorial of the wartime bombings and, next to it, a new, functional cathedral with glowing stained glass windows and eerie etched glass frontage connect with the old building and (quite literally) reflect it. Just outside the cathedral is a large piazza housing one part of Coventry university and the Herbert Art Gallery. The space is airy and European in feel, all it needs is a little cafe with outdoor tables and some warm weather and you could easily be abroad, especially with the sculptures and fountain to break up the large expanse of paving.

The other side of the town, near the self-same IKEA I already mentioned, the roads themselves have been re-designed to some extent. Wide, with wider pavements and piazzas there is, again, that sense of the continent that can carry off more modern buildings with a modicum of style. New restaurants have opened here and, it is a pocket of attractive cityscape in a town that is still mostly grey concrete.

The final piece of aesthetic relief for the urban explorer is the little bit of piazza fronting the Motor Museum at the back of Pool Meadow Bus Station. Sweeping curves set it apart from the angular monstrosities of the concrete Fail that was the post-war redevelopment, with large glassy sculptures swooping overhead as a testament to Frank Whittle, local man and inventor of the jet engine. Here a small glass-fronted cafe belonging to the motor museum achieves just that sense of indoor-outdoor space that is needed in the piazza by the Cathedral and I look forward to seeing it in summer when it's a little softend by warmth and, hopefully, some foliage.

For someone brought up in London, one of the greenest cities on Earth, that is what I find most lacking in theseindustrial Midland towns: greenery, foliage, flowers. Where are all the trees? I have no doubt that if Coventry continues the way it's going then it will shortly become a far brighter, cheerier place to be and I am excited about its prospects, but I do wish that someone would see fit to plant a few more trees and instigate a few more grassy areas - I miss the accents that nature provides within a city and think Coventry would benefit greatly from it.

When I get my computer up and running (I am currently communicating via the internet channel on our Nintendo Wii!) I will process some of the photos I took and show you Coventry's hidden charms. Until then you'll just have to take my word for it, or come and visit. I may do a visitors guide to the area soon, with a list of eateries and other attractions, but for now - this is it :-)