Friday, 27 March 2009

New flat, and fabulous too!

It is always nice to return home to blogland! Especially when such pleasant surprises await. The lovely Ribbon over at Mindscene awarded this to me.

Her blog, like her, is thoughtful and always makes me smile, do give her a click! And I am very grateful for the award! Thanks lots!

I would have loved to pass it on straight away, but I just don't have the capacity to make that kind of difficult decision at the moment, I am surrounded by cardboard boxes, unable to locate any food, and I have to build a bed from IKEA before I can get any sleep!

Watch this space, though..

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Opening Skinner's box

This is probably the book that made me realise I wanted to become a psychologist. I haven't had the heart to get rid of it, despite numerous house moves since then..
I have been slightly on the absent side of things lately. Life has been so busy that not even I have been able to squeeze in any private time for blogging.

Today I packed my last boxes (there are 15 of them, most of them dragged across the North Sea by J, which is a rather admirable amount of manual labour for a man like him) and tomorrow... I move into my new flat.

I will be living on my own until J arrives next week, and we will be together again. I am really looking forward to it, not in a nervous and giddy way, because I know we will argue, but also that we can handle those arguments.

I look forward to it in the sense that I will feel like my life is falling into place.

It will be fantastic to paint the walls any colour I like, but it would not be right unless J was there.

We have now spent the best part of eight months apart. It doesn't seem that long, with all the Skyping and visits every few weeks. But it is not the same as living together, being able to bicker over who reads what part first out of the weekend papers, and coming home to dinner hot on the table after a long day.

Even so, I am also looking forward to the few days I will spend on my own before then. I have never lived on my own before.

Meanwhile, I have also passed all the mini-courses at university for this semester. Only the main exam left, in a couple of months. So I hope to find some more time to write, sing, bake and knit.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Should I worry? Well, I do..

I'm slightly worried about an old friend of mine.

No, actually, strike that. I am at least moderately concerned.

Last Saturday, I went to his house along with a bunch of other people. He loves having visitors, partly because he is too lazy to visit anyone. But he is a good host, so people always gather round his place.

When I arrived after dinner, he was already drunk. This in itself is I guess not worrying, as many young men like to spend most of Saturday evening in varying degrees of stupour. His girlfriend, also well into her nth beer, said something about him warning all earlier on that the evening looked like a slippery slope.

Now the thing is, by no means was he the only drunk person there.

What worries me happened as I was leaving, and saying goodbye to him, some time after midnight.

He walked me, or that should be stumbled me, to the door, out of sight from his girlfriend. Then he took my hand and said extremely sincerely, almost soberly: "Take care. You are such a beautiful person."

Which is exactly what his mother used to say when she got really drunk.

Which was like, every evening.

Yes, his mother was an alcoholic. I remember when we first knew each other, and she was in her late 30s, it was not so bad, she drank what I would call too much, but limited it to weekends and when she was off shift.

I couldn't pinpoint an exact point where it tipped into an unsustainable lifestyle, but at some point it did.

She started being very, very drunk. Very, very often.

Sometimes she would stumble into his room in the middle of the night, not realising the time, and start ranting away.

And always, she would grab your hand and tell you how beautiful you were.

This scares me.

As a psychologist, I know that having an alcoholic mother seems to predispose you to alcoholism.

I know my friend's life is pretty stressful. He has her to contend with, as well as a sister who is a drug abuser. And he has a very emotionally demanding job.

I don't know why his girlfriend doesn't intervene. Though she has not known him as long as I have, she most likely knows his mother better than I do at this stage.

I know that I am pretty uptight about drinking habits, but surely something isn't good when you are over 25 and still feel the urge to get very drunk as soon as the work week is over?

He drinks more when his mother drinks more. He worries for his life. It's all a bit absurd.

I am unsure what to do. I feel that it is none of my business, and as far as I can see, the drinking doesn't interfere with his ability to go to work, take care of his kid or socialise with us or his partner.

Yet I feel uncomfortable. I am worried that I will look back, years from now, and wonder why I said nothing.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Broken tracks of music for my dear Guardianista

I thought of you this morning when I was wrapping my lunch in clingfilm before heading over to school.

Your voice came in the kitchen window, from the pissing rain hitting the window.

It said, "Cling film? Have I taught you nothing?" and was accompanied with a very raised eyebrow.

And I thought of you yesterday when I was reading this article on education in the Guardian.

In the very heated comments section, someone used the word "Guardianista" as a term of abuse, in the same way that "socialist" is used as a term of abuse by certain sections of society in the US.

As if wanting equality over the right to prep your kid from age 4 for entry to an Oxbridge education is something really, really bad that only evil people do. But I digress.

I thought of you. A Guardianista. That's what you are.

When you were younger, you lived in a commune, had long hair and played the guitar.

Now, after the mother of your child tragically passed away from cancer, you live on your own with your teenage baby, who is of course no longer a baby, though you still ring her from work every morning to check that she's got up in time.

You are all middle-class with a doctorate, and you hold a respectable job in a respectable company (all Guardianistas must be respectable).

You bake your own bread. You have a pottery wheel in your garage. You recycle as if it were a religion, and hardly ever drive. You make slightly lame but very endearing art for people's wedding presents, though you sniff at the thought of marriage, saying you and your partner lived happily ever after without such a "borgeouis" institution to bind you in its shackles.

You still play the guitar, and you sing. Beautifully*. Of course, you have a radio voice. I love radio voices.

Once, you tried to learn how to knit. I think it failed disatrously, though you still have some of my size 8 knitting needles, if I remember correctly.

You would rather cut off a hand than vote Tory, though if it were on your daughter's life, you'd probably just about manage.

In short, you are a lovely, ex-hippie middle class, middle age, extremely handsome male specimen.

When I started out as a journalist, you were my mentor. I was terrified of you. In fact, everyone was terrified of you. You would snap at everyone, at all times, for no good reason. You had no patience for mediocrity. But you have mellowed over the five years we have known each other. At least a little..

You already had grey hair when we met, although you were not yet 50, and I think this gave you an extra scary air of authority. Not to mention you were just about the only person there with some actual broadcasting experience. You could write, you were uncompromising. I bet you have 50 unfinished novels in your bedroom drawer.

As we learned to know each other, we made the mentor thing into our private little joke. Every time something significant happened in my life, when I told you, you would exclaim: "But how could you not tell me this immediately? I'm your mentor, for God's sake!" Though clearly, being a good former hippie, you don't believe in one.

You thought I was talented. I believed you.

You were my office crush. In the way every schoolgirl has a crush on their father, and later a teacher, I had a crush on you, you were everything my own father wasn't, intelligent, well-read, understanding, fiercely idealist even as you approached 50. And, of course, you read the Guardian. I could tell you everything, and you would always know what to do.

You also mentored J. When J and I first got to know each other, and had hardly anything in common, you were an object of common affection, and you still are.

In fact, if it weren't for you, J and I might not be together. When our relationship was struggling through its breech birth, you sat me down and told me not to give up. "You are so young, you think it will never be too late, that you can make that move again, another time, that you want to wait. But it's not like that. It's now or never." I remember it clearly, and so I jumped, and I haven't regretted it since.

When I left the workplace, you wrote me a song, which can only be described as a love song, and you sang it on stage in front of all the people at my leaving do. It was a rewrite of a Dylan song, I think, and the lyrics said something about the light being taken away from you.

You held a speech too, thanking me for bringing light into the office. And I hope, your life. It was a weird and wonderful feeling, because I felt that you could see me, as I really am, stripped, even as I was sitting in front of that crowd unwrapping my leaving gifts and helplessly listening to your music.

Soon, your child will be out of school, and you will no longer be shackled to that meaningless job which I know grinds you down a little bit each year.

I hope you grow your hair and travel around the world with your guitar, writing songs that make women feel like a bright star shining against a very dark sky.

*If you want to imagine what this singing might sound like, think Giles in Buffy singing at that coffee place. In fact, I might have headlined this post "my dear Watcher".

Thursday, 5 March 2009

I feel a bit fat

Oh my god, I am turning into a girl blogger. Right now I just have this massive urge to write a whole blog post about how ashamed I feel about my eating patterns.

As I was leaving school today after a whole fun day of data entry (I will never be able to get the questions from that questionnaire out of my head), my colleague student asked me jokingly where I was having dinner today.

The thing is, you see, I haven't had dinner at home for like, two weeks. It's shameful. I'm a poor student, meant to live off pot noodles. Yet there I am, having my hot meals at GBP10 or so a piece. Shameful. There's no other word for it.

So as I was walking home today, I started planning my dinner in my head.

I would make a curry. Yes, a proper tomato based chicken curry, from scratch. This would simultaneously be relatively healthy, and also help empty cupboards ahead of my pending house move (I allow myself a small self-celebratory "YAY!" here).

And so I did. I have made a lovely chicken thigh thing with peas, which I love, and that luxury garam masala powder I got for Christmas. I defrosted some home made tarka daal from the freezer and microwaved some properly rinsed and soaked Basmati rice.


As we all know, curries have to sit around for a while and simmer and do their thang.

That's when I spotted the large bag of crisps I'd carelessly left on the table earlier.

I was going to have just a few while waiting for dinner and surfing some blogs.

Unfortunately those particular crisps have a lot of MSG on them and are totally un-quittable once one has started.

So now I have a lovely curry on the cooker, and 100g of crisps in my tummy (that is an estimate, but that is like 5 portion bags of crisps..) and I am not at all hungry. Agggh!! How could I be so stupid!! That is like 500 calories, which is the same as cycling to school and back at least 3 times. And now I have to wait for about an hour before I have the curry and my eating patterns will be all messed up.

I wasn't going to give anything up for lent this year, but now it's clear. I am giving up crisps. After I finish the rest of the pack, obviously.

Couldn't just let them go to waste...

Oh, and while you're here, my curry recipe is as follows:

1 tin tomatoes
2 onions, finely sliced
Brown mustard seeds
Garam massala
Bay leaf
Tabasco (ran out of chillies)
1 tin dried peas (for some reason I prefer these to fresh, weird, I know)
Black pepper, ground
Dash of possibly off cream I found in the fridge
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Extra cumin seeds

It seems to have turned out quite well. Should have had some ginger in it, but I think I'm out of that too. At least the cupboard emptying project is working. And I can always take some curry for lunch tomorrow in school.. Sigh again.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Cute cuff!

Life before an exam for me is basically eating... knitting... reading... sleeping... repeat. Obviously I try to do most of the eating in company so that I don't completely lose the few social skills I actually have.

Now I can use these to alleviate the pain from the RSI which I acquired knitting them..
This weekend I went to my friend's birthday party, a quiet affair with lots of cake, coffee and later, erm, beer.

At any rate, I felt inspired by the coffee and cake to finally finish my wrist warmers, and so I have knitted my first ever pair with no pattern! Aren't they cute..

I had to redo half of the last one as apparently the exam stress had made me knit it waay more tightly than the first one, which was a bit d'oh, but otherwise I am quite pleased.

The weather here today is grey, and it was yesterday as well. I spent an hour in front of the daylight lamp when I got up, but still feel a bit groggy.

I'm especially pleased with the shaping around the thumb
My plan for the day is to look over my notes a couple of times, as well as flick through the book we're being tested on.

This is not something I usually do, as I always find something I don't know which makes me panic, but for some reason I feel the urge today.

So I will head out of the house after I've showered.

And tidied my room.

And baked some bread.

And maybe started another knitting project... Hmm...

I think being deprived of pink during childhood has had an adverse effect on my taste in wool..
But at any rate: Here is the pattern for the wristwarmers, should anyone want to copy!

Woolly Wrist Warmers

You need:
One ball of Rowan 4-ply soft, or any other similar. Double-ended needles to match, I used 3mm.

Beware that I have really little hands and arms, and even for me, 40s for the cuff is a snug fit.

You might want to add another 4 s to the whole recipe if you aren't as petite as I am :op

Cast on 40 stitches.

K2, p2 around and around until you have a 13 cm long cuff (I did that weird thing where you knit the k stitches through the back loop for extra elasticity, but I don't think you'd have to).

Shape space for hand:

1st row: Make up one at the beginning of the row, and knit to end.

2nd row: Knit to end.

Repeat rows 1 and 2 a further 5 times, until you have a total of 46s.

Shape opening for thumb:

1st row: Cast off 4. Slip one knitwise, knit one, pull slipped stitch over (or k2 together if you're not fussed). Knit to 2 last stitches. Knit 2 together. Total of 40s.

Change to straight needles (I used the same ones, I just stopped knitting in a ring).

2nd row: Purl to end (the point where you cast off 4s).

3rd row: Slip one knitwise, k 1, pull slipped stitch over (or k2 together if you're not fussed). K to 2 last stitches. Knit 2 together. Total of 38s.

4th row: Purl to end

5th row: K to end.

Change to double-ended needles.

6th row: Continue from end of 5th row into 1st stitch of next row to close the thumb opening. Cast on 2 at the beginning of the row. Total of 40s.

Shape top: Rows 1-5: Knit to end.

Rows 6-10: K2, p2.

Cast off.

Weave in tails. The end!

And this can, as I have scientifically tested in a party lab, be done while drinking. Just not too much..

To make up the other one, reverse shapings when you shape the hand and thumb opening.

Hurrah, warm wrists for the rest of the winter.. Although technically speaking it is now spring, they look so cute in their pinkness I think I'll be wearing them anyway.

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