Monday, 30 August 2010

Here Come The Girls

A few blogs ago, I vowed to be more girlie. Do proper girlie activities more often. I admit I haven’t been as prolific in my girliness as I seem to remember vowing at the time, but I think I’ve had quite a good go at it this week.
Earlier this week I told Him Indoors that I was in need of a girlie night in. He was permitted to be around, but had to accept that big bags of popcorn and chick flicks were the order of the day. To his credit, every week he has to put up with How to Look Good Naked and Ugly Betty, but I have movies I have recorded on Sky Plus over a year ago and never watched because he doesn’t fancy them. And, when he is out, I end up doing something much more sensible like housework or reading a good book whilst listening to loud music.
So, on Thursday night, I watched Along Came Polly. Not a cinematic classic, but cute and quirky and enough of a chick flick fix to keep me going for a couple of months.
But my girliness doesn’t stop there. This week, reader, I have been pampered too.
A few weeks ago whilst heading out for a very nutritious lunch at a milkshake bar with colleagues, I walked past a beauty salon and saw that they had a special offer: free manicure when you have a pedicure. Bearing in mind I have been promising myself a manicure every three months since my first professional one over a year ago, I decided that this was an opportunity I could not let slip through my uncared for fingers. So, last week I popped in to make an appointment. I asked the owner of Nu U therapies if she was still doing the promotion and she told me that it finished last week but offered it to me anyway. Rather delighted, I made an appointment for the next day.
I admit that I was a little apprehensive about my appointment, mainly because some beauty therapists can be a little cold, especially when dealing with someone whose beauty regime is a little, well, basic. But I needn’t have worried. Alison was absolutely lovely, not just because she is a polite and courteous type who didn’t make me feel awkward. I was with her for over two and a half hours, not because my feet resemble those of a hippopotamus, but because we were gassing about everything and anything, from my job, to her business, to travel, being tall and mobile phone deals. It was like having one of your chums do your nails and was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, with the added bonus that she happened to do a really good job. And, when I was finished, she refused to let me write the cheque in case I smudged my nails and instead asked me to drop it off the next day. I was gobsmacked. Someone in London was trusting me to pay her the next day. A rarity anywhere, but unheard of in London. As I walked home in my sandals, carefully avoiding letting my nails touch anything, I vowed that I would make sure all my North London friends and colleagues knew about the shop and that I will go back there myself next time I need my nails doing – and a good chin wag.
But my girliness did not stop there. On Friday I went to get my hair cut. I have started going to mp4 in Crouch End after getting a special offer through work and, although not quite as easy going as Alison, I am very impressed with my hair dresser Candice. She’s an ideas woman, and is always armed with pictures of what she has in mind. Last time I went she convinced me to go for a boho bob with a fringe and my first ever highlights. I’ve never had so many compliments about my hair. This time, however, along with offering me a variation on her last creation, she suggested we go shorter. Much shorter. Although tempted, we compromised on a slightly longer, feathery cut. I admit at first I wasn’t convinced, especially when she started putting lots of products in my hair and tried to tell me I should use mousse in my hair every day. But, two hair washes later and approval from Him Indoors and his parents (including his ex-model mother) I am quite pleased with my new cute crop. It is official. I have managed to find a hairdresser I really like. And trust.
So, a girlie week by anyone’s standards. And proof that you can find good, personalised services in London when you look for them. And people who trust you enough not to demand payment there and then, even if they hardly know you. Even more of a surprise than seeing that Jennifer Aniston can pull off a role other than Rachel from Friends. Honest.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Trains, More Trains and Automobiles

I want a car. I don’t need one, but I want one. In particular I want a Mini Cooper. A new one. I’ve wanted one for years, but when I saw on Facebook that one of my friends has one for sale I nearly caved. I have the money in my ISA for a deposit on a shoebox of a flat and for a moment, it nearly got spent on something quite frivolous.
You see, in London, you don’t really need a car. Driving to work in the city centre is a no-no, being even more stressful than a commute on the tube and several times more expensive. So when my friend who lives in Lincolnshire told me how she needs her car to live her life, I nearly laughed. Then I remembered my childhood in semi-rural Nottinghamshire, and sympathised.
Of course there are times when I would benefit from having car. Like when I need to go to the supermarket and have missed out on the delivery slots for the next day on The other situation is when we travel to visit family and friends out of London. I seem to have been doing this a lot lately, and have wondered, whilst perched on the luggage rack outside the toilet on the train headed north, whether it would work out cheaper to have an old banger for such situations. If I need to get up to Yorkshire to visit my sister at short notice, I am looking at £90 return, off peak. With no guarantee of a seat. Having said that, having a car in London, you would have to factor in the cost of the congestion charge and parking permits. Ouch.
The good thing about trains is that you don’t have to concentrate on the road. If you are lucky enough to have a seat you can sit back with a good book and a mini bottle of over-priced wine. However you always have to keep an eye on your luggage rather than slinging it in the boot and forgetting about it. I have recently been sent a handbag hook from that can be hung from any table and worked particularly well on a train, even though the table was quite thick and the train journey quite wobbly. I was able to sit back and enjoy the journey in the knowledge that my bag wasn’t getting stuck to a nasty piece of gum on the floor, or, worse still, sliding towards the other end of the carriage whenever the train tackled a slight tilt in the track. But that didn’t stop me from having to check my suitcase hadn’t been liberated every time the train stopped between London and my destination.
So, when I journey up north to see Him Indoor’s parents at the weekend, squeezed in between several oversized suitcases and several more sweaty bodies, I will probably regret not making a serious offer on that sliver, eight year old Mini with is currently going for £4,800 ono. But for now I will remind myself that it isn’t worth the road tax, the MOT’s, the hassle of having to put up with London’s crazy cabbies and boisterous buses. Or hope that my Facebook friend accepts my offer of £50 a month until I have paid off the national debt.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Cuisine Culture

Today, I am feeling a little bit lardy. I am sat on a train and have just scoffed a homemade chocolate and peanut butter chip (courtesy of friends in Canada) brownie washed down with a cup of coffee. This wouldn’t be so bad if I hadn’t spent the last few days taking advantage of London’s gastronomic delights – and the special offers that went with it.
On Thursday I met a friend after work in Trafalgar Square. We went to the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery and spent an hour musing over the shortlist and trying to avoid the loud guide who managed to take up half the gallery with his posse hanging off every pretentious word he said. Being very much of the opinion that you should make your own mind up about art, I managed to ignore his blah and enjoyed wondering what the story of each sitter was. I think that is what I love about portraits, the combination of art in its various guises and real people.
Afterwards we went to Strada. I had one of my wonderful vouchers so we enjoyed two main courses for a tenner. We skipped starters, ordered the cheapest bottle of rose they had and both devoured a humongous pizza, which together barely fit on the table. I didn’t feel too guilty – I had finished work early and enjoyed a stroll along the Thames beforehand, which must have made some impact on the damage. I hoped.
In Friday I had the day off and chilled out at home before heading off to the pub. Two pints and a couple of Jack Daniels and cokes later, there was only thing for it: chips. In fact, a chip butty. Followed by Doritos. Oops.
So, Saturday morning I got up and headed for the gym. Feeling quite smug, I felt guilt-free when I headed out with Him Indoors to South Kensington. We stopped off at the legendary Hummingbird Bakery where I enjoyed a chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting. Yum. We then pottered over to the Natural History Museum to see The Deep Exhibition. After looking at lots of weird and wonderful fish for an hour or so, Him Indoors was getting peckish. After a quick mooch down the High Street and Him Indoors licking the windows of the Lamborghini garage for half an hour, we headed to Carluccio’s for dinner. This time I had a voucher for a free bottle of wine and tucked into some olives and Focaccia bread before moving on to venison tortellini. Delish! Unfortunately they had run out of the special dessert, fig ice cream, so I ordered a Bicerin – thick Florentine hot chocolate served with espresso and milk to mix to your taste. A pudding in itself.
So, as I head down to Brighton for a couple of days of traditional seaside summer, I am bracing myself for chips on the beach, a 99 on the pier washed down with several pints of something refreshing.
I’ll see you in the gym on Tuesday night.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Spaced Out

I’m feeling a little bit delicate today. No, it’s not the summer flu, nor “that time of the month”. It’s a good old fashioned hangover. You see, yesterday, Him Indoors and I hosted our first barbeque, and being an afternoon affair I had my first beer at about 1pm. And didn’t stop drinking until the last guest left after 10pm.
However, this is not a confession of alcoholism. I am too far in denial for that – it was my reward for careful planning and food preparation. I’m not someone who can buy in a tub of coleslaw and a packet of burgers and call it a good job. Oh, no. I had to make my own burgers, kebabs and salads, and although I bought in plenty of beer, I insisted on making summer sangria (too good – hence the headache) and Pimms and lemonade with fresh fruit for that sophisticated touch.
Then there is the small problem of space. Being mere average earners in London means that we only have a one bed flat with a modest kitchen/living area and a roof terrace. I love my roof terrace, a rare find for a reasonably priced property in London, and of a decent size. But a lawned garden it aint. On Saturday Him Indoors spent a considerable amount of time deciding where to put the barbeque and chimnea to optimise space and minimise the risk of burning the entire building down. Then we had to figure out where to sit everyone. And what to seat them on. Tricky.
Having invited a group of friends who live outside of London, there was the added problem of overnight accommodation. After squeezing about eight of our friends on the floor of our living area after my thirtieth birthday party last year on various air beds, sofa beds and cushioned items, I was not too worried about this. Until one of my friends said she would come down on the Sunday as her back was not up to the student lifestyle anymore. I apologised for my lack of grown up facilities and offered my bed, mentally noting that even if I don’t mind slumming it after a few beers, maybe I should provide more conservative sleeping quarters now my friends and I are no longer twenty-somethings.
And finally, there is the storage of food (and beer) problem. By Sunday morning my fridge had become a complex 3D puzzle that only I was qualified to tackle and my bath was full of ice and vats of various alcoholic beverages. Mmm, maybe it’s time to invest in a decent sized fridge too.
However, despite these various obstacles, I think the day was a success. Everyone had something to sit on, nothing got burnt down and the food went down well without a hint of food poisoning. And my terrace looked lovely with its solar-powered lanterns and citronella candles. But maybe it’s time to find somewhere slightly bigger if I want to throw parties for my chums in the future. Let’s face it, none of us are getting any younger – my fuzzy brain is proof enough of that. Then there is the prospect of children being introduced into my social circle. Something tells me that suggesting putting all the kids in a tent outside might not go down too well. And that playing “I have never” may become inappropriate with under 18’s present.
Or maybe I should continue to pretend we are all just out of uni and top up everyone’s glasses before collapsing on the kitchen floor in a sleeping bad. I’ll drink to that.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Sick of Waiting

Okay, I know I have complained about the NHS on my blog before. I am also aware I have moaned about waiting too. But I’m afraid that once more the public health service in London has got me thinkingwell, what else am I going to do whilst sitting in a waiting room at the Whittington - AGAIN?
Let me summarise the situation. I am under investigation at the aforementioned hospital for a mystery stomach problem which saw me hospitalised earlier in the year. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not begging for sympathy about my health... but I’m sure those of you who live in the capital will appreciate the struggles I face to get this problem sorted out.
Firstly, there is the amount of time you have to wait to get an appointment. Over a month ago my nurse requested an ultrasound scan. She gave me a form and instructed me to call the Imaging department at Dick’s to arrange an appointment. So I called them. No answer. I called them again. Still no answer. About nine attempts later someone picked up the phone.
You need to fax or bring the form in.” I was instructed before the line went dead.
Later the same day, not trusting the surly reception to respond to a fax with any urgency, I take the form there in person. I hand it over, a hopeful smile on my face.
When will I get an appointment?”
A stern look.We will call you.
A raised eyebrow. “In a couple of weeks.
“And when will I get an appointment.
A sigh. “In the next six weeks.
Needless to say six weeks have passed and I’ve heard diddly-squat from the said department. Mmm.
In the meantime I receive an automated voice message telling me I have an appointment at the hospital for a general check up. I eagerly rock up with Him Indoors in tow, bright and early. I give them my name and sit in the waiting room. And wait. And wait.
Forty-five minutes later a nurse emerges from the staffroom and clears her throat authoritatively. “Dr Wilson’s clinic is running an hour late. Anyone for Dr Wilson, our apologies, but the clinic is running late.”
Him Indoors and I exchange glances. Apparently it takes forty-five minutes for a hospital to figure out it is a little behind schedule, you see. Rolling my eyes I turn back to my Blackberry and email my (thankfully understanding) boss.
Half an hour later I approach the receptionist and apologetically ask her how much longer I will be waiting. She shakes her head. “I don’t know. The nurse has taken your notes in so I’m not sure where you are on the list.”
I concede defeat and return to my seat. Half an hour passes. I try again. She looks at her watch.Let me find out for you.
I return to my seat and watch as she retreats into the staffroom. A couple of minutes later she emerges and waves me over. “I’m sorry, the doctor has all the notes in the clinic and is with another patient. I can’t disturb him.
I nod and thank her for her efforts. Him Indoor looks at the clock. “I’m going to have to leave for work soon.He points out.Next time we should turn up two hours late and see how they like it.
The problem is it doesn’t work like that. When you arrive at the clinic, they note your arrival and pass your notes on to the nurse. If you show up late you might as well not even bother. Double standards? Never!
So, after two hours of waiting I finally got to see my doc. What does he do? Read my notes and decide to refer me to another department. Did I need to wait for two hours for that? I don’t think so. Surely he could have made the consultation over the phone, or is that a little bit too forward thinking for the NHS? Apparently it is.
A week later I find myself in the Gynaecology waiting room at the Whittington. I have just settled down to organising myTo Do” list when a nurse appears.Anyone waiting for Dr Patel? The clinic is delayed due to an emergency. We don’t know how long you will be waiting, but if you want to leave and make another appointment...”
Oh, no you don’t. You don’t get rid of me that easily. I pull out my Blackberry and email my boss. Again. But, to my amazement my name is called fifteen minutes later.
After a short consultation and examination the Doc decides that my lady bits are in full working order. However she suggests a scan just to be sure and hands me a form.
My nurse referred me to the Imaging department last month.” I warn her. She looks at me knowingly.Well, probably best we put in another form, just to be safe.” I agree and head to the third floor.
And now? Well, I haven’t had an appointment from the Imaging department or the other clinic. So I guess I’ll have to do what I’m getting used to doing. And wait.