Saturday, October 28, 2006

Sales men

I just had two estate agents around to value my house.

I have lived here for a year.

And they reckon that my exceptional DIY work has added up to £17,000 to the value!!!

I am not sure how much of that is just sales men talking, but how wicked!! £17,000 in a year, for decorating three rooms and doing some hefty gardening.

Really rather pleased. London here I come!!! :-)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I am sorry but....

How hard can it be to say thinG.

thinG

Lets practice.

ThinG

All together

thinG

Note: not thinK. Thats an entirely different word you see?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Carbon emissions

OK, so I am quite a greeny. I have the badge and everyfink.

But I can't help thinking that the whole "turn your TV off stand-by" is the wrong battle.

Try "GET OUT OF YOUR CAR AND WALK YOU FAT MAN!!"

or "WEAR A TOP THAT COVERS YOUR KIDNEYS AND BELLY RATHER THAN A CROP TOP TO SHOW OFF YOUR BELLY BUTTON PIERCING ... AND TURN DOWN THE HEATING!!!"

Ahem....

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Petty criminal

Today I was driven to crime.

OK, perhaps it wasn't a crime, but it was at least bending a by-law.

Due to the fact that I only had 30p, and no car parks are less than 50p these days, I parked in both Letchworth and Hitchin without paying.

Feeling rather rebellious.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A few unrelated observations on my day

1) Everyone in the first class carriage in the morning (with the exception of cheeky me) is male. Is the first class carriage the last bastion of men? Is it that only men think that a first class ticket is worth the money? (think of all the shoes and good wine you could buy!) Or is it that only men HAVE enough money? (the pay divide remains you know). Perhaps its that noone has a ticket and only men (and I) are cheeky enough to sit in there. Its a mystery, but its bothered me all day.

2) I thought my iPod had been stolen, for all of 3 seconds today. Then I realised that I could still hear Fat Boy Slim, and therefore it was still plugged into my ears. And therefore it had not, as first assumed, been stolen. Is the iPod the new glasses? (or am I the only one who, as a fulltime, lifelong glasses wearer STILL walks around the house looking for glasses that I am wearing?)

3) I can now confirm that the latest trend, pomegranite juice, is actually deeelish! Yummy yummy and aparently very good for me. Why? Not sure... hold on and I will Google... Here we go. According to The Times "fight heart disease, protect unborn babies from brain abnormalities, such as spina bifida, lower blood pressure and to help cushion menopause symptoms, increase fertility and prevent erectile dysfunction." Ok so some will be of more use to me that others. But still.... its yummy.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Gym bunny

I have just joined Cannons health club in Letchworth.

I haven't had a gym since I left Fulham, and having just been around Cannons I realise I kinda missed it. There is something slightly indulgent and selfish about a nice gym, where you know you are spending time relaxing and getting fit and its all about you.

Being Emily, I managed to chat up "Stuart" my membership helper, and so got vouchers for a free massage and a free personal training session thrown in!

So I am back home, contemplating whether I will look silly if I put on my gym kit now and go straight back down there, or whether I should wait an hour...

Friday, October 13, 2006

My little girl

I got my World Vision sponsorship welcome pack today, including a picture of the little girl I am sponsoring.

Her name is Achieng Lidia Odhiambo. And she is very sweet.

I think I will write to her tomorrow, and am planning on sending her some crayons or something too.

Bastards


I got home at 10.30pm this evening to find that some bastards had let my tyres down.

Yeah thats funny.

This random photo of someone else's flat tyre is no where near as flat as mine.

I got in my car to drive off and it moved like there was something under it. I totally panicked and for some reason thought there was a body under my car. I jumped out to check and saw both my passenger tyres were totally flat.

I didn't know what to do so I called my dad and told him I thought someone had slashed my tyres. He was at the station and came straight round and we found they weren't slashed just let down. I got all upset.

My dad has now pumped them up, and I reported it to the police because its the third incident of vandalism on my car (the fourth on my property) and I am worried.

First my car arial is nicked
Then the door is keyed
Now the tyres are let down

And some bastard also let himself into my back garden (only accessible over a fence from someone else's garden) and carved his initials into my garden bench. At least I think its his initials. Either that or Kevin was disturbed two letters into his name.

Anyway, it all calls for further use of my word of the week....

BASTARDS

So now its midnight and I can't go to bed because although I am shattered I am too worked up to sleep. So as well as messing with my little car they have also messed with my sleep pattern. And that is unforgivable.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Sponsorship

I don't usually listen to much that Noel Edmunds says. But I am so glad I did this evening.

I am now the sponsor of a 6 year old girl in Kenya. For just £18 a month I am going to make sure she, and her village, have clean water to drink, a basic education, and everything else they need to live.

You can do it at www.sponsor.org. Its World Vision (who have incredibly low overheads in the charity world - just 2%, they are the guys that do the 24 hour famine) . They are looking to get 1,000 sponsored this month. But now I have sponsored one, and so has Elle, thats only 998 to go.

She will write to me at least once a year. I can write at any time, and they will tell me when her birthday is. I can send gifts. I can even visit her.

I am so glad I found out about this.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Ooooh!


Boiled eggs for tea. Yummy.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Memoires

Ok, so I have now finished my plagerism, and to avoid being sued have not bothered to pretend I wrote it myself. The three posts below are written by Elle for her blog, and stolen by me for mine. They are in reverse order so start with number 1. Followed by 2, then 3. Geniously clever huh?

Had trouble uploading some pictures in a couple of those posts so here are a few ...



Le crunch!










Elle - on Versailles' boating lake







Shoes and Choos










Where's wally at the Grand Trianon?

Holiday diary volume 3 - you guessed it - by Elle!

In which the Road Trippers get delusions of grandeur, drink champagne and experience a bit of the upper class French lifestyle.

The Chateau Lifestyle

Thursday
I’m writing this from the antique writing desk of the upstairs guest suite at Chateau Juvigny.We were woken up far too early this morning with the bells of Reims Cathedral banging in our ears. Em ran to the last ten minutes of breakfast while I lay in bed, head under the pillow, whimpering. Our appointment with Veuve was at 11.30 but we couldn’t face it and instead we staggered out into the unnecessarily bright day in search of carbs.

Chronic indecision saw us sitting in a café that served pizza covered in Nasty Dolmio sauce. Chased away by a rampant wasp we found the Cathedral and did a little light sightseeing before collapsing in the tourist office. Enough of Reims! we sobbed. Take us away from this terrible place that makes us so ill. We can go back tomorrow for Pommery or Mumm or any of the other houses that takes our fancy.

We tootled away (or did we pootle? definitions got a little muddled towards the end) in search of our last planned stop… the Chateau Juvigny.

It was another lovely drive to Juvigny, albeit with a slight dither via a flour factory. But we came out of it in one piece, and the last vestiges of hangover blew out when we came to the chateau. It was beautiful; a real French country gentility residence. Thank goodness for Connery, who gave us an access all areas pass with the lady of the manor; she obviously put us down as eccentric English gentlewomen with a few similar houses of our own back in the UK.

Every piece of furniture was antique, from the dining room table and chairs to the silver tea service to the enormous family portrait on the breakfast room wall. Everything had a slightly shabby feel to it, like it had seen better days, but it was still used and loved; it was rather like moving into the palace at Versailles for 48 hours.

We stayed in the master suite, a vast master bedroom, bathroom, separate toilet and twin room. It felt rather like stepping into Gosford Park.Off we went to sun ourselves in the enormous 28-acre grounds. The lord of the manor joined us in our patch of sun by the moat – really, there was a moat! – and we whiled away the afternoon in blissful peace.

We dined in Chalons en Champagne as suggested by Madame. The road in was a straight line; the road out somehow became more complicated and we went around one roundabout a grand total of six times, an unrivalled best for the holiday. We passed through the main square several times in slightly different directions, much to the amusement of the local youths who seemed quite entertained by the gales of laughter coming from the small, shiny and obviously quite confused car.

Chronic relaxation has set in. Chateau is bliss. Don’t think we will be able to leave, come Saturday morning…

Friday
We breakfasted in the main dining room with two traveling Brits – our first English conversation of the week. Relaxed and sleepy, we mooched around Chalons for a while before kicking ourselves into gear and heading over to Epernay for lunch and a champagne tour.

Over lunch via text I accidentally admitted Le Crunch to dad… playing down the stupidity aspect, of course.

Post-confession we found ourselves at Mercier and went on their champagne cellar tour. The talk was interesting and the little train was cool; the champagne tasting afterwards wasn’t bad, either…

That night we went to somewhere a bit special at Madame’s suggestion; a fantastic 30s art nouveau extravaganza of a restaurant with the most beautiful, rich, delicious food we’d eaten all week. It was magical – and not only that, Em had volunteered to drive, so I washed it down with champagne and vin rouge.

Saturday
Before we knew it, Saturday was upon us. We packed our bags up and enlisted Madame’s aid to take a few parting snaps.



And then we were gone, rocketing up the motorway to Calais and our ferry home. I pushed Connery a bit to see what happened and he responded like a dream, zipping along at a comfy 130mph. We could have done more but we didn’t really fancy getting arrested!

Two hours, one run-in with a van full of convicts, and a long traffic jam later, we were back in the big city again.

And next year… Monaco!

(Thanks Elle for your dedicated driving - and off course, doing my work for me on my blog holiday diaries :-)

Holiday diary volume 2 - again, by Elle.

Again, penned by Elle....

In which Connery gets lots of attention, Wally gets stuck in a chimney, and we meet Pascale.

Fontainebleau, Champagne and Moret

Tuesday
We lurked in our beds for as long as possible in the morning, growling at room service's two determined interruptions and eventually emerging for chocolate chaud and Nutella crepes some time after ten. I checked the car on our way out but all seemed well. Squinted underneath and decided that the gathering pool of oil was small enough to ignore. By some miracle I even managed not to hit anything on the way out of the car park, just for a change.

Super Navigation Girl got us onto the right road without a hitch. We were treated to even more attention than we’d had on Saturday; lorries flashed their lights, men and women alike leaned out of cars and waved, and cameras clicked and whirred as we passed. Next stop on the list was Fontainebleau. Choos and Geigers stowed discreetly in the car, we idles past about 20 restaurants before settling on one that served us goats cheese and foie gras salads. The chateau was closed for the dasy so we poked around the town for a bit before setting Connery's nose east and letting him choose whatever road suited him best.

We forewent Em's iPod and speakers in favour of noisy and increasingly raucous campfire songs until we found ourselves in Thommery, a pretty town that was the epitome of shabby chic. The bit now well and truly between our teeth, we motored on to Champagne sur Seine, an ugly and forgettable town. Not here! we carolled as we revved the engine and roared on past. Not today!

An hour later we found ourselves passing through the tiny, walled village of Moret sur Loine, small enough to only house two hotels. We chose the cheaper one, left the Boy in a disabled car parking space (at the insistence of the locals, I hasten to add) and went in search of food. For an hour we explored the town only to find that everything shut on a Tuesday. Eventually we found our way into a Man Bar where they allowed that perhaps they could rise to a croque monsieur. Thank you, we said, but we need something a bit more substantial than that!A

nd so we found ourselves back at the hotel (auberge, think one star up from a youth hostel), where to our amazement we were served the best dinner of the holiday so far. Alors!

The evening ended some time (and wine) later when Em was tripped up by a malicious and well-hidden (ahem) step in the hotel bar, much to the amusement of the previously silent Man with Financial Newspaper in the corner of the room. Whoops.

Wednesday
We breakfasted on croissants dunked in chocolate chaud. River fog gathered around the hotel and hugged the car as we drove away, bags strapped onto the luggage rack and Choos tucked into the back seat. Historic Provins was our destination, if the weather allowed, and after a few life-or-death dramas (really not loving the low visibility) the sun burned through and we cruised along the beautiful French roads with the warm wind in our hair.

We circled Provins several times, battling speed bumps; every time his numberplate crunched on the tarmac Connery grumbled until eventually we left him at the bottom of the hill and walked up the winding paths to Caesar's Tower. The tower proved to be a proper stone castle with views over the town, hidden rooms to explore, and long, tight stone staircases that wound the wrong way – a design flaw, we later discovered, and the reason why the castle had fallen to almost every attack that had come its way.

The town was beautiful, full of historic buildings and surrounded by stone ramparts. We settled ourselves at the creperie in the main square and ate gallettes before heading off to the town museum and tithe mill for a hysterically funny and monumentally bad audio tour. That seemed like enough history for one day so we went for a second lunch – aka dessert crepe – much to the amusement of the creperie owner.

Off to Reims we drove, coasting through Epernay on our way, basking in the glorious sunshine. We soared past a battalion of lorries only to find that we'd missed our turning – cut to flashing lights, waves and roars of laughter as we passed back on the other side of the road. We split our time between driving and singing, and a couple of hours later we found ourselves cruising into Reims.

Leaving Connery in an underground car park we dragged our bags around the hotels in search of somewhere to stay. Three times we were told there was no room at the inn, but on the fourth we struck lucky. Showered and cleaned, we changed into our new shoes and went out in search of champagne and adventure…

This is one of those nights that I feel can best be summed up in bullet points.

  • For a while we strolled up and down the main drag looking rather like we were touting for business. Eventually we settled in a nice looking bar and ordered the house champagne. And why not? When in Reims…
  • Somehow we found ourselves quickly embroiled in conversation with a strangely attractive but orange-jumpered businessman. Or possibly handyman… our French was getting a little erratic by this point. Still, Em’s attempts thrilled him to bits and he kissed her repeatedly on both cheeks by way of expressing his pleasure at meeting such a talented Englishwoman. He also took my slightly less slick accent as an excuse to wilfully mistranslate my every sentence into some kind of Improper Suggestion. He introduced us to the bisexual barman, Pascale (there’s something unmistakeable about the phrase ‘swings both ways’ in French), who charmed our socks off before whisking away to attend to his other guests.
  • Everyone said goodbye as we left – the shoes had obviously left an impression – and we headed off for dinner, moules marinieres and salad, at a bar playing Simply Red and serving only Gallo wine. (Gallo! Honestly! I came over quite snobbish.)
  • Somehow, an hour later, we found ourselves back in the same bar. Pascale welcomed us with open arms and more champagne. What could he get for us? he asked, smiling. Well, Pascale, how about some men? we joked. Not a hair turned. Which ones would you like? he asked. Well…. How about those two at the bar? They were duly summoned. One had a girlfriend but the other was un homme available, and both were only 21 years old. Bliss!Somehow we ended up at a dodgy French nightclub some six hours later, dancing like loonies; Hooked Up Man had some kind of strop and refused to speak, but it didn’t really put the rest of us off our stride. Before we knew it it was 3am and time to go home. There was a slight moment of panic when we couldn’t get into the hotel, but enough banging woke up the night porter. Despite the drunkenness I was awake enough to clean the grime off my beloved shoes, before passing out in a cheerful champagne stupour.
  • Oh - and Emily got herself a new French penfriend in the non-stroppy man.

Holiday diary - volume 1, by Elle

Penned by Elle, who is much less lazy than me, below is part one of our three part Road Trip tale, in which Elle achieves a life's ambition, Em gets All Cocked Out, and Connery (the car) has a bit of a mishap...

Girls in Versailles (and Paris)

Saturday
The alarm went off at 6.45am. Two shell shocked girls strapped suitcases to the luggage rack (classic car, darling – no boot) and rolled towards Dover and a 10.50am ferry, where aboard, a Strange Man showed a marked interest in the car. We looked him over dubiously but with restrained middle class politeness… and not until we left the ferry did we realise that he had recognised us by the Mad Witch Hair which was making the children cry.

Resolved to keep our hair firmly bescarved from here on in.

We arrived in France to glorious sunshine and zoomed off from Calais towards Dieppe. Grand Plan is to cruise down the coast past Boulogne, through Rouens and on to our first stop, Versailles. No idea how long it might take but we had a map and our stupendous intelligence – what could possibly go wrong?

Four hours and several roundabouts later we paused in a small fishing town which may or may not have been Le Crotoy. Our one and a half minute walk felt like a Genuine Excursion to our car-weary legs and we embarked on the second half of the journey refreshed and virtuous. Em even took a turn behind the wheel, to much screaming (from me) and panic (also from me). Connery took it in his stride, though, and her threatened 'just five minutes' lasted almost an hour before she decided to hand the wheel back. Still, her preferred job of the day was counting the looks, waves, catcalls and honks from the cars we passed as we drove; the French certainly aren't shy about expressing their admiration. People stuck cameras out of their cars to catch us passing by and Connery attracted a ridiculous amount of attention wherever we stopped; we couldn't leave him on his own for more than five minutes without finding him preening in front of a camera.

Versailles was our first big driving challenge. It was raining, so I'd put the roof up – bringing visibility down to pretty much zero – and the map we'd brought to find the hotel was rubbish. Thanks to an impressive burst of French from Ms W (who leapt out of the car to collar a local restaurateur) we eventually realised that we'd been reading the map the wrong way up and we were only two roads away from the hotel – it was just on the other side of the square. Despite the long drive, slight sunstroke, increasing tiredness and awful driving conditions we found our way safely to the hotel and even made it into its private underground carpark – where in a moment of enthusiasm I backed Connery straight into an Amazing Invisible Pillar. Le crunch!

A little wobbly and dented of bottom, we staggered our way up into reception, wilting under the disgusted looks from the 20 black-tie clad French men and women standing in the foyer, embarrassingly aware that we looked more than a little windswept. It wasn't until we got upstairs that we realised that windswept didn't even begin to cover it – we looked like tramps and smelled like we'd been dragged backwards through a bonfire. The shower ran black with motorway glop and we screamed in horror as we dragged brushes through our tortured locks. Roadtrip-tastic!

Clean and fresh we headed off for dinner, where Em batted her eyelids and won the heart of our waiter, who gave us steak, chips and just enough vin rouge to sink us both into an exhausted sleep…

Sunday
Up and about at a respectable eight thirty, we breakfasted in a local café where Em chatted up the waiter (for a change), her more-than-respectable grasp of French kicking into high gear and leading him to believe that we were locals until yours truly insisted on ordering a Nice Cup of Tea with her croissant.

Today was our day to Do Versailles. Falling out of the café we found ourselves on the doorstep of the magnificent Chateau de Versailles and whirled excitedly around its gardens, laughing at the fountains and basking in the warm sun. There we found an amazing regurgitating and be-nippled dragon, the gardens of Marie Antoinette – including her infamous hamlet where she played at being a peasant with her friends and servants – and hundreds of statues of unnamed Greek gods.

We practised walking up the main aisles of the garden in our imaginary bustles, Em as the legendary Marie Antoinette and me as the wicked husband-stealing Madame Le Pompadour – throwing veiled insults at each other as we swished past our courtiers.

At the bottom of the garden we found Louis IV's boating lake. The lake was empty although there seemed to be boats waiting at one side; following where Bridget J led we commandeered one and rowed out into the water.

Ah, it was beautiful. At the Grand Trianon, Louis IV's pink marble mansion, we found ourselves amazed by the beautiful scenery around us. Now, it's a well known fact that pictures of scenery and buildings, no matter how breathtaking, rarely mean as much once you get home unless there are people in them, and so we came up with a new game. One of us would hide in each scenery picture we took – the Where's Wally of our crazy trip. Can you see the Wallies here?

Eventually we tired of the gardens and whisked through the chateau; around us hundreds of tourist groups idled over their audio guides but we were more interested in the beds and the curtains, and in the dramatic colour schemes laid out before us. It took us just over an hour to escape the building and we fell out through its magnificent front gates into our hotel, where we ran a hot bath for our tired feet and sat with jeans rolled up and toes soaking in hot water, reading books and giggling over the day.

Later that day I received a phone call from dad, worried about a trail of oil he'd found coming out of the garage where we'd left the previous day. In a moment of tactful daughterly care I decided not to mention Le Crunch, as this would only worry him, and instead assured him that we'd check the dipstick the next day to make sure that Connery had all the oil he needed. Bless his high maintenance little heart.

Monday
On Monday morning we leapt onto the train to Paris, getting off at the Eiffel Tower for a bit of breakfast and to poke fun at the hordes of pudgy Americans eating chips at 10 in the morning.

First on the list was the Eiffel Tower; one of those things you ‘have’ to do. We queued. We went up in a lift. We queued. We went up in another lift. I got a little wobbly over height. We looked at the view, which was okay, but not that interesting. We queued. We got a lift back down. We queued. We got another lift to the bottom… some two hours later.

In need of something a bit more fun we hopped on the tourist bus to the shopping district via Notre Dame. After a light(ish) lunch we hit the department stores, but with a very strict agenda – some jewellery, one pair of shoes, and maybe a top for Em.

Needless to say, it all went horribly wrong. Em broke the seal with a gorgeous dark brown watch at Galeries Lafayette; I upped the ante by trying on every shoe in the Jimmy Choo boutique, falling in love with the salesman, and walking away the (slightly flustered) owner of a beautiful pair of classic black patent stilettos. Les chaussures sans temps, we christened them; I’m in love.

Not to be outdone, Em dragged me kicking and screaming into the Kurt Geiger department in Printemps, where she had a similar epiphany and came out with a pair of black patent shoes with t-straps and a fantastic cone shaped heel. Worth every penny...

We cruised through the designer clothes racks until 4pm, when we found ourselves by a rather fine fifth floor bar. 4pm on a Tuesday? Must be champagne o’clock!An hour later we wobbled cheerfully out of the store in search of something a bit more cultural. And so off we went… to the erotic museum.

Oh my god. Seven floors of naked people and one video of a vicar doing some *very* odd things with his overweight housemaid. Half an hour later we emerged, blinking, into the street. “Well,” said Em eventually. “I have to say that I’m all cocked out.” Ahem.

We dined at a rather nice pasta place near Montmartre and then leaped onto the last tourist bus for a trip up and down the Champs Elysees. Night had fallen and Paris was lit up like Christmas; our last stop was the Eiffel Tower, where we were just in time for the night time light show (the tour goes all bling and sparkles for ten minutes every hour).

Possibly still suffering from the 4pm champagne we spoke bad French all the way back to the hotel, utterly incomprehensible to everyone except each other. Hurrah! Tres bien. Alors! Nous sommes tres intelligentes et belles. Totally.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

I'm back!!



Hi folks,

I am back. I have had the best week I can remember. I am totally relaxed. My brain has actually switched off entirely and I couldn't remember how to spell "loaf" this morning!

Being now totally relaxed and lazy, I can't be bothered to write too much about it, so ... lazy copy-cat that I am, I figure I will just wait for Elle to blog about the holiday (she took down notes as we went, well, she wrote what we remembered and laughed about each dinner anyway!). I will then copy and paste, with minor changes, to my blog.

I know. Lazy. But here are some photos to keep you going :-)




















Me, tasting, at Mercier champagne house, in Epernay.











Elle, stealing a van. As if her Morgan isn't enoough for a girl ;-)













The chateau

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