Friday, 28 September 2007

Harajuku Girls

Last night Shoes and I decided to go grocery shopping, since the weekend where we supposed to do nothing has somehow turned into a weekend where we're doing a whole bunch of things, and there's no time left for the basics. Sainsburys was really empty. Looking at the fresh produce, I now know why no-one shops on Thursdays. I could scarcely believe the state of some of the things on the shelves. The lettuces were labeled "display until Saturday" but two days before the axe is due to fall on their sorry lives, they look as if they've been ravaged by leprosy; great holes where crisp, dewy leaves are supposed to be and poo-brown edges instead of white.

Then it was off home to change and go to gym. Shoes is on a mission now, after slacking over the holiday periods, and I am sticking to his side like glue, as it's far easier to go with someone than to try and motivate myself on my own. Sometimes - many times - that task is simply too big for me. We got home from shopping at 7:15pm and were at gym by 7:30pm, which meant we were going to eat supper really late. We'd decided on pizza mid-shop as it's the quickest thing to make. The thing is, eating pizza at 9pm was probably not the best way to keep off those kilos that we'd just worked so hard at burning.

On my lunch break today I went to another coven and met the director, Mr Congeniality. Really nice guy. So helpful and sweet, his good intentions were tripping over themselves on their way to wrap me in their warm coat of security. Why do I always get my hopes up with these people? I can't help it. They seem like your best friends when you first meet them, like they'll move heaven and earth to get you your dream job. Had to shake my head violently on my way out to clear it of all hopes and dreams. Luckily it was raining, so passers-by may just have thought I'd got water in my ears.

There's an hour and a half of the day left, and then Scarf and I are off to go see Gwen Stefani at Wembley Arena. We are both acting like excited teenagers about this. Gwen is possibly the funkiest female artist to walk the planet (Scarf is huge on funkiness), and her songs are extremely catchy, annoyingly so if you don't like her. I even hear Shoes singing "There ain't no Hollaback Guuurrrrrrrl" when he thinks no-one is listening. It should be a great night out.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Baby Love

I have won two tickets to London Fashion Weekend! How about that? I snagged them by entering a staff competition to name our new staff magazine. All entrants with names that will be considered were put into a hat for a lucky draw, and I won! They haven't decided on a name yet, so I don't know if any of mine will be used, but I will certainly be using those tickets. Scarf and I are going on Saturday afternoon. I know the biggest part of Fashion Week is the shopping, and we are both as poor as churchmice so that's kind of an issue, but at least we'll get to soak up the shopping glow with elite fashionistas and catch a catwalk show or two.

In other, rather more frightening news, I was out seeing one of my covens at lunch today and I just saw babies everywhere. Babies babies babies, like they were falling from the sky or something. And, even worse, I wanted them. I didn't think: that's the cost of 10 pairs of really expensive shoes this month, I thought, aaaahh, wouldn't it be nice to have one those (babies, not expensive shoes). It's finally happened. The day I thought would never come, the day where my age catches up with me, where my biological clock is not just ticking but spinning around and making coffee in an effort to be noticed, the day I am ready to give up SHOES! I want a baby. I can't help it. I don't WANT to want a baby, I just want one. It's like when you want to watch that gory, violent, psycho-thriller movie on late night TV, or perhaps a spot of porn, depending on your preference... you don't want to be the person that wants to watch these things, but you are and there's not much you can do about it.

I still maintain I am too young for kids, and I don't intend to go slicing my arm with a razor blade to rip out the one thing that is preventing me from having them just yet. I also won't be buying baby books, offering to babysit all and sundry's children or quizzing Shoes about baby names and whether or not smacking is acceptable in today's society (for the record: if it's a girl, Ayla, or a boy, Lincoln; and I'm totally into smacking, it's the greatest discovery by parents since the beginning of time). But I can't stop myself from cooing over every baby I see in the streets, something most women do but which for me has increased from Would Like To to Must Have, Gimme The Baby Now, and wanting to hold every tiny person I can get my hands on. Shoes has told me several times in the last month to tone it down lest people start thinking I have an unhealthy interest in children. Parents can't be too careful these days.

So what now? I want a baby, but am savvy enough to realise it would be kind of disasterous right now, considering a) our massive debt b) our lack of owned property c) the small problem of being a few hundred thousand miles away from the place we want to raise our kids and d) our massive debt. Oh yes, and the fact that Shoes would probably rather die than be a father right now. Just a wee bump in the road.

Does this condemn me to the status of irritating woman in a group of young and care-free 20-somethings who is constantly nauseating her peers with her baby obssession? Not me. I'll not do it. Emergency shoe shopping this Saturday. Stat. Maybe I'll spend at a bit at Fashion Weekend after all.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

She Works Hard for the Money

I have an interesting update on my work situation. L recently got promoted to Planning Manager, as I posted previously, and her former PA position is now open for a permanent candidate. They have a temp in at the moment, and they will start interviewing for her post possibly next week. At the same, they have decided to make my post permanent. Once again I was offered the job, and not only that, but sort of begged to stay - what can I say, I am just the most charming PA to walk through these doors. Mostly my team like me because I am unable to keep my mouth shut. When I am not entertaining them with my sparkling conversations with S or engaging in witty verbal sparring with Grumpy Pants, the oldest and most sour person in my team (although he's only pretending to be, he's a giant softie underneath and he truly loves my lack of diplomacy), I am talking fashion with the girls or dirty with the guys - how could they not love me? Anyway, despite all this obvious adoration, they're still kicking me out on my ass.

I should make another mention here that they have all repeatedly rallied for me stay and take this role permanently, and I have repeatedly refused, so the kicking out on ass thing isn't at all as nasty as it may sound. I won't commit, and they want me to, so we're at a stalemate. I've been through my reasons for not going permanent here before, so I won't bore you with them again. Besides, talking about why I am not going to make a career at the LDA puts me to sleep, and then as I nod over my keyboard people could come up behind me and read this irreverent post and perhaps kick me out quicker than otherwise intended.

What I will say is that I have experienced a sudden streak of motivation to find a new job, powered by the fear of floundering in London unemployed. I am seeing a couple more agencies (covens) this week, although by George I do hate them. Their snobby attitude, their goal of many candidates, superfast turnover; it's not conducive to finding your perfect job, it only helps if you're desperate and willing to take the first thing they throw at you, which is of course what they are counting on. Nevertheless, I will enter the lairs of evil again and try to burn my image into their retinas so as to leave an impression lasting more than say, oh, 30 seconds. I've considered dressing up in an unusual costume, or being really loud and/or overenergetic, but am afraid either of these tactics might get security sicced on me. Or worse, Agency Blacklisting. Not that there is such a thing, but can you imagine? Like Credit Blacklisting, only worse, cos not only are you not able to get a job through an agency, you would also end up with Credit Blacklisting automatically due to your lack of funds and subsequent inability to pay your rent/credit card bill/Sky TV account. Nightmare.

I never hold out much hope for these visits, possibly because I am so vehemently negative about tham in the first place, but don't challenge me unless you've been through it - it would try the patience of Mother Theresa.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Vieni Sul Mar (Come to the Sea)

Shoh, it's all been a bit hectic here at work this morning. Last minute meeting reschedulings, botched room bookings resulting in some serious scrambling to find somwhere as the guests waited downstairs, blissfully unaware of the chaos going on above them. I'm feeling rather overworked and it's not even 11:30am!

Anyway, let's continue with our trip to Italy. On Saturday morning we woke earlier so we could make breakfast, which consisted of freshly baked rolls with various jams and spreads. We would soon discover that this is the traditional breakfast in Italy. Toast and bacon are absent except for in the bigger restaurants, although you can get boiled or scrambled eggs to put on your roll (?), and cheese and ham tend to come as their replacements. By the time we left, we were so sick of rolls, pizza and pasta that we've yet to touch any of them after being home for a week and half.

We picked up our car at the airport at 11:30am, with the intention of cruising along to Lake Garda with the help of our trusy sat-nav. However, this was not to be, as we were informed by a rather indifferent Italian woman that they did not have any sat-navs. We'd booked car with sat-nav almost a month before, and Shoes was enraged that they hadn't even had the decency to phone us and let us know the situation. So we went to the car company next door to see if we could rent a spare sat-nav from them. Then this completely idiotic affair ensued: To rent the sat-nav, we needed to give them a credit card as security. Mark tried his credit card, but it was maxed out with the booking of the car. I couldn't give mine, as the card used had to be the same as the driver's license given, and 2 weeks before Italy I had lost my SA driver's license. We thought we'd hit on a brainwave when we realised we had our South African credit cards, but it turns out they had both expired the previous month. Oh, and they wouldn't accept our debit cards. So there were, with 300 Euros in cash, 2 functional debit cards, one credit card and a British driver's license, and with all that lot we couldn't rent the sat-nav. I think it's quite funny now, but at the time, Shoes was so mad he was practically spitting. He yelled and cursed and stormed all the way to our rental car, sans sat-nav, and was so blinded by ire that he failed to notice the correct numbering of the parking bays, and he went into a fresh bout of raging when he saw what he thought was our car, a Fiat Panda. I timidly re-directed him to the correct parking bay, and ducked behind the new car for fear of another outburst. The outburst never came, however. Instead, there were vague sounds of approval! The new car was a Fiat Bravo (you can tell we're in Italy hey). The woman had muttered something about giving us an upgrade to a bigger car with a diesel engine for the same price, presumably to make up for sat-nav fiasco, but at the time Shoes just growled something about bigger cars costing more to run, and so I didn't think it was good news. It turned out to be a good move on her part though, as once Shoes got behind the wheel, all was forgotten and the sun came out from behind the clouds. Suffice it to say he enjoyed the ride. Of course, what goes up must come down, and by the end of the holiday, he was cursing that car a blue streak, because it really was a tank and he couldn't see the edges, making turning around and parking in the tiny streets of Lake Garda an extremely stressful experience!

Finally we were on our way, Shoes alot calmer and ready for the road trip. Throughout the whole debacle I had kept my cool, mainly because it felt good to be the calm one when usually it is me ranting and raving at someone else's inadequacy. Also, I had to stay calm, as I was the navigator. I had soothed Shoes by telling him the maps were easy to read, and I was sure of where we were going, when in actual fact I was kakking off a bit because none of the above was true. Somehow, on instinct and fear of another Shoes Blood Rage alone, I managed to negotiate us through Mestre and to the highway. We actually took as many wrong turns as right ones on our way to the autostrada, but Shoes doesn't know that and I deserve an Oscar for my convincing performance of Confident and Knowledgable Navigator. If nothing else, I learned this holiday that the secret to map reading is to stay calm. The secret to a peaceful road trip is for the navigator to stay calm and talk in low, soothing tones, and the driver to take hint of this and remain patient and attentive to the navigator. I kept my part of the bargain; Shoes did not keep his. I purred, he shouted. I directed, he freaked out. His pet hate, besides SA losing their matches, is to drive and not know where he is going. Worse, to drive and not know where he is going, and to have to depend on someone for direction who does not necessarily know where she is going either, despite trying very hard. Strangely enough, we were fine for the most part. But the few occasions where we did take a wrong turn, or had to stop and try and figure out where the hell we were headed, were occasions for Shoes to become apopleptic again, to the point where I considered telling him this must be bad for his heart, but refrained from doing so at the last minute. After the 4th or 5th time, I lost my cool and started shouting back, and by the time we arrive in Malcesine on the edge of Lake Garda, I was in a full-on sulk. Despite that, we had a very pleasant journey and all was forgotten when finally we had the bags in our room and the bloody car parked where we couldn't see it.

Malcesine is just gorgeous. Widely known as the prettiest town on the lake, it has cobbled streets, restaurants along the water and a boardwalk that stretches far beyond to the next town over. Put it this way, it's the first time I've felt at home since I left Cape Town. This is largely due to the mountains and the water, of course. We couldn't get over the fact that we weren't by the sea, as everything about it felt like a seaside holiday, except that you swim with ducks and swans instead of cormorants and sea-gulls. Once we got there, it was like we were on a different planet, and our lives in London didn't exist. In Malcesine, everyone is happy all the time, and no-one has any issues - not in a Stepford Wives way, but rather in a If You Lived Here You Wouldn't Have Any Problems Either Cos What The Hell Is There To Worry About way. We spent our time going out for lunch and dinner everyday, roaming the streets of the town and neighbouring Limone, which we got to by taking a ferry across the lake, drinking wine on our balcony and making a few touristy trips, including our cable car ride up to Monte Baldo and our day trip to Verona. I wanted to go to Verona mainly to see Juliet's balcony. For an incurable romantic like me, this is worth the pilgramage to a city which is actually rather ugly, and certainly doesn't have enough redeeming features to make it a must-do on any discerning tourist's itinerary. We also saw the L'Arena, the mini colisseum in the main square (I say mini because the one in Rome is much bigger and far more impressive, even though this one is more well preserved) and the Giardini Giusti, a renaissance garden built back in the 13th century. After sight seeing in Verona, we elected to drive back towards Lake Garda to the thermal baths and get lunch on the way. This was a big mistake. It was Sunday, and we had this great idea of visiting these thermal baths that I had discovered online. They were in a village called Cola on the South East of the lake, and the website made them look like this place of tranquility and peace, where you could take a stroll through the parks and then a quiet dip in one of the mineral springs. Dude, it was like Montagu Springs in the middle of tourist season, but with crowds hand-picked from the middle of Disneyland. There were kids running and screaming everywhere, babies crying, revolting old drunk men in speedos catwalking their wares and seriously over-priced food and drink. Add to that the fact that we hadn't eaten in 6 and a half hours, and I was crabby to the point of being dangerous. I don't do well with no food - "accidentally skipped" meals are not for me; I have to eat three times a day every day at more or less the same time, otherwise Lord have mercy on you. The park itself was pretty, at least, what you could see through the human carpet of shrieking children; and the water was really pleasant, but we only stayed for the hour and half we did as it cost us 21 Euros each to get in, and we couldn't stomach blowing that money completely.

Which brings us to our money situation. Aaah. The joys of going on holiday when you know you can't afford it. Basically we didn't have the spare cash for this trip and we knew it when we booked the tickets. Shoes had done Turkey in May, which turned out to be a VERY expensive holiday; we went to Portugal in August and less than 3 weeks later we were off to Italy, never mind the partying we'd been doing in between. From a financial point of view, we shouldn't have taken this trip. However, if you read my blog back in May while Shoes was in Turkey, you would know that I would happily have robbed a bank to take this trip, and I wasn't going to listen to reason, rationality or common sense. Screw them all, I wanted my damn holiday! Luckily Shoes was on my team (it was us against...???? maybe the voices of my parents in my head) so we went, dangerously close to the limit credit cards and all. During our stay, we juggled like circus clowns; plotting and scheming to make that euro go just that much further, without denying ourselves any of the pleasures we would ordinarily have had, so we could always say we didn't go on such an amazing holiday only to skimp and regret it. What we did regret though, at the very end, with Shoes' credit card maxed out, my own pretty close to it, both our bank accounts empty and only 50 euros in cash remaining, was when my credit card failed to work to pay our accommodation. There was that feeling of icy cold dread; that shock that seeps into your consciousness as your common sense wakes from its dormant slumber and goes, what have you done? That helpless feeling as you realise there is only one way out: phone a friend. Eyes and Scarves rallied like the great housemates they are, and bailed us out with a quick cash transfer, but it was a moment where we genuinely saw our security blanket whipped away on the wind. Turns out you have to phone your bank prior to any international trip if you have a Mastercard, as they need to authorise you to draw larger amounts off it, and we had no idea, having never used our credit cards on holiday before. So we were relieved to find our calculations were correct when we got back to London; we didn't max out both cards - I still had a £150 left on mine! Yippa dee doo dah! I can't bring myself to tell you what my limit is though - some things should remain unsaid for fear of bringing down parental wrath.

All in all it was just the most perfect holiday. We celebrated our 7 year anniversary while away - techincally it fell on 1st September, but because we didn't have the money to go out at the time, we saved it for Italy and had the most amazing dinner our first night in Malcesine. The whole trip we sort of viewed as an anniversary present to ourselves. Of course, when I came back I had plenty of people at work asking to see the ring, but we're not quite there yet; that's another story for another day. The thing now is getting through 4 months of saving and staying home while we try to make back all our zealously spent money, and bumble through what is set to be a very cold English winter, before we go home again for a holiday in January for our first time in a year and a half. No matter how bad this winter gets, it's well worth waiting for!

Monday, 24 September 2007

Ardon Gl'incensi (The Mad Scene)

Where to begin? It's Monday now, and I've toyed with the idea of writing this ever since I came back last Wednesday, but have had a serious attack of laziness - yesterday I watched 3 movies, X Factor, an episode of Grey's and 20 minutes of Flashdance. It's not possible to have a lazier Sunday than that. Part of the reason for my current hermit state is lack of funds to do more exciting things. This is due to some severe overspending in Italy, but as you'll soon see, it was all worth it (at least, that's what we keep telling ourselves).

Italy was absolutely fantastic. I've been wondering how I'm ever going to put into words how amazing this holiday was for us, and how I'm going to make it all come alive, and I've realised that it doesn't really matter - what matters is the experience we had and what we got from it. I'll give you the highlights so you know what we did and where we went, but it was so much more for me than just a series of going places and seeing things. It was my Turkey; my little slice of paradise; my chance to finally feel like I fulfilled the desperate need for a holiday of my own. And it was just beautiful and enchanting to boot - 10 out of 10!

We left work on Thursday for Gatwick airport, and the usual travel drama started pretty much as soon as we arrived. We'd checked in online, thinking ourselves rather clever for avoiding the queues. Ahem, yes, so we thought. We were standing by the flight boards looking for our check in point, and to our growing dismay, our flight was nowhere to be found. After a few heart stopping moments of checking and re-checking the print-outs of our flight times, we realised we were in the wrong terminal. Say it with me: eish! When we finally got to the right queue, it was as long as Pinocchio's nose and we realised that checking in online merely means you get to choose your seats - it doesn't negate the need to queue for 45 minutes to check in your bags. So much for that then. ;-P

We arrived at Marco Polo airport at 11:00pm Italian time after a delay on our flight. I only had a rough idea of how to get to our hotel from the airport; I googled it numerous times but the directions were never 100% clear, and there seemed to be an awful lot of options, some of which we figured wouldn't be available to us that late at night. Luckily for us, all the Italian airport staff were very friendly and spoke English, so we found the right bus without too much hassle. Our hotel was little more than a hostel really, which was to be expected as I found and booked it it on The difference here was that they only had private rooms, and ours had an en-suite bathroom, which was an enormous relief. Up to this point, we hadn't yet had to share a bathroom with strangers on our travels, something we've always sworn to avoid. I can't imagine anything worse that needing the loo while some whiles away their time in the shower! That first night we basically arrived, checked and went straight to bed, keen for an early start the following day. That "early" start only occurred when we woke at 9:15am, and as a result missed breakfast. Our hosts were a bit of a tough crowd though - we came through for breakfast at 9:45am and they said we were too late, despite previously telling us breakfast was served from 8 - 10am! No matter, breakfast in Venice sounded like a better option anyway. Luckily we were really close - just 10 minutes from Piazzale Roma by land bus. Contrary to popular belief, it's only mainland Venice which sits on water; the surrounding areas in the province of Venezia are all land-bound and really ugly as well!

What to say about Venice? It's everything I expected, and a few things I didn't. It's beautiful in a shabby, historic sort of way; all old delapidated buildings and narrow cobbled streets. It has far more walking space than I expected; in fact, over the last few decades the Italian government has made a point of filling in the land so you can pretty much walk anywhere you can go by boat, with the obvious exception of the outlying islands. We took a ferry from one end of the Grand Canal to the other, and stopped at Siestere San Marco, the last of Venice's 6 districts, or sestieri, and the one for which the city is most well-known. We walked through the crowds to Piazza San Marco, and saw the famed Basilica di San Marco, the Campanile (tower) and main square with thousands upon thousands of pigeons. It is illegal to feed these "flying rats" in Venice, as this encourages them to stay, and their acidic droppings erode the old buildings into which the government has poured millions of Euros for reparation. Of course, this doesn't deter tourists in the least, and many brave (stupid?) souls get right in the thick of things for that holiday snapshot of themselves wearing a pigeon coat. I really wanted one to sit on my arm, but it took me a while to work up the courage, for where came one, came all, and I wasn't going to walk around for an entire day smelling of bird shit. Finally I coaxed one up, sans food I am proud to say, and I too have that horribly touristy photo of me in San Marco square grinning inanely while imitating a bird perch. Gotta love the cheesy holiday pics!

We chose to spend most of our time in Siestere San Marco, as trying to fit in all 6 districts would definitely have taken more than a day, and we wanted to enjoy our day and see as much as we could without feeling too rushed. We did a 4km walking tour using the map in the Lonely Planet Guide, and it was surprisingly accurate despite being 5 years old! It took us through every corner of the district, past all the major landmarks and some minor ones. Shoes and I are not big on arts, museums or history lessons, so mostly we just made approving noises everytime I read something like: "And coming up on our left is Palazzo di Garibaldi," but we didn't really stop and stare or anything. We stopped at interesting things, like leaning bell towers and gondola traffic jams - I have a fabulous photo of four gondolas stuck in a narrow canal; I only wish I could have captured the rising Italian tempers as the gondoliers hurled what I can only assume was abuse at each other for bad driving skills!

Money just disappears in Venice. We specially didn't buy any trinkets or go clothes shopping, besides the Venetian masque to add to our souvenir collection - we plan to have a mantelpiece one day tastefully displaying mementos from our travels. Still though, it's like a black hole. You just have to look at your wallet and money falls out of it. We stopped for lunch mid-walking tour, and shared a pizza at a little Piazzeria on the water. We'd been warned by our trusty travel guide not to sit down for meals because of the cost, but after 3km of walking and with at least another 3km to go, a rest was needed. Shoes had a beer of some sort, and I had a spritz - an Italian late afternoon / early evening favourite of white wine, soda and bitters. I chose the dry one, sorry for me, because the heavy dose of bitters ensured that I screwed up my face like a chipmunk everytime I took a sip. Still, when in Venice, do as Venetians do, and I drank it all.

After lunch we went to make plans for our evening. This meant finding a pub which was going to show the SA vs England match. Luckily, our travel guide again came to the rescue - can I just stop here briefly to give full marks to the Lonely Planet Guide, and if any of you are thinking of travelling anytime soon, don't leave home without one - ok free advertising over. We consulted the list of sports pubs, and found one not far from where we'd had lunch. After a quick trip there to ensure they were in fact showing the game, we continued in our way, Shoes now completely satisfied that he was going to get his sporting fix later on.

Two things that we didn't do which I really regret were both the result of our decision to take a trip to the island Murano. Venice's two most well-known islands, Murano and Burano, are off the mainland and require a fairly lengthy ferry trip to get there. Murano is home to Venice's glass-blowers. They were moved there from the mainland in the 13th century because of the risk of fires associated with the temperatures at which glass is made. Burano is the lace island, where the few remaining lace-makers remain, and is by all accounts much prettier than Murano. Our plan was to take a boat to Murano, and from there get another to Burano, as the boats to Burano from the mainland left only every hour. When we got to Murano, we were told the next boat to Burano would take 40 minutes to get there. As we'd already travelled for 40 minutes to get to Murano, we decided we didn't want to spend all our time on boats, as we'd rather be in the city soaking up the culture (sans art and museums, of course!). So we went to the glass blowing demonstration, which was awesome and definitely worth seeing, and then hopped back on a boat to the mainland. On the way back, I started lamenting the fact that we hadn't gone inside the Basilica di San Marco. When we'd been in the square previously the queues to go in had been horrendous, so we elected not to go. However, as we passed it again on our way to the Murano boat stop, the queues had decreased considerably, and I said to Shoes, maybe we should go in now. But we decided to get the boat to the island as it was getting quite late. I knew the Basilica closed at 5pm, and on our return trip from Murano I said that I thought we should come back the next morning to see it, as of all the things in Venice that is the most magnificent sight. Shoes wasn't keen, and so we decided to make a run for it as our boat docked. We docked at 4:55pm, and legged it back to the Basilica in time to join the queue.... and then have the gates close right in front of us. I was not to be deterred, however. While the guard was distracted talking to some other tourist, I slipped behind him and around the gate into the entrance hall. I was well pleased with myself... until a guard indicated in an animated stream of Italian that I couldn't go in. I was wearing a top that showed my stomach, and apparently your torso has to be fully covered to enter. We had nothing with us that I could use, so just as we thought we'd outwitted the system we were turned away. If we ever do go back to Venice, that will the first place we start! Ironically enough, just 45 minutes later I was cold, and Shoes bought me a top from one of the tourist stalls. The wisdom of hindsight..... The other thing we didn't do was go on a traghetto. Traghetti are public gondolas, and they are used for getting across the river if you don't feel like walking all the way to the next bridge. They pack as many people as possible onto one gondola, and everyone has to try keep their balance as the gondolier ferries them across the river. After the Basilica debacle, it was already after 5pm, and unbeknowst to us, the traghetti, and indeed most other tourist attractions, shut down at 5pm. Everyone asked us if we were going to go on a gondola ride, that being the first thing people think of when they think Venice, but at 80 Euros (£60) for an hour and a further 25 Euros for every additional 30 minutes, that was a third of our budget for the whole day, so it was something we had ruled out early on. The gondoliers are very cute though, in their stripy black and white t-shirts, and several of them were singing Italian opera to their admiring customers!

We arrived at the pub at 8pm, an hour before the big match. Earlier on we'd seen an enormous cruise ship being pulled into the harbour by a little tug boat, and soon enough the staff from the ship found their way to the pub for an evening of pints and rugby. There were Saffas, Kiwis, Aussies, a couple of English and a sprinkling of Italians, and everyone seemed to be cheering for SA! Besides a small incident where the very fiery Italian barman got extremely upset with one of the patrons and literally picked him up and hurled him out the door of the pub - the conversation was all in Italian, so we never figured out exactly why - it was good fun, and we won, so all was well with Shoes' karma. Afterwards I took a very drunken Shoes to another little bar for just one more, and the place we found had a Rasta MC rocking the mic with some Italian reggae. Good old Bob obviously transcends culture and nationality. ;-)

Then it was home to bed, ready for our trip to Lake Garda the next day.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Uomo Di Viaggio

So strangely enough, I haven't had time to get excessively excited as I've had a fair amount of work to do, with tying up loose ends so I don't leave S and L with unecessary shit. Every time I do think about our trip, though, I get little thrills of excitement. I am looking forward to this SO much!

We've managed to fit all our stuff in two fairly smallish bags - I was forbidden to take our bigger bag, and so I've really only taken twice the amount of clothes I need instead of three times. We checked in online last night as well, so even though we're leaving work at 3:30pm, this is more because we just feel like it, rather than because we have time constraints. Our flight leaves at 6:40pm, and since we're checked in we only actually need to be there at 5:40pm. We're going to go have a drink and read the Venice guide together and get all excited. I kept forgetting to take the guide on the train with me in the mornings, so I've only just opened it, but already I am fascinated by the city and what we're going to see. The thing I found most surprising is that Venice is a city in decline, with the population having halved over the course of the last half century, and experts believe that by the end of this century, it will finally be uninhabitable. It's the sinking city - both literally and figuratively. Aaah! Poor Venetians. Venetian - isn't that a lovely sounding name? If I could choose to be any nationality, I'd choose Venetian because it sounds so classy and mysterious and exclusive. Ok, perhaps it's just me. But you don't quite get the same aura from German or Portuguese, do you?

The rest of the gang are all going to Pacha this weekend. I'm a bit jealous, as Pacha is the club we've all been dying to go to - it's one of the most well known names on the club circuit, and the original Pacha in Ibiza is the oldest club on the island and rated the third best club in the world. It's just our bad luck that we're away when everyone goes to the London branch for the first time, but of course, I shouldn't be complaining, because I'd so rather be travelling in Italy than clubbing in London. There's plenty of time to go again.

Ok, this isn't working... it's taken me an hour so far to write this post, and there are not even three full paragraphs! Everyone in the office keeps stopping by to enthuse about Venice (apparently the whole world has already been there; I'm a bit late catching up) and give me advice. I've had to lie and say I've read the travel guide from cover to cover so people stop trying to give me their "Perfect Day in Venice" itineraries - there are only so many of those you want to here without throttling the speaker! I'll sign off for now, and next week I'll bring you all the stories and try and take you with me on our trip. :-)

Wednesday, 12 September 2007


I know a woman - we'll call her Candy, cos that's not really a name anyway - who is in a long term relationship but is in love with another guy. She's been with her boyfriend for a long while now, but a year or so ago things started getting old and tired between them, and she fell for someone else. She is now in the unenviable position of having to make the ultimate choice: security, stability and fondness without the love she has been dreaming of, or uncertainty, excitement and passion with a person who makes her feel like she's really living for the first time. What would you do? Of course, I have oversimplified the situation - there is alot more to it than what seems like a formulaic rom-com (although if this was a rom-com, we all know how it would end - she'd choose the other guy and they'd sail off into the sunset and live happily ever after). It does make me aware of how very fragile relationships are, no matter how strong the foundations. And how life never really turns out the way you expect it to. Just a short while ago, Shoes and I hit a bit of a bump in the road, and I got scared for the first time in our 7 years together that we weren't right for each other. We got through it, and I'm all the happier for it. But I bet Candy thought she'd get through it too, and look at her now. There but for the grace of God go I, we say, when we have no idea if something similar is predestined for our own futures. Millions of women around the world experience the trauma of the breakdown of a long term relationship - the loss of the one you thought you'd be with forever. And every single one of those women went into that relationship believing they were solid as a rock, that nothing could shake their love. Life is so much bigger than us. We think we know; we think we're in control of who we are how we're going to end up, but really, we're not. Even being there for Candy as she goes through this, there's STILL a part of me that thinks, well, this will never happen to me. I guess I need to believe that - we all need to believe it can't happen to us; because if we believed the alternative, maybe we'd give up too easily. Maybe we wouldn't fight as hard for what we believe in, because we never really believed in it 100% in the first place.

As I prepare to go on a romantic holiday with my boyfriend, Candy is looking into her crystal ball in vain, trying to see who she ends up with. It's bizarre. You think real life is less exciting, less harrowing, less like a film script. But where do they get the ideas for film scripts in the first place? Ok, maybe not Jerry Bruckheimer movies.

Speaking of romantic holidays, in less than 24 hours I will be on my way to the airport, preparing for the best break ever in Italy! Belissima! Shoes and I are stupid with excitement. This will be our first holiday with just the two of us since we did Plett, Knysna and the Garden Route in September 2005. We go first to Venice, the city of gondola-inspired proposals (no, I'm not getting that lucky... unfortunately sharing money means I know he can't afford a ring right now!), and then on to the prettiest village on Lake Garda, Malcesine, with a day trip to Verona. I am so going to stare lovingly down at him from Juliet's balcony at the Capulet house. He's going to be seriously embarassed. We're going to use this time to chill the hell out, relax and meander around cobbled streets and markets, and sit at cafes and watch the world go by. London? Where's that? Winter? What kind (it's going to be 25 in Venice on Friday)? I can't wait. Will post once more tomorrow before I leave so I have an outlet for my no doubt excessive enthusiasm.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Shake Your Tail Feather!

Last night Scarf, Mello, Mandz and I went to watch Dirty Dancing, The Stage Show. I am just going to take a moment here to go: aaaaahhhhhhh!!!!!! It was one of the best shows I've seen, although maybe not the very best..... that honour must still go to We Will Rock You (the music, the singing, the music.... well it was Queen, what do you expect?). But it was the movie brought to life beautifully, and I left feeling very satisfied.

I consider myself a connoisseur of Dirty Dancing, the movie. After all, I have watched it over 30 times, most of them with my friend Heath when we were in our teens, and I was - and possibly still am - able to quote the entire movie word for word. In fact, Heath and I used to have sleepovers, where we'd be lying in bed and would, just for the hell of it, recite the script to each other, each playing specific parts (which we could swap at random - we were both experts on all characters). Like 80% of the rest of women on this planet, I crushed hard on Patrick Swayze's bad boy Johnny Castle, and imagined myself twirling and grinding a la Baby in the dance finale. I have even managed to get Shoes enthusiastic about doing the lift, although we have yet to come anywhere close to success. Lifting in the pool is not as easy as Johnny and Baby make it out to be.

So, armed with an intimate knowledge of the movie, and even more importantly, an overwhelming passion for it (the only movie that equals it in my book is Braveheart, even though the two are incomparable in terms of genre), I went in expecting the best, but bracing myself for.... well, not so much. I hadn't researched the critics reviews before going, but I do remember coming across a few in the paper when the show first debuted on the West End over a year ago, and they weren't good. Mostly, they criticised the show for being an unoriginal carbon copy of the movie, and asked why one did not just take out the DVD. These poor misguided souls must either be a) male (and can therefore be forgiven for their delusion - no straight male on the planet likes Dirty Dancing) or b) female and Terminator fans. Of COURSE it's a carbon copy of the movie! This script has already been written; the story already read - can you imagine transporting it into the current decade with our leads meeting at an open casting for an MTV special? Eeeeww. The dialogue was lifted straight out of the film and the characters for the most part wore exactly the same costumes. This is because the purpose of this show is to bring the movie to life. To wow the audience with the up close, sparkling dance numbers and the incredible awkwardness of Baby that makes you cringe when she first meets Johnny in the dancers' shack. What would Dirty Dancing be without: I carried a watermelon?

I thought it did the movie justice, and brought things the movie couldn't give us, especially in terms of the dancing. While it didn't have that slightly sleazy feel it does in the film, the choreography was more complex and the dancers absolutely shone. Especially Nadia Coote, the Aussie actress in the role of Penny. She came out during the Hungry Eyes scene in a skin tight black playsuit, and every single one of the audience gasped - male and female alike. Rarely do you get the opportunity to see so perfect a human body. We were four girls, and our jaws all dropped. She is enchanting to watch - she dances like she has wings on her feet, and is so beautiful she looks like a fantastical faerie doing it. I would have to say she stole every scene she was in. Baby was more difficult to like, at least, at first. I don't know if we got her on an off night, but for the first half hour I felt she was going through the motions, and I wasn't really buying it. I got worried then, because the whole story hinges on Baby, and I love her in the film from beginning to end. Luckily though, after half an hour she seemed to warm up, and by the end she WAS Baby.

The first half was good; the second half absolutely killed it! Even though there were a couple of extra scenes that weren't in the movie, but which were also written by Eleanor Bergstein, the creator of the original film, the momentum was kept up, and we were made to feel like guests at the Kellerman's holiday camp. By the end, the audience was so involved and excited that there was a constant rumble, and by the time Johnny made his grand entrance from a side door and strode over to the Houseman's table to utter the immortal line, "Nobody puts baby in a corner" - everyone went completely hysterical with joy!

The final dance - an iconic scene in film and the fantasy of nearly every woman in the world - was brilliantly done; lift and all! I don't know if I was the only one moved near to tears with the fulfillment of it, but I suspect not. The only downside to the evening for me was that I'm broke, and couldn't afford any of the gorgeous merchandise they had for sale after the show. Luckily I found it available online today, so as soon as we get back from Italy, I'm getting a couple of Dirty Dancing tees.... my big problem is deciding which slogan to choose! :-)

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Work Is a Four-Letter Word

I am cruising with these free movies! A while ago I mentioned how I'd found this site where people post links to freebies, and how I was going a bit ape shit on it. Well, it no longer holds quite the same appeal a month on, as for the most part, the freebies you apply for never actually arrive, and what you do get instead is spam. Not just the odd dirty e-mail detailing someone else's sexual deviances, but bucket loads of spam of all kinds; from cheap viagra to free weekends away to my personal favourite - petitions for money from our brothers in deepest darkest Africa - Nigeria being a clear forerunner in begging by e-mail. You had to know it was going to happen sooner or later; our inboxes are the virtual traffic lights of cyberspace, and there's a beggar lurking at each one.

One thing this site is really good for, though, is free movies. Basically, a website called SeeFilmFirst is responsible for handing out hundreds of tickets to film previews, which are then used to gauge audience reaction before the film is officially released to the public. Rather bizarrely, you can choose not to participate in the feedback request, leaving you with 2 free movie tickets and them with....????

Anyway, I am milking them for all its worth, having just got tickets to see a preview of Superbad, the new comedy from the guys who did Knocked Up (which I also got free tickets for, and which is currently my favourite rom / gross-out com ever. See it, you won't be disappointed). We also saw Atonement and the Keri Russell comedy/drama Waitress for the grand old price of nothing. Ok, so perhaps they should be paying people to go watch Waitress, rather than the other way around. It's not that it's a terrible movie, it's just that you have to channel your most girly, old-fashioned and extremely patient self in order to get through it... in other words, girls: proceed with caution and boys: EVADE EVADE EVADE.

Aside from hunting free movie tickets like a lion after a new Impala fawn, I've finally been forced to face up to the decision that I have known was coming for months, and make my final do or die choice. I am talking about, of course, my job becoming permanent. I've been temping here since the end of March, and am now pretty much part of the furniture - a very well liked part, so my team tells me, like a comfy old couch that you are too fond of to throw out. Not that they are in any way indicating that I will be thrown out soon; quite the opposite, in fact. I've been breaking it them gently over a few weeks now that I am looking around for something else, which doesn't involve organising their lives. They in turn have been trying every trick in the book to convince me to stay, and finally I am being offered the chance to make things official. The PA for the other half of my team, L, recently applied for and got an internal promotion, leaving her role wide open. I think with my role as it stands, they're still not sure whether they're going to get a perm PA in, or combine the two halves to work under one PA... it's all up in the air and could go any way at any time. But L's job is open, and they do want a perm candidate in there, and I would be a natural choice given that I've been here and am doing her job anyway, just with 7 different people. I would still have to apply like everybody else, and they'd still get external candidates in for interviews, but basically if I wanted to go for it, I'm 99% sure I would get it.

The problem lies in the fact that I don't want it. Why is this a problem? Well, 3 months ago I would have taken it. That was my low point, my desperate pit in which I sat, believing that no-one else will ever want me so what would I have to lose by going perm here? The only difference between that and my current situation is that going perm would give me sick leave, a tad more money and plenty of holidays - all things which elude me as the long-suffering temp. But now, despite the recent rejection a couple of weeks ago from the publishing house for the role I so badly wanted, I feel strangely at peace with the situation, as if it's really not about me or what I want, but rather about what destiny has in store for me, which will be what it will be despite my hang-ups about getting the right job. Maybe I'm deluding myself because this is a way to duck responsibility for my own career happiness, but I really think it wasn't the right thing, and that's why I didn't get it... much as I know taking this job permanently wouldn't be right either. I don't need to apply and be rejected to know that. So here I am, with what is practically a definitive offer on the table, planning how I can get away and make a move that will benefit me in the long run, not just give me security for the near future. And I would really like this Predestined Job to come along quite soon, as I feel I am talking about it ad nauseum and would like to give you, as much as myself, a break from my never-ending quest.

So in summary: I basically have an offer for a job that I don't want, and it's a problem because that just means you are going to have to suffer through more posts about my work situation, and I am going to bore myself to death by writing them. You suffer, I die and someone else gets a secure PA position in a nice company.... how did I work this out again?!?!?!