Monday, 31 March 2008

No More Drama - er, when?

I am in visa hell once again.

I'm sure I don't need to summarise all my travel disasters for you again, but if you want a refresher course, all my travel-related posts are listed under Travel Traumas on the right of this page.

Anyway. This time I have just discovered I can't go on our planned trip to Germany in July. We've been planning two holidays this year - one to Spain in August, which will be our longest and most expensive trip, and then a shorter 5 day trip to Germany in July to attend the Full Moon Festival - possibly the best trance party on the planet. Most of you are by now aware of my love for trance parties, and this one is so big, so major, that last year's trip to Portugal just pales in comparison. We first started talking about going a month or so ago, and we planned to book our flights in May.

But guess what, once again I will have to pull out in yet another bad episode of deja vu, while everyone else gets ready for the party of a lifetime. Why? This is all a snowball effect of losing my passport. I came back into the UK with a full passport, but you might remember from this post that I still needed to get my UK visa re-issued once over here. As I am South African and our passports are equivalent in value to the Zim Dollar, I need a visa everytime I want to visit a different country. I have yet to apply for my UK visa re-issue, as I am travelling up to Scotland with my company this weekend and I need my passport to do so (Scotland is part of Great Britain and my UK visa allows me free access to all GB territories, so I therefore do not need to show proof of a visa when travelling to those places - I just need my passport for identification purposes).

So my plan was to come back from Scotland and straight away post off my application, and have my passport complete with UK visa back by end of June at the latest. I would then apply for my German Schengen visa 2 weeks before our trip. Today I started filling out all the application forms and checking that I have all the necessary documents. Then I saw this on the front page of the German Embassy website: You must have a passport with one blank page and residence permit for the UK, both valid for at least three months longer than the expiry date of the visa.

This is a problem, as my UK visa runs out in August this year. Which means that if I tried to apply for a Schengen visa using my UK re-issue visa as proof of my right to be here, they will deny my request based on the fact that at the time of application, I would have less then three months left on that visa.

So the logical solution is to renew my UK visa, right? After all, I am eligible to stay here - in fact, my next visa will give me indefinite leave to remain aka permanent residence, which means I will never again have to apply to stay in the UK until the day I decide to apply for citizenship, if we get that far. My current visa expires on 10 August. But the British Home Office, being the most fastidious of Immigration Authorities, has rules in place that only let you apply for a new settlement visa a maximum of 28 days before the expiration date of your current one. In other words, the earliest I can apply for my new UK visa is 14 July. We are supposed to fly on 16 July. I was planning on paying for the Same Day Service for my UK visa anyway, which costs £500 but has the advantage of being ready almost instantly. So I'd have that in place. But I would then have one day to organise a Schengen visa, and usually Schengens take between 2 and 7 days. Even if they told me it was possible to get it on the same day, unless it was a guaranteed thing - which it never is - I couldn't afford to spend all that money booking flights and whatnot, only to have my visa delayed and not be able to go.

So there you have it - for the third time in less than a year, I am facing missing out on a trip that I desperately want to make, while everyone else will probably go ahead without me anyway. I don't say that with bitterness, because hey, I'm a realist and past experience has told me that at the end of the day, people will do whatever they want to do and whatever makes them happy, and unless you're terminally ill or about to die and they are guilted into staying behind, they're going - end of story. The exception this time is Shoes. Last time with Turkey, I was big enough to let him go. I then proceeded to have a complete meltdown when he was gone, as how was I to really know how crap it was going to be to get left behind? This time I was prepared to put my foot down and start World War III over it if I had to, but it turns out I needn't have worried. He's not going without me. Ok, so I did have to ask him - he didn't offer - and there's was an infitesmal pause before he said no, and he certainly didn't sound very happy about it. But I think he realised I was stretched to breaking point last time... in fact, that I am still a bit fragile from all this drama, and my first instinct when I made this fabulous discovery today was to burst into tears. I probably would have; in fact, I VERY nearly did when I was speaking to Shoes on the phone, but I'm at work and I really don't dig crying in front of colleagues, so I managed to hold it in.

I'm just really disappointed. It's beyond ridiculous now, wouldn't you agree? Ok so it happened once, fine. And then it nearly happened again, and despite the fact that I eventually ended up going to CT, that was the most traumatic time of all. So, hey, that's enough shit for one person to deal with in 6 months, right? But no, apparently not. Third time unlucky. I'm just wandering how many more times I'm going to have one of these posts to write. How many more times am I going to be "Poor Lopz", while everyone else feels bad for a couple of days and then gets over it and goes away on an awesome holiday? What the hell is the point of living in this shit hole if I can't travel, seriously.

If I was signing an anonymous letter to a magazine column right now, I'd sign it Gutted, Gatvol and Had Just About Enough. And please pass the brandy.

Friday, 28 March 2008


I'm reading a book called Mercy by Jodi Picoult, and it deals with 2 main topics simultaneously - mercy killings and infidelity. As with all Picoult novels, the book is very character-focussed, and has a few main characters whose actions and decisions over a period of time heavily influence each other's lives. I adore Jodi Picoult - she puts into words what many of us are afraid to say, or even afraid to feel. She always deals with difficult and controversial topics that force you to examine where you stand on an issue.

And that's really what this post is about today - reading Mercy has made me contemplate in depth how I feel about infidelity. As far as mercy killings go, that is a non-issue for me. I believe in a person's right to die, and I believe that if someone assists them out of love and compassion, that person is guilty of nothing except displaying the kind of courage most of us probably don't have. In the case of mercy killings, I am a prosecutor's nightmare. But infidelity is another thing altogether. Of course it's wrong, I'm not questioning that. What I have been questioning since starting this book is whether or not I'd be able to live with it if it reared it's ugly head in my life. I think most of us, at one time or another, have wondered what we would do if we found out our significant other was cheating on us.

For me, I've always been on the fence about it. It goes without saying that I would be broken, devastated, hurt beyond comprehension, if I found Shoes had been sleeping with someone else. When your partner chooses someone else over you, no matter how long for, trust is irreparrably damaged, self esteem shattered and the easy dynamic between a long-term couple lost forever. But I have always asked myself the question: would it be worse to stay with him and try to rebuild things, knowing that I'd still love him despite what he'd done and that it might be enough to get us through it? Or would it be worse to watch him walk out of my life forever?

I suppose it's hard to imagine if you've never been in that situation. I've been cheated on before, but he was a drug addict and I hated him more than I ever loved him, so it wasn't the same thing. Shoes is the love of my life, and I've never had even the tiniest reason to doubt him, ever. So it's impossible to gauge how my feelings would change if he did the unthinkable, because I can't imagine him doing it at all.

The thing is, I've always leaned towards the idea of second chances. I don't know why I think I might be able to salvage a relationship from the ashes if this happened to me, but I've entertained the idea that this would be the lesser of 2 evils. I just can't imagine my life without Shoes, no matter which way I look at it.

Then I started reading this book. It is the man who has the affair, with a strange woman who comes to town and who ends up as his wife's shop assistant. And I can tell you, I have never hated a character in a book more than I hate this one. Everytime the author focusses on him, I can't help a sneer stealing across my face. I am rooting for all sorts of terrible things to happen to him - for him to die in a car accident, for his wife to leave him once and for all (she is undecided at this point in the story, although she knows everything), for him to get an incurable disease and die a slow, painful death. The strength of my feelings towards this character have taken me completely by surprise.

Of course, in the story his wife is just lovely, and doesn't appear to have told so much as a half-lie in her whole life. And he embarks on the affair with total disregard for her, and treats her badly during his indiscretion as a result of his guilt. So they do play very much the sterotypical roles, and in real life, I'm sure that many times it is not that black and white.

Still though. If I feel hatred and utter contempt towards a fictional character in a book, how much more would I feel that towards a real life person - my person? And would it make a difference at all that I love him? Interesting, though-provoking. I'm now leaning towards total non-acceptance, if it happened to me.

What would you do?

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

When The Rhumba Rhythm Starts To Play

Today is my first official post as a 28 year old. When I posted on Saturday, it was before 1pm, which is the time I am told I made my noisy entrance into the world. So now I am older, but still feel no different. The only thing I feel is terrified, as Mark got paid today and we got rid of more than half his salary in a matter of minutes, with the cost of moving house still to come. The fact that we spent it on necessities like travel and not on frivolous shopping expeditions doesn't make me feel any better. My entire salary is going towards the move this month, and I actually still fall short of the total cost by £150. I've never felt quite this vulnerable in London... up til now we've always had a Plan B, and now there isn't one because there is literally not enough money for the job.

It will all be fine once we're in - it's the 6 weeks deposit we have to come up with on top of all the other costs of moving that is killing us. Deep breath. It's going to be fine... I hope. Can one survive on baked beans on toast for a whole month? I don't even like the damn things, but I'll eat them if it means we can pay rent.

Anyway, on to other things that don't make me hyperventilate.

Saturday night eventually did feel like my birthday. We all went out to Sway Bar in Covent Garden, and had one of the best nights out we've had in ages. Mello and I were born on the same day, and so decided to share our birthday and have a theme to mark the occasion. Everybody had to come dressed in white - well, at least half in white. White tops / shirts were mandatory, and where possible we asked for white pants or skirts, but we accepted blue jeans as well since not many people actually own white trousers, especially the guys. We then dressed in black and red, so we really stood out from the crowd. I was tempted to post the group photo on here so you can see how cool it looks, but I decided to stick to complete anonymity. ;-)

When we first arrived, the bar was really empty and the few patrons scattered across the cowhide booths all looked to be in their late thirties or early forties. We thought we'd misread the blurb on the website - was this a "throw your name away" type of bar or a sedate, pre-theatre drinks venue? The music was pretty atrocious too; Come on Eileen by Dexy's Midnight Runners was followed quickly by I'll Be There For You by the Rembrandts. The Friends theme is not cute when you're glugging champagne and trying to get a party going.

We decided to tell the barmen their taste in music left a lot to be desired, and to our surprise, they completely agreed, launching into a tirade about how they had no say in the tunes played and how tough it was to stand there night after night and have their ears assaulted. They promised us it would get a little less cheesy as the night wore on. We had good reason to doubt that anything was going to happen at all though, when by 8pm we were one of only 2 tables left in the joint.

By now Mello and I thought we'd made a grave mistake. We'd picked Sway on recommendation from two of our friends who are connoisseurs of these type of "chick bars", as we like to call them. We were about to call them and tell them what we thought of their taste, when a waitress reminded us that it was the middle of a bank holiday weekend, and nothing major was going down before 9-9:30pm. We didn't really believe her - we thought we were it in terms of party guests.

Luckily, we were wrong and she was right, as 9pm rolled around and suddenly the place filled up. Really, it went from empty to three quarters full in about 15 minutes. The main dancefloor opened up, and the music improved ten fold. By now everyone had had enough time to chat and socialise, and the time had come to bust some serious moves. La Poo was jumping up and smacking the disco balls around (which earned her a stern talking to from the bouncers), G-Days was having the time of his life in a dancing sandwich between two hot girls, Scarf and I were giving it all we had in the very middle of the dancefloor and the guys, usually reticent when it comes to dancing and commercial music, actually put in a better performance than the girls. We knew we'd hit the jackpot when the boys, so full of adrenaline and Magners that they stopped caring what song came on, started getting down and dirty to Christina Aguilera's Dirrrty. Ka-ching!

It was a fab night, voted the best of it's kind that we've had in London. Hopefully getting older can always be like that!

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Happy Birthday To Me

Today is my birthday, and I'm feeling a little melancholy. It's almost 12 o clock, and I've been awake since 9am. In that time I have:

1) Comforted Shoes who woke up with a very sore and dodgy stomach - perhaps too much smoked salmon yesterday

2) Read my book a bit

3) Replied to my happy birthday messages on facebook

4) Made my own breakfast - Shoes was still languishing in bed with said sore stomach

All very ordinary things, and none of them warrant being miserable. Ok, not miserable, but not happy. And it's not even that I am now 28, and I am lamenting the passing of my 27th year. On the contrary - I will always remember my 27th year as an extremely shite one that brought a lot of heartache and stress. So for me, turning 28 is a positive.

It's just that I don't feel special! *pouts childishly* When you get to this age, no-one makes a big deal about your birthday anymore, and rightly so. Most of the time, you try to pretend that birthdays don't happen, so you don't have to admit to being yet another year past it. It all makes sense, and it's not like I want people to fuss about it as if I was turning 21. But it seems so.... grey, and luke-warm. Whereas birthdays used to be red and molten-lava hot.

I suppose the fact that I haven't gotten any presents on my big day is another reason I am a bit put out. Of course, I already have my Def Leppard ticket, which is my best present so far, and I doubt anything else will top it. And G-Days is buying me the fluffy boots covers I really want, but they're being custom made, and so will only arrive next week. Scarf is at gym, and I will get a present from her and Eyes later today.
So I shouldn't be complaining. But I am, a little bit. Ungrateful brat, aren't I? I suppose I am nostalgic for the days when birthdays felt special. Today doesn't feel like my birthday at all.

Oh well, I'm off to buy socks. Yes, socks. I only have two pairs. Buying socks on my birthday. I have reached a new level of cool; come to me for I am the Master Birthday Planner. With me you'll never be sockless on your big day.

Oh well, we're going out on a bender tonight, so hopefully that will put it all in perspective, and my hangover tomorrow will tell me just how special this day ended up being. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Radio Ga Ga

Pahahahaha, one of the things I love most about London is that you can go to the pub and get pissed at lunch. I'm not laughing because this fact in itself is hysterically funny, but rather because after 2 bottles of wine between 3 of us, everything is midly amusing. Especially the fact that my colleague Sammi is pretty damn pissed right now, and half the office has just given up and either gone home or gone drinking.

The other half are at a radio awards ceremony today, which accounts for our wanton abandon. What's the point in sitting in a dull office doing sweet FA when you could go out drinking on your employer's time? And before you think I am totally rebellious here, this is a very normal thing to do, and indeed, almost expected. What can I say? "My boss was away, I had nothing to do, and I felt I couldn't justify bucking tradition and NOT going to the pub for a toot." It's the only way - you have to do what you have to do to fit in. Gladly, sir.

So now I'm sitting at my desk, reading blogs and whiling away (did I get that expression right?) the next 45 mins before I can leave. I've an early finish today as well - and they say those media types never work! But I'm trying to locate that stupid binding machine which has gone AWOL before I leave. Apparently the driver delivered it, but signed for it himself (yeah odd, ya think?) and just left it inside the foyer as no-one was around to pick it up. So now we are getting the CCTV tapes for that day and running through them to see exactly what this tosser did. How do you deliver something by dumping it in a doorway and not getting an employee signature? At least if it has disappeared, we can raise absolute hell with the company. I'm in the mood for it actually - I could do a showdown right about now! Gimme! They won't let me speak to the driver though. Obviously he's far too sensitive to handle complaints. Or maybe they can sense my spoiling for a fight.

Luckily, I only feel like fighting with dumbass drivers - not sweet boyfriends. Speaking of which, Shoes says he has some really good news for me, and he won't tell me til we get home. Oooooh, what could it be? I think I know... only because I know and he knows what kind of good news we need right now. Anyway, I won't speculate; I'll just find out tonight and fill you in on Monday - ok, maybe Tuesday.

It's my birthday on Saturday guys, and I'm turning 28. All commiserations welcome. I'll be sure to have some good stories for you after the weekend. Happy Easter everyone!

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Let Me Entertain You

I've recently signed up for a number of Google Alerts, which are key news items that are mailed to your inbox on an as-it-happens, daily or weekly basis, based on the subjects or terms you enter into the search criteria. I decided to use the tool to keep up to date with the media's coverage of my company, as it's a great way to learn what is going on and also what the public perception of your workplace is.

What I didn't think of until a few days ago is that I can pretty much get alerts on any topic I want, and one of the topics I am most interested in and passionate about is gymnastics. It has been my favourite sport ever since I can remember, and even though the last time I actually did any gym was 14 years ago, I follow it possibly even more closely today than I did then. To my delight, I now come into work in the mornings and my inbox is full of the latest news headlines on all gymnastics-related events. Some are crap - news about local competitions in Pofaddersfontein - and others are fabulous, like the coverage on who to watch leading up to Olympics later this year. You can bet I am going to be off sick for a good few days to watch that competition.

Anyway, thank you Google, for giving me yet another way to distract me from what I should be doing. Since I have all these new gym blogs to read, I'm going to cut this post short and leave you with some motivational thoughts for the day instead. ;-)

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Big Girls Don't Cry

My day at work today has consisted mostly of boring admin tasks, such as ordering refreshments for meetings and trying to track down a binding machine that mysteriously did not arrive with this week's stationary order.

As much as I am loving this company, I have to admit that I don't have an enormous amount to do in this role. I came from a position where I was supporting a team of 10, and am now only supporting one man. Of course, he is far more important than any of my previous team, but there is still only so much work one man can generate. He is also particularly easy-going, so if you had a mental picture of me running around after a high-powered suit clutching a clipboard and struggling to stay on top of things - think again. I manage my workload more than easily, and have plenty of time left to blog and read my tabloids. Which is great... in a way. It's not that I don't want time to do my own thing at work; in fact, I would hate a job which kept me so frantic all day that I couldn't send e-mails and check facebook. No CEO ambitions for me. But I do also want to be learning things in my job, and using the opportunities given to prove myself so I have a chance at moving up. I realise that this PA role was always going to be about getting a foot in the door - I don't really want to be a career PA. And because of this, I can't be seen to have major aspirations just yet; I need to prove myself a valuable asset in this position first, and show some loyalty and commitment before I can start making moves in other directions.

For the most part I am fine with this. But I do have days where I get pretty bored. So I've decided to try and do something about it in a non-threatening way, as the last thing I want is for people to be resentful of me moving in on their territory. So what better place to start than to help out with our annual Commercial Conference - the one day and one night away which is disguised as a brainstorming seminar, and is really just an excuse for 200 people to get as pissed as humanly possible and see who takes the most embarrassing photos (did I mention that sometimes I love England?). It's not an event that has any impact on our external clients and stakeholders, but is just a chance for staff to let loose and have fun. The Marketing Team are organising it, and I've let them know I'd like to help out if they need a hand. So far I've already been given two tasks to do. So there we go, baby steps. I definitely love it here and see a future for myself. I guess I'm just going to have to be proactive if I want to get ahead in any way - although that should go without saying, shouldn't it!

One of the best things about my company is Dagwood, my boss. He is a truly lovely human being - funny, irreverent and completely bullshit-free. He calls me "my little cherub", which makes me feel both young and cute - bonus points. If I put a call through to him and it's someone he likes, he tells them about his new "gorgeously efficient PA", and if it's someone he doesn't like, I am his "terrifying, dragon-like PA" and they are "truly lucky to have got through (her) cast-iron screen". He's full of wisecracks and expressions of delight / misery - he definitely has a flair for the dramatic. Last year at the Conference the theme was Rock Star, and he wore a full body purple Elvis suit, with sequins and ruffles at the sleeves. He enters wholeheartedly into the spirit of everything he does, which I find very inspiring.

My company is currently in the middle of a takeover bid by our main rival and up til now, arch enemy. Everything is a little tense and chaotic around here at the moment, but once we know for sure what is happening, I will hopefully be able to spend a bit of time shadowing and assisting other teams with their projects.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Dear Kimi Raikonnen

Dear Kimi Raikonnen

As you know, Formula 1 started again last week, and I have to tell you that watching you race yesterday completely made my weekend. You should know I'm your biggest ever fan, and that I've been supporting you since you first started racing; even when all around me, die-hard Schumi fans were dismissing you as a flash in the pan. I always believed that you would reach the top, and last year you proved my confidence in you to be well founded when you took the Championship.

You were never daunted by Schumi's larger-than-life reputation, Montoya's balls (but I guess you knew better than we did how balls + no brains = bull in a china shop) or Lewis Hamilton's rookie rise to glory. You were always consistent, never giving up even when your chances seemed impossible.

So it is with a heavy heart, Kimi, that I must ask: what the feck happened to you yesterday? I know you had problems in qualifying, but at first it seemed you were going to show them what being World Champ was all about, as you cut through the field to 7th place from 15th. But then you spun off twice - 2 critical errors which cost you those hard-fought places. Even though your eventual retirement was engine-related and had nothing to do with your driving errors, it all added up to a dismal performance, didn't it?

Kimi, I feel compelled to tell you that I was disappointed in you yesterday. Heaven knows you have some of the worst luck that has ever plagued an F1 driver, but yesterday much of what befell you was your doing. The removal of traction control will separate the men from the boys, and Kimi, yesterday you were more boy than man. But I know you're better than that, I still believe in you. Don't fail me now, not when we've come this far. You see, when you don't finish in the top 3, I miss your post-race interview. The way you speak as if you've never heard of punctuation, in a flat monotone that doesn't change even when you win a race - I find it rather endearing and I enjoy waiting for the very rare moments that you smile... something which I think I have seen once in the 6 years I have been watching you.

I know you are often distracted by models, lapdancers and strip clubs. How I wish I could have been there when you launched into your own striptease at a London club last year just as McLaren were about to unveil their new car. But you should know that there is more to life than tequila, cars and boobies. For example, there is shopping, and it is on this subject which I must now ask your advice. Since you moved to Ferrari, I've been in a bit of a quandry. I am not a Ferarri supporter, never have been. I supported McLaren all the way, even when you left last year. I can find it in my heart to support both the driver and the other team. Since McLaren were stupid enough to be caught cheating - because let's face it, you all do it, they just did it badly - I have decided they are no longer worthy of my support. But I still don't really like Ferarri. So my problem is, what merchandise do I buy this year? I must say I do look quite good in red, and I would very much like to have your name emblazoned across my chest. I just don't really want to be lumped in with all those crazy Italians, they're a little too much for me, know what I mean?

I was hoping you could arrange to have custom made t-shirts printed with your name, but in your favourite colour, instead of red. That way I can support you but still diss your team when they get on their high horse.

You can call me at the number below at any time - no really, 3am from your favourite bar is fine too. And please tell Massa from me that he's kind of hot. Nothing compared to you, but hot just the same. It might help him win more races.

Ok. Call me.


Thursday, 13 March 2008

Moving On Up

I took yesterday off work to try and get over a particularly stubborn cold. It hasn't really helped me much, except that I managed to watch a few episodes of Sex And The City which I otherwise wouldn't have had time for (I'm starting from Season 1 and going all the way through again... I miss The Girls and their 'fuck men' attitudes, both figuratively and literally). So I'm at work today, but I'm tired and feeling lethargic and rather useless.

Good news on the new place front though - we have found our absolute dream place and are THIS CLOSE to sealing the deal! It's in Collierswood, which is South London, and just a 5 minute drive (or 20 minute walk) from Wimbledon Central. It's very similar to our current place - very spacious with huge open plan lounge and kitchen, a balcony 3 times the size of what we have at the moment and best of all, Shoes and I get the fabulous master bedroom with the en suite. Eyes and Scarf have the master bed in our place now, and they've had two years of space and privacy with their en suited monster of a room. Shoes and I, by comparison, have had to cram our belongings into the much smaller second room, and put up with the masses using our bathroom every time they come and stay over. Also, our bedroom is closest to the lounge, and some of our friends could win gold in the Snoring Olympics. Being a light sleeper, I often have to sleep with ear plugs in when our mates stay over, because I can actually hear them through the wall. The new place is completely the opposite, and Shoes and I have felt for a while now that it is high time our patience with the short end of the stick is rewarded. We are all terribly excited about the move. We plan on moving in on 12 April, so exactly a month away. We gave our landlord notice this morning. Of course, we're not quite home free yet... we still have to pass a credit check. While I can't think of any reason why we should fail, England has rather stringent checks, and apparently you can fail even if you have no record of bad credit. It works on a points system, and includes aspects like how long you've lived at your previous address and been at your current job. I think I might have trouble on the job front, as I've only been in my new job for 2 and a half months, and prior to that I was temping, so I was all over the place. Hmmm, anyway, we'll see. At least our landlord loves us, so he can always put in a good word.

The only downside of this whole move is that we are pretty much going to be solidly broke for the next 2 months, starting today. Moving house is going to cost us £3000... I still feel my stomach wrench when I write that! It's not as bad as it looks... more than half of that is deposit on the new place, and of course first month's rent before we move in. Plus there are standard admin costs as well. It's split between 4 of us, so it's not impossible, but I'm sure you can see that there'll be no spare change lying around for a while, even for the odd night out.

Anyway, we're starting the belt tightening as of this moment, to make sure we have every penny of cash available to funnel into the move. So I foresee plenty of weekends spent at home in front of the tv and drinking cheap wine while we recover. Maybe we can make our own wine... I should look into that. If you know of any good indoor games to play, let me know!

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Climb Every Mountain

On Saturday I met The Divine Miss M for the first time. A few months ago, we discovered each other's blogs through Phillygirl, and also through her we realised we went to the same school (albeit a few years apart, with me being the fossilised one) and moved in the same circles. In fact, we are linked by one guy in particular, with whom we both had a romantic liaison, one more serious than the other (this time I will leave the details unmentioned - suffice it to say that it was not a good time for either of us!). We obviously also both live in London.

When I was searching for a new job and detailing every agonising tribulation on this here blog, Miss M kindly offered to put my cv out into the world of TV. Although nothing came of that, we of course exchanged e-mail addresses in the process, and started communicating regularly outside of the blogging community. That progressed to phone calls, and finally the hatching of many a plan to meet up for drinks / parties / climbing / some other thing that always ended up falling through. We were always too busy / hungover / sick / just not bothered to get off our asses to actually get it together (yes, this does sound an awful lot like dating - welcome to the 21st Century way of forming relationships!). The nice thing about this was that we both saw things the same way - if we were too damn lazy to hook up, then screw it, we'd leave it for another time when we felt like it. When I realised this, that was the moment I knew I could be good mates with this chick.

Despite our plans never coming into fruition, Miss M and I considered ourselves friends. We'd found we had a lot in common, and our shared love of media and derision for certain aspects of living in London formed a solid enough foundation.

Miss M is an avid climber. That makes her sound like an ape of sorts, but no - she climbs climbing walls in a gym. I just re-read that sentence and realised it didn't make her sound any less ape-like....Anyway. She climbs at a wonderful old castle in North London which has been converted into a climbing centre. She's been doing it for 6 or 7 months now, and has often invited me to come along. Due to various reasons (see above), I hadn't taken her up on the offer and finally, this past Saturday, I had run out of excuses. So on Saturday morning I put on my trackie bottoms and made the hour and 20 minute trek across London to meet her for my first climb.

Strangely enough, meeting Miss M was not a big event. We both put this down to the fact that we have been in contact enough to feel now that we've known each other forever. I know some her greatest regrets, she knows some of mine; although hers are infinitely worse than mine (note to Miss M: you'll never live it down). It was like I was meeting up with someone I'd hung out with endlessly in the past. We'd also made friends on Facebook, so it wasn't like we were going into this blind to the other one's physical appearance.

Good, so one hurdle overcome. Now the question remained - could I actually climb?

The answer is yes. To my surprise, I actually found it much easier than I anticipated. We started with some stretching, and then warmed up on these mini walls where you're just supposed to go round and round using the grips and not let your feet touch the ground. Then we progressed to slightly higher walls, where the courses are labelled and colour coded. We started at 1, and worked our way up, trying to complete each course in three attempts or less. An attempt is counted when you start a particular course and either finish by putting both hands on the last grip, or you fall off, thereby giving yourself two more attempts. Three attempts without getting both hands on the finishing grip and you fail.

I managed to complete courses 1 to 9, excluding number 8, on my first attempt. I was quite chuffed, and my head only swelled as Miss M told everyone within earshot how well I was doing. I am lucky in the fact that I did gymnastics for 7 years, which helps enormously with balance and flexibility. As a climber, it certainly helps to be strong, but contrary to popular belief it's not purely about strength. Listen to me, talking like I'm a seasoned pro already. ;-p After that, we moved on to top rope climbing, which is the exciting stuff where you're harnessed up and someone else belays for you so you don't break your neck if you fall off the wall. That was my favourite part. I quite enjoy the sensation of being suspended 15 feet in the air, and as I'm not afraid of heights, I didn't have the initial reservation that more cautious people may have.

I had an absolute whale of a time (why do people say that, what's fun about whales?) and can't wait to go back for my next session. I paid a heavy price on Sunday and Monday though, with my forearm, thigh and shoulder muscles aching enough to wake me up everytime I rolled over in bed. When I got home on Saturday night, my fingers went a little spastic, and refused to respond to basic commands. Cutting vegetables for supper and rolling socks into balls became mammoth tasks, but it was only temporary semi-paralysis, and on Sunday morning they were back to normal.

Overall, I highly recommend climbing as a hobby, and I hope I'll be able to incorporate it regularly into my routine. Oh yes, and Miss M was pretty cool too!

Monday, 10 March 2008

Armageddon It

It's like Armageddon pulled into London today and said: You know what, you bloody poms (and all you unfortunate foreigners who are stupid enough to live in pom country); I am Armageddon and YOU are the chosen few who shall first experience the might of my destruction. Mwahahahaha! Beware, you who sleep in your cosy little beds, as I will call up the wind and rattle your windowpanes until you can sleep no more. Watch your step as you descend the stairs onto the rain-slicked sidewalk, as I will pelt you with monstrous rainboulders that will blind your fragile white eyeballs and render your flailing feet unstable. Unfurl your umbrella at your peril, as I will command gusts that will wrench your brolly inside out and tear the material from it's spokes, all the better to poke out your fragile white eyeballs with (I really like hammering your eyeballs, they're so defenseless). Put on your make-up if you must, but know that within seconds I will have the elements claw it from your eyes and smear it across your cheeks.

It really was the pits outside this morning. The bin in front of our station was filled to overflowing with umbrellas in various states of disrepair, and on the train (delayed, obviously) men and women were attempting to undo the vicious damage inflicted by the weather so as not to look like they'd been pulled through a bush backwards. Of course, as I look out the window right now, the sun is streaming innocently across the tops of nearby buildings and the end-of-the-world sky has given way to a tepid grey blanket.

One thing I certainly will not miss when we move is the 15 minute walk to and from our closest station everyday. We live in a modern complex by the Thames, but as it is a private development, there is no public transport. Come rain, shine, snow or hurricane winds, the four of us make our way on foot to catch our train each day, and suffer the consequences of whatever England's weather chooses to throw at us, which over time is pretty much a bit of every imaginable thing.

Today Shoes, Eyes and I are all going to look at a potential place to live after work. Ironically, it is another private development on the Thames, but this time in South West London instead of South East - this is kind of like moving from Woodstock to Kirstenhof. Hopefully this one will be what we're looking for, as we're really keen to move in somewhere by mid-April if possible.

Friday, 7 March 2008

I Will Survive... but will you?

Sometimes the commenting on blogs gets so intense that I spend all my time following the conversations rather than writing my own post. This is one of those days. Also, it's Friday and I don't feel like being serious. I think I'll take Sweets lead and post a Friday funny. This one is for the girls. Enjoy the weekend!


At first I was afraid, I was petrified,
When you said you had 10 inches, well I almost died,
But I'd spent oh so many years just waiting for a man that long,
That I grew strong,
And I knew that I could take you on....

But there you are,
Another lie,
I was ready for a big mac and you've bought me a French fry,
I should have known that it was bullshït, just a sad pathetic dream,
Should have known there was no anaconda lurking in those jeans....

Go on now go,
Walk out the door,
Don't you promise me 10 inches then turn up with only 4,
Weren't you a prat to think I wouldn't catch you out,
Don't you know we're only joking when we say size doesn't count,

I will survive, I will survive,
Cos as long as I have batteries,
My sex life is gonna thrive,
I will always have good sex given a handful of latex,
I will survive, I will survive....hey hey!

It took all my self control not to laugh out loud,
When I saw your little weiner standing tall and proud,
But to hell with all your egos and to hell with all your needs,
Now I'm saving all my lovin' for a cordless multispeed,

Go on now go,
Just make a dash,
Last time I saw a prick that small was watching Gladstone run nude hash,
I should have asked for confirmation, should have asked for referees,
Then I wouldn't have you waving that wee winky thing at me,

Go on now go,
Just hit the track,
Don't you bring me home no tiddlers,
Cos I'll always throw them back,
The only thing that I could do with a prick as small as yours,
Is to stick it with a tooth pick, dip it in tomato sauce.


Go on now go,
Get out of my sight,
I'm going back to my appliance,
'Cos I know its length is right,
And if I ever again see your tiny tockley at my door,
You'll be counting up your inches as you pick them off the floor.

Go on now, GO!

(Note: As much as I wish I'd written these lyrics myself, sadly that is not true. Credit goes to Anonymous, as found in an e-mail forward.)

Thursday, 6 March 2008

What A Girl Wants

Scarf has just introduced me to a new online shopping website that has the most magnificent clothes for next to nothing. I am sitting here desperately trying to convince my Bad Self that she can't buy anything, because then my Good Self would have to admit to Shoes that I ignored his declared shopping embargo and it would all end in tears. But my Bad Self keeps telling me how awesome I'd look in that leather effect chocolate Ophira jacket, and it's not like £15 is going to make any difference to our financial troubles. It's just so hard not to agree with her!

I mean really, what's £15 in relation to the bigger picture? When movie stars get paid $20 million, when third world debt could wipe out the earth were it an asteroid.... how insignificant is £15 in comparison? It seems stupid to obsess over such a little bit of money. I should just buy it and be done with the rationalising.

I've opened my wallet and taken out my card. I'm hoping it will speak to me through a sign of some sort. Maybe if I flip it and it falls face up, I can buy the jacket. 1, 2, 3, flip! Face down. Ok, best of three. No, wait. That's not a sign, that's my evil Bad Self taking control. I need this to be a natural step, like dark after sunset. I need to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is out of my control, and I could no more help it than an ostrich can help burying his head in the sand.

Can I e-mail people with the link and tell them I want it for my birthday? Even if I'm actually not going to see them on my birthday... or at all in the next few months, perhaps years?

I think I'll buy it and hide it. Then I'll debut it when I've convinced Shoes to let me have it. It could take a few months, but I'll always get that delicious thrill of excitement when I think about it, knowing that it's in my cupboard and will be ready whenever he is.

I can see my father shaking his head at me in my mind's eye. I can also see disappointment reflected in Shoes' eyes. Dammit, why do I have to care what they think? Why don't they understand? What's wrong with men, why do they want to stifle my attempts at living a fulfilling life? Shopping IS leading a fulfilling life!

Fine. You win guys. But don't think I like you right now. In fact, I wish I'd never thought of you. Beware, Bad Self hasn't give up yet. She may stil prevail. Harrrumph.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

If I Was A Lumberjack Then I'd Be Ok

This conversation took place today between myself and a PA from Company X, regarding a scheduled meeting that I was asked to confirm. I also had to ensure that the room the delegates were meeting in had internet access. The meeting was to be held at Company X.

Lopz: Hi Becky, it's Lopz here from (insert company name). We spoke the other day. We have a meeting in the diary for this afternoon for Dagwood and Steven.
Becky: Er.... one moment please..... yes (muffled scrabbling sounds), yes. I've got it. Is that the meeting with Richard and Paul?
Lopz: No, it's the meeting with Dagwood and Steven.
Becky: Oh. Er..... when is it for?
Lopz: This afternoon. It's in the diary for 3:30pm. You do have it in there, don't you?
Becky: Oh yes, yes. It's there.
Lopz: Good. I need to make sure that the meeting room you've booked has internet access.
Becky: Um, ok... let me see. (long pause, during which heavy breathing and more scuffling can be heard) Erm, I'm not sure... do you know who booked the meeting room?
Lopz: No Becky, I don't. Since the meeting was arranged to be held at yor offices, it is your responsibility to book the room. So I wouldn't know who booked this room if it wasn't you, as I don't work there, and you do.
Becky: Oh.... right. Well... can I call you back?
Lopz: Yeah, that's probably best.

5 minutes later.....

Becky: Hi Lopz, it's Becky.
Lopz: Yes Becky. Have you found out who booked the room? (this last said a touch sarcastically)
Becky: Well, the thing is, there's been a mistake.
Lopz: Oh?
Becky: Yes, You see, Steven actually can't make the meeting.
Lopz: He can't make it. But yesterday afternoon he was available. What happened in the last 12 hours?
Becky: Well, you see, it's... erm.... it's complicated. There was a miscommunication. Can we reschedule?

Translation: I am too stupid to know that when a meeting is held in my offices, I have to book a room and not rely on an external PA WHO DOESN'T WORK HERE to do it for me. So now I am trying to cover up my stupidity with a lie which messes you and your team around. I am an incompetent cow.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

The Ides Of March

March is a difficult month for us. It seems like in South Africa, June is the month where everyone is the most bored, cold and probably broke and so, having nothing else to do, they spend their time shagging themselves senseless. I say this because half the people I know seem to be born in March.

Take a look at my family alone: my dad, my sister, 2 of my cousins, Mark's younger sister and I are all March babies. Then extend that to my current circle of friends in London and we have Eyes, OJ and Mello as well, making a grand total of 9 birthdays that I have to celebrate in one month. Luckily, being overseas excludes one from receiving birthday presents (sorry family, I do love you but my budget doesn't), so it's only 3 presents to buy and four parties to attend. Unless I buy myself a present as well, which I sometimes do when Shoes is in a pickle about what to get me. He should have learnt by now though - whatever I get will cost 4 times the amount he would have spent. Still, every year we have the same scenario:

Shoes: Lopz, what do you want for your birthday?
Lopz: I don't know, surprise me.
Shoes (looking stressed): But I don't know what to get you!
Lopz: I'm so easy to buy for! Jewellery - preferably white gold, clothes, fluffy teddies, shoes, handbags, clothes, shoes, books.....did I mention shoes?
Shoes: But those are all girly things! How am I supposed to know your taste?
Lopz (muttering under her breath): I don't know, maybe because we've been together for 7 and a half years? (aloud) But babe, you're so good at picking out shoes! You're amazing! In fact, you should become a professional shoe consultant. (NB: I'm actually not kidding here. By some weird genetic mix-up, Shoes has an uncanny knack for picking out very sexy, cutting edge woman's shoes which unbelievably do not look like they belong to a stripper. He definitely got given a female strand of DNA)
Shoes: I don't want to be a shoe consultant! I'm a man. Don't make me do it. I'm going to go and build something now. (heads off to pathetic looking tool box and tinkers with screwdrivers)

So in a huff, I give up trying to make him surprise me and go shopping instead. Which, nine times out of ten, I actually prefer. But it's nice to be surprised occasionally. This year we have settled on Def Leppard tickets. It's not a surprise, but DL are one of my favourite bands in the world, and after missing them in Cape Town I never thought I'd get the chance to see them again. Shoes isn't even going with me (not his scene at all) but one of my oldest friends Griff, who actually introduced me to the band and is responsible for my resulting passion, has agreed to do the honours. To be honest, most of my friends are like, Def Who? No, I'm not getting old at all.

We're usually pretty conservative about our birthday celebrations. Even though our group of friends is always up for a piss-up, drinking in swanky London clubs dents your bank account quite seriously. We therefore have one big joint celebration, usually towards the end of the month, that everyone is expected to attend. Then throughout March are smaller, more informal gatherings of the troupes to celebrate an individual's birthday. Now as a partygoer, if you want to get out of buying someone a present or getting shit-faced at yet another birthday party, the trick is to "make plans" in advance for every weekend and then "cancel" last minute if you decide you actually feel like seeing that person / can get away with buying them a drink instead of a gift. For the birthdayees, we have to make our bash the coolest, cheapest and most original in order to get our mates to come. It's like a party-off.

So far OJ is winning this year's competition. He had the (much admired) cheek to merge his party with some of his work pals who are also March-born, and then invite us along for the ride. So now, if we bail, we show him up in front of his workmates, who are all inviting their friends. Sneaky sneaky. How can I top this one?