Sunday, 23 December 2007

Merry Christmas!

This is probably the last post I shall do before the New Year and 2008 hits us - we are off to my parents tomorrow morning, and then down to John's folks on Boxing Day, and probably won't be accessing the computer a huge amount over the festive period.

After having a couple of friends over for lunch today, I am finally feeling in a festive mood, having been very bah-humbug over the whole build up (I get worse every year - the amount of over-done decorations just makes me grumpy, and the fashion for those electric blue lights is awful, at least for me, as, combined with my astigmatism, they make my eyes go out of focus, and I'm currently not comfortable at all with driving at night, as it takes a good couple of minutes for my eyes to settle back down again, and, as I learned earlier this year, it only takes a couple of seconds to cause an accident :-( ). But we played Christmas music, got our tree out (It is a 10" decorated tree from Asda - it has fiber-optic lights and ready strung baubles and presents), had a great chin-wag, ate loads, and watched trailers for up and coming films. Great fun!

The same bloggers who wrote the Perspectives that I blogged about in September have done another multi-post story - the same incident told from the perspective of a US Cop, an Ambulance Driver, and an A&E Nurse. Once more, the writing is fantastic, and the story touched me deeply, so I wanted to share it with you.

Another blog post, which is a bit depressing for this time of year, but had to be shared, is from Sparrow Chat: Figures from the Iraq government say that five million children have been orphaned since the start of the war.

And to lighten things up, I can really recommend Boobs, Injuries and Dr Pepper - the blog of a very talented and funny writer. Particularly this post (but probably not for men...), and this one.

I'm off to finish wrapping my Christmas presents, and to have some more toffee vodka - have a great Festive season!

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Catch up

Apologies for the absence of blogging recently - life has been very manic, both at work and at home.

Last weekend, we had a number of university friends come to Bristol for a spot of festive shopping (where I got loads of ideas for presents, then, as today has been the first day I could go in to actually buy the items, I go into town and discover that everything I like has sold out... Panicing? Not yet...), carols and music at our orchestra Christmas concert, and then a very cold, but nonetheless enjoyable day out at Caerphilly, where they had a medieval festival (though sadly very much reduced as a result of the atrocious weather that they'd had the day before) and Christmas market. We had a fun lunch in a pub where the waiter was (without meaning to be rude!) obviously hired on a 'positive action' programme. The first couple of times he came up were ok (he came to check the food order that we'd placed - 9 people meant that there was a lot of food!), but the popping up every five minutes to check that the food was alright, and to give us "Mr Pepper"... started to get a little bit creepy! The castle itself was gorgeous, and I'd like to see it again, in warmer weather. All in all, a good, if exhausting, weekend.

This weekend we had a very lazy Saturday and Sunday day, but busy evenings - Saturday, we were over at Oldland for the orchestra Christmas Party - a very silly, fun evening. Then, Sunday evening, we went out to see the Golden Compass. This is one of those films which has been hyped a lot, right from the first moment that it was announced (and even before - the books have generated a lot of coverage, mainly from the rabid-Christian types who don't like the idea of anybody even thinking of querying their beliefs, let alone writing a book which might be read to impressionable young children... (NB - Disclaimer - I am not claiming that all Christians are like this. Just the complete nutters...)) The cast list is amazing; Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Ian McKellan, Christopher Lee, Derek Jacobi and Freddie Highmore (and yes, I know that Freddie is still only a kid, but his name on the credits is now enough to make me want to see a film!) all making an appearance (even if Mr McK and Mr H are only in voice rather than appearing on screen). The graphics are fantastic - the daemons are gorgeous, and the scenery is beautiful (both real and imaginary - the scenes of the Scandinavian country - it isn't clear whether they are going to Norway or Sweden - particularly the going up the fjords and the docks, brought back very vivid (and happy) memories of the honeymoon). Some of the concepts could have done with more work - the idea of the daemons being souls are really only mentioned in the introduction, and not really covered in the film - and there were a lot of ideas and people which could have done with going into in more depth - the film felt like it was skimming over the surface. However, the acting was fantastic, particularly from Dakota Blue-Richards, who plays the lead - at age 12, and not having done any screen acting (at least, nothing that has appeared on IMDB...) before, she was breathtaking. She had to do a lot of acting against bluescreen (particularly everything that was done with the bears), and that in itself is very impressive. I'm looking forward to seeing more of her! Overall, I wasn't as blown away by the film as I'd hoped to be, but it is still definitely worth watching, and I'm looking forward to the next film.

Also, since I last blogged, Heroes has finished... I've left this till last deliberately in order that anyone who hasn't watched it, and doesn't want spoilers, can stop reading now ;-)

A finale which answered most of the questions, but left enough hanging that I'll want to watch the next series (even though indications from the US are that the second series is rubbish). Sylar's meeting with his mother was brilliantly done - his final hope for redemption being rebuffed. There are queries hanging over Peter's need for his brother to fly him away from New York when he already had that power - my theory is that Peter, at this stage, is unable to control his powers enough to be able to use them more than one at a time (we know that in the future, he can, but that is a different Peter, one who has had more time to practice using his powers). I really enjoyed this - not as much as some of the episodes (particularly the mid-season break one, which had cliffhangers for all the characters), but the writing was great, the acting brilliant, and I am still of the opinion that this is, overall, the best TV series to grace our screens for a very long time (yes, even beating Dr Who - whilst DW had some great episodes, it was not consistently good, as Heroes has been)

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Project Download

A long post about the wonderful and hectic weekend coming up later, but for now...

This is a project that I want to publicise to anyone out there who wants to listen.

Erin is an American lady who suffers from two neurological disorders (Chiari malformation and cranial lesions) that will require a combined total of 2-4 brain surgeries. As she lives in the wonderful state of Medicare, she cannot get the finances for the surgery that she needs. She doesn't want to ask for money (there are too many internet scams out there already), but has clutched at the straw of Megaupload. Essentially, this program states if she get 5 million downloads of a virus free text file (basically, containing a bit of spiel about herself and why she is doing this), they will pay her $10,000. My thought is that the scam is coming from Megaupload itself (she has to pay for access to the project); however, it seems to be her last chance (and that chance is getting shorter - she recently suffered from a fit which wiped out her memory of the last year or so).

Basically, all you have to do is go to the website once a day, and click on the link (on the left hand bar, or under the news for the 31/10). Each IP address can only download one link a day. There's nothing to lose!


Sunday, 25 November 2007

A Plea...

OK - the nights are closing in around us rapidly; it is now dark when I walk out of the office at 5.30. It is also not particularly bright first thing in the morning, and is going to carry on getting darker. So, I have a plea towards all users of the roads...
*DISCLAIMER* I am a pedestrian and a motorist, but not a cyclist...

Yes, your long black coat looks really rather nifty. Very gothic / Blade, and I'm sure that it also keeps you very dry. However, when you have the hood up, and you are wearing black, you become a little shadow moving through the night. Not very visisble. Please do not step out into the road without looking, even if it is raining, and you don't want to get your face wet. Especially if it is raining! And, to be perfectly honest, with the orange city lights, pretty much *any* colour either gets washed out into the surrounding light colour, or darkened to black. Scarily, it is actually quite difficult to see you if you are wearing white! In order to ensure that you are visible, it would be nice if you could wear something reflective; arm bands or high vis vests, (and yes, I practice what I preach - I wear both...), or a light attached to an arm. Use designated crossings if they are available (zebra / traffic lights etc) - even if it means walking an extra twenty paces. It might help stop a driver having a heart attack as they test their brakes to destruction!

A lot of what I've said for pedestrians also applies to you. If you have a black bike, you are dressed all in black, and you don't have lights on your bike (as the cyclist we saw on the way back from the cinema last week), then you are asking to have an accident! *PLEASE* put lights on your bike (it is the law (number 60)), and please also be aware that flashing lights actually make it harder for someone who is coming towards you to judge your speed, and therefore how far away you are. Steady lights in addition to flashing ones are so much better.
At this point, I would also normally put in a rant about how it is also against the law to cycle on the pavement unless it is a marked cycle lane (number 64), however, I do also know that Bristol is not a safe place for cyclists - the cycle lanes are small, and often disappear! But, if you are going to use the pavement, all of the above rules apply - make sure you are visible, wear lights, and give way to pedestrians - the pavement is for them, not you! Also, if you are old enough to cycle on the road, you are old enough to obey the laws of the road. This includes stopping at red lights and zebra crossings (I am talking to YOU - the lady who thought the red light wasn't for her, and knocked an elderly gentleman in front of me flying) - a little thought is all it takes!

Motorists (Cars, Vans, Lorries, Motorbikes etc).
OK - regardless of what I have put above, there are still idiots out there who are determined to commit suicide, and go out into the black night dressed all in black, they don't look when they cross the road, and they walk on and off the pavements because they don't understand that they can walk one behind each other. So a little bit of care is needed, particularly in urban areas. If the road speed is 30mph, then please stick to the limit. Please don't drive up the tailpipe of the person ahead of you just because *they* are trying to stick to the limit. It isn't going to kill you to take two minutes longer to get to your destination. However, if the person ahead of you stops suddenly, and you go into the back of them, then you are entirely at fault, and it will be you who might get the "Driving without Due Care and Attention" prosecution. If it is raining, your stopping distance is longer - be aware and don't go quite so fast! *You* know where you are going, you might have travelled this journey many times. However, the rest of us don't. Your psychic abilities are not as great as you think they are. So please SIGNAL when you are turning or pulling out. This includes roundabouts and lanes which have a little arrow painted on them to tell you which direction you are going in. A pedestrian waiting to cross the road ahead can't see those arrows, and doesn't know where you are going! It doesn't actually take that much energy to signal, and it will help with the heart attacks because the pedestrian who thinks you are going straight on won't step out in front of you!

I doubt anyone who actually reads this blog is guilty of any of the faults above, but after several near misses, I just had to get it off my chest!

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Back again...

Well, I'm back now - three weeks 'off air', and I've been amazed at how many people have looked at my blog even when I've not been writing (between 30 and 40 a week...)! Big hello to everyone :-)

NaNoWriMo didn't go terribly well - with only 10 days to go, I've not yet hit 2,000 words... A bit of a failure all round, really! But, the story, even though not really on it's way, does still have wings (I think), and I'm hoping will get a bit further. It's turned into another teen-sci-fi story though - I seem to be incapable of writing anything that isn't teen...

However, the reasons for failure have been many:
We've suddenly had every single council in the country (or so it feels) go out to tender, needing the documentation to be back before Christmas - most of them before this coming Monday... So the stress levels are running very high, and the overtime has been piling up.
In September, I started a college course (Introductory Certificate in Supervisory Management), which got off to a dodgy start ("We will be covering the same topics as in the full certificate, but instead of doing it in 35 weeks, we will do it in 10. By the way, I've only ever taught the 35 week course..."), got worse, ("Because no-one understood the basic stuff I went through in 3 hours last week, I'll spend 1 1/2 hours going through it again this week, and only do the first page of this week's topic."), hit a major low point ("Your course tutor has gone off sick permanently."), and then picked up again with a nice new tutor ("You will get an extension on your assignment (which would have been due in next week), but I want to go through the first half with you individually *now*"). Which meant that I've had to spend the last couple of weeks writing up the first half of my assignment!
Also - we still don't have a car (until tomorrow - huzzah!), which has meant that I've lost half an hour every evening (small excuse) because I've had to walk home, rather than have John come and pick me up.

But yay - as mentioned above, we are picking up our replacement for the Punto tomorrow. It's an L Reg Toyota Carina - not the swishest car on the market, but certainly a good buy, according to Yahoo. It has been very well loved, and the current owner is going to give us the contact details of the garage owner who has been looking after it for many years (not sure if since new, but definitely since it has been in this chap's family). After a month without wheels, I've not got used to not having a car - I'm sure that this says a lot about us and our modern lifestyle. Whilst everybody we know has been amazing in giving us lifts, often coming miles out of their way (big thanks to Sarah here) to make sure that we don't miss out, and my day-to-day life hasn't been disrupted *too* badly (I walk/train to work and back - John normally picking me up from the station in the evening), the inability to jump into the car to go somewhere, even just round the corner (10 minutes drive, 30-40 minutes walk) to Sainsbury's to go shopping has been frustrating. I will be glad to be in a car again, even if the thought of getting behind the wheel of a strange car is scaring me whitless! (I wasn't too bad when using the company pool car to go home for my mother's birthday weekend, but I had driven it before, and a Ford Focus isn't hugely different from the Punto)

The other thing that I need to catch up on before I sign off for the evening (it's getting late, and I've got a long day tomorrow!) is cinema reviews. We've been to a lot of films recently, and I've not talked about any of them - slap my wrists!

The sequel to NightWatch, this is an adaption of a series of Russian novels. Confusingly, although the film title sequence follows the titles of the novels, DayWatch is really an amalgamation of the second and third thirds of the NightWatch novel. We saw it in Russian with subtitles, and the subs themselves were as much a work of art as the rest of the film (one particular one that sticks with me is where one character yells "Bitch" at another, whilst throwing a lump of bloody meat at her. The meat hits the tiled wall, and the blood, running down the wall, forms the "Bitch" subtitles.) The story itself is very confusing, even for me, and I had read the book recently! There are a lot of interweaving threads, a lot of characters who aren't properly introduced, and who look similar to each other (we had met some of them in the first film, but that was shown a while ago...), and the ending is just HUH? But all of that pales into insignificance when you see the beauty of the film. Whilst Moscow probably isn't the most gorgeous of cities to have as a backdrop, every scene felt like it was crafted with care. My overall impression of the film, even over a month after watching it is still "Wow!" I'm going to be putting the DVD on my wishlist :-)

This is an adaption of Neil Gaiman's graphic novel - and, though it has been a long while (must be three or four years at least) since I read the novel, I felt that it was pretty much faithful to the story. I really enjoyed it - a pop-corn type of film without any really hard thinking needed. It had a star studded cast; Peter O'Toole making a few minute cameo, and Ian McKellan doing a front and end narration! Michelle Pfeiffer played an incredibly convincing witch, Robert De Nero, a fantastically camp pirate, and a slew of British comedians also had roles (David Walliams, Mark Williams (only he could play a goat dressed up as a man...) and even David Brent (though he, as ever, only played David Brent...)). The film hardly had any CGI, which made a nice change, the scenery used was beautiful, and there were some lovely one-liners in it, and one great sword fighting sequence. Definitely worth a look - whilst you might not come away feeling changed or have any philosophical awakenings, you'll have had a great time!

Black Sheep
This was my horror film for the next five years... I don't do gore. I don't do spatter, and I definitely don't do horror. I therefore went to see this New Zealand independant film with a mild feeling of dread and the knowledge that I was going to be hiding behind my fingers for a lot of the time. But, hey, how could I turn down a film about zombie sheep? And when this was the trailer we saw, it had to be worth a look! I was prepared that all of the best bits would have been in the trailer, as is so often the case, but I was so pleasantly suprised! It was a very funny, but definitely *very* gory film. I *did* spent a lot of time hiding behind my fingers (often at points where, I was told, there were cutaways at the final moment), but I spent even more time laughing. Very silly, sick in places, not one for young children, but a brilliant film - I hope that this team do more!

And finally...

This is the much advertised retelling of the Old English tale - man meets beast, man kills beast, beast's mother gets a little upset and comes to complain... I'm not going to give away too much, as this one is still in the cinemas, and I don't want to add any spoilers (particularly where the story has been changed from the original). The technique of the film is interesting - the actors were filmed, and then animated, so the entirety of the film is CGI. Unfortunately, they seem to have been hanging a lot on this technique to sell the film (much is being made of it being seen in 3D, which we weren't able to do), and the technology isn't *quite* there to pull it off (apart from the final action sequence, in which almost all sins are forgiven!) The script was ok (not fantastic, given that Neil Gaiman was writing it), the acting was good (Antony Hopkins played a great King), and there were some lovely bits (the fact that Grendel speaks in Old English - it takes a while to tune the ear to it, and I know that they would have picked the words close enough to English to be understood, but it was still a beautiful touch). However, there just seemed to be something intangible missing. Something that could have turned this from a mediocre film into a brilliant one. I do think that I'll go and revisit the book, though...

And, now that I've written almost as much as I have for the whole of my NaNoWriMo story, I am going to sign off... Hopefully, it won't be another three weeks before I write again!

Wednesday, 31 October 2007


Well, since getting married, I've managed to encounter a number of 'firsts'. I've had my first filling (discovered a hole in my tooth the hard way when trying to pick out the pip that had got stuck - the pin went right through...) I was recommended a dental surgery round the corner from us, and was pleasantly surprised to learn that they were still taking on NHS patients. I registered on the Friday, had my appointment on the Monday, and had the follow up appointment to actually have the filling the Monday after. Very impressed.

I’ve managed to lock someone into a building for the first time (locked myself out plenty of times!) – in this case, John. Our flat doors are completely key operated – they don’t slam shut behind you meaning that you lock yourself out by mistake. However, this time, I managed to take both my keys and John’s to work, and, as John is not dedicated enough to the company that sucks the life force from him, he wasn’t willing to contemplate climbing out of a window to go to work (not only that, but leaving a window open would have been an obvious temptation to burglars…

And, my very big first – I’ve had my first multiple vehicle car accident. I’ve been in a couple of cars that have had single vehicle accidents before; when I was 11, a sliding Yellow Pages meant that my father drove into a lamp post, and a couple of years ago, our bonnet flew open on the motorway, smashing the windscreen. However, this was the first when I was driving, and the first when I was alone in the car. I’m not going to beat about the bush – I was in the wrong. I was tired (the accident happened at about 9.50), I’d got lost in an unfamiliar part of Bristol, and I was not concentrating as much as I should have been. I ended up pulling out in front of someone, and hitting them on the passenger side door. Fortunately, although both myself and the driver in the other car were shaken up, neither of us were hurt at all. The cars, however, were a different matter. Whilst her car managed to get away with a dent on the passenger side, and a burst tire from where she swerved onto the pavement, our little Punto ended up with a stove-in bonnet, passenger side lights smashed, and, fatally, a broken radiator, that leaked water everywhere. The upshot of this is that the car is on the verge of being written off (we are waiting for the insurance assessor to finish his report).

The one thing that struck me about the whole thing was how many people there are who will go out of their way to help. Within a minute of the accident, a number of the householders around had come out to see if there was anything they could do. They offered advice (including what details to swop – my brain had gone into shut down, and I really didn’t know), checked that we were both ok, and one incredibly kind gentlemen (retired paramedic) offered the use of his front room whilst I was waiting for the recovery vehicle (and he was very persistent about it – I didn’t want to impose on him and his wife, particularly given that it was now half past 10, and the breakdown vehicle wasn’t going to arrive till half 11. The third time he asked, I accepted!), and brought me out a glass of water whilst I was waiting on the phone. Even the parents of the person I hit were amazing – the mother going as far as giving me a hug when I got overwrought – something you don’t expect when you have just hit their daughter’s car!

So, for the first time since we both moved to Bristol, we are car-less. It is amazing how much you rely on motor transport – neither of us cycle. The public transport round Bradley Stoke, whilst acceptable during rush hour (I get the train to work in the city centre), is appalling at weekends (the regular buses around our house stop running at 6 pm in any direction on a Saturday, and hardly anything runs on a Sunday), which makes doing the shopping very difficult (and I am incredibly reluctant to shop online. However, with delivery being £5, which is the same cost as getting the two of us to Sainsbury’s and back, I might think about it!) The hardest thing (on my part – I think John is not too happy about having to walk to work every day rather than going five minutes round the corner!) is not being able to get to orchestra – I find that I rely a lot on the relaxation that comes from playing as a group, and not being able to go, even for a couple of weeks, has left me feeling a bit empty.

But the one thing that we have not had, in the midst of all of this disruption and destruction. We have not had our first row. John has been amazing through all of this – he has not shouted, he has not sulked, and he hasn’t even blamed me. He has been upset, obviously, but he has not taken anything out on me, even though I deserve it. I couldn’t ask for a better husband.

In other news, I'm going to be taking part in NaNoWriMo - I am going to try to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. This means that I might not be posting as much as I should, though I'm sure I'll be able to post some story updates on here :-)

Friday, 19 October 2007

Autumn Days when the Grass is Jewelled

I am not a fan of the colder months of the year. Any month from September through to April will usually find me cuddled up under many layers of jumpers, complaining about the office heating and overdosing on coffee just to keep warm. It also finds me sullen and morose, particularly as the nights start getting longer and the rain sets in. My patience, never particularly good at the best of times, gets very low, and I get stroppy over people that I consider to be fools. In short, I'm not a happy bunny, and I'm definitely not a nice person to know.


We are now over midway through October, and I've been finding myself suprisingly cheerful. I've been looking out at the crisp blue skies and looking forward to my lunch break because it means I can get outside. Even though waking up to the alarm clock is still difficult, I'm not finding waking up in the dark depressing. I've been really enjoying watching the leaves changing colours, and have particularly enjoyed the walk to and from work, where I've been finding the biggest piles of dead leaves and scuffing through them, watching them fly into the air, or crunch underfoot. (probably making far too much work for the poor street cleaners - sorry!) Yes, I'm wearing two jumpers at the moment, and my scarf and gloves have come out (no hat yet, but I'm sure that will be making an appearance in a matter of weeks), but the bundling up has made me feel warm and cosy, not down.

I'm not sure if this is all part of the a outlook on life in general, whether the cathartic post a few months ago has helped to clear more than just those old injuries, or whether married life is agreeing with me!

We shall see if this good humour continues, particularly into winter and the first snows...

Sunday, 14 October 2007


This is going to be a very quick post on the honeymoon, mainly because John has already blogged about it.
Norway is beautiful. The Fjords are amazing. Bergen, where we stayed, is gorgeous, both in scenery and in character - the people are so friendly, and were very kind when we tried to speak our basic guide book Norwegian.

We went on two Fjord trips, and also sightseeing within the environs of Bergen, including going up the Floybanen and the Ulrkisbanen cable cars, and going out to Grieg's house.

We also spent a heck of a lot of money - Norway isn't cheap, and we were spending the best part of £70-£100 per night on food! However, it was all definitely worth it - and I would love to go back, when I win the Lottery....

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

The Wedding Part III - Return of the Guests...

{EDIT} Just to say, I've only just realised that it has posted this with the date that I first started writing it in Blogger - I did only publish it Saturday night (13th...)

Final part of the trilogy now :-)

And given that it is now over a month since we got married, I really ought to get this published! (Bear with me - work has been manic, and it has been tricky to find the time to write) The photos all link through to Facebook, however you do not need to have an account to be able to see them...

We left the Westminster Suite to find that a few of our evening guests had already arrived. There was lots of chatting, quite a few photographs, and even a few tears from my aunt. It was very difficult to try to get round to speak to everyone - I really hope that I managed to, and that no-one felt like I was ignoring them. The band, Diabolus in Musica (we had Paul and David - shown at the bottom of this page of their website), once they had set themselves up, came out to play some pieces for us as we waited to be allowed back into the Westminster. They really helped to set the tone for the evening, and it was brilliant to be able to hear the tunes that I'd enjoyed from their album. Their whole performance was given in Elizabethan English - fantastic!

We also had to disappear (although I did delegate most of this to Emme) to clear our 'civvies' out of the changing bedroom and move through to our own rooms.

By the time I got back, pretty much everyone had arrived, and I was walking past the Atrium to hear John calling me through the second door. He wanted me to meet his friend Adrian, and we chatted for a bit by the Atrium bar. We were both so happy with the way the whole day had gone - "It's just been fantastic. Absolutely nothing has gone wrong!" John said, waving his arms expansively, and knocking the pint of beer standing behind him all over the bar. Fortunately, it was his father's, rather than the beer of anyone who would make a fuss...

Then the band announced that the Westminster was ready for us to go back in, and we headed through. The new layout was lovely - the long tables had been replaced by circular ones, and they had moved the runners across, added circular mirrors and put little candles everywhere. It looked magical.

Diabolus Paul (not to get him confused with Best Man Paul...) took John and myself aside to teach us a few simple steps (yes, called Simples) for our first dance. I had managed to completely forget the fact that we would have to do a first dance solo, and was a little bit nervous at this point... Fortunately the moves were very easy, and Paul told us that he would let us go round the room a few times, and would tell us through the music when it was time to stop.

So, we headed to the dance floor, and D. Paul announced that we would be doing our first dance. The music started, and we stepped forwards. At this point, for me at least, all co-ordination seemed to cease. I was juggling dress, husband and trying to concentrate on when I was stepping (and in which direction - front, left or right), and when I was doing the funny little lift... However, you would think that by the fourth or fifth time round the dance floor, I would have been able to get it right... However, it was all fun, and set the scene for the evening's entertainment.

This started by D. Paul getting as many people as possible onto the dance floor for another version of the Simples (this one including going backwards...) A very stately and genteel dance, and much enjoyed by those taking part - particularly shown by the fact that no-one really wanted to leave the dance floor when the dance was over. (and this was really notable throughout the evening - in most Ceilidhs that I have been to, the music finishes, and everyone instantly disappears to get a drink. Not only did we not lose that many people between dances, but after the dancing breaks, they all came back for more!)

Then D. Paul announced "The Horses Brawl." At this point, I couldn't stop myself grinning, because this was the dance that D.Paul had made us do in front of a Nottingham audience when we went to see them play so many months ago. Therefore we knew what everyone else was in for... Essentially, this is a dance from Tudor France. Along with the Simples steps, there is a section where, in turn, the men and women must raise their hands into hooves, paw at the ground, and turn round. It all looks very silly, particularly when the music started speeding up. But not as silly as the "Peas Brawl", where we were peas in a pod, 'popping' round the circle, or the Washerwoman's Brawl, where we had to scold each other.

In between dances, Diabolus took the time to show our guests how the hurdy gurdy worked, and generally kept everybody very much entertained. Rather amusingly, at one point, he was playing the hurdy gurdy over the pram of little Guy Sidney, at that point just over a month old. The son of our orchestra conductor and lead cellist was so used to music that he didn't even stir.

Whilst the music was playing, the Tortworth staff had also brought out the evening buffet, complete with fantastic butterscotch choux pastries (the only thing I could eat all evening - my adrenalin was still running high!) The cheese cake was also available for people to eat, though they didn't have nearly enough (we ended up with a shelf and a half full of cheese in the freezer afterwards!)

The evening really went by in a bit of a blur. Talking to family and friends, dancing, and just generally looking round at everyone enjoying themselves.

11 came round far too quickly, and Diabolus played their last piece. This was not a dance in itself, but a story in song - the story of Brave Sir Eglemont and the Dragon - acted out by guests Bruce (Sir Eglemont) and Jayne (the Dragon), and the chorus being provided by the audience. It was very silly, and great fun!

Then Diabolus left, and the guests started to leave too. Quite a few, however, stayed until 1, when the Tortworth staff rather plaintively asked us to leave, as they had to reset the room for a conference the next morning. Whilst most people went to bed, a few of us (including my brothers) ended up in the guest bar for one last drink before retiring. We ended up in bed at about 2 in the morning - the room provided for us by Tortworth was room number 1, which looked out over the gargoyles which guarded the entrance to the hotel. They'd also very kindly given us a bottle of champagne and a box of chocolates (both of which we took home rather than consuming then and there!)

And that is the story of the wedding, in all of its glory and detail...

Sorry that it has taken so long to get it posted, and well done if you managed to get to the end!
(I will now go back through the previous posts and link some more photos...)

Friday, 21 September 2007

A Married Couple's Wish

This was part of the text of my father's speech - I loved it so much that I wanted to share:

A married couple’s wish

Give me the Grace to accept that on occasions I will irritate my spouse,
In what I do or say;
With my catch-phrases, my hygiene habits, or how I like things done;
In the same way that they in turn will get on my nerves from time-to-time.

Give me the Understanding to realise that just as I have “off” days when I am tired and grouchy,
I cannot expect them to be 100% sunny all day every day,
And help me make allowances for that.

Grant me the Courage to raise the truly significant irritations with them,
And not just grind my teeth in mute and impotent frustration.
But grant me too the Wisdom to know the right time to broach the subject,
And the least hurtful way to ask that they change their ways.

Above all, help me to remember that I am not perfect,
But show me how I can learn, so that I improve with age.

(c) Nigel Foster September 2007

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Wedding, part 2

Well now, where did we get to...?

Oh, yes, walking out as Mr and Mrs Toon. Kristina greeted us with a glass of champagne each, which I managed to juggle (slightly) with the dress and flowers, and we were then whisked off to the grounds to start the round of photographs. I did manage to get about a sip of my champagne down me! (and therewith began the event known as "waving alcohol in front of Jo but not letting her drink it..." Which was actually a good thing, meaning that by the time I got to the wedding breakfast, I was still completely sober, and, after about half a glass of red wine, not actually wanting any more drink. Unlike the reports of the other bride partying at Tortworth that day, who, half way through her wedding breakfast, was falling under the table...)

The photographs were tremendous fun (although I understand less so for John, who spent most of them with one foot on the step below the other, meaning that his leg muscles were whacked by the end!). We had all of the traditional photos (family and friends groups) - a little bit embarrasing that my family pretty much filled the stone stairs we were using, but John's was just a little cluster! We did the throwing of the bouquet, and I'm pleased to say that the person who is getting married next managed to catch it :-) (no, not planned that way - I couldn't see a thing behind me!)

After the group photos, and the pair photos (me and John, me and my father with Lorna), I was taken off by the photographer to have some solo photos done. These were rather fun, and most with the aim of showing off the dress (and avoiding all the cars in the car park!) We'd just come to the last couple, when Daddy came out of the building to say that "Cook says if we don't get the receiving line done now, then we aren't going to get to eat!" Of course, without a watch on, I hadn't noticed time flying past...

We headed through to the atrium where everyone had gathered for a drink, and then Tony said "we just need a photo of you cutting the cake." So John and I disappeared into the wedding breakfast room and posed with the knife whilst Tony snapped away. Finally he was happy with the results, and we went back out for the receiving line.

Barbara was amazing at this point - she knew that we were running up against our time, and, without seeming to hurry anybody, got everyone announced and through in double quick time! Everyone took their seats, and we waited outside the room (to the consternation of at least one guest who saw the doors being shut in front of us) for Barbara to announce us. Then a procession around the room to our seats, and I discovered that it is very awkward to hold a huge train out of the way whilst someone else moves a seat for you :-) We managed it without anything nasty happening to the dress, or it being inadvertantly caught and shortened so that I couldn't move (which has happened to me in shorter dresses than that!)

The food was brought out quickly and efficiently - I rather enjoyed the fact that the waiting staff lined up behind us and all stepped forwards to put our plates on the table at the same time. The food was truely delicious - I'm just rather sad that the adrenalin was still pumping round my system, and I was unable to each most of it (I managed the light starter and dessert, but the main course completely defeated me).

After the food, and the cutting of the cake (well the pushing the knife into the bottom layer, and discovering that there was a very thick rind of the cake...), the speeches!

My father started the proceedings, and, given that he is a management consultant, he did his speech with the aid of a powerpoint presentation (including embedded sound of me doing a church reading when I was 5 years old...) Many references to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and a very funny (if occasionally embarrasing) speech set a very high benchmark for John and Paul to follow.

John's speech was short, sweet and lighthearted :-) He had his list of people to thank, and followed it up with the lovely story of how we met. He finished by giving me a gorgeous ring - a family heirloom.

Paul's best man speech was very funny - stories of himself and John at school, and finishing up with two brilliant pieces of advice: (1) The best way to remember your anniversary is to forget it once; (2) Always remember those three important little words: "You're right, dear."

The formal proceedings nearly over, there was just one little speech left, which was a lovely one from Barbara - she went through the traditional wedding poem (Something Old (the husband); Something New (the dress); Something Borrowed (the tiara); Something Blue (I was stumped here, but she told me to say my knickers....)), and then said that it traditionally concluded with "And a sixpence for her shoe". She then gave me (in a shiny blue box) a sixpence (that I didn't put into my shoe - they were far too comfortable for that!)

We then headed out of the Westminster Suite, to allow the staff to reset the room and the band to set up, and into the Atrium, where they were serving more drinks, and where the evening guests were arriving.

And, once more, I shall pause here, because I'm on another two pages in Word, and I don't want people to have to scroll too far! One more leg to go, and then the Honeymoon...

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Getting married

A week away, and it feels like forever, and like it has gone by in a second.

The wedding seems an age ago, but looking at the photos that have now sprung up over Facebook (a small selection that I have gleaned from other people…), and the official photos, which are now up on the photographer’s website, and the emotions that flood back remind me that it was only 10 (well, 13 now that I’ve actually finished writing this post…) days ago that I became a married woman!

The wedding day itself was a day to remember. I know that they all are for the people involved, but I also know (because I’ve been told by many people, including the Tortworth staff) that ours was extra special. It even started off unconventionally – not only did John and I not do the whole “not seeing each other before the wedding” thing (hopelessly impractical when you live with your husband to be!), but my father stayed over the night before. He had brought Lorna down with him; his gorgeous Singer Roadster, which I have been in love with ever since he first bought her. I had decided very early on that she was going to be my wedding car (not only for the joy in riding and being photographed in her, but also on a practical basis that as we were getting married and having the reception at the same venue, we didn’t want the expense of hiring a car!) After a relaxed night (I was expecting to at least have problems sleeping, but, although I woke up early, I had no trouble getting my head down), and a small breakfast, we packed up the Punto (and with three people, four wedding outfits, my father’s suit, table decorations, banners plus an overnight kit, it was a bit of a squeeze!) and headed up to Tortworth Court.

There, we met Kristina, who looked after us for the whole day, and, with Graham and Sarah, started decorating the Westminster Suite; adding the bright red runners and the fake roses to the tables, and finding somewhere to hang the banners.

We got to see the cheese cake being brought in, and the flowers being made ready to go on the tables. At this point, everything still felt slightly surreal – I couldn’t really believe that it was happening!

Because it was an afternoon wedding, people trickled into the hotel – we all congregated in the bar area, and were able to sit down and have a chat (and even order lunch…). This was really nice – I was able to be with people and talk with them, knowing that I wasn’t going to have much time once the festivities started. One comment that I got a lot was that people were surprised that I wasn’t more nervous – my feeling on the day was that at this point, anything that went wrong would either be fixable, in which case there was no point in worrying about it, or we could do nothing about it, in which case there was no point in worrying about it! I think other people did the worrying for me, though…

I did start getting twitchy at about 1 when neither the photographer nor the toastmaster (well, mistress…) had arrived – they had both said that they wanted to say hello before I went to get ready. Fortunately, both turned up before 1.30, and, with an hour and a half to go, John, Paul, Emme and I went off to get ready (Emme and I assisted by Sarah and Graham) The photographer came in to take photos part way through the getting ready – not a little bit distracting for Graham who was doing my makeup at the time! (I don’t think it helped that I started talking whilst he was doing my lips, either…). It was brilliant to be able to finally wear the dress – I’d been taking many a sneak peek into the wardrobe and gloating over it – and we were very lucky in that the weather wasn’t too hot, which meant that the dresses weren’t too heavy. Sarah helped me work out how to juggle the flowers , the length of the dress and the heeled shoes (I normally live in trainers, so even wearing heels was a novelty!), but the size of the room meant that I was only able to take a few steps before having to turn round (and I got thrown later on when Barbara (the toast-mistress) said that Daddy was supposed to be on the other side – I had to rework everything out!)

Then, suddenly, it was nearly 3; Sarah had got ready (in her gorgeous handmade blue dress), and Graham had disappeared to use the changing room. It was just my father, me and Emme, and at this point, I was starting to get a little bit nervous! Barbara was supposed to appear at 2.50 to take me and Daddy up to the registrar in order to do the last minute checks (one of them being a “You are definitely sure you want to go through with this?” check…) At one point Emme spotted her going in the opposite direction – she seemed to be a bit lost!

She turned up just before 3, and led us down the hallway to the lifts – my first real walk in the dress that was more than a few steps. Fortunately, I didn’t trip too much! Up the lift to the first floor to meet the very friendly (and chatty!) registrar, who seemed quite unconcerned that time was ticking on (at this point, I had stopped being really aware of the time, as I wasn’t wearing my watch…). Then, out onto the landing and down the magnificent staircase, where the photographer took many, many photos… At the bottom of the stairs appeared to be most of Tortworth, who had heard that it was not the usual white meringue wedding and wanted to have a look!

Then, finally, we were ready to go. Outside the door to the Moreton’s restaurant, and listening to the medieval music and the slight buzz of conversation. We had decided that Emme was going to walk in front of us, as the train pooled quite a long way behind, and it would have been a bit awkward for her to squeeze round to her seat without treading on the dress! And here is where I think that Barbara was very cruel. She did her announcement of “Please stand for the Bridal Party,” and the “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” started playing. Emme started making her way up the aisle, and I could hear people turning to look. I started to move forward, but Barbara stopped me, and said “make them wait.” At this point, they’d been waiting for 20 minutes! Finally, about halfway through the piece (when I was starting to worry that we’d run out of music...) she let us start walking (saying “He looks a bit worried now, you can go…”).

And this was the point that I actually did start to well up – stepping forwards with my father next to me, seeing all the people that I love being here for me (and John, of course!). I had to concentrate very hard on the music (plus on the juggle of flowers, dress and shoes…) in order to bring myself back under control. But, despite that, I couldn’t stop smiling, even though I had intended to go down the aisle looking quietly demure – instead I had the biggest grin you can imagine plastered on my face.

I got to the top of the aisle, handed my bouquet to Emme and stood next to John, who had been looking resolutely forwards (apparently there had been a few threats from the best man if he looked round!) This was the first time I’d seen him in his full finery, and I have to say that he looked very fine indeed (and he was all mine!  )

As the music faded, the registrar started the wedding ceremony, using words that we had chosen. For some reason, I didn’t get my usual urge to jump up when the question “do you know of any lawful reason these two may not be married?” was asked – I wonder why! The ceremony was short and simple - we had made a conscious effort not to be too mushy, and I think that we pitched it just right. Emme sang Voi Che Sapete from the Marriage of Figaro, and if she was nervous, she didn’t show it at all – it was gorgeous. Enough to bring another lump to my throat! Then the signing of the register, the actual contract that makes it legally binding. Multiple photographs, on both sides of the table (using a ‘dummy’ register – fortunately the fact that it had blank pages in it didn’t show in the photographs!

Suddenly, after what felt like only seconds since I walked up the aisle, the registrar was asking John to “bring your wife round to the other side of the table”, and we were walking back down the aisle, as Mr and Mrs Toon. I don’t think that the smile once left my face.

And I am going to pause the story there, because it has taken me all week to write this in Word, I’m pretty much at the end of two pages, and I know that people are waiting to read this! Next post will cover the party after, and then I’ll follow up with a gushing epic on our holiday in Norway…

Friday, 14 September 2007


I am in the middle of drafting a long wedding and honeymoon post (easier to do it in Word than on Blogger) - never fear, you will get the full details in due course!

However, I've just been pointed to a three part story from the perspective of a US Cop, an Ambulance Driver and a Nurse.

I read lots of blogs, including loads of medical ones (I have great respect for everyone who can do medical jobs, from the dispatchers who take the 999 calls, the paramedics who are first on the scene and the ambulance drivers, to the doctors (and students) who then treat the patients in the hospital, as these are jobs that I know I could never do) - this story from the different perspectives of those involved touched me deeply, and I wanted to share with you.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Quick post...

Well - just a very quick touch base :-)

I am now no longer Jo Foster, but Jo Toon... (though that name change is going to take a lot of getting used to (I signed into the hotel swimmingpool this morning as Jo Foster, and had to correct it!), and doesn't help that all my email accounts are some derivation of Jo Foster!)

There will be a full post on the day, probably when we get back from Bergen, but I just wanted to say that I still haven't stopped grinning. It was a fantastic day; the weather was (in my mind) perfect - not too hot, a bit of blue sky, and no rain! So many of my friends and family were there, either during the ceremony, or joining us in the evening (sadly, there were a couple of last minute hitches for a few friends and relations, which meant that there were a few empty seats). It was just fantastic to be able to share the most important day of my life (so far) with everyone who is closest to me (and to meet my new extended in-laws {waves to Gerard and Denise :-)} )

It is very difficult to believe that the event that I have spent so long planning for has now been and gone, but the memories are going to stay with me forever :-)

And I did spend about 2 hours when we got back this afternoon cutting up the cheese-cake in order to freeze it in manageable portions!

See you in a week, when we get back from Norway :-)

Friday, 24 August 2007

Long, and probably very self indulgent post...

I apologise in advance to anyone who actually reads this - I would advise that you don't! I am trying to clear something out of my head that has been knocking around for a while, and the hope is that by rambling about it on here, I will actually be able to get a decent night's sleep. There are also items in here that I have not talked to anyone about.

Between the ages of 11 and 14, I went to a private school, and for the second and third of those years, I boarded there. I did not have the temperament for boarding, nor the social skills to be able to succeed within my peer group. At the age of 14, I came very close to breaking down altogether, and I left the school. I have since had frequent nightmares about being back there.

However, I have found myself in recent weeks deliberately going out and looking up information on that school and on the people that I spent three years of my life with (to the extent of getting in email and Facebook contact with some of the people that I was closer to). I am dragging up memories, most of them bad, and going over them again and again. This on the outside (and from the inside!) seems very much to be a stupid thing to do - I should leave the past well alone, and let it sink to the bottom of my memory pile, covered over with the dust of years. But, at the moment, I can't.

I can think of a few reasons for this.

It has now been over ten years since I left the school. I know that there were good times as well as bad, but the bad memories are clearer and sharper. By getting in touch with people who have nicer memories of the school, they can help me (without knowing it!) to bring those better memories to the fore. (for example, instead of my memory of sports being tainted by being the only person in the year not to be put into the big rounders match (the teacher forgot about me), I can remember about being in the tennis team, for one match...)

There is also the idea of picking at a scab to see if the skin underneath has healed. The memory that taints most of my time at that school, colouring even how I feel about going back through the county, is that of being assaulted by one of the boys in the year above me. It was not a serious assault, and I doubt that the boy in question either (a) considered it to be an attack at the time and (b) even remembers the incident now. However, it left a pain inside me that has persisted, and affected the way that I saw and interacted with boys and men for a long time afterwards (indeed, until I met John...) When I went back on Facebook and found the group for my year at that school, he was on it. And I am incredibly happy to be able to say that I was able to look at his picture and think about what he did with complete detatchment (rather than the sick to the stomach feeling I would have had a year or so ago). It is in the past, and whilst it has affected my life, I think that I can safely say that I have healed from it, and that I am a stronger person because of it.

And, the most important and overarching reason: I am coming up to a very important day in my life (some would say the most important, but I am withholding judgment until I'm on my deathbed...). It represents an external committment (I made the internal one a very long time ago) and a new chapter. Therefore it is important to me, even on a subconscious level, that the past is tidied up and sorted out. As with any person, I will always have 'baggage' to take forwards, but if it is in boxes and packed away neatly, then it is a lot easier to carry.

The school gave me a lot of pain, but it also made me who I am today (to trot out the old cliche...) My streak of independence, my resilience, my thick skin, all are as a direct result of what I went through. I can't say that my life wouldn't have been happier if I had never gone to that school. But the direct path that I was on at the age of eleven led me to this stage in my life, and the wedding next week. (If I hadn't gone to the school, then I would probably have less independence than I do now, meaning that I would be less likely to have gone to Australia on my Gap Year. This means that even if I had gone to Exeter, I would have been a year younger when I met John, and far more naive, and our relationship might never have happened. I also started my love of Sci-fi / fantasy as an attempt to escape from the reality of the school around me - if I had never been there, I might not have the deep love for the genre that I have today, and might never have joined the Sci-fi society to meet John in the first place!)

It is very easy to be fatalistic and say that it was all meant. I don't believe that, but I do believe that the bad times are as important as the good ones (if you don't have bad things happening, then how can you know how great the good ones are?) The most important thing, for now, for me, is that I feel that I can finally close that chapter, that I can accept what happened as something in the past. That the memories, good and bad, are not ones to be ashamed of. When they surface, as they will, in response to a smell, sound or other trigger, I will be able to look at them and accept the emotions, happy, sad or painful, that they engender in me. And then put them away and get on with my life.


Tiggers like Thursdays....

More to the point, Tiggers like:
Free suncream from Nivea (being handed out at BTM this morning) - almost exactly the same amount (although a lower SPF) to the bottle that I lost when I forgot it was in my bag flying to Glasgow
Receiving banners from Gerald Ye Herald - they look even better than the photos! :-)
Being told that the wedding shoes are on their way to the shop (I'll have to wait till Tuesday to pick them up, though...)
A brilliant episode of Heroes last night - not as heart stopping as last week and the week before, but with another brilliant ending (and the trailer for next week just looks HOOBOY!!)
The sun is shining! :-D

Wednesday, 22 August 2007


Ok, I've gone a bit Kiki again...

Gerald Ye Herald
has emailed me some pics of the banners that he is going to put in the post this afternoon....
(apologies for the size - I don't know how to change it... It doesn't matter how much I shrink the picture in Windows - it is still cut off by Blogger {headdesk})
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Links are here:

Plus the Deaf chap came in for his presentation and test, and, to my suprise, I was able to understand him (well, 95% of it, anyway...), and to make myself understood. I'm really happy - and now I'm keeping my fingers tightly crossed that he gets the job!

Tuesday, 21 August 2007


Tomorrow, I will be using my sign language for the first time since I took my exams, and for the first time in a non-social / classroom context. And I'm bricking it!

Work is recruiting for a developer, and a Deaf applicant has been invited to interview. It took me quite a while to persuade one of the directors in charge of this recruitment that I was not qualified enough to actually interpret for him! But I have been asked (and I'm happy to) to do a "Meet and Greet" - ask about coffees, explain where the toilets are etc. The problem is that I've forgotten so many basic signs! I'm going to have to spend this evening on t'internet practicing...

But I'm a little bit excited, as well :-)

Friday, 17 August 2007

Time flies like an arrow

And fruit flies like a wheelie bin...

(Heroes spoilers below if you didn't see last night's episode...)

I can't believe that it is Thursday already! Work has been manic (tender hell continues unabated - deadlines are coming thick and fast), and we are in the final stretch of the wedding planning.
I now have:
Cheese cake paid for
Final photography bits paid for
Banners from Gerald ye Herald paid for (still need to arrange delivery, though)

Tonight I'm meeting with Graham, who is going to talk makeup at me (I'm not very good at it. I know I need it, but I know so little about what looks good that I definitely need the help of an expert!)

I still need to do final arrangements on:
Florist - need to pay
Finding ivy (real or fake) to decorate the hall
Collect shoes (should be ready next week)
Meet with Tracey (our co-ordinator) at Tortworth to go through final arrangements
Contact South Glos registrar and inform them of the slight change in the wedding service
Finish stitching the final seam on my dress (Sarah H has very kindly done three of them, but I wanted to put a bit of work in as well!)
Arrange my hair and nails - I'm not having a hairdresser on the day (wearing my hair down and 'au naturel', so I don't need anything fancy), but I'm going to have a haircut the day before and sort my nails out.

John is sorting out:
Belts from Stagman

And I think that I'm pretty much getting there!

Watched Heroes last night - still excellent. The tension is still high, and it is interesting how the different threads are starting to come together. There is so much that needs to still be explained, and so much for us still to discover (I'm waiting to see what will happen with the kid - both his parents have this special gene, so he has to have some sort of power as well :-) ) The glimpse of the future last week has left me desparate to know how things get from now to then - how far in the future was it? (How quickly did Hiro learn to speak English...!) We also got to see the "making of" showing how they did the stopping time effect - an incredibly clever mix of CGI and patience - making actors keep so still for so long (particularly child ones) is a feat in itself. Plus the end result looks beautiful - incredibly realistic, and means that the tiny amount of CGI that they do add in only adds to the realism, rather than detracting from it.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007


Wow! What a weekend! Fantastic friends, superb scenery, cracking comedy and marvelous music (is that superlative enough for you?)

Really - I had a brilliant time up in Glasgow/Edinburgh. Huge amounts of alcohol on the Friday, Edinburgh Fringe on the Saturday and touring the Lochs near Glasgow on the Sunday. Picked up loads of cooking ideas as well (definitely going to try making Sarah's spanish omlette and Ben's american pancakes in the very near future!)

The Fringe was great fun - the damp weather certainly didn't stop the crowds (fortunately, we only really encountered them at the top end of the Royal Mile and on first bit of the walk from the bus.) However, two out of the three shows we saw seemed to have our group of five as the major part of the paying audience!

Ionesco - Jack or the Submission
This was billed as an absurdist play, and absurd was a very good word for it. I had no real idea of what was going on throughout. There were some nice touches - all of the parental parts were amalgamated into one person per pair (Mother/Father; Grandmother/Grandfather; Inlaws) This worked really well with the Mother/Father pair (in fact, I thought that it had been scripted that way), but the other two parings didn't come off so well, partially because the costumes weren't so good (the M/F had very obvious half and half costumes, but GM/GF had something tucked inside a jacket that I didn't even see for the first half of the show, and MIL/FIL apparantly had a blouse half of a shirt and a male half of a shirt, which I didn't spot at all!). There was nice use of non-scenery - the only bit of scenery was the door, which meant that there could be lots of pratting about, particularly with M/F.
However, I don't think I will go to see another absurdist play unless I have read the script and the information around it first!

Aeneas Faversham Returns
This was a completely random performance - we were having lunch/tea in a French restaurant, and John was looking through the festival guide - he spotted that this was going on at a venue that was between us and Mikelangelo, and was at about the right time. Trying to make amends for the Ionesco, he suggested that we have a look and see if there were any tickets left. We managed to get the last five (and that appeared only to be because there was a return...), which was a good sign. An even better one was that we managed to get pretty much to the head of the queue, meaning that we had second row seats. And it was well worth it - a first class show. We were laughing from beginning to end, and I think I can honestly say that these guys are the funniest group I have ever seen. Even with the bounds that they had set themselves (Victorian themed - the whole group in starched collars and cravats), the range of sketches that they were able to perform was brilliant. There was even an heart-string tugging one (the man telling his imaginary friend that he is leaving...), and a totally unexpected nudity one.... (very brave of the actor!)

The Honeymoon Suite
This was the show that we had come up to Edinburgh to see. Mikelangelo (of the Black Sea Gentlemen fame) performing a cabaret style duet with his wife, Undine Francesca. This was a very 'intimate' gathering - two on stage and eleven in the audience... (and we were five of them!) However, I was complely blown away by Mikelangelo's voice and musicianship. The CD recording does not do his timbre justice (and I have been listening to the BSG CDs on MP3 on a fairly constant basis since getting back!) - you can feel his voice as well as hearing it. Plus, he whistles... For most musicians (and I count myself in this band), the practice of whistling is incredibly difficult - most people can hold a tune for approximately five notes before descending into something that might vary in pitch by a semitone. But this was crystal clear and note perfect, and I can understand Mikelangelo's title of "The Nightingale of the Adriatic." Undine's playing of the organ can be termed as 'interesting' - a little painful on the ears at times, but at others, a good accompaniment to the song being performed. The hour went by far too quickly - I'm sure there was room for one more song!
Plus we got to meet them both afterwards, and chat (getting reassurances that the BSG hasn't disbanded... Looking forward to their next album, which should be out next year.). We did manage to skew their sales statistics as well - usually their ratio for selling items is 1:10 (1 item for 10 members of the audience). Well, we bought three sets of their single and three sets of the "Floating Islands" (a really interesting project, where Undine's father drew the pictures, Undine then picked out 100 of them and wrote a story round them, and Mikelangelo created the music. It was completed just before Undine's father died), meaning that their ration for that performance was 6:11!

The shows over, we went to find chips (the French meal had been at 4.30, so by 10, we were all getting a trifle peckish...), and John impressed the seller by asking for Haggis with his...

Sunday it was still raining, but less persistently than on Saturday, so, after a very leisurely start, Ben drove us out to Loch Lomond and round Loch Fyne (photos when I get round to unloading them off the camera...) The scenery of Scotland is breathtaking, particularly for someone who isn't used to mountains, or even really hilly areas!

On Monday, Sarah suggested that we had lunch in a vegetarian cafe called Grassroots. Absolutely delicious food (butternut squash and carrot burger - fantastic combination!) Then, home, with only a 20 minute delay on Easyjet...

All in all - a brilliant weekend, and a much needed rest - I hadn't realised before leaving work on Thursday just how stressed I was getting - a long weekend away from work pressures and the need to think constantly about the wedding was just what my brain needed. And I only came back to 70 emails...

Friday, 10 August 2007

Off to Bonny Scotland!

Long weekend ahoy! Heading up to Scotland to stay with lovely friends and go to the Edinburgh Fringe. Can't wait! This is only the second time I've been to Edinburgh, and the first time didn't really count as it was for a trade show, and I saw very little of the city outside of the hotel we were staying in and the conference centre that the show was taking place in. Oh, and the airport. Seven hours thanks to delayed Easyjet... (with colleague complaining for the *whole* seven hours...!) So this is going to be so much more fun, and if the weather up there is as nice as it is down here, it is going to be fantastic (hey - it would be fantastic even if it rained...)
Watched Heros on Wednesday night - another brilliant episode! Still being introduced to the characters, but we are now getting more indepth ideas about them. I love the way that even the timescales don't really tie up - you can't ever really be sure that you are watching the "Now" all of the time. I didn't really miss a huge amount by not being able to watch it last week - John was able to give me a recap of the important bits, and there was also a good fill-in at the start of the episode. I just hope that they can keep on upping the gain - I really don't want this to turn into another 'Lost', where it just loses its way half way through.
Had an extra session of TKD (beware - links on the TKD page don't work if you are using Firefox...) last night - though it wasn't really a proper work out session. Miss Burridge (our instructor), plus one of her students, took part in the World ITF Championships (competing for Wales, due to the politics of TKD, about which I know very little, and do not ever want to get involved in!) Miss Burridge is now World Champion in patterns! We're all really proud of her (and of Bradley, who got Bronze in both Team Power and patterns) So we had a little party, and then went down the pub for a bit more of a party :-)
And the aim of learning Norwegian on the train is starting to come together - I'm getting bits and pieces, mostly by using a visualisation technique (turning the words into something recognisable, and then creating a picture - e.g. the phrase "Your Welcome" is (phonetically) "Ingern awshaak" - for that I imagine a German walking over a Welcome mat into a shack. Hey, it works for me ;-) ) Still a long way to go, particularly for the phrases that I can't turn into pictures, but I hope to be able to have enough to get by in 3 1/2 weeks' time...

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

New Resolution

Second of the wedding nightmares last night - I'm expecting to get these for the next month....

I am sure that I have mentioned below that we are going to Norway for our honeymoon. So I am trying to learn a little bit of Norwegian so that I don't have to act like a typical British tourist... (the memory of my overnight stay in Japan, where I had to communicate in mime with the shop lady who didn't speak a word of English still haunts me). So, I have put down DayWatch (at a very exciting point...) and I've taken the Norwegian phrase book to read on the train. I'm really hoping that 15-20 minutes morning and evening will help the words to stick!!

And another weekend gone...

Less than four weeks to go till the wedding - and the checklist is slowly diminishing...
Emme came up for Sunday and Monday - she got to try on the bridesmaid's dress, and looks gorgeous in it :-) We then went out on Monday and spent most of the day at the Mall trying to find shoes / underwear (45 minutes bra fitting!!) Managed to get shoes for Emme no problem, but my feet are awkward sizes, so JJ at work has just driven me up to Clifton to the other wedding shoe shop, where we've found a pair that is similar to the now discontinued ones that I liked. And it only cost me {whisper} Eighty-Five pounds to get them dyed and delivered. I've never spent that much on a pair of shoes in my life! (and don't think I ever will again...) But they are satin all over and look beautiful....

Friday, 3 August 2007


Woke up this morning and realised the problem with mid-week TV programmes - I forget about them. So I've now got to hope that Heroes turns up on Replay... {sigh}

But I have been doing a lot of reading this week. As well as Harry Potter, I've also read this week; "First Among Sequels" - Jasper Fforde (not as laugh a minute as some of his earlier books, but still absolutely brilliant!), "Desolation Jones" - Warren Ellis (a graphic novel - darkly funny, and sick in places...), "Small Gods" - Terry Pratchett (evening read - something I don't have to think about) and finished "The Dilbert Principle" - Scott Adams (another non-thinking evening read). And I've started "Day Watch" - Sergei Lukyanenko, which is brilliant already - following on from "Night Watch". I'm reading this one on the train, which means that I get approximately 20 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening - it makes the books last a bit longer!

And I'm very {headdesk} at work at the moment - I have loads to do, but it all entails being able to access the shared drives. Which are locked at the moment for moving them to a new server (we filled up the old one...). It's been going all day and part of last night (it stalled last night over an encrypted file that no-one can now find!). BLEAGH!

Tuesday, 31 July 2007


Just a quickie on the rest of the weekend, then I really ought to get back to some more work...
Joust was cancelled, due to a little spot of rain, and so Cherry and her husband, Ming, came over to our flat in order to give us our wedding outfits. Generally, poing poing poing poing poing poing poing poing poing poing poing poing poing poing poing.


Went a bit Kiki there...

The dress looks *amazing* - I am so happy with it. (and no photos until the wedding ;-) )

Plus the groom and best man looked pretty darn nifty in their outfits as well :-)

The flat hit max capacity with eight people perched on various items of furniture, and we also hit the max capacity for catering, but it was a fantastic afternoon :-D

Harry Potter

Finished in 3 1/2 hours over two sittings (one small waiting for the train on Friday, and one long session whilst hennaing my hair on Sunday). I shall give you my thoughts in the comments section of this post, as I don't want to accidentally spoil for anybody who might be passing through...

TV Programmes...

This week and last saw the last two episodes of Jekyll and the first two episodes of Heroes.
Wow! Second to last episode was fun - lots of in depth flashbacks. It did feel a little stretched out at times, and I was left with the feeling that they could have actually compressed it and added it to the final episode. However - I am so glad that they didn't! The final episode was fantastic - a brilliant build up at the beginning, and then kept me on my toes all the way through. Expected twists didn't happen, and (sometimes *very*) unexpected twists did! Very much enjoyed - I shall definitely be getting the DVD when it comes out.

An interesting start to the series. I'm glad that they ran the first two episodes back to back - I enjoyed the first episode, but it had such an introductory feel (obviously!) that it didn't leave me going "what next?" However, the second one *did*. The ending was explosive, and my jaw hit the floor! Some nice character twists, plus a few moments of complete "eeeuuuurghh!" and being grateful that I had already finished my supper! Shall watch this with interest - I am just hoping that it can sustain and increase the excitement throughout the 23(ish?) episodes - I still remember the disappointment as Lost tailed off into a soap, rather than an adventure series.

Saturday, 28 July 2007


I know I've not blogged for a while - sorry!

This week has been incredibly manic, mainly at work, but also in private life as well...

Firstly - the rain... We have been incredibly lucky in Bristol - we've managed to avoid the worst of the bad weather, but getting home on Friday night was a bit tricky. Not in the 10 hour journey that some people have had, but, for me, the half hour wait for a train to take me to Filton, after my train to Parkway vanished off the board with no announcement (and having to explain to the people who were already on the train that the reason for the hideous overcrowding was that this did appear to be the last train to leave Bristol Temple Meads!) However, I do have a lot of admiration for the platform staff at BTM - they were trying to cope with a lot of angry and upset people, without having any real information themselves, and they kept calm in the face of a lot of provocation! (I do imagine that I might have a different perspective on this if I'd had to join the queue that was stretching the whole length of platform 3 to get a chit that would then let me join the queue for a taxi...)

Saturday saw us having a lie-in for the first time in a while - very much needed - and then, in the late afternoon, heading out in glorious sunshine to Faringdon in Oxfordshire for Paul Cornell's birthday party. Now, given the weather (and the fact that my colleague's wife had called in the afternoon from Swindon to say that the M4 had been shut), we had contacted Paul to ask if Faringdon was ok and if the party was still on. All fine, we were reassured, he had even driven to Oxford and back that morning. Now, what Paul didn't know was that, although the road to Oxford was fine, there were a few puddles on the ground on the other roads leading to Faringdon. I had already done an internet search, and found that the direct route, going round Swindon, was right out (with 2 hour tail backs on the Saturday afternoon due to closed roads),but the M4 was still open. No worries, we could come off the M4 at Junction 14, and go via Wantage (which was still above water at that point), going across country from there (which was lucky, as the AA's non-motorway directions sent us through Tewkesbury...).

First part of the plan came off without any hitches whatsoever. A clear run along the M4, with a nice quick journey through and out the other side of Wantage. We then followed the AA directions, heading out through East and West Challow and towards Stanford in the Vale. Which is where we saw our first "real" flooding - there was a "no through" sign on the road going forwards, and a turning to the left that was about 1/4 foot deep. Now, any sensible travellers at that point would have turned round, and taken the long route to Abingdon and cut across there. But not us adventurous types in our highly rugged Fiat Punto. We were debating whether to ignore the sign (how bad could it be?), when a car came the other way (i.e. passing the no through sign), stopped and the window opened. The driver inside explained that the road was passable, and only flooded in four places. He then looked at the car and said "you might get your feet wet...". So, with this vote of confidence ringing in our ears, we decided to press on. Not long thereafter, we saw the water stretching across the road, and decided to try to get round the water by turning off towards Goosey (when I can figure out how to do it, I'm going to get Google Maps to show our twisting route...) This was our second mistake. As we turned off the A road and onto the twisty, high hedged B road, my aim (as map reader) was to get us round Stanford. Unfortunately, what I didn't register was that we were also following the line of the river Ock, which was now slightly larger than the little line that appeared on the map. When we came up to the first flood across the road, it didn't appear that deep, and we saw a junction ahead that looked like it would take us away from the worst of the flooding. So we forged on through (big splash!) and turned away from Charney Bassett (at this point we are heading further and further away from Faringdon...) The roads were getting smaller and twistier, and turning round points were getting fewer and further between. But, hardy souls that we are, we weren't going to let a spot of water trouble us, and kept going through floods that were getting deeper. The one that made me realise that I was actually getting quite scared was where we could see the current flowing across the road, and felt it buffeting the car. However, at this point, we didn't have any real option but to keep going and see if we could either find a spot where we could turn round without going onto a verge (most of which resembled swamps) or find some way of getting out of the floods. My aim on mapreading was to try to find a way of getting us to an A road, any A road, where, we believed, the roads would be in better condition, and we might even have diversions in place... However, there were a few little puddles that were in our way! We ended up following another car - a 4X4 - he would go through ahead, and then, when he reached the next dry point, we would start going through. Even watching him, it was very nerve wracking not being sure where the road would suddenly dip, and we'd have no choice but to swim! Unfortunately, this state of affairs came to an abrupt end when, at a bend in the road, he decided to turn round. It was at that point that we thought that if a 4x4 was having second thoughts about the depth of the water, then our little Fiat probably shouldn't attempt it. So, after he passed us (very helpfully stopping to give us directions to Uffington, where we could then cut up to Faringdon - we decided that we would not risk another cross-country run...), we got to his turning point, did a multiple pointer, and headed back through the floods. One of the puddles gave us a bit of a panic as the car slowed to an absolute crawl, and we had to give it lots of words of encouragement to get through the deepest bit. We ended up pretty much retracing our steps to Wantage, then up towards Abingdon, meaning to cut across to Kingston Bagpuize. But that road was cut off as well, and we decided not to risk it, particularly after seeing another diversion where a group of people were trying to work out how to get the tow-truck out of the floods... It was absolutely heart breaking going through some of these villages, and seeing the flooded bungalows and houses. It's very difficult for me to avoid flashbacks to when Wellesbourne flooded in 1998.

However, once we had got onto the main road to Oxford, bypassed the city, and then got onto the A420 down to Faringdon, it was suddenly plain sailing. We were even able to scoff at the few floods that we did have to drive through - why, you could see the white lines on the road - not deep at all!

Finally, only an hour later than we intended, we arrived in Faringdon, in the pouring rain. Fortunately, the owners of the lovely B&B that we stayed in (Livingston House) were very quick to let us in and show us to our room. (the Stephen King room - behind the door was a bookshelf containing a vast collection of (mainly) Stephen King books, apparantly belonging to the owner's son)

A quick change from John later, and we were back out down to the Portwell Bar where Paul's party was in full swing. It was a great evening - I had fully expected that I would spend a lot of the time sitting in the corner people watching, as I would know very few people there. Instead, not only did I recognise a lot of people from when we went to the Faringdon Arts Festival, but it was such an easy going atmosphere that we felt able to sit down and join in conversations. The evening passed in a haze of good company, thai curry and cider (and then a "cornetto" of red wine and a sip of the nicest rum and coke I have ever tried). We ended up getting back to the B&B just after 2. As breakfast was at 8-9, I had set the alarm for 8...

In fact, I actually woke up closer to 7, without too bad a headache. For some reason, my body decided that it had had enough sleep, and it wasn't going to let me doze for the alarm clock. So I picked up "The Stand", and managed to get nearly 200 pages into it before breakfast time (closer to 9 than 8...). Breakfast was just what I needed - cereal, toast, bacon, orange juice and coffee (the full English was available, and eagerly taken by John and the other two guests (also from Paul's party), but I have long since learned that my stomach can tolerate bacon after alcohol, but otherwise nothing cooked for breakfast! Then to the town triangle to meet up with Paul and the other survivors from the party. We had a great second breakfast, sat outside on the cobbled pavement, enjoying the warm (ish) air, the vague attempts of the sun to break through the clouds, the bell ringers, and the tractor taking various lambs to market. After a hot chocolate, with the most lurid marshmallows you could imagine, and another bacon sandwich, plus a good couple of hours of chatting, we decided to part and attempt the journey home. As we were going to be going via Oxford, Paul asked if we and another car could give a lift to a couple of bods who were needing to get the train home. Off we went, and, after searching for a useable road into Oxford, we discovered on arrival at the station that there were no trains running, and no alternative transport available. Fortunately for three of the folks that had been given lifts to the station, they lived in Bath, so we offered them a lift back on our way through to Bristol. The capacity of a Fiat Punto just about fits four adult males and one adult female, all slightly hungover...

All in all, a weekend to remember - fantastic fun, and the adventure made it all the more lasting :-)

Still to come - the rest of my week (I didn't think that Saturday would take up *this* much space - well done for getting to the bottom of it!), plus the story that is now a whole paragraph long.....

Friday, 20 July 2007


Tender deadline today. (3pm - email tender)
Business manager has been "working on it" for 2 weeks.
We get the documents at 4pm yesterday for proofreading.
We finish proofreading and correcting at 2.30
I get email together.
I suddenly think - I can't remember who the email is supposed to be addressed to, so open up the original document. Which states that the tender has to be laid out in a specific way.
Which the documents that BM gave me aren't.
It is now 2.45
Panic and call BM over to work out which bits in his docs are supposed to go where in *their* doc.
Get tender emailed out at 2.58....
(BM buys us chocolate to say sorry!)

Fortunately my lovely new person is shaping up fantastically - there is no way that I could have got this sorted without her! :-)

There is a story idea shaping in my head, but I haven't had time to get it on paper - it will come soon!

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

What I did on my weekend...

The weeks are flashing by at the moment - it is rather scary to think that in 7 weeks' time, I will be Mrs Toon.
However, this weekend was a mixture of wedding preparation and taekwon do.
Saturday mid morning to early afternoon was spent at the Castle School in Thornbury desparately trying to stop my muscles going onto autopilot whilst doing my patterns, line work and step sparring in front of an examiner. The problem is that I've practiced these so much that my muscles know what they are doing without a huge amount of intervention from my brain - this does, however, lead to sloppy work (and the occasional complete "Huh?" moment as my brain wakes up and tries to remember what it is actually supposed to be doing!) However, the questions that I was asked were reasonably easy (not exactly what was on the sheet, but, as I'd been expecting that from the last grading, I'd memorised more than just the "You will be asked 4 out of these 10 questions" section)
So - I am now officially a yellow belt - 8th Kup and definitely off the bottom rungs of the ladder. At this point, I'm expected to be getting a good groundwork in the basics (the meaning of the yellow being "The ground from which the plant grows"), and probably shouldn't be still being muddled between side kick and turning kick...
So - after TKD, John took the car into town to drop off some books at Oxfam, and I killed people on Theme Hospital (yes, it's an old game. Yes, it isn't the best God game about, but I find it very relaxing, and can lose a good couple of hours in it without any trouble!)
Then, when he got back, we headed to Cribbs, John to buy some new trousers, and me to see what Per Una had to offer... (I *hate* clothes shopping with a passion. Even the thought of it gives me a headache. But for some reason, I love Per Una - it is my one fashion weakness. Fortunately, even though it is slightly on the pricey side, it isn't the most expensive shopping habit I could have!) I was very restrained in the end - after going into the changing rooms with a total of 8 items, I only came away with 2 - a new pair of linen trousers and a lovely Batik kaftan. So my hunter-gatherer instinct is assuaged for the time being :-)
Then home for my favourite butternut squash recipe (halved, brushed with oil, roasted in the oven for 40 mins, with slow fried veg, goat's cheese and parmesan breadcrumbs over the top), and Jekyll...
Now - I am one of the demographic that the BBC hates. Unless I have a really good motivation to watch TV, I don't, and my motivation severely dips if I don't watch a series regularly. Last week Jekyll was bumped for some small concert, and it felt like a big effort to sit down and concentrate for an hour, even though I was left bouncing on the edge of my seat at the end of the last episode. However, this episode was really worth the effort! It was all told in flashback, with about half an hour of "now" time passing. I am really enjoying this form of story telling - moving the current story on slowly, and letting us try to piece it all together. It definitely wouldn't be as fun being told in linear format. Some lovely lines, including the really cheeky "Are you my Daddy?" (and if you don't get it, then go and watch "The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances", also by Steve Moffat), and I am loving Gina Bellman as Claire Jackman - she really got to come into her own in this episode. And we are out next weekend, so I'm going to have to wait for the Replay on Sunday to see how this cliffhanger ends! (nice BBC didn't spoil edge-of-seat cliffhanger with a trailer - I was shocked!)
Sunday we had a lovely long lie in - they don't happen that often, so I tend to make the most of them (and then completely smash my sleeping patterns as a result!), and then off to Tortworth Court to meet with our wedding photographer. Tony Charnock (although his website isn't loading at the moment!) is a really nice, genuine guy. He was really helpful - getting us to think about things that we hadn't even considered (such as "What time will you be getting ready?"), and was really enthusiastic about the dress (he was dreading that I was going to say I was getting married in Ivory, which apparantly is a pain to try to get right in a photo!) He also showed us a number of different albums, including a book - i.e. you have your wedding photos vanity published into a really nice coffee table book! (I'm hoping that this will be on his website when it comes back up again - if so, I'll link to it...) Unfortunately, that option doubled the overall costs, and wasn't *really* justifiable! So we've gone for a lovely leather bound digital print option, (again, if the option becomes available on his website, I'll link to it...), where the layout isn't just photo;photo;photo - there are lots of overlays and backgrounds (difficult to explain!)
And then, Sunday evening was TKD again - this time a fitness evening, where we spent over an hour and a half (because Kerry lost track of the time!) doing skipping, stomach crunches, running and other circuit exercises. Great fun, but my legs are paying for it now - every time I stand up, my muscles have shortened by another inch!
Finally, back home for the sausages that wouldn't cook (15 minutes in the George Fornby grill, plus 10 minutes extra (after I cut them open and realised they were still pink), plus half an hour or so under the grill. John ate them, I didn't...), and a mild panic when I realised that the info on the wedding ceremony should have been with South Glos council two weeks ago... Fortunately, they let me fax the completed copy through today...