Monday, 17 December 2012

IT'S ALL ABOUT ME!

There are few things in life more annoying than a flat phone battery or a lack of wifi - but one of them is when people 'personalize' everything in the belief that it's all about them.



Whatever you said, they imply, it was clearly aimed at them. Whatever you may have innocently done - well it was obviously a deliberate swipe. Because you evidently spend your entire life, every waking moment of it, considering how to make a veiled attack on this particular person. 'Course you do. Don't even try and deny it. You know they are the most important thing in the universe and that all conscious actions by you have a root cause in them.

Bollocks.

This kind of behaviour winds me up.

In the last week I have seen a couple of prize examples where the perpetrator, quite frankly, deserved a slap. Or at the very least to be told that despite their delusions, the world does not in fact rotate around them and to grow the fuck up.

Example number 1: person A is having a bit of a rough time, is majorly stressed, is juggling a number of things and worrying about whether it will get worse before it gets better. They make an innocuous comment about this on their own Facebook page (man, I hate Facebook, what a numpty fest) and within a few minutes they receive a comment on it which is the equivelent of someone squaring up in a pub and snarling "what the fuck you looking at!?".

Said comment is "That aimed at me??" by a member of extended family who is going through their own trials and tribulations (let's face it - who isn't?) but lacks the ability to realise that they are not the only person with issues right now. I mean, FFS.

This is why Facebook is, effectively, a microcosm of all that is wrong with society in my opinion. I keep my page on there because it's the only way to stay in touch with some people. But it makes me shake my head in despair at least once a day. I know I have written at length about the lack of filter people seem to have when posting things to facebook previously. I have so many people 'hidden' now that I forget they even exist (which is a good thing).

It's the level of unmitigated anger that people seem to want to share that baffles me the most. Some people literally seem to have a stream of consciousness which consists entirely of negative ranting about their workplace/children/health - shouty, monotonous drivel. If you hate your job that much then change it, FFS. Ever think about putting something nice, positive, happy on there? No? Oh, right, you're another one for me to hide then.

Anyway, I digress...

Example number 2 from the last few weeks is actually pretty hilarious. I don't think it's meant to be but I am struggling to mentally detatch what has happened from some kind of Carry On parody of playground proportions....

Person B has arranged a bit of a do via that bastion of formality that is a Facebook Event. Please note the irony here.

Person B clearly cannot invite people who do not have Facebook to said event (such people do actually exist, apparently) but fully intends to send email invites nearer the time to those who won't see the FB event. This includes most of the parents (obviously invited and important). But, in the meantime, a temper tantrum erupts from a member of extended family (are all families this batshit mental!?) who learns of the event and fully believes that this is a targetted, incredibly rude and deliberate insult aimed entirely at them.

Of course when Facebook was chosen as a method of setting up a basic event page the priority was to ensure targetted offense at one person. Rather than just to, say, get the ball rolling and save admin costs/effort. Somehow, the fact that the world revolves around this person was forgotten. Slapped wrists all round.

Honestly, life is too short. I do not understand for one minute why people are so determined to find and exacerbate conflict when there is enough strife in the normal, everyday life without adding to it. 

It's the season of goodwill people, why don't we all just try and apply a bit of rational thinking before we fly off the handle at each other? Just a thought. 

Friday, 9 November 2012

Just a Piece of Paper

Right folks, i've had half a blog post floating around in my head for some days now and I need to dislodge it from my brain to allow for other critically important things, like sorting out the shopping and organising my chaotic work travel for the rest of this month (London 3 times, Hatfield and various other visits before December!).

Basically Stu (my usually calm, lovely and unflappable husband) had a major hissy fit the other week over a breakfast bowl which I had left in the sink all day, creating a new and possibly industrial strength concrete in the bottom of it. This is because I hate milk and therefore will not eat the small amount left in the bottom of my cereal bowl and also am an incredibly messy person who is just pretty slovenly about washing up (it's true. I fucking hate washing up).



Now, to be fair, he has previously chastised me around 3 million times about doing this exact thing, he has a real bee in his bonnet about it so I should know better and most of the time I do remember how much this act winds him up and just rinse the bowl (well actually I fill the bowl with hot water and washing up liquid and leave it til I get in from work and then just rinse it out quickly - this involves no scrubbing and therefore is not actually washing up - win win).

But sometimes I get distracted (actually getting distracted is one of my worst habits, in relation to EVERYTHING) by Eddie Izzard being on BBC Breakfast or the fact that my iPhone needs IOS 6.1.4 downloading or an absolutely overwhelming urge to dig out a pair of boots I have not worn for years and then find an outfit that goes with them....and this all tends to happen in the ten minute window where I should be getting ready to go out the door and setting the dratted breakfast bowl to soak....

I should probably explain that I am the most hideous example of human kind before at least 9am. You know I said I fucking hate washing up?? Well I hate mornings more. (hence doing washing up or anything pertaining to it prior to 9am is literally unthinkable).

Anyway, on said morning the other week I didn't wash the bowl - on this particular occasion it just clean slipped my mind (I think I was distracted by packaging 10 different items I had sold on ebay towards Project Oz, in my defence) and also, because I kindly gave Stu a lift home from work (unusual as we rarely finish at the same time) we arrived home together and therefore my usual grace period to get rid of the evidence disappeared.

He did indeed get very narky about it and said it was disrespectful and he is of course right. And it got me to thinking.

Marriages work because it's more than "just a piece of paper". That old chestnut which is thrown out by people who live together and are not married and feel the need to defend why. And for once I am writing on a subject where I actually have a wealth of experience, having been married for 9 years and having nursed that marriage back from the brink. Would we have just walked away if that inconsequential piece of paper didnt exist? Probably we would have, because it would have been easy at the time. But because we had made a real, formal, legal commitment we didn't give up on it, and boy am I glad we didn't.

That piece of paper is what should be the framework for the give and take a marriage requires. It doesn't always work of course but if you respect it then it should.

What I mean is this....

Things I do that drive my husband up the wall:

Not washing the breakfast bowl
Losing things. All the fucking time and sometimes with startling rapidity.
Being generally clumsy and sustaining injuries/ the associated trips to A&E
Get incredibly drunk from time to time and then lose a day whimpering
Use the washing machine at random times
Use every single implement we own in the completion of one recipe (which he then washes)
Forget to turn the heating down/off.
Lose my temper over silly things. And I mean really sodding lose it.

Things I do that make up for it:

All the food shopping and 90% of the cooking, cos I know he hates it.
Cater for him being pescatarian and me hating fish.
Remember Birthdays, buy cards etc for said birthdays.
Wrap all his presents for him, cos I know he hates it.
Always save the baking bowls for him (raw cake mix!? get in!).
I am the magical toiletries fairy that keeps him in a never ending supply of deoderant, mouthwash etc.
Collect him mid run/post run/post football from wherever/whenever.
Make his lunch for work each night.
Attempt to sew buttons back on to things.
Iron things occasionally.
Organise our social lives.


Things that my husband does that do my head in:

Cannot make a snack without leaving crumbs everywhere.
Gets up at stupid o'clock even on a weekend hence waking me up
Seems to get out of the shower before switching it off, hence drenching entire ensuite every time.
Is evangelical about the bloody laundry. Set times for certain washes (I wish I was joking)
Eats things I have saved for something specific without me realising until halfway through a recipe.
Cuts toenails in the living room.
Tidies things away while I am still using/eating them. Frequently tips away half a mug of tea I have not finished.
Leaves assorted litter under the passenger seat of my car.

Things that my husband does that make up for it:

Makes me tea most mornings, unprompted.
All the hoovering.
Most of the washing (at specific times as mentioned above)
Washes up. Continuously.
Books wonderful things off his own back for us to see/do - is v thoughtful.
Lets me have the last glass of wine in the bottle.
Lets me lose my temper and then talks me down off the ceiling.
Puts things into perspective amazingly well.
Copes with my uttely bonkers family without running for the hills.

And so, you see, as long as you remember that there are equal and opposite things that you both do and both bring to the table then it works.

I do reckon though that being married, rather than just co-habiting, adds a level of public and private commitment to a relationship which is more than just a piece of paper. This is why ANYONE should be allowed to marry their partner and I am a staunch supporter of gay marriage being as legally binding and officially recognised as marriage between a man and a woman - because (unless you are a god fanatic, in which case I have other beefs with you anyway) it's not about the tradition its about the respect you have for each other as human beings and that despite the fact you know you will do each others swedes in for a proportion of the time (unavoidable) you will balance it out by being half of a pretty solid team.







Monday, 8 October 2012

Learn to Engage Brain!

Throughout my life the one thing which has repeatedly got me in trouble is a disturbingly bad signal strength between my brain and my mouth which can sometimes lead to idiotic things coming out of it. I also seem to be particularly skilled at tossing weapons to people who have a penchant for pistol whipping. Sometimes it really does feel like painting me as a cartoon villain is an official sport but more often than not it is my own fault for starting the ball rolling.



I genuinely am intrigued by people's behaviour (probably should have gone into psychology) and fascinated by the differences in the way people respond to different things. Unfortunately some people are so incredibly defensive that my unconsidered and uncensored musings on these differences provoke all kinds of unexpected outbursts - and I also find that intriguing - except for when it turns into another round of being attacked, seemingly for gratification.

What I really need to remember is that family ties are not necessarily a filter or protection from receiving a mental/emotional battering. And I should know better really after many years of taking them from certain people, in fact rather than being some kind of prevention I actually think the 'family' tie is an inflammatory aspect sometimes and leads people to believe that they can get away with stuff because you are 'family'.

I have never ever claimed (and never would) that my actual family are saints, they clearly are not. I will take criticism of them on the chin when I know it is true and within reason, equally I think I manage pretty well not to twist flippant comments into reasons to kick off - but then I have grown up in an environment where people say what they think, share things pretty openly (for better or worse) and where there is a high level of well intended banter and teasing. Being free and easy with opinions was not just a right in my family, it was a rite of passage.

I am also very relaxed and will even join in with what could be construed as really quite offensive mockery of certain elements of my extended family because I can appreciate the grains of truth within it. I am not precious about this kind of thing because that's just not really me. I dislike confrontation and will 99.9% of the time avoid it if at all possible. Life really is too short. 

There is an element of irony here that sometimes the very person who is most vocal about the 'loopers' I happen to be related to is the most incredibly easy to inflame into baffling rage over (what to me seem) trifling comments about their own relatives. A healthy dose of context can be dismissed at the drop of a hat and in the cold light of day the actual original incriminating element can even seem humorous when compared to the level of rage it subsequently provoked.

I suspect that the reasons for turning something and nothing (or an ill thought out and unintentionally idiotic statement) into a hate crime of herculean proportion which no amount of apologizing can atone for, is something altogether less obvious and stems from deep seated issues elsewhere. I do make myself a very easy target and this is something I probably need to work on to avoid such terribly bewildering situations in the future.

The thing with 'family' in all its connotations is that the old adage of always hurting the ones we love most is very true; as human beings we have an amazing ability to forgive as well and this is very important. People are different, people lash out and people can be idiots - all of this is true. It is very rare however to find somebody who intentionally sets out to cause distress - I may be an idiot and say very stupid things sometimes but I am not a bad person and the last thing I would ever want is to upset someone I love.

Yesterday was a very trying day and I made a bad situation worse by losing patience (after an hour of being quite calm and tolerant) and then losing my rag. Keep cornering and beating any animal with a stick and eventually they will attack - but I know I made the situation worse by doing so. Lesson learned though, next time just walk away instead of letting it push my buttons. It was absolutely my fault in the first place but sometimes you have to know when to give up with trying to explain and apologize because it is never going to be enough unless the person you are apologizing to wants it to be.

I really feel like I learnt a sharp lesson yesterday and in the hours last night after the event; some battles you will never win, especially when you provided the ammunition. Sometimes it is so much better to just take a leaf out of someone else's book and hold it all in. My husband says I need to improve at 'being the bigger person' and he knows me better than anyone else in the world so I believe him. He usually speaks sense.

The next six months are going to be tough as we prepare to emigrate and I know that there will likely be difficult conversations and strained emotions all round. Moving to the other side of the world does have that effect on people and everybody will deal with it in their own way. I will miss people so very much that at times I already wonder why the hell we are doing this.

But then I remember that this adventure has always been part of our life plan and that I am incredibly lucky to have a life partner on the same page as me. Neither of us wants this more than the other and this has been very much a joint decision driven by us both. My mission and focus from this day forwards is to try and get us to March 26th 2013 as smoothly and calmly as possible. And as one very very profound friend of mine told me this morning; "Arguments are horrible but they serve a purpose: they make you appreciate the good times even more".

     

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Fly Fawlty Towers Airlines!

Having just returned from a fabulous few weeks holiday in Australia and Singapore I have a LOT to blog about, especially as the trip was with my Mom and Step-Dad which made for an interesting time indeed. I will no doubt do this in bits and bobs over the coming weeks, but one blog post which I actually started while we were away (the beauty of i-Pads!) was this one...

We travelled from Sydney to Singapore on new 'budget longhaul' airline Scoot during our trip and I have to say that from the word go it was like some kind of farce. Now to be fair, we paid £150 each for an 8 hour flight so in terms of value this was a great deal - but the trade off seems to be staff that literally have no idea of their arses from their elbows.





Don't get me wrong, they were all polite enough (certainly beating the Vietnam Airlines crew we had flown with a few weeks before who were aiming for some kind of surly world record) and they were trying very hard - but it felt like the plane was staffed with work experience kids who had been thrown in at the deep end. Here is an account of what happened on the flight:

1) Having just boarded and taken seats the cabin manager introduces himself and welcomes us to this flight to "Bangkok" - at which point we all start looking at each other a little worried.....5 mins later he comes back on and reassures us that this plane is in fact bound for Singapore as expected.

* I should also have mentioned the crazy lady who was the third person in our row - she did not help matters on what was a pretty surreal flight but more of her later*

2) The moment we get airborn the bonging starts. Whoever designed this plane needs shooting - whenever someone presses their call bell there is a very loud and continuous bonging noise until the cabin crew respond - I have never experienced this on any other flight, usually one bong and a small light on over the relevant chair suffices - but not on Scoot. This bonging then continues for pretty much the entire flight, not helped by the ridiculous placing of the button within the arm rest which means that people are continually falling asleep and setting it off by accident. At one point I decided to count the gaps between the bonging incidents - the longest I got to was 9 seconds. I am still hearing the bonging now.

3) Someone has told the cabin crew that they must respond to the bongs above all else, including the standard trolley service of drinks and food - this was not helped by an attitude from a lot of the passengers that they could not be arsed to wait for the snails pace trolley to get their drinks and snacks, they would therefore bong and the staff would duly abandon their trolley and saunter off to deal with one specific request at a time. This meant that it took 2 and a half hours from take off before we were offered anything. It was like torture watching the staff running about responding to bongs and making such incredibly slow progress with the trolley. I also wanted to lynch the selfish fuckers continually bonging for a couple of beers and a pot noodle in what is seemingly a legitamised version of queue jumping.

4) The staff were perpetually losing track of who had ordered what and there seemed to be a master list (literally a large print out) which said who had pre- ordered meals - against which there was a massive amount of cross checking, utter confusion and puzzled conflabs occurring. More than once we saw a member of cabin crew wandering up and down (ignoring bongs at this point) trying to fathom who the ice cream she was carrying was actually for, they would pace up and down for a good ten minutes before giving up. My poor, starving step-dad finally got to order a meal a few hours in - and then had to wait an hour and a half before he actually received it. He probably should have bonged.

5) The cabin crew guy comes back on 6 hours into an 8 hour flight and announces that from this point on and "for the next five hours" of the flight, there will be no trolley service. Utter puzzlement from the passengers - are we now going to Bangkok after all? In any event it was probably lucky that they had stopped trolley service as by this point they had only just completed the first service.

6) As we began our descent into Singapore (which had thankfully been reconfirmed as the destination by the Captain) the usual instructions about turning off electronic equiptment was read out a couple of times. Crazy Lady next to us at this point SWITCHED ON her i-Phone and began calmly text messaging someone and then playing solitaire. In the following 15 minutes until we were on the tarmac no less than 8 cabin crew walked past our row doing the cursory glancing left and right to look for such plane-crash inducing numpties. ALL of them missed the fact she was in an aisle seat quite blatently on her phone.

So there you have a rough idea of the bewilderment of both crew and passengers on this flight. Add to this our token crazy lady and this flight, for me at least, passes into surreal legend.

Crazy Lady - On boarding the plane this woman was already in the aisle seat of our row and we had the window and middle seat booked. In order to let us in she stood up and at this point I realised that on the floor she had three different bags of varying sizes and 3 two litre bottles of water. Now I effing hate it anyway when people do this. There are overhead lockers for a reason and it just makes it difficult for anyone else to get in and out when you keep so much stuff on the floor under your legs. Of course, on a normal flight the cabin crew would probably have made her put at least some of her stuff up but this was Scoot so they just ignored it. Despite the water bottles rolling around everywhere on take off.

She seemed to be slightly agitated. I started to think she might be disturbed when she leaned her head against the chair in front while we taxied to take off and started muttering. During the flight she turned to the old favourite of business tools to keep her sane and completed a SWOT analysis (I shit you not) which I struggled very much to keep a straight face about (I could not resist peeking from behind my kindle to see what she was writing, the chance of finding out what made this looper tick was too great to resist).

From this I deduced that she was headed to a retreat somewhere in Malaysia. The 'itinerary' she was carrying suggested a lot of yoga and meditation. Lord knows she needed it (and so did I after 8 hours on a Scoot flight next to her). The SWOT told me that her strengths are 'talking to people' (really?) and her weaknesses include 'being unable to say no'. For what its worth I hope she enjoyed her time in 'retreat'.

In the middle of the flight and in the 2 minute window where there was no trolley in the aisle my husband and I decided we could wait no longer and needed the loo. Crazy Lady was snoring with her mouth open and dribbling by now (anxieties clearly soothed by the SWOT) and I had the unenviable task of waking her. On touching her shoulder she shot up like a jack in a box, anxiety fully restored, but she graciously let us out and wandered off herself in the other direction.

As we returned from the loo my husband decided to go and buy us a couple of beers - there were 6 cabin crew in the galley at the back so it should have been a quick transaction. However, I could see from where I was stood by the loos that something was clearly amiss, the galley looked like chaos with all the staff routing through drawers etc, it turned out that they had run out of the particular beer he had asked for and in herd mentality had turned the galley upside down just to be sure. He finally laid his hands on two different beers and handed over a $50 note. I watched his face become utterly baffled and waited another 5 minutes until he finally started back down the plane with his change and the beers - apparently the note was passed around 6 members of staff before the change was sorted. Nothing on this flight was as simple as it should have been.

Whilst I was waiting for the farcical beer transaction to be finished, Crazy Lady wandered up to me and told me (for no particular reason) that she is an anxious flyer. I do wonder whether on her return trip to Australia she was less anxious/crazy due to the yoga etc. I hope for whoever sat next to her's sake that she was. Notably she only drank 1 of the bottles of water and left two full bottles under on the floor. Perhaps someone had tipped her off that due to bonging incidents and inept staff she may be lucky to actually get a drink on the flight.

All in all I can not remember a flight which felt more like an episode of Fawlty Towers. I am sure in years to come Scoot will have staff that are experienced and less like rabbits in the headlights, part of this 'work-experience' feel is likely because they decided to recruit the majority of staff from scratch. We travel on this kind of 'budget long haul' airline quite frequently (15 flights with Air Asia over the last 3 years) and it can work really well - plus the value it offers is fantastic, personally, though, I like my long haul flights to be less farcical so I hope they sort themselves out soon.



 

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Comedy of Errors

Some of you will know that me and my husband are travel obsessed. It is a running joke that we go on so many holidays, for us it is our main 'hobby' if you like. We usually take around 5 trips a year, one major and the rest smaller city breaks and so on. You may wonder how we manage this (if I had a pound for every time someone asked) as we are not in fact rolling in it. The answer is simple - we do not participate in the most expensive and time consuming hobby of all (kids) and whenever and wherever we travel we cut the costs enormously by doing it all ourselves, easy really.

When people begin to scroll through pictures of their offspring on their phones I am tempted to scroll through my pictures of our holidays in response. Equally they would probably be as interested in pictures of my lie ins....maybe I should start taking pictures of my lie ins for the next time this happens...."yes, this time I did not get out of bed until 2PM, can you believe it!?" Anyway...

Last year was a bumper and expensive one even for us, mainly because of the locations we have visited....these were...

Australia (April) - Mackay Reef in fetching raincoats...

Italy (June) - Milan Duomo

and

Antigua (Sept) - my view for the day

We also went to Tallinn for a long weekend in November. Only 4 holidays last year but Australia was a 3-week affair.

Anyway, Antigua was a particularly blog-worthy holiday and I have been meaning to finish and post this for a while. The holiday was a success overerall - but it seemed to be jinxed. This is what happened...

(I had noticed on the news in the week leading up to our holiday that a tropical storm called Maria was making her way across the caribbean but she was not expected to cause any issues.)

Tropical Storm Maria - Sept 2011

Friday night and we set off down to Gatwick as we had a fairly early flight on the Saturday morning so had booked into 'Gatwick Travelodge' (the inverted commas will become clear shortly). We had a fairly good run of it and didn't hit any traffic until the M25 - I very nearly said out loud how lucky this was but decided against it.

As we approached Crawley I used my phone sat nav to locate the Gatwick Travelodge and sure enough it guided me straight in. This Travelodge had the weirdest car park, partly underneath the building and with every space seemingly designed to cause maximum stress when parking. It was also very busy and the only spaces left had a random pillar on one side or the other. I successfully backed into a space and ensured I could exit the car before realising all the luggage was in the boot and the husband was looking at me like I was a bit stupid as this was now against the wall. After a 3 hour drive I could not be bothered to repark and he subsequently carefully carried the luggage over the cars so we could go and check in.

At the desk we had the usual surname palava; "we have a booking in the name of Ogilvie"...."OgLIVie?"... "no, Ogilvie"...."Oliver??"...."no, Ogilvie"....and so on. But then the recption lady pointed out that we were 'not on the list'. It transpired that Gatwick in fact has two Travelodges, Gatwick Travlodge and the duplicitously named Gatwick CENTRAL Travlodge.

Turns out we were booked into Gatwick Central which is about a mile away from the Gatwick branch and is the least Travelodge-esque Travelodge I have ever experienced. It seems they have bought an old, dated and rather chintzy hotel (we thought maybe a Great Western or something) and are in the process of doing it up. At the moment 2 of the 5 floors are closed for refurbishing whilst the rooms that are usable (on the 2nd floor at least) are the dated, tired, old rooms from the previous hotel.

Once we had reclocated to the correct hotel and checked in we ate some dinner in the weird, old-man's-pub feeling restaurant attached (guess this will also be refurbed at some point) and then at about 9.30ish bought some drinks and headed up to the room. Where the TV refused to work. No signal at all. I was tired and a bit peeved by now but trotted off down the huge labyrinth of corridors back to reception (this is a HUGE hotel by travelodge standards) and they immediately offered us another room, gave me a key for the new one and off I went back upstairs to move everything.

I got back to our room to find Stu sat on the bed looking utterly mortified. He had just that minute had a cheery text off Virgin stating 'Dear Customer, your flight tomorrow has been cancelled and will now depart at 9.30am Sunday 11th'. Maria had caused this. In a rather subdued manner we re-camped to the new room a few doors down and then set about trying to get ANYBODY to answer the phone. Virgin put us on hold and left us there for an hour, doing circuits of elevator music. Travelbag (who we had booked through) simply told us the offices were closed. The car park people and Travelex the same.

In the end we had to just try and go to sleep knowing the flight was cancelled and that we would have to sort it out in the morning.

Next morning saw the pair of us, phones clamped to ears, from about 6am onwards. First we were told to get over to the Virgin desk at Gatwick, then we were told to stay where we were, then we were told that our flight had, in fact, just departed (at that point I very nearly exploded with anxiety and rage)....meanwhile the car park people told us that if we did not arrive at the car park on that day the booking would be cancelled and we would have to pay again.....and so it went on....

Eventually we managed to speak to a person with a brain (you would be amazed at how many numbskulls we had to go through to get to this stage) who confirmed that we did indeed need to speak to the Virgin crew at Gatwick who would book us into the Hilton (swank!) and give us food vouchers. 

Great stuff - we duly reported at the Virgin desk and actually all Virgin staff were excellent and efficient (you get what you pay for I guess) and they gave us all the info we needed and sent us on our way. Next stop was moving the car to the car park we had booked so as not to lose the booking, this left us in the weird situation of walking across the airport compound from the long stay car park to the Hilton South Terminal.

I deduced very quickly that airports are not designed with pedestrians in mind. No pavements and soggy verges made a short walk a bit of a nightmare with luggage but eventually we arrived at the Hilton. Where there was a pretty long queue of Virgin passengers waiting to check in.

At the desk we began the name game again, "Ogilvie", "OGlivie!?", "No, O G I L V I E", "Oligarchy?!" and then, yet again "You are not on the list". I was beginning to suspect that we were being filmed for some sort of hidden camera show at this point and was glancing furtively at the smartly attired Hilton bellboys trying to figure out which of them was harbouring the ghost of Jeremy Beadle.

In the end the bemused Front Desk man handed us the list to check ourselves and guess what? We were not on it. Cue an infuriated husband on the phone back to Virgin at Gatwick, a long conversation on our phone between them and the check in staff and FINALLY a room key.

Things went a bit smoother for the next few minutes, we checked in to a gorgeous room with a view of the runway but triple glazing to minimise the sound and started planning what we would do with our unexpected bonus day at Gatwick. It was only 11.30am and we had a full day and night ahead of us to fill, the possibilities were endless. Sort of.

At this point it dawned on us that the private transfer we had booked for Antigua was going to need to be changed so we got back on the phone to Travelbag. We had a very circular conversation with a member of their team who refused to believe that the flight had been cancelled because nobody from Virgin had told them so. Eventually they accepted that we were not lying and promised to rearrange the transfer for us and reconfirm the accomodation and they would re-email us the details with the dates changed.

Fine, we thought, lets hit Crawley town and have some holiday hi-jinks (roughly translated as 'spend £16 on a 5 mile taxi ride to a multiplex cinema and watch The Inbetweeners Movie').

Coming out of the film a few hours later we checked emails on our phones and, quelle surprise, had received nothing from our friend at Travelbag. A number of phone calls followed and after much chasing we finally got the confirmation we needed.

Back to the Hilton and a lovely all inclusive buffet plus a bottle of wine and an early night; the great thing about this hotel is that it is literally linked by a tunnel directly into the terminal (South) so you do not even have to go outside to get to the gate of a morning, great if you have an early flight (but no doubt much more pricey than the Travelodge).

So, the flight to Antigua was uneventful, save for the cling-on bore - every package holiday seems to have one - who was seated behind us going on and on at an unfortunate couple seated in the row next to him. After loads of Ryanair flights (and Airasia who are the longhaul version) in the last few years I have to say it felt like utter indulgence to fly with Virgin Atlantic, free drinks, spot on service, meals and snacks included, nice big seat pitches, etc etc. Bliss.

On landing in Antigua it was raining. The tropical storm which had caused us to be 24 hours late arriving was still moving through. I am not being flippant here, we could have been in Barmouth for the way the sky looked as we were driven out of the airport (the rearranged transfer had at least turned up!). Barmouth with palm trees. The sea was a steely grey.

Anyway, we arrived at our hotel and were immediately shown the Caribbean way of dealing with anything. Relaxed does not even come close to explaining the entire attitude of all the staff. Guess what? If you think Ogilvie is a difficult name to pronounce in the UK it is utterly baffling and hysterically funny to Antiguans. Needless to say we made our way to the room and I was a little apprehensive about it given the holiday so far - it was a ground floor room but opened on to a lovely patio area with a view of the sea. I was happy.

What I hadn't factored in was the proximity of this room to reception. During the day this was not a problem, but believe me, we felt like we were joining in the karaoke (we were not - hell on earth) because it was so loud in our room of an evening. Every evening. If I never hear 'Is This The Way to Amarillo?' again it will be too soon.

One of the reasons we were in our room in the evenings rather than in the bar was that we were on a budget and staying on a room only basis in, effectively, an all inclusive resort. This does not bother us, all inclusive is not an option we ever usually take because we prefer to eat at local restaurants and not be confined to the resort. Accordingly we had been into St John's and paid about 50p a bottle for a load of beer which was in our fridge - much more appealing that paying around £3 a bottle in the hotel bar and having to endure the company of the essex crowd (plus Neil - the loner cling on).

Now, this Essex crowd were hideous. Maybe one of the downfalls of flying out of Gatwick on a package holiday is that this is going to be your standard group of travel companions. Most of them middle aged, perma-tanned, gold jewellery embellished couples. Every day we would watch them proceed down to the beach and claim their sunbeds for the day and then frazzle themselves (the rain thankfully cleared by our second day) whilst shrieking at each other and making repeated trips to the bar for thimble size glasses of beer. We kept ourselves to ourselves and bought our own beers and were quite happy reading and relaxing and occasionally having a swim in the perfect clear waters.

Every day at some point it would become clear which of the many middle aged couples Neil had identified as his target for the day. It was mildly amusing to watch him boring them senseless with the same tale of why he was on his own (wife ran off with salesman - can't think why) and literally shadowing them for the rest of the day. The poor guy is clearly quite lonely, we were just glad he left us alone because we were not wearing all inclusive wristbands (this was the conclusion we drew, it may have been just that we are very good at avoiding eye contact).

So, I should have pointed out that on our first morning in the resort we had a meeting with the rep from the local travel company (working on behalf of Virgin) who told us all about the various tours which we had no intention of taking (we are quite happy to explore on our own) and also about a Virgin service where you can pay to have your suitcases collected from the hotel first thing on the day you leave and checked in for you, thus meaning you can just make your way straight to the gate on arrival at the airport. This sounded like a great idea and we handed over the cash (about £50) to do this. Given the stress and misshaps on the way out this seemed like a great idea.

This initial meeting with our rep had not filled me too full of confidence. She had a gigantic handbag full of random bits of paper (which she dropped twice in the space of half an hour) and seemed only half aware of what was going on. This was going to come back to haunt us, I thought to myself.

Sure enough, check out day arrived, I was relieved to see that Neil was not among those guests checking out after one week, he was clearly staying on for another week of haranguing other holidaymakers. We duly took our cases to the foyer to hand them over to Virgin staff who were on time and quickly checking in peoples bags as planned.

Once again we had a 'You are not on the list' moment. This was after the usual 'O-g-i-l-v-i-e' exchange. I was mortified. And we were rather angry as the rep had our money and had not actually booked the service with Virgin but had disappeared with it instead.

I was proper ready to explode with rage at this point. From start to finish this had been a holiday of utter administrative nightmare. Thankfully Virgin stepped in and agreed to check our bags in on trust that the money really was with the rep (we thankfully had a hand written receipt for this). They then said they would track the rep down themselves to recover it and checked in our bags.

By the time we got to the airport I was hoping for some kind of miracle reversal of fortunes and we did get a slight one - the flight home was literally half empty and we each bagged a whole middle row of seats on which to stretch out and watch films.

Given that in a few weeks time we are travelling long haul with my parents for the first time - and staying at one of the Gatwick Travelodges again (NOTE TO SELF - ESTABLISH WHICH ONE!) I figured it was time to finally publish this blog and I may work on a few other holiday tales between now and then too. I am hoping, for the sake of all of our sanitys that we have no such issues on the flights between (wait for it) London and Sydney (via Ho Chi Minh and an 8 hour stopover in Kuala Lumpur) or coming back from Singapore to London (via KL again and then Hanoi and then Frankfurt). I may be asking too much.

Of course I will also be hoping we do not get singled out by a Neil because whilst I am adept at ignoring potential irritants my nicotine starved Mum and Step-dad may actually rip his head off and stick it up his backside. Then again that may prove to be quite amusing on a long haul flight - we shall see. Anyway folks, more travel related blogs to follow so watch this space! 


Friday, 17 August 2012

The Greatest Show on Earth

A funny thing happened on Friday 27th July, 2012. At the grand old age of 33 and with a visa in hand to move to the other side of the world I finally realised that I am INCREDIBLY proud to be British. Why? Well, this....



If you saw it then you probably have a sense of what I am talking about, the sheer lunacy and brilliance of the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics could only be British. Danny Boyle did us proud - and I never expected any less as a member of 'Generation Trainspotting'.

Back in 1996 Danny Boyle managed to make a film which was fascinating, funny, gritty and bleak all at the same time. He told us to Choose Life. The soundtrack encapsulated everything that was 'cool' about Cool Britannia at the time without being in-your-face mainstream trendy, it spoke for a generation who felt frustrated with the lack of opportunities presented to them by post-recession Britain and the social problems which were abundant alongside this.

The feelings back then were similar to those we have in 'austerity Britain' today. In fact the situation right now is actually probably worse in terms of unemployment, cost of living and anti-social behaviour. So how nice is it to cut loose for three hours celebrating all the things that MAKE us British in a warm, humerous, powerful and positive way?

I can tell you that I had no idea how affected I would be by Danny Boyle's masterpiece. I knew his involvement and trademark quirky, clever style would mean I would probably enjoy it. But I never thought it would bring me to tears and get me into such an utter frenzy of excitement that my husband would have to tell me to calm down and stop TWEETING IN CAPITAL LETTERS. I kid you not.

For me the highlights were the political narrative - the suffragettes, nods to the striking miners and the industrial revolution, the abundently clear affection for our National Health Service and the stunning representation of our considerably magnificent cultural canon of music, literature and the arts which - when viewed all together in this manner - were breathtaking in their glory.

We might have whinged for years now about what this games will cost us, how inconvenienced we might be by hosting it and the shambles of security and ticketing farces. But that's just the British way. Not for us the Chinese style of communist blanket praise and terrifyingly perfect and synchronised celebration, nor the American ability to big up our abilities and truly believe in our greatness. No, our style is far more self deprecating and tongue in cheek - and I think on Friday 27th July I realised that this is who I am and the stone I am cut from.

As it happened the transport ran smoothly, the security worked because we crisis managed by bringing in the forces (much kudos to those men and women) and people managed to get tickets at the last minute - not that many venues seemed empty (although it was not perfect I am sure). We actually did a damn good job when the pressure was on. Well done us.

The two weeks that followed the opening ceremony were equally emotional and for the first time in my adult life I totally engaged with the Games, cried with Chris Hoy and Rebecca Addlington, nearly burst with pride for Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah and felt like for those 15 days the UK was THE place to be, showing the world what we are made of and why we deserved to host the Olympics at such a pivotal moment on the world stage.

There were so many positives from London 2012 that I temporarily forgot that we are in a double dip recession, the Tory fools are in government, the riots of last year are not that long ago and the cost of living is getting to the point of ridiculousness. And I don't know about you but it felt nice to temporarily put that out of my mind and bask in the successes of our athletes - a group of people who put dole dossers, tax dodging fat cats, slimy, double dealing politicians and 'reality tv' celebrities to shame. THAT is what hard work can get you.

Personally I felt the closing ceremony was rather a let down (and not a patch on Danny Boyle's Opener - I feel he will be currently ensuring everyone knows he did not do the closing ceremony). It was unhinged - but not in a quirky amusing way, the music was good but not as good as the last time, someone underestimated how long it would take the athletes to get out (amazing considering we had already done this once at the opening ceremony) and hence we had the same set of tracks on repeat to fill time. Somebody thought Russell Brand on top of a bus singing I am the Walrus was a good idea....honestly....

But aside from the weird as fudge closing ceremony London 2012 turned me from an Olympics sceptic into a proud as punch brit - look what we can do whilst the whole world is in turmoil - and we can smile and laugh while we do it.

Maybe it is because I am conscious that my days on this Island are numbered before a big old move to Australia - but I do believe that at least now, thanks to the Olympics and in a massive way to Mr Boyle, I know what it is to be British.



Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Fifty Shades of Bleugh



Those four words are having an unprecedented effect on just about every adult female I know right now. And you cannot turn on a TV or open a newspaper or scan a website without finding reference to it. For me it has already reached the tedium level (a level currently rather cluttered with babyrelated status updates and the flood/drought correspondent see-saw).

You only have to type 'f-i-f' into google for it to autocomplete the title of this book by EL James. It is officially the fastestselling adult book of all time. Why? Because women never stop talking to each other and the hype wave on this one has led to a feeling that one simply MUST be in this club or else feel incredibly left out. 

Aside from all this, some amoeba coined the patronizing and idiotic phrase 'mummy-porn' to describe this phenomena (I blame the Daily Mail who use it frequently - says it all really) and unfortunately this seems to have stuck. I will absolutely 'defriend' (ha ha) the next person to use this description in a status update. You have been warned. When people assume all adult females have/want kids and push us all into the parent category it REALLY pisses me off. 

Anyway....I read the trilogy a couple of months ago, just as the popularity of the series began to reach fever pitch. I actually stumbled upon them by accident because I had googled Stephanie Meyer (author of the Twilight books) to see whether she was writing anything else and found an article on the Fifty Shades series which was originally based on Twilight's Bella/Edward relationship. EL James happened to be a Twilight uberfan who wanted to fill a gap for adult readers (for whom the Twilight romance was a little frustrating at times in it's tameness) and this sparked my curiosity. 

I am a bit baffled, I have to say, about what all the fuss is about. Yes there is a lot of 'kinky fuckery' (to use FSOG lingo) in it - but has nobody ever read Jilly Cooper before? Ok, so this is a 'modern' story with modern protagonists but it is certainly not the first erotic fiction to hit the mainstream markets. Black Lace have been catering to this audience for many years (250 titles since 1993).

Yes, it is a great 'romp' of a novel, perfect for holiday reading or some quiet escapism - but I do not think the literary canon should be worried just yet. I find the style of writing lazy at times (quite staccato. In places. Where Ana thinks like this. Frequently. Whilst biting her lower lip. For the millionth time.) And by the middle of the second book I was cursing her 'inner goddess' for being such a pillock, quite frankly.

There are so many things that Anastasia Steele does which render her an irritating heroine in my book (arf). Aside from the continuous lip biting and references to her inner goddess there are many times when I would happily shake her for being such a simpering fool. She could have been a character used to show how an intelligent woman can make it in the world whilst being sexually confident, instead we have to endure her 'journey' (a word banned in our house due to the nauseating overuse on X Factor/Strictly/The Voice) from amazingly chilled out virgin to full on nympho whilst her 'inner goddess' cheers her on from the sidelines. It's hardly believable to the cynic in me.

Also, there are many little things which annoy me by appearing with alarming regularity, here is a short (and not extensive) list: white wine, the aforementioned lip biting, the phrase 'oh my!', exclaimations such as 'holy hell!' (does this girl not even swear properly!? Is she Batman in disguise?!), more white wine (of the expensive variety - grape must be identified), an inordinate amount of descriptions of journeys in lifts, eye rolling. I do understand literary devices but for christ's sake! Overkill.

In moderation any of the above would probably not be annoying but I was bored of their frequency by the middle of book two. Add to this an ending (***SPOILER ALERT***) where any half-brained cynic (for this read 'woman who has been in a long term relationship with someone of the opposite sex') would have been raising their eyebrows at the sedate scene of domestic bliss presented to us.

I for one do not believe that Christian Grey will remain so physically besotted with and adoring of Ana in ten years time when she is knackered, her boobs are sagging and her appetite for a good spanking has been replaced with an appetite for a decent night's sleep. If he really is as sexually centred as we have been led to believe then this is a bit of an impasse. But then I guess this is where we should remember it is a work of fiction after all.

And that's my point really...if I have to endure another 'news' story about how FSOG has changed someones life or bought back awfulmemories for someone else I will scream. It's just a saucy book. Not even the first saucy book in the world. Lady Chatterley's Lover anyone? No?

Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike the books, I just wish the over-the-top manic hype would stop. I am also slightly saddened that people who have not read anything for years will pick this up and break that trend - and probably then stop reading again, there are so many GREAT books out there - they just haven't been hyped like this one. To my mind, the tagline 'if you only read one book this summer' should be finished with the words 'then you are a bit of a tool'.

Finally, on a most important note....if they do make a film of this book it has GOT to be the rather delectable Ian Somerhalder in the role.

Adding this in as an afterthought....in the words of Monty Python...Christian Grey - "he's not the messiah, he's just a very naughty boy!"

Monday, 13 February 2012

MILF or MILI?

Since the 'news' (and I use the term loosely) last week that Denise Welch's marriage was over I have been trying to vocalise my thoughts on the whole situation. It has particular resonance for me as I happen to have the misfortune to be related to someone with a similarly cringeworthy inability to realise what is and what is not appropriate for a woman of a certain age.

Please look at this series of pictures for as long as your eyes will allow you to:





That's right. It's Denise Welch getting her puppies out. Again and again and again. Is nobody else cringing at the hideous embarressment caused by these images? Is nobody else feeling empathy for her poor sons who must be experiencing the worst kind of mortification possible?

What is it with women of a certain age (and a certain mental state probably) which makes them think that whatever issues they are having, whatever social scene they are currently in, whatever the problem - the answer is always getting their baps out? It makes me want to put my head in my hands and rock like an abandoned child, confused at the world and how it works.

Frequent banger-flashing is the most often captured symptom of this kind of mindset but it is not usually seen in isolation. This is just the most media friendly kind of episode and therefore the one most frequently snapped. In my experience it is only one small sample of a number of behavioural traits commonly displayed by this kind of humanoid. Not a MILF, more like a MILI (Mother I'd Like to Incarcerate).

I speak from mortified experience. I have the misfortune to be related to a prime example of a MILI. I have gone through many different emotions regarding her throughout my life and can honestly say I was close to her as a child (before I started to be aware of the behaviour which would, in later life, lead to frustration, bafflement, anger and resentment).

You would not believe me if I told you what she does for a living (oh the irony) but needless to say she is, technically, a pretty high flying professional. I first became aware of a 'difference' with this side of my family as a child. Parties were, at best, weird and at worst like some kind of acid induced nightmare. 'Parties' are absolutely key to this group however and must include the following things (along with at least a tenuous excuse for said 'celebration'):

1) An absolute truckload of alcohol.
2) A village hall type venue.
3) A dodgy DJ.
4) A godawful buffet of the type usually seen on Iceland adverts.

Once these things are in place invites can be sent. But only to the section of family you are currently speaking to. Those not invited must be notified that they are, of course, not invited and the reasons why reiterated as a matter of course.

At said party the following things should happen otherwise the gathering cannot be legitimately considered a party:

1) Female crying by 9pm.
2) Fight being sparked by 10pm.
3) Lairy middle aged woman who should know better crawling round the dance floor, flashing knickers, getting tits out and generally making an absolute arse of herself while anyone with half a brain convulses from cringing.
4) If you are lucky some of the blokes will get naked and run around - what utter hilarity.

Having stated the above I actually feel like I can empathise with those people at AA meetings when they stand up and say 'My name is X and I am an alcoholic' except that my declaration seems to be 'My name is Ali and I must admit that I am related to these people'.

Anyway. At my wedding nearly 9 years ago, this particular MILI managed to do all of the following (for what it's worth I had tried my best not to invite her but was overruled).

1) Steal our photographer for her own set of family shots just before we were scheduled in for our photos.
2) Upset my lovely step-mum during the wedding breakfast and be so out of order that my brother had to step in and ask her to behave.
3) Get so absolutely trolleyed by about 4pm that she went missing and another relative had to go and find her.
4) Crawl through a friend of mines legs on the dancefloor for no reason whatsoever before starting with the usual, tedious, banger flashing.

And the biggest irony of all?

A few years later she married her long term partner and father of two of her kids and I, personally, was warned to be 'on my best behaviour' at the wedding for fear of revenge behaviour. There are two things wrong with that - firstly I would never have such a loss of dignity as to behave like that in public and secondly - is it not just a tad hypocritical to expect people to behave at your wedding when you are entirely incapable of behaving at theirs?

Anyway, none of this explains the MILI as a personality type. My solution to being related to one is to go absolutely out of my way to ensure that I never, ever have to cross paths with her, especially at any kind of social event. My husband finds her utterly terrifying and I can't say I blame him, he comes from a highly reserved family where this kind of behaviour is entirely unknown, he has no frame of reference for dealing with it.

It is a sad state of affairs that Denise Welch's kids have to witness this MILI behaviour not just in person but across the media. I don't dislike her as a person, I truly hope she is ok in the wake of her marriage breakdown, its just that she currently epitomises a particular type of personality, seemingly found in women of a certain age, which touches nerves for me and evokes memories I have successfully buried over the years. It is hard work being related to a MILI.

I often wonder how our MILI will age - whether she will calm down at all - but personally I cannot see that happening. Time will tell. One thing I am overly relieved about is that my mother is not a MILI at all (in fact she has been called a MILF many times over the years, much to her amusement) it really makes me thankful.

Sorry for the pictures. At least they are not of my much more scary MILI. I would not subject you to that unless you had REALLY done something to deserve it.
  

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Men With Rackets

This blog post is primarily about eBay and the way it forces you (as a seller) to deal with some complete and utter numpties. It is also about the fact that a recent bout of selling via eBay has taught me a vital life lesson. Men who play racket sports are, on the whole, utter tools.



Perhaps I should not be so surprised given that racket sports (and tennis in particular) have produced some of the best known temper tantrums ever observed during a live piece of TV reportage (and produced the vividly descriptive term of 'Macitude' as a result). Indeed even today I always find it intriguing how incapable of connecting with the viewers (or spectators) British male tennis players actually seem to be.

I single out male and British as the defining traits as (although McEnroe was American) we seem to find it difficult to actually like our tennis players that much. The classic current example is Andy Murray who is considered 'British' while winning but then immediately 'Scottish' once knocked out from a tournament in the semi-finals (as is seemingly his standard routine). Maybe this will change if he ever wins Wimbledon when he will, of course, become a national hero.

But anyway...I personally find that Federer, Nadal and even Djokovich look less tool-like than British men on the Tennis court and this further underlines my theory about our men and their rackets and their sheer nobheaded arrogance.

Do not for one second think I limit this to Tennis. I also know men who play squash as if their life depends on it. I know of one person (a friend of a friend) who was banned from a squash court for getting so angry he snapped his racket after injuring his opponent with a deliberate shot to the crown jewels (ow - even I can feel that pain).

My theory is that racket sports make men angry. And in particular they make your average uptight British bloke believe he has balls bigger than King Kong and a desire to show this to (imaginary) easily-impressed cave women types. The Guardian says Tennis Psychology determines that the game requires a high level of mental strength to be successful. Which is sort of the same thing but said with more academic clout.

I always like to get a grounded view of my theories and so I asked a good friend who is male whether he considered there might be legs to this. His response was that there is a pecking order for how idiotic the players were, as follows:


"Squash, Tennis, Badminton and then Table Tennis. I associate city boys playing squash letting out their frustration before going off to have an affair. Table Tennis is for nerds so they’re no trouble at all." (TWH Feb 2012)
I am inclined to agree with this and especially the comment re table tennis which I will come back to later....

Anyway. What happened to me was that in amongst a large eBay clear out were two things which my husband wanted me to sell. Namely one used Tennis racket with a cover and a pair of badminton rackets. These were clearly listed as used, in the case of the badminton rackets I even pointed out that one was more used than the other (my husbands) as I had used mine probably only a handful of times. There were also pictures to show the condition.

Both these items sold. In fact we were amazed at the level of bidding activity on both of them, much higher than we were expecting.

Both buyers paid within a few hours of the auctions ending (another pet hate of mine is when you - as the seller - spend fruitless hours chasing payment only to receive a completely idiotic response or even worse no response at all and an unpaid item dispute). But then out of 20 odd items sold we got two of the dreaded 'stupid whingey messages' that I so dread on ebay. And both were racket related.

Firstly the tennis racket buyer said that despite me listing the racket as a 26" racket it was in fact a 25" racket which deemed it 'no use whatsoever' to him. Really? A one inch difference is that significant?? In any event, the racket had not in fact been listed as a '26 inch' racket but as a Wilson Hammer 26 which was the name of the particular racket and emblazoned on the racket cover. At no point in the listing did I refer to size.

I thought this was a little odd and a bit picky. I also did not appreciate the passive aggressive tone of his message which also informed me that I would be paying the postage for him to return it for a full refund. Actually ebay sellers are afforded a minute amount of protection in cases like this and eBay seller rules clearly state that where a buyer wants a refund they must return it at their own cost. Of course a sympathetic seller may well offer to cover the postage back but this rude individual had already got my back up in the way that he had approached the issue.

Anyway, being a calm and level headed person (my husband was ready to drive to his house and ram said tennis racket somewhere unpleasant) I emailed him with the address to return the racket to, also pointing out that actually there was no 'error' in the listing but as I am a nice person I will refund him once I receive the item back.

In the meantime I visited his feedback page out of curiosity and all seemed to be in order but, curiously, he had just paid for another tennis racket....how odd...and for a lot less money than he had paid for ours....hmmmm. Reading the description of this other racket he had procured (for the princely sum of 99p) I was gobsmacked to find it referred to simply as 'adult size' and not the highly desirable and absolutely crucial 26 inches. How odd.

This other racket also had no cover. I will come back to that.

So, it was not a particularly difficult hop, skip and jump from where I am sitting to deduce that he does not want our racket because it was a darn sight more expensive than this second racket and so he simply decided to return it for a refund on a flimsy excuse. A timewaster. An arsehole. A tennis player.

On Saturday last week I had a racket shaped delivery by the postman, unfortunately this wonderful specimen of humankind had returned the racket.........but not the cover. I wonder why. Could it be his new cheaper racket does not have one!? What an absurd suggestion.

I swore for a number of minutes, restrained my husband who was on the verge of getting the car keys and heading off to confront him, and calmly emailed him again explaining very politely that the cover was missing and, assuming this is a genuine mistake, I need this back before I can process a refund - as per eBay selling regs which state an item must be in exactly the same condition when returned for a refund to take place.

He emailed back saying this was an error and he would return the cover. It has yet to appear. I have emailed eBay mediation and informed them of the situation. On my daily rate at work the amount of effort and time I have put into this sale would have cost 5 times the price of the racket. And it is not finished yet.

Racket incident number 2 is thankfully already resolved and luckily was a much less shady and more hilarious incident, albeit another example of racket arseholes.

The buyer of the badminton rackets was clearly a young lad with a penchant for sports (maybe he will yet turn away from racket sports and develop a healthy interest in a less tooly activity - there is hope). A few days after he received the rackets he sent me a VERY ANGRY message. His headmistress had been very cross with him apparently.

As an eBay seller you send to the address which they pass to you on payment. This is the only address we see and unless the buyer contacts you specifically to request a change of address we have no other choice but to send to the one we have. As I had. This buyer was based on a school campus (a boarder I assume - more evidence of class links to racket sports?) and clearly they have security regulations. Therefore, despite my addressing the item to him it had been stopped at the school reception much to the annoyance of the aforementioned head who told him "in no uncertain terms" that this was inappropriate.

He had had, he told me "a very bad day" and it was all my fault.

Aside from this, the rackets were worn! And one of them needed new grip tape!! This was hardly news as the listing had clearly stated this and the accompanying photos showed the wear but all the same he had "a good mind to send them back" based on his bad experience.

When I had finished chortling at this missive from a young Boris Johnson I emailed him back and pointed out that it was not in fact my fault that he was in trouble with his head, as sorry as I was to hear it and also reiterating the item details regarding wear on the rackets. To my surprise he left it at that (maybe he was late for a spot of wiff waff - the nerd) aside from leaving me unexpectedly clunky negative feedback. 

An annoyance as a seller on eBay is that you are simply not allowed to leave negative feedback for a buyer, you only have the options to leave 'positive' or you can choose to 'leave feedback later' which now leaves me in the irritating position of not quite knowing what to say in the 'positive' feedback I am forced to leave him after he has single-handedly screwed up my previously 100% positive rating as a seller. Maybe I should work on an overly sarcastic feedback comment.

At least he did not claw back his funds via paypal which anyone who pays via this method is actually allowed to do. This is another anti-seller bit of power to the buyer as the funds are put in limbo by Paypal before you even receive the item back and whether or not you agree to the same. You only have to google 'ebay refunds' to discover reams of annoyed sellers voicing anger on the various ways that eBay screws us, from the extortionate fees to the complete imbalance of power which always seems to favour the buyer. It truly makes you wonder why we bother.

Anyway, all of the above simply reinforces my belief that men who play racket sports are tools. Never again will I attempt to sell rackets via ebay because clearly the time wasted dealing with psuedo aggressive tosh from these twonks is not worth the piddling amount received at the end of it.

And as for Wimbledon this year - GO MURRAY - and please prove me wrong about men with rackets.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Plans for 2012

I hope everyone had a wonderful, relaxing and happy Christmas and New Year period. For once mine was indeed chilled out, lacking in any kind of tension and blissfully illness free. I have enjoyed it enormously.

Strangely, despite the fact it is now bleak January and today was the first day back to work I do not feel too depressed. Probably because 2012 promises to be a pretty exciting year for us and because I have a lot to look forward to. First of all we are off to Carcassonne 3 weeks on Friday which was a present for my 33rd birthday on New Year's eve.


Carcassonne, France

I have wanted to visit Carcassonne for some years now after reading a lot about the history of the region and the siege of the Cathars in medieval times. It is also fairly close to Toulouse so we will probably also visit there during our long weekend. I am thinking good food, good wine and good company with a great dose of culture, it ticks all the boxes for me.

Between now and then I shall be taking milk thistle supplement every day, trying to do zumba at least 3 times a week and getting properly back into healthy eating - although that said I have not been too overindulgent over the christmas period. We had a tin of Roses and a massive bag of peanuts in our house, neither of which I had a single morsel out of. I only ate 3 mince pies in the whole 10 day break and I had no christmas pudding at all.

Although I have had a drink pretty much every day since about the 23rd December I have not either had a hangover, a drunken accident or got completely trolleyed this year. At the grand old age of 33 I am finally learning to pace myself and stop when I have had enough. One of my new year's resolutions is to continue this trend throughout 2012.

I am, however, taking the milk thistle just to revive my liver a bit as it feels like a sensible thing to do. A very good friend pointed me to this article this morning which reinforced the belief that going entirely sober for January is a bad idea and also unecessary. Milk thistle is a good thing though.

Weirdly we bought a crate of beer and two boxes of wine before Christmas, as of 2nd January we still have half a crate of beer and probably a few glasses left in one of the wine boxes. And in some kind of strange occurance we now have a wine rack featuring 2 bottles of champagne/cava and 12 bottles of wine. All of these were presents for Christmas and my birthday....I must have some kind of reputation as a wino....surely not?

Anyway, that means we do not need to buy any more booze until at least next week......I jest, that should see us through the next few months. Which is good because this year is our AUSTERITY YEAR. But I refuse to see that as a negative.

I am absolutely determined to make some inroads into old debts this year and this means that for once we will not be swanning off on 5 or 6 mega holidays this year...we are going to have to make do with 1 or 2. Or maybe 3. And a weekend away to London in April does not count.....

We are going to London because Stu is running the marathon (this is the 3rd time he will have done London and he has also run them all over Europe). So we managed to get a cheap hotel (Easyhotel - fabulous) for the Friday and the Saturday, for Christmas Stu bought tickets for us to go to the Comedy Store on the Friday night and we have arranged to meet friends for dinner on the Saturday night, the only thing remaining to buy is train tickets so this should be a fairly cheap weekend away.

So, despite the austerity and the lack of big holidays I am actually pretty excited and positive about this year. These are my actual new year's resolutions:

1) Blog more - and finish the Quorn experiment.
2) Pay off at least two debts entirely by the end of the year.
3) Keep up the zumba and get back to target weight.
4) Learn to say 'NO' to things.

I think all of these are acheivable so let's see how it goes. Happy new year to you all.