Thursday, July 31, 2003

I'm being commissioned to write an article about "silent attrition". Believe me, I know all about that, but only as it applies to the soul. And speaking of which, some NTK sadist has seen fit to turn EHA back on. Just as we thought we might finally be free of its joy-sucking snarkocentrism...

Make the choice, adventurous stranger,
Click the link and bide the danger
Or wonder 'til it drives you mad
What would have happened if you had...

Monday, June 23, 2003

Haven't written in a while, as I seem to have been going through what my Dad would call a "personal reorientation". I now find myself living in my French house, only instead of carting rustic French furniture around in a Transit van, I am looking after my ailing mother who is being treated for ovarian cancer. With any luck, the malignant cyst that was removed two weeks ago in the Centre Hospitalier de Béziers (top marks to the French for their quality hospitals and attractive surgeons) was the end of it, but if not there are dark days of radiotherapy or chemotherapy ahead. It all depends on the results of Mum's next (exploratory) operation which is scheduled for the 3rd July. So fingers crossed that all will be OK.

Mum's sudden hospitalisation meant that I had to leave my job early, and leave both H. and the country in great haste. I arrived on some godforsaken Ryanair flight to Montpellier carrying nought but a modestly sized suitcase (filled mainly with designer furnishing fabric) and my work laptop, which I hope they're not expecting to get back any day soon. That and the bleedin' Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell, which I have been carrying around with me for seven years without ever finishing even one of the four novels it comprises.

Apart from the emotional rollercoaster of Mum's illness (though she herself insists she feels fine), the sudden uprooting and the 40+ degree heat, living here in the Languedoc does have some advantages. Instead of mangy one-footed pigeons there are hoopoes, goldfinches, swallows, herons and swifts in the garden and a black redstart nesting in the hole next to the front door. On returning from this evening's walk along the old railway line we were greeted ar the door by the first snake I have seen for ages - a beautiful little adder that we at first mistook for a lizard. And I finally get to play house in my house - so I've been spending a lot of time painting walls and shutters, improvising curtain rails, staining wood, rearranging the bathroom and reading endless copies of Maison Francaise and Coté Sud.

On the other hand, it is lonely (I don't feel I'm quite ready to join the hordes of retired expat Brits with their choir outings and bridge parties), broadband is a shimmering distant chimera (although I'm going to a France Télécom demonstration of ADSL on Wednesday) and money is tightish, although I have already been given some freelance work with hopefully more to come.

I'm going to bed - more updates to come, but don't expect Peter Mayle.

Saturday, May 17, 2003

Hmm, feeling a bit dangerously crazy these days...have caught myself buying all kinds of weird things, like the Collins Complete DIY Manual and a book about how to make cushions (if anyone thinks that doesn't really sound crazy, be aware that I have never made anything with my hands in my entire life, unless you count a yellow blanket for a doll's bed that I knitted when I was nine). Earlier on I found myself bidding for a power drill on ebay and even earlier I was on the Ford site configuring a dark blue short wheelbase medium-roofed Transit van. What's going on? Why have my hands gone numb? The thrill of imminent freedom is making me light-headed, have hatched all kinds of crazy plans about setting up a furniture shop in the cellar of my French house in which I will not only sell *lovely things* I picked up for next to nothing in the local depot-vente, but also beautiful cushions that I will have made with my fair hands (yeah right) from the bargain designer fabrics I've been buying by the bucketload on ebay. It all seems perfectly reasonable to me, but whenever I try and tell H. this is what I'm going to do, he looks at me like I'm a nutcase. Maybe it's the dilated pupils, wildly unbrushed hair and complete lack of make-up that I'm fetchingly sporting these days.

Meanwhile, back at work, my boss has apparently been telling everyone I'm leaving because I can't handle the stress. Thanks for that. Actually I'm leaving because I think that spending 15 hours a day either at work or travelling to and from work is inhumane. And dealing with the corporate politics of a company with 42,000 employees and several thousand battling egos is something that no decent adult should be required to do. Not to mention the fact that I've got just a mite fed up of the explicit Gulf War metaphors the company uses to describe its marketing strategy. Plus has anyone noticed how fantastically boring the corporate software industry is these days? Although rumour does have it that we're on the cusp of the Second Dotcom Boom - a rumour that, I'd like to point out in anticipation of future finger-pointing and recriminations when it all crashes again, was single-handedly started last week by Timothy J. Mullaney in Business Week. Hope he's right, I have high hopes for online sales of my rustic French furniture, Art Deco stoves and exquisite cushionry. Vive la révolution!

Saturday, April 05, 2003

The contents of my handbag:

90.80 euros
Receipt for one copy of the Times, one copy of Maison Francaise, purchased Munich Airport
Eurostar first class boarding pass and receipt - London to Paris
Receipt for NHS prescription
Petrol receipt
Piece of yellow notepaper bearing logo of my employers and someone's hotmail address
Bus ticket valid to Archway Station
Taxi receipt NW1 to Waterloo Station
Swissport boarding card Geneva to London
First Direct cheque book
Taxis Parisiens receipt - 40 euros
Taxis Parisiens receipt - blank
Lufthansa boarding card - Munich to London
Work security badge
Orbit chewing gum wrapper
Three St John's Wort tablets
Three weeks' worth of Cipramil tablets
One silver and green amber bracelet
Key to Peugeot 206 convertible
Two biros
Two black pony tail bands
Two modem adapters
One toothbrush
One American Express Corporate card
Unidentified receipt for 8.20 euros
Handouts from a Powerpoint presentation

Friday, March 21, 2003

Tomorrow promises to be a beautiful sunny, Spring day in London - and what better way to spend it than by joining thousands of other lovely people in protesting the devastation of Baghdad. Assemble at 1200 midday at either Gower Street or Embankment: further details here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Troops Poised To Attack Iraq

The trouble with newsfeed services like the mighty NewsNow is that in this time of crisis, you find yourself constantly gaping at the screen, watching the countdown to war unfold minute by painful minute, until you CAN'T TAKE IT ANY LONGER...

07:54GMT: BBC reports troops poised to attack Iraq.

12:52GMT: Troops poised on brink of war, affirms Reuters.

14:00GMT: The Islamic Republic News Agency says Tariq Aziz has been killed, according to a bloke in Bulgaria with the gift of second sight.

15:00GMT: The Sun claims that Tariq Aziz has defected to Kurdistan, according to a bloke in Bulgaria with a large telescope.

15:47GMT: UPI reports 17 million leaflets dropped on Iraq to persuade soldiers to surrender.

16:25GMT: Troops still poised for attack, according to Channel 4 News. Some of them are getting a bit of a stiff neck.

17:58GMT: Xinhua News Agency reports Aziz appears on telly warning of "bloody war." Bloke in Bulgaria insists he saw him down the betting shop in Sofia putting a fiver on Bush to win.

18:19GMT: U.S troops remain poised for attack, confirms Reuters. U.K. troops, meanwhile, are having a cup of tea and watching Corrie.

19:26GMT: Reuters reports that 17 Iraqis surrender as a result of leaflet drop. Marketing Week reports all-time lowest conversion rate of any direct mail campaign.

19:35GMT: Fox makes a late entry into the media fray with the breaking news that Allied troops are poised to attack. Rumours begin to circulate that "the troops" actually consist of one Eagle-Eyes Action Man surrounded by handbag mirrors.

Right, that's it - I'm off to seal up the bedroom with duct tape and stuff tins of beans under the bed.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Iraq. Is it about the oil, or is there something more sinister going on? Sounds like a job for the Random Conspiracy Generator...

Sunday, March 09, 2003

H. is correct that I'm old before my time. It's 9pm, I'm doing yesterday's Times Jumbo Crossword, half the clues have got something to do with Inspector Morse and I find this only mildly irritating, and I'm thinking of going to bed. I can guarantee that at this very moment, 600 miles north of here, my 92-year old grandmother is doing exactly the same thing. Granny probably isn't using Google to solve the Inspect Morse clues, and she doesn't have to get up at 5am to finish an essay on the cyborg potential of the internet, but still.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

An amazing thing happened today (and it's only 8:53 am!). I received, unsolicited, a letter from my MP Frank Dobson (Lab., Holborn & St Pancras), assuring me of his belief that war on Iraq is still unjustified. Regular visitors to these pages may recall that back in September I used the service to ask Frank to urge Tony not to go to war. I did receive a letter back quite promptly from Frank saying that he opposed war without the backing of the United Nations.

This morning he has sent me an extract from Hansard from 26th February at 3.29pm, in which he is recorded as saying:

"I am simply not convinced that all-out military action on Iraq can be justified at this time and on the scale envisaged [...] I share [the Prime Minister's and the Foreign Secretary's] concerns about weapons of mass destruction, about the vile and muderous Iraqi regime, about terrorism and about the need to uphold the United Nations. And I recognise...that every alternative course of likely to result in protracted misery and a large number of deaths for the people of Iraq. The Government argue that these concerns justify virtually immediate military action, and that they would be resolved by that military action. I find those claims less and less convincing.

[...] I do not believe that the Government have made the case that, after 12 years of not protecting the Iraqi people from their vile and oppressive regime, it is now a moral imperative that we do it within the next few weeks. [...] I do not believe that we have made the case that there is any connection between the current Iraqi regime and al-Qaeda. [,,,]

[...] Even less convincing are the claims of the United States about the enforcement of international obligations, when we consider its failure to implement Kyoto or obey the World Trade Organisation. It is tending to behave rather like a small maverick state. A small maverick state is a nuisance. It is a real problem for the rest of the world if the only remaining super-power turns maverick."

I think it is fantastic that Frank has taken the time to write to me and send me his views. I am comforted that my local MP vigorously opposes the war. And I think it's fantastic that is giving people the opportunity to have this kind of dialogue with their MP, rather than just whingeing about things in the pub. There's still time to persuade Tony of the massive public opposition to the war. If you feel like this, write to your MP and make your views known!

Sunday, March 02, 2003

Got flashed twice by speed cameras last night as I was trying to break my Reading-to-Kentish Town record (which I did) and arrived home thinking dark thoughts about the police state. Why, if a decent, tax-paying corporate whore can't drive her middle-management silver convertible at 90 miles an hour in the middle lane of a deserted motorway at 1am, what can she do any more?

Actually I see it as a sign from God that driving is evil and that I should stay at home and be happy. As H. says, "it's never too late to drop out". It can't be a coincidence that my next MA exam falls on the same day as I am supposed to be giving some dumb presentation in Madrid.

You could put all this in context of the looming War on Iraq. I can't be the only employee of Corporate America to be feeling that we've somehow got caught up in a bad bunch, that we've accidentally got in with the bullies. That the nation that pays my wages is doing so out of the dinner money it stole from the poor kids with glasses and freckles. As the days wear on I feel less and less comfortable about it all. Maybe it's time to change schools...

Saturday, February 22, 2003

Quinquireme is back in the house, after a frightening foray into the world of the wealthy middle-class Caribbean vacation. A week of watching H. sip Pina Coladas under the palm trees on the tropical paradise island of St Lucia (my zero-vice-tolerance meant I quaffed nothing stronger than pineapple juice the whole week) has left me with a patchy tan and a feeling of nausea and horror at the senseless luxury enjoyed by the unthinkingly well-off. Made even worse by the realisation that my grip has finally been weakened and I've been sucked all the way down into the Sarlacc Pit of the Bourgeoisie.

It was never meant to work out this way - I always wanted to be an archaeologist or a waitress. I was never supposed to become a highly paid corporate whore with a silver sports car, a silver mobile phone and a silver iPaq. That kind of thing used to fill me with revulsion. Now look at me! You try and make excuses like "I wouldn't normally have gone to St Lucia, really we were just visiting my fiance's parents, who live there on their yacht", but that doesn't sound too good either. Anyway, Christ, I sound like I'm asking people to pity me. Actually I'm just giving vent to my self-loathing. I'll stop now. Osten etwas neues: Albert the Gorilla is back! Go Albert!

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

The Great Firewall Of China

Just learned from nibus that Albert the Gorilla has fallen victim to the notorious Chinese firewall', thus putting an abrupt end to simian dispatches from Shanghai. Tunnel for freedom, Albert!

In other news: H. was attacked by a 'youth' in the illicit 24-hour off-licence on Saturday night. No harm inflicted, but tut tut the rising crime wave (and still FPD Savills want £295k for their poxy railway-benighted cubbyhole on Prince of Wales Road).

H., J. and I went to Somerset House on Saturday to try and track down the owner of The Wisdom of Epictetus, only to find that it's been turned into some sort of art gallery and is no longer the place to go to look up your ancestors. Any suggestions as to a suitable starting place would be much appreciated.

Monday, January 27, 2003

The Wisdom Of Epictetus

Struggling to write this from a condition of indescribable weakness and sickness - well OK, I have got a cold. But my legs are shaking a bit, and I nearly fell asleep in the car on the way home. DVT nothing, the real danger of long-haul flights is catching your fellow passengers' bugs. Thought I'd better write something though, if only to appease the EHA "crowd" (there's at least three of them) who have temporarily appeared - hello chaps and welcome. Make yourselves at home, feel free to toast a nice muffin or something before settling down to browse through the fascinating treasure trove of original thought and pithy observations that is my archive.

Anyway, update: home from San Diego, nothing much to report. Next stop: St Lucia, departing 8th Feb. Weekend highlights: watching the incomparable El Sid play a relatively well-attended gig in the world-famous Chat's Palace in Homerton, followed by a trip to Chichester (the San Diego of the English Riviera) to show the engagement ring to H's grandmother. Next project: trying to fill in the gaps in H's family tree, with particular reference to a mid-19th century Fellow of a London college who once owned a book of philosophy entitled The Wisdom of Epictetus. If that's not a strong lead, I don't know what is.

Sunday, January 12, 2003

Moon Landings, Suspiciousness Thereof

Right, here I am, back from Geneva, and on my way out to San Diego (actually departing on Saturday), where I will have the privilege of being in the same room (a very large room, admittedly) as Dr Buzz Aldrin, Astronaut, Airman, Scientist and Patriot!

In anticipation of the probing questions I am going to put to Dr Aldrin regarding the authenticity of the moon landings, here is a reminder of some aspects of the lunar conquest that don't quite add up.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003


What a day for news - a suspect has been named in the Camden "body parts" murder, the US has sent 11,000 troops to the Gulf, and H. and I are engaged to be married!

Yes, readers, he proposed to me last night in someone's back garden in N16, amid fireworks being set off by youths outside a kebab shop in Stoke Newington High Street. Both families duly informed and we are utterly exhausted with the whole rigmarole already. Going to buy the ring on Saturday. Wedding not until next year - possibly on an island in the beautiful river Orb in the Languedoc. Now facing the hideous prospect of having to read Brides and Setting Up Home magazine (shudder).

Don't be concerned though; this isn't going to turn into one of those wedding blogs. Normal claptrap will be resumed forthwith. And lest I forget in all the excitement - a very Happy New Year to all my readers and may 2003 bring you happiness, plenty and fulfilment.