Ten reasons to give up and go back to bed

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1. Your cat decided that she would prefer to do her business in the shower than in the cat litter box and consequently you are forced to clean cat poop out of the bath before you have even properly woken up.

2. You drop the razor in the recently cleaned shower and although it doesn’t actually do you any damage it scares the bejebus out of you and shakes you up for the rest of the day wondering how long it would be before your cat discovered you naked in the shower and bleeding from inexplicable razor wounds to the knees and ankles. You would hope your cat would not have returned to do her business once again.

3. You tried to get dressed for work opting for the nice skirt suit you had laid out the night before but, after putting on not one, not two but three pairs of tights that either already had holes or quickly gained some, you concede defeat and wear trousers.

4. Cycling to work, one of your comfortable shoes, that you specifically chose for being easy to ride in, falls off in the middle of the road and your pedal then viciously attacks the back of your ankle and makes it bleed.

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5. On arriving at work you remember that the document you have been furiously working on and took home to work on the previous night, remains lodged in the memory stick… at the back of the laptop…on your desk… at home.

6. You go to make a cup of tea at work and are upset that of the ten boxes of tea in the cupboard, these all turn out to be various herbal offerings including fennel and chamomile but all you want is just a normal cup of tea. You are forced to settle for an unsatisfactory green tea.

7. You manage to knock your unsatisfactory cup of green tea and it spills all over your phone, you are forced to spend some ten minutes frantically drying the device on your scarf as the nearest thing to hand and praying to the gods of technology that the essential device will survive the experience.

8. Your scarf, which was white, is now covered in unsatisfactory green tea and it’s cold in the office and you want to wear it rather than leaving it to soak in the work bathroom’s sink.

9. You realise you absolutely do not have time to attend the interesting work-related but not wholly essential meeting taking place that afternoon that you have been looking forward to for a week.

10. You heat up your homemade leftover-for-a-while soup at lunch to discover that contrary to previously held beliefs, yes, vegetable soup can go off after a week and taste very very bad. You try to eat it anyway.

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A cultural croissant crisis

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For the last week or so I have been in southern Africa for work. Yes, my job is awesome but trust me this is no jolly trip to another continent. I am working, working and then working some more, evenings and weekends are not exempt. Add to this some very temperamental internet connections and there’s my excuse for not having posted for a couple of weeks (for those of you who noticed my absence and thought my standards slipping).

I was in Swaziland for the first four days and have been in Johannesburg, South Africa since then and I’m out here for just over two weeks in total. In case you think I am exaggerating about the amount of work, it is true, I did fib a bit because I did have Sunday afternoon off and a colleague took me to the zoo and then to the cinema where we saw Women in Gold.

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I picked the film on the basis that Meryl Streep was in it but other than that knew absolutely nothing about the film. Incidentally, it’s a very strange experience to sit down at the cinema with no idea what you are about to see. Anyway, it was about a famous Klimt painting of Adele Bloch-Bauer, also known as the woman in gold but I’m giving the full title too for reasons that are obvious if you watch the film, and the restitution of art stolen by Nazis from Jewish families during the Second World War. Meryl didn’t let me down, it’s a very good film and I’m happy to recommend it to all of you.

Anyway, back to the point I’m trying to make, which is, obviously, about croissants. I am currently staying in a very nice hotel in Johannesburg and, as in all hotels, you can tell if it’s a decent choice because of the breakfast. Whenever I stay anywhere with breakfast included, particularly where there’s a buffet, I try to eat as much as possible to, one, get my money’s worth and, two, potentially avoid the need for lunch enabling extra dosh for dinner time.

The buffet at the Capital Moloko is excellent and I have been approaching it in the strategic way that I approach all buffets. For starters I’ll go for a bowl of muesli, yoghurt and fresh fruit salad with pumpkin seeds scattered on top. Round two and I’m digging into the cooked breakfast items, particularly relishing the bacon which Switzerland deprives me of. Finally, I will conclude with some toast and jam, perhaps a Danish or both. Yes, I do have a three course breakfast and yes, I am aware that I am probably eating my entire daily recommended allowance of calories in one go but I’ve already explained my reasoning.

Yesterday, on my final round of breakfast I selected a lovely fresh looking croissant. I then spied a collection of breakfast accompaniments in little white dishes. One of these was obviously peanut butter, the other was something dark and red I didn’t recognize and the third was a dark brown syrupy liquid that my immersion in Swiss culture taught me must be chocolate.

I had a lightbulb moment and thought I could upgrade my normal croissant to a chocolate supreme version by thickly drizzling, but artistically you understand, the sticky brown liquid all over my croissant. I felt so smug that I’d combined the two in this genius manner and even caught a couple of my fellow diners giving me what I could only assume to be envious glances. I took my croissant creation back to my desk, sat down to bite into this sweet breakfast delight only to discover that the ‘chocolate’ was in fact marmite.

Now don’t get me wrong I like marmite but I also like it thinly spread over buttery toast not dripping in thick clumps off a croissant. Perhaps with full appreciation of what I was eating a croissant and marmite could be a nice savoury option on this French breakfast treat but I cannot begin to explain the shock as I chomped into the pastry expecting a sugary sensation only to be hit by the bitter saltiness of marmite. I understood my fellow diners glances had not been envy so much as incredulity.

I never would have imagined that marmite might actually be popular in some places outside of the UK, so much so that it is easily offered without labeling as though all diners will automatically know exactly what it is. Should I be ashamed that as a British person I didn’t automatically recognise marmite? Has my time in Geneva turned me into a real European?

Ten reasons to hate the sunshine

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1. Mosquitoes

Little flying biting bastards that love the taste of my sweet sweet blood. On the plus side if you take me with you on nice days out in the sunshine I will act as a mosquito magnet and draw them away from everyone else. You’re welcome.

2. Too much flesh

I get it, it’s hot, you want to feel the pleasure of the sun on your bare skin but could you possibly save this for the privacy of your own garden or confine yourself to a beach area where others can at least prepare themselves for this? What I don’t really want is to encounter masses of exposed flab, lobstering itself up to perfection, when I’ve just popped out to buy a bit of milk.

3. Skimpy outfits

It’s too hot to wear your normal wardrobe staples, but the heat always comes when you aren’t expecting it. You might have been meaning to buy a decent pair of shorts for years, as opposed to those ridiculously skimpy cut-offs you made out of an old pair of jeans ten years ago, but you are caught out and have no choice but to parade yourself in your silly outfit and open yourself up to the ridicule of others. By the time you are geared up for a summer shopping trip the heatwave is usually over.

4. Dieting/not-dieting

By the time you want to put on your skimpy summer clothes and bare that flesh you’ve realised that those ice creams that go hand-in-hand with the hot weather really aren’t doing you any favours. It’s also this time you realise that your plan to slim down for summer might be a bit behind schedule. You plan to eat salads to remedy the problem but end up filling up on tortilla chips and hot dogs at BBQs instead.

5. Sweat

Perhaps you did manage to buy some nice summer clothing, maybe you even managed to slim down so that your figure is nicely displayed in a little summer dress, but you haven’t factored on sweat. The make-up you apply before leaving the house usually melts off your face before you can make it to the bus stop and the carefully blow-dried hair has gone from swish-quiff to sweat-drenched-flop in less time than it takes to say ‘I should have worn a hat’.

6. Eczema

Just in case I didn’t look pretty enough with little mozzie bites covering all parts of exposed flesh my eczema likes to join in the skintastic party and happily applies itself to all bodily joints. This is very convenient as it is easy to hide if I curl up in a foetal position. It is less convenient if I try to do anything silly…like…moving.

melting chocolate - bp image7. Chocolate loses it’s magical powers

Normally chocolate provides the solution to everything, it can pick you up when you are flagging at work, it can cheer you up after a bad day and it can even help you bond with intimidating workmates. But in the summer chocolate doesn’t get to melt in your mouth because it has normally melted all over your hands, work, home and cat long before this.

8. Working

Having to work when the weather is nice should be criminal. You want to join the other sun seekers and parade around in tiny shorts and crop tops like everyone else but instead you are forced to put on grown up clothes and look longingly out of the office window from Monday to Friday, knowing full well there is a good chance the nice weather will have buggered off come the weekend.

9. Sunburn

We all like to amuse ourselves sniggering at foolish tourists caught out in the sun and happily wandering around seemingly oblivious to the fact they have turned a beautiful shade of race-car red. Some of us are pretty good at applying suntan lotion but might miss a spot or forget to reapply after a couple of hours and are unfairly punished with burnt tomato skin. And then laughed at by others. This just isn’t fair.

10. Judgement for drinking tea

Tea maintains its potency as remedy for all the world’s ills and general pick-me-up even in the heat but when the sun is blazing you are forced to respond to so many comments about why you are drinking tea on a hot day it’s enough to make you want to hurl your cup of boiling water at these naysayers as you try to convince people that tea is still bloody amazing, whatever the weather!

Ten Reasons to Just Keep Going

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(when you’d rather curl up in a ball and sleep until it all goes away again)

1. Sadly hibernation isn’t an option. Unless you are a bear. If you are a bear, then firstly kudos on your unacknowledged reading skill and secondly, I suggest you find yourself a nice cosy cave and sit this one out.

2. You cling on to a blind, and in no way scientifically substantiated view, that everything will be alright at the end of the month/once you have won the lottery/after you’ve reached retirement/etc.

3. It’s easier than stopping to acknowledge you have no time to stop and shouldn’t have wasted precious moments stopping to think about this.

4. Consequences of stopping might prove detrimental to career, health and relationships. Some might argue not stopping might prove detrimental to the very same things but I haven’t time to stop and think about that.

5. The vague memory of when you didn’t have to make yourself keep going motivates you to keep going until you reach a point where you don’t have to again. Crystal clear? Peachy!

6. Everyone around you is also keeping going. If you stop to ask them why and then they stop to think about this and stop someone else to ask them why, you could effectively cause the entire universe to grind to a halt and then where would we be?

7. You secretly suspect that hints of whinging about not having enough time is something that people who have enough time to whinge about do and that those who really don’t have enough time just get on with it. So unless you want people to think you are simply a pretend busy person it’s best not to say anything.

8. You can use this as an excuse to reward yourself frequently. For example ‘just keep going for another X hours/until so many words have been written/everyone else has gone home’ and then as a treat you can watch another episode of a trashy tv show/have a cat-napping break (cats optional)/make brownies (and then use next just keep going until X break to eat brownies). Whatever floats your boat.

9. You can’t go back, standing still gets tedious so might as well keep going.

10. You hope if you use the phrase often enough and repeat constantly as a mantra to yourself the slogan will either be adopted by a major brand for which you will be paid millions or people will think you are crazy and no-one will ever sit next to you on the bus again. It’s a win-win situation.

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Electric Shock Therapy For My Cat

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When I first moved to Geneva whenever there was a bit of rain, grey sky or other symptom of a slightly chilly day colleagues would tease me that it must make me feel like I’m back home in Britain. I’d laugh and agree because it was generally a lot easier than trying to convince people that occasionally we also get sunshine in Britain too.

But my favourite moment of geographical weather misconceptions arose in French class when we were talking about the weather and my nationally diverse group all told me they thought it was always really foggy in the UK, and in London in particular. I stared at them blankly until I realised that these misconceptions had emerged from certain types of films that liked to apply artistic license to UK weather conditions. I expressed my amusement and tried to explain that fog wasn’t a regular weather phenomenon I associated with London. I then confounded their expectations further by explaining that, contrary to Hollywood interpretations, it also never snowed in London on Christmas Day.

People here expect me to be at home with the colder and greyer aspects of Genevan weather and for the most part these are familiar but the bitterness of last week took things to a different level. Walking to and from work I would bundle myself up in multiple layers, thick winter coat, woolly hat, leather gloves, scarf and when the wind was really biting would put my faux-fur lined hood up too. But even this was not enough to stop the smart of the gnawing cold from tearing it’s way into my flesh and freezing my bones.

The chill I’d experienced from my journey into work would then cling to me all day. My tea consumption rocketed as I kept going for cup after cup not because I actually wanted it but I was hoping if I drank enough eventually it would warm me through inside to out. One particularly dire afternoon when I’d already spent the entire day with scarf wrapped around me I even donned my winter hat much to the ridicule of my colleagues. But I didn’t care because I was just so darned cold.

me in hatBut aside from quizzical looks from my co-workers and my pulling a face that looked like I was eating lemons whenever I was forced to go outside, I discovered another side effect of the cold. I developed electric superpowers and became incredibly charged with static energy. The internet tried to suggest this was something to do with decreased humidity in the air but that didn’t put me off.

I first noticed my new talent at work with little shocks whenever I opened doors or touched anything electrical. But it was really brought to my attention when I inadvertently started electric shock therapy for my cat, Buttons.

I was lying in bed and stroking Buttons starting with her head and working my way all down her body before repeating the process. At first I wasn’t sure but then I realised every time I touched her head there was a little crack and tingle of electricity passing between us. We both tried to ignore it at first and continued as we were but I noticed Buttons looking increasingly displeased as I repeatedly shocked her and feared this would create some sort of psychological reaction to my touching her I’d never be able to undo. So every time I passed a length in stroking her I would have to ground myself on the metal bed frame before starting again.

This got me thinking about whether I might be developing some kind of superpower and if I was just a few intense cinematographic training sessions away from discovering my inner Storm (of the X-Men). Perhaps if full on ability to control the weather was a little far-fetched I wondered if I could at least use my new cat-zapping ways to train them not to keep scratching the sofa or trying to eat the butter.

Perhaps I could apply it to people too and every time I ask the fiancé to go out and get me sweeties and he refuses (citing waste of money and/or freezing cold) I could subtley use my inner taser to train him that that’s not acceptable. Would it count as domestic abuse if there was no permanent damage done and no-way of telling I’d done it on purpose?

It wouldn’t be the first time I’d convinced someone I had uncontrollable electrical powers. In one job I used to get annoyed when the three managers on duty to supervise two staff would all conveniently disappear from the shop floor at the same time. Through boredom one day I accidentally learnt what buttons to press to temporarily freeze the electronic check-outs. These could only be unfrozen by an actual manager. So I took a leaf out of Roald Dahl’s Matilda’s book (children’s stories often have atrociously bad role models) and decided I’d punish my managers and every time they all disappeared “suddenly” one or both of the tills would crash. My boss did once jokingly suggest I had some sort of bizarre electronic field going on but I think that was as close as anyone got to actually suspecting I was engineering these annoying glitches on purpose.

I’d like to add (for anyone I currently or more recently have worked with who reads this) I’m much more mature now and would never behave in such a childish manner should my managers of today do anything to displease me. Although they might want to take care to check their hats as I’ve heard about how a layer of superglue on the inner rim can just materialise under tense circumstances! Come to think of it maybe that’s the reason I was wearing my hat at work last week, maybe I came in for a little revenge punishment or my own.

The Tedium/Tremendousness of Travelling for Work

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I spent years at my previous job planning amazing work trips abroad for colleagues. I was queen of the logistics, booking flight, hotels and co-ordinating some truly impressive looking programmes. I worked with people from across the globe in putting together these expeditions but until last week the furthest I ever travelled through my job was to Yorkshire. Granted this was nice and getting to travel first class on the train was a treat never before enjoyed but it wasn’t really on the same scale as some of the more exotic adventures I planned for others to places such as India, Myanmar, Finland and so on.

However, last week I was given the opportunity to travel to Bangkok to participate in an international staff conference with regional colleagues from around the world. For me this was an exciting travelling adventure, although I accept that for those who frequently jet off here, there and everywhere this might not be as appealing.

Initial excitement about the prospect of the excitingly destined work trip did fade somewhat as we neared departure and the work load prior to the event started to mount up. Add to this the realization that a week away isn’t a week’s holiday, with accompanying elements of rejuvenation, but will nonetheless have the same toll as a week’s vacation whereby you have lots to do before you go and then again when you come back to compensate for that week physically away from the office.

Still, as the day of departure loomed I took great pleasure in packing sandals, t-shirts and other summery clothing in the middle of what was starting to develop into a cold winter in Geneva (and would be so much worse by the time I returned).

The flight was long, sleep-depriving and lacking in space but there was free food (always exciting to someone who most frequently travels with easyjet). There was also the opportunity to catch up on a number of films I’d missed/would-never-have-paid-to-see at the cinema.*

Arriving in the balmy heat of a Bangkok evening was simply wonderful. My not-so-long-ago experience in Cambodia had prepared me for that blast of warm muggy weather that hits you as soon as you leave the artificially temperate airport so this didn’t come as a shock so much as a welcome relief, especially when pitted against the backdrop of Geneva’s increasingly chilly January weather I had left behind a day before.

Checking into the comfortable hotel I delighted in the discovery of the complimentary bathrobe and slippers and snazzy look toiletries in my room. I even checked out the gym before allowing myself to settle down into a deep and dreamless sleep.

The next day the work began, in case you thought I‘d forgotten about that aspect of the trip! Any illusions of a work-light week of sightseeing were quickly dissipated when the initial conference session started.

I was invited to attend in my minionesque status, my role being to minute each meeting. This meant intense concentration required and a vigorous penmanship workout (I prefer to hand-write than type notes) for each 4/5 hour official meeting, with a twenty minute coffee break. There were also a number of informal meetings, which took place outside of the main plenary, so if I’d hoped for hours of free time spent chilling out by the hotel’s pool I was sadly mistaken.

Work was intense and demanding and a few sleepless nights as the body clock struggled to adapt to the new time zone added to the challenge but there was a bit of time at the end of each working day to leave the deceptive coolness of the air-conditioned hotel and enjoy the sultry heat of a Thai evening. And conveniently located in the vicinity of the hotel were a large number of Thai massage parlours (I did spot at least one illegitimate “massage” parlour but I’m fairly confident those I frequented were all above board).

Capture d’écran 2015-02-04 à 12.55.26I was tempted to try and claim the cost as a legitimate work expense – seriously after four hours of writing my right hand and supporting body parts definitely needed a little attention. However, I recalled the drama of the parliamentary expenses scandal and thought that claiming for a massage was probably the kind of things that might be as misinterpreted as was expecting the public to foot the bill for upkeep of a duck house.

After the conference I allowed myself the luxury of staying on in Bangkok one extra day so did get to enjoy a day of trawling through the markets, finally having a swim in the pool and enjoying a final massage and Thai meal before my 2am flight home.

The effect of the massage and very late/early flight did help me to sleep for the first part of the journey (there was a stopover in Abu Dhabi) so I was slightly more rested on arrival at Geneva than at Bangkok. However any remaining sleepiness was quickly eradicated as I disembarked the plane in my light summer wear and discovered myself woefully unprepared for the snow falling around me in Switzerland.

Capture d’écran 2015-02-04 à 14.27.59So travelling for work was harder than I had anticipated and really pretty exhausting (I’m still struggling today) but if asked to go again I think I could probably rise to the challenge!


* Would definitely recommend Hector’s Search for Happiness and St Vincent. Quite enjoyed the Fury and I thought Boyhood an interesting concept even if I wouldn’t be in a hurry to watch again. I didn’t think much of Lucy and was pretty unnerved by Before I Go To Sleep.