November 26, 2006

Oxford

mertonI went to Oxford last weekend, the first time I’ve gone back since I graduated (over 3 years since I finished finals and left, 2 years since graduation now). I was almost dreading it, apart from meeting up with Leonie, Thomas and Helen of course, as arriving in Oxford always used to provoke very strong feelings in me – mostly positive – but I thought that I would feel an overwhelming sense of nostalgia when I returned.

So I got off at the train station along with a couple of Eton boys who were scoping out the potential of the place as a future abode. Walked towards the town centre. Past the puffa fish restaurant. Down George Street. Felt nothing (George Street still a bit of a dump). Saw the modern language faculty library from a distance. Down Broad Street (still feeling somewhat detached). Went into Blackwells to use the loo. Wandered round the modern language section. Same medieval French texts on the shelf (good old Chanson de Roland). Weirdly familiar but didn’t make me feel anything. Walked towards college. Came down Merton Street. Heard the Merton chapel bells ringing. Into college and round the gardens. All very pretty and lovely, but I didn’t particularly feel anything – it didn’t feel like a place where I used to live.

And Oxford is small. I think someone might have shrunk it, because I’m sure that when I was 18 it wasn’t that tiny. The buildings are all little (most of them no more than 3 stories high) and it only takes 10 minutes to walk across town. I blame Martin and his weirdy chemist ways.

Anyway, I had a lovely day in the end, but mostly because I met up with friends, went for lunch in Gino’s, found the (newly opened) Primark (largest one I’ve ever been in!) and went for coffee in Blackwells. Lovely. But I didn’t feel nostalgic and the magic I remember has gone as the people I cared for who lived there have moved on. Although it was nice to go there for the day, it is now just an ordinary place for me.


November 14, 2006

One of those days

The Nightmare, 1781, Henry FuseliJust wanted to curl up in bed today and cry / hide / sleep for a very long time. They need to install beds, duvets and bean bags in a nice quiet dark room somewhere in the basement where sleepy civil servants (i.e. me) can go and slumber until they feel better.


November 13, 2006

Bit of a mongrel?

mongrelTo fulfil my worrying growing addiction to reality TV (now I’m only snobby about property development shows, gardening programmes and Big Brother – basically any other gubbins goes after a day in the office), this evening I watched 100% English, a programme in which eight participants gave a DNA sample in order to ascertain their genetic geographical roots.

All the selected participants held strong convictions about national identity and what being English means. All of them were white, born and raised in England, and convinced that their genetic makeup would prove they were quintessentially English in origin.

Frankly, I’m not surprised that most of them turned out to be, in the words of one participant, “a bit of a mongrel”, but what really shocked me was most of their attitudes – first of all a militant conviction that in their veins must course “pure” anglo blood, secondly somewhat dubious remarks about race and national identity, and thirdly (most bizarre of all in my mind) passionate pride in the country in which they happened to be born.

I say bizarre, because I have never felt proud to be English, I don’t identify with England, and I have never understood what it means to be patriotic.

The only aspect of England that I actually like is its diversity, and maybe for the first time, since living in London, I am starting to feel that maybe it isn’t such a bad place after all. Obviously London is hardly representative of the rest of the country (when I go back home to Huddersfield sometimes I struggle to believe it’s the same country) – but the idea of a huge swirling melting pot of cultures, cuisines, languages, skin colours, art, music, traditions, religions, life itself… greatly appeals to the nomad in me, even though I know my romantic ideas to be illusions in themselves.

Personally I would be thoroughly disappointed if my DNA makeup were anything other than genetically diverse, but knowing my luck I’d probably come out as 98% northern European or something boring like that.

Unlike the “ethnic English campaigner” who threatened to sue the programme on learning about her possible Romany origins, I felt reassured by the comments of the 18-year old army recruit who had just discovered that his DNA originated from at least a quarter of the globe.

“For racists to find out that part of them may be what they have discriminated against for years, well that would certainly throw them off their game” he said.

As he looked at the miniature globe before him, you could see his sense of his own global horizons visibly expanding on camera.


October 23, 2006

Ugly Bug Ball

Ros as a ladybirdOnce a lonely caterpillar sat and cried
To a sympathetic beetle by his side
I’ve got nobody to hug
I’m such an ug-i-ly bug

Then a spider and a dragonfly replied
If you’re serious and want to win a bride
Come along with us, to the glorious annual ugly bug ball

Come on let’s crawl (gotta crawl gotta crawl)
To the ugly bug ball (to the ball to the ball)
Adam the bumblebeeAnd a happy time we’ll have there, one and all and the ugly bug ball

While the crickets click their cricky melodies
All the ants were fancy dancing with the fleas
Then up from under the ground
The worms came squirming around
Oh they danced until their legs were nearly lame
Every little crawling creature you could name
Everyone was glad
What a time they hade
They were so happy they came
Benedict the Spider
Come on let’s crawl (gotta crawl gotta crawl)
To the ugly bug ball (to the ball to the ball)
And a happy time we’ll have there, one and all and the ugly bug ball

The our caterpillar saw a pretty queen
She was beautiful and yellow black and green
He said would you care to dance
Their dancing lead to romance
Then she sat upon his caterpillar knee
And he gave his caterpillar queen a squeeze
Ug-i-ly bugsSoon they’ll honeymoon
Build a big cocoon
Thanks to the ugly bug ball

Come on let’s crawl (gotta crawl gotta crawl)
To the ugly bug ball (to the ball to the ball)
And a happy time we’ll have there, one and all and the ugly bug ball


October 17, 2006

My day in history

Writing about web page http://www.historymatters.org.uk/output/Page97.asp

My day in history isn’t very interesting, but hey, c’est la vie- c’est ma vie in fact. Woke up at 7am feeling like it should be Friday already, my boyfriend made me breakfast and I got ready to go to work. Walked (or rather limped) to Clapham South tube station, cursing the new shoes that I haven’t yet broken in properly.

The Northern Line wasn’t delayed this morning – a miracle, a fact worthy of posterity in itself – but I’d forgotten reading material so I spent most of the journey craning over people’s shoulders trying to read their papers (and getting annoyed when it was the Mail!). Got to Embankment and walked past the flower seller outside, through Embankment Gardens to my office. I currently work in the Office for Disability Issues (located within the Department for Work and Pensions), which is the focal point within government to coordinate disability policy across all departments.

I got into the office at 9.20, which is early for me (I work flexi time so usually straggle in just before 10 instead) but I had a meeting at 9.30am where I was deputising for my line manager. Another meeting at 10.30 to discuss big stakeholder event in December that the Office for Disability Issues is running to celebrate its first birthday – I’m representing our project on the working group.

I made it back to my desk for about 10 minutes, then some of my project team members arrived for a team lunch, something we do on alternate weeks when we don’t have team meetings. Went down to the manky canteen in the basement and chatted about the project we’re working on, the Independent Living Review, which is looking at how government and organisations can respond to the recommendations made in Chapter 4 of the “Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People” Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit report.

After some discussions about various ongoing work strands, I then went down to the car park with one of our team members to help advise on where the new disabled car parking spaces should be, as we’ve had some problems over the past few weeks obtaining sufficient spaces for visitors to the building.

By this point it was about 3pm, and I still hadn’t looked at my emails properly! However it’s my mum’s birthday tomorrow, so I had a mad sprint around Covent Garden trying to find a suitable present for her. I finally bought her an amber necklace from one of the stalls in the market. I also wrapped up some silly socks that I bought in Bosnia on holiday, took these things to the post office and posted them. Fingers crossed they’ll arrive tomorrow…

The final couple of hours in the office were spent writing emails and trying to move forward with the research that I’m doing into existing initiatives across government departments. I felt quite tired so I wasn’t at my most productive.

I left at a reasonable time this evening – just before 6 – and went for a quick drink with my boyfriend and a friend in Gordons wine bar at Embankment (was supposed to be going to the gym but wasn’t feeling too well). I stayed for a glass of wine but I was feeling really tired, so I came home instead. I usually try to cook something proper for dinner with fresh fish/chicken and vegetables, but again I’m feeling really tired, so I’m just going to have a vegetarian microwave meal then go to bed at about 9 o’clock!


September 28, 2006

Temcymbelphosis

Tomorrow night I am going to see Metamorphosis at the Lyric (free tickets and everything!) and on Saturday I am going to Stratford-upon-Avon to see the RSC’s The Tempest and Kneehigh Theatre’s Cymbeline.

Very excited about all of these productions. So excited that I threw my mobile phone into a cup of camomile tea in my sleep the other night, and it has only just started working again (albeit with bubble sound effects). It’s been a long long week.


September 24, 2006

Windsor 13.1 miles

Writing about web page http://www.runwindsor.com/

Me at the end of Windsor half marathonMade it to Windsor, made it to the end of the 13.1 mile course without stopping, made a time of 2:10:42 which I am very pleased with given my lack of training / the heat / the hills (no one warned me about hills!!!)

Am content – and it was nice to run alongside my dad for the first 7 miles before he dashed off into the distance.

My dad at the end of WindsorApparently my dad is planning to enter the next London marathon (after swearing never again at the end of the last one) having learned that he will be in a new age category (60+) next year and therefore might make a “good for age” time. This means that I have got to enter myself now. Arrrrgh!

So. The Windsor half marathon. The beginning of my London marathon training?


September 23, 2006

Worms, violins and half marathons

So. This time tomorrow I will be girding my loins (nasty expression) before setting off on 13.1 miles of hell for the third time this year. The difference this time round is that I am completely ill-prepared, and really should not be going anywhere near a half marathon course, were it not for the fact that my dad was extremely persuasive and talked me into treating it as “a little training run”. His idea of a training run is 9 minute miles though, so I don’t think I will be able to keep up with him for long.

My dad is down in London for a meeting today, so our training last night consisted of half a bottle of red wine each and a double vodka and tonic (me) in the Holiday Inn, Bloomsbury, which alarmingly has left me with an aching fuzzy head this morning.

I found a little wiggly worm in my salad over dinner, which caused great consternation amongst my dad’s colleagues and the hotel restaurant staff, who all started shrieking excitably and threatening to kill it and boil my salad alive to sterilise it (or something).

I calmly picked the little worm up, carried him through reception past a coachload of Japanese tourists who’d just arrived, and put him in a pot plant outside the door to let nature decide his fate. I’ve now realised that the pot plant was probably fake though. Poor thing.

The other night after work I walked across the river to Waterloo tube station, where I took part in play.orchestra, an interactive sound installation on the South Bank. I love the interactive stuff that has appeared here over the past year or so, but this is my favourite yet. It’s made up of 56 plastic cubes and 3 “hotspots”, and when you sit or stand on one of these, a musical instrument will sound. If you get enough people to join in, you hear a complete orchestral piece, but even if you don’t manage to find 59 willing tourists / commuters / children / couples to join in it still creates some interesting effects with snatches of melody and rhythmic bursts of sound. I sat in one of the violin seats, but it was giving me a headache so I moved to the triangle hotspot instead. I think I would make a good triangle player!

Today I am going to be very lazy – I might go for a little stroll – but then I’m going to Thomas and Helen’s for tea this afternoon, followed by dinner at my aunt’s this evening. Trying not to worry about tomorrow and Windsor.

Play.orchestra


September 11, 2006

Brcko in pictures (and a few words)

Town
BrckoBrcko libraryPedestrianised street, BrckoBorder control in BrckoBrcko marketMain square, Brcko

People, socks and watermelons

Mark and our landladyMark and the sock womanPresenting Gordana with a melon
Sanja and MarkSanja and MarkIs he taking ME for a ride?SocksMark, me and Adam

Youth centre
Art in youth centreYouth centre - svitacIn the youth centreYouth centre

Doctor dolittle
Adam with dogMe and mats2MatsMe and mats

Atkins anyone?
Tricky to be a bosnian vegan

Rest of the Bosnia pictures are here


August 31, 2006

Lazy Ros

There’s no getting round it – I’ve turned into one of those people who pays too much money for gym membership and then doesn’t go, enters long distance runs and then doesn’t train, flobs around eating stuff pretending that it’s just “carb loading”, and still thinks she’s an “athlete”.

In short, I am Jade Goody.

Jade GoodyOr rather, I haven’t trained enough to do the Windsor half-marathon on 24th September, so I’m going to pull out despite the waste of £24, and accept that two half marathons will have to suffice for one year.

I will be there to support Anna, Leonie, Jamie (?) and my dad though – all of whom are more committed to the practice of gazelle imitation than I am.


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