Social Media Award Winner

Thursday, December 24, 2009

'Twas the night before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas
And all of my flat
Was awash with old papers
And toys for the cat,

The aftermath of baking,
Washing up in the sink.
A half-opened bottle
Of very strong drink

(Used for the pudding)
Was still on the side
Next to piles of work:
Poor Mermins cried.

With brows that are beaten
And nagging at home
No wonder I pen this
Unseasonal poem!

I turn to the future
(in a manner of speech)
Where's my silver lining?
Is it just out of reach?

I'm not looking forward
To pretending it's fun
Eating and jesting.
I'd rather just run

Away from forced laughter
And boring family tales
And stay in my duvet
Until Boxing day sales.

Christmas dinner? Bah humbug!
All the presents are trite
And there's no Disney feeling
And the Christmas ain't white.

Oh I know of the Reason
- Good news of great joy -
So despite all the moaning,
I hope you enjoy

But if you're feeling gloomy,
Just about all done in,
Join with me at 6:30
(I'll be hitting the Gin).

Bottoms up! And your chin, too.
We'll drink til we moan
2009 may have been dreadful,
But we're never alone.

Good luck for this Christmas
God bless you as well.
2009 was a scoundrel,
But 2010 will be swell.

Monday, December 14, 2009

the Banker's dozen

The New Economics Foundation claims that banks are socially useless, as, unlike cleaners and care workers, they have no benefit to society at large NEF.

Evidently there is some political pandering to the masses with this report. Without banking, cleaners could not get loans to buy houses. Without banks, care workers would not have hospitals or homes to work in.

This is a glib response. The arguments against banks being socially useful are plentiful: while some bankers have lined their own pockets, they have contributed to the economic woes of the poorest nations, lining their coffins (well, they probably don't have coffins, but there had to be some element of thoughtful prose). Banks have racked up their own debt, gearing their balance sheets within an inch of their lives, and created a situation where not only are banks in debt to the taxpayer, but the taxpayer is faced with a higher tax bill as a result. Great scott! Our debt is being used to pay off the debts of the banks, so that we can start borrowing from them again. What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to receive...

But are banks morally bankrupt? Certainly, the policy of chasing that last nickel at the expense of the customer is immoral. The policy of making consumers pay for a bank to manage their deposits, just so the bank can get out of debt - that, too, is immoral. Banks recalling loans to schools, charities, small enterprises and community concerns is, also, immoral - they could, if they wanted to, recall loans from other, larger, private and public companies although this might create relational problems with potentially profitable long-term clients. A charity might not have a lot of money to repay, but it will never be a high earner for the bank.

In that sense, banks are morally reprehensible and have displayed little social usefulness.

However, leaving aside the obvious 'some banks good, some banks bad' argument, banks in general have an important part in society, one which is part of the very woof and fabric of our being. They oil the wheels of industry. They provide the loans for hospitals and similar organisations. They provide mortgages for millions. Without a place to put money, even the smallest depositors would have to bury their money in the backyard or stick it in a cookie jar under the bed.

Thanks to the recklessness of a few, we're all affected: decent mortgage rates are harder to come by, MPPI comes with a higher premium, our jobs are tenuous and our interest rates, zero. But what choice would we have if there were no banks? Who would give us a loan, provide us with a mortgage, cover us for holiday accidents or supply us with cash-in-hand when we're out and about?

I'd challenge the good folks at NEF to try to live for a year without using anything to do with a bank: ask your employers to pay you in cash (and tell them that they cannot take that out of a bank). Don't use credit or debit cards for a year. Refuse to write, or to accept cheques. Put your money under the mattress. Raise a mortgage - and your children - without any loans. Pay for your expensive private healthcare using copper coins. Send your children to a school that has not been helped out by any bank loans.

Without banks, we'd be trading in beads and corn, or heading down to the wharf to find a nice money-lender who will charge an extortionate fee without any security or means of redress. He'll then launch into a diatribe about how 'sufferance is the badge of all his tribe' or climb a tree because he's short. No, wait, I'm getting Shakespeare and the Bible mixed up again - it was bad enough the last time that happened. Fake Scottish accents, witches and a talking donkey? Shrek has a lot to answer for.

Anyway, the banks may have shown little moral fibre, but by golly the economy needs whatever fibre it has.

Friday, November 20, 2009

How to conquer the pre-Christmas budgeting blues

Looking forward to a frugal Christmas?

Who said the world of budgeting could ever be simple? Who said it was an easy task to set your mind to and create good spending and savings habits? Well, actually, that person was me. I plead ‘guilty’ for saying this sort of thing in various articles, reviews and even in my cookery-on-a-budget book (which I saw going for 1 copper penny on Amazon the other week – I was both mortally offended, and highly pleased at the bargain price I subsequently paid for an extra copy).

The truth is, I have never found budgeting easy. Oh, I check my bank statement every day online, and I set up clever direct debit and standing order payments into various savings accounts, so that a little bit goes into my untouchable ISA and into my ‘rainy day’ cash account. So that’s a big tick. Yaay me.

I also make sure that, every month, I pay off a set amount of whatever’s outstanding on the mastercard – you know, the card that you only use ‘for holidays and pay it right back as soon as you get paid’. Which as we all know, is excellent advice and total rubbish. What a ‘for holidays’ mastercard actually means is, I’ve lost my bank card and this will do. Or, I’m going to get AirMiles if I use my mastercard in this store (regardless of the transaction charge I know I’ll get hit with or the high interest rates compared with my bank card).

What actually has happened the past month is that I’ve been shellacked by my own inability to budget and pay attention to anything.

For example, I have several cardinal rules to budgeting:

1) Bring food to the office, don’t buy.
For the past two weeks, I have forgotten each day to bring my lunch with me. I’ve left gorgeous home-made pies and pasta in the fridge, then not eaten when I’ve got home. This is because party season is upon us, and, while I’m scouring the room for canapés at various press parties, I forget that I’ve got a potential, and far healthier, dinner waiting for me next to the milk and cold meats. By the time I get home, it’s too late and I’m too full. And the next morning, I am too tired to remember to bring it in with me. Hence, I have spent a LOT of money on my card popping to prêt-a-minger or Make Mine.

2) Always remember to have some cash in your wallet
FAIL. Why use cash when taxi drivers take cards?

3) Always use public transport
But… the teeteringly high heels… the long nights partying with London’s financial elite… the rain… FAIL

4) Always pay off any online orders immediately
Stupidly, I saw a lot of craft material (cards and beads, not the witchy type) in a 24 Studio magazine, which would be great for the craft fair I am going to do. I estimated that the relatively low prices of these (cheaper than most craft stores) would mean the margins I would get on my products would be higher, and, consequently, the profit would be greater.

Epic fail: I did not read the small print, namely that I had to pay the balance in 14 days from receipt of the letter. I did not READ the letter, as I did not GET the letter until two days after the deadline had passed. Thank you, Post Office. Thus, what had been a £27 bill became a £47 bill – 100% interest in the form of a ‘Failure to pay’ fee. If I hadn’t paid it when I did, it would have gone up to £67.

Of course, in this case, I would advise you all to ring the provider immediately and explain the situation – the postal strike, the promise to pay the original amount at once by phone if they will waive the fee this time… but I’d actually read the letter in disgust, and, having come back from a late-night press party, thrown it down on the bookcase with a nonchalant ‘meh’ and only realised two weeks later that I’d better pay up, and fast.

5) Never admit that you struggle to budget
I have to admit that I’m actually usually very good with money. But there are times when budgeting just seems to go out of the window, and November-January are those times.

I guess my advice to anyone feeling a little blue about their excessive spending and insubstantial saving over these months is – ‘don’t feel guilty’. Guilt will make you feel hopeless about saving, and hopelessness will lead to budget fatigue and any efforts that you have made will go out of the window completely.

I suggest that you make a list of all the ‘extra’ things that you have spent over the three months – things you would not be spending on throughout the rest of the year. Add that all up, and think to yourself: “That’s my one-off spending for the year. It’s not a hole in my budget – it’s my additional expenses budget for these months! I planned this and I can manage it. I’m going to save that much during the other months next year and make myself feel better when Christmas 2010 comes around.”

Then treat yourself to another slab of organic turkey. You’ve earned it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

One Giant Leap for Squirrels!

Seeing as everyone else in the UK has been having fun playing around with Crasher Squirrel, I thought I would have a go.

Apparently a cheeky little fella popped up in some couple's honeymoon pictures in Canada, as reported in that august publication, The Metro. Read the Ridiculant article on Crasher Squirrel Since the media whirlwind of publicity that ensued, he has become an internet star, appearing now in photos with Michael Jackson (may he rest in peace), Kim Jong-il (may he not) and also on the Obamarama tour train.

But did they know he also was the first being on the moon?

I think the world should be told

Crasher Squirrel

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

All Hail the FTSE100

Tim Hynes photograph

So the FTSE100 has been crawling its way back above the 4000 mark and the pundits are a-plenty. "Green Shoots"; "Signs of protracted recovery"; "Positive earnings estimates coming out of the US are driving growth" "Case-Schiller index proving US house prices are rising again"... I am sure all this is true, and statistically, there does seem much reason for celebrating the fact that stock markets have been hauling themselves higher.

But for those who invested 10 years ago, they are still significantly out-of-pocket. With 5,000+ insolvencies in the UK, rising unemployment, pay freezes and low interest rates, it seems unlikely that the real economy is going to feel any positive effect from the rising stock market indices for several months yet.

I am a believer in that bearish of fund managers, Hugh Hendry of Eclectica, who has often quoted Mark Twain: 'If you have to swallow a frog, swallow it in the morning. If you have to swallow two, swallow the larger one first. We're still swallowing the large one."

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Weird Facts

Weird Facts

Shared via AddThis

The layout of this blog link is pretty naff, but the facts are amazingly weird. And I'm not talking the boring kind of 'polar bears are left-handed' or useless trivia such as that. I mean, really weird and true... For example, did you know that:

In 2008, zoologists were using NASA satellites to count the population of kangaroo rats?

That a Wisconsin woman allegedly brought a rat into an upscale restaurant, claimed it was in her meal and then sought $500,000 to keep quiet.

A 'jiffy' is an actual unit of time for 1/100th of a second. Not a brown padded parcel bag.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dairy Queen!

Warren Buffett

Yes yes yes, I know, this is a picture of Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett. But he is more than one of the most famous investors of all time.

He is a part owner/investor of IDQ - International Dairy Queen - and therefore, one of my favourite people of all time. He is single-handedly bringing down communism by opening up a rash of Dairy Queen outlets in China. Who can be mad at the world when you're holding a peanut Buster parfait? How can you crave total world domination when confronted by a lip-smackingly small, dipped cone? Or desire to cripple the economic output of several small Western nations when your business gurus are holding their Brownie Batter Blizzards upside down to prove that the ice-cream don't melt easily?

I have yet to try this delicious treat

No-one can fear the man who craves the sugar rush that is DQ soft scoop. Hot fudge sundaes? Send them to North Korea! Middle East problem? Open a DQ on the Gaza Strip.

And please, for the love of all that is good in this world, Warren, baby, PLEASE open a DQ in London... preferably near Moorgate...

In other news, eating ice-cream has always had a kind of Eddie Murphy effect on the Mermaid. As soon as a DQ sign is sighted on the horizon... It's all IIIIICE CREAAAAAAAAM!!!!! IIIIIIICE CREAAAAAAAAAAM!!! And then, many sugar shakes later (where the whole body shivers and freezes while at the same time, weirdly, my whole body is alive with the rush of sugar and trans fats), I start to sing "I had an IIIIICE CREAM" before falling over on the sofa in a semi-comatose state.

On second thoughts, Warren, perhaps it's best if you keep DQ for the nations that really need ice-cream cocaine. I dread to think how my financial advice would turn out if I got high on your triple fudge, chocolate-dipped Reese's Pieces waffle cone. Sub-prime woes would be remembered with wistful fondness. Still, if it's good for the Man himself, it's gotta be good for the Mermaid?

Warren with a Blizzard

Monday, May 04, 2009

Cuba Take One: Flight of Miracles

Well I have finally managed to work out how to make my Flickr account visible so that you can all see the slideshow. You will see the first slideshow above this post! As mentioned in an earlier post, there will be MANY Cuba Trek 2009 updates for you to plough your way through, but don't worry - I won't do them all at once! Here is Cuba Take One: Flight of Miracles (and Bus of Despair).

Day one: Wednesday 18th February, 2009.
Clare and I have stayed in a hotel right next to Heathrow airport. It has the slowest service in the world and the coldest air conditioning in the room that I have ever encountered. However, thanks to the best plexi-glass double-glazing we heard nary a plane the whole night through. That cold morning, donning our MIND t-shirts of the brightest blue (using the left-over colourant from the old artificially blue Smarties that used to render our tongues an alarming shade of turquoise and send us children skittling off the ceiling), we headed to the airport to meet the rest of the MIND team.

I'll be honest. Things did not look good at the start. But before explaining why, let's introduce the team.

When Clare and I arrived, at the unearthly hour of 5:15am, we were met by a tanned young lady from Mind, to whom the word 'svelte' applied most aptly. This would be RT, who had organised the trip. We were joined by a young woman called JK, who seemed very quiet and who hails from South London.

Two ladies in their mid-40s (so we thought - they were actually in their 50s but looked AMAZING) came shining up, smiles and song, while a few of us drabbed around, cold and still tired. Instantly we forgot which one was Mary and which one was Sally. Eventually, thanks to me not thinking before speaking, I nicknamed them the Golden Girls, and the name stuck.

A young, tall man came gangling up at this point, bags all askew and dropping items out of his pockets/everywhere. This was RP, whose penchant from losing/dropping/misplacing or just taking off his trousers and shoes to go for a swim and leaving them on the forest floor, on the stairs of a hotel, right in front of where you were standing or, indeed, anywhere where they would be in the way/get lost was remarkable.

Another tall chap with a long black beard and glittering eye, and a lucky pink scarf, joined us. Thanks to the modus networkandi that is Facebook, we knew him to be Dave, aka 'Boomerang Jones'.

An older couple (Mary and Richard) appeared and stood quietly in group with Ron White (Ron Bianco) talking doctory stuff, while RH, known to us through Facebook, got together with an Essex chick called Liz, who declared: "I haven't trained since last year. I've not been to the Gym for three months. I need a fag." And they trotted off to partake of the nicotine stuff before the ten-hour flight precluded them from indulging in the New World leaf.

It was at this point, while waiting for Grace and Emma, the remaining two members of the team to arrive, that Libby the tour leader appeared, ethnic silver jewellery and glam hair-do included. Immediately I rued listening to Clare who had dug me gently about putting my make-up on that morning, so that I had neglected my eyeliner. I fished it out of my bag.

But the eyeliner was not to be lined on my eye, at least not yet. For Christianly Action would soon need to be called on. And this was made evident by young RP informing us loudly that 'We are not booked on the flight'. Let me explain a little about him. He is a super chap, and has a certain condition (more of that later) which can mean he sometimes finds it hard because of the condition to adapt to sudden or unexpected changes in the situation. This is made worse if the times that he takes his medication are altered for reasons of time-difference or illness.

Libby took him off to one side to deal with the situation. And returned to tell us that indeed, KLM had informed us that there was NO FLIGHT TO CUBA FROM AMSTERDAM THAT DAY.

Which was impossible, our tickets had been booked since the previous July.

No, said KLM. We do not fly to Havana on Wednesdays from Amsterdam.

This is when Christian Action kicked in. I texted some people at church and asked them to pray. I then told the group: 'WE will get to Havana today. My church is praying." They looked. What they thought of me at that moment I dare not ask. But Emma moved away a little and a group of them went off for another fag.

Half an hour and much waiting around while all we could hear was the irritating whizz-whirr of the electric advert spinning around in its infinitely rage-inducing loop, we were informed:

"Oh, actually, we ARE going to Havana today. KLM made a mistake." Evidently, as we were flying MartinAir to Havana, not KLM, which, had the assistant noticed at the first, would have prevented a panic attack.

BUT things were not to be so smooth.

Clare, who had arranged to travel straight back to Leeds, had not been registered on the flight out at all. So she had to be booked on which took nearly forever.

FINALLY we managed to get 15 minutes to get through security and buy some breakfast before rushing into the departure lounge for a flight that was an HOUR later than the one originally booked, thanks to KLM's stupendous mistake.


This caused consternation, but Libby was wonderful - she made us all sit together in our Mind shirts (16 fruit loops rocking to and fro without a flight could be dangerous, as RH whispered to me), while going to the information desk on our behalf and trying to sort out whether we could all get on the next flight out - the one at 10.

While she was there, I got out my moby again. I texted the prayer team. 'Flight to Amsterdam cancelled. Hundreds of people vying to get on next flight at 10. Please pray that we can all get on that one.'

Libby returned. We can all get on the 10am flight. HOORAH!

But we will miss the 11:45 plane to Havana (boo).

"No we won't" I say. I feel Clare cringing as she knows what's coming next. "We will get to Havana today. I have people praying that we will. So we will." More looks. Richard (p) enjoys my confidence.

Inwardly: 'Ok, God, I'm staking your reputation on this one. Please make good!'

Dave Cook the KLM representative comes over to us again with Libby. "Please rip up your transfer tickets to Havana as you won't be going to Havana today."

"Don't rip them up!" I say. "That plane might be delayed - transatlantic flights often are. Ours might get in early. We still might make it."

Libby looks at me and tells the rest of the group: "Good idea. Don't tear up your tickets just in case."

Dave Cook also looks at me. "You're an optimist aren't you? Well I'm a realist and you know what a realist is? A pessimist with experience." He laughs at his own joke.

I reply, without raising my voice or batting an eyelid: "I am not an optimist. I am a Christian. And I have experience of miracles. We will get to Havana today, we will get on that plane, and when we return, I will find you and take £5 off you."

Dave Cook is taken aback at this assertion. He muntles off (my word for muttering and shuffling off at the same time) and leaves Libby to tell us what our options are when we get to Amsterdam. Apparently she has worked her wiles and got us into the best hotel, with all expenses paid by KLM, plus all travel, and they will have to shell out for the whole group to stay an extra day in Amsterdam.

I could see the £££ signs flickering in KLM's eyes already, not in a good way.

"That's all very well, I mutter to RH, International Woman Of Mystery. "But, we will be flying to Cuba today. I have the prayers of my church backing us up."

"But the next plane to Amsterdam gets us in 10 mins after the Havana Plane is due to leave" says Clare.

Does she know me so well!?

On the flight to Amsterdam I am seated next to a young black woman and to Clare, but Clare and RP swap places half-way through. RP is loving the way I dealt with Paul Cook at Heathrow and is still laughing about it.

"SO you're a christian? What does that mean exactly?" (that's not the first thing RP tells me, the first thing he announces when he sits down is that he has Paranoid Schizophrenia. I am sure there was an intake of breath from some of the passengers around). How little we know about mental illness. This trip is really going to open my mind about a lot of things.

I tell RP about the verse in Matthew's Gospel - "Take no worry for tomorrow"... and speak to him about my faith in this God who knows when the sparrow can take off and fly, and who will make sure we all take off and fly.

I look next to me. The lady has taken out her bible and is looking up the same passage. RP is stunned at the way this lady and I get on although we've never met each other before. She is on her way to her mother's funeral in Uganda. She is praying also for us to get to HAvana! Judging by the two folk in front who are also turning around now and then, they are also christians, and also praying for us. There are now about 20 or more people praying for us to get to Havana.

RP is really heartened by this. As the plane draws into the runway at Amsterdam, all of us MIND people are stuck at the back of the plane. A set of steps are drawn alongside the rear of the plane. A voice comes over the tannoy.

"Will the group going to Havana today please disembark from the back of the plane where you will be taken to your connecting flight."

A shout of joyous disbelief from the Mind team. "We're going to Havana!" The couple in Front and the lady next to me give us smiles and hugs. "I told you so" (I allowed myself a few of these). RP is overjoyed. "Dave Cook is going to be so gutted! You were right and he was wrong". "I told you God would get us there!"

So we get to the embarkation point for our connecting flight with MartinAir. We are told that our luggage will not be arriving that day. "We don't care" is the happy answer. "Our luggage will arrive today" I say, having made ANOTHER hasty text to the prayer warriors at Thornton Heath Evangelical Church.

NOW people are asking me to get prayers for their luggage.... interesting, isn't it?

I suspect another member of the team, Dr Ron, might be praying too. I'll have to ask him if he's one of 'My People'.

We get on the flight. Our seats have been changed. Instead of being booked onto the flight, they took us off it and gave our Standard Class seats to some other people instead.

So the only option is for them to give us... FIRST CLASS CABIN SEATS!!!!


We are travelling in Luxury on a flight they said we would never get, on the day they said there were no flights.

HAHAHAHAHA. My God is a Great Big God. He did not want a group of charity workers stashed in the cramped cabins at the back, but arranged all the flight worries so that we could all have two or three seats each in first class. Don't tell me I don't get Romans 8:28. YEAH BABY!

This isn't the end. As we wait for our luggage at Havana Airport, it becomes increasingly obvious that there is nothing coming around the carousel. Even my optimism is waning but I can't believe that God will let me down now, especially as I staked His reputation on the line. Emma says: "Even your optimism must be running low - we're not going to get our bags." I am about to doubtfully agree with some compromising platitude, when one of the Golden Girls cry out...

Our bags are here!

They have been lined up along the wall, sent 'Special delivery.' It seems our bags, by some miracle, have got to Havana before us... not a single piece of luggage is missing or ruined.

Now that is a flight of miracles.

JK (and others) come up to me. "Please thank your church for praying that we will get here." RP is still on a high about the look on Dave Cook's face when I demand that £5. The power of prayer has got us to Cuba in the face of obstacles, and the trek itself is going to be a FANTASTIC TREK, full of more miracles, self-revelation, breaking through fear barriers and meeting amazing people....

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


So here is a very cute video of little Monty when he was just a wee kotteb, playing Fetch with a chocolate wrapper...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Red Nose Day... or Red Mist Day

Red nose day 2009

Well, you can't have escaped the fact that, in the good ol' UK, we're celebrating Comic Relief for charity - aka, Red Nose Day. Ostensibly a day for sporting silly red noses and watching comedians making special shows to help raise money for children in Africa. Today already, I have seen The Pink Panther paw his fluffy way onto the Victoria Line. I saw a herd of schoolchildren perform a percussion noise pollution type thing outside Oxford Circus Station. Many people were wearing specially-designed Comic Relief t-shirts.

But I am not here to talk about the billions of pounds this will raise for children in Africa. I am not here to celebrate the wonder of a nation coming together in a united and charitable cause. Nor am I here to extol the virtues of laughter and the bond it creates as a social cohesive.

No. I am here to talk of a tale of failure, murder, death, feathers and 3am shrieks in the night. All in the name of Comic Relief.

IT ALL STARTED ON MONDAY, when a friend rang to ask if I could make hot cross buns for his charity sale in aid of Comic Relief.

At this point, I should have, could have, said, 'not this time'.
Stupidly, I have a habit of saying:
"Yes of course!"

And that set me on the path of doom, failure, murder, death (doesn't murder intrinsically involve death?), feathers and 3am shrieks in the night....

Thursday night, after GCU, I went to the big Sainsbury's in Streatham to buy yeast and strong bread flour. It took ages to find the yeast - a motherly older lady came to my rescue - and finally I was home, bags bursting with food and ingredients. And a good Jamie Oliver recipe for 'easy' hot cross buns, buns which are supposed to look like THIS...

Nice Hot Cross Buns

The '15 minutes' that pounding the dough into a proper consistency was more like 45 minutes, during which I got cross and hot. I had to resort to singing hymns to stop myself thinking murderous thoughts.

Then I got fed up of pounding, so I just rolled it in some dry flour and put it back in the bowl.

OH YES. You let it stand for 1.5 hours. (by then it was already 10.30). So by 12 it would be DOUBLE in size and ready for me to make small buns out of it.

Okay, I could cope with that, although I was already knackered beyond thought. I dozed off and set the alarm for midnight.

At midnight I looked into the covered bowl. The dough had NOT doubled in size. It looked exactly the same size. It WAS the same size.

Well I made the balls out of it anyway and glazed them with egg.

I looked at the recipe. "let the buns stand for another 1.5 hours". ANOTHER 1.5 HOURS? That would take me up to... 2am.


I dozed off to sleep again. 1.5 hours later, there were NO risen buns. They were the same size. GRRRR.

I piped the crosses onto the flat buns. The cross dough just rolled off. Oh well. By then I couldn't care less, I just wanted the buns to cook.

But, just as I was getting ready to put them into the oven, the murder happened.

For Monty-The-Cat suddenly jumped in at the window from the still darkness of the 2.30am morning, with a mothering pigeon dead in his mouth. He'd waited up a tree until he saw a nesting pigeon. Then pounced and killed. And brought it in on the side where I was glazing my buns.

I screamed. He dropped the pigeon on the windowsill and ran under the bed, dropping downy grey feathers over the side and floor, a soft, delicate dusting of death. But my scream had scared two women outside who also started to scream. Lights went on around the houses. Lights went on in the police station behind my flats. Monty came out from under the bed and lay on the floor, bloodied paws stretching and wiggling in murderous, tired joy.

I slammed the buns into the oven and gave up even trying to make anything of them. If I had left the dough out or in the fridge it might have been okay. But I had given up. I knew by then, of course, that there was no way I would be taking in those buns, comic relief or no.

I then betook myself to cleaning the flat, putting the pigeon into a bag and clearing up the feathers. I then had to wash the cat, who was covered in evidence. So the poor thing is in the bathtub, being showered down, trying to crawl up the tiles (or me, eliciting more screams). During which time the buns burned. They were NOT buns at all. These buns were dead, deceased, no more. The buns were non-buns.

3:10 am I finally get to bed, with a poor, wet, bedraggled and confused cat.

It's a rare old world!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Dear all,

Well, it's been a while since I was able to write anything online. Thank goodness I keep a diary! I've missed blogging and I've missed catching up with all my blogging friends. But there is great hope on the horizon - I may be given the luxury of time back very soon. There are exciting plans ahead for me which will entail me being able, at least for most of the week, to work from home. This will give me back 2.5 hours of my day otherwise spent travelling. An extra 1 hour to add to this will be the lack of me having to get dressed and cleaned up. Nice. Smelly Mermaid. Mmm... arome du home-working writer. Nom de Fume.


Anyway, I want to thank you all who kindly sponsored me in my walk in Cuba, and who sent me kind wishes and thoughts. It was a fantastic success, and really life-changing. I will tell you more about Cuba in Cuba part ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE AND SIX. AND SEVEN.

Believe me, there are LOADS of photos for you to snore your way through. So be prepared for an onslaught.

PS. Oh yes, the mermaid has also found a mer-man.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


It apparently did. Some bother with transport, a school might have closed early. £10 lost at Primark.

I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary though. Did any of you?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

iShuffle - and iLove it!

I love my iPod nano. I know it's not the latest one, or the most technologically capable iPod out there, but it's revolutionised my gym and travelling sessions.

Now, instead of using the gym for thinking-about-important-stuff time, I listen to music
Now, instead of using travelling time to read and expand my mind, I listen to music
Now, instead of buying 50 cds a year at sale prices and uploading all the songs (probably about 1,000 songs), I buy individual tracks for $1. If I were to buy 1000 songs for my iPod over the year, I would be paying $1,000.

Ain't that brill? The best bit, however, is the potential for humorous juxtaposition of songs.

I've downloaded the entire Messiah as I love the music. But when you stick songs on shuffle, the best combination of music is possible.

Here are two recent juxtapositions which made me snort with laughter publicly (once at the gym, once travelling). I might get arrested for this one day.

The Messiah: 'And he shall stop their mouths'.
The section ends: 'And they shall shake their heads, saying.........."

"Caught in a trap/There's no way out/Because I love you too much baby...."

And then:
The Messiah: 'And suddenly, there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying....

"Can you feel it? Can you feel it? CAN YOU FEEL IT???"


Friday, January 02, 2009


One of the stories I have been editing today is about a fund manager who does skydiving in his spare time. One particular paragraph really set me about laughing, however, as I felt my editing skills put sorely to the test in the face of very inappropriate humour.

The paragraph ran thus:

‘Eric has jumped with people of all ages. “The youngest was my daughter, who I took up for her 15th birthday. The oldest was a man aged 82 who had landed on Normandy beaches during D-Day. It was very emotional for him as the jump was onto a Normandy beach.”’

I really want to edit it to read:

‘Eric has jumped with people of all ages. “The youngest was my daughter, who I took up for her 15th birthday. The oldest was a man aged 82 who had landed on Normandy beaches during D-Day. It was very emotional for him as the jump was onto a Normandy beach and we had arranged for a German soldier to be waiting for him with a Schmeisser.”’

Oh well something had to make me laugh this miserable new year.