Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Ok... not that long ago I was writing that Hubland and I had pretty much decided not to have kids... and for me it now feels like that has gone out the window. I am so damn broody its unbelievable. Two of my best friends have just had their first bambinos - a boy and a girl (they have to get married when they grow up). I have a friend at work who is pregnant. Everything around me just seems to scream baby! and then the voice in my head says 'You want one, and you want one right know'. But I can't have one.... and I also want to see if this feeling lasts. In about a years time our financial situation will be miles better and might be the time to think about getting pregnant, so if the broodiness lasts until then I think we'll probably get started.

Who'd a thought it?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Where have I been?

My goodness it's been a long time since I've written, in fact I think it's probably the longest time between posts since I started this blog. But I'm not gone completely, just had the busiest couple of months that I've had since starting my job, and four different visits from family on top of that. I've had lots of posts going around my head as always, but none of them have managed to make it on to hear until now.

So where have I been? Belgium, Ireland, with my sister, with my mother, with my sister-in-law and with my mother-in-law, shopping for winter clothes and shoes, watching Party of Five re-runs on Zone Romantica and Gilmore Girls on E4, celebrating hubland's 34th birthday with a chocolate dinosaur cake, playing with Sky+, feeling broody*, making apple juice, loving Autumn, wondering when the babies will arrive.... and currently listening to Jann Arden singing 'Good Mother' and wondering why I've never heard of her before.

So where have you been?


Monday, August 25, 2008

Out of my world

This post has been a while in coming... and as husband has current ownership of the TV (Mighty Boosh on DVD, like it, don't love it) I thought I should get around to posting. A conversation a couple of weeks ago reminded me that some things that regular features in other's lives, just are out of my range of personal 'normality'.

Some of them are trivial, some I'd take more seriously, but all are out of my range of comprehension..... they would never stop me being friends with someone... and frankly they're none of my business... but they still make me go.... huh?

1) Drinking

I'm not a tee-totaller, and I've had a few times in my life where I've drunk too much, although I don't drink at the moment as it doesn't agree with me. Husband will have a glass of wine or a bottle of beer most evenings. That's fine. It's not going to do him any harm and it is part of the 'little pleasures' of life. I'm completely happy with the government's guidelines of a maximum 3-4 units a day for a man and 2-3 units a day for a woman. They are sensible, they don't force abstinence, and I'm sure you can play with a little and still be fine. But I regularly come across friends or acquaintances who just don't play this game by the rules. They have a bottle of wine most nights, or regular get clattered on a Friday and Saturday -downing their weekly units in one or two sittings. That is long term liver damage just waiting to happen..... not pretty.... but just not on some people's radar.

2) Smoking

Why do people still smoke? It's madness I tell you.... madness! I can cope with this in friends, but it would be make or break for a partner.

3) Reading gossip mags

Yes they can be funny, and I will flick through one at the doctors or left by a fellow passenger on a train. But to buy them? Every week? And actually pay attention to what 'celebrities' are up to? Nope, just don't get it....

4) Money

Increasingly I come across couples - either in long-term, living together relationships, married or not - who do not have joint finances i.e. they each pay 50% of the household bills (despite any difference in earnings), don't have a joint account (or do but just for bills, which they both pay into), pay separately for things like holidays, big purchases etc. I, personally, couldn't handle this. My idea of marriage/commitment does not involve such a significant form of separation. My husband and I do have separate credit cards - to allow us to buy birthday and Christmas gifts for each other without the recipient seeing the details. I'm sure this is more common than ever before but it worries me for two major reasons. Firstly, to me a big part of marriage is about coming together as a new family unit, a new person in fact. Separating out your finances this way just looks like its going to act as a wedge (or a least not a help) in keeping that relationship going. Secondly, trust (and associated honesty) is also a big deal for me in marriage. If you have separate finances because your other half is an erratic spender, then again, I think you're going to have bigger problems in your relationship in the longer term......

5) Bathrooms

Ditto for having separate bathrooms. Nice luxury... but essential/make or break for a successful marriage?... no....

As I said at the start, none of these things would stop me being friends with someone, caring for someone, but they are things 'out of my world'.... and always makes me do the puzzled head tilt...

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Music is one of the most important pleasures in my life. I spent a good proprtion of my teenage years lying in my bedroom singing (or crying) along to all manner of music. My tastes have broadend as I've got older - with only Jazz eluding me completely.

Yesterday one of my favourite albums arrived in the post from ebay. My Dad had this album on tape, which meant I had it on tape and he never saw it again. I think I actually wore the tape out. I don't know what reminded me of it, but suddenly I had to have it and listen to it again. There was only one copy of it on ebay, so £3.26 (including P&P) later I was the proud owner of Paul Simon: Negotiations and Love Songs 1971-1986.


1. Mother and child reunion
2. Me and Julio down by the school yard - makes me jig around the room
3. Something so right - chillout, slide down the sofa and so 'aaaaahhhhhhh'
4. St Judy's Comet - this has got to be my favourite lullaby
5. Loves me like a rock - a little bit of gospel-ish
6. Kodachrome - so silly, yet so right
7. Have a good time - a little bit sleazy
8. 50 ways to leave your lover - a classic
9. Still crazy after all these years - I think this should be 'our song'
10. Late in the evening
11. Slip slidin' away - my philosophy
12. Hearts and bones
13. Train in the distance
14. Rene and Georgette Magritte with their dog after the war - this one makes me cry
15. Diamonds on the souls of her shoes
16. You can call me Al - again so silly, yet so right, I should really look up what is means....
The lyrics are so insightful and beautiful, the music is spot on - taking you from tears to childish dancing and back again over the course of the compilation. I love the way when you know an album so well you can anticipate the movement of the next song before it starts - and if you here them out of their 'proper order' it just feels wrong. I can't believe I've lived without this album for this long.

Friday, August 01, 2008


Today is the 1st of August, and also the 1st day of my new eating regime. I've put on a stone since I got married 2 half years ago, most of it went on in the first 6 months - due to some unfortunate drug side effects and boredom at work. It's been pretty stable since then so I must be eating the right amount of calories to maintain by weight.

So, for the month of August, I'm going to be strict with myself: no cake, no biscuits, no full-fat fizzy drinks and no dairy (I'm sure my IBS inteferes with my metabolism). I'm not a big indulger but as I'm on maintain weight mode, cutting the calorific things I do eat is the easiest way to change. I know I can lose 1-2 pounds a week by just being strict, I've done it before but now I need to stick with it, something I find really hard, so I think a month is a good initial period to aim for - also September and October are going to be mad, so if I lose weight in August my aim for those months will be to maintain.

In the long rung I'd like to be two stone lighter, but I haven't been near that since I was at school. It would be the right weight for my height though - putting me in the 'healthy' BMI range. My current BMI is 29.12. My long term target BMI is 24.5. Although that's at the top of the healthy range, I think I'd look damn strange if I was any skinnier than that. And really, I should knock off about half a stone for my boobs as they weigh a ton!

I'm also going to try and up my activity levels. I have to be rather careful with this though, as I do have a limited energy supply and my sleep is screwed at the moment leaving me more tired than usual. My tactics are going to be (when I feel up to it): walk around campus at lunchtime, walk up the hill from the station, go for walks in the evening with Ben - must dig out my pedometer. If I ever get a bathing suit that actually fits (I'm waiting for no. 3 to arrive in the post) I'll also try and add swimming - although the facilties around here are not top.

I'll let you know how it goes - hell if I lose 4 pounds I'll be happy!

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Joy of Silliness

It hasn't been the best of weekends. The working week ended with a rather nasty shock regarding my role (still have a job, but possibly not the one I really wanted). And then I slept, all day Saturday, all day Sunday.

So in contrast to that, I thought I'd write about the joy of silliness, particularly silliness in films. Tonight on Film4 there is Dodgball, tomorrow Zoolander, and I've just bought Snakes on a Plane on Ebay. Let the silliness run free.

I know some people may dismiss these films, and I myself make a distinction between the "gross out" comedy of Dumb and Dumber, American Pie and the like, and films that are truly just plain silly. So if you haven't watched any of these films just by accident, or you dismissed them as "low culture" that was beneath you, I say look again, look a little lower, and be prepared to be silly and check out those mentioned above plus:

Dukes of Hazzard . Groundhog Day . The Man with Two Brains . Cry Baby . Bruce Almighty . Anchorman . Clerks & Clerks II (warning very silly, but very, very rude) . Little Nicky . Airplane . Spaceballs . Mars Attacks! . Princess Bride .... what are your favourite silly movies?

Monday, July 14, 2008

The way to end a crappy-ish day

... is with “buy one book get another half price” in WH Smith. We’re at the thin end of the month but I was blue so £12 for two paperbacks didn’t seem too much of a price to pay to cheer myself up. I bought “The Last Empress” and “Becoming Madame Mao” by Anchee Min. I read “Empress Orchid” during and after my trip to China, “The Last Empress” is the sequel. At the moment I like the window into the world feeling that these books give, taking me away from myself and putting me in a world that is so different to mine. When you’ve had a crappy-ish day, it’s where you need to be.

So why crappy-ish? Well it wasn’t full blown crappy, nothing bad happened, I was declared to have normal blood pressure for the first time in 6 months by my doctor, so that wasn’t bad. I had a comedy moment in a sandwich shop where my “cheddar and cucumber” baguette somehow became just cucumber – I didn’t realise this until I had walked down the street, and the baguette was still warm, so just cucumber was okay.

The crappy-ish came this afternoon in a meeting with one of the “middle managers” of the academic type at my University. You really couldn’t get much wetter than him, I had more enthusiasm out of my mother when I told her I wanted to do a PhD on witchcraft. After about 10 minutes I was looking around for the arsenic – for him or me, I wasn’t sure. He’s been in post now for about four years, no wonder his department is withering underneath him. He isn’t a bad man, just a man who shouldn’t be within five miles of a position which requires enthusiasm and leadership skills. He typifies what is worst about my University – slightly depressed, sleepy, totally unaware of so much of what happens in the Institution and the world around him.

So that meeting depressed me, it probably depressed him poor sod. But now I have two new books, a naughty bottle of Coca Cola, and I’m sitting on the train with my laptop out so I can look important, so life is getting better.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Wish I knew...

...why I'm still up at 23:06 despite having no sleep last night and feeling tired
...why I'm so scatter brain at the moment when I'm usually so organised about that sort of thing
...why I can't seem to keep my mouth shut at work
...why I just can't seem to let it lie
...why I haven't gotten around to telling anyone important that something I did at work made it into the national press (don't worry, in a good way)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Thought it was time for a garden update. This is what we have planted (read left to right/clockwise):

- Two tubs: one with young lettuce and spring onions, one carrots and parsnips
- On the bench: two troughs of lettuce
- Two tubs of dwarf French beans behind the end of the bench, one set of which lost their seed leaves in the high winds we've had, but they look like they might recover.
- In front of the bench: a pumpkin and a courgette plant
- In front of the grow house: a tomato plant, a (very small, but looks alive) blueberry bush, sunflowers
- In the grow house: chilli, small lettuce plants, delphiniums (taking ages to grow), more beans, more young lettuce, more sunflowers, basil, and the next generation of spring onions
- On the window sill: more lettuce
- In big tubs: 8 tomato plants in two tubs at the back, 3 pepper plants and 3 aubergine plants in two tubs at the front.
- By the door: rosemary and some million bell flowers.

Phew! That’s a lot of plants, and a lot of lettuce to eat! At the moment it is only the lettuce that we're harvesting (although I worked out that we will easily save about £40 by growing our own), the rest will mostly start cropping over July, August and September.

P.S. Can you spot our two new arrivals to the family sat on the gas box. My handiwork, I'm a very proud mama.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Well I've just checked in to my Hong Kong hotel - a "Chinese boutique hotel" - in HK boutique does seem to mean small rooms, but also beautifully decorated in a modern Chinese style. Much better than a faceless euro-hotel box. And how big a bedroom do you need anyway?

As I checked in I had to give a credit card to put a deposit on the room. I looked in my wallet, and my heart dropped. My Natwest Visa card was no longer there. Trying not to panic I handed over my other card. I've just ransacked my bags and I just can't find it. I haven't used it since Wednesday so it hasn't been out of my wallet, and my wallet hasn't been out of my sight. I've never left it in my room, it's always been with me in my bag. Nothing else is missing.

So I rang the lovely "Card loss" centre and I've cancelled it - luckily no other transactions have been carried out since I last used it - so it must be lost, or stolen by someone really inept. I still feel a little stressed, as I've never had a card lost or stolen before. But it is cancelled now, so no harm done. A new one is winging its way to me in the post. Luckily I have other means of paying for things, and I intend to wander around Hong Kong rather than shop.

Time for some lunch I think and a wander, before heading up Victoria Peak.

P.S. I can read my posts (and your comments) now I'm in HK....

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Boy's night out, Guangzhou style

Oh am I ready for my bed! Today has gone well, but the heat is really taking it out of me. We've managed to get through the initial negotiations regarding the collaboration, so tomorrow will not be so intense.

Dinner tonight was in the brand new international convention centre. I don't think I've ever seen anything like it in my life! The reception was in an atrium 3 storeys high and completely lined with marble. It would make a great ballroom dancing space.

The food was good - I am having a little trouble with being a vegetarian, mainly because they don't serve rice or noodles, as these are the "poor man's fillers". So I'm eating a lot of lovely bok choi, mushrooms and tofu, but my goodness do I crave some carbohydrate.

Our companions for the night were some university classmates of our Chinese colleague, along with other academic staff that he knows. It was lovely to see D smiling and being happy with his friends, and it was a lot more relaxed than the formal dinner last night. A great deal of Chinese red wine was consumed on their part and it got quite silly at one point. Very fun.

Tomorrow we will get to see some of Guangzhou city itself!

Sight of the day:
- Roadside knicker stand.

Bizarre realisation of the day:
- I can post to my blog, but not read it.... Chinese internet blocking in action

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

In a very big country

Today I'm blogging from Guangzhou, a very large city in south-eastern China. This is the first time I've been anywhere near this part of the world - and despite the horrendous lack of sleep (I think I've had about 1 hr in the last 30 or so) I'm enjoying the adventure. I'm here for work - vi sting a local University - but I'm happy not to be a full blown tourist and get a chance to talk to people who actually live here.

I flew into Hong Kong and then got the high speed train to the city centre, a short taxi ride (in distance, not in time, the traffic was pretty much stationary) later I had transferred to Hung Hom station to catch the train to the mainland and Guangzhou. Through immigration (again) and then 1hr 45mins to look at the Chinese scenery.

So today on my travels I have seen.....

1) A man carrying about a dozen live chickens in a crate strapped to the back of his bicycle.
2) More 50+ storey apartment blocks than I ever thought existed. I was expecting these to cover Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, but they also stretched into the New Territories and over into Dongguan and Guangzhou.
3) Lots and lots of factories and their dormitories - a large proportion of people live where they work here. Some were in varying states of decay, some had big towers belching fumes, some were clean and tidy... but they were everywhere, wherever there weren't 50 storey apartment blocks.
4) Immobile rain... I think its a new category I've identified, somewhere between mist and rain... that hangs around (and falls at the same time) around Mount Baiyun.
5) A black cat.
6) The biggest container port I've ever seen - with containers stacked six high and cranes bigger than my office building.

Right, I'd better go before my brain collapses completely. I promise more ponderings, particularly on the nature of the social and cultural construction of reality...

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Food thoughts

I sat down on the train this morning and smiled with pride at my cargo. On the table in front of me were two tomato plants, just beginning to produce flower buds, which I have grown from seed. 8 of the original 12 plants are planted up in two big troughs in our garden, two have gone to live with Adventuring Jen. These two were going to be divided between two of my colleagues who have been eagerly awaiting their arrival.

On the train I decided to listen to one of the back catalogue of the Speaking of Faith podcasts which I am slowly working through on my iPod. Coincidentally (although I'm sure my subconscious had something to do with it) I chose an interview with Barbara Kingsolver about her book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life" which tells the story of a year in the life of her family after they decided to truly eat local - growing or rearing most of their own food, supplemented by the local farmers market. I know of Barbara Kingsolver through her wonderful novel "The Poisonwood Bible" which I read about 8 years ago. The interview has, however, made me want to discover more of her non-fiction writing - I've already reserved a copy of "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" at a book shop in town.

The podcast also made me think about the changes that my husband and I are making in our lives related to food and sustainability. Since we've owned our own home, and are settled in our life together we've become gradually more focused on the longer term pattern of our lives. A major part of our lives is the food we eat. I love cooking creatively and also enjoy baking cakes as a key means by which I de-stress.

This year I've also taken on gardening properly for the first time. Over the course of our first full year in our house we managed to clear out the big weeds and over-grown plants from our garden - so this is the first year I've actually be able to plan (well a bit) of what we might grow. We invested in a mini-greenhouse for £15 from the local garden centre and I raised 40 annual bedding plants from seed. They are now in the border, suffering a little from the excessive rainfall, but doing ok considering.

I also had the great urge to grow some plants from food. So far we've been harvesting our first "cut and come again" lettuce crops - which is truly wonderful. I don't think we'll ever buy a bag of salad again. All we do now is walk out of the door and pick it straight off the plant. Within a couple of days a new leaf has starting growing and so we get a steady supply. I've also got a very small container with carrots and parsnips as an experiment this year. The dwarf french beans are starting to germinate (planted a little late, but they'll be ok) and the basil is doing well.

We've also planted two varieties of sunflowers from seeds we harvested from our first batch last year (if anybody wants some, just let me know, I'm sure its not too late). These are growing so quickly I must plan them out this weekend.

If all goes reasonably this year maybe next year we'll see if we can get one of the allotments down the road and grow many more vegetables. I love knowing exactly where what we're eating has come from, and what has (and has not) gone into growing it.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The limit

So today I finally hit my coping limit at work. Things have been getting progressively shitter since Christmas - all exacerabated by the fact that I am actually quite sick but trying to carry on. We're merging with another organisation and on top of that we're being restructured. I haven't had a boss with more than 3 minutes to spare for me since January. My lovely colleague is now moving on to a new job (which is v. good for him so am glad really). So out of an office of 3 that leaves just me. I'm sat at my desk (sods law that my boss is actually in next door today) feeling pretty tearful. My colleague is on leave. I am on my own and I haven't even managed to eat lunch today. I wish I wasn't so stressed, but with feeling so desperately ill I just don't seem to be able to stop. Meep.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Lady in the Water

This film pretty much sunk without trace on release in the UK at least, and reading the reviews on RottenTomatoes.com, it isn't hard to see why. Yet I'm a Shylaman fan, so damn it I'm rented it from Amazon and now I feel compelled to write about it.

So first, why did it get such a bad reception?

1) What bugs me is if things aren't perfect, or near perfect, they get slagged off as if they were 100% crap, but Shylaman's films aren't perfect, in fact they've got less perfect as he's gone along as he's pushed his boundaries further and perhaps as his ego has got rather bigger. But that is no reason not to see and enjoy Lady in the Water for the perfect things in it that are contained within its imperfection.

2) I think the trailers have a lot to answer for. Before I rented the movie I didn't know a whole lot about it, just that it was the latest Shylaman. So as Hubland* and I sat down to watch it we flicked to the special features first to watch the trailers. The full length trailer advertised a totally different film - a big budget horror movie - rather than a haunting fairytale. So if people went to see it based on that, they are going to be very confused and disappointed. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if they walked out after 30 mins.

3) Not withstanding point 1) it was far from perfect - some of the scripting was pretty awkward, somehow the premise just didn't get itself across until over half way through and I still think I need to watch it again to understand it properly, basically it didn't hang together despite the great cast, the beautiful cinematography, and the quirky fairytale plot.

So why then did I like it despite its flaws?

Because I like fairytales, I like fantasy, and I particularly like when the edges bleed and disappear between fantasy and reality. Lady in the Water isn't a masterpiece like Pan's Labyrinth, but it is a worthy attempt and has some beautiful moments. Paul Giamatti and Bryce Howard are a wonderful pairing. The motley crew of neighbours that come together to form the mythical characters are charming and bizarre. And hell, it's worth seeing for the cinematography alone!

Ok this has turned into a more stream of consciousness blog than I anticipated, but I'm going to press publish now anyway, and I hope you see Lady in the Water, and let me know what you think.

*this is his new monicker as he is "the land of Husbands"

Friday, May 16, 2008

New comedy

It takes a lot for me to get into a new comedy series. Most of the British comedy that is currently produced a find a bit gruesome - too extreme in one way or another - or often just not that funny and reminds me too much of the family based sit-coms of the 1980s. Most of the American series on Sky are just pretty weak comedically, or again based on gross out humour.

However, two series have started in the last month or so - one from the US and one from the UK - that have really won me over. If you haven't discovered them yet I think you should check them out when you're in need of some light relief.

I think we're on about episode seven of The Big Bang Theory over here - a sit-com about a group of super-geek friends who work together as post-doctoral researchers in a Physics lab. It stars Johnny Galecki, who I've always had a soft spot for since he played David in Roseanne. And my word, that man just doesn't age! It isn't mind-blowingly funny but there are some great moments, and some fantastic lines. I also think for a friends-based sit-com its a good new premise to base it on geek-dom. Best of all, on top of being funny, it has a theme sung written and performed by the Barenaked Ladies!

Ok, so I can't claim that The Inbetweeners doesn't have some gross out moments - it is after all about a group of boys in 6th form - but nothing too bad. All of them are, however, great character actors, and the fact that they aren't playing the 'in crowd' or the 'outcasts' means that they're antics just remind me of what the average 6th form boy was like when I was in school - trying to get served in the pub, learning to drive, trying to get their hands on your breasts etc. It's accuracy is what makes it so funny, and so disarming.

I'm sure you'll be able to find both of these on Channel4 On Demand so there is no excuse for not watching them!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Top of the list

I’ve had two “No 1’s” in the last week or so – events that have topped my experience list in their respective categories. One good, one bad.

Wednesday morning I sat in what was potentially one of the most important meetings of my job so far – a grilling by an external audit panel. I was the note-taker for the session and I was also there to answer questions on my particular area of operations. Within 10 minutes I knew I was getting a headache. By the time they came to question me directly an hour later, I knew I had a migraine. I survived the meeting, answered the questions with something approaching sense, survived the de-briefing, survived finding an obscure document the audit team had requested. Then I threw up. Then I attempted to make my 90 minute journey home without throwing up again. I worked in stages, rewarding myself after every stage of the journey with the thought that I was one move close to home: to bus stop, bus journey, to platform, on train, change trains, get taxi, home....

I managed to hold out to the last part of my journey until I had to throw up again. Luckily I had a lovely taxi driver, who I had had before, and who’s son has migraine. I also managed to throw up outside of the taxi so I wasn’t that bad a passenger.

Because the migraine had by that point had about 5 hours to establish itself it meant I spent the rest of Wednesday and all of Thursday in bed. I still feel pretty spaced out on Friday – but at least I had a quiet day in the office.

So that goes down as the worse migraine of my life so far (Evan, if you’re reading this, I’m afraid that one where you drove me back from York has been knocked off the top spot, sorry it was a close call).

So on to the good “No. 1”. One of the sessions I attended at my new religions conference last week was on the experience of the Branch Davidians at Waco. We had an outline of the current state of the research into the group and its experiences, and an overview the materials held in archive which are accessible to researchers. Interesting, but didn’t blow my mind.

Then at exactly 15 years to the day and hour of the final assault on Waco we had a chance to hear from one of the survivors. He survived primarily because he was captured at the start of the siege on 28th February. His wife and mother were killed during the siege. He has spent the last 15 years in prison, some in the USA, some in the UK (he’s a British Citizen), much of it in solitary as punishment for not acknowledging what he did was wrong.

He was an ordained 7th Day Adventist minister with a degree from Manchester Metropolitan University before he joined the Branch Davidians, an offshoot of the 7th Day Adventists. He spoke with great grace and faith, describing the horrors and injustice that had been inflicted on the religious settlement that he belonged to at Mount Carmel, Waco, Texas.

To the British people (and other Europeans) in the audience the story behind Waco is pretty hard to get your head around. The community made much of their income through dealing guns – legally, at gun fairs and the like across the state. They were under surveillance as they were suspected of converting semi-automatic weapons to automatic weapons. This is not illegal in Texas, but you do need to pay a fee for every weapon you convert. So essentially this was a revenue issue, not one of religion or arms. The government agents had been watching the compound for some time, and had actually been invited in to inspect, and had taken up the offer. I don’t know all the details of what happened after that but obviously something went fundamentally wrong in the approach of the government agencies involved.

The Branch Davidians do not hold a pacificist theology, on the contrary they believed that they needed defend their faith, with force if necessary. I can imagine that this might have happened if government agents forcibly entered any number of properties around the USA where people hold weapons and do not generally recognise the authority of the state. Being a religious community didn’t really make them any different in this regard – they just had a different reason for doing it.

It was a tragedy – members of the community and FBI officers lost their lives needlessly.

The survivor spoke elegantly of his own experiences at Waco, of his theology, of David Koresh’s religious experience in Jerusalem. He quoted scripture from the Old Testament to the New, focusing a great deal on the Gospel of John and Revelations. His theology was as coherent as any other Christian based theology that I have come across.

Many Christians may not agree with the Branch Davidians interpretation of the Bible, but hearing it just drove home to me again that the Bible (and other religious texts) are open to such varying interpretations – and that’s even before you start looking into the issue of translation.

You may believe in the one true God of Christianity, but if you’re reading his message, remember that you’re nearly 2000 away from when the accounts of the New Testament were written, speaking a different language, and relying on hundreds of years of translation and interpretation. So never get too stuck on a word or a phrase – far better to go one on one with your God.

Monday, April 21, 2008


Just a quick post to say I survived my week of running around. The work conferences were good, the academic conference was even better. Expect to see some posts on it in the near future as it has got my head a buzzing on all things religious.

Monday, April 14, 2008

This present crapness

Okay, so where have I been lately....mmm... let's see.... at work, yes I'm sure I remember being there some of the time. At home.... well I can only really remember the bedroom and being sat on by a large ginger cat. Oh that's right, we did go out for a drive yesterday but I don't remember much of that as I was feeling so nauseated.

So things aren't going well inside my body at the moment. CFS is bad, bad, bad. Blood pressure is still 150/100, and the losing weight hasn't really happened due to the amount of time spent in bed. Seeing the doctor in a fortnight, which I can imagine will end in me going on ACE inhibitors (boooo!) but at least I can now prove that my tiredness was not due to me "forgetting" to take my thyroid tablets. I've been taking them religiously again since mid-January, and I'm stil knackered. She's a nice doctor, and it was rational to blame my tiredness on my appauling "compliance percentage" but I know that the thyroid tablets have never made the slightest bit of difference to my tiredness... which is odd... because they should.

And this week, well this week is really just a joke:
Tuesday - work conference in London
Wednesday - work conference in London followed by opening plenary of academic conference
Thursday - at work for v. important meeting, followed by afternoon in London for academic conference... staying the night
Friday - academic conference in London... staying the night
Saturday - academic conference

I am going to be so dead by Saturday night. Oh and my father-in-law is staying tomorrow night. In the five years that husband and I have lived together he has never been to visit us - we go and see him at least two or three times a year (he is 6 hours away) - so I'm not really moaning about that. At least its on that night that I'll be home at a reasonable hour.

Husband does think I'm mad going to the academic conference - but it is the first big conference in the area of my proto-PhD (which I haven' t done any work on lately...) - and its quite handy in London. It will be my first chance to make some friends (I refuse to "network" for academic purposes) in the field and hear some of the cutting edge research. Really miffed that I've got to miss the Thursday morning.... but at the moment work has to come first.

Ok, I've moaned enough - do you fancy seeing some pictures of owls from the Bird of Prey Centre, the last time I left the house and didn't feel too crap? I sure do:

"Am I sleeping, or am I plotting something evil?"

I just couldn't get these guys to synchronise their head turning, so much for marital co-operation!

Do these look familiar? These are a pair of "Gonzo" owls! They had two pairs at the Centre. Husband and I are going to sponsor a pair when we have some spare cash.

Ok, so this isn't an owl... but it was a very impressive turkey in a field by the roadside on the way home!

Monday, March 24, 2008

The perfect instrument

Not my usual blogging content today - but this was just so amusing, in a pre-pubescent humour type way, that I had to share it with the world. This is a quote from an article in the Guardian newspaper entitled 'Prized violin plays again for Moscow elite':

"I wasn't sure he would agree to play my instrument," said Viktorov. "But he took it in his hands and played for seven seconds, after which he said the last time he had that feeling was when he touched his own instrument for the first time."

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Get cycling

So I completed my first exchange through Freecycle today. I'd heard of it on and off for ages but I finally got around to registering last week. We have quite a bit of stuff hanging around the house and the loft which we really don't need - but can't quite face chucking out as it is not actually broken. So today our old digital camera D.O.B. c.2002 went to a family in a nearby village. I felt really good about it, as I got the impression that they wouldn't have been able to have been able to obtain a camera through any other means. If you haven't joined yet, and you have random stuff lying around, or are in need of random stuff, I reckon you should join - you've got nothing to lose!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Masterpiece

And so it is finished... after 3 months... countless trips to B&Q... more £££s spent on materials and tools than I care to remember... and some wonderful Ebay purchases.... the guest room is complete!

This is the first room that husband and I tackled truly from scratch. Our previous decorating exploits in the house have been rather "make do and mend" - making the house more "us" until we can afford to do it properly with wooden floors and art nouveau fireplaces. The guest room has had the works: built in cupboard removed, damaged walls and ceiling replastered, all original woodwork stripped and repainted, new cornice installed, new carpet, new furniture and fully decorated.

So for you pleasure here is the before shot, what the room looked like before we bought the house...

And now here is the after shot:

I designed it on the Arts & Crafts style, inspired by a room at Cragside, Northumberland. A few finishing touches are needed in the form of pictures and a rug but basically we are open for business. Anyone fancy a weekend in the Cotswolds?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


According to Belief-O-Matic my religious/spiritual beliefs align with the following:

1. Secular Humanism (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (97%)
3. Liberal Quakers (89%)
4. Neo-Pagan (80%)
5. Nontheist (74%)
6. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (70%)
7. New Age (69%)
8. Theravada Buddhism (65%)
9. Taoism (58%)
10. Mahayana Buddhism (50%)

These are my top ten.... what are yours?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Wildlife on my way to work

The last couple of days I have seen an abundance of wildlife visable from my train and bus on the way to work. I go through a beautiful section of countryside and past a number of farms so I always see something frolicking around but since Monday I've seen:

Red deer - some large herds, some groups of two or three dotted around different fields



Tufted ducks

Song thrushes - I think they have just reseeded the playing field because there were dozens of them, and I've rarley seen more than two or three together before




Canada Geese





Tuesday, February 12, 2008


So it was a day at the prospective partner University yesterday - always interesting.... actually they're very organised and hospitable, although keeping track of all the Malay/Arabic names has been a challenge. The Chief Operating Office is very suave, and rather dishy in a short, stocky Malay kind of way - very commanding moustache!

The University is based near Little India - although driving through it I couldn't see a great deal of difference from Chinatown, except the shops were selling Sari fabric not fake Gucci handbags. Apparently there are some more Indiany bits, we just must have not seen them.

Dinner last night was in a Lebanese restaurant in a posh Mall called the Starhill - I've never seen so many branches of Hermes and Bulgari as I have seen so far in KL. Had a slight menu malfunction as I ordered what really did look like a veggie option - the menu was quite descriptive - which turned up with two great hunks of lamb on the bone next to the stuffed courgettes. We figured out something for me to eat in the end so no worries.

Then it was cocktails in the "Jazz lounge" - read "easy listening", although live and rather good. With a view over one of the main thoroughfares through the posh shopping district. All rather spontaneous and nice. Having good conversations with my colleague and her chap - although I always wonder if they think I'm mad..... personal paranoia strikes again.

Anyway, I've got to hop in the shower and then down for breakfast..... will post some more tomorrow.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


So the adventure begins. The plane landed at KL international airport at 7am local time - 11pm UK time. As we were making our descent the dawn was breaking and suddenly all the forests of palm trees were visible below us.

We made it to the hotel with not much hassle - brand new high speed rail connection - plus teksi (taxi) from KL Sentral rail station. The hotel is definitely KLassy with a capital K and L. Not bad for £40 a night, you'd definitely be pushing £100 for anything near as good in the UK.

Then I tried to sleep. But my head was racing around with all sort of random facts. So I tried some relaxation techniques, but that didn't work. 2 hours later I dozed off. So I'm working on 3 hours sleep in the last 30 hours or so. Oh well.

Did a quick walk around the base of the Petronas towers and the KLCC park. Then headed up the Menara KL Tower - fourth largest telecommunications tower in the world don't you know. Its always the thing I like to do in a new city - get up high, and work out where the heck everything is. Then a quick dip in the pool sticking out from the fourth floor of the hotel. Will post pictures when I'm pack in the UK - forgot to pack the camera lead!

It's off to dinner with my colleague and her chap tonight. I'd like to try out one of the Rough Guide's restaurant recommendations in Chinatown - the first of many adventures. Then its back on with the work brain tomorrow negotiating with a Malay University - eek!

Friday, February 01, 2008

The panic subsides

I had the shock of my life last week when I opened up an email from one of our academics and he asked if I minded flying to Kuala Lumpur on the 8th February.... aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh..... is what I said (to an empty office). Now I've travelled a bit - Europe and the US - but I've never been to East Asia before. I knew this trip was coming up but I didn't think it would be so soon. But this is part of what I'm paid to do, so now that the panic has subsided somewhat, I'm getting rather excited. Flights are nearly sorted, and so are hotels. KL looks like it has a fab public transport system - monorail mixed with other light rail - and a quite new high speed connection from the airport. I should get there early Sunday morning, so time for a kip and then a wander around in the afternoon. Meetings all day Monday and Tuesday. Then fly back to the UK Wednesday, landing late afternoon. My word am I going to be knackered. After a slight trauma I found out I probably will be travelling out with the colleague who will be coming with me, although travelling back alone as she is bringing her partner along for the trip.

I will try and do a blog from the road as I should have the work laptop with me and I will definitely have my camera!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ok so...

At the moment I'm either unconscious or stupidly busy - which doesn't make for good blogging. Health is still not good with added joy of having the blood pressure of an overweight octagenarian. Back to the docs again on Thursday to find out just how bad it might be. Purchase of home blood pressure monitor has caused much delight among friends and family - a new toy! Fear of blood pressure has put me on a mission to lose weight - even though I'm not that big, and that probably isn't the cause - so now also living without proper amounts of caffeine or sugar. Spare bedroom still isn't completely decorated - still a coat of paint on the ceiling, another coat of paint on the walls, one wall of wallpaper and the carpet to do.... Starting to look vaguely better though. New bed from ebay - 100 year old, solid oak, Arts & Crafts - is fabulous.
Just survived the first work event that I've organised at this place - complete with lunch. It was a sharing good practice thing, and we ran out of time (and therefore got kicked out the room), but I'm taking that as a good thing. I think I will be heading home soon as I'm completely wiped and can't imagine I'm going to do anything wonderfully productive for the rest of today. I'll be back in touch when I'm conscious again.....