Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Maize Maze

Last night my boyfriend and me were discussing an article in the Guardian on how Local Authorities have been sanitising public spaces. This usually involves cutting down any trees that my drop seeds e.g. horse chestnut and removing shrubbery. This is usually done in the name of safety and to reduce the opportunities for liability from injury when an acorn falls on your head. This reduces parks to grass and trees with all their lower limbs hacked off.

My boyfriend said that he thought it was strange that our council had decided to plant maize. I didn’t understand what he meant until I realised he meant the maze that our council are building.

Today, on the way back from a meeting I saw a sign for a ‘Maize Maze’ combining both of these ideas! Apparently the world's first Maize Maze was designed by Adrian Fisher in 1993 with The American Maze Company, and now they are all over the US and Europe. Apparently “A maize maze is a standalone profit centre in its own right. Yet it will also generate awareness for all your other farm activities and seasonal events, and increase their profits too.”

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

The ancient art of hill rolling

Just getting back into the swing of things after a hectic few days. We went to a friend’s wedding on Friday afternoon. It was a lovely sunny evening and the reception was in the grounds of a hotel overlooking a valley, very picturesque and loads of space for kids to run around away from the adults. Started off well until I decided to join the kids in rolling down the hill – resulting in grass stains on my suit and a crying child when I rolled into her. Honestly children can be such babies at times!

After this I decided to take things easy and by 9.15 was ready to go home and to bed. I was persuaded to stay and soon found a renewed burst of energy. This one ended up being directed at comforting a friend who had been insulted by the best man and was in tears. A couple of brandies later and I was able to grab a few minutes away from the skirmishes to catch up with some friends. All in all it was a great evening – but not without its hazards!

The next day was pretty much a write off; I haven’t had a hangover like that for quite a while. Plenty of water, comfort food and self-pity were the order of the day, even though I should have been completing an assignment for my MSc. The assignment got delegated to Sunday, and I am still working on it now. It should be completed by tomorrow, but not to the standard that I would like. However, completing the application form for the new job is my priority at the moment. This is not going to be helped by a friend from Spain announcing yesterday that she is coming to stay on Thursday for a few days. It will be lovely to see her but – hello – have you heard of giving people advance notice? So another weekend fully committed – when all we want is a lazy weekend at home. Think we will have to wait until we hit Cuba for that – only 31 days now!!

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Movin' on up, movin' on out - nothing can stop me!

Well – the job I wanted has finally been advertised. It has only gone in the local papers and internal websites, so hopefully there will be very few applicants. The closing date is August 6, so I have got some time to prepare a good application form and think more broadly about how to approach the interview.

The director has made it clear that she wants me to apply and that there isn’t anyone currently in the organisation who she thinks is suitable for the job. This doesn’t stop a rogue external candidate with the right skills and experience performing better at interview, but it does give me some confidence. I still need to perform well in the interview and be sure that I sell myself to the panel. Looking at the job and person specifications I think that I have everything they are looking for and as I have previously worked in the organisation I should be able to pick things up fairly quickly.

It looks like the interviews could be the week before we go to Cuba, so at least I can celebrate while I am away or take the time to reflect if I am unsuccessful.

I have to give 3 months notice in my current job, so if I am successful I may not start until mid or late November. I understand why the notice period is 3 months in terms of closing down or handing over current projects, but it is hard to stay motivated for that long when you know you are going. I haven’t mentioned it to my boss yet, and I only will when I know that I have been asked to attend an interview. Another member of the department announced she was leaving last week and I am currently writing a reference for my secretary who has been offered a job with more responsibility and money elsewhere. I don’t think that it is a particular reflection on the department, more on the general leadership style and culture within the organisation.

Anyway, this is all a way off. I haven’t even completed the application form yet – keep your fingers crossed for me!

Monday, July 19, 2004

Updated links

I have updated some of the blogs I link to. Out is Vividblurry. Toby used to have cute posts and made me laugh - unforunately he seems to believe his own publicity too much and the posts have lost the wit that once attracted me. In are Wookookoo, a 21 year old graphic designer from Malaysia who posts make me laugh and think. Also up is Dantallion's Canon - a gay guy from Canada who isn't afraid to say he supports Bush and who started blogging in June. He said
I've only discovered blogging recently, I find myself exploring with fascination the various musings that people put out there - some amazing, some not-so amazing, but most relevant in their own way. Writing things down is a great way to get perspective (a key 'thing' with me -- the ongoing pursuit of 'perspective' in life), and I think this might be the best medium I've disocvered yet to explore that process. Time will tell.

Also in is Sentiments from Eiain, a guy living in a small village in NW England (the kind I escaped from!).His recent comment
I have a deep fear of burning to death. Whilst I like to look at such things like bonfires, barbeques, and chimineas, and find it quite hypnotising, yet something within screams out for me to move away, and basically retreat to a safe distance, say, the next field.
stuck a chord with my recent post and his other musings have become daily reading.

Everybody needs good neighbours

We get only pretty well with our neighbours. When we moved in last June my main worry was whether we would get any hassle for being two gay men – but this doesn’t seem to have even raised an eyebrow. On one side is a speech therapist and her husband, she works at my hospital and we get on fine. On the other side is a guy who runs a hairdressing salon and his wife who is training to be a midwife. We have been to their house for dinner and get on well with them.

Next door also have 3 kids, who are friendly and polite apart from the youngest girl who will probably turn out to be a precocious brat, and can be a bit cheeky. They also have a teenage son who is always in the street with his mates playing football. The lads are about 18 and a couple of them are a pretty sexy. We sometimes joke about a couple of them looking like future gay boys and whether they get up to the antics so beloved of phone lines – “sucking my mate off in his football kit’.

Yesterday I was working on an assignment when I glanced out the window to see one of the lads removing his trackie bottoms and standing in his boxers while he got his footy shorts out of his bag. The lad next door was playfully pulling at his boxers and for a moment it seemed like the phone sex line was about to come true. Then he quickly pulled on his shorts and my 2-minute fantasy break was over. They have finished college for the summer now and are just at the age to start hitting the local pubs, I will be keeping an eye out for any cheap wank material!

Friday, July 16, 2004

Mrs Slocombe shocks US

‘US TV bosses have banned Mrs Slocombe as too shocking for Americans.’ Apparently the constant references to her pussy are too shocking, especially following the Janet nipple flash during the Superbowl.

I think Mrs Slocombe bemoaning that "It's a wonder I'm here at all. My pussy got soaking wet. I had to dry it out in front of the fire." is pretty harmless.
This is, in my mind, one of the biggest differences between the US and the UK. US media seems to have no problem with violence on their screens, which was recently reported as having increased over the last year – but any hint of sexual innuendo or momentary flash of the human body has the puritans jumping up and down and condemning the moral decline of the nation.

Lighten up guys! Isn’t it better for kids to laugh at an out-dated joke about ‘pussy’ than see another dozen murders each week?

Thursday, July 15, 2004

People in glass houses...

A few weeks ago there was the opportunity to register for a visit from an architect to look at changes to your house. The scheme was run by Shelter and in return for an hours worth of advice you had to donate £20 to shelter. We decided to give it a go as we have some longer term plans for the house that are nothing more than ideas at the moment and we are unsure how viable (or not0 they are.

The architect came on Tuesday, I was still at work, but my partner got some good advice. Our first idea had been to extend the kitchen with a glass cube.

It turns out that this can be done but will be very expensive – at least £30-50k and maybe a lot more – especially as the rear courtyard slopes downwards. Ok, that looks like it could be out then!

The next option he considered was to look at extending into the attic, which is already boarded out and is a pretty big, and high, space. We now have a sketched plan for two dormer windows at the front that mirror the proportions of the other windows and will allow a lot of light in. This is hardly rocket science – we could have planned those ourselves. What was interesting was a way of extending the staircase up that then opens up to the roof. This would make the whole stairwell much bigger and allow a lot more light to flood in. In effect the staircase would extend up from the first floor over the existing staircase and have a wide balconied area looking down. I would like to make this into some kind of mini-library or reading room, where I can read quietly and contemplate the clouds through the skylights.

Again, this won’t be cheap, although a lot less than the glass cube – just a case of saving and prioritising now – as there is still loads to do on the ground and first floors. At least we have a clearer understanding of some of the options now.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Birthday bash

Can someone stop the roller coaster please - I want to get off!

The last few weeks feel like a blur, a few snatches of the house, endless car journeys between hospitals and my boyfriend’s face whizzing by. We have had a lot of work going on at the house, quite a few house guests and work is meeting after meeting.

The weekends just don’t seem long enough to catch up and Monday morning arrives a day too soon every week. It is my boyfriend’s birthday today and we were rushing around getting ready rather than having a relaxed birthday breakfast. I suppose we should have booked the day off really – I’ll remember to do that next year. He won’t be getting his gifts until tonight, although he was allowed the cards that had already arrived this morning.
We had a few people round on Saturday night to celebrate and spent practically the whole day getting the house and garden ready and preparing a buffet. Of course, we wanted it all perfect. The plants were re-arranged and discrete little rock lights hidden away to up light key areas. The weatherproof rock speakers were hidden away and the fairy lights came out for all the trees. It looked lovely – the only problem being the dark grey sky and constant drizzle. Most people braved it for a while before decamping to the food. As befits any gay couple, we had done too much and spent to long on stylish presentation, leaving us no time between preparation and the first guest arriving. It would have been lovely to have had an hour on our own beforehand, sipping champagne and toasting my boyfriend’s birthday and our life together – never mind – we can do that tonight.

At least everyone seemed to appreciate the work we have done on the house – the panic behind it all is never apparent! Fitting one of the new ceiling lights on Thursday evening I managed to kick the class shade which was far too fragile for my liking; resulting in a mad dash across town on Friday to get another one before they sold out – only two left when I arrived so it is a good job I didn’t leave it until Saturday morning. We are now entering the scary world of choosing paint colours – Terreus suggested Morris & Co, who have got some great colours. We are also looking at fired earth’s range. The temptation is to leave everything white, but I WANT SOME COLOUR!

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Mummy and Daddy come to stay

The last week seems to have flown by. My parents came to stay on Saturday, so most of last week was spent trying to get everything done at work and then straight home to tidy, clean, wash etc. My parents knew that we had been having a lot of work done on the house, but I wanted it look as good as possible.

They arrived on Saturday and brought torrential downpours with them. We took them to the Baltic rooftop restaurant in the evening and we had a great time. I broached the topic of our future legal partnership (keep July 2006 free in your diaries!), and talked about my impending uncle hood – my brother’s partner is due in December and I think my parents are expecting this to be the factor that will calm down some of his unruly behaviour. We returned home for more champagne and ended up getting to bed about 3 am, quite late for my parents and not without a preventative painkiller before I went to bed.

The weather on Sunday and Monday was not much better and we ended up taking them to a few stores that they don’t have locally, including the M&S Lifestore, where my mother proceeded to load the car with concrete planters and we bought a very (too?) large mirror, as both our mothers have noted the absence of a full length mirror to admire their outfits.

I feel a little guilty that my parents will have gone home less relaxed then when they arrived. My father and I spent the best part of one day fitting outside taps for the garden and working under the floorboards fitting additional sockets into the ring main. We added a couple of exterior sockets as well, which will be great for lights and music when we have people round in the summer. The space beneath the floorboards is absolutely filthy; luckily I had bought a couple of those disposable decorators suits or we would have needed hosing down with bleach. We also wore facemasks to avoid breathing in the mould spores that seem to thrive in the foundations (but safely beneath the damp course). Tooled up we looked like the evil scientists in ET.

My boyfriend and my mother spent the day painting the newly plastered walls – or rather my boyfriend painted while my mother followed him around clearing up all the spills on the carpet and woodwork (remember to use the dustsheets next time babe!)

They left on Tuesday after buying a Belfast sink for their garden from our local reclamation yard. All in all we had a great time and I think they were happy to help us around the house, as they live very close to my brother and have been helping him to get his house in order.

Since they left we have been wiring in the new light fittings for the hallways and getting the second coat of paint on. We are planning to have a few people round at the weekend for my boyfriend’s birthday and don’t want to be spending all day Saturday running round like headless chickens (what a lovely image).

The following weekend is free at the moment and I am not planning to see anyone – we may do some small jobs around the house – but I think the main business should be relaxing. We haven’t had a weekend since April when there hasn’t been some commitment or other – don’t get me wrong – in spite of my grumpy exterior I do like to have fun! – Just not every weekend.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Towering Inferno

When I was younger, probably about 10 or 11, I went through a phase of being terrified that the house would burn down. I think this came from my irresponsible parents letting me watch ‘Towering Inferno’. I was sharing a room with my brother at the time and we I had the top bunk bed facing the door. There was a glass panel above the door and I would stay awake focused on the glass panel looking for the first hint of a fire so that I could wake the family and make sure we escaped. Luckily we never had a fire and eventually I lost my fear.

When my boyfriend and me moved into our new house last year there were glass-panelled doors throughout which we are slowly replacing with solid wood doors. I have thought occasionally that I there was a fire in our house these doors would offer very little protection from smoke and the glass would shatter at the first flame. While this doesn’t keep me awake at night I am very careful about making sure all candles and cigarettes are out before going to bed.

Yesterday we had another wooden door fitted and apart from looking a 100% better I realised that I also felt more secure. We will be replacing the next batch of doors next month and then I will sleep secure in the knowledge that the doors will do the job that they are there for. Of course, this now means that I can worry about an escape route from our bedroom and I will start weighing up the merits of different escape ladders.