Thursday, November 30, 2006

Want to know about my new job?

Hmm, thought not. So instead, here's an exchange about working environments between me and a friend who shall remain nameless:


I am quite envious. Covent Garden in the run up to Christmas is appalling in terms of crowds of teenage mutant Japanese turtles, but there’s something nice about it too – the market, carol singers, fun fair, chestnuts vendors, the services in St Paul’s Church, pickpockets etc.

Here there are a few green foil covered plastic cones shaped quite like Christmas trees, spread out over the shopping mall, with uniform metallic purple baubles on them in equally spaced rows. They look like they have been designed by German laser-modelling engineers, whose ordinary role is the shaping of BMW spoilers. They have used a theodolite to decide where to put them. Then there is the ching ching ching of slay bells from Boots’ muzak machine (“Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, have you got the squits? We can cure your itchy scrot and shave your hairy pits, oh…jingle bells, your @rse smells, come and buy some gear, we can give you anything including homebrew beer…” which competes with Starbucks’ seasonal collection of New Jazz Boy Dodgy Mouthful playing Ella Fitzgerald sings Ol’ Blue Eyes’ covers of Satchmo’s favourite versions of Duke Ellington and with Rolf Harris and the Massed Stylophone Bands of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here accompanied by the Big Brother All Stars Marching Samba Band, featuring Gary Glans (aka Classic FM’s “the Singing Binman”)’s breathtaking new cover of Cheryl Tweedie’s unforgettable Gotterdammerung.


Your nostalgia for all things Covent Garden is well founded. It is indeed an engaging place, with the hugely entertaining sound of the hardly talented juggling and singing for the benefit of the largely indifferent and uncomprehending shopper, the seasonal cry of “Big Issue, Sir?” and the sight of the world’s least decorated Christmas tree – which you practically have to stand in Charing Cross Road to see, so high is the surrounding hoarding proclaiming the munificence and benevolence of its donor.

Once you have passed through all this, you reach my office, which is currently encased in some sort of tubular iron lung. Apparently, the outside of the building is being painted, but so far all that has been achieved is the blocking of a gutter, leading to the third floor being flooded [Fortunately, this is the one floor not occupied by us and the people in there were responsible for the Sound of Music talent show thing, so they deserve everything they get]. The sound of paint being scraped rings loud through the building, reminding me of the client who so damaged his natal cleft he was forced to dry his rear with a hairdryer forever more – I guess this is what it sounded like as he chipped the sediment off once a month.

I post this, of course, to emphasise that almost all of my friends are wittier and more intelligent than me.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Days 243 - 249

Wow, where did that week go? I don't think we made a lot of progress with anything, I was too busy starting a new job. Can it really be less than 9 weeks now?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Days 142 - 148

It would be nice if we started getting some co-operation. For example, dress designers who don't phone back, or new employers who can't get their act together to set up a computer. There are scarily few days left until this wedding and, to be blunt, the bride needs a gown.

On a more positive note, thanks to Wally for trying to get us Killers tickets. It was very kind of you and a shame that our cunning plan didn't work out.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Days 237 - 241

We have now had the second meeting with our vicar. This was much less tense than the last meeting (in fact, she even asked if we were happy with the way that she had approached that one) and mostly concerned our plans for the wedding itself. We were delighted to discover that nothing we suggested was a problem for her; indeed, she seemed very pleased that we were going to try and put her own stamp on the day. The only thing that she asked was that we didn't produce our order of service in the form of a scroll, as one couple she married had done. This is no problem for us, as I for one hadn't even thought about producing one at all.

One other thing we need to do is to catch up with the organist and sort out things like entry and exit music. The best time to do this is apparently after the morning service on a Sunday. Guess which couple have slept through the alarm for the last two Sundays? Our next opportunity is at the end of the month when, assuming Scarlet Mist comes up trumps* as it usually does, we will have been to see the Killers the night before. We might need more than one alarm clock...

For those of you who have been enquiring about Goth Girl's new job, she seems to be revelling in it, thank you for asking. I see far less of her than I did before, but it is worth it to see her looking so happy at the end of each day. Long may it continue.

(*Scarlet Mist is a website where you can buy music tickets at face value for shows you want to attend, rather than from the mendacious scum who sell their spare ones at a profit on Ebay)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Day 236

Today we received the best news that we have had all year. Goth Girl passed her last set of professional exams. Hopefully she can now find a traineeship and go on to be fully qualified. I am so proud of her.

Our post being somewhat useless, the letter arrived at about 3pm. I knew what was in the envelope, but I had no idea whether she had passed or failed and had to sit there, looking at it, until Goth Girl got home at around 8.15pm.

All of which means that I owe my mother an apology. For years I have been laughing about the fact that she opened my A level results whilst I was at work (in those days they were posted to you, rather than you having to go to the school to collect them), because she could not stand not knowing how I had done. After today, I know exactly how she felt.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Day 235

And now for something completely nostalgic...

Anyone who has been reading this right from the start will know that Goth Girl and I met at a wine tasting. Tonight we we went to a tasting by the same company in the same location. So keen was Goth Girl to renact our meeting that she even arrived 35 minutes late, just like she did the first time.

The wines were, as always, wonderful and we picked some to have at our wedding. We then went off to have dinner in the same pizza restaurant as on our first date.

I know, we need to get out more...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Days 230 - 234

Gatwick is cold when we land. Goth Girl insists that I unpack a fleece so that she can wear it inside the terminal (one of the benefits of the dash through Atlanta airport was that our bags were first off the plane, having presumably been last on). There is ice on the car, even though it is almost 9.30am.

The next few days have passed in a blur of unpacking, washing and trying to get things straightend out. We've found another printer for the wedding invitations and have provisionally booked some coaches. We've even chosen the hymns and readings, as we have to face the vicar again on Thursday.

I think I need another holiday, though.

(On the other hand, at least we now have a sofa)

Day 229

Time to come home. Goth Girl is understandably sad to be leaving. It has been an exhausting time, but a fun time. It is nice to know that we will be going back again.

Unfortunately, bad weather delays our flight to Atlanta, but we still land in plenty of time. However, we then spend over half an hour taxiing at an excruciatingly slow speed from the runway to the terminal. This leaves us 35 minutes to get to the international terminal. We run. Or, at least, Goth Girl does. In heels. Only to find that boarding our flight to the UK is delayed because the machines they use to process the boarding cards have broken. This gives us time to (a) catch our breath and (b) blag better seats.

Day 228

Our last full day in the States. Needless to say, we spent most of it shopping. Which means that we bought our wedding rings. In accordance with the American tradition, we are having them engraved with our names and the wedding date, which means that Mere and Pere GG get the responsibility for bringing them over for the wedding. One less thing for me to lose...

Day 227

Another day to do things I had never done before.

Incongruously enough, we began with a visit to a dermatologist. Although this took a big chunk out of the morning, it was kind of him to confirm that I am probably not allergic to bread, alcohol or coffee after all.

After lunch at a fast food beef sandwich place called Arby's we went off on a tour of the local horse farms, in the company of a garrolous guide called Shaun. My toes are still sore from all of the names he dropped during our three hours with him. He even managed to name-drop the fact that he hadn't met someone. It was good fun, though and we managed to get up close and personal with some very well known horses.

That evening we took Goth Girl's parents out for a meal. They chose a fish restaurant which turned out to be very average indeed - a shame, as we really wanted to treat them to somewhere good after they had lavished so much upon us.

Day 226

And relax...

A very chilled out sort of day. We picked Dad up from his hotel somewhat later than planned as, for some reason, Mere GG decided that she wanted the enormous table decoration from the brunch yesterday delivered to the house, and it arrived just as we were leaving. In some ways this was fortunate, as no sooner did we return to the house than the cocktail cabinet was open. It seems that the yardarm swings rather low in the US of A.

In the afternoon we went out to a jewellery museum. This seemed to be an entire building devoted to commemorating the life of someone who made a huge amount of money making ugly but expensive jewellery for people with more money than sense.

Sadly, at this point we had to put my father on a flight back to Raleigh-Durham, so he missed out on an evening of me staring goggle-eyed at the American Football on the television.

Day 225 - Brunch day

Don't get me wrong. It is overwhelmingly kind of Mere and Pere GG to throw this party for us. However, there are over 100 people expected and, at the time the doors open, the list of people I know reads:

Goth Girl
Her parents
My father [flying in from North Carolina for the occasion]
The four people I met last night.

By my calculation, that leaves about 92 people to play 'Point at the funny Englishman', should they feel so inclined.

Fortunately, I omitted to factor in that if Goth Girl is lovely, and her parents are lovely, then their friends are probably OK, too. In fact, the nicest thing was that no-one seemed to expect me to remember who they were, even after they had been introduced to me. Which was very handy.

Then, after more racing [where a British horse named Eccentric gave me my one and only winner of the meeting] it was off for more food. I had forgotten that 'New York Strip' means 'half a cow, with chips', but it was very tasty and beautifully cooked, just what I needed to soak up all the alcohol.

Day 224

Dinner tonight, after the racing of course, with Goth Girl's aunt and uncle, as well as one of her oldest friends and said friend's mother. A delicious meal of caesar salad, steak and pecan pie is spoiled only by the jet lag kicking in with a vengence at around 10.30pm. I spend the last hour of the meal with my chair pushed right back, hoping that no-one will notice me dropping off. At least it spares me the night terrors about the brunch tomorrow.

Day 223

Jet lag hasn't really kicked in, even though we don't get up until 10am. Then it is off to replace Goth Girl's missing driving licence. Unlike in the UK, this just involves her going to a local office and having her photo taken, rather than weeks of fannying about with some monolithic government office in one of the furthest flung towns in the country. Even so, it is a good job that no-one saw her drive off on the wrong side of the road as we left. Clearly her assimilation into British life is complete.

We follow this with a dash around the shops to buy the essential thing that we have forgotten - like a UK/US adaptor - and to the bank to cash some travellers' cheques. Both of us are amused by the sign on the bank door asking customers not to carry concealed weapons into the bank. Presumably overt ones are fine by them.

Then it is off for the first of three afternoons at the racecourse. The sun is shining, the food is good and the people [I think we met almost everyone who was there] were friendly, but we still lost money hand over fist, just like I usually do in England.

Dinner was in a very smart and efficient bistro type place, where the portions were not outrageously big but where Goth Girl still managed to be full by the end of her starter. Which makes me wonder just how much she will eat at our wedding - maybe as much as a whole chicken goujon?

Day 222

I think we got about 3 hours sleep last night before hastening to Gatwick to try and ensure that we get a good seat on the flight over to Atlanta. This means that we arrive an hour before the check in opens at all. We get very nice bulkhead seats, but in return get charged $25 for having a bag which is too heavy. [Delta, oddly, allow each passenger 2 bags weighing up to 23.5kg each - a pretty generous allowance, but woe betide you if you spread your 47kg by putting more than 23.5kg in one bag.]

Then begins the long haul over to the other side of the pond. Getting to Atlanta isn't too bad and we even have fun with the security guys there, who won't let us take an unopened bottle of water onto our connecting flight, but who insist we drink some of it there and then so it doesn't all go to waste. I guess they were not to know it was the third bottle of a '3 for the price of 2' promotion.

We then made the short hop over to Goth Girl's home town, in the company of possibly the world's campest and funniest flight attendant. Goth Girl's in-flight nerves are calmed by being made to read Laurence Booth's very funny cricket glossary "Arm Ball to Zooter" - not that I was trying to cling desperately to thoughts of home, or anything.

At the airport we are met by Mere and Pere GG, fresh from losing money at the racecourse and clearly delighted to have their little girl back home again. It is her last visit before the wedding and the itinerary left by our bed leaves us in no doubt that it is going to be a busy one. To compensate, they have also bought us an owl toy to play with. Nice people, these Americans.

Day 221

A day of madly rushing about, packing and doing other things to get ready for our flight to the US very early tomorrow. In the process, one suitcase is packed, then unpacked and two others are packed.

We are off to see Goth Girl's parents, who are hosting a brunch to celebrate our engagement and impending wedding. Just them, us, and about 96 of their closest friends. I'm terrified.