25 September 2011

Dear Sophisticated Ladies

 Well I’m writing you on Sunday morning as opposed to my usual pattern of the evening; and not only because of the new series of Spooks. I am attempting to be more organised! As an aside I caught up with Downton Abbey and I confess I was impressed. Acerbic wit Dorothy Parker would have proud of coupled with nice silent stare cum glare from the character played by Dame Maggie Smith was superb. When she decided to ‘help’ by rearranging the huge flower ensemble I laughed out loud as this skill is one I was taught by my mother. If the height of the flowers in relation to the proportions of the vase isn’t spot on then the whole effect jars; the number of times I have ended up with stems cropped way too short! Once you get one cut wrong it’s like dominos and before you know where you are that table centre is only suitable for lying flat on an altar or at a wedding reception. The featured photo this week is the result of gardening i.e. pruning the hydrangea bushes (severely); these blooms are often overlooked when selecting flowers for indoors.

 I had also brought the last few, OK two, sweet pea flowers in as the delicate scent is lovely. The freeloading greenflies clustered around the base of the blooms were somewhat less welcome. When they resisted being washed off there was only one place for them both to go; the composting bag! Me and insects are not getting along at the moment, there seem to be rather too many spiders in the house for my liking. There are (many) times when I am glad I live alone and the number of times I have been surprised by a fast moving arachnid is one such reason. Why so I hear you ask? That would be the pathetic yelp I emitted similar to the occasions when one mistakenly steps on a dog’s paw. The most alarming incident was one night when I was reading (my Kindle) in bed and something moved. One’s peripheral field of vision, out of the corner of one’s eye, when really you don’t want to have a proper look for fear of what might be there. I did of course and what I saw was a medium sized spider on the duvet rather too close for comfort. I kicked my feet to make it move and of course it ran towards me not away!  Cue mini shriek – (hope neighbour isn’t also having an early night in case she hears me) – followed by a shake of the bedspread. Result it runs away towards the bottom of the bed; then it disappears down the end of the bed. OHG is the duvet tucked in securely I wondered? Or is it about to reappear in bed with me – palpitations follow and I leap (not a fast movement you understand) out of bed flinging the covers back. Of course I lose my balance and nearly end up on the floor!  After composing myself I smother an embarrassed laugh when I reflect momentarily on how ridiculous this behaviour is. Of course the spider was probably terrified (can spiders get terrified) and has eight legged it to a dark hiding place. I foolishly peered down the end of the bed discovering legions of ancient dust revealing the absence of hoovering for some months; something else I will avoid discussing with my cleaner!

 This week I finally got round to switching mobile phones to a smart phone (and suitable package) that I can check my emails on. Yes ladies I have succumbed to an i phone 4 and more importantly to a stylish brown leather case that it pleasing slips in and out of. As a member of the ‘time poor’ generation, of freelance professional women, I decide to use the 1.5 hours I have between a meeting and a facial to go and make the purchase. I have been with the Carphone Warehouse for over 10 years and as the service has been acceptable I decide to stick with them plus the local Barry branch is convenient. All is going to plan until the nice young man called Aaron, (he is wearing a badge), tells me that the i phone is the only phone they can’t set up in the shop because it has to be first connected to i tunes. Hmm not good. But no I think this is not beyond me so I proceed with the transaction. The next day I have a train journey to London with a colleague who has an i phone so my logic is that she can help me. For help I of course mean do it for me whilst I watch and say ‘right, oh yes’ several times!

 I have the facial and get home planning to print out papers for the meeting before getting on to i tunes. The day before I have bought new ink cartridges and paper from Staples. Of course at 630 pm I discover, after having torn open the packaging, that I have bought the wrong size cartridge! Great! Bugger! (Oops use of that word will mean my readers who have the missive sent to their local authority place of work will not get to read this week’s issue). I refer to the profanity censor that scans incoming emails and rejects them if certain words appear; bugger is one such word.

 What do I do next? Well I take painkillers and leap into the car to get to Staples for a replacement cartridge. OK now I confess that I did attempt to glue the box back together so I could get a refund; this didn’t work of course! But I have the other one I bought (as there was an offer on), so I grab this one and drive off. Well that’s the i phone setting up plan shelved for the evening. Of course reversing the transaction is not as simple; the offer was buy one and get 30% of the second cartridge. So how much should the refund be? Answer add the 100% to the 70% and divide by 2. If only it hadn’t taken 15 minutes to work this out! The staff are helpfully hoovering around me as I stand at the check out.

 Now of course the mobile story isn’t finished yet; it’s me ladies and if you’ve worked out anything over the last year (the missives have been coming since March 2010) nothing in my life is simple. I have decided on balance to buy myself out of my old contract so I could keep the number. The transfer of the number takes place the next day whilst I am in London; no I didn’t think that through at all. This I only realise when I go to check my messages at lunchtime. Too late to do anything about it now besides which I am travelling with colleague with functioning i phone so what is the problem?

 I finally get round to plugging into iTunes; OK maybe I’m not your average person but I couldn’t work out how to do this initially. And it freaks me out trying to work technology out! Pathetic I know but several painkilling lollies were required to get to the point where the phone was registered but I did! And then I couldn’t work out how to do anything else plus a touch sensitive phone is not ideal for someone who shakes as much as I do. Personal vibrations are one of my newly acquired special powers! So follows one of several trips to see Aaron at the Carphone Warehouse; very patient manner with the customer and unphased when I have to ask him to type in my email address because I am shaking so much. For one so young his calm acceptance of whatever he was presented with was admirable. I would say to you, as a point of information, that if you are on O2 and have a virgin media email address you need specific settings to access your emails. It is far from obvious as even Aaron had to phone the Geek Help Guys! But after only a few days I confess I am a convert; at least I will be when I get the bill and the package covers everything. Oh and if you have Wi-Fi in the house you will need to switch it off to send your emails as the settings on the phone conflict with those on the computer. It was reassuring that I worked this out myself before having another pointless visit to see Aaron!

 This week was pretty full on work wise but I got the tender my colleague and I had been working on submitted. When I handed it in the receptionist asked me ‘whose attention is it for?’ so I need to find a way to make sure it doesn’t get lost inside the departmental structure of the institution. An email to the ‘Head of Compliance’ maybe called for; curiously said officer is a precise neatly packaged Calvinist I came across years ago in a former life. Teach me to try to engage someone in conversation; I hadn’t realised Calvinists had particular views in terms of women and the rights of the Palestinians to occupy the territory they call home. I am now politely respectful yet aloof on the rare occasions I bump into him; thankfully these are infrequent.

 A trip to London for a meeting always takes all day and I find it rather tiring. A larger than usual quantity of pain killing assistance tends to be required to convey one through the day, and the day after too.  And then periodically my body reacts to being subjected to the drugs as if to say ‘you’re having a laugh poisoning me like this?’ By this I mean I get side effects including disturbed sleep patterns i.e. nightmares plus anxiety verging on depression – how simply marvellous! The key is to hold your nerve remember the feelings are (probably) not real and will pass. The most irritating side effect is sensitive teeth so eating an entire tub of Hagen Daaz ice cream was not exactly wise! I don’t have a freezer so purchasing the tub is very much an all-consuming experience! The white chocolate bears are scrumptious!

Anyway that’s enough of the comedy confessions for now. Auntie did indeed ask if ‘it was time for the frock’ yesterday so I will be hosting the Salon in a vision of cerise. Yesterday was her birthday and by 830 am the table was already laid for the dinner party she was having last night. The Beef Bourguignon had been made earlier in the week and the fish pie to be assembled later that morning. I was thinking about my generation and how we approach cooking quite differently. Not ever having had a family or a dinner party habit I only ever look at cookery books for the pictures! Mum is cooking a loin of Pork for the neighbours today because she fancied it. Mr Bexton the organic butcher is always happy to provide a suitable cut of healthy animal. I confess to finding the whole thing rather bemusing! Pa continues to thrive and apparently leapt over a stile when they were walking in the grounds of Hardwick Hall. Without a second thought he just hopped over! It’ll be the Grand National next!

 If you are coming to the Salon I look forward to welcoming you. As a one-off we will be at Woods Brasserie but this means the numbers have to be finalised i.e. the bookings have closed. I will be pursuing you for October and November as the speakers are all fascinating women this autumn. Can I once again ask you to consider signing up for the blog in lieu of receiving the missive by email? I am planning on contacting Women’s Hour as the subject of contemporary spinsterhood has not been adequately covered in my opinion! And our sophisticated little community is rather invisible at the moment. Each week I get responses from my dear readers, adding a comment or anecdote and it would be so much more fun if these vignettes could be shared by all of us. Let’s start a sophisticated conversation on the blog! Do please consider humouring me; you only have to click a button!

 And finally I need to correct something I said last week; Green and Blacks is owned by Kraft not Nestle – apologies to those of you who had heart failure when you read this and thought I was about to deprive you of your favourite nibble!

 In sophistication as always



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Filed under Musings of a Contemporary Spinster, Sophisticated Salons

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