Archive for Mai, 2010

            In order to ensure people can find my blog if they wish to it is important to ensure that it remains at or near the top of the Google list when certain key terms are searched for – Alwen Jones, for example. To monitor this, each time I come to make a posting I find my site by Googling Alwen Jones and, after a few days of continuous postings, it has brought my blog up at the top of the list. That is, until today, when, inexplicably I found my blog 9th or so on the list!

            Perhaps this is how the wicked queen felt in the Snow White saga…every day provided reassurance of being top of the pops and then one day, poof! You join the middle of the queue; no explanation, no by your leave, just ‘you’re outta here dudette! I guess I’ll just have to vigilantly blog away and Google myself over and over until I can claw my way back to the top!

            On a slightly tenuously linked subject -at the weekend I spent an amusing couple of hours reading Alice in Wonderland to Carmen (my 4 year old niece) and trying to answer her very sensible questions with a straight face:

She: “So she’s still down the rabbit hole?”

Me: “That’s right

She “So where’s her sister?”

Me: “Um, still by the tree I suppose, reading”

She: “So how is Alice going to get out of the rabbit hole?”

Me: “Well, I, erm, I think we should read the story and find out?”

She: “But do you think she will get out?”

Me: (chuckling) I’m sure she’ll be okay…

                It’s amazing to me that only 4 years ago she was born, and now she holds opinions on what books we should read and has already begun to analyse the content! Reading AIW again was a good exercise as I have begun forming a short story: Cegin Dodo (which, if successful, could become a series) which has a similar theme and would be mostly aimed at the same audience (Children although, I would be delighted if it could gain the same kind of cult following amongst older readers too.)

                I’m off now to see how my Jacket potatoes are doing, to decanter some Carménère, bake some corn-on-the-cob and fry some steak…ah, the simple pleasures in life are what makes everything worthwhile!

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           On Thursday afternoon, whilst Kahless and I were soaking up the sun in the garden, I had a phone call from my four year old niece. She was speaking so quickly and loudly I couldn’t make out what she was saying at first, but it turned out that my mum had bought her pink jewellery box, which had a wind up ballerina in it; she wanted to know if I would go and see it! How could I refuse such a request?

           So yesterday I set off early for a quick swim in the pool at work, popped into town to buy some more footsies, then I set the TomTom for Llangollen. It was a sunny day and ‘taid’ (my dad) and Carmen were already over at the playground. I walked over to Glanrafon park and found them buying ice creams.

          As I sat with Carmen, enjoying the sunshine, my dad said he had been over to the small Welsh shop in the market that week and that Mrs Jones had told him that her mother, who is in her eighties, had been asking her who was this girl writing a new column in the local newsletter. Mrs Jones had told her that I was a former pupil of hers, back when she was a teacher at the primary school. Mrs Jones senior had gone on to say that I was a good writer. Well I felt as though I had won the Man booker prize!

           It’s a strange phenomenon. Although I’ve been writing the column for almost a year now, and seen it published in each issue of the newsletter, I haven’t really had any feedback on it and every so often I think: “Am I making a fool of myself? Is anyone reading it at all? Or does everyone reach that page and simply roll their eyes and turn over to see what’s on the next page?” Now at least I know one regular newsletter reader has noticed it, and read it, and liked it! I’m delighted. I had even been considering not writing another one, but now I am determined to keep writing, until I can think of nothing more to write about.

          When my mum came back from work we all went over to the Wild pheasant for some lunch. Then we nipped over the road to look at a bungalow for sale on the waterfront, which my mum has her eye on…in case one of us should win the lottery, or else I should successfully produce a multi-million pound novel.

           The garden overlooks the river and there’s a log-bench in the front garden which seems to get a lot of light. More importantly there are three bedrooms, which would solve the tricky situation if we all want to come over to stay overnight; now that little Adrianna has arrived on the scene. It’s irritating not be able to spend time with family and friends, purely for a lack of money and being too busy with work. I really must make some money somehow…then I can sit upstairs in The Mill, with a сafetière and a bowl of their apricot bara brith, writing my masterpieces and wowing the world with my tales peppered with Welshness!

           My brother and his wife arrived a couple of hours ago and as I sit writing this post the living room is a hullabaloo of Dora the Explorer blankets, toys and pancakes with nutella on them, to a soundtrack of Stephanie and Sportacus from lazytown.

          The weather has turned miserable outside and the ironing calls from back in Midsomer Murderville…I’m hoping to do some writing later today too, the A470 arrived this week with loads of writing competitions in it for me to enter…I really need to make sure I make time to write. I must, I must, I must!

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            I love clothes and yet I hate ‘fashion’ (per say). I despise the idea of certain attire being ‘in’ or ‘out’, thus wearable or un-wearable, and I refuse to conform to such nonsense. My strategy towards wardrobe building is therefore quite different from your average clothes lover – I buy things I like for the mood I feel they will bestow upon me and keep them until they become shabby, rather than disposing of them when they are deemed out of favour.

            It was thus that today’s little rambling story came forth. I was getting myself ready to go out recruiting participants for the study and I was trying to dress according to the weather which was being annoyingly changeable. I didn’t want to wear jeans or anything too warm because if it turned hot I would stick to the seat of the Clio like warm toffee (ditto for any shorts, short skirts or anything else that left my thigh-flesh bare).

            After a few false starts I decided I would go with a dress that I bought a few summers ago – a long navy number bearing a pattern of small white flowers. It has thin, spaghetti-like straps with a blue bead on each side and plunges down in a V at the front, with a thin-fabric cup for each breast to sit in.

             “Yes” I thought, I will look very youthful in this, very hippyish – bright and breezy you might say…if you didn’t know me and were thus unaware of my obsessive worrying over minor, insignificant details such as having milk in the fridge, whether or not someone might take umbrage if I don’t give them a courtesy call or email, and how much time is it appropriate to allocate if you have arranged to meet a friend for the day…what else can you plan in and at what time etc. Suffice to say, I am probably whatever the opposite of ‘bright and breezy’ is.

             I rolled this thought around in my mind, feeling more and more disillusioned and annoyed at myself for not being more ‘bright and breezy’ about it. Then “No”, I CAN be bright and breezy, and fun, and spontaneous, and free spirited. Humming the ‘bright and breezy’ song from ‘The King and I’, I fetched my new brown, snazzy flip-flops I’d bought on a recent shopping trip. I slipped them on – oh they felt comfy and deliciously new. No sliding around on a sticky, sweaty summer shoe surface for me today, lovely, lovely, lovely!

             I’d only worn this dress once before, the summer I bought it. I had put it on one morning thinking I would look every inch the bohemian PhD student about town. But by the time I had walked the short distance from my flat Limestone University I was horrified to discover that the plunge at the front was plunging far more than I had expected and appeared to be revealing rather more of me tan I had expected.

             I’d headed straight for the toilet on the ground floor and attempted to adjust the straps, but they kept slipping; it seemed the strap adjuster was a bit wonky so it kept letting the fabric slip through. In addition, the belt I had bought to nip it in at the waist was seemingly way too big and was hanging languidly over one hip, causing the other side the ride up, puffing the dress into an unattractive mound on the other side. There was only one thing for it: put on my heavy woollen cardie (the only navy one I’d been able to find), button it up and wear it for the remainder of the day.

            Needless to say, jam-side-down, it was a scorching day and the office didn’t have air-conditioning. So I sat, sweating, berating myself for buying an item of clothing which was so different and unpredictable to my usual garb. On arriving home I’d put the dress in the wash and the belt in my sewing box, resolving to shorten it before attempting to wear it again. Here it remained for 3 years (I think) until the night of the election kafuffle last month when, wide awake from drinking too much tea, I decided this was as good a time as any to make the necessary adjustments.

             Anyway, back to the present day and here I found myself in front of the mirror, wearing my hippyish dress, this time with a newly purchased little vest top underneath – navy and plain (no buttons), having tried numerous other styles in various colours. New flip flops on my feet and freshly sewn belt in place; Perfect? Not a bar of it!

             I fidgeted, turned side on, then the other side – did I look pretty or frumpy? Bohemian or scruffy? Did it suit me? Was it appropriate for the clinic? Would this be another chipped-harlot-nails disaster? I decided to change into something safer and started pulling on my jeans; oh, but these felt too restrictive and hot in the muggy room. Why shouldn’t I wear the dress? How could anyone disapprove, the clientele are teenagers after all, wouldn’t it be better to have a hip young thing recruiting them rather than a stuffy thirty-something? Hip young thing? Who was I kidding? I couldn’t even speak the same language!

            Putting on my pumps I caught sight of myself in the mirror – wasn’t this quite a scruffy look anyway? Wouldn’t I at least be out of denim in my dress? Surely more conformist? But then why wear the bright and breezy dress if this was my reasoning. “To hell with it, I want to wear it” I thought. But after hastily putting it back on I was unsure again. Time was getting on by now and if I didn’t hurry I’d never get in the car park and then I’d end up running in, red faced, wild haired, spluttering apologies.

             I started to panic and was pulling the dress of only to pull it back on again, stamping my foot at my own indecisiveness. Eventually I plumped for the dress and laughed grimly at myself; bright and breezy indeed, I was a mess.

             Stepping out to the car I went through my usual agonising over the cooker, lamps, iron, plugs, then – where’s the car key? Where are my sun glasses? Where’s the bit of paper with the hospital postcode on it for the TomTom? And then after much palaver I was on the road. I was at least half an hour later than I had intended to be and just squeezed into a bay in the car park.

             Walking into the hospital I felt chilly – damned air conditioning! I pulled on my new navy cardie from the Edinburgh wool mill. Very comfy; I decided to button it up at the front thus I would just look like I was wearing a smart cardie and long skirt.

            But as I sat in the waiting room the Beverly, the liaison nurse, wondered “Are you not hot in that cardie”. Having initially muttered about it being cold in the hospital compared with outside I then realised I was a little warm. I was nervous – would my dress appear scruffy? Would she despair at the Uni sending someone in such attire to speak to the patients? I unbuttoned my cardie and squashed it into my hessian ‘University of Limestone, Library’ bag next to me.

         Beverly looked up “OOo you’re very trendy in your Maxi dress aren’t you?”

         “My what?”

           “Maxi dress, they’re the very thing this season aren’t they?”

            “Um…” I treated her to a potted history of my particular dress, to which she looked baffled and said “Well it’s right up to date, they must have come back in fashion…you’re in fashion, or setting the trend even”

              And so I finally relaxed about my ‘bright and breezy’ dress. It wasn’t scruffy, or frumpy or inappropriate; it was up to date and fashionable.

             I did however, later, wonder if Beverly was just being polite and had actually raised the issue of my dress to bring my attention to its inappropriateness…but that is the kind of neurosis better left to a poem in the style of the dramatic monologue, rather than ploughed through here!

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             I discovered a few evenings ago that “Piccadilly circus pink”, lovely though it was for the glam party, was actually a bit too harlot-like for the clinic (recruiting patients for our study). In the dim light of the hospital it suddenly looked tacky and over the top, and to make matters worse I’d been swimming earlier that day and it had begun to peel from my nails.

           As I waved my hands around in classic Welsh gesturing, trying to explain the research project in the 10 second window you have before people tune out, I noticed at least one or two people focus momentarily on my fingernails…before turning back to me with shocked, silent faces…oh dear! I have thus resolved to go au naturel until I can find a more suitable shade for everyday use.

            Meanwhile it is the weekend; it is sunny (halleluiah!) And Kahless (my pet tortoise) and I have been lolling around in the garden all day, enjoying the rare opportunity to sunbath. My copy of the newsletter from back home arrived today, with my column in it. I feel such an enormous sense of pride and achievement when I see my column in print like this, I can’t really explain why; it’s not as if this is ever going to bring me any financial reward nor even much creative recognition. But I know that some people read it and I am very proud of what I write. And that seems to be enough to make it worthwhile.

            I’m off now to shower and change before heading around to Maribel and Seren’s house for a BBQ. I am very pleased that the weather is clear enough for us all to get together like this, and that it is warm enough for me to test out my new shorts!

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           I am a huge fan of Jean Rhys. I have everything she has ever written, including a rare copy of the “The Left Bank”, which is out of print and very difficult to obtain. She died the year of my birth. Last year it was 30 years since her death and I felt the occasion ought to be marked. I scoured the internet and found nothing so I decided to ask the New Welsh Review if I could write an article in tribute to her. They turned me down, but later ran such an article. In the meantime I had written my article and published it in the Welsh language community newspaper back home, and thus my column was born.

                Early this year I decided to write a short story based on my fascination with Jean and one idea for a plot line was that I had wanted to attend a conference about her…I googled to see if there had been any such conferences and low and behold there was one being organised, for this year. I put forth my details to be contacted when the conference had been organised. Registration began last week and I have been in torment over whether or not to attend.


  • I love Jean Rhys, her work and everything connected to this fascinating lady.
  • I think it is unlikely that there will be such a conference again anytime soon, so if I do not go I will doubtless regret it for the rest of my days.
  • If I go I can stay in Bloomsbury where Jean lived for a while.
  • It would be a good chance to step outside my usual bubble and spend 3 days musing over literature and my favourite author, rather than reading Cochrane reviews and dry textbooks.


  • It is being held in July, on exactly the same week as the International eisteddfod back home and my parents already have tickets for some of the shows and events.
  • It is in London (thus far away and expensive).
  • It starts early and finishes late which means that I will need to stay overnight for two nights (due to my fatigue it just wouldn’t be feasible to try and travel back on the same day and it starts at 9am, so travelling down that day isn’t an option).
  • It is not connected to my work or my studies – can I really justify going?
  • I cannot really afford to go anywhere or do anything at the moment, much less spend so much on an extravagance such as this one…not even connected to my studies…but then point 2 comes into play: it is a once in a lifetime chance to be surrounded by others who adore Jean – or even just people who know who she is!


           I think, finally, I have resolved to go for it. I’ve booked that week off work anyway so I can go to some of the eisteddfod celebrations and I have made some enquiries regarding the conference. I have provisionally made a booking at the cheaper hotel recommended, which is in Bloomsbury so that will be lovely, I just need to get the okay from my parents (my Dad was a bit stony in his reaction earlier when I rang to tell him of the clash) and make sure I can get a train ticket that won’t cost the same as a trip to Paris would…otherwise maybe I ought to just go there and moon about in cafés, and drift gloomily around Montparnasse!

          I wonder what Jean would make of all this? A conference with the great and the good discussing her work…I’m sure she would have been amused…maybe she is? What would she do in my shoes I wonder?

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           Whilst I have always been less than keen on any kind of fuss surrounding appearance, the one ritual I have always felt particularly loathe to conform to is that of painting nails or, worse still, that of painting toe-nails.

            So used to seeing my nails in their nice, neutral colour, as nature intended, I felt very false, painted and harlot-like with any paint at all on either set of nails – even if it was the creamy, pastel kind.

            However, with the party date fast approaching, and having bought a pair of lovely purple-pink ‘peep-toe’ shoes to go with my midsomer-murder-esque flowery dress and navy twin-set-type-cardie, complete with matching dusty-pink handbag, I realised that many of my toe nails were bruised and my feet were ugly; this would never do!

            I booked myself in for a visit to the podiatrist and she did wonders to improve the aesthetics of my feet, including using a device which looked like a mini-industrial sander. However there was nothing, she said, that she could do to help me with the bruised toe-nails. These were probably caused by shoe-pressure and would take a long time to heal.

            So I resolved to find a strong colour of nail-varnish, preferably to match my handbag and shoes, to disguise the problem and spruce myself up so as to be fit for the posh party. As luck would have it (and given my infamous short temper whilst shopping and miniscule interest in cosmetics, one can only conclude that it was down to luck) I found the perfect shade: “Piccadilly circus” (though quite why dark pink would be named after this particular area of London is an enigma…which perhaps I shall resolve when I go to London in July).

            Now I am not the most patient person in the world and I wasn’t even really sure I wanted to wear the nail-varnish anyway. Consequently there were a few botched attempts and the end result still included one or two splashes remaining on the cuticles; this said the overall effect was surprisingly good and I felt instantly more sophisticated. I kept catching glimpses of my hands in the mirror as I added the finishing touches to my make-up, and I liked how different they looked.

            At the party I was relieved when, upon mingling with some other female guests, I discovered that they also confessed to having no idea how to apply nail-varnish, with one recounting an interesting idea she had seen put forth by one of the Atomic Kittens: Apply nail-varnish liberally, not worrying unduly about splashes on the skin; wait until it dries then do the washing up; the paint-covered cuticles will drop off and your nails will be perfect. We all pondered the merits of this plan – wouldn’t the nail varnish chip or peel off? Would the cuticles really peel away like this? Anyway, I am sure I will try it sometime.

            I was so tired when I came back from the party I even went to bed in my make-up; in truth I was pretty much asleep in the car on the way home! Anyway, the next day when I started washing and dressing I realised that I was growing more and more fond of the nail varnish, especially the toe-nail varnish, with every moment. I tried a few pairs of shoes on and decided to re-apply to cover the chipped bits and am still wearing it today (Monday).

            I’d really like to wear the toe-nail varnish until the bruising goes away, but it means an extra few minutes every day to maintain it, and I’m pretty lazy with these things! Another problem is that I can’t imagine any other colours which would look good/ not too frightful, and I’m pretty sure ‘Piccadilly circus pink’, nice though it is, won’t go with every outfit…and then there’s the paying out for more varnish and remover, cotton pads etc. So maybe I will or maybe I won’t keep it up, we’ll see, but at least now the option is there if I really need to scrub up well. It’s a bit of a revelation really: brightly painted nails, not just for harlots and strumpets after all!

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           Yesterday I drove to Big-Northern-City to interview a patient for the mini research project I’m moonlighting on. Although it was a tiring drive, it was well worth it as the interview went really well and then on the way back I stopped off at the Harland shopping centre. I went to the Sketchers shop to check out the ‘shape-ups’. I’ve had my eye on the ‘Mary Jane’ ones in ‘stone’ (beige and light grey) and thought that if I tried them on, and they fitted, I would just get them…despite the £90 price tag.

                But they only had them in black, which just didn’t fit with the summer-themes look I’d been building in my mind…I wanted the ‘stone’ coloured ones. I wondered could they check if they had them over in Midsomer Murderville Shopping village?



“Humph” (He went and checked) “They’ve been discontinued in that colour”.

          “Damn”, I thought. I then spent about an hour trying on different types but they all seemed clunky and unattractive. Whilst I was stood, rocking on the soles, trying to convince myself that the black version of the Mary Jane’s were just as nice another lady who was trying some on came over and said:

            “They look much nicer with black socks, I tried some on with white socks and they looked awful”.

           I looked down at her feet and saw that she was trying some black, leather lace-up ones. “They look quite good” I said, “Like normal shoes”. “That’s what I’m looking for” she said, “but I’m not sure”. She was a lovely, wholesome, smiley woman by appearance. I would say she was in her mid to late thirties, quite shy. She would fit in perfectly on the set of Midsomer Murder. Her husband was with her, he looked a bit like Captain Picard.

           I tried on some navy and pink trainers, which to begin with I hated but I started to warm towards after watching the DVD a few times over which was playing on a loop on a small screen next to the Shape-ups stand. Lots of beautiful people, bouncing around in their sports leggings and sketchers, meeting up for power-walks and the like – “I want to be part of that crowd”, I thought.

            Another lady came in, very business-like, and she started talking to myself and the other lady; it seemed she already had a couple of pairs and they were brilliant and now she was back for some more.

            For the next half hour or so we each tried on dozens of pairs and chatted intermittently about the various merits of certain pairs – the ones with less of a wedged sole that you could use in the gym that were more attractive to look at, but would they be as effective if you were just walking around in them?

            This may all seem a bit odd – three women who’d never met, didn’t know each other’s names, all comparing notes as though they’d come shopping together? But that’s the strange thing up north, strangers do appear to be friendlier to each other…no, really they are! Even when I arrived at the car park and asked a complete stranger whether the car park was in fact free, she smiled warmly and said “Yes, that’s right” before going on her way, like it was no trouble at all. What a lovely place. Anyway, back to the shoes.

            I walked over to the lovely, smiley lady to ask what she thought of the white pair I was wearing but as I reached her side she laughed and said “He’s gone to get me some black socks!” I was bemused for a second but just at that second her husband raced up, with a big smile on his face, and handed her a plastic bag from Miss Selfridge – he had been to get her some black socks so that she could make an informed decision regarding the black Mary Janes!

            I couldn’t stop saying “ahhh”, what a lovely thing to do? Not only was this husband patiently participating in shoe-shopping with his wife, he was pulling out all the stops to ensure it was a successful outing. How sweet? How thoughtful? How romantic? So Cupid may well have ‘flown the co-op’ in New York City, but, it appears, he is still pottering about at the Harland Centre!

            Eventually business-like lady smiled over at me and said she’d decided to take two pairs, different ones for different occasions; I was jealous. Lovely, smiley lady left happy with a pair of black trainer-types which suited her perfectly and looked good with her jeans. I, however, decided miserably that I couldn’t really afford them, even if they had have been a pair of stone-coloured Mary Jane’s…and felt quite glad they hadn’t got any or I’d have had to make my excuses and made a sharp exit. Curse my lack of success in securing a lucrative book-deal!

            However I still left with a slight bounce in my step (despite the lack of bouncy shoes) for having been witness to this rare scenario, which proved that romance isn’t dead, and that it doesn’t necessarily need to involve contrived gestures of flowers and chocolates; it’s alive and well Harland shopping centre, in the mundane activity of shoe-shopping!

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           This is one of Gareth’s favourite phrases and he uses it to describe all manner of social activities involving work-related people. He is very good at organising work outings and post-meeting trips to the pub.

                I have poached this idea and translated into a Chester Inklingettes version with Elizabeth who shares an office with me. We’re not so much pub people as jam-making, cardigan-wearing, ladies who drink tea.

            So, since we are both working on systematic reviews at the moment, we have formed a little club, which so far consists of us meeting up every few Mondays, going to the café downstairs, and discussing our search techniques and progress over a cuppa. I am hopeful that this will help me get back on track for my PhD when I start up again in September.

           This Monday, following our Inklingettes meeting, everyone connected to the research office was invited to attend a meeting about the future coordination of research within the department. Halfway through the meeting, the head of the department, Mary, who was chairing, outlined what she hoped to achieve, and this included keeping track of all the ‘Scholarly activity’ going on in the department’!

            I couldn’t believe my ears and shot Elizabeth a look of disbelief. She, in turn, clocked the expression on my face and giggled…I looked away quickly and stifled a chuckle of my own. Later when I told Gareth over the phone he said “It does have other applications you know. In most job descriptions one of the more general tasks listed is usually along the lines of ‘relevant scholarly activities’…” I cut in and said “So that’s where you got it from? And you just thought, well that could mean anything, including drinks with colleagues!”

          This was met with sheepish chuckles from Gareth, who does, however, devote much of his free time to work-related activity including conferences at weekends and so forth. Anywhoo, no amount of tea drinking nor even post-meeting beverages in the local tavern could ever put us in league with the goings on of the ‘Bird and Baby’ of the original Oxford Inklings…

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            I’ve given up on the idea of quitting the habit of referencing, it seems I am programmed not only to chain-reference, but also to  make puns; this particular one is a play on the James Herriot novels, which later became a fab TV series called “All creatures great and small” with a really groovy theme tune! I just made the pun whilst on the phone to Gareth, i.e:

Me: “It shouldn’t happen to a researcher”

He: “yes”

Me: “At least we don’t have to put our arms up cows backsides though eh?”

He: “erm, that’s true…although I’m sure you could if you wanted to…”

Me: (explanation of the pun upon realising how random the statement must seem out of context)

He: “Ah I see”

                Basically the study which I am working on with Gareth has really started to take off, and by this I mean garner participants to be interviewed, at exactly the same time as my main research job has also reached this phase. Thus meaning that I have gone from office-bunny to perma-driving-out–til-all-hours in the pace of a few hours!

            It’s all a bit scary until you get back into it. Have I got the right postcode for the TomTom? Check. And the right google-map in case the TomTom breaks? Check. And back up TomTom? Check. And are they both fully charged? Check. And Have I got all the consent forms, participant information sheets, digital recording devices, batteries, microphone, petrol in the car, interview schedule all worked out – check?

            Oh for the days of mind-numbing databases! And yet it is all worth it when you get there and the participants have been awaiting your arrival, and offer you a cuppa, maybe even some homemade carrot cake, and share their experiences with you so freely and generously you feel honoured!

            Still it is tiring and lunch has to be caught “on the hoof”, never a favoured method for those of us with Hobbit-like tendencies where food is concerned. I have one interview tomorrow and one on Thursday, then back to normal work on Friday, woe is me. No time to potter about admiring my new shoes and outfit for Saturday’s party; no time to write up my Dr Manhattan-style monolog on ‘Enaid’ (soul) for Taliesin; no time to simply lie in bed drinking tea and reading novels and musing…

           Still, it is a great job really, I can think of worse…Gordon Brown has just made his final speech and left Downing Street for good and I can’t help feeling happy for him; so much to look forward to now that he won’t be scrutinised from all quarters every minute of the day!

Time for tea.

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           Having been a tomboy for most of my life, and having enjoyed the freedom that the accompanying low-maintenance look provides – lack of faff; looking reasonably the same whether going to a party or returning from the pool; having more money to spend on food, clothes and books etc, I have now, upon reaching my thirties, realised that I will, at some time, have to give in and start making an effort.

           The trouble with having left it so late in the day to take on this particular challenge is that there is a higher premium on mistakes. Everyone expects fourteen year olds to get it wrong every now and then and turn up with faces caked in makeup, with eye shadow like boy-George in the 80s and hair to match; but if I rock up at work or a ‘do’ of some kind I need my appearance to be slick and refined. Cue much worry, wasted time, sore skin, bad hair and angst.

           This weekend however, I surpassed even myself. Having had a new hair cut last week and having been very impressed with the swift efficiency with which the hairdresser blow-dried my hair, I went out and bought a brush just like the one she used, and also the professional hair grips for sectioning the hair. Having left myself plenty of time to experiment I washed my hair and then positioned myself in front of the mirror, hair drier in one hand, radial brush in the other. I applied the protective serum and sectioned my hair.

           It started off quite well and the section looked sleek, shiny and tucked under. I wondered how much ‘bounce’ I could achieve, so I turned the brush further and further until all the section was wrapped around the brush and it was resting at my nape. I started to uncurl the hair, but somehow, about 2 inches down, the brush got caught. I turned off the drier and tried to level the brush before tuning it, but this didn’t help. It got more and more stuck and I got more and more anxious.

           Tearfully I decided I would wait for my husband to return from bird watching in the hope that he would have more luck. But I couldn’t leave it. I couldn’t concentrate. I started crying in frustration. Much pulling, dragging, twisting, foot stamping and yelping later, I realised that it was never coming out. I reached for my small nail scissors and cut it free, crying heavily by now at the thought of how much hair I was cutting from my already sparse locks. What about the party next week? And what about work on Monday even? Would I have to get extensions to cover the hole? Where did you even get such things done? How much did they cost? How long would they last? I thought about ringing Faith for advice but realised I would sound like the ultimate buffoon. Maybe I would just have to cut the rest of my hair to match (cue more intense crying and pitiful mumbling).

           With my mission accomplished I surveyed the damage. Although I now had some two inch short hair at my nape it actually wasn’t so bad – luckily it was the under section of hair and not nearly as much as I had feared. Freeing the rest of my hair from the confines of the section-clips I realised it wasn’t noticeable after all; just no high ponytails or sophisticated buns for me for the next few months.

           I’m not sure whether it was as a result of this particular episode, and it’s inevitable impact on my mood, or whether it was simply ‘One of those days’ (see Elvis song at the end of GI Blues for details) but the rest of the day that followed was laden with all kind of buffoonery, including broken bowls, spillages, and the catastrophic breaking of the bottom drawer of the fridge, although, it has always been awkward to get this drawer in and out and it now slides in and out easily – since both strips at the back broke off!

           I went to bed exhausted, hoping for better luck the next day…and more cautious about future dabbling with beauty regimes!

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