Monday 30 September 2013

Flatmates from hell...

So someone on Twitter was asking for flat-mate horror stories and I tweeted, ‘I had one who used to shoot at people out the window –does that count?  And the one who moved his entire family into the living room.’
And he said, 'Go on...' And then I kept remembering others who were worse.  Far worse.  And went hurtling back down memory lane again. And figured I needed a list. 

My top ten worst flat-mates.
So, in no particular order, here you have it.

1. The One Who Shot Things Out The Window.  tbf, it was only an air rifle and he mainly shot rats and rabbits (to eat).  Unless he forgot his meds or someone pissed him off.  Also in possession of three ferrets.

2. The One Who Took Over the Living Room.  Lovely guy, really lovely, but one day I came back to find his sister living in the living room.  ‘Just for a bit,’ he said.  She was swiftly joined by his girlfriend, his parents and their cat.  It got mighty crowded in there.   And a trifle smelly.  

      3. The One Who Tried To Kill Me While I Lay Sleeping in My Bed.  Lovely girl.  Just a trifle unhinged.  One night she stormed into my bedroom and laid about my head with a Paul Masson carafe of wine (empty).  Scary as hell.  The choice of wine, that is.  

Yes, like this...but with wine in it.
      4. The One Who Gobbed.  Nasty little toe-rag.  Used to stand at the top of the stair and fire gobs at the bike parked in the hallway.  Also cheated on the phone bill.  Young Conservative (an oxymoron, surely?).  Worst of all, wore really bad jeans.
      5. The One Who Saw Ghosts.  Put the fear of gods into everyone with her mediumistic powers. I mean, how do you concentrate on having a crap when you’ve been told the toilet is haunted by a six foot tall male ghost?  It’s…offputting.     

This is a bona fide toilet ghost.
      6. The One Who Was Too Right-On.  Once again, dead nice just… worthy.  House became full of enormous art installations with titles like ‘The Bleeding Womb’.  My high heels were sacrificed on a pyre;  I had to hide my make-up bag and was forced to keep my tampons under lock and key (real women don’t hide their blood away).  Became self-conscious because apparently I hadn’t communed with my vagina enough and preferred sex with (whisper it) men
           7. The One Who Thought He Could Do Voodoo.  Boy, did I love that guy.  And went along with it all for a fair while – the not sleeping for three nights at a time malarkeys, the vampire hunts, the astral orienteering. But he got into the wrong sort of spirits and having someone screaming, ‘I’m cursing you! You’re so goddamn cursed for curse’s sake!’ at four in the morning gets…tiresome. 

      8. The One Who Was Too Political.  I mean, I was a good socialist back then.  I even canvassed in a half-hearted sort of way (though it was pretty boring preaching to the converted). But when you couldn’t even squeeze through the door of your own flat because of yet another meeting of the Bermondsey Liberation Front, it got too much.  I retaliated by hauling home bunches of random South Africans to sleep on the floor and it all got a bit…uncomfortable.

      9.  The One Who Hid.   On paper the ideal flat-mate – clean, silent,  inconspicuous, her portion of the rent and bills left on the table without fail each week.  But it started doing my head in.  Was she in or out?  How did she manage to get up the stairs without making one single step creak?  After a while I couldn’t even remember what she looked like.  I left her a note: ‘Is this working out?’ She left one back: ‘Probably not’.  And left.

      10. The One Who Was Boring.  Actually, come to think of it, he really was the very worst of all.  J

‘You know what?’ said Kelly on Twitter.  ‘You really ought to live alone.’ 

‘Couldn’t agree more, ‘ I said.    

Anyhow, over to you - worse flat/room/house shares ever?  

Tuesday 3 September 2013

In which Rita, Jammy and I spend a day chatting about what I don't want.

Mum, you need a new phone.  It’s ridiculous.’  So said James and I couldn’t argue. I mean, who has a phone they can’t use?  I mean, one that can’t be used.  By dint of there being no O2 coverage on Exmoor.
‘But it worked fine in Morocco,’ I said. 
He rolled his eyes and frog-marched me into Carphone Warehouse. Of course, once inside, it transpired that this flurry of filial love wasn’t quite so altruistic – he really wanted a new phone of his own and, seriously, I just gave up the ghost and let him take over.  And it all seemed so easy, so painless, so simple.  This time, I thought, it will all be fine.
I am so stupid.
‘If you want to keep your number you will have to get a PAC code,’ said nice CPW guy. I started, like a gazelle getting a strong whiff of lion across the savannah. ‘No, it’s really easy,’ he said.   ‘You just phone this number and say you want to cancel your contract and ask for a PAC code.’
‘What? Don’t you do that?’
He shook his head smiling.  No doubt thinking:  Oh you stupid, stupid woman. Do we look like total numpties.
And, as always, I was in a hurry and so I just nodded and crammed all the stuff in my bag and took off.

Back home, of course, I realised that this was like one of those fairy-tale tasks, like herding ants or counting grains of rice.  To whit, hopeless.  I couldn’t ring the number on my mobile because (doh!) I don’t get network coverage.  So I figured I’d try online – except that O2 don’t recognise my email (despite managing to inform me how much they’re taking from me each month).  Twitter O2 was on a collective tea break.  So, an hour later I finally managed to find someone to ‘chat’ to.   

Welcome to O2. Someone will be with you soon.

Thank God for that.  So I started typing like a Fury. 

Hold that thought. You're not connected yet.

Oh. *blush* Yes, I blush when not talking to unknown people on the Internet.  

Rita: Hi I'm Rita. How can I help?

Rita? ‘Rita’?  Yeah, that figures.  Like these people use their real names. 

Jane Alexander: Hi Rita, trying to cancel my contract with O2 but can't get through on number given by Carphone Warehouse.  My phone number is blah… Can't do this online as O2 not recognising my username.  Can't do from phone as no signal in this area. So what do you suggest?
Also I'd like to keep this number for my new phone and need a PAC code - is that something you can help with as well?

Rita: Yes.

Jane Alexander: Great. Now what?

Rita: Please stay online while I transfer your chat.

We’re putting you through to the right person, won’t be long.
You're through to 'Jammy'

Jammy? ‘Jammy’? Really? These people have to be bots, don't they? *do quick search and nobody seems quite sure* 

Jammy: Hi, I'm Jammy from Re-contract team. I'll quickly go through your previous discussion and will help you further.

Re-contract??? Eyes narrow.  

Jammy: Hi Jane, thanks for the time. Can I know the deal you are getting with Carphone Warehouse?

Jane Alexander:  Huh? I just want to cancel my contract and get a PAC code

Jammy: If you can help me with the deal you are getting with carephone warehouse. I'll do the price match for you. We do price match with carephone warehouse.

Jane Alexander: No point. No network coverage by O2 here.  Now can we cancel the contract please?

Jammy: Did you share the information with our customer service about the network problem in your area?

Jane Alexander: Jammy, please, you're stalling.  Let's just get on with the cancellation. :)

Jammy: Sure, I am just try to help you find a similar deal with us. Can you confirm me is the new contract use O2 network?

Jane Alexander: No, it does not use O2 network because O2 has no network coverage in my area.

Jammy: Great.

Jane Alexander: Er. Okay.

Jammy: Thanks. Jane, I just want to share one deal with you. Before I go ahead and arrange the PAC for you. I've checked your average usage for past few months and can see that you use 13 minutes, 35 texts and 26 MB of data every month.

Jane Alexander: Er, Jammy?

Jammy: You can go for 24 months £11 tariff with 50 UK minutes, unlimited texts with 100 MB data. I'll add £150 cash back on your account. This credit will cover the cost of your next 12 to 13 months bills approximately and you don't have to pay anything.

Jane Alexander: Jammy?

Jammy: So if you calculate this deal would cost you £4.75 per month. Along with this I'll also give you an option to select any two from Unlimited Land line Calls, Unlimited Weekend Calls, Unlimited O2 to O2 Calls and 200 extra minutes. 

Jane Alexander: JAMMY! 

Jammy: In total you'll get 250 minute along with this you get an option to choice unlimited minutes plus you don't have to pay any bill for the next 12 to 13 months.

Jane Alexander: Jammy. It's too late. I've signed the deal. But I admire your tenacity. :) Also, what's the point 
of having a network I can't use? :)

Jammy: Okay, I help you with the PAC now.

So by now I’m actually weeping with laughter.  Or it might just be weeping.  And he goes through this stuff and finally I say…

Jane Alexander: Okay. So how do I activate the PAC code?

Jammy: You need to call the T-Mobile/Orange service team. They will help you how to activate the code on their network.

At which point I think I’ll cry. For real.   

Back to school...for all of us.
And suddenly, that’s it.  Summer has ended.  On Sunday  I was lying out in the garden, lolling on the lawn, dog at side, book in hand.  Today, abruptly, it’s autumn.  My fingers are feeling the chill as I type.  Yes, already.   And it’s back to school.   For all of us. 

Autumn used to be my favourite season when I was young.  I loved the fresh sparky energy of September; it was inexorably linked with new starts.  Call me weird but I enjoyed the start of each school year – new books, new shoes, new pencil case. The feeling that you could wipe clean the slate and make things good.  Maybe.  Now?  Not so much.  I have shifted allegiance to spring.  If you’re interested in seasonal living, check out The Natural Year.  J

Meanwhile James is heading back to school.  I think, to be honest, he’s relieved.  And, once again, I have to extend some grateful thanks to Tesco Clothing for getting him kitted out.  Actually, the whole clothing thing is a bit of a headache right now.  Last Christmas he was shorter than I.  Somewhere around March I suddenly realised I was eyeballing him and now he’s overtaken not just me but Adrian and is lurking somewhere over the six foot mark.  Nothing fits.  NOTHING. 

‘It’s okay, Mum,’ he said stoically, trousers flapping around his calves, straining to do up the buttons on his shirt.   I got him a gym membership over the summer and he now has more muscles than is right and holy for a nearly 15 year old.  Plus he beats me hands (and legs)-down on the cross-trainer.
‘No,’ I said.  ‘Just no.’ 

And, in the nick of time, the nice PR for Tesco sent us an online voucher and so we’re stocked with trousers and shirts.   They’ve upped their game too – the trousers have been a bit thin in the past but this time they are pretty solid. Impressive.   I hadn’t realised Tesco also do branded stuff online so we managed to nab him some Nike sports shorts and, what the hell, a pretty snazzy T-shirt too. 

I was reading something the other day about how one shouldn’t buy school clothes from supermarkets but, for the love of God, when your child is growing like a weed (and you’re not made of cash) who, honestly, has the choice?  This kit is fit for purpose – does what it says on the label, and it looks and wears just as well as other, more expensive, brands.   In fact, having bought kit from both Tesco and M&S in the past, truly I can’t tell the difference. 

Anyhow.  I’m grateful that he’s going back to school not looking like an out-take from Oliver.  Except…damnit!  Clean forgot to get his blazer cleaned and haven’t a clue where his shoes are and, and… 
 I too am making a bit of a fresh start.  Tomorrow, I’m heading off to Grayshott Spa for a week’s Health Regime.  Not pampering stuff this time (sadly it’s all abdominal massages and castor oil packs rather than sybaritic loveliness) but what the heck.   I’ve been sliding a bit lately – the odd bottle of wine here, the odd bottle of Kummel there.  Time to get a grip.  J 

Sunday 1 September 2013

The Number Seven Walking Book Club

Little things, local things, said my friend Sandie and I thought, she’s got a point.  I should make an effort.   We humans are surely not intended to be so solitary?  And then, serendipity, I saw a tweet from Davina who has a fabulous shop in town.  Number Seven.   And she hosts a Walking Book Club.  And I remembered how she’d told me about it when she was setting it up. We’d discussed a book we both loved – The Night Circus.  Would I come, she asked?  Of course, I said.  But somehow I never had.  But now?  Why not?  So I picked up a copy of the month’s choice – A Proper Education for Girls - read it that night and it was a fine old romp.

And I told Sandie and she raised an eyebrow.  ‘A walking book club?' she said.  'What a strange idea - how can folk properly discuss something in a group if they're all walking along?? Someone's going to end up at the back and be unable to hear a thing. You Exmoor folk are a tad strange at times, I think. Don't people like to sit down with a glass of vino in those parts? Are they all madly outdoorsy??’

Which made me smile because yes, on the whole, people here are all madly outdoorsy. And certainly a tad strange.  But hey, I like reading and I like walking so…  Dan and I pitched up at Number Seven and off we went. 

‘The first bit is pretty steep so we won’t talk about the book until we get to the top,’ said Davina.  Aha, so that answered Sandie’s question.  And we walked up through the allotments and up past the old school house and into the hollow way that leads up to Court Down.  And then we sat down in a field, amidst the tall grass, and just had a very civilised little chat about the book which then veered out into other good books, and excellent and not so excellent films and even took a little side plunge into the question of how society’s views towards women had changed and not changed since Victorian times.  And the three dogs barrelled around and it was…nice. 

And then, when we were done talking, we meandered off again and walked down to Marsh Bridge and along the Barle and then climbed up again at Burridge Woods to avoid the scree slope, and Davina and Marion talked about the hut up at the hill fort.  And how they’d found it festooned with bones when they’d been there last. 
‘Ah,’ I said. ‘That would have been me.  Did you find the skull?’ 
‘There was a skull?’
‘Oh yes. But I put that in a nearby tree, to watch.’ 

We clambered back down into town and, on our return to the shop, Davina brought out a little table piled with proof copies of books and said we were welcome to borrow any.  So I nabbed a couple and have spent this morning sitting in the sun reading Goat Mountain by David Vann.  A dark, disturbing book about an eleven-year old boy and three men on a mountain for their annual deer hunt.  But the boy shoots a man, not a buck, and the quartet pull themselves apart over questions of morality and mores, the rules and beliefs by which we choose to live. Did I enjoy it?  No.  It's not a pleasurable read.  But it certainly gives food for thought.  

Anyhow.  Next month's book choice is Revenge by Yoko Ogawa - 'A slice of life that is resplendent in its chaos, enthralling in its passion and chilling in its cruelty'.  So that sounds pretty jolly.  But I'm not going to read that until nearer the date because the downside to reading extremely fast is that I can rarely remember a book for more than a day or so.  So now I'm back to the garden with the next book Davina lent me - Perfect by Rachel Joyce.  

If you live on or around Exmoor, why not join the Club?  Check out the website for book choices and dates. If you don't live on or around Exmoor, why not join and 'virtually' walk instead?  Buy the book (all book club choices cost £5 from Number Seven) and share your thoughts on the blog (while walking in spirit, of course).  

Please note that all pics are © Davina Jelley.  Please do not reproduce without her permission.