Thursday, 16 September 2010

Perfume, pubs, people-watching, all of that.

So in the pub the other night - people-watching, like one does. At the table next to us, a couple. We decided (after they'd gone, we're not animals, for God's sake) that they were either a long-married couple on the verge of meltdown ("You bastard, Adrian, I told you not to gamble away the solar panel subsidy!!!") OR on a first date where they had both been grossly misrepresented, either by mutual friends ("They said you looked like Brad Pitt!" "Well they said you looked like someone off Strictly Come Dancing, but they didn't mention it was Anne Widdecombe!") or themselves ("Fun-loving curvy blond/e... loads of personality... my mum says I'm handsome..." fill in gap).
At some point during the starter I turned to my brother-in-law, who takes us out to dinner regularly to thank us for allowing him to occasionally sleep on the cardboard placemat we like to call a spare bed (for work purposes only - he has a very nice family up North). I said "Are you covered in Vicks?". In my defence, he hadn't been feeling well. He was slightly taken aback, and said no, so I remained mildly confused. Until the angry couple left, after having spent most of the evening (while they weren't glaring at each other) texting other people. And I realised it was her perfume, namely (and I will name names) "Pomegranate Noir" by Jo Malone.
Don't get me wrong, I like it, especially on my friend Nix, but it is boldly heavy on what it claims to be opoponax (??? answers on a postcard), pepper, and patchouli. These are its claims, but I say there's a truckload of eucalyptus in there too. In large and over-optimistic first-date splash-it-all-over amounts, it smells of Vicks Vaporub. Or a koala, startled in the act of shoplifting some Vicks Vaporub and a pomegranate. And why not, if I was Jo Malone I'd use some high-flown word like "opoponax" rather than "Vicks".
At this moment I wondered whether their burgeoning relationship could have been salvaged if he hadn't got all the wrong olfactory signals, and either thought she had flu or was perhaps an aggressive man.



I'm going to blame my increasing deafness on waxy build-up (sorry, if you're eating) and the poor acoustic quality of the average restaurant/pub. I never seem to have problems at home or, mostly, at work. But I have been suffering from what I can only call "Freudian deafness" for years - in my previous career in Frenchish Airways I spent a lot of time on the phone and had to double-check the obvious mispronunciations : "Caen" instead of "Cannes", "Dakar" for "Dhaka", and on one memorable occasion something that could have been Biarritz, Bayreuth or Beirut. The travel agent wasn't sure which one the customer wanted (my tip? Don't book with them EVER), so I ended up saying "Do they want surfing, opera or bomb-craters?". She didn't know that either. It was a 66% chance the customer ended up in the wrong place.
I also frequently mis-heard the word "y-fronts" for the far more commonly used "reference" ("If I could just take down your y-fronts for this booking?"). Oh, the hilarity.
The end result of constantly saying "Sorry, could you repeat that?" is, inevitably, that your ears get lazy and you say it to everything. But it helps if at least the context is an indication of where the conversation should have been going - after all, y-fronts rarely get mentioned in the context of booking an airline ticket. Mr F and I went out for dinner on Saturday, to a fantastically nice (if slightly pricey) old-school proper Italian restaurant (osso bucco, Chianti, rabbit ragu, that kind of shenanigans) and while it was lovely, the acoustics were slightly trying. And at one point, while he was attempting to discuss burning news issues of the day (Koran-burning, in fact), I said "Sorry?" once too often. "THE PASTOR, THE PASTOR!!!" he yelled. Three waiters looked up in panic. Try saying it aloud. It wasn't just me.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Sorry again

The "posting regularly" issue seems to be a tricky one for me. I promise I'll start again now the days are chillier and there's less to do in the sun at lunchtime. In the meantime, here is a picture of my lovely new socks, which I was forced to buy as shoes now seem to be obligatory. I miss my FitFlops.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Life Isn't Fair, Darling

I am struck by the TOTAL UNFAIRNESS OF LIFE as I sit here with a COLD, in SUMMER, gloomily stuffing my face with Day Nurse capsules and contemplating whether to go and buy more Kleenex or just use loo roll to blow my already-reddening nose. I can handle sunburn in summer (and in fact am often forced to, what with the gingerness and generally lax attitude to sunscreen) but to have a cold in August seems rankly mean of Fate or whoever. Apparently the loo roll option is unwise, as it's generally made from wood pulp (rougher on the face) rather than cotton pulp. Oh, who cares anyway. Whatever happens I'm going to look like a crimson Spacehopper for the next week. The summer cold is particularly vile because you can't even wrap yourself in a duvet and sweat it out in front of a nice warm fire - and since I'm on a stupid stupid Atkins-type diet I can't have honey in my hot lemon and honey. Or hot lemon, as it now would be if I could face anything hot.
Reading a lot of amazingly good stuff at the moment -
the new Kate Atkinson ("Started Early, Took My Dog", due out 18th August), always good to see Jackson Brodie again, I'll let you know how it goes;
a quite extraordinary book by Tim Powers called "Last Call" which manages to convince you that Bugsy Siegel was in fact the last but one Fisher King, that the Castle Perilous is a casino in Las Vegas, and that if you ever play poker with Tarot cards you risk losing your immortal soul;
Procopius's "Secret History" which is basically the Byzantine version of the National Enquirer (you'll never guess how the Empress Theodora used to supplement her income in those pre-imperial career days!! No, really!!) - scandalous, gossipy, unputdownable;
"Ottoline And The Yellow Cat" by Chris Riddell, a completely charming childrens' book with illustrations worthy of Edward Gorey (but more optimistic).
I will also report back on "Brooklyn" by Colm Toibin and "Bel Canto" by Ann Patchett (book group choices) when I've got them out of the way. Sadly the cold has turned my brain into porridge and all I secretly want to do is read comics.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Wasps. Rubbish.

Torvill & Dean. Possibly too large to fit in a halogen uplighter lampshade.

Phew, what a scorcher. Having the windows open at all times has meant a lot more in the way of flying wildlife indoors. This has been great for the cats, who like to show what terrifying predators they are by messily dismembering a daddy-long-legs or two on the carpet, before losing interest and leaving us to clear up the crime scene. However, not so great for us, as the insect population seem drawn in droves to the halogen uplighter, and die smokily and pungently in it. I'd like to give you an image here: the tragic lovers in Torvill & Dean's interpretation of Ravel's Bolero, whirling round and round gracefully before hurling themselves into a volcano. Imagine that, only substitute a few flies and the odd wasp for Torvill & Dean. No music, obviously. It's amazing how strong the smell of burnt wasp is. Like burning hair, but nastier and a lot more persistent. Also, when you look up at the uplighter from beneath, the pretty glass shade is full of the crispy silhouettes of dead insects. Nice.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Yu in Chiswik area? Yu seek basment? Look no more furthers!

spe·cious  –adjective
1. apparently good or right though lacking real merit; superficially pleasing or plausible
2. pleasing to the eye but deceptive.

So that's probably not a 10 foot celling.
*With thanks to the eagle eye of Mr Fishwife, who has learnt, over the years, that nothing pleases me more than total, nitpicking, pedantry.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010


So after some months of quite hair-raising ineptitude on the part of Banco Santander De Abbey National (or whatever), I am in the process of switching to First Direct, mostly because I haven't heard anybody I know moan about them so far. This, however, involves sending them a current bank statement - IN THE POST??? ARE THEY MAD???
I have a problem with paranoia - being part of a generation brought up on Watergate, Vietnam, etc, my first reaction to anything is to wonder what's in it for somebody else. Why would that nice Chinese general choose me, out of all the possible bank account holders in the world, to look after $1,000,000 for him until he can defect to the West? Ditto the Portuguese National Lottery (whose email address, oddly, is in Russia), who so much want me to win that the fact that I never bought a ticket seems no obstacle - and some unspecified kindly-intentioned do-gooders in Nigeria who have found me to be the closest living relative of deceased billionaire Franklin Ngombo? Flattered as I am by their touching faith in my honesty, I have had to decline so many of these offers I now feel like Scrooge. I am tormented at night by visions of poor Reverend James Willy of Unicef (his real name! But of course probably not), wringing his hands and wondering why I have not replied to his email begging me to look after orphanage funds because, and I quote, THE CHILDREN TODAY IS OUR FUTURE UNICEF HAVE BEEN USING ALL MEANS TO MAKE SURE THE WORLD HAVE A NEW CHANGE BY CONTRIBUTION FROM GOOD MINDED PEOPLE ALL OVER THE WORLD WHO DONATE TO MAKE SURE THE WORLD IS GOOD FOR ALL HUMAN (Capitals and lack of punctuation all courtesy of the Rev Willy).
Having become the cynical old bag I now am, I wouldn't consider giving anybody even my postcode these days - I am aware that all my social networking shenanigans links to itself, Facebook to Twitter to Blogger etc, but hopefully it's a closed loop - and I should be grateful that I am so wary of handing information out that I even balk at sending a bank statement to another bank - but I still am. On the plus side, I don't do actual conspiracy theories - life's too short, and I'm too busy losing sleep over the unfortunate General Weng and his desperate attempts to get his money into my bank account, the poor love.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

In which I blame the ash cloud, the election, BA and George Osborne (just because he's a little tick).

This is terrible. I apologise hugely. I have developed a fear of posting in direct proportion to how long I've left it. It is exactly like the syndrome where you haven't done the essay so you don't go to the lecture, which means you don't get the next essay. I may do the blog equivalent of sneaking about avoiding lecturers in a minute. However there are many factors I can pretend to blame, so I am going to pretend that it was a combination of BA strikes, the ashcloud, the election, the Lost Booker Prize, and possibly also George Osborne (because he has a face you couldn't tire of slapping) rather than my own idleness and lack of inspiration.
Anyway - on my own in the shop today, a joy I have experienced before - realising that cheese on crackers is possibly not a meal designed to be eaten at the till. In fact I now know that the only food that can be eaten without scattering crumbs (or large pieces of mayonnaisey chicken) all over you/the till/books is in fact a large piece of cold meat, without marinade (too messy) or breadcrumb coating (too friable). You will run the risk of looking like somebody at a Ye Olde Joust 'N' Disco Barbeque, but far better that than getting mayonnaise on a customer order.
More later when the extraordinary aroma of TCP from a rather peculiar customer has dissipated and I can wipe my watering eyes enough to see the computer.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Why I am very trying to watch television with.

Imagine you're watching something you particularly like on television. A cliffhangingly suspenseful thriller, perhaps. A lyrical pastoral idyll in period costume. A comedy. Here is a piece of advice I will give you: do not ever watch it with me. A few examples follow, and imagine they're being uttered during the moments where someone on screen is saying something vital to the plot:

Sense & Sensibility/Emma/Cranford : "Ooh! Loooovely wisteria! I'd love a dress that draped like that. Seriously, would you ever consider wearing a tailcoat? Those white breeches didn't do a lot for men, did they?"...

Ashes To Ashes/ Life On Mars : "THE CLASH! Yay I love this song! Pause it, pause it, I'm just going to find the CD... OK don't. What is it about Gene Hunt, honestly? I don't remotely fancy Philip actual Glenister. I think the graffiti represents death. I think he's actually Sam Tyler. Oh I love her boots. I think I had a pair of those in 1983, or maybe Kate did..."

Our Mutual Friend/Bleak House: "Ooh! Looooovely candelabra! God imagine not washing your hair for weeks. My scalp feels itchy. Why is Dickens always so foggy and greasy? Where's Jack The Ripper? Wouldn't this benefit from a bit of Jack The Ripper?"

Desperate Housewives: "That's me. I do exactly that. That's exactly me. No, she is. No, maybe her. You're a man, is she attractive? Is she too skinny? Could we get that shrubbery?"

Glee: (in floods of sentimental Disney tears) "I love this song. I love that song. Oh God, Lionel Ritchie, how lame. Oh they have to do Don't Rain On My Parade again"...

And so forth. I actually never talk through Mr Fishwife's chosen television moments (rugby, The Pacific, occasional orgies of grainy B&W tank footage on what we call the Hitler Death Channel) because what would I say? "Oooh! Loooovely scrum cap. Was their last kit pink? Did he really just shoot that Japanese POW? That's outrageous. Is that a Panzer? Did Albert Speer design those tents? Why are we in Melbourne all of a sudden?" etc. Apart, obviously, from my absolute jawdrop moment last week with the schmancy pink Stade Francais kit, I usually read. You may well imagine he gets a better deal than I do, and I would have to agree with you.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Sunday Miscellany

Sunday afternoon, and I'll just get past the "What I had for lunch" bit: cheddar, smoked ham, unsalted butter and wasabi on crusty fresh white bread. With a 10-litre mug of builder's tea. Now just smacking my lips and twiddling my hands mid-air with a distant expression on my face as I try to remember if there's anything cake-related in the kitchen, and, if not, whether I can be arsed to make a whole batch of chocolate brownie cupcakes just to have one now. Or maybe four. Laziness will probably win out over greed, which is a good thing as I stopped being able to describe myself as "willowy" sometime in my 20s, and recently have wondered whether "approximately humanoid" is acceptable as a description.

Mr Fishwife is watching some rugby - I speak as one who knows very little about rugby, but even I can see that this is just rugby-for-the-sake-of-watching-rugby: The teams are both dressed like Where's Wally*, although for clarity one team is in red/white stripes and the other is in red/ivory, and although I can't read very well from here (short sight, damn it) it appears to be Whifflet playing Sproin, which can hardly be major league stuff. In fact it's so minor league I am probably down on the team list as a substitute prop-forward.

I, on the other hand, am doing something useful and worthwhile - frenziedly editing the Ocado order I placed yesterday, mostly at 7 pm but partly at 1 am. HOW did those family packs of Magnum choc ices end up in there? Has somebody hacked my Ocado account? That would explain the caramel syrup, the 4 packs of Chunky Peanut Butter KitKats, the clearance Easter eggs (half price!!). It is the work of seconds to high-mindedly remove them and replace them with fresh fruit and organic courgettes. If, you know, it wasn't vitally important that I wash my hair first. Damn, too late to edit. Oh well.
I should point out that I am deeply in love with Ocado - why has it taken me this long to realise that somebody else will not only push the heavy trolley round the supermarket but also deliver it? In a van painted to look like an onion? And send you a little text message beforehand telling you to expect Vladimir In The Onion Van??? Obviously my mind was on, er, higher things.

The author would like to state that she has received no incentive, financial or otherwise, to write a favourable piece about Ocado Ltd Online Retail. More's the pity. Although they did once sub me a free bottle of Macon-Lugny because they didn't have the bread rolls I was after, which in value for money terms was quite a result. I keep ordering the bread rolls, in a triumph of hope over experience, but sadly I mostly get bread rolls.

*Should just add : the rugby has now become an altogether higher-grade, Heineken Cup affair. Stade Francais are playing. They appear to be dressed as Malibu Barbie, in full head-to-toe sugar pink, with natty matching sugar-pink socks and scrum caps. The kit was obviously designed by Hello Kitty, although I probably won't be telling them that to their faces.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Forward planning

Today I forgot my lunch.
I also forgot (although less of an obvious oversight, given the weather) sunglasses, which would have been useful for some of the day, and an umbrella, which would have been useful for the other half.
I forgot that couscous is not ideal when eaten with a fork at the best of times, but especially when eaten with a fork over your keyboard while perched on an inappropriately-sized Ikea barstool at a worktop the incorrect height.
I forgot those Creme Eggs under the till were there for Easter Egg Hunt purposes, and not for general desultory staff consumption.
I also forgot that there is NO WAY to eat one quickly and furtively between dealing with customer enquiries, and the best a prospective bookbuyer can expect is for the staff member eating one (yes, that would be me) to panic, glance around frantically for somewhere to put half-eaten egg, fail as eggs traditionally don't stand on their ends, shove the whole thing into their mouth at once and end up communicating through a mixture of sign language and scribbled notes.
I forgot that accidentally chewing a piece of garish Creme Egg tinfoil can cause a nasty shock to your fillings.
I forgot that Converse Allstars are delightful footwear except when it rains, when they are frankly as useful as a blotting paper hat.
But I did get paid today, and tomorrow I will forget that whenever I spend more than 25p at a time my bank feels impelled to phone me and check my card hasn't been stolen by international racketeers.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Quite extraordinary

Day off, and having just been out to get milk I am reclining on the sofa pretending to watch PMQ, although actually I'm reading. Phone rings. Against my better judgement I answer it, because while it's 99% likely to be a telemarketer, there's a 1% chance it might be someone I actually want to talk to.

Her: Hello, is that Mrs Fishwife?

Me: Speaking.

Her: This is the West London Carpet Cleaning Company - do you need any carpets or upholstery cleaning?

Me: No, thank you.

Her: Thank you for your time.

Me: Not at all.


I'm now starting to think I may have imagined it.

In a similar vein, I went to the bank with a Canadian bank draft (long story) to deposit - I took NOT ONLY my passport BUT ALSO my marriage certificate as the draft was made out to my maiden name. After several depressing attempts at this in the past ("Canadian dollars? I din know they had dollars!"), I was all prepared to argue the point that YES it was dated August 09 but NO it hadn't expired as it was a draft, see, it says draft here, not a cheque, and drafts don't expire, yes, that is me, here's my passport, blardy bla bla.

Lovely young Mr Gandhi of the Banco de Abbey Santander Nacionalista de Londres took one look, filled out a form, took two photocopies, et voila.

I am now back on the sofa dazedly watching something or other and wondering if I went to sleep last night and woke up in a parallel universe where everybody is helpful, efficient and polite. Obviously I will now have jinxed it, and Mr Ocado ("he will be delivering in the Courgette Van!!!") will spill a full bottle of fabric conditioner on the carpet and tread some cat food into it, snarl, punch me and steal the TV. Oh well.

An update: AND AND AND Mr Ocado was an hour early!!!!!! And (of course) charming. Although I'm always slightly disappointed that the Courgette Van (or Lemon, or Strawberry) isn't actually shaped like any of those things. Can't have everything...

Thursday, 25 February 2010


"Is this the one you ordered, sir? Are you sure? Isn't it pretty! Here's the front label... aaaand the back label! Do you want to feel the print? It's embossed! And there's gold leaf on it!!!"

Sadly our waiter wasn't dressed quite this fruitily.
I got taken out for dinner yesterday, mm-hmmmm very nice; I actually wore a dress!!! Which is fantastically rare for me in winter - if there's one thing I hate more than draughty skirts it's TIGHTS. Nasty laddery chilly clingy things that they are. And every time we eat out (not so often, I hasten to add) I remember why I am sort of a liability in semi-swanky places:
When being fawned upon by the wine waiter I invariably find myself trying hard not to snort with laughter as I think of QVC presenters demonstrating Diamonique jewellery - much the same spokesmodel wrist action is used, whether what they're flourishing is a bottle of Chablis or a tennis bracelet (no, I have no idea what one is either) - it's the mime equivalent of "Nice, isn't it? Ooh, so pretty. Look at it from this angle. Now this one. Looooovely." - all of this while you're pretending to taste the wine, which frankly would have to be downright OFF for you to risk making the spokesmodel/sommelier cry at this point by saying No (unless you're one of those scary city-boy alpha-types who automatically rejects the wine just to show what an oenophile you are, and you betcha that's how you refer to yourself too, as well as bon viveur, you great ponce).
... Er, that was it. I had scallops with black pudding, and braised ox cheek with mash. Very nice too. And the wine was actually very good.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Plastic surgery for the thrifty

I've just had a brainwave. Yesterday I was talking to someone I met on Twitter, but in REAL LIFE in a bar (legalese comment inserted here about preserving anonymity, yadda yadda, you know who you are, lady) about Botox and whether it's worth it - "Does it hurt?" I asked with horrified fascination - apparently the answer has a lot of f-words in it and a Yes. Also she said you can't move the top half of your face for ages and although everybody thinks you look younger, they also secretly wonder if you've had a stroke. So, although I'm not unhappy with the way I look for my age, I thought : GAFFER TAPE. You heard it here first. I'm not sure if they do something approaching flesh colour (or a range of flesh colours), but it's ideal. Can be removed at the end of the day with, surely, less pain than 27 facial injections. Aaaaaand, for the more semi-permanent Phil Spector effect, duct tape, which can then be hidden under the wig you have Superglued on.
You may end up looking like this:

..however I think you'll agree that a little suffering is necessary for true ageless beauty. Or you could just bite the bullet and have Botox, which I have to say anonymous Twitter lady was a great advert for. Or, if you're me, neither, just ensure all your lighting is low wattage.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Moan, moan, moan.

Yeah yeah yeah, it's gorgeous. Try slogging across it in driving Arctic rain.

So Hammersmith bridge is closed all this week for construction work (obviously I've read all that stuff about NOT GIVING AWAY TOO MUCH PERSONAL INFO ON YOUR BLOG so as to avoid stalkage, but frankly there is only one bookshop in Barnes, so a determined stalker could find us fairly easily if pressed). Hammersmith Bridge is closed, which means that I have to get out of Hammersmith Tube, and walk across the bridge to get a further bus. Not too bad in the big scheme of commuting, I agree, but it's all relative - I'm so used to a few stops on the tube, wander out to the bus stop, tra la la. This bungs a whole fifteen minutes of exercise into my day, both ways, and furthermore it was absolutely chucking down this morning, so I spent this morning's little journey doing exclamations of indignation in my head - to the point where I was worried I'd start saying them out loud. Rough transcript as follows:

Oh bugger, it's... it's running off my nose! It itches! But my hands are too wet to wipe my nose! GET OUT OF MY WAY! Why are people with umbrellas incapable of moving to one side to let you pass? IT IS ILLEGAL TO CYCLE ON THE PAVEMENT!!!!! My nose itches! IT ITCHES!!! No really, hit me with your umbrella!!! DON'T BOTHER STOPPING, IT'S ONLY A BUS STOP AND YOU'RE ONLY A BUS!!!!!!!! There's a wet patch on this seat! Is it... me?

And so forth. My inner monologue on the way to work (when not muffled by the louder voice of whatever book I'm reading) tends to be a thing of sleepy oh wowness since I'm not fully awake until I've had my first coffee at 9.30ish. Today I have morphed into my occasional alter ego Mrs Freakishly Short Fuse. Sigh.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Adventures In Drunk Internet Shopping

Hurrah! Paid again. And after doing the sensible stuff (big Ocado shop, paying bills, dreaming of an iPhone), I went slightly crazy on (shhhhhh) Amazon - well, I may work in a bookshop, but I feel no guilt in buying CDs, DVDs and books that are out of print on line, especially when they are cheaper than the postage required to get them to me. I consider myself an object lesson in How Not To Buy Stuff On The Internet, however, and here are several cautionary facts you should consider if, like many, you love and admire me so much you wish to emulate my every action (pause for snigger).

1) Internet shopping while drunk is a foolish, foolish thing.
2) If you do not know how big your oven is, how can you be sure that the nonstick roasting tin with removable rack will fit? Eh???
3) Absolutely nothing is the colour it appears on screen. Not the nail varnish, not the t-shirt. What appears a gorgeous deep fuchsia will inevitably turn out to be a deeply unflattering and nylon-y looking salmon. I speak the truth here.
4) Nobody needs more than 15 plain black long-sleeved tops.
5) If it doesn't say "brand new, unopened" it will smell. Or have a suspicious-looking stain.

The second week of every pay month is marked by lots and lots of tiny packages turning up for me at work, mostly CDs, often DVDs, with varying degrees of delight or shame. I can always tell how drunk I was when I placed the order (in my defence: at home, usually late Friday after big nice dinner and a bottle of wine, on Mr Fishwife's laptop, Me: "C'nIvergo nyour laptop?" Him: "DO NOT START SPENDING MONEY ON CRAP." Me: "Juss wanna look at amazon. Oh! Yay! I bought you a looooovely t-shirt!! What chest size are you again? Doesnmatter, I've already paid..." usw) by how embarrassing the item is when it turns up. Xanadu, anyone? The Best Of Grandmaster Flash And The Sugarhill Gang?
HOWEVER neither the Internet nor the demon drink had anything to do with my new-found love for Mad Men, although I have just received the DVD of season 1 and am feverishly planning a marathon of Old Fashioneds, waspie corsets and smoking everywhere. To which end I give you my new giant ladycrush and secret role model, the flawless, fabulous, plus-sized Joan.Earth has not anything to show more fair. Nor more curvy. Sadly her chief attractions are hidden behind the accordion, but what the hell. I promise I will never get so carried away by the combined temptations of Fabuloso Spanish Brandy and payday that I buy an accordion.
PS AND she was singing "C'est Magnifique".