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Category Archives: Random Other
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If you’re going to tell stories from the Arabian Nights, where better to do so than in a whitewashed basement, surrounded by Persian carpets?
Some friends and I went along and spent hours listening to mystical tales, drinking apple tea and chomping dates. And the venue was amazing. Check it out:Also, this is set into the outside wall of the shop; anybody know what it is?
Week two of Dani’s summer goals project focuses on exercise. Eek.
I openly admit: I’ve never been a huge fan of physical exertion. I managed to talk my way out of two solid years of sports classes at school and I got away with it by being one of those sickeningly lucky women who never put on weight. I’m not one of those sickeningly lucky women any more.
A few years ago I realised I was going to have to start moderating my hot chocolate intake and working up the occasional sweat. It was a struggle – I’m neither competitive nor cooperative enough for team sports and I knew I couldn’t motivate myself to exercise alone unless I actually found it enjoyable. So: no point joining a gym.
I discovered yoga… but I also discovered that all the yoga classes I could get to would involve getting off the sofa in the evening and working out with a stuffed stomach. My attendance was somewhat haphazard.
I loved dancing… but twirling on a dodgy leg wasn’t the best of ideas.
I walked four and a half miles home from work every evening… it kept me thin but breathing in dual carriageway fumes for forty-five minutes a day didn’t do much for my health.
But now that I work close to home things have changed: firstly, I need to do some exercise – I can’t rely on long walks home to keep me trim; secondly, working in the city centre, I can get to lunchtime yoga classes – I’ve really got no excuse not to; thirdly, coincidentally, my dodgy leg has now been more or less sorted and I’ve got a boyfriend who will put himself through dance classes for me. Exercise is very much back on my agenda – and now that I’m doing more of it, I’m finding myself actually enjoying the endorphin rush. In fact, I’m enjoying it so much I’ve invested in some totally shattering exercise games for the Wii – and I’m loving them.
So, three exercise goals? Okay, let’s see:
- Exercise at least three times a week. Between classes and the Wii that’s a pretty modest target but I have crazy-busy weeks sometimes (like this one!) and I would rather feel proud when I exceed my goal than disillusioned when I just don’t have time to achieve it.
- Remember that I’m doing this to get fit not to get thin. Weighing in on the Wii seems like an easy way to track progress but, although I’m not as slim as I used to be, I’m still a healthy weight for my height – it really doesn’t matter how many pounds I gain or lose if my strength, stamina and general all-round health are on the up. So: no checking my weight. Instead, because I know me and I know I need something to prove… something… to myself, I’m going to make a little chart to track how often I’m exercising.
- This one’s only a little bit about me: play with Polly properly. She tolerates having me waggle a shoelace at her while I browse the internet with my other hand, but she prefers chasing bits of string from room to room to room and leaping over furniture. It will keep her fit but, also, it can’t do me any harm to be putting a little bit of effort into playing with her!
Sunday went like this:
- Making a camera case which can be used as either a cushioned pouch inside my handbag or carried by itself:
I’m quite proud of it as I made it up as I went along. And the fabric is kind of awesome.
- Wandering around the International Market with Steve and his parents:
- Dinner at Rustico. It’s not Mother’s Day here in the UK but Steve treated his mum anyway.
Mucking about with camera settings:
(picture of me by Steve)
- And I’m talking about watching How to Lose Friends and Alienate People now (it’s on TV at nine) although Steve’s expressing doubts.
Not sure about this whole five day working week thing we’ve got starting tomorrow; I’ve been getting a little too used to bank holidays…
Just a quick one for the Google Reader users out there…
Of the various readers I’ve given a go, Google’s is my favourite. It just is. It’s simple and reliable which is all I really need. But, for me, it has always had two flaws:
- It’s ever so plain and functional – some text, some pictures, no pretty backgrounds or buttons.
- Unless you click through to the actual blog, there’s nothing to tell the blogger that you’ve read what they’ve written and their stats look none the better for it (on bad blogging days, slowly increasing stats matter).
Well, yesterday, thanks to Red Boots, I found a solution to those flaws. Click here (or go to Settings > Reader Settings > Goodies) and drag the “Next” button into your bookmark bar. Now, instead of browsing through blogs in your Reader, you can keep clicking the next button and it will take you from blog to blog to blog, whilst marking the entries off as read. It’s more like browsing a magazine – you get to see the lovely layouts; meanwhile, the bloggers get to know you were there. Problems solved.
I have a confession to make. It’s one which has made literary friends reel in horror in the past. It’s one which it took me many years to admit to myself. It’s one which I’m still a little scared to type publicly for fear of being scrubbed from your RSS feed. But here it is: I don’t like books*.
But hear me out.
It’s not that I don’t like reading. I love to read. I’ve read twenty novels already this year and have another four downloaded to my Kindle, waiting to be devoured. Sometimes I struggle to pause in my reading and say hello when Steve gets home. Sometimes I get so absorbed I end up having late night toast for dinner because I’ve forgotten I need to eat. I even skip my evening dose of Facebook now and then because the make-believe lives of some fictional characters are more engrossing than those of my friends.
It’s not the contents I dislike; it’s the books.
It was different when I was younger. I left home at sixteen armed with a bag of clothes, a typewriter and maybe forty cult and/or classic novels in a box. It wasn’t a particularly inspired collection – Trainspotting; The Trick is to Keep Breathing; some books with “Zen” in the title; a little Virginia Woolf – your generic mid-nineties grungey teen feminist selection – but I was very proud of it. I loved looking at all my paperbacks lined up on my dorm room shelf, suggesting cleverness, insight and an intriguing touch of melancholy. I loved when people spotted my books and gasped, “Have you actually read them all?” and would sound vaguely, intentionally horrified when I replied, “Of course I have!” Owning – and, more importantly, displaying – a bunch of critically acclaimed novels was a huge bolster to my shaky self-esteem.
But they were still a pain to read.
They still got dusty and were difficult to clean. They still got crumbs stuck between their pages. The crinkly yellow paper of the second hand books I was told to find romantic still creeped me out and made me want to wash my hands.
And speaking of my hands: reading books made them hurt. I don’t know if it’s just that I have lousy circulation (which I do), but holding a book in one hand leaves great gouged bruises across my palms; propping books open with my thumbs causes me pins and needles; twisting them back and forth so whichever side I’m reading is in the light tires my shoulders and eventually gives me eye strain. Books: they’re a health and safety risk.
A lot of my friends disagree with me. They deny ever having felt the frustration of a book flipping closed on them. They deny ever having struggled to find a bookmark or a receipt or a ripped out bit of magazine with which to mark their place. They claim never to have felt guilt or anxiety about turning down a corner or breaking a spine – because those things just don’t happen to them. They love their books. They could never throw one out.
But I can.
It was a slow process. The first few times I moved, I clung on to all my books – even the trashy romances which had come free with magazines and which I was acutely embarrassed to have lounging against my Kafkas and Kunderas. Getting rid of a book seemed wrong.
But the more I read and the more I moved home and the more boxes I was going to have to cart around with me, the easier it became. It was liberating, picking up my German language editions of Brecht and telling myself, “You know what? I’m never going to read this again. Ever. Not once. I really don’t need to keep this.”
With each move, with each de-clutter, it got a little bit easier. More and more books were donated to charity shops. Novels which were loaned out but never found their way home, I stopped mourning quite so much. I’ve been reading sixty books a years for the seventeen years since leaving home but I’m now at a stage where I have maybe 100 novels in my bookcase.
And I’m happier for it. I don’t need to be lumbered with books I never expect to read again. I don’t need objects to tell strangers who I am. I don’t need the discomfort of trying to read a 500 page novel with feeble thumbs.
All of which is my long and wordy way of saying that I love my Kindle. I wasn’t sure I would. I thought it would feel weird reading books on something akin to a mobile phone (and, in hindsight, David Sedaris was not the best author to start with – it was too much like reading a blog). But I love how slim and light and easy to hold it is. I love having all my books stored neatly in one virtual place. I love that that place can now easily be my handbag.
What about you? Do you have a Kindle or other e-reader? Could you ever replace your paperbacks?
*This does not apply to big, shiny books full of pretty pictures. I will always love those.
Over the weekend, I made my Mixology CD. There was no theme to it – I just sat beside my CD collection and picked discs at random – but it’s ended up being a collection of some of my all-time favourite tunes.
This morning, I made the cover using Photoshop and some old sheet music I found in a charity shop. Fingers crossed whoever the recipient ends up being loves these tunes, too.
Have you heard about Mixology? It’s a great big mix CD swop which you can sign up to on Tumblr or Facebook (I don’t know the person behind it and she hasn’t asked me to do this post; I just think it’s a cool idea and deserves a little publicity).
Actually, I’m a bit nervous about joining in. I love receiving handmade compilations – I still have every mix tape I’ve ever been given and I don’t even own a tape deck – but making one is a different matter.
It used to be I would spend hours making mix CDs for friends. I loved thinking about what sort of music they might enjoy but not have discovered for themselves yet. Mix CDs are so personal; my friend Simon and I even made a compilation of alternative love songs for some friends’ wedding present because we didn’t have the money to buy them any Spode.
But I’m not a music geek anymore.
I have about twenty go-to albums which I know will get me through my ironing but I hardly ever add anything new to the pile. In fact, in the last two years, I think I’ve bought five albums – and one of those was because I heard an interview in which David Tennant said he liked it.
As for the mountain of old albums, I’m a little scared to listen to some of them. Last time I decided to go on a musical nostalgia trip I made the mistake of listening to My Bloody Valentine. Perfect soundtrack to weird nineties indie films (something else I’m scared to revisit) but you’d have to be either stoned or insufferably pretentious to sit through the albums. And I sat through the albums many times. And would not have flunked a drugs test.
Yes, I used to be a proper music snob. I loved rifling under the counters in the damp, dusty old basement of Fopp. I claimed to like the crackle of vinyl. My blue haired boyfriend wrote a fanzine and let me be sarcastic all over the back page. I didn’t even mind hanging around outside the Lemon Tree in the rain because he was still busy interviewing Bis.
So making a compilation now… on the one hand, it’s daunting because my tastes are not comtemporary; whoever gets my disc will get a lesson in jingly jangly nineties cynicism. On the other, it’s a scary prospect; I don’t want to have to rethink my fondness for Sebadoh.
But, you know what? I’m going to give it a shot. If nothing else, the CD I receive might drag me a little bit into the modern music scene. And I can crinkle my nose up at it and make jibes about MySpace. Or whatever the kids are using these days. And who knows – perhaps I might even like it?
Have you seen this project by Candy Chang?
For those of you who haven’t clicked the link, Candy turned the side of an abandoned house into a blackboard, stencilled “Before I Die I Want to __________” all over it and left chalk in a basket so passers-by could fill it in. She got all sorts of responses from “grow old” to “write a book”, “see my daughter graduate” to “be tried for piracy”.
Anyway, it got me thinking: what do I want to have done before I die? What do you?
I used to be able to answer this question easily. When I was a teenager, I wanted to be independent (tick). When I was moving from rental flat to rental flat, I wanted to own my own home (tick). Growing up, I wanted to be a published writer (tick). But now that I’ve achieved all of those things, what’s left?
I have a lovely boyfriend and no particular interest in marriage. I have a job I enjoy. I’m so unlikely to have children that I’ve never given much thought to whether I’d like any. I don’t really want to go bungee jumping and, while I’d quite like a few more holidays, there’s nowhere I feel it would be a failure not to see.
I see so many lists on other people’s blogs – things to do before 20/30/40/I die; 101 things to do in the next 1000 days – but the truth is, while there are things I think it would be nice to do (sew better; dance more; learn to control my hair…), I have no burning ambitions these days. And, honestly? I kind of think that’s a good thing.
I know that I am lucky. I know how easily I could lose my job or my home; Steve could leave me; friends could disappear. We’ve all been reminded recently of just how easily we could lose not just one of those things but everything. So, for now, while I will never not welcome a holiday or an adventure or a nice pair of shoes, I’m happy to be able to say, “this is enough.”
Folks, head on over to Campfire Chic today to join in with Kam’s 25th birthday blog party! There will be fun new birthday/party themed posts on the hour every hour including one from meeeeeeeee at 7pm her time (so… er… 3 o’clock tomorrow morning hereabouts). Why not pop past for a look?
Yesterday was a beautiful bright today so five of us piled into a car and headed into the countryside to find stone circles and standing stones.
We started by tracking down the stones at South Ley Lodge. Then we stumbled across what looked like a plain old farm goods shop, BA Stores, in the middle of nowhere. Once inside, we discovered that the top floor is a large toy shop full of plastic animals, mini tractors and a bizarre array of dragons and dinosaurs. Downstairs, there were two rooms full of Christmas decorations and Santa’s grotto scenery (which we probably weren’t supposed to be in given that the lights weren’t on, but which we found fascinating).
In the field behind the shop is the Breemie stone circle and mandala. These are modern reproductions but we decided to check them out anyway. Next we headed to the Balgorkar circle by Castle Fraser. The field it sits in was planted so we couldn’t get very close, but we did mill around amongst the trees for a while, seeing as we were there.
After lunch at the Garlogie Inn, we headed to Midmar Church where there is a stone circle within the graveyard. Of course, I was more taken by the gorgeous shade of blue which all the woodwork is painted. Pauline very kindly indulged me by standing against this door and then by taking some lovely pictures of Steve and me, including this one:
Yes, indeedy, more photos from Steve’s and my weekend away! This is the Sunday batch (and the final lot).
It starts in Kelvingrove Park, which was across the road from our hotel and in which I found myself quite taken by the roof of an old toilet block. It was freezing, though, so we didn’t stay outdoors for very long!
This was the pub across the road. We didn’t go there; we went to the Beanscene cafe for lunch instead.
After lunch, we headed to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. I don’t usually feel comfortable taking photos in museums (I’m sure it was forbidden when I was little…?) but I was so blown away by these gurning heads in the Expression Gallery and by the beauty of the main hall that I couldn’t resist. Look closely and you’ll see somebody playing the organ in the hall!
At five, we headed back to the hotel to thaw out for a bit and Steve tried out the old shoe shine machine in the corridor.
We had dinner at Mother India; we’ve eaten in the Edinburgh branch before and loved it, so we had to try the original! It did not disappoint (despite a beeping smoke alarm!).
In the evening, we went to the gig which had prompted this weekend away in the first place. It was Rob Zombie with Skindred as support and was at the O2 Academy which is a fab old dance hall I couldn’t really photograph in the dark!
The gig was Steve’s choice but lots of fun. It was followed by a forty-five minute walk back to the hotel during which we spotted this alley (I wish we’d found it earlier as I would have loved to have tried out the hidden tea room!):
And on Monday we just had time for tea and sandwiches in Vanilla Black before catching the train back home.
On Saturday morning, Steve and I travelled across a soggy Scotland to get to Glasgow. More stations should look like this:
I love this sign which makes me think of shy little cars peeping hesitantly around the corner and wanting to join in at the Glasgow Central taxi rank. While I was taking signs too literally, Steve pointed out this one:
As if there’s anything plain or ordinary about Glasgow’s architecture. As usual, I wandered around staring up at crenellations and trying to resist the urge to stop every few metres to take another picture (we had places to be, don’t you know?!); as usual, I came home with 122 photos, mostly of interesting (to me) bits of architecture and heartbreakingly decrepit buildings. Here is a selection:
I love the mixture of designs and styles of architecture in Glasgow.
The cutest chain coffee shop in Scotland?
I think this is Atlas. Because Steve said so. He looks cold.
I have a soft spot for this former Odeon cinema; I saw Jerry Maguire here with my dad.
This post is way too long, I know! Anyway, tired out from all this snapping, Steve and I went for lunch at Molly Malone’s, a pub in a former post office:
Then we headed to the hotel to check in.
This is not the hotel. It was just en route. In fact, it’s a Starbucks. But a pretty one.
This was not our hotel, either. This was the building across the road. In fact, we stayed in the Devoncove which, for some reason, I didn’t take a picture of. It bears the scars of many a stag do but had really comfy beds, powerful showers and a decent breakfast included. Oh, and it was cheap.
Now back to the random shots.
After checking in at the hotel, we headed to the Glasgow Film Theatre to watch Submarine. We knew nothing about it other than it was directed by Richard Ayoade (we’ve just finished watching every single episode of The IT Crowd so his name was reason enough) and that it was interesting enough to be included in the Glasgow Film Festival line up. It was wonderful. Highly recommended.
After the film, we went for cocktails and fabulous potato wedges (and okay other food) at Lost Souls, then decided to go and see Paul because we couldn’t think what else to do – it was a lot funnier than we’d expected.
And… believe it or not, there is an end to this post. And this is it. I’ll be back tomorrow with Sunday’s (slightly smaller) selection!
(photo of me by Steve)
I’m just starting to realise how.many.photos I took this weekend. To keep it almost manageable, I’m going to split them up into a few posts over the space of the week; here’s a nice compact one to start with:
On Friday, Steve and I got the train down to Edinburgh; we had just long enough in the city centre for a coffee before catching the bus out to my lovely cousin and her husband’s new house.
Of course, I managed to snap a handful of pictures on the way to the coffee shop:
And one from the coffee shop window; I was frustrated by the window glare at the time, but I quite like how the Castle is sat inside Steve’s shoulders.
This one was taken from the bus on the way to their house; they live on the very edge of town – literally, there is a field at the end of their very short street and it is not in Edinburgh – so it was a long journey and I soon realised why so many of Sparklesmith’s February three things involve staring into people’s windows from the bus! There are some beautiful homes en route.
We had a lovely evening of extremely garlicky food and Wii Fit humiliation, then woke up on Saturday morning to find that it was snowing.
One more bus journey later and we were waiting in the Waverley Station booking hall for our train across to Glasgow.
And that’s where I’ll leave you for now. The first Glasgow post is enormous and I’m still trying to figure out whether I can slice it into two…!
Yesterday, Lola and I had planned to go for a big long walk and take lots of photos. The weather had other plans so we hid in Kilau and played Scrabble instead.
This is my token acknowledgement of Valentine’s Day. I’m not a timetabled hearts and flowers sort of girl (nor do I crave a ring on my finger), but it amused me that these were the first two words out of the bag!
As my fruitless attempts to buy birthday presents continue, I’ve stumbled across a lot of things on Etsy which I want for me, me, me.
I thought I’d share a few of them with you; it helps to justify all the hours I’ve whiled away gazing at them over the last few days!
Curse my tight, home-improvement-laden budget! Happy Monday everyone and remember: it’s totally not weird to buy presents for random bloggers you’ve never met.
Saturday was Lola‘s and my day trip to The Life Craft in Glasgow (highly recommended, by the way – it was lots of fun!). We had left ourselves plenty of time to get from the train station to the studio so we decided to walk and take the opportunity to snap more than a few photos.
Glasgow has some absolutely stunning buildings – a bizarre mixture of grand old sandstone mansions and ultramodern glass towers side by side throughout the city centre – but a lot of it is tired and tatty these days… and those are the bits I love best.