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I have confidence that spring will come again
purplerainbow
...for not only am I an amateur sci-fi fan, but I recently visited the British Library's exhibition on sci-fi and then felt compelled to read lots of the books featured and thus become a better sci-fi fan.


This is NPR's Top 100 Science-Fiction and Fantasy books.


Bold if you've read, italicize ones you fully intend to read, underline if it's a book/series you've read part but not all of. Strikethrough if you never plan to read. Add a * for the ones you recommend and ^ for books you've never even heard of.



24/100 - I thought it would be more actuallyCollapse )




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Current Location: m3
Current Mood: curious curious
Current Music: (watching Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind)

4 favourite things of A few of my favourite things
purplerainbow

Look, I am once again updating on my iPhone from a train! Well done me for never finding any time in a normal evening. I do read my friends page every day, and was still irritated by the DDOS attack, and I think of things to write all the the time, I just... don't get around to opening up that entry screen.

Anyway, here I am after a great day in London with my mother. We got the train at 6.45am for reasons only she understands, and went straight to Tate Britain. I'd never been there before, I'm embarrassed to admit, but I recommend it to other similarly absent-minded art fans. Particularly enjoyed the exhibition on Romantic painters as there was lots of Turner and some of his later paintings which really just have lots of light and very little other substance. They are so peaceful.

From there we walked along the bank of the Thames and encountered hoards of tourists outside the Houses of Parliament (oh hai summer holidays, forgot about you!) so we dodged them until we found somewhere to eat lunch near Covent Garden. Once fortified by a jacket potato we browsed the market stalls, I popped into Monsoon to look at dresses for a hen party and a wedding, and then we carried on strolling until we reached the British Museum. I LOVE the British Museum, but my mother hadn't seen the really famous pieces, so we looked at the Rosetta Stone, the statue of Venus and the Parthenon Marbles, talked about restitution, and then left to avoid the crowds and had another tea break. Then before we knew it we had to make our way back to Euston to get the train back again! Feels like we did a lot today and it's such a thrill to be able to nip down from Manchester or Liverpool so easily. Tomorrow we are going out for an early dinner to celebrate my younger brother's birthday then I'm returning to Manchester for work on Monday.

This weekend is really the latest in a series of fantastic weekends that I've been having recently. When I last updated I was on my way to Windermere where I had a marvellous time hiking everywhere, eating lots and getting lots of sun at the same time. On my last day there I got up at 5am to walk/run up Loughrigg Fell and back again before breakfast. Later on I made up for it with afternoon tea at my favourite place in Grasmere, Baldry's tea shop.

I was off all that week so I then had two days at home volunteering with Not Part Of festival before going away for another walking weekend, this time with my mother to do the Sandstone Trail in Cheshire. The weather was more changeable and the walking less varied and dramatic, but we had plenty of time to talk about everything and we stayed in two delightful b&bs.

I then had a weekend at home watching films while it rained all day long, followed by a weekend walking again, on my own in the Peak District. I walked from Glossop to Edale on the first day, which was a challenging 15 mile hike, made difficult by my own tiredness, losing the Pennine Way at one point, and nearly leaving one of my walking boots in a bog hole. Oh and it was a mile from the village to the hostel where I was staying and I walked between them three times so I could eat dinner in the pub so believe me I slept like an exhausted baby that night. The following day I did a circular walk in Edale going up Win Hill (great name) and around Dovestones reservoir in the beautiful sunshine. I was shattered after that and went to bed at 8.30pm that evening and was still tired the next day.

But then last weekend was completely different. I went with some of the other line dancers to Oldham Pride and we danced a short set in front of an audience of bemused LGBT people from Oldham and their friends and family. Their Pride is nothing compared to Manchester's, but it was wonderfully sunny and everyone was in a good mood so it was a great experience. That evening I went to Chorlton to look after Alex's cats while she was away and used the opportunity to meet up with my friend Holly while I was there. We got horribly drunk, or at least I did, and talked about absolute nonsense for a few hours. I really needed it too. The next day I had a crippling hangover but still fed the cats properly and dragged myself back out for some more line dancing, in the Gay Village this time. I love the outdoor dancing because the audience is so appreciative, and I barely missed a dance throughout the whole afternoon. We were three dances away from the end when a girl came up to me and asked if her friend could have my number. Firstly, I didn't know people did that beyond school discos, and secondly I was trying to dance, and thirdly, how the hell do I respond to that? I didn't, basically, I stuttered incoherently and turned bright red until she went away. Her friend was perfectly nice looking of course, just a bit butch for my taste and of course a COMPLETE STRANGER. My colleagues have found it hilarious since then suggesting alternative responses for next time it happens, as it's clearly going to be an issue from now on. (Sarcasm.)

So that brings me to this weekend, hurrah. Hope that was entertaining. In between all these weekends I have been in work, which has been a bit of a struggle lately, and I've been extremely sociable in the evenings. I've not been to the gym in over a month because I've not had time- I'm lucky if I have one free evening a week really. I don't mean to brag though; it's actually very tiring and I'm starting to miss quiet evenings in with a good film. Hopefully it'll settle down soon and I can go back to being a hermit.

Right I wasn't able to finish this on the train so I'm now in bed adding the last touches to the entry while our cat Stripe sits on my knee and purrs contentedly. Maybe soon I'll have time to write an entry about other things that are going on and How I Feel about them but for now be glad you are spared long paragraphs about my feelings!

G'night lj.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

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Current Location: ch45

A few of my favourite things
purplerainbow
So, I feel inspired to start the 101 Things in 1001 Days project. In fact I'm starting today because 1001 days from now is December 31st 2013 and that's too good to pass up.

(I'm stealing the idea and the date from karohi - thanks!)

I've not quite reached 101 things but I feel that if I start adding more to the list just to fill it up then they won't really be things that I actually want to do or am likely to finish, so I think I'll stick with what I've got for now.

The ListCollapse )

Right. Better get on with some of these then!

More detailed entry due sometime soon. So much to say, so little time to say it!

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Current Location: m3
Current Mood: excited excited

23 favourite things of A few of my favourite things
purplerainbow
As I went to a World Book Day event in work last night, this meme seems fitting:

The books I am reading: I try to read one book at a time, and currently it is The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. It's from the university library so is bound in red leather. I'm not very far through but enjoying what I've read.

The book I am writing: Ha, I wish.

The book I love most: This is very difficult. Some of my all-time favourite books are The Time-Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton and Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. I'm quite pleased that all these authors are female.

The last book I received as a gift: My older brother gave me Lustrum by Robert Harris last year. I really like intelligent historical fiction set in Rome.

The last book I gave as a gift: I gave James a copy of America, Empire of Libery: A New History by David Reynolds last year. He only reads non-fiction.

The nearest book on my desk: On my desk in work I still have Blue Mars and Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson that need to go back to the university library. They took me months to read because they are so epically long. At home, the nearest book right now is a copy of Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell which I picked up at last night's World Book Night event. Our current Head of Music wrote a piece of music inspired by the book, which won a very prestigious composition award last year, so we had an evening to celebrate his achievement. And there were free books!

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Current Location: in bed
Current Mood: mellow mellow
Current Music: Laura Marling - The Captain and the Hourglass

3 favourite things of A few of my favourite things
purplerainbow


Over the Christmas break I did something I've wanted to do for a long time - turned an old pair of jeans into a skirt. This is the result! This was a pair of jeans from Next that had a hole in them so I ripped the stitches right up the inside leg and sewed two panels from another pair of jeans into the space between to make a skirt. Obviously it was much harder than it sounds, mostly because I'm rubbish at sewing in straight lines etc.

I'm happier with the front of the skirt than the back because I struggled to make the seat of the skirt fit me without looking odd. I didn't quite succeed, but I'm still happy with the result.

More images here, plus buttons!Collapse )

Now that I feel more confident with the sewing machine, I want to make another skirt - I have enough denim for several if I feel so inclined. I think the next one will be a long skirt, but that does mean I'll need more material for the front panels. Also my sewing machine is too feeble to sew through several layers of denim, so I'll have to pin it in place and then take it home to sew on my mum's machine. I'm going home in two weeks so hopefully can do it then. I don't want to stop now that I've started!

Oh, and if anyone else is interested in how I made the skirt, I followed online tutorials such as this one. My mum was amazed at how many tutorials and videos there are on the internet for things like this. I wish I'd taken photos as I was making the skirt so I could detail how I made mine too!

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Current Location: m3
Current Mood: satisfied satisfied

2 favourite things of A few of my favourite things
purplerainbow
I've just watching "A Very Glee Christmas", so I think it's time I talk about my Christmas, and how lovely it was.

ChristmasCollapse )

Christmas was wonderful; I wish it didn't have to end. But it did - today we took down the decorations in work and life continued on as normal. I'm still homesick though so am meeting my mother on Sunday for another walk!

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Current Location: m3
Current Mood: nostalgic nostalgic
Current Music: Dolly Parton - Walking in a Winter Wonderland

5 favourite things of A few of my favourite things
purplerainbow
I'm home, and it's nearly Christmas!

I've had an awesome final week. Work has been quiet as all the students and academics have disappeared, leaving us with three boxes of biscuits, two boxes of chocolates and a pannetonne in our office to celebrate. The peace and quiet has allowed all of us to get a lot of work done which we're all grateful for. We had a surprising amount of work to get through before the break - a new events brochure to go to print in January, and a conference taking place the second week back that is demanding a lot of my attention.

On Tuesday night I went to [info]biascut's party and had a lovely time. Only meant to stay for an hour; ended up staying for two and a half. When I arrived I was greeted with joy because I'd bought some "cheap" wine perfect for mulling (it was actually left in my flat after the Star Wars evening the week before) and I tucked into the spiced apple juice and home made lebkuchen. Mary and her partner Glitz have the most interesting friends. I think everyone there worked for a university, either admin or academia (after sympathising with a fraught PhD student I was asked how I got through my doctoral thesis, ha) and the talk ranged from the choral styles in football chants to the glory of radiators to how many initials one could stick on the end of LGBT. (Mary won that one - she thought of dozens I'd never even heard of.) Everyone was very friendly which helped as I didn't really know anyone else. Mary showed me her button Christmas tree ornaments which I now really want, and then at a slightly later hour than expected, I trudged back home through the ice and slush. Luckily I live a matter of minutes away.

The next day had been deemed "Office clear up day", rather like the last day of term in primary school. We were all instructed to clear out our desks and go through the accumulated material to see what could be archived and what recycled. My desk looked spotless after a couple of hours, but the rest of the office looked a lot worse as dust was everywhere, along with several piles of rubbish and paper. Once we'd done all we could we sat around to swap Secret Santa presents. I received a stapler that looks like a ladybird and two chocolate lollipops (someone knows me well) and my present for my manager seemed to be liked. My colleague Jill was given a head massager which looks like a thin metal whisk, rather like this one and we all tried it out. It turned out to be far more enjoyable than is appropriate for an office environment!

We then abandoned the office for our Christmas lunch, which I'd been asked to organise so I chose Choice Bar and Restaurant because I'd never been and always wanted to, but it's too fancy for my usual budget. We had the place to ourselves for most of the afternoon too. We started with a bellini while seated around the grand piano, then moved to our big round table for a delicious three course dinner. I had parsnip soup, then pheasant which I've never had before but is VERY tasty, then toffee bread and butter pudding. This was accompanied by six bottles of wine between eight of us, and followed by a small glass of Baileys. (When we were asked what liqueur we wanted, I suggested some Urbon and thought myself very witty actually.) The conversation flowed easily, and we compared highlights and lowlights of the year, including our favourite academics, and least favourite students. Working with music and drama students provides quite a lot of opportunities to get to know students quite well, probably better than history or English students, but there are quite a few characters too, and not all of them are pleasant to deal with! We had a lot of fun though, and everyone seemed more relaxed than we'd been all year.

We then struggled through the snow, past the frozen canals over to Knott Bar which is very popular with my colleagues, for another drink. I left after one lemonade and was home by 7pm which was pretty good actually. When James came home we watched a bit of Malcolm in the Middle together.

Thursday was the last day of work for us, as the university closes over the break, but I wasn't expecting to leave early because it's still a proper working day. During the meal the day before, we'd been told that we could leave at 3pm which seemed pretty generous, but when we got into work on Thursday we were told that we could finish at lunchtime if we wanted. I then worked like a mad thing to get through my emails, but was so pleased to stroll out of the door by 1.15pm. Jill left even earlier to get a train back to Glasgow. I rushed home and packed up the last few things I needed, then went as quickly as I could to the train station with a handbag, backpack, laptop bag and suitcase in tow. I have never learnt to travel lightly.

My mother met me at Liverpool Lime Street and drove me home through streets more icy than I've ever seen them. And then I was home, and here I'll stay until January 3rd. This time last year I was sunbathing in Chiang Mai, but nothing replaces a Christmas at home. Yesterday evening was spent wrapping presents in front of the fire with my younger brother, then watching Fly Away Home and Juno with my mother while eating our body weight in chocolate.

This morning I have slept, and slept, and slept some more. We now have wireless in our house, so I'm currently still in bed with the dog draped over my feet giving me mournful looks over my taste in music and the cat sitting on the windowsill looking out at the snowy garden. It feels so good to be home again.

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Current Location: ch45
Current Mood: relaxed relaxed
Current Music: Dolly Parton - I'll be Home With Bells On

5 favourite things of A few of my favourite things
purplerainbow
Well, this is a busy and tiring time of year isn't it? The past week has seemed so long, but at the same time not nearly long enough to fit in all the things that need doing before Christmas.

Last Monday I was involved in filming scenarios for a training course that I'm taking in January. It was a lot of fun, but I'm nervous about seeing the finished product in the company of all my colleagues. Am also waiting for my Bafta nomination!

Then on Tuesday I had an actual training course, this one on presentations, which was much better than I thought it would be. Helpfully, only five out of the expect fourteen people turned up, so we had a lot of one to one discussion and advice. I feel like a presentation genius now.

That evening was the line dancing Christmas social which was excellent fun. We had a buffet, and a raffle (in which I managed to win a prize without even buying a ticket, thanks to my friend Nick's amazing lucky streak - he bought four tickets and three of them won) and lots and lots of lovely dancing, including some old favourites that I haven't done in a while, and a successful demonstration of a new, hard dance that only a few of us could remember. I went to bed much later than is advisable, but it was the last session for over a month and I had to stay long enough to take part in the last dance of 2010.

On Wednesday I was only in work for three hours, and half of them were spent in a staff meeting. I had a half day booked for Christmas shopping, but actually used it to rush home and accept delivery of my new wardrobe from Argos. Naturally, it's still in the box at the moment. I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning, watching Glee over lunch, and then falling asleep on the couch. Later that evening I joined my walking friends at the North Pole Bar in Manchester for some festive drinks, and to bid farewell to yet another friend who is moving to Australia for work and will be gone for at least two years. There were six of us, now there are just four left, and we all agreed that we need to make some new friends in case we're the only one left.

On Thursday I felt exhausted, but was able to get some work done for the first time all week. I went out for lunch to celebrate one of our colleagues going off on maternity leave, and ate so much I felt sluggish and sleepy all afternoon. That evening I had three other colleagues over for dinner to watch Episode IV: A New Hope which was very enjoyable in the end. I didn't try nearly as hard as last time they were visiting - my only cooking was chopping vegetables and putting party food in the oven - but it was a much more relaxed and informal evening. Plus, the film is awesome.

On Friday I was even more exhausted but had a fairly easy day in work. I went to the gym and felt much better for it, even if there was hardly anyone else there. So much rich, tasty food recently - I love it but it doesn't do me much good really!

On Saturday I woke up to quite thick snow - I hadn't even noticed it falling the night before. I was worried that my mother's train would be affected, but she turned up only slightly late and we walked gingerly down the road to the Whitworth Art Gallery and the Manchester Craft Mafia Christmas Fair. It didn't seem as busy as two years ago, but was interesting nevertheless. We then browsed the Christmas markets, braved Marks and Spencer and the city centre shops, and had many hot water refills for our tea in Teacup. I also chose the most amazing tweed jacket from Next as a Christmas present from my brothers, and a pair of corduroy trousers to go with it. I can't wait to wear them next year! (Once the temperature rises above -1 that is.)

Yesterday I went into town with James because he'd barely done any Christmas shopping and once he had what he needed I sent him home with all the bags while I grabbed lunch from the markets and went to the John Rylands Library on Deansgate for an afternoon of Christmas singing in aid of Wood Street Mission, to which I'd meant to make a donation weeks ago. This way I was able to make my donation and enjoy a sing-song too.

And that brings us to today. The university is deserted now that all students and most staff have gone, but we're still chugging away just about. I had an open afternoon to allow other conference administrators to see the building without students in the way, but it was, er, poorly attended due to snow and other exciting things. It was a good practice for future events, and I was able to have a good chat with Karl while we waited for our visitors. Tomorrow my ordeal is prolonged as I have to run two conference workshops for other staff, what joy. These things seemed like a good idea when we put them on my PDR paperwork anyway.

Oh, and I finally made it to the post office after putting it off for nearly a week, and it wasn't half as busy as I expected. They have machines that mean you don't need to queue to see a person! What wonders. So, I have put a few things in the post, but they may not arrive before Christmas. Sorry folks.

Once tomorrow's workshops are over with I shall be a happy person as I have only good things planned for at least two weeks. Hurrah.

I've been writing this update in bed which is so warm and comfy. I'm still wearing two pairs of socks and a fleece over my pyjamas, and have a hot water bottle under the duvet with me. My laptop has been running on battery for nearly an hour, and still has 72% left! Boy I love this machine. Now isn't that a festive sentiment?

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Current Location: m3
Current Mood: sleepy sleepy
Current Music: Cher - Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Any More

A few of my favourite things
purplerainbow


I love buttons. I have a collection of them - must be hundreds, maybe even thousands - but they are all in boxes and containers, tucked away in a corner of my bedroom to prevent them gathering dust. So I never get to see my lovely, colourful buttons and I never do anything with them because I forget they're there. But then I recently saw shops selling jars of buttons for ridiculous prices and I thought 'I could do that'. The jars used to hold olives, I think, and the buttons are from a box of mixed colours that I've had for years - the beads too - so they didn't cost me a thing. And now I can see buttons and beads every day!

The books behind, however, are all James'. He loves US history, particularly anything to do with presidents.



This is the advent calendar that my mother made for us from a kit, years ago. I've put chocolates in it for me and James. I think it's so much nicer than buying a generic advent calendar. I can't get it on to the wall without making lots of holes in the plaster, so it's hanging on the back of a chair.

I made my cottage pie for dinner and it was yummy. I've been listening to Dolly Parton's album 'Home for Christmas' which is awesome. I love her versions of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Jingle Bells so I've been singing along in the kitchen.

Now we're watching O, Brother Where Art Thou?. I might attempt some button crafts while we watch, as my collection is all around me in boxes.

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Current Location: m3
Current Mood: peaceful peaceful

A few of my favourite things
purplerainbow


I have a new laptop, and I'm back online! Hello Internets!

Ah, it's such a relief to have a working computer again. And James bought himself a new desktop to replace his broken laptop, so we're not sharing computers any more, which is bloomin' marvellous let me tell you. My new laptop is personalised just how I want it - Cath Kidston theme for Google Chrome, all my most-used links on the tool bar, a picture from Reykjavik as my background, and I don't have to keep logging back into Facebook after James has been on! I've re-downloaded Spotify, Last.fm and iTunes, and now everything I listen to is scrobbled, because I'm a geek like that. And we're not sharing an iTunes account any more, which is a relief in so many ways. Better start downloading the second series of Glee now!


In other news, life is busy - and it's December now, how did that happen? I've been away for the last three weekends, which has been great but fairly exhausting. Let's see - the weekend after my birthday I was in York with mum, then I was in London visiting friends in order to watch Bollywood films and eat yummy food. We watched Chak De! India, Kal Ho Naa Ho, and Bride and Prejudice because it's shorter than proper Bollywood films and completely awesome. We also ate pancakes, chocolate covered ginger, home made curries, and drank a heck of a lot of chai, Earl Grey, Darjeeling and green tea, because our lives are exciting like that. It was a lovely weekend though.

Last weekend, I was in Blackpool with my line dancing group for a Christmas jaunt. I got the train down straight after our Christmas Light Switch On event in work (I'm not kidding - we have an event just to switch on the lights on the Christmas tree in the foyer) and was the last to arrive through the freezing cold and icy streets, but the hotel was wonderful and warm and very, very friendly. I was able to meet the others at the start of Funny Girls, so got to experience for the first time the strange amusement of drag cabaret. It's... bizarre. The highlight was the Dolly Parton Christmas montage, but some of it was a bit raunchy for me, and bordering on misogynistic. But I'm probably no fun.

After that eye-opener, we went to a couple of Blackpool's finest gay bars, which were very dodgy indeed. We were entertained by not one but TWO male strippers, and some very cheesy music. Despite being the youngest in the group by several years, I was the first to give up and go back to the hotel because I really can't handle late nights.

On Saturday morning I enjoyed the generous hotel breakfast and then spent several hours wandering the shops in Blackpool town centre while dodging the rain. The pedestrian part of the promenade was closed due to digging, the art gallery was tiny and also half closed due to changing exhibitions, so I was stuck with the shops, which, of course, all seemed tiny compared to the shops in Manchester. Not the best part of the weekend, really. I eventually went back to my room, watched Mrs Doubtfire, and napped for a couple of hours.

That night we had our Christmas party, so I got dressed up in my finest pyjamas and joined the others in the hotel bar for a Christmas quiz, bingo, a buffet and lots of Christmas music on repeat. It was a lot of fun, actually - I think pyjama parties for grown ups are a great idea. Again, I admitted defeat earlier than everyone else - around midnight, and went to sleep in the ridiculously warm room. I've never stayed in a hotel room by myself before, and it was fantastic.

On Sunday I said my goodbyes straight after breakfast and rushed home to play with my new laptop, christened Daffodil for lack of other names. Then on Monday I had a lie in because I had the day booked off work. My mum and two brothers came up for the day and we had a Christmas shopping day in the Trafford Centre, which wasn't as horrific as it could have been. I finally chose a birthday present from my brothers - a new dress for tomorrow's party - and we arranged some Christmas presents for each other. It's the first time we've all been together in months I think. Inevitably, we ended up talking about things that we remember from our younger days - the three CDs we listened to over and over again when mum first got a CD player in her car, the lyrics we got wrong as children, and how my younger brother, who hated the walking and other outdoorsy things we did in the past, will certainly subject his children to exactly the same upbringing because we just can't help ourselves.

Thanks to the EXTREME COLD (what is going on in this country?) I have felt a bit poorly for the last couple of days but am gritting my teeth through the headaches because tomorrow is my work Christmas party, and I'm determined to be there and make the most of the free food and drink. And, y'know, to socialise with my colleagues because they are pretty much my closest friends!

And now that I've briefly updated my life for you all, I'm off to bed.

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Current Location: m3
Current Mood: cold cold
Current Music: Kal Ho Naa Ho soundtrack - Mahi Ve

3 favourite things of A few of my favourite things
purplerainbow
I'm extending the hiatus to indefinite now, because the laptop I was going to buy on Wednesday had increased in price in two days! I'm hoping it'll decrease next week because now that I've spent all week thinking about it, I really want it and all the other laptops at that price seem rubbish in comparison. It's an Acer Aspire 5742, in case anyone's interested. Currently the cheapest available price is Amazon, but it's out of stock. So, still no internet at home.

And, to make life more interesting, I am now sporting a stylish black wrist support on my left wrist. I've had pain around my scaphoid bone since an over-adventurous trip to the gym back in August, and at first I thought it would fade away, but it didn't so I went to my gp and was slowly and surely referred to a hospital clinic because they don't stock bandages and braces in my local medical practice, apparently. Today I had a long trip out to Salford Royal Hospital, out in Eccles, and a real nightmare trying to find their Appliances and Orthotics department, but was only there for about three minutes before I had exactly what I needed. I now can't move my wrist, in order to give it a chance to heal properly. I can just about type, but can't lift, push, pull, carry etc. Getting dressed tomorrow will be interesting. However, I went through the same thing last May after I injured the same place so I think it should heal fairly quickly. I then I need to do some kind of physiotherapy, because I'm pretty sure my left arm is fatter and weaker than the right arm after four months of carrying any heavy things only on one side. This is what happens when you hit 24, apparently.

But, I shall not dwell, as after work today I am getting the train to London to visit my friends Roe and Katie for another Bollywood weekend. This is the third time we've met up just to eat, gossip, and watch Indian films, and I always enjoy it. I am bringing Chak De! India purely on loneraven's recommendation and Roe has Kal Ho Naa Ho which I've wanted to see for ages, so it promises to be a good weekend. Fingers crossed that either me or James gets a new computer next week!

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Current Location: m13
Current Mood: calm calm

2 favourite things of A few of my favourite things
purplerainbow
This is a semi-hiatus announcement, as James' laptop broke last week and doesn't seem to be fixable, so we have no way to access the internet at home and I can only check my emails intermittently at work at the moment unless I stay late.

However, I was planning on buying myself a new laptop after my birthday anyway, so after visiting the Currys shop in the Arndale Centre and reading some reviews online, and prevaricating about processor speeds before realising that I'll only use the darn thing to surf the internet anyway, I have decided which one I want and am returning to the shop to buy it after work today. Yay! So hopefully I will be back online tonight or tomorrow. I'm off to London this weekend so won't get much opportunity to play with my new toy until next week but at least I won't have to save all my internet checking for when I'm in work.

The second, and much more amusing thing, is that our building is currently locked down and we are shut in our office because there are student protestors outside who might try to camp out in our building. The university security staff thought they might try to enter the oldest and most important university building which is just next door so they have blocked it off quite effectively, meaning that the hundreds of students involved in the protest might try and enter a nearby building such as ours. So they have closed it down and are letting people out but not in. I've heard reports that they are on the road near our building, but haven't tried to get in yet. What drama!

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Current Location: m13

2 favourite things of A few of my favourite things
purplerainbow
It's my birthday, hurrah! I'm 24, which feels quite grown up. My work colleagues have given me cake, daffodils and a bunch of beautiful flowers, and sung Happy Birthday to me, so it's a pretty good day so far. But yes, I am in work - it didn't seem worth booking the day off just to sit at home in the cold while everyone else goes to work.

On Saturday night I went back to my mother's and stayed at her house overnight, so I was able to see our dog Joey again, and our cat Stripe claimed me in her imperious way and insisted on sleeping in between my feet all night and waking me up at half past seven in the morning for feeding.

We went for a walk along the beach at New Brighton and dodged rain showers, tutted over the building work on the coast (they're building a supermarket, of all things, right next to the beach) and stopped for hot chocolate in a seaside cafe. Joey got covered in sand and sea water and was very pleased with himself.

In the afternoon we went to my older brother's flat as he and his girlfriend were hosting a meal for the first time in their new-ish flat. I am still very jealous of their flat - it's so spacious, and has two bedrooms and views of the Liverpool skyline, and a dining table that can seat eight people OMG. But then I remember that living near the centre of Manchester where we do means we'll never be able to afford a flat that big, but I can walk to work, the supermarket, two cinemas and three train stations within half an hour so it's not that bad.

Anyway, they made a lovely dinner for us - stuffed peppers, followed by chicken cooked in some kind of honey and mustard marinade, with meringues and strawberries to finish. We talked all afternoon and for once Lisa, my brother's girlfriend, seemed quite sociable - several times when she's had dinner at my mother's house she's come across quite moody and anti-social, and she freely admits that she prefers animals to people, which does not please my mother. It was nice of them to invite us over and seemed like a success so hopefully they'll do it again.

Then I got a train back to Manchester and had to get ready for work again. The weekend was lovely but far too short.

Last night after work and the gym I tried to do some shopping for potential birthday presents and completely failed. Couldn't find any shoes or boots that I wanted that weren't boring work-friendly shoes, and now can't think of anything to suggest to my brothers and James. My list of things that I'd like includes:

- more walking socks (how DULL)
- the ability to drive (NOT driving lessons; I'd quite like the special edition magical overnight ability to drive, if available)
- a wardrobe
- um, that's it.

So now I'm wracking my brains for ideas. Gift vouchers? Theatre tickets? I'd better choose soon or it'll be Christmas and I won't get anything.

Oh, and on Sunday my mother gave me her presents, which were some cash for a new laptop (which I can order soon, hurrah!), a lovely brooch, and a book of second class stamps. Nice one!

Anyway, back to yesterday - I returned home presentless, and had tea with James while watching The Inbetweeners, which I enjoyed in the first series but now it's too embarrassing and disgusting for my liking. It's definitely not recommended viewing while eating - I was nearly sick at one point in last night's episode. (For those who have seen series three, it's the episode where they go to Warwick and Neal takes a dare to drink a bottle of orangeade and cigarette butts. I actually retched.)

I then logged on to my online banking and tried for the first time to activate my new card reader with instructions from the Natwest website and the card reader's leaflet. It was so confusing I actually cried with frustration and had to put it away. So yeah, today I feel like a real grown up - I get sleepy at ten o'clock sharp, and cry when tired and frustrated.

Today I'm getting a free lunch as there is a sampling session with the university caterer, and tonight James is taking me out to dinner somewhere a bit fancy. And this weekend I'm going to York with my mother. I love birthdays!

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What a busy week! I don't feel like I've stopped since last Sunday. I made the mistake of telling Alex that I didn't have enough to do in work, so of course I've been given all the odd jobs since then, but as a lot of them are related to Christmas I don't mind too much. It's nice to be busy actually.

I was also busy at home because I had some friends from work over on Thursday night. Originally there were four people coming and we were going to continue our Star Wars saga, but as two of them couldn't make it we decided not to watch a film and just have a social evening for the remaining two. And as one of the cancellations was a vegetarian, I decided to make moussaka with minced lamb instead of lentils, and my very lovely white chocolate cheesecake (which I would have made anyway - no meat in cheesecake!). So Rosie and Helen came over and I got out my ready-prepared moussaka and cooked it in the oven, served it up, and put a plate in front of Rosie, only for her to say 'Hannah, is this vegetarian?'


...And I don't really want to talk about how the evening went after that, because it was an unmitigated disaster. It wasn't just the non-vegetarian moussaka, to be honest - things were a bit awkward anyway. I don't know Rosie as well as I know Helen, so conversation floundered at times, and I think I try too hard to make everything perfect when I have guests that I can't relax, so the atmosphere was rather stale the whole evening. I don't think I'll be entertaining anyone else for a long time.

On the bright side, my white chocolate cheesecake was delicious.

****

There have been better recent events, though. Last Friday I went to see a bonfire at Heaton Park, and really enjoyed the fireworks, and on Saturday I went walking with my walking group and my friend Ali. I haven't had a proper chat with Ali in months, so it was great to catch up - she does make me laugh. The walk was from somewhere I've never heard of, to Wigan, and was very flat and not very long, and the weather was lovely, so it was a relaxing day. The only downside was the men on the walk; for some reason all the most immature and annoying men were on that walk, and some were clearly on the look out for a potential girlfriend. One guy was very friendly with me for a while, and seemed to agree with everything I said and like all the same things as I did, but when I consulted with Ali, he'd done exactly the same thing with her. I think he was fishing for any female that would bite.

But the worst was the guy who started talking to me and Ali about Striding Edge, an approach to the mountain of Helvellyn in the Lake District that is notorious for the tricky scramble involved over a narrow ridge. I said that I've done it, but was scared and would not do it again. The guy was very dismissive of this, however, and actually told me that 'it's a bit irrational to be scared of Striding Edge'.

He then failed to notice my pursed lips and unimpressed expression, and continued to explain why no one should be scared of the 800m drop (from which three people fell to their death in 2008) until Ali and I slowed down our walking pace so much he gave up and strode off.

I turned to Ali and said 'I do love it when men call my emotions irrational' and Ali dissolved into laughter. Another woman from the group enquired as to why we were laughing so much, and we then shared our mutual distaste for the immature men in the group until we reached Wigan Pier.

The group leader then led us to a local pub, which turned out to be a Wetherspoons, so we trooped in in our boots and waterproofs, and queued up for a drink. When Ali's turn arrived, the barman asked her for ID, but Ali didn't have any. 'I'm twenty-five' she insisted, and in her walking gear, she really didn't look like a seventeen year old trying to get served illicitly. The rest of us in the group said that we were all over 18, and had ID to prove it, but the barman couldn't budge now that he'd asked. Fair enough, we decided, and Ali tried to order a soft drink instead of a pint. It got worse though, as the barman wouldn't even give her a soft drink unless she was also ordered a meal. If she wasn't eating a meal, he would have to ask her to leave.

So we left, with Ali in a furious mood while I tried to resist my amusement. I only wanted a coke anyway!

As Wigan had fallen considerably in our estimations (and it wasn't high to start with) we got straight on a train back to Manchester, and made our way to the Oyster Bar near the big wheel. After order two pints of cider without so much as a second look from the barman their, we sat ourselves in the comfy seats upstairs and proceeded to get quite tipsy. As I pointed out to Ali, I hadn't had an alcoholic drink in three weeks, and on that occasion I had half a pint of cider and my mother had had to finish it off, so I didn't have a very strong resistance! By the second pint we were pouring out our secrets and fears and having a fabulous time. I really needed that kind of heart-to-heart talk; it's been too long since I had a friend that knows nearly everything about me. Ali is very different to me in so many ways, and I don't see her as often as I'd like, and sometimes she annoys me SO much... but she's still my friend, and I'm glad I know her.

I eventually toddled home feeling quite tipsy, and realised that it was only seven thirty and I hadn't had any dinner. I tucked into a box of Celebrations instead.

The next day, Sunday, was also glorious, chilly sunshine, so I spent the morning doing lots of housework and chores, but after lunch decided that I really wanted to get outside and make the most of it. James and I went for a walk through the nicer areas of Salford where we live, along the River Irwell, to Peel Park behind Salford University. We strolled through the fallen leaves, dodged the mud, and when we reached the playground I went on the swings while James watched, bemused. On the way home we stopped off at Sainsbury's and I bought lots and lots of food for my ill-fated dinner party, then returned home and did some more cleaning. I felt pretty good by the evening - I'd achieved a lot and got some exercise.

****

Last night James and I went to see the Manchester Christmas Light Switch On because I like the fireworks, and James had never been before. We deliberately turned up late in order to avoid the entertainment by Joe McElderberry or whatever his name is, but we were there in time for the count-down to the lights. I think there were some technical problems though, as not all the lights came on straight away, including the giant Father Christmas lights which came on about five minutes later. The fireworks started very well, however, with a song by Florence and the Machine and, of all things, a Glee cover. About half way through, though, I think something went wrong with them too as the fireworks on one half of the town hall stopped but the others carried on. What a disappointment! Normally they are really impressive. Fail, Manchester. Fail.

Today has been the start of my birthday week, so James and I got the tram to Bury to take a trip on the East Lancashire Railway, which was good fun. I like steam trains! We had a picnic lunch at Ramsbottom before continuing to Rawtenstall and returning to Bury. On the way back we even had one of those old-fashioned compartments to ourselves, just like in a film. We then explored Bury market which is very old and historical but also not that interesting unless you live there and are shopping for fish or pet supplies, so then we got the tram back to Manchester.

My birthday week is continuing with a dash back home tonight so I can spend the night at my mother's house, and then tomorrow we've been invited for dinner at my older brother's flat which should be good. I've been a bit rubbish about planning for my birthday, so I've not asked for any presents yet, nor have I planned where James and I will have dinner on Tuesday, but I'll work on that tomorrow. Sadly I'm in work all of next week, but next weekend I'm off to York with my mother.

Now, chicken nuggets and chips for tea, because I am 23 going on 12.

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Ugh, why are some people such rude idiots while others are so painfully polite and grateful?

In my inbox at work this morning, I had an email from a fool to whom we are trying to pay money complaining about how complicated the payment system is. It's not, really, we just have to make sure that you get paid in the correct way so that you get your money quicker. He moans about our procedures, claims not to be in any of the payment categories I've listed, and then asks that I just send him a cheque to this address, please.

Yeah, right. I'm sure our finance office will be very happy to oblige and send him some money without any reason why or supporting documentation. I'm sure our auditors won't consider that fraud or anything illegal. And I can't work out why he thinks he doesn't fit into any of our payment categories - either you're self-employed, or you're not. Either you live in the UK, or you don't. Either you've over 65, or you're not. Choose one, and fill in the form. It's not that hard.

But then, half an hour later while I'm still fuming over this fool, I am forwarded a sweet email from someone else we are trying to pay but who couldn't print out the form I sent him because it was a pdf document. I asked my manager to convert the form to a Word document and sent it to him, and he replied yesterday with such heartfelt gratitude that I wished I'd done more to help him. The email this morning was sent to one of our colleagues, telling him what I'd done and suggesting that I get a raise because of it. But I hardly did anything! Why are the people for whom we do the least always so much more grateful than those for whom we do the most?

So, he has righted the balance with the world and made up for jerks who don't appreciate anything we do for them.

In other news, I'm loving today's blustery weather. The wind was warmer than I expected on my way to work this morning, and made exciting patterns out of floating leaves and the unavoidable plastic bags. I quite liked being buffeted around by the the gusts - at least it wasn't raining and I even got a few seconds of sunshine peeking over the buildings. Rather lovely.

Right, back to my emails, I guess.

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My fancy dress costume for last night's line dancing party - sadly there weren't any better photos. It's probably not obvious, but I was inspired by one of my favourite films (see icon). And if anyone asks how it's related to Hallowe'en... well I think organised religion is scary all year round!

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Last night was very enjoyable. The weather was horrendous so it was a real effort to go out in the rain, but I'm glad I did because the others' costumes were excellent and much fun was had. Plus, I won a box of Celebrations in the raffle. Woo.

Today in work we had a painting unveiling ceremony, which was a new experience for me. We had some artwork by Shameela Hussain commissioned for the foyer in our building, and although I've seen it many times sitting on the filing cabinet in the manager's office, it was the first time I'd seen it on the wall. It looks fabulous actually - the colours are very deep, and just my taste - dark blue, red, purples etc. The unveiling ceremony included food, which is always appreciated, and a performance by an Indian dancer which we all enjoyed.

Before that, I had my ballroom dancing lunchtime class, and I think today's was my favourite so far. I danced with a different girl, called Becky, and she was MUCH better than my previous partners. I think she's the one - I hope I can dance with her again because it's so much easier when the other dancer can remember the steps and use the right foot. To be fair, my first partner Alison could remember the steps, but she is maybe two feet taller than me, so her steps were much longer - and I was the leader in our couple! Becky is a much better height for me. Even so, I think ballroom dancing will go on my list of Things That Are Not As Awesome as Line Dancing, which so far includes everything except maybe hoe downs, which can go on my list of Things That Are Equally As Awesome as Line Dancing.

This evening James has been out playing football, so I went to the gym to make up for all the biscuits I ate in work, and then came home to do lots of cleaning while listening to Dolly Parton. I am not ashamed that that's my ideal evening, really.

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It's Reading Week for students, which is good news for us because the building is quieter, the phones aren't ringing and the staff are happier. It's also allowed us to ease into the week and recover from Hallowe'en and the clocks changing etc.

I had a lovely Hallowe'en weekend. On Saturday I went to a National Trust property, Quarry Bank Mill with my mother. It was a wonderful Autumn day - crisp, cool and clear, and the leaves on the trees were all shades of yellow and red and green. It was nice to see my mother again too. We walked through the gardens and the parkland, and took a guided tour of the Apprentice House and learnt how terribly the children were treated back in 1830, and how much better it was there than in the city slums. We visited Quarry Bank Mill a few times when I was a child, and yet I still remember the Apprentice House because children lived there and the tour is very much aimed at contrasting our lives with theirs. I also remember the leeches and the blood-letting that took place whenever someone was ill. That scares me now as much as it did then!

After that we wandered through the north woods and got a bit lost and probably walked in circles a few times, but eventually found our way back and decided to have hot chocolate in the tea shop rather than look around the mill. Our National Trust membership expires in March so we'll have time to come back and see the mill I think.

That evening I finally convinced James that we had to carve our pumpkins because it would be a nice thing to do together. He couldn't be bothered at first and then I got annoyed with him so it wasn't quite as romantic as I'd hoped. Still, we both enjoyed the carving - James had never done one before and enjoyed it so much that he is on the look out for any pumpkins left in supermarkets so that he can carve some more. I'm not sure he'll find any though. Also, I want one of those pumpkin carving tool kits because we nearly blunted our two kitchen knives trying to make curving lines.

On Sunday I had a luxurious lie in and relished the extra hour in bed. I then did lots of cleaning in my pyjamas which I like because once the flat is clean I can then shower and put on clean clothes too and everything feels clean and shiny, for a while at least.

Last week James suggested that we go out for Sunday lunch somewhere, so I found an offer for City Inn, which is a fancy hotel in Manchester that we've never even set foot in before. We had a money off voucher for their Sunday lunch which included a fabulous salad bar (never had Waldorf salad before but I like it!), roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, and a dessert table that you could return to as often as you liked. Yes that's right - all you can eat pudding! Needless to say, I made the most of it and tried everything once, and went back for their rhubarb and ginger creme brulee and chocolate marquis. (Thankfully the portions were small.) The service was excellent throughout the hotel and the food was wonderful so I'd definitely go back. In fact, I've found another offer for their afternoon tea that I'm tempted to try next weekend!

We finished lunch feeling rather full and sleepy, but had already agreed to stop off at Argos on the way home to buy a bookshelf. We bought this half-width one because we've only got a small space to hold it, and I didn't think it would be very heavy to get home. It weighed A LOT - the website says 22kg - and James couldn't carry it himself so we both took one end and carried it back to our flat looking like the Chuckle Brothers. My arms are clearly very weak as I was in agony by the time we got home, even though it's only a ten minute walk away.

The combination of eating too much and over-exerting myself carrying the bookcase meant that once home I couldn't do anything other than sit on the couch and feel sleepy and sorry for myself. The bookshelf is still lying on the floor in the box because we've been too busy to put it together yet.

Yesterday morning my arms were still in a lot of pain - every single muscle was sore - so it hurt even to lift my arm and brush my hair, or reach behind my back to put on my bra. I think it's a premonition of how life will be when I'm eighty years old. I went to the gym yesterday but didn't do anything involving my arms and was generally too tired to do anything else either, so it wasn't my most successful session really. Leaving work in the dark is definitely not right - everyone in my office now feels really tired and wants to go to bed around half past four in the afternoon.

Tonight is the final stage of my Hallowe'en weekend - the fancy dress social at line dancing. I have a costume but haven't tried it on recently so I hope it looks okay. I'll try and provide pictures afterwards.

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The second half of my Iceland whistle-stop tour through photographs.
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Now I really want to go back to Iceland. I think it would be lovely in late Spring...

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Tonight we finally carved our pumpkins. James had never done it before but his pumpkin is the one on the right, and I think he's done a very good job.

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I really want to carve some more now. Like a whole pumpkin family. And I want one of those pumpkin carving sets too - our cooking knives really aren't good enough and we struggled with curves.

Very glad, too, that tomorrow we get an extra hour in bed because of the hour change. Hurrah!

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My colleague: What do you call people from Dundee?
Me: (thinking this is some sort of joke) Dundee Cakes!
Colleague: No. Dundonians.
Me: Oh.
Colleague: People from Glasgow are called Glaswegians, people from Fife are Fifers, people from Manchester are Mancunians... but what are people from Edinburgh called?
Me: Er... no idea.
Colleague: I think they are called Edinburgers.

Some googling suggests that they are called Edinburghians, but other suggestions include Edinbourgeois, Laudonians, and, erm, English.

Roll on five o'clock. After work I'm off to the Buy Art Fair in Spinningfields to check out all the pretentious art that I can't afford, then home to do some cooking.

ETA: forgot my ticket to the Art Fair and felt too tired to care anyway, so am home doing VERY little.

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