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I have confidence that spring will come again
purplerainbow


Hallowe'en themed crispy cakes for colleagues - made with cornflakes and lots of chocolate.

A few more.Collapse )

I've done a good job cleaning the bowl of chocolate, so now feel slightly sickly. Not a bad evening, then! I've got my Hallowe'en candle burning and the Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack playing and everything.

Just need to carve my pumpkin now.

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Current Location: m3
Current Mood: creative creative
Current Music: Rocky Horror Picture Show - Time Warp

4 favourite things of A few of my favourite things
purplerainbow
 Last month, at our admin away day, I did a presentation on my role for my fellow administrators.  And it was so well received that I was asked to do it again at this month's School Board meeting, which includes academic staff, to make them more aware of the conference support I can offer.  That meeting was today.

I made a new presentation - shorter, and more formal, with more details about conference administration - and practised it yesterday in front of Alex and Mark.  I didn't feel it went very well on that occasion, although they gave me positive feedback.  I was very hesitant, and stumbled over some phrases, but it made me realise that I needed to go away and work on it a lot more.  I'm not usually keen on writing down everything I'm going to say, or over-thinking a presentation, but as the wording for this one needed to be quite specific to avoid upsetting or offending academics with talk of money, I decided that I had to pin down exactly what I was going to say and write down things I was likely to forget.  So this morning I went away to the staff room to be alone and practise out loud my wording.  I even filled in some of those little note cards and numbered them according to which slide they referred to.  

I was still VERY nervous when the meeting came along.  School Board is the only time when all the staff in the school meet to discuss important things, and they only take place once a term, and so quite a lot has happened on a national scale since the last meeting in May.  The Head of school talked about the financial state of the school, and the potential effects caused by an increase in course fees across the country, and then the new Dean of the faculty arrived to talk some more about funding cuts and other important problems. (And as usual, our academics demonstrated their incredible lack of perspective by complaining about the lack of a staff common room. I hope the Dean passes that on to Cameron when he sees him!)  By this point, I felt pretty sick to be honest.  Doing a little talk on conference organisation after all this doom and gloom seemed immensely pointless and shallow, and a waste of time really, and I would have very much liked to sneak away unnoticed.  But my name was on the meeting agenda, and the Head of School Administration introduced me, so I rather had to go through with it.

I was shaking like a leaf when I went up to the podium (we were in the lecture theatre in which I had my very first lecture, coincidentally) but once I started talking I felt better.  My notes definitely helped - I would have forgotten loads if I hadn't written it down.  From what I remember, I spoke quite clearly, and didn't make a fool of myself which is always nice.  Despite being scared of presenting in front of academics, I think they were still a friendly supportive audience - I suppose they know what it feels like. And of course, I had my fellow administrators willing me on from the sidelines.  I think it was an administrator that started the applause after I'd finished, which made me turn an attractive shade of beetroot as I scurried back to my seat.  People don't normally clap after presentations, I'm pretty sure, but it certainly made my day.

After the meeting there was a drinks reception in which I had planned to network and talk to anyone who had questions about conferences.  Two academics complimented my presentation and mentioned conferences they were running, and seemed genuinely pleased to have discovered my existence.  That's a good start, I think.  I grabbed a much-needed glass of orange juice and then spoke to some of my colleagues, who were very supportive too.  The Head of School Administration congratulated me which is a relief - it's always sensible to be in her good books. (Her date of birth, I kid you not, is 6/6/66 - I'm rightfully frightened of her.)

I returned to my office after the drinks reception and was actually pleased to return to the mundane activity of checking emails.  Mark, my manager's manager, brought me a slice of millionaire's shortcake from the cafe as a reward, and Alex, my line manager, told me she was very proud.  And then life went on as normal until the end of the day.

After work I celebrated with a bit of shopping - I got to the end of the month without reaching my overdraft, despite our holiday, which was another reason to spend money.  I got measured for a new bra in Marks and Spencer, and in the last couple of years since my last measurement I have dropped a bust size but kept the same cup size, which is nice.  So I bought some new bras, and a top from H&M, and the costume for next week's fancy dress line dancing evening.  (I'm very excited about my costume, but it's a surprise for now.)

And then I came home and watched The Apprentice with James and got cross with all the idiots on that show, and now I'm going to bed.

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Current Location: m3
Current Mood: accomplished accomplished
Current Music: Stornoway - Zorbing

A few of my favourite things
purplerainbow
What a great weekend - much better than the last one.

On Saturday morning James was working so I had a lovely time cleaning our flat. Yes, these things make me happy. I like getting all the cleaning out of the way before lunch time on Saturday.

After lunch I went out to The Contemporary Craft Fair as I enjoyed it last year. This year, everything seemed even more expensive than I remembered and far too fancy for our flat. I bought a little brooch for my mother, but couldn't find anything nice for me that was reasonably priced. Perhaps I have expensive taste, but as I couldn't afford this jewellery or these lamps I left without a present for myself.

I then walking into town with the intention of shopping in M&S, but everywhere was so busy that I didn't stay long and returned home instead.

After a shower, a change of clothes and a bus journey to Chorlton I was at Alex's lovely new house admiring her kittens. So sweet. Her fiancé David was there too, and we were soon joined by our co-worker Jill and her boyfriend Craig. (I left James at home because I knew that he would hate the evening's activities.) After a quick drink we got a taxi to Alex's ballroom dance school, as there were having a Hoe Down as a social fund raiser. I'd never been to a Hoe Down before, but somehow I knew that it would be my kind of thing. When we arrived they were playing 'Achy-Breaky Heart', so I knew that I was right.

We started off with a simple line dance, which of course I loved, and then we moved on to partner dances and square dances. And it was SO MUCH FUN! I enjoyed myself all evening - it was a real hoot. The steps were easy - mostly just walking or skipping - but the patterns were interesting and occasionally quite fast and complicated. I didn't find it too hard, thanks to years of dance lessons as a teenager, and I was partnered with Alex for many of the dances because Jill and the menfolk were more hesitant, so I knew that we'd find it pretty easy to dance together. (Oh my, I have such a girl-crush!) Indeed, we were awesome and completely in tune with each other and uninhibited. Sadly, when her fiancé wanted to dance with her I find to find another partner, and ended up with a young lad with rather unfortunately sweaty hands, but thankfully that was only one dance, and then I danced with Jill, then back with Alex again. We danced every dance, and it was thrilling.

It ended all to quickly for my liking, and I got a taxi back home feeling full of joy, and also full of hot pot and apple pie.

On Sunday I slept in to recover from the Hoe Down, and then as the weather promised blue skies, I took myself off walking for the first time in AGES and went to Glossop. I like Glossop; I think I could live there. Good train links to Manchester, nestled into the foot of the Pennines, and Old Glossop has some lovely stone houses. The best bit is Manor Park, which is like something out of an advert. It's a lovely old park with tennis courts, play areas, a stream, grassy areas dotted by tall oak trees, and it's always really busy with families and children with bikes, and dogs chasing sticks, and everyone is being nice to each other and spending time with each other and generally being idyllic and wonderful. Maybe I live in the wrong part of Manchester, but I never see families spending time together and being all happy and wholesome. I actually saw a mother helping her little son to ride a bike and calling out "You're doing it, you're really doing it!" when he tottered off by himself. It brought a tear to my eye.

After that moving episode, I headed up the hill in search of the Pennine Way. I first did this walk with my walking group in late January, when there was snow everywhere, and later tried it only to be forced off the hills by fog and low cloud. So I was determined to get it right this time. There was quite a lot of bog on top of the hills, and I had a fun time trying to reach a rocky look-out point without getting wet feet, and the path completely disappeared before I reached it so I had to bring out my awesome map-reading skills to find my way, but once I'd found the Pennine Way it was very easy going. The sun shone, and I was really warm while it was out and then absolutely freezing when it went behind the clouds, but the wind wasn't very strong so it was probably perfect walking weather really. I had hot soup in my flask for lunch, and a very large bar of chocolate to keep up morale, so I was really very happy and made very good time for a ten mile walk.

My legs were just beginning to ache as I walked back into Glossop and through the park again (this time I saw more happy families enjoying the MODEL RAILWAY, I kid you not) and was quite glad to get back on to the train to Manchester. Today my legs are aching slightly, reminding me that I've not done enough proper walking in the last couple of months, but yesterday was a great way to remember why I love it.

I was quite tired in work today, but it wasn't a very busy day. I went to the gym after work again and despite the usual Monday evening crowding, I managed to get on to a treadmill and stagger my usual 3km while watching Red Dwarf on my iPod.

Since then I've washed more dishes, had dinner and had a lovely chat with my mother. Now I'm ready for bed!

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Current Location: m3
Current Mood: relaxed relaxed
Current Music: Billy Ray Cyrus - Achy-Breaky Heart

2 favourite things of A few of my favourite things
purplerainbow
So, I have finally got around to choosing some photos from our holiday in Iceland to display here. I've added four albums on Facebook, but if we're not friends on Facebook or for some inexplicable reason haven't looked through all the albums, here is a highlight tour.

These are photos that I've chosen because I like them for reasons of form or content; they don't create a narrative of the holiday or reflect the many, many things we did and saw. Just so you know.

(I feel like I should provide a warning for dial-up users. Those were the days!)

Click for photos.Collapse )

So maybe this will be part one of two as I'm getting pretty tired now. I did take 1,100 photos over 10 days though so I think I'm doing pretty well to narrow it down to these few!

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Current Location: m3
Current Mood: nostalgic nostalgic
Current Music: Laura Marling - The Captain and the Hourglass

7 favourite things of A few of my favourite things
purplerainbow


It's that time of year again! Nothing like a bright orange pumpkin (or two!) to brighten up the flat.

Hopefully we'll carve them this weekend.

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Current Location: m3
Current Mood: pleased pleased
Current Music: Celine Dion - I Drove All Night

2 favourite things of A few of my favourite things
purplerainbow
The heating is off in our building today. We're trying to work out how cold it has to get before we can go home. As the office is almost empty right now as most of our colleagues are in a meeting, Emma and I had a five-minute jog on the spot to warm us up. I think lots of hot drinks will be in order today too.

Speaking of work, I have now worked for the university for two years, and have been in my current job for exactly a year as of yesterday. Seems a lot longer, actually.

Yesterday I met my younger brother for a drink after work as he was seeing a band playing at the Manchester Academy. I bought him a pint like a good older sister. Sometimes our conversations are a bit stilted as we run out of things to say, but on this occasion we chatted for ages quite easily - maybe he'd had a lot to drink before I arrived, that always makes him more loquacious. He's thinking of applying for Camp America next year which I think would be a great idea. He needs to get out and about more really - he hasn't been abroad in six years, still lives at home, didn't go to university, so it would be good for him to get away from our home town and see the world. I hope he goes through with it.

After seeing him I dashed home, made an omelette for dinner and then dashed off to line dancing. I had a terrific evening, and was exhausted by the end. I think if I could dance more than once a week I wouldn't need a gym membership, I get enough cardio exercise there! I think I danced nearly every dance and was quite out of breath after the fast ones. There are several new members in the group who are trying to learn all the dances, and as we were short of committee members last night, they were watching me during the dances to pick up the moves. This meant that I was really nervous in case I went wrong, so of course I made lots more mistakes than usual. Too much thinking.

However, after one of the dances I received the nicest set of compliments I've had in a long time, maybe ever. My good friend Patrick, the one with his arm around me in this photo, told me, very seriously, that I was looking "very hot" tonight, and had I been working out? I said that actually yes, a bit, and he was very flattering about my outfit and how I looked in it. He said, quite earnestly "you have a sophisticated sexiness that you didn't have when I first met you; I think you look fabulous and people don't say nice things to each other often enough."

Yeah, I pretty much just melted on the floor right there. If he wasn't so very, very gay, I would probably have proposed. (And if there is any chance that he's not completely gay, I think I'll be first in line and beating off the other women with a stick. I love him.) He made my day, my week, and possibly my year, and even now I still feel full of joy at such a charming compliment.

This morning the weather was cold but cloudless and bright in a wonderful Autumn way, so I dressed warmly and strode off to work. I love being able to walk briskly without getting too hot - I power-walked the whole way to my office and by the time I got there I was glowing with good feeling and noticeably more cheerful than my colleagues.

And after work today I am having a cup of tea with a girl from the Creative Writing Summer School who is back here for a year abroad. We're going to one of my favourite teashops, Teacup in the Northern Quarter.

Things are pretty awesome, really.

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Current Location: m13
Current Mood: happy happy
Current Music: Florence and the Machine - Dog Days are Over

2 favourite things of A few of my favourite things
purplerainbow
Things I didn't mention yesterday due to irritation:

-On Monday I saw pumpkins in the supermarket. I have to get hold of some of those for carving!

-On Tuesday I saw the Christmas lights being installed in Albert Square. Looking forward to the switch on event as the fireworks are always fantastic.

-Autumn is definitely here - since my holiday I've noticed that it's too dark in the morning to get dressed without turning on a light. Thankfully my bedside lamp has different settings so I can try not to wake up James. It's also very dark in the evenings, very suddenly. I am not so keen on this. The colours in the trees are good though.

-A few days ago I was standing in the foyer at work taking down notices that shouldn't be on our events board, when Becca/chanandlerbong walked around the corner. I knew that she was in Manchester studying for an MA, but I didn't know where, but there she was! It was great to see her - I think it's been at least five years - so we had a little chat. Maybe we'll meet up again, who knows.

-I recently listened to the soundtrack to Cruel Intentions for what might be the first time since I bought or downloaded the album many years ago. It instantly plunged me back to being fifteen and listening to Bittersweet Symphony over and over again. Strangely, I had forgotten that Colorblind by Counting Crows was on there, and it was very emotional to listen to it again. I remembered a lot of things from that time that I thought I had forgotten about. Maybe I'll watch the film again sometime soon.

***

Last night's personal training session was very good. My trainer was a woman called Manuela, and she was lovely. Very friendly, and not so tiny and athletic that she was intimidating - more like sporty. We went over what I usually do at the gym and then looked at things that I never do. We used the rowing machine, and the cross trainer, both of which I thought were not very taxing but with her watching over me and telling me what speed to reach, they were both pretty hard work! Then we tried lots of different weight machines, most of which I never touch. We discussed how I should try and work a variety of different muscles, which of course makes sense but I've never been very good at that. So we used machines that focus on the backs of your legs, and ones for the front, ones for the triceps and ones for the biceps, and a really tough one that worked the chest muscles that I could barely move. I should write down all the things we did so that I replicate them next time I'm at the gym. She also showed me how to work the lower back muscles which is something I NEVER do, but apparently should as they complement the stomach muscles, so I will definitely be doing that again.

However, after an hour of that I was exhausted, and felt very light and drained as I walked home. I had planned on washing dishes and clearing up before dinner but I was so hungry that I finished off a packet of fruit and oat biscuits while doing so, and then didn't want my nice healthy dinner of leftover shepherd's pie and vegetables.

I also felt far too tired to clean in preparation for the visit from the in-laws, but eventually I dragged myself off the couch and dusted and vacuumed the living room. I made a little playlist to listen to, which comprised of 'Achy-Breaky Heart' by Billy Ray Cyrus, 'Black Velvet' by Alannah Myles, 'Little Lion Man' by Mumford and Sons and 'The Captain and the Hourglass' by Laura Marling. It kept me going quite well actually.

The flat is probably cleaner than it's been since we moved in, but I think I'll vacuum the bedroom again tonight when I get back, and put away that pile of clean clothes that has developed recently. I'm hoping the in-laws won't reach our flat until late this evening so I have time to do these things, but not so late that they stay up for hours because I am exhausted!

I have a good day planned in work though. At lunchtime I'm going to a conference office networking thing, and not only will I get to meet people I've emailed often but never met, but I get a free lunch and a nice walk to the city campus and back. That's a good way to spend two hours, I think.

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Current Location: m13
Current Mood: accomplished accomplished

1 favourite thing of A few of my favourite things
purplerainbow


So, I'm back from Iceland. And I had a marvellous time! Maybe I'll do a full update, maybe I'll post more pictures, but let's not hold our breath. I really liked the country - it's similar to the UK, but different in subtle ways, like, um, the language, and how they drive on the other side of the road, and get 99% of their energy from geothermal sources, and oh yes, there are only 320,000 people in the whole country. (For comparison, Greater Manchester has a population of 2.6 million.)

Reykjavik was great, but quite small and it didn't take us long to feel like we'd seen the main tourist attractions in the centre, so if we'd stayed there for more than two days we would have needed lots of day trips to fill the time. Instead, we hired a car and spent seven days driving the Iceland Ring Road (Route One) and seeing more of the country. This was my favourite part of the trip and I'm really like we did it. We saw fjords, waterfalls, hot springs, volcanoes, rainbows, glaciers, icebergs, and even a few seals. James did all the driving (because I don't have a licence) and I know he was worried about driving in a foreign country, but once we'd left Reykjavik it was really straight forward, mostly because we hardly saw any other cars on the road. Passing more than one car in an hour counted as a busy section of road, seriously. So we could stop where we wanted and go at the speed we wanted, and generally enjoy the view, when it wasn't raining. The countryside in Iceland is fantastic - so dramatic, and ever changing. I loved the mountains, and I loved the coastline, and I loved the rivers and waterfalls and the sea pounding on the black sand beaches.

We stayed somewhere different nearly every night, from empty hostels next to a northern fjord with no shops or restaurants closer than a half hour drive away, to a gorgeous guest house on the east coast, to a homely hostel in the southernmost village in Iceland with chickens pecking around the garden. We self-catered during the trip, partly to save money and partly because there was no guarantee that we would pass any restaurants on the day's drive, so I did the cooking to make up for not helping out with the driving. There was one evening when we thought we'd bought lamb chops but they definitely weren't lamb chops and it might have been horse we never found out what it was, so after that we stuck to simple, student-type meals like pasta and tomato sauce, and ready-made soup. I also had sandwiches for lunch every day for a week, which is not like me as I rarely buy pasta or bread at home, so I came back feeling very bloated and have been on a wheat-free diet ever since.

The weather ranged from sun-with-clouds to torrential, all-day rain, but I think we were mostly lucky with the weather as there were only two days of non-stop rain whereas it could have rained all day. On our first day with the car, James wagered that it would rain at least once every day of our trip. I didn't want to take the bet - I agreed with him! - but he cajoled me into it and the stakes were very low (10 kronar, about 2p) so I agreed. We then had two days of lovely weather, interrupted only by very very short showers when we drove under a rain cloud. I think this was why we saw so many rainbows - we had sunshine and rain in quick succession, sometimes at the same time. (On our last day in Reykjavik the sun shone all day, and I finally won our bet, but by that time James had spent all his Icelandic money so I didn't collect my winnings, dammit.) I was colder than the UK by several degrees, but not too bad as long as you kept moving. The hardest part of the climate was the wind - it never stopped! Even when it was sunny, it was so windy I had trouble opening the car door!

The highlight of the trip, for me, was the day we spent on the South coast, first visiting a glacial lagoon filled with icebergs from the glacier, then spending the afternoon at Skaftafell National Park and going on a walk to see a waterfall called Svartifoss and a viewpoint over a glacial tongue. I also really liked visiting Þingvellir, which is the site of the ancient Icelandic Parliament and a beautiful National Park as well, but we didn't really have enough time to fully appreciate it. That was true of most things though - I would have liked to do a little less driving and a bit more walking, but time and money meant that we only had a short time to see everything. I think I would go back though - not necessarily to Reykjavik, but to the rest of the country definitely.

Since we got back home on Wednesday, I have been rather lazy and not done many of the things that I'd planned to in my remaining days off. I have done a LOT of laundry, of course, and sorted through the 1,100 photos I took on the trip (putting them on Facebook took hours, and I haven't even finished yet), and I've been to the doctor, and met my landlord for the first time when he came over to paint the bathroom ceiling. I also cooked dinner for James on Thursday as he had to go back to work, and yesterday saw my brother for a quick drink as he was in Manchester to see a gig, and I've washed the floors, cleaned the bathroom, dusted and cleaned behind the sofas - but I haven't been for a walk, or the gym, or even left the house unless I had to.

Last night, though, I performed with a few other line dancers at the Midland Hotel for the Manchester Law Society Annual Charity Ball. Photo behind the cut.Collapse )

After the performance we all went down to the Village as one of the other line dancers was having a party for his 50th birthday. It was nearly midnight by the time we got there and some people had already been and gone, so I didn't stay that long. I didn't go to bed until nearly 2am though, which is NOT like me.

Today I've been tired, but not as bad as James who spent the evening at a friend's gig and got so drunk he threw up when he got home. (I was not exactly sympathetic - I just cleaned the bathroom yesterday!) I made yummy Italian bean and pancetta soup for lunch in work this week and am now about to make shepherd's pie for dinner. I planned all this cold-weather food thinking that it would be getting colder now it's October, but today has been as hot as June!

And tomorrow it's back to work after two weeks' off. I have that old Sunday evening "better do my homework" feeling. I'll be fine once I've had a good chat with my colleagues, but right now I really don't want to go back to work - back to getting up early, and eating only at set meal times, and trying to fit in exercise, cooking, cleaning and socialising every evening, and being tired all the time, etc. I want another holiday!

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Current Location: m3
Current Mood: nostalgic nostalgic
Current Music: Mumford and Sons - Little Lion Man

3 favourite things of A few of my favourite things
purplerainbow
I'm so close to my holiday now I can almost touch it, but the world is conspiring against me to make my last few days so much harder than they need to be. I'd like to be effortlessly daydreaming of Icelandic vistas and glaciers, but instead I keep forgetting I'm going TOMORROW because of all the external gremlins taking my attention away.

Firstly, it is The Week Formerly Known As Freshers' Week, so work has gone quite demented. Students everywhere. Noise everywhere. Constant interruptions. I'm trying to get through my workload before I finish but I also need to support Emma on reception and answer so many strange and unusual queries from lost or confused students. I do not hate students - individually they are generally very nice people - but collectively they are a pain in the neck. Do returning students have to greet each other so effusively right outside our office? It would seem so. Do they have to expound about their fabulous holidays in Corsica in loud, Southern accents? It would seem so! Do they have to walk so damn slowly everywhere? It would seem so. I miss the peace and quiet of the summer break.

Secondly, we found out a couple of days ago that our bathroom is leaking into the car park below us. (Thankfully we're in a first floor flat.) I'm finding it hard to care that some cars are getting a morning shower, but apparently it's frowned on by the building's caretaker. They've been in touch with our landlord, the feckless Rob, which has finally shocked him into doing something about the problems with our flat, most of which we've been chasing up for over a year now. So he's promised to fix all the things, which is all well and good, but James has agreed that he can come in to the flat while we're away to do this work. So I've spent a couple of evenings exhausting myself trying to clean up so that the place is presentable when he turns up. I'm not keen on the idea of someone we've never met in the flat without our presence, but I guess it is his flat after all so I can't complain. I'm still worried about what we'll find when we return - probably half fixed electronics hanging from the ceiling.

Thirdly - and this is probably the worst thing - James told me yesterday that he's just noticed that he has booked the wrong dates off work for our holiday. Yes, he told me two days before our flight. He's officially an idiot, and thought we were flying on September 29th instead of 25th and booked time off accordingly. And never thought to check, or look at a calendar, and didn't think about it again until yesterday. So he's supposed to be working next Monday and Tuesday, not visiting Icelandic Turf museums with me. He told his managers yesterday and they agreed to discuss it with him today. He was really worried last night, but it's only two days and so I don't think it's such a big deal really. He's just an idiot.

I did start making plans for a holiday on my own just in case. Better cancel that car hire package as it won't be much use for me without a driving licence!

Fourthly, I'm worried about my mother as she was supposed to be flying back from her holiday in Nice this morning, but her flight was cancelled due to strikes in France. The French need to get a grip really - moving the date of retirement from 60 to 62 is not that bad - they should try working in the UK! Get back to work and stop making my mother upset. She text me early this morning and asked me to look up train routes for her, so now I think she's on a train from Nice to Paris, which will take all day, then she can get the Eurostar to London and a train from there back to Liverpool. She won't get back home until sometime tomorrow, so I won't be able to talk to her before my holiday, and it will cost her a small fortune in train tickets so I hope she has good insurance. Apparently the route between Nice and Paris is lovely, however, so I hope she tries to relax and enjoy the scenery.

Other than that, though, everything's fine! I have two big jobs and a few smaller jobs to complete before the end of the day in work, then more cleaning to do in the flat, oh and packing I suppose, but by this time tomorrow I will be on the plane to Reykjavik and I won't care in what state the flat is, or even if James is with me, because I'll be on my holiday!

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Current Location: m13
Current Mood: rushed rushed

1 favourite thing of A few of my favourite things
purplerainbow
For the last five months I've been using Spotify to listen to music that I don't own or am new to. I have also been scrobbling these tracks from Spotify to Last.fm, so I can see which artists I've listened to the most over a period of seven days, three months, six months or a year. Only the music from Spotify is scrobbled - the music I listen to on my iPod is not connected to Last.fm because James and I currently use the same iTunes account. So my Last.fm records don't show how many times I've listened to Dolly Parton's greatest hits, or 'Keep the Car Running' by Arcade Fire, for example.

Bearing this in mind, here are the top artists from the last six months and how many times I've listened to each one on my Last.fm account:

1. Laura Marling - 95
2. Feist - 70
3. The Puppini Sisters - 65
4. Sophie Ellis Bextor - 45
5. Yann Tiersen - 44
6. Josh Turner - 32
7. Celine Dion - 29
8. Karen O and the Kids - 27
9. The Moody Blues - 26
10. Penguin Cafe Orchestra - 25
10. The Peasall Sisters - 25
12. Philip Glass - 24
12. Dierks Bentley - 24
12. Freemasons - 24
15. Dixie Chicks - 23

I rather like this mixture - some US country artists, some UK folk-y stuff, a Canadian diva, a French film composer, and the soundtrack to Where the Wild Things Are. I only have three or four of these artists on my iPod, but I have bought some albums based on what I heard through Spotify.

And now, for comparison, the top-listened tracks on my iPod, which I've had for nearly three years. Read more...Collapse )

I'm very interested in what other people have as their top-listened tracks. I have found it very enlightening!

I think I'm coming down with a cold today. This is not good - tomorrow is the first day of Freshers' Week* so we will all be assaulted by germs from all over the country and I need a strong immune system. I'm going in search of fruit and vegetables.


*We're not allowed to call it Freshers' Week any more - the students' union decreed that it excluded mature students, post-graduate students, and generally anyone who doesn't identify with the stereotypical eighteen-year old party animal. So now it's called Welcome Week, and we have the Welcome Fair instead of the Freshers' Fair, and instead of the Freshers' Handbook we have.... The Handy Handbook.

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Current Location: m3
Current Mood: contemplative contemplative

3 favourite things of A few of my favourite things
purplerainbow
Yesterday in work we celebrated our co-worker's 25 years of long service. He's worked for the university since he was nineteen - imagine that. We had some nibbles, and some wine, and played music from 1985 as that's when he started. We also revisited the endlessly amusing story of how two weeks after Karl started at the university, Dan was born. Dan and Karl now work together, in fact Dan now has Karl's old job. (I tried not to rub it in that it was another year before I was born too.) It worries me that babies born now might be my colleagues in twenty years. I like being the youngest in my office (and not the most junior - I'm a higher grade than two of my colleagues). One day they'll hire some twenty-one year old graduate and she'll be the baby and I'll just be another ageing administrator.

After eating food all afternoon I was looking forward to a trip to the gym to aid digestion, but when I got to the changing rooms I realised that I had packed two trainers, both of which were meant to fit left feet, but no trainers for the right foot. So I padded barefoot out to the mats and did some stomach and arm exercises, but did not leave with quite the energised feeling I was hoping for. This will probably explain why I felt so tired and miserable for the rest of the evening that I put a face-pack on, and went to bed shortly after nine. I had planned to read for a while, but fell asleep about three pages, with the light still on. Nice.

This morning I woke up with a jerk at six am thinking that James and I had overslept but it was not so. James was in work for eight but he's perfected the art of getting out of bed twenty minutes before he has to leave the house, so he got up around six thirty and I stayed in bed for another half an hour.

I got the train out to Knutsford and met my mother for our day out to Tatton Park - the National Trust property where certain scenes from Brideshead Revisited were filmed. We had an incredibly frustrating time trying to get into the park because there was a triathlon taking place in and around the property so there were many people in fluorescent jackets yelling at us to drive during the gaps between cyclists, but no clear information on how to get into the park as they were using the main entrance for their route. I think this could have been communicated on their website much more clearly. We eventually managed to park, and wandered around the ornamental gardens admiring the plants and flowering and looking quizzically at the installations put there as part of the Tatton Park Biennial. We also went around the mansion house and sampled their tea shop before heading out into the 1,000 acre parkland for a walk. We strolled along one side of the lake but couldn't find a way around to walk up the other side, and somehow ended up back in Knutsford and getting slowly soaked in the rain. We considered stopping there for afternoon tea but I suddenly realised what the time was and that I had hoped to get the next train so we had to cancel tea plans and start power-walking back to the hall. It was much further than we realised, however, (about three miles) so it quickly became apparent that we wouldn't make the next train in thirty minutes, and we slowed down. I sent a message to James to say that I would be late home and we stopped for a leisurely hot chocolate in the cafe before driving back into Knutsford so my mother could drop me at the station.

I got home around fifteen minutes before James and I were due to go out to an album launch for his friend's band. I didn't really want to go, to be honest, because I don't know these friends or their band, I hate going out on a Saturday night, I hate staying up late, and going into town on the first Saturday of Freshers' week is probably a huge mistake for anyone over the ages of twenty-one. I had agreed to go out of a sense of duty, as I never socialise with his friends, so I rushed home and said that I would get changed and we could go straight out again. I was rescued by providence though - the door codes to get into our apartment building changed yesterday, and the code we were given doesn't work and the old one has been discontinued, so we can only enter the building if someone else lets us in. The chances of someone taking pity on us late on a Saturday night are quite slim, so James decreed that I must stay at home in order to let him back in later on. I looked suitably disappointed at this news, but was filled with elation as soon as he'd gone. I put my pyjamas on, cooked my tea, and sat on the couch to watch a film.

I chose When Did You Last See Your Father because I thought it looked interesting, but was much mistaken. The cast is great (including Juliet Stevenson, Gina McKee and Bonus!Carey Mulligan) but the film is self-indulgent, long, and rather boring. Still, it filled up my evening nicely and now I'm thinking about going to bed.

Tomorrow I am planning another trip to the gym - hopefully more successful than yesterday's - and some holiday shopping. This time next week we'll be in Reykjavik!

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2 favourite things of A few of my favourite things
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Today's subject header seems fitting, considering the furore surrounding the Pope's current visit to the UK. My opinions on the matter are pretty much non-existent - I really don't care. A girl I work with is going to London this weekend to protest though.

I'm currently getting ready for my holiday - we fly out a week on Saturday - and am getting quite excited although it still seems a long way off. I need to book accommodation for Reykjavik (I've learnt to spell it!) and buy a new swimming costume as I somehow managed to lose the old one. There's lots of washing to be done before we go, and probably many other things that I won't remember until the day before. My friend Helen from work has lent me lots of interesting books about Iceland and every time I look at them I get more excited.

Last Thursday I had planned a quite evening of glass painting and relaxing, but while in work I was emailed by one of my walking friends and reminded that I had in fact agreed to go to the Royal Exchange theatre to see Dr Faustus for one of the half-price previews. So I met the others in Pizza Express and we had a long-overdue catch up on the gossip (one friend has a potential new boyfriend, and another might be quitting her job) before heading to the theatre. I had looked up the plot online while in work but was expecting the play to be quite dry and full of long speeches about the nature of goodness, but I was completely mistaken. The play was riveting, and produced in a very physical way, complete with ZOMBIE ARMY and illusions that would baffle David Blane (seriously: they decapitated a guy, then pulled off his leg, made objects on a table move without touching them, and produced Alexander the Great from under a sheet out of the Duke of Saxony). The first half was very long but we were all hooked on the action, however the second half was slightly more full of speeches about the nature of sin and goodness, and I'm ashamed to say that I dozed off at one point. (It was late!) I woke up for the famous line about Helen of Troy launching a thousand ships and the rather poignant end though. It was all totally worth it too - I heartily recommend the production if anyone is in Manchester in the next few weeks.

On Friday I finished off my glass painting while watching Almost Famous, and on Saturday morning I got the train out to Hebden Bridge to see the lovely Lorna of Leeds for our day out. We walked along the Rochdale Canal then along the Pennine Way up hill for a while, and had lunch sitting in a field overlooking the valley. We exchanged birthday presents (hers was in May, mine in November, so we're sort of in the middle) and griped about passive females in films, talked about our jobs, boyfriends and families, and generally got up to date on our lives. We detoured the walk into Heptonstall to check out the ruined church and the grave of Sylvia Plath, then headed back to Hebden Bridge for a well-deserved pub dinner. I had Pie of the Day which was awesome - lamb and mint. There should be more Pies of the Day.

I left her in the arms of her charming new beau after many plans were discussed for exciting literary trips in the future. I then spent my Saturday evening doing VERY LITTLE as I was surprisingly tired.

On Sunday I cleaned, then ate, then went to the gym, then cooked risotto. I like days of small accomplishments.

Then it was back to work, and the return of Alex from her holiday bringing with her lovely fudge from Cumbria and my motivation, which is good. We had a good long meeting about the recent developments in work and regarding my job. I did my presentation at the School Away Day last week, and it went really well - rather too well actually as now I have to do it again in front of the School Board meeting, as it includes lots of academic staff and hopefully the prospect of many more conferences coming my way. Yay? I'm feeling good about work at the moment though - I'm up to date with my emails, pretty much on top of my work, and now it's nearly term time it's livening up a bit in the office too. August is a slow month in the university, but a necessary one for us.

On Tuesday I went to line dancing and was asked if I would like to be one of the six dancers performing at the Manchester Law Society dinner in October. I restrained my 'HELL YES' response and agreed politely. 'You do know it's on a Saturday night?' I was asked. My initial response was a confused 'what else would I want to do on a Saturday night?' but then I realised that I was obviously expected to have some wild plans in place for my evenings, and apparently watching The Big Bang Theory, eating Angel Delight and playing Bejewelled Blitz don't count. We're dancing at nine thirty apparently - I didn't like to say that even on a Saturday night I would be seriously considering going to bed and reading my book by that time. I wish to keep whatever street cred I have deceitfully acquired. But I find it very hard to restrain my excitement about the event. It's not so much the performance itself - we're only performing three dances, and teaching three easy dances including a BARN DANCE (my life just gets cooler) - but only six of us are going, and the other five are all long-time members of the group and probably the best dancers, so I feel honoured to be asked as well. We're nicely symmetrical now too - three women and three men - so hopefully we'll be impressive to the audience and worth our wage.

Yesterday James and I went to see Tamara Drewe at the cinema, and it was excellent - so much better than I expected. Arguably the weakest part of the film is the actress playing the eponymous Tamara, but I think she's meant to be very annoying. I loved the scenery, the very British humour, the varied cast of characters who are all so real and amusing, and the way I was moved to tears and laughter at the very same time. James did say that it would also work very well as an ITV Sunday night drama, but we both agreed that it's one of the best films seen this year.

Today I had my pre-holiday hair cut which was very exciting for me. It's now very short, possibly shorter than I'd like, but it'll grow before I know it so I don't mind. I also cooked a lovely curry with lots of veg, and, very predictably, I have watched The Big Bang Theory, eaten Poptarts (out of milk for Angel Delight) and played a few games of Bejewelled Blitz. And now I'm going to bed!

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2 favourite things of A few of my favourite things
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So, the weekend before last I went to Durham.Collapse )

We had a really lovely weekend and it was a great way to spend some time with my mother but didn't cost a lot. In fact, we enjoyed it so much that we have booked another weekend, this time in York just after my birthday. Booking in advance was a good idea too - my train ticket cost me less than £10! Can't wait now. I'd go back to Durham sometime too.

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Me in the parade, waving at my friends Isao and Michael watching from the side.

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The rest of the Pride weekend was excellent, although I did not partake in any late nights or even any alcohol as I really don't like spending a fortune on drinks and I like my sleep. Plus, the weekend is very important to a lot of people and I am very aware that it's just a lot of fun for me and if I hadn't been involved through line dancing I probably wouldn't have been there at all - I'd have gone walking for the weekend like I did last year. (And it would probably have rained as much as it did last year.)

So on the Sunday afternoon we danced in the village outside a pub called Churchills as the road outside was closed for the weekend so we had plenty of space. I really enjoy our outdoor dancing sessions but it gets harder as the afternoon goes on because the spectators get steadily more and more drunk and more inclined to try and join in, walk right through us while we're dancing, or generally make a nuisance of themselves and interrupt the dance. Still, the audience is always very appreciative of our performances which is nice. At the very end I caught a glimpse of a girl I know from school, Carly, waving at me from the crowd. She was in Manchester for the whole weekend as she seems to have a lot of lesbian friends, and she saw me in the parade apparently but I didn't notice.

I was pretty exhausted after the dancing so I spent a while looking around the Lifestyle Expo (in which I saw the LGBT section of the Conservatives and lolled because they were all clean-cut young men, was given a leaflet by the LGBT Green Party as they were all short-haired hippy women - clearly the party for me) and the sales section (I really wanted to adopt a dog, and steered clear of the leather stall) before going home. James and I watched Memento that evening.

On Monday we had agreed that we would Do Something Together As A Couple because we'd not spent any time together in weeks. We're both busy people apparently. As James can never suggest something he wants to do that doesn't involve a Playstation or a laptop, I decided that we would go walking in Edale for the day. Thankfully the weather was beautiful.

I had expected that James would moan the whole time, but he actually really enjoyed part of the walk. He liked going uphill, and I chose the route because it has a rocky scramble near the end which he really enjoyed because it's like mild rock climbing. In fact, he liked it so much that he refused to wait for me and went tearing off by himself. My legs were weaker than usual because of the weekend of dancing I'd had so although I was walking quicker than most of the other walkers around, I still couldn't keep up with him. The people I passed gave me pitying looks as though I'd been dragged out for the day by him, instead of the other way around.

At the top, James had to lie down to recover from his speedy climb whereas I was comfortably worn out and feeling a bit irked because he wouldn't wait for me. He also doesn't understand the dynamics of walking the way I do - he didn't notice the view, or the lovely heather, or the general niceness of being out in the fresh air on a clear day. All he wanted to do was listen to his iPod and I wouldn't let him.

On our way down the hill we saw dozens of paragliders on the opposite ridge all flying in the same area at the same time - must have been some kind of organised event. They were lovely to watch - like little flecks of colour against the blue sky. James went much faster than I did down hill too. I'm not sure it was an experience I'll be keen to repeat any time soon. I suggested that fell running might be more his sort of thing.

That evening he took me out for dinner which was lovely. I managed not to over-eat for once! We were both exhausted by nine thirty so we went to bed early, and that was the end of the Bank Holiday weekend.

On Tuesday I didn't have line dancing after work because we skip a session in the week after Pride, so I went to the gym instead. Yesterday James and I went to see Scott Pilgrim vs The World which I mostly really enjoyed (although I prefer my heroines less passive) and this morning I got up at 6am so that I could go to the gym before work. I feel like I deserve a medal for that. The extra exercise seems to be working though as I have lost another kg and now weigh less than I have in at least a couple of years.

Work is extra quiet as three of my colleagues are on holiday, leaving only me and Jill in the office as well as our manager. We have a School Away Day next week and I have been asked to give a presentation about my job to the other admin staff as part of "Role Awareness". It's good practice for me, but also rather scary. The strangest thing will be that I'll be giving this presentation in front of a load of people that I consider to be my friends. I think I'd prefer an audience of strangers to be honest.

Tonight I'm seeing my friend Leila for a quick dinner, tomorrow evening I'll be at the gym again, and then on Saturday morning I'm off to Durham for the weekend with my mother! I've never been to the city of Durham, I've only been through it on the train, so I'm very much looking forward to seeing the cathedral and the castle etc. It's only a weekend jaunt but should be fun.

And the weather is so nice now I really wish I had booked off the whole week to make the most of it.

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Not great quality, but that's me at 4:55! If you watch from around 4:40 you can see our float too.

Oh, and near the beginning you can see Sir Ian McKellen having a great time!

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I'm second from the right, and with his arm around me is Patrick, who is lovely and adorable. This was taken before the parade started, and I'm shamelessly stealing it from someone who took lots of photos. I wish I'd been able to take my camera! I saw so many amazing things - not only did we look fabulous, but the other floats and groups looked fantastic too. Not enough words to describe how awesome it was.

Being in the parade was just... incredible. I smiled so much my face ached. It rained just as we were rounding the corner to the town hall and where judging was taking place, but we didn't care - we danced on regardless. There were so many people watching, all cheering and whistling and waving and generally being a great and supportive audience.

(Of course, there was the usual group of religious protesters waving placards and shouting zealously, but in front of them was a very earnest group of Gay Christians who were desperately supporting us and looking adorable. We were given strict instructions to ignore the Bible bashers and not give them the satisfaction of noticing them, so my gaze slid over them and focused on the happy Christians instead.)

After the parade I had my orders to help unload the float and move the equipment to our usual pub, and then I spent a harrowing half hour looking for one of the showgirls because I had her clothes and she was probably freezing somewhere, and after that I was too worn out to battle the crowds of the Gay Village, so I went home and fell asleep on the couch instead. I think I'll go back this afternoon before we're due to dance and explore the stalls and the music sites.

But the parade will always be the best thing ever. What a buzz!

Edit: How did I forget to mention this?  We saw Sir Ian McKellan!  He was standing at the front of the crowd near the end of the parade route looking like he was really enjoying himself.  Yes, I think Gandalf likes a good pride parade.

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9 favourite things of A few of my favourite things
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So the "feeling lousy" turned out to be down to PMS, but it came as a surprise as I hadn't even finished my current pack of pills when I was getting stomach cramps. I think this is my uterus' revenge for skipping periods (oh how wonderful the pill is) - extra uncomfortable cramps and periods, for no real reason.

I think the PMS explains why I haven't been sleeping that well for the past couple of nights - despite being very tired I have been waking up every two or three hours, turning over quite restlessly, and going back to sleep. I'm probably only awake for a matter of seconds, but it feels like a lot longer and I'm not getting into proper deep sleep.

Still - there are good things to report! Today is Friday, it's Pay Day, it's also Increment time of year so my official wage has gone up, and it's the start of a three-day weekend!

I have new boots too - real line-dancing boots! I had to order them online because I will never have time to get to Blackpool to buy them, and was worried that they wouldn't fit, but they're perfect. I bought these boots because they are the plainest ones I could find (no tassles!) and they are lovely. The leather is still very stiff so I have spent every day in work this week wearing them under my desk and flexing my ankles and toes so that they will loosen up. I think they go really well with my usual work clothes!

Last night I put the finishing touches on my costume for tomorrow's parade. We're wearing black boots, black trousers (not jeans), a black shirt, with a silver top hat, silver bow tie and silver waistcoat, with tails attached to the bottom. We have to sew the tails on ourselves so I started that last night. Still have one more to sew on because I am very slow. To finish off the outfit we have a black cane! We look like a more camp version of Fred Astaire.

So - my weekend. In case I haven't mentioned it enough, I will be dancing in the Manchester Pride Parade through the streets of the city centre with my fellow line dancers. We're meeting at 11am, judging is from 12:30 and the parade starts at 1pm. We can't bring bags with us as there's no where to store them, so I will be walking to the meeting place in my outfit and can only take my door key and some cash in my trouser pockets. No camera, which is very unfortunate! To make matters worse, James is working tomorrow morning so he won't be there when I'm leaving to get a photo of me in my outfit. I am DETERMINED to get a photo somehow though!

I think the parade will be very tiring so I'm not making huge plans to go drinking or partying afterwards, although I would like to explore the Gay Village with all the decorations and stalls in place. I'm aiming for an early night though, as on Sunday, weather permitting, we're dancing on Canal Street in the afternoon to entertain the crowds wandering around the area. Last year it was rained off, apparently, but I'm hoping it'll be okay this year as I love dancing outside with an appreciative audience, and the others all say that this weekend is the best time for that.

Then on Monday, again weather permitting, I suggested that James and I do something together as we've not spent any time with each other for WEEKS. We both plan a lot of things that don't include the other person - I think we have very different interests. I've optimistically suggested that we go walking (yes, this is technically MY interest, not his) as practice for the walking that will probably be required in Iceland. We're not planning any huge hikes, but there are a few waterfalls and viewpoints that I think require some walking and we've never been walking together so we'd better have a run-through first. We'll probably go to Edale as I know the routes really well so won't have to worry about map-reading and boyfriend-minding at the same time.

Then it'll be September - how the year flies! I'm thinking about having a frugal month to prepare for our holiday as I think it will be quite expensive out there. I'd rather scrimp a bit for the next few weeks and be able to buy things I like when I see them in Iceland rather than worrying about money all the time. I'd also like to avoid dipping into my savings if possible, but this might not happen and it's not a big deal if I have to use them. So, no clothes shopping, no music purchased from iTunes or Amazon, no meals out. I'm allowed train fare (because I need the trains to go walking!) and to get my hair cut before I go away, but that's it really.

Although, I did see a lovely pair of earrings and matching necklace in Accessorize that I really wanted. We'll see how much I spend over the weekend at Pride and maybe there'll be enough left to get them! After all, it's not September yet...

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Do you know which modern neologism I really don't like?

Webinar. It sounds like it's a word that is only used in online forums between geeks, but I've just been invited to one on Maximising Return on Events. A webinar. I'm guessing it's an online seminar. Still, I don't think I'll be attending.

In other news, it seems that the reward for exercising regularly, eating healthily and taking multivitamins is feeling lousy and excessively tired. I hope I'm not coming down with a cold.

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I've just had a really super weekend, and as I'm currently alone in our office (there are normally seven or eight of us) I'm going to write about it!

After work on Friday I met up with a group of colleagues and we went to Betty-Anne's house for more Star Wars films. It's nice to socialise with people outside my office as I don't see others that often. There was an interesting mix of people as well - someone from finance, someone from the school office, two people from taught programmes and me from a completely different building. Betty-Anne kindly offered to host the evening, and she coped very well considering she has a little flat with no sofas and no television. We sat on the floor and watched Episode III on her laptop. She fed us veggie chilli (with real chillis! so hot!) and lots of nachos and alcohol if we wanted. (I brought two bottles of cider with me and didn't drink either of them - I was so tired that I didn't think alcohol would be a good idea.)

We had some amusing conversations over dinner in which it was decided that I fancy hobbits and Richard has strange taste in men (he's straight). I laughed A LOT. We then put the film on and I realised that my companions were incapable of keeping quiet during a film. Betty, bless her, has to vocalise any thought that enters her head, and Richard has seen the films so often he is fully of trivia about each scene that he likes to share. Then there were conversations about priests (Helen and Betty have at different times fancied the same one, before they even knew each other) and Jedi knights who take off their cloaks to fight but never pick them up again and lots of other distractions. And of course, when the film got complicated, they didn't know what was going on! I think I may have been a bit twitchy by the end - I like to watch a film in peace and quiet, especially if I've not seen it before.

Episode III is better than both predecessors, I think, and quite moving in parts. I was glad finally to see the progression to the events and characters of the later films. The business with Amidala and her death is pretty flimsy I think. (That's not a spoiler, everyone knows that happens.)

By the time we'd finished that film it was late - eleven thirty I think, which is late for me - so I made my excuses and left before they watched the next film. I'd rather watch Episode IV on our much bigger tv screen and without distractions I think! Last time we had a Star Wars evening I didn't get to bed until 3am which is not a good idea for me, so I made sure I was in bed earlier this time.

On Saturday I was up earlier because I had a day pass for the Fitness First gym that Alex goes to. She often takes the two exercise classes on a Saturday morning so I thought I'd try them too. Her gym is MUCH fancier than mine - wooden lockers! No need for a padlock or a pound coin! Hairdryers that don't need to be paid for! Complimentary tea and coffee! But the equipment seems to be about the same. My gym doesn't have fitness classes or any spa facilities though and I'm fed up of jogging along on the treadmill - I want to jump around to music with a dozen other perspiring women! < /sarcasm>

First off we had Body Combat, which turned out to be jumping around to music while pretending to hit an imaginary opponent. We were even told to aim for their chin/temple/stomach depending on what move we were doing. Turns out that punching and kicking are really not my thing. I look stupid (curse that room full of mirrors!), like a wind-up monkey toy with a loose wire, and I really don't enjoy it. Too aggressive. I was fine with the jumping around because that's just aerobics and I like that, but not pretending to kick something. Give me a good bums and tums class any day.

After working up a nice sweat with an hour of Body Combat, it was time for the next class which was Body Balance and turned out to be a mixture of yoga, pilates and tai chi. It was led by the same woman - she must be a superhero or something as she was full of energy AND unbelievable supple. Me, I am not so flexible any more. My thighs get in the way, or something. I can touch my toes but that's about it. And despite exercising regularly, I rarely do anything that involves stretching beyond a few calf pulls. We stretched every muscle we could find for an hour. It was hard work, but I actually enjoyed it a lot more than the combat because it's completely non-aggressive. And we had five minutes of relaxation at the end - I could have fallen asleep SO easily right there!

I don't know how Alex does both classes every Saturday morning. I felt so drained of energy by the end that I could barely drag myself back to the changing rooms. I thought I ought to make the most of the day pass so checked out the cardio area (televisions everywhere!) and then changed into a swimming costume so I could try the sauna area. I love saunas but haven't used one for years. No one else was there so I used the steam room and the sauna, and nearly had a heart attack when stepping into the cold shower afterwards.

By that point I was ravenous, so I showered and left the gym. I really wanted to go home, eat, and sleep all afternoon, but I had a lot to do so I went to a local Greek deli and had some soup for lunch. I then started on my quest for the day, which was to find two showgirl outfits in black and silver, for two girls to wear on our float for the Pride Parade this Saturday. I trawled up and down the city centre to all the places on my list and had no luck, and was very disheartened and exhausted. I stopped for a slice of chocolate and ginger cake in Affleck's Palace (yummy) and then looked some more. Eventually gave up and went home and slept for about two hours.

That evening I went to Gary and Jon's house for a Hawaiian themed barbecue which was great fun. Thankfully they supplied the Hawaiian shirts, and decorated their garden with inflatable palm trees, a toy parrot and lots of fairy lights strung over their trees. It was delightful. I ate a lot and still felt tired from the morning's exercise classes and was quite glad when I was offered a lift home by my friend Stewart and was in bed by 1am.

Slept late on Sunday. Bliss. Then, because I am a hero, or because I am very silly, I dragged myself to my usual gym for another workout. Every. Muscle. Ached. Even muscles I had forgotten I had. That Body Balance class was the most painful thing I have done in years. So I didn't overdo it at my next gym session!

On the way home I met James and we bought a new microwave as the old one gave up last week, and I got some new headphones as I broke the connection to my last pair ages ago and had been using James' old rubbish ones since then. On a whim, I popped into the fancy dress shop opposite Argos and asked them about a showgirl costume, and they said they can customise an existing costume and make two by the weekend. Result! Felt much better after that.

On Sunday afternoon I did some housework and then started planning an itinerary for our trip to Iceland. In five weeks' time we'll be there! Am very excited, and getting more so every time I look at photos of the scenery and the nature available, etc. We need to book our car hire and accommodation this week really but there shouldn't be any problems with availability as we're going well out of peak season.

Over dinner we watched In Bruges which is hilarious. And now I really want to visit Bruges. (It's in Belgium.) My mother went for a long weekend earlier this year, influenced entirely by the film. It looks beautiful.

And today I am in work, and it's quiet, but I have plenty to do so it's just as well. I appear to have lost my motivation though. I am working on a conference which takes place in a few weeks, and is about female werewolves and shapeshifters. We're having real trouble marketing it away from the Twihard convention circle and into the academic literary circle, and this morning I was told that we have offended a "real" werewolf in Brooklyn who has had a little moan about us on her blog. My life: so strange.

This evening - Zumba taster session with Alex! Aerobics to Latin American music? Yes please!

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5 favourite things of A few of my favourite things