15 October 2014 @ 02:57 pm
So, many many moons ago, the lovely house beside us was bought by a guy my mother taught back in the day when she was an innocent young NQT. Apparently she was scary enough back then that when in the course of renovations he managed to drop a tree on our garage he made his father come round to apologise on the grounds he was a coward. When the children came along, my parents volunteered babysitting. These days, our house is their house and they stand at the fence and shout for my father when they want to come over, because they're not allowed to climb the wall unsupervised.

E spoils the dog rotten, to my father's consternation. C causes my mother to break out the teacher voice and then charms her the next minute. S is so solemn and shy that the day she sat beside my father on the sofa he rang all of us to share the news. M ... well, the Christmas Eve M was three, she decided she wasn't going home and danced at the top of our stairs proclaiming "You can't catch me, you GREAT BIG LOSERS!" while her pursuing parent laughed helplessly at the bottom.

Sometime around the start of the summer the girls and small cousin Teeny prevailed on my mother to let them have a pirate party, on the grounds that the boys were getting to go camping. Tori got added in on general principles. Sunday was the party. Saturday night my sisters, mother and I got a bit over-excited and made props. Including bandanas for all. My father wisely went and hid in the living room with the cat.

Somewhat carried awayCollapse )

In the end, we wrote them a quest - first a spiderweb treasure hunt for their loot bags and bandanas and maps and most importantly their first clue. Then in to Aunt E next door, dolled up to the nines as the Pirate Queen to be equipped with swords and Haribo. Photos do not do the sheer quantity of sparkles justice.

The Pirate Queen Is Sparklier Than YouCollapse )

In the course of the initial clues, we discovered that S is of a rather literal turn "That is not NOT monsters, that is MY HOUSE", that Tori is excellent at map-reading but terrible at clues, and that MillyMollyMandy may not have had any idea whatsoever what was going on but she was going to follow the big girls, damnit. Also if you arm small girls with swords, they will instantly turn on the adults who gave them swords. They took me down in the front garden. Sister suffered an undignified demise on the stairs. Toddler attempted to behead Eeyore.

Murder and mayhemCollapse )

Overall, I think, a success.
06 July 2014 @ 03:32 pm
I'm watching Thursday's The View. My desire to see what our politicians think they're achieving over-rode my common sense.

I think my brain is melting out my ears.

I still have no idea what they're trying to achieve (well, no, I know what they want, I just don't know what they think they're going to get), I am in the horrible position of agreeing with Gerry Kelly in his thesis that the UUP and DUP are making fools of themselves, (Gerry Kelly, the man who thinks surfing police landrovers is a good plan, thinks you are making fools of yourselves, please think about your life choices), and NONE OF THEM ARE CAPABLE OF SHUTTING UP AND LETTING OTHER PEOPLE TALK. I don't know how Mark Carruthers puts up with it.

As far as I can gather, the Unionist/Loyalist contingent feel the residents are making a fuss over a 'six-minute walk' and should just ignore it. So it's not worth making a fuss over if it happens but it's worth causing substantial disruption to state functions if it doesn't? Either it is no big deal or it isn't. For the love of god, pick one.

And I really hope the new Chief Constable is less naive than he's making out, because so far, every word they've said is code for riot. I'd really like if he'd actually enforce the law, too, but I'm not holding out much hope for that. He's singing the 'The Court of Appeal proved us right' song. So looks like the idiot collectives of Belfast will get to merrily riot and screw up everyone else's lives in the name of human rights.

I want to live somewhere where MY human rights are respected. You know, my freedoms of expression, assembly and association, all of which will be contravened by the police confining me to my home for the benefit of rioters, just in case they might have to actually arrest one of them and we couldn't have that.
09 June 2014 @ 09:30 pm
The TV Licensing Agency rang me back.

Turns out, they had a process. The process crashed and burned. In January, this was brought to their attention and the process was changed.

Do you want to know what the process was?
It went like this:

Person calls to change address.
Person is forced into voice recognition service.
Person tells voice recognition new house number, street and postcode.
Person tells voice recognition new house number, street and postcode again.
Voice recognition system sends person confirmatory text.
Voice recognition has actually failed out.
Recording is sent to ‘overseas’ office.
Recording is listened to, but not understood.
Recording is deleted.
Address is not changed.
Person receives nasty letter six months later.
Person calls up TV Licensing Agency and flips out.
I am more than a little boggled by the fact that they left out a fairly major step when they created this process. Two, actually. Because it’s kind of a dick move to have a foreigner listening for change of address details from the UK. Have they seen the way we spell street names?

Anyhow, in January this was apparently brought to their attention. They changed the system. However, they decided not to bother checking the black hole of calls which had already failed. I found this perturbing. I asked why they thought this was an acceptable thing to do, given that they were in fact leaving me vulnerable to fairly serious legal consequences as a result of their actions? I asked how I was supposed to have found out about this?

I was told I hadn’t been listening to his explanation.


Man, I dislike being told I’m being unreasonable when I ask a perfectly legitimate question. I think if you promise to call back with an explanation of your cock-up, and part of that explanation involves admitting you knew there was a problem in January, the next part should involve why you didn’t do anything about it until I phoned you in June. Since you have a record of the failed calls.

So. There we stand. If you moved house before January 2014, and you used the phone system to change your TV Licence, I suggest checking that they actually did it. And telling them why.
07 June 2014 @ 04:46 pm
Way back in October, when I moved house, I rang the TV Licensing Agency and changed my TV License to the new house. Or rather, I thought I had changed the address. They sent me a text telling me they had, I took their word for it.

See! Confirmation message!Collapse )

Doing it was a bit of a performance, because they won't let you use the time honoured method of saying to an actual person "I have moved house! This is my new address! Here, I will helpfully spell it out in NATO alphabet!" and them saying "Oh that's nice, I have changed your details! Is this correct? You will get a letter during the week, let me know if you don't". No. They have a phone tree. A phone tree with voice recognition several generations older than Siri and my colleagues spent days entertaining themselves with how much Siri can't cope with our various very common accents of English.

And in fact, it turns out, this system will fail to change your address, but merrily tell you it has, leading to you forgetting entirely about your TV Licence in the comfortable knowledge that when they need to reauthorise your direct debit details in 2015 they'll send you a nasty letter. So it was a bit of a surprise to get the patented TV Licensing Nasty Letter saying we were filthy criminals who didn't have a licence.

Patented Nasty LetterCollapse )

As I, like most people in the UK and a significant number of poor souls in the Republic who have had to sit through their nasty threatening advertisements over the years, have a fairly low tolerance for the TV Licensing Agency to begin with this did not make me happy. Operating on a base assumption that the entire population are criminals and without deployment of the word 'please' does not incline people to be charitable towards you when you're in the right, never mind when you're in the wrong.

So I got angry. I got the kind of angry where you phone up, insist on being escalated all the way up to the most senior person on duty, point out that "Saturday" is not an adequate reason for not being able to explain why my address was not changed when it was supposed to be, given that you told me it was, that is what is commonly known as lying, and generally be an unreasonable bitch because no, this is not my problem. This is the TV Licensing Agency's problem and by god, they had better have a really good explanation because I held up my end of the deal and being accused of criminality is just not on, didn't anyone find it odd that the old house had two licenses when it isn't flats, and by the way I've given my address five times to three different people already, WORK IT OUT BY YOURSELF. At this point it emerged that the person who had allegedly fixed at the start had entered it wrong, helpfully. I did not scream. I feel I was very restrained.

I also explained in very very small words that apologies are not cutting it, handwritten apologies written IN BLOOD are not going to cut it, in fact the ritual sacrifice of whoever thought a phone tree was a good idea to the pagan gods might JUST BARELY scratch the surface. AND WOULD IT KILL YOU TO OCCASIONALLY SAY PLEASE? Oh, and if I get another letter that is not confirmation of change of address, I am taking it to the police with the confirmation of address change and the existing letter as evidence of harassment, do we understand each other?"

In fairness, he did seem to grasp that being threatened, lied to and then threatened again is reasonable grounds for losing your temper, that the general attitude of the Agency is not conducive to anyone keeping their temper, and that it's not rocket science to change someone's address. Now to see what happens on Monday, because that's apparently when he's going to phone back to tell me how, exactly, it is that I was sent confirmation of an address change when that did not in fact take place. And how it's never going to happen again.
15 April 2014 @ 10:43 am
I have, on a whim, taken to wearing my perfumes again. Much as I've been wearing make-up again and forcing my poor ankle to deal with proper shoes, and wearing those nice trousers I bought before I mangled myself. I spent 2013 mostly trying to stay upright and getting trampled by my own life. This year is for getting up to speed again.

So I have started putting my perfume on of a morning. And because I am a creature of habit and I like smelling of green things, I have a solid stick of Lush perfume that gets liberally applied on the extremely childish grounds that it smells like the feeling of Electric Picnic and given I daily deal with people who make me consider setting my own hair on fire, this can only be a helpful thing.

It's called The Smell Of Weather Turning and is all made of wood smoke and camomile and grass and it is exactly, exactly, the feeling of sitting in the dark in a damp field in Leitrim at the tail end of summer. Possibly because I bought it on my way to said damp field on the August Bank Holiday weekend and wore it for three days straight. It is glorious and I love it dearly, and I have to order it online, which frustrates me, because I am not organised enough for that kind of thing.

So on Sunday I wandered down and bought Flower's Barrow. Which has similar camomile content, but is much more flowery - geranium and rose and blackcurrant leaves. I don't like rose on me, normally, but the rose in this has disappeared somewhere and left me with geraniums and camomile and the North Coast cliff path on a sunny summer weekend.

Gorse, Cliff Walk, Giant's Causeway
Current Mood: contentcontent
12 March 2014 @ 03:30 pm
I held up my long-delayed end of a bargain on the last Saturday before school started back and took Tori to The Ark in Dublin for their summer circus programme. Which was wonderful.

Getting there, slightly less so, since the Enterprise on a Saturday morning is invariably packed out, and this was no exception. I ended up appropriating the fourth seat on a table which already had three people on it and wedging her on my knee, with many pleas that she try not to kick the gentleman opposite. She's always been a long creature, but seven came in with equal inches in legs.

But we managed, and we entertained ourselves with the fairy story drawing game on my tablet, much to the entertainment of the nice gentleman opposite, comprehensively de-and-re-constructed our bacon bagels for Reasons and I stood firm on the hot chocolate being for the trip home, not down. And cracked and got a taxi over from Connolly, since I couldn't quite face trying to navigate an over-excited seven-year-old when I wasn't completely sure of the directions myself. Taxi driver asked what we were going to do at the Ark and got an endless stream of chatter that boiled down to "Clowns!"

And so to the circus. We collected our tickets and name stickers, and were gently chased out again for half an hour until the rest of the group arrived. So we had a little wander round the farmers market that lives in the entries on a Saturday and Tori asked for apples and the man warned her they were tart and she was undeterred.
"I like sharp things! ... that's very sharp."
"You don't have to eat it if it's too much."
A small girl making lemon-faces every time she bites her apple is one of the funniest things on earth.

The first session was designing and creating their own clown make-up and costume. Little lecture on the Clown Museum and how every clown has their own face, kept in the archive on an egg so no-one else will use it until the clown retires or passes it along. Then they were set upon the dressing up box to try out ideas. They dressed themselves up. Then, because I was sitting on the floor, I was comprehensively bewigged and be-hatted, and only narrowly avoided being be-nosed.

Then the eggs were handed out, and the scissors and glitter and fabric and glue and I was delegated to make a bow-tie and one of the Ark girls started making glasses, and firm instructions were issued to the effect that ONLY the grown-ups were allowed the UHU glue. Apparently there is a story to that. I can make a fair guess.

Clown on EggCollapse )
Silky the Clown

Then onwards to a desperately rushed lunch and an afternoon with the circus. Fossets had joined in to provide photos and videos - the boys who are learning to be horseback acrobats in particular were brilliant. The kids were got up to be ponies in the ring, then they went up to see the clown (comprehensively heckled for his terrible jokes by a four-year-old), and up again to see Lizzie and hear the tale of the night of the red feathers and the magic circus, then up again to make their own shadow puppets.

CritiqueCollapse )
Constructive Criticism

Which was yet more UHU glue, and the most complex shadow pony anyone had made all week. Tori is mildly dangerous when let loose with an entire table of stuff. We ended up trailing out with a string of glitter behind us and a great many balloons. Down the Boardwalk and onto the train and the great amusement of the lady opposite.

EvidenceCollapse )
Clowns and Horses and Bears

And then we took pictures of ourselves reflected in the luggage rack. For Reasons.

ReasonsCollapse )
14 October 2013 @ 10:12 am
Second Monday with the M1 shut down for a security alert. This time joined by a broken down train at Finaghy, just to really snarl up the city.

It took an hour to get from my house to the city centre this morning. When I made it to work the toilets were broken. I am very, very tired of this. The 80s were absolutely no fun the first time round, people.
02 October 2013 @ 10:54 am
We have moved house. We have moved house and nobody has been murdered, despite some extreme provocation.

We have moved from our plumbed-by-a-maniac, Bakelite-fuseboxed 3-bed terrace built about 1870 two streets up the road to a 4 bed terrace house built in 1907 and now owned by an architect who when they bought it did sensible things like redo all the plumbing, strip back the original red tile and pale oak floors, extend the kitchen, install fire doors and put eight sockets in every room. And also left one wall in every four as bare brick, which is one of several decor choices I find mildly boggling in a house with a Queen Anne Revival frontage and Art Nouveau windows but am prepared to live with as a condition of two bathrooms, gas heating, sufficient power points and a usable living space. And Belfast brick is lovely and warms the light, if you're looking into the kitchen in the evening, anything on the counter looks like a Dutch still life painting.

Mostly I love the frontage. The front door is TARDIS blue is recessed deep into the house, the step is tiled in red and cream, there is heavy plasterwork architraving above and at the sides, there is a fancy scooped sweep between the gable and wall, the front window takes a solid third of the wall and is topped in the same Art Nouveau stained glass as the door. So is the back window ground floor, which basically nobody but the woman of the house would even see, as that was the original kitchen. I am a sucker for this kind of thing and the ghost of Charles MacAllister can come build me a house any time.

The windows and the fancy frontage make it a listed building. Hello Belfast, where listings are erratically applied but enforced with great prejudice. This is why the last time I lived in this street we had horrifyingly dangerously loose single-glazing, the owner was too cheap to update it in a way that preserved the stained glass, or in fact kept the house water-tight. Current owner has done all but the front room window the proper way - sandwiching the old glass in the original frames or close replicas and rebalancing the sashes. Apparently the reason the front window wasn't done was that the glazier looked at the long-jammed opening mechanism, muttered something about the parentage of the designer and refused point blank to touch the thing.

The letting agent and I looked at it on Saturday and agreed that that the 'you must open the windows and air out the damn house' section of the lease could be overlooked for that particular window, never mind the condensation. It looks like you were supposed to be able to wind the centre top section of the window open along a long screw, probably to stop people carelessly banging the lovely stained glass about. The handle does not move. It hasn't been painted over, and in fact has clearly been hit with every lubricating agent known to man, but it ain't turning. We're leaving it strictly alone.

I  like this house. I think we can function here. I think bookcases exist which will fit in my room. I think we can probably find Other Housemate's bourbon eventually. I think I'm spending the rest of the week limping and I don't even care.

Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
... 'Welp, that went a bit to shit...'"

In other words, Mike had his second attack of the 'I live in London and fail to be cultural!' this summer and so we went to Othello in the National. And had dinner in the National too. Excellent food, very tolerant staff, and a collection of older ladies bemoaning the queue for the bathrooms with great hilarity and cheery admissions that they were hoping for the male leads to get their shirts off.

Which. Adrian Lester as Othello and Rory Kinnear as Iago. Stunning.

The set design was lovely - everything modular and sliding in and out to give exterior and interior without too much faffing about. They made the logical follow-through of a modern-dress production, which was to use guns instead of swords, with the result that much of the final act featured those of us who hadn't read the play recently enough jumping a mile every five minutes.

I honestly don't like Othello very much, usually, because of the overwhelming idiocy of basically everyone except Emilia. But they played Iago as the complete conniving bastard that I've always read him as (because really, he's a manipulative, calculating, jealous monster who is completely aware of what he's doing, don't try and get me on his side), which made everyone else falling for it somewhat more understandable. Othello remains an idiot, and his being an idiot causes the general cascade of failure, inspiring Amy's commentary above.

I have a terribly low opinion of Othello, even when he's being played by Adrian Lester, sorry. An excellent, magnetic idiot, but sweet god, just TALK TO YOUR WIFE, man.

I did love and adore Lyndsey Marshall's Emilia (I always forget how tiny she is! She has such force of personality that I just didn't notice until I saw her up against Kinnear and Lester). I really really loved the relationship between her and Desdemona - she's aware that her husband is frankly a quite terrible person, but he's manipulating her as much as he is everyone else and she's trying very hard to be good to Desdemona, who is so, so young, and doesn't really know what she's let herself in for.

Spent a certain amount of the last act in a bit of a funk, but it was very much worth going.

This is something that the neighbours hear quite frequently from my living room. My housemates do not respect my life choices at all.

They heard it this morning because OH was being disgusted at me watching Les Miserables at 10am on a Saturday morning. This is what happens when nobody shows the Lions Tour. I watch musicals without shame at high volume and everyone suffers.

Unfortunately the whole thing is somewhat spoiled by Eddie Tremayne's startling resemblance to Niall when we were in university. It's hard enough to take Marius the love-sick puppy seriously without expecting him to make declarations of devotion to Totti and impulsively shave his head.
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