Billy & Katie

April 30, 2011

Yesterday I was going to a Royal Wedding party. I asked Mattgreen to put the TV on but I couldn't stay to watch it as I had to get ready upstairs.

Mattgreen: You missed the streaker! Right the way down the Mall!
Me: No! You're joking!
Mattgreen: It's certainly a chilly morning...
Me: Ha, ha.

(two minutes passes)

Mattgreen: Oh, you wouldn't believe what's just happened!
Me: What, what!
Mattgreen: A fight's broken out in the car park! Is that one of the bride's cousins... ouch... that must be painful...
Me: Stop it!

Later that evening....

Me: Mattgreen! Please will you get me a glass of water!
Mattgreen: No, get it yourself.
Me: Mattgreeeeeeeeeeeeen! I neeeed you to get it. I bet Kate Middleton doesn't have to get her own glasses of water any more!
Mattgreen: She's got people for that.
Me: I want people! I deserve them! I'm a princess too dammit!
Mattgreen: (shouting after me as I head for the kitchen) Can you bring the wine while you're there?


Meh to AV

April 27, 2011

In case you haven't noticed, next week the UK is having a referendum.

Some people think First Past The Post is unfair, because say the vote was split 30/30/40, the person with 40% would end up winning. Whiners say that because they got less than 50% of the total vote, they aren't the "choice of the people". I'm not convinced, as after all this is how you win most games. You don't have to get more than half the total: you just have to get more than everyone else.

Some people think AV is overly complicated. It is more complicated than FPTP, but I think people who can't understand it are morons. What is so difficult about ranking candidates in the order that you like them? And if you can't manage to get your head round that, just write "1" next to your favourite candidate and you're done.

I'm a lifelong Labour supporter and young Ed is in favour of AV. So you would think that voting Yes to AV would be a no-brainer, right?

Wrong.

I have two main reasons. Firstly is that I think coalitions are complete crap. They weaken both parties policies, they cause internal bickering which gives more power to the opposition, and they always involve the Liberal Democrats. I'm glad Labour told the Lib Dems that they weren't interested in their 'deal' after the last election, because I'm not sure I would've liked what Labour would've become as part of a coalition. I think they're better off on their own. Coalitions involve parties abandoning bits of their policy AFTER you've voted for them. How does that help people put their trust in politics?

Secondly, I bloody hate the Liberal Democrats and Nick Clegg in particular. It all started when they got rid of Charles Kennedy. I remember watching in horror as his own party basically turned against him. He stood up and admitted he'd had a drink problem which he'd been receiving treatment for, they all said, "Oh how very brave," and then stabbed him in the back. "What a bunch of power-hungry fuckers", I thought to myself.

Then there was the last general election. When Clegg did well in the televised debates, I was pleased. I was hoping he'd snatch some of the Tory voters from under Cameron's nose. He seemed like a principled man. Given that our local MP is a complete toad of a Tory and our local Labour party didn't have a hope, I decided it was the lesser evil to vote Lib Dem tactically.

Then, as the coalition unfurled, my hope turned to disgust. The Lib Dems in general and Clegg in particular seemed willing to sacrifice their principles for a taste of power. It had never occurred to me that the Lib Dems would jump into bed with a right-wing party - how could they? Their policies were (and are) in many cases, diametrically opposed. And yet ... strangely, the Lib Dems managed to quietly forget about that in order to get a bite of the cherry. The fact that my tactical vote had basically helped David Cameron into power made me feel sick. I'll never make that mistake again.

Mattgreen, who is actually a Lib Dem voter, said they had to do something to get a chance to show that they could govern. Personally I think sacrificing your principles is too high a price to pay. Tuition fees anyone?

So, back to AV. The Lib Dems have always supported voting reform, and I have some sympathy with this. I don't think the current system is totally unfair, but I do think there are fairer systems, such as proportional representation. On one thing I do I agree with Mr Clegg, and that's that AV is a "miserable little compromise".

I also think that if AV goes through, Clegg will be smarmily delighted at securing his place in history and improving the fates of the Lib Dems forevermore. I don't think he deserves that accolade and I most certainly don't want to help him get it by voting in favour of AV.

In actual fact, the most compelling reason to vote for AV is because the Tories are against it. But that means helping slimy Clegg, and putting up with years of useless Coalitions.

Then again, Ed Miliband is in favour, and that must mean there's something in it for Labour. I think that progressive Labour recognises that voting reform is important because the existing system isn't fair, but equally traditional Labour doesn't want to shoot itself in the foot by changing from a system under which it has been successful. (Article here)

This is an interesting pro-AV article. And this is a well-written article that shows that tactical voting may get even worse under AV - the bit about Australian 'party voting cards' made my heart sink.

In truth, it matters not a jot in my constituency, since our vile MP has the safest seat this side of the Home Counties, and will continue to win under either system with a comfortable majority.

And to finish this long and rambling post, here is Charlie Brooker, brilliantly explaining why both sides are idiots.

So as you can see, I have done loads of reading, and I am still undecided as to what to vote for, or indeed whether to vote at all. Sigh.

Disaster strikes

April 25, 2011

I am making quesadillas in the kitchen.

Me: Oh bugger! I haven't got any sour cream!
Mattgreen: Oh no! Middle-class food crisis!
Me: (seriously) No, I really need it.
Mattgreen: Yeah, it's like insulin to me dear.
Me: I'll have to use crème fraiche instead...
Mattgreen: (rolls eyes)

Olympics 2012

April 20, 2011

Last night I finally applied for my Olympics tickets. I've been umming and ahhing for ages but it is all done. How exciting! I've applied for 23 tickets in six different sports, fingers crossed we get ONE of them.

Isabel is actually quite keen to go and see some of the more crazy stuff. Mattgreen really only wants the fencing. And if I win all the tennis tickets I applied for then we will be bankrupt :D

Somehow I don't think that's going to happen. I read somewhere that the organisers have promised that at least 50% of the available tickets will be sold to the public. That's a bit crap isn't it? All the remaining tickets will go to corporate sponsors etc.

Oh well. Apparently we will know in a month or two whether we've been successful.
Only a few more days to apply so if you haven't done it yet, HURRY UP! (And don't forget me if you happen to have a spare tennis ticket...)

Christmas in April

April 17, 2011

Yesterday was my birthday. It was great.

I had coffee in bed and opened my presents. Virtually all my cards had shoes or cakes on them. Mattgreen managed to completely surprise me, which is always difficult because I'm so nosey, and got me an iPhone.

I've wanted an iPhone since the dawn of time, but as I'm on PAYG due to low usage, they are completely excessively expensive and the cost really can't be justified. So what Mattgreen did was buy two broken iPhones - one with a smashed screen but otherwise new and boxed, and the other water-damaged and unusable apart for the screen. Then he spent hours and hours watching YouTube videos of how to disassemble iPhones, got the electronics guy from work to help him, and somehow dismantled both of them and reassembled them into one lovely new totally functional and working iPhone. It is completely brilliant and I love it. I think I love it even more because of the monumental amount of effort that went into it. My husband is just the best.

After that we went and had breakfast at Cote. I had a mimosa and a pain aux raisins and eggs florentine and a double expresso. It was all fab, and the expression on Izzy's face as she consumed her French toast was one that will remain with me for a long time. She loves her food as much as I do!

Then we went home and had cake. I'd made myself a Simnel cake and bought something called an ice fountain instead of a candle. I had no idea what it did. It did this:



Cool, huh? After that I went to Zumba. Zumba is not usually held on a Saturday but they put it on specially at my gym as it was my birthday*. It was the best Zumba ever, with the best teacher who did all my favourite tracks and there was only 20 people in the class, which is unheard of. Afterwards I had a shower and then came home and we all went for a lovely walk with the dog. The sun shone, Ludo didn't savage anything for a change, and then we went to the pub and drank Italian lager and played Hunters and Gatherers. I won with a score over 150. I accused Mattgreen of having let me win but he assures me this was not the case.

Then we came home and had tuna empanada with a green avocado salad for dinner. Everyone helped with the cooking and it was so good, I gave it a 10. Matt gave it a 9, Izzy gave it a 9.5, making it possibly the best dinner ever. We had brandy snap baskets and stem ginger ice cream and melted Bourneville for pudding.

Then Isabel went to bed and Mattgreen and I opened the nicest bottle of rioja I brought back from Spain and sat in front of the telly and watched two awesome episodes of Firefly (Our Mrs Reynolds and Jaynestown).

Best. Birthday. Ever.


* this part may not be true

Madrid Part II - Go-Car

April 14, 2011

A couple of days before Lee-Anne and I went to Madrid, I had a look on Trip Advisor to see what there was to do, and I noticed that the #7 Best Thing To Do in Madrid was something called GoCar.

Intrigued, I mentioned it to Lee-Anne, who said, "THAT LOOKS AMAZING! LET'S DO IT!" so we booked it.

It is essentially a teeny tiny yellow convertible, with a sat nav that shouts directions and fascinating facts about the places you're driving past, whilst you drive around Madrid. You can stop and park it anywhere and get out and look around. How cool is that?!

On Saturday morning, dear reader, we did it. Only... Go-Car is not really a car. It is a glorified motorcycle. It only has three wheels, no gears and no pedals. We had to wear helmets but trust me, we would have worn them even if they'd been optional!

The entire journey was both terrifying and hysterically funny in equal measures. The first ten minutes was mainly terrifying. Particularly driving up the really quite steep ramp out of the parking garage, and doing a U-turn into traffic driving on the wrong side of the road (for me), and being blinded by the sun because I'd forgotten to put my sunglasses on.

We stopped fairly early so that I could smoke a cigarette to calm down. Just before we set off again, L-A took a picture of me in the car:



We took a few wrong turnings but the car sorted us out, telling us where to go to get back on the tour. It had two different voices (we called them Judy and Juanita as one was English and one Spanish). Juanita saved us when we were lost, Judy told us about what we were going past. We spoke to Juanita a lot at first...

After we'd been going for a little while, Lee-Anne asked me how I was feeling and then snapped a picture of the face I pulled:



As time went by, I got more confident and we started noticing people staring at us. The car was very, VERY loud and drew a lot of attention from passers by. This amused us greatly. Both smiling locals and amused tourists waved and stopped to stare. A few people gawped at us with undisguised horror which made us laugh our heads off. It was gut-wrenchingly funny. I challenged Lee-Anne to take photos of as many people staring as possible and I have combined them into this lovely collage (you can click on it to see it full-size - well worth it!)



It could only have been funnier if we'd been in a whole fleet of them, which apparently does happen sometimes on stag nights and the like. That must be completely bloody brilliant.

We did have various mishaps:

1. I nearly crashed into a parked car when trying to get out of a parking space (the car has no reverse, so Lee-Anne had to leap out and push if we wanted to go backwards) and I missed the other car by about a centimetre! The owner was standing right there so it was bloody lucky that I did!

2. I drove the wrong way up a one-way street. Locals waived their arms and shouted "No, no!" so we quickly realised, and luckily there was nothing coming. Lee-Anne leapt out and started pushing, and meanwhile a passerby whipped out his mobile phone and started videoing the spectacle whilst sniggering. I was red as a beetroot, Lee-Anne was laughing her head off, but thankfully we got out of there unscathed.

3. I had to make a quick decision whether to turn left or right, couldn't remember which side of the road I was meant to be on so just went straight ahead and ended up wedged up against the side of the kerb. Lee-Anne had to get out and push again. Oops!

Here is a hilarious video which demonstrates exactly what it was like inside the car:

video

And here is a hilarious picture Lee-Anne took of us while we were driving along, which pretty much sums it up:



I've got lots of other photos Lee-Anne took of random landmarks as we were driving...



... but to be honest I can't remember what a lot of them are of. It really wasn't that important. It was an experience neither of us will ever forget. They also have them in other cities (San Francisco, Barcelona and some others) so if you get the chance, give it a whirl. The staff at the shop spoke great English and were really helpful too.

I did need a stiff drink afterwards though ;)

Madrid

April 13, 2011

Last weekend I went to Madrid with Lee-Anne for a long weekend. It was partly a pre-birthday celebration, partly to make up for not going on a proper holiday this year and partly just to go for a girly long weekend, to catch up and have fun.

It was hot hot hot: 26-27 degrees most days. I need not have brought my denim jacket, poncho and fleece *sigh* My gym kit also lay idle and unused the entire weekend, despite their being a gym in the hotel. Oh well.

I only brought five pairs of shoes for a four day trip - quite restrained I thought!

We arrived pretty late on the Thursday so retired to bed after a bit of a stroll and a lovely tapas dinner. On Friday we went into the centre of Madrid to explore. The first thing of interest were the human statues in the Plaza Mayor. We saw the usual array of people painted gold, people wearing suits and hats but seemingly missing their heads, etc. but the first one that really caught our eye was Fat Spiderman:



What the hell? He wasn't even doing anything, just standing around, wearing a spiderman suit. Hilarious! But not as funny as the sparkly goat:



Sparkly goat basically was sparkly and jangled its bells and clacked its castanets at you when you gave it money. I was quite scared as you can see!

After that we went shopping and I purchased a gorgeous new red handbag which I adore and a top and some touristy stuff. We went to the Puerta del Sol square and saw more human statues. We wandered down to the Plaza Espana and along to the Royal Palace, which you can see in the background here:



Those beers cost 8 euros each. Oops! It was a lovely spot though!

After that we walked around the Royal Palace and had a wander through the gardens. It was virtually as warm as the hottest day of the year in England. Here I am standing by a fountain in the gardens.



We walked around the palace and inadvertently came across the crypt. We decided to go in and it was amazingly cool (as in temperature) and interesting. There is a painting of Mary in there which dated from 1083! I'd definitely recommend going for a look around if you're in Madrid - it's quite a spiritual place and we both liked it a lot.

On the way back to the metro we popped into the market and had some ice cream and looked at the jamon.



After that we went back to the hotel for a rest but we only made it as far as the bar, where we drank a couple of beers followed by a couple of tintos and only had time for a shower before heading back into town.

That evening we went out with an old friend of mine I've known since I played Magic, Jamie Wakefield. He lives in Madrid with his wife Wendy and whilst we were there, a couple of his friends from home were also visiting (Hilary and Michele). I'd "met" them online in Asheron's Call so it was great to meet them in real life too! We went out for a lovely evening of tapas and meandering. For some reason this was the only picture I took that night:



It is a bull's head on the wall of a bar. I suggested Jamie and Wendy should buy one and take it back to the States as a souvenir of their time in Madrid! Not sure how Customs would feel about that, nor how you'd squeeze it into a suitcase...

Jamie and Wendy answered all our questions about Spanish culture:
* what was the mystery ingredient in my tinto earlier? (sweetened soda water)
* what is going on with Easter in Madrid? (long story)
* what do Spanish people say when they curse? (too obscene to print here; Mattgreen gasped in shock when I told him which should tell you everything you need to know)
* what is the Metro station with all the plants? (Atocha)
* WTF is going on with Fat Spiderman? (OK, even they couldn't answer that one) ;)

They also told us where we could get the best churros in Madrid, so at midnight we went off and indulged:



And lo, it was ridiculously good. We finally got to bed at 1.30 am.

The next morning we were up early again as we had to collect our car at 10am. The story of the car is so amazing I'm going to do a whole other post about it. Suffice to say it was one of the most entertaining elements of our trip.

After that we went to Wendy and Jamie's apartment for a calçotada! This is a special party to celebrate the calçot which is a kind of leek/spring onion type vegetable. You roast them and serve them dipped in a romesco sauce. Wendy had made this herself and it was totally lush. In fact all the food was utterly delicious, including the jamon and the sexiest dessert I've had in a while. We met Stefan and Lena and Stefan's son (whose name escapes me but who was delightful) and enjoyed the stunning views from the terrace over Madrid. Whenever I go to a new place, my favourite thing to do is to hang out doing what local people do (hence why my favourite thing to do in Paris is go to the market or just sit in cafes and people-watch). It was brilliant.

By the time we got home that night we were shattered and couldn't face another early morning, so instead of getting up and going to the Prado (Madrid's art museum, equivalent to the Louvre) or going all the way into town to see Retiro Park, we decided to just potter about the local area. We ended up finding a lovely little park and having a few beers on the way to the airport.



A relaxing ending to a very relaxing little mini-break. Highly, highly recommended!

It's over.

April 05, 2011

Mattgreen and I have unanimously decided: Never again!

Next time I fancy doing a crazy diet, I'm going to cut out just alcohol and sugar.

Basically I worked out fairly quickly that I could still eat meringue, ice cream, Haribo, Opal Fruits, Crème caramel and various other items that can hardly be considered health foods. Giving up wheat was pointless and painful, with no real benefit. Giving up meat is not difficult. Sugar is actually my nemesis.

The best part about it was giving up alcohol. It was hard, but not as hard as I imagined and my desire to drink has subsided massively. I also have a much lower alcohol tolerance and can really only manage a couple of glasses of wine. The diet ended on Friday but I was busy that evening and away at camp on Saturday so I didn't even have a drink until Sunday.

So that's it. In the end I lost 2 lbs. Roll on Madrid!

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