Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Watch it again, Sam

So the great never-before-seen-yet-apparently-must-see movie watching is now in full swing. We tuned in for Casablanca on Sunday afternoon as planned and it was indeed a really great movie that I can't believe I hadn't seen before. Unfortunately we were going out for a family meal straight afterwards and there was a mix-up with pick-up times, so we ended up having to scurry out of the house ten minutes before the end! Oh noes! We watched a few clips online from the end and so we get the gist, but I'd still like to watch it again all the way through.

It was amazing how many references I'd heard elsewhere (including on Sex and the City of all places) suddenly became clear:

"Here's looking at you, kid."

"We'll always have Paris."

"Play it, Sam!" (for some reason people seem to quote that as "Play it again, Sam", but he never actually says "again"… weird)

"Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine."

"Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life."

"I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

Also the song As Time Goes By, which I had no idea was even from Casablanca, never mind being the very song that the famous Sam is being told to play. Go figure!

So yes, Casablanca can join Ferris Bueller's Day Off on the "glad I finally watched it" list. Very good film, highly recommended.

As for my next choice off the list, well, I'm still looking into Netflix, which might determine that for me. See we don't have a PS3 or an Xbox or an iPad or any of those fancy schmancy devices to stream the movies on, so it would just be on our laptops. That's not necessarily a bad thing - my laptop is purpose built as an "entertainment laptop", so the picture and sound quality is pretty good. It's just a bit awkward when you both have to gather around one relatively small screen to watch something. I have heard rumours that it might be possible to connect the laptop to your TV (essentially using it as a second monitor) but our TV is pretty long in the tooth (I mean, it's neither flat screen nor HD - people ask me how I cope on a regular basis) so I'm wary about its abilities. I guess I'll just have to research it a bit more. And also look through that giant bag of tangled cables lurking ominously in the spare room… joy of joys!

In the meantime we also have a few DVDs that the Yorkshireman purchased on a whim to keep us entertained. We watched Premonition last night. It was an interesting plot and I love Sandra Bullock, but those were pretty much the only two good things about it. I am one of the least observant people I know and even I noticed a few of the obvious errors throughout the film. It's far from the worst movie I've ever seen but I wouldn't be rushing to watch it again or anything. Let's hope the others are more successful!

UPDATE: I have just learned that it may be possible to stream Netflix through a Wii! We have a Wii! Excitement!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

It may be winter outside...

Our upcoming East Coast USA trip is approaching quickly off the starboard bow and it's time to put all those "I must get around to..." thoughts about preparations into actual action.

One important aspect to take into account when you're travelling is obviously the weather at your intended destination. You don't want to rock up at the South Pole with only a bikini and a sarong in your suitcase. So bearing in mind there are currently minus temperatures and snow in the cities we're off to visit... yeah, that.

Of course, being me, I don't take these things lightly. Warnings to "wear layers" and "bring shoes with good grip" are not sufficient. It's not so much that I don't like cold weather, but I figure if you possibly can get around outdoors without getting hypothermia or breaking your leg, you might as well try your darndest!

It also doesn't help that I'm petrified of ice (because, you don't understand, I will fall - it is a matter of when, not if) and I figure if I'm going to end up on my ass on the cold, wet ground, I want as much padding as possible for my landing.

And so, I have been spending my Christmas money on clothing that will keep the heat in and the cold out. Oh yes, American winter, I am going to be ready for you!

I have some new items in my wardrobe now. Shall I share them with you?

First up, we have these rather frightening-looking contraptions, which attach to the soles of your shoes and will allegedly stop me slipping on icy surfaces (like, y'know, ice).

I'm no scientist and so I was dubious about how studs made of metal (which is fairly slippery) would grip ice (also slippery) so I had a go at attaching them to my shoes and giving them a test run in the kitchen. Judging from the small dents now in the lino they seem to work pretty well actually. Oops.

Next up, also footwear related, are these gorgeous, delicate little boots.

They're somewhat reminiscent of Moon Boots, oh so popular back in the 70s and 80s (the decades perhaps most renowned for forward-thinking in the world of fashion). Let's face it, they ain't pretty, but then neither are Ugg Boots and yet those have taken over the world. And at least these are waterproof. Bring it, snow!

Then there is my favourite pneumonia-preventing purchase. I'd read advice from locals in our destination cities that when it gets cold there, your coat should be as long as possible, definitely covering your kidneys and preferably down to at least mid-thigh. Never one to do things by halves, I set out to find the longest coat possible... not an easy task when you're a female who is almost 5' 10" - what is mid-thigh length on a "normal" woman barely skims my hips.

But then, there it was!

Essentially what I have bought is a sleeping bag with sleeves. I toyed with names for it: you know, how a blanket with sleeves is a "Slanket", etc... I tried combining "sleeves" and "bag" but it didn't quite give the right impression (*ahem*), so I have instead opted for "Sloat" ("sleeves" and "coat"), which sounds like some kind of unfortunate woodland creature, but according to Google can actually be a type of rock pool or some kind of timber slat. Who knew?

Still: Sloat it is. Sloat and I have already had a test run together down to the supermarket and its only temperature-related disadvantage was to make the uncovered bits of me feel colder by comparison, so I figure if I get a good pair of gloves and wear one of my many scarves, I should be sorted.

I also saw the following in Paperchase's sale the other day and felt compelled to buy it too.

I don't think a cookie-shaped luggage tag will keep me particularly warm, but when I see that weird little moustachioed biscuit coming at me on the baggage carousel, it will make me smile... and also distinguish it from anyone else who bought the same bright pink and purple suitcase from M&S a couple of years ago. That is, unless they also bought the same luggage tag, in which we shall join forces and unleash our combined strange and wonderful powers of randomness upon the world. Be afraid!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Alright already, hand me the remote!

Have you ever had a conversation with someone about movies (or "fillums" as we like to call them around these parts much to the Yorkshireman's amusement), where you mention you haven't seen that particular film and suddenly there are screeching brakes and the band stops playing and everyone is gaping at you with open mouths like you've walked into a party naked and drop-kicked a puppy, all because "you've never seen it?!?!?!" Yeah, that.

It happens to me more often than it probably should. I've never really been one to sit down and watch whatever movie happens to be on TV that night, nor do I go to the cinema very often, so my film knowledge is somewhat lacking… something which was clearly evident when we went to the Queens Film Festival quiz a couple of years ago (*shudder*). I think I got one answer, which was obviously the candyfloss one they threw in to amuse the "real" film buffs who wouldn't deign to watch the likes of Bridget Jones's Diary.

Our merry band of amigos recently tried to make a list of movies we'd never seen but it all went awry when the IMDB list we were using changed in between various viewings… oops. In the end we remembered noting that none of us had seen The Graduate, so we plan to remedy that at our DVD night this weekend.

However when yet another "you've never seen it?!" movie conversation arose at work yesterday, it also reminded me of the Yorkshireman's 2012 list, where he's said he wants to watch 20 new movies this year, and of my own aim to experience new things this year. And so I decided that I would make my own list of these so-called "must see" films and make a point of actually watching them at some point this year. I figure I'll go for ten to start with and aim to watch them in the next six months or so, since no doubt if I came up with a defintive list now, another billion suggestions will come up in conversation over the course of the year anyway.

I'm always a little wary about these "Oh. Em. Gee! You've got to watch it!" movies though. Last year I finally got around to watching Ghost and The Breakfast Club under the same pretext and was pretty underwhelmed. Also I hated Saturday Night Fever when I finally got around to watching that too. I guess when people build something up so much and when you've seen so many parodies of it before you see the actual original, it maybe loses its impact a little.

That said I also recently watched Ferris Bueller's Day Off for the first time ever and genuinely enjoyed it. It has also helped me get little in-jokes in other things, like a Family Guy episode I saw recently where Peter springs Meg and Chris from school in a convertible, or Stewie's race against the clock in the Stewie Griffin The Untold Story movie, or even in 2011's big seasonal all-star movie New Year's Eve where the big boss of the Times Square ball drop is played by Matthew Broderick himself and is called Mr Buellerton. So perhaps I'm being cynical in my sceptism. Time will tell.

Okay so, the list! Well, the first list. Here goes…

  • Annie Hall
  • Casablanca
  • Cocktail
  • Footloose
  • Last Tango in Paris
  • Some Like It Hot
  • The Big Lebowski (wasn't originally going to make the list but the Yorkshireman bought the DVD yesterday since it was on his never-seen list, so hey, two birds, one stone, etc)
  • The Godfather (only the first one for now - not sure if my pacifist little soul will cope well with all the violence!)
  • To Wong Foo Thanks For Everything Julie Newmar
  • Top Gun

It seems that Casablanca is actually on TCM this Sunday afternoon, so that looks like the first one I'll check off my list. For the rest I'll investigate Play and Amazon but I'm also considering this whole Netflix thing - it looks intriguing and could certainly assist me in my quest. After all, if the films suck, why would I want to keep the DVD anyway?

So… what must-watch movies have you somehow survived without seeing?

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

A SAD state of affairs

Comic from the awesome Toothpaste For Dinner

I've mentioned before about how I tend to suffer from the "winter blues". It tends to start around the middle of October when it starts being dark when I get up in the morning and dark by the time I get home. That means it doesn't really start to go away again until the end of February/start of March, which means that for at least four months of the year I'm walking around in a constant state of gloom.

I wouldn't really describe it as depression really. I don't feel like hurting myself or others and I don't spend hours of my day crying or in a catatonic state or anything. It's more of a complete lack of energy and a bit of dissociation between myself and everyone and everything around me.

Getting up in the morning is a real struggle. The strangest tasks, no matter how mundane, seem like a mountain to climb. Just yesterday I sat looking at my clothes for ages after I got out of the shower because it felt like such an effort to even get dressed. It had already taken me an hour to psych myself up enough to actually have the shower in the first place.

I'm also conflicted about spending time with family and friends because, on the one hand, I love them and enjoy spending time with them, but on the other, eurghhhh, effort... I'm irritable and grouchy all of the time because I'm constantly tired, even when I've slept for 12 hours, so I'm probably not great company anyway. People who are indecisive or talk to me when I'm not in the mood to listen to them get a pretty short shrift.

I can cope ok at work because my professional pride (and my need to be a goody-two-shoes) overrides my general apathy but I leave my office most days exhausted and with a tension headache.

I wish I could just snap out of it and constantly find myself thinking, "come on now, catch yourself on", but I just can't find the energy or the will no matter how much sleep I get or how much coffee I drink. All I want to do is sleep and eat. The latter especially has a bad effect, particularly now that I can't exercise because of my hip injury, so this winter I've just been putting on weight and feeling increasingly bad about myself, thereby compounding the original issue and making everything seem worse.

I know I'm not alone in feeling like this. Seasonal Affective Disorder is one of those medical issues that has gotten a lot more attention in recent years. A recent article I read on the BBC news website said that 1 in 5 people feel some kind of energy loss and listlessness during winter months, whilst it's a serious and debilitating problem for as many as 7% of the population. I guess I'm somewhere in the middle.

To those it doesn't affect, I guess it seems like one of those problems that "didn't exist until people started talking about it and now suddenly everyone has it", but I don't think that's at all true. There's a huge taboo in our society to do with mental illness of any description, I believe because it contains such a massive range of problems that it confuses people, and also that asking for help rather than just "getting on with it" flies in the face of our societal values. Keep calm and carry on, etc

I know I'm just as bad. If I read the above as a description of how someone I loved felt on a daily basis for one third of the year I would be demanding they go to their doctor and get sorted out as soon as possible, but yet because it's me, my reaction is, "oh no, it's ok, I'll just muddle on, no need for a fuss!"

As it is, I would go to my GP but other than putting me on anti-depressants (my GP's go-to cure-all treatment), which I don't want, or telling me to buy a SAD lamp, which I can't afford and don't really trust to work effectively anyway, I guess there's not much to be done. Perhaps some time off work and a bit of rest and fun on my upcoming trip to America will help, and by the time I get back the days will be just that little bit longer again anyway.

I figure I can last it out this year but next year if I feel that black cloud of gloom and lethargy creeping above my head again, I think it will be time to finally do something about it. It's difficult to admit you need help but how nice would it be to not feel so damn SAD all the time...

Monday, 16 January 2012

January 2012 - Is it February yet?

January has been a pretty quiet month so far. The Yorkshireman and I have been finalising our plans for our East Coast USA trip in early February, which has been exciting. I love travelling and also spreadsheets, so planning trips is a great pastime for me: you know you've got a serious itinerary and budget going on when you have to employ the use of conditional formatting!

I'm a bit concerned about my lack of mobility due to my ongoing hip injury though. Normally on holidays the Yorkshireman and I like nothing more than to completely knacker ourselves by walking miles and miles each day... after all, walking around is really the best way to see everything and it also helps counteract the beer and cupcake calorie intake. However our itinerary this time doesn't really give us much leeway for meandering slowly on most days.

I'm starting to get around a bit easier now but it's less than 3 weeks til we go and I'm a bit concerned that I won't miraculously heal before then. Or worse, maybe I'll feel ok before I go and then push myself too far in the first couple of days and end up in agony the rest of the trip. I remember on my way to the doctors I could barely walk and every time someone walked too close to me or I had to dodge out of the way of someone trying to walk into me, I winced and tried not to scream. And that was in Belfast… New York sidewalks are just that wee bit busier! So the crutch might be coming with us, I fear! I feel like I should give it a name!

Trip planning aside, not much has been going on the last couple of weeks, which has been a blessing. Work is still a bit of a nightmare because although new boss is lovely, there is no way to instantly transfer my years' of knowledge into his brain, so the learning process is slow and in the meantime I'm still doing the majority of his work as well as my own and my former underling's.

However when the work day is over and I've done the hour-plus commute home on public transport, the evenings are mostly my own. I should probably be doing something more productive than watching Judge Judy and playing The Sims Social on Facebook, but it's nice to have no major commitments or catastrophes to attend to for once, so I'm enjoying the down time. The winter blues have not yet started to shift but at least the days are getting longer again now, so hopefully my mood will lift a little as time goes on.

It has also given me the chance to reflect on the aims and objectives I had this time last year for 2011. I wanted:
  • To try and stop stressing out so much about things I can't actually do anything about (tricky for a worrier like myself)
  • To seize every opportunity to do the things I really want to do (be it to relax with a book in a coffee shop or to visit somewhere new and exciting)
  • To spend quality time with those I love and care about

I have semi-succeeded with the first one, by becoming more assertive when there is something I can do about a problem. Unfortunately by becoming increasingly vocal when something is pissing me off, I have gained a reputation for being difficult and grouchy. I'm not sure if that's better or worse than having a reputation for being constantly anxious, but I feel more empowered and less like a doormat at least. Perhaps this year I could work on tact.

I think I did pretty well with the second one, which has led to an exciting year full of great experiences, but has also led to spending more money than I could really afford on a few occasions. This year I'd like to continue to do things that make me happy but also get a rein on my finances again. I already have a good budget sorted out so the problem now is sticking to it!

I also did pretty well with the third one, mainly as part of the second one. After all, it's all well and good to sit by yourself for a couple of hours in Starbucks reading a book and sipping latt├ęs, but most experiences are made better when they're shared with people you care about. I hope to continue to do that this year.

What else would I like to achieve this year..?
  • I'd like to follow through on ideas I have, even when the thought of actually doing something is scary.
  • I'd like to visit new places (already in hand with Washington DC and Boston in February but maybe somewhere else as well).
  • I'd like to try a new experience.
  • I'd like to try a new food.

I think that should do it. And so, on with 2012 and let's see how well I do!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

December 2011 - Limping into Christmas

Work continued to be hellish at the start of December, the pain and mobility of my hip continued to get worse and my winter blues had well and truly established themselves, so I was feeling a bit low. But there were things to do and people to see, not to mention a Christmassy spirit just waiting for me to get into it already, so there was no time for gloom.

The first weekend of December we had the Yorkshireman's sister and her other half over to visit us. Sadly our little mid-terrace is not built for two fully grown couples to cohabit in, so they stayed at a hotel in the city centre. It was freezing cold and snowed quite a bit, but the city was looking festive with its Christmas lights and the Continental Market outside the City Hall.

We again got to play at being local tourists for the weekend, with some of our endeavours being more successful than others. Hint to others: showcasing your city to visitors on the busiest shopping day on record is not recommended - it took us twenty minutes to get to the front of the queue for a cup of coffee! The Yorkshireman also wrote about our day trip up the coast, which despite my gammy hip impeding me a bit, I really enjoyed. Also the day ended with another great meal in Northern Whig, followed by a couple of hours spent listening to live jazz in the plush surroundings of Bert's Jazz Bar at The Merchant, which I absolutely adore. It was a great weekend, as my credit card bill certainly reflected!

After that weekend, the festive season well and truly took off for us. We did a spot of volunteering at The Giving Tree at Marks and Spencer and tried to resist the urge to play with all the toys ourselves rather than give them to underprivileged children.

We had a (rather early) Christmas dinner in the Kitchen Bar with our friends and family, complete with Secret Santa, which is always fun. Again some gifts were more successful than others but I think the Yorkshireman's present for sister dearest and her present for him (they got each other) won the prizes for the gifts most suited to their recipients, as she ended up with (amongst other things) a mini cupcake maker and a huge box of beer, while he ended up with a Sweep puppet (as in off of Sooty and Co). Sweep was the main star of the show that night, with revellers from other parties insisting on borrowing him for a quick photo.

We also spent some quality time with friends, family and colleagues in various different guises, including evenings spent chatting over a bottle (or four) of wine, exchanging Christmas presents, enjoying even more Christmas dinners, and going to see Arthur Christmas (which, by the way, was freaking awesome and immediately went on the list of my favourite Christmas movies... a distinguished achievement given how many of the things I've seen!).

Unfortunately for me, mixed with this festive joy was quite a bit of pain. As I’ve mentioned already, I’d injured my hip at the gym at the end of November (another piece of advice for you, dear reader: do not attempt to run at 6.30am three days in a row without a sufficient warm up). I was hoping it was just a bit of a pulled muscle or something but the pain kept increasing and my mobility kept decreasing as time went on. By the time I went to my GP about it I could barely move.

Nice locum GP put my poor leg through its paces, including a test which, I kid you not, is called the Flamingo Test (where you stand on one leg). That made me laugh a little. He then prescribed me some strong anti-inflammatories, some lovely opiate painkillers, banned me from the gym for the foreseeable future and sent me off for an x-ray the next morning. Having been suitably radiated they sent me home to wait for a week(!) for my results. Gee thanks!

In the middle of December we had some more visitors, as it was the Yorkshireman’s dad and his other half’s turn to stay. It was lovely to see them again but it was less of a successful weekend than we’d spent a couple of weeks before. It was mostly a timing thing really – they didn’t have much time here and with it being so close to Christmas, there weren’t many events running that weren’t centred around shopping or children. It was also bloody freezing. Plus it didn’t help that I was in agony and on crutches either, which I felt bad about.

We did some good stuff though. We had a pint at White’s Tavern, which they seemed to like, we went to the Ulster Museum and we had an early Sunday dinner at Northern Whig with my family before they went back to the airport. I think they might have enjoyed the Crues game we brought them to a bit more if it had been more of an exciting game and if the temperatures hadn’t been akin to those at the Arctic Circle. There was also a rather disasterous dinner incident, from which I shall give you yet another piece of advice: Wetherspoons on a Saturday night is just a big no unless you are a complete chav and proud of it. But hopefully we didn’t scare them off too much and they’ll come back (for longer next time) when it’s a bit warmer and we live somewhere big enough to offer them a bed!

Before the in-laws departed they suggested that maybe if I couldn’t actually walk or even sit on certain chairs without wincing, getting four buses and sitting on a rickety office chair for 8 hours every day was not a great idea. When I woke up on the Monday morning in agony once again I heeded their advice and called in sick. Bad timing because evidently my new boss was starting that day and there would be no-one else there to show him the ropes. Luckily I’d already arranged for his workstation, computer and phone to be set up for him and had prepared a pretty thorough induction pack, so he could keep himself amused until I returned. Why wouldn’t his manager be training him you ask? Ha! If only things worked quite so straightforwardly in our office!

So for the next week I sat on our big office chair at home in living room, taking my drugs every four hours religiously and watching Christmas movies and Judge Judy all day. It was not quite as relaxing as it sounds and every bit as boring. I was almost itching to get back to work and actually use my brain but in the end I wasn’t quite mended enough to return until after the Christmas holidays.

On Christmas Eve Eve, the Yorkshireman, sister dearest and I went to spend the evening with our lovely and equally insane amigos at one of their houses for Christmas movie night. As is the norm when we all get together, we were too busy chatting, laughing and eating to actually concentrate on the task at hand; we paid attention to most of Elf, marginal attention to Scrooged and didn’t even get around to watching Santa Clause The Movie. It was a great night. Also? White chocolate and cranberry popcorn is so very yummy!

Next up it was Christmas and this year it was time to spend it with my family (we take turns). It was the usual family affair: great presents, good company, fabulous and far-too-plentiful food and drink, rubbish TV and the inevitable bickering over board games. If it hadn’t been for my injury making me grouchy most of the time it would have been perfect but as it was even grumpy old me had a good time.

On Boxing Day the Yorkshireman and I headed home to get showers and dressed appropriately for the Crues game against Cliftonville. I had just gotten into the shower and was leaning forward to turn the cold tap down a bit, when all of a sudden all the strength went out of my sore hip and I went plummeting down in the bath, hitting my face off the side as I went. The Yorkshireman rescued a rather teary me from the bottom of the bath and I finished getting showered and ready to go, nursing my poor jaw and hip simultaneously. By the time the football finished I had a gorgeous red bruise on the bottom of my chin and an ominous looking yellow one on the side of my jaw. I looked like I'd been in a punch-up, which wasn't out of the realms of possibility given the crowd who attend the North Belfast derby match on Boxing Day!

Luckily I had 27th December off work to lick my wounds a bit more but when I finally returned on 28th with my (now purple) bruised jaw, limping and on crutches, I don’t think there was much doubt that my reason for being off had been genuine!

Eventually after a few calls to my GP I established that the x-ray of my hip hadn’t shown up anything big and scary but apparently that doesn’t actually mean nothing is wrong, so I’m now shuffling around on a crutch and continuing to down the drugs while I wait for an appointment with an orthopaedic specialist and likely also some physio. Fun times. At least I’m down from two crutches to one now and I only have a hint of a limp left, so it seems time is indeed a healer. Well, that and the drugs!

And so after a few days back at work where I finally got to meet my new boss and deal with about a billion problems that had arisen during my absence, it was thankfully time for another mini break over New Year’s.

The Yorkshireman and I have always spent New Year’s Eve with family, be it his, mine or the other side of mine. We also don’t really get very excited about New Year’s Eve, so this year we decided to spend a quiet one in. We had a nice dinner of pie followed by pie (judge ye not til you’ve tried a pie double header!) and then sat down for the annual tradition of Jools Holland’s Hootenanny. We both happened to be on Facebook, as did one of our lovely-yet-insane amigos and shortly afterwards sister dearest. Before we knew it were having some kind of impromptu online New Year’s Eve party, discussing the virtues of pie and snarking about the acts on TV. It was weirdly an awesome New Year’s Eve, and not only because I could wear my pyjamas (although it certainly helped).

With 2012 officially welcomed in, I sent myself to bed, in denial about the sudden arrival of the month of gloom and doom that is January. Apart from darkness, coldness and a lack of money, what would it have in store for me this year..?

November 2011 - Here, there and everywhere

Work was starting to get a bit tricky at the start of November. My lovely-and-very-competent underling had moved on to pastures new in October and was not (still has not been) replaced, so I had half of her work to do as well as my own (the other half was unceremoniously dumped on another equally-competent-but-not-quite-so-willing underling in the office). There were also some personality clashes causing a bit of tension in the office at the same time, which I was thankfully not directly involved in, but we were all still feeling the strain. This combined with my seasonal winter blues setting in bang on time, I had little energy to do anything other than go home and sleep, but I soldiered on with the usual routine of work, family commitments, gym and the occasional social event.

In the middle of November, the whole family flew over to Rochdale, where my aunt was getting married. I'd written about her hen party back in October. Since the bride and groom were a bit older and had been down this road before, the wedding celebrations were a pretty low-key affair, but that was nice. Also it was good to see everyone again.

Some parts of the trip were more successful than others: I didn't think the hour-long bus ride to the Trafford Centre on the day after the wedding was at all worthwhile (Meadowhall retains its number one position as my favourite gigantic shopping mall) but on the other hand we all had an absolute ball at a Greek night reception that night. I've never been to Greece before and Belfast isn't really known for its Greek cuisine, so it was all new to me. I got to smash a plate (pleasantly violent) and do some Zorba-esque dancing. Good fun! The Yorkshireman's recollection of events is on his blog here.

When we returned to Belfast the pressure was on to help out with a fundraising event for our beloved Crusaders football club. The powers that be had decided that we should run a casino night and even thought I asserted from the start that I knew nothing about casinos and didn't really "do" the whole gambling thing, the Yorkshireman and I were ready and willing to assist with the ticket sales, room decorating, etc. In the end the night was only a vague success and in my eyes totally not worth the effort that went into it, but then I hadn't had high hopes to start with anyway. Local football is a very insular little group and it's tricky to get anyone not already involved with the club to come to events, so you end up targeting the same people over and over again. Oh well, it was a learning experience if nothing else.

Around the same time it was my and the Yorkshireman's second wedding anniversary. Two years ago we had been exchanging rings and vows in the shortest wedding ceremony in history at Carrickfergus Castle before cringing at the whole speeches and first dance requirement at the Clarion Hotel. One year ago we had been in New York, sightseeing before enjoying Promises Promises on Broadway and eating overpriced cheese and desserts in a revolving restaurant in Times Square.

This year we celebrated a couple of days early by having a well-earned day off work, a picnic at Belfast Zoo and then a lovely meal at Northern Whig in the evening. On the day itself we each went to work and then spent the evening getting drenched selling raffle tickets in the dark at a poorly-attended Crues match. I know which day I preferred. Next year we're doing something indoors and preferably with alcohol. But still, two years on and we haven't killed or seriously maimed each other yet. Love is...

A couple of days after the anniversary soaking, I had to go on a Microsoft Project training course at work. I like computers but the tutor was a really strange little man who wasn't very good at teaching, so the end result was that I still know nothing about Project and also shudder every time it's mentioned. Shame I have to actually use it as part of my job now. Eeek! What was also a bit of a bombshell was that I returned from the course of doom to find out that my line manager was leaving... effective immediately! Say what?! So from that point on I had three people's jobs to do. Work quickly became a bit of a nightmare and I started leaving each evening feeling like I had hurtled through the day like it was one of the games on Wipeout.

At the end of November there was some light relief as we went to a Belfast Giants ice hockey game at the Odyssey Arena. The Yorkshireman, sister dearest and I all love ice hockey but we don't get to go watch it quite as often as we'd like. It was a good game and we left feeling giddy... and also slightly envious of Braehead Clan's fans' light-up wigs. I need to get me one of those!

I also had to undertake a grand scheme of subterfuge that night in order to procure some Giants merchandise as part of the Yorkshireman's Christmas present. They didn't have the t-shirt he wanted so, knowing we would be facing average temperatures of -10°C on our upcoming trip to America, I opted for a fleecy scarf instead. Between the longggggg time it took to be served and the not-so-subtle concealment of the rolled up scarf in my relatively small handbag, I'm not sure how I escaped detection but somehow we made it. Yay!

The last day of November was strike day. I've already written about the reasons I decided to strike and any argument from private sector workers I came across (namely a stroppy teenagery reaction akin to "but it's not fairrrrrrrr!") did not dissuade me. And actually some private sector workers I did come across (like the Yorkshireman) were actually in favour of the strikes anyway.

Public transport wasn't running that day, so I set off walking into town to attend the rally at City Hall. The only problem was that I had injured my hip the day before at the gym and it was getting increasingly more painful the more I walked on it. However I had principles to uphold and so I put my head down and walked through the pain.

It was a bright but cold day as I stood literally shoulder to shoulder with the Yorkshireman, my father and my step-mother in the thousands-strong crowd outside the City Hall. The rally was, well, rallying, and I felt it had been worthwhile to lose a day's pay. At the time of writing negotiations continue but the majority of unions are still unhappy with the government's latest offer and it looks likely there may be further days of industrial action planned if some progress is not made soon. I figure, hey, in for a penny, in for a pound, but we'll see what happens.

By the end of November, strikes aside, I was well into my Christmas shopping and looking forward to getting the decorations up as soon as physically possible in December. We also had a whole lot of plans for the festive period, so it was time to get planning. And spending. Spending a whole lot...

Absence of proof is not proof of absence

Title quote attributed to William Cowper.

Sorry it's been such a very long time since I last wrote anything. A combination of a busy social calendar, an injury that's as irritating as it painful, and my usual winter blues, and I just haven't had the time or the energy. But now all that whole Christmas thing is over with for another year, this social butterfly is crawling back into her cocoon for a few weeks to build up her strength (and bank balance) before our big East Coast USA trip in early February.

This of course means having the time to write again. I won't bore you with a huge opus of an update but I'm just going to write a quite summary of all the main highlights of each of the last few months, one month per post (so as to prevent the whole TL;DR thing). You'll have to excuse my lack of links to places and things - time and energy are still in short supply. Plus y'all know how to use Google anyway.

Now, let me see, where did I leave off? Ah yes, it was the beginning of November. I'd been deciding whether or not to strike and also starting to panic about the preparations for Christmas...

*wibbly flashback like off of Wayne's World*