Monday, April 30, 2007

Pink party

It was extremely pink. We had pink balloons, pink bubbles, pink wine, pink gin, beer (not pink), pink flowers, Italian food (not pink), and Lara in a red dress (with skulls on it). We also had loads of people, including the neighbours, who sent over a bottle of champagne as well!

We didn't make it out of bed until around 5pm (I know, missed the best part of the day, but the weather's been so fab I'm trusting to next weekend); Lara and Armand went off to the Parador for some food, and I opened a Grolsch - did I mention 40 bottles for £20?! So exciting! - and started baking. I realised after I'd started that I didn't have anything useful like a measuring cup or a fan-assisted oven, so I hope it's okay... We're cutting it this afternoon, with pink bubbles (and we still have a bottle of pink gin left), so it probably doesn't matter if it's a complete disaster. We're off pub quizzing this evening again; we may be really bad at giving the correct answers, but we easily have the best team names.

I have my Invest NI interview tomorrow morning, so I should probably go to bed early and sober, but if I have a berocca before bed and large pot of strong coffee first thing in the morning it might have the same effect. Speaking of which I should go and do some research about needs and constraints of SMEs to competitiveness.

Friday, April 27, 2007

We Love Lucy's Dad

Which may explain why I had disturbing dreams about Larry Hagman last night. I can hear all the pop culture vultures screaming at me now. This is what happens when you don't have tv as a child. I had to go and look him up - I should have been dreaming of Desi Arnaz.

Lara brought Lucy home last night to have a look at the boiler. She couldn't work out which bit was the bleeding valve (quite funny, because I missed all this through giving blood at the time - must get the photo of my pelican up! It's very ... special), and what the restart button was, so she called her Dad. He duly came around, and not only cajoled the boiler into working, he also fixed the light switch, so we can now brush our teeth in the light! It's just like magic. The whole hot water thing has been really overwhelming. I stayed up late last night luxuriating in the (hot) bath, maybe that's what gave me strange visions, that and the bottle of wine I bought in an advance celebration of the successful job interview. When I actually get a first pay packet I'm going to splash out on real champagne and maybe some Wither Hills (somewhere around the £10 mark) ...

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Dirty girl

So the oil duly arrived on Wednesday morning. Doubting Thomas that I am, I took the whole thing with a crystal of salt, and refused to become excited. Discouragingly this turned out to be the correct response, because although Lara turned the heating on, and held her hand under the water emanating from the "hot" tap for lengthy periods of time, it was manifestly (to me, not her, her hand was so cold she couldn't feel it) not warm. This means that it's now a week since I've fully immersed my body in water. Ewwww. I've been trying to psych myself up for a cold bath in the evening, but the main problem has been the change in the weather. I suppose I could mull some wine to go with it, instead of a chilled beer...

We still can't use the shower at the moment either, though this isn't such a problem with no hot water; but the latest development in bathroom has been the death of the light switch. It wasn't even a switch to start with, so that may have been the problem. It's of the string genus (kind of the pull chain of the lighting world), which was never properly attached to the ceiling in the first place. It hasn't actually fallen off or anything, but nothing happens when you pull it. I'm thinking the flat really needs a candle chandalier, a weeping wraith in white, and a couple of suits of armour on the stairs. Oh, and wolfhound or two.

After spending vast quantities of Wednesday evening going outside to push the red button (it would have been fun if the boiler had blown up, I mean it is a red button), instead of working on questions for my behavioural-based interview this morning, we still had no hot water. We made a pact to go and ask one of the neighbours if they could help us this evening. The BFG has introduced himself to both of them, so we're tossing up whether to ask the ones on the right of the broken hoe, or the ones on the left (no breakages there). It'll probably end up whoever answers the door. We are desperate at this stage.

Plans for the weekend include: pink and black balloons, pink bubbles, Italian for supper (and possibly the rest of the week, depending on how many people turn up), baking the coffee chocolate cake that just about killed Grant and made Mr. Tumnus bounce off the walls all morning (he doesn't drink coffee), pink gin, partying until dawn on Sunday, and beer for breakfast; it's Lara's engagement/birthday weekend. Bring it on...


Oh dear - the technical writing people have just offered me a job! You would think this would be a good thing, but being the contrary creature that I am, I really really want the webby job, and I don't have an interview with them until Tuesday. Apparently I should accept this job before they offer it to someone else... Argh! This is even worse than the shower situation (I'm over that, the weather's improved, and I'm sure I can take a cold bath with current external temperatures)!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Our kitchen needs deeper sinks

No really, it does. Implemets required for washing your hair in the sink:

  • Tennant’s

  • water

  • a plug

  • a bendy neck

  • shampoo

  • conditioner (I’m not wasting beer on conditioning my hair)

  • a towel

  • closed curtains

  • a kettle

  • 2 large pots

  • electricity

(You may substitute hot water from out of the tap for the last three, but not if the fuel delivery man doesn’t ring your doorbell, or phone you when he arrives at 8am on Saturday morning, when he hasn’t confirmed that he’ll be turning up in the first place.) I spent a large portion of my Sunday (my Sunday, mark) boiling water in the kettle and our larger pots, and dunking my head in the sink. I thought washing my hair in the bath was a nuisance, but actually, I’ve found something worse. I’m sure it can’t be terribly hygenic either, so I scrubbed the aforementioned sink and pots afterwards with a combination of Cif and elbowgrease. I felt rather like some second world housewife (ignoring the fact that I have no idea who belongs in the second world, that I didn’t have to wash small children in the sink too, and that my cleaning binge is over). I contrasted my hair care unfavourably with JLo, who apparently demands bottles of Evian to wash hers. However, I should be back to the bath next time, because I don’t think the shower is looking any better after the drain buster. This is in spite of us leaving it in there about 48 hours, and my persistence in pouring 'copious amounts' of boiling water on top of it afterwards. The water level still looks suspiciously high, and takes the same amount of time to reach the top of the plug hole. I think we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt, and try another bottle of drain buster, and then hassle Luke-the-landlord some more. Or, we could leave it until Rusty (the clown) gets back – though I’m not quite sure how we’ll know this... Still, he might be able to get us a plumber!

In unrelated romantic news

Lara and Armand got engaged on Friday night!! It was very exciting, especially because she’d been texting me all evening in a rather discontented fashion... In fact the one before she called me mentioned the imminent possibility of their first fight. Nothing like a proposal to smooth things over! Hahahahha, she’s going to be a Bessbrook housewife! So pleased for her though; in fact so pleased I had to buy her this:Isn't she awful?

Friday, April 20, 2007

And now the hot water

It just gets better! The day before yesterday I had a cold bath. I mean, I know I've been going on about the amazing weather, but no-one wants to go to bed shivering because the oil which heats the water has run out, and you've been splashing around like an agitated aardvark in a desperate attempt to keep warm. So now today I feel kind of grubby. I'm sure I've put on twice as much deoderant as usual, and I'm dying to wash my hair.

Yesterday I ordered more oil on line, and Lara left her house key under the daffodils for Luke-the-landlord (who, apparently, doesn't have his own). The whole plumber thing seems to have disappeared into thin air; Luke turned up, with a coathanger which he pulled to pieces and left in the bath, and poked around in the drain, finding part of a broken shampoo lid, and a razor cover, which he left in the hand basin. He called Lara, and told her not to shave in the shower, and to buy some drain cleaner. End of problem. Well, if the ceiling falls in, I don't think either of us are going to care that much.

Ooh, that sounds bitter. It's Friday, Dr. Who is on tomorrow, and I really like Martha.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The shower

*sigh* The shower. I shall begin, however, with the lavatory (I believe this is the correct way to refer to it, according to the royal family via BBC's breakfast show; something about Kate Middleton's mother not being genteel enough). This (the lavatory) has been leaking – fortunately only from the cistern – into the kitchen, just inside the back door, since I arrived. I've just about killed myself recycling bottles on numerous occasions. We mentioned it to Luke-the-landlord, who said, "Oh yeah, if you kind of push the pipe and the seat bit back together it should stop." Mmm... helpful, but not exactly a long term solution.

The shower was never that great to start with – it refused to drain properly, and I'd have to turn it off half way through washing my hair if I didn't want to flood the bathroom – but the other day (Sunday the 8th) when Lara was having a shower, and I was downstairs I heard a strange noise. It sounded a bit like the leaking gutter, but inside. I got up to investigate, and was aghast to see water cascading, Niagara Falls-like, through the light fittings (electricity frightens me), onto the bench, the oven and the floor. The ceiling also appeared to be bulging beneath the weight of yet more water. Eeeeeep... We've been far too scared to shower since. It was Lara's turn to make official phone calls (I've dealt with the tv licencing people, and the electricity people), so she called Luke-the-landlord on Monday, who promised to get someone onto it. Someone was supposed to turn up on Friday, but failed to materialise. We found out yesterday that Luke went off on holiday, and texted(!) the mysterious someone to come around to the flat.

I have washed my hair in the bath, a thing I hope never to repeat; but am mentally preparing myself for again, because the someone didn't turn up (again) last night either. I must quote a poem my Grandma taught me here:

As I was going up the stair
I met a man who wan't there.
He wasn't there again today,
Oh how I wish he'd go away.

William Hughes Mearns. Our case is slightly back to front – of course!

I'm wondering if it's worth using the shower to collapse the ceiling to motivate Luke into action, or if that will mean we can't use the kitchen either...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Pub Quiz!

Lara and I went to a pub quiz last night at the Errigle. Such a great start to the week. I had been there about a month ago with the BFG and heard the quiz master asking such things as "Who is the God of mischief and trickery in Norse mythology?" and "If you dial 999 or 112 you can obtain one of six emergency services: Fire, Police, Ambulance and Coastguard. Name either of the other two." Knowing perfectly well that I wouldn't be able to answer correctly more than about an eighth of the questions, I decided that I really needed to go there to drink beer and make up silly replies. Accordingly I had a bath at 9pm - have I mentioned the problems we're having with our shower? - and we cruised down to the pub at about 9:45pm, fifteen minutes before the quiz was due to start. All the quizes here start really late.

We named ourselves the Random Fruit Salad. The process went along the lines of:

"Swede and Kiwi sounds really bad."
"Yeah, hahha, how about Fruit Salad?"
"Oh, I know, Random Fruit Salad!"

There were about ten rounds of eight questions, including general knowledge, music (x2), tv and film, and a picture round, with each correct answer worth two points each. We really did astonishingly badly in most of the rounds - music being the worst, where I don't think we got a single correct answer in either round. (It was all 80s pop, and Lara's into metal. I'm going to suggest name the opera for next week.) However, that didn't stop us gaining twelve points per round(!); I'm not sure if it was our amusing answers, or if the quiz master felt sorry for us, but I like the rules in this country!

Needless to say we didn't win - in spite of our optimism and strong belief in the accuracy of our answers (surely Saxon played at Channel 5's opening ten years ago? They've been around long enough); but Lara did make us an origami swan mascot (pictures soon) (which I gave fangs), and she showed me how to make a tinfoil cake tin for the birthday cake I'm planning to make her next week. (I think I'll just lash out and buy a proper one...) All this led to us agreeing to join forces with the lads at the table next to us. Being Irish they were actually quite good, so we have even higher hopes (mainly of sabotage and beer) for next Monday.

Breaking News

I've just been phoned by Invest Northern Ireland, who are going to shortlist me(!), in spite of my answering one of the selection criteria completely incorrectly. "Demonstrate a practical knowledge of the needs and constraints to competitiveness of SMEs." Hideous question anyway, but I took SME to be subject matter expert, and they meant small to medium enterprise; however, because they didn't spell it out anywhere, they're going to ignore it in my case - wohoo!

I love Speight's

The Great Beer Delivery

Almost makes me wish I was in Dunedin, just to go on the cruise! How can you not love a beer that will take a pub half way around the world for mates without Speight's? I must tell them that I found Speight's in Belfast for £1.59 per stubbie. (Stubbies look so small and cute here, compared to the typical 500ml can. It's almost like Kiwis are just little drinkers...)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Mariella and the public transport system

I don't even really know where to start this... Perhaps on Friday the 30th March, when I began at Ulster Uni? Orla (the recruitment agent), obviously detecting an unworldliness about me, had, in her efficient way, phoned up and found out when and where the bus left from and how much it would cost, so all I had to do was make it there by 8:15am. After speaking to her on Thursday afternoon, I decided that it would be as well to go and find the bus stop before Friday morning (when I was likely still to be asleep). Grand so. But could I find my way out of town towards the university? Could I hell! (As I mentioned earlier.)

Then on Monday morning I caught the bus in to Uni, getting a return trip. There were a whole three of us, both on the bus and waiting to catch it home at 5pm. So we waited, and waited, and waited... Eventually the woman got bored, and phoned up Ulsterbus, who told her that there wasn't any service this week. Gargh. So there I was, in Jordanstown for the second time in my life, about £3 in the bank, and with neither the price of a pint nor the faintest idea how to get home. The woman who called Ulsterbus proceeded to call a taxi, and the lad who was also waiting got up and strode off into the sunlight. With my day and a bit's experience I calculated that I might walk home, but I'd arrive at the time I should be starting work, so I sauntered off in search of a local (person, not pub). I found a lovely old lady walking her elderly retriever, who told me that there was a train station in the opposite direction from that which I had been walking (well, natch), or a bus stop down the road to the right, but she didn't know the timetable at all. I plumped for the train (harder to miss), and located it about 20 minutes later. What's more, it wasn't on Easter/no student time either. Not knowing where I wanted to get off, I asked the ticket man, who suggested Belfast Central. This sounded all good, except in my wanderings around town I hadn't ever come across any trains... I got off successfully (this isn't as silly as it sounds), and negotiated my way out - the station isn't that big, but it compares to small Kiwi airports I've been in. Fortunately I hadn't thrown my ticket away, because I needed it to get out. Good to know. Having escaped I realised that I had no idea where I was in town. At all at all. However, there was a free (if you had kept your ticket) bus into town. I felt so stupid three minutes later when it deposited me outside City Hall. (Not that this is to say I recognised any of the streets we passed through.) I did manage to find Ormeau Rd. from the bus stop, and arrived home about twelve hours after I had left.

So Tuesday morning I was foolishly listening to David Bowie (Let's Dance, seven minute version) as I walked in to catch the bus, completely missed Fitzroy Street, and had to double back. I'm pretty sure that had the bus been there I would have caught it, but it wasn't and I didn't. My first thought was to call Sarah at the Uni to let her know I would be running late, but, of course, I didn't have any credit on my phone. Eeeep - this was getting close to travel money! She was very understanding when I called, as I power-walked into town, looking for the Belfast Central station. I realised that it would be stupid to endeavour to find it myself, so I went into a nearby Post Office, and asked the woman working there. She directed me to the Europa, which even I knew wasn't correct (this being where I first rolled up). Still, they sold me a return for Jordanstown, but told me the next train was at 9:30am. They took pity on my shock, and gave me instructions for getting to Belfast Central and changing trains there. This was surprisingly easy, and is no doubt the cause of half my problems since. (Sorry, I'm reading Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White at the moment, and I absorb styles like an aubergine. Be thankful it's not Dickens again...) I just got out of the first one, walked about three paces and got into the next. Coming home I got out at Belfast Central, having a) thought that I might try catching it from there the next morning, and b) looked it up on a map.

The rest of the week I amused myself by catching and alighting from the train at different stations, working out times and costs - the train costing £3.60 (from all the stations nearby) as opposed to the bus's £2.80 had thrown my fiscal calculations out considerably.

On Wednesday morning this week I was convinced I had the trains sorted out. I made it to Botanic in plenty of time. I got off at Central. I changed platforms (mistakenly, as it turned out). I put on Portishead's Dummy (very apt, as it turned out). I started reading The Woman in White. I heard the loudspeaker say something about the Portadown train, and I panicked and leapt onto it. I sat down, and looked at the revolving writing which lists the stations the train stops at. I leapt back up and tried to get off the train, but in vain. I remained on the train all the way back to Botanic, where I caught the next train back to Central. I called Sarah to explain that I was going to be late.

Yesterday I was very careful about trains and times, and I double checked anything before I got into it. So far so good. I got as far as Jordanstown, and literally couldn't get off the train. You wouldn't believe it. After struggling unsuccessfully with two doors, I ran into the next carriage and kind of squawked at the two passengers there. One of them seemed to understand me, and jumped up to help me open the door, but it was too late, and the train had left the station. I nurtured a hope to begin with that I might be able to walk back, but it's miles between Jordanstown and Greenisland (which is by no means an island). When we arrived at said non-island the man helping me still couldn't open the door (which is managed by sticking your head and arm out the window, and twisting the handle from the other side), but the guard saw us, and came to our aid. He was most apologetic about my plight, and apologised about four times, but frankly I thought it hilarious. The next train was in about five minutes, so I phoned Sarah again. She's becoming used to the calls.

Today everything was fine, but I wanted to call Sarah to tell her I was going to be on time. I'm become blasé - just in time to start catching the bus again...

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Happy whatever...

I can't believe I've got to my advanced age and I'm still unsure on Easter protocols. Does one say "Happy Easter", given Good Friday and all? Maybe I should say "Happy seasonal greetings"? Or "Wohoo, days off!" I'm not sure. I'm not going to eat meat on Friday, but that's no change from the usual - with the £3 I am unable to get out of the bank I've been living in a fairly vegetarian fashion for weeks now; and steak is down the list after alcohol and Stilton. I do like this university thing of Friday, Monday and Tuesday off, though as a temp I probably won't get paid for not working. Ah well, I shall laze about in the glorious weather, reading trashy novels (I don't feel guilty doing this, after reading We will not cease) and admiring the daffodils.

The internet we were have been stealing from our neighbours has stopped altogether, much to our combined horror and frustration. In fact we've actually discussed paying(!) for it, we miss it so much. Lara's been digging in Cavan, and hasn't checked her e-mail for over a week now. How on earth did we manage in the old days?

I won't be updating for a bit. I have a job application (I'm sure these things are invented by lazy HR people, who can't be bothered reading cvs. Grrr. I am sick of describing my level of experience doing x, y, and z, and giving detailed examples. If I didn't think this job looked interesting there's no way I'd be struggling through this tripe) that's due in today, which still needs refining; and another one to work on - not to mention the filing which is part of my real job. My cousin Alba suggested a flame thrower yesterday. She is a genius.

I got a text from the BFG last night to say that he's got a job working in the greengrocers down Ormeau Rd., so if he manages to blag as much fruit and veg as he did random items from the Action Cancer place I'm not going to get scurvy in the near future.

I was going to say that the circumstances have left me bloody but unbowed, but after checking the poem, I think that's a little over the top. I'm sure I've whinged at least a couple of times about not being able to afford a drink...

Monday, April 02, 2007


I've had my very first taste of it, on Saturday night; and I liked it (well, there's a surprise)! I think the surprise is in how long it took me to get around to it. I was reading the article on Wikipedia, and discovered to my amusement that people usually add three to five parts water to it. Needless to say I was having none of that nonsense. I did, however, have it cut with a bit of sugar (flamed in the spoon, it was very exciting), most of which, fortunately, ended up in the bottom of the glass.

"After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, which is the most horrible thing in the world." (Oscar Wilde)

Natch, I couldn't afford that many!

The weather on Sunday was amazing, and I spent most of it walking through various parks - on a full stomach of greasy (but oh so good morning-after) cheese burger, with an excellent relish. There's something very satisfying about large amounts of sun and daffodils on a Sunday afternoon. We also went second hand clothes shopping, and I've found a new favourite place: The Rusty Zip. Terrible name, great clothes - though none that I actually wanted to buy... just laugh at.

Second day at work, and I still haven't really sorted anything out. I think I'm understanding the bus though. It's great. Walk to Queen's. Get on. The next time it stops: get off. It's the kind of system that suits people like me. And it's the same on the way back, though you can alight in town should you choose. I don't, I'd never get back out again. In spite of living here just under a couple of months I got lost trying to find Queen's from town the other day. It's just so damn symmetrical. I miss Wellington's randomness. No wonder I can't stand Christchurch!

I've checked my bank balance, and called the recruitment agency, and I have £23 until Friday (pay (wohoo!!) is a week in arrears). I've been making a list of necessities - it goes: bus tickets, bread, milk, alcohol, Stilton. Bring it on!