Thursday, 29 October 2009

Pratchett Revisited

There are some books that never leave you. I remember being quite small, and hanging on the words of anyone who would read me Fantastic Mr Fox. And I had and still do have a tendency to get hold of an author and read them dry, Enid Blyton's Famous Five and Secret Seven, and more recently P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster.

In my teens, this was Terry Pratchett all the way. Just before I discovered boys, and Hooper's Hooch, I was lost in a world of wizards, a Death (WHO SPOKE IN CAPITALS) and fantastic yet compelling characters. I am rereading a few of his books at the moment, starting with Guards Guards and Men at Arms (almost finished, so quick and gripping to read) and I might find time for Small Gods before marketing takes over my whole November. I didn't realise at the time, but these stories shaped my thoughts and values, embedding themselves in my creative consciousness. So much so, that rereading them now is like catching up with an old friend, even 15 years later.
Poignant, colloquial and clever, they celebrate the uniqueness of people and places by holding up a wobbly fairground mirror to reality.

And, as the icing on the cake for today's ponderances, my marketing exam is about ... Black & Decker! As it has been pointed out to me, with no preconceptions about the brand, I am forced to use the knowledge I have learned to prepare and get through the test ... blimey!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Lie in Wait

Two lie ins! Count them ... one, two ... this weekend. Pure bliss, with no appointments that couldn't be delayed for a short time. Ambling conversations, trampling cats, pondering over the last ten years and postulating over the next ten. I even went for my first run in a while, hard and now mildly painful, with a couple of sneaky reststops. Need to keep it up before the fattened goose (and the rest) starts the Christmas gluttony season.

Mum and Dad were over for the weekend, staying with Andrew as we were all getting together to meey Carl and Joy New, our distant Australian relatives. Now, let's get this right, my Dad's second cousin, as my Dad's grandmother's (Caroline Rosina Julia New) brother Frederick moved out to Australia. Was a lovely meal, followed by a walk around some of the more traditional sights of London, Westminster, Trafalgar Square and Buck House.

Today met up with Caroline and Nathan (back from Afghanistan and having a well deserved rest) and the South America crew. Picked up some remaining pieces of my fabulous bridesmaids ensemble for Marion and Robin's wedding (less than 3 weeks away now!), and crammed in a couple of vital hours marketing homework before meeting Norris, Fish and others in the Fire Station for a quick drink.

They had clearly had a fun day together, with face paints and fish stickers, strangely made me miss Laura a bit and think about how close Christmas is (when she is briefly back in the UK).

Have been suffering from nostalgiitis a bit, disappearing into thoughful dazes. Need to focus the mind on a Halloween costume for next week.


Thursday, 22 October 2009

Naughty Noughties are like the Sixties

Emma's theory for the day ... though actually I had this theory towards the beginning of the noughties too (though I have no proof, dammit).

The green conscience that has grown up through the nation, growing public action to express concern with the system and anger at companies (a la Nick Griffin on Question Time today). Boho chic, new funky festivals, allotments, all of these things seem to me to point towards the hippy heaven of the Sixties.

So does that mean we have neon flares and disco music to look forward to in the teenies??!?

Liam is brilliantly pointing us to look back over the last decade to everything we have achieved (or not, as the case may be), however this is also a chance to look forward. At the end of this upcoming decade we will be approaching 40, potentially with kids and an even bigger mortgage. My career will be in a different place, we may be living in a different place ... and a whole new ten years of adult life will be behind us.

All the wonderful experiences that await ... just imagine ...

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

More Doctored Photos

My gosh, the Matrix sequels are bad films. So to cheer you up, more photos of Matty's graduation.

I am doing all the work in this pic :)

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Sticky Cartoon Violence

Having arrived home at around 8:30pm, and feeling warm and grateful after receiving some beautiful fragrant lillies from my Fish, we indulged over scampi and chips by watching a recording of when the maker of our favourite webcomic XKCD Randall Munroe went to Mountain View to speak to the Google crew.

It is both expressly complex and scientific, yet simultaneously logic-defyingly minimalist, beautiful and emotive. Tackling the balance between love and cleverness, affection and computer programming, dinosaurs and squirrels, it is a gentle nudge to go out and explore the fascinating questions of life with impunity.

Some favourites:

It seems to belong to the same school as Pixar of celebrating the power of the medium whilst championing the message. And we were not too surprised to find out the maker's first foray into comics was reading Watterson's Calvin & Hobbes, which touched us so much we included one of our favourites (the third panel from the end) in our wedding.

Monday, 19 October 2009


Phew ... another challenging day at work, knitting the woollen threads together. Unwrapping the tangles and darning the gaps where stitches have been dropped to ensure a strong and colourful garment. Dodgy craft analogies aside, I am once again exhausted and drained of all my will to do either Marketing homework (overdue) or writing my book (even more overdue, yet still pleased with my 18,000 word progress so far).

Was joyous to come home and play with the cats, even Max was bounding round the house after the red laser pointer, thought his momentum might take hin through a wall at one point. I have succumbed to an early night in bed in my 'jamas, and they are keeping me company before their daddy comes home to give them supper (as he is at Go club, conquering the world one minstrel at a time).

Just had a lovely chat with my Dad too, there is always something so reassuring about talking to parents when you have had a bad day at work. Unfortunately I think they bore the brunt a bit when I was finding P&G hard, however in my current job I do wonder if the inspiring highs make the pounding lows further to fall .

Moussaka in the oven, sweet purring playful kittens at my side, a jolly Fish soon on his way home to see me, the care of two parents and the unerring support of my direct family and in-laws; I am drained but both lucky and happy.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Sticky Backed Plastic

Spent a relaxing day at Erika's in Battersea, with Theresa, Judy (Dan's Mum) and Gilly (Dan's little sister), where we ate, drank and all worked together on assembling Erika and Dan's wedding invitations. I was awarded the special job of sticking on the fiddly silver words, and at about 5:30 I was pleased to announce that we had about 101 invitations all finished. Now all Erika and Dan have to do is decide who they want to receive them!

Met Charlie in the Hive on the way back, where he was frustrated and wrestling with some writers' block for his upcoming screenplay. For such a creative boy, he is very hard on himself when he is less than 110% productive.

And now I am in bed early, with two gentle and purring tabby cats reminding me that, despite the challenging schedule in store tomorrow, life is sweet, soft and furry, nothing to be scared of and everything to enjoy.

"Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life
Thus though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run."

To His Coy Mistress - Andrew Marvell

Saturday, 17 October 2009

To Infinithree and Beyond!

Okay, so even more great news for my Pixar obsession (recently fueled by the spectacular 'Up', when we went to see a preview with the director and writer Pete Docter present), there is a new trailer out for Toy Story 3!!
Joy ...

Toy ...

Doctor Smith!!

Was filled with whoops, pride, giggles and fun today as we gathered together as a Smithy family to celebrate the graduation of my brother Matthew, who was formally awarded his PhD today in Chichester. And as expected we all said 'Dr Smith' in a silly voice many times, as per the Muppets.

Chichester seems to be a very well-to-do town, with many swanky clothes and knick-knack shops, and also many charity shops which I didn't seem to have any time to frequent. Matty seemed to be in his element, getting many whoops and whistles when the Vice-Chancellor gave him a handshake, and even starting a conversation based on that very reception.
And having woken up at 7am this morning (on a Saturday? Unheard of!) we (Charlie, Alex, Andrew and I) have had a lovely lazy evening this evening in front of X-Factor, with mulled wine and Alex and Charlie escaping from the bad music by playing Scrabble. No really, the music was abysmal, what a shock! The real problem is being aware of the contestants now, so when I see them referred to when I glance at the Metro or sneak a look at the Entertainment pages of the BBC News website, I will have a context to place it in. Argh, I just don't have time to be caring about something as vacuous as X-Factor right now.

And now the boys have put on 8mm ... not my vote, so maybe I will upload some photos from today. Doff thy hat, Dr Smith!

Friday, 16 October 2009

Medium Rare

A long day at work, a couple of Proseccos in the Hive, and now bed in anticipation of Matty's PhD graduation tomorrow. My kingdom for a lie-in! Maybe Sunday ... :)

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Skin and Hair and Cheese

Ok, so what is skin made of?? During a momentary lapse of concentration today at work, I realised I didn't know. And hair ... like hair is made of keratin (I think) ... but where does that feature on the Periodic Table? Below Helium but to the left of Xenon and Neon (the coolest elements, except Kryptonite)?

Ok, so isn't hair (and skin?) made of protein. But what is that? Amino acids (GCSE Chemistry does stay with you somewhat)? Chains of ... well ... something. Is it Carbon?

Or maybe cheese ... I do eat a lot of cheese. Answers on a postcard please.

Poppy is destroying the beanbag, for no particular reason. I am frankly envious of her bursts of energy. Bound and bound and bound ... stop ... look round excitedly ... chase tail. What a life!

Another evening of Marketing, stakeholders (like Buffy the Vampire Slayer), legal contracts and Innocent Smoothies this evening.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Stretch Target

Feeling quite exhausted after my course this evening. You know that horrible feeling when your eyes pull themselves shut irresistibly, and you desperately want to pull together any last ounce of energy possible so your teacher doesn't see your head drop onto the desk like a brick.

It was, once again, fascinating to think about how companies vie for space in a cluttered world of products and services, that attempt to address and predict the population's every last whim. But there must still be gaps in the market, for example now the nights are drawing in, where is the man in fingerless gloves roasting chestnuts by the exit at Brixton tube station??!!

So today was a day of progress and frustration, like many others. The vision of opportunity seen through a net of unprioritisable priorities.

Now once again eating soup, today with Andrew and Charlie, who are contemplating the dream and nightmare that could be buying a massive house for a group of us to invest in. Big rewards, but big challenges. All I can say is that pictures like that on Right Move make my eyes go all dreamy.

Philosophical and Smiling in the Face of Defeat

It is 8 minutes past 1am, and I successfully negotiated the Tube before it shut off to ensure I made it home before the engineers, mice and other beings started their nighttime toil on the tracks.

So, I am not the winner of the 2009 IGD Leading Light Award. I feel reassured, with hindsight conveniently on my side, that Tom was a clear, confident frontrunner all along. And, although I am mildly grumpy and vengeful in defeat, he was both a humble and entertaining winner. In fact, I could rarely have hoped for better company during what can only be called the Oscars of the Food & Grocery Industry, with Kate Silverton on the mike and Alan Dedicoat providing the overly excitable narration to proceedings.

Caught up with some 'old friends', some important new opportunities and some entertaining individuals, which helped to bounce the evening along (as well as the great food, and sumptuous chocolate desert). And, despite the significant time invested, I don't regret applying. After all, how many other development organisations have ever been shortlisted for IGD awards?!?!

So ... onwards and upwards ... a great feeling of support from colleagues and friends ... and a karmic message to spend more time driving Fairtrade forward than dallying with silly awards.

Monday, 12 October 2009

A Whole Brie

Ploughing into work this morning, I allowed myself a slight lie in to mildly offset the ridiculous work I allowed to bother me so much on Friday in France. And yet again, little irritations continue to thwart my progress towards clarity and results.

So, am spending my one free evening this week doing little jobs, washing, cooking, some marketing homework, possibly watching a little Bill Bailey while I eat my soup, "Hey Asda, I ain't gonna be your bitch!"

Norris' Mum's courgette and brie soup recipe is still a blissful discovery, especially with the whole brie that was nestled amongst the cheese collection that followed us back from La Belle France. The pinch of chilli is currently warming my cockles as I psyche myself up to writing a PESTLE analysis of the Innocent company.

Jealous? I think you are!

I find out tomorrow night, having been shortlisted into the last 4, whether I have won the IGD Leading Light Award. I am quite looking forward to an evening of indulgent food and drink. Much scarcer (quite rightly) since entering the Charity sector, but very enjoyable when it does come along.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Les Petites Vacances

Just returned from visiting Robin and Marion in France, along with Charlie, Erika and Dan. We were spoiled rotten, as you will see from the spectacular dinner display shown below (this was after a few courses, some smashing wine and lots of exploring the newly refurbished annex of Geoff and Jacqui's house, a splended gallery with four poster bed and deep red poppy theme).

Robin's house has come on so far now, a true Roman villa. I think my logical mind has completely detached from the fact that he has built the whole thing, so I am not permenantly asking "so how did you do this bit? And this bit?" He and Marion are so excited about the wedding, on the brink of such a fun event. Roll on November!

I was very grumpy on Friday, exhausted from two nights of minimal sleep, along with travel and being at the end of my new blackberry (I have now found the off switch). But this meant that the freedom of Saturday was all the more sweet, watching Charlie climb trees, visiting the china shop, and selecting stinky cheeses to intoxicate Erika and Dan's suitcase on the way home.

The lifestyle out there is so wholesome, creative, relaxed and accepting, I can't help but aspire to its Zenlike peace. I do understand that there is a time and a place for all these things, but surely there is a middle ground between France and where we (and it seems most of our friends) are, where we work, toil and strive for limited recognition and reward. Perhaps it is worth a rethink, a healthy reality check. And, as Monday looms, being confident to push back on anything that simply doesn't feel right.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Yesterdays' Sniffles are Todays' Throaty Cough

After a busy day at work with grating discussions, polite arguments and more priorities than you can shake a stick at, it was initially refreshing to come back with two pieces of fish from Sainsbury's at 8pm. However with a presentation to write for IGD and a head that seems now to be creating mucus liberally in both nose and throat, the refreshing glow swiftly glowered into self-indulgence.

Makeila (photo below), an old family friend from Spalding, is staying with us temporarily while she waits patiently for the postal strike and/or estate agent incompetence to produce the keys to her new place. She and Alex have both now sat through my meandering and (endearingly?) neurotic overview of how to work the cat food timer while we are away this weekend. That, and the guide to Max's various meowy eruptions, is enough to put anybody off looking after my cats ... OUR cats! However we seem to be friends with many proud cat lovers, for which we are more than grateful.

A pleasant weekend with Erika, Dan, Robin and Marion in France lies ahead, but tickets need to be printed, hotels need to be confirmed and Ryanair need to be treated with caution for their Machiavellian attitude to luggage allowances.

We did have a cosy evening in with Natalie and Kirsten last night, very good to see them, especially as we have not seen Natalie for so long. She has been running in Munich and the Somme, and is working even more hours than Andrew. So relaxing to sit back with such familiar faces and talk about friends, divorce, cats, jobs, travel and Mat and Gemma's wedding. Also to be able to enjoy Liam's new album playing along in the background, along with my current Kate Bush, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Juno Soundtrack addiction.

So now I need to get down to it and create this masterpiece of a presentation, both content and atmosphere need to be precisely tuned. Must resist the 'SmartArt' buttons!

Monday, 5 October 2009

My Sickbed Companions!

Max has been snoring ... I am jealous of his clear sinuses.

Nurse Max and Doctor Poppy

A Sniffling Cold

As predicted, I am stuck in bed with a box of disappearing, dissolving tissues and a laptop as I have now succumbed to Charlie's cold. Having survived the weekend in a state of gradual decline (for which I am somewhat grateful), I was not surprised to wake up this morning breathing like Darth Vader.

Surprisingly enough, the morning has been quite productive. Whilst drinking water, and momentarily stopping to divert the relentless snot away from the keyboard, it has been a worthy reminder as to how efficient it is to work from home, even if your head is full of gunge. As much as I have enjoyed working from the office as a sociable change since my home office days of P&G, I now see the downsides of constant distractions, indulgent Pret lunches and regular interminable meetings which always start 10 minutes late.

Kirsten and Natalie are coming round tonight for dinner, a mushroom risotto which I will not sneeze into. No reason to put them off due to the germs, not much effort for me to put a pan on the stove. It is also Norris' 30th birthday today, so I hope she has been successful in securing a dinner date at Pullens in Herne Hill [though secretly it would be great if she was free to come round to ours].

Still feeling in the throws of busyness, post the west Africa trip and pre going to France to see Robin next weekend. Alex has kindly offered to look after the cats, with limited assistance from Andrew, though even fitting in a time to go through it all with them is hard, what with 2 evenings filled with Marketing classes. The IGD Leading Light judging is also this week, which is both exciting and time consuming ... but overall a good opportunity to practise my performance presentation tactics. Random WAV files at the ready.