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The Cult of the Reading Chicken

I have just discovered that my iPhone works as a router with internet tethering to my laptop. I have no idea how much extra they'll bill me for this service but knowing that I'm already facing phone charge armeggdon for happily tweeting, uploading, phoning and texting all the way through my recent cross Europe adventure on rail and ferry, I figure what the hell right? I can't think of a better of marking 'what the hell' than finally getting around to updating my journal so here we are.

Lola was a year old last week. 12 months! My god they have flown. She's currently out and about terrorising other boaters, the wild life and joggers. She's getting quite the reputation amongst the community and I still adore her and am quite sure she doesn't give a flying monkey about me, but that's cats right?

Being the most spectacularly lucky person in Europe last week, I managed to get to Amsgterdam and back evading volcanic ash and being no more than an hour late for work on Monday. My flights were cancelled Thursday night so I set about lining up a rail and sail, ferry passage to attend the Bookcrossing Convention in Amstelveen near Amsterdam. It was quite the adventure and I enjoyed my short time in the city especially as I was able to catch up with some folk I haven't seen for a long time. Am now actively looking forward to the UK Uncovention in Swindon later this year.

Am gearing up for spring here onboard Del and some of my plants and flowers are already up. They came up early and aggressively after that ass kicking winter we all just endured. I still have a few bags of coal left from the panic bought stockpile I ordered and I'm still lighting a fire most nights as although the days are no longer cold, the nights could not yet be considered warm.

I must thank elhamisabel for the nudge she sent me way back when. I wasn't ignoring it/you, I just couldn't be bothered putting finger to keypad. I hope to be around more often (don't we all say that though?) and promise to keep you updated about life along the canal.

Currently reading and loving the worlds most atrocious peice of chick lit ever printed and looking forward to moving on to Scarlett Thomas' latest book very soon.

And a Happy New Year

Ice Dancers
Originally uploaded by inkognitoh
A friend of a friend through a party for those of us dangling around London on New Years Eve. I took along the very last of the Russian vodia aka 'the happiest vodka in the world' and a bottle of champagne for midnight. It was a really nice group and of course, at some point, the Cuban dance instructor bossed us all into merenge and salsa lessons. This made for hillarious viewing and participation.

New Years day I did a lot of sleeping and slothing. I eventually had some help starting my boat battery and after waiting and wrangling with the cat to get her back on board, I set off to do the chores (the loos were perillosly full and there was no way I was going to spend the first week of January wissing in a bucket). The cold came down fast and it was dark, cold and icy by the time I got back to the mooring spot.

I took myself to the pub for some soup and solace and bumped into a couple of other boaters. I was just finishing dinner and deciding whether to dig in for a couple of pints when my kitten marched through the beer garden, up the steps and pushed the door open. I had to interrupt the conversation and excuse myself when I heard the unmistakable sound of her bell jingle jangling through the pub. As I declared 'oh my god, my cat is in the pub', laugher errupted from everyone trying to digest the situation. I sat nursing a naughty kitten while the conversation wound down and then clambered on board to light a roaring fire and read me some book.

The weather is getting cold again and I am once more iced in. Snow, sleet and icy cold rain coupled with bitter winds are predicted until around February!

2009 was a tad average for me and I know it was a disturbingly bad year for some of my friends so join with me in iwshing only the best and brightest moments for everyone in 2010.

2009: The Books I Read

I'm still keeping a record of the books I read within any given year. It caters to the OCD elements of my fractured personality :) Although I would have thought I had much more reading time (what with being unemployed for large chunks of it), I seem to have read fewer books than years past. In my defence - and it's a weak one - I did start several large tomes which will 'finish' in 2010...

1. The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay
2. Miss Smilla's Feeling For Snow by Peter Hoeg
3. Burning for Revenge by John Marsden
4. A Night Out With Robert Burns by Andrew O'Hagan
5. The Night is For Hunting by John Marsden
6. Funny Letters From Famous People by Charles Osgood
7. Strange Talents
8. Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ranasome
9. An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro
10. By Royal Invitation by Unity Hall
11. Buddha Da by Anne Donovan
12. Persepolis by Marjane Satapi
13. Lowboy by John Wray
14. Sum by David Eagleman
15. Once Upon a Time in England by Helen Walsh
16. Coram Boy by Jamila Gavin
17. Gold by Dan Rhodes
18. The Worst Case Scenario Handbook: History
19. Breaking the Trust by Lucy Clare
20. The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving
21. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
22. Maori Myths & Legends by Anthony Alpers
23. Life & Death in Shanhai by Nien Cheng
24. Twighlight by Stephanie Meyer
25. Tales of the South Carolina Low Country by Nancy Rhyll
26. New Moon - Stephenie Meyer
27. The Death of Bunny Munro - Nick Cave
28. Eclipse - Stephenie Meyer
29. The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens - Clair Tomalin
30. London Orbital - Iain Sinclair
31. Disgrace - JM Coetzee
32. The Help - Kathryn Stockett

Fast Away the Old Year Passes

Haven't really done much between last we spoke and now. I went into work on Tuesday but it was so quiet that I've bunked off the other couple of days between New Years Day and Christmas. I guess the highlight was shopping for ski gear on the Monday. What an experience that was. I was thwarted in my attempt to buy lairy kit by sizing. Apparently fat girls don't ski (in bright colours).

Generally lazing about listening to the radio and reading between times.

How to Make Gravy

Having only made my frist roast meals in the last couple of years I had never made gravy until yesterday. Actually let's leave the Jury out on whether I've actually made gravy at all yet :) Staying in someone else's flat is always weird as you aren't 100% familiar with where everything is but cooking in someone else's flat is about ten times worse as not only are you not sure where things are, you aren't even sure if things are. Assuming everyone in the free world had a bag of plain flour in their cupboard I was excitedly de-glazing my roast pan in anticipation of the Christmas feast when I came a cropper. It seemed that my friend had only Self Raising flour in her cupboard. After the morning from hell, it was no big deal to me as I knew the only difference between the flours was a dash of baking soda (which might make my gravy fizz a bit) the addition of more salt would take the edge of any bitter aftertaste it might leave. Of course, moments after I'd done that, I saw the large back of plain flour in her cupbard... Self Raising flour gravy really wasn't that bad. Not ideal, but not disgusting.

Tonight I roasted some more veggies and reheated some of the roast meat from Christmas Day and went 'round two' with the gravy. Seeing no instant granules in the cupboards I went online and found a simple and quick vegetarian gravy recipe. It was based on margarine, a lot - too much - of margarine, some soy sauce and some plain flour alongside onion and garlic. Safe to say it tasted nothing like gravy but actually looked the part more than yesterday's effort did. I futzed with the recipe a little, adding Marmite, Worcesteshire Sauce and a lot of salt in the hope that it would pass. It did vaguely pass but tasted wholly and soley of garlic. The knowledge that I was eating garlic flavoured margarine didn't help the deception any. I think that could be quite a good base for desperation next time but it will require a lot of tweaking and a lot less margarine (and garlic).

Am looking forward to the third time I make gravy as I expect it'll be a charm.

That is the up-to-date news from the front lines of the home alone Christmas :)

Poor old Lola has not coped with her visit to my friend's flat. She mewled and squawked her way through Christmas Eve and was awake all night batting at my hand and leaping on my legs etc. On Christmas morning when she was still howling tragically at the front door. I decided to carry her out into the hall to show her nothing worth seeing/doing/climbing on was out there. Of course the door promptly swung shut and I was locked out on Christmas morning in my pyjamas clutching a cat.

Having made sure the kitten was vaguely secure in the foyer section of the hall closest to the flat, (and having already door knocked every flat I could find in the building) I went downstairs to seek help. London is eerily desserted over Christmas. Very luckily I found a couple of women walking along and one of them agreed to let me use her phone - with the Yellow Pages in the lobby of the flats, placed there as if by magic - to find a Locksmith. The first Locksmith we found quoted me an outrageous price which after having phoned some more seemed cheap so we called him back. The woman turned out to be a District Nurse and went off to tend a patient, promissing to come back past to make sure I was okay. Bless her.

The Locksmith did eventually show up and was not thrilled about being called out at Christmas. I must confess that I was not thrilled at having to call him out at Christmas and was highly emotional and distressed. He demanded cash before he would open the door (a simple swipe of a strong plastic sheet past the latch of the Yale lock) and got quite arsey about it which saw me collapse in tears while trying to explain I only had a cheque book inside but could go to the cash machine etc. Anyway, long story short, it ended with two miserable people shouting angry words at each on Christmas and me £140 poorer.

I then came in to cook a sumptuous roast lunch, watch Pollyanna and warm my feet under the kitten who has slept all day long after causing so much havoc.

What's to be glad about? I'm glad that the Locksmith (as arsey as he was) sacrificed his Christmas morning to come let me in. That no matter how painful paying it out was I can afford the £140 and for so many other things that I'll start sounding like Oprah and boring myself if I continue to list them :)

Another Year Over...

Lolita Gatita
Originally uploaded by inkognitoh
My goodness what a year it's been. I was musing over what sort of blog I'd make of 2009 aka 'the year of going nowhere' and then it hit me tthat, actually, 2009 was the year of the friend. I would not have got through the early stages without the ones I already had that is for sure.

Between work challenges (being made redundant in December 08 and random acts of temping for most of 2009) and boat challenges (you try living like a gypsy and working in a corporate environment) I really don't seem to have had much free time. That can't possibly be true but it is what it feels like in hindsight.

The middle of the year saw me making lots of new friends via the boat which was great and I've had many adventures with a really fun bunch of lovely and diverse people. Most importantly though I have my little bundle of joy and terror that is Lola the kitten.

The kitten makes me laugh every day, at least once. She also makes me tear my hair at least once every day. My hands make me look like a self harmer as they are a motley collection of scratches and bites and she sometimes lets me sleep comfortably in my own bed.

The end of the year brought good news and and a fabulous employment opportunity. I've just left the office with a bottle of Bollinger and some posh L'Occitane perfumes and lotions courtesy of some satisfied bosses. I haven't recieved Christmas gifts from City bosses in years. I get paid well (and have already been notified of a January payrise!) and can tolerate - if not like - those I work for ;)

All in all, life is rumbling and rolling on. I survived the redundancy and made the best of 2009 by focussing on being on the boat, enjoying the company of my kitten and exploring the possibilities of the rooftop garden. Of course, many books were read in the course of entertaining myself and killing time between jobs.

This post is more rambly and sentimental than it was meant to be but I needed to leap in and write something as, having broken the habit, it all seemed like a bit of an effort and I don't want my journal to be an effort. I like writing it and reading those of my friends.

So, I will not be referring to 2009 as 'the year of going nowhere' from now on, it will be known as 'the year of the friend' (OH! and the year I became a Great Aunt!!!)


Come Dine With Me

Sunday night was a hot bed of vegetarianism as silverjet_allie, Pete and her work colleague Amy descended on the boat after a 10 mile run down the towpath. They were all madly exhausted and it almost made me feel guilty for having lollygagged about doing not much of anything for the weekend hah hah.

Their visit was swiftly followed by Catina on Tuesday night for 'Texican'; that is, my take on Tex Mex chilli with guacamole, sour cream and lots of coriander. I swear, it feels like all I've done for the past few days is cook and wash dishes.

Am very, very sad today as Lola wandered off yesterday evening and hasn't been since. I barely slept last night and have done the phone-around to the local Vets, the RSPCA and the chip company. I truly hope someone hands her in thinking she was a stray. I have a kitten shaped hole in my heart at the moment :)


Chinese Lantern
Originally uploaded by inkognitoh
Five pm on the dot today, I finally received an offer for the job I blogged about two weeks ago now. I really don't know what to do. Actually, that's ridiculous. I know I'm going to accept the offer, I just don't know if I'm going to be happy with the role. They are offering me over £5k more than I was earning at this point last year when I was made redundant so it'd pretty much be rude not to accept it. Besides, nobody else is offering at this stage and although things are picking up, do I really want to wait around for another opportunity to come my way?

My boss at the temp job I've been working this week is the father of a famous British actor and was off today partridge shooting. He wanted me to come back next week and have his PA (off sick with Shingles) stay home and recover another week. He even promised me a partridge from his brace but his PA, the little trooper, said she wanted to come back on Monday. In the meantime, I'm interviewing on Monday for a long term temp role with another company. Obviously, if/when I accept the permanent job that will interfere with how long term that temp role might be for me but if the reference and character check take as long as the build up to them making me an offer took, then I'm at covered with money coming in - or something.

Have bucket loads of housework to do and now the weather is cooling down swiftly, I need to chop up a load of kindling so it's ready and waiting for the first fire of the season. Hopefully the first fire is still a few weeks (at least) away, I'm just conscious of the central London moorings I'm heading towards and how they have no space for wood chopping on the towpath and I don't want to get stuck without!


All Out, All Change

I was half way to the middle of nowhere on Monday when the call came offering me a week of temp work starting Tuesday. Even though I was very settled onthe week off idea, I couldn't refuse so am now stuck midway through Wednesdsay hating every moment of a boring old temp assignment.

Monday afternoon, I took Lola to the vet to have her chipped and to order a brass ring with the boat name and phone number on it. I feel slightly more okay about letting her loose with a chip implanted but still wary of strangers. When I did let her loose on Monday evening, she went bananas and larked about outside till way past her (and my) bedtime.

Feeling very mucch unsure about how I want the cards to fall at the moment.




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