Sugar, Spice and Other Tragedies

It’s been just little bit crazy around here lately.

I’ve been working like mad day and night since my promotion, fighting a million billion small battles and growing into this neurotic, insomniac monster no one in their right mind would want anything to do with.

But it hasn’t all been bad. We’re building these very precious, slightly deranged and infinitely hilarious friendships in the office, and I just love, love, LOVE my team mates. It has hepled that we’ve been hanging out together outside business hours a lot lately, and that one of my first endeavours as “department dictator” (I have been called that once or twice. Or six times a day. All in good spirits, I tell myself) has been to organize a team building trip. Fun. And. Games.

So you see, I’ve been busy. I’ve been recruiting, I’ve been doing performance reviews, I’ve had Christmas Jumper days, Secret Santa shopping sprees, Thirsty Thursdays in our favourite West End pub. Then the office Christmas Party last week, and a cocktail dress I last wore more than ten years ago (still fits, whoah!). On the home front, we got a new armchair for our guest room (AND got it delivered before Christmas! SCORE!), I brought all our geranium plants inside, almost killed them in the process (they must have lost more than half their leaves since) and then winter decided not to come after all, I ruined St Nicholas (again!) after stumbling upon V’s gift for me two weeks before the day, and we put up the biggest and most amazing Christmas tree our little family has ever had. So yeah. Take that, Christmas! We’re ready.

There are still a few things on the list. The Christmas cards we’ve picked for our neighbors are still stacked, blank, on our coffee table. I’ve got one last Secret Santa gift to get for a gift exchange we’re organising with a bunch of close friends, and I haven’t even thought about what I’m getting him, nevermind brave the after work shopping frenzy on Regents Street. Our tree has been without a topper since we decorated it a couple of weeks ago, and though I bought one a few days ago, it’s still in a carrier bag somewhere, lost in this field of half full carrier bags our living room floor is these days. There are piles and piles of laundry to sort through, and mountains of unopened mail. Last minutes tickets to buy and Christmas brunch menus to plan.

It’s quite a daunting little list come to think of it. But if I’m good at one thing, then I’m good and making scary lists and immediately forgetting them.

And then.

As I’m typing this, we’re on our way back from a week’s holiday at my parents’ place in Romania. With the events of the last few days still raw in my mind, it’s probably not the best time to write about it all. I should let it settle, let things fade a bit before I poke at them with my bare hands. But how broken I feel. And how I never learn. How I never, ever learn.

Poem to Start the Week #28: The Death of Santa Claus

He’s had the chest pains for weeks,
but doctors don’t make house
calls to the North Pole,

he’s let his Blue Cross lapse,
blood tests make him faint,
hospital gown always flap

open, waiting rooms upset
his stomach, and it’s only
indigestion anyway, he thinks,

until, feeding the reindeer,
he feels as if a monster fist
has grabbed his heart and won’t

stop squeezing. He can’t
breathe, and the beautiful white
world he loves goes black,

and he drops on his jelly belly
in the snow and Mrs. Claus
tears out of the toy factory

wailing, and the elves wring
their little hands, and Rudolph’s
nose blinks like a sad ambulance

light, and in a tract house
in Houston, Texas, I’m 8,
telling my mom that stupid

kids at school say Santa’s a big
fake, and she sits with me
on our purple-flowered couch,

and takes my hand, tears
in her throat, the terrible
news rising in her eyes.



Charles Webb

All the Little Lights

So yes, I thought I’d go ahead and get myself a little bout of bronchitis just to make things interesting.

What can I tell you, it’s great. I’m not getting any sleep, I can’t breathe, and I’ve coughed myself into this constantly pain ridden-creature who can barely sit up in bed, never mind walking, sipping and thinking coherent thoughts. My ribs ache, my chest aches, oh and it feels like I’m growing a new limb in the back of my throat, one that spends its day rhythmically punching me from the inside. Just as demented as all my other limbs have proven themselves to be in time.

I’ve taken three days off from work this week. This from someone who’d only taken two sick days in total during the last four and a half years in this country, humanity!

I pretty much dozed all through Monday, barely dragging myself to the kitchen to put the kettle on and rest my head on the counter while the water heated, then back to bed and dreams of my mother washing my hair in the bathroom sink when I was a kid, her hands rubbing and turning my head expertly, like she was rinsing vegetables for soup.

Despite another sleepless night, Tuesday found me in better spirits. I managed to make it to the living room, where I spent the day on the sofa, wrapped in all the blankets we own (three), drinking industrial quantities of camomile tea, reading National Geographic and messing with the remote. Towards noon I actually found it in me to deal with this years’ batch of holiday cards, and then, motivated no doubt by the small stack of ready to be delivered red envelopes on the coffee table, I decided I’d actually get out of my blankets and sort out our Christmas decorations as well. It’s worked out fine, more or less, mainly because we’re not decorating a lot this year. The tiniest tree in the living room, a wreath centrepiece on the dining table, and window lights. I’d managed to put half the lights up before I succumbed to a coughing fit that got me feeling dizzy and short of breath, and only passed once I lied on my side for a minute or so, counting my breaths.

So our place sported a slightly depressing, half Christmassy look for a day or so.

On Wednesday I actually put some mascara on and traipsed to the train station, determined to finally make it to work. Just my luck though, every other train turned out cancelled due to, wait… for… it… shortage of drivers.

Assuming they all got some form of debilitating bronchitis, I decided I’d be caring and understanding for once, and eventually coughed my way back home and into bed. Later in the day, I finally managed to hang the rest of the lights in the window, which I must admit has made me feel a lot better than the gallons upon gallons of sweet tea and mountains of Strepsils of the past days combined.

I’m loving this time of year. Despite the zero snow situation, the psycho coughing, the driver-less trains, the seriously disgusting way in which I’m being treated during my last days in the office (I will not rant about this. I. Will. Not. Rant!!!).

Christmas is in the air, despite all that. And it makes me happy that we’re enjoying it in our new home, and away, just the two of us, and in the company of wonderful friends. I’m happy that we’re making it work, that we’re trying at it, despite the difficult year we’ve had and the sort of unsure times waiting for us ahead. And I’m feeling great! OK, not right now. Right now I’m still pretty much the zombiest I can be, though I’m proud to report that I have managed to make it to work and eat a couple of biscuits without feeling my throat peeling raw.

All in all, life’s good. I’m off home soon, just in time to turn the Christmas lights on as it’s getting dark. We’ve wrapped and labeled all of this year’s presents, and they’re now stacked around the living room, waiting for people to arrive. Our red enveloped cards are making their way to Romania, different corners of London and faraway sunny places as we speak. I’m planning to try my hand at some homemade mulled wine tonight, so that I’m not caught unprepared when the time comes. Then it’s homemade bun-less burgers and greens and, if I’m feeling particularly rebellious, mince pie. Lights blinking in the window. No rush, no worries, no drama.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that we’re ready. We’re absolutely, no doubt about it, ready. Bring it on, Christmas!

On the Home Front: Dining Room This and That

As it happens, several people our age we hang out with bought their own first homes at roughly the same time as us.

Now, this hasn’t been a bad thing, as we’ve been crying on eachother’s shoulders and comparing notes throughout the process. But now that we’re all somewhat settled into our new digs, I’d expected us to migrate to other, less property centered topics of conversation. How naive of me.

Instead, what we’re doing these days is we’re comparing our homes every chance we get, dutifully keeping track of who’s winning, who’s haggled the best and who’s got the tallest windows, who’s paying less on electricity and who’s hammering nails into the thickest walls.

I get it, you know. You’ve put all your money and most of your future into a place you know for sure was overpriced and now have an inkling it may just not be perfect, never mind it took you years, entire years of your life to find it and fight for it against God knows how many equally desperate people. As have I. It wasn’t easy, I get it. And I get it if you feel the need to confirm to yourself that you’ve made the right choice, when maybe sometimes you fall asleep doubting it nights and nights in a row. As do I sometimes, and yes, it’s scary. So I get it, I really do.

But let’s just try and be friends now.

I don’t care whose dining table sits more people. As far as I’m invited and there’s plenty of wine to go around, I’ll be just fine sitting on the floor.

I don’t want this home buying business to forever scar my life from now on. I’d rather talk about shoes, or work, or how much we hate people who eat fried chicken on the train in the evening, or I don’t know, whatever today’s cool sane people talk about, The X Factor? Let’s do that for a while, I bet we’ll find each other a lot less irritating in time.

OK, rant over, I promise.

But while we’re on dining table controversies, I might as well touch upon another one of my present home decorating challenges, our lovely dining table/room. Nope, I haven’t yet sorted my master bedroom art nemesis, are you kidding me? But it’s not like I’m taking these home front tasks one at a time. More like I’m constantly on the hunt for whatever solution presents itself to me first. So both bedroom and dining room, as well as a heap of other decor related this and that I haven’t even mentioned yet, are always on my mind.

Now, I’ll admit it’s the first time I’ve got my very own, purpose-built dining room. Originally I thought we’d never use it, as I hardly ever cook proper, dining-room-worthy meals, but not only have we been cooking a lot more since we moved in (new sexy kitchen appliances can do that to you!), we’ve actually been eating in the dining room pretty much every day. So obviously I’m obsessed with making it as cozy as possible, especially since it’s not the easiest of rooms to decorate.

It’s a rather narrow space with a large window on the back wall, and room for little furniture apart from the six seater dining table. Color-wise, we’ve got my go-to shades of white, cream and beige (walls, rug), natural oak, chestnut brown (chair upholstery, curtains, art frames) and pale violet (it all started with a potted African Violet as a centerpiece, and evolved to include some Venetian glassware I had lying around, and some faintly Art Deco vases I’d gotten in Barcelona this October).

The only things lacking are a proper ceiling light (I might have mentioned before how I HATE pretty much all the original lighting fixtures in our place, don’t even get me started!), and maybe a wide mirror on one of the walls, just to make that natural light from the window bounce around a bit and widen up the room.

First and foremost of course, they need to be easy to dust (no million grooves and bumps and dirt sucking materials, you know the deal). We favour clean lines rather than intricately ornate anyway, and clean lines has “clean” in it for a reason!

I’m open to suggestions of course, especially for the ceiling light, because lighting seems to be one of those things where I know exactly what I don’t like, but I’m really not too sure about what I don’t not like.

That’s all I’ve got home-front-wise for you today. I’m hoping to finally do a bit of Christmas decorating in the coming days (yes, I know we’re late, sigh), though we’ve never had room for a Christmas tree before so needless to say we’re not that well stocked in terms of Christmas decorations at the moment. And a trip to the shops to get some sounds rather intimidating if not plain dangerous to me, what with all the holiday shopping crazies going on right now. But I’m sure we’ll figure something out, even if it means we end up decorating our Yucca plant with my tiny collection of LEGO minifigures and some wine bottle corks!

Wishing you all a cozy weekend, wherever you are.

Age. Ice Age.

It’s so cold in this office that I’m half expecting to grow icicles any time now.

Two sweaters, my Uniqlo down jacket and a winter scarf wrapped three times over and still I’m utterly defeated by the constant blasts of freezing A/C aiming at me from all cardinal points.

And I’m not alone. We’re all shivering in unison, bundled up in layers upon layers of wool and cotton, sipping shots of boiling tea and coffee and secretly plotting to set fire to a couple of desks in the middle of the room and dance a little savage dance around it to get our blood pumping again.

In the meantime, I comfort myself by fantasizing about how I’ll be leaving this place for good in two weeks’ time, hopefully towards warmer, cozier horizons.

Oh and speaking of, I don’t know what my lovely manager Steve has been telling people as to the whys and hows of me leaving this job, but every soul in the office now treats me like I’ve got the plague. They all feel oh so very sorry for me, constantly asking me if I’m OK, all the while keeping themselves at a safe distance like I’m spreading incurable unemployment germs everywhere. Just brilliant.

Arctic working conditions and silly open office soap operas aside, I’m feeling good. I’ll be trying out my new job for two whole days before we’re all off for the holidays, plenty of time to decide if I want to stick around or not. Just kidding, obviously, I’m a happily mortgaged grownup now, and my dreams of taking a few months off for a change after this December are, when faced with the alternative of working and making actual money, just that: silly, childish dreams.

So it’s decided, I’ll be back to my windowless office state of affairs before you know it, with new, exciting geeky things to moan about.

Until then, I’m hopelessly caught up in planning the coming weeks’ entertainment: a trip to a little Christmas Market somewhere south, our first UK Christmas with friends equally reluctant to visit their families this year for the usual soul drenching portion of holiday drama, a Phantom Of The Opera evening just before New Years’, and obviously some form of New Years’ celebration which is sadly still a big, fat, scary blank in my December Crazies calendar.

Exciting times, right?

Daily online moaning fix taken care of, I’m now off to the company parking lot for a while. It may be December out there but believe it or not, it sure feels warmer than in here. And they’ve put up Christmas lights everywhere. And a stand selling real coffee, made out of real coffee beans, and in paper cups with bright golden stars on them. As you can see, it takes very little to make me happy these days. It may well have to do with the fact that my brain is halfway frozen into a dangerous, yucky snowball, but hey, what can you do. Sparkly golden stars for everyone!