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.

Welcome to the Planet

Back from our impromptu honeymoon, and immediately dived into fifty shades of crazy at work.

Just as things are reaching that particular degree of lunacy where the only viable solutions are to murder half the people in the office or pack up and leave, well… just as I’m cleaning my desk drawers and hitting the road, they offer me a freaking promotion. Of course, it all makes sense. It all. Makes. Sense.

And yes, it’s just the kind of job I’ve been after for a few years now. I’d be crazy not to jump at the chance.

But this is not your regular workplace.

Not your regular workmates to hang out with by the watercooler on a random Tuesday morning. Nobody dares to hang by our watercooler for too long anyway. You can get stabbed in the back half a dozen times as you wait for your cup to fill.

We are violent, unscrupulous creatures, thriving on our collective toxicity. And now I get to chomp my way to a higher, slightly more comfortable spot in the food chain.

Please forgive me while I shrink into a corner to cry over my surprise salary jump.

All jokes aside now, I’m seriously doubting whether I should take this new role, and the infinite levels of insanity it will bring along. I’ve asked for a little time to think about it, and if thinking about it means worrying myself into super duper, insomnia flavoured misery, then yes, I guess I’m thinking about it good and hard.

In other news…

I’m doing very little reading these days, but lots of walking and listening to extraordinary music instead.

Green Park is turning a million shades of gold, and I’m actually looking forward to autumn for once.

It’s been a year since we closed on our flat, and drove a car-full of potted plants and bed linens across London, to spend our first night in the place on a blow up matress in a freshly painted, deserted guestroom.

One week since our wedding, and they must have been feeding these flowers some pretty extraordinary things, because half a dozen bouquets are still holding strong in various corners of our living room.

More than two years since I’ve started this blog, and coming close to six years since we moved to this country.

Dust in the wind and all that.

Apart from my work related dramas, the coming weeks appear to be rather uneventful, so I’m planning to binge on various TV series, cook fool-proof dinners and carve pumpkins.

There’s an awful kind of beauty in the way things have settled in my life lately, and I think what I’m mostly working on right now is trying to enjoy it as much as I can. As scary as it is and all.

Five Things Today

1.

We’ve had no hot water in our shower for three weeks.

Get a plumber look at it, you say? Well, you’re probably not up to date with the latest developments in London’s flourishing plumbing industry.

There. Are. No. Plumbers. Not one.

Sure, you’ll find plenty online, or recommended by friends, and believe it or not a handful of them will even return your calls and/or emails. But getting one to actually come and LOOK at your shower, now that’s a different story. They are busy, these people. Doing… not sure what really, but definitely not shower tinkering.

The last person we spoke to was quite funny. Too busy to come over, obviously, but kind enough to suggest we take our shower apart ourselves and keep the pieces in lemon juice overnight. And you know what? After nearly a month of freezing cold showers in the middle of winter, lemon juice sounds like it might just work. So yeah. Fancy joining me in a lemon squeezing marathon tonight, anyone? Anyone?

2.

Several of my friends have quit or are on the verge of quitting their jobs, with little to no future career plans in mind.

No, they’re not all Romanian.

Yes, it might be mid-life-crisis early-thirties-crisis.

And yes, I do worry about it being contagious. But then I just turn off my alarm clock and jump out of bed, dragging myself towards a keyboard yet again.

3.

I am, if somewhat reluctantly, making friends with people at work these days.

After a year marked by one or two social disappointments, I’m testing the waters again. I guess it’s true what they say, that we’re social animals above all else, even the most self-proclaimed antisocial of us.

So I’m hitting the pubs for the now compulsory after work pint, catching up with former colleagues for lunch, mingling at office parties. It still feels a bit like I’m walking around wrapped in an unfamiliar skin, but it’s not an uncomfortable one.

I was chatting to an old friend the other day, and he said something that made me think.

Growing older, he’d realised he could no longer judge his friendships like he’d used to. He couldn’t just walk away from people who’d disappointed him at one time or another anymore. He couldn’t dismiss people based on one or two incompatibilities with the perfect friend image he’d built for himself. His best friends now weren’t people who finished his sentences or got all his jokes. His best friends were the few people who’d stuck around. Imperfect in their friendship, but still there.

4.

Do NOT give me Amazon vouchers.

I’ll just buy ELEVEN books in one go and then you’ll find me feverishly browsing for another bookshelf, because there’s only so many paperbacks you can stack on your windowsill before they’re blocking the light. Who knew light and reading go hand in hand anyway?

For what it’s worth, I’ve so far read seven books this year, which is a miracle considering how much of my time I’ve been spending glued to a pint. Alcohol and books is the way to go, people! That is, if you want to make it out alive of this forsaken, snowed-three-times-this-month London winter!

5.

In other news, V and I are very busy these days.

We’ve just thrown a belated New Year’s Eve party for a friend who had emergency surgery during the real celebrations, we’re taking another friend on a post-breakup seaside trip this weekend, joining a bunch of people for a clubbing night out (Don’t. Ask.) for Valentine’s, and leaving London for our yearly anniversary trip the following week. Then guess what, it’s spring! Season of concerts, bank holidays and tennis tournaments!

So yeah, I’m excited to say the least. There’s something absolutely delicious in browsing your Google Calendar to see brightly coloured squares marking the end of each and every one of the coming weeks. I’ll try and document our this and that as much as I can, especially now that it seems I’ve finally kicked the January blues away, and I’m feeling more like a living, breathing, and only occasionally moaning human being.

Wishing you all a lovely, brightly coloured weekend!

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!

These Are The Words

It feels like I’ve got less and less to write about these days.

There’s little to moan about, I’m not sad, I’m not going through any crisis. I haven’t picked up any new exciting hobby, I haven’t fallen in or out of love, I haven’t traveled anywhere exotic. So I’ve been finding it fairly easy to resist my compulsion to record everything on the interwebs.

And then last night, we were at a John Bishop comedy show with a friend on Wembley Arena, and in between giggles and bouts of proper hysterical laughter, my phone was constantly buzzing in my lap with notifications from WordPress. Hours later, stuck on a tube as they were trying to remove a stray Black Friday enthusiast who was apparently strolling up and down the tracks a few stops ahead of us, well, I finally took my phone out of my bag and checked my blog’s dashboard.

People were reading, I realised. Real people, with lives and stories of their own to tell.

It’s exciting, if hard to believe. And scary, in so many ways.

I’m building myself into a shape strangers can look at and check for defects.

And then I thought. I mostly write when I’m a bit down or mad about something. It’s when it comes most naturally to me for some reason. I rarely document my happinesses, my good days, and that’s a pity, because I’ve got plenty of them to go around, and it’s what I’d surely rather read about when I’m old and grey and in a mood for looking back and poking fun at my silly moaning self. I’d appreciate being reminded of the happy times too, if only in passing.

So I’ll try to do that more often from now on, write about the good stuff.

Right now for instance, V and I are sitting in the living room, perfectly content. He’s playing Call of Duty against one of his buddies, and winning twenty-something to six, which makes him giggle, pinch or tap my leg and point to the updating score every other minute, at which I need to react by at least jumping up and down and waving my hands in the air like a maniac, or else I’ll have failed in my super important Call of Duty cheerleading responsibilities.

It’s been quiet today. A furniture delivery, the last one in a while now I hope, a trip to the car wash and the local shops. Then driving back with a huge, impossible-to-fit-in-the-car-and-still-reach-the-pedals potted Yucca plant, putting some music on and in between glasses of leftover wine, almost carbonising our dinner. It’s good to have a boring Saturday for once.

Last week we held our house warming shindig.

I’m not a manic party planner, I don’t drive myself crazy over putting together intricate culinary delicacies, or polishing every surface to perfection six times over. I’ve never been a good cook and I’ve always been quite tidy, so it doesn’t feel like I’ve got anything to worry too much about when we have people over, except maybe making sure we’ve got a couple of takeout menus close at hand. It feels to me though that everybody else takes these get-togethers a million times more seriously than I do. People dressed up. Brought gifts. Everything felt important, official. Like it marked something vital, this day, when it didn’t really. It was just a random day when neither of us had any better things to do.

We ate, drank, talked politics and about our many hopes and fears.

I sometimes can’t help feeling that most Romanians I know in this country are competing to prove to me that their lives are infinitely better and more exciting that mine.

The way I look at my relationships with fellow nationals has changed dramatically since I moved here. I used to feel so alone early on, and so I was really drawn to the few Romanian expats I knew in London. I overlooked their every flaw, and invested all I had into building and maintaining those pretend friendships, based on little more than the fact that we shared a language and had grown up watching the same TV shows. More than a few bumps in the road later, I’m more selective when it comes to who I spend my time with, Romanian or not.

And still I realised, as I was cooking breakfast the following morning for the few people who’d spent the night in our improvised guest beds, my social life here is still far from ideal. My relationships still lack something. We’re only connecting up to a certain level, and past that, I’m pretty much on my own. Maybe it really has nothing to do with being away from home, but more with a certain drifting apart that comes with growing old. You’ll never know then, I said to myself, and flipped the omelette with a pretend-expert turn of the spatula, burning my thumb in the process.

In other news, I found such incredible joy in not having enough chairs to accommodate everyone at our dining table. It’s tiny things like this that for a fraction of a second, make me feel like I’m slowly building something in this country.

Oh, and I completely forgot.

I found a job last week.

I don’t know how, I wasn’t really looking.

I mean I was, in a way. As in, I knew I’d have to start looking in a few months. I’d known for exactly four days. But I wasn’t, actively, doing anything yet. And then it just fell in my lap, this exciting thing there’s a chance I’ll be doing for the coming months, years, who knows, and when I learnt about it, I hung up the call and just stood there, in the middle of the deserted reception room at work, elevator doors blinking their floor numbers up and down the spine of the building, and felt afraid.

Things have been going well. Too well, I can’t help thinking.

It’s sad, isn’t it, how I’ve grown into this person who finds happiness, first and foremost, suspicious.