Thursday, 30 May 2013

It doesn't take much

I have invented an excuse for my ongoing dry spell, creatively speaking. My job currently requires me to do very creative things.

Last week, I was working on statistics (so, you know, obviously no lateral thinking required to make that the way I wanted it to be) and this week I'm doing some php development. I'm editing someone else's code to make it do what I want it to do.

For those of you with no coding experience: reading code is like reading a book written in a foreign language. Also, it isn't in the right order - chapters aren't sequential, for instance, although you're always told what the next bit of text you should look for is (not where it is, just what it says) - so you have to jump back and forth to understand what is really going on.

Now imagine you've got the complete version of Lord of the Rings and you want that bit where someone says something like "What's the Elvish word for friend?"

All the speech has been separated out to the back of the book, but it's ordered by character, so as long as you can remember who said it, you're in with a fighting chance of finding it quite quickly. But of course, you don't remember. All you remember is who went into the Mines of Moria, so you have to look through all their speech to see if you can find it.

You can take shortcuts by figuring out where in the book the particular speech you're looking at is - if it comes before or after, for instance, you can jump a few lines. Remember, none of this is in English, so you have to stop to translate *everything*. You can make it quicker by being certain of which words you're looking for, but you can't be sure that is the exact sentence.

So, the easiest thing to do is find all the places where it says Moria in the front of the book. Then look for the conversation related to that. You'll know within a few lines if it's the right conversation. But that isn't enough, you still need to find the specific line.

Eventually, after hours of wondering what idiot thought this was a good layout you find the line (this also frequently happens when you are the idiot that wrote the original code).

And why was this one line so important? Because someone failed to punctuate it properly and the publisher sent it back to you to fix it.

This is why programmers are always going to be be some of the most creative and angry people you will know. But at the end of a working day, don't be surprised if they've used up all their creative juice.


Tuesday, 28 May 2013


There was one stand out moment of our relationship for me. You probably don't remember.

You picked me up. Literally. I am ridiculously scared of heights and I have one reaction when someone lifts me. I cling and whimper.

You were so attuned to my subtle nuances that you realised I was scared. I'm not sure how this bit went, but I seem to remember you laughed and asked if I was really scared. And then you must have realised I was, because you stopped laughing, although I clearly recall your eyes still looked amused, and you said:

"I won't let you fall."

That moment terrified me. Not because of my physical danger, but because there was something at that moment that made me realise.

I believed you.

I utterly trusted you to keep me safe. I saw the look in your eyes and in that second I realised I could fall in love with you.

At that time I was broken. All that remained from my previous life was a shell, shattered and in need of healing.

I knew men run away when women fall too fast.
I knew men could not be trusted.
I knew you would hurt me.

I was wrong. I never gave you the chance to prove it to me, but I know now.

If we had stayed together, my broken shell would have healed around you. It is better that I healed alone.

But I wish I knew what that moment of cowardice really cost me.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Bad, Josh! Bad!

Dear Josh,

It's just as well you're fleeing the country tonight. I'm not an advocate of violence, but if your nose was within any kind of reasonable distance I would be marching to the nearest newsagent, buying an actual newspaper (one with some heft, the Times or Guardian maybe), rolling it up and smacking said nose with it.

And don't even think that because your puppy dog eyes have incited this metaphor that I can be swayed by that expression.

How idiotic can you be? I have gone to extreme lengths to warn you of the effect that you lingering in this country will have on my crush and not only do you blithely trot over here whenever you're not actually required to perform somewhere else, but now you casually announce you might be stopping over for a while.

Oh, really? Am I to take it you have *no* sense of responsibility for contributing to keeping me sane? Bad, Josh! Bad!

*sigh* I suppose I could be overreacting and you weren't serious. But when you suggest that you are definitely doing stage work, then don't talk specifics it says to me that although you have a plan in place, you haven't finalized it yet so if your plan was based in the States you wouldn't say you'd prefer being here. Either way: in my world if Google want to hire you you don't publicly announce you'd rather work for Microsoft, even if it is an MSN interview!

Therefore, I suspect you are coming to London to do some West End stuff next year. Probably.

If not, please disregard this tirade.

Otherwise; seriously man. I'm doing my best to get over this daft crush and you are doing absolutely bubkiss to help. I suppose you have some lame excuse like this is your dream, but that isn't particularly helpful to me. You're reducing the physical distance between us by a vast percentage, so how about you just change your whole personality so I'm no longer interested? That would work.

Finally, it is with considerable relief I note that at my inevitable trial I can point out with absolute sincerity that you were the one who followed me around Europe before moving to my island. Although I'm talking the talk, you're definitely stalking the stalk.


For those of you who have happened upon this and don't quite know what I'm going on about:

Tuesday, 21 May 2013


This shop had never been for the faint of heart. It was for the thrill seeker, the bargain hunter and the adventurer of fashion. Clothing was displayed upon scores of racks proclaiming themselves to be organised, although a raincoat may easily be found in the formal wear section, a pair of shorts in the t-shirts area and the occasional evening dress masqueraded as an accessory. Beyond that, they were organised roughly by size – were you a size 6, you could guarantee you might fit into something on the left hand side of the rack, a size 22 might be on the right hand side, and everything else somewhere in the middle, occasionally huddled together in small groups of similar size as if herding for protection from marauding shoppers.

Louise was looking for a hat. It was to be a holiday hat – something to shade her from the sun on the beach, the wind when walking around and, in a worst case scenario, the rain. She had braved these rails many times before and more commonly than not she had emerged triumphant and so she felt no trepidation as she followed the shop worker’s directions to the area known only as the hat rack.

She turned the final corner; laid out before her was a scene of carnage. Elsewhere the shop had clear rules which they regularly attempted to enforce upon the clothes. They had lost that fight here and a millinery war was underway. Fascinators were strangling berets by means of beads on string, trilbies had rammed themselves upon sunhats four times larger and any loose knit hat had been impaled upon the rack with no concern or consideration for the on-going well being of the other hats that were made witness to such torture. Was it any wonder they were in revolt?

For Louise there was only one available maneuver. Mentally rolling up her sleeve, she plunged in. She intended to focus on the sunhats and only extract others if they would make a sunhat available, but as she reached out her hand a delicate fluttering of feathers and ribbon brought a fascinator to her attention. The battle had not yet harmed it, merely left it exhausted, and the bright red feather sprouting from the black net and beading seemed to cry out for rescue. She gently disentangled it, freeing two trilbies and a cap in the process, and then placed it on her head as a triumphant warrior.

The eyes of her reflection flirted coquettishly with her from beneath the net, but failed to convince her to purchase it. She placed it tenderly on the left side of the racks, stacked the other three neatly on the right, and returned to her search for the perfect holiday hat.

Releasing each hat from its bondage took time and, with each success, she placed it tenderly upon her head and sought the opinion of the lady in the mirror. By this method she tried on every available hat type – beret, beanie, trilby, cap, fascinator and of course, sun hats.

It was as she reached for a particularly masculine trilby that the hand reached past her face and snagged the most frivolous of the available fascinators. A white and pink confection, with a full complement of beads, sequins, net and feather, it seemed to be a warning against playing with glue in a marabou factory. Her eyes captured, she followed the motion of the hand as it carried the item past her face and up until it perched delicately among black curls.

“That’s a good look for you” she informed the heavily bearded behemoth stood beside her. He grinned and whether it was his twinkling eye or the delicate pink feather bobbing alongside she didn’t know, but she was immediately interested.

Plucking the trilby from the rack she placed it upon her own head.

“This hat may make me look good,” he drawled in a gravelly tone, “but you make that one look great.”

Louise was not the simpering type, but at that point she was tempted to try it. Both parties having declared their interest, the courting ritual began in earnest. He suggested she try the mother of the bride monstrosity which had finally tunneled out from the bottom of the heap. Having done so, she immediately condemned it to return and hopefully never again see the light of day. After bonding over their mutual hatred of the worst of the hats, she explained why she was there and they fell to discussing her holiday.

He seemed disappointed that she wouldn't be around for a few weeks due to holiday preparations and restarting her life when she got back, but managed to arrange a meeting on her first full weekend back. After chatting for about ten minutes, he grabbed a wide brimmed straw affair with thee bright floppy flowers attached to the ribbon encircling the head. Dropping it onto her, he suggested she first purchase that one, then join him for coffee downstairs. She agreed on condition they had cake. He countered that if they had coffee and cake now, their next date would need to be cocktails and dessert. She acquiesced and hurried to the counter to pay.

When she met him downstairs he had a bag in his hand too.

“I see you bought your fascinator!” She meant it as a joke and was stunned when he nodded.

He reached for her and caught her by the hand; “It brought me luck,” he said then bent down and touched his lips gently and swiftly to hers.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Are you stalking me?

Dear Josh

I can't help noticing that you're in Russia. I was there (well, I was in St Petersburg) last week - gorgeous isn't it?1 (PS: Dude, stop moving so fast, you're already in Helsinki! I liked it there - I got my birthday earrings from a silversmith in the market. Looks like paper, made of silver, so pretty... Only wish I could afford the matching necklace!)

Initially I thought this trip to my holiday destination was a nice coincidence.  Now, as I look over your plans for the next few days a darker suspicion is creeping over me. I was in Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Estonia over the last few weeks and now you are heading to each (possibly not all, but let's pretend) of those places too, before you stop in my home country.

This is a delicate question, and one that I'm hesitant to ask but: Are you stalking me?

If so, you should know that although I am flattered, I have been on a modern day plague ship for two weeks and I am therefore a walking biological weapon right now.

We had barely been sailing for two days before it was announced that one of the passengers had reported gastroenteritis to the ship's doctor. From that day forth, everything on the ship was doused with disinfectant twice daily until we had gone a full week with no contagion. Everywhere you went you were squirted with alcohol (not the good kind), not one person was allowed to make their own tea (can you imagine, 800 Brits not allowed to make a cup of tea? If it wasn't for our other national pastime (queuing) I think there may have been a riot!) and God help you if you sneezed.

Fortunately the Baltics chose that week to be situated somewhere in the Pacific so we had clear skies2, glorious sunsets and most importantly, balmy waters. I can get horrifically sea sick and so the slightest wave would have been enough to see me spending my holiday in medical quarters - probably undergoing treatment by people in hazmat suits - for fear I was contagious.

Due to the prompt and regular disinfecting activities the ship remained epidemic free. Sadly, it meant my immune system went on holiday too. My return to our blessed shores has been heralded by... wait, that's not dramatic enough.

Imagine if you will an ephemeral form reclining upon a sun lounger casually sipping at a cocktail. The book it was reading has fallen to the floor and the sun has beaten said form into a dozing state3. As I (in the real world) disembark at Tilbury, leaving the sanctuary of the super-clean ship, a cloud appears on the horizon and soon drifts over the sun. The ephemeral form is disturbed. The cloud has brought a breeze with it and the chill awakens our hero. Unaware of the impending doom, the figure rolls their head casually, seeking a warm spot. The breezes strengthens, the chill intensifies, the cloud thickens and a faint buzz is heard. Our hero jolts to an alert state - it recognizes this situation. The cloud shifts nearer and is now identifiable as a billion mosquitoes and all of them are charging our hero.

In response, the ephemeral form defends itself through a myriad of techniques. A heat blast repels the first swathe of attackers, then an ongoing stream of mucus is produced to prevent the forerunners from getting a good grip. Every so often our hero contracts and produces a concussive wave of force that drives many of the invading army out of reach.

Translation: although there is nothing wrong with me, my immune system is taking no chances and I am coughing, sneezing, snotting and Louis Armstronging for all I'm worth4.

It's enough to put off any stalker. Am I right?

On the other hand, you may find that kind of thing appealing. After spending my youth watching Kirk mate with the most unlikely aliens, I'm very open minded. In that case: don't come near me on the off-chance I am contagious. Aside from all other considerations your fan base does not want you to be Louis Armstrong and I do not want them to contemplate lynching me for disrupting your tour schedule.

Incidentally, I was reminded of something while I was on board that is very important (in terms of keeping my well publicized crush under control). I met a chap who was reading Wodehouse and after a brief discussion of the great man this chap offered to set me up with his son. That's an effect I have on parents quite frequently (well, those parents whose children are of age). Do your best to stand between your parents and I as I have no idea how to control this superpower and that sort of encouragement would only cause disastrous amounts of trouble. I don't think it's strong enough to cross oceans, so as long as they are content to remain in the States you should be safe. However, if they decide to holiday, it's all on you to keep them out of my sphere of influence.


1 I didn't have the appropriate visa to explore alone and stayed with my tour guide (I'm a good girl in many ways) which meant it was probable a lot of the realities of living there were hidden away but it doesn't take much to see there must be a lot of very desperate people there. So much is being invested in the tourist trade, but tourists are repeatedly warned against pickpockets and thieves, meaning a significant percentage of the normal people don't feel they can earn an honest living and will risk driving tourists away rather than give up the quick fix.
2 I've broken out in some heavy freckling as a result (I try not to tan)
3 As an ephemeral form it can, of course, snooze and booze simultaneously
4 Would you believe that someone as moderate, even banal, as I am could have such an unnecessarily dramatic immune system?

Friday, 3 May 2013

I am a woman who reads

Inspired by
You Should Date an Illiterate Girl by Charles Warnke
and the response by Rosemary Urquico (posted after the jump on Nonamerah's blog as I cannot find the original) Date a Girl Who Reads

I am a woman who reads.

My life is full of brief encounters with heroes, villains, movie stars and the dying man I have lost the chance to save. Some encounters are relived, over and over, because they are a star cast into a world of diamonds and amidst the glitter they emit an irresistible pull. Some encounters are enjoyed, occasionally merely used, and then abandoned.

Some encounters change me forever. Today I may discover a hard backed book with yellowed pages and a roughly textured surface. Tonight I might read it. Will you recognise me tomorrow?

Will my viewpoint of the world have been held up as a mirror and shattered like the shallow illusion it is, to be replaced with another viewpoint that gives me new life, fears and sorrows, new opportunities, hopes and dreams?

A woman who reads will open her mind with the first page of a book and will make her world vulnerable to its content. She wants to experience all of the possibilities inherent in that encounter.

I am a woman who reads and because of this, when you and I meet I will enter our time together with my mind as open as possible. I will allow you in. I will let you break me, shatter my faith, my belief and my life in the knowledge that I will rebuild myself.

If you are foolish enough to believe this makes me weak, you have no notion of what it means to be strong.

I am a woman who reads and I have encountered villains before. I have been hurt, betrayed, shamed and abandoned more times than you can be aware of.

But I have loved more deeply than you can believe or imagine and I can, and will, do it again.