Thursday, February 26, 2004

Working tax credits

What a fucking con. I saw the full-page ad in the Evening Standard, saying that if you are over 25 and work over 30 hours a week you may be eligible for tax credits. Could it be true? Could the government be offering money for nothing? Cheques for free? And all you have to do is apply! So I filled in the forms on the website, and on the last page read ‘You are eligible for tax credit: £0.00.’ Well thanks for that. So I called the number and spoke to a bored-sounding guy, probably used to a hundred pikeys like me calling and begging for money every day.

‘You can only apply if you earn under £11,000 a year.’
‘What, if you work 30 hours a week and earn eleven grand?’

Well I think that if I earned £11,000 a year my first priority would be to find a job that paid me a living wage.

My beloved polka dot mug has vanished. I keep it at work, and try to always remember not to leave it on my desk at the end of the day, as it will go in the dishwasher and subsequently the communal kitchen cupboard, and I will never see it again. This is what happened yesterday. And, sho nuff, this morning when I looked in the cupboard, the mug was not there. So I ran around my floor staring at everyone’s mugs, but I couldn’t see it anywhere. The mug was a Christmas present from my friend Nicola, and is pink with big black polka dots on it. We picked it out together. I am bereft. And now I am thinking that in three weeks’ time, when my pain has subsided, I will come in to work one day and find a Polaroid on my desk. It will be a picture of the mug . . . in front of the Kremlin. A month later, the mug on the Great Wall of China (by a signpost or something, so I can tell it’s China). I will be sent these anonymous snaps of my mug having ‘fun’ all over the globe, and I will wait for it to come home to me.


I have moths in my bedroom. There, I admitted it. Often, when I open my wardrobe, a little pale yellow moth will flutter up from some one-of-a-kind vintage gem it’s clearly been chomping on. This makes me very very cross, and rather than spend tons of cash buying smelly, ineffective cedar balls or green plastic hanging things, I am harnessing the power of nature and tackling the problem cheaply. My mum told me that moths hate lavender and cloves, so today I went to Neal’s Yard Remedies and bought a bag of each. All I will do is mix them together and hang in little muslin bags (or, in my case, little netting bags lined with toilet paper – one ply, thank you – as I don’t have any muslin and can’t think where to get some quickly). Then the moths will sling their (nasty, powdery) hook, and my boudoir will smell sweeter than a granny’s knicker drawer.

Also: Rough Trade Covent Garden employ some right wankers, let me tell you. Yes, I’m talking about Muso Boy who chastised me for leaving a year to come and collect money for my fanzines: ‘We might not have sold them. We could have thrown them away. Well, I’ll give you the money this time.’ Oh thank you so much.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Things decorating page-proofs I got back today from a proof-reader

Other than blue pen, red pen, and pencil marks (all acceptable and expected), certain pages were decorated with:

Giant tea ring from a dripping mug
A short, straight hair
Bright red spots. Blood? Hot sauce?
Yellowy-brown smears that are certainly either blood or chocolate

What the hell? Is it too much to ask that if we’re paying you to read something you can refrain from using it as a napkin/coaster?

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

It was snowing earlier. This worried me, as I was wondering what would happen to the daffodils, bluebells and blossom-covered trees on my street. The warm snap a few weeks ago, which saw me walking to work in a T-shirt and unlined jacket, fooled the plants into thinking it was time to bloom, and now they’ll be confused.

Book publishing clich├ęs I am sick of

1) Novels with the words snow, water or cold in the title. Need more fiction with the words eggs, pointy, bacon and hair in the title.
2) Covers with nothing but a dumb photo of shoes/feet on them. What is this supposed to convey, anyway? Yearning? A shy, fragile innocence? The only effect it has on me is ‘Neeeext!’
3) Covers (chick lit is guilty) with the title in doodly writing, like how you supposedly embellished diary entries when you were thirteen.
4) Naked/scantily clad women on covers. This means you, Michael Houellebecq! Never read one of your books, never wanted to. The Barbie put me off.
5) Any cover with an image of snow/rocks/water/a frozen landscape on it. Stop this dull madness!

Monday, February 23, 2004

I may have posted this weird nugget of happiness before, but it never fails to tickle me to think of it. I like the thought of animals working in an office and signing important documents with an inky paw-print. That’s it; that’s what makes me happy. So if I am sad I need only look at this site to make me chuckle heartily. My faves are the Guinea Pigs’ Cricket Match and the Kittens’ Tea and Croquet Party. Scroll down for the very moving Kittens’ Wedding. Never fails to bring a tear* to my eye.

*of laughter!

Fine blogs I am checking regularly

Kyle’s writing on My Siren Voice

this Diary of a London Call Girlmakes me blush

Less is not morechez Pam Savage

Now I know where it goes

A distressing realisation was made over the weekend. In the past month I seem to have acquired over £200 worth of new clothing. How did this happen?! I never spend more than £50 on any one thing, and the £200+ did buy me 11 items (just call me Stingy McThrifterton), and now I know where all my money goes and why I am usually broke a week before payday. Jesus. Whenever I do that whole ‘write down everything you spend’ it’s something like: mortgage, £300; service charge, £146; travel, roughly £80; clothes, £100, max. Obviously not! So I have asked Steve to monitor my spending and stop me, using force is necessary, from buying more shoes/tops/summer dresses.

Clothing bought in February

Black suede TopShop boots
Navy and white striped TS bag
Brown flat 30s TS shoes
Pale yellow pointy t-bar TS shoes
Grey 80s 2nd hand boots
Red strapless cotton TS sundress
Grey Dorothy Perkins cowl neck sweatshirt
Red sparkly Pringle jumper
White and yellow lemon-print H&M top (‘Lemons are the new cherries.’ – Jodie)
Purple Zara handbag
Cherry blossom print Zara silk skirt

So the plan for March is this.

1) Allocate clothing/shoe/bag money, maximum of £50. There’s no point trying to go cold turkey and buy absolutely nothing, cos I would go mad/die and end up buying a £150 monstrosity which I would never wear.
2) Leave all cards at home, and only carry cash. If I am at work all day and going home after, there’s no way I’d possibly need more that £5 to cover even the most urgent of snack attacks/post-work drinking emergencies.
3) The most radical solution, suggested by a colleague: visit the cashpoint only once a week. Withdraw money needed for week (£100?) and if that runs out, you can’t get any more. I think this is the only thing that’ll work for me, so as of March, I will be trying it.

On Friday morning my houseguests Jodie and Tim left. It was great having them stay: they were the perfect guests, which for me means that they didn’t require round-the-clock babysitting, and they didn’t take offence if some nights I was too tired to go out. However, I went out more while they were here than in the entire previous month!

Saturday I went to see my friend D and her baby son. I’ve known D since we were born – our mothers got talking in the hospital – and I see her childhood self strongly in Maks’s face. He looks just like she and her younger brother looked when they were babies. Very cute, pale skin, dark hair, worried expression. Aaaaaaw! We got coffee and then went to TK Maxx. I never get to shop here, but managed not to go crazy nuts and only bought a red sparkly Pringle sweater, reduced from £105 to £16. D bought her husband some designer odds and ends and must’ve asked me ‘Is this really Ted Baker? Are you sure this is Nicole Farhi?’ twenty times.

Did anyone else read that piece in ES magazine? It made me gag; it made me see red. It was all about the Nouveaux Pauvres, rich people whose ancestors had country piles and titles until they blew it all on gin and pontoon. Or something. So now these NP, in their 30s and with children called Inigo and Araminta, are slumming it by living in London’s poorest boroughs. Oh, they can afford Chelsea, Notting Hill and Clapham, but you get more bedrooms for your buck in Peckham, Brixton and Clapton.

This article made steam come out of my ears for several reasons: firstly, there are millions of people in London who are working class/lower middle class, and therefore can only afford to live in the ‘poorer’ parts of town. (By my definition, poorer parts are where you can buy a one-bedroom flat for under £145,000. There aren’t many.) They live in these areas out of necessity, not as a lifestyle choice. Secondly, if you really want to prove how urban/tough/pioneering you are, by all means live on Murder Mile (as the article’s writer claims to), but for fuck’s sake don’t brag about it like it’s cool and you should be commended on your daring and cutting-edgeness. I find it so insulting to think of all these Notting Hillbillies sitting around at a dinner party, listening to Joss Stone, talking about how ‘brave’ India and Hugh are to live in a slum like Hackney.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Before I forget, I must write down two great events of the past 24 hours.

1: a chocolate machine on the southbound Northern Line platform at Tottenham Court Road is dishing out 2 bars of chocolate for the price of 1. Tell your friends! It happened to me, so Steve tried it and got two as well.

2: as usual, I got the 159 to work. Reader, today it was one of the legendary, rarely seen but often dreamed of (by me) gold 159s. I felt like a queen as tourists snapped our picture and the sea of traffic parted for us to sail through.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

People I am recreationally hating today

An editor on my floor, who sneered at me (audibly!) as she walked past my desk and saw me looking in the mirror of my powder compact. Oh the vanity of youth! (relatively speaking – she’s about 74). In actual fact I had just jabbed myself in the eye and was checking for damage. I was so outraged by the eye-rolling, raised-brow sneer that I immediately emailed Steve to let him share the moment. He replied with the following:

Dude, don't mention that harridan's name to me. She was presumably bitter because no amount of make-up could conceal that fact that she looks like a pickled walnut. Or, actually, a Neanderthal woman. Take a good look at her - she looks like she should be on a Channel 4 documentary whacking rocks together.

I love that boy.

Other people I hate: all the trendy fin-haired, anorak-wearing, stilettoed identikit trendy monkeys who work in an Ad agency on the 1st floor of my building, yet take the lift. (This is all of them, by the way.) If you’re taking the lift for one floor, your legs had better be broken, or I’ll break them. The most galling thing is that these people know they drive everyone on the other 13 floors nuts, and they don’t care. Cos they have a right to use the elevator if they want to. Well, newsflash, Tarquin and Tamara: no you fucking well don’t.
I haven’t posted in ages, and I know how much I hate checking people’s blogs and finding there’s nothing new, so I’m just going to fire off some boring filler. Read on!

Wearing: knee socks under jeans. Mmmm, toasty.
Doing: sitting at desk trying to rotate neck so that my headache (now in its third day) will end. Have been seeking relief in co-codamol pills, but I’d rather the problem go away than I just cover it up with drugs. Wow, that sounded really profound. In truth I like to cover all my problems with a layer of booze, and then they do seem to just disappear . . .
Eating: all the time, thanks. White choc chip and ginger cookies I baked last night, and a cheese & prawn cocktail crisp sandwich.

So last night Jodie and Tim, my Denver houseguests, cooked dinner. Tim called me at work asking where the top part of my blender (i.e. the bit that means food doesn’t fly everywhere when you switch it on) was. Unaware that I even owned a blender, I confessed I had no idea, and that I thought the blender came with the flat and was therefore untrustworthy. The dinner was delicious despite the fact that my kitchen utensils amount to a saucepan, a baking tray, a frying pan, a corkscrew and penis cake moulds of varying sizes (looong story). After dinner J, T and my sister went drinking with Ani in Old Street, and me and Steve settled down on the couch for some snuggling and shouting at the rich people on Relocation Relocation. It’s impossible to feel sympathy for a couple selling their flat to buy a cottage in Cornwall and a farmhouse in Italy, even though they’re finding it hard to stay within their budget, and oh that amazing view of mountains and an olive grove is entirely spoilt by a fence-post that was built after 1940 and therefore looks too modern to fit with their fantasy of living in an unspoilt, lazy Italian idyll.

Last night was my company’s big Author Party. All our authors were invited, and editors. As I am only a lowly assistant editor, I didn’t get to hobnob, drink champagne and look at the Cecil Beaton photographs, which filled the venue. I didn’t feel I’d missed out at all, until Chris, who wasn’t even going to attend, emailed me this morning with tales of drunken fun. Bastards.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Evil weekend dream:

Me and my sister sitting chatting in a hospital waiting room. A frail old woman totters over and asks me if my blood type is o-negative. I somehow know what she’s going to ask, so have my answer prepared. I say “no, sorry”, even though it is. My reasoning in the dream is that I don’t like being stuck with needles, and that my blood is mine alone.

This just in: London councils are run by Satan!

Got home Saturday and had a letter from evil, evil Tower Hamlets council (who run tings in Whitechapel, where I used to live), saying that I owe them £950 council tax. The letter didn't say what period this tax was for, only that I owed it and unless I paid up within 21 days they’d sling my ass in jail (or words to that effect). They said they went me a letter in NOVEMBER 2000 (!!!) and as I didn't leave a forwarding address they only NOW tracked me down. Um, I am on the electoral register, have a bank account and credit cards, and there’s only one I. Jetwhiskers in town, so they obviously weren't looking too hard. Plus, I moved in September 2000, so that's why I never saw their letter. PLUS the bastards sent it so I got it on Saturday, and there was nothing I could do about it until today, but I did have the entire weekend to freak out. I called them this morning and they said the tax I owe is for the period December 1999-November 2001. So first I have to find this ancient tenancy agreement proving I moved in September 2000, and then they will reassess the tax. What REALLY sucks is that during that time I lived with a girl called Joyce, and I have long since lost contact with her, so I will have to pay the tax alone. This whole episode has made me so mad. They really treat you like a criminal. The letter they sent is in 18-point type, saying I have to pay the money within 14 days or go to court.

My niece Sabby has a split lip! Now before you go calling Social Services, let me explain. Her parents took her and her twin sister to church for the first time on Sunday, and Sabby fell off the pew. If she’s anything like me, she probably fell asleep five minutes into the mass and slid to the ground. It’s sad that her first experience of Catholicism is one of pain and tears, but at least she knows what she’s letting herself in for. She seemed happy enough as she danced to ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ and threw ham at her mum, but a split lip on a two-year-old is a very sad thing to see. Steve and I were there spending Quality Time: this involved playing tea parties and house and horsy with them. Steve was the sleeping horsy and OH how they laughed when he pretended to wake up and neighed at them! We decided we'd be good parents. Left at about 5.30 and went to Ryo, my favourite Japanese place, on Brewer Street in Soho. Was craving katsu curry, gyoza and miso soup. So I had all three.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

In Poland, name days are a big deal, bigger than birthdays. I don’t actually know when my name day is only that once a year, seemingly at random, I get a card and present from my mum. I was trying to explain to Steve how everyone in Poland has a name day, usually corresponding to the saint’s day you were born on. So he said ‘What if your name’s LeShaun or something?’ I assured him that such a thing was highly unlikely. Unless there is now a St LeShaun. And why not?

Speaking of Roman Catholicism, Hot Priest stopped by my mum’s house last night while I was there. He was doing the rounds of Polish parishioners, and stayed for a cup of tea. I needed the loo, but as it says in the Bible (somewhere), you can’t wee with a priest (especially a cute, young one) in the house. I had to will him to leave and then made a mad dash for the bathroom. HP has only been in England for a few months, and I asked him where he was stationed (posted?) when he first arrived. He breathed a word that sounded French, and me and my mum strained to hear. After a few minutes it transpired they’d sent the poor man to Scunthorpe, so I guess he can now tick purgatory off his list of places to visit. I was surprised there are even any Poles in Scunthorpe, but he soon put me straight. There are, apparently, just under 100.

Walked past the Ivy today, as I do if I’ve been to Soho to get lunch. There were photographers outside (nothing new), and a film crew. Their camera seemed to be trained on a car, and I was crossing the street, so look out on the evening news for a small woman in a purple coat mouthing ‘fucking move!’ as a black Daimler nearly runs her over. Also seen: a grown man looking deliriously happy at having got Robson Green’s autograph.

Went to the post room just now, and one of the things in my department’s cubby-hole was a packet of teaspoons. These teaspoons (for our woefully under-cutleried kitchen) had instructions on the back, under the heading CUTLERY CARE. This amounted to one sentence: We recommend that cutlery is washed and dried after use to keep it looking its best.’ Oh yeah? Well I like to lick it clean and store it in my sweater drawer.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

A fax came through yesterday, form a German publisher who’s bought the rights to publish one of our biggest authors. The fax contained the request for us to ‘send an authorised photo of the author (with hat)’.

This weekend was spent working. And that’s about it. Really. I left the house exactly twice: for drinks and tapas on Saturday night, and to Tesco on Sunday, as the only edible food I had was instant oatmeal which had to be made with water, as I’d run out of milk. Apart from that, I sat on the couch and proof-read. It was fucking boring as hell, and the money sort of makes up for it, but I really hate working ten days straight, which is pretty much what is happening. But as I am going to use the cash to fly to New York City and raise hell with my best friend I guess it was all worth it.

Friday was Steve’s last day at work, so at 5pm we headed off to the Phoenix Theatre bar. It’s really weird not having him at work. We met at work two years ago and started dating after a year. One of the reasons it took us so long to get it on was because we were worried about the ‘dating work colleagues’ issue. Well, he was: I couldn’t care less. And, as it turns out, working together and dating was great: romantic lunches, ‘emergency’ meetings in the stairwell, and seeing each other every day. I’ve got used to it, and I’ve been spoiled.

Just been cruising the job pages on the Guardian site, and I was tickled to find a vacancy for a summariser. What on earth could this entail, I wonder? Had an image of myself doing this job: standing around a big mess of broken glass on the floor and saying ‘Weeeeeell, to summarise, it’s broken. That’ll be £450, please.’ I think I’ll apply.

The one pleasurable thing I did manage to do on Sunday was bake the best cookies ever. They were so good I actually dribbled as I ate the first one. They’re white chocolate and ginger, and as ginger is a stimulant and good for the spleen, it’s almost like health food. Email me if you want the recipe.

More work stuff: must get my expenses form signed. While part of me lives in fear of my boss saying ‘You? Why do you need expenses? What’s your name, anyway?’, I know that I could claim back a pair of shoes and a lost weekend in Cancun without anyone batting an eyelid. And I might just put that to the test.