Wednesday, April 30, 2003

...And we go live with the new design. It ain't perfect, but it sure is pink and much more ME. Hope you like it - I'm off to list things on eBay with the rest of this day off, so more later.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

I know, I'm a disgrace. It's just that I've been enjoying my time off, and before I knew it a week had passed! I've been in martha stewart mode (again) as well as getting stuck into some diy and long overdue clearing out (scary garage filled with random crap from previous owners...) Today I did some painting in the bathroom. I can't stay long as I have to get said paint out of my hair before my friend Carole comes round for coffee at 3 ish.

I've been taking loads of photos though, so here are a couple to start with:

This is about half of my rhubarb "harvest" from my garden, which grows amazingly every year since it's next to the composter. It made six jars of chutney and one crumble.

My littlest one, Minna - blending into her surroundings perfectly. I love it when they sit on that footstool, and it's usually when we have company and they want to show off. She was flirting with our friend JJ that particular time.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Last day! Last day at the old job!!!

Despite all the issues, it's been ok today. The people I did get on with have all phoned to say bye, including my one senior ally who thought I should never have been made to do those dreaded phone calls. He had another sympathetic rant - he said he'd told my manager off about it again, and revealed that he'd also handed in his notice! (for different reasons of course...)

As for the "make a fuss of me", I got a gorgeous bouquet of posh flowers - all cream and coordinated, thank you very much.

So an hour and a half to go, and then a fantastic long break until my new job starts on the 28th. Bliss!

In other happy news, I came third in David's 20 songs in 20 seconds competition. I know I didn't win, but I was in very good pop-knowledge company so I think it's quite an accomplishment.

And I have a mysterious parcel to collect after work. Don't you just love that feeling of postal anticipation? I'm not expecting anything, so I'm hoping it might be my visa so I can stay here on my own back without having to think about, y'know, weddings... eeek! I think I forgot to blog here that I got a letter from the Home Office that said it would take up to 6 weeks, which totally stressed me out. It's only been 2 weeks (four if you count the two weeks it took them to acknowledge my application) but you never know.

It's gorgeous and sunny, but it's only going to last until Saturday apparently - so I insist that you all do the barbecue/drinking out on patio/late night stroll thing pronto. Enjoy, and one last thing: don't eat any rubbish Easter chocolate packed in stupid boxes - spring for some belgian truffles instead!

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Once again, the Conservatives show their fabulous fashion sense...

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Social Policy Rant

Let's say you've been unemployed for a while. Although your JSA (job seeker's allowance) isn't a fortune, chances are you get housing and council tax benefit paid as well which gives you some security. (If they pay it on time that is!)

Lately the government has been pushing lots of New Deal schemes, but I'm focusing on New Deal +25. Here's the basics: a workplace takes you on for at least six months and gets a weekly subsidy of £75 towards your full-time salary, which must be at least minimum wage. Looking through the New Deal website, they go on about how people who switch to New Deal should be at least as well off as before, but is that the case if you're a single childless person? Nope!

If you earn minimum wage, you take home about £135 a week after tax based on a 37 hour week. Shocking as this sounds, that salary works out to be too high to entitle a single person to any housing or council tax benefit. So with your whopping £585 a month, you have to cover rent (£40 per week on average for council accommodation) and council tax (about £10 a week for band A in Manchester at the moment, with the 25% single person discount.) That means £174 goes to rent and £44 to council tax, leaving you with £218 to see you through the rest of the month.

That's £7.16 a DAY. Who can live on that? You might be able to feed yourself (barely) but what about emergencies? I did note that sometimes you can get your benefits extended when you start, but it's only for four weeks.

So it's no surprise that we get so many cases of young single people with council tax arrears where I volunteer. Not only do they have to go through the stress of living on a low wage and feeling crap about being in debt, but if they bury their heads in the sand their debt eventually gets passed on by the council to a bailiff. Then they have the lovely experience of being hounded on the phone, by post and by visits, and having to constantly make sure they don't give the bailiffs a chance to gain "peaceable" entry to their flat.

Makes me feel pretty lucky.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Reading my post about W.I.T., I sound quite cheerful, but I'm not. I'm actually feeling incredibly grumpy today. Four days left at the (paid) job and the minutes are crawling - no, limping by. I'm on my own, the phone never rings, I've tied up the measly few loose ends there were and there's nothing to do except surf the net until my eyes go bloodshot.

This morning, even a cappuccino at home with my favourite Roberts & Co. napoli espresso and a second one from Loves Saves the Day couldn't wake me up. When I'm tired, grumpy and bored, I also turn to chocolate. By 1 pm I'd eaten a whole box of Green & Black's organic dark chocolate butter biscuits (fat content of box: about 30g). Sugar dulls the appetite, so I haven't eaten much of my proper lunch (Swedish crispbread and guacamole hummous from the Unicorn, plus an orange) and now the usual 3 pm slump has made me even more sluggish.

I'm sure I'll be all sunshine and smiles by tomorrow.

Record alert: W.I.T - s/t cd (release date: 1st March 2003, Mogul Electro)

I don't think I've been so excited by the thought of buying a record in some time. There have been quite a few excellent recent releases that I've been loving (Manitoba, Xela, the new Hidden Cameras album) but this...well, maybe it's because they're girls.

W.I.T. (which stands for Whatever It Takes) are three girls from NYC who have been on the electroclash (TM) scene since late 2001. I'd never heard of them before - for one thing, I HATE the term electroclash and tend to not seek out anything that actually labels itself as that. Also, I've found the bulk of "those" records released in the last year or so quite dull. Run of the mill synth sounds, lyrics that either irritate or are trying too hard to be naughty, band members who focus on image over music...

But from the first moment that I heard "Ooh I like it" by W.I.T., I was hooked. First impressions: Blondie (flirty retro confidence) the Shangri Las (call and answer lyrics) Baccara (lamé dresses) and Heart (glam hair and posing!) They describe themselves as "huggable pop electro" and judging from "Ooh I like it", I think that's exactly right. Slinky beats, bright pop production, laughter and amusing lines like "Do I feature in your immediate plans?" or "My astrologist says you're right on're just my sign..." They cover the Cars "Just what I needed" (which you can see as a short live AVI clip via the website) and look and sound as though they're having a great girly time. This is the kind of band I would love to be in - taking cues from my favourite 60s groups, adding the 80s fun, slightly trashy without being sleazy, not taking yourself too seriously and making it all sound fresh. At the very least, they seem like the kind of girls I'd love to spend a Friday night getting dressed up and ready to go out with.

I know all of this is just from hearing ONE song...but every review or article I've since read leads me to believe this is going to be my record of the year. Big words from someone who hasn't heard it yet, but I just have this feeling I'm right.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

For office diversion this afternoon: wonderfully strange Japanese ads done by western celebs at Panderers in Japan. (nb: you'll need Quicktime to view...)

Monday, April 07, 2003

Suddenly, I seem to be seeing Andy Rourke everywhere. He was at Pitman, and on Saturday he was sat next to us at Night & Day while we had our usual lunch there. Today, as I was leaving my voluntary work and heading for a bus, I passed him on Dale Street in the northern quarter.

I know he's just a normal guy, but I just can't help having these flashbacks to being an angsty 14 year old staring at the Smiths poster on my wall everytime I see him. Maybe it's because he's always wearing brown aviator shades - could it be prolonging the aura of mystery?

It still makes me laugh to think that I'm living here - back then, Manchester seemed about a million miles away. I imagined it to be a grimy city where you had to live next to a factory in Hulme (thank you, Smiths poster), which I thought you pronounced "Hull-mm". Erp!

Thursday, April 03, 2003

I was absolutely thrilled to read that my local organic co-op the Unicorn, which was facing eviction and relocation when their landlord was considering selling to a developer (like south Manchester needs more flats!), has been saved by their customers. I had seen the notices asking for investors to help them make a counter offer, and would have loved to if I'd had the minimum £250 for a share. I was a bit unsure as to how successful they'd be, so it was amazing to read that not only did they raise their target £100,000 in a week, but the total invested grew to £300,000. This put them a strong position for making an offer and greatly reduced the amount of commercial mortgage they'd have to source, as well as interest to pay - you could choose anywhere from 0% to 6% interest for your investment, with many going for 0% and the average being 3%.

I occasionally get irritated at the ongoing gentrification of Chorlton (no Starbucks yet though, thank god!). I may also occasionally get irritated by *some* of the people who shop at the Unicorn - my 10 year stint at a veggie co-op cafe in Toronto has left me with very little tolerance for uptight vegans. But this has given me the warm fuzzies. This time, gentrification = disposable income = doing a very good turn.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

As today is my usual (precious) morning off, I made sure I had a good charity shop snoop after posting a birthday parcel to my sister in Canada. I love nothing better than to hit the six best shops in my area after running errands, and I'm addicted to the buzz of anticipation - a bit like Jacques I guess.

My 60s fairy godmother must have been smiling on me today, as I managed to score lots of great vintage stuff. While I was in the PDSA, a sweet old lady stopped me to admire my finds (the best one being a Marc Jacobs-esque 60s white beaded clutch) and asked me what my shopping secret was. I wasn't sure - maybe having a good set of knees? (I didn't say that to her, of course.)

April is going to be a good month. I have over a week off between finishing at this job and starting the new one, and best of all - the temporary office at the new place is, I discovered, am 8 minute walk from my house. No more buses! Well, for a while anyhow. Part of my job will be to help them find a permanent office, and they have a pretty tight budget. I'm praying it won't end up being somewhere in north or east Manchester, because I seriously wouldn't have a clue as to how I'd get there by public transport - and certain areas would make me feel less than safe too.

Speaking of all things new, a spring clean for this ol' thing is on the way too. Watch this space.