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2013-07-11 11:30 am

Even the weather is nice.

Chris (Cwol) is coming round to visit any minute now, so I've been preparing things for his visit. Accordingly, there are freshly roasted coffee beans I did last night, and bread is baking even as I type. The plan is to have a steak sandwich at around midday.

I've rearranged my bedsit so two of us can sit at the table, and I have to say I like this arrangement a lot better. My easy chair is stuck in the corner. I'll see how it actually works in practice for day-to-day living, but for having someone over it's much more pleasant and open.

I've even hoovered. It's exactly as much faff as I remember, even with the tiny Tescos hoover that's so easy to move around. Now I know why I don't do it very often. I have to admit, it does make a real difference but I can't exactly see it being a weekly event. Anyway, it's done and I am pleased with the results.

My to-do list for today:

Post a letter
Buy steak
Make coffee
Drink coffee
Make a steak sandwich
Eat a steak sandwich.

The letterbox is right next to the butcher's, and the butcher is about eighty yards away, just to give some perspective.
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2013-06-27 06:02 am

Breakfast is home-baked bread and coffee I roasted myself.

How high is the hipster quotient on that one?
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2013-06-26 06:53 am

Coffee without Cats

I've been roasting my own coffee. I've learned, through dreadful experience, that you have to pretty much roast it until it all looks hideously burned. But there's a fine line between that and it actually being hideously burned. Too little roasting or too much and the end result is not coffee. And you have to roast the coffee for your morning cup the night before, to give the roasted beans the 12 hours they need for the flavour to develop.

This morning, on my third attempt, I ended up with actual COFFEE! Unfortunately, I over-brewed it so there's a sour tannic note, but other than that it's delicious. Millions of complex flavours and all that. Tomorrow, I know not to try to fire up the computer while the coffee is brewing, since I get distracted.

As to whether all this faff is actually worth it, even with my over-brewed cuppa I have to say yes, yes it is. It's like the taste difference between really good chocolate and Cadbury's. The Cadbury's is still nice (well, to those who like Cadbury's) but it's less complex.
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2013-06-22 09:36 am

Dwelling place, sweet dwelling place.

I've spent the last twenty days with ccooke and ruthi, who are the most warmhearted, kind and generous people I know. They've looked out for my comfort and allowed me to help sort out a few things for them, and the experience has been amazing and positive. Hard work, too, but quite honestly I've enjoyed just about every minute of my stay.

I'm now back in Nottingham, and suddenly very, very tired. Today I'm alternating between sleeping and reading. Tomorrow is Sunday, when I sort out my schedule for the week and listen to Radio 4 nearly all day, so damnit, today is a Day Off to just snooze as much as I like. Next week, I may be looking into volunteering again.

My garden has sprouted every weed since I was away, though sadly too few actual desired flowers. I'll go out there and give things a trim when I have the energy. Gardening nearly always makes me feel better about things. If I need another way to feel better about things, I have this Squirrel of Comfort to look at.

I've ordered a fairly cheap breadmaker, since all I really want to make is sandwich loaves. Lidl sell bread flour for about 60p for 2 kilos, while a loaf is £1. The breadmaker pays for itself in about six months, I think. I've ordered green coffee beans to roast myself, though that doesn't save me money really. It's just that I had really fresh coffee at the Federation Café in Brixton Village and now I want to be able to have it again.

I think it's time for a nap.
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2013-06-17 03:46 pm

Skip toodleoo.

It's been a busy weekend, and ya boo sucks to people who only have house viewings on a Saturday. Anyway, a skip has been and... actually is still there, though it was supposed to be picked up this morning. Scrap gatherers keep pausing and going through the rubbish for useful items, so rather than it being overfilled, it's emptier than expected.

ccooke's and ruthi's items increasingly have homes to live in, rather than places which they have been put. Also, ruthi found the most adorable card covered in watercolour painted little cartoon mice. It's next to me now.

I feel crap. I overdid it yesterday, I have sinus pain and tonsilitis and I am hungover from getting rather drunk on good whisky. All in all, no complaints at all.
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2013-06-14 09:46 pm

More London than ever.

Today was bright and sunny and warm, not what I was promised at all. I'm really pleased. Another flat turned out to be a fixer-upper, which is not what is wanted. Tomorrow, there will be two more houses and a skip. I do not have to put anything into the skip. I also have to put a picnic together for me and ruthi to eat while we're out.

Ccooke and ruthi continue to be lovely hosts. I don't know when I've ever been so pampered or so well fed. Tonight it was sausages, really good sausages, cooked perfectly, with fried mushrooms and onions and asparagus, and sourdough bread with butter. Followed by coffee. Breakfast is brownies and cream.

I've been working on my castle in Minecraft. It has lots and lots of nooks and crannies, all (hopefully) defended from hostile mobs. Today I put in the monster-infested catacombs under the orchard. The next part is turning the outer earth walls into cobble, and replacing the anti-climb fence with stone stair parapet. It's all built out of stone, cobble, earth and oak wood.
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2013-06-14 07:55 am

Coffee and Cats

So, Simon wanted to meet up in London and the place Eric suggested was Federation Café in Brixton Village. I've not seen Brixton Village before. It's astounding. The bright colours of home decor and clothes punctuate the busy ribbons of every form of café and small restaurant possible. It's impossibly crowded and incredibly friendly, especially if you're used to the idea that Londoners are stand-offish.

Federation Café itself actually hides in this background, with plain wooden tables outside, stencilled in black. They do fresh cakes, baked often enough that we ended up viewing two different selections while we were there. There's a limited, tasty selection of savouries. And they roast beans once a day, throwing out what's unused, and they grind beans every half an hour. The coffee is the best I've ever tasted, anywhere. I saved my morning caffeine dose for their coffee and had a little cup of miracles, and then the decaf turned out to also be amazingly tasty, which is a new and lovely experience for a decaf drinker.

The actual social experience was the same as these things always are - nice people chatting about general subjects and a very pleasant way to spend the afternoon. A bloke who was trying to read his paper ended up part of our circle, brought in I know not how or why, but kept there by being passed food. We were sharing our cakes - salted caramel millionaire's shortbread, rosewater and raspberry sponge, blackberry and almond cake and goodness knows what else.

On another subject entirely, we watched Horizon last night, me and ccooke and ruthi. The subject was domestic cats, which have been tracked and had cameras put on for a week-long survey. It was great. The talk about how cats are evolving was less so, but honestly just seeing cats' home ranges, and how they cover different shifts, and how cats in a multi-cat household genuinely are social, that was brilliant. I hope this becomes a regular thing, like Springwatch.
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2013-06-07 07:57 pm

Hugging summer around me like a warm blanket.

I'm staying with ccooke and ruthi, who are being lovely as ever.

Today we went out to look at houses. Neither house we saw was at all suitable, but we had a nice outing anyway. All this despite the fact that ruthi was not really having a good day, but she soldiered on.

We scouted out areas around the houses. The second was not that far from Hoe St, so we had lunch at Sunset Café and Desserts, which I can heartily recommend. They do fresh squeezed juices (apple, orange, carrot and probably a mixture of the above), savoury and sweet crepes, sandwiches (paninis, very good) and a nice range of good cakes. We made the most of the place, then checked out shops and got yellow Pakistani mangoes, which had not been in evidence on Wednesday and were suddenly everywhere in large numbers today.

The second house was full of tenants, who had not been warned we were coming to view the place. I felt awful for them - I know what it's like. Still, we looked round and saw what was wrong and what wasn't. They offered us tea and biscuits, so we accepted and watched Pakistan play cricket. They asked for luck for Pakistan's next two games (they were not doing well vs the West Indies), so I said sure, but I hoped England would thrash them at the semis. We parted on very good terms.

Tomorrow's breakfast is going to be a croissant with a sour cherry and vanilla cream filling, and there are plans to take me to a restaurant called Hawksmoor. It's a steakhouse where meat is chosen and then paid for by weight. I'd really like to take Pol there one day, I think he'd enjoy it.

The depression is gone and I am rapidly recovering from the M.E. I think that I was right when I thought that the relapse was because the stomach thing was stopping me absorbing the pills that make the M.E. go away. I'm recovering at what would be the right rate if I'd stopped taking them for a while then gone back on them again, and should be right as rain two months from now.
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2013-06-04 05:42 pm

There were even butterflies.

I went looking at houses with ruthi, and today was a really good day for it. One house we went to see was at Ascham End. In that cul-de-sac, and the streets leading up to it, none of the gardens had flowering shrubs or any sort of ornament, and very few even had their garden walls - the most common boundary was an inches-high smear of broken rubble. The house front had been vandalised, as had the 'for sale' sign, and when we looked though the ivy-buckled window, there was damp inside. We cancelled that viewing.

The next house viewing cancelled on us, but by then we'd been spending the between-time picnicking in Tottenham Marshes. Behind us was a gas storage tower, some warehouses and a broken factory. In front, a horse-shoe shape of trees, hawthorn bushes covered in May blossom and flat ground with waving flowering grass punctuated by bees and other insects. It was really very lovely.

We walked around to a quite nice bridge and played pooh-sticks.
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2013-05-20 07:04 am

So much time for activities!

I've been awake since 4am and actually up since 5:30am. I'd have liked a lot more sleep (and less migraine), but it is nice to shower and dress, have breakfast, sit around catching up on DW/LJ and then still have it be only just past 7am.

The weather is cold and grey. I'm fine with this, since I am going shopping with my Mum and we don't need nice weather for that. Also, I can get home and have hot chocolate.
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2013-05-19 08:28 pm

More sunshine in my head than outside.

I'm getting better again. From the depression and, surprisingly, from the M.E. relapse too. I *think* the stomach bug may have stopped me absorbing my drugs. I do know already that not taking my drugs for three days causes an entirely predictable M.E. crash. I hope I'm right, because if so I'll keep on improving back to where I was, pretty quickly.

I can't concentrate on anything at all though. I don't understand the rules for the Empire LARP, I can't keep my accounts going, I've stopped doing Latin and the other stuff. I can't even put a decent letter together. So, I've been playing Secret of the Magic Crystals which is a banal game in which you look after, train and breed magical ponies.

Meanwhile, I have been massively fortunate to have phone chats and texts and things from some of the loveliest people on this planet. You know who you are, and I am so very lucky to know you.
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2013-04-28 10:47 am

Getting back in the saddle.

Taking two weeks off of, well, pretty much everything seems to have actually done me some good, despite the depression (which is now lifting again). I'm having a very middle class Sunday, listening to the Archers omnibus. Tomorrow I try going back to the voluntary work.

Pol's sent me a graphics tablet, which should arrive this week, *and* I've found my camera charging cable, so I can get creative again. I do actually like creating art, however dreadful, but depression made me not want to. I've also had some lovely phone conversations, which is something I really enjoy. Time was, I couldn't cope with phone calls because of the migraines, but my pain management is just so good these days that I can cope, even if sometimes I'm a bit scatty. Anyway, everyone I talked to has been delightful and I loved hearing about what people have been doing.

I have garlic sprouting well, but no sign of peas or potatoes. It's been quite dry and I have no watering can. I've got an Amazon voucher for kitchenware (again from Pol)... perhaps if I kept it in the kitchen?

I might have energy this afternoon for calligraphy. I hope I do - I have a half-finished letter for Pol that has been sitting there literally for weeks. I have no idea why letter-writing seems so very hard to me right now, but it does.
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2013-04-03 06:20 pm

Back to work.

Oh ye gods! Being at work is so much better than not being at work! I'd been in a complete slump, and was hoping that being at work would kick me out of it. I'm now knackered, but my mood has shot up.

I spent the entire day, more or less, standing up steaming clothes, but I was asking about how items are priced, and expressed a desire to take on bric-a-brac as my 'department'. Upshot it, I showed myself not to be an utter numpty, and now I am learning how to price things. So one day I should end up coming in, sorting out the bric-a-brac and clearing the old stuff, under my own initiative. Having something to aim for is a mood boost. Also, I actually like steaming; it's warm, repetitive and takes no thought at all. When my head is full of post-illness cotton wool, it's really nice.

Job hunting is scaring me at the moment, I think because I've just had a week off ill, and the current job market is such that people can't take a week off to be ill. Also, changing my CV to fit individual jobs seems overwhelming atm. I am hoping that's another mental health thing and that I can do it now I am back into work mode and not in sit-around-putting-things-off mode.

Plan for this evening is to finish the amaretto and milk I am currently enjoying (I put this off for two months! Why?) and go to the supermarket and get some real actual food. Easy food, because right now it doesn't interest me very much. The fact that it's been a week and I still have no appetite to speak of, says that I was doing the right thing not risking spreading this bug to people. Anyone who knows me knows that lack of interest in food is not one of my personality traits.
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2013-03-20 06:34 pm

So busy doing nothing, working the whole day through.

I have nothing scheduled for tomorrow, at all, other than my normal morning routine and evening routine (which includes studying a few things for half an hour each and job hunting.) This is very unusual for me this year.

The fact it is so unusual says an awful lot about how much better my health is these days. I go out almost every day, I do physical stuff almost every day (most often forty minutes or so of walking), and I study almost every day, generally for about two hours in total.

It may not last. M.E. is a relapse-and-remission disease, so I may not be this well long at all (last time was about three years), but while it does, it's *wonderful*. And people do spend a couple of decades ill and then suddenly, for no apparent reason, get better, so it is actually possible that I'll be well and stay well.

Oh yes. I applied to Brook Street and got rejected. The job climate just now is *terrible*, so it's not surprising, but it would have been nice since I really enjoyed working for them last time. It has got me through the process of getting everything in order ready to apply though, so from now on it's just a case of tailoring my existing CV (Pol gave me a very, very useful template for this), keeping my interview clothes ironed and getting on with it. I may allow myself a small, short whinge every 100 rejections or so though.
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2013-03-11 09:00 pm

(no subject)

Moving into a room which got jemmied open less than a month ago might not have been the most sensible, but I've done it now. I like it better than my old room. It has a garden, and a little not-really-a-kitchen as a separate room. I'm fitting better bolts as soon as possible, as well as other security fixtures (like, for example, an alarm). Meanwhile, I'll be keeping my one valuable item, my laptop, with me as much as possible, or stored elsewhere entirely. Supposedly, this house and street don't see much crime. Except this year. So far both break-ins have been during the day.

Pol is helping me with my CV. I'm now at that stage of job-hunting. With ten years of bugger all, it's quite daunting. But if anyone can help me polish the turd of my work experience, Pol can.

The first thing I did after getting all my stuff into the room was to clean the kitchen. Then I went to the pub. Then I cleaned the kitchen some more.
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2013-02-28 05:07 pm

It's only going to be even colder in Orkney.

I've got a dress muslin (rough version in scrap fabric to check the fit) which I have been spectacularly failing to post this week. Tomorrow looks good for it.

I could, if I'd brought it, have posted it on my way to meet cwol. We went to Brown Betty's - it's a place which began, twenty-eight years ago, selling bagels with many fillings. The fillings have changed and the bagels are now chiabatta, but the place is otherwise exactly the same.

Cwol and I chatted about the horse meat scandal. A person on the same bench was eavesdropping subtly enough until some chance remark made them snort egg through their nose. They then showed us two adverts in the Sun today: one double-page spread from Tescos saying 'we're really sorry, we'll change', more or less. And straight over the next page, one from Asda saying 'We've always only sold British beef.' It didn't quite say 'so there'. I had smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, cwol had bologneighs.

I want to keep doing this meeting up. It's really nice and usually very funny. Funnier still if we can make other people choke on their breakfast.

I found something Pol might like: it's a quarter-pounder making kit with recipes. I have no idea what's even in the box.

Skyrim is ace. Except the bit where I had to kill the bandits in Varnheim Keep, and then got another quest from the Companions to kill the bandit chief in Varnheim Keep, only I'd already killed him. So, I got stuck with that quest permanently on and couldn't select other quests, or ever finish this one. At least I know to look out for that one now.

There's no moral dimension to the game - no Karma effect. So far. That I know of. So Character Two steals anything and everything that isn't nailed down. Hot diggity, people keep lockpicks in their pockets!

Also, when the starting NPC says 'we should split up', ignore them and follow them as long as you can. Otherwise you miss out on some nifty things.

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2013-02-22 06:09 pm

Skyrim battled productivity, Skyrim won

Actually to be honest I only started playing because I was already having a crap day and wasn't going to get anything done. I like it, but find the controls rather stiff and unreactive. And then, as the chill set in, so were my hands.

Right now I am sitting waiting for the Chinese food that Random is about to order and pay for, so we can have a meal. I can answer the door while she has a bath. Synergy! Ccooke has outlined to me an entire new world, and I've told him about the Reddit worldbuilding forum. There are sciency news stories, but my fingers are too stiff to cut and paste easily. Nipping downstairs to sit in the sauna I accidentally created by putting the gas fire on and forgetting has helped.

Pol's off to his friend's wedding, as planned. I'm hoping he has a good weekend.

That's it, really. Slow day.
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2013-02-20 10:23 pm

Spice the cuddliest, glompiest cat in the world. Hatter is adorable. I was worried Spice had forgotten me, but she crawled up for her usual night time cuddle and stopped me doing anything else for a while. :0) Hatter's been making me play with him.

Pol and Random and Kira have gone out to dinner without me. I arranged a Tescos delivery for 9-10pm, thinking that would be plenty of time for me to get to Wigan, but it wasn't, so they had to wait in for my food. Then Pol persuaded me to let him pick me up instead of getting a taxi, and so they had to wait for that too. But they've all gone out to dinner now, an hour later than planned. I was asked not to go along, and that in fact the plan had been for me to arrive to an empty house, except I ruined that with bad planning. I'm a bit confused about why this plan, but hopefully everybody is happy now and being fed. I've got a glass of milk and am curled up with the cats.
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2013-02-20 08:22 am

Thankfully, the forecast of arctic chill today was wrong.

The air patterns in this bedsit are very odd. If I turn the gas fire on, the room gets colder, though if the gas fire is full on then the room does eventually warm up. And this morning I've discovered that if the gas fire is on and I open both the windows wide, the room gets warmer, though the area immediately by the window is cold.

I do half an hour of reading Latin every day, and the Latin I am learning is starting to get more complicated. I still refuse to learn grammar, because then when translating in my head, I get so stuck on the grammar, I forget what it is I am trying to translate. I'm hoping to learn it as I did English and Spanish grammar: through sheer usage. I really like this method of learning: starting off with very simple Latin phrases, which gradually add in new vocabulary which you eventually figure out from context and illustration.

The new daily self-improvement habit is press-ups, which I've never yet been able to do even when fit and strong and well. Oxfordgirl showed me a method of getting there gradually, so I'm doing, at the moment, a few reps of wall-pressups before breakfast. Nothing challenging, but even so my arms already do not love me. This means progress, right?

The other thing I am doing is reading old magazines. At the moment, it's Britannia and Eve from October 1936. There's enough dense reading matter in this one magazine to keep me reading for a couple of weeks. They literally don't make them like that any more. Articles are all novella length in very tiny print. The later magazines, which were published during rationing, are much slimmer. It's amusing to be reading the exact sort of adverts detailed in Dorothy L Sayer's 'Murder Must Advertise'. Also, the stories are surprising: single women could be alone in their bedroom with a man, even several men, of an evening and nobody batting an eyelid. One always gets the impression that pre-War society was incredibly strait-laced. Also, there was a nice article on travels around Leninist Russia, before Stalin took over and led to the privations and hardship we associate with the USSR. I want more old magazines now.

The magazine from 1945, which I've glanced through but not properly read, is really saddening. The articles are about making do and mending, but the adverts are particularly heartbreaking. 'There is no Ovaltine, but there will be soon!' 'Our lamps are helping our boys abroad, but one day you can enjoy their superior light!' sort of thing. And the one from the Ministry saying please don't steal rations from your children, in the nicest possible way.
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2013-01-29 08:43 pm

What are they teaching kids these days?

I had a lovely family visit today. Once again, we all ended up going to a supermarket. I promise, I do not come from a family that regards it the height of entertainment to visit a supermarket. Except, apparently, I do. And I'm one of them.

We spent most of the time sitting eating and drinking tea, while Nibling watched Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom. It is about Ben, an elf, and Holly, a fairy princess. I know, I know. However...
One of the plot points in this particular episode involved explaining what an 'astrophysicist' does and hunting for a book on astrophysics.

The 'text' on the storybooks, I was amused to see, wasn't garblescribble, but Lorem Ipsum.

My Nibling has an adorable habit, when bought a present, to make sure, on the giver's next visit, to show that she is using and enjoys said present. She doesn't actually say a word about it, just uses it or wears it close to the giver.

I've had my new patient check. I am healthy, half an inch shorter than I used to be and seven pounds less than at my last check. I've also learned that during a breast exam, as well as all the fondling, there's a hokey-cokey element to check no parts of the breast are stuck to the chest wall. I'm a little sad that Pol isn't around to double-check this for me. I am sure he'd be glad to help.