Thursday, December 29, 2005

Home Sweet Home

Hello hello my dear friends! I am home!

It feels so good to be home!

When I walked into my room I was suitably impressed. "Ooh, what a nice room I have." "Oh what a convenient bathroom." are not usually heard from someone who has lived in the same place for a year and a half. But when you've spent 10 days away in 6 alright hotels, what do you expect?

I am never going on another coach tour. I couldn't sit another hour. Actually, the last two days were real tests of endurance. Sit...sit...fidget...get out...loo...run around, flap and stretch...back in for another 3 hours or so. Nope. Not again. Even though we saw so much and were well taken-care of, I think I would rather fly, stay in one place for a few days, see everything, even get a little bored. In my experience, that is how the spirit of a place seeps into one's heart.

It was a great holiday overall, though. I reviewed my pictures on the TV a few minutes ago, and said "wow" a bit too often, so be forewarned. When I get them from my camera into my online gallery, I will provide the link and I hope you enjoy seeing them as much as I enjoyed taking them.
Also, over the next few days I shall regale you with tales of my adventures and hope you enjoy the vicarious experience!

Good night.
Bonne nuit
and
Buona notte

I am off to wash the Continent out of my hair.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Christmas Wish

I wrote 25 cards last night and finished a whole box and posted them all this morning. I am so proud of myself, even though I was up into the wee hours for it.

yay

My mum arrived yesterday morning so I have been occupied with her and my new camera, the Kodak Z740. I had chosen the next model down but she used her discretion and brought this instead.

So today we were out getting a bag and memory card for it at Selfridges because I couldn't be bothered to go all the way to Tottenham Court Road. (Though in the end that wouldn't have been so bad considering how much we ended up walking.). We walked from Bond Street station down Oxford Street to Regent's Street, popping into shops every now and then. From there we made our way down to Chinatown where we ate dinner at Ikkyusan, then to Leicester Square where we had hot chocolate at Haagen-Dasz, then walked down Piccadilly to Green Park station.
And I forgot my pedometer.

So before I go to Italy on Monday, I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas with family, friends, and whatever makes you feel warm and happy, inside and out.

In the languages of my heritage:

Kala Christouyenna
Gledileg Jol
Joyeux Noel


Love
~O~

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Masquerade...!

Un-napped, showered, dressed and decorated, I went down for landlady to take photos. Inexplicably, she got out her camera too and took more pics of me with that than landlord took with mine!
With mask, without mask, with jacket, without jacket, now hold the mask to your face, now by your waist, now up here. Felt like a publicity shoot. No desire to be a celeb.

She said to me, "No inhibitions, have lots of fun." And I did. I turned on the charm and sparkled wildly.

The car came late and there was lots of traffic, so I missed the champagne reception, but I find those boring and tiring on the feet anyway. I was seated at a table of friendly people (as they all are at the club) who welcomed me with open arms (almost literally) and we launched into the sort of conversation expected of members of a literary and arts club. BUT I was the only person of the lot I met who actually had studied it, so got all the hard questions and forced my mind around a lot of information I had not touched in a year.

Dinner was two hours long, there were red and white wines flowing, and the menu was all in French but it went like this:

-- Prosciutto ham with melon, rocket and parmesan, sprinkled with balsamic vinegar

-- Fillet of turbot in a saffron cream sauce on a bed of ...celeriac I think. What's that bulb thing with the ends cut off, that is also the name of a seed in the herb cabinet?

-- Beef medallions with tiny parisian potatoes and spinach (Medaillons de boeuf, pommes de terre parisienne, et epinards...qqc) ooh la la.

-- Mousse au chocolat (in martini glasses)

-- Cafe et folliards (?) - espresso with tiny mince pies

Out on the courtyard terrace were two towering figures dressed up like 18th century Venetian masqueraders. V. Cool.

Vica, who sat on one side of me, was a vegetarian and did not like her mushroom risotto, and I didn't want all my spinach and potatoes. So we shared, and she, being Polish, was happy that I knew how to say Nasdrovye (Cheers). She wants me to go to the opera evenings and is going to make sure I go.

All evening I got: you're so lovely and exotic, where are you from? I dug up my heritage countless times and then had to do it again for the cab driver on the way home.

My mother hens (Elizabeth & Paul) looked out for, but could not find, the Club director so that they could introduce me because he would know exactly who I needed to know. All evening, she kept saying she hopes I will meet the people I need to meet there.

They loved my mask, even more so when I told them I'd made it. Elizabeth showed it off to everyone else for me. I didn't even mention my handmade bracelet and ring!

There was a raffle for some things, including a stay at the Mandarin Oriental, and I was asked to pull out the first number. The mic wasn't on so we couldn't hear what the prize was; neither could we hear what was being auctioned next, although guests - and staff - were bidding blindly. Something to do with golf.

During dessert the jazz band struck up. Drums, bass cello, flute/clarinet, piano and vocals.
When it came time for dancing I had a dance each with the 3 men on my table. Two of them were older and knew how to dance, so I followed. One was younger and made it up as he went along but did it so well I asked how he'd learned; this was my first attempt in years (and only my second time ever - the last time being with Dad at their 25th anniversary) so we butted heads once.

Then Elizabeth introduced me to another table which included Ian the membership director who said he was glad to see me there but that I ought to go round more often. The member Lee and his 4 guests work together in the media department of Barclays and they were a nice bunch. Lee danced with me twice. We were both rubbish but still better than worse, and I was the one saying, "Let's try a twirl", in which I ended up twirling him the second time...but when you end a dance with your hand being kissed it makes up for the cafuffle, so I curtseyed in return. Once, all 5 of us danced together, including Belinda who left her crutches behind for it.
Back at the table, Sue said she loved my dancing and how my skirt swished around. Huh!
I told her, were it not for the crinoline skirt, the dancing would look appalling.

It got so hot that at one point I had to go and stand outside on the steps. A few people went by, peering curiously through the doors (as I would if I were them). One group went by and after a lingering look, one commented, "...Looks nice..."

Then there was more dancing and by the end of the evening the staff were letting their hair down, although the major domo, Giulio? Luigi ?, had been swinging a very smooth shoe all evening! In fact he was better than most of the guests!

I had ordered my car for midnight, so I went out at 00.01, found the driver, and told him I was right on time. He said, pointing at the clock, "No, you're one minute late." (Oh, the coach will turn into a pumpkin!) I asked for another minute so I could do goodbyes, and Lee kissed my hand again. Back out at the car it was 00.08. I said, "Ooh I am 5 minutes late." He said, "Six." He was funny.

And I am not missing a shoe.

Cinderella

Going to the ball tonight!

Glass slippers polished and ready. But the store forgot to frickin remove the security tag this morning for an important item so I just called them. Have to go back and complain to the manager and I don't know how they will make it up to me.

So, skip the nap so I can be warm enough out there?
Or come back and not shower so I can nap?

Hm.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Falling Behind

It has been a long time since my Blog Queue grew to any length. Here are yesterday's thoughts for today. It's a bit like one of my old "circles".

More from the New York Social Diary: A gala dinner at the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute, graced by the Queen herself. Chaired by Oscar de la Renta (who is, incidentally, Argentinian...) with special guest Senator Hillary Clinton, who was wearing a blue velvet De la Renta dress. Queen Sofia was in a classic number but there was no mention of the designer so it probably wasn't by De la Renta.

The author went on to name all the illustrious guests and drop in a tidbit of gossip here and there. The paragraph that made me laugh out loud went like this: "Rafael the duc de Feria, Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia. The prince and the duke soon learned on meeting that they were wearing the same Royal Oak watch by Audemars Piguet, except Prince Dimitri's was accompanied by a wristlet with one large black pearl (something for the duke to want)."

Amongst the party snaps, there was one of the Prince and the Duke comparing watches.

Combien coute-ca?* A few thousand pounds, which is affordable compared to the competition, yet buys you a really special piece of machinery. They make Rolex look blinging, and I doubt anyone has thought of knocking off an Audemars Piguet.

But wait, this means that when they met, they kept an eye on each others cuffs for a glimpse of watch and then one decided to point it out. Do men eyeball each other's watches or cufflinks in the same way women look at each other's earrings or handbags?

I must say, I do like the look of a man's wrist sporting a nice watch. But it does have to be a nice wrist attached to a nice man, and he has to have nice hands too.

I have personal experience of this. Not the hands, well yes...the hands...*sigh*........no, of my bag being noticed (and not when I was mugged). Specifically by the Christie's interviewer who remarked on the slimness of my leather portfolio. Indeed, it is the neatest I could find.

I nearly slid into one of my cheeky 20Six blogs back there!

So it is obvious that in some settings, at least, every detail counts.
This could be the moral of the story. Yes, today we have a moral: Every detail counts.

* Apologies, the accents do not work after publishing

Monday, December 12, 2005

All About the Love

I wrote this post last night, lost it when my browser crashed, then gave up and went to bed.

Thinking this weekend about the interview on Friday (see previous post), I am convinced that she won't seriously consider me for the admin assistant positions. Although my experience is heavily weighted that way, my qualifications beg for something better. The more she looked at my CV, and the more she heard the passion in my voice, the more assured she became that I should be a junior specialist.

Hopefully that's not her way out, but it can't be - as she said it more than once. She said I would not be happy out of contact with the objects.

One deciding factor was when the question of favourite types of art came up. I mentioned Asian art. She asked why, and I talked about the quality of materials used, the intricacy of workmanship and the highly finished result...

In my mind's eye as I spoke, I was seeing inro and netsuke, pierced ivory, inlaid mother of pearl, lacquered finishes, etc.

*sigh*

**********

Speaking of Asia, I read an article today about a woman who was
Too Tall for Tokyo

I would have fit right in...well, almost. I like the way things are done just so in Japan. After a while I think it would get to me, though, especially the social protocols and the lack of individualism. As much as I appreciate Asian culture, my mindset is undeniably Western, further compounded by the fact that I spent my teenage years in the USA. It is indeed the land of the free, of liberty, of opportunity. They are brought up to exalt the abilities of the individual - and the capacity of that individual to pursue whatever path he chooses. Moreover, as I matured there I became all too aware of the power of the woman, realising that I didn't have to be a teacher, a dancer, an actress, or a nurse. Most of my friends here went down one of those paths. Once in America, I was encouraged to explore all possibilities to their fullest potential! Doctor, lawyer, military officer, scientist, government agent, translator, intelligence specialist, air traffic controller...These are all things I considered at one time or another.

So although I am British first, I am also *gasp* an American.

**********

A question: is it common practice over here to send a thank you note after an interview? Faced with the innate restraint of manner in the UK, it just seems like such a strategical American move.

**********

I end with a quote about the unparalleled Cole Porter:

Cole's treasury will live as long as anyone wants to listen to songs bearing a witty, sophisticated touch. Or songs that have a raucous joy. Or a haunting and voluptuous surrender. Cole Porter without question is an acquired taste, but then so are caviar and champagne.

-- David Grafton

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Interview [ADDENDUM]

It was with Christie's (finally)! I deserved this, have been trying for a year!

It was the longest and most detailed psychological interview I've had since the State Department security services one...except that was over 3 hours long and included essays, interviews, tests, and interviews.

There are a few admin positions open in various departments.
She will consider me for a couple, but she said I really ought to be a junior specialist, and am I interested in the internship?

Yes.

Another internship. Oh well.
Nice to know I'm junior spec material!

And being Christie's they do it properly. I was expecting to go into an office, but we were in the upstairs dining room. I couldn't keep my eyes off the paintings on the wall. In fact at one point as I was talking, I was comparing a large abstract scene over the fireplace, with the scaled-down version beside it.

That's all for now, it's time for dinner.

**********

[ADDENDUM]

Well, he wouldn't let me tell you as soon as I wanted. I'd written it, deleted it, and now here I tell you again! Our old friend Steli is back!

If you like my informative posts, you will love his. Please visit Steliano's Day Dreams so you can really use your brain cells.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Hm

There I was earlier today, blogging about how not to catch a cold, and this evening on the Tube home, I sat opposite a woman who kept coughing. Not that I could move - while she covered the middle section, two more coughing people took care of either end of the carriage. The rest of us sat there looking trapped.

I tried very hard not to breathe.

**********

But oh my god, where am I going? A couple of months ago, I was wriggling into my size sixes, but today I kept pulling them up, and yet I am on something that includes weight gain as a side effect! Hello...?
Plus, since starting yoga I've started eating meat again. I also have midnight snacks and I've been eating porridge every morning for a month now.

But hey, maybe this is just how stress chooses to manifest itself in my case.

**********

Ah....Tomorrow I have a Very Important Interview...

This is what I hate about suits: My nicely tucked in shirt doesn't stay that way for long. But I can't go to an interview with my shirt untucked under a jacket, no matter how nicely tailored it is...!
Bugger!

A Seasonal Tip

Let me change the subject!

Since Rox wrote about her flu, I have decided to share some personal Tips for Avoiding a Cold.

As you know, our little nasal hairs and viscous excretions are two defenses for our fragile mucous membranes. They trap germs which we then expel when we blow our noses.
When these membranes dry out (due to dehydration, flying, etc.) they produce microscopic cracks, and the opportunistic bacteria work their way right in - viruses are hard and spiky and make their own breaks. Furthermore, the lack of moisture enables them to reach all the way to the back of our noses, where the infection starts

[DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU ARE SQEAMISH: This is why we feel icky and painful back there on the first day of an infection - because the viruses are capturing our throat cells, manufacturing more viruses, then the cells lyse (explode) releasing a stream of invaders which take over our body. Our immune system fights back, causing fevers (high temps to kill the invaders) and extra mucous (to flush them out). The painful inflammation in the nose and throat are caused by mast cells swelling to produce large quantities of thin mucous (similar to an allergic reaction). The mucous thickens with a cold, though, because it is full of the virus bodies being flushed out of the body. That's why you want to avoid ingesting it; unfortunately, we have to sleep and then post-nasal drip lets it into our lungs, thus causing the dreaded congested cough.
Afterwards, thanks to the memory cells, we have immunity to that particular strain of cold or flu, but there are so many thousands of strains that next time we just catch another and the battle begins anew.]

I depend on one of those 8-hour release 500 mg Vitamin C capsules but also...medicated chest rub! I started applying it to the inside of my nose in the winter to prevent nosebleeds caused by overnight dryness.

As a side benefit, since starting this mentholated vaseline treatment, I haven't had a cold.

Viruses thrive in winter because they survive well in cold, dry air, so we endure an assault every time we go out. I've started applying the ointment when I go out too; I mean, think of all the people who sneeze and the things we touch, then we transfer it all to our faces and the process begins again. This is why when I go home, I wash my hands and blow my nose.


*Disclaimer: if I have made any factual errors, remember it's been years since I studied this.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Wish upon a star

If only I could...
Give up my grad degree in exchange for a real relationship.
Be less intellectual, if it meant I could have a chance at something emotionally fulfilling.

Because:
My mind is full, but my heart is empty.
My education enriches me, but does not love me.

**********

Did you know Merserene has a Blogger Blog too? If you liked my eye candy, wait till you see her shiny things. I am so tempted to nickname her "Magpie". So toodle off to Transmissions from my Mind and feast your eyes! Not to worry, it will load in a new window.

**********

So I went to Soho for my mask today. They had a lot of pretty jewellery there made using Swarovski crystals, with similar prices as Butler & Wilson, only a little less girly-girly and more grown-up. Except for the blinging keychains and rings. Those sorts of things at B&W were more authentic and French and yummy, if you know what I mean.

This little shop called OMYGOD on Frith Street had a decent selection of nice, affordable papier-mache Venetian masks starting at £24. The one I wanted fitted perfectly without a ribbon or a stick. Shiny black lacquer with a delicate design on one side only...of Swarovski crystals. Which begs the question, How much?
£120
I said "Oh my God."

The assistant chose all the smaller, narrow ones for me. There was a nice gold one with a central airsprayed area in green and scattered glitter scrolls and curlicues. Some of the traditional Arlecchino (Harlequin) ones were even a little too narrow! And I suppose if you get a trad one like that it doesn't really have to match the outfit. I don't know....
But do look at these masks, aren't they beautiful? (Also a new window.)

Anyway, in the end I settled on a black matte one, probably the cheapest in the shop, and had him remove the ribbons and put on a stick for me, thus making it a lorgnette style mask. (Lorgnette is the French term for opera glasses. Opera glasses are dainty little specs a lady would grasp by the handle with her silk-gloved hands and hold up to her pretty eyes, all the better to see the opera with from her red velvet loggia. A loggia, or loge, is....never mind...this huge tangent is already big enough.) Then I rushed off to John Lewis with designs dancing in my head. Straight to the Haberdashery department, of course.

I might become a beading freak. I got Swarovski crystal and sterling silver beads of various sizes - including enough to make myself a bracelet and a ring, since I cannot find any to fit. Also got a little reel of nylon thread and a couple of clasps for the purpose.

If I get good at this...well...it's "eBay, here I come!", but don't hold your breath yet.

None of you know I won a mask-making competition in high school. I got the blue ribbon in the regional French Cultural competition. It was a whole-face mask encrusted in sequins: the top half was the Stars and Stripes (needed the head space for the stars, and anyway in the US the flag has to be on top) and the bottom half was the French flag. Red, white and blue feather plumes came out of the eyes, and there were two bells hung on tassels on the sides. I mounted it on a black background. ["Plumes" is such a stupid-looking word.]

My mother kept it on the wall beside my certificates and awards for about 14 years. Every now and then we might find a sequin on the floor, or find a bit of coloured feather floating around on the tiles, but it survived quite well.
I think she threw it away when she moved out of the house.
I wonder what she did with my 2nd place poster....It was HUGE. A gorgeous American eagle, draped by the flag, surrounded by countless world flags under the slogan Help your country: learn a foreign language. My dad did the immaculate lettering because by then I'd had a wart cauterised on my palm and couldn't work. Hehe, I remember him writing an English paper for me while I dictated, and when I turned it in my teacher nearly died, his writing was so neat!

Oh cool. Now I know where I get the pride in my handwriting from....I'm always yelling at my mother for scrawling, bless her ;)

Hey look, I just did free thought circles! Been months since I did that. And don't look at the time, I just can't go to bed...

...One of those days...

Oh wait, should I have got the white mask instead??? It's OK, I won't freak out if you say I should have, I'll just shrug my shoulders, say "Eh, the black one is [insert justification here] and proceed to decorate it.

Nite nite. Or rather, good morning. Enjoy the freezing fog on your way to work.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Me as a Doll



Ready for the ball. All I need now is a mask.
I discovered I have to find my own. Soho, here I come! (Soho! Used to be, quite aptly, a hunting cry.)















A few of you have made the leap. It's worth a visit from time to time: My other blog

Friday, December 02, 2005

Chip Chop and Hodyssey

Went to the hairdresser's today. I decided the length was sufficient and I wasn't going to grow it more and start losing weight to feed it, parasite that it is.

Seriously, I lose enough hair in two days to supply another person. I eat for two. I should sell it for wigs. Etc.

So anyway, I told her I liked the length, and I wanted some shape now, get rid of the bottom and graduate it. Think 1920s-30s. "Typical Olivia!" I hear half of you exclaim.

Indeed, even at its shortest it was like the Eton Crop, adopted by women in 1926:

























Last time she cut my hair, summer had barely started. She was shocked at what it looks like long(ish). After she'd trimmed about a bit, it looked swept and romantic, sort of like this:



Then she got out the brush and blow-dried it straight, all around my head. Told her I looked like a mushroom - but she needed to do it to see where else she needed to cut. And then! And then! She straightened my hair! She took one of those ceramic hair-ironing things to MY head! To quote Bertie Wooster, "I mean to say, what?!"

I know, we had agreed to straighten it a bit to see what it would be like. I sat there stroking the smoothness of it...Straight hair, like what other people have!

She went around chipping and snipping, and then styled it with moulding wax. So now I look like this:


It's a bit hard-looking, and I want a softer edge. Oh yeah, and she moved my parting to the other side (???) What's that for?

Well, after pushing it back from tickling my forehead (drove me bonkers), and after it got blown and wet in the rain....still straight...can't wait till I wash it and get me pretty curly-wurlies back :P





**********

Freshly shorn and walking to the station, I realised I needed to go, so I nipped into Harrods (to use the loo) and didn't even try to find the Krispy Kreme shop. Not that I could if I'd tried.
Never go to Harrods. You will not find what you seek. You will get lost in the labyrinthine departments, and the Sphinx in the Egyptian hall will eventually claim your soul.

Actually, there are people wearing gold Information sashes who are supposedly well-qualified to direct you so after going in a few circles I asked one. After a long slog up the escalators and about half a mile later, I ended up in one of the Luxury Toilets (it announced loudly on a brass wall plaque). An attendant stands by a table of perfumes and hand lotions, and motions you towards the next available cubicle. Quelle metier!

While I was upstairs I thought I might as well look for Christmas cards. Despite following the signs, another lady and I got lost on the way. To be expected, of course.

Another thing about Harrods apart from being impossible to navigate and full of tourists cluttering the exits and every possible walkway: Service is nearly unobtainable, busy or not, and the card section was surprisingly un-busy. I stood there waiting beside a mother and daughter while they paid for their purchases. There were a couple of people hanging about by the counter. One of the more managerial-looking assistants helped out, then she proceeded to help the hangabouts and I piped up with, "Wait, what about me, I've been here for ages." She started to protest about helping the other people, and I said, "Yes but how long have they been there?"
While I paid up, I grumbled audibly: "Now I remember why I never come to Harrods. I never get served...!"

Honestly, my most vivid memories of the place in recent years is of standing about indefinitely with tea caddies and chocolate bars that I start to not want because you can't get served.

But I will enthusiastically mention the mini ice rink they have in one of the windows, where a skater dressed in a little Santa-style frock was performing. Actually it was rather naff. I don't know how the place can redeem itself in my mind. Although, seeing the floors labelled "By Appointment Only" and "Concierge Service" and the various cafes and restaurants, I can see how some people would enjoy living it up in that place. No thanks.

Well there you go, as with McDonald's, I have now made my bi-annual visit. Next year I shall slash my attendance by half.

It should be called Horrids.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Throwing a tantrum

I went to the interview, and it was delightfully informal. We sat on a couch and now I see what she meant about having a "chat" when she called me yesterday. I liked them a lot, very friendly.

Unfortunately (times 10 to the nth power), because my CV is held in-house by Christie's the recruiter is not allowed to promote me. She told me my qualifications were very academic, my admin skills very strong, and that it was worth pushing Christie's to consider me for admin roles. (I thought I had made it clear originally that I didn't mind.)
Having a Master's degree can be quite a burden sometimes...

I am now on their books for temping jobs.

Alright, I didn't throw a tantrum because I've vented a bit already on 20Six...

P.S. I found a bracelet at Accessorize that goes quite well with the set from Butler & Wilson, but does anyone know who does good children's jewellery? My fingers are already so little and now that it's cold, only two of my rings fit.