Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Going postal

Buying stuff off the internet is great because when it arrives it's a bit like getting a present (especially so if you click the 'gift wrap' option when purchasing from Amazon). Admittedly it's a present from yourself and at the end of the day you are paying for it, but because you don't actually hand over any cash it's all a bit of a case of out of sight, out of mind.


Unless something goes a bit wrong.

Since buying my new front door I've been trying to save money. As a result, I've just been buying more stuff off the internet and avoiding looking at my bank balance. This is working brilliantly.

In the last few weeks I've been reading the book Youth in Revolt, which is waaaaay better than the movie starring everyone's favourite progeria-poster boy, Michael Cera. I'm enjoying it so much, in fact, that I ordered the other three books (volumes 4-6; the first book contains volumes 1-3 if you give a damn) in the series (I can't remember what they're called - it's all some variation on the words 'young' and 'revolting') from Amazon. I also finally found the perfect bag to lug my iPad around in, so I ordered that too. Unfortunately you can't get that from Amazon, so I had to order it direct from the supplier in the States. The bag was 35 quid plus another testicle-retracting 20-odd pounds for postage.

Still, I needed it, and I wanted it, so I threw caution to the wind and bought it.

This is what life must feel like for Emily Gilmore. If she wasn't, y'know, a FICTIONAL CHARACTER.

Anyway, annoyingly books five and six of Youth in Revolt arrived exceedingly promptly, but about a week or so later there was still no sign of book four, despite the fact that it had apparently been sent. So I emailed Amazon and received a very long, very automated reply basically telling me to shut the hell up and wait another two weeks to see if it turned up in the interim.

(I'm pretty sure they just used to send you a replacement item straight away - didn't they?)

So, although I'm seething about this, on the plus side I'm WELL EXCITED about my iPad bag.

Until I get a letter from Parcel Force telling me that they won't let me have it until I pay customs duty on it. This, the letter informs me, is about a tenner, which isn't too bad, I think. Then I read on and discover that on top of customs, Parcel Force are charging me an outrageous £13 handling fee! £13! That's 13 quid for the privilege of them picking up the box, hoofing it into the back of a van, and delivering it into my by now destitute hands!

Of course, I have no option but to pay it, so I do. By this point my bargain £35 iPad bag has now cost me around £85, but on the plus side it looks awesome, and I'm still refusing to check my bank balance.

And because I've not posted in a couple of weeks, here's a pic with some gratuitous arse.

And yesterday, finally, was the day when the two week waiting period was up and I could hassle Amazon about sending out a replacement book, which I was incredibly relieved about because although I've been rationing myself to just 10 or so pages of Youth in Revolt per day I am nudging perilously close to the end. So I emailed them and almost immediately received a reply that was clearly from an actual human, albeit one with a flare for the dramatic because it said:

"It does indeed appear as if something has gone awry!"

Seriously, do people even still use 'awry?'

Anyway, he's sending out a replacement, and even sending it first class at their expense to make amends, meaning it'll arrive on Thursday. Which is, y'know, great, except for the fact that it's going to the office and I'm off this week.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Massive space vagina

Around this time last year I thought about buying a new front door. Not because I especially wanted to spend an exorbitant amount of money on such a thing, but rather because I experienced a brief moment of BEHAVING LIKE AN ADULT and thought it would be a wise thing to do; existing front door had never been particularly awesome, y'see, with the 5mm gap between the door and the frame being particularly un-awesome in the winter.

However, as often occurs when I have a brief moment of BEHAVING LIKE AN ADULT, my dominant personality traits kicked in and I spent the money on shiny and exciting new toys instead.

Fast forward one year and I'm jauntily walking down my front path one bright and sunny evening when I notice 'hey-ho, have I always been able to see into my porch even when the door is closed?'

The answer used to be NO. At this point, however, it was in fact a resounding YES.

EPIC DOOR FAIL. Don't believe me? This is it from the inside.

Immediately upon seeing this immense crack in space-time the door the part of my brain that BEHAVES LIKE AN ADULT snapped its fingers to get the attention of the dominant part of my brain that had already started thinking about exciting other things, and sternly said "new door." The dominant part of my brain nodded like a special and immediately set about patching up the door with masking tape and wishful thinking, and then colouring in the masking tape with a black marker pen so it wasn't quite as noticeable as it would be if it was just left the colour of normal masking tape. However, as dominant part of brain is wont too, after a minute or so of colouring in the masking tape it got bored and decided to play Angry Birds HD on the iPad, leaving the door covered in a mish-mash of coloured and uncoloured masking tape that, the next day, both parts of my brain agreed was not a satisfactory solution to the problem at hand.

Gap at top of door, and tastefully arranged, albeit uncoloured, masking tape.

And so like a sulky teenager, the dominant part of my brain caved in and a swanky new front door and industrial-strength frame was ordered.

About five weeks after I placed the order a nice lady called me to say everything was ready and they'd like to come and fit it. A day was arranged, and even the dominant part of my brain was quite excited at the prospect of the new door because it would be shiny and do exciting things like open and close without requiring an excessive tug or a forceful shove.

On the Sunday before the day new door was to be fitted I was in an evening yoga class in the midst of one of the upside down postures when I suddenly realised that workmen expect beverages, and while I was covered on the tea front (regular, Earl Grey, excessively stinky Lapsang Souchong) the only coffee I had in the house was some of that Starbucks instant stuff, and as appreciative as I intended to be toward this chap for exchanging shabby old door for shiny new one, there was no way I was going to let him have one/any of those. And so after class I made a special effort to stop in at the only shop I could find that was open where I paid an exorbitant fee for a comically undersized jar of Nescafe.

I arranged to work from home for the duration of the day new door was to be fitted, because quite frankly I had no idea how long it would take to fit a new door and frame so I thought I'd better play it safe. And because I expected there to be loads of loud noises accompanying the door-fitting process, I decided I'd do a cover design for one of the forthcoming issues. You might ask why an editor is doing a cover design, so lets just say that I like to keep my hand in the photoshoppery pool every now and then, and it's easy enough for me to disengage my brain and make something pretty without having to think. Plus it keeps everyone on their toes if I show I can multi-task the shit out of everything.

While hashing out ideas for the cover design and waiting for doorman to arrive I have to keep talking myself out of a growing urge to put my foot through old door just to see how feeble and rotten it actually is. The only reason I don't is that I'm worried the door company will phone and say the fitter is ill or something and can they rearrange for another day, and then I'll be left with a massive hole in the door that all the masking tape in the world won't be able to fix.

So anyway, doorman arrives promptly at 10:30, and I immediately suppress the urge to ask him if he's OK with me putting my foot through the old door because he looks like the sort of person who would frown upon such behaviour and respond with something like "don't be so stupid." I instead ask him if he'd like a cup of tea or COFFEE. He raises an eyebrow and replies "actually I'd love a glass of water please."

"Not coffee?" I ask again.

"No - water will be fine," he says.

I briefly consider telling him that I'm all out of water and that he'll have to make do with coffee, but I just give up and get him a glass of water. I subsequently resolve to see if I can drink the entire tiny jar of Nescafe myself in the same time it takes him to fit a door.

The old door and it's shabby frame are dispensed with in a frighteningly short period of time, and within an hour all the new bits are coming together nicely, and I'm in the midst of some terrifying Nescafe-induced sweats. Regardless of the fact I'm vibrating more than a Harry Potter broomstick at a teenager's slumber party, the cover is coming along just great. I've created a lovely image that shows a familiar spaceship from a well-know sci-fi show flying toward a beautiful custom-built purple nebula with a vertically-arranged glowing centre; I'm really quite proud of the whole thing, and decide to celebrate with my third or fourth cup of coffee.

So there I am standing in the kitchen and I glance back over towards my computer just at the same moment that door chappy, who is standing in the porch, decides to turn around and look over at my computer. For a minute we stand there in silence, both taking in the breathtaking space vista I've lovingly created. And then we both harrumph a bit, blush, and return to our respective duties, having both realised that what I've created looks just like a massive vagina floating in space with a spaceship about to plunge into it.

However much you might argue the point (and believe me, the dominant part of my brain fought tooth and nail with the part of my brain that BEHAVES LIKE AN ADULT), there's no way I can let a massive space vagina be published, so I scurry back over to my desk, plonk myself down, and begin tickling (oi, careful - that's a design term) the nebula to make it look slightly more, well, nebulous. Regardless of my efforts, by this point in time the dominant part of my brain has dubbed it the Lohan Nebula and is sniggering away in my subconscious like a naughty schoolboy.

New door in place but without the centre panels. My first thought upon seeing it like this was "ooo - forcefield door!"

About an hour later the doorman comes up to me, looks at the somewhat less vaginary image on my screen in a slightly disappointed fashion, and says he's done and would I like him to show me how it works. Obviously by now I'm on about my fifth or sixth cup of coffee and am literally a live-action version of Tweek from South Park. Also, being somewhat loath to leave a workman downstairs in my house while I pop upstairs, I'm desperately in need of the toilet. I nevertheless follow him outside.

So it turns out new doors are considerably more complicated than old doors, and while he's lifting the handle up and turning the key in a variety of complex and exciting ways, I'm being distracted by a neighbour's Hitler cat who is giving me evils from underneath a car, and by the fact that I'm hopping around and squeezing my thighs together in an attempt to not wet myself. I think, though I'm not too sure, that doorman notices I'm not exactly focusing my full attention on his little show and tell display, and toward the end I actually think he's going to tell me to go into my house and offer to lock the door from the outside and pass the key through the letterbox to me just to be on the safe side.

"Did you get all that," he eventually says. I nod. He gets in his van and drives off, and I'm left standing on the lawn thinking 'what?'

New door completed. While new door is considerably more awesome than old door, I do miss being able to use the gigantic cracks in the old one as rudimentary spy holes.

Anyway, I eventually go back inside, manage to lock the door (or at the very least stop it from opening) and subsequently stick my finger in the still-wet mastic around the frame before scampering upstairs to empty approximately two litres of liquid from my painfully-strained bladder. My next action, and the only defence I can offer is that my caffeine-frazzled brain somehow wanted to memorialise my morning's work, was to hop onto Twitter and start furiously tweeting the exciting new trending topic hashtag #massivespacevagina.

Sadly, and somewhat inexplicably I think you'll agree, it has failed to catch on as well as #justinbieber.

Monday, August 09, 2010

30 days of yoga: Day 30 - Sparky's finest hour!

Let's not beat around the bush, eh? My 30 days of yoga challenge: DONE!

Writing this now, it's been exactly two hours since class finished, and I'm in some sort of weird state of ecstasy. My 30th class couldn't have gone any better - I genuinely feel like I did every posture to the best of my ability; you could say I was in the zone, which after having done yoga every day for the last month came as something of a pleasant surprise. I think I was a bit fired up in anticipation for tonight's class anyway; I didn't want to stumble at the finish line and feel like I'd let down everyone who has given me support and encouragement over the last 30 days.

What made the evening particularly memorable, though, was the fact that one of the teachers told the lady taking tonight's class that I'd reached the end of my 30 day challenge, and just before the final breathing exercise she asked the entire class to join her in congratulating me on my achievement - and I got a massive round of applause. I was genuinely moved by this. Some of the postures can bring up weird emotions, and I was sitting there desperately thinking "DON'T CRY!"

I'd actually thought about carrying on to do 31 or even 32 classes in a row, but after such a wonderful end to the challenge I've decided to take a couple of days off. I don't think I've got anything left to prove anyway. Doing 30 days of yoga has been such a good exercise; I've improved my postures, I feel fitter and healthier, and I've proved to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to. If you'd told me a couple of months back that I was going to take on this challenge I would've laughed in your face; two classes a week - three at most - was my limit. Once a day for an entire month?

After class I stopped to talk to the teacher for a few minutes, and she told me that I'll notice the true benefits of the challenge in the days and weeks to come. She said that taking one or two days off to let my body adjust to what it's done is a good idea, and I'll probably find that I have a really great class when I next go back. I think that will probably be Thursday, and to be honest, while I am looking forward to having a couple of free evenings for the first time in what seems like forever, I'm also looking forward to getting back in that studio. It's going to be really weird driving past it tomorrow and not stopping off. I'm really going to miss it - even though it will only be three days till I'll be sweating my tits off in there again.

What's really weird is that as I was driving home I passed the spot where I had the car accident last year, and it occurred to me that if it hadn't been for that terrible day I'd never have gone to Bikram yoga. Funny how something so positive and life-changing came out of something so negative, eh?

Sunday, August 08, 2010

30 days of yoga: Day 29 - the foot thing

As I've mentioned before, I generally appreciate a little quiet time/nap before my yoga class begins. But it's not all sweet dreams and towel snuggles, I'll have you know; I generally like to sit upright about five minutes before the teacher comes into the studio just so I'm not going straight from a horizontal position to a standing position and end up toppling over from an epic head rush.

Now, obviously there's not really much to do in a yoga studio when you're not doing yoga, so once I've finished checking my bad self out in the mirror, glanced out the window to see what's going on in the world, and checked out the competition, I've found myself doing this sort of weird thing with my feet.

The only way I can describe it is being a bit like a Predator mouth.

Here, look:

It keeps me entertained like you wouldn't believe, and it's become something of a habit now. I'm sure the people sitting on either side of me must think I'm a mentalist. Either that or they're amazed at the dexterity of my toes. I can pick stuff up with them, don't you know. They're like little monkey feet.

Anyway, as exciting as my feet are, did you notice that today is day 29? Just one more to go…

Saturday, August 07, 2010

30 days of yoga: Day 28 - get naked

When I first started doing Bikram yoga last June the first thing I did when I stumbled out of the studio into the bright sunshine and blessed cool air was to go and get something to drink, because although you have a bottle of water with you during class, believe me, after class it's never enough. On that first day I headed straight for Starbucks (Chiswick handily offers three) where I bought a coffee.

Now, while my love of coffee is well documented, it doesn't really hit the spot after 90 minutes of stretching, balancing, sweating, and wondering what the hell you've done spending money to be tortured in such a way. So, after my second class, I started buying this:

This is a Naked Berry Tasty smoothie. It's really fruity, exceedingly refreshing, and must count for at least a couple of my five a day (BONUS). The knowledge that I'm mere minutes away from one of these fruity little bastards is what gets me through to the end of class.

I used to buy these from Starbucks, but a few months back they stopped selling them which is annoying but fine because Waitrose sell them so it just means I have to wander a little further down the Chiswick High Road in my sweaty, somewhat dazed post-yoga state. And anyway, Waitrose is good because I can pick some nice food up in there too.

On the downside, while I thought I was forming a nice bond with all the lovely members of staff in Waitrose, apparently I'm somewhat mistaken. And quite frankly I've only got myself to blame, because I realised that when I walk in there, not five minutes after scampering out of the studio, I'm still sweating a fair bit. And when your shirt is plastered to you, the light denim jeans you're wearing are slightly moist on the inner thighs, and you look like you should be called Crazy Man Mentalist Hair, it's quite understandable that the staff of this upper class supermarket would think that you're a homeless, albeit somewhat buff, special who quite frankly looks more like the sort of person who would normally be found shopping in Tesco.

Friday, August 06, 2010

30 days of yoga: Day 27 - Hulk hands

One of the biggest changes I've noticed in my body during the 30 day challenge has been my arms. I've got more definition in my shoulders, a bit more of a bulgy bicep (on both arms, mind; one would just be weird), and some protruding veins.

I'm curiously fascinated by the whole veins thing, although admittedly in a 'poke it and squeal a bit' way because it looks a bit like a worm stuck under the skin. They're a bit more visible in my forearms, and on the biceps just above the elbow, which is exciting; there's also one on my left arm that runs slightly horizontal and looks a bit like a smiley face. I tried taking a picture immediately after coming out of class but they don't really show that well (thanks iPhone!) and I just ended up looking like a bit of a tit taking a photo of his arm in Chiswick.

Apparently girls find veiny arms sexy because it shows you're fit and take care of yourself. That's all very well, but I just have to make sure I don't go too far with it and end up looking like Sylvester Stallone or - *shudder* - Madonna, who quite frankly looks like she's had the arms of a 110 year-old corpse transplanted onto her body.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

30 days of yoga: Day 26 - AWESOME

This is going to be a short one because a) nobody likes a show-off, and b) I've only just got in.

Basically, then: favourite teacher plus plenty of between-posture witty banter, compliments on my yoga (and physique!), in-class laughter, and properly NAILING all 26 postures (on my 26th day? SYNERGY!) equal quite possibly the best class so far of this challenge.

Add to that some post-class chatting with other members of the class - which I haven't really done before because I'm antisocial I tend to just get changed and go - followed by a keep drink with a fellow yogi who first introduced me to the joys of back-chatting to the teacher in class.

It's nights like this that remind why I enjoy this yoga so much.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

30 days of yoga: Day 25 - unclean, UNCLEEEEEEAN!

About a week into my 30 day challenge I went to see Inception with Best Mate Jo. Upon picking her up I asked, like a polite gentleman, how she was. Her reply, or rather what I could make out through the snot and croaking throat, horrified me. I spent the next 10 minutes smooshed up against my driver's side window, and briefly wondered whether I could get away with making her sit elsewhere in the cinema to avoid the risk of contamination.

If you were wondering, I loved the movie, though.

The following day was spent sitting around the house being incredibly paranoid and wondering if I was feeling a tad feverish or could detect the early stages of a sore throat. Having invested a considerable amount of time in the challenge, and £130 to cover my month long unlimited pass, I was understandably nervous. Fortunately, nothing transpired as a result of an evening spent with the unclean.

Fast forward to today, day 25 of my epic challenge. With the finish line in sight I'm feeling pretty chipper … until two colleagues came in sounding like death warmed up and insisted on getting within contamination range while making a cup of tea. If I'd had any holy water on me I would've showered them in it and started chanting random things in Klingon Latin. Cue the return of my paranoia and, disturbingly, a headache.

This is it, I thought, I'm stumbling on the final straight. I nevertheless went to class, fearing - although the idea was repulsive to me - that I might have to leave if I began to feel too rough. But then a miraculous thing happened! The combination of the extreme heat and excessive sweating made my headache disappear - and I went on to ace the class.

So I've now got five days left in which to evade the diseased, after which time I'll happily submit to a lurgy and bed rest. Well, maybe not 'happily,' but the idea of lolling about in bed for a few days actually is quite appealing.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

30 days of yoga: Day 24 - modesty is the best policy

It occurred to me earlier that this is the final Tuesday of my 30 day challenge. Just typing that out feels a bit weird; yoga's totally dominated my life for the last three and a bit weeks, and the idea of this challenge nearing its epic conclusion brings with it some mixed feelings. This time next week I could be sitting at home with my feet up watching the telly amid a pile of junk food rather than being half naked, dripping with sweat and wondering if I'll pass out in camel pose.

Still, the fat lady hasn't sung so it's not over yet!

After a few days of somewhat mixed results, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I nailed tonight's class good and proper. I'd kind of come to the conclusion that I'd be having fair-to-middling classes for the rest of the challenge (although to be honest, an OK-ish class for me now is about on par with a damn fine class from around three months ago), so I was somewhat taken aback by how easy all the postures came to me and how awesome I felt. To be honest, if this had been a weekend class and I'd had more time I would've seriously considered going for a double.

Although I'll never be too certain why tonight's class was awesome and Sunday night's left me feeling like I'd been raped by a bear, one thing does spring to mind: one of the lovely ladies on reception asked me how the challenge was going, and I replied "oh, y'know, feeling it a bit now!"

Clearly, then, my plan from here on in should be to feign as much modesty as I can possibly muster in an attempt to fool my body into jive pushing it, pushing it real good.

So with that in mind, er, I expect tomorrow's class will be just *awful*.

Monday, August 02, 2010

30 days of yoga: Day 23 - bitch slap!

Yoga gets very busy at peak times. I think the capacity of the studio is around 60 people, and when it's full you're actually quite close to the people on either side; there's something like a 10 centimetre gap between mats.

Because some of the postures - eagle pose in particular - involve some rather vigorous arm swinging, the teachers always recommend that we, the practitioners, stagger ourselves. Helpfully, the mats are themselves staggered in the studio, so if your mat is forward, you step forward; if it's back, you step back. Simple really. Well, you'd think so. I always pick a mat that's nudged forward, but on several occasions I've found the person next to me standing right alongside, and they often frown at me disapprovingly like I'm the one that's standing in the wrong place.

Fortunately I sweat rather a lot during class, so if a disapproving glare doesn't do the trick I just splash them with a healthy amount of my salty man juice.


Anyway, tonight's class was going rather swimmingly for me, with the people on either side generally behaving themselves. I think my biggest complaint up until around the halfway point was that the lady to my left kept tickling the back of my right knee with her ponytail during standing separate leg stretching pose. I don't think it was intentional.

However, as we reached the floor series, lady made the heinous error of putting her water bottle at the base of my mat. Outrageous - it's well documented that I detest such behaviour! Despite the no-talking-during-class-rule, I was seriously thinking about having a word. But then something more awesome than I could ever have thought possible happened: the woman next to her slapped her right in the face while swinging her arms up to go into half tortoise!

And it wasn't a half-hearted slap either - it was a full-on, skin on skin, loud cracking noise slap. I Immediately thought about having a go as well - clearly her defenses were down because she recoiled away from her back-handing attacker toward me a little, but in an instant my window of opportunity was gone; the slapper was apologising profusely to the slappee as if the whole thing had been a horrible mistake (yeah right!). Much to my chagrin they didn't even get into a sweaty cat fight.

Suffice to say, though, that as I rolled forward and down onto Captain Kirk's face in an awesome half tortoise, I had a massive grin on my face…

Sunday, August 01, 2010

30 days of yoga: Day 22 - THERE. ARE. FOUR. LIGHTS!

Bikram yoga, as I've warbled on about plenty of times, is 90 minutes of yoga done in a hot room. Not a warm room, a HOT room. It gets up to about 40 degrees C (that's 105 degrees F if you're old school, or just plain old). Most of the heat is generated by a large and powerful heating machine that is secreted somewhere in the ceiling, but in addition to this hellish device, the teachers also flick on the lights in the studio.

You wouldn't think that lighting would really do much to make you sweat, but as a matter of fact it does. At the halfway point in the class when you lie on the floor for a two minute rest period they turn the lights off so you don't get dazzled by them as you stare up at the ceiling, and you do actually feel a little bit cooler. It might be my mind playing tricks on me, but then again I flicked my kitchen lights on earlier - which are the same kind of halogen ones as are in the studio - and I started sweating like a bitch in heat so I genuinely think there's something in it.

The gist of this is, then, that I now rather hate halogen lights.

Anyway, I was in class this evening, lying on my back during a rest period between postures and for some reason my eyes were drawn to the lights. And it was at that point that for the first time I counted how many were on, and as my inner Picard began to surface, I had to resist shouting out: