Thursday, 30 July 2009

I didn't get lost amongst the students

I went to Oxford today. I’ve been before-last year, soon after getting back to Milton Keynes from Wales. Leanne and I drove through there on a Sunday and spent the day. Today I went alone and remembered that travelling by yourself can get a bit lonely. I got the train from Henley, changed at Twyford and at Reading got the Oxford train. I stared out of the window the whole way, listening to Regina Spektor on my iPod. Somewhere between Pangbourne and Didcot Parkway there was this golden field that rose up into a hill up against the sky. There were no other colours except for gold and blue and I really wished that I could be apart of it. I think, if someone were to paint the scene, it’d make a pretty boring picture. I’d still want to be in it anyway.

I arrived just before noon. It took a while before I started to feel Oxford today. By the time I arrived I was feeling a little down and just not getting in to being there. I also had no plan of action and was walking aimlessly. I ate KFC, two mini doughnuts from Starbucks and a strawberry and cream frappuccino. An hour or so later I thought I would ‘throw my cookies’ all over the Oxford pavement.
This t-shirt was displayed in a window in the covered market. It's silly, but it made me laugh out loud.
Outside the Science museum and the Sheldonian Theatre.

I went to Modern Art Oxford. It’s in this really cool warehouse type of gallery. Galleries in warehouses are cool. The doorways to exhibits and exits are always really well concealed and camouflaged and I end up walking around not knowing where I’m going, and missing out on half of what’s on display. I looked at the Maplethorpe Polaroid exhibit for a while. I liked his photos. He took pictures of everything. Amongst his photos was a naked self portrait behind some transparent purple film and a man with some pretty nasty looking nipple clamps. I guess you have to be pretty narcissistic to use yourself in your art and put it on display. Like Gilbert and George. It’s something I’d do though. I’d totally use myself in my art if I were creative :)

The covered market.

Radcliffe square.
It would have cost £22 for an hour long chauffeured punt. I chose not to go. Still, so pretty :)

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Egg soup and charred bacon

I worked with Amelia on the bar last night. It wasn’t particularly busy but by eleven o’ clock I was more than ready to pack up and go to bed. ‘The Waterboys’ were in drinking ale in the public bar. Everything was cleaned, closed and locked by eleven, but still they sat there. I felt little remorse for kicking them out and denying them one last half pint while Amelia was walked up the unlit street back home. I was downstairs at seven firing up the stoves and grill. I messed up the breakfast by burning the bacon and making poached egg soup, so by the time Chris arrived, I was still in the kitchen, remaking the residences breakfast.

It’s raining again. I’m toying with the idea of going to Henley but all I feel inclined to do is read more ‘Catcher in the Rye’. I’m not feeling very motivated work-wise. I’ve given my notice and now I’m keen to reach the set date. I feel like I’m losing patience fast. At least, the next two weeks will be easier. I so get Holden Caulfield! Only, I've said it before, I'm too old for this teenage angst thing. Still, I'm totally identifying with his annoyance with the 'phonies'. Man, but I'm getting that.

Monday, 27 July 2009

No sandals behind the bar

Monday three o' clock. I don't have the day off today, and I'm working at six. The weekend brought Lee over on Friday night, later than usual because of a standstill highway around London. He arrived in time for a pint of Thatchers Gold Somerset cider and then we were all packed up and closed up. The weekend was busy. Sunday started with a staff meeting in the lounge. I came downstairs earlier so I could grab a cup of tea before it started but was directed straight into the lounge and just about had enough time to get some custard creams to dunk in my tea, so that was breakfast. Andy went over the changes that he'd like to be seeing. No more free staff drinks, no sandals, hair to be tied up behind the bar, no holidays in September. Hmph. So, my Paris trip out in the air and a right bollocking over it, I continued my Sunday kitchen shift with a cranky chef and cook and the boys in the back.

Lee took me to Marlow for lunch. We went to this gorgeous Italian restaurant with a green exterior and wooden interior. Our waitress was cute and quirky, tiny with light curly hair and an interesting face. I liked her. We ordered pizza and pasta and shared a tiramisu with some pink wine. He listened to me whine, moan and vent the whole day (bless him) and then it was time to go back and open the bar again. Sunday night was dead as usual, just me, Lee and Willie watching Top Gear in the public bar, throwing darts...until those loud farm boys arrived to disturb my peace and thoughts. Lee left at four this morning. I could barely sit up to say goodbye, my eyes felt glued shut and I went back to sleep and got up at ten. It's been marvelous really. I've done nothing but watch crap day time telly, drink cups of tea and read Catcher in the Rye. Lee was right, I do love it and he does think too much! I washed my hair with herbal tea tree shampoo that smells like the peppermint essence we used to put in our childish 'baking'. It makes me think of our kitchen in Lotus Street when Yvonne and I were little, making peppermint ices. I've lunched on sausage and fried potato bread from Ireland drenched in butter and more tea.

I've pretty much guaranteed that heart attack by thirty.

Only one thing for it, and that is another cup of tea. And more JD Salinger.


Thursday, 23 July 2009


It's all just worked out well today. I got finished by half ten this morning even though I got to sleep for an extra half an hour. The only breakfast I had to make was tea and toast and I poached myself an egg, and read the newspaper with a cup of tea in the Snug. I left the pub just in time to get a lift to Mill End with Claire's grandad and as I got out of the car, my bus arrived.

I had a to-do-list to complete and I managed to tick off everything in a short time in Henley on Thames. I got ID pictures (the man at Timpsons made me look good too), bank statements for my Schengen visa, new sunglasses, opium incense (I asked the man at the market 'how much for the opium?'), a present to send home to my Nushka, and minty shampoo for me. I walked back to the bus stop eating some Starbucks rocky road and a green 'super food' drink and arrived just in time to get on the 850 High Wycombe bus back to Hambleden. It started to rain as I started walking, but just before the cloud burst, Brad drove by and picked me up and dropped me off right outside the pub, where Chris was just finishing off the last of the lunch time orders and put a salmon fish cake in to cook for me with some bubble and squeak.

A forty five minute phone call from Toronto with excited conversation about trips to Paris, South Africa and Canada and the future, a little lie down, some awesome Florence and the Machine...and I'm sooo heppy :) (with lots of staring off into the distance and sighing) and in an hour or so, I get to talk with my Lee before I go downstairs to work again.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

A Monday and Tuesday

I’m feeling uber good today after some time off in the city with dear Lee. I caught up on some sleep on Monday morning before walking to Mill End, getting the bus to the train station in Henley on Thames and the train to London Paddington. I had no proper plan, so I ended up wondering around the Camden markets, then off to Oxford, Regent and Carnaby Streets. I didn’t buy a single thing. I met Lee in Hope Square outside of Liverpool Street Station and we got the tube to Bermondsey on the South of the Thames. After he’d checked in we got back on the tube for Aldgate East and Brick Lane where were we had reserved a table for dinner. We shared a bottle of pink wine and ate loads of curry and were too lazy to walk back to the station so we got a taxi all the way back to Bermondsey.

Tuesday morning after Lee went to work and I had a lie in I attempted to leave the hotel and ended up lost. Sigh. I’m such an idiot sometimes. I ended up on the wrong floor and followed a suited man to where I thought was the exit and ended up in the middle of a board meeting. Everyone stopped and looked at me and I was ‘uh…yeah…I’m looking for the exit’. I turned around and burst out laughing before I’d even left the room. And carried on giggling while I found the exit and fled the building.

I met Lee for lunch at Victoria station then a 20 minute tube ride to Barbican and the Museum of London. I spent a good portion of the afternoon looking at the ‘apartheid section’ and the ‘London’s burning’ exhibit. Then back down south to Pimlico and the Tate Britain. I was there last in February, but didn’t spend very much time. I went back to look at the William Blake room and wandered into room 24 the ‘Gilbert and George’ room.Gilbert and George.

I was kind of fascinated, drawn in to it really. I ended up spending far too much time in there.

I also spent a goodly amount of time in the Rothko / Turner room. Turner I get. Rothko, not so much. One of the smaller rooms off the main gallery had three or four very large Rothko works on the walls, 3 people were on the comfy benches just staring at the walls, transfixed. I tried, but I just don’t get it.

I walked back to the station in the rain, met Lee outside Pimlico and we went to a restaurant just off of Carnaby Street and shared another bottle of pink wine before back to Paddington and the train ride back home.

I don’t feel as though I’ve wasted my time off. I’m super impressed with myself! AND it’s half way through Wednesday, which means just two days before Lee is back in Hambleden again.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Sunday eve, about to work. Again.

The weekend has gone by faster than I thought it would. At the beginning, I thought I'd never make it to Sunday evening, but here I am. Sunday evening, on the couch sipping a large lager shandy, my daily dose of thumbing my nose at the stupid 'no drinking in split shifts' rule. Ha!

I'm about to go downstairs, put in my four hours worth, lock this pub up and go back to bed. It's not been a bad weekend. Somehow, along the way I managed 'to almost make an old man very happy'. And just by chatting and allowing him and his wife to take pictures of me behind the bar. George and Jill Palmer from Leicestershire. What a lovely old couple, who called me 'cousin' and asked me lots of questions.

Some days are harder than others to remember why I'm here. It's easy to get caught up in the hours, the split shifts, the surly looks on kitchen staffs faces. Mean spirited chefs and cocky youths. Soon, I'll be off again. There's still so much to be excited about. I'm wondering if the excitement of the future is messing with the enjoyment of today. I'll try and focus some more.

Off I go...

Friday, 17 July 2009

I'll give it another two months

I’ve been here for five months. Four, if you consider the month I was in South Africa. Five months. It’s a long time to have not done anything. Not really anyway. I feel like I haven’t done anything but read, listen to music and spend my days off in London. I’m feeling a little disappointed by it. With myself mostly. I’m too hard on myself probably. I do long hours and it took a while to become accustomed to the hard work. But now that I’m used to the hours, and the job, I feel like there should have been more.

Hambleden is beautiful, quaint and English. But, these are not my people. Not here. I was touched by the opening up to me in the kitchen last night. He told me personal things, and I felt like I had a friend. I think, it always seems to be the shared music that decides a friendship. Or at least, some sort of understanding.

I do feel ready to move on, try my luck somewhere else, see what the next place in this Kingdom has to offer. I’ve met some interesting people, but made no friends. I blame no one but myself for that of course, I’m generally difficult and socially awkward (at best). Ah well.

It’s poured down with rain all day so far. The best part was the thunder and lightening. A proper storm, lasting all of five minutes. That is what I miss, real storms. The loud and violent kind. All that the rain has achieved is to make it humid. Sticky. It’s perfect nap weather right now, so that is what I’ll do. I’ll take a book to bed with me, in the hope that I’ll get through a few pages before I pass out.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Things I'm excited about -

I woke up feeling good this morning. I rarely wake up feeling good but this morning I felt excited about the rest of this year and what is to come after that. There is still so much to look forward to :)

...and because I love lists and have neglected them of late…

  • Next weekend Lee is coming over again, just over a week before I get to spend some time with my cute Irish boyfriend. I feel like we’re getting to know each other better now after all the time we got to see each other last week. I’m liking what I’ve gotten to know ;)
  • The Stag and Huntsman Beer Festival at the beginning of September. I know I’m going to be working shitting hard, but I think it’ll be fun too.
  • I’m seeing Peter Doherty at the Camden Roundhouse on the 19th of September!! Tickets are bought and all that is needed is for Peter to make an appearance by staying out of prison for long enough!
  • I’m going to Paris the weekend after Pete. Four nights in Paris…Eiffel tower, Jim Morrisons grave, Moulin Rouge, Absinthe in seedy Parisian bars and walking along the Seine with Lee. I may even let him hold my hand ;)
  • Possible trip back to Belfast with road trips around Ireland…lots of Guinness, lots of lovings :)
  • South Africa in November. Home! My ma and pa! My Noleen, Sandra and Candace. The Doors! The Red Room! My beastie Nushka! A nature reserve with game drives and proper ‘African’ experience. All with Lee.
Smaller random things I’m also excited about include -
  • Reading The Catcher in the Rye once Lee’s finished reading it.
  • Putting Regina Spektor, Florence and the Machine and Peter Doherty on my iPod now that I have a sleek and skinny black external cd drive for my netbook.
  • Going to London and shopping for sandals, and dresses…and eye brow piercing jewellery in Camden.
I'm just soo excited. And, although I feel tired, I'm happy. I'm feeling healthy. Also, after looking at the 'arty' photos from the hotel, I feel good about myself. It feels pretty good. I'm so tempted to share those pictures. Alas, that they be inappropriate...

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

A week and London

I got back to the pub around an hour or so ago from London. Two great days in the capital with dear Lee. We got to spend some quality time and do fun things together. We admired the pretty buildings in London, had a boat ride on the Thames, had a marvelous three course meal with champagne at the Charring Cross hotel, watched a show at the Dominion, drank Sambucca, baileys and Mojitos at bars in Soho and Leicester Square, looked around the V&A and Natural History museums in South Kensington, drank lemonade and ate orangey cake in the garden in the sunshine and...hugged and said goodbye at Embankment tube station.

Covent Garden. Photographic evidence that I am wearing my dress Nols bought for me :)

Air guitar playing bronze at the V&A. Probably my new favorite museum with it's collection of sculptures, enormous columns, fashion and furniture.

A seriously gay looking posing bronze.
Outside the Dominion Theatre after 'We Will Rock You'. It was excellent. Happy sing-along-able songs.
The pink wine at Charring Cross Hotel during our delicious meal there. I'm showing some boob...see, totally visible to the naked eye! And I'm wearing the dress Leanne bought me :) Two dresses in two days.

Cheesy self portraits at Greenwich :) We think we're cute.
London from the Thames :) A pleasant (yet chilly) couple of hours seeing London from a boat on the river.

Trafalgar Square poses. I love London.

I've not written in a while. I've had words floating around in my head for ages, but whenever I sit down, they all disappear. It's always easier to write when I'm conflicted or in the middle of some new drama. I must make more time (or more drama).

But now, it's back to work and back to normal. Lee is back in Belfast until next time. I think this time has done us good. I'll miss his company until then...

Monday, 6 July 2009

Fawley Meadows

The heat wave is over, and today it rained. Proper rain, a drenching kind. The sun kept coming out, but then it would rain again…ensuring that I wouldn’t go out and top up my tan. I slept until noon anyway, so if there was much sun in the morning, I missed it. I made it outside for a few minutes to run around the Dene once. Three minutes of exertion is better than nothing.

After my Saturday night shift behind the bar, Claire, Matt and I went to the Stag and Huntsman’s bar at the regatta in Fawley Meadows. I got to drink some Pimms by the Thames, even if it was in the dark in a nearly deserted section of the river. I got a lift back to the pub on the back of Sam’s quad bike. I’m not sure how fast it goes, but it was fun. And cold and windy and by the time I climbed off it my hair was wild and knotted. Claire feared for my life.

Sunday was quiet. Strangely quiet for a Sunday afternoon during the regatta. We finished early and I got a lift down to the river with Abbie and Chris. We drank more Pimms by the river and dangled our feet in the water, chatting about the boats going by and waving to the sunburnt people on top of the them. Pete gave me a lift back in his ancient land rover with his dog. I arrived back at the Stag tipsy and covered in dog hair and opened up for the night. It was stupidly quiet except for a couple who were staying over. At half past ten two men came in with stripey regatta jackets and hats and ensured that I didn’t lock up and go to bed for at least another half an hour. At least they entertained me with drunken stories of their travels, their lives and then a silly argument between them.

Tomorrow, Lee comes. We have ‘proper’ dates lined up for while he’s in England…movies with popcorn, London theatre tickets and three course meals and a river cruise perhaps too.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

33 Degrees today...

The almost end of another lazy and HOT day. My between shifts was spent sunning myself on the Dene with my netbook and music thanks to After lying on some nasty prickly pod of some description, I lunched on fish and chips in the snug bar, went back down to my spot at the side of the stream accompanied by George Orwell and his Animal Farm (thanks Yvonne), I finished off with a run and a walk in the woods above Hambleden, a shower and now I'm kind of hanging around listening to Regina Spektors new album just waiting for shift number 2 to start. And for Lee to call...if he gets back from his hair cut in time ;)

I'm feeling really happy this week...which makes me worry about being bipolar because of my awful awful mood last week. Or, it could just mean I'm a normal girl (woman sounds so grown up...I'm not). But like, really well. Healthy and strong and capable. Even in the freakish heat.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Day One - Henley Regatta

After my breakfast shift I ambitiously set off to Temple Island and the start of the Royal Regatta. Marquees were set up along the way. Pink, fat women in dresses with their hair curled too tightly sitting on boats drinking Champagne and Pimms, brown skinned young blokes sitting on the grass chatting with other boys and old men in stripey blazers and official looking passes dotted the Thames path to Henley on Thames. I wasn’t dressed appropriately. I wasn’t the only one though, so I didn’t feel too badly. I made my way through the crowed pathway filled with girls in flashy dresses and strappy shoes and tall men in school boy jackets and posh accents. I didn’t have any actual plan, so I walked the four or so miles to the town. I bought myself a Smiths cd at Henley Record Store after browsing through all the old vinyl collection, a bar of Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut and a bus ticket back to Mill End. The folly on Temple Island

At the end of the first field of the estate, I dropped my bag onto the grass and climbed into the stream. I waded around until my feet had gotten used to the cold water, then just sat down in it. I sloshed back to the pub in drenched shorts, t-shirt and sandals, happy and cool.