I’m going to tell you want you want to hear today. Possibly.

Dear Dream Reader,

Yes you. You with the curious glazed expression on your face. I bet you’ve skim read a lot of posts on here haven’t you? I know I have. Some have some rather delightful pictures of cats in them. Some claim to be ‘fashion bloggers’ yet have not dressed appropriately for the role in question (I try not to judge). 

But now you’re thinking I’ve been too arrogant in my assumptions about you. Perhaps you happen to quite like the way those ladies dress. You’re not a ‘cat person’. I’ve got this all wrong haven’t I?!…

PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME!!! I can change! 

Still not convinced? Here….take a look at my progress – look at that positive correlation!:

Graph 1 showing rate of blog improvement since Q4 2014

Agreed, there were some awkward times to being with. A few posts that should have never happened. But as you can see from the graph above, things can only get better…

‘Meh’ has is fast become ‘A-Meh-zing’! ‘Please stop’ has become ‘Please NEVER stop writing, I  simply cannot wait for another post!’ ‘Mediocre’ has become er, ‘Ocre!’ 

I really reeeeaaaalllly hope I have convinced you give me another chance. If not, I’ve heard there are some excellent cat photos on here 😉

Claire

 

x

 

PS Like and Share if You Care 🙂

 

 

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Budgeting Special: Read Your January Bank Statement – Without the Tears!

 

So here we are! Yes another year, one whole year after 2014, only ten to go until 2025. Crazy times.

Traditionally, one uses the month of January to write about defining new goals, losing some weight or even a fresh start or three. But there is something a tad more pressing some of us need to address come January. My credit card statement has just arrived through the letterbox. Ahhh, the post Christmas spend. This is a terrifying moment. It’s too scary to look at it. Yet one needs to look at it in order to evaluate the degee of damage. Surely, surely there must be a way in which one can look at it without having to erm, actually look at. Hang on…what if I was to use a combination of my scientific expertise and procrastination from the inevitable to propose a viable solution to this conundrum?!…

Claire’s Top Tips for Reading Your Bank Statement in Janaury

1. From a Great Height

Simply place your bank statement on the floor and find something high up to stand on, a chair perhaps or even a stepladder. Success! You’ve read your statement but it’s VERY VERY small to the naked eye!

That should just about do it!

2. Do. Not. Look. Directly. At. It.

Use some pins to fix your statement to a wall or noticeboard and with the help of a handheld mirror, angle the mirror to read those transactional statements with minimal repercussions!

Yep. There it is.

3. Give it to your Parents

Plan to ‘accidently’ leave it on the table when your parents next come to visit. If it all looks ‘above board’, you won’t here a peep about it, you may even get a ‘Congratulations on that 0% balance transfer!’. If you’re in financial dire straights however, there is a strong chance that you WILL get a head shake, possibly a lecture. Your Mum may even be ‘dissappointed in you’. Manage to shed a few tears however, and you may, just may get some sympathy and perhaps even a loan from the bank of Mum and Dad! WARNING: Do not leave the statement out if you’ve bought something ridiculously extravagent like a speedboat.

A Speedboat?!

4.  Run past it

Ask a friend to hold the statement upright take 5 paces in the opposite direction and then…run past it! You saw it, but it all happenned so fast!

What statement?!

 

Try my Top Tips and I guarantee you at least a few months of blissful ignorance about your financial situation!

Happy 2015 to all my followers, please like and share to spread the joy 🙂

Claire

x

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

Back to Work Already?! Don’t Despair! Top Tips for Surviving the Workplace over the Festive Period

 

Did you leave the house this morning under the cover of darkness, scrape an inch thick layer of ice from your car (last used on or around the 19th December) and begin that trudge to work on desperately quiet roads?

Last seen December 19th 2014

Did you see a warm glow emitting from the houses of your neighbours, inside blissfully unaware of your imminent commute and probably not yet even surfacing from under their duvets? Did you attempt to head to the shops for a quick lunch but had to turn back as you were overrun with smug shoppers, still on their holidays with days to kill and wandering at a snail’s pace around Marks & Spencers?

But I only wanted to pop out for a quick sandwich!

Then A Big Welcome to you my friends! You are in good company. Read on and I will attempt to get you through this difficult period of the year, using a powerful combination of bitter experience and some rather amateur attempts at positive mentality. 

Yes, this is my top tips for Working Over Christmas or a being a WOC (apologies for rubbish acronym but I couldn’t help myself being back in the workplace an’ all) from a WOC Veteran of 3 years (and counting…)

1. Ease yourself back in to your pre-Christmas food regime 

Now, just because you’re back in ‘work mode’ with respect to attendance and actually having to do work, this does not mean you can’t reward yourself with the odd indulgent snack throughout the day to take the edge off the post holiday blues. It’s still far too early to be starting any New Years Heath Kicks. Save that for when ‘the others’ have come back. Treat yourself to a giant pastry (like me this morning) or even a mince pie (erm, also me) and at least your digestive system can still feel like it’s still on holiday.

It’s Still Christmas – Leave me Alone!

2. Snack Attack!

You know the tonne of snacks and general Christmas treats everyone brought in just before they left for the holidays? They’re still here. And guess what? No one is going to want to touch them when they get back after they’ve had a fortnight of chocolate selection boxes and cakes. Do them a favour and remove the temptation before they get back and complain about them.

THIS can wait until January

3. Ever Chaired a Meeting but never been senior enough to do so? Now’s your chance!

Now, since nobody is around, use the opportunity to make some important decisions around here. You have the rare opportunity to simultaniously be the Chair, minute taker AND core attendee of your very own meeting! Now don’t let the power go to your head!…

Be the envy of your colleagues and have Albert Einstein at one of YOUR meetings!

4. Perfect that ‘post holiday’ conversation

You know the one…

‘Did you have a good Christmas?’

‘Yeah, it was good thanks, what about you?’

‘Yeah really enjoyed it thanks, it was a bit quiet but it was nice to have a break’ etc etc BLAH BLAH BLAH

Use the additional week to your advantge and enchance that post Christmas exchange of words. Rehearse some Christmas holiday stories that will astound, entertain and perhaps even concern your colleagues. If you’re short of ideas, simply steal a plot from a recent soap opera storyline and (as long as your colleague doesn’t actually watch said soap) have fun watching your colleagues awkward reponse.

Take two…

‘Do you have a good Christmas?’

‘No, not really actually.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Well, this might sound a bit far fetched, but I found out on Christmas Day that my sister is actully my Mother.’ (REMEMBER TO KEEP A STRAIGHT FACE AT THIS POINT)

‘Oh right…um, I don’t know what to say’. And from this moment henceforth, no one else will dare to ask you how your Christmas holiday was. (You’re Welcome WOCs!)

5. Last but not least, the quiet…oh the peace and quiet

This week, my office is down from 30 to erm, 3. And this means the office is practically deserted. No, I’m not suggesting doing anything untoward here, because after all you have professional standards to maintain. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t introduce just a leeeetle bit of fun to break up the long days of loneliness. For example, haven’t you always wanted to sing Celine Dion ‘My Heart Will Go On’ at the top of your voice in the open plan office, or wear a Mullet wig and feather boa whilst sat working at your desk. For no other reason than you can. And it would be mildly amusing.

Coming to an open plan office near you

Now my fellow WOCs, if you have managed to get this far in this article, I’d love to hear from you in my comments section…what silly thing have you introduced to bring a teeny tiny of joy to your working day whilst everyone is still shoving down the last remnants of the turkey and watching the third repeat of the Miranda Christmas special on the TV. The Fools. 

I hope this article helps get you though this difficult period. And please, follow me if you’d like to read more from me. I’m fairly new at this Blogging malarky, so would really appreciate your likes and or ‘feedback’…or what I like to refer to as a sh*it sandwich; a slice of negativity in between two big thick slices of positivity!

And last but not least, I wish you a very Happy 2015!

Stay safe,

A Former London Girl

x

Happy 2015!

 

Chas & Dave Monopoly: The Best Things about Christmas! (Part 1)

You may not think the music of Chas & Dave go hand in hand with a game of Monopoly but rest assured, once you’ve tried it, you will never go back!

For those of you who don’t know who Chas & Dave are, they are a well loved ‘Cockney’ musical duo who have been around since the 70s. They are excellent musicians and have written some brilliant songs. Search for ‘Rabbit’ or ‘Snoopy Loopy’ for their more commercially successful hits. My personal favourite is ‘There ain’t No Pleasing You’. They’ve had a recent resurgence in popularity and were seen performing at the Royal Variety Performance.

Chas and Dave meeting Prince Charles at the 2013 Royal Variety Performance

For me and my family, they have been a continuous presence throughout my childhood and listening to them always reminds me of home.

Following Christmas dinner, it is our annual tradition to put on a bit of Chas & Dave whilst we compete, and we masterfully combine game banter with impromptu cockney singalongs:

‘Right, I’ve landed on Trafalger Square, can I buy it and collect my £200 for passing go?’

‘OHHHH, YOU WON’T STOP TALKING, WHY DON’T YOU GIVE IT A REST?!’

‘Claire’s only volunteers to be banker so she can cheat!’

GERTCHA!’

This year was the first year my brother’s girlfriend joined us for Christmas dinner. I do wonder what she thought of my family randomly bursting into song like drunk football supporters! We’ll soon know by whether she’ll accept our invite next year…

A word of warning however, don’t go near the Chas & Dave ‘Christmas Carol album’ Their versions of famous Christmas carols such as ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Away in a Manger’ are a bit painful to listen to.

The Christmas Carol Album: Avoid Avoid Avoid

 Slap on a greatest hits album however, and I guarentee a fun-filled traditional Cockney sing-a-long! (Pearly King and Queen costumes optional). 

A Good Chas and Dave Album: complete with Songbook!

 In my next excerpt, I will cover the culinary delight that is prawn cocktail and grown up sibling rivalry…another two unique aspects of Christmas with my family!

Happy Holidays!

Mary Christmas

A Traditional Cockney Singalong at Christmas: Pearly King/Queen Costumes Optional

 

 

 

 

 

A Christmas World of Pain: The Loftus Poultry Run

Something you should probably know about me is I do a LOT of running. I started a few years ago, not for your usual weight loss reasons, but to improve my mood. After a difficult start, it ended up having a phenomenally positive effect on my life and significantly reduced my stress levels. If I’m in a bad mood, I’ll decide to go for a run thus completely forgetting what I was in a bad mood about in the first place!

The thing about runners however that can really irritate non runners is that they can become quite evangelical about running. Google ‘inspiration running quotes’ and you will see what I mean. I’ve selected a few here for your viewing pleasure (or annoyance depending on how inactive you have been of late!):

If that doesn’t sell it to you, I don’t know what will

Here’s my personal favourite for when I’m having a ‘slow’ day:

Remember folks: It’s the taking part that counts!

So when my friend Sharon suggested I sign up for the Loftus Poultry run just before Christmas because it would be ‘fun’, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. You see, I sign up for races probably every few weeks as they always have a really good atmosphere and having something to aim for keeps you motivated to keep training.

And I knew at this one there would be Christmas fancy dress.

You will see from my previous running post that there are some ‘unusual’ costumes which can appear at these events. Jesus was my personal favourite this year. Other than the Santa hat worn at my previous race, I haven’t worn a costume as such for a race before so thought I’d give it a go; it is Christmas after all! So ‘Mary Christmas’ was born. I customised my existing lady santa costume with the following:

1. Present bows

2. Christmas Gift Tags

3. Plastic cake decorations that I’d found in a cake tin 5 minutes before I set off which I’d sewn into the skirt, my personal favourites were Mr Reindeer and Mr Robin.

My_Hastily_Improvised_Christmas_Costume.JPG
My Hastily Improvised Christmas Costume

I drove to pick up Sharon from the main road and found her stood in full Santa costume complete with beard. We got some funny looks on the drive there!

Loftus Poultry run (http://www.poultryrun.info) has been going for over 30 years now and attracts both serious and comedy runners purely out to enjoy the day. On this occasion, I was in the latter category. The race has got it’s name because the main prizes consist of Poultry from a local butcher; when I arrived I saw a series of chickens and turkeys being loaded onto the a table for afterwards (don’t worry, they’re already dead!).

Me and Sharon before setting off for the 8 mile Poultry Run

So after having a quick catch up with my running friends (we are rather a sociable bunch!) we all set off from Loftus leisure centre for the 8 mile mainly uphill slog which is a loop around the surrounding villages. It was a very tough race. I spent the first two miles trying to keep pace with a man who was playing Christmas music from his phone (it can be surprisingly motivating!) and was keeping up with the main crowd until about mile 5. The I hit massive wall. Thoughts going through my mind consisted of:

‘Why is it so windy?!’

‘Where has everyone gone?!’

‘This is NOT fun!’

‘I wonder if I’ll win best costume?’

On this occasion (and this happens some times in races) I just lost all motivation to continue and just started walking. This is highly unusual for me, but I always refer to the quotation below in rare circumstances such as this:

I kept this mind whilst the wind of the North Yorkshire moors smacked me directly in the face

Towards the end as I ran through the housing estate behind the leisure centre, some little girls were stood on the window sill in their bedroom and were cheering me on to finish and shouted ‘Merry Christmas!’. It’s moments like this that keep you going to the finish and I was spurred on to start running again (albeit slowly).

‘Merry Christmas, Mary Christmas!’ Shouted the crowds as I did a last sprint towards the finish line.

‘Never AGAIN!’ I said through gritted teeth to Sharon as I ran through it.

As always however, once I’d had my post race cup of tea, I was feeling rather euphoric and very quickly changed my mind about the whole experience,

‘Now I know what to expect from the course, I’ll definitely do it again next year!’

I didn’t win best costume in the end; there wasn’t a best costume prize but were instead giving bottles of wine away to those who finished in fancy dress. They’d run out of wine by the time I showed up!

Isn’t that reason enough to go back next year?

Merry Christmas from Mary Christmas!

x

My Mum loves stealing my Tesco Clubcard Points at Christmas

Every time I visit...EVERY TIME!
Every time I visit…EVERY TIME!

Tesco Loyalty points are like gold dust to my Mum. I’ve lost my card and she is thrilled about it! Every time we get to the checkout at the supermarket and the lady on the till asks if I have a Clubcard, my Mum swoops in before she’s finished her sentence,

‘I HAVE A CLUBCARD!!!’

She then throws it in the general direction of the till and gives me a smug, satisfied look. It literally is point scoring.

I’m going to find that Clubcard dammit and stop this massive injustice from repeating itself!

Secret Santa and A Periodic Table Quiz: The Works Christmas Party!

So, I work as a Scientist and as a sweeping generalisation we in the Scientific industry can sometimes be an awkward bunch socially so social occasions are not our speciality. Picture the cast from Big Bang Theory but a tad more eccentric and probably less funny (well WE think we’re funny and that’s all that matters!) and that can give you a flavour of what we tend to be like as a community of people.

The Big Bang Theory; based on real people
The Big Bang Theory; based on real people

We do however socialise a number of times during the year and as long as no other personality types (aka Non Scientists) are in attendance we have a lot of fun and my colleagues are a fantastic bunch of people to go drinking with! For this years Christmas party we went to the local Toby Carvery, which specialises in giant roast dinners and I’d already consumed a few glasses of wine before I arrived so was in good spirits (well I was later on anyway – get it?!). Told you we weren’t funny. A delicious three course meal was followed by our first year of holding Secret Santa (maximum spend £5). I’d bought a ‘build your own’ robot for the person I was partnered with. I’m certain there were actual tears of joy when he opened his present and I’ve heard it was fully constructed in less than 24 hours following the event! My other colleague wore a Christmas pudding hat the entire evening that he’d got as a present even though the heating was on full blast in the pub making the temperature unbearable (to the extent the pub gave us free soft drinks for the evening!). Our actual Secret Santa (our very own bearded lady) moved quickly & silently between the 30 odd of us taking part, handing out a large variety of presents. My personal favourite (which was a bit unusual to say the least) was an egg carton in which the eggs inside had been drained leaving just the shells behind and instead filled with Ferrero Rocher. Why anyone would decide this was an appropriate gift I shall never understand, but it was still a genius idea! Someone had bought me some glow in the dark science putty and I was thrilled; it will keep me entertained for most of 2015. My friends had arranged the best quiz ever for us after dinner. My favourite part (as there were several rounds) was the Periodic Table Quiz.

Who knew the Periodic Table could be the source of so much fun!
Who knew the Periodic Table could be the source of so much fun!

It consisted of a series of questions where the answers had to be spelt with elements of the periodic table. Quizmaster: ‘What’s our favourite drink?’ Me: ‘Wine! ….W (Tungsten) I (Iodine) Ne (Neon)’ Quizmaster: ‘You Win…AT LIFE!’ Yes I do…I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Another fantastic night with my brilliant, quirky, sciencey Friends! Merry Christmas 🙂 Claire x

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Cat Pin-ups for 2015….my descent into Christmas Calendar hell

So Thursday night I frantically had to design a calendar for my Brother’s girlfriend. It all started when I asked him what she would like for Christmas…

‘Does she like music?’

‘No.’

‘Does she want a travelling photo album for her travelling pictures?’ (They met whilst travelling)’

‘She already has loads of albums from travelling.’

‘What about a canvas?’

‘I’m going to end up putting it up aren’t I?!’

Buying presents is tough.

…’But she’d like a calendar with pictures of the cats.’ (They have two gorgeous cats called Tilly and Pip)

‘OK. Can you send me the pictures?’

‘Yeah…I’ll set up an album on Facebook and give you access, I’m not having all my friends thinking I’m a weird cat man.’

(5 minutes later)

‘Greg! I cannot see the photos!’

‘What?! Yes you can!’

And so on, we ended up arguing over whether I could see the photos that I clearly couldn’t, he refused to make the album public (even for 5 minutes while I downloaded the pictures!) and the situation resulted in him giving me the username and password to his Facebook account. The temptation to post humorous status updates was beyond strong but I resisted as you’re never to old to get a ‘Grandad’ from your sibling at Christmas. A ‘Grandad’ is when you get punched so hard in the pressure point in your leg, you walk like someone over 80 years old for up to 30 minutes afterwards. Once, my brother gave me over 10 consecutive granddads on a bus in Devon, just for fun. He’s lucky he’s getting a present to be perfectly honest with you.

So I eventully, obtained these photos, and I understand why people would think he was a weird cat person. A selection of what I can only describe as provocative cat poses were in now in my posession. Different lighting, cats with their claws flirtatiously pawing at the camera. They were brilliant and I now have enough blackmail material to take me to at least 2016. I’ve made some an arty sepia, I’ve cropped, switched and photoshopped snowballs and starts onto the December photo.

‘Greg, I’ve done the calender, and it is STUNNING.’ I messaged him afterwards. He, ahem, I mean his girlfriend will be so pleased to receive it on Christmas Day 🙂

Dinner at The Waiting Room and The Ongoing Tipping Debate

So tonight I went for dinner at a lovely restaurant near my house called ‘The Waiting Room’ in Eaglescliffe. It vegetarian, but don’t let that put you off; it’s been voted one of the best restaurants in the UK (and that’s including the ones that have meat!) and I’ve been going regularly for years.

The Waiting Room in Eaglescliffe is one of the best Vegetarian restaurants in the UK
The Waiting Room in Eaglescliffe is one of the best Vegetarian restaurants in the UK

It’s name (I assume) comes from the fact its over the road from Eaglescliffe train station. Either that or people just enjoy loitering in there without buying any food, but that wouldn’t be a particularly good business model so I’m going with the former. One of the reasons I bought a house close by was so I can easily hop on a direct train back to AFormerLondonGirl HQ to visit the parental unit and then hop back up quickly enough when I need my space again.

Helen had the spinach and feta pancake, Katie the lasagne with sesame potatoes (yum!) and i had the goats cheese roulade (double yum!). I (as per usual) was the only one with room for dessert so had the usual..

‘Sticky toffee pudding please, with LOTS of custard!’

I have no shame.

They also have cool events on a Sunday night called ‘Waiting for Sunday’ and they have anything from bands, to comedians and it’s usually quite eclectic which I love. One year I saw a brilliant band called The LoveSick Cowboys and because it was Halloween me and my friend went along as zombie cowgirls.

Me as a Lovesick Cowgirl at a Halloween gig at the The Waiting Room
Me as a Lovesick Cowgirl at a Halloween gig at the The Waiting Room

If you are ever in the Teesside area for any reason, you must visit this restaurant, you won’t regret it.

So, to follow on from my tipping dilemma as discussed in my previous blog, I mentioned this to my friends Katie and Helen at dinner and asked for their opinions on the matter.

‘What, you tip at beauty salons?!’ says Katie,

‘Of course, it’s the same as hairdressers isn’t it…except the hair is erm, elsewhere!’.

‘Well no one tips me to to my job!’ (Katie is an accountant).

So there we have it folks.

I know for a FACT that my window cleaners avoided me last month so I would have to see them to give them a tip this month. The truth is, they are so suspicious looking, I continue to pay them (even though I’m not even sure they are fully cleaning my windows) just to prevent them from potentially burgling my house when I’m at work. Yes that’s right, I’m paying my window cleaners protection money.

So we had a wonderful evening, we laughed a lot, ate loads of lovely food and have agreed to head out together over Christmas to have a few drinks, have a dance and attempt to meet some eligible batchelors. Due to my ongoing social awkwardness this is highly unlikely…but one can but try!

I’m off to bed as I’m tired after that epic dessert!

Good Night All 🙂

Claire

x

 

 

5km run with Joseph (minus Mary): A Weekend Review

So following on from getting new hair Friday, I treated myself to a discount massage on Saturday lunchtime then had a lazy afternoon half watching old Christmas films whilst doing my bi-annual filing of my paperwork aka opening several months of bills and immediately throwing them out. My question for beauty salon etiquette; how much do you tip if you’ve received the treatment at a reduced price?! Do you scale down the tip to match the percentage final cost?! Ruminating over issues like this prevent me from fully relaxing during said treatments hence why I tent to put off going! So my afternoon included sorting out all of my old photos and inevitably coming across those of my ex-fiance. I remember that beyond the face-pulling/cheeky grins lies the corrupt mind of a sociopath – BEWARE! I reminded myself in case I feel tempted to contact him again. I went to a friend of a friends house party in the evening but only had a couple of drinks as I was running the next day. My friend had a drunk close collision with an antler light fitting and I decided to put Bruno Mars ‘Uptown Funk’ on repeat as I feel it’s the only song worth listening to, well this week anyway.

Bruno Mars Uptown Funk: My song of the week!
Bruno Mars Uptown Funk: My song of the week!

Those who weren’t feeling socially awkward dance to it with me, one guy decided he would only NOT feel awkward dancing if he was wearing a Bruno Mars-esque fedora. We made it happen. I ate cheese straight from the packet. Put it on some Doritos. My diet has sunk to a new low.

The Dice Players by Georges de La Tour is truly one of the most beautiful paintings I've seen
The Dice Players by Georges de La Tour is truly one of the most beautiful paintings I’ve seen

I awoke the next day and went to my 5km trail race in the grounds of a mansion opposite where I live. Preston Park was built in the 19th century in Stockton-on-Tees (Cleveland, North East England) and houses a replica Victorian Street. It only costs £1 to get in and you can return as many times as you like during the year; it’s an absolute bargain. It also houses a fantastic painting called ‘The Dice Players’ by a French artist called Georges de La Tour which was painted in the 1600s, a few years before the artists death. It’s one of the most beautiful paintings I’ve ever seen and I love visiting it. The way the artist has captured the faces of those playing the dice game is truly magical, I always ask myself ‘is that how they actually looked back then?!’ for some reason. I feel so privileged to live opposite such an amazing place. There was around 250 people doing the race, I wore my Santa hat to try and be a bit festive about it. However, the clear winner of best Christmas costume so far was someone who decided to roll up wearing nothing but sandals and two strategically placed tea towels, and you could only see his race number when he lifted up the front tea towel. I was calling him Jesus but my atheist friend told me off and said I was mistaken as he was clearly Joseph! My question back to him was HOW DOES HE EVEN KNOW THAT! He ran carrying a cuddly sheep. What a legend. Anyway returned home after a good gossip with my friend Sharon whilst we ran additional 5km (we are clearly mad) and spent the rest of the day relaxing with the sunday papers…bliss 🙂 To conclude: a fun packed weekend! Bye for now, Claire