Thursday, May 24, 2007


Here's an interesting thought.

In the event of a disaster, it would be better to save 8 of my first cousins rather than myself because collectively they hold more of my genes than I do.

This is a bugger as I only have 5 first cousins who are genetically related to me. Perhaps cloning is an option?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Cat pictures

Totally unnecessary, self indulgent, and gratuitous photos of maggie:

This photo proves once and for all that her eyes look in different directions. Bless her.

Royal Opera House

What a cultural weekend I've just had. Chris had booked us tickets to go Covent Garden to see Pelleas and Melisande, by Debussy, and conducted by Simon Rattle.

We had front row seats in the circle, so a better view we could not have had. The opera was, in the main, really good. I'm no connoisseur of the genre, but even I could appreciate the beautiful music and singing. I have to say that I found the staging a bit odd - all the slow motion walking and space suit costumes were supposed to be symbolic but it passed me by totally. The sets were beautiful - huge boxes that were rotated and opened up to reveal symbolic pieces of art, and sometimes even the singers themselves, suspended in imaginary towers, surrounded by 50 identical models of herself. Very weird.

As usual I couldn't keep my inquisitive brain from asking the most pressing of questions. During the final 4 minutes of the Opera, 6 girls walked on the stage (in slow motion naturally), stood with their backs to the audience, then walked off again.

I was consumed with questions. Who were these girls? Were they paid to walk in for 4 minutes every night at the end of the opera? Was this their full time job? Were they singers or models hired to look identical? were they wearing wigs? What did they do in the day time? Did they have to be there at the beginning of each performance and sit around til the end, or did they just roll off the sofa at 9.30, nip to covent garden for 10 minutes with the Sky Plus set to pause while they walked on and off the stage, then nip back home again to drink the cup of tea they had just brewed before they went out?

Sod boring old Pelleas and Melisande and their drawn out wailings - I need to know about the extras!

(In case you were interested, here is a synopsis of the plot.

Bearded man meets melisande in forest
Marries her and takes her home
she falls in love with Pelleas, the bearded man's brother.
Lots of soul searching.
Beardy finds out, kills Pelleas
Melisande goes mad in the head and dies.
the end)

The next day we met up with Pedja, our diving buddy, for lunch. It was really nice to catch up and plan more diving trips. Pedja is doing his best to persuade us to go here for a weekend. You thought I was mad? Well how mad is Pedja for wanting to go all the way to Belgium to dive in a swimming pool! It is a 33m deep pool, granted, but still! We fully intend to go at some point this summer.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Friday, May 18, 2007

The passing of the years

My passport is about the expire, and what better time to contemplate the passing of the years?

Here am I, 10 years older than in the first photo. Am I 10 years wiser? Most definitely. Am I 10 years more ragged looking? Well actually I'd say no. I never thought that I'd have the same haircut, the same propensity to wear black, the same red patch on my chin, but on the whole I'd say I am more pleased with my appearance now than when I was 20.

This has much more to do with my state of mind than the way I looked. I did not enjoy being 20. In the first photo I had just got married to the wrong man, and deep down I knew it was wrong. I still did it though.

In the recent photo I might not be grinning as much, but my eyes definitely say that I am happy, confident and altogether more grown up. Better dye job too, and that's due to the large increase in disposable income I've enjoyed in the last 10 years!

So, in conclusion, I do not mourn the passing of the years. I celebrate them, and I thank all my friends and family for being there for me when I needed them. Here's to the next 10!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Park Lodge Cafe logo design

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law are on the cusp of opening their new cafe in Waterford.* They had enough faith in me to ask me to design their logo. They wanted something quite traditional looking - the cafe is in a lovely Victorian lodge building in the park, so this is what I came up with:

We are going over to visit them in August, and by then the cafe will have been open for a month. I am hoping to be repayed for my logo efforts with copious hot chocolate and cream buns.

*that's in the Republic of Ireland - see Liv, I'm learning!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Stats about Architects

I got my annual ARB (Architects Registration Board) report this morning. It was fairly dull. The most interesting facts I gleaned were these:

Number of registered Architects in 2007 = 31,384

Number of Architects struck off for being naughty = 0

Number of Architects struck off for failing to pay £76 annual fee = 678

Number of dead Architects = 17

Number of men in Staines prosecuted for calling himself an Architect when he wasn't, and fined £3000 = 1

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Big Crafty Swaperoony

My my, 3 posts in one day? Obviously far too much time on my hands!

I couldn't let another day go by without saying a BIG thank you to Jenny for her wonderful crafty swap box. In return for my efforts I received the following:

This bowl had a beautiful duck egg blue crackly glaze on it, and the edges are really delicate and textured. Jenny also sent me this cute little oil burner, which has inspired me to dig out my essential oils.

Finally there was this funky little egg shaped pot. The glazes on this are gorgeous, a deep blue on the top and a rich red with flashes of white and black. Best of all, when I opened it I found that Jenny had filled it with cat treats for Maggie!

I'm loving our crafty swaps. I have received gifts that have brought me so much pleasure - far more than when I buy something in the shops. It's partly the surprise element - I never know what will be in the box, and partly it's because I know the time and effort that has gone into creating these beautiful things.

Jenny, you are a master potter! Thank you!

Tricia, your box is wrapped up and will be in the post tomorrow. Anyone else interested in a swap, please get in touch at


My office has huge single glazed south facing windows. Last summer we roasted, despite our attempts with desk fans. Things had begun to hot up again this spring and we were starting to dread the sunny afternoons.

But no longer! We have invested in some solar gain reducing window film from this company. The film reflects the heat energy from the sun, but lets most of the light in, reducing the heat gain and glare. It is stuck onto the inside face of the glass in the same way as car window stickers. It looks slightly grey from the outside, but isn’t mirrored like you see on 70’s office buildings. It’s noticeable, but inoffensive.

We have had it a week and the difference is absolutely astonishing. Today is warm and sunny and usually by now we would have the fans going and the door open. Instead I am a perfect temperature.

I am very happy with the solution to our heat problem. I was uneasy about getting an air-conditioning unit. It is soooo bad for the environment with all the energy they use. Likewise having the fans running all day was such a waste of energy too. The film cost only £250 for two massive sash windows, and will last for 15 years.

Digression #1: my pet hate of conservatories

I get annoyed these days with people’s disregard to passive solutions to energy problems. I have seen so many people who have energy guzzling air conditioning units in their conservatories, but don’t draw the blinds or open the windows for ventilation.

My own opinion as an Architect is that many people build conservatories without understanding how the building will behave, or how they are intended to be used. They end up being disappointed that they can’t use it for many months of the year. They solve the problem by artificially heating and cooling the room at vast expense.

In Scotland the building regulations are much stricter than in England and I am often amazed at some of the schemes that get permission in England. Conservatory companies have preyed on the aspirations of the middle classes, and the result is an environmental (and in many cases aesthetic) disaster.

When clients ask me to design them a conservatory, I always steer them away from a fully glazed, heat gaining box, to a highly glazed room with tons of insulation in the non glazed bits. Having a solid roof that is super insulated but with large triple glazed rooflights results in a room that is light and bright, but warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The rooflights can easily have blinds fitted that don’t end up looking like a Bedouin tent. Larger roof overhangs mean that big windows in the walls are shaded during the hottest part of the day but that morning and evening sun can enter. A proper ‘room’ means the base walls and floor can be properly insulated and weather proofed. In my opinion it’s a far superior idea, and it needn’t be any more expensive. It just means you can’t buy one ‘off the peg’. I might be offending many of you conservatory owners here, but that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.

I really try in my professional life to stand up for the environment, because that is one area where I personally can make a huge difference. Many of my clients don’t even realise that they are saving the planet because I don’t tell them. I just quietly specify heat exchanging extract fans, whack in double the statutory amount of insulation, and order the most efficient boiler on the market. There are some sanitary fittings I won’t use due to the large water consumption.

Digression #2: Shark baiting

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not a big hippy greeny freak or anything. I am just as guilty of wasting energy as most people, but I do try to make small changes, and if everyone makes small changes then that will amount to a big change. It really bugs me when people think that their energy consumption makes no difference, not with the whole of China belching out carbon Dioxide like there’s no tomorrow.

It’s the same attitude I have heard with the great white Shark diving. We quite fancied doing a Great White cage dive when we in South Africa. However when we started to read about it became apparent that in order to get the sharks to come to the boats they dump loads of bloody bait in the water. This is training the sharks to associate humans with a food source, a one way trip to ecological mayhem. It’s not good for humans, and definitely not good for this amazing endangered fish.

I was stunned to hear an intelligent, well educated person claim, ‘well, those companies would be going out baiting the sharks whether I go with them or not, so I might as well do the cage dive’ DERRRR!!! Ever heard of supply and demand? That was nothing but a fatuous excuse for selfish behaviour. Take some personal responsibility!

Erm, where was I? Oh yes, solar film:
I would thoroughly recommend trying some film in the first instance if you have a lot of heat gain through windows. Cheap, non permanent, and not as unattractive as you might think.

Race for Life

Claire and I have decided to attempt to run the 5K Race for Life.

I stress the word attempt. The word run should also be interchangeable with stagger as I am a pathetic sportswoman and hopeless runner.

Lets be frank here. I am not built for running. My legs splay out to the side like a duck. My boobs oscillate between my chin and my waist unless restrained by a severe scaffolding-like sports bra. My lungs burn, my face beams red, my heart goes like the clappers and my legs wilt like cut wild flowers. The extra 2 stone in weight I have so carefully nurtured begins to feel like 10 stone of loft insulation.

So, you see, attempting to run 5 kilometers is no easy task. Full of good intentions I began my first training session last night. I began with walking 1 minute, running 1 minute, x 12. Amazingly I managed this quite comfortably. I even ran a few seconds more occasionally when passing a dog walker, just to keep up appearances.

Unfortunately any weight loss advantage of my efforts last night were immediately countermanded by the enormous meal we ate at bar leo to celebrate our wedding anniversary.

Tomorrow I intend to walk 1 minute, run 2 minutes x 6, and not die.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Enough Barbershop already!

My trip with Hillfoot Harmony to the Sweet Adeline’s Barbershop Competition was a resounding success, eyelashes and all!

We are a very new chorus, and this was our first competition, so our main aim was to come anywhere but bottom place. As it happened we came 4th out of 8 in our category, and 11th out of 23 overall! AND we were only one point behind the 3rd place chorus - a fantastic achievement!

We had the most hilarious time dressing up, especially with the thick orange stage makeup and over exaggerated eyeliner, but we looked fab on the stage. We were singing in the Birmingham Symphony Hall, which is a spectacular and enormous concert hall, with amazing acoustics.

Having said all that I am totally barbershopped out for the time being. It’s a great but fairly narrow musical genre, and a whole weekend of listening to close harmony has taken it’s toll. During the competition part, we heard one song 5 times. I was ready to strangle someone, and in my head had re-written the lyrics of the most frequently sung song to ‘If you love someone, let them slash your wrists, oooh ooooooh we’ll keep singing this, til you get the f***ing gist’. At one point me and Pauline has to sneak out of the auditorium and fortify ourselves with gin. Was a good giggle though.

Here are some snaps. (People who have never met me – I do not normally look like this.)

This is Diane, Sarah, Me and Kate. We are the Baritone section. A barbershop chorus is made up of 4 sections: Tenor, the highest, Lead, who generally sing the tune. Baritone, who in my opinion have the most difficult middle part, and Bass, who are at the bottom.

This is Catherine, our Musical Director.

2 years and never a cross word.

well, almost...

Happy anniversary Honey x

Thursday, May 10, 2007

False eyelashes

I can categorically confirm that, in the whole of my town this lunchtime, there were only one pair of false eyelashes to be bought, and I bought them.

I had to go to 4 different shops. I had began to panic that my barbershop chorus costume for the big competition this weekend was going to be non-regulation, and heaven help you if you have non regulation eyelashes.

As it happens my eyelashes are not the stipulated kind, but I figured I'd just keep schtum and see if anyone notices that mine are Eyelure style 04 instead of Eyelure style 06. I might even rebel further and sneak on a little lipgloss over the horrendous 1940's red lipstick we have to wear.

Ooooh, I can only imagine the raging envy you feel for my glamorous life..

Chicken news

Poor hens! Yesterday the lid of the chicken's run blew shut while they were out rampaging in the garden. I didn't notice and went out to choir practice.

Usually the chickens put themselves to bed in their little house. At dusk the hens hadn't been able to get in, and had gone to roost wedged in between a thorny bush and the lid of the run.

When Nick got home he had to very quietly pick them up and put them to bed in the house. Apparently the hens were all out of sorts and looked very annoyed at having their beauty sleep disturbed.

Scaly leg update:

Margo and Scramble's legs looks back to normal now, with nice smooth scales. Omelet's legs on the other hand look worse, and she walks a bit stiff legged sometimes. We have given her legs another dunking in surgical spirit, and will continue to do this on a regular basis. Need to get more Vaseline too. I read that as well as moisturising the legs after their surgical spirit bath, the Vaseline serves to suffocate any remaining live mites. How lovely.

Apart from these two minor mishaps the hens seem really happy and are laying like billy-o. Our neighbour, Tony, looked after them while we were on holiday, and over the 10 days collected no less than 29 eggs!!! Well done girls!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Your dental nightmares come true

We are currently over-seeing some building work at a dentists. On my site inspection today I wondered why, on entering the waiting room, that all the patients looked a bit pale and nervous.

In the background I could hear the familiar whine of the dentists drill. Suddenly an enormous judder throbbed through the waiting room, accompanied by a loud, deep drilling noise - the noise of the mad dentist of your nightmares...

The poor patients had no idea that beneath them we are carrying out demolition work with a pneumatic drill!

Jane's Punk Party

You may remember from this post that we were contemplating shaving Nick's hair into a mohican for Jane's Punk themed party.

Nick figured 'in for a penny, in for a pound' so I got to practice my hairdressing skills and had great fun turning my lovely respectable-looking husband into a scary thug. (We noticed a distinct frostiness from the taxi driver when we got in the car, and ended up over compensating by being really polite and tipping him handsomly!)

I had a minor problem at the back where Nick is (huh hem) thinning slightly, but used extra pink spray to hide the scalp showing through.

Phil had promised that he was also going to have a Mohican but I was dubious. Phil had been bald for years, so I knew some ingenuity would be required. Here is Phil's excellent mohican, constructed from felt, and secured using elastoplasts. Genius. Note also the barbed wire necklace. It's that sort of attention to detail that sets you apart at a fancy dress party.

Jane achieved vertical hair with the use of glow in the dark blue hairspray, hence the rather odd glowing head she is sporting here:

My own hair was enormous at the beginning of the party but had calmed down a bit by this point:

Happy birthday janie!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

What we did on our holidays.

Right, here’s what we did on our holidays:

Started off at Jane R’s 30th birthday Punk Party. Back combed hair. Sprayed it pink. Put on loads of eye make up. Looked excellent. Considered looking like this on regular basis. Shaved Nick’s hair into Mohican. Drank cocktails at party. Shaved off Nicks Mohican. Left at 5am for airport. Tired.

Arrived Eygpt. 35 – 40 degrees. Had shitty room at back of hotel by air conditioning units and drains. Nick complained in polite English fashion. Moved to brilliant room. Dived. Napped. Ate nice food. Dived. Napped. Ate. etc etc etc Completed 15 dives over 6 days.

Dunraven (wreck)
Shark and Yolanda reef (wreck with many toilets)
Saw turtles, barracuda, tuna, napoleon wrasse, moray eels, titan trigger fish, Clown fish, sting rays etc etc etc.
Very beautiful corals.
Weed in wet suit to keep warm.

Was impressed by:
Tim’s excellent diving skills considering his relative novice status.
My own diving skills as revealed by photos/videos taken with new underwater camera.
My ability to drink 8 litres of water a day and not burst.

Do not have:
a tan.
A beach towel. (blew off boat)
Much money left.
The desire to work in an office.

Do Have:
A new weight belt and underwater camera.
many DABs (diving acquired bruises) and random wounds.
Knackered hair.
A total of 61 logged dives.

Arrived home after long flight in small seat next to flatulent obese woman. Chickens still alive and well. Released Maggie from cat borstal.

Hurrah. Here are the snaps: (for your clarification, I am the one with the yellow fins and yellow mask. Nick has grey/silver fins and a green mask.)

Back to Blighty

I'm back from sunny climes and the clear waters of the glorious Red Sea!

We were very happy with our new underwater camera housing, and took many many snaps of fish (and of ourselves naturally.)

I will post the best ones tomorrow, but here is a taster shot of me that Nick took:

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