Phew! Cringe! And other emotions…

Christmas can officially begin. I have battled temperatures at both ends of the scale and tonight successfully arrived at my parents’ in Belfast.

Since snowcalypse descended last week, holiday travel plans have delicately been in the balance. Actually, at the very moment I booked my flights (back in October) I was already formulating potential back-up plans – one reason why I ultimately flew out of Birmingham instead of London. Then on Saturday night, with impeccable timing, I got sick. The illest I’ve been since Christmas two years ago and making it the third of the last four Christmases that I’ve been under the weather. Four nights of awful sleep and virtually no appetite followed, making panic over meteorological conditions and airline vagaries even worse.

Thus I effectively wasted my first two days of holiday languishing in bed till the early afternoon and then attempting to make myself feel more human by seeing actual people. This was possibly a mistake as it led to an inadvertent evening in a draughty exhibition hall and made me incredibly determined to keep my date with the BBC Radio Theatre on Tuesday [much, much more on this at a later date]. The latter also required half an hour queueing in sleet, which might account for how categorically awful I felt yesterday morning as I began my mission to reach the shire for Christmas.

But enough moaning about my woes. By today, with no further heavy snow showers in the West Midlands and a receding feeling of general malaise, things were better – which is lucky, given the fate that befell me today at Birmingham International Airport…

I’m a fairly patient and moderately experienced traveller. I’ve dealt with the ferocity of US immigration and the terror of Israeli Border Control and don’t generally get flustered if unexpected things happen. However, what I do like is order and effective queuing – something usually typical of airport security. No such luck at Birmingham, someone even pushed ahead of me while I was decanting my laptop into a tray – at Gatwick you’d be forcibly removed for such behaviour.

My belongings were spread across two trays and my rucksack. First my laptop was picked out for a swipe (I quite like this, it means my screen’s now clean for the first time in ages) then my rucksack was lifted out. This did not make me happy, anyone who’s familiar with my handbag habits would guess at what level of junk might be contained within such a tote. Here are some examples:
What’s in a Name? [A book on the origin of tube station names which has been in there since my nerd’s day out.]
– A box of Christmas wrapping paraphernalia – ribbons, bows and what have you.
– Two-thirds of a cinnamon & raisin bagel bought for lunch on yesterday’s train (indication of illness that I only managed to consume one-third of it over a 2hr journey). [I’d intended to throw it away.]
– Rather important letters/documentation relating to my holiday task.

Any item whose contents were unclear was lifted out and opened – swift intervention on my part ensured that my purse wasn’t opened upside down, spilling coins across the conveyor belt. My camera case was easily explained, but less so a velvety Ollie & Nic purse that appeared from the depths of the bag. My conversation with the guard proceeded as follows:
Guard: “Madam, what’s in this small bag?”
Me [cringing inwardly and probably outwardly]: “Er, those would be tampons.” 
Guard [also cringing and hurriedly zipping it back up]: “Ah, ok then.” 

Bless him. I think he was actually more embarrassed than I was – though I wasn’t particularly happy about my belongings being displayed for all and sundry to observe. Had I been feeling more fragile, I might have burst into tears at this point, but instead I accepted his apologies and said that he’d been much nicer about it than the guards responsible the last time my baggage was searched – when leaving Israel.

Weirdly (or not), I was much happier sharing this event on Facebook and Twitter than with my fellow passengers – I guess in these cases I know my audience, or at least my audience knows me. Plus, it gave me something to chuckle over during my hour’s delay. [FYI not a lot to do in Birmingham’s Terminal 2.]

I wonder…

…does it mean something that I’ve had to buy a smaller purse to take away on holiday with me?

[To clarify, by “purse” I mean wallet – not handbag.]
Is my current purse too big?
Is the handbag I’m taking on holiday too small?
Is this all a major irrelevance?
I don’t care. It’s small, pretty & from Cath Kidston – enough said. (I’d actually just popped out of the office to buy milk, so it was something of an impulse buy, though a planned one.)
Incidentally, know how to rid surplus men from conversations? Throw in as many male-phobic conversation topics as you can in a short period of time. [This is not so much of a tangent as it sounds, the link is bags…]
Worked fantastically at church last night. I was cooing over the news that Annabelle had bought a new bag from Radley – it was purple and it seems that the world is buying purple handbags (my mum just bought one in Milan), I feel compelled to buy one too – and then we talked more about dresses. It was at this point that P (sat between us) went off to collect beverages.
When he returned we were engaged in an enthusiastic discussion about our respective forthcoming travels, so he was happy to re-occupy his seat. Though he did threaten to leave again when I thrust my hands at Annabelle to show off a new shade of nail varnish…
P – please forgive me for telling this story! I’m sure you weren’t trying to get away from us and our feminine conversation. (Though trust me, it got worse while you were gone!)

The joy of swapping

Today I finally got to go to my very first swap party. I had long anticipated this event, ever since my sister went to one and acquired a gorgeous necklace (which she wears a lot – a perpetual reminder that she got it for free) and a fabulous leather handbag. However, it took quite a long while for one of my friends to get round to holding one.

For the uninitiated, the point of a swap party is to take stuff you don’t need anymore, others do the same, you lay it all out, rummage, fight and hunt for items, ultimately taking home a load of new belongings – gratis. What’s there not to enjoy??
Last night I realised I was at a slight disadvantage.
(i) I manage to use a lot of my belongings to the point of destruction – shoes, handbags, clothes – clearly I’m a naturally thrifty person.
(ii) One of my good friends has enjoyed my cast-offs (the ones I’ve not worn out) ever since we lived together, so she usually reaps the benefits – particularly shoes.
(iii) Any clothes I’d not got rid of were ones that are in the ‘items I’d like to slim back into soon’ pile.
(iv) All my handbags are still very much functional. (Yes, all of them.)
Thus, I didn’t get to take much with me and felt a little guilty. Needn’t have worried though, the host & her best mate had had a massive clear-out, so had several others. After a civilised period of tea drinking & cupcake eating, it was time to get stuck in. I wasn’t disappointed…
….my haul included:
  • Pink handbag (you can never have too many bags, besides, it fitted all my other discoveries in it.)
  • Purple gloves and scarf (never too early to prepare for winter), a couple of cotton scarves, necklace, sunglasses.
  • Two pairs of shoes – one that may be a little bit of a make-over project – thanks to me being the only person with size 8 feet, with 12 pairs of size 8 shoes up for grabs! Happy days.
  • A book that will definitely be the subject of a separate post later this week.
I’m now planning to hold my own in the autumn – the potential joy of such an occasion must be shared.

Pretty bags for life

Yesterday I had a joyous weekday day off – a rare occurrance – which was made slightly less joyous by a trip to the ‘local’ (i.e. miles away) Royal Mail sorting office for a letter that couldn’t be found…

Anyway, my trip wasn’t totally fruitless as I was able to visit Tesco. I truly know my life is dull when using a non-Asda supermarket for my grocery shopping is an exciting event. I was obviously meant to go to Tesco as they had special offers on Diet Coke and low-fat Ben&Jerrys – two key ingredients for a joyous day off.

But this is all irrelevant (like anything I blog about is actually relevant at all!). The most important thing about my trip to Tesco was that it finally gave me an oppotunity to buy a Cath Kidston Bag for Life. If you’ve not spotted them they are truly lovely – both aesthetic and functional – and made out of 9 500ml plastic bottles. They’re only £3.50 (a proper Cath Kidston bag would set you back just a little bit more!) and 50p from each bag goes towards Marie Curie Cancer Care, bonus.

They are utterly gorgeous and I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t buy the three different designs I saw in my parents’ local Tesco in Belfast a few weeks ago. The earlier designs are now hard to come by, but more are being launched later in the year. For now, I’ll have to console myself with this lovely, capacious stripey one.

Sea View?

Have you ever noticed how “proper grown-ups” [that would be my term for anyone I consider to be properly older than me] get excited about the weirdest things?

There was almost a stampede when it was announced that the conference bags could be collected, and even more excitement when lanyards with name badges attached were found inside them.

Frankly, I have enough bags, and as a general rule I don’t enjoy long periods of time with my name round my neck. But, if it makes other people happy…

Anyway, it turns out Scarborough’s ok. Nice beach (though it’s at the bottom of a cliff); fairly decent weather; good people; flowing red wine (after hours) and a Danish brass band. Who could ask for more?

The only truly negative aspect being the view from my bedroom windows:

But then, I suppose it was too much to expect that my room would have a sea view, or at the very least, natural daylight?