The Queen of Nails and DIY

Last night, I began getting ready for bed at 10.30pm (it’s rare this process begins before 11pm), relatively happy with my evening’s achievements. I’d skipped my Monday night course (in an effort to look like I had interesting plans for February 14th…) so I could get a gym visit into a very busy week. Plus, I got to watch Glee and had given myself a pretty successful manicure. (Less successful was a renewed attempt at some ‘serious’ writing I’ve got to do, but the less said about that the better.)

I’m not particularly obsessive about my nails, but as a general rule they sport some form of colour and have done ever since I discovered the secret to a successful DIY nail job. Want to know what it is? It’s super simple: paint them last thing at night, let them dry, go to sleep and take off the excess while in the shower the next morning (no nail polish remover required).

Plus, the added bonus of self-manicuring is that it keeps me quiet and free of multi-tasking. Painting nails requires stillness, concentration and quiet. You can’t multi-task during it (except moving a mouse on a webpage or changing the tv channel) and any activity risks damaging your hard work. For good hour or so, I’m forced to stay still and wait patiently for the undercoat and layers to dry – something that generally I find exceedingly difficult.

Owing to various activities later this week, I wanted nice nails and my Monday night freedom was my only chance to get it done. With no second chance likely, I was really careful and took my time, not wanting to make any stupid mistakes. It was going well – for once I didn’t need the toilet immediately after the last coat was done (the removal of clothes/undoing of zips does not benefit freshly painted talons). Thus, at 10.30pm, with dry, fabulous looking nails, I headed to the bathroom to brush my teeth. I pulled the light chord and at that moment the entire flat went dark…

The bulb had blown, fusing the flat. Dealing with the fuse box was simple, but changing the light bulb was less so. (We have no windows in the bathroom, thus artificial light is imperative. I’ve showered in the dark before and it’s not fun.) A chair was dragged in from the lounge and a bulb located, more difficult was the removing of the plastic encasing the light fitting. With (not so muted) swear words at regular intervals, I attempted to remove it by hand, watching as my beautiful nails got massacred. After several minutes more swearing and huffing, I eventually got out my trusty Swiss Army knife and thanks to the bottle opener finally levered the bugger off the ceiling, changed the bulb and replaced the plastic.

This is what I was left with:

Remember, the excess would’ve come off in the shower…
The red was specifically chosen to complement my new love of deep red lipstick.

I was bitterly disappointed and went very quickly from a general sense of satisfaction about the evening, to one of deep despair and frustration. Worse, this morning I realised my nails were still stained red from the varnish, so I’m really going to have to re-paint them before an important social occasion, lest I look like someone who’s been tearing at flesh…

The moral of the story is that you should never leave nail painting to the last minute, and even if you do it three days in advance, you should ensure that there’s at least one other window in your schedule in which you could re-paint them if the need arises. Alternatively, you could change all the lightbulbs in your house prior to a manicure session, thus the replacing of one need not damage your efforts.

Oh, and if you’re a girl and like exciting nails, you might be interested in this tutorial from the ever trusty Hairpin.

Rage against the machine

Ahhh, the self-service checkout. It may reduce the queues in shops, but adds an extra frisson of possible frustration thanks to its many eccentricities. I have no quibbles with being made to wait for a cashier to check my age when buying booze, but repeated proclamations of “unexpected item in the bagging area” is liable to do my head in (especially when in the already volatile environs of Old Kent Road Asda) when all I’m trying to do is save the planet by using reusable bags…

I’ve just returned from that most Sunday of pursuits, a visit to a DIY store. My local B&Q always manages to conspire against me. I am actually quite a competent DIYer – I can paint a room, change a light bulb, wire a plug, help lay laminate flooring and screw almost anything(!)… But, every time I need to purchase a random DIY object, it’s nowhere to be found and I’m left looking like a helpless female having to ask for help in an alien environment. Today was particularly annoying as I knew exactly what I needed (the bit that connects a toilet flush handle to the actual flushing mechanism within the cistern) but couldn’t see it – on asking for help it emerged that other things had been placed in front of it, so not my fault at all. [I also felt judged as I was wearing my most girly of shoes – the red patent beauties.]

Once I’d acquired what I required, I headed to the self-service checkout, where I had the good fortune to witness a moment of wonderful rage against the checkout machine – thankfully not of my own making.

Just ahead of me in the queue was a man buying two boxes of tiles. He dutifully scanned them using the hand-held scanner (a sensible device used in places like B&Q and Ikea so you don’t have to lift up heavy items) and then looked surprised when the machine said “please place the item in the bagging area”. His (logical) response was to say (outloud and in a very middle class accent) “For f*ck’s sake! I can’t lift them up – they’re too heavy”. [This is what initally attracted my attention – a fully grown man, talking to both himself and a machine, in public, in front of several strangers – respect!]

He then did what any sensible person would do (if the one staff-member manning the self-service area is nowhere to be found) – he put his foot up onto the bagging area and leaned, clearly in the hope that it would register some kind of object, but to no avail. Then he attempted to lift the boxes, directing cries of “you tw*t” at the machines. Finally, the objects were in the bagging area, with an exclamation of “happy now? You f*cking useless machine?!”.

Poor man, I did feel for him – all the while trying to keep the grin on my face from being too obvious. It did strike me as the kind of thing that would not be out of place in an episode of middle-class family favourite sitcom Outnumbered.

The moral of the story? When man is pitted against machine, man rarely wins. Or, when buying boxes of tiles at B&Q it’s probably better to go through a manned checkout with a bit of queue than trying to avoid the queue by going self-service…

Wardrobe Malfunctions


Having a bit of a root-through my wardrobe (on a mission to find forgotten clothes and/or something silver to wear to a silver themed party on Friday), I noticed that the clothes rail was looking a tad precarious. So, I did what self-respecting girl would do – tried to fix it back in place without removing any of the clothes first.
Result? Rail falls out, clothes land in heap on the bottom of the wardrobe. Major malfunction.
It’s now fixed, but I’ve got to find a new place for the (rather heavy) storage device that had hung from the rail and contains all my underwear and socks. It’s amazingly useful, but I think too much for my piece of Ikea tat. Will have to rethink that one…

It’s been properly hot today (just under 30c) and therefore an excellent reason to wear this year’s favourite summer dress. Only problem with it is that its skirt can occasionally act like a parachute, inflating with hair – sometimes to the point of blowing the skirt right up. This is particularly an issue walking down stairs or going up escalators (the breeze at London Bridge station can be quite impressive).
Result? The use of my cross-body handbag to weigh down skirt on one side, whilst one arm holds down the front and the other the back.
Of course, thanks to the genius of cropped leggings this is not quite so much of an issue, but still counts as a malfunction!
On the subject of this dress, which I love dearly, I had the most bizarre comment about it from someone a couple of weeks back. Following a meeting, the guy I’d been talking with (who I also count as a friend) looked at my dress and said “nice dress – it’s very World War Two”. Now, as the dress is slightly tea-dress-esque and ‘utility’ length, I took him to mean that it’s style was reminiscent of the 1940’s. The two women I was with were initially impressed by this comment, and we asked why he felt it was WW2 – his response was that it was because it’s covered in poppies. So basically, my dress reminded him of people dying. Great.

DIY disasters

I’m off work this week, so I’m taking the opportunity of getting some jobs done that have been hanging around for ages.

One of these jobs involved replacing a light fitting in my living room. I began work on it 5 weeks ago, when I took down the old one and then realised I probably needed a drill, so left it for a while.

This morning I figured I could cope without a drill and got on with fixing the bracket to the wall. That was fairly simple, as was matching up the various wires coming out of the wall. (Needless to say, I’d turned off the fuse for the lights in the flat.)

However, I was left with one wire which seemed to have no place to go, so I tried putting it where it looked like it might go…wrong idea as I then had a massive electric shock run up my left arm! Oooops.

So I’ve now officially given up on this job! It’s terribly annoying because:
(i) I’m generally ok with DIY
(ii) There’s still a hole with wires coming out of it on my living room wall
(iii) I’ll also need to replace the matching light fitting at some point
(iv) I also haven’t worked out how I’m going to fit my new (yet to be purchased) blinds

What I really need is a willing volunteer (I’d say ‘man’, but that would be sexist) who can help me out with this. I’ll even turn the electricity off at the mains whilst they get on with it and stand by handing out tools and generally being an extra pair of hands, I’ll probably bake a cake too.

Any suggestions?

DIY Diva or Loser?

I’m not a pathetic girl who can’t lift a hammer, I’ve had my DIY successes: putting together ikea flat-packs; hanging pictures; changing light-bulbs, not to mention last year’s lessons in laying laminate flooring

I went to Brownies & Guides and learnt how to re-wire a plug and change a fuse. I even have my own tool kit, which is practical & efficient even though it’s not covered in a flowery pattern (such tools do exist & they’re very cool!). But every so often, I seem to have a bit of a blonde moment.

Today I discovered that the kettle I threw out in the autumn probably just needed a new fuse. Whilst I know how to change one, I’d completely forgotten that their death can be the reason behind an appliance’s sudden not-working-ness. Still, at least my new kettle matches my toaster. My job for the weekend is to check whether the not-working-ness (since November) of my bedroom’s storage heater is due to a similar fuse failure.

My colleague at work was an engineer in a previous life, which means he knows/understands all this technological stuff. He even explained how extension cables usually only have 5amp fuses, whilst kettles run on 13amp fuses, which I think means that you shouldn’t plug kettles into extension cables, but to be honest I got lost somewhere around “amp”!

Just a few weeks ago I discovered how storage heaters work (I’ve lived in a flat with storage heaters for nearly 2 years now), having had a panic that the heater I’d accidentally left on overnight was going to explode because it was still super hot 10 hours after turning it off. I would feel like a particularly dumb blonde, were it not for the fact that my male, non-blonde friend who has the same heaters and has lived in his flat longer, was also unaware of how they worked.

Hurrah for ignorance!