Belated birthday brilliance

My 30th birthday has really been the birthday that keeps on giving. In the last couple of weeks I’ve acquired two birthday gifts that are quintessentially me – I have excellent friends.

The first of these was actually a bonus birthday/moving house gift from the lovely Annabelle. Ordered months ago, it had arrived late so she’d given me a lovely baking themed present instead. But the tardy present was (is) genius…

What are things I like? Well, jewellery would definitely be up there, especially earrings. What else am I passionate about? Punctuation. Can you combine the two? Why yes, it seems you can:

If you’d like your own punctuation, you can buy them from Nerd Goddess on Etsy.

Those, my friends, are mix and match punctuation earrings – semi-colon, question mark, speech mark, exclamation mark and…the all important apostrophe. Now whenever I have the urge to correct someone’s apostrophe usage, all I have to do is place my earring in the correct location. Marvellous.

The second gift arrived on Sunday, when my favourite Gloucestrians paid me a flying visit en route to helping their eldest move house. For weeks we’d been trying to fix up a meeting as they were very keen to give me my present, which intriguingly couldn’t be posted. When I was handed the parcel it was soon clear why – it was large and picture frame shaped, so presumably cumbersome and delicate. Unwrapping it, I discovered this:

In case you can’t read it, it says:

Lizzie likes… [Yes, they count as family, thus I’m “Lizzie”.]
Singing with the choir. [That’s a given.]
Yummy cupcakes. [Ditto.]
Chalet School books. [But of course.]
Travelling. [Hell yes.]
Flip Flops. [True, but now they kill my ankles.]
Church on Sunday. [And any other day.]
Glee. [Well duh!]
Paris in July. [Paris whenever really.]
The Greenwoods. [Like is an understatement.]
Ben Fogle. [Ahhhhh….]
Wishing she could still be a Brownie, even though she’s 30. [Running in-joke.]
How impressive! Turns out they’d only had to consult family on two items – favourite food and favourite celebrity crush. (My sister apparently suggested Colin Firth initially, which is odd as I don’t think I’ve ever professed an ardent liking of him – not that I’d say no, obviously. Ben Fogle is genius and true, the only alternative would’ve been Alan Rickman.) They really are the best gift givers on special birthdays – on my 21st I received a film poster style painting of my life (‘The girl from Tonga’…) – and they put a lot of thought and effort into it. Bless them.
So, once I finally get some special picture hooks later this week I’ll be able to adorn my new room with my new art. This and my specially commissioned Dave Walker cartoon will obviously have pride of place. 

I find humour helps the education process

It’s somewhat traditional that I try and buy my sister humorous birthday cards. This year, I struggled to find a suitable one and almost gave up – until I came across one that tickled me. I chose well, she was most amused and informed me that she’d stuck into her school planner so it could carry on bringing a smile to her face. The card in question was this one:

The other week, we were having dinner with friends and during it, the question of words which sound the same but are spelled differently and mean different things came up. [Yes, this is the kind of thing we like to discuss over food. The night before Mim had also learnt how to do the 9 times-table with her fingers…] 
I shared the story of the ongoing complimentary/complementary issue one of my friends has and suddenly noticed a flash of revelation crossing my sister’s face. It turned out that my choice of birthday card hadn’t actually been fully appreciated and I’ve been giving my spelling-challenged friend an undeservedly hard time as virtually no one else round the table knew that there was a difference either. Within minutes I also found myself explaining the difference between ‘oral’ and ‘aural’ – all the more worrying as the people in question were musicians on a musical weekend away…oh dear. 
[Please note: I’m not trying to make myself look like a superior user of the English language. I quite readily admit that I can spell neither embarrassment or occasion without the aid of the wiggly red line. This is just part of my duty as a grammar (or spelling) communist – sharing the love and knowledge freely and equally.] 

Anyway, perhaps the above image will at least help those who struggle to remember the difference between compliment and complement – think of it as a cut out and keep reminder…

This is what Mim looks like when she makes an amazing discovery

Educated graffiti

I don’t call that graffiti, I call it educating the general public. I liked that some public spirited person had amended every sign throughout the complex to make them contextually correct. 
Is it wrong to publicly correct someone’s grammatical errors? I make no denial of the fact that I’m something of a pedant when it comes to grammar and punctuation (especially apostrophes). One friend comes in for more of this pedantry than most, largely because we met when he was my team’s ‘editor’ yet somehow couldn’t use the possessive apostrophe correctly. A typical example of one of our grammatical tiffs can be found in the comments of this post – even though I’d deliberately chosen not to correct him in public. Some people might refer to me as a grammar nazi, however I’ve recently decided that I am in fact a grammar communist – I don’t dictate the rules of excellent grammar, simply try and spread the love of good grammar. 
The place in which these signs were discovered is also worth a mention. The Tobacco Dock in Wapping is typical of disused dock gentrification – old buildings turned into a glamorous shopping centre. At first glance it appears almost finished, but closer inspection reveals that its glory days are long-gone. An old map showed the one-time presence of a Monsoon, Next and Our Price (a record store that disappeared in the early 2000s). 
Tobacco Dock (Credit: St Luke’s Sculptors)
Not the most exciting photo – the best ones were non-downloadable
It was rather eerie – as if someone had just popped out without even turning off the lights. It wouldn’t look out of place in the middle of 28 Weeks Later. I’m now kicking myself that I didn’t take more photos than just the pedantry, but there are a few on Flickr and this website and perhaps I could pop back at some point (though I’m not sure that I’d fancy going alone, way too scary). 

Marginally judgemental Friday Fun

One word I’d hate to be used to describe me is ‘snob’. While I can appear to be snobby about some things – good gin, genuine Heinz ketchup and Kellogg’s Cornflakes – it’s usually simply because they taste better and I’d rather spend slightly more on something I like, than spend less on something I won’t. My only qualms with shopping at Primark is their possible lack of ethics, but that’s often forgotten in the excitement of a £5 skirt or £2 t-shirt. It’s good not to be judgemental about stuff – isn’t it?

Then I stumbled upon what your e-mail address says about your computer skills and realised that many of my (judgemental) suspicions had been confirmed, in an extremely comedy way. Examples include:
Own domain: ‘Good chance of being skilled & able, maybe even a programmer or designer’. [Rings true to me.]
Gmail: ‘When the internet stops working, actually tries rebooting the router before calling a family member for help’. [Very true, not that I’m at all biased as a Gmail user myself…]

In other exciting e-mail news, this week has seen me lose 5 characters from my address. Yes, that sounds careless (and a little pointless) but when you struggle to fit it onto forms and can do nothing about the length of your surname, every little helps. A few weeks ago Gmail announced that it had sorted out its legal wranglings with a British company who used the same name for its internal mail system and thus, the Brits who’d previously been saddled with @googlemail.com could choose to switch to @gmail.com. I formally made the move at the start of this week and gosh, it feels good. [Simple things please simple people etc, etc.]

Continuing the judgy theme, yesterday a friend and I were discussing our mutual love of the Guardian over lunch. A characteristic we particularly love is its own brand of in-jokes. To unfamiliar Guardian readers, this might come across as intellectual snobbery, and perhaps in appreciating it we are ourselves intellectual snobs, but it’s what makes it a great paper. After all, this was the first national newspaper to have a regular ‘corrections and clarifications’ column which regularly mocks itself for its own stupid mistakes.

Anyway, one of my favourite articles this week was on synonyms. Now, as this is the Guardian, the humour within it is entirely derived from understanding what a synonym is – I’m not judging those who don’t, I’m just warning you that if you’re lacking this particular piece of knowledge you won’t find it funny. Oh, and it has a quiz at the end of it – have I ever mentioned how much I love quizzes?? [And that I’m still sore that my quiz team, despite being in the lead until the final round, were robbed of our rightful reward last week…]

The article’s title is also a gem: My Synonym Hell

Just in case you’ve found this week’s ‘fun’ way too mentally demanding, I’ve one final amusing gem for you:
As of July 1st, Subway are instructing their staff to tessellate the cheese in their sandwiches. Sounds dull and mundane, but the official statement on it is comedy – I never realised just how seriously one has to take the assembly of subs. Incidentally, I won’t judge you on eating their sandwiches, but I will judge the company on their awful taste in cheese.

Literal Friday Fun

Ahhhh, xkcd, how I love thee.
True, I still don’t understand all your creations. (Like this one from last week.) But your definition of hell was inspired.

I literally laughed out loud when I read today’s and then wondered if there was a chance I might turn into the crazy bearded pedant one day. (Admittedly, the beard’s unlikely.) Perhaps I should therefore stop my missions to ensure apostrophes are used correctly; that the correct definition of ‘irony’ is used [i.e. that Alanis Morissette was wrong]; and that ‘can’ and ‘may’ are not interchangeable…

Today I am figuratively hopping mad that I have to work all weekend when the weather is meant to be gorgeous. Instead of basking in the sun’s rays, I will be stuck inside a committee room pressing buttons for powerpoint presentations for 48 hours. Fun times. Chances of it still being nice when I’m finally off work on Tuesday? Nil.