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Maybe Tomorrow?

The title of this Stereophonics song has been in my head a lot this week. I was interviewed at the UN on April 29th and the interview panel told me I’d hear at the end of May. There are now only three working days (Germany’s bank holiday was last Monday not next) left in May and I’m still hopeful that maybe tomorrow I’ll hear.

It’s the perfect job for me at the moment. I want to use my languages and editing skills to make a difference in the world which, in job-speak, becomes multi-lingual public service in a global organisation. And that’s what this job is. Even though I met all the required criteria, I couldn’t quite believe I was shortlisted, then interviewed. But now that I have been I know that I really want it, that it is, like Goldilocks and baby bear’s bed and porridge, just right. Toes crossed.


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A Very Quick Blog

The lovely and the unexpected that I experienced this weekend in London and Paris:

  • the catering manager who, when asked to help open bottles of champagne at a 50th birthday party, said he couldn’t because he had a ‘bad wrist’;
  • the Eurostar train manager who told us that we had stopped because there was something on the line and then said that we could start again, but only very slowly, because the driver was ‘keeping an eye on the rails to check that they were all right’. In the dark at 9pm?! How? Very reassuring;
  • finding out that coffee was now €4.50 ‘en terrasse’ (and we’re not talking Champs-Elysees here) and, in some instances, disgusting;
  • complaining to someone on the 91, on the way to St Pancras, about his loud music and being supported by fellow passengers; hurrah!;
  • sitting on the back of a Vespa to cross the Pont des Invalides in the sunshine after lunch in the Jardin du Luxembourg; I’m not sure life gets much better than that.

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A Perfect Coffee…

…or How to Treat Yourself When You’re Broke. In Spain my morning routine was very simple. I’d get up late, as ever, rush to my Spanish class (either washed or unwashed depending on the previous night’s events and whether it was warm enough to be naked in the bathroom) and spend two hours wrestling, rather happily, with the intricacies of the subjunctive.

Then, at 11.30 we had a thirty-minute break and, although the school was a good ten-minute run from the nearest decent cafe, Maia and I still dashed down the cobbled streets and across the Albaicin, for a café con leche (or a manchada, slightly weaker version) and, in my case a medio tomate (half a roll, toasted and rubbed with crushed garlic and crushed fresh tomatoes) and in hers a medio tomate with jamon serrano. We never had to shout out our orders to Pepe, the small round man who rules Bar Aixa, since after the first few times he remembered it perfectly. So we’d pull up a couple of stools and watch as he threw a couple of saucers, spoons and sachets of sugar in front of us. Then a few minutes later two small glasses of hot espresso would appear, he’d add a little cold milk, then lots of hot and shortly after that he’d bring out our tostadas.

We only had about five minutes to enjoy the coffee and to eat our tostadas but somehow it never really felt hurried. We’d make stilted conversation with Pepe and the other bar staff, use up goodness knows how many little Spanish napkins from the metal dispenser (the floor was always covered in them), and talk talk talk. It was blissful, a perfect noisy place to have just enough coffee and just enough food to keep you going for the next two hours before lunch.

On my return home from Spain I was stuck in Malaga airport for several hours (it was December 21st…) and having left Granada very early that morning, I needed a coffee. It would, I thought, be my last chance to have a proper Spanish café con leche. But this was an airport full of expat Brits and the only coffee available came in tall coated cardboard cups and was more foam than flavour. I couldn’t believe it; my last chance for my favourite coffee and it was disgusting. I vowed never to drink coffee from cardboard again and, three months later, I’ve managed to stick to that.

And now I am back in a city full of places to drink coffee but I don’t want foam, steam, or syrup. I don’t want a choice of small, regular or tall, or of latte, cappuccino or flat white. I just want a café con leche. But even if there is, I accept, tons of good coffee in London I have yet to find anywhere that serves it in the Spanish way. What’s more I’m also broke so I can’t go and search out the best alternative because I can’t afford it. So, longing for my daily treat, I decided to start making my own.

I have always always failed to create anything approaching a shop-bought latte or cappucino at home, not having the required steaming equipment but, with a bit of effort, I seem to have got damned close to a café con leche. Take one small 2-cup Bialetti machine, 2-3 scoops of strong espresso, Brita-filtered water, a bit of cold milk and lots of hot and, ¡que bien!, un café con leche worthy of Pepe.

I may not have the Albaicin, I may not have Maia to sort out the world with me and I may not have Pepe to serve me but I can still have my little bit of Granada every day.

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I have been having some very strange ones. On Saturday night I seemed to be heading for some kind of romantic involvement with Mr G Clooney, then it was a redheaded twenty-something who still lived with his parents, then on Monday it was my first ever boyfriend. On Tuesday night I dreamt of missing the Eurostar because I’d gone to buy a bottle of Evian (I never buy mineral water) and then, last night, I dreamt that I was waiting for my Dad to pick me up, but he never arrived. After seven years I still miss him, bit like my train. So what is my unconscious trying to tell me…that I’m missing something perhaps?!

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Monday Morning

I always redo my ‘to do’ list on a Monday morning, in the hope that seeing how much I have done the week before will inspire me to get my act together for another five days.  Somehow, even though I’m not working, I still have about thirty things on it all the time and it’s interesting to see what doesn’t get done. For example, the note to ‘buy scales and weigh self!’ has been on the list for at least four weeks. As has the note to put up two pictures, neither of which has an obvious home on the walls. And, all my ideas for travel articles never get much beyond the words ‘pitch piece about…’ I should take these failures as symptomatic of my lack of interest in my weight, and in writing journalism, but I don’t. They will be on the list this week too, because I’m always optimistic that I might, erm, change and become the sort of person who actually follows through with an idea (lose weight, write for the newspapers), rather than abandoning it.

However, at the same time, I did get an awful lot done last week and, in the spirit of focusing on the positive (an absolute necessity when there’s no work and no money coming in), I thought I’d make a tally.

Job applications completed: four, and it would have been five if the position of ‘editor on a government report’ hadn’t turned into ‘editor and text designer…’; talk about moving the goalposts.

Words written: 3000 plus some blogs.

Weirdest question on a job app: my weight and height (for the UN, of all people).

Most unexpected pleasure: the smell of hyacinths blossoming in my flat (thanks Fanny).

Greatest discovery: that walking from my flat to the Curzon Soho (my favourite cinema) only takes an hour which, in London terms, makes us practically neighbours.

Best thing about not working: having time to bake.


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What Did I Tell You?

Yesterday was the only dry day this week. But I’m still going to go for a walk in this grey light. And anyway, life is looking up. Shelly says so:

While you’re an optimist by nature, even you could be overwhelmed by the sudden array of thrilling things that start coming your way. This is in stark contrast to the past month’s exceedingly tricky situations. Challenging as they were at the time, they forced you to examine and clear out unproductive activities, individuals and objectives. So, actually, this rush of brilliant developments is as timely as the actual events will be welcome.

Nothing like a bit of astrology to help you fantasise on a winter’s day!

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What We All Need

It poured with rain yesterday, poured and poured and poured, in a way that weighed me down. I still managed to get an application done, go and see a film (Invictus, worth it) and do some writing. But it felt like I was ticking boxes, not achieving what I wanted. And then, today, the sun came out. I woke up groggy, having fallen asleep with the light on and my just-finished novel (The Reader, much better than the film although I was irritated by the fact that I couldn’t imagine the character of Hanna without seeing Kate Winslet’s face) under the pillow, but then I realised it was warm, really warm in my bedroom. When I pulled up the blind there it was: a sky full of spring blue.

I got up, had a shower, made breakfast, dealt with my emails and started on today’s application. But every minute or two I looked out of the window and I couldn’t concentrate. In the end the thought of staying in on what could be the only dry day this week was just too much and I put on my walking boots and went out. I headed to the top of the Parkland Walk, which is an incongruously beautiful piece of woodland that connects some of the more salubrious parts of London (Highgate) with some more insalubrious ones (Finsbury Park), and back and felt brilliant. By the time I got home I really was full of the joys of spring and I sat down to my form-filling without my usual twenty-minute internet procrastination. All we need is love? No, all we need, in the depths of February, is sunshine.

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