The Winter Months

Sometimes I feel like an asshole for complaining about the winter when I live in Vancouver. I see photos posted by friends who live elsewhere in Canada and they deal with Real Winter.

Real Winter, to me, is snow and toques and leaving for work half-an-hour early to navigate the ice. Real Winter only really lasts a day or two – a week, tops – in Vancouver. The rest of the season is characterized by grey skies, rain, and just… darkness.

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Plot Twist: We Flee from London

As my first day of being thirty years old passes, we find ourselves having forsaken London. We went out flat hunting, paperwork in hand like rifles, the tube like horses and hounds. After several false starts, I had to admit to myself that London just wasn’t worth it. Paying a thousand pounds for a small flat (bed bugs likely included) in a part of town I would be scared to walk in at night, spending an hour on the tube just to get to a part-time job at a fabulous bookshop just didn’t add up.

I feel terrible about it, but I turned down the job at the bookshop. As much as I would have loved to work there (and the fact that job-hunting in this country has been as futile and depressing as hell, but that’s the subject of another post), the part-time hours and level of pay just didn’t rationalise the ridiculous London rent. After crunching numbers, I calculated that the difference in price to live in a shitty London flat versus a decent flat anywhere else was more than I would make. In essence, living outside London unemployed would be cheaper than living in London and working part-time minimum wage.

Aviary Photo_130301699518640384
Site of the fabled London Tim Horton’s.

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Stephen Fry – a Fortuitous Symbol?

It seems quite ironic (or perhaps not ironic at all) that after discovering at long last the unencumbered joy of QI and the limitless glee of Stephen Fry’s memoirs that we should spot him strolling along Piccadilly as we sip our organic coffee.

I do not believe in signs or fate or anything of the sort. They are a trick of psychology: a confirmation bias wherein we see what we want in order to justify our desires or decisions. Thus, seeing Stephen Fry in London is not a sign that we have made the right decision in moving here, or that everything will turn out fine. Yet it seems so obvious a sign. Prior to the sighting, did I not just post not-one-but-two Stephen Fry quotes (as some allegedly nuanced depiction of my inner self)?

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The Anglo Job Search Begins

It hardly seems right that we’ve been in England almost ten days. It’s been something of a fog, like we’re stuck on a transatlantic cruise liner with nothing to eat but chips and tea and nothing to do all day but watch the BBC and apply for jobs.

I am at the point where I can now only describe myself in the glorious veneer of management-speak. I can only use phrases like “hard-working,” and “skill-set.” It’s an odd frame of mind to feel trapped by. Husband and I have discussed it when we can, but it’s tough to escape. It’s a roller coaster of viewpoint. At the peak you’re optimistic and the world looks like an employment buffet. At the trough, however…. The trough is a demoralising bastard.

Suddenly it feels as though everything I’ve learned means nothing just because I never bothered to figure out Adobe Illustrator or because I can’t quite articulate how running endless film sets qualifies me to set someone’s datebook. But it does. I know it. I know I can do so much.

I did receive one cold call after putting my CV on the “public” setting through the Job Centre. It was for a call centre. In a fit of optimism, I turned them down.

Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that.

The Turning Point

By virtue of waking up early to get everything out of our apartment, I am at work a whole fifty minutes early. The near-silence is astounding. I say “near” because a diligent few chatter on phones in the distance and the barista at the coffee stand is organizing her till. But the usual din of ringing phones, insolent queries, and idle gossip has yet to cycle in.

Patches of darkness cling to corners of the office: lights not yet turned on because there is not yet anyone to illuminate. It’s a strange feeling, something of a parallel and/or flip-side to leaving our home this morning and staring one last time at the blank walls and swept floors. From here I will spent one more day at this job: one more day of holding all this information in my mind. At 4.30 I will let it go.

From there we drive my rattling, old car (and its backseat of miscellaneous furniture and throw pillows) to my parents’ house. The adventure will have not begun yet (because that takes place next Thursday) but it will be limbo. Purgatory even. What else could it be? Husband and I will be awaiting a judgment to be handed down by… well, ourselves, really. Do we have what it takes to cash in and run away?

I guess we’ll find out.

Ashleigh’s Taco Salad Recipe – by Request

This was originally requested by Amanda alone, but then I thought, “it is not my place to hold back genius from the larger world.” So here it is: on the internet.

ASHLEIGH’S TACO SALAD*

Makes 1 big, potluck-ready bowl. You can adjust these amounts as you see fit. I pretty much eyeball it every time.

1 lb lean or extra-lean ground beef
Head of iceberg lettuce, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tomato, diced
3 green onions, sliced
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
½ bag Nacho cheese-flavoured Doritos, broken into small pieces
½ bottle of Kraft Catalina™ dressing (or “California” if you’re me and bought the no-name brand)
Other taco-related ingredients as you might so desire, such as black olives. (This is your canvas; make it your masterpiece.)

Look, Amanda! Just ask and Google Images provides.
Look, Amanda! Just ask and Google Images provides.

Cook the ground beef in a pan and season with however much taco seasoning as your senses can allow, which—if you’re like me—is a lot. (The salad is best if you let the meat cool in the fridge, but you might only want to do that if you’re working with extra lean meat. Otherwise, a little part of you will die when you see the cold, hardened, taco-seasoned fat in the bottom of the container. Appetizing, I know.)

After that, you can follow the basic logic that this is, indeed, a tossed salad. Which means you just mix everything together in a bowl.

You will probably want to serve it right away otherwise the crunchiness of the Doritos is comprised faster than a Bond girl.

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*I feel like a bum taking credit for this. I didn’t make it up. But I don’t know who did, but I should at least get credit for bringing it to the masses.

The Etiquette of Facebook, or, “Please don’t bring up those elementary school pictures I was tagged in in front of all our co-workers.”

Even if Emily Post hasn’t quite got round to adding a chapter on it, there are unspoken rules to social media. They boil down to Wil Wheaton’s motto: “Don’t be a dick.”

Here are a few:

Aviary Photo_1303017340043412251. Don’t tag unflattering pictures.

2. Don’t start comment wars over something irrelevant.

3. Don’t invite me to play Candy Crush.

4. And definitely don’t invite me to your friend’s nephew’s private school fundraiser.

5. Don’t trick yourself into believing passive-aggressive comments somehow give you depth.

6. Don’t carry on conversations that really should be private in a place where they clog up a feed.

7. And definitely, DEFINITELY don’t bring up non-work-related Facebook information in a crowded workplace environment.

That is what Facebook has become. It is no longer that small enclave of the internet where you can connect with new genuine friends and reconnect with old genuine friends. That now seems to be Tumblr. Is is no longer that place where you can expose your immense wit and intelligence (or lack thereof) through the sheer power of typing then pressing enter. That is now Twitter.

Facebook is now the place where we try to put our best selves. It’s so carefully curated that to expect a Facebook page to be an accurate representation of a person is to expect the Louvre to be an accurate representation of history. No one’s life is as awesome as they make it seem. They’ve edited out the long, boring nights they spend watching television.

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Conversations in my Office Kitchen: a Depressing Vignette

Tis but ten o’clock in the morning. A big meeting has just let out. The table in the kitchen is littered with snacks leftover by people with far more prestigious jobs than I. (The apple pie looks nice, but I daren’t be so presumptuous as to take a slice under the careful eye of all these VIPs.)

I am waiting for the kettle to boil. I just want my tea, dammit. This kettle is likely older than me; perhaps even the first electric kettle some industrious young thing ran down to the patent office in a time long forgotten. Naturally, ice ages come as go while it works its way up from room temperature to lukewarm. As an old adage comes to mind (something about a watched pot), I consider going back to my desk to await The Boiling.

But alas. In this office, abandoned kettle water is a filthy whore that gives itself out to whomever happens upon it first. It doesn’t care if your mug and tea bag have been waiting on the counter ever-so-patiently. No. I must wait this out.

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Why I don’t Answer my Phone in the Morning

I got to work this morning with two missed calls from Mum.

Two.

Two missed calls within half an hour of each other. Surely, some strange contrivances of fate are afoot which have rendered her helpless and lame and in desperate need of my assistance.

I called her back right away even as the clock ticked over and co-workers were chirping happily around me: “Mum? Mum, what’s happened? What’s up?!”

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