Monday, January 28, 2008

Now why didn't I think of that?

There are some things that are so incredibly obvious that you can't believe that nobody had thought of it before. Things like G&D's cookie monsters, ice cream vending machines, those funny rent-a-bikes they have in some European cities, and now...all these things that I just found on a rather funky website: Cool Inventions.

My faves are the stairs with built-in drawers, the penguin tea timer, and the pro thumb wrestling arena.

My inventive side has been refreshed - I'm off to concoct some fantastic creations that I don't know how I live without...if only I could invent an invention machine...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Sweet like Chocolate

It really struck me today just what sweet tooth I have. Being female, I should probably view this with a certain amount of guilt, apologise profusely for my distrust in salads and my aversion to low-fat (read no-taste) products and sigh that I can't fit into my skinny jeans any more. But hey, what a great excuse to buy some new clothes! It's not that I aim to be unhealthy - no, really... - it's just that there are so many yummy things around and I swear I really do get chocolate cravings. Think caffeine addiction but fact, it could well be caffeine - I think I eat enough chocolate to compete with the greatest compulsive espresso-downers out there.

An average day in the life of me:

Breakfast: Toast with generous smotherings of jam or honey - proper jam though, with lots of bits of fruit in, although I'm not fussy about the honey - runny or crystallised - both are good.
Accompanied by hot chocolate - I'm currently experimenting with Whittards caramel hot chocolate. By experimenting, I mean religiously drinking it at least once daily to see if it tastes as good each time. So far I can conclude that it does.

Now comes the point where I should probably lie and say I'm good and don't snack during the day. Except I do. I'm sure we all do. I'm not even going to pretend I snack on unsalted nuts and dried fruit like all the women's mags say. Nope, I'm a hobnobs girl through and through. Mind you, that's only because I can't find those nice buttery crinkly biscuits anywhere near me.

Lunch is usually savoury...followed by a yummy pudding of some variety. Either that or it's a warm-up for afternoon tea. My parents came to visit today and I introduced my mum to Ben's Cookies - she now wants to return in a couple of weeks to try a different flavour. I would be offended that she's more interested in that than seeing me, but then deep down I'm quite excited to have another trip there organised in advance.

If I have room for dinner after all that, it's usually the starter for after-dinner chocs. It really is a wonder I haven't spontaneously erupted into a spotty, toothless diabetic or a forty-stone chocaholic. We all have our vices and luckily mine is quite a sociable one. It may well be the death of me, but who hasn't dreamt of a decadent chocolate-covered end to their days?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Oxford's underwater again. Much as I dreamed of being the Little Mermaid when I was younger and would love to go scuba-diving, it really doesn't fit into The Masterplan of getting on with life at the moment. I've given up all hope of using cycle lanes when it rains - it's lucky enough to find a non-submerged bit of road on either side to get past. As for running in the University Parks, well, my trainers still haven't dried out from last week. Goodness know how bad it is for people living at the bottom of a hill.

I know it causes chaos for so many people, but a little part of me likes the change brought about by the flooding. Little things we usually take for granted suddenly seem so important - going in the basement of a shop; eating at the Cherwell Boathouse, watching punters in the summer from Magdalen bridge - it really is a different world now.

Forced off my bike from fear of death, I've found myself walking everywhere. It's not actually as boring as I expected - I have the time to watch people rushing past - the goggling tourists, the bustling shoppers, the book-clutching students. Cliches, I know, but they're definitely there, and it's fascinating watching people interacting with each other whilst oblivious to all but their own worries.

So if you're feeling fed up with the flooding, try using it as a time to see things from a different perspective. Oxford doesn't need to become a sub-aqueous civilization to be fascinating as a hidden world.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Sailing through sales season

Having overdosed on the shopping mecca that is Milton Keynes and returned, laden with bags and baggage alike to the land of Oxford, I was growing rather tired of January sales. Cornmarket Street failed to arouse much interest in me - somehow posters advertising cheap ringbinders just don't appeal as much as bargain clothes.

However - panic not, I am still female after all - I must have made it all of 10 metres down Queen Street before being irresistibly sucked into Miss Selfridge, shortly followed by Monsoon. I wasn't meant to be clothes shopping; I was strictly in town for practical purposes and on a time limit. But you know how it goes - the dreamy spires and all that, and you feel like life is too short, the whim of the moment is governer of the mind and - ooh, 70% off all shoes - well, whoever said consumerism is passé?

I ended up only buying a t-shirt, but with great plottings to come back when I have more time to try things on. I won't, of course - my sensible side will tell me I wouldn't buy the items if they didn't seem like such a good deal, that I'd be better off buying the expensive trousers I've yearned after for several months than three cheaper pairs that I don't want as much.

But hey, who listens to their sensible side so early in the year?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Simply Superficial

I've just got back from a fortnight of gallavanting around the mountains of Italy. It was a lovely way to see in the New Year, but now having overdosed in nature, simplicity and the important things in life, I'm getting a rather niggling urge to have an outburst of superficialiality, of silliness, of completely unfounded, biased opinion. Oh, why not? I'll try to make it my only one this year...

I spent two weeks surrounded by stunning alpine peaks, shaggy goats and mountain huts. It should have been idyllic. Yet so many of the little villages were full of derelict buildings, huge, intrusive, towering cranes, dirty rubbish points and rusting corrugated warehouses. My senses were offended - this wasn't the image of rural life I had expected. I had hoped for weatherworn farmers' wives making cheese by hand, not smoke billowing out from decrepit factories.

In a parallel sense, this is how I feel about much of Oxford. Sure, the dreaming spires are a cliche, but they're still a treat for the eye. I so often take them for granted until I see something that contrasts with the grandiose style and brings me crashing back. In a purely shallow sense, then, here are my top 5 pretty buildings and top 5 uglies in Oxford. Feel free to contradict, to complain. I use lots of these places regardless of their appearance, but they're an eyesore nevertheless.

Lovelies to feast your eyes on
1. The little cottage on Parks Road with the flowers up the side
2. That gloriously overhanging wonky building on Cornmarket Street with the
Nokia shop underneath
Christ Church Cathedral - well, it is very pretty
The Oxford University Press Building (the offices, not the shop) - British Musem anyone?
Freud's - have you ever felt grander getting a pizza?

Uglies to take your enemies to
1. The building works round the Taylor Institute - just how long do they need?
The Westgate centre - horrible, glass-fronted blob of commercialisation
Oxford train station - as if travelling wasn't torturous enough already
4. Gloucester Green - so pretty when full of market; so full of neon signs, noodles and ragamuffins most of the time...
Argos - well, it's hardly a tourist attraction is it?

Don't even get me started on Cowley (and no, it's not all bad - I quite like the funky graffiti murals and 3-D shop fronts)...