Thursday, 31 March 2011

Otters Do It On Film

I didn't publish a post yesterday - not because I didn't have one ready, or at least not exactly, as I have about 3 different half-finished posts saved but I'm not sure about any of them - so please, accept my otter expressions of *apologetic ears* and *rueful grin*. I'm a bit of a perfectionist, and if it doesn't feel right then I will plant my feet on the ground and refuse to budge. However, I am also aware that I have lovely loyal readers who are quite clearly the bestest, funnest people ever, and I don't wish to disappoint them. I hear that flattery can get you places, but I wouldn't know. I never employ it. Say, have you guys done something different with your hair? It looks great. Really, it does. And are those new shoes? Stunning. You don't look a day over fabulous
I thought I'd briefly mention some of my favourite films, as I'd like to branch out from mere conversations into other, more normal bloggy territory. This is quite possibly a crap and dangerous idea, but this Otternator laughs in the face of danger (then she hides under the couch, trembling, until it goes away). Some of these are films which you may never have heard of, others are box office classics which I'm sure everyone has seen at some time or another.
Firstly, Jurassic Park (1993). If you've read the previous posts you'll know I have a giant raging crush on Laura Dern. Interesting fact - did you know she was married to Billy Bob Thornton? He left her, but for Angelina Jolie, so technically that's evidence that the only woman hotter than Laura Dern is good old Ang (we're on first name terms, you see). Ang isn't looking so great these days though. I don't think saving Cambodia agrees with her. Alternatively, it might be the stress of having an army of children hanging on to her every limb. Still, people need hobbies. In any case, Jurassic Park is incredible. The special effects are a little dated now, sure, but the John Williams musical score, the sheer geniusness of the idea, and the part where a Brontosaurus sneezes on a child make this one of the best films I've ever seen. The velociraptors in the kitchen are still enough to make me jump, even though I've seen this particular film enough times to be able to stage a one-person production of it (memo to self: damn good idea). If you haven't seen Jurassic Park, well. You haven't lived.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001) This is an odd choice, but it fully deserves its place in this list. John Cameron Mitchell (who not only wrote and directed the film, but also stars at the main character) is one of my cinematic inspirations. The film centres around Hansel, a young guy living in East Berlin when the wall is still up. He meets an American sergeant and falls in love. Unfortunately, to allow them to get married and leave the country, Hansel must have a sex change operation and assume his mother's name, Hedwig. Unfortunately it goes rather wrong, which is rather a large understatement, and he is left with the 'angry inch' of the title. He goes on to be a rock star, somewhat, performing in small bars and restaurants (usually next to the buffet table) but I won't spoil the rest for you. Suffice to say that this film features great musical numbers, is completely hilarious and has a wonderful take on the origin of love. Go see it. You won't be disappointed.
Switchblade Romance (2003) This is the only horror film to feature, because it's not really my preferred genre. I tend to find that most horror films scare you in the first ten minutes and then spend the next twenty minutes building up the characters, onyl to kill them off. This ruins the flow and is pretty predictable, in my opinion. Switchblade Romance, however, is completely unpredictable. It starts off gruesome and keeps racketing up the tension (in fact the original French title is Haute Tension or High Tension) until you find yourself watching through your fingers, terrified and yet fascinated. The story is simple. Two French girls are on study leave. One of them has a family who live on a farm in the country, so to get some peace and quiet they decided to visit. The night they arrive, a stranger in a van pulls up outside. When the father answers the door, the stranger kills him brutally, and then enters the house. He sees a photo of the family, and begins to hunt each of them down in turn. He doesn't realise that there is a second girl present in the house, and she in turn does her best to keep hidden from him as she sneaks about trying to save the remaining family members. Thus begins a horrifying but deeply enjoyable ride of terror. 
Batteries Not Included (1987). This is quite possibly the greatest childhood film ever. My parents used to rent it for me at the local video shop every week. They would beg and bribe and blackmail in order to get me to choose another film, but I stayed strong. They told me years later that they hadn't been able to find the video available in shops at the time, so instead of buying it they were forced to rent it every single week for about 2 years. The video shop reserved a specific copy just for me. Even now, it still amazes me. The premise is simple - two small robot aliens arrive in America, the 'female' gives birth to three baby robot aliens (none of which look remotely alike and all of which look like they were constructed from bits of alarm clock and cassette players) and then they proceed to warm the hearts of every resident of the tenement building they landed on by doing miraculous things, like mending the glass windows of the cafe after some bullying thugs break it, keeping old lady Jessica Tandy's sanity on more or less an even keel, and giving the guy who used to be a boxer some of his confidence back, amongst much else. If you haven't seen it, I recommend it highly. You will require tissues, unless you have a heart of stone.

What should I do next? Books? Food? Animals? Who goes? You decide.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Have You Got Your Tickets?

At the weekend, after a particularly exhausting trip around town, we arrived back at the new flat (which I suppose I should really just start calling The Flat as we are no longer between properties. How long do you have to wait before it's appropriate to stop calling it the "new" thing? Does this vary with items? These are the questions that keep me awake at night). As I lay on the bed in a starfish shape, quietly groaning with the sweet release that only comes after you've walked several miles and carried several bags of clothes around for a couple of hours, then thrown them across a room, Other Half approached me. Her eyes were gleaming, which was my cue to try to escape the room. When she has that gleam in her eye, it means she has a Plan.
Other Half: I want to get fit. Would you like to start running with me?

These sentences are not really phrased like questions. They are phrased like a helpful suggestion that kindly advises that in the long run, this will be better for you, and if you don't you'll die. I wasn't buying it. I haven't died yet. Clearly, I'm a step ahead.
Me: Let me think....Um, not really.
Other Half: But it would be cheaper than the gym.
Me: We don't go to the gym.
Other Half: Yes, but if we did, it would be cheaper.
Me: You're telling me this activity is cheaper than something I already don't do?
Other Half: (narrowing her eyes) ....... Don't you want to be healthy?
Me: Hmmm.... (makes a seesaw hand motion to indicate how on the fence I am regarding personal fitness) I could really go either way at this point.

Other Half: (coaxingly) Come on! Don't you want to be fit?

Me: We just spent a month moving heavy wooden furniture and boxes full of enough books to start a mobile library. I am fit. Feel my abs! Check out these guns!

I pulled up my sleeve and showed her my arm, flexing it. She didn't look impressed.

Me: Have you got your the GUN SHOW?

Other Half: No, I don't want to go to the Gun Show.

Me: But you have VIP tickets to the gun show.

Other Half: Yeah, well. I'm not going to go. I have a prior appointment.

Me: But you have reserved seating!

Other Half: I just don't care for the subject matter.

Me: You know, that's going to throw all my plans out of sync.

Other Half: Okay, fine!  I'll go to the Gun Show! Just shut up about it.

Me: (flexing) Yeah! Gun Show! GUN SHOW!

If anyone else wants their tickets, drop me a comment. I'll be sure to save you some. Ring side seats, of course. Only the best for you guys.

Monday, 28 March 2011

You Have A Choice of Lemonade Or Otter Flavoured

My apologies for the delay, I understand some of you were quite keen yesterday to see the post. Unfortunately our new flat's internet will not be installed until 6th April and so I have to publish these during my breaks at work. Life is hard and then you die, I believe the saying goes. But we shall soldier on.
Yesterday, I was padding about in the new flat while Other Half was taking a nap in the bedroom. I was thirsty and had a sugar craving, so I trotted into the kitchen and found some bottles in the fridge. I decided to make a concoction of orange juice, lemonade and whatever else I could find that took my fancy. A sparkling beverage! A liquid dream! However, disaster struck within moments when I couldn't unscrew the lid from the lemonade bottle. I stared at it in amazement and growing horror. My feeble heaves and twists were doing nothing to shift the cap. I ran the top of the bottle under the hot tap. I wrapped a dish towel around the cap and strained with all my might. I beat the bottle quite vigorously against the side of the counter, against my fists, and eventually against my head in despair. The ordinary refreshing beverage I had wanted only minutes before had become some kind of mirage in the distance – a lemonade-y oasis, if you will. The moment I was denied the chance of lemonade was the exact moment I had realised I'd never wanted anything quite so badly. This tends to be the way with me.
Eventually Other Half came wandering into the kitchen, rubbing her eyes with her fists, hair slightly askew, to find me slumped listlessly on the counter, refusing to quit my furious staring match with the bottle.
Other Half: What are you doing?
Me: (wailing) I wanted lemonade but I can't get it open!
Other Half: Oh for god's sake.
She reached over, picked up the bottle and in one swift motion, as easily as picking a blade of grass, she unscrewed the cap. Immediately, I couldn't help myself.
Me: Well, I loosened it for you.
Other Half: That's such a man thing to say.
Me: But I did.
Other Half: Just accept that I'm stronger than you!
Me: I agree, you are. But I totally loosened the cap. Just saying.
Other Half: You're incorrigible.
Me: That's why you love me though. Right?
Other Half leaves the room, giving me a quick reproachful glance.
I feel I should point out that I am not the only one to behave like this from time to time. Other Half has been known to do some truly dangerous things, like accidentally applying nail varnish remover rather than makeup remover to her face while not fully awake, or trying to take trays out of the oven without wearing mitt protection. So very occasionally, I find that our normal roles (me - endearing eccentric, her - attractive with no visible character flaws) have reversed, such as several weeks ago, before we had moved out of our old, mouldy house. I had just got home from work and Other Half had accosted me at the door in a frenzied panic.
Other Half: The tap in the sink upstairs is leaking!
Me: Seriously? Great, this is all we need.
There was a moment when Other Half and I mentally eyed each other up, compared our skill sets and stats, and reached the mutual silent conclusion that this could probably be filed under 'technical problems' and so fell within my area of expertise. I communicated by way of a slight eyebrow raise that if, say, the router had been dripping water, I would have been closer to my comfort zone, but Other Half's eyes twitched in anguished desperation, and I knew it was only a matter of time before I gave in and accepted the task. I could understand why she was so worried - after all, we'd just lived through the Great Downstairs Swamp Debacle of 2010 and the thought of dealing with a similar situation upstairs made me want to curl into a corner and weep copiously. However, I squared my shoulders, gave Other Half the most confident smile I could manage and headed upstairs to the bathroom.
I entered the bathroom warily. The tap was indeed running, but I could tell, kneeling and pressing my hand to the carpet (like I imagined Indiana Jones would have done in the same situation) that it was as dry as a desert. Puzzled, I stood and advanced towards the sink. I examined it from the sides and from underneath. No water was leaking out. I stood again, and looked thoughtfully at the tap. After a moment, I reached out and cautiously turned it off. The water flow stopped.
Other Half: (calling from downstairs) Is it okay? Is it ruined?
Me: Did you say it was leaking?
Other Half:...Yes?
I could have let her think that I just happened to be excellent at DIY. I could have quite easily made up some elaborate lie in which I tightened various nuts and bolts, thus saving us and the cats from imminent death by further mould. I could have been a Hero. Instead, I chose the low (but hilarious) road, and not least because Other Half has on several occasions watched me unsuccessfully try to follow instructions on a packet of Lego and would presumably have seen right through my lie.
I explained painstakingly to Other Half that the tap was, rather than leaking, actually just running water, which is in fact the sole purpose of a tap, and that a person could, if they so wished, miraculously control the flow of water by rotating the metal cylinders on the side of the tap. I provided several practical demonstrations and a Powerpoint presentation on the subject. I may have stretched this out further by making fun of Other Half continuously for days on end, leaning over every time she did the dishes and asking in a low, sincere tone whether she needed assistance with the tap management etc.
This may not have been received in the best of spirits, but on the plus side it entertained me for weeks, and hopefully now it will also amuse you.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Your Hips Don't Lie, But Your Cats Aren't Telling The Whole Truth

I am aware that I talk about the cats sometimes. Maybe a little too much. I think it stems from being around people at work who also have cats, or worse, children, and enjoy talking about them and showing me photos of every major achievement since drawing his/her first breath. It hasn't yet got to the point where I am pulling out my phone/wallet on the bus so I can show old ladies pictures of Roland and Giles in various poses (but usually with the same exasperated expressions that say mother, we do love you but take one more photo and we am going to do something unimaginable to your favourite sweater with the deer on it. We mean it) but I am aware that it is a slippery slope to total CatLady Mode, like that Simpsons character who throws kittens at people.

The cats sometimes fight. Very little stops them during a scrap, as they do get quite focused on kicking each other in the head and reenacting Street Fighter moves, but we have found a couple of things that work. My favourite, and something Other Half cannot stand, is shouting "Shakira! Shakira!" at them. Let me explain, Shakira had a song called Hips Don't Lie. I shouldn't really overanalyse, I mean, I am after all aware that Shakira's appeal does not lie in her meaningful song lyrics, but really - of course hips don't lie! They don't have lips, for one thing. Also, hips are not sentient and cannot conduct their own thoughts independent from you. I realise this is incredibly pedantic, but you know how I feel about modern lyrics.

In any case, one line of the song goes "no fighting, Shakira, Shakira," which is actually quite a useful thing to shout over the yowls of hissing, exploding cats, especially if you can do it with the kind of reggae rhythm that occurs originally in the song. Unfortunately I may have overused this a little as now they flinch every time they hear 'Shakira', even in casual conversation. This has led guests to believe that we have to spell the name out because the cats are scared of her music, which is a myth I perpetuate. It amuses me greatly. 

This brings me, rather gently for a change, to all the beautiful cat-related things in my life. For example, sentences you say to your cats but shouldn't have to. Such as "is that ice cream on your face?" or "where did you wee? Show me!" or "GNAARRRGH YOUR CLAW JUST WENT THROUGH MY EYELID, OH GOD OH GOD IT'S BLEEDING!"  True stories. Luckily I still have the use of both eyes, and what's another small facial scar, really? It adds character.

I'd like to point you all in the direction of the website that started my love of pudgy cats (lets not call them fat, lest they become image-conscious, although admittedly some of them could certainly do with going on The Biggest Loser and would never make the cut for America's Next Top Kitten) which is called, imaginatively, TubCat ( I don't know whether it is simply that the large majority of these cats are, shall we say, festively plump, or that some of them have priceless expressions, or that some of them have been dressed in unusual outfits, but these pictures make me cackle loudly and helplessly every single time.

Speaking of unusual outfits, have a look at these ( My personal favourite is the wizard costume - after all, who hasn't read Harry Potter and immediately thought "I simply MUST dress my pet up like Dumbledore! Think of the hilarity! No time to spare to make my own outfit, so I'll buy one off the internet!"

I do love modern technology, don't you?

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Another One Rides The Bus

I was verbally and emotionally and physically assaulted on the bus, on the way to work, on Tuesday morning. This may not seem like the most hilarious way to begin a blog post, but bear with me. At the time it was pretty startling and I was kind of shaken up, but in retrospect I can't stop laughing about it, because it was so damn ridiculous. The story is as follows - the bus was crammed with the entire population of Edinburgh, or so it seemed, and I was wedged into a ridiculously small space at the front, next to where the disabled seats/newspaper holder part is. I am, as I have previously mentioned, rather weedy and short, so I don't take up much room normally, and in situations like this I tend to fold in on myself like a deckchair to avoid being battered around by the steady flow of people getting on and off the bus. I had my black headphones on, over a cream jacket so they were completey visible (no ninja headphones here, thankyouverymuch). Suddenly, out of nowhere (the bus was not even pulling to a stop yet) a short, red-haired woman dressed in a suit shoved me, very hard, in the ribs. I immediately pulled off my headphones and faced her, wondering what I'd done to arouse her anger.
Me: Excuse me?
Woman: I said excuse me THREE TIMES to you and you haven't moved.
Me: I'm sorry, I had my headphones on (pointing to them) and so I didn't hear you.
Instead of acknowledging this, the woman pushed roughly past me, almost sweeping me off my feet and crushing me into my small space even further. I have no idea how she imagined I was obstructing her, as I was like a limpet on the side of a rock at this point and could not have physically moved my body out of the way any more even if she'd paid me. I am a fairly laid back person, as you might have gathered from this blog, and I will quite happily help any stranger out if I can but this woman's attitude was appalling. She was in a suit so she must have been an office worker. She was in her late 40s so she really should have known better than to be this rude.
I realised that I had my jacket buttoned up and that she wouldn't have been able to see my handsome and carefully selected work shirt/jumper combination underneath, so she might have mistaken me for one of the many scruffy students that had boarded the bus around the same time. Nevertheless, I was annoyed. Being younger than someone else (or indeed, a student) does not make you inferior, nor does it take away your rights. You do not want to piss an Otternator off. I will cut you with my words. I am not afraid to rain wrath down on your head, wielding the Fish of Justice by the power of Greyskull.
Me: (muttering but purposefully loud enough so that she could hear me) Jesus.
Woman: (hissing) What did you say?
Me: (using my unafraid noble-Mufasa-face) I said Jesus.
Woman: (threateningly) HE'S NOT GOING TO SAVE YOU NOW!
This struck me as the stupidest comeback ever, and I couldn't stop the smirk showing on my face. I mean, did she really think I was praying for help? Did she think I expected Jesus to come hurtling out of the sky, resplendent in cape and tights with a J emblazoned on his chest? I'm an atheist, which made this whole situation even funnier, as I could quite easily have said "tool" or any number of other words which would have indicated that my opinion of this woman was plummeting with every second. This smirk was clearly a red rag to crazyass Suit Woman, who seemed to be spoiling for a fight. She looked like she was about to punch right through my face. I wasn't too bothered about that as the bus was packed full of witness, we were about two feet from the driver and all Lothian Buses have CCTV cameras everywhere. I didn't particularly want to be punched - I hadn't planned on it and it would have simply ruined my makeup - but I felt relatively safe. Besides, I grew up in West Lothian. We fight dirty.
Me: It's not a matter of faith, it's a matter of manners.
Woman: (aggressively) IS IT? IS IT REALLY?
Me:...Yes? You did push me.
She glared at me, the hatred burning in her eyes with all the power of a thousand suns, and then faced the doors again. They slid open. She exited. People around me gave me sympathetic smiles. I realised that this whole debacle had begun not because she wanted to get off the bus and I was in her way, but because she wanted to be in front of the doors when they opened, to ensure she was the first person off. That's freaking kerazy. Even I think so, and I have OCD for crying out loud. My very funny friend Jen (check out her blog 'Cheese And Crayons' here at suggested that if I ever see Suit Woman again, which is very likely given that we are on the same bus route, I should greet her cheerily, like an old friend, as that would probably be the single most annoying thing I could do in the circumstances. I will of course update you if anything further should occur. I almost hope that it does.

So, in summary, this post is dedicated with affection to the crazyass Suit Woman. You may have thought you were clever, pushing and yelling like a lunatic, creating a huge fuss first thing in the morning and having everyone stare at you. You may even have come away with the misapprehension that you somehow 'won' our conversation. Let me set you straight. I thought you were a dick. The driver thought you were a dick. In fact, everyone on that bus thought you were a dick. So well done. I'll start the slow clap. I hope you're proud of yourself.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Lady Of The Dance

I tried to buy a bus ridacard yesterday. This is normally an easy process, made even easier by the helpful and lovely staff. However, they did seem to be convinced I was a teenager despite my wallet full of credit cards and work ID still hanging around my neck, and made every effort to assist me as such.
Staff: Right so, is that (looks at me dubiously despite holding my form which clearly states ADULT in huge block letters in several different places, including checkboxes)
Me: Yes.
Staff: And that's an... adult... monthly card, which you'll pay by direct debit, is that right?
Me: Yes.
Staff: So you're not a student or anything?
Me: I am a grown up. Really, I am.
Staff: Right... (still looking at me as if I'm lying to avoid getting a discount, which of course people do all the time)
My problem is that I look a lot younger than I actually am. I'm sure I'll be grateful for the lack of ageing when I hit 30 and still don't have wrinkles, but right now, I've lived over a quarter of a century and it does not show. This means that I constantly get ID'd (even though I am almost 7 years over the legal age) and not just for alcohol. I have also been ID'd for nail scissors, plastic cutlery and hair dye, amongst other things. It can be quite embarrassing, especially if I am wearing my smart casual office clothes and realise with vague horror that the staff see a person in school uniform, rather than a legal secretary who works (reasonably) hard from 9-5pm, pays her taxes and has cat-shaped dependents. It probably does not help that my hair has begun to get to that awkward shaggy length, which, if I don't get it cut in the next week or so, will start to make me look like even more Bieberlicious.

In other news, the the house move is finally complete, which makes me want to do the Dance of Joy (it involves waving your arms like an octopus and jiggling with excitement, and in some ways is admittedly quite similar to the Dance of Intrigue. An expert would be easily able to tell them apart) and scamper about, shrieking happily, because this means that Other Half and I no longer have to live in fear of the ever-growing carpet mould, or the bulging, damp bathroom ceiling. It was unnerving trying to wee and watch the ceiling suspiciously at the same time. I had performance anxiety on more than one occasion.

The cats have been a bit nervous, due to the trauma to being forced into a box and taken for a bumpy taxi ride before finally ariving at a brand new location which does not smell like home. They have taken it fairly well as they are pretty relaxed lads, but every now and then they go for a comfort cuddle together under the duvet in the guest room. I was watching them spoon the other day, and wondering if they knew how gay they were and also, if this was natural cat behaviour (my previous two female cats didn't get on, probably because one of them was blind and the other was a sadistic psychopath who liked to lie in wait on the dining room table until Blind Kitty came stumbling along, and would then slide off the table and flatten Blind Kitty in a wrestling move I used to call 'The Crushinator') when Other Half came into the room. We both looked at the spooning cats for a long moment and then at each other.
Other Half: That is incredibly faggy.
Me: (smirking) I know, right? Cute.
Other Half: (taking out her phone) I'm going to take a photo.
Me: (doing an impression of Roland) GILES, I WISH I KNEW HOW TO QUIT YOU.
Other Half: Just when I thought it couldn't get any gayer. 
Me: It can ALWAYS get gayer.

Trust me on this. It really can.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Otternators Are Best Consumed At Room Temperature

There comes a point in every relationship when you look at your partner and realise that one of you is cooler and therefore superior. If it is you, then you really needn't worry. However, when I considered all the times I've, say, tried to fit inside a washing machine for a 50p bet, or pursued someone around a building doing spoken word rap at them, or asked a guest to wait while I got my dinosaur encyclopaedia out, then I could come to no other conclusion. I was the weaker link. It came as a deep and unsettling shock, although in retrospect perhaps it should not have. I made an executive decision that, to my knowledge, she is not really aware of. It did come up in a conversation the other day.

Other Half; Did you have fun at the houseparty?

Me: I did, yeah! Ahaha! I was wasted!

Other Half: (thoughtfully) I thought you were fine. A bit tipsy maybe, but still coherent.

Me: (beginning to sweat) No, honestly, I was pie-eyed.

Other Half: Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever seen you properly drunk.

Me: (properly sweating now) You totally have. Remember that time last summer, when we all went out and I wanted to bring that traffic cone home?

Other Half: Ah, yes, George. How could I forget? But no, even then you managed to unlock our door in under ten seconds. I don't think that qualifies.

I need to admit something. The day I realised I was dating someone much cooler than me, I vowed never to be drunk in her presence, in case she saw me for the mortifying, overly-affectionate and fagalicious Otternator that I am. I'm not a sad drunk, or an angry drunk. On the whole I am a very enthusiastic drunk. Each new idea is seized with the crazed energy of a kitten getting its first whiff of catnip. But here's the thing, I dance like the gayest guy you've ever seen. It involves body popping and grinding. I won't lie to you. There may also be robot dancing. It is the kind of thing that has in the past put off more than one potential suitor, who may have been under the impression thus far that I was not a complete nerd.

I also sing, which is something I would absolutely never do around other people while sober. I have been known to do the entire Rocky Horror song 'Dammit Janet', doing both male and female and chorus parts, complete with exuberant acting. I have also brought bits of furniture home off the street for no reason, woken up with a shopping trolley in my living room (I lived in the second floor at the time) and managed to lose a jar of pennies despite never leaving the room. I am, in short, a walking goodnatured drunken disaster.

I know it would be callous of Other Half to break it off with me for such a small thing as this, after all she has put up with so much else over the time we've been together, and she indulges me occasionally by mirroring my impression of the OMG Cat (link amongst other things, but I firmly believe that everyone keeps at least one secret from their partner. It's what keeps you from merging into an annoying supercouple with only one mind.

Monday, 21 March 2011

The Cat of The Baskervilles

The house move is coming to a close, for which I am extremely grateful. Other Half and I had decided to leave the cats at the old house until we'd moved all the furniture, this saving them the additional stress and emotional trauma of listening to us grunt and clatter around and swear profusely. The cats are not known for being particularly forgiving when it comes to situations where they feel they have been wronged, and they usually let us know in some small way, like weeing on our favourite sweaters or pooping in our shoes, or generally ruining soft furnishings in what we like to refer to as "kitty fever". So it was with caution that I opened the door to our old house on Wednesday last week to find...nothing. Roland and Giles were both sitting in the hallway expectanly, staring at me with big, innocent eyes. Hello mother, their eyes seemed to say. We've missed you and haven't ruined anything in revenge for leaving us alone for a few hours. We wouldn't do that. We love you. Honest. And I was fool enough to believe it.

I'd fed them their dinner and was about to exit the room when something caught my eye. It was a brown circular splodge of about 4cm across, on the front of one of my speakers on the countertop. I used these for playing music from my ipod, and they were not exactly cheap. Closer examination revealed the substance to be poop. I was furious. I was outraged. I was...impressed. Firstly, it was half way up the speaker, so the perpetrator would have had to actually back up onto the speaker before rubbing its kittybum all over my expensive technological equipment. This was new. This was tactical revenge. We'd obviously raised them well.

Roland raised his head and gave me a smug look. Giles' face was firmly buried in his foodbowl. And I knew instantly that Roland had masterminded this whole scheme. Giles, bless his little paws, is barely smart enough to know if he's on fire or not, so he may not have been involved in the planning. He had obviously carried out the mission because the poop was at about the right height. I reached these conclusions quickly and, feeling very much like Sherlock Holmes, went to consult Other Half.

Me: Roly told Giles to poop on my speakers and he did.

Other Half:... I'm sorry, what?

Me: There's poop on my speakers. I'm pretty sure the cats did it. Unless it was you.

Other Half: (looking at me hard) Clearly it wasn't me.

Roland swanned into the room and took up position on Other Half's lap, purring and looking as wide-eyed and as cute as possible.

Me: Dillhole.

Other Half: Don't call the cat a dillhole.

Me: Fine. Bastard cat, then.

Both Roland and Other Half glare at me.

Me: Why my speakers? WHY, ROLAND, WHY?

Luckily, I think I can take the front off and clean the poop away. Its just another item in a long list of My Possessions That Have Been Ruined By Cats, which so far includes the cables for my Wii, mobile phone chargers (yes, plural!) and various shoelaces. The worst part is they have a mountain of different cat toys to play with, and yet, given the opportunity, they will immediately and unerringly head for the only choking hazard/electrical cable/cleaning substance in the room. I feel like this is all probably good training for having children some day. At least they won't poop on my speakers. I hope.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Daddy Bought Me A Pony, Yah

This morning, Other Half and I were recounting tales from our school days. As you'll probably already know, Other Half went to a rather expensive, posh high school while I went to a school where a "good" textbook was one that still had either the front or back cover attached and most of the pages. We had been reminiscing about games we played at the time, as I recently read Hyperbole and a Half's post about 'Stick Wars' (check it out here and it had been on my mind.

Since Other Half and I both grew up in Britain (she is English/Irish and I am as Scottish as shortbread flavoured heroin) we discovered we played similar games as kids. There was Bulldog, which involved a row of children standing against a wall while one child, the 'tagger' stood in the middle of the playground, defending the opposite wall. We would all rush towards the opposite wall while the tagger tried to grab as many people as possible, using a move similar to a rugby tackle. I was not very good at this game due to the fact that I was small and slight and therefore an easy target for the first couple of rounds, but at least it only involved running (and not the bane of my life, hand-eye coordination) so I didn't get squashed too often.

There was also a game I played but Other Half did not, called Pile On The Biscuit. I have no idea why it was called this, or why we played, because the whole purpose was to select someone to be the Biscuit (usually a willing volunteer, it was considered rude to force Biscuit Selection on anyone) and then the rest of the class in turn would throw themselves onto the Biscuit, effectively and slowly asphyxiating everyone underneath as the ever-increasing pile of small bodies grew. Needless to say, our teachers banned this pretty quickly. We got around this by changing the name of the game from time to time (Filling The Sandwich, Icing The Cake etc) which although childish was a surprisingly effective way of keeping the game alive.

In any case, the conversation soon moved on to the facilities of our high schools. 

Other Half: Ours was very impressive. We had these basketball hoops and partitions that would come down from the ceiling. All electronic, of course. Totally state of the art.

Me: We had two basic gyms, and they both could have fitted inside our new flat. What was your playground like?

Other Half: (dreamily) Oh, it was lovely. We had two tennis courts, a huge cricket field, a special garden area... It was nice.

Me: Sometimes if there was a lot of rain, there would be puddles at the bottom of the playground and my friends and I would go stare at those for a while.

Other Half: It's a wonder you emerged from all this unscathed.

Me: I know, right?

During our housewarming last weekend, I had made a slightly drunken joke about how "my body is nobody's body but mine" and one of Other Half's friends had immediately completed the sentence with "you run your own body, let me run mine!" I was astounded. This quote was from a sex education video I saw when I was 11, and the song those lyrics come from have always stayed with me for some reason. We discovered that myself included, four of the people at the party had seen this exact video (our dates of birth ranged from 1978 to 1986, so it was clear that the school authorities had been using this video series across the country for years, recycling it). I was amazed by such a coincidence - after all, how much does anyone really remember about being 11, decades later - and we proceeded to mock the videos, to the absolute bewilderment and fascination of the other party-goers. If we hadn't scared them enough with our Zombie Apocalypse talk earlier, then we definitely managed it with this. 

I think some of the people may have been still smarting after we dismissed  them as "bait" during a zombie attack, due to the fact that they had no real skills to speak of. Other Half was immediately invited into the club because of her amazing strength. I myself only managed to talk my way in to the Zombie Organising Committee (hashtag #omgzombies, in case this ever happens) by pointing out that I can speak four languages (never mind that I could only use one of them to order a coffee or ask where the station is, neither of which would really be any use in a zombie invasion, and in another I can only say "hello", "goodbye" and "thank you" which again is about as much bloody use as a chocolate teapot) and have excellent knowledge of many different subjects including potential food sources, and that I can also find a  printer on a network and hook it up. Thus, I was dubbed Communications  Expert. I am seriously considering adding this to my CV. 

Friday, 18 March 2011

Cake or Death?

Other Half and I had an argument last night. It was a tempestuous, fiery debate and it was about an issue very close to both of our hearts, but which we hold opposing views on - baked goods. It began when Other Half said, after the programme we were watching had just ended and the credits were running:
Other Half: I'm going to get a muffin.
Me: I ate the last one.
Other Half: There are others.
Me: Um...I ate those too.
Other Half: You ate FOUR? The whole BOX?
Me: (indignant) No! We shared one, remember, and then... and then... Okay, I might have eaten the rest, yes.
Other Half: (gaping) But that one was mine! You ate three of them and didn't leave any for me?
Me: (soothingly) Well, let's be realistic. They've been in that cupboard for a month-
Other Half: They were foil-packed for freshness and didn't expire til 2013.
Me: That may well be the case but you can't dangle food in front of me and expect me not to eat it.
Other Half: But it was mine!
Me: Well how was I supposed to know that? There was no sign on it saying "belonging to Other Half". My thought process was "I'm hungry. Mmm, a muffin. Nom nom nom." That's it. End of story.
Other Half: That is so disrespectful.
Me: How? You left it there! Unattended. Looking tasty. Am I not allowed to eat food in my own home?
Other Half: Not the delicious food, no!
Me: Look, I took the muffin to work with me so I could eat it for breakfast (thinking that this would somehow appease her, knowing that I had taken it for economic reasons)
Other Half: The location where you consumed the muffin is not what is bothering me about this situation.
Me: (bewildered) I genuinely don't understand what the problem is. You feel entitled to the muffin somehow, even though you had a month to eat it and chose not to? You'd never survive in the wild.
Other Half: I wasn't aware there was a time limit.
Me: You should know by now I eat everything and anything if it is not nailed down.
Other Half: (sulkily) How foolish of me.
Me: (equally sulkily) Indeed. 

I informed friends of this, expecting them to be on my side, but in fact they were generally disapproving of my attitude. One friend stated that "You may eat 50% of the cake items, but no more unless given express permission by the person who jointly owns the cake. You are permitted to pressure the joint owner of the cake after two (2) weeks of them failing to consume the cake based item. After three (3) weeks, you may say "I am going to eat that cake because you haven't eaten it". But forewarning is important. This is because there is NOTHING WORSE than expecting to find cake in your cupboard and then finding it is gone."
While I see the valid points she has raised, and understand that thinking you have cake when you don't have cake is one of life's greatest and keenest disappointments, let's be logical. How long can you expect to keep cake/muffin/any kind of baked delicacy before your partner's resolve, no matter how much they love and adore you, crumbles and they consume your treasured product? If there were set rules on this I would find it easier to deal with, but as there are none currently, the world is a wide open place full of other people's cake just waiting to be eaten.
In conclusion, I am apparently a cake fiend. Better lock your kitchen down when I visit. I can't be held responsible for anything that goes...missing.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

All Good Photocopiers Go To Heaven

It was freezing cold and pouring with rain on the way to work this morning. These conditions are not conducive to a happy Otternator at the best of times, and they were not helped by the fact that I am still trying to work out what time to get the bus in the morning from the new flat. It's a much more complicated system than this sounds - you have to take into account not only the bus timetable, but also the weather conditions, whether it is a bus that passes the local college (if so, the bus will be packed with students and you won't be able to sit down for twenty minutes and you can feel people judging you by the Glee/Dolly Parton playlist visible on your ipod) and many other small but potentially journey-altering details. 

I was already a little stressed and really all I wanted was to drag myself pathetically to my desk and begin my day in relative peace. So naturally, when I had barely had taken my coat off and was accosted by a colleague demanding to know about the photocopier in my department, I accepted it (with a mental sigh) as an expected chain of events. The universe does like to test my patience sometimes.

Colleague: I heard this photocopier wasn't working properly.
Me: I really wouldn't know. I just sit near it.
JanetteFM: (singing in background at what can only be described at glass-shattering volume) Oooh, I never can say goodbye boy...
Colleague: But So-And-So said that it (consulting paper in hand) 'chewed up paper' and the 'print quality is poor'?
My colleague says this in a rather snippy tone which suggests that the photocopier is like a bad puppy who has just wee'd all over her flowerbeds, and I am some kind of careless owner who is wantonly encouraging Photocopier Puppy to do this, with a blatant disrespect for anyone else's printing requirements. 

Me: I don't know. Maybe? Mine have all been fine.
Colleague: Right, so, did you see whether the print was poor quality? Or whether the paper was chewed?

She glares sternly, first at me, then at the Photocopier Puppy, who seems, against the laws of inanimate objects, to be trying to edge guiltily behind the shredder.

JanetteFM: (banging pen on desk to provide the loudest possible rhythmical accompaniment) I never can say goodbye, no no no, no no no...
Me: I honestly could not tell you. I don't check everyone's documents. And it's not, like, MY photocopier.
This is all taking place before 9.30am, which is the World of Otternator is an unacceptable time to be doing anything, far less doing it so loudly that the delicate and treasured ornaments on your desk shelf are quivering. I try to compose myself by taking a couple of deep, soothing breaths and thinking about the lovely hot beverage I'm going to make myself. Futurecoffee, futurecoffee... Repeat as needed.

Colleague: (peering into drawers of photocopier) There's a box of paper here.
Me: Fascinating. I should start-
JanetteFM: (really getting into the swing of it) OooOOh ooOOOh...BABY!

Colleague: (not listening to either me or JanetteFM) Why is there a box of paper here?
Me: (pinches nose) I have no idea. Listen, I just got in. I really need to-
Colleague: (as if she's doing me a favour) You know what, I'll find out and let you know. 
Me: But none of this is anything to do with me. At all. I don't even work in Facilities. Also, I don't care.
Colleague: (calling over shoulder) I'll be back later on.
Me: (rests head on desk in despair) 'Kay.
This goes to show that no matter what I say, no one listens. This is probably for the best, all things considered, but it can sometimes be a little soul-destroying. It does mean I can make up some really inventive swear words, so I guess every cloud has a silver lining. Besides, the photocopier hasn't chewed any of my documents up yet, so I'm holding on to the smug belief that I'm its favourite person. Score.


Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Porpoises Are Not The Only Fruit

I checked my hotmail account first thing this morning before I even got out of bed (because I am addicted to the internet in a perfectly healthy, natural way, despite what Other Half says) to find that I had an email from Twitter informing me that Santa was following me. Naturally, this disturbed me a little - after all, my friends and I have been playing the Muff Game for days on Twitter using the hashtag #muffgame and I'm not sure how favourably Santa would look on that, or what kind of disturbing presents he might now consider getting me for Christmas. I was even more startled to find that it wasn't the Real Santa but rather a Kinky Santa, whose profile made some rather alarming suggestions towards naughty/nice boys and girls that I am sure were not euphemisms. 
There are a lot of bots going around on Twitter. I only sent a couple of tweets related to the idea of food bras for special seasonal occasions (which I still believe is a winner, and if I could be bothered I would take it on Dragon's Den and blow their minds) before I was inundated with spam followers wondering whether I would like to follow their lingerie-related tweets. This made me wonder - in an awful Carrie Bradshaw monologue voiceover way that I do apologise for - what other junk have I found on the internet that I could talk about? 
Now, I had two different blog posts half-written yesterday. I discarded one of them in favour of Round Three, because everyone loves those endearing and whimsical conversations Other Half and I have, but today I will have another stab at the post I initially wanted to write. It's very odd, so bear with me.

Firstly, this story, which I have revisited time and again. It never gets any less funny or tragic, and that, I think you'll agree, it a mark of a true Fail. It begins, like so many fairytales, with a lady baking a cake. She had intended to enter the cake in a competition and so she spent some time on it before sending it away to be judged. Some time later, a letter arrived informing her that she had won second place. What joy! How wonderful! Her delight was overshadowed, however, by the discovery that she was the only person to have entered. No, don't doubt yourself, you read that correctly - she was the only entrant and she still got second place. That's some harsh judging. For realz. 
For example, if you ran a 100 metre race, and you were the only competitor for whatever reasons, you would have to win. Those are the rules. The judges would not be able to disqualify you on account of being too tall, or running like a drunken badger, or anything like that, because that's just not cricket. Or running. Apparently the noble art of cake baking is held to a much higher standard.

If you would like to read the actual story and verify that I am not just making this up for fun, please visit the link. (

If I were to make a last note on this mindboggling article, it would be to point out that the newspaper interviewed a woman from the organising committee, who herself felt the sting of cakefailure years previously, when she entered some scones into a competition and got third place. Again, this woman was the only entrant. It is the ultimate irony. Or perhaps the ultimate spite. We may never know.

This leads me to Dick van Dyke (you may not instantly see the connection, but I'm sure it will come to you in time). We know him. We respect him as an actor. He danced with animated animals in Mary Poppins in scenes that charmed me as a child and still charm me to this day. But if you'd asked me a few years ago what the most unlikely story involving Dick Van Dyke might be, I don't think even my surreal mind could have constructed this entirely genuine story of a daring rescue. I'll summarise briefly. 84 year old Van Dyke was surfboarding (already, I'm impressed, I can barely walk a mile without breaking a sweat. But this guy?) when he fell asleep and was pushed by the tide further out to sea. He woke up surrounded by fins and intially panicked (as you would, understandably) before realising that the creatures were porpoises, not sharks. The friendly animals pushed Van Dyke back to land before disappearing back into the sea. Possibly the most incredible thing I have ever heard.

The Guardian article on this astounding incident makes a rather snide comment that the porpoises were "unavailable for comment". Firstly, do you speak Porpoise, Guardian? If not, how rude and frankly specie-ist of you to expect the porpoises to speak one of our languages. You sound like the Telegraph. You embarrass us all. Secondly, I'd logically expect the porpoises to release a mass statement, rather than release individual comments. They are group animals after all. And considering point one - the obvious language barrier - perhaps they did have a meeting and their most important official porpoises made a couple of speeches, but we just thought they were squeaking and honking and flipping about in the water? Shame on you. Ultimate respect to the porpoises.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

The Lion, the Otternator and the Wardrobe

It is a curious thing, and something you are unlikely to experience outside of a same sex relationship - although it does happen, presumably with more embarassing results - when you put on trousers for work and are halfway down the stairs when you realise that they are three inches too short and they don't button right. Have they shrunk? Have you grown? Are you about to Hulk out? No, in your confusion you've put on your partner's clothes instead. Other Half and I have a very similar body type so we constantly have exchanges like this:

Other Half: (watching me struggle into a pair of jeans that end, very unflatteringly, just above my ankle) I think you'll find those are mine.

Me: No, they're definitely mine. They must have shrunk in the wash. Vertical shrinkage! I hear it's happening a lot nowadays.

Other Half: Or -and just consider this for a moment - they're mine.

Me: No, I definitely had a pair that had this kind of green lining on the side.

Other Half: You do. But these are mine.

Me: (hopping awkwardly) They are not! They are quite clearly, obviously....oh for fuck's sake!

Other Half simply looks at me in silence as I flail about wildly to keep my balance.

Me: (in defeat, struggling out of the jeans) Huh. I guess they ARE yours.

Other Half: Told you.

Me: I don't know how you can tell, jeans all look the same anyway. What's wrong with you, woman? Are you some kind of hobbit?

Other Half: (reproachfully) We had this exact same conversation yesterday. And you know I have a long torso and short legs.

Me: Whatever. Frodo.

Obviously the confusion is a downside. But there are benefits - you double your wardrobe with a same sex relationship, providing of course that you like the same style. Other Half and I are relatively lucky in this respect, because we have quite similar tastes. This unfoortunately can backfire horribly, when one person brings home a lovely new jumper or tshirt and the other person's beady little eyes light up in fashion-stealing glory. Before I go any further I would like to point out, for your own safety, that 'hobbit' should be added to the list of Things You Should Never Call Your Other Half (At Least Not Twice And/Or If She's In The Same Room), which is a very long list and contains such beautiful terms of endearments as 'bunnykins', 'snuffleface' and anything soppy that any person in love has ever uttered to their beloved. Other Half will permit 'pudding', 'muffin' and most dessert-based nicknames, which leads me, in my endearing and quirky way, to try to create the most ridiculous concoctions ever.

Me: Okay, Cakefeatures?

Other Half: I think not.

Me: My little apple cinammon

Other Half: (squinting at me suspiciously) Tart or tarlet?

Me: (thinking fast) ...Tartlet?

Other Half: Are those the little tasty ones?

Me: (shifty eyes) Yes?

Other Half: ...'Kay.

I'm going to finish by saying that I just received a response from Other Half, to a wonderfully geeky email I sent her earlier, which states simply "Don't hashtag me, bitch!"
She really does say the most sentimental things. I must go and fetch my handkerchief.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Conversations With Other Half - Round Three: Dhalsim versus M. Bison

In open public places such as banks, cinemas and hotel lobbies, Other Half and I often have mild debates. These range from simple disagreements regarding the proper way to pronounce "yoghurt" (I maintain that yo-gurt is the correct way, not yog-hurt. Let's face it, just because the consonants are there doesnt mean we should pronounce them all, right?) to slightly more intense arguments about who last did such-and-such and what sort of bribe it will take to get either of us to do certain chores.
Me: I'll give you a backrub for fifteen minutes if you clean the kitty litter tonight.
Other Half: Make it twenty.
Me: (weighing the pros and cons) Okay, twenty minutes but I also want you to make me a cup of tea afterwards. These hands don't work for free.
However, sometimes these naive beginnings lead into darker, more amusing territories. Thus it was, when I was innocently squeezing bread in the supermarket to ensure it was fresh (I mean, really, who wants to buy a stale loaf?) when Other Half rolled her eyes at me for what seemed like the fortieth time that day.
Me: What?
Other Half:....Nothing.
Me: No, seriously, what?
Other Half: It's you have to manhandle the bread like that?
Me: What do you mean?
Other Half: Other people are going to come here after we've gone, and they're going to see a row of squashed bread, because you've been... (she struggles for an appropriate word that will encapsulate her feelings of resentment on behalf of the violated bread) massaging it.
Me: (indignant) I'm not 'massaging' it! I prefer to think of it as a gentle caress. (continues stroking loaf)
Other Half: Congratulations, you've ramped up the creepiness factor by a million.
Me: I'm fondling it now. Look. FONDLING.
Other Half: Well, you fondle away. I'm going to the dairy section.
Me: Pick me up some yo-gurt!
Other Half: (mutters unintelligible curses as she sweeps off)
Me: (still stroking loaf) Heh. I love grocery shopping.
You might like to know, since I've been blogging about it for weeks, that the house move is almost complete. It has nearly killed us, quite literally, on a couple of occasions (notably, trying to move two massive wooden bookcases up a flight of stairs that was never built to accomodate such stupid ideas. Even the hilarity of me shouting "PIVOT!" like that classic scene with the couch in Friends did not ease the pressure of balancing a heavy piece of furniture, rather painfully, on our faces and fingertips).  However Other Half and I are still having conversations like the following:
Author note - we have three small bins in the old house. One red, one transparent white, and one black. They are all roughly the same shape and size, so I find it hard to pick them out in memories.
Other Half: (considering) We should leave two bins behind, because I think the house came with two. So which bin should we take?
Me: Um.. how about the one I didn't throw up in?
Other Half: Okay, yes. Wait, which one was was that?
Me: (helplessly, eyeing the bins) I don't know.
Other Half: (sighs) Want to flip a coin?

I don't want you to think I'm some kind of weirdo who enjoys throwing up in the household receptacles. I don't have a checklist of bins to throw up in. It just so happens that I've had food poisoning twice in the past year and both times, the only thing close to hand was one of the aforementioned bins. If I'm being honest, the first time it happened I was so sick I couldn't even get off the bed, so I simply sprawled over the edge and vomited onto the carpet (I figured that I would deal with the mess afterwards, when I felt less like my internal organs were battling each other for overall supremacy of my body) - which Other Half remedied by pushing a bin gently under my face and shouting "Aim! Aim!" In the circumstances, it's the best advice she could have given me and I'm grateful for it.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Kitchen Of The Dragon

Other Half hates calling the local Chinese takeaway place. Despite her perfectly enunciated English accent, they never seem to understand what she's saying. This is one of the most entertaining pastimes I currently have. I will quite happily pick up the chores for a couple of days if I can get her to ring to place the order. The feeling I get when she picks up the phone and takes a deep breath, well. It makes me want to get popcorn, because this is a Show. The beauty of it is that this happens to her every single time, and yet if I, in my charming Scottish brogue, were to call instead, it would take about thirty seconds and we would all understand one another without question.

For the purposes of being confidential, or at least not inviting everyone to our old house - I wouldn't advise that you visit anyway, it smells like cat wee and mould right now, unless that's your thing, in which case have a blast - I won't use our real old address.

Takeaway: Hello, Kitchen of the Dragon, what can I get you?

Other Half: Hi there. Can I make an order for delivery please?

Takeaway: A what?

Other Half: An order.

She's already looking at me with despairing eyes.

Takeaway: What's your address?

Other Half: 40 Hillwood Crescent.

Takeaway: 40...?

Other Half: Hillwood Crescent.

Takeaway: Hillwood...?

Other Half: (pinches nose) Crescent.

Takeaway: 30 Hillwood Crescent?

Other Half: 40! 40 Hillwood Crescent.

Takeaway: 40 Hillwood Crescent. Could you spell that?

Other Half puts her head in her hands and pleads with me silently to take the phone. Of course I'm too busy gasping for air and rofl-ing, as I believe the street term is.

Takeaway: Okay, what would you like?

Other Half: Could we please have some seaweed-

Takeaway: One seaweed...sorry, can I just check that's 40 Hillwood Crescent?

Other Half: Um, yes. Seaweed and chicken curry, and some egg fried-

Takeaway: Sorry... 40 Hillwood Crescent?

Other Half: Yes.

Takeaway: Okay, go on.

Other Half: (clearly wishing this call was over) Egg fried rice-

Takeaway: Sorry...was it Hill Wood, or Hillwood?

Other Half hands me the phone with a long-suffering sigh and trudges off to get plates and cutlery ready. I finsih the call in about 5 and a half seconds, and go into the kitchen.

Other Half: I don't know why they don't understand me!

Me: They're expecting to hear slurred speech, honey. This is Scotland. I expect you catch them off guard.

Other Half: This is a bloody stupid country.

Me: I agree wholeheartedly.

And so I do. But I do love the entertainment value.