Friday, December 29, 2006

If only...

...I could be as disciplined and single-minded as my husband.

We've been re-arranging the house - well, the stuff in the house - getting rid of long-unused things and moving things about because we were getting crowded out by our possessions which seemed to have multiplied quite aggressively over the years. Well, I say "we", but it's really been Pete who's done the lion's share of work... with some help here and there from his son and a friend of ours.

Okay, so most of the heavy stuff (computers, electronic equipment, computer books, all sorts of cables and and other assorted junk, hundreds of surprisingly heavy LPs and vinyl records and so on) was all his. I couldnt have helped move it about or sort it all, even had I wanted to... (Hmm, that last statement inadvertently revealed more of the truth than I wanted, but I'll leave it in, in the interests of said honesty.)

Left to me, I guess the moving-about would have taken a few weeks. I would have done it a little at a time, because housework is so bloody BORING! Boring work, I've found, is very tiring. Cleaning rooms and sorting things and humping cupboards and boxes about is not what I want to do, even if it's for my own house. The main room I re-arranged and sorted was the kitchen, possibly the one place that's more my domain than Pete's - if only because an Indian kitchen stocks WAY more stuff than British ones! :)

It's taken a few days of solid work from Pete to get the rest of the rooms in shape with everything where he wanted it to be. I would have ended up saying "That will do" or "enough for now" - but not Pete. His single-minded determination is not just for his programming, it extends to whatever he sets out to do. It all had to be just right. He might have been tired out, but he still found the energy to keep going until the work was done. I wish I could be like that. Hats off to my husband who's most definitely my better half, because whatever his real thoughts about my lack of input, he didnt once grumble about it. Not once.

And oh yeah, in case y'all think I'm a really lazy so-and-so, I have exempted him from any and all kitchen and laundry duties for the next 6 months. :)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

'Tis the season for office parties

And I'm keeping away from them. I've heard enough and read enough about these office Christmas parties (not just our company ones) to be wary of them and what goes on. Plus, in any case I'm not a party person - especially the kind of party where there are 90-odd people of whom I know about 8 (all from my office), and of which 8 I get along comfortably well with only 4, with the only certainty being that there's no way I'll get to sit next to any of those four.

One of the guys in our office gets - shall we say, "overexcited", when there's alcohol on offer. He's basically harmless, I guess, but he does tend to make uncomfortably suggestive remarks and also stand a little bit too close for comfort. (Sometimes I wish I had a force field that would stop people getting within 2 feet of me - particularly those people I dont want any closer than that!) That encroachment on my personal space, especially by someone who smells like he's swallowed a distillery, is not what I'd call a pleasant experience.

Multiply this by about 70 guys (give or take the odd teetotaler and/or the degree of unpleasantness) and the whole party thing simply doesnt hold any appeal. Especially as I dont much care for alcohol either.

Not that the women in the company are a shy retiring bunch. My colleagues were talking about a few of them from the parties of Christmases Past - a lady who got a little too up close and personal with some of the married men and had to be cautioned; another who clambered up onto a table and did some bump-and-grind routines which might have been appreciated at the time but earned her an official reprimand later; the gentleman who danced too many times with - and possibly too close to - his secretary and who faced a divorce action in the new year... many stories, all of them not quite of the inspirational variety!

Anyway, this party next week being a Christmas party, booze there will be aplenty, and a disco after the meal. Plus of course lots of back-biting and bitching and speculating and gossiping (and those are only the men I'm talking about!)... so, on the whole, the Office Christmas Party is one thing yours truly will not be seen at, especially alive.

However, our office branch has a nice tradition - the partner in charge takes us out for lunch on the day we break up (sounds like school, doesnt it?). That's next Thursday and I'm quite looking forward to it. Mainly because no more school - er, work - till January 2, 2007!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Adventures with Alistair Maclean

When I was in the 7th or 8th standard, I discovered Alistair Maclean. I dont remember just how I stumbled upon his books, but I think the first book of his that I ever read was "The Guns of Navarone". What a glorious, exhilarating, intensely thrilling discovery it was! For years after, that book was THE yardstick by which I measured other adventure novels. Any whiff of serious romance, any hint of anything less than heroic disregard in the hero for personal safety and physical pain, and those books, with their imperfect heroes, would fall dramatically in my estimation.

I had a healthy contempt for heroines in action books, and Mr Maclean's female protagonists did nothing to dispel that contempt. They were always feminine and shied away from violence and killing, they looked upon the hero with utter horror and distaste when he used either method against the heartless villains, even if he was only saving innocent people's lives, and always ALWAYS were so useless at whatever little task was set them (in the process of that life-saving action) that it was no wonder I didnt want any women around!

I guess I was at that age when any kind of romance was too sappy for words, so Alistair Maclean was the perfect choice. There was never any overt romantic action in his books, and what little there was was pretty aseptic, the most that happened being a kiss. I can still remember my heart sinking if there was a female protagonist who interfered with the action and forced the hero to rescue her and generally endanger both his safety and the pure adventure that I was seeking.

And of course, after reading "The Guns of Navarone", my hero against whom all other action figures paled miserably was... NOT Captain Keith Mallory, the mountain-climbing New Zealander who headed the team to Navarone, but Corporal Dusty Miller. I can't begin to describe just how much I hero-worshipped that wise-cracking, laconic, laid-back American who was "three parts Irish and one part East European" and whose every remark was sarcastic or ironic or both. How I loved that sense of humour! How I adored Dusty Miller's every remark! In fact, I even marked off my favourite quips in the copy of the novel and wrote them down separately to read over and admire while in school! (Ok, I admit was besotted and apparently had reams of time even though I was in school. Or perhaps because I was in school).

I read every single one of Alistair Maclean's books after "The Guns of Navarone" with varying degrees of satisfaction gained. "Force 10 from Navarone" was not half as good, but then hardly any sequels match up to the original. But "The Satan Bug", "Where Eagles Dare" (another HUGE favourite at the time), "When 8 Bells Toll", "Bear Island", "The Golden Rendezvous" and many others were all very satisfying reads. Sure, there were girls in the books, but I learned to ignore them for the useless time-wasters that they were!

Of course, over the years I discovered other authors and moved on (even, for the duration of my college days, stooping to reading M&Bs - I'm embarrassed but not ashamed to admit it... I had to do SOMEthing to kill time during lessons and M&Bs were the only reading matter I could borrow from the other girls). Alistair Maclean was relegated to the back of my mind for many years, although I still had happy memories of his books.

A short while back, I bought a job lot of Alistair Maclean novels on Ebay at a throwaway price and now I'm in the process of re-reading all those school-day favourites. I'm reading those books with fresh eyes, however - I'm no longer an uncritical 12-year-old... unfortunately.

So even while I'm enjoying re-reading "The Guns of Navarone" now, I'm aware that Mr Maclean's language was heavily skewed towards very complicated irony, that most of his characters whether hero or villain spoke the same way, that most of his heroes had simple first names ("John" or "Johnny" being favourite), that most of his heroines were "Mary" - in "The Way to Dusty Death", the mother was "Marie" while the daughter was "Mary"! - and that his main characters had a way of being highly self-recriminatory and prone to stupid mistakes even though they were supposed to be the best Government agent around.

Those facts, though, dont take away from the sheer romance of Alistair Maclean's books - and there's irony for you - but it was the romance of adventure and action. Just for that alone he'll always be my hero, flaws and all.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Ammani's "I Ask You Write 13" - My Story

Read the other entries to 'I Ask, You Write -13' here

When you walked in through their door, you found them both on their hands and knees searching the floor for something. I guess you know what had happened.

I was the only one who thought that Pattabhi mama was not crazy. Eccentric, perhaps, but not crazy. Nobody who had made that much money, and was continuing to rake it in even at his advanced age, was crazy – certainly not enough to be dysfunctional or merit admission in a home for the mentally deranged... although his loving children would have it otherwise.

Actually I had the sneaky feeling that Pattabhi mama indulged his somewhat strange sense of humour and exaggerated his eccentricities just to maintain his reputation among his family and acquaintances.

I found him rather amusing, to be frank, but then I was a spectator - not a family member, just a neighbour who quietly kept tabs on the well-being of an elderly but still sprightly man, to ease her own conscience. We got on well, Pattabhi mama and I. And of course the kids in the apartment block adored him.

Pattabhi mama collected things – that was one of his hobbies. He had drawers and cupboards full of stamps, buttons, marbles, used bus tickets, pencil stubs, oddly-shaped cigarette lighters (although he didn't smoke)… all sorts of junk - some possibly valuable, most of it not. I'm not sure he cared what he collected, as long as he had lots of it. It drove his family nearly crazy that he wouldn't throw out what they considered junk and wouldn't sell what they considered valuable.

Yesterday I dropped in on the old man unexpectedly and arrived there at the same time as one of his daughters, the one with what I term a "drill" voice – shrill and penetrating. When we walked in through the door, we found Pattabhi mama and one of the kids from next door, both on hands and knees on the carpeted floor, scrabbling madly behind the sofa for something we couldnt see.

"Appa, what on earth are you two doing?" the dutiful daughter shrilled in dismay.

Pattabhi mama emerged from behind the sofa, white cobwebby hair dishevelled and his eyes twinkling. "Oh hello there, dont worry, it's nothing serious. I've lost my marbles, you see, and young Abhishek here is helping me look for them."

What can you do but laugh.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Ammani's "I As, You Write - 12" - My Story

Read the other entries to "I Ask, You Write - 12" here

She turned on the tv and screamed. What did Charu see that prompted such a reaction?

Surabhi was Charu’s best friend – a seriously talented documentary-maker, writer, singer… you name it, Surabhi could do it. And did it - usually in addition to the half-dozen projects or so that she had going all at once. Consequently she was the busiest person Charu knew. Charu loved all of Surabhi’s creative writing and kept telling her to get it published… but it always got set aside in favour of something that Surabhi found more exciting, creatively speaking.

This time, though, Charu had decided to take action herself. She sent off submissions in various categories to a nation-wide competition for unpublished and first-time authors, certain that Surabhi would win in at least ONE category. It would be a nice surprise for her friend. She didn’t tell anyone about it, and keeping that secret was probably the most heroically difficult task Charu had ever undertaken.

The weeks passed and the deadline for the competition came and went. Soon the winner would be announced. On The Day, Charu switched on the TV, watched with bated breath and mounting impatience… then she gave a scream of joy! Surabhi’s short story had not only won the “Best short story” award but she had also been selected as “Most Promising New Author”.

Charu grabbed the phone and speed-dialled Surabhi’s number. She had the best news possible for her friend…