Thursday, 15 December 2011

Working from home.

What I Wore.

Monday in invariably my day to work from home. Most other days I do design work for other companies in their studios. When I'm at home, I get a lot more done in fewer hours. It’s easy to see why...

- To begin with, I don't have to commute to get to work. Commuting involves either the tube or the bus and bizarrely, no matter where I’m going in central London, it takes an hour. So not commuting saves me 2 hours a day.
- I don’t get distracted by work colleagues. Distractions include 1. Discussing music, films, TV, gossip or other work mates to such a passionate degree that it’s impossible to multi-task and actually do work at the same time, 2. Showing or being shown something on the computer (usually on YouTube) which causes so much hilarity you have to take a couple of minutes off to catch your breath, 3. Loo breaks (not that I don't go to the loo at home but usually it’s not the other side of a vast studio, nor are there other girls in there that I need to natter with), 4. Making tea or coffee (again, I do make tea and coffee at home but there aren't other people to distract me in my kitchen and I don’t have to make 4 cups of tea in one go, 5. Going for lunch, 6. Meetings. At work, these involve many people and are very time consuming. At home, meetings last a few minutes and are done over the phone. No distractions, therefore, saves me ooh... a few hours a day?
- I don’t have to look presentable at home. It takes me an hour to get ready when I'm going to work; shower, clothes, hair, make-up. At home, I might still be in my pyjamas at lunchtime.

So all in all, I save myself about 5 hours by working from home. Brilliant! So, really (and I sometimes do justify this to myself when a particular yoga class catches my eye) I only have to work 4-5 hours and I'm already into overtime! Ha. But the thing I have begun to notice is how little I care about what I look like on Mondays. I'm at home, I'm working, no one will see me. My pyjamas are sooo comfortable and comfort is good when you’re working hard, right? When I do venture out, to get supplies or reference, or to do a spot of shopping (after finishing my days work you understand), then I just grab whatever is to hand.

This past Monday I had finished all my work and decided to go to the supermarket. It's further than my local one and so I decided to drive. It was particularly cold outside and so I just began layering on clothes. Over my pyjamas (the shame!). So my pyjamas were the bottom layer, then I put my bra over my pyjama top (I know!), then jeans over the bottoms (nice lumpy finish), t-shirt and hoodie on the top, then Ugg boots, a parka and a wooly hat, mittens and scarf as the finishing layer. No make-up and hair scraped into a scrunchy (yes, they do still exist) on top of my head. I didn't look in the mirror (what’s the point?) and went on my merry way.

Once I got to the Supermarket and found a trolley, I happily wandered the aisles. I noticed a few people giving me odd looks and one woman steered her child in a large circle around me. Crikey, I thought, can't a girl go out without her hair and bloody make-up done just for once and not worry? People are sooooooooo shallow, I thought!!! I finished my shopping and headed out to the car park. As I passed the long glass front of the supermarket I looked at my reflection. Then I looked again (I mentioned the not recognising myself in a previous email but this was something else). I then saw a bag lady pushing my trolley. I actually burst out laughing when I saw the state of myself. No wonder people were staring. I had pulled my hat so far forward and readjusted it so many times that my ‘scrunch-ied’ ponytail was at the front of my head, sticking out like some hairy unicorn. I had so many layers, creating so many odd bulges that I looked like a giant belted marshmallow. And to finish off this sultry look I noticed I had a massive bulge in my thigh. I poked it with my mitten and it relented. Weird. I took off my mitten and wiggled my hand into my jeans and tugged at the bulge. I probably should have done this in the privacy of my car but I wasn't thinking and was laughing so hard that people would assume I was a nutter anyway. I finally yanked hard and out came a pair of knickers and a sock, like some twisted magic show. I was crying with laughter at myself so much that I only just managed to get to the car!!!! I keep giggling about it, three days later, which also makes me look a bit potty.

So a word of warning to those that work from home... layer away but always look in the mirror before you leave the building!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

In the Country

Where I Was.

I have been lucky enough to be working down in the depths of Somerset for the last week or so. For anyone that doesn't know Somerset, it is a beautiful county in the south west of the UK and has all the charms of typical English countryside, green rolling hills, dense forests, sparkling rivers, small stone cottages, cows, sheep, farmers and pubs! It's a lovely change from the chaos and overcrowding of London and it really feels like a working holiday. My sister and family live nearby so I am able to see her and my nephews a lot and have lovely suppers together but I'm also able to stay next to the studio in a huge converted Dairy. The studio itself is a beautiful converted barn and the old Dairy, next door, has been turned into a luxurious 3 bedroom house. Originally they used the Dairy as a Bed and Breakfast but had trouble filling it, due to it's isolated location and price, I think. Now, they use it mainly to put up clients and freelancers, free of charge!! Yay!

It is a stunning conversion, triple height open-plan sitting room and kitchen with a 6 foot plasma screen at one end, suspended wrought iron fireplace and deep squidgy sofas. The kitchen is one that you don't really want to cook in but simply waft around in, draping yourself languidly over the smooth surfaces of marble and stainless steel. The bedrooms are enormous with huge kingsize beds, plasma screens and en suite bathrooms with jacuzzi baths. I'm not exaggerating when I say I would happily pay to stay there… don't tell my clients that though! They are very happy with the arrangement because for them, it's really hard to find freelancers who 1. have their own car 2. can stay away from London for weeks at a time and 3. don't mind being on their own miles from anywhere.

So, there are obviously some lovely plusses staying there but I've also found there are some minuses.

Plus... The place is in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by fields and trees, sheep and cows with only their soft lowing and the gentle wind as accompaniment.
Minus... The place is on a lane called Windy Hill, one of the windiest places in Somerset apparently. The noise of the wind blowing through the roofs’ rafters is loud enough to wake the dead and me! I awoke one morning to a loud rustling and moaning outside my door and thought I was about to be attacked in my bed by an escaped lunatic. It was, however, a herd of cows making their way past the bedroom window at shit early o’clock, bellowing “murrrrurghhhhh’ wanting to be milked. Both local farmers decided to do their muck-spreading while I was staying there, inducing the occasional gag reflex as I inhaled the fresh morning air!

Plus... There isn’t a lot of entertainment within walking distance of the Dairy but it’s lovely to be able to just laze about in the evenings, reading or watching films.
Minus... The plasma TV had no less than 6 remote controls to get it to work and was attached to the DVD player, Satellite dish, Nintendo, Stereo and probably the washing machine! I hadn't the foggiest how to watch anything and would spend half the evening standing like a ninja, juggling remote controls and swearing. To humiliate me further, when I mentioned in the studio that I was having a little trouble making the thing work, they sent Rex, the junior designer (about 8 years old) to show me. He picked up about 4 remote controls, clicked them in some sequence and that was it. Cocky little bastard! I literally blinked whilst he was showing me so was none the wiser of how to work it!


Plus... Being in a big empty Dairy, I can sing at the top of my lungs, dance like a crazy lady, do some odd yoga positions, anything really... with no one around to see or hear me. You can't sneeze in London without your neighbours complaining!
Minus... Not realising that the strange orb like structures in every room were actually web cameras, for security. When I mentioned to the studio that I had been dancing around the night before, they all beamed and threatened to pull up the camera history to watch me. I was so paranoid after that, that I crept around the place looking suspicious, often pausing for several minutes to stick my tongue out at the cameras. I then found out, several weeks later, that they were lying! Another beautiful early morning, I decided to do yoga outside on the grass. I picked a secluded spot by the lake (yes, the garden is huge) and began with a downward dog. I heard some moos behind me and a very West Country accented “Mornin” and saw the farmer looking over the hedge, along with several cows, bemused expressions on all their faces. After moving to a more secluded spot I carried on, only to hear, moments later “Are you all right love?” from the direction of the barn and looked up to see a very worried looking cleaner.

I suppose it's not that usual to see a woman face down, arse up in the middle of a field at 6 in the morning! Well, then again, it is the West Country! They just might not call it yoga!

Friday, 25 November 2011

When is a Cult not a Cult?

What I Read.

So, after I wrote about the Landmark Forum I had so much feedback from people that it got me doing a bit more research. Several people I know told me they did the Forum over 20 years ago in America... and both of them described it as a Cult. So, I wrote back to one friend and asked him what they defined as a Cult? This is what he said:

“It came across to me as an expensive form of therapy without the years of training. Over the years they have altered their approach to make it feel less cultish. But back then, that's what it felt like. It's no different than scientology, just without the ridiculous doctrine”.

Very interesting. But again, from what I saw and experienced the other night, it certainly didn't feel that way. Maybe 20 years ago it was a bit more hardcore. So I then googled “Cult” to try and get a definitive definition. Here's what is seemed to boil down to, in simple layman's terms.

Definition: A cult, by modern standards, is any group that incorporates mind control to deceive, influence and govern its followers. Although most people think of cults as being religious, they can also be found in political, athletic, philosophical, racial or psychotherapeutic arenas.

So that could mean that any person leading a group... could be defined as a Cult leader. That can't be right. The one thing I kept reading, over and over again, while finding out more about these self help/motivational groups is that whoever is leading the group, they have immense charisma and charm. They seem to have ‘something’ for millions to want to listen to them and do what they say. Without these leaders, you have nothing, after all. And what did I say in my last blog? The woman leading the Forum was charismatic. What did I say about Anthony Robbins? That he oozed charm and confidence. So they have ‘got it’.

Just an aside to my friend, who I went to the Forum with and has done this course... I do not believe that what you have experienced is in ANY way evil or brainwashing. I DO believe you have genuinely got something so positive out of this which has helped you. And that is wonderful. I really enjoyed myself the other night and felt really moved by some of the people's stories. I even said to you, “If I could afford it, I would do it”. I am not writing this to put down any group in particular but it seems there is a very fine line between those groups genuinely helping people and those that mess them up.

In France, they have banned the Landmark Forum. Their reason is simple. They are worried that vulnerable people are putting their trust in a group of people who have no training. The experiences people CAN go through on these courses makes them open up and reveal some, sometimes, quite traumatic events in their lives, and with no psychiatric training from the people trying to help them, it can leave people in a terrible state.

But it seems that everyone is at risk from being taken in by a cult. I found this (below) on a Cult Help website:

Are You A Candidate For A Cult? Take This Test

Goodness me, I answered yes to 6 of them!!! Come get me, cult leaders!! Then I heard from another friend in Paris who told me about this guy he knew. This is what he emailed me:

http://www.now-here.com/#!/insights/evocative-leadership/leadership-needed-now

So, there you have it... I'm not sure what I was planning to write when I first started but it's all very interesting and I found myself getting more and more into it. I am not judging anyone who finds any group helpful or inspirational and it's your life after all. Incidentally, Anthony Robbins is coming to London with his new show... it's only £800 for 3 days if you're interested! Blimey, I might start my own. Any of you like to follow me??

Here is a checklist for you to discover your vulnerability

... I am considered bright in most things
... I am a curious person about the world around me
... I have been a leader among my peers
... I have been a member of a group and consider myself a follower
... I have moments when I doubt myself and my ability to succeed
... I am afraid of the future from time to time
... I am considered idealistic by my family and friends
... I enjoy being liked by those around me and enjoy receiving compliments from them
... I sometimes like taking risks

Did you check 3 or more? Congratulations!! You are a prime candidate for a cult recruiter. If you think you can’t be taken in then you certainly can be!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The Forum

Where I Went.

Last night I went to a 4-hour seminar with a good friend, who had prepared me for the evening with the words "Just keep an open mind, that's all I ask". I am very trusting.

My friend had been attending the Landmark Forum for the last few months and last night was her last session. This entailed bringing a friend along to experience what the Forum is all about, to hear from some of the members and hear what it had done for them. I do have an open mind and try and be non-judgmental so I was intrigued.

I thought I already knew a little about the Forum, reading about it from years before. I imagined it to be a sort of giant group-therapy, lots of hugs and tears and whooping! I thought it might be in the same vain as Anthony Robbins, the hugely popular American motivational speaker who claims to “Unleash the Power Within”. I met Anthony Robbins back in 1992, when I was living in San Diego. I designed the banners for his first shows, probably when he only had a few hundred in the audience and possibly only a few hundred in the bank but he was already being talked about. People said he was inspiring and had changed their lives and so when I had the chance to hand deliver the banners, I jumped at the chance. I met him in his office and was greeted by this 6'6" giant, all tan and teeth and the biggest hands I have ever seen. He shook my hand and I swear I just grinned. He exuded this charm, this wisdom and unbelievable confidence. I would have believed anything he told me. He just said "Thank you Juliet. These banners are great,” and I felt like I had won the lottery. It sounds ridiculous but some people really do ooze “magic”. I wasn't surprised when he became one of the most famous men in the country or when he became a multi-millionaire or when he appeared on Oprah. He HAS helped millions of people find their confidence so I do believe it can happen.

I knew my friend had turned things around in her life with the help of this Forum, that she was full of confidence and everything had sort of slotted into place for her. She hadn't been brainwashed or joined a cult, she reassured me, she had just found a way forward.

We went to a large building near Euston and then up four floors to a large open plan room with about 150 people in it. There were members with printed name tags and their guests with hand written name tags. "Promise me I won't have to get up and share," I said to my my friend, looking around at all the smiling people. She laughed "no... well, not unless you want to". Don't say that to a closet actress... I see a stage and want to be on it!! The evening began with an introduction from a very charismatic woman, the Forum leader. She explained what the Forum could do for you, how it could teach you ways of dealing with things. Their official tag line is: Landmark Education, Innovative programs for living an extraordinary life. She told us her background and then invited members up to share their stories. They were honestly really really inspirational and my God, what a mixed bag!

The first man to speak was a Rabbi. He had fallen out with his brother over money issues in regards to supporting their Father, who had fallen on hard times. The brother refused to pay towards helping their Father. They hadn't spoken in 6 months. He attended the Landmark Seminar and he said it had taught him how to approach the problem differently, to say what he thought, to be honest etc. Now he was able to talk to his brother and just that morning, he had received a cheque from his brother.

Cool. Everyone clapped.

The second man was a gay business man who hadn't spoken to his Father in 20 years. He admitted his biggest problem was procrastinating and there were so many things he kept putting off doing. He said the Forum helped him get more organised and be more procreative and he had, with their help, spoken to his Father and also chosen his new sofa! Ha.

We liked him. We all clapped.

And so it went on... really great stories. Not all were emotional about family feuds and fall outs but the ones that were... blimey, I got choked up! There were people with confidence issues, actors who wanted to be better performers, businessmen who wanted to go out on their own but didn't have the courage, a retired Doctor whose house was a mess. All kinds of people with all sorts or reasons for being there.

I fully embrace anything that helps people feel better. And these people were more confident, less fearful and were very happy and excited about getting a new lease of life. There were lots of happy, smiley people there which is slightly disorientating but that may be just because I'm used to British people walking around looking miserable for the most part! I think maybe the French are not used to looking happy either because they are the only country that has banned the Landmark Forum! Weird.

I used to say to myself "Jump.. and the net will appear." I used to be less afraid to try new things and I guess maybe with age I feel I have more to lose and so don't go for it as much. I'm not saying that this way of doing it is for me... the Landmark is a very very expensive way of doing it. But my friend feels great and that's wonderful.

There was one exercise that we all did last night that I thought was really good. Write on a piece of paper something you want in life but feel there is an obstacle. And always use the word BUT. So it could be:

I really want to change my job BUT I'm scared I won't find another.
I really want to get fit BUT I never seem to find the time to exercise.
I love my husband BUT we argue all the time.

Anyway, you get the idea. I wrote:

I really wish I could see my friends more BUT they are always busy with their lives and kids

It sounds a bit pathetic doesn't it, a bit poor me, oh no one loves me sort of thing. It also sounds like I'm blaming my friends for not seeing me. So, then we were told to write the same sentence out but change the word BUT to AND. So my sentence would now say:

I really wish I could see my friends more AND they are always busy with their lives and kids

The emphasis completely changes because now its not a dead end. Yes, my friends have busy lives but it means I may have to fit in with them a bit more and not blame them for it. Make it happen yourself, be more proactive and change it. Anyway, it seems to work with any sentence. Try it.

What I Wore.

What I Wore.

When someone tells you they've posted a picture of you on Facebook, there is a momentary panic as you realise you have no idea who it will be with, where you are, what you're doing and when it's been taken. So I was relieved and hysterical simultaneously, when I saw two pictures of myself from when I was at university in America, aged 19! Perm and lace... say no more!



Friday, 28 October 2011

Morocco

Where We Went.

Morocco. My sister and I took my mother there for her 70th birthday, a place she had wanted to go since she was 15 years old so it was going to be a really special and memorable trip. My sister could only come for 4 days, unfortunately, so the rest of the time it was just mama and me. Friends of mine had shown outward displays of horror at the thought of traveling with their own mothers but I felt I knew what I was letting myself in for. I knew all of Mother's quirks and oddities. Or so I thought.

Bags
Our family affectionately refers to my mother as The Bag Lady. She has an unusual obsession with plastic bags, the "king of bags" being the zip-lock... oooohhh. In everyday life she usually has a lipstick, hand cream or something in a plastic bag inside her handbag. Sometimes these items might be double bagged "just in case one leaks". I have sat through excruciatingly embarrassing minutes in theatres whilst she rummages around her bag for tissues or cough sweets, lost in mountains of plastic.

Traveling, however, The Bag Lady comes into her own. Obviously the dangers of things spilling or leaking reaches dangerously high levels and so the use of the zip-lock is increased. I explained (the night before our flight) that any liquids, lotions or gels over 100ml would have to be packed in her suitcase and anything under 100ml could go in hand luggage but have to be shown to security in a clear zip-lock bag. I gave her 3 zip-lock bags from my own stash which she looked at disappointedly! As we approached security the following day, I nudged my sister and we both giggled and rolled our eyes as mum grabbed a handful of the airports' zip-lock bags. When she caught us looking she laughed and said "you never know".

Once in Marrakech, I noticed that mums "everyday" bag was a big, drawstring, Indian hippy bag. "Didn't you bring your backpack?" I asked. "No, this is fine darling, much easier" she said. Only minutes later, as we walked down the narrow alleyways of the Medina, did we notice that every time mum needed anything from her bag she had to take it off, put it on the (God knows what!) ground, undo the string, rummage around for a few minutes, find the opening of a big nylon bag inside the hippy bag, rummage again for a few minutes and then possibly produce a camera, sun hat, money (in 2 different purses for safety) or sun lotion (in one or two bags). It was unbelievable. Every single time took about 5 minutes. Of course it didn't help she only had one hand (the other was still in a brace for her broken wrist). To replace the object took just as long of course. This bag rummaging happened on average, once every 10 minutes and Kathryn and I were completely exasperated and got the giggles every time. Not only the constant stopping and starting of the whole thing but the fact she sometimes didn't tell us she was stopping and we would turn around to find her fifty feet away, bent over with half of Marrakech looking at her bum! When we reached Essaoira, the bloody hippy bag had developed a big hole in the bottom, therefore the bags within bags within bags were essential. One morning mum went on a stroll through the town and returned with a big grin. "Tah dah" she said proudly and held up the bag which now had a big patch over the hole. She had (somehow) asked a tailor to patch up her bag for her, and very nice it was too.

Rules
I felt very responsible for protecting my mother and sister in Marrakech, a city renowned for hassle. Having traveled many times on my own, I tried to instill in them a bit of "street smarts". Maybe I went slightly overboard but my basic rules were:
If a man approaches you either trying to talk to you or to sell you something, simply ignore him. If that doesn't work, say "non, merci". If that doesn't work and the man tries to get closer, shout "shooma" and walk the other way. "Shooma" is Arabic for "shame on you", a sure fire way for others around to know there is a problem. I also told them not to make eye contact with anyone, do not smile at anyone, do not buy anything and keep your bag close to you at all time because there were pickpockets about. Ha, ha, it was if we were going in to a war zone, not the streets of a market town!!!

The first night we went into the famous Jeema al Fna Square. Being tall, I looked over the heads of the crowd and it was like a rock concert.... there were thousands of people. Fires, mopeds, singers, drummers, food stalls with lamb heads and piles of snails, snake charmers, acrobats... hardly any space to move. I made sure Kathryn, Mother and I held onto each others' hand, bag strap or sleeve at all times. I asked them every few minutes "are you ok?". At the end of the evening, Kathryn had been body rubbed a few times but I was the only one that had been groped 4 times! During the day, however, it was mum breaking all the rules. She smiled at everyone and said "Bonjour". We would turn around to see her stopping to look at ceramics or rugs and then start to be hassled or suddenly have someone following us. Kathryn was hilarious and would go up to her and say crossly "Mummy, don't make eye contact". I would regularly stop and say "Mummy, just say non merci". One day we all fell for the charms of a student who ran a herb stall. We even entered his dingy room behind a curtain and he proceeded to do the hard sell before we realised what was happening. He gave us gifts, made us smell stuff, made Kathryn drink a flu potion (in a herb shop, how trusting!) and even put some odd looking cream on mums cheek (hilarious photo of that!). It was only after he rubbed it off that mum suddenly disappeared outside. We only found out later, after we had escaped that he had goosed her as he rubbed the cream off!!! She thought it was hilarious!

Many men in Marrakech do believe Western women are brazen hussies and therefore we deserve a quick grope!! To counter that myth as much as possible you try to respect where you are. You dress in loose, non revealing clothing. You certainly do not show your shoulders or cleavage or tattoos and you do not smoke (the only women who smoke in Marrakech are the prostitutes). Most tourists know this and behave accordingly.... but we could not believe some of the sights we saw. Women in bra-less halter tops and shorts; mini skirts and vests... and to be honest most of them should not have been wearing that on a beach let alone in a Muslim country but heh. I was horrified one night though. Mum and I went for a wander and I was wearing loose trousers and a loose top, but one that stopped at mid buttock rather than mid thigh. I got some really nasty comments and was hassled quite badly from a few teenagers. And that was from showing, sin of sins, 2 inches of my bum! I had to be calmed down by some mint tea and chocolate.. didn't take much!

Speaking French
All three of us studied French at school but we were different levels of rusty. Having memorised our area, I was in charge of getting Petit Taxis (small fiats that zip around inside the Medina walls) and haggling a price. Kathryn sensibly stuck to what she knew... everything you need to get around but when mum had to ask for something or get information, she would start off well but then either try and mime the word or just make noises. Instead of thinking about an easy way to ask for something, she would try and translate something really complicated. We went to the Marjorelle Gardens one day, a beautiful Moroccan garden previously owned by the designer Yves Saint Laurent. All was fine until we went into the museum. There was some amazing jewellery and mum wanted to know where they mined the silver. So she began by asking the guard "Excusez moi, ou est le argon...." and then, not knowing the word for "mine", she mimed a drill with all the sound effects. They looked baffled and Kathryn and I got hysterics. But she kept going, rephrasing it and doing different mimes. I was laughing so hard I started snorting. The guards then got the giggles but persevered with her, bringing in different people to try and work out what she was saying. She then pointed to a jewelled orb and asked "oeuf de Ostrich?" I lost it completely.... an Ostrich egg? The guard laughed, shaking his head and said "No, wood". I had to leave the room I was crying so much. This sort of thing happened constantly on our travels. If Mum didn't know the word she just made a noise in a French accent. If someone asked her "Ca va?" out of the blue, she would respond "Oui, merci... ooh heee hmmm hmm". Brilliant!

Snoring
Sorry mama, but if I didn't mention the snoring then half the trip wouldn't make sense! Whilst Kathryn was with us in Marrakech we were booked into a triple room in a beautiful Riad, north of the Medina. The Riad was stunning with a swimming pool, gorgeous roof terrace and a wonderfully helpful, stylish, French owner. Our room, however, was quite small for the three of us so as I am of the theory "If you don't ask, you don't get" (inherited from my mother who has lived her life like this) I asked the owner if she had another room we might "have". She kindly gave us another beautiful room, free of charge and we spread out, Kathryn and I rotating who had the spare room each night. Mum happily wanted to stay in her double bed in the first room. Everyone was happy and slept well. I had noticed mum snoring a sort of quiet snuffle but nothing to disturb too much. After Kathryn left though, we moved to another Riad. Suddenly the snoring went from the snuffle of a sweet small animal to a giant lion roar! Even with ear plugs, it was so loud I had to gather my bedding and sleep in the hallway and then on the roof. That would have been pleasant enough until the call to prayer began at dawn.

Kathryn had come with us to the second Riad for the afternoon, before her flight home and we were happily lazing on the roof when she mentioned the call to prayer. We knew it was five times a day and we also knew that the second Riad admitted to being very close to a Mosque. We suddenly heard the call to prayer in the distance and thought "well that's not so bad". Kathryn then pointed to the roof and said "It's that one I'm worried about". I looked up and 10 feet away was a Mosque minaret with two giant loud hailers on it. As we both looked at it, it crackled into life and blared out the call to prayer so loudly we both jumped and had to cover our ears with cushions. Oh My God. I forgot about that when trying to sleep on the roof at 5am and was so rudely awakened, I thought the world was ending!

When we moved to Essaouira, a coastal hippy town, 3 hours drive from Marrakech, I thought I would give the room sharing another go. It was a beautiful big room and the beds were a good 10 feet from each other. I had ear plugs and thought the sea air might knock her out and muffle the snoring. Oh dear. I have never heard that sort of noise come from a small woman. I think I managed an hours sleep and I was so grouchy and knackered that after breakfast I had to go back to bed. Whilst I was asleep mum talked to the owner, a wonderful Swiss woman who, again, gave us another room. I say gave us... she actually gave mum her own room, in a new part of the Riad, as far away from the other guests as was possible! After all this, mum still refused to believe her snoring was that bad, that I must just be a light sleeper and unlucky. She finally believed that her snoring was bad when a German couple said they also hadn't slept the night before because someone in the Riad was snoring so loudly. Their room was the other side of building about thirty feet and two thick walls away!

A few of the things we did in Marrakech
• Eating lots of bread and olives. They serve them with every meal.
• Drinking a lot of mint tea. They serve it with about 20 teaspoons of sugar in it though and we noticed EVERYTHING in Morocco was sweetened. The biggest killer in Morocco is diabetes, which I can completely understand!
• Going on an open air bus tour. Brilliant. The best way to get your bearings in a big city, although I was constantly saying "drink more water" and "put more sunscreen on" to mum and sister. Also EVERY time Mum wanted to change sides of the bus (often) I had to re-programme her earphones to the right language and the right volume, much to the hilarity of Kathryn because all she could see was my head in Mums lap and hear her shouting "It's in German!!" or "No, I still can't hear anything, it's not working!"
• Hiring a horse and buggy. My haggling skills went a bit downhill here because I refused to pay what the man wanted so he decided to take a short cut down the busiest road in the city. The horse then slipped and sat down at a traffic light. It's not romantic. Its bloody awful!
• Taking Petit Taxis everywhere. Cheap and insane. The drivers go full speed through all the markets narrowly missing donkeys, children, food stalls and mopeds. Mum and I thought it was quite thrilling. Kathyrn was terrified, not being a good passengers at the best of times.
• Having a cocktail at the most expensive and beautiful hotel in Marrakech... La Mamounia (Winston Churchill's favourite). Very strict dress code but once in, you can wander the grounds for as long as you like. The price for one drink is £20! That was our days' budget!
• Saying "Non, merci" about fifty times a day.
• Hearing Kathryn coo over all the kittens and puppies around.
• Kathryn and I squealing at a man carrying cut off donkey feet.
• Stepping in random body parts... mainly chicken heads.
• Posing for endless photos, with frequent frozen facial expressions after waiting for The Bag Lady to find her camera.
• Drinking lots of water.
• Sweating.
• Getting odd suntans... face and forearms only.
• Swimming in the coldest pool ever with me unkindly not telling Kathryn that there was only one step into the pool before a six foot drop. Probably the only way she would have got in!
• Telling Mum that her kaftan was a little bit low cut and then seeing a cotton vest appear under it a few hours later. When asked where the cotton vest came from, she laughed and said it was a napkin. We thought she was just being weird but when we saw her getting undressed later, she had literally pinned a white cotton restaurant napkin to her bra. "So much cooler than a whole vest" she said. One of the funniest things I have ever seen (we also have photographic evidence)!
• Mother spilling some tagine on her white trousers at a restaurant and rushing off for ages to sponge the whole thing down in the bathroom whilst a sweet waitress kept guard outside.
• Having some wonderful meals... the tagines really are amazing. Beware of "poulet et plum" though, it translates as chicken and prune... and you don't want to have too many of those!
• Taking a trip to the Atlas mountains with a fabulous guide called Aziz. The most beautiful surroundings, lunch with a Berber family in their mud house and the best way to see traditional village life. Truly special. We also taught the driver to call the hole in the ground toilets, "Squat and drops!"
• Playing scrabble with Kathryn one night (very competitively I hasten to add) and have mama come inn holding her nose. She had a terrible nose bleed but was so worried about getting blood on the beautiful sofa that she tried to lie down on the smallest chair in the room. As she sprawled as awkwardly as possible and with her face covered in bloody tissue... that is when the Riad owner decided to say hello.
• Laughing at mother.
• Laughing with mother.

A few things we did in Essaouira
• Finding it so different from Marrakech... really friendly and helpful locals, no hassling, no hostitlity or haggling.
• Stopping to see the goats in the Argon trees. Truly hilarious. They climb the trees to eat the berries and just stand there perched on the tiniest branches. You have to pay the goat herder for the privilege of a photo but I got extra and was dumped with a baby goat to carry... the softest and sweetest thing in the world.
• Were staggered by how many thousands of cats and kittens there are. Every doorway, every windowsill. If you don't like cats, don't go to Essaouira... we saw one woman (having come to town on a day trip) scream and leap onto here chair seeing a cat walk past. Little did she know there were a hundred waiting for her round the next corner!
• Walking around the port, seeing all the fishermen at work. Great for photographs, but ask them first, they can be a bit tetchy.
• Eating some of the most amazing seafood, literally caught minutes before you eat.
• Hanging out in the café's, drinking fabulous coffee and eating gelato.
• Listening to all the live music in the restaurants whilst sitting on roof terraces, high above the town looking at the stunning architecture.
• Getting caught in a hurricane along the beach, being the only tourists foolish enough to brave the elements and finding sanctuary in a local fisherman's café, much to their amusement.
• Discovering a hippy beach café a mile or so down the beach, mum's favourite. Great views of the camels, horses and surfers whilst eating great food, served by gorgeous waiters and relaxing in deck chairs.
• Being taken by Nicole, one of the Riad owners, to a hidden beach house in the middle of nowhere. Run by 2 brothers from their home, you eat what they've caught that day. One of the brothers is the local stud having notched up 18 wives. Recently single, he asked mama to be his 19th... when she told him she already had a husband and showed her wedding ring, he answered "no problem, you have two, one in England, one here". Don't worry Daddy, that's as far as it went!
• Being taken by Nicole to a huge long stretch of deserted beach where I went swimming with her dog Carlito, a big brute of a thing!
• Staying in our last Riad, an incredible place built into the Medina wall, surrounded by ocean. Incredible roar of crashing waves as they hit the walls twenty feet below our bedroom window. Only hairy moment was during the storm I actually thought the waves would reach the windows. Scary but exhilarating!
• Mum asking a dress maker if she could borrow his scissors to cut off an annoying velcro strap on her wrist brace (using mime). After he cut it, instead of saying to him "Merci, vous etes tres gentil" (you are very kind), she said "vous etes tres jolie" (you are very pretty). Ha ha, to a bearded, burly Moroccan man!
• Being groped by a 12 year old on our last night (back in Marrakech I hasten to add). He had the gaul to see us, run and hide around the corner, then come out again and walk up to me with his hand outstretched. I thought he was just being silly and about to shake my hand but he squeezed my boob instead. Quite unbelievable.
• Being given a necklace by a stall holder who said to my protests "No, English lady, is free please because you are my friend" and who then tried to mount me from behind as he did it up for me! Again, this was back in Marrakech, what a surprise!
• Laughing at mother.
• Laughing with mother.

And loving Morocco.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Walking Wounded

What we are.

Well we haven't even left to go on holiday yet but with our combined ailments we are the walking wounded. My mother, sister and I are going to Morocco for a girls only trip to celebrate my Mother's 70th Birthday. We are all very fit and healthy but as the approaching date for departure nears, things have happened.

Mother: Probably the fittest person in the whole family having enjoyed walking and yoga her whole life but she is also terribly accident prone. I had to inherit it from somewhere and unluckily, I have it from both parents! So Mama was up in the Lake District visiting an old neighbour when she walked down a particularly slippery and dark path to his cottage and slipped on some dog poo. The hand went down to break her fall and she landed hard on her bottom. Broken wrist and cracked coccyx! So as the doctor went to put on her plaster cast, she exclaimed "No.. I'm going on holiday and will be swimming so please no cast!" She has it, therefore, in a sort of removable cast, a glorified roller skating wrist guard. She also can only sit on one buttock at a time and it has to be sideways. So that will be interesting.

Sister: The hardest working person in the family with a very demanding job and two children and a husband to look after. Over the last two weeks, she has gone from having a little cold to full on flu symptoms and laryngitis. She also has crappy arthritis, gets labyrinthitis and hates flying! Poor thing.

Me: Away for work a few weeks ago I decided to go for a swim in the local pool. I was very much advised against this as I was told it was "the filthiest pool in the country!". But I was a little stressed from work and thought an hours swimming would do the trick. It was vile so I took my goggles off and swum on my back hoping for the best. The next day I developed an ear infection! The whole left side of my neck swelled up and I looked quite odd. After a week on antibiotics, the ear infection went to my throat and so I am now on my 3rd batch trying desperately to clear it up before we go away. Yesterday I yawned and heard something pop in my back. It felt like someone had stretched an elastic band over my shoulder and then "pinged" it. The only thing that seems to relieve it is to touch my toes every half an hour.

So I think half our suitcases will be taken up with drugs, pills and potions and the other half will be hot water bottles for the aches and pains. One will be armless and walking diagonally, one will be voiceless, dizzy and sleepwalking and one will be bending over and touching their toes every few minutes. Marrakech used to have a bit of a reputation for that sort of thing but these days it's probably best for me to keep that to a minimum!!!!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Mudlarking

What I Did.

Mudlarking. No I didn't know what it was either until I was ankle deep in sludge on the banks of the Thames picking up 300 year old horse bones! My friend suggested it as a belated birthday present and I thought it sounded brilliant! Larking around in mud, I thought. God, it could have been mud wrestling in bikinis for all I knew but I said "yes" anyway.

So the day of larking was last Sunday, a surprisingly scorching hot day in October. My friend, her son and I tromped off down to the river to meet our hostess Mary. Mary was one of those ageing, hippy intellectuals, an archeologist of all things river, with long grey hair and ruddy cheeks. She seemed genuinely overwhelmed that so many people had shown up for the mudlarking. "Usually," she said, "I only get half a dozen or so". She was faced with about 50 of us, all with the same idea that it would be fun to lark about by the river because the weather was so bloomin nice! I asked one lanky woman if she was there for the mudlarking and she looked at me slightly worryingly and said "if you mean the beach-combing, then yes!". Spoilsport... she obviously got her invite from the inappropriate name club because I certainly know of no beach on the River Thames! Wellies and rubber gloves were put on and we followed Mary down some precarious steps to the river bank. I have to add here that she lectured us for half an hour before handing out latex surgeons gloves, on the dangers of the Thames water, that it was full of diseases and so on. Being incredibly British though, she said "but only one person has died and that's because he stupidly jumped into Camden Lock i.e. stagnant water!" Mary and sympathy are not at home together.

By now, you all know how accident prone I am and within seconds I had stepped too close to the waters edge at the same time as a River Police boat whizzed past, sending the rotten, diseased, killer water over the tops of my boots. I was sloshing around waiting for the plague to possess me when I scratched myself on some fetid metal (probably 16th century, therefore Black Death era) and ripped my surgical glove. I was a walking contamination unit. I told Mary what had happened and she just shrugged. So I shrugged, put on my flip-flops and carried on.



Here's what I picked up and Mary's conclusion:



Lots of bones I thought were human. Mary told me they were probably a few hundred years old and probably horse or cow bones from the knackers yard or glue factory. Nice.



Bits of pottery I thought were valuable. Mary told me they were probably a few hundred years old and not much of anything interesting.



Lots of handmade nails and metalwork. Mary said there were thousand just like it.

The sole of a shoe with nails still in it. Mary made a sort of "engh" noise and handed it back.

Mary, we discovered, didn't get too excited by anything we showed her. But when I asked her about the most amazing thing she had ever found, well, blow me down, we couldn't shut her up. It was cool though because some years ago she had discovered, right in the spot we were standing, a human 15th Century skull which had shown signs of being operated on. A big hole in this mans brain which hadn't been the cause of death. Therefore Mary had found the earliest ever skull to show surgery and it now sits in the British Museum. After that story, we had a sudden burst of enthusiasm and then all meandered off for a drink and a scrub!

It was a brilliant day, fairly disgusting on my part due to failed equipment but I am not dead so that's a bonus.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The Russians have buggered off without me!

What I haven’t heard.

Nothing, not a peep. No email, no phone call, no letter, no text. Left to figure it all out for myself that I am not to be in the movie. The reason I know without knowing, if you know what I mean, is that the friend of my friend, who told me about the casting for Anna Karenina, has already heard. She got an email saying she was in it. I didn't. It’s not rocket science. It has, however, given me a bit of a buzz, a far-off glimpse at the lights and action so I may just try again!!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The Russians are coming

What I Did.

A few weeks ago a friend sent me an Open Casting Call for extras. The film being Anna Karenina. I have gone on castings in the past for adverts and theatre parts but never for a movie, so my friend and I decided to go. Even if we didn't get cast, we thought, the experience would be fun.

I started to get a little more excited when I googled the film and realised that this version of Anna Karenina was to be a big budget affair with big stars. Keira Knightly (she of the horsey underbite and porcelain skin) is cast as Anna and Jude Law as her long suffering husband Karenin. Aaron Johnson (young, handsome and scandelously married to old (journalist speak for 42!) artist Sam Taylor Wood) is to play the dashing Vronsky! Joe Wright directs and Tom Stoppard is writing the screenplay, so what I thought might be a small TV adaption, is actually quite a big deal.

I decided to get there early and woke up at 6:30 to get there for 8:30 with the casting beginning at 9:30. There were already about 60 people in the queue. I should rephrase that... in Britain and most of Western Europe, people know what a queue is and follow general queue etiquette. This was a casting for an adaption of a Tolstoy novel, therefore Russian, therefore a lot of Russians and Eastern Europeans had turned up. Russians and Eastern Europeans do not know how to queue. The first 60 of us happened to be British (obviously... early, well prepared with our coffee's and newspapers, in it for the long haul). We stood behind each other as we approached, the line slowly bending from the church entrance down the right hand side of the Church. At 9:30, the Russians began to arrive, took one look at this neat long queue and joined it at a right-angle. They joined at the bend in the line about 2 feet from the entrance! There were some very quiet (British after all!) cries of disgust and outrage and lots of harrumphing BUT we stayed silent and did nothing! I laughed as this old chap behind me said "Bloody Russians, you can't trust them!"

After about 10 minutes, the doors opened and we filed in. A woman came to the front of the queue and asked if all the professional musicians and classically trained singers could come forward. So suddenly a surge of people came forward. My early start became redundant pretty fast BUT it was also obvious that half the people surging to the front were not what they said they were, they were just queue jumping, again! The poor casting director kept asking "are you trained?" as each one came to the front and there was lots of shrugging and frowning as she realised many didn't speak much English. "I hope you're all telling the truth" she said half heartedly, laughing nervously "I don't want there to be any in-queue fights". Too late for that love!

3 hours later I was at the front of the queue, ready to meet Joe Wright himself. This is quite unusual... a Big Wig director spending time with the extras. I also think I was one of the only people to know it was him, only because I had googled him! I think if you lined up half the famous directors in front of you, you wouldn't recognise them. So there I was, in the chair next to Mr. Wright with 7 others. He turned to me first and said "right, tell me your name, where you're from and how you heard about today". I said "My name is Juliet. I'm originally from Hampshire but live in London and I heard about today from a friend at the BBC". Joe looked slightly puzzled, wrote my name next to my number in his notebook and sort of stuttered a "right, well, thanks, um, yup, thanks, ok and next". Blimey, not quite the reaction I expected. However, it became increasingly clear as he went around the room that I was the only Brit in my group. There were Polish Doctors, Russian writers, Czech singers... even a microbiologist from the Ukraine. Joe was fascinated with all of them, asking them about their countries', their hobbies and was furiously scribbling notes the whole time. Entranced he was. I thought, bugger this, and so as we left the room, I turned to him and said "It was a pleasure to meet you. You only have another 1000 or so to see" and giggled. I know, I know, I have no modesty, blatantly sucking up to the director but I thought best say something else as I was sooooooo unimportant! We then went to have our measurements taken and the costume woman said "Oh, you're English." Oh no. She then explained to me that the casting call was supposed to have gone out to Russian and Eastern Europeans only. Oh no, no wonder the director thought it a bit odd that I was Juliet from Hampshire. He was looking for eastern bloc, not home counties!! 

So, I'm not so sure I'll get a part but it was an amazing experience anyway, seeing the process and meeting a famous director. My only two saving graces are that one woman approached me speaking Russian so she must have thought I looked like one of them; the other is that most of the women there were young, tall, thin and beautiful. They must need an older, fatter average one, especially to bulk out the crowd scenes!!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

First Date Hell

What I Read.

I have recently discovered a hilarious website called: www.firstdatehell.com

Men and women sum up their awful first dates in one sentence. Genius. Here are a few of my favourites so far...

“went out with a guy who sent me a scanner pic of his penis the next day. Squashed against the glass, with his number written on it!”

“met guy at his flat, opened door in blue check fleece dressing gown and an electronic tag on his ankle, “Shall we just stay in?” he said.”

“I had one who pretended he was a widower! When I became suspicious he said “she's not dead *exactly*”?!

“I was once asked if I would, i quote “rub my bottom like mummy used to”.

“I had one who turned up, on a warm summer evening, in a huge arran jumper because he thought I'd like it, being Irish.”

“I bumped into my DAD on my date, who took one look at my 'date', looked at me and said, “you've got to be joking, Lorna”.


And just a few of my own...

On a blind date with a well dressed Greek bar owner, who whispered to me “You lucky lady, I'm wearing a pink G-string tonight”!

Out for a meal in a very smart restaurant, my date leant over my food, said "Ooh, yours looks good” and dipped his bread in my gravy.

Another blind date who had “no money on him” so I had to pay for everything and then kissed me goodbye three times as if pecking my face like a pigeon.

Out to dinner with a blind date with a man who used to be a sommelier and insisted on coming round to my side of the table and pouring my wine “correctly” EVERY single time my glass need refilling!

There are many many more but I will leave you hanging....

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Accident Prone

What I Did.

I have always been accident prone. Since I was a little girl, I invariably tripped over something, fell down something or bumped into something and nothing has really changed. I haven't grown out of it at all, in fact, my accidents these days seem to be far more extreme or unusual than the ones growing up. I know this because when I am sitting in Accident & Emergency describing what I have done to myself, I usually get laughter and incredulity from the Doctor, not sympathy.

A few of the things I have had to go to emergency for in the last 10 years are:

Falling off a pair of platform shoes and twisting my ankle.
Falling off stage whilst trying to entertain an audience of 3 and twisting my ankle.
Falling down a pothole whilst running alongside a friend's car and twisting my ankle.
Getting angry with a cupboard door and have it fall on my head, causing minor concussion.
Having a giant speaker fall on my head, at a gig, causing minor concussion.
Falling out of a tube train and breaking a bone a in my hand.
Yawning loudly and putting my neck out.
Sneezing and putting my neck out.
Sneezing, head-butting my computer screen and putting my neck out.
My osteopath athletically adjusting my neck (to fix the above) and dislocating my shoulder in the process.
Falling down stairs, breaking my fall by holding onto the handrail and dislocating my shoulder.

Last week, however, was one of my most bizarre accidents. I was trying to put a stopper into a large bottle of olive oil, at a friends house in Yorkshire. It was slightly greasy and I was struggling to hold it as I shoved with all my might. With a massive push, it suddenly slipped out of my hands, away from me and I punched myself in the chest with the recoil. I thought I'd just winded myself but a few days later, after walking with friends in the Lake District and wincing with pain every time I made a sudden movement, we realised it might be a bit more serious. My mother then came to the house, took one look at my forlorn face and took me to the A&E department at the local hospital. I was not only very embarrassed explaining what I'd done but to add to my discomfort, when the Doctor began to examine my ribs she said "Juliet, could you just lift your breast out of the way for me please?" Ok, things aren't as pert as they used to be! Humiliating...!

Prognosis.... I punched myself and broke my own rib! You can laugh, I can't, it hurts!

Monday, 22 August 2011

Undressed

What I Did

This morning, I went to my physiotherapy session. I fell down the stairs a few months ago and broke my fall by hanging onto a railing as I fell backwards down two flights. And yes, I was sober! I pulled my shoulder out and I have torn the tendons in my rotator cuff. It's not life threatening, just very uncomfortable. I thought nothing of it until the designers in my office kept calling me 'chicken wing', as I would adjust my shoulder without thinking, by tucking my hand under my armpit and doing a bent arm back crawl several times until my shoulder went back into the right place. Very amusing apparently. So as it kept locking up, I thought it better be looked at.

First I was sent for an MRI to see what damage there was. The MRI unit was run by a freelance hospital department and was set up in the basement of a disused hospital on the same floor as the morgue! It was also a Sunday and the place was totally deserted. A nurse appeared and said the place totally freaked her out. Good to reassure the patients, I thought! It wasn't until I was trapped in the tiny MRI tube that I suddenly realised.. Oh my God, if something happens to the nurse, no one will know I'm here. Also, you lose all track of time... I knew I would only be in there about 20 minutes but you can't tell if you've been in there 5 or 45 minutes. Just when I was about to press the panic button, thinking all the dead bodies from the morgue were converging on my room, the nurse pulled me out. Hideous!

So I am now booked in for 8 sessions of physio with a lovely tiny indian girl. The first session she wrote down a lot and gave me a few exercises with giant elastic bands but this morning she wanted to do more pressure and massage. She asked me to take off a layer and she would be back in a moment.

Now, I am used to going to my osteopath for treatment, a crazy Dane called Torben, who demands you strip off to your bra and knickers. He also works in a room that has one way mirrored glass... on the ground floor! It takes a lot of getting used to I can assure you... standing there in your undies with the whole world walking past. Of course, what's really off-putting is when people look in through the window and you seemingly make eye contact. They are actually looking at themselves, not you at all, readjusting their hair or something! Torben, of course, finds the whole thing hilarious. I decided to get my own back a year or so ago when I happened to be working near his office. I walked towards his mirrored window, stopped and waved frantically in front of it, mouthing "Hi Torben". Ha, ha, that poor person in his room must have had a fit!

Anyway, so this morning, used to states of undress, I just took off everything apart from my bra and pants and waited for her to come back. She opened the door, looked at me in horror and ran to the window. What I had forgotten was that I wasn't at Torbens', the window wasn't one way mirror and that I was standing, nearly naked in a ground floor room, with no curtains, by a main road with a queue of people waiting at the bus stop! I ducked down mortified. She looked at me and said "I only meant your cardigan!"

Friday, 19 August 2011

Close Up

What I Saw

I am very lucky to be working in an amazingly modern part of London, right on the river, in a studio seven floors up which has floor to ceiling glass all the way around the open plan studio. It's the building opposite HMS Belfast below.



Those of a delicate nature and sufferers of vertigo tend to sit in the middle of the room away from the drop! I'm here freelancing for about a month and I love walking through the reflective architecture, along the river, wandering amongst the tourists and the stressed city bankers. I also love that I am in jeans whilst everyone else that works in this building are sweltering in their suits and ties. I like that.. a lot!

This morning, however, I caught my reflection in one of the many mirrored building facades and I didn't recognise myself. I scanned back and forth and couldn't see me in the crowd. I thought, I've either turned into a vampire overnight or I look much different than I think I do. And then there I was. My God, it was a shock. I looked really short and fat, frumpy and grumpy and my head looked like a shrunken head hunters trophy! I didn't look like me. It was so strange because I thought I was very body aware and then I realised... I actually look much better close up, when you can only see bits of me. The whole of me in one go isn't all that great. If you dissected my body, there are several good bits... the eyes are good, the hair (when blow-dried) nice, shoulders ok, boobs not bad, skin good, bum big but pert-ish, move past the legs and the ankles and then the feet are ok too. So that is what I see in the morning. I do my hair and make-up in a small mirror, I get dressed and literally don't look at myself til I am about to leave the flat. That final mirror only shows my top half. Blimey! It was a revelation. I have the opposite to anorexia... when I look at myself in the mirror, I think I look better, slimmer, prettier than I actually am. Crap!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Wolfie

What I Saw

A few months ago I noticed a rather frail, old, ginger moggie lying on the pavement, not far from my flat. He seemed quite content but I was worried someone might just step on him. Over the next few days I saw him lying under bushes, then behind car wheels and even in the road and I thought.. Oh God, this cat is going to totally get squooshed or something. The next morning I saw a man stroking the cat and started talking to him. He said the cat did lie in odd places but he was quite spry and would move out of the way if there was danger. He said the owner was aware of his habits and not to worry. I obviously wasn't alone in being concerned because a couple of weeks ago I saw a notice stuck on the trees around my neighbourhood.

It said:
The old ginger cat that lies on the pavement is called Wolfie.
He is 22 years old. He is frail but healthy.
He is very well taken care of and is very happy.
Thank you for all your concern but please don't worry about him.

Then this morning I broke down on my way to the tube because I saw a new notice.

It said:
Have you seen Wolfie?
Our old ginger cat is 22 years old, frail but otherwise healthy.
He has gone missing and we are very worried and miss him.
Please call xxxxxxxxx if you see him.

Oh nooooo! Wolfie! I can't stop thinking about it and am going to go on a find Wolfie mission on my way home from work.