Thursday, March 23, 2006

Closed for Maintenance

Owing to the fact that we are moving house tomorrow, and that because of this I am in the throes of a complete mental breakdown, I won't be posting until at least April the 3rd (I probably won't be able to read any of your blogs either, but it doesn't mean I don't love you any more. You know I do. In a totally creepy sense). In the meantime, once you've popped over here to add to this week's round of congratulations by giving Patroclus a pat on the back (can we have badges that we can sew on our swimming costumes? Can we?), and here to speculate wildly on the state of Adam Rickitt's health, why not amuse yourselves by having a poke around in my archives? I've been going for nearly a year now, and it used to be quite good at the beginning, before laziness and introspection crept in. Leave any comments here though, so I know you've done as you were told. There might be a test when I get back*.

Oh, and if anyone is any good at flatpack, we're at number forty one.

* Relax. Even I am not that sad.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

On the occasion of my 200th post..

..I would like to share with you all an email I recently sent to Fifi. It was triggered by an innocent enough question - namely how, when I first started blogging nearly a year ago, did I get people to visit here? What follows pretty much sort of covers my perception of how this whole thing works. Feel free to agree or disagree. What you're not allowed to do is say nothing - this is my 200th post, and in the spirit of that everybody has to say something in the comments. Love me or hate me - regular, lurker or psychopath - at least tell me hello. Anyway, here it is:

"...I can't really remember. My friend gave me a link, and then you just basically trawl all the good blogs you can find and leave pithy, erudite comments so that people are fascinated by you and are drawn to your blog, where you have oodles of beautifully-crafted, snortingly hilarious things to delight them, so they comment, so you link to them (but PLEASE, only if they are good and NOT perpetual, stalking weirdos or anyone who is shamelessly whoring [you’re not because you really do like the blogs you comment on and you’re not one of those people who leaves generic comments just to drive traffic or anything and besides, it’s not just you who does it, is it?]), so they link to you, and it's all just beautiful and symbiotic (no idea what that means) and ooh.

And then, somehow, you appear to be Popular (inasmuch as upwards of twenty people pop by on any given day). And then you start to run out of things to say. So you obsess on a daily basis about what to post, and when to post it, and how many comments you get, and how many comments other people get, and why are they more popular than you despite being rubbish, and why won't that perpetual stalking weirdo STOP FOLLOWING YOU ROUND THE BLOGOSPHERE, and should you stop? Or keep going? Or be funny? Or tell your secrets? Or make it all up? But you carry on anyway because it's too late now - you're locked into it and you can't stop because you crave the attention, and you read somewhere that only 30% of bloggers carry on after three months and because you need to prove that you are able to stick at something, anything at least once in your life you resolve to carry on. And it's like a job now, but one you really enjoy, and you have to visit your favourite blogs every day and read everyone on your list and leave a comment because that's what they do for you and that's why you go back to them and comment and that's why they come back to you. And every so often you think "there are millions of blogs out there. I need to get out more," so you do, for a while, but it takes too long and is just too much effort so really, the blogosphere is tiny and you have this thing where even if you think you've struck out into a new area you bump into people you know (usually that perpetual stalking weirdo, which annoys you but you don't know why, because it’s not like you actually know this person, but still, the sight of them in the comments on your favourite blogs really, really irritates and you want to say something but you don’t because on the very verge of doing so you realise how weird it would make you seem) but it's all ok because these people are your online friends now which is sort of sad but really ok because apart from the mentalists (and you know in your black, secret heart that on somebody's list you are one of the mentalists) they're pretty cool and you have your in-jokes and your people you email behind the scenes who know your real name and then that makes you panic because can you trust any of these people? What if they out you and get you sacked? What if they want to meet you? What if you agree, and instead of the friendly mommy-blogger you were expecting, you unwittingly offer yourself up to the depraved clutches of a six-foot-seven psychopath called Trevor who has separation issues from his mother despite being forty three and before you know it you're headline news and people on Newsnight investigate blogging and shake their heads wisely and marvel at the stupidity of making friends on the internet and your family are devastated and slightly embarrassed at how lame you were and people set up blogs to discuss you and how lame you were and you live forever as an example of all that was wrong with people's social lives and emotional judgement in the early 21st century and your kids change their name so nobody will know they were related to you.....?"

Do you think I might be reading a bit much into this whole blogging thing? And if anyone can come up with a better name for it than the "blogosphere" (saying that makes me feel like I've crashed a fifteen year old niece's party and proceeded to do the Twist to the Black Eyed Peas) then please, let me know.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Here I go again...

....but not on my own*. Not this time.

I'm sitting here in what, by Saturday, won't be my living room any more. For the past eighteen months this flat has been a haven for me, the first place I called my own after leaving behind seven years of marriage to the Ex. When I first moved in here I would sit in the living room smoking spliffs and chatting with the Other Half on msn into the small hours, tentatively laying the foundations of our relationship even as I knew we could never be together in any real sense. The Other Half and I snatched moments here when we could, but they were always tinged with guilt and sadness, and he would always eventually have to leave. When he was gravely ill following his brain haemorrhage, I spent endless nights weeping on the sofa, making all sorts of deals with the universe that I would stick to if only he would live. He did, and as time passed and circumstances changed we made this place a sort of home for both of us as best we could, or wanted to. We've spent pretty much the last year living between his house and here, knowing that at some point in our future we'd make a real home of our own. This was years in the future, as far as I knew - there was much ground to be covered before any sort of move could be contemplated. Small Person has always got on famously with the Other Half, but I knew that he would really have to be sure before committing to living with us, and I just didn't let myself think further than the immediate future.

But the time became right sooner than we thought. We saw the house and fell in love with the house and bought the house and now it's the week we move and, desperately excited though I am, my feelings are mixed. The Ex systematically ground every ounce of independence from me and I don't want it to happen again, even as I know damn well it won't. Since moving here I've loved the freedom of deciding what I want to do, and when I want to do it. I've chosen my own path and, for the most part, I've loved doing so. Small Person and I have become extremely close as a result, and that is invaluable to me. In my rational mind I know that living with the Other Half will be like closure for me. I've found my soulmate, the man I am meant to spend the rest of my life with and I can't wait to get started. He loves me unconditionally and would never dream of telling me what I could or couldn't do. My life will remain unchanged, apart from the fact that I will be sharing it every day with the two people I love most in this world. So why am I so scared?

I've thought a lot about this over the last week or so, and it comes down to this: I am afraid of what we have being subsumed into the conflicts that living together can bring. I am afraid that the things the Other Half loves about me won't be able to outweigh the things that will drive him mad. In short, I don't want the love that we have to be overtaken by bitching about who puts the bins out, or whether it's my turn to put the laundry away this week. I of course understand that there will be an inevitable settling down; I just want to put it off as long as possible. I don't want to go from being his escape from day to day life, to being the reason he needs to escape.

What I'm trying to say is that I'm scared. It's going to be okay though, right?

* I was going to footnote my apologies to Whitesnake for ripping this lyric off, but since David Coverdale hasn't yet apologised to me for the 1987 remix album I don't think I'll bother.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Hello Dolly

I’ve made no secret (despite being deeply ashamed) of my love of brightly-coloured “real life” magazines.

You know the ones. The ones with stories from grim-faced Barnsley women, documenting how they thought the convicted killer they were dating was a changed man, until he beat them senseless and set fire to the house. They have hilarious problem pages, top tips that are as baffling as they are unhelpful, and a penchant for graphic descriptions of the horror of other people’s lives. And I love them. I couldn’t really explain why – it’s sort of there-but-for-the-grace-of, car crash reading I suppose. So there you go.

A feature of a lot of these magazines (which might go some way towards illustrating their target demographic) is the adverts on the back for eerie “new-born” dolls. There’s a lot of waffle in the small print about “collectors” and “Doll Professionals” (what on earth qualifies someone to describe themselves as one of those is, thankfully, beyond me), but I can’t help but think that there’s more to it. I can only assume that these are also designed to appeal to childless spinsters living in beige eternity with elderly parents. Or people who aren’t quite brave enough to go baby shopping on their local maternity ward. Whatever. These things are seriously fucking creepy. And the accompanying copy doesn’t go any way towards dispelling the equally disturbing images of either over made-up, coiffed, middle-class sixty-somethings gathering in Argos-furnished lounges to ooh over the latest collector’s edition, or of emotionally damaged women cooing over plastic babies in gloomy, depressing bedsits the length and breadth of the country. Hang on, those are pretty much the same thing, aren’t they? Anyway:

“Grace is the very first “Early Arrivals” vinyl doll. She is amazingly true to life, from her soon-to-be-patented RealTouch™ vinyl skin to her hand–applied hair*. Once you see her, touch her, hold her and love her, you’ll be convinced she is So Truly Real”.

Brr. Not much there to suggest that this is anything apart from some pretty cynical marketing designed to appeal to women who, for whatever reason, need a doll in their life that is (apart from being cold and not um, breathing) extremely lifelike. I just don’t get it. Something like this would have me terrified that I would wake up in the night to find it perched on my chest, pulling a wire tight around my throat and hissing. Small Person has an enormous plastic doll (which she christened Big Heavy Baby, and who has subsequently come to be known as the Notorious BHB) which she once left face down in the middle of the living room floor. Before my mind could rationalise what it was seeing, it simply screeched “there’s a dead baby on the floor! A dead baby!!” and it took me twenty minutes and a chocolate digestive to recover. So anyway, I am not good with dolls. Or clowns. Or puppets. It’s just wrong.

In other news, I am packing like a woman possessed and enjoying my last Sunday listening to the neighbours bellowing death threats at each other via the medium of their kitchen window.

I’m going to sort of miss living here.

* Hand-applied hair?? That's gruesome.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The one without a title. Because I have a hangover.

So, that’s it then. No more comfy mornings with the Lovely Nurses at the phototherapy department.

I’ve had my last cup of tea, turned up for work an hour late for the last time, and am cursing my ill-judged decision last week to tell my boss that my treatment was finishing today. Nobody would have been any the wiser and I could have had an extra hour in bed twice a week for the rest of my life. Bugger. I’m going to miss the Lovely Nurses, with their innocent smiling angels-of-the-NHS faces and their foul-mouthed invective. Seriously. I would never have guessed that language like that could be heard at my local hostipal, but Lovely Nurse #1 (the one who makes cups of tea and bitches about Madonna with me) has a tendency to swear like a docker on a three-day bender at the slightest provocation, and Lovely Nurse #2 (the one who presses the buttons on the complicated machine and who sometimes forgets about me, forcing me to sit helplessly in school-chemistry-lab safety goggles while other patients smirk at me from the corridor) has got quite a temper once provoked on, say, funding in the NHS, or noisy neighbours, or her boiler. Shocking. But it’s all over now. The end of an era. The treatment was magical and I don’t need to go back. But I will pop in from time to time to have a cup of tea with the Lovely Nurses. I will do this until they move the phototherapy department and take down all the signs so that I don’t know where it is any more. And then I will track them down, and find out their home addresses, and peer through their letterboxes at three o’clock in the morning (on alternate nights, obviously), until they promise to take me back on as a patient so that I can get two hours off work every week. Forever.

Oh, and the man in the hostipal car park? The one who blocked me in and then snorted derisively when I asked you to move, as if I was being a ridiculous girl for not being able to reverse my car out BECAUSE YOURS WAS IN THE WAY? You’re a fucking twat. I hope your wife leaves you and your house burns down. Twat. And you look really fat in those trousers.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Surly Girl: Now in her 34th* Award-Winning** Year

Happy birthday to me,
Happy birthday to me,
Now I am thirty thre-ee, (you have to stress the “am” otherwise it won’t scan)
Happy birthday to me.

Gifts and compliments (particularly those relating to how I don’t look a day over twenty five) in the comments box, if you don’t mind.

*awaits barrage of insults*

* Before you start, this does make me thirty three, not thirty four. Honest.

** Yes, award-winning:

  • Spacehopper Race (2nd, 1978)
  • Country Dancing Badge (Brownies, 1981)
  • Bronze Lifesaver Award (1982)
  • Featured on page eight of the Maldon and Burnham Standard for breathtaking performance in lead role of “Runaways”, (ill-advised school play written and scored by fourth year music teacher ) “….Surly effortlessly captured the ennui and frustration felt by every member of the audience as this stilted embarrassment lurched helplessly towards its disappointing conclusion” (1988)
  • F grade German GCSE (1989)
  • Lowest Score Ever Recorded (3%) on an AAT Exam Paper (1990)
  • Best Heckling at an Amateur Performance of the Rocky Horror Show (Civic Theatre, 1993 - “…fuck you!!” to the Narrator on being told to sit down and shut up owing to being drunk and irritating)
  • Forklift Licence (Reach Truck, 1998)
  • Largest Ever Library Fine that Doesn’t Result in an Amnesty from the Library and an Amusing Story on Page Nine of the Daily Express (£32.60, 2005 – present)
  • So shut up.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Public Service Announcment

Owing to my sister Fifi's total lack of self-worth*, today I am plugging her new blog.

Fifi's Celebrity Poems. I need say no more - they speak for themselves.

There. Now leave me alone**.

* You know I love you really.
** Don't, though. Ever.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Oh, whatever, part 2

I've spent the day trying to think about what on earth to write today.

Well, I tell a small lie. I did post something, then decided it was depressing and futile and took it down again. I think my days of the real hardcore confessional blogging (ooh, imagine the site engine hits that will generate) might be behind me*. Anyone who has sat through a thousand word dissertation on How My Mother Has Ruined My Life will now be breathing a fervent sigh of relief and thanking the lord that I've cheered up a bit. I don't know how this shift in perspective has come about. I think it's because the more time I spend in the blogosphere, the more aware I am that there is any amount of turgid waffling out there; people with genuine stories to tell that they are totally unable to stop telling**. It's all very well using your blog as a platform, but the idea of catharsis is a pretty valid one and lord knows that if I can stop banging on about what a fuckup I am, you can shut up for five minutes about your problems. Let's all just, oh, cheer up a bit, shall we?

Let's make a deal. Next time we think about posting something introspective for the fortieth time, why not just tell knock-knock jokes instead?

Knock knock.....

* Please immediately forget I said this. I may need to vent at some point about how my Kindergarten teacher, Mrs Randall, was a child-hating witch and scarred me emotionally at the age of four, thus rendering me unable to formulate effective same-gender relationships and turning me into the stunted emotional cripple that I am today. Oh, and how I've never liked runner beans but my Mum used to make me eat them anyway. Scarred, I tell you....

** I am generalising wildly at this point, and doing that thing where you project what you hate about yourself onto random strangers, or people that you actually quite like and who make you feel small by externalising their problems rather than obsessing constantly over trivia from their pasts. Please pretend you haven't noticed, and consider me a thoughtless witch instead. It's easier that way.

Monday, March 13, 2006

La la la, I'm not listening

So, we finally got a moving date. 24th March. That’s next Friday.


Not that I’m panicking or anything. I don’t even know what I’m panicking about, I just am. Despite the fact that I’ve known since November that I would be moving, I’ve hardly done anything in terms of actually getting ready to do just that. And now it’s next week. I know that once I get started I’ll be fine, but I am the world’s greatest procrastinator and, as such, am completely failing to get my arse in gear. It’s simple really. All I have to do is change my address with the ninety million people that need to know. Then it’s just packing eighteen month’s worth of single-mother living into various bags, boxes and random receptacles, accepting that I will just have to give all my furniture and white goods to the local re-housing charity because nobody wants to buy them but hey, it’s only money, right?, and reassuring a stressed out almost-six year old that it’s all going to be fine, while not having a nervous breakdown myself.

I don’t know what I’m worrying for.

La la la.....

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Oh, alright then.

I don't do memes. I don't even know how to pronounce the word.

However, since it's Sunday, and since I am feeling generous (and because I can't formulate my intended post about Celebrity Crushes I Have Suffered owing to stress over moving house on the 24th. Why can't I seem to start getting organised? Why must I leave everything to the last minute?), I have graciously decided to respond to Bela's request that I let you all into the weirdness that is me, and detail five weird habits or peculiarities that I have. I am also scared that if I don't, Bela will slap me and I will cry like a girl.

So, how to narrow it down to five? Here goes nothing...

1) I have to put my right sock or shoe on before the left. I cannot emphasise enough how important it is that I do this. If, for some strange reason, I do left-before-right, I have to take the shoe/sock off and start again the correct way. I know this is not rational. I know it makes me a special. But I can't help it.

2) I worry about parking. Seriously. I worry a lot. When I go to the hostipal I fret about whether or not I will be able to park. When I go shopping I am concerned that I will have to leave my car miles away from the store, or that I will not be able to park at all and will be forced to return home bereft of tragic magazines and wine. When I take the Beast to the car wash, I spend the entire journey through the scary-spinning-brush-thing in a low-grade panic that there will be no spaces next to the giant hoovers and that I will have to sort of lurk hopefully, getting in everybody's way and potentially causing an accident.

3) I sometimes spell my name wrong.

4) I am unnaturally specific about washing the dishes*. It is vital that the rules are adhered to. Glasses first, and they are to be rinsed under the running hot water. Small Person's drinking vessels are to be placed on the drying rack, and must not sit directly on the draining board. Cutlery must soak while the plates are washed. Plates must be washed in strict size order. Biggest first, graduating down to side plates. It is vital that they are placed on the drying rack in strict size order, biggest at the back, graduating down to side plates at the front. If the washing-the-plates part should somehow generate an out of sequence plate, plates already in the rack must be moved one slot backwards in order that the sizes run in the correct order. Then it goes cutlery, utensils, pots and pans. Please do not attempt to wash the dishes out of sequence as I will be irrationally compelled to do them again.

5) I am secretly convinced that I can control the actions of other drivers when I am in my car. If I am stuck behind a doddering, nightmarish pensioner who is driving at nineteen miles an hour when I am late for an appointment, I simply stare intently at their indicators and lo, they take the next available turning. I have made them do this using only the power of my mind. Fact.

So, there you go. Please believe that, given about fifteen more hours to think about this, I could have extended this list into the thousands. In fact, I could probably set up a side blog entitled "Reasons Why I am Weird", post a new thing every day and not run out of inspiration until, oh, 2098 or so. If you want to be tagged, then you're tagged. If you think I am mental, please keep it to yourself and do not arrange an intervention. Oh, and can I just add a number six (ever the rebel)? I really, really like hoovering.

* On reading this back, I may arrange my own intervention. Does anyone have Beechy Colclough's** number?

** Can that really be a real name? Come on....

Thursday, March 09, 2006

I'm just a teenage dirtbag, baby

Tickets for Iron Maiden go on sale next Friday.

When I was nearly fifteen I started going out with my friend’s brother’s friend. He was eighteen, and I thought he was the absolute pinnacle of what a teenage girl could hope for in a boyfriend. He was unsuitable - from his long hair to his ripped jeans, from his motorbike (I use that term loosely – it was a CG125 in middle-aged grey and burgundy) to his job on a pig farm. His parents were well-off and owned a sprawling farmhouse in rural Oxfordshire, and he was happily rebelling against going into the family roofing business. I presume his parents were happy to indulge him for a few years, secure in the knowledge that the threat of no inheritance would steer him back onto the right track at some point. When he wasn’t parping sedately around on the CG, he would use his rusted-to-within-an-inch-of-its-MOT Vauxhall Chevette (which had its wings stuffed with newspaper and weatherproofed with parcel tape) to visit me in rural Essex. He introduced me to dope, cheap cider, motorbikes and rock music. As you can probably imagine, my mother hated him. This was a huge part of the appeal.

When I was fifteen and a half, our relationship was abruptly curtailed.

We’d spent the summer hanging around with a huge group of friends. We all camped out most weekends in a field on the outskirts of the village, riding knackered old mopeds around and smoking huge joints. On the weekends that my friend’s parents were away, all sixteen or so of us would stay there instead. We’d eat the place bare, have sprawling, rowdy parties and engage in panicky clean-ups the day they were due back. One memorable weekend, someone managed to spill a five litre tub of emulsion down the stairs (they were the ones with gaps in between [I don’t know what the proper word is] ), covering stair-carpet, hall carpet and a very surprised dog in white-with-a-hint-of-peach. That took some clearing up, but we got away with it*. I loved that summer – things at home were very bad indeed that year, and any chance of escape was seized upon.

When it all fell apart, it did so in style. I’d been to stay at Boyfriend’s parents’ house for the weekend. Well, that was where I was supposed to have been staying. In reality, one of his friend’s parents had gone away and we were staying there. In a fit of teenage pique (which if I’m honest was actually a total crisis brought on by the circumstances at home) I decided I wasn’t going back. I rang my mother to tell her, and she flatly stated that if I wasn’t home by the Tuesday morning I would come home to find all my things on the doorstep. I didn’t care. Really. However, my mother subsequently panicked and went through my room to find a contact number for Boyfriend’s parents. She found it, along with some, ahem, revealing correspondence and all hell broke loose. We were tracked down by his sister and hauled before Boyfriend’s parents. Six o’clock the following morning saw us hurtling back to Essex in the Chevette to face the wrath of my mother. It was not pretty. I was consequently grounded until my sixteenth birthday which was a whole six months away. During these six months, a different group of friends (and, in retrospect, a more suitable one) were going to see Iron Maiden in concert and I’d been really, really looking forward to going with them. I didn’t though. Oh no. My mother spent three weeks threatening me with being put into care, being sent to live with my father (he declined, unsurprisingly) or just being kicked out. Anything would have been preferable to the house arrest I was placed under when, having been allowed out for a couple of hours on a subsequent Saturday I met up with Boyfriend, was grassed up by a neighbour and ended up being kidnapped by my own parents from outside the corner shop. Seriously. The car screeched up, I was bundled into the back and taken home, whereupon my parents announced that they were going out for the evening. So they locked all the doors, locked all the windows, removed all the phones and did exactly that. I contemplated setting the house on fire to make them feel guilty** but decided that was a bit too drastic, even for me. I (grudgingly) rode out the remaining months of my grounding, and paid them back when I was sixteen and allowed out again by promptly choosing an even more unsuitable boyfriend. They upped the stakes considerably by simply moving to the next county and not inviting me to go with them, and so began the really eventful years.

I’ve still never seen Iron Maiden. Whenever anyone mentions them playing live it reminds me of the story I’ve just told you. And you know the worst part? The very worst part? It was eighteen years ago. Eighteen. Years. Ago. I work with people who weren’t born when this happened. So, I am very much looking forward to being one of the old gits at Earls Court in December. And I can’t think of a better way to see them than in the company of the Other Half. Bollocks to being fifteen. Being fifteen was fucking rubbish. Nearly thirty three is way, way better.

* We got away with a lot. I dread Small Person becoming a teenage girl, and will never, ever leave her alone in the house for more than half an hour at a time until she is twenty four thirty seven and has learned the value of other people’s property.

** What?? I was fifteen! Don’t tell me you never thought about setting the house on fire.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Mats: my thoughts

It’s been a troublesome sort of day.

Despite the fact that, as far as I can tell, we appear to have imagined buying a house (still no completion date and I am convinced that the whole thing has been an elaborate hoax), I am nevertheless compelled to spend my working hours trawling the internet for all manner of household items. Today has been frustrating. I have ordered the wooden duckboards for the shower room and bathroom (I am firm in my belief that bath mats have no place in a carpeted bathroom, and we are having a carpeted bathroom as the purchase of the house has bankrupted us so spectacularly that we can’t afford tiled floors for oh, about twenty years or so), sourced some rather lovely linen baskets and worked out that towels for the whole house will come in at the bewildering price of ninety five pounds. But still, one item eludes me.

Pedestal mats for the loo are, I will concede, horrid. They put me in mind of loo seat covers, and crinoline ladies who perch atop the cistern protecting the modesty of any visiting clergymen or members of the WI from the shameful sight of the spare loo roll, and sickly lavender air fresheners. They are horrid. But again, with the carpeted bathrooms, and the Small People, and the boys who can’t just wee in the loo, oh no, and why would they when there’s a whole room full of absorbent floor covering to sprinkle, I feel that a mat of some sort is a necessity. Something very plain, the same colour as the carpet, that can be popped through the wash every so often, thereby effortlessly reducing the possibility of the bathroom carpet attracting tomcats and homeless people. Easy, you might think. With the whole world only a Google away, surely such an item (or three items, in this case) can be easily procured.

Well, you’d be wrong. I can have bath mats. There are millions to choose from. Fluffy ones, rubber ones that look like manhole covers, ones with seashells, or beach huts, or feet, or (worryingly, given my propensity for irrational fears) sharks on them. Mats to go next to the bath, in the bath, in the shower; gazillions of them. Pedestal mats though? Not a hope. In the whole, entire world of online shopping I found less than ten. Of these meagre pickings, all except one came as part of a set with a bath mat. As we have established, I don’t need a bath mat. I especially don’t need three bath mats, and I refuse to buy them in order to also acquire a pedestal mat. The one that came by itself bore the legend: “Beer. Good To the Last Drop”, and I really don’t think it would lend anything to the oasis of taste and restraint that our house will be. So, what the hell do I do now?

You have no idea how sorry I am for making you read four hundred and eighty-nine words about how I can’t find a mat to keep piss off the carpet. But still. Any ideas?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Oh, whatever.

I don’t do politics.

I mean, I vote and all that, but I don’t do politics, in the same way that I don’t do washing the car, or listening to the Ex talking about Land Rovers, or cleaning the oven. Oh, and when I say I vote, I don’t base it on anything, well, concrete or anything.

It’s just one of those things that I can’t be bothered to think about. I’m not built to take in lots and lots of information and then process it to make a decision. Really. It can take me up to half an hour of protracted discussions to decide what to cook for dinner, so politics is a bit of a non-starter. Even in my dreadlocked, anti-Criminal-Justice-Bill days, I only ever went on one demo, and that was a really small one in Chelmsford and all that happened was that my friend was threatened with arrest for saying “fuck” in conversation, and we had a bit of a sit-in by the bus station. The whole thing descended into farce when the police cordoned the road off in an effort to get us to disperse. They hadn’t bargained on the desire of a hundred or so stoners to get to the pub, however, and we just cut through the bus station concourse and ended up behind them while they pretended not to notice (I think they wanted to get to the pub as well). And that was pretty much the sum total of my political activism, apart from going on the legalise cannabis march in London in 1998. And I can’t tell you anything about that because I started drinking cider on the train at 8.30am.

So there you have it. I am the sort of person who, when a political item appears on the telly, reaches for Heat magazine to catch up on what’s hot on the red carpet this week. I felt a bit sorry for Charles Kennedy, but only because he seemed quite nice. I don’t care who has replaced him. It’s not to say I don’t have opinions, or a sense of justice and fairness; it’s just that I can’t readily translate that into a political framework. I don’t know the difference between Republicans and Democrats. I’m not clear on what some woman’s husband may or may not have done with some money that a man may or may not have given him. If I stumble across a blog that starts going on about bills, and statutes, and why a thing is wrong and another thing might be better I click away until I find something comforting and easy (or, if I’m really unlucky, Piggy and Tazzy). I could probably pick the Prime Minister out of a line-up, but that’s the extent of it. It’s all a bit beyond me and I can’t be bothered to bring it within reach.

I know this makes me a bad person. I know I am wasting the freedom that comes from living in a democracy, that oppressed nations throughout the world would leap at the chance to choose a leader within an agreed and ratified political system. I know this, but, if I may indulge my inner thirteen-year-old for a second, it’s so boring. And don’t huff, or tut, or bemoan my pathetically short attention span. It’s just not my thing. We’re all different, you know. You might find a bordering-on-personality-disorder obsession with Robbie Williams boring. You might say it makes me shallow. I’m not asking you to read Jackie Collins novels, or own The Sound of Music on dvd, or enjoy going to the zoo. So don’t ask me to care about the state of the nation or the future of all our children. It just makes you selfish, and nobody likes that in a person.

Monday, March 06, 2006


It's my birthday next week. I won't be having a party.

I only ever had one birthday party as a child (I know, the violins....). It was my sixth birthday and I invited everyone in my class. I remember sitting in the armchair at the end of the living room as my classmates piled presents onto my lap, thinking what a great deal this was and how I'd make sure I had a party every year. Our living room had a through route via doors at either end, and we all had a fabulous time doing high-speed circuits in pursuit of my brother even as my mother winced and had visions of eyes being gouged out on the corner of the dining room table. The afternoon culminated in my brother leaping over the upstairs banister with seventeen hyperactive six year olds in hot pursuit and I never had another birthday party. Ever.

I'm too old for parties these days. I'm too old for everything, pretty much. Turning thirty-three sucks. Totally sucks.

I am not coping well with the whole getting-old thing. Can you tell?

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Syntax Error. No change there then.

The first time I touched a computer was when I was nine. Or ten. I forget.


It was an Acorn BBC B. My primary school, in a Tomorrow’s World-induced fit of technological advancement, had invested in one in order to drag the fourth, fifth and sixth formers into the brave new world of programming and, well, playing Chuckie Egg, for the most part. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen a computer though. Oh no. An acquaintance of my stepfather, a man named Dennis (and he really was a Dennis, from his little round glasses to his side parting), had some sort of home computer which was invaluable (as demonstrated to us en famille one Sunday afternoon) for things like cataloguing the contents of the freezer, or running pointless programmes to establish whether there would be more foxes or more rabbits in fifty years’ time. Armed with this knowledge, the school computer didn’t frighten me in the slightest. It was hardly likely to, mind you, since it had the processing power of a toaster and all the mystique of a game of Operation. The acronym “IT” was still light-years away, and computer classes had a rather more prosaic approach towards teaching us the fundamentals of programming. I can’t be the only one who has typed in a variation on:

20 GOTO 10

and giggled helplessly as a lurid green screen proclaiming whatever shortcoming you cared to enter flashed endlessly even as the teacher approached and you tried (and failed) to remember which button made it stop. I remember an endless, pointless project which involved drawing a picture on graph paper, plotting the coordinates and then plugging them into the computer. It took about three weeks, and, since I’m not very good at a) plotting coordinates or b) being arsed to do something properly mine was rubbish, to say the least. I didn’t care though, as I was in the computer club, and therefore had the ultimate privilege of being able to sit in the Science room of a Thursday lunchtime playing either the aforementioned Chuckie Egg or Hunchback until my eyes went swimmy.

Shortly after this we took delivery of our own home computer. I wanted a Spectrum ZX81, as it had squashy blue keys and JetPac. Sarah Finn had a Commodore 64 with Hovver Bovver and Frogger on it. But no. What we ended up with was probably actually a rung down the evolutionary ladder from the BBC B. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Dragon 32. Seriously. It had a whopping (as the name suggests) 32k memory, a great big plug-in thing on the side for games cartridges and the streamlined looks of a nineteen-forties typewriter. We didn’t care though. It came with Space Invaders, and Pacman, and a version of Backgammon that you could never, ever win at because it cheated. My stepfather spent an unrivalled six hours trying to complete Space Invaders one Sunday, and only gave up because of the blister on his thumb from the “fire” button on the yoghurt-pot-cocktail-stick combination that passed for the joystick. The entire family spent about three years failing at an infuriating text game called “Calixto Island”. I recently downloaded this just to see the solution, and it was so vague that I’m not surprised that our collective efforts failed. For no reason that I can recall, I once spent five weekends typing in the programme that made the computer play “Greensleeves”. Badly. For about two minutes. Fucking thing.

These days, I am awed by Small Person’s grasp of technology. At my mother’s house, she will ask Nanny if she can go on the computer. She can switch it on, connect to the interweb, go to the (execrable) CBeebies page and browse to her heart’s content. By the time she is into essay and composition writing at school, I’m sure the majority of it will be done on the PC. She’s lucky in some respects to be growing up in an age where technology is so prevalent. But where’s the mystery? Where are the things that she can discover for herself, without stumbling across things that aren’t meant for small eyes and minds? For her, it’s in books. For the time being, she’d rather read books than surf the internet. And that’s fine by me.

Now, do please excuse me. Only I’m trying to get to level six of the 1984 Radio Shack version of Donkey Kong, and I keep getting squashed by jerky, pixilated barrels. Bastards.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Sometimes it's better not to share

I have a horror of the floors in swimming pool changing rooms.

Small Person loves swimming, and I have promised to take her on Sunday. This will be fine, until we are out of the pool and getting dressed. At this point, I become obsessed to the point of nausea with the slimy, dirty floor I am forced to stand on while drying off. Other people's shoes, other people's feet, that faint smell of wee, the thought of that gutter filled with stagnant crud that runs through the middle of the changing rooms and that people sometimes, unfathomably, are happy to let their children paddle in. It all conspires to give me the creeping horrors and by the time I pull my socks on I am frantically thinking about puppies, or spring flowers, or baby lambs in an effort not to go shrieking through the communal change area, waving my arms above my head and retching.

This general ooginess about other people's slime extends to jacuzzis at gyms or public swimming pools. There is something unpleasant about the thought of sitting in an overwarm stew of other people's pubic hair and toenails. I have no idea why anyone would choose to do it, and it finally seems that the scientific community agrees.

You might want to finish eating before you have a look here.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Warning: contains gender-specific stereotypes

I am in a spectacularly bad mood.

It’s a combination of things. I am tired. I am extremely bored. I am reading a new book and would rather be at home on the sofa with it than here, surrounded by bleating, worthless idiots who are unswerving in their dedication to their collective cause of irritating me. I am hungry. I am sick of cold weather, and of endless housework, and driving to work, and grocery shopping, and getting out of bed in the morning, and the noise my alarm makes, and that I can’t be bothered to change the noise my alarm makes, and EVERYTHING ELSE at the moment.

Of course, any man reading this would be swift to attribute my venomous state of mind to hormones. Ooh, women. All the same, aren’t they? Sweetness and light and then before you know it they turn into snarling, vicious rottweilers and sulk for three days because you forgot to tell them how thin they’re looking at the moment. I mean, it’s not like they’re dying or anything. And do you know what, boys? You’re absolutely bang on the money. Us girls, we’re a slave to it. And for all your banging on about how unfair it is that women get to blame their menstrual cycles for anything from a crying jag to murder, I couldn’t care less. For three days a month I am unbearable, even to myself. I spend a day shouting, then two days crying because I’ve shouted at everyone. And what’s my reward? Ooh, lucky me! I get to bleed for four days! Add to this the other trials of being a woman – the constant depilation, having to smell nice all the time, childbirth, the menopause, never having enough shoes, unrequited celebrity crushes, not being able to get the lids off jars, squealing at spiders - and you should think yourselves lucky. All you have to worry about is whether you can get another day’s wear out of your underpants and where your team is in the league, and I’m supposed to feel sorry for you because you once got a hard-on in Geography and Mr Jenkinson called you up to the board to draw an oxbow lake and everyone saw it and laughed at you for three years?

I don’t think so.

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