Saturday, 21 December 2013

Number 33 - In Which I Hide The Christmas Spirit.

Rows of spirits can either make a party that little bit better or so much worse. I expect some of you will look at the photo and think "mmm, I like a tipple of some/many of those on occasion." I wonder how many of you look at the photo and experience dread and dismay?

I do.

I have been known on occasion to have the odd tipple of Laphroaig after a long hard day, and on the rare occasions I do go out, I'll have a couple glasses of wine, a vodka lime, or a nice crisp G&T. I know my limits, I know that one or two drinks will give me enough of a buzz to enjoy myself, and I generally have cokes or soda water and lime in between alcoholic drinks, 1) because I hate hangovers and 2) because, frankly, it's cheaper. 

I know. What a sickening Miss Goody Two Shoes I am. 

But I live with someone who has a drinking problem, so the reason for my dread and dismay is that it's Christmas time again, and yet again, this holiday will be used as an excuse to be drunk for a good week and a half. 

"It's Christmas. What's wrong with having a drink at Christmas?"

"I have the Christmas Spirit, stop being such a miserable cow."

"For God's sake, why should I pace myself? It's the time to be merry and jolly!"

I've had those retorts thrown at me, and much worse over the years. But this year, my dread is early because Husband seems more belligerent than usual. He is miserable in his job, so drink is his crutch.

From June onwards, I put a little money aside each week. Nothing massive, just a few pounds here and there, in order to save a decent amount for Christmas. I am a small business owner who has noticed the pinch of recession in recent years, so I don't have the luxury of a regular income. I work hard, for much less than I'm probably worth. I know this is a similar story for many of my networking associates. 

As far as Christmas gift giving goes, I generally buy the majority of the gifts for my daughter, as well as whatever Husband wants, and also presents for all the nieces and nephews on both sides. I usually make the adults in both families something homemade: boxes of truffles, homemade mincemeat, christmas biscuits, non-alcoholic ginger wine. Or occasionally we will set rules like "only spend £5." It's long since been agreed that we spend the majority of our money on the kids in the family, as Christmas is really for them first and foremost. 

Husband just has to buy for me and his parents.

So this year, as usual, I have bought for everyone, including most things on Husband's list, (which is a bit specialised as he requires tools for his hobby which are not cheap). As my daughter is now in her mid-teens, she is at the stage where she doesn't really want anything. She already has a laptop, a fairly good phone, an iPod and a DS Lite. She hasn't asked for anything other than books, so I have bought her those, plus lots of little things that I thought she'd like. (If I totalled them up, it would probably come to £200 or so.)

Today, Husband asked me to buy a wreath for the door. I said I couldn't as I had run out of money. 

Cue RAGE as he found out I had no money left to buy the Christmas food; something I actually thought he was purchasing this year. (He got his Christmas wage on Tuesday, plus a bonus. And he says it has just about gone after rent, car tax, council tax and TV licence are taken off. And then he said, "So I haven't been able to get you anything much yet.")

I have just had to listen to him scream at me for the better part of three hours about how I could be so irresponsible and not check my bank balance. How I could have dared to invite my family up for Christmas when we now have little money left to feed them. How Christmas is essentially ruined by my  carelessness. And how did I expect HIM to pay for Christmas food when he NEVER has any spare cash at the end of the month, so why did I think this month was different? 

So I rang the bank and asked for an overdraft, which they kindly agreed to. 

(It is at this point where I need to point out that he earns twice what I do. Yet every month he needs a few quid for this and a few quid for that and can he borrow £20 for petrol, and he is out of tobacco and the world will end if I don't give him £10 immediately.)

But he spends £70 a WEEK on alcohol and tobacco. 

So, I worked out what we'd need to spend on food this week, to feed us plus an extra 5 mouths. It's about £160, including the massive turkey. And I wondered "why the rage, the food will be paid for?" Then I realised that it wasn't about food at all. His rage is because I haven't set aside any money for alcohol. 

So while I have been quietly scrimping and saving for 6 months to accrue money for Christmas, he has spent over £3500 on alcohol and tobacco alone. If he even halved this spend, he'd be £1700 better off a year. If he'd put that aside and saved like I have, we'd be eating like kings next Wednesday.

I hate being a penny pincher. But what I hate more is living with an alcohol-dependent person. He is selfish and self centred. He only thinks about how he will get his next drink. This is the third Christmas in a row he hasn't bought me anything because he had no money, which isn't a big deal, but it hurts, coming second to bottles of alcohol.

So I have very little Christmas spirit, if I'm honest, either literally or figuratively. I'm not looking forward to the next week, other than seeing my daughter open her presents, and seeing my sister, her family and my Dad on Christmas Day. It's been a tough month for him and this is the first Christmas without his mother. 

The bottles of wine and spirits I do have, given to me by clients, are hidden away. I hate not being able to freely enjoy one glass of something, because I know that the rest of the bottle will be drunk within 24 hours. I am so sick of living like this. But I don't know how to change it.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Number 32 - In Which I Return From The Bermuda Triangle

I haven't really felt like blogging recently, and nor have I managed to find the time.

One of my family members died recently. It wasn't wholly unexpected as she was nearly 90, but the deterioration from healthy to deathly was very fast. I suppose when it is your time, what is to keep you?

I wasn't present when she died, but my sister and mother were. My sister swears that the night before, she felt a draught and then felt someone touching her shoulder and noticed a strong smell of alcohol in the room. At this point, my mother apparently came back from wherever she had been and commented on the smell, asking my sister if she had been drinking. My sister said no and she says that she was struck with such an overwhelming sense of something that she didn't understand, that she burst into tears. At this point, my Grandmother stirred in her sleep/unconsciousness but held on, and the feeling in the room passed.

A day later, Grandmother died.

Grief is a funny, interesting thing. It seems to affect people in many different ways. My father became mean, vitriolic and belligerent, and frequently drunk. My sister is the highly emotional one, so she cried a lot. I suppose I am a mix of the two. I shed some tears despite being very sad, yet was more concerned with practicalities. What would happen to the house? (It is to be sold.) Did the burglar alarm work? (Yes.) Was the house and contents insured? (Yes.) Had my Grandmother expressed any particular wishes for the funeral arrangements? (No.) Did my father have power of attorney? (No.)

It fell to me to plan the funeral and to an extent, sort out my Grandmother's belongings. My father wanted to throw absolutely everything away after deeming it all crap and declared, "we are NEVER going to get this sorted."

Such negative finalities piss me off.

On a long journey: "We are NEVER going to get there." Of course you are.
In a car park: "We'll NEVER get parked." Of course you will, eventually.
After a relationship ends: "I'll NEVER get over him/her." Yes, you will.

Such defeatism. No need.

So, after my father declared that his mother's belongings, the story of hers and my Grandfather's life, was all shit, I stepped in. I made sure her clothes were bagged and donated to charity. I sorted through all her tablets and had them dropped off at the pharmacy to be disposed of. All her paperwork was either filed or shredded. I rang HMRC, the utility companies and the pension service. I spoke to the Registrar and the funeral directors and then to the vicar who would officiate the service.

In between all this, my Dad would have these mini meltdowns. The first time we went to her house, he walked into the living room and saw her chair, and dissolved into it, sobbing. For about 10 seconds though, then he would clear his throat, apologise and carry on doing whatever he was doing. Then it would happen again when faced with her Ventolin inhaler. And her kettle. And Dad's first birthday cards. And each time, he'd stop, apologise and carry on. And after each instance, he'd get a little more mean and a little more angry. We couldn't make him understand that crying was normal and he should't have to apologise, but he said that crying was a weakness and he had to be strong for my sister and me. We told him that was rubbish. He didn't listen and began to shout again. Every time.

He made it hard to discuss things. I began to resent him dismissing his mother's belongings as such trivial trinkets. They were not trivial to her otherwise she would not have kept them, certainly not after her husband, my Grandfather died.

In her things we found a photograph of her and my Grandfather, partying with Prince Charles in an opulent grand marquee.

Yep. Prince Charles.

It's hard to date it; Prince Charles looks young, so I reckon it was around the time he got married, in 1980 or 1981.

My Grandfather was decorated in the Navy and after leaving he was very high up in the then National Coal Board. He actually met Prince Charles another two times. We found photos of him shaking hands with Prince Charles and receiving medals and certificates.

I found menus from cruises they went on in the 80s and 90s. They dined with the Captain on most nights, and ate from lavish seven-course menus.

We found photographs of them in several different countries. I had no idea how well and far they had travelled.

When sorting through her clothes, we were stunned to find extremely expensive items of clothing, hats and jewellery which she hadn't worn in later years because she did not have the functions to attend that she did when my Grandfather was alive. She outlived him and most of their friends.

She kept newspaper clippings of things my Dad had done at school, accolades my Grandfather had won, and even articles about my sister and I when we won competitions at school.

We found our family genealogy that had been researched by a cousin of my Grandfather. To find that our Great Great Great Great Uncle ran off with gypsies when he was 12 made for interesting reading.

We found photos of her and my Grandfather when they were both in their teens; him in his Navy uniform of stripy top, white trousers and hat looking like Dean Martin; her looking like Margaret Lockwood with a teeny tiny waist and perfectly coiffured hair.

When alive, she and my Grandfather were private people. We would not have been allowed to rummage through her cupboards as we did now. But in doing so, we learned about them and gained a greater respect. She was proud of her family. This was clear from the things she saved. She was proud of her life, as each letter and photo and news article shed more light on the past. They lived well.

She was a classy, well educated lady and I'm proud I was related to her.

My tears came later. I was going through my own filing when I returned and came across a letter she had written to me when I was at University. In it, she wrote how proud she was of me, and how she and my Grandfather were close by if I ever needed to go and see them. She was appalled by the conditions of Halls, and how little we had to live on. She would send food parcels, money and recipes to help me out. What I rolled my eyes at 20 years ago, made me sob now.

Yesterday, my father called me to ask about my sister's account of what happened in the hospital the night before Grandmother died. Did I believe her? If I did, who did I think it was that came for her? Do I believe in a higher power?

We are not a religious family yet my father has found spirituality, but not necessarily comfort in believing that we are watched over by some higher power. He was telling me about some ancient texts from he Old Testament that had been found, in which describes a prophet that pre-dated Jesus by many years, who correctly predicted the fall of Babylon. (I assume he's referring to The Dead Sea Scrolls?) But he was certain that if something of such importance was accurately prophesied, then there must be someone or something on a higher plane that was giving the prophet these visions. And as a result, he believes that the rapid decline in my Grandmother's health was due to a "calling" from this divine being. He believes it was her time, and she was called to something akin to Heaven. I think he also believes that either her father or my Grandfather came to get her, which may explain the phenomenon my sister experienced.

I didn't and still don't have answers for him. I cannot and do not wish to believe that when we die, that's it. Nothing. We simply switch off and cease to be. It seems so final. At the same time, I wish I could wholly believe that the dead are always watching, looking down on us from some higher plane. I am inherently cynical, but quietly optimistic that after death, there is something else. There has to be.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Number 31 - In Which A Sandwich Leads To Highlander.

"That was lovely darling, but I have to go and save the world."

Most of the time I enjoy being British. We are, for the most part, fiercely proud, yet rarely are we braggarts about what makes us proud. We can also be particularly haughty about some things, yet utterly ridiculous about others. For example:

The Daily Mail (and its proclivity to thrive despite its utter vileness).
We are overly P.C. (As in Politically Correct, not Computer PC. Though I wonder what the ratio of PC to Mac is in this country? Hmm.)
We dislike making a fuss when things are wrong.
Sex is a dirty word.

I could wax lyrical (rant) about the first three, and I may one day, but tonight I want to talk about sex. And sex fantasies.


I want to talk about something that the vast majority of us do, have done, or will do at some point in our lives.

It's OK, you can admit it. Don't be embarrassed.

I had a meeting yesterday with a business associate. Both being professionals, the meeting started out very business-like, as you would expect:

                                        bottom line.

There we were in Costa, discussing marketing and PR over overpriced lattes and disappointingly dry cake. Then the conversation segued into TV. We talked about how clever yet emotionally manipulative Christmas TV adverts were. (Bear, Hare, Snowman, Snowgirl, awww bless, etc.) Then we got talking about Sky TV in particular. And then things got really interesting. We went from Sky Premiere movies to hit US TV shows, then the handsome actors and gorgeous actresses in these shows. And then:

"You know what I'd really love for Christmas? A Strike Back Sandwich."

Coffee may have been spluttered at this point.

"A what?!"

"A Strike Back Sandwich. Come on, you must have seen Strike Back, on Sky One?"

There was a nod and a wary grin as realisation started to dawn.

"All I can think about, watching those two guys, is what it would be like to be in between them. You know. In bed."

This was met with fascination, a touch of embarrassment and furtive looks to make sure the other customers hadn't heard and weren't about to call the Obscenity Police. Because women do not admit this kind of thing out loud. Do they?

Well, maybe it's time we did.

When I got home later on, I pondered on this tantalising revelation a little bit more and I think I understand why the idea of a hot sweaty threesome with the Strike Back guys is such a turn on. (OK, maybe the threesome element is somewhat unique, but stay with me.)

They are both handsome.
They are both sexy.
They are both physically fit.
They are both Special Forces.
They get dirty a lot.
They get beat up a lot.
They save the day.

I think this sums up most of what is going on in a lot of women's heads - HEROES ARE HOT.  The same reason James Bond is so attractive. The same reason romantic literature always favours the bad boy with a heart of gold. As long as the end-game is ultimately for the greater good (and this bit is important - this does not include serial killers or wife beaters or anyone genuinely evil, there needs to be a goodness deep down), women LOVE bad men. We love our men to get dirty and sweaty and take charge. Bonnie Tyler knew; she sang about it. I sing along to 'I Need A Hero' whenever it comes on the radio but never really absorbed the lyrics until now.

Is it primal? Is it genetic? Does it hark back to our cavemen days where a stronger man was more likely to survive and provide? I read one of Jill Mansell's latest books the other day, called "Don't Want To Miss A Thing", which sees the female protagonist date a boring but good guy, whilst massively attracted to her devilishly handsome (yet womanising) neighbour who inadvertently gets guardianship of his niece after his sister dies. And, as with all chick lit, it's obvious who she ends up with. I knew what would happen, but I read it anyway. The same as the sexy SciFi book I read before that. And the Paranormal romance before that. And I love them all.

Then I looked back on my past long-term relationships, short flings and one-nighters. And found something interesting. In real life, I have never actually stayed with the bad men. I've had flings and one-nighters with bad boys that have been incredibly intense, erotic and emotionally exhausting, but ultimately I settled down with the long-term guys who were and are a bit… vanilla.

So how come we marry the safe ones, but fantasise about the ones that have us orgasming multiple times but may ultimately break our hearts? And is there a way to maybe combine the two?

Could our safe guys be prompted to take a walk on the wild side once in a while?

Or could the bad boys be tamed slightly so we can safely marry them?

I married a safe one. He doesn't really like to be dominant in the bedroom. Out of the bedroom, I manage the household's money, I plan the meals, I walk the dog and I discipline the teenager. I am the one who arranges for tradesmen to visit when required and am here when they do and listen when they tell me why the boiler/water tank/electrical appliance has exploded. I fix the gadgetry. But if I suggest that he maybe takes charge once in a while, maybe gets a bit more raunchy in the bedroom (and how about pulling my hair or slapping my ass?) he usually bolts like a frightened rabbit. Quite the turn off.

Shit. Hang on. Am I the bad one in this relationship? Do men like bad girls; girls who take charge and who wear the trousers? Are we all going round, searching for a hint of danger and dominance in our partners, but in any relationship there can be only one, a bit like in Highlander?

Bloody hell, am I Highlander?

I've asked a lot of questions here, I know. But, my little Highlander worry aside, my point is this. The Strike Back Sandwich fantasy is just as viable a sex fantasy as a man using a porn mag or film to jack off to. The very purpose of a fantasy is to excite, tantalise and arouse. It may happen, but more than likely it won't, but either way does it matter the form a fantasy takes?  I'm not ashamed of having fantasies and I think we should be more open and honest about sex. Let's talk about it more and stop being so frightfully British. If it weren't for sex, none of us would be here and I wouldn't be worried about being an Immortal Macleod right now.

So: men - I'd like it if, every once in a while, you could run around in a vest and combat trousers, thwart a villain, diffuse a bomb and then shag me thoroughly senseless, any and every which way, in a hotel room. Somewhere exotic where the voile panels at the window blow slightly in the hot summer wind. Then pick up the dog poo in the garden, fill the car with petrol, put your dirty clothes in the laundry basket and please could you fetch me a curry?

If you'll indulge me in my fantasy, I'll do the same for you. I'll wear that really uncomfortable peephole bra you like - the one with the matching split crotch knickers. And yes, I'll bend over for you and provocatively bite my finger. Or, if it floats your boat, you can wear the kinky lingerie and I'll thwart the villain, diffuse the bomb and shag you senseless in a hotel room somewhere. Because we all need a hero every now and then.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Number 30 - In Which I Say I'm Doing NaNoWriMo.

Closely resembles my office. Except on my desk, there's whisky.

My very good friend and sometimes colleague, Karen, thinks I should give up the day job and write the novels I have been banging on about for the last ten years. Well, what she actually said was; "oh for heaven's sake, if you want to write, bloody well do it, but stop moaning about it!"

I've had stories in my head since I first read Enid Blyton's The Faraway Tree. At school, I'd rather sit by myself (in the woods behind the playing field) and read or imagine other worlds, than hang out with my friends. I suspect that's why a) I had no friends until I got to University, and b) I did so well in English Language and Literature.

As I've grown up, so too have the stories. The characters became more complex and the adventures became less innocent.

As it's November, and NaNoWriMo is a good focussing exercise, I thought I'd give it a go this year. My day job is quiet at this time of year so I'm lucky in that I have the time.

"Righto," I declared on 1st November. "Let's do this."

On 2nd November, it was the organised fireworks display in our town, so there was no way I'd be able to concentrate with all the bangs and flashes.

On the 3rd, I realised the kitchen was a bit messy. I gave it a good clean. Then I did the utility room, the downstairs shower room and had a sort through of all my cookbooks in the dining room. I have 106. (Possibly a few too many really.)

On the 4th November, I was feeling a bit under the weather so I ate a lot of comfort food and watched trashy telly until Husband complained. Husband is on annual leave, so when he isn't at work, I am expected to be off too. So no computer time for me. (Or trashy telly time either.)

On the 5th to the 9th, my mother was visiting. I got nowhere near the office but I introduced my mother to charity shopping. She bought two pairs of designer jeans for £7 and the first three Game of Thrones books for £5. She was delighted. (I have created a monster.)

The 10th was Remembrance Sunday. I had a church service and a procession to attend. I was surrounded by very handsome Army, RAF and Navy men.

In uniform.

(It felt wrong to have such lusty feelings in church. I'n fairly sure I'm going to hell.)

Yesterday was Armistice Day. I had a headache and Husband's Extended DVD Edition of The Hobbit arrived which he watched - all 14 hours of it. (My punishment for thinking impure thoughts in the House of God.)

And that brings us up to today. I made a concerted effort to get on with things today. I read an article about how to prepare yourself and your workspace for the writing process. I gave my desk a good fettle, by moving the pile of invoices from one part of the desk to the other. I was also inspired by Alexandra Brown's work area, as featured in this blog recently. So I went to Jo Malone and bought a candle to help with this process. It's a lovely Blackberry and Bay scented one. And they very kindly give you Jo Malone-branded matches too, which is cool because I hid all the matches in the house when Daughter was four. (Ten years later, I still can't find them.)

Smells delicious. It ought to for £39 sodding quid.

I lit the candle, blew out the match and threw it in my office bin. About 10 minutes later, I wasn't really smelling the candle, but there was a strong smell of burning. Turns out the spent match was still a bit hot and alive and had started to smoulder all the waste paper in my bin. Luckily I was a whole five minutes away from setting fire to the office.

The fire is out now. It is quite handy having a bathroom next to my office.

The candle is still burning. It smells lovely now. But I can't get to the stories or my characters, possibly due to almost burning down the building. I'll try again tomorrow.

Listening to: Guns N Roses - Use Your Illusion I 
Reading - A Fucked Up Life In Books - Anonymous

Monday, 4 November 2013

Number 29 - In Which You Say Potato, I Say Carbohydrate.

Give me a spoon.

I flipping love mashed potatoes. Something inside me is trigged by the clocks going back: I need stodge, I need carbohydrates, I need to hibernate. This time of year demands stews, steamed sponge puddings and piles and piles of mashed spuds.

So imagine my horror when Daughter announced today with a "meh," that she "doesn't like mash potatoes anymore. They are too creamy."

I'll give you a second to let that sink in.

TOO CREAMY? Clearly my child is ill. I needed to sit down.

I tried the Atkins diet about ten years ago and craved potatoes so badly, I once nicked a french fry off a lad in Burger King who was walking past me carrying a tray piled high with them. My hand snaked out, I grabbed one, and I stuffed it in my gob. He didn't see. I didn't care if he did or not.

So, for me carbs and cold weather go hand in hand. A doctor told me that the body craves food that it needs. Clearly my body needs carbohydrates. Who am I to argue?

So my dilemma tonight is what on earth to cook with our Monday Roast? (We have our Sunday dinner on a Monday, just to be really contrary.) It's roast beef tonight with roast potatoes, garlic green beans and the last of our carrots from the garden. Normally I'd do mash alongside, with a hint of garlic, topped with cheese. But Daughter and her "meh" ing is making me worried. I don't think it's about the potato per se, I get the sneaking feeling it's about Thigh Gap. It's the first day back to school today, she had PE third period and she's had a week of being idle. I caught her posing in her mirror last night and poking at her thighs and tummy. If she were overweight, then fair enough, but she isn't. She's a size 10 and is about 5 foot 5. 

So, Thigh Gap is the current thing with the kids online; ripping anyone apart, celebrity or not, about whether their thighs touch at the top. Apparently you are hideously fat and disgusting if your thighs do. And apparently it's not OK for me to log on to her Facebook account and tell all these girls what utter fucking morons they are for subscribing to this fatuous notion.

I worry about Daughter every day. I worry about what lies she is exposed to, by fashion magazines and media who should know better but don't care that they make teenaged girls feel that anorexia is cool. I worry about the pressure she is under at school to perform well in her GCSEs. I worry about pressure from her peers and celebrities to be much more sexualised than she should be. (I'm looking at you Miley Cyrus. Put some fucking clothes on and stop whoring about on a builder's yard.) And I worry that I, as her mother, want to act on her behalf; to wrap her up in cotton wool and prevent the world from ruining my little girl. But I know I can't, as she has to live in it too. So instead, I shall make dinner, make pudding and if she's worried about Thigh Gap, I'll go for a long walk with her at the weekend where we can burn some calories whilst we walk and talk. 

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Number 28 - In Which I Watch The Leaves Turn Golden.

Not quite the view from my window, as there are kids in the park at the moment. I''m scared to post pictures with kids in. The internet is dark and full of terrors.

The view from my office window is one of myriad trees, bowing and shimmering in the wind, their leaves slowly turning from green to the colour of bonfires. I quite like this time of year. Whilst I adore a snowy winter, golden Autumn calls to mind Hallowe'en, toffee apples and standing around smoky bonfires, staring into the flames and feeling the heat on your face whilst getting lost in thought as the flames hypnotise. Besides, I like coming indoors and smelling of woodsmoke, it makes me feel tribal and at one with nature. (I have a ton of Wiccan literature on my shelves and it's about this time of year where I quite fancy flinging off my clothes and dancing around the aforementioned fires. But I get the feeling that the folks round here might still burn witches.)

Not our bonfire either. 

Living in this little parochial backwater means there is never an organised bonfire, possibly due to health and safety, but more likely that our Round Table are notoriously lazy. That said, the annual firework display that they put on is a corker and this year's was no exception, although I was a lazy tightwad this year and decided to watch them for free, from the relative warmth of our attic, in our pyjamas. Husband was away and Daughter had nothing to wear apparently, so I think I made the right call.

I have been in quite a reflective mood of late. Last week we had family staying with us, and it was fascinating watching other marriages at work, other kids being raised and other lives being lived. Both my parents are quite ill at the moment, so whilst my father escaped to Ireland (on the pretext of work, but really just drinking stout and carousing with the local ladies) my post-nervous breakdown mother came to stay with us. Then my sister and her ex husband and two kids. Then my In-Laws. At one point I was feeding so many people I felt like presenting them with bills at the end of their stays. (Service not Included, a 15% tip is suggested.)

Do you put on a show for other people? The "Look How Harmonious Our Family Is" show? I think people must. I know we did. Husband and I barely sniped at each other for a week, Daughter was almost never a brat and the Dog could have been performing at Crufts. And when they all left, the four of us sort of slumped in our respective spots and were too exhausted to do much other than order a takeaway curry, drink a shit ton of wine, lick our own privates or disappear upstairs to chat to imaginary friends on social media. (I'll leave you, dear reader, to figure out who did what.) But the Harmonious Show led us all into a false sense of security. Daughter thought she'd got away with lying about and ignoring her week's worth of homework until the last minute, Dog thought nobody would notice that he'd had a massive shit right in the middle of the vegetable patch at the top of the garden, I'd almost got away with not doing any work all week, and Husband thought I'd forgotten than I am really fucking furious with him for drinking so much he passed out on the new sofa, spilling red wine all over it and the new (light coloured) carpet, staining both beyond repair. With the careful application of rugs and throws, the stains may be hidden, but because they were left for hours, they have done their damage. Carpet and upholstery cleaner and the frantic consulting of my 101 HouseHold Tips book have helped, but not fully removed. I hate being such a ball-breaking bitch, but sometimes I feel like I'm the only one in this house with any sense. Then I go and do something utterly stupid like CUT MY OWN FRINGE, and realising that I actually did a better job of it the last time I cut it. When I was FIVE. Then I realise I'm not so shit-hot after all.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Number 27 - In Which I Am Sad.

I knew messing about with New MySpace would lead to trouble. Apparently, the mere action of me logging in triggered an email from MySpace to everyone on my "Connections" list. So now Handsome Jeremy has an email from MySpace telling him I'm back online and why not say hi? Hmm.

We didn't leave things well.

I might have intimated that I'd quite like to shag him if ever he was over from California. He said he'd rather just be pals. Thanks god for the Internet - my furious and sickening embarrassment was disguised with a jovial "LOL, I'm like totally kidding!"reply from me. Ho hum.

In other news, I think I'm coming down with a bad dose of The Fucks. Symptoms include:

  • Blatant disregard for arbitrary parking regulations
  • Irritation with idiots
  • Short temper with recalcitrant technology
  • Shouting at contestants on tellybox quiz shows
  • Increased desire for controlled substances such as caffeine, chocolate, cake and crisps
  • Decreased desire for sex
  • Fatigue
  • Argumentativeness
  • A general but all-consuming malaise

Treatment for The Fucks includes:

  • Chocolate
  • Caffeine
  • Cake
  • Crisps
  • Loud Rock Music
  • Long baths
  • Avoiding the public

Alcohol is not recommended, as may improve things in the short term, but can lead to an inadvertent releasing of home truths best kept secret. It may also lead to maudlin crying.

I'm fairly familiar with the condition so I have it in hand. I have a massive bar of Galaxy on my desk, a pot of tea on the go and Metallica coming out of my speakers. I've also just seen the new Thor trailer, and the sight of a topless Chris Hemsworth has made my blood run a bit hotter and faster.

Listening to: Metallica:  "The Black Album"
Reading: Lindsey Kelk - "About A Girl"

Monday, 21 October 2013

Number 26 - In Which I Am Frightened by MySpace.

About seven years ago, I had a MySpace account. I had a whopping 18 friends, only two of whom I ever properly conversed with, and one of whom I'd ever actually met in real life. You could add friends on the other side of the world, based solely on how funny their blog was/how hot their profile picture was. (I'm talking about you handsome Jeremy.) You didn't need their permission first. They didn't have to verify if they knew you or not. Then I stopped using it in favour of MSN Messenger, promptly forgot about it and never gave it another thought until the other day.

"I wonder," I thought, "whether MySpace Tom still has 2 billion friends?"

I logged back on today, via a followed Forgotten Password link.

MySpace is NOT THE SAME. It is shiny and new with strange icons and shiny, flashy things and where are my old blogs and photos and friends? Where is the handsome Jeremy?

I was on it for all of five minutes before I decided I hated it. Not as much as Facebook, but still. The new MySpace is an enormous sea change from what it was, circa 2006. Facebook's changes are merely gradual and insidious.

I'm not even sure what, if anything MySpace is used for these days. Is it just musicians and actors on there now? Surely FaceBook and Twitter have friend-reaching and Vine-sharing sewn up?

I'm going to cancel my MySpace account. It feels like walking back into a house you used to live in, long after you've moved away. Sort of familiar, but looks and smells all wrong.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Number 25 - In Which I Get Lost In The Romance.

Is it true that the longer a couple is together, the less romance there is? Husband and I have been together for almost ten years, and I think he has only bought me flowers three times. Not that flowers is the be-all-and-end-all of romance, but it indicates that you have thought about your partner and got them something they'll love for no reason other than 'just because'. (Unless you believe the adage that a man only buys a woman flowers when he has done something wrong. I don't believe that. And I love flowers.)

But then I think, when was the last time I did something nice for him? Does rolling him into the recovery position count when he's passed out on the floor at 3am from too much alcohol? I used to buy him books 'just because' but money is tight now. So, no books and no flowers any more. Sometimes the occasional cup of tea or coffee is made, but that is it. And, no I don't think a Blow Job counts as romance.

But what defines romance? What makes us romantic? I am struggling to think about anything that indicates romance other than flowers/books. That's a bit sad, but I suspect I am not alone, which is why Romance books still sell so incredibly well. Despite knowing pretty much how every Romance book I buy is going to end, I still buy them. I still want to read about romance, even if it's lost in my relationship. I want the girl to get the guy, and even though I sigh and roll my eyes when it inevitably does happen ("god, this is soooo cheesy!") I read on to the end, then start the next one.

I have a pile of them at the moment. I have just finished Alexandra Brown's 'Cupcakes at Carrington's' which was delightfully lighthearted, funny and made me crave cake like you wouldn't believe.

Husband likes cake, especially carrot, and coffee and walnut. If I go and bake one 'just because', that would be romantic, right? And serves a dual purpose in that there will then be cake in the house. I think that's a win all round.

Listening to: Billy Joel - "Piano Man"
Reading: Lindsey Kelk: "About a Girl"

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Number 24 - In Which I Replace One Fantasy With Another.

I think Wank Banks vary - whereas Husband's seem to focus on things that have happened, mine is things that I wish would happen. His is based in tactility, mine is based in fantasy. I suspect that is the same for most men and women. Certainly the ones I have spoken to.

Despite the fact that Husband and I have been together for almost ten years, we haven't talked about sex as much as I'd like. I have had more than twice the number of sexual partners as him, and he was married once before, whereas I had been in relationships without the 'I Do'.

With Ex, the boyfriend before Husband, things were much more open. Again, my sexual encounters massively outweighed his (he was another first marriage gone wrong, and I was Sex Partner number 2). The difference here was that we were both younger (I was 23, he was 25) and I think with a decade in our favour, it was easier to be open about what got us revved up. I disclosed my same-sex encounter, the many one-night stands and past borderline S&M relationships. He disclosed how he had only had sex with one woman before me and how she and I were polar opposites in every sense.

Through Ex, I met one of his friends, Drew (via ICQ and telephone, never in person). For you guys under 35, ICQ was an instant messaging service. I have no idea if it is still a thing. I used to converse with EX via ICQ (after meeting him via an online dating site). It was instant, obviously, and cheaper than telephones or text messages (back when we had to pay per message, before Unlimited tariffs properly existed).

Anyway, Drew was an expat who lived in the US. And Drew was incredibly aloof and incredibly intelligent. So naturally I saw this as a challenge and our conversations were frequent and long. Ex and I were engaged at the time, and looking back I think Drew saw me as as much of a challenge as I saw him. He opened my eyes to my dysfunctional relationship with Ex, and I pursued Drew's approval and craved his attention. He made me want to use my brain and learn and grow as a person. He was a man who challenged me, toyed with me and forced me to see that the cocoon Ex had wrapped me in was not healthy. Ex wanted me to himself, and I was discouraged from forging friendships. The whole time we were together, I did not have one other friend that was mine alone. All my friends were his.

When Ex and I came to the inevitable end, Drew hung around. We'd email and chat and things took a turn for the darker. Phone calls led to phone sex, and ICQ chats led to video chats which led to divulging parts of our anatomies that had until then, only been imagined. I'd never had phone sex before. I was terrible at it the first time, but after a few attempts, I got the hang of it and let down my guard.  Emotional walls came down, secrets were shared and my eyes were well and truly opened to a dark side of myself that I had suppressed. I liked the danger. I liked closing the curtains to my bedroom, putting on crotchless knickers and peephole bras, and tantalising myself as he watched or listened. The first time he dropped his jeans and showed me his semi-erect cock via a terrible quality webcam, I thought my heart was going to explode, it was pounding so hard. Masturbating via webcam was not as sexy as it sounds, given this was a few years ago and they were not as clear and smooth as they are now, but at the time it served its purpose and the sight of him shooting cum all over his desk is imprinted in my brain forever. It was possibly the most erotic thing I had ever witnessed.

I have never met Drew in person. He's in Massachusetts, I am not. And when Husband came on the scene, Drew and I sort of fizzled out. I haven't heard from him in years. But since Giant has ceased to fill me with that delicious rush of blood to my clit, I revisited some of my archived ICQ chats with Drew. They were much more suggestive than I remembered, but looking at them with many more years' maturity is interesting. I was such a giggly fangirl, it's quite cringey to read. I'm almost tempted to email him and say "hey, remember 10 years ago when we wrote this?" and copy and paste snippets of the transcript. But I won't. The lure of him is still there in the back of my head. He'll always be there, this mysterious almost-stranger with whom I shared some of my deepest, darkest desires. And I think I like him better as a deep, dark secret that managed to enlighten me about myself more than anyone else ever has.

Number 23 - In Which I Have The Worst Week Ever.

I think the title says it all really.

This week I have learned that:

My mother has had a nervous breakdown and is heavily medicated and off work (from the job that broke her) indefinitely.

My father is also on the verge of a breakdown. He is an only child, and his elderly mother is in the throes of dementia and lymphoma. He cannot cope with caring for her alone and is leaving her for three weeks to go to Thailand. How she will manage during this time is unknown. I have offered to go and stay with her. This was rebuffed by him. He is hoping Social Services will get involved, but when they visited her last week, she told them, she was fine and refused all help offered. My dad cried on the phone that night. Something I haven't seen or heard him do since he was dumped at Christmas about 6 years ago by a slag of a girlfriend he insisted was in it for the long haul. We still don't talk about her.

My other Gran is also terminally ill, but she does so with a quiet dignity and grace that belies the viciousness of the cancer attacking her whole body.

Husband is also close to a breakdown after the stress of his job has him yelling, pacing, fuming and drinking more than he has ever done before. Every day he comes in and I listen to the same diatribe daily. He is caught in an impossible situation; he has an incompetent boss who repeatedly breaks employment laws, with a board of Directors who turn a blind eye and don't give a fuck. I am worried that Husband will crack.

My daughter is struggling at school, something she hasn't experienced so far in her education. This is making her frightened and incredibly tense as she comes to terms with the fact that school is hard, for the first time in her life, as GCSEs loom.

My business is also struggling; it seems that while the rest of the country may be slowly recovering from the recession, this hasn't spread to the desolate North. People still are not spending and as a result, my company is feeling the pinch. Invoices are being paid later and later, and customers are fewer.

But in the midst of all this utter shit, I learned through the grapevine yesterday that Giant proposed to his long-term partner. This is delightful, and a long time coming for them, but I hate that I felt a pang of resentment as I was told the news. He's not mine, he never has been, and yet I felt a flash of jealousy! I am now disgusted with myself, but oddly, when I try to conjure up the normal fantasy from my Wank Bank, it sort of fails and I don't get as excited. It's time for a new fantasy.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Number 22 - In Which I Read And Cry.

I like books.

No, that's an understatement. I fucking LOVE books. I try to imagine sometimes, when life gets me down, what I'd do without stories. What if Enid Blyton hadn't written about the Faraway Tree? What if Roald Dahl hadn't conjured up a factory where sweets and chocolates and all manner of deliciousness were created? My entire childhood was built upon the blocks of Enid Blyton stories. I still look for dark rings in grass, and feel around to see if there is a magic button that will take me to see fairies and pixies. And I still check trees in woods to see if there's one tree that is impossibly high.

I'm never without a book. I have a queue of about twelve on iBooks and Kindle and a pile about 2 foot high next to my bed.

This blog was  never created to be specifically a diary-style rant, nor did I intend to review anything but I've read some books lately that I believe deserve a review.

Today's is a book called 'The Drowning of Arthur Braxton' by a relatively unknown author called Caroline Smailes. After I read this, I instantly fired up trusty Google and went on a bit of a stalk, and bought all her other books in the space of two minutes.

'Arthur Braxton' is at times visceral, at times mystical and at times whimsical. The story switches between several of the characters and with each switch, the voice changes flawlessly. I'm not going to give a full synopsis as other blogs and reviews do this, and I think too much information beforehand gives the magic of the book away.

And it is magic. There is magic in the writing (I can picture the swimming baths so clearly, it's like I am there) and the story is heartbreakingly beautiful. And, unlike Enid Blyton's fairy tales of old, this one is a fairy tale with a grown-up twist. One I will read again when I've finished devouring her other books.

Buy it here: Amazon

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Number 21 - In Which I Have Very Bad Thoughts.

My parents divorced when I was about twelve. I have a dim recollection of much shouting and screaming, fraught phone calls to hospitals and the police and the eventual showdown when it transpired that my Dad was late home not because of an horrific accident (as my mother had rang every hospital and police station in the entire county), but because he'd been shagging my Mum's friend. I no longer have a good relationship with my Dad as he still thinks with his cock, twenty-odd years later and I have no respect for someone who is so fickle with relationships as to have a new one every year, often overlapping.

When my sister had a fling which subsequently wrecked her marriage, I was so disgusted, I couldn't talk to her properly for months.

So I have a dim view of extra-marital affairs.

So the thoughts I have been having lately are abhorrent to me, yet still they persist. I won't ever act on them, but I go there in my head and it is tantalising, titillating and wholly capable of getting me off when the need arises.

He is local. He is in a long term relationship with the mother of his children. He is a giant of a man, both in stature and personality. He speaks with a broad, local dialect which often I cannot understand, so I imagine him bending close to my ear and whispering slowly, his breath tickling my neck and earlobe. He works with his hands, so they are rough and calloused and when I imagine them touching me, I start to get warm in places I shouldn't.

I am friends with his partner. We are not close friends but I have been in her kitchen and sat with her and some other friends, drinking tea as we talk about our teenagers, our dogs, our men. And I hate myself for having such wicked thoughts about her man. But still they persist.

In the grip of one of these moments of madness, I initiate sex with Husband. He's not very dominant in bed, nor is he is real life and often I get tired of being the one who wears the proverbial trousers, both in the bedroom and out of it. I always thought that the submissive woman and the Man In Charge was a horribly sexist cliché but in fact, it is quite arousing to relinquish control and let sexism take over.

So, with thoughts of the Giant in my head, I approach Husband for sex. But of course, it's fairly late at night and he's on to beer number 6. At first, he is reluctant, (tired, stressed, drunk?) but I can't think of many men who would turn down sex when offered to them on a plate.

We start to go at it, and he asks me what I want. I am thinking of Giant, his rough hands all over me, and I ask Husband to slap my ass and take me from behind.
Pull my hair.
Be rough.
Take me like you own me and can use and abuse me any way you want.
Call me a whore.

He does this, initially with some glee, but after about five minutes, he stops. He's gone soft again, and pulls out, sitting back on the bed with a frown. He says he's tired. Normally I would go down on him, and Blow Job him to life, but this time I don't. I am tired too. Tired of having to constantly coax some sort of firmness out of his alcohol-wilted cock. And I'm tired of hearing that it is my fault because we don't do it enough, so his cock has forgotten how to work. But I don't say this, because I know it will cause a row and it will be one that we may never recover from.

He goes downstairs and I hear the sickeningly familiar sound of beer number 7 being cracked open. The sound of the ring pull. The crack and hiss. I go to the bathroom, brush my teeth and go back to bed. I take out of the sex drawer my favourite vibrator (the quietest too) and finish myself off. But it's Giant I'm thinking off as the orgasm rips through me, leaving my skin sticky with sweat and my entire groin pulsing with release.

I awake at about 3am to Husband missing from bed. I go downstairs, and find him passed out on the floor. I stand and watch him for a while, snoring and grunting. He's flat on his back, beer number 8 knocked over and making a urine-coloured puddle on the living room carpet. I clean the stain as best I can, and think about waking him up. But we've done this dance before. I'm fed up of it. The last time I woke him and told him to come to bed, he told me to fuck off and stop being his mother. So with the stain cleaned as best I can, I turn off the TV and the lights and leave him on the floor.

The next morning, he goes to work without a sound and I wonder whether this is my life now.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Number 20 - In Which We Get A Year Older.

Mine and Husband's birthdays are twelve days apart. It is convenient as it means that our families only have to visit us once, usually somewhere in between the two dates, resulting in Husband's cards and presents often being a bit late, and mine a bit early. It's no big deal - as we get older, it seems our birthdays matter less, and all my energy tends to go towards making Teenager's birthdays the best they can be.

I cannot recall many childhood birthdays. I have a vague recollection of my 5th, supported by a few photographs that still exist despite many house moves and carelessness. I also dimly recall my 13th which was supposed to be a surprise, but was ruined by a kid called Paul in my music class at school. He was invited, though I refused to dance with him. We had hot dogs and a disco at the local community centre, and I remember the awkwardness at discovering the girls who relentlessly bullied me throughout school being there. My mother had blissfully invited my entire form, assisted by my best friend at the time, who had invited the bullies because she was scared to exclude them, should she incur their wrath later. They mocked the piss out of me for months afterwards because my relatives were at the party too, and my aunts had the nerve to DANCE with us to the Birdy Song. Like, how totally lame. Yet, they had the most hot dogs, cola and cake, so my lame party at least fed the bitches.

I don't remember what I did when I turned 16, but my 18th was a Pernod-and-black fuelled VomFest, which started in a nightclub and finished on the pale blue flowery carpet that my mother had just had fitted in the hall and on the stairs. My mother said later that the stain never really came out. I haven't been able to look at a bottle of Pernod since.

My 21st involved another nightclub, the name of which I cannot remember, but ended with me going back to a house with a cute chap called Lee. This night was not one of the highlights of my life, as the sex was disappointing and the photographs in the living room that I properly clocked the next morning were of his long-term girlfriend and child, who were away that weekend. He dropped me off home the next morning (which involved some sneaking out of the house to the car in case his neighbours saw) and I took extra special care never to run into him, or his girlfriend ever, ever again.

I dislike parties now. Being the centre of attention scares me. I'd rather be the one behind the scenes, keeping things going like a well-oiled machine. So this year for my birthday, I just asked for a small outing to a pub for lunch. No fuss. No fanfare. Which we did, and I am eternally grateful for. But during lunch, talk turned to our 40th birthdays, which are approaching like a Japanese Bullet train. Husband is 40 next year, I follow suit the year after. It seems inevitable that either Him or me will get a party. Neither of us wants one. And neither of us wants to acknowledge being 40 either. But our families are persistent, so watch this space. The post-40th-party blog will be angst filled and full of swears.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Number 19 - In Which Exploration Leads To Lost.

For a while now the Dog has been suffering from a distinct lack of exercise due to the rest of the household being busy doing things such as work, homework, more work and recovering from injuries. Today we decided to go on an Adventure; something we did a lot when Teenager was a pre-teen and we lived in the middle of nowhere, much nearer the sea, than we do now.

A quick study of the relevant OS map and I had a route in mind. I have long held a fascination for disused railways and there is one near where we live. Something about the idea of making footsteps in the shadow of a desolate stretch of countryside that once carried dirty, loud trains. The one near our house has only been out of use for forty or fifty years, yet nature has already taken back what once was the domain of industry. In parts, trees and shrubs have grown so dense, the route is impassable. And in other parts, there is a stillness so unnerving that you can almost hear the whistle of the steam train as it barrels along the track.

As we walk, Teenager talks. She talks all the time. Sometimes she creates stories as she walks along; often tales of other worlds reached by magical portals. Sometimes the tales are of ghosts, inspired by the vast wild stretches of wild hills and fells that surround our little town.

Husband is usually silent.

The route seemed simple; a quick hike across the field at the back of our house should lead onto the Moor and from there, the disused railway cuts across which would lead us almost back home. There was a green dotted line on the map, so with map in hand, we departed.

An hour later, Husband declared we were in the wrong place. Not trusting my sense of direction, he commandeered the map and led us off in a different direction. He had us almost doubling back before I decided to challenge his orienteering skills. "This is not the right way," I declared.

He huffed and he puffed and he threw the map at me. After some careful studying of the green dots, I led the way once again. We walked over and under hills, around an old quarry, and through grass as high as Dog (which was amusing as it was like something out of a movie - the grass was moving but the monster was as yet unseen!) and after another hour or so, Lo!, the railway appeared.

The delight at being right was overshadowed by Husband being wrong. He sulked for the rest of the way which was a shame as the old railway was really quite atmospheric. We walked under an old bridge that featured brick work in an amazing tessellated pattern and bent sound around our heads that made no logical sense. How could a whisper by my daughter, three metres in front of me, sound like it was shouted from behind me? Truly creepy but exhilarating at the same time.

We arrived home about two hours later than planned so we got pizza and fizzy drinks from the supermarket. Husband still isn't speaking to me. I sense that there is more to this than just being wrong with the map. I expect it will come to a head very soon.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Number 18 - In Which I Walk For Alzheimers.

I walked twenty-six miles today. From Beadnell to Lindisfarne - a Brobdingnagian trek to raise money for Alzheimers UK.

My feet are blistered, my lower back feels like it has a knife embedded in it and I am so hungry I could eat a cow.

I am lucky enough to live in this area so the sights were not unknown to me, but it was nice to catch the comments of others who are not locals. Most were positive, but the woman in front of me who complained all the way from St Cuthbert's Cave to Fenwick about the amount of nettles and thorns there were on the paths deserved to fall off a cliff. The fact that the silly cow was wearing Daisy Dukes and wedge trainers didn't factor in to her whiny rants. I overtook her near a particularly boggy bit in Kyloe Woods and laughed my ass off (quietly) as she slipped in it and was covered in bog from her ankles to her hips. Retribution. Her companions carried on slagging off the area as they helped her up. Apparently Alzheimers UK should have put straw down on all the stretches of the twenty-six miles that were slippy. I didn't see her again for the rest of the walk.

At about 9pm I had a glass of whisky and I was ready for bed. All my joints are achy, especially my hips. Husband said, "I suppose a shag's out of the question?" He supposed right.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Number 17 - In Which My PC Dies.

For years I have muttered and grumbled about my PC; a Sony Vaio bought in 2007, that was so sexy and cool when first purchased, it's hard to imagine just how much I despise it now. Not the Sony part, that's still cool. It's the Windows thing that bothers me. Friends with Macs are notoriously smug about the ease and speed with which their laptops and desktops do stuff, without checking with you twice.

So I bought one. And now I can't find anything and it is so self-assured and smug, and does things without asking, and that makes me very nervous. All my old files and photos have been almost successfully imported from the PC, which finally gave up the ghost the other day. And now it sits here, next to the new Mac and I feel melancholy as the old and new sit side-by-side. Already I am forgetting the many rants and rages that the Vaio put me through when Windows crashed, taking vital work with it. All I can think of now is the happy times, when the flatness of it inspired hours of writing and editing and watching movies. How I squealed with delight when I got the Media Center to work and watched telly via a little antenna attached via USB. It even came with a remote control!

The iMac, by comparison, is just as, if not more aesthetically beautiful as the Vaio of 2007. Flat, minimalistic, with a screen that begs to be caressed. Can the images be that sharp and not be real? Even the box it comes in is lovely. It screams Money, Taste, Class, Cool.

But I am a person who relishes nostalgia. I have kept toys form my childhood. And clothes from when I was thin. And books from when I was Teenager's age. Each item takes me back and tells its own story. So, despite Husband insisting that I take the Vaio to the tip, I won't just yet. It can stay in my office for now. And when I get frightened by the iMacs independent thinking, I will glance over at the Vaio and remember how it used to ask me whether I was sure I wanted to send  Risk Assessment Requirements.docx" to the Recycle Bin.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Number 16 - In Which The Family Invade.

School Summer Holidays are well underway. And for once, the weather is glorious and everyone in my little backwater is happy and smiley. And sunburned.

And the tourists are here. Hurrah.

They invade with their caravans, their spotless hiking boots and their brand new 'outdoor' clothing to truly embrace the wilderness in which we live. I live in possibly the most beautiful of all the counties in the UK. Northumberland has castles, beaches, hills, valleys, forests and fields to explore. And where I am situated it is a ten minute drive to any and all of these.

My family cottoned on to this about thirty seconds after I moved here from a much less beautiful part of the world. A place where Jamie Oliver tried (and failed) to educate kids about eating healthily. A place where I do not remember with any fondness at all, and am eternally grateful every day that I got the opportunity to leave. I'll tell you that story one day. It's a doozy.

Anyhoo, I have my sister and her kids staying with us for a week. Teenager is secretly delighted, as being achingly cool with her other teen friends is tiring, and it's nice to mess about with younger kids without fear of judgement. And my sister is openly delighted that they get to visit a place so beautiful without having to shell out thousands of pounds for the privilege. And I get the challenge of cooking for a family with awkward tastes. (One doesn't like any meat other than chicken. The other likes any meat other than pork. They don't like garlic or chillies. They only like spag bol if it's made with Lloyd Grossman Bolognese sauce. Sigh.)

So far, we have explored castles, gardens, beaches and islands. I have had every corner of my culinary brain racked for things to cook which will suit everyone. My homemade creamy chicken and ham soup was a bust, but the Sunday roast was a triumph.

I don't mind having guests, but I love it when they leave. I suffer from a curious quirk of enjoying being a hostess, but not liking people in my house. And as I choose to leave the house only on rare occasions, my contact with other humans is often limited. So this week, being out and about IN PUBLIC has been tiring. But I have enjoyed visiting Alnwick Gardens and Castle (learned interesting things in the Poison Garden, but wished the guide would speak above a whisper) and enjoyed showing off some of our gorgeous beaches (there is one beach with a natural aquifer that spurts out of the rocks near the sea - it provides fresh, crystal clear, ice cold water which caused great fascination with my youngest niece.)

They are away home later and I am looking forward to eating food with chillies in, but am sad for my sister who really doesn't want to leave.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Number 15 - In Which I Get My Legs Bent Behind My Ears.

Yes, indeedy. Today was spent in a room with a man who manipulated my legs a lot, and kept asking me to bend over. Ooer! But we were clothed. And in the Physiotherapy Department of my local hospital. So not kinky at all.

Mt back has gone and slipped one of its discs (careless) and there is a touch of arthritis in there too. So today I found myself talking about my pain with a young male Physio who can't be much older than my Teenager. He has decided that I must move again (by walking, cycling or swimming) but am no longer allowed to run. (I was getting good at running which is a bit of a shame.)

I have a program of exercises to follow that involves a lot of bending, grunting and groaning as I try and get the muscles around my damaged spine to relax and stop being so over-protective.

I'm at home now, sitting in a towel after a hot bath and generally feeling like an old, arthritic woman. There are rogue grey bits in my hair, and I have noticed wrinkles around my eyes that I swear were not there yesterday. I'm still in my thirties (albeit the later ones, dammit) so by no means am I over the hill, or even middle aged, yet I am having one of those slightly panicky moments where I realise I am nearly forty and what have I done, really?

Dog is at my feet. He's kindly letting me know just how comfortable he is by assaulting my sense of smell. I'm going to take him for a walk in a bit and see if I can get the old muscles going again. And while I am out, I am going to have a think about things and maybe make some changes around here.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Number 14 - In Which The Baby Is Born.

I know the whole world has been waiting anxiously for the Royal Baby to pop out, and in some ways I hate the amount of media attention it is getting. I think about how stressful, scary and nerve-wracking this time is (I've been there) and can't imagine what it must be like to have the world in your face as it happens.

I also realise that I'm contributing to the mass hysteria by writing this. But as a mother and generally a sensible one at that, I just want Kate and William to enjoy every second of their lives now that the baby has been born. Each one is unique. You'll laugh, cry, fall asleep in the bath, fall asleep on the toilet, stress over stretch marks, stress over nappy sizes, stress over feeding, stress over every single blemish on your child's skin (It's meningitis!! No, it's jam.) You'll sleep when the baby does, wish you could sleep when he isn't. Beware of Jeremy Kyle and the Tweenies. Let your parents get involved but don't be worried about telling them to back off when they won't go away. And most of all, love each other. Remember what it was like to be married before Baby. Don't let the romance go. Have sex.

I'll leave you with a picture I found which is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen and brought happy tears to my eyes. Apologies for not crediting the photographer - I think it's been shared so much online, the original photographer has been lost in the ether.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Number 13 - In Which I Am Procrastinating.

Buzzfeed is a terrible place to go if you actually have to get some work done. I followed the most innocent of links, and find myself still on the site AN HOUR later.

I found the following and as I can't survive with at least one ebook and one paper novel on the go at any one time, I think I'll follow its advice and read all these:

The summer is shaping up to be a good one...

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Number 12 - In Which I Reminisce About Being A Harlot.

I can't sleep and I had a row with Husband earlier over why I'm such a frigid bitch. I can't use the "It's not you, it's me" line because it's such a cliche and besides, it's not wholly true. Some of it IS him. The drinking and consequent lack of erection bothers me. And I don't think I am frigid. I get urges. Sometimes it slams me so hard in the gut I'd happily jump the man in the butchers whose fat hangs so far below his waist, it swings as he moves.

OK. Maybe not him.

I am thinking now; thinking back to pre-marriage, pre-child and pre-weight gain. When I was an uninhibited student. (For uninhibited, read "slut"). There is one encounter that I always draw on when in need of release. Sometimes I wonder if it actually did happen at all, or whether my sexually-frustrated mind wished so hard, it made it into something so real, I can still feel and smell and taste every second of the most memorable night of my life. I'll share it, because if it's written down then it's there in black and white. And you might enjoy it too.

(I have removed my name from the following, to protect my anonymity and those mentioned within. )

The indroduction was short, to the point. "S*****, this is Alex. Alex; S*****." Phil jabbed a thumb at each of us in turn as he said our names. I held out my hand to shake politely, Alex grabbed it, pulled me towards him and kissed me on the cheek. I grinned and we headed into the pub to meet with the rest of the group.

From the beginning the tension between us was palpable. Gazes were held for longer than socially acceptable, as he told his stories from his travels around practically the whole world, his eyes never left mine, as though he was recounting them to me and me alone. Within an hour I'd forgotten where I was. The noise of the bar, the thick smoke, the stench of stale ale and Motorhead roaring out of the jukebox; all that seemed to fade. As we played our drinking games, every accidental touch from him seemed to send charges coursing through my body. The beer kept flowing, tongues were loosened, inhibitions began to subside and I swear, that night, I've never laughed as much. Something about being in the company of good friends, with flowing beer and under the gaze of a dark, intense member of the opposite sex was invigorating.

The more lightweight members of our group soon cried off though: pleading inebriation, exhaustion and deadlines as excuses to leave far too early. The rest of us decided somewhat boldly that we'd hit a strip club after the pub closed. We were down to four, and Phil and his other friend Adam had garnered the attentions of two women and were currently busy making out in dark corners of the bar, leaving Alex and I alone at our now deserted, beer-stained table. In contrast, we were not touching, and in fact, not saying very much. Just small talk. He asked me about my life; my stories were pale in comparison to his adventures, but he listened and asked questions. I was a bar supervisor, he was an armed cop. I was recently single after dropping my deadbeat boyfriend. He was long-term single as his job demanded a level of commitment not conducive to having a woman at home. As we talked, he lightly traced patterns on my hand, which was resting on my knee. I was having trouble concentrating.

Without warning, my stomach rumbled, snapping me back into the real world momentarily as I realised I hadn't eaten since breakfast and I was starving. "Let's go and get something to eat," he suggested and I nodded mutely. After arranging to meet up with Phil and Adam later, Alex and I left the bar and headed towards Piccadilly Circus. Neither of us knew where we were going but it didn't seem to matter. He took my hand decisively and I watched him as he led me across the teeming Shaftesbury Avenue towards Chinatown.

It didn't take us long to find somewhere. Every second shopfront seemed to be some sort of restaurant and the aromas were enough to make me near faint with hunger. After mutually choosing a place, we emerged a while later with boxes and bags filled with duck rolls, pancake rolls, sesame toasts. Finger foods. We ate as we walked around, not heading anywhere in particular, just taking the opportunity to see more of London: its people, its tourists, its secrets. We laughed a lot, at ease with each other and slipped into a comfortable, often teasing banter. He fed me a bite of duck roll and without thinking, I caught his finger in my teeth and licked it slightly. He was surprised for a split second then smiled slightly and I knew that without thinking, I'd caused things to shift up a notch.

As we headed back to meet the others, he suddenly stopped dead and pulled me in close. We stood there, noses millimetres apart for what seemed like an hour, and the kiss when it came was a shock. It was so delicate, so faint. I'd expected him to be aggressive, every move on his part that night was executed with an underlying dominance. However the kiss was soft but suggestive as I felt the gentlest flicker of his tongue on my lips before he pulled away.

We reached the others shortly after, paid the exhorbitant entrance fee into the strip club and climbed the stairs into the dingy bar area. I can't remember the name, I'm not sure I ever knew it, I wasn't paying attention. Phil led the way past the bar and into the stage area. It wasn't very big, not at all what I'd expected, meaning that the girls were close. VERY close. It made it all the more erotic and as we took our seats I sat down fascinated, watching a very pretty brunette writhe around a silver pole in the middle of the tiny stage. She was close enough so I could see the faint regrowth of her pubic hair and it was nothing like I'd expected it to be. A quick cursory glance around revealed I was the only woman in there; in fact apart from us, the rest of the clientele were middle-aged men.

Alex took off his jacket and laid it gently across his knee then placed his left hand on my thigh. He began to lightly trace his fingers across my leg, down to my knee where he idly circled his fingers and thumb. Sometimes little more than a feather touch, then he'd knead a little harder. His actions and the naked girl on stage were starting to make me incredibly aroused.

This went on for ages; the girls came and went and he just kept on caressing and stroking. He was priming me and I knew it. Slowly getting me more and more turned on until I'd be all but powerless to stop. I shifted in my seat slightly to get comfortable, and it was then that he carefully placed his jacket on my lap, covering his hand. I looked down in confusion and then at him and what I saw on his face made my stomach churn. I knew then what he was going to do. He studied me for a second, his expression questioning, giving me one last opportunity to say no. I didn't. I smiled and nodded almost imperceptibly and he began. He turned slightly to face me in the tacky red velvet chair and he switched hands, his right one now, moving it inwards, in between my legs, gently pushing them apart at the knees. With one eye on the stripper and the rest of the room he began to lightly caress the inside on my thigh under my skirt. He never rushed, never forced. He took his time, making damn sure that every single nerve in my body was alert with anticipation. As his hand moved slowly higher my breathing became more shallow. His other hand snaked behind my head and he gently played with the nape of my neck, kneading it softly with his thumb. Then he leaned in and rained soft kisses on my neck, jaw and earlobe. I was on fire. I squirmed in my seat as blood pooled in my groin and there was a roaring in my ears. I felt like I was going to burst if he didn't move his hand to where I wanted it soon. He knew what he was doing though. The most torturous of foreplay is always agonisingly, deliciously slow. I moved my hand across to his lap and was surprised to find him rock hard. I couldn't move my hand much though as he had me pinned. All the time he was whispering in my ear, filthy and suggestive phrases peppered with the odd command and request. "Don't move." "Where would you like my hand to go?" "Do you like this?" I was a gibbering idiot when his fingers finally glanced ever so slightly over the crotch of my pants which were pretty wet by this point. He seemed pleased that I was so turned on, called me a "wicked girl" which I loved, and his pressure increased slightly as his fingers found my clit. That was all it took. Just one touch. I gasped and climaxed so suddenly and so hard, my head snapped back in the chair and I arched, raising slightly out of the seat. He kept his hand where it was as my whole body trembled and only moved it to rest on my thigh once I'd stopped shaking and got my breath back.

"Fuck me," I breathed in awe as my tremors subsided and he murmured in reply, "Count on it."

We left then, making our excuses to our friends and practically falling down the stairs onto the street. I was in charge now, and I led him by the hand towards the nearest tube station, almost getting run over by those wobbly rickshaws and the occasional black cab. We weaved our way through the back streets of Soho, running and laughing. Every single one of my senses was on fire. We weren't far from Covent Garden when he suddenly pulled me into little more than an alley. All foreplay gone now, the kiss that came next was hard and forceful and we slammed against a wall as lips parted, tongues clashed and I vaguely remember it was raining. Within minutes my dress was soaked and clinging to my body, somehow intesifying every sensation, making my nipples as hard as pebbles so that with every movement of his torso on mine, the contact sent shivers pulsing down into my groin. He had me pinned with my back to the wall and I blindly fumbled with his belt and the fly of jeans allowing his cock to spring free, gasping, panting and moaning.

I remember a fumbling with a condom and then blazing heat as he thrust into me hard, all the way to the hilt. He had his hands under my butt and I had my legs wrapped around his waist. He held me there and with every thrust he slammed me into the wall behind. Only later on did I realise I was covered in grazes across my back and shoulders from each repetitive thrust but at that moment it only served to arouse me more. Something about that pain mixed with the pleasure I was getting from him set me on fire.

His teeth grazed and bit my neck, my ears and my lips; my hands were clenched in his hair. I was vaguely aware that I was half sobbing, half laughing as he brought me closer and closer to orgasm. He came with a roar and a final thrust and afterwards as we were disentangling ourselves, every limb movement felt slow but sore as every muscle had been stretched taut and clenched.

The journey back to my hotel was one I can only recall vaguely. From the moment we stepped onto the escalator at the tube station to the minute the elevator doors opened and we fell out onto the third floor corridor of the hotel, laughing and whispering "shhh!" we'd probably only stopped kissing three or four times. I knew we were getting all manner of looks from the other tube passengers, but I didn't care and neither did he as he never let me go once.

We pretty much destroyed my room. As the door closed behind us, we were tearing at each others clothes, occasionally laughing at stubborn buttons and clasps. I ripped his shirt, he tore my bra clean off my body. Clothes were strewn everywhere as we made our way across to the bed, but we didn't stay there for long. We fucked on the floor, the armchair, the table, against a wall, in the shower. Lamps fell and smashed, a curtain got yanked from its rail and a shelf in the bathroom got seriously loosened. I have no idea how he managed to stay hard, I know we got through a full pack of condoms. We tied each other up and terrorised each other with tongues, fingers, ice, and spirits from the mini-bar. We finally fell asleep at around 6am, totally exhausted and so sore I knew I wouldn't be able to sit properly for a week. I'd been spanked, slapped, licked, sucked and I made damn sure I gave as good as I got.

We woke up about two hours later and were both too exhausted to move, so we just laid there talking and recalling exactly what we'd done the night before. We had a chance to scrutinise each other's bodies as the murky morning sun beamed through the window; the curtains still open from the night before. He showed me scars he'd obtained as a result of his job and then marvelled over my various dents and scrapes and tattoos. Upon discovering my back was filled with tiny bits of gravel from being slammed into the wall, he was mortified until I told him it was okay and I didn't care. We had sex again then, not frantic and intense like the night before, this time it was slow and sensual and brought with it a whole new batch of sensations.

I checked out early and we went out for breakfast after desperately trying to put the wreckage of my room back together and sharing a long shower. No sex this time as I'm not sure either of us had anything left. It wasn't uncomfortable between us though. I don't suppose it could have been really as we were laughing too hard over the amount of damage we'd done. I was only mildly concerned that my credit card would be hit for the damage later.

My train home was at noon, his shortly afterwards, so the rest of the morning we wandered around and ended up on a tour bus where we headed straight for the back seat, and missed most of the tour as we made out instead. No urgency this time though, it was far more tender, as though we were a new couple, still in that honeymoon phase.

I was standing on the platform at the side of my train by 11:50 and we both knew that this was it, just a one time thing. I didn't mind too much - we swapped email addresses and phone numbers but I knew we'd lose contact quickly, we were from two different worlds. We kissed deeply for a long time once more time before I boarded my train and I think I smiled all the way home.

I'd like to thank Club Quarters in the City of London for advertising your rooms cheaply on I'm also very sorry about the mess to my room. Thank you for never charging the damage to my credit card.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Number 11 - In Which I Am Dealing With Bodily Fluids.

I have a teenaged daughter. She's rather awesome; very clever, sings like a nightingale and most of the time, is rather charming. Unless it is Time Of The Month. Then all bets are off. A curious surge of hormones makes her throw up on the first day of Her Time, most months. For a few years now, I've had to patiently explain to her school that no, it's not a tummy bug; no, she doesn't need to be quarantined. But still they fear vomit and rules must be obeyed. She puked last night, which sent my mind on a journey as I cleaned the bathroom. 

When I was twenty I started working as a bar supervisor in very popular local pub. There was nothing special about it really, but for some reason people as far away as Wakefield and Doncaster came every Sunday to drink there. You were nobody if you didn't drink at this pub on a Sunday night. It was akin to a church whose worshippers were social butterflies and Rusty Nail drinkers. Working there was even better; as staff, we had the inside track on all the coolest after-hours parties. Life back then was fairly awesome for a young, single twenty-something. I had no worries other than which one of the many cute guys I was going to go home with, and whether to wear D&G, Versace or Lacroix jeans on my nights off. Like any popular drinking hole, it also attracted its own minority of jackasses who used to get loaded up and start fights purely for fun. We had a watch-list and to this day I can still recite the names of those who were barred and provide detailed descriptions - such was the frequency with which we had to study the Loser List. There was usually a parked police car on standby every weekend as you could guarantee that someone would be going home bleeding and another getting arrested.

One night, in the middle of World Cup 1998, things were moving along as normal - five deep at the bar, the DJ playing some cracking tunes to which we'd loudly sing along and my friend Karen and I working together like a well-oiled machine. We were channeling Tom Cruise in Cocktail - oh how we moved and ducked and dived - there was even some adventurous throwing of glasses and bottles and lots of laughs. I think it was a Wednesday night; England had just played and won and as a result, spirits in the bar were high. We called last orders at ten to eleven on the dot by way of a large brass bell that hung on the side of the bar, near Till 3 - mine and Karen's position. The place was clearing pretty quickly, probably because the highlights of the footy were on at around eleven and everyone wanted to watch, and by about ten-past the place was practically empty and the drip trays were already in the industrial dishwasher in the back.

It was then that everything suddenly started to go horribly wrong. The sound of smashing glass is one you get used to working in a bar, but in the back of my mind it's always been a sound that I equate with trouble. And seeing the stragglers in the pub suddenly bolt towards the male toilets kind of cemented that. Then there were excited shouts and one of our glass collectors, a delicious specimen of manhood called Jason, appeared and yelled, "get the coppers!" Seconds later emerged a kid of about my age, flanked by about four other guys, one of whom was being held in an armlock by a bloke I only knew as Baz - big bloke, arms like the Hulk, with an expression of permanent, "fuck with me and I'll end you" grimness. The rumour mill had him as ex-SAS, ex- Royal Marine, ex-oil rigger and ex-convicted murderer. I learned years later that he in fact worked as a special needs teacher in Sheffield somewhere and wouldn't hurt a fly if his life depended on it. But anyway, as Baz led the guy in the armlock outside, suddenly I realised that there was something strange about the kid I'd spotted first. Everything about him appeared to be red. Then I saw why.

"Oh fuck," Karen whispered. "I'll ring for an ambulance."

The kid was holding his right lower arm with his left hand in an futile attempt, it appeared, to keep it from falling apart. I remember vaulting over the bar (something I've never been able to do again, it's true what they say about adrenaline) and whipping my staff teeshirt off over my head. I couldn't understand why nobody was helping him as he stood there, blood actually pumping through his fingers which were growing slippy, causing his grip to loosen. People were just rooted to the spot in sheer horror, watching him bleed.

"What happened?" I yelled at Jason the gorgeous glass collector, who replied numbly, "he put his hand through the window."

I wrapped my teeshirt around the kid's wrist and arm then held it tight, and sort of part caught him and part fell as he crumpled to the floor, inadvertently pulling me with him. So when my boss appeared from upstairs to do his nightly 'liberate half the Glenmorangie from the bottle because it's my pub' routine, he emerged to find me on the floor in a pool of crimson applying pressure to the leaking arteries of a man who kept saying over and over: "I'm so sorry, I'll pay for the window. I'll pay, just don't tell my girlfriend I got drunk."

Funny thing about adrenaline. While it's pumping, everything is crystal clear. My first aid training had come flooding back and I knew exactly what I had to do to stop this kid from dying on my lap, and barked out orders to numb onlookers - "you, go into the kitchen and find clean towels, you, get me the first aid kit, I'll need bandages, you get out of his way!" However, at that same moment, Time was a concept that was shimmery and ethereal and behaving most strangely. For instance, I thought that under normal circumstances a single severed wrist artery wouldn't necessarily kill you as, if cut cleanly, wrist arteries and veins go into spasm and practically close themselves off as they are very narrow in that part of the arm. But I knew this guy was very drunk and alcohol thins the blood, and as I fully took in the state of his arm, if he kept bleeding as fast as he was, he could be dead soon. The cuts were what very suicidal people and Emos will tell you were "the right way" - that is, longitudinally from his wrist up to almost his elbow, severing both the ulnar and the radial arteries in several places, not just the wrist but higher up the arm also. And the blood was squirting hard and fast like I'd only ever seen before in dodgy horror films. So I knew Time was something that we didn't have much of.  But to this day I couldn't tell you how long we were slumped there on the floor and how long it took for the paramedics to arrive. It seemed like hours. 

I remember the kid saying: "I don't want to die, my girlfriend will kill me," over and over and me saying: "I won't let you, you're not going to die, this time next week you'll owe me big time and I like double Bailey's over ice," back at him. 
I remember my arms aching from holding his arm up and pressing so hard. 
I remember people finger pointing and yelling a barrage of angry words over our heads. My boss was one of them and his words I remember clearly, because at that moment and forever after, I hated him: "What the fuck is she doing on the floor swimming in blood? That's never going to come out of the wood. Get her up now!" I couldn't seem to make anyone understand that I couldn't let go. This kid was losing his strength and losing consciousness so couldn't apply pressure himself and if I let go, he could die. My boss was screaming about insurance and re-sanding wood floors and AIDS and me not wearing latex gloves and: "Why the fuck is she only wearing a bra? Is that our teeshirt around his arm? That's coming out of your wages, lady!" I couldn't find the words to explain that I hadn't had the time to run into the back and spend twenty minutes finding the first aid kit and putting on gloves I was allergic to anyway, or that I gave a rat's ass about my now ruined uniform teeshirt as it was the only thing handy at the time to use as a compress.

It transpired that the kid (whose name I found out was Nick) had had a few too many jars of ale and was a bit worse for wear when he'd gone to the lav before heading home. The guy that Baz had had in the armlock outside had been taking the piss out of David Beckham, calling him a nancy-girl who couldn't play football for shit and then things in the men's room had become heated. There had been a scuffle and apparently Armlock guy had shoved Nick forward who had put his hand out to stop himself and, being pissed, had missed the wall and put his hand straight through the window instead. Armlock guy had laughed and swung a punch but had been stopped by Nick's mate who'd got one in first.

When the paramedics arrived time went weird again. The time it took them to lift him off me and put him in the ambulance and shout at me: "Are you cut too? Are you bleeding?" and for me to shake my head, well, it was an aeon - it all happened in slooooow moooootion too, as if they were moving in zero-gravity or underwater. At one point I screamed "hurry up!" to which a male paramedic simply smiled, wrapped me in a blanket and told me everything would be okay. The time it took for the police to question everyone and for my boss to fire me on the spot for blatant disregard of the rules of my employment - well that was a sort of "blink and you'll miss it" event. I just climbed up off the floor, a bit wobbly, and left the pub, still wrapped in a blanket, under which my pink bra was now permanently blood red.

So it's fair to say that the sight of blood has never bothered me. Most human fluids don't. The only exception is vomit. I have no resilience when faced with puke and it takes all I have not to give up the ghost and join in. It's the sight, sound and smell of it. The Trio of Terror. So when my daughter woke up at 2am on Thursday night and hurled all over the bathroom it took a feat of unsurpassable will not to throw up myself as I cleaned up and sent her back into bed. And as I laid awake for the rest of the night listening intently in case she threw up again and choked on her own vomit, the whole severed arm incident came back to me. I wondered how I could have let a stranger bleed all over me, with blatant disregard for my own health (what if he has AIDS? I'm not keeping her in employment if she gets AIDS from this idiot because she's too stupid to put on gloves first!") when the sight of my own daughter's vomit makes me ill. I suppose I'm just odd that way. But I'll still clean it up. One of the many perks of being a parent, with less risk of getting fired for not wearing gloves and ruining a perfectly good uniform shirt.