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June 12, 2006

Fake–A–Holiday

So you've finished your exams. Your bank balance is looking alarmingly red, and yet all around you people are swanning off on city breaks and jaunts to Spanish beaches whilst you sit in your room and stare at the horribly familiar hole in the ceiling that is still, even after nine months, inexplicable. You want to be one of those people tugging a little case to the airport, who have a bottle of specialty alcohol and some local colour jewellery now standing on their desks and who have albums on Facebook with their happy shiny post–exam faces obliterating landmarks. Unfortunately, your overdraft forbids this. You haven't even got a generous other half who might, possibly, even in the realms of fantasy, sweep you off on a surprise mini–break. In that sort of situation, a girl could hope. But alas, this is not to be.

But fear not, I have been trialling a solution all this week, and am pleased to announce it a success. It's very simple, when you think about it. All you have to do is bring the holiday to you.

Let me introduce you to Fake-A-HolidayTM

Spot the difference. The girl on the left is on holiday, the girl on the right isn't, but you couldn't tell, could you? Looks like a holiday, smells like a holiday, but essentially isn't a holiday for me, thereby coming with very little of the attendant confusion, expense and general hassle of the usual going–away lark. I spent the first part of this week being at home with my university friends who were 'on holiday', and the second part of this week being at university with my home friends who were also 'on holiday.'

You see, the way it works is this. If I was at home with my home friends, I wouldn't do half the things I did on the Wirral this week with my university friends. Similarly, if I was here in Leamington with my university friends, I wouldn't do half the things I did this weekend with my home friends. It's like living in a whole different place, albeit a confusing one where everyone you've ever known and all the places you've ever known suddenly seem to squish themselves together into one big gaily patterned lump.

So on the Wirral I spent more time on the beach than I would normally, and in Leamington I went to a few more bars and restaurants than I would normally, and everything seemed just a little bit different.

I suppose it did help that the sun had also decided to pretend it was on holiday this week and go a tad tropical, but I reckon the theory would still work even in our lovely normal English weather. Even if it had chucked it down for three days, I still reckon that staring at the inexplicable hole in the ceiling could have been a new and exciting activity if attempted in the right company. Try it. You'll see.

The holiday, not staring at the hole in my ceiling, although you're more than welcome to do that too if you want. It's oddly shaped, is disconcertingly dark in the middle, and is, as mentioned before, completely inexplicable. If demand is high, I may begin charging entrance. Who knows, I might even make enough to actually go on holiday.


May 07, 2006

The Tragicomedy of Revision

Or How Love And Labour Were Both Lost

This sunny weekend I have been mostly at home, looking after my sniffly cat in my mother's absence. It was all going to be so perfect. I'd have lots of time with no distractions to revise, a cat for company and a beautiful weekend to sit out in a garden that isn't just a square of concrete with a plastic carport roof.

So I gaily packed all my books into Coco on a hot Friday morning, crawled up the M6 at 30mph most of the way, and arrived home roughly five hours later with an insect graveyard for a windscreen. I believe this is what Macbeth might have seen as a portent. (If I'd actually started revision a bit earlier I might have picked up on this.)

Because, you see, since my mother left, on Saturday morning, a somewhat uncomfortable and semi–murderous menage a trois has developed: me, my cat, and Shakespeare.

Obviously, they both need my attention. But unfortunately, due to a combination of sniffles, drool and general movement (cat) and just being too damn heavy (the Complete Works) the three of us cannot all be together at the same time, in perfect harmony. Which is a shame, as it means that whenever I have the cat on my lap, Shakespeare upbraids me from the corner, and whenever I pull out my books, the cat jumps up and threatens to drool all over the pages, which would be fine except that I don't think her markings will be significant enough to help me in an exam situation.

I can't leave them alone together, either. I've caught her sharpening her claws on Shakespeare when she thinks I'm not looking, and there was a particularly nasty attempted murder when Shakespeare took a plunge off the kitchen table, missing her by a cat's whisker (literally). I've had to start having secret assignations with Shakespeare in my bedroom when she is downstairs eating, and she gets early morning cuddles when Mr William believes I am just taking a breakfast break.

All I can hope now is that things take a turn for the better, and this plays out as a comedy, where the cat starts crossdressing as a tom, there's some jolly japes with box hedges, my mother returns in disguise with a guiter and everyone gets happily, suddenly and unsuitably married off.

However, the way things are going, I wouldn't be surprised if I turn up in Leamington next week wandering around in a shift, raiding the herbs and spices rack, and pressing oregano and dried bay leaves on my unlucky friends and relatives.


April 09, 2006

I have not blogged because I have…

  1. been in several different time zones, and despite all my efforts with sunglasses,coffee, alcohol, slippers, and other methods designed to deceive my body clock, I lack commitment to any one sleep pattern, and hence my body clock is still confused. I think it's currently flirting with the idea of daylight saving time in Western Australia, but I can't be sure.

  2. spent inordinate amounts of time doing 'home' things, such as making chicken stock and accompanying my mother to garden centres to be seduced by patio furniture and tea cosies with flowers and cats on.

  3. watched inordinate amounts of television and now feel like the dark-haired woman floating around and laughing gaily and having her 100% pure pleasure with Appletiser and Friends and I have developed a very special friendship that ought not to be neglected.

  4. seen lots of people, whom I only managed to see briefly at Christmas when I was a little drunk. This has now been remedied so that I see them more often and drink more. This is possibly not the best solution, but this can be dealt with later.

  5. Facebook. Even now, the 'create entry' page comforts me because the design reminds me of those hallowed blue profile screens.

  6. too much work. I am currently writing something for my pracfic portfolio about late night Radio 4 and mangoes. It has all the signs of desperation such as a 'quirky' title and lots of stuff about fruit and snow and other, you know, meaningful symbolic stuff, but in a really vague manner so that it's obviously deeply subtle and well thought out. Obviously. Am trying to comfort myself with fact that may not even be marked due to strike, and might get a predicted grade that would be better than the mark I'm going to get for this obviously deeply subtle and well thought out portfolio. Bollocks, bollocks, bollocks.

  7. a cat who has discovered that switched-on laptops are flat, warm and cat-sized, and also an effective way of getting more attention. (She also managed to accidentally email somebody I haven't spoken to for years with the message 'awssssssssssssaaaaac' which I'm sure was gratefully received.)

  8. lots more excuses, that I am not going to include because I must now go and devote my time to those listed above. The cat is waiting for her seat.


February 08, 2006

She left the web, she left the loom…

5.38pm today, Heswall beach.

This photograph shows exactly why I need to go home. The Midlands is too flat, too landlocked, and there's nowhere near enough marsh. Home is grey sand, tufts of reeds, and salt on the lips, and without it I don't feel quite complete. That and Derek Brockway doing his jolly weather report for Wales Today. (Yes, that is Wales in the background. No, I don't live in Wales, but my television aerial claims I do. It's a contentious issue between us. Occasionally it picks up Midlands Today, where I categorically don't live either. Is it any wonder I spend so much of my life looking so confused?)

It makes everything suddenly easier to be able to open the door and just run out into that, and keep on running. But not too far, or else you'll sink into the marsh, and get your mudsplattered figure on the front page of the local paper, as people getting stuck in the mud is pretty much the most exciting piece of news in any given week. And your fame will follow you right up Telegraph road and down again, and probably even into Tesco, and you really don't want that sort of recognition around here.

Don't say I didn't warn you.


September 11, 2005

I think my mother is trying to poison me with masonry dust

It would make a good afternoon Channel 5 film, wouldn't it? The mother bent on home improvement, striding through the house in her fetching oversized check shirts and cutesy patterned headscarves, is revealed, almost too late, to have ulterior motives under her seemingly innocent desire for a 'fresh' look to her bathroom. But it's okay, because it then turns out she's got some very rare (and yet very widespread in the land of the made-for-TV movie) disease, such as Munchausens by proxy, and there's a tearful reunion, and a vow of love and forgiveness, and a fresh start. And then the credits would roll over a couple of adverts for dentures.

However, as the longsuffering daughter, I would also have to have a med school application and an understanding and earnestly attractive boyfriend. We would also have to live in affluent American suburbia. So there's no need to fear for my safety just yet. I must just trust that my mother's sanding and painting frenzy is all in the name of New Shiny Bathrooms. Also, in her headgear she looks more comedy peasant housewife than all American wholesome. I keep expecting her to come out with a dodgy Russian accent, or try and fix me up with a local farmer who owns almost a whole cow.

And trust me, when I say shiny, I mean shiny. If you get too overexcited with the new touch-sensitive dimmer halogen lights, you need sunglasses to even so much as look at that bath. And then there's all the dust floating around, reflecting the enamel glory of it all. Brushing your teeth feels a bit like stepping into 2001: A Space Odyssey (the crazy flashy lights space trip bit – not so much the apes chucking stuff around, or the psycho computer). What more could one ask for from a bathroom?

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to stuff a chicken for dinner. I just hope Peasant Mother hasn't seen fit to invite the cow farmer.


September 06, 2005

Time is flying like a small flyey thing with a very loud annoying buzz

Dear me. It seems like only yesterday I arrived here, with all my bags and belongings. I sat down in the middle of it all and thought: I am going to be here a very long time.

This was mainly because whilst I was having my Very Deep Thought TM my mother had carried on bringing in boxes. It took me a while to actually dig myself out in order to find food.

But yes, anyway, there I was, facing a very long time, even after I had managed to get all the way to the fridge. Not that this mattered so much, for the summer and I had such plans together. I was going to get a job, do all my background reading, clear out my wardrobe etceteraetcsketera, all the time with the summer laughing gaily in the background, smiling down upon my sunlit pursuits. I was also going to be wearing a rather frivolous and unnecessary hat, just because it's the summer and you can do that.

However, now my very long time is looking more than a little bit frayed around the edges, and not only have I still no job, no background reading, and my winnie the pooh pajamas with an 'Aged 12' label in the back, but it has also rained. A lot. So nothing I planned to do with my very long time has actually come to fruition.

All is not lost, though. I have been to the four corners of the kingdom (if those corners are Edinburgh, London, Tetbury and the Wirral – I was always crap at geography), seen naked people of both sexes (in a fully innocent manner – really!), seen lots of delectably famous people (not naked), enjoyed a torrid and regrettable affair with my overdraft (we both agree it should never have been allowed to get this far) and had lots of strawberries, because it's summer and you can do that.

Yes. I have also, you will be pleased to note, worn a frivolous and unnecessary hat.


July 30, 2005

A Letter to My Stalker

Dear Mr Rain,

It has got to the point now where I feel there is no option but to communicate my feelings on this matter in writing, as my gentle hints, patient attempts at mediation, and out and out abuse have all been to no avail. You will, of course, be aware of the matter to which I refer.

It is simply not acceptable or seemly for you to continue your behaviour, hanging about outside my house at all hours of the day and night, and making your presence felt by persistent tapping on my window. Now, I feel unable to leave my house without suitable protective measures, as I feel a continuing threat from your presence. I never know where or when you will appear next, and the one time I thought it was possible to leave the safety of my home, you exposed yourself just around the corner. It took me two hours to recover, with the assistance of both a hair and tumble dryer. Lately too, you have been showing no respect for my trusty umbrella, and employing a horizontal approach to your activities that reduces my poor spindly escort to a quivering mess of sticks.

You have been dogging my footsteps continually for the past four days, and as you are probably aware, this state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue, for the sake of my general health, happiness, appearance and social life.

Please leave me alone, or I will be forced to contact the authorities regarding this matter.

Yours soggily,

Elizabeth Jenner


July 17, 2005

Massacre in the swimming pool

I am not best known for my maternal feelings. My attitude to children in general could probably be summed up in a sentence as 'Ahh, that's nice… keep it away from me, please.' Don't get me wrong, I have no aversion to children as a species; I'll hold sleeping babies quite happily until they wake up and start drooling/spitting/crying/peeing/projectile vomiting, and the odd spot of babysitting if a child hasn't had too many E numbers/is feeling like they want to go on a doll dismembering spree is fine. However, anything that involves closer contact than that is liable to send me running for the hills, or at least finding a happy place in my head to visit until the trauma is past. I would even go so far to say that the noise of children playing is actually a pleasant background noise, as long as you're not close enough to realise that they're actually vicious little bastards shouting 'die! die! die!' at each other.

To sum up, I do appreciate the need for their existence, as long as they don't have to exist too near me.

So imagine my distress, gentle reader, to arrive at the local swimming pool to find it teeming with foam floats, abandoned goggles, and children clonking each other over the head with punctured arm bands, screaming. It was kind of like an 17th century sea battle in minature without the attractive men in boots and britches – or maybe that's just because I've been exposed to too much Hornblower recently*. It was Sunday morning at the swimming pool. I should have realised. I felt the way I did when I was travelling home at the perilous hour of 3.40pm, and a whole school of year 9s with dripping fizzy drinks and not enough deodorant swarmed the bus.

I should have admitted defeat then and there. I should have just turned round, gone back out dry and safe, and pretended that my swimsuit was actually just the newest haute couture in gym wear. But I didn't. Like a small fisherman desperate to get home to feed his family in the middle of a great sea battle, I took a deep breath and entered the fray.

I managed a length. I passed a boy forcibly drowning his sister by the pigtails, three girls trying to board an enemy float, two howling babies being thrown in the air by their fathers, and also successfully avoided being kicked by a multitude of flailing limbs, though I had a number of near misses. When I got to the end of the pool, one father spending quality time with a little girl also tried what I think was a chat up line** but then his daughter tried to strangle him with a pair of goggles and I made my escape, to the bubbling sanity of the 'over 18s ONLY' jacuzzi, which, unsurprisingly, was completely deserted.

So, from my private throne, I watched in safety the massacre that followed, kind of like Queen Elizabeth viewing her armada (am I taking this analogy a little far? I think so). I left before the midday whistle and the body count could begin, and the mothers who had desperately tried to keep their hair dry and failed started to drag their offspring from the scene of the incident.

So, the moral of the story? Don't go swimming on a Sunday morning. Children are vicious. And a leetle bit evil and scary.

However, they can also be lovely and charming, and when my friends start reproducing this will be my official line. I also have a horrible suspicion that one day, when my biological clock has done a few more turns, I too will develop a doe-eyed smile, and will become one of those surveying the massacre and surrendering my hairdo with the patient and gentle resignation of one who loves children.

——————————————————-

*Ioan Gruffudd and Sam "you will always be Caspian to me" West in the same period drama. Does it get any better, I ask you? Robert Lindsay was also in it, if that's what floats your boat+.

** On me. Not the little girl. Because that would just be wrong. Not that him hitting on me wasn't slightly odd. Why do I always seem to end up in these situations?

+ Horrible pun. Not intended. I apologise.


July 01, 2005

Things that have changed since last I walked these laminate floors…

So I got home, expecting everything to be just as it was before. I mean, it's home. Nothing happens here. I ring up, tell everyone about my exciting life, and they tell me about putting the bins out, and going to the vet* and what's been on telly.

But oh no. This place has been active since my last visit. You could even say this place was happenin'. Though you wouldn't want to. Or if you did, you should be very ashamed.

Ahem. I feel I have got off topic slightly. Anyway, going back to the excitement that is my house, this is what has changed.

1. We have come out of the dark ages of dialup into the bright light of broadband. Oh yes.

2. My brother's collarbone is now in two pieces rather than the conventional functioning one. He has a sling and a new nickname (Quasimodo).

3. Housemartins have nested above my window, and about once every 30 seconds a little white dollop of bird poo flies past. It's charming. Kind of like one of those ornamental fountains for your living room, but organic and natural.

4. The Neighbours has gone. The TV is a dull void of lunchtime despair.

5. Can't actually get ice cube tray out of freezer now. The freezer really needs defrosting… Kind of a problem for cocktail making. Suspect I am going to be asked to do it if I whinge though.

6. My mother has a better social life than me. All my home friends seem to be in sunnier climes.

7. My wardrobe bulges suspiciously, and is a timebomb waiting to explode with all the paraphenalia of being used to living in two places and now only having the one. If I don't blog for weeks you will know I have suffered a violent and ironic death at the hand of all my possessions.

8. I'm almost 20. How the hell did that happen so fast? (Yes yes yes, I know all you guys did this last year, but I'm a summer baby and therefore am a little… slow. Let the jokes ensue – I've had them all my life. I'm blonde too, if that helps you make some more witty quips.)

*Should point out that's taking the cat to the vet, not going to have themselves checked out for fleas.


April 19, 2005

Flatpack Fun

Do I really look that incapable? I know I sometimes maybe laugh a bit stupidly or trip over a non-existent step, but do I really give out that vibe that says do not trust this woman with a hammer? Ever? (Jenner definition: 'Incapable' = unable even to know which way up a screwdriver goes.)

For example, my family and I had a fun evening out to Ikea last week. We did the grand tour, sat in the grubby bucket seats, and marvelled at the sheer amount of plywood in one place, and then we came home with the requisite amounts of tupperware, wicker storage baskets, and also some bookshelves for our hall, and a set of drawers for my room. My drawers. For me.

The first thing my mother said, when we got through the door, was: "If you speak nicely to your brother, I'm sure he'd put them up for you in the next day or so." There are two things wrong with this statement. One, the fact that this involves being nice to my grumpy teenage brother, and two, why would he need to assemble my drawers? To reiterate: my drawers. For me.

So, I said "Oh, I'll do them tomorrow," and was greeted with a sideways look and a timid… "well, are you sure…?" When challenged to explain exactly what she meant, all she could come up with was "well, surely it would be nice to make sure it was a proper job – you know.. so they're done well…" And on being told that it was flatpack furniture, not an artisan working in a hamlet in the south of France with a solitary rough hewn chisel, she still said doubtfully, "but darling, I just, you know, want you to have furniture that…"

What?

"Looks nice, you know."

I didn't know. And told her so. And woke up the next morning with a burning resolve to show the world that I too could read diagrams and fit pieces of precut plywood together. I mean, if a girl's not got that, what has she left to her? I'm as spatially aware as the next person. I built all the Lego spaceships and things in my day – and that was before Lego got all creative and started including bits of huge pre-formed plastic boats and spacecraft that you didn't have to build yourself. Hell, I even dabbled in Technics for a bit (but got bored because they didn't have it in such pretty colours). It hurt that even my mother didn't trust me to build my own furniture (my drawers. For me) and I realised that I needed to salvage what was left of my reputation in a glorious burst of flatpack action.

I didn't start until 1pm. I couldn't find the toolbox. In my defence, it was buried underneath the huge pile of homeless books in our hall (hence the need for bookshelves) and once I had located its big shinyness it only took me a couple of minutes to identify the tools I needed for my mission.

I'm not sure how long the next bit took. It's all a bit of a blur. All I remember is I switched on the TV, and somehow got all the way from Neighbours to the end of the Channel 5 Afternoon Movie (sponsored by people who make dentures – I'm thinking I'm not really their target audience) by way of Doctors, Angela Lansbury, and a brief burst of scary hyper children's dayglo gabble (with lots of people dressed up as bigger muppet people that if I was 5 would have really scared me) before I had a freestanding object with slidey slidey drawers.

And guess what. It stood up. There were a couple of extra screws which worried me for a bit. But I pushed it around a bit and it didn't fall over. Nor did bits fall out of it or go clunk in that horrible oh-bugger-I've-just-dislodged-something-crucial-to-this-whole-contraption way. It did not even wobble. And the drawers went slidey slidey swish. It was a thing of beauty.

So I expected the praise. I expected the sighs of wonder. I even thought there might be tears. But when I told my mother I'd done it – oh so casually – she walked calmly upstairs, and surveyed it, head on one side, with no visible emotion.

"I didn't have any help," I said, just in case my brother was going to pinch the credit.

"I can see that," she said, "it's just a teensy bit squint."

Reader, I defended my drawers to the last. But I still maintain, if they're crooked, that is surely the fault of the person who cut the shapes out in the first place. Whatever. Anyway, my drawers are still standing, and holding stuff, and going slidey slidey swish, and I love them all the more because you can race marbles from one side of the top of them to the other. I have expanded their purpose in life, and surely that is a skill all of its own?

(And for the record, it's the ridged metal pointy bit you use. The black bit is the handle)


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