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October 30, 2006

Mother's Ruin

Oh dear. I have been home again for only two days, and already there is a problem.

The problem is this: we have no gin.

Seems quite simple, does it not? Not so much a problem as a small hiccup between trips to Tesco. There is no gin, therefore we put it on the shopping list and buy it next time we go up. Then we can have gin and tonic and sit around whilst we argue about whose turn it is to cook and who failed to notice we were out of chopped tomatoes*. Huzzah. There may even be some olives, which is always nice.

However, this fails to factor in one other quite important point of note: my mother.

You see, way back in the beginning of the summer, when I moved back in, my mother was against the presence of The Gin. Gin was a bad thing: it was expensive, bad for our health, and an all round Extravagant Bad Habit. Nevertheless, as a twenty-something non-smoker and ex-caffeine addict, I felt that I was allowed an EBH; moreover that it was my positive duty as a young person to keep up one EBH; and so I fought for The Gin, and The Gin stayed. As did some tonic and half a lemon wrapped up in clingfilm in the fridge, but they were just optional extras, and you know, nice.

So The Gin entered our lives. Only for half an hour a couple of times a week, of course, but it soon became a regular fixture.

And soon after that, it was not down to me offering to make us a nice drink with my mother yielding delicately and naughtily after a little persuasion, it was my mother coming in and going ‘pour us one, go on’ and as she drank, rolling her eyes and telling me what a bad influence I was, and if it wasn’t for me she wouldn’t be drinking it. But apparently, despite the way the tables have turned, I am still responsible for driving my mother to a drink once or twice a week.

And now that we have no gin, a whole new dilemma is born.

There are four possibilities:

1. Buy more gin. Allow vicious cycle and recriminations to continue, but also ensure that gin and tonics are available for weekends and the odd ‘needing a drink’ times. But then must shoulder the guilt placed upon me by mother.

2. Buy more gin with own money. Mother feels grateful to me for allowing her to share, and therefore blame is lifted from my shoulders as am doing a Good Thing. But I have very little money.

3. Don’t buy gin. Although technically sensible option, will end up going to pub to buy drinks, and as mentioned before, have very little money. And when friends come round, will have nothing to offer them but tap water and something disgusting in a 2ltr bottle in the fridge that my brother abandoned when he went off to university. Maybe even end up trying this out of desperation and dying from rabies or similar.

4. Buy something less desirable to mother. However, as proved by the ‘Baileys Is Such A Teenage Drink’ debacle of six Christmases ago, this could be difficult.

There is, of course, option five, which is waiting for my mother to crack and purchase some gin herself, unprompted by me or a shopping list. However, this could horribly backfire and still all be my fault, and moreover be a far worse offence than merely persuading her to buy the stuff in the first place. I’m not sure I want to wait for this to happen, and should it happen, it may even tip me over into teetotalism (for a month at least, until the scandal dies down.)

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*In this house there are either too many cans of chopped tomatoes or not enough. It is impossible to have a satisfactory number of cans. Much research has been done, many experiments have been carried out, but it is a problem that will probably never have a solution.


August 07, 2006

Only Collect

I have a problem.

My problem is with Stuff.

Stuff, it should be noted, is not Crap. Where as Crap applies to all those objects which are, essentially useless and pointless whimsies*, Stuff applies to things that one day will have a purpose. You can identify Stuff by the arguments about said Stuff that usually result in conversations along the lines of:
'What's this?'
'That's my oogamaflip.'
'When are you ever going to use that? Chuck it.'
'But what happens when one day, I want to flip my oogas, and I haven't got my oogamaflip? What then?'

Stuff is all those things that one day, somewhere, sometime, will be used, in a universe where everyone flips oogas on a regular basis and the sun shines and money trees grow out of the ground and your hair is always, always ,shiny and flicky and gorgeous.

So, you see, Stuff and I have a somewhat precarious relationship. It needs me to pretend that one day I will use it and it will have a purpose, and I need it to pretend that one day I will be living a life where I will use it and it will have a purpose. It's co–dependency, of sorts.

And it worked, whilst I had two homes. My Stuff could be distributed evenly between the Wirral and the Leamington, and so as I moved my Useful Items back and forth with me, the ratio of Useful Items:Stuff in any place in which I was living stayed at roughly 50:50, which is about the level present in any normal household.

The problem has only arisen since I've crammed all of my Stuff into one room again, and now, by some fluke, the levels of Useful Items to Stuff are heavily unbalanced, listing somewhere around 30:70. My Stuff surrounds me, and taunts me with all the things I could, one day, do, and I dare not open my wardrobe, for fear of a rain of flippertygibbets, thingamajigs, and gadgeterijitas.

And yet, if I throw them all out, what then? It's like admitting to myself that I will never live a life that requires any of these things; that I will be living a Thoroughly Useful Life for the rest of my days, and that in itself is more terrifying than possible concussion every time I need a clean T–shirt. My Stuff gives me hope that one day, despite 9–6 and minimum pay, life will be a bit luxurious, a little frivolous and ever–so–ever–so slightly bizarre around the edges.

So the Stuff must stay, at least until I look in a mirror, see grey hair and wrinkles, and accept the fact that I will never flip an ooga again. But, to be quite honest, if I was still wrinkly and aged and living at home, I'd probably have bigger things to worry about than Stuff.

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*Whimsies count as crap except in the case of those suffering from a Whimsy Addiction. Depending on the severity of the case, they can be classed as either Stuff or Useful Items, although you may need to prduce your medical records before a reclassification can take place.


July 01, 2006

Just me and the yellow wallpaper

I'm not used to living in a room with nothing on the walls. Apart from the blutac stains (please still give me my deposit back, Mr Landlord…), all my posters, cards and odds and ends of material and fairy lights are now all sitting in bags in the spare room, probably causing some sort of health and safety hazard. It's all very odd.

And to add to that, now that there's no wistful Pre–Raphaelite women and pretty cityscapes to distract my attention, I've been forced to contemplate just how weird the colour of my walls actually is. I'm sure they weren't like that before. I'm positive they were a lovely shade of cream, not the colour of goopy mustard.

I'm also sure my typing never used to sound so loud and echoey and ghostly, and my floorboards didn't used to creak in such an ominous way. And just now, my wardrobe door mysteriously swung open, for no good reason, in a way I've never seen it do before. I'm waiting for the lightbulb to flicker, my candle to gutter, and strange shadows to be thrown across the wall. I have this feeling this could all go horribly Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and tomorrow will see me being carted out of the house in one of those complicated straitjacket things and sent off to a Victorian madhouse.

Having said that, it's nice to think of this room as haunted by objects past. I like to think, when I leave tomorrow, I'll leave a little of me in this room (not counting the blutac stains). It's been a wonderful final year, in a wonderful house, with wonderful housemates and wonderful friends, and I couldn't have asked for more.

Hmm. I was going to actually write something about how I can't break the habit of carrying my university card around with me, despite the fact that is is now merely a useless piece of plastic with a really bad photo of me being eighteen and trying and failing to look pretty (because I was a hopeless, if hopeful, teenager) but I think this entry has descended so far into mush that there's no hope for it now.

But if ever a moment was deserving of mush, this is probably it. Thank you to everyone who has made this year what it was. I'm going to miss you all so much.


June 28, 2006

Ten Things In Our House

The Cupboard of Doom
Nobody mentioned, when we signed the house lease, that we would have a fifth housemate waiting for us. Or more specifically, waiting for me, on the night I moved in before everyone else. My mother had left me, night had fallen, and it was only then, on my own, in the dark, that I saw there was a curious door under the stairs, and decided that obviously, on my own, in the dark, it was a good idea to investigate said door. So, I pulled it gaily open, only to be confronted by a dismembered doll head splattered with a red substance gleaming evilly in the electric light.

That, readers, was, and continues to be the Barbie Head Of Doom. She sits in the window in the cupboard under the stairs, and we like to think of her as our house guardian for scaring burglars and disconcerting our house guests, kind of like a bull mastiff but pinker and more smiley. And after my first shock, I have come to feel more affectionate towards her, and will actually be sorry to bid her adieu.

My Desk
My desk is beautiful. No really, it is. It's made of real wood and everything, and has beautiful slidey drawers and a lovely solid polished top. And to think it almost wasn't mine.

You see, when we moved in, my room almost had it all. Almost. There was a bed, bookcase, dressing table and wardrobe, but no desk. And even though I tend to do most of my studying, such as it is, in/on bed, I felt I needed a surface on which to stack the books I hadn't read and to write the to do lists of things I would never actually do. So when the landlord came over, I sheepishly asked him if I could have a desk, and moreover, if he could possibly find me a desk that would fit in the niche I'd left for it.

Surprisingly, he smiled and nodded, and said 'Of course. You've made it look really nice in here – it would be a shame to have to mess it up." This was on the night he came round at 9pm with his toolbox and also rehung a door, fixed the toilet lock, and brought a new mattress for my housemate. And at 3pm the next day, he pulled up in his car with my lovely solid wood desk that fitted perfectly in the space. We love Spa Estates. Anyone looking for South Leam houses next year, go to Spa. They are lovely lovely people, and deserve your business.

Our living room ceiling
Our living room isn't really a room, as such. It only really has one wall, which is the exterior wall of our house, and which also includes our kitchen window and the sliding glass door leading to Steve's room. The other three walls are plastic conservatory windows, and as for the roof… well, it's a beautiful construction of corrugated translucent plastic.There's also a small paint–splattered basin, and a mains drainage cover which you can have hours of fun bouncing up and down on. It's surprising how quickly you get used to it, and also how useful the kitchen window is as a service hatch.

Spongebob the toilet
When you flush our downstairs toilet, it sounds like Spongebob Squarepants. That is, if you can get it to flush without sticking your hand inside the tank and tugging at random bits of the mechanism. It is also decorated with some interesting mould patterns on the walls, and is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including the famous biting spider discovered by Layla, and several families of woodlice. It's like Nature Corner. We're probably doing our bit for several endangered insect species, and probably creating a few exciting mutant ones as well.

The inexplicable hole in my ceiling
There has been speculation, there have been theories. There has even been brief and fruitless investigation. All that can be ascertained is that it is there, and it is now forever inexplicable.

Steve's window
Steve has a window that is not so much a window as a sliding door leading to the living room. It's quite useful as an escape route for situations when unexpected guests arrive and we're caught in the living room in pyjamas and no makeup. And in most situations, instead of cowering behind the freezer as happened on one notable occasion, we can slip silently through Steve's room and hightail it up the stairs before anyone is the wiser. Cowering behind the freezer is only useful as a last resort, and if the unexpected guest is a certain boy, it's fairly fruitless, as he will chase after you. You have been warned.

The Stairs of Intellect
Every intelligent discussion we've ever had in this house has been conducted on the stairs. Despite having four nice bedrooms and a well–appointed living room, we will still gather on the stairs. Jess sits at the top, Layla near the bottom, and I favour the turn of the stairs, as I can curl up in a corner and nod sagely. If all discussions about world politics and religion happened on a flight of stairs, I'm sure the world would be a better place for it.

The 'orchard'
Our garden is a carport, a mysterious shed, and two fruit trees. These two trees have gradually been trying to take over the house and have had to be restrained at various points over the year by rakes, brooms, and an elderly washing line. They did, however, also provide edible apples and pears and pretty pink and white blossom, so we don't hold their transgressions against them.

The ladies' bicycles
Should you ever feel like having a famous five moment in this house, fear not. We have the materials for such a jolly jape. Two lovely old ladies' bicycles, with bells that go triiiing and baskets on the handlebars. You can stow your luncheon meat and ginger beer safely away and go trolling out through the streets of South Leam in style. We have been tempted. Very tempted. What larks, eh, what larks.

The assorted nails in the picture rails
We've put them to many uses. I have a fluffy white feathered fairylit halo hanging above my bed. Layla hangs a handbag from one of hers wedged into the wall at a convenient height. And Steve wins the prize for most innovative with a halfsize guitar dangling merrily from one in his room. We know how to make the most of what we've got in this house, that we do.

Goodbye and thank you house. You have done us proud. We'll not be forgetting you.


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 21, 2006

I just thought you should know…

Revision is less mind–numbingly awful when you are wearing red shoes.

Try it. You'll see.


May 18, 2006

Much Ado About Fruit

I have a problem. There is a banana festering somewhere in my room, and I'm not sure where. I picked it out of the fruit bowl this morning because it was getting to the stage where the browny black bits were starting to outweigh the yellow, meaning to eat it for breakfast. However, after a few choice diversions including Facebook, frozen milk, spiders in the hallway and fixing my umbrella, breakfast and the banana were both forgotten. Until now, and now I can't find said banana. I have no recollection of where I might have put it down. All I know is that it is lurking somewhere, probably in my room, and probably slowly rotting as I speak.

I would quite like to eat this banana. But if I don't find it within the next few hours or so, it will have gone beyond the point where it would be decent to eat it, and much as I loathe throwing food away, I think the only place for the banana will be the bin. And even worse, if I don't find it soon, I may wake up tomorrow morning with a funny smell in the room, and find the mangled corpse of my formerly yellow friend stuffed in a desk drawer or concealed under the bed.

The fact that I don't know where it's gone is starting to bother me more than a little bit. Not least because I seem to be losing my memory, which I thought only happened once you'd had children. It won't be long before I start forgetting conversations that happened yesterday, and trailing off in the middle of sentences, and sounding even more like my mother than I do already.

On the upside, any day that contains Sigur Ros, thunderstorms, red wine and rainbows can't be bad. And even if my memory gets worse, I do have a digital camera to remind me of things like this:

Right. Now all I have to do is find that bloody banana…


May 17, 2006

For the sake of art…

I have had a revelation. A blinding flash of inspiration, that came to me this morning as I lay in bed looking at the pile of books looming on my desk, and thought I'd really rather not, thanks. And then, my gaze stretched to the wall beyond, and the picture on the wall. I could do that, I thought. That, there, is my vocation. I don't know why I didn't think of it sooner.

Yes, that's right. I don't need my degree. Not at all. For I am going to give it all up and become a Preraphaelite model.

And here, should you still doubt the wisdom of my decision, are five good reasons why.

  1. I will get to lie about all day in bed, probably somewhere nice. And even if there is no bed, there will be many many cushions.
  2. I will never ever need to use hair straighteners ever again. I can let my hair free to curl and wave and go crazy in the way it loves to do, all the time, and I don't need to feel ashamed next to all the other eng lit girls with their perfectly straight and shiny hair in manner of Pantene advert.
  3. I can spend all my time in flowing skirts and dresses in pretty colours. No more jeans.
  4. There will probably be a a few lithe young men in strategically draped grecian robes hanging about the place. This can never be accounted a bad thing.
  5. My big hips will be attractive and desirable and will be magically transformed into things of beauty by the artist's brush, befitting goddesses and heroines of literature.

However, there are also, as with any career choice, a few downsides to consider.

  1. Loss of feeling in arms from prolonged lying around in ravishing poses.
  2. Possible pneumonia from floating about in little clothing in rivers emulating Ophelia and the Lady of Shalott etc.
  3. Problems with maintaining a vacuously attractive and wistful gaze, as as proved in my exam yesterday ('Mathematicians are reminded they may NOT take string into this exam'), I have difficulty keeping a straight face for long periods.
  4. Men staring at me for any length of time borders on being a little creepy, especially whilst I'm asleep.
  5. Wearing trailing skirts continually, whilst tempting, may pose a bit of an issue in rainy English weather. May become so waterlogged whilst, for example, buying groceries, that I can't physically move.

Hmm… Maybe I'll stick with the revision a little while longer. After all, the main thing is that I have options, I suppose.


May 14, 2006

Garbage

Which is what I'm listening to, and also what I'm reading. I'm sure it must actually be a book about something very clever relating to King Lear, but there's something wrong with my eyes that is turning all the words into bleughbleughbleughybleughsquiggle. This is not really a good sign, and I don't think will be appreciated in an exam situation either.

The next door neighbours have also been playing trance music very loudly for about forty–eight hours, which is doing something very odd to my head. Even when I leave the house, there's part of me that can still hear duhduhduhduh following me round the streets of Leamington. It's got to the point where I'm wondering if they actually stopped long ago and it's simply that the sound is still echoing round my worryingly empty skull.

I'm also starting to have conversations with my housemates that only exist in my head. Yesterday, whilst I was filling the kettle, I was sure I'd called through to the other housemate present, asked him if he wanted tea, and then told him I'd added an extra cup just for him. Only I didn't actually ever let the words cross my lips. However, he did want tea, which says something for my psychic powers (though admittedly not a lot, as nobody ever declines tea in our house).

I'm not sure what to expect of the next stage of revision madness. Talking to the Complete Works? Hearing the wasps buzzing in iambic pentameter? Hallucinating the fine figure of Shakespeare whole and real in my bedroom?

If he's lucky, and sticks around long enough, he'll probably even get a cup of tea.

Squiggle.


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 22, 2006

Lizzie and Layla's Knot Normal Day Out

Today marked Shakespeare's birthday weeked and also the beginning of the RSC's Complete Works Festival. And being so dedicated to their subject (ahem), what could two Lit students do but stop working and hightail it straight to Stratford?

The day was completely unplanned. So unplanned that they looked at the grey sky that morning and almost didn't go. However, when Lizzie worked out there was a Stratford bus in ten minutes, the two of them gained enough momentum to propel themselves out to the bus stop, in the company of two crazy men and their dog.

12.14pm: Bus pulls up.

12.15pm: Lizzie and Layla get on bus. Layla asks if bus goes to Stratford. Bus driver ascertains that yes, bus does go to Stratford. Lizzie and Layla find seat.

12.16pm: Two crazy men unleash dog on bus whilst they argue with the driver about how many dogs are actually on said bus.

12.17pm: Said dog scampers wildly about whilst old people mutter. Crazy Man no. 1 tries to pay whilst Crazy Man no.2 complicates issue by ranting on about how he has six dogs.

12.18pm: Compromise reached. Crazy men and dog and tickets are stowed away at the back of bus and bus pulls away.

12.27pm: Bus drives through housing estate where all the street names are Shakespearean. Othello Way, Petruchio Place, and Banquo Approach etc. Obviously good way for Layla and Lizzie to refresh their Shakespeare knowledge. Crazy men refresh their knowledge of swear words whilst cursing at the driver for going over speed bumps.

12.34pm: Countryside. Layla and Lizzie have no idea where they are and have lost all sense of direction.

12.35pm: Countryside. It transpires that bus driver has no idea where he is and has lost all sense of direction.

12.36pm: Bus passengers try to help driver. Elderly woman pipes up with the wrong directions and needs to be corrected loudly by elderly man. Middle-aged woman knows where they should be going but nobody is listening to her. Crazy men complicate situation by yelling abuse at the driver.

12.38pm: Bus en route again. Lizzie and Layla wonder if bus actually Stratford-bound as obviously driver, in light of recent events, is not exactly reliable in matters of local geography.

12.46pm: Crazy men and dog get off. Crazy 30ish woman with tamagotchi gets on with small child. Gets more excited about activities of her tamagotchi than the activities of her small child in a very loud voice, and describes an old man on the bus as 'arrrrty-farrrrrty.'

1.10pm: Bus reaches Stratford, much to Lizzie and Layla's relief. They get off, and the adventure can safely say it has been begun.

After fish and chips by the river, and a rather strange encounter in the RSC gardens with groups of people dressed for a garden party in big pastel hats, they discover the Stratford Brass Rubbing Centre. Due to their meagre student funds it is regretfully decided that they cannot stump up the £1.95 to partake of the brass-rubbing fun currently ensuing there. Their two more hard-working housemates will not be getting the gift of a brass rubbing that evening. Maybe next year, when they're earning, they can aspire towards brass-rubbings to bestow upon their friends, but for now it is but a dream.

To get over the disappointment, they wend their way to The Dirty Duck, where an accordion player and his troop have obviously decided to spend the afternoon on the pub balcony in the sunshine, playing away to themselves. Lizzie and Layla decide to have half a pint and listen to them.

This is pleasant enough, until Layla hears an impending jingle, and a troop of Morris men walk down the street. Lured by the English folk music, they fail to go away, and instead stand looking up at the accordionist with adoring eyes. One dancer is moved enough to perform an impromptu dance with his bells and white hankerchieves in the middle of the road. Lorry driver slows and drives round him without so much as a flicker of an eye. Obviously mid-dance Morris men are common hazards in Stratford. Layla and Lizzie get another drink.

After the Morris men have jingled on, a couple of men in Shakespearean costume waver up. Cannot decide if they are very drunk or just 'acting.' They come on to the pub balcony and do a little sketch between Shakespeare and his barber, attracting a crowd of large American tourists and one woman who doesn't understand and tries to sit down on the stool they have purloined for their set. Layla and Lizzie are ringside for the performance and make sure they don't catch the barber's eye. Layla is asked if she wants her hair cut. Afterwards she wishes she'd said yes because that would really have messed their sketch up, but alas, the moment is passed. Layla and Lizzie get another drink.

After that, it is time for the pilgrimage to the RSC tat shop, to marvel at such wonders as the 'half-timbered rubik cube' and 'traditional' Shakespeare jewellery, get excited about all the productions, encounter the Morris men again in full flow, and to buy a 99.

Whilst eating, they spy a narrowboat called Knot Normal, which they agree perfectly sums up their day, and is an appropriate point at which to end it. They make it home in time for tea and Doctor Who.

And Doctor Who strikes them as surprisingly normal after the truly bizarre day that can best be described like this:


The Hard Life of My Hard Drive

So, I finally downloaded Winamp. This was after Windows Media Player took a full total of three minutes to find a song on shuffle, and by the time it had found the song I could have already heard it and be pretty much on to the next one, whereupon I decided that I'd really rather like a music player that didn't make my hard drive curl up and die quite so much with every shuffle. So Winamp was welcomed with open arms on to my desktop, and now sits in pride of place somewhere on the crest of a wave on the Pacific Ocean, with my mother floating gaily about in the foreground.

Which is, of course, all well and good. However, with the introduction of Winamp and the novelty of a program that can handle all of my accumulated music, my hard drive has been forced to reveal some of its dark and distressing secrets.

Apparently, for most of the three years of its careworn life, my laptop has been struggling with a music folder containing the one and only (and alas now deceased) Busted. I'm not quite sure how long it thought to hide this from me, but it did pretty well to conceal an entire album so completely for so long. The thing is, I really don't know how it got there in the first place. I have no memory of ever going 'oooh, I fancy a bit of Busted.' (In fact, I have no memory of ever saying 'oooh I fancy a bit of' anything, but if I had, I doubt it would have been to do with Busted.) Therefore, my hard drive must be the culprit… unless it was forced into submission by Busted themselves in order to increase their pop longevity by ensuring their music lives on in the depths of unsuspecting laptops. Ah yes, that'll be it.

It's still a little traumatised. I can tell this by the fact the shuffle keeps coming up with Placebo. I have this feeling it may need some time to recover from this one.

I'll know it's cured when it starts voluntarily selecting The Divine Comedy.


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.


March 07, 2006

I'm Great, Employ Me…

… is something that is very hard to convey after you have been walking around in London in the pouring rain for three hours, getting lost in Soho, smiling back at dodgy men in fedoras and sunglasses, avoiding Scientologists who want to drag you into a back room for 'a little chat,' spending far too much time in close proximity to the Middle-Aged Potential-Adulterer Business Man type (ugh), spending far too much time in knee high boots that are retaining more rain-water than the London streets, and with scary mile high frizz hair.

Nevertheless, I feel I may have made my mark, if only in soggy wet patches on their lovely thick pile carpets.

And as reward, I am not going to attempt any Shakespeare whatsoever tonight. I am not even going to open the optimistically-named word document wherein it doth not lie. He is going to stay in the corner until tomorrow. Instead, I am going to ponder three of the world's great mysteries, prompted by today's adventures:

  1. Why, at the only point in your day when you actually do want a Starbucks, one is nowhere to be found. Yet as soon as you've given up and have settled for a dodgy paper cup of something brown coloured in the corner of a tube station, an outlet miraculously appears, warm and dry and cosy looking and smelling of actual coffee, whilst you stand outside in the rain, pressing your nose wistfully to the window like orphans do with toyshops in Dickens television adaptations.

  2. Why I only ever get chatted up by drunk guys and middle-aged married men. I mean, really. Do I have some sort of sign on my chest saying Get Your Adultery Here? Which, for the record, I categorically don't. And yes, talking about your wife is a great turn-on, as is the business card. I'll stick to my original game plan with the cats, thanks.

  3. Why on every train, it is prerequisite that there must always be one elderly lady with a suitcase that is larger than her, and also one bolshy man in a business suit and horrible pink tie, probably called something like 'Stu' or 'Phil,' who insists on talking very loudly and agitatedly into his mobile about something very very dull like the price of paperclips per 100g as if it's a war council, and then persists in sounding annoyed and surprised when the signal cuts out as if it's some unexpected crisis, and carries on barking 'Hello! Hello!' down the receiver til everybody around him wants to ram his stupid shiny black all-singing all-dancing phone-organiser-and-sex-toy-in-one gadget down his ugly pink tie throttled throat. Come on Stu/Phil, you must have got used to this whole flickery signal on a train sort of malarkey by now. Surely at least you saw Trigger Happy TV at some point in your paperclip filled existence?

Ah, that feels a lot better.

I knew Shakespeare wasn't a good idea tonight.


March 01, 2006

The Doctor Quinn Way

Every young girl with access to daytime television* has at one point in her tender years aspired to be the Medicine Woman herself. Doctor Mike is such a positive role model for the ladies, isn't she? Look at her with her gutsy ways and Strong Moral Fiber (yes, yes, I am allowing the Americanism here, seeing as it's Dr Quinn) triumphing in a gloriously politically correct manner over all adversity, rewriting history itself. What a woman.

However, I am a little troubled that her morally enriching adventures appear to be consigned now to sporadic appearances on regional television and the occasional feature length dramas on Channel Five, condemning today's youth to a Medicine Woman free zone. What hope have they of finding another such role model in our callous, ceramically straightened hair'd 21st century society? So I have provided here a fully comprehensive guide to living the Doctor Mike way of life, for the sake of the children.

  1. Be a woman. This helps a lot. If your gender happens to be against you on this one, find another reason why you can feel oppressed and victimized, e.g. your race, your political views, your irrational love of the colour yellow (which is, apparently, the colour of oppression, as well as coming in some nasty shades) etc. etc. Whatever you like. What's important is you have an angle. You'll need it for the impassioned speeches (see no.9).

  2. As a woman, exercise your right to go completely alone into an extremely male dominated chauvinistic environment, where the men don't get much female company. Think of it as the 19th century version of a woman on her own in a very very sleazy club. However, fear not, because solely based on your truly exemplary moral and freethinking ideals you will not get hassled/raped/otherwise bothered, and you will, of course, end up being a pillar of the community.

  3. Find some orphan children to adopt, preferably outcasts from society. It doesn't matter how ugly/stupid they are, under your benign and liberal care they will flourish and grow up to become fine upstanding young men and women. However it is important to note that only the girls may become doctors. If you're a male Quinnette, you can only become a decent farmer or journalist.

  4. Fake hair is good. Especially if it has lots of curls. Men with fake flowing perms are also good, especially if they have a leather jacket with tassels on to go with it. Mmm, sexy. The exception to this is no.8.

  5. Wear more make-up than anybody else, even the town whore. If at all possible, it should also be a style of make-up that is completely anachronistic. Yes, waterproof mascara is available to you out on the prairie in the 19th century, because, well, you're already defying so many aspects of history that a few more can't really hurt, as long as they make you look good.

  6. As far as clothing goes, this should stay true to the period, apart from the fact that you have a wardrobe that has an entire claim shanty to itself. I know you're bringing up three orphan children, saving the Indians and running a surgery on very little money, but it is important that you have a different dress every day. These clothes will only get torn and dirty if you are in the pursuit of the Greater Good.

  7. Pivotal moments in your life should come in slow motion, preferably with some heart rending orchestral music. These bits are easy to spot because there will probably be a deathbed nearby, or you will have just rushed in gasping 'what is it?' or there will be a small child, or in fact all three of the above.

  8. Beware of men with Fake Handlebar Moustaches. The FHM is a symbol of Conservatism and Oppression and Bad Things. Men who have FHM must be conquered by the Impassioned Speech (see no.9).

  9. The Impassioned Speech. This is one of the most important parts of the Doctor Quinn Way of Life. Obviously, the aim of the speech will change every time it is used, but the most important point to get across is that you are Morally Correct In Every 20th Century Way, and everyone must bow to your anachronistic views and fashion sense, despite living in an entirely different period of history. For the longer speeches, pointing out that you are a woman also helps. And looking earnest is very important, especially in your close-ups.

  10. Finally, the Tear In Eye is the jewel in the Doctor Quinn crown, especially if your eyes are two different colours. This means that not only can you vary the level of moisture depending on the nature of the situation, but you can also introduce variety in the colour symbolism. For example, if you find out you are pregnant, it might be a misty green-eyed moment, symbolising the joy and springtime renewal of life, but small innocent child dying of disease is definitely a compassionate blue eye swimming with tears sort of occasion. (Some completely anachronistic contact lenses are of course available to you if you need some help with this one.)

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*As well as some of the boys, but they probably won't admit to it.


February 27, 2006

How Stephen Poliakoff saved my sleep patterns

Today was one of those days when I woke up, lay around in bed for a while and then decided that my sheets really needed washing. I would like to point out this was not because they were actually incredibly dirty, or that I'd just got jam and coffee all over them, but because somehow, in the last ten minutes, they'd just crept over that boundary of being fresh and crisp and a little bit bouncy to being, well, just a bit dull and apathetic about life. You know how sheets can be.

Unfortunately, what I didn't know at this point was that today was also the day our boiler had been seized with a fit of dullness and apathy, and had decided, in its infinite wisdom, to go on strike. So there was no hot water, and more importantly for our heroes the sheets no nice hot radiators for them to bask on whilst drying out.

Which does explain why I ended up in our conservatory/living room/shack-tacked-on-back-of-house this evening wearing a ratty cardigan and three skirts and standing on a chair with a damp double duvet cover and a hair dryer.

However, thanks to the BBC and Stephen Poliakoff I managed to cover the event in some false glamour by imagining some nice winsome music and lush scenery in the background. The sheets weren't flopping, they were billowing, probably complementing my ruddy gipsy appearance in this world of order. Oh, and I was actually the young frowny-but-pretty assistant to some aging millionaire with bizarre and innocent whims, and that everything was going to end very contentedly in some big function where everyone feels heartglad to have each other despite the fact that their relationships have fallen through/their family disintegrated/they slept with their sister. There's something very comforting about Poliakoff dramas*, even when you have a fully functioning boiler. You know you're definitely guaranteed a lavish party or three, and probably a nice stylish mushy moment sandwiched somewhere between the fireworks and slow orchestral panning over the landscape. It's like the televisual equivalent of champagne – luxurious, indulgent and you know exactly what you're getting, even if the flute it comes in is a slightly different shape every time.

Thank goodness for Poliakoff, I say. Without him, at this point I'd probably still be mooching round the house staring moodily at my damp sheets and kicking holes in the boiler, and we all know what happened last time it was allowed to get to that point.

_

*Especially Friends and Crocodiles in which Damien Lewis just keeps saying my name over and over again in fond tones, although that is completely irrelevant, of course. Of course.


February 17, 2006

The Mercedes Mystery

And the prophets foretold that in the far distant future a Shining Silver Machine would appear, overnight, a gleaming thing of Joy and Wonder among the murky coloured micras and the grubby white vans, and the Street would truly be transformed by its glorious Presence, and all would look upon the Miracle with thankful eyes…

…apart from the person whose parking space it had taken as it fell from the heavens.

All right, strictly, I suppose, it's not actually my parking space, apart from the fact that it is the spot that is directly outside my house. And also I consider it my right, as a driver without power steering, to have priority to this particular space, as it's directly next to a driveway so I don't have to wrench my arms out of their sockets and attempt a parallel park with an interested audience twitching their curtains. I can also gaze upon this hallowed spot from the spare room window, and give Coco a little wink every so often so she doesn't get too lonely out there. It's nice for a little car to feel appreciated, after all. The poor girl hasn't really got that much going for her otherwise.

And for a while, this worked. Coco sat happily outside the window, for the most part. Occasionally, she and I would find somebody else had coasted into our spot, and there were a few times when she ended up nose to nose with an entirely undesirable van, but these are after all, formative life experiences, and she doesn't seem to have suffered unduly from them.

But that was all back in the halcyon days of Before Merc. Literally overnight, this silver beast dropped from the skies, and we woke one morn about five weeks ago to find it twinkling outside our house. And it has not moved since.

At first, it was a bit of local interest. It added a bit of glamour and speculation to our humdrum lives. I mean, it's not everyone who has a whacking great Mercedes Benz appear outside their house now, is it? However, gradually, the charm wore off. Every morning now, we wake to feel its presence looming outside our closed curtains, and have to look away from its scrutiny as we lock the door every night. It is immovable, unchanging in wind and weather, and we are powerless against it. Coco and I even have to respectfully change down a gear as we pass its presence in case we graze its silver sheen, and the two of us remain in perpetual fear of overstepping the boundaries of courtesy as we try to parallel park near its large shiny body.

What we are desperate to know, but do not dare to ask, is when will it leave? When can we return to our cheerful pursuit of carelessly dodging round little two door metros and fiestas without its eternally threatening presence? When, in fact, can we cease to live in fear? It's been sitting there for over a bloody month now, and hasn't moved once. It doesn't appear to belong to anybody. More importantly, it's hogging my parking space, in the way a car with no claim to the house it sits beside and probably power power power steering has no right to do. Besides, it makes Coco feel inadequate. Look, I tell her, it's got nothing on you. You are beloved of an honest woman, and although you may have only a teeny engine and battered white paintwork, you are so valued that all that ceases to be important.

So, you see, having a nice shiny mystery vehicle brightening up the street is all very well, but now it's just plain annoying, for many reasons. I'm just waiting for the second Miracle to occur – the one where it disappears as mysteriously as it came. (And although we never hear of it, it's found by the police three nights later, burnt out and dumped at the bottom of the Sydenham Industrial Estate.)

But all that Coco and I care about is that it never flashes its glossy chasse in our parking spot again.


February 16, 2006

One True Real Love Affair To Remember In Desperate Lands From Afar etc.

I thought it was an isolated incident at first, truly I did. You see, it seemed so harmless. All I did was press one teeny tiny little button. A teeny tiny oh-so-miniscule button. What's the harm in that? you say. And I shake my head from the sofa, and reply with sssh, keep it down. I'm watching the Channel Five Afternoon Movie.

Yes. You did hear that right. For all those unfamiliar with the glory of daytime television, Channel Five, or '5ive' (correctly pronounced 'fiveive') as they prefer to be known, as obviously they are cool and hip and in tune with the youth of today and therefore obviously not at all a waste of bandwidth at all, every afternoon put on two films for your viewing pleasure.

They're not the sort of films you're likely to have seen at the cinema. They're not the sort of films you're likely to have read reviews of in some esoteric magazine but never got round to seeing because they were only shown once, at midnight, in an art house cinema in an attic the other side of Liverpool. They're not even the sort of films you may have picked up in a Woolworths bargain bucket for 50p marked 'straight to video.' Oh no, these are a whole new beast. These are the American 'made-for-tv' movies. Which, I suppose, is exactly what you come up with when you invent a zillion cable channels and need something to fill them. One day, when the viewing public finally becomes tired of seeing fifty Friends and Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps episodes a day, I predict Channel 4 and the BBC will end up with exactly the same concept. But with fewer white picket fences and 'wise woman' parts for Whoopi Goldberg.

So yes, anyway, it was entering the post-lunch-Neighbours period, and I felt nothing more than a fleeting, idle curiosity to see what else was on. So, ever ever so whimsically, I gaily flipped the remote. Little did I know what I had let myself in for. I was confronted with a small orphan boy riding his bicycle between the white picket fences, quickly replaced with a car smash where a tousled, bloody and yet beautiful woman was being hauled tenderly from the wreckage by David Hasselhoff in a fireman's helmet and his trusty pet dalmation. Cute orphan children, David Hasselhoff, and a faithful dalmatian? How could I resist?

This turned out to be the masterpiece known as One True Love. Somehow, despite the advert breaks for hearing aids, post 50s insurance and denture sterilising equipment, I remained on that sofa until the beautiful woman, not longer bloodied but still in her wedding dress (from the wedding she ran out of to be with David Hasselhoff) had ended up with her Baywatch fire fighter, driving off in his T-bird with dalmatian and cute orphan kid sitting in the the back.

And I thought that would be the end of that. But today, all that changed. I arrived home to find a housemate, who shall remain nameless, engrossed in a touching tale of a man who fell down a sinkhole during mardi gras and was being chased through a cave by wet cement whilst his girlfriend ran about anxiously and yet attractively trying to save him.

It appears the addiction is catching. But even worse, I have started to apply the Rules Of The C5AM to my own life. For example, the small cute girl in the pink dress who almost ran into me in the Arts Centre today I expected to have a young, widowed and incredibly sexy father (who would of course have a great classic car) instead of a normal jeans and oversized jumper mother. I laboured under the delusion that the spring wind was sweeping my hair into an attractive tousled look rather than the usual haystack. And when I fell backwards going down the bus steps today (I know I'm clumsy, but in my defence,I hadn't eaten for seven hours and the driver did brake rather sharply) instead of collapsing back in an undignified manner and smiling shamefacedly at the old lady looking up at me from the lower deck in concern, I was supposed to have been caught by a muscle-bound firefighter or similar, who would have miraculously appeared behind me, and would, of course have proposed within a fortnight.

I think the C5AM may have ruined my life. If I start beginning sentences with 'when I was nothing but the littlest of little girls,' or 'I had the most beautiful dream last night…' or even 'I'm sorry [insert name here] but I just can't marry you. Don't ask me to explain… I just can't' then please, please, put me out of my misery.

Just don't let it get to the stage where I start thinking rainstorms are romantic, I'm begging you.


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.


January 31, 2006

Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch, who watches over you?

Hmm. It appears it has taken me all of January to find a cure for the Januaryness of the month. I could have merely waited for it to come to the end of its annual life, which you would think would be the simple solution, but being me, I had to make it difficult.

However, after 30 days of searching, I am proud to report that I have managed to reclaim a day of my life from January. Without these hallowed 24 hours, I would not be the person I am now. Well, at least I probably wouldn't be singing the songs I am now. This may be a good thing or a bad thing. I haven't quite figured out the full moral and ethical implications of January, but it gives me something to work towards in 2007, at any rate.

So yes. I have, as you may have gathered, beaten January by the power of music. And not any old music. Well, that's sort of a lie. Semi -old music (if old is defined as circa 1970, but don't tell my mother I said that). January was banished from my room and my life by the songs of my long-lost youth. The Smashing Pumpkins, No Doubt, Republica, Garbage, Dodgy, All Saints, Smashmouth and the Fun Lovin' Criminals all played their part, and the final kick was administered by none other than the fantastic and neglected They Might Be Giants. I did, truly, build a birdhouse in my soul, and somehow in the middle of this January realised it wasn't getting any attention, sulked for a bit, and then waddled off for good.

As a footnote, I also made soup, flapjack, steamed chocolate pudding and a casserole, which may or may not be connected, but they were all tasty, so I don't really care either way.