Saturday, 30 July 2011

A big thank-you before I go away for a week

  • Keshling  whose blog Keshling Pulls it off!!! I wouldn't have discovered were it not for Lakota at Faith, Hope and Charity Shopping  (she paired us for the brilliant charity swap) has passed on her very deserved blog awards to me!

Keshling's blog offers a witty, honest and varied glimpse into her very busy life. I admire her dedication to her family; her humour; tastes in art and music... and her determined streak is something I'd love to borrow for a few years to sort my life out.

I only wish I had a list of interesting facts about me to share which would rival Keshling's. I mean, drumming in a punk rock band, tandem parachute jumps?  I couldn't even make up such cool things to share.

I'd imagine I've led others who were kind enough to pass these awards on to me to believe they're 'not my thing'. Truth is, I was really chuffed when Lakota first passed on the Liebster Blog award to me in March (see here).

I was brand new to blogging, knew nothing about awards and was quite overwhelmed that somebody felt my blog was worthy of telling others about. I'd seen a lot of British Mummy Blogs with all their fancy clicky things down the side, and initially thought there must be some sort of catch.

I was wrong, these awards are a simple way of introducing like-minded bloggers to one another, not some dodgy pyramid-scheme/chain-letter type nonsense.  I had every intention of adding the Leibster Award to the side bar of my blog.

This leads to the first fact about me: I am RUBBISH with computers. I sort of by-passed the computer revolution at school and college. I have managed to get by just being able to do the very basics. I've always  been able to delegate any computer-related tasks at work (there's usually someone who prefers sitting at the computer to cleaning up shit, funny, that). And at home, I have a partner whose idea of perfect bedtime reading is a 9,000 page CISCO book - I kid you not.

So, the award sort of languished before floating away into obscurity, I couldn't work out how to add it to my side-bar.

I really  appreciate Lakota's support, right from the start I have been encouraged by her. During times I wonder why on earth I'm blogging, Lakota has always offered positive feedback -  despite her having to maintain her own fantastic blog and huge following.

I was then astounded to receive more awards, recently from Max at Blackbird Has Spoken, and if you scroll to the comments I left on her post, I sort of awkwardly accepted the awards, whining about not having much confidence.
Max hadn't been following me for long, and I was really surprised to be included in her award-share.  It's times like that you just know that blogging is worthwhile.

 Max's facts were fascinating, and it's amazing how such a small collection of information about a person can tell you  so much about them.

Right, this is getting nowhere... I am OVER THE MOON to be recognised by these awards, thanks to everyone who feels my blog is worthy of sharing with their followers.

I love to charity shop, do a small amount of re-purposing etc but never seem to blog about it. I think if I had the time I would keep a separate blog to share my finds/craft attempts, because many of my favourite blogs centre around these things.

More facts, and my blog recommendations:

I saved my entire years salary in order to afford  a deposit on my home. My parents kindly let me and my son (then 2) live with them and took no money for 18 months, I only spent the child benefit.  This was during the 'boom' so house prices were going up every week. I'm so glad I did it though.

I am allergic to horses. If someone comes near me who has horse hair on them, I will soon become a wheezing, bloated-faced, sneezing wreck and my eyes seem to disappear 

I always wanted to be an actress. I wish drama had been an option at GCSE (it is now, the school opened a state-of-the art drama department AFTER I left)
I went to a drama group for a brief time and loved being on stage

I take ages to learn new skills, I had over 120 driving lessons (but passed 2nd test without fault).
 I couldn't tell the time or tie my laces 'til ages after my friends, even after my brother who is 2 years younger. I have difficulty working out what's left and right, get lost regularly  (even places I've been to loads of times)  strangely though, I seem to have a gift for learning languages (good sound memory I guess).

This blog was initially going to be an avenue to further explore my love of electronic music but I couldn't be bothered with adding all the little gadgets for soundclips etc.
 Music without words or 'natural' instruments stirs my soul more than any other. Does this mean I'm an android?

I've been a Viz subscriber for years and years, and reader for as long as I can remember

I have a fear of Mathematics (don't laugh) and considered quitting my job when I learned I'd have to get a maths qualification to keep it (had a baby instead)

I don't mind Marmite (don't LOVE or HATE) I hate mushrooms and prawns but will eat most anything else

I love black humour, if a joke is inappropriate, 'sick' or in poor taste, it'll either be coming out of my mouth or I'll be sniggering away as everyone else looks on, horrified
"Yet despite her fragile mental state, we did still manage to enjoy a few lighter moments of black humour"
Not me they are referring to, but what a classic line eh? Love it.

Right, so many blogs I follow already have been given these awards...

Firstly I wish Kat at Katryoshka Ramblings more followers (and join this month's giveaway why don't you?). I enjoy her take on life living communally at a beautiful farm house, her varied artistic talents which know no end, and her CARAVANS! I did pass on the Liebster to her back in March.

Secondly Cliodhna at DannSIndWIrHelden because she writes so well, and we share a lot of quirks, such as enjoying the occasional cup of Earl Grey tea with milk.

Thirdly Little Nell at Hanging On My Word such a multi-talented lady, her blog is brilliantly written and her photographs always tell a thousand stories, she sews beautifully, and her support of my blog  is incredibly inspiring 

Finally, Sian at Sian Lile Makes - her blog usually makes me feel hungry if it's a snap of her lunch, inspired if it's her art/sewing on show and ALWAYS calm. If you need a book recommendation, it may be worth asking her too, I think she's a bit of a bookworm, to say the least?

Right, I hope I have made it clear that I am really proud of the awards, I'm still amazed that anyone reads what often feels like dis-jointed brainstorms.

I hope these awards are accepted by the ladies mentioned above....

Lakota, Max and Keshling, it hopefully goes without saying that I whole-heartedly endorse your excellent blogs, and I am delighted to have found you all....

To ALL followers, I thank you for reading, for commenting and for being so very patient (I do go on). Every time I get a comment it makes me excited, like opening a letter.

I shall NOT be thanking God, my stylist, my entourage or anyone else for that matter.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Drugs Don't Work

Sat around a circular table with three other couples, waiting for our main course at a wedding - we were interrupted. "I'm sorry to butt in guys, but I've just heard that Amy Winehouse is dead".

At least we'll all remember where we were when we found out. There was no shock, no conversation, I just made a joke (as I always tend to do at the most inappropriate times) and suggested they tell the Master of Ceremonies. The MC had driven us all mad asking us to be "upstanding for a toast" every five minutes, I thought it may be time for one final toast to a wasted life.

Fleeting thoughts about other drug-addled 'legends' were juxtaposed with thoughts about people more familiar to me. People who had gone a step further than smoking joints, snorting the odd line, taking a pill. People who had crossed the line, gone the extra mile, pushed the boat out. Jacked-up.
I have NEVER taken Heroin. It was around me for a while during my early to mid teens, I was never offered any -  the smackheads I knew kept their habit private.
I saw the odd bottle of Methadone or Diazepam medicine nestled on the mantlepiece where a clock, candlestick or figurine may be. That was all.

The world of the smackhead was everywhere, yet nowhere to be seen. The early morning queue at the chemist, the needle exchange clinic always busy, the skeletal, haunted figures shuffling down the streets in small gangs.To this day though, I have never seen anyone 'jack-up'.
 I knew what I would become if I took Heroin, I knew what lifestyle I'd have. I knew how terrible I'd look, how skint I'd be. I knew that to try Heroin, was to become an addict overnight. The life of crime, violence,  debauchery that lay ahead never appealed. I didn't need a 'buzz' that badly.

I saw a boy, homeless, and messed up on heroin, he was drifting in and out of consciousness and preparing for death "nothing can be more painful than life".

Every now and then I'd hear of another familiar person who'd gone over to the dark side - something about piercing your vein to inject a hot brown liquid chemical had appealed to them.
She was indiscriminate, Lady Heroin. Like a trip to the library or a music/book shop -  she collected people from all walks of life. The pampered only child, the grade 7 piano-playing middle-class girl who was so bloody clever, the abandoned teens living in bedsits following family breakdowns, the transient 'oddballs' who slotted in with the jobless time-rich wasters, artists and acutely mentally ill.

I could imagine the feeling of being comfortably numb, the pink cloud eclipsing the black. A brief escape from yourself, life, family, pain. Heroin was never about enhancing existing senses, it seemed.  I always thought "it MUST be good" because too many sensible people had sold their soul to smack.

When my best friend chose smack. I'd already lost her in some ways, I had said goodbye, sat back and waited for her to become a person I could handle. Three horrible boyfriends, one after another, made it difficult to keep in touch. These boyfriends (maybe with the exception of the final one) were high achievers. Number one was the son of a headmaster (apparently a lovely guy) and teacher. He was beautiful until you looked into his cold eyes, charming and intelligent until his controlling superiority reared it's head. His heroin addiction was fought by his family with the most supreme effort imaginable, it was pointless. He's now  paraplegic and relies on 24 hour care, the car crash should have killed him, a passing doctor saved his life with seconds to go, his parents never recovered (though they are alive and did not crash).

I never met boyfriend 2, but felt his overpowering presence when I visited their flat. His artwork was disturbed, twisted and yet somehow perfect. He was discharged from the army, but behaved like a soldier in the relationship. I browsed his CD collection, nothing pretty there either, and coming from me, that's saying something.
Escaping his hold seemed to lead to a brighter time for my friend, her silly letters and drawings started to grace the doormat again. I met her at her parents house 40 miles away, she was happy that day but so thin. I was disappointed to hear she was a big Fugees fan, that didn't fit in with my life, I wanted her to be like me again. She cut the visit short, I was upset. She was happy  because she'd met a 'lovely guy'. He was a lovely Heroin addict.

We were both pregnant at the same time, it was great to have someone to share pregnancy with, but we didn't see each other. We met up once when our babies were a few months old, I have a photograph of our little bundles of joy lying side by side. When my son was one, she sent a card - I was touched. I kept meaning to thank her, my birthday was coming up; her daughter's birthday soon after, I would ring then.
 I rang her to say thank you, to suggest we meet up, to put some effort in to maintaining some sort of friendship. The answer I got when I asked to speak to her was blunt, it came from her partner - the father of her beautiful daughter: "haven't you heard? She died the other day".

I still went out for my birthday, just minutes after the call. We went to the pub where I worked for a free meal. En route, I passed a boy she knew well from school, told him the news. He looked really shocked, he had a drug problem, he is now dead too (heart attack).
When I walked into the pub "The Drugs Don't Work" was playing on the jukebox.

The funeral was a humanist ceremony; poems were read, people spoke about the girl who wasn't 'an addict'. I should have spoken, I should have spoken about my lovely, creative, child-like friend, but I didn't.

Today is the first time I have spoken about it really, eleven years on - I still don't know what to say.

Friday, 22 July 2011

I think, therefore I worry

I was chatting to a friend and two ladies (one mid fifties, one 65) yesterday. We spoke at length about 'worrying'.  I was the only one who openly admitted to worrying a lot. The other three claimed they 'take each day as it comes' and various other gems emerged, such as; "we could get cancer and be dead this time next year" (so - that's not something to worry about? I'm lost).

The conversation progressed onto topics such as plans for the summer holidays, going on holiday and comparing diaries to organise a date for our annual summer trip to the Museum of Welsh Life (worth a visit if you're ever unlucky enough to end up in South Wales) with our children/grandchildren. I seemed to be the only one who 'lives each day as it comes' - I had every day free for the foreseeable future, and didn't need to whip out a diary or consult my phone calendar.

More subjects came up which never fail  to divide the crowd - prison sentences and social workers. I was the odd one out again, I defended social workers and said I believe by the time someone gets to prison all the damage has been done and there's little to rejoice about (case in point was a woman they feel needs to be 'made an example of'). I also added that everyone I know who has been to prison came out and carried on with whatever they were doing to get them in trouble in the first place (I'd like to add I don't know any released rapists, paedophiles, or murderers).

The final straw came when they started to whinge about the recent opening of "yet another charity shop". I piped up "I'm more excited about that than I am about getting Tesco Express and WIlkinson's" (cheap and cheerful homeware, sweets, wet wipes, toothpaste, plastic toys).

As we parted company,  the worry set in, 'Oh dear' I thought  - I didn't agree with anything they said. I wondered if they found me deliberately obtuse. I worried that the dates I'd agreed to for our meet up clashed with plans to go to the caravan/hospital appointments. I worried they thought I didn't think the woman who may go to prison hadn't done anything wrong. I worried I hadn't asked enough questions about their families, did I seem self-absorbed?  I worried they thought I was happy with my choice of footwear (couldn't find the right pair).

I went to bed and worried about all the sugar I've been eating lately. I worried about what I'm going to wear to the wedding tomorrow, I'm bursting out of my usual size, like when you try to put a king size quilt in a double duvet cover.

I worried about the summer holidays; fighting boys, boredom, spending too much, eating too much.  I worried about getting a coldsore. I worried about what the teachers thought because I was one of the few who didn't buy end-of-term presents. I worried about my hair, it needs a good cut and will look awful if I try to style it tomorrow.

Just before I drifted off, I comforted myself with the realisation that if I'm thinking about these things, it shows I care.

I was thinking not worrying.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Empty the recycle bin?

Yesterday, I had a day of maniacal tidying, cleaning and de-cluttering. Seven bulging recycling bags; a full wheelie bin, sore hands and lots of cloths stained with mottled black dirt are the evidence of my toil.

I bought some Jeyes Fluid in preparation, there's just something appealing about that intense aroma. I used it quite liberally out the back to  scrub the moss-covered patio slabs, disinfect the drains and mainly to keep my enthusiasm up with the nostalgic scent.
I'm sure my 'green' chums in the next street would be horrified if they knew, I'm so glad they didn't pop in for a cup of Rooibos tea when I was in the middle of using such a toxic substance.

Next, I tackled the mind-numbing  task of sorting out the various bowls, boxes, bags and jars filled with 'stuff'. Said 'stuff' mainly seemed to be batteries, elastic bands, letters, small toys, business cards and empty envelopes. My mother never writes on greeting card envelopes - "no point, you know who it's for and you can save the envelope for another  time". Trouble was, most of these envelopes had become damp/soiled/crumpled.

After the tidying, came the cleaning, and gradually, my house started resembling a house that's quite presentable - so I celebrated with Earl Grey (are you listening Cliodhna? I had a splash of milk with it!).

It was middle son's actual birthday, so he had a friend over for tea, and the in-laws and other relatives visited (hence the crazy cleaning).

I couldn't switch off from my frenzied cleanaholic mode, so swiped cups and plates from guests' hands as soon as they'd gulped the last drop of tea/crumb of cake. I washed, wiped, dried and put away everything rather than let it pile up. My behaviour was out of character. Visitors tend to enjoy my laissez-faire attitude to cleanliness and order, a sort of 'wipe your feet on the way out' approach. I've usually made some scones, cake or laid on a buffet. Not last night - tea and shop-bought baked goods.

When the boys were in bed, the house all tidy and clean for once, I said "I'm going to blog now".  Nothing came. I typed and deleted around ten different beginnings to posts. It seemed my brain had been cleansed and emptied like the jars, cupboards and boxes.

I didn't daydream much yesterday, my mind was on the job, manual labour my focus - for once I quite enjoyed it. So now, I have brain-space free maybe a terabyte's worth. I'm as loathe to fill it with crap as I am my recently organised living room.

As I finally got rid of the broken toys, spent batteries, last years' bills, dried up nail varnishes, snapped crayons etc my brain got rid of some daydreams.

Here's a glimpse of some which are in the recycle bin;

Remembering my last public transport journey, tired after running for 5 minutes in case I missed the train. Train whirring, tress flashing - acid green, head on the window so I'm outside, not in, enjoying the sounds as they cancel out small-talk nonsense

Overheard conversation snippet: "I'm going to Tesco after, I'll pick some up for you if it's still on offer" 
I imagine the offer is on loose sand, and the car is full of sand with her tiny face peeping out when she returns

Friends/family - life and death, torturous pain, ecstatic highs, loss, fresh starts and unhappy ends

Exotic, faraway places, feeling that fleeting moment of knowing you are meant to be here, and at least feel occasional bursts of intense joy, (and being grateful)

Looking at the 'tobacco' strewn ground (decomposing blossom) then, later, the tobacco strewn pavement (discarded fags outside 'The Merlin'  pub)

No time to run tonight - think about running fast and breathing down cold fizzy air which courses straight to my veins, pulsing through and bursting back up through my throat like an opened lemonade bottle

Dream up business ventures leading to meeting interesting people - nationwide travel - cosy lunches and stilettos

Up ahead; short, stout lady in patterned wide-leg trousers, I imagine parting them and revealing a window to a strange world, closing the floral 'curtain' trousers and never seeing that world again.

Home, crack open the Jeyes Fluid - inhale....

Friday, 15 July 2011

Honestly, I don't mind

Despite the often overly-dramatic descriptions of my emotions, I'm quite calm and level-headed (I think).
If I've ever been praised at work, it's been along the lines of "you're so patient, you let everything go over your head."

There lies the problem, I DO let everything go over my head, thus never get the chance to dwell, contemplate and digest situations. So, when a friend rings me during the busiest time of the day - family 'rush hour' (3.30 - 4.30) just to harp on about the Next sale and my mum-in-law bombards me with requests to fill her in on the proposed minutiae of her visit next week... I just let it all go over my head.

I do not buy new clothes, therefore have no desire to buy a reduced item of clothing for £12.99 instead of £24.99. I procrastinated in the charity shop earlier because the price label threatened to make my eyeballs bleed  - £3 - three whole English pounds for a gorgeous vintage St Michael's dress, can I really spoil myself THIS much?

As for proposing an itinery for next Tuesday, well, forget it. I'd barely decided what we were having for dinner, haven't bought presents for the party we're attending tomorrow - next Tuesday is an age away.

So, I carry on with the dinner; pack my eldest's weekend bag, separate the fist fights my younger 2 are in the habit of, and muddle on.

I receive more text messages;  my running partner wants to know what time I'll knock her door (er, how does "I don't know" sound?).
Another friend texts to ask if I'm still up for a night out with her and her sisters tomorrow (er, forgot I said I was up for it in the first place  - I'll get back to you).

No wonder people either think I'm laid back, or get a bit cheesed off at my indecision.  Ask me ANY question and you can guarantee I'll say "I don't know" or "I don't mind".

The PROBLEM is when all these things happen at once. Like this evening. My brain tells these questions to go away. The questions keep coming, I can no longer hide, I approach meltdown - sensory overload.
 What do I do? Let off steam as soon as my OH gets home from work.  I turn into someone I despise. "She said this and I said that and I turned around and said this....." A whole hour of it. Poor sod.

Sometimes I wish I had a day like a child, I get dressed by someone, fed, taxi-ed around and put to bed.  Are you one of life's decision makers, with firm opinions? Or always on the fence?

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Wasting Time

I spent a leisurely morning in town today. We stopped for an ice-cream (and chatted to the cafe owner for half an hour about dyslexia) before going to the park.
 I was delighted to see two magpies instead of the usual one, in my youth, I used to allow superstition to control the day . Every morning on my paper-round I'd see at least one magpie and felt a pang of inevitable doom if it was just one. When there were two, I'd convince myself today was going to be the day I became someone.

The cafe, unchanged since it opened in the 1800's

A grandfather told me he'd just given his granddaughter her first smack (she looked about 2 years old). It was hard to tell if he wanted congratulating, reassurance or a ticking off from me - I just quipped "she doesn't seem too bothered".  

I tend to look skyward when I'm at the park, desperately wanting to see the wood pigeons' underside turn turquoise as they fly over the pool. I don't ever tire of this spectacular sight, yet when I point it out to strangers they look at me as though I've just confessed that I adore the 'Go Compare' adverts.

The morning fades away, time to go home and put some better clothes on (I'm wearing an unflattering ribbed vest top and faded jogging trousers - the type worn for painting or menstruating in). 

Lunch, and then the toddler has his nap (it should be time to prepare the vegetables for dinner). A loud, fat, powerful fly enters the kitchen and seems most annoyed about something.  I sit on the sofa and switch on the laptop - the fly has reminded me of something, no - someone - 'Boab' (see description below)

The Granton Star Cause is a comedy, where Boab is having a very bad day indeed. His parents throw him out so they can indulge in sado-masochism and he is sacked from his job, dumped by his girlfriend and dropped from his football team. It has elements of Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis. One of the characters is a pitiless and profane God, who transforms him into a fly as punishment for wasting his life.

YouTube fuels a full hour of time-wasting, I happen uopn an urelated video: 'Boab's Teeth'.

I find myself endeared to Boab; with his botched dental work. I agree with his comment about 
having to pay £10 for being late for the dentist, but not receiving £10 when the dentist is late. Forward to the end if you want to see the shocking teeth....

More time elapses and again it's far from constructive; I search for a clip from The Blues Brothers with the quote "you're gonna look pretty funny trying to eat corn on the cob with no fucking teeth". I can't find a video,  just  an audio clip and endless forum  references to it. 
Thanks to Boab and his teeth, I wasted two hours.

I wonder about the trains of thought which lead to incredible breakthroughs, discoveries, masterpieces..I conclude that they are probably nothing like the ones I've allowed to pass through my brain.

I end the time wasting session by scrolling through some 'tweets'.  I'm still not 100% sold on the whole concept of Twitter, but it's great for wasting time.  
A single Canadian girl fills us in on her latest date.
"He was hot, suggested a second date...hope he follows through"

Now I am laughing out LOUD. Images of a handsome young man 'evacuating his bowels' at a swanky restaurant provide the best laugh I've had in a while. I'm sure I used to laugh a lot more.

Twitter isn't so bad, I click a link and thoroughly enjoy the poetic descriptions of place names on a piece of BBC Archive footage... 
...Blaenau Ffestiniog I always like to hear that. Some of my favourite words are Welsh; Pili Pala (butterfly) being one, it describes their flight to me beautifully.

 Please listen to the train clip, I'll feel better about wasting my time today if you do...

Friday, 8 July 2011

Celebrate good times...come on!

Which celebrity grates on you, can you not stand the sight or sound of?  My OH cannot bear Nicolas Cage, refuses to watch a film if he's in it (so that does narrow our choices considerably). There are numerous celebrities who I took an instant and irreversible dislike to, top of the list is Jamie Oliver. I disliked him before it was fashionable to dislike him, right from the start and I don't care to dwell on his 'fantastic' work  because there is no reason he gets on my nerves - he just does. 

I went out for dinner last night, a belated birthday treat from a friend I haven't seen since her birthday in May - when I was lucky enough to witness this spectacle:

I suggested she should choose the restaurant, what with living in Cardiff and eating out more regularly than me (this past few months I've eaten out more than I usually would in a decade - honestly).
"Jamie's is good - have you been?"
"I'm sure it is good, let's go"
I wasn't lying, I knew we wouldn't turn up to find a sulky teenager reluctant to put her mobile down, unsure of the specials and be presented with a plate of reheated boil-in the bag curry. I was also sure we wouldn't encounter a loud, lisping Oliver promoting Sainsbury's sausages in one of his own franchises.

The service was excellent, food OK, wine very good, the presence of  Oliver's over-priced merchandise (Tea-towel £12!)  just about bearable along with the over-use of the word 'amazing' on every specials blackboard.

I could have been in Mc Donald's with Clare and enjoyed myself, her company is all I need for a stimulating evening.
The only uncouth people I encountered were on the train there, and back.
On the way to Cardiff an anxious Londoner with 3 mobile phones stood a few centimetres away from the doors all the 30 minute journey. At one point I heard him say "We'll 'ave a cuppl' a salmons, innit?" the last time I heard this phrase was Mr C from The Shamen saying "Anybody got any salmon? SORTED!" on their God-awful hit 'Ebeneezer Goode'. Google tells me it's rhyming slang for 'snout' as in salmon and trout. Goodness knows what a 'couple of salmons' refers to.

Here's a snap of his feet, look how close he's standing!

 I reckon Ryan V of 'Cynon' is gutted about his spelling mistake, how embarrassing! Must take ages to etch the train seats, what a shame:

On the return journey, a well-oiled gentleman (who was perhaps feeling rather frustrated as a result of being surrounded by girls in their late teens dressed in vests and hotpants) squared up to the ticket inspector. The inspector was built like a brick outhouse (I shan't swear) and the drunken guy, with a fistful of gold rings and tombstone-teeth must have felt very low in the pecking order stakes. He was thrown off the train.

Today, I am feeling a little anxious as Sunday draws nearer. A joint party for my middle son, who will soon be 4, is being held at a local community centre. Along with a sweet girl in his class (whose mum was in school with me) and around 30 kids - a celebration will take place. I am SICK of celebrations!

An ageing 'entertainer' has been booked, he sounds like someone who has a bi-polar personality;  an equal mix of over-inflated ego and crushingly low self-esteem (hmm, sounds familiar). I bet he goes home after each party, necks a bottle of Buckfast and weeps as he leafs through photo albums depicting him in his youth -  the glory days.

Disposable plates, plastic table cloths, party bags and balloons will be ready for landfill after two hours of sweaty, high-pitched frenetic activity. Parents with folded arms will yawn and look at their phones/watches wishing each minute would pass a hundred times faster. A mountain of high sugar snacks with a mere mouse-sized nibble taken from them will be thrown into the FOOD WASTE BIN (upon my insistence).

The real birthday is on July 19th, but another party is taking place the weekend before that. There was a party last weekend too. Parents have been whining about having to attend 3 parties in a row (don't blame them, two of the parties are joint, so 5 presents in 3 weeks!).

My friend has been very organised, she designed the invites, wrote numerous lists, Googled and got quotes from all the entertainers in a 25 mile radius and has been buying lots of decorative bits and pieces. My (would-be) mother in law has organised the party bags, a cake, bought new shirts for the boys and generally thought about EVERYTHING.

Me? I shall shake off the low self-esteem about 20 minutes before the party, put on my best smile and 'work the room'. I will talk to all the parents and children, massage the entertainer's ego in the hope of getting the most out of him for his fee. I will clean the place up afterwards and thank the caretaker. My contribution is all last minute, just being there is enough (ahem!)

When I get home, I will start to moan about how stressful and expensive it all was. I will vow not to do it again  I won't drink a bottle of Buckfast, I will just be thankful that OH and youngest son's birthdays aren't 'til the end of the year (OH's birthday doesn't count, I'll just make a cake and suggest we watch Commando, his favourite film of all time).

I'm all mainstream celebration-ed out, well - nearly (just a wedding to go). I'm turning into my mum more quickly than I imagined possible. When I start ranting about how ridiculous funerals are (bad for the environment, stupid hymns, tacky flowers...) I'll know that I can fight the metamorphosis no more.

Merry Bloody Christmas!

incidentally, I can't stand Kool and the Gang's 'Celebration'. I used to work in a shop selling hideous clothes and there was one tape played on a loop all day - this was one of the tracks. Every time I hear it; the smell of the customers' sweaty armpits and feet comes back to me and brings a lump of bile to my throat. What will I moan about next...

I won't moan, I'll share this track and video which I really enjoyed  (it gets quite creepy from 1:38 on)

** UPDATE **  'Simon Sparkles' captivated the children for 2 hours. I was rather disappointed to discover that in person, he was pretty nondescript and displayed not the slightest hint that there was a dark side (unlike Mr Tumble). Both adults and children enjoyed the afternoon, with the exception of one boy who asked to go home every five minutes and hid from Mr Sparkles. That boy was my son.

Sunday, 3 July 2011


Born on the fourth of July, that film is all about me. On Monday 4th of July 2011, I will officially be 34. What have I done with myself in this time? Nothing extraordinary, on paper. I've spent most of it locked in the comfortable security of my imagination.
When I was in high school, I longed to escape into an alternative lifestyle. My friend and I became obsessed with New Age Travellers (or work-shy scroungers as The Sun often referred to them). We spent French lessons dreaming up new names (me - Maisy) discussing how we'd kit out our home - a double decker bus  - and how we'd never wash our hair.
I soon realised life was all about getting a job, decided I'd like to be a social worker. I also decided revising for exams and listening during class made my brain hurt too much, so didn't bother.
Escaping still appealed to me, so I set my sights on all sorts; nannying in the U.S.A, working on a cruise ship...
I had my fortune 'told' a few times, as did my mum, and America was always mentioned. I escaped all the way to Slough, Berkshire.
After a year, my time living closely with another family ran it's course. I left with no drama, thankful that I'd been taught to make curry by a master (my employer's mum used to tip the curry over her head if it didn't taste right) and that I hadn't travelled all the way to America to realise how difficult it is to fit on with another family's routines.
I spent the next 2 years working 9 to 5 and getting drunk at the weekend. It was crap, I didn't ever look right, say the right things when I got chatted up, or master the art of drinking responsibly. There were some good times, but my default emotion seems to be embarrassment. In my mind I'm a waif, petite and vulnerable - this is in completely incongruous with the reality (maybe I can be vulnerable). I feel out of place, clumsy, a nuisance at times, other times however, I feel like I'm entertaining the crowd.
After a brief relationship, I found myself being all grown-up, with a house and baby. At 22 I'm discussing washing, grocery shopping and meal time-tables whilst still desperately trying to escape from myself. A dark 3 years pass, my daydreams keep me alive, treading water, sometimes falling under but always fighting back up, breathing. My best friend dies, I find out on my 23rd birthday.
Strength finds it's way to the surface, by-passing the sense of inadequacy and helplessness. I slowly build a new life, buy a house of my own and start to feel proud. I look at my shiny floor and waltz around MY bedroom. I am me, it's not so bad really.
Nights out resume, I'm still rubbish at drinking, flirting, dressing up and laughing out loud at 'jokes'.
I find a kindred spirit, not your typical middle-class guy, nor working class - but partial to brown rice, documentaries, owner of walking boots and shunner of soap operas, chart music and fizzy drinks. Settling-down commences;   babies; washing lines, routines again.
I don't know what I want to be, only what I don't. This is good. I do care what people think, sometimes that's all I care about. I don't get so embarrassed. I don't fear getting old, hearing friends panic about being 40 seems ridiculous. I think I'll suit being older. 
I'd like to learn how to drink properly, how to use commas, semi-colons, apostrophes and brackets more effectively. I'd like to learn how to say 'no thanks' with an air if finality to it. Other than that, life is good. I'll open some garish cards in the morning, pretend to be pleased, pretend I don't care about the dearth of cards and presents/dramatic displays of affection.
For 4 years running I've either been pregnant/breast-feeding/at a wedding/poorly on my birthday. Tomorrow, I will do nothing except drink tea and embrace my slowly-emerging acceptance of myself.