Friday, 29 July 2016

Gypsy

Longtime readers will know my inappropriate love of Romani traveller culture.

I'm aware that it's disgusting to romanticise a marginalized ethnic group...

But now I can happily say that my family were travellers a few generations ago, so I kind of feel like I am allowed to love traveller culture again in a non cultural appropriation way. Yey!

My mum's gran always said her family were gypsies who ran a travelling fair, and everyone put this down to her being a bit of a storyteller and dreamer. I really feel for her, as I often tell people things that are COMPLETELY true and because they are so fantastical they don't believe me.

Like the fact that cats and dogs can smell epileptic fits and low blood sugar in diabetic people, or that the National Trust and other businesses use dowsing to find water and underground structures...

It's not my fault that I'm so tuned into the fantastical.

Anyway, my uncle has discovered that my mum's gran was telling the truth, as I always knew she was in my heart.

Her mum and dad were 'horse people' and they met at Appleby (for non-British readers - it's a famous horse fair, where travellers traditionally met their husbands and wives). I can't remember which is which, but one side of the family had a circus and the other had a travelling fair.

So there you go. I'm not sure if they were Irish travellers or Roma originally, but I don't think they came from Ireland which makes me think Romani.

I wanted to share my news, because it makes me so happy.









Thursday, 14 July 2016

The State (of things)

Remember when I suggested taking all public school boys and putting them on a reserve away from normal people?

Well everyone thought I was joking and NOW LOOK WHAT'S HAPPENED.

Britain has been split in half, racists are running riot on the streets and a man who was sacked from being a journalist for 'making up quotes', a man who campaigned for LEAVING the EU and then admitted he rather liked the EU, a man who was once got stuck on a zip wire waving tiny flags, is our Foreign Secretary.

When I found out we'd left the EU, my heart broke. It doesn't feel the same, it wasn't an overdramatic knee-jerk reaction - something has changed forever. The things I used to love about England don't really mean anything anymore, it's like a sheet of rose-coloured laminate has slipped off and they mean nothing.

Obviously I missed my family and friends when I lived in France, but I also really missed the misty moors and hills, busy streets lined with Indian and Punjabi restaurants, tea and Victoria sponge cake in quiet cafés filled with old ladies, pubs and fish and chips by the seaside...  

All these places and moments I romanticised, have now lost their appeal. I know it might be because I don't miss them anymore, because I'm here, but I don't think it's just that.

When I found out we were leaving the EU, I was at Glastonbury. Jen stuck her head into the tent and woke us all: "We've left the EU and David Cameron's resigned."

I burst into tears, and waked round the campsite crying my eyes out. It was so surreal, never in a million years did I ever think it would happen.

I know it sounds prejudiced, but I really think any public school boys (or girls) found to be harbouring political ambitions should be moved to a grand old house out of the way, where they can play polo and eat lovely food* - it wouldn't be cruel, I respect all human happiness - but absolutely under no circumstances would they be allowed to interfere with the running of the country. 

We could tell them that the Palace of Westminster hast been relocated to Norfolk while it's being refurbished.

It's just not appropriate for them to be in charge of normal people. Case in point: When David Cameron resigned, he was caught HUMMING A LITTLE DITTY to himself as he walked away.

Behind closed doors, he should have been crying. He should have leant against the wall, screaming and swearing, "I've fucked it all up, I've fucked up so much." But instead he sang a merry little tune to himself and said 'right' - as in 'right, what's next?'

He doesn't care because he doesn't have to. He's too privileged and rich, so he never took it seriously. It's hard to accept that something that meant so much to so many British people - and European people who were sad that we left - meant absolutely nothing to those responsible...

David Cameroon resigned in high spirits - now he can concentrate on making more money, without worrying about the public interest in his tax avoidance schemes.

Disgraced Boris Johnson is the fucking Foreign Secretary.

Oh, and the new Prime Minister has a serious problem with the European Court of Human Rights.

It all seems too much like a sitcom, part of me isn't that angry because it doesn't seem real. They're all just characters, and it's an elaborate storyline. Next week's episode will be better, I reckon.


*All funded by them, of course. This is a serious proposal and I've thought about how it would work, and the money would not come from the tax payer.


Sunday, 22 May 2016

Let Your Socks Relax... and Strippers in the Office

This was going to be a post about my tidy bedroom and then I just realised I have something else to talk about...

On Friday somebody got a stripper into the office for a girl who is getting married.

It was horrendous. The stripper was really uncomfortable, the girl was really uncomfortable... I cannot believe it actually happened.

They told the girl she was going to have a meeting with a new client, and the meeting was being filmed and streamed live in a room next door. Everyone was told to go in the room... and then when the 'client' started stripping everyone rushed in. Including me.

I kind of wish I hadn't, but I thought it would be funny. In my head he would be an old fat man in a pair of hilarious leopard print underpants and he would be really confident and loving the attention...

But he seemed like a sad man, who would have given anything to go back in time and refuse the job.

I ran out of there when he got a bottle of baby oil out, but apparently he ended up completely naked and waggling his willy in the bride-to-be's FACE. There is video evidence to prove it. I wonder if she will sue??

Anyway, this was supposed to be a quick post about my tidy bedroom.

Have you heard of the book 'The Magic of Tidying'?

The author is Marie Kondo, a Japanese Tidying Guru. She promises that after reading her book and completing the KonMari tidying method, you will never be messy again - ever. The basic principle is 'throw everything away that doesn't spark joy'.

After reading the book, which is in turns brilliant and insane (she tells loads of anecdotes about past clients, that I think are stories she has invented to back up her point), you put all your possessions on the floor and, one by one, hold them and see if they 'spark joy'.

If they don't, you thank them for their time and efforts, and get rid of them.

That's it.

Once you have decided what you want to keep, you need to make a place for it your room. Marie Kondo promises that you will find a place for everything once you're finished - as you will miraculously have thrown away the right amount of stuff.

This certainly happened for me. If I bought more clothes I don't know where I would put them, as I have just enough space for the things I have kept. I gave so much stuff to the charity shop - things I actually thought would make the cut, like a grey pencil skirt I wear all the time for work. When I held it in my hands, I felt nothing, so I gave it away.

The idea is that when you've finished, you'll only be left with clothes you really, really love. The only problem is that now none of my clothes go together. But they do all bring my joy!

My gold sequin hot pants. My cloak. My turquoise dress from Chinatown...

I didn't give away many books as I didn't have many to start with, but there were a couple of books I'd bought at airports that brought me no joy...

My room is so tidy now. Everything has a place, as you can see.

Here are the before pictures:




Here is a photo of all my clothes piled up on my bed - the point of no return:


And here are some photos of my lovely new room:


Your bag carries your things around all day, so Marie Kondo says at night you should empty your bag and give it some downtime... 

This sounds insane, but actually makes sense. I used to assume things were in my bag when they weren't. Now I have a place on my desk drawer for purse, keys, tube pass etc. and I pack my bag every morning, so I know for certain what is inside. 

Also taking the weight out of your bag means the handles aren't being strained when you're not using it, so it will help it last longer.


For the same reason as above, Marie Kondo believes you should fold socks gently and not bunch them up into potato-like balls. They look after your feet all day, and so they deserve some relaxation time in your drawers. The practical reason for folding them like this is to help save the elastic.

I haven't really nailed the folding method yet, but you can see from the photo above that it does save space when you fold everything - even jeans, tops and dresses - in Marie Kondo's special way.





So that's that! Thought I would share as when I was reading the book, I kept looking for Before and After photos online.

I have always had problems with mess. My room gets into such a state and then tidying becomes a huge job that takes hours and hours to complete. I've got rid of so much stuff, and I don't regret giving any of it away.

I am very low on knickers actually...

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Connected

After four years, it's finally time to say goodbye to my Crapberry.

When I first got one in Paris - it was a smart phone. I could Whatsapp people back in England and check my Facebook when I was at work.

Then I moved to London and put an English SIM inside it... and it wasn't as smart. I had to go online and wait for the internet to load before I could check stuff, and I Whatsapp didn't work properly, but I wasn't that bothered. I only wanted those features when I was living in France, so I could keep in touch with people for free.

Then the colours in the screen started melting somehow, spreading out from a thin crack, until half the screen looked like an oil slick and I could only ever guess the general gist of a message as most of the words were hidden in a rainbow mess.

Somebody at work gave me another Blackberry, one they'd been given for free as a promotional gift, and that lasted for about a year, but it would sometimes crash and not turn on for hours... which is annoying when you're on your way to meet someone in town, or a train trying to organise a lift at the other end.

Yesterday it finally stopped working altogether. Its little red light was on, but it just wouldn't switch on. The end.

I've never cared about phone technology. I was briefly at the height of fashion when I was 11, and I got a Nokia 3310 before anyone else had one. Me and my friend Claire would walk around the estate pretending to talk to people on it, and remember a boy on a bike saying 'Raaaaas you've got a 3310!' and I felt Swish.

That was accidental though. My mum wanted me to have a phone because I was going to and from school on my own, and she was getting home later than me. I imagine she went into the phone shop and they tried to sell her the latest contract and she didn't realise she could get a cheaper one.

Anyway.

That was aeons ago. In the last four years I've started to think of myself as a Luddite, fiercely defending my Crapberry against FLASHY iPhone owners who smirked and gasped and asked me why I didn't get a new phone.

Because I could CALL people on my Blackberry and TEXT and take PHOTOS and check my EMAILS in an emergency and that is surely the definition of a smartphone.

Except now I have a new phone and I realise how much easier my life will be. I was always lost, with my Crapberry. It was no help to me at all in times of need. Not only could I NOT look at maps on it, but it would often switch itself off so I could't even call anyone and ask for directions or tell them I was going to be late.

Now I have Google Maps, so I'll never be lost again. And I can get CityMapper, so I can find out where to get the night bus if I'm stuck.

Of course there's a lot of crap on there too... Instagram, for example. I downloaded it for 'research purposes' and a few seconds later a girl at work spun round in her chair.

"I just got a notification that you've joined Instagram!"

It's freaky. Part of me feels a bit sick with all, it's too much. But it's also really positive. I would like to have a casual glance at my friends' photos - to scroll through everyone's lives and know they are having a good time, or where they are in the world, or laugh at something they think is funny.

I went to a talk by Caitlin Moran on International Woman's Day and she explained social media like this:

Imagine little points all over the world, and if they are connected to the internet, the points light up. Now imagine the little lights connecting with other lights all across the world, flashes of light shooting from point to point, flying over oceans and continents, as people connect with each other. Imagine what this looks like from space - it looks kind of like a brain.

It's like the world's consciousness is waking up and it's still in its infancy. It's like a toddler at the moment, but it will mature and it will stop throwing tantrums. People will stop trolling and spreading nasty hate because, as a global consciousness, we will will grow wiser.

I was in the camp that the popularity of Instagram and the Kardashians was a bad thing, because humans were becoming more and more obsessed with manufactured, aspirational aesthetics and lifestyles. But maybe it's more like mums on Facebook.

We all know what mums are like on Facebook, at first.

Then they chill out and stop tagging themselves everywhere and commenting on everything and posting selfies and calling you up and asking you why you haven't liked their post...

Maybe the world is a just a huge planet-sized mum on Facebook and soon it's going to chill out and people will be interested in creating art and discussing politics and sharing ideas.

I know people can spend too much time on their phones, but it's also brilliant to be connected and inspired. Imagine feeling like an outsider in a little town, or missing your family from afar, or bursting with ideas and having nobody to share them with.

Caitlin Moran's talk was really optimistic. For the first time in a long time, I can think about The Future of Planet Earth without images of racist, fascist robots with plumped-up lips and green kale smoothies popping into my head.

Saying that, Caitlin Moran also raised a very good point: Scientists are racing to get us all on Mars - a hot, dry planet of sand, while our beautiful lush rainforests and glittering icy snowcaps are being destroyed.

Can you imagine what future generations will say, from their sealed-in dome home on Mars?

"Tell me - why exactly did we leave Planet Earth for this shithole??"





Saturday, 5 March 2016

Nana

I've been really, really busy and the only way I can blog really is when I've got hours and hours stretching before me and nothing to do. I used to do my best blogging when I was babysitting, or when I woke up early on a Saturday and didn't have to be anywhere until 11pm.

Of course I can write at work on demand, or I wouldn't be a very good copywriter. But this isn't work and I don't want to write it on demand. Even if the demand is being chanted from inside my head.

Since Christmas I've been busy.

My nana passed away, before the day came up that I was planning to go and see her. I understand now why my auntie was being hazy when I asked about coming. She didn't know if my nana would still be alive.

It didn't sink in until I was on my way to the funeral, and I realised Nana wasn't going to be there. She was the one person in my dad's family that I knew the most I guess. At my Auntie Helen's funeral two years ago I stuck with her as my dad was being a crank.

Well she obviously wasn't going to be at her own funeral.

My auntie, my dad's younger sister, did the eulogy herself. She talked about going to Greaty (Great Homer Street Market) with Nana, and how Nana would have everybody laughing as she went around cracking joked and driving them down to ridiculous low prices.

My mum came to the funeral. She wasn't sure if it would be ok or not, but she started going out with my dad when she was 16, so has a lot of memories of Nana. She asked me to ask if it was ok, meanwhile my dad was asking me on the phone it would be ok if his girlfriend would be welcome at the funeral.

How should I know? I wanted to say. Instead I told him that it was his mum's funeral and so of course he should bring who he wanted.

It was all fine in the end. Funerals always are. My mum was invited to the wake afterwards and loved chatting to all my dad's family about Nana. She hasn't seen them for years. When we walked out after the coffin, I saw my mum on the back row of the church on her own, crying her eyes out.

People don't really cry in my dad's family, so she was the only one crying. (I'd been crying and stopped when I realised I'd be the only one. I thought somehow people wouldn't like it, which now I realise is stupid. Obviously they would have understood.)

Someone gave my mum a lift to the burial. I've never been to a burial before, I didn't realise there would be one until people started getting in cars again at the church. We drove to the graveyard and my auntie warned me that sometimes seeing the coffin go in the ground is the worst bit.

We got to the grave and there was a long list of names on the headstone.

My nana's daughter, who died when she was 16. My nana's brother who died in a car crash when he was 29 - on the same day. Can you imagine? Then my nana's mum and dad, and her husband.

She had a difficult life (she also had cancer when she was in her sixties) but she also travelled the world on her own and she had so many friends and stories.

At the pub afterwards, there was a woman in a huge fur coat, puffing on an e-cigarette like it was a cigar. I knew instantly who she was. My nana told me stories about a woman called Pat who was very loud and funny, who was always 'effing and blinding'.

She was hilarious. We were all laughing, remembering phrases my nana used to say. Very Liverpudlian phrases that don't really mean anything, yet somehow you know exactly what the sentiment is.

Shut up or I'll put a goose's gob on yer.
You don't know your luck 'til your hat falls off.
When you're older you go down like a cow's tail.
That cracked cow...

It's really sad that my nana had to be in hospital for so long. First because a gynecologist perforated her bowel (when he shouldn't have even been performing the procedure), leaving her unable to eat or drink for months, and then because of the cancer.

Nobody really said the word cancer, but it turns out she had two types and they were very advanced by the time it came to light. In the end it was a blessing she wasn't in any pain.

It was good to remember all her funny stories, her travels to Hong Kong, Fiji, New Zealand, Eastern Europe during the Bosnian War.

I wish I'd spent more time with her.

Now I'm off to Lidl to get some stuff to make soup, Nana would be proud.


Thursday, 3 March 2016

It's Ok I'm Wearing Really Big Knickers

Argh it's been almost two months since my last confession!

Speaking of confessions, have you read The Confessions of Georgia Nicolson AKA the Angus, Things and Full Frontal Snogging books?

I laughing out loud at them in Form Time*, when we were all supposed to be reading quietly. Our teacher didn't believe that I was genuinely laughing at my book, because she didn't think they could be that funny. They were! Still are.

The author Louise Rennison died this week, very sad news. She such a hilarious writer. I loved those books. I want to read them all again.

I guess you could say that my writing style is very inspired by reading Louise Rennison's books as a teenager. Here is a quote from the first book to give you a taste of the style:

“When we did eventually get to the party - me walking next to Dad's Volvo driving at five miles an hour - I had a horrible time. Everyone laughed at first but then more or less ignored me. In a mood of defiant stuffed oliveness I did have a dance by myself but things kept crashing to the floor around me. The host asked if I would sit down. I had a go at that but it was useless. In the end I was at the gate for about an hour before Dad arrived.” 

Anyway.

I keep saying I am going to blog little and often and then not blogging at all. So this is a little blog and hopefully soon I will do another one.

PS. They made a film of Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging and it's actually really good! (They changed 'full-frontal' in the title to perfect - definitely not as funny.) It's obviously for teens, so don't blame me if you don't like it, but worth a watch if you loved the books.

*For any non-UK readers:
'Form' is the class you belong to in secondary school. In most lessons, like English and Maths, you are organised into 'sets' depending on your level. So you might be in 'Set 1' for most of your subjects, but every morning and afternoon you'll go to your form class to have the register taken. During afternoon register, we would have to spend about 20 minutes having 'form time'. It's mad that it's all a bit hazy now... I'd literally forgotten all about Form Time until I just typed it out. In my form there were a lot of horrible cranks I never, ever would have spoken to in real life without them calling me something nasty or spitting on me (they did this to most people, not just me), but form time was like neutral time and we would all ignore each other. The more I think about the weirder this whole set-up is.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Miles and miles of trains

I need to tell you what happened the night before New Year's Eve!

Let me finish describing my very long-winded train odyssey.

BECAUSE I KNOW YOU ARE FASCINATED.

So I went to Manchester and spent the evening with my mum and her boyfriend Phil...

Then I went to Liverpool to see Nana...

Then I arrived at Manchester Piccadilly and got on another train to mum's new house...

Then that evening I went back into town and met up with my friend Jen (not Jen I live with, Jen who moved to Australia for a few years and is now back). My crapberry rolled over and died for No Reason, so I had to rely on sticking to plans, old school style. I almost missed Jen, as were waiting at different entrances. It was like a scene from a bad sitcom. Luckily she was with her fiancé (whit woo) and she sent him round to see if I was waiting at the other door.

We went to the Christmas market, the first time I've been in years to the Manchester one, then I had to scoot off an wait in a bar for Amy. Without phones there can be no plan alterations! Kayt met us and I ended up staying at Kayt's, rather than going all the way back to mum's in Another Northern Mill Town.

The next day I went into town to do Christmas shopping, then I went back to mum's... and the next day I went into town AGAIN to meet up with my brother... and then we met Phil off the train - he came to spend Christmas with my family. 

We went to the Lakes on Christmas Eve, the usual chaos ensued, and it was over before I could blink. I got to catch up with my cousins and spend time with baby Aurora Rose, who is so lovely and cute. We left the Lakes just as the rivers started rising again, not so much spilling on to the roads, as slowly filling them up.

My family's homes were all fine in the floods, but they were cut off from work for a bit when it first happened. It is so scary, this crazy weather. It's snowing there at the moment, which has got to be better than heavy rains and flooding, but I don't know what will happen when the snow melts.

The day after Boxing Day, Phil and I got the train back down south so we could be at his family's big get-together in Kent. (I've never really been to Kent. The countryside is very flat, and the houses are much bigger than in the Northern countryside. It's so flat that you can see for miles and miles, even though there is nothing to see.)

THAT IS A LOT OF TRAIN RIDING, I CAN TELL YOU.

One more leg of the journey and I will be quiet. 

Sooo I went back to work for a couple of days, then we were off again, the day before NYE.  We were going to his friends' new house in Brighton for NYE, but Phil's mum and dad who also live in Brighton were away on holiday, so we thought we would make a long weekend and travelled down the day before.

The trains were fucked because of work on the rails, so it was easier and actually quicker to get the coach. We arrived in Brighton about half ten at night, and slowly walked up to Phil's mum and dad's house in the suburbs. We stopped at a pub on the way home and had a couple of drinks, blissfully ignorant of the nightmare about to ensue.

It's funny, because as we walked in the cold drizzle, leaving the city centre behind us and entering Suburbia, I looked into dark gardens and tried to imagine sleeping in them. I had a drunken daydream about bedding down between someone's car and hedge, hidden from view. I imagined being cold and a bit scared, and trying to get warm in my coat.

It's almost like I cursed us with my strange imaginings. 

When we finally got to the house, Phil put his key in the lock and it didn't work. It was like a nightmare. I kept telling him to try it again, but he slowly realised what had happened - his mum had her bag stolen on holiday in the summer, with her keys in, and he guessed they had changed the locks upon returning to England. 

It has been so long since he'd been to their house on his own, that he hadn't even thought to check if he had the most recent key. 

I didn't know what we were going to do. Phil tried to call the friends we were supposed to be seeing on NYE, but they didn't answer. (We found out the next day they'd gone to bed early and their phones were on silent. They were both off work, so didn't need to set an alarm or check their phones.)

Phil mentioned that the 80 year old neighbour had a spare key, but we knew we couldn't knock on her door in the middle of the night and freak her out. But if she had the spare key... 

I envisioned a night crouching behind his parent's car, or a long walk back to the coach station. 

Phil decided to telephone the neighbour, she didn't answer the phone. He sent her a text message as well, just in case she was at home and awake. Amazingly, she saw the message and called Phil. He ran across the road to get the key and returned triumphant. 

We were going to get inside and have a nice cup of tea! Maybe even a biscuit! We were going to get into or pyjamas and be warm and cosy!

We weren't, because the neighbour's key didn't work either.

She was sure it was the latest key, but it didn't fit the lock properly. Awkwardly, she said we could stay at her house if we couldn't get in. And we couldn't get in, so we had to stay at her house.

I felt so bad. I thought about what my gran would do if someone interrupted her routine in the middle of the night. She said we could sleep in separate rooms, or we could both sleep in the same room, in twin beds, and she 'wouldn't tell Phil's mother'.

We opted for the twin beds, spaced half a metre apart, with a photo of the neighbour's priest brother next to my bed. I thought it was the Pope, although I do remember thinking it was younger than I remembered, as I fell asleep.

The next day we woke up at 7am, as the neighbour had told us to 'be out of her hair' in the morning. But I was so tired, and we had no clear plan.

We eventually got up at about 9am, and luckily the neighbour was just getting up too and was very cheerful. She had a job for Phil to do, moving some logs from the bottom of her garden, and she was glad to take the milk we'd bought on the way home the night before, so I felt like we at least were a bit helpful and not completely disruptive. :S

As soon as they woke up, Phil's friends checked their phones and said they would come and get us in the car. We ended up having a really really nice NYE with lots of amazing food, but GOODNESS ME I am going to be extremely paranoid about keys in the future.

When I told my friends this story they questioned how much Phil's parents like us, but I assure you they were not trying to lock us out on purpose! 

I can't find Martha Tilston's Brighton Song, which would be the perfect accompaniment to this post, but Space is a nice falling-asleep-song too. Makes me thinks about the quiet countryside, just seen in the moonlight, on the other side of a train window.