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Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Dog Suicide

I was very relieved this week not to have participated in the suicide of a dog. I was at a meeting at a friends house and their dog was wandering around. At one point during the meeting someone leant over to me and said "the dog just got something out of your bag, I don't know what it was though".

There followed a rather frantic game of 'Kim's game' where I desperately tried to remember what I had had in my bag and what the dog could have eaten. My phone, my purse, my keys and my make up were all still there so I was fairly confident the dog wasn't in the kitchen tarting himself up and making long distance calls before driving my car away to do some shopping. I assumed the dog had just eaten a reciept or something but then I suddenly remembered that I had a pack of neurofen and a load of anti-hystamines in my bag that were now no longer there. The visions of a transvestite dog now turned in to visions of a dog in serious danger.

I pretty much reassured myself that I would have heard the dog crunching his way through a load of tablets and their plastic packaging but I still had niggling doubts that I had inadvertantly provided this innocent creature with the tools to end it all. The rest of the meeting wasn't a relaxed affair. I eventually confessed all to the host who laughed and suggested I take a wander to the kitchen to check on the dog. Who was fine. And seemed to me to have a smug look on his face.

Friday, 28 August 2009


Technologically speaking it’s not been a been a good couple of weeks. Admittedly some of it has been my fault. A great deal of it has not. I was not built for this age. I should be in the 1920s marvelling at a picture lantern. Not losing the will to live in the Car Phone Warehouse. Which by the way is the most ridiculously out dated name for a shop. Who has a car phone? It’s like popping to the Betamax Warehouse to buy a dvd.

A couple of weeks ago I went to the cinema one Sunday afternoon. I saw the Time Travellers Wife, which is alright, not sure I entirely understood it – just as I got my head round one concept (oh he can go forward and backwards) another one would spring up which would fox me – how could he write a list of the exact dates he would visit her? Anyway the sight of Eric Bana dancing around in the nip meant that I was fairly cheerful when I left the cinema, I checked my phone for messages, I had none, so I put my phone back in my bag. Or so I thought. I actually put it through both handles of my bag and it landed face down on some tiles and shattered the screen. Which isn’t handy when it’s a touch screen.

So I took it to the Car Phone Warehouse to make use of the insurance that I fork out for every month. Apparently they had to assess my claim as I have claimed on my insurance before. Yes, I have, when I hurled my phone in to a pint of water when I was asleep. This is why I have insurance, because I am clumsy, even when asleep. This is why I now wish to set the insurance wheels in motion. But no, I had to wait 72 hours to be assessed. So I thought I’d spend my time usefully backing up my phone. Or in my case, merrily deleting all the photos off both my phone and my computer. Did it properly too, can’t get any of them back. Great. I was mature about it. I cried.

I awoke on Monday ready to start the week afresh. Got to work and discovered that the central locking in my car had failed and I was locked in my car. I sat there for a while trying to decide whether to crawl out the boot or fling myself out the window. I wasn’t entirely sure if there was a release catch in the boot and I didn’t really fancy then being trapped in there. I also wasn’t too sure of my ability to Dukes of Hazard it out the window. However after a lot of pulling at handles and kicking the door (technical) I could get out the passenger side. Which is how I spent the three days before I could get it to the garage and have it fixed. So glamorous.

It was the strangest thing to break in a car. Almost as odd as the time that the wind caught my car door and knocked it off the hinges and I had to have the whole door realigned and glued back on.

Just so you know I drive a ford not a clown car where the doors fall off at random.

But now I have a car that opens and shuts and a temporary phone until mine is returned, still no photos though. Two out of three isn’t bad.

Facial Mutation

I still haven’t renewed my passport. Although my MP has replied to my ranty email and has said he’ll write to the home secretary about my assertion that renewing your passport shouldn’t cost the same as a new one. I picked up the forms for my passport on Saturday and then went to get photos taken. I was relishing the chance to get rid of my old passport photo as I look like a junkie on a come down. I’m really not sure what happened but I have had to put up with it for 10 years. So I paid 4 quid, followed the bizarre rules (hair tucked behind ears, face in the oval – it didn’t fit) and then got a set of photos which show I have progressed from a junkie on a come down to …a junkie who will mug you in the street with a dirty needle. I looked at them for ages (mainly in disgust) and then convinced myself they weren’t that bad. Then met my friends for lunch and they were all reduced to speechless hysteria and then one of them said “take anything you want just don’t hurt my face” so I have decided they were unusable.

So I thought I’d lard on the make up, tie my hair back rather than have it stuffed behind my ears and have the photos retaken. I was planning to do it on Monday. Then on Sunday a small lump appeared on my forehead. I thought it was a spot so attacked it, it wouldn’t die. By Sunday evening I looked like I had been hit on the head and had one of those amusing cartoon style head bumps. Monday I came to work and my whole forehead was swollen and my lump was enormous. I went to the chemist and he said it looked like a bite so gave me some stuff to put on it. When I woke up Tuesday I was looking a bit puffy so I thought I’d slap a lot of make up on. Sadly I couldn’t locate my eyelids as they were so swollen. On closer inspection the bridge of my nose had blended in to my massively swollen forehead and I looked horrific. I cried. The mature option. And then realised that I was only crying from one eye. Which amused me for a bit and then I went to the doctors. Was put on penicillin. Spent the day hiding from the world. Woke up Wednesday to discover even bigger face, one eye swollen shut and two massive eye bags. Cried again. Went back to doctor. Now on steroids. Hid from the world.

Today is Thursday and I have some semblance of a face, I still don’t have the most defined features so I am wearing my glasses so people are able to guess where my eyes should be. Sadly I am having to wear them half way down my nose in a librarian style as the top of my nose is still quite swollen. Such is life.

Of course this is the week when the person I like asks me out for a drink. I have refused on the grounds that I would have to wear a balaclava. I may be being overly vain but I am not that attractive at the best of times, I’d rather not ruin my chances totally by having Krakatoa on my forehead. Which is so swollen it’s now a fivehead. I really hope this goes down soon. It is deeply unpleasant. I hate it.

So still no passport photos. I shall have to put it on the back burner and do it next week when I have some shape to my face. If you see me tottering around looking like Bette Davis in What Happened to Baby Jane then I am off to have the snaps taken.

More Grumpy Letters

More I am thinking about writing another grumpy letter. This time the victim is living tv. Living tv is home to great programmes such as America’s Next Top Model and the brilliant Four Weddings, where brides attend each others weddings and then slag them off. I love living tv, so I probably won’t write to them as it would be heartbreaking for both of us. However I am very upset with them, so maybe when Four Weddings has finished and before the new series of America’s Next Top Model I will perform a brief boycott. A week or so, but not when there is anything I actually want to watch on.

The strop is prompted by an advert that I saw the other day. It’s for a programme called Dating in the Dark which is due to start soon (and looks appalling). Three girls and three boys go on blind dates together, but here’s the twist, all the dates take place in the pitch black. They see how they get on and then the lights are turned on. In the advert one girl is seen snogging a bloke in the darkened room. Then cut back to her chatting to the other girls where she is flushed with embarrassment and says in the tones normally reserved for telling someone you’ve run over their cat “and then the lights went on….and Sean was ginger”. Cue raucous laughing and gasps of horror from the other girls. How charming. I have a feeling if she’d come out and said in horror “then the lights went on and Sean was Chinese” it would be met with embarrassed silence at her racism and discrimination. But ginger – that’s fine. Let’s tell the world how ugly gingers are, let’s be embarrassed to find them attractive.

It’s just rude. But presumably if this poor Sean guy turned round and said “well you have a massive nose, so big it’s repulsive, what’s that about Schnozzy?”, he’d be told off for bullying and being rude as it’s a feature about herself that she can’t change. Unlike hair colour which presumably should be dyed on emergence from the womb.

I am only slightly ginger but it still gets commented on regularly. Perhaps people envy my ability to grow interestingly coloured hair. Perhaps they are just bored. Maybe I shall start a bizarre streak of prejudice against people with brown hair. Everytime someone with brown hair walks past I shall collapse in to paroxysms of mirth whilst pointing and going “oh my god you’ve got brown hair”. “poo head!”. I don’t really think anyone would take that as the brown haired person having the problem. I however would look very special indeed.

That was quite a rant but I do find it irritating. In my mind I should be celebrated (and not just for my hair colour). I have never had to dye my hair. Surely we should be mocking the people born with such non descript mousy hair who have to pay to get theirs dyed? People who have curly hair? People whose hair is too straight? Or perhaps we should all just get on with it.

Gosh that was a bit of a rant. Perhaps I won’t send it to living tv. Perhaps I should send it to the UN as a call for peace. Just call me Kofi Anan

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Carte Dor

Am I the only one slightly disturbed by the Carte Dor advert? A tub of ice cream being dipped in to whilst someone sings in the background about how “you have to follow through”. Now personally prefer not to think about ice cream in the context of following through and I would have thought advertisers would have steered clear of any links between their products and crapping yourself. Then again I’ve just seen one for Canisten and their tag line is “feel yourself again”. It beggars relief really.

My real venom is saved for the utterly revolting one about the poor, badly dubbed child who “wants to do a poo at Paul’s house”. Lucky old Paul. I can’t even remember what the advert is for so it’s not even a very effective, vile advert. Just stomach churning. Thinking about it, maybe it’s for an air freshener. If so they should take the buttock clenching boy round to the family who find it necessary to have an air freshener that goes off every 30 minutes in a variety of scents. Where on earth are these people living? Next to a sewage treatment plant? What kind of smells are they producing (in their living room) which can’t be covered by opening the window or just waiting for it to go away? Perhaps the advert doesn’t show the whole picture, perhaps if the camera pulled back a bit you’d see Granny sitting on an over flowing commode or the entire cast from “All Creatures Great and Small” filming in the corner.

I used to live near a sewage treatment plant and occasionally in the garden you’d get a slight whiff from the poo-ery but never enough to have motion sensitive air fresheners set to detonate at our every step. Weirdly you used to have to pay to take a short cut through it. Slowing down to put your money in the toll was always risky. Once when driving through it, it was particularly pungent and my mum felt moved to shout “Grief Barney, is that you?” he pointed out it was more likely to be the 50,000 tonnes of excretement outside the window.

I honestly didn’t mean to theme this entire article around poo. Apologies for anyone enjoying a snack or a meal. It was meant to be about advertising. Unfortunately all the adverts that annoy me seem to be lavatorial in tone. I don’t really see the point of adverts for toilet paper- it’s not a luxury item. I’ve never seen an advert for andrex or whatever and then rushed out and bought a load.

The weirdest advert at the moment is for a special cream that stops you chafing when you walk. What?!?!?! Surely clothes solve this problem, or I don’t know, not being so fat your skin ruptures when you walk. Or perhaps go out for lunch with women who like to discuss their bowel movements over lunch and keep a handy packet of laxatives in their handbags to recommend to their friends. Lunch with the bulimic brigade. It’s not just astonishing that they are talking about this over lunch it’s that one of the non-speaking one doesn’t look up and go “do you mind? I’m eating here”.

Oh dear, I’m back to poo again.

Office Pet

I have for a long time been waging a campaign to get an office pet. My suggestion of an office dog was immediately vetoed even though I promised to leave a tap running and the teabags in easy reach to keep him going at weekends. An office cat was disallowed too. As was a rabbit, a hamster and a gerbil. I then proposed an office panda which we could call Mahatma. Mahatma Panda could live in the archive room, I thought. It would be very roomy and he could serve the dual purpose of stopping people from taking old episodes and not bringing them back. But again I was over-ruled. Where would we get the bamboo?

Even so, however much I wanted a pet I am absolutely certain I do not want an office mouse. Which strangely could be the one I am most likely to get.

I had a packet of extra strong mints the other day. I had one and then offered them around. Ayesha wanted one so I threw them across, she helped herself and threw them back and I forgot how to catch. I got the putting your hand up part but completely forgot about closing your fingers down around the object thus securing it to your palm. So when I was gently lobbed the mints I decided to use my hand as a bat and slam dunk the mints down on to my desk with such force that they all shattered on impact. However as they were all in the tube I simply put them in my drawer and forgot about it until the next time I wanted a mint when I tore some of the paper off and covered myself, my desk and the carpet in fragmented mint.

So far so irritating and a couple of days of trampling over it and running my chair over it didn’t improve matters. It started to look slightly suspect having a white powder scattered everywhere so I got a bunch of paper towels, ran them under the tap and tried to clear up. Which didn’t make it look any better. If anything adding water to the mix merely formed a paste which I then smeared about. It looked horrible. In fact it looked revolting. In fact it looked like someone had come over to my desk and been so delighted by what they had seen there that they lavishly ejaculated all over the surrounding area. Thankfully that night the cleaners came and restored the carpet to it’s former glory.

So I have no pet at all. Which is a slight relief in a way as I am awful when pets die. I simply don’t get over it. I didn’t have many pets when I was growing up as my brother had a fur allergy so we had fish – which tended to be won at fairs – most didn’t last for long except for one, the splendidly named Dazzle, which lived for years. He staged his death many times over his ridiculously long life span but just as he was about to take the swim that needs to no towel down the toilet bowl he would suddenly spring back to life and live for another decade. I also had stick insects that the school gave us. One Saturday I decided to clear their tank out. I chose to do this in the garden shortly before we were due to go out. As I was carefully fishing them out of the plastic sweet jar they called home, my mum came round the corner. Said “for heavens sake Laura get a move on”, then snatched the jar out of my hands ran it under the tap and shook it and then held it out as evidence as to how quickly you could get the job done. She was very upset and very repentant when I told her that I hadn’t actually got the insects out when she did this. She thought they were safe and sound. I wasn’t actually that bothered. Stick insects are insanely boring, you can’t even see them, and I could pretend to be absolutely devastated about their passing in order to milk my mum’s guilt trip. Nothing like calling your mum a murderer in order to stay up late (“but I can’t sleep, it’s at night that I hear the screams”).

A much loved and ancient rabbit was killed by a fox and the thought of any other pets seemed to be to the ultimate betrayal. So my pet owning ended there. I just couldn’t take the slaughter. Reminded me too much of when I was in ‘Nam.



I popped round to my brothers on Tuesday night for dinner. Once the kids were in bed, Justin, Emily (my sister in law) and I sat around eating dinner and amusing ourselves by going through the betterware catalogue. For those not lucky enough to get this pushed through their doors it is the catalogue equivalent of QVC- things you never want nor need in one handy package.

Inevitably as you flip through the pages you occasionally go “now that is a good idea. A Tupperware drawer to keep cream crackers in. Now I haven’t eaten a cream cracker since 1993 but perhaps if I had a non air-tight drawer to keep them in rather than, ooh I don’t know, a packet then my diet could revolve around some strange bread/biscuit hybrid”. Emily became particularly impressed with a telescopic duster but then realised she could reach the top of every piece of furniture in their house.

The items on offer ranged from the things you hope you never need: a long piece of sandpaper with handles on each end to rub the dry skin off your feet when you are no longer able to bend down; the things you never knew you wanted but can see the use: egg poachers, vegetable steamers etc; things nobody could possibly want: a special stick to put wet welly boots on so they are stored nicely; and things you wouldn’t want but make you laugh so much you are tempted to buy them. And in to this category I think we can add “faces that you stick on to trees to liven them up”.

Yep, you read that right. Apparently if you want to make your garden a little bit more interesting you can actually pay money and buy faces to stick on the bark. You can also by a cat with glowing eyes to scare off other cats and half a dog if you want to replicate the look of a dog mid-burial in your garden.

I used to amuse myself when I was younger by flipping through the Argos catalogue and telling myself that I had to choose something from every page. Some were easy, simply choose the nicest sofa. But when you hit the jewellery pages things got tough. What’s worse? A clown with fake diamonds for eyes or a forever friends locket that you can break in half and share with your loved one? This used to occupy me for hours until something better came my way… my dad accidently got on the mailing list for a catalogue called “Chums”.

“Chums” made me very, very happy indeed. It featured stuff like special wellies you could put on your chair legs to raise the chair, walk in baths (which remain a dream, although I imagine you have to sit in them till all the water is gone or recreate the Posidean adventure every night) and special grabbers for reaching things off high shelves. My Grandad had one of these (at his peak he was 5 foot 3) and I loved it, I used it for everyday tasks such as making tea and I still would quite like one. Sadly my dad eventually got his name off the mailing list and I was denied the joy of chums.

Thankfully I share an office with Ayesha who is occasionally lured by the joys of Lakeland and JML. The ultimate purchase being a pair of “shredding scissors” which are meant to be a green version of a shredder. What they actually are, are 5 pairs of scissors glued together which hacks one sheet of paper at a time in to 3 inch wide strips. You’d do a better job with your teeth. She would like to say she’s never used them.

Emily and I are also fascinated by Tchibo. If you haven’t encountered a Tchibo it is basically the shop equivalent of the top of the Magic Faraway Tree. There is always a coffee shop but the rest of the stock changes weekly. One week it sells ski wear, the next baby gros, another week coffee pots. I’d imagine you get good bargains but it does rely very heavily on impulse buying. And no one can pronounce the shop name.

Michael Jackson

I was as shocked as anyone to hear of the death of Michael Jackson, I wasn’t a huge fan but I think he represented a certain era and produced some of the best pop records in the world. Obviously you feel sorriest his family and his kids (I have a particular soft spot for Jermaine after his appearance on Celebrity Big Brother). I do remember being in the playground at school and hearing some bizarre rumours about him. That he slept in an oxygen tank, that he had a zoo, that he had actually had a really deep speaking voice.

I don’t think there is anything to beat a good playground rumour. I was listening to awful local radio the other day ( I seemed to be in some bizarre black hole where I could only listen to Mercury FM) and “Walk the Dinosaur” by Was Not Was. I sang along but in the back of my mind something was saying “the lyrics to this song are really offensive and rude”. Now I think that as I remember singing it when I was about 7 or 8 and a friend of the same age told me that the lyrics were offensive and I’d be wise not to sing it in front of adults. Now as far as I can tell that’s absolute crap but I did do a quick google to see if it was generally recognised as being rude. It’s not. It’s an amusing song about cavemen.

I think there are rumours that are unique from school to school and some that are universal. I think there was always a kid who claimed to be related to royalty. Someone who had snogged a 15 year old. Someone whose mum turned out to be their grandma and their sister was their mum (that was true in our school!) and someone who had seen a ghost. Uniquely there was someone at our school who claimed that they could sing “Happy Birthday” in Chinese. Seriously he claimed this about once a day. Eventually his bluff was called in front of the entire school at an assembly. He took to the stage, bowed (!?) and then sang “Hanky Panky Shanghai, Hanky Panky Shanghai, Hanky Panky David, Hanky Panky Shanghai”. Now I am not fluent in Chinese but I am willing to bet good money that that is not the words to happy birthday. He wasn’t put off by everybody laughing at him, a couple of years later he took to the stage in a pirates costume to play “Should I Stay or should I go” by the Clash. Unfortunately not in Chinese.

Or course the best rumours were about teachers. In our minds they were all having affairs with each other (normally verified by someone having “seen them snogging at the bus stop”- well where else would you conduct a clandestine affair except at a bus stop 3 metres from the school where you teach?), there were also rumours about some of our teachers having murdered someone (would love to see them getting past a CRB check), someone who was going out with one of the sixth formers, she had written Mr C all over her folder, turned out she meant Mr C from the Shamen, not a rather unattractive Physics teacher.

Spoiler alert

I wrote to my MP this week. Which involved finding out who my MP was, but once I had uncovered this information I wrote him a very stern letter. This is not something I do very often. The last time I wrote to my MP was when I was 24 and for some reason I was sent a House Of Commons birthday card wishing me a “Happy 18th Birthday”. I wrote back thanking him for the waste of paper and reassuring him that I hadn’t been voting for him for the last six years and had no intention of starting now. But my complaint this time was issue based and I hope that it will be taken to the highest court in the lands. Perhaps it could be called “Laura’s Law”. The complaint is this: it costs £72 to renew an adult passport. Which is obscene, but it’s made worse by the fact that it is the same price to get a brand new passport.

I am outraged. I’m sure the last time I renewed my passport it was a lot cheaper. For some reason I have £26 in my head but I’m pretty sure that’s not right, perhaps that’s how much a passport on the black market costs, something I may have to resort to. The thing is (and this is what makes it so annoying) is that I have no choice! There is no comparethepassport.com, I either pay it or I don’t leave the country. And it gives me the opportunity to get rid of a passport photo where I look like a drug smuggling pre op. And I have to leave the country. Not because I am on the run but for a wonderful, magical reason which shall be told below….

Now spoiler alert: this story ends in YOU going “Wowwwww”.

My friend Tara and I have planned to go to New York for the last ooooh 3 years or so and we have never actually managed to do it. Mainly for budgetary reasons and me being completely unable to organise anything. However we decided that this November we are going to do it. Obviously we have to do it on a budget so we were looking at places to stay in drug dens and brothels and looking in to flight with DeathAir. So far so normal. Then I come back from lunch yesterday to many missed calls on my mobile from Tara and several instant messages saying “why don’t you answer your phone?” (it’s true, I don’t. I never answer it. Ever). Rang Tara back and it turns out she’s won a trip to New York for two and she’s taking me with her.

I know, I know. If it was a storyline in Neighbours you wouldn’t believe it. But it’s TRUE. It’s in conjunction with Disney so I am quite hoping to get a free pair of Mickey Mouse ears thrown in. Apparently Tara went to the cinema just to look up times and saw a huge poster saying “Win a trip to New York with The Proposal”, so she entered and she won. I kind of feel obliged to go and see the film now. There is an underlying fear for both of us that this trip is designed for a couple and we are desperately hoping we won’t have to recreate proposal scenes around New York landmarks. But to be honest for a free trip to New York I would dance around New York with David Mellor on my arm.

So yeah, still waiting to hear about the details but NEW YORK BABY. And with the money I have saved on flights etc I can get my stupid passport renewed and pump enough money in to the stupid photo booth to get a decent photo to go in the passport.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Influence of the Radio

When I was a child I lived entirely in a dream world. I sort of drifted around half thinking I was at school and half thinking I lived at Mallory Towers and would be shortly playing a hilarious trick on Mamzelle.

I think my problem is that I get far too involved in what I read, listen to and watch. I am also probably slightly over stimulated and not in a good way. I normally read around 3 books at once (not literally at once, I normally have three on the go at the same time, not holding 3 books and reading a line of each in turn) so that leads to some terribly confusing dreams and day dreams. For example I am currently reading: “The Bolter” – an account of Lady Idina Sackville and her various marriages and love affairs in the 1920s; “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” – about Guernsey during the occupation and “One thing led to another” – about a woman who gets pregnant by her best friend even though they are not together. All diverting and interesting in their own way but when put together leads to some bizarre dreams and makes me believe that I am a pregnant 1920’s socialite living in the Nazi occupied Channel Islands. I like to drive like I am being chased by the Nazi’s whilst secretly being impressed that I, a woman, can drive a car in these days before suffrage.

I also constantly listen to radio 4. A habit I blame on my mother. I could sing the theme tune to “Pick of the Week” before I knew my nursery rhymes. A perfect Sunday morning means being back in time to listen to Desert Island Discs, followed by Just a Minute whilst leafing through the paper. I also leave radio 4 on all through the night so I must be absorbing some of it subliminally, not that I have a detailed knowledge of the shipping forecast or anything but I did wake up a couple of Sundays ago feeling utterly miserable and anxious. It took quite a while for me to realise that I was terribly worried about Shula and Alistair’s break in in the Archers. Now I know what that was I of course think that Alistair really has bought this on himself and maybe now he’ll appreciate the effect a gambling addiction can have on a family.

I have three radios in my house and only really 2 rooms. My two normal radios are supplemented by a floating rubber duck who lives in the bathroom and has a radio in it. You have to turn his head to turn him on and off. I nearly turned in to a prune last week listening to Melvyn Bragg discuss “The Wasteland” on “In Our Time”. A poem I have never read and so couldn’t really follow the discussion. And I didn’t really care either, no matter how dulcet Melvyn’s voice is.

There is a part of me that thinks an over active imagination is healthy and should be encouraged even if you look slightly odd coming out of a stupor to find that someone has asked you a question and you are busy having a row with a fictional character in your head. I went to see my niece at the weekend and was asked to play a game of “High School Musical”. It seemed to involve us asking each other what we were going to wear to the Prom. Well Evie told me what she was going to wear to the Prom and I laughed at her talking in an American accent.

In many ways she is my role model in life. She seems to spend most of her life in character and this normally comes complete with home made costume. She spent a lot of Christmas dressed as Mary and at one point was told by her mother “Evie, don’t do that, it’s naughty”. “I’m not Evie, I’m Mary”. “Well Mary, don’t do that, it’s naughty”. “How dare you tell Mary off, she’s the mother of God”. Which seemed to me to be an incredibly useful get out clause.

However my niece is 5. I am not. Perhaps it is time to turn the radio off.


I got told off by a policeman on the way to work the other day. I was sat in traffic with a police car next to me when suddenly he put his siren on for a quick blast. I looked over and he started stretching his seat belt about. I assumed he was having some issues so ignored him, so he put his sirens on again and pointed at me. I realised he was telling me off as he couldn’t see my seatbelt. This is because I wear it tucked under my arm as seatbelts for some reason cut in to my neck and leave me with huge red marks across my neck and I look like I’ve been garrotted. I also feel that in an accident it would immediately snap my neck. Surely it is better to either catapult myself through the windscreen or crush all my internal organs? Either way, I proved I did have my seat belt on, arranged it properly and then enjoyed my neck being sawn to bits for the next 20 minutes. I can’t help but wonder if I am bizarrely proportioned. I thought only the likes of Jimmy Krankie had issues like this. I am a normal height, I don’t have to sit on a cushion to drive or anything. Perhaps I slump.

The last time I came in to contact with the police was when I was seven, so I am a generally law abiding citizen. Back then I was walking to school with my 8 year old brother when I thought it would be funny to pull his bag off his shoulder. He found this less amusing than I did so kicked me up the bum. At that precise moment a policeman appeared and said to Ben “Don’t kick girls. Would you like me to kick you? No. Don’t kick girls”. We carried on our way; Ben with the fear of God in him and me repeating “Don’t kick girls”. I still say it to him now. Later that day the same policeman came to school to give us our cycling proficiency lesson. Ben thought he had come to arrest him and panicked so much he had to be taken in to the hall to calm down. Looking back I can see how much this story has dated; the fact that a seven and eight year old were walking to school unaccompanied, the fact that a policeman was actually patrolling the street and the fact that we were scared of a policeman. If the Daily Mail is to believed kids nowdays would murder the policeman then complain that their human rights were contravened.

But apart from that I have had few dealings with the police. I called them once when my old next door neighbour lost the plot and her door keys and after a while trying her door open and tracing her friends and family and having the real fear that I was going to have a ninety year old house guest for the night I called the police and asked them if it was OK for me to break in. It wasn’t. I was told to hold fire until they got there, then Mary found her keys and she got in in a very undramatic fashion. But I think it is normally best to call the police and get advice on committing crimes before you do them. This could be a hell of a way to cut the crime rate.

I think law abiding is the way forward. A fair bit of my childhood was spent on the channel islands, on the island of Sark, where there is no crime. There is a prison but it only holds 2 people and is so horrendous that no one is allowed to spend more than a night in there. I remember peering in to it as a kid and it scared me so much it gave me nightmares. Even if I was in a normal sized prison I would die, I simply wouldn’t have a hope. So my seatbelt is now on properly, I have repaired my broken headlight and I absolutely refuse to break in to my neighbours house.

Being Cool

As everyone knows I am incredibly street. Like totally. Bo. I grew up on the mean streets of Essex and attended an all girls grammar school. You don’t go through something like that without being proper street. You get me? It’s just how I roll.

However occasionally you are reminded how incredibly middle class you are. For me, it was attending my nieces 3rd birthday on Sunday. All five of my nieces and nephews were there and first they ate lunch, commenting on how much they liked hummus and asking for more cous cous. After some party games Abigail and Evie (3 and 5 respectively) decided to put on a dance interpretation of Peter and the Wolf. With the ipod blaring out Prokofiev’s finest 4 children marched around, Miriam was excused on grounds on not being able to walk, changing characters with the music. It was fairly impressive – I wouldn’t have a clue which was grandfather and which was the cat. Even when Herbie had a breakdown about something and laid on the floor and Monty lost interest the girls continued to dance/march over them.
It wasn’t really like the birthday parties I had when I was growing up. Although I do remember having an Alice in Wonderland theme for one of them so I think I was just as middle class but twenty years earlier.

Over new year some girl I was friends with at school tagged me in a load of photos from that time. Thankfully she missed out the years where I looked really horrendous but still gets the tail end of the crimes against fashion years. Looking at the photos it would seem that I never managed to combine decent hair with a decent outfit, it was always either/or. Wearing school uniform that is fairly timeless? Then I must have insanely bouffant hair with no form of styling. Hair straight and fairly normal – then I am dressed as a member of the Wonder Stuff. Quite why she has done this and why she has left the album open for all to see ,despite me untagging myself, is beyond me but what strikes me most is what a bunch of absolute gimps we were. We were the uncoolest kids in the world. Barely missed a day of school, would have soiled ourselves if a policeman had spoken to us and the worst thing we did was wear jeans on the last day of school (they weren’t allowed). We were as far from being street as it is possible to be.

There wasn’t a hope in hell of any of us getting arrested unless it was for crimes against fashion. Seriously there are some bad outfits in there. In one of them my mate is wearing a suit (on a night out in 1998, why wouldn’t you wear a suit?) which she looks like she has nicked of Ricky Martin. In another we look like the village people going on a night out. I am amazed we made it past the bouncers. I am wearing a one shoulder top and black trousers and it would seem that a friend is dressed as Pocahontas. But we were happy. We may not have been the coolest kids in the world but we do look very happy in the photos.

So I shall embrace my uncoolness. I shall roll the middle class way. Sensibly and in bad clothes. I shall watch the little Sleeps dance to classical music and proclaim the virtues of lentil bake. Although I dislike the fact that they make me feel so old. All of them were able to work the ipod and find Peter and the Wolf, when I was taking pictures on a disposable camera they were amazed that they couldn’t instantly look at the pictures. When I was walking down the street with Abi in summer she became very upset and kept grabbing my arm and telling me that there was a “man stuck in a box, look, look, he’s stuck in a box”. He wasn’t of course, he was simply using a phone box, she’d just never seen one in use before. Still it’s nice to see phone boxes being used properly and not just as a place for the cool kids to hang out. Not that I ever did. I was at Girls Brigade.

The Brits

So it was the Brits last night (today being Thursday) I had some friends round to mine, I cooked – it was pretty rancid I realised half way through making chilli I had no cumin so I improvised with marmite and balsamic vinegar. No one complained but it was pretty rough, not quite up there with my carbonara stir fry but nearly. Whilst watching the Brits we discovered that my mate thinks that the words to Creep are “I’m a creep, Michael Winner”. But over all a pleasant evening was had by everyone.

I love award ceremonies. Truly love them. I am very excited about the Oscars, not excited enough to get sky and stay up and watch them but will enjoy watching gmtv Monday morning, make a change from them droning on about the credit crunch, I swear it’s all they talk about. My favourite award ceremony is of course the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party. Not now, in fact I don’t even think it’s still on, but years ago. When Phillip Schofield hosted it dressed as Indiana Jones and someone from Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine rushed the stage and knocked him over. In my mind, any show that has an award for best hair cut is a work of genius.

But yes the Brits. What I like most is that in every category there is someone utterly unknown, not in a oh yes they’re very up and coming type way but in a what the bloody hell are they nominated for kind of way. You sit around and voice your opinion about who’s going to win “And the nominations for best international group are: Killers (no), U2 (no), Kings of Leon (yes), MGMT (no) and Wendy Wonka and the Disheartened Fudge Machine (whoooooooooooooooo??????).

In every category last night there was someone in it who I had never, ever heard of. And it is worth remembering that I get sent around twenty cds every week – as part of my job, I’m not in the Britannia music club- and I listen to it all. Yet somehow I don’t know 20% of the acts (this is based on 11 categories (I’ve ignored Life Time Achievement and Critics Choice), 5 nominations per award, not knowing 1 per category – some very dodgy maths and the help of three editors to work out the percentage and then deciding it doesn’t really matter – however I still have the post it note on which I worked it out so I may get marks for showing my working). How can this be? Now I am not saying that I am cool, hip and groovy (I assume you all know that) I am saying that it is not a fair reflection of the record buying public. Ah you may say, but it is judged by a panel, so why would it be? Well if it is just an industry shin dig then surely it is only fair to have the electrical retailer of the year awards on telly- we all use fridges. What I am really saying is that Girls Aloud should have won more awards.

However the performances are always great. Michael vs Jarvis, Scissor Sisters performing with the Muppets and Natasha and Daniel Beddingfield singing “Ain’t Nobody” to each other. Maybe not the last one. I personally thought that the Ting Tings duet with Estelle sounded like Estelle had got confused and wandered on stage during the Ting Tings performance and then they’d all decided to make the best of it. We were promised a spectacular performance by Duffy and she stood there in lights so bright she couldn’t open her eyes and occasionally moved her arm. But then there were the saving grace of the Pet Shop Boys. Lady Gaga ruined it by marching on in her pants and bellowing out some lines like she was in a nativity play but their overall genius of doing a mega mix and blending Brandon Flowers in to it was just genius. They can do no wrong. Even the pink wig was great.

So now we turn to the Oscars. Hopefully Slum Dog Millionaire will sweep it. And then what will I do for award ceremonies until the soap awards? I can’t think of any others that are coming up in the near future. Perhaps I will have to create my own. Worst cooking awards. I’d romp home.

And the answer to last weeks question: mascarpone.


Just an idea but if you can’t drive, drive a vehicle that can’t go above 15 miles an hour or are scared of other cars and like to veer violent sideways whenever you see a car on the other side of the road, then perhaps, just perhaps you shouldn’t be on the road during rush hour. This morning I got stuck behind a man being towed and frigging dial a ride. Pensioners have all day at their disposal – why dial a ride for 8-30 in the morning? I assume for the same reason they go to the post office at lunchtime – to cause trouble and start fights.

I don’t spend a lot of time pondering my own death, not being a goth, but I would like to imagine it will be around the age of 95 surrounded by loved ones. The way my pension plans are going it will probably be shortly after the age of 65 in a box on a street corner. However I definitely don’t want it to be at the hands of some yummy mummy in 4x4 steaming down the middle of the road to drop a child off at the fluffybunnykins nursery. I do not want my last words to be “are you going to move over…”. If you insist on driving a monster truck around town then may I suggest you drive it on your side of the road.

Perhaps it is car envy. I have only ever driven little cars. Except a hire car which I got when I was lavishly upgraded when a friend and I decided to drive round Tasmania. We ordered a fiat punto or something and got, well, a monster truck. For which we were supremely grateful given that the west coast of Tasmania is all hills and few roads. It wasn’t until one night when unable to sleep and I didn’t have a book I read our rental agreement which said that the car was not covered to go along the west coast and in no circumstances was to go there. Still what the mind doesn’t know the heart doesn’t grieve over and apart from one terrifying moment when I tried to drive up the largest sand dunes I have ever seen, we were fine. Worth remembering though that when you return the hire car and they accuse you or scratching it don’t say “I didn’t do that… I did that” and point out a huge dent. Also don’t park the car in the entrance of the rental shop and walk off with the keys in your bag. They won’t thank you for it.

I leant my car to someone recently and they actually tidied it for me, which was nice. Although given that it is pretty much a skip on wheels I’d imagine they had to clear a spot to sit down. However when they gave it back they had the seat so far forward that I knee capped myself when I tried to get in, I actually couldn’t get my knees under the steering wheel. I know I have fat thighs but they’re not debilitatingly big. The borrower must have been pinned through the pelvis by the steering wheel. Or been an actual borrower.

People’s driving techniques get worse in the winter. Fog lights remain on at all time, regardless of weather making you think that the person in front of you is constantly breaking. People like to have their full beams on as well, which is lovely and safe. One day I shall buy a tank. A big armoured tank. And steam down the middle of the road waving at the people who flee in my wake. Although I am not sure where I would park it. A friend of my parents once confessed over dinner that he had bought a fire engine, which came as news to his wife. I don’t think she was that bothered about the fire engine but rather objected to the barn he had to buy to house it and the HGV lessons he took in order to drive it. Still maybe I can use his barn to house my tank.

My Coat

My coat makes me look like I am in the SS. Which is not really the look I was going for and was particularly bad taste around Tuesday but I persevered and tried to lighten the look up with my hat that was once mistaken for a dishcloth. I have a problem with hats in general. I have an enormously large head (physically, not in a vain way – it’s not being vain if it’s true) and so to find a hat that doesn’t make me look like one of the Mr Men wearing a hat is quite an achievement. My head is so big it has a kind of shelf at the back so my head overhangs. Pretty hey?

But anyway I’ve been wearing my coat even though I don’t like it as it is so insanely cold and it is look like a member of the SS or freeze. I have this issue with quite a lot of my clothes. I refuse to buy new stuff until I find something I really, really like at a price I am willing to pay. Therefore I walk around in clothes that are far past there best in order to satisfy some weird desire.

I also have very bad taste. And buy clothes that make me laugh. I am writing this wearing what can only be described as a party dress. I quite often get halfway somewhere and realise I am dressed like a lunatic. Sadly it is often too late to change. I’ve lost some weight recently (I intend to sell the “eat less, move around more” diet to Closer magazine) and so have been able to get in to clothes that I haven’t been able to get in to for a while. About 8 years. As I was going through them I happened on a pair of jeans that I wore when I was a size 8. Given the unlikely event that I get to that size again (taking in to the account the massive head I looked simultaneously like Bunyip and like I was about to die) would I really want to wear a pair of stone washed, high waisted, straight leg jeans that cost me about a fiver ten years ago? The answer is no. And as the answer is no why the hell have I moved them 5 times and carefully keep them in a suitcase under my bed? In the same suitcase is a pair of jeans I wore once and an ex told me I looked like a transformer, a bridesmaid dress and a pair of dungarees I must have bought during a Mrs Brick the Builder stage.

Bad taste hasn’t just occurred recently though. As a child my mother was rather overwhelmed by having a girl after 2 boys and so dedicatedly smocked all my clothes. I still worry that if I sit still long enough she’ll smock my jeans. I came across some pictures recently of us putting up the Christmas decorations when I was about 10 and I appear to be dressed as one of EMF. I’m wearing dungarees (with one strap undone naturally) and a psychedelic hooded top with my hair in bunches. I remember getting the top on the market and LOVING it. Whether I caught my mum on a bad day or she wanted one of the Shamen as her daughter I don’t know but it certainly does make me stand out.

My problem is that I get a very specific picture of the clothes I would like in my mind and when I find that shops haven’t recreated this dream for me I get disappointed and don’t buy anything and am forced to wear horrible old clothes.

Word Twist

I have a new addiction. It is very serious and is beginning to impinge on my life and ability to function socially. My new addiction is called “word twist” and you can play it on facebook. It is essentially an anagram game where you try and get as many words out of a mix of letters, but you can play against your friends, it is incredibly addictive and I am having issues. I was seriously addicted to online scrabble for quite sometime and I still dabble occasionally but there is nothing like the fresh hit of word twist. Driving home the other day I was trying to put the person in front of me’s registration plate in to words and came up with the amazingly boring statement: “If you have a B and a G, then you can use every single vowel with them; bag, beg, big, bog and bug”. There was no one else in the car with me, so not only am I insanely boring I am just insane.

I have always loved doing quizzes and trivia games. I blame the parents. Without making us sound too odd they used to record University Challenge and then we’d play it as a family and keep score. Having just read that back I realise it’s really odd. Even now if I go and stay with them they will have stocked up a couple of episodes to play at some point over the weekend. I’d say my first pusher was my grandfather. When I was in sixth form I never used to have any lessons on a Wednesday so would pop in on him during my study time when of course he would be watching 15-1 and Countdown. I would have loved to have gone on 15-1, I think there is something very noble about competing for 50 weeks, going through games after games to be rewarded with a bit of old pottery.

I was a child who got obsessed by things, learnt everything I could about them and then found that led to a new one. Sadly this wasn’t with anything enjoyable like My Little Ponies or Barbies. My first obsession was with flags. I am laughing as I write this as I really don’t know why. There was a book that I used to get out the library (and you could tell that I was the only one that got it out) that had all the flags of the world in it and I learnt them. I used to make my brother test me.

Then came my monarchy obsession. I am able (and believe me as gifts go it’s just above being able to get a sound out of your armpit by shoving your hand under there and pumping up and down) to recite in order all the Kings and Queens since Henry VII and (if that wasn’t dull enough) can tell you the current line of succession to about 15 place. Lady Sarah Chatto is a name I shouldn’t know. I even had…a Panini sticker book of the Royal family. Everyone else had football clubs and Neighbours sticker albums and I was wandering around the playground desperately trying to swap the Queen Mother for Peter Phillips so I could complete my royal montage. The centre spread was the royal family on moveable stickers at a garden party. It’s a wonder I survived to adulthood and wasn’t beaten to death in the playground. I really need to find some kind of game show which is exclusively Monarchy and flag based. I don’t think it would have much of an audience.

caught in a storm

Hello, I’m back. I’ve been around the world (literally, I lost a day of my life, for me there was no 3rd October) but there’s no place like home, ooh baby. And if I’ve learnt anything, it’s firstly not to quote East17 lyrics in the opening paragraph of your return column and secondly that wherever you go the weather is insane. I don’t know whether it’s global warming, El Nino or the presence of me but it’s been weird.

I managed to get a tan this year for the first time in my life. I know they say that you should let a tan build gradually I just never knew they meant the best part of thirty years. It’s fading now, which is probably a blessing, with the tan skin and orange hair I was beginning to look a bit like a 70’s carpet. However in between bouts of tanning I also enjoyed some mental weather.

I haven’t really fallen over in years. I have various scars which are the result of a childhood running around and falling over. But as I have grown older and come to the realisation that I am built for comfort, not speed, my tumbling incidents are few and far between. Until this summer. And I can trace it to two things. When these things meet incidents occur, sadly usually in public.

Factor number 1: Flip Flops. Very comfortable. They are my shoe of choice for the summer. However the minute it rains you must start walking like a geisha as any large strides will cause your foot to slip against the sole of your flip flop sending you shuttling forward (usually whilst emitting a “werrrrppp” type sound). My favourite place to do this is when entering shops. The majority of the time you manage to stay on your feet though.

Factor number 2: Tiled pavements. In the UK we are built for rain. We may not enjoy it but damn it we are good at it. Tarmac provides good grip as do paving slabs. However in Australia (where I went on holiday) they see fit to tile the pavements and occasionally place a shiny manhole cover as an obstacle. Fine in the dry, lethal in the wet. The roads are full of people sliding to their knees and then pretending that they meant to do that.

Anyway. Here is a story of when factors combine and unleash hell.

I was in Brisbane. Only being there for 3 days I had jam packed my days full of activities and pretty much left the hotel early morning not returning till late evening. That particular day I had been at Australia Zoo. The zoo that Steve Irwin ran and is now devoted to his daughter’s rather bizarre show business career. Annoyingly my camera batteries started to fail on the way round the zoo. Wishing to see animals and not Bindi Irwin dancing around and deciding that buying a Steve Irwin posable action figure was in bad taste (I won’t deny that I was tempted) I headed back in to the city early with the idea of twatting around until I went to see a play that evening. I was going to see “The Importance of Being Earnest” at a theatre situated across a very narrow (tiled) bridge.
As I sat in a glass walled café it started to rain. And by rain I mean it lashed down. It was like someone was pouring a bucket of water down the walls. It then started to thunder. For those concerned with the details I will tell you that I was wearing a vest top, a white skirt and flip flops as it had been 30 degrees when I left the hotel. According to news reports the next day this had been a major tropical storm involving 2,200 lightening strikes in 6 hours. All I can tell you is that every 10 seconds the sky lit up and was followed by thunder so loud people couldn’t talk over it, trees were being blown horizontal and everyone in the café was there for life. On my fourth pot of tea I made the executive decision that I was not going to see a play that night. Walking across the bridge would lead me, I feared, to certain death. However I did decide that I would make a dash for the taxi rank. So I ran outside and immediately slipped, did the splits, banged the underside of both arms on to a step, sent my skirt see thru and finished the manoeuvre by sitting down hard on my bag smashing my camera to bits.


It is coming to the time of year when I have to make a decision. When driving my little tank (or my car, whatever) do I wear my glasses or my sun glasses? Each has it’s benefits. My glasses help me to see and therefore I don’t plough off the roads, in to the elderly and cause widespread disaster. However if the sun is shining they make little difference as I can’t see anything anyway and run the risk of my retinas being burnt out. Of course I could put the little flappy sun shield thing down but they don’t work. Perhaps I should buy massive sun glasses and where them over my normal glasses? Or just be grateful for the fact I live in the UK and chances are this will only be a problem for a week or so.

I am meant to wear my glasses all the time. But I don’t this is for a variety of reasons. The main one being that they make me look like Ronnie Barker – which is no bad thing when I am watching telly or driving but not really the image that I wish to portray around the office. Someone might ask me if I am the phantom raspberry blower of London Town. The second reason is that I have a vague idea of training my eyes – if I wear them all the time then there is no concept of a challenge. They will become lazy and then the next step is inevitable a stick and a dog, at the moment I can still fool them in to working and then every now and then when I feel it is important to see I can treat them to a bit of 20/20. Thirdly I have a theory that my eye sight will improve over the years. This is based in fact. At the moment I am short sighted and need my glasses for distance. As people get older most become long sighted and need glasses for reading and close up work (hence the bizarre dance of trying to hold a paper at the right distance for reading). I am ageing, therefore at some point I shall become long sighted thus correcting my short sightedness ipso facto – perfect vision for my old age.

Or I’ll need bi-focals.

But the main reason for not wearing my glasses is that I quite like the foggyness bad eyesight brings. I have waved at many people and then as I get closer realise I don’t know them at all and have just grinned and waved at a complete stranger. However around 90% wave back so I am making the world a friendlier a place. I also have many wonderful experiences that I wouldn’t have if I could see clearly. Like the time I saw a goose on the pavement. A huge brown goose. It was actually someone crouching down to tie their shoelaces. The time I saw a giant, freestanding Forever Friends Bear – actually a fold up table outside the pound shop. And on Monday I saw Alan Carr cruising down Borehamwood High Street in an open top Honda before popping in to Paddy Power. It wasn’t him.

I shall at some point wear my glasses. I will have to as I will never ever wear contact lenses. It’s not so much the putting them in that worries me, it’s the taking them out. Plunging your hands in to your eyes and ripping the lenses off. And whilst talking to someone suddenly grab your eyelid and pull it down whilst saying “oh it’s gone round the back”, it’s normally around then that I spontaneously vomit in to my own lap.