Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Blatant advertisement

Ok so this is an unashamed plug for my Mom's new venture. She's a brilliant knitter and makes such adorable things, and I thought it was about time she started blowing her own trumpet and show off her work.

So she's now set up her own blog to show off her work, and maybe even take a few orders. My next idea for her is to set up a stall at craft fairs, but she's worried her work isn't good enough. Utter codswallop! Like any good artist, she's very self critical. Check out the rest of her work here - and if you think it's good please tell her!


Sunday, 2 October 2011

Check out the chocolate!

Seeing as this blog mentions cake in its title, I thought it was high time I included a bit of my baking on here.

I made these chocolatey cupcakes for my Mom for her birthday. They were a bit of an experiment, I basically just threw some cocoa powder into my usual cake mix. And lucky for me they came out quite tasty. So much so in fact, most of the cake mixture ended up in my mouth and around my face.

YUM! And do you know what made them all the more delicious? The fact that I had friday afternoon off to make them, because my freelance job finished early! I just love the flexibility of working for me and having extra pockets of time to stuff my face with chocolate cake. Hooray!

Meanwhile, Toby was too hot to sit in the kitchen so he took off to do his doormat impression:

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Driving myself mad

This week, in between wheelie bin management, scouting for work and scouring property websites for a home, I am re-learning to drive.

I say re-learning because I passed my test about 13 years ago, when I originally lived in Manchester. But then, I landed a job in London pretty soon after and quickly discovered that a car in London is a stupid idea. No driveways unless you are a multi-millionaire, no space on the roads to park, congestion charges, permits...it's just a hassle. Plus, there's a tube station every 10 metres so you don't really need to drive.

But of course, in the north and in real life, things are very different. There's a tram system, but it only goes to about three places. My mate lives a 15 minute drive away, but if I tried to get there by public transport it would take about 3 days.

So. I have to get back in the driving seat. Problem is I'm not a natural driver. Usually, my own personal trick to get over being nervous of anything is to think "sod it, what's the worst that can happen??" and that always helps me to stop being a big dithering jessie and get on with things. But this is different.

What's the worst thing that can happen if I cock up driving a car? Well, quite a lot actually. I could end up mangled in a pile of metal and wheels in a ditch. Or worse I could end up leaving someone else a mangled pile of metal and wheels in a ditch. Which I know is quite pessimistic, and a little bit sinister, but I blame my over active imagination. Every time I get behind the wheel I just see an episode of Casualty playing out in front of me. (Maybe I should channel this dark side, write a gory book, get it out of my system?)

And with the nerves, it means driving doesn't seem to come naturally to me. It took three attempts to pass my test. The first failure was me going over speed hump to fast - the bloke taking the test hit his head on the roof of the car and all his change rolled out of his pockets. That's never gonna gain a pass is it?

Then as I say, when I eventually did pass, I didn't get on and do any driving. So here I am. I had a few refreshers in London, which helped, but I need to stop being a big girls blouse and properly get on with it now. My hubby's taken me out a few times, but I'm not sure that's conducive to a happy relationship. One of us may end up seriously injuring the other - and that's after we've got out of the car.

Luckily a family friend is a driving instructor and she took me out yesterday. I warned her I was nervous. And at the end of the lesson she told me I was "bright red and hot looking" at the start, but as I calmed down and relaxed, my colour went "a bit more normal."

She must have thought I was insane. Perhaps I should take some valium pre-drive? Or snort some cammomile. Now then, let me crack on with my gory road accident novel....

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Living like pensioners

Toby loves to sit on the flowery seat in the conservatory and keep a watchful eye on the garden.

We are currently living in a bungalow rented from family friend for absolute peanuts, which is helping us save money as we look for a home to buy.

And it’s a cracking space - it has two bedrooms, huge fitted wardrobes, a good size lounge, a conservatory and a garden. Compared to our tiny flat it feels like Downton Abbey. I actually keep losing my husband. And all the extra space is really giving us a taste of what's to come when we eventually do buy. I’m actually enjoying hovering for the first time, mainly because I can get the hoover out without a million thing stoppling on me. In our old flat, the hoover was wedged in a vey small storage cupboard with roughly a thousand other things ranging from mops to suitcases to christmas decorations. It was our garage and loft space in one making it a giant game of jenga every time we opened the door.

The only slight drawback about the place, apart from the fact that it smells of biscuits and corned beef, is the decor. It was previously owned by an elderly lady, so it's all a bit pensioner chic. Think anaglypa walls, flowery curtains and bathroom suite that is two tones of turquoise. I kid you not. It's one step away from having a bath with a door for ease of getting in and out. Also, this lady smoked like a chimney so everything's a bit yellow and I'm off my head on the smell of plug-in air fresheners. I have used a phenomenal amount of Febreeze since we moved in. But, as I say, it's temporary and it's saving us a small fortune. So I'll live with the flowery curtains and weird smells just fine.

Have you ever seen a bathroom like this? Part of me finds it so awful it's actually very cool. If it was ours, I'd be tempted to work with it, go full on retro. Maybe.

You might also recall I whinged about wanting a wheelie bin in one of my earlier posts. Well, dear reader, be careful what you wish for. Because I now have FOUR of the bloody things. Turns out Manchester council love to recycle. One for paper, one for bottles and tins, one for food waste and one for Toby poo. (that’s not the official use of course, it’s actually a bin for stuff that isn’t allowed in other bins, but is mainly used for Toby's turds. Don't tell the binmen.) And there are so many bins to manage, you need a chart to work out which bin to put out on bin day. Cos they don’t all go out on a Monday. Oh no, that would be too easy. I have a small chart affixed to my fridge to help me keep track.

So my new nightly activity is filing and organising rubbish and my new ‘husband-nag’ is telling him off when he puts a crisp packet in the bottles and tins bin. Oh how things have changed.

They could at least make them a nice rainbow of colours. You know, throw in a bit of purple or red or something.

Ey oop chuck, I'm back in t'north

Fresh air! Greenery! Big walks! No cockneys!

Apologies for my absence on this here blog, but these last few weeks have been a whirlwind, my feet haven't touched the ground. Foolishly I thought I'd be a lady of leisure for a long time, enjoying pottering around with a duster and hoover, with the most strenuous task consisting of pegging out my washing in the commercial breaks of Midsomer Murders.

But in some incredibly jammy twist of luck, I have landed quite a chunk of freelance work up here already. Which is great, but currently means most of my evenings are spent sitting up a corner dribbling and rocking back and forth with the stress of moving home, moving city and trying to set myself up as a freelance writer in a very, very short space of time. Three quarters of my wardrobe is still in boxes because I haven't had time to unpack, so my outfit rotation is currently very limited.

But apart from the dribbling and lack of clothes, it’s already feeling brilliant being back up north. People talk. And smile. In fact most of them walk at a leisurely pace rather than hurtling along at 100mph cos they are panicking about catching a tube or getting to a meeting with someone called Giles or Tarquin.

The other great thing about Manchester, aside from cheaper beer, is everything’s concentrated into a much smaller space. Which means you can get stuff done. I no longer need to allocate three hours and use four different modes of public transport just to pop out for some milk.

But the best bit my miles, is being near family, friends and the countryside. I still can't quite believe we've actually done it.

Hubby shares his ham butty with Toby during a walk in the Peak District. Next we went to the pub and got change out of a tenner for two pints. It was a miracle.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Things I will miss about London

This is where hubby and I met on our very first proper date. It's my favourite spot in London.

So this is my last week in London before heading north. I can't quite believe it. A 13 year long chapter closes. And though I am ready to leave, and live a normal life with gardens and hosepipes and garages, I will undoubtedly miss London in many ways. So much so I made a list:

1. Spotting celebs.
It doesn't matter whether they are only mildly famous or complete star spangled A List. I will never, ever tire of getting unnecessarily excited at seeing someone 'off the telly'. I love it. I can't help staring at them and sometimes try and get bodily contact with them. Which admittedly, can freak them out. I'm not sure James Nesbitt was overly pleased when I grabbed his arm under the guise of needing help across a busy road. I just wanted to touch him.

Anyway, my move north doesn't mean it's not all over for the celeb spots. After all it's not uncommon to see cast members of Corrie roaming the streets of Manchester. I saw Steve Macdonald in a bar once. So that's something to look forward to.

2. The history
I'm a bit of a geek and I love the history of London. I hoovered every word of Peter Ackroyd's Autobiography of London, it just made the city feel almost magical. London's seen so much and I love the way you can stand in the very footsteps of people of people like Henry VIII or Queen Victoria, and see the things that they would have seen. I adore the Tower of London for all those reasons.

And that's why I was beyond livid when in that glorious alleyway which was once home to the Clink prison, and still is home to the 13th century ruins of Winchester Palace, where London's most powerful bishops used to congregate, there now also stands a sodding Pret a Manger and Gourmet Burger. That's not right is it?? What would those bishops think if they were alive today? I'm pretty sure they wouldn't be ordering a latte or prawn and avocado sarnie. But that's the sad thing about London, all these chains and new buildings are somehow swamping the atmosphere and tradition. And where will it end? I fear when I return to London next there will be a Starbucks next to the gate of Buckingham Palace, and a Costa Coffee in Traitor's Gate in the Tower of London. It's not on.

Anyway, I'm ranting. Back to my list.

3. The people I have met
During my time here, I have worked in many ad agencies all over london, and met loads of brilliant people along the way. I may not see many of them regularly, but I know they are all there. More often than not I can usually call on most of them for a beer too. And that's a nice feeling isn't it?

4. My own personal history
I have had such good fun in London. Worked all over it and socialised and partied in most corners of it. There are loads of places that bring back fab memories. Raucous nights out. Raucous work parties. Amazing restaurants (Le Trois Garcon, Ramsays), gorgeous hotels (a night in Claridges for a birthday treats), theatre nights, pub crawls in Soho, leafy walks in Richmond, bike rides along Wapping High Street...the list goes on. And of course, it's where hubby and I courted. (I love that word, so underused). So I have lots of special memories.

I am sure there is more I can add to this list. But that'll do for now. Because I might get all emotional and start bawling. And I have a whole week of goodbyes to get through so I can't crack up yet.

Winchester Palace. Dear developers, please don't build a Neros here. Thanks.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

My canine commuter buddy

Toby boards a train without a ticket and bounds onto a seat. I'm forced to have a word with him before we are banned from South West trains.

Three months into our marriage and my husband has left me.

He's gone north to start his new job, while I work out my notice down here in London before heading up to join him. I'm lodging with my very kind friends Ross and Claire, who happen to own a huge house amidst the beautiful Surrey countryside. I refer to my bedroom as being in the west wing, such is the vastness of the place. The manor is also very conveniently located next to an award-winning vineyard. Joy! Who knew you could make wine just outside the M25? It’s all I can do not to hope over the fence and run amok in the shop.

Last week, Toby was also lodging in the Surrey mansion with me, but because my landlords were working from home, and have no gate on their garden, I didn't want to lumber them with the pressure of looking after a very nosy dog. One sniff of a squirrel/cat/postman/flying insect and he'll turn all Littlest Hobo and wander off. Not very practical when you are mid-conference call.

So, thanks to my very understanding boss and colleagues, I took Toby to work with me all week. (Luckily he’s very chilled out and tends to just snooze under my desk all day when in the office. Thank god he has the bladder of an ox and never piddles indoors.)

The journey from the countryside to Waterloo takes an hour, so it’s a lot to ask of a little dog. But he coped marvellously. In fact, because he’s so nosy I think he absolutely loved it. All those new smells were doggy heaven and he would jump on my shoulder to watch the countryside whizzing past the window. (But only when no-one was sitting next to me – not everyone appreciates dog dribble on their shoulder.)

But during our week of commuting from the sticks, I noticed something magical happen. When Toby’s on a train, people smile.

If you live in London, or have ever visited, you'll know what a big deal that is. As I’ve ranted before, travelling through the capital is tough, no matter what mode of transport you choose. The unwritten rule is to keep your head down, make no eye contact and look out for number one. (i.e forget all basic manners and try shoulder barges, pushing and shoving to ensure you get from A to B.)

But with Toby it became a very different commute. Gone were the scowling, grumpy, pasty-grey faces. Instead I noticed people were smiling at Toby. And then at me. Their faces were literally lighting up. There would be giggles from business men, as he sprawled across their feet for a nap. Ladies with Blackberries would leap out of their skin when he pressed his cold nose on their bare calves – but they didn’t mind. They just wrinkled their noses and gazed adoringly at him.

Which I thought was very interesting, because I have witnessed very heated arguments between commuters when they are forced to have even the slightest bodily contact with each other. I've seen several epic rows stem from the accidentally brushing of a bag/laptop case/shopping against a leg. It seems commuters are appalled, shocked and disgusted by even the most minor contact from a complete stranger, but the furry muzzle of a small teddy-faced terrier on their leg is absolutely fine.

How Toby deals with a hot, crowded train. Stretch out but hide your head under a seat. If only I could get away with that

What really made me laugh was when I was forced to hop on a tube one day, and I had to carry Toby in my arms down an escalator. I noticed everyone on the opposite escalator going up smiling at us, and then a lady shouted across “Hello cute dog!”

People talking to each other on the tube? And they aren’t drunk?? Toby and I had broken the first rule of underground commuting. ‘Thou must not speak to fellow passengers unless asking them to move further down the carriage.’

This crazy conversation trend continued on the overground trains too. People would tell me he was cute and very well behaved. Or they would run over to me on a platform and delightedly inform me that their sister/mother/aunty had a dog just like him. Called Pickle. Or I’d get regular queries about his breed, his name and his age.

Of course it does help that Toby is the cutest dog on the planet – not that I am biased of course. But he is.

I tell you something though. That week of travel with Toby was the most pleasant travel experience of my entire 13 years in London. It makes such a difference when you are surrounded by smiling faces and happy people. Suddenly the dank, smelly, often sweltering journey became a lot more bearable when accompanied by funny little conversations and grins from complete strangers.

Toby certainly helped to break the ice when I found myself packed sardine-like into a delayed and tropically heated train full of pissed off commuters. When he stretches out and spreads his legs like a frog, you can’t help but laugh. And we all know laughing and smiling is contagious.

But alas, my furry travel companion couldn’t stay. As I’m already imposing on my lovely friends, I couldn’t expect them to share their palatial home with a dog too. They said they didn’t mind, but I’m sure for a non-dog owner the novelty may wear thin. Especially when he’s dribbling saliva on their carpet after holding his favourite ball in his mouth for too long.

So at the weekend I took him to my Mom’s house in Shropshire for his summer holiday, while I finish my final two weeks of London life. By all accounts he’s being spoilt rotten with liver dinners and long walks in lush green fields. Which is much more fun than travelling on trains and sitting under my desk at work.

But I miss him terribly. My commute’s not half as much fun. Everyone’s gone back to being pasty and miserable and grumpy.

I think all trains in London should employ a small, well-behaved but very cute dog to improve the mood of commuters. I’m sure productivity and happiness levels down here would soar.

Toby's spatchcock chicken impression never fails to raise a smile. Maybe it's because we all know it's his way of cooling his nether regions.

Friday, 29 July 2011

We're heading North

Ahhhh bliss!

A man famously once said, if you're tired of London, you're tired of life.

Well, that man (I believe it was Dr Samuel Johnson in 1777) clearly never had the joy of negotiating the District Line at rush hour. Or attempted to buy a property with more than one room, for less than the cost of an arm, leg and vital organ. And he probably never had to learn to walk at a minimum speed of 50mph, a vital requirement for getting around the capital.
Which is why, for all those reasons and several more besides, after 13 years in the capital, Hubby and I are moving north to Manchester.

Being a Yorkshire man, the struggle to find decent beer and a good chippy has gradually worn my hubby down. And we both find ourselves feeling increasingly claustrophobic down here. There seems to be twice as many people down here than when we first arrived, and everywhere we look, swarms of little men in hardhats are frantically building high rise buildings in front of other high rise buildings or wedging a block of flats, a Starbucks and a Gourmet Burger into a space that’s really only big enough for a carton of milk.

As a result, we find ourselves yearning for open spaces, greenery and a home that's got a garden and an 'upstairs’, rather than just being a quarter of a modified semi detached house, with a patch of grass masquerading as a garden that has a line down the middle to signify 'your half'.

I think I realised it was time to exit London when I got more excited about the idea buying pegs and a washing line than I did about a night out in the West End. You see, the outdoor space that came with our flat is actually only big enough for a garden bench (as long as you don't want to stretch your legs out) and two small pot plants. We have to traipse out there in single file cos it’s so narrow. So obviously there's no space to swing your laundry. Currently our washing line is a big clothes horse which either obscures the view of the TV or blocks a doorway. We sort of kick it around the flat with us as we traverse from room to room.

But that’s London living for you. Nothing is ‘normal’. And that’s absolutely fine if you were born and bred down here and know no different. Or if you’re single, in your twenties, work is your life, you rent a room in a shared house with people you don’t like much and you’re happy to stay out til all hours every night disposing of your disposable income. At that point in your life, the last thing you care about is where to hang your washing. Heck, if you haven't got any clean pants, just nip to Primark and buy some.

But there’s a certain age where things start to change. Around the 30 mark, your mates start getting married and popping out babies. It's all about mortgages rather than a room in a shared house near the tube. Those impromptu, care free, I'd-rather-sit-in-the-pub-than-go-back-to-my-shared-shithole binge drinks after work become a dim and distant memory.

And if I do want to catch up with any of my hardcore, childless and loving-London type friends, I have to book a slot three months in advance. It's harder than trying to book a cheap train ticket. Even then they usually cancel at the last minute due to 'other commitments'. As I say, it’s not normal.

I could go on. Don't get me started on the perpetual queue around the M25 to get in and out of London, no matter what time of day or night it is. Rudeness. Boris Johnson. Boris Johnson's bikes. An ever-growing staffie population. Drivers trying to run me over while I'm on my bike. People running for tubes. People running off tubes. People fighting for seats on tubes. And above all, the way simple tasks take an unfeasibly long time. If I want to pop to the shops at the weekend, I can't just hop in the car, go come back and still have the majority of the day to play with - for some reason you have to negotiate at least three separate forms of transport, take a packed lunch and a waterproof, and make sure you are wearing stout walking shoes that will cope with the strain of you walking bloody miles cos a tube line is inexplicably closed. It is exhausting.

Don't get me wrong. I love London. I love the history, the galleries, the endless choice of restaurants and eateries, the creativity, the sheer volume of amazing things to see and do. I've had a blast during my time here. I've met amazing people, had wonderful adventures, enjoyed a career that's allowed me to do what I love doing most (and won a few awards along the way), met my husband and I've even been lucky enough to take that first step onto the property ladder.

I will leave with some incredible memories and I have already shed a few tears. It is the end of a huge chapter for me.

But now it's time to hang my washing outside.

No thanks.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

A night at theatre gets a bit Jeremy Kyle

Pat and Demi never had to put up with this shit

As a treat this week, my darling husband bought me tickets to see Ghost The Musical at the theatre. Bless him, not many blokes would have been happy to sit through a musical rendition of one of the ultimate chick flicks, let alone pay for the privilege. But he did. Either he secretly loves a good weepy theatre production or he was currying favour to stop me whinging every other sunday afternoon when the Grand Prix comes on. Whatever the reason, I wasn't complaining.

I was very excited. I love the theatre and I love this film, I knew this would be a treat. I wasn't wrong. The effects, the cast, the set, the adaptation from screen to stage were all utterly fantastic.

But no-one could have predicted the free, unexpected half-time entertainment.

As we took our seats, we quickly realised we were sitting in front of a pair of excited, slightly drunk Eastend 'ladies'. They were so excited in fact, that they forgot to actually watch the show and proceeded to talk, whoop and jeer non-stop through much of the first half. Mostly about how great it was. How they were able to review the show when they were jabbering through it, I'm not entirely sure.

As they reached a crescendo in volume towards the end of the first half, I started to lose my rag. It was like being in the audience of Jeremy Kyle.

So, like any normal human who has paid good money for a theatre performance, not listen to a pair of wailing pearly queens without the pearls, I turned around and said "shh".

Big mistake. I may as well have poked two tetchy pit bulls with a pointy poo-covered stick. In retaliation to my "shhh" one of the harridons squawed at full volume during a critcal scene, "DON'T YOU TELL ME TO SHUSH, YOU SHUSH, WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? YOU SHUSH" and repeated that inane sentence at least 4 times. Thus inducing a handful of other people to turn around and say "shhhh". This wasn't going to end well.

Luckily, we were just approaching the interval. As the curtain came down, we could hear one of the women chuntering to her sidekick "Who does she think she is? telling me to shush? she should shush, not me. Who does she think she is?"

The constant repetition indicated a solitary brain cell and limited vocabulary, making it obvious there'd be no reasoning, so we tried our best to ignore her. Which was difficult. Because then, inexplicably, one of them started listing what I was wearing.

"Who does she think she is? Look at her with her shoes, her skirt, her wedding ring that was probably £90, her husband, her job, her hair, her shoes...."

For a moment I thought her mate had blindfolded her and they were playing some sort of memory game. Like that one with the objects on a tray you played when you were a kid.

Hubby and I started laughing, (discreetly in case she walloped is with her pearly handbag) then seconds later I heard a theatre manager ask her politely to keep the noise down during the performance, because she'd had 5 complaints about the pair of them.

"We ain't doing nuffink 'cept enjoy the show! We ain't doing nuffin wrong!" they squealed. Like a pair of stuck pigs.

The manager then said that the theatre wouldn't tolerate this behaviour and asked them to step in to the foyer to discuss it further, because if they couldn't be quiet, they'd be asked to leave.

Oh dear. This was like pouring a can of petrol over a semi-lit barbecue. The pair of them exploded into an even louder tirade about how they had every right to be sitting there, enjoying the show at any volume they chose.

As this went on, people started coming back to their seats to watch the half time entertainment. We were all getting a lot more for our money than we'd banked on. The pearly queens gradually became louder and more unpleasant, until the manager uttered the immortal words, "If you don't come with me now, I will call the police."

But alas, a threat of police action was not going to work. They clung onto their seats refusing to move. Like a pair of gin-soaked limpits. With teeth. So the manager scuttled off and the pearly queens thought they'd won.

Their intellectual debate of how events were unfolding continued:
"How dare she!"
"Yeah how dare she! How dare they!"
"How dare they!"

It was hardly Question Time.

Hilariously, moments later, two policeman turned up to astonished gasps from the audience, asking Dumb and Dumber to escort them down to the foyer. Surely by now, they would realise they were in a bit of trouble and would quietly bugger off and let everyone enjoy the show?

But we all underestimated just how stupid these two were. They had all the intelligence of a tin of luncheon meat.

"No I will not move I have paid good money to sit here, I ain't movin'!", they screeched in unison at the rozzer, who sighed and said, "Madam, if you don't come with me now, I WILL call for backup."

Backup?? At this point, everyone in the theatre is watching the impromptu performance of "Two Drunk Chavs - The Musical", and got so carried away with it, they all start chanting 'OUT OUT OUT OUT' as the manager apologises over a tannoy about the delay in starting the second half of the show.

Seconds later, we were all gobsmacked when the promised backup unit did actually arrive. Five big coppers were actually marching down to her seat.

The biggest of these burly cops asked the 'ladies' nicely if they would quietly accompany him out of the theatre to discuss matters further. Their reply?
"No we have the law of the land on our side."

I don't know what this so-called Law of the Land is. To me it sounds like something out of a child's fairy story involving ogres and princesses and kingdoms. And clearly Burly Cop agreed cos he was having none of it and politely repeated his request.

Then it got really good. One of them phoned a friend. Within minutes it had gone from Jeremy Kyle to The Bill to Who wants to be a Millionaire.

"Gary, it's me, I'm with Sheila in the theatre and the police are here. They want to throw us out for being noisy, but they can't can they?? No I thought not. Fanks."

And she actually turned to the policeman and said, "See. I don't have to move."

Who was Gary?? Was he a judge? Was he the chief of police? Was he Simon Cowell? Was he God??? Sadly, dear reader, we will never know.

(And as if Burly Cop was suddenly going to say, "Ah shit yes! I totally forgot about Gary's law, whereby any loud mouth chav can just do exactly as they like, wherever they like. I do apologise luv, please carry on. Can I get you an icecream on my way out?")

Big Burly Cop lost his rag at this point, especially as the audience had resumed their chanting of "OUT OUT OUT".

The next thing we knew it was a case of "you grab her legs, I'll grab her arms" as all the policemen bundled in, grabbed a limb and physically carried her out of the theatre. All the while she was squealing "Put me daaahhhhnn! I'm gonna sue you!"

Someone in the audience shouted "Get yer Tazer out!" prompting a mass cheer from the entire theatre. And we all whooped and jeered a little bit more when, as the coppers hoisted her away, her ill-fitting shirt came loose of her ill-fitting jeans to set free her flabby white belly for the whole theatre to laugh at. It was the final indignity of the whole episode. And it was quite grotesque. But absolutely hilarious at the same time.

And her mate had no choice but to stumble after her. And she fell over while trying to negotiate the tricky staircase, which just topped events off neatly.

Finally, after a very long and very amusing interval, the show continued. It's lucky it was a good show, because after that performance it had rather a lot to live up to.

Even Kyle would have been horrified. I wonder if he knows who Gary is?

Note. I promise I haven't made a word of this up. I couldn't possibly.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Bin bother

Oh wheelie bin, one day you will be mine

I can't wait for the day when I can enjoy the luxury of owning a wheelie bin. Yes you read that correctly. I dream of owning a wheelie bin.

You see I live in a small block of flats which means we have to chuck our rubbish in a communal wheelie bin roughly the size of a skip. Until I was forced to be part of his communal rubbish-flinging, I never thought I'd consider a wheelie bin a luxury. But I do now.

Because what I have discovered is that when people see a very large bin that looks a bit like a skip, they also see a chance to clear out their garage/loft/entire house.

Every single day, a new objects has been flung at the bin. (They never quite manage to put things in the bin, just prop it against the bin. I suppose if it was too much effort to go to the local tip, then how can I expect the dumper to actually lift the object and place it inside the bin out of view? It is, after all, much easier to drive past and hurtle it in the vague direction of it's new home.)

And I'm always amazed at the things that magically appear by the bin overnight. A dining table complete with chairs. A three seater sofa, plus matching armchair. A wardrobe with built in dressing table. Television. Bikes. Stools. Rollerskates. Chests of drawers. Mattresses. I just need a teamaker and I could furnish a house. Or a gameshow conveyor belt.

And much of it is in quite good condition. It often looks like someone is trying to deliberately make a home by the bins. Maybe they are. Bring the indoors out. Hey, why not go the whole hog and dip into the bin for dinner too.

I guess in London it could easily be mistaken for a Tracy Emin-esque art installation. Perhaps I should stick up a sign that says 'A smaller branch of the Tate' and charge people a tenner to look. People would probably come too. If they're prepared to pay the tube fare to go and see some of the tat that's in the Tate Modern, I'm sure they'd trek to south London to see the 'old furniture' exhibition.

But what made me laugh, was the council's view on it when I reported it. To be fair, much of the stuff disappears pretty much as quickly as it arrives. (the wardrobe went within hours) But then other things tend to hang around for days and weeks. (the three seater sofa was very unpopular. Possibly thanks to the rather suspect yellow patches on the upholstery and the way the stuffing appeared to be vomiting itself out of a seat cushion.)

So after growing tired of the eyesore, I called the council who were uncharacteristically helpful and said they'd remove it forthwith. I then went all Meldrew, said this was a continuous problem and regaled the lady I was talking to with the list of items above. I suggested it might be worth putting a warning sign up, you know, threatening a hefty flytipping fine. It might act as a deterrent.

And do you know what she said?

"We can't do that, a sign will lower the tone of the area."

Ah. How silly of me to suggest the erection of such an eyewatering monstrosity. Because this dirty, urine stained mattress doesn't lower the tone whatsoever does it?

And this is my favourite bit of dumped furniture - the mirror means I can check my hair and makeup when I empty my bin! Perfect! Also love the use of stickers.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Overheard hilarity

I love ear-wigging conversations. I know it's naughty but I can't help it. My guilty pleasure began as an exercise from a tutor on a short story writing course I took several moons ago.

The tutor cunningly justified this rather nosey practice by saying it was a great way to learn how to write authentic dialogue. Homework was to discreetly jot down an overheard conversation word for word, and notice the natural ebb and flow, errs and umms of conversation.

As homework goes, it was great fun. Some of the things I heard were hilarious. In fact, the results of my earwigging could possibly create a blog in their own right. It certainly entertained me.

That's why I still love listening in. And occasionally I do write choice quotes down. (for research purposes, obviously. One day I will write that novel. No really I will.)

This week I heard a corker while rummaging and wrestling in the Monsoon sale, hoping against hope that they didn't only have size 18s left in the dresses I'd been drooling over for months.

With my my head wedged firmly in a rail of large skirts, frantically reading every label in the hope that a size 12 had been carelessly flung onto the wrong hanger, I heard the plummy tones of a very posh young girl talking to her mate. Here's what she said, word for word:

“oh my god I hate looking for clothes when I absolutely don’t need anything. It’s just so hard. Sigh!”

I had to laugh. I felt like turning around and saying well no-one's forcing you to be in here! Go home and admire your fully stocked wardrobe and give the rest of us peasants a chance to get a desperately needed outfit for their tired looking collection of last year's rags.

When I did turn around I noticed she was a probably a size 8-10 - so she had no chance of a bargain in here. So the poor little, hard done by lambkin could go home, and relax after the stress of being forced to spend Daddy's bonus on something she won't need or ever wear. Ever. Phew!

More ear-wigging later in the blog I feel.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Separated at birth

Ah look at his furry body. And the dog's cute too eh?

The picture above was taken the other night. My Husband and our Border Terrier Toby had been playing together all evening, then simultaneously flaked out together on the floor. It just confirmed what I’ve long suspected - that my dog and my Husband share the same brain. They play together, fall asleep together, share cups of tea together. They even have the same colour hair and look a bit similar.

I often catch them seemingly locked in their own little world, having conversations, playing funny little games. I’ll come home to find them joyfully engrossed in a very unique game of ball (Hubby has trained Toby to bat the ball back and forth to him with his paw. The aim of the game is to bat it around on the rug without letting it roll under the sofa. Toby has surprisingly good ball control and they’ve worked out a point system and everything.)

And of course my Husband spoils him rotten. Toby gets away with murder mainly because he worked out at a very young age that he can twist Hubby around his little paw by switching into ‘Cute Mode’ – looking up with big sad eyes, chin resting on paws, tail wagging expectantly.

I remember one evening when we both came in from work, it had been a very long day for both of us and neither of us could face trying to assemble a meal, then wash up the detritus and all that palavar. So we ordered a takeaway.

As I slumped into the sofa to wait for my lazy tea to be driven to me by a student on the back of a moped, I noticed Husband standing at the cooker. He was boiling some potatoes.

When I asked what he was doing, he said he was making Toby a mash and gravy dinner.

So. Let me just make that clear. He couldn’t be bothered to make our tea, but was quite happy to cook something for Toby. Even though all Toby’s tea needed was a pork chop/chicken breast/fishcake thrown at it to make it our tea.

I was astounded. And I swear, as I vocalised my disbelief, I saw Toby turn around, grin and give me a wink.

As I say, wrapped around his paw.

A bit of bike rage

Monday morning on the Vauxhall one-way system

Living in London can be stressful and traversing across London to in rush hour is a twice-daily, migraine-inducing, teeth-gnashing battle. In a bid to make it less stressful, I decided to swap my Oyster card for cycling shorts and travel to work by bike instead. The benefits seemed endless - the fresh air, the freedom, the joy of the open road, the toning of the bottom, the saving of money and best of all, 40 minutes without some sweaty man in a cheap suit elbowing me to the ground so he can park his fat arse on the last remaining seat in order to smugly read his bloody kindle. (And don't get me started on those.)

What was I thinking? Open roads? Fresh air? I seem to have swapped the jostling massed underground for the jostling masses overground. If I'm not running the gauntlet with blinkered bus drivers, I'm dodging pedestrians as they wander blindly into the roads like confused sheep in country lane.

And in between all that, I am astounded by how much verbal abuse I get. Usually from people who walk out without looking/cut me up on a roundabout/try and leg it across the pedestrian crossing just as the lights are changing to green.

This morning was a prize example. A young boy of about 12 had decided to walk to school in the road rather than with all his mates on the pavement. Maybe he thought this would increase his credibility. "Look at me walking towards oncoming traffic - aren't I cool?"

All well and good, but my problem was I would have to swerve around him, into the path of two lorries and a bus, to avoid mowing him and his attitude down. I loudly requested that he get out of the way (admittedly, I might have thrown in an eff word for added ferocity), which he ignored, as he continued to walk towards my speeding bike. As I swerved to miss him, he loudly shouted SHUT UP in my left ear.

Lovely. I hope the school bully flushes his head down a dirty toilet later.

But my journey got even better. My final stretch to work is a long road with traffic lights positioned at six feet intervals. It's ridiculous. This morning, as the 100th traffic light turned red at a pedestrian crossing, I slowed to a stop to let the man with the wheelie bag cross.

And astonishingly, as I waited for him to trundle across, he looked at me like you would maybe look at your shoe upon discovering it was caked in a still-warm dog turd, and he said:

"It's not your green light."

I said, "I know, that's why I've stopped."

"Yes but you should have stopped sooner."

Eh?? Oh I'm sorry! Tell you what, here's my phone number, why don't you give me a call when you are about to leave your house, and wherever I am at that moment in time, I will stop, so that you have plenty of time to drag your overweight carcass in your slip-on shoes over the huge, gaping chasm that is six whole feet of pedestrian crossing. Will that do?

That's what I wish I'd said.

Instead, as he inexplicably CONTINUED to rant on at me for obeying the lights, I took influence from the 12 year old I'd encountered earlier.

I said, "Oh will you just SHUT UP" and cycled off.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A small explanation

I love my job as a copywriter. But now and again it's nice to just have the freedom to write whatever the sod I want. No holds barred. No word count. No rules. And without getting told off for starting sentences with the words 'and' 'but' or 'because'. (Because that's something I do a lot. And so does The Guardian. But some clients aren't fans.)

So for me, this big fat blank blog is as the equivalent of breathing the small of freshly cut grass. As refreshing as a lemonade ice lolly on a boiling hot day. As delicious as that first glass of chardonnay on a friday night at approximately 7.30pm.

In other words I might go on a bit. Just because I can. Marvellous.