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Friday, April 25, 2008


It seems like all I do is rant about public transport but it’s only because I hate it more than celery and this is confirmed by every time I’m forced to use it something absolutely ridiculous and absurd happens to me, further cementing my hatred for the system and making me realise that maybe celery isn’t so bad after all.

Mike even put it in a risotto the other day and I didn’t notice.

First of all I’m annoyed I even have to take this journey. Bristol to Middlesbrough and back in 13 hours. The woman I’m going to interview has a heartbreaking story and I’m looking forward to delving, but it was raining as I walked to the station so my shoes and socks are soaked and my jeans are drenched from the hem to the knee.

How did I end up in England? I’m Dutch Polynesian! Which ancestor do I have to thank for deciding it was too hot and beautiful out there and grey, rainy England was a far better place for our kind?

On train, chai, Empire magazine, happy. Along comes the ticket inspector to ruin my day. I hand over my ticket and he asks for my Young Person Railcard.

Then it hits me. I booked the ticket days ago over the phone and not once since then has my tiny little memory thought it worth nudging me so I actually put the validation into my bag.

Er…it’s at home, I stammer.

So, Matt, Duty Manager, king of the gays, proceeds to tell me I can either pay £100 fine or get off at the next station and talk to the police. (the Transport Police. They aren’t real are they?)

Well, can’t you just take my details and I’ll bring it to the station tonight?

No, that’s against the rules. THE GODDAM RULES! They are the bane of my life.

I’m clearly not some 17 year old scaly trying to get one over on the system. Please, I beg him, I can’t get off at the next stop, I just can’t. But I can’t pay £100 either.

Tell that to the police at the next station, he says sharply.

Thanks Matt.

This is a work trip and I don’t want to be £100 out of pocket. It takes me two days to earn that.

‘Have a think about it and I’ll be back in a minute,’ he says, returning my ticket. I don’t know why he made me cry but he did. I’m annoyed with myself for forgetting it, for possibly costing myself £100 for a trip I didn’t even want to take. I hate my stupid memory, it lets me down so often.

I call my boyfriend. He’ll have an answer. Back when Dad lived in England, I’d call him expecting him to have the answer to my most trivial of problems. Dad, the toaster isn’t working. Dad, the lights don’t work. Dad, my car won’t start. Then Dad would calmy (but no doubt excitedly) talk me through the mechanics of a toaster, a fuse or an engine. We both loved it.

Now Daddy’s in far off distant lands, Gareth has taken his mantle so he better bloody have an answer or he’s dumped.

‘Just tell him it’s a genuine mistake and ask to pay the full fare instead of the fine. Then slip it through expenses.’

Magic! He’s a keeper.

Matt (said through gritted teeth because he’s on my hit list) returns half an hour later and takes the ticket of the new man sitting next to me. He doesn’t even look me in the eye and disappears.

Holy moly! I LOVE MATT! Off the hit list, onto the Christmas card list.

But then we get to Birmingham and a new manager boards.

‘Please have your tickets and railcards ready for inspection,’ comes the female voice.

Oh god, a woman. I’ll never win her over with my winning charm and bashful eyes. In she comes… lo! Her name tag reads ‘Kim – Manager’ She’s a Kim too!

Can I see your railcard? She asks. Er..no. Where is it? At home, I reply sheepishly.

I begin to explain myself, but Kim holds up a hand of protest. She has sensed my name is also Kim and, like a true trooper, butts in.

‘I’ll let you off,’ she smiles. Go Team Kim! She had no way of knowing my name, but us Kims, we know each other. I love her.

I know it’s all going to go tits up later and I’ll be charged full whack by some jobsworth, probably called Neil (I’m got no kinship with Neils) but for now I’m riding the wave of comradeship.


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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

"I've been trying to die all day"

My incredibly old grandma has just been taken into hospital after possibly having a stroke, or a fall, she’s not quite sure. As her short term memory is now serving about as well as a goldfish, she has no idea why she’s in hospital or how she got there. She does remember a heavy handed attendant being too forceful with her and she brought that up about 15 times during our hour visit.

I’m sure he was just doing his job, I assure her. You can’t be too heavy handed with a 94 year old, surely, for fear of snapping her. Grandma doesn't hear my assurance, but there's no doubt the nurses down the hall hear every word of her complaint. Every time.

I read her medical notes. ‘Patient refused all assistance. Becoming very agitated.’

To them, she’s just another old person. To me, she’s my amazing grandmother who flew spitfires in the war and can recite about 43,000 different poems, limericks and proverbs. I want to shake the nurses and say HEY! That's Benedetta Willis you know! You ought to bow!

But as I sit on her bedside and survey the ward, I see dozens of old people, who I’m sure all have their own story to tell, their own wars lived through, their own battles battled. But to me, they are just more old people. I look at them in pity, hoping I never get that old. And I realise Grandma, Grand as she is, is just another old person. But as long as each old person is more than just another old person to someone, then that's all that really matters.

None of them are in bed, obviously not allowed at 2pm, so they sit besides their beds, wrinkly and old, awaiting their next visitor or meal. It’s a strange existence and makes me shudder. Not until we reach Grandma’s bed do I feel any kind of emotion other than fear. Then I see Grandma and I feel love and worry and I rush to her side.

As soon as she sees me, she holds out her old, wrinkly, soft hands to meet mine.

‘Darling,’ she says, ‘I keep trying to get them to kill me but they won’t.’

She’s had enough. She doesn’t know why she’s still alive, why she’s survived her husband, one of her sons and many of her friends. She doesn’t want to know, she just wants it to be over.

I love her dearly and selfishly want her to be around forever to tell me I need to find a good man and make sure I keep my kidney's warm. I want her to be around forever because she hasn't finished telling me about the man she would have married, had he not become a Japanese prisoner of war. I want her to be around forever because, at 94, she still has her wits about her and still knows when to whip put a shot of sarcasm. I want her to be around forever because I love her.

But I also understand her want to die. It's not that she doesn't love her loved ones. It's that the quality of life for a 94 year old must be rubbish. And this conjures up all my thoughts on euthanasia which I'm not going to go into now because my dinner is nearly ready and I can't be bothered. Suffice to say - I'm for it. If I want to die, I should be able to.

Her hearing is terrible and it makes her seem mad. I’m sure the nurses must think so. But she isn’t. She’s quite sane. She's just refusing to admit she can’t hear and so says something, anything, in return of your sentence, hoping it’ll fit into conversation, but it never does.

Are you ok Grandma? Do you remember what happened?

No, I haven’t had any pudding, comes the reply.

If I die, she says, don’t worry about me because I’ll be happy. Here, I can’t stop crying.

Grandma lives alone in the Isle of Wight, far from any of her loved ones, and the thought of her sitting alone, crying, asking to be taken from this life, sends tears down my cheeks in streams. It makes me want to give up my life and go and play scrabble with her until her dying day.

‘You don’t know what’s really going on in the world until you come to a place like this,’ Grandma says wisely. Hide all the old people in wards like this, we do, so we can think they don’t exist. But they do. They exist because we are desperate to keep everyone alive for as long as possible. Everyone in this ward is well past their sell by date, some look like they haven’t had a visitor since they arrived, and all over the country there are wards specifically for the old. The heroes of the second world war, slumped in wards, old, decrepit, dribbling and deaf.

Her arms shake as she reads the notes we’ve written her. We try the mammoth task of explaining power of attorney to her and that she understands. She might be about to die and we need to prepare ourselves. ‘Yes, your father should take control,’ she says, handing the paper back as she shakes like a leaf. I can see her desperately trying to tell her body to give up.

But she’s a tough old boot. She’s been saying she wants to die since before her 90th birthday. She’s a bit of an eeyore, you see. ‘Your father doesn’t even know I’m in here,’ she whimpers. Er, yes he does, Grandma, that’s how we know you're here. You spoke to him yesterday? Oh, did I? Well, that’s something, I suppose.

Her son, my Dad, Bryan, is by far her best child. He does everything for her and although he moved to Malaysia 5 years ago, always returns to her little bungalow to fix things and calls her all the time. He lived on the isle of wight for years but realised she wasn’t on her way out and he had to live his life for himself. But it made me realise what families of Alzheimer's go through. To think how worried he must be, thousands of miles away, and calling her constantly, and then she just mutters that he doesn’t remember her. Five minutes after we’d gone, she had probably forgotten that we’d been. So I guess we go to satisfy our own guilt. Guilt at only spending an hour with her as it was, and not an entire weekend. My family assure me she gets tired when we stay any longer but I can’t help feeling our fleeting visits aren’t enough. In other cultures, aren’t the old revered? Respected? They’d never chuck them all in a ward to be forgotten and hidden. The family looks after the old, just as they looked after you.

Marie Ann, my beloved other mother, came with us. Grandma asked her how her father was and Marie Ann had to break the news that he died a month ago.

‘I’ve been trying to die all day,’ Grandma retorts. I start getting worried that Pip must be getting freaked out by it all as she’s being very quiet. Grandma! I shout, You can’t say that! No, she replies, you can’t just try and die can you?

No, Pip comes in defiantly, because we love you too much.

It falls on deaf ears, literally, but I heard her, the little darling. Are you ok Pipsy? I say as we hug. I know hospitals are horrible. I’m starting to get worried she’ll have a fit and we’ll have to pull up another NHS trolley. No they’re not, they’re alright Kim. You’ll be alright, she says as she pulls my jumper down to protect my kidneys, as she always does.

I think I’m worrying about everyone too much. Grandma is happily tucking into the biscuits Tammi bought her, Pip is quietly sapping up all the information being spoken around her and no where near having a fit. Everything seems hunky dory.

So off we trot back to civilisation. Job done. Grandma attended to, left in the ward with all the other oldies. Each with their own story no one cares about any more. Each dying slowly.

Makes my special K diet all seem a bit frivolous and superfluous now. Although, let’s end this one on a light note, I’m bloody loving the new slim kim. Even my mum said I was looking skinny. Whoop whoop! It’s all about getting your mother to worry about your new gaunt physique. I’m going to try and get down to nine stone, just to see if I can, and then I’ll stop being the neurotic diet freak I’ve become over the last 2 weeks and return to normal. Although not quite return, as I would like to stay skinny forever. I haven’t been very good at the diet. The lack of proper food during the day means you are meant to have lots of vegetables in the evening and last week I ate: burger and chips, meatballs and spagetti and a pie. But I must be doing something (unhealthily) right.

This week I’m not going to drink until Friday, and I’m going to eat loads of vegetables. There…even talking about Special K has quite taken my mind of old age and death and misery. I think I can go to bed now and be assured I won’t dream I’m dying

(maybe of starvation).

** footnote 1 - The next day Marie Ann returned and asked Grandma who her biscuits were from. I don't know, she said, sounding surprised. They just appeared! Worth the visit then.

** footnote 2 - So much for not drinking till Friday. Got bloody drunk last night and had dinner with some lesbians who had their hands down each other's pants all night. It didn't annoy me because they were lesbians, it annoyed me full stop. Get a room lezzers! I hate overtly public displays of affection. I'm trying to have a conversation with lezzer one and lezzer two is groping her tits. Made me so annoyed I've decided never to become a lesbian.
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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Just horsing around

We went to Cesca’s parent’s house for the weekend because I’ve been banging on ever since Cesca and I became friends about horse riding and how much I wanted to give it go.

Finally, after two years of going out, she invited me to her parent’s livery for some action.

I was so excited. But it turned out to be a night-mare. Mare. Like the horse. Even in my hour of pain, from my hospital bed, I still pun. Born to pun.

I loved horses when I was a little girl. Had horse posters all over my room, read Jill’s Gymkhana over and over again, and wore my jodhpurs all the time, even when I wasn’t riding. But I grew out of (got thrown in boarding school and couldn’t do it anymore. Then I discovered sex drugs and rock and roll. That was way more fun.) but for years I’ve been yearning to get back in the saddle.

Upon arrival, I hear that the horse I have been assigned won Disabled Horse of the year. Great. And also, he’s been really feisty recently. Er, should I be riding a feisty horse? I haven’t ridden for 15 years.

To be sure, we take Luke to the school first and he is very well behaved. I walked, trotted, and we even went over a few jumps which was pretty exciting.

Then we went on a hack. I expected it to be hours long, that Cesca and I would be side by side, deep in discussion about the meaning of life as the sun shone down on us.

No such luck. We trotted to the end of the lane, then decided to have a go at a canter.

And that’s when Luke decided to go mental and threw me off. I can definitely say that I have never been so terrified in all my life. He threw me forwards so as I landed I saw his back legs coming towards me.

Luckily he didn’t trample on me but galloped off bucking and rearing. Thank god I fell off.

I was so shaken up I was actually shaking for hours afterwards. I have a nice fat bruise where I landed on my back and I just hope I didn’t do any permanent damage. I managed to slip two discs in my back by giving someone a piggy back once so I think the likelihood of being flung from a horse doing some damage is quite high.

The adrenalin rush from the fall left me in tears for ages as I watched my hands shaking like leaves. It was the first time my boyfriend had heard me cry, as I called him for some sympathy. It made me worse as I recounted the tale of my Very Traumatic Experience I just wanted to be with him instead of lying on the floor in a strange house hoping I wasn’t going to spend the next six months in bed like I did after the piggy back.

If you fall off, get back in the saddle, they say. No fricking way. That’s me and horses done with now. Ticked off the list, I think I’ll stick to rock climbing.

Apart from that, I had a great weekend.

On Saturday night we went to the pub in Devizes and got hopelessly drunk on Tequila.

We got home and I passed out in bed. Next thing I know, it’s 7.41 am and I awake to Cesca going ‘er, it’s me in your bed Kim,’ as I tried to put my leg over her. Neither of us could remember how she ended up in my bed, without any pants on. But Mike filled us in. Apparently Cesca had passed out in their bed, fully clothed, then woken up, flung all the books from the bookshelf on to the floor and then taken her jeans off and got into my bed. As you do.

Cesca’s gran is just about the coolest 87 year old I have ever met. She owns two quad bikes. Why do you have a quad bike, I asked. Oh, just for whizzing about the place, she replied. Amazing. I want a quad bike when I’m 87.

Devizes was beautiful, green and spacious. Made me yearn for a place in the country. I want a big old house with an open fire and an old country lane. I want Cesca’s parents house. But without the damn horses.
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Special K(im) Diet

When Hannah mentioned she was thinking about doing the Special K diet I went a bit giddy.

‘I’ll do that with you!’ I squealed.

And so here we are, two days in, a bit hungry but on a road together to a dress size less.

In fact, after day one I weighed myself and I was shy of ten stone for the first time in ages. I’m not saying I lost half a stone in one day, but since I last weighed myself.

Now I’m overcome with excitement at the prospect of people looking at me, tilting their head to one side in an act of concern and saying ‘my, Kim, you look thin, are you ok?’ and I can say ‘yes I bloody am! I’m nine stone!’

So now I am nine stone 10lbs. I didn’t believe my home scales when they told me so I made my housemate hop on to see if she’d lost half a stone too and it was just the shit scales lying to me.

‘No, I’m still the same,’ she said, bleary eyed at 7am. ‘but thanks for reminding me.’

I went to the gym and used the professional scales and it was true, I had lost half a stone. I can’t see the difference but it does spur me on to eat cereal for two weeks and see how svelte I can get.

We have tinkered with the diet slightly.

Special Kelloggs suggest you eat Special K for breakfast and lunch, and have a balanced meal in the evening – for two weeks. Apparently it’s dangerous to keep going for any longer.

We are eating fruit for breakfast, Special K for lunch and a healthy dinner. But we aren’t doing it at weekends because that’d be boring. Therefore we are doing it for 3 weeks to compensate.

It’s so cheap too! 2 boxes of Special K for £4 and that’ll last the entire diet. Amazing.

I hate girls on diets. I hate it when you get to the pub and some skinny minnie isn’t drinking or worse – isn’t eating – (actually is that worse? I think I’d rather drink than eat) …where was I… she isn’t eating and so she just has a side salad. BORING! I like girls with an appetite.

That’s why Hannah and I aren’t doing the Special K diet at weekends. Because we enjoy eating with our friends. Selfless.

So we’ll see. Day 1 was easy, I felt stuffed after my cereal lunch. Day two was tricky, but I ate fruit in the afternoon too and that seemed to ward off the craving for real food.

I have managed to get down to nine stone in the past. At uni I developed an unhealthy obsession with apples and started eating ten a day. The weight flew off and I got a lot of head tilting from people. It was amazing.

It’s the weekend now so I can do what I want again – great rules, these.

(24 hours later)

I certainly did eat what I wanted. A lot of what I wanted.

Then I weighed myself with Cesca’s scales and lo! I was 8 stone! Somehow I’d managed to lose a further 1 and a half stone without even trying.
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