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Monday, May 26, 2008

A hooligan’s game…

Watched by gentlemen. And now, me and Hannah.

Mr Hannah, aka Patrick Doyle, invited us to the live final of the Heineken Cup Final between Munster (Muuuunstar!) and Toolouse. I was pretty excited about charming Patrick with my opening line of ‘so Patrick, who do you think is going Toolouse?’ but I think I built it up in my head too much as it took two bottles of wine and half of the game (by which time they were, in fact, losing) for me to find the courage.

The last time I sat in a stadium this big and witnessed a spectacle this spectacular was the opening ceremony of the Olympics, Sydney 2000. Actually, I did see Pink Floyd play at Earl’s Court last year, but my brother had force fed me a very large and toxic marijuana cigarette beforehand so all I remember is being slightly sleepy and wondering why there were so many bright lights on the dark side of the moon. Couldn’t someone turn them down a bit so I could have a snooze?

But this, like the Olympics, was amazing. The atmosphere was warm and contagious. I can count the things I know about rugby on one hand but it didn’t matter. The important thing was how much fun Hannah and I had from start to finish.

Our train to Cardiff was packed and we ended up sitting with some OAP rugby fans who kindly told us where the best places were to go shopping. They all had lovely little Irish accents and to be sure, I wanted one too. Hannah thought the one I sat next to was a bit of a dish but he reminded me of that pregnant guy in America.

Settling down to watch the game, I watched as a medic ran on to massage a player’s upper thigh. With my eye sight, from my seat, it looked a bit like he was…you know… and so I said to Hannah. It seems to be my curse that I accidentally swear in front of my friend’s fathers, when all I really want to do is impress them.

‘What?’ asked Patrick after I’d pointed out the medic giving the player a hand job.


But lo! This father wasn’t schooled at the same stuffy Muslim school as my Switzerland friend’s, so when Hannah repeated my observation, he laughed whole heartedly and slapped his thigh. Phew. Still room to charm him. Still room for my Tooloose pun.

As our journey to Cardiff was so uneventful I thought I’d be able to write a blog where I don’t have to rant about the downfalls of our public transport system.

But then we tried to get home. Maybe, after a Cup Final, they hadn’t expected 40,000 people to try and get on one three-carriaged train. Maybe they're all just idiots. We stood outside the station for about 7 hours and when we were finally let on a train, it took us to the wrong station.

From there, we had to get a bus, as did 40,000 other people. But I managed to squeeze on to one bus and I saw Hannah being eclipsed by burlier, bigger people left behind.

I was one of the last people to board and I turned back to grab her from the sea of hands below. So did my nemesis, some pointless and annoying human being who decided she wanted to be the last to board too.

‘We’ve only got room for one more!’ shouted the driver. I felt like I was on the last safety boat for the Titanic. All those left behind will drown in a sea of doom! Only room for one more!

‘Let my girlfriend on! I’m not going without Hannah!’ I screamed.

‘Let my boyfriend on!’ shouted boring face. Only one of us can win a seat for our other half. She is bigger than me and the driver looks like he’s going to have a small heart attack.

I was just about to give up and step off the bus when I heard chanting coming from inside the bus.

No, not ‘We love Munster’ but ‘WE WANT HANNAH!’ over and over again. The bus wanted Hannah! In slow motion, the other girl was ousted from the steps as I leant forward and grabbed Hannah from the sea of desperates who’d have to wait for the next bus, to the whoops, roars and cheers of a bus full of people who’d decided Hannah was the Chosen One.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Don't get spooked

Having said a tearful goodbye to Garton, I arrived at Gareth's in tears. He took me under his wing and suggested a weekend in the country might be just what I needed. Our next Big Adventure. For Gazza and I are making quite a thing of going on adventures. Conveniently, this is also part of my big plan for moving into a new chapter. Less getting drunk with Cesca, more rambling, escaping, discovering and happy snapping with Gareth. Less getting drunk with Cesca, more reading. Less getting drunk with Cesca, more yoga. You get the idea, Kim MK 2008 is bloody wholesome.

So, I better find my passport, I'm off to Wales! Whoop whoop! Meeting some of Gareth's family as well. We took a tent so we could spend one night at one with nature and one night with Gareth's grandparents.

First night was lovely, I ate my body weight in sunflower oil, and it was great. I eat so many salads it was lovely to live by my Dad's rule 'don't reject anything given to you when you are a guest' - OK! Brilliant, I can eat all this fried food and it's just me being polite. It was heaven.

Avril, Gareth's nan, made me instantly at ease with her warm smile, soft Welsh accent and mammoth albums of Gareth before he got blessed with good looks. One picture in particular was worth considering thievery for - because the world of facebook needs to see it.

Next day we camped beside a lake, beneath the trees (fluttering and dancing in the breeze...). It was so beautiful, serene and perfect. Not another camper in sight. To work up an appetite, we decided to walk the perimeter of the lake.

Pretty sure, as we battled bog after bog, that it was Gareth's idea. After each bog had been crossed it was a toss up whether it was worse to carry on or go back, knowing how many were behind us and hoping there were none ahead.

What more could I have asked for to take my mind off losing my wing man, my Cesca, than the sight of my boyfriend chasing after and trying unsuccessfully to grab hold of a sheep's horns? It brought a little tear of happiness to my eyes.

Back at the tent I collected firewood in my bare feet while Gareth...I'm not entirely sure what he was doing. His hair? (I later found out he'd gone to clean his muddy shoes and had fallen in some brambles). As I collected the firewood I was taken back to my times with Dad, collecting and chopping firewood on the Isle of Wight, him teaching me the best way to use an axe, a spanner, a jack... and I missed him. I always miss him when I'm doing something he'd be proud of. I don't miss him when I'm in the pub because I know he hates that side of my life. But when I'm flexing my guns picking up massive logs, I know Dad would be proud.

Everything was going swimmingly - long walk, bbq, sunset, roaring fire.

Then, from nowhere, a man clad only in black appeared from nowhere, huge binoculars around his neck.

Just the two of you? he asked nervously as I jumped out of my skin.

Gareth kindly took it upon himself to tell the potential rapist that yes, it was just the two of us, and we had no reception on our mobiles and in case he needed to know how long he had to torture us before anyone noticed we were missing, we weren't getting picked up until the morning.

You can't have a fire here, he said. Ok, we'll put out the only sign from afar that we're here, then you can rape us in the dead of night. Yes? Yes, that's fine, you can stay, he says, walking away.

Don't get spooked, he says as he turns back. Lots of weirdos out tonight.

With our fire extinguished and my imagination running wild, we retreated into the tent.

'Funny how he didn't have a torch, Gareth points out. And he wanted to know if we were alone. And we told him we were. And that we had no reception. Brilliant!

Every rustle made me jump as every horror movie I'd ever watched amalgamated into one, fine, gruesome killing of me.

We tried to go to sleep but the tea towel I'd brought instead of a duvet and the napkin I'd brought instead of a mattress meant it was the most freezing and uncomfortable night I'd ever endured. Every time Gareth moved and I lost the warmth of the spoon, my temperature dropped a further five degrees and at times I wondered if we'd make it through.

So you can imagine my delight at waking up alive.

I came home smiling.

Yes, an era came to an end on Saturday. But the new one is going to be just as fun, as I become one of those adults who wakes up without a hangover on Saturdays. Ok, not every Saturday. But I would like to regularly wake up without a hangover. That's my new aim.

That and to get guns like Madonna.
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End of an era

Walking arm in arm with Cesca would usually guarantee some kind of wolf whistle or respectful request for us to 'get our kit off' from the gentlemen who frequent the outside of the Raymond pub.

But this time they refrained, perhaps because our skirts weren't short enough or we weren't showing our multi-tasking skills by balancing a baby on one hip while shooting up in the other arm. Or maybe it was because we were both in tears.

We were off to the park for our final goodbye. I adore Cesca. Since The Big Weekend in 2006, our friendship has grown into a spectacular bond that I didn't know could have existed. We laughed, we cried (well, I mostly cried) we drank and we occasionally stayed sober. We swapped clothes, we stormed into pubs, we gesticulated, we touched hearts.

Then one day 8 months ago Cesca put an ad on facebook. 'Cesca and Mikey need a housemate or two.' They got two responses. Mine, reading simply 'shotgun' and one from a then unknown to me but now only describable as bloody brilliant, Cordelia.

I'm sure if they had got 400 responses they still would have chosen us, (well that's what they tell us) but either way, we won and we moved in.

The fun began. The first few months were a heady cocktail of laughter, boozy dinners, late night discussions, massive amounts of cheese consumption, games and laughter. Oh and once or twice, we watched TV. But Mike had to draw us a diagram so we could turn it on when he wasn't there. I'm sure it helped him feel like the Man of the House, that and the fact he lived with three girls.

But we never talked about periods. (ok, once, but Mike got such a moan on we never dared again) We talked about wine and beer, pies and lives, careers and fears. Every night was a guaranteed funfest and I'll never forget it.

People warned me not to live with my friends. 'It'll ruin it,' they said. Er, no, in your face, it's made us closer and I wouldn't swap it for the world. The only thing I regret is that I didn't mop enough. I'm sorry Cesca, I should have mopped more, to show my respect for the house, but somehow the mop and I didn't get on so well. However I definitely beat Cords in the mopping department so 1-0 Kim.

I've never had a best mate like Cesca before. Mike, Lazza, brilliant. Even people from the past - Rory, Iszy, Swanny... amazing people though they were, they served to further confirm my theory that boys are more fun. (except Iszy, she's a fun girl) Boys have better banter, better wit, are not offended by anything and drink without worrying about calories.

Then along came Cesca and showed me a girl who can drink and swear any man under the table.

As she prepared to leave the country, I realised it was to be the end of a very fun era. We can tell ourselves it'll be back, but it won't. By the time Cesca gets back, if indeed she choses to come back, I will hopefully be writing a column in a hot country. By the time we're all back in the same country, we'll have pesky little children selfishly expecting us to change their dirty nappies instead of drink wine.

So here's to the era, Cesca, it's been a riot and I'll never forget a minute of it (that I haven't already).

But as my sister-in-law pointed out, the end of an era is followed by the start of a new one. And I've already got a list as long as my arm to make sure the next era is every bit as good, although importantly very different, from the last...
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