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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Green Or Mean?

I’m very good at stern letters, me. I write them to big corporate companies all the time – Richard Branson probably has an auto ‘avoid this crazed woman’ command for when my emails come up, I’ve complained about his stinking Virginity so many times.

I like letters. We’ve got a friend who’s just gone to prison and I’m writing to him. Not in a fall-in-love-with-a-conman-and-marry-him-while-he’s-behind-bars sort of way, just in a ha ha, you knob! You’re in prison now, how’s that going? I want him to know we innocent souls on the outside, the ones who don’t ask undercover police officers if they want to party at festivals, are not going to forget about him.

Yes, I like letters. Stern ones are my favourite. When Wightlink messed up my Bestival festival tickets this summer, I wrote them ever such a stern letter. That the issue was probably my fault was neither here nor there – if I have to deal with these billion pound turnover companies, then they have to deal with me. Simple.

Thus, I wrote to South Gloucestershire county council, for they are my council and are supposed to be looking after me and my environment. And I said hey! Council! I want to put my food waste in a brown bin like what my friends in neighbouring council patch Bristol do! I want to separate my rubbish from my food stuffs, so you can feed some pigs somewhere. When will I be allowed this extra notch on my recycling bedpost?

Well, Kim Willis, they kindly replied, we think you’re right. How about we initiate the green waste collection scheme, as of December 2010?

Thank you and goodnight.

I could once again sleep at night. Another stern letter in the bag, another problem solved.
 Now, the brown bin has arrived and I’ve started chucking my tea bags, carrot peel and leftover dinner in there. Alright, less of the leftover dinner. That goes in my belly. But the carrot peel? My goodness gracious me, it takes two weeks for the bin men to collect our green waste, and in two weeks, putrid carrot peel smells begin to infest the entire flat, like a rat has died and maggots with backpacks full of rotten eggs are riding skateboards around our flat.

This is a stern, open letter. Am I missing something? Am I doing it wrong? Surely all the people I know who separate their food waste don’t just live with this smell. Perhaps I ought to invest in some kind of ghostbusters-esque suits and for the second week of the fortnight, we can just sit about in those, breathing through gas masks. Like when they thought ET was a bit of an alien and everyone got all dressed up. It is seriously that bad.

Or, dare I say it, I think the green team might be down a player. I’m not sure I’m cut from strong enough cloth to keep rotting food in my house for a fortnight. I’ll just have to fly a bit less far on my next holiday to make up for it.
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Wednesday, December 1, 2010


There’s nothing quite like a holiday to make you want to be a better person back home. Whenever I go away, I use the time away from my computer, my routine, my obsessive compulsion with punctuality and etiquette, to take a deep breath and say, now Kim, how can we improve on this near-perfect personality you’re lugging around?

Having just returned from two weeks in the sun, I’ve got plans. Buy less clothes, save for a house. Spend less time at the computer, go on more walks. I can’t very well get a dog one day if I can’t be bothered to walk when it’s raining.

But most importantly, I decided I want to be a better girlfriend. Gareth doesn’t get his own way much. I come from a long line of bossy people and Gareth has allowed this personality trait room to breathe and, disastrously, grow. I control the kitchen. He may pay for half the food but hell hath no fury like a woman who finds out he helped himself to some cheese I was saving for dinner.

I control the bathroom. I have even taken to using my label maker (yes, I have one) to write ‘Step away from my posh shampoo. It’s Asda own brand for you’ on my shampoo. Poor kid. Either he doesn’t care, or when I’m not looking he gives me my comeuppance by squirting my £20 shampoo on his genitals.

Time away has given me time to think. After three years together, we’ve picked up some bad habits.

Dear Gareth, I wrote, from the bubble above a beach on which I floated, shall we try harder to be better people when I get home?

Gareth was all for it.

‘Let’s stop swearing at each other,’ I said. We had, of late, taken to swearing at each other for no particular reason. I say ‘we’. I say ‘we’ just to make myself feel like I’m not the only one in this relationship who has forgotten how to be polite.

‘That’s not how you cook pasta, you dick!’

‘We’re going to be late, penis head.’

My little potty mouth, churning out blue murder at a rate of one swear word per sentence formed. Not good. Which perhaps explains Gareth’s Big Idea:

‘How about we have a swear box? Every time we swear at each other, £1 in the box.’

I agreed it was a fabulous idea. But wait, there was more.

Gareth also wanted us to reduce our sexorcism.

What is sexorcism, I hear you ask? Well, it’s humping. It’s thrusting your groin enthusiastically, fully clothed, whenever something marginally exciting happens, and not necessarily nor regularly related to sex.

Gareth’s been complaining for a while that watching me thrust my hips back and forth with a Rik Mayall circa-the-Young-Ones expression on my face is not exactly the aphrodisiac he was hoping for when he signed up. So, we added No Sexorcism to the list.

I got home from Malaysia raring to be a better person.

Day one, and I’m already down £6 in a mixture of blue words and pelvic thrusts. It’s tough, changing your personality.

Plus, it’s raining. So I think I might just stay indoors, not walk my imaginary practice dog and sit at my computer. Punctually. While swearing at Gareth.

God, that feels so good I think I feel a mild thrust coming on.
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Wrinkly Bottom

On the last day of the holiday, Tammi and I practiced our regime for when we are 70 because, yes, we do have it all planned out.

Long will our husbands have left this world for the next, and Tammi and I, childless and rich, will live together, in an eccentric, dilapidated mansion. We will divide our time between alcohol, the kind of drugs we would have taken in our youth if only they’d been invented, watching films and eating the kind of food we’d have been eating in our youth if only we weren’t obsessed with just about squeezing into that size 10 dress.

It’s going to be fantastic. We’ll be urban legends – adults won’t believe the yoofs round our way when they tell them those mad old women who smell of gin are on first name terms with the most dangerous dealer in town. We'll have watched 24, the Wire and Breaking Bad 14,753 times by then. We'll know how to score.

With Dad departing Malaysia a day earlier than us, we were left to run amok for a full 24 hours before our own flight home.

It was a good trial run. Some people are afraid of getting old. Not us. When you’ve got a plan like ours, old age doesn’t seem quite so daunting.

As a dress rehearsal for the last chapter of our lives, we spent the day sunbathing naked. As the sun went down, we gave each other the courtesy of a few items of clothing, then played scrabble while guzzling gin and tonics.

We then headed out for an exquisite dinner at the fanciest restaurant in Lang Kawi (think of the 10th fanciest restaurant you know in England and you’re about there) We didn’t hold back on starters, cocktails or puddings. You don’t have to watch your weight when you are 70. Or on the last day of your holiday.

Gareth always teases me for my ability to remember events by what I had to eat. ‘Remember when we went to Cornwall, and I had the prawns and you had a burger?’ I’ll say. He doesn’t. I do. A lovely marie rose sauce. August 2005. Followed by ice cream.

And so my night with Tammi, practicing our eccentricities for old age, will forever be remembered by the seafood antipasto starter, the barbecued chicken with mango and cashew nut salad. More importantly, the steamed apple, macadamia and butterscotch pudding, and the duo of gingerbread ice cream sandwiches, with chocolate brownie and caramel bananas. And, because Tammi’s memory bank also revolves around food, I know I’m not alone.

If only we could have got hold of some hallucinogenic, possibly anti-arthritic, drugs and scared a few kids, it might as well have been 2050. Only, with slightly less wrinkles.

Close your eyes now if you don't want to see what I project we'll look like in 2050. Gin and Tonic just out of shot...
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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Missing In Action

I’ve never really been quite sure when to tell a man who starts talking to me that I have a boyfriend. Because it’s rather presumptuous, isn’t it, to assume that he is talking to you because he wants to undress you. And I am not presumptuous. But I also know that if a man is chatting a woman up, he deserves to know the truth.

So when Dad went missing while we were snorkeling off the coast of a Thai island, a situation arose. Allow me to explain.

He has a little boat, his pride and joy. He’d swum out to where it was anchored, leaving Tammi and I ashore. His parting words were: ‘I’m not a strong swimmer.’ Words we soon rued.

Tammi and I didn’t think any more of it – despite the fact he’s nearly 70 and had we thought about it, we didn’t even know how to go about calling an emergency service, let alone know if this remote island, Ko Lipe, provided rescue for missing westerners.

Time passed and Tam and I began to get hungry. So we looked out to sea, expecting to spot Dad on his way back. The sun was slowly setting, we were losing light. We very much could not see him.

Hmm. No need to panic, I’m sure he’s in that expanse of ocean somewhere. Let’s keep staring at the sea, we agreed. No sign of him.

‘I’m not sure how long we are supposed to wait before panicking,’ Tammi said. One step ahead of her, I already was. I’m not ready to lose my Dad, I still haven’t learned how to change the fuse in a plug and other necessary life lessons he hasn’t got round to teaching me.

‘Excuse me,’ I said to two men who I quickly ascertained might have been watching the water more than we had, seeing as we hadn’t at all. ‘Have you seen an old man around here?’

And so arrived our problem. The two men, early thirties, nice tan, broken English (they were Italian, called Romeo and Casanova, probably) seemed more concerned with where Tammi and I were from than the fact that our Dad might be lost at sea.

‘He went out to his boat ages ago, have you seen him?’ I asked.

‘What a beautiful accent,’ they replied. ‘Can we take pictures?’

Hardly the time, is it, for pictures, what with our father having just been eaten by a shark. I half expected his hat to wash up at our feet as we posed.

‘Better not let my boyfriend see,’ Tammi joked as the men circled her like charming, pizza-making vultures.

And so, politely and without alarm, the information they had been looking for had been provided. They turned their attention to helping us find Dad, who soon after, rose from the sea.

‘I suppose these two girls have told you they are my daughters,’ Dad said, unaware of our mild state of panic. Hard to take a man seriously who is wearing the same speedos he was wearing in 1983. Not just the same brand, the very same pair.

As we said thank you and goodbye to the courteous inamoratos and walked, father in tact, to dinner, I told Tammi of my troubles. ‘I’m never sure how to work it into conversation that I have a boyfriend,’ I told her.

Whenever I’m confronted with a situation like that, I think of my friend Laurence. He’s a real jack-the-lad, chatting up women left, right and centre. He must have slept with half of London already. And once, he told me, he spent a good few hours chatting up a pretty young filly. He bought her drinks, they laughed, a veritable flirt ensued.

And then, at the end of the night, she let slip she had a boyfriend.

Rather than make a quiet exit, fuelled by liquor, Laurence gave her what for.

‘I just spent two hours chatting you up! If you’ve got a boyfriend, do a man a favour and let him know!’ Laurence fumed.

I‘d always been on Laurence’s side. How dare that girl allow drinks to be bought and time to be spent, knowing full well she wasn’t going to smooch our Laurence. Tut tut, young lady, you’re letting the side down.

‘Unless,’ Tammi said.


‘Unless she didn’t have a boyfriend, she just sobered up.’

It was a good point and not entirely unlikely, picturing the night draw to a close and Laurence, who has a very hairy back, moving in for the kill. Suddenly I had hopped over the fence, onto the girl’s side.

Having a boyfriend, or pretending to, is a bloody good way to get lurid, persistent men to back off. It’s just a trump card you really ought to play a little earlier in the game.

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Some thinkle peep.

What I like about airports is the internationally accepted protocol to start drinking at 7am while waiting to board your plane, followed by a few more drinks at 50,000ft. Because it’s not really 7am, even if you’re in your own time zone. It’s airport time. International time. It’s time to drink. The bars are open, welcoming you to raise a glass to your holiday. Who cares that usually at this time, you’d be brushing your teeth, bleary eyed and scruffy haired? Not I.

And so, Tammi and I partook. That's us there, partaking. It would have been against the rules of the airport not to have a glass of champagne with our early morning croissant.

We then wandered the airport buying things we wouldn’t have bought were it not for the bubbles of lubrication flowing through our bloodstream. I spent £30 on biscuits. Pretty sure the champagne told me £30 worth of biscuits were a much better thing to have about my person than money.

I’ve become somewhat accustomed to lonesome traveling. Over the years, I’ve usually been en-route to meet my dad somewhere, wherever his travels have taken him, wherever he can wangle a plus-one out of whoever is paying him to be important that month. I haven’t asked questions. I’ve just said yes father, of course I will accompany you to New Zealand, Australia, Spain, wherever.

Thanks to whatever it is Dad does for a living, I’ve dined with royalty, had a 12 course dinner hosted by Louis Vuitton, driven a BMW and stolen a Prada pashmina. But the getting there, I have done alone and without fuss. Woe is me.

When I travel alone, I don’t partake in all this drinking tomfoolery. I just find a quiet corner, read my book and hope no children sit anywhere near me in the airport, at the gate, while boarding or on the plane.

But with my sister by my side, headed for Malaysia for two weeks, the champagne breakfast was just the start. Up in the air, we washed down a bloody mary with a glass of red wine. Light of head and thin of blood , we settled down to watch five films back to back while shifting uncomfortably in the tiny chairs. So, rather like I do alone then, but just sort of more fun, on account of the drinking.
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Friday, October 29, 2010

Stand up Sit down

I am a professional stand up comedian sit down fan. I go to them all. Where as my cooler compatriots might prefer to go to a musical gig and stand up while getting elbowed by ravers and cider splashed down their legs, while noisy music is pumped into their fragile little ears, I’m happier sitting in a chair in a room full of other people sitting in chairs while a professional funny man (not woman, women aren’t funny. Except me.) makes me laugh for a few hours.

15 minutes of laughter is 40 calories burned, I’ll have you know, so I see it as a form of compulsory exercise. A gin and tonic is 44 calories. If I drink two gin and tonics while watching a two hour show, I’m basically in negative equity. So, yeah. It’s my favourite past time and autumn is the season when all the modern day jesters get their skates on and tour the country, so that we all buy each other their DVD’s for Christmas.

But imagine the catastrophe I face: my favourite hobby has been cursed. It’s a pandemic, it’s a tragedy and it’s a waste of money. I fall asleep.

Yes, that’s right, I fall asleep. No matter how much I love the man on stage, and I’m a fan of many, I can’t seem to keep my eyes open until the end.

It starts off well. I’m all ears, laughing and chortling my way through their observations and mannerisms. But as the night wears on, tiredness creeps over me and my eyes get heavy. I nod off. Then, because my stupid little brain knows it is not in bed, I am suddenly awake, my head jerked upright, a jolt running through me. I look like a tool.

Lee Evans. Fell asleep. Dylan Moran. Fell asleep. Russell Kane - legend. Fell asleep. Mickey Flanagan – very, very nearly fell asleep and had to keep pinching myself and fidgeting to fight it. Al Murray. Fell asleep.

So I started changing the formula, in the hopes it was something I was doing wrong and could change. I thought perhaps it was the wine, so I switched wine for gin. Still fell asleep. I thought maybe it was because comedy rooms get very hot and stuffy. So I wore less clothes. Still fell asleep. I thought it could be because I was sitting too far from the front, the squinting tired my brain and sent me to sleep. So I ensured front row seats. Still fell asleep, this time to the detriment of the confidence of the man on stage. Nothing like a front row snooze to give him the message he’s not funny.

A bad workman blames his tools. My tools – the wine, the clothing, the seating arrangements, are just fine where they are. What I needed was better entertainment and last night I found my trump card.

For, last night we saw the travesty-he’s-not-more-famous-but-he-will-be-soon Alun Cochrane. I drank wine. I got quite hot. I stayed awake.

Take your Perrier award. Take your ‘as seen on Michael McIntyre’s comedy roadshow’. Take your DVD released just in time for Christmas, because a real test of your comedy mettle is whether or not Kim Willis, avid fan and comedy enthusiast, can get to the end in tact. Alun, if you could let your cohorts know your secret, then I won’t be spending £20 for a snooze next time I sit down at a stand up.
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Facebook is in dire need, if you ask opinionated me, of some structure, some ground rules, some god damn etiquette.

It’s driving me doolally. Sure, it is a great means to stay connected to your friends (your actual friends, not people you didn’t even like when you were six) in a glossy, aren’t-we-all-beautiful-now sort of way that plain old photo-less email never really achieved.

It is also a good way to skim through other people’s holiday pictures at leisure, without them heaving an album the size of a car out at a dinner party and forcing you to look at mind numbingly boring pictures of distant aunts you don’t know and boring buildings you’ll never see, while feigning interest for their benefit.

Remember the days? ‘Here’s Pete in front of the Taj Mahal,’ they said, pointing to a picture of Pete in front of the Taj Mahal. Good, I see it. I’m bored.

These days there is no need to give the holiday maker / bride / new mum your thoughts on every one of their oft fuzzy and out of focus collection of memories. Facebook whets the nosy appetite at speed. Click click click and the album’s done.

For the first time in history, we have a forum where 60 year olds are mixing with 16 year olds. 158 million people have a facebook account. Apparently that’s one in 14 people on Earth. Crazy. It has grown with such speed that no one had a chance to set the protocol. Do we tag our boss in the Christmas party pics? Do we LOL at our granny’s friend request? LOL makes me want to slit my wrists. Our beautiful English language is slipping through the adolescent sieve of abbreviations and acronyms.

Today's gripe is with Facebook attention seeking. Namely, status updates of this ilk:

Jane is having a bad day :(

God I hate emoticons. And if you’re having a bad day, get off Facebook and make it better, don’t fish for compliments and reassurance.

Jane knows who her friends are.

Do you? If you’ve fallen out with someone, why not just remove the perpetrator from your friendship list instead of making a song and dance about it? After all it is called a friendship list, not a not friendship list. Remove. Get on with day.

Jane misses her ickle bickle boyf and can’t wait to cuddle him and snuggle and kiss and -

Excuse me while I vomit all over my keyboard.

Jane needs a holiday.

Do it Jane. I hear Afghanistan is lovely at this time of year.

Status updates have become a vehicle for nonsensical whining, self promotion, cheesy emoticons, claptrap and poppycock. That’s right, I’ve got a thesaurus and I’m not afraid to use it. The irony of the fact this blog is a convoluted, protracted status update is not lost on me. I'm LMAO.

Jane is no longer listed as in a relationship.

Oh no! What happened to your ickle bickle little fella? Oh, there he is. Running for the hills.
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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Make My Day

I’ve just had my day made. Possibly even my week. Life on the whole has just got a lot better and I’m pretty sure the sun’s come out from behind the clouds and the house just cleaned itself.

Because Nicola arrived at work this morning with very exciting news. ‘Have you seen your blog?’ she asked, her teeth pearly white, her hair even shinier than usual. I think I saw a halo.

‘No,’ I said, a little disgruntled. I didn’t much like my last blog and have been trying to think of something new to write for ages. Something to go at the top, so that the blog about me bragging about someone who hardly anyone has heard of can slip off the radar.

I’m not a fan of celebrities and so to find myself bragging about meeting one didn’t sit comfortably in my soul. My happy place is writing about what disgruntles me. Faux Pas. Etiquette. Hospitality. Grammar. Wine. How much wine? At least one bottle. These are the important things in life, not ruddy celebrity name dropping.

Bragging about Sublime, I wasn’t the sort of person I’d hang out with. In fact my favourite celebrity moment was when my friends and I found ourselves in the way of the talentless and irritating Radio 1 DJ Colin Murray, doing a piece to camera at a festival. My best mate, brilliantly, effortlessly, danced up to the camera and said: ‘Colin Murray’s a tosser!’

Hilarious. It was her finest moment. He did a bemused retake. She got an ovation from adoring friends. I don’t know what it is about celebrities that make us all go ga ga. Gareth had to take a photograph of Derren Brown, the mind man, the other day, and I hoped Gareth might bring him home for show and tell. And fondle.

Anyway, forget about Sublime. Forget about Gareth failing to deliver Derren the magical mind man Brown to my doorstep. I’ve got a better story to tell.

‘You’ve got a comment!’ Nicola declared, her dulcet tones serenading my ears like a lullaby.

And so I did.

And thus, I’m floating on air. I have a new fan. AND her husband.

3000 miles away, somewhere in America, lives Heather, who has stumbled upon my blog and likes it.

Hello Heather. I love you.

So now it’s not just my mum. I have a new reader. Heather, 3000 miles away. And she has inspired me. I’m going to up my game. Goodbye celeb name droppings. Hello a weekly diatribe on the impolite, the illogical, the meaningless. The other day I got really annoyed because the scissors were made for right handed people and I’m left handed.

This is the stuff of legends. Heather, you’re in for a treat.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Subliminal Partying

When Isabelle invited me to a Sublime gig as a birthday present, I jumped at the idea. OK, so I hadn’t listened to Sublime for a few years – perhaps since I last smoked pot, but that didn’t matter. I remembered them fondly. They were ska, but stoner ska.

So I drove to London, my vast back catalogue of Sublime CD’s strewn across the passenger seat as I reacquainted myself with the band. Uh-oh. Not as many chilled out stoner songs as I remembered, and quite a few more shouty shout shout. The kind of music that gets all my friends to the mosh pit and me fainting from the heat somewhere near the back.

We arrived at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire and formed an orderly queue. Two queues. One, we were told, was for the seated. The other, our queue, for the standing. The moshers. Us. Me. A fish out of water. An alien in New York. An alien in Shepherd’s Bush.

We got to the front and handed over our tickets. ‘You’re in the wrong queue,’ said the 6ft by 6ft bouncer. ‘You’ve got seated tickets.’

Isabelle and I turned to each other, one of us hiding our disappointment, the other hiding our glee. ‘I’m so sorry!’ said Isabelle. ‘Oh shucks,’ I said, shaking my head in mock misfortune. ‘Nevermind.’

We were still rock and roll. But we were rock and roll with seats. We stood, we danced, but we also had somewhere to put our bags and didn’t get beer thrown on us by the crowds above. Accuse me of fuddy duddyness. I don’t care. I was so comfortable.

From my view point, I found myself mesmerised by one of the bouncers. He was huge and, unlike the others, who had formed a ring of defense along the foot of the stage, this one had positioned himself on stage.

The other bouncers at least got some action – crowd surfers were taken away by their cuffs, screaming girls were handed water. They talked into their ear pieces and perfected the burly and menacing look they’d no doubt practiced in front of the mirror.

But this guy? He seemed to be almost enjoying himself. I swear I saw him nod his head at one point. I’d wager he was even listening to the music. I liked him. The other bouncers looked like jobsworths. This guy I just wanted to cuddle.

Apres the gig, Isabelle and I met up with some friends and, being a smug little thing, I declared that my sister’s nightclub, Ginglik, was just down the road and we were all on the guest list. Probably.

After two more hours dancing and drinking, we called it a night. It was 1.30am and we had to be on form the next day too. We left Ginglik and made our way back to my sister’s flat where we were bunking up for the night.

My sister and her boyfriend, Colin, were in north London at a gig, so Colin had left us his key.

Thirty minutes of jamming the key in the lock later, we had to agree that Colin had given us the wrong key. What to do? It was 2am, we couldn’t get hold of Tammi or Colin, it was a bit cold and we were a bit tired.

‘Right,’ I said, taking affirmative action. ‘There’s a hotel over there. We can sit in the bar and have a nice cup of tea while we wait for someone to help us.’

As we approached, the doorman held his hand out to stop us. ‘You staying here tonight?’ he asked.

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Room 101.’

He didn’t blink. Just opened the door and guided us through.

As we made our way to the bar, who should I spot but the cuddly bouncer fella – the one who had mesmerised me with his head bobbing policy.

‘Hey, were you on stage with Sublime earlier?’ I asked him, running up to him. ‘I watched you all night!’

‘I sure was, I’m here with the band,’ he says, turning to reveal the lead singer just behind him.

The next two hours went by in a blur. I remember getting my longed-for cuddle with Kimo. That was his name. A bit like mine, but with an O, I told him. 'So now you won’t forget my name will you?' I said. He did.

I remember running up and down the corridors of the hotel trying to locate the Jack Daniels vending machines, telling Rome Ramirez, the lead singer of Sublime, that he shouldn’t have to pay £14 for a miniature bottle of whiskey, and then proceeding to kick the vending machine in the hopes one would just fall into our laps. He loved it. ‘You English girls are crazy!’ he said.

That’s right Rome, you should have seen me earlier when I got a bit tired during your set and had a little sit down.
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Friday, October 1, 2010

What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive. It is true. Today I feel like a drunk spider. The web is a right old mess.

It all started when my boyfriend got called on a job on the day of one of our very best friend’s wedding. We called to tell them that we couldn’t go to their wedding. Well, I could have gone, but I only knew the bride and groom and wasn’t sure they’d be up for hanging out as a trio on their day of betrothal.

And so, we hit them with the news. They were understandably devastated, because Gareth and I are, let’s face it, an asset to any party.

And then Gareth said it. He said the words that are now haunting us.

‘We didn’t get you a present from your John Lewis list. We went off-list. What we got you instead is incredible.’

Even as he said it, I looked at him in astonishment, my head shaking. Don’t set us up to fail, man! Gareth looked back at me, his face already saying ‘I don’t know why I said that’ while his mouth reaffirmed it.

Now, let’s break it down. The first part is true, we hadn’t got our act together in time to get one of the presents they had actually asked for. Being arrogant types, we’d instead opted to go off-list and decide for them what they wanted from us.

But we hadn’t yet got round to making that idea a reality. Thanks to Gareth’s desperate attempt to let them down gently (good cop, bad cop in one swift move: Can’t come to your wedding, got you an amazing gift. You still like me now, don’t you?) we now had to come up with something pretty spectacular.

As it happened, Gareth was back in time from his job and we made it to their wedding – of course, our ‘brilliant gift’ was left behind because it was ‘too big to carry’.

They went on their honeymoon and we, well, we sort of forgot about it. But it was okay, because they were on their honeymoon and we had weeks to sort out something spectacular.

We now have 11 hours until they arrive at our house for dinner. I’m not saying they’ll arrive and start looking over our shoulder for the gift we promised, but having only remembered one hour ago that we are without incredible gift, we are at a loss as to our plan.

‘It’s so big, we have it in storage at a friend’s house.’ No, that won’t do, limits us to only buying a large gift when we do get round to it.

‘It hasn’t arrived yet.’ No, that won’t do, we’ve had two months.

‘It’s not ready yet.’ Intriguing.

‘Gareth’s an idiot.’ Hmm, that one could work.

I need a gift that can only be defined as amazing, and I need it now.

Scratch cards. E-U-bloody-REKA!

By Jove, I’m such a good friend.*

*Just ran this idea past Gareth. He told me I was a pikey and shot my idea down. He’s not really in a position to refute any ideas, but I suppose he’s right.
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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Like a Virgin.

Removing the TV from my life was harder than I expected. Not because I crave it, but because the people that control the fact 99% of homeowners own a TV make it really, really hard for you to give one up.

In my case, it’s Virgin Media.

I hate Richard Branson, I hate his company and I hate giving them my custom. So I was delighted to call them today and tell them I would no longer require their set top box. I didn’t anticipate the reaction, but what follows is further proof that the people in charge really want us to keep watching TV. Which in fact reminds me of the best quote from my anti-TV book. When TV first became popular, a government official said: ‘Well, we have to think of something to do with them when they’re not at work.’

We’re not lemmings! We’re not robots! Come on people, pick up your TV and throw it out the window! Take up a hobbie, learn a new skill – opps, sorry. Tangent. Smug Moron. But Virgin’s reaction reminded me how sinister the notion of television is and my soap box was gathering dust.

A highlight of any call to Virgin has to be the endless ‘press one’ lists before you finally get through to a real person. In India. Before I’d even got to that stage, an automated voice told me that, peril! Calamity! It looked as thought I hadn’t updated my smart card and I was in danger of losing channels. In danger? That’s a bit of a drastic choice of words.


Ridiculous. I ignored the message, because I was here to cancel my TV anyway. How very dangerous.

‘Option One,’ Virgin begins. ‘To add more channels to your account, press one.’

No, Virgin, I don’t want more channels. I want less. I want zero channels. Which button do I press for zero channels?

The automated voice bangs on. ‘Option Two,’ bla bla bla. Finally, in the dark recesses of the handset, the number no sane person would be waiting to press: ‘Option nine, to make a change to your account, press nine.’

I’m in!

'Hello, I will no longer be using my set top box. Would you like to come and collect it or shall I throw it away?’

‘If you throw it away we’ll charge you £250,’ came the curt reply. Well trained, Branson, well trained.

‘Alright mate, I’m only asking. I’d like to remove my TV package from my account please.’


'TV is evil.'

'What do you mean by that?' he asks, unamused.

I explain and request for someone to pick up the box. He begs me to ‘stash’ it in a cupboard somewhere, because it’s likely I’ll change my mind in a few months.

Complete stranger, telling me it’s likely I’ll change my mind.

‘I won’t.’

'You might.'

'I won't. Can you arrange for someone to pick it up please?'

'Are you sure you don’t want to keep it in a cupboard, just in case?'


'Please hold while I put you through to an advisor.'

Brilliant. Isn’t this a marvelous system? I’m having so much fun. I could do this all day, just listen to the Virgin music and get passed from pillar to post, being told what I feel and why I need to keep my TV. I haven’t had this much fun since I called the TV license company and told them to cancel my direct debit.

Yes, I had to call them, because nowhere on their website is there an option for canceling your license. Sinister, no?

When I finally got through to them, I was told that in no uncertain terms, if I was lying about no longer having a TV, I would be fined. And that an officer may call round at any time to check up on me. I would be charged £1000 if I was found to be using my TV.

Crumbs. Thank god I replaced it with losing scratch cards, so the officer won’t have anything to complain about.

However, if he’s bored while he’s inspecting my property and looking for potential televisions I may have hidden in the fridge, perhaps I’ll give him Virgin’s number – always a good way to wile away your afternoon.
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TV Go Home

I have given up TV. I am now one of those annoying people who, when you say: ‘Did you see X Factor on TV last night?’ retort with: ‘No, I don’t have a TV.’ What a moron. I hate people who say that. But that is now me. I am Smug Moron, how do you do.

I had to do it. I didn’t want to have a TV in my life for the rest of my life. It’s too much commitment to an object that doesn’t know what my favourite food is, what my favourite colour is, or what my name is. It’s a one sided relationship and it's over.

My cantankerous decision to part with the box started when I read a book about the evil black hole in the corner and the sadistic advertising that starts infiltrating our minds as babies and carries on until death. Death on the sofa, in front of the TV. It put me right off. So I sold it to a friend for £25.

(£25 I promptly spent on scratch cards. I won £4. Moron strikes again.)

Gareth didn’t really get much of a say in our mutual decision to sell his TV. His TV, that had cost him £400. I read my anti-TV book and declared that we were selling the TV. ‘But I quite like TV,' Gareth protested wearily. One of the things I love about him is that he knows when I’ve got my soap box out and there’s a bee in my bonnet, it’s easier to just go with it. Anything for an easy life, Gareth always tells me. He’s very lenient.

So we sold our TV. Half way through X Factor, which I will miss terribly. I don’t mean half way through the series, half way through an episode. It was terribly inconvenient, but the disappointment at the timing of the sale further confirmed my decision as the right one – if I care that the TV is being taken away half way through X factor then it’s time to take away the TV.

Last night Gareth was in London and it was my first night alone with no TV. Ordinarily, I’d cosy up to a rom com, possibly a Thai green curry, don some comfy pyjamas and enjoy the early evening removal of contact lenses.

Not tonight. With TV removed from the equation, I looked through recipe books and chose a delightful cake to make for my brother’s upcoming birthday. I built a desk and wrote this column. I dyed my hair a sunny shade of red, and, consequently, certain parts of my face. Now, if that’s not a productive evening, I don’t know what is.

The plan is to now become ridiculously intelligent from all the books I’ll read and as cultured as milk from all the cultural nights out I’ll enjoy.

Although, there’s always i-player.
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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lemon Curd.

I like lemon curd now.

I know, I know. Hold the front page, stop the clocks, call off the search.

But it’s true! I do! And I didn’t! I mean, I really didn’t. My mum will attest to at least 14 occasions where I’ve been near lemon curd and balked at the idea, screwed my face up into a ball of disgust and banged on about how putrid the very notion of a curd of lemons is.

And then one morning, just days ago, I woke up and I needed it. I needed the curd. Just like that.

I don’t think I’m pregnant. I’m not sure lemon curd is the kind of thing pregnant people crave anyway. Don’t they just crave lumps of coal? Lemon curd is about as far away from a lump of coal as you can get, in colour and consistency. And taste. Mmm, lemon curd.

(Is the word 'curd' beginning to sound warped to you, too? Good.)

Anyway, no coal for me thanks, I’m on a lemon curd diet. Soon after the wondrous morning of curd-wakening, I was in the jam aisle at Asda looking for something I’d never cared for before. I bought their finest and smothered it on toast.


My craving was satisfied. Then I started to worry. How many other people were there like me who hadn’t been buying lemon curd? Cursed with such a terribly unflattering name, production is probably dying off at the same speed as old people.

It dawned on me there were all kinds of food old people love that I don’t buy. I used to eat Jamaican ginger cake with my Grandma. Is that still in production? I haven’t bought one in years. I can just see the Jamaicans now, barely two pennies to rub together, hoping just one more granny buys their cake before popping off.

Never fear, Jamaicans! You’ve come to my attention! I think I can single-handedly rescue lemon curd and Jamaican ginger cake from production abyss. I can buy it in bulk. I can give it to friends. I can stand next to the jam and send out subliminal messages to young people picking up Marmite.

'Oo! Lemon curd! That's just what I fancy!' I'll say, and they'll suddenly realise Marmite is so last season. Curd is where it's at.

Crumbs. I’ve taken on a big responsibility. I'm like the new Spiderman of Aisle 12, spreads and preserves.

I better go, Asda’s open and those globules of lemony sugar aren’t going to sell themselves.

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Monday, August 9, 2010

Baby Blues

With the tent successfully erected as the sun set over the magnificent Gower, waves crashing against a not too distant shore, we cracked open a chilled cider. Footloose and child free.

Players in this weekend being Gareth and myself, my sister Tammi and her fella, Colin. We like hanging around with other childless couples who don’t want children. It means we can spend our time commenting on the things we’re enjoying now but couldn’t if we had dirty little pesky children running around demanding our every second of attention.

Tammi and Colin have pretty much decided child-rearing isn’t for them. This spurred Gareth and I on. Hurray! Other people who’d favour freedom and finance over poo and sick! We were in good company.

We spent the weekend lazily meandering between our campsite, the local pub and an exquisitely beautiful beach, where we downed shots of rum before hitting the sea to bodyboard. We went quad biking, and got up when we bloody well felt like it. All to the chorus of the strained parents and whining children in our campsite arguing over muddy shoes and fizzy drinks.

In the pub, Tammi got stroking a dog and soon the owners were chatting away. They happened to mention to our slightly sozzled crew that the dog was a child substitute – this couple had forgone children for a life on the open road. Naturally, we pounced on them.

‘We don’t want children either!’ I exclaimed. ‘How did it work for you?’

The next few hours were spent listening to their tales. ‘Prepare to lose friends,’ they warned. ‘And people will presume you’re infertile.’

But we were not deterred. This couple were us, just 15 years later. They were in good shape, hadn’t lost their physique to the emotional and physical drains and strains of parenthood. They were cheerful and not, as I’d feared, weird.

‘Did you know that if you have a baby, it renders everything else you could possibly do to reduce your carbon footprint, completely obsolete?’ I said, keen to impress our new friends.

They did mention that we might experience the odd pang of regret once in a while, in the years after the body can no longer provide, but the mind still wonders. But by then, I wasn’t listening. They’d said everything I wanted to hear. Negatives I wasn’t looking for.

Fuelled in confidence that if they could do it, we would to, we left them to their beer and headed inside for an intense game of poker, the mentioning of which serves only for me to gloat of my winning.

The following morning, Colin bought the Observer.

‘The happiness years: Once the kids have grown up and left’ said the well-timed headline.

There followed a report on how couples could expect to be £600 per month better off, endure less arguments, more hobbies and activities, less stress and more happiness. And, what’s more, they’ll feel ten years younger.

‘You’ll relight the fire, for life in general and each other,’ it declared.

Well, we’ll just cut out the middle man! Genius! Our £600 a month of happiness starts right now!

Smug in our self righteous decision to remain barren, rich and lonely, we headed home.

Home, to the news that one of my very best friends is up the duff.

I squealed in delight when she told me. A baby! A little tiny cute baby, for me to buy miniature Nike Air Max’s for! And a baby gro! And a bib that says: ‘I’m cute!’

My mind waivers. I’ll see how my friend gets on. If she positively glows from the whole experience, maybe I’ll declare my womb available for rent.

But if that baby so much as throws up on me, then it’s goodbye parenthood, hello yacht in the Caribbean, £600 a month for life and a ten year reduction in age.

Baby, it’s all down to you.

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Running Away

So there I was, just a humble not-so young girl who likes cake and needs to run a few miles a week to keep the bits that could go podgy from doing so. Because there’s no way I’m giving up cake.

I needed a gym membership. Now I’ve moved around plenty, I’ve been a member of countless gyms. I should have known an evil, over-priced under-maintained gym from first whiff. But I was conned, duped, fooled into parting with – ouch - £500 a year.

A six foot lesbian showed me round Fitness First, waving to people as we toured. ‘Alright Pete?’ she said, smiling. ‘Going for a drink later?’ What a friendly place! Everyone knows everyone and they drink together! Where’s the dotted line, I thought, I’m not just going to keep in shape, I’m going to go drinking with Pete!

Little did I know Pete was a plant and big fat lesbian had no intention of drinking with him later, or ever.

The assault on my gullibility didn’t stop there. For your benefit, I’ll put in brackets the information she didn’t give me at the time.

‘Over here, we’ve got the steam rooms, sauna and ice room.’ (The steam room has never worked and we have no plans to fix it. The door doesn’t shut on the sauna, letting out vital hot air and aiding our carbon footprint.)

‘Girls changing rooms, plenty of space here.’ (Not at the times you’re planning to come, when there won’t be room to tie your shoelaces.)

‘Showers, free soap and shampoo dispensers.’ (The showers will take turns at being out of order, the soap will run out soon and don’t expect us to fill up the dispensers.)

‘Plenty of running machines. You can plug your headphones in and listen to any of our six channels.’ (You’ll mostly have to queue for the running machines and the volume control doesn’t work so it’s either silence or so deafening you can wave goodbye to hearing. Your membership fee alone would fix the problem, but we'd rather put that towards opening another gym.)

‘I mentioned the six channels. We’ve got Sky Sports, MTV, E4, the History Channel. (We’ll play local news on every channel, on a loop.)

‘Here’s the stretching area. Plenty of gym balls and weights.’ (The number of gym balls available here will slowly decrease, we won’t replace popped ones. Soon you’ll be fighting over the final one, and it won’t be the right size for you.)

I’m thoroughly against an escalator taking you into a gym. Surely the last place you need an escalator is on your way to exercise, but lo, Fitness First has one. (This will mostly be broken. Because we know how weird it feels to walk up a broken escalator. Just somehow different to stairs, isn’t it? Always that risk element that it might start while you’re on it, sending you arse over tit.)

Ignorant to all the information here bracketed, I signed up. And for two years, every exercise routine was endured through gritted teeth. Paula Radcliffe suggests you count to thirty while running, to take your mind off running. I’ve got my own method. I count all the things that annoy me about Fitness First.

Sometimes I left comment cards. They did nothing. Most of the time I gave nothing but a cheery smile to the receptionist, with their fake nails and Americanised training which has them greet me by name: ‘Hello Kimberley, enjoy your workout.’

No! No I will not! You don’t know me, don’t use my name. And I will not enjoy my workout because I’m here under duress. I only exercise so I can eat cake, and I’m only here because your small-print committing me to 18 months minimum was so small I missed it. Now go fix your escalator and leave me in peace.

I’ve never said that to a receptionist. And now my contract is up and I’m leaving. There’s a new gym just opened up around the corner and I’ve got a brand new company to make a silent list about.

You know what? I think all this inner fury has me burning more calories than the happy people all around me. Maybe I shouldn’t leave after all.
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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hippy Burpday

Why isn’t it my birthday every day? I suppose we can’t walk on air every day, because if we did then walking on air would become normal and we’d need something even better to walk on once a year, like helium. Once a year all our friends and family would gather round and make us feel so elevated we’d rise from walking on air to floating on helium.

Helium I don’t need. My voice is squeaky enough today. I just can’t believe the things people do for the people they love. I spend 364 days of the year moaning, insulting people and saying the wrong thing, and one day of the year flabbergasted by the shower of love I receive as I acknowledge the never ending race to the finish. I think there’s something wrong with my friends.

But I’m not going to point it out to them. My boyfriend was up till 2am last night wrapping presents. He even bought his own wrapping paper, after three years of my saying ‘really? You really want me to give you wrapping paper to wrap my presents?’ with a weary shake of my head. And very nice wrapping paper he bought too – I unwrapped carefully so I can keep the paper and reuse it on him.

I’ve never had a boyfriend as good at buying presents as he is. And he always plays the ‘I don’t know what to get you this year’ card, telling me that he knows I like mugs so he’s bought a few of those… then whipping out far too many thoughtful and excellently sourced gifts to get himself out of any kind of domestic duties for the foreseeable future. What a clever man.

Not enough people use the postal service these days, but my most well bred friends still lick a stamp on special occasions – Hannah has beautiful handwriting so I can see why she’d never just send an email. Hell, if my hand writing was as beautiful as Hannah’s, I’d be writing this by hand.

Cesca had the same strict middle class up bringing I endured, and never a celebration or need for thanks goes by without a card arriving a few days later. She’s so good at cards she’s set the bar pretty high for the rest of society.

Some people shun their birthdays. Not me. I like to celebrate for at least a week. And why the hell not? River Phoenix didn’t make it this far. Nor did Jimi Hendrix or Kurt Cobain. Nobody told those members of Club 27 that 28 is where all the cool kids hang out. They may have been richer, more successful and famous than me but there was one thing they weren’t very good at and that was living. That’s one thing I intend to carry on being very good at for a fair few birthdays yet.
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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Page Turner

As part of the overhaul of my social life at the start of the year, I joined two book clubs. One with friends and the other with strangers.

The one with strangers soon became the one with new friends, for they were a lovely group of girls.

And so it was that after six months, the group was well and truly established. While we didn’t really talk about books and most people didn’t read the book of the month, one was still suggested each month, just to keep things ticking over.

At last month’s group, Gemma suggested the Piano Teacher. Fine by me, I like pianos.

Fast forward to the weekend and Gareth, his mum, his dad and I were walking through a quiet village in Cambridgeshire. Denise and I happened upon a cute little church-run book store, with books stacked as high as the ceiling, all costing about 25p.

Denise and I could hardly contain ourselves, stocking up on all sorts of cookbooks and novels. And what should I see in the bargain bucket? None other than the Piano Teacher. Well, if it wasn’t my lucky day… I was used to paying over a fiver on Amazon every month just to try and keep up with my clubs. Now I was parting with just 25p and it was going towards a church roof restoration, probably.

Shoving the book in my hopefully-one-day mother-in-law’s face, I declared: ‘Look, Denise! My new book club book!’ I don’t know if she really had the look of startled dismay on her face that I now, in hindsight, remember her having. I don’t know if she knew then what I know now. All I know is, I’m very embarrassed to have shoved this book under her nose.

‘Well that’s handy,’ Denise smiled, leaving me in my glee at my bargain book.

That evening, I decided to make the effort and at least start the book club book.

It didn’t take me long to realise I was reading no ordinary novel. I was reading adult fiction. I clicked early on, around the time that the piano student got her first spanking from the piano teacher.

Now, let’s not forget the suggestion came from a girl I’d only known a few months – I was puzzled. Was the group getting on so well that we were now going to chuck out our pretence at being an intelligent group of young women who wanted ground breaking works of breath taking fiction, in favour of cheap thrills that make Mills and Boon look like bedtime stories?

I checked her email. Yes, it was the Piano Teacher.

Oh. But hers was set in Hong Kong. Hers was aimed at the intelligent reader, not the thrill seeker. According to Amazon’s summary, hers sounded pretty bloody dreary, post war, poverty stricken glum.

Did I ditch my book and quickly order the correct namesake?

Did I hell.

Engrossed isn’t the word. It took me a matter of days to read and is now making its way around my much amused friends.

I was exhausted by the amount of spanking my poor protagonist received. And yet, I couldn’t put it down. I was up till 1am most nights. It was as if I’d been given the keys to a forbidden castle and had but a few hours to run amok before I was caught out, because I’m pretty sure I’d never have intentionally bought adult fiction.

Whenever I read a passage out to Gareth, he balked at the ridiculousness. And I knew it was ridiculous, but also utterly unputdownable. You can’t say that about post-war Hong Kong.

As I turned the last page, I was greeted with the information that, lest I despair, there were plenty more titles available from the perverted people at Chimera Publishing. Titles that stuck in my mind include ‘Susie Learns the Hard Way’ and ‘Betty Serves the Master.’

I kid you not. I feel like a little piece of me will be missing if I don’t read these titles too, and yet simultaneously know any book that I regret flaunting to my boyfriend’s mother doesn’t really require space in my memory box. It’s akin only to watching awful day time TV. Sometimes you do it, but you don’t admit to it, because you know there are better things to do with your time than watch Jeremy Kyle or read about Lucy getting her scales wrong again.

Believe me, the girl’s a fool. After the first punishment, you’d have thought she might have practised.
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Thursday, April 22, 2010


Nobody likes a show-off – that was something I learned from a very early age. Because I was a show-off. And my elder, cooler sibling continuously instructed me to stop. But allow me this one little opportunity to show off my grandmother. I won’t take up too much of your time and I promise not to do any cartwheels.

I’m sure we’d all prefer there were no wars and we lived in peace, but as that was not, is not and will not ever be the case, I’m going to show off about my grandmother, Benedetta Willis, who flew in the second world war.

Of course, women weren’t allowed to fly in the RAF, on the front line. The very mention of the idea had the press declaring that women were out of their minds and should be back preparing supper for their husbands, where they belonged. But a small group of women could not be told. A small group of women joined the ATA, the Air Transport Auxiliary.

Yesterday my sister, mum and I went to meet an historian near White Waltham, the home of the ATA. He’s a very clever man and seemed to know more about our grandma than I did.

As did Mum. My dear old grandma died last year and never have I felt more regret at not absorbing more of her tales than I did yesterday. Mum can share no such regret – she knew everything. I used to spend a lot of time with Grandma, but we mostly played Scrabble or talked about the man she would have married if he hadn’t become a Japanese prisoner of war.

Now I wish I’d grilled her about her war efforts. Because they were many.

Aircraft factories were a prime target for the enemy, and in fact were often bombed, so as soon as the aircraft were ‘flyable’ (i.e, not finished) Grandma was on hand to fly them to maintenance depos elsewhere in the country. There they would be finished and handed over to the RAF pilots to use on the front line. My grandma flew them while they still had buttons missing.

We had a gander at Grandma’s log book. 344 deliveries comprising of 52 tiger moths, 135 spitfires, six mustangs, four barracudas and numerous others. Some she only flew once, and was given a little handbook which she would read while flying, which would explain how to land the craft. If I found myself in charge of a plane and the only way to land it was to read a handbook, you can bet your bottom dollar the ensuing panic attack would be met by nothing but certain peril.

In 1943 Grandma found out she was expecting my father. Hesitant to tell her commanding officer that she was pregnant, she was met with an enthusiastic: ‘Mrs Willis, raising a child is a wonderful thing and no less important to our country than flying planes. You shouldn’t be ashamed to go and start a family.’ Grandma thought it best not to tell her commanding officer that she already had two small children at home.

Grandma was the second of only five women to be given RAF wings and the press soon did a U turn. Women were on the front pages, smiling as they climbed aboard their crafts. ATA women were respected and wore trousers. A feat so bold their tailor stitched their crotch at their knees because he was too embarrassed to measure up their inside leg.

These women paved the way for us to work alongside men at equal pay. It saddens me to walk through Bristol town centre on a Saturday night and see the type of women my Grandma actually paved the way for. I’m pretty sure she didn’t dare have her inside leg measured so that these girls could walk around in their pants.

While we sat with Mr Poad, the historian, and absorbed some of the fascinating facts about Grandma and her compatriots, I couldn’t help thinking that my grandchildren couldn’t really sit in a room with a historian and pour over the incredible facts of my life. Last night I fell asleep during a film. This morning I forgot to put any socks on and have slightly cold toes. Not really country saving stuff is it?
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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Spring Clean

If you ever find yourself with £22 to spare and you’re not sure what to do with it, my advice is: get a cleaner.

We ummed and ahhed for months about whether to get one. We quarreled about who’s turn it was to sweep the floor or clean the sink, while other, less pleasant jobs, got ignored altogether.

But committing to giving someone else money to do something we really ought to be doing ourselves just seemed so frivolous. Especially when you consider £22 a fortnight is in the region of £500 a year. When you put it like that, hand me the ruddy broom, I’ll do it myself.

The time had come, however, to give our home some TLC, and it was painfully obvious that Gareth and I were not capable of bestowing any tenderness, love or care on our pigsty. Gone were the days we’d leave our bedroom door open during the day – now the mounting mess that hides behind our closed door is our dirty little secret – I’d die before I let Nicola see it. Poor Nicola. She has to work here, and the closest our stairs have come to being hoovered was the day we bought the hoover and dragged it up the stairs – in it’s box.

Being a conscientious eco-warrior, I opted to find us a green, eco-friendly cleaning service, which no doubt costs more – I didn’t do enough research to find out but I’ll wager that’s a truth. I don’t care. I’ll pay a few extra pounds for the planet.

But it has taken us months to justify parting with the money. We’re not exactly rich. I’m a journalist for goodness sake. A career which, when I gleefully told my dad I wanted to follow, he pointed out was ‘no way to make a living – but it beats having a real job.’

He’s got a point. I love my work, but it doesn’t exactly lend itself to so flippant a goodbye to my money as to have someone else clean my bog.

But oh. How I’ve come around. Justina, my new best friend, the love of my life, arrived today. She’s been in England three weeks and this was her first job. I want her to move in. She was here for two hours and I feel as if I’m walking around a different flat.

The floor is shiny. The dust has gone. She even cleaned under the Forgotten Corner where we store the Forgotten Bikes and the Forgotten Table Tennis Table.

Oh, Justina, I love you. Please come again. You’re worth every penny. And who can put a price on not arguing about who’s turn it is to clean the hob? Gareth and I know who’s turn it is. It’s Justina’s turn.
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Monday, March 1, 2010

Trick or Treat

All that childhood competitive card playing has finally paid off.

That's right, while you were watching the Goonies or playing Tetris, I was learning the art of how to win at all and any card game ever invented. We Willis's like cards.

In Lockerbie to visit Gareth's gran, Faith, we accompanied her to the local village hall for her weekly Progressive Whist night. Gareth had forewarned her I liked cards and she'd jumped at the chance to take us along.

I was a little nervous beforehand. I may have been playing cards since I was knee high to a grasshopper, but my father, my teacher, had a habit of 'improving' games by adding Willis Rules. Thus I've never really been sure if I know how to play the same games as the rest of the world, or just Dad's ones.

I needn't have worried. A few games in I realised I was capable of giving these kind and welcoming old folk a run for their money - and I mean that literally - it was £2 a head to play.

Progressive Whist is a game for four, and you play opposite your partner. To my right was Jean, a woman pushing 100 with one white, and therefore blind, eye. The opportunity arose to either let her win, or cruelly beat her. Jean played a trump. It was my turn. I had an even better trump, or an average card. One way, I'd win the hand, the other, she would.

Obviously I took no prisoners. This wasn't a charity night. Jean was going down and taking all the other pensioners with her. As I thwarted her trump card with an even better one, I received a nod of approval from my partner - beating the blind was clearly encouraged here.

Later, I played my best round of the night with Jean's older, more doddery brother, Jock. He was my kind of guy - if I'd been 50 years older Gareth would have been fighting him off with a walking stick.

Jock helped me on my way to becoming the second highest female scorer and thus, proudly I won a prize of £1. I went to thank Jock for his part in my success and he - and this was where my night was complete - gave me a Worther's Original.

I was over the moon. Until:

'Haven't you been here before?' Jock asked.

I assured him it was my first time.

'Oh. Then you look just like my favourite glamour model,' he declared.

Oh Jock. It was going so well...
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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Tweet Tweet

Twitter. What’s it all about, yo? I don’t get it. Not one iota. But I’ve now joined it, in the hopes that I can make some money from it. But before I can make money, I need to have followers. How do I get followers?

I decided the way to get followers was to be funny. I can do funny.

So I’ve set myself a task: a two line, silly poem a day, to lure people in. Started well yesterday, talked about frocks and running amok. (see, brilliant, isn’t it.)

My followers were 12. I was smug.

Then they went up to 13. Holy cow! Must write more witty two liners!

Today’s poem was about Demi Moore, who I began to follow as she’s always in the press banging on about Twitter, and I liked her in Indecent Proposal.

What an annoying person she is. She tweets 14,000 times a day. And not funny, witty tweets. Really annoying ones. The kind that make me realise I do not want to be friends with Demi Moore – the kind that, if I did know her, she’d be one of those annoying people I try to avoid, because they say ‘lol’.

Soon after signing up to be her follower, I stopped. Then my body count went back from 13 to 12, and I realised that 12 wasn’t the number of people following me, it was the number of people I was following. The number of people following me, I found on closer inspection, was 0. Zero. Nada.

How am I going to make money out of this wretched thing if people would rather hear about Demi Moore’s wondering which charity to donate to this month, than my funny two liners? The world has gone mad, I tell you.
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One should never brag that one has invited 359 women to dinner, because one then has to, shame-faced and balloon-popped, admit that to said dinner, only two women came.

I liked one of them, Gemma. The other, I could have taken or left. Preferably left. She made a big fuss about carbs and, frankly, it was the kind of fuss she should have made before reaching 15stone. It’s too late love, you’re fat, now eat your pasta and be done.

I haven’t seen carbs girl again, but Gemma and I have become part of a new crew, a new posse, a gang, a gathering. We get together and tear up the neighbourhood in our sooped up Renault Cleo’s, smoking joints and listening to garage.

Oh no, wait, sorry, I’m not 16 anymore. We’ve joined a book club.

I know. What is the world coming to. We’re calling it cake club, which makes it more appealing and cool, right? But we’re still going to read a book between monthly meets. I hosted the first meet and as it was in December I served steaming hot mulled wine, with carrot cake and (yes, and) chocolate banana bread. Well, I wanted them all to like me.

While on my merry escapades to make more friends in 2009, I also attended a W.I meeting.

Luckily for me, it was creative writing night, and I got to show off the way I put words together. There was one girl there I liked, who I’d see myself getting drunk with down the pub. All this cake / book club, W.I meetings and civilised dinners with strange women, it’s all just a ploy to find someone I can get pissed with. But our night ended and I couldn’t exactly ask for her number without sounding weird, so it was over, my fleeting chance to be friends with someone who wore nice wellington boots.

Oh well. I’m not going back to the W.I because there are too many old people there and I don’t want to learn to knit.

But having signed up to a year’s free membership (due to guilt) with the friendship website, I have to come up with a few more canny ways to lure people out of their comfort zones and into my life. Whilst avoiding cinema trips with Neill.

It’s tough being me. How I long for the care-free days of old, when my phone rang on a Friday afternoon and the possibilities for the weekend were endless. I think I’m having a mid-20s crisis. I yearn for my youth, but simultaneously feel more at ease pottering about my kitchen than going on a bender. I think it’s because I’m a gemini. Split personality. I am two people. I am the party. I am the lame excuse to stay in. And in fitting two people’s thoughts into my one head, I am busy, tired, and, perhaps, in need of medical attention.
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