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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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