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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Card Shark.

The most exciting post I get these days is when I’ve done something special for my friend Cesca, or my mum, as they are both thank-you card types of people. Sometimes my mum puts a little pressie in there too and I get all excited because it’s not a letter from the bank telling me I’ve done something wrong.

And that’s what I used to love about Christmas. Christmas cards galore, flooding my letterbox, the novelty stamp the Royal Mail provide at this time of year stuck in the corner. The proud display all along the mantelpiece. A little bit of news from relatives, a little bit of banter from friends. An impressive array of cards, some fancy, some old fashioned. Some, like my own, from Paperchase.

Ah, Paperchase. Maybe that’s why I love Christmas cards so much. Every year I can’t wait for the excuse to enter it’s glitter filled grottos and browse the tat. I always opt for the charity cards, because I’m such a good egg, but the important thing is the message I’m sending out. (Not Happy Christmas, the other message) ‘I’m the kind of girl who shops in Paperchase. You lucky little recipient.’

Alas, these days, fewer Christmas cards plop onto my doormat. Do I have less friends? Probable. But I blame the internet. It’s ruining my Christmas card collection.

Ok, so there are less trees being chopped down, which is a good thing. But it could be argued that we’ve all got our computers on for longer while we compile these awful, cheesy, sometimes interactive, always deleted Christmas email cards, thus using up more fossil fuels and resulting in the end of the world far sooner than would have happened had we cut down a few trees (and replaced them with new ones – Paperchase is well eco-conscious innit.)

So there you have it. When you compile an e-card (even the term is horrendous) you are bringing about the end of the world. (This is probably not true.) I just got an e-card from someone I do business with. She hadn’t even bothered to address it to me. Instead, it was to ‘Undisclosed recipients.’

Wow, I feel so special. I’m an undisclosed recipient. Thanks so much. Delete.

All those Christmas cards on my mantle piece go one of two ways after Christmas. They either get cut up and used as present tags next year, or if they’ve got a good, funny, personal, loving message from someone special, I’ll put them in my drawer of special things. I’d never actually print out an e-card so they just all get deleted. Where’s the joy in that? My grandchildren won’t get to look through a box of deleted messages one day and look at the beautiful hand writing Aunt Kiki had, or the fancy velvet stars on Amy’s card (she totally out-swanked me this year. I’ll get her back next year. Maybe I’ll up my game and get my cards in Harrods. That’ll show her. I’ll get a 3D card. Glitter will fall into her lap and a butterfly will fly out.)

There are some contenders already for greatest Christmas card given to me. (It’s a yearly contest, FYI.) Because although I’m moaning, some people still send.

Check out these beauties, my top four. Not sure who’ll be crowned the best yet, but the odds are on my future mother-in-law for her genius-ness.

The aforementioned velvet card from Amy. I’m not sure if the velvety goodness comes across here, but trust me, these stars are stroke-able. Oh, and I’ve just checked the back of the card and she only bloody shops in Paperchase too. Course she does! What a legend.

This mildly alarming and eccentric card comes from Peter. Nothing like a card with the words ‘violence, war, terrorism, racism, exploitation and bigotry’ ablazoned on the front to make you feel like it’s time to boil some mulled wine and wrap your presents. Jesus. But he does get a bonus point for it being homemade.

This sexy little number is from Will and Laura. Will works for the Queen so he probably got this card for free. Very regal.

Open it up and what have you got? Only the best picture of 2011! There’s a picture of Will and Kate inside a card from Will and Laura. And I’m not even sure Will and Laura are aware of my infatuation with Will and Kate. Nor are Will and Kate, for that matter, but that’s probably for the best.

And finally, this beauty. It glitters, it’s specifically for a mother’s son and his fiancée, it’s got a swinging bit of gold stuff. It just sums up everything that’s classic about the art of card-giving. Paperchase may do velvet, but Clinton cards know how to do old-school sentiment.

All these cards will find themselves in my special box of memories come January. They’re splendid.

To send me a card and enter my competition (I’ll send a prize to the winner) (I probably won’t) you can attempt to better these. Here’s my address:

Kim Willis
C/o Paperchase HQ
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Friday, November 18, 2011

Charm Offensive

After a day’s sightseeing in Bath, Gareth and I showing off to our London friends, Matt and Emma, just how much green and space and air and fun there is in Bath, we settled on some Yum Yum Thai for dinner.

Having been drinking since lunch time, we naturally ordered a hundred starters and a plate of duck meat each, plus a few bottles of their finest house white. We continued to talk and eat and drink and talk. Times were merry, fun was plentiful.

Somehow, the conversation found it’s way to mathematics. Like it does.

From what I recall, we were accusing Matt of being very good at mathematics and possibly even enjoying it. At that moment, a sweet little Chinese waitress came over to deliver the bill.

I know what you’re thinking – I was in a Thai restaurant, the waitress wasn’t Chinese. But you weren’t there. She was. There’s no rules.

Again, I’m fuzzy on how it happened, but the next thing I knew, I’d been informed by the waitress, who surprisingly wanted to engage with us despite our decibels in an otherwise peaceful dining establishment, that she too was very good at maths.

Right then. CONTEST.

Sober, I could probably have come up with a trickier multiplication. But the first thing that came to my head was: ‘Alright then, Matt, Waitress Lady, what is 22 x 22?’

Now I say that wasn’t very tricky, but even as I type this I’m going to have to get out the old po-cal (pocket calculator yo) and check the answer.

My poor old Dad. All he ever wanted was a maths genius for a daughter. He tried to explain to me a dozen times (a maths term for him there) simple equations for doing multiple mathematics in one’s head. Divide one number, double the other, carry the ten, THINK, WOMAN, THINK! But in my fear of disappointing him, my brain would go into panic mode and literally start melting while I began spurting out my two times table in the vain hope it would impress him. It didn't.

Whenever I have to do maths now, my palms sweat. But I can still dish it out in Thai restaurants to other people, be they strangers or friends.

So where were we? 22 x 22, come on!

Matt looks skyward for a second, his brain doing a little multiply all over it’s own frontal lobe.

Our waitress, on the other very impressive hand, needed no such second. Within an instant, without even a flicker of hesitation, she said ‘484.’

Now, like all good judges, I got my iphone out to check she wasn’t banking on my being too drunk to know if she was right.

And by jove, she only bloody was right.

Suitably impressed, we asked her how she did it. ‘In China, we’re not allowed calculators, we have to learn how to do mathematics quickly, in our heads.’

Wow, that’s some pretty impressive education. Although I guess it meant she missed out on what we all know happens if you type 5318008 into your Casio.

She left the table and we returned to poking fun at Matt for being so stupid at maths he took a split second too long to work it out and got beaten by a girl.

Packing up to leave, we did as all good dinner parties do and discussed the tip.

Inebriated, we decided our waitress would love it if we left her £4.84

But, the worry was, what if she just scooped it up without realising what a meaningful tip it was? That would be a calamity. We didn’t want her to think it was just lose shrapnel. This tip had meaning. It was probably going to be her most meaningful tip of the night, we couldn’t leave unsure as to whether or not she’d notice it after we’d gone.

‘Don’t worry guys, leave it to me,’ I said, putting on my jacket. I do love making speeches, even to an audience of one.

On our way out, I went over to our waitress and said, with all the subtlety of a bull in a china shop: 'Excuse me, sorry to interrupt, just wanted to say thanks ever so much for the dinner and the mathematics. We’ve left you a very special present on the table.’

Confident that I was probably the best person in the room at that moment, I patted her on what may have been her head but was intended to be her shoulders, she was very short, and walked out. I think I might have even tried to wink at her.

A few steps from the restaurant old Maths Whizz Matt stumbles upon another great mathematical moment.

‘£4.84, while amusing and in reference to her impressive calculative skills, was less than a 5% tip. She probably would have preferred it if we’d just given her a decent tip.’

Good work Matt. There was I, Mother Teresa, dishing out donations, speeches and winks, and it takes you five minutes to work that out? I take no responsibility for it myself – my palms were already sweating at the thought.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

How not to win friends...

I used to like Noah and the Whale, then everyone got wind of what a great little band they were, which put me off somewhat. When one discovers something special, one hopes one can keep the gift a secret from the masses. The last thing I’d want is to like a song at Number One. I’ve got a reputation to uphold here.

(Having said that, I do love Cheryl Cole and I’m not ashamed to say it. Although I think that says more about her hair extensions than her singing.)

Anyway, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. His name is John Robins and one day, when he’s Michael-McIntyre-famous, a stadium sell out mega star, remember that you heard it here first. I liked him back when he compering gigs in Bristol pubs, a comedy whippersnapper.

Cesca (my best mate and his number two fan) and I developed a bit of a crush on JR at the last gig we saw of his a few months back. He’s a local Bristol comedian, so I’ve seen his star rise for a few years now. Indeed once, while hydrated by the intoxicating confidence booster that is gin, I told him post-gig that I loved him and backed him into a corner, literally, while Gareth tried in vain to let him know that when I said I loved him what I meant was, he was highly amusing. Sometimes I get the two mixed up. Because I don’t actually love him, obvs, I’m a loyally engaged woman*, but I do think he’s a very funny man, and funny is attractive. Just look at how well James Corden does for himself. It’s not the belly women are going for, it’s the funny.

*Ryan Gosling would make me reconsider this statement. But Gareth agrees, so that's fine.

Cesca and I were very excited about seeing John Robins again on Friday night at the Hen and Chickens, our local comedy box. We’d both stalked him on Facebook, I’d even gone so far as to befriend him - then sent Cesca a victory screenshot to prove it.

Then I’d cashed in on the fact my sister runs a comedy night by casually mentioning it to him via the safe-stalk which is Facebook. (Hey man, he let us be friends, it’s legal.) It was a low ebb, but what’s a girl to do? JR is the kind of comedian that you sort of feel is your friend. He’s just one of your mates, up on stage, being funny. I have to remind myself that John and I are not actual friends, try as I might. I really ought not even refer to him as John, so casual and familiar as that is. 'Mr Robins' would be more appropriate.

Fast forward to Friday night, and due to my penchant for falling asleep at comedy nights, I have recently made the bold decision not to drink during comedy gigs. The combination of gin, a dimly lit room and a stuffy lack of oxygen, meant even the front row wasn’t a guarantee that I wouldn’t head-nod. See Russell Kane, Lee Evans and Micky Flanagan for examples. I’m like a budgie with a cloth over the cage. Sobriety was an investment in my consciousness.

But, it makes for a slightly less gobby, less confident Kim. Old JR might have been slightly confused that the girl who last time pinned him up against the wall with the force of my banter alone and got so excited when he asked my friends and I if we’d like to join him for pizza that I nearly broke a glass was now too shy to even look him in the eye. (The pizza invite really did happen, I’m not dreaming. Friends did not let me accept the offer, for fear I’d make a tit of myself. I liked them less after that. Stupid friends looking out for me, ruining my chances of being friends with a funny person / making a fool of myself. How dare they.)

Cesca and I were embarrassingly early to the gig on Friday. We even beat the bar staff to the door. At least we had Gareth with us, so I didn’t look too insane. ‘John Robins, John Robins, look, your favourite fans are here, but we’re not mental, we’ve got boyfriends,’ was the kind of message we wanted to get across. Gareth was my token insurance of sanity. Crazy stalkers don’t have boyfriends, JR! Be friends with us!

From said front row seat, I did not fall asleep, hurray, what an achievement. However I was in his direct line of sight when he announced that, sorry ladies, he now had a girlfriend. Bit awkward. But I still think he’s one of the best comedians alive today / love him very much. The line is blurred.

Anyone a fan of Flight of the Concords? That's me. Crazy stalker lady. Husband in tow.
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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Girl in a Gold Bricked House

I can be something of an abandoned puppy when Gareth gets called last minute for jobs and leaves me at a loose end. I spend too much time not speaking and then when he returns and I hear his key turn in the lock, I sprint to the door, excitedly chasing my tail and pawing him for attention before he's even had a chance to put his bags down.

Having been left with little ado on Friday night, I was dying to get out and have some fun come Saturday, when he finally got home. We'd been invited out to a friend's birthday party in the snazzy Goldbrick House, Bristol, and I had my glad rags on at the ready.

Perhaps because I'd been a good girl on Friday night and abstained, I went a bit crazy bananas on Saturday night, as if I somehow had license to drink twice as much. And so it was that we'd had too much gin before we'd even arrived at the party. A party at which there were about 40 people, and we knew three. A party at which when we arrived, Gareth declared loudly 'Tom's got a lot of friends,' drawing attention to himself just as he tripped over his own shoelaces, hurtling into a stranger and coming within an inch of colliding with a tray of fancy wine glasses. What an entrance.

It quickly became apparent that Gareth and I were on rather more exuberant form than was in keeping with 8pm in a posh establishment like Goldbrick House, and so should perhaps have had a few soft drinks in order to get in line with the rest of the party.

Instead we continued to drink gin and were hugely disappointed when the party finished and no one wanted to go to a casino and risk their life savings on roulette.

As the party disbanded, Gareth and I made our way back to the clever place we'd earlier parked our camper van, Eddie, all the while congratulating ourselves on how much money we'd saved by bringing our second home and sleeping roadside, rather than paying for a taxi home. We passed the Lizard Lounge, a meat market with a queue of men dressed in togas (because they're absolutely mental) and women wearing clothes I will not be letting my daughter out in. We quickly sobered up. Ah yes, I remember my place in society now. I'm getting on a bit. Young, loutish behaviour annoys me. People dressed in 'fun' clothes. Students. Kebab vans. High heels. Doormen. Chips. Vomit on the pavement. Men in Ben Sherman shirts drenched in Lynx. Shivering women who refuse to wear coats because they Must. Not. Hide. Cleavage. All very annoying.

We got back to Eddie ready for a cosy night and realised we had a) parked on a hill and b) parked outside a nightclub. Great work.

Gareth then proudly got out his pre-prepared empty water bottle. Like a boy scout with a bladder problem he had already cut the top off for easy peeing. He did a wee next to my face and then, lying almost upright, we drifted off to the sound of tomorrow's graduates vomiting, arguing and having sex. The soundtrack to Bristol on a Saturday night. It was very romantic.
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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Still Got It...

My best friendship grew from a womb of white wine and poppers. It was born into a loving home of Friday nights that became Saturday mornings, of charging around festivals and congratulating each other on our successful love child – fun. Fun, our baby, grew bigger and better with every passing year. We were very good at fun. If I close my eyes and think back on all the fun we’ve had, moment upon moment of mischievousness, snogging and secret meetings in bath tubs (where we discussed the merits of opening another bottle) fill my mind. Because my best friend and I knew how to party. We were experts.

Yes, there were the bad times too – we’re not just good-time friends. She’s my go-to bird in times of distress and calamity. She’s my soul sister.

But this isn’t about the hard times. It’s about the fun.

The early days of our friendship were a heady whirlwind of hedonism. I don’t know where we put it, but my god did we put it away. One evening, for example, my best friend and I arrived at a pub called the Severn Shed, of Bristol, for a glass of wine. It’s actually more of a really posh restaurant, but for us it was to serve one purpose and one purpose only – wine guzzling.

‘Why don’t we go on a pub crawl and have a glass of wine in each pub?’ Cesca asked, flagging down the handsome wine servant.

‘How about a bottle in each pub?’ I said. We did so love to up the ante.

Fast forward eight pubs and eight bottles and I had made friends with some identical twin men, but could not remember which one I was snogging, while Cesca was blazing a trail of destruction, knocking over entire tables of beer while articulating what was no doubt a really good point. We left many broken glasses and broken hearts in our wake.

That was about six years ago. Cesca has just celebrated her 29th birthday and things are a bit quieter these days. She’s married, I’m engaged, we don’t live together anymore, we try not to drink as heavily. We go to yoga classes and at a festival this summer, it pains me to admit we didn’t even get drunk on the Sunday night. My goodness. The gods of fun were looking down upon us with thunder in their eyes. We were disappointing them and I knew it.

So I invited Cesca on a birthday date. We would go back to the Severn Shed and see if, six years on, we could still have as much fun. It was a loaded invitation – neither of us want to get boring, neither of us want to admit we’re not as mad cap as we once were. We had something to prove to ourselves. Or at least, I did. Cesca is probably much more at peace with sobriety than I am.

We arrived and refused to even look at the menu until we’d polished off a bottle of champagne. Two stark differences to six years ago already – 1) this time we ate and 2) this time we looked at the wine list and picked a posh champagne. Last time was more an eating’s cheating philosophy, barking orders for a bottle of the finest house white.

We mostly talked about our weddings. Cesca, the wise old sage, has had one, so could bestow upon me advice and caution. I am gearing up to mine and so wish to talk about little else and Cesca is one of few people I don’t feel guilty banging on about it to. She took that one for the team when she accepted the role of Chief Bridesmaid.

The wine flowed, so we’re still fun. But did we snog any twins? Did we go on a pub crawl? No, we decided that if fate would have a taxi passing by just as we left, we'd get in and go home. And there was one, so we did.

But wait – before you give up on us, writing us off as past it and better suited to the Women’s Institute than the Institute of Advanced Fun, we weren’t in our slippers drinking hot chocolate by midnight. We stopped off at Cesca’s local for a nightcap.

Here we were served our booze in a brilliant glass. The kind you want in your glass cupboard. The kind my magpie eyes soon had in their sights. The kind to steal, yes.

Now, I’m not proud of it, but back in the day I was a glass thief. Alcohol made me do it. And tonight was no exception. I declared that if we were to be even a patch on our younger selves, we better steal those glasses and run home wildy.

So we did. We even escaped through a gap in the hedge in the pub garden, Jack Bauer style, so as not to have to walk the walk of shame through the pub. I think I might have even done a roly poly.

Job done, I say. We’re still cool.

The next day I got a text message from my best friend, the former hell raiser.

‘Thanks for a great night. I’ve just taken the glasses back to the pub. Luckily they saw the funny side.’

That’s right. Where once we were hooligans, thieves and trouble makers, now, we dutifully return stolen goods the next day and order nice wine over dinner.

Now would be the time to make a poetic point about how much richer our lives are these days. We're older and wiser. We had something missing from our souls before, and alcohol filled that void. Balderdash! Allow me to pimp out Cesca for a night on the tiles with you and you'll soon see what all the fuss is about. If I could have my way our full time jobs would be to party together.

But as we reluctantly enter the next chapter of our lives, with fine wines, productive Saturdays and god, maybe even children, at least we can be safe in the knowledge that we had more than our fair share of fun.

And just to keep the spice alive, I’ll be encouraging my kids to steal glasses from pubs but Auntie Cesca will be allowed to return them. After all, there is fun, and then there is just plain stealing.

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Friday, September 30, 2011

Bye Bye Branson

Hello world. I have just come out of a long term relationship – with Richard Branson – and I feel wonderful.

I’ve known for a long time that I was in the wrong relationship. All the signs were there – my friends kept telling me to leave him and my mother disapproved. Plus I didn’t like his beard.

Other suitors would call me up occasionally to see if I couldn’t be tempted to stray. Yet for reasons unbeknown to me, I stayed, despite his abusive nature. I stuck it out for FOUR YEARS. I stood by him when he wouldn’t take my calls, when he’d put me through to call centres so far from the UK that his assistants didn’t even speak English.

Relationships are supposed to make you both grow and develop as people. I grew into someone who could spend an hour on hold, plotting ways to bring down the entire Virgin empire. Branson did not listen to my suggestions about how he could be a better person. The fool.

Every time he hung up on me,cut my internet or charged me £5 for watching porn that I wasn’t watching, I thought, this is it, I can’t take anymore, I’m going to BT.

But changing service provider just seemed like such a faff. So I stayed. I took the abuse. I was a fool.

Now, like all the other customers British Telecom advertise about, I’m going back to BT. And I love it. I no longer have to spend my life furious at Branson and everything he stands for. He’ll continue to be shit, I just don’t have to know. He can take his poor standards and terrible customer relations elsewhere, because I’m out.

Wonderfully, even as I let him know I was leaving, he let me down. As if I needed further convincing that I was doing the right thing. I pressed all the buttons for getting through to the people who deal with break-ups and then got told by an automated voice that I had to go on hold while an operator was found.

The super cool and friendly automated voice then told me that while I waited, I could press one for pop, two for R n B. bla bla bla. Six for classic. Wow, am I sure I want to leave? I don’t think BT give musical options while you wait. Virgin are so cool. So down with the kids. I wish I could be more like a Virgin, with your musical options and your overtly friendly automated voice.

Being a Radio 4 listening, piano playing knob head, I pressed six for classic. Ah, Branson, well done, the dulcet tones of JLS burns into my ear.drum Yes, Everybody In Love was a classic I suppose, but it’s hardly Mozart.

With that, my decision was made even easier. Don’t show off that you’ve got musical options when you clearly haven’t. Just chuck the elevator music on like everyone else and get on with finding an actual human being to answer the phone.

Goodbye Richard Branson, goodbye Virgin Media. I will not miss you. I’m off to find someone else to write stern letters to.
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Monday, September 26, 2011

The Sound Of Da Police.

Whenever I am overtaken by a siren–swirling, lights-flashing police car, the first thing I do is make sure I’m not doing anything illegal. Then they zip on past and I realise I am not the culprit this time, so thoughts turn to hoping that whatever crisis they are attending isn’t on my route. Which is an awful thing to admit, but yes, that’s what I think. Carnage up ahead? I hope it’s not on the M4.

I do love moving aside for the emergency services though. It’s exciting. For that split moment you are working with the emergency services. Come on lads, go forth and rescue – I’ll just move onto the pavement momentarily! I know it’s a legal requirement to move aside when you hear those sirens or see those flashing lights, but it always warms the cockles of my heart that we do it. A little nod of respect to the people who clear up after us.

So I joined the M4 and quickly realised that unfortunately, yes, the police car was on its way to attending to the carnage on my route.

Another police car raced up the hard shoulder.

But I didn’t mind. I joined the standstill and immediately turned off my engine like the dutiful little do-gooder that I sometimes am.

Two more police cars. Three police motorbikes. Then an ambulance. Another police car. Highway maintenance. A paramedic. Another ambulance. Two fire engines. Then a helicopter circled overhead before landing in the field adjacent to the crash. Crikey. It was all kicking off.

Like a scene from an end-of-the-world movie, people fled from their cars. Well, fled is a bit strong. Got out to get a better look, is more apt. Strangers spoke to each other. For international readers, that does not happen here in Engurland.

The crash was in sight. Just a mere 500 metres away, I could see the flashing lights of the fire engines from my seat. It must have only just happened. The hairs on my arms stood on end as I thought that if I had not stayed an extra minute at my sister’s house, it could have been me.

I watched as the strangers spoke to each other. Moaning about the delay. Tutting and shaking their heads. Looking at their watches. Peering up ahead as if the extra inch tiptoes provide will give the necessary conclusion to their crash related theories. Making emergency phone calls ‘Darling, I’m going to be late for dinner. Some idiot’s had a crash.’

Ouch. Bit harsh.

I, I’ll have you know, did nothing of the sort. I played Sudoku on my phone and thought about how much I love the emergency services.

Instead of getting annoyed that someone had been in a clearly serious accident, I got annoyed – irate, even, with the petrol guzzling 4x4 next to me, the driver of which, Sloane Ranger, did not turn her engine off for FORTY FIVE MINUTES. I wanted to get out of my car and march up to her, to suggest that maybe she’d like to reduce her carbon footprint and turn off her noisy engine, seeing as we clearly weren’t going anywhere and keeping her engine running wasn't going to get her home any quicker.

But I didn’t. I just quietly plotted her demise while Sloane Ranger’s children scrambled all over the roof of her car and took pictures of the crash on their iphones. Over and over again, she threatened: ‘If you do that one more time I’ll smack you.’ Yet every time they did the thing one more time, no one got smacked. Except my sanity. That took a beating.

Some Arrogant Scurriers then decided to take crowd control into their own hands, siphoning off into the hard shoulder in an attempt to excuse themselves from waiting.

Oh my god! Are you mental? You’re getting in the way! An ambulance screeched to a halt behind some Mercedes-driving nimrod who had thought they were above the law. Sirens went from ne-na ne-na to a furious WA WA WA WA WA WA WA and then a kind of deafening pitch that they obviously reserve for times like this. Forget rubber necking the accident – the real action was over here on the hard shoulder. Old nimrod had to shimmy up the grass bank to get out of the way, while we all laughed at him. Or at least, I did a little smirk. I don’t know if I had any comrades. Sloane Ranger was too busy issuing empty threats to her spoiled brat children to notice the drama unfold.

Another paramedic.

A police car.

The helicopter took to the skies, bypassing London’s traffic as it made its way to the nearest hospital. I was truly humbled.

I thought back to the early days of civilisation and how emergency services must have evolved. The tribes people were going about their day when suddenly a hut was on fire. Some people screamed and ran for the hills. Others stayed and gawked. While others, the future emergency services, rose to the challenge. They brought pails of water, they rescued babies.

‘Wow, you were quite handy then,’ the chief of the village debriefed. ‘Would you mind being on standby in case we get in a pickle again?’

And the future emergency service people said yes, we will do that. ‘But just one stipulation,’ they said. ‘When we are needed, you lot get the hell out of the way. And don’t use the hard shoulder, for Christ’s sake.’

That is probably exactly as it happened in 250AD. Verbatim.
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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I Spy...

Oh good. Apparently the unprecedented warmth provided by climate change during the long spring, followed by a delightfully wet summer, is reason enough for all the spiders in the country to move into my flat.

When my sister first announced the news, SPIDERS! COMING IN TO THE WARMTH OF A HOUSE NEAR YOU - NOW! I could literally feel my skin crawl. I wish she hadn't told me, then I might have been able to think about something else for the last week.

I guess I'm waiting for an army of the little bastards to turn up at my door and ruin my life. But it won't be like that, will it? They'll creep and crawl in dribs and drabs - a spider in my shoe, one behind my computer. One in my bed, scurrying over my face in the night. One in the bath. They will eventually overrule the previous tenants of this flat (us) and we will have to live in a boat bobbing about in the sea where spiders can't get to us. The SAS will have to check our boat for spiders before we leave, obvs.

People laugh at Britain. We've got shit weather and we're known for moaning. We have wonky teeth and we like tea. Oh, the silly little Brits with their funny little ways! Well, we had one thing going for us, thanks very much - our spiders were harmless. Now, our climate is warm enough for foreign spiders who accidentally entered the country without a visa, on a banana, to settle, breed, and no doubt mutate to twice their size on their way to my house.

Here is a picture of our first spider of the season. Tegenaria gigantea. I'd come home from somewhere spiderless and despite my sister's warning, I wasn't at that moment thinking about spiders. I actually walked past him on the stairs without even seeing him.

Gareth got home shortly after. His spider sense was more heightened than mine.

'Jesus Christ!' he screamed. I knew what had happened instantly. Blasphemy is code for I'm staring a spider in the face. I came running. I hate spiders, but I do like to quickly assess how panicked I need to be.

It was huge. It was clinging to the carpet half way up the stairs.

Which begged the Big Question.

Was he on his way up, or down?

Down, I can handle. He'd had a poke about, found nothing of interest and was using the stairs to get out. He was so big he probably even wiped his feet on the welcome mat on his way out.

Or, he was on his way in.

After Gareth and I squealed like girls for a few moments, he grabbed a nearby poster tube and demanded that we battle this out like ninjas. 'Put your hand up that end, I'll put mine this end, we'll put the spider in the middle and whoever he runs towards has to get rid of him,' Gareth suggested, ever the strategist.

Even the very thought of a spider in a tube running towards my hand gave me the heebie jeebs.

So I went for the feminism tactic.

'You have to get rid of him - you're the bloke!' I said, squirming. I love this line - so useful when I don't want to do something rubbish. (Emptying the bins, carrying the bins to the bigger bin, filling the car up with petrol in the rain, phoning the bank - all things I am quite capable of but can't be bothered to do.)

'I'm bloody not,' Gareth replied.

'Right, we need to sort this out. We're getting married. Are you honestly saying this is what it's going to be like for the rest of our lives? You are not going to get rid of the spiders, ever?' I asked. Sympathy card - project into the future and make him see this is his chance to change the very dynamics of our relationship.

'Yup,' he said.

We fought a bit more, then we turned back to Spider, to see to my great dismay that he had gone.

He's either outside now, which is fine, or he's under my bed. Watching me. And considering the recent headlines, I think we can guess which way he was heading.

I know, I've written a blog about a spider before. But I really don't like them. Perhaps writing about spiders can become my niche subject. Some writers choose sports, beauty products, fashion, celebs. Not me. I could just write blog after blog about my life getting ruined by tiny insects.

So the situation as I find it, is that there is at least one massive spider in my flat, and I'm marrying a man as wuss as me. Either I trade him in for a fearless-spider-combating-warrior, or we buy one of those spider vacuums. Seeing as I can't be bothered to fill the car up with petrol in the rain, I can't see myself attempting to acquire a warrior, just so he can deal with the occasional spider invasion. Spider hoover it is.

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Owls of Fun

It is rather bloody exciting being engaged, I really must admit. For starters, I get to look at websites that sell trinkets and treasures, with a legitimate excuse. I can reward my very best friends for years of service, by requesting that they join me up the aisle and be my super beautiful bridesmaids. I can write a speech – hurrah! I love speech making. Us Willis’s were taught at an early age to embrace public speaking and as a result, Gareth says we’d all make speeches at the dawn of each new day if we could get away with it. (Or if anyone was listening.)

I get to look at wedding dresses. Not in a crazy, oh-my-god she’s looking at dresses, what a saddo, sort of way. Not a pining, then looking away quickly because I’m not getting married, sort of way. No, that’s all changed now. I have a ring on my finger, so chuck over some Vera Wang and a glass of champagne, pronto. My dad gingerly tried to suggest I choose the kind of dress I could wear again. Pa! Does he not know me at all? Unless the second occasion is another wedding, there will be no excuse to ever wear this little white number again.

I can fret about whether or not to change my name. Kim Jones Willis? Kim Willis Jones? Kim Jones? Who is she? Is she as super cool and fun as Kim Willis? Maybe she’s even better.

I can toy with the idea of a prenup. Oh Catherine Zeta Jones, you clever little minx! (Zeta-Jones is guaranteed $2.8 million for every year of marriage, plus a $5 million bonus if Douglas is caught cheating. To equate that to our lives, I reckon I could get £2.80 for every year of marriage, and a £5 bonus if Gareth shaves off his lovely beard. Although, I would be quite keen to protect my asset, Eddie the campervan. I reckon Gareth’s got his eye on it. I might make it a morganatic marriage just to protect Eddie. (*)

I get to look at honeymoon destinations, tossing up between a beach in Fiji and a hike round India is a full time job in itself.

I am Google’s number one searcher. I am searching for thing after thing, whiling away every evening with more fantastical ideas. Fireworks? String quartet? Releasing a white dove? (All a definite no. I’m cheesy but this isn’t a big fat gypsy wedding. Although Gareth does keep pushing for an owl to deliver the rings. He does love his owls.)

Facebook knows I’m engaged. My side bar is filled with wedding related advertising. A little bit creepy if you ask me. Stop reading my messages, Zuckerberg!

My future husband is slightly less interested in the wedding than I. Every time I start telling him my latest idea, he says something clever like: ‘Is that a new top?’ or ‘You look very pretty today,’ in the hope flattery will avert my attention and I’ll stop talking. (Unless we talk about owls. And then we’re not really talking about the wedding, we’re just talking about owls again.)

As I have the artistic eye of a blind lab rat, he ought to be careful. He’s letting me choose stuff. I am in charge, and he jokes the old adage that all he’s going to do is turn up. Well, I can’t say I didn’t warn him. There will be a monstrosity of a dress, there will be clashing colours, there will be too much money spent on things guests don’t even notice. Mwa ha ha. The dormant bride inside of me has been unleashed. Hello Etsy, I’m off to buy more tat.

*I am changing my name. Hell, I want to have the same name as my husband, even if it is Jones. I always thought I’d marry a Slazenger. Maybe a Van De Something. But you can’t choose the surname of the man you fall in love with, unfortunately. As for a prenup? Na. Gareth knows I’ll kick his ass if he ever tries to divorce me and steal my campervan.
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Thursday, August 25, 2011

I definitely do.

Gareth and I have been together for about four years now. For three years, 11 months, three weeks and a day, I've been dreaming about marrying him. The thing is, I knew from the start that he was marriage material. Because, you see, he is a bloody good chap.

And so it was with sheer delight and a definite yes that I accepted his marriage proposal on Sunday night.

Now, at last, I can start looking at wedding dresses and writing my speech without people thinking I'm a bunny boiler. Now I have a ring on my finger (a platinum one at that, apparently.) I have license to think about our wedding. And that's why Gareth's just made me the happiest woman on the Isle of Wight.

I'm also the most nervous person on the Isle of Wight. A platinum ring? Me? Seriously, the time I lost the only piece of jewellery I own that didn't come from Accessorise, I cried for a week. Then I found it in my camper van and pretty much wet myself with relief. I am not to be trusted with anything of any worth.

I assure you that now I am engaged, I am not going to bang on about it in every blog. I'll still be funny, I promise. But I thought I'd do a blog about the proposal, because it was, after all, rather amusing. And I like a bit of amusement.

Gareth's vision for the Big Question was to get down on bended knee while the sun set on our favourite beach, on the Isle of Wight. Knowing I'd rather look nice for the moment, he knew he had to find a way to get me into a pretty dress. And so he appealed to my sense of vanity and asked me to model for him.

'I want to take a picture of you in a floaty dress beside the ocean.'

Well, he didn't have to ask this professional limelight lover twice.

Unbeknown to me, Gareth had enlisted my sister and mum's help in organising the 'moment'. While he was pottering about preparing his camera, I was sitting in my pretty dress playing Sudoku and they were down on the beach erecting a gazebo and laying out dinner for two.

Gareth and I then took the long walk down to the beach. During which, Gareth wanted to talk about how happy we were, how loved up and lucky a pair we were.

Not likely. Every time he tried to talk about love, I'd talk about some banal thing that had happened to me earlier. 'Yes, Gareth, we're in love, bla bla bla, do you think I got a tan today?'

We got to the end of the path and as luck would have it, there was a red rose in the way. Always an opportunist, I scooped it up and stole it. I'm sure no one would have missed it and it would be perfect for our photoshoot.

Turning the corner onto the beach, we saw the gazebo. Candles, champagne… my first thought was that whoever had set this up was probably the same person who'd left the rose in the path. And the poor boy was probably hoping his girlfriend would find the rose.

'Where are you going?' Gareth asked as I turned on my heel.

'I'm going to put the rose back!' I screamed, wishing I wasn't such a thief.

Gareth had to pin me back and assure me the rose, and this whole hullabaloo, was for us.

At the back of the gazebo was a hob, and on the hob was a saucepan, and in the saucepan was Thai Green Curry.

That's what did it for me really. How can I refuse to marry a man who gives me Thai Green Curry for my engagement meal? Forget 'he had me at hello'. He had me at the subtle yet spicy combination of lime and coconut milk.

There were tears, there were diamonds, there was a yes, my family joined us on the beach to share the celebratory whooping…

Then we walked back to the caravan, where my darling sister Pipsy was waiting. She has a way with words, and as I sat down beside her and told her that Gareth and I had got engaged and were going to get married she announced: 'That sounds a bit silly. I'm not coming to your wedding.'

And with that, I was brought back to reality.

Pip might take some convincing, but I am definitely going to be there, all guns blazing. Possibly with stolen roses in my bouquet.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Riot Wombles

To add to the melee of unnecessary drivel being written about the riots, here I am.

The Daily Mail are spitting bricks, Twitter and Facebook status updates appear to be variations of the same ‘Looter Scum, whatever next,’ hype machine that we can come to expect from ‘these days’.

Here’s an idea. These riots are bringing out the very best in some people. Comradeship, united fronts, new-found respect for a police force which, only a few weeks ago, were being ridiculed for their handling of the hacking scandal. Now, the Met Police are literally being applauded as they march London's streets.

The reaction to the riots makes me proud to be British. Yes, we have feral teenagers with nothing better to do than jump on a bandwagon, smash a window and run off with a packet of sweets, but we also have the Riot Wombles.

The Riot Wombles – an army of civilians wielding brooms, here to tidy up streets, boroughs, and cities. To tidy up a broken, shattered, burnt out Britain. With all it’s sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful Britain.

Sometimes, if I am going to be British I might as well feel proud. The Riot Wombles make me proud. So does the fact that there will be no Glastonbury festival next year because there will be the Olympics and we don’t have enough portaloos to cover both events. Isn’t that beautiful? A nation of 70 million people and we don’t have enough portaloos to cover two events at once. Who needs a well behaved society when you have a portaloo crisis to fall in love with instead.

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Friday, August 5, 2011


I find if I’m trying really hard not to do something, I’m all the more likely to do it. It’s like my brain likes to toy with me. My thoughts are saying ‘Don’t say she looks like Dawn French, don’t say she looks like Dawn French,’ and then my mouth says: ‘You look just like Dawn French!’

Ah, damage done. Well done brain, one to you.

And so it was when Nicola, my partner in crime and business, started abbreviating words. I didn’t like it. I’m a big fan of the English language. Text talk drives me crazy. The youth of today, they are pissing all over our beautiful words with their luv and their lol. Nic started with the occasional ‘obvs’ where she meant obviously, obviously. ‘Don’t join in, Kim, don’t join in.’ I bit my lip. I remembered what peace there may be in silence. I made a point of saying all my words right to the last syllable.

Then Nic started saying other words in the same way.

Lunch time arrived. ‘I’m hung,’ she’d say.

Fed and satisfied, she’d declare, ‘That was amaze.’

And then, as if from nowhere, I was joining in. I couldn’t help it. She had infiltrated my mind and, seeing as she was the only person I saw all day every day (we are a powerhouse of two) it wasn’t hard for her to wear me down.

‘Cup of coff?’ I asked, boiling the ket.

Yes, I sort of did hate myself. But it was also a lot of fun. Nic and I developed our own language. We out did each other with shorter and shorter abbreviations. Of course, it was funny for us, but it wasn’t something I was able to switch off at night, or at weekends, when talking to other human beings. They’d look at me strangely as I started off by abbreviating in the style Nic and I had become accustomed to, then, after a short pause mid-word in which I realised not all the world finds it as funny as we do, I’d finish my word. As if I got mid-word amnesia.

‘Glass of wine, Kim?’ weekend friends would ask.

“Yes please. Have you got any Sauv….(embarrassing pause…) ignon blanc?’

Mega embarro.

But, I soon let go of my embarrassment. Shortening words was funny and I realised other people were doing it, not just me and Nic. In fact just yesterday, my friend Hannah emailed me thus:

‘’I'm wearing sequined shorts this weekend whatever the weather. Whatevs the weaths.’’

And she works in London, where all the cool kids hang out.

Redeemed, I started shortening words willy nilly – will nill, dare I say.

But then came a really embarro situ, which caused me to think maybe it was time to reign in the old ‘cool speak’ and start talking like a normal person again.

Gareth and I had gone camping in Wales with friends. Beach bound, we’d arrived at a little shop, at which we were hiring body-boards and wetsuits. So already we weren’t as cool as the surfers.

‘Do you sell suncream?’ I asked the shopkeeper, in my usual too loud, too shrill, too posh voice.

‘Yes.’ He said.

‘Brillo!’ I replied. I hadn’t realised how loudly I had said it until I realised an entire shop’s worth of cool surfer types were all staring at me, and Gareth was backing away with a mortified look on his face, wondering how he could get out of this situation and relationship in tact. My middle class accented word wafting through the silence, ringing in my ears as only an embarrassing final sentence can. (If you can call ‘Brillo’ a sentence. I call it a death sentence.)

The shop keeper looked at me. Hannah in London may be shortening her words, but I’m not sure the trend has reached Pembrokeshire.

‘It’s, er, over there,’ he said, pointing at the suncream and hoping that I’d go back to Bristol and take my dismal excuse for conversation with me.

The girl in the queue behind me was the sort of person I’d like to punch in the face for being prettier, skinnier and now, better at English than me. She looked me up and down. I did not feel very brillo at all.

‘I’m really good at English!’ I wanted to shout. ‘I can spell definitely and necessary without spellchecker and I know the difference between their, they’re and there, god dammit.’ But of course, I just shuffled out of the shop with my tail between my legs instead.

‘You’re a dick,’ Gareth said as we walked to the beach.

I know, I know. You’d think I’d have learned a valuable lesson in letting other people do their funky thing with words while I stick to my resolute opinion that the English language is adequate, nay, beautiful, as it is and should not be tampered with.

Maybe skinny surf girl and stuffy shop keep man are the losers here. I should have turned the situation around on them.

‘Er, Wales, hello! I find it advantageous for sensible cerebrum space management to occasionally knock the last syllable of a word off, sometimes replacing it with an ‘O’, which you, surf girl, wannabe Auzzie, should appreciate, thus affording me commodious room in an otherwise overloaded brain, for thought and speculation about what’s really important in life – don’t for one minute presume that I did not get an A in English language, have not made a living out of words, or that I am of the generation scholars worry about for their inability to articulate their feelings or write proper sentences. Because I did, I do and I’m not.

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Girl Guide

I'm sorry. I dropped my pen. Where was I?

Gareth usually reels off a long list of reasons why he doesn’t want children. But after going to see Senna, the documentary about Formula One world champ Ayrton Senna, Gareth came home and declared that maybe we could have just one child, so that we could call him Ayrton.

It wasn’t enough to convince me that we’d suddenly become responsible and adequate parents, just because he had a cool name, so we instead lowered our expectations and raised the bar by deciding that perhaps Ayrton could be what we called the dog.

Which got me thinking. Maybe it was time we got a puppy. Puppies are so cute! Look, here is an example puppy, he's having a little sleep because he's tired from all the cuteness. Woof.

My friends Cesca and Mike have recently been looking after a guide dog in training. A very worthy cause. Basically the dog goes off to blind school every day and learns stuff, and you look after him at night until he’s graduated, at which point he leaves and goes to his new blind master. The Guide Dog people pay for all food and vet bills. So, you get the joy of having a dog, (a really intelligent, disciplined one) and you’re doing your bit for the blind.

I was very impressed with their venture. And as I like guide dogs and blind people, I decided to go one better than Cesca and Mike, whose dog was already in training when they got her, and get a puppy.

The Guide Dogs Association call it ‘puppy walking’ and what you do is you get a dog at eight weeks old (EIGHT WEEKS OLD!) and you look after it until it is old enough (a year) to go to school. Then you hand it over to some mugs like Mike and Cesca.

Well, that just sounds like the best idea in the world! A guide dog puppy, all cute and fluffy, who I can train to become really obedient and well behaved so that when he gets to school, he’s the best in the class.

I applied and seemed to tick most of the boxes. Work from home, tick. Willing to help the dog adjust to travelling in a car, on a bus, on a train, sure, no problem. I’d take Ayrton everywhere with me, he’d be my little shadow. Endless love, tick. Can’t remember what else was on the list. Oh, a garden. Minor problem. He can poo in the loo.

So the next step was to ask our landlady if we could get a puppy. Now, I’m quite good with words. I know she’ll say no if I just ask for a regular puppy. So I need to lay on the guilt.

'Please can I get a guide dog puppy?' I asked. (Who could say no… only a cold-hearted wench) 'I’d like to look after him for a year until he’s old enough to go to guide dog school, (noble) where he'll learn to look after a blind person (sympathy) who'd be lost without him.' (violins)

'No,' came the reply.


How could you? Have you not met Ayrton? He probably looks a little bit like this. Wearing his little blind dog vest.

And you’re telling me I’m not allowed to help a blind lady cross the street?

She leaves me no choice but to instead get this dog. Goliath. Seen here on a walk with Gareth, myself and our pet horse.

Oh, I’m sorry Miss Landlady, did you say don’t get a dog? I thought you said do get a dog. Get the biggest dog you can find. And a horse.

N.B In the real life version of the events described above, my landlady was really nice about it and did give me permission to get a goldfish. But it just doesn't make for a good read.

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association
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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Princess Kim

Dear Kate,

I’ve never met you but I’ve often thought that if things were different I’d have your life and maybe you’d have one that more closely resembles mine. You see, Prince William and I were born in the same month of the same year and so I naturally presumed we’d end up together. If only I’d gone to bloody St Andrews and not the crappy art college down south where I mostly blew my student loan on marijuana.

Ignoring the fact I thought a game of polo involved mints, not horses, and my parents are not millionaires, self made or otherwise, I did used to presume that I was just one chance meeting away from being the Chosen One.

However, I now realise that it’s a godsend that I am not you. I would not have your restraint when it came to becoming famous. I’d have given ten interviews to Grazia by now and probably would have accidentally slept with Harry. When the Daily Mail started looking into my past they would see that my dad owns a caravan and my brother was expelled from school for having someone else’s urine strapped to the inside of his leg, in a vain attempt to pass the piss test. Then they’d find photographs on Facebook of me snogging my female best friend and before you know it, I’d have given the Queen a heart attack.

I am happy to allow you the mantle of the new People’s Princess, which I know is very gracious of me. Besides, I’ve got my own prince and he can tuck his belly into his jeans and then make it pop out in a swift jolting movement that makes us both giggle.

I had a great time on your wedding day. My prince and I were up with the early birds queuing to get into your prince’s great great great great-grandmother’s holiday home, Osbourne House, on the Isle Of Wight. Osbourne House, which is huge and extraordinary, is not far from my dad’s caravan, which is small and full of spiders, so if you are ever on the island, do pop by for some lashings of ginger beer.

By the time Gareth (that’s my prince, by the way. Not exactly a good name for a future king, I know, but luckily he’s only prince of Warmley and I don’t think he’s going to get promoted) and I got to the big screen in the grounds of Osbourne House, the crowd had splayed out all over the lawn, the Pimms was on ice and the cupcakes had little flags in them.

Prince Gareth and I had not come so prepared. We had a 9% ABV bottle of cider each and a camping chair. I was quickly pissed as a newt and busy joining in conversations with strangers about how pretty your dress was and didn’t you look skinny.

Then the cider wore off and I needed cake. Whilst wondering how on earth you maintain such a skinny physique, I had cider for breakfast and cake for lunch. 

I suppose another reason I’m glad you ended up where you are and I ended up where I am is that I really couldn’t bear to call him Wills. It’s an awful abbreviation of a name. Don’t you hate it? Wills. If people called me Kims, I’d feel like I belonged to myself or that the next word was missing. Kims what? Resisting the urge to add an apostrophe to a posh toff's name would probably have resulted in divorce. 

I will let you have Prince William. I no longer harbour a longing to be his bride. It looks like far too much pressure never to drink cider for breakfast. I’ll stick with Gareth, who, as it turns out, is really quite lovely and far better suited to my pop-your-belly-out-and-make-me-laugh needs.

PS Just in case William ever wonders what could have been, I have superimposed my face onto yours and attach it to this letter. I look pretty happy but Wills looks like he's realised he's made a mistake marrying someone so pedantic about punctuation.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Spidey Sense

Last night I got home from a night out with friends, looking forward to resting my head on my pillow in my bed as one does when it is night time and one wants to fall asleep.

But it was not to be. Gareth and I met up in the bathroom for a spot of teeth cleaning. Here, he told me the news that was to devastate my evening.

‘Oh,’ he says, with meaning. ‘I’ve got something to tell you.’

Thoughts flashed through my mind – what have I done wrong? Am I getting sued? Did the police call? Is someone I love ill? Have I been recorded slagging someone off? The usual.

‘I was in the bedroom earlier,’ he continues. ‘I knelt down to pick something up off the floor (a rarity, Gareth.) and there, under the bed, was the biggest spider I’ve ever seen in my life.’

It’s okay, I think to myself. This story is going to finish with Gareth finding a pint glass and a bit of card and setting the spider free outside. (not that I care for the spider’s welfare, I just don’t want him in my bed.)

‘We stared each other out for a bit,’ Gareth carried on. Oh god. This story isn’t going to end well is it?

‘I couldn’t go and get anything to put him in, because he’d have run away. He knew I knew that. I knew he knew I knew that. So we carried on staring at each other for a while.’

Then what, man, then what? I can feel him on me!

‘Then I grabbed my shoe and I was going to whack him with it, but I realised he’d have just clung on. He was that big. I’m talking tarantula size. My shoe would have just stubbed his toe.’

Oh god. He’s still there, isn’t he Gareth? We have a tarantula in our bed.

‘So I ran to get the hoover. He was still there when I got back, but as I poked the nozzle at him, he just walked off.’

A tarantula, so strong he didn’t get sucked up the vacuum nozzle, is under our bed.

‘What are we going to do?’ Gareth asked. ‘Shall we call pest control? Or the Natural History Museum?’

Well, first things first. We’re not sleeping in there.

That’s right people. A spider is under our bed, so we slept in the sitting room. I don’t know about Gareth, but I dreamed about that little bastard arachnid all night. Wandering out of the bedroom, down the hall, up the stairs and on to my face.

I’m not sure when we’ll start sleeping in the bedroom again. I don’t know how long he can live under our bed for. Surely there’s not much to eat there?

In the meantime, Gareth’s parents are coming to stay this weekend and we’re going to courageously and selflessly let them have our bedroom. I know, I know, we’re far too kind to them – we’ll take the sofas. It’s fine, really.

So then Gareth finished his little bedtime story, just in case I was going to have any trouble sleeping in my bed ever again.

‘He had such a big belly. Maybe it was actually a female.’ And then, plonking his toothbrush down on the sink and wandering out of the bathroom without considering that the consequences of his next sentence would be that we'd have to move house: ‘I reckon she was pregnant.’

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Friday, April 8, 2011

Road Outrageous

 Apparently, there are other drivers on the road. I wouldn’t know, because I drive a white van now. I was nervous to start with. The road intimidated me. But now, I intimidate it. The road don’t mess with me. Other cars don’t mess with me. I am Queen Vivaro of Warmley, surveyor of all motorways and A roads.

The thing is, in a van, you’re higher up. You’ve also got a noisy engine and a threatening size. Ka’s, Mini’s, Smart Cars, they don’t stand a chance.

I’d like to think I haven’t crashed yet, but I probably have, I just don’t know it. The rear window is blacked out so for all I know, all those silly little cars are being squashed and flattened in my wake and I don’t even know it.

I’m a white van (wo)man, don’t get in my way. I haven’t taken to honking at scantily clad women yet, but don’t put it past me. It’s not my fault I’ve got a honker and they’ve got nice legs.

My right arm is preparing to get browner than my left. I can never find first gear but who cares when you’re dominating the road. In my head, I’m driving this.

The lane from our home spits you out on a roundabout but because it’s not one of the official roads leading in and out of the roundabout, no one ever used to let me out. My Peugeot, Tiger, and I, we used to sit there for ages swearing at everyone, edging out until we were basically sitting in the middle of oncoming traffic, when finally someone would be forced to give way.

I don’t have that problem anymore, now I’m a white van (wo)man. People basically roll out the red carpet, traffic in all directions stop to let me out. That’s right, don’t mess with Eddie. He’ll trample all over you before you’ve even put your hazard lights on.
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Friday, April 1, 2011

Monkey See, Monkey Don't Do.

Dear Richard Branson,

How absolutely wonderful that you have pioneered and masterminded so many diverse and successful businesses. While I expect you are too busy flying into space to take the time to read my letter, I want you to know that the chief executive in charge of Virgin Media has employed a monkey who’s employed a monkey who’s employed a monkey, trickling all the way down to the monkey who is currently trying to fix my internet connection.

I’ve been a customer of yours for three years now and I think Virgin deserve a number of medals for their unwaivering devotion to public service.

I was thinking a silver for Most Terrible Customer Service, a gold for Most Likely Call Centre To Be In India, and a platinum medal with certificate for Most Likely To Send A Monkey To Do A Man’s Job. 

I remember the time I gave up my Virgin Media television after you kept charging me for pornography I was not watching. Oh, how funny that was, Richard! If I wanted to watch pornography, I’d do it for free on the internet, you silly billy. I wouldn’t pay £4.99 per film! But your monkey couldn’t quite understand that concept and continued to charge me for films I wasn’t watching. And when I cancelled my television subscription, your monkey couldn’t fathom that any human being would or could possibly want to be without a television. I was asked to seriously reconsider my decision, and advised to keep my set top box, just in case. Ah, good times.

It’s quite funny actually, Richard, what's happened. I’ve enjoyed three years of broadband with you without too much mishap.

And then we got some lovely new neighbours who, unbeknown to us, wanted to be with Virgin (more fool them). So they arranged for a monkey to come over and wire them up. But then, and here’s the funny part, the monkey decided to cut our line while installing theirs! Ha ha ha!

Left without internet, I could no longer run a business. But don’t you worry your pretty little beard about that, Richard, because your operator in the call centre in India assured me a monkey would be out to fix the problem two weeks later.

Two weeks. How very efficient! I explained that two weeks later wasn’t good enough, I’d lose thousands of pounds of business.

Oh I see, said your monkey. If that’s the case, we can refund you £10 a week until it’s fixed. Clever monkey. Seeing as Forbes rich list cite you as having an estimated net worth of approximately £2.97 billion, £10 a week compensation for my loss of earnings seems totally fair. Should be just about enough to buy the baked beans I’m going to have to live on for the foreseeable future.

Two weeks went by like the clock was wading through treacle. At last, the knock on the door came and two high-visibility vest wearing, white van driving monkeys arrived.

Virgin, they said. How can we help?

Seriously? You haven’t been briefed as to why you’ve been called out? Brilliant. I know absolutely nothing about how the lines are wired or how to fix the problem, but leave it to me to explain to your monkeys what job they’ve been called on, no problem.

Of course, they couldn’t fix the problem, could they? Because they’re only monkeys! A monkey might be able to bash out a Shakespeare play, but that’s only if you give it a typewriter and an infinite amount of time. Your monkeys had neither of these things, keen as they were to crack on with not fixing the next job they were due at.

So now they have gone and I still don’t have service provided. Monkey man tells me that he was sent on eight jobs of this ilk yesterday, and five of them were exactly the same problem as me. Namely, when a new customer wants Virgin, old customers have their signal cut. It’s a questionable business model, Richard, and not one I’d recommend.

I hope the view is nice from your hot air balloon as you soar over the world’s oceans. I’ll be over here, eating beans. While my business falls into disrepair, I can't even watch free porn. And it’s all your fault, you cheeky little monkey.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ready, Eddie.

This is probably not the most appropriate way to tell my mum, but Gareth and I have had our first baby.

He’s called Eddie and we keep him in the car park.

The truth is, I don’t have a maternal bone in my body so our new white van, Eddie, is as close as we will probably come to parenthood. We’re going to be very good parents to Eddie (so called because we bought him in Edinburgh). I’ve driven him twice and I haven’t even crashed yet or anything.

Eddie has changed all our plans for the summer. Gone is the idea that festivals involve a badly pitched tent, a bad night’s sleep and a phone with no battery. Eddie has a double bed, sound proofed walls and two – that’s right, count them – two plug sockets.

He also comes with a fridge, a shower, an awning, for when we have friends over, and a hob. For noodles.

Various friends and family have acquired a van over recent years and Gareth and I have only been able to marvel the home-on-wheels from afar. Yearn as we did to join Team Campervan, we could neither afford it or justify it. Not when we already had two cars.

But then, my long serving, long suffering runner gave up the ghost and it seemed like the right time to sell it to the very dodgy and pushy webuyanycar.com (they really do) and make way for Eddie of Edinburgh.

Gareth flew to Edinburgh to bring home the van and to start with, I was too scared to drive the beast. He is, compared to my little Peugeot, a mega bus. But after a few days I decided to give it a go and apart from one near miss where I nearly scraped a Porsche parked ridiculously close to where I wanted to go, we arrived at our destination in tact.

And for that, I don’t thank my driving instructor. I thank my mum. Most women can’t drive, it’s a cliché born of truth. But my mum can. And when I was a teenager, she didn’t want her name (or car) dragged through the mud, so she made sure I knew my way around a vehicle.

I have fond memories of going to Sainsbury’s car park on a Sunday, back in the days when it was closed on a Sunday, and Mum painstakingly teaching me the width of the car by manoeuvring traffic cones until I didn’t crash into them anymore. It was a lesson my driving instructor never bothered with, but has served me well every since.

It has also paved the way for many an incredulous: ‘’You could get a bus through there!’ while I wait impatiently for the car in front to not get through a space clearly big enough.

Some of our friends have bought VW campervans, the iconic originals. The ones in which you expect to find hippies making love not war. That’s not our style. We wanted a white van, the type where tattooed men drape one brown arm out of the window. The type you’d expect to find some tools inside (that’s us!) I passed an identical van in the street the other day and they’d even added the luxury furnishing of a copy of The Sun to their dashboard. Bloody good idea. Gives an aura of ‘don’t break into this van mate, there’s a pit bull in the back.’ Ah, the Feng Shui of the Sun newspaper. Maybe I’ll get me some furry dice while I’m at it.
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Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring Forward

The weekend the clocks go forward is my favourite of the year. Not because I celebrate it specifically, but because it’s the bright red ribbon we run through at the end of the long slog of a race that is winter. It’s the certificate that we did it, guys, we bloody did it! We survived another winter, with its long dark nights and bitter cold. Yes, I know we’ve got nothing on the really cold corners of the world, but sometimes when I have to de-ice my car and my fingers go a bit numb, I get really annoyed with the Great British winter.

It sets in around September, that gloom. The knowing that the summer’s dead and all you’ve got to look forward to is central heating, snow, black ice, numb fingers, cold noses and darkness for more hours of the day than light.

Then you’ve got October, November, December to contend with. That’s a lot of months. They throw Christmas at you, pretend it’s about families and celebration and giving when really it’s about breaking up the monotony of coldness that is winter.

Then it’s New Year’s Eve and you’re fooled into thinking everything will be different, a fresh start. But it’s not because the weatherman doesn’t care for the turn of the year. He cares only for the turn of the season.

January is boring. Especially when you give up drinking.

February is quick and you start to notice the sun setting a little later. My, is that you, spring? Are you peeping your yellow little head around the corner? Then you see daffodils and you know what’s coming. You tingle. Your room is filled with sunshine at 7am and then BOOM! You only go and open a bloody window!

Next thing you know, the central heating is turned off for the summer and… drum roll… the clocks go forward.

And even though they’ve been springing forward and falling* back for every one of my 28 years, I still don’t really know when I’ll be getting an extra hour in bed and when I’m going to be jet lagged. Every year, twice a year, I have a little confused conversation with myself. Hmm, spring forward. Does that mean 6 o’clock becomes 7 o’clock, and I’m tired?

I think the fact I couldn’t get out of bed this morning indicates we’re on the one where you lose an hour’s sleep. An investment I’m totally happy to make in order to prolong my evenings.

And with that, hurrah! Summer’s basically arrived. The evenings are long, the basking in the sunshine begins. Bring on the barbies, the flip flops, the ice cream. The clocks have sprung forward, all we’ve got to look forward to now is months and months of summery goodness.

Anyone who says it’s going to rain all summer can take their weather reports away from my parade. I’ve got some Hawaiian Tropic and I’m not afraid to use it.

*I prefer the word ‘autumn’ to the word ‘fall’ but Spring Back, Autumn Forward is never going to educate the kids. What do Americans say when they want to describe something as autumnal? The poor things, it’s a great word.

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