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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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