• Mauris euismod rhoncus tortor

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mathematics Maketh Man.

What disappoints me most about the child I was, is that the woman I have become quite likes maths and science. Why didn’t I pay more attention in school? I could have been a contender. Back when my brain was a sponge and I was receiving a free education, why didn’t I absorb all the wonderful things I was being taught, instead of spending all my time trying to subtly turn my shoe upside down so I could play with the puzzle Clarks had built into the sole?

A new report has revealed that half of working age adults - that’s 17 million people in the UK - have the numeracy skills of a primary school child. I think I can stand up and be counted in that statistic.

There’s a lovely anecdote in Ben Miller’s It’s not rocket science (that’s me trying to claw back an education) where he pays homage to his maths teacher at primary school, Mr Bailey, who taught the kids that times tables were fun - something for which you needed a tables license, which Mr Bailey painstakingly made himself using a signature, a counter signature and a photo of said pupil.

He’d issue the license to any pupil who could prove they really did know their tables. And as if to illustrate just what a gifted teacher Mr Bailey was, every child in the top stream for maths at the secondary school Ben Miller went to had come from Mr Bailey’s primary school maths class.

Sadly I had no such Mr Bailey.

Mrs Geary taught me that if you run the cold tap over your wrist you can control a hot flush. Quite why I needed to know that, I don’t know, but it’ll come in handy when I hit the menopause.

Mrs Tew taught me that the six most important words in a relationship are ‘I am sorry, I was wrong.’ But I haven’t mentioned that one to my husband.

And Miss Dick taught me what to do if someone has a heart attack. By pretending to have a heart attack. It was terrifying, but certainly sunk the info into the old psyche.

I remember being very jealous of the kids in Mrs Tatler’s class, who told me they’d learned about division by cutting a cake in half. Then quarters. Then eights. Then they ate it. Not fair.

Aside from that, not really sure what else I learned. After reading Ben Miller’s lovely tables license anecdote, I started testing myself on my tables and I definitely get a bit rusty around the 8s and above.

 Maybe I need this. I do like owls...

Maths needs to be more fun. Schools need to take the anxiety out of it and make it enjoyable - cutting up cakes, for example.

As regular readers will know, maths and anxiety go hand in multiplying hand for me. The very man who would have so loved me to be as swift with my long multiplication as he was, was the very same man who has filled my internal calculator with anxiety instead of mental arithmetic. That’d be you, Dad.

It was his sheer frustration at the fact I clearly wasn’t turning out to be a genius which shut my brain down around maths to the point that I didn’t even bat an eyelid when, after a few months running my own business, I calculated that I’d made £200,000. I just thought I’d been doing quite well, until my husband pointed out I’d somehow added two extra zeros. And I’ve been doing my own accounts ever since.

Being this crap at maths does have upsides though. It means I still need my dad, which I think he secretly likes. Like the time I was writing a feature about a woman who had three children born on the same day, years apart. I needed a statistic for the chances of that happening and had found something online which seemed about right.

Roger Heath-Brown, professor of Pure Mathematics at Oxford University, said the odds of the couple's children all being born on the same date were 48,627,125 to 1.

Not one to instantly trust the internet nor any professor of pure mathematics who isn’t my dad, I asked the old man for his verdict.

Turns out prof Heath-Brown had it all wrong.

‘The mathematical answer is 1:133225,’ Pops explained. ‘1 in 48 million is the figure for 3 children being born on a PARTICULAR date, as in saying to a not yet pregnant woman, 'you will have three children, and they will all be born on January 1st’ - a 1/365 chance, multiplied 3 times.

He continued: ‘The odds of three children being born on the same but unspecified day means actually that first one child was born (probability 1/1) then another was born on the same date (probability 1/365) and then another was born on the same date again (probability 1/365). Therefore the odds of 3 children being born on the same date is these 3 figures multiplied together. 1x365x365, which = 1/133,225.’

Still with me? He added for good measure: ‘In practice it would be less than 1:133225, because the parents might be more sexually active at a particular time of the year (like on holiday).’

It was a shame because my story would probably have sold for more if the chances were in fact 1 in 48 million, but I have to hand it to Dad, he is bloody good at maths. And even though we were now talking about parents having sex, which always leaves me stuffing cotton wool in my ears, we were bonding. Over maths. Which I suppose is what we’d do if I was a mathematical genius and we spent our time bantering about just how different the world would be if Pythagoras hadn’t come up with his theorem and testing each other to see who could remember the most digits in the never ending mathematical number Pi, rather than me just saying ‘that new film Life of Pi looks good’ and Dad wondering where it all went wrong.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Our Song

All loved up and mushy couples have a song, right? Ain’t that the epitome of romance, the day you secure an ‘our song’?

I used to think When A Man Loves A Woman would be my Our Song one day when I was older. Then Meg Ryan made a film of the same name and seeing as she was an alcoholic who was always getting herself in trouble, while her ever-adoring husband supported and loved her, maybe not. Although, that does sound strangely familiar.

G and I don’t have a song and mostly forget our anniversary. I’m not entirely sure he knows how to spell my middle name and that’s just the way I like it.

Except apparently we do have a song. I just found out.

And it’s not Michael Nyman's Love Doesn't End from The End of the Affair, which is what G asked me to walk down the aisle to, proclaiming that he’d always imagined it was what I’d walk down the aisle to when the day to do so came.

‘I’ve never heard it before,’ I told him as he played it to me. ‘Sounds like it belongs at a funeral, not a wedding.’

And so the one song that might have become our song got vetoed.

Yesterday G and I were driving along in the Willis-mobile when the other contender for Our Song came on.

I can’t find it on You Tube, it’s that popular, but it is called My Baby, it's by NQ Arbuckle and you can listen to it here

Now this almost does have merit to be our song - first heard on a road trip from Boston to Montreal when we’d been together a few months and hadn’t yet said I love you... Ahhhhh.... And now we're married. I remember the song well. I remember liking it because it builds a picture of what can only be described as the perfect woman, then NQ Arbuckle has a bit of a breakdown at the sheer exasperation that a woman could be so perfect. She must have something wrong with her, he sums up. No woman is that perfect.

‘This song reminds me of you,’ G said, turning it up. He’s a charmer.

A huge compliment, see, as the lyrics are thus:

my baby brings me flowers
my baby lets me stay up late
and she doesn't mind the drinking
or the mess that i make

my baby gets up early
my baby cooks me big breakfast
my baby cleans up the kitchen
my baby is friends with all the neighbours

my baby lights all of my cigarettes
she stays up late to do the laundry
my baby calls just to say that she loves me
and she dances like a beauty

my baby don't mind when i come home late
she doesn't listen to idle chatter
she says she loves me just how i am
and those other women do not matter

well she just lets me watch tv
she just lets me hang around
my baby likes all of my friends
and she even likes this house

what's wrong with my baby?

Now, I don’t want to burst his bubble, but G has got me all wrong. I know we’ve just got married and he should probably know me better, but seriously. Let’s examine the evidence.

my baby brings me flowers Nope, never. Would be quite nice if my baby bought me flowers once in a while though, so I didn’t have to go to Asda when we have guests coming round in order to spruce the place up.
my baby lets me stay up late Nope. In fact I get in a right huff when G tries to stay up later than me as I know it means he’ll be waking me up a bit after I’ve fallen asleep with his big oaf-like clambering into bed and switching on of lights.
and she doesn't mind the drinking Winner! I love it when he drinks. In my opinion he doesn’t drink enough.
or the mess that i make Nope. The mess that he makes will be the undoing of our marriage.

my baby gets up early Well, the early bird catches the worm, right? I’m no night owl.
my baby cooks me big breakfast I do chuck a bowl of porridge his way most mornings.
my baby cleans up the kitchen And makes sure he knows it. A loud declaration of: I CLEANED THE KITCHEN usually accompanies my cleaning routine.
my baby is friends with all the neighbours I hate the neighbours.

my baby lights all of my cigarettes  I once accidentally slapped G’s face in an attempt to remove the cigarette from his mouth. I hate cigarettes and hate him smoking. Which he only does when he’s drinking. Which I try to encourage. Catch 22.
she stays up late to do the laundry I did recently stay up late to empty the machine of G’s clothes because he was really busy and needed a shirt for the morning. Then I went on about what a good wife I was for about a week afterwards.
my baby calls just to say that she loves me Winner.
and she dances like a beauty Loser. I dance like my limbs involuntarily spasm, sporadically adding the odd hump and thrust. It’s a sight best reserved for the blind.

my baby don't mind when i come home late See above section on coming to bed late. I do mind.
she doesn't listen to idle chatter I love gossip.
she says she loves me just how i am He’s alright. Could do with a few modifications.
and those other women do not matter WHAT OTHER WOMEN?!?!?!?!

well she just lets me watch tv Oops. I sold his TV. For £20. Without asking. Then bought scratch cards. And didn’t win.
she just lets me hang around Not if I’m CLEANING THE KITCHEN at the same time G just wants to ‘hang around.’
my baby likes all of my friends Yeah, that’s true. I do. Even the one who has served time for handing out party drugs at festivals. Actually, especially him.
and she even likes this house Damn straight. It has a particularly tidy kitchen.

what's wrong with my baby? I often ask myself the same question.

So you see, when G said sweetly that this song was about me, I just accepted the compliment. At least two to three lyrics do apply to me. And just like when Derren Brown gave out the same astrological reading to people with different star signs and they all thought it fitted them perfectly, let’s roll with G’s selective hearing and let’s not point out to him that his perfect vision of his wife is way off the mark. Hopefully he won’t read this post. Hopefully he’ll be too busy buying me flowers and CLEANING THE KITCHEN.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Great British Boycott

I never used to pay much attention to ethics, shopping as I did for what I wanted, when I wanted it. Then I met my cleverest friend, who was taking a masters in international development when I was sitting around, unemployed, smoking dope. She is very clever about things I don’t understand, and she patiently tried to teach me that my pound was powerful and I should make choices based on a company’s ability to not employ children and not fly mangoes half way around the world just so I can have a stir-fry.

I jumped aboard the ethics bus, keen as I was to impress her. What’s that you say - boycott Nescafe? Sure! I wasn’t even that au-fait with the whole - they bullied breast feeding mothers in developing countries into switching to formula they can’t afford. Which is BAD - thing, but I sprouted what little knowledge I did have whenever I saw someone dare eat a Kit-Kat.
After that, I heard Unilever were a bit questionable. Down with the multi-national corporations, I declared. Being quite a massive company, it meant I had to boycott my beloved ice-cream, Ben and  
Jerry's - because it’s not made by two fat blokes in America - avoid all moisturiser flying the Dove flag, wave goodbye to Hellmann’s mayonnaise, make my own stock because Knorr ain’t got the Know-how, say no to Lipton’s Ice-Tea, a Radox bath, Sure deodorant, a decent hair-cut in Toni and Guy and a shed load of other sacrifices as a result of my apparent political stance.

It was more than I could achieve in an average week just to keep up with their acquisitions. I didn’t even really know what they ever did wrong - I certainly can’t remember now - but when a friend came round for dinner and announced that upon graduation she was going to apply for a job at Unilever, I felt it was my responsibility to shout loud words at her. She quietly explained that in fact Unilever are an exemplary company with an excellent ethical reputation and a sustainable agriculture programme - whilst also helping one billion people improve their health and well-being (and not just through making one billion people have a nice relaxing Radox bath).

Well, that told me. All that boycotting, wasted. I quickly bought some Caramel Chew Chew, just so they’d know I was back.

What good does it do, to boycott, anyway? Does my silent protest really make a difference? In the news of late, some big cats have been naughty: Amazon, (What can’t you buy from Amazon?) Starbucks (love their Chai) and Google (love the days when the Google word is written differently in tribute to someone’s birthday. Those are fun days. Plus they know everything. Quickly.)

They have managed to siphon off a staggering amount of money that really ought to be paid in tax. Our struggling economy continues to gasp for air, while they roll around in their billions, laughing at us as we order our Chai’s and google ourselves.

I want to boycott these companies, especially since Costa started serving Chai, I really do. But is it my responsibility to marshal them? Yes, we should all, as a nation, together, no longer shop at Amazon. But when the next big gun rises up from the ashes, you can bet your bottom dollar that when they start turning over the billions Amazon currently enjoys and their accountant says, hey, there’s a legal loophole here, do you fancy avoiding (and remember, avoiding is legal, evading is illegal) vast sums of tax payments, so you can buy an island instead? - they are going to say yes please, why didn’t you tell me about this before?
In summary, I will try to choose independent, small and local, (which is how all these big boys started out, lest we forget) but ultimately, the government needs to sort out what’s legal and what’s not. They’ve only got themselves to blame when companies find ways to avoid tax. I don’t have all the answers - I mostly just read Grazia - but I am tired of boycotting companies because the government can’t sort it out at the top. Starbucks probably won’t miss my custom, but they might be more abiding tax-payers if there weren’t loopholes to jump through.

Well, if you need me, I’ll be over here, smelling of Dove, eating Ben and Jerry’s and stroking my Toni and Guy-cut tresses. Let me know when it’s okay to google myself again.
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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Obama's Dramas

Barack Obama, the fly-swatting, basketball hoop-shooting leader of the free world, has Beyonce going gaga and Gaga in glee at his re-election, while Sarah Jessica Parker wore an Obama T-shirt and Eva Longoria cried.

Although, it might have been a tear shed at the realisation that now, the whole world knows she has posters of her own films up in her sitting room.

Oh, what, this old thing? It’s just my movie room, complete with movie posters of movies I was in. I was in the Sentinel (Rotten Tomatoes: 33%) and Over Her Dead Body (Rotten Tomatoes: 15%) but I don’t like to go on about it.

Anyway, despite my inability to remember to vote for my own Police and Crime Commissioner (along with around 80% of my nation - well done us) I did very much want to vote for Barack. He’s got a nice bum and a calming influence on me, the USA and hopefully the world in general. He’s going to fix things.

Photograph: Nicolas Asfouri

This week, he’s busy in Burma, taking off his shoes and meeting people for photo ops, like this one, where he’s seen kissing Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader and all round good egg, while he and she attempt to illustrate that they are striking a balance between progress and reform.

All I can say is, oh thank god, Barack’s pretty much the coolest guy in the world and he still gets the old ‘kiss / hug / handshake’ drama as tits up as the rest of us.

My husband is the worst perp of them all. If this was a picture of him and Aung San Suu Kyi, guaranteed Gaz would be accidentally kissing her on the lips while she pulled away in horror. He just can’t help himself. He’s a socially inept tomfool, who isn’t helped by a muddled society unsure of itself.

He’ll usually get home from work with a certain look in his eyes and I know he’s done it again. ‘What happened this time?’ I ask, curling my hands around a cup of cocoa as I get myself comfortable, ready for a ruddy good chuckle at his expense.

‘I thought we knew each other well enough for a cheek-kiss!’ Gaz will lament. ‘But she stuck her hand out. It was too late, I was going in for one, so I ended up just grabbing hold of her and forcing her into some kind of weird hug where my lips were pressed into the kiss shape on her ear.’

Oh dear.

Another time: ‘We really didn’t know each other well enough for a kiss, I thought, so I stuck my hand out, but she came in for a kiss and I ended up punching her in the crotch!’

Then there was the time we met up with some old friends. Gaz messed it up brilliantly when he tried to shake the girl’s hand, then tried to make amends by going in for a kiss with the man, who quickly moved away, leaving Gaz lingering mid-air, lips pursed, with no-one to kiss while we all looked at him a bit like you might look at a child who had just wet itself in public.

These moments mortify him, but he’s not alone. No one really knows what to do - in this country at least - they’ve got it sorted in France and other more romantic, touchy feely nations than ours, where even if they did mess it up, they’d laugh it off without any mortification at all. Does a man shake a woman’s hand? Is two kisses ever appropriate? (No, in my opinion, just the one then let’s step out of each other’s personal spaces pronto.)

The other day, Gaz and I were standing with a female associate I’d just met that day, Gaz had known for some time. We’d spent the whole day together and built up a rapport, so by goodbye time I was pretty sure it’d be a one-kiss situation, and I was happy with that. But the girl in question was Spanish, which threw some spanners in my works as I prepared to say goodbye - I didn’t know what she might try to do to me. Luckily Gaz went first and royally cocked up his goodbye, so I thought, by learning from his mistakes, I’d be fine.

He went for the one-kiss, pulled away slightly, only to realise she was going for the two-kiss, so he went back in, only to see she’d given up and was pulling away, so he pulled back, only to see that she’d seen he was coming in for the offered second-kiss, so was coming back. And he ended up in an awkward muttering of ‘ooops, one or two, don’t draw attention to it, ha ha, I’m British, BYE’.

Me, meanwhile, had witnessed and clocked her two-kiss penchant and was all ready.

But by my turn, she had clearly realised this funny little English couple were of the one-kiss variety, so she didn’t bother with the second kiss. But I did, even though I hate them, because I saw her do it to Gaz. And so we had a little kiss-dance, which resulted in me wanting to die a bit.

My favourite of all these faux-kiss-pas is when my friend Mike met his now mother-in-law for the first time. The greeting went so badly that in those vital few seconds where you’re either both on the same page and no awkwardness ensues, or you cock it up royally and years later your mate is still writing about it, Mike managed to end up patting the top of mother-in-law’s head in a mangled mess of aborted kisses and fumbled hugs. He patted the top of her head. Bloody marvelous start to their relationship.

So, Barack, I guess what I’m saying is, good job on the re-election. Either we’re as cool as you, or you’re as socially awkward as us. I’m good with either, any comparison to a world leader, albeit a comparison I’ve made myself, gets my vote.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Honeymoon Olympics

I’m sure some readers might think I’ve been banging on about marriage for a while now. This will be my last post on wedding related matters, before I return to life as the gin-drinking, mistake-making moron you all know and love.

On the hen do, I was struck by luck - all non-competitive invitees were willing to put aside their aversions to competitive sports long enough to spend a weekend humouring my desire to compete. Except for my competitive friends - they didn’t put anything aside. They just got feisty. Feistier.

On honeymoon, as if I needed proof, I realised I’d definitely married the right man, willing as he was to embark on a two week ‘Honeymoon Olympics’. Early on, we agreed that there would be a points system in place throughout the honeymoon, and whoever ended up with the most points would win a present from the other person, to the tune of £50.

As is my want in any airport, I stocked up on glossy magazines and on the plane, started flicking through Cosmo. Oh, hello, what did I find betwixt the pages of articles about sex and men and jobs and whatnot? Just a very snazzy pair of boots. The kind I HAVE to own. The kind that will make my wardrobe complete. The kind I could spend two weeks competitively thrashing my husband in any given sport to acquire.

The bets hedged, I got to winning. It was easy in the first hotel we stayed in - lavishing us as they did in things I could win at. Table tennis, snooker, checkers, mini golf, who can hold their breath under water the longest. It was almost embarrassing how far ahead I was. Or it would have been, if I didn’t have a ripped out advert of my new boots in my back pocket.

Gareth losing at checkers.
Me winning at holding my breath. Oh, that's just a mountain upon yonder.
Gareth losing at snooks.

When I owned these boots, I thought, I’ll probably do a bit more walking. People will stop me in the street to ask me where I got my boots and I’ll say, you’ll never guess, and they’ll say, no, go on, and I’ll say CLARKS! And they’ll say no! You never! Not Clarks! And I’ll say yup, they are making a come back, one leather bound foot in front of the other.

Fantasies like these drifted through my mind as I sat poolside with my gin tonico’s (that’s Portuguese for gin and tonic, I learned quickly. Who needs a phrasebook when you’ve mastered the essentials).

But it was crass of me. Cape Verde was a poverty stricken, fly ridden, barren dollop of land 300 miles off the west coast of Africa. As we walked down mountains, past ramshackle huts miles from anywhere, I thought about my boots and was disgusted with myself. Cape Verdians, living in huts four hours walk from the nearest shop, don’t beat their husbands at table tennis just so they can have a new pair of boots.

I realised I bought too much stuff, back home. I was a big spender and it was inappropriate, what with all this lopsided distribution of wealth going on in the world.

But, I did really want those boots. Did you look at the picture? They were really lovely.

So I made myself a promise. I’d win the Honeymoon Olympics, pocket the prize, then stop shopping and appreciate the smaller things in life, like my new boots.

Only, there was a hiccup. Gaz started to catch up on the leader-board. We were introduced to a local game called Oware, a game of maths. Suddenly my hand-eye coordination skills counted for nothing. Anyone who was brought up by my father has a propensity to melt pathetically at the mere mention of arithmetic. I blame father. Genius of calculus, he couldn’t understand why we hadn’t inherited his penchant for long multiplication in our heads, while he stood over us and bellowed: ‘WHAT IS 48 x 356 x 12? WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU CAN’T THINK?’

As a result, the very sight of maths makes my brain shut down, like a transformer going from sprightly, all guns blazing robot to, well, a matchbox, at best.

Gaz started to acquire points. It didn’t help that we mostly played when I had gin tonico running through my veins. The boots started to walk away from me. The prize that had once seemed so close, so easy, was disintegrating, fading away like a distant dream.

I didn’t want to buy Gaz a stupid present. £50! But we’d both benefit from the boots! He’d look great by association. I tried to help Gaz see that even if he won, we should probably just get me the boots, but it didn’t wash.

By the last day, he was three points ahead.

But there’s a reason Gaz married me. And there’s a reason I married he. He married me because he thinks it’s cute how much I like winning and how much I like boots. (Probably. Needs citation.) And I married him because he is happier making me happy than he is making himself happy.

Although, the next two points I gained definitely made him happy. That’s right, he gave me two points for a little bit of how's yer father. Well - I did really want those boots.

So then we were even. We reached the airport and I just needed one more point before wheels up to secure the boots, my future happiness, my winter wardrobe sorted.

‘If you dance in the airport, all alone, to no music, for one minute, I’ll give you the final point,’ he said.

Well this taps into a fear for both of us, it was the ultimate challenge. For me, a fear of dancing. Sober. For him, a fear of being judged by unknown members of the public. He’s a low profile kind of guy.

Yet here he was, suggesting I make a fool of us both.

Did I do it? Of course I did. I want boots. The Olympics is the Olympics.

Did I make it to one minute? No. But only because, at 40 seconds, Gaz could bear it no longer. My gyrating, my invented-on-the-spot move that encompassed putting on imaginary boots then doing a boot-wearing moonwalk. My Saturday Night Fever. He stopped me in my tracks, humiliated by the very idea that someone he’d never met and never would meet again might form an opinion of me.

I didn’t care. I got my point. And thus my boots.

Now I am not going to shop anymore, because I saw a house four hours away from any shops at all and I felt bad. But I do need a skirt to go with those boots...

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Goodbye Wedding, Hello Marriage.

Well I would absolutely definitely categorically recommend getting married.

Not only did all our lovely loved ones flock to the Isle Of Wight especially, but they all showered us in love and approval and everything one needs in order to be stood in good stead for a lifetime of matrimony.

At 7am on the morning of our wedding, Gareth and I went for a run. A run which we had announced on Facebook in the hopes our 103 guests would turn up and join us for a Chariots of Fire-esque moment of enthusiasm and team spirit.

Four people turned up, three of whom were bridesmaids and probably felt some moral obligation.

But what a beautiful run it was. I'd been running in the rain all week, (I woudn't normally, I'm a fair weather runner, but I had become increasingly does my bum look big in this as the day approached. I ran in hail one morning. Dedication.) willing sunshine to arrive, willing the forecast for Saturday (0% chance of precipitation) to be true. And it only bloody was. The sun broke free from the horizon as we jogged along the seaside. I looked at my very-nearly husband, my three bridesmaids and my one fiance-of-a-bridesmaid and I thought wow. This. Is. Awesome. We are having a moment here guys.

Then I got a bit raspy because I kept trying to talk while running and I don't usually do that. But we were having a moment and I wanted to let my runner-buds know it.

Post run, Gareth was kicked out of the bridal suite (yes, we slept together the night before. We like to slap tradition around the face) and sent packing, so the girls and I could beautify. 'See you at the altar,' I said, waving him off. Getting ready with my bridesmaids was a magical morning of make-up. I watched the little beauties transform from sweaty runners into dazzling ladies in red, ready to catwalk that aisle and reduce the entire wedding party to tears at their sheer beauty. Being so blooming organised, we were ready to go an hour before the chauffeur arrived. That's just how we roll. No dramas, no tantrums or tears. Just a bottle of champagne and a mini-speech from me about what legends they all are.

The ceremony... Ah, the ceremony! Managed not to shed a tear because I didn't want to ruin £100 worth of make-up, but seeing so many friends in tears was the box ticked enough for me. So I committed to spending the rest of my life with Gazza, the lucky devil.  I vowed to be a good person for him... and hoped the times when I'm grumpy and miserable because I'm tired and have eaten too much or not enough definitely count as me being a good person. We kissed, to seal the deal, the crowd went bananas, and then we were pelted by confetti by my rascal of a nephew. It was like being punched by rose petals. See picture.

The sun shone - thanks for that one, God. Who'd have thought he'd sort the weather out for such a fervent atheist wedding? Very kind of him indeed. The wine flowed, the people laughed and smiled and danced and posed for photographs. We ate, we cried (ok, I didn't cry) we cheered, we heckled the speeches. The fabulous speeches, to be treasured forever. My sister took to the stage to perform a rap about love. It had to be seen to be believed, it was mesmerising. Then we ate cheese.

The confetti throwing nephew came up to me while I was talking to my friend Olly and complained that he was bored. Olly asked what he'd like to do about it. Troy suggested, innocently, but with definite intent: 'Well, could you come outside and chase me?' Such a simple request, but he knew it would relieve the boredom. He's a clever kid.

Surveying the dance floor, I realised that all these people were getting their groove on - to Bohemian Rhapsody - to celebrate little old Gaz and me. I was hit with overwhelming gratitude. I was in a room full of people I absolutely adored, who might never fill one room again. I was smug that I didn't get too drunk and forget it all. Well, until the 2am beach-side shots, but I think I was allowed to get drunk by then. Three shots of Drambuie in as many minutes and I was suddenly ready for bed.

People love to know if a married couple consummate the wedding on the wedding night. I'm always slightly relieved to hear that they don't, because they were too busy having fun. Our truth? Did we heck. I don't even remember getting into bed and was quite surprised to see Gaz lying next to me the next morning. Or maybe we did and I just don't remember. Rest assured, we made up for it once the Drambuie headache wore off. It would now be complicated and expensive to break up, as Gaz charmingly pointed out.

As we packed up our bags and left the Royal Yacht Squadron (the most prestigious yacht club in the world, as my father pointed out in his speech, just to let people know how lucky they were to be there) Gareth turned to me and said: 'Goodbye wedding. Hello marriage.'

I couldn't have put it better myself. Hello marriage. I'm ready for you.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Girls are great, aren’t they? I have certainly realised so, after a shaky start.

When I was a teenage dirtbag, I used to think girls were boring. I preferred the company of boys. The banter was better, they liked drinking and pretending to be Jack Bauer. I didn’t think I was missing out on anything by not being friends with girls.

At one point, I only had one girl’s phone number in my phone and it was definitely gathering dust. Everyone else - a lad. LADS. Bloody lads, making jokes, being hilarious, drinking beer. That was my peer group of choice and I certainly didn’t want to trade it in to be doing what I thought girls did - painting nails, squealing, talking about bras and periods. No thanks, I had too many gigs to go to and too many empty bottles of booze to collect on my shelf in my dirty little hovel of a bedroom.

Then, slowly, I met a bunch of girls who were legends. One here, one there. One at uni, one through a friend. One or two through a job, one through a sister, a brother or a lover. And what did all these girls have in common? Well, they could all and constantly do out-banter men, they’re all sharp as a pin, intriguing, wonderful, creative beings who would out tumble Jack Bauer any day of the week. They have shown me, individually, over the years, that girls are an absolutely essential part of a girl’s life.

These here girls have just given me the best weekend of my life, my hen do. All creatures great and small, competitive and non, got stuck in with an Olympic extravagance of competitive sports and games.

I’m competitive - there’s no doubt about it. First person to finish reading this sentence wins! (Get in touch for prizes.) I love competing, it’s great fun. I guess I must have made that pretty obvious because my hen do was a point scoring bonanza. We played rounders and croquet and Articulate and official games like that, but there was also a gung-ho impromptu hunger for games at any given moment. ‘Who can do the most push ups?’ I asked, nominating my tough as a gun army friend Becks to take one for our team. (She did 50 in 60 seconds and scored a whopping great point for reds.)

 Smells like team spirit.

‘Whoever goes for a swim in the sea gets a point!’ was declared while we were enjoying a picnic on the beach. Cue lots of girls stripping off and sprinting into the sea in search of a point for their team. It was September, it was freezing, but there were points to be had. When I was a yoof I just thought if I wanted my life to be all about points and teams and prizes, then I was going to have to stick with men because girls just aren’t into that sort of thing. Watching all my girlfriends charge into the icy sea made me realise that just ain’t true.

As day turned to night, ‘who can tell the difference between cheap gin and Hendricks?’ and ‘who will open their gullet and let Amy the Vodka Pusher pour caramel vodka down their throat?’ were all efforts blessed with points.

It was neck and neck. Reds in the lead... followed by a few good kills in the murder mystery and suddenly blues are back in the game. Reds waste no time in declaring ‘who can do a headstand for longest?’ and storming back into the lead. Points for staying up latest, points for being the quickest to put your shoes on, and my personal favourite, points for taking the initiative to turn your bedroom into a pop-up nightclub, complete with a ‘one in, one out’ policy, strobe lighting (Boo the Foxy ginger ninja standing by the light switch patiently turning it on and off quite quickly) and Amy standing in the hallway trying to encourage punters in with a bit of promo.

This might sound like some people’s idea of hell, and not just women - I know some men are not competitive either. But to me, it was pure heaven. And it was pure heaven because as I surveyed the various moments of mayhem, brilliance, laughter, competitive spirit and sheer skills on display, I realised what an essential part of life girlfriends are. Boys are still great, obviously, I’m marrying one and I had two on the hen do (heterosexual, manly ones), but girls are what girls need - be it for advice on which shoes to wear or what creams really do work, to who can throw grapes in the air and catch them in their mouths or who can keep getting rounders over and over again when most of their team are out and they are your only hope. They are every bit as competitive and fun and funny and outrageous as boys, but more so, and without all the things that make boys rubbish, like taking competitiveness too far and punching each other and having willies all the time and not caring which shoes you wear.

Reds won (obviously) and we all got goodies, even the blues, because girls are lovely and even losers get prizes… And we finished off the weekend with a spectacular pub lunch, complete with an inappropriate amount of flirting with the waiter, because it is important that a big group of girls completely objectifies and intimidates waiters - in return for a round of free drinks.

Just as lunch was served, the chief bridesmaid presented me with a photo album she'd made full of pictures and a little message from each hen.

Well, at this point I just fell apart. Maybe I’d had too much to drink or hadn’t slept enough for the last 48 hours, or maybe I was just completely bowled over by the fact there are 18 such terrific people in this world.

Tears rolled down my silly little cheeks and I couldn’t even eat my pizza as I read through the album. Let’s just take a moment here to really take in the gravity of what I just said. I couldn’t even eat my pizza. That’s never happened before.

I tried to make a speech thanking everyone for their contribution but I couldn't pull myself together enough to form a sentence so I just punched myself in the head instead and mumbled ‘man up, Kim!’ Everyone seemed satisfied with what I was trying to say…

Girls are ace.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What a tangled web we wee.

Went to see Michelle Williams's new film the other day, Take This Waltz.

Take this schmaltz, more like. By the end of it, I wanted to climb into the film and throttle the lead character, while yelling 'strap on a pair!' She says 'I wuv you' to her long suffering husband, for god's sake. I mean, what a dick. It's pronounced love, you're not six years old, you don't have a speech impediment and it's not cute.

The film wanted to be Blue Valentine, Michelle Williams's other off beat, quirky independent film made of late. But that one had Ryan Gosling in it and this one didn't - the least of the differences that made this one fall flat.

So Michelle Williams's character is having an internal moan in her twee little head because she's been with her husband five years and they get on really well and their careers are going well and they have a beautiful home. Boo hoo, Michelle Williams.

Her big problem is, they wee in front of each other. She has a wee, he brushes his teeth, and you're supposed to be thinking, oh, poor Michelle Williams, her marriage is reduced to having a wee in front of her husband while he brushes his teeth, when what she really deserves is the hot crumpet who lives across the street and undresses her with his eyes all the time.

She thinks the grass is greener over on the other side of the street, and after a very long two hours of wistfully looking just off camera wondering if there's more to life than having a wee in front of your husband, she leaves her lovely, funny, sweet husband and goes to have mad, rampant sex with the man across the street. They do it missionary, they do it upside down, they do it with women, they do it with men. Michelle Williams is so sexually satisfied and everything has worked out great because she followed her libido into the arms of an adulterer and is no longer having a wee in front of her husband.

Only - spoiler alert - time ticks on and eventually hot, mysterious lover from across the road becomes long term boyfriend and the rampant sex is replaced by having a wee in front of him while he picks food out of his teeth with dental floss.

Ah, you got your comeuppance, Michelle Williams! You thought the grass was greener, but it wasn't, it was just a bit less trampled on, and now the new grass is the old grass and you are weeing on it.

I remember the first time I had a wee in front of G. It took a lot of courage. He'd already started weeing in front of me and we lived together, if I could just get over it then it would make sharing the bathroom a lot easier. So I did it and it wasn't that bad and he still fancied me and our relationship continued. Not exactly the making of a Hollywood rom-com.

Last weekend, we went out with some friends. We drank a lot of booze and a lot of water, in an attempt to negate the booze. We slept in our camper-van outside their house and the last thing my friend said to me as we went out to sleep was: 'Do you want a key to the house in case you want to come in for a wee?'

I waved her away with nonchalance, told her we'd probably just scoot off in the morning, I didn't need to come in for any ablutions or pit-stops. My brain forgot I'd drunk 17 pints of water and my bladder was too busy drowning to send out a message to said brain requesting a key to said loo.

At 5am, I awoke with a dangerously full bladder. In my mad panic for a receptacle, I woke up my sleeping future husband, who then realised he too needed a wee.

We were on a residential street. There were no trees for G to pee towards, no bushes for me to pee under. 'Just pee in the street,' G mumbles. But I could feel the judging eyes of 100 residents, even though it was 5am, dark, and they were probably all asleep. What if I woke one of them up and they started shouting at me from their window, mid stream? It would be traumatic. I might accidentally dribble down my leg.

So I grabbed the only thing I could find to wee in. A saucepan.

And I realised, while one of us was weeing in a saucepan and the other was weeing in an Evian bottle, that we've both seen too much. It's probably best to just stay together. No use going with some hot guy across the road who doesn't know I pee in a saucepan. Because eventually, he will. So I'll just stick with the one I've got and try not to pee in front of him too often. Just to keep the magic alive.
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Monday, August 20, 2012

Our marital hootenany

Here is a picture of page 43 in Grazia this week. Owls. Owls everywhere. Owls in fashion. Owls on T shirts, owls on Kate Bosworth, owl earrings and owl belts. Twit twoo, you might think, that’s a nice T shirt. Going to get me one of those. Not I. I am not happy.

Usually I’m delighted to be accidentally in fashion. A pair of wedges I bought in Clarks recently were featured in Bella magazine a few weeks later, on their ‘this week we’re loving...’ page. Women who buy shoes in Clarks don’t usually expect to be labelled fashionable. I was delighted to be accidentally fashionable and immediately tweeted my fashionable friends to show off that my shoes were on a fashion page and I was bang on trend.

But this is different. I did not accidentally follow fashion, fashion accidentally followed me and I need to put a stop to it, pronto. How do you put a stop to fashion? Do I call Vicky Beckham? Ask her to do me a quick fave and under absolutely no circumstances be seen in an owl jumper?

It’s all Gareth’s fault. He started it, by liking owls - actual owls, not owl jumpers and owl earrings. Actual living owls. He can reel off a list of owls that are native to the British Isles, he’s intrigued by their faces and fascinated by their hunting prowess, the design of their feathers and that they fly silently. He likes the fact the collective noun for a bunch of owls is a parliament of owls and that they have three eyelids per eye, one for blinking, one for sleeping and one for keeping the eye clean and healthy.

All very well. Gaz liked owls and banging on about owl facts (see above). I liked buying him presents, so when I saw a little furry owl in the gift shop of an owl sanctuary we went to, I bought it for him, so he could put it in our little bonsai tree and pretend he had the actual owl he so longed to own. Slowly, friends and family got wind of his adoration and he / we were given so much owl paraphernalia that things started to get a bit silly - you could sit on our sofa and without even moving your head, ratchet up double figures of the amount of owl crap you could see in our living room. I thought it was fun - it’s not like it was cats we were into (crazy old ladies are into cats. A cool young hip couple like us had found a totes unusual animal to obsess over) I didn’t really share G’s appreciation of what made actual owls so great, but I did like hunting for obscure little owl titbits for the flat. In fact my hunting prowess would have made an owl proud, hur hur.

Then we got engaged. As wedding plans developed, we thought it would be hilarious, ironic and unusual to have an owl themed wedding - stopping short of having an actual owl deliver the rings, because we don’t like our owls to be kept in captivity with a chain on their ankle.

We made this decision, this owl themed wedding decision, a year ago. Long before the owl fashion erupted. Twelve MONTHS before Grazia suggested you spend £795 on an owl jumper. (That’s one month's rent. On a jumper.) Three hundred and sixty five DAYS before Grazia told it’s 500,000 readers that £195 spent on an owl scarf was a really good investment.

At first I just thought it was rather convenient that I had been able to get a few owly things in Accessorize over the last few months. Now there has been an explosion of all things owl and I realise I have been feeding in to the very fashion craze I didn't want to happen.

Thanks Grazia. Now we look like we’re doing whatever you tell us, but tenfold, because we’re not just buying your jumpers, we’re decorating our entire wedding to your gospel word. We’re going to look like crazy fashion mad Grazia groupies who have no control of our fashion urges. Owls are in, you say? Right, get me a million of them, I’m going to decorate my wedding with so many owls you’ll be eating mice for main course and growing extra eyelids by the first dance.

For the record, our wedding may be airing six weeks after Grazia told you to like owls, but we started the trend, alright? And only because G really likes real, actual, wild owls.

Bloody fashion, coming along and making me look fashionable, right when I most don’t want to be. Where were you, fashion, when I really needed you? When I was at school and all the cool kids were wearing Levi’s and Dr. Martens and I was wearing my t-shirts inside out and my dresses back to front?

I’m just stating, for the record, that I really like wombats. There, I’ve said it. It’s out there. Look out, Autumn / Winter 2013, you’ve got wombat mania coming. And I’ll be leading the fashion pack with my wombat jumper and my wombat earrings.

(Something tells me this won’t take off. The wombat silhouette looks a bit like a poo.)

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Strangers on a train

When was the last time you had a stranger sleep in your house? A one night stand? A party so kerrr-azy it was gatecrashed by people you didn't know?

I can't remember the last time for me - probably because the party was so epic. But the point is, it's been years.

Well, it had been years, until a few nights ago. Now it's just been three days.

For her own sake, I'll call my friend A Nonny Mouse. A pseudonym. Her real name is Rachel Peters. Don't want you guys judging Rachel Peters for having a strange man back for a romp.

A Nonny Mouse was staying with us for the night and coming by train. I drove to pick her up and she called me as she alighted her carriage. Hmmm, she sounded different. I'm no detective but there was a definite gin-like giggle in her voice. She was inebriated and I knew it.

'Er, I've met someone,' she tells me. I'm so rusty at all this strangers on a train business I presume she means she's bumped into a friend. No. A stranger. On a train. 'He's got nowhere to stay tonight… could he come back to yours?'

Well, I already know what Gareth's going to say to this. He's a photographer. He has, I don't know what, tripods and stuff, the last thing he'll want is a stranger coming back and eyeing it all up.

A Nonny Mouse, who I'm going to call Nonny from now on because it takes less time to type, arrives at the car park with this man of questionable character. He tells me his name is Ozzie, but it's not his real name, and no I don't need to know what his real name is. Within one whiff of his scent I can tell he's been drinking for several hours and probably doesn't wash much, but he's good looking enough and I can see why Nonny has been flirting with him since Swindon. That was probably about the time the booze kicked in and she stopped being able to smell the lavender / musk / sweat emanating from his every pore.

Not one to be a party pooper, despite knowing Gareth won't be happy, I say alright, he can come back, but he better not nick anything.

Ozzie assures me he won't. Nonny assures me he won't - she tells me she trusts him, which is quite the endorsement from the drunk girl who has known him for one sixth of a day.

Still, she had this cute look in her eyes like she really didn't want the fun to end and I wasn't going to be the one who sent Ozzie off to sleep rough while Nonny was left with nothing more exciting than coming back to the chapel for a cup of herbal tea and a cold sofabed.

Ozzie, Nonny and I arrive back at ours. Gareth seems to be taking it quite well - Ozzie is very charming and makes sure he makes an effort to show us he's not the 'Shit, since that bloke came over I can't find my piano' type, but more the 'Wow, since that bloke came over and did Reiki on me I'm really feeling more connected to my chakra.'

(Note - no, he didn't do Reiki on us. As if I'd let anyone hover their stupid hippy hands over me. But it looked like the kind of thing he'd do. He lived in a van, shat in a ditch and washed in a bucket for god's sake. Every day of his life.)

Ozzie and Nonny get flirty and continue to make their way through the rum they were enjoying on the train, so Gareth and I made our excuses and went to bed. With every single piece of Gareth's camera equipment. We stacked it up in the wardrobe, I had to spoon a tripod. He then wedged a laundry basket under the door handle and put his trusty baseball bat down his pyjama bottoms. Armed and dangerous - Gareth was ready to take Ozzie on, just as soon as he got through our barricaded bedroom door and went for a lens.

The next morning Ozzie left with nothing more than he came with and we all had a jolly good laugh about how worried Gareth was about his very expensive kit. It's easy to laugh when nothing gets stolen.

Later, I went to meet up with some girlfriends and regaled to them the story of my unusual night with nothing but a laundry basket between me and what could have been a killer rapist thief.

Soon, all the girls were offering up their own stories of the strangers they had had back to their houses - back in the day, of course, not recently. We are all ridiculously predictable these days.

I'll leave you with this. My friend Cesca's anecdote beats Ozzie's 'I didn't steal anything' story hands down. Her husband, Mike, he makes a regular appearance here, he's a good bloke. The kind you instantly want to hang about with. And so it was that Mike met some guys in a kebab shop or on the tube or something, I forget the details. Mike, being the generous, trusting man he is, invites these 'legends' back to his for a nightcap. Strangers come back to Mike's house and they all get thoroughly drunk, to the point where everyone passes out.

Hours later, Mike wakes up to a knock on the door. It was the guys he'd been partying with the night before, the strangers he'd invited back to his for a night of fun. The 'legends'.

'Er, we stole your wallet,' said the strangers, handing it back to Mike. 'But we felt really bad about it because we had such fun with you last night, so we brought it back.'

Isn't that just lovely? Criminals, brought to their knees by Mike's banter.

I like to think Ozzie would have stolen our house if we weren't so charming, but I'm not sure I came across as charming when I said: 'Right, we're going to bed. Don't steal anything, I'm a journalist, I'll find out where you live. Night night!'

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Cosmo Blog Awards.

I have some news and it's pretty ruddy terrific. I have been nominated in the lifestyle category of the Cosmo Blog Awards 2012, for this very blog, the one you are reading right now with your beautiful eyes.

It's just about the greatest thing in the world, don't you agree? But rather than just salute myself, say 'thanks for your vote' and move on, I thought I'd tell you a little story about my journey to this moment.

It all started when I discovered Mum's typewriter. I used to churn out a story a day and although I don't know if Mum kept the stacks of paper I piled up, I wouldn't blame her for fueling fires with them. They were, in hindsight, absolute drivel. My mind would wander and wander and my protagonist would not have any kind of disruption to their equilibrium, which needed resolving, possibly with added love interest. (Formula for all good stories. Think about it.)

Instead, my protagonist would just sort of do nothing, but I could write about him or her for pages and pages. Then I'd declare the story finished, shout: 'MUM! I HAVE FINISHED IT!' and chuck it at her. She would then painstakingly read it. (If I was the mother in this scenario, reading it would          otherwise be known as sleeping) and tell me that it was another cracking story.

I grew up, I did, and honed the old story telling craft. Mostly by having the gift of the gab at parties and seeing which stories went down well and which ones bored the bejesus out of my audience. I used to start anecdotes about two years in time before the point of interest, until someone told me to know what was waffle and what was icing.

Then I got a new boyfriend, who I am now marrying. And the reason I am marrying him can be summed up by this: he bought me this here blog. He listened when I told him I liked writing but didn't have an outlet for it. He bought the blog, set me up, and away I went. That's the kind of guy I want to marry.

That was a few years ago now. I kept up the writing, and now, boom shakalaka, Cosmo have noticed my efforts. I am so thrilled that I had to take an afternoon off when I heard the news, just so I could spend four hours doing cartwheels and humping said boyfriend's leg, in an effort to not only show him my appreciation but also try and find a way to burn off all the pent up energy. I'd do much the same cartwheel slash hump regime if I won the lottery. 

Who knows what will happen next. I'll probably win the Cosmo award, be invited to become a columnist, then the people who represent Caitlin Moran will call and ask me to write a book. 'Here's £100,000, upfront, you talented little sausage!' they'll say. Presumably.

Or I'll just carry on beavering away. Either way, the cartwheels have been turned now, the leg has been humped. I'm a very happy blogger.

Please keep reading, and tell your friends to too. And that bloke at the bus stop. And your boss. And feel free to blackmail them into voting for me. I absolutely endorse it.

Please do click the link below to vote for me - you have to enter your email address, then find me on the lifestyle page. I am Kim Willis, by the way. Forever in your debt.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

The King and I.

Ah… the Olympics. What a jolly exciting time.

For those Brits lucky enough to be in the thick of it, it'll be an Olympics to remember forever. For me, it's old hat. It's not my first Olympics, you see. And I'm far less involved in the London Olympics than I was in the Sydney Olympics. While some of you saved lives and built villages on your gap yarrrrs, I pulled some strings and got myself a job at the Sydney Olympics.

My dad's kind of a big deal in the sailing world and he had it organised that I'd be a trolley dolly. I move in high circles when I pull strings. My job involved helping sailors get their boats from the boat park to the water, then putting their boat trolleys back while they went and won medals. I was quite good at it, actually. Trolleys can be difficult to navigate, I'll have you know.

Being in the midst of the Olympian mayhem was unforgettable. And although I was just a humble volunteer trolley dolly, my dad was Mr Big Wig, so I got to be his plus one at all the fancy events.

I've gone with Dad to a lot of fancy events in my time - he's always been single and I've always been willing to be his well behaved daughter, showing off to his friends how articulate and well brought up I am, in return for some free flights to foreign climes. But there's one thing I always request - at these lavish dinner parties, where the average age of attendee is 60, and the average topic of conversation is yachts, knots and political boycotts, I just want to sit next to my dad.

And so it was, as we walked from our hotel to the black tie, invite only, exclusive dinner laid on by the Sydney Olympics, that I reminded Dad about my request. 'Don't forget Dad, I want to sit next to you.'

As Dad is the aforementioned big deal, we were on the top table. I'm fine with that. I'll bosh out my best anecdotes, eat with a knife and fork and won't even lick my plate. I can pretend I'm not feral when needed. But as we approached our designated seats at the top table, some bloke sitting on the opposite side of the table beckoned me over. He didn't even speak, he just pointed at me, pointed at the seat next to him, and immediately people were shuffling out of the way to make room for me next to him.

Well, of course, I had nothing to worry about, Dad and I had our agreement. I looked over at Dad expectantly, ready for him to explain to this man that I already had a seat and it was next to my old man.

Dad just sort of waved me over there dutifully, and then a waiter had my elbow and I was on my way to sitting nowhere near my dad, and instead next to a man who had ordered for me. Not happy.

I sat down in a huff at this black tie dinner, Sydney Olympics. Who was this bloke who thinks he can decide who sits next to him?

In retrospect, Dad might have thought to mention to me that we were going to be sitting with royalty.  

I proceed to make light conversation with the stranger who had demanded my presence.

'I'm Kim,' I say. 'What's your name?' He laughs so hard the table actually shook, as everyone around him sort of laughed along politely in an 'anything you laugh at must be funny, your majesty,' sort of way.

'Don't you know who I am?' he asked.

God, bit arrogant, I thought.

'No,' I say. Because I don't. Not a clue. So far all I've surmised is that he's a bit demanding.

He hands me his accreditation. This being the Olympics, we've all got our ID hanging around our necks.

HM King Constantine.

Hmmm, I think to myself, none the wiser, seeing as I'm thick as two short planks. HM - those must be his initials. I've got initials, he must have some too.

King - a nickname? King Constantine - a double barreled surname?

I hand his ID back to him, the penny a long way from dropping.

'She still doesn't know who I am!' he bellows, banging his fist down on the table in delight. Then the woman to his right leans over. 'You are sitting next to the King of Greece,' she whispers.

Well, that was embarrassing. Thanks for the heads up Dad.

I managed to turn the situation around with a heavy dose of flirting. He loved that I didn't know who he was and I was soon scribbling down his phone number while he made promises about helping me on my gap year. As I was wearing a pocketless dress, I had to hand the King's scribbled down phone number over to my dad. Now that's one scrap of paper I wish I still had.

Embarrassment subsided, King got bored of me and started talking to his right. So I turn to the handsome chap to my left.

'Whoops,' I laughed, pointing to the King with my thumb as I rolled my eyes and shook my head in a 'what's he like, silly King!' sort of way. Not sure if you're allowed to point at kings with your thumbs.

Young handsome man to my left smiles sweetly.

'I'm Kim,' I say. 'What's your name?'

And so began the entire sequence all over again with HM King Constantine's son, the Prince. Well done Kim, well done, a double whammy of social faux pas. I even asked them why, if they're the Royal Family, they don't live in Greece. (Exiled since in 1974. Political minefield. Probably best not to mention it.) I was 18 years old. I didn't read newspapers, I was ignorant and my subscription to the Week didn't commence for another ten years.

So that's my best Olympic story. I have another one about how I snogged a medallist, but I don't think Dad would like me to recount it.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Diary of a wimpy kid.

My name is Kim and I'm a wet blanket. A wuss. A scaredy cat.

I don't know why. Or when it started. But somewhere along the line, I've become a big girl's blouse.

Let's say that you've just asked me if I want to do a bungee jump. Cue mild sweats, fast thinking ways to avoid the situation, and notes to self never to answer the phone to you again.

Or maybe you've got a really good idea for my hen do - we're going swimming with sharks. (Note to hens - we better not be.) My throat would tighten, a sound night's sleep would be out the window, as would our friendship.

My fear of adrenalin was highlighted this weekend, with a visit to see a girlfriend who is in the RAF and flies fighter jets every day.

This friend, she gets up in the morning, puts on her boiler suit, probably a pair of Aviators, and heads down to the RAF airfield where she pops herself into the cockpit of a killing machine and takes to the skies. One day, she'll go to war.

Now, you might have already painted a picture in your mind of what this friend of mine might be like. Doing one handed press-ups in her own time, eating steak for breakfast. Doing arm wrestles with her co-pilot. Allow me to quash any stereotypes. She has soft, floaty blonde hair. She loves a good pedicure, she wears dresses and drinks white wine. She's planning a wedding, a big white wedding, she has a diamond ring on her finger.

Not exactly Iceman. (Top Gun reference there for the lads.) Yet, Iceman is exactly what she is. A fearless Maverick. While I'm more wouldn't say boo to a Goose. (Top Gun analogy losing its way there lads.) 

'What scares you?' I asked her, wondering if spiders and bungee jumps and roller coasters and caves and heights and sharks give her the willies, as they do me.

'I nearly crashed mid air the other day,' she said, off hand. 'That was a bit scary.'
Tough as old boots, this one. And just two generations ago, my own flesh and blood was just as hardcore. Grandma Willis, she flew Spitfires in the war. She was one of the first women to get her RAF wings and paved the way for my friend's career. Meanwhile, her actual descendant, at best, edges towards spiders with a pint glass and a piece of card before running off in the other direction squealing: 'Nevermind, he can move in, we'll move out!'

I never have and never will jump out of a plane. I know people who have. 'I was terrified,' they say. No, you weren't, you can't have been. Not properly terrified, like me, because if you really were terrified, you would have locked yourselves in the loo and refused to come out, (Actually, I'm also afraid of locking myself in the loo. Usually I just prop the door shut with my foot and wee while sort of straddling the space between the door and loo. It makes for a sorry mess but better than running out of oxygen and drinking loo water while awaiting rescue, which is what I presume will happen if I lock the door.)

At best, get me drunk and I'll suddenly turn into Jack Bauer, doing roly polys into hedges and waking up with scratches on my arms. Pretty brave, Jack Bauer. As am I, when I risk life and limb impersonating him. But I'm also drunk. And drunk's no good when you need to fly a plane, or swim with a shark, or get on a roller coaster. Definitely not the last one, you'd sick all over yourself.

When the world ends, people like my RAF friend will be alright. Me? As soon as I run out of contact lenses, I'll be done for. No one is going to care that I can put together a few words in a fancy sentence when they're battling invading alien hoardes and whatnot.

No, it really is time to strap on a pair.

And so, I've taken step one towards ditching the poltroon behaviour. I have just been reconditioned to believe I am not afraid of the ocean. A hippy told me that it was just a childhood fear of a swimming pool cleaning machine (it looked like a shark) and I needed to let go.

Good news - it worked. Just call me Billy Ocean. I have booked in a windsurfing lesson on my upcoming honeymoon, in a bay that used to be called Shark Bay, until they decided it was putting off the tourists and renamed it Kite Bay. And who would be afraid of getting eaten by sharks in Kite Bay? Not I.

(I found a picture of a shark kite. How fitting. I'm even a little bit afraid of it.)

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cruise Control

Katie Holmes and I have a lot in common. We've both got brown hair, we're both taller than our men in heels. (That's us in heels, not our men in heels.) Both been touched by Scientology.

I was wandering up Oxford Street a few years back. Minding my own business, probably laden down with ill advised purchases that I wore once then gave to charity. I do like to do my bit for charity. Not so good at doing my bit for fashion.

'Would you like to do a personality test?' someone asked me.

'I love personality tests!' I exclaimed, as I was led into a little room and sat down. I was already late for meeting my friend Laurence, but a few minutes wouldn't hurt and I do take every opportunity going to fill out questionnaires about my personality so I can see who I am. I like it when it turns out I'm great.

I no sooner had the pen in hand when Laurence called to see where I was.

'I'm doing a personality test!' I exclaimed.

Quick as a flash, Laurence saved me from a cult.

'You're on Oxford Street aren't you?' he asked. 'It's not a personality test. It's a Scientology test, you dick. Get up and walk away now.'

'But I want to find out who I am,' I stuttered.

'I'll tell you who you are when you meet me in the pub. Do not stay there.'

So I made my excuses and left. Dodged a bullet there, didn't I, Katie Holmes?

Katie wasn't so lucky. She went a bit further down the path. Rumour had it she had a silent birth, as is the expectation on mothers in the Church of Scientology.

I'm not a fan of religions. In my opinion, religions appear to be rather flawed. Scientology in particular takes the biscuit. Any religion that expects mothers to squeeze something the size of a watermelon out of something the size of a lemon in silence is spouting pseudo-science and needs to be questioned.

L. Ron Hubbard. We all know who he is don't we? The science fiction writer who claimed: 'If you want to get rich, start a religion.' (Nice one, Jesus.) L Ron's dead now, which Scientologists believe means he has been reincarnated into one of the other forms he'll take on in his billion year life cycle. I believe that it means he is dead now. 

It's easy to see why Tom Cruise is such a fan of Scientology. He's been given the number two rank at Scientology HQ. The religion adores him, makes him feel like the most important immortal alien trapped in a man's body since time immemorial. I heard that when Scientology has it's annual banquets, the more you pay for your ticket, the closer you get to sit to TOM CRUISE.

Well I fancy. What a privilege. You mean the short guy with the crooked teeth?

I can't afford that. How much do I have to pay to sit near the Saturday Night Fever guy with the penchant for sex with massage therapists?

Crikey I can't afford that either. Ok, let's see. Can I afford a seat near Jason Lee, from My Name Is Earl? Juliette Lewis, the awesome actress cum rock star with a potty mouth? I want to sit near her, she's cool! No Kim, you can't afford that. And what are you doing here anyway? You didn't even complete the first personality test. You went to the pub instead.

I did, it's true. Religion is not for me. Gin is the only spirit I believe in. It's not holy, but it gets the job done.*

*Disclaimer. Will change mind and religion if Ryan Gosling, Channing Tatum or Jessie from Breaking Bad request it. Or all three. Will definitely ditch all rhyme and reason for the trio. Mmm, what a scrumptious Scientology sandwich that would be.

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Friday, July 13, 2012

50 shades

50 shades of this, 50 shades of that… No, I haven't read it. No, I'm not going to. In my blissful state of ignorance, I'm going to write about it instead. Without having any idea what I'm talking about. I jump on enough band wagons as it is (skinny jeans. Ballet pumps. Crush on Channing Tatum. Chai tea. Actually I like to think I started the last one) but this wagon has way too many band members as it is.

I was given Lady Chatterley's Lover for my birthday. It was written in 1928. I'll get around to reading that soon. Then maybe in 84 years I'll see what all the fuss is about with this Grey character.

It's not that I'm averse to c-literature. (Although I am averse to that amalgamation of words. Yuk.) I love porn. I love whatever I can get my grubby mitts on. And I like, separately, reading. I'm reading two books at the moment. Bad Science. (Excellent. Now there's a band wagon I wish everyone would jump on) and the Psychopath Test, which I read aloud to my boyfriend every night, like some kind of warped bedtime story. Sometimes we have the window open and I do wonder if our neighbours can hear my dulcet tones as I soothe my boyfriend into the land of dreams by talking about murderers and sociopathic behaviour.

And I even once read one of these erotic novels that are now topic de jour. Yeah, that's right, I read an erotic novel long before any of you knew your Grey from your riding crop. I had joined a book club and one of the girls suggested we all read The Piano Teacher. Dutifully, I went hunting for this book I had never heard of.

I went to a cute little church-run bookshop in a cute little church-run town with my soon to be mother in law. We were looking through the books when suddenly I stumbled upon the Piano Teacher. LOOK! I said to mother in law, shoving it in her face. IT'S MY READING MATERIAL! What are the chances?!

She sort of looked at me a bit funny and went about her day.

I bought it and took it home to read in time for my next book club meet-up.

From what I recall, The Piano Teacher is about a girl who starts having piano lessons in a sinister university where the teacher whips her (yes, all erotic novels love a good whipping, it seems) when she gets her C Major wrong. Bit of an odd book to suggest at a book club with people you hardly know, I thought. But I persevered. I quite enjoyed it. The girl ended up having to get her kit off to be spanked in front of an array of lecturers who were all there to watch her perform / get whipped. I think that was the plot, I'm a bit hazy now. All I remember was there was a lot of spanking.

It turns out there are two novels called The Piano Teacher. The rest of my book club read a book about 1950s Hong Kong under British rule.

Anyway, I think we all agreed I was the real winner, enjoyed as I had a bit of soft porn.

Christian Grey is described by all the media outlets that are shoving him in my face as a modern-art loving, helicopter flying, rich, powerful man who likes to bonk twice in a row. He sounds like a right knob. I've met men who like modern art. I've met men who own their own helicopters. They were rich, yes, powerful, yes. But also pot bellied, dull and sported receding hairlines. Not exactly the stuff of fantasies.

My fantasy man, who goes by the name of Channing Tatum, is my crush-of-the-month because he took loads of drugs in the excellent 21 Jump Street, then gate-crashed band practise and jumped through a giant symbol, shouting 'Fuck You Miles Davis!'

That's enough for me. Perhaps there is something wrong with my loins. I'm turned on by funny. It does help that Channing, or Channers, can I call him that? is built like a dream boat, of course, but that's what I want. A fit bloke crashing into a drum kit. You can keep your helicopter piloting, chocolate fudge caramel voiced sadist, thanks.
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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Paper. Well and truly Chased.

Ever wondered how long it takes to walk around the flagship Paperchase store? It's three floors high, people. And when you are absorbing every nook and cranny, like some kind of slow-mo Supermarket Sweep, it takes two hours, twenty two minutes.

I'm a very good shopper. I've been shopping my whole life. Honed my craft, perfected my skills. I know how to navigate every aisle so as to avoid unfortunate doublings up or worse, missing a potential buy. I can even hold conversations while I shop - although my ears are listening to whoever is speaking at me, my eyes are elsewhere, darting left, darting right, never missing a trick.

Problem is, most shopping trips cost me money too, so I've also had to acquire the skill of restraint. I'm not particularly good at this, but it's got to be done when you're saving for a wedding, or just generally more steadfast things than H&M's latest garments. Like a house. Still, no point having a house if you don't have a pretty table runner for your kitchen table. I know how to make a house a home. I just don't own a house. But I own a lot of crap for the one I'll never be able to afford because I bought too much crap instead of saving for a deposit.

So usually I have to practise self restraint. But then along came Amy. Amy's birthday present to me was a voucher for Paperchase, our mutual spiritual home, filled to busting as it is with greeting cards, birthday cards, fancy pens and luxury notebooks. Amy and I share a love of stationery. Any excuse, we'll be using snail mail to communicate, just so we can send each other a little card with an owl on it. Nothing says 'I saw this and thought of you,' quite like seeing something and posting it to someone. Royal Mail got that slogan damn right.

The voucher present was mega, involve as it did not only Paperchase, my favourite shop, but shopping, my favourite past time. We thought it only right to take an actual day off in order to go to Paperchase, the mecca, the flagship, the church of Kim and Amy. And go voucher crazy.

I've never been to this Paperchase before, the best I've got is a pokey one-floor number in Bath. It was a mecca, housing everything you could ever want from your stationer. A heady concoction of wrapping paper, cards, pens, notebooks, albums, frames, umbrellas, and things you don't really need but really really want, like 76 different styles of card holder for your Oyster card, your passport, your credit cards, your business cards.

Amy and I arrived and quickly started taking things slowly. We were in no rush. We secured a basket each and started snaking our way around the ground floor - if conversation or excitement accidentally had us miss out a section, one eagle eyed swerve later and we were back, chucking things in our baskets like there was no recession. (Which there wouldn't be, if we all just carried on shopping, by the way. I do my bit.)

By the time we got to the sale items at the back of the third floor, our baskets were weighing us down so we hid them under a table while we wandered off, fawning fancy wrapping paper and taking photos of each other holding up pictures of owls.

Busy enjoying ourselves, we didn't see the shop assistant come over and start tidying up after us. Amy, suddenly pulled from our flight of fancy and fearful that all our hard work on floors one and two was for nothing, shot him a look of despair. 'Have you put our baskets back?' she demanded, with what can only be described as a war cry, as if rallying me to rugby tackle him while she poked him in the face with a pink biro. He held his hands up to protest his innocence. 'What baskets?' he stammered, his voice trembling as he backed away, suddenly remembering he had a pressing engagement in the store room.

Well, we had spent over two hours chasing paper already, it would have been a calamity to have to start again. Although it was a calamity I'd have secretly enjoyed.

Till bound, Amy tells me that she's found out we're the only culture on this Earth who don't haggle the price down. So as they start bagging up our goods, Amy lays on the charm. She wants 10% off, for no other reason than the fact we were stood there, buying stuff.

She tried telling Steven, the cashier, that we were journalists. Nothing. She tried telling him he could have a free pen if he used his staff discount on our purchases. Nothing. Our culture isn't ready for this.

Or so I thought.

Next stop, Habitat, where I acquire the aforementioned table runner. For the table I don't own in the house I don't own.

Undeterred, Amy tries again. 'Can we get 10% off that?' she asks.

This time - boom! That's right, for no good reason at all, we got 10% off. No frayed edges, no stains, no rhyme, no reason. We just asked and we just got.

We took our massive savings of about £1.07 and exchanged it for an absinthe cocktail later in the evening. A story for another time, my friends, but suffice to say, my 'I'm not drinking again' mantra enforced after my birthday two weeks ago, rang out in my head over and over again as I threw up my absinthe cocktail in Amy's sink later that night. I almost wiped my sorry brow on my new table runner, but luckily for me, I passed out before I had the chance.

Bottoms up! Absinthe cocktail and a sambuca chaser.



Fear evident on my sorry little face.
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