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Monday, June 25, 2012

The league of extraordinary badminton players

Gaz and I have been developing a serious crush on badminton for a while now. To start with, he used to play with his friend Adam, because I thought it looked boring. Then I had a go. Hello, competitive sport! Should have known I was going to love it - not to mention be awesome at it.

So, Adam got ousted to make way for big brawny Kim, the most competitive girl on the pitch. Or field. Whatever it is, the place where I go to win. We had some early teething problems, based on Gareth doing some annoying 'messing around' and 'practising' on me while I was trying to focus on winning. But although we have very different styles, I've enjoyed playing with him. If anything, I admire the way he can mess about and doesn't mind losing a point if it means he can have a go at hitting the birdie from under his cocked leg in a comedy way. I taught myself to enjoy Gareth's non-competitive nature and we really started to have a spot of bi-weekly fun.

Then we started playing doubles with our friends Cordy and Tom. Now that's when the fun really started - doubles was so much more fun than singles. I teamed up with the competitive fella and gave Gareth to Cordy. Tom and I made an excellent team, quickly spotting the flaws in Gareth's backhand and Cordy's weak spot, adapting our own high five and seriously considering a team 'T'shirt. 

So much fun was had that when a poster went up at our local sports-centre for a new badminton league, Gareth and I excitedly signed up.

To me, it seemed like the next logical step. This was how you made friends with locals. I saw myself, a few months down the line, walking into the gym and saying: 'Hi John, hi Mary. Oo, look out for his killer serve, this one's an animal on the court,' and other game related banterings. 'Nice shuttlecock.' That kind of thing.

Gareth and I lined up a game with our first competitors, Tom and Colin. Until we met court-side, we had no idea of their prowess. They could be crap, they could be Olympic. We did not know what we'd let ourselves in for.

But first impressions count for everything and as Tom and Colin arrived, I stifled my joy. Two old fat blokes, one only about 4ft tall on tiptoes.

'Just get it over the little one's head,' I whispered to Gareth, by way of a team talk.

We started knocking up and it was clear Tom and Colin were no match for Gareth and me. We were getting points when points don't count left right and centre.

Then we started the actual game. First to three wins.

Tom and Colin start actually playing properly now. Turns out there's no such thing as over the little one's head, because the pesky little Ronnie Corbett is fast and furious and just runs back and forth like a road runner. He lines them up for himself, he slam dunks, he smashes, he whips, he shoots, he scores. He hit me in the face about three times. He nailed the back hand, the forehand, the wrist flick, the back spin.

Naturally, I hated him. I hated him when they won the first game. And the second. And the third.

Gareth came off the court surmising what fun he'd had, how important it is to take part in these things. I think there's something wrong with my boyfriend. What was fun about that? It was awful. I was in a right grump. I will not be saying 'Oh hi Colin, look out for his backhand, he's an animal on the court,' in a jovial manner next time I see him. I'll be pretending I didn't see him because he's so short.

Bastard. Skillful sporty little bastard.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012


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

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

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

Then Nic started saying other words in the same way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mega embarro.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Yes.’ He said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ship Shape and Bristol Fashion

It was at the checkout in Sainsbury’s when I said to my mother in my loud voice: ‘Do you want me to get a mop so you can mop my floors?’ that I realised some people might not get my mother’s relationship with cleaning things. The checkout girl looked at me incredulously, to judge the spoiled little brat that I surely was. But the thing is, Mum happens to thoroughly enjoy cleaning. It’s a trait I wish I had inherited, but instead I’m lumbered with my dad’s cleanliness blindness and penchant for leaving more clothes on the floor than in the wardrobe.

When I was little Mum used to come to tuck me in and things would be spilling out of all my drawers. ‘Hurty,’ she’d say as she folded it all away and closed the drawers and doors, trying to instil in me the idea that clothes had feelings and didn’t want to spend the night clinging on to their shelf for dear life. Sweet, isn’t it.

And when I was little, Dad tidied his room once. I thought we’d moved house, I so didn’t recognise the room when I walked in.

My elder sister got Mum’s genes, I got Dad’s. Which is a shame, as it means I live in a constant state of bedlam, while Tammi’s flat is really rather lovely.

While it’s a pity for Gareth that he doesn’t get to live with someone who enjoys cleaning, the lucky charm is that I don’t get to live with someone who enjoys cleaning either, and so we live in a mess together, happily begging Mum to come and stay in the hopes she might pick up a J cloth. She doesn’t disappoint. She’d been here eight seconds this weekend when she started cleaning, and within an hour the bathroom looked so sparkly we could have been in a showroom, and the kitchen drawers were so tidy Gareth thought we’d been robbed.

I could be accused of taking advantage of Mum’s kind nature - you’d think she doesn’t actually want to come here and Mr Sheen my home. But I have it on good authority that she’s entirely in her element when cleaning, and who am I to deny her one of life’s little pleasures? To stop Mum cleaning would be akin to taking sweets from a child.  

We had a party on Saturday night to celebrate my birth, and usually when we have parties, I crawl out of bed the next day to witness the carnage of the night before. Dirty plates queuing up for the dishwasher, a sticky floor and a mountain of glass for the recycling.

On Sunday morning I got out of bed to see Mum had already tidied the entire party remnants away. She’d even laid out the bottles that needed recycling in height order. It was something of a miracle to see my house looking so good when it really ought to have been suffering from a hangover with me.

As usual, Mum has left the house in a better state than she found it. And as usual, Gareth and I have made each other promise we’ll keep it this way. And as usual, we’ll slowly slip back into the pigsty with which we are familiar. But about that time, Mum will be due another visit, and everything will shine again. I’m sorry to my future children that I won’t be able to give them a mother as tidy as my mother, but at least I can give them a grandmother as tidy as my mother. And maybe she’ll rub off on them better than she has on me.

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Water good way to save our marriage.

Good news! I’ve just saved my marriage, before it’s even begun. Because they do say it’s the little things that end up destroying relationships. I don’t see either of us ever cheating or anything big like that, but my god, I can see Gareth’s inability to wash the leftover Muesli off his bowl before it sets and hardens as legitimate divorce fodder.

And so it was, that I just saved our marriage.

Because, you see, Gareth was doing something that really, really annoyed me. Let me set the scene. It’s very romantic, I know, that we do a heck of a lot together. We work together, eat together, sleep together, scamper together... you get the idea. We go to the gym together. So, we run together, side by side, when the treadmills are available. Me on my treadmill, in my gym kit, with my headphones and my bottle of water.

And Gareth... without his bottle of water. Because he NEVER takes one with him.

Now, that’s fine, if you don’t want to hydrate while running, that’s up to you. But the problem was, he did want to hydrate. He was just totally useless at remembering this at any point leading up to the need for hydration. Unlike me, who had filled up my water bottle at home before even setting foot in the gym.

So Gaz gets parched and then he signals to me in the mirror that we're both running towards, that he’s thirsty. Not one to want to watch my future husband keel over and die, I hand over my water, begrudgingly, as it has exactly the amount of water in it that the length of my run requires. Gareth takes a long, refreshing glug and then he commits the cardinal sin - and this happens every time we run together, not just once - of putting my water bottle into his water bottle holder, the OTHER SIDE of his machine - way out of my reach. He then continues running, happy as larry, no idea how infuriated I am by his actions.

I run the rest of my run hating my future husband a little bit, which I don’t think is a particularly healthy way of entering into the sanctity of marriage.

I know what you’re thinking - share and share alike. What’s mine is his, what’s his is mine. Ask for the water back and get over it. Don’t be absurd, my personality is way too flawed and irate for that.

It took me a few months to come up with a solution. And on the way to coming up with a solution, there were plenty of plans that involved wee in my water. 

Here’s the solution, proudly modeled by Gareth, now the proud owner of his own water bottle. I bought it on Amazon for £4. Not bad, eh? £4 to save a marriage? That’s a lot cheaper than a divorce.
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Monday, June 11, 2012

Sight for sore eyes

Some of you may be wondering how my life has been panning out since I exchanged the TV for 20 scratch cards… on which I won nothing. It may seem like a strange exchange of goods, but really, it was apt. You don’t win anything when you watch TV either, except maybe a numb bottom and a glazed eye or two. At least scratch cards give you an element of hope. My eyes are never glazed when I’m scratching a scratch card. They are fervent, then wild, then disappointed.

I'm pleased to report I prefer life without a telly. It was the lazy addiction to reruns of Friends which pushed me over the edge. I really wasn't achieving anything other than learning a lot of quotes off by heart and developing a girl crush on Jennifer Aniston - a girl crush which has lasted a lot longer than my telly. I still watch all her rom-coms in the hope one will be any good. They’re not.

I resented my telly. It was sucking up all my time. I became acutely aware of how much life revolves around the telly. People talk about the shows they've seen. People angle their sofas in a way that provides best TV watching comfort. Magazines talk about actors as if they are soap operas - and they talk about soap operas as if they are real life. It's mildly disturbing, once you stop to think about it. Why are we following every move Cheryl Cole makes, as if her life is a soap opera? And why are we watching soap operas as if they are real lives? Before my head exploded at the conundrum, I sold the telly and rearranged the furniture.

I then bought a piano and a few books and got to work on being a smug and annoying person who has to interject when the topic of conversation turns to telly: 'Oh, god, sorry, this is awkward. I don't have one, no idea what you are talking about.'

Except, I never actually said that because I'd hate myself if I said that. No one likes the girl who reminds them of their short comings. 'Oh, I eat like a horse and never put any weight on,' is another sin bin line. Don't show off. Eat cake and complain about your muffin top, woman, for god’s sake.

Once I'd gambled away the telly, I was still more than capable of watching it - that's what iplayer is for, I discovered. I was just more picky about what I watched. I did not miss E4 and it's time zapping capabilities. Nor did I miss advertising. Advertising, the cruel interruption to your viewing pleasure which we all seem to accept without avoidance. One minute you’re watching Desperate Housewives, the next, you’re being gently encouraged to use Lenor to soften your clothes, advised that Jennifer Aniston has a new rom com out and shown that really fun girls eat Maltesers while laughing together about how fun life is. Imagine how great your life would be if you just ATE MALTESERS. I do not like being advertised to. I find it insulting. And, it bloody works on me too. I do eat Maltesers because they are the lighter way to enjoy chocolate, I do use Lenor because it makes flowers fly out of my duvet covers and... there isn’t a Jennifer Aniston rom com I haven’t sat through. 

My piano playing is coming along nicely now. My teacher tells me I'm ready for grade one. I don't tell her that I'm absolutely not. I'm terrified by the very thought - I know I'll be sitting in the waiting room feeling like I'm waiting to take my driving test - except my compatriots won't be 17, they'll be seven, and better than me. Like the kid on You Tube who can play all my Grade 1 pieces without looking. He's a little seven year old bastard.

I've read a few books. Some I've enjoyed so much that after a few drinks I've got carried away and recounted the entire (ok, not entire, more 'the bits I can remember drunk') thesis to my friends. I suppose that's a bit like saying 'Have you seen Don't Tell The Bride?' and then spending half an hour telling the recipient all about it. I haven't seen it, but I have heard a lot about it. It's usually the first thing people say when I tell them I'm engaged. As I am to conclude it's about grooms making a hash of the big day, I wonder if people are trying to tell me something.

My favourite thing about playing the piano is when we have guests. I usually forget to do a recital until I've had one or two gins, and by then, my hand-eye-brain co-ordination is limited, so although I can't show them just how proficient I am at Grade 1 piano pieces, I have a bloody good go trying. You can't say the same about having a telly. People don't come over and say 'Oh! You've got a telly! Show us what you can do then!' At which point everyone gathers around while you gladly show them what all the exciting buttons do. Actually, I bet that is exactly what people with a great big telly do. Oh my god, my piano is my telly substitute! I have never felt like more of a snob in all my life. Except for the times when I bemoan my future husband for calling it a ‘couch’ instead of a 'sofa'. When I sit at my piano telling him to call it a sofa while scolding the neighbours for playing their karaoke machine - now that's some first class snobbery.

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Friday, June 1, 2012

I've Gok One.

A stereotypical ten year old girl has lots of pretty dresses and dives into her mum’s make up bag to start experimenting with different shades of lipstick, or something cliched like that, right? Not me. I was dragging my blind sister up trees, pretending my bike was a horse while jumping over broom handles, and having absolutely no clue whatsoever about clothes.

I did have a yearning to be girly - it just wasn’t satisfied by my father, who was in charge of bringing me up. Once, a friend at primary school gave me some little heels she’d grown out of. I was pleased as punch, tottered around in those bad boys until my toes bled. And my sister handed me down her bridesmaid dress, circa 1987, much to my utter delight. I wore it until I burst out of it a few years later, like The Hulk in a floral dress. So I did want to be a princess, I just wasn’t one.

Dad ran a school, and as a result, there was a lot of lost property. That’s where most of my wardrobe came from. When I went to see Mum at weekends, she’d take pity on me, dressed like a ragamuffin, bedraggled and wearing clothes that belonged to other children. So she’d buy me a lovely new dress. The next time she saw me, I’d still be wearing the lovely new dress, only now I’d have it on back to front, possibly inside out, and with an ill-fitting T-shirt on underneath.

Suffice to say when I grew up, my knowledge of what went with what did not flourish. I stuck to black corduroy flares, baggy T-shirts, trainers. I never really embraced being a woman. As you can see from Exhibit A. Before: baggy t-shirt OVER a hoodie. After: Oo, hello sailor!

 So when I met Gareth, I was a bit of a mess, sartorially. Gareth's a photographer and has a great eye for fashion and what looks good. He slowly started morphing my wardrobe into one that looked pretty bloody fantastic, if I may say so myself. I soon had heels, dresses, a blazer (staple wardrobe essential, I totes now know) skinny jeans, and all in other colours than black.

The only problem was, his advice was so gratefully received, I began to depend on it. I found myself sending him picture texts from shop changing rooms, then hanging around car parks waiting for his response. A yes, and I’d rush back in and purchase. A no and I’d thank my lucky credit card that I’d been saved from the fashion doldrums.

Gok, or Gareth, whatever you care to call him, is my super style saviour. But it’s a curse, being my super style saviour. My ASOS addiction is his flooded inbox. Dozens of emails full of links to potential dresses. Let’s not forget the poor guy is just a bloke. He doesn’t actually care about these things. The novelty wore off for Gok about the same time I started asking his advice on every little purchase, and by every little purchase, I mean tablecloths. What man has an opinion of tablecloths? Not this one. Not even the real Gok, I’ll bet.

We did need a tablecloth though, to hide the permanent dirt on our grubby kitchen table. I found Zara Home had rather a splendid selection. But which to get? I didn’t want to get the wrong one -  the decisions I make without Gareth are disastrous. Case in point - our sofa broke. Gareth turned down the surely irresistible opportunity to follow the little arrows around the maze that is Ikea. So I picked a sofa. It looked alright. But it isn’t. It has no arm rests. Incredibly vital for comfort, it turns out. Every time Gareth sits down, he laments my choice, wiggling his bottom around trying to find comfort on what is, we’ve dubbed, our ‘shit sofa.’ Well, I remind him - this is what happens when I make decisions alone.

So I did the usual - picked my fave tablecloths and emailed the links over.

‘Kimbo, I think this is a decision you can make yourself,’ he said, a little bit weary. ‘You’re taking my advice too far.’

He created this beast. This indecisive, but fashion forward and fabulous, beast. Now he must forever more dress her, buy the furniture and choose the tablecloths. I’ll just sit back and look good, by default.

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