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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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