Saturday, 31 July 2010

July Book Review

After last month's kind of ridiculous levels of book reading I have slowed down somewhat. Not surprising given everything that's happened really. There was only going to be three books in this post but the last one has managed to scrape through by the skin of his teeth.

The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters

Any of you who have read other Sarah Waters’ books might want to prepare themselves for a revelation about this one....

No lesbians!

I think I was a little disappointed in a way.

Waters has again proved that she is the Mistress of Good Books. Her ability to write and to draw and suck you in never ceases to amaze me. This time she’s turned her hand to ghosties and big old crumbling houses.

I don’t want to give too much away about this one, it’s just. Too brilliant. And scary. Seriously I was in bed one night reading this and was seriously terrified, I nearly jumped out of the window when my door very slowly creaked open and was somewhat relieved to discover it was just Maud coming to say hello.

You must read this. You must. And then you have to e-mail me so we can talk about the ending. Deal? (although be aware that I’ll have probably forgotten the ending by the time you e-mail ‘kay?)

Also. WHY did this not win the Booker Prize when the monstrosity that was Wolf Hall did?! You guys needed your heads examining.

The Friday Night Knitting Club – Kate Jacobs

There’s always room for chick lit and this was the perfect antidote to a somewhat stressful period in my life. Dorothy thrust this into my hands on the day that I moved in and it provided a comforting little place to escape to.

Basic premise – single mother owns yarn shop, very independent, daughter similarly so. Lots of women who work/come in to yarn shop, have life crises, father of daughter returns, trip to Scotland, tears, tantrums, laughs, escapades. Shock ending that will make you go “What the?!”

It’s good but like a lot of these books I find myself wishing there was just a little more. Sometimes it’s ok to have less characters and then concentrate on just a few, rather than trying to flit from story to story and ending up with 4 kind of fulfilling stories, rather than a couple.

As they go though, this one was pretty good.

The Silver Linings Playbook – Matthew Quick

I’m a sucker for any kind of recommendation. I’m no snob. I quite liked Richard and Judy’s Book Club so when they disappeared (bad luck with that whole moving to a digital channel guys) and the TV Book Club emerged I was pretty excited. Unfortunately they kept putting the programmes on More4 on a Sunday at 7pm which was just a rubbish time. Kept forgetting about it and only saw 2 episodes.

Nevertheless I will always go and check out their recommendations and have a little read and see if it takes my fancy.

This one’s a quirky little number. Won’t take you long to read at all. Tells the story of Pat Peoples who has come from a secure facility and has moved back in with his parents and is just biding his time until ‘apart time’ with his wife is over. It has more than a hint of the Curious Dog at Nighttime about it, mainly because it’s narrated from Pat’s point of view so everything’s a little skew-whiff and doesn’t feel quite right.

Mostly it’s good although there are more than a few bits that are a little unbelievable.

Mr Rosenblum’s List – Natasha Solomons

Hello Times Book of the Week at WH Smiths – you call to me again! I’m not even going to lie, I bought this mainly because the front cover was so pretty. Yes. I am hanging my head in shame. I judged a book by its cover.

And I’m so pleased I did.

Jack Rosenblum arrives in England as a Jewish refugee from Germany just before the outbreak of the war. Upon arrival with his wife, Sadie, he is given a pamphlet to help aid his assimilation into British life which he immediately takes to heart and begins to expand upon.

Upon discovering that his presence is not welcome at any Golf Clubs, Jack decides to move to Dorset and build his own. What follows is a story of loss and acceptance and woolly pigs.

It’s incredibly charming and well worth a read.



The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. Without a doubt.

(Even if there are no lesbians in it.)


Also. I have a huge apology to make. Last month I complete neglected to mention that the only reason I had the A Debt to Pleasure book was because Jill had sent it to me. She knew that I'd liked some of his other books and was kind enough to send this one on to me. So sorry Jill that I forgot to mention that. Please don't tell my Mum she'd kill me for my rubbish manners.

Thursday, 29 July 2010


I try to tell myself to just relax and leave everything up to fate. I try to say to myself "If it's meant to be, it'll happen." I try to surrender myself to the notion that my life isn't eally in my own hands and my path has been pre-ordained.

But it doesn't work.

I like to be in control. I like to know what's happening when, where and at what time (and what footwear is appropriate). So the idea that I'm not in control of my own life quite frankly freaks me the hell out.

And then I get even more freaked out when I realise I actually cannot control certain aspects of my life. I can't alter geography. I can't change my job (yet). I can't make someone like me.

I can't do anything but sit and wait.

I'm not good at sitting and waiting impotently for someone or something else to do what I would like to do myself (to be honest I'm not good at sitting quietly full stop).

And I don't understand how I can simultaneously be so sure that something will happen and yet not be able to trust that it will without a push and a shove from me.

But when do you know when to stop pushing and shoving? What's the point when you're supposed to accept that it's not going to happen and give up? When people talk about exercise they always talk about hitting The Wall (I wouldn't know, I don't exercise hard enough) - how do you know when you've hit your Wall and you just need to keep battering through, versus just hitting a complete brick wall that you're never going to break down?

While I was thinking about this blog post I turned over my calendar on my desk at work and it had a quote on it from Benjamin Franklin;

"Energy and persistence conquer all things."

Was this prophetic? Was this a sign that I should stop thinking about fate and just carry on myself? Or. Was it fate that this quote appeared at this time and my fate is supposed to be to persist and try and get what I want?

I find it all very confusing. And I'm really too tired to think anymore about it. I'm tired of trying and tired of wishing and hoping that everything I want will come true.

But mostly I'm completely and utterly exhausted of caring at all.

Do I continue to try and force my way down a dangerous, rocky path that I'm pretty sure will end up with what I want or do I follow the much easier path which has a few blind corners and hope that both paths converge and end at the same place?


Do I stop overanalysing before I hurt my little brain?

Are you a pre-ordained, fate kind of person or are we in charge of our own lives? Discuss.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Haven't I read this somewhere before?...

Those of you that went to university will be familiar with the plagiarism lecture. You would get it at the beginning of each year and it would instil the fear of god in you. I was absolutely terrified of being accused of plagiarism and would reference everything I wrote to death, afraid of somehow slipping up.

I had a little look at the definition of plagiarism and (see how I referenced that? I’m no hypocrite baby!) and it describes it as,

“The unauthorised use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s original work”

On the first day of my Masters degree, one of the Professors gave us the usual lecture but this one really hit home for me. He asked us to look around the room and then said that at least one of us would be kicked off the course for plagiarising at some point during the year. I found it hard to believe. I looked around at the 20-30 faces sat in the room with me and thought “Surely not!” We were all intelligent (supposedly) people who had already been through one degree and had paid out hefty sums of money to take one more ride on the merry-go-round, why would anybody jeopardise that?

But it was more than that.

I could never understand how you could be satisfied, knowing that something you had written was an imitation of someone-else. I’m not someone who strives to be original in everything I do but I would like to think that I was able to articulate my own thoughts in my own way. The point of us being at university was to read all the background texts but then consider things from a different viewpoint, try and put our own stamp on things. I was all for this, I would hate to think that I will leave this earth without ever making my own mark on it, even if it is only an original thought in an economic history essay about the effect of the reparations on Germany’s economy in your final year at university. (Yeah. I’m still ridiculously proud of that essay. No. I will never stop going on about it.)

It is difficult at timesto find your own words though. I would struggle and sit with all my photocopied and bookmarked text books around me, trying to find a way of saying something that hadn’t already been said. Most of the time I’d just give up and stick a direct quotation in (always referenced people!), but if I did write something that was my own I’d feel a real sense of pride and achievement.

Thinking about finding your own words also got me thinking about blogging. I look back on some of my old blogs now and have a little cringe inside. It doesn’t sound like me at all. I don’t berate myself for it, blogging can be hard at times, especially at the beginning. People think it’s easy and it really isn’t and it takes a good long while for you to settle in and find your own stride.

The problem is that in the beginning it’s all too easy to mimic other people’s style. It’s easily done – you’re reading other people’s blogs, you like they way they write, you try to do it that way too. But it’ll never work you know.

In the same way that we all have funny little turns of phrases that we use (I hear some people use the word ‘acesome’ for instance), we all have different writing styles and ways of expressing ourselves. If I tried to write like someone else, it would be obvious something wasn’t right because I write in a particular way that is exclusive to me. I’m not saying it’s completely unique but I think it’s clear I’m comfortable. If someone was to try and copy this way of writing it would jar and feel odd to read.

I guess it’s just something that comes with time. Just as I got used to writing essays and coming up with my own way of saying something that 60 other, far more intelligent people had already said, I found my way with blogging.

(And, a mere month before the end of the academic year and the turning in of our dissertations, two people were kicked off the course for plagiarising. I’ve always found it a little sad that sometimes people are so predictable.)

Has anyone else had any experiences with plagiarism both blogging and otherwise? Do you think you have a particular writing style?

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

It was all going so well...

I really do not enjoy the gym. To me it is just a necessary evil. I know I have to go because I have to get exercise in some form and exercise al fresco is not for me. (Yes I know everyone will not be staring at me when I run out in public but it still isn’t going to happen, I know how I judge people who run on the street!) To me the gym is just an evil place that steals your money each month and gives you no satisfaction (apart from this one time when I managed to run for a whole mile on the treadmill. That was a good day).

I’ve been trying to go regularly but this hasn’t been easy now that I’ve moved out. The gym was only 10 minutes away from the flat and obviously I have now moved so getting there requires a little more effort than I would like to give. Consequently I wonder why on earth I’m paying for it sometimes.

This gym is not a fancy place. It is a no frills gym. In other words, it’s owned by the Council.

The most exotic piece of equipment in there is probably the stepper, although this is closely followed by the cross trainer. Heady stuff. There is a work out space approximately 4 foot wide and deep to try and do some floor exercises on. More than 5 people in there at once and you start to feel uncomfortably close to sweaty strangers.

Knowing that I would be having a pretty stressful weekend my friend asked me if I wanted to go to her gym and use a free guest pass that she had.

Her gym is amazing.

If my gym is your typical old man pub then my friend’s gym is the uber trendy wine bar in town. Both are fine and both have their charms but this gym was swish.

It was enormous. The free weights floor area is the size of the whole of my gym. There are about eleventy billion treadmills (approximate figure).

But never mind the treadmills, all gyms have treadmills. This gym had far more exciting things. There was a rather special machine called a Tread Climber – it’s like a treadmill and a stepper combined into one. It was absolutely shattering but brilliant just because of its novelty factor. Although a word to the wise – do not attempt to talk and wildly gesticulate on one of these – it requires all your concentration or you will end up looking like an idiot and half falling off it.

And there was the Stairmaster/Stepmill. Basically a never ending escalator. Yes. Fine. It does the same thing as a stepper but who cares. This piece of equipment is way more fun than a boring old stepper. Plus you are ridiculously high up and can survey the entire gym from your vantage point (which is code for checking out the weights area which is where all the pretty boys are).

There were so many weight machines and resistance machines I couldn’t even tell you. There were things that looked like the most fun ever and things that looked like pieces of torture equipment. There were machines to twist and sculpt you and machines that I had trouble figuring out where you sat. There were Powerplates for goodness sake!

But none of this compared to the piece de resistance. It had a steam room and a pool and Jacuzzi.

Now my gym has a pool, I’ll be fair, but this pool is mostly filled with kids and old people and chavs and is not a relaxing experience in the slightest. This pool was an oasis of tranquillity, all dim lighting and wavy lines and twinkly lights and soft music. Sitting in the steam room and Jacuzzi after a workout session was a luxury I’ve never even dreamed of.

The changing rooms. Oh the changing rooms! I could write you a sonnet (except that I can’t do poems). Lovely mahoosive wooden lockers. Vanity tables with hairdryers. Fancy private cubicle showers with frosted fronts. Even a vending machine selling miniature shower gels and shampoos. I was beside myself.

And then the unthinkable happened.

We left the steam room and the Jacuzzi and went towards the showers. Now we all know I how I feel about public nakedness don’t we? (And if you weren’t sure there’s another post here about it) 
So imagine my incredible discomfort when I not only had to deal with naked strangers but a naked friend. Seriously. Naked friends are not something I can handle. But before I knew where I was she had whipped her bikini off. I don’t know how but I actually didn’t see anything, I’m so atuned to avoiding these situations that I somehow managed to look every which way but at my naked friend. I jumped into the nearest shower and stood there contemplating my next move. I wanted to avoid any more naked contact. I decided the best thing was to make a dash for the nearest changing cubicle (one criticism of Super Gym – only about 4 private cubicles. Not good for nakedphobes like me).

Safely ensconced in my private cubicle I set about changing, trying to do it as slowly as possible to make sure that when I came out there would be no way I’d ever be able to tell you whether my friend has a Brazilian or not. I figured I’d left enough time and slowly came out.

To be faced with my friend. In pants. And nothing else. Drying her hair in the mirror.

I’d rather re-live my wardrobe falling apart a thousand times over than re-live this particular moment.

After a quick mumbling dash to go and get more water I came back to the changing rooms to discover, much to my happiness, a fully clothed friend.

May she always stay that way.

Although I don’t love Inferior Gym much (I was there the next day bemoaning it’s unflashiness) at least I can be sure that there will be no naked friends there and much as I love Super Gym, I think I’d enjoy it more without the constant fear of seeing friends without their clothes on.

Monday, 26 July 2010

When in doubt, laugh hysterically

Saturday saw the final moving out of the flat. I’ve been looking forward to this day for a long long time. Not least because it would mean that I would finally have something nice to sleep in and somewhere to hang my clothes but because it would mean the end to things and the opportunity to begin moving on.

Whilst I’ve still had my stuff in the flat, there’s still been a connection to it and, by default, to my ex. I don’t think this is particularly helpful for either party in terms of getting on with your life and leaving things in the past.

I could have moved sooner but that would have meant paying for people to come and do it and I wanted to avoid that if possible because money is so tight at the moment anyway. My salvation came in the form of a friend’s boyfriend who could borrow a van to transport the rest of my belongings.

The main concern was the wardrobe. It was not an expensive piece of furniture by any means. It was a cheapazoid number from Argos which is meant to be thrown up together and then to stay in the same place. It’s not supposed to be moved about. It had barely survived the move from my Mum’s house to the flat when I first moved in with my ex so I feared for its survival when faced with another move across town.

After measuring the wardrobe it was decided a bigger van would be needed and on Saturday my friends showed up in this little beast.

Now I am no auto-fiend. I don’t own a car and I have no particular interest in them generally. If I see a car I like and you ask me to describe it you I’m most likely to say something along the lines of “Oooh it was green and sort of wavy”. This aside however I had to marvel at this van. I even went so far as to utter the word “sexy” when describing it. Sleek is another word I would use actually. It was a behemoth. I considered calling the whole thing off and just moving in to the van and sleeping there from now on.

Extra muscle arrived in the form of another friend’s boyfriend (sometimes it depresses me that I’m the only single girl in my group of friends, other times I’m pretty glad they’re all shacked up with someone) and the task began.

The bed was no problem, my Dad and I had taken it apart earlier in the day and that was all sorted. The boys went in to inspect the wardrobe and after standing round manfully for a while they took it in hand. Luckily for them, because it’s cheap and nasty, it’s also pretty light so I didn’t need to worry so much about them crippling their backs and needing to wear backbraces for the rest of their days.

They got it out of the bedroom. They got it out of the flat. They got it round the rather tricky corner on the stairs (damn you listed building with no lift!). They got it all the way down the stairs. And came to the archway at the bottom of the stairs.

And nothing.


No way forward.

They tried tilting. They tried going at it from an angle. The three females tried to say encouraging and helpful things. But it wasn’t looking good.

My palms started to feel a little sweaty. I was still halfway up the stairs behind the wardrobe so couldn’t see round the corner to try and see a way of manoeuvring it. I knew there had to be a way, it had come up there after all, but I had no idea what to suggest.

But boys know what to do don’t they and they figured a way of doing it. They tilted a little more and swung it a little bit this way and pulled it a little bit that way and it was finally through the archway. Success. My heart soared.

Then there was a loud crack.

And a bang.

And I watched as my wardrobe veeery slowly fell in on itself.

You know those videos where they blow up cooling towers and they slow it down so you can see each part slowly combusting and coming apart? Very similar to what happened on the stairs. Every. Single. Part of it came unstuck.

My heart actually stopped. I had quick flashes of all my clothes hanging out in piles on the bedroom floor. I had visions of me being locked in a mental home because I couldn’t handle the stress anymore. All I could think to myself was “Ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod”. There weren’t any coherent thoughts.

There was silence.

And I realised that I had a few choices;
1. Start crying and probably never stop
2. Fly into a rage and kill everyone with the remnants of the wardrobe
3. Laugh

And so I laughed. And everyone else breathed a huge sigh of relief that I hadn’t chosen the first two options and started laughing too. I laughed even harder when one friend’s boyfriend said,

“If I’d have known it was going to do that I’d have brought the smaller van.”

Once home I made an emergency call to my Dad in rather panicked tones begging him to come round with drills and screwdrivers and nails. I had pinned all my hopes and dreams on having a wardrobe by the end of the day and by hook or by crook I was going to get one. Luckily for me he was available and we managed to cobble it (mostly) back together. The drawers still aren’t quite right, in the Grand Wardrobe Collapse of 2010 a piece of wood got broken in half. My feeling was that it was so small it was irrelevant. Turns out I know jack shit about furniture. Dad is going to get some more wood and come round at a later date and fix it for me. At the moment I couldn’t care less, I don’t mind that my drawers are just lying in the bottom of the wardrobe. They are in their place. Neatly.

And I can slowly feel my sanity beginning to return.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Crawling into my pit

I am moved.

There are lots of things to tell you about the final moving out process but right now something is calling me...

A real life bed.

Back tomorrow.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Maggie and Maud Update

Where you wondering how Maggie and Maud were doing?

They are doing just fine.

Maggie has developed a rather annoying hilarious habit of jumping up on the sofa the second I stand up to go somewhere. She has developed a lightening quick ability to do this. Last night she was on there when my backside was barely three inches up from the seat. She persists in doing this despite the fact that she knows I’m going to move her when I come back.

Instead she glares at me, daring me to move her, and occasionally yowls at me in as much to say “Why are you so awful to me?!” What’s ridiculous about this is that I actually try not to move her and will jig about doing bits and bobs so that I don’t have to sit down just that minute or try to manoeuvre myself into the 5cm gap she’s left me to sit in.

Eventually I will give up and apologising to her, pick her up and move her. This is no mean feat. Maggie does not like to be touched. And will let you know this in a series of ear shattering growls and yowls and hissing. The strange thing is she absolutely does not bite or scratch you. It’s very strange, if you heard her you would think she’s the ultimate basement kitteh but she’s not evil at all. Really.

She will be absolutely outraged that I have deigned to touch her and will fling herself off the couch on to the floor in a heap of fur (she’s not the most graceful of kitties), only to return approximately 2 minutes later to get up in between Dorothy and I and lie out her full length against my thigh as if the incident has never occurred.

Maud is still beautiful. Although we have come to the conclusion that Maud could never be a model after all because she doesn’t really photograph well. No idea how she manages it but her true beauty and cuteness never seem to be accurately portrayed when you point a camera at her. Maybe she gets stage fright.

Maud comes and visits me in my room sometimes. Usually I am oblivious of her presence until I get into bed and she appears from under my bed and comes up on to the bed to see me. She will then proceed to throw herself down and do her super-cute face which requires you to stroke and tickle her. I get all excited when she comes and sleeps on my bed but alas it is never an all-night option. She doesn’t stay long before she gets off and goes to try and get into Dorothy’s bedroom or sleep downstairs.

I know that she sleeps on my bed during the day however and I am ashamed to admit that I have on a couple of occasions made my bed in the morning just for her to lie on. I know, I know, I agree, I'm mental but I’m being honest with you. Some mornings I can’t be bothered to make the bed and do it when I come back from work but some mornings, if Dorothy’s door is firmly shut, Maud comes in and sits on the bed and looks very forlorn amongst the chaos of quilt and blanket. So. I make the bed so she has a nice, flat surface to sleep on. I am seeking medical attention don’t worry.

I still haven’t got a brilliant photo of her on my bed, which annoys me greatly because she looks most beautiful against the crocheted blanket goodness. But I do have a rather blurry quick one that I took one night.

Here ends the Maggie and Maud update.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

By the seaside

Everybody has a list of things they want to do before they die. For some, it might be a bungee jump. Others might want to take a trip on the Orient Express. Me?
I wanted to go to Blackpool.

I have vowed to be more interesting and do more things. I’ve become stuck in an incredibly lazy rut of never doing anything on weekends. This is fine every so often but not every single weekend going. First on my list of The Girl Does Interesting Things was Blackpool.

Or more specifically, a certain place within Blackpool.

I love a bit of theme park/funfair action. I think it comes from growing up in Hull and the appearance of Hull Fair every year. I love the rides baby. I will jump on any chance to go to Alton Towers (still haven’t been since the new ride 13 opened, I want to go right now please) and I seriously just cannot get enough of the thrills. And we all know what Blackpool Pleasure Beach has?

The ultimate, the mack-daddy of rollercoasters, The Big One. (Or to give it it’s corporate title The Pepsi Max Big One).

It’s the first thing you see when you step off the train and the first thing you hear is the wisps of people’s screams as they plummet to their death down the initial 205 feet drop. I nearly had apoplexy when I saw this, I needed to go on it. Immediately.

However. I am well-versed in the ways of theme parks and the thing to do is not to go on the biggest and bestest straight away. What would be the point? Everything would be dull in comparison. You must warm up. You must go on a mini rollercoaster first.

Luckily the Pleasure Beach has everything you could want in the way of rollercoasters and more. It has ridiculously old wooden ones, it has ones that don’t have tracks, it has ones that spin you round a loop, it has ones that I still do not understand how they got past health and safety. There is so much there. And more.

And here is where it smacks Alton Towers into oblivion (YES. I totally did a theme park based pun there.) To get your chance to go on one of these rides involves a wait time of at most about half an hour. Yes I’m serious. Hardly. Any. Queues. Maybe we went on a ridiculously slow Saturday in the middle of July, maybe it gets worse, but I still don’t think it would compare to the hell on earth that is Alton Towers every day of the week. I have never been to Alton Towers during the school holidays. I’ve never even been on a Saturday. And yet still I have become used to upwards of an hour queuing time for rides that last less than a minute. NO MORE! I have seen the light. The Pleasure Beach is the way forward.

Ok. It’s not quite as slick as your bigger theme park. And when I say “not quite as slick” I mean really not quite as slick. It’s all a little faded and a little outdated and in some parts, just plain random. I’m sure it all made sense when it first opened. Even the Pepsi Max Big One is looking a little grubby – although this could be because it’s 16 years old. How has it taken me this long to go on it?! – although in comparison to the Wild Mouse ride that was built in 1958 it’s somewhat gleaming.

The thing is if you took away the tatty bits or even spruced them up then it would lose all of its charm, the slightly tattiness of it is what makes it so brilliant. I genuinely don’t mean that as a criticism, I genuinely love this place, I just cannot get over how great it is (and don’t get me started on the fact that it costs a fraction of the price to get in to Alton Towers) and cannot believe I haven’t been before. I need to go back there. Really soon. There were so many of the rollercoasters we didn’t go on (mainly because we were supposed to be there early doors and didn’t get there until lunchtime while people dithered about whether or not it was going to rain.)

And let’s not forget that Blackpool has a beach people. So many people get blasĂ© about the sea when they’ve grown up with it or lived near it. I don’t understand this, the beach is still a massive source of amazement for me. I freakin’ love it and want to run down immediately and bury my toes in the sand and get over-excited at the waves. Unfortunately the stupid tide was in and there wasn’t really any beach for me to play on but we did sit on the steps (on a front that must have been very recently renovated, it’s marvellous, well down Blackpool City Council or whoever it was that paid for it) and I admired the sparkliness of the sea.

I wanted to go to the Tower but it was really far away and rollercoastering takes it out of you. Next time though...

In short. Blackpool’s brilliant. Yes, fine, it’s not the most upmarket of places and yes, fine maybe it’s a bit of a hellhole on a night out (I counted approximately 12 billion stag and hen parties) but the Pleasure Beach? You have to go. You just have to. No excuses.

I think it’s clear that...
PS If you go on Valhalla. You will get soaked. And I mean to. the. bone. No exceptions. Make this the last ride you go on so you can go and sit on the front and dry off. Seriously. You get wet. Maybe take your make-up off before you go on it as well.

PPS And the Big One. Oh. My. God. Go on it. Now. Get your shoes on and just go.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

An explanation for my absence

I need order.

I need neatness and things in their place and to just feel ‘sorted’.

I do not cope well when things are up in the air or things are in a prolonged state of untidiness.

I realise this makes me a little bit mental and do my best to manage it. I feel it’s always a good idea to keep the crazy in.

But when things are messy and ‘not right’ my brain just can’t cope with it. Tidy place, tidy mind is my motto.

And at the moment my whole life feels like it’s suspended. I’ve managed to get this far without having a bed and without having a wardrobe. I have coped pretty well on the ridiculously few hours of unbroken sleep I get on the futon. I have made the most of the fact that my clothes are everywhere and are in piles on the floor and there is stuff in places I can’t even get to. I have told myself all this is fine because on Saturday 24th I will finally get my bed and wardrobe and I can put things away and get some sleep and finally, finally get some order in my life.

But sometimes it all gets a little too much. And the past couple of weeks have been tough.

I haven’t been able to get my head around blogging. There’s no routine and no order in my life and I just don’t like it. I can’t cope with it and it makes me feel incredibly unstable.

I know these things take time. You can’t expect to just be settled immediately. But the trouble with me is that I’m a little nester. I move in somewhere and immediately unpack and unpack until all the boxes have been emptied and everything has a place. I’ve done my best in the new place but there was only so much I could do when I don’t have a wardrobe. Would you judge me if I tell you that when I walk in my bedroom I feel a little bit sick? I have to dampen down the horrible chest-tightening and closing throat that come along with looking about and seeing shit everywhere. It’s so difficult to explain because if you’re not like this you can just roll your eyes and go “Oh for goodness sake it’s only some clothes on the floor, get a grip.” I fully aware that it’s mental but this doesn’t stop making it true. Being that stressed out when you go to bed is not conducive to a good night’s sleep at the best of times, never mind when you’re basically sleeping on a plank of wood.

I don’t need masses of space. I just need the space that I am in to be free of clutter. In fact clutter is fine, I’m not a minimalist at all but what I do have, has a place. And that’s all I need.

In the absence of tidy space I cannot get my mind to focus on writing blog posts. I can barely get my mind to focus on not having a complete mental breakdown.

Unfortunately blogging, for me, requires order. It requires me to sit down and think about what I want to write in advance. Maybe prepare a few posts, get them lined up.

No order = mental person = no blogging.

The arrival of the bed and wardrobe won’t just mean the restoration of order to my life though. It will also mean (hopefully) that by the end of the weekend I will be completely moved out of the flat I shared with the ex. It has been a long, drawn-out process, exacerbated by the fact that I don’t own a car, neither does my housemate and I have now called in every single favour from every single friend I have that does own a car to help me transport my belongings. In the meantime I feel like I have been neither here nor there. I am betwixt and between. The keys remain on my key chain and the place remains stuck inside my head. It is constantly at the back of my head that I have to move stuff out of there and get stuff sorted. And it is draining. I don’t want to go back there, I don’t want to have any more stuff there, but I do and I can’t just click my fingers and have it all sorted out.

This has been difficult. I have toyed and thought and pondered whether to just get a removal man to come with a van and whisk everything away for me but the cost has put me off. Some friends have generously managed to get hold of a van and they will help me. I’ve just had to be patient and wait for the end of July to come around.

Being patient has taken all of my reserves. I do not do patient well. I like to get things done and get them done straight away because then they are sorted and order is restored.

Concentrating on being patient = all brain reserves in use = no blogging.

I have been following a One Day At A Time (ODAAT) policy which has served me well. I’ve been deliberately not looking into the future because when I do I see that things are far away and I get stressed that they’re not closer and I get frustrated about my impotence at doing anything about it. ODAAT is good and incredibly useful and has more than definitely staved off the curling into a little ball and rocking in a corner somewhere which sometimes feels inevitable. However ODAAT does not allow for thinking about blogging in the future. ODAAT requires you to focus on the essential things and just getting through the day. It’s a fire-fighting technique rather than a constant way of living – for me anyway.

I don’t enjoy being a bore and being miserable. It’s not fun and I know no-one really wants to read about it. Let’s face it, I’d rather read about some random cats on a street in Hull than read about someone freaking the hell out because she needs her wardrobe. But I can’t think about anything fun at the moment.

ODAAT policy + Not wanting to be a bore = no blogging.

So I hope you will forgive me. I don’t want to be a miserable person. And I do want to get back into the habit of blogging and being a fun person again. I am a fun person you know. I haven’t really been miserable this whole time you know, I’ve done things, I’m seen people, I’m cool.

I just can’t write about it now.

But I promise I will do. Eventually. Just bear with me.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Crazy Cat Lady Part 2 - Professor McTufty

Housemate and I spotted Professor McTufty on my second day in the house. After reassuring ourselves that he was actually a cat and not a lion we knew we had to try and get him onside.

It was going to be a big ask, he was incredibly regal looking and clearly spends a lot of time looking after himself. You don’t get fur like that by accident you know. He was also a little bit jittery, if he did appear it wasn’t for long, you usually just saw a big ginger streak running across the top of the sheds.

I went away for a weekend and came back to a message from Housemate...

The unthinkable had happened. She had tamed Professor McTufty.

Turns out The Prof (as he’s affectionately called) is yet another big softie – both figuratively and literally.

And he has the biggest freaking paws I’ve ever seen. They’re like the size of a dog’s.

He’s also a master at the roll. You know that thing that cats do where they fall on the ground and roll themselves about, begging to be scratched and tickled and stroked? The Prof is all about the roll. Unfortunately he has managed to roll himself off the shed, resulting in a rather undignified and un-Professor-like scramble to regain his position. Most embarrassing.

The Prof doesn’t visit quite as often as Eddie does but when he is about you can hear him long before you see him thanks to his rather magnificent collar and bell.

Needless to say, Maggie doesn’t like him.

We have also recently discovered that The Prof has a brother. At first we were concerned there was a glitch in The Matrix, having seen The Prof go past us once, only to see him reappear and walk past in the same direction 10 seconds later. However it turns out that The Prof’s doppelganger is not as large, tufty or has as much white on him. He’s slightly less stately than his broseph and we have called him Doctor McTufty. He’s clear not at Professor level. However he’s much more shy and as yet he has managed to evade the camera lens.

I always get rather excited when Professor McTufty pops in to say hello. I feel like he doesn’t do this with every house on the block. He’s kind of like some of the Professors I had at uni – you hardly ever saw them, but when you managed to get 5 minutes with them you always left feeling vaguely satisfied, even if all your questions hadn’t been answered, you’d been granted an audience at least. When Prof and Dr McTufty come stalking along the top of the sheds I feel a little honoured by their presence.

Monday, 12 July 2010

How very lovely my dear

This Sunday saw The Stitchettes gather together in a garden in the sun.

You see Hull isn't really all that bad you know. I know this might be hard for some of you to believe, only hearing the absolute worst stuff about us. Yes we have a poor educational record, yes we are the most obese city in the country, yes we have the highest teenage pregnancy rate, yes we have horrific levels of unemployment.*

But did you also know we have a rather thriving middle class?

Seriously. There are posh people in Hull. I should know, I'm one of them.

Just to clarify, it is fairly easy to qualify as being posh - you just don't have to have a Hull accent. This is rarer than it sounds.

The middle classes do their best to cling together, although growing up I was well out of it. I lived in the east, most certainly not middle class territory. Much of the middle class can be found in The Avenues in the west of Hull, living in the rather fabulous massive houses down the leafy tree-lined streets. My Grandparents lived there and my Dad does now.
Every year there is an event called the Open Gardens. People can elect to open their gardens for people to come and have a jolly good nosey lovely, admiring wander around. To be clear, you don't get to tramp through people's houses to do this, you enter the gardens down passageways, you don't get lucky enough to have a proper good look.
Entrance to all the gardens costs £3 and the proceeds go to charity. When I was a young thing I have memories of Grandma and Grandpa opening their garden up and rather proudly trying to show people round it. I haven't been for so many years and I think I've been missing out.

This weekend, one The Stitchette's parents were opening their garden to the hordes and we decided to set up camp and stitch away to try and raise some more money for one of The Stitchette's upcoming trip to Ghana. We sat round a table, under the shade and stitched away for a few hours, I managed to almost finish a piece I'm doing for my sister (no pictures yet I'm afraid), and I felt good.

Really really good. I felt relaxed and happy and more content than I have done in a while. Things are very up and down at the moment, hopefully everything will even out once I'm completely moved out of the flat, so until then I kind of cherish these moments when I get a sudden realisation that I really did make the right decision and really couldn't feel any happier.

And, at that precise moment, any more middle class.

*there is a chance that these 'facts' are dubious. I could have done research but quite frankly couldn't be bothered. They are definitely things we have been accused of in the past though.

PS I hope it is clear that my tongue is very much in cheek at the moment.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

You're all invited

Tonight I had decided to throw myself a little pity party. There was only one person on the guest list and I had already RSVP’d a big fat yes.

It’s difficult when you’re playing the role of The Big Bad Break-Up Person to feel like it’s ok to feel a bit sorry for yourself. Or feel crap in general. At the end of the day it was your decision to break-up with someone so you just have to get on with the consequences.

And for the most part I have done. As I’ve said before, as someone that is constantly trying to make sure I’m not offending people with thoughtless comments and actions, it’s been difficult to think about the fact that there are people out there who absolutely hate your guts.
But the fact is this has been hard on me. It wasn’t an easy decision I made and it wasn’t one that I took lightly and there have been real emotional repercussions to my actions. I’ve questioned and re-questioned and over-analysed to the point of tedium every aspect of my personality and who I am and how I act in relationships and am I really the nice person I think I am.

All of this going through my head as well as dealing with trying to move out of the flat (I am now living elsewhere but there is still loads of my stuff at the flat – I need to find homes for it in charity shops and people’s houses etc etc) when I don’t have a car and trying to make head and tail out of my finances (the verdict? Not. good.).

In amongst all of this I’m very aware that people only have so much patience when it comes to listening about your break up woes. And I think that I’m now nearing the end of my time when people listen sympathetically before segueing into “Oh my god she needs to stop talking about this immediately and get over it.”

I feel like I’m a bundle of nervous energy, always just teetering on the edge of spilling over into the abyss. One minute I’m exceedingly ecstatic and full of limitless energy and feeling good about myself and my new life. The next, I want to tell everyone to bugger off and curl up into a small ball and feel very sorry for myself.

Tonight should be Stitch and Bitch night but I decided to stay in and attend the pity party. I feel like I haven’t stopped over the past few weeks and am constantly fretting about how I’m going to move stuff out of the flat or how I’m going to pay for things or how I’m making other people feel. I thought that maybe if I just had a night in where I didn’t have to watch what I said for fear of upsetting or annoying other people I might just give myself time to breathe.

All morning I thought about my pity party. I thought about what I would wear (pjs, obviously), what I would eat (carrot batons anyone? I might feel crap but this diet isn’t going to suffer because of it!) and what I would watch (still undecided).

And then I came back to the office after a meeting and discovered the post man had brought me something special. All the way from the magical land of the blogosphere. From a land called Mooncalf. I had seen these babies in a post the other day and immediately demanded one. I’m like that by the way, my first response when I see something I like is to say “Make me one” like a spoilt brat*. I don’t really mean it, it’s just my way of expressing just how much I like it. Either way e-mails were exchanged, apologies for behaving like a spoilt madam were made and addresses were given and this little guy found his way to Hull.

PB I have been walking round like a janitor with keys to the flat, my new place, my Mum’s keys and my Dad’s keys. This has been a) somewhat embarrassing, as I jangle my way round town, and b) a complete inability to find the actual key I’m looking for.

I needed something to make at least one of them stand out and my little, teeny tiny jumper is the way forward. He now resides on my house key, which really is the most important of the bunch and every time I look at him he makes me smile.

The reason he makes me smile is threefold

a) He’s a brilliant colour

b) Just look at it! It’s a tiny jumper on a key. What about that doesn’t make you smile?

c) It reminds me that there are very very very nice people out there who don’t think I’m a horrible beast.

So I might just cancel the pity party tonight. I think I’ll still stay in but instead will make a concerted effort to not be miserable and not feel sorry for myself and sit in my pjs, eating my carrot batons, watching some kind of crap. And if I start to slide into feeling like that, well I’ll just glance over at my ridiculously large bunch of keys and smile.

Three cheers for the blogosphere.

*although I can hold my hands up and say I kind of am

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Two months in...

It’s now been about two months since The Big PE of 2010. Which also means it’s been the same amount of time since I said goodbye to my alcohol friend.

To be honest it’s not been that hard. Mainly because I’m your classic binge drinker. I could easily go for a few weeks without touching a drop, but when it came to a night out I’d make it my intention to make up for lost time.

Nevertheless the past couple of months have thrown up a few observations:

1. Company is key
A good friend of mine went through a period of a couple of years where she couldn’t drink because it would make her violently ill. I asked her how she coped with going out and being the only sober one and she said that a lot of it depended on who she was with. She was bang on.

If you’re with people who are nice and you get on well with, you won’t even notice that you’re the only one drinking. If you’re out with people who are awful the night will drag....and drag........and.....drag.

2. There is only so much Diet Coke you can drink
Fact. I’ve had to switch to water at some point in the night, or alternate between the two. There’s nothing that makes you feel like more of a pretentious boring twat than ordering a glass of water at the bar, at least when you have a coke you can pretend that there’s vodka in it and nobody is any the wiser but with water you are laid bare. Of course you could always pretend that you are so drunk you’ve had to switch to water.

3. Being trolleyed isn’t attractive
This has been rammed home to me with a sledgehammer. There’s nothing like cold sobriety to juxtapose extreme drunkenness. I’ve seen people, especially girls, be incredibly drunk and had that horrible feeling in the back of your mind where you think “Oh my god is that what I’m like when I’m drunk?....” It’s not a nice feeling. Whereas before I’d wake up with a stinking hangover and secretly feel a little bit cool for being so drunk the night before I now realise that I most definitely wasn’t cool and was probably more likely a loud-mouthed bint who was staggering all over the place and immensely annoying people with my witty repartee. Not a look I particularly want to go back to. If I ever do get to go out and drink again I’ll be taking a lot of care not to be that person.

4. Watch your mouth
Important to remember. You can’t get away with the old “Oh I didn’t know what I was saying I was so drunk last night” line. Other people’s tongues might be loosened once they’ve had a drink and this might encourage you to do the same. Stop. Think. Because in the morning you might regret being quite so honest with your opinion when you can’t hide behind the Long Island Iced Tea excuse.

5. Being sober is not easier on the wallet...
Seriously. I haven’t saved much more money by being sober. Soft drinks are ridiculously expensive and don’t get me started on the bar that wouldn’t give me tap water meaning I instead had to buy an incy wincy bottle of mineral water for nearly £3. Times like that I really wish I was still drinking. Being hammered meant that I could cope a little more with the rape and pillage of my bank account, when you don’t even have a hangover to show for your night out it makes me perversely resent spending the money that little bit more

Also. I’ve found myself caught up in buying rounds. Tricky because you don’t want to be the tightarse in the corner but does mean that you spend more money than you would like to because everyone else is on the wine. This is exacerbated by the fact that you don’t drink your soft drink/water as quickly as others drink their alcohol so you end up missing out on getting your drink back from someone else.

6. ...but might help your waistline
I don’t really know if this is true or not but it could be a contributory factor to my rather (in my opinion) impressive weight loss as of late (22lbs thank you very much. Man I had to fight with myself not to put that in massive capital letters). In WW speak, alcohol can be pretty hefty on the ol’ points side of things, diet coke and water on the other hand, is zero. Could be something in it.


In summary, I think because my relationship with alcohol was kind of very unhealthy in the past, this experience has been, for the most part, a positive one. A re-education if you will.

But still. Sometimes. I’d give my right arm to feel that familiar dull ache behind my eyes on a Sunday morning which means you’ve had a cracker of a night before.


(My INR rating, in case you were interested, (and obviously you are, why wouldn’t you be?) has been frankly all over the shop. We thought we’d cracked it when I had two readings which were between the correct range of 2 and 3 but my smugness was shortlived as it has since spiked up to a stonking 5.4, making me worried my blood was so thin I was going to start bleeding out of my eyes, before dropping to an annoyingly thick 1.6 in the space of a week. I’m back on Monday and fingers crossed it’s gone up a wee bit because I don’t want to have to start injecting Fragmin again and end up with a stomach looking like this again.)

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Crazy Cat Lady Part 1 - Eddie

I mentioned the other week that I’m living in cat heaven at the moment. Not only am I actually living with two cats but the surrounded area is littered with the wee beasties. This is absolutely brilliant news if you’re me or like me when it comes to cats, probably less brilliant news for those people who are ambivalent towards them or are unfortunate enough to be walking somewhere with me and have to stop every 5 seconds as I attempt to touch a passing feline.

I can’t not do it you see. I see a cat, I want to try and stroke it. I will stop in the middle of the street and try to coax a shy little kitty out from under the car all the time talking in a peculiar voice and telling them they’re the most beautiful cat I’ve ever seen.

Luckily I don’t have to constantly embarrass myself in public quite as much, now that I’m living somewhere that has a garden. Instead I have devoted my energies to taming the cats that roam about in the vicinity and attempt to make them my friends.

Housemate told me about Eddie von Grumpy Face on my first day in the house. She said he would hang about occasionally and just stare in through the window, creeping you out if you happened to glance up and see him doing it. He looked like pretty much a huge thug.

Huge thugs of cats are my speciality. The first cat I ever knew was Smudge, a great big hulking black and white beast with a temper to rival Naomi Campbell’s. Everyone who visited the house would leave bearing a scar of their time in Smudge’s company.

So I set about trying to make friends with Eddie. Turns out he’s not a thug. Or a grumpy face. He’s a ridiculously great big softy. He’s like a little cockney sparrow, little bit weeeeyyy little bit woaaah. (Apologies to those of you who didn’t watch The Fast Show and have no idea what I’m on about.) What we mistook for a grumpy face is actually a totally gormless cutie face.

And now. He’s mine.

I’m not really a cat thief. I’d be devastated if someone stole my cat from me but cats are independent creatures and they like who they like. And Eddie likes me.

I haven’t fed him. I haven’t covered myself in catnip in an attempt to attract him. He just likes my style. What can I say? I’ve even managed to teach him his new name and if I say “Eddie!” he turns around and comes over to me. He will now appear within 5 minutes of Housemate and I being in the garden – I’m sure he does have a home, he’s too tame and in too good condition to be a stray, but he doesn’t seem to spend that much time in there.

One small problem is that Eddie is now such firm friends with me that I have mistakenly given him the impression that me casa et su casa, as I discovered when I felt someone rubbing against my legs in the kitchen the other day and looked down to see his big fat face staring back up at me.

This is causing some problems as Maggie, Mistress of the House, does not take kindly to interlopers on her property. She has issues with Maud and Maud actually lives there! So if Maggie catches Eddie getting a little bit too close for comfort she chases him off. He doesn’t really go far though, he’ll back off a bit and soon be back again, he’s just ridiculously desperate for Maggie and Maud to be his friends. It’s kind of sad really.

Maud tolerates him when Maggie’s not around, but when Maggie’s hackles start rising, so do Maud’s, leaving poor Eddie a little confused. Housemate and I have said that really we’re not being fair because we’re giving him mixed messages but neither of us seem capable of ignoring him because he’s just so damned lovely. I think as long as we don’t intervene with Maggie’s dismissals of him, harmony should reign.

Meanwhile my relationship with Eddie  continues to burgeon we have now crossed over into the unthinkable territory, he lets me pick him up. This is big news in cat handling people, cats don't just let anyone pick them up you know (or at least that's what I keep telling myself). He's a huge mammoth of a cat, your arms are just full of him and he enjoys a quick snuggle before going on his way.

Monday, 5 July 2010

The blanket reveal

Do you remember that blanket I was working on?

Do you?

I know it was about a million years ago but I did finish it you know. And I did want to tell you about it but then certain life events took over and before I knew it...I’d forgotten to show you.

To be honest I was a little apprehensive about showing you. It’s more than a little rough around the edges, mainly because I haven’t blocked it. I was going to and then I read up about it and thought “Wow. That sounds like a huge pain in the backside” and then I moved into a room which gives me roughly enough floor space to block 6” of fabric and I figured I could cope without.

So now that I’ve successfully dimmed your hopes I present to you...

My First Blanket

Hurray for me. I am incredibly proud of him (why is it a he? I don’t know, just is) and love him. A lot.

(I do apologise for the crapness of these photos but I took them very quickly rather than setting them up nicely and making pretty arty shots.You get the gist of it right?!)

I didn’t love him when I was joining all the squares together though, that was not my favourite part of the process, definitely going to be looking in to the whole joining as you go business.

The edging? I didn’t really know what I was doing to be honest, I’d never thought about edging when the blanket was a little nugget in my mind’s eye. In the end I went all the way around it doing more treble clusters and then did some UK treble stitches into each stitch along the way. Then I was bored of making my blanket and announced it was FINISHED!

It makes me happy. It’s colourful and yet ordered. I’m not good at the whole just picking up a colour and seeing if it works, each square had a pattern going on in it, this girl is not good at random. And I love the white because it just keeps everything from getting too busy.

It now lies on my bed in all its glory. (Sorry, did I say bed? I mean back-breaking futon, but whatever) I do know that Maud has been known to sleep on it but I’m yet to get photographic evidence.

And really all the credit should go to Heather. Heather is the one that assured me I could do it and that I should stick with it and it was thanks to her tutorial on her blog that I managed to find my way. So to Heather The Crochet Master I say thank you.

The yarn talk should it mean anything to you is as follows:

Yarn used – Baby Rico. I realise I should have made a note of the colours to tell you but didn’t. Next time I’ll remember! I’m liking this wool because it’s really soft and is only £2.29 a ball (from my local yarn shop anyway, you can get it online for a little less). I felt like I wasn’t being a total cheapasaurus and rummaging through the 99p bin for horrible scratchy stuff but also wasn’t bankrupting myself shelling out for the more expensive stuff (Debbie Bliss, I would love to use you but unless I win the lottery, it ain’t gonna happen!).

I’m already working on my next project, a blanket for a new niece/nephew who is expected in late October/early November. But that’s a whole other story in itself.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

This weekend I will be mostly...

...looking after these two people.

Mum is away for the weekend so I have stepped in to perform matriarchal duties to the furry ones.

And far more importantly than that, to sleep in a real life bed. I still haven't been able to bring my bed over from the flat to my new place and I have been sleeping on a futon for the time being. I can tell you that futons are not suitable as a long term sleeping arrangement, it's pretty much the most uncomfortable thing in the world. Hopefully I'll be able to get it over in the next few weeks so until then I am jumping at any chance at all to sleep on something with a mattress.

It doesn't take a lot to make me content these days.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Excuse me I'm terribly cultured you know

One of the things I have secretly been enjoying PB (post breakup) is the age old “I-don’t-have-to-answer-to-anyone” routine. It’s been refreshing to not have to worry about someone else for a while, to not have to let someone know where I am and how long I’m going to be there for. I obviously let Housemate know my general plans but there isn’t the need to detail every aspect of my plans anymore.

I took full advantage of this yesterday when a spur of the moment opportunity arose. Roy Hattersley was speaking at Hull Truck Theatre and Housemate was going with a friend who pulled out at the last minute, she asked me if I wanted to go. Why the hell not? The ticket was already paid for and sometimes it’s fun to do things spur of the moment.

I know. Me. The Ultimate Planner. Doing something spur of the moment. I’m not going to lie, it gave me quite a thrill.

It’s also fun to do something new and this would most definitely be uncharted waters for me. Roy Hattersley? Who? I vaguely knew something about him, I was pretty sure he was a Labour politician way back when and I was pretty sure he had white hair and I knew he used to have a dog. That was pretty much the extent of my knowledge. (If you did want to know a little more about him than these frankly unhelpful facts then Wikipedia can help you out.)

He was in Hull to talk at the Humber Mouth Festival (are there too many links in this post already? I fear so). We Hull people are a proud lot and anyone who has a link with Hull automatically becomes adopted by us, we bravely take ownership of them and will tell anyone who listens that this famous person has a link with Hull. More often than not it’s that they went to the University. But that’s close enough. Roy Hattersley went to Hull University and was friends with Philip Larkin – that’s a done deal as far as we’re concerned, you belong to us now. (And he did Economics at University which most definitely makes him my best friend. Us geeks have to stick together you know.)

He was there to talk about a book he has out called In Search of England which is a collection of some of his essays and columns that he was produced for various publications over the years. I was a little apprehensive to be honest, I tend to avoid anything overly political with a bargepole, I have my preferences and my opinions and I tend to prefer to keep them to myself rather than be tagged with a label.

I needn’t have worried. Politics were not on the agenda. Little wonder given that the zenith of his career, his election as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, happened the same year that I was born. He is now firmly an author and, I guess, journalist. I discovered that he’s produced a phenomenal number of books over the years on a whole range of topics, from biographies of William Booth and David Lloyd George, to the publication of his dog Buster’s secret diaries.

This talk however focused on England. And his love of England. A whimsical and romantical (yeah it’s a word) notion of England, all stiff upper lip and rolling dales and cricket on the green. He talked about some of the stories that are in the book and I found it really quite remarkable. What a talent to be able to just stand and tell some stories to a crowded theatre full of people and fully engage with them and make them laugh. I think I fell a little bit in love with him. (In a “I want you to be my grandfather way” not a “I want you to be my sugar Daddy” weird kind of way.)

And he reminded me of something. That’s it ok to be proud to be English. I dislike that the notion of patriotism has been hijacked and has become synonymous with racism, it seems a shame, America has got it down to a fine art. But listening to Roy talk I felt the stirrings of pride in me, you know what? England is rather marvellous, I like that I’m English, I like our stiff upper lip and rolling dales (but unfortunately don’t care much for the cricket) and I think I should make more of an effort to celebrate it.

But most of all I liked Roy Hattersley.

At the end of the talk his book was on sale and he was there signing copies. I bought a copy of the book that I really can’t afford because I just didn’t want to miss the opportunity to get a signed copy. (I’m all about meeting the famous people, one day I’ll tell you about the time I met Henry Winkler and interviewed Mark Owen from Take That.) As I drew closer to him I felt the familiar nerves and shakiness set in, I would love to say that I am cool and calm in the face of fame but I’m absolutely not, I get completely over-awed by it and usually make a fool out of myself.

I wanted to say something to him but I wasn’t sure what.

This might be my only opportunity.

Say something.


I’m really glad you came!” I blurted out in my most nerdiest style.

Well thank you for coming” came the stock reply.

I felt like I needed to get over just how much I enjoyed the talk but didn’t want to sound like a crazy stalker lady.

No I’m really glad I came because to be honest I didn’t really know who you were...”

Good one lady. Insult the nice man. I needed to make a recovery...

“...But now I do know who you are and I would really like to get to know you better.”

FAIL. I meant “get to know him” through his books not in the creepy way but I was mortified with my delivery and waited for the tap on my shoulder and the inevitable escorting off the premises.

Luckily for me he is a true gentleman and I think he managed to understand what I was trying to say and he smiled at me, handed back his book and said “Well that’s lovely, there’s no better testimonial than that.”

He’ll probably never come to Hull again for fear of bumping into me.

I need to work on my style when dealing with famous people in the future.

PS There was a little talk of politics at the end of the evening when he opened up the floor to questions. It was inevitable that people would ask him about the decision to go to war in Iraq (he opposes it now but was all for it back then because he had been told there were WMD) and the state of the Labour Party now and who he thinks the next Labour Party leader should be (Ed Milliband is the answer if you were wondering).
PPS And if you're like me and can never quite remember which Milliband brother is which (there should be a law against 2 brothers running for Party leader, it's most confusing), I can tell you that Ed Milliband is what I refer to as The Other Milliband. David I call the Man Child because of his creepily boyish looks, Ed is the, lets face it, less good-looking one. Don't feel bad about it Ed.