Monday, 28 February 2011

February Book Review

You're going to like this one peoples.

There's only one book to review!
Because I've already done the other two. Marvellous.

February has been designated a Month of Classics and I've managed to read and finish Midnight's Children and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and obviously you've already read those reviews.

The only other book that I've read this month has been Salley Vickers - Instances of the Number 3.

I really don't know what to say about this book. It left me a little cold to be honest. Peter Hansome has died in a car crash, and for some inexplicable reason his wife and mistress become friends. It's all very strange. I feel like it's the kind of book you would read at A-level, I kept finding myself subconsciously coming up with potential essay questions as I read it.

In a way I almost got insulted. These instances of the number 3 start to get a little heavy throughout the book and I started to feel as if Vickers was ramming it down your throat, as if there were flashing arrows pointing and screaming "Look! Here's another 3!" and I wanted to say "Yes. Thank you. I'm not a moron. I see that." I'm sure that wasn't the intention but it wasn't exactly subtle.

Yeah I don't really know what to say about it. "Meh" is the most apt description I can come up with at the moment.

I know. My eloquence knows no bounds. Sorry Instances of the Number 3, but you're going straight to the charity shop.


Book of the month? - One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Photo Scavenger Hunt - February

So I heard through Jill that Kathy was doing this thing called a Photo Scavenger Hunt. And given that I’m already trying to take a photograph every day to fulfil Project 365 I thought that I might as well give this a go. Apart from anything it could provide me with a photograph on those days when nothing else was doing.

The list for February contained the following 12 items:

A big lorry/truck
A big round clock face
A bridge
A musical instrument
A newspaper headline
A park bench
A postbox
Something heartshaped
Something red
Something with stripes
Your shoes

And it was bloody harder than I thought. I didn’t want to go too obvious on all of them but my creativity is unfortunately limited, not to mention it’s hard to scavenge when you walk the same route and sit in the same office 5 days a week (I kept waiting for a bridge to appear at my desk but it never happened).

However it was hard in a fun way if you catch my drift and there were a few of the categories where I ended up with more than one photo that I wanted to submit.

To see them in all their glory you can go here and to see everyone else’s entries then have a wee look see at the group photos.

1. Big round clock face
2. A park bench
3. Something red
4. Newspaper headline

The clock face I wanted to picture immediately because it’s been there as long as I can remember and, like myself unfortunately, it’s starting to look its age. I hesitate to use the over-used word “retro” but I think this is coming close to falling into that category.

I walk through a park every day so this one was a case of the proverbial walk through the park. I was hoping and hoping for a brighter day but it never happened so this picture looks particularly bleak.

This sign is on the building that I work in and was put up to stop people having to run a rather smokey gauntlet as they tried to get into the building. It looks fierce. But fails spectacularly.

I couldn’t think of anything to do but just photograph a newspaper for this one. But I did choose an important day and I cracked out an arty angle to make it a bit special.

5. Something with stripes
6. Something heartshaped
7. A postbox
8. Eyes

Credit for this photo goes to Dorothy who suggested a subject outside the box for this one. Maud’s rather splendid tabby stripes. Maud willingly acted as model for me as I spent a morning trying to get the best of her stripes captured.

Some cross stitched hearts on a Valentine’s Day card I made the Other Person. Predictable I know but what could I do?!

I had done another ‘arty’ shot of a post box down my street for this one when what should I spot but a freakin’ blue postbox near the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. Cue much excited jumping up and down. Anyone know why it’s blue? Nope me neither.

The last one on the list to get. I was panicky. February was drawing to a close. I was sat at my desk pondering what I photo I could take. And then I glanced down and saw the bright beady black eyes of my little monkey, who sits on my computer. His black eyes were shining out at me and I felt that it was probably a sign so I grabbed a quick shot.

9. A bridge
10. A big lorry/truck
11. A musical instrument
12. Your shoes

I was spoiled for choice when on my recent trip to Manchester - these are couple of bridges just outside the train station at Deansgate.

One thing this challenge has been useful for is in dealing with my embarrassment levels when on my own and taking photos in public. I can tell you you don’t half feel like a complete bloody twat sometimes. Case in point my photo of a big truck. This bad boy has been parked in Queen’s Gardens in the city centre of Hull for weeks. They’re draining the ponds and this guy has been on hand to get rid of all the nastiness that has been lurking beneath the depths for goodness knows how long. I saw him and knew he’d be brilliant for the challenge but I was so mortified at the prospect of taking a photo of it and having people look at me going “Great. Just what Hull needs. Another mentalcase.” In the end I kind of snapped and ran, without actually coming to a standstill. Must be self conscious next time.

I was worried about this one because I don’t play a musical instrument anymore and was debating the horror of going into a music shop and asking if I could take a photo of an instrument there when suddenly this guy popped up. It’s a sign on an old building that doesn’t appear to be in use in Lancaster and I spotted it as I scurried past after my (unsuccessful) interview.

I love these shoes. They make me happy. They might be too loud for some and a lot of the time I don’t have the nerve to wear them outdoors but they make me smile all the time. I need to start wearing them more.


Bring on March!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Wedding Fever

I wonder sometimes if there was a scale of ‘Britishness’ where I would factor on it.

I like nothing more than a good cup of tea and I am excellent at queuing. I can get completely outraged yet still will not actually make my feelings of displeasure known to the object of my rage. I am not particularly demonstrative and get easily embarrassed by displays of public emotion.

But at the moment I seem to have been taken over by a wave of excitement which clearly puts me a few points further up the ‘Britishness’ scale.

I have no idea how or why this has happened to me but I am crazily, barking, over the moon excited about the Royal Wedding.

I wouldn’t class myself as a huge fan of the Royal Family. If the revolution came tomorrow and the Royal Family was no more I don’t think I’d think too much of it but nor do I join in those who complain about tax-payer’s money etc etc. I won’t go into it but the actual cost per taxpayer isn’t that much and if you compared it to the revenue brought in from tourism it’s probably more than offset. But that would be going into it so I’ll stop right there.

On any normal day I don’t have any particular feelings for or against them. I didn’t grow up dreaming to be married to Prince William (if it was going to be either of the Princes I would have been going for Harry – he’s just more fun!). I didn’t lie prostrate beating my fists against the ground when Princess Diana died (I’m British remember? Plus, you know, I didn’t know her.). Heck, until last year I hadn’t even watched The Queen.

But something short circuited in my brain the day the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton was announced and 29th April is now gearing up to being one of the biggest days in my calendar this year.

I think it’s the sense of occasion which has caught me up. This is the first big big Royal event that I can fully appreciate (if we don’t count Charles and Camilla’s wedding and that totally doesn’t count). People are always talking about where they were when Charles and Diana got married. I was busy being not alive. Andrew and Fergie? Busy being a 3 year old.

Hell Mum remembers getting sent home from school when George VI died – I need an event like this in my living memory! (Incidentally, Mum’s Mum didn’t believe her when she got home and was marching her back to school when she met another parent on the way who verified that the King was dead. She must have thought my Mum was a hell of a liar to have come up with that one by herself.)

It’s not so much that I love the Royal Family but more that I love a bit of history and this is one piece of history that I want to remember. I want to do something so I can tell my (possibly never existent, but lets not go down that road again) children what I did on the day King William got married.

So what to do? I don’t particularly fancy going to a pub and watching it with hordes of other people – I’ll only be embarrassed if I have to shush them.

I decided I would throw a tea party. Not a street party. I’m quite frankly far too lazy to put up with the hassle of trying to organise something like that. A tea party. In my house. I will serve cakes and cucumber sandwiches and TEA and I will make everybody wear their fanciest party dresses (or you know, not) and we will sit around and be terribly civilised and maybe even pop some champagne cheap sparkling wine when they are pronounced man and wife.

But I didn’t stop there in my planning. I need something to serve this tea and fizzy stuff in. Yeah sure we have glasses and cups but it needed to be more than that. And I had an amazing idea...

...I would start snapping up all those tacky tatty souvenir mugs that you get for these occasions and we would use those. And so I made my first ever foray onto e-bay. I understand that this marks me out as a complete freak, how have I got to this point in my life and not gone on e-bay? The answer is that I was scared. I couldn’t quite get my head around how it worked and I had a feeling it was a dangerous place for someone like me.

How right I was. My hunt for these souvenir items took on mammoth proportions and it was only barely kept in check. In the space of 2 weeks I went from having no souvenir mugs to having five. This is quite a staggering exponential growth.

I couldn’t believe what there was to be found though and my favourites have to be the real oldies, which actually aren’t even tacky but are kind of awesome. I feel a collection coming on...

I have people keeping their beady little eye out for them in charity shops and the like and Dorothy managed to snaffle me a rather marvellous Charles and Diana one the other day which is a most delightful manky yellow colour (haven't had a chance to picture it yet though).

Of course what I would really like is one of the official, sold-in-the-Buckingham-Palace-shop mugs, but I just can’t bring myself to spend £35 on a teeny tiny mug that I would probably never dare use for fear of breaking. Plus it’s just far too stylish and classy, it doesn’t go with the mug I have commemorating their engagement at all. (But if anyone happened to be reading who wanted to get me a birthday present (4th April if you wanted to know) then there is an official Royal Wedding tea towel that’s only £7.95. I’m just saying...)

The one thing I don’t have for this party?



So who’s coming?

Friday, 25 February 2011


I just thought I should give you a quick rundown on my job situation. I know I complain about it a lot and I know that a few people have offered me advice and I don’t want to appear as if I’m ignoring it so thought I’d just bang a few things out to try and make things a little clearer about the position that I’m in.
I work as a research assistant in the social science field.

What does social sciences mean? Basically anything that’s not real science. So anything to do with communities or life in general. Some would call it touchy feely. Some would call it woolly. You know when you hear someone talk about “community cohesion” or any of those other buzz phrases? You’re looking at my field.

I have been doing this job for about 3 years and have been working for the same company for 4 years. I fell into this role completely by accident when someone heard that I had done some research work for my Professor when I was studying for my MSc at university. I work for a charity. In the North. Wages are never going to be high and I have accepted that, I really like what I do, I’m just not enjoying the place I do it for at the moment.

I am more than happy to move away from Hull. I know I talk about how much I love it but it's a love borne out of necessity. I’ve been trying to get out of Hull in the 4 years that I’ve been back here. I don’t know how much you know about the region but Yorkshire and the Humber is not a happy place to be if you’re looking for a job. It’s an even less happier place if you’re looking for a job in research.

For the past year I have been looking for a new job. And when I say looking I mean actively looking. I mean I check job websites every. single. day. In that year I’ve lost count of how many jobs I’ve applied for and have managed to get 2 interviews. In a year.

You know how people say “There are no jobs out there”? It really is true. Especially in my field. Social sciences is not spectacularly well funded at the best of times. Real science gets that honour. In the current climate, despite Mr Cameron’s lofty ambitions for Big Society (which technically should benefit me because there’s a lot to research there) there is even less funding for jobs like mine.

Going back to my roots in Economics I shall take you back to the basics. What do we know when the supply of something diminishes?

The demand gets greater.

The first job that I interviewed for had over 75 people apply for it. The second job I interviewed for had over 40 people apply for it. And not just “people”. Over-qualified people. People that I wouldn’t normally be competing with for jobs are now battling me head on because they can’t find employment either. I am living in an unfortunate world where even a Masters degree isn’t enough (the last job went to someone with a PhD)

So when I complain about my job don’t think I’m sitting here passively whining that it’s not good enough and waiting for the job fairy to throw one into my lap. I am out there. I am applying. There is literally no more that I can do.

Please don’t say “You’ll find it” or “You’ll get one eventually” or “Keep at it.” I know all these things. I say them to myself a hundred times a day. But when you say them to me it conjures up an almost irrepressible urge to rip your head off and smear your entrails over the wall.

And that, my friends, is that.

Thursday, 24 February 2011


I’ve always wanted a dog. Don’t get me wrong, I love my cats, but a dog has always been the holy grail. Unfortunately it was never going to happen – with all of us being out of the house all day, it was no environment to bring a dog into so I grew up settling for draping myself all over friends’ dogs and running after random dogs on the street.

I know a few people with dogs now. My sister has Rowan the Irish Setter who is totally nuts. I love her but she isn’t half a handful at times.There’s Frank, my Auntie’s Dachshund, who is very lovely but kind of yappy and a little too small for me. I don’t particularly mind small dogs but I need them to be bigger than the size of Fred and Lily.

Jess in January this year

And then there was Jess. Jess arrived in my life at a kind of awkward moment. After 4 years of not speaking to my father, we were attempting to cobble together some kind of relationship. And as well as fashioning a father/daughter bond, I also had to find a way to make room for the woman my father was in a relationship with. Although none of this was easy, I can’t deny that the transition was made a little smoother after I was introduced to Jess, my future Step-Mum’s dog.

Jess was the perfect combination – she was not too big and not too small. Not too excitable but puppy-ish in a way that belied her 14 years. She was the most obedient dog I’ve ever come across, no need for the lead, she would pad along beside you and stop at the road and wait for you to tell her to cross.

Jess in France 2010

Her absolute, ultimate, best of the best, favourite pastime was playing fetch – she would run and run and run for a ball until you gave in and begged for peace, I never knew her to tire before the person who was throwing the ball for her did.

I have dog-sat for her on many occasion when Dad and Step-Mum have been away in France at their house and I was actually kind of sad when they eventually sorted out a doggy passport for her to come away with them.
Jess models the patchwork blanket, France 2010

I feel like she’s been around forever – she has played fetch with The Americans when they came to over to Hull for a visit when we were all at uni. She was there when I finally worked out how to crochet. She was there when I was in France last summer and she was there (literally beside me) when I woke up from my blackout last Christmas.

It really never occurred to me that there might come a point when she wasn’t there.

Dad's back garden, summer 2009 (taken with Fisheye)

So when I got a call last Thursday to say that she had suddenly died, playing fetch in the park with my Step-Mum I found it hard to keep a grip on things. My voice was wobbling when I spoke to my Dad and I shed more than a few tears that evening as I sat on the settee. I felt thankful that I had gone round on the Sunday before and been greeted at the front door by her as usual. I felt thankful that she hadn’t suffered a long and drawn out illness like some animals. I felt thankful that she died literally doing what she loved.

But mostly I just felt beyond sad. The hugest of holes has been left. I won’t get to laugh at her holding a yoghurt pot between her front paws as she licks out the dregs. I won’t have her trying to get in the bath with me because a firework has gone off and I happen to be in her usual hiding spot. I won’t get to sit on the floor and give her tummy a good ol’ scratch.

Sometimes I love that I love animals so much and other times I wish I could be a little more heartless because this royally sucks.

RIP J-dog.

Me and the J-dog, 2007

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Not quite Edinburgh

Sometimes I get the feeling that I’ve really annoyed someone somewhere in the universe for an unknown reason and I’m being roundly punished for my actions.

Last weekend I should have been in Edinburgh with The Person. Someone he knew offered us a flat so we didn’t have to pay accommodation costs and he had managed to find pretty cheap tickets (Return from Hull to Edinburgh normally is £90. Yes really.) for us to travel up by train. It was exciting and something to look forward to. When you only get to see each other once a month if you’re lucky and you don’t have many pennies to spend the idea of a cheap weekend somewhere is pretty exciting.

And then...

I got a call to say that I was invited to interview for a job in Lancaster.* I asked if I could be interviewed on another date but unfortunately potential employers hold all the cards at the moment and can afford to say no. Edinburgh was officially cancelled. (And we couldn’t get refunds on the tickets because they were advance purchases. Nice.)

After a few minor meltdowns at this news we decided to make the best of it. Lancaster’s only 20 minutes away from Preston by train (part of the reason for applying for the job in the first place) so I would go there after my interview and we’d have a weekend in Preston instead.

We figured that as we were going to spend money doing Edinburgh things like go to the castle we would spend the money on (another) train ticket and travel into Manchester for the day and be tourists there instead. Even though we’ve both lived know what I mean.

So we did what all good tourists do and went to a museum, specifically the Museum of Science & Industry, which I have to hold my hand up and say I never went to in the whole time I lived there. That could be because I’m allergic to science though.

It is full of science things you know. And industry things. The main thing that excited me was finding out that there was actually a reason the place I lived in was called Whitworth Park – he was a real-life person! Hurrah.

I won’t lie. There’s a reason I did an arts degree. I can’t get excited about science. I CAN however get excited about it when it’s interactive. Aaah it’s a magical word – and MOSI uses it to the max with the whole 2nd floor devoted to hands on science. I can’t get enough of that to be honest – you just have to be prepared to shove some children out of the way. Cretins.

Also. There is a whole hall that’s devoted to the textile industry with looms and all sorts of stuff in it. I like that bit. (Apologies for conforming to stereotype.) But I definitely wasn’t enthralled by the hall with the engines in it. I did get momentarily excited when I thought I could climb into an old railway carriage but it turns out that you couldn’t, you could just look in it. At the engine. Boo.

I might not love science but I do love food and after some productive window shopping and real life shopping (frame reduced in Habitat from £9 to £2 yes please thank you very much) we were seduced by the smells coming from the market in Piccadilly Gardens and got us some chicken tikka and kebab wraps. I declare it the best £7 The Person has ever spent on food.
A quick trip to the Northern Quarter was in order after that for drinks with a friend. Trof was rammed to the rafters but we managed to squeeze in to Apotheca to have a drink and a catch up before we took our tired little bodies back to Preston for the evening.

Evening activities included going to The Olive Press for food. The verdict? Meh. Alright but nothing to write home about. However you can get two cocktails for £6 all day every day and that most definitely is something to write home about. We sat on big comfy armchairs in candlelight and got to be a real life couple, instead of the part-timers we usually are. We cocktailed our way out of there and on to another bar, before stocking up on crisps and Toblerone and heading home to watch The Hangover (where have I been? That film was amazeballs.)

The Person is kind enough to let me watch the Hollyoaks Omnibus every Sunday morning, against his better judgement and despite all his whining. He likes it really, he just won’t admit it. And then there was the familiar onset of depression as the day drew to a close and I realised that I’d be going home and won’t get to see him again until the end of March.

Not quite Edinburgh, but not too shabby either.

More photos can be found with one little click of the mouse here

*Yeah. Waste of time. I didn’t get the job. Apparently I’m awesome but was up against someone with a PhD. Which begs the question....why invite me to interview in the first bloody place?!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie

I’m a bit of a sucker for the Booker Prize you know. Actually I’m a sucker for anything that brings new books to my attention – TV Book Club, Richard and Judy, Costa Book Award – I lap them all up, eagerly read the synopsis on the back of all the books and add them to my ever growing list of books I want to read. The Booker Prize has come up with some gems for me (step forward last year’s winner The Finkler Question) but occasionally it throws the occasional nightmare into my path (do I need to mention the unreadable Wolf Hall again? Anyone else bored with me saying how much I hated that book? No? Excellent.).

Midnight’s Children will haunt me, I fear, for the rest of my days on earth.

When I pledged to read 12 classics in a year, this was one of the first ones that I picked up – it’s been awarded the Booker of Bookers. That’s like....Booker Squared. Definitely in the ‘Modern Classic’ category and definitely on the list to be read. I dutifully started it at the beginning of January and what followed was the longest month of my life until I could finally close its pages at the beginning of February.

I have this thing where I don’t read the Introductions that are invariably included when you pick up newer editions of classics. I understand that they’re there to provide you with some background and context to the tale you’re about to read but all I think they do is imprint someone else’s interpretation of what the book is about onto your brain. I prefer to draw my own conclusions.

In this case I wish I had read the Introduction to this one (written by Salman Rushdie himself) because then I’d have been prepared for the character of Saleem Sinai. I don’t need my heroes to be bare chested paragons of virtue but I do need them to be vaguely likeable and Saleem is just a pompous jumped up little twerp, irritating and annoying and grating and someone that you just want to slap in the face. Once I’d read the Introduction I'm afraid I was having similar feelings about Mr Rushdie.

The book is supposed to chart Saleem’s life and that of a newly independent India (Saleem is born at the moment of India’s independence). This book is not short. It comes in at over 900 pages and is split into three sections. He isn’t even born until the end of the first section so I reckon we can get rid of that one. The last section is pretty much incomprehensible so I would recommend getting rid of that one.

That leaves us with the second section and actually the part of the book which I genuinely enjoyed. I struggled through the first book, and upon entering the second, felt a calm release that reassured me the effort had been worth it. I wanted to read it, I felt absorbed by it, heck I liked it so much I even did a bit of illegal reading at work of it. Then I entered the third book and it lost the plot entirely and I felt all the worse for it after the high of enjoying the middle section, I felt cheated.

So anyway. Saleem is born at the stroke of midnight on the day of India’s independence. At the age of 9 he discovers that he can hear the thoughts of those around them and later on discovers that he can willingly connect with the 1,001 other children who were also born on the first day of independence.

Now here’s the problem and I think some of the cause of my trials with this book. You need to know the basic background before you can even think about reading it. My knowledge of India’s independence and then the partition of it? Zero. Absolute zero. This is kind of major problem when you’re reading a book where the main character is supposed to be the personification of the country in question. It’s impossible to keep track and make connections between the two if you haven’t completed a short history course beforehand.

(And as an aside. This is why people don’t like books that win the Booker Prize. They think they’re going to be pretentious and in cases like this they are absolutely bang on. A good book shouldn’t be dependent on you having a degree in history to enjoy them , the writing should be good enough to carry the story on its own, without the need for the reader to have a library to hand.)

I think my lack of knowledge was a serious issue here. I couldn’t follow what was going on. I didn’t know what was happening and once war broke out and you’re with Saleem in the jungle in Book III I had completely lost the will to live.

What was even more annoying was that I felt the book had potential – there really were parts of it that I thought were beautifully written and sharply observant – my favourite?

“This behaviour...was the direct result of a confusion in his mind, which invariably muddled up morality – the desire to do what is right – with popularity – the rather more dubious desire to do what is approved of.”

The New York Times reckons Midnight’s Children is “One of the most important books to come out of the English-speaking world in this generation”.

I just wish I could understand why they think that. I’m afraid this is one of those times when I have to hold my hands up and say “I didn’t get it.”

Sorry Mr Rushdie.


On to the next classic!

(It's Wilkie Collins - The Moonstone if you wanted to know)

Monday, 21 February 2011

Not quite where I thought I'd be: Revisited

I wrote this post back at the beginning of November last year and was surprised by the number of comments it generated. It appeared that I wasn’t alone in feeling like I was losing the race of life. And I have tried oh so very hard to practice what I preached in that post, desperately repeating to myself “You are happy, you are happy”, in a bid to stop myself from throwing myself in front of the next wedding car that crosses my path.

I think the problem is my ridiculous levels of competitiveness. Who knows where it came from but I was born with an unfortunate desire to WIN. This led to many a board of snakes and ladders being thrown across the room when I hit just one snake too many and countless hours standing in the corner because of the tantrums I invariably threw when people didn’t let me win. This inbuilt rocket ship has come in handy at times – you wouldn’t have recognised me on a hockey/netball/rounders pitch at school (but not running remember?). And the only reason that I got decent results at GCSE and A-level and got into university was because I thrived under the intensely competitive atmosphere that private schooling seems to produce (we were regularly told that we had to try and beat last year’s grade performance and that we were in competition with one another. A tactic which worked well for some but most definitely had a destructive edge to it.).

When you consider this quite frankly bizarre behaviour then it’s no wonder I’m feeling the burn as everyone around me buys houses, move in with boyfriends, get good jobs, have amazing life experiences, get married, have children. I am losing the ultimate game. That of life. I think of how incredibly rageful I can get over a quiet game of Monopoly, of course I’m throwing a fit about the way my life is turning out – this is just my ugly competitive edge coming out.

This is what happens when we feel the need to conform. I can sit here and repeat “I am happy” until I’m blue in the face but the awful fact is that we still judge a person’s success in life by whether they;

1. Own a house
2. Have a decent job
3. Are married (children optional)

Anyone outside of this we might admire, but we admire them because they stand out and you can admire someone all you like but it doesn’t mean you want to be like them. I’m happy to conform to be honest, box me up and ship me out with the rest of the clones – instead I feel like a square peg in a round hole.

I can’t even say I have any great life experiences to fall back on – look at The Curious Cat. I love that girl you know. She’s gone and done some travelling and experienced wonderful things. The furthest I’ve gone is to the other side of Hull unaccompanied (clearly I’m exaggerating but you have to allow me that at this moment in time I’m afraid). If marriage and houses and job that I love never happen to me then at least I could have had the option of saying “Ah yes, but this one time when I was trekking up the Andes something rather marvellous happened...”. Nope. Not for me.

I repeat “I am happy” and I do believe it deep down inside. But the mantra only works if I don’t think about the things that I want and don’t have – then I become unhappy. And I’m pretty sure the mantra “I am happy, apart from the fact that I suck at life” isn’t one you should be repeating 20 times a day in the mirror. I guess that’s the thing about inner peace – it isn’t just bestowed upon you, you have to really put the effort in. I have to really really believe that I’m happy for me to be happy and although I’m pleased with my efforts so far, I have to be honest and say that I’m failing.

I was doing a pretty good job until 2011 dawned. In 2011 I will be attending five hen dos and two weddings (if that ratio seems a bit off it’s because one wedding is in Israel, one is in Thailand and one is in Italy. I love my friends but unfortunately friendship can’t buy plane tickets or book hotel rooms). In the face of all of the joy and happiness of other people, I am struggling to keep hold of my own.

One of the first of my group of friends here in Hull got married at the end of November last year. I have been roundly mocked for my total inability to keep my emotions in check at her wedding. It’s no wonder people found it funny, I’m not known for my overly emotional side, I’m the one making inappropriate jokes and laughing in the face of mush, yet here I was completely unable to stop the tears from streaming down my face. I had no idea at the time what was the cause of it and put it down to my extreme happiness for her. She has just announced that she’s pregnant with their first child. The tears came again.

But I have to be honest. I don’t think I was crying because I was happy for her. I think I was crying for myself and the fact that life as I knew it, with my group of friends, was about to irreversibly change (married people, you may not know it but you do change when you get married, who knows why, but that gold/platinum band seems to make the world of difference. Protest all you want, I’m telling you the truth) and I feel like I’m getting left behind, watching everybody climb up the ladders whilst my throw of the dice never seems to come up with the right number.

This is a disgustingly unpleasant and selfish side of me that I feel ashamed to reveal to you but I say it in the spirit of honesty. Standing and watching people get what I would like in life is hard and deep down I know that it’s not a race and I know it’s not a competition but it’s easy to say that when you’re winning said game.

I’m sure everything will all work out, some people aren’t as lucky as others, and for whatever reason I have not been chosen to win this game as quickly as others. It could be that I’m the unlucky person who never gets to go up the ladders, but instead rolls and rolls the dice and avoids the snakes and gets there in the end.

So I carry on repeating to myself “I am happy” and try not to worry about the milestones that I’m not (and may never) reach and eventually I am sure I will find my inner peace.

But you might just have to bear with me for a while.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011


Don't worry, you didn't all scare me off with your responses to my When is a Classic, not a Classic? post.

It turned out that the cold that I was determined to sweat out of my system, didn't want to sweated out and I was struck down in the prime of life for a few days. (No it really wasn't that dramatic, it was just a wee cold, was sorted out with a couple of days sleep.)

Then life got a bit crazy and I just don't have time to blog at the moment.

There is lots to talk about though, I just need to wait until next week until all the craziness has died down.

So bear with me 'kay!?


Thursday, 10 February 2011

When is a Classic not a Classic?

Hello blog readers. I need your help.

So as you may know I made it part of my New Year’s Not Really Resolutions to read 12 classics this year.

I just felt that I wasn’t really challenging myself with my reading very much. Although I’m not exactly reaching for the See Jane Run books, there are times when I feel I could benefit from some heavyweights in there.

Plus I was sick of having to say “I’ve not read it” whenever somebody brought up certain famous novels.

(Do you know how many classics there are out there? Kind of a lot.)

So I made my sweeping statement that I was going to read 12 “Classics” this year and got on with it. Only now I find myself in a bit of a dilemma. Maybe I should have been clearer on what I define as a classic?

This all centred around a discussion I had with my Dad at the weekend. I took him back his copy of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and mentioned that I had rushed out to buy The Daily Telegraph on Saturday purely because I saw that it was giving away a copy of a collection of three of F Scott Fitzgerald’s short stories.

Dad disputed that this counted as a Classic, saying that although F Scott Fitzgerald was a classic author, he didn’t think these particular short stories counted as a “classic”. The Great Gatsby however, would be considered a classic.

We got further into debate when I announced that I was also planning to read Gone with the Wind as part of my 12. He said that although the film was a classic, the book wasn’t that famous.

So this left me reeling a little bit. Am I not setting out what I achieved to? I’ve read Midnight’s Children (still digesting that one before I feel strong enough to attempt a review) and I feel that although that’s fairly contemporary, it can be judged a classic because it was named the Booker of Bookers. But then again – is it? Am I confusing the term “classic” with “books you should read”?

But then I argued that One Day in the life of Ivan Denisovich might not be deemed a classic because I’d certainly never heard of it. Should I only be reading “acceptable classics” and if so then what the hell are they?!

You see the tangled web I’m getting myself into?

So I thought I’d turn to you guys (some people call it co-dependency, I call it blogging) and ask for your opinions...

1. Does the collection of F Scott Fitzgerald stories count as a classic?

2. Does Gone with the Wind count as a classic?

3. What do you think constitutes a classic?

(I'm not asking you if you think Midnight's Children is a classic because if you say no and that means I've read that book for nothing I might never read again. Can you guess how the review is going to go?)

And then finally I would like you to name a classic that you think I should read. All titles will be put into a hat (as long as I haven’t already read them, I’m not really bad you know, I have read some) and I will draw out a winner and that will be the next classic that I read.

So you know I think we both get something out of this bargain – you know?

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Fighting back

My goodness. I’ve been in a post-Superbowl coma for the past couple of days.

Or at least I think I’ve been. I have never been so tired in my whole life as I was on Monday. I’m not somebody who needs their 8 hours sleep a day, I can get by on 5-6 but clearly I’m totally incapable of coping on less than 3. I came home and went straight to bed and slept for over 2 hours, I don’t think I’ve ever done that, I’m not a napping kind of gal. I’ve felt pretty chipper since then but last night started to feel a bit ropey. That feeling has continued through today and I’m now wondering if it possibly isn’t Superbowl Coma I’m suffering from but Common Cold instead.

I hope not, I’ve had a pretty brilliant sickness record so far. No colds in 2010. Nothing since having flu in 2009, that sucker made my white blood cells superhuman (just not so superhuman that they could stop blood clots. But whatever). I crept through November and December, while everyone was dropping around me, praying to whatever or whoever might be out there to spare me the germs and it really did work.

I have also decided that the way to get rid of a cold or to at least not to give in to one is to beat it to within an inch of its life out of your body.

Back in November I was pretty sure I was getting a cold. This happened to be the same night that I was planning on Zumba-ing my troubles away. Now the old me would have swooped on this cold like a vulture on a carcass and celebrated the fact that I had a legitimate excuse to not go to the gym. But the new me decided that I would not be lazy and I would not succumb and would go and dance it out of my system.

It totally worked. I’m serious. Maybe that cold would never have taken hold and would have disappeared on its own but the gym certainly didn’t hurt it. I was brought up in a school of “Do not give in” which applied to illness, school work and entering Blue Peter competitions in the vain hope of winning a stupid badge.

As if to verify my feelings, this report appeared on the BBC website, the day or so after I had combated germs with Latin dance exercise. Proof, I say, proof! I can’t believe that it’s a coincidence that since I’ve been healthier and going to the gym more I’ve suddenly stopped being struck down with so many coughs and colds, previously I’d been quite the hotbed for them. As the lbs have disappeared, my germ-fighting spirit appears to have grown.

And so I’m about to put my theory to the test again. I feel pretty crappy at the moment. Headache, what appears to be a phlegm factory in my lungs and an all-pervasive tiredness which is making me want to put my head on my desk and drift off to sleep. It would be very easy for me to cancel the gym tonight. But I’m going to be brave, I’m going to march into that place and Spin this cold out of my system.

Failing that, I’m probably going to need some cold remedies. And some sleep.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Random Superbowl thoughts

So I decided for no reason whatsoever that I would stay up to watch Superbowl XLV which saw the Green Bay Packers take on the Pittsburgh Steelers. Please be clear - I know nothing about American Football. I tried to watch it once, the year that I lived with American Girl and Boy in Manchester and  American Boy tried valiantly to explain the game to me but I refused to listen (I was most likely drunk and/or tired). Oh how I wish I had, this game is nuts.

What follows are the random thoughts that I decided to write down as I watched the game to a) document this hilarious night, b) keep me awake. These were in no way meant to be coherent.

...Man those Quarterbacks really are a huge deal. Their names are pretty much the only individual names you hear...

...It's hard to actually figure out what's going on when you're not paying proper attention and writing blog posts that  don't make any sense. Bad spectator...

...Some of these guys are seriously just fat...

...They don't appear to catch the ball anywhere near as often as they miss it - it seems to be more about just hoiking it down the field...

...The Coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers is some kind of boy-child...

...The drop goals (or whatever they're called in this game - see I'm not concentrating!) are amazing. They have to kick those balls in a straight line through a goal while very angry men run right at your face...

...Field goal! They're called field goals!...

...Loving the Black Eyed Peas. Let's get my energy levels up by having a little dance....

...Actually. Black Eyed Peas are a little uncomfortable to listen to live. This is what happens when your voices get manipulated too much in a studio...

...OMG Slash is on stage playing guitar. Why doesn't this happen in the FA Cup final...

...Woah...and Usher. Man I need to start going to those street dance classes at the gym, I could totally look that cool. No really I could...

..They keep saying numbers that mean nothing to me, what does 2nd and 15 mean?! Why do I never listen when people are trying to tell me things?!...

...Oh my goodness a player just ran full tilt into a camera-man. I'm a terrible person, I nearly choked laughing at it. I believe the world is split into two kinds of people, those who laugh when people fall over/get knocked over/trip etc and those who are kind and goodhearted...

...I must be getting tired. I just took the following photograph to post on American Girl's wall to show her that I was watching the game over here...

...I can sense that this is getting to be a tense game. It's 17 - 21 to Green Bay but Pittsburgh are coming up from behind (so to speak). I feel like I should be excited and I am but I don't really know why...

...Oooh does 1st down refer to the 1st man tackled to the ground? Could I be learning something?!...

...No I don't think I am. I thought that sounded too similar to Rugby League...

...No. Wait. I just asked the internet and I think it really is similar to rugby league...

...Hahaha there's a man on the sidelines called Dick LeBeau. How can you not laugh at that? No? Really? Well it's funny at 2.06am let me tell you...

...Haha penalty for "unnecessary roughness". Bless their little cotton socks...

...Life would be much easier if both teams weren't wearing yellow pants...

...Aaaah I see. You just have to be standing in the touchdown zone and be passed the ball for it count as a touchdown. Veeeeeeeery interesting...

...Oooh this IS exciting, the score just went from 17-28 to 25-28 in the blink of an eye. And we're in the last quarter. I feel I'm witnessing a good game here...

...Hurray!! Green Bay has won, I was unofficially supporting them. I am pleased although I am a) incredibly tired because it's now 3.10am and b) grossed out by the Gatorade Shower they gave the Green Bay coach. A whole massive barrel of juice? Sticky.

...Staying up for the trophy presentation - hang on...the Quarterback for Green Bay won MVP (Most Valued Player - I guess the equivalent of Man of the Match) and he doesn't just get the honour of being named MVP. Oh no no no. He's just won a car. Yes you read right. A shiny, red, sports car. Officially bizarre...

...3.31am. Time to call it a night. Ha I'll be walking into work in 4 hours. Note to self: you have one year to learn the rules of American football.

I have absolutely no idea why I wrote this post.

When I embarked on Project 365 I heeded the advice of Lucy who said that there would be days when you struggled to take a photo at all and days when there were too many to choose from.

So far I've had most of the former situations, desperately scrabbling around for a photo. But this weekend was different and I wanted to put up a montage. This was weird for a few reasons, not least because I found myself with a rare day off this Saturday. A day where I didn't have anything planned or anyone to see, a day where I could legitimately sit on my behind and do whatever I wanted to do.

So whilst I sulked about having to choose just one picture it suddenly occurred to me that I have a blog where I could put up as many freaking pictures as I want to.

So I'm gonna people. I'm just gonna.

What does a girl do when she has a whole day of nothing ahead of her?

She crochets people. She gets her hook out. She gathers together all her left over scraps of wool and she embarks on a project. The latest project is a cushion cover. Mainly because I've been wanting to do one for ages and also because I wanted to do something that required little brain power. I worry sometimes about the ease with which I reach for things that don't require much brain power - I can feel my cells atrophying sometimes.

At the moment the cushion is going to have 9 granny squares on one side and I'm thinking about doing something different for the other side. See? See how my brain is dying? "Something different" I'm just so articulate sometimes.

There are 6 squares made up so far and I am most definitely feeling the love. I think that something strange happens when you edge your squares in white, it seems to instantly add some kind of vintage feel to the squares. Everything begins to look kind of kitschy and cool. I'd explain better but clearly the power of speech has escaped me at the moment.

The only downside of sitting on my backside all day is that I get a severe case of the guilts once it gets to the evening. I try to be lazy I really really do but I will just never be that good at it. I'm not properly built for lazing. The guilts hit on Saturday night and I knew I had to do something to stop me feeling like too much of a lazy bint. Lucky I have a fallback for such situations...

I get my bake on.

It's easy and quick and the results always look slightly disproportionate to the effort you put in (at least if you bake like me and don't pick anything taxing). So after one hour and only one major incident involving a flour explosion I had managed to create the last Mincemeat Cake of the season, using up the last of the mincemeat from Christmas and also some Snickerdoodles from Rachel Allen's 'Bake' book which I decided to bake on a whim because I had the ingredients already in (loved that feeling, I felt like a real-life baker for a moment. Until the flour explosion.)

And now I've written all this and I've realised that really there weren't that many pictures to choose from for Project 365 and I have absolutely no idea why I'm writing this post.

Don't be too mean to me. I've decided to stay up to watch the Superbowl and I think I'm delirious with lack of sleep.


There's a link to my photostream on the sidebar. You can see what picture I did actually go with for 5th February. (Note. It wasn't one of the ones in this post.)

Saturday, 5 February 2011

On your marks

I’ve never been particularly good at running. The mere mention of the words “cross country” can still set off a feeling of low level nausea in the pit of my stomach and send me looking for the nearest bush to hide in (anyone else do that during cross country at school?). When I first joined a gym back in June 2009, things weren’t much better. I was in terrible shape, had no stamina, and my tricksy knee would plague me if I managed to run for more than 10 minutes.

However since joining the new gym last year and becoming a proper “gym goer” (i.e. someone who actually turns up regularly to the gym, rather than someone who pays someone £20 a month for no reason) my stamina has slowly improved. And since losing the weight, my knee seems miraculously better – frightening proof of how much just a few extra stone can affect your joints.

And so came my decision that I would run a 5km race this year.

The reasons were few but nevertheless important;

1) Just something to do
2) Get over my fear of running – I am not still the same awkward teenager who would want to cry at the prospect of running the 1500m
3) Help maintain my weight loss

I am signed up to the Race for Life in Hull on Sunday 17th July. This is brilliant because not only does it give me something to aim for but it’s absolutely ages away so I have plenty of time to get training.

The only problem?

An all encompassing fear of running in public.

“Nobody’s looking at you!” I hear you say. But hear me. I know that I have seen people running on the streets and said to myself “My god they run weirdly.” Whilst I accept that people might not be as judgemental as me I know I’m not the only one who’s watched someone in lycra jog past and had a giggle to themselves.

I told myself that I would take it in stages. I would keep running on the treadmill until I knew that I could run 5km on that. At that point I would suck it up and take it to the streets because I would have the knowledge in my head that I could do this. And we all know the importance of that positive mental attitude.

I was quite pleased with myself, I had managed to legitimately put off something I was scared of doing. Until...

...This weekend I went to visit The Person (sorry, I just can’t think of a better name for him right now) and took advantage of a “Bring a friend for free” pass to get some running in. I gave him strict instructions to not communicate or even look in my direction whilst we were in there (there are certain times when it is ok for your boyfriend to see you red and sweaty. These times do not include the gym.) and I set myself up on the treadmill.

I started jogging away nicely and thought that I would push myself and aim for 3km, the furthest I would have ever run before.

I jogged and I jogged and I listened to tunes on my I-pod and watched the Coronation Street omnibus on the TV and realised that I was almost at 3km and wasn’t drop down dead tired yet. My problem tends to be that I stop well before I need to, mainly because I get incredibly bored and have to get off – my usual limit is 20 minutes on a treadmill before my brain implodes.

“See if you can make it to 30 minutes” I told myself.

I jogged and I jogged and I realised that I was almost at 30 minutes and that I was well into 4km.

“Might as well keep going then lady. Let’s see what you’ve got.” I told myself (in the style of a Bootcamp leader. A nice one though. Not one that makes you exercise until you vomit).

I jogged and I jogged...

And after 35 minutes and 27 seconds of jogging I ran for 5km. No stopping, no slowing down (and not speeding up either admittedly) just jog, jog, jog.

Cue tumultuous applause. Cue me almost hugging the stranger on the cross trainer next to me. Cue me stumbling across the gym to tell The Person that I’d completed a 5k and why hadn’t he looked at me so I could get his attention so he could come and witness it (contrary? Me?!). Cue a call to my Mum to tell her so she’d be proud of me (she didn’t get it). Cue a status update on Facebook in testament to my triumph. Cue general excitement and feelings of pride.

Until I realised that I don’t have any more excuses and have to go running in public.

Where’s the nearest bush?

Friday, 4 February 2011

Alexander Solzhenitsyn - One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Thank you everybody for the lovely comments on my last post. I can assure that I am a 12/14. I'm 5'10" which means that when I was big I didn't look that big (someone who was 16 stone and 5 inches shorter than me would look much different!) and also means that I look a lot smaller than I really am now that I've lost the weight. I can see the disappointment in people's eyes when I tell them I'm still a size 12/14, but that's why we shouldn't really pay too much attention to those pesky numbers...


At the beginning of the year I was round at my Dad’s and mentioned that I had made a pledge to read at least 12 Classics this year. He asked me what I meant by the word “Classic” and I have to say that I’d given it little thought other than that terrible lazy definition of “Old”. I decided that’s the loose definition I’m going for.

Dad then produced a very thin book called One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and said I should read that because after all “It’s only one day so it’s not going to take you long to read is it?”

I have to admit I was a little unsure. I’d never even heard of this book, can I call it a classic if I haven’t heard of it? Thankfully, Mooncalf and Helen both separately and coincidentally recommended exactly the same book. Phew. Drama solved.

So this is officially the first classic I’ve read this year. (Let’s not talk about Midnight’s Children ok?)

For those of you not in the know, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich tells the story of, well, Ivan Denisovich, prisoner working in a gulag in Russia in the 1940s and known as Shukhov to the other prisoners. He has served 8 years of a 10 year sentence for who knows what crime (he has been sentenced for treason but was forced into signing the false confession), but has little hope that he will see the end of his sentence and frequently refers throughout the day to the tendency of ‘them’ to add another 10 years on to your sentence for no reason at all.

We’re with Shukhov from when he rises at 5am, through breakfast, through the day at work, through dinner and final roll call.

This is a grim book. Very grim. And whilst you’re reading about his just plain horrible life all you can think is that this day is like every other day for 10 years. This book doesn’t need to be any more detailed, one day is the same as every day. Same routine, same faces, no changes at all – everything, down to the way the guards are going to react can be predicted by Shukhov after his 8 years.

Food is in the form of gruel, if they’re lucky, thin fish water if they’re not. There’s a bread ration of 200g a day which is rarely full after various people down the chain have taken their cut. In a life this miserable, Shukhov can gain pleasure from relatively small ‘wins’ in the form of successfully hiding some of his bread in his mattress and managing to save the final crust of his morning portion until lunch.

When the gangs head out to work you realise the full chaos and nonsense that was the very premise of the Soviet regime at this time. Men are in gangs, led by a foreman. They’re not kept on the same job until it’s finished but hop between unfinished jobs. On this day, Shukhov’s gang is sent to work on a power station which was started some time ago but has never been finished. Not only are they expected to work for 11 hours a day, but they have to do it without access to suitable tools. The gangs resort to stealing materials from one another in order to get their jobs done. It is sheer, terrifying lunacy.

And let’s not forget the conditions they’re working in. We’re in Russia in the middle of winter. Zeks (prisoners) are not allowed to work if it gets below -40c. Shukhov declares -18c as a “great day for bricklaying”. They are allowed to dry their boots out every third day and the guards can, and do, make them strip off for searches whenever they see fit.

What struck me most about this book though is that it turned on its head my notion of prisoners all rallying together. The idea that they might be in this situation but at least they’re in it together. Not in this place. It is literally every man for himself. There is vague allegiance to your Gang and for your foreman (a fellow zek) but no sense of comradeship with any of the other workers.

“Who’s the convict’s worst enemy? Another convict. If zeks didn’t squabble among themselves the bosses would have no power over them.”

You would think that Shukhov would be looking forward to his release but it’s not necessarily the case,

"He no longer knew whether he wanted to be free or not. To begin with he'd wanted it very much, and totted up every evening how many days he still had to serve. Then he'd got fed up with it. And still later it had gradually dawned on him that people like himself were not allowed to go home but packed off into exile. And there wa no knowing where the living was easier - here or there."

He’s no fool is Shukhov, although it might seem like he’s given up hope I don’t feel that he has done so in a negative way. Rather he’s learned to not look too far into the future, if ever there was a person who took one day at a time then it’s Ivan Denisovich. And in a strange, and almost unbelievable way, he’s not unhappy with his situation, maybe it’s just that he’s used to it but there is no pitying tone in the book. Shukhov isn’t asking the reader to feel sorry for him, he’s just relaying the facts of his day and the facts of life in a camp. In fact at the end of the book he declares,

“Shukhov felt pleased with life as he went to sleep. A lot of good things had happened that day.”

It was brilliant. And proof in quality rather than quantity (something which I can’t say about Midnight’s Children at the moment). Thank you to Mooncalf and Helen and of course my Dad for recommending it to me.

Go and pick up a copy today – if you don’t like it? Well. You won’t have wasted much time reading it will you?!

Good points:
- It is thin thin thin. If you had a full day of nothing ahead of you you could easily settle down and get this read and I actually think you should read it in a day, I would imagine it works even better when you don’t have gaps in your reading time.
- You cannot help but feel better about your life. Work might be crap but at least you’re not building a power station in -18c.

Bad points:
- There are no pauses. Of course there isn’t, it’s one long, relentless day, the prisoners don’t get any pauses so why should you? This does make it difficult if you are putting it down and picking it up like I was.
- In a way, you do want to know more about Denisovich – you want to know what led to him ending up in there, you want to know what happens to him afterwards, if he ever does get out. All signs of how brilliant this book really is.
(My copy was published in 1991 by Everyman's Library and is Translated from the Russian by H.T. Willetts. Just so you know.)

Thursday, 3 February 2011


It's taken about 9 months, 266 days to be (more or less) precise.

I have gone from weighing 16 stone 3lbs to 11 stone 10.5lbs.

Or if you prefer it all in lbs that's 227lbs to 164lbs.

Or 103.18kg to 74.55kg

If you're good at the mental arithmetic you will have worked out that I have lost 62.5lbs altogether (which is 4 stones 5.5lbs, or 28.18kg)

My BMI has gone from 32.6 (anything over 30 is classed as obese) to 23.5

My clothes have gone from a size 16/18 to a size 12/14.
The last time I was that size was about 9 or 10 years ago.

But who cares about the numbers when really a photo can show you all you need to see...

Me in January 2010 and Me in February 2011. 
(The top is the same, the belt in the left is a thing of the past, got too big, ditto the jeans.)

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Project 365: Look back at January

Can someone explain to me where January went?

How is it possible that it’s February already?

Coming back to work at the beginning of the year sucked. It sucked hard. And actually at times it felt like the month dragged on forever and ever, I don’t know why I suddenly think it’s gone past quickly.

It’s been comforting in a way, the end of the month has seen the return of things familiar to me – pay day arrived and the monthly book review is back, it’s made my heart feel a little better. Life hasn’t gone completely off the rails (although it does feel like it at times), it’s still chugging along.

And now, I have something else I can do at the end of each month. News to my ears at the moment because I’m still finding blogging hard work for some reason and as long as I have review posts like this to do I know there’s going to be something to say at least twice a month.

So. Project 365. One of my Not Really Resolutions for 2011.

It is definitely tricksy. Especially if you’re not a professional photographer and work 9-5 five days a week. But I’ve been determined not to let it get the better of me.

I think people choose to do Project 365 for many reasons but for me it’s just simple. I don’t want to prove I can take amazing photographers (I can’t). I don’t want to prove how terribly arty I am (I’m not). I don’t want to do anything other than just take a photograph that represents something that I’ve done that day.

This is just another medium of keeping a diary as far as I’m concerned. I have this blog and now I’ll have some photos too that I can look back over at the end of the year and go “Oh hey yeah, that’s when that happened.”

For instance, looking back over January I can see that I’ve only been to my Dad’s once this month. Not good. Bad daughter.

So I’ve picked my January favourites (descriptions read from left to right from the top)

07/01 – Having said I don’t want to take photos to prove how arty and awesome I am I have to say I like this photo because it is arty and awesome. (Man it’s like I’m in a record for how quickly I can contradict myself in the space of one blog post.)

08/01 – My nephew playing. I’ll be honest, I’ve had some troubles bonding with my littlest nephew, mainly because I just hardly ever seem to see him despite him only being in York which is just over an hour away. He’s incredibly shy and for ages wouldn’t even play with me which made my heart break a little bit. However he’s getting better now and I’m trying to see more of him, this afternoon with him was lovely because we actually had a little play about together. Oh yeah and it was the day he vomited all over the place. Classic.

09/01 – What can I say? I love my Fred and Lily. It’s hard to get a photo of them because they rarely stay still long enough and even rarer to get one of them both together. But thanks to their obsession with food they stayed still long enough, scouting out Mum’s plate for leftover bacon, for me to get this one.

17/01 – I love this photo, there’s something about seeing a book and a cup of tea that instantly makes me feel warm on the inside. God I love reading. This photo also makes me smile a cheeky grin as I remember my sneaking skiving powers and reading illegally at work. Illegal reading. It should be an Olympic sport.

21/01 – I’d been planning this photo for a loooooooong time. It still makes me laugh because I had to wait for my boss to go to the toilet, quickly scribble this down and take the photograph, praying that no-one saw me doing it.

29/01 – The Person and I don’t get to behave like a normal couple very often, when you only see each other once a month, if that, simple things like getting to sit next to each other become majorly important.

There is a long, long way to go I know. But considering that about four days in I was starting to panic that I wouldn’t be able to do this I’m feeling pretty good.

All the other photos can be found HERE.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Group vs Clique

If I had believed when I was at school that those were going to be the best days of my life I would probably have given up there and then. They were most certainly not the best days of my life. (Incidentally, if you’re interested, I believe that any time I spent at university were the best days of my life.)

By the time I left school at 18 I had had enough. I couldn’t cope with any of it anymore and longed to be free and to not have to think about or see anyone or anything that was associated in any way with that place (which is probably why I’m one of a rare breed of people who isn’t actually in any regular contact with people from school, apart from the all encompassing Facebook).

This was a feeling that gradually crept upon me of course; when I was wee whippersnapper I was pretty happy at school. I had my little group of friends, I did my school work, I played some sports and everything was fine. But things seemed to change overnight, or rather over the summer holidays of 1999, after we’d done our GCSEs. We came back to school in September as sixth formers and nothing was ever quite the same again.

To be fair I was pretty fortunate. I had my little group of friends, I wasn’t a complete loner. We were comfortably sandwiched in the middle somewhere, not the most popular but not the most vilified either. Years later I found out that people referred to our group as “the nice girls”, a name I’m pretty happy with. We consisted mainly of senior prefects, the Head Girl, high educational achievers, members of the sports and music teams. But not much drama, especially when compared with some of the other social groups in our year.

Not much drama? Only if you were on the outside.

To everyone else our group was one of harmony. There were about seven of us in our merry band which should be a nice enough number, not so big that people got lost but not so small that we got on each other’s nerves. In theory anyway.

If you were within the group, life was a different matter. There were inner tensions and rivalries going on, battlelines were constantly being scratched in the sand, only to be smoothed out and re-drawn a couple of days later. People would pick sides, only to change halfway through the war.

It was exhausting. And I could never quite keep up with it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a paragon of virtue in this story, I was still a 17/18 year old girl, make no bones about it I could be as big a bitch as the rest of them, but I just didn’t appear to have the stamina for it that everyone else did. I would find myself entering the common room each day wondering what had unfolded since leaving school at 4pm the day before and trying to figure out who was speaking to who and which side I was supposed to be on.

I know I could have told them all to stuff it, but being on the inside and hating it was infinitely better to being on the outside and alone. For me at least. When I was inside I was part of the group, one of the gang, if I accidentally found myself on the outside, cast out for not commiserating with someone’s break-up enough or for walking to a lesson on my own instead of with others, I was all too aware of how cliquey the whole situation could be.

Once you were on the outside it was difficult to get back in. And you couldn’t get into any other cliques because they were...well...cliquey.

It was strange because when I was on the inside I just thought of us as a nice bunch of girls who all got along, a group of friends, I would have been horrified if anyone had suggested we were a clique. And yet looking in from the outside I could see how closed off we were from everyone else. Of course we were, we had the ability to eliminate one of our own for periods at a time, before graciously allowing them re-entry.

I don’t know how I didn’t realise it. Probably because I was only 18 and I thought that was what life was like.

But I’m beginning to notice that the same rules still apply, nothing appears to have changed in the last 10 years. You can be in a group, harmonious as can be, but once you put a step out of place you can find yourself in the freezing atmosphere of girly bitchiness, desperately trying to punch your way back in to join in the in-jokes and be part of the camaraderie again.

I was asking myself the other day at what point a ‘group’ becomes a ‘clique’ when it hit me in the face.

It’s all just a matter of perspective. When you’re on the inside you’re part of a group, it’s only when you’re on the outside that you find yourself battering at the iron-clad doors of a clique.