Well fancy seeing you here...

Hello and welcome to the rambling rollercoaster of useless ponderings, strung together in what the internet calls a "blog," and the voices call a waste of everyone elses time.

Please check your sanity at the door (along with your dignity, logic, principles, good taste and prejudices against daftness.)

"I am here to seduce you into a love of life; to help you to become a little more poetic; to help you die to the mundane and to the ordinary so that the extraordinary explodes in your life." -Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

Sunday, 20 December 2009

0-800-Reluctant-Samaritan

I've neglected this blog for far too long, and there's no excuse for it really. Since I last plagued you with the contents of my slowly-scrambling brain, my father has married, and I managed not to make a fool of myself as a bridesmaid. Two more books have been printed, and the months since have flown past in a haze.

Before I have reconciled myself the the loss of the last Autumnal warmth, Christmas approaches. It looms less than a week away and I still have yet to do much shopping or write any cards. I'm going to buy a "Happy New Year" stamp and post them as soon as I get around to it. Everyone who lives further than the end of my street will not receive glad tidings until after the main event. Maybe I'll tell them I'm actually sending mine nearly a full year early, instead of being a few days late? Or I might say I've moved to Australia and write "hope this gets to you on time!" inside each card, so that people think I did my utmost to traverse the dense outback with the letters strapped to me, being dragged half the way to the post office by a semi-retired Skippy The Bush Kangaroo. Anything but the lackadaisical truth.

As I have spent the last few months lazily hibernating from the cold, little of consequence has happened in my world. The majority of my energy has gone into battling a chest infection that has seen my lungs look like I am spawning a new generation of Slimers for a Ghostbusters remake. I have continued to write, though not a great deal of it has been of anything resembling commercial quality.

Because I flatter myself that I am one of those onerously pretentious 'creative types' I always keep a notepad beside my bed, to try and jot down any poetry or design ideas I stumble upon in that woozy, otherworldly space between sleeping and waking. The spot where dreams meet reality is often a rich source of nonsense for me, but unfortunately it is seldom constructive. The latest page reads "eat breakfast" because if I have to be up early I will remember to do my makeup, but will forget to eat. Vanity over sustenance. I'm like that laboratory rat which pushes the pleasure button instead of the food one until it starves.

(Okay, at this juncture I googled "mouse makeup" looking for a cartoonish image to post here to break up the monotony of my rambling. Instead I found this photoshopped picture of a computer mouse that doubles as a cosmetic compact. And I want one.)



Occasionally, I will wake up with seemingly-coherent yet utterly-pointless notations scribbled and then signed, as if my egocentric subconscious thinks the notebooks will be discovered some time in the future, and wishes to ensure that my astonishing insights are correctly accredited. I encountered such self-inflicted ridiculousness a few nights ago, when – after washing biro off of my hands and wondering where it had come from – I remembered to check my notepad and found this scrawled there:

When you own a cat, you will – at some point – find yourself sitting on the toilet with the cat watching you from the cistern, promising to buy her a covered litter-tray for the bathroom if she will grant you some privacy in return."

It's things like that which make me glad that Big Brother is ending before I ever got desperate enough to appear on it. I'd get out of the house only to be locked up in somewhere more secure, that was monitored by more cameras...

Sunday, 9 August 2009

A Matter of Life and Death

Well it finally happened, yes it finally happened. My sister's elephantine gestation came to an eventful end mid-morning on August 1st 2009, when she gave birth to a little girl called Chloe. I use the term "little" rather loosely, as when the child took her first breaths she was already of a size not dissimilar to that of most domestic cats. (Not our cat though. Even I struggle to match the size and weight of Tuppence.)

It was a particularly laboured labour, or at least felt like it, as my sister had convinced us all that the baby would be early, and by the time she actually arrived none of us were quite sure whether or not to believe it. "Well how much of the baby can you actually see? Because unless the feet are out there's still a chance she might climb back up again!" It is that attitude which saw me accused of not treating the arrival of my niece with due seriousness – but the honour of most-inappropriately-humorous approach goes to my stepmother-to-be, Sam. When Dad asked my sister's fiancée how things were progressing, he was told that the head was visible, and the baby appeared to have black hair. Now, did Sam respond with a saccharine comparison to Snow White's ebony tresses? No, she suggested that whilst it may be true that the crowning bonce may be furnished with dark locks, it was also equally possible that Sara just hadn't waxed in a while... (Suffice to say this alone gives me cause to have unwavering confidence in their impending nuptials. Anyone who feels comfortable enough to make that joke with their betrothed about his daughter – and in the process tickle him enough that he repeats it to his other daughter – has found their perfect match. ...Or will at least be doing mankind a favour by taking themselves off the streets.)

The day she was born I visited my niece in the hospital, and for once may not have been the most tired person in the room! Contrary to popularly exaggerated belief, I am adjusting to being an auntie. I still find it an appalling injustice that the universe is allowing my generation to breed, and think it is merely adding insult to injury that the baby is also ginger, but despite that I seem to be adapting. That is to say, adapting to the newfound knowledge that it is not actually necessary to take antihistamines before I go near baby Chloe, (though I am growing ever more convinced that there's no cure for the allergy I have to her mother.)

It was Chloe's irrepressible mother who last week announced that she was "absolutely certain" that I would not only marry but have a child of my own soon. The extent to which this has made everyone roar with laughter should be enough to tell you how unexpected a statement hers was. She was saying that when she marries it will be the end of the Lawrence line, as my father only had daughters and there is no one to carry the name into the next generation. I hastily reminded her that actually I've always said that I would double-barrel my surname (and that of any prospective progeny) for the very reason that being a Lawrence is far too important for me to discard. She replied "Oh, you know what I mean. Soon I'll be a Pollard, and you'll be whatever you're going to be in the near future." I nearly choked on my tea at that point, and she elaborated "Oh yes, I'm sure you'll get married soon. And me having Chloe will make you broody too. If I can do it so can you." Her manner was so offhand yet sure of itself that I was at a loss how to argue – save point out that irrespective of my many unfavourable thoughts on the subject, there are several practical steps missing before her prediction could be realised. My independence and lack of overt maternal instinct have meant that, generally, people do not ask me "when it's going to be [my] turn?" ...And if they do, they tend not to live very long.



A few people (all so blindly misguided that they need to sack their specially-trained Labrador,) have suggested that nursing Chloe should be making me broody. It isn't. Rightly or wrongly, she has as yet had no affect on my hormones, and I really don’t expect her to. That’s not to say that I’m without feeling when presented with a newborn; when next-door's cat had her kittens I wanted one so desperately that I explored every possible avenue via which I may at least retain contact with them. As my cat isn't very friendly, had the house been even a tiny bit bigger I would have considered sectioning my home into two halves; thereby keeping the kitten as my upstairs cat and allowing Tuppence to stay downstairs. (Any of you from the North, for whom "tuppence" shares a closser affinity with the word 'pussy' than it does with the word 'cat', may be sniggering right now. Stop it.)

When it comes to the human infant in my life, however, I feel very differently. I am not uncomfortable with her presence, and may even grow to like/love her as she develops a personality of her own – providing it differs greatly from that of her mother – but she does not ignite the desire to raise offspring of my own with any immediacy. The only life-event to have ever really focused my attention on reproducing, via anything other than cloning, was the death of my Grandfather: three years ago this week.

As I have oft mentioned, he was the centre of my world in a way no one else can ever be – because he shaped so much of who I am, and how I interact with the world. My Dad has been a big influence on my life in a similar, but less innate, fashion. I have always admired my father, and wanted to grow up to be like him (which I think was bound to happen whether anyone wanted it or not!) Grandad shaped my person in a less conscious, but just as solidly enduring manner. Despite working long hours, and missing out on a lot of what would now be considered "quality time" with his family, we remained his first priority. My grandmother (slightly bitterly) relates the tale of how he missed his daughter's christening because he had to work, but he only ever did so on occasions when he considered that things would trundle along fine without him. As he saw it, my Auntie Sue would be christened whether he was there or not – whereas if he didn't go to work then there would be more tangible consequences. Of course the emotional impact on the family was a consideration, but he always felt that setting a good example, doing a job that benefitted the community, and providing us with everything we needed was of greater import. He was an impressive and awe-inspiring patriarch, who raised himself up from very deprived, and often unpleasant, roots to make a life which – whilst never blessed with riches – was as happy and secure as he could make it for the people close to him. He always maintained a high personal standard – not just of dress but of conduct. He came from a community that was considered to be of a very low class when he was born into it, and whilst never adopting false airs and graces, he was keen to be respectable. In running the community centre he held a position of authority, and always aimed to live up to the responsibility he felt to the legacy of the MP who he helped set it all up. Grandad always had a well developed sense of duty to those who depended on him, which led to him being taken advantage of a little at work, and also caused his deep determination that his family be safe and well cared for. Of course he was also stubborn, hot headed and recalcitrant, but there was no denying that in his position at the head of the family he stabilised it like no one else.

As someone who had always battled with poor health, but seldom seemed weak or 'ill', his death from small-cell lung cancer was not a surprise but somehow managed to be even an unimaginable shock. All my life – from visiting him in hospital aged 5 when he had his heart-attacks and double-bypass surgery, to hearing tales of when he fell off a roof breaking both legs – I had thought of him as a survivor. A nocturnal epileptic after beatings by his father left him with a scar on his brain, he fought and won over and over again – so when it came to it, I don't think any of us possessed the appropriate capacity to accept the fact that he was going to lose. We'd been raised on the knowledge that with medical help he would be fine, and that had proven to be the case so many times that the strength of the belief had become ingrained within us all. Science is marvellous, how could it fail him? He wasn't frail, didn't look his age, and had worked right up until the night before he was given his terminal diagnosis. He did not live like an old man, and so it was as offensive as it was unbelievable that he eventually died like one.

When I lost this stability, my emotions spiralled in all directions – back into the past, but also out into the future. Previously I had deliberately avoided thinking too much about whether or not I wanted children. First because my then-newly-divorced Auntie (who I spent a lot of time with) was pro-feminist and anti-babies, and later because my own ill health as a teenager meant I always considered that it would be unethical to have a child unless I was in a better position to provide for it. When Grandad died, I was left with a swirling cacophony of vibrant memories that I wanted to share, and suddenly couldn’t imagine not sharing those memories; not continuing the family he had worked so diligently for all of his life. He left me with so many stories and values – and sharing them with Chloe will only be of so much use, as her sense of Grandad will be coloured by my sister's less intense relationship with him.


This particular moment might be especially tough to explain to baby Chloe...

I appreciate how lucky I was to even know him – as his brothers died at far younger ages and had he followed suit then I may have been little older than Chloe when we lost him. I was instead granted a precious opportunity to share two decades with that magnificent man – as his granddaughter, but also as a surrogate daughter (I lived with him from age 5) and friend, as in the latter years of his life I'd made the conscious decision to spend more time talking to him, and more importantly, listening. I used to stay up late until he came in from work and let him unwind by telling me all about his day: which invariably meant bemoaning the customers in the bar, or the committee who controlled aspects of the Centre! I like to think that I had a very well-rounded sense of the man he was, as well as loving him just because he was my Grandad. It would be impossible for me to underestimate the influence he has had on me, and in turn the impact felt by the loss of a person so very integral.

It is, of course, easy to get sentimental at this time of year, particularly because there has already been a birth and is due to be a marriage, (my father's wedding to Sam, in case any of you are still clinging to the same wrong end of that very shitty stick my sister presented.) New additions to the family who will never know the former members of the clan will always be an emotional issue – especially as the echoes of who he was and what he taught us still so keenly reverberate through the lives of those he touched.

This blog post is, admittedly, a very indulgent one which many will not have bothered to read; but an understanding of loss is something we all discover eventually, and will all be changed by to a greater or lesser degree. Whilst I am in a position to articulate my experience and to publish it for a handful of tolerant souls to wade through, many suffer silently, and with little clarity amidst the seemingly-insurmountable emotion. There are aspects of the event I am not so eager to vocalise, and skirt around even within my own mind, because they are still too painful to address. For me, the day before that of his actual death (at a little past midnight on the 10th) is the one I find hardest to deal with, and is the reason for this seemingly pre-emptive post. It was the last day I saw him, and was the last day I went home to lay on the bed next to the phone doing what little I could to soothe the icy terror that it might ring at some odd hour, with news I neither wanted nor could think of a way to answer. After months of not being able to sleep until I had heard him breathe heavily or snore, knowing that he was in hospital and the phone was next to my bed brought with it a constant nagging fear that still raises my pulse when the home phone rings unexpectedly now.

It is with particular poignancy now, that I recall it being just such a circumstance which started me on the path to becoming a writer. My first piece was a short story titled "The Call," which when I read it back now I think was shamefully poor. For a fifteen year old with no prior experience though, it was an acceptable first-attempt. It was about a girl waiting for a heart-transplant, and explored how both hers and her family's lives revolved around their anticipation of "the call" to say that a heart had become available. It is a phone call which prospective transplant recipients can get at any time of the day or night, and which causes a low-level of panic every time the phone shrills, because of the sheer enormity possibly hidden beneath each ring. The piece was published on John Fisher's website www.heart-transplant.co.uk which I would urge you all to take a moment to visit, as he helped me greatly with both my confidence and my research all those years ago. He's a lovely man who was given a second chance by his donor Steven Tibbey, and is one of the reasons I (controversially) believe that organ donation should be an opt-out service rather than one for which people must sign up. Many are put off signing up for an organ donor card because they find it difficult to contemplate their own mortality, or because they think there will be time to explore such options in the future. So few people do register, but so many would readily join the list of those awaiting a transplant if their situation required it. Any of you who would accept an organ, I would ask to also think about signing up to be a donor. It's a very personal decision, but one which is far too easy to avoid.

So there we have it - my meandering, stream-of-consciousness discussion of "life, the universe, and everything," as I presently comprehend it. It only gets more complicated from here, but wouldn't the future be bleak without the colour that comes from complexity…

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Proof of Paternity

The last few weeks, celebrity deaths aside, have been rather uneventful – which is the last thing you really want to hear at the opening of a blog entry. Let me assure you, however, that despite a lack of explosive drama, there have been enough domestic incidents which have proven a source of embarrassment and/or amusement to inspire a worthy ramble.

I’ll disregard the chest-infection I have been suffering, which required a myriad of antibiotics, all of which list more side-effects than the A-bomb. It’s tedious and not nearly as interesting as the plague I was trying to make it out to be. It has simply festered as an inconvenient cough and given me the voice of a 20-a-day Kermit. No, illness aside, the first real source of haphazard-happenstances was the recent heat-wave, which hit most of Britain with the kind of warmth we only usually experience after drunkenly falling asleep against a radiator. It wasn’t so much the temperature, but the side-effects of it which lead to my humiliation, but blaming the weather itself is so very English that it would feel remiss not to do so here.

The problem was that the humidity meant that the windows were open almost constantly, which of course fed into my paranoia that things will crawl in if I drop my guard. Specifically the “things” my imagination presents me on a Technicolor loop are former-pet tarantulas that have escaped into the wild and mutated after exposure to chemicals. In my mind they have become some sort of GM super-spider along the lines of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – but much creepier and with less of a propensity for fighting evil and more of a penchant for causing it.

My concerns were proven half-right, when I spent the hottest days of the summer so far swatting the entire cast of Disney’s a Bug’s Life, who all decided to descent upon my boudoir of an evening. Now, although I will catch-and-release moths whenever possible, when it comes to mosquitoes and spiders I have a zero-tolerance policy. If it’s going to suck my blood or creep me the fuck out then it gets whacked. It’s not pleasant, but mankind’s main excuses for killing have always tended to be self-defence and fear, so I am naught but a victim of ancestral tradition. After one particularly infested evening saw seven mosquitoes fall in battle, I went downstairs only to discover two huge daddy-long-legs spidery-things in the bathroom, who also had to be disposed of in a very girly 'jab it with a broom ‘til it stops moving and then flush it down the toilet’ sort-of-a-way. I’m not proud of this insect-genocide (insecticide?) and my murderous deeds came back to haunt me later that week. If there is such a thing as karma, then I think I got mine…

My bedroom faces a car-park and some shops, and although it’s a large window, and I have spent the majority of the summer in little more than lingerie, the net-curtain preserves most of my modesty. It becomes less effective if the main light is switched on when it’s dark outside, as everyone with any common sense will know. The trouble is, when I look up from my laptop to see a not-so-eensy-weensy spider crawling across the ceiling, my instinct is to squish it before it runs off and hides somewhere I can’t get at it. So, after a couple of minutes of gymnastic leaping around, and balancing on various articles of furniture while brandishing a feather-duster, I was victorious. …Only to realise I’d switched the light on to get a better view of the enemy, and not thought to draw the curtains first. It wasn’t until I reached over to close the window to prevent further invasion, that I noticed the security guard standing outside the opposite building, enjoying not only his cigarette, but the impromptu show.

I’ve now ordered screens that Velcro to the window to keep the bugs out. It doesn’t do much to keep me from making an exhibition of myself, but it cuts down the amount of accompanying acrobatics.

It’s also been something of a week for ‘nanecdotes,’ as I have had two comical conversations with my grandmother in as many days. The first occurred when she was sorting through some of my grandfather’s things. She stumbled across something of his that we both agreed she should throw away, but she was hesitant because of a request my auntie had made. Nan said “Are you sure I can throw them away? Your Auntie Sue said she wanted anything personal of his that we’re getting rid of.” …Now, this sounds like a perfectly reasonable query, as it isn’t unusual for family members to be very sentimental over the personal items of a loved one. Unfortunately, I had to explain to Nan that I don’t think Auntie Sue’s nostalgia extended to a NHS-issue tub containing Grandad’s gallstones, and that I think she’d be forgiven for not posting them to Wales.

Nanecdote #2 occurred today, when – following Michael Jackson’s memorial service yesterday, which she watched in full – Nan presented me with a copy of the Daily Mirror. The front page featured large photos of Prince Michael, Paris and ‘Blanket’ Jackson. She pointed to Paris and said; “I think the papers are wrong you know. All these kids look just like him! You see: she has his nose and the boys both have his chin!” I don’t need to explain to most of you why that is funny, or why a kid having a nose just like the one her Daddy bought himself isn’t really proof of paternity.

Also In The News: It's the dog's 10th Birthday this week, and whilst I only usually hold nominal celebrations, as she is entering double-figures I'm hoping to make more of a fuss of her. On my 10th birthday my mother took me into a local boutique and allowed me to choose my own clothes for the first time. I'm not going to do that with the dog.

For one thing, that shop closed down years ago.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Non-Recyclable

The last few days have been rather strange ones, not least because of The Most Widely Reported Death Since Jesus’. The difference being that I don’t think Michael Jackson will come back and snog a hooker. Much as I think you must all be growing weary of this particular topic, my ego refuses to allow me to post this entry without making some reference to it, for posterity’s sake. If (when) this blog is discovered as the next big thing, it would be remiss of me to make no mention of the demise of such a high-profile celebrity. Michael Jackson was, after all, as well loved by his fans as he was ridiculed by his critics – and his talent had an undeniable effect on the careers of artists and musicians worldwide, which will be felt long into the future.

The reality of his death was – as we are all aware – conversely surreal, and as shocking and dramatic as was his life. The first reports I saw came as I logged online Friday 25th June, and the little Twitter-feed that is plugged into my internet browser alerted me that at 9:47pm LA-based celebrity Lawyer-turned-reporter Harvey Levin was claiming that Michael Jackson had been rushed to hospital following a suspected cardiac arrest. Clicking through links to TMZ.com's initial reports I wondered how much truth there was in the rumour, and posted to the link to a couple of Jacko-fan friends. In those alerts I, and many others, sceptically questioned the seriousness of his condition – thinking it a stunt that would get him out of completing what had, for many weeks, seemed an increasingly-unlikely tour.

Soon the news on every station was broadcasting nothing but shots of UCLA Medical Centre where it was believed he had been taken by ambulance. Aerial shots of his Holmby Hills home were cut with images of the devoted coterie of fans (and equally-dutiful pack of journalists) who had begun to gather outside of the hospital.

In this dawning age of instantly-available international media, having access to official news agencies like BBC News, Sky, and CNN – as well as the barrage of information being delivered via social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and MSN – meant that it was hardly necessary to Google the situation for clarity. It felt as though there was no other news; no other tragedy or sensation on the collective mind of mankind.

Of course, for those away from such a high intensity of electronic trappings, their blissful ignorance was being slowly interrupted by unbelievable texts and seemingly-prank phone-calls. Earlier that day, a friend of mine had text to say she was out giving a friend a driving lesson, and I’d replied informing her – rather bluntly – that Farrah Fawcett had died. At the time that was the lead news story, though had not been deemed worthy of the incessant coverage granted to Michael’s death a few hours later. Of course, because I had broken the news to her in such a cavalier manner when one of Charlie’s Angels claimed her wings for real, there was a healthy suspicion in her response when I also sent her the equally emotionally-bereft text; “Michael Jackson’s dead.” Eventually I convinced her I wasn’t joking, and they pulled over to watch the story unfold online (god bless smartphones). Similarly, the news had by then begun to filter through to the few who remained unaware that the King of Pop was potentially no-more.

I say potentially because at that point the news coverage still sounded like the opening credits of BBC drama Life On Mars, where the main character Sam Tyler narrates “Am I dead? In a coma? Or back in time?” For none of the stations seemed to know which was applicable – though I don’t think time-travel was seriously considered by anyone but FoxNews. When the reports of his death did begin to trickle in, first from TMZ and then via the LA Times, it still felt like a soap-opera, not a genuine tragedy. He was Michael Jackson for goodness’ sake. Michael Jackson doesn’t die. I imagine people felt the same way when Elvis perished, and I remember people sharing a similar shock and disbelief when Princess Diana’s accident was reported. Some news stories are just too big to absorb at the same speed with which they are reported.

Of course, it isn’t unheard of for a man with chronic poor health, a notoriously stressful life, and history of drug (and possibly alcohol) abuse to die from a heart-attack aged 50. The reason it seemed so unexpected is, as a friend said soon after the confirmation of his death came through, because none of us thought of Jackson as a 50 year old man. He was described as a hero, a joke, an inspiration, and a pop-cultural icon – but as a generously-middle-aged man? Never.

It has yet to be seen what form of memorial Michael’s family will choose, and thus still unclear how the world will commemorate the man who influenced so many. In the coming weeks we will undoubtedly discover more bizarre details about the hidden life of a man who was, regardless of success, both grandiosely eccentric and meekly introverted in equal conflicting measure.



The first intriguing bit of “gossip” of which I had been previously unaware, comes from the vicarious email newsletter ‘PopBitch’ who raided their archives to re-release the report that:

Macaulay comes good! Was Jacko saved by Culkin sperm?
MacCaulay Culkin's testimony that Michael Jackson had never fiddled with him went a long way to persuading the jury that Gavin Arvizo's story couldn't be trusted. But we hear from a source in Santa Maria that Macaulay didn't want to testify until the judge ruled that he could not be asked any questions about whether he was the real sperm donor for Paris Jackson... Michael's blonde, fair-skinned daughter.


Despite my ghoulish curiosity, I do feel for the family, and in particular his children, whose futures are now far less certain (if more conducive to stability) than ever before. His youngest child, carried by a surrogate, has mother listed as “none” on his birth records – and the other children have had very limited contact with their mother Debbie Rowe. Their grandmother Katherine Jackson has been granted temporary custody, but as with all high-profile cases, it is bound to be anything but a smooth transition for them, as anyone who feels able to “stake a claim” begins to enter the spotlight.

Whilst I don’t believe it deserves the amount of coverage it has received, and irrespective of fan or foe, I think many of us feel that the last chapter of the Michael Jackson story will be one of the most interesting.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Still Ill...

In the time following the last blog – which feels like it was written several seasons ago as we've since been reminded that the Earth actually does still revolve around a Sun – I’ve made the long-overdue pilgrimage to Manchester. This is a journey that every Morrissey fan must make at some point in their life, and it is all the better if they can embrace Mr Moz himself on the voyage to this marvellous Mancunian Mecca. (Which, incidentally, now always makes me think about Bingo and not Muslims.) The metaphor still works though, as getting tickets to see Morrissey perform live in his hometown on his birthday was like hitting the jackpot.

That even sounds cliché in my confuzzled cerebrum. You should know that any ramblings I post right now are likely to be adversely influenced by the chest-infection I'm guzzling antibiotics to try and combat. I've been calling it a chest-infection because people started panicking when I told them I had "The Plague." Apart from one friend, who simply asked "which plague?" Which plague?! I have a cough, and almost sneezed last week! It's impossible for this to be anything other than the Original Black Death! …Not the 'New Improved Black Death aka Swine Flu.' Nope, this is a reissue of the previously successful version, with some of the lung-crackles removed and more contemporary artwork.

The latest symptom is auditory hallucinations. I am assuming my experience earlier is a symptom and not something which actually happened, because it's a little too ridiculous for even me to explain away otherwise. I suppose it was my own fault for watching Springwatch on BBC2 this evening – but my bug-befuddled brain thought that cute baby animals wouldn't be as neurologically taxing as, say, the uber-intellectual Eastenders.

While watching the aforementioned animal documentary I lay curled up in bed with a mug of tea, musing that when I was little their new presenter Chris Packham used to be very involved with the junior RSPB (of which I was a member) and used to film nature programs for our local TV station, Meridian. As I sat there – thinking he had gone from being a slightly smarmy young man, to a slightly smarmy fat and middle-aged man – the oddity began. As he discussed an injured swallow with co-presenter Kate Humble, he rather pointedly finished his link with "I wonder, Kate, if that bird is Still Ill?" As "Still Ill" is a Morrissey song title, I thought maybe he was making some sort of joke relating to a previous show or location (as I couldn't think what swallows in general have to do with Manchester). As the show went on, I repeatedly noticed the ageing twitcher dropping still more Morrissey song titles into the show. At various intervals he referred to a wildlife photographer as "This Charming Man" and upon admitting that he once kept wasps in his house (and being asked if he actually has any real friends) he replied, wistfully; "well Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me..."

Now, though I considered all this to be a little weird, I had not yet convinced myself that I was imagining it until I thought I heard him describe some wild polecats as 'Sweet and Tender Hooligans." It is therefore my conclusion that I have Morrissey on the brain, as surely as I harbour the Black Death within my lungs. I know the penicillin will work for the latter, but I think the former may be incurable. Especially after seeing the man perform and taking a trip to Salford Lad's Club, a location close to Morrissey's heart and one featured in several iconic photographs of The Smiths.

The gig itself was amazing, and he is a far more Charming Man than any foxy photographer of BBC employ! Much as it was such an astounding evening that I still almost cannot believe I was lucky enough to be there, I have opined over every detail of that night to far more people than cared to listen, so will simply include a link to some photographs of the night and share this little playlist of video's recorded by various fans also attending the birthday gig.

Morrissey's 50th Photo's



During my sojourn to the North of England, which included a potentially explosive meeting of menaces, I also got to see Adrian Edmondson and the Bad Shepherds; a folk band who play punk songs and are fronted by former Bottom and Young Ones star Ade. They were an entirely different act to his Highness, Sir Steven Patrick of Morrissey, but equally full of quirky, individual brilliance. The band were lovely when we met them, and my father (who came to the gig with his fiancée Sam) snapped a fabulous photo of myself and my non-biological-non-identical twin Anna when we met the erstwhile Vyvyan himself.



At least the return trip from Manchester wasn't too traumatic. It was during one of the hottest days of the year so far, but apart from the generalised melting of passengers in the car, it wasn't quite the combustible heat experienced by my father as he and Sam journeyed from Portsmouth to Newcastle. They travelled to see her son Karl and his fiancée Sian a couple of days before they joined Anna and me for the gig. Both Dad and Sam are smokers, but I doubt dad had imagined just how much (or how literally) he'd end up smoking on that particular day. I probably shouldn't laugh - I mean, it's not really funny. Had it happened after the wedding it would probably have qualified as spousal abuse. After all, Sam did set Dad on fire.

I should probably tell you that it only happened because the cigarette she thought she'd discarded safely was blown back into the car, and unbeknownst to the happy couple, landed in his hair. Unfortunately Dad can't smell, so it wasn't until Sam noticed the acrid scent that he realised he had been set alight. I'm not sure what he was more put out by (aside from the fire extinguisher) – that he had been singed, or that he'd not realised in time to claim it had hurt more than just his bouffant-pride-and-joy.

All in all it has been an eventful few weeks, and is probably no wonder that I have returned collapsed and full of malaise. It's nothing compared to the state of the North as it mourns the loss of my presence, however. I am at least still functioning – but immediately I left the vicinity, Burnley flipped an elected a BNP candidate. ...Some say their tough anti-immigration stance is more about keeping me from returning than an emotional breakdown due to their bereavement. I prefer to think they have turned to the Nazi's because they just don't know how to go on without me. God only knows what they'll do if they hear I have the plague! They might make EvilMcRacist Nick Griffin MEP king of the world or something.

So, shhhhh! No one tell Burnley I'm still ill...

Also in the news, a special friend had a birthday this month, and whilst the relayed antics would make even Scarlet O'Hara blush, it just made me giggle, so thank you for a much-needed laugh! And next time you get an offer like that, say no... For once... Please? (Or at least take some less blurry photo's.) x

Monday, 11 May 2009

Tomorrow's Yesterdays

Today would be my late grandfather's 73rd birthday. I've been contemplating what to write here for a couple of weeks now and as yet am still as clueless as I was then. It's not because I'm short of wonderful memories or amusing anecdotes. On the contrary, if you want the sort of melodramatic, heartbreaking tales of courage, dignity and love that will single-handedly resurrect the economy via sales of Kleenex, then I have several. He starred in many a story during his lifetime, and all who knew him have accounts worthy of retelling.

I just can't decide which to relay here, now, knowing that so many of you are so far removed from the world he inhabited – and have such limited reason to care about the moments I hold dear. I'm also a victim of my appalling memory. It isn't that I forget things – more that they lose themselves in my brain. I'm often moved to liken it to an attic; an overlooked space housing far too much junk, leaving sentimental treasures and the echoes of past lives hidden beneath more trivial pursuits. …Or, as in the case of our own attic, actual Trivial Pursuit. It was a small yellow box with a dinosaur on the side, and 'Trivial Pursuit' scrawled on the lid in a bright red font. This illustrates nicely how my mind provides shelter for so much inconsequential nonsense that it is – understandably – difficult to separate coherent bits of anything else without assistance. No doubt later today will provide opportunity for such discourse, as various members of the family commemorate the date in whichever way comforts them the most.

This year his absence is almost more striking than ever, as (for perhaps the first time since his death) there are clear signs that life's moving forward without him. Over the coming months I'm to be both an aunt and a bridesmaid, as my sister sees fit to breed and my father is getting married. Each of us has – in one way or another – rediscovered our course in the world without the security of the guiding hand he provided, which is as upsetting as it is a welcome relief from the limbo inhabited by the recently-bereaved.

I remember when he died, thinking even then that I couldn't possibly imagine the grander moments in my life occurring without him there to enjoy it, and claim his right to be proud of the adult who emerged from the childhood he so greatly influenced. The goals he set for his final days following the terminal cancer diagnosis were to reach his 70th birthday; celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary; and see-in my 21st. The last of those was the only he didn't quite manage, and is probably the reason my contemplation drifted in the direction it did at the time. Marriage, children – or even just celebrating the legality and chronological-significance of becoming twenty-one – seemed incomprehensible. I couldn't imagine ever welcoming anyone into the family, truly accepting them as "one of us", if they didn't know Grandad. It seemed inconceivable that subsequent generations (and/or members) of the clan would know of him only through the photographs and stories that were the only way my own great-grandfather was brought to life for me.

And yet, here we are, entering what will soon be the third year without him, and those things which appeared to be so impossible are as real and as marvellous as he would have wished them to be. Perhaps the additions to the family never will feel as if they knew him; the important thing is that we did. His strength, loyalty, and humour infused us all. The people who become a part of our world will – unknowingly – reap the rewards of his character (as well as be infuriated by the inherited flaws, which present as various mixtures of vanity [me], determination [Dad], bullish self-assurance [Auntie Sue], and stubbornness [all of us]). The more recent branches of the family tree may never be wholly familiar with the man we loved, but they validate the life he lived and the family he raised with such unswerving dedication because they love the people he made us.

That's an awful lot of nothing for someone who has typed this much and still feels lacking in a place to start, but is – I think – mention enough for today. It won't be too sad a time, because there’s little to be truly mournful of when I know he'd have loved Sam and Lee, and would have adored having the girls around as much as he enjoyed it when we were little. I have no doubt that overall he'd be happy for all of us, so while it’s always an emotional day, it won’t be one filled with too much regret.

Mind you, I also think he would have been the most likely to drop my sister's baby, and the first to make a "third time lucky" joke at Dad's wedding, so maybe it was a good job we had him cremated when we did…


Happy Birthday Grandad.

(Embarrassing photo's courtesy of 1989)

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Jesus Christ, Sabouter.

It's now two days before my birthday, and people are already trying to muscle in on the celebrations, and take some of the annually-anticipated attention off of me. I say "people" but really it's one in particular.

Jesus. That little sod is determined to steal the spotlight on Friday; getting shops to replace birthday cards with Easter ones, smothering everything with little chicks and daffodils instead of diamonds and roses, and he’s even roped in the Easter Bunny (who I used to have a great deal of fondness for) to help convince children that Good Friday is the day when they get bought chocolates! Tsk. Shameless.

I think I'm going to start trying to rebrand Christmas, and see how he likes it.

Ol' JC isn't the only "superstar" aiming to exploit the fact that everyone has been given time off work to celebrate (for which not a single person has thanked me yet,) as the TV channel Dave are broadcasting the first of three new episodes of Red Dwarf on Friday night. This blatant hijacking of International Kate Day is slightly more acceptable than the other, as I have spent far more hours watching Cat, Rimmer, Lister and Cryten than I ever devoted to watching the free copies of The Easter Story that tend to crash through letterboxes across the land at this time of year.

Now, cheeky as it is of the television schedulers to cling onto the birthday-bandwagon, it seems that their efforts are all too effective. Much to my chagrin, they have successfully brainwashed even those nearest and dearest to me. The best example is that of my grandmother, who turned seventy last month. I decided that - in the midst of a recession, with family visiting over Easter, shopping to do for my father's forthcoming nuptials, and his birthday looming at the end of the month - it would be better to have a quiet birthday at home, and not do anything that required the frivolous spending of cash none of us have. It's not a huge concession, particularly if I am recovering from the trauma of suffering my mother's company during the day, so wasn't something I particularly minded. I'm more annoyed about turning twenty three, as it means I am now of an age equivalent to half the cast of skins, or five and a half Miley Cyrus's.

Anyway, in a last-ditch attempt to muffle the cries of "aww, you can't stay in on your birthday!" that I was hearing from every quarter, I suggested to my grandmother that we rally a small family gathering for drinks in our local on Friday, as it wouldn't be too expensive a night if it were limited to a few of us, and they do cheap food if people fancy it. Now, I expected her to be overjoyed at the thought of recognising the twenty-third anniversary of the moment she became a grandmother, (or at least pretend not to be haunted by the memory,) but the conversation went as follows:

Me: "The Red are doing 2 for 1 on meals, so we could always take everyone up there? Will be nice to get everyone together."
Nan: "That would be nice, but... Can we do it on Saturday instead?"
Me: "Why? I was really hoping we'd do it on Friday night, as it's my birthday!"
Nan: "I know it is, but it clashes with Eastenders."

Now, I took far more offence at this than I should have because my ego never has reacted well to anything that threatens to deflate it. It's actually very funny, and reminds me of a feature on a radio show I used to listen to. Many of you will know of it because of the press-coverage devoted to its death throes, but before it suffered its own grandparent debacle, Russell Brand and his co-host Matt Morgan devoted a section of the programme to "nanecdotes." These were charming or amusing anecdotes sent in by listeners about their elderly relatives, and the pair always riffed and elaborated on their audiences’ tales superbly. I can't help but imagine them adopting their little-old-lady voices for the sound-byte "Oh I know it's your birthday dear, but it clashes with my programme on the tellybox." I hope the Daily Mail are happy with themselves. They have denied a grandmother her dream of stardom! …I'm not particularly sure she ever did dream of being on the wireless - her biggest aspiration seems to have been to own a monkey, which she never attained - but I'm pretty certain that had I emailed a national radio station about her, then she would, at the very least, have forgiven me eventually.

As it happens, now Dad is planning to cook Sunday dinner for us all, which probably requires several days’ fortification for anyway. My preparation for said Bush-tucker Trial has been inspired wholly by the (awful) film Snakes On A Plane, where the pretty Spanish girl coats her mouth with olive oil to prevent the poison from entering her bloodstream when she sucks the poison out of her fellow passengers’ wounds. I forgot to buy the olive oil when I was in Tesco’s yesterday – and to be honest in Portsmouth it’s not easy to find extra-virgin anything – but there are some cod-liver oil tablets in the cupboard we give the dog, so failing all else we can dose up on those before Sunday teatime. I just hope Peggy Mitchell appreciates it!

At this juncture it is probably polite to wish you Happy Easter, but I’d prefer to hope you have a marvellous International Kate Day. I urge you to you go forth and continue the trend. Think of it as a task on The Apprentice; it’s us against the church team! Greet your friends, neighbours, colleagues and random strangers with my egotistic salutation, so we get the brand out there. Come on – Christ has his own little cult to run his PR for him, I don’t even have Max Clifford! (Though he does have an opening on his client list now, so I might offer the poor bloke some work.) With your loyalty and devotion we can’t fail!

…but if Jade digs herself up over the weekend, I’ll be really fed up.


That 80's blanket is so retro-chic right now. I wasn't just "on-trend" - I was two whole decades ahead of my time.
10th April ftw.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Mischief and Mayhem

Well it's April Fools Day 2009, and I'm already bored enough to have just typed "Google" into Google, on the off-chance that someone out there in cyberspace had set it up to display an error message saying I'd broken the internet. If I worked for Google, then on the 1st April I don't think I could pass up the chance to subvert the well known myth that asking Google to search for itself will cause a catastrophic breakdown in communications. No one who types "Google" into Google actually expects anything heinous to occur, but the opportunity to give someone a bit of a shock would be too much to resist for one such as myself. I think I'd like to set up a page which - instead of returning "Results 1 - 10 of about 2,640,000,000" - would feature a briefly displayed warning message, before settling on a humorous image like this: (the Superpoke application error screen, which made me chuckle when I inadvertently broke Facebook.)



Of course, such seasonal tom-foolery isn't restricted to bored, insomniac twentysomethings (though there's a lot of that about this-morning), and I don't doubt that each of you will stumble across a prank or two over the course of today. Whether you realise it or not is another matter!

My favourite of the japes I have come across already today are two faux newspaper stories. The first is a Guardian article embracing the new social networking phenomenon "Twitter" - which for the uninitiated amongst you is a string of 140 character "status updates" - a bit like Facebook without the cacophony of colourful photo's, applications and groups.

Link: Guardian Twitter Article

I was particularly tickled by the suggestion that they are currently transcribing their back-catalogue of newsworthy moments in history to make them suitable for the Twitter format.

Major stories already completed include:

"1832 Reform Act gives voting rights to one in five adult males yay!!!"
"OMG Hitler invades Poland, allies declare war see tinyurl.com/b5x6e for more"
"JFK assassin8d @ Dallas, def. heard second gunshot from grassy knoll WTF?"


Some of the best examples of the Guardian's "Twitter archive" are:

Highlights from the Guardian's Twitterised news archive

1927
OMG first successful transatlantic air flight wow, pretty cool! Boring day
otherwise *sigh*

1940
W Churchill giving speech NOW - "we shall fight on the beaches ... we shall never surrender" check YouTube later for the rest

1961
Listening 2 new band "The Beatles"

1989
Berlin Wall falls! Majority view of Twitterers = it's a historic moment! What do you think??? Have your say

1997
RT@mohammedalfayed: FYI NeilHamilton, Harrods boss offering £££ 4 questions in House of Commons! Check it out



I also like the equally current photo-shopped images of Home Secretary Jacqui Smith - who has this last week been embroiled in a ludicrously over-inflated (possibly a bad choice of words) sex-scandal, after her husband purchased two pornographic movies on pay-per-view and accidentally claimed the tenner back on expenses with the rest of their bills. His dalliance with deviance isn't an issue I feel requires public attention - it's obvious the cost of them was in all likelihood not added to their business expenses deliberately. I was more disgusted that he'd pay a couple of quid to watch Oceans 13 - twice - and that he'd pay to watch the interminable "Surf's Up" at all.

Today's photographs depict Ms Smith leaving the high street staple Anne Summers, laden with carrier bags full of saucy swag.



Both these articles are little more than an amusing distraction, particularly in the current economic climate; which has encouraged the newspapers to do little but incite "panic on the streets of London" in a way only hitherto foretold by the wise and wonderful Morrissey. (Though it always seems cruel to reference him in relation to anything of a sexual nature, it is pertinent in this instance, as Jacqui Smith's husband has discovered just how easy it is to empathise with a man whose genitals were believed to be "little more than a cruel joke." Mind you, looking at his missus, I don't think anyone would castigate him for seeking an alternative punch-line.)

All this mischief making puts me in mind of my favourite faux news story from a few years ago, when scientists announced that they'd discovered a new species of furry shark. Anyone who knew me at the time may well recall just how much I desired that story to be real. So much did I wish it to be true, that I have still never actually looked it up, so that the memory of it might swim fuzzily around in my imagination, untainted by cold, hard, realities.

On a personal note this week, the M.E Clinic informed me that I am their most recalcitrant lab rat, and seem to derive pleasure from being contrary and impossible to categorise. I was determined to take this as a compliment, though they were just as determined to assure me that it wasn't meant as one. I might try and go a little easier on them next week, after all, there are far worse jobs being doled out to unsuspecting rats than their traditional clinical roles. Oh yes, these days rats are at the frontline of more than just medical research.

This little fella - who I must say looks rather snazzy in his little harness (only to be improved if they'd given him miniature aviators to complete the Top Gun style) - has been trained to sniff out landmines because he can run across them without setting them off. I can't help but think that in this picture he looks like he's helping Macauly Culkin out with some ingenious scheme to combat Taliban burglars after all the troops withdraw from Iraq and accidentally leave him behind.

Kofi:


Note, RamboRat is not an April fool, as (possibly) validated for you by this newspaper article from the 31st March. Daily Mirror Article

If it does turn out to be a fabrication, don’t tell me. I wish to forever live in the kind of blissful ignorance that sees a lifetime of furry sharks chasing legions of little scurrying soldiers around the deeper, darker corners of my marvellously meandering mind.

Before I release you from your obligation to stick this blog out to the final full-stop, now it’s April I am officially allowed to start hinting about the fact that it is my birthday in just over a week. Not that I am ever either subtle or tactful in my attention seeking, but I feel that your loyalty in reading through my written ramblings with enough dedication to reach these last lines deserves some reward; so consider this fair and timely warning that I am going to be more insufferable than ever for the next couple of weeks.

On a final and very sad note, a social worker who spent some time working alongside my father in Portsmouth has died this week of an aggressive cancer she was left without time to fight. Some friends of Claire Ramsbottom’s are raising money in her name, and so I am including the link here just in case any of you have some change to spare. To donate, or if you just wish to leave messages of support for her family and the fundraising team who will be doing the Race For Life, please go to: www.justgiving.com/jeffriesnetballteam.

I wish you all a glorious day full of mischief and mayhem, and hope that anyone attending the Stop The War march contains their passions in a peaceful protest. There is no sanity in trying to end violence with violence, though historically it has proven to be human nature to try just that. x

Friday, 6 March 2009

The Missing Link

Today, I was "tagged" in another of the inane Facebook notes that there seem to have been an ever-increasing influx of in recent months. I must admit to occasionally being part of this mindless chain of self-promotion in all its uselessness. I'm attention-seeking enough that whenever I think participation might lead to a handful of amusing answers, I grab my fluffiest knitwear and join the rest of the sheep in bleating my way through "19 of my favourite cornflake-related memories of Wolf from Gladiators."

This most recent quiz assigned numbers to random friends, and paired questions with the numbers. One of the questions assigned to number seven - which was allocated to me - was "If you gave #7 £100, what would they spend it on?" The answer given by my old schoolfriend? "Shoes. I bet she'd spend it on shoes." Now, the idea that I'd spend one-hundered-pounds on shoes when there is art to admire, and theatre to enjoy, and music to be seduced by, and cultures to explore is preposterously vain and shallow! ...It's also true, damn him. (And damn me for being such a vacuous bint.)

I retreated from Facebook after reading that, to watch a coupling of programs on BBC2 about Charles Darwin - if for no other reason than to remind myself that I am little more than a chimp in heels, who is fortunate to have evolved into a creature who can walk upright at all, let alone at a constant 5" incline.

You should know at this point, that I have just spent half an hour on Google trying to find a photo of a monkey in stilettos, and failed dismally. On a similarly anthropomorphic theme, the other thing I have never seen - as I found myself discussing in the far-too-wee-hours of one insomniac morning - is a tortoise in a christmas party hat! My family own a tortoise, but because she had hibernated through every christmas for the better part of a century, I have never had occasion to take a photograph of her in a tissue-paper crown. It's a shame, as she's the right shape for a christmas-cracker party hat to fit the curve of her shell as easily as it does the human head for which it was more likely marketed. I decided to make note of the idea so that I might wait until April when she awakes for the year, and be reminded to contrive a situation whereby I can snap such a picture. Due to an inexplicable lack of notepaper, the memo was scribed onto the side of a banana. (No, I don't know why I chose a banana as my second choice of writing medium, but I like to think that rather than being evidence of some form of mental illness, it is instead proof that Darwin had a bloody good point.)

BANANA


In other news this week, I attended a fabulous comedy night at The Fat Fox in Southsea, and finally saw Trevor Lock perform. Was a brilliant night; though due to my inability to be both impromptu and dazzling, the majority of the audience will forever refer to me as the prostitute in the front row, cementing the "gig-whore" status attributed to me by Ms McEvitt when I bought the tickets last month. If any of you are presented with opportunity to see Trevor live, then I urge you to do so while he is still performing in reasonably intimate venue's. It just won't be the same when he's playing the guildhall and I'm seated so far at the back and in the rafters that I might as well be peering through a skylight.

Disclaimer: Forthcoming gigs may or may not include common brunette hookers. More information available by placing a notice in the free-ads and waiting with a red carnation by your post office box on the first day of the full moon following your advertisment.

Monday, 16 February 2009

A Blond(i) Moment

I think someone is trying to assassinate my dog.

That sounds unlikely, but I have proof. Well, not proof exactly, but evidence that it is probable. Google practically told me someone is trying to poison her. Obviously it couldn't confirm it directly without too much personal risk, but it has strongly suggested that there's only one possibility - and it's not that Hitler's ghost has returned to finish Sally off like he did his own dog, Blondi. Contrary to what the title of this post might lead you to think. (No pun intended.)

It started when Sally, my 9yr old golden retriever, started smelling of garlic. At least - her breath did. We checked her food, and it contains no garlic, and we seldom eat it here (healthy it may be, but if you've ever had to use a bathroom after my father, you'd ban garlic from your world too.) So we couldn't understand where the odour was orginating. After several weeks of this, I finally googled "dog breath, garlic smell" and was lead to the following result:



So you see, the garlicky breath is a legitimate symptom of ARSENIC POISONING!

As this pongy-phenomenon began soon after Sam began bringing Sally dog-chews every day, I think it's perfectly plausible to assume that my stepmother is trying to assassinate my dog.

Either that, or our neighbours are feeding her garlic to try and freak us out. I like that idea actually. I'd quite like to paint their cat's teeth with glow in the dark paint for the same reason. This desire to unnerve and bemusle is the reason I love this cartoon:



So - on the offchance that it's not Sam, and is in fact a shady organisation like MI5, the Masons, or neighbourhood watch who are trying to assassinate my dog - I am posting my suspicions here, so they know I'm onto them.

In other news, Morrissey's new album officially hits the market tomorrow, so I can finally stop pretending that I haven't already heard the songs illegally.

That's probably not a very good thing to admit when I think MI5 might be listening. (It's all right though, as if they take me to court, I'll tell people what they're doing to my dog.)

I should also use this post to brag for a moment, about the pretty lovely Valentines day flowers Johnny Depp sent me. Now, when I tell people that Johnny Depp sent the rose they give me the same look that I get from them when I tell them that MI5 are forcing my stepmother to poison my dog. Like in that instance, Google provided the answer. The card on the flowers is signed with naught but a question mark, which everyone knows is the sign of the Riddler in the Batman movies, and a quick search online informed me that Depp is to play the riddler in the follow-up to the Oscar Nominated film Batman: The Dark Knight, which got so much attention because Heath Ledger topped himself after being quite good in it.



On the romantic theme, I'd also like to publicly announce my delight at my dad finally choosing a decent wife, and asking Sam to marry him. Now, in lieu of garlic-gate, this might seem like an odd time to be pleased for them, but I still reckon that if she's involved at all then she's only poisoning the dog under duress.

So congratulations to Dave and Sam! It's good to finally see my Daddy with a woman who loves him back as much as he deserves. (And I'm going to keep saying that until my birthday is over, because I'm still hoping that it might earn me enough brownie-points to wangle a decent present - even though he had to pawn me to Ripley's Believe It Or Not museum of curiosities to pay for her ring.)

As you were.

P.S - Review of Russell Brand and Dylan Moran to follow when I eventually get around to it. Both gigs were brilliant, but I might wait until after I've seen Trevor Lock in May. Yes, another comedy gig. I think the frequency of my attendance was best surmised by the following comment:

"Gig whore."
-Ms A McEvitt, Manchester, UK, Zooniverse.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

"Laughter Is The Best Medicine" and Other Excuses.

As I haven't posted anything here since before Christmas, I hope you all had enjoyable days, and avoided murdering family members. The "traditional red and green" shouldn't be blood on the Xmas-tree, really, but yuletide often descends into chaos for so many people who are only flung together for that season.

I did some shopping at Gunwharf Quay, a relatively recently redeveloped area of Portsmouth that is the site of the Spinnaker Tower. They'd decorated it very nicely:

Spinnaker Tower:


Gunwharf:


I did receive a not-so-pleasant present amid all the lovely ones this year though. My father - for reasons known only to himself - thought it would be very funny to wrap up a Bisto jar full of sausages, and label it as "property of Southampton General Hospital." The significance of this being that it was surgeons at that hospital who removed my colon, for which a string of cocktail sausages has been substituted in order to breathe new life into the joke that it's in a jar of formaldehyde someplace, being used for medical research as they requested in 2000. Admittedly this did make me giggle on Christmas day, and was even funnier when Dad told me that my sister has actually believed that it was real! It is convincingly disgusting though. I was also glad that we open our presents in the morning, allowing a reasonable amount of time to elapse before we attempted to face Christmas Lunch. I had an email around Christmas time from the my editor at the IA Journal, John, saying they might be reprinting my article as they still get letters where it exists on their website. I should probably post it here but you've all read it so I don't see the need. If they do leaflets with it again I'd like to update it really. I was too young when I wrote it, and it could be improved upon in language if not content. I might leave out comparisons between the large intestine and a string of sausages though. Despite the origins of that analogy coming from a radiographer during my pre-surgery ultrasound, I don't think it's really standard medical terminology.

One day my daddy will buy me a car:


I write this as we are in the middle of some rather stormy weather, so if this blog post is prematurely truncated then please picture the opening scenes from The Wizard Of Oz, and inform the appropriate authorities that I'm not in Kansas anymore. ...Ok, so I never was in Kansas. That would have been a much pithier opening sentence if I did happen to live in Kansas, but I've just Googled it and don't think I'd like it very much. I wouldn't mind a Scottish Terrier dog though (who would, obviously, have to be called Toto.)

I've probably told you before that the dog who played Toto got paid more than the Dwarfs, but I'm telling you again because this is a somewhat of a stream-of-consciousness affair - and my brain is currently streaming thoughts that inquire things like; "In what way do dogs have greater expenses than miniature people" and imagining a scruffy little dog riding in that golf-buggy-scooter thing that Verne 'Mini-Me' Troyer has on the current Celebrity Big Brother. I suppose updated equality laws would prevent him from receiving a lower wage than, say, Wellard the German Shepherd off've Eastenders - but I think I might actually watch CBB if they had Wellard on there. (Wouldn't be the first time a dog had won a reality show, Michelle McManus came first on Pop Idol after all.)

My dog is currently going mental because of the gales outside, whilst I'm just annoyed that it doesn't seem too cold tonight. I've been complaining about being freezing for weeks, but got a letter yesterday from the council saying they will pay me £25 "Cold Weather Allowance" whenever the Met Office tells them it has been freezing or below for several consecutive days. Consequently, I now watch weather reports with the same enthusiasm other people save for the National Lottery. It makes the cold surprisingly tolerable. It seems that for twenty five quid I'm more than willing to wear a jumper. (For fifty, I could probably be persuaded to take it off.)

Speaking of clothes, I have become rather preoccupied with choosing an outfit for the 27th of this month, when some friends and I see Russell Brand at Pompey Guildhall.
I'm excited because I've not seen Russ live before, and it should be a good night. I'm also hoping that - despite wishing for cold every other day of the month to increase my chances of cashing in on the freezing-to-death bonus - it will be warmer on the night of the gig. Mainly because, after auditioning several outfits with an uncompromising intensity that Simon Cowell would be proud of, I have decided upon a rather nice blue-green dress. I will tell you afterwards whether or not pneumonia is a worthwhile price for vanity, but I am thinking I will probably regret it. The plus point is that we will now - hopefully - not have to queue for the gig, as I've arranged for priority seating on the grounds of being all weak and pathetic when it comes to arduous tasks like standing about.

Ten days after the Russell Brand gig, I'm hoping to see Dylan Moran at the same venue. Yes, that's probably a bit soon energy-wise, considering the estimated recovery from seeing Russ. No, the city might not quite have had time to regroup after dealing with the universe-shattering force that is the real-world twinning of Anna and myself for a few days, but it's had fair warning. Maybe I shouldn't be spending so much on gigs this year, but if I keep wishing on the pot of gold at the end of the weather forecast then I won't be too out of pocket. Plus, I hardly ventured out into the world at all for best part of 2007, and some months of 2008, because my weight was still very low and the world doesn't take very kindly to women who look like emaciated greyhounds. (Actually it was worse than that; I looked like an emaciated two legged greyhound. In lipstick and stilettos.)

Youtube clip (of Dylan Moran, not a greyhound in silly shoes.)


I'm looking forward to seeing him, as although his sets are notoriously short - and he always acts as if he doesn't want to be there - the "Oscar Wilde of comedy" has never failed to make me laugh in either DVD, interview or YouTube clip format, so will, I am sure, be very funny as a live act. His rambling irascibility and biting observations stem from one of comedies' darkest hearts, but are always highly amusing. I adored Bernard and Manny in 'Black Books,' the series he filmed with Bill Bailey, and am pleased to have got cheap tickets to see him at the Guildhall.

I've decided on a "sod it" approach to the M.E for the time being. The last few years I've kept "putting things off until I have more energy," but as I accept that 'having more energy' is a long term goal, it is leaving me free to concentrate on smaller - more achievable - niceties instead.

...Which is also my excuse for booking tickets to see Morrissey in the spring. I know, I know, that sounds like a lot, but Russell's gig I booked months and months ago, the Moran one was a last-minute opportunity and they were cheap because he only does a short set, and the Morrissey tickets were a matter of life or death. Really. (Not my life, but someone's would have been endangered.) If I had spent the next few months watching documentaries about his life and career in the run-up to his 50th birthday knowing that I was missing out on the tour, then I might have killed someone so I could go in their place. At the very least I'd have had to befriend and then anonymously maim them, so they gave me the tickets they were too savaged to use, and attend the gig before the police caught up with me. (Note, never let me watch American Psycho again.)

It should be a marvellous gig though, as Anna and I are seeing him in his hometown of Manchester (at the Apollo Theatre) on his birthday!

You are probably all sick of hearing me say that, but I am looking forward to it immensely. It also means I'll be staying with my favourite auntie for a week or two in Wales (though near enough to Chester that I can spend a lot of time shopping - and complaining that if I'd got that part I was up for in Hollyoaks then I'd be able to buy things in the designer shops as well as the outlet stores.)

All of these gigs have a lot of work to do if they wish to live up to the tremendous energy and all-round comedic genius of Tim Minchin's show at the Wedgewood Rooms last year. I'd never seen him before, and in a relatively small venue he proved to be a magnificent presence. I've liked him since I saw him on little snippets of shows from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (whish I'd love to go to one year) and international comedy spots on Paramount comedy channel, but seeing him live was still even better than I expected. I have my friend Tim to thank for the ticket, as I'd not even known Minchin was performing, and was really glad to see the show and meet him after.

"Canvas Bag" and signed Gig Ticket:



The wind appears to be dying down outside now. I'm almost disappointed. I was quite looking forward to seeing my mother's feet sticking out from under a house...