Fading photos….but not faded enough

I made a nasty discovery in my mum’s old photo collection today…….me when I was fat.

I recall listening to Sara Cox on the radio one day when she remarked how old and inferior she felt when watching 19 year old girls walk by with amazing figures and not terribly much on. She described them as 100% prime beef with men all queuing up at a meat market.

This was not me at 19. Before university student life I had an OK figure, then I started drinking cider and eating at greasy spoons and trying to keep up with my boyfriend’s daily calorific intake. When I look back I recall it not being the healthiest episode of my life and that I may have crept up to a size 14, but the picture is shocking. I literally look like someone pumped me full of gas. Even my facial features have been lost to the landmass that is my bloatedness. Thankfully I can look back on it now and feel relieved that the wind didn’t change and that I didn’t stay that way. It is a shame though that I bhdidn’t look my best when my skin was still in its ‘youth’.

Now in my thirties I have finally grasped the concept of ‘my body is a temple’, yet i have lots of grey hairs, wrinkles  and a few saggy bits where things haven’t ‘sprung’ back to shape. Its all a little bit too late. But as you get older, concerns about your appearance hive way to preserving your health, which is why i am fitter and slimmer now than when i was in my teens……back then i did whatever i wanted and thought about the consequences later.

So to prevent me from ever ballooning like i did when i was 19, that photo is stuck to my fridge as a reminder whenever i get tempted away from an evening’s exercise or tempted towards sugary treats.

I decided not to put the pictures of my semi-naked mother (she seemed to like going topless on all of our family holidays) and my father with george best hair and a podgy tummy on the fridge. Some photos are best left in albums, or better still in our memories…..to fade with time.

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Coming of Age music in the nineties

Just watching T in the Park and The Killers with adoring teens gazing up at the stage, no doubt feeling anything is possible flanked by friends, music and alcohol. It doesn’t matter who you are and where you come from everyone has a song that they link with ‘coming of age’.

For me, a teen in the nineties, there are many contenders. Guns n Roses was certainly an influence in my younger teens, particularly ‘Sweet Child O’Mine’; ‘November Rain’ and ‘Paradise City’. Manic Street Preachers and ‘My Little Empire’ (I am drawn by good guitar intros); (I’ve had to interrupt this list in disbelief that The Killers are doing a version of Tiffany’s ‘I think we’re alone now’ – I am confused that the crowd know the lyrics…has this been re-released? It was Number One when I was 8…..)

Anyway, back to the list. The Bluetones, Blur (not as keen on Oasis); Alanis Morisette; Roni Size;Armand Van Helden; Tina Moore (Never Gonna Let You Go) …mixing up musical genres quite a lot here. I liked Rock music AND Garage. Nirvana is of course there, so is Greenday and Foo Fighters. I also liked Courtney Love’s Hole Album and ‘Doll Parts’. Travis has got to be there and some Metallica. The Fugees, Lauryn Hill, Jamiroquai are all in the top 5.

But If I had to be pick just one to sum up my feelings at the peak of my teens it has to be Skunk Anansie and Hedonism..‘Just because you feel good doesn’t make you right’ genius lyrics.

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Just a spoonful of inspiration….

helps you tolerate life a little longer. Sorry don’t mean to be depressive – it just makes those shittier days a little bit more bearable if you have something or someone to inspire you. I am enjoying finishing my day reading Mo Mowlam’s autobiography just before I go to sleep. No matter how challenging, boring or annoying your day has been, it is strangely calming to read about one person’s battle to get the Northern Ireland peace process back on track while battling treatment for a brain tumour at the same time. Mo Mowlam seems to have a rare and unique ability to cope with the incredibly stressful demands of being secretary of state for NI, at a time when murders were occuring daily in the country by both sides. She also rose above the commentary of her apperance and rapid weight gain, a story that would have affected most women to the core and probably crippled their confidence in public. In addition, she still found time to keep her constituents happy, make sure all communities in NI were being heard and their needs addressed – as well as put on the odd concert or gathering for the community featuring the likes of U2 and Elton John.

I also enjoyed watching a documentary on the life of snooker player Ronnie O Sullivan, his struggle with addiction and his personal self-esteem and confidence issues. Yet he is perhaps the best snooker player in the world. Most of his career his father was in jail and his father told him that he liked it when he played the biog snooker championships because, for him, it was like Ronnie was visiting him in prison every time he played on national television. Ronnie found that pressure hard to handle, knowing his father was watching from his prison cell. Ronnie has no airs or graces – what you see is what you get and I like that about him. Its also refreshing to find someone else who is not afraid to retain their dialect or slang regardless of their audience. Someone else uses ‘quid’ and ‘earroles’ in their everyday language. I dont feel so common when a high profile character on TV is relaxed in the way he speaks. My Dad has a South London accent but when I catch him answering the phone at work I love hearing his ‘phone voice’ – he almost sounds camp. I often ring him up first thing in the morning before the office secretary has got in so I can listen to his phone voice.

I find myself adjusting the way I speak, particularly when speaking to work colleagues of a certain class and also my parents in law who are a little bit posh. I wish I could relax and just talk “how I wanna” but I am worried about the reaction if I do. Don’t get me wrong I am no Katie Price, but it would be nice not to have to consciously think about my langauge and tone all the time.

Those that are inspiring are those that have achieved something without having to adjust themselves in anyway – they have just had to apply themselves. They have achieved because of who they are not despite it. Mo Mowlam is a prime example of this. Perhaps the biggest respect for her comes from her decision to enter the notorious ‘Maze’ prison in NI when the peace talks hit crisis point and she had no option but to talk to the incarcerated paramilitaries – mass murderers. I remember at the time finding it hard to believe watching it on television, particularly the involvement of Sinn Fein, who, to many of us Brits were almost (not quite) on a par with the Taliban in terms of the level of brutality they showed towards their ‘enemies’. But Mo pulled it off – she knew it was the right thing to do but if it went wrong it would have been the end of her political career – but she was willing to take that gamble. This one act was pivotal in the peace process and she succeeded – what a great movie that would make.

Most of us have forgotten how bad it was in NI before the Good Friday agreement. No more random bomb explosions in the UK, no more news of daily killings between the protestants and catholics in NI. Mo really did help to achieve peace and over a decade later we have forgotten what it was like to be so near acts of terrorism – that is what peace feels like – you just forget. At least that is what it feels like from a British point of view – Belfast may be different but it is still an improvement.

Inspirational people provide a little bit of therapy because they are proof it is possible to defy the status quo and do something cool with your life.

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Losing my head

Its not completely lost, just in a fog both physically (inflamed sinuses) and mentally (how come my mum in law can’t remember what she did last week but remembers distinctly lending us a toy about 4 years ago and now wants it back – the fuck if I know where it is now….).

On the whole I like my head. It chooses to remember the things that are important to remember (birthdays, the general plot of a good book, entertaining moments that make me laugh on reflection, how to turn a computer on etc). When it forgets things, I dismiss it thinking they were obviously not important. It also gets excused when it hasn’t had enough rest (like the incident with the wallet last weekend). I have only just received my new bank card btw. Its amazing how you become much more aware of your daily expenditure when you have to pay everything with cash, as I have had to do this week. Once its gone, its gone. As a result I had an interesting ‘on a wing and a prayer’ trip to one of the few petrol stations in our area because of lack of funds the previous day.

Back to the memory thing, I have realised that the older generation have a much better long-term memory than, for instance, a (slightly) younger person like me. Maybe that’s just because they have been around longer but I had a similar situation with my mum not so long ago. “Where did you put that dinner service I gave you a while back?” my mum says. “I haven’t the faintest idea what you are talking about” I reply. “Please dont tell me you haven’t got it”, she says. At which point I am desperately racking my brains as I can see that she is brewing to make this an issue. The egg timer in my memory is whirring, the files of my life are being flicked through like the foolscaps in a filing cabinet (get born, piss off my dad for losing the keys to the suitcases hours before a flight, piss off my mum for putting mud in the tumbledryer, ride a pony, fall off a pony. first day at school, frist day at new school after parent’s divorce etc etc) Then I finally alight upon the file marked ‘the nineties’. “Oh you mean the one that was cream and green and looked a bit ‘art deco in the 1980s’ Is that it?” My mum replies “yes it was quite expensive and I wanted you to keep it” (then why the hell did she decide to give it to me when I was at university??? “Um, sorry Mum but I dont think I have it anymore”….oh dear the shit has hit the fan now she doesn’t look happy. “Well what did you do with it then?” “I don’t know Mum, I can’t remember it was a long time ago” (I think I might have flogged it). “Well that dinner service was very important to me and I wanted you to have it for a keepsake”. The collection took up 2 cupboards, which is probably why I chose to get rid, although if she had expressed how important it was when she gave it to me, I wouldn’t have been so flippant about it.

It pisses me off that they can do that though. Will that be the same case with me. Will I get to 2025 and then anything after that gets forgotten about? Yet I will have a photographic memory of things I said or promised to someone in the early noughties?

Also I hold the opinon that if you give something that’s it, it is gone. If you want to make sure that you see it again you say to the person that you are giving it too – “Here you are but if for any reason you no longer need it please let me know as i will have it back”. Thats all my memory needs to hear in order to register that it is an important item. For instance, I have some prints that my stepdad has lent to me as he knows I have a particular interest in them. At the time he said that if ever i didnt need them that I should return them to him. So, every time I look at them I rember that they are his and not mine to do as I wish.

I am the opposite of a clutter junkie – I HATE clutter, I also like travelling light (which is at times a challenge with children). Once I invited a friend and her hubby and daughter to a picnic in our local park. We arrived with one large tupperware box of sandwiches and snacks to share between us. my friend arrives with everyting short of a dining table and chairs. A large cooler box, a couple of other boxes, boxes within other frigging boxes, food that would have fed another 3 families at least. The amount of effort to get all of this to the park, unpack it and then pack it again was substantial. I like to eat, have a drink, then go for a walk. Not arrive, spend 2 hours on my arse munching all kinds of shit and then pack all the rubbish and boxes and bits up and roll back to the car.

My Mum in law has my husbands old toys – before you get the wrong idea, he is 35. There are toys that my daughter stopped playing with last year that are alreay gone – off to the charity shop for another child, of the appropriate age, to enjoy. OK I understand somethings are kept for sentimental reasons but at the end of the day its just a bunch of stuff. People, relationships and memories are the best things to keep and preserve…

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Planning and Poetry

Last night I promised an update on our little village’s planning saga following my husband’s return from the meeting in the Church. All sounds a little bit ‘Vicar of Dibley’ with a packed church of NIMBYs wanting a say in where 100 houses should be located. Everyone was given a pair of dots (green for yes and ….. yes you guessed it…..red for no). They then placed these dots on a map of the village.

We are self confessed NIMBYs. We back onto a field with uninterrupted views of the countryside and lots of sky – we are very lucky considering our heavily populated island. Forgive us, therefore, for wanting to preserve the bit of green out back. We also live on a council estate, one of three estates in a small area (hard to imagine isn’t it?) One the one side there are lots of fairly ugly post-war houses built to accomodate families bombed out of London. On the other rolling fields, trees, a bit of a wasteland/ hunting ground for owls and buzzards and the odd pylon. This field, like many others surrounding our village, is owned by developers keen to cash in on the local authority target to build 100 houses in the area over the next 5 years.

At the meeting a lot of red dots were placed on the field near us. However, there were a few red dots on the other option. I don’t envy the people trying to put together this ‘neighbourhood plan’ as you can’t keep everyone happy. What I resent is the short-termist thinking of our successive governments. For example, two schools in neighbouring villages were closed down in the past decade. Yet within the past few years, more and more families have moved into the area following an increase in housing. What a surprise, the schools are now oversubscribed and class sizes are bloated as a result. Doh! They seem to think its OK to dump housing down like they are playing The Sims with no thought on infrastrcuture.

Anyway it looks likely that the conclusion will work in our favour. The council don’t like putting social housing amongst existing social housing developments for fear of creating a ‘ghetto’ (“Too many low income people in one area is bound to cause trouble darling”). Snobs in the village, however, prefer it that way – “at least we can keep an eye on them when they are all together, God forbid we have a mixed population across the village”. Yes the class divide is still as strong as it ever was in Great Britain – particularly in the rural South-East. I will let you know the result…

Changing the subject completely, I aim to get my daughter in bed by 7pm. I could count on one hand how many times I have managed to achieve this during the Autumn term, in fact, the whole year. Tonight she was a ball of enthusiasm and did  everything she was asked without any protest (thanks to some harsh words about her behaviour last week). After completing some work on maths and English (we bought those books that ‘support’ the curriculum at home) she started talking about poetry writing, as her class is currently learning about poetry. The subject is the great fire of London and they are learning about adjectives to use in their poems. Lots of sparking and igniting going on. My daughter said she was struggling a bit and I wanted to help her out before school the following day (although it was 7.30pm already so bang goes the rule on bed by 7pm). I dug out one of my old poetry books in the hope that she would be inspired by poems such as The Jabberwocky by CS Lewis and The Listeners by Walter de la Mare (I think!). She was engrossed and then started writing a couple of lines herself about fire. I was amazed how it quickly went off on a tangent about poos and loos but she was enjoying herself so if toilet humour gets her inspired so be it.

It made me wish I had appreciated my school days more, because in my case, once you have analysed and assessed the text for an exam, it is rare that you pick it up again for pleasure. If I returned to the classroom now I would have enjoyed the experience so much more. But Im glad my daughter is enjoying school….I think it has come along way since the state system in the 80s and 90s. I just hope Michael Gove doesn’t cock things up again – I don’t believe the Torys have a good track record when it comes to education.

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We have an unhealthy addiction

Its cars. Buying cars. =-iooiiui (apologies for that interruption that was my husband getting annoyed by my typing at the table) Never mind that he is noisily chomping his way through a fruit crumble (yes can you tell that we are nearing a decade  of marriage !).

We cant stop looking at Auto Trader. This was a problem when I was a kid – and when he was a kid too. We are both petrol heads (I wish we had horses in common too then he would  be a bit more supportive of the idea of buying a horse and would ignore the fact that they are, I quote, “a bloody money-pit”).

Back in the 90s I would make sure my homework was done after school and then switch on the TV every Thursday night to watch Jeremy Clarkson and his bouffant hairdo pontificate wittily over a car. I loooved Top Gear (although I thought Tiff Needell was a bit of a twat). I enjoyed it when Vicky Butler-Henderson was on the team too as she squeaked her way round corners as if she was Barbara Windsor in a bikini being chased by a horny man.

When I wasn’t watching Top Gear (and collecting the magazines) I was looking through Auto Trader for my first car. I desperately wanted a VW – didn’t care what model, I guessed it would be a polo with my parent’s budget. The years passed and the time came to get my first wheels and my parents bought my car secretly and were going to reveal it to me on my birthday.  But then one day my Mum let the cat out of the bag when she was talking to me about insurance. She said, “and when we have insured the Golf….blah ….blah…b;ah” The rest was a blur as I leapt around the room screaming ‘yes’ ‘yes’ ‘yes’ like the Harry met Sally film clip. “Why are you so excited/” said my Mum completely oblivious to what she had just said. “I’m getting a Golf, I’m getting a Golf, I’M GETTING A GOLF!!! Whoop Whoop. The penny dropped and my Mum clapped her hand over her mouth, “Did I just say Golf, oh bloomin bloomin”. I didn’t care that it wasn’t quite my birthday yet. It was the best birthday present ever.

She was called Gertrude and she was that kind of weird VW Green – not dark green or light green or evergreen – it would be best described as Golf Green. Describing her colour proved tricky when describing my location to the AA (which I had to do on frequent occasions) particularly when it had been raining. When I described it as “sort of Green” I remember the AA man saying “Golf Green?” , “Yep that’s it you’ve found her”. Every time I started the engine I had to go through this bizarre ritual, which felt like I was trying to communicate with the engine gods, either that or waking Gertrude up gently.

1) Put key in ignition and pull choke out (wake Gertrude up by whispering in her ear)

2) Wait for all the  red lights to come on (plump up her pillows and offer her some tea)

3) Pump the accelerator 5 times (give her some toast and marmalade)

4) Turn the engine then rev it for a while until the cloud behind you has disappeared and passers by can remove gas masks (make sure she has been to the loo before you go)

5) put choke in and press the accelerator a quarter of the way down – at which point she would suddenly lurch forward (make sure you have hold of her hand once out and about!)

She hated the wet. Once I was pulling on to the dual carriageway to go in the opposite direction from a side road. I crossed the first part fine but then she died on me as I was crossing the fast lane. Thankfully I was opposite a pub and a few lads could see my rather hairy predicament so quickly ran across the road to push me to the side and back on safe ground again. I did a lot of mileage in her when I used to return home from university – from Plymouth to the South East. On my return journey to Plymouth we successfully negotiated the A303 (slow uphills, very fast downhills) but then we just passed the ’10 mile to Plymouth’ sign when she died on me (it had been raining). So I pulled to the side and rang up boyfriend to come rescue me. A very kind policeman pulled up behind me in the interim (which at first made me shit myself) but it turned out he just wanted to make sure I was OK until my boyfriend arrived (sorry have just hit a button that has made the font into italics and  cant seem to undo it) I think it also might have had something to do with the serial killer that was on the loose at the time although I tried not to think too hard about that one on a dark wet Devonshire evening.
 
Because I wanted to be cool, Gertrude had a No Fear sticker in the rear windscreen (although not sure how much fear is experienced by the average person when the top speed is 50mph). However she was not for the faint hearted. Her accelerator used to stick which was tricky in a traffic jam as she was an automatic. You had to jam your foot on the brake like you were holding back a thoroughbred at the start of a race and she completely ignored the handbrake – just powered through it (and into the Volvo in front which was a shade embarrassing).
 
I once pulled over to post a letter and after I had done the deed I could hear a roaring engine behind me, I turned to see a demented Golf rocking to and fro with smoke pouring out of its exhaust. I ran to poor old Gertrude to see what  was wrong and discovered her accelerator was stuck again and she was doing the equivalent revs of 70 mph. Thank fuck the handbrake was virtually touching the ceiling to hold her back. 
 
She was a very cool car though. She was only a really basic model but she had the GTI trim – wheels, steering wheel etc. I remember my boyfriend was very jealous when he met me as he had a shitty 1 litre Fiesta. When we met I invited him to follow me home after I dropped my friends off (I was a bit of a slut back then) and then tested how keen he was by putting my foot down along the motorway.
 
My Dad ended up with my beloved Gertrude and it was lovely to see my dad driving around in her complete with the No Fear sticker.
 
I have had soo many cars since then and we change them more often than other things that you change regularly. Our last car we had for about 9 months. But taking a trip down memory lane has made me hanker after buying a classic for Sunday drives (now we are getting a bit older) and I quite fancy a Mini. Although a Mark One Golf Gti would be something else. I forgot to tell you Gertrude was a Mark One….the best Golf ever……before they started getting fat and their drivers started getting old and dull.
 
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