Tuesday, October 31, 2006

People Collection

Sharon started a fact-finding quest some time ago. It was aimed at writerly folk thus I escaped it for quite a while but Kate has dragged me in. I must now divulge 5 facts, mundane or profane, about me for the benefit of literary data banks.

1. I studied piano to Grade 8 and used to teach it until breast-feeding interfered with a couple of Etudes. I sold my piano for 25 quid after a friend's wedding and am now on the look-out for a baby grand to fill an empty void.

2. I play saxophone too but haven't owned one since I traded it for a moped, much more practical when living in the sticks.

3. I started to play trombone but my right arm was too short to comfortably reach bottom F.

4. My sister and I regularly collected sheep droppings for my Granddad which he would then use to make fertiliser for his tomato plants. We were soon wise to restrict our harvest to picking up the pale ones and it is only in recent years that I have appreciated home-grown tomatoes.

5. I had elocution lessons. My father never was very good with money.

Remember that it isn’t always the sensational stuff that writers are looking for, it can just as easily be something that you take for granted like having raised twins or knowing how to grow beetroot. Mind you, if you know how to fly a helicopter or have worked as a film extra, do feel free to let the rest of us know about it :-)

Would Frontier Editor, KJ, Ces, Quietman and West Tigers ( or whatever he is calling himself these days) add to the collection please.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Wham! Bang! Dang!

A few weeks ago I was chatting to a comedian after a show. He'd made his first visit to Doncaster the week before and was keen to tell me of his impressions of the place. He'd been surprised to see everyone smartly suited and booted for a mid-week outing. His preconceptions of the place were soon confirmed when the first fight started within the space of an hour. It doesn't take much to get the women riled in some places.

I was quick to reassure him that whilst our town may not be the most desirable epicentre of culture, it was actually a reasonably pleasant place to live with very little anti-social behaviour populated by warm friendly people. I was considering showing him just how warm and friendly some of us really can be when there was a loud bang, quickly followed by another. Some local scrotes had thrown bricks through the window. The scene I'd been setting was quite literally shattered. I drove home alone.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Cobbler's Kid

My Dad's a builder, a very good one. He can turn his hand to almost anything so there is rarely any need to call out another tradesman to fix things. Unfortunately, he has a touch of the stereotype when it comes to actually finishing jobs.

In 1981, our immersion heater broke. Dad knew immediately what was wrong and proceeded to empty the heavy cylinder into the bath. He dropped it. The bath cracked. It was alright though, we could use the seperate shower. Dad picked up a replacement tub the next time he was at the builders' merchants, brought it home and unloaded it into the yard. And there it sat until 24 February 1996, the day my sister, Emily, was born. My stepmother refused to leave the hospital until she had somewhere to bathe the baby.

It was around that time that he also fitted the beautiful enamel woodburner into the lounge. The one that he'd acquired as part payment for another job in 1984. The staircase got put in within a few months, certainly before Emily could walk. They'd only been planned for 10 years so that was quite a rapid project.

Dad also bought a new kitchen when he realised his vasectomy reversal had worked. I'm not sure there was any connection. It sits in its wrappers and boxes in the old shop he uses for storage to this day. The design is now discontinued. I'm not sure what he will do if he discovers any pieces missing should he eventually get round to installing it. If he leaves it there long enough, it might feature on a future episode of Antiques Roadshow.

He used to pop in every week when I first moved into my house, due in part because he passes it on his main route home, and partly because of the novelty of not having my mother next door. I loved him coming round. He'd usually be in his van, his tool-laden van. I'd always have pictures to hang, plumbing to fix, or drains to unblock. He doesn't visit so often now.

He called last weekend to mend my letterbox which was hanging on by a thread. There was a spare piece left when he'd finished but he assured me it wasn't an essential part. I've put it in a drawer just in case. I got him to take a look at my tumble-dryer which had stopped tumbling months ago. He got the back off, top off, whirly motor-thing out and it was a snapped belt. I've ordered a replacement from Hotpoint. It will be here within a couple of days. Dad says he'll come straight round to put it on. I think I'll try and do it myself first.

He had his power tools with him so I asked him to tighten up the wall light that I noticed was hanging off every time I came down the stairs. He fiddled with it, didn't have the correct drill bit and now it's in pieces on a shelf waiting for the next time he comes over. I tried to get him into my loft as I am certain I have a leak, evidenced by drooping wallpaper in one corner of the house. Dad reassured me that it was simply poorly hung paper and the fact that the only strips affected happened to be in identical corners both up and downstairs was purely coincidental. I daren't mention that I've some art coming from Canada which will need to hung soon.

Anway I am going to Norfolk for the weekend. I don't know why that's news. It's not as if I see any bedroom action any other time.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Getting the Best Out of Your Lawyer

A 10 Step Guide

1. Avoid violence, either physical or verbal, unless absolutely necessary.

2. Avoid eye contact, displays of emotion (deep gratitude excepted) or sudden movements near your lawyer.

3. If you find it necessary to communicate with your lawyer, do so as obliquely as possible, preferably in writing on one side of a sheet of A5. Do not use red or green ink. Keep underlining and block lettering to a minimum.

4. Pace your correspondence. Try to allow at least 3 months between telephone calls, emails and letters. Law is an ancient profession and, even today, many lawyers still work to the rhythm of the seasons.

5. If you expect a reply, proceed to Step 7.

6. Do not attempt to communicate with your lawyer in person at his/ her place of work unless for the purposes of carrying out Steps 7 or 8. Never communicate with your laywer out of office hours.

7. Make frequent unsolicited large payments on account of legal expenses.

8. Give your lawyer gifts and small treats from time to time. It helps maintain his/her attention.

9. Emphasize that as far as you're concerned it's not the winning or losing but the taking part that's important.

10. Always be very nice to The Secretary.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Marathon ( 200?) Update

My training regime is progressing slowly. Very. S.l.o.w.l.y.

Considering how I usually rush headlong into everything, bursting with enthusiasm, desperate to get as far as possible in the quickest recordable time, I have found it surprisingly easy to show much more self-restraint in pacing my efforts where running is concerned. There is absolutely no danger of me burning myself out at the first hurdle. The chances of me ever getting as far as a hurdle are remote.

Circumstances have transpired to slow down my already virtually-motionless efforts. First there was the fall over the bank holiday which left me looking and feeling bruised. A few days later I started to experience breathing difficulties. A mind as active and inquiring as mine immediately began to suspect a collapsed lung caused by a hitherto undiagnosed cracked rib. I'd landed on my back and had not consciously bumped any part of my torso on the way down the stairs but with my galvanised pain threshold, there's no telling what injury I might have unwittingly sustained.

The lumps, haematomas to give them their correct and far more dramatic medical name, were slowly starting to break down so I couldn't rule out the possibility of an embolism having worked its way loose. I reached for a cigarette and resolved to consult the doctor first thing the following morning.

The moment I walked through the consulting room door, the doctor directed me to the weighing scales. He claimed that was because his records showed I had last visited in 1994 and he needed some basic information but I personally think he was just amazed at my size and anxious to ensure that his couch could take the strain. I was delighted to find that his scales had me half a stone lighter than my own though which probably accounted for the happy blood pressure readings he took a minute later.

I was a little taken aback when he referred me to the hospital for blood tests and X-rays. I dashed up there immediately. I was reassured they must have found evidence of two fully-functioning lungs when they didn't keep me in after my visit to the radiology department and I didn't faint when the phlebotimist made for my veins, although I did keep my eyes very tightly shut, gritted my teeth and tried not to hear Mozart's Requiem playing in my head.

The palpitations continued intermittently over the next couple of weeks but by the time the doctor rang with the test results ( all clear although my liver function wasn't as perfect as it might have been but then it had been a Monday, what did they expect) , I had begun to relax and accept the fact that I didn't have a life-threatening condition. I invested in a sports bra, bought a copy of Runners World and rsolved to continue my training where I'd left off ( that was half a mile, broken up into two short jogs).

3 weeks later and I have finally managed to put the sports bra on without pulling a muscle every time or needing a lie down in a darkened room afterwards. I now have a head cold and everyone knows the perils of training when not at peak health. This is so frustrating. I am like a caged cheetah, prowling irritably behind bars. If only these fetters could be lifted, I'd be off, running like the wind, clocking up miles, pony tail swinging, lithe limbs glowing. I am doing a magnificent job of keeping the disappointment at bay with the aid of a large Fruit N' Nut bar, a Carl Hiassen novel and the occasional medicinal hot toddy.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Quality Control

Everyone has a bum post now and again.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Duvet Dieting

I have chanced upon a potentially wonderful new way to lose weight without counting calories, avoiding potatoes or breaking into a sweat in the gym. It doesn't require any special equipment, expensive supplies of vitamin compound or public humiliation at the weekly weigh-in. It's something that we all do to a greater or lesser extent every day. It involves giving up reading at night. Easy? Huh! I'd have more chance of quitting breathing.

I've been reading as long as I can remember, long before I started school. My mother jokes that I came out quoting the notes on her birth chart ( and she could have pushed a bit harder if you ask me). I'd completed the reading scheme by the end of the first year of infants and started on the reference books in what was laughably described as a Library, a random selection of shabby hardbacks accumulated over a period of about 50 years stored in a folding bookcase in the corner of Mrs Cleary's class. It was here that I displayed my first and subsequently unrepeated anal behaviour. I sorted it according to the Dewey Decimal system over a wet playtime. Mrs Cleary always treated me like the child from The Omen after that.

At night, I'd be allowed to snuggle into bed with a book for about half an hour. Lightsout was always just as I was getting to a really good bit, George and Timmy would be leading Julian and the other soppy two into a dark, forgotten cave to discover a smuggling ring or the bully at Mallory Towers had just fallen splat in a puddle as she'd tried to cheat at lacrosse, later it might be Pip and Miss Haversham or Heathcliff that kept me hungry for more. I'd turn the bedside light back on as soon as I heard the door close at the bottom of the stairs, only turning it off when I heard the sounds of my parents coming to bed - even then, if it was a really really gripping read ( I was doing 2 Wilbur Smith's a week at 10) I'd wait until they'd finished in the bathroom and turn it back on.

Dad caught me out one night when I'd forgotten he'd walked to the pub. Normally, I'd hear the distinctive rattling of his truck coming up the hill and kill the light before he turned the corner. That night, he took the bedside lamp away. If I stretched my foot out of the corner of the bed, I was soon able to pull the dangling light switch with my toes. I got found out with that one too so they unscrewed the bulb. They thought they'd cured it for months until one night they found me wrapped foetally around The Hobbit on the landing. I think they pretty much gave up after that.

I still do it, thinking nothing of sitting up til 4am if the book warrants it, and it frequently does but today scientists announced a link between obesity and lack of sleep in childhood. It can lead to hormonal disturbances apparently.

I was sent another interesting article today too. Proof enough that I am not a fat, miserable cow after all. I'm just really tired and in the wrong job.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

One Day In History

It was an onthefaceofit ordinary day at the office, housed in a mid-Victorian former Vicarage next to the imperturbable structure of St Mary's in the midst of the once bomb-strewn city, save for one factor. I was desperate not to receive an email or any other form of communication from a very dear friend.

I would usually delight in receiving a welcome salve from the onslaught of dreary, work-related, and largely estate-agent-generated virtual correspondence but any communication from this friend would likely result in all my plans for the forthcoming evening dissipating into smoke through the large settlement gaps in the first floor windows.

5.30pm. I'd made it without hiccup, all to do now was to drive about 10 miles West, pick up my companion and head back into town along the new super-fast, recently-decongested-after-a-shaming-from-Peter-Levy dual-carriageway. The doors opened at 6.30pm. I had no intentions of being unfashionably, and completely uncharacteristically, early so that left ample time to deconstruct, pick over and attentively analyse what had caused her idyllic, healthy, secure 3-year relationship to disintegrate less than 60 hours previous. We had it summarised in less than 45 minutes. He was mad!

That done, we jumped into my super-duper Saga-assisted Rover and soon found ourselves at the oddly-quiet oak doors of the City Hall. A brief chat with the amused attendants informed us that the Keane gig was at the Ice Arena. We almost tripped over ourselves to get away lest anyone should think we'd been serious about getting into the Jane MacDonald concert.

We'd missed the support groups but quickly found ourselves a cushty spot near the sound engineers, the best place for acoustics in any gig according to a former roadie that I once frequented. Suddenly the lights went out and a tangible thrill spread around the arena, heightened by the prolonged notes eminating from the stage. We'd made it, Tom Chaplin had made it out of rehab for his first gig of the band's tour after cancelling all their US dates earlier in the year and all was well. I hadn't anticipated they would open with 'Put It Behind You'. My heart was in my mouth and it had nothing to do with the emotive sounds emanating from the stage.

Have you ever listened, properly listened, to Keane lyrics? They are far too miserable for the elegant, melodic and occasionally funky tunes this bunch of twenty-something barely-shaving prodigies churn out and certainly not the fodder that a self-respecting bereavement counsellor would prescribe as therapeutic for a grieving client, let alone a close friend.

I thought I might be able to relax when Tom announced he was about to sing a cover. Scott Walker's ' The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Any More' promptly struck up. I was all for throwing myself off the Humber Bridge on the way home. I could hardly bring myself to look at my mate, but I did, and she was swaying and bopping, and displaying the staunchest of cute, perfectly-formed chins one could ever wish to behold. Sure, she got the references in the songs, who couldn't, sad songs blast at you from every angle when you least want them, but they were glancing off her much as rabid bats bother Lara Croft.

My city has it's historic and iconic buildings, it attracts contemporary culture but the most timeless, beautiful and enduring thing I encountered today was my slight, bruised friend's leviathan spirit.

This post has been submitted to the One Day In History project at www.historymatters.org.uk

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Then Blog spoke all these words

I am the Lord your Blog, who brought you out of the land of the BBC Homepage, out of the house of domestic drudgery and 9-5 slavery;

1. You shall have no other blogs before me; but it's perfectly acceptable to have a testblog, contribute to a groupblog or ring and maybe have a sister blog on a separate but complimenting topic which you feel would be better presented elsewhere

2.You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in the Technorati rankings above, or that is on the blogheap beneath, or that is in the murky sludge under the adult-content section; only your followers and commentors have that divine power

3. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your Blog; but it's alright to add suffixes such as -ville, -land, -osphere to denote the kingdom of the Lord your Blog

4. Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy; because no-one ever comments on a weekend so it's not like you have anything better to do. Six days you shall labor and do all your work; unless you spend all day every day following other blogs ensuring you shall have to work the seventh to catch up. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your Blog; you shall not do any workyou, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns; nobody wants to read about your trip to the gynaecologist, your child's finely-sculpted snot-candles or the interesting conversation you had with the car-park attendant on the way to pick up the athlete's foot prescription for the gerbil, no matter how amusingly you think you write

5. Honour your father and your mother; but do not let them know you have a blog or they will use it against you or, worse, start writing their own

6. You shall not murder; but you can delete spam, and posts that seemed funny when you wrote them the night before with the help of a few glasses of wine or some strong medication

7. You shall not commit adultery; there's no penetration, so pretty much anything goes with this one

8. You shall not steal; but to steal would necessitate a malicious intent to permanently deprive so plagiarism is only a minor infringement and completely excusable if accompanied by an appropriate credit to the original perpetrator

9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor; although chances are he wouldn't understand you as most Next Blogs are in a foreign languauge

10You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor; unless they've come up with a really clever and simple post that you wish you'd thought of first

NB: It is not my intention to cause any offence to anyone in the publishing of this post. I do not wish to suggest bias or secularism. It is for this reason that over the coming week I shall follow with similar works to demonstrate the multi-culturalism that this site embraces, commencing with the 5 Pillars of IsBloghabad and 613 Mitzvot of HeBlogrew

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Single Swingle

There are few things that remind me I am a lonely Singleton. I am happy to accept or decline dinner invitations at the drop of a hat ( though not after Wednesdays, I am superstitious about The Rules); attend formal functions unaccompanied in the knowledge that there will be ample willing dance partners to satisfy my desire to be a dancing queen and usually buy me drinks all night; and loll about in disgustingly comfortable pyjamas for approximately 35 minutes less than the time I spend in my own home. There are a couple of things that destabilise this happy equilibrium.

Perfume. I love it. I use lots of it. Not excessive asthma-inducing quantities, but subtle, nose-lifting, impression-boosting squirts, strategically placed to waft in my wake and disguise my galloping foot odour. I loathe buying it myself.

I was spoilt at a young age. It's 10 years since I was presented with a gift of the latest, most expensive or whatevertheprettieststewardesshappenedtobeholdingatthetime bottle. My hair-dryer no longer has to jostle for position with large crystal artworks for prestige place. I do not own a dressing table. Even so, the act of going up to the gloriously-technicoloured Boots attendant finds me speaking in hushed tones, pointing rapidly and clutching the resulting carrier bag much as I imagine a methodone patient's mother might charged with her offspring's prescription.

The only other time that I have poignantly felt the wrath of singledom was as an 18-year old pregnant no-hoper at an ante-natal clinic. It was my first scan. I entered the room alone. There was nothing unusual in that as the local hospital had a policy of not allowing anyone other than the expectant mother into the consulting room while the vital measurements and screenings were being undertaken, fathers only being admitted for a viewing afterwards. The radiographer explained to me that she had some technical information to collect so couldn't give me a running commentary on my embryo's vital statistics, that would come later. I lay back for about 15 minutes and finally she turned to me and asked if I wanted to call the father in. I mumbled that there wasn't a father and that I was alone. She promptly turned the machines off and sent me on my way with a tissue to wipe the gizz off my tummy.

It floored me. It still does a little bit. Every week there seems to be a fecund secretary wafting her slate-rubbing of a scan photo under our noses ( they didn't print those off then) and I always look and make the right noises and genuinely feel pleased for her, but a small part of me also acknowledges that I missed out on that experience. I didn't get to see his tiny feet, his sucked thumb, his proud, unavoidably-masculine features . He makes up for it every day by parading around in nothing more than a smile and a Very Confident swagger. I mourn that part of a pregnancy that every mother cherishes.

There's one other small deprivement that I would not bear if I was in a relationship. It's something that is perceivably easily remediable and might possibly change my life, or mood at least, considerably. There's a store stocking the merchandise not less than 500m away from the office. Try as I might though, it is not within me to declare myself quite so singularly resigned as to buy a Vibrator!

Friday, October 06, 2006

UpFront and Googlable

It's frighteningly remarkably easy to find people with the aid of t'interweb. I'm not talking about internet dating, well not directly.

All you need are a couple of facts, name, location perhaps, or occupation and you can soon source photographs, telephone numbers, educational background all with a couple of well-placed clicks.

I often 'google' guys I've chatted to on msn to ensure their stories are backed up by their profiles. Friendsreunited is a good source and helps check whether they are lying about their age for a start ( I know of at least 1 Methodist Minister who won't be found in any Class of 1986 list, he knows who he is).

Last summer I enjoyed a lovely home-cooked dinner with a chap in Holmfirth without ever having been given his address ( He HAD invited me. I'm a snooper not a stalker). In fact, as well as finding his house, I'd also clocked his registered office ( his mother's), his VAT registration number and his film production credits. It never once dawned on him to question how I'd got there. He'd already failed on the blond streaks, not acceptable on men over 40, so observational skills were not going to earn him any extra points by that stage.

I don't think there's any harm in doing a bit of background research. Anyone using t'web knows that most of what is posted will fall into the public domain. I don't see it as a violation of privacy, more of a trust tool and if a date is in the offing, it's at best a safety precaution if not Exhibit A in the resulting Crimewatch reconstruction.

I generally wouldn't want them to know that I'd checked them out, not initially, if nothing else out of a fear that they might decide to do the same thing to me. I most certainly wouldn't want to inadvertently click on 'Send' instead of 'X' when exploration of their work website had opened an Outlook Express Compose Message page, thus providing them with proof positive of my clandestine habits, full work contact details and a nagging suspicion that I collect rabbit recipes.
In fact, I'm just downright inquisitive and it should be seen as a form of flattery ;)


It's that time of year again. Just 6 weeks in which to come up with evermore fabulous and original raffle prizes. I have no idea how I got roped into this. Every year I vow it will be the last time, that my schedule is already full enough without having to take on responsibility for raising the spirits in an attempt to raise even more dosh for charity. This is my 5th consecutive year.

I don't have any signed and framed Shearer or Newcastle United shirts, nor a tea-towel signed by the entire Emmerdale cast yet. I've got an autographed Mitch Benn CD and some IKEA meatball vouchers so far. I'm going to have to do some serious blagging if I am to pass muster with the Raffle Police ( aka Winterton Lions' Wives).

Collecting decent donations is normally the least of my worries. There is always the stress of having to sell spare tables or fill empty places at last minute but that is nothing compared to the major problem. How to find a date willing to accompany me. Only a couple of years ago, I was on the point of placing my spare ticket on eBay rather than be the only girl with an empty seat beside her.

Every year a new problem presents itself, unexpected and quite brilliant in its ability to mutate and defy conventional methods of prevention. I've got the whole ticket sales thing off to such a fine art now that I have sold ALL of them a full 2 months early. Paid up, printed and delivered. There's even a waiting list. The venue is booked to capacity. I don't have to worry about being unaccompanied. I just have to work out where I am going to sit. I really have sold ALL the tickets. Friends normally in my party are having their own already-full tables. Each assumed I would be sitting with another. There's no room for me and I didn't save myself a place, wrongly assuming I could just squeeze in an extra table. I may have to resort to taking a deckchair and a cushion-bottomed tray. I have an idea how Cinderella felt.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Cherry Tunes

Sharon has tagged me to list the top 10 songs that mean something to me. I've listed them in almost chronological order. They are not necessarily my favourite songs but they all stir feelings for me, some good and a few not-so. Songs that are linked can be clicked for listening on YouTube. I've spared you the first one as I realise not everyone has my finely-developed musical appreciation and I cheated a bit on no. 6 because there were just so many to choose.

1. Shang-a-Lang - The Bay City Rollers: I had tonsilitis every 3 weeks from teething age and was regularly confined to bed for days on end. My parents bought me a little plastic record player and this was my first non-Pinky & Perky album. I played it continuously from 7am every morning from the age of 3 until they finally got fed up and bought me a Blondie album when I was about 7. I had a tartan scarf and a life-size poster over my bed.

2. It Must Be Love - Madness: Jonathan W was a year older than me and when he went up to Big School, it wasn't cool for him to have a kid 'girlfriend'. I'd play this as I waited for him to walk by our house after the school bus had dropped him off. After a few weeks, we started meeting at the tumble-down stables behind the vicarage, which we nicknamed 'Cardboard Castle'. It was all quite innocent. We never kissed. On the night Prince Charles and Lady Di got married his parents had a big barbecue at their farm and I was lured into a room with Jonathan and his mate turned the lights off. I was out of there like a shot. I pass him on his tractor most days. We always wave.

3. Crying - Don MacLean: This was played everywhere the year my parents split up. Mind you, so was Fern Kinney but I never felt any emotional attachments to that.

4. Wig Wam Bam - The Sweet: Our Comp had an Orchestra Well in the centre of the Hall. It was compulsory for us to stand around the top of it and dance to this at every Piledriver Disco. I always won the spot prize for my pelvic thrusts. I am very proud of that achievement and could never understand why careers advisors suggested it be removed from my early CVs.

5. Sexual Healing -Marvin Gaye: First proper boyfriend, Nigel. He had an orange Opel Cadet. Clumber Park and a rhododendron bush were featured. I don't really want to say anymore.

6. The Passenger - Iggy Pop: There are so many tunes that remind me of Steve Bird Discos at The Baths, Ram Jam, The Undertones, the Rezillos, Martha & The Muffins, The Kinks, Thin Lizzy, even one of Sharon's but Iggy was my favourite.

7. Back to Life - Soul II Soul: - Scene3, later renamed JJ's and now a Riley's Snooker Hall. Short leather mini-skirt, black voile shirt and a velvet leopard-skin WonderBra. Big hair and lots of attitude.

8 . Get Here- Oleta Adams: It was the first Iraq Fiasco and Gary R, the first boy I ever kissed and who was always my secret true love even if I did have a brief thing for Jonathan W, was deployed out there for 6 months with the Royal Engineers. We wrote a lot and I'd listen to this late at night, nursing Jack, watching all-night news and praying he'd come back safe. He did. He's now something in IT, married and lives in Southern Suburbia.

9. Forever in Blue Jeans - Neil Diamond: The theme tune of many a cava-fuelled night emoting in Eva's lounge pre-Roger. I swear the Director of Bridget Jone's Diary must have looked through the window one evening.

10. Don't Stop Me Now - Queen: Jack. Singing loudly in the car together. There are some things upon which we will always agree.

So it's traditional to tag others. KJ, Joyce, Dave, Ziggi and Mise, consider yourselves marked but nothing that won't wash out if you'd rather not be tarnished.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Welsh Rare Break

The moment I stepped through the wide glass doors I knew I'd come home. There was an initial shyness, a slight awkwardness on my part, unable to look my old friends squarely in the eye, knowing it was me that had forced the separation. I needn't have worried for I was soon swept in as if I'd never been away. There was no cool reception, no accusative looks, no chastisement just the warm, genuine greeting of an old friend who is happy to see you no matter how long it has been or whose turn it was to call last. I'd made my peace with the department store.

I wasted no time, quickly moving around the shiny counters, anxious not to overlook anything but frequently distracted by the sight of a Bonus Gift or New Arrival. I searched but Guerlain wasn't there. I'd planned on telling her Carmentza had scent me. I was overwhelmed at first, unable to hold a conversation beyond the initial pleasantries but once I'd settled down I started to answer more confidently, " I'll be paying by Debit Card, there's no need to gift wrap".

I didn't go mad, tempted as I was by the Armani sunglasses, the Cherry Chau hair accessories and the Mulberry handbags. A modest purchase from Molton Brown ( Jack uses it too and it lasts for ages so it's not really extravagant), a make-up top-up from Clinique, which came with an 8 piece free gift - a girl can never have too many bags, even if they are only wash or make-up ones, rounded off with some new lingerie. Lingerie sounds better than Sports Bra. I went for the premium teflon-coated anti-bounce range designed for better performance. It cost so much I can only imagine it was built with aeronautical technology. Reports in the Evening Telegraph of dual-nosed Concorde phantom planes are sure to follow my next training sessions.

We caught the Willard Wigan exhibition while we waited for our cheesecake and lattes to arrive and then stocked up with fresh anchovies, salad and the final word in decadence, a 12 quid loaf of bread, or at least a quarter of a loaf of Poilane.

Sunday dawned bright, the stillness broken only by the rhythmic lapping of the waves in the bay and the excited calls of the many birds feeding on the exposed kelp-strewn rocks. I bounded out of bed. A most uncommon occurrence and one which really would have benefitted by an advance wearing of my new foundation garments. I was back with fresh milk and the papers 20 minutes later and after a leisurely breakfast we headed out to walk along the vast wind-swept beaches, admire the magnificent views, of neoprene-clad kite-surfers performing acrobatics atop the breaking waves.

24 hours away with a girlfriend had a far more beneficial effect than the sum of its parts. We talked about everything and nothing. She gave me a bit of a pep talk about not putting myself down so much but soon moved on to preferable topics, like her forthcoming wedding and the growth of her property empire and the fact that she won't tolerate disrespectful behaviour or flirtation of any degree from her boyfriend, something she learnt the hard way in the past and then we passed the slow journey back to Halifax by singing along to the radio. A roast dinner was waiting for us at the other end rustled up on cue by her perfect partner.

It's the third time I've been away with them in less than a year, although the first time for just Loll and I. We may well do it again in November and more than likely at New Year. Is it a coincidence that out of all their combined friends I am the only one to have been invited once, let alone on further occasions? Or am I just the most unattractive and least threatening of the lot?