Show Us Your Party Trick

Not that we’re going to any parties.

But now seems as good a time as any to use this time wisely and put in the hours to practise an existing trick. Or to at least find one for 2021.

I’ve compiled a list of 20 popular tricks and skills based on my ‘extensive market research’. (I basically Whatsapp’ed all of my contacts and discovered that I know a lot of weird and wonderful people with skilllllz.)

See if you can recognise yourself somewhere below:

  1. Touch your nose with your tongue. (Starting basic. My dog is really good at this though.).
  2. Apply lipstick a la Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club.
  3. Make floating spit bubbles. (Zac Efron can do this. And a hilarious girl called Katie on Instagram)
  4. Whistle super loudly. (See previous blog. Am still trying and have had numerous offers for tutoring.)
  5. Drop into the splits. (Seems like a boring one but you try doing the splits.)
  6. Following on from the splits…The ‘Mork & Mindy/Star Trek Vulcan hand sign’ of split fingers.
  7. Again with fingers, ‘stack fingers of one hand on top of one another’. (Niche… but a talent nevertheless.)
  8. Speak ‘havagav’. (Come on, it’s a skill. Loads of people just can’t master it.)
  9. Say the alphabet backwards, at speed.
  10. Do at least 20 keeps-uppies.
  11. Moonwalk. Properly.
  12. Juggle.
  13. Perform ‘Jump Around’ word perfect. (You know who you are.).
  14. Perform ‘Fuck tha Police’ word perfect. (Different to person as above. You know who you are.)
  15. Tongue click/beatbox, especially to a Waltz tune. (You my darling, are completely on your own.)
  16. Bend just the tips of your toes a la Stacey Solomon. Also, bend just the tips of your fingers (You know who you are.)
  17. Flick eyelids inside out (a boy who sat in front of me at school could do this. Scary. But secretly in awe.)
  18. Dislocate shoulder and pop back in.
  19. Flip a ciggie from forehead to mouth seamlessly. (Cool af.)
  20. On the ciggie vibe again, blow smoke rings. (Married to cool af above. #couplegoals)

Am going to add one more for luck – my personal fave – because we need shitloads of luck in 2021.

This particular skill seems to have zero use, other than the fact that it impresses me. (Wife of friend who can do this trick says it’s ‘highly fucking irritating’.)

Sorry if I’ve built this up now.

Some of you might find it a letdown, but we’re at rock bottom with 2020 so hopefully things can’t get much crappier. Drum roll please…

21. Spin a pen – don’t @ me. It’s mesmerising.

My own personal skill? The ear wiggling.

My actual ear – and yes, they both move at the same time

An even cooler skill is creating something fabulous from a glut of ‘Celebrations’. (Seamless segway right there…)

In the 90s whilst studying in Manchester, I remember going to Oliver Peyton’s bar/restaurant called ‘Mash & Air’ and sampling dessert one night which blew my mind for its simplicity and yum factor. Randomly I saw the ‘recipe’ featured in a magazine so I ripped it out and kept it for posterity.

Anyway – here it is. Stuck in my recipe book. Although it’s hardly a recipe. More ‘simple instructions’. Either way, it creates something marvellous that appeals to me on every level/layer.

Dessert goals right there

So, that’s it for the year.

Thank you for reading my blog and especially all the likes, comments and shares. It really does mean a lot to me and I hope to continue sharing my musings in 2021.

Happy HEALTHY New Year to all.

x

Why I’ll Never Be a Dog Person…

Risky title I know. Huge potential to lose all of my blog followers (About seven of you. Most are family members.) And people are angry enough since the announcement of tier 4 and lack of ‘Proper Crimbo‘.

But if nothing else, I am an honest person, who is now a complete lockdown cliché of a dog owner and it’s my blog, so I’d like to give the backstory here…and hopefully some light relief. I’ve never sent one of my blogs out on a Sunday before, but Kate Hiscox always does and hers bring me a lot of joy.

So. Back to the dog…

I didn’t want a dog. Husband definitely didn’t want a dog.

Kids wanted a family ‘pet’ (read as: dog) and pestered us for the past few years. Aside from not wanting the responsibility of a dog and the fact that I have allergies, I was just a more of a cat person, having grown up with one. (I miss ‘Tiddles’.)

Lockdown hit and slowly but surely, ‘everyone’ was getting a pup. Whilst I still didn’t see myself as a dog person, I could see how much it would mean to the kids, not to mention a very good reason to just get out of the house, my husband and I took the plunge and put our names down with a couple recommended breeders.

NGL (my fave abbreviation), I was a little concerned about my allergies. When we were having work done on our previous house, we moved in with my sister-in-law for a bit. A couple of weeks into our stay, they got a puppy. Not just any puppy, but a golden retriever. The furriest, most heavily shedding pup of all.

I was completely fucked. Wheezy, red eyed. And heavily pregnant. Fortunately, I had a wonderful allergist and armed with a handful of the puppy’s fur and by that evening I was sitting on the couch stroking ‘Google’ the dog with no allergic symptoms whatsoever. Brexit is easier to explain.

This gave me hope that I could live happily with a dog around, although I still had my reservations about the mud, the poo, and that ‘dog’ smell in my house.

Finally, I got a text with a picture of the newborn pups and off we went, with a particular puppy in mind. Everyone said, ‘your puppy chooses you’, but we scoffed at such nonsense. ‘Definitely the girl. The really small, nice and chilled one’.

Hurrah for pups via Hurrah for Gin

Half an hour later we left the breeder having put down a deposit on the fattest and most boisterous of the litter. And it was a boy.

A constant stream of videos and picture updates from the breeder were shared over the family Whatsapp group with much excitement from all of us. Except husband, who was explicit in his feelings towards the puppy…

Zero interest

The kids assured me that they would help but I was under no illusion that I was going to be solely responsible for this dog as soon as the novelty wore off. At this point though, it was all very exciting and mealtimes were spent arguing thinking about dog names.

There was a lot of ‘essential buying’ and after years meandering the aisles of ‘Pets at Home‘ on many a rainy afternoon, at last, we could give back financially!

A lot of the people I follow on Instagram were at puppy stage too, blogging and spamming their feeds with dog info. I spent far too long searching for ‘vibrating pet brushes’ having seeing one influencer in her stories brushing with this amazing tool. After a fruitless search and a DM to the lovely Chloe Loves to Shop, I was informed that it’s just a normal pet brush and that the noise was coming from the builders in the background. *approaches Dragons Den with incredible vibrating pet brush concept*

This blog almost serves as a diary to remember the blur of those first few weeks – from collecting him, to the constant visitors (“Ohhh.. he’s a fatty isn’t he?!”), the first few sleepless nights, to accidents – there really was so much to learn about our new boy, ‘Bear’.

Bear ‘Fatty’ Collins

By day four, husband was converted and I think Bear likes him the most. I think the feeling is mutual but husband still feels it necessary to announce to all that will listen, “If the dog went tomorrow, I wouldn’t care.”

It’s a sound I manage to block out.

And talking of sounds, and the reason for this blog, the reason for why I will never be a dog person.

I walk him. I pick up his poo. I feed him. I wash him. I play with him. I groom him. (We are talking about the dog here – not my husband, just to clarify.)

I’ve not had any real allergy issues except for a couple of foolish errors of playing with him and then accidentally touching my eyes. Best eye drop are Hycosan if you’re interested.

So the reason I will never be a dog person?

I can’t the do “the whistle”.

Not the double hander. Not the one hander. Not even the mouth only version.

My only method of recall is shaking his treat box like a loon and shouting ‘look what I’ve got for you!!!’ It’s basic, but it works and I know I’m not alone from the cries of ‘chicken!’ and ‘cheese!’ that I hear in the park.

Maybe I’ll use this Christmas gift of yet more lockdown time to learn said whistle skill, but then again, in March I said I would learn to do proper pull ups and I’m yet to manage more than two unassisted.

So to all the whistlers out there, I envy you. Especially the Queen of it all, Holly Golightly.

Iconic.

A dog is for life, not just for Christmas. Or Covid.

Me and my Bear

x

I’m Not a Celebrity… but Get Me Out of Here Anyway

I’m not into this series – maybe it’s lockdown and too many other things on my watch list. Or possibly a lack of celebs that I’m interested in (bar Jordan North – he’s hilarious.)

Or most likely, because there’s no Australian jungle backdrop which brings the excitement of snakes and rats roaming around camp.

If I ever achieve blue tick status and earn a place on the show, it would take some persuading from my agent to get me to agree.

Speak to my agent

The food trials? Strong gag reflex plus highly sensitive nose, means the very idea of smelling AND seeing kangaroo testicles would literally finish me off.

Kangaroo testicles with a side of pigs uterus for Roman

That said, everyone reacts differently to food. And I love seeing the final three with their wish-list dinner requests.

Iain’s meal was a good ‘un:
Starter : Tomato soup, French crusty bread, chunk of cheddar
Main : Christmas dinner with all the trimmings
Dessert : Hot sticky toffee pudding, custard, ice cream and double cream
Drink : Milkshake

There are certain things that DEFINITELY wouldn’t be on my final meal list. Serve me an apple pie with cinnamon and bile rises.

You can just tell this one has cinnamon in it

Yup. I hate cinnamon. Am I alone? I doubt it. Everyone loves and hates different things. For instance, I hate what Twix have done this winter:

Totally unnecessary – definitely cinnamon-loaded

BBC Bite size says:

Hand someone a slab of chocolate or a slice of hot buttered toast and it’s unlikely (but not impossible), you’ll get a barely disguised look of disgust. On the other hand, offer up something more divisive, such as a piece of liquorice or something smothered in desiccated coconut and chances are you’ll get more people declining a nibble.

I think there is also a big difference in ‘don’t like’ and ‘absolutely hate’ but for some, it’s extreme. Take coriander for example. I adore the stuff – Thai soups, curries, salads – but I know so many who are completely offended by it.

There’s even an official ‘I Hate Coriander’ day

In ‘researching’ this topic (Google’d it, didn’t I?), coriander does taste a lot like soap to many people and that’s apparently down to genetics. These haters have a variation in a group of olfactory-receptor genes which means they detect the soapy-flavored aldehydes in coriander leaves.

Maybe that explains why I detest blancmange? It was a school dinner dessert staple – I hated it then and would definitely hate it now. The smell, the texture, the ‘skin’ that would form on top of it. Literally like wobbly set sick.

This was NOT my favourite dessert day…
…but this was

My kids are growing up forming their own tastes and preferences but it’s largely controlled by me. Maybe they would LOVE these things that I detest? Am I’m denying them wonderful flavours and taste sensations?!

I asked my friend about her own family’s likes and dislikes and she said her absolute pleasure much to the utter disgust of every member of her family are ‘bread and butter pickles’. Firstly, I’d never heard of such a thing. Secondly, if she didn’t live in America, I would be sat in her kitchen sharing that jar with her.

Sounds decent and Liberty ones too!

So, on the ‘no’ list for me:

  1. Cinnamon as previously mentioned. Don’t put it in apple pies or sprinkle it on hot drinks or buy me Cinnabons.
  2. Liquorice – no wheels, no strips, no sweets disguised with little blue tiny hundreds and thousands on them. There’s liquorice inside.
  3. Mac & cheese, broccoli and cheese, cauliflower cheese – I know right? I must be the only one. Not for me. No matter how amazing ‘your’ one is. I just. Don’t. Like it. Rest of fam inhale the stuff.
  4. Grated carrot – yup. Grated. If you put it in my salad I will get very cross. I don’t mind it in ribbons, just not grated. It’s a ‘texture’ thing.
  5. Sweets – I know I may lose readers at this point, but I don’t like sweets. Haribo style ones specifically – nope, not even the fizzy ones. (I do like Squashies though. And foamy bananas, eggs and mushrooms. So, foam sweets basically, yeh.)
  6. Beetroot – can barely type the word without tasting vomit. Cubed, pickled, crinkled – no, no, no. And don’t even go there with chrayne.
  7. Marzipan – specifically in a Battenberg cake. It’s revolting. Along with those marzipan creations you get at functions when the teas and coffees come out.

There are a million more dislikes – including sandwich spread, lokshen pudding and trifle. But seven seemed like a good number to stop at so I’ll save those for another blog.

On the ‘yes’ list for me is the following.

  1. Fennel. Adore it! Give me a fennel bulb and I will happily eat the whole thing in one sitting.
  2. Chestnuts – vacuum packed ones or fresh ones from the oven, damaging every one of your fingernails in the opening process.
  3. Lychee and those physalis fruits that taste like soap. This is the weirdest one for me because yes, they taste soapy. Maybe this is the coriander of the fruit world?
  4. Coconut – water, whole, pyramids, desiccated, Bounty bars. I love coconut, especially the Spanish coconut yoghurt.
  5. Evaporated milk. Keep your cream, double cream, custard…. THIS is the nuts for me. On fruit, on apple pie (no cinnamon), on its own even. I love it. (Not to be confused with condensed milk, although..equally as pleasing.)
  6. Rollmops. Happy to eat it ‘as is’ on some rye bread or have it in ‘blended form’ known as ‘chopped herring’ on a bridge roll.
  7. Fishballs – controversial I know. And terrible on the breath. But give me a fried fishball, preferably oven-warmed, and I am a happy (smelly) girl.

So, there are just some of my controversial items. Love to know your thoughts in the comments.

My family might disagree on a lot of food items, but there is one that dessert we unanimously agree on. I recently posted about it on my instagram stories and had so many people ask me for the recipe.

When I say ‘so many’, probably only five.

Ok maybe four.

And it’s an insult to the cooking profession to even call it a recipe. It’s merely ‘instructions’.

Either way, they all liked it and told THEIR friends.

So hopefully one day this will be the requested dessert for the finalists’ meal on I’m a Celebrity.

Dream big I say. 2021 is all about manifestations.

x

Nutellow Pastry Puffs’

Ingredients:

1 pack ready rolled puff pastry

1 jar of Nutella

1 pack of white mini marshmallows (these are the best brand by far)

Egg wash

Some icing sugar

Method:

Roll out pastry.

Cut into squares. Jusrol brand gives you about 6 even sized squares. (Hack: the paper that encases the pastry is greaseproof and can be used as your oven sheet liner.)

Blob of Nutella in the centre. Sprinkle some marshmallows.

Then I like to ‘wonton’ the squares. But have done ‘pillows’ and ‘turnovers’ in the past. Personal preference. Go wild.

Egg wash all over just make sure everything is ‘sealed’ or the seams bust and it’s a mess.

Oven at 180c for half an hour.

Dust with icing sugar if they haven’t already been lifted from the baking sheet and scoffed.

Enjoy… unless you hate Nutella, marshmallows and puff pastry and. In which case, excellent, more for me.

Photo credit: Sara Harris – pillow style

“They Fucking Forgot My Birthday” – Samantha Baker, Sixteen Candles.

So far, it’s thankfully not happened to me and people generally remember my birthday, especially in the age of Facebook reminders, calendar reminders and even human reminders. I have one friend in a whatsapp group who is the Queen of calendar reminders: our birthdays, spouse birthdays, anniversaries, kids birthdays, even ex-boyfriend birthdays. NGL, if a key date completely slips my mind, it helps to ride off the back of her well-wishes on the group chat.

When I was a paper diary kind of gal (still am in spirit tbh), I would spend far too long around this time of year buying a new diary for the commencing year. Whilst I do miss the ‘flick-flick-flick’ of a paper diary, I know that the ‘new me’ appreciates the many advantages that my digital diary has. (She says through gritted teeth.)

A lot of people LOVE their birthday. I have many friends like this – usually the ones with coveted summer birthday dates which allow for bbq action and other al fresco fun, tier 2 lockdown or otherwise.

A lot of people LOATH their birthday. (My husband runs the fan club and is always open to more members.)

I’m somewhere in the middle – I like my birthday. I share it with some amazing people that I have met along the way and there is something heartwarming about meeting someone new and discovering that you share the same birthday. I get the same fuzzy feeling when I notice food goes off on my actual birthday.

Happy fishes. x

I’m just pretty low maintenance when it comes to my birthday. I’m not someone who loves to be the centre of attention, but a few dozen social media posts are always nice.

The whole social media thing can get a bit overwhelming though. One friend, went awol on our group chat and hadn’t replied to any of our private birthday greetings. It basically took her 3 days to even notice OUR messages because she was so stressed out with all of the housekeeping of replying to all of her OTHER messages.

Last week, I binge watched ‘Emily in Paris’ along with the rest of the world and I was reminded how it literally feels like yesterday that this photo was taken. Except that it wasn’t. It was five years ago. FIVE!

Debbie in Paris. 20/10/15

I mean, who the hell did I think I was? Carrie Bradshaw?

Goals.

Yup – I really did.

When asked by husband ‘what would you like for your 40th’, I said that I wanted to wake up Paris, with my fam and see the Eiffel Tower from my hotel room balcony…

Not so much luck on the last point.

But! We made it to Paris.

And I so I woke up on my actual 40th birthday IN Paris and we went TO the Eiffel Tower. Definitely a birthday I will never forget.

Aiming for similar stats on the 142 ‘likes’.

Unlike some other birthdays.

By that, I don’t mean they have been ‘forgettable’, but I have very hazy recollections of them.

Working backwards, I can recall the ‘big’ birthdays:

Lockside Bar in Camden for my 30th.

Some bar in Hampstead for my 25th.

And Manchester for my 21st.

At the time I was a student and so a couple of us hustled together to split hire costs and secure the downstairs room in a big enough venue for a guest list of about 200. Students today can only dream of such extended guest lists.

La Tasca, Deansgate. Were you present?

I remember very little. But there was definitely a stripper. Whipped cream. And a banana. Nothing covid-friendly about the evening, that’s for sure.

So at 45, the only stripping will be me getting into bed early doors once we’re kicked out of the restaurant at 10:01.

Wishing all fellow Librans a happy healthy birthday. x

We Were. We Weren’t. We’re Not.

Jan 2020 – We’re going to Spain in the summer. Yay!

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March 2020 – Not 100% sure that we’re going to Spain now.

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August 2020 – We’re definitely not going to Spain.

I have mixed emotions about this. My in-laws have an apartment in Marbella and I’ve been fortunate to enjoy lovely, long summers there over the years with my family. From dating, to holidaying with friends, to married, to babies: we’ve made some amazing memories on the Costa.

So whilst some friends have still chosen to go abroad, we weighed it all up and decided a firm ‘no’.

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I’ve become quite soppy and sentimental about ‘my’ Marbella, even though I’m reminded by my family about the moan up I often have when I get there. Just to present my case to the jury though, the minute we enter the flat, swimwear, suncream and goggles are demanded of me. I’m then left to unpack and then head off to the local supermarket, working out the biting point of the clutch on the hire car.

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Packing cube girl for life, me

So yes – it takes me a day or so to unwind and fully relax.

But I will kind of miss it.

I will miss lots of things.

I have made a list of them:

1. We are usually booked on the 6am easyJet flight from Luton – a pretty vile hour to travel but I kind of like that groggy feeling of getting up before the sun rises and the excitement of watching the sky get lighter as you journey towards the airport. (Know what I mean?)

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2. The ‘whooompf’ of warm air when the plane doors open and you’re ‘abroad’. It’s a totally different kind of heat. And I love it.

3. Opening the flat door and seeing the kids run off to their rooms to discover a toy that they haven’t seen for over a year. Somehow the hula dancing cow from the lookie-lookie man on the beach is still going strong. But those plastic light-up pingie things that you flick into the air on the beach at night? Batteries are completely dead by the time you’ve got back to your hire car.

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These things

4. Supersol. And also Mercadona. (Which I can’t help saying in a heavy Scouse accent.) Not forgetting the big daddy, El Corte.

Spanish supermarkets might not have quick tills, but I love their fresh produce, discovering new things and most of all, enjoying ‘holiday meat’ in the flat. Sorry to all my observant friends. In London, we keep a kosher home. On the Costa? Second shelf of the fridge is for the ham – Iberico or Parma. We’re not fussed.

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Left or right?

5. Flor. And Nenuco. I love scents and aromas – candles, perfume, herbs, spices. So, as much as I love my Lenor and Comfort over here, there is something about the Spanish brands over there.

 

6. Fanta Limon. Was discussing with someone about this – I actually refuse to drink it in the UK. It is sacred to Spain. Same with Peanut butter M&Ms. Only in America.

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Sin hielo por favor

7. Chiringuitos. The coastline is full of these beachfront restaurants of which everyone has their favourites. And ‘Kala Kalua‘ is mine. Literally a beach shack. Nothing fancy about it. But you can’t beat the view, watching the sea, seeing the sun set and twinkly lights along the coast… it’s beautiful.

And of course the food. Traditional paella, grilled rosada, padron peppers. Everything tastes better outside with a view.

Me? I come for the aubergine fries.

Before I explain these delights to you, I just want to end on a round number, so:

8. Hearing the sea when I go to bed.

9. The clever lighting system in car parks to indicate available spaces. (I’ve talked about this before.)

and finally,

10. Beach walks. I will miss my post-lunch stroll with a bottle of water and a leftover nappy bag from the baby years in the flat. Still so handy for shell collecting.

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But back to the aubergine fries. These were an accidental discovery. We used to go to the neighbouring chiringuito, but one night we couldn’t get a table. Ended up at Kala Kalua and on being shown to our table, saw lots of diners ordering what looked like chips …but weren’t chips. So, we ordered them too. And double portions were ordered every time we returned.

It’s not quite the same eating them in England, but if you close your eyes and listen to the garden sprinkler, you could almost be right there on the beach.

Ridiculously Delicious Aubergine Fries Recipe (which probably isn’t exactly the same but nearly.)

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Actual Kala Kalua picture of fries

  • 2 medium size aubergines
  • Plain flour to coat
  • Olive oil for deep-frying (or any other vegetable oil)
  • Salt
  • Date molasses
  1. Cut aubergines into sticks; basically like chips.
  2. Toss with salt, place in a colander and let them stand for at least half an hour to get rid of all the excess liquid. Rinse, drain and pat dry.
  3. Place sticks in a bowl with the flour and coat them, shaking off any excess.
  4. Heat oil in a deep pan and fry the sticks in small batches until golden.
  5. Place on a plate with kitchen roll towel to absorb the excess oil. (I never said they were healthy.)
  6. Sprinkle salt. Drizzle the molasses. (Again, not so healthy but…)

One thing about Spain that I won’t miss, is that I usually fly out earlier with just my kids, husband joining us later on into the holiday, due to work commitments. This means he is in the UK on his birthday whilst we are all away. He hates his birthday.

This year, he’s working from home.

Happy birthday, Doll. Unknown-21

x

 

They Think it’s All Over. It is Now…

Another week, another blog. (To show solidarity to my kids, I set myself homework – ‘post another blog by next Friday’. #teacherspet.)

Also… Another week, another Boris announcement.

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More things returning to a ‘new normal’, but my kids are still being homeschooled, so I delayed lockdown activity #84 as long as possible: tie dye.

My youngest had done tie dye club at school once (remember that place?) and brought home a patterned pillowcase, so surely that was enough? Why should I have to do it in my own house?

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Aviator Nation – tie dye of dreams

Same reason I guess as having to do slime and rainbow looms. To be fair, thank goodness we’re not on ‘slime time‘ during lockdown. It was hard enough finding glue, hair gel and contact lens solution during ‘normal’ shopping situations.

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Following ‘Tie Dye Tuesday’, we now have no more white items of clothing. I can’t complain though, as they seemed to enjoy it and it was a fun filled ‘afternoon’. (An hour basically, but in lockdown years I would say that counts as at least three hours of peace and thankfully it was an activity that didn’t require the following: my assistance, flour, eggs or sugar.)

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Wear gloves. Whatever you do. #VioletBeauregarde

A lot of lockdown activities seem cyclical. I remember doing tie dye as a kid as well as lots of puzzles. Friends have gone nuts on the puzzle thing. I am not convinced. You do them and then what? I like things that have a purpose afterwards – like those sequin art things that can be money boxes or door plaques.

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That said, I have bought one puzzle. A fancy-shmancy one from Jonathan Adler which I am planning to frame as a lockdown memory. It’s very hard though. And I stupidly set it up in the loft, aka the sauna – and can therefore only manage about 15 minutes at a time up there.

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But back to lockdown activities, at the start of lockdown when everyone was on a clear-out frenzy, my neighbour proffered about 2000 Hama beads.

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Was I really ‘back there’ again?

Seemed I was. And my girls happily took commissions (mainly from bored Grandparents) of various shapes, patterns and animals. ‘Papa M’ is new the proud owner of a blue and white and green dragon/alligator hybrid with an ‘S’ on the front of it. A ‘good luck’ Hama-charm for the forthcoming Spurs season.

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Good luck charm? We’re going to need a bigger dragon…

Yup – we’re back there again too. It’s not coming home. It’s ‘come home’.

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The welcome break from the stresses and strains that my husband feels with every pass of the ball pass. It was good while it lasted, I’m not going to lie.

The ‘green screen’ is back on, in every room in the house. Never mind the fact that we are an energy saving household and we abide by the ‘lights off when not in use’ rule. I totally get it. I feel husband’s frustration of walking into an unoccupied room and finding various lights and lamps left on.

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Our house at night

So when he leaves tv’s on in every room in the house, it’s a bit like the offside rule to me.

I just don’t get it.

From lounge to kitchen, he needs a tv on.

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Me and him. In Costco

During a game, he might need nip upstairs to the loo (downstairs loo is available but certain ‘things’ get done in certain toilets, you know?) So, up he goes, passing the tv in our room which has to be on just in case he misses a goal or a penalty. 

Add to that, everyones windows are open in this warm weather, so there is the additional indicator of activity from the audible cheers and boos heard in neighbouring gardens.

Never mind hearing it in stereo, I’ve got cinema-style Dolby surround sound through my house.

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Those precious household goods…

For me, it’s my washing machine.

For him? It’s the tv. And because of this, Father’s Day was almost a write-off. There were multiple matches happening throughout the course of the day, but at midnight the night before, there was ‘a problem’.

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Our Sky system shut down. Literally. Totally. Completely. Nothing would work.

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There worst message he could ever receive pre-match

Fortunately, we have a ‘tv man’ who could be replied upon to ‘sort it out on a Sunday’. 

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Not our man. But similar

Thankfully, the tv’s got sorted by match start and all was right(-ish) in the world again.

(TV repair man is now part of our family ‘support bubble’ and will be joining us for Friday night Dinner.)

Have a safe week.

x

 

 

Lockdown Ginger

It’s been a while.

So long in fact, that I was locked out of my WordPress account and I had to dig deep to remember my password.

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Eldest? Plus birthdate?

But I’m here now, albeit nervously…

“Why aren’t you blogging?”

“Why haven’t you written anything?”

“How is the writing course coming along?”

All fantastic thanks. (In my head.)

It’s a strange thing, because pre-lockdown I felt I didn’t have enough time to concentrate on my writing. Now, having had the ultimate luxury of time, I’ve done even less writing.

WTAF?

The thing is, I’ve been a little bit busy with other things (possibly also known as ‘avoidance tactics’.)

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At the point of lockdown, I cancelled all pending appointments, loz’d my cleaner and thought, “Sure, I can do this.”

Because, even though I have an avoidance of certain things, in typical Libran balance, I LOVE getting stuff done! I’m a do-er. A ‘fixer’ as my friend calls me.

I can do this!

…I just hadn’t banked on a housefuls of family members doing ‘it‘ with me.

As an introvert,  I love to go out, being social, seeing friends, having fun. But I equally enjoy my time. Me time. Recharge time. Quiet time.

Husband heads off to work. Kids delivered to school. My house becomes ‘my place’. My refuge. My solace.

Gone.

Fucked.

Taken from me.

Kids not at school. Husband working from home.

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They’re always around…

What was this trickery? Would Ant and Dec suddenly pop out from behind my sofa and unveil this huge prank?

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Seemingly not. This was really happening.

“Okay. I can do this.” I told myself. Again.

I set to work with a strong plan in place and by week two, I’d made good progress on avoiding writing and tackling rooms and drawers and cupboards around the house.

Shelves and their items have been cleared and shifted, sometimes the actual shelves themselves, moving rarely-used items up high (like the Slushy ice maker machine thing) and making room for regularly used things to be at a more accessible height, rather than needing a stepladder. (Aka 6’4″ husband. Handy for high stuff, not necessarily DIY stuff. Although during lockdown he has proven himself a worthy apprentice and more than capable. )

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The aforementioned Slushy Maker

Onto the spare wine glasses from our wedding list, taking up valuable space in a kitchen cupboard. They’ve finally been unpacked – it’s only been 15 years. In our defence, we aren’t the biggest boozers. Husband rarely drinks, as it takes a LOT of alcohol to even make a dent in his impairment.

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Strata by Conran. A popular gift lift choice in the early 2000s

And the last time I was drunk was at a friend’s 40th, where wandering bar staff kept topping up drinks and somehow my glass was always in the firing line. I was carried out of there (apparently) and spent the following day in bed whilst husband took kids out for lunch. Mothers Day lunch. Shame.

Back to the lockdown though – the office had a good declutter and the shredder has been working double time. Yet to learn ‘five sheets maximum’ reminder is there for a reason.

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We’re jamming’…

There was a lot of cooking. A lot of cleaning. A lot of teaching. A lot of working. A lot of Zoom calls. A lot of washing.

We all had our jobs to do and set to it with pretty good attitudes. All working around each other, checking in to see how we were doing, going on walks and all sorts. Busy busy busy.

By week four, I was even looking at various designs for workwear coats.

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My Grandma wore one like this. She would definitely have made it onto the Big Breakfast ‘Woman in a Tabard’ segment

But by week six, I had to have a very frank discussion with myself that something had to give.  I was forever cleaning, still wanting to keep the house ‘just so’, forcing all ‘housemates’ to commend me on ‘how nice the bathroom smelled’, ‘how clean the floor was’ and how ‘satiny smooth the ironed bed linen was’. By the way, don’t come at me with your ‘I don’t iron my bedsheets’ – I am willing to give up some things. Not that.

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Not my actual bed. But excellent ironing.

I was done. Finished. Frazzled. Miserable. I had to purge something before I was shipped off in a straight-jacket and thanks to a very good friend, experiencing similar, she encouraged me to draw up a schedule and stick to it. It involved 50% less cleaning. I was over the moon.

[At this point, it’s worth mentioning that there have been some incredibly sad times during lockdown. Please don’t think with this blog I’m making light of a desperately tragic time for so many people. I most definitely am not. But I’ve watched people still share ‘funnies’ and blogs about food and fashion trends and all sorts and for me personally, these are the things that have kept some semblance of normality amongst this mess. So hopefully you will indulge me in my musings too….]

By week eight or nine I started to see the plus side of lockdown… I even made a list of positive things:

  • No chance of the kids catching nits. That would have finished me off.
  • Yes, my hair really is that dark naturally.. but on the plus, I HAVE NO GREY HAIRS!
  • Fortunate enough to wrangle a weekly online slot and many substitutes have now become firm favourites. Received a sub of tennis racquet-shaped pasta and it was a complete winner! It did however descend into a shit show whilst the kids recreated Wimbledon and flicked peas at each other using pasta racquets.

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New balls please

  • We can finally bake our own challah! It had always seemed a daunting bake. Something best left to the pros. But it’s fun and a lovely activity to do with the kids. (And I can do a nifty 4-strand plait thanks to YouTube.)

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‘Challah’ at me for the recipe. It’s not mine. but I would share it.

  • I’ve deep cleansed my address book, email inbox, subscriptions and gone pretty much paperless in my finances. I feel about a stone lighter.
  • Following an extensive spice cupboard audit conducted by my eldest, I have accepted the fact that I have more than enough dried parsley. However, I have just added red pepper flakes to the bursting collection and I can now make the The Good Earth’s Crispy chilli beef. (If you know, you know). All thanks to @food_obsessed_girl.

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Worth every ingredient

  • After initial first-world problem meltdowns that I couldn’t continue go to the gym or Pilates classes, I have rediscovered the delights of instagram lives and zoom classes. Thanks to @ciaralondon I have expanded my music appreciation with soca, whilst holding and pulsing and flexing. And thanks to @pilateswithlouise, I have rediscovered the joys of matwork and look forward to ‘Teaser Tuesdays’.
  • I taught my kids new skills – like what the ‘Rinse Aid’ light meant on the dishwasher. And that ‘adding salt’ didn’t mean using Malden Sea Salt. They were fascinated that there was actual special salt for dishwashers.
  • I’ve read. And read and read. Usually I only get to do a ‘solid read’ on holiday. But lockdown has allowed me that pleasure again and it’s my detox in the evening. I think I’ve actually watched less tv than ever.
  • Re: above, possibly a lie. Youngest and I indulged in some feel-good tv and binged on Friday Night Dinner. ‘Shit on it’ is now a regular turn of phrase in our house. And daughter will often greet me with ‘Hello Jackieeeee’. Fun fact: the house where it’s filmed is round the corner from me. Unknown-1
  • Got the kids on board with sheet change day – Fridays if you must know. They are now fully capable humans as opposed to what my friend’s daughter said following bed stripping instructions. “What does ‘strip’ the bed mean?”
  • My hygienist appointment avoidance was finally on an even keel with everyone else. I went just before lockdown – I truly hate going. But now? I can’t go. You can’t go. No-one can go!!! I am guilt free. Although feeling sad for my daughter who has a brace that is currently missing about five brackets and I had to perform a DIY wire cut using nail clippers. Don’t worry, it was on advice of orthodontist and so far so good.
  • We can now bake our own Millie’s Cookies. We went through various recipes and test batches – oh the gluttony – but have finally reached perfection thanks to Baking Mad. I guess it depends on what your version of perfection is. Plus, we were sick of banana bread.

See? Lots of positives. There are of course so many negatives in this altered normal life we are all living, but I’m trying hard each day to outweigh with the positives that we, as in my family, are all healthy.

I crumbled at week 6 and again, 6 weeks later. This week, week 13-ish, I had the meltdown of meltdowns. I just couldn’t do ‘it’ anymore.

It’s really not easy. And ‘it’ will be different things to different people. But my ‘it’ got too much for me this week. It felt good to have my moment and re-set.

And I feel much better for getting all of this down in a blog. Writing makes me happy. So do cookies.

I hope I won’t leave it so long next time.

Must go – the slushy maker is required from the top shelf with the impending warm weather…

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Hallow Again…

Where has the year gone?

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Will the kids’ Amazon Prime costumes arrive in time or are they still on a longboat from China?

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I think mine is bottom right, three to the left

Will it be raining on the 31st, meaning the kids’ costumes will be completely hidden under their winter coats?

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So many questions, very few answers.

And yet, each year, we go again with same ol’ routine:

  1. Sort kids’ costumes.
  2. Bring Halloween decorations down from the loft.
  3. Buy more decorations, because nothing really survived from last year.
  4. Change costume idea because the kids’ have seen something better.
  5. Carve half term pumpkins with the kids by myself because the kids get bored after half an hour I’m a control freak.
  6. Re-think kids’ costumes because a few of them want to go as the same thing.
  7. Buy massive tub of sweets for trick or treat visitors me. (Cadbury’s Heroes.)
  8. Revert back to original kids’ costume idea, by which time it’s sold out on eBay, Amazon, everywhere.

Unless you live in America or a certain strip of North West London that totally goes for it under the guidance of their leader Mr Jonathan Ross, it really is just a fabulous excuse to play dress us and have some fun.

And there really is very little to actually scare you. (Unless you count the out of date sweets people try to palm off on your kids.)

So, in the spirit of Halloween, here is a list of super scary things imo:

1. Drop it like it’s hot

I don’t think I know a soul who hasn’t cracked their smartphone screen, even just a tiny bit. For some it’s a weekly occurrence. (You know who you are.) That palpable fear when you drop it and tentatively turn it over to assess the damage…

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2. Where’s the parking angel at?

You’re only going to be 5 minutes… you’ll risk it.  Oh but that that dash back to the car to see if there is a sticky yellow rectangle on your windscreen…

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3. Door Handle Rattlings

When you’re out and about, minding your business, ‘doing’ your business and someone tries the cubicle door handle. Well, it’s enough to make you sh*t yourself…

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4. Non-moving escalators

Stairs? No problem. A non-moving escalator? Huge problem. What if it starts working mid ascent? Or the fact that your brain is concentrating so hard on lifting each foot up to hit the next step? There is just something very unnerving about scaling non-moving escalators.

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5. Sleeping with an open window 

More of a summer problem really when the bedroom windows are open all night. The problem usually occurs around 5 am when you hear that familiar low hummed ‘buzzzzz’ behind the blinds. The bastard has got in…

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6. Fishing for toast

When you toast is stuck and you need a bit of help dislodging it…in the form of a knife. You switch off the toaster. You UNPLUG the toaster. You move the toaster away from the WALL. And yet still, there is that fear of electrocution…

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Don’t worry, I now own some toaster tongs

7. Waste disposals

Similar to the above really. A spoon has managed to slip through the ‘splash guard‘ (yes, I had to look up what it was called) and you immediately switch off the waste disposal, tentatively reaching your hand down into the depths to fish out the mangled spoon. Admit it, you still fear that somehow, like in horror films, the motor will switch back on and saw your hand off.

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8. Keeping it in

When you’re in a ‘quiet’ exercise class – think pilates, yoga – and there are some demanding moves. I know it’s only natural, and some of us are more relaxed about breaking wind in front of others (you know who you are), but for me, I would never be able to go visit that fitness studio again.

9. Go with the flow

When you flush the loo (especially in a friend’s house) and the water level rises…and rises…and rises.  And their loo is carpeted. There is no fear quite like it.

10. Shoplifting

You’ve been browsing, you’ve bought nothing, you KNOW you’ve bought nothing, but when you walk out past those ‘alarm post things’ by the door and that alarm goes off, you STILL feel guilty.

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It wasn’t me

11. Housesitting

When a neighbour gives you a set of spare keys so that you can water their plants while they are away. It’s a simple lock, the alarm panel is literally as you enter and the keys have that handy fob on them that you just tab. You don’t even need to memorise a pin.  And yet when those bleeps sound, it’s panic stations.

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BEEP!BEEP!BEEP!BEEP!

12. Don’t wish too hard

I’m throwing this in because I feel I need validation. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen too many films like ‘Vice Versa’ and ’13 Going on 30′ and ‘What Women Want’. Or maybe that I just have a very vivid imagination? But I have this weird ‘thing’ where I’m at home, maybe in the shower and I imagine I have been granted one wish. Except I don’t just wish for something brilliant – I almost mock the faux-wish and think ‘public place’! And WHAM! I magically end up standing in the middle of Brent Cross, starkers…  Anyone?

And finally, in the spirit of Halloween and 13 being a ‘scary number’ and thinking about my thirteen year old and her best friend...

13. Parenting Fails 

When you take your daughter and her friend out for the day and you’re running down the stairs to catch a train and you all manage to get on when you realise it’s the wrong train. So you all quickly jump off before the doors close. Except for BFF is frozen to the spot. And as you shout in slow motion from the platform, “Getttttttttt offffff thhhhhhhe trrrrraaaaaaiiiinnnnn!”, she doesn’t. And the doors firmly close. And the train pulls away.  I will never ever forget the look on her face, my daughters face, probably my face. Fear not – the friend was a mature 13 years of age, in possession of a mobile phone so within minutes I had every station attendant ready to greet the 14:27 from West Hampstead Thamelink into St Pancras. There were even police officers. It was an emotional reunion. There are still some very kind lovely people in the world.

So, with all those sweets entering your household, one way to stave off temptation is a healthy snack and so don’t throw out the pumpkin seeds from your carvings.

According to Google: ‘Pumpkin seeds are a good source of antioxidants, magnesium, zinc and fatty acids — all of which may help keep your heart healthy. Studies have also shown that pumpkin seed oil may reduce high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels — two important risk factors for heart disease.’

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees. Wash seeds. Dry seeds. Lay them on a roasting tin. Lightly spray with olive oil and add some Herbamare. Give them about half an hour in the oven with some midway shaking (tray not you).

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Yes. The lids look like willies. Grow up.

But beware, they give you wind. ‘Apparently’…

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No-one Told Me Life Was Gonna Be This Way

‘SEVEN!’, ‘Pivot!’ and ‘Janice’. Or perhaps you’re into the more obvious quips like, ‘we were on a break’, ‘how you doin’?‘ and ‘he’s her lobster’?

I settled on these two as my top faves:

Ross: “I went to that tanning place your wife suggested.”

Chandler: “Was that place the sun?”

and…

Joey: “What’s not to like? Custard – good. Jam – good. Meat – good!”

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Twenty-five years. 25! How did that happen?

Twenty-five years since ‘Friends‘ first aired in the UK. Call me pathetic, but I feel quite proud that I was there to enjoy it the first time round.

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And the second time, when repeats aired.

And the third time when I bought the majority of the series on VHS. Re-runs on Sky followed, and I’m now living vicariously through my teen, who is watching it on Netflix.

She cried hysterically for days when it was ‘all over’ and chose to re-watch them all again. (Good girl.) She would come to me and ask:

“Who’s this?” (Chrissy Hinde)

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Just call me Chrissy of the morning…

“Why did the audience cheer? (Billy Crystal (plus Robin Williams)

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“Why did everyone scream?”  (…Oh come on. Do I really need to even make you guess…?)

Talking of Friends, it’s a beautiful irony that the series anniversary coincides with that of meeting some real-life friends. It’s 25 years since I started University.

I’m trying to get this blog live and if I go into my loft and hunt down a pic I will be gone for days. So here’s one just when we just graduated and hit Marbs. Bear in mind this was pre-GHDs and decent self-tan.

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Mabfield Crew Summer of 1996

I’ve blogged about student life in previously, but this is a major anniversary and one that deserves some proper recognition.

I remember it like it was yesterday, and somehow, this weekend, my (exceptionally clever) nephew is off on the M1 towards a life of enriched education. (But first, Freshers’ Week.)

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I can smell the innocence

If I had to write an episode, (life goals right there), it would be called:

‘The One Where the Kids Don’t Know They’re Born’.

Because this generation of Uni kids really have no idea how much better they have it than 25 years ago. I looked through a friend’s list of Uni requirements, just to see how things compared from back when I was a student.

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Duvet – most first year Uni dorms/halls have single beds, but I still say buy a double duvet. Far cosier and more useful/cost effective in the long run when you hit second year and hopefully bag a double bed.

Decor – We had little choice in 1994. Do students still buy the hippie scarf things and pin to their walls alongside rave flyers? All hail Afflecks Palace back in the 90s in Manchester. Now you can decorate your room with the cost-effective help of IkeaPrimark, Homesense and Dunelm, finished off with your Love Island duvet cover from River Island. Hello ‘Casa Amour‘.

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I can still smell it…

Mattress/pillow protectors – you had to try and slide a mattress into what was basically a massive pillowcase. Thankfully now they come like a fitted sheet. I think the best protectors are from Dunelm – and I should know as the Allergy Queen.

Mattress topper – I don’t think they were much of a thing in the 90s, but definitely worth a purchase to plump up a lumpy mattress. Year 2, my housemate had to buy a new mattress after the landlord refused, because the mattress in question was only a year old. However, we knew the boys who rented our house previously and I wouldn’t have slept on that mattress for all the tea in China.

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Don’t let the bed bugs bite?

4-gang Plug adapter. Much like a hotel, the plug points are never where you need them/enough of them. So useful.

Massive sports bag for dirty washing. You know the ones. Usually chequered patterns. These never go out of fashion and are great for shlepping dirty clothes down to the launderette (unless you’re lucky enough to have on-site facilities.) We didn’t have this luxury, so it was down to ‘Mr Bubbles’ launderette on the parade. (Now a property company, fact fans.)

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FYI, this never happened

Kitchen stuff – was and is still my favourite thing to buy. I bought the basic necessities. Breville, saucepan, frying pan, cutlery – but I have little recollection of using much of it as we mostly dined on microwave meals, takeaways from Abduls and Pot Noodle. Much as I envy my nephew with apps such as Five Guys, Deliveroo and Uber Eats, nothing will beat queuing for kebab from Abduls in Fallowfield.

Am I envious of students today? With their smartphones, online food shop, takeaway apps, Netflix, Amazon. Not forgetting ASOS next day delivery. For sure, I’m envious AF of the immediacy of their lives.

However, some things should take time. Like friendships. So to all those embarking on this new chapter of your life, you may think you have your circle of friends all set. Perhaps friends since babies, or throughout school life, but if you’re fortunate enough meet a group of friends at Uni half as special as the ones I met, then you’re in for the best years of your life with memories to treasure for the next 25 years and beyond.

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The Mabfield Girls. Friends. For life xxx

x

PS. I had a re-think, and much as I envy what students today have available to them, I wouldn’t swap my student experience for the world.

PPS. You can keep your Uber eats and your Primark. We had the Haçienda nightclub and that is student goals right there, imo.

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RIP The Haç

 

 

‘Unseemly Expensive Football Adventure’ (UEFA)

The impending UEFA final is like the equivalent of a long car journey filled with a continual dialogue of, “Are we there yet?”

No. Not quite. But nearly…

Although to be fair, I am re-living the Amsterdam trip on a daily basis via his numerous iPhone footage and every bit of tv coverage from the match. (My Sky planner is full of it.)

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I swear he has re-watched this more than our wedding highlights.

“Doll, we were down and out. It was one of the greatest comebacks in European football.”

It’s like a broken record. And I know every song. (How do they all learn them? Who sits down and writes these ditties?)

It’s completely my own fault though. I knew what I was in for when marrying him (see earlier blog for more info).

Spurs is his addiction and who am I to stand in his way. (Trust me, he would throw me overboard faced with a decision of making it to Madrid or saving his wife.)

He comes from a family of Spurs season ticket holders. As does my dad, who regaled me with wonderful stories of going to matches. In 1946, my grandpa Davis bought up a row of season tickets for the men in the family, at the hefty price of five guineas each. Block L, High Road entrance. On match days, Grandpa, his brother, my dad and his three cousins would jump on the 102 bus from Muswell Hill to Angel Edmonton and then walk a couple of miles down High Road to the ground.

The first UEFA cup was in 1971 so there was very little European travel for dad, but a big memory for him would be the FA Cup semi final in 1948 – Spurs vs Blackpool. On a train packed full of loyal supporters, headed up to Villa Park to watch Spurs lose 3-1. If that wasn’t bad enough, he remembers his Thermos of tea leaking all over his cheese sandwiches.

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Top notch branded goods

Spurs have suffered some pretty dismal losses over the years, so hopefully they are on to a winning streak. When they made it to the recent UEFA semi finals, my husband had pretty much mentally booked the flight to Amsterdam before the first crestfallen Man City supporter had left the ground.

As a woman, I would have approached this process very differently: first, check for accommodation. Then look into flights.

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But no. Husband booked the flight first and where to sleep (if at all) came a very delayed second action point. He genuinely didn’t seem to care if he slept at the airport. There are grown men without accommodation, buying up blow up beds to take with them to Madrid. Lunatics.

And the tickets? You haven’t even got a ticket yet ffs!

“Doll. Relax. I’ll get one.”

To be fair, he had been in a similar situation before…

World Cup 2002. Japan.

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“Sayōnara doll”

He’s just as passionate about his country’s team and managed to round up two like-minded souls, announcing,

“Doll, I’m going to Japan for a couple of days.”

Oh, how I laughed. No-one does that. It’s lunacy.

But off he went. Filled with hope and ‘possibly’ some medication that his travel buddy had given him, to ease the pain of travelling in economy for eleven and a half hours. (He’s 6 foot 4 – the legroom situation is agonising for him.)

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They landed in Narita, exited the airport, stuck their bank card in some dubious World Cup ticket machine and crossed their fingers. It was a big risk – they had booked a package deal via their hotel which included flights, accommodation and apparently, tickets to the game.

As if by some FIFA miracle, their match tickets popped out! There was much celebration, but it was short lived. Michael Owen did his best, but England were knocked out after that first match.

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It’s not quite coming home

But back to the pending Madrid trip.

Fellow fans who didn’t make it to the ‘Dam are fully on board for this, the final leg. Once again, flights were secured before even worrying about tickets. Let alone what it was clashing with..

This weekend I know of birthday parties, sweet 16’s, weddings, bar mitzvahs… this is majorly testing many friendships. As a guest it’s hard enough, but imagine if it’s your own do!

I clearly remember a friend’s wedding.

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Jackie O’s chupah, by Birch Event Designs. Both fun Instagram follows

All that planning. The attention to detail. As the groom walked down the aisle towards the chupah, he looked so nervous and full of hope. As he reached his bride to be, leaned in to his best man and whispered, “What’s the score?”

FA Cup Quarter final Chelsea vs Spurs. 10th March 2002. Spurs got beat 4-0. It was still a great wedding.

So, as this weekend approaches, the lucky ones among them are flying direct to Madrid, but not everyone has such a simple route. There are different levels of superfan heading to Spain…

Planes: Flights to Malaga followed by a short drive.

Trains: Eurostar to Paris followed by a drive.

Automobiles: Driving from London. Without a ticket.

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I mean, good luck. Good f’ing luck to them. It’s an experience. And I quote: “the biggest club competition you can be in. Liverpool have won it five times. Spurs have been nowhere near.” End quote. (Husband dearest.)

‘Audere est Facere’ as the shirt declares. “To Dare Is to Do”.

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And while he dares, I will do. Making sure there is a celebratory/consolatory bit of grub upon return. I made this recipe when he arrived home from Amsterdam. And it went down well. I now call it my ‘lucky drip beef recipe’….

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