A Fine Romance

Because nothing says I love you like a speeding fine.

Not even the M&S heart-shaped sausage.

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Say it with sausages

One mph over the limit. One!

I know, I know (Dad) – I ‘broke the speed limit’ regardless. And when that camera flash goes off at midnight, it gives you the fright of your life.

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Say ‘cheese’

Was it me?

Maybe it was it the car in front of me? (Please let it be the car in front of me.)

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Or maybe, just maybe, for once, please let that ‘urban myth’ be true…

The one that claims if the camera does a ‘double flash’, then there’s no film inside.

Letter confirmed there was definitely film inside the camera. In some situations it’s worth contesting…

“I think I was being followed by a gang”…

“My foot slipped on the pedal”…

‘It wasn’t me”…

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It wasn’t him either

I now have a choice to make. Points or speed awareness course? No prizes for guessing the choice I made.

At this point, I will admit that I reckon I’m probably one of the few people to actually quite enjoy attending a speed awareness course. Seriously.

1) I got out of the school run

2) No-one could bother me for 4 hours

3) I could ‘people watch’ to my heart’s content

What’s not to like?

So, for anyone who hasn’t ‘done one’, you basically book a morning or afternoon slot on any chosen day, at a venue close to you. A bit like a cinema booking for a very long film, but one that costs you about £100 and doesn’t offer any fun snacks.

I opted for the morning slot to ‘get it out of the way’ and when you book, you have the choice of a ‘flexible’ or ‘non-flexible’ booking:

Non-flexible: you’re booked on. That’s it. If you can’t make it on the day for any reason, they don’t care and you have to pay £100 again to book in for future date.

Flexible: for an extra £12, you can change your time and date as many times as you like in the build up to the course date. Initially I thought “no way, I’m not giving them any more of my money!”, but course-savvy friends said it’s worth it in case things crop up and you need to re-arrange. I think I changed my date about 4 times in the run up because stuff kept cropping up.

The day finally arrived – rotas were in place to take my kids to school, whilst their criminal mother went off to serve her time.

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These gals chose the afternoon course 

As I pulled into the hotel car park where the course was being held, I felt like I was off to have an illicit affair. (A few people loitering outside having a morning fag looked as if they were just finishing up their illicit affair…)

I followed signs ‘welcoming’ me to the course, signed in and took a seat at one of the circular tables in the conference room. On the tables were water, informtation booklets, pens and some Murray Mints in a bowl. It was a bit like a supper quiz. But no supper. And no prizes.

The room filled up and the guy who had checked us in did some intros and ‘a quick bit of housekeeping’ for the 25 of us in the room – fire exits, phones off, etc.

Four hours to go.

The door then opened and another guy waltzed in and joined the star act at the front, cracking a joke about being late and ‘don’t worry – I didn’t speed to get here’. Oh hurrah – a double act.

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No. Ant wasn’t there…

The first question was posed.

‘Why do you think you’re here?’

This was swiftly answered with a heckle of ‘cos we got caught!’ from a bloke at table one.

I took a look around the room and there really was a broad cross-section of people. All ages and races. Real sweet faces. Every different nation, Spanish, Hatian, Indian, Jamaican. Black, White, Cuban, and Asian. I only came for two days of playing. But every time I come I always wind up stayin’. This the type of town I could spend a few days in
Miami the city that keeps the roof blazin’…

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Sorry – briefly lost myself there. Which happened a lot during the course.

I can’t help it. I get easily distracted by things.

There was a pen spinner sitting at my table – this fascinates the hell out of me. I have a friend who can do this. I am unable to do this. I want to be able to do this.

I started doing an awards ceremony in my head: best dressed, worst dressed, most annoying, etc.

An hour into things, I thought I would cash in the first of my toilet breaks. They mentioned loo breaks during ‘housekeeping’ but didn’t mention any limits and a friend told me to take lots of loo breaks to kill a bit of time. Which I did. One every hour. If anyone was doing the awards thing, I definitely won ‘worst bladder’.

There were lots of presentation slides where you had to anticipate things that might ‘happen’, based on positioning of cars, roads, signage. A bit like that scene from ‘Men in Black’ where Will Smith is on target practice.

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“Eight-year-old white girl. Middle of the ghetto. Bunch of monsters. This time of night. With quantum physics books. She’s about to start some shit. She’s about eight years old, those books are way too advanced for her. If you ask me, I’d say she’s up to something.”

(Fully aware this is the second Will Smith reference. I’m just over-excited about Bad Boys 3.)

More slides, more discussions about scenarios, more hammering home about speeding and the catchy ‘only a fool breaks the 2 second rule’. (Basically, as a driver you should stay at least two seconds behind any vehicle that is directly in front of you. Applicable at any speed.)

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Far simpler than understanding the offside rule

I honestly did learn alot, including the speed limit for goods vehicles on a single carriageway. (50mph if you wanted desperately to know.)

I hope you enjoyed reading this and if you’ve got a course coming up, there might be a slide about observation. And how quickly you can react to something. It’s a picture of a messy desk with all kinds of stationery on it. The question that preceeds the slide is ‘how many pencils are there?’

I got the answer immediately. Just remember to alway look outside the box… Unknown-16.jpeg

x

 

 

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Feast Your Mince Pies on this…

Tis is the season and all that.

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Thought I’d end the year with a festive title at least, even if the content isn’t necessarily Christmassy. Bear with caller…

So, I recently went for some ‘spiritual healing’ and without going too deeply into it, I felt ‘blocked’. Emotionally, physically. And no, I didn’t just need a big poo and a cry. (I had already tried that.)

 

 

 

I had never been to a healer, so had no level of expectation, but after just one session, I knew I would be back. I got so much out of it – lots of questions answered, chakras aligned (they were a mess and I don’t ‘do’ untidy) plus an incredible feeling of lightness, more than any massage could give.

We discussed the different findings of my session, one of them being something that the healer couldn’t put her finger on (pardon the pun) with regards to my eyes. I said that it may have been my ‘lens implants’, as when I was 16 and had cataract surgery. I wrote about it once before. (There’s a marvellous dessert recipe featuring waffles, white chocolate and raspberries.)

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Just to entice you to click

The other explanation was that I had been procrastinating about having an eye test. And I really had. Was my vision worsening or was I just going to bed far too late each night and spending too much time on my phone/computer/current book?

I left the session and immediately booked an appointment with my optician for the following day.

Because I am really cautious about my eyes, there is only one person for the job – an independent optician called ‘Ben Mirkin’ in Brent Cross where I see ‘Rod’.

I had brought my glasses with, giving them a thorough clean before heading in. (Same as when I brush my teeth for about five minutes, swilling mouthwash and then some rigorous gum-bleeding-inducing flossing right before seeing the hygienist. The shame of it.)

From my many visits over the years dealing with my ‘mince pies’ (come on, cockney rhyming for eyes!), I should be well used to the opticians by now, but I think I’d rather have a filling at the dentist. Okay, a bit dramatic, but I really don’t like going.

First off,  the ‘chair of doom’. I hate that high chair.

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*shudders*

It reminds me of the bit in Superman 3,  with the Vera, the highly strung sister. I just feel trapped and suffocated behind all that machinery put in front of me.

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Sis…?

I can’t deal with all the questions. My brain goes into overload and I need more time than the allocated appointment slot to decide whether ‘red or green’ is clearer.

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It’s bad enough with the letters…

Then they bring out the crop circles…

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All I see in my head is the snake from ‘The Jungle Book’.

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“…Trussssst in meeeeee…”

The only bit I don’t mind, is reading the letters out line by line.

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Past that, it’s all downhill. When they start shifting dials and adjusting the machinery – ‘better like this? or like this?’

I can’t cope.

I DON’T FUCKING KNOW!!!

Can you just do it again once more?

The bit where they make you wear those weird lenseless specs where they slot in the lenses that you’ve just agreed to as your ‘perfect vision’? Then they come at you with the swivelling lollipop stick and do alot more ‘one?.. or two?’

If I think about it though, all that stuff is the easy part.

It’s what comes next…

The bit they get you with right at the end…

With the ‘Tenometer’.

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I said ‘tenometer’, but he’s definitely had it done and even he’s scared shitless

This thing…

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The ‘puffy air’ machine

This machine has the capacity to render me useless for about 20 attempts. Per eye.

“Tonometry is the procedure eye care professionals perform to determine the intraocular pressure (IOP), the fluid pressure inside the eye. It is an important test in the evaluation of patients at risk from glaucoma. Most tonometers are calibrated to measure pressure in millimeters of mercury (mmHg).”

Translation: “I shall now puff air right onto your eyeball.”

I believe this to be the worst form of torture known to mankind.

I do not like it one bit.

I would actually rather eat a mince pie.

But would prefer one of these:

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Krispmas Puddings

I made them a couple of years ago for the school Christmas fair and blogged about here.

Am reposting the recipe, because, you know, it’s Christmas, and you might not click the link.

Rice Krispmas Puds

Ingredients:

100g Rice Krispies

5 or 6 full-size Mars bars

3oz unsalted butter

Red, green and white ready-to-roll icing

Method:

Chop the Mars bars up and melt with the butter in a microwave for 3-4 mins on medium.

Stir melted Mars bars into bowl of Rice Krispies and mix.

Roll into golf-sized balls. Add a Malteaser in the middle of a few of them (yassssssss!) – finders wins prizes! (Ensure you actually have prizes.)

Top with a white circle of icing (snow), red balls (berries) and green sprigs (holly).

Happy holidays everyone. xxx

p.s. Thanks for all the blog love this year. It means loads to me because I love writing – it makes me happy. And if it makes someone smile, then that’s a bonus.

p.p.s. I actually detest mince pies. I don’t know if it’s the chopped fruit or the Christmassy spices, or the fact that for years I thought it was a actual beef mince meat inside. Either way, not for me.

p.p.p.s. Eyes are all good. Perfect in fact, as no change from last eye test.

A Mouth Full of Popcorn

My stomach already hurts in advance of my dinner – massive bag of Minstrels and a large vat of sweet and salty popcorn.

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That should see me through the film

For it is ‘date night’ – for want of a better word. And there must be better ways of putting it.

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#couplegoals

So – I’m ‘off out’ with my other half to the cinema, against his will for three reasons:

a) it’s midweek and he hates going out on a school night

b) he’s probably missing some sporting event on some obscure channel. Latest obsession is speed climbing. (Honestly, it’s a ‘thing’.)

c) he hates the cinema

BUT! Tonight, he is less reluctant, for the viewing material is his choice…

Well, my choice actually. In scrolling through Instagram, Kate Hiscox (@wearsmymoney) alerted me to the ‘one night only’ showing of Coldplay‘s documentary. Tonight. November 14th in case you are not reading this in real-time.

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I booked it and told him only that I was ‘taking him out somewhere, that it was a surprise, but that he would love it’.

Big mistake.

Huge.

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The next few hours resulted in Jack Bauer-esque interrogation and guesses about at what I had done/booked/organised/sorted.

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Until he finally worked it out. Loves a surprise my husband…

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Hates these too

Anyway, he worked it out and seemed okay with it.

Am hoping this is a rare cinematic occasion where he’s actually watches the cinema screen instead of his Twitter feed.

For he is not a cinema fan in general – too dark, too many people, means a late night for him – whereas I will go and see pretty much anything on at the cinema.

I love the immersive experience of it. The escapism, the dark, the phones-away element.

I even enjoy the adverts at the beginning, before you get to the trailers for new releases. Yup, I’m ‘that’ person. My favourite is for the sound system, featuring all the vibrating silver beads. (Don’t judge.)

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What? It soothes me

I’ve always loved logos and imagery and when the Touchstone Pictures logo popped up on screen, you knew you were in for a treat. I’ve selected a few favourites:

 

 

Pure joy in these films IMO

My preferred seat, if available, is end of aisle. Husband too, purely for the extra legroom.

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Me, I like it for the potential loo break if a film is over 2 hours, although I try to avoid excessive liquids in these situations, because I get scared if no-one else is in the ladies.

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Photo Credit: memecenter.com

I have flashbacks to a horror film from the 80s called ‘Demons‘. (There’s always an issue with horror films and loos.) The person either doesn’t return their seat. Or if they do return, then something bad has happened to them. In the loo.

In terms of the cinema itself, I’m really not choosy.

I love my local VUE. Great for Wagamama lunch option too.

The Everyman experience is wonderfully cosy, but the snacks aren’t up to much, although the cookie dough thing is pretty spesh.

Reel are a fab local option for me, especially over half term with a load of kids in tow. Doesn’t require a second mortgage.

Also, I have certain friends for certain films.

The crap dance films where the hoodlum boy falls in love with the posh girl over a love of dance. I have a great friend for that.

Or the super sad films where I will cry – alot – and know that my cinema buddy will not judge because she will be sobbing in equal amounts too.

Or the Bridget Jones-type films, where it requires a group of you to go en masse and then dissect the film on a whatsapp chat later that night, quoting favourite lines from it.

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So if you’re heading to the cinema tonight to watch this Coldplay film, please:

Don’t be super late. I am not standing up to let you down the aisle when I’m midway through enjoying the opening titles.

Don’t sit behind me and rest your shoes on the armrest gap bit. Especially in summer, wearing open toe shoes.

Don’t eat cheesy jalapeño nachos next to me, behind me, in front of me. Anywhere near me, thanks.

Off to empty my bladder for tonight.

Dx.

 

 

University Challenge

Watching friends’ (and complete strangers’) social media feeds with all the goodbyes to their University-bound offspring, is giving me ‘all kinds of feels’.

I have two girls and whilst I am a fair way off that ‘Insta-moment’, I hope that one day they will head off to University to study their respective passions. (Currently no known degrees available in ‘Slime Management.’)

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I just can’t imagine them fleeing the nest. What will they eat? Will they clean their rooms? Will they wash their bedlinen properly and use a fabric sheet in the tumble drier?

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I have pretty clear recollections of that journey up to Manchester where I was off to study ‘Design & Art Direction’ for three whole years.

I remember the liberating feeling of gathering ‘bits’ for my new Northern life. I saw one friend recently doing the University shop for her triplets – TRIPLETS!!! No wonder the duvet cover selection in Primark was empty. Clean sweep.

My ‘digs’ were called ‘Student Village‘, right in the centre of town.

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Village of Students

We were the first group of students living there, so everything was brand-spanking new. Chairs not sat in, toilets not shat in. A pretty good start I’d say, compared to the horror stories of student accommodation that some friends were opting for.

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Standard. At least the bin’s not overflowing.

We were ‘the lucky ones’.

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Looking more like the Young Ones

Four of us from London were sharing a ‘mini flat’ – you had a front door with a shared bathroom and kitchen, then your own bedroom.

As I nervously navigated my way through the airless corridors, I found my room and was greeted by my friend in room C330, who was just unpacking the last of her stuff in her room – spacious, big, bright.

My room? C331. Dingy, Narrow. Dark. The other two rooms in our flat were pretty decent by comparison, so I had truly got the shit deal.

Can I go home now please?

I honestly couldn’t think of a worse living space to be in and was contemplating leaving for London, with my friend’s dad who was about to head back.

Seeing the disparity in our rooms, and the devastation in my eyes, friend’s dad got to work. It was all very Mission Impossible, but with less dangling from ceilings.

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This mission was possible

With a handy background in security, he changed the lock cylinder between my poxy box room and room C329, one of the other two vacant rooms. (sigh, let me explain…)

So, basically, my original key still fitted in the lock, yeah? With me so far?

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We simply shifted the lock barrel out of my original room (C331) and swapped it over with that of the more preferably room (C329).

Capiche? (Come see me at the end of the blog if still unclear.Unknown-6)

Oh, and we also prized off the door numbers and swapped them over too. If you’re going to do a job, do it properly.

Thinking back, it was proper criminal stuff. I could have got thrown out day one. get me! The student rebel.

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That’s my hand. Bottom left. Okay maybe not…

I’m not saying I ended up with a south-facing garden and en suite bathroom, but I really loved my new room.

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My room. Not actual, but very similar

It was glorious, with its basic furnishings and scratchy pube-style, stain resistant carpet. I decorated the shit out of it with every rave poster I could find on the streets of Manchester.

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Pretty much my bedroom

A whole happy year was spent in those halls, which even included a prison style riot. Over what, I can’t actually remember. One day everything just went a bit mad and people were chucking all kinds of shit out of their windows. Chairs, crockery….I think I threw a ream of paper. See? Rebel, I told you earlier.

 

 

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Buenos Aires brings in the new year by chucking old notes and memos from windows.      Credit: Flickr user dandeluca

The scholastic year came and went and the time was right to move out into the suburbs, where all the second years headed to for added ‘independence’. (Read as: smoking weed without a central smoke alarm going off in the building. More about that later…)

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Fallowfield. The mecca of second year students

I’ve mentioned it before – so I’ll touch on it again – but I lived in a house with a group of 6 girls, our strong bond formed through living out our year spent at student village.

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9 Mabfield Road. My road

Oh, what a schmutz-hole. But it was our schmutz-hole.

The walls were held up with more blue tack than the entire chain of WHSmiths.

I don’t even remember cleaning the fridge for the entire 2 years I lived there. Let alone mopping the floor.

The basement was more of a damp coal cellar where one housemate would sit at her sewing machine ’til the wee hours, to work on her Textile degree. (And it actually smelled of wee in the basement.)

We were all the same though – one friend had a futon in her room whereby you literally couldn’t see the difference between the edge of her bed and the piles of stuff all over the floor. It was just all ‘one level’.

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Do people even buy futons anymore?

Another friend would have these mad blitzes every now and then, where she would literally empty her entire room out into the hallway (brilliant for fire safety) and go for a mad clean up.

It wasn’t all disgusting though. There was some level of pride in our student schmutz. One flatmate had a glorious collection of trolls (the original ones, 90s style).

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The rest of the room could have been a pigsty, but the trolls were neat and tidy at all times. Until one nasty boy visited and chopped all of the trolls’ hair off. Literally scalped each and every one of them. Conniving sod that he was, he carefully placed each ‘troll toupee’ back on top of their heads, so my friend was none the wiser until the weekly cleaning ceremony, when she went to pick them up by theirbeautiful tufty hair. She was livid.

All this dirt and lack of hygiene is possibly why I am now so anal about my family home and keeping everything neat and tidy. That said, I didn’t turn out too badly having survived on a diet of Pot Noodle. And maybe a bit of actual pot…

Good luck to all those starting University. And try to wash your sheets once a week

x

P.s. No-one ever found about ‘room swap’. Until the day some of us were in my room and it got a bit smokey…ahem… and the building fire team came up to investigate why my smoke alarm went off.  Except they went to my original room, because that smoke alarm was still assigned to room C331.

 

 

 

 

 

Tea for Two (Thousand)

And then some.

I was recently invited to Buckingham Palace for one of their annual Garden Parties. Me and 7,999 other people.

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Seeing as it’s not something everyone gets to do, I thought I’d blog about it…

 

My dad was invited in recognition for all of his services to charity and as supreme Daddy’s girl, I was his ‘plus one’ for the day, one of three garden parties that the Queen hosts each year at Buckingham Palace.

For the ladies, the dress code offered up: ‘Day dress with hat or Uniform. (No medals.)  Trouser suit may be worn.’

I hate dresses on me.

I can’t abide hats.

Who knows what the unpredictable British weather was going to do on the day?

Also, should I take a gift? I don’t like turning up empty-handed anywhere, let alone Buck House, but I shouldn’t imagine a ‘White Company Seychelles candle’ (3-wick at least) or bottle of Whispering Angel would cut it.

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Perfect Summer drink

I don’t need this amount of stress in my life.

There was a lot of searching. A lot of deliveries. Everything went back. In the end I rebelled and bought a skirt and top that looked pretty much like a dress. Unless they were going to manhandle me on arrival, I figured no-one would ever know.

Entry into the Palace is offered from three entrances:

  • Grand Entrance (main gate)
  • Hyde Park Corner Gate
  • Grosvenor Place Gate

You’ve got a once-in-a-lifetime chance to go INSIDE Buckingham Palace. Which gate do you THINK I chose?

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Obvs.

We queued along Constitution Hill, allowing us time to discuss ‘how easy would it be to hop over the railings and try to scale the wall’, a la Michael Fagen in ’82? Luckily for us, we had the right accreditation and as we entered the gates, there we were, strolling across the crunchy infamous forecourt.

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My foot. On actual Palace crunchy courtyard

 

Once inside the gates, you are ushered through to an even crunchier courtyard towards another checkpoint, where our invite was taken and we were welcomed inside.

TONS of marble. Lots of massive chairs. Enormous paintings. The Queen seems as bad as I am at changing over her pictures. (Maybe she hasn’t printed hers out either?)

And then all of a sudden… we were properly in. Or ‘out’ to be precise, onto the West Terrace with the most surreal view.

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When you consider that there are 8,000 attendees, I imagined swarms of people, like when I went to see Guns n’ Roses at Olympic park last year, only less sweaty and dressed a bit nicer.

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But it was very civilised – no barging, no shoving, just all very refined and polite. As we moved gracefully about the lawn, we chatted to other invitees including one of the Queen’s Chaplains, who informed us that it Prince Charles was going to be present for tea. She suggested grabbing a refreshing lemon squash before the tea tents opened, so we did just that, muttering that the Queen could have turned up for us.

Squash was ‘very ‘weak and pishy’ as my Dad would say, but we drank it anyway, enjoying the military band playing everything from Star Wars to James Bond to Raiders of the Lost Ark. (No Guns n’ Roses though. And definitely no moshpit.)

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All together now…

It was an observational delight for someone like me. Behind my sunglasses, I people-watched on a grand scale and had a little rest on one of the many garden chairs set out, sipping pishy lemon squash. I wonder if M’am got all of the chairs from Homebase? She must have a massive shed. And I bet she doesn’t have to nag HRH Philip to get them out when the weather turns nice. (Yes, husband dearest, I’m talking to you.)

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(Not my actual shed.)

We observed national dress, loads of Mayors, stupidly high heels, a man dressed head-to-toe in orange, plus lots of ladies in dresses that came up to their pippicks.

 

‘Time for tea’, we decided, and headed over to the main tea tent, where queues were already forming. There are three tents – Main, Royal and Diplomatic – and having read various online forums about what happens at these things, the main piece of advice seemed to be ‘pile it high’.

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Knew my Pizza Hut training came in handy

But what to choose…

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I only came for the Cakes

Dad chose everything I wouldn’t.

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Father’s choice – yuk

I chose everything my Dad wouldn’t.

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My choice. Passion Fruit tart was ridiculously amazing

If you want criticism, then here it comes…

The spoons were unbranded, so I didn’t even feel the urge to nick one. (And yes, I was constantly on the look-out for something to nick.)

I expected HRH-branded napkins, but there weren’t even normal napkins. Much licking of sticky fingers ensued. Maybe it’s an environmental thing? HRH doesn’t want to find loads of napkins blowing across the lawn into the Royal bushes. I know how annoyed I get when I find the kids the snack wrappers blowing around in my garden.

 

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Pick it up!

Suddenly, the Yeomen were out in force and the crowds parted to form a meandering pathway for the Royals to move through the guests.

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Much neck craning and hushed chattering, and suddenly there he was in view on the steps, a bit like the daily ceremony at Disneyworld.

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Prince Charles. Not Mickey Mouse

Prince Charles chatted to many guests along the path and then entered the Royal tea tent, so we took this opportunity to go for a wander around the lake and through the stunning Rose Garden.

Whilst the gardens are incredibly beautiful, they’re pretty noisy. I’d be mega peeved if I could hear the traffic when chilling in my garden. (Just saying.. all that money on a property and you’re by a main road.)

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Can’t I at least nick a leaf?

Still on the nicking theme, maybe I could pick a flower and press it when home? Surely no-one would notice? There were thousands of them, but I decided it wasn’t worth getting booted out over a floribunda rose.

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Actual Royal rose. I touched it

I also hugged a tree. Because, why not?

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Royal Tree hugger

As we headed back to the main lawn, our time was nearly over. The National Anthem played out and as the Royal party left, there was just one more essential stop to make.

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The Royal Throne

I was hoping for a last-ditch attempt of something worth pilfering, but I left empty-handed. (Washed, but empty.)

 

At least I came away with the most amazing memories.

Plus an underlying streak of kleptomania.

And my bottle of Whispering Angel that I forgot to take with.

x

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Queen Victoria Memorial from ‘their side of the fence’

ps. Happy birthday to the Queen. Not bad for 92. 8/6/18

 

It’s a Nice Day for a White Wedding…

I started this blog as a bit of an off-shoot for my writing course which I enrolled on when I had a bit of a meltdown at 40 and thought, “Now what?”

Aside from the student discount it gave me (seriously, best thing ever!), it gave me a forum to pour out some adaptations of my coursework, with various topics given for each module.

One module had two options:

A) To write a piece of erotic fiction

or

B) To re-write a fairytale

I tried with A. I really did. But E.L. James and all her Fifty Shades of Filth is actually not so easy to write. If you are in the slightest bit bashful, it comes across in your writing. (And I wasn’t very comfortable ‘coming across’ anything that I would then have to submit to my tutor.)

So, I chose option B. And here it is. It just seemed apt to share it today…

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THE PRINCESS AND THE CARAT

by Debbie Collins

“Larry, my darling grandson. It has come to my attention that whilst your older and far uglier brother of yours, Arthur, has found himself a lovely bride-to-be, you are still flying solo. I may be the Queen of this fine country, but I am still your meddling old Gran and I think it’s high time you got yourself a nice young girl.”

Larry was yet to find his Princess and although he had very much enjoyed looking, he knew it was time to settle down. He had dated girls here, there, near and far, but no-one could hold his interest for long enough. Arthur was always the steadier one, having found himself the most perfect bride to join the Royal family but unfortunately for Larry, none of his relationships had lasted more than six months. Without letting Granny-dearest know, he was secretly pleased that she was helping him to find ‘the one’, as he loved spending time with her. If nothing else, he would have a date for his brother’s wedding.

The Queen doted on Larry – he was her little cherub and as much as she daren’t have favourites amongst the Royal grandchildren, he would seek her out in the Palace and remain by her side like one of her beloved corgis.

“But Grandma, really? ‘The One’? Honestly, I think your time would be better suited to opening a new hospital wing or whatever it is you get up to these days.” Larry sighed a dramatic sigh and flopped down onto the brown leather Chesterfield. The Queen stood up with her usual assertiveness and yanked her handbag out from underneath Larry. From inside she pulled out a dark wig and gave it a shake before putting it on her head.

“Well, I’m all done opening hospitals this week. And I’m not due on that tour of Australia for another week. Come on, we’re going for lunch and a bit of shopping!”

With that, the Royal driver was called and Larry and his Gran, were off in disguise to do some shopping in their favourite store ‘Selfreezers’. Larry wore his favourite grey cashmere beanie hat that conveniently hid his shock of wild ginger hair, making him otherwise instantly recognisable to the public at large. Gran, a.k.a the Queen of England, was channeling her inner ‘Anna Wintour’ with a bobbed brown wig and seriously oversized sunglasses.

With security teams positioning subtly all around them, they flitted in and out of the various departments going pretty much un-noticed. On these little trips, Larry would always adopt a Cockney twang, calling out loudly over the shop floor, “Ere nan! Cam over ere n’ ‘av a butchers.” The Queen loved covertly interacting with the public-at-large and she would chat away to staff on the tills…

“Day aaaaht wiv mi’ grandsun, innit. Lavley boy ‘e is takin’ ‘is ole nan ahhht fer the dayyy up West.”

Laden with big, glossy yellow boutique bags, drawing possibly a bit too much attention to themselves, they exited the store through personal shopping and hopped back in the car. As the pair cruised the city in a blacked-out Range Rover, they laughed and joked by winding down their windows and waving at passers-by for fun.

“Larry my boy, I fancy a new run-around. Shall we nip into ‘Range Rover’? You know much your opinion matters to me.” Larry was easily flattered by his Grandma and the more time he could spend with this very busy VIP OAP, the better.

“Of course! Let’s make a day of it,” Larry eagerly agreed.

As they pulled up at the Mayfair Range Rover showroom there were thousands of people and photographers waiting outside, including a cordoned-off line of the hysterically excited girls, winding their way around the side of the building.

“How on earth do they always manage to find us? Let’s leave it for another day, Gran.” Larry looked uneasily out of the car window, feeling disappointed that his day with granny dearest was to be cut short.

“No, darling. Quite the contrary. I had this specially organised. They’ve been expecting us.” The Queen removed her wig, gave her hair a fluff and straightened the hemline of her tweed outfit. “Go on. Out you get, poppet.”

Feeling confused, Larry exited the car, deafened by the cheers and blinded by the flashbulbs going off and the calls of ‘over here Ma’am!’, ‘this way Larry!’ and ‘one of you together please!’.

Once inside the showroom, Larry slowly slid the beanie hat off his head, realising the disguise was no longer needed. Puzzled, he asked, “Gran, what on earth is going on?”

The Queen explained that she had organised a ‘meet-and-greet’ for Larry to find his perfect Princess, to bring along as a date to to Arthur’s impending wedding.

“Gran, are you telling me you’ve basically organised a Royal Britain’s Got Talent?!” Larry was incredulous and ran his fingers furiously through his hair.

“Yes, although no Simon Cowell on the judging panel. Although I did ring Simon. He says, ‘good luck’!” The Queen trotted off to speak to the David, the showroom manager, about getting going with the proceedings.

Over in the corner, a new member of staff called Kelli looked on in amazement at all that was going on.

“We never had this at Saab,” Kelli thought to herself.

Kelli started working at Range Rover a few weeks ago and was trying her best to fit in and make a good impression. Little did her colleagues know, but Kelli was actually a pretty important person, because she was in fact the daughter of Prince Alec of Sweden. Kelli was keen to show her father that she could be so much more than ‘just a Princess’, and he was happy and proud for her to spread her wings in London and experience ‘normal life’.

The enormous digital clock on the showroom wall displayed 11:57 as the Queen gathered all staff together to explain how things would be unfolding for the afternoon.

“Righty-ho. At midday on the dot, the doors will fling open and all the girls will come through and register. They may all claim to be Princesses, but I’ll be the judge of that,” said the Queen.

As staff began to take their places, Larry’s eyes met Kelli’s and she smiled brightly at him as she walked off. He smiled back and thought how refreshing it was not to have a girl fawn all over him. She seemed totally relaxed and not in awe of him whatsoever. He felt as if he somehow knew her, but surely that was impossible?

The Queen and Larry moved to the right-hand side of the showroom into a private office with big glass windows that overlooked the entire showroom, allowing them a prime view of all that was happening. Larry distractedly watched the beautiful dark-haired girl take her position within the showroom. He knew most of the staff at the showroom from numerous Royal visits, so he was sure he would have noticed her before today.

Larry wanted nothing more than to find this girl and go and say a proper hello, but he knew he had to focus on the task in hand. Unconvinced, he asked, “Gran, what have they actually got to do?”

“Not much,” the Queen said nonchalantly. “They’ll walk past, give us a wave and a curtsey and then go behind that big red curtain over there. Nothing too challenging even for the dimmest ones, of which I’m sure there are quite a few.”

“What’s behind the curtain then?” asked Larry.

“I’ll show you.” The Queen clicked on the monitor which was set upon the desk and up popped a live feed of the latest yet-to-be-unveiled Range Rover, with a life-size grinning Larry cardboard cut-out sitting in the driver’s seat. 

“The idea is, each girl will come through, sit in the passenger seat and pose for the Royal photographer, while you and I take notes from back here. The girls don’t know we can see or hear them.”

At midday on the dot, the girls started to flow into the showroom to register, they gracefully walked past Larry and his Gran and giggled, curtseyed and smiled before going behind the curtain.

As they watched girl number 398 slide effortlessly into the passenger seat purring about how comfortable the car was, pretty much the same pattern was repeated girl after girl. After an hour or so into things, the Queen ordered a Royal break for some dainty cucumber sandwiches, which also allowed Larry to go through his list of potential candidates. Unfortunately, the list wasn’t as long as he had hoped for because the princesses were all so terribly fake and seemingly desperate to win him over.

“Now I know how Simon Cowell feels at most of the ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ auditions,” sighed the Queen in disappointment.

As Larry and the Queen and Larry considered their strategy for the next round, the staff at Range Rover were busy giving the showroom a tidy up, as it had become extremely messy. The hopeful Princesses had dropped tissues, wrappers and left make up stains all over curtained-off area. Kelli, being the newbie, was given the job of tidying the inside of the new Range Rover.

“Princesses my bum. They’re nothing but a load of fakes,” she mumbled to herself, as she wiped the lipstick smears that some over-zealous girls had planted on the cut-out’s cheek. Kelli emptied out the chewing gum wrappers and collected the half-empty bottles of water strewn in the passenger seat area. She also found a couple of fake nails, a set of false eyelashes and a silicon bra insert. She shook her head and chuckled to herself as she thought of the girl who had left the showroom lop-sided.

At that very moment, the Queen and Larry had resumed their positions in their viewing gallery and as the Queen was about to chat through the next hour’s proceedings, she noticed that Larry was distracted by the girl on screen. The same one she had seen him looking at intently when they arrived.

            “Larry? Darling are you ready to start the next round?” The Queen clicked her fingers in front of his eyes, but Larry was in another world, taken by this beautiful, seemingly normal girl who was cleaning his future car, sitting in the passenger seat, alongside his cardboard cut-out self.

            As no-one else was in the curtained area, Kelli took a moment to place her hands delicately on her lap and smile demurely at the camera, just as she had learnt to do so at the many debutante balls she had had to endure as a young lady. She wriggled uncomfortably in her seat and frowned, declaring, “Gosh, it’s not even comfortable!”

            “STOP THE PROCEEDINGS! We’ve found her!” shrieked the Queen.

            There was a sudden rush from Range Rover staff and all remaining contestants were told to leave. There were sobs, wails and sniffles as the showroom was swiftly cleared out.

            Larry followed the Queen out of the office towards the back where she whipped back the curtain to find Kelli exiting the car with a huge black sack full of rubbish. As she blew the wisp of glossy, dark hair from her face, she smiled at the Queen and then at Larry, executing the most perfect curtesy.

            “My dear girl what is your name?” quizzed the Queen.

            “’Kelli’, Ma’am. It’s an honour to meet you.” Kelli then nodded in respect to Larry and said, “And you, Prince Larry.”

            “Miss Kelli, could you tell me what you thought of the new Range Rover?” asked the Queen.

            By this point the entire staff had gathered round their fellow staff member to understand why the proceedings had been halted so quickly. Kelli answered with complete honesty,

            “It’s actually really uncomfortable.” She looked over warily at her boss David and expected to be fired on the spot, but instead he smiled back at her and then looked over at the Queen, giving a knowing wink and nod of his head.

            “I quite agree,” said the Queen to Kelli. “Only a ‘true Princess’ would say that…”

            With those words, Kelli’s face went pale as she panicked that her cover was blown. The Queen walked over to the passenger seat, slid her hand underneath the leather seat and pulled out the most exquisite six and a half carat, three-stone diamond engagement ring, resulting in loud gasps from the gathered crowd.

            “Gran, what is… what…  how….?” Larry was completely baffled.

            “You see, David and I hatched a little plan, Larry.”

David, the showroom manager, bowed, tilted his head and simply said, “Ma’am.”

The Queen continued, “Each girl that passed through here claimed to be a real Princess, but there was only one Princess here and that was Kelli. As soon as I saw her here a few weeks ago, I instantly knew that I recognised her and called up her father, Prince Alec to confirm it.”   

The Queen ushered a shocked Kelli over to her side and clutched her hand affectionately. “Kelli my darling, I’ve known you since you were a baby from my Royal tours of Sweden. Your father and I are great allies.”

Looking at Larry who stood to the other side of her, she continued, “The two of you were the best of baby friends, babbling and playing on the Royal lawns together. I even have videos of you two pretending to get married.”

The pair blushed as the memories came flooding back to them and Larry and Kelli smiled at each other, vaguely remembering the scene.

            “Kelli, won’t you join us for high tea back at the Palace?” the Queen asked. Kelli looked over at her boss, about to open her mouth to decline the offer when the Queen said, “Don’t worry. David will give you the rest of the day off. Won’t you, David?”

            David handed a set of keys over to Larry. “Drive carefully, your Highness. We need Kelli back safely for work in the morning. Although I’m guessing this could be Kelly’s last day…?” David smiled at Kelli and then at the Queen, who had told him all about who Kelli really was weeks ago and plotted the matchmaking.

            Larry escorted Kelli over to the new car and as he was about to remove the cut-out, she said, “Let’s keep him, he’s cute.”

            Larry grinned and said, “Maybe he can be my best man one day?” And with that, Prince Larry and Princess Kelli drove off and lived happily ever after (once they’d got through the London traffic.)

Enjoy the wedding.

xx

Be a Good Sport…

On my first date with my husband (Silks & Spice, Camden), he casually mentioned in conversation that he was ‘into sport’. Alarm bells should have rung, but it was only through marriage and a shared custody of a Sky remote control, that I truly realised the extent to which ‘into sport’ actually meant.

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Silks & Spice sadly no longer open. Marriage still going strong. 

I’m quite aware that most of my life revolves around a sporting event. For example:

Me: “We’re going over to friends tomorrow for tea.”

Husband: “What time?”

Me: “Why?” (I know full well why.)

Husband: “(*insert seasonal sport here*) is on tv. If they haven’t got it on in the background, I’m going home.”

My social butterfly…

 

 

Thinking back, my first birth gave a clear indication of life as a sports widow.

Around 2am on the 14th September 2006, my husband found me at the foot of our bed, curled over a giant gym ball thingy, declaring, “I give up.’

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I think I was doing it wrong. Photo Credit: Rooted for Life

A couple of nights previous we’d had a false alarm, so once the hospital staff had finished prodding me and were satisfied that I was definitely in labour this time, husband decided we were in it for the long haul and proper arrangements needed to be made.

He even managed to schmooze the nurses into dragging a camp bed into the room for him. Tiring for the men, after all…Unknown-11.jpeg

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‘Comfty’, as my youngest says

Around 15 hours later, my beautiful daughter was born and whilst dizzy from both the epidural and the fact that she wasn’t a boy, I will always remember that soft green glow as I was wheeled back into the room…

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I always favour a v-neck

 

No. It wasn’t the staff in their scrubs.

It was the green haze from the football pitch on the tv screen as my husband held our daughter, experiencing her first game of many, whilst cradled in daddy’s arms, lying on the camp bed. (Ah, now I could see the urgency of the camp bed.)

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Not actual husband. Or daughter

I looked on in marvel at the thing next to me, peaceful, calm, content.

And that was just my husband. He even remembers the game. (Of course he does.Unknown-11.jpeg)

UEFA Cup – West Ham vs Palermo fact fans.

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Actual footage 14.9.06

I’m not a particularly sporty person, safe to say I’m not really sporty at all. I like the gym, Pilates, a friendly game of badminton or table tennis. Even basketball, but only if it’s at the funfair and involves winning a bag of candy floss.

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Yum. Get in my belly…

I just have zero interest in reliving my ‘wing attack’ days at school and joining a ladies league of netball.

No offence to those who do this pursuit for pleasure or professionally…plenty of my female friends are loving this release on a weekday evening – it’s just not for me. In fact, massive props to the England Netball Team who recently thrashed to receive gold at the Commonwealth Games.

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So emotional.. as I watch from the sofa.

Before I get trolled and bashed on social media for dividing the sexes, lots of female friends watch and attend just as many games as their other halves on a regular basis and have done since a very young age. (Even funnier when rival husband and wives are at the same match. You know who you are…)

But going back to base levels, I’ve been through alot recently. Alot.

Darts. Done. (He threatens to take me every year. FYI, I would go.)

Olympics. Done.

Cricket. Done.

Golf. Done. (Although I secretly quite like watching The Masters because:

A) the clapping and birdsong is so calming

and

B) my usually 9pm-watershed husband is actually still lucid at midnight

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So relaxing

So, to all of my football widow friends – we’ve performed really well this season, with limber checks on our phones for match updates and team support over whose evening will be the most ruined due to a match loss.

Just a few weeks to go and it will all be over  Unknown-9.jpeg

.

.

.

…I’ve just been gently reminded that the World Cup starts in under two months.

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I think I might take up netball for the summer…

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ps. Good luck to everyone participating in tomorrow’s London MarathonUnknown-10.jpeg(I’ll be watching. From my sofa.)

A Bit of a Do

I would definitely say that I’m an introvert. Handy link if you need clarification about what an introvert is. (Youngest thought it was a description for an ‘innie belly button’. ‘Extrovert’ being an outie one of course.)

In a nutshell, I love stimuli – articles, films, conversations, people watching… but once I’m ‘full’, I need time on my own to digest all that ‘stuff’ and reflect, possibly doing something with this new information. Like maybe write this blog.

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For today, at least…

Over the past few weeks there has been plenty of time for fun stimuli. A flurry of invites for birthdays, breakfasts, dinners and bar mitzvahs filled my social diary for February and March ..and I loved it.

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Husband? Hmmm, not so much.

For those with ‘FOMO‘ – ‘Fear of Missing Out’ – he is the polar opposite, suffering from a horrific case of ‘FOBO’ – Fear of Being Out’.

I’m not saying he’s anti-social, but     He’s anti-social.

But once the invites are in, where to store them?

I’m a neat freak and the whole magnet-to-fridge thing is an eyesore for me.

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DEFINITELY not my fridge. This just makes me itchy…

Plus, I can’t deal with all the paraphernalia falling off each time the door is opened or closed. (And when husband gets home from work, there is much fridge traffic.)

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*Not me. Or my fridge. Although I do have ‘Mrs Balls Chutney‘ in mine too

Pinboards are a nice idea in theory, but again, messy. Plus there’s a chance of standing on a rogue pushpin. Anyone else fondly remember finding these embedded into the sole of your school shoe, as you tap-tap-tapped down the corridors?

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Ahh, the humble drawing pin

For me, all pertinant paperwork has to be stored in a display folder.

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Like this one

Every party invite (kid AND adult), school class list, timetable, letter about choir, or any other A4 (or smaller) piece of paper that requires attention will be stored here.

Message me and ask…

‘When do the kids break up?’

‘When is sports day?’

‘What time does so-and-so’s party start?’

‘Is so-and-so’s barmitzvah at Radlett Reform or Radlett United Synagogue?’

And the information is at my fingertips. (Bar the last bit of info, where an entrance into Radlett Reform could have been a major error…)

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MAZEL TOV!…Do I know you?

With alot of these invites, comes a necessity to ‘get pitzed up’. To put into context:

Saturday evening, dinner with friends…

“Are you going casual or getting pitzed up?”

Or more specifically thanks to Google:

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You say Farpitzs, I say Pitzed

Alot of these invites thankfully carry indications as to the level of appropriate dressing. Or at least they used to. Black tie, black tie no tie, cocktail, dress to party, glam, party, fancy fucking dress (FML), casual, ‘festival’… and so on.

Each one will carry the same conversation with my husband, an hour, possibly half an hour, before we are due to leave for said ‘do’.

Him: “What’s the dress code?”

Me: “Dress to party.”

Him: “Can I wear jeans?”

Me: “Unknown-6.jpeg

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Ideal outfit goals for husband on the end

For me, I LOVE the prep. By all means stop reading right now, as next bit is going to sound super shallow, of Kim Kardashian proportions…

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Pitzed up

Exfoliating, face mask, spray tan, manicure, pedicure, hair cut, hair colour, blow dry, comb out (it’s a thing), make up, outfit.. and that’s just the men. Trust me – I go to alot of ‘things’, and there are a great many tanned women standing next to their considerably paler partners. There needs to be more of this:

 

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Tanning guru Jules Von Hep at work. On a man

I say I enjoy it.. but then again, it’s an utterly exhausting, logistical process, involving a flurry of bank card activity as stuff is bought, returned and exchanged. (And you always forget that you need tights.)

Don’t worry. I agree… First. World. Problems.  But it’s the world we are living in. And we need to prepare our kids for the future.

Here’s some 2018 GCSE sample maths questions:

Q18: If Vicki has a party on Saturday night, in order to achieve optimum colour, should she have her spray tan on:

A) Monday

B) Thursday

C) A week before

D) Friday

Q19: If Suzie wears 5″ heels to a party which starts at 8pm, what time will she lose feeling in the balls of her feet:

A) 8:03pm

B) Midnight

C) 1am

D) 9pm

Q20: If Gemma eats two pieces of sushi at 7pm at a wedding reception and has five toffee vodka shots during the course of the evening, at what point will she throw up?

A) Never

B) Half past midnight

C) 9:30pm

D) 11:15pm

Q21: If Rachel’s dress is midnight blue, which shoes will match perfectly:

A) Rose gold

B) Gold

C) Antique gold

D) Nude

If Lloyd is going to a 40th party, what is the probability that he will sing ‘Jump Around’ whilst wearing fake sunglasses, neon bracelets and a bandana:

A) 0%

B) 2%

C) 50%

D) 100%

Q22: If Scott has a tendency to sweat alot when dancing, how many spare shirts should he take with to change into during the course of his son’s barmitzvah party?

A) One

B) Two

C) Three

D) Ten

 

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Scott, take ten…

 

A full list of questions will be available in due course.

Now to wash off my spray tan….

x

I Just Called to Say I Love You

As a true 80s kid, I recently re-lived the heady days of my youth by watching ‘Stranger Things‘ and loved it. Somehow it wasn’t on my radar last year, but thanks to binge-watching I have completed Seasons 1 & 2. If you haven’t done it, do it. Think ‘ET’, meets ‘The Lost Boys’ meets ‘Stand by Me’ meets ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’. And a soundtrack of greatness including ‘Hazy Shade of Winter’ by ‘The Bangles’. (Now on my gym playlist.)

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I’m not saying I’m willing to go back to the 80s – no GHD‘s, only one fragrance option in the form of ‘Electric Youth’ and horrific fake tan for starters –  but I do find myself very happily reminiscing about simpler times.

 

No mobile phones for one thing. Maybe the odd pager. At University, one roommate was way ahead of her time and had a pager thingy. Still not sure why. She didn’t have aspirations in the medical field, and yet carried it on her person at all times.

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Be at the Student bar. 9:30 sharp.

 

It was all about the landline. Husband still takes great pleasure in reciting friends’ home phone numbers to them. It’s a skill. Obviously I remember my own. I just dialled it. Purely for fun. Try it for yourself. Quite cathartic. Imagine if your teenage self answered? (Oohhh.. film idea.)

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Old faithful

These days, I’m still all about the landline. I don’t know why. I just like it. If you give me an option of a landline number, I will call it. Most of my friends know that if their landline rings, it’s me (or PPI.)

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My own landline is a random ‘0203’ number which often catches people off guard…

“Hi, is this so-and-so? I’m calling from the National Lottery and you have an unclaimed jackpot ticket for the EuroMillions…”

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Yeah, good luck. It’s me, you idiot.

 

If the landline rings in my own house, no-one answers it. Literally they all feign deafness to the Nth degree. At best, husband will take a glance at the caller ID and decide that it’s not for him and deign not to answer it. (Feign and deign in one paragraph. I even impressed myself.)

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Pick it up!!!

But going back to that 80s thing, I do miss the purpose of actually making a phone call on the landline. It meant there was something of importance to declare, to tell, to announce, to share.

Hours and hours spent on the phone to friends, talking gibberish. Even a dabble on those  0891 numbers with one particular friend. The phone bill, OMG the phone bill. No wonder those party lines got shut down.

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Remember the Chat Back jingle? “FIFTY! FIFTY! FIFTY!”

 

If all this nostalgia is making me sound old, I suppose it’s because I am. I commented to someone about loving the ‘Not3s and Mabel’ song, ‘My Lover‘ (handy link for you.)

“Yeah”, she said, “Mabel’s mum was some famous singer years ago. Let me Google it.”

I’m thinking ‘years ago’, as in way before my time, in that I too wouldn’t know who the mother was. She Googled and showed me the mother.

Neneh.

Neneh Fucking Cherry.

Mabel’s mum.

That’s not ‘some singer years ago’.

That’s my youth, learning every word to every song on ‘Raw Like Sushi’ from the cassette inlay card.

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Gigolo, huh. Sucka.

A youth free from social media, making real phone calls and writing proper letters to people, to hear that satisfying ‘plumpf’ from bundles of post falling onto the front door mat. Valentines cards even…

…and talking of Valentines Day (subtle lead in)…

This is what I’ll be making for dessert tonight.

Nigella’s Cookie Dough Pots

Easiest recipe ever. Click above 👆🏻👆🏻👆🏻 for gateway to dessert heaven. 

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6 ramekins + 3 spoons = 2 each

Foolproof. Okay so maybe one particular friend will fuck it up, but what can I do?

Freezable. If they ever make it that far.

Parev. If you are that way inclined and sub the butter for veg friendly option like Tomer (other brands available).

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I use these. No pressure

I also use disposable foil pots when I can’t be bothered with washing up ramekins because I have over eaten and am more Waynetta than Nigella.

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Valentines Night Goals

But tonight Matthew, I’ll be using these. For novelty fun.

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All hail Tiger Stores and their seasonal shelves

Thank me later. But don’t blame me if recipe doesn’t feed 6. It doesn’t. I can eat at least 4 of them…

Happy Valentines Day.

x

‘Tis the Season to be Poorly

Okay, so a bit of an over-reaction, but there’s ‘alot of it going round at the moment’ and no-one likes to be off sick this time of the year. It mucks up your best-laid plans, gets in the way of fun stuff and generally ruins your festive spirit.

Last week, daughter #2 started off with a cough, which manifested itself as croup. I remember first time heard the seal-like cough from her bedroom – she was about 3 years old and it was 3am.

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The other seal

Luckily Google was wide awake and gave the advice to get cold, fresh air into her, so we stood shivering by her open window with me pretending to be all calm and parental. Luckily it did the trick.

In my day (yes, I’m that old), I had a Wrights Vapouriser in my bedroom for this type of thing. It was a metal lantern with an absorbent block nestled inside the lid, onto which you’d pour this magical vapourising liquid. You’d pop a tea light underneath and the heat would warm the block, releasing this potent whiff that eased all kinds of breathing difficulties.

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Would never pass Health & Safety today

It smelled a bit like coal tar and filled your room entire house with the fumes, but boy did it help. I still wind down my window and inhale when driving past freshly laid tarmacadam. (Yes, that’s the full name for tarmac.)

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Dream job

In my family, everyone copes differently when they’re ill:

Daughter #1 – gets a bit narky if I ask her how she’s feeling. Allergic to Penicillin. Refusal to take medicine in pill form.

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Just one sodding spoonful is all I ask…

Daughter #2 – goes through a drama of epic proportions each time a medicine syringe goes anywhere near her. You know that scene in Airplane when that woman is in panic mode and everyone is trying to calm her down? That is my youngest. With a steady line of friends, parents, grandparents (and cleaner – yes, she was roped in as well) all approaching her to try and help with the medicine-administering process.

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Get a hold of yourself

Husband – no words…

Okay – words. He is hypochondria re-incarnate and can often be seen retreating to the spare room at first sign of anyones’ illness.

If you search ‘Dr’ on his mobile, it can take at least two full swipes of his contact list to scroll through the directory of consultants he has on file, in all major postcode areas and even on the continent.

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His desk at work is a sight to behold: tissues, anti-bac gels, Vicks First Defence, vitamins, pro-biotics. I actually think he is stockpiling to start up a pharmacy to rival Boots and am considering getting him a faux-Doctor sign for his desk.

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Still tickles me

Me – I just get on and deal with it, a trait inherited from my dad. That said, if I’m truly struggling I will admit defeat and start on anti-biotics. Dad just battles on through with liquid Night Nurse. He is old school. I reckon his blood is green.

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The taste never leaves you…

So, what to do with the days spent at home playing Florence Nightingale to the fam?

Clear out the bathroom cabinet of course!

The stockpiling – again, mainly husband – is insane. How many packs of Dioralyte does one actually need in their lifetime? The majority of these meds have an expiry date, so go check your cabinets and stock up on stuff for when the shops are shut over the holidays.

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Almost identical to my bathroom cabinet situation

Please sing along – you know the tune:

#…On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me, some shower caps in packs of three.

On the second day of Christmas my true love sent to me, two cotton-buds and some shower caps in packs of three.

On the third day of Christmas my true love sent to me, three nail files, two cotton-buds and some shower caps in packs of three.

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love sent to me, four shower gels, three nail files, two cotton-buds and some shower caps in packs of three.

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love sent to me, five tooth pastes…four shower gels, three nail files, two cotton-buds and some shower caps in packs of three.

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love sent to me, six plasters boxes, five tooth pastes…four shower gels, three nail files, two cotton-buds and some shower caps in packs of three.

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me, seven body lotions, six packs of plasters, five tooth pastes…four shower gels, three nail files, two cotton-buds and some shower caps in packs of three.

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love sent to me, eight packs of tooth picks, seven body lotions, six packs of plasters, five tooth pastes…four shower gels, three nail files, two cotton-buds and some shower caps in packs of three.

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love sent to me, nine tubs of hair gel, eight packs of tooth picks, seven body lotions, six packs of plasters, five tooth pastes….four shower gels, three nail files, two cotton-buds and some shower caps in packs of three.

(Bear with – nearly there – hope you’re still singing)

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love sent to me, ten squashy ear plugs, nine tubs of hair gel, eight packs of tooth picks, seven body lotions, six packs of plasters, five tooth pastes…four shower gels, three nail files, two cotton-buds and some shower caps in packs of three.

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me, eleven headache tablets, ten squashy ear plugs, nine tubs of hair gel, eight packs of tooth picks, seven body lotions, six packs of plasters, five tooth pastes…four shower gels, three nail files, two cotton-buds and some shower caps in packs of three.

(Deep breath…)

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love sent to me…

twelve Calpol bottles

eleven headache tablets

ten squashy ear plugs

nine tubs of hair gel

eight packs of tooth picks

seven body lotions

six packs of plasters

five tooth pastes…

four shower gels

three nail files

two cotton-buds

and some shower caps in packs of three!!!…#

Happy Clearing. x