Monday, 28 October 2013

Autumn Fete

     Having built a bridge and told myself to fucking get over it, on Thursday I went to London.

     If you are in any way even slightly kickarse, this will not seem like a big deal to you. But to me, it assumed massive proportions. I haven’t been to London for four years, back in my previous life when I had to suck an awful lot of corporate cock and used to attend Big Important Government Department Meetings. Back then, everything was on expenses, so I’d arrive at King’s Cross, jump in a black cab, spend the day being professional, then catch a taxi back to the station again. Now, obviously, things are different, because I am an impecunious writer. So I’d have to navigate the tube, then make my way along unfamiliar streets before arriving at a party where I would know no one, and where I would do my best to sparkle and impress Important Writer Types, before having to make the return journey, arriving back in Norwich at the very precise time of 23:29.


     Frankly, I was bricking it. I left the house stupidly early to make sure I reached the train station in time and I was so jittery that I half-jogged most of the way there in my far too warm wool coat, and was a sweat-sodden mess when I arrived at the station, fifty minutes before my train was leaving. Alistair phoned to check I was on my way (there had been an awful lot of bolstering me in the days leading up to this) and I appeared to have adopted the voice of Beaker from The Muppets and lost the ability to form a coherent sentence. I tried to eat a baguette and my throat was so dry it actually creaked when I attempted to swallow. Luckily I had my pen and notebook with me, so I was able to lose myself in a project I’ve been working on and it was a bit of a shock to look up after two hours and find that we were nearly at Liverpool Street.


     I made my ways into the bowels of the Underground, successfully made my way to the right platform and boarded the next train, feeling stupidly proud of myself. Then I realised I was on the wrong bloody train and had to humiliatingly get off at the next stop, and get on another train (the right one this time). At Hammersmith, I wandered around aimlessly for ten minutes, trying and failing to locate familiar street names, before I found what I was looking for. Only forty minutes early this time, so that’s an improvement. Oh look, there’s a pub.

     And at six o’clock, quivering with nerves, I made my way here.



     Harper Collins. Harper bloody Collins! (yes, I was a bit shaky).

     Harper Impulse (the digital romance imprint of Harper Collins) were throwing a party, an Autumn Fete, to say thank you to their writers, their reviewers, guest bloggers and for all of us to meet. Although quite a few of us follow each other on twitter, I had never met any of them and I was terrified. Terrified. I made my way into a massive atrium, up a flight of stairs and into the most fabulously glamorous party I have ever underdressed for. Clutching a glass of Pimm’s, I turned slowly on the spot, wondering if anyone from twitter would recognise me. And then two complete strangers entered, and from their faces, I knew exactly how they felt. I joined them and blurted out ‘I DON’T KNOW ANYONE ELSE HERE EITHER!’ We all burst out laughing and here we are:


     The very lovely @MiaHoddell and @stephanie_khani. That’s yours truly in the middle, my claws gripping my glass of Pimm’s (from my cold, dead hands…). I don't know what I was squirrelling away in my cheeks. Then Liz-Sheena from @fivegoglamping arrived and I had just the best evening with my new friends. I met the writers Lorraine Wilson and Jane Linfoot , the incomparably bright and bubbly Harper Impulse team,


 all of whom are so friendly and so much fun that when I grow up I want to be them, and the CEO of Harper Collins

 (yes, he does look like Mr Big).

     There was Pimm’s, prosecco and painted pumpkins, canap├ęs and nibbles, beautiful sweet treats, music and a wonderful speech from the head of Harper Impulse, Kim. My favourite part of the evening was when the authors came face to face with copies of their own books, specially printed for the Fete. To see their faces, absolutely aglow with bashful pride at seeing their creations in real life for the first time was really very touching (may have had a vicarious tear in my eye there). It was almost as though the reality of their achievement finally hit home and was, if it doesn’t sound too gushing,  inspirational.



     Sadly, it was all too quickly eight o’clock and time for this fangirl to set off home. But one further surprise 

– GOODY BAGS! And not filled with any old tat, oh no.


     Books! And the type of books I actually want to read! It was a very happy me that boarded the train at Liverpool Street at half past nine. And just to round off my utterly brilliant day, I’d booked myself into first class (it was only an extra £5). I had a table lamp and free refreshments


     An acre of space to sit and write in


     
     And a dangerously giddy mood that led me to take an ill-advised selfie to prove that this actually happened.



     A massive, massive thank you to Harper Impulse for hosting such a wonderful get together, and allowing me to meet so many fantastic and insanely talented people. I haven’t stopped smiling since.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

We Apologise For The Break In Broadcasting

     Normal service will be resumed shortly.

     Promise.


     Kicking off with Thursday, aka The Day I Went To London.

     And, if you were wondering, I am much, much better now. To the people who've been in touch here and in other places, thank you more than you will ever know for the things you've said. Some of you are complete strangers, some are known to me, some are real life friends, but all of you have helped get me back on an even keel.

     So to you, I say

Monday, 21 October 2013

I am not





     You’re not a (at this point he mouthes) shit mum.

     That was The Boy this morning, as we trudged through the rain and mist on our way to school. I hadn’t realised until it was too late, that on Saturday night he’d crept back downstairs and overheard me talking on the phone. As soon as I saw him, I swiped the tears off my face, hugged him and sent him back to bed. But he told me this morning ‘You didn’t know I was there, did you? I heard everything. And you’re not a (mouthing) shit mum. You’re my mum, and I love you.’ And then The Girl piped up 'I love you too, Mummy, bestmummyinthewholewideworldEVAH.' Then she licked my hand and giggled.

     Slightly concerned that The Boy has had his vocabulary enlivened by certain choice phrases I was employing during an emotional discussion. I’m certainly not going to be winning any parenting awards any time soon.

     I was suicidal. I think I probably still am, a little. But it’s unlikely I’m going to do anything about it. I had planned to do it on Friday. I knew how, where and when. But then The Girl woke up feeling feverish, so she was at home with me all day. And obviously I couldn’t do it over the weekend. I woke up at three on Sunday morning and knew I wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep. So I sat in the dining room, drinking coffee and wrote this:

     Words are and always have been so important to me. From the evening I sat, entranced, reading ‘Five run away together’ on the steps of one of the Nissen huts at Leverington, right up to me, sitting here at six o’clock on a Sunday morning, words have been my lifeblood. Books, poems, song lyrics, conversations. All of them have been part of a design for life.

     And now I feel as though my words have been stolen from me.

     I can’t write anymore.

     Because although words make me whom and what I am, they stop me from being whom and what I should be. I am a mother. My children should come first, not my fountain pen. In my mind, my children do come first. In reality, I have been told, I am a twitter twat, wasting my life and failing my children. From the outside, it appears that I drop my children off at school and then do nothing but tweet until I go to bed. Untrue, but hurtful all the same.

     So I’m giving up on words. I feel bereft. And without words, I can’t exist. I can’t be me. I could try to become a Stepford wife, someone who takes deep joy (except they can’t) in a lack of thought and emotion. But that’s not me. It’s what my children deserve. But that’s not me. No alarms and no surprises. But that’s not me. My children deserve better than me.

     Without words I am nothing. So that is what I will become.

     Fuck me. How selfpitying? I was wallowing in an absolute vat of despair, thinking over and over again about dying. And when Alistair got up, he suggested we go out for the day. As a surprise, he’d bought me the Haim album and put it on in the car. The very first song was one of my favourites, ‘Falling’

     I hurl into the moment like I’m standing at the edge (I know)
     That no one’s gonna turn me round
     Just one more step, I could let go.

     Oh, so very appropriate. And Alistair’s beaming at me, expecting me to grin back and say ‘You are the BEST!’ Instead, I slump in my seat, stare out of the window and think how much better his life will be when I’m no longer a part of it.

     Him: Darling? What’s wrong? I thought you liked Haim?

     Me: [stares moodily out of the window]

     Him: What is it? What’s wrong?

     Me: [Small tear forms in right eye, throat set to lumpy]

     Him: [pleading] Please talk to me, I know something’s wrong. I’m trying to do my best, I’m trying to help. I’m worried about you. I feel really bad for you.

     Me: [reflecting that yes, it will be a bit shit for everyone initially, but better no mum than a bad one]

     Him: [frustrated] Shall we just turn around and go home then?

     Me: [full on savage hissing mode] OH SO THAT’S MY FAULT IS IT THAT YOU FEEL BAD IS IT IS IT THAT MUST BE BECAUSE I AM SO  USELESS AND ONLY GOOD AT MAKING THINGS GO WRONG AND I JUST ALWAYS RUIN EVERYTHING AND EVEN A NICE DAY OUT WILL BE TERRIBLE BECAUSE I AM PART OF IT SO WHY DO WE EVEN BOTHER RANTY RANTY RANTING RANTINESS.

     Silence.

     So we drove to Sheringham. And I made a resolution to be extra nice to The Blondies, thinking that, if today is going to be their last day with me, then I’d better make sure they have some good memories of their Utterly Shit Mother. And we won loads of tat on the shove 2p machines, which thrilled them beyond measure. Then we had a slightly frenzied drive around north Norfolk, getting lost and trying frantically to find a pub still serving food after three o’clock (Alistair had now adopted my earlier surliness, and was refusing to eat anywhere that meant he couldn’t have a pint). In the end, we went to a pub that we’ve been to many, many times before that has the holy grail of signs outside:

     FOOD
     SERVED
     ALL DAY

     And just around the corner from the pub is a little corner of heaven. It’s Felbrigg, a National Trust estate/stately home. We go there quite often because I love it so much (and I like to pretend that Lucy Benedict lives in one of the cottages on the estate). And there is a little road, signposted ‘Byway to Sustead’, that’s also known as ‘Lion’s Mouth’. In all the times we’ve walked/driven down it, we’ve never seen anyone else there. As we plunged into it, ‘Falling’ came on again. And I don’t know if it was the fun we’d had (maybe), or the beauty of the forest (possibly) or the Bailey’s coffee I’d had as pudding (probably), but something shifted in my mind. And instead of feeling like I was falling into death, I heard the line ‘Never look back, never give up’ and thought ‘You unspeakably atrociously selfish twat. Stop this stupidity. You’ve been here before, remember, and you got better. You can do it all over again.’

     So here I am. Slightly sheepish. Feeling a bit silly, like you do when you’ve been a big flouncy flouncer, and then have to return to the scene of the crime, gazing at the floor and twisting your right foot, whilst you mutter an ungracious apology.


     I am a lot of things. But I am not a shit mum. I have it on good authority from the only people who matter.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

I am

     I am Lucy Benedict. I am a writer.

       I am Lucy Benedict. I am 33. I am greeneyed and redhaired. I am living in Norwich. I am the mother of two beautiful children. I am the girlfriend of Alistair. I am living in a beautiful house.

     I am Lucy Benedict. I am childlike. I am in possession of a fragile sense of wonder. I am able to see beauty all around. I am too easily caught by the fleeting moment.

     I am Lucy Benedict. I am human.

     I am Lucy Benedict. I am oversensitive. I am easily wounded. I am in possession of a skin too few.

     I am Lucy Benedict. I am prone to comic exaggeration. I am able to find the humour in most situations. I am likely to expand upon tiny moments.

     I am Lucy Benedict. I am fragile. I am vulnerable. I am already bruised.

     I am Lucy Benedict. I am an atheist. I am cynical. I am sarcastic. I am snarky.

     I am Lucy Benedict. I am capable of hurting people without ever intending to. I am too quick to reply with what I think is the right word, not the appropriate word.  I am hurtful.

     I am Lucy Benedict. I am a bad mother, girlfriend, daughter, sister, friend.  I am neglectful of my children. I am hurtful to friends. I am not aware of how lucky I am. I am unreliable.

      I am Lucy Benedict. I am lazy. I am ungrateful. I am unkind. I am a bad mother. I am not appreciative of how fortunate I am. I am a shameful mess.

     I am Lucy Benedict. I am cruel. I am heartless. I am someone who should be ashamed of themselves. I am someone who can’t be liked very much.

     I am Lucy Benedict. I am someone who lashes out.  I am someone who hurts the ones she loves best. I am someone you would be advised to avoid.

      I am Lucy Benedict. I am spending too long on twitter and ignoring my children. I am guilty of not caring for them. I am responsible for the bad thoughts people have about my children.

     I am Lucy Benedict. I am a coward. I am someone who hurts the ones she loves best. I am nasty.

     I am Lucy Benedict. I am guilty of writing too much. I am guilty of having my head turned by favourable remarks about my writing, that I care more about my words than I do about my children. I am placing too much importance on writing. I am the type of person who does nothing except that which pleases her.

      I am Lucy Benedict. I am apparently about caring more about people liking my words than I am about caring for my family.  I am a failure. I am someone who has failed at every single thing they ever attempted to achieve.

     I am Lucy Benedict. I am still here, because I failed to kill myself. I am still in the grip of a massive depression. I am someone who has had suicidal thoughts for weeks. I am someone who can’t even manage to end their own life.

     I am Lucy Benedict. I am someone whose only relief was to write. I am someone who has been told that I am an applause junkie. I am someone who has been told they neglect their children. I am someone who has been told they are lazy, ungrateful, boring, nasty, bitchy, unthinking, uncaring, a shit mum who doesn’t realise how lucky she is, who takes the piss, who makes members of her family not care about leaving the area. I am a crap mum.  That fucking stabs me through the heart. I know I am crap at the practical stuff. But I hoped I might have done my bit emotionally. I am someone who  has been told they have been stalked across twitter for months, taking the slightest few words as proof of me being as nasty, ungrateful, lazy, boring, bitchy and unkind as I am. I am someone who had to take this criticism to my face.

     I am Lucy Benedict. I am always believing the worst about myself. I am reeling from hearing all this from one friend, for confirming what I always believed about myself.  And now my dad phones and confirms it’s all true.
  
      I am Lucy Benedict. I am the person who had to absorb all this information. I was a writer. I was someone who was going to the Harper Collins Autumn Fete. I was a writer. I was going to Mumsnet BlogFest.


     I am no longer Lucy Benedict. I am no longer a writer. 


Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Clickbait

     I’m going to go off on a bit of a rant here, so if you’re currently feeling happy and at peace with the world, stop reading.

     Have you heard the term ‘clickbait’? It means writing a deliberately provocative and controversial personal opinion that will get people raging and arguing on comment pages and social media, generating thousands of page views. It pretty much describes the output of Liz Jones and Katie Hopkins, that article on Ralph Miliband, pretty much most of the content of the Daily Mail (no, I am not going to link to that despicable rag of ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’ hateful bilge). But other papers aren’t above doing it. The Guardian does it – see Giles Fraser writing about overmedicalising sadness (and then bleating that people had misread his words. Here’s a hint for you Giles: if pretty much everyone who reads your column has the same reaction to it, the problem lies not with the reader).

     People do fall for clickbait, even when they know that do click on the link will send them into a blood pressure bursting frenzy of fury. It’s a curious thing. Why read something you know will make you incoherent with rage? Perhaps it’s a way of us expressing anger at something when our real lives offline make us angry and we don’t feel able to say so. A cathartic way of ridding ourselves of negative emotion, feeling bolstered by the knowledge that other people feel the same.

     I have my own little clickbait. And it is honestly quite pathetic. I feel ashamed of myself that this tiny little thing makes me so very, very angry. I sound like such an absolute bitch when I say it. It’s a blog. A blog about someone I don’t even know and have no desire to meet. It’s not even offensive, or controversial or written by someone whose views are diametrically opposed to mine (I’m guessing. She doesn’t say anything too insightful). But for some reason it makes me stare at the screen with loathing.

     I’m not going to link to it. And I’m watching myself very carefully to make sure I don’t write anything anyone can google to find it.*

     But it makes me stupidly and irrationally angry. For a start, the name of the blog contains a typo. Apparently this is because the name of the blog was already taken, so she just added an extra letter to keep the idea. That makes me quite cross. Why the flipping heck could you not just think of another name woman? Just seeing the irkful name in my address bar makes me seethe inwardly.

     And it’s described as ‘humorous’ thoughts and writing. I immediately have a problem with this. You are the writer. We are the readers. WE will decide if this is humorous, not you. If she’d said ‘lighthearted’, I’d be fine with it. But setting yourself up in your description as being amusing (right under the hateful typo blog name) immediately gets my hackles up and think ‘Ok, funny girl, MAKE ME LAUGH then’ and sit back, arms crossed resentfully, sceptical mood engaged.

     And therein lies the problem. She’s not funny. Not at all. I laugh very easily, too easily, according to Alistair who has had reason to tell me to ‘Calm down you hysterical mess!’ on too many occasions. I dissolve into cackling at the least opportunity, and have often found myself suddenly snorting with laughter at the memory of something funny when I’m standing in the school playground. The other mums have learnt to generally avoid me. But this blog… It’s not even faintly amusing. But it’s written in the style of someone who thinks they’re witty and has a ‘wicked sense of humour’. Not much evidence of that. No, actually, there is NO evidence of that. It’s just bland and beige and boring as fuck. So that is quite irritating, to read something in the expectation of being amused and then to realise you’ve been missold a blog.

     And she has adverts all over it. I’m not sure why, but I really dislike adverts on personal blogs (with apologies to you if you have a personal blog with ads on. If I like you, I just ignore them. If I don’t like you, I add it to my Reasons Why We Will Not Be Friends). It always makes me feel as though the writer is not writing because they need to, because they have something to say, or because they just want to get their thoughts out there. Instead, they’re grasping for something to write about so they can make a few pennies from google ads. Alistair has tried to convince me many times to put adverts on here. Not happening.

     But it’s not the adverts or lack of giggles (or even something that ever so slightly lifts the corner of my lips) that I find so aggravating. It’s the spam.

     The fucking spam.

     I’m a member of quite a few local groups on facebook. News, events, stuff to do with your kids, history of the local area (I’m a bit nerdy on history, living in a medieval city), that kind of thing. And This Woman has seemingly joined up to every local group ever invented and relentlessly spams them every single arsing day with a link to her blog. Usually with a comment like ‘Here we go! Another blog post! This time, I go shopping at Tesco!’ But she doesn’t actually update her blog very often, so we’ll have two weeks of her linking to the time her outside light wasn’t turned off, always with the same cheery assurance that that we have just been DYING to hear from her, that our homes and families have been neglected, that we have been staring at the screen with longing, desperation in our hearts, waiting for her to tell us about the time she forgot to get a third spare key cut.

     And no one ever comments. No one ever clicks ‘like’. We just ignore her (and in my case cast poisonous looks at the screen, lips tightened, eyes narrowed). And wish to buggery that she’d get the hint. But no. Every bloody day, there she is. Her profile picture now enrages me to a borderline meltdown state of mind. It’s a grainy photo of her smiling wryly at the camera, eyes rolled heavenward to indicate ‘Me? I suppose I am very amusing, yes. Me with my wicked sense of humour and humorous writing THAT NO ONE EVER COMMENTS ON OR LIKES OR SHARES EVER, despite me spamming upwards of ten groups a day’. Even her facebook timeline is nothing but ‘Hey! You guys might want to check out my new blog post! I think you might recognise yourselves!’ (yes, of course I’ve looked at her profile, I am that nosy and ridiculously bothered by her).

     And she never engages with the groups. There could be a really interesting discussion going on about, gosh, I dunno, 12th Century undercrofts in the city (sorry, I did say I’m nerdish about history) that everyone is finding fascinating. And then she pops up. ‘Morning! Been doing a little bit of blogging! Here’s something about the time I couldn’t find my corkscrew!’ I find it incredibly rude. It’s like butting into someone’s deep and meaningful conversation and blurting out ‘Hey hey hey! I’ve got a joke for you! Why did the chicken cross the road?’ and then moving over to the next group of people as soon as you’ve rolled out the punchline.

     And the really, really stupid thing is that I ALWAYS click on her links to her blog. So I am feeding her addiction to relentlessly throwing her blog onto facebook, because obviously she can see where she’s getting traffic from, and realises she’s going to get at least one reader from all the groups she keeps pestering, so she’ll keep on doing it. I am part of the problem. I really should just block her, so that I can’t see when she’s posted. I know this.  But it is clickbait. And I can’t help myself.


*If by any horrible mischance she ever does come across this (the fallout of L reading Aftermath of a miscarriage is still uncomfortably fresh), then by all means Spammer Lady, do feel free to write a blog post about a complete and utter bitch slagging you off and being really unnecessarily personal and cruel. I am writing/ranting this so that I don’t comment on your facebook spam with the Mumsnet response of ODFOD, which would make me as rude as you are.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Miscarriage

     I was supposed to be writing a rant this morning. But I can’t summon up the energy. Why? Because scrolling through facebook on my phone after the school run, I saw two posts that made me drop my shoulders, and stare off into the distance for a little while (and oh the fucking irony of it being October 15th…).

      The first was from Mumsnet Woolly Hugs, a group of Mumsnetters who make blankets for various charities and individuals. It began as a project to make a blanket for a bereaved family. People knitted and crocheted six inch squares and sent them to the people organising it, who then joined up all the squares and sent it to the family, to let them know that a lot of people were sorry for their loss, and were thinking of them. It’s grown hugely since then, but the idea remains the same. 

     The second was from Cakes Kids and Other Ramblings and it did make me well up quite a lot, thinking about what she’d been through. It certainly put my experience into perspective.

     Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Rememberance Day. For people who’ve had a miscarriage, a stillbirth or lost an infant. One in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, so that’s a lot of people who are affected. And horribly, your chances of having another miscarriage are increased by the very fact of having had one previously. And of course, knowing that increases your stress levels when you’re pregnant. I remember when I was pregnant with The Boy, ten years after my miscarriage, how terrified I was of it happening again, even though what happened to me was because I’d fallen, rather than what’s called a ‘spontaneous’ miscarriage, where there’s no apparent reason for it.

     I remember how fervently I believed that some part of the spirit of the child I would have had stayed with me. I know that’s utterly woo bollocks, I know it. I’m an atheist, I’m deeply cynical, I have no time for spirits and crystals and souls and third eye fuckwittery. When someone talks about crap like that I want to slap them around the face with a wet fish. But… I still feel a little like that. Not in a ‘baby angel looks down on me from heaven’ crappy picture way. More that what happened did have an impact on me, more so than I perhaps realised in the immediate years afterwards, when I was trying not to think about it and had no one to talk to. I did self harm for a while, hoping the physical pain would distract from the emotional. Obviously it didn’t, and I still feel like a twat when I see my left wrist, although you wouldn’t really notice the marks.

     But in my case, I didn’t even know I was pregnant. If I had known, I would have been doing all that I could to have an abortion – I was 15, my boyfriend was massively unreliable, not in love with me, and 6,000 miles away, I very definitely did not want to have a baby. For a lot of women, a miscarriage is not for the best. For a lot of women, they want to have that child. For a lot of women, a miscarriage is one of the worst things that can happen to them.

     And it happens so often in secret. 80% of miscarriages happen in the first trimester (or first twelve weeks of pregnancy), which is the time when you keep it secret, before you have your first scan to tell you that things are progressing as they should. You’re advised not to tell anyone before then, because of the awkwardness of acquaintances asking how you’re doing and you having to say ‘Er, actually, I had a miscarriage’ before bursting into tears and snotting all over yourself. That’s an awful lot of women and their partners carrying around a lot of sorrow, misplaced guilt and angst in secretive silence.

     There are charities out there that can help though (of course they’re charities, not government agencies. Priorities and all that). I’ve linked to a few of them below. But the main thing is talking about it. I didn’t have that, and that’s probably why it’s haunted me so much and for so long. Trust me, talking about it helps. Don’t bottle it up, don’t dismiss it, don’t block it out.

     And tonight, I shall be lighting a candle at seven o’clock. Like I said, I’m not woo or sappy or a ‘Like if you believe in angels’ clicking sentimentalist (although lose the first five letters of that word and we may be a little closer to the truth). But it feels like the right thing to do.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Season of mist and mellow fruitfulness

     That time of year thou mayst in me behold
     When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
     Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
     Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
     In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
     As after sunset fadeth in the west;
     Which by and by black night doth take away,
     Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
     In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
     That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
     As the death-bed whereon it must expire
     Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
     This thou percveiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
     To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

     Did you have a good weekend? It was cheerless, dark and deadly here, although I wasn’t too downcast. Then, sadly, ‘Northern Sky’ got played on the radio on Sunday morning, and after standing in a reverie for a few minutes, I thought ‘Ooh! I haven’t listened to Nick Drake for aaages! Let’s stick Bryter Layter on!’ So I was preparing Sunday lunch, singing along, quite happy. And then the last song (it’s actually an instrumental) ‘Sunday’ came on. And an overwhelming feel of melancholy came over me.

     So of course, like the fool that I am, I put on Pink Moon. Yes. I know. Definitely not the album to listen to when rain is lashing the windows, all the lights are on because outside is dark and storm-tossed, and you’re already feeling prone to tears. The title track makes me feel kickarsely vengeful and vaguely angry, after that it’s all downhill until I reach ‘From the Morning’ and imagine it’s actually about dead people, and souls ascending to heaven. So like the masochist I am, I then dug out ‘Black Eyed Dog’, because I needed to feel worse as I peeled potatoes. And ‘Time of No Reply’ followed. Have you heard it? Opening lines:

     Summer was gone and the heat died down.
     And Autumn reached for her golden crown.
     I looked behind as I heard a sigh,
     But this was the time of no reply.

     And then I remembered that I Hate Autumn.

     I do, I really do. I hate it because it’s the terminal period of the year. It starts off promisingly with the last few sunny and warm days of the year, then just descends into misty, rainfilled days of feeling cold, conkers dropping on your head and pretending that you give a toss about Halloween. Throughout autumn I feel like I’m already mourning the loss of someone who is going to die soon, but is still hanging around, and honestly, you’d prefer it if they just shuffled off this mortal coil before Tuesday because the waiting for something you know is inevitable is torture. I hate it.

     I can’t get that worked up about winter. Winter is just THERE, being grey, bleak and dismal. Autumn is hateful because it offers you a teeny weeny little sliver of hope: ‘It’s quite a warm day for October!’ before slamming you in the face with stair rods of rain and gusting winds. Autumn is having to wear tights and an extra jumper. Autumn is querying whether it’s time to put the heating on, or write this wearing your dressing gown over clothes. Autumn is relegating your nice shoes to the back of the wardrobe and zipping up your Doc’s. I hate it.

     There is no hope in Autumn. You know that the next six months (usually more when you live in the UK) are going to be grim and damp, so dig out the thermal underwear, flex the hot water bottle and settle in for misery. You can dress it up however you like by pretending to be cheerful and saying how lovely and cosy the house is, but we all know that’s bollocks. The house is cosy because outside is so unspeakably dreary that anything else is an improvement. I hate it.

     The school run in Autumn is more aggravating than at other times of the year. Cold, wet, dark, stalking through miles of knee deep leaf mulch on the pavements, dodging other peoples umbrellas as they hold them at improbable angles, seemingly designed to take your eye out whilst also affording them zero visibility of other pavement users. And the crappy roads round here collect massive puddles that cause passing cars to send up sheets of dirty rainwater to soak me and The Blondies, making us shriek. I hate it.

     And people try to passively aggressively find ways of cheering themselves up about Autumn. ‘Halloween! Dressing up! Trick or treat! Toffee apples!’ Firstly, I do not want to see every other woman dressed up as a slutty vampire/slutty witch/slutty devil. Secondly, we have electric gates at the top of the drive for a reason. Thirdly, toffee apples are rank. ‘Bonfire Night! Remember, remember, the fifth of November!’ Yeah. I’d love to stand in a boggy field for a few hours, freezing my tits off, freaking out about The Blondies going crazy with sparklers, eating a half cooked jacket potato, and then dealing with the inevitable screaming meltdown when both children remember that they hate fireworks and are deeply traumatised by them. I hate it.

     Autumn is raking up acres of fallen leaves, reflecting on a job well done, then giving a little inward sigh as the next breath of wind instantly undoes all your good work. Autumn is realising that your east facing house will not see daylight for the foreseeable future. Autumn is packing away the sunlounger, scraping the barbecue and locking the garden toys in the garage. Autumn sucks all the joy and fun out of life. Au revoir joie, bonjour tristesse. I hate it.


     If I had my way, the first of October would be a signal to hunker down in a little homemade wicker basket, cover myself up with blankets, pull down the lid and hibernate until the first day of December (if you think I’m missing out my birthday, Christmas, and carol singing at the Unthank, then you do not know me). But it isn’t. Instead it’s the signal to gird your loins, put on your raincoat and prepare to be cheerless, dark and deadly. And for that, I hate it.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

A Skin Too Few

    Since I wrote about the boy back in June, I’ve found myself silently observing him more, taking time to measure up his words and look for undercurrents. And I don’t know if it’s just because I am more aware of his similarities to me, or if he is changing, but he seems to have grown a skin too few.

     I said before that we have the same routine each morning when I drop him off at school, the hug, the kiss, the ‘Love you’ , another hug, the turning round to make the heart gesture at me. But last week, the final hug was lasting for longer and longer. I was having to prompt him to let go with ‘Come on, you’ll be late, there’s the bell, have a great day, love you.’ And I could see from his reluctance to say goodbye that something was wrong, although when he spoke to me about his day at school there didn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary. But it was taking longer and longer to get him to go inside.

     On Tuesday, I had to take him into the cloakroom before he would release me.

     On Wednesday, I had to walk him to the classroom door.

     On Thursday, he still clung to me at the classroom door, and I ended up ripping a page out of my diary, writing him a little note to take in with him, telling him how much I loved him and all the good qualities he has, so if he felt sad during the day he could read it and feel better.

      All he would say about it was that he was missing me when he was at school, and he didn’t like saying goodbye. Yeah, nice try, I think it’s more than that. So after school on Thursday I sat down with him, and managed to coax the truth out of him. The New Girl.

     She’s been mentioned a few times, usually when The Boy is recounting something that’s annoyed him, and from what he’s said, it sounds as though being new has made her feel vulnerable, so she’s trying to establish a reputation for being a bit tough. Usually by causing problems for other children – kicking them, nicking their stuff, lying to the teachers about them, that sort of thing. The Boy’s been on the receiving end of it a few times, and my advice has been to ignore it, don’t respond, don’t give her the attention she wants when she’s being ‘bad’, but say nice things when she’s behaving better. Classic parenting advice from the school of pop psychology, along with, ‘Really, we should feel sorry for The New Girl, because she must be really unhappy with herself. You’re happy with who you are, so you don’t need to be nasty to other people.’ Yes, I actually said that. If I’d said ‘I think she’s jealous’ I would have won Middle Class Parental Advice Bingo.

     I very gently asked him if he was upset because she’d done something to him. And yes, she had, but it was also his friends. His friends were being hurt. And with tears in his eyes, The Boy burst out ‘It’s not fair! She made Other Children cry yesterday! I don’t care what she does to me, but she’s upsetting everyone in my class!’. I gulped back a few tears myself at that, and we agreed that I would speak to his teacher on Friday.

      So, feeling stupidly nervous, I went to see Mr G for the first time on Friday afternoon, reminding myself not to bark ‘Michael Gove’s Cumface!’ as a greeting. I needn’t have worried. The Boy’s teacher only qualified a year ago, and he’s ten years younger than me, but looks about twelve. I had to resist the urge to tell him to stand up straight and look grown ups in the eye. We had a quick chat, and without being unprofessional, he discreetly hinted that The New Girl had reasons for being The New Girl and that there were some ‘challenges’ to be dealt with. And then the killer blow ‘I know The Boy is a very sensitive little chap, his teacher from last year made specially sure to let me know that he takes things very much to heart. I’ll be keeping an eye on him.’

     So it’s not just my imagination. Other people see it too. And I’m worried. Because being the type of person who takes things too much to heart myself, I know how a simple throwaway comment that would barely register with most people stays with me. The one thing I’ve always tried to instil in my children is confidence, having been crippled by a lack of it myself. And it seems that whilst The Boy has the confidence to stand up to people, he has developed a tendency to take the weight of the world on his shoulders and let other peoples problems become his.

     I know that being a sympathetic person isn’t a bad thing, I should be proud of The Boy for caring about other people. But my concern is that by focussing too much on how other people feel and react, he’s going to always put himself last, just as he used to when he lived in his cousin’s pocket. And I want him to know that he is the most important person in his life, that it is ok to be selfish, up to a point, and he doesn’t have to fight on other people’s behalves.

     Take The Girl for example. One morning I was taking The Blondies and a classmate of The Girl to school (favour for a friend). The Girl was making up stupid jokes (‘What did the tree say to the cat? Aflimflam! AHAHAHA!’) and her classmate piped up ‘The Girl, your jokes are stupid and you’re not funny. If you don’t stop it, I won’t invite you to my party!’ The Girl just shrugged and carried on making up jokes. The Boy looked at me, aghast, his mouth a perfect O. Then: ‘Classmate, that’s a really horrible thing to say. The Girl would never say something like that to you! You should say sorry for hurting her feelings.’ (The Girl was at this point minutely inspecting a bogey she’d harvested, sublimely oblivious). I distracted them all by pointing at something, and considered it forgotten. Until…

     The following morning. ‘Mum? Are we taking Classmate to school today?’ ‘No, why?’ ‘Because she was so horrible to The Girl yesterday! What she said was really nasty, and she said it just to be mean!’ And every time we took Classmate to school after that, I could see The Boy watching her balefully, clearly on guard in case she said anything he could construe as ‘being mean’. Yes, I was proud of him for defending his sister, but at what cost to his ? Especially when the intended recipient of the remarks was wholly unbothered by them.


     And this wasn’t an isolated incident. It happens most days, from what I can see. And I don’t want him to necessarily toughen up, or change who he is, I just want for him not to feel things so intensely. I don’t want him to have a skin too few.

(I've been blogging more than normal lately. It's because of this post. It's taken me over a week to write it, and I'm not sure why I've struggled so much with it, but in an effort to distract myself from it, I was happy to seize upon anything else to write about).

Monday, 7 October 2013

BLOGFEST BABY!

     Oh me, oh my. I’ve had quite the week.

     It all kicked off last Friday with an unexpected email from Harper Impulse (stalkers may recall that I wrote a guest blog for them back in August) inviting me to a little shindig they’re throwing called Autumn Fete. It’s their  way of getting their authors, readers and guest bloggers together, and put faces to names, perhaps a bit of networking, that sort of thing. I didn’t have to even consider it for longer than it took to read the email. Prosecco? Canapes? Free books? Oh, well, gosh, now, let me think…

     Then there were A Few Other Things… cough… Both online and in real life, which were not so fantastic and I did not handle so well, although I am secretly quite chuffed that BOOBIES ARE FOR WINNERS LOL championship winning knockers lady and friends showed themselves up so beautifully.

     To try and restore order, I wrote a loveletter to The DivineComedy, which must have been the longest time I have ever spent in putting a post together because I kept having to stop to listen to the songs. And then edited out at least half of what I’d written, because it read as though I’d written a list of every song TDC have ever recorded and then said why I loved it.

     And then there was Thursday. Or The Day of The Slithy Gove’s Cumface. It’s a good job I ate a jar of coffee that day because, frankly, spending most of the day google image searching in pursuit of sex faces should only be attempted when you are completely off your overcaffeinated tits and have RUUUNNNNN to YOOOOUUUHOOOHOOOO as an earworm.

     On Friday (this is starting to read a little like ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’) I shattered the mental equilibrium of twitter by sharing The Cumface of The Slithy Gove, which made me snicker and hate myself in equal measure. I think I earned that glass of wine. And then a tweet mentioned me. WHAT. IN THE NAME. OF HEAVEN? I’VE WON A TICKET TO MUMSNET BLOGGERS NETWORK BLOGFEST. I actually screamed and clapped a hand to my chest, as though George Osborne had materialised next to me. And I think I burbled incoherently for a few hours, but it’s all a bit of a blur. There might have been some ‘Dance of The Overwhelmed Woman Going to Blogfest’ happenings, but Alistair is trying to spare me the flashbacks. On Saturday morning I got up stupidly early to see if Bobby Ewing was going to step out of the shower and reassure me that yes, it was all a dream. Instead I got the early morning sleeprumpled face of my boyfriend peering confusedly at me as I sang along to Camera Obscura with hair swishing antics, jabbing at a tweet on my phone and yelping ‘Iiiiii’m going to BLOGFEST!’


     So yeah. BLOGFEST BABY! See you there (I'll be the one in the Ed Balls mask).


Saturday, 5 October 2013

Poetic Justice

     It was National Poetry Day on Thursday and I fully intended to write something about it. Sadly for all readers, I got sucked into an overcaffeinated vortex of George Osborne, and Michael Gove’s Cumface. So slightly belatedly, here we are.

     I remember the first poem that ever truly resonated with me. I was six years old, and deliberately annoying my ten year old sister by reading her school exercise books, pointing out the spelling mistakes (I wasn’t a child genius, just a word obsessed bookworm). In her English class they’d been studying poetry and she’d carefully copied out the words to ‘Green’ by DH Lawrence.

The dawn was apple-green,
The sky was green wine
Held up in the sun,
The moon was a golden petal inbetween
She opened her eyes and green
They shone, clear like flowers undone
For the first time, now for the first time seen.

     It’s fairly obvious to me why this meant so much. Because, alone of my family (all blue-eyed), I have green eyes. And up until this time, I was slightly ashamed of them. It was a marker of me being different, Not Like The Rest Of Us, a faintly embarrassing dark shadow cast across Them. I was The Green Eyed Monster, the changeling, the weird one. Now suddenly, green eyes weren’t necessarily A Bad Thing. In fact, they had the potential of beauty (I’m saying potential, sadly there’s only so much you can do with a pig’s ear). This poem has stayed with me – slightly cringy teenage memory of writing it down and sticking it to my bedroom wall – even long after I blushingly realised what Lawrence actually meant by it. But it opened my (green) eyes to the way in which poetry can convey thoughts and emotions in a way that other forms of the written word can’t.

     School was fairly useless at introducing our young minds to the beauty of poetry. We were mostly taught tumpity tumpity tum tum tum rhymes like Mariana, ‘If’ and ‘Invictus’. The year that I spent in English Literature A Level trying to admire William Blake was pretty much wasted on me. But it didn’t matter because I’d already found the escape hatch into other poets. Things like John Fuller’s ‘Valentine’ (if you can read that and not fall a little bit in love with him, it’s safe to say that you and I are never going to be good friends), or Edna St Millay’s ‘Sonnet II’. Vicki Feaver’s ‘Coat’. The delicious joy of listening to John Hegley perform (sadly only saw this once in the flesh so far). ‘Apprehensions’* in Birthday Letters… actually, no, hang that, the whole of Birthday Letters, that utterly catastrophically soul destroying collection of poems that never fails to bring me to tears. I can pluck any poem out of that book and be caught afresh by it. 

     And if you really want to get me sobbing, then just shove any of Wordsworth’s ‘Lucy’ poems at me (please don’t play The Divine Comedy’ssong of the same, it will break me a little). Or 'When You Are Old' by Yeats. 

     When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
     And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
    And slowly read, and dream of the soft look 
     Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

     How many loved your moments of glad grace,
     And loved your beauty with love false or true,
     But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
    And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

     And bending down beside the glowing bars,
     Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
     And paced upon the mountains overhead
     And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

 See? I... hang on, something in my eye... Seriously, how the hell did Maud Gonne resist someone who could write like that about her? I suppose he got his revenge in the end, when he wrote 'There is grey in your hair, young men no longer catch their breath when you are passing.'  Ouch. I'll bet that hurt.

     Recently The Boy has been starting to read poetry too, which pleases me enormously. I suggested he try Shel Silverstein (whom I loved when I was a child) and ‘Jabberwocky’, which, let it never be forgotten, was the inspiration for The Slithy Gove. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry. If it helps, here are a few lines from MacBeth:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted candles
The way to dusty. Death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more; it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.


     Dunno about you, but I feel better for that. Or, to put it another way ‘we are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep'. So despair not! One day you will experience the blessed and merciful release of death, and when that happens you need never have to think again of The Cumface of The Slithy Gove. But until then…


  
      Don't have nightmares!

      I am running away so fast you will never catch me.

*Maddeningly, I can't find 'Apprehensions' online anywhere, if you do ever come across it on a site, let me know. It's making me feel lemonlipped to not provide a link to it.

Friday, 4 October 2013

The Men Below The Line

     Here it comes. Don’t get scared now. In a bonus feature designed to hurt you, in some cases I have been able to find images of their sex face and the expression they pull when at the point of orgasm. I am so very, very sorry. Also, if you don't know the excuse reason for this, have a gander here first.

     So the very first person (they, wisely, wished to stay anonymous) who commented on ‘Ed Balls’ said they couldn’t imagine Tom Watson. I could. Sadly. All too clearly.



     Tom Watson. Small penis. Prone to girlish giggles at inappropriate moments and would make squeaky little noises in time with his thrusts.

     I KNEW that someone would ask me about George Osborne. I KNEW it. Probably the same Mumsnetter who tried to twist my melon by asking about Danny Alexander (slab of albino spam. Slab of albino spam. Slab of albino spam).



     He would be pale, cold and clammy. Worryingly intense, he would stare at your face the whole time with absolutely no facial expression other than the habitual sneer. No position other than missionary, and he would grip your hands quite tightly throughout. Very fast thrustage. No sound. At the point of orgasm his body would stiffen like a corpse for at least one minute (still staring at you) and his face would go purple and appear as if he was swallowing his own tongue, silently. Then he'd briskly withdraw and go to the bathroom.



     You'd realise when trying to get dressed afterwards that he had stolen your knickers. Which he would deny.



     Gordy Bran popped up. No. I’ve told you I can’t DO Gordy Barn. Look at the picture. Look. At. It. It’s not my fault.

     Interestingly, John Prescott has the same effect. Brain just says 'No. I'm not going there. You're on your own.' Which is a good thing, because THIS 



     I was urged to ‘Do Nick Clegg!’ Um, no thanks. And in any case, even if I wanted to, I couldn’t.



     Clegg used to be a feathery stroker until he met Miriam and she sorted him out. Unfortunately, the downturn in his political fortunes has been mirrored by a downturn in the bedroom. Now he sits on the edge of the bed, gazing sadly at his crotch as Miriam storms past him into the bathroom in a mega strop. Again. Later, he pretends to be asleep when he hears her open her top bedside drawer if you know what I mean

     As inevitable as the George Osborne request was, so too was our glorious leader, ‘Call me Dave’ Cameron. I was actually surprised that no one had asked earlier. In researching the  photo, I found it very hard, in fact nigh on impossible, to find a picture of him expressing any kind of emotion at all. Which was quite handy, because that suited my purpose very well.



     Dave? He views sex as a duty, twice a week, and is quite brisk in his manner ahead of it because it is Not Something To Be Enjoyed, it is Something That Must Be Done To Keep A Marriage Strong : 'Sam, it's Tuesday.' No foreplay, and no hip action AT ALL, he instead bobs up and down using his entire body. No talking. No sounds. Always takes seven minutes exactly while SamCam lies underneath him, thinking about buckles on handbags.

     A lovely person, a good, kind, sweet, gentle and wonderful person, who deserves to be beatified asked me about Andy ‘Bambi’ Burnham. Oh how I needed to google image search Andy Burnham after spending nearly an hour staring at the face of George Osborne trying not to pluck my eyes out with a spork.



     I've only just been introduced to the pleasure of Andy Burnham. Not sure how he evaded my attention for so long. He'd be lovely. A little timid and hesitant at first (slight hint of a feathery strokiness), but once he got going he would take to it like a cat to sunlight, and would say lots of lovely things.


     This picture is in no way relevant to this discussion, but I know how admired Bambi & Balls are, so I'm putting it up as an antidote to the horrors that lie ahead of us.

     Peter Mandelson. Yes, I know, obviously, but I was fulfilling a request.



     Mandelson. He would trick you into thinking he's a feathery stroker (something about the way he delicately brushes his hair away from his face with his forefinger). Then would reveal himself as Sexmeister General, with mildly pervy doings, self control of iron, and the rhythm of a metronome.

     A comparison between The Brothers Johnson was sought.



     Jo Johnson... Has a thing about Nanny. Would do lots of talking in weird babyish voice 'I fink little JoJo  want to make a snugglesome cuddle wiv oo'. Very much NOT like Boris. 

     Another sadly foreseeable question.



     Good lord, IDS. My head is telling me he would be terrible, but my weird spidey sense of politicians is saying that actually he wouldn't be too bad. He'd be intense, certainly, and definitely has certain ‘interests’ which would require him to say 'Just slip this on, it shouldn’t hurt' in that slightly urgent tone of voice he has. 



     You'd like it, but you wouldn't like yourself for liking it. Do not underestimate the determination of a quiet man.

     Dear lord, google autofill can be a worrying place. Apparently, if you start to type ‘Jeremy Browne’ into the search box, it suggests you might be looking for ‘Jeremy Browne MP shorts’ and (get this) ‘Jeremy Browne mp sexy’. Hmm (but then I know what search terms brought some of you here, and all I’m going to say is that one about a school field trip was a worrying insight into the minds of The Young People Today).



     Jeremy Browne. Incredibly intense. MINDBLOWINGLY intense physically, but you'd get the feeling it was more about him experimenting, than about enjoyment. You'd feel a bit taken advantage of afterwards. But would be gagging for more.

     And then, of course it happened. It had to, really, didn’t it? Someone just had to take it just that little bit too far. No, actually, not a little bit too far. Far too far. Farrer than anyone else could ever possibly take it, to the far side of Farsville. By which I mean The Slithy Gove.

     ‘Can you imagine what The Slithy Gove would be like?’

     Oh. My brain wants to crawl out of my nose, curl up in a corner of the living room and die. Of course I could imagine it. This is ME you’re talking to. I have The Gift. The gift that keeps on giving. Giving me seriously painful thoughts on the sex lives of politicians. I don’t even want to type this down a second time in case the words suddenly burst to life, skitter off the screen and wrap themselves around my face. FOREVER. But obviously I'm going to.



     Gove. Needlessly and horribly aggressive, shouting expletives at you constantly in the style of Simon from The Inbetweeners trying to talk dirty ‘I’m going to fuck fuck your fanny off, you twat!’ with little bubbly flecks of spittle collecting at the sides of his mouth. Makes strange gurgling sounds to accompany movement that suggests an especially excitable Chihuahua. Also, I hate to break it to you, but he has a well equipped room. Actually, not a room, more of a… Dungeon. Don’t ask. CANNOT BE UNSEEN.

And finally, don’t have nightmares, but The Slithy Gove’s cumface






Thursday, 3 October 2013

Advance Warning

     If you have been here before, then I have something to say to you that you may find upsetting. Because of you, I have spent all day today hammering the life out of google images. So much of what I have had to see has been deeply distressing and traumatising, both for me and the innocent Blondies, who have unexpectedly caught sight of scenes that no child should ever have to see. With that in mind, I can assure you that the post I am planning to write will be deferred until tomorrow, when they will be be at school, and protected from further harm.

     I think it's time we addressed something. Way back in April, the very second thing I posted on here was a little piece entitled 'Ed Balls'. And some of you read it. Some of you shared it. Some of you discussed how I represented All That Is Wrong With Modern Britain and Why Free Speech Should Be Banned. And the comments underneath the original piece generated nearly as much attention as the piece itself.

     I have been haunted by the feeling that I failed those politicians, those 'men under the line'. It was cruel and unfeeling of me to ignore them, to write them off and not grant them their rightful place on the blog. And not just them. The ones I was asked about on a forum. The replies I gave to people who hunted me down online, with a request 'from a friend' to find out about a certain politician. So I knew that one day, some day, I would have to pull all that I'd written together and grant them, those men, the ones who came after, their own showcase, with photos. Yes, photos. That's what I've spent today doing.


      Now press play on the video. You need to do it now, before you go any further.

     And of course, as you might expect, I indulged in a little light Ed Ballage. And I found something. Something that made me think. And I knew that the only way to improve the situation in which I unexpectedly found myself was to add a song. Specifically, that song. I needed the chorus of that song.

     So before you scroll any further down, I need you to do something for me. Please, just trust me on this. It is of vital importance that before you go any further, before you do this, the song MUST be at the chorus. Doesn't matter if it's the first or the last chorus. You need to be precisely at 'I WANT TO RUUUUUNNNN TO YOOOUUUHOOHOOO' for this to work. You might have to pause the video, or repeat it, depending upon your reading speed, obviously.

     Ok. Are you with me? Are you keeping up to date on this?

     I'm going to put something on here now.

     PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU ARE AT THE CHORUS.

     I MEAN IT. YOU WILL RUIN YOUR LIFE FOREVER IF YOU ARE NOT.

     Finger poised to press play? Finger poised to scroll?

     Ok everyone. Let's do this.

     I present...

     THIS:




Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Like a toddler with a CD player

      I've told you before how much I lovecricket. And one of my other loves is the music of The Divine Comedy. So you can imagine just how much I squealed when I discovered that Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy was half of The Duckworth Lewis Method (motto: Once you cricket pop, you can't stop), a musical double act devoted to singing songs about... CRICKET! Have a squizz at them playing on TMS here I managed to see them perform at Norwich Arts Centre a few weeks ago and now I can die a happy woman.

     An unexpected development from this has been a need to listen to The Divine Comedy over and over again, like a toddler demanding the same. Bloody. Bedtime. Story. Every night. For months. And reflecting that, when Terry Gilliam finally gets around to directing the film protraying the story of my life, the soundtrack is already prepared. And he only has to get in touch with Neil Hannon to sort it.

     The first time I became aware of them was when I heard 'The Frog Princess' And it made me smile a little bit wryly to myself, because it fairly accurately reflected oh, you know, stuff. Not least 'I met a girl, she was a complete mess'. So I sought more of their musicout and loved it. Really loved it.Becoming obsessed with it in the way that teenagers do. And now I am 33, and still listening to them slavishly. I will now attempt, without the aid of a safety net, to convert you to the cause.

     'Generation Sex elects the type of guys you wouldn't leave your kids with.' Written in 1998/99, it's kind of prescient, wouldn't you say Mr Cameron?

     There's a line in 'When a Man Cries' that makes me howl every time I hear it. It's not anything deeply profound, just 'Then she'd take all my pain and explain it away.' but it's the catch in his voice as he sings it that stabs me in the brain.

     And there are some cracking oneliners in his lyrics. How about 'Death by faulty ripcord, or loose carabiner' in 'Thrillseeker' ? Or 'But it's my triumph of will/ Just to stay alive til/ They've spent several mill/ Ion, trying to save me/ Albeit vainly' from the same song? 'Can anyone spare me ten billion quid?/ Why'd you look so glum?/ Was it something I did?' from 'The Complete Banker'? Which also contains a nice little sideswipe at 'Call me Dave' Cameron and 'sweet Samantha'. And there is a certain irony in how easily I took to heart his advice to 'Always to thine own self be true/ Not to fools like me/ Who'll change their minds/ For the sake of rhyming schemes' from 'Life on Earth

     There's a certain poetry to his work. 'Commuter Love' could easily have been sung by J. Alfred Prufrock. There's such a sense of absolute heartbreak and desolation in the line 'Not gonna take any risks... This time.' And of course 'Lucy' which is Wordsworth's poem set to music and may, possibly have influenced the choice of Sue de Nim for this blog. And anyone who can write & sing the following (in The Lost Art Of Conversation) is going to get a jug of Pimm's made for them by me:

     'Hallucinations, Good Vibrations, Van Dyke Parks,
     Greyhound racing, Steeplechasing, The Reformation,
     Transubstantiation, Bram Stoker's creation,
     The land of the Thracians'

'Assume the Perpendicular' Title alone merits a listen.

     I wouldn't say I'm obsessed... Actually, no, I would. I am. I realised this when The Boy started singing 'My Lovely Horse' to his sister this morning when she was pretending to be a unicorn. He's never seen an episode of Father Ted, but when he reached the end he shouted 'We have to lose that sax solo!'
And I do tend to overuse the songs in every day life. Sometimes I like to irritate, annoy and embarrass Aistair and The Blondies when we're out in public. The quickest and easiest way to do this, I've found, is to perform a rendition of 'Have You Ever Been In Love?' at peak volume, in conjunction with a Strictly Come Dancing inspired quickstep. I'll be appearing in the aisles of Queens Road Sainsbury's in the next few days. Tickets still available.

     When I've behaved like an utter bellend towards Alistair, I (eventually) gruffly apologise. And play 'If I were you, I'd be through with me' Perhaps with a dance routine, depending on how badly I've behaved. Similarly, Alistair can't sing. But he makes a game stab at it when he hears 'I like' Partly because he says it was written about me. Also because he knows it reminds me of the Mumsnet Plastic Vadge thread which makes me laugh so hard I give myself a headache. To show my appreciation for his kind gesture, I start bopping around like I'm in Pan's People. I definitely did not have to break off from typing to do just that.

     And I definitely do not break off from whatever I'm doing to act out a Busby Berkeley stylie dance routine to 'National Express' This nonexistent dance routine most emphatically does not involve high kicks, Charlestoning, imaginary top hat lifting, cane pointing and finger clicking in the style of The Sharks and The Jets in West Side Story. DEFINITELY not.

     Fancy a song about Chaos Theory, randomness, and lost love that includes a soliloquy about the future of the world and fearing for the future of your children? Neil's got that one covered in 'The Certainty of Chance'

     There have been so many dire songs written about Northern Ireland I run out of fingers to point at the artists responsible. Here's 'Sunrise' instead, written by someone who actually is from NornIrelandNil. And it's sweetly, cautiously optimistic about the future. Something about belting out the last few lines never fails to make me feel a little more hopeful too.

     And of all the music in the canon of The Divine Comedy, 'If...' will always be my favourite. I once saw this described as the most perfectly deranged love song ever written. Hell, YES. It starts off relatively lightly. And then gets a bit weird, hauled back to something approaching normality, before descending into every wrong thing to say to someone you love. But also the kind of thing that someone a little warped and prone to major highs and lows might briefly think about the one they love. I can't quite look myself in the eye right now.