Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Present Past and Future- Weddings and NYE

If you read my last blog post, you could be forgiven for thinking I was nine years old. After the events of the weekend it appears I am in fact a bit older than nine... apparently I am old enough to go to a friend's wedding and make an absolute arse of myself.

I thought I had at least a decade left before I transformed into an embarrassing, drunken wedding stock character mais non, that was me on Saturday.

Praise the rain, I did not act alone.

Me and my friend Claire* travelled from Stockport to St Helens to see Chesh- our friend from uni- get married. Since we left uni, Chesh is one of the girls I haven't seen very often, even though we lived together for two years. It's always the same though, when we meet up. I'm so glad we were invited to the wedding. I just hope Chesh doesn't now regret inviting us...

Chesh has been with her boyfriend- sorry husband- for seven years and while we were at uni she'd talk about engagement rings and wedding dresses, so it was surreal actually being there on her wedding day. The ceremony was in a Catholic church and as Claire isn't Catholic, I took the opportunity to point things out to her, like The Stations of the Cross. She found it amusing that we were sat next to a charming wooden carving of a naked Jesus being forced onto a cross and having nails driven into his hands... Lovely decor.

I haven't been to church for so long that I'd forgotten a lot of things- like making the sign of the cross towards the alter before you sit on the benches, for example- but Claire egged me on to get communion. I felt like a bit of a fraud and half-expected the priest to challenge me on my Catholic credentials before he gave me a bit of Jesus's wafery flesh to pop in my mouth, but he didn't. When I got back to my seat with Jesus stuck to the roof of my mouth, I automatically got to my knees and started praying. Claire looked horrified and asked me what I was doing, just like Kayt did when I fell to my knees in the Notre-Dame.

Most of the time I think I definitely don't believe in God but sometimes I think I am definitely going to hell and I need to confess all my sins ASAP... so I always make sure I have communion if it's on offer. Better to be safe than BURNING IN HELL.

As we had both talked to Chesh A LOT about her wedding day when we were at uni, me and Claire made some very accurate guesses about the dresses. The bridesmaids were in a pale olive green (we guessed teal), Chesh's mum was wearing an olive green suit and a fabulous hat (we guessed the right outfit, but said the colour blue) and Chesh wore a vintage wedding dress, overlaid with beaded lace and flaring out into a long trail. We debated if she would go for her signature Red Lip- she did and we were so glad.

I surprised myself by crying when the couple said their vows. Chesh's voice started breaking and that set all the girls in the pews off. For me, weddings are normally all about the bride's dress and the alcohol, but Chesh kept smiling at the groom- a really big, genuine smile- and it got me, good and proper.

I had a moment of 'This is a really beautiful, lovely thing and I'm so happy for her' and that's probably the only none-disgusting thing I did all day. Once we started drinking our decorum went to shit.

(I've just remembered! Towards the end of mass, when you shake hands with those around you, Claire was saying 'All the best, take care mate' instead of 'Peace be with you.)

We were quite well behaved during the meal, but after the speeches Claire wrote #LADS in the guest book and from there we spiralled into silliness. Our other friend from uni, Jen, arrived from Gatwick. She'd come straight from a skiing holiday in Italy and she'd made a stop at the Duty Free.

Luckily we were staying at the hotel, so while everyone waited for the banqueting hall to be turned into a disco for the evening do, we sat in our room and drank some of Jen's duty free goods. Somehow on our way from the room to the reception, we ended up posing for very crude, silly photos. The only photo of me from the whole wedding is of me bumming Jen in a corridor... I can't help feeling that we let Chesh down.

We managed to chat to Chesh a little bit in the evening do, but she was so busy being a bride all night and making sure she got round to everyone, that we spent most of the evening in our disgraceful little threesome, somehow ostracising ourselves from the rest of the guests without noticing.

When Claire staggered off to get three Jagerbombs, Jen pretended to go to to the toilet to be sick... Really she sneaked off to our room and went to sleep, leaving me and Claire to get drunker and drunker, sillier and sillier.

Claire started doing a 'sexy' dance to make me laugh, as in a ridiculous stripper-style dance that we would never do in real life and therefore find very amusing, but as nobody else at the wedding knew who we were, perhaps in hindsight it looked as if she was genuinely sexy dancing.In her defense, I must make it clear that Claire was on the edge of the dance floor and nobody else was watching. (That we could see.)

Deep down inside, we're all little kids who just want to make our friends laugh. So the more I laughed, the more outrageous Claire became. She brought in a chair. I laughed more. She sat backwards on the chair... You get the picture. It got to the point where Claire was upside down on the chair doing the scissors with her legs and I was crying, with pains in my stomach, laughing so hard I thought I was going to be sick.

Then. Chesh appeared out of nowhere, a vision in white. She bent down and told Claire to stop it.

"James' family are very conservative!" she said.

We'd been told off. We'd disgraced ourselves. We should have gone to bed, but we didn't.

We continued to strut around the dance floor, clicking with our eyes half-closed, like two pervy uncles. The Dirty Dancing song came on and we start doing The Routine. I announced that I would be Patrick Swayze and for a while we had quite a good dance going... Claire ended up half-way across the dance floor so I shouted at her to run to me- I would catch her and lift her up, like in the film.

You can guess what happened.

Two seconds later, we were being helped up off the floor and Chesh said, "Girls, you're going to hurt yourselves."

Luckily we weren't hurt, we were laughing like two silly idiots. The worst thing is, Claire can't remember why we fell over and I pretended I couldn't either... I knew very well it was all my fault.

We started dancing again and for some reason I pretended to be a little old Irish man. I patted Claire on the back and said, "You're alright, I've got you, I've got you" whilst trying to lift her up again by one leg. While I was doing this, Claire was laughing and saying "I'm going to wet myself I'm going to wet myself."

I have no idea what everyone else must have thought and I hope I never find out.

The next morning at 7am Claire woke me and Jen up by shouting, "Oh god oh god oh god. I'm lying in a bed of shame."

We went down to breakfast so we could say goodbye to Chesh. Claire apologised for her behaviour and Chesh said she will visit us for a proper catch up in London soon. I hope she really meant it and that she hasn't washed her hands of us. Chesh and her new husband looked so fresh and wholesome, all clean hair and ski jumpers. I felt rough and grubby, head hanging in shame over my Full English breakfast.

So, not exactly on our best behaviour. Our excuse is that we hadn't had a night out together since we finished uni four years ago and it was technically still the Christmas Period of Excessive Drinking.

I can't believe it's NYE...

And I'm working.

The deputy manager who I'll be working with tonight said I can wear a 'nice top' and do 'nice hair and make-up', but what's the point in putting lipstick on if I'm just going to be stood behind the bar with a face like a slapped arse all night?

If I could get hold of some valium, I wouldn't mind going straight home from work and knocking myself out until next year, but I don't have any. I know I'll get home and feel all wired from work. I don't fancy watching Jools Holland on my own, stuffing myself with Christmas cheese and chocolate and crying.

The weird thing is, a couple of years ago I came to London for NYE and  my cousin had a party. We left it  to go and see her boyfriend in work... and his work was the pub where I now work!!! If I would have known then that I'd be spending a future NYE there, behind the bar... I probably wouldn't have left fucking Paris.

*I know I mention this every time I write 'me and someone' but I want you to know that I know it's not grammatically correct... I just can't bear to write 'Someone and I'. Ergh.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Christmas and My Cloak

Christmas has melted away again- I feel like the little boy in The Snowman, stood in the garden all sad and alone, looking down at a wet hat and cold potato, with only a scarf to remember the magical episode by.

Except instead of a scarf I've been left with quite a lot of good stuff! After this year's Birthday Present Ordeal- when I asked mum to 'surprise me' but failed to stipulate that the surprise couldn't be NOTHING- I thought I better be tacky and ask for a specific present to make sure I got one. I asked for heated rollers, because I am sick of my hair hanging heavy and straight around my waist like a mad tatty witch's. 

As it got nearer to Christmas I told her not to bother with the present, because I wouldn't be able to give her anything, or anyone else for that matter. Inspired by my friend Lauren, I'd bought jam jars and cellophane bags off Amazon with the intention of filling them with homemade presents... But after buying the Amazon stuff, I ran out of money. I thought about filling them with rocks and calling them Magic Fairy Dream Wishing Stones... Then I thought about claiming they were Jars Filled With Love but as everyone knows I don't believe love is a real thing (it isn't- it's an idea that doesn't exist except in the human mind, like The Moomins or algebra), they'd know I was just giving them an empty jam jar. Or a jam jar filled with invisible bullshit. 

In the end I got some extra cash from a magic money tree I'd had all along (curiously it was plastic, oblong-shaped and embossed with a 16 digit number) and I made chocolates and chutney for everyone. I also went to the swish charity shops near me and found a scarf and some earrings for my mum and a book for my brother. The good thing about family is that they have to pretend to like whatever you wrap up and present them with on Christmas Day. Ha.

I was quite pleased with everything, apart from the chutney which smelt like vinegar soup and tasted like tangy sugar, but the chef at work told me it takes a few weeks to 'mature'... These are the recipes I made from BBC Good Food if you need easy edible gift ideas:

White Chocolate Pretzel Bites (or 'Snowflake Surprises' as I called them)
I used dried cranberries instead of raisins because they go better with white chocolate and also raisins are minging.

Chocolate Hazlenut Truffles
My uncle who is a baker tasted one and said it was actually a grenache, so maybe rename them.

Chocolate and Ginger Squares
If you haven'g got baking parchment don't improvise with tin foil, or you're in for a very tense half hour of scraping and swearing.

Mary Berry's Christmas Chutney
Took bloody hours to make and it takes a month to mature, but it looks like you've made an effort.

The only snag was that they melted a little bit during my four hour coach journey from London to Manchester, but I think I just about got away with it. As my phone isn't working at the moment (O2 sent me a new monthly plan sim card, except they didn't, so my current SIM has been stopped and the only way I can talk to them about it is if I call them from my O2 number) I had no way of contacting anybody, so when I finally arrived in Any Northern Mill Town I had to walk to my mum's house, dragging my suitcase along a windy, hilltop road...

I felt like Charlotte Brontë, walking against the wind, surrounded by hills and bare trees, the old mill visible through thin winter branches.

Finally I was opening the gate and walking by the side of the house to the back door. I passed the kitchen and looked in at my mum, who was sitting at the table facing the window. She looked up in my direction and called to my brother, "Sounds like the back gate is going in the wind!"

Eeeeeeee it was really creepy, like I was a ghost trying to come home for Christmas. It's making me shiver all over again.

Heathcliff, it's me I'm Cathy I'm come home! Let me in at your window-oh-oh-oh-ohhhh!

Luckily, I banged on the window and she saw me. IT WAS VERY EXCITING!

The fire was on and my mum has a lovely little cat called Lily and my brother was home and we were so excited for Christmas! As I type I feel a bit sad because it's all over now...

But let me blog about it so I don't forget.

On Christmas Eve we drove with my gran to the Lakes. We haven't spent Christmas with my cousins for years and years and it was so lovely and fun and Christmassy. It was a bit of a mad, chaotic squash as there was ten of us and three beds but it was the best Christmas EVER. The night before Christmas my mum and my auntie got shockingly drunk, so much so that for the first time in our lives, we all woke up and Father Christmas hadn't left us a stocking.

Santa, you terrible drunk!

I woke up next to mum and told her about Father Christmas' outrageous unprofessional behaviour, then I dozed off again for a bit... When I woke up I kicked my feet out against something heavy and heard sleigh bells jingling. I LOVE CHRISTMAS AND I DON'T EVER WANT TO GROW UP. My cousins weren't so lucky, perhaps they are scarred for life as they had to watch me and my brother open our stockings and THEN their dog Paddy got to open his stocking... Seriously.

(Dogs are growing on me, by the way. Which reminds me... in case you were wondering what happened to my mum's monster lion dog, I did try and get on board and bond with the dog for my mum's sake, even when it was trampling all over me and I was screaming and couldn't get away and the dog trainer was stood in the doorway yelling DON'T BE A VICTIM! at me, but in the end it was too much hard work and it wasn't fair on anyone. The dog found a nice home on a farm with a family who want to put it in shows and I am slightly cured of my Dog Phobia but it doesn't change the fact that they EAT FACES and KILL TODDLERS and THEIR SHIT MAKES YOU BLIND so watch out.)

My younger cousin had to go to work so we didn't open our presents until after dinner. It was nice actually as we forgot all about the presents. Instead, the day was about family, togetherness and prosecco.

The middle sister of my three cousins is very similar to me in the way that sometimes she behaves in a way that others deem a bit unusual, except where I can be a little eccentric, Clo is (and I'm sure she won't mind me saying this) absolutely bat shit crazy. She has been living on a hippie commune in California for a few months and told me that tampons have a chemical in them that makes you bleed more and if you read the small print on a box of tampons it says it in the small print!!

Anyway.

Me and Clo went for a Christmas Day wander in my cloak. The setting was perfect, the fading afternoon light, the craggy, windswept hills... I know I've said I felt like Charlotte Brontë about six millions times already but guess what-

I felt like Charlotte Brontë!

You don't have to imagine it because I finally have some photos of my cloak! You are finally going to get a glimpse of it, are you ready?

Are you terribly excited?

If you say no I'm not putting the photos up.

Ok, good. I'm glad. Here they are:




Do you love it??????

I've now taken the first steps to wearing my cloak in public, but we still have a long way to go before I start wearing it on the tube, to the post office, for drinks etc.

When we finally opened our presents, I discovered that I HAD got heated rollers but as it turns out, I can't use them. I have honestly given it a good go this evening but I am hopeless. Looks like I'm not clever enough to create my own beautiful, bouncy curls and I'm destined to have horrible hair FOREVER.

On Boxing Day two of my cousins and my brother jumped in the freezing lake. Me, my other cousin and her boyfriend went along to watch and I kind of wish I'd joined it but the thought of hobbling along the pier afterwards trying to dry my feet and put my clothes on was hideous to me.

The lake was misty and still and eerily beautiful. To prove my new fondness for dogs I even held Paddy's lead:



On the night of Boxing Day us 'young people' went to the local 'club' for a night of hilarious dancing. I've never seen my cousin's boyfriend dance before and he was throwing himself around the dance floor like a cross between Mick Jagger and Lady Gaga, it was great.

Then this morning mum drove us home again and I feel a bit sad. I'm going to a wedding tomorrow which will be lovely except my hair's going to look SHIT then I'm heading back to London on Sunday.

Can't really be arsed with London but I think at the moment I can't be arsed with ANYTHING, it's not that I have a problem with London. Everyone keeps telling me stories about their travels and I am very tempted but I'm not a big fan of my life at the moment and if I fuck off traveling I would have to come back to this life eventually. Also I can't even save up to buy a new bra, never mind a trip around the world.

The point is... it was the best Christmas ever. When I was in Paris I really missed family time, so it was nice spending so much time with everyone.I'll miss bursting into song and four other family members joining in, and deciding to talk in an Irish accent and everyone else adopting the accent too without question.

I know what you're thinking and the answer is yes, you should get a cloak.


Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Yuletide

MERRY CHRISTMAS going to The Lakes in my cloak, the time for my cloak has come!!!!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

The Boyfriend Train

Last night London was so misty, I couldn't see the road ahead of me as I walked to the Post Office with my Christmas cards (I normally never send them, but thought I may as well use up all those bloody stamps I was FORCED to buy against my will a few weeks ago). It was perfect cloak weather- can you imagine the fog billowing away from the black velvet hem as I swished along mysteriously, folk in the distance squinting, Is that a cloaked figure in the mist?- but I bottled it.

Today is as good a day as any to finally tell you about The Boyfriend Train. Beth and Lauren have been asking me to blog about it for months, maybe even years...

I invented the Boyfriend Train analogy eons ago, nobody knows for sure but experts estimate it is between two and six years old. It is something that needs to be shared, it is very wise. As the Boyfriend Train will probably become a very successful international relationship-help movement, similar in scale to He's Just Not That Into You and He's Just A Massive Dickhead etc. I would like to take this opportunity to assert my sole creation and ownership of the Boyfriend Train analogy:

If anyone attempts to claim unauthorised credit for my idea I will go fucking apeshit and karma will get you, although please feel free to share the idea with as many people as possible. Just make sure you say 'Trademark Left Bank Manc' at the end.

Now we have the legal stuff out of the way let's begin. Imagine I am wearing a suit and stood on stage in front of a large projector screen, with a little mic on. Imagine you are sitting in the audience with bated breath wondering if all the reviews you read on my website are true.

"The Boyfriend Train is amazing! Everything makes sense. Well worth the $300."- Janet from Ohio.

Listen. People are surprised when they find out I have never had a boyfriend, because I'm 24 and seem relatively normal on the surface and most people have a partner at some point in their lives, even horrible people and animals and some types of fish. People either say: "God, I wouldn't have had you down as a massive slag."

or: "Really?"

which is a lot nicer than: "That doesn't surprise me sweetheart."

(This conversation recently happened with my mum, apparently she thought I had been having secret boyfriends for years and not telling anyone. What kind of hideous, freakish secret boyfriends did she think I was hiding??)

Then they say, "You'll get one" because they don't know about the Boyfriend Train.

You can't buy a ticket for the Boyfriend Train, you either have one or you don't. Your ticket will never expire. When friends break up with their boyfriends, I know they'll be back on the Boyfriend Train soon enough, even if they get off for a long stop-over in Single City. Tickets are non-refundable and non-exchangeable, so nobody is allowed to lend me their ticket while they have a break.

Think about it, you know it's true. The Boyfriend Train makes perfect sense.

There have been times when I've actually gone and waited at the station. The train pulled in but by the time I'd picked up all my bags and suitcases, I'd missed it. Then I realised I'd been stood on the wrong platform anyway. You know when you're really tired and you think your train has pulled in, but really it's the one on the opposite platform and everyone has seen you stand up to get on it and you feel like a dick? Well that's what happened.

The great thing is, if you have a ticket for The Boyfriend Train, you can normally upgrade it no problem. You just have to go and sit in First Class and when the ticket collector comes round, you ask for an upgrade. The problem is most people don't ask. They never go and sit in First Class. They just keep getting on the same carriage and feeling miserable about it.

You can get off the Boyfriend Train at any time, but the further you travel, the harder it is to get back on the same train. You could go past every stop but the last one for example and you can still hop off, but it might be extremely difficult to get back on that particular train. Your ticket is still valid, though. You'll just have to choose a different Boyfriend Train.

You don't have to get on the train just because you have a ticket. Some people have a ticket but never vaidate it because they don't like trains. However- if you're going to play, stay away from the train tracks. Like with all trains, don't fanny around dangerously close to the edge of the platform- there could be fatalities.

I

Get on the train or get off. The only time you can be half-on and half-off if is the train is stationary, if it's already moving you need to make a decision. Do you want to be on the Boyfriend Train or not?

It's impossible to be on two trains at once. If you are on a train and it's well on its way and picking up speed, don't try and jump onto another train. Ask the train driver to stop and descend safely. Have a little breather before you get on another train.

If you think a Boyfriend Train is coming but it's occupied, let it go past. Even if someone tries to passionately pull you into their train through the window as they speed past and it's all romantic, let the train go past. It's too dangerous.

I don't have a ticket for the Boyfriend Train. My friend Claire (not Posh Clare, as Claire with a 'i' would like me to stress) suggested that maybe I have just been saving up all this time to buy myself a First Class ticket but unfortunately you can't buy a ticket. I don't have one and that's fine because I've got a lifelong pass for the Cat Caravan.




So there you have it. The more you explore this analogy, the more sense it makes. Spread the word, but don't get upset if you would like a ticket but don't have a ticket because here's the thing- you can get a ticket at any time. Lauren has a relative who got her ticket aged fifty.

This doesn't apply for me though because I will never get a ticket. I don't want one now, but it would have been nice to know that one day I could get on the Boyfriend Train if I really wanted to... Alas, that will never happen. How do I know? I created the analogy so I know. Also, if I did have a ticket it's the sort of thing I would lose or throw away by accident. There is no hope for me. Leave me. I can hear a train coming... go, get on the train! Take snacks!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Any News?

I need to get Dial-A-Tramp up and running. Does anyone have three grand they can lend me? I need it to print some posters off- top quality ones on shiny paper-and then we'll be up and running. Now that I don't live in the rooftops of Paris we won't even need the bucket and pulley system. I'm going to ask that nice Big Issue man I met whilst flyering to get involved. He could be on the advert shouting 'Blue Blue Peekaboo' to announce his arrival with a carrier bag full of chocolate bars.

I really think it could work. When Kayt told a Real Businessman about our idea he said it could actually work if we used young boys instead but as I said at the time, the name 'Dial-A-Young-Boy' has some unwelcome connotations. It would be a good way for teens to earn a few quid at the weekends- cycling round, responding to calls from hungover, lazy people :

"Come please, we need fizzy liquid. And chicken crisps."

Are you convinced? I'm trying to wish Dial-A-Tramp (remember, the name is ironically provocative) into existence because I need to get some chocolate from the shop, but there's no way I can leave the flat- I'm working in the pub later so I don't want to get dressed and go out until absolutely necessary. There's some copywriting work I should be doing but... I'm working later, I can't work in the day too. God.

The pub's ok. They play quite good music sometimes, hilarious covers mixed with old school RnB and soul classics. I've got the words solitary sister in my head, but I can't remember the rest of the song. When I got the job I thought that perhaps I could transform myself into a vivacious Barbra Windsor type but it turns out your boobs don't grow just because you become a barmaid. I'm not really a barmaid either, not in the sexy, tart-with-a-heart Bet Lynch way. When builders come to the bar with their hi viz jackets on, to order a round for the 'lads', they call me 'mate'. Yesterday I thought someone called me 'sailor' and I went ballistic because it was a step TOO FAR but it turns out he said 'sweetheart' in a ridiculous cockney accent.

The accent takes some getting used to. We have an ale called 'Runner' and it took me a few shifts to figure out what a 'ranna' was.

News, news. Do I have any news?

Last night my friend Anna stayed over, who I haven't seen for two years since she left Paris and went to travel the world. I'm jealous, I don't know if I'll ever get to go travelling in the way I always thought I would. If I saved up for a year and went traveling for 12 months, I'd be two years older when I came back and in the same position I'm in now ie. nowhere.

News, news... any other news?

Oh. As far as Person I Sometimes Go Out for Drinks With goes... I can't really afford one of those at the moment so it's more a case of Person I Visit In His Flat... At Night Time.

Hmm.

In other news, last week I got a nice surprise after work. Lauren called me and said Jen had got free tickets through work for a musical. I met up with Lauren at Covent Garden and we looked at the Christmas tree then walked to the theatre and met Beth. Jen didn't want to come, which made me a bit suspicious, but it was really good. It was 'Stephen Ward The Musical', based on 'the Profumo Affair' that happened in the 60s, which I had never heard of.

As none of us had had time to research the show or the historical events it was based on, none of knew what to expect. One scene in particular took us rather by surprise- lots of old men in their underwear being whipped and spanked and a man in a gimp mask singing 'Touch me! Come on and touch me!' If I'd have have known the play was about rich, posh people... I would have seen it coming.






Monday, 2 December 2013

SO JOLLY


Am I allowed to blame my last blog post on my hormones? I didn't realise that my emotions had been hijacked by Mother Nature but- and excuse me for discussing my Lady Cycles so publicly- as soon as the red carpet was rolled out (yes I just made that up, let's all start saying it and make it A Thing, much more grandiose than saying 'I've got the painters and decorators in') everything made sense. The black cloud of my own making suddenly lifted, revealing...

Christmas! 

I was feeling very sad about money, worrying every minute of every day about being skint, lamenting the fact that I would never again be able to afford nights out, hair cuts, chorizo... Then I realised that just because I am a bit skint at the moment, it doesn't mean I will be skint FOREVER. Things change, situations improve. Be calm and positive, rather than skulking about London like a sad spider.

After work today I met my cousin and we walked to Covent Garden to look at the twinkling Christmas tree. Then I went home and put up the Christmas tree with my flatmate, whilst listening to Christmas songs. IT'S SO JOLLY!

:Later my mum called me to tell me all about her weekend- she flew to Ireland for a city break with her friends and she loved it. I'm so happy that my stepdad is gone! Life is nicer.

I was worrying about buying Christmas presents for my family, but now that my head is clear and calm, it doesn't seem like such a big deal. What was I thinking? I don't need to spend my rent money on shop-bought tat for everyone! I should be using my many many talents to create unique and thoughtful gifts...

I'm thinking of preparing a personalised dramatic reading for everyone, or maybe an interpretative dance. If I devise something for everyone who is going to be there on Christmas Day- mum, my brother, Gran, my auntie, my uncle, my cousins Sophie, Chloe and Mollie, maybe Paddy the dog- and each 'gift' is about five minutes long, that means everyone will have to sit in awed silence and watch me perform for 50 minutes. And that will be my Christmas present to myself this year.

Ooh, I could wear my cloak!