Monday, 18 January 2016

Miles and miles of trains

I need to tell you what happened the night before New Year's Eve!

Let me finish describing my very long-winded train odyssey.


So I went to Manchester and spent the evening with my mum and her boyfriend Phil...

Then I went to Liverpool to see Nana...

Then I arrived at Manchester Piccadilly and got on another train to mum's new house...

Then that evening I went back into town and met up with my friend Jen (not Jen I live with, Jen who moved to Australia for a few years and is now back). My crapberry rolled over and died for No Reason, so I had to rely on sticking to plans, old school style. I almost missed Jen, as were waiting at different entrances. It was like a scene from a bad sitcom. Luckily she was with her fiancé (whit woo) and she sent him round to see if I was waiting at the other door.

We went to the Christmas market, the first time I've been in years to the Manchester one, then I had to scoot off an wait in a bar for Amy. Without phones there can be no plan alterations! Kayt met us and I ended up staying at Kayt's, rather than going all the way back to mum's in Another Northern Mill Town.

The next day I went into town to do Christmas shopping, then I went back to mum's... and the next day I went into town AGAIN to meet up with my brother... and then we met Phil off the train - he came to spend Christmas with my family. 

We went to the Lakes on Christmas Eve, the usual chaos ensued, and it was over before I could blink. I got to catch up with my cousins and spend time with baby Aurora Rose, who is so lovely and cute. We left the Lakes just as the rivers started rising again, not so much spilling on to the roads, as slowly filling them up.

My family's homes were all fine in the floods, but they were cut off from work for a bit when it first happened. It is so scary, this crazy weather. It's snowing there at the moment, which has got to be better than heavy rains and flooding, but I don't know what will happen when the snow melts.

The day after Boxing Day, Phil and I got the train back down south so we could be at his family's big get-together in Kent. (I've never really been to Kent. The countryside is very flat, and the houses are much bigger than in the Northern countryside. It's so flat that you can see for miles and miles, even though there is nothing to see.)


One more leg of the journey and I will be quiet. 

Sooo I went back to work for a couple of days, then we were off again, the day before NYE.  We were going to his friends' new house in Brighton for NYE, but Phil's mum and dad who also live in Brighton were away on holiday, so we thought we would make a long weekend and travelled down the day before.

The trains were fucked because of work on the rails, so it was easier and actually quicker to get the coach. We arrived in Brighton about half ten at night, and slowly walked up to Phil's mum and dad's house in the suburbs. We stopped at a pub on the way home and had a couple of drinks, blissfully ignorant of the nightmare about to ensue.

It's funny, because as we walked in the cold drizzle, leaving the city centre behind us and entering Suburbia, I looked into dark gardens and tried to imagine sleeping in them. I had a drunken daydream about bedding down between someone's car and hedge, hidden from view. I imagined being cold and a bit scared, and trying to get warm in my coat.

It's almost like I cursed us with my strange imaginings. 

When we finally got to the house, Phil put his key in the lock and it didn't work. It was like a nightmare. I kept telling him to try it again, but he slowly realised what had happened - his mum had her bag stolen on holiday in the summer, with her keys in, and he guessed they had changed the locks upon returning to England. 

It has been so long since he'd been to their house on his own, that he hadn't even thought to check if he had the most recent key. 

I didn't know what we were going to do. Phil tried to call the friends we were supposed to be seeing on NYE, but they didn't answer. (We found out the next day they'd gone to bed early and their phones were on silent. They were both off work, so didn't need to set an alarm or check their phones.)

Phil mentioned that the 80 year old neighbour had a spare key, but we knew we couldn't knock on her door in the middle of the night and freak her out. But if she had the spare key... 

I envisioned a night crouching behind his parent's car, or a long walk back to the coach station. 

Phil decided to telephone the neighbour, she didn't answer the phone. He sent her a text message as well, just in case she was at home and awake. Amazingly, she saw the message and called Phil. He ran across the road to get the key and returned triumphant. 

We were going to get inside and have a nice cup of tea! Maybe even a biscuit! We were going to get into or pyjamas and be warm and cosy!

We weren't, because the neighbour's key didn't work either.

She was sure it was the latest key, but it didn't fit the lock properly. Awkwardly, she said we could stay at her house if we couldn't get in. And we couldn't get in, so we had to stay at her house.

I felt so bad. I thought about what my gran would do if someone interrupted her routine in the middle of the night. She said we could sleep in separate rooms, or we could both sleep in the same room, in twin beds, and she 'wouldn't tell Phil's mother'.

We opted for the twin beds, spaced half a metre apart, with a photo of the neighbour's priest brother next to my bed. I thought it was the Pope, although I do remember thinking it was younger than I remembered, as I fell asleep.

The next day we woke up at 7am, as the neighbour had told us to 'be out of her hair' in the morning. But I was so tired, and we had no clear plan.

We eventually got up at about 9am, and luckily the neighbour was just getting up too and was very cheerful. She had a job for Phil to do, moving some logs from the bottom of her garden, and she was glad to take the milk we'd bought on the way home the night before, so I felt like we at least were a bit helpful and not completely disruptive. :S

As soon as they woke up, Phil's friends checked their phones and said they would come and get us in the car. We ended up having a really really nice NYE with lots of amazing food, but GOODNESS ME I am going to be extremely paranoid about keys in the future.

When I told my friends this story they questioned how much Phil's parents like us, but I assure you they were not trying to lock us out on purpose! 

I can't find Martha Tilston's Brighton Song, which would be the perfect accompaniment to this post, but Space is a nice falling-asleep-song too. Makes me thinks about the quiet countryside, just seen in the moonlight, on the other side of a train window.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Soup Coup


I must say I am feeling pretty smug this month. There are 12 days left until payday and I have managed to hold on to some money, despite getting my January wages on the 18th December, instead of the 28th.

I did a big shop at my local market (fruit and veg) and at Lidl (everything else), spent £30 and bought enough food to last me for three weeks. Admittedly I have bought a few extras along the way, and I'm aware there are four weeks in a month and not three, but I still have some food in the fridge and freezer.

My main coup has been making 15 portions of soup and freezing them - that's lunch every day for three weeks. The downside is that I have to eat soup every day at work, and people in the office like to marvel aloud how I can eat so much and not get bored.

I am slightly bored, but I'd rather go out for drinks after work, than spend £8 on a fucking burrito to eat on my own at my desk.

I didn't spend that much money on Christmas presents, as we decided to do a Secret Santa with my family. I still did a stocking for mum, and bought presents for my gran and for my boyfriend (that makes it sound like I bought them joint presents - I did not), but the Secret Santa was only £20.

I spent most of my money on train tickets! Over Christmas I got the train A LOT. I went to Manchester and saw my mum, then the next day I went to Liverpool and saw my nana. She was in hospital again. Remember last year when she was in because they fucked up her bowels while carrying out a test for ovarian cancer? Then they sewed her up badly and she got septicemia, and after that she couldn't eat or drink for six months. She was well enough to leave by March and went to live in her new flat, but then a few months ago she was rushed into hospital again, and now she's in a hospice.

It's a bit weird as nobody really told me what was wrong at first, I just knew it was serious so I took the next day off work, which happened to be a Friday, and went to see her. I'm so glad I did, as she was still herself then.

I took Phil to see her and she liked that. On the first day he didn't come to the hospital with me, as I wasn't sure what she would be like. But then as I was leaving she said to nobody in particular, "Ok bye bye now. She's brought her boyfriend but I don't get to meet him, so there you go. Anyway bye bye, he's with her in Liverpool but I won't meet him, ta-rah now anyway."

So the next day I brought him along and he got to meet Nana when she was still very lively and herself. Occasionally she got confused, but that's to be expected. She told me her mechanic came to see her and said he was going to fix her heart with his key, then she frowned as if that wasn't right.

"Are you sure that wasn't a dream, Nana?" I said.

"Yeah... yeah it was I think." she said.

Sometimes I wake up and think my dreams have really happened, especially if I've dreamt about something happening in my bedroom at night. It's easy to see how you could get confused, being in a hospital on drugs.

But that was a couple of months ago. I went to see her just before Christmas in the hospice. When I walked in, she said "Ian's on the sewing machine, making his jeans tight."

Ian is my dad. When he was younger he used to adjust his jeans to make them skinny. I guess now bits of her life are coming in and out of focus. She kept asking about my dad in hospital. He is the one she always worried about, I think. He went to see her once, but I'm not sure if he's been to the hospice.

I don't know that side of the family very well, I'm not sure what I should be doing. I asked my auntie if I could go at the end of this month, because I'll be up north for my mum's birthday, and she said it is difficult to plan. Should I be trying to go every weekend? Is it bad that I planned to go because I would be up north anyway?

I don't know anything.

Anyway. I didn't plan on talking about my nana, I was going to talk about soup. My nana loves soup, maybe that's why. The good thing about her being in the hospital this time is that she could eat and drink. She showed me all the menus and read them out to me.

"Everybody asks me why I keep these," she said, "I say I've got me own very good reasons for keeping them."

My aunty said Nana just liked to read about what food she'd eaten and what she might've been eating next. She liked the food at the hospital, and when she was moved to the hospice she said she'd missed out on a fish and chip supper, so they went out to the local chippy and got her one.

Anyway. Nana would be very pleased with my soup-making escapades, I think. I've had tomato and basil, parsnip and ginger and pea and mint on rotation. They are so cheap to make. Sometimes I walk to the big Sainsbury's and get a bread roll for 25p, and I've bought the odd avocado as well if I've been hungry.

I think people at work think I am on some sort of crazy diet, but I don't care. I'm one of the only girls who says yes to every slice of birthday cake and has biscuits with my tea, precisely because I'm eating fucking soup every day. It's like when I worked in a bar and I ate everything in sight because I had such a physical job. Now I sit on my arse every day so I don't need to eat as much, but at least I know I've had a good intake of vegetables.

It's more about the money anyway. I think even when I get paid I will carry on trying to spend next to nothing on food, as then I can go out for more meals and go on more holidays.

Soup is the answer, my friends! Buy a hand blender and change your life.

Saturday, 2 January 2016


It's 2016 and I will be blogging again! Yes, yes I will.

Here is a quick recap of 2015, because my posts were very thin on the ground last year. I'm not doing every month though. The month of February for example, is a complete write-off. I can't remember it at all. I was either very drunk throughout, or spent the whole month asleep.

My friend Jess had a baby!

And I caught The Boyfriend Train at long last, although a more apt description would be 'invited The Boyfriend Train into my bed'. 

Did I tell you how that all happened, have I blogged about it already? Last year, I moved into his room and he moved out. He was still friends with Mon so came round quite a lot. I quite liked him, but we never ended up on nights out together and it is quite hard to make something happen when you are sitting the living room with five other people watching TV.

I remember one night actually, when Phil was going to sleep on the sofa like he sometimes did, and Mon went to bed. We watched TV together for a little bit and it was the first time we had been together alone. Thinking back now, it seems strange that we weren't boyfriend and girlfriend. I can't imagine sitting next to him and not being his girlfriend.

I casually mentioned to Mon that if I were to, er, get to know any of her male friends better, it would be Big Phil (as I called him back then, because everyone else did). In a moment of madness I said that she could mention it to him (it was her suggestion, after she told me I was acting very fidgety and seemed very highly-strung and I confessed it was because I hadn't had a romantic entanglement, or even a non-romantic bed sheet entangling, for months and months). He was very embarrassed and thought it was some kind of trick, but a few days later when he was drunk, he said to Mon that he wouldn't be adverse to you know what with you know who*.

When I heard that, I plotted in a rather sinister way to 'get him' at the next social event. The next social event happened to be Mon's birthday. He ended up back at ours and we were talking for ages and ages, mostly about a girl he'd met on Tinder but that was my fault - I brought up a guy I had met recently, my one and only Tinder date, because I was trying to think of something to talk about.

I kept asking him sly questions like 'Will you sleep on the couch tonight?' and 'Is it weird sleeping on the couch, instead of in your old bed?' and eventually, as the sun had come up and I was running out of time (like a witch cursed to turn into stone at the break of dawn), I said 'You don't have to sleep on the couch you can sleep in my bed with me.'

He has since said that until the moment we kissed he wasn't sure if I was being really kind and letting him sleep in my bed with me in a platonic way, or if I had invited him up for jiggery pokery...

And that's how it started. It's not a story I would tell my gran, but there you go.

Went to Paris for Kayt's 30th birthday, and saw a large tramp rolling around in a cardboard box with his willy out. Also, me and person-I-travel-on-The-Boyfriend-Train-with became 'official'. Or 'started going steady', if you're American. And living in the 1950s.

Beth got married! It was a lovely ceremony in Islington Town Hall, then red buses took us to the reception in a pub. Fun fact: I had impetigo on one side of my nose and had to stand sideways on every photo. I also went to Budapest with Posh Clare - we didn't have one argument! We saw baby orangutans and had to run away from a taxi driver, who took us to a petrol station in the middle of nowhere and tried to rip us off.

I went to Barcelona to see Bonobo with my boyfriend. I'm not sure why I can't mention his name on here but it feels a bit weird. I've already said it on here, anyway. He's called Phil. As is my mum's boyfriend. And my Aunty's husband, my Uncle Phil. And my gran's husband, my grandad. We sure do like a Phil! 

Ooh! Lauren just knocked on my door with two slices of freshly-baked chocolate cake. I need a cup of tea now to go with them.


I saw the Alexander McQueen exhibition at the V&A and I loved it. There are so many pieces he created that trickled down to the mass market, I had no idea. Dark denim jeans, bleached white down the middle - I had a pair like that when I was about 11. Jackets printed with renaissance-style, religious iconography on - I remember seeing these styles on market stalls and in magazines. All started with McQueen.

I went to my cousin Chloë's Blessingway in the lakes, a gathering to bring her luck and 'bless the way' for a smooth birth. Everyone brought flowers and beads, which we added to a headdress and two bracelets. The mums there told stories of when they gave birth, and we painted Chloë's belly with henna. Me and Phil went up for a few days (there were no men allowed at the Blessingway, so Phil said he would walk around Windermere for the afternoon. He was so worried that when we arrived, he changed his trousers behind my mum's car in the street, in case his male energy disrupted the Blessingway magic.)

On my actual birthday we went for dinner in Manchester with my family, Kayt and Adam and Amy and Chris. (We went to Volta in West Disdsbury - I thought the food and wine were excellent, but it was too pricey for what it was. The three vegetarians we had with is didn't think much of the vegge dishes, either.) A few days later when we were back in London, Phil threw me a surprise party in Victoria Park and I was SO SURPRISED. I had a big spot in the middle of my head which I would have covered up more, had I known I would be meeting a whole group people and not just Lauren. That is the only downside to surprise parties.

On my birthday my mum posted this photo of me on Facebook, which proves I have always loved cats to the MAX.

Chloë's baby was born on the 13th - Aurora Rose. She is such a lovely, smiley baby! Other landmark: I moved out of my house in Bethnal Green/Whitechapel. I really loved living with Mon, but they were putting the rent up and we just couldn't afford to stay there. I moved in with Lauren, Ben and Jen, a bit further east. This is the fourth place I've lived in since moving to London two years ago, and I am enjoying it a lot. 

For Phil's birthday on the 13th, I cut out words and phrases from old books and turned them into a piece of art and I planned a nice day out for the two of us. It was my first 'Boyfriend's Birthday', ever. I actually started stressing out about it a few months earlier. In the end I thought a homemade present and a day out would be nicer than a bought present (I am pretty terrible at choosing presents). We went for lunch at a Argentinian restaurant on Broadway Market - I would recommend it. We had the mixed grill, which was huge and very meaty. Then we went for drinks in the old ale pub next door, and later we went to the Top Secret Comedy Club in Soho. 

The Monday after, we went to Amshterdam. (I can't say it without doing a bad impression of a Dutch person.) It was wet, windy and weed-y. We only went for two days, so I definitely need to go again. I can't believe how pretty the houses are. It's so cute and little, it reminds me of Paris in that there are so many lovely buildings and leafy streets to wander down.

We didn't see any disgusting 'aubergine popping out you-know-where' shows, but we did have a look at a €2-a-go peep show. You stepped in off the street and entered a little booth, one of eight surrounding a small room. There was a door to each booth, and a glass window once you were inside, which was dark. When you put the coin in, the glass became transparent and you could see a stripper in the middle on a rotating bed. 

I'll be honest, I thought we would see people having sex in the middle. There was a poster saying that's what was inside the booth and I was really curious...

But it was just a woman writhing around in tacky underwear. When the lights came up in our booth and she saw me and Phil, she climbed across the bed and started wriggling her fandango against the glass.

Curiosity satisfied.

Right, I think I will blog about December in another post. At least I have flexed my blogging skills again. 

I will now leave you with my most listened to track of 2015, according to Spotify My Year in Music. Needless to say, it's not from 2015...

*Me, not Lord Voldermort. He hasn't even read Harry Potter, and doesn't want to... I know! Maybe I should start reading them to him while he is sleeping. And he will start shouting LUMOS as he turns on lights, and he won't know why.