Friday, 2 December 2011

Dear Diary: My Higher Education: Part 1

Friday, 2 December 2011
Please enjoy the first in this series -- I will leave you to decide whether or not all of this actually happened... :-)

Tuesday 28th October

Interesting development occurred during my lecture this afternoon. Don’t ask me what it was about, I spent most of it staring at the back of **Michael’s head. Amongst my lecture notes, I wrote the following:

Two seats up and one seat over and all I want to do is sniff the bit of your neck where it meets your shoulder because I know that the smell of you will make me aware of all of my skin, all at the same time.

So apparently, I’ve got a crush on my teacher. Who knew? How delightfully unexpected!

**names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.

(Part 2 coming soon.)

Sunday, 13 November 2011

In Which I Attempt a Musically Related Top 5 List

Sunday, 13 November 2011
Recently, I caught a Twitter gauntlet thrown at me by the always delightful @WriteOnNZ in a conversation with the equally congenial @BretInVancouver. The challenge: to come up with a Top 5 list of songs/books/films, etc.

“IMPOSSIBLE TASK / ONLY FIVE? IT CAN’T BE DONE / THIS IS THE STUFF OF MADNESS!” quoth I; my protestations resolute and many varied.

And yet – here we are: never one to shy away from a contest, I thought I’d have a go. I figure the odds of sending myself to the loony bin could be significantly stacked in my favour if I did a Top 5 of a category of a category of song or something.

So without further ado, I give you:


Waterfall/Don’t Stop – The Stone Roses
Really, the opening 30 seconds of Don’t Stop depends very heavily on your ability to identify the ending of the previous track - Waterfall - which, if you’re a Roses fan, you know kind of meld into one another. You know how it goes: you’re grooving on the trip of the end of Waterfall, and you notice the track number on your CD player has changed so you know Don’t Stop has started, but you’re not sure exactly when. So I’m about 1:24 into Don’t Stop and here’s where you must pay attention: listen to when Reni (drummer) switches from hi-hat to whatever that other cymbal is called.... are you there? I make it about the 1:40 mark. And then? They all come together – Squire’s swirly guitar, a tambourine comes in on the 2 and the 4 and everyone follow Mani’s ascending bassline for what – five notes? It kind of goes da-da-daaaa, da-daaaa, da-daaaaa.... just before the vocal comes in? Are you there? That – that right there MAKES ME DIE.

Sweat – Tool
I have a very distinct memory of how I came to appreciate the beginning of this song: I am 16, maybe 17. I am waiting for the bus to take me to school – I am late, as usual, so I have missed the bus I should have caught, and quite possibly the one after that. I don’t care – I have a Sony Walkman. Remember the yellow one with two earphone jacks, that claimed to be waterproof? That one. I have a backpack full of Bic pens (to help rewind tapes and conserve double AA power) and loads of batteries. I’ve got the volume cranked all the way up, and this song comes on. Now, as you may or may not know, everything on headphones is intensified anyway, so while what I am about to introduce may just be one solitary strike of one solitary part of one solitary instrument, it had an eyes-rolling-into-back-of-head effect on the young bus stop me, and I wore out the buttons on that bloody yellow monstrosity all the freakin’ way to school just so I could hear it again and again and again. I’m talking about the single, solitary, smack of the drum (it kind of echoes) at about the :21 second mark before the song really starts. Love, love, love.

So Says I – The Shins
Nothing fancy about this one – another headphones discovery. The first 5 seconds I love; the guitar just trickles down, sneaks up on you and then WAH-BAM the song gets on with itself. Slick, jangly, attention grabbing.

Where the Streets Have No Name – U2
Controversial – I know they’re not everyone’s cup of tea. But they were the first band I properly lost my shit over, when I was a young, impressionable girl. I first saw them in 1992 and the introduction to this song is what I heard in my mind when, I was sitting in the back of my Dad’s Toyota on the way to the big city to see them for the first time. Ontario friends – you know when you get off the 427 by Lakeshore? The introduction to this song is the noise of the view of the majestic Toronto skyline coming around that corner.

 Can’t Stop – Red Hot Chili Peppers
CONTROVERSIAL AGAIN. I love, love, love the first 30 seconds of this song, and then I fucking HATE this song. (Yes, Jason – it was necessary to swear there.) This song will also feature in an upcoming sub-category called UNIMAGINATIVE MELODY WHICH COMPLETELY RUINS AN OTHERWISE BELTER OF A TUNE. I am from the Freaky Styley Uplift Mofo Milk Magik school of Chili’s fans and this ‘new’ music they put out doesn’t grab me like it used to. But this song? This song did. I heard it one day and thought HEY, WHAT’S THIS? IS FRUSCIANTE BACK ON SMACK AGAIN, BECAUSE THIS IS GOOOOOD!!! And then Keidis comes in and covers up all that guitar divinity with a completely parallel line of melody. 2006’s biggest musical let down. Get thee to the naughty step, Anthony.

There you have it. That’s what I have produced (with the aid of my current iPod playlist). Undoubtedly there will be more, but I am spent. I need a lie down.

Honourable Mentions (Bands I Like Because of the Introductions of These Songs)
Let’s Dance to Joy Division - The Wombats
Date With the Night – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Blue Orchid – White Stripes
Never Let Me Down (Again) – Depeche Mode
Patti Smith Math Scratch – Thurston Moore
Dogs of Lust – The The
Would – Alice in Chains
Pearl Jam – Porch
Going Up (To Portland) – Swell (can't find a link!!!)
Superstition – Steve Wonder
Take the Money and Run – Steve Miller Band
The Criminal – Sons of Freedom
Dirty Boots – Sonic Youth
So Far Away – Social Distortion
How Soon is Now – Smiths
A Side Wins – Sloan (the lyrics of this will be part of my next tattoo, incidentally...)
Well Thought Out Twinkles – Silversun Pickups
Crank – Catherine Wheel

GAH! I can’t do any more. I was right the first time:  THIS CAN’T BE DONE.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

This Kind of Crap is STILL Keeping Me Up At Night

Thursday, 27 October 2011
Deleted post rescued!  Here it is from yesterday; apologies if you've read it once already.


A man and a woman are brushing their teeth. They are getting ready for bed. The voluptuous woman has very striking hair. The man seems as if he is in more of a hurry than normal, and worth noting, he has at least 6 or 7 days’ worth of stubble.

W: What’s your hurry? Got a hot date?

M: I want to watch the end of ‘The People Under the Stairs’ – it’s just about to finish on Sky.

W: (without speaking makes a noise to illustrate her obvious indifference)

M: Actually, you know, ‘The People—‘

W: (interrupting) WAIT! Don’t tell me! I know this one: ‘The People Under the Stairs’ was the first film you ever watched on Sky.

M: Cripes alive! (spits in the sink, and shakes his head in what could be construed as an overly melodramatic manner) I’ve mentioned that before, I suppose?

W: (smirking) Once or twice.

The couple continue their night-time routine.

M: I suppose this is it, then?

W: What is “it, then”?

M: Well, it took 9 years of marriage but I’ve finally run out of new and interesting facts to educate you with?

W: (raises eyebrows) To educate me with?

M: You know what I mean. Anyway – 9 years is a pretty good innings. Maybe we should call it quits.

W: Hmm. You might be right. Just think of all of the poor, unsuspecting single girls in Newcastle who could benefit from an education as only you could provide.

M: Oh?

The man scratches his beard. The woman supresses an urge to ask him to shave. Again.

W: On second thought, perhaps it is my duty to spare this poor wretch, whomever she is, from your 'interesting' facts.

M: I do know some great facts.

W: Undoubtedly. What compels you to issue them in triplicate is the mystery.

M: I have lost some brain cells over the years, perhaps.

W: A likely explanation, to be sure.

M: I sense we are at an impasse. How do we move on from here?

W: Well, if I could just call to your attention my present comprehension of the following, perhaps you might commit to memory my prior learning and in so doing, spare me from any future tutelage?

M: Very well.

W: I already know that Ken Barlow is a Druid.

M: Okay. Fair play to you.

W: I already know that ‘We Will Rock You’ by Queen was written about Sid Viscious.

M: That might be the answer in a pub quiz scenario one day. You might be grateful for that.

W: I already know that ‘Dude Looks Like A Lady’ by Aerosmith was written about Vince Neil.

M: (knitting his brow) Now you’re just being petty.

W: I have heard your theories that nipping people causes cancer, and that Kurt Cobain was responsible for the death of hair metal.

M: Well, I –

W: AND, I know that you sometimes say that the first film you watched on Sky was not, in fact, ‘The People Under the Stairs’ but ‘Pump Up the Volume.’

M: I quite liked the girl in that.

W: Hmmmm. May I continue?

The man gestures in the affirmative.

W: I know that you used to look after your first car so well that you used to take the alloy wheels off and clean them with a toothbrush AND that sometimes if you’d just washed it and it rained the next morning, you’d leave it in the garage and make your Dad drive you to work in his car.

M: This is getting out of hand, now.

W: And finally, whenever Scott Walker comes up in conversation, I already know that when your Mam was young she wrote ‘Scott is fab’ on her school ruler.

M: She also wrote, ‘Nasty Neil’ next to it, after a boy in her class she didn’t like.

W: Would it surprise you at all to know that I already knew that?

The man gestures again, this time less politely.

W: (smug) No, you’re the tosser. Good job I still love you.

The couple exit the bathroom and walk to their bedroom. They switch off the lamps and get into bed. The house is very quiet, and the woman falls off to sleep while the man watches television.

M: Are you awake?

W: Well, I am now. What’s the matter?

M: In my defence, Scott Walker doesn’t come up in conversation all THAT regularly. And that girl was called Samantha Mathis.

W: Is that all?

M: Yes, I think so.

W: I can go to sleep now?

M: Yes you can.

W: (through gritted teeth) Thank you so much.

More adventures with our intrepid couple here, here, here, here and here.

Oh, and also most recently, here.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Blogger Ate My Last Post

Wednesday, 26 October 2011
Hello, friends.

I am blue.  Blogger ate my last post.  Because I am a bonehead, I hadn't saved it in Word, either.  So I implore you, dear subscribers -- if there are any amongst you who receive my blog in an RSS feed and still happen to have the post called 'This Kind of Crap Stops Me From Going to Sleep On a Night - AGAIN' and you could copy and paste it to me in an email, I will love you forever.

Even more than I already love you.

(Stupid Blogger.)


Thursday, 20 October 2011

Me and John Barrowman Say Tomahto

Thursday, 20 October 2011
A couple of weeks ago I declared that England was confused.  It’s nearer the truth to say that it’s me that’s the wrong way round – especially when it comes to my speaking voice.

I was born in England, as you may well know.  We moved to Canada when I was 5 years old, and some of my earliest memories of that time involve being very quickly labelled ‘the kid who talks funny’ so it wasn’t long before my schoolyard survival instinct subconsciously began to kick in, and my Teeside twang gave way to a rounded Canadian drawl.  My brother was exactly the same.  At least, between the hours of 9am and 3.30pm while we were at school.

But as soon as we were home, we’d slip straight back into our ‘normal’ accents.  With our parents, we spoke as we ever did.  And that’s the way it was.  ‘English’ with English people, and ‘Canadian’ with Canadian people – it just made sense at the time to our still fresh-off-the-boat brains.

Now?  My accent oscillates between the sublime and the ridiculous on a daily basis.  I speak in a Canadian accent in front of my husband and kids, though neither of the boys have really picked up any elements of it.  There was a brief interlude when Ben was very little, when certain words (“candle”, for example, or anything else with a short ‘a’) would come out a little bit Canadian, but it didn’t last very long.  

But hooooo-weee, when my parents are visiting from Canada, I get completely confused. I can be sitting in a room having a conversation with my parents and Jason at the same time, and if I reply to something my Dad has said, it’ll be in an English accent, and if I reply to something Jason has said, I’m Canadian again.  It is such a struggle - I don't know whether I'm coming or going.  It really is most unconsciously done – it’s just something that happens involuntarily, like sneezing or a bout of the hiccups.  I must sound like a total knob.

Jason says it even goes further than that –  even the Canadian-ness varies by degrees:  he says that when I talk on the phone to my Canadian friends, I get ‘extra-Canadian’ and as soon as I put the phone down I revert back to ‘regular-Canadian’.

And here's another one:  normally I speak in a Canadian accent to tmy kids, but when my Mum visits and it’s just me, her and the kids, I speak in an English accent to them.  They must think I'm completely bananas.  

I blame my mother, God love her.  I can hear the change in my Mum’s accent when she’s talking with her Yorkshire brothers and sisters.  It's 'put t'kettle on' this and 'by 'eck' that and  lots of 'lick road clean wi' tongue' flying about the place.  And then the next thing you know, she's a bit more North Eastern when she’s speaking with me and Dad.  Don't even get me started how Canadian she sounds when she answers the phone in her office.  IT IS BONKERS.

What is 'hubba hubba' in Scottish?
I thought I was alone in this madness, until one day I watched a documentary about John Barrowman.  John, star of Dr Who and Torchwood (which I love, love, love) who was born in Glasgow but grew up in the US.  I can’t remember what show it was – it was a biographical documentary about him, and there he was, in his mother’s American kitchen speaking with a lovely hard Glaswegian burr.  And then… AND THEN!  He turns to the camera and speaks ‘American’ again! 

Oh, but did my heart ever skip a beat!  I’M NOT THE ONLY ACCENT WEIRDO.  Hurrah for me!  And hurrah for John! 

Here he is, speaking about it a little.  
The peculiar thing about it all now, upon reflection, is that when I was a kid all I wanted was to be able to blend into the background – I changed the way I spoke to fit in, and for no other reason.  And yet now?  I want to distinguish myself from the background any chance I get.  I’m no wallflower; the hell with blending in.  So living in England, unless I’m with my family In Yorkshire, I speak with my Canadian accent.  And just to eff with things in a balanced way (I'm nothing if not well rounded) -- when I am Canada, say, for example at the supermarket with my Mum, I’m the bloody biggest blimey Limey you ever did hear.

I know you think I’m a total nutjob.

Never mind, I know John would understand.   

Friday, 30 September 2011

England is Confused

Friday, 30 September 2011
What in the name of ARSE is going on? My calendar tells me it is Friday 30th September. Traditionally at this time of year, I start eyeing up the pumpkins in the grocery store. My brain hosts a fiercely raging internal debate with itself about the sensibilities of going to the American import section of the grocery store and paying £6 for a can of pumpkin. I somehow cultivate an otherwise unexplained hankering for these effing disgusting Hallowe’en candies. 
If you actually like the taste of these, I'm sorry - we can't be friends anymore.

I start wearing tights a lot. I come in from work to my flannel pyjama bottoms and fluffy slippers. I have baths.  I drink hot drinks.  But this week, we’re all to cock. Here in the North East of England, we’ve seen temperatures spiking in the upper 20’s.

That’s Celsius, you cheeky buggers. Read: it’s bloody hot. Like, all week it has been marvellous. I mean, it hasn’t rained. THERE HASN’T BEEN ANY CLOUDS. This might not seem like a big deal to you – I’m looking at you, Canadians – but given at the end of July, at the height of “summer” this year I seriously considered putting my heating on to ward off the chill, this is huge. File under "Blow My Tiny Mind".

This is on my radio, and here are my thoughts in this glorious sunshine:

In no order of importance or significance, here is a small list of things that have occurred to me over this week while we have been enjoying the first hints of summer weather in my cozy corner of the world:
  1. I wore flip flops to work today. I put toenail polish back on, in celebration of being able to get my toes out in the out of doors. And you know, because naked toes = kinda gross.
  2. I put a load of towels out on my clothes line this morning, and when I got home from work they were dry. The whole street had clothes pegged out. In not completely unrelated news, I now know that the man at number 21 wears the same underpants as my husband.
  3. The whole street is out frantically mowing lawns, taking full advantage of the situation and knowing it could all come shuddering to a wet, grey, rainy halt ANY SECOND NOW.  Even us:

I hope you’re all enjoying the unseasonably freakish warmness. Better late than never, Summer, eh? Don’t forget us again next year. See you in June.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

15 Years: Remembering Jonathan Corking

Wednesday, 21 September 2011
Today marks the 15th anniversary of my brother’s death.  He would have been 33 this year, but we only got him for 17 years.

I’ve written about my gorgeous baby brother Jonathan before, you can see the entries here and here.

But today, 15 years since that awful day, I thought I’d share a wonderful story that warms my heart every single time I read it. It begins a few years ago, when my Mum stumbled upon a website for Tourette’s Syndrome (you may already know, Jonathan was a sufferer and we believe the symptoms of which and his suicide were inextricably linked).

A little history – not long after Jonathan’s death, our family sponsored a Tourette’s Syndrome seminar in Waterloo, in partnership with Dr. Mort Doran (Tourette’s expert) and Shane Fistell (Tourette’s patient, and motivational speaker.) We thought that it would help explain things for his friends and classmates, and help them come to terms with their loss.

Fast forward over ten years later, to my Mum surfing around the internet for news of Shane and Dr. Doran, and she stumbled upon a website called “Life’s A Twitch”, founded by Duncan McKinley, a registered Psychologist with the College of Psychologists of Ontario, practicing with children and adolescents in the areas of clinical and school psychology – AKA one of Canada’s leading TS experts. She felt moved by what she read, and decided to contact Dr McKinley. What follows is their email exchange.

------ Original Message ------
Subject: T.S.
From: Janet Corking
To: Duncan McKinley
Date: Fri, 2 Mar 2007 11:59

Hello Duncan. I don’t have a question, rather a letter for you to tell my

story. Even after 11 years its good to 'offload'.
My son Jonathan committed suicide in Sept 1996. He was in the process of being diagnosed with TS (after self-diagnosing). He was very depressed. I met Dr. Doran when he came to Waterloo Ed Centre in January 1997 to host a seminar with money raised after Jonathan's death. He and another young man (his name escapes me at the moment) he was from Toronto. The two of them helped to edcuate the children and the teachers in our community about TS. I guess I just wanted to say to you that if i have one regret, its that you werent a little older and were in the place where you are now you could, i am sure have helped Jonathan with his struggles. I follow the TS stories and developements in research and if i had only known then what I know now.......... We as a family have learned a lot this past 11 years, healed a bit, and reflected a lot. I thank you for your efforts to educate the world about TS and helped make people more tolerant of this disorder.

Sincerely, Janet Corking. Cambridge Ontario.

And this is Dr. McKinlay's reply:

----- Original Message -----
From: "McKinlay, Duncan"
To: Corking, Janet
Sent: Friday, March 02, 2007 1:01 PM
Subject: RE: T.S.


I'm so sorry to learn of your loss, but am honoured that you felt comfortable in sharing with me. Allow me to share something with you now which I hope helps with your "one regret"...

While it was during my undergraduate years that I learned about my own TS, and while I did some first tentative talks on it in my 4th year, it wasn't until my first year of graduate school that I really became involved in the TS cause via the TSFC and made the decision to work in this field. What caused me to first "meet" the TSFC, and launched me into everything subsequent, was my attendance at a seminar held by Dr. Mort Doran and Shane Fistell.

In Waterloo.

In January 1997.

Made possible through funds raised from Jonathan's death.

Thank ME? To the contrary -- it's nice to finally know who I have to thank for MY life path...

Your son did not die in vain. His parting gift to the world was me.

I wish you and your family well in your continued healing. Take good care, Janet.


To mark the anniversary of Jonathan’s death, I have set up a donations page with help from the kind folks over at CanadaHelps – if you feel inclined, please join me in making a donation in Jonathan’s memory. I have chosen three charities: The Tourette’s Syndrome Foundation of Canada, The Tourette’s Syndrome Association of Ontario and the Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council.

You can find the page by clicking here, or pasting this link into your web browser: 

Thank you, on behalf of our whole family.  Please use the comments field to share your favourite memories of Jonathan; I'm sure my Mum and Dad would love to hear your stories of him.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The Airport - UPDATE

Tuesday, 13 September 2011
Hello all! 

Just a quickie to say we are having a marvellous time with my parents, and our feet are barely touching the ground while we're here, there, and everywhere with them.  Following my earlier post, I thought I'd share a few pictures from our trip to the airport a couple of weeks ago.

Friday, 26 August 2011

A Trip to the Airport

Friday, 26 August 2011
The world is, indeed, a tiny, tiny place. Here I am, four thousand miles away from my parents, and yet, I may as well be living next door – thanks to Facebook, email and Skype, four thousand miles is barely the distance from the end of my nose to the LCD screen.

If my Mum gets her hair cut, I see it on Skype. If she’s deciding what to wear on a night out, she holds up two different shoes to a webcam to get my instant opinion. If I get the laptop out, my two year old comes running over, clambers on my knee and says, “See Nana? See Nana, Mammy?”

It’s certainly a vastly different state of affairs from when I was a kid. We moved from England to Canada in 1981 – some of you out there will be ill equipped to remember that long ago world of blue tissue writing paper, special airmail envelopes with PAR AVION emblazoned up the edge. Transatlantic phone calls were restricted to birthdays and Christmas ONLY, and even then, especially on 25 December, a phone call was usually preceded with at least half an hour’s fevered redialing – and I mean actual dialing, not button pushing -- trying to ‘get a line’ between the busy signals. My Mum is the eldest of five siblings. Add those to my grandparents and my Dad’s side of the family, there was an awful lot of blistered forefingers round our way come Boxing Day.

As if the effort was directly conducive to the hardiness** of the bond of our bloodline, my extended family always has, even to this day, remained very close. My childhood summer holidays meant one thing: a trip to the airport – whether to receive a carload of Limeys or to deliver ourselves to one; that ceremonial journey up the 401 East towards the airport became standard operational procedure for summertime. We’d all pile in the car and head for the airport -- if we were good, stopping for a donut and a coffee on the way.

My earliest notions of travelling distance and time were forged early – I knew when we were nearly at the airport when my old Dad started fiddling with the radio dials, trying to find Toronto Airport's radio station. Back then, we’d check for flight arrivals via radio – any delays would be read out on the station’s AM frequency; we’d all wait with baited breath for a flight number and the word “MANCHESTER” to signify the impending arrival of our kindred on Canadian soil. I can hear the announcer in my mind – or rather, my Dad’s impression of him, warning us in his best clipped broadcast voice: “There is limited paaaaahr-king at Lestaah B Peaaah-son International Aaaahport…”

We'd always go early enough to watch the planes come in for a bit. “Is that them, Dad?” we’d squeal, waving madly off the airport roof, hoping our Grandma and Grandad, or our aunties and uncles or whoever it was would recognise their ant-sized relations from 1000… 900… 800 feet up as they touched down. And you know? Somehow they always did.  :-)

Then we’d scramble into the lift and press the button to be taken down to Arrivals where we’d elbow for a spot at the front with a good view of the automatic doors separating the luggage conveyors from the Arrivals hall.  Jonathan and me would be monkey-barring along the barriers, searching: “Is this them? Awwww, no. Is THIS them? Awww, no.”  

Mum stood, giant swelling of emotion trapped at the back of her throat rendering her unable to speak while her tears waited, quivering pools in her eyelids, for their cue to spill once we finally – at last – recognised the driver behind next luggage trolley.

Is there a name for what happens when you live an ocean away from those you hold most dear? What do you call it when a handful of time zones rips the fabric of filial connection to a sky full of angry swirls of ruddy crimson, fraying cloudy ribbons jostling in some ethereal breeze that never blows hard enough to bring the edges within reach? The pain of the separation, the severance you feel is at best a dull ache – you can live with it, but at times the pain of the tear is acute. The only balm is one of these trips to the airport.

Fast forward 25 years, and I’m my Mum, and the monkeys swinging in the Arrivals hall are my own kids. And that choking ball of emotion is already forming in the back of my throat, because in a few days, my Mum and Dad are coming from Canada.

Ben and I are picking them up from the airport.

We’re setting off really early.

We are going to wave at planes.

We’re definitely going to have a coffee and a donut.

And the best bit? The best bit by miles – four thousand miles – will be watching my boy’s face as he watches for familiar drivers of luggage trolleys.

**hardiness – family joke – my Grandma’s maiden name was “Hardy

Monday, 22 August 2011

Mammy No Mates

Monday, 22 August 2011
I don’t make friends easily. I never have, on reflection. At least with girls – I always had more boy friends than girl ones. I’m a weird uber-opinionated introvert – I have lots to say, but am only really comfortable doing so in trusted company. And then you can’t get me to shut up. I’m not shy, per se, but unless I can spot some obvious common ground in a room full of strangers (cool shoes and tour t-shirts are the best kinds of giveaways) the incline of my tendencies is most certainly more ‘wallflower’ than ‘social butterfly’. Sober, at least.

When I was pregnant with Ben (this was 2004) I felt more than usually isolated; I didn’t know anyone else in my immediate proximity that was also pregnant. I mean, I knew a few people… I was friendly with a few people, but my bestest best girl-friends were all an ocean away. Don’t get me wrong; they were great – they were all really excited, but I had no one to shop for tiny socks with. And I really, really wanted someone to shop for tiny socks with.

I decided that time was right for me to get some “Mum Friends”. For most of my life, I heard tell of friends that my own Mum made while she was pregnant with me – dynamic and affectionate women in baby clinics with whom she immediately bonded. And 30-something years later, she still counts them amongst her closest friends. So discomfort be damned: I was going to find some, too.

So, fuelled by occasionally distressing thoughts of a lonely winter maternity leave with no one to talk to while my husband was occupied with the business of being sole breadwinner, I went to a couple of baby-related workshops and mama-groups – well hello there, boundaries of my comfort zone – to see what, and more specifically who, was on offer. But soft – what hope through yonder stretch marks break? There was one girl at the breastfeeding workshop – for the purposes of this story I’ll call her Mary – who, to my surprise, I struck up a conversation with, and at the end of the session we exchanged numbers. We were due within weeks of one another with our first kids; as good a common ground to start from as any, I figured.

We did see each other once or twice – she had her daughter as scheduled a few weeks before I had Ben; I remember going round to her house to see the baby, and spent an hour or so catching up, getting to know one another. I went round again just before Ben was born, and recall a bit of an odd blip in the conversation in which she seemed really uncomfortable when I didn’t reply in the affirmative to her line of questioning surrounding our plans to have our baby christened. I wouldn’t say I felt ill at ease exactly, but it was a palpable bump, nonetheless. She plainly gave rise to her intentions and her faith and I thought it pointless and a little futile to get into “the whole thing” with her and I steered the conversation elsewhere.

I guess this would be a useful opportunity to state my case on the matter. No need to steel yourself for paragraph after paragraph of religious deliberation, please don’t click away. My spirituality and/or faith is a fairly basic premise: I feel very spiritual, but I’m not a Christian. I don’t worship anything (save chocolate and a wall of Marshall stacks) but I don’t ram this fact down everyone’s throat. Reciprocally, I don’t expect it to be rammed down mine. I don’t claim to be an expert in these things, but I’d say that’s a fair exchange by anyone’s measure. I can’t prove what I believe and neither can you, and neither of us is going to convince the other of anything different, so let us agree to talk about something else – in this instance there was indeed plenty going on; dilating cervixes, swollen ankles, Braxton Hickses, what have you.

So – back to Mary. I called her a few times in the subsequent months, but we never saw each other again.  I tried to initiate another connection with her, but nothing ever materialised.

I’m not completely ignorant of the fact that maybe we both realised that we didn’t really have a lot in common other than our swollen bellies. Maybe she took pity on me and my foreigner-in-England-with-no-mates sob story and thought she’d see if I had anything interesting to say. And maybe I didn’t. But, in earnest, there has always been a part of me that wondered if she took one look at my rusted, busted Christ-o-meter and thought better of striking a closer acquaintance, lest my long and distinguished vocation as a godless, practicing heathen taint her by association. Or maybe it was Christmas and she was busy and then lost my number, etc. etc. etc.

Who knows?

But I was reminded of it all this weekend, when I bumped into her - kind of.

I went for a swim at the local baths this Sunday morning, and walked into the leisure centre at the exact same time as her, her two absolutely adorable daughters, and her husband. I recognised her straight away – I am shit with names but I never forget a face – but if I was familiar to her she gave nothing away. We didn’t say a word to one another – I guess I wanted to spare her the embarrassment of not remembering me, if indeed that was the case.  

I never bothered with any of the “Mum Friends” when I was having Jude. I knew the drill; I didn’t feel the need. I had Jude in the summer – that meant lots of lovely weather to get out for walks in, etc. I kept this blog, I found pages upon pages of sisterly consolation in fellow bloggers, and I passed the ten months of my maternity leave very cheerfully indeed.

But as I was swimming on Sunday, I thought: isn’t it weird how no one is supposed to care what other people think of them, but actually, everybody secretly does? I mean, when I rewind through the poignant moments of the last 20 years or so, I’m not taken with hysterics at the giant gaping hole left by Mary McJudgey-Judger, the holy roller of a friend who never was. I’ve got more blessings than fingers and toes to count them with, and I know it. And I’m thankful and grateful every single day. But it really pisses me off that there is someone – and the laws of averages tell me that she’s likely not the only one – that has possibly made a judgement about me, and my personality, and my lifestyle, etc. based on what she perceived it was missing, rather than what was actually there. Shame.

Ah – it’s no matter; she probably liked shit music anyway.  :-)

Sunday, 14 August 2011

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo - 13 August 2011

Sunday, 14 August 2011
I recall a conversation with Jason about Scotland – specifically Edinburgh.  It was fairly early on in our romantic history -- he told me that despite living relatively close to the Scottish border, he'd only ever been once.  “We went to The Tattoo,” he’d said. 

I smiled prettily and hoped the fluttering of my eyelashes would mask my confusion; fairly sure that a “tattoo” was something involving ink and needles, I didn't know what part Scotland played in that but damned if I was going to make the boy I fancied think I was an idiot by asking for clarification.  I worked out what he was on about eventually – he spoke with palpable affection at being taken to Edinburgh with his parents, how they gathered with a few other thousand people outside Edinburgh Castle and sat spellbound by scores of pipers and marching bands and fireworks – otherwise known as The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.  

Fast forward 12 years or so to his birthday last December when I was struggling to find an appropriate present for the man who says, “I don’t need anything,” when I remembered the Tattoo tickets were going on sale. 

The Tattoo was yesterday – with our obligatory picnic and thermos of hot water, Jase and Ben and I all piled into the car and headed north.  We got there just in time and even the rain didn’t spoil our excitement.  

It was the perfect birthday present.  Jason was utterly transported and it was obvious every time I caught the look on his face, that the real gift was having given our son a lifelong memory nearly identical to his Daddy’s.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Maximo Park - The Cluny, Newcastle upon Tyne, 21 July 2011

Monday, 25 July 2011
And so on Friday night, I found myself – brace yourself – at the MetroCentre. 

On purpose!

I know, I know.  I hear you tsk-ing and tutting.  Even from here I can feel the displacement of air from the collective shaking of all of your heads.  I hate the place.  The teenagers!  The pushchairs!  The stores full of clothes that will never fit my arse!  But anyway – I was there for the movies, and had to go to the mobile phone shop.  I was in the middle of trying the patience of the man who worked there, attempting to get an impossibly jammed SIM card out of an unfeasibly cheap phone, when he says to me, “NO WAY! WERE YOU AT THE CLUNY LAST NIGHT?!?”

“HAHA!” I say, “YES, I WAS.”  Never one to pass up an opportunity for a demonstration of  inadequately disguised smug-twat-music-snobbery, with a glint in my eye I ask him, “Did you WANT to be at The Cluny last night?”

I let him wax persecuted about shop rotas for a little – I may have even affectionately traced my hand stamp while he was moaning, you know, for dramatic effect (I know, I’m AWFUL).  Eventually, came the inevitable question:  what were Maximo Park like?

Now, if for some reason you didn’t know about the spontaneous Maximo Park gig at The Cluny last Thursday night, allow me to present you with this useful timeline: 

  • Tuesday:   The Cluny on Twitter announces a ‘secret’ gig.
  • Tuesday, point oh-two-four seconds later:  Twitter blabs the secret.
  • Shortly after that:  The Cluny tells us all we have to queue up Thursday lunchtime if we want a ticket.
  • Immediately following:  I start looking for hard things to bash my forehead up against because, as you may recall, I do not enjoy being stuck at work when I need to be in queues for things. 
Right.  Are we all up to speed? 

I spend most of Tuesday and Wednesday lamenting – in varying degrees and volumes – about the fact that I can’t go.  BUT THEN!  One of our warehouse lads – at work we affectionately call him “The Small Boy” – said he would go and stand in the queue for me.  Hurrah!  Hero!  I love The Small Boy! 

The gig is BLOODY brilliant.  I have to miss the opening band (sorry) as I am quite extremely busy drinking some pints.  But when the right time rolls around, I squash my way down into the teeny tiny sweatbox that is The Cluny.  I say that with pure unadulterated admiration and joy – give me teeny tiny sweatboxes over stadia for live music any day of the week.  If you’ve been there before you will appreciate that I managed to secure a prime spot -- on the bottom step of the steps toward the front.  Behold – a whole new concert viewing experience!   This is what it must be like to be that obnoxious tall guy that always stands in front of me at a show!  

I’ve sat on this review for a few days, deliberately, trying to give my opinions chance to distil themselves into words potent enough to adequately convey how I felt, there in The Cluny, one of just a lucky couple of hundred people getting off on feeling the kick drum in our belly buttons, not minding the amalgamation of several dozen other people’s sweat up our backs and on our shoulders.  We were all rapt – Smith and his comrades could have trotted us all down the Ouseburn like Hamelin’s rats and we’d all have gone without remonstration.  I went to bed that night feeling electrically charged – buzzing skin, ringing ears, fuzzy soul. 

What a show!  I’ve never seen Maximo Park before:  a combination of the hype, the pints and not least the delectable back catalogue put me in pretty good stead for some fairly high expectations.  And every single one of those was smashed to bits with one eargasm after another, punctuated with judo-chop dance move brilliance from the cute and sweaty inimitable Paul Smith.  What a stage presence!  His enthusiasm is something else -- I don’t mind telling you, dear readers, that I (ahem) really particularly enjoyed (AHEM) watching him. 

*reflective pause*

Oh, who am I kidding?  The ripe old age of 35 is not the time to try and quell a lifelong propensity to fall instantly in love with sweaty lead singers.  He was LOVELY. 

The set was a considered mix of old and new; featuring the staple singles mixed with even some b-sides to appease the token diehards.  I was gripped from start to finish -- you’ll find the setlist here.
So the answer, Mr. Mobile Phone Shop Man, to your question?  How was Maximo Park?  It absolutely rocked my tits off.

Enjoy this -- it's my favourite favourite:


Sunday, 10 July 2011

The Pole - UPDATE

Sunday, 10 July 2011
The Pole is mended.  I repeat:  The Pole is mended.

I know you all must have been pretty worried given last week's comedy of errors... but we're okay.

I'm pretty pleased with our handiwork.  Our marriage, like our drywall, remains in tact.  Who'd a thunk it?

I even hemmed them so they wouldn't billow on the floor.

Oh, yes.  Yes, I did.

Jason... like... using a tool or something.

It's up! With screws! Real screws! HUZZAH!

Bedtime at Proctor Towers is sweeter with the privacy of curtains.  Straight-hanging ones.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Evan Dando - The Cluny, Newcastle, 30 June 2011

Monday, 4 July 2011
Evening, all.  Giggy No Mates here.  Here are a few snaps from Evan Dando, which was last week, which means I am totally rubbish for not getting these up sooner.

Wait a minute - is it 1994 again? PLEASE let it be 1994 again!
Evan Dando, The Cluny, Newcastle, 30 June 2011
Great Big No.

Couldn't BELIEVE he sang this - a cover of Smudge's "Impractical Joke"... I knew that I knew it, but couldn't remember from where... then I came home and Googled it and VOILA!!  What a great song.  Here is a link to the original, if you are interested.  Sorry the sound is crap - I must have had my finger on the microphone!!  Duh.....

It was a great show - he played loads of things that I didn't know, but lots of old Lemonheads greats as well.  The Cluny is a great little venue, but if I had one criticism, it's that I stood quite close to the bar, and TONS of people were talking through his set, which was quite distracting.  It was really packed and I had a rubbish view -- fortunately I ran into some friends there, and we decided to move a little closer to get a better view...

Right before I took this picture I got yelled at by a girl who said, "Excuse me, I was standing there."  Oh, you paid for this specific 2 square feet of The Cluny did you?  Silly girl!  :-)

He did a cover of Gram Parson's "A Song for You" as well, which was quite nice ... fairly representative of the whole chilled out vibe he had going on.  The audience were singing right along with him, and it was a damn fine way of spending a Thursday night.  Completely opposite to the first and only other time I'd seen him (which, weirdly enough, was 17 years almost to the day -- on 1 July 1994 according to my Gig List) at Ontario Place Forum in Toronto.  What a weird venue.  The stage was circular, kind of Roman amphitheatre style... and it was revolving.  There was no security, so when scrummy delish Evan Dando came on the stage, loads of girls jumped over the barriers to give him a sneaky cuddle -- so I'm glad that this time, no one mobbed him and he could just get on with the business of transporting us all back to our our twenties.  And a good job he did of it, too. 

Into Your Arms

It's A Shame About Ray
Wish I could have stood a little closer to the front -- but I really enjoyed it.  Thanks to Helen and Dave for saving me from certain lonely loser fate. :-)