Monthly Archives: August 2009

Clip-Clop Shoes And Lollipop Sticks

When I was little, my friend Flora and I would clop clop clop around the house wearing high heeled shoes – her mother’s, or the purple sparkly plastic ones she had from Woolworth’s on her second or third Christmas. And a bit older, we’d pretend to ‘smoke’ lolly sticks. I remember asking for a ‘squeeze-your-knees-together’ skirt for my sixth Christmas – a pencil skirt, I suppose – wanting to look like a grown-up. Because despite not wanting to stop playing, and despite wanting to never have to do boring grown-up things like go to work or tidy up all the time or do the washing up, despite being also sort of scared of being a grown-up and living on your own, all you want as a child is to no longer be a child because it’s embarrassing and confusing and when you’re a grown-up you’ll know everything and you’ll be cool at last. All you want is to be a grown-up.

And by the age of about fifteen-and-three-quarters, I thought I’d made it. I had boobs, or rather, I’d accepted I probably was never going to have boobs so I had chicken fillets and padded bras and could now wear the low-cut tops that had looked ridiculous on me every time I tried them on for years. My period had (finally) started. I understood about love and relationships and it was clearly only a matter of time before so-and-so worked out how he really felt about me and boys fancied me and I had the pick of the bunch of them and I enjoyed drinking and smoked weed because it made me look interesting.

But a year on, I could see I hadn’t been grown-up then, so maybe I was now. But a year later I was ashamed of my sixteen-year-old self, and I realised at last that actually, for at least a few more years, I would have grown up a bit more every year, perhaps until I was about twenty or twenty-one, because I wouldn’t be a teenager any more by then and I’d probably look good in lipstick and I’d be a student and I’d be living away from home.

Now I’m not a teenager and I live away from home and I’m a student. I do look good in lipstick, I finally own my own clip-clop shoes and have been known to smoke more than just lolly sticks, I still can’t hold my drink, but I don’t enjoy getting too drunk so much as I used to. I can cook, clean and iron, and those kinds of boring grown-up jobs don’t bore me so much any more. You just get on with them. I have a job (at least occasionally), I have responsibilities, I have debts and bills to pay, I like picking out home furnishings, and if little children point me out in the street for whatever reason, they talk about ‘that lady’. I have a boyfriend, with a salary and a car, who goes to work wearing a tie. I empathise more with adults than with children whereas even a couple of years ago I’d be happier playing with three-year-olds at family events rather than talking to relations I don’t necessarily remember about politics or Ireland or something.

So yes, apparently, I’m a grown-up too. If only because, really, I finally realise that no-one else has it any more figured out than I do. I do actually feel a lot more mature these days – I don’t so often get that feeling in conversation with people of my parents generation that I’m being a whiny and self-obsessed adolescent; I like being responsible and organised (at last) rather than actively aspiring to be a bit of a train-wreck; and I don’t feel a million years younger than my twenty-something cousins. But rather than me catching up with the adults, it’s more that I’ve realised they’re not so many steps ahead of me after all.


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Danger, Danger! High Voltage!

Here. Have a video of a lighter in a blender shot at high speed. It’s pretty. And interesting. Also please hope for me that it isn’t raining in Towersey because that is where I am (or will be – I’ve written so much for this blog recently that I’m actually scheduling some posts to be published a few days after I’ve written them – which makes me feel like the world’s most organised procrastinator given that I’m actually writing this on Monday 24th which means that tomorrow, Tuesday, I have an exam at 9am. Oh, Jenny).

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The Great Divide

Just so you know, Lucy Mangan agrees with me on the whole state/independent thing – goine one step further, she believes that closing independent schools and outlawing private education would pump money and resources into the state education system and improve state education no end. I don’t know about that. I wish, but I don’t believe that that would be the case.

Furthermore she claims that the great divide between private and state education in the UK is as pernicious and unfair as the whole healthcare thing in the US – those who can afford to pay do, and while those who can’t pay here in the UK don’t die as a result of their education, it’s definitely arguable that it’s to our serious detriment, in many cases.

Not mine to any great extent, obviously I didn’t come off too badly – I’m one of the lucky ones that had a brain good enough to get by anyway, and I’m sure there are plenty of Americans who are healthy enough all their lives to not really need the medical care they can’t afford to be insured for anyway. Here I could bitch and moan about how if I’d had a more supportive education I might have ended up doing medicine somewhere really good, because I do half think that, and it’s true, I should have made more effort but I was sixteen years old for crying out loud, and a fairly useless sixteen-year-old at that, all brains and no motivation, and there must be plenty of people like me who were pushed just that bit harder and who did make it, like I would have made it had I been made to work for it. That’s enough bitching and moaning, I am annoyed, but at myself as much as anything, for not being able to make the best of it. But there are plenty of other people who are let down by the education system. People who could have been great musicians or artists if they didn’t have to share violin lessons with three other tone-deaf twelve-year-olds on only two violins between them, or if they had had access to kilns or huge studios for casting and bronzework and things rather than cheap old pastels and watercolours with almost no pigment in them; people who could have been pushed that bit harder and might then have been the next prime minister but who instead are working as the manager of the local Barclay’s or something.

Anyway, look, everyone, look! Lucy Mangan agrees with me!!


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Five Weeks

Five weeks without a cigarette. And here are some statistics I found on a lecture powerpoint recently:

• At least 70% of smokers want to give up
• Less than half succeed before age 65
• 40% of heart attack smokers relapse while still in
hospital within 2 days of intensive care
• 50% of patients with laryngectomies try smoking again
• 50% of patients with lung removed for lung cancer
smoke again
• More than half of heroin and cocaine users and
alcoholics rate smoking harder to quit

• At least 70% of smokers want to give up

• Less than half succeed before age 65

• 40% of heart attack smokers relapse while still in hospital within 2 days of intensive care

• 50% of patients with laryngectomies try smoking again

• 50% of patients with lung removed for lung cancer smoke again

• More than half of heroin and cocaine users and alcoholics rate smoking harder to quit

So there you go, I’m actually doing pretty well. Early days yet, obviously, but if I can stick with this past the age of 65 I’ll be in the minority! Only 45 years to go, then…


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Small Things Matter The Most

It’s funny how it is the small things that matter the most.

I wrote this in a draft a couple of days ago and I guess I had a specific moment in mind at the time. I can’t now remember what that moment was, but the point still stands. The things that really stick in your memory are all the small gestures that make you realise that someone really does care. The actual tone of voice as someone says something meaninglessly comforting (‘hey’, ‘there’s no-one else here but me, I’m here’). A well-timed cup of tea. Post-cards. Badly-drawn black cats on good luck cards from family and friends. A hastily left comment by a friend going offline and making damn sure you know they haven’t turned their phone off.

And it’s funny how in this day and age so many of the most important moments in so many of our relationships are actually conducted via some kind of screen –  in texts, emails, phone calls, Skype, Facebook, the lot. How much of our lives are dominated by screens – Charlie Brooker, as usual, sums it up hilariously.

Anyway, I am writing this the day before an exam, so I should probably go and revise. At this point in time it’s tipping it down with rain, so please wish me luck that that isn’t the case as you read this…!!

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Some Fucker Turned Up With No Legs!

I saw the film on Tuesday; don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it.

I thought it was going to be like The Notebook, and it was. But I really hoped that it would be more like High Fidelity or something. Reading the book the soundtrack could have been amazing, all this fantastic edgy 90s music, punk and grunge and rock and Iggy Pop and The Doors and all sorts. They’re referred to constantly in the book itself, aren’t they? That and some beautiful Lieder and string quartets and some seriously powerful classical music, rather than the insipid gushy violins and piano score that the film got instead. And there are all these scenes in dodgy bars, and drugs and alcohol and Henry, in the book, can be something of a twat. And Clare’s family are so much more complicated than the happy Republican front they present. There are so many threads in the book which were completely left out, I felt, until all that was left was the actual love story which in some ways is almost the least interesting aspect of the book, despite being to the reader, of course, the most important. All that stuff with Henry’s ex-girlfriend, Ingrid, that could have been interesting.

Furthermore the actual characterisation of Henry and Clare in the film is so much more shallow than in the book. They could have been far more interesting in the film without changing too much but Henry is Mr Perfect, St Boyfriend, and Clare is so utterly pathetic. There is nothing more to her in the film than ‘I am pretty, I love you, and I want a baby *stricken look*’. In fact, the reason the book was so good was that all the characters were believably flawed and the film just lost all that character and spark and it turned into yet another weepy love story. I was hoping to see more of Gomez and Charisse, too, they were brilliant characters in the book.

Anyway, like I say, I enjoyed it, and it made me cry, as it should have done, at all the right moments. I also love that last scene with Clare as an old woman and I was sad to see that missing; the ending of the film, I thought, was a bit flat. And why change the school trip from a gallery to a zoo, really? And Henry’s hypothermia – I swear it was more serious in the book.

It was good, yes, but it honestly didn’t in any way match up to the book, which I’m going to have to re-read now so that I’m not stuck forever thinking of Henry as the positively eggy Eric Bana, or Clare as feline, dippy, shallow Rachel McAdams.


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I am going to Towersey today (well, what is now today, I write this at roughly ten to one in the morning so to me it still feels like Wednesday). I’ve had a lot to say recently, though most of it is pretty inane, so instead of just posting multiple times per day I’ve scheduled all my ‘extra’ posts to go up, one a day (look out for the bonus double helping on Saturday, it’s a Momentous Day, if you guess why put it in the comments on this post here and I’ll be very happy that you remembered unless you’re someone who should damn well know anyway – I would give out prizes, but all I can actually award you is the warm fuzzy glowy feeling of knowing full well that you’re a good enough friend to remember), until I’m likely to be back again and have any interest in going anywhere near the internet.

So yes, if I don’t reply to your comments, it’s because I’m away, and if you’re a new reader or a new commenter I won’t be able to moderate your comments until I get back, and I’m sorry about that. If you’re really lucky when I do get back I’ll send you a cute email or something to tell you your comment has now been moderated and approved. I should be back by the 2nd of September, anyway.

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Alternatively I Could Drop Out And Become A Wandering Minstrel.

Today, I haven’t even bothered procrastinating. I’m not even trying to revise. In no particular order, today:

  • I’m sorting out what I’m taking and what I am not taking to Towersey (given that I brought very little up to University Town with me the ‘not taking’ list basically consists of ‘textbooks; paper; pens; pencils; highlighters; erasers; pencil sharpener; duvet case and pillows’. Obviously all these things have to be stated separately to make the list look all nice and…listy).
  • I have washed up everything in the entire house and hoovered the kitchen floor. I am going to hoover other floors in a minute.
  • I have drunk a million cups of tea, a cup of coffee, and an Alka Seltzer (having no paracetamol conveniently to hand); and I have eaten half a block of chocolate, a tin of tomatoes, and half a bowl of porridge.
  • I have set out to listen to music actively to decide what I really want to see at Towersey.
  • I have organised my train travel for tomorrow. Well, as much as I can.
  • I have handwashed the last few pieces of clothing.
  • I have read my book and suffered a headache.
  • I have been up to our local shops on a failed excursion (original plan: buy black tights. DO NOT buy chocolate. Actual events: fail to buy tights; purchase chocolate instead. I tell you – no willpower).
  • I am about to set off down the road to see if the Boots is still open to sell me tights.
  • I have washed my hair.
  • I have written the world’s most pointless blog entry.
  • I have opened precisely one powerpoint presentation.
  • I have been awake for eight hours.
  • I have changed my facebook status three times, and written on various peoples walls with pieces of organised planning-type information.
  • I have waved my flatmate off on her way to Reading, complete with slightly tearful repeated hugs and reassurance and slight bafflement on my part.

If it wasn’t for the fact that I should be either revising or at least feeling guilty about the lack of revision I’ve done, this would be a good day. Wish me luck… .

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Part of the joy, for me, of any hobby, is kit shopping. I love buying useful things to do things with. Climbing shoes, discussing the merits of different materials and fastenings and styles of fit and rubberiness of rubber. Knitting needles in every length and style and width, cable needles, yes please, new yarn, why not – even though I haven’t done much knitting in a while, don’t seem to have sat down for long enough to get any done.

Rosin, for my cello, and while we’re at it can I have one of those beautiful impossibly light carbon fibre kevlar cases pretty please? And a full service, go on, just so that I get to go into the workshop and poke about and try different cellos on just for the fun of it. And I’d like a whole set of new Larsen strings please please please and a wolf-note corrector thingummy and my bow needs rehairing thank you.

Walking boots, absolutely, could probably talk about those to the lovely man in the shop with the hobbity stature and brown curly hair, for hours if I tried. New swimming costumes each season, tantalising hints of the miles I will swim. Running shoes. Needles for sewing with. A sewing machine! Absolutely, yes please! We’re getting one of those, actually, I can’t wait. All those fiddly beady things you use to make necklaces and earrings becuase of the number of favourite bits of jewellery I’ve broken – look, all silvery and glittery and clever-looking. Buttons stitched onto lengths of card or stashed in long tubes, ready to pour out and sort out. Fabric. A new tent, with all sorts of clever features that make me feel like a real adventurer because I can genuinely see the use rather than just the attraction of them. New cagoules. Walking kit in general – gaiters, waterproof trousers, hats, rucksacks, sticks. Cameras, oh… . Fire poi, fire staff, flag poi, a chinese sword. Small weights to tone my arms with in lovely solid metal.

The thing is, I am such a dabbler. I like picking up and trying out new hobbies, and some, like music, stick (please can I go shopping for sheet music some time soon? Maybe?); others I do regularly (walking, camping, swimming, poi) but honestly not often enough to justify this level of kit shopping or the amount of money I spend. Others still are serious kit-lust activities – climbing, all harnesses and shoes and if-only-I-had-shorts-just-like-that-then-my-calves-would-look-that-toned-too, and pretty patterned ropes brandishing safety qualifications in a near-foreign climber-geek language; knitting and sewing, all luscious fabrics and yarns and buttons and beautiful patterns and incredibly simple bits of equipment which you can use to do incredibly complex things with.

So yes, a major part of the joy I take in any pastime is due to buying and owning All The Right Things. And that is why I want my own camping stove and a new sleeping bag and a buff headband and new thermals and a Helly Hansen coat in serious black or challenging red, and that is why I love my penknife, and my combats, and my boots, because I like how having the right kit makes you into The Kind Of Person That Is Capable, and not the kind of person who would turn up on school trips to Ypres or something, back in the day, in ballet pumps and a peacoat and a little beret that will hardly stay on your head, let alone keep it warm in the bitter Belgian February or keep your hair out of the wind. Just as a reasonably obvious example.


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I Don’t Know If It’s The Weather, Or What

This was saved  as a draft on 13th July:

OK, so from about early spring this year I’ve been on the up, I’ve been in a good mood, I’ve been functioning like a normal human being and I have felt as good as I’d felt in ages. Honestly, I was enjoying life, things were good, and I was a whole new person.

But more than that, over the last few days, I’ve felt even more settled, more content, secure, happy, a little more trusting and optimistic and not anything like half as cynical as I used to be. Weight I didn’t even realise I was carrying over my shoulders has been lifted. I’m not over the moon, I’m just lighthearted, content, in a way I didn’t realise one could feel. I feel incredibly lucky. And of course part of this can be put down to P, and part can be put down to the fact that I’ve learnt recently that a lot of the things which used to give me no end of worry are really not worth the bother of worrying about them, and perhaps part of it really is these sunny days… . Or perhaps I’m pregnant. It’s always a possibility…!

Of course it’s not all sweetness and light – in the last couple of weeks of course there have been stressful things and upsetting things and arguments and all the rest, but though I may be upset at the time, I’ll wake up the next morning and feel fine again. I’ve not lost all grasp on reality!

It sometimes amazes me what I will say on my blog, in front of the whole world, which I wouldn’t specifically say to many of the people I actually know.

Anyway, I kept it in my drafts folder. For a lot of the past month it hasn’t felt quite true any more – lots of bad days and ups and downs, but I’m feeling right now that by and large I am happier than I am unhappy, and for all the reasons above. Although I have also discovered that I’m not pregnant, don’t worry!

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