Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Chicken Nugget

From my cosy overpriced flat in Brighton I can see a main road. My living room overlooks the road and so when I say I'm writing, what I frequently mean is I'm sat staring out of the window at passers by on the main road. My dreams vary from simple ones where my boyfriend, let's call him Alan, comes home with a winning lottery ticket or a commissioned TV series to far more complicated ones where a helicopter lands and out jumps a publishing company and the owners of a curiously well funded Indie film company. They've found my blog online and like my excerpts for As We Know It and they just have to be able to make it - especially if I agree to maintain complete creative control and star in it too.

"Quick!" They say, "You must finish it... NOW!" And, spurred on by their enthusiasm I finish the book there and then while they feed me mackerel pate on excellent little biscuits. Alan comes home to find me already on the phone to Graham Norton - I'm going on the show this weekend! We do some furious cuddling while the publishing company proof read my flawless grammar in the next room.

Ah, what a dream. If only I were actually writing instead of gazing out of the window there's no reason that dream couldn't morph into a vaguely similar reality.

My little hobbit hole of a residence is in a lovely area where we have many local shops and community centres. It's the sort of place you move to when you've got the time and energy to believe in society again. Or, at least one of you has; one of you probably works in London to afford the time and energy the other one is spending.

Around the corner, just down the hill and slightly to the right there is a community centre that does sport classes and children's dance lessons. I've never been in there but I like the eclectic mix of offers on the hand written posters in the window. If I had children it would be exactly the sort of place I could take them. As children they would hate it: "Why can't we just watch TV instead? I hate ballet." but as young adults they will feel differently, instead of despising the fact that they have to go they will realise they have a choice and feel guilty instead that they choose not to keep it up. But at least it won't be my fault.

One of my favourite things to witness from my porthole into Brighton's events, is the 30-40 minutes before the Samurai class begins. Yes, you heard me right. If you have enough money in the residential parts of Brighton you can pay for your child to become a Samurai... and it only seems to take about 60 minutes a week of their time. I sit in my chair by the window and I watch all the little would-be Ninjas traipsing down the hill in their black pyjamas with a red belt. At first I thought they were having some sort of regular karate or judo lesson (excuse my ignorance in this subject - I do not know the difference) but then I walked past the little building and noticed that it has a new poster up in the window.

"SAMURAI CENTRE - ENROL YOUR CHILD TODAY"

Curse my barren loins that there is no child in my life I can enrol to become a Samurai. I will have to satisfy myself with watching other parents taking their little darlings past my house and down to the classes. I like the mix of children that attend... they are mainly boys but there are a few girls. There are the tall, wiry girls with already terrible hair that you know will struggle for another few years and really only come into their own when they discover hockey and the fact they can drink as much as a man. There is one particular sweet looking little girl whose mother dresses like a barbie herself, and I like to imagine that this Samurai class is the little girls very first act of rebellion against following in her 6 inch heeled footsteps.

There are a few boys that head down the hill together, already practising last week's moves on each other and imaginary foes. They are excited - proud of their pyjamas and pretty sure every week that this will be the week they finally kill someone.

Then there is my favourite little boy. He is a fat little boy who trudges behind his mum and dad, already crying and trying to move his feet slowly enough that he will miss the lesson. Sometimes Mum is carrying him to scupper his plan, sometimes Dad is. Sometimes he's not crying... sometimes he's playing an excellent little game in his mind to distract himself, it seems, from the horrors that lie ahead. I guess that Mum and Dad both take him to the lesson so that he feels better about it, but maybe they drop him off there and go and have time to themselves? I don't know.

He really is a fat little boy. His Mum and Dad are not fat. He is only fat in the way that a young child is... He doesn't look ill and it doesn't look like the fat will last. But he is fat.

I am impressed with his parents for making him go to Samurai classes; for not just plonking him in front of a TV and assuming their job is done because he's eating and the electricity is paid for to power the learning box. It is good that they get him exercise, it makes me not judge them that their boy is tubby. Maybe he's just tubby.

On the other hand... I hate them for making him go.

"Let him be fat and happy!" I sometimes think, when my brain is feeling sorry for me and projecting onto people walking past, "Dear god it is never going to come in handy for this child to be a Samurai. If there was ever a time in history when it was ok for this little boy to wallow in his flesh and be jubilantly ignorant to the ways of the Samurai then it is now! He will get a marvellous job doing computer coding because he never wanted to leave his computer and he will earn more than all the joggers currently lapping Hove Park put together. He doesn't want to be a Samurai... he wants to be a happy lazy fat boy. Let him be!"

Sometimes I day dream well for him. Sometimes I imagine that his walk there is actually awful because he hates cars and he is delighted when he steps inside the sanctuary of the Samurai centre. Sometimes I think he is probably a master of Kung Fu (is that what Samurais do?) and only wears a tiny fat suit to help him train harder and so that he doesn't embarrass the other children at his class. He's really down to earth like that. Sometimes I think he is probably crying because he doesn't like being saddled with all the wisdom of a Samurai at the tender age of... what is he? Maybe 6? What 6 year old is comfortable knowing they have the knowledge and the physical capacity to kill both their parents if the need arises?

Sometimes I daydream badly for him and I'm plummeted into despair. I daydream of the day he finally stands up to the bullies who tease him for his size. He remembers that he is, after all, a Samurai and therefore doesn't need to take this mockery. So he begins to fight. They laugh at him and punch him. He is no match. He falls over. He is not a Samurai.

I daydream that one day I will rescue him. As his daps carry him past my house, beyond the window's gaze in Brighton that day, I will dash out onto the steps.

"Wait!" I'll call after his parents, "Stop that Samurai!"

They turn, confused, wondering if I mean them.

"I mean you!" I call, dashing down my front steps and after them. "Wait!"

They look me up and down, slowly recognising me from my head shots and from the front page of last week's Brighton Argus.

"You're Laura Lexx," they say in disbelief, "That local author who has just signed a multi billion pound deal to have her book published and put in every hotel room instead of the bible. The one who has the film deal too where Sandra Bullock and Dawn French have agreed to work for free because the script is so good? My goodness. What do you want with us?"

"I need your little boy." I say, a little out of breath because I haven't got the most out of the free gym membership I received when they made me honorary Mayoress of every town I wanted to be Mayoress of.

"You can have him..." they say quickly, "Anything you need. We'll pack him a suitcase tonight. Obviously we'll miss him because we love him dearly but we're sure you can give him a better life than we can."

"No, no, no!" I say, laughing and shaking my head. "I need him to be in the film."

"But there isn't a little boy in As We Know It?" the parents say, confused. "We have already read it four times."

"It was only published this morning?" I say.

"We know." They reply, "But we burned all our existing books and cancelled our broadband connection because it's really all we need. There is definitely no little boy in it."

"Ah," I say, kneeling down so my face is the same height as the fat little Samurai's. "But you haven't read the film script. And in the film script there is a little boy. A little boy who looks just like this. Because I wrote in a little boy, just so you could have a part. Because I think you are so special."

The little boy looks at me, hope and a desperate fear of believing too hard in his eyes.

"Is the little boy a Samurai?" he asks nervously, wide eyed.

"Absolutely fucking not." I say.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

You Plonker

A few months ago I decided I wanted to start writing about my heroes. It was an idea borne from seeing the way tributes pour out when a celebrity dies, and I wanted to write some things about the people I love before they are lost. Long before hopefully. My previous post was about Eddie Izzard and can be found here.

Today, I bring you David Jason.

I think my love for David Jason is increased dramatically by the fact that he shares a large physical resemblance with my own Dad. They both sort of look like loveable garden gnomes turned into the best kind of people. I think it's quite hard not to have some kind of increased affection for a stranger if they look (even just to you) like someone you really love.

I suppose Only Fools And Horses is my earliest contact with David Jason. It was the first TV show I ever cried at. The first in a line that was to grow overwhelmingly until it took in adverts, most films whatever the genre, and moving scenes I imagined while driving. Before that, I had never understood how people could cry at things on a screen... I was pretty young and I didn't understand the empathetic connection. Then I watched the episode where Granddad dies and Rodney is devastated and doesn't understand how Del Boy doesn't appear to care. I remember sitting down in between the gap in our two sofas (where I sat so I could suck my thumb without my parents seeing and asking me to stop) bawling silently at how awful it was for them.

I think the writing of Only Fools was exceptional, oh to have a script like that appear in my lap for me to attempt, and all credit there goes to John Sullivan. What a phenomenal talent for reality and people. However, that show could have easily been nothing in the hands of the wrong actors (exception being Cassandra who I never took to).

I hear a lot of people who describe The Royle Family as having been ground breaking for them because it was such an accurate portrayal of the life they knew. I never got the Royle Family, but in Only Fools I think I saw what they meant. Not that my family, in a sprawling house in rural Somerset, resembled the Trotters at all... but the way we interacted did. The constant banter, the insults and the complete inability to maintain a line of emotion for longer than strictly necessary.

The BFG was also a big hit with me... how clever, I thought, that the funny little man from Only Fools has got into a film?! Until recently (when I read his autobiography) I didn't really have any concept of the chronological order of his work, I can only write from the perspective of how and when I experienced them. I was amazed that someone from, what I thought was, a small English show could be in a film (I think I thought all films were probably American at that point).

Whizz Pop Whizz Bang was the most brilliant thing I'd ever seen and the disgusting nature of snozzcumbers cemented my long held belief that courgettes were ungodly and I was right to refuse to eat them however Mum served them to me.

In my teens I found Frost quite difficult because, it felt to me, David Jason had aged far too quickly. Why was his hair white? Why was he grumpy and old? I suppose I must have wanted him to have been playing Del Boy in a different show and I had to grow up a lot before I could appreciate Frost for what it was and what he was doing.

Wherever David Jason turns up I am delighted - I adore him in the Colour of Magic. He is a comfort - something from the deepest depths of my childhood that will never fail to make me feel at home. His face is the face of Saturday nights at home on the sofa.

I can't remember where in my David Jason timeline I discovered Open All Hours. I presume it was around the time my older sister was at college because I know she got quite heavily into Porridge at that time and so we side stepped (via a long obsession with M*A*S*H) into Open All Hours as we discovered the behemoth of comedy talent that is Ronnie Barker. However he is a subject for another blog post.

Open All Hours was so adult and charming that I didn't understand it properly for a few years. How could you fancy Nurse Emmanuel? She didn't look like the people in television that were hankered after. Why didn't Granville just get a better job and therefore a better life? These were all questions that I was too naive to answer, but I loved the slapstick that surrounded Granville and I liked that my friend of Only Fools seemed to have gone back in time and I thought it must mean I had longer with him.

I read his autobiography this year and it was a good read... I suppose it's easy to write your own life how you like but I was pleased that he wrote to me as I expected him to be. The book has a sense of earnestness... it seemed to take him such a long time to get anywhere as an actor, and seemed to be an surprising path to him as well, my impression through the book was that he was continually delighted to be working and equal parts baffled at his success and delighted that his hard work was paying off.

I had no idea about the huge back catalogue of theatre work he had done, it being totally before my time, and I think his story is a brilliant endorsement of the non X-Factor approach. Nothing drives me more nuts than people on these God awful talent shows talking about "their one chance" I think it's a poisonous concept to plant in the minds of the viewers that there could be one chance and no option of just 10, 20, 30, 40 years of hard work to get you somewhere. I want to shake those people and say, "You know David Jason? Didn't really get anywhere until his 40s. One chance my foot."

Thanks David Jason... I get the feeling from reading your book that you did it all because you liked doing it, but just so you know I enjoyed it too as you went along. If you wouldn't mind carrying on, that'd be cushty.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Stork

When someone you know and love goes into labour, the rest of your own day just has to pale into insignificance. Because, however much you achieve today, you're not going to bring another life into the world, so you are not as good as that person today.

I am terrified of childbirth, but I also like that it's still terrifying. No matter how sanitised and app based the world gets, if you want to continue life you still have to get down and dirty and push that thing out. It's a little link back through to the dark ages. When you give birth, you become a doctor for a day - you get that little person that you've kept alive and your body works out how to get it out.

I don't think I want my own children, but I am 100% ready to change my mind. I think it's one of the most frustrating things about being a woman in her 20s; when you say "I don't want children", 99% of people say... "Ah, you say that now!" Like you've pulled that decision out of your butt crack to please some late 80s version of a feminist code you were following. People assume there's no way you could have recognised that you might want to change your mind.

I'd like to want children because the idea of not having them is quite desolate and frightening. Whilst it's a big thing to do, for me, it's also a big thing not to do. I'm sort of hoping that one day I do wake up begging my body for kids because it'll fill the desire I have for the concept of children. I still don't feel like I want to do the day to day necessities of having a baby, a two year old, a six year old... etc. But I do wonder if I'll be sad not to have a 25 year old one day when I'm old and the arthritis is preventing me from writing my wisdom down here.

My boyfriend is very keen on having children. I have told him that if he can find a way to not be 6'3" with the biggest head known to man (too big to go paint balling, ladies and gents, too big to go paint balling) then I'll think of a way I can reproduce him without tearing my innards beyond recognition.

I'm hoping to have ironed out a missing chapter in my book by the end of the day, but, all going well, someone out there is going to finish up the day with a family. That is an incredible thing to achieve in a 24 hour period. Things like that are huge, enormous, stratospheric things to happen in a life but they actually just happen on days when other people are buying toilet paper or finishing a long shift at a boring job.

Your birthday is a great day for you to get a present and to say "Well done you!" for staying alive, but really that day should be a nod back to your parents who had their world paused so that they could slip you into their nest.

I'll stop now and go and have a shower before I really start turning into a slushy mess, but really, wow. Babies, eh? Get it done, Oli.

x

Monday, October 13, 2014

Comedian Factor

It's Saturday night, the deep voiced guy is really going for it. We've been waiting all year for this.

The final. A number of lucky winners have been hand picked from months of scrupulous searching through the tedious masses of hopefuls. Now, here we are. Here they are. The judges are lined up, their familiar faces shining out from behind the tooth glare and layers of foundation.

There's the industry mogul, famously rude and cruel but undeniably successful. No one could argue with the way his career panned out and even those without a pleasant word to say about the scowling gentleman on the end would jump at half the chance to work with him. It's Don Ward, ladies and gentlemen. As I live and breathe.

Next to him is the hugely successful vision of what each of our hopefuls are dying to become. She's beaten the odds to become the well presented face of up and coming clever, vivacious, hugely popular comedy. A hit with both men and women alike, she looks great, sounds even better and is there to offer insight as someone who's actually done it. Katherine Ryan is ready for action.

Next to Katherine we have the one with nothing to lose. He made it big in the 90s and is ready to criticise his way through the next generation with the acid tongue of someone who just couldn't give a fuck any more. Obviously, a nice boost to his own career wouldn't go amiss so there'll be an attempt to keep the crowd onside but this savvy comedian knows how to occupy the screen. Peter Kay is chomping at the bit, asides prepared and experience dripping from every pore.

Lastly, it's the industry figure that everybody knows and can't help but love in a shambolic fashion. He's been around as long as anyone can remember and is, how shall we say it, a character on the scene. He's certainly been successful, no one can argue that, but how that success has come about might evade some people's memory. A cheery, smily, comedy obsessed face reveals Martin Besserman as our final judge.

We're ready to go.

The first act is up. Belting out a string of carefully traced jokes about their shitty home town. There's an original spin to one or two of them but it looks as though's she's lost the interest of Katherine Ryan who seems to have been hoping for something more exciting. The rhythm is there, the timing is excellent - no one watching at home could argue with the professionalism of the delivery of this act.

Don is bowled over - he loves it. He knows a steady routine when he sees one and this is the sort of thing that would go down a storm at a big weekend club. He's smiling from ear to ear and this girl looks as though she might just have a future in comedy. Peter is scathing at best. He's completely unimpressed by the audacity of the act to come up armed with nothing better than jokes about being from somewhere - don't they have an original bone in their body? Not a yes from Peter.

Joel Dommett is thanking the act and sending on her on her way, relieved and exhilarated, back into the dressing room. He's introducing the next act.

This guy has clearly done his research. Research of one particular inimitable act. The jokes come slow and incoherent, repetition is a key feature. The only feature. Repetition is the only feature. They key feature? Repetition. Rhetorical questions and overusing his own name come naturally to this rookie and he laconically drips lists and concepts onto the stage with seemingly absolute no interest in how he's being perceived. He finishes up his set and Joel shuffles awkwardly on set to firm him up.

Katherine is first to speak.

"I could see what you were trying to do..." she begins kindly. She has positive words for him but she can't hide the disappointment. No amount of constructive criticism can make up for a silent audience... but you can still go home and claim they just didn't "get you". Don't you worry.

Martin loved it. Something weird, something wacky... "Well done!" he enthuses sincerely. "I'd book you for my London club any time. I loved it. You're something different and that's what the circuit needs."

"Don't be ridiculous." chimes in Don, "What works works for a reason, because it works. And this, didn't work. Sorry but you need jokes, you need a certain punchline rate, you need observations, you need punch. You, had none of that."

Peter says something irrelevant that makes the crowd laugh and we're off onto the next act.

The next act looks the party. He's all bouffant hair and skinny jeans. A red chequered shirt that the stylists have picked straight off of BBC3. He's personable, smily and great company for his brief spell. Lad culture, am I alpha enough, why do women want a real man not a weakling like me, I can't get a girl, I'm a geek and I'm camp. He covers it all. He's sewing together "honestly true" stories from his ramshackle life with terrible puns that he cajoles the audience into laughing at. They are loving it. He's just handsome enough to be handsome without being handsome. He's every agents dream.

The judges are unanimous. He's excellent. He's got panache, he's got style, he's got jokes and he's got persona. What a guy. He will fit right in with all the other exact replicas currently lining the charts. Money signs are lighting up behind the judges' eyes. It's going to be a tough act to follow.

Luckily, the next act doesn't seem to be trying that hard to go any further than infamy. The last of our four finalists has a few American influences and he traipses them across the boards without a second thought for the careful touch that his idols used to scatter them. He hammers home cancer punchlines and flips the concept of rape up in the air like a February pancake. The audience make no more noise than a few extremely uncomfortable titters and eventually the camera pans round to Katherine just miming the word "stop". He ploughs on regardless, mining the deep well of baby death comedy between a lighter section on a particularly racist grandparent that, oh no wait, has actually turned out to be dead now anyway so don't worry. The set comes to an abrupt end as the act stabs someone on a bus and Joel tries his best to be professional without in any way condoning anything the act had to say and landing his own career in scalding water.

The judges don't know where to begin. Peter shakes his head in despair, "How could you take something as fluffy as comedy and do that to it?" he asks. "It's like you took the ingredients for a greta cake and just shat on them instead of baking." The audience muster a low laugh but they're too shell shocked to react properly. We move on.

Katherine asks the act politely to go back to being an estate agent. Martin is not impressed and consequently only offers him a spot at his Thursday night show. Don, well Don is thinking.

"You actually don't have no joke writing skill." He concedes, "But what you lack is any kind of respect for you audience or skill at reading a room. I wouldn't be surprised if you got somewhere but you've got a long way to go yet."

Joel ushers him to one side and brings the four finalists into line on the stage. They stand, nervous. There are clearly only two in the running. The girl from a shit hole and the lad with masculinity issues... who is it going to be...?

IT'S THE LAD!!! OF COURSE IT'S THE LAD!!!

He had it all... the hair, the teeth, the jokes, the smoothness, the twinkle in his eye and ability to turn his hand to any panel show that needs a jocular guy to sit next to the other ones. Well done lad. You're the king of comedy for a year. Wear that crown with pride.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Wolf Eyes Meets a Hufflepuff

On Wednesday I'm going to be in the same room as Paul Hollywood. Having given up harrassing whoever books the comedians for Great British Bake Off Extra Slice to take a punt on someone who, whilst being unknown, is a massive fan of the show, I've got myself a ticket to go along and see the recording of the show.

It turns out that because it's the show that'll be on after the final, Paul Hollywood will be there. Now, I love Paul Hollywood for the following reasons:

1. He's mean in a sexy way.
2. He has the eyes of a wolf that has killed the rest of his pack and isn't even sorry.
3. He makes bread.

Pause. I don't think you've let that sink in.

THE MAN'S MAIN JOB IS TO CREATE DELICIOUS CARBOHYDRATES. DELICIOUS DOUGHY CARBOHYDRATE GOODNESS.

Imagine the following scenario:

Paul comes home from a hard day at work.

Paul: I have had a hard day at work.
Laura: Oh dear. What happened?
Paul: I made loads of bread.
Laura: Do you have any bread with you?
Paul: Yes.
Laura: *jumps on Paul* Oh my god you taste like bread on your skin because you spend all your time around bread. You are delicious. I love bread.

4. He is not a hugger. His highest form of praise is a handshake.
5. His surname is Hollywood and Laura Hollywood sounds great.


What I can't work out is what to bake on Wednesday for the show. Have I got a better chance of talking to them if I bake something truly awful, or should it be excellent?

If I bake some kind of wedding scenario involving myself and the Wolf will I even be allowed into the studio?

Any help appreciated guys. You're all beautiful.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Autumn In The Mirror

Iris was sitting in the garden enjoying the warm autumn day. This was her favourite kind of weather - when the heat was all encompassing and wholesome. The summer heat from the earth was still lingering, and as it rose up and met with the descending day's sunshine it melted beautifully into the bones. Iris thought the heat was kinder in autumn. Autumn heat is not sharp like heat in spring, where the sun is just starting to pierce the remaining chill of winter. In autumn the heat is gentle and relaxed; no need to try too hard. The sun's work for the year is done and now it's just easing itself off in search of new surroundings.

Iris didn't much mind seasons changing... she'd seen enough of them not to become too concerned about the temperature adjusting one way or the other for a few months. Once you reached a certain age you picked a jacket you liked and wore it all year round regardless of weather. It was just easier.

Iris liked to imagine that in winter the sun had another home it went to live in. As she and Colin would have done had they had the money and the fearlessness. She thought the sun probably enjoyed the break from the English gridlock. It was kind enough to leave it's wintry hologram up there to light the days for them, but Iris knew that it wasn't the real sun. Neither was the summer sun real to her; the summer sun was too grandiose, too imposing... too eager to show off to holiday makers and doubters. She felt the summer sun showed off like a teenager whose parents had tolerant friends over - the sort who might coo over a mantle piece performance or two. It was the autumn sun that she liked best; when the campers had trailed back up the M5, the Spanish students had gone home to their Spanish desks, and country life was back to normal. Then the sun seemed genuine... it seemed to relax - content to give it's best few weeks to people at home in their gardens. Late evening BBQs and frantic veg patch preparation could be done with this friendly orange face nearby to say, "Well done, we did it. Another year's busy season done."

As she sat on the green canvas, reclinable chair the thought crossed Iris' mind that sun worship didn't seem so daft when you really thought about it. There was much stronger evidence for a causal link between the sun and prosperity than there was for a God. She'd always thought it lightly amusing that people had once offered gifts up to a ball of gas like the sun, but now, as she sat with only the sun for company, she realised that actually she had a lot to be grateful to it for. She and Colin had always loved the sun... sought it out for holidays, made the most of it in their own gardening, and added a conservatory as soon as they had realised conservatories existed. After Colin died, the sun had been the first solace Irisfound. His death had brought dull panic to a life she quickly discovered had been emotionally privileged to the utmost. She'd felt routinely crushed by the daily bouts of realisation that this new life was permanent and that all the empty spaces opened up by a lack of Colin, were now constant. For the first time in her life Iris had wished for children - begged the heavens to let her wake up having had a child with Colin 40 years ago so that now she'd have another version of his face to miss his old one with her. But every day she'd woken up childless and alone in a house that felt too big for the love she had left for it. Her own attention to it couldn't fill the corners any more and the visitors who shuffled round kept leaving tupperware dishes of good intentions that would sit in her fridge for days while she stared at them. She didn't want to reheat a lasagne portion and eat it in front of the TV, she wanted to chop an onion for a soup while the pips played on the radio and Colin chose that exact moment to wash up and get under her feet.

She'd felt wretched without him. The sort of heartache you thought you'd left behind in your teenage years could still find you despite your wrinkled disguise. Iris hadn't been totally sure if she was allowed to cry and wail and stay in bed, or if people would think that odd. She felt an unspoken assumption that if your partner died in old age, you were supposed to be ready and prepared for it. The fact that you knew it was coming and had already spent a life together, meant you didn't have many hard feelings about him going now. Iris didn't have hard feelings - she'd had wet feelings; mushy and limp feelings. Feelings that made her want to keep her eyes closed because thoughts didn't settle so firmly if you were looking at the colour lights on the black of your eyelids.

She clearly remembered that the sun was the first thing that made her want to bother being Iris without Colin. She'd been hungry, and a panicked loyalty had overwhelmed her brain so that she couldn't bear the thought of eating anything but Colin's tomatoes. She wanted to show him how she still loved him - she wanted to fill herself with something he had put so much time into. She wanted any tiny, miserable way to be with him. She'd slipped out the back door, up the step, along the path and down to the grow bags at the front of the greenhouse. Then she sank to her knees and began piling tomatoes into her mouth... red, round... green and hopelessly unripe... yellowing... she pushed fruit after fruit into her mouth. Not letting a single pip fall from her mouth to be wasted. Then she sat back down onto the grass and just cried. A tear for every second she had loved that man, and an extra one for every long minute she now had to 'get on with it' without him. She cried until she was exhausted and then just lay back on the grass and drifted off to sleep. When she woke, her first thought was how pleasant the burning sun felt on her skin. It was like fingers massaging into her cheek bones. As her drowsy thoughts came awake and she remembered why she was lying in the garden, she realised that for the first time since his death her first waking thought had not been Colin. The sun had given her a few brief moments of respite - the smallest insight into the possibility that one day there would be more thoughts that weren't of a lack of Colin. The sun had given her hope.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

You and your lations.

I went swimming today and, because I can't swim so much as I can deftly lollop through the water like a cramping barrell, I was using the slow lane. The slow lane in my local pool contains three different types of people:

1. Elderly women who are less interested in swimming and more interested in standing in the shallow end having a nice chat. One can only assume it's nice for them to know they are wet for a reason and not just because they can no longer handle the witty repartee without Tena assistance.

2. Hairy yet very attractive men who are pretending not to look at the other hairy attractive men.

3. Uncomfortable people of middling age, middling weight, middling swimming ability who desperately want to be in the medium pace lane but are worried they'll upset someone. These people haven't really swum since the days of school swimming where the one chunky girl in the class inexplicably got a week off every month, and everyone got over excited at the thought of a free play swim time instead of endless lengths.


As I turned around at one end of the pool, someone smiled at me and asked me how I was getting on. I said:

"Oh, it's ok. I hate swimming actually. I just hate swimming slightly less than I hate running so I'm here."

She laughed, which was great and I've subsequently added it to my comedy CV for sending out to presenters. I continued...

"I'm getting married next year and I just wanted to work on my figure a bit before the dress fittings."

Her: "Congratulations."

Me: "Thanks."

She swam off and I continued my lengths with ever decreasing levels of finesse.

Had I had something else to do I would have not thought about the exchange again. But I didn't have anything else to do... all I could do was continue swimming behind this nice lady and wish I could in some way catch up with her and say "By the way, I care intermittently about the health and appearance of my body at other times in the year too - not just when I have a wedding coming up. I'm not that kind of woman."

But maybe I am that kind of woman. I am the kind of woman who grins from ear to ear at the end of the make-me-skinny-pool because someone else has congratulated me on getting married soon. Because, I deserve congratulations, don't I? I've won haven't I? I've got one?

Marriage and weddings still have that hold over us that it's an accomplishment - it's something you've achieved. It's a life goal that you've conquered. I somehow think we view marriage as different to love. Falling in love is easy - marriage, so I'm told, is not.

Is a woman congratulating me on getting married sinister? Is it some hark back to the dark ages if I grin and widely accept the congratulations? Am I revelling in the delight that someone has got me and is going to make my life easier? Or, is the congratulations better than that? Is it "congratulations on deciding your fluttery new love is worth stapling down so that when it inevitably gets difficult, you can look back and know that at some point you felt so seriously about this being forever that you made the biggest noise possible to shout about it so it's much harder to let it slip away quietly"?

I wasn't too worried about my comment on trying to look good for the wedding. The truth is I have a tempestuous relationship with food that's quite hard to casually describe to an unsuspecting woman making small talk at the side of a pool. Much easier to say "I want to be a size 8 bride" than "sometimes I cry because I've only eaten a cube of cheese in 24 hours and my brain's melted because it thought even that was too many calories". I think the poor thing would probably have fled for the medium paced lane and sod the rest of them had I opened that can of worms-lite.*

So there I was swimming up and down the pool under the beady eye of the life guard (who I just knew was judging my stroke and my life choices) suddenly wondering if I should be getting married at all. Because someone had congratulated me. A sort of misguided feminist cold feet I suppose. Cold feet that were kicking up a shit storm behind me in the face of the grey ladies of Kemp Town.

I think I'm getting married for the right reasons... I'm getting married because I love my relationship, have done for a few years, and hope to keep it similar to this for the rest of my life. I could live without getting married, but I also really want to do it. I don't think marriage will change anything immediately and I'm certainly not expecting an expensive party to miraculously fix anything.

I think I know that the people at my wedding, the people I love the most, will be congratulating me for the right reasons. They won't be praising me for slipping off the shelf and into the arms of someone eligible. They'll be congratulating us for having made each other's lives better and having made it really easy to have great dinner parties because we are now a team.

I'm sad that I felt bad about getting married, but I'm grateful to that woman for congratulating me because it made me have quite a long hard think about it all. But I shan't be going swimming again just in case.


*The only reason I mention this element, which is very personal obviously, is because I think the more people talking about horrible, awkward, ridiculous issues like these the better. I do not want any sympathy but if it helps someone else to know they're not alone I say shout about stuff like this from the roof tops when you're feeling strong enough.