The Ivy – The Commoners Guide to Eating Posh

Blog Ivy

Picture, if you will, two weary travellers. Wandering aimlessly under the baking sun; their skin is pink, their limbs are heavy and their nerves a slightly frayed due to encroaching hunger that is unstated by the raspberries they had for breakfast in the car. Lost, they have been wandering Cambridge for hours, buffeted by the inordinate amount of school groups (curious, on a Saturday) and tourists who are rampaging the streets. There is also the gradual realisation the perhaps visiting a city where each attraction is hidden by large, unerring wooden doors bearing unapologetic slogans like “No Visitors, Only Students” or “£13 per person for entry” was possibly not the best choice of destination when their pockets are a little tighter than normal.

Eventually, after trudging past cafes, restaurants and eateries packed to the gills; after pressing their noses sadly against the windows and eyeing piled high plates of food on their way to other people; after being so dehydrated that they had resorted to threatening to spit in each other’s mouths to provide any kind of moisture, a metaphorical light appears on the horizon. Coming to a stop outside an unassuming dark green shop front to gently berate each other for having let it get to this stage, one gestures to the darkened doorway with only a slight hint of exasperation and says “what about here then?”

Up a step, they are greeted by a smart young lady in a starched white shirt behind an imposing lectern housing a computer screen. She stands just to the right of a sizable wooden door with an artful stained glass window and to her left hangs a rather dramatic deep red velvet curtain. She smiles candidly at our heroes before asking softly “reservation?”

“Err, table for two?” Is the somewhat querulous response. She narrows her eyes just a fraction and looks down at her computer screen. From somewhere behind her appears another lady, this one with added blazer, who whispers something quietly in her ear. It is here, dear reader, that our weary wanderers began to get the sneaking suspicion they had stumbled on something a little beyond their usual fare. Indeed, the internal warning sirens were sounding and a couple of sharp glances were shared between them as another lady appears off the street, pushes her way through and flippantly remarks over her shoulder to the door woman and friend as she slips through the door that she was there to meet people. The sliver of restaurant viewable for the brief second it took her to get through afford a mere flash of finery and the impression of chandeliers.

Suddenly the burgundy curtain swishes aside and a third lady appears; this one wearing a smart red dress and fancy heels. She smiles and inclines her head, before slipping behind the lectern, palming some menus and shepherding our duo through the door.

On the other side, they are met with a sight to behold. What they had originally expected to be a single room with a couple of tables turns out to be the size of a banquet hall and positively dripping with opulence. Beautifully tiled floors in dark blues and mustard yellows sit below dark wooden tables and walls artistically crammed with photos and paintings. Waiters and waitresses in full regalia (waistcoats and ties) move quietly and swiftly round with huge trays balanced precariously, and burly men in suits circle silently, smiling beautifully at guests.

The pair huddle together and hurry to follow their guide, nearly tripping each other as they stare, open mouthed at the two bars that could have stolen from a 1935 gin joint, resplendent with crystal glasses, mirrored fittings and bottle displays that could have easily doubled as a potions store. After what seems like an inordinate amount of time, they are invited to take a seat at a sweetly tucked away corner table. They fall somewhat chaotically onto the plush couches and take the proffered menus with only slightly trembling hands.

“Any water?” Asks the hostess. Our wanderers share panicked looks at being asked a question so promptly without any chance of preparation and after a moment of hesitation nod frantically.

“Still or Sparkling?” Is the next query which results in yet more overwrought looks, before the safer option of still is plumped for. Finally left to their own devices for the first time, our champions take a moment to properly absorb their surroundings; the salt and pepper shakers that appear to be made from gold and the casually placed wine bucket at every available corner before bursting into stifled giggles and muttered suggestions that they are definitely not posh enough to be where they are. They both suddenly hush when their server returns with a glass bottle of water that she carefully pours into the prepared glasses. As she walks away, there’s a flurry of panicked whispering regarding potential costs of bottled water vs dehydration. Turning to the menus, they hold hands tightly under the table in preparation of expenses. The mains cause a conjoined wince, and the wine list is discarded immediately, but the sandwiches are perused with interest.

By the time a new waiter appears; a swarthy man with curly dark hair and an intense unblinking stare, our duo are prepared to order. A pair of peach and elderflower lemonades are first, followed by an order for eggs benedict and a truffled chicken sandwich.

Here, dear reader, we must take a side bar to discuss the hereforto unknown wonders of truffled chicken. Initially unsure, I (for yes, the heroes you’ve shared this journey with your friendly neighbourhood Ebear and TMM) chose it under supervision and boy, was I rewarded. Two rounds of fried bread, chunks of perfectly tender and ridiculously tasty chicken, salad dressed in some kind of delightful dressing and pre salted chunky chips. The food of the gods.

By the time the meals arrive, our wanderers have settled enough to enjoy their environment and appreciate how it is to live like one of the rich and famous. Surrounded by fancy people with laughs like braying horses and neck scarves galore, they tuck into their food with relish.

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Sadly, small but unapologetic signs declared “No Photography Allowed”, but worry not. It did not stop our intrepid heroes who gladly broke the rules to take a sneaky photo of this super fancy knife with a silver fly on the handle (though it’s clear a life of covert observation is not on the cards considering how blurry this is).

Due to high hunger levels and a small yet undeniable fear someone was going to realise that our couple were 100% not posh enough to be there and kick them out, the plates were clean within a rather small timeframe. Due to unfortunately unexpected circumstances and somewhat limited funds, there was no time for desserts (though the delightful looking Rum Baba with Chantilly Cream was noted and will be enjoyed again in the future). However, before dropping the cash and hightailing it out of there as fast as their £10 Primark pumps would carry them, both our explorers braved the crowds of Cambridgites to visit the facilities.

Typically, I have to admit, I barely visit toilets in the outside world, because I have the bladder of a camel and a definite fear of being kidnapped. This time though, it was definitely worth the risk, if only for the apparent million mile walk (I still have no idea how this place actually fitted behind such a demure shop front) lined with beautiful botanical drawings. The full size wall mural of a tropical bird was much appreciated too (I tried to take a photo of this too, but was scuppered when someone suddenly appeared at the top of the stairs to stare at me judgingly).

The obligatory toilet selfie – it smelt freaking amazing in there.

Soon though our heroes emerged, blinking and slightly shell shocked, into the bright sunshine. Bellies full, pockets significantly lighter and lives enriched, they strode hand in hand, off towards the horizon.

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An Interlude from the Sunshine Library

So, in order to make up for my lack of post the other Thursday, TMM suggested I do another mini weekend bloglet. An exercise, he said, in allowing me to use up a little excess blog material that didn’t make it into last week’s offering as well as keeping up my word count. Not one to counter such a wise and logical argument, or deny him the chance to share super little teasers on his instagram story #socialmediapresence, I agreed, and what follows is just a peek into my personal library. It’s been a while since I’ve shared any reviews or book recommendations and I’d hate to leave you bereft.

The warm weather has actually been the perfect excuse to catch up on my reading. My refusal to sit inside for any length of time has limited my televisual intake and having lunch breaks out in the park have meant I’ve had time to just chow down on a couple of books that have been waiting patiently in my “to read” pile.

So far I’ve managed two books this week; “Early One Morning” by Virginia Baily (picked up from The Works for a couple of quid) and “The Hollow Tree” by James Brogden (from our last trip to Hay on Wye).

The first one I’ve been eyeing up for a while. It’s been on and off bookshelves, in and out of day bags and left on the bedside table for weeks, but I finally managed to make it past the cover on the trip to visit my Mother last weekend. It opened quite dramatically (WW2 Italy) with some Nazi involvement and the heart breaking rescue of a young jewish boy. The story itself was focused on the woman who rescued him, in flash forwards and flashbacks throughout her life, and a young girl in the 1970s who finds herself linked to the pair. Overall, I struggled a little with it, specifically the stylistic choice of flicking through time periods without identification as well as between characters, and I found myself becoming frustrated with the women themselves. However, I wonder if perhaps my disappoint was spurred more from the fact i went into it hoping for something different, rather than the fault of the author. Still, it kept me company for a lunch break and an evening of TMM watching tennis so I sharn’t be too put out.

On the other hand, “The Hollow Tree” was exactly what I thought it would be with some added supernatural elements and I am all about it. I went back and forth a few times before I picked this up in Richard Booth’s bookshop (or Heaven as it’s also known). We had intended to limit ourselves to one book per person at the time *spoiler* it didn’t last, and eventually I caved and bought it after lunch.

Inspired by a legend (which also led to an hour long wikipedia search) it follows a woman, herself involved in a tragic accident that results in amputation, who becomes embroiled in the horrifying tale of a woman trapped in an oak tree and left to die. It deals with death, danger and the discovery of a darker exsistence parallel to our own in a very engaging and provoking manner; and in such a way that I found myself desperate to get back to it each lunch break. There was also another book on the shelf by the same author which attracted me and by the time I’d gotten round to picking up the one I’d bought, I’d combined the blurbs a little and was a tad confused to find this one wasn’t the one with the mysterious children (“Helka’s Children” for those of you interested) as I’d originally thought. However, children not withstanding, it was just as thrilling as the recommendations on the front cover suggested (and I’ll definitely be investing in the other’s he’s written).

Now I was going to end this post by telling you all about a beautiful copy of “Rebecca” that i was going to start this morning, but in what might turn out to be the biggest betrayal of the century, it appears that instead of the book, I unknowingly bought a notebook made to look like a beautiful copy of “Rebecca” and I am wounded. Thankfully though, I’d ordered a spur of the moment purchase from Amazon, and as a salve for both my need to read and my pride, I’ve spent the afternoon reading “A Sky Painted Gold” by Laura Wood. Turns out , lazing around on the grass with a gin and tonic ice lolly, TMM looking delightfully sunkissed and dozey and a book set in the 1920s is apparantly just the cure I needed.

The Art of Being (Effortlessly) Busy

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Once again, I’m starting a post with an apology for absence. I’ve let you down, I’ve let Jesus down, but most of all, by not blogging weekly like I promised, I’ve let myself down. Oh the shame.

Still, you should all count yourselves lucky, because you almost didn’t get a post this week either and just think how apologetic I’d have had to be with two weeks AWOL…The thing is, and I’m not sure if you’ve noticed (social media may have clued you in) but it is warm. Like, delightfully warm. The wonderfully tropical kind of warm that saps all your(my) energy and just leaves you(me) wanting to lie around in the sun like a giant sun slug and do absolutely nothing but gently baste like a festive turkey.

Somewhat conversely though, this is exactly the opposite of how my life has been these last two weeks. Summer has come and so, apparently, has my social life. Who knew? A splash of sunshine and I’m anybody’s for an hour or two.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful though by any means. I’ve had a lovely time seeing people and finally doing tasks I’ve been meaning to do for ages. I’ve caught up with old friends on long and mildly arduous hikes (read – we sweated our literal balls off and walked for miles). I cleaned the kitchen like a real life grown up – scrubbed the oven, cleared all the crumbs under the bread bin and even washed the windows with a vinegar solution (for achieving that perfect sparkle). I went out with some girlies from work for an evening of spectacular burgers, resplendent pancakes and a showing of the new Jurassic Park film, which was much better that I expected. We all got a tad overexcited I think and poor TMM had to drive us home whilst we hysterically prattled on about dinosaurs (it was mostly me – I really want a dinosaur) even though it was far past his bedtime. And personal growth alert – I actively enjoyed every venture (the cleaning in a sort of masochistic way) and didn’t get anxious or worked up about any of them. Boom for counselling and awareness of mental health issues.

Side note – the team also did a little road trip to Hay-on-Wye in the new car within which we managed to sneak in a visit to Neens. This was excellent on numerous levels, including but not limited to, finally introducing Woo to my grandma (they’ve been Facebook friends for ages now) and getting to play with the new kitten (who is actually the cutest and came to sit on my lap all of his own free will and nearly made me combust with joy). Hay itself was as superb as always and we all got slightly emotional at how nice lunch was and all came home with a decent little haul of books. This section gets it’s own little paragraph because it doesn’t actually count as exertion or busy activity – mainly because team are basically me and also Neens and cats and books. But, you know, I like to share these things with you.

 

I mean, a bookshop that makes a brew this perfect can’t be anything but heaven.

It feels like the longest days have come at just the right time though. As I’m sure you can gather by the mild level of hysterical awe in which I describe all these events, I am not a naturally busy person. I don’t thrive on constant activity. In fact, I get a bit panicked at the thought of having more than 2 events a week (god I’m boring). I need to know I’ve got time to sit on the couch and stare aimlessly at instagram for an hour followed by an early night on a regular basis or I get antsy. I am nothing if not a creature of habit. I’m dangerously entitled too (don’t know who I think I am). I am fully of the belief that my social batteries work in a typically introverted fashion – if I’ve been out and about doing things and seeing people, I’m going to need an equal amount of time to sit and do eff all like the potato I naturally am. To be frank, this is possibly one of the largest arguments for me never having children – I am literally just too lazy.

With the sun staying out like a brazen hussy until all hours though, I feel like I’ve got more time to fit everything in. I can be aggressively busy at work and still have time to get home and do something before reverting to slob mode. Please note, this is the complete opposite to the winter months, when I get home from the office, cry about the cold/dark/Christmas and then go to bed at about 8pm. These past few days, I’ve done pretty much everything I can to be outside in the light, despite being one of nature’s cave dwellers. I’ve pushed myself to do more just so I can spend time in the sunshine and soak up the warmth like a cat on a window sill. I’ve taken to sneaking out of the office every lunch break to go and read in the park (I have a dedicated tree to lean against), eating all possible meals in the garden like some kind of Mediterranean (god, you can tell I’ve barely been abroad can’t you), and absolutely blitzing through any inside chores to ensure that the smallest amount of my time is spent away from the beautiful blue skies. It’s also meant that the garden has never been so well weeded- it’s so much easier to convince yourself to do it when you can get a tan at the same time.

There is still a mild undercurrent of worry; something in the corner of my consciousness that tells me I’m running out of time to get everything done, but I think it’s just something that comes hand in hand with being a grown up, like always worrying about bills or how long you can get away without doing the laundry. I hate thinking that I’m leaving something unfinished and being busy only compounds the threat, but boy, sitting in the sunshine does make it all that little bit easier to ignore.

Driving Miss Crafty

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Well we’ve only bloody gone and bought a new car! (About time too I hear you call). Hans von Manschaft has beeped his last and as of last night he has gone to the big garage in the sky (he’s not, he’s gone to the Hyundai garage as a part ex but you get what I was going for). Instead we now have a super swanky little motor that’s full of effortless chill – just like us. It’s got tinted back windows, as our gangsta lifestyle demands, DAB radio and a ton of buttons (which I have obviously already touched). We originally were going full the most bog standard model they had (it was basically a box with wheels) but somewhere along the line we ended up with a “Premium SE” whilst managing to stay completely on budget. We’ve got electronic windows, AC and headlights that tilt in the direction you’re turning (which we have been very wowed by). It’s also SUPER SHINY and very white which we were both unexpectedly taken with (though I expect that will remain as such for about two days. So many dates to the car wash though). We did turn down the extra fancy waxing and car mats for another £350 (much to the chagrin of the garage) because we’re not that precious or rich, but TMM already has designs on Amazon Prime options to ensure the inside stays as fancy as it is for a fraction of the cost.

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Look at all those buttons, it’s like a little present just for me and my pointy fingers

TMM was the most brave during the whole situation, and I think provided a soothing balm for the young man who was dealing with us in the face of Woo, who we brought along as our enforcer and money man. She made a name for herself at the last garage when she proceeded to completely destroy the chap who was somewhat poorly trying to sell us a car. She basically beat him into verbal submission, and I think he was close to tears when we left. She has no time for anyone’s shit and, !)as such, is now in charge of all grown up aspects of our lives. She proved herself invaluable whilst we navigated the somewhat choppy waters of car sales though, and definitely has her face up on a couple of salesroom back walls with a big red BEWARE plastered across it. In fact, her response to this very paragraph was “DAMN RIGHT, LOOK OUT DODGY SALESMEN, I AM ON THE LOOSE!”. Be afraid, be very afraid.

This time was much better for all though, and I think Woo and young Blessing (our salesman) built up a good relationship of lightly fond exasperation. There was a slight fission when he went out to inspect Hans though. The previous guy had just given him a once over and offered us a set sum. For Blessing, ever the professional, this wasn’t sufficient. He took his iPad and his earnest nature and got all up in Hans’ grill. TMM had nicely mentioned the somewhat temperamental nature of the parking break and incessant beeping beforehand in a casual sort of way, but there was still a lot of panicked rolling when he came to try and park it. We enjoyed a little giggle too when he came back in with wide eyes and told us in no uncertain terms how scared he’d been and that temperamental was not the way he would have chosen to describe it. Still, it all went through smoothly and we now have a lovely new little Hyundai I10. It is just a slight change from the somewhat canal boat sized Passat. I think after The Duchess had been replaced with Hans, we’d just planed to keep upgrading to bigger and bigger cars until we were just trundling along in a tank, but common sense won the day. Our road has minimal parking and as much as it’s nice to have, we don’t need a boot the size of a barge. Poor TMM was a little cut up at the thought I think, but I’ve promised him that we’re just doing this to save money for our dream cottage in the country. Small cars now lead to big dreams later on.

It has been a bit of an eye opener money-wise though I think. We’ve never done loans or finance or the like before, and it’s a bit of experience. TMM is most distrustful of all big companies (he’s basically a recluse who should really be living in a forest somewhere with a giant beard and a pet wolf) and I have no idea how anything in the real world works, so it took a lot of research, grown up conversations and soothing stories of positive experiences from friends to get us to this point. We’ve only ever had one big expense before and that was buying our first car with student loan money. We’re in the thick of it now though and our credit scores will hopefully soon reflect it (I am mildly ashamed at myself for even writing that. Who have I become!) The point is, whilst we’re not quite as JAMmy as Teresa May might like to suggest (see what I did there – political humour gone mad), we are also going to have to learn to cut back on our somewhat more unnecessary expenses. Whist we are both lucky enough to have full time permanent jobs, we’ve also got a lads lads lads holiday to Prague with my mum planned, and a new sudden liking for coconut water (super tasty, super expensive), so I think it might take a judicious sprinkling of restraint when it comes to the weekly shop and our trips to Primark. Still, I’m not too concerned; we’ve lived on less quite successfully before, so we can definitely do it again.

Perhaps what has come at just the right time is the formation of a new working partnership between myself and Woo and the soon to be grand opening of our Etsy shop. We have been threatening to do it for the longest time, but with the resurgence in my crafting activities (I’ve finally finished the wall piece of Woo after promising her it for about 3 months) and Woo getting her garage hopefully cleared out and converted to a workshop, we have finally decided to take the plunge and just see what happens. I’ve gone a bit wild recently on pompoms (so bang on trend) after having to power craft a little present for our friend Wilson after realising somewhat belatedly that it was her birthday on Friday and we hadn’t got her anything (HAPPY BIRTHDAY HoneyBadger!). She is terribly on trend in a sensible, grown up, Pinterest kind of way, but she loves a good pompom and a splash of colour so hopefully she’ll be taken with what we’ve got her.

img-20180612-wa0010672072023.jpgDo you like a pompom? Could you see such a garland festooning your house? Come to us for all your bunting needs!

Over time, we’re hoping to be able to get rid of a lot of backed up craft that’s currently taking over my living room, treat ourselves to all sorts of new craft projects and fun toys (metal engraving anyone?), and any monetary profit will be an added bonus. We’re maintaining a sensible and professional outlook at the moment, but expect us to be world famous entrepreneurs this time next year. Just saying.

Birthday Bonanza

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Well that’s it folks, I have officially joined the 27 club. My birthday has come and gone and I am now firmly in the realm of “being responsible” and definitely no longer young enough to accidentally commit a crime but still avoid jail time (which is an irrational but very specific fear I have. My mother has promised that if, god forbid, I should end up embroiled in an accidental life of crime and sent to the Big House, she’ll come bail me out with a file baked in a cake and a Thelma and Louise style getaway – hopefully sans the cliff dive – but I’d rather just try and avoid the whole thing altogether if possible). As I pointed out to a colleague, if I were a rock star I could totally die now and join the hallowed halls of the Forever 27, though thankfully I’m boring as sin and highly unlikely to shuffle off this mortal coil through excessive drug use or car vs. tree related incidents. I’m pretty much planning on seeing this year out in the same style as the old one.

As always though, I’ve had an excellent birthday haul so kudos to all who we’re involved. You’ve all done very well and should give yourselves a nice pat on the back. Admittedly, I may or may have not started opening some presents on the previous Monday, but I did have to go to the dentist and gifts were coming through the letter box with tempting regularity, so I don’t really see how I can be blamed for getting carried away. Also, I’m a grown up now, and can open my presents whenever I please, so there. I would like to thank my dad and his lovely lady friend for their promptly posted and delightful gifts which made me smile after having to go and be super brave with hygiene specialists.

I also had to open some presents early when we went to see TMM’s clan (because I wouldn’t see them on the day and it would have been rude not to show my gratitude) and as per they excelled themselves present-wise (not to rub it in but I am 100% their favourite child, soz not soz). I got not only a yummy tea, but also a fancy box of Ferrero Rocher (TMM successfully demonstrated how he’s been unhealthily influenced by my family by not being able to help quoting “you’rr spoiling us ambassador” every time I offer him one), charming gin related paraphernalia, bath bombs, summer wreath kits, a puppy fuss (the last one now since all the puppies have gone to their new home and not one of those homes was mine, boo hiss) and a snotty kiss off beautiful baby Thea.

My work colleagues also did extremely well, but to be honest I didn’t give them much option as I had very handily provided a laminated and regularly updated daily countdown from around the 163 day mark. Whilst the Friday wasn’t the most enjoyable of days (stupid busy work), the gift giving was top notch and the presents were smashing. Some of you may have already seen Leroy the Llama mug, who is now my designated tea vessel of choice, though he provides much hilarity when he pokes my eye every time I get near to the bottom of my brew. I also got Sydney Sloth the phone holder who has helped with finger cramp, and a selection of others joys including but not limited to; a lovely framed print of a flamingo among pigeons, fancy neon coloured booze (my favourite kind) and some rather gorgeous lilies that proved themselves to be almost fatal to some old dear on the bus home. I also got two books from my boss (who requested a special shout out, so word to her) that give the definitions of lots of weird and wonderful words that have had us in fits of laughter when we probably should have been busier doing what we’re paid for. We have educated ourselves though, and have some excellent new words to add to our vocabularies, such as “Kinabra – the Greek word for the stank of a billy goat” (please note, the italics are a direct quotation) and “Kakopyge – someone who has ugly buttocks” (pg. 136 of The Penguin Dictionary of Curious and Interesting Words by George Stone Saussy the 3rd). Sadly none of us have managed to shoehorn them into a telephone call yet, but we’ll keep trying.

Look at my beautiful things. LOOK AT THEM.

TMM did his level best to spoil me rotten whilst adhering to the proviso he wasn’t to get me much. He not only made me pancakes in bed, he didn’t make me move until about 3 o’clock and then treated me to a new Lush face mask, some Primark jeans, a showing of Deadpool 2 (with Ben and Jerries’ ice-cream!) and a lovely Starbucks lunch. (This in itself was fun because I had hibiscus iced tea which is simultaneously the most hipsterish thing EVER and the tastiest drink I’ve had in a long time. The lovely Barista lady was a complete doll too, and did my a nice little happy birthday message and got my name right (though the more I look the more it looks like Eleanour, but still the first bit is right and that’s what usually throws people). I also got taken to the stage version of Thoroughly Modern Millie which was excellent (if questionably racist in sections) and have consequently spent the last two days fake tap dancing around the house, saying “oh terrif” with unnecessary amounts of enthusiasm and telling TMM how thoroughly modern I am. Admittedly, he’s been doing pretty much the same thing as he is definitely a modern woman, so its worked out well.

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It’s nearly Eleanor, so we’re definitely accepting it as a win.

*Speaking of, if anybody missed our Eurovision dress up last week on my Instagram last week, you really need to go and have a look. TMM went as Conchita (the winner a few years ago, with the amazing eye makeup and perfectly sculpted beard), and I have to say I have never been more proud of my make up abilities. TMM is a pretty hunky looking chap, it can’t be denied, but I literally don’t think I’ve ever seen a more attractive woman. His cheekbones take highlight like a champ and I found myself staring dreamily at his profile whilst the light glinted of them. It was like Xena Warrior Princess with chest hair. I couldn’t even bring myself to be annoyed at how pretty he looked, because I was too busy being deeply in love with his beautifully shadowed eyes and cow-like eyelashes.

Team were as good as they always are and newest edition Yoga Martin BBQ’d like a master (I’m pretty sure the BBQ was planned anyway, but I’m just going to assume it was in honour of my birthday and give him my birthday kudos blessing like the magnanimous delight I am). Turns out I am now all about barbequed fish like you would not believe and having it three times in two weeks is really as good as you could want it to be. There was much hilarity with axe throwing (which I definitely not good at), archery (which I watched from the side-lines shouting out helpful safety tips), air rifle shooting (which I enjoyed but hit absolutely nothing with) and I left with twice the amount I’d birthday cake I’d arrived with, a delightful doodle book/wonderfully pleasing coloured pencils and a date to walk with llamas in June (YASSSSSSS).

In true Indian wedding style (the perks of having a far flung family) the celebrations will continue throughout the week, and I know I’ve still got a My Hermes (family couriers of choice) parcel on its way from dearest Neens. We’ve also planned a trip to visit Mother and the rest of the Welsh Massive at the weekend too, though admittedly Hans the Devil Chariot is still beeping endlessly so we might be slightly frazzled (read – murderous) by the time we get there. It’s definitely worth it though, because I have siblings to squeeze, cousins to cuddle and a game of Cards Against Humanity or two to enjoy.

Now before I sign off, I thought I’d just leave you with some fun facts and notable events from my date of birth (other than the obvious *twirls*) that might help you in a pub quiz one day.

1) 1536 – The Execution of Anne Boleyn (cheery)

2) 1885 – 1st mass production of shoes by Jan Matzeliger in Lynn, Massachusetts (this fact pleases me immensely and I’m not sure why)

3) 1897 – Oscar Wilde released from Reading Gaol (Reading as in the place, not the act, which confused me more than it should have done for a minute)

4) 1928 – 51 frogs enter 1st annual “Frog Jumping Jubilee” in Angel’s Camp, California (I mean, why not)

5) 1939 – Birth of James Fox (phwoar)

6) 1948 – birth of Grace Jones (who terrifies me ever so slightly)

7) 1962 – Marilyn Monroe sings “Happy Birthday, Mr President” to John F Kennedy (My Mother did a great rendition of this down the phone to on my birthday)

8) 2018 – Meghan and Harry get married (you might have seen it mentioned briefly on the news)

9) 2161 – Syzygy: 8 of 9 planets aligned on same side of sun (something to look forward to)

I hope you all get at least one of those stuck in your head for next year in honour of me. TTFN.

The Art of Obsession

 

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So I learnt another new word last week (strap in kids, it’s time for some education). It’s rather self explanatory and not really the most exciting of terms, but I stumbled across it whilst blindly surfing (the web, not the sea – that would be silly) and had to do a mental double take at how accurate it was.

Hyperfixation – the act, process or result of fixating or becoming fixated on something; a persistent concentration. A mania, obsession, preoccupation.

I mean, come on. That is literally my entire personality down to a tee. I live to become weirdly obsessed with the most ridiculous things and drive myself into some kind of uncontrollable frenzy just for the hell of it. It’s a very specific definition though, and simply describes itself in a way I don’t think I had really appreciated before. To clarify – hyperfixation is, as the name suggests, a highly compounded version of an interest or hobby. It’s more than simply liking something, it’s taking your positive feeling and concentrating it to the nth degree. It’s a complete and utter submersion into a song, a book, a character, an idea; an almost overwhelming desire to drown yourself in something that is a mere triviality in the grand scheme of the world.

I literally don’t think I’ve ever read anything more legit (stolen from Tumblr)

I gently ricochet from one bizarre mania to another, barely giving myself time to get over the last one before diving in headfirst and with minimal care for my sanity. Poor TMM follows behind, absently picking up the random facts or thoughts that I spew out in my over-excitement and proving soft encouragement and careful distraction where he can.

I often think how strange it must look to an outsider; someone who has a healthy control over their own emotions and understands quite rationally that TV characters aren’t real and don’t need to be cried over, or that books end and that’s okay. They must look at me with their eyebrows raised and feel a gentle level of bemused condescension. There have been so many times that I’ve gotten into the car and rambled wildly on at TMM, telling him about a conversation I had at 10am with someone who happened to briefly mention something that I am currently “in to” and the internal explosion of excitement I had to tamp down in my pretence that I am normal and not a massive weirdo. Typically he smiles serenely and pats me on the knee and his silent acceptance of my complete nuttiness is very much appreciated. Usually though it just results in me harping on about this tiny interaction (which pretty much will have set my mood for the whole day) and I segue way off to chatter about something I saw on Instagram that links in some obscure way to my preoccupation of the hour.

They’re never fleeting things either, these obsessions. It might just be a flash of something, but each time I get sucked into whatever it is I’ve gotten sucked in to, it settles down in my psyche, digging out a comfy little niche for itself. Then, once I have gradually calmed myself down and moved onto something else, it still lurks in the background ready to spring into action when I least expect it. If I’m not prepared, I can stumble upon some kind of trigger and BAM, I’m stuck for days. Living For The City played on the radio the other day, and without even realising it, I was completely hijacked and I’ve not had anything else on what the past three days. Regardless of what I want to listen to, Stevie Wonder is now pretty much the only thing my brain will happily accept.

TMM finds it quite hilarious too, because I get very stressed about crossing the obsessional streams. If I can keep things separate, it makes it a lot easier, and it’s comforting if I can try and draw up a basic mental calendar – seeing potential triggers and preparing for them. For example, if I know another book in a particular series is due out, I can give myself time to read the pre-existing works (getting right into the groove of things) and meet the situation head on, avoiding anything that might try and distract me in the meantime. (The thought of reading a book out of sequence, or god forbid, picking up a book from somewhere completely different right in the middle of a series brings me out in hives. How people can flit between *looks at TMM very pointedly* is beyond me).

Getting caught up in two things at the same time is a horrible state of affairs, and I can’t help but feel like I’m betraying something if I swap before I’m ready to. Case in point for you – TMM wanted to watch some episodes of Lewis the other day. Now I love Lewis with an unhealthy passion, but the new Avengers film was coming out (not sure if I’d mentioned this?) and there was no way on earth I was going to come out of that unaffected. I couldn’t be expected to start Lewis (read, binge watch three seasons in an 14 hour period) become weirdly and uncomfortably obsessed with it and then just move onto Infinity Wars without so much as a howdoyoudo. Instead, I coerced TMM to take me to the cinema and then watch all of the old Captain America and Avengers films (in order) at the weekend. Admittedly he napped through most of them, but for those he didn’t escape, he was forced to listen to my endless commentary and excitable squeezing.

(It is perhaps important to note that I’ve previously had to limit my consumption of Lewis because my mental state wasn’t secure enough to deal with the fact my televisual comfort blanket was coming to a permanent end. I still haven’t quite come to terms with it (I categorically refuse to watch the last episode, because then I can just pretend it never finished).

…Does this sound mental? I’m pretty sure it sounds mental.

Though, after doing a bit of research on the whole notion of Hyperfixation, I did learn that is actually often seen as a coping mechanism for anxiety, which does make perfect sense. The thought process behind it is that hyperfixation allows you to narrow down all focus on one particular thing and block out anything else that may be out of your control. It limits your world to a singular thing and allows you to feel a sense of ownership and groundedness that might otherwise be unavailable to you. It might just be something small or seemingly stupid, but if it gives you a modicum of comfort when you need it, I really can’t bring myself to see it as a problem. Sure, it might be strange and admittedly half the time I think my obsessional leanings tend to exacerbate my issues rather than help them, but what the hey.

It’s very much a kind of madness though (that’s made pretty clear by the kind of words used to define it; “mania”, “obsession”, “fetish”) but I suppose it embodies the notion of fighting fire with fire – overcoming an insecurity or anxiety you can’t deal with by smothering it with one you can. It might sound childish, and there might be those that judge you for being absorbed in something silly like, oh, I don’t know, superheroes (me, it’s me, I’m obsessed with superheroes at the moment), but sometimes the news is horrible and the world is shameful and I just need to imagine Captain America punching Trump in the face in justifiable outrage. If it’s a form of insanity, it’s one I can to some degree control, and I’d much rather be preoccupied with Steven Roger’s star spangled and American flag clad butt than anything my anxiety-ridden brain can come up with. Wouldn’t you?

PS – for those of you unsure about whether or not you’d choose to pick the butt – I advise you to google it.

I Have Walked 500 Miles

Title Box

*A little note before we start – Today’s post is sponsored by Levels by Avicii which I have been listening to on repeat since Monday and BuckMiester, the world’s most passive aggressive cat. He is currently sitting unashamedly brimming with rage by the foot of the armchair I had to kick him out of in order to be able to plug in my laptop, giving me shifty side eyes and throwing “hella shade” whilst simultaneously refusing to move out of stroking distance. Just because he’s miffed doesn’t mean he’s going to do himself out of a good fussing.*

The Time Line of out current relationship. Disgusted bat pose > accusing eyes > grudgingly allowance of neck tickles.

In general though, I’m pleased to say things are looking up. Regarding my weekly weather update that I have appear to have been unthinkingly giving you all, (and which I’m sure you’re all terribly invested in) I’m happy to say we had a whole three (3) days of summer over the weekend. Saturday was, in fact, so warm that I sat on our front wall for most of the morning chatting to TMM’s mum whilst he and his dad tinkered with Hans. I then proceeded to go through a further two (2) outfit changes to ensure I was baring as much skin to the sun as was safe and socially acceptable to do so. Whilst this pleasant weather unfortunately didn’t last (I am writing this post interspersed with sad, sepia moments of me staring forlornly out of a rain soaked window) I have been promised by various news sites to expect some more nice weather as soon as May, so that’s something at least.

Speaking of Hans (the devil’s chariot as I have unkindly christened him), you’ll be glad to know he is now up and running again, though he is still very much for the rope. I have made the executive decision that, whilst I don’t drive, I deserve to be driven in comfort and it’s time for a new car. Poor TMM has been swept along without consent and whilst I think perhaps he would have been fine to keep Hans or look at another second hand car, he’s coming to terms with the security and sensibleness of getting something that, if not brand new, at least comes with a warrantee. We’ve been looking into the various routes on how to do so without bankrupting ourselves, feeling very grown up all the while, and even have what could loosely be termed as a “plan of action” regarding the whole shebang. Thankfully we’ve got a rather good network of supportive parents, mechanically minded friends and neighbours with an obsession for cars and hopefully between the lot of us, we’ll manage to go into summer in a car likely to make it across country for our various road trips, rather than leaving us stranded in the middle of a busy road (which has happened to us on more that one occasion. Let me tell you, you haven’t known awkward British embarrassment until you’ve broken down at a set of traffic lights or on a steep hill off a roundabout and had to be pushed out of the way of angry honking motorists).

Our lack of car has meant our weekend has been rather sedate though, for want of a better word. It’s weird to think that there was a point in my life when I didn’t have ready access to a car and yet managed to fill my weekends with ease. Now, there has been a slight and irrational undercurrent of confinement and I think both TMM and I have felt at a bit of a loose end. We tidied, we lazed and we watched most of the London Marathon with twin expressions of amazement and slight panic – I can’t even comprehend how people can do something like that. It simultaneously seemed to be one of the longest weekends of doing nothing whilst being over in the blink of the proverbial. The biggest thing we achieved (just behind fixing Hans and just ahead finishing my most recent upcycling project) was walking to visit our Pet Old Lady Molly and take Benji, the World’s Most Ridiculous Dog out for his daily jaunt.
You might have thought after watching a literal f*ckton of people push themselves to the limit of physical endurance on one of the hottest days of the year would have motivated and encouraged me to take to such an endeavour with vigour. If that is the case, I think perhaps you don’t know me quite as well as you thought. In the car, the whole event takes roughly 40 minutes from start to finish (and 30 minutes of that is spent helping shake Molly into her trousers and discussing the sad lack of corporal punishment in today’s society – her opinion, not mine). Without the car, it takes 700 hours apparently. It’s strange because when I was younger, I used to love going hiking with my family. We had official walking boots, matching cagoules (literally the coolest) and every walk typically ended with me threatening to cry if I had to give up the stick I had inevitably adopted along the way to be my designated hiking staff. These days, I have the boots, an actual hiking stick with a handy camera on the end and a partner who is desperate to explore and yet the love for walking has gone. Admittedly (and if I am being honest with myself) it wasn’t quite as awful as I’m making out, and it was nice to get a bit of fresh air and smash my step target three days in a row for the first time ever, but I definitely don’t think I’m going to be signing up for any marathons any time soon.

(I would like to reiterate this statement pointedly to my best Woo. Not only is she generally insistent that I join her in all kinds of hideously active hobbies, she is now threatening to fake her own death after I stupidly shared my absent-minded musings that if she died I would have to run a marathon in her honour as it’s on her bucket list.)

Through all of our trekking cross country and confused carless wanderings though, the highlight of my weekend was going to see My Dad Wrote a Porno live on Friday night. For those of you not in the know, this title might seem a little alarming (as well it should) but I definitely recommend it to ALL. It’s a free podcast feature Alice Levine (of Radio 1 fame) and her friends, Jamie and James (cute but slightly confusing) and does exactly what it says on the tin. Jamie is “fortunate” (note my use of sarcastic quotations here) enough to have a father who decided, somewhat rashly I think, to give writing erotic literature a go, and did so with what can only be described as relish. As any good millennial would do, Jamie told all of his friends and decided to do a weekly podcast in which he reads it out loud, in all of its graphic detail, and then proceeds to completely tear it apart for #bants. It’s pleasing on so many levels; including but not limited to the way that poor Jamie is constantly reminded of his personal shame, the vigour in which he approaches the various accents (and boy are there many) and the very relatable way that both Alice and James absolutely corpse about the place with laughter after practically every sentence. It’s unknown if Rocky Flintstone (the nom-de-plume given to Jamie’s dad/the author of this fabulous fiasco) is particularly satirical in his choices or just completely unknowing about how a women’s genitalia works, but either way it’s great for a giggle.


Pre Porno stage – you can just about see the top of the heads of the absolute granny legends who took up half a row

The live show consisted of a reading of the “lost chapter” of one of the Belinda Blinks novels (of which there are, somewhat alarmingly, many) and included various references to hilarious in-jokes, a short yet extremely comedic lecture on the positioning of a women’s cervix (it makes sense as to why this is very much needed when you listen to the podcast, I swear) and some truly terrifying audience participation (which may or may not be exactly what you’re thinking).

However, in an unseen and rather heart-breaking turn of events, poor TMM, who had been looking forward to the show for months, was too poorly to go (cue much sulking on all of our parts). In his honour I refused to enjoy myself too much and when I got home we binged a couple of episodes of the podcast (interspersed with my retelling of the best bits from the show) to cheer him up. He is mostly recovered now thankfully, and we’ve been girding our loins with glee for the new series of the podcast, which is due out in a couple of weeks. Just enough time for all of you Porno virgins to catch up…

This weekend brings the promise of car shopping (hooray), hopefully a new fridge (we did call the landlord like typical grownups and he did the typical landlord thing of fiddling with it, humming and saying he’d get back to us) and at least one (read – 76) cinema trips to watch the new Avengers film – which I am dangerously excited about. I am so excited I almost don’t want to go and see it because I don’t know if my gentle geek heart can take what it’s going to dish out, but TMM has promised to stand by me and not walk away in embarrassment even if I ugly cry (this will undoubtedly happen). The good news is that Mother is continuing to allow me to oversee her education of the Marvel universe (how grudgingly I can’t tell over WhatsApp, but she is providing thoughtful commentary so I’m feeling confident) and this means that even if (when) TMM gets bored of me wanting to see Avenger – Infinity Wars for the millionth time, I will at least get one more viewing with her (soz not soz MotherBear).

I will leave you here to ponder on your interest (or lack thereof) in dramatic superhero adventures/patriarchally written pornos and report back next week with further insight into my week and an updated weather report. Stay Classy San Diego.