Wedding Bells and Techical Hells

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THE SUN IS SHINING, THE BIRDS ARE SINGING, and I’m rescuing confused wasps left, right and centre. (Unlike nearly everyone else I know, I have a lot of love for a wasp. I feel that they get a lot of bad press for just living their lives and I relate hard to their spikey nature and urge to sting anyone who looks at them funny). Whilst there have been a few near misses with the weather, we have had at least two days of mostly blue skies and warmish sunlight so far this week, and I’m starting to feel mildly hopeful that winter might soon be over. Obviously I’m not getting too excited; no doubt next weekend will herald blizzards and terrible conditions to punish us all for getting too hyped up with the sun we’ve had, but I’m embracing it whilst I can.

Admittedly, my positivity has taken a slight knock these last couple of days though. Once again, Hans von Manshaft has deemed it necessary to give up the ghost. Poor TMM left the house on Wednesday morning to go to work only to discover a glaring alarm light and large puddle of brake fluid on the pavement and very much not in the car where it was supposed to be. Considering I don’t even drive, cars are very much the bane of my life and I am resentful that after all the money and attention we’ve given to Hans, he still thinks it’s appropriate to break every couple of months. I can’t help but feel soon might be the time to heed Mr B’s advice (“should have got a Dacia”) and send Hans off down the river in a flaming Viking boat. Until then, I am once again a complete and total “Bus Wanker” (opposed to usually, when I’m only part time) and poor TMM has had to resort to begging lifts from kindly work colleagues by doing his best puppy dog eyes.

We’re also currently contending with a broken fridge, which was a bit of a kick in the teeth after we had just stocked it full with the weekly shop. TMM has manfully defrosted the whole thing (there’s cool boxes of miscellaneous freezer surprise tuppawears all over the place) and we’re desperately clinging on to the faint hope that it might have just been a blocked fan. To be fair, if it is in the final death throes, it is really not the end of the world. We live in rented accommodation which, whilst not being the best for everything, does mean that broken household appliances actually fall under someone else’s remit. The only problem is that we had to speak to our landlord not so long ago to get the washing machine replaced, and being the nervy little buggers we are, there’s the slight concern he’s going to think we’ve started trashing the place for lols. However, I would rather end up with a new fridge than not, so if it’s not fixed by tonight, I’ll be pulling up my big girl pants and giving him a call.

Though if I’m being honest, it might have to wait until the weekend because the house is currently a pigsty and I can’t have anyone coming round to replace anything when I can’t even remember the last time I vacuumed…

On a much more chipper note, we did have a very lovely weekend attending the wedding of TMM’s younger brother. We are now officially the only unmarried and childless pair of that family group. Coincidentally we are also the oldest, which possibly says a little about our mental ages, so the baton falls to us to start actually (and in all grown up seriousness) planning our own nuptials. Though we sharn’t be planning the children (we’re definitely sticking to cats). Whist I am not the best wedding guest you could ever want (Introverts and Social Anxiety R Us), there’s always something nice about attending the ceremony, and I teared up at least 3 times throughout the day – which is definitely a winning sign. Everybody looked beautiful and TMM’s sister once again excelled herself at the flower displays and buttonholes. (She’s already been volunteered to do ours, thought I’m not sure if she knows it yet). I also felt slightly smug when I got a little thank you in the speech for doing the place settings and somebody whispered “she handwrote all these?!” in amazement.

TMM, I and baby Thea looking our best

TMM and I also excelled ourselves on the dance floor, which I think was a surprise to all involved. Admittedly, I love a good boogie as much as the next person, but I was quite content to sit on the side-lines this time. However, TMM took part in (and lost) a few drinking competitions with his sister. A foolish endeavour as everyone involved soon realised. She is actually a demon when it comes to pints and has never entered a contest she didn’t smash. Consequently he was a lot more easily influenced by the lure of the banging tunes. By 9pm, I had being lassoed and wrangled in and I actually don’t think we stopped dancing until 1.30am. Sensibly though, I has transferred to flat shoes early on in the evening and woke up the following morning with feet as fresh as a daisy.

It did become abundantly clear though that the TMM family share one very specific trait (other than having the worst luck with cars) – trying to keep them in one place for more than 5 minutes is like trying to keep hold of a bag full of eels. They’re basically weasels in people suits; adorable, but as tricky as hell to keep track of. TMM kept dragging me into dance circles before vanishing through doorways and reappearing twenty minutes later on the opposite side of the building deep in conversation with someone. His sister seemed to have some kind of teleportation device and popped up for the beginning of every song only to disappear and leave people bewildered and dancing with the faint outline of where she’d just been. The groom, doing his best groomly duty, managed to be in every conversation group I saw whilst also successfully wrangling various tiny dots who were zooming around the dance floor with all the gay abandon of, well, a kid at a wedding. I shared many bemused and slightly hysterical glances with the respective partners of the TMM clan each time we lost one of them, though Nan Pat did reveal with much glee that she used to do the very same thing to her husband, so at least we know their keeping up family traditions.

Poor TMM was slightly worst for the wear the next morning (he’s not used to such hard-core partying) and spent most of Sunday napping whilst I did a bit of DIY and finally dyed my hair. I’d been keeping the pink until the wedding because I’d, completely incidentally, managed to get it to perfectly compliment my dress for the occasion, but after 3 months with one colour I was starting to push the limits of my comfortableness with commitment. However I am now feeling fresh and funky with my new lagoon/atlantic blue shades. Though I do have to be honest, the general shape of my hair is somewhat less than satisfactory. I’m currently in the horribly awkward stage where it’s not long enough to do anything with, but not short enough to be cute and punky and I’m left looking a little bit like Wendolene from Wallace and Gromit. I’m having to keep firmly reminding myself that I need to stick it out, because if I get it cut I’ll only end up in this situation again in a month or so. Better to push through now and come out of the other side a stronger and more stylish person, rather than shy away from an inevitable event. Hopefully it won’t take long to grow out and soon I’ll be able to model a fashionable and adorable bob in all the colours of the rainbow.

In honour of the happy couple though (and in continuing from last week’s hilarious post), I’ve done a little digging in the Royal Imperial Dream Book to find some topical snippets. (I’ve decided I want to really get my £5 worth from this book, so you might want to strap in for a lot of these little epilogues over the next few weeks). Please excuse the dodgy camera angles – I was in charge of my own photography and you can very much tell.

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Drunkenness. This one kind of makes sense. Everyone makes friends when drunk, and whilst TMM might not have felt so chipper about it the morning after, I think on the night it sounds about right.

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Wedding & Weeping. This one felt suitable for all aspects of my week, and I thought it was handy they were right next to each other. Somewhat unsurprisingly, to dream of nice things such as weddings results in sadness and despair, and to dream of crying is actually a positive omen. Either way, I’ve got a bit of good and a bit of bad to go off.

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And so I fall in love just a little bit every day with someone new

Well it’s all been very exciting up this neck of the woods recently. With “The Beast From The East” making it’s way unrestrainedly through the country, there has been snow related chaos nationwide, so much so that I got to go home a whole half an hour early yesterday. I’m not complaining – I love a good snow day as much as the next person, but sometimes it does make you wonder how Great Britain was ever composed and disciplined enough to control an empire when we struggle to sufficiently grit major roads. Admittedly though, I think as a country we’ve been doing much better this time round than we have in previous years. I’ve barely witnessed any winter hysteria and the only person injured so far is TMM (and that was less of a physical concern and more of a personal slight – some young scrote threw a snowball at his testicles). To be honest, the best thing about the whole situation is the highly sarcastic and derisive nature we as a nation approach the snow calamatists with. *

* Sadly, I don’t think “calamatist” is a word, but it definitely should be, so I’m just going to go all Shakespeare on it and see if I can get it into the dictionary. Calamatist – noun – from Calamity – a person drawn to melodrama, overreaction and hyperbole.

It is communally known truth that we are unlikely to get any more than 2 inches of coverage, and that compared to the rest of the world, we get off incredibly lightly, and yet there still appear to be some poor souls who lose all sense or reason and flood to the nearest super market to clear the shelves. It seems not to concern them that most of the things they stock up on are perishable, or unlikely to be of any use in an emergency (I mean, who is stockpiling 0% fat yoghurt for this situation?!). I’ve found that these few idiots bring the rest of us together though, in a beautiful conglomeration of ridicule and mockery, as we all tut, shake our heads despairingly and share passive aggressive social media posts.

Things have seemed a littler perkier though, despite the unnecessary weather front, and I’ve decided to reflect such positivity in my blog this week. Over the last few posts, I feel like I’ve delved more deeply into wistful and morose introspection that I intended, and perhaps now is the time to try something a little more uplifting. Visiting my Mother last weekend has lifted my spirits and I think the Welsh country air has given me a boost. I’ve heard birds a’tweeting and seen daffodils spring into bloom and spent more time thinking about the things I love.

Love has indeed been in the air a lot recently. With all these designated celebrations and my numerous anniversaries (I don’t care what anyone says, I’m keeping them all. Why would I bunch them all into one specific date when I can spread the festivities? Since we’re not supposed to be doing presents, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to keep our first date, engagement and soon to be wedding anniversary separate). We’re apparently not the only lovebirds around the place either; Bucky keeps bringing his boyfriend home. It’s more surprising than not at the moment if we come home to find Mr Biggles (some big ass white cat from over the road who likes to help himself to our heating when we’re not in) not sitting at the top of the stairs, giving us his big eyes from behind the bannister. Considering how unhappy Bucky was when the other cat was with us (there was a lot of shade being thrown about and sad singing from under the bed) he seems rather taken with Biggles. For a while, we weren’t even sure Bucky was aware there was another cat in residence, but after we drooped him in front of Biggles and he did his sexy “let me rub myself all over the carpet in a sultry manner” in front of him, we’ve come to the conclusion they’re dating. They do make a rather pretty pair (I can’t stop myself singing “Ebony and Ivory”) and it bodes well for my dreams of becoming a crazy cat lady.

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Bucky, lying supine on my lap and dreaming fondly of his Biggles.

To this end, and in honour of such affirmative emotion, I’ve been thinking a lot about things I love. Specifically, those unexpected little things that you discover throughout your life and that weave themselves into your subconscious. Odd bits and bobs that somehow always seem linked to a happy memory and fill you with a sense of wellbeing without ever being obvious intruders. Little happiness burrs that latch on and have a delightful habit of making you smile without you realising. I’ve been making notes of mine for a while; just scribbling them down so that when I’m flicking through my notes later, they’ll pop up and remind me of something wonderful. A lot of mine focus around the senses and I’ve been a lot better at identifying them since using the sense technique to help with anxiety.

(It’s a cute little 5-4-3-2-1 coping mechanism for helping yourself to remain grounded. You pick a sense and name 5 things you can identify with it. Once you’ve done that, you pick another and name 4, and so on and so on. It’s easier to start with an obvious one, like 5 things you can see and work onto the harder ones. By the time you’re really focusing on the 1 thing you’re smelling, you’ve become a lot calmer.)

1 x Smell – Honeysuckle

The waft of a honeysuckle plant in someone’s garden always makes me pause for a moment and inhale deeply. It’s like an automatic trigger and it makes me stop whatever I’m doing, regardless of what it is, where I am or who I’m with, just in order to get a good lungful. I don’t even think it links to a specific memory or certain time, it just always makes me feel warmer when I spell it. I think it helps that it’s such a beautiful and evocative word, because we know how I feel about those.

2 x Taste – Hot Tea & First Mouthfuls

This one is a little weird, because it’s not actually the flavours but instead the actions involved. Making a cup of tea and taking a moment to just sit, warm cup in your hands, and take a few sips is possibly one of the most calming things I think anyone can ever do. I’m not sure if it’s a British thing (I still categorically believe you cannot call yourself British is tea isn’t your go-to beverage in times of stress), a family thing (if you’re with my Mother or my Neens and you’ve not got a brew on, something’s dreadfully wrong) or just a me thing, but the ritual involved around tea is one of the key pillars in my life.

First mouthfuls is similar in a way; it’s a tradition that was never specifically imposed but has somehow become crucial to me. If I’m eating with someone, I cannot start eating until everyone has food and is tucking in. It can be a family gathering, a cake with chums or even just eating tea with TMM, but I can’t start alone. There’s just something fundamentally social and authentic about enjoying the first bite together.

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I mean, look how perfect that is. what more can you want?

3 x Sound – Cat Purrs, Spanish Seas & Singing

There is not much better in this world that the sound of a cat purring on your lap. It signifies comfort, ease and the satisfaction of knowing that a cat not only chose you, but was happy enough to settle in for the long haul. Bucky has a purr like a motor engine and when he gets going can actually be so loud you can feel it through your skin. Ptolly-mo (my first cat, currently rooming with Mother) is an accidental purr slag – you can tell that he doesn’t really want you near, but once you stroke his head he can’t help but start purring away. Bobby (my Mother’s other cat) is a bit of a tough cookie to crack, but when he scrunches up his disgustingly beautiful eyes and trills away, I feel like I’ve basically won at life.

Music is an obvious contributor to nearly everyone’s happiness burrs I think, and the right song can flood your system with joy. I’ve currently been stuck on Toto’s “Spanish Sea” which has recently been released and it’s been in my head so much it’s actually been the soundtrack to a few dreams, which is a sign it’s a keeper.

My Mother’s singing is possibly one of the most evocative sparks though. It’s a bit ridiculous now because all she has to do is open her mouth in a choir and I’m crying. I mean, they’re good tears obviously, but it’s getting a bit embarrassing now.

4 x Touch – Soft Cotton, Supportive Arms, Knee Pits & Book Ache

Now I know this one is a family thing and I blame my sister and Mother for this. We spent countless hours in shops stroking smooth cotton items (we even had the “tummy test” where you had to rub it on your belly to see if it was soft enough – how we never got kicked out I will never know), but I find myself constantly running well worn blankets or silky sleeve cuffs across my lips. It sounds unaccountably weird when I write it now, but there’s something so comforting about brushing your lips gently with something smooth. I suggest you all try it and stop looking at me so accusingly…

Another weird one is something I specifically link to TMM, and I’m hoping he won’t judge me too much. He runs about 3000 degrees hotter than anyone I’ve ever met and is such a good soul, he always lets me put my cold feet on him in bed. He also provide truly excellent snugs, but there’s a bit when he pushes his hot knees (I mean, who even has noticeably hot knees?! My Man Muffin, that’s who) up into my knee pits and it’s possibly one of the most relaxing things ever. I don’t think I’ve ever had particularly cold knee pits before, but boy let me tell you, when they’re warm it really makes a difference.

Possibly less weird (though probably not) is actually a specific memory more than a continually achievable feeling. I’ve been remembering this one a lot due to the current climate and my completely irrational terror of falling over. It was whilst I was still living partly at Papa’s in Manchester and was coming home one super slippery snowy day. It was getting dark and I had a treacherous walk ahead of me. I was dithering near the exit to the tram stop, trying to find a way of walking as quickly as possible without slipping or looking like a complete tit, when this lovely gentleman walked past, gave me a searching look and offered me his arm. Now, I am horribly socially awkward and usually would have died at this, but I was just so grateful to have a supportive arm. We didn’t talk much (it was windy as shit) but he half carried, half dragged me all the way down the main road before making sure I was able to carry on across the crossing and home alone. I can’t remember what he looked like or if I ever saw him again, but I often remember his kindness whilst I’m slip sliding my way to work.

The last one is, unsurprisingly, a little odd too, but more in a kind of self-destructive kind of way. It’s the kind thing hard-core readers will relate to and wince at sympathetically. It’s the moment when you realise you’ve been holding your book so long that your fingers have gone numb. The moment when you have to make the harsh choice to stop your chapter, mid sentence, to put your book down and massage some life back into your blood drained hand. The moment the pins and needles you’ve be mind over mattering make themselves known rather dramatically and you regret, fleetingly, picking up the pretty hardback copy instead of the easy kindle version. It’s a pain, but it’s also a badge of honour.

5 x Sight – Bright Sunshine, Snow Wind, Wrist Bones, Cat Beans & Full Bookshelves

Now sight is probably the easiest one, and I had trouble narrowing down to just these five. You realise though, that there are just some things that stick with you, year in and year out and will pop up after an age and surprise you into smiling.

Snow wind is one of these for me. It’s that bit when you’re walking; bundled up to the eyeballs, hands shoved deep into pockets and pink nose buried in scarf, when there’s a gust of wind from behind you and the top layer of snow powder shifts and dances across the floor. It’s fleeting, hardly noticeable and completely magical.

Now I know I’ve already mentioned cats once, but they just make me really happy so suck it. I challenge anyone, when faced with a tiny toe bean on a cat paw doesn’t just scrunch up their face with love. I mean, I think some people (weirdos) prefer baby toes (TMM does get rather broody when faced with tiny baby hands) but there’s not much sweeter than a curled up cat cushion that lets you lie alongside them and play with their toe beans.

I also have a similar kind of fascination with wrist bones (though most people definitely DO NOT let you lie alongside them and touch theirs). I just find the intricate play of skin, muscle and bone so delicate and I’m constantly amazed by the strength that can be held in such a fragile form. I’ve always liked hands and fingers; I love watching people play instruments or knitting, just to see the clever way they can manipulate whatever they’re doing so easily.

Bookshelves is rather shelf explanatory (LOLOLOL, see what I did there?) really. I can’t trust someone who doesn’t have that many bookshelves, or who has one with empty spaces. There’s something decidedly natural about a cluttered book shelf, filled with a mishmash of books in various colours, shapes, sizes and positions. I love when you can tell someone has just picked up a book to flick through it and placed it back haphazardly, or when a trinket has been left behind, slightly obscuring the book behind it. The signs of regular and routine use of a what is basically a stationary object shows a lot about the person who owns it.

The very last thing on my list (and kudos if you’ve made it this far) is sunshine. It’s probably a bit obvious, but that moment when a flash of warm sunlight falls across my face, obscuring my vision and leaving little flashes of gold afterwards is one of my most favourite things. I get unaccountably grumpy at work when someone shuts the blind to protect them from the glare; I would happily squint at my computer screen all day if it meant I could keep the sunny strips of light that lie across my hands. I’ve been known to rearrange entire rooms throughout the day to keep my chair in patches of sunlight, or there was that one time at University I spent three hours scrunched up on the windowsill with the laptop balanced precariously on my knee just so I could get the warm splash of light for as long as possible. I remember waking up when I was little and watching the dust motes dancing around in the streams of light and just knowing that for that moment, everything was alright.

Side note – I am equally as fascinated by, but not quite as desperately drawn to, moonshine. The past few days, or should I say nights (a ha ha) have been beautifully silhouetted by the moon doing its best to shine directly through our bedroom sky light and cast everything in ethereal shadows. Note, we do have a sky light in practically every upstairs room (bathroom included) because our landlord is apparently some kind of backwards vampire who designed this house with the fact he couldn’t sleep without constant light firmly in mind. I’m not complaining because it suits my predilections rather well, but I do wish he’d continued the theme through the whole house rather than deciding windows were a wonderful feature of the modern age for upstairs but were basically unrequired for any downstairs rooms. The living room tragically survives with a tiny postcard of a window at the far end of the room – no sunlight to chase there, I can tell you.

So there we have it. I think I may have possibly gone slightly overboard this week, but I’m taking it as a good thing that the one post I’ve dedicated to purely happy things is almost double the size of those which aren’t. I hope some of my happiness burrs inspire you to think about some of your own and bring a little unexpected smile to your face.

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Just look at this beautiful sunny window. I even remember exactly when and were this was taken because I was to pleased with the perfect size and placement of it. Admittedly, I did go and ruin the whole thing by having a nose bleed so forceful and lengthy that my father actually became concerned enough to text his nurse GF for guidance to ensure I wasn’t dying. Still, it was a great window.

To Date or Not To Date; how to avoid pitfalls in the pursuit of love, straight from the voice of inexperience

So this week I went out to the team and asked for inspiration on ideas for blog posts. As I’ve previously mentioned, I’ve been struggling a bit creatively and finding engaging topics to write about that are not only interesting for me but also enjoyable for you guys to read can prove to be a little tricky. Thankfully though the team came through and like the very helpful engines they are, they provided me with a corker of a post. “Shit dates and how to get out of them” was the tagline and I have to say, I’ve taken to it surprisingly well.

Now my track record for dating is pretty limited and since I’ve been with TMM for 7 years, any memory I’ve had of foraying out into the dating world has long since been lost to the mists of time. I barely left the house when I was younger (why go and talk to boys when you could stay in and read – am I right?) and The Man Muffin and I didn’t actually start going on any dates until we were already going out. Our relationship started after I told a friend I though TMM looked delightfully like Aaron Taylor Johnson (sighs dreamily) and she basically dragged me and forced a conversation. After that, all it took  was one ill timed yet enjoyable kiss on St Patrick’s night, a few brief occasions of awkward longing stares across crowded rooms and a serious drunken pep talk from a house mate who told me in no uncertain terms to “go over there and hold his hand” during a “Pounded” night (£1 a drink in the local student bar) and we were pretty much done. Within a few months it had blossomed into meeting the parents, moving in together and that was pretty much it for us. We’ve never looked back and any dates we go on usually end with us getting overexcited about going to a posh restaurant and having to go to bed early because we’re tuckered out. #players

Look at those love struck young fools. There was no way we weren’t going to end up together. Though it’s a shame we both look better in the pictures of us with other people…

However, whilst that is super great for me, it doesn’t really provide any data on how to cope with the whole “dating scene”. To be quite honest, if some reason TMM cruelly deserted me and I had to date now, I’d have already moved into my mum’s shed, adopted 16 cats and taken on the nomclature of Sister Christen Dover, embracing the monistic lifestyle with vigour. 

Still, never let it be said that I back down from a good challenge (note – this is complete lies and undoubtedly has never been said about me. I back away from challenges All The Time, but I strive to be better for my readers). To that end, I’ve been given permission by some of my more experienced friends to talk about some of their adventures, and these will be what we’re going to use as our referential case studies. Buckle up people, this is about to be a “this is what you could have won” look into the world of disastrous dates. 

The first example comes to us fresh from the weekend on behalf of Snooker Toes (the code name he chose out of the options I gave him). He’s nicely allowed me to make a few comments on his experiences (though I’ve promised to be nice this time round). Anyway, he seems to have a habit of attracting ladies whilst going about his daily chores (last time was at the bank) and this time he had gone for an eye test and started making friendly conversation with the lady showing him the frames (“hurrah” goes the cry from the Greek Chorus in the side-lines). He went in straight for the smooth guy approach – “You have my number, you might want to use it” (impressed silence from the Chorus) and by lunch time she’d messaged him back and they were chatting away. For a week they went back and forth, but here’s were old Snooker Toes started to spread the seeds of discontent. “TBH I was already questioning it because we didn’t seem to have much in common…I though I might as well arrange a date because it’s not always about liking the same thing and the first impression was good”. (Some of the Chorus are starting to fidget). Now, whilst it some red flags have already been raised, I think it’s important to respect not only his commitment to the dating cause, but also his positivity levels. A few virtual messages are no match for an actual face to face conversation and the human connection. Unfortunately though, this was not the case for this particular date. After some post-date evaluation, I personally think the setting might have been a slight issue. Typically a first date should be somewhere local that’s easy enough to get to (and easy enough to get away from), somewhere with signal in case your date is a killer and you need potentially rescuing, and an activity that allows for interaction but not continual and consistent scrutiny. Snooker Toes chose to ignore this dating staple though (much against our urging over a curry the night before) as he had a hankering to see the sea and suggested the beach. (Half of the Chorus have packed up and gone home). Now, living as we do smack back in the middle of somewhat grey and rainy country, this meant a two hour journey in a car with a practical stranger only to end up somewhere wet, windy and rather woeful. A rainy trip to the beach with pals can be a laugh. The same journey with a first date was not. Whilst he was quick to state that she was not a horrible person, she was apparently a fan of inane thoughtless chatter and after constant, endless talking about literally every thought that entered her head, Snooker Toes was forced to admit defeat and was so mentally exhausted he had to take a two hour nap when he got home – which was my favourite part of the whole endeavour. He was more than willing to admit that it was more than likely a bad case of nerves and that whilst it wasn’t as awful as it could have been (nobody threw up or said anything horribly racist) I think the main thing to take away from this is the importance of planning. Making friends is easy and meeting people at work is pretty much all sorted out for you, but deciding to focus all your attention on one person (someone who you are, consciously or subconsciously, pinning a lot of hope on, be it for a quick shag or a lifetime partner) requires forethought. Something that showcases you in your best light whilst simultaneously allowing you to get a good read on your date. It’s hard enough working out how to be yourself without having to worry about anything else.

The idea of first dates always remind me of the scene from Scrubs where adorable girl nurse Elliot talks about how to hide her volcano of crazy whilst going out with her new beau. I’m in two minds really and would appreciate your input. Is it better to go all in; crazy cannons blazing and stand proud knowing it could all end in crushing defeat and a night crying into a tub of Ben & Jerries’ and self-loathing? Or is it best to start out behind a mask of normality and drip feed your crazy in gradually until it’s too late for your partner to escape – let it all bubble through until they’re trapped in the lava of your lunacy?

I think it’s ideal to suggest the first, but our second example maybe argues against the point. This one comes from the first year of University and my transatlantic soul sister Jbear. She came over to the UK for a year and was transfixed by the skinny, pale, childlike boys we call our own here in dear old Blighty. There was one in particular we spotted in the first few months who peaked her attention; a sort of Noel Fielding type in a red leather jacket two sizes too small, a mullet Rod Stewart could be proud of and a lackadaisical approach to everything except his music. Anyway, she kept a weather eye on him for a few weeks and eventually I received a text saying she’d invited him back to hers and to stand by for a status report. Once again, I think this could be where things started to fall apart. First dates should NEVER be held in either of the respective dater’s homes. This can only lead to disaster. Remember people, some where local, somewhere with signal and somewhere with something to do.

Anyway, the next thing I heard was about 9am the next morning when I received a somewhat unexpectedly detailed text. Apparently after bumping into the Mop Top at the pub, Jbear had invited him back to hers for something to eat. She had left him safely in her room, gone to rustle something up and when she’d returned, laden with delicious and nutritional plates of food, she discovered that he had made himself comfortable and gone into full on “naked man” mode.  Thankfully I have never been unexpectedly faced with a strangers junk all up in my personal business, because I literally do not know how I would react in that situation. (Note – it is not appropriate first date etiquette). Jbear, bless her heart, was as polite as could be and told Sir Knickerless that she was not really into buying what he was selling and that it would be best if he got dressed. She was then forced to endure hours of excruciating awkwardness when he Didn’t Leave. That’s right folks, this kid’s metaphorical balls were so big that he was happy enough to have his somewhat unsubtle offer of sex rejected and then still feel comfortable enough to hang round. Now, kudos to him for thinking that it was still worth trying to build a relationship, but I think at that point any self respecting person would just ducked out. Not him. The best thing was, when I received the text, it wasn’t just an update, it was a plea for help. Mr “let me introduce myse-OH LOOK here’s my penis” was still there, helping himself to Jbear’s dwindling tea collection. After laughing myself practically sick, I rushed across campus and turned up to find a red faced and practically withered Jbear, a content and apparently oblivious date and a couple of other housemates who’d been dragged in for moral support. We all sat there, in Jbear’s tiny room, for a fantastically awkward few minutes before some one suggested a walk. Now, you’d think at this point, Noel Fielding’s less attractive and infinitely less socially conscious younger brother would have said his goodbyes and made his way home.

If only.

An hour later found us traipsing round the local woods, alternating between trying to fall far enough behind Captain Cock-a-boo  to die a little and power walking ahead and trying to lose him in the trees. Eventually, Jbear made the executive decision to just cut him loose and made up some tale about having something planned for the afternoon that he was not required for. He sloped off, a little hurt I think that we had shaken him off, and we retired to the flat to laugh, weep and then nap off the stress of the whole dating experience.

It’s important, I think, in this tricky labyrinth of love, to take some key points from these examples. 1) Make sure to have an escape plan. Having an evacuation route is not defeatist, it is just practical. Be it a friend with a mobile phone and handy excuse, a prior engagement or just a ballsy attitude and the ability to cut your loses and run, you want to have the safety net in place. 2) Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. A spontaneous trip to the beach or an impromptu invitation of tea might seem like a good idea at the time, but it will not necessarily stay that way. There is a reason lots or people go bowling or to the cinema on a first date. Ignore the wisdom of those who have gone before at your peril. 3) Remember that even if it does all go pear-shaped and you end up feeling lacklustre, lovelorn and lonely, if you just give it a little time you will have a great story for someone’s blog. And lastly, I think we can all agree that the moral of these misadventure are that if you have to take a nap afterwards just to recover, it definitely didn’t go according to plan…

What IS it about those Crotchety Old Men?!

Happy Nearly Christmas my festive little Sprouts!

Once again I have to apologise (surprise surprise) for being a week behind on blogging (though it was touch and go whether or not I’d get this one posted). Fighting against Christmas colds, hangovers, present prep and the most ridiculous period of busyness at work (WTF? It’s Christmas? Go away!) has left me with very little time to call my own and even less to call blogging specific. Which is just rude really. Still, I am returned for now and will give you one last chapter before the festive season truly kicks in.

I did struggle a lot to think about what to blog this week. I think being so busy with everything else has just turned my brain to mush, rather than giving me inspiration on what to write about.  It’s been complete madness, but I hasten to add; an acceptable kind of madness. The kind that leaves you constantly achieving and with slight levels of hysteria, rather than the type that overwhelms you and makes you sit and stare at a wall for hours on end terrified of how much there is to do and how much you can’t do it.

Admittedly, I shouldn’t really make it sound so bad when it’s poor TMM who’s been in charge of the wrapping extravaganza that’s currently in progress in our living room. We now have practically every present (there are still one or two either in transit or waiting to be put together) and they are scattered in loose family piles all over the floor. I have mainly ensconced myself safely on the couch with a gold pen and the festive labels and left TMM to fight with the temperamental tape dispenser and countless rolls of seemingly sentient paper. He’s done very well over all (there’s only been one minor injury and two small huffs) but there’s still about 20% to go so who knows how the rest of this week could go down.

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The worrying thing is, this is 3 days in and it actually looks much better than it did…

You’ve got to find coping mechanisms from the Christmas Chaos how you can though, and I’ve mainly found respite by going on a reading bender these last couple of weeks. TMM set me onto Jo Nesbo, a Scandinavian crime/thriller writer who he’s been trying to convince me to read for a while (he’s regretting that now I can tell you). Very much in my typical fashion, I started reading with the intention of just finishing one book and seeing how I felt but ended up desperately bingeing the entire series and am now 9 books in and devastatingly obsessed.  Typically I shy away from particularly graphic scandi noir crime thrillers so I’m actually quite surprised how obsessed I’ve become with these. I nearly had palpitations watching Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and we’ve had to limit my viewing of The Tunnel to one episode every few days because I get so panicked about the high levels of peril. These books (based on the Harry Hole series – those of you who’ve been paying attention will have seen the recent film “The Snowman” with Michael Fassbender which is based on a book in the middle of the series) are really no different and have started to get particularly violent – The Leopard (the next one to the Snowman) is particularly gruesome and there’s interviews I’ve read with the author in which he’s stated that even he thinks he might have gone slightly too far. Still, I’ve found them so addictive I’ve been unable to stop. Poor TMM has had to put up with my ranting and mild stresses throughout the last few weeks and has done so graciously, even when I made him buy a second copy of one book so we could read them at the same time, overtook him on the series and spoilered him for character deaths.

This, in fact, is one particular bugbear I have with Mr Nesbo. Like JK Rowling and the writers of Spooks, he belongs to that school of writer who aims for “realism” in his books and thinks you can achieve this by killing of main characters. I would like to set the record straight once and for all – this is not on. Mainly, I choose to read because I am looking for a distraction from real life. I want something that takes me away from my own world and submerges me in another, full of adventure and excitement that I want but am too lazy and awkward to actually aim for. What I do not want is sadness and death of characters that I have become attached to. I especially do not want it to happen MORE THAN THREE TIMES! Seriously, it’s a good job Nesbo isn’t on Twitter otherwise he would have had as a severe and unapologetic diatribe as I could have sufficiently written in 218 characters. I’m not reading for the heartache of reality. I’m reading to escape all that, and if you could stop killing off all my favourite characters in cruel and unusual ways, I’d very much appreciate it!

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Just a little light reading

The main attraction for me though, as I once again am slightly embarrassed to admit, is my love of crotchety old men. I don’t know what is about them but every single time they become one of my favourite characters. Harry Hole is, admittedly, a little young for my typical type (at the fair age of only 48) but his sarcastic outlook, inability to not do the right thing (much to his chagrin) and heavy mental and physical scarring pretty much fit the bill. It’s like my inexplicable but uncontrollable love for Lewis (TV show) all over again. Give me an aged, wrinkly, bitter old copper over a youthful heroic type any day of the week. I’d rather Samuel Vimes than Batman, Robbie Lewis over Peter Parker and pretty much any of the old cast members from any of the Star Treks (in real life or as their characters) than the sexy new young’uns. It’s definitely starting to become a bit of a problem though, and it was only compounded last night when we went to see the new Star Wars (which was excellent) and I spent the whole time being shamelessly in love with grumpy old Luke Skywalker. I mean, Oscar Isaacs is beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but why would I fancy his reckless and flippant Poe Dameron when Luke is in the background growling about everything and letting his beard flow magnificently in the wind? It’s not that my fascination is gender specific either. There are some truly excellent female characters in this new addition to the franchise and whilst I love them all, how can I focus on them when you’ve got Leia stomping around slapping people all over the place like a cantankerous little ewok? Those Skywalker siblings are the definition of “great hair, don’t care” and I would happily watch a 3 hour film of them just doing their thing, minus all the dramatic and political plot arcs.

It’s not like it’s a general fancy either. I may be odd but I am particularly in my strangeness. It can’t be just any type of cranky crinkle and just nasty old meanies are no good – I want good intentioned but world weary grouches; grizzled with just a hint of sarcastic charm and preferably a bonus young sidekick they can continually gripe at. I’ve tried to reason it away and diagnose it but there’s just no hope. It might be peculiar but it’s just how I am and if nothing else it surely bodes well for TMM. I mean, if I love him now in the flush of youth, I am going to just adore him when he’s 70.

The Freedom of Being a D*ck

I’m a little behind this week as I recover from the seasonal sniffle that seems to be making the rounds rather aggressively. Whilst I am usually quite cocky about my immune system (which considering how lazy, unhealthy and prone to complaining I am, is surprisingly strong), I was struck down when I least expected it. The culprit? My small yet totes adorable niece, who proceeded to give me ALL of the snotty kisses last weekend whilst clambering over me in an attempt to keep a sensible baby eye on her mum at all opportunities, but I am loathed to hold her too accountable. She been struggling for longer than I have with this cold and has mostly been dealing with it with the stoic reserve of a solid little baby bundle.

I however, unlike Thea, have not dealt with it well. At all. In fact, I have lamented my fate loudly and with much sorrow, and even had a sick day last Wednesday so I could lie about in my stitch onesie with tissues shoved up my nose. So poorly was I that I was unable to blog, craft or do anything remotely useful and consequently I am terribly behind on all my life plans. WOE. However, I am now (mostly) recovered, though still marvelling at the amount of snot that one person can produce, and getting back on track.

SIDE NOTE – Saying that, TMM had to go to bed last night at 7pm because he was fevered and shaky, so whilst it seems I might be on the mend, poor Muffin might be looking down the barrel of the sickness cannon.

Fighting off the dreaded mucus monster was not the only blow that was delivered last week though. On the Thursday that I’d gone back to work (but definitely should not have done) – people even commented on how much of a minger I looked) I managed to lose the stone from my engagement ring.

Broken Ring

It’s like something from the Pink Panther only with less David Niven and more sadness.

After moaning my way through the say, sweating and snotting all over the place like some vile blob creature, I finally made it to home time and sloped off to the shop to pick up some essentials and wait for my ride. It was all fine until I was standing on the steps, keeping a weather eye out for Hans von Manschaft (VW extraordinaire) when I caught sight of my ring and realised glaringly that the opal that should have been set in place was missing. For a minute it was all I could do to stand outside Aldi with a bag full of chilli ingredient’s and the complete inability to do anything but stand and stare at the little empty gap. Then followed (in quick succession) intense panicked searching of my bag, my pockets, the surrounding floor area and the path I’d taken round Aldi. Once it was clear I wasn’t going to find anything (damn Aldi and their speckled linoleum floor choices) I trudged back to my post in the car park and hunkered down. TMM turned up not long after and before he’d even got a hello out, had to put up with me fluctuating between raucous nose blowing and pathetic whimpers (which he did very well). As he pointed out between gently patting my sweaty head and handing me tissues; it wasn’t something I’d done on purpose, it was unfixable, and at least we were now even (he’d caught his ring between a cabinet and wall at work and smashed it to pieces – though it did basically save him from an unexpected finger amputation).

I think I was actually most stunned about how affected I was and it’s hit me rather hard. I’ve always been attached to “things” (I love more by the Hoarder code than Buddhist teachings) and have been known to cry over the loss of the most stupid things, but sitting and staring the gap where the stone should be has made me realise quite how much I’d invested into this little ring. I’m not a huge romantic (you may have guessed, it’s not like I’ve said it a MILLION times), and I’m not really majorly fussed by marriage. It’s not that I’ve ever been strictly against it, but I didn’t spent countless hours as a little girl planning my dream day (I was far too busy planning my life as a famous author). Even now, it’s not the wedding that really bothers me. Don’t get me wrong, I will marry the absolute crap out of TMM, but the whole ritual of the thing has never appealed. Yet, realising I had damaged the one thing that was a physical representation really shook me up.

TMM has not allowed me to wallow in my sadness though. We’ve gone through the various stages of loss – Despair, Anger, Silkiness ((so much sulkiness) and he’s been very supportive the whole way through. We’ve already been on two day trips to various vintage barns and I’ve told him that if worst comes to the worst, I am willing to accept a full size brass diving helmet and a non-working gramophone as a replacement.

I just really think these would perfectly reflect our love. Also I want to see Bucky in the helmet SO BAD.

He’s also taken me to Primark this weekend for a new cardigan (and shirt…and makeup) and brought himself a SPECTACULAR corduroy jacket that just screams Brokeback Mountain. (He’s under strict instructions not to wear it with his corduroy trousers though, because I don’t think I can love a man who wears a full camel coloured corduroy suit). We also went for a lovely walk around our old stomping grounds at Keele on Sunday too. Now that TMM is a totes profesh photographer (like every good Action Man, he comes with his own removable attachments including: official camera bag with pockets, 2x tripods and cameras of varying sizes), we go out all over the place so he can practice his skills. He, very complimentary, wants to take lots of photos of me so he can trial everything out. I, very unhelpfully, am the worst model ever and cannot stand still for more than 2 minutes. To that end, most of the pictures he takes are accompanied by at least 3 others of me being an absolute tit.

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Strike a pose

It’s made me realise though that this could just be who I am as a person. At the ripe old age of 26, I now know who I am. I have come to the conclusion that I am never going to be one of those Instagram girls with perfect contouring, shiny hair and a fantastic cleavage. I mean, it’s not through lack of trying, but it’s just too hard. I would rather spend an extra ten minutes in bed that try to shape my eyebrows and I get panic sweats trying to order a McDonalds, nevermind travelling the globe in a tiny bikini and letting stranges goggle over my arse. However, I am able to pull a truly awful face at a moment’s notice and I can throw down some mad shapes like an epileptic llama. You want a girl that can gurn like a good’un? I’m the one for you. Need someone to do a little impromptu dance number in the middle of the forest whilst you set your gear yp? You’re looking at her? Want a Facebook montage full of perfectly edited yet ridiculously hideous faces that will make you laugh yourself silly? You know who to call.

Let’s face it, I’m never going to be able to keep it straight for that long, and why bother when I look so hilarious otherwise? As someone pointed out, there’s a certain safety in looking like a complete berk. The worse you look, the funnier the pictures are and you end up achieving the perfect “bad” picture without even having to try. This way, I can tick off “approval from others”, “all of the likes on social media” and “helping TMM with his hobby” in one fell swoop and I didn’t even have to put any effort in. It’s a pretty good life lesson for self confidence as well. It can be really hard sometimes to look in the mirror and deal with trying to make your face look presentable when all you feel like is a pile of poop. Your hair is a mess, your eyeliner is wonky and your complexion is blotchy like a 3 year olds painting and your self esteem plummets before you’ve even left the house. This way, you can go out there, pull a stupid face and post a photo whilst having a giggle and within minutes you’ve got people telling you it’s hilarious. The barrier or your self-confidence is well and truly broken because, let’s face it, you couldn’t look worse if you tried and if people like you when you look like that, they’re going to be happy with you no matter what.

A couple of classics

 

 

 

 

 

All You Need is Love (and banter) …do be do be doo

Alternative Title for this week – “Heart Shaped Confessions of an Unromantic Weirdo”

So I actually found this week’s post surprisingly hard to write (though picking the photos was most definitely not). TMM features in most of my blogs in some form or another (to be honest, it would be hard for him not too seeing that’s he’s basically the main character in my life), but I’ve never really focused on him specifically. It’s weird, especially considering I find it (possibly too) easy to share things about myself that others might deem a bit too much information, but in writing this I felt like I was revealing something really private. I’m not sure if it was perhaps that I didn’t know if I would be able to do justice to him, or because selfishly, I didn’t want to share all the things I felt with anyone else.

Partly, I think it was probably because I am not the world’s biggest romantic – notions of overtly public displays of affection or dramatic declarations of desire are about as far from my ballpark as it is possible to get. As much as I enjoy kittens and make up and crying at Love Actually, I’ve never been fond of being a girly girl – hearts and love songs and small stuffed teddy bears have only ever made me feel a bit bilious. I’ve only ever really wanted a steady and reliably solid type of relationship; the kind where you can shave your legs in the shower whilst your partner brushes their teeth and you talk about what you want for tea. Desperately passionate flings full of desire and drama just seem a bit like fireworks – bright for a minute, but over depressingly quickly.  I want happy contentment and low level constant banter and with TMM, I’m pretty sure I’ve got it.

Contentment

I mean, if this isn’t a prime example of perfectly suited contentment, then I don’t know what is.

I mean, I don’t think we’re perfect (though we’re pretty close, come on now). We’ve argued over IKEA flat-pack furniture just like everyone else.  He’s thrown a tub of butter in my general direction in a fit of pique, I’ve binned a pair of his chinos without telling him (because they were hideous) and we’ve spent far too long panicking we’re not good enough for each other. It can’t be denied either that sometimes he drives me completely insane. His inability to put things back where he found them (JUST PUT IN BACK IN THE CUPBOARD DUDE) and his incessantly British need to apologise (which he wouldn’t need to do it he just PUT STUFF BACK IN THE CUPBOARDS) makes me want to spit like an angry cat sometimes.  His crippling bouts of self doubt sting me like they were my own and his limpet like sleep grip sometimes makes me want to smother him.

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This is him pretending he’s an adorable princess when he sleeps. Do not believe the lies. He is a deadly sleep octopus. Also – #bonusbucky

But on the other hand, I don’t think I have ever met anyone who’s heart is so big. I know people say this all the time about plenty of people, but I solemnly believe my claim to be true. I mean, he won a Heart of Gold award at University, so it’s obviously just not me who thinks it, but I’m the lucky one who gets to see it every day. He is generous to a fault, an excellent creator of Dad Puns, has wonderfully broad shoulders, a most pleasing jaw line, and without a shadow of a doubt is one of the most truly decent human beings I have ever had the privilege to know.

I remember the morning of his graduation (his, mind you, not mine) when he drove all the way to town to pick up some more pink hair dye for me because I’d had a paddy that my hair wasn’t the right shade and locked myself in the bathroom in tears. He didn’t complain or shout, he just went out, bought the hair dye, shoved it in my hands and hugged me until I’d calmed down. It might have helped that my hair looked fabulous in all the photos, but over the years he’s spent far too much time dealing with my hair related dramas and has never once made me feel bad about it.

We’re both pretty crazy in ways that don’t necessarily compliment each other, and sometimes we get stuck in these vicious spirals of passive aggressive pity that feed off each of our insecurities. At least once a week we can be found huddling together and gently patting each other in an attempt to reason away our anxieties, but at least we do it together. He’s attended my counselling session with me without ever once complaining though it is clear to see he’d rather crawl up his own arse most of the time. He’s listened to me rant and rave and he’s let me try and talk him down when he’s been stressed and he’s made it so much easier to be mental and proud than I thought I ever could be.

He’s also gone above and beyond more times than I can count. At New Year, he dropped everything to drive me down to be with my mum and step dad during the last few days of his illness. He sat in the waiting room with me every day and offered support without a shadow of protest; speaking to family members he didn’t know, making brews and holding hands whenever he could. The best thing was though, he did it not out of loyalty or the goodness of his heart, but because he saw Mr B as family. He’s taken my clan into his heart, let them pull and push him as I do, and been grateful for the opportunity. It can be hard to make your way into a new family, but we’ve managed to find two set of people who match and it’s a honour to be part of it.

On a slightly lighter note (though maybe not for him) he’s also cleaned up my vomit after I’ve made a  bit of a drunken tit of myself, and unlike me, has hardly ever held it over my head. Even though I spent most of the night sobbing uselessly and chundering like a champ, he emptied the buckets (that’s right, buckets plural) without complaint and slept on the couch when I sprawled unhelpfully across the bed, even though he needed to be up early for a rugby match the next day.

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Thankfully, I haven’t got a picture of him emptying my sick buckets. Instead, he is he proving himself once again to be a hero among men – sewing sleeves onto my Halloween costume circa 2015. Also – check that jawline.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I think he’s such a genuinely swell guy it’s time I let the world know. There’s no roses or cupids, no gushing barbershop quartet and no dedicated poems, but the intent is still there. We make a pretty good team, and although I still panic that one day we’ll run out of things to talk about, or something grown up will rear it’s ugly head, if we’ve made it this far without killing each other, I’m pretty hopeful for the future.