Monthly Archives: January 2010


When you’re not happy you forget what happiness feels like. For future reference, in case I forget again: it really does feel warm. It’s sort of a bubbly feeling- in your joints, in your muscles, in your mind. It’s so comfortable and also so liberating… you can laugh just because you feel like it, you can be open and honest without being afraid, and most importantly it feels like your eyes are actually open and seeing things properly.

I’ve been reminded of this during the last few days.

Thank you


Connections. And little Annabel.

Let me begin by saying, this post means something to me… and it may not mean anything to you.  But I had to write these feelings down, and get them out there. It’s cathartic. And, ironically enough, I’m writing about a moment of catharsis that happened to me yesterday. You can think I’m weird after reading this if you want. Go ahead… you might be right :)

It’s funny how reading other people’s blogs can make you feel like you know them in real life. Most of my friends and family aren’t too familiar with the blogging world, and so it’s hard to explain to them who it is I’m talking about. I refer to the bloggers as ‘that guy whose blog I read’, or in Dooce’s case, ‘that funny American lady with the crazy dogs, remember I told you about her? The one with the hilarious daughter’.

In some cases, even if I’ve only had the tiniest amount of correspondence with the writer, I will call that person ‘my friend’. These are the people who make me laugh out loud, and can make me cry actual tears. The people whose lives I read, and who I feel genuine warmth and concern for.

Last night, I came home and switched on my computer to find that, thousands of miles away, to parents I have never met, a baby had been born. A sweet baby girl. A sister to another precious girl who came, and left, before her. I sat and cried for about half an hour. Real, wet, salty tears that I just couldn’t stop. I had just been through a very stressful evening, so perhaps the tears were a form of catharsis. But I can tell you, the joy and sadness I felt were completely real.

I am so happy that Heather, ‘my friend’, and her husband Mike have a warm little baby to hold in their arms again. Arms that, Heather has said, have felt empty since Madeline Alice passed away.

I am so sad that Maddie will never get to play with Annabel Violet, or kiss her, or tickle her. But some things just can’t be changed, and I am grateful, so grateful that the Spohr family have been blessed with Annabel. I am so grateful that Heather lets us, the internet strangers, into her life and that she lets us love her daughters as much as we do.

This may seem voyeuristic to some of you who aren’t involved in the world of personal blogs. I’m afraid I don’t have the energy to explain it to you right now. But, let me assure you… it’s not voyeuristic. It’s something quite special, and in se ways quite new and revolutionary in terms of communication, creativity, and friendship.

If you’re interested at all in Heather and her family after reading this post, let me direct you to her blog, and also to the button on the right hand side of this page, a photo of little Maddie that will redirect you to the charity started in her name.

Welcome to the world, Annabel. You have an awesome family, and a most impressive readership for a one-day-old.

How odd.

I was in a pub this afternoon, sitting on a swivel stool at the bar, feeling like I needed some faded green sailor tattoos and Brylcreemed hair. Or at least a grey beard. My sister and I were definitely not the usual clientele at that section of the pub.

A tall, grizzled man was glaring at us but I just ignored him while I drank my coke. Then, his wife came in and sat down next to him. Throwing a curious glance towards us, she sipped the pint of Guinness he had ordered for her. I just need to inform you that this is about 2.30 pm, and she is an elderly woman in a pink hat. He grumbles something, and disappears; presumably for a smoke or to powder his nose. She watches him go, and as soon as he’s out of the door she surreptitiously pulls a small object out of her handbag. She stares at it, frowning, and fiddles around for a few seconds, before half-smiling and slipping it back into her handbag, just in time; her husband returns immediately afterwards, and I have a feeling that she doesn’t want him to know what she’s up to.

Dear readers, the object is a tamagotchi. Remember them? If not, google away.

I really want to know the story behind this old lady and her secret 90’s virtual pet.


To the best dad two little girls (now two big girls) could hope for…

Happy 50th, Pops. x

Such fun!

If walls have ears, then here a few things my living room heard this afternoon:

‘Just don’t breathe, just don’t breathe…’

‘Oh my God this is disgusting… it’s so much worse than I thought’

‘I can’t breathe…I can’t…I’m going to puke all over the window!’

‘Just try to think of this as a bonding experience’

‘Do you think there’s e-coli in there?’

‘One day we’ll look back on this and laugh…’ ‘We’ll probably look back and scream.’

‘These big round bits aren’t actually mould! They’re peas! Well..mouldy peas.’

‘Quick, take it! Run outside, run!’  ‘Yep, ok…God, no! My moustache, they’ll see my moustache!’

That’s right… we cleaned out the fridge. Untold horror. Oh, the humanity.

Those are toothpaste moustaches, our attempt to block out the smell. They were quite effective. Also very effective at making your upper lip very tingly and, in Frances’ case, painful. Nevertheless, we were sad to see them go.

If you looked this good with a toothpaste Hitler moustache, you’d miss it too:



This was the solution for the freezer cleaning (the freezer was even worse than the fridge, thanks to fish cakes. Urggg!).

That pashmina is soaked in Elizabeth Arden: Beauty. By the way, putting such a high concentration of perfume on a cloth wrapped closely around your face is liable to start you choking.

There are no photos of the fridge or freezer. It’s not something I want to remember, and certainly not something I want to inflict on you.


I shared a smile with a stranger today.

Admittedly, we were both grinning at each other in relief that he had slammed his brakes on in time and avoided running over a cat. I didn’t want to witness a kitty death, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t want to cause one.

Still, it’s nice when you have a brief connection with someone you’ll never see again (I’m talking emotionally here, not physically. That sort of thing spreads disease).

I was in the middle of my first bout of exercise after Christmas, namely a wellington-booted trudge up an icy hill in order to hand an essay in on time. Imagine what it looks like when the trudger checks her watch and starts trying to run, and you’ll see a panicked English student, mid-cardiac arrest, cursing her piteous time-keeping and organizational skills- not to mention the cold air currently turning her throat and lungs into a blur of frozen pain. Then she spots a beautiful little black and white  cat, slinking along the pavement. This lifts her mood momentarily, until suddenly the cat flies out into the road, into the path of a car. The car brakes at the last moment, and the kitty darts away. Smiles all round.

I needed that smile.

An open letter to the man in the car outside my house:

Hello? Hello?! Could you stop revving your engine for a moment and listen to me? Thank you.

I know it’s snowy out there. These little streets are too neglected to be gritted by the council, and frankly I think the whole place looks nicer under a blanket of snow. The usual scatterings of broken glass are now surprise scatterings of broken glass, a development sure to make my walk into university even more lively and exciting than usual.

Looking at your car, I’m fairly sure you’re one of those guys who hurls his car around these streets day and night, the huge silver exhaust (which, by the way looks ridiculous on your beat up old Nissan) screaming and your tyres squealing. It must be super thrilling to know that families live in this area and not only could you cause an accident with your reckless driving, but that it could actually be a child you end up killing.

We get it; you like noise, you like the accelerator pedal, you like people to look at you. Please let me give you some advice, just for now. When you are stuck in snow, your usual tactic of slamming the gas on will not help. You will get even more stuck, then spend the next twenty minutes revving your engine and spinning your tyres like an idiot, disturbing and irritating your neighbours so greatly that one or more of them will feel the need to write you a strongly worded blog post.

Select a low gear. Just use a very light touch on the accelerator, and let the wheels gain some traction. Be gentle.

Be quiet. Thank you.


I just got back to Leeds.

The house is not bad to come back to, thanks to the massive clean-up we did before I left for the holidays. My Christmas tree is still standing- I tell you, it’s a keeper.

I did, however, make one rather huge mistake when I left the house in December. I presumed that my flatmates had removed their food from the fridge. I knew I had; in fact, I’d spent the previous two days eating the stuff from my shelf- if you want a meal and all you have is half a sausage and a pepper of uncertain freshness, take it to a student. They’ll make something mostly edible. Without thinking I flipped the switch off at the wall and left.


The inside of the fridge is dark green and blue and covered in tufts of fur. Inhaling ever so slightly on opening the fridge door was enough to send me running into the icy streets for fresh air, and, I kid you not, I retched for about 10 minutes. I couldn’t breathe. Admittedly, I do have a bit of an issue (or near-phobia) of rotting food or mould. It all stems from an incident at the age of 12 with a boy called Roland and a schoolbag full of squashed banana. I feel sick just typing that.

This being the start of a new term, however, I am resolved to see the positive side of this. I am allergic to the wondrous antibiotic penicillin. Now, hear me out…
Maybe, I have successfully recreated the discovery of penicillin. It’s possible that the fridge is now FULL of penicillin. Perhaps some remnants of penicillin will cling to our fridge walls even after we’ve scrubbed the whole thing clean, and permeate all our food from now on. And then maybe I will build up my ability to take penicillin and will no longer have to take the more side-effect prone antibiotics when I get a chest infection (which is a regular occurance). Is it obvious I’m not a science student?

Who am I kidding? I have filled the fridge with decay and disease, and Frances and I are probably about to drop dead from inhaling the spores.

I’ve decided that this post does qualify for this blog, even though I’ve probably just created a disease that will destroy mankind, because it’s quite funny really.

Strumming my pain….

My sister is learning the guitar. Whose songs is she currently attempting? Not Bob Dylan. Not Eric Clapton. Not Jeff Buckley (swoon!). Not even Elvis.

Nope, not my sister. This is the artist to whom she is aspiring:

Everybody! Smelly cat! Smelly cat! What are they feeding you?


My cat went missing today.

Technically, he went missing last night but we didn’t notice until this morning. I was pretty worried about him; I know cats are independent and generally quite savvy (his sister is one of those cats with a knowing, serene face that suggests superiority over humans, and also that she may be a Jedi master) but Orlando’s not exactly the most intelligent animal in the world. I was scared he might have done something silly. I’m not sure exactly what ‘something silly’ is in cat terms- maybe getting stoned on catnip then rolling around on the main road miaowing ‘Duuuude, look! Look! I’m a hedgehog! Duuuude!’.

This is, after all, the cat who, aged about 2 months, climbed into the vegetable crisper of our fridge and remained there for half an hour while we searched the house frantically for him. I went to get something out of the fridge during the search and out popped this little ginger head from amongst the cauliflower and leeks.

This is the cat who, earlier this week, rolled onto his back, stretching elegantly and purring with delight until he rolled too far, fell off the top of the piano and landed on the keys with a vaguely musical crash. He’s not one of those cats who can walk away from a situation like that with dignity intact- he flew across the room and curled up on mum’s lap wide eyed and confused.

It’s been snowing here since before Christmas, and this morning we woke up to a fresh coating of snow, and an absence of a greedy ginger cat nudging my mum for his breakfast. We checked all the wardrobes in the house. Mum searched the garden shed. Dad checked the barn across the road. Of course we looked in the fridge, although he’s now of a size that we’d notice if he was curled up with the spring onions.  We just had to hope he was snuggled up in a farm building or shamelessly accepting charity and a bowl of milk from an old lady somewhere.

Feeling sad and not a little bit worried (he really is my little baby cat, even though he’s going to be five years old this year), I started making lunch. I couldn’t find a frying pan anywhere, so I started pulling open cupboards and drawers. I think you can see where this is going -and if you’re thinking I found him in the oven, um…no (although my mum did look there). If I had found my cat in the oven, this blog post would read something like:


Pulling open a random drawer, I was met with the sight of Orlando curled up amongst the teatowels. I have no idea how he got in there without somebody noticing. He was a bit shaken up by his ordeal (I say ordeal, once he realised he was trapped, he probably just decided to sleep until somebody found him), and is wandering around the house with a dazed look. Well, more dazed than usual. I’m not sure his little brain’s ever really defrosted after his half-hour in the fridge as a kitten.