I hope they don’t find the receipts

It has been a strange couple of days. I have wrestled with a small chest of drawers. I have bought all the second hand bed linen in South Leicester, and I have whirled around from sun up to sun down, when my diary was very explicit that I was not at all busy. I would take issue with it, except that I am the one who fills it in.

Anyway. I am off to the pub quiz in a moment, where I will fail to remember the answers to many things, and see how many spontaneous Gary Lineker answers I can come up with. I have also failed to read the news today, so there will be no even vaguely amusing takes on current affairs for our team name. Were it not for the fact that I have a new coat to show off, I feel I would be better off staying at home and giving the others a much fairer chance at winning.

Before I go, I must regale you with the sordid and entirely unsavoury nature of the things that the Amazon Vine programme have offered me to review today.

As a reviewer, I get a regularly updated list of items available to me to choose from. There are conditions I must fulfil to keep being offered them. It’s not just an all you can eat buffet of the review world. However, as long as I fulfil those conditions I can pick what I like from the list.

The list is, according to Amazon, hand picked for me and represents the close attention that Amazon pay to my buying habits.

I have always thought this was a little suspect. This suspicion reared its ugly head on the day I was offered a 2 kilo bag of guinea pig food and/or some Tena Lady incontinence pads.

Today though, Amazon have surpassed themselves. I have been offered anal lube and/or a collapsible shovel.

I have already started on the bones of the novel in which both of these items come into play. It will be a murder mystery set in a dominatrix’ dungeon in which burial under the patio is de rigeur for all customers.

Chips with that

I think quite often about how to describe my life to strangers. This is not because I am ever asked about my life by random strangers. In fact, given my usually deranged appearance I am exactly the sort of person that random strangers avoid like the plague. I am the madwoman on the bus.

No attics for me.

I think this, because this is how my thoughts go. To be honest, a lot of the time I think things like: ‘Blimey! That car looks like a frog’s face.’ or: ‘Those are marvellous shoes.’ or ‘Oh, dear, Madam.’ I think this about myself as often as I think this about strangers, so I believe I am allowed to have these thoughts, and even if I am not, I can’t help myself. So there.

The rest of the time my thoughts are along the lines of writing things down for blogs, books, essays and/or being asked penetrating questions about my life by people when/if I ever get famous and am required to be eloquent in public. I narrate things. I interview myself. I am my own worst Jeremy Paxman.

I was thinking about the whole life describing thing this evening, when I realised that a blog post was due and it might be good to be more succinct, more themed in my missives. This, on reflection, can never happen, given my magpie mentality, my insatiable nosiness and the genuinely eclectic experiences I gather like other people collect lint from cardigans (not as a hobby, just to get rid of it, although you could collect it, if you like. Please don’t invite me round to look at it though).

So, my existence is catholic in the broadest, non religious sense. My experiences are scattergun and haphazard, and this weekend has seen this writ large. To whit:

On Friday evening in pursuit of Jason’s new varifocal spectacles and a dinner of chips, I pushed a man aside in the middle of the street, and barked at him in my best school teacher manner: ‘Get out of the middle of the road, do!’ It was only upon gaining the other side of the road that I realised how a) inappropriate and b) potentially deadly this was. I then proceeded to scuttle at great speed down the pavement, worrying about being stabbed.

I was not stabbed. But I did end up giving succour and indeed bed and breakfast to a friend of Tilly’s who ended up being stabbed in the face by a low flying biro on Friday night. He now has an interesting scar on his top lip, and an even more interesting story about how it got there. Headline:’Middle aged woman saves teenage boy from Biro death.’ Most satisfactory.

On Saturday I went on a road trip to Liverpool for the day with my friends, Alex and Andrea, and Tilly, who is also my friend as well as being my daughter. We got hideously lost in a concrete car park that looked like something from a post apocalyptic zombie film. Once we had emerged, blinking into the light, we then spent a splendid few hours seeing Daniel Kitson (Mouse. See it) in his one man play at the Everyman, and wandering around the Catholic cathedral, more commonly known as Paddy’s wigwam.

I have not embraced Jesus, but the stained glass windows were nice. I am not convinced about Joseph’s chapel if I’m honest. It’s all done out in wood, presumably in homage to his carpentering skills. It looks like a Seventies Scandinavian sweat lodge, and I imagined Joseph, pencil stub behind one ear, sucking his lips in and pronouncing: ‘You’ll want twelve metres of tobifour, tongue and groove, ginger pine. It’ll never date. Mind you, it’ll cost you.’

I looked for an integrated spice rack, probably for the myrrh. There wasn’t one. Shoddy workmanship.

I do realise I’m going to hell.

There were chips.

This brisk and fulfilling bout of cultural activity was leavened by a wealth of scatalogical stories which were shared all the way home, along with taking photographs of motorway bridges encrusted with graffiti about pies.

Today I have ignored all domestic duties in favour of writing. I have ignored all culinary duties in favour of eating out with my brother and his girl friend at a splendid Turkish restaurant we like to frequent and I have ignored Sunday night’s administrative tasks in favour of watching Kenneth Branagh’s return to being Kurt Wallander.

There were chips.

Now I have written it all down, a common theme emerges. I feel satisfied that despite the many disparate elements of my life, I have committed to chips, and to chips I will stick. Particularly in the thigh areas I suspect.

Par for the Course

Jason has recently taken up playing golf.

I have to confess that this mystifies me. I really cannot see the point of golf. I mean, I cannot see the point of most sports, but for some reason golf just takes the edge when it comes to physical events that my brain just throws its hands in the air and gives up over.

Since Jason has converted, and this is the best word I can use here, because he has taken it up with a level of enthusiasm akin to being born again, he has, on the odd, deluded occasion, tried to get me to go with him and partake in the glories of the game.

I have resisted with might and main. We have discussed my aversion, and I have come to the following conclusions:

It is too long. It takes hours and hours, weeks and weeks to play. If you send someone off to play golf, you will be pacing the halls, thinking of ringing the local hospitals in case they’ve had an accident, before they come trundling back through the door. That kind of long. I simply cannot imagine anything that I would want to do for that long a period of time that does not involve biscuits and turning the pages of a novel.

It is too slow. It is a game for sloths, for the slow loris’ of the world. It is not the game for someone with the attention span of a hyperactive gnat. Everything takes forever and it’s all fiddly, which is why it takes too long (see point one).

It has a great deal to do with maths, and anyone who tells you any different is lying. All those birdies and bogies and other exciting words are just code for sitting in the club house fiddling around with numbers and getting excited about being on par or under par or over par. Bah not par.

The clothing is execrable. Just terrible. There are no words adequate to describe the horrors of the golfer’s wardrobe. Everyone seems to be either Alan Partridge ‘Sport’s Casual’ or Smiffy from Gavin and Stacey, or a horrible combination of the two.

Not only is the attire eye bleedingly unattractive but it is also heavily proscribed. We had to spend two hours of the weekend looking for the correct shorts. This involved number of pleats, material, length etc. There has not been this forensic level of attention to clothing since school uniform purchasing, and frankly it chaps my ass. It makes me want to dress head to foot in rubber fetish wear, roaming the fairways and urinating in the sand traps.

It is expensive. Even on public courses, by the time you have paid the green fees, sorted out clubs, clothes, balls, bags, shoes and trolley/buggies, it is insane. It would not matter so much if you were paying for a thing of beauty, but the fact that you are mostly paying for hideousness, depresses the hell out of me.

Finally, if all this were not enough, it is still, in some places, outrageously sexist. It is this that bothers me the most.

Yesterday, for example, Muirfield golf club in Scotland, maintained its rules about not allowing women members after a vote about it failed to get a two thirds majority. It is, by the way not the only club that doesn’t allow women to join. Royal Troon still doesn’t allow women members. The R&A, who make all the big decisions in the golfing world and decried Muirfield’s vote, only allowed women in two years ago.

At Muirfield,  thirty six percent of members voted against women being allowed in. It’s great that the majority of voters were all for women players, but 36% is still a shockingly high number against. That’s staggering and depressing.

Those members against women players put forward a number of ‘risks’ to allowing women to play. The word risk is one that sends my eyebrows shooting into my hairline. We are hardly talking Bear Grylls’ style activities here. We are talking about a frankly tedious walk over heavily manicured lawns holding a stick, not climbing the north face of the Eiger with a tooth pick. The biggest risk I can see is dying of boredom. By the time you reach the 18th hole you are actually praying someone will knock you out with a golf ball, it’s that uninteresting.

When you see what the risks are, they actually make your jaw drop. Apparently the number one risk is that women are too slow and will hold up male players. Then there is the fact that they will disorganise lunch time events, and finally the fact that they might be too uncomfortable amongst all those manly men who play golf in pink Pringle jumpers and pleated chino slacks. The Telegraph quotes their statement: “It will take a very special lady golfer to be able to do all the things that are expected of them.’

Yes. It will take an exceptionally calm lady golfer not to twat bigoted, sexist idiot male golfers round the head with a nine iron and suggest that they grow up and stop being so hideously out of step with the rest of the world.

 

 

Books and Bodies

Today I have mostly been on the Chaise Longue of Death. Hormonally speaking it has been a difficult time. I have spent since last Tuesday mostly off and onable  with hormone related shenanigans. It is tedious, exhausting and not glamorous in the slightest. I feel like I should wrap a large amount of yellow, police crash tape around my nether regions and just take to wearing a huge, flashing cone on my head that spells out ‘vaginal nonsense occurring’ in Morse code.

It is for this, and many other reasons that I feel I could never take on Gwyneth’s mantel of lady part guru. My lady parts are staging a revolution and I am a hostage to my own mood swings. I spent large parts of last week either crying with deep seated sadness or incandescent rage, and this week I have very tight jaw muscles from all the grinding and clamping and general seething I have done. This will win no Oscars, nor butter any parsnips.

It has been one of those times when, if I could have run away from myself I would cheerfully have abandoned myself in a cardboard box on the steps of an orphanage and booked a one way ticket to Acapulco, packing only my maracas and a credit card. As it is, I have spent a fair amount of my time with my head buried in a book and the rest trying to sleep it off. By it, I mean my life.

I cannot recommend me to a friend, but I will recommend some books in lieu of something more worthwhile.

Wonder Cruise by Ursula Bloom.  A lovely man called Ian emailed me about two years ago, asking me if I would like to review a Catherine Gaskin novel his company were re-issuing. I said yes, for no apparent reason I could understand at the time. It turns out I love Catherine Gaskin’s books. They are very silly, old fashioned bodice ripper type affairs where the heroines usually learn a lot about making sherry and smoke incessantly in the four poster beds, leading me to worry about fire hazards. Their love lives are dismal, but very dramatic and I absolutely adore them. Since that day, Ian has sent me several Gaskins, and now Ursula Bloom. I had never heard of her, but I shall be scouting out more. Bloom is like Nancy Mitford lite. I was absolutely delighted by this book. It is a very mannered, Thirties romance about a repressed vicar’s daughter who accidentally wins £300 in a sweepstake and spends it on the cruise of a lifetime, where she learns to let go of her repressed morals and her woollen vests while scouring the Mediterranean for romance. It is terrific. I highly recommend it.

The Bricks That Built The Houses by Kate Tempest. I did not know if I was going to like this, but it kept calling out to me in the library and eventually I succumbed to it. Tempest is a kind of renaissance woman, musician, poet, writer and general word wrangler extraordinaire. This is a sort of grim love triangle set against the gentrification of Deptford. It sounds terrible, but I am doing it a huge disservice. It’s one of those books you really have to read. If you’re hooked by the first page, you’ll eat it up to the last. If you can’t stand the first page, put it back and buy something else. I loved it. She writes with such strength and there is real poetry here.

Trumpet by Jackie Kay. I’ve read Kay’s poetry. I’ve read her autobiography. I didn’t even know she had written a novel until I stumbled across this in the library. It’s the story of a woman coming to terms with the death of her husband, a celebrated jazz musician, an the shock of what his death unearths, that the man the world reveres, was actually a woman. It’s so much more than a story of grief. It has the wonderful twist, which you discover early on, but which is still a treat. It is vivid and sharp and surprising. I loved it.

 

 

 

 

Things and stuff

Busy days in the Boo household.

On Saturday I spent two hours in an emergency walk in centre with what could have been the ears of doom. As it was, the GP downgraded them to ears that might be doom laden but would probably be alright.

I then spent two hours in Specsavers with a grumpy husband who didn’t want new glasses but really, really needed them, due to having to wave menus around seventeen inches from his face to decide whether he wants chicken katsu or not.

In between that I spent a great deal of time in the car, rotating between various pick up and drop off points for children going to and from exciting social events, none of which involved me, because it was clearly a day for intensive medical pondering for the over 35s in the family.

To cap it all off, on Saturday night, our kettle died. We are the bona fide death of kettles. This one, an expensive Dualit one we bought because we were fed up of the cheap ones dying on us, lasted just over two years. Just enough time for the warranty to run out in fact.

Thank God for the emergency, hob top kettle.

Sunday was spent slightly less frenetically, buying a new kettle, doing tedious household jobs and taking delivery of an Ocado order which made me wonder what I was doing when I ordered it. Clearly not thinking straight, as the delivery of 8 kilos of onions and four large bags of limes will attest to.

Yesterday we were all knackered, and decided that we would not go to the big Leicester City parade/party to celebrate winning the Premier League. However, when we were eating dinner in the garden, we could hear the roars of the crowd from the park and decided that we simply couldn’t miss out on it after all. We hate being left out, and for us it was a five minute walk to assuage our nosiness.

Our local news reports say that there were 240,000 people out and about celebrating in Leicester last night, with over 100,000 of them in the park. It was certainly noisy enough for me to believe it. Weirdly, we bumped into quite a few people we knew, which given the number of people around was about as staggering as Leicester winning the league.

Sadly, the children flagged before Kasabian came on, which was a bit of a shame as I am rather keen on Serge and had hoped to stare at the small, fuzzy dot that was him, for free. As it was, I just got to hear them from the garden instead.

I feel I’ve let my children down by inadequate party stamina training. It is my mission for the rest of this year to get them party ready. I want them raving until dawn by Christmas.

The Glorious Dead and Glorious, Alive, Tim

You may remember that a few weeks ago, I dusted down the work surfaces and cleaned all the windows of this blog, ready to receive a guest visit from my friend Tim Atkinson, author, blogger ( over at Bringing up Charlie) and all round good egg.

Tim is writing a book. What’s more he’s writing it using the innovative publishers Unbound, who you may know as the publishers of the runaway successes, Letters of Note and Lists of Note, amongst other titles.

Unbound have an unconventional way of going about publishing their books. It is an exciting new departure in terms of publishing, and as a reader who likes to get really involved in what I read, their championing of the author at every stage of writing and the fact that you, as a reader can access all those stages of writing if you pledge to support an author, is a thing worthy of celebration, and support.

Last time he was here, Tim explained how Unbound works. Today he’s back to talk about his novel, The Glorious Dead. It’s a book and an author I believe in. I’ve happily pledged, and I hope you do too.

Over to Tim.

Last time I was here I was telling you all about Unbound – a revolutionary new way of publishing (and one that gives power back to the reader) and why I decided to sign my latest book to them. What I didn’t tell you was much about the book itself. So Katy has invited me back today to talk about just that.
The Glorious Dead is a novel about the Great War. But it’s a a war book with a difference because the action only starts when the guns stop firing. Although it’s set on the Great War battlefields, there are no longer any battles (other than those against the mud, mayhem and memories in the immediate aftermath of the conflict).
The story follows the work of a small group of men retrieving and burying bodies, clearing the debris but most importantly rebuilding their own lives amid the ruins of the war they’ve just fought. One, Jack Patterson, suffers from what would now be regarded as post-traumatic stress disorder. But in his case the trauma predates the war and is hidden in his past – only emerging when a visitor to the battlefield cemeteries arrives… in search of Jack’s own grave.
The novel is different in another way, too – because the main characters aren’t officers. I was quite determined about that. The assumption in much Great War literature seems to be that only officers are sufficiently literate or psychologically complex to communicate the author’s ideas or hold the reader’s interest. ‘Other ranks’ are often little more than caricatures, talking in cliches and sub-literary parody voices. (Think Birdsong; think Sherston’s Progress; even think Regeneration – one of my all-time favourites – whose working-class hero Billy Prior nevertheless has a commission).
So Jack is a private (later corporal) but certainly not an officer. The others in the company represent the more traditional view of the other ranks, but only to emphasise Jack’s complex personality. It’s a complexity he struggles to articulate, sure. His faltering attempts to speak Flemish indicate a desperation to make himself better understood – or maybe, to understand himself better. But the book is a deliberate attempt to give voice to an often under-represented group of men.
It’s also an attempt to shed light on a woefully neglected period in our history. Almost all books on the war end with the Armistice. A few mention the Paris Peace Conference and the Treaty of Versailles (which marked the official end of the Great War – hence the dates 1914-1919 on so many memorials and monuments). But there’s very little about the three years – 1918 to 1921 during which thousands of men remained in France and Flanders as members of an army no longer at war, but trying hard restore a fragile peace. In the case of men like Jack, that involved finding and laying to rest the thousands of bodies abandoned in the head-long rush for victory as the war suddenly and dramatically came to a close in late 1918.
You can find out more about the book – and read an extract – on the Unbound website and I hope you will. I also hope you’ll feel sufficiently intrigued to pre-order (or pledge support for) the book. Because with Unbound, it’s readers who decide what gets written. And I really need your help to be able to tell the story of the Great War’s forgotten men.
Best wishes,
Tim

Life’s a pitch, and then you buy…

The Parching of the Vaginas

I am a martyr to my hormones, an absolute martyr.

Sometimes I think that my entire body is 80% hormone, 10% meat, 5%skin and 5% unruly hair in places I don’t really want it.

I remember listening to an ex alcoholic once talking about the madness of drinking. He described it as the madman driving the bus that was himself. I feel like that on very hormonal days. The madwoman is not in the attic. She is driving the Katy bus, and she is absolutely shit at parallel parking, stopping, and indeed driving. She also shouts at the passengers a lot, until they cry.

As you know, I dream of the menopause, honestly and promisedly I do. I realise I will be older, more shrivelled, more hirsute and closer to death, but frankly, on days like these it seems like an acceptable trade off, all things considered.

Then Gwyneth went and rained on my parade. Big time.

Regular readers will know that I have had my moments with Gwyneth in the past. This, on steaming vaginas, is one of my finest, but she never fails to irritate and obsess me in equal measures, no matter what she’s banging on about. I have no beef with the woman’s acting. I like her as an actor. I just find her whole ‘the world according to Gwyneth’ malarkey aggravating, but at the same time, I cannot help rubber necking. I cannot look away from her. Sometimes I wonder if Gwyneth is actually driving my bus, and that frightens the living bejeezus out of me.

This month, in her online newsletter/website she is talking about home made lube and vaginal dryness in women. Now, I am all for talking about vaginas. It is a topic I do not shy away from. Never let it be said that I shy away from vaginas. I bang on about them all the time, as my poor friends and relatives who now all have their eyebrows permanently nesting in their hairline can tell you.

My vagina is, as it were, an open book.

I especially do not shy away from dry vaginas, just as I embrace moist ones. They are all the same to me. I am an equal opportunities vaginist. I totally accept the fact that part of the menopause will mean that my lady parts will almost certainly make me think too much of the word ‘husk’, and I may wish to do something to stop myself crossing my legs and self combusting when that day comes.

It is a topic that needs airing, just like vaginas themselves.

So it is not that I have a problem with the topic that Gwyneth chose. It’s that I have a problem with the language she uses. It is just so, well, troubling. The article itself is not too horrendous, although I would no more think of using my Kenwood mixer to whip up a yam and coconut lady garden surprise than I would fly through the air. I’ve only just mastered the bread maker, and the less said about my efforts with the steamer (not vaginal, just domestic interiors, although now I come to think of it…ABSOLUTELY NOT A HOPE IN HELL OF GETTING THAT NEAR MY FOOF) the better.

It’s the email that landed in my inbox that caused mild hysteria.

She says, and I quote, that she watched a film in which a character makes her own personal lube that ‘will turn the driest of deserts into your own personal slip ‘n slide.’

Why? Why say that?

Yes, vaginas are brilliant and we are all agreed they should get out more and be allowed to roam wild and free, and not be trussed up by the diktats of lady part hating misogynists and that odd man who doesn’t allow people to post pictures of nipples on Facebook, but referring to them as a child’s water slide toy? NO. I think not.

I do not want images of screaming toddlers in nylon swimsuits shooting out of my foof thank you. It was bad enough when they came out the first time. It’s an image that is too akin to the agonies of childbirth. And if it isn’t, it’s far too near the knuckle and starts going a bit Operation Yew Tree.

Just no.

Things then go from bad to worse when she says that she spent a long time looking for a real version of this fictional lube and: ‘to the joy of parched vaginas everywhere, we did’.

Parched vaginas? Parched vaginas?

Nobody needs to think of a parched vagina. Even if they have one, they don’t want to think of it like that. It just makes me think of that bit in George’s Marvellous Medicine where he describes granny as having a: ‘puckered-up mouth like a dog’s bottom’.

I can only Thank God she didn’t go on to elaborate using the word ‘wicking’.