Death of a Car

My car died last week.

It was not an unexpected death if I’m honest. She’d been on her last legs for some time and I knew that when I took her in for her MOT she wasn’t going to come home. Well, for a few days maybe, as a kindness to me, before she got shunted off to the great scrap heap in the sky.

To be fair, she’s had more resurrections than Lazarus, that old girl. So many times in the last few years she has looked like a goner and then pulled off a last minute miracle that saw her safely back on the drive, but this time, even I could tell it was terminal.

Those of you who have been with me all the way through my blogging life will remember the terrible driving lesson years, where I tantrummed, sweated and vomited my way through driving lessons, battling my phobia. You will remember that I was absolutely beside myself with grief when I passed and had to actually drive an actual car, every day. You will know that this car was the one that saw me through the last months of lessons and every day since.

It’s been eleven years. Eleven years of me riding the clutch, driving about in the wrong gear, wandering into the path of lorries, reversing into walls and breaking down in a variety of thrilling locations.

She and I have travelled thousands and thousands of miles together. She has been my sword and my shield, and with her, I have gradually conquered my fear – for the most part.

I still dislike driving, but if I have to do it, I’m glad to do it with her and her crappy old stereo, with CDs sliding about the floor as I sing my way to Liverpool, through London, on mystery tours of Yorkshire, to the far reaches of Kent and the poshnesses of Surrey. Round Bristol, through Wales and through every highway and byway of Leicestershire. We have adventured together for over a decade.

I might not like driving. I definitely don’t love it, but I love that car. I love her with all my heart. She’s filthy and noisy and starts rattling when you hit seventy. By the time you hit eighty you’re losing fillings. She corners like a hippo in a mud wallow and is as ugly as sin, and I shall miss her so much. I am genuinely tearful at letting her go.

Jason, who is a lovely man, has spent all weekend trying to find a replacement for her, and finally bought me a newer, shinier version of my lovely old work horse, so that I will at least feel some family connection.

He has been very patient. He likes super shiny, super fast cars and treats buying a new car as a thrilling pleasure.  I have, with my sentimentality and Luddite ways, managed to suck all that pleasure out of the process for him. He has bent over backwards to try and make this as painless as possible for me whilst buying me a car he wouldn’t choose in a million years. I am grateful. I wish I could be happy, but grateful is all I have right now.

So, my new car arrives towards the end of this week, and then it’s time to say goodbye to my old dear for good. I have asked my friend Matt to come and take a photo of me clinging to her roof so that I can express in pictorial form how I feel about losing her.

I always said I would keep her until I died, and have myself buried in a Viking funeral kind of way, me bundled up on her back seat in a sleeping bag. Lots of petrol and a match and push her (and my) flaming remains down a hill into the sea. It would have been the best way to go.

Goodbye Granny McGoo my best companion. You were loyal and true. You put up with a lot. I love you.




Fuck Happiness in the Ear – Internationally

Apparently it’s International Day of Happiness today. It sounds like something that comes stitched on the back of one of those jackets you get from China where they use Google translate to create English phrases. ‘Tread careful. Tiny grass is sleeping.’ etc

It’s not that I don’t want you to be internationally happy. It sounds great. Frankly we could do with a bit of happiness, local or global, whatever works for you.  I am however, going to wag my finger a bit now, so if you’re full of joy and just loving life and don’t want a massive downer, feel free to bugger off and come back after this short message.

The internet is going to be full of memes and messages exhorting you to be happy today. You will be told to count your blessings, turn your frown upside down and a whole host of other inane but well meaning shite.

If you are struggling with your mental health. If your life is a gigantic bin fire and you’re just toughing it out because you don’t like to cry on the bus.  If you’re spending your day caring for a loved one and haven’t had a moment to yourself. If you are bereaved. If you are wrestling small children, have all your clothes on inside out, have baby sick in your hair and haven’t had a decent night’s sleep since 2003, this may be the thing that pushes you over the edge. I for one, wouldn’t blame you if you went postal and ran amok with a root vegetable in the cat food aisle of the supermarket of your choice.

Today is the internet equivalent of that fucking annoying bloke on the bus telling you to ‘smile, love. It might never happen.’

Fuck him. Fuck them all.

They say comparison is the thief of joy. Today that seems particularly apt. If you are measuring your feelings against a meme, or a Tweet, or someone else’s idea of what your life should be right now, that might be the thing that takes any hard won sense of self worth and peace of mind and sends it spiralling.  Of course, it might not. It might be just what you need, in which case, this doesn’t apply to you.  Please do not @ me with a ‘not all men’ message. I get it.

I need you to remember that the only person you need to measure up to is yourself, if you’re having a tough time right now, and today makes it tougher. You do not need anyone else to tell you how to feel. You do not need anyone else policing your life or your thoughts. You do not need to feel bad because you are not feeling good enough for other people. This is not about other people. This is about you.

Maybe today all you can do is get dressed, remember to fork food into your face every now and again, and reach the end of the day without having punched anyone. That’s good enough.  Maybe today all you can do is lie in bed and hang on, keeping on existing until tomorrow and the hope of better things. That’s good enough. You are good enough.

Let me tell you a bit about what’s going on for me.

I’m having a bad time right now. Everything is making me feel tetchy. I bump up against rude and stupid a lot and because I am having a bad time, my skin is thinner than usual and I find it hard to deal with.  I am having to set fierce boundaries because it isn’t good for me to be around rude and stupid. It isn’t good for anyone, clearly, but right now, it’s really bad for me, because I have deep wells of rage, and when I feel like I do at the moment, I have really poor impulse control. I would walk away from social media for a while, but it’s where I run my business, so I am trying to balance things with varying degrees of success.

I am uncertain about what the future will bring. My family life is challenging because my daughter is ill and is in the middle of her third lot of mocks, which are unnecessary and stressful and punishing. My husband has work issues of his own. I am having to step back from a lot of things that I cannot control. This is hard. It makes me sad to see people I love sad. This is how it goes.

My business has, over the last week, made the grand total of £23. I have significant amounts of minus money in my bank account and have had to ask my husband for help this week, which he is more than happy to give, but which makes me feel like shit. Things will change, but right now, everything is about endurance.

I don’t sleep well. The nightmares persist. I think about death about twenty five times a day when I am awake. I don’t want to kill myself, just in case you were beginning to panic. It’s not my bag. It’s just that when my life and my mental health get out of balance, I think about death. People talk about intrusive thoughts. These are mine. They come whenever they like. They stop me in my tracks, and then I have to pick myself up and start again. It’s an effort. Every day at the moment is an effort.

I scrub up pretty well for work, for other people, for the internet, but this is my life right now.

I’m not into pity. I’m not interested in pulling everyone into my shit. As well as great pain, I also have great joy. I am surrounded by love and kindness. I am very blessed that my husband has a job which supports the ups and downs of our lives. I laugh a great deal. I practice self care, and have people who force it on me when I don’t. I have time out and time off and wonderful experiences. And through it all these threads of darkness run, because life is complicated like that.

I’m sharing this because I want you to know that I am not going to ask you to be happy today or any other day. I’m sharing this because I want you to know that I see you, and it’s ok, and even if it’s not ok, it is. You’re good enough, however you’re feeling. Hang in there.




My Third Trip to the Gym

Hello! It’s been a week, and what a week it has been. On the home front things are complicated and not mine to share. I shall merely tell you that I am eating a lot of biscuits, and it is a good job that I can’t drink like I used to. My sleep is terrible again and I am waking up intermittently all night, either with hot flushes or screaming nightmares, or sometimes, because I am blessed like that, both.

On the business front I am very busy with lots of irons in the fire, but also 47p in the bank and nobody wants to buy at the moment, so I am hanging on by my fingernails and hoping for better days. Surely they will come eventually?

London was fantastic. The Martin Parr exhibition was superb and lots of fun. The Twilight Zone turned out not to be a musical (YAY) and was super kitsch and really well staged, and also lots of fun. Seeing Alex was excellent and eating our own body weight in frozen yoghurt was an added bonus.

I need to tell you about my third trip to the gym really. I promised to blog about it, and even though I went last Thursday morning, I have been putting it off.

I learned a lot last week.

The main thing I learned is that early morning gym sessions are not my friend. In fact, early morning anything is not my friend. I am not a morning person. I have never been a morning person, and despite the fact that I believe that change is possible, no matter how old a person is,  I am never going to be a morning person. I think the issue is that I really don’t want to be a morning person. Mornings are, in my opinion, something to hang lunch onto so it doesn’t fall into your dinner.

I should praise myself for the fact that I actually got up, got dressed, got out the door and to the gym for nine, particularly give that we had biblical amounts of rain and howling winds that day. I could so easily have claimed that my house was under water and that the end of days meant I didn’t have to go anywhere except to the Winchester to wait for things to blow over. I nearly did.

My husband loves mornings. He’s a leap out of bed and greet the day sort of person. He likes to hit the ground running and zips about, eating porridge, taking calls and showering all at the same time before rushing out the door. I hate that. When I have to interact with him in the early mornings I also hate him quite vehemently.

I detest speaking to people in the morning and for those of you who know me, and how much I like to talk, you will appreciate what a statement this is.

I just hate people in the mornings is actually what it is. I like to get up alone and stare morosely into the bottom of a vast mug of coffee for at least an hour. I like to let my thoughts percolate slowly and get to grips with the day ahead in small chunks. I learned that I am the sloth of the morning.

By five to nine I was sitting in my car, in the gym carpark, watching giant sheets of rain sluice their way across my windscreen, muttering darkly and refusing to budge until I could be sure I wouldn’t get washed away in the five steps it took to get to the front door. I contemplated faking my own death at the wheel, but just before I could figure out how a person who has had a massive stroke might look and arrange myself accordingly, the rain stopped.


So I went, grudgingly, grumblingly and with misery in my heart, I went.

If Pete had been perky and upbeat and ‘go get ’em tiger’ I would have murdered him in cold blood. I know it was early, but I totally could have found the strength for that. I can’t cope with people being enthusiastic at the best of times, and this was not the best of times. Luckily he is very good at reading people, and without actually giving in to my unspoken pleas to hurl me out of the window and have done with it, he was very respectful of my need to be thoroughly miserable throughout. I might have to exercise but I don’t have to like it. So bloody there.

I can’t actually recall a lot about the exercises we did. I think we did quite a lot of arm work. This is backed up by the fact that I spent the next two days with arms that felt like they’d been crushed in a vice for about a decade. I’m amazed that they’re still normal length.

I did wonder if I’d wake up and find that I had turned into Mr. Tickle, which could take my nascent career down a whole new path. It didn’t happen. I’m not sure if I’m happy or sad about that right now.

I learned that I am able to do a lot of unnecessary hurling of weights around, even when I am technically still asleep. This is probably a skill. I will not be putting it on my CV as it isn’t something I’m looking to develop at all.

On a serious note, I learned that even though I am sullen, inarticulate and resentful, I can still motivate myself to exercise if I’m paying someone else £30 an hour to be my conscience and make sure I don’t snap like a brittle twig. If I hadn’t been paying Pete, there was no way I’d have done any of that. It might seem like a lot of money, and it is, but if it makes me do what I am never going to do otherwise, it is money well spent.

I need to exercise. I know that. I also know from experience, that knowing what I need to do and doing it are two, very different beasts. I hate exercise. I find it unspeakably boring. I don’t care about endorphins from running around clad in lycra, when I can get the same feeling of well being finishing a custard tart. I don’t want to exercise with a group to support me. All those feelings of low self confidence and shame other people get from wearing clothes they think are inappropriate, I get from exercise and I’d rather do it alone if I do it at all.  I don’t think exercise is fun. I think of all the other things I would rather be doing. Knowing that I am helping myself to a healthier future doesn’t make any difference to those feelings at all. Then there is a hideous war inside my head when I tell myself what I should feel, and get angry about what I do feel and so it goes on. It’s miserable, frankly.

The only way I have found before this, to avoid all of the above quagmire of emotion, is to commit myself to becoming completely obsessed by exercise and letting it take over my life. I can do this for several months at a time, and then I stop for some reason or another and I go from being very fit, to being my old, slothful self. What I note about the times when I am super fit is that they are, mentally as bad for me as the times when I am not exercising are physically bad for me. I start to obsess about numbers and targets and weighing myself and giving my whole life over to the exercise rather than finding a way to balance it with my ordinary life. It becomes my life, and that is a very bad thing.

So Pete is my damn against the floods of my own, erratic, unhelpful behaviours, and as long as I don’t have to do early morning sessions ever again, I think that’s a jolly good thing indeed.






The sun is shining, the lovely Helen, who is a goddess amongst gardeners is currently hacking through the undergrowth accompanied by the cats, who are ‘helping’ her. Ronnie spent the first twenty minutes hiding behind a broom in case she turned out to be a cat eating gardener. Now he is in one of the raised beds, nose down, looking for ground elder. We will put ‘horny handed son of the soil’ on his CV later. That’ll learn that Alan Titchmarsh.

I am about to start my Monday, but once I do that, I won’t have time to ponder, so I have prioritised pondering over getting dressed for a bit. I’d very much say that I’m having a Monday of two halves. I shall spend the morning running about doing Mondayish errands, then this afternoon I am off down to That There London to go to the Martin Parr exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery and see The Twilight Zone musical with my friend Alex.

I dislike musicals, but I love Alex and everything we do together is fun, so I have agreed to see the play and he has agreed to see the Parr exhibition with me. And I figure that nothing can be as bad as the unspeakable car shagging fiasco of two weeks ago, so things are looking up.

I have had a brilliantly productive weekend. I have finished decorating Tilly’s old room, which I am learning to call the spare room so that it doesn’t make me sad. I am thrilled with how it looks and am very proud that I did nearly all of it myself. Tilly helped me with a bit of painting and Jason put up the curtain rail for me, but I did everything else. It appears that my signature style is ‘wonky’. The finish on the paintwork is uneven, the tiling in the fireplace is uneven, the beading round the hearth is uneven, and the floorboards are, well, uneven, but I am happy. It felt good to have a project of my own and I have installed the gloomiest lighting since gas mantels became a thing of the past, so you can’t actually see all the wobbly edges anyway. If you come and stay I will lend you a head torch for reading purposes. I am booking in guests after Tuesday, which is when the bed arrives.

I am particularly pleased with the curtains, which I found in a charity shop. They are dusky pink in a kind of thin, textured velvet and fully lined. They are proper, quality things, and they fit as if I had them made to measure. I bought them for the princely sum of £8. And I get the added joy of being able to say: ‘and they weren’t even my curtains,’ (Miranda) which makes me laugh every, single, time I say it. I will never get tired of it, so that was £8 well spent.

Once I’d finished that room, I could move a load of crap out of my stock room, because I had somewhere to put it. I also managed to do several tip runs and donate lots of stuff to charity. There are a few things left in there that Jason needs to organise before they get moved on, but after that my stock room will actually just have stock in it. This means that once I buy a new clothes rail and a pricing gun so that I can tag all my items, I can inventory properly, and even invite people to come and browse the rails in person. I am properly excited about this. I shall be ‘by appointment only’, which makes me sound like the Queen. I might get Tilly to make me a sign with a swan on it for added poshness. A swan will always help if you’re looking to up your poshness quota. I might make an inspirational meme out of that.

In other news, I am completely obsessed by The Sewing Bee. My sister in law made me watch it and I was very grumpy, and it turned out that she was right that I would love it, and that made me very grumpy again, because I am nothing if not persistently a great big mardy arse (this is my signature mood). Once I’d given myself a Bishop Brennan I calmed down, and now I am learning a lot about bust darts and invisible zips. I am watching a lot of telly at the moment. Tallulah and I are two seasons in to Grace and Frankie, which we love, and which Kim has been trying to get me to watch for six months. She was right. Curses. There is a theme emerging here isn’t there?

No. You shut up.

Also, Derry Girls and Fleabag are back, which are both brilliant, and American Gods starts again tonight. Soon, my eyes will become glazed like marbles, fall out of my eye sockets and roll around the floor, whereupon one of the kittens (Ronnie P) will eat them and that will be that, so I’d best get all my viewing in before that happens.

Reading wise, I have finally finished Metropolis by Philip Kerr, which I got to review. It’s the very last Bernie Gunther novel, because Kerr sadly died last year. He never writes the Gunther books in chronological order so I was really interested to see what dates he chose for this book. It turns out that it is the very first Gunther novel, last. This is wonderful. So if you’re interested in reading the novels, you could do worse than start here.

I also read Educated by Tara Westover. There was a lot of buzz about this on Twitter last year, but when I looked at it, it seemed like one of those misery memoirs about someone who was locked in a cupboard for twenty years and I hate that kind of thing, so I avoided it.  Tilly bought herself the book just before Christmas and devoured it. She persuaded me to read it, and I was very grumpy etc.

No, you fuck off.

Anyway, it’s excellent and I stayed up till 4.00 a.m. on Sunday to finish it. It has a lot of misery, just in case you were wondering, but somehow doesn’t read like a woe is me, waily waily kind of book. Probably because she’s kick ass.

Well, I was going to write about how annoyed I am about class riven politics, and double standards in the discussion about radicalisation, but I have run out of time and now nine thousand errands beckon. That was a lucky escape for us all.


I chat to a man on the internet about International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day my beeyatches. May it be filled by the sound of corsets being ripped asunder and mighty women’s roars as they liberate themselves from the bonds of oppression. Today and every day.

While we’re getting on with the pointy end of things (as per fucking usual), here’s a little vignette of International Women’s Day on Twitter for you.

Happy #IWD

Sorry? What?

No, sir, I don’t need to imagine how women would riot if there was an International Men’s Day.


There is an International Men’s Day. It’s on November 19th.

No sir. It hasn’t just been created recently to shut people up due to the riots etc.

There were no riots. There are no riots. It’s been going since 1999.

No sir. Women have better things to do on November 19th every year than spend their lives doubling down on social media platforms to shout about how unfair it is, or indeed taking to the streets to riot.

No sir. It isn’t being deliberately ignored by the media to prove that women are in a secret cabal with the BBC, the Illuminati and Hillary Clinton.

No sir. It’s just that International Women’s Day is supported by, organised and celebrated by women and they’ve worked really hard to build it into something that men can’t really ignore. Can I ask you how you plan to celebrate International Men’s Day?

Oh, you want me to do it for you? Right. Ok. Yep. I see that. Will you be too busy being oppressed?

Oh, you’d like to do something but you can’t let women have equality of opportunity in this day and age because of all the men that died for their rights in World War I and II? They’ve still got a long way to go to pay off that debt have they?

I see. So you think women should have been allowed on the front lines in WWI and WWII?

Do you know who stopped them doing that, sir? I’ll give you a clue. It’s a three letter word that starts with M and ends in N? No, Oh dear. Puzzles not your strong suit I see.

Oh, you’ve changed the subject. OK. What are you talking about now? Right, do I know how many men commit suicide in this country because they’re oppressed? What about them?

Well sir. Actually yes I do. I know that men are three times more likely to kill themselves than women and that the highest rate of suicide in the UK is in men between the ages of 45 and 49. I also know that the number of men killing themselves every year is declining and in 2018 it was the lowest for thirty years. I also happen to know that fastest growing trend in the suicide figures in the last year has been women. Anyway, sorry to digress. Are you saying that women cause them to kill themselves?

Oh, I’m sorry. Are you saying that celebrating International Women’s Day causes them to kill themselves?

Oh, I’m very confused. Ah, you’ve changed the subject again. Right, women who inflict domestic violence on men. Ok. Yes I am aware that that happens.  Yes, it is terrible. Not all women do that though.

Oh, I’m sorry I thought that was acceptable to say. You did say that not all men are misogynists.

It’s different is it? Oh, I see. Thanks for explaining that to me.

No sir. I would never accuse you of mansplaining.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on domestic violence against men. Obviously you will know that the figures are much lower than the current rates for women. Yes sir, one woman every two days in the UK is murdered by a man in an episode of domestic violence and one in four women suffer from domestic violence in the UK. Oh you don’t know what the figures are for men? Well you will know that the majority of domestic violence cases that happen to men are caused by other men, surely? No. Oh. I was supposed to look that up for you. I see. Hang on. I’ll just go and get that data.

That data is skewed? I see. Can you tell me how you know that? Oh, you can’t because if it matters so much to me I’d look it up myself. Right ho. Like you did when you asked me to provide the initial data?

What? I’m sorry. The gender pay gap. Weren’t we just talking about domestic violence? I know sir. I will try to keep up.  That data is skewed too? Oh, so you think the armed forces are in error this year when they celebrated IWD by talking about the hour a day that women work for free all year?

Political correctness gone mad? I see. Good one. I thought you were just arguing that women should be in the armed forces so that they could be blown to bits alongside the brave men?

You know sir, I’d love to spend the entire International Women’s Day making this about you, but you know, patriarchies won’t smash themselves.

Sir. Sir. You blocked me.

Fucking snowflake.

I Have A Personal Trainer – Part the second

Today was my second visit to the RED and BLACK gym of manliness with my personal trainer, Pete.

After last week’s effort (and I use this in every sense of the word) I was broken for two solid days afterwards. It felt like someone had taken my thighs, smashed them into a thousand pieces, reassembled them and then screwed them on back to front. This was not ideal, I have to be honest. It’s not that I use my thighs a lot for anything other than stopping my pants falling down and walking, but I value their ability to do that without me shouting ‘Ooohyahbleeder’ every time I take a step.

I am very grateful that this week we took things a little easier. This was almost certainly to avoid me staging a mutiny, tying up all the staff with skipping ropes and barricading myself behind the counter, lobbing energy drinks at people’s heads shouting: ‘Get your hands of my thighs you maniac.’

So, we did different things to avoid the great thigh revolution of 2019.

We did quite a lot of arm based work to begin with. First I had to hold a massive weight. I say massive, it was 10kg. When I was toting three small children around I could have slung 10kg over each shoulder, picked up eight bags of shopping and manoeuvred a buggy full of wriggling toddler like a pro. Now it feels like someone’s casually tossed me Denmark and asked me not to drop it on my toe.

This was my worry as I shoved the weight over my head and ‘gently’ lowered it. I don’t know about ergonomically designed trainers that are filled with air and the sweat of Mo Farah, they should issue you with steel toe caps and a hard hat if they’re going to go about recommending that kind of malarkey. I have a day job as a stylist. I can’t be hobbling round in a cast because I casually tossed a ruddy great bolt on my foot. I’ve just got some new Irregular Choice.

We did an exercise called the Arnold. I wanted to know if it was named after that weird headed cartoon character, but apparently it was named after Arnold Schwarzenegger. We decided Arnold Schwarzenegger was probably named after Hey Arnold. They both have oddly shaped heads and you never see them in the same photograph.

It’s so true it can hardly be called fiction.

Imagine having an exercise named after you? There’s also that weird high jump manoeuvre called the Fosbury Flop. It’s more common than you think. I might create a signature move in the weeks to come. It will probably be called the Wheatley Trembler. Don’t get excited. I keep my vest on at all times. The trembling bit is what my muscles do after approximately three nano-seconds under pressure.

We navigated a machine that was so complicated I literally had no idea how to get on it, there were so many bars and handles and pads. Left to my own devices I’d definitely have got on it back to front. Mind you, this could be how I end up discovering the Wheatley Trembler, so I might have a crack at it next week. Obviously Pete will be worried about his insurance liability if I start clambering willy nilly all over the equipment, so I will have to create a diversion of some kind in order to do this. I’m thinking of telling him that they’re giving away boxes of free avocados in the Lidl up the road. He’s a nutritionist too. He’ll love that. They all do, those nutritionists. They shovel that avocado down like it’s going out of fashion, which sadly, it isn’t. He’ll be sprinting off up the road, fashioning a recycled shopping bag out of his joggers (you’d get more avocados in a pair of joggers than a t-shirt. You can stack em in the legs) and I’ll be all over that machine like a rat up a drainpipe.

It’s a plan.

We did some other things which I have thankfully blotted out, but there’s one thing I can’t blot out.

I have to tell you, dearest readers that I baulked this week. Yes I did. I baulked. This is because Pete tried to get me to join the circus, not as the strong man, but as a performing seal. I know. It’s a bloody outrage. He says he’ll help you get fit, and stop your bones from crumbling to dust  but he has his own plans all along, and sooner or later you find out about them, when he just casually gets you to lift small countries over your head, and then, and then, make you balance on a fecking ball, like an aquatic mammal.

Well, I wasn’t having it. Because I couldn’t have it. Because he said it was all about core strength, this ball balancing shizzle, but that’s no good to me because I don’t have any core strength. I am a hollowed out husk of a woman who struggles on a daily basis to tell left from right and is hard pushed to walk in a straight line without tripping over. On that basis, getting me to do press ups on the wobbliest yoga ball in the world, when I am, my very self, the wobbliest woman in the world, just won’t wash.

I did try. I only managed to lower myself onto the damn ball in the first place when Pete held it still with might and main. He let go for approximately two seconds and I knew with cold certainty that any more seconds would see me with a face full of concrete and a broken nose. I’ve already broken it twice. I’m not looking for a hat trick.

So, for the finale we had to try something different with the damn yoga ball (next week I am taking a pin stashed into the hem of my joggers to accidentally on purpose make sure it develops a nasty and fatal slow puncture. Oh dear. Never mind.) without the performing seal element. This time I had to lie on my back with my legs resting on the ball and rub my hands creepily up and down my thighs in a Vic Reeves motion. It was most unsettling and I have definitely decided not to be a pervy bloke when I grow up. Also, the potential for friction burns is quite high.

The more I go to the gym, the more I realise it’s a health and safety nightmare. I’m lucky to get out alive. No wonder it appeals to adrenaline junkies.

Apparently I’m going again next week.



I Ruin my Fledgling Career as a Theatre Critic

It is pancake day. I have cooked pancakes. In line with tradition I have sacrificed the first pancake to the great god of batter, or whichever deity it is that demands that you crucify the first pancake of every batch. Over the years mine have ranged from maps of the continent of Africa to wrinkled shrew noses. All terrible. This years was more circular, but tasted like the underside of an old bath mat.

Duty done.

Now everything in my house smells of pancakes because the only thing our extractor fan extracts is the piss. I am off to pub quiz shortly.  I don’t think I will have time to go and change, so I will take the aroma of scorched batter with me as a good luck talisman.

What I really popped by to tell you about was my theatre trip on Saturday.  Regular readers will know that I used to go to the theatre approximately 3 times a week at one stage. At the moment, what with one thing and another, I’m lucky to get there 3 times a year.

I set the scene here because I want you to understand that when I say that it was the worst play I have ever seen in my life, there have been quite a lot of contenders. I mean, it was up against that play about Schrodinger’s Cat where everyone climbed ladders and compulsively ate apples for two hours, for example. Or that play where nobody in the audience actually knew the play had finished and the cast had to start clapping themselves so that we could all go home and drink ourselves blind to forget. Or that version of Macbeth where they murdered Duncan with an extended, prog rock guitar solo. I won’t even tell you about the one where the woman ripped all her clothes off and torturously fondled her breasts while a man pretended to be blind whilst playing the spoons.

There was stiff competition.

So when I say that ‘When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other’ was indeed torture, you will get my drift.

Now you might think that it serves me, and my high-falutin,’ arty farty theatrical ways right, going to see a play like that. And you may well have a good point. In my defence I will say that sometimes I really like a high-falutin,’ arty farty play. I once went to see a play about mathematical theory that turned out to be fantastic, even though I still have no idea what the theory actually meant. Only a few weeks ago I went to see a play about a lady dwarf from the Congo who had a wooden leg and was kept in a box by Hans Christian Andersen, and I thought it was brilliant. I am no stranger to pretentious wank. But I think, with this play, I had clearly had one wank too many.

It was, I am told, a version of Samuel Richardson’s book, Pamela. Having never read it, this might explain why I found it to be a largely incomprehensible bag of shite. Although who knows, if I had read it, things might have been worse.

I will say, for the want of trying to find something nice to share with you, that the cast were very good. It had Cate Blanchett in it. Yep. Galadriel. That Cate Blanchett.  If you’ve only ever seen her as the ethereal elf queen of the forest, you will need your smelling salts for the part where she strips down to her under crackers, straps on a huge black dildo and shags a bloke senseless while he leans casually against the door of what what looked a bit like a Datsun Sunny.

I shit you not.

It was one of those plays which shows you more clearly than any lecture by Brian Cox, the mutable nature of time and how it is shaped by the human experience. It lasted two hours (with no fucking interval, and for very good reason. i.e. you could not leave), but it felt like about six weeks, and time passed with glacial slowness. If I hadn’t been in the middle of the second row and able to see the whites of their eyes, and the blackness of their dildos, I’d have seriously attempted escape. As it was, ice ages waxed and waned and I endured, not like Patience on a monument, but like a rather resentful, middle aged woman.

It was set in a suburban double garage. Inexplicably, a lot of the action took place inside the Datsun Sunny, with karaoke microphones to enhance the sound. There were about twenty minutes where all you could see was Cate Blanchett’s foot while Stephen Dillane droned on about how he wanted her to obey him.  At this point, if it would have ended things any quicker, I quite wanted her to obey him too. Sadly, it was not to be.

Occasionally people took their clothes off, and swapped clothes, and then they went around again, and put their own clothes back on. There was a lot of taking off and putting on of wigs. Sometimes people had their mouths duct taped shut. Sadly, not often enough.

If I were forced to hazard a guess, I’d say it is all about the power struggle within a relationship and how that changes over time, and the nature of coercion within a household.

Whatever it was, mostly it wasn’t worth the thinking frankly.

I tried sleeping but they would keep shouting at each other and slamming the bloody car door. I tried visualising the cake I would eat when we were released. Even that wasn’t powerful enough to save me from morbid thoughts. A lot of the time I pretended I was sleeping because I was sick of the sight of everyone frantically ripping their clothes on and off all the time. It was like watching that game where you have to throw a six and then you get to put all the clothes on and try and eat a Mars Bar with a knife and fork before someone else throws a six, except that there was a lot of fucking, which thankfully didn’t happen during any Mars Bar game I ever played.

If I have to take anything positive from it, it was that I have surprising powers of endurance and can still my more base instincts even under extreme provocation. Even though I really wanted to stand up and shout: ‘Dear God in heaven, stop this nonsense and save us all,’ and lead the stampede to the exits, I didn’t. So that was a win.

Don’t go.