Oh Dear Diaries…

I have spoken before about the trauma I suffered aged six, when my brother Chris decapitated my beloved Tiny Tears doll. It is fair to say that none of us were ever the same again:

- Chris realised he should never mess with his little sister – due to her nifty right hook.

- I learnt to hide stuff from my brothers that I didn’t want damaged / maimed / beheaded.

- Tiny Tears developed a new-found appreciation for polo neck tops.

I became exceptionally good at concealing my possessions after Tiny Tearsgate, 1989. Anything of value or sentiment was stowed away in a safe place, until I left home at the age of eighteen. This included, though was not exclusive to:

- A second-hand paperback copy of Roald Dahl’s Matilda, purchased for fifteen pence.

- My extensive Pog collection.

- One hundred high quality fibre-tipped colouring pens.

- Three mixed tapes of Boyzone, Peter Andre, the Spice Girls, and Backstreet Boys.

- My top secret, highly confidential, tell-all diaries, that I began writing in 1995, at the             tempestuous age of twelve.

With impressive foresight at just fourteen, I acknowledged that I’d probably look back on my diaries in years to come and laugh. I may have underestimated just how much.

Here are some highlights from the last seventeen years in the life of me.

Names have been changed to protect the innocent:

11/05/1997 SECONDARY SCHOOL: Everything in this diary seemed to have a point to it when I wrote it. That’s why I refuse to look back and cross stuff out. Even the really embarrassing stuff about fancying Dave from my Maths class and cutting my own fringe. Again.

27/12/1997 SECONDARY SCHOOL: New Year’s Resolutions for 1998

  1. I will slap the next person who says I fancy Dave, because I don’t.
  2. I will tidy my room at some point this year.
  3. I will keep my room tidy for at least a week.
  4. I will stop worrying so much about how I look.
  5. I will marry Ronan Keating.

30/12/1998 SECONDARY SCHOOL: New Year’s Resolutions for 1999

  1. I will cut down on chips and chocolate, eat my greens and drink more milk.
  2. I will either slap or kiss Smith for being such a git.
  3. I will snog any (well, just about any) boy who offers.
  4. I will not take my mobile to school for the sole purpose of showing off. Well, maybe.

11/05/2000 COLLEGE: Oh fudge. I tried to pluck my eyebrows to make them look better, but now it’s a case of “Eyebrows? What eyebrows?” Will have to draw them on with pencil until further notice. Note to self: step away from the tweezers.

11/03/2001 COLLEGE: 

21/06/2001 COLLEGE: Have opted to come down with food poisoning on Friday. Not actual food poisoning, but this is my brilliant plan to get out of work. I am brilliant.

30/11/2001 UNIVERSITY: Nothing to report apart from my slow spiralling descent into madness.

“I didn’t lose my mind; it was mine to give away.” Robbie Williams.

11/02/2002 UNIVERSITY: This afternoon was highly productive. I finally mastered the art of reading half a book and blagging the fact I read the whole thing. It’s a talent. One I am proud of and grateful for.

19/04/2002 UNIVERSITY: My plans to go into Uni today were scuppered by an overwhelming desire to sit at home on my bed and highlight stuff. Very important stuff; naturally.

22/04/2003 UNIVERSITY: 

13/08/2003 UNIVERSITY: Mental note: Everything happens for a reason and anything pants that seems to crush you at the time, just makes you stronger in the end. H’mm, that’s very phylosophical of me for a Thursday afternoon. Must learn to spell phylosophycal philospohycal philosophical.

19/10/2003 UNIVERSITY: Am so proud of me! Have spent the entire day doing boring Postmodernism coursework. All something to do with hyperreality. Very confusing. Despite having written 2,503 words, I still don’t understand it. This does not bode well for the ‘A’ grade I was hoping for.

29/11/2004 UNIVERSITY: Momentous occasion: Handed in my dissertation. *Takes a bow*.

03/10/2005 POST-UNIVERSITY: An ode to Tony: “When I fall in love, it will be forever”. Thank you Nat King Cole. 

Note to self: Must put prophetic talents to good use. A winning lottery ticket would be a great start.

I Just Found a Chicken Bone in My Cheesecake… Is that Bad?

Having founded his own internet solutions company, run the New York marathon and purchased his first sports car, my brother Oliver decided recently that 2012 would be the year he finally learnt to boil an egg. Cooking has never been a priority to him, with culinary talents at the age of thirty-something on par with my neighbour’s cat.

So to address this glaring oversight, Oli set himself a challenge to cook a different meal every day for thirty days, in the hope he would magically metamorphose into a slim, follicly-challenged Jamie Oliver. Once a week, he held a ‘Come Dine with Me’ style dinner party where each guest rated his cooking and general hosting skills.

I was fortunate enough to be invited along with my mother and youngest brother Mike for Sunday lunch at the end of this process, once Oli had mastered the basics.

Oli's attempt at a pancake didn't exactly fill me with confidence

There was still a moderate risk of food poisoning, but having taken advantage our mother’s cooking for over thirty years, we were all in agreement that it was about time Oli returned the favour. I should have noticed the warning signs though:

1. The roast chicken was the size of an albatross and had only been cooking for an hour and twenty-five minutes.

2. The carrots made a bid for freedom by jumping off the kitchen worktop.

3. Oli referred to his colander as coriander.

But the food was surprisingly yummy. Had it not been for the fact the chef needed to nuke the undercooked albatross in the microwave three times after it first came out of the oven, we may have eaten within an hour and a half of schedule.

Dessert was also delightful – a fabulous boozy cheesecake, laced with glacé cherries. The biscuity base was quite crumbly though, due to Oli neglecting to purchase butter at the supermarket. Praying alone was insufficient to bind the biscuit crumbs together. Mike however loved it. I think… 

Oli took the liberty of documenting the event for prosperity. See if you can notice the subliminal jessseeker plug. It’s really quite subtle:

I would like to take this opportunity to point out that the camera adds ten pounds – and there were at least six cameras on me at the time.

Life Before Facebook

Does anyone else remember life before Facebook? It was such a simple time:

Poking resulted in bruising.

You didn’t have 367 friends you never talk to.

No one knew, or cared what you ate for lunch. They still don’t care. 

If someone wrote on your wall, you’d report them for vandalism. Now you actively encourage friends to do so. 

Unless you wore a ring on your finger or your heart on your sleeve, then your relationship status was often a mystery to others.

You were only tagged in the playground by friends, not when eating chicken wings at Nando’s.

Your mother merely suspected you made a complete twit of yourself on Friday night. Now she has photographic evidence

ON A POSITIVE NOTE:

Nobody forgets your birthday anymore. Facebook won’t let them. 

You have a captive audience* to promote your latest business venture / charitable event / blog post / boyfriend / kitten.  *Until they get bored and unfriend you.

There’s always detagging. Phew.  

The power of networking. Presidents have been elected, Dictators fallen and Simon Cowell undermined, all thanks to Facebook. God bless it.

You learn new things. Like the medicinal power of peas, courtesy of your cousin’s constipated goldfish

Think of your Profile as the coolest autobiographical scrapbook ever. Absolutely no need to faff with glue, scissors, glitter, pretty paper, or not-so pretty paper cuts:

 

Excellent News! Nobody’s Perfect

I have four brothers. The eldest – Oliver, selfishly made life particularly difficult for the rest of us growing up, by being so goddamn brilliant. How rude. While I struggled to make a three legged cat from Stickle Bricks, he built the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World using matchsticks and wood glue. His Hanging Gardens of Babylon were particularly stupendous.

At eight years old, my extensive list of achievements included:

  • Playing a Daffodil in my school’s production of Alice in Wonderland.
  • Learning all of the words to Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
  • Mastering my three times table.                             
  • Drawing a Viking, whose immense moustache protruded from his nostrils.

When Oliver was eight – he started programming computers. By nine – he moved on to assembler programming (whatever that is). I just thought he was showing off.

Some people are simply destined for greatness. Oliver is one of them. Though don’t feel too bad – he can’t cook:  

Rumour has it Victoria Beckham has twelve toes, Brad Pitt is actually bald, Adele’s breath smells of cabbage, Dame Judi Dench once had an illicit affair with Billy Connolly and Sylvester Stallone can’t sleep without his comfort blanket.

Okay, so none of the above statements are strictly true, but for a brief moment, when you thought they might have been – weren’t you uplifted, just a little? By learning the flaws and mistakes of others – we feel a little better about ourselves (and sometimes a teeny bit smug). 

If it helps – Lily Allen really does have a nubbin.

As I face the formidable task of job hunting in this uncertain financial climate, I am comforted by the fact I don’t actually need to be perfect. Excellent news, given that I have the hand-eye coordination of a Muppet, coupled with the athletic dexterity of Moby Dick. I may not be made for waitressing, cheerleading or fire-juggling, but I can string a sentence together. I even know what an apostrophe is and I’m not afraid to use one. So somewhere out there in the job hunting abyss is an occupation with my name on it, something I am meant to do – that doesn’t involve spilling hot drinks, dropping people, or setting myself ablaze.    

I hear there might be a few openings at The Sun

I Really Should Have Thought This Through

I once had a large gecko inked on my back, which seemed like a good idea at the time. I was secretly relieved that it was gone within a fortnight; you’ve got to love henna ink.

I’m not strongly opposed to tattoos, but my reasons for not personally having any are threefold:

  1. They are permanent.
  2. I am indecisive.
  3. They are permanent.

Fortunately for me, the impact of most lapses in judgement is fleeting. Just imagine if every decision you made stayed with you forever…

At five years old, I gave one of my Trolls a particularly striking Mohawk haircut. Hairdresser of the Year, I was not – so I couldn’t wait for his radiant pink locks to grow back. Much to my horror and disappointment, they never did.

At six, I decided that I wanted a fringe. I tried to bribe my mother with a fairy made from half a discarded kitchen roll, two goggly eyes, several pipe cleaners and some sticky-back plastic, but she was having none of it. So I resorted to the tried and tested method of pester-power. It went a little something like this:

“I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I WANT A FRIIIIIIIIIIIIINGE!”

Just three short months later, my mother finally caved – and I was granted my wish. I changed my mind within minutes, cursing her for “forcing me to have my hair cut”. How dare she?  Stomp stomp stomp.

Studies have shown that it is beneficial to let your child dress themselves, to help them develop a ‘sense of self’ early-on in life. I have strong evidence to the contrary:

 

I vividly recall a nativity play my brothers and I performed for my parents, at a young age. The shepherds wore towels on their heads, secured in place by y-fronts. My hobby horse was the donkey, Kermit the frog stepped in to play Jesus and our menagerie of barn animals present at the birth of the son of God included a giraffe, two lions, a talking parrot, three Velociraptors and a Tyrannosaurus rex. Eat your heart out Andrew Lloyd Webber. Regrettably, the pants-on-head look never caught on.

At twelve, I wanted all the boys to fancy me – so decided that the way to their hearts was cropped tops and head to toe denim. It wasn’t.

At the age of fifteen, my parents foolishly allowed me decorate my own room. I think they hoped I’d favour sophisticated salmon pink or soothing lavender. I actually opted for a postmodern self-conscious homage to the Teletubbies – namely lime green and purple passion, with a hint of turquoise. It looked like Tinky Winky and Dipsy had collaborated with Laurence Llewelyn Bowen. Delightful.

At seventeen, I was keen to find out for myself whether blondes really have more fun. So I saved my pennies and took myself to the best hairdresser in town, who dyed my brunette tresses a sexy shade of ash blonde. I smiled at the hairdresser, paid him a massive tip for doing such a fabulous job, then ran to Boots, bought a brunette home hair dying kit for £2.99 and ran home to change it back immediately. I really should have read the instructions – as not only did I ruin a towel and stain my forehead, but my hair came out bright orange (and to clarify – I really do mean ORANGE, not ginger). Not quite the look I was going for. Hats were my favourite accessory that season.

I’m pleased to report that my fringe grew out, I disposed of my denim jacket/skirt combo and the pants-headgear incident was a one-off. The bedroom I share with my husband does not glow in the dark and although I still don’t know whether blondes have more fun, I can verify that oranges certainly do not. 

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that when your mother full-names you – she means business

Allow me to demonstrate:

 “Charles Phillip Arthur George Mountbatten-Windsor – I think you’ll find young man that those are my Crown Jewels. Return them to the Tower of London immediately or I shall set the Corgis on you!(Circa 2011)

Your mother’s body language in this situation was always key. With an eyebrow raised and arms crossed – the death stare was employed. That was your cue to return her Crown Jewels / put down the hammer / take your brother’s GI Joe out of the microwave (even if he had decapitated your Tiny Tears).

Let’s face it – nothing else your parents said carried as much weight. You always knew better:

Being told “No you can’t watch that” merely resulted in you screening the desired 18 rated slasher horror psycho chainsaw massacre hell-raising blood-fest at your mate’s house instead. You’ve slept with the light on ever since.

As a child, being informed that something was prohibited, only ever made it more beguiling. As such, any of the following statements would have, quite rightly been wholeheartedly ignored:

“Your father’s nail gun is not a toy”

 “Calpol is not fruit cordial”

“Superglue, bleach and WD-40 are not fair weapons to employ in a water fight with your younger sister”

So, when stating the obvious didn’t work – your parents attempted reverse psychology:

 “I really love what you’ve done with your jeans. How do you get the waistband to sit just below your buttocks in that way? I hope you wear them like that forever”. If that failed, they resorted to outright lies:

My father used to tell my brothers and I “We’re nearly there” roughly an hour and a half into a 6 hour journey to Dorset. “I wonder who will be the first to see the sea?” he’d ask, midway through Luton. 

I had an epiphany in my late teens and I didn’t like it. I realised my parents actually knew more than me.

Here’s some whimsical wisdomness, from older, wiser grown-ups. Show-offs:

“Never be afraid to ask for help or say you don’t understand” Anon

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new” Einstein

 “Be whoever and whatever you want to be” My Mother

“These are the days of our lives” Queen (Roger Taylor) 

Oh to be ickle again…

THE WORLD IS YOUR LOBSTER

  • Jumping in muddy puddles will keep you entertained for precisely 4 hours and 27 minutes. Half the time it takes to get you clean again.
  • If you ask your mother “Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?…Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?…Why? Why?…Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?…Why?” constantly for 8 hours, her head will actually explode.
  • It may look like a drum stick to all the boring grown-up people, but to you it is a magical wand and you are not afraid to use it.
  • Fatigue is not an issue. You can always have a power nap in the dog basket.

YOU HAVE AN EXPLANATION FOR EVERYTHING­­­

  • “Daddy told me it was okay”.

IF IT DOESN’T HAVE A CHILD SAFETY LOCK ON IT, THEN IT’S YOURS

  • Left unattended for 2 minutes, any infant can eat half a pot of Sudocrem.
  • You can lovingly varnish your grandfather’s antique cabinet. Just don’t expect a ‘thank you’.
  • You look particularly fetching with your mother’s make-up all over your face. Very Eddie Izzard.
  • Toast really doesn’t fit in the DVD player. You’ve tested this theory, several times.

GROWN-UPS REMIND YOU HOW WONDERFUL YOU ARE AT LEAST 32 TIMES A DAY

  • Rapturous applause awaits you every time you count to 10 / clear your plate / pee in a toilet and not the waste paper basket.
  • Parents know nothing, but don’t worry – you can teach them the lyrics: “Twinkle twinkle chocolate bar, my best friend’s a racing car…”

NOTHING SCARES YOU

  • You get to dance with all the hotties.
  • You can drive without due care and attention and still not face a lawsuit when you hit a tree / cow / Lollypop Lady.
  • If you want to wear sunglasses with teddies on them, to match your teddy bear t-shirt, then you can and you will. You trend setter you.

YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW FUNNY YOU REALLY ARE

  • When asked if you have ants in your pants – you need to consult the contents of your underwear to verify.

Having given the matter much thought, I have concluded that I would be willing to be a kid again.

Now who stole my Magna Doodle? I want it back.

Pearls of Wisdom Just for You (You’re Welcome)

Someone really ought to learn from my mistakes, so please consider the following life lessons my gift to you:

No matter how much your brother tries to convince you – it is never cool to staple your own thumb.

Swimsuits don’t respond well to being ironed.

Fish Fingers only take approximately 12 minutes to cook. Not 4½ hours.

Cut your own fringe at your peril.

As an A-level student, resist the temptation to change your answer-phone message to something seemingly witty and hilarious, like “Hi this is the tumble dryer. The answering machine can’t get to the phone right now, so please leave a message after the beep”. University officials prefer not to liaise with kitchen appliances to congratulate you on your A-level results.

You will not make friends and influence people in University Halls of Residence by singing along to Destiny’s Child “Independent Woman” at 140 decibels at 4:00 am, regardless of the fact you split up with your boyfriend 20 minutes earlier. Nobody cares that you bought the shoes on your feet, the clothes you are wearing or the rock you are rockin’.

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck’. This methodology is particularly useful when applied to picking a mate: If he looks like a Neanderthal, walks like a Neanderthal and barks like a Neanderthal, I assure you he is a Neanderthal. No need to waste time testing this theory; I’ve done the ground-work for you.

If it looks like it might rain – this is because it is going to rain. Unless you want to model the ‘drowned rat’ look for the third time in a fortnight, I strongly recommend you bring your blasted umbrella.

Always check yourself in the mirror before leaving the house for work. You can just about get away with odd socks, but wearing your top inside out in the boardroom will start rumours.

Never be afraid to try new things - apart from cottage cheese with pineapple. Big mistake. Huge.

“Remember, as far as anyone knows, we’re a nice normal family”

1989 ROCKED

  • I was 7.
  • Kylie still loved Jason.
  • Alice bands, shell suits and scrunchies were in vogue.
  • I mastered handstands, cartwheels and cat’s cradle.
  • My troll collection quadrupled to an outrageously impressive: 4.
  • Wallace took Gromit on a grand day out and they ate lots of cheese.
  • A big wall fell down in Berlin and all the grown-ups got very excited.
  • My youngest brother Mike was born.

Admittedly, I didn’t necessarily greet the latter with the enthusiasm it deserved. I actually recall telling my parents in no uncertain terms to send him back.

My three other brothers failed to sympathise, as unlike me – they were delighted to have another man about the house.

After a year or two – I grew to love, adore and mother him.

Not just 2.4 children

There was a Simpsons’ poster on display in my father’s study for several years when I was growing up. It read -

“Remember, as far as anyone knows, we’re a nice normal family”.

I was never entirely sure what constituted ‘normal’ but I was pretty confident we weren’t it.

  • Oli was a nerd.
  • Chris sang. At all times.
  • I was the only girl and as such – terribly misunderstood.
  • Joe was into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, aliens and dinosaurs.
  • Mike liked whatever Joe liked.
  • Dad worked roughly 87 hours a week.
  • Mum was the glue that held us all together.

There were certain logistical advantages to being the only girl – I got my very own room for example. I also got a lot of sympathy from strangers. “Four brothers? You poor thing. They must pick on you an awful lot”. God no. I was a red belt in Tae Kwon-Do, they wouldn’t dare.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing however:

  • Oli’s bedroom was next to mine. He played Prodigy’s ‘Firestarter’ on repeat at 140 decibels for about 3 years. I played Boyzone.
  • Chris decapitated my Tiny Tears doll. I punched him.
  • Joe shot me with Nerf bullets. A lot. I locked him in the garden shed.
  • Mike copied Joe. He also ended up in the shed.

Grown-ups (well, almost)

I’m pleased to report that Oli is still a nerd. A wildly successful one (they’re the best kind). As far as I know – he no longer listens to music that makes his ears bleed.

Chris no longer rips heads off dolls. He gets paid to buy stuff (genius I know) for the Royal Bank of Scotland.

I am still claiming to be misunderstood. On a positive note – I no longer have cause to punch my brothers or hold them captive.

Dad confiscated Joe’s Nerf gun on a Sunday afternoon in 1992, following an unfortunate incident with our neighbour’s pet goat. I don’t believe it was ever returned to him. He’s currently a Team Leader for Costa, loves playing host and is highly domesticated.

Mike no longer copies everything Joe does. He closely resembles a Wookiee and favours music that makes his ears bleed.

Families rule!

2011 in a (larger than average) Nutshell and Plannage for 2012

2011 Highlights  

  • Celebrated the New Year with my fiancé, friends, SingStar and a deranged Springer Spaniel.
  • Planned our wedding. Saved for it. Sold numerous worldly possessions (including semi-vital organs) to help pay for it. Talked a lot about it. Wouldn’t shut up about it. Narrowly avoided being stabbed with a biro by work colleagues for going on about it so much. Toned down the wedding talk (a teeny bit).
  • Lovingly hand-made 67 invitations for the wedding. Suffered roughly 3 billion paper cuts in the process. Wished I hadn’t committed to making my own invitations. Posted invitations. Received lots of praise regarding said invitations. Glad I made invitations. Felt warm and fuzzy inside.
  • Announcement at work: Redundancies likely. Oh dear.
  • Attempted to lose half my bodyweight in preparation for the wedding. Actually lost roughly 9½ pounds (not half my bodyweight).
  • Received evil death stares from my brothers for not shutting up about the bloody wedding.
  • Had an amazing Hen Doo to celebrate forthcoming nuptials, during which I captained my own ship, went ape and allowed fish to eat my feet for breakfast. Loved my girlfriends even more as a result. Returned from Hen Doo. Collapsed with exhaustion. Slept for a week.
  • Enjoyed sampling my fiancé’s practise wedding cakes. Worried that I would no longer fit in my dress.
  • Had a manicure with my mum. Collected the dress. Forgot the veil. Did not sleep.
  • Leapt out of bed at stupid o’clock in the morning. Had a fabulous time being beautified with my bridesmaids. Reunited with my beloved veil – courtesy of one legendary best man. Wedged into my dress by bridesmaids.
  • Fashionably late (by almost an hour) I skipped up the aisle and married the love of my life.
  • Posed for photos. Got my leg out and embarrassed my new in-laws as a result.
  • Posed for more photos, without my leg out.
  • Managed to eat almost 2 whole spoonfuls of our 3 course wedding breakfast, due to corseted dress squishing my entire digestive tract into 4 square millimetres. Laughed at the speeches. Cut the cake. Ate cake.
  • Did an impromptu speech. Danced with hubby. (Got the distinct feeling we were being watched).
  • Friends and family joined in and there was a Take That dance-off.
  • Honeymooned in Cyprus. Sweated more than I thought was medically possible. Cooled off in the sea. Ate prawns the size of my head (and I have an abnormally large head). Loved every minute.
  • Returned to work. Did not love every minute.
  • Husband was made redundant from work.
  • Watched The Lion King in the West End as a birthday treat. Sang the first line from the “Circle of Lifeout loud repeatedly for 2 weeks. Really must learn the next line.
  • I got placed at risk of redundancy from work. Had a proper grown-up conversation with my brother about career options.
  • Husband found a new job.
  • Husband surprised me with a beautiful pine tree two weeks before Christmas. It died within an hour. Have spent most of the festive period extracting pine needles from my right eye.
  • Put milk and cookies out for Santa. ­W­as dutifully rewarded with magnificent gifts, so wrote a charming letter of thanks to him, like a good little girl.
  • Started my blog. Asked friends and family nicely to read my blog. Thanked those who did. Bugged those who didn’t.

2012 Plannage                       

  • Live, love, laugh and eat Jaffa Cakes.
  • Continue blogging.
  • Shamelessly plug said blog at any given opportunity.
  • Annoy people less and therefore avoid getting stabbed with a biro.