the gig routine of the old and boring.


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Last week I went to see Vampire Weekend. It was a bit of an exciting outing – through a combination of laziness, crowd-related anxiety and quiet rage about how bloody expensive the things have got these days, I don’t go to gigs that often any more.

Which teenage me would find horrifying. In February 2002 I went to nine gigs, and that wasn’t that many more than usual (although I was so proud of the tally that it’s ingrained in my brain as a badge of musical pride). Quite how I paid for it, or indeed got any A Levels, I’m not quite sure. I think my Saturday job in the local bookstore may have had something to do with it; it was the only job where sitting behind the counter catching up on your reading works in your favour and makes you less likely to get fired and lose your only income stream.

And when I was 16, I had a proper gig routine down. I would get there early and queue up so that I could get as close to the front as possible. I would take minimal stuff with me so as not to be the dick with the backpack in the crowd, or to lose valuable post-gig hanging about time queuing for the cloakroom. I’d wear layers that could be tied round my waist, and I would come fully prepared to be kicked in the back of the head repeatedly by crowdsurfers. And if I didn’t leave with at least one minor injury, I felt a bit cheated.

I only went to see Starsailor for the support act. Honest.

I only went to see Starsailor for the support act. Honest.

By uni I’d grown a little tired of living in a perpetual state of mild concussion, and so began a new routine. I was still near the front, but now I was at the side so that I could run in and leap about when I wanted to, and run to the bar when the support band were dreadful. I may have had fewer head injuries, but I had more hangovers.

Over the years, I went to many, many gigs. I tried to list it once in 2006 when I was avoiding doing my dissertation but I couldn’t agree with myself on what actually counted as a gig and what didn’t, and then I couldn’t remember how many times I’d seen Idlewild or whether I’d ever seen Hundred Reasons headlining the Astoria or just as a support act and in the end it became more stressful than the dissertation so I just gave up.

And now, I am old and boring and have the silent price rage. But in the times when I have gone to gigs over the past few years, I’ve generally felt a bit nostalgic for the glory days of headaches and weirdly unpleasant vodka lemon limes and disco neck (a serious gig affliction in the era 2003-2007).

But last week none of that happened. I’ve been going for seated tickets for a while now, but this was the first time I didn’t have even the faintest nostalgic pang when looking at the standing crowd down below. Because they had to stand up for HOURS. And standing up is clearly inferior to sitting, especially when instead of getting smushed about by strangers you get to do some really good chair dancing.

And, in perhaps the greatest joy of all, having those once-boring seats allowed me to sit there and have a nice cup of tea while waiting for the band to start.

A nice sit down and a cup of tea at a gig. 2002 me would’ve been horrified.

2013 me thought it was the greatest thing of all time.


i’ve got a bit of Spotify rage


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Lately I’ve been getting irrationally angry with Spotify.

It started when I got a new computer and downloaded Spotify anew, only to find that it had somehow automatically linked itself to my facebook without asking me and was posting everything I listened to on my news feed. Which I disabled very quickly, but still was not at all happy about. Partly because I do like to go on dreadful pop nostalgia sprees which often end up in Let Loose’s Crazy for you being played 15 times in a row, and nobody really needs to see that in action.

But mostly it annoyed me because for some ridiculous reason, it felt like an invasion of my privacy.

What I listen to very much reflects what is going on in my head, and not always in particularly obvious ways (e.g I spent the week after I got engaged listening to Tom McRae obsessively, and he is not really a shiny happy huzzah I just got engaged type of man, so that could’ve been misconstrued). So if Spotify were to go and post everything I listened to up in a public forum then I would feel very much exposed. And not just because everyone would find out that I a bit love the Saturdays.

So I spent a few months being a bit suspicious and obsessively checking that facebook sharing was switched off and generally not really trusting Spotify at all. Then I moved on.

Unfortunately, so did Spotify. It took to suggesting that I “follow” my facebook friends. In particular, it took to suggesting I follow people I perhaps went to uni with but haven’t seen in years, and while I’m sure some of them have perfectly lovely taste in music I don’t particularly feel the need to know what they put in their “happy songs” playlist. And I also don’t massively like the idea that people out there might be able to look at what I put in my playlists, because some of them are really horrible (although admittedly I’m not really bothered enough to work out if or how this could happen).

And then Spotify decided to tell me what to listen to. Relentelessly. Every single time I open the bloody thing up. I get the logic; finding new music is fun. The related artists button is a very good thing. I have found some good stuff that way, and also fallen into ridiculous nostalgia holes.

But this is not suggesting good new stuff. Or good old stuff. It’s just reminding me that I haven’t listened to certain bands in a while, which I already know. Because I haven’t really fancied listening to them. Or it’s making incredibly obvious suggestions based on what other people are listening to. When we’ve already established that I don’t really give a shit what other people are listening to.

And the tone. Oh god, the tone in which it reminds me that I haven’t listened to that horrible noise I was briefly obsessed with for a while just makes me strangely murderous. “Play now?” It asks me. No. Do not play now. Do not make out like you are my magical musical guru, Spotify who knows exactly what I should listen to next. Just go back to being a great big collection of music that I can search through and play stuff from on whim.

Otherwise…. Well, I’ll most likely do absolutely nothing at all, because if I’m honest I actually think it’s pretty good value to pay £10 a month and have ALL OF THE MUSIC available on my phone or laptop whenever I want. But I’ll be a bit more grumpy.

i owe all my old housemates an apology


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On Monday night I got told off for cleaning too much.

This has literally never happened to me before. I have been told off for not cleaning enough. Or not cleaning when it is my turn to do so. Or not cleaning ever. I have had flatmates draw up endless rotas to try and guilt me into cleaning. I have had parents ground me for months at a time because I live in utter filth.

I have spent 27 years extolling the virtues of floorganisation and claiming that bathrooms are self-cleaning and that having to mountaineer over a pile of crap to get to your bed just tests how much whoever is sharing that bed really wants to be there. And when I was single and had no real need for the other side of the bed, I used it to store yet more crap; DVD boxes, and books, and plates that had previously held toast, and clothes and makeup and whatever else happened to find its way there.

Now I think of it, I can see why so many former flatmates found living with me such an exasperating experience.

But now, apparently, I clean too much. I do it every Sunday. It is part of my weekly routine, and not only do I get the guilt if I miss it, I actually kind of look forward to doing it.

We’ve been in the house a year now, and I’m proud that our shower’s grouting is not even a little bit discoloured. And that our carpets don’t have endless amounts of fluff stuck so deeply in the fibres that it is never, ever coming out. I even quite like cleaning the kitchen sink (and now that I do so, I am a little bit disgusted with myself for the years spent not doing it).

And there’s one key word that’s in there, and is the reason I’ve become weirdly cleaning obsessed. “Our”. This is, after all, our house now. We have committed to paying HSBC a load of money every month for the next 24 years (because today is one year houseaversary, so that’s one year down) so that it can be ours. And if we let it fall into a disgusting state of grimy disrepair then all that is going to happen is that we’ll trash the value and do ourselves out of money.

Besides which, if I must be indebted to HSBC for the rest of time, then I want it to be for something that’s nice. I don’t want to open my mortgage statement and see how I’ve barely made a dent in it and look around me at piles of crap and go “really, I’ve done that for THIS?”.

And maybe, my dad was actually a little bit right and it is nicer to live in a clean environment than in one that is probably spawning new diseases all the time.

But still, perhaps I do not need to set aside four hours every Sunday in which to clean. Perhaps I could use some of that time doing things like sitting, or seeing people, or leaving the house.

Or maybe I should just use it to apologise to everyone I ever lived with for what I now realise must’ve been horrific levels of filth.


the confusion of the planning instinct


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This whole wedding thing is messing with my planning instinct.

Although maybe it’s not my planning instinct that’s getting confused. Maybe it’s more the part of my brain that I’ve been employing for years to keep my planning instinct in check.

Because I bloody love a plan. I like my plans great, and big, and ridiculous, and in such incredible amounts of detail and with so many stupid permutations that it’s quite apparent to everyone who isn’t me (and a little bit to me as well) that I’ve got completely carried away. So carried away, in fact, that I’ve forgotten to put any structure to the plan and so am just excitedly talking about different bits of without giving any idea how they relate to each other. But I don’t care. Because it’s my brilliant new plan!

And this is why I’ve had to try and suppress the planning instinct, because if I actually went through with everything I’ve planned then by now I would’ve done 16 MAs, seven PhD and a lot of tap dancing classes. And I’d have moved to a lot of places. And gone on a lot of trips. And had a different haircut every week, and adopted a few hundred animals, and painted every wall I ever came across and entirely bankrupted myself and probably ruined my entire life.

So I try and ignore the planning brain a bit. I try not to write things down. I try not to look at the tiny details. When there is a thing to be planned (like a city break, or a new kitchen, or a stupid evil bastard novel of hell) then I try to be measured and not get carried away with doing everything RIGHT THIS MOMENT. Instead I sit there and plan when I can plan the next level of detail. Because everyone loves a metaplan.

So far it’s kept me away from bankruptcy, and that’s a really, really good thing.

But the wedding…oh, the wedding is messing with the balance. My lovely mental dance of plan/don’t plan is getting all bewildered and confused. Yes, I have lots and lots of time to sort things and so there shouldn’t be any real urgency. But apparently things get booked in advance, and the more I do now the less stressed I am later.

If I don’t contact photographers a thousand years in advance they might not be free. And if I don’t allow six-to-nine months for my dress then the world will end. If I don’t then book my alteration appointments ages in advance then I might forget or they might get booked up and then I will have to wear a dress that does NOT ENTIRELY FIT AND THAT IS A TERRIBLE THING (apparently).

And so, after suppressing the initial instinct to PLAN THE WHOLE THING RIGHT NOW WITHIN TEN MINUTES, I’ve had to try and suppress the suppression. I contact people and say “I know this is miles in advance…” and they say “oh no, not really, this is about right”. And I sit there and I feel a bit bewildered, because how can booking an appointment for February 2014 when it is June 2013 be “about right”? How is that not crazy enthusiastic?

I’ve narrowed it down to one of two things; either everyone is just humouring me and my actually mad planning because you don’t piss off the bride, or wedding land is the one place where everyone is as ridiculously enthusiastic about plans as me.

I’m not entirely sure which option worries me more.

a memorial to the cut of joy


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For the past six months or so, I’ve had really good hair. My favourite ever hair I’ve ever had, if I’m honest. And that’s saying something, because I’ve had a lot of hair.

Yes, it looks good on my head, and gets me lots of compliments, and that’s really great. But I’ve had hair that’s done that before – like the bright red hair with the heavy fringe, and the beehive hair, and the wavy bob.

Red AND a beehive. Very good.

Red AND a beehive. Very good.

All that hair though, wasn’t anywhere near as good as the Cut of Joy. Because that hair – the Before Joy hair – took a buttload of effort, and had the potential to go horribly, horribly wrong. The beehive could be lopsided, the red could fade to pink and clash with my face, and the waves could go rogue and leave me with one strange flicky bit on the front right that would not do what it was meant to no matter how hard I tried to force it (and it was always the front right).

Awful face. Excellent hair.

Awful face. Excellent hair.

But the Cut of Joy has not been like that. It has had magical, ridiculous, self-styling properties. I’ve just had to wash it, blindly point a hairdryer at it, and then put a bit of hairspray on it. It’s such an imprecise art that I don’t even need to look in the mirror while doing it. And I definitely haven’t had to go anywhere near a brush in months. Quite frankly, I’ve only bothered drying it because it’s been cold out in the mornings until very, very recently and I’ve developed a weird fear that my hair’s going to freeze.

And still, people who I’ve not seen since the advent of the Cut of Joy stop me in the office to tell me how good my hair is.

JOY. Cut of JOY.

JOY. Cut of JOY.

But now the Cut of Joy is going to go away. Because there are two problems with it; it’s quite short, and it’s quite messy. Ordinarily, these things are not issues. But about two months ago my Farthing Wood Friend proposed, and now I need/want to have bridal hair.

Admittedly, I have not yet worked out what on earth bridal hair will look like on me. I do not know if it will be up, or down, or somewhere in the middle. I don’t know if it will be straight or wavy (although if the latter, I hope it doesn’t go rogue). I’ve promised my Dad that it’ll be natural colour, but that’s about it. Other than that, I’m entirely clueless.

And I know I could keep my hair short and do something exciting with a statement headpiece, but I don’t think I’m really a statement headpiece kind of girl. Or if I’ll wear a statement headpiece enabling dress. Or if actually, all a statement headpiece would do is draw attention to the fact that I’ve got a freakishly massive head.

So I’ve decided to grow my hair, because until I’ve made a decision I should probably make sure I’ve still got options. It’s the same kind of logic that led me to briefly attempt maths A Level; I was keeping my options open then, too.

Perhaps this attempt will go a similar way, but instead of quitting an A Level in the middle of a lesson I’ll find myself running back to the hairdressers in the middle of the wedding planning because I JUST CAN’T TAKE MY STUPID HAIR ANYMORE AND I DON’T CARE IF EVERYONE KNOWS HOW BIG MY HEAD IS. But unless I attempt to suffer through the indignity of the mullet phase, and the utter reliance on hair pins, and the hours spent staring with envy at people who don’t have stupid ugly growing-out hair, then I won’t even have the option of doing that. I’ll just have the one option; slightly wild hair that probably doesn’t go with a wedding dress.

Besides which, I hear Babyliss have just launched an exciting new magic hair curler which might even have the power to defeat that rogue wave. And if that isn’t a reason to grow your hair, I don’t know what is.

the trauma of kitchens


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Absolutely bloody ages ago, my Farthing Wood Friend talked me into redoing our kitchen. I agreed at the time because he told me we would do it quickly, and that we would Make All The Decisions and get things done mega fast and it would be great.

This was clearly not the case, because we only got our new kitchen last week.

And what I had completely, totally and utterly underestimated was the ridiculous impact that redoing the kitchen would have on my brain. I was expecting to prove to myself how boring I am by getting excited about taps. And I was expecting to get really protective over my new work surfaces. But what I wasn’t expecting was how the bit in the middle would make me go a little bit loopy.

It started pretty much straight away; I was working from home on the first day of the works, and came down at lunchtime to find my kitchen ripped out, my electrics and water off, and nobody anywhere in sight. I had a completely empty, weirdly multi-coloured, and not entirely plastered room in front of me, and I had to have a sit down.



The next 36 hours didn’t make it much better; there was the bang-crashing interrupting my conference calls, the night we had to spend without heating and hot water, and my deeply-held convinction that the entire kitchen was soaked in damp, and falling down, and about to catch fire.

Everytime I went downstairs to clamber over some boxes and get something out of the fridge that was in the middle of my dining room I’d be asked a question I absolutely did not know the answer to. And worst of all, the fact the water kept going on and off made me terrifyingly conscious of the fact that I could not have tea on demand, but would have to plan for it instead; and once the tea was gone, it was gone.

So I took to hiding upstairs in our unheated spare room with the kettle and a two litre bottle of overpriced water, and refusing to leave the room unless I absolutely had to.


On the third day, I just gave up and went to the office, because clearly my being on hand was having absolutely no positive effect on the kitchen, and was not doing wonderful things for the good old anxiety disorder either.

And once I was actually out of the house I felt a lot better. Yes, my brain might have wandered into “oh god, the entire back wall is going to fall down” territory, but at least I wasn’t hearing the crashing that seemed to confirm the fact. And instead of sneaking downstairs when I thought I wouldn’t be noticed and pawing at all the cracks in the plaster, I could monitor progress through a series of picture messages that my Farthing Wood Friend kindly sent – and which were all cleverly angled so as to only show the Good Things.

And come Monday, the workmen were done. And I had a whole 48 hours of “hurrah! I have a functioning oven!” joy.


Then I realised that I had agreed to do the tiling. Which definitely seems like a really bad idea. Because I am clumsy, and I drop things, and I am about to be entrusted with a few hundred ridiculously expensive ceramic tiles and a brand new kitchen.

It does not seem like the kind of thing that is likely to end well.

But thankfully, I have remembered that youtube exists. And if youtube could teach me to knit well enough to be able to create the infamous CardiBastard, then it can definitely teach me to tile well enough to cover a nice bit of new plaster.

I just might need to put a lot of cushions on the floor.

on waggling about.


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about two weeks ago I did a thing that I swore I would never do again. I joined the gym.

Yes, I realise that I have often proclaimed that I hate the gym. Yes, I know I said it makes me feel incredibly bad about myself. Yes, I know that every time I have joined in the past I’ve basically been paying a bunch of people £45 a month for no apparent reason since I definitely have not been making use of the facilities.

But frankly, I was a little bit bored of waggling about in my own living room. Yes, it worked very well as an introduction to regular exercise. And yes, there was a certain convenience to it. But after a year of leaping about like a fool in front of my own TV, I was both a bit bored and starting to worry about the integrity of my floorboards.

So I sat there, and I looked at the Virgin Active website, and I thought about it a bit. And then I did some DIY-boxercise. And then I looked at the website again, and thought about it some more.

And then eventually I just decided that actually, fuck it, I knew every routine on every one of my games by heart, and that was sad. And that floorboard right in front of the sofa was getting far too bouncy for my liking. And I really did fancy a swim in a pool where I could see the bottom and wouldn’t have a plaster floating across my field of vision as I tried to work out where the hell end was.

So I just went, and I signed up. And then plan was thus; I would just do classes and go swimming a bit and that would be fine.

But then I realised that I had accidentally joined THE YOUNGEST GYM IN THE WORLD. Which inevitably stomped on some kind of self-esteem landmine.

Because seriously, everyone at this gym seems to be at the university. And the ones of them who aren’t at the university are at one of the local sixth forms. And they are all youthful and slender and generally in much, much better shape than I am, and yet they remain oblivious of this fact and so happily stand around in the changing room talking about how they have this really stubborn but seemingly entirely invisible bit of fat on their stomach which the seventeen hours of perfectly-coordinated zumba they’ve done this week cannot shift.

And I stand there and think about how I am 27 and feel OLD.

So of course, my very first instinct was to run screaming into the night. Quite slowly. Until I got a stitch. But whilst sitting in the steam room and attempting to recover from a particularly vicious gym induction which featured the dreaded intervals, I decided not to. Because, it turns out, I did actually make a new year’s resolution this year. It’s just that I didn’t notice it at the time.

And that resolution was thus: I WILL BE BRAVE.

I’ve been doing it all this year without really noticing it. Not in a super crazy exciting bungee jump type of a way, but just in an everyday acts of tiny little bravery way. I’ve woken up in the morning and felt a bit rubbish and yet I have got on with my day and spoken to people and done things and it’s been fine. I always make sure I answer my phone (even when it scares me). I’ve made Important Decisions without entirely spacking out. And now I am going to go to the bloody gym even though it is apparently the land of the youthful and coordinated, and I am not going to let it make me feel bad about myself.

Because I am BRAVE. And I know deep down that being brave is probably worth it, because instead of sitting and home and cursing the fact that I am yet again paying somebody £45 a month just for fun, I will be waggling about in the company of other wagglers. And that will be far more fun.

Plus, it turns out that the Sunday morning swimming crowd is all at least 65. So if I can survive a week of zumba-ing in the creche, then I can go along there every week and go “you know what? I’m really quite young after all”.

my issues with apple pies.


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When I finished my GCSEs I celebrated by going to see the Dandy Warhols. It was around the time that Bohemian Like You was on that Vodafone ad, but as I was not yet 16 and was deeply pretentious, I made sure I told everyone that the Dandy Warhols had been my happy band ever since Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth. Because that was the kind of teenager I was. I wanted everyone to know that I’d spent 1998 leaping about to an actual band, rather than the Spice Girls.

I don’t remember huge amounts about that gig, but I do remember bouncing about like an idiot. And I do remember being happy. And I do remember that Get Off brought me huge amounts of joy both then and for years to come.

Until a few years later, when I ruined the Dandy Warhols for myself almost entirely.

It was one foolish afternoon that did it. I was right about to graduate from uni, and had just been dumped by the bloke I’d been on/off with for the previous two years. Which in and of itself wasn’t a particularly new experience – I’d become oddly fond of taking a complete emotional kicking and so had managed to get dumped by him at least once a term since the start of the second year.

But this one felt quite final, probably because we were graduating and going our separate ways and I could no longer rely on bumping into him all round campus. So once my housemate heard him leave, she came down and informed me that since I clearly needed a great big cheering up we could do whatever I wanted and she was not going to complain.

And what I wanted to do was watch Dig!, eat an entire six pack of Mr Kipling’s bramley apple pies and drink two thirds of a box of wine. After which I was, rather unsurprisingly, really quite thoroughly sick.

And then I couldn’t listen to the Dandy Warhols again without feeling both a bit miserable and an awful lot vomitorious.

Two years later, I found myself being dumped via text message just at the point where I decided that hey, I actually wanted to make a go of it with this guy if I could. And since I’m both a creature of habit and a bit of an idiot, I got Dig! out of the DVD cabinet and briefly considered a repeat of the apple pie disaster of 2006. But then I remembered the sickness and put it away again.

So instead I spent the next three days in bed watching all the House I could get my hands on. I think I made it to 16 episodes in one day, leaving the comfort of my duvet only to get a loaf of bread from the kitchen which I proceeded to consume slice by slice without even any butter (the logic being that bread did not have the same sickness potential as an apple pie).

And then I couldn’t watch House. At all. I developed such an aversion to it that I’d see it on TV listings and shudder and have to skip straight past it. And I couldn’t even remember why; I just knew I had watched lots of it once, but then I had stopped, and I did not want to start again.

But a few months back I caught an episode from series 3 while channel-hopping, and it all came screaming back to me – the intense bitterness that Chase managed to convince Cameron to go out with him after all, the losing touch with reality slightly as I reached the 14th hour of straight consumption, the alarming crush on Hugh Laurie that struck me at 5 in the morning.

And I just sit there, and looked at the TV and went “man, that was a bad time”. And then kept watching.

A few weeks after that I was boxing up my old CDs to put in the loft and came across the Dandy Warhols. So I put it on and did a bit of a leap around and spent a good couple of hours entirely flummoxed as to why I’d stopped listening to them in the first place. And then I went to Sainsbury’s while still humming Godless and I saw the Mr Kiplings and I remembered.

I’d like to say I bought the pies, and that it is all done and resolved and I have complete closure over everything that has caused me pain to the point of aversion. But I think, if I’m honest, the memory of pie sickness is so strong that they may be ruined forever.

But at least I have my happy band back.

on the mental perils of home ownership.


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There are many things i enjoy about owning a house. I like the security of knowing that I’m not going to suddenly be priced out of my own home by an idiot landlord deciding to up the rent by an extortionate amount. I like the way that if i decide on whim that I want to paint the bathroom, I can do it. I like being able to actually put nails in the wall and hang pictures without worrying that it’s going to lose me my entire deposit.

But I do not like the way that owning a house has suddenly cleared the path for a constant state of completely pointless worry.

I have always enjoyed a good worry, in the loosest possible sense of the word “enjoyed”. As a young teenager I didn’t sit there coming up with amazing fantasies of future life (except that one slightly odd one about living in portacabins in a warehouse and being in a band with my friend Abi which made us so famous that Leonardo DiCaprio saw me on TV and decided he couldn’t live without me and so came to live in the warehouse too). I mostly sat there coming up with worst-case scenarios.

If I had to go up in assembly to collect a certificate I would worry about sitting in the wrong place in the row and tripping over someone’s legs and breaking my arm as I squeezed my way out. If I had to ring a friend I’d never phoned before I’d worry that they’d given me a wrong number and that everyone at school would be laughing at me about it. I hated getting school dinners because I worried that I’d take too long to decide and then everyone behind me in the queue would hate me forever more.

It was oddly enoyable.

And it’s not something that’s gone away with age; it wasn’t a case of I got my first underwire and the ability to mountainise any molehill went away. It mostly just got worse and worse until eventually it got wrapped up in the whole “needs quite a lot of therapy” mess, at which point I kind of learnt to deal with it.

But now I have a house. And, it turns out, having a house is a source of endless worry, because there are SO MANY THINGS THAT CAN GO WRONG. Bits can leak, and crack, and fall off. Or, as my brain keeps telling me, topple over entirely.

And the toppling over is the thing that’s got me; I noticed a few cracks in my bathroom ceiling and the next thing I knew I was getting out of bed at 3 in the morning to check the survey to see if I had missed any part of it that said “hey, this house has an absolutely massive case of subsidence and is clearly falling right down”. I ignored the survey when it told me it wasn’t. I spent days googling what you have to do to fix subsidence, and worrying it would affect the market value of the house, or make it entirely unsellable.

And then I read something that told me that the crack in the ceiling would just be the result of lots of humidity in the bathroom. So I became obsessed with the need for a new extractor fan.

Because really, I’m actually OK with things actually going a bit wrong. When the house was broken into I just sorted everything with the police and insurance and got new, super-secure windows. When our car got trapped in a mobile signal-less gully in a South African safari park full of deadly animals, I just got on with helping my friend push it out. When a cash machine in Bolivia ate my debit card and left me penniless in the middle of La Paz, I laughed.

It’s the potential for wrongness that gets me, because until it actually happens there’s sod all I can do about it and that makes me feel powerless and grumpy.

And I’m not quite sure where that leaves me, other than in a slightly stupid position where I might need to keep accidentally-on-purpose causing minor damage to my own property so that I have something to focus my overzealous brain on. Which doesn’t exactly sound like a brilliant idea.

Perhaps I should’ve stayed renting after all.

i’m having some issues with lipstick.


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I’ve recently decided to experiment with lipstick.

I’m not quite sure what made this happen; I’ve tried and failed with lipstick many times in the past. But I a bit convinced myself that this failure was largely down to smoking, which always presented some serious lipstick difficulties. It’s hard to make your lipstick stay on your face when you’re busily chaining your way through a packet of Marlboro menthols. Invariably, I’d put some lipstick on and 20 seconds later it would all be in the ashtray. Along with all my money. And some of my lung function.

But it’s over three years since I gave up smoking now, so my time-honored excuse for entirely ignoring a whole chunk of the makeup world is no longer valid. In fact, I told myself, lipstick would now be like a great big bright badge in the middle of my face which declares that I am no longer spending so much time with a cigarette on my lips that there’s no chance of anything else spending any time there.

And not only that; it would also be the marker of my being a Proper Grown Up. Because lipstick is what Proper Grown Up Ladies wear, since they’re the ones who are sensible enough to not accidentally smear it all over their faces or to put it all over their teeth.

But, if I’m totally honest, the thing that appealed most was the fact that if you’ve got some decent lipstick on then you can mostly just ignore the rest of your face and still look properly done-up. Maybe this is why Proper Grown Up Ladies go for it; because they’re the ones who’re old enough and smart enough to realise that by opting for a decent lipstick over a decent eye, they’re getting themselves another 10 minutes in bed.

So yes, I was very, very up for this being my new thing. But so far, it’s not going all that well.

It all started going a bit wonky as soon as I decided to give this lipstick thing a try. Because the tried and tested favourite is the Strong Red Lip, and I am a ginger, and red is not a ginger’s friend. So I have been trying very, very hard to find a suitable colour which doesn’t make me clash with my own face.

I did a bit of googling, and a bit of staring at the makeup in Boots in a panic, and I thought I’d found a really good coral. But then I put it on, and my farthing wood friend asked me if I was feeling well, because I was looking really pale and weird. So it turned out that one was a bit bright. I tried something more “classic” red, but it made me look jaundiced. I found a brown-based red that I bought for a fancy dress party, but it made me look like I’d gnawed at my own lips so badly that they’d started to scab over.

And actually, since then it’s turned out that gnawing on my own lips is a bit of a problem. I never realised til now, but I have a habit of chewing on my bottom lip when I’m nervous. And since I have a good old anxiety disorder, I’m nervous quite a lot of the time. So I end up either scraping chunks of lippy off with my teeth, or going for a stain which just sits on the gnawed bits and gives me dalmatian lip.

Then there’s the tea. I may have given up smoking, but I swapped it wholesale for a whole other (admittedly less lethal) addiction, which is no more lipstick friendly. I spent half the day drinking tea, and the other half reapplying the lipstick that has migrated from my face onto my mug.

So really, I should probably just abandon this experiment since I can’t find a lipstick shade to suit me, and even if I could I wouldn’t be able to make it either stay on my face or not become weirdly polka dotted. But I really, really like my extra ten minutes in bed.

So instead of giving up, I’m just going to resign myself to looking a bit like a clown who’s had a run in with a spaghetti bolognese while I wait for the old faithful “exfoliating your lips with an old toothbrush” trick to kick in and make things more even. And for someone to take pity on me in Boots and wander up with the lipstick that is PERFECT for me, before I end up deciding neon pink is the way to go.