The Alps are so beautiful, I wish the boy was here. We have never had the chance to ski together but I know he would love it as much as I do. Today was a bit of a trial. It is horrible falling out with one’s family especially in a far away land where there is no room for escape.
My sister and I skied together today, for whatever reason we have always been a lot quicker to fall in than we are to fall out. My sister is a gem who is extremely forgiving and tolerant, I think it has something to do with being good at yoga. I was so glad she gave the piste another go as she has come on so much over the holiday and I didn’t want her to miss out on the last day to play at being nurse. We never got to ski together when we were children because she had gone off the sport by the time I was old enough to come along. The giants method of teaching is very much the die trying variety which my eldest sister did not take well to.
A couple of years ago however she decided to give it another chance and now she has her confidence back there will be no stopping her. I took her down a red run after I had checked it out to make sure it was suitable and she handled it better than me. I was half asleep after last nights drama and I fell over at least three times on the way down; at one stage my sister had to try and prevent collisions on the roadway as I was giggling too much to get up and had fallen foolishly on the corner of a particularly speedy hairpin bend.
I wish we could have just a little longer out here. It is so peaceful; every morning when I draw back the curtains the view is so fabulous I am convinced I am staring out at a giant scenic picture postcard.
- Today’s dress is from TK Maxx. It probably could have done with some kind of petticoat under it but thanks to difficult-jet’s luggage allowance I am rather short on accessories. The boots are Kurt Geiger and the tights are from Peacocks and though they were a bargain at only a pound they have unfortunately already fallen to bits but at least this means I hav one less thing I need to pack come tomorrow.
I wanted to go anyway as I love the idea that one day we will have a Brady Bunch style holiday where the most exciting thing that happens is my mother burning the toast. Because of this tragic dream I assured the boy things would be different and I actually believed it, there would only ever be four family members together at any one time and there was going to be partners and friends to force us all to be on our best behaviour.
For the first four days everything went well; there were no sulks, no snarls and even sarcasm was kept to a minimum. I started to feel smug at how dull we had become and even considered making cookies for us all. I should have known it would not last. The giant enjoys his space as do we all and in the absence of yoga, Facebook and Sky television the tensions began to mount and all it would take for things to explode was a happy hour combined with an empty tummy too many.
As I am not really meant to be drinking I usually try to back away from situations where I feel obliged to drink. Après ski however is a traditional part of mountain culture and is one of the nicest parts of the skiing day. After the lifts have stopped the skis come off and people gather together with their friends, family and travelling companions upon the terraces which look up to the slopes and swap anecdotes of a day spent with their heads above the clouds. When everyone suggested an après ski drink I could not resist and over a cold beer we had a great time dissecting our day and congratulating ourselves for surviving a blizzard to come unharmed through the other side of the mountains mist.
The problem with drinking after a hard day on the slopes is how quickly the alcohol goes to your head. I have fallen foul of the beer fairy before and in doing so have ruined myself for the slopes the next day; with this thought in mind and an overwhelming desire to finally get up to date with my blog I headed home leaving the others at The Rhododendron; the cheapest and most cheerful pub in the whole of Le Praz. I was feeling quite proud of myself for recognising the limits of my liver and treated myself to a strong coffee and hot shower to ease the aches of the slope.
I do not know why everything went wrong but I do know when it started to slide downhill. I had curled myself upon the couch after returning to the apartment alone and was looking forward to spending some time alone. I had just finished coming up with a concept for the day’s blog when my thought structure was interrupted by my sister’s partner crashing through the door upon the arm of my father’s godson. Admittedly he had been moaning while we were in the pub and had asked for a cold pack but we had all assumed he wasn’t too injured as he had skied down the mountain on it just fine only an hour before. One look at his face convinced me he was not faking, he was pale and acting as though he was in total agony. Though I do not have the most maternal of bones I felt I should at least attempt to care for him. His knee was the size of a tennis ball after all and with my sister absent and my mother back in the UK I applied the medicine of every good Irish woman, a cup of tea and a sandwich.
After adding to my cure a couple of painkillers and some snow packs, (my father’s godson’s innovative invention) ,it was clear he might need more medical attention than I could provide. Although I did a first aid course when I was twelve all I could remember was something about a triangular bandage and I didn’t really see how that could help us now. It was about this point that I started to panic.
My sister and the giant were over at the bar with no idea about the deteriorating knee situation. Though my sister had said she would return home after one more drink I had little faith in her keeping this promise. I have echoed the same spiel myself when the boy has rang to see when he could expect me home. Though one likes to believe one will be home in a jiffy the craic of the bar will always outweigh any call to come home, especially as the caller will usually be a cross patch by the time you get back and be none too amused when you tell them you wuv them very smuch indeed.
As I feared she may not be in the mood for problem solving when she returned I had sent a messenger to find out whether there was any hope of getting help on a Sunday and found out that the nearest hospital was forty minutes away. When I heard this I had another unpleasant realisation; I was the only one capable of driving and I haven’t been in a car since December. I was beginning to feel rather overwhelmed by responsibility and upon hearing another groan from my sister’s partner I realised I had no choice but to get the doctor involved. When she arrived she seemed quite concerned and advised a hospital visit for X-rays and painkillers. After deciding it would be best to wait till the morning to take him I began to feel relieved that something had been done.
My sister had returned just before the Doctor got there which left me free to return to my writing whilst she played at being nurse. Just as I had settled into the couch however and opened up a monthly magazine, the giant returned. If it wasn’t for his rosy cheeks I probably would have jumped out the ground floor window upon seeing the look on his face. The giant had been unaware of the developments in the knee situation and as far as he was aware I had called out a seventy-five euro doctor for no reason and was a bit of a fool for doing so.
There is little point in going into detail about who slung the mud and how deep was the colour but what got said tonight has destroyed the delicate peace of the last few days. I feel foolish for coming away and annoyed because come the morning I will be the only one who will remember the harsh words spoken. The boy is perhaps right, maybe the time has come to call a day on the annual family hell-a-day.
- Today’s dress is another loan from my sister who also took the photos from today. It is from Hennes and though it looked great with a beret all of us were feeling a bit too bitter about the rugby to promote French culture any more than we had to. The mountains in the background by the way are Swiss.
- FYI – The reason I am smiling in the pictures is they were taken before everything kicked off when we were still on speaking terms. I do hope our family will be at peace again., I just find it hard right now to imagine how.
Though the giant and I have a terse relationship when we are skiing we somehow manage to put our differences aside and enjoy each others company. When I was nine-years-old my father decided it was time to take me along on the O’Neill family annual skiing holiday. My mother has never been a big fan of the sport so she tended to stay at home with whichever tot was too young to come along. Although I was a daddy’s girl when I was younger by the time my first skiing trip came round my feet were planted firmly at my mother’s side and the idea of leaving her to go away with the giant seemed to me like an act of treason. In the end our darling Catherine managed to convince me that skiing was “really good fun” and I conceded to join her and the giant in a trip to Austria. I must admit I did not immediately take to the activity, it was freezing cold and no matter how many times I sucked on my gloves my fingers felt like icicles. By the end of the holiday however I was hooked; I loved the way the wind whipped through my hair as I hurtled down the slopes, I loved how fast me and my sister could fly down the flat runs, pausing only to size up the best path for show jumps and I loved how well we all got along without the pressures of two other siblings, housework and homework. My sister, my father and I would get up and out by half seven and stay out on the slopes till the last lift of the day. The flights back then used to cost a fortune so we would save our money by bringing Mars bars from home and the occasional slab of Milka to keep our energy levels up throughout the day. My father would share it out between us on the chair lift and we would chomp it down before embarking upon another run.
The best holidays were always those where we split into ski school groups during the morning then met up at lunchtime to swap stories. I do not know why it is we get along OK when we are skiing, perhaps like our shared love of football, having an activity which we both enjoy means we have something in common other than blood. Whatever it is we always seem to have a good time up on the mountains and we have spent whole afternoons together tearing down The Alps, racing and seeking out new challenges, chasing the sun and attempting to escape the cloud and the mist.
I feel privileged that I have been able to go skiing from a young age, although me and my sister were taken out of school I do not think we missed out on any where near as much as we gained from going. Some of my favourite and most traumatic childhood memories are from these holidays, such as all the times my sister and I used our sunglasses to check out hot men on the slopes or the time my father fell over the side of a cliff and we had to beg passing skiers to stop and help us drag him up. For some time my father and I were at a level with our ability but sadly he has now overtaken me and it makes me a little sad that we no longer ski in union. We had a race today and for the first time in years he beat me leaving me with a burning desire to get my fitness back on track as soon as we get back to the UK to make sure this travesty never happens again, I mean for goodness sake he’s practically retired!
- My sister kindly took the photos for today and we tried to get a backdrop of The Alps but the railway crossing got in the way a little as well as some rude drivers who seemed to think they had the rights over the road . Today was supposed to be Little Black Dress Friday as started by The Uniform Project a couple of weeks ago to promote creativity and sustainability. Unfortunately it has been postponed till next week but as dress supplies out here are as scarce as the snow in the valley I decided to wear my long black dinner dance dress regardless. My mother bought it for my dinner dance when I was 16 and since then I have worn it on only five other occasions; four of these were to dinners and evening dos with different boyfriends, the last was for a visit to the opera in Verona with my father, my brother and my mother. I love it to bits and even though I look rather different in it now to when I was a slender sixteen-year-old, I still think it is one of the most beautiful dresses I own.
Today I fell off the wagon rather dramatically. In my defence I have been doing fairly well; other than a few drinks on a couple of special occasions over the past four weeks I have been surprisingly sober. I can not deny that I haven’t missed the drink; I love the grape and the grain as I do a long overdue conversation with a good friend so being without it has left me feeling a little lonely at times, particularly when my society consists of the suitably sozzled.
Though I had decided to do my best to have a booze free holiday it turns out not drinking in France is nearly as depressing as not smoking. When I tuck into a long lunch with a baby bubble beverage rather than one of their sweet stumpy beers I am looked at like a leper and feel like a right old bore. After all I say to myself I am on holiday and after all surely occupation of a different country means one must adopt their laws and customs. Surely I think by not drinking their delicious vino I am causing unintended offence.
After running through similarly logically sound arguments all day I finally fall well and truly off the wagon during dinner. I manage to convince myself that holidays are technically a special occasion and after all I have cause for celebration and this is the first time I have shared a meal with my family after getting my good news. It may be an excuse and I am perhaps kidding myself but it certainly feels like an occasion. We go to our favourite restaurant in Chamonix. Although The Hotel Eden do some of the most fanatic dishes in the whole of The Alps, their prices are pretty high and although I would love to go to their restaurant until I am employed it is just not realistic. Our favourite restaurant is one of the best value in the whole of Le Praz, a small village just outside of central Chamonix. It is only a five minute stroll from where we stay and their menu has I think stayed the same for the last five years.
It is one of those restaurants where as soon as you walk in you know who the owner is. The family who own it are often eating there themselves when we come in and the television stays on the sports channel for their pleasure. The y have not changed their menu or themselves to accommodate the influx of tourists into their village. We order in our very best French, desperate not to seem like the atypical arrogant anglais who can not be bothered to stretch his tongue to please his hosts. If we make a mistake she kindly corrects us and when there is an issue with translating the puddings she will switch to sign language and indulge us in our guessing games but she will not use the English tongue and for this I admire her. Once when we had fondue there the lady who owns the place along with her sports fanatic husband took pity on our peasant ways and showed us herself how best to coat the futons in the melted pot of cheesy gold.
We usually have the same, a special salad which has a poached egg on top as well as little bits of bacon and croutons drenched in oil. It is delicious and if I was more of a fool I would ask her for the recipe. The salads are followed by steaks, chips and more devilishly dressed salad, I do not want or care to know how many calories I consume in this meal but every squat, sit up or stair climb I have to do to burn it off will be totally worth it. Even I, the ketchup queen, will happily go without red sauce because everything is cooked so well it would seem an insult to injure it by adding one’s own accompaniments.
Tonight, there was just a little bit of tension at the start of the meal and as I have been fearing a repeat of last years family feuding I turned to the drink as a distraction. I find it hard to relax and just be and whether or not it is wrong or healthy having a drink just brings me down a level and loosens me up. I am always on such a tightly wound string it is nice to lose a little control once in a while and as I had told myself earlier that day I am after all on my holidays. Though I did my best to take it easy, technically speaking the tablets I am taking do not exactly advise alcohol. Two glasses of delicious table wine later I was feeling fabulously free and when the owners decided after our drunken debate with a table of Irish men about who would win the rugby the next day we all drank to France’s victory with a liquor from 1946. It totally finished us all and the walk back was hilarious. I am standing in the photos but many did not work as I was swaying ever so slightly.
On the plus side on our return to the apartment rather than falling into the trap of desperately trying to keep the party going I got myself a glass of water, watched a bit of the football until I was forced to admit that all I could see was a red and green blur I slid under the duvet, typed a few words of my blog and slunk into the loveliest sleep I have had in days. I may well have fell off the wagon, but at least I didn’t get hurt.
- Today’s dress is a kaftan borrowed covertly from my mother whilst she was away in Chamonix. Knowing the only way she would find out is if she read the blog I decided to chance it as she should be doing her essay so should certainly not be browsing through her daughters drones. I know it is ridiculous but I wore it with a beret as when in Rome and all. The green jumper was loaned to me, with permission and everything from my older sister. I love it and am thinking of accidentally acquiring it during the course and the panic of our packing. We are sharing a room at the moment and it is great fun. The top is apparently from Asda and the shirt dress is from Marks & Spencer Autograph collection. I think it is meant to be a top. The pictures were taken by my sister’s boyfriend, James Cornish who is quite the amateur photographer and kept doing strange things like practice shots.
Hurrah hurrah hurray, the summer is finally on its way. Whether you suffer from SAD, the blues or even just get cold a lot, there is nothing more wonderful than the first real rays of sunshine. Today, in spite of suffering from a collective hangover the Onions boys headed out to play tennis and football at Fog lane Park and me and my boy go on walk about in Withington town. For the first time in months sitting outside to read the Sunday papers seems like a viable way to spend a day and I actually can not wait to get out from under the covers because the sun is streaming through the curtains. I am a bit keen on the idea of going and playing frisbee in the park but the frock I’m wearing today is so pretty and feminine it seems a shame to go out and get it all sweaty and grass smeared. I could of course wear sports gear but it feels somehow a bit dishonest not to stay in the same dress the whole day and in the end I settle for a brisk walk. Perhaps I will have to start hassling Nike for tennis and yoga dresses to stop me becoming a sweaty Betty when wearing pretty prints like this. In just a couple of weeks I will be flying out to ski Chamonix and I am sorry to say that even I am not mental enough to ski in a skirt. I am an extremely cold person as it is and without excessive layering I succumb to hypothermia within minutes of hitting the slopes. I am hoping it will be acceptable to all if I just wear my dresses in the evening rather than on the piste, in return I promise you some brilliant apres ski stories and some of the most stunning backdrops to pictures of the dresses thus far. I really enjoyed wearing this dress today. The boy chose it for me to wear as we are going to watch The Miserable Rich play at The Deaf Institute this evening. As I am heading home in a couple of days he wants to see me in this floral feminine print even though it would not usually be my cup of tea. It is because I am heading home in a few days that I want to wear the dress I know he will like the best; though I do not like to dress for men as a rule, I do enjoy looking nice for him just as I know he likes to look nice for me. I brought him a stripey blue and white polo t-shirt shirt for our anniversary and when he wore it to his gig last night I felt really proud of him, even though his look was jeopardized earlier in the evening by a car of egg throwing bandits. I love finding clothes for him which he likes as he is very fussy about what he will wear and getting him to wear anything other than green, brown or blue is a miracle. Since we started going out however I have managed to persuade him to try all kinds of other colours and designs other than hooded tops and jeans and I once even managed to make him try on an orange t-shirt. I like the fact that he dresses well but is not too into his looks. I have dated men in the past who are obsessed with their hair and refuse to let it be ruffled for fear of wasting their carefully selected product. I once went for a meal with a guy and became utterly convinced he had a twitch in his right eye as it kept flickering to the side of my face; it wasn’t until I got up to leave that I noticed the mirror behind me and realised he had been checking how he looked the whole time. It was funny but also a little sad. The gig we go to turns out to be brilliant and although I am technically wearing black, the flowers on the dress and the cloudless night continue to remind me that spring is in the air. At the gig many people arrived wrapped up warmly in their winter coats of muted colour but as they start to warm up there is a shedding of their dull outer layers and much like the sun which has emerged today from the folds of the bleak winter all around us there are people dressed in bright pieces from last years summer wardrobe. Greys and browns are on their way out at last as colour and cheery clothing is welcomed back at last. Whilst the sun goes to get his hat on lets all go out and play!
- This dress is on loan from Sinead Kenny. It is originally from Wallace and feels beautiful on and the thick lining and structured waist makes it a really elegant fit. There have been a lot of floral patterns coming out lately which are really beautiful, particularly those printed on silk. Economise on the material if you have to but don’t penny pinch when it comes to the print itself or you will end up looking as cheap as your outfit. The photos were taken on our way home from the gig on a green patch of Withington and outside a section of Christie’s hospital. If you look close enough you can see the sign which says do not walk under this barrier, as I was limboing and crawling under it I will hopefully not get a letter in the post advising me of legal action any-time soon.
At last I hear you say, the end of the story is nigh. Today I considered not finishing this little modern-day romantic fairy tale because I have had a bloody awful day. I thought that if I was going to write this blog, I was going to do so by waxing lyrical on how utterly awful I am feeling; how sick I am of taking tablets which leave me nauseous and sleepy; and, how awfully cross I am about finding I have put on weight, another joyful side effect of quetiapine. Instead however I have decided to swallow down the bitterness and rather than dwell on the present pain to immerse myself instead in the ghosts of my past in the hope I can fight off the persistent pull of negativity which has been weighing me down since yesterday.
And so the boy and I after spending a night and day together but had parted ways with no way of contacting one another. Luckily our mischievous matchmaking friend had more up her sleeve having decided we were the perfect match. The next day whilst I was daydreaming about the boy and puzzling over whether or not I should go on a date with the other Chris, the boy was sending a message to our friend along the lines of, “Niki I’m a total idiot, I forgot to ask her for her number. Please can you send it to me.” Niki did not hesitate to strum the strings of fate and shortly after I received a text from the boy asking if I wanted to come and see him play a gig at Glass in Fallowfield. In all honesty I wasn’t terribly impressed, in spite of taking a fancy to him whilst he was on stage, I was certainly not about to behave like some kind of groupie girl and go along to watch adoringly as he drummed away like a toy soldier. Instead I went out with some friends and it was not until he invited me on a proper date, to see Gideon and The Deadbeats, now known as The Ten Bears, that I conceded to come along.
When I went to meet him I arrived early so I could catch up with my friend and after admitting I was rather terrified about the prospect of going alone to a gig with a man I barely know she decided it would be best to come along to assist with the magic, and also because she really fancied seeing the band. As this was the wonderful hazy days before the smoking ban, the Academy looked rather magical and with the hippy smoke floating about it was hard not to relax a little and take in the music. Gideon Conn is a bit of a lyrical genius and when he played the little ditty, Londonderry, which is about a first date between two people who are from Derry gosh darn it not Londonderry, I leaned back into the boys chest and felt rather loved up. We ended up all going back to his place for some drinks after the gig and when my friend and her lover went to bed we shared a little kiss before I went on home. I was mad at myself because i was being so careful to take it slow, because I knew I really liked him and was aware most of the last years affairs had ended as a result of me becoming too quickly involved. Though the kiss was nice it was a little too much down to how much we had drunk to steady our nerves.
After this date I tried to back away a little bit and after talking to some friends decided the best thing to do was to play it cool. I was in the middle of doing a dissertation on dating literature and though I had condemned the Rules as utter rubbish more dangerous to women than sexist males there were a few things I had taken from it. For example if you make it too easy for a man it can take away the fun of the chase and they will soon be looking for another lady who is willing to treats them mean. Though there is no way of knowing whether the boy would have been as keen on me if I had turned over on the night we first shared a bed and given him a good snogging, I am always glad we took things a day at a time. It made everything so much fun and meant we went on a host of date nights including a disastrous cinema outing where I demanded we leave after 10 minutes because it was so dire and a pub crawl which was rather messy but all of them ended in the same civil manner with a bit of a peck and then a goodnight sweetheart.
As our first date was spent in the company of a chaperone, we have come to the conclusion over the years that the night on which we should celebrate our anniversary is the first date we had by ourselves. I was completely nervous about the whole experience as by then I knew I really rather liked him but was still technically dating the other Chris though I knew it was just a matter of time before it fizzled out. After several hundred outfit changes I settled on a knee-length reddy brown leather skirt, a pair of black Red or Dead pointy ankle boots with a silver spike heel and buckles which one of my exes had brought me, a black T-Shirt and a frilly sleeveless black polo neck over the t-shirt to hide the ridiculous print on the t-shirt. Over the whole thing I had to wrap myself in my Burberry Mac which I was cross about because it meant the first thing he saw when I walked in would be the coat and not the carefully chosen outfit.
We were both late for the date, though I had messaged ahead to tell him not to hurry he still got there before me and was sat with a drink and a cigarette looking nervous. I couldn’t spot him when I first came in and the butterflies in my stomach started to dance about. He smiled when he saw me and I myself felt all a flutter when I saw he had made an effort to look nice. I fancied him and we had the nicest evening chatting about music, life, art and even our mutual friends and our own families. The evening took a bit of a turn when he decided, or maybe it was me that it was only fair we brought a second bottle of wine so as not to leave the other person out-of-pocket. I am by my own omission a total light weight and when we got on the bus I was horribly aware that I had drunk too much. He had suggested going for another drink in Withington at Solomon and Grundys which would soon become our local hang out, but when the bus started to move I was suddenly aware of how much I needed to get some fresh air. Turning to him I muttered something vague about having had a lovely evening and how it really was time to go home, then I lurched off the bus. I still could have retained some of my dignity if he had not stepped off with me sensing something was amiss and had the pleasure of watching his date throw up outside a building site in Fallowfield, a friend of mine later moved into the flats and I never had the courage to tell her I had thrown up in the foundations of her flat.
In all credit to him the boy was an utter star. rather than leave me to stagger home poorly and vulnerable he looked after me and took me back to his house. He tucked me into bed fully clothed but got me lots of water and a bowl, just in case. He shared the bed with me but surprisingly enough didn’t try anything funny and when he got up in the morning to go to work he kissed my forehead and brought me a cup of tea and left me some money just in case to get a cab home. I was utterly humiliated and as soon as he had gone I pulled on my jacket and bolted out the door. After a daytime nap I came clean to my flat mates about the dreadful date and was subjected to hours of teasing and even drawings to illustrate the incident as well as cries of, “well at least you’ll know he is not calling you because you slept together.” After it got past three however they seemed to have exhausted their insults and were now acting quite sympathetically as it had become clear he was never going to text back. I started to cry a little and decided to stop obsessing about it and leaving my phone in my room I joined the boys for our Friends and scrubs marathon. When I came upstairs to bed later on it was to find he had sent me a message after all: “Hey sweetie, you looked really pretty this morning. Was horrible leaving you. Hope you are feeling better, thanks for a great date x The rest as they say is history.
- Today’s dress is on loan from my lovely Auntie Bridgeen. It is from Primark and she loves wearing it on holiday. I managed to do something to my hair in spite of being fed up, put it in a bun after washing it then letting it down in the rain, and am wearing it with a vest for the cold and some suede black boots and opaque black tights for the warmth. The giant took the photos today thus why they are as my mother said a lot more demure than usual.
For the first time today there was a little bit of spring in the air and as I looked out the window whilst passing the snow-capped hills of the peak district I was lifted. Today’s dress is another vintage buy by the boy. It causes quite a stir on the train when I take off the polo-neck underneath it revealing bare shoulders and even a little bit of back. Once again the journey is depressing as much because of the unsightly clothing mishaps; legging lovelies and the ever-present ugly footed Uggalugs. The dress causes quite a stir when I take my coat off; possibly because I have had to remove my cashmere black polo neck to try to deal with the constant wave of nausea. Admittedly it is the middle of winter and I am wearing a dress better suited to a day on the beach during the 1940′s so I can forgive the looks of surprise at pale bare skin but what aggravates me is the bitchy looks. Although I find the Uggalugs and the front-rump pioneers distasteful I do try quite hard to never show any outward hatred towards them. After all the poor things have been misguided by the fashion press who are clearly all in on a hilarious joke to see just how awful people will dress in order to follow fashion; the answer it would seem is very.
The difficulty I have with women, especially those with boyfriends with no subtlety or tact who stare quite happily at one’s arse with no shame, is the girlfriend will usually blame whoever her man is staring at, tossing their hair and a few evil eyes rather than berating their blundering idiot of a boyfriend for the indiscretion.
Women are strange when it comes to men. I have known plenty of strong willed women who will crumple into a wreck when there is a man around, behaving as though they were straight out of a Thomas Hardy novel. So many friendships fall apart because of a boy getting in the way and we betray our own sex by getting into the bed of another woman’s man and convincing ourselves no one will be hurting as a result of our decision.
I do not blame women who fall for married men. Marriage and love lend confidence to a man and when one is told they are beautiful and intelligent it is difficult to resist being flattered. I am in no position to judge the other woman having once had an extremely brief run in with a man who told me he was in an open relationship, fortunately I soon found out he was the only one in the relationship aware of this arrangement and I backed off at a hundred miles an hour. The problem with being a mistress is one is allowing oneself to be second best, to feel guilty and even jealous at your lovers real partner. There are for better or worse plenty of men to go around and never should one man think he is as wonderful as to deserve more than one of us. Women are strong, intelligent, powerful and beautiful; why should a man be allowed the best of us if he feels we only deserve a half of him or God forbid a quarter or a tenth.
The other thing I notice whilst in transit is the lack of gentlemen still about. I sit opposite one idiot who after speaking at his wife or girlfriend for ten minutes, telling both her and the poor carriage about his very important crown case and how he hated himself for it but just couldn’t stop looking at the red-tops to see what all the hullabaloo was with those dreadful types. I had a very heavy bag, because I am soon hoping to start-up some swap-shop events and also fingers crossed have a stall at Leicester’s Vintage Market in March I really needed to bring a lot of stuff back. Back in the day all I needed to do to get a man to carry my suitcase or put it on the rack for me was pout and look around helplessly. Usually there would be some nice fellow who would carry it down the steps for me with a smile and a “there you go darling”. It was wonderful now however whether because I have started to lose my youthful looks or more than likely because many people are disassociated from the world around them thanks to mobiles strapped to their ear and iPods which tune everyone out do not notice damsels in distress. I do like to be independent and am all for women’s rights but what’s wrong with expecting men to behave gallantly. I make the effort to dress in a feminine way and feel generally better for it. Why then can men not hold open the occasional door, get ladies petrol when they run to empty, change our tyres or even carry our children’s cot down the stairs; just look at Kevin Costner in The Untouchables, he had a gang war and prohibition on his mind but still paused to help a lady in distress with her pram. I do realise there are exceptions to the rule all of my own male friends are gentlemen in general even if they do not behave to me as one because as far as they are concerned I am not ladylike enough.
These days one depends much more on the assistance of women for such tasks, as when we are not sleeping with each others lovers we are a terribly kind and caring lot. When myself and my friend were in London trying to manoeuvre a buggy and a fair-few shopping bags up the stairs it was another lady who helped us get her safely to the bottom. When my car ran out of petrol on the A6 bang in the middle of a four-way junction it was a lovely lady who got out and helped me and my mother push it safely to the side of the road whilst others beeped at us in annoyance. Female solidarity is essential and there is nothing quite as powerful as a bond between women; once it is forged it is never broken in spite of meddling males, disagreements over fashion choices or even the time she went and broke your best bracelet and hid it so you’d never know, sorry Hannah!
When I crashed my car back in early December whilst driving along a country lane I remember quite clearly what went through my head when I stepped out of the only door which still opened to survey the wreckage and wonder at the miracle of German engineering; “Oh God I am going to have to start getting the train again.” Since passing my test on my fourth attempt I have done everything within my power to never have to darken the door of public transport again. Rather than getting on the last bus home or taking the train down to London or up North to Manchester I chose the comfort, safety and reliability of my car every time. Whether I had to put up with roadworks, boy racers who lack the skill to keep up with a lady racer or BMW drivers who insist on riding up your behind no matter what, I always took comfort in the fact that at least I was not having to ride the trains.
There was once a time when I enjoyed boarding the train. It was about eight years ago when midland mainline in their wisdom put on a service which rode its passengers directly from Leicester straight through to Manchester. As I was due to start at the University of Manchester come September I was delighted and even made use of it a few times to check out my new city-to-be. At the time they still offered free cups of tea and coffee and even the odd entertaining magazine all for a fairly reasonable price of £18 so long as you remembered your railcard. Unfortunately the tea and coffee was cut, some wise guy accountant decided this was actually the cause of a 0.001% reduction in profits and knowing that the poor commuters would have little choice other than to pay the price or get up earlier in order to make up a flask of the good stuff they pushed through the skinflint measure knowing they could charge us with little fear of a French style rebellion. Midland Mainline kept the service going until about two months after I began my course when they decided there just wasn’t the demand. It was just enough time for me to get used to the joy of being only two hours from my home town of Market Harborough and for the rest of my time there I was forced to crowd on to the train services to Sheffield like a low breed cattle into carriages so over-packed I came close to fainting for want of air on more than one occasion.
I have been in long distance relationships for most of my adult years and ever since this service came to an end in 2003 I have loathed getting the train. If it wasn’t problems with overcrowding or overcharging there would be an issue with engineering works which were always conducted during the weekend when they would put on buses but never think to lower the fares to compensate those of us crushed into coaches which should have been decommissioned back when the railways were built.
It was because of these horrendous experiences with the rail network that I spent thousands of pounds on driving lessons and tests. As the daughter of a man who owned a car dealership it was a bit of a joke that I reached the age of 24 before I was able to get behind the wheel, but once I was there I never wanted to leave.
When my father told me it would be possibly weeks if not months before I would get my car back or even before he would let me drive it I cried, a lot. In spite of my crocodile tears and diva like protests that trains are more dangerous than cars due to the quantity of drunks and suicide bombers even he would not budge. He thinks I crashed because I was going too fast and has decided ice was not at issue. Apparently it has something to do with physics and the speed one has to be going at to roll a car three times and spin it, but its all Greek to me and as far as I knew I took the corner at a cruise worthy speed and if it hadn’t been for the frost this article would not be being written. But it is and I am sitting here on a train to Manchester having spent nearly five hundred pounds on train travel in the last two months and seeing as I have had to board nearly every rail service provider in Britain I feel I am well equipped to report on my findings of the state of the rail network as it stands today.
When I started getting the train again I decided I was in a unique position to really take a good look at how rail has changed in the 18 months since I was last a regular weekend commuter. The first journey admittedly was delightful. For the first time in months I had three lovely hours all to myself. I kept coming across magazines and newspapers and for once I was able to read more than just the headlines and the starting paragraph; fine if it’s The Express not fine if it’s The Guardian or The Independent, they usually spend the first paragraph telling you about the atmospheric weather and scenery surrounding stories of supposedly hard news and it is not usually till you reach the fourth paragraph that you find out you are reading about an especially intelligent canine who is the first ever recorded smiling dog. I was even able to indulge myself on the Virgin trains in a very small bottle of red wine which was delightful and I got squiffy enough to strike up a conversation with some poor soul from The Times who let slip about a certain head of states lawyer giving him a tinkle to tell him he’d better not publish or damned indeed he would be.
The problem came when I wanted to return home on a Sunday, it was complete and utter pandemonium. Every time I have tried to travel back on a Sunday I have been faced with late trains, cancelled services, crotchety train staff and a constant stream of misinformation. One particularly memorable journey occurred on January 14th. I had an appointment with a consultant in Leicester the next day which I had been waiting for since September so I had no choice but to navigate my way through the tussle of trains and buses to get back in time. I had been avoiding Sunday services because I couldn’t bear to get on the coaches or que outside Piccadilly Station for a place on a bus that may not ever come free. As it was I had somehow managed to find a service which would get me home for a fairly reasonable time and after playing a particularly ferocious game of scrabble; where thimbles of Krupnik had rendered the normal rules of play redundant; I set off to the station with my partner to get a train which required as far as we knew no buses.
After waiting at Mauldeth Road to the point where it became clear the train was not coming; not you understand because there was an announcement, but because everyone there concluded that fifteen minutes after it was due to depart there really was little chance it was going to get there in time for us to make our connections; we all ran from the platform in search of a taxi to hot-foot us to Piccadilly. Unfortunately the roads were packed and though the people I managed to herd into my taxi made their connection I was left stranded at Piccadilly with no way of getting home. When I got to Manchester station I was all in a flutter and on the verge of tears but hopeful I would find some explanation for my abandonment in the cold. I spoke with the man at the information desk only to be treated like a partially sighted toddler who informed me in the most patronising tone imaginable that there had been signs up in Piccadilly for months about service changes, “but I wasn’t at Piccadilly I was at Mauldeth Road.” I spurted agitatedly. He rolled his eyes and suggested I find another means of transport.
Northern Rail finally found a way for me to get home but it was all very touch and go and was dependent on those at Derby station taking me into their care and paying for a taxi to get me home. They did, but only as far as Leicester station in a taxi with the most racist person I have ever encountered. An Asian girl who had been smoking with her boyfriend at the station who felt the need to lecture me about the dreadful Polish people who are apparently stealing all our jobs. “And where in England were you born?” I politely enquire of her. “China,” she answered; but I live here now, I work for gas company”. I turn my head to look out the window and chew my lip to stop myself replying thinking of my car and the joy of driving with only myself for company and whichever DJ I choose to accompany me on the miles.
Other than delays over these two months I have encountered rude staff, cutbacks on the use of debit cards to pay for snacks on Virgin and Midland Mainline and constant overcrowding. If there is ever a rude passenger who is causing discomfort he or she will generally be ignored by the train managers who somehow lack the courage to confront drunken louts and noise polluting pubescent teens. I come across staff at a Midland Mainline buffet car who are happy to tell me that they get paid handsomely helped in part by the cut backs of the free coffee and tea which I once loved so much.
There has to be something done about the state of the rail-network. Until the government intervenes to stop these constant hikes in prices without improvements to delays, overcrowding and general service there is no way anyone would ever choose to board a train when they can drive to the majority of destinations for a third of the price charged by the service providers. It is unclear what we as a collective can do but as individuals the time has come for us to bombard our MP with complaints and whatever you do if you find yourselves left waiting without explanation in the cold or abandoned at the platform when you get to your destination make sure that the first thing you do is ask for a complaints form, fill it in and send it off.
Today’s dress is gorgeous. I am a little biased as it is one of my own but I really am a massive fan, it is another Calvin Klein masterpiece and getting back to the idea of the memory of material wearing this dress reminds me of some really very happy times. It has slouchy pockets in the side which make me feel wonderfully casual whilst the fit prevents me from looking too busty and having a repeat of last night whilst the colour is terrific. I brought it back from the states and it reminds me of walking round New York by myself and with some very good friends taking in the atmosphere of possibility that smoulders from the subways below and the sky-rises above; or maybe that was just the heat and the smog.
I loved New York, we had been on the rail for so long and had so many mini stops that since Chicago we hadn’t really had a chance to just relax and take in a place. I went travelling with two of my best boyfriends, the boy as I have said is not the jealous type and my boys find me completely asexual. One of my favorite times was when we all took a day away from each other to go explore by ourselves. I am a sucker for nostalgia and theatre and took the opportunity to walk down 14th street as the good Rufus Wainwright himself had once done. It was terrific, I put the tune on my iPod soaked it all up and then sat in a park, people watching and drinking cups of coffee and bagels for what felt like an age. I walked around the harbour at the front and looked at the memorial to all the Irish people who came here during the famine after they were abandoned by their brethren in Britain. I felt extremely emotional knowing a lot of my relatives had fled here at the time and was struck by the beauty of the place and how they must have felt arriving off a hideous ship-ride with dreams of a new world which turned out to be very like the old but with a constant stream of positive propoganda telling them to never complain because their dream was only just around the corner.
I also went shopping and this was of course when I came across this petroleum shirt dress and feel head over heels in love. Without the boys to tell me I looked fat in it I was able to buy it with minimal banter and when I wore it on our last night they even told me I looked nice, a compliment indeed.
I have also worn this dress on two other occasions which stand out, to weddings of family and friends. Friends of mine and the boys, Ellen and Matt, got married soon after I returned from the states. It was wonderful to see them get it together and was so brilliant having our gang back together for the first time since University days had ended.
In a marquee at Ellen’s parents home in the New Forest, we stayed in a ridiculously overpriced hotel and spent a fortune on gifts and getting there, but it was all completely worth it, they are lovely people and there was no way we could have missed it, even though I had just blown most of my life savings on a flailing economy. We danced the night away and all felt very wild young and free, albeit somewhat coupled up. Ellen looked totally fabulous and though it rained the day was not at all ruined and in a handmade dress which was more incredible than any I have ever seen before with hair trailing down her back like Rapunzel the two of them got married in a ceremony where The Velveteen Rabbit was read out as a sermon whilst one of our friends played the guitar for music.
The other wedding I went to was in Ireland, and of course, there was rain. Irish weddings are terrific, and they are undoubtedly larger than the average English wedding in attendance seeing as the average Irish person has around 50 first cousins alone. It was the wedding of my oldest cousin, Stephen and his bride Rosin and I believe everyone’s favorite part other than the lovey dovey stuff was when the bride got up on stage to sing along with the groom who plays the drums in their covers band. Irish weddings are also big on dancing, there is no opportunity to sit down for more than one song at any time during the night. If you are a girl, a woman, a man, or basically anyone with the ability to move one limb you will be dragged to the dance floor again and again until you flop to the floor exhausted. It is terrific because the Irish well-known for their generosity do not scrimp on the food so by the time the music starts we usually have one hell of a waistband to burn off.
Today I wore the dress with my mothers beautiful silky red top she had when she was my age. It feels like liquid gold on your skin and as my eczema is playing up today it is a welcome relief to have something not woolen or scratchy against my skin. The boy has to go to practice and so I join a friend from my course, another Northern beauty named Anna from the part-time NCTJ who is a pretty hot writer, to go to a pub quiz. Admittedly I feel rather over dressed so don my wooly homeless look beret and green casual patent Kurt courts. The quiz turns out to be the worst I have ever been to in my life, including the one where my American studies lecturer was there and got to see just how little studying I had ever done during the literature round, in my defence who goes in for a nine am lecture?
To be fair the quiz was held in the Democratic Republic of Chorlton, where they pride themselves on being green and a bit alternative but this is just plain ridiculous. There are pretty much no normal pub rounds, even the picture round involves specific TV shows from 1997 and at one stage we have to draw a shield, write a letter to the lottery winners (mine kicks ass by the by) and come up with an emblem. I love the pub, it is Irish and makes me wish I was with my parents back across the Irish Sea not in rainy Manchester trying to keep warm and sneak away from the worlds worst quiz, but I am with a friend and so it all seems rather funny though I cannot deny I am glad to get back home to the boy for a cuddle and a good gossip. Unfortunately though the side effects are at large again and before I know it is 4am and I am lying awake and alone having missed out on the chitter chatter I love so much wearing a silk nightie not my pretty dress, I bloody hate Quetiapine.
Today has been one of those days where my mood lifts but only for a short period at a time, much like the periods during which I managed to find a live stream of the United match the highs are short lived and unsatisfyingly fuzzy. I blame the dress; although it is gorgeous; a mac design by Topshop which has to be pinned together at the bottom to stop any Cheryl Cole esq front rump, (yes I know she is having a hard time but really why did this mean we had to see so much of her) but even still I am not a fan. It is partly because I feel I look too healthy to be wearing it, the last time I wore it I was decidedly more slender. The other reason is that wearing it reminds me of a bad decision I once made in it when I had too much to drink and trusted someone to look after me who was a friend, but isn’t any longer.
The details are unnecessary but it is foolish decisions like this and my tendency to feel low for days after if I have had too much that has led me to want to give the booze a rest during lent. I am not giving it up as such, I find that as soon as I give something up it is all I can think about so I am going to treat alcohol in much the same way as I did cigarettes. I’m not giving up, I’m just not having it at the moment. This way I don’t put myself under too much pressure and if I fancy a glass of wine one night or am out for a friend’s birthday I wont feel the need to be a total kill-joy. I just feel I need to get back to the point when I have a limit on what I can drink which I know suits me and which I can stick to. .
The last time I tried to give alcohol up for lent I was in an incredibly intense but simultaneously extremely destructive relationship. I was utterly in love with the guy, not at first but he wore me down and eventually I let myself go to him. Unfortunately when I met him I had just recovered from my first episode of depression and having left my first boyfriend I was vulnerable and although the euphoria of falling in love at first kept the lows at bay, once they returned he couldn’t cope especially when I drank to try to get me back to what everyone expected me to be, fun.
To be fair to him he was younger than me by a year and prior to meeting me was widely known as a man who played the field. It was inevitable that something so intense would end in tears, and it did when he got with someone else whilst I was back at home trying to put myself back together. I had sunk too low and he wanted to be with the girl I was when we had first got together, I tried desperately to get her back but with being away from home and a doctor that was keeping an eye on my moods I couldn’t lift myself and so understandably he went elsewhere.
What was so strange is that when I decided to knock the booze on the head for lent he brought me a shot of vodka and placed it in front of me. I don’t know why, perhaps he too hoped the drink would cheer me up and it did if only for a time. After things fell apart, as all destructive relationships do, I was left a sad little soul and it wasn’t until a year later that I really began to recover from our affair. Eventually I got my drinking back under control, I learned what my limits were and avoided drinks that had a tendency to send me tearful and other times just chose not to drink.
The one person who helped me throughout this period was a boy I lived with in my flat in the halls I was President of at the time. He was a muslim who was enjoying his first taste of freedom, loved getting down to R&B as I did and cooked the nicest curry I have ever had in my life. He also shared my insomnia patterns and so we would stay up watching Godfather together and playing silly computer games and pranks. He kept an eye on me and never let me unravel too far and even put up with my pathetic tears. If it wasn’t for him I think I had the potential at the time to fall into full-blown alcoholism simply to escape the hurt and sadness which had as much to do with my mental health at the time as it did with the humiliation of being publicly betrayed.
What my friend taught me which was extremely important at the time was first and foremost to hang on; that I needed to get my confidence back because I was a good person I just couldn’t see it. The other was why it is that we give stuff up during lent and the importance of sharing ones wealth for one’s happiness. During Ramadan I joined with him in his fast, unfortunately I only lasted two days because of my delicate disposition, my low blood pressure and my tendency to faint if I stand for too long. What the experience and my friend taught me is that we give things up to recognise how much we have available to us. although for me it is essentially a religous tradition it is equally a chance for me to reflect and be grateful on all I have.
He also told me about how it is the done thing in the muslim world (and forgive me seriously if I am getting this wrong I am happy to be corrected but this is what I remember) to give 10% of ones earnings to the poor. I always thought it was such a brilliant idea as if we are lucky enough to have money why not share it. Even when I’ve had jobs that paid I’ve always been struck with how much I have compared to how much I need. The boy told me I was crazy when I suggested this to him as he pointed out that tax means I don’t need to give it away as someone will do it for me but it is a nice idea and I hope i will one day get paid again so I can carry it through.
For the meanwhile though this will essentially be my last day of chocolate and sweets. Also because I want to make sure I can and because I am concerned about what the latest drugs may be doing to my liver this glass herein pictured will be my last glass of wine for 40 days and 40 nights, I’m gutted it isn’t bordeaux.