This is the longest time I have worn a dress this year whilst still staying conscious. It is 6am and I have just got back from covering the count of the county. It is strange to think that this time last year I was doing my best to stay awake during public affairs lectures and now I am doing my best to stay awake during public affairs in practice. I am rather worried about all of the ways I could mess this up; telling the candidates what I really think about their policies; letting slip who I voted for at the polls or accidentally tweeting out the wrong winner.
After watching the alternative election night for a couple of hours I make my dress more conservative by removing my pink belt and bright pink shoes and powdering up my nose. I deliberately chose this dress after carefully checking that none of the parties in the area have chosen pink, grey, black and white as their official colours. It is a good job as when we get there I give a mini interview to each of the three candidates which we upload to our site as soon as possible.
I know it sounds silly but after the third interview I am beginning to feel like quite the little journalist and I reward myself with the worst cup of coffee in the world. It is however two in the morning and the lady served it with a smile so I resist the urge to gag and swallow down the sweet caffeine goodness hoping it will keep me going for at least another hour. I slip into the bar to take a look at the swing and am met with the ends of an argument between a Tory and a Labour supporter. As I silently watch the swing I find myself hoping the spat will get going again as I am starting to drift off and can think of nothing better to get me going than a fight between the left and the right. I am just about to send a tweet to my followers asking them who they think would win in a fight between the reds and the blues when the coffee kicks in and I remember that this is the kind of tweet which could get one in trouble. Hurrah I think, I am a sensible journalist with good coffee powered instincts.
We are sharing our media table with the Leicester Mercury, BBC radio Leicester and Harborough FM. Though we are all technically competitors there is a great little buzz in our corner and we all speculate over who will be the next leader. Harborough FM in particular are a great crowd. They are funny, happy to share their electrics and when the BBC lady breaks her microphone their engineer kindly steps in to sort her out.
It is gone half four before the rumours start to fly about who has taken the seat and it all becomes very exciting. We have councillors and politicians flock round the table to give us their take on who is going to win and I even try to do my own little assessment by sneaking round the voting tables trying to take a count. Mathematics has unfortunately never been my strong point and trying to look subtle whilst keeping count is a bit of a nightmare and in the end I skulk back to the table to have a biscuit and look at the results which are now coming in quick from other counts across the country. I have a biscuit, which was given to us by one of the Liberal Democrats wondering but not really caring whether chocolate constitutes a bribe.
One of the candidates comes over to our table at one point and asks me when I will be submitting my work. I give him a bit of a death stare and asked him what exactly he was implying. ”For the university, you are a student aren’t you?” Perhaps in usual circumstances I may have been flattered by his mistake, but it is 4am in the morning and I am not at all amused. Fixing him with a look of finely veiled fury, I ask him whether he perhaps is referring to my paper? He is a little embarrassed and mutters something about all young girls looking the same. I force myself to breath, I am a professional after all and filing the comment in my things not to forget file I smile sweetly and excusing myself head to the ladies room where I line my eyes and try to adapt a more hardly look. Where are those bloody wrinkles when one needs them?
At half five the candidates are called forwards to the stage and the winner is announced. There is a flurry of activity; cameras flash, phones ring and the BBC lady takes to the microphone during the Labour candidates speech near drowning the poor lad out. I lurch forward to grab a word with each of the candidates about how they feel while my colleague finishes filing the story. It is all very exciting and when I speak to the candidates who have lost there is a little bit of me that wants to give them a consoling cuddle, but I fear this would be slightly beyond the boundaries of my role and may lead to me being black listed from future elections or jobs generally.
As we step out into the parking lot all but three of the cars have gone and though I am so close to tears from tiredness I feel really rather proud to have been a part of this night. I had wondered whether it was a good idea for me to go earlier on in the day but if I hadn’t I get the feeling that I would have regretted it for the rest of my life. No matter what anyone says about our political system, we have a vote and a choice and a quarter of a century ago for many men and women in the land, this wasn’t the case. Being a part of a night like this, being able to report on it live back to anyone who may still be awake and watching feels a little bit magical but that might well be the coffee and the sleep deprivation talking.
- The dress I am wearing today was another donation from the mystery lady, or maybe the mystery man? It is originally from Select and luckily before I left for the count I noticed my cleavage was just a little too much on display. I covered it up and tried to make it prim and proper with a pair of sensible green courts and a vest to keep everything under wraps.
This post has been difficult to put together, not because I have too few friends but because I am blessed to have so many. The only way I could think of to prevent this post turning into another never-ending essay was to try to decide which of my wonderful friends I would choose as bridesmaids if I was ever to get married. Although I am sure this list will put the fear of God into my parents financial five-year plan I couldn’t help but include so many and would have included more if I had not been trying to stop this post becoming a bore. Here in no particular order, other than the first who will always be my best friend, are the women in my life who have moved me to tears with their kindness, their generosity, their jokes and anecdotes and by always being there to clasp my hand tightly when everything around us has been falling apart.
Katharine Ryland – Whilst I was at university myself and Katherine lost touch for some time. It was inevitable in a way, although we had been the best of friends since we were 13 we both had such busy lives and it was hard to find the time to stay in touch. If I’m honest I always felt it was my fault that we’d drifted apart, she had started going out with a guy who I struggled to get on with and though I tried to hide it I’m sure she sensed it and ultimately I’m sure it effected our friendship. In spite of this we still saw each other from time to time and on my twenty-first-birthday she called me up to tell me she was pregnant. I was delighted for her but I still had another year of study up North and it wasn’t until I moved back home that we got properly back in touch.
We went out with her beautiful baby boy to Cafe Bruxelles and ended up having such a great day that I remember feeling really rather sad about all I had missed sharing with her and I made a decision to make more of an effort to get on with her partner; she was too good a friend to lose and after all she loved him and he made her happy so how could I not.
Not long after this lunch she got engaged and I was so pleased I got to share in her happiness when she told me her news. A few months later whilst out on a girls night in Leicester she turned to me and asked if I wanted to be her maid of honour. I can honestly say that even if I ever get engaged this will remain the happiest moment in my life; we had made a promise to one another when we were 16 in a bar in Lanzarote over a jug of sangria to be each other’s bridesmaids. I had assumed when she got engaged that she might ask someone else to take the job as we had been out of touch for so long so when she asked me I was ridiculously happy.
Although my dress ended up being made by her mother, when we first went shopping to find a dress I could wear she assured me I could pick anyone I wanted and whilst we were in the shop she tried on the dress she had chosen and I started to cry like a child at how beautiful she looked. The night before the wedding I stayed the night at her parents house and we shared her bed together as we had done years ago when we were kids. In the morning I helped her with her make up and getting dressed and did my best to soothe her little boy when he had a tantrum minutes before we were due to leave because he wanted to try on Mummy’s veil. There is a picture of the two of us arm in arm leaving the church and it looks as though we have just emerged from a civil ceremony and still cracks me up when I see it. She made a beautiful bride and I was inspired to give a speech after her husband and father had said their piece about what a wonderful woman she was and how truly lucky her husband was to have her by his side.
We have always shared everything with one another, although to begin with as an only child she did struggle with the concept of sharing clothing. We once had a massive fall out because she refused to let me wear her top as she was convinced I was going to stretch it. There was no secrecy or privacy between us when we were younger; after we got badly burnt on an overcast day in Devon after falling asleep together on the beach we got home and had to rub after-sun into each others ridiculous tan lines. As we soothed each others skin with aloe vera and very gentle application we were simultaneously cracking up with laughter at how silly we both looked.
We found the results of all our exams together and when we were on holiday in Lanzarote we crammed into a telephone booth on the sea-walk of Lanzarote giggling in disbelief at the amount of As Katherine had got. We also helped each other through the dark days; through heartbreak and troubles at home. It was Katherine who held my hand on the way back to my home after my parents had rung hers to ask if they could bring me home straight away because my sister had gone downhill fast and the doctors were concerned that she wasn’t going to make it through the night. She is hilarious, intelligent and caring and even with a baby boy to care for she did so well in her degree that when she graduated she had two jobs waiting for her. I will always be pleased we got back in touch, my life would be nowhere near as fun without her. I will save sharing some of my favourite memories of our friendship as she has asked if she can write a post about her three favourite memories of us but I imagine they might include the time I went skinny dipping with my sister on my sweet sixteenth in Eastbourne at midnight. Other than my sister it will be Katherine who I will tell if I ever find myself knocked up and it will be her who I will want by my side on the day of my wedding.
AC: When me and the boy first got together i always felt a little lonely when I was round at his house. he lived with six other guys, nearly all of who had long-standing girlfriends and I felt a bit of a spare wheel. The one girl who I immediately clicked with however was Anna. She had dreams of being a musical theatre star and although she enjoyed singing as much as me, people actually enjoyed it when she sang. This shared love of singing and a tendency to live our lives in a rather dramatic way means we have spent many a taxi ride home singing away even when the boys beg us to stop. When I met her I remember speaking about her with one of my friends and concluding that she was a natural beauty and that we were actually really rather jealous of her perfectly shaped eyebrows, white teeth and dancers figure. In the early days of our friendship I was rather worried that I might be a bit much for her, when I bumped into her in the library one day and started talking at her at a mile a minute about dissertations and exams and nights out I had been planning she appeared to be somewhat terrified. We became firm friends however after the boys moved to a smaller house and I think it may have helped that I opened my entire wardrobe to her and did my very best to put aside my reservations about vegetarians and would happily make her hippy friendly food whenever we had a dinner party.
The time I realised I had a friend for life was when she agreed to join me in getting dressed up as a witch to go and queue outside Waterstones for the release of the last Harry Potter book in the series. There are few friends who will partake in this kind of humiliation just to keep someone company but Anna came with me in spite of never having read any of the books. We spent the next fortnight driving the boys mad by shutting ourselves away in one of their rooms and banning them entry until we had read at least another four chapters. I think it was whilst we were lying on a bed repeating lines to one another which made us giggle that I realised I had got myself a friend for life who felt as much like a sister as my own blood.
Anna is one of those rare friends who will be by your side even when you have done everything in your power to try to hide away from the world. Three nights after I’d had a nervous breakdown and ended up in hospital I went to the launch of the boy’s first single. I was only able to do so because I had Anna with me the whole time, holding my hand reminding me that I wasn’t crazy and that everything was going to be OK even if it didn’t feel that way at the time. She is able to make me laugh at life events which are otherwise tragic and when me and the boy were having a heap of troubles last year it was Anna who held me whilst I cried my heart out over loss and love still to raw to share. We have both followed our dreams in life and I am sure I would not have had the guts to carry on going for mine if I hadn’t had her for inspiration. She never once gave up on her dream of playing a role in a musical and now she is touring the country playing the part of Neil Sedaka’s wife in the hit play, Laughter In The Rain. She is my Scrabble companion and the only one who is sweet enough not to tell me how dreadful a singer I really am.
In spite of my efforts not to make this an essay I have noticed that all to quickly the word count has crept us and so I will save the other five for another day, I promise you they are worth the space.
- Today’s dress has been donated by my Auntie Bridgeen. It was originally from Primark and thankfully has a slip to preserve my modesty. Katharine and my friend Monica took the photos and the reason I am cracking up in them is because Monica has just told me that I am in trouble with someone because of something I have said on the blog. The gingerbread man was made by Katherine’s son. Katherine gifted me another dress to wear whilst I was at her house, proof indeed that her issues with sharing have been resolved.
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.
- Today’s dress was kindly donated by Sinead Kenny of Market Harborough. It is on loan but was brought from Boohoo. It probably needed a belt to pull it in but the pattern was too pretty to touch it. I’d like to say the ironing was a stunt but I actually have so many dresses to press I just had to keep on with it. My Mummy took the photos again today but the boy provided the tulips in the background as a present to cheer me up after an awful consultation on Monday at the Brandon Unit.
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.
There is a photo from the night the boy and I first got it together. It shows him in the foreground grinning in a grey jumper, which will soon become my favourite, and me in the background of the photo. There is a Marlboro Medium balanced expertly between my middle fingers and I am looking down at the ground whilst talking to another guy. I am completely oblivious of the photo being taken or of the boy who is standing mere meters away.
I near enough remember the moment because I was thinking about leaving to meet a guy I’d been on a few dates with who messaged me to ask him to join him in Fallowfield. Whilst looking for my coat I bumped into two troublesome friends who insisted I join them in putting the world to rights by combining a small bottle of cola with a big bottle of Jack.
It turned out to be one of the best house parties I have ever been to. Held above the One Stop Shop in a ten bedroom flat shared by seven lads who each had a love of the good life, people in Withington and far further afield still remember it fondly to this day. The party featured two live performances from The Schmatte Kid and another band as well as a pretty incredible DJ set which carried us through till sunrise the next morning. There were random rooms all over the house to chill out in, one of which had easy listening music and pretty fairy lights. The toilets were communal, the floor was our ashtray and anyone who came to tell the lads to turn the music down just ended up joining in the fun.
At about 8am I remember turning to my friend who had invited me and begging her for a spot to sleep. By this time we had completely run out of alcohol and though there was talk of trying to tunnel our way downstairs to get more drink the plan seemed a tad far-fetched and it was starting to feel as though it was time for bed. Although my friend is a lot more hardcore than me, as only good friends do she took pity on me and directed me to a place of peace upstairs. There was a couple of people passed out at the very end of the bed but being too tired to care I dived under the duvet and lay my head down. Soon I had drifted off into a sweet disco dream. All of a sudden I jolted awake upon feeling the duvet mov as someone clambered into bed beside me. Feeling more cross than cautious I turned over to find the musical Nazi looking back at me not at all anxious about his ungentlemanly behaviour. ”What the hell do you think you are doing?” I muttered murderously, “I am trying to sleep.” He looked back at me rather bemused and said, “But this is my bed.”
Rather than get into a Goldilocks and the Three Bears style argument or worse still risk admitting I had been mistaken in where I had laid my hat (I hadn’t, this was my fiendish friends idea of matchmaking) I turned to face the wall and fell straight back to sleep. Before I did I remember grumbling incoherently about how he had better not try anything if he didn’t want to find out the full strength of a girl in her third week of self defence classes. We fell asleep far apart but when I woke in the morning it was to find his arm wrapped around me and though I am not quite sure why I didn’t bother to remove it and fell back to sleep in his arms till nightfall that day. When I woke up he was gone, as were the couple from the foot of the bed. Feeling extremely confused, hungry and admittedly in need of some serious plonk plonk fizz action, I skulked down the stairs to find a host of people watching Black Adder. Thankfully both my friend and the boy were still about, he was dressed in jeans, a t-shirt and a dressing gown and looked dishevelled but still rather dashing. He offered me a coffee, his jumper and even let me join him in a mass Dominoes delivery order to the flat advising me on the most tasty of the options. We spent the rest of the evening together, not really talking just sitting close to each other. Though he never even tried to put his arm round me I remember wanting him too the whole time. We watched reruns and rubbish Sunday night TV till it got to midnight and I managed to force myself to get up and leave. Though he saw me to the door and waved me off down the street he didn’t kiss me goodbye nor say anything much about meeting again. I jumped into a taxi cab home, a treat to myself and a rare nod to safety precautions and rode back home where my own boys were waiting to tease me relentlessly about being a dirty stop out. It wasn’t until we both got into our separate beds that night that I realised I couldn’t stop thinking about him and he realised he had forgotten to ask for my number.
- Today’s dress is on loan from my Mummy. She used to wear it in the age of power dressing and the shoulder pads are terrifying but the cut is oddly feminine and the pockets placed in the side give it a tom-boy feel which I play up by pulling my hair back and wearing chunky statement Kurt Geiger heels which aren’t feminine but are the ultimate statement heel and hopefully stop me looking too twee. My hair is terrible, but I am tired today and what with cooking crumbles, going out for Sunday lunch and trying to catch up with reviews and blogs which suffered during last week I just can’t find it in me to make it better.
Come this Saturday me and the boy will have been going out four years. In spite of me having a fair few up and downs and in all honesty a couple of quite serious breakdowns during this time, I think the reason we have come the distance; aside from the fact that he has the patience of a saint and we still quite fancy one another; is because we have always right from the start applied the basic vows of marriage to our relationship. Now, I’m not one to say that marriage is essential to make a relationship work; I have plenty of friends who have got along quite nicely thank-you very much without ever feeling any urgent need to put a ring on it; but nevertheless I think that relationships work best when you apply principles such as “in sickness and in health”, “for richer for poorer”, and unless you have a really very cool/ liberal lover, “forsaking all others”.
When myself and the boy first met I was flat broke and though I was not looking for anything serious as tends to be the case we accidentally went and fell in love. At the time I was spending all my spare pennies on cigarettes and alcohol and because he was a sweetie and probably because he didn’t want to see me lose my rather curvaceous figure he kept feeding me fry ups and insisting on cooking me dinner. I remember one day when I was about to set off for home he slipped me a tenner to go and buy food. Ten minutes, 20 Marlborough mediums and a bottle of red later I came to the conclusion that yes 12p chicken noodles were a suitable source of nutrition.
Although he was the provider at the start of our relationship by the time I graduated I was making a tidy enough package so that if he was skint we could dip into my privy purse to pay for cinema outings, bottles of wine, nights on the tiles and steak.
The boy graduated two years after me, not because I am seeing a toy boy you understand but because he was rather more keen in being the drummer in every Mancunian band around the way than getting all academic. It was because he was still a student that when our one year anniversary came round, I ended up treating us to a holiday to Rome and when we were too lazy to cook it was me who paid for us to eat out in West Didsbury, Manchester’s one stop haven of heavenly cuisine.
When I lost my job though, both times, it was the boy who helped me pick up the pieces, kept me financially afloat when I was too proud to go to the job centre and who even helped me search through the rubbish to find a new role.
Although most of our relationship has been spent just below the poverty line we have always found ways to entertain ourselves; games of Scrabble where JB, Onions lead singer always wins; games of monopoly where I always win; tea and music; my ever more elaborate attempts at dinner parties for ten even when we have no table; gigs; walks in the woods; running (failed after one attempt when he smoked throughout whilst I had a series of small heart failings) tennis, technically not necessarily legally sound movies and more gigs. Although we loved it when I was making a tidy package money never brings happiness and as Neil Sedaka’s wife says to him in Laughter In The Rain, “Sometimes I miss the cold days.” Struggling together is terribly romantic and there’s nothing quite like playing cards through the night with nothing to fuel you but a pot of decaf tea.
The other issue is of course the sickness and the health. Luckily the boy is fine and dandy other than the occasional sulk and the dreaded man flu, according to the boy he has single handedly fought off swine flu and is a pillar of strength in the face of modern medicine most of which he views as being in some way linked to a conspiracy of making us weak. Maybe because of this, when we first met I waited till June to come clean with him about my crazy. I didn’t want to scare him away and if I’m honest I thought I had completely recovered, love does wonderful things for your brain and your body; eating becomes a chore and your entire mind turns to mush. if you don’t watch out you end up boring all of your friends to sleep by talking about how fabulous your lover is. Luckily however, by the time me and the boy got together I was a cynic about love and when he etched the words “I love you” on my back I told him to, “Get a grip”.
When I told him about my poorly head it was because I had decided to come off the anti-depressants I’d been taking for two years. Buoyed up by love and the wonderful newness of it all I didn’t think I needed them. With his approval and no advice from any medical practitioner I came off the drugs. Within a month I crashed so hard and so fast that some days I couldn’t even look in the mirror because I felt so ugly and frustrated with what I saw. I put on weight and because getting out of bed was so hard I would sleep for hours and rather than looking for work I would watch West Wing episodes convinced there was no point trying because I was useless. In the end I had to move home so I could survive. The boy did try to support me but he was still a student and one part-time job shared between two people equals not a lot left to live on.
With the help of some friends in the know, my family and the boy I managed to pick myself back up but it wasn’t easy. Every time I go down hill it is always the boy who has been there over these last few years who is there straight away to drag me back up again. Every time I get poorly he’s there to wipe away my tears, calm me and convince me that the world is a good place and that things will get better.
On one poorly head occasion when we somehow found ourselves at A and E after a particularly bad reaction to Sertraline, (the name still gives me the shudders), we came face to face with a psychiatrist who had obviously decided he was not a fan of women. After deciding, from looking at me rather than my notes you understand, that I was anorexic with father issues he banned the boy from hugging me, told me there was nothing wrong with me and then finished by telling me I should just go ahead and give up then and live in a mental health ward. Thankfully both the boy and the psychiatrists assistant realised I was just extremely anxious in a very scary place and needed to get some sleep and the boy got me the hell away from him before had a chance to lock me up and throw away the key.
I have never forgotten what he did that day and acknowledge that what ever happens with us in the future, without him being by my side that day I could still to this day be living in a closed ward, misdiagnosed and miserable overseen by the most tyrannical mentally unstable medical professional I have ever come across.
We never signed any contract when we got together but both of us always find a way to work it out, scream it out or just forgive regardless. I like to think that its because he like me knows that whatever our problems with us when its good it’s so very good, though at times we can of course both be wicked.
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.