Considering that up until yesterday I was still behaving like a slightly deranged toddler by insisting to anyone that might listen that I did not want to have a bloody birthday this year, today actually went rather well. Though I have been a little low of late I have always been happiest in the spotlight and having a day which is all about me is actually quite fun.
When we were kids birthday cards and presents were presented once one was settled in pride of place in the middle of my parents king size bed. All of the siblings would squeeze together under the covers whilst the giant went downstairs to make our mother a cup of tea and collect the cards from the door and the presents from the only drawer we were yet to search. There is one photo of the six of us crammed together whilst Catherine my sister opened up her toy truck. It is my parents favourite photo as it shows that once upon a time there was harmony in our home.
These days birthdays are rather different. Though this is the first one I have spent at home in a while rather than bouncing out of bed I tell my brother who comes in at seven to deliver my present to be quiet for the love of God. In my sleepy state I have forgotten what day it is and it is not until he hands me two Glee CDs before he heads out the door that I am visited by my inner birthday diva.
Some time ago a friend of mine dedicated his entire birthday to listening to every Queen album. I decided that to make my birthday perfect I would ensure I listened to as many Glee songs as I could, singing along wherever possible. The giant enquired what the awful noise was coming from the kitchen, but I decided that he was just jealous of my ability to hit the high notes without wavering. Either that or my damaged ear drums are causing delusion. Either way its my birthday so I continue to crow as I open my cards at the breakfast table much to the delight of the dog whose hearing is equally impaired.
My wonderful God mother has given me enough money for my birthday to get my hair chopped so I leave work at 11 to return my prodigal mane to the best hairdresser in Harborough. She gives me a footballers wife blow-dry which makes me giggle as though I am now 26 my humour is just as childish as ever. The last time I got my hair blow dried I rang up browns in Harborough and requested an appointment at their blow-job bar. It was a Freudian slip why mother to call and book it on my behalf.
I spend the rest of the day swooshing my hair back and forth and pretending I am in my own private L’oreal commercial. Though I have already taken one lunch break my boss surprises me when he suggests we all go for a birthday beer. I have a small glass of wine as I have become a terrible light weight of late but even still I leave the bar and head for the public meeting feeling ever so slightly squiggly.
Up for discussion by the board is a hospital for the town which is long overdue. When I was a child I joined my mother on a march to protest against the closure of the maternity ward and with this in mind I consider taking to the stand to share this story when I remember that though I am a little bit pissed I am a professional and professionals do not make public outbursts even on their birthday.
My friend decided yesterday that as I was incapable of making a decision about what I wanted to do she would take the reigns. She books us a table for dinner and sorts out cakes, balloons and flowers. My sister and God mother make it to the meal and the whole day just turns out to be quite lovely. I get a bit tearful whilst looking through my messages because I miss everyone so much and wish they were here in Harborough. It seems a cruel trick of the world that everyone has to keep moving on and if I could have just one wish I would ask that they all had to stay put in one place for one day. I miss my friends.
- Today’s dress is from Florence and Fred. I did think it would look rather rubbish on as the material is quite thin but it fits better than I’d hoped. Admittedly I look a little dressy for the office but I needed something which would carry through to the evening and even a birthday diva like me didn’t dare to wear a plunge neck. This is one of the dresses that came in the first box from my secret donor. The shoes are from Dune but I bought them about a year ago from ebay for £5. My hair is by Lotty of Moko in Market Harborough.
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.
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.
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.
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.