Why my daily blog is going weekly

Sorry to all you lovely regular readers, but this blog is now going weekly because my life is insane (in a good way) at the moment. To give you an example, on just one afternoon this week, my schedule goes:

2pm: Job interview for great job I really want (fingers, toes and eyes crossed)

3.30pm: Meet the very funny Jon Holmes and record his comedy podcast The The One Show Show (which may well jeopardise my chances of ever being on The One Show again)

6pm: Watch my daughter’s drama school play Beauty and the Beast (she’s a bit grumpy as she wanted to play Belle but has the tiny part of Bookseller. At least she’s not the Beast!)

7.15pm: Dinner with friend I haven’t caught up with properly for over ten years (I’m cooking)

Other things I’m doing this week: interviewing the wonderful Richard Osman and Emma Gannon (separately) for my next book How to Live to 100; genning up for job interview and having hair and eyebrows done and laying clothes out and ironing them (of course); pitching a load more Daily Mash stories; ferrying my daughter back and forth to drama school (four whole hours of travelling per day!); making my daughter’s packed lunches plus breakfasts and dinners; shopping for dinner with friend; watching three episodes of The One Show in preparation for Jon’s podcast; going to Slimming World; etc etc.

So pulling blog posts from my overloaded brain and typing them up is quite tricky with all that going on. But I have really enjoyed these seven weeks of blogging daily. Thank you for reading and I hope you’ll check in here once a week from now on.

Ariane flower.JPG

This post has been made possible by my awesome Patreon supporters Peter Weilgony, Ricky Steer, Marc Alexander, Chris Birkett, John Fleming, Mary Clarke, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Dave Nattriss, Musical Comedy Guide, Mark White, Lucy Spencer, Shane Jarvis, Graham Nunn, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

They receive a whole host of exciting rewards in addition to this credit, including my secret never-published fiction and top secret photos! If you enjoyed this post, please support me on Patreon.

Rewards start from just $1 a month for my weekly Patreon email. It’s like this blog, but I’m even more open in it (if you can imagine that!)

My house: before and after

In the spirit of yesterday’s blog post, I like to look on the bright side. I’m a glass-half-full type of person, providing the glass is full of chocolate milk and not urine. Occasionally I get a bit ‘Woe is me, I’m so unemployed and fat and divorced and past it and skint and single and Brexit’s around the corner and I’m turning 40 next year!’ Then I have to remind myself that I have a wonderful daughter and great friends and a book deal – and also a lovely newly-renovated house.

I’d love to be an interior designer. Home design is my absolute favourite hobby – I could happily walk around Dwell, Habitat and Heals for hours, and always go to Grand Designs Live and the Ideal Home Show – though I think that in terms of a career, interior design is probably up there with writing when it comes to job insecurity. So I’ve had to make do with doing up my own home to the best of my abilities.

I live in a three-bedroom house on the Essex border, which I bought after selling my tiny flat in North London. I don’t think I’ll ever sell it, even though I’m currently living on less than £500 a month, as we’re so happy here. Plus Lily’s dad has had his home on the market for a year and it hasn’t sold – apparently this is common thanks to Brexit.

My house was horrible when I bought it. It was dark and dirty with a hideous 1980s kitchen, and zero effort had been put into any of the rooms. I went into debt doing it up, but it was worth it because I absolutely love it now.

Here’s the old kitchen. The dangling bare light bulb is testament to how little care has been put into the house. You can buy a £3 lampshade from eBay! See also: the mismatched and badly hung wall units and brackets. Just so ugly.

Kitchen - before (4)

This is the old kitchen at its best, furnished and tidied up for the estate agent photos.

Kitchen wide view

Et voila! The kitchen now, with engineered oak flooring, white gloss units, oak worktops, three pendant lights over the glass John Lewis dining table and six matching gel chairs, also from John Lewis. I replaced the floral crimson blinds with lime green blinds and the ancient tiles with white Metro brick tiles (I did the tiling myself!)

Kitchen - now.JPG

Here’s the old bathroom, complete with fetching ‘shell’ basin, dolphin picture on the bath tiles and mould around the basin pedestal:

Bathroom (before) (2).JPG

Bathroom - before (1)

Bathroom pedestal - before.JPG

And here’s the new bathroom! It’s millennial pink and rose gold. I asked my ex-husband to spray the counter top and bamboo bath mat rose gold, and also bought a rose gold shower caddy and accessories, including cotton wool holders and a toilet brush. The white Metro brick tiles make a reappearance here.

Bathroom - new.jpg

Bathroom - new (basin).jpg

I can’t show you the previous downstairs shower room, as it didn’t exist! Here’s the estate agent photo of what the room used to look like:

Living room lower

I halved this space to make a shower room, and gave it the same millennial pink and rose gold colour scheme as the upstairs bathroom.

Shower room.jpg

Shower room sink

I turned the other half into a little office for myself. It’s wonderfully light and airy, though I may have gone slightly overboard with the rose gold theme!

Office.jpg

Here’s the old reception room, which I separated into two rooms with a wall.

Living room

And here’s the new living room, which used half the reception room’s space.

Living room (new).jpg

Here’s my old bedroom when I moved in:

Front bedroom - before.JPG

Here’s the estate agent photo of it before the renovation.

Front bedroom.jpg

Here’s the new bedroom. I had it replastered and painted (in Dulux Jasmine White, my favourite shade, which I’ve used all over the house) and had recessed halogen spotlights replace the pendant lights. I experimented with pops of bright and pastel colours, and I think it worked out well.

Front bedroom (new) (1).jpg

Front bedroom (new).jpg

Here’s the estate agent photo of the old back bedroom.

Back bedroom

I did this bedroom up in a more neutral and conventional style, as I was renting it out until recently.

Back bedroom (1).jpg

My favourite touch is a 3 x 3 grid of push-door modern white gloss wall cupboards. They provide storage while blending perfectly into the decor.

Back bedroom (3)

Back bedroom (4)

When I was earning a lot in my last role, I also renovated the garden. Here’s the old estate agent photo.

Garden

And here’s the garden now.

Garden (new).jpg

My favourite design challenge recently though has been my daughter’s little room. She wanted her My Little Pony bedroom (which she decorated herself) replaced with a Harry Potter theme. I pretended I wasn’t going to do it, and then designed the transformation and had it done while my daughter was at her dad’s for Christmas. Her face was a picture!

Here’s her dark and unappealing little room when we first moved into the house.

Middle bedroom - before

Here’s the rather more glossy furnished estate agent photo.

Lily's room

Here’s the pink and girly My Little Pony room which Lily loved at the time.

Lily MLP bedroom (1).jpg

Lily MLP bedroom (2).jpg

Lily MLP bedroom (3).jpg

Lily MLP bedroom (4).jpg

Lily MLP bedroom (5).jpg

Lily MLP bedroom (6).jpg

And here’s her new Harry Potter bedroom, in a black, white and gold colour palette!

Lily's new room (1).JPG

Lily's room (2).jpg

Lily's new room (3).JPG

It’s just so much more grown up and stylish, and she loves it.

Lily new room - happy.jpg

THE GREAT WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE!

Day 42

Me: 12st 5.4lbs (total loss in 42 days: 8.8lbs)

Trust me, this yo-yoing is as frustrating for me as it is for you.

John: 14st 5.75lbs (total loss in 42 days: 1.75lbs)

John is the consummate self-promoter.

This post has been made possible by my awesome Patreon supporters Peter Weilgony, Ricky Steer, Marc Alexander, Chris Birkett, John Fleming, Mary Clarke, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Dave Nattriss, Musical Comedy Guide, Mark White, Lucy Spencer, Shane Jarvis, Graham Nunn, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

They receive a whole host of exciting rewards in addition to this credit, including my secret never-published fiction and top secret photos! If you enjoyed this post, please support me on Patreon.

Rewards start from just $1 a month for my weekly Patreon email. It’s like this blog, but I’m even more open in it (if you can imagine that!)

The secret to success (well, some thoughts anyway…)

I once heard an anecdote from a famous literary agent’s assistant that made me laugh:

‘Every author wants a publishing deal. The authors who are critically acclaimed want to be commercially successful, and the authors who are commercially successful want to be critically acclaimed.

‘Every author is desperate to win an award. And those authors who win an award are most miserable of all, for they see the award as an albatross around their necks and fear nothing they ever do will scale those heights again.’

(Basically, every author is miserable!)

People definitely compare themselves upwards. None of these authors were thinking ‘It’s so great I have an agent!’ They were taking that for granted and wishing they were more successful. So there’s definitely something to be said for being extremely grateful for where you are now in life, rather than always striving for more.

Ariane Flowers.jpg

But if I had any advice for achieving your goals, it would be along the following lines:

Work out what you want to achieve. You can’t aim for a target you haven’t set. I know many people who want to lose weight, but that’s such a nebulous goal that it doesn’t focus the mind. In contrast, a goal to lose 4 stone is specific and measurable, and you know when you’ve achieved it.

Figure out the steps between you and your goal. Break it down into manageable chunks. For instance, today I weigh 12st 4.2lbs. To get down to 8 stone, I need to lose more than 4 stone, but right now I’m aiming for a ‘Club 10’ target of 12st 2.5lbs, which means I’ll have lost a tenth of my body weight since joining Slimming World. (SW is good like this – it rewards you at least every 7lbs.)

Recognise that you’ll fail before you succeed (especially true of weight loss). You’ll take two steps forward, one step back. If we’re talking creativity, everyone gets rejected at times; everyone has to produce more than will ever be published or used. Just think of all the many drafts of novels. Remember Samuel Beckett’s quote: ‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’

Keep going. You’ll fall down, but make sure to keep getting up and attempting to succeed. You’ll be amazed by how many people fall by the wayside. The person who succeeds is often the last (wo)man standing. There have been so many times when I’ve thought, ‘Fuck it, maybe I’ll just stay fat!’ but I also know that won’t make me happy. So keep your goal in mind when things get tough.

You never know when your luck will turn – when you’ll come to the attention of a gatekeeper who could change your life, or just get an exciting opportunity. Last week, I was headhunted for a role. It wasn’t right for me, but at least that person now knows I exist.

I also got invited to debate Brexit on Good Morning Britain. They went with another guest in the end, but I wasn’t expecting the invitation, and the randomness of it cheered me up. (Though I was also slightly relieved at being stood down to be honest – pretty sure Twitter would have been unusable for me for about two days afterwards thanks to angry Brexiteers!)

Writers: remember to preface harsh feedback with ‘in my opinion’. I’ve been told before by a literary agent that I can’t write. It floored me; I had to remind myself I’ve written endless columns for the Guardian, and lots for the Spectator and the Sunday Times. That knowledge helped to reframe this person’s opinion as ‘in my opinion, you can’t write’. And, in less polite terms: fuck ’em. Feedback should be constructive, and that wasn’t. Metaphorically kick them in the fanny and move on.

People who aren’t gatekeepers will also be shitty about your achievements. Look at the comments section of any comedy article. You’ll find ‘This isn’t funny’; ‘That’s five minutes of my life I’ll never get back’; ‘I can’t believe [publication] pays for this crap.’ That’s cool: you got paid and credited and you aren’t the person wasting your life leaving negative comments. Put it down to jealousy and don’t let it bother you. The publication wouldn’t have run the article if they didn’t like it.

Realise that you have to adapt to life’s changes. The Guardian stopped running me regularly in 2010; it hurt as it was the paper I grew up reading, and I still love it. I’d write for it again in a heartbeat, but if not, other publications are available. I also really enjoy writing for the Daily Mash and writing books for Little, Brown.

Sometimes things change because of you, not your employer. I realised I wasn’t enjoying writing for television in late 2007, and made the leap to journalism after six years of telly. I used to love going into the BBC and being the youngest person in writers’ rooms, but now I go into the BBC as an occasional commentator and am sometimes the oldest person on the panel, and that’s OK too. Life changes and you have to change with it rather than be depressed by it.

Oh, and lastly: never self-deprecate! As someone wiser than me once said, ‘People accept the value you place upon yourself’. Keep telling people you’re rubbish and they’ll eventually believe you.

Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

Ariane face

THE GREAT WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE!

Day 41

Me: 12st 4.2lbs (total loss in 41 days: 10lbs)

I need to keep going.

John: 14st 4.75lbs (total loss in 41 days: 2.75lbs)

John’s doing well again!

This post has been made possible by my awesome Patreon supporters Peter Weilgony, Ricky Steer, Marc Alexander, Chris Birkett, John Fleming, Mary Clarke, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Dave Nattriss, Musical Comedy Guide, Mark White, Lucy Spencer, Shane Jarvis, Graham Nunn, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

They receive a whole host of exciting rewards in addition to this credit, including my secret never-published fiction and top secret photos! If you enjoyed this post, please support me on Patreon.

Rewards start from just $1 a month for my weekly Patreon email. It’s like this blog, but I’m even more open in it (if you can imagine that!)

It’s party time! (Well, in December…)

Brexit be damned! I’ve decided that, deal or no deal, I’m having a kids’ Christmas party for my daughter this year. So I’m stockpiling Prosecco (for the adults – don’t worry, my eight-year-old isn’t a miniature alkie). Before October 31st, I’ll buy some party snacks that won’t be out-of-date by December, and will send out the invitations to my friends with kids next month.

I haven’t had a party since my do for the eight-year-old last Christmas. I used to have fun birthday parties in my twenties, but they kind of fell by the wayside. However, I’m definitely also having a big celebration next year whatever happens with Brexit, as I’m turning 40. In the same month, my friend John is turning 70, so we’re going to throw a party called ‘Ariane and John turn 110!’

I hope it’s as much fun as my 27th birthday party back in 2007, which was a 1980s party in my tiny one-bedroom flat in Camden. Here was the invitation, designed by ultimate polymath Graham Nunn, who would also go on to design the Atheist Bus Campaign:

Ariane's 80s Birthday Party edited.gif

My flat was literally about 300 square feet of space across two rooms and two half-rooms, but I managed to pack in 12 friends. Here are some of them:

MM & M.jpg
Graham with the brilliant quiz scoreboard he’d created,
The-Madonna-and-Michael-Jackson-Tug-of-War!

Charlie & Ariane.jpgMe and my writer friend Charlie, who went on to create the amazing series Black Mirror. Is my dress not the most 1980s thing you’ve ever seen?!

Ariane and BenMe and my then-boyfriend Ben, rocking the 1980s theme with his Duran Duran t-shirt.

Ben C and Ariane.jpgMe and another Ben (I collect them). This Ben is now a comedy producer at BBC Studios.

Catie, Charlie, Zarina.jpg
My friend Catie, who went on to be my flatmate for two years, and then married her comedian boyfriend Richard Herring; Charlie; and my then-flatmate Zarina Liew, who I used to produce cartoons with for the Times Educational Supplement.

Graham and Mark.jpg
My lovely friend Mark White with my best friend Graham Nunn, who would go on to be my husband, and then my ex-husband, and is now my best friend again. He’s paying homage to the 1980s theme with his Mummra-from-Thundercats t-shirt.

Friends at party.jpgEverybody holding up their name badges. Each name badge had three
statements on – two true, one false. You had to guess which the false one was.
The game helped break the ice, as a lot of my friends didn’t know each other.

Ben & Hannah.jpgBen and my friend Hannah Forbes Black, who is now a multimedia artist.

John and Zarina.jpgZarina and her boyfriend John, whose surname escapes me because I am now very old.

Matt, Ben, Mark and me.jpgPlaying another game in teams. Everyone sitting on my bed as there was no space!

I can’t remember who won the prize for Best 80s Costume. On the evidence of these photos, it should really have been me, as I don’t think anyone else pulled out all the stops! You can’t award yourself a prize though. I don’t remember that much about the party, which is possibly a sure sign that it was a good one, but has probably got more to do with it being 12 years on… Anyhow, it’s great to still have the photos, though it also makes me feel ancient.

Back then, I wasn’t remotely pregnant, and now this small creature is eight years old:

Lily raincoat.jpg

The party I’ll have for her in December won’t be cool and fun in the same way as my 27th, but Santa (aka my good friend John Fleming) will turn up with gifts, and my daughter will be excited (although she doesn’t actually believe in Santa any more) and suddenly I’ll have something in my eye. I can’t wait.

santa.JPG

THE GREAT WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE!

Day 40

Me: 12st 5.4lbs (total loss in 40 days: 8.8lbs)

John: 14st 6lbs (total loss in 40 days: 1.5lbs)

It’s fair to say that John and I aren’t doing too well on this diet. There’s still time to turn it around though!

This post has been made possible by my awesome Patreon supporters Peter Weilgony, Ricky Steer, Marc Alexander, Chris Birkett, John Fleming, Mary Clarke, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Dave Nattriss, Musical Comedy Guide, Mark White, Lucy Spencer, Shane Jarvis, Graham Nunn, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

They receive a whole host of exciting rewards in addition to this credit, including my secret never-published fiction and top secret photos! If you enjoyed this post, please support me on Patreon.

Rewards start from just $1 a month for my weekly Patreon email. It’s like this blog, but I’m even more open in it (if you can imagine that!)

My former life as a cartoon writer

In 2006, when I was 25, my flatmate Zarina Liew was a very talented aspiring illustrator, and as two Asian girls, she and I decided to produce a range of greeting cards for girls with the tongue-in-cheek name Love You Long Time. The venture was emphatically not a success, and I think I lost around £4,000 altogether trying to get it off the ground. It was the first of my three failing businesses. (Remind me never to start a business again!)

BeautifulThing

Then my lovely journalist friend Michael Shaw put a cartoon strip we created forward for a slot in his newspaper, the Times Education Supplement. Our bid was successful, and our cartoon All-Time High ran for six months in the magazine that came with the paper. We used the weekly £150 payment to replenish the £4,000 savings I’d lost on the greeting card business!

Each week, I would script the cartoon and send it to Zarina, and she would produce the strip. Here’s my favourite of our efforts:

TES - 'Definitions'.png

This next strip was based on my experiences at school, as teachers’ default positions seem to be that kids have a great relationship with their parents:

TES - 'Mother's Day'.png

And here’s another one I quite liked:

TES - 'Mendacity'.png

I really enjoyed scripting All-Time High, but the editor at the TES who was responsible for commissioning it (who has now left the paper) wanted to exert more and more control over it. At first everything was fine – we’d just deliver the cartoons each week – but then she wanted to see the scripts before they were inked; next she wanted to agree the topics before they went to script stage; finally she was vetoing everything I suggested. Eventually it became impossible to continue, and I quit in fury, thinking she was being thoroughly unreasonable.

Having been a journalist for many years now, I’ve yet to encounter this kind of control freakery again, so I think I was probably right. It’s a shame though, as it was a fun gig and I would have liked to carry on.

I can’t draw like Zarina, but I dabble from time to time. I wrote a little children’s book which never got published, about a hippo who wanted to be a supermodel, and I drew this illustration as part of it:

hetty.jpg

Here was the text:

Hetty the hippo and the supermodel dream

As Hetty the hippo
Lay dreaming in bed
A wonderful vision
Swam into her head

Of walking a runway
In beautiful clothes
Fine frocks on her figure
High heels on her toes

She leapt out of bed then
To tell all the land
About her ambition
So epic and grand

“A famed supermodel’s
What I want to be!”
Brave Hetty confided
To friends over tea

Alas, she was faced
With both laughter and scorn
At first, Rae the rhino
Sighed, tossing her horn

“What makes you think
You could strut like a star?
A massive fat hippo
Is all that you are!”

“She’s right!” chimed Pandora
The petulant pig
“Like me, you can’t model
We’re both much too big!”

“I won’t let that stop me!”
Het cried, undeterred
“Who cares what my size is?
That’s truly absurd!”

“We care,” hissed Camilla
The sleek and mean cat
“The whole of the world thinks
You’re simply too fat!”

Poor Hetty felt crushed
And her dream now seemed bleak
A single large tear
Made its way down her cheek

She stumbled away
Through the forests and streams
Vowing to give up
Her big fashion dreams

“Hey,” came a voice
“I don’t know who you are,
But your figure’s amazing
I’ll make you a star!”

Hetty turned round
And a jackal stood there
“I’m Jen,” she explained
“What great curves! What good hair!”

“But there’s no time to waste
Let’s not stand here and talk
My show’s in an hour
Please say that you’ll walk?”

Hetty was thrilled
Soon she donned fancy clothes
Sashayed down the runway
And strutted and posed

“This is the life!”
Hetty smiled, “It’s a doddle!”
For Hetty the hippo
Was finally a model.

THE GREAT WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE!

Day 39

Me: 12st 5.4lbs (total loss in 39 days: 8.8lbs)

Back on the wagon today.

John: 14st 5.5lbs (total loss in 39 days: 2lbs)

John is plugging another of his books.

This post has been made possible by my awesome Patreon supporters Peter Weilgony, Ricky Steer, Marc Alexander, Chris Birkett, John Fleming, Mary Clarke, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Dave Nattriss, Musical Comedy Guide, Mark White, Lucy Spencer, Shane Jarvis, Graham Nunn, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

They receive a whole host of exciting rewards in addition to this credit, including my secret never-published fiction and top secret photos! If you enjoyed this post, please support me on Patreon.

Rewards start from just $1 a month for my weekly Patreon email. It’s like this blog, but I’m even more open in it (if you can imagine that!)

The Memory Jar

The title of this post reminds me of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, which is daft because that novel is about mental illness, while The Memory Jar is meant to generate happiness. You might even say the comparison jars with me (ba-dum-tsch)…

memory-jar-2

I’d heard of memory jars before, but this one caught my eye on my birthday when I was browsing in Paperchase, my favourite stationery store. The concept is that you write beloved memories on little bits of paper, fold them up, put them in the jar, forget about them, and then open the jar when you need cheering up and/or a refreshing blast of nostalgia.

I guess theoretically you could use any jar – there’s no need to spend £10 if you’re hard up. Perhaps you’re reading this after Brexit, in which case just a washed out jam jar and some loo roll will do (kidding, we won’t have any loo roll as 95% of it is imported from the EU!). But anyway, if you do fancy splashing out, this jar is beautifully designed and comes with a handy pad of 100 blank notes for your memories.

memory-jar-3

It’s a glass jar, and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t that be a terrible omen if it turned out to be broken?!’ (I don’t believe in terrible omens, but it would have been a bit of a bummer on my birthday.) But no: it’s a quality item, sturdy and well-packed, printed with a great font and a rose gold lid to boot (half the items in my house are rose gold). The brand is Eve (no, not the mattress people. Well, maybe. I’ve certainly made some sweet memories on mattresses in my time!)

Weirdly, I can’t find the jar anywhere online, including on the Paperchase website – but I got it from the Westfield Stratford City store, so you could try there if you’re a Londoner, or visit the massive store in Tottenham Court Road (my personal version of Disneyland). I hope they still stock them, as the jars are so nice I actually fancy buying a couple more.

So today I wrote down my first memory. There’s a fluffy ginger cat who lives in the next road, whom we’ve imaginatively christened ‘Gingie’. He’s maddeningly elusive so is rarely in his favourite spot on top of the bin. Here he is, looking for all the world like a Bond villain’s cat.

Gingie

Anyhow, my eight-year-old daughter Lily has really taken a shine to him. ‘I haven’t seen Gingie in ages!’ she often wails when we come home and there’s no sign of him en route. She, my good friend John and I all love to pet Gingie, and we’re always happy to see him – though being a cat, he doesn’t reciprocate and generally regards us with haughty disdain.

I love to see my daughter enjoying his company, as her whole face brightens when she spots his fluffy orange fur. So I decided to make seeing her stroke Gingie my first memory. Of course, it’s not the sweetest memory I have, nor the most nostalgic, but it is recent and the thought of it makes me smile, so I wrote it down on the notepad.

memory-jar-4

John met Gingie’s owner’s next-door neighbour one day. Apparently Gingie is actually called Ginger, which is very much in Pope-Catholic-bears-woods territory. So I wrote this down on the note, imagining some far distant future where I have dementia like my poor 94-year-old Nan and am all like ‘Gingie? Who’s Gingie?’

I tore off the note and put it in the jar, though I had to fold it several times to get it in.

memory-jar-5

memory-jar-6

I’m not really sure how many notes the jar will hold. I’m sceptical that it will hold all 100, though I suppose it depends how small and tightly you fold them and how they fall together in the jar. There are bound to be loads of gaps, though I suppose you could take the lid off and pack them yourself.

But all that really matters is that the jar is full of loveliness, and that when I read the note above, it transports me back to this.

Gingie-and-Lily

THE GREAT WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE…

… is on hiatus until tomorrow (sorry) as neither John nor I weighed ourselves this morning. See you tomorrow!

This post has been made possible by my awesome Patreon supporters Peter Weilgony, Ricky Steer, Marc Alexander, Chris Birkett, John Fleming, Mary Clarke, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Dave Nattriss, Musical Comedy Guide, Mark White, Lucy Spencer, Shane Jarvis, Graham Nunn, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

They receive a whole host of exciting rewards in addition to this credit, including my secret never-published fiction and top secret photos! If you enjoyed this post, please support me on Patreon.

Rewards start from just $1 a month for my weekly Patreon email. It’s like this blog, but I’m even more open in it (if you can imagine that!)

Why I’m estranged from my brother

People sometimes ask about my brother: ‘How’s he doing? Have you seen him lately?’

I usually deflect this by saying evasively: ‘He lives in the USA.’

It’s weird, but though I’m very open about most things, I don’t like talking about my brother. I can kind of feel the condemnation and judgement coming off the other person when I admit to being estranged from him: what kind of person doesn’t speak to her sibling?

I’m not the only one who has a difficult relationship with their brother. My wonderful friend Kia is also through with hers, as she explains in this blog.

Unlike Kia’s brother, though, mine isn’t a drug addict. Relations between us are difficult for different reasons.

When my brother was born, three-and-a-half years after me, it soon became clear that we had nothing in common. I was loud, he was quiet; I was messy, he was neat; I was creative, he was academic; I was a rebel, he was obedient; I daydreamed through lessons, he was studious.

Unlike me, he was everything my mum had ever wanted in a child, and she adored him.

I was jealous of him, and would push him over when he was learning to walk. I would suffer my father’s abuse and my classmates’ bullying at school, and take it out on him. We would argue, and I would hit him, pinch him, nick his stuff, pull his hair.

He would scream, and I remember my father holding me down and telling my brother to hit me: ‘Hit her! Be a man!’ And my brother wouldn’t want to do it.

I know that siblings often fight. The difference between us, though, was that we never played – not even when we were both happy, which was a rare occurrence in our dysfunctional household. We weren’t remotely interested in each other or in each other’s thoughts or personality.

Aged ten, I put the distance between us down to him being Capricorn and me being Cancer. Of course we were opposites! Astrology said we should be.

These days, older and wiser, I think perhaps it’s as simple as having different genes for personality – even though the answer to the question of whether there are genes for personality is complex.

Me asleep.jpg

Aged 16, when he was 12, I pulled out my brother’s internet lead because I wanted to phone a boy, and back in 1996 you couldn’t be on the phone and the internet simultaneously.

He drew his fist back and punched me in the face, giving me a huge black eye. When I told my parents, my dad laughed.

After that incident, I stopped talking to my brother, and we never really started talking again. The last time I had any contact with him was after my dad’s funeral in 2016, before he flew back to America.

It was so awkward – we had a hard job making eye contact, and we didn’t hug. We talked about our violent dad, and my brother tried to convince me that my mum wasn’t responsible for not walking away from him: ‘She’s tiny! She’s one of us.’

‘She’s not one of us,’ I said. ‘When he started hitting me, I was three-and-a-half and she was 36. That’s the same age as I am now, and I’d never countenance a man hitting my daughter.’

He said: ‘All I know is, Mum’s been the most supportive person in my life.’

I replied: ‘All I know is, Mum’s been the least supportive person in my life.’

My brother went back to the States soon afterwards.

The thing is, I don’t miss him or think about him at all. You know a conversation with someone to whom you have nothing to say? That’s us. People tell me that I should make an effort with him, but that’s only because they can’t imagine being estranged from their sibling. If they had grown up in my family, they’d understand.

There are seven billion people in the world, so why maintain contact with someone with whom relations will always be strained, just because you share the same DNA?

Me lotus

The pictures are of me.

THE GREAT WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE!

Day 37

Me: 12st 5.6lbs (total loss in 37 days: 8.6lbs)

Must and will do better.

John: 14st 5.5lbs (total loss in 37 days: 2lbs)

That makes two of us!

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