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!)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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, which is 85p in real money and gets you access to my weekly Patreon email. It’s like this blog, but EVEN BETTER!

 

 

 

So long, and thanks for all the fish

My Californian dad had a real love-hate relationship with America. He didn’t want to live there and left aged 29, but wanted to retain citizenship; he never took me over there, but arranged for me to have citizenship too; he was estranged from his abusive father, but had stayed in touch with pretty much everyone else he knew in America, such as the rest of his relatives and his school and college friends.

Anyhow, all you need to know for this story is that my dad had an aunt he particularly liked, Auntie Ann, and that in 1989 she came over to the UK with a female friend to stay with us for a month.

Both women were very elderly (probably in their late 70s/early 80s). Auntie Ann had a perm and was fat, and her friend Miriam had a perm and was thin. As you can see in the photo above, I had a perm and was chubby. (Joke! That was my natural hair.)

Auntie and her friend were very nice, and one day in late May they took eight-year-old me and my five-year-old little brother to Pinner Fair.

Pinner Fair was (and still is, I assume) a gigantic funfair that wove all the way through Pinner Village on the Wednesday of summer half-term. It was amazing and huge and boasted everything you can imagine: a carousel with beautiful painted horses; a ghost train; a hall of mirrors; bumper cars; a ‘fun house’ and ‘mad house’; loads of food stands (hot dogs, toffee apples and candy floss) that we were never allowed to buy anything at because my mum was a health freak; and numerous insane rides you’d need a death wish to go on.

It also had lots of exciting stalls where you could win a massive cuddly toy, and one where you could win goldfish in bags for sticking darts in three playing cards.

Now, it turned out that Auntie Ann was a dark horse: she was a bit of a sharpshooter when it came to darts.

‘Please, Auntie Ann, win us a goldfish!’ my brother and I begged.

Auntie Ann’s jaw set in steely determination. Her wrinkled, liver-spotted hand shook as she took aim and fired a dart into the first card on the stall floor. Pow! Second dart: Pow! Third dart: Ka-pow! That’s how you do it.

The man running the stall reached up and fetched us a bulging plastic bag of water with a great big fat goldfish in. We were thrilled, as we’d never had a pet before.

But being kids and always wanting more, we weren’t satisfied with just one goldfish. We now wanted one each.

Auntie Ann sighed and gave the man another quid. Pow! Pow! Ka-pow! She could have been a secret sniper, for all we knew. The man lifted down another goldfish, but this one was thinner and looked scrawny and malnourished.

And so we ended up with two very different-looking goldfish. My dad told us that, as Auntie Ann had been kind enough to win them for us, we should name them after her and her friend. So we obediently called the fat one Ann and the thin one Miriam.

My brother claimed ownership of the fat one, and he always got his way as he was my mum’s favourite child. So I was left with the scrawny one. ‘I didn’t want the stupid fat one anyway!’ I protested.

veiltail-11455_1920.jpg[These were not our goldfish. I didn’t own a camera aged eight.]

Now, the initial appeal of the goldfish wore off very quickly. They couldn’t do tricks and you couldn’t pet them. All they did was swim around their bowl with their mouths gaping (they shared a bowl, presumably in case they got lonely, or possibly for economic reasons).

So my brother and I would go into the bathroom once a day, where the fish lived on a tall wooden stand by the window, and chuck in a handful of fish food. And that was the extent of our involvement with our new pets.

We didn’t notice that Ann, the fat fish, was eating all of the scrawny fish Miriam’s food. We didn’t pay any attention to them at all.

And so I entered the bathroom one day, preparing to throw in the usual handful of fish food, and found my fish Miriam floating on top of the water.

I was shocked and upset, and wanted to tell someone. But who? My great-aunt and her friend were still staying with us, but they were in the bedroom having an afternoon nap. My dad was out of the house with my brother. I searched for my mum: she was out in the garden talking to the gardener. I barrelled down the stairs and out into the garden.

‘MUM, MUUUUM!’ I shrieked, ‘MIRIAM’S DEAD!!!!!’

I had never seen my mum move so fast in my life. She looked appalled, as though she’d seen a ghost, and sprinted into the house. I was quite gratified that she was taking my concern seriously, as she had never seemed to like the goldfish at all.

When she discovered that I was talking about the dead fish Miriam and not our elderly-yet-very-much-alive house guest Miriam, she screamed at me, which I thought was very unfair. ‘It’s not my fault we were told to name the fish after her!’ I sulked.

The next pair of pets we got were two gay rabbits. We were forbidden from naming them after anyone we knew.

THE GREAT WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE!

Day 20

Me: 12st 7.6lbs (total loss in 20 days: 6.6lbs)

I only need to lose 0.1lbs and I’ll have lost two stone this year!

John: 14st 2.5lbs (total loss in 20 days: 5lbs)

It is John’s birthday today. HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOHN! He is 69, and never was there more apt an age for such a naughty man.

For his presents, I have bought him three lottery tickets – and, even better, this:

His toenails should improve soon. On the flip side, we’re going out tonight for dim sum to celebrate, so we may weigh more tomorrow.

This post has been made possible by my awesome Patreon supporters Ricky Steer, 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, which is 85p in real money and gets you access to my weekly Patreon email. It’s like this blog, but EVEN BETTER!

The much-fabled sleepover

Since I bought her a new bed with an extra pull-out mattress, my daughter has been asking me for a sleepover. She asked if she could have one with her best friend Ella, but to be honest I think she’d have happily accepted a sleepover with Mummy Pig or Mr Tumble if it meant she could show off her Harry Potter bedroom.

Lily Buddy bed

Lily desk

Last night was the big night, and I think it went quite well, though kids in real life never say ‘Darling Mummy, thank you so much for making my sleepover so special! I love you completely. Take all my pocket money and enjoy a spa day on me!’. You’re more likely to get a grunt and a request for Haribo for breakfast.

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The planning that went into this sleepover should not be underestimated. I cleaned the house from top to toe, worried Ella might tell her class I’m a Scummy Mummy (my present title of Fattest Mum at School is depressing enough already). Like the middle-class health-conscious parent I am, I also bought an array of nutritious foods for the girls, as seen below:

snacks

After prepping for the big night, I had to ferry both children halfway across London to my newly-clean house. They were engrossed in my daughter’s iPad and barely registered my presence. This behaviour continued throughout the evening, with vociferous protests when I made them put the iPad down to eat their nourishing dinner. (It was fish fingers, chips and beans. Told you: I’m practically Gillian McKeith.)

However, they were far from satisfied with the hearty food I provided: the fish fingers were “not breadcrumby enough”, the chips were “too soft” and the vegan Magnums were met with a scornful “dark chocolate is yuk!”. When I furnished the girls with bottled water, I was informed in outraged tones that, because of my purchasing decision, “sea creatures are dying!”. (This didn’t stop them asking for breadcrumby fish fingers though.)

When not glued to the iPad, the girls painted each other’s nails:

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Plaited each other’s hair:

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And tried on necklaces I’d made, but as hair crowns:

jewellery

A few hours later, the battle of the bedtimes commenced. The girls wanted to stay up until midnight. I was wrecked from all the cleaning, and wanted to go to sleep at 9pm. ‘It’s not Cinderella, you know!’ I insisted. ‘Nothing exciting happens at midnight, you just get more and more tired!’

In the end, they fell asleep at the preposterous time of 3am. 3am! (I was only informed of this in the morning, as I went to sleep well before midnight.)

All in all, the sleepover was rather exhausting. I think the girls enjoyed themselves; they were very cute. But if they want to repeat the experience, I might have to insist on that pocket money spa day.

MY DAILY STATS

Weight: 12st 11.4lbs (goal weight: 7st 11lbs)

Waist: 36″ (goal: 25″)

Bust: 42″ (goal: 32″)

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

They receive a whole host of amazing rewards in addition to this credit! Please support me on Patreon.