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; 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

 

My house: before and after

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. 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

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.

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. 

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Why I had the world’s most embarrassing parents

Every kid thinks their parents are embarrassing, but I’m fairly sure that mine actually were the most embarrassing parents in the world during my childhood. Here are my reasons:

The bottle of wee

When I was about 11, my mum decided she would start fertilising her allotment with urine. There was therefore a bottle of urine in the tiny upstairs toilet that we were meant to wee into instead of weeing into the loo.

(The actual loo was for poos only, and thank heavens my mum didn’t decide to fertilise the allotment with human excrement too, though I wouldn’t have put it past her. Instead, she made my dad and I go to the local riding stables at the weekends to shovel horse poo into bags, which she then fertilised the allotment with instead. What fun!)

Anyhow, I didn’t really mind giving a urine sample every time I needed to pee. In the long list of my parents’ parenting fails, it was pretty near the bottom.

What I did mind was that, one of the few times I got someone from school to agree to come round, my mother asked the girl pleasantly, ‘If you go to the toilet, please could you pee into the plastic bottle provided?’

Of course, the girl promptly went back to school and informed everyone she’d been made to wee into a bottle at mine. This got translated into ‘Don’t go round Ariane’s house – her mum’s taking the piss!’

As if I hadn’t already been bullied enough…

bottle-148301_640.png

The clapped-out old banger

My parents owned a filthy white 1960s Peugeot 404 that didn’t so much glide as bounce, wheeze and sputter down the road. It was the sort of dirty where people would write ‘Clean Me’ with their finger in the grime.

The car was basically half-dead and would always refuse to start, so each time my mum collected me from primary school, she would have to open the bonnet, then whack the fan with an ancient wooden tennis racket in order to get the engine going.

Cue snotty small children boasting ‘My dad has a Mercedes-Benz. Your dad can’t even afford a proper car! Or a proper tennis racket.’

When the second-hand (or more like tenth-hand) Peugeot finally packed up for good, my dad bought another second-hand car: a Saab 900. It was so long, it was impossible to park, and my dad would go round trying and failing to reverse into parking spaces while swearing under his breath in German. (He used to live in Germany, and possibly thought it was more acceptable to swear in front of small children in a language we couldn’t understand.)

peugeot [A Peugeot 404, though ours was much dirtier.]

Then there’s the small matter of the Nazi jeep my dad built in our garage, though I’ll save that for the memoir.

The terrible clothes

Looking back, my dad’s clothes really weren’t that bad. The main cringe factor for me was that he always, always wore a black or navy corduroy Lenin cap. I have no idea why, because he had hair up until the very end.

The kids at school would tease me because he wore the cap, and call him a ‘gippo’ (though not to his face, because he was 6’4″ and prone to violence and would have ended them).

He also always wore a white vest. He had the slightly excruciating habit of scratching his skin until it bled, so his white vests were always covered in faded brown bloodstains.

Oh, and in the late 1980s he went through a phase of wearing bright fluorescent trainers… with a dark suit jacket and black trousers. It was not the best look.

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My dad’s Unmanageable Penis Syndrome (and other embarrassing habits)

I don’t think my dad actually ever wore deodorant. I certainly never saw him apply any. He always smelt of soap, so he did wash under his arms, but the soapy smell was mingled with a kind of musky body odour. I’m not sure he ever showered either.

I didn’t mind my dad’s body odour – it was at least fresh, and I thought he smelt quite nice, certainly better than the overpowering aftershave of some dads – but I did mind his other personal hygiene habits.

At home, I was always walking in on him washing his willy in the bathroom sink (there was no lock on the bathroom door). I would back out apologising as he swore and muttered. I reckon he used the sink for all his washing – no idea why.

When driving on the school run, with three other girls from school sitting in the back of the car, my dad would fuss with his willy through his trousers. He wouldn’t actually take it out, thank the good Lord, but he would prod it around and have a good old rummage.

My parents would walk around naked occasionally (they were in their teens and twenties in the 1960s) so I have the unfortunate knowledge that my dad was rather well-endowed (bit of sick in my mouth here), and I guess his trousers were always too tight for this reason.

I would sit there cringing as he manhandled himself in front of the girls from school. He was presumably shunting his willy into a less constricted position (my best male friend refers to this euphemistically as ‘comfort issues’).

I think perhaps my dad should have claimed Scottish heritage, invested in a kilt and gone commando. I would genuinely have rather he’d done that than foraged in his crotch all morning, as it was the bane of my life – and that’s before we get to him proudly letting out loud farts in the street.

bagpipe-349717_640

And the rest…

This blog post would be very long if I listed all my parents’ cringeworthy habits, so I’ll leave it there. If your parents did anything that can rival mine, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

This post has been made possible by my awesome Patreon supporters Peter Weilgony, Ricky Steer, Marc Alexander, Sammy and Jelly, Charlie Brooker, Mary and Tim Fowler, Steve Richards, Alan Brookland, Mark Ormandy, Oliver Vass, Keith Bell, John Fleming, Mark Bailey, Rebekah Bennetch, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Aragorn Strider, Lucy Spencer, Dave Nattriss, MusicalComedyGuide.com, Mark White, Dave Cross, Graham Nunn, David Conrad, Rob Turner, Shane Jarvis, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

If you enjoyed this blog, please check out my songs at arianexmusic.com and support me on Patreon from just £1 a month, and you’ll get to read a lot more of my writing.

The three weirdest things about my body

Tuesday’s blog post about my dream ankle boots made me think about my feet – so here are the three strangest things about my body. Get ready for some real weirdness…

3. Clown feet

I used to have the tiniest feet. My right foot was a size 3 and my left foot was a size 3 and a half, but I used to squash them into size 3 shoes, because it made them look cuter. Then, when I was modelling shoes for TopShop (a story for tomorrow’s blog), I would sneakily splay them out when getting measured, in order to model industry-standard size 4s. Anyhow, these were my feet:

My feet

They were so small and pretty with such high arches that, unknown to me, I was listed on a celebrity website for foot fetishists called Wikifeet! And one of the top Google searches under my name for a long time was ‘Ariane Sherine feet’.

Sadly my feet are not small and pretty any more. These days, I don’t like to draw attention to them.

Why?

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I put on five stone. The extra weight I was carrying meant my feet swelled… to a size 7 and a half. A SIZE 7 AND A HALF! I would joke that this is more than double the length, but I think you know better.

Since then, my weight has yo-yoed up and down, and my feet have swelled and decreased along with it. I’ve never heard of this happening to anyone else. I’m currently a size 6, but chances are when I shrink, my feet will shrink along with me. If this sounds implausible, here are measurements of my flabby size 6 right foot today (weirdly, 23.5cm long, 23.5cm diameter at the widest part):

 [Big fat foot. I wouldn’t make it onto Wikifeet these days!]

[Yes, I do need to repaint my toenails. You’re quite right.]

Let’s see how long and wide my foot is after I lose another five stone. Hopefully not size 3, as I sold all my beautiful tiny size 3 shoes. (Though the proceeds went to charity, so at least someone benefited.)

Lesson: don’t put on loads of weight if you have nice feet.

clown-678042_1920.jpg

2. Ping pong ball in groin

Aged 17, I was doing a BTEC in Performing Arts (a very short-lived phase that lasted less than a term). I laughed too hard at a joke (probably my own, as they weren’t a funny bunch) and felt something pop out on the right side of my groin. After that, whenever I laughed or coughed, a ping pong ball-sized bulge appeared below my knicker line.

I went to the doctor and was referred to a consultant, who told me it was an ‘inguinal hernia’. Basically, a bit of my intestine had broken through the intestinal wall and was sticking out of the top of my lady garden. Nice!

I was going to have it treated but was too much of a wuss. I think it repaired itself eventually, as after about five years I couldn’t feel it anymore. If you were expecting Thai sex club connotations in this post, I can only apologise.

Lesson: never laugh too hard.

Hernia

1. Gill (for breathing underwater)

When I was a toddler, my mum noticed a lump on the right-hand side of my neck and took me to the doctor, thinking I had neck cancer. The doctor examined me and said ‘That’s not neck cancer – it’s a gill!’

‘A gill?!’ my mother asked, baffled.

‘Yes,’ came the reply, ‘a vestigial gill from the days when humans used to breathe underwater.’

My mum, you and everyone else could be forgiven for replying ‘WTAF?!’

When the delightful and charming kids at primary school asked what the lump was, and I replied ‘a gill’, they said they were going to hold me underwater and see if I could breathe through my gill.

These days, when anyone asks me about the lump (it’s not very noticeable and about the size of a lump of fudge), I tell them about the gill, then launch into The Temptations’ song: ‘Talkin’ bout my gill – my gill!’ 

And then I ask them if they want to feel the gill, and they invariably do. They feel it and then they go ‘ooh!’ in surprise at the squidgy lump between their fingers. My best friend described it as ‘very exciting’, but then he doesn’t get out much.

[The gill is the slightly raised discoloured bit below the mole.]

When I was in my teens, a GP asked if I wanted to have the gill removed, but I said no – because why have surgery when there’s no need? It doesn’t bother me. I’ve never found out why the lump is there, but the original doctor’s ‘gill’ explanation isn’t substantiated online. It may just be a lipoma. Still, the ‘gill’ theory seems more rational than my Asian grandmother’s:

‘When God was making you out of clay, he had an extra bit left over, so he put it on your neck.’ [Couldn’t he have made my boobs bigger instead?]

And that’s before we get to the amazingly racist bit:

‘White people were baked in God’s oven for too short a time, black people were baked for too long, but Asian people were baked just right.’

Sounds like a half-baked theory to me.

Lesson: If clay left over, put on boobs.

PS: Apparently my nan’s batshit insane theory is a very ancient myth from all kinds of beige and brown people.

PPS Science actually says my nan was half-right when she told me complete bollocks.

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This post has been made possible by my awesome Patreon supporters Peter Weilgony, Ricky Steer, Marc Alexander, Sammy and Jelly, Charlie Brooker, Mary and Tim Fowler, Steve Richards, Alan Brookland, Mark Ormandy, Oliver Vass, Keith Bell, John Fleming, Mark Bailey, Rebekah Bennetch, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Aragorn Strider, Lucy Spencer, Dave Nattriss, MusicalComedyGuide.com, Mark White, Dave Cross, Graham Nunn, David Conrad, Rob Turner, Shane Jarvis, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

If you enjoyed this blog, please check out my songs at arianexmusic.com and support me on Patreon from just £1 a month, and you’ll get to read a lot more of my writing.

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 day my mum stole my shoes

When I was 13, I fell in love with a pair of boots. They were just so beautiful and stylish and shapely, in black leather with high stiletto heels. I’ve scoured Google Images and can’t find the exact pair of boots, of course – these were only available in 1994 – but here’s an example of the kind of style I’m talking about.

boots

The boots were £25, and I saw them in Dolcis in St Ann’s Shopping Centre, Harrow. I was especially keen on buying them, because my first ever concert was coming up. I was going to see my favourite band Duran Duran, as my new penpal Anna (a fellow Duranie) had won us tickets in a radio competition by identifying a clip of the track ‘The Reflex’.

It was January 1994, the concert was at Wembley Arena in a week’s time, and I was putting together the perfect outfit. I already had a black and white frilly New Romantic blouse, which in retrospect was hideous, and a black mini skirt and black tights. In my view, all I needed to complete the look were these boots, the pièce de résistance of the ensemble. Despite being a plain child with a face full of hair, I was harbouring a delusion that Simon Le Bon would somehow see me in the crowd, pull me out onto the stage and declare his undying love for me – if only I had the right clothes.

duran81[Duran Duran as New Romantics in 1981.]

So I told my mum about the boots, even though I knew there wasn’t a cat in hell’s chance of her buying them for me. She rarely bought me anything, and I didn’t get pocket money when I was 13, either. The rationale was that my mum would buy me anything I needed, but what she deemed necessary fell within a very narrow bracket. Still, I wanted to tell someone about the boots.

‘I’ve seen these amazing boots!’ I breathed. ‘They’re so beautiful, Mum! So stylish. They’re black leather and are in Dolcis in Harrow. Can we go and see them?’

To my amazement, my mum said yes. We went to Dolcis and, to my relief, the boots were still on display. My mum agreed that they were lovely. As I’d known she would though, she refused to buy them for me. ‘Your feet are still growing, darling,’ she murmured, ‘and your bones are soft. You don’t want to squash your feet into pointed shoes and wear heels yet, otherwise your feet will be misshapen when you grow up.’

I sighed. I very much did want to squash my feet into pointed shoes. I was disappointed, of course, but accepted my mum’s rationale as a reasonable and caring explanation for why I couldn’t have the boots. As a consolation prize, she said I could wear her slouchy flat navy boots to the concert. They were the wrong colour, of course, and weren’t nearly as stylish or shapely, but they were better than nothing.

slouchy[Totally the wrong boots.]

The day of the concert rolled around. I donned my black and white frilly blouse, my black skirt and tights, and the wrong boots, frowning at myself in the mirror. If only I had a fairy godmother who could transform my unattractive footwear into the perfect stylish ankle boots I’d seen.

Then my mum came home – and she was carrying a Dolcis bag! She put it down by the front door while she took off her coat and shoes. I looked in the bag, and saw a shoebox with the name of the boots on and my size, size 3. This couldn’t be happening! Surely my mum hadn’t bought them? I peeked in the box. It contained my boots!

‘MUM, YOU BOUGHT THEM FOR ME!’ I shrieked, launching myself at my bewildered mum and wrapping her in an enormous hug. ‘THANK YOU SO MUCH! I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!’

I couldn’t believe it. I’d always had my mum down as a joyless, neglectful mother who had never paid any attention to me or cared what I wanted or needed – but I had been wrong.  She was the best mother in the world. She truly loved me.

My mother disentangled herself with distaste. She never liked me hugging her. ‘What?!’ she snapped. ‘What are you talking about?’

‘The boots!’ I repeated in ecstasy. ‘You bought the boots for me!’

My mum looked down at the bag. ‘Oh, no darling,’ she said vaguely. ‘These aren’t for you. They’re for me.’

Then I remembered that, being 4’10”, my mum also took a size 3 shoe.

I stared at her. ‘For you?‘ I asked, my excitement ebbing away into an unrecognisable ache in my chest.

‘Yes,’ my mum said, smiling distantly. ‘You couldn’t possibly have thought they were for you. I mean, I already told you they’re bad for your feet. You’re still growing.’

And so, for the next few years, I had to watch my mother walking around in my dream pair of boots.

boots

The day I was in a horrific car crash

In 2004, when I was 23, my parents helped me get a mortgage on a flat. They were shitty parents on many levels – my dad was often violent and abusive and my mum was often neglectful and cold – but they helped me financially several times, and for that I was very grateful. In my less charitable moments, I think it was a guilt thing – they knew that they had messed up as parents, and were compensating for it by way of financial handouts. In my more charitable moments, I love them for their generosity, and feel sad for all of us that they were unable to form the kind of amazing emotional bond with me that I have with my daughter.

Anyhow, the place they helped me buy was a one bedroom flat in a dilapidated block in Camden Town – weirdly, my dad had actually lived in the same block in the 1970s before marrying my mum (although not in the same flat) – and despite help with the deposit, I had a huge mortgage. It would have been a real stretch for me to pay it all, as I was a fledgling writer on about £10,000 a year. So I suggested to my best friend Graham that he move down to London and live with me – and he excitedly agreed. It was decided that we would turn my living room into a bedroom and he would rent it off me.

I travelled up to Woodbridge, where Graham lived with his mum. He had packed all his stuff in bubble wrap, ready for the big move. We woke up super-early the next day, loaded the car and planned to set off down the A12. We were aiming to reach London a few hours later, get the keys from the estate agent and move into our tiny new flat. Graham and I were both big fans of Suede – my first boyfriend had got me into them by making me a mixtape of their first two albums – and so we put on their second album Dog Man Star to listen to while driving along.

The roads were very quiet as it was so early in the morning. Unfortunately, as we turned onto the A12 towards Colchester, a huge articulated lorry also came onto the A12 from the roundabout, trying to move into the inside lane. He didn’t see us, and though Graham tried to outrun him, he clipped the back end of Graham’s Peugeot 206. The car spun round and the lorry smashed into the front of it – I remember screaming as it skittered in slow motion – and then it bounced off the central reservation to face the oncoming traffic. If there’d been a car coming, I doubt I’d be around to type this now.

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Luckily, the A12 was clear. I was in shock and screaming ‘Fuck, fuck, oh my God, oh my God!’. Graham was yelling, ‘My stuff, my stuff!’. I shouted at him, ‘Fuck your stuff, we could have died!’ Then I tried to call another friend and tell him what had happened, but he thought I was joking, so I told him to fuck off too. The lorry driver said ‘Sorry mate, my fault, I didn’t see you there.’ The police turned up. The car was an absolute write-off.

But the weirdest thing was the Suede CD, Dog Man Star. It had been playing track 7 (‘New Generation’) but the impact of the crash made it skip back to track 5 (‘Daddy’s Speeding’) as Graham was manoeuvring the wrecked car into the lay-by. And the eeriest single line blared loudly out of the stereo – ‘Crashed the car and left us here.’ 

It was clearly a coincidence – but what a freaky coincidence. It’s the sort of thing that convinces gullible people to be religious. However, I was quite a big Suede fan, but not so big that I believed Brett Anderson was God or Satan.

Needless to say, Graham didn’t move in with me that day. I made it back to London on my own, and sat in my empty new flat, crying. It was such a shocking, anticlimactic way to start my new life.

But at least I still had one.

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This post has been made possible by my awesome Patreon supporters Peter Weilgony, Ricky Steer, Marc Alexander, Sammy and Jelly, Charlie Brooker, Mary and Tim Fowler, Steve Richards, Alan Brookland, Mark Ormandy, Oliver Vass, Keith Bell, John Fleming, Mark Bailey, Rebekah Bennetch, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Aragorn Strider, Lucy Spencer, Dave Nattriss, MusicalComedyGuide.com, Mark White, Dave Cross, Graham Nunn, David Conrad, Rob Turner, Shane Jarvis, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

If you enjoyed this blog, please check out my songs at arianexmusic.com and support me on Patreon from just £1 a month, and you’ll get to read a lot more of my writing.

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.

This post has been made possible by my awesome Patreon supporters Peter Weilgony, Ricky Steer, Marc Alexander, Sammy and Jelly, Charlie Brooker, Mary and Tim Fowler, Steve Richards, Alan Brookland, Mark Ormandy, Oliver Vass, Keith Bell, John Fleming, Mark Bailey, Rebekah Bennetch, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Aragorn Strider, Lucy Spencer, Dave Nattriss, MusicalComedyGuide.com, Mark White, Dave Cross, Graham Nunn, David Conrad, Rob Turner, Shane Jarvis, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

If you enjoyed this blog, please check out my songs at arianexmusic.com and support me on Patreon from just £1 a month, and you’ll get to read a lot more of my writing.

Why my atheist parents brought me up Christian

I was a mixed-up mixed race kid. My mum was Parsi – a kind of Indian that originates from Iran – although she was born in East Africa and came to Britain when she was 16. My dad was American, but retained his US citizenship and never became British despite living in Britain for the last 45 years of his life.

13.jpg[Me, aged three. There’s a photo of me somewhere aged 14 where I look just the same.]

In terms of religion, my mum was technically Zoroastrian and my dad was a Unitarian Universalist (a wishy-washy, pluralistic kind of Christian) but both were non-practising. And, I later discovered, though they didn’t identify as such, they both held atheist beliefs – which makes sense, as they were highly-educated academics. So why the hell did they send me to church and Sunday school until I was 8?

It all goes back to Auntie Dolly.

I was middle-named after my Asian grandmother, Shirin (there are half a dozen different spellings of Sherine, including Shirin, Shireen, Shereen and Sherin). Anyhow, Nana Shirin had five siblings – two female, two male – with the unusual names of Dolly, Bapsy, Temi and Ferdoon. I think she drew the long straw with Shirin!

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[Me and my tiny little Asian Nan, Shirin, in 2009. I hope I look as good as her when I’m old! She’s 94 now and doesn’t look any different.]

Auntie Dolly was a Jehovah’s Witness. She would go door-to-door trying to convert non-believers. Before she died ten years ago, she would call Nan daily to tell her the End Times were coming, and that she had to become a JW if she didn’t want to go to hell. Poor Nan was very gullible, and this frightened her. My mum would then have to go round and de-program Nan, telling her Auntie Dolly was talking nonsense!

Anyhow, my mum was determined that I shouldn’t grow up and become a born-again Christian or Jehovah’s Witness like Auntie D. She always insisted I was ‘C of E’ – which, for years, I thought was one word (‘seervee’). My mum thought that by sending me and my brother to church and Sunday school, she would ‘inoculate’ us against religion, as we’d realise how boring it was. All I can say is, in my case, it worked better than she could have hoped!

But not initially. I grew up believing in God. I got a load of God at school, too – our ‘broadly Christian’ assemblies were full of hymns and prayers – though, ever the joker, I used to bellow the hymns loudly in a very strong Indian accent, making all the other kids laugh. My teacher Miss Buckley would be furious, and snap, ‘Sing in your normal voice!’ And I would say back in my Indian voice, with a head wobble: ‘But I am Indian!’ She was so angry, but couldn’t really send a note home to my Indian mum saying ‘Your daughter is singing in an Indian accent!’

At school, we studied all the world religions in Religious Studies, but never atheism or humanism. Until quite late, I don’t even remember knowing there was a name for people who didn’t believe in God.

Just because I had faith, though, it didn’t mean I wasn’t skeptical. It never seemed fair that my mum was going to hell for being the ‘wrong’ religion – or, if Zoroastrianism were ‘right’, then me and my brother and dad were. At times, that made me feel like rejecting the whole thing.

I also asked my mum, ‘Is there really a God?’ In response, she told me about Pascal’s Wager: that you had nothing to lose by believing in God, but if you didn’t and He existed, you were in trouble.

Even though my faith wavered at times, I ticked ‘C of E’ on the 2001 census. I remember a guy at university saying he was an atheist. I was shocked, and told him ‘You’re a blasphemer!’ To his credit, he was fairly unfazed by my rather melodramatic assertion.

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I was also very pro-life – life was sacred, right? I used to say primly, ‘Other women can do what they want, but would never have an abortion.’ Ironically, I knew nothing at all about abortion until I was 24 and was put in the horrendous situation of my boyfriend turning violent while I was pregnant.

When I googled ‘abortion’, I was faced with pages and pages of Catholic propaganda: hugely enlarged pictures of foetuses sucking their thumbs in the womb, and websites that said if I had a termination I would become infertile, get breast cancer and go to hell.

Because of my pro-life principles, I agonised for three weeks about what to do, as the baby inside me grew and grew. In the end, I was too late to take the abortion pills on the NHS, and had to go private to terminate the pregnancy I so desperately wanted to keep. Directly after the abortion, I told my mother I wanted to visit the vicar down the road and ask for his forgiveness.

She scoffed at me: ‘Don’t be so stupid!’

After the abortion, I was too scared to fall asleep in case I died in my sleep and went to hell. I was incredibly depressed and anxious.

Six months later, I started dating a lovely atheist and he told me there was no evidence for God’s existence. I started reading up on science and religion, and eventually concluded he was right. I became really angry about the Catholic propaganda I’d been confronted with at the most vulnerable time of my life.

These days, of course, I’m a resolutely pro-choice atheist – but it’s sad that it took experiencing how pernicious religion could be to change my views.

I don’t blame my mum for sending me to church and Sunday school. She was right that they were very boring – and, of course, I never became a Jehovah’s Witness. But indoctrinating kids with lies is wrong – and in my case, it led to a lot of pain and suffering before I finally emerged an atheist.

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This post has been made possible by my awesome Patreon supporters Peter Weilgony, Ricky Steer, Marc Alexander, Sammy and Jelly, Charlie Brooker, Mary and Tim Fowler, Steve Richards, Alan Brookland, Mark Ormandy, Oliver Vass, Keith Bell, John Fleming, Mark Bailey, Rebekah Bennetch, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Aragorn Strider, Lucy Spencer, Dave Nattriss, MusicalComedyGuide.com, Mark White, Dave Cross, Graham Nunn, David Conrad, Rob Turner, Shane Jarvis, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

If you enjoyed this blog, please check out my songs at arianexmusic.com and support me on Patreon from just £1 a month, and you’ll get to read a lot more of my writing.

The time I made a man pick his nose

My dad was a film lecturer, and was always visiting London film institutions like the BFI, the NFT and the Goethe Institute, often with me in tow. One day when I was eight years old, he took me to London’s Museum of the Moving Image (MOMI for short) on the South Bank. It was fascinating: there were all kinds of activities for kids to do, but the one I remember best was drawing your own animation.

You were given a long strip of paper with eight rectangles on it, and told to draw a cartoon. You drew a similar scene in each rectangle, with a subtle change. Then, when you slotted the paper into a round spinner called a zoetrope (shaped a bit like a lampshade; the paper filled the inside of the lampshade) and spun it, you could see your animation come to life.

zoetrope.jpg[A zoetrope I nicked off Wikipedia. That’s not my carpet, I PROMISE.]

As I was rude and cheeky, I thought it would be funny to draw a man picking his nose. I started with his finger below his nose, then made him push it into his nostril, then pull it out covered with green slime.

My dad, who shared my sense of humour, thought the animation was hilarious, and laughed uproariously when he saw it. He said to me: ‘Next time, do something really raunchy!’

I frowned: ‘What does ‘raunchy’ mean, Daddy?’

‘Really rude and naughty!’ he replied, smirking.

‘OK,’ I said, baffled but pleased to be given carte blanche to draw rude things.

I don’t think we ever visited again though. And sadly, the Museum of the Moving Image closed down 12 years later, so I can’t even continue the family tradition by taking my eight-year-old there and telling her to draw a cow farting.

Funny Toddler[Me, aged three or four. I don’t have any photos of myself
from the ages of five to ten, so this will have to do.]

This post has been made possible by my awesome Patreon supporters Peter Weilgony, Ricky Steer, Marc Alexander, Sammy and Jelly, Charlie Brooker, Mary and Tim Fowler, Steve Richards, Alan Brookland, Mark Ormandy, Oliver Vass, Keith Bell, John Fleming, Mark Bailey, Rebekah Bennetch, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Aragorn Strider, Lucy Spencer, Dave Nattriss, MusicalComedyGuide.com, Mark White, Dave Cross, Graham Nunn, David Conrad, Rob Turner, Shane Jarvis, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

If you enjoyed this blog, please check out my songs at arianexmusic.com and support me on Patreon from just £1 a month, and you’ll get to read a lot more of my writing.