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 Before October 31st, I’ll buy some party snacks that won’t be out-of-date by December, and will send out the invitations to my friends with kids next month.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!)

The day I robbed a bank, aged 17

My first bank account was with NatWest. They offered me £30 to open it, in 1996. The branch was in Bridge Street, one of the shopping streets in Pinner, Middlesex, and I lived more than half a mile away – which, for a lazy teenager, was an epic trek.

My grandparents had given me a cheque for my birthday, which was also £30, and I wanted to cash it so I could buy something nice at the weekend. It would take four days to clear. So that Monday at 4pm I strolled down to the bank, which closed at 4.30pm. By the time I got there, it was 4.15pm – comfortably before closing time.

But no! Alas, the bank was closed. There was no notice outside – the plaque on the wall still said its opening hours were 9.30 to 4.30pm on weekdays – but the door was firmly shut and wouldn’t budge, no matter how hard I tried to get in.

I sighed. If the bank was shut, that meant I wouldn’t be able to cash my cheque in time for the weekend. Then – aha! – I heard the lock turn, and spied movement. Someone was being let out of the bank. ‘Excuse me,’ I said to the bank official doing the letting out, whose badge said Bank Manager, ‘it’s only 4.15pm and I’d like to cash a cheque please.’

‘We’re closed,’ he said, looking surly, and slammed the door in my face, locking it again.

Well!, I thought. That was just not on. The bank had an obligation to its customers – it couldn’t close early unless it had a very good reason, and the man hadn’t provided one. [My mum had been doing a law degree throughout my childhood, which may explain my slightly argumentative nature back then.]

So when the door next opened to let someone out, I slipped past them and into the bank. Hurray! Now I could cash my cheque.

‘Get out!’ snarled the bank manager. He was an Asian man, but clearly felt no solidarity for this fellow Asian. He was also quite a bit taller than my unimpressive height of 5’2″, but he didn’t scare me.

‘I’ll get out as soon as you cash my cheque,’ I said. ‘I’m a NatWest customer and you have a duty to cash it.’

‘We’re not going to cash your cheque, so you can get out now,’ the bank manager snapped, though I could see the bank tills were still open and the cashiers were working.

‘Shan’t!’ I said truculently, and slid down to the floor. I still remember exactly where in the bank I sat down – near the entrance, diagonally opposite the customer service desk. ‘I’m not leaving until you cash my cheque. You have opening hours and they’re not over yet.’

natwest

The bank manager was fuming, but clearly didn’t want to forcibly manhandle me out of the branch like Mark Field. ‘Right,’ he said. ‘Get out, or I’m calling the police.’

‘Call them!’ I said, still staging my one-girl sit-in protest. ‘See if I care. I’m going to report you to head office and close my account!’ (This wasn’t much of a threat, as back then my account contained about 50p, but it was all I could think of.)

To my surprise, the bank manager actually called the police. He dialled the number as I sat grumpily on the bank floor, and he muttered something into the phone. I shrugged and hugged my knees to my chest, bored and cross.

The police station was at the top of Bridge Street in those days, so it took less than one minute for the sirens to blaze and the police car to screech down to the bank. Two uniformed policemen burst in, then looked around the bank, puzzled.

‘We’ve come here because of reports of a disturbance!’ one of them announced.

The bank manager pointed at me.

‘Is this the disturbance?’ the policeman asked, gawping at my seven-and-a-half-stone frame, amazed.

‘She’s trespassing and refusing to leave the bank,’ the bank manager announced. I glared at him.

‘We’ve come here on blues and twos!’ the policeman ranted, staring at me. ‘We thought the bank was being robbed!’

‘Don’t blame me! I didn’t call you,’ I said. ‘I just wanted to cash my cheque.’

The policeman calmed down. ‘Well, if the bank manager tells you to leave the bank, you should leave the bank,’ he said.

I glared, defeated, and got to my feet. ‘He shouldn’t have called you though,’ I said. ‘I’m not very scary.’

‘Quite the opposite, Madam,’ replied the policeman mildly, who clearly thought the bank manager was a bit of a dick.

I never did report the bank manager to head office or close my account – I think I realised I was being a bit of a horror and they wouldn’t take my side – but I did eventually get to cash my cheque.

I still hold an account with NatWest to this day, though the best thing I ever got out of that bank was this anecdote.

2017_12_29_16_28_15[Me as a teenager. I was wearing a boob tube, though you can’t see it.]

THE GREAT WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE!

Day 1

Me: 12st 12.8lbs (total loss: 1.4lbs). Here’s a picture of my feet on the scales so I can’t cheat (apologies for my hairy legs and feet. I am basically a gorilla in human form!)

IMG_2261

John: 14st 6lbs (total loss: 1.5lbs)

John is winning (just)! I need to up my game.

This post has been made possible by my Patreon supporters Chris Birkett, John Fleming, Mary Clarke, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Dave Nattriss, 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.

It’s a wonderful, wonderful life

I had such an amazing birthday, full of friends and love. I was woken up by my eight-year-old daughter singing Happy Birthday down the phone, which was super-cute, even if it was at the crack of dawn before she went to school. I love her so much, sometimes I actually think my heart is going to explode, which would be unfortunate as my next book is called How to Live to 100. 

After being serenaded, I went for a run, because the new book I’m writing says the more exercise you do, the longer you’ll live. The run was meant to last ten minutes, but actually lasted about one minute. I’m hugely plus size and don’t own a sports bra, so was basically doing keepy-uppies with my boobs. It was not an edifying spectacle, so I curtailed it in seconds. THE SHAME!

Then I went for a massage. This was meant to be a blissful and relaxing experience. In reality, it meant having a strange woman’s elbow ground into my buttocks as I screamed in pain. ‘It will feel good after,’ she reassured me. I was like: yeah, because you’ll have stopped! This is the same beauty salon where I was ‘cupped’ against my will last week by an over-eager therapist. My back now looks like I’ve had sex with an octopus. I haven’t had any sex for ages, even though my new book says it lengthens life expectancy, so I guess I have to take what I can get…

Cupping

After the Massage of Pain, I enjoyed sushi at Yo! Sushi in Westfield Stratford City with my friend John, one of the warmest and funniest people ever. He’s almost exactly 30 years older than me, so next year we’re going to celebrate our 40th and 70th birthdays together and turn 110. Because he couldn’t quite be my grandad (he would have had to have been 15), I call him my Illegal Grandad. So he got me this birthday card:

John's card

Hilarious, and yet somehow so wrong.

Then I spent my best friend Graham’s birthday present: a £25 Paperchase gift card. I love stationery so much, I would have walked around the shop sniffing all the notebooks if it wasn’t ridiculously antisocial. If you want to make me happy, just send me a Paperchase gift card and I will happily spunk it on bits of overpriced paper. Hell yeah. I also bought a memory jar, which I’m going to fill with all my favourite recollections.

Paperchase

After that, John and I went to see the film Yesterday, which was very enjoyable and a solid 7/10. The best character was the cynical, sociopathic artist manager, who had absolutely no filter. She was great, and Ed Sheeran was also good value. It was a much better film than Support the Girls, which we saw on Monday on Barack Obama’s recommendation. It was rubbish and we walked out after 20 minutes (I had to wake John up as he was asleep!). My new mission is to track down the rest of Bazza’s favourite films so I can avoid them all.

Yesterday

Throughout the day, I was amazed by incredible messages of kindness on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. It was a real outpouring of love, and I felt overwhelmed and so happy. Human beings can be so lovely. Sometimes I think I have few friends compared to other people and feel quite lonely – I don’t have a big group of girly mates, for instance, and I’m a bit different to other people as my life hasn’t been the easiest 39 trips around the sun – but on days like this I realise I have lots of support out there, and it means the world to me.

The pièce de résistance of my 39th birthday was a meal at dreamy Soho dim sum restaurant Yauatcha with my wonderful friend Annabel. She’s just so big-hearted and generous and funny. She arranged for them to bring out a birthday ice cream with a candle for me, and sang Happy Birthday! We only really struck up our friendship earlier this year, after knowing each other a little for 12 years (we used to work together) and every time I see her, it’s like having happiness injected into my soul. (Yes, I am very soppy…)

Annabel

All that’s left to say is: thank you if you were a part of my birthday. It’s the best one I can remember, and I can’t wait to see what the year ahead holds.

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.