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 Before October 31st, I’ll buy some party snacks that won’t be out-of-date by December, and will send out the invitations to my friends with kids next month.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

It was 1997, and I was 16 years old. Despite having an on-off boyfriend, I was very lonely. Then I stumbled across a now-defunct music magazine called Select, which had a contact ads section at the back. The pages weren’t exactly lonely hearts, though I’m sure that was on the minds of numerous advertisers, but they were an opportunity for geeky outcasts to meet other misfits.

In January of that year, a man called Graham placed an ad that said ‘Adventurous and insatiable male hermit, 19, requires intelligent corespondents [sic] to astound, bewilder, tantalise and bore. Self-important wordy sarcastic types encouraged.’ (The spelling mistake was the magazine’s, but I didn’t know that.) Graham seemed smart and interesting, so I wrote him a rather combative letter, trying to be sarcastic while simultaneously taking his ad entirely seriously. The one-page letter was typed on my parents’ word processor.

Intro.png

I’m cringing just reading it now! Back then, my personality was an odd combination of zero self-esteem, due to being abused physically and emotionally at home and bullied all the way through school; and self-confidence, having recently discovered that a lot of men wanted to have sex with me. At times, when I thought about my life to date, I felt suicidal – and, at that age, I was still self-harming and had only just stopped being anorexic.

Graham wrote a caustic reply in response to my opening gambit:

Graham's intro

Touché! So started a friendship that would last from then until the present day, off and on. Looking back, Graham’s letters were much more readable and mature than mine, but then I guess he was more than three years older.

However, I may have been an embarrassingly gauche and daft correspondent, but I certainly wasn’t boring. I was sure I had nothing to offer in terms of my personality, so tried to convince Graham I was irresistible – as I believed this was the only reason a man could ever be interested in me. In my first letter, I told him ‘I spend my days straddling naked men’. He retorted, ‘You didn’t say whether or not the naked men were conscious.’

In another letter, I naughtily tried to turn him on:

Sex.png

The rest of the letter is so racy and smutty that Graham asked last night, ‘Are you sure you want it out there if you’re applying for jobs? It’s X-rated!’ So I will save it for the memoir.

Back in 1997, Graham totally refused to take the bait and reciprocate. He said later that he had no idea what to make of me! He was much more withdrawn, reserved and measured than I was (then again so was pretty much everyone, including Julian Clary).

But our friendship progressed. Graham eventually sent me a perfectly attractive if rather sullen photo of himself:

Graham.png

However, he was extremely self-deprecating about his appearance, and I tried to reassure him:

Optician.png

Reading back through the letters I sent him, though there were jokes in, I was also incredibly depressed. I was still focused on self-harming:

Self-harming.png

And I couldn’t stop feeling sad and angry about my childhood:

Parents.png

But having a good friend to write to helped ease my pain very slightly, and he’s still there for me 22 years on.

Az-'n'-Graz.jpg

THE GREAT WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE!

Day 29

Me: 12st 5.4lbs (total loss in 29 days: 8.8lbs)

God I can’t wait to be slim again!

John: 14st 3.5lbs (total loss in 29 days: 4lbs)

This post has been made possible by my awesome Patreon supporters 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!

The first time I went clubbing

When I was 14, I got my first ever boyfriend. We weren’t serious, at least not compared to my long-term relationship with the next boyfriend I had, which lasted on and off from ages 15 to 22.

My first boyfriend was 19 years old, and was my best friend’s boyfriend’s best friend. (You might need to read that sentence a few times.) We only dated for a few months, and I thought I was in love, but in retrospect I wasn’t.

My boyfriend had a car and a job, which I thought was amazing. No one else I knew had a car or a job! (Except for my parents and other very old people.) The girls at school teased me, saying I’d invented an imaginary boyfriend, but I didn’t care. My boyfriend was real, he was mine and he had a car and a job, so they could all go sit on a shitty stick and swivel.

One day, my boyfriend (I’ll call him Dean, as that was not his name), my best friend Anna and her boyfriend Keith all went to a club. I was positively fizzing with excitement. A club! I’d heard about clubs and clubbing from the girls at school.

‘I bet you’ve never been to a club,’ they’d say to me loftily. ‘I bet you don’t even know what one is.’

‘Shut up! I do so know what one is,’ I’d retort, even though I didn’t really.

But now, for the first time, I was going to a real proper nightclub. It was called The Odyssey, and was at the end of Eastbourne Pier in East Sussex, where Anna, Keith and Dean all lived.

The only Odyssey I’d ever heard of was the one we’d studied in Classical Civilisation at school. The name conjured up images of adventure, daring deeds and excitement. I couldn’t wait to find out what it was all about.

me-leather-jacket.png[At 18, the age the bouncers presumably thought I was.]

So I dressed up to the nines, plastered my face with makeup and walked into The Odyssey with the others. I couldn’t quite believe the bouncers had let me in.

The Odyssey, it turned out, was dimly lit inside. There was some thumping music playing, and lots of girls standing around in tiny dresses and high heels, while the guys were wearing shirts and smart jeans. We stood by the bar. The guys I was with drank beer, and I drank orange juice (I was never much of a drinker, especially not at 14).

‘When’s it going to start?’ I shouted to Dean, over the pumping music. It seemed unnecessarily loud and prohibitive to conversation.

Dean looked at his watch. ‘It’s not even 10pm,’ he shouted back. ‘It’ll get busier and there’ll be a lot more people by 11pm.’

‘And then it’ll start?’ I yelled.

He looked puzzled. ‘Well, it’ll get busier.’

‘Yeah,’ I shouted, confused, ‘but then what happens?’

He frowned. ‘People will start dancing.’

I stared at him in total disillusionment and indignance, the penny finally dropping: ‘So you mean it’s just a disco with alcohol?!’

He laughed: ‘Yeah.’

I couldn’t believe it. All that hype at school about nightclubs, and they were nothing more than discos! As for the ‘Odyssey’, I thought, Homer would have been appalled that his epic poem had been bastardised in such a prosaic way.

I sighed. ‘When can I go home?’

me-polaroid[Me, aged 18.]

THE GREAT WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE!

Day 23

Me: 12st 6.6lbs (total loss in 23 days: 7.6lbs)

I was thrilled to receive these two awards last night at Slimming World! Slimmer of the Week is a big achievement. I also got my 1 stone award (I’ve lost 2 stone this year, one of them with Slimming World).

John: 14st 3.75lbs (total loss in 23 days: 3.75lbs)

Not only is he putting on weight but the toenail is back!

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 (which is just 20p a week). It’s like this blog, but EVEN BETTER!

 

 

 

The affair and the coded diary

When I was 16 years old, I had an affair. That makes it sound torrid and sexy, like Jeremy Irons and Juliet Binoche in Damage, when in fact it was anything but.

I had just been kicked out of school, and had been dating my boyfriend W for a year and a half. He was gentle and funny and kind, a super-smart straight-A student with blond hair, a huge toothy smile and a warm, tanned body. I wrote in my little black pocket diary when we met about how much I looked forward to seeing him and how happy he made me.

We met through another boy at his school. Our first date was on 5th November 1995, when I was 15, and we went to see Clueless at the cinema in Harrow. After that, we sat on a bench in the cold sunlight, and he asked if I had a boyfriend. I didn’t, so he kissed me. To this day, I miss his kisses.

On our second date, I remember straddling him on his bed at his parents’ house. He was shaking with nerves, and said ‘I have to leave soon, as I have a dentist’s appointment.’ I asked if he minded going to the dentist, to which he said no. I deadpanned, ‘Good, because I think you’ve done enough trembling for one day!’

(Very early in my journalistic career, I wrote the story of our relationship for a newspaperThough everything I wrote was true, I left the affair out, because I was too ashamed to include it.)

W was so sweet, but he was only a year older than me, and immature in the way 17-year-old boys can be. I mentioned before that he said that, if a genie were to grant him a wish, he would wish for my tits to be bigger. He also bought every issue of FHM and Loaded to ogle the women, and used to get porn magazines (Playboy and Penthouse) out from under his bed after we made love, and compare me unfavourably to the female porn stars.

Regularly, at least once a week, he would tell me he fancied other women, despite my explosive anger each time he did. The word ‘jealous’ doesn’t encompass how I felt. It was jealousy bordering on insanity. I remember showing him my school photo from my year group, and him singling a girl out and saying ‘She’s the best-looking girl in your year.’ He really didn’t understand the effect his insensitivity had on me. It was so important to me to be thought of as desirable, as I had been friendless for so many years when I was ugly.

The affair was with T, a man ten years my senior. I was so ridiculously infatuated with him, possibly because he was older, and also because he was a fan of my favourite band, Duran Duran. He knew the band personally, always went backstage at their concerts, and kept £30,000 worth of DD memorabilia in the flat he shared in Ealing.

I knew T wasn’t besotted with me in the way I was with him. But in my stupid muddle-headed teenage way, I figured it was my right to have an affair with him, because my boyfriend kept making me seethe with jealousy.

The affair didn’t last long. On one occasion, I remember T putting U2’s Pop on the stereo before we slept together. The track ‘Do You Feel Loved?’ came on, and T murmured into my mouth, ‘It’s such an important question’ – which is ironic, as he didn’t love me at all, and in retrospect, was just using me for sex.

Ariane at 18
[Me, aged 18, a couple of years after the affair.]

Each time I saw T meant 100 times more to me (at the time, at least) than it did to him. After each tryst, I’d write about it in my tiny diary. But I decided to write in code, in case W read it, though he hadn’t in the past. I was such an idiot that I made the code super-easy to crack: I wrote the first half of the alphabet above the second half, and then swapped in the letters. So the word THE was GUR, and the word AND was NAQ. Not exactly Bletchley Park-standard.

Eventually, T got bored of our affair and started avoiding my phone calls. I was devastated. I still remember the last time I saw him: I turned up at his workplace, and he was horrified. I remember him marching me outside, and telling me, ‘You’re crowding me! Stop crowding me.’ The moment he turned to walk back to work, I burst into huge noisy sobs, my shoulders shaking. Several passersby stopped to see if I was OK, and one gave me a tissue.

That night, I wrote one of my first ever songs, ‘Sweet Revenge’:

One day you’ll see me in a different light
One day when I’m long gone
In your mind but out of your sight
You’ll know that you were wrong

When I asked you to hold me
You didn’t want to know
Took my love and then told me,
‘It’s over, just let go’

And every day, you’ll spend longing
Just to hold me once again
Knowing you did the wrong thing
That’ll be sweet revenge

One day you’ll look at me a different way
One day when it’s too late
Kick yourself for causing me pain
Realise your mistake

When I needed you badly
You tore my heart in two
Cut me out once you’d had me
So now the hurt’s in you

And every night you’ll lie wondering
When the empty feeling will end

Wishing that you had loved me
That’ll be sweet revenge

Never thought that you’d use me
Believed you were for real
You never thought that you’d lose me
Now you’ll taste how I feel

And every day, you’ll spend longing
Just to hold me once again
Knowing you did the wrong thing
That’ll be sweet revenge

And every night you’ll lie wondering
When the empty feeling will end

Wishing that you had loved me
That’ll be sweet revenge

After the affair with T ended, I carried on seeing W. All was fine between us, until I picked up the phone one day and heard him crying. ‘What’s wrong?’ I asked.

‘You had sex with T!’ he sobbed. ‘I’ve read your diary and it says you slept with him several times. You described one of the times as a perfect day!’

I was appalled that I’d hurt him so much. I didn’t know what to say.

‘I can’t tell anyone but you,’ he cried, ‘and you’re the person who did it! I feel so stupid.’

‘I’m so, so sorry,’ I said. ‘It’s over. I’m never going to see him again. I wish I hadn’t done it.’

Hearing W cry was the ultimate punishment. I felt so guilty. We carried on seeing each other, and would date each other on and off until I was 22 – but the trust had gone.

I never think of T these days. I can’t understand what I saw in him.

Conversely, I often have dreams of W and wish I were with him. He’s the only one of my exes that I really miss. He’s married now with two little boys, and I wish I were his wife.

Ironically, the song ‘Sweet Revenge’ could have been written by him, about me.

Age 16 (2)[W and me, aged 17 and 16 respectively.]

THE GREAT WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE!

Day 15

Me: 12st 8.2lbs (total loss in 15 days: 6lbs)

It is fair to say I am plateauing.

John: 14st 5.5lbs (total loss in 15 days: 2lbs)

John is plateauing too.

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!