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 Before October 31st, I’ll buy some party snacks that won’t be out-of-date by December, and will send out the invitations to my friends with kids next month.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

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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:

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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 Memory Jar

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

memory-jar-2

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

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

memory-jar-3

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

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

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

Gingie

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

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

memory-jar-4

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

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

memory-jar-5

memory-jar-6

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

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

Gingie-and-Lily

THE GREAT WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE…

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

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

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

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

Why I’m estranged from my brother

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me asleep.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My brother went back to the States soon afterwards.

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

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

Me lotus

The pictures are of me.

THE GREAT WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE!

Day 37

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

Must and will do better.

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

That makes two of us!

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!

 

 

 

What the hell I do all day

Right now I don’t have a job. I haven’t had a job since our whole digital department was made redundant in February, and I miss the sense of purpose it gave me. If you have a job, hold onto it with your mucky paws and dig your grubby fingernails in and don’t let it go, because being unemployed is shit.

I had a job interview two weeks ago about a permanent writing job in Switzerland. I had my hair and nails done, wore my smartest clothes and managed not to joke that it was the ‘Swiss role’. I thought the interview went well, but the agency never contacted me again. I only found out I hadn’t got the position through receiving an alert for the relisted job. Bang goes my plan for escaping Brexit!

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Being ‘freelance’ sucks, but I don’t just sit on my arse all day. No: I fill my time with a delightful cornucopia of activities. These generally include:

1. Calling my eight-year-old daughter. She’s currently on holiday with her dad. It is manifestly unjust that she gets a summer holiday and I don’t, but I love her to infinity, so it’s fine. Her telephone manner is a mixture of bored, disdainful and dutiful, and when she says ‘Love you!’ it actually means ‘I want to get off the phone now!’. I miss her so desperately my heart is aching from nine days without her. Roll on Monday.

Lily teeth gap

2. Going to the gym. It’s literally around the corner, but it takes me hours to motivate myself into going, because exercise is painful and wrong. The gym is great for people-watching though, and inspired me to write this, so it’s not all bad.

3. Writing blogs. These are getting trickier as I run out of anecdotes! This is day 37 of this blog, and unless I fill it with traumatic stuff, it’s going to be difficult to continue in this vein for much longer. I have loads of juicy celebrity stories but (a) I’d probably get sued, and (b) I’d never work in this town again (not that I’m really working now, but you get me). This is why you’re reading about what I do all day, not the time I had hot sex with Alan Titchmarsh and his selection of reappropriated gardening equipment. (This is a joke!)

4. Emailing my friends and patrons (same thing really). Rik is my top-tier patron so that’s why I started sending him lots of emails, but I reckon I would now anyway as he’s great. He’s incredibly funny and produced this selection of inappropriate children’s book ideas (below), plus he very kindly sent me a Paperchase gift card when I was feeling down about the Swiss role. I’m lucky to have him.

Rik's sketches.JPG
5. Writing HOW TO LIVE TO 100, my next book. I’m co-writing it with David Conrad, a consultant in public health, so he sends me big chunks of scientific research and I add jokes and format them into entertaining and funny chapters. We’re just over halfway through, and it’s exciting seeing the book take shape.

6. Re-labelling my Demerara sugar jars, because I kept opening them and snacking.

sugar

THE GREAT WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE!

Day 32

Me: 12st 5.4lbs (total loss in 32 days: 8.8lbs)

I think my scales are stuck.

John: 14st 4.75lbs (total loss in 32 days: 2.75lbs)

John is promoting his comedy industry night The Grouchy Club.

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 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.

ella-signs

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:

lily-nails.jpg

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.

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.