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 Before October 31st, I’ll buy some party snacks that won’t be out-of-date by December, and will send out the invitations to my friends with kids next month.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

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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.

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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 Simon Le Bon came round to my house

My ex-husband said that, if I told the story of my time with Duran Duran, no one would believe me. Luckily I have pictures to illustrate it! This story appeared in the Guardian in 2014 – but here are more details.

I was an obsessive Duran Duran fan – I just loved the music so much. It inspired me to want to become a singer-songwriter. So when I had to leave school in 1996, aged 16, and the deputy head told me I’d have to work out what to do with my life now, I replied ‘I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to go and find Duran Duran.’

I found out where the band were recording, thanks to a fellow fan I knew called Mandy, and started hanging out outside the studios. One day, Simon Le Bon turned up on his motorbike. We became friends, bonding over the fact that we both came from Pinner.

He said ‘I’d like to go back to Pinner sometime.’ He took my home telephone number (I didn’t have a mobile back then – neither did most people). The next day, he phoned me up and, to my utter disbelief, asked if he could come round.

Simon arrived at my house on Friday 7th March 1997 (yeah, it was 22 years ago, but it’s the sort of thing you remember when you’re a massive Duran Duran fan!). I was in raptures. He was riding his motorbike, was dressed all in leathers, and had brought along a spare helmet for me. The bike ride we would go on that day was one of the most thrilling experiences of my life – but before that, he would come into my house for about an hour.

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I made him a cup of tea. He sat at our kitchen table, picked up my guitar and played me a song he’d written, ‘Already Gone’. It was beautiful and delicate, but he said that Warren – Duran Duran’s guitarist at the time – said it sounded too much like ‘Wonderwall’, so the band weren’t going to use it. It didn’t sound like ‘Wonderwall’ to me, though it had a similar chord progression – but how many songs have the same chord progression as others? Millions. It’s a real shame that it was never released, because it has the loveliest melody.

My dad wandered into the kitchen and said hello to Simon. He seemed to take it for granted that a major rock star was sitting in his house drinking tea! Though my dad didn’t know anything about pop music, so he probably didn’t realise what a big deal it was. At the time, he had a massive black eye from an operation. After he’d left the kitchen, I apologised to Simon for his slightly frightening appearance, as my dad looked as though he’d been in a pub fight. Simon shook his head and said, ‘He looks cool, like a boxer!’

Then he asked if I owned a cassette player. I did, and he got a tape out of his leather biker jacket pocket and played me the band’s newest track, ‘Electric Barbarella’. I love electropop, though the lyrics and video are pretty unreconstructed (but that’s ’80s pop stars for you).

We went up to my bedroom so I could play Simon a song on my Casio keyboard, though I was extremely embarrassed about all the Duran Duran posters all over the room. In fairness, I was a teenage girl though – and what superfan doesn’t have posters of their favourite band all over their walls?

Later, as we were leaving the house, Simon stopped by a map of ancient Persia by the front door, and asked about my origins. I explained that I was half-Parsi Zoroastrian, and he seemed fascinated.

ducati

I was so scared about getting on his motorbike. I’ve always been physically risk-averse, but I rationalised, ‘If I have to die, there’s no better way than this.’ I held on so tightly to his leathers around his waist, I’m surprised Simon didn’t loosen my grip as it must have been painful! We zoomed up to Croxley Green, where my first boyfriend lived. I will never forget his jaw dropping open as he saw us riding up his road on the bike (a top-of-the-range bright red Ducati 888).

Simon came round again a week later, so I could play him a reworked version of ‘Already Gone’, but didn’t stay for long.

Those days are in the few sweet memories from my childhood, and I will always be grateful to Simon for making my troubled teenage life so special.

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THE GREAT WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE!

Day 33

Me: 12st 4.8lbs (total loss in 33 days: 9.4lbs)

Hurray! At last I’m on the downwards slope again.

John: 14st 4.25lbs (total loss in 33 days: 3.25lbs)

John there, pledging allegiance to the mighty Apple god. If you ate more apples, John, you might lose more weight!

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!

So long, and thanks for all the fish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE GREAT WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE!

Day 20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rewards start from just $1 a month, which is 85p in real money and gets you access to my weekly Patreon email. It’s like this blog, but EVEN BETTER!