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.

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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.

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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!)

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!

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:

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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.