Slowly quickly urgent fear: the Covid months pt. 14

It feels like an age since my birthday post. A little more than a month has passed since I turned fifty and I haven’t written anything here because I’ve been panic signing up for and participating in every writing and art course, workshop or IGLive/Zoom event available in a desperate bid to give myself purpose.

The big FIVE UH-OH took off its beautifully embellished leather glove and gave me a fruity slap around the chops with it: about time and life and reason and any other existential crisis you could possibly think of. I’m still feeling its intricately beaded sting on my cheek. I’m late, I’m late for a very important date – with all the things I shouldn’t have been scared to do for all my life or hid away because they were ‘just a hobby’ or ‘just a silly thing’ – or just didn’t do because I wasn’t disciplined enough.

It’s May already. How? Jesus Christ life is fast, isn’t it? The feeling and the reality are at odds. I’ve been going to the art workshop in Gracia for two months. The first few sessions were mortifying because there were three other actual humans in the room including the teacher and they could see me and my work. Now I can’t get enough of that environment. Get me in there with the paint and the canvas and the chat and the music. Inject it straight in my veins. Let me slap water and colour around for two hours and watch me skip down the road on my way home afterwards. I can’t believe it had to take me arriving at a half century for me to finally say ‘fuck it’. Do it and get it out there. Don’t worry about what people think, that’s not important. It’s not arrogant or big-headed or full of it or pretentious. It’s quite simply you enjoying something.

*Feel the fear… and set up an Instagram page for your art. I mean, come on! It doesn’t get braver than that, does it? #LiveLaughLove #Brave. Feel the fear… and offer yourself for an Instagram live chat and read some of the words you wrote during the morning writing workshop you were participating in. When I say you, I mean me. It’s all a bit terrifying but I’m forcing myself past it. It’s deeply uncomfortable, but I have to do it. Time is ticking on. Read about art, see art, do art, eat, sleep, repeat. Put pen to paper (yes, I am that old), get it down. Why. Fucking. Not? Write nonsense here, write nonsense in your Frida Kahlo notebook, write nonsense on your dilapidated laptop that’s about to croak. Enter competitions. In the words of the great soothsayer, Nike’s marketing team: Just Fucking Do It. I might be paraphrasing.

Instagram @nia_50_art

I admire greatly those who know what they’re about from an early age, because that’s so far removed from how I was. I think they’re absolutely amazing. But I do have my new sense of urgency and that’s something. Time is very much of the essence and I need to do it all, so that eventually, I can at least be at peace with myself and my tiny contribution.

*Ironic

**I have not been given a definitive expiry date, although I understand how it may very much seem that way.

Ah crap, I’m (almost) fifty: the Covid months pt. 13

This time next week I will be fifty.

This ⬆️ is as close as I ever want photos to be from now until beyond forever. A selfie, through two lenses from the shoulders up and always, always, ALWAYS in black and white.

Apart from that, far from melting down about it, I am just overwhelmingly resigned. I can’t, apparently, stave off time. Anyone have a handy wormhole?

As I approached forty, all hell broke loose. I don’t know why, because looking back now, I was in a pretty tasty situation. I had a job I loved and a good professional reputation. I was at my personal best with regards to confidence, and emotionally, *pretty solid. My body was good – recently confirmed by the photos my ex returned to me – 10 years after we split up and now he’s a dad. Seemed like the right time(!) I was genuinely surprised and sad I hadn’t appreciated it as I should have when I had it. I was living with my hot boyfriend in a nice flat and travelling as often as possible. I started crying a month before and more or less didn’t stop. Given the above, it was completely irrational. I just couldn’t compute the number. ‘But… it’s FORTY.’ Incredulous. The night before the big day, the other half suggested going for a walk to get some air as I was crying at the dinner table. Again. On the way to the Albert Dock in Liverpool, I broke down on the corner of Thomas Steers Way and Custom House Place, sat on the floor unable to walk another step and sobbed. No rhyme. No reason.

Roll on ten years that went down faster than Prince Andrew’s zipper in a room full of teenage girls and the heavy weight of existential dread looms large again. However, this time it’s different. At forty it kept donging in my ears like an almighty gong formally calling me to eat at the table of middle age – F O R -T Y, F O R -T Y, F O R-TY. This time, it’s a repetitive question in my ear, ‘what are you for? I mean, like, actually for?’ This voice is the one I fondly refer to as ‘the cunt’. The cunt doubts everything, questions every action or decision (or thought, actually), causes me immeasurable anxiety and sometimes likes to remind me that, ‘if the next ten years accelerate at the same rate as the last ten, you’ll be 120 in the blink of an eye. Oh, and you’re a useless dickhead.’ Cunt.

What’s it all for, this…^gestures wildly around at everything^. That question is not specific to fifty, by the way, but it’s very much amplified at the moment.

I’m now making my flat a home. About time, some might say. (But why?) I actually have a flat for more than a nanosecond. About time, some might say. (But why?) I’m investing my time and the little money I have in more worthwhile and enriching things and pastimes. And for the love of Christ, trying to save. Finally. About time, some… have said. (But… Ok, I know the answer to that one.)

I think, I, I think I’m settling down, and before you even think it, this expression has NOTHING TO DO WITH MEN. YES, I AM SHOUT TYPING. Do not ask me about men, my thoughts on men, my feelings about men, men in my life or lack thereof, just because I said I’m settling down. It may come as a surprise, but life also happens without them. If you value your life, see previous post. It’s possible to do this without external help. Although, I should probably acknowledge Merlin cat here, of course. I do have a little responsibility. It’s furry and quite bitey.

Now what though? We reach these milestones and then the next day is the same as the one before. It’s a bit like New Year’s Eve, innit? Just a little stiffer of joint and fatter of arse.

Is that it? Do we just keep trundling on, doing stuff until we die? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not depressed or anything like that, (I don’t think), I’m just genuinely, deeply curious. I’m still trying to work it all out.

And with that cheery thought, I will ring in this new era a calmer, quieter version of myself. On the day, I will lie-in and have a decadent breakfast (not so different, as it’s pretty much what I’ve done throughout the pandemic – eat. Eat and eat and eat. I’ve eaten as if the confinement is forever and I won’t see actual humans in the flesh again). Champagne will be involved. I will take my book somewhere sunny and socially distanced and try to relax and let go of the everyday nonsense that goes on in my bonce. Just for the day. I will speak with family and friends and watch a movie and a couple of us will go for lunch the day after. Life’s simple pleasures. For the most part, this is the way I have spent birthdays since 40, when I last organized actual dinners and gatherings for myself. But I’ll appreciate the crap out of this one.

I look forward to the next step and to being more conscious of being conscious. Because, let me tell you something my friends, time flies, and it seems to go quicker with every passing year – and, if I have learnt anything at all in all this time, it’s to not simply drift through the next few.

*I say ‘pretty’ because it’s true that the year before, my boyfriend drove me to drink gin in a tin most nights with his constant online chats with attractive blondes and secrecy about his whereabouts and I once considered a stake-out of the salsa club. I’m only human.

Valentine Galentine blah blah blah: the Covid months, pt. 12

You know who I felt bad for last weekend? The Instalovers. I mean, is it even Valentine’s if you can’t competitively post images of every little detail? The perfect dinner, the flowers, the present(s), the weekend away, the proposal. Is it even love if it’s not on social media.

I think it’s the first time I haven’t posted actually on Valentine’s Day since I started this blog and it felt quite liberating. OK, that’s trite, I haven’t been held captive in a basement for most of my life and am now savouring my first trip to the corner shop for milk, but for the purposes of this blog, it works.

I wanted to let it slip by this year. Unnoticed, unimportant. In the grand scheme of things, it kind of is. Apart from exchanging a WhatsApp with a friend to say, ‘love you’, there wasn’t any reason to mark it and we say that all the time. If they hadn’t sent a message, I probably wouldn’t have remembered.

I bought myself some flowers the day before, as I sometimes do anyhow. And life continued.

With an impending significant birthday and a few months of unsuccessful dating towards the back end of last year, I got to thinking (for fear of sounding like SaTC) – maybe now is a good moment to just let it go and get on without it. Without someone else, without thinking about meeting someone else, without endlessly trying to meet someone else. How many hours do we waste, have we wasted? Probably years, when totalled up. I mean, come on. What have we missed? What have we not appreciated about ourselves and life in all that time of focusing on trying to get another human into our lives.

Listening to the hilarious podcast Don’t Take Bullsh*t from F*ckers before Christmas, in one particular episode (I can’t remember which) Greg Behrendt said, ‘I got a lot of respect for people who date into their forties. I mean, just be alone, be with yourself.’ I paraphrase. But it really kicked me in the ass. You’re right. What the hell are we doing? Sure, I love being in love but it sucks too much time and energy trying to find it. Let’s face it, endless dating just sucks.

Why is it the topic of every freakin’ conversation? I hope you can hear my exasperation.

For all my adult life, when I wasn’t involved with someone (which has been most of the time since 30), people have asked me, ‘are you involved with someone?’ or, ‘are you looking for someone to be involved with?’ Also, guilty as charged. I asked me that too.

I was recently chatting with a friend on Zoom and opened with an ‘I’ve got news.’ (at the moment, that could literally be putting a bra on or getting up without uuffing). The response? ‘You’ve met a man?!’

No. I haven’t. I’m starting art classes. Jesus Christ.

Different friend, ‘You look good. Have you met someone?’ I probably look half okay because I’ve had a quiet year (you know, like most of everyone), I take my makeup off with coconut oil and sometimes go to bed at half-nine. I say sometimes, I mean 90% of the time. Don’t judge me, it’s *Covid times.

Father, ‘And what about your love life?’ Man alive, dad, you, particularly, must be fucking sick of asking that question. On a regular year, it’s, at best, sporadic, add a raging pandemic to the equation…

So, as I hurtle towards my sixth decade (that’s another post for another day) I have decided to focus on filling my life with things that bring me joy and not waste another minute writing another dating profile, scrolling through another collection of faces, wasting another penny or hour on a dead end date.

What I want is to fill my life with exhibitions, books, live music (when we can) art, writing and dance classes and workshops… how terribly genteel.

Get my agent on the blower, I’m ready for my part in Bridgerton now.

*to be honest, this will probably continue beyond the current crisis. I bloody love 10 hours of sleep.

Thrifty Fifty New year Dance: the Covid months, pt. 11

So, 2021 is here. Not much different to 2020, is it?

And that is why I don’t do New Year’s Eve. On any regular year I’m not a big fan of la nochevieja as it always feels so hopeful and I’m always gutted when I don’t wake up in my thirties, in my own masía with a comfortable bank balance on January 1st. So this year especially, I could not. be. in. the. slightest. bit. arsed. about. seeing. it. in. Fuck that. Apart from that, this year it felt inappropriate to ‘celebrate’, even in small numbers. I think my sudden conservative sensibilities have been brought on by binge-watching Bridgerton.

For years I’ve enjoyed making my way home before the big night, to enjoy a bit of meditation, light some candles, prepare something nice to eat, have a glass of fizz, reflect on the year that’s passed and think about what I want for the coming year, maybe write some notes, a list, a little incantation. Last year, I was in bed by 10.30pm.

I’m glad I did that.

By January 6th, 2021 had said ‘hold my beer’.

I have no resolutions this year. My failures in years passed simply provided me with a giant stick with which to beat the crap out of myself. Do I have some realistic goals? Yes.

Turning fifty in March without having a breakdown is one.

For a month before my fortieth, I couldn’t control my tears (maybe it’s not a Covid thing after all) and questioned myself and my achievements every waking moment. The tears would start without warning. The number 40 was like a sledgehammer thwacking my skull persistently. Panicking, I had nude photos done; physically, things were still impressively perky. I also sat down in the middle of the street one evening to sob during an after dinner walk with my partner; mentally, things were not. These last ten years have flown, ^takes several deep breaths^.

Along with staying sane during the next few weeks, my projects for this year are to keep a dream diary, they’ve been pretty wild recently, be more creative with my photoaday habit, finish the six books I didn’t complete in 2020 (concentration was at an all time low last year), read more, paint more. One very valuable lesson to come out of 2020 was taking care of my money. Finally. So keeping that in check is a priority. Maybe even saving a little. Imagine. So far, so good. I AM GOING TO SIGN UP TO DANCE CLASSES AS SOON AS IT IS SAFE. Yes, I’m shout typing. I miss dancing. And live music. And both together.

I think just taking one day at a time is good advice and a good start, and at the end of each one, saying, ‘ yay! I got through it.’ Lord knows, even that’s a challenge. Giving ourselves a big fucking break from putting additional pressure on ourselves, while the world around us is still burning, might just help too. It’s what I plan to do.

There are 51 weeks left of this year, folks, go easy on yourselves.

2020 End of Year Review: the Covid months, pt. 10

Aaahhh, remember the Dolly Parton Challenge 160 years ago? That was fun.

I posted —>>>> on the 1st January on Instagram and, as they say over on the Twitter, ‘this aged well’.

It was the year I bought a beautiful pair of Mary Janes that will never see the light of day now that my formally size 35 feet are 42 – sideways. There is an upside to the giant feet though; they now perfectly support my also newly giant, not leaving the house body. Swings and roundabouts. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their shock retirement from Royal Family life and right about now, it feels like we should be looking at photos of Archie graduating with a master’s and reading about him being groomed to take over the family media empire.

Time has changed shape.

Really though, the apocalyptic Australian bushfires should have been a sign of what was to come. There was the almost war between the USA and Iraq after the US took out their second in command, a Ukrainian passenger plane was downed by the Iranian military, Trump was impeached, the worst plague of locusts in 70 years descended on East Africa, Taal Volcano in the Philippines began erupting, there was an earthquake in Turkey, an avalanche in Kashmir and floods hit Jakarta. In a parallel universe, Gwyneth Paltrow invited us to sniff her bits. That was just January. ‘You’re welcome’, said 2020. It also said, ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet.’

I went to London for the Lucien Freud exhibition, Sevilla with girlfriends and saw Caitlin Moran in conversation. These five weeks (five weeks!) feel like they happened a hundred years ago.

Then came the plague. We clapped, we cried (more of this later), we were glued to the horror unfolding worldwide. We were equally horrified as we looked on the public killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May, a tragedy that provoked a worldwide outcry and saw millions march in solidarity for equality. It really shouldn’t take this level of devastation to bring us together.

We were confined to life indoors, got furloughed, lost work, but we were joined together in an overwhelming appreciation of those on the frontline, incredulity at the celebrity rendition of Lennon’s Imagine, Houseparty’s fifteen minutes of fame, Zoom quizzes and Tiger King. I firmly believe the only thing Carole Baskin was guilty of was partaking of some heavy duty happy pills, because absolutely no one is that chill about a rumoured murder plot against them. While others were setting up side hustles, I watched the entire Sopranos back catalogue and learned how to play poker.

We adapted quickly to new ways of working and kicked ourselves for not buying shares in Zoom and TikTok. Some of us kicked ourselves for not taking future financial security seriously at any point in their life up to that moment (Me. I did that). While economies crashed and families struggled to feed themselves, the super rich were having a smashing time of it. Kim Kardashian couldn’t put off her 40th birthday celebrations for a minute and spent an estimated $2 million on a private island getaway, where her and 30 friends could, ‘… pretend things were normal just for a brief moment in time’, Jeff Bezos busily capitalised on the tragedy of the pandemic to become the world’s first quajillionaire and Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched four astronauts into orbit in what seemed to say, ‘I see your superhuman science efforts to develop a vaccine to counter the current world health crisis and raise you a futile and needlessly extravagant rocket launch’. The latter also became a father to little X Æ A-12. Don’t ask.

The conspiracy theorists veritably exploded with joy at the ensuing chaos. I’ve never seen a collective ejaculation before, but there it was right in front of our eyes on the news. They were so excited. Finally, it was their moment, their most fruitful year to date. I mean, it literally all had to be a deep state operation of a magnitude none of us could even begin to imagine, to brainwash us with magic bat juice made in a lab and distributed via 5G megawaves through our phones and the forthcoming microscopic control chip vaccine, fed to us by cannibal politicians (and George Soros), right? Right? The Whitehouse was leaking like a tap without a washer (yeah, I know stuff), but all the above, yeah that, that was successfully kept under wraps. That’s one hell of an NDA.

**

Talking of questionable male behaviour (this will make sense when you read the footnote), reformed sex addict Russell Brand was quick to jump on Cardi B’s somewhat controversial record (but was it, was it really?) to offer his opinion, and literally everyone could see the hypocrisy of that except him. He was in great company (!), as the alt-right came out in droves to denounce it, sounding off about the inappropriateness of a woman talking about her sexuality so explicitly. Some might say that the lyrics simply mirror the overtly sexual lyrics uttered by male rappers for decades. Some might say.

MURDER HORNETS. That is all.

The last quarter seemed reluctant to relent in the year that just kept on giving (us palpitations) and November gifted us an epic find of more than 100 well-preserved Egyptian coffins dating back 2,500 years, discovered in Saqqara Necropolis. In any normal year this would be pretty exciting stuff, but we were all so disastered out, and had become so suspicious and jumpy, that in unison we cried, ‘NOT NOW ANCIENT EGYPTIAN CURSE!’ I don’t think any one of us would have been surprised if they had unleashed some ancient evil into the world. 2020 innit. Continuing on the never ending rollercoaster journey from hell that had been this year’s events, we came out of the potential curse trough to climb to another Dolly Parton peak with the revelation that she had donated to Moderna’s vaccine research; and it was finally confirmed that angels really do walk among us. I don’t think anyone could have foreseen they’d be masquerading as brassy country music stars.

DONALD TRUMP WAS VOTED OUT and the circle was complete. Even if Joe Biden, who at the age of 2,102 is the oldest President elect ever, he successfully ousted the angry orange lunatic. More exciting than that though, is history making Kamala Harris, who will be the first female Black and South Asian American to become (Vice) President. As Julia Louis-Dreyfus said, ‘Make sure to wear shoes, ladies. There’s glass everywhere’.

So, what has 2020 left me with, apart from mysophobia, giant feet and a fat arse? Well, it appears that I have very much lost the ability, as I suspect have many others, to control my tears. The rocky road that is this year has opened a portal to a never ending reservoir of saltwater. It’s a wonder I’m not dangerously dehydrated. I mean, I watched the Christmas Chronicles (1 and 2), one of which I paused while I made a coffee, because I really wanted to see how it ended, and I cried. Happy/sad/good/evil/puppy/BLM protest rescue hero/sleepy/no Quality Streets – it all makes me cry. I fear the portal will never close and I’ll be that woman you approach in the street to see if she’s OK because she’s alone and sobbing, only to discover she simply saw a particularly beautiful golden autumn leaf fall to the ground. Never. Happened.

As the weirdest year in our history (I hope) comes to a close, a tiny glimmer of light can be seen as vaccine programmes are rolled out around the globe. However, I am being cautious with my optimism. I’ve vowed to never say, ‘this is it, this is the year!’ ever again. I’m just going to let it roll over quietly, a seamless transition from ’20 to ’21 without recognition or celebration and keep my head down. I hope it’s going to be better. That’s as much as I’m willing to proffer.

I think it’s enough.

**There was a paragraph here about the Prince Andrew interview. As this year has been so long and the concept of time and space distorted so much, I genuinely thought it was in November 2020! ^adds accomplishment badge for fake news to Scout collection^.

Bailey’s podcast PJs sleep: the Covid months, pt. 9

I am ready for the Christmas break.

I feel like I need to sleep for a week. Bearing in mind I’ve spent the best part of this year in pyjamas, this seems strange. I’ve become obsessed with pjs. The only clothing I’m interested in is pyjamas, the only thing I am vaguely stoked to look for in the sales in the new year is pyjamas. Oh, and maybe trainers. Can’t get enough pyjamas. New pyjamas are my new (jim) jam. I may never wear anything else again. Pyjamas, pyjamas, pyjamas. And trainers.

I think I’m borderline hysterical…

December began with a few lovely things coming in the post including cards and a bottle of the Christmas staple, Bailey’s. Thanks, bro. They’re all under the tree; except the Bailey’s, obvs. That’s been routinely ingested in its base form, in coffee, hot chocolate, on ice cream and cornflakes. That’s okay, right? Because: Christmas. I may not be going to the U.K. this year for the holidays, but there are some Brit traditions I’ll be absolutely maintaining – the snacking and the boozing. Chocolate peanuts for breakfast anyone? I’ll be honest, I am quite surprised (proud) I haven’t ripped into the presents, given I lasted to only the 9th December in the advent calendar. I’d like to say, ‘See Santa, I am a good girl!’, but the Christmas dessert drink I poured in my afternoon coffee on my break before the last class on Friday put paid to that.

December also began with a couple of non-dates and being featured on the marvellously funny Don’t Take Bullsh*t from F*ckers podcast, which was recommended to me recently by a friend. I wrote in about my Facebook vigilante date after they requested weird first date stories and there it was, the next week. And the next. And the one after that, when they asked me to phone in with more details after I told them, ‘…the vigilante story is just the tip of that date iceberg’. They really got a hold of it. Let me tell you though, chaps, this one date is just the tip of my whole dating iceberg. I was delighted they thought it was worthy of inclusion.

The fruitless dating has contributed to my fatigue for sure. In my intensive search for someone to hug, the emotional investment of the monotony of the first date hamster wheel is immeasurable and I’m tired. Damn you all the way to hell Covid, for making me crave human contact after a year of not dating. I could write a book just about my first dates that would rival War and Peace. If you laid all my first dates end to end they’d circle a fully formed relationship 100 times. I used to think that if you threw enough shit, some of it would eventually stick, but it turns out that if my life was actually backed up behind a fatberg, there still wouldn’t be enough of it to find a decent, compatible human. When does a first date become a second? I mean that’s what gets me excited. Not imagining a future together, just the idea of seeing the same cool person one other time. And, if dreams really do come true, once more after that. Simply one foot in front of the other. That’s a challenge in itself. Can you even imagine? Meeting someone worthy of a second date, who also wants to see you too, is as rare as rocking horse shit.

Quite a poo-heavy post, isn’t it? Apologies.

And the only guy I really clicked with, the funny, interesting one did some weird freak out shit and disappeared, after telling me we needed to curb our enthusiasm. What the hell is that?! I mean, WHY? I haven’t been enthusiastic about anyone since 1913, let me have this moment. And remember the unit with cute crow’s feet? Don’t worry if not, there have been a lot of men and nicknames, to be fair. Well, he text to say he wanted to chat. You know, the one who said he’d be in touch if his tempestuous relationship definitively ended? Well, he called to propose that we just hook up for sex while he maintained his on-off relationship. I mean, it was hard to resist, you know? But refuse is what I did, like this, ‘yeah, I can’t meet you tomorrow as I’m busy doing nothing and enjoying my own company’.

So, Christmas Eve I’m off to my friend’s for dinner with two other friends, well within the six maximum, home just after midnight before I turn into a pumpkin and the temporarily extended Christmas Eve curfew kicks in, wake up Christmas morning, Zoom the shit outta the day, cook a trad British Christmas lunch for me and my furry buddy and fall asleep in front of a Christmas movie. Then it’s a traditional local cannelloni dish on the 26th with the leftovers. I’m fully embracing what I’ve got to work with, and I’m actually really looking forward to it.

Under the circumstances, it’s not all bad…

Rollercoaster ID Hug: the Covid months, pt. 8

SOMEBODY FUCKING HUG ME already! For the love of sweet baby Jesus (topical) and all that is holy in the world, including mother Mary, and the universe, HUG ME! I’m imagining that this intense desire, deep within a place I didn’t know existed in me, is akin to the craving women get for babies. Am I in the right area? Even vaguely? Ballpark? No?? It’s literally eating at me. I don’t think I’ve experienced anything like it in my life. Ever.

While carefully navigating the overwhelming urge to hurl myself under the nearest armpit and throw my arms around random waists in the street, I’ve also navigated the final stages of the whole sorry Brexit shit show. After four and a half years of nagging worry that haunted my dreams, I went to the immigration office this week and applied for the TIE (Tarjeta de Identificación de Extranjeros). I can expect to pick it up after Christmas. It’s almost always an anticlimax, isn’t it, major stuff like this. Like when my divorce lawyer called me up twenty years ago to say my decree absolute had arrived, there was no chorus of angels. The least I expected was a majorette band outside on the grass, when I emerged triumphant with the confirmation letter in my hot little hand.

It’s only down to the goodwill of the Spanish government that we don’t have a more arduous application process, like that the British government has demanded of our counterparts over in the U.K. Or like the one in France. What a sad, sad and completely unnecessary state of affairs. Really. Personally sorted or not, it’s still utterly heartbreaking.

HUG ME! I don’t actually know what to do with myself now, truth be told. I wanted (want) to cry, laugh like a hyena, sleep for a year, hug someone and have someone hug me back (and mean it), kiss the top of my head and say how happy they are for me that it’s done and dusted. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. I’m also sure there are people who just breezed through these last years without a care and I applaud them. I don’t expect anyone to try and understand why it affected me quite as much as it did, you just have to accept. This is my home. From that invitation nine years ago to come and give it a shot, I chose it. My work is here. My home is here. My life is here. I want this life that I started to build at forty to be forever. It’s a huge relief.

So, I can finally relax and start enjoying the little things again, and where better to start than with the holiday season. The timing couldn’t be better. Christmas is coming and the Pank is getting fat. But honestly, that’s got more to do with peri-menopause and my 40,000 calorie/day lockdown diet than the festive run up.

As COVID-19 has well and truly pissed on everyone’s festive chips this year, I’ll be spending my first Christmas in Barcelona and honestly, I’m really looking forward to it. HUG ME!

My tree is up. I mean, fuck it, why not? This year sucks enough and a little bit of sparkle can really lift the spirits. I’ve started sitting in my Christmas jumper watching Christmas movies and drinking mulled wine on the reg. I bought myself a liddle treat from Sephora on Black Friday. HUG ME! When I say liddle, I mean liddle. Touche Eclat was on offer and I hadn’t bought anything for myself all year and Zoom is a bitch, so, you know. I’m looking forward to getting my Christmas shopping done this weekend as that always puts me in the mood and I popped into town just to see the lights.

This year has been an epic rollercoaster of emotions for everyone (probably except Trump and Johnson and any other cold-blooded people with stone hearts) that I hope to say is a once in a lifetime occurrence. I’m not religious, but I pray it is a once in a lifetime occurrence. I’ve cried a lot. More often when nothing sad was happening, like when looking at tubs of Ben & Jerry’s in the supermarket and in the passport photo place. OK, that one was absolutely justified. Seeing my moon face gracing a big screen, visible to everyone, was pretty upsetting actually. I imagine that for the next few festive weeks, there are going to be a lot more tears. Covid numbers, poverty, families separated during the holidays, cute puppies, utter stupidity, lovers in the street, Christmas songs, friends’ new babies and everything in between. I’m just going to try and ride it.

The pandemic has been seismic, enough trauma for any one year, but it isn’t unique in terms of monumental happenings. There has been so much more. It’s been a year of absolute emotional contradictions: I have felt at times, both profoundly connected and painfully lonely, impotent, scared, euphoric and desperate, high, manic and hysterical and useless all at once.

I know I’m not the only one, and it is there that we find our universal humanity and are most intrinsically connected.

NIE TIE Sexy Flu: the Covid months, pt. 7

I have a mild dose of the flu after getting the jab this week. I figure that, combined with COVID antibodies, my superpowers should be kicking in right…about…now. I’m really stoked to see what I have. Eye lasers? Would love those. Invisibility? Could be fun. Ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound? Meh. Knowing my luck, it’ll just be a very slightly enhanced ability to underwhelm. Probably. Underwhelm, but in a cape. obvs.

While I’ve been eagerly awaiting my powers to reveal themselves, I’ve also been languishing in the notion that the Spanish government had granted us the right to remain and languishing in the notion that they said our current residence card, the NIE, will continue to be valid until such time we decide to change it to the TIE. Of course, I don’t know anyone who isn’t mildly irritated by bureaucracy, but I find it massively overwhelming, so the languishing and lack of urgency suited me… until I read a Twitter thread that explained that none of the above was strictly the case. There’s a deadline. Of course there is. I hadn’t bothered to check.

Cue sleepless nights, panic Spanish blindness (an inability to understand anything I am reading due to the buzzing in my brain and palpitations in my chest), hot flushes and panic attacks. The end of November is here and I am frantically organising all the paperwork and the appointment to get said card in a global pandemic with reduced dates and times available and printers closed so no access to the paperwork to take with me. And Christmas is coming.

Fuck me and my laurel resting. Really.

In amongst the superpowers speculation and mild meltdowns, dating has well and truly ground to a halt. It got to the point where the only remaining options were abject lunatics or ghosts.

The ‘shall I come round right now?!’ guys, ‘…or you could come HERE!!’. Umm, no thanks murdery Joe. And the guy who makes you question if they were actually real or an apparition, because they disappear for weeks after the initial sighting, only revealing themselves when they haunt your WhatsApp every couple of weeks, thinking that’s enough to get them laid.

The last phone number has been dated, the most interesting (funny and sexy) guy I’ve chatted to in months. Maybe years. Maybe *decades. And even though it was great fun, honestly – apathy was the only vibe I got from him. And that, my friends, is a big ol’ kick in the slats ego. Let me tell you. The ‘I’d like to see you again, but I won’t say when’ guy. Seriously, what’s a girl gotta do to make an impact? Seriously, I’m asking.

As time ticks on and nothing transpires from any dating endeavour, I am honestly beginning to believe that men are scared of words and love. (This might be the title of the novel I’ll never write.) On a serious note though, I sincerely hope we never have to go to war again – you know, with like, actual bullets and bombs and stuff that can really kill you dead – coz I got news for ya people, we got problems if we do.

So what’s next in the longest year that never was? Well, the bars and restaurants are opening again on Monday so I expect I’ll be gorging myself on food and booze until such time it all shuts down again. (Reader, I won’t).

But, the light is beautiful right now as the nights draw in and the temperature drops, my little adventures up hills are keeping me out of trouble, for the most part, I’ve been to a couple of great exhibitions and my furry partner in crime is getting snuggly for hibernation season. And I want to paint. Man, do I want to paint. The need for that is almost as deep as my urgent need for hugs.

Let’s see what lands on the canvas. Could be interesting.

*Relax. This is a humour blog. I exaggerate and elaborate. ^insert wink gif here^

Apps Walks Possibility Hope: the Covid months, pt. 6

Dating apps deactivated.

I mean, what is the actual point? Without even factoring in the tedium and predictability of 90% of the matches’ chat; with new Covid measures in place here, it’s impossible to simply meet for a coffee in the middle of the day, let alone go for tapas and drink wine into the night.

Two weeks ago an absolute unit of an older guy with a gorgeous smile and beautiful crows feet suggested flasks and a walk on the beach. As dates go, I’ll admit it seemed kind of inventive and spontaneous and something I know my 30-year old self would have absolutely dismissed out of hand. I said ‘let’s do it’ and took a moment to applaud myself for my impressive personal growth. If I were still in therapy, I’d totally blow that trumpet. Two days later, the unit called to explain he had actually only had an argument with his girlfriend and pissed-offedly opened an account. But you know, ‘if he definitively broke up with her, I should be in no doubt he’d be in touch’. Why, monsieur, you are really spoiling us. ^blushes coyly, grabs fistful of Ferrero Rocher^. I wished him all the best and took a moment to applaud his chutzpah; and myself, yet again, for my impressive personal growth in doing so.

I’d also got to a place where I was repeating over and over the same lines like a robot to the same uninventive questions, to the point where I actually copied them into notes so I could paste them later when I had to inevitably answer the interview style barrage of predictable enquiries of another ‘match’. I mean, what do you say to the tenth (twentieth) guy who asks, ‘so, what are you looking for here?’ (Read: I’m here for the sexual japes, don’t get too excited.) Eventually, something along these exasperated lines was my response:

‘I’m interested in possibilities. I’d like to go out for drinks, or whatever, with men without the pressure of that question looming over me. Like in the old days, remember? When, before you even arrived in the restaurant/bar/wherever, the person hadn’t asked to see your tits, if you are looking for a serious relationship or demanded a guarantee of sex otherwise “what’s the point of me meeting you”. I’d like to chat about art and movies and life and jazz and see what transpires. That’s what I’m looking for. Ok?’

I think actual speed records were achieved by some of the disconnections. What do you think it was? Probably the jazz.

God bless a charming man who doesn’t mention his penis/sex within ten words. With whom conversations flow and hours pass with no effort at all. Who makes me laugh. Those are the guys who excite me. Sadly they are few and very, very, very far between. As rare as rocking horse shit, some might say.

I thought I should fill the ‘dating’ void by sticking pins in my eyes. I mean fuck it, why not, it’s 2020. News. That’ll do it: a constant stream of news. I went to bed on Tuesday 3rd November grasping on to a tiny sliver of hope. I woke up on Wednesday 4th with a nagging sense of doom in the pit of my stomach but the sliver was also still in tact. I’m writing this on Wednesday night no closer to knowing the outcome of the US election, worrying along with the rest of the sane world. Yet still, somehow, I am feeling minutely hopeful. What? It’s a thing. *Minute Hope™ might be all we have left.

Let’s just see how that turned out by the time you read this.

The other thing I’m currently addicted to filling my spare time with, which is a much healthier way to spend it than dating, the attempt thereof or waiting for the tyrant wotsit to be ousted, is hiking (gently strolling). It’s taken me the promise of a permanent home from the Spanish government after the uncertainty of Brexit and the prospect of being in one place for a long time to get up at the crack of dawn to go up Collserola or Montjuic. Seeing the entire city, the mountains and the sea from such a peaceful perspective while the sun comes up is breathtaking. It’s almost as if, in all the time I didn’t do this, I was disallowing myself to fall any more in love with this place in order to prevent another broken heart when I had to leave it.

Not as if; that’s exactly what it was.

*watch Etsy et al. for future ‘Minute Hope™‘ merch.

I’m an avatar, Steve: the Covid months, pt. 5

You know how, like, everyone has been starting a side hustle or a business or redecorated or got a new hobby or, like, whatever? Well, I’ve decided to learn how to play poker. #smugface #lifeskills

I’ve been threatening to do it since Victoria Coren Mitchell won a major prize a few years back and then my good friend sent me her memoir, For Richer, For Poorer and I thought, ‘I mean, when better than in the middle of a global pandemic, in which I nearly lost every penny and my job, to take up a sharky game of risk?’

I’ll tell you one thing I have learnt these last couple of weeks in the fake casino – hetero men will literally have a crack at anything. I’m an avatar. I’m an average looking avatar at that. Can you believe I actually policed my fake appearance to deter unwanted attention?

It’s a free app with free chips, which you can earn by watching promo videos and accumulating ‘friends’ etc. as well as winning. But apparently that means immediate sex chat or attempts thereof. Marc Maron said it best in his last Netflix special End Times Fun – just take it back a notch, chaps. Push vagina to between number three and five after, ‘hey, how you doing?’ ‘Man alive, what a year!’ or, ‘I’m reading this great book at the moment.’……… ‘VAGINA’. Dudes, you’re horny for a cartoon character in a *funny money fake casino. ‘Ave a word, will ya.

In other news, I met my never-would-sext-an-avatar-in-an-app **ex last week in order to sign my apartment lease for the next few years. Having been vehemently opposed to Crocs, Birkenstock’s and trainers-as-not-gym-shoes for as long as I can remember, I took a teeny bit of pleasure in the fact that I was wearing my scabby trainers with a cute jumpsuit. He happened to very much like me in heels, as I recall, and I definitely saw his gaze drift to my feet a couple times – was it mild disgust or horror I detected? It wasn’t an act of protest, honest guv, I’ve quite simply forgotten how to wear real shoes on my actual feet. It is my honest intention to never wear them ever again if I can help it. How have I survived this long without realising that comfort trumps style every time? My ex and I parted ways with the now customary Covid times, two-metre air kisses; he with a bottle of wine I gifted him by way of a thank you for co-signing, me with a little spring in my step.

The contract was a big deal. It means that I will actually be in the same place for a whole ten years by the end of the current contract (because let’s face it, nothing radical will change in my personal life any time soon. See recent blog posts), and that seems bloody incredible to me. It actually feels like a home and not simply somewhere I’ll exist until the next big pack up.

After signing the contract, I wrote a list. I wrote a list of all the addresses I’d inhabited since I was nineteen years old. They numbered fourteen. That’s a change of address approximately every 2.142 years. I was supposed to be doing work admin, which will account for my enthusiasm for the list, and honestly – certain other aspects of my life started to very much add up on the back of it.

Enjoying the thought of actually having a home rather than simply four walls couldn’t come at a better time as the Spanish and Catalan governments impose new measures including curfews and potential full-on lockdowns again. Making my ‘new’ home cosy is at the top of my priority list. Hunker down folks, me thinks it’s going to be a long winter.

What is it they say, ‘be careful what you wish for’…?

*I might actually give the real thing a go – current winnings total 1.9million on the 20,000 initial chips.

**My ex’s signature was necessary at the start of the first contract (and for the renewal) I had in this flat, as apparently a freelance woman who presents a six-year work history, two references and offers to pay six months of deposit isn’t quite trustworthy enough.