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.

Chat maths equestrian dick: the Covid months, pt. 4

‘Uff, yes, this year has been terrible. Especially for a man like me, who is very sexual.’

In the words of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, ^Big sigh. Huge^. I may be paraphrasing.

Yes. Yes, I’m absolutely sure it’s been an awful time for *checks notes* your penis.

Just remind me, this is 2020, right? The year isn’t over yet and a million people have died so far, no? Yep, thought so. I’d hazard a guess, it’s probably been pretty bad for the families of those guys. Maybe medical professionals too. And those who have lost their jobs. But, you know, poor you.

‘I like sex.’ Well, yes, I suppose you do. There’s probably some statistics somewhere that verify a really high percentage of people do. And let’s face it, we ‘met’ on Tinder, so I pretty much had that all figured out. Come on dude, you’re an academic, you could probably quote sex statistics at me. (You probably will at some point.) Also, you could possibly tell me something more interesting, maybe about why you are standing in front of a whiteboard with an incomprehensible equation on it and what it means. Por ejemplo. This guy told me he couldn’t believe how many women actually said in their profiles that they weren’t interested in sex. I proffered that maybe, if they were anything like me, they were just absolutely fucking exhausted by second sentence sex chat. And also like me they do like sex and just want it to happen organically. One night, one date, whatever, whenever – just organically.

Just in case you were wondering, the not so subtle sex mentions came in response to such things as, ‘Hey! Nice to connect. How you doing?’, ‘What a batshit crazy year this is’ and, ‘so, where were you in Russia? I’ve never been, but it’s on my list’.

I connected with this guy because he seemed interesting; travel, martial arts, maths equations and a twinkle in his eye. That is attractive. This is the outstanding date guy from my last blog post. When I say outstanding, I don’t mean ‘exceptionally good’ (information extracted from Oxford Dictionary on 10/10/2020). He is the second man in as many months to say, ‘…I’m going to seduce you.’

Uh oh, Simon Cowell just called and he wants his ❌ back.

If you warn me about it, you are not doing it! Seduction, by definition, is subtle. Not bludgeoning someone over the head. Someone do workshops with these guys. Please. In fact, I’m going to call up the hot French boy and give him that million dollar idea. Again. Now he seduced me. I just did a big swoon. Five years later and thinking about it still has that effect.

Don’t. tell. me. about. it. Just do it already!

You’re really attractive – ok.

I bet you’re really dangerous ^purple face horny emoji^ – not ok.

If by dangerous you mean so clumsy that I could trip over my own feet on the way back to the table with two glasses of wine and accidentally stab you in the jugular with one of them, then yeah, I guess I am.

In fact, it just dawned on me, maybe it’s not trying to steer a conversation that way that annoys the shit out of me per se, but the cheesy freakin’ lines. Thinking back to that night in the Born, the French boy said, really close to my ear while we were standing at the noisy bar after chatting for a couple of hours, ‘I’d like to spend the night with you.’ He was direct and his delivery sexy and he immediately held my gaze so intensely that I’m sure I felt my ovaries try to rip themselves free of me right there and then and attach themselves to his face, like Alien.

So, maybe it is the cheesy bullshit that gets my goat.

Science guy tried to steer it towards sexy chat approximately every two messages. I batted it away like a lardy cricketer from the seventies – with not enough force to make any real impact. So ineffective were my efforts that I finally had to literally say, ‘if you want to get on me, stop hinting you want to get on me. Not once in my life has great sex happened as a result of someone telling me that.’ Don’t make me type and actually send that message.

Annoyed, I logged in to an app again last night, in sheer frustration. There must be someone out there who can have an interesting conversation without mentioning their dick. Surely.

Ooh, hello Madrileño in breeches…

Breeches? Yeah, yeah, I’m a sad cliché, I know. But I’m happy being a cliché if I can just get a NORMAL CONVERSATION without a ‘cock’ being mentioned or a 😈. Seriously, just tell me about your tiny pony.

But you know what, sexy as this guy is, in his shiny, knee-high boots, and as much as I am fantasising about the possibility of him actually wearing this exact same outfit to meet me and what might happen as a result, I think I can manage to have a brief text conversation without actually saying that or telling him how sad my vagina has been during confinement.

Wine mask antibodies kiss: the Covid months, pt. 3

‘I’m in a Facebook organised vigilante group that hunts down pickpockets on the Metro.’

So began my latest foray into dating.

It’s been more than a year since I last mustered even a hint of enthusiasm for it. Goddam you all the way to Hell, Covid-19 ^shakes tiny fist at the heavens^. I finally arrived at a point, six months in to this crazy situation, where even I, a huge fan of solitude, was deeply craving an enormous bear hug. Like, an all-encompassing, totally-enveloping, buried-under-the-armpit, squeeze-the-life-outta-ya, kiss-the-top-of-your-head hug. I knew something was up when, sitting with a friend chatting over brunch, I couldn’t stop staring over her shoulder at a guy in the doorway of the bar. He had beautiful arms. Big, beautiful, perfect-for-hugging arms. The rest of him? Oh yeah, that was good too. But those arms. I signed up that afternoon.

I quite surprised myself this time by trying a couple of different, recommended apps and hanging in there for a whopping five weeks.

But trying to unearth that elusive creature, the tolerable other that you could potentially have around on the day-to-day, like most things in life, requires discipline. I admire hugely, those who look at dating as a project and work through the endless chaff methodically to arrive at the wheat. One lung full of chaff dust and I am usually outta there. Five weeks felt like a lifetime.

After the vigilante, who, by the way, also likes to go to conspiracy theory conferences for sport, I had a date with a guy who seemed chunky in his photos. When he arrived, it was evident he weighed half of me, but the chat was pretty good, so you know, we had a couple of glasses of wine. We moved to a different place for one last glass and as we arrived at the terrace table, I sat opposite-not-next-to him. Bearing in mind it was a *first date, there was little spark and we are in the middle of a GLOBAL PANDEMIC, I was more than a little surprised when he asked without a hint of irony, ‘Why the distance?’. It suddenly felt like we were a couple of several years having some problems. Thank all the Gods for government-sanctioned social distancing requirements. No inventive excuses needed. He wanted to kiss me. I wondered if he had the same daredevil attitude to condoms. I hadn’t even told him about my **dubious immunity.

I’ll be honest, it hasn’t been so different to dating any other time. Apart from the masks, endless apocalypse chat and the antibodies certificates. There were some familiar faces online, some new ones (apparently due to increased separations caused by a forced sharing of space for six months) and the inevitable gaggle of weirdos.

A profile picture of a guy bound and gagged on the floor of a wooded area. A still from a movie, granted, but Jesus Christ… Talking of which, a priest (apparently). Timothy, well, Timothy you can see above. A guy whose blurb read, ‘allergic to frivolity and consumerism. I keep 32 dental pieces. Able to fly underwater. No criminal record.’, a photo of a guy pointing a rifle directly into the camera and lovely, naked Eric (pictured); a man who seemed to have a serious problem keeping his clothes on.

There were a few, professional looking, black and white photos of Eric in various states of undress. In this one, he’d wandered into the forest where his pants exploded off, leaving him in only a mangled jockstrap and in the ensuing chaos, he’d got tangled up in his shirt. My personal favourite was the one where poor Eric must have been so dirty after work one day that he couldn’t even be bothered to take his shirt and tie off before getting in the shower, where his trousers fell down, he got the horn and decided to gently touch the tiles with the tip of his semi-erect penis, visible through his wet dad pants. Eric had written nothing in his bio. Maybe he was explaining his life through the medium of mime. One thing I did know, is that I could never date Eric, HELL no. I imagined the horror of popping to the bathroom and coming back to find him starkers, straddling an ornamental potted bush.

But, it’s not been all bad. I have one last contact to meet; and the absolutely best thing? Meeting a guy who was on the periphery of my social circle during my London days. We are absolutely certain that we bumped into each other back then, because apparently, this small world is the size of a golf ball. He’s totally adorable and we are in touch as friends. And I got my hug.

We both have antibodies.

*I don’t have any strict rules about first dates, I really don’t, but there has to be at least some chispas.

**dubious, only because no one knows if antibodies are forever.

Book film butterfly moth: the Covid months, pt. 2

I didn’t really want lock down to end. There. I said it. I kind of liked it. Except for the poverty and desperation.

I want to do the things I should have done the first time round. I had plans. Big plans. (Loathe to admit it as I am, the Twitter, discipline millionaire dude was kind of right – we might not be gifted this time again). Damn him. I was going to write, set up a website, blah, blah. Of course, I didn’t expect the lockdown to last quite so long. I don’t think any of us saw that coming. I took out a small, cheap loan to see me through a month. Two months later, I was getting creative with dried pasta and a stock cube and looking at the *cat funny.

When I started to feel better, I thought, ‘Right! Time to emerge like a beautiful butterfly.’ I planned to exercise daily. I came out the other side like a moth. One of those massive, hairy-ass ones that scares the living bejeezus outta ya. Never mind the Llandudno goats, nature has well and truly returned – on me. Razor, scissors, nail varnish? Do me a favour. I’ve gone feral.

I lost, I’d guess, three/four kilos during the five weeks I had and was recovering from the virus. I don’t have scales, because I never want to see the numbers. I’ve gained god knows how much in the time since. I mean, sweet, bouncy Joe Wicks was leading seven million people around the globe, daily, in his PE with Joe. Free.

I wasn’t one of them.

The sense of optimism was buoying. People kept bandying around words like ‘reset’, ‘reboot’ and ‘restart’. All the REs. We showed love and appreciation for really important people. The daily clap for healthcare workers was the highlight of my days. I cried almost every night. I felt connected. It was beautiful. Damn! I even got to meet neighbours across our balconies and across the street during those moments, I hadn’t seen or spoken to before.

I liked the idea of finding other ways to communicate. There was the elbow bump, some suggested a polite bow, as the Japanese. I have pretty much embraced the curtsy. To be fair, it’s something I’ve been trialing for some time, along with formal greetings such as ‘Miss T’, ‘Sir’ and ‘Lady F’. Now I had the perfect excuse to roll it out formally.

I did a lot of one things. I:

– watched one movie. Concentration didn’t (doesn’t) even extend to a paltry 90 minutes. World War Z might not have been my best decision given that 2020 could literally present anything and I probably wouldn’t blink. ‘Zombies?! ^throws up arms^ Of course, it’s 2020.’ It could have been worse, it could have been Contagion. I mean, there’s a poor choice when you’re actually living a global pandemic. #1 on Netflix. Human beings are very weird.

– read one book. I took Adults to the hospital with me as I’d been warned it could take some time. By the time I was discharged 30 hours later, between the jabs and wires and swabs, I’d read 90% of it. It kept me sane and distracted. That was the end of March. I finished it on Saturday this week.

– did one stretch.

– did one sketch. I saw a lovely black and white photo of a dancer. I liked his lines. I thought, ‘that’s nice’, got my pencils out, sketched it, popped everything away and posted it on Instagram. It got 30 likes. It’s not surprising really. Looking at it now, it’s clear to see, it was very much half-arsed.

Hours. We…. Had….. Hours…. And……. Hours.

– attended one protest. A peaceful gathering with a talk, taking the knee and Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech. I cried. Again. We were one.

– attended one online chat with a comedian and a writer.

– attended one online short film presentation.

– watched one series from the pilot to the finale.

– attended one local government webinar.

Although this list is more extensive than I thought it would be when I started writing it, when you add up the actual hours (with the exception of the series) it pretty much equates to the time it takes to blink.

I discovered that PEOPLE HAVE STUFF IN THEIR HOUSES THAT THEY DON’T EVEN IMMEDIATELY NEED. Like flour and **baking powder and saucepans.

Mind. Blown.

I want us to have more time. It feels like the inspiration we found in our shared humanity is already slipping away. Our appreciation of glimpses of nature, a life less rushed, more peaceful, more valued, an opportunity to make changes. Things are returning too quickly to the way they were; even quicker than I thought they might. In the time it’s taken Edward Enninful to turn around his ‘Reset’ August edition of Vogue, people have already forgotten to what he refers. My anxious self is bracing for no longer having lockdown as a valid reason to take it easy.

In one of the first returning classes I had online, I hazarded a guess that it would be six months before it was a hazy memory for most. One of my students said I was an idiot.

It seems he was right.

*I was not looking at the cat funny. Of course I wasn’t. I fed him before myself. I was the more likely of the two of us to be discovered with a half-eaten face. (Not restricted to global pandemics).

** I have this now to accompany the thermometer, glass water bottle and iodine in the cupboard marked ‘adult’.

Jobless Sleepless Pantless Cake: the Covid months, pt.1

Well, I don’t think any of us can deny, it’s been a wild ride.

Sitting with two friends in a cafe in London, back in January, there was much talk of new clients, new contracts and full diaries. Even after many, many years of saying, ‘let’s never say again, “this is going to be the year”‘ after literally all of those years fell flat; we said it.

Well, here we are. Three and a half months later, the global economy is bust, unemployment has skyrocketed and the vast majority of us have forgotten how to wear shoes.

A year from fifty, I had committed to not wearing pants and found myself without freelance work within a twenty-four-hour turnaround. With a newly approved consolidation loan, no savings, a lone ball of mozzarella in the fridge and a dry, scratchy cough; it wasn’t looking good.

A few days later, I casually text the WhatsApp group that had planned a Houseparty that I wouldn’t be able to make it, as I was in the hospital waiting for a Covid-19 test. I did a ring round of the inner circle to let them all know. I was all very matter-of-fact. If anything, I was mildly irritated. There’s a lot to unpack about my approach to serious illness that’s best broached with a professional.

Thirty hours later I was sent home with the drugs and an instruction pack about COVID pneumonia treatment and aftercare after battling against admission to the hospital on the grounds that I was already three weeks in to feeling ropey, past the worst, had got myself to the hospital and there were others more deserving of any beds that should become available any time soon.

I also cried about my cat being left in the house alone. I’m that woman now. I had slept for only two of the thirty hours and was so hysterical, a kindly medic, forever known as ‘Doctor Cat’, even offered to get a friend of hers to collect my keys and pop in to feed him. I was too ashamed of the mess to permit that to happen.

Well, it had been two weeks of only enough energy to shuffle from bed to sofa and receive Glovo takeaways.

There was a great sense of camaraderie as we all rallied. Online seminars, music and comedy gigs, covideo parties, series recommendations and art classes. We were connected through our shared cake efforts. Marie Antionette would have been proud, we were all bloody eating it. Group chats a-go-go with folk you might not chew the fat with on the reg and hadn’t spoken to since that disastrous school reunion in 2010. That happened once. There’s a reason we don’t maintain contact.

Weirdly, I hadn’t felt this calm since 1957. Jon Ronson mentioned in a tweet that maybe it was because those of us with anxiety had been preparing for this our whole lives. We were ready. I quote tweeted him. He liked it.

Then the fear set in. I was jobless.

Until I started to feel the knot of dread creeping in again, I realised that I hadn’t felt it for four whole weeks; and it had been blissful. They do say, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. It was a beautiful, calm stomach, clear head, peaceful night positive in the craziness. But here we were again. Sleepless.

I baked. I did not:

write a novel

start a side hustle

sign up for a masters

find a cure for Coronavirus

or donate any organs…

…or whatever the hell else the millionaire with no financial worries told us we should all do, over on the Twitter. He said we had no discipline. I said, ‘kiss my arse’.

The ex that I lived with in Liverpool text and asked if I was home. Eeerrrmm, aren’t we all? (Except the half a million people on Bournemouth beach, of course). Once that had been established, he told me he’s going to be a dad. So that’s two of my exes straight outta the Pank finishing school and into the arms of their baby mamas. ^curtsies^

Work picked up again in May, thank all the gods for that small mercy, although it brings with it a raft of other concerns. I keep my jade eye roller to hand at all times because: Zoom. I’ll be recovering financially for the foreseeable future. I’m already bracing myself for a lean August and I’ve written the rest of this year well and truly off. I’ve made my peace with no trips and no visitors…. no drinks with the girls, dinners, sale shopping, house trinkets. Na. Da.

I am pretty gutted that I didn’t have the foresight to buy shares in zoom. I do, however, have an appointment with a new accountant and now own a thermometer, iodine and a corked glass bottle to decant my own filter water, so I guess that means I’m some kind of grown-up.

Thank you global crisis.

International Women’s (Richard Herring) Day 2020

So, here we are again and it’s a sad day indeed…… Richard Herring has announced that this will be his last year of searching out the lazy men of Twitter who can’t be arsed to do a quick Google search, prefer to bemoan International Women’s Day and ask, ‘but when is oooouur day?’, and doggedly directing them to November 19th. I, for one, will be holding a minute’s silence in his honour. ~crosses self, lowers head~, God bless you, sir.

We could do with more of Mr H’s sort. With no concern for his own wellbeing and without fear of undermining his own raw, brutal masculinity, he is very comfortable giving us laydees a leg up. It’s not hard and as far as I know, his years of support haven’t resulted in his penis falling off.

Aside from the online heroics of Lord Herring, things are just peachy, aren’t they ladies? Ladies?? ~echoes ring into the distance ~. Yeeeeaaah, they are. No more fighting to be heard, no more catcalling in the street, no more dismissive attitudes in the boardroom or Twitter mansplaining. I don’t know what happened this year, but something changed and it feels good.

Aaah, who am I kidding? Not you guys, that’s for sure.

In fact, it was only last Sunday that I was reading how the UK government tried to block Mary Beard, Britain’s best known classicist, from being appointed a trustee of the British Museum. Now, that would probably be due to her pro-EU views, one might argue, and one might be right in assuming that. But then you would have to look to other appointments (Grayson Perry, for example, also pro-EU) and wonder why they chose to attempt to veto apparently mild-mannered, sweet, little grey-haired old lady, giant-brained, opinionated Mary. It might also be interesting to note, that Mary won round an audience in a debate against Johnson in 2015, discussing the contribution of the Romans to the world, as opposed to the Greeks for whom the then Mayor of London argued. But that’s by the by…….. we suspect.

Whatevs – burn the witch.

But, but Harvey Weinstein is going to jail! And while that is true, and is of course a great step forward, it took dozens and dozens of women coming forward to secure just two guilty verdicts. He will return to receive his sentence on the 11th of this month. Yeah, let’s see how that goes (minimum five years, actual sentence five years). Should I place a bet?

The same weekend as the Beard story was published, the Bristol Post in the UK took the bold step of publishing the names and faces of half a dozen grown-ass men, who had advocated some form of violence against seventeen-year-old Greta Thunberg, from the safety of their social media accounts.

Grown men. Violence. Seventeen year-old girl.

Whatevs – burn the witch.

She was appearing for School Strike for Climate in the city and tens of thousands of people turned out to hear her speak at College Green. The level of vitriol levelled at Thunberg since she hit the headlines is remarkable and any sane human reading the hateful comments would think she was advocating kicking puppies or something equally sickening, like, you know, actual fascism. It’s weird, because all she wants is that everyone takes a little more care of the ONLY PLANET WE HAVE TO LIVE ON, FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS. ~breathes~. Again, I wonder what exactly it is about the young, tiny woman with opinions that gets those men so riled up….. it really is a puzzle.

I like the Bristol Post, they’re our kind of people. They put six faces, from all the comment writers they had responding to their Thunberg in Bristol story, in their pages slap bang next to their own toxic words. Chaps, if you’re happy to post that shit in the comments section, then I totally expect you have no problem at all with the paper actually printing your names and mugs. Eh, dads? Oh yes, some of them have kids of their own. I wonder what they’d have to say about adults addressing their children the same way. In the article, the paper explained that literally thousands of negative comments had been levelled at Thunberg personally. Thousands. After just one event.

Looking over the water, despite having the credentials and experience to fulfil the role, Elizabeth Warren has sadly just pulled out of the race to become the presidential candidate for the Democrats and I think writer Katy Brand summed it up perfectly with this tweet

Progress, ladies, I think we can agree, is slow.

But there is progress. So, you know, chin up Bristol menfolk, I know you’ll be delighted for your daughters. “As a father of daughters” seems to be a popular segue into some pearl of wisdom connected to women’s issues, because apparently the only way for a particular type of man to see and treat women as humans – is to breed females. (Otherwise, fuck ’em, eh, lads?)

Back to happy. During her trip, Thunberg met with Malala and the photo made my heart burst with hope. Here was Greta with her hero, another woman who had almost been silenced forever in her very simple desire for an education. Wouldn’t you have loved to have been a fly on the wall of that conversation.

And cop a load of Finland, for goodness sake. Sanna Marin, a 34-year-old Social Democrat was sworn in as prime minister at the beginning of December 2019 and now heads a coalition of the four major parties and a cabinet dominated by women. Three of the four party leaders, like her, are under 40. Oh, and she’s a mother to a toddler and the youngest serving premier in the world.

It can be done (I’m looking at you, America), all you need is the will. This makes the UK and the US look like complete amateurs with their creaking systems and political dinosaurs. Note: you don’t have to be old to qualify for this mantle, simply glance in the direction of Jacob Rees-Mogg…..

There were some other good news stories for women and girls – Indonesia lifted the minimum legal age for marriage from 16-19, Mozambique made child marriage punishable by 12 years in prison, Mexico banned it in 31 of 32 states. A UN report stated that in South Asia the practice has almost halved in the last 25 years, from 59% to 39% last year. Also in 2019, Saudi Arabia granted women the right to travel overseas, register marriages, births and divorces, receive family documents, be eligible as guardians to minors and congregate in the same places as men. Which really, when you read that back, seems ludicrous given that we are in the 21st century – but you have to take your victories where you can.

So, ladies (and gents) we have to keep going. Keep fighting the good fight, protesting, writing to MPs, demonstrating, donating to court cases and charities and speaking up. Whatever your contribution, it’s vital. Keep climbing and building and battling and supporting each other and banging on doors and lifting. We have to make things better for everyone.

And guys, why don’t you try taking a leaf out of Mr H’s book, give it a whirl. It doesn’t take much effort to be positive and supportive, even helpful (imagine), and it absolutely won’t affect your baby making equipment in any way. Honest.

Richard Herring’s International Women’s Day effort over the last nine or so years has raised money for Refuge in the United Kingdom. You can donate here: https://tiltify.com/@richard-herring/international-whens-international-mens-day-day

Feb 14, 2020

Another day, another dollar.

Or: another year, another day of somewhat forced reflection as to why I’m still single and not being awoken with a big fat portion of Instagrammable love. You know, a kiss and a coffee and a pain au chocolat flown in from Paris all the while looking forward to a day of pre-planned delicious lunches, epic dinners during the opening (and giving) ceremony that features a raft of presents painstakingly chosen during the exceptionally limited time after the Christmas promotion stops and before the Valentines Day arrives. All documented, of course.

I haven’t dated for a whole year (except for two hours last June) and it’s been pretty cool. I haven’t felt under any pressure, I haven’t depilated and I haven’t had to tolerate the usual dating app crap – you know, the inappropriate questions and comments. In fact, as I discovered this week, the rude questions are just as readily available in real life. So, you know, yay! No, no, you can get those in cafes. I was asked by a chap, after chatting for a few minutes, for my number, which led to the first WhatsApp message being incredibly swiftly followed by ‘Oh! By the way, do you like sex?’ So, no need to even open Tinder. I don’t need to subject myself to oily gym-selfie guy or excessively large tool guy again to get that kind of chat. A spanner. The large tool was a spanner……

I knock off at 14:00, will go to the florist and buy me some flowers, pop to the bodega and get me a cheeky liddle red and the butcher for a nice piece of steak. I’m seriously craving decent red meat……. No puns please. Maybe the date is no coincidence. Tonight I’m going to light me a few candles, get my house trousers on and listen to some tunes while throwing together something French. Then bed in for the night and choose a movie (Terminator: Dark Fate if I can find it. Romantic? You betcha).

Sure. Be nice to feel as excited about getting home to my man as I do about getting home to my cat, but that’s the situation as it is. And, at least I’m actually willing to accept a certain amount of disdain from the cat. Thinking about it now, if I approached men the same way, I might get somewhere. Look. They’re usually all fired up and enthusiastic for approximately five minutes, then they don’t answer your calls, they disappear, absorb all your affection and don’t return it and sometimes they puke on the floor in your hall. No, wait……. that’s just Merlin.

Nah! Forget it, I’m trying to convince myself. Coercion is bad, even when it’s auto. Is that a thing? Did I just invent a new term? If I need to persuade myself that much, then maybe I really am OK and only feel socially obligated to think about it at this time of year. And write about it here, because, you know, it makes for a funny story. PANK still single! PANK crazy cat lady now! PANK hasn’t dated since she scared the living bejesus out of the nice illustrator.

So, for those of you who are loved up – well, good for you – for those of you who want to be loved up and aren’t, I see you, I love you, you are worthy of love and for those of you like me, who simply enjoy not shaving your legs, getting into your house trousers at 8pm and stroking your nonchalant pussy, well, you guys are my tribe.

Cheers to you all. Charge and raise your glasses and celebrate love of all kinds on all days. Especially self-love.

Not that kind.

(Well, maybe just a little bit).

xx

To do list – 2020

• Marry an EU National.

The end

.

.

.

.

Only joking. About the ‘the end’ bit. Obvs. The marriage bit – notsamuch….. Otherwise this would qualify as the shortest (shittest) post I’ve ever written. This is not up for debate.

Nobody seems to be taking me seriously. I’ve been tentatively tabling the idea since June 2016 as follows: ‘Right! Let’s get me good and married.’

I’ve set it as a permanent homework for students since the result of the referendum. I’ve mentioned it to my hairdresser, GP, the man who pays my salary and very much to all the men friends I have. I need a European husband and pretty pronto, given the current timeline of Bozo and his cabal of hard Brexiters. As I understand it, I have until December 2020, so come on, let’s get cracking.

Despite constant reassurance that it is, indeed, just for the papers, the men I’ve spoken to definitely don’t (want to) understand that it’s *Just. For. The. Papers.

With my best interests at heart, some have entered into big bro mode – seeking to screen potential suitors for my guaranteed future in the EU, in the manner of a character from an Austen novel. Others, who are single, to whom I’ve said, ‘marry me for the papers‘, have suffered, I’m sure, anaphylaxis. The symptoms are all there: skin flushes, hives, the throat and mouth swell and they can’t swallow. There has been clutching of abdomens, nausea and some vomiting. Some described a sense of impending doom. They could all be possessed, of course. I’m not stupid, I’ve seen the documentary: The Exorcist. But I don’t think so. It’s because marriage not for the papers is ‘terrifying’, and marriage for the papers is, of course, one in the same. One even passed clean out. Poor soul. Quick, call Austen again, we’ve got a vapours situation over here.

It doesn’t matter how much I say, ‘it’s just for the papers’, it’s falling on deaf ears. Is it because I’m knocking forty-nine and have a cat? Fair enough, I suppose I’m fair game in that respect. Shouldn’t be, but probably am.

Because, of course, any woman in my situation can’t possibly just want a marriage of convenience. They must really want to get married (due to profound **single sadness syndrome) in the real sense, to finally fulfil that Disney dream. You know, for that happy ever after. Well here’s a message for ya, my ‘happy ever after’ is the ability to retain my full rights as an EU citizen and keep moving around the EU if and when I want, freely, until the day I die. You won’t see that in any Snow White adaptation, so stick that in your breeches, Prince fucking Charming.

There is, inevitably, the question of what I will be bringing to the party. Well, to paraphrase Jack Kerouac; I have nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion. So whoever might decide to help a gal out would simply be an altruistic hero and would probably go to heaven. Or something. And of course, there’s the T. O. T. A. L. F. R. E. E. D. O. M. You can suffer two years of someone else’s post going to your house, can’t you? And you can use the situation to fend off real suitors with the genuine excuse of ‘I’m married’. Waggle that ring finger, baby. You can have an affair claiming ‘she doesn’t get me’ without having to do all the sneaking around, because you’d be in your place and I’d be in mine. Then when she wanted more, you could claim, ‘it’s complicated’….. I’m not advocating any of this, of course, I’m just saying it’s there should you want it. Come on chaps, isn’t that the dream? I’m doing the donkey work for you. If, for authenticity, a little kiss at the registry office is in order, I’ll spruce meself up for the occasion. I promise, sir (channels Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady).

Should there be occasion to spend some hours in each other’s company at any time during the mandatory two year period, in the words (or not) of another famed writer, I have nothing to declare (offer) but my genius. I may have tinkered with that a tad. And by genius, I mean witty repartee. And by witty repartee, I mean nonsense. You might be familiar with this.

The confusion of a woman wanting a marriage of convenience seems genuine and the fear seems not to be of the magnitude of the undertaking of marrying someone simply to help them out, but in the notion of marriage itself. As if once those papers are signed they’ll come home to find all their soft furnishings changed, their pants in the wash basket (stereotype? You betcha) and me reclining like Babs Cartland on the sofa with the – heaven forfend – remote control in my hot little married hand. Oh the humanity.

And so it is I continue upon my quest, like a secondary character from Lord of the Rings, hoping, at some point in the not to distant future, to be able to place that European ring upon my finger. I’ll keep you posted on progress, my Precious……

* (unless of course they’re handsome and charming, in which case I may be persuaded otherwise)

** made it up, sounds plausible.

End of decade review

It’s a long one, strap in…….

What. A. Decade.

This time, ten years ago I was living with a man, managing a jazz festival in the north west of England and anticipating my oncoming forties with all the dread of a fever dream in which you are frozen to the spot as a juggernaut heads straight for you. I was celebrating Christmas with the man’s family in Mexico, with no idea of how radically my life would change in the next four months.

April 2011: Having only just recovered from the shock of hitting the big 4 – 0, I returned home early one afternoon after having been given the news that I was one in the first round of redundancies due to funding cuts where I worked. Then a receipt for a sex toy (that had not been gifted to me) fluttered to the floor from my boyfriend’s wardrobe as he was pulling out a jumper. Hmm. Bit of a pickle. Bit. Of. A. Pickle.

This two-short-links chain of events would see me retrain to teach English as a second language, get stupid drunk, a lot, lose so much weight a middle-aged French woman said I was hot (do you understand the kudos?!) and pack up and set off with two suitcases to the spare room of a friend’s house in another country to see what might ensue. When we still could, you know, move around Europe freely. More of that later.

The decade has been quite remarkable in so much as it seemed pretty good at the beginning: in no particular order, we had the launch of the first iPad, Andy Murray won Wimbledon, not once but two whole times, Watey Katie finally got her man, we tussled ‘good naturedly’ over *that* dress (it was blue), same sex marriage finally became legal in the US, Obama was still POTUS and the London Olympics was just an epic, AMAZING homage to everything that was wonderful about the UK……. aaahhhh, remember that feeling? Pride I think they called it.

Then Cincinnati Zoo went and shot Harambi and the whole world turned to shit.

British football teams continued to not win major international tournaments despite the country being covered in flags. Turns out, they don’t possess magic powers. The flags, I mean. Or the British come to that. Iceland knocked England out of Euro 2016. But, they did introduce the world to that chant. So you know, swings and roundabouts.

It now resides in my special bank, along with the All Blacks’ Haka. (Believe me, I’d post that video too if I had the room).

It was the decade I finally felt I found my home, and then promptly lost the right to live in it because a bunch of people I don’t know (and my mother) voted against EU migrants. Of which I am one…. along with five million others of us scattered across the Continent. That did and still does include you United Kingdom (bellend).

Big kick in the slats. Big. Huge. As Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman would say. Or words to that effect.

I did Glastonbury that one time it didn’t rain and promptly forgot I’d seen Dead Weather and Shakira due to the sheer volume of cider I consumed. I also completely forgot that I’d seen the Streets in Liverpool. Strangely, neither of these blackouts prompted me to tone down the alcohol consumption. That wasn’t to happen until summer 2018. I travelled to Sri Lanka, Mexico, New Zealand and several European destinations including Munich in Germany, Parma, Rome and Naples in Italy, all over the Costa Brava and Malaga in Spain, Lisbon in Portugal and Toulouse, Marciac, and Paris in French France several times. It was here, the most romantic city in the world, that I received two of the most wonderful compliments in my life on two different occasions from two different people: “You’re really funny” and “You were just lying there, like a Delacroix”. I’m not sure which is my favourite. ^whispers^ ‘funny’…… I was a jazz groupie for three years. I learnt (am still learning) a new language, I started a little freelance business, I met a bunch of really cool people from all four corners of the globe (one for the flat earthers, there). I fell down two flights of Metro steps and didn’t die, dated a guy for a year (go me!), and another one for a month (amongst others). He, I learned – just before that month was up, like literally seconds, had once smashed a glass into his own face because he was so happy in a nightclub. That was back at home in Serbia when he were a wee lad….. and back in May of this year, I stopped dating. MayBE forEVer.

I fully embraced my ‘I am a free spirit’ spirit when I moved out of the shared flat I had after my friend’s spare room and into my own place in the heart of the hectic, noisy, dark Gòtic, in 2014. Men went, and came. It was during this period, which I like to refer to as my Renaissance, that I was seduced by a twenty-six year old French boy. It might be the only time in my life that I will ever be seduced, in the purest sense of the word. It was beautiful and I will forever treasure the memory. In stark contrast, after two years in the barrio, I also started fantasising about buying flame throwers on EBay so I knew it was time to flat hunt in a quieter, less crazy neighbourhood. Far, far away from Sidecar. Look it up.

2016 happened.

This is when I convinced myself we were all on the set of some elaborate Truman Show-esque light entertainment telly programme. Only, two things were missing – lightness and entertainmentness. You couldn’t make it up. (Unless you were in the writers’ room.)

What the hell world? I’m sure Nostradamus, or one of the various guys who wrote the Bible must have foreseen this. What do they say about what happens next? Any historians or scientists or theologians out there shed any light? Get Greg Jenner on the blower. Or Brian Cox. Or the Pope. Someone must know when Pandora will shut her box again and let us get all those big ugly, angry, racist and xenophobic worms back in the can. (And while we’re waiting, we can just, like totally mute them on Twitter.) When did everyone start fewmin’? I thought that just happened in Liverpool (one for my Scouse friends, there).

There’s a clown in the White House and a clown in Downing Street and the globe is burning. There’s a song in there somewhere, eh, Billy Joel?

Wow. There’s a reference.

However……. despite the shitshow that is the latter half of the 20teens (how do we say it?), there is a whiff of hope. Among the rubble of humanity, the kids are mobilising. They are kind and thoughtful and they care. And they march and they strike from school and I believe them to be ‘woke’. God, I feel old. They know shit too. Malala, Thunberg, Femi Onuwole. I wouldn’t challenge any of them in their chosen fields, I think they’re bloody amazing. Can you imagine seeing them in office in the not too distant future? ^looks off wistfully into the middle distance^ We can but dream…..

Talking of young people, a decade is a bloody big deal when you were born in two thousand and something. The changes in my nieces and nephews have been immense. From their births to the oldest visiting universities for entry in September, the time has rocketed by. For crying out loud, at least two of them are six feet tall! They’re all so responsible and sorted and not at all like we were at their age. I’m amazed by them and in awe of them.

This tiny glimmer of hope was, unfortunately, unable to stem creeping anxiety. I got pills and saw a *therapist. For three years it was like being in a plane and the floor suddenly disappears and only the flimsy seatbelt is keeping you from plummeting thirty thousand feet to your death. Not wholly unsurprisingly, this coincided with Brexit.

I seriously got my politics on. I mean, the whole world seriously got its politics on, didn’t it? In the last three and half years I’ve signed enough petitions to last a life time, donated to more court cases than I can remember (very proud to say I contributed to the case that stopped Johnson’s October 2019 bullshit), attended more meetings with the British Consul than I would have liked/ imagined would be necessary back when I arrived and written to my British MP, like, a gazillion times. ^raises fist in solidarity with literally anyone who isn’t a complete bellend^.

So here we are at the end of the tweens (is that it? Am I even close?), and I finally took responsibility for something that wasn’t a plant. In January a rescue kitten arrived. Responsibility not being my forte, I of course freaked out, but after eleven months Merlin is still alive. So, you know, that’s something. A very good decision if I do say so myself, as he’s an absolute joy to have around. And so soft. So soft in fact, that when he dies, I’m going to have him stuffed in the shape of a stole and then when I die, my siblings will bury me with him wrapped around me. We had a little practice run. I think it went rather well. 👈🏼

There were heavy celebrity losses this decade: amongst many others there was Prince, David Bowie, Amy Winehouse, Robin Williams (I was surprised how hard this hit me, I cried for a week), Carrie Fisher, Stephen Hawkin (I felt suddenly unanchored), Joan Rivers, Burt Reynolds, George Michael and Aretha Franklin. George Clooney and Prince Harry took their grade-A loins off the market and a lot of us mourned that too. I’ve embraced body neutrality – thank you Jameela Jamil, embarked on peri menopause – thank you mother nature and started using factor 50 as my daily moisturizer – thank you Heliocare (makes note to tag them and sit back and wait for the products to roll in). I started writing a book. And if it never sees the light of day, I will finish it and add to my list of accomplishments. I’ve never really had a plan or a list of life goals I could tick off, but I’ve done some shit.

It’s been a bloody rollercoaster ride.

My hopes for the next decade? Just that everyone will calm the fuck down a little bit. We’re all so tired. I want to go back to liking good boi Twitter posts and not despairing during dinner with friends about vote rigging. Remember those days? Come on guys, be decent.

It takes only seventeen muscles to be kind to other people and a thousand and ninety one to be a cunt.

That’s a lot of effort. Ask Donald Trump. I hope everyone starts meditating. I hope we can all be more pleasant to ourselves. I hope I eventually have at least some money to put down on a place here and I hope, finally, I can stay in said place should it ever come to fruition. I’d like the world to be a lot more peaceful in my fifties than it was in my forties. Not just for me but for life in general. I think we all deserve a little bit o’ that. Don’t you? (I’d also like to not turn fifty, but that’s not going to happen, is it?)

Welcome 2020. Play nice.

*There are enormous benefits to seeing a mental health professional. I can wholeheartedly recommend it. But don’t fall in love with your shrink.

Nev..ver hap..pened.

World Mental Health Day 2019

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been three months since my last post and these are my sins….

I’m quite sure that not writing anything for this long is a mortal sin, but I need to look it up on Catholics.com (pretty much the exact name of the site I got the confession words above).

The reason for my absence? Apart from an epic lack of imagination, brought about primarily by the state of the world at the moment; life is actually pretty dull, on the day to day. But, picture if you will, a duck. I function like a duck. I am The Duck of Existential Dread. On the surface, most everything is calm and serene, but under the surface, my mental legs are going like the clappers.

Summer went off peacefully and warmly. Friends and family passed through, filling my time with laughs and linen changeovers. For the latter part of August, I was mooching, eating good food, chatting up a storm and pampering. Can’t complain. Some of my favourite humans shared my holidays and were a welcome distraction. Apart from that, the stuff that makes great stories (you remember: assholes, drama, dating, partying, traveling) is, for the most part, on the back burner while I navigate the choppy undercurrents of the daily news.

Not dating, and not missing dating, has been a revelation. I’ve got enough on my plate, waiting to hear my fate with regards to the whole Brexit debacle, without trying to accommodate the emotional demands of another person; or indeed, myself in that situation. Dating while on an emotional knife edge ain’t pretty. Read my post on how not to date and you’ll understand.

One source of joy has been NOT DEPILATING! (don’t judge me, you take it where you can find it.) What new found freedom is this?! I didn’t go to the beach this summer, so between that and the lack of potential intimacy, I didn’t see the point. And it was fucking glorious. Think a reworking of Joni Mitchell’s lyrics ‘you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone’; but with fur and in reverse. I didn’t really appreciate how exhausting it all is until I stopped doing it. One less thing to worry about.

My anxiety has been ever present, but in the days since Johnson took office along with his band of merry criminals, it’s been more prevalent. Every day they said something regarding immigration or pissed off another EU dignitary (see Belgian, Spanish and German); my fear increased, and the reality of the consequences hit home as the deadline approached. I could be asked to leave this country.

If I could explain how busy my brain is, I would but it’s impossible as it’s just constant noise. That too is exhausting. Ain’t nobody got time for dating (or shaving) while the Duck of Existential Dread paddles like shit, under the surface. Not knowing what the hell is going on is torturous, but at least it’s just me and the cat. I can’t imagine the frustration and hurt of families with a foot in both camps, in the same situation. It’s awful. It’s all consuming and honestly, all joking aside, there really isn’t room for much else.

Hence, no post. What’s really occupying most of my waking life (and sometimes also sleepy time), is just that, and I don’t want to bore anyone of you with that, that’s not what this blog was/is about.

I can’t imagine my view on dating changing any time soon, as it’s been one less pressure to accommodate.I’ve been too frazzled to dip my toe back into that murky pool. Honestly, not even idle curiosity has seen me glance in the direction of a hot guy or at Tinder et al. OK, that’s not strictly true, attractive men I cross paths with, or brush shoulders with in cafes are rewarded with a momentary mention in my internal dialogue. But for the most part, logic kicks in and talks me out of anything more than a cursory nod/coy smile, by playing out the endless conversations about the idiocy of the UK (and never ending grooming).

As a way of compensating, I’m also nesting. I think it’s a backlash to the situation. On some subconscious level, I think that if I make my home really special, there’s no way the authorities will kick me out. Which of course, is ridiculous. I’m moving things around. I’m throwing things out. I’m donating to charity. I’m trying to curate art by illustrators I enjoy. It’s the emotional equivalent of putting your hands over your ears and repeating ‘LaLaLa‘ over and over again.

Merlin is an endless joy. What a godsend he’s been. There’s nothing like a purring bundle of fur to calm your frazzled nerves.

And so, I thought it apt on the World Mental Health Day, to share this openly.

When people ask ‘How are you?’ and I say ‘fine’, it means fine for me. Fine for me is a permanent nagging anxiousness in the pit of my stomach, pain in my shoulders and chest and a desire to get home as soon as possible. Those are the days that it simply is what it is and I go to work and do the shopping, see friends and feed the cat. It’s permanent.

Other times, it disturbs my sleep with nightmares leaving me exhausted in the morning, I drag myself out of the house, put on my work face, because as a freelance: no work, no money. It burdens me with an inability to function like a regular human in social situations. When I’m not obligated to go out, I lock myself in and call in even the basics like water, because I am quite literally, physically pinned by fear and incapable of going downstairs to the the corner shop. Those are the worst days.

So, for the most part, that’s the reason I haven’t posted. I haven’t been able to clear a corner of my mind long enough to fill it with funny stuff, life observations, general musings.

Be kind to yourself and be kind to others. It really is that simple. Although it may not feel like it at times.

Love

AP xx