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.


AP xx

For the love of sweet baby Jesus

What is with this heat? It’s not time…..

Water is pouring out of every part of my body. What is happening? Why aren’t I smaller? Why this is hell, nor are am out of it…..

I’m a bit hot.

Scorching temperatures have arrived (it’s already 36 degrees) and are expected to increase in a freaky heat wave that is gripping mainland Europe. Hello there, welcome to the weather forecast…… apparently, I’m branching out. I may be delirious. I’m sure I can see a camel crossing my lounge through the wavy heat.

This hell has sparked the premature arrival of the time of year I like to call; Arseageddon. Two months mostly spent trying to avoid a visibly sweaty back end. You know, that moment, when you stand up after say, a lovely lunch or dinner with friends, or from the desk after class, and realise you have, what I adoringly like to refer to as the ‘bum smile’. No? ^tumbleweed^ Just me then.

Sadly, I am not a woman who glows, or one who has enough money to invest in a surgically managed sweat-free body, a la Kim Kardashian. I perspire. Ok. It’s perfectly natural and human and anyone who thinks otherwise can kiss my arse. Actually, that is not recommendable any time of the year, especially not at the moment.

Most women’s press would have you believe it’s unsightly and dirty and something to be ashamed of. It’s nature’s way of keeping cool. End of……. end of….. see what I did there?

Despite knowing better than feeling embarrassed, I do remember the first time the bum smile happened to me, before I was used to the notion that when humans get hot, they sweat and it shows (British, you see). I had just arrived in Barcelona and went out for a couple of drinks and pintxos with a bunch of people I didn’t know from the school I’d got work in. We went to the FURNACE AT THE GATES OF HELL (a tiny, packed bar). After sitting for only a few minutes, stressed out of my tree (new country, new people, only six hours a week work secured), I needed to pee and stood up, only to realise that my khaki cargo pants were stuck to my rump. Khaki banished from the summer wardrobe forever. And any shade of blue, except navy. And red, orange, green… Listen. Basically black and dark pattern are ok this time of year. Punto. I scuttled to the bathroom like a naked and vulnerable hermit crab looking for a new shell before the seagulls swoop in. Trying to avoid the table of colleagues seeing evidence of my stress in the heat, while also trying to avoid every other patron of Satan’s kitchen from seeing it too was a lost cause. Mor…..tif…..ied.

During the summer months, every moment seated is a moment spent contorting into wholly unnatural shapes you never knew were possible, to avoid a hundred percent contact with the chair and minimise the consequences. I really should get around to giving yoga a whirl, I’ve been threatening it for years. I might be better at it than I expected.

And my ass is just the underside of the iceberg. If you have breasts or arms or a face and neck, or skin, then you are going to appear as if you just stepped out of a shower, for approximately sixteen hours of every single day for at least the next two months. We’re human, we perspire. Get over it. All we can do is endeavour to make it as comfortable as possible in the coming months. Assume the position, people! Spread eagle in front of a fan on full blast, barely moving an inch. But not in work. That would not be cool. *Actually, it literally would.

So, as I dig out the flimsiest clothes I can get away with wearing on a daily basis, and limber up for another week of perching and lifting, while ducking from air-conditioned office to cafe to bar, I’m already quietly looking forward to storm season…… and buying my own body weight in talc and industrial-strength Rexona.

Now, anyone know how to get into the ratchet operated man-spray? Heat-addled lady brain, you see……

*I am in no way advocating nakidity in the workplace.

How not to date – a simple tale

Act one: the set up

Dipped my toe into Tinder’s murky waters for a couple of days. I swear, it’s as addictive as Lays campesina crisps. Or crack. I have partaken of only one of these.

Nice chap, artist, illustrator, cartoonist, educator……… and founder of his own art-based charity to help refugee children. ^does a million swoons^. Like, totes adorbs, right? Of course. A week of chat before we could find a mutually suitable day. Chat ranging from music tastes – very similar, to interest in arts – his professional, mine amateur, to life in general – neither a fan of drama, etc. etc. He says he’s going to marry me, he’s got a good feeling. Bit freaky but roll with it, I think his tongue is firmly in his cheek. He sends me a cute little illustration on the morning of the date. (Which I can no longer look at, due to shame). Read on.

Act two: the date

Meet tiny illustrator, who is very cool, cuter than his photos and doesn’t appear fifty, in any way, shape or form. Have a couple of beers while we chat. He brings gifts….. two books and a selection of artwork from the charity website. ‘Stop it!’, I say, ‘I didn’t bring anything.’ I feel slightly fuzzy due to heavily reduced alcohol intake over the last year. In fact, the date may actually be the first anniversary of my decision to stop being a drunken idiot. Double fabulous. Woohoo! Fuzzy feeling does not stop me consuming red wine while we have a bite to eat…. said bite being a cheese board and little else. Uh oh.

We’re having such fun we decide to not call it a night when the restaurant shuts, and go on to a bar. Lovely. I am very sensible and stick to red wine. Probably glass number three now. Uh oh. And then we move to the last bar, which actually is en route home, as we live very close to each other in the same direction. Dear lord, maybe the stars really are aligned tonight and this is going to be all the lovelies.

Act three: how it ends

In said bar, where I am having glass four of red wine, (I must interject here to say, he too was drinking, now on his third gin) a couple of dodgy looking characters walk in and appear to start giving people drugs. Me being a perennial people watcher, I draw his attention to what’s happening behind him, merely commenting that humans are fascinating and that they are not being terribly discreet. His response, ‘do you want some drugs or something?’ No, of course not, but look at them. Not everyone is as fascinated by these things as me it would seem. Oops.

We leave the bar as things appear to be getting a little rough and continue our walk home. On the corner where we part company, we have a little kiss and he suggests coming to mine. I politely decline and go home and get into bed and write the following texts (in Spanish):

‘If you just want a quick shag, then I am not the woman for you. Fuck you!’ – send

But on the other hand, thank you for a lovely evening! It’s been a lot of fun!‘- send

His response, ‘Sorry?’

Me, ‘Oh, OK! Thanks again for a great night!

Reader; I married him!

(Of course I didn’t. I never heard from him again) and who can, quite frankly, blame him, when the woman in question appears to be Jekyll and Hyde, with a transition period of a nanosecond……

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how not to date.


If you’re not entirely sure of the message of this post, it is this: don’t be a crazy bitch.

Also: please donate here ❤️


Progress is a dish best served….

…extremely slowly. Never mind the slow-food revolution, I’m pioneering the slow-life movement. And when I say movement, I really mean a very gentle amble.

When they say, don’t sweat the small stuff, you can guarantee I’m ‘glowing’ profusely pretty much all time. Progress is PANK speak for the smallest of things – paying a bill, filing your tax return, (or your nails), wiping down that particularly dusty shelf. It literally took me two weeks of passing it and saying, ‘I really must wipe down that very dusty shelf’, to actually wipe down the very dusty shelf. Getting out of bed at the weekend – one small step for man, one giant leap for PANKind.

Accompanied by much heavy exhaling and eye rolling, I grudgingly fired up the old laptop and trawled through my bank statements of 2018, composed an email with the details of my expenditure and sent it off. You’d think a pharaoh had casually asked me to fetch another two tonne block for Giza. It really wasn’t such a big deal and actually only took me an hour. Could have done that at the end of a March as per, but the thought really bloody annoyed me. Why? Because it was time spent out of sitting on my ass on the balcony, or sitting on my ass bingeing Mad Men. Do you mind, very much? I am sitting on my arse. Good day to you, sir!

Bank account brain, ‘But there may be a rebate in it for you.’

Sitting on my ass brain, ‘You think I don’t know that?’

Funny thing is, filing a tax return is an ass-sitty job.

With the same level of enthusiasm, I did a supermarket shop. You’d be forgiven for thinking I’d be more animated about feeding myself in order to stay alive. You’d also be forgiven for assuming that I would be a svelte example of ladydom with that attitude. Your honour, I refer you to exhibit a), previous blog post – pit pony reference.

I can’t blame the heat either as it’s been pretty chilly here, relatively speaking.

The joyful thing (always a silver lining, guys, always a silver lining) about finding these mundane, everyday tasks such an upheaval, is that once they are done, you can legitimately reward yourself. I don’t think we give ourselves enough credit for the things we achieve every day, because we all think that they are simple tasks that everyone else is managing effortlessly. So what we do is just get on as if nothing has happened because celebrating would appear churlish, when all the other grownups are keeping ten balls in the air. ^whispers^, they’re not. Those folk are one in a gazillion and good for them, but for the most part, we are winging adulting and don’t have a clue what’s going on.

So, give yourselves that pat on the back, bar of chocolate, a pair of shoes, a holiday. Why the hell not? It’s not always easy, the day to day, and for the rest of us mere mortals, the achievements we make are going to be real life, bill-paying, home-maintenance, keeping flowers/animals/kids alive. If you save all the celebrations for unseating Donald Trump or halting climate change – then your whole life will be spent waiting for the big one. Celebrate your contribution to those things instead – a vote for a progressive (somewhat normal, kind) individual. Make sure you recycle. Those things may seem small but they are a valuable contribution.

And with that in mind, after getting myself up, dressed and out and placing some examination papers in front of students all day – I’m going to pick up some sushi on the way home and pop out for a glass of something ice-cold later. I’ve earnt it.

Reasons why I don’t have kids #74

This time last year I was fully embracing my inner urban gardener, cultivating a couple of window boxes and pots from scratch and nurturing a jasmine, which was given to me as a present. My little balcony was becoming a pretty, twinkly haven. The only thing missing were fairies. They’re real. ^hard stare^. Granted, the weather hasn’t really enthused me to get out there yet this year, but also the thought of emptying the brown, weedy stuff from the boxes does not fill me with joy, but it needs doing. The jasmine is hanging in there. The twinkly lights are good and dead.

I also haven’t shaved my legs in aeons, and don’t even ask about my ‘garden’. Whaaaaaaaaaat? No dating, no beach – no lady-maintenance. These things take time and effort….. it’s all so bloody exhausting. Bear with me, it’s all relevant.

I’m also trying to make a few changes in the flat. The trusty Kallax unit is still in the entrance, gathering dust and other crap, after I got new bookshelves TWO MONTHS ago.

So what’s my point? My point is – I can’t take care of more than one thing at any one time – INCLUDING PLANTS AND LEG HAIR. So if the cat is fed and watered and played with and snuggled, quite literally nothing else is possible. My brain can’t handle it and my body can’t juggle it. I genuinely don’t know how it’s done – the mind boggles and it stresses. me. out. One damn thing at a damn time. How do grown-ups do it?

Much admiration is beamed right outta my face and rapturous mental applause thunders on a daily basis, for those who manage many things at once. Namely two children. Or more. I’d have to run a roster system of who got bathed (including myself and another half, if there was one. BAHAHAHAhaha……… ah). If I was preparing dinner, washing wouldn’t get done. If I was gardening, the kids would have to get themselves to football practice. If I was preparing for work in the evening, they’d be no bedtime stories. Brush one kid’s hair and get them dressed – the other one goes to school looking like an extra from Les Mis.

Giving up literally everything else in the world (books, depilation, gardening…. breathing) and resembling a yeti for the foreseeable future, to be able to manage the simple things – like ensuring the kids don’t go to school in their pyjamas – is my ‘reasons why I don’t have kids’ #74.

Who am I?

Let’s get straight to the point – I’m having an identity crisis. I was going to write, ‘a bit of a….’, but it’s anything but.

I was in Edinburgh the weekend before last for the wedding of a good friend, from the Highlands. I met her here in Barcelona, she moved to Italy with her Italian boyfriend three years ago and will return to the bonny land with him, next week, to begin the next chapter of her life. Their life. I’m so used to talking in the singular that I forget people are capable of having relationships and planning things as a team….. Yesterday, I said goodbye to another friend who was heading back to Scotland, who had missed home for a couple of years and finally bit the bullet and bought a one-way ticket.

Being at the wedding was really special. Not least because it was a good friend, but because it opened my eyes to what it’s like to have a strong cultural identity. And what it’s like to be proud of your heritage/roots/background, however you want to phrase it. There was traditional food on the menu, traditional dress for the chaps (kilts are my new favourite thing, by the way. Oooh la la, ^fans self^), traditional music and traditional dancing. Oh, and whiskey. Natch. And everyone was all in. It was beautiful.

My Irish friend here, feels equally strongly about her cultural heritage. Spanish, Catalan, Latin American friends; they all feel the strong pull of their homeland and connected, on a deep, personal level. I don’t feel that.

These last few of weeks I’ve found myself struggling to answer the often asked question, ‘De donde eres?’ Quite obviously, with my white hair, pale, slightly freckled skin, and lack of lithe limbs – I ain’t no local. A friend and I often joke that we’re ‘Welsh-shaped’, you know…… like a pit pony.

How do you decide where you’re from? Do you identify by the place you were born? In which case, I’m Australian. Do you identify by the passport you carry? In which case, I’m British. Do you identify yourself by your parentage? In which case I’m three quarters Welsh, one quarter English. We think……. one side of the family is somewhat unclear.

I have literally no emotional connection to Australia whatsoever, or desire to return there. I certainly don’t consider myself to be Australian. As for being British, well, I think most of you know how I feel about that, at the moment. (If you don’t, feel free to check out my Twitter feed, @diaryofannepank.) If someone asks me if I’m English, I say I’m Welsh. Then I have to explain where and what that is, because absolutely no-one knows. I find that eventually mentioning Tom Jones and Gareth Bale helps. Oh and occasionally, rugby. Or you can often find me air-drawing the United Kingdom, showing first Scotland then moving down through England and across the water to Ireland, then explaining that País de Galés is on the west coast between the latter two…. still, most people have no idea what I’m talking about. And am I Welsh, just because I lived there between seven and twenty-three? I’ve actually spent thirty-two years of my life not being there, so where does that leave me?

The question is, do we really need to pin ourselves down? Is it a necessity? I suppose I’m really asking myself this question, as I see clearly that those friends of mine, have no doubts whatsoever. Maybe more for others who ask the question, who need to place your face. Or maybe, us humans need to tether ourselves to something, otherwise we feel like there’s no solid earth beneath our feet. And we all know how that feels, like that moment, when travelling by plane, for a split second we realise there’s 30,000 feet of air directly beneath us. That’s certainly how I’ve felt lately. Who knows. I do have to admit to feeling a pang of something while in Edinburgh, and in the couple of weeks since. Envy, sadness, lacking? I couldn’t tell you.

What I do know is, when I fly back to Barcelona, I feel good. Excited like I did the first time I visited in the early nineties. When we head over the Pyrenees, I’m filled with joy and on the final approach over the bay I’m like a small child cracked up on Haribo and full fat Coke. (Other cola drinks and jelly sweets are available.)

So maybe I can’t identify exactly where I’m from, but I know where I am. And it feels like home.

Reasons why I don’t have kids #73

If my recently acquired cat has taught me anything, it’s this: I’m too scared of everything.

I was explaining to my friend in the UK recently that I have bought a harness and lead for the cat, so that he can enjoy the balcony without me suffering a heart attack, and her response was completely spot on:

“It is a good job you don’t have kids!”

She’s right of course. Wise woman (and mother)……

At the moment I accompany Merlín the cat ‘outside’ because I don’t trust him not to throw himself off the balcony, at a passing bird or a dog on the street, five floors below. I have no faith in my cat’s ability to cat. He’s not very agile you see, he skids around my place at a hundred miles an hour, he falls off and over and bashes into things and is jumpy. For anyone not quite sure what point I’m trying to make here: THAT’S NOT A GOOD COMBINATION FOR LIVING AND ROAMING FREELY fifty or so feet up.

Soooooo, I believe it’s not acceptable parenting to tie your children down. Correct me if I’m wrong. I also heard recently, that those harness thingies are now frowned upon. How about the wrist lead? Is there any acceptable way to tether little humans? Come on, people! I see kids here sitting on the floor in the squares, while their parents enjoy a cheeky beer and a natter with their friends, and all I can think is, ‘POO, WEE, animal and human!’ I see them hurtling around on scooters and running about with their little mates which is totes adorbs (or something) and my inner dialogue is screaming in the direction of the parents, “YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHERE YOUR CHILD IS (under the table/by the village clock in plain sight), YOU IRRESPONSIBLE PIECE OF PARENTING CRAP!!!” Which of course is not the case. My inner dialogue me is even more scared than actual me.

Falling over, falling down, putting unidentifiable objects in mouths, is all part of the growing up process, so I’m led to believe. And as my super-mum friend explained, “they only do it once!” Which would absolutely be the case is Merlin plummeted five floors for the sake of a manky pigeon.

Thinking it’s normal to have kids on a tether until they’re at least 47, is my ‘reasons why I don’t have kids’ #73.

Dating epiphany – Feb 2019

A seismic shift has occurred. After almost embarking on a relationship recently, and nipping it right in its tight little buds at the first sign of foot – stomping, I realized something. Something pretty phenomenal, truth be told. It occurred to me that, although the chap seemed nice enough, was attentive, called regularly, was clear about us being ‘a thing’, blah, blah, blah – I had no qualms about sacking it off when he threw a little (biggish) tantrum. I realized that I will, quite literally, not put up with any old bullshit. It was a nice moment – as he rambled and ranted for twenty minutes in response to my ‘have a little respect for my friends who welcomed you to their party so soon’ and ‘why on earth do you want to wind people up?’ – I felt the switch flip. I don’t need this, I said to myself about his response; not, of course, the third glass of wine I had ordered for myself while he was flailing his arms around. Natch. .

Also, I’ve lost ‘the fear’….. I don’t feel nervous about meeting people now. Although watching the Netflix series, Dirty John sowed some seeds of serious doubt. But I’m a lowly English teacher, so not an attractive prospect for grifters. Just egomaniacs and weirdos – apparently. During the dating phase at the beginning of last year, around the time I met the nice guy from Denmark, I was getting ready for a date and had a complete wardrobe meltdown and was freaking out about how I looked. It suddenly occurred to me that the man I was meeting probably wasn’t feeling or doing the same, and I was absolutely spot on. He arrived 20 minutes late because he’d been for a beer with a mate on the way to meeting me. So much for first impressions an’ all that. It has distinctly felt like it’s only us women (and I speak from the experiences of my girlfriends and I), who feel like they should make some sort of effort to impress on the first few dates. At the very least – the actual first. After the guy rocked up smelling boozy and wearing a holey jumper, I just thought, ‘fuck it!’ no more jumping through hoops; and I haven’t stressed since. ^hears ‘I Am What I Am‘ playing in the distance……. ^. I do my makeup and hair in the morning before leaving for work and arrive to a date ten hours later with whatever remnants of that are still apparent. I like a masculine cut trouser and interesting shoes and tops. As long as I’m clean, we’re good to go. Katharine Hepburn is my style icon. I speak my mind and if you are fucking rude about my friends after spending a mere hour with them, then I’ll call you out. If you don’t like that – tough.

I had a date after work yesterday, the nail polish was a little (lotta) chipped on my left hand and I had panda eyes. I was pretty tired. Whatevs……. That’s life.

^hears the band strike up again. High-kicks way to next date^……

Footnote: there is a Sephora en route and I did pop in there to drown myself in the most expensive fragrance available. But that was just for me…… ^does that winky thing here’.

Valentine’s Day

This might be the first time in my life, since boys started to be on my radar (circa 1849), that I kind of forgot about Valentine’s Day. Of course there is a little marketing to remind us, and I say that without a hint of sarcasm, but it really didn’t occur to me until today. It’s really not a massive holiday here, so there is minimal promotion – literally only a couple of restaurants and florists and the odd hairdresser and shoe shop (!) who make any kind of effort – as they have the much simpler celebration in April called Sant Jordi. This is the day that everyone exchanges books and roses and promenades in the most important streets of the city which are filled with book and flower stalls. Imagine, you can buy a single stem rose and find an old copy of your favourite book and have a glass of wine, all for under €10. Because that’s the true meaning of love – cheap plonk. Really though, you should all move here. Oh, wait……. nope, sorry, slip of the tongue.

Sant Jordi isn’t solely the reserve of the smug loved-ups, either. Us perpetually single people are included too, and kids, and friends and it’s proper lovely, like. I’ve had roses from students over the years and noted the admiring glances of those poor unknowing souls, who think they’re from my love. Bless.

So despite a touch of cynicism, in the spirit of the day, this year I decided to send some love in the shape of a fabulous card to a couple of fabulous women in my life, two I met through the medium Twitter and two of my oldest, best, single friends – because showing love doesn’t only have to be romantic. I love them with all my heart and we share a long or virtual relationship bound together by a not so rosy experience of the dating world/relationship/men…..

The card said, ‘Men Are Fuckers’.

Also, on a vaguely romantic note, last night was the last date of a three week dalliance with something kind of resembling the beginnings of a bona fide relationship. Miscommunication and a little ‘you said, no you said’ quickly escalated into a flounce out for a fag (him not me), a grabbing the cheque (me not him) and a quick peck on the cheek. I left him on that special raft, reserved for those ready to be sailed off to the island of lost men – along with approximately *adopts Mike Myers voice* one million others…. fair thee well good sir, it was nice while it lasted and the sex was, well…….. not bad.

These encounters seem to be getting shorter and shorter and in no time at all, I fully anticipate breaking some kind of record for the shortest relationship in history, since records began. My target is fifty-nine minutes.

At this rate, totally doable.