Tag Archives: Brain

Rear Windowing The Neighbours:

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The view from my flat… Missing the river, of course! 🙂

Not many of you may know that I live in a block of flats. They’re not a block of flats in the traditional sense; it’s three stories high and boasts six flats in total, including mine. Mine is ground floor and the patio doors boast a truly phenomenal view, to the point where I like to sit in the rocking chairs outside in the summer and watch the river idle by. Where I live is really quiet, idyllic and peaceful and I love it. I’m not the type of person who craves drama or intrigue, I like to keep myself to myself and living somewhere that is as quiet as my flat is truly amazing.

Even though I live in a block of flats, I very rarely see my neighbours. I sometimes see the family who live above with their tiny little girl who as of late has been screaming for hours on end, breaking her little heart over something that is troubling her. I see the man who lives with his partner opposite who ignores me all the time and sometimes drives in and out of the estate for no reason, before standing outside and smoking for ages. I am also pretty obsessed with the old lady who lives at the very top of the building; I’m not sure if she’s in a same sex relationship with the lady I see around often, but either way, I think she’s the type of person who likes to get drunk on gin and tell inappropriately filthy jokes, which basically makes her my soul mate and I long to pluck up the courage to ask her or happen to accidently drop a bottle of Hendrick’s one night as she wanders past, hoping to strike up a conversation that allows her to be my best friend forever more. There’s another couple that I don’t really know much about; I’ve said hello to them both separately and I very rarely see them… until recently. Recently, dear readers, Brain and I have developed a Rear Window situation, which basically means I am the Grace Kelly in the situation and he is the wheelchair bound James Stewart… we are obsessed with one of our neighbours.

Clearly I am Grace Kelly, look at the glass of wine, man!

Clearly I am Grace Kelly, look at the glass of wine, man!

They’re a young couple like Brain and myself, which means I have often thought about them and wondered what they’re like. I do this with people who are in relationships, because relationship dynamics intrigue me to no end; I like to wonder if all couples are the same and if their concept of love is the same as mine, for example. Like, I wonder if couples behind closed doors spend as much time cuddling on the sofa, or if they like to cook together or if they chase each other round playing stupid games like Brain and I do. I’m obsessed with the closeness that couples share and if it feels the same. This sounds entirely mental, I totally appreciate that, but either way, I have wondered about this couple.

They are both young, they’re both pale and they’re both very polite, prim and I think quite proper. She is very quiet and I haven’t really spoken to her and he only says hello in passing, so I haven’t managed to strike up a friendship with them yet, to be able to outright ask them what I am dying to ask them. So instead, I have to spy. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t shimmy up the side of the building and Spiderman my way along until I can spy in their windows, and I don’t hang out in front of their door waiting or anything, it’s not that bad. Really, my spying is entirely accidental and I think that’s what makes the situation worse.

You see, every evening if I or Brain leave the house, or if we go out to our family’s house and return later on at night, or whatever, this couple are sitting in their car. The engine is running, the lights are on and they don’t do anything. They just sit there. And I am foaming about it.

Last night, we went out quite early because it was my dad’s birthday and we had gifts to take him, so we left at about six o clock and didn’t return until about half ten. When we left the house and I helped Brain put my dad’s presents in the car, the male human from this car couple was standing outside of the car putting his coat on. We exchanged pleasantries, as we always do and Brain and I got in the car. Immediately, as we do, we wondered out loud what they were doing sitting in the car, again. I mentioned that it was pretty weird and put it out of my mind, opting to bother Brain in the car by pushing all of the pushable buttons in the car and laughing wickedly as he clicks them all off, cursing me and calling me a nightmare, then we drove off, not to think of it again.

We had a lovely  night with my parents and after watching the Newcastle match, we came home. We got home at about half past ten and when I stepped out of the car, I realised that the couple were still in the car!! WHY, WHY ARE THEY IN THE CAR!!!!! I immediately started grinning, as I do when I’m excited and nervous and desperate to tell Brain some gossip and as soon as we got in the flat, we began wondering aloud what the fuck they could possibly be doing STILL SAT IN THE CAR. I’ve never known couples who do this, especially when they have a flat of their own to go into and do whatever it is they want to do. So I’m at a loss and I am so excited for night time to fall so I can watch them again…

Why are they in the car?

What are they doing?

Are they planning a murder?

Are they playing Mexican music loudly to mask the sound of them arguing?

What the fuck are they doing in the car?!

Stay tuned, because I will eventually find out. Until next time, Grace Kelly OUT!

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Happy Birthday, Doris Daze!

This time last year, I spent an inordinate amount of time alone; I would wake up alone, lie and stare blankly at the ceiling, wondering how many hours I would have to be awake before I could get hammered. If it was longer than ‘a few’, I would roll over and go back to sleep. During the week, I didn’t see a soul and the monotony of waking up and waiting to get drunk so I could feel something was my routine. My sister would come and see me and not see anything wrong with me, so would retreat back into her brand new relationship, telling my parents they were being paranoid for suggesting that I was depressed. I wasn’t depressed, though… I didn’t really feel anything in order to feel depressed.

From the space between September 2013 and May 2014, I saw my best friend once, a friend I had never met once and my other best friend twice. Other than that, I spent it alone. I hung out with my sister maybe four times. On a Friday, my dad would insist on picking me up and buying me wine so that I would spend the weekend with him and my mam. Neither of them liked the idea of me being alone, because they were frightened of what I would do. I would then spend the weekend staring blankly into space, locking myself in the spare bedroom or crying. I appreciated the effort my parents went to and I would sometimes put on my game face and pretend I was okay for their benefit, but I wasn’t. I wasn’t at all.

I was living in a house that was too big and too expensive to heat, so I didn’t heat it and wore blankets, trying to keep the winter chill from getting to me. Sometimes, I could see my breath when I lay in bed, it was that cold. It was a house where electricity was too expensive to light, so I didn’t light it and kept all of my energy for my laptop, so I could use Facebook and chat to my mam and my friend Sarah online. I had no job, I had no money and every day I received threatening letters about pay-day loans and other things that my ex had signed up for in my name – he had committed fraud, but I was being left to sort them out myself. My bank balance read £0.45 and I wasn’t eligible for any form of governmental help, so I had to rely on graciously accepting familial donations of £10 here and £20 there… I ate one meal per day, unless it was a special occasion (like, my sister came to visit, or my dad took me shopping) and that usually consisted of lettuce or cucumber, bread and the occasional tin of mackerel. I also used a lot of that money to buy wine, so that my nights weren’t spent cold and lonely, terrified of sleeping, of my environment, living in constant fear that my landlord was going to break in and be horrible to me. I hated my life; I hated waking up and feeling the way that I did, so I used a lot of the money that my family donated in good will, to getting wasted and self-harming so that it didn’t hurt as much anymore.

Then, one day, I decided to start a blog. I was at my parents’ house, as it was my dad’s birthday the following day and I was staying in my sister’s bedroom as she wasn’t home. I used her PC to play Skyrim on, which was my perpetual comfort blanket, when suddenly, for the first time in a long time, I decided I wanted to write. My family, particularly my beloved grandma, were panicking about Valentine’s Day, given that it was my first one as a single lady in a long time, but, as I told her, I didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day – I’d made the effort over the years, because I felt that it was right to do, but even to this day, I’ve only received two Valentine’s Day presents and they were both off my sister; An Audrey Hepburn print and a vintage-style champagne flute with some pug socks. So Valentine’s Day doesn’t really represent ‘love’ in my opinion. Then again, nothing I had experienced, really represented ‘love’. Convenience, maybe. Sex, maybe. But, love? No way… anyway, my first post was about Valentine’s Day. It was an entirely creative piece, but it was funny, I thought and that’s what I decided I wanted to do: I wanted to make myself laugh. I wanted to use life experiences to pull myself out of the perpetual slump I was in, because I wanted to move on. I didn’t want to be sad any more. And that’s how Doris Daze was born.

The happiness that I’ve been able to feel through writing this blog knows no bounds; it has been my constant, amazing best friend for a whole year now, and continues to be something I love to be a part of. Blogging helped bring me back to life again and allowed me to discover who I really am. Through this blog, I have managed to communicate with some amazing people, including some of the best friends in the world: Mungle, Sian, Emilie, Rachel, Amy, Marie, Leona and Becky. I rediscovered friendship and what it feels like to be loved and appreciated by people I get to call friends. I haven’t been a part of their lives much recently and I realise how much I miss them all; they are my lady humans and when I met them and began using social media to chat to them hundreds of times a day, waking up didn’t seem as bad anymore, because they were there to laugh and to play with. They were my company and slowly made the sting of loneliness disappear. Through these girls, particularly through Emilie, I rediscovered feminism and I embraced the movement like an old friend, which in turn helped me become newly self-assured, confident and respectful of myself. I began to write cathartically about bad things that happened to me and used feminist ideals to progressively feel better about those bad things so that they weren’t making me cry any more. I became an overall healthier person, intent on living life for ME and not for anyone else. I owe all of that to the opportunities that blogging has given me.

Moreover, and perhaps the most important gift my blog has given me, is the fact that it was Doris Daze that brought Brain and I together. Initially, I’d made an active decision that I would never be in a relationship again, that I would never allow another person to diminish my character and make me ashamed of who I was; I didn’t need a relationship and I didn’t want one – I didn’t believe in what people could do to you and the power they could exert over you when you were in a relationship. They were dangerous, I thought, and the words my ex and his mother had imprinted on my consciousness was that I didn’t deserve happiness. That I wasn’t good enough. So, it genuinely upset me that I was smitten with Brain from the moment I was introduced to him (Bob Dylan t-shirt, blue eyes and a beard? I mean, come on, I didn’t stand a chance) and we became friends. We became best friends, actually, on our first day of meeting and it only got better – those days where I was getting to know him will forever be etched into my memories as the best time ever – I’d made friends with the male version of myself and it was awesome. Brain was also the first person I actively gave my blog link to; it was the closest and most personal thing that I could share with someone and before then, I’d never felt secure enough to do so. It made me feel vulnerable, but for some reason I also felt like he was the only person I could trust with something as special as this. I have the link to him one Friday afternoon and by Monday he had read it in its entirety, from beginning to end, just like that. His reaction was, you should show more people, I think it will make them like you more. And that’s when I knew that Brain would remain the most important person in my life for as long as I could possibly try to do so; he didn’t see the bad things that happened to me as a black mark on my character and he didn’t besmirch me as some kind of terrible human who was to blame for all of the things that happened to her; he liked me more. Which means more to me than he could ever possibly know… well until now, because he still reads my blog 🙂 hiya!

I couldn’t be more grateful of the people who have taken time out to read my blog, because it means everything to me. Without my blog, I really don’t think I’d be in the position I am now. I’d probably be living at my parents, hooked on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication, living in a perpetual state of unhappiness and regret. Instead, I am head over heels in love with the most amazingly sweet and genuinely best human I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing and, better than that, I feel that I deserve the love he has to offer me. We live in an amazing little flat, overlooking the water, filled with belongings and paintings and posters that encapsulate our personalities (which are basically mirrored in one another) and our relationship… everything is so important because everything here I have experienced with him. I feel so safe, content and I feel happier than I have ever felt in my life and, more importantly, I feel that I am deserving of all of these nice things. I’ve genuinely forgotten what it feels like to be truly sad and when reading back through my old blogs, I really don’t know why I allowed myself to be so manipulated or so abused, or so sad as I felt about someone who was never worthy of my time.

It’s funny what blogging can do for people, but I’m really glad that my blog helped me discover who I really am. Thank you, all of you, who’ve taken time to read my blog over the past year… Here’s to you all. And here’s to you Doris Daze, happy birthday, my love.

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Doris and Her Festive Period

Don’t worry, this is not going to be a post regarding the menstrual cycle of a red wine addict at Christmas time. In fact, it isn’t about the menstrual cycle of anyone and if you thought it was, you have either misread or are following my menstrual cycle far too closely for anyone to feel at all comfortable with. Back off. No, this blog is about what happened during my absence at Christmas time! I didn’t blog at all during the festive period, I very rarely tweeted either, so I feel the need to catch up with some of my internet friends and, quite frankly, brag at how amazing my Christmas has been and how very lucky I am to have the people in my life that I do.

Not many people knew that my birthday was on Christmas Eve too, so the excitement around December is somewhat doubled and I am, generally, quite unbearable and this year was no different. It was my first Christmas in my new home, it was my first Christmas that I was actually looking forward to for many years and it was my first Christmas with my beloved, Brain. Before the festive period had even begun, I had a lot to be happy and grateful about, so I went into Christmas with the biggest smile on my face.

I woke up on my birthday at 6.30, upon realising Brain was no longer in bed and was pottering about the house. Being inherently nosey, I instantly wondered what he was doing, before realising he wanted to put my banners and balloons up that his mam bought for him (because he freaked out at the idea of having to do it, which, honestly, I am foaming about because when he turned 29, me and my manager arranged banners and massive helium filled balloons reading ‘45’ and also One Direction ones, so I thought it only polite to reciprocate that excellent effort), I also woke up realising that I’d moved them and he wouldn’t be able to find them, so when he came back to bed in a huff, I had to fully acknowledge my awake state and let him know where they were. I also decided that I would open presents at this time too. It was my birthday, I made up the rules.

Brain has bought me a lot of presents over the past few months we’ve been together and generally he’s a very good present buyer, but he totally out did himself with my birthday gifts. I received Nora Ephron’s book, I Feel Bad About My Neck, which I happened to tell him about when we were watching When Harry met Sally back in the summer and he remembered, which I found astounding and super thoughtful. He also bought me a mini Dwight (US Office) bobble head, which I can’t help but laugh hysterically at every time it moves – I have wanted one of these for an absolute eternity and it is one of my favourite things of all time. His main present was something absolutely astounding and it genuinely took my breath away and brought an abundance of tears to my eyes, so much so that it is getting a paragraph of its own:

It was a large square that I thought was either a calendar (which I’d have been a bit dejected by if I’m honest) or a vinyl. I thought it might have been a Rolling Stones vinyl, seen as neither of us own one and they’re my favourite band, but when I read the card, I realised it wasn’t that at all. It read “Sunday 1st June” and my heart stopped in my chest. It was the day after our first date and he came to mine so I could cook him some food and we could hang out / listen to music and it turned out to be potentially the best day of our relationship; it was very, very weird and absolutely amazing. We listened to a lot of Explosions in the Sky, so I assumed it was one of their albums on vinyl, which I was SO excited about. But when I opened it, I realised it wasn’t that at all and again, my heart stopped in my chest. What it was, was actually a custom made vinyl with all of the songs he thought best described our relationship from that day until now. I can’t quite remember the tracklisting but it featured so many songs that mean so much to us both and each of us have actual instances when we can remember first listening to songs together. The first track is Semisonic’s Secret Smile which is undeniably our song and naturally, as is our way, it features a few Bob Dylan tracks too. It is by far the most thoughtful gift I’ve ever received and listening to it brings me nothing but joy. It also featured a photograph one of my best friends took of him at a wedding they were both at, so it was even more special: My favourite photograph, taken of my favourite person, by one of my best friends. Very cool and very thoughtful.

I received some other amazing gifts and drank wine, spent time with friends and family and curled up in Brain’s nook and felt pretty damned lucky to have such a mint lad in my life!

The next day was obviously Christmas day and we had to get up even earlier, because we were both spending the day a part, with our families and I wouldn’t see him until the night time, so we got up and opened our gifts together. I never wrote here what I was buying Brain for Christmas because he reads the blog and I didn’t want to ban him from reading it, purely for the sake of essentially screaming LOOK LOOK LOOK. But I got him a lot of Marvel & Dragon Ball Z related stuff, which he really loved, I think, so I’m pleased! He went out of his way to spoil me rotten again and knock me off my feet again and overwhelm me again and make me cry again… It’s like he has magic powers.

The first thing I opened was something that I have been longing for since I was about fourteen; a DSLR camera. Naturally, I know absolutely nothing about it other than it is amazing, but I am happily learning how to take photographs and become better than someone who just snaps shit on her phone and posts it on Instagram. I find it pretty impersonal and that kind of stuff you can’t put in photo albums and create proper memories with, so naturally, I am overjoyed with his gift. Since Christmas, I’ve been practicing snapping photos every day and I’m starting to get the hang of it and have taken some really awesome photos, so watch this space as I might share some in the future. I thought this would be my main present, but it really wasn’t…

I also received a baby Groot who was hand made by someone on Etsy, I do believe and he is so cute, I love him so much that I put him next to my bed so when I wake up I can say shit like ‘I AM GROOT’ and not be strange. I also received an amazing Game of Thrones necklace, which basically means I am Mother of Dragons as it is the Targaryean house banner. I wore it a few times over Christmas because I love it, but the other day when I was taking my scarf off, it got caught and broke so I am irate and need a new chain.

The last present I opened, I thought it was a joke, because all Christmas he had been harping on about getting me some kind of stupid graphics card for HIS PC, so when I opened it and saw a motherboard, I think it was, for a laptop, I was a bit stony faced and like ‘what the fuck is this, bro?’ so poor Brain had to practically shout ‘IT’S A JOKE!’ and tell me to open it. So I did and inside were envelopes:

1. Train tickets departing from Newcastle and arriving in London’s Kings Cross.
2. A Menu for Maze, one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants.
3. A hotel booking at the Raddison Blu
4. Boarding passes for the London Eye
5. Two tickets to see Les Miserables

Needless to say, my breath was gone and tears were flowing from my eyes. Secretly, I was FOAMING that he had out done himself again, meaning that he wins Christmas and birthday, but mostly I was absolutely blown away by yet another amazingly thoughtful, sweet and generous thing he had done for me. He really is my favourite human.

So, in eleven days, I will be spending the weekend with the love of my life in London and I can’t wait. I had to share with you all because it really is an amazing thing that he’s done and I am so, so happy to have such an amazing man in my life.

Normal posting resumes tomorrow, including a breakdown of the general theme of my blog over the coming months. Stay tuned, folks! xxx

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A Series of Lamentations: Self-Love and Being a Woman

If you are here because you read the title and thought that I was going to embark on an intricate journey of self-discovery and ultimately, public discussion of an internalised regret at having spent the majority of my twenties attempting to perfect my masturbatory habits, then you are, unfortunately, very much mistaken. If you are here for anything that may potentially resemble masturbation, or the desire to read one girl’s tale of sexual awakening, then you should leave, right now. This is a series of lamentations and I, admittedly, have nothing to lament about regarding that particular element of self-love: I’m awesome and I get shit DONE. No, this is a little bit of an insight into the life of someone who was given all of the opportunities to become a self-involved, worshipper of one’s self, but someone who, through life experiences, hasn’t taken those steps and has suffered exponentially as a result.

There is no real method of denial for anyone to exercise when I say that, as a woman, we are not taught to love ourselves at all. From the moment we are catapulted from the warm bosom of childhood into the cruel and harsh world of puberty, with tiny lumps growing out of our previously flat chests and hair where we never thought hair would grow (which we are then immediately taught to shave, wax or make deals with the devil to keep it off, right there and then), and blood torturing our crotches on a monthly basis, all in the name of eventual reproduction, (because, there’s not even a choice in the matter, we all just have to suffer regardless of what our life choices end up being. Lesbian? I don’t care, PERIOD. Double period, because you may eventually live with a woman and you’ll have them at the same time and not only will your crotch be bleeding, but you’ll be attempting valiantly not to enter into some kind of Hunger Games style lifestyle for the entirety of your period which only lasts about seven days, but seems to last lifetimes in your pants. I mean, we never even got the opportunity to ask Mother Nature about periods, you know? Like, I would have appreciated sitting down with her and being like ‘so, here’s the situation – I’m eleven and I’m not really sure where my life is going to take me, I might not want children in the future, they are small and the idea of housing a tiny human in my uterus for nine months seems an unnecessary downfall of my gender, especially seen as how I will then have to shove it out of a hole that doesn’t look big enough to push a giant head out of and I am sure older me would agree, that I could probably not fit a giant head IN there, so where’s the logic, sister? WHERE?’), we have had no real control over our bodies or states of mind; it has all been done for us via the over-arching glue of the media – keeping women in a state of perpetual self-doubt since its inception. YAY!

Admittedly, growing up, I was given all the fodder to potentially become someone who promoted love of herself in every possible form; my parents were my perpetual cheerleaders and there wasn’t a concept of ‘no’ or ‘this isn’t possible’ within our family. My sister decided when she was little she wanted to learn origami, leaned towards my mother one lunch time and stated, “I want to learn pornography!” and kudos to my mother, she didn’t say that she couldn’t, only asked where she’d learned such a grown up word. The only time I ever really heard ‘no’ was when I decided I wanted to be a pop star and actress, but that’s something I’ve covered and generally have come to terms with (weeps). It wasn’t until we became teenagers and allowed external factors to govern our opinions of ourselves, did our family dynamic really change. Whilst we were never told that we couldn’t do something, I remember our parents’ perception of what others thought of us was greater than it had been before, which I blame entirely on the fact that my parents were raising two females of a very similar age – if my parents had sons, there wouldn’t have been any issues over what they were wearing, or who they were hanging out with. The general adage, boys will be boys would have meant that any sons of my parents wouldn’t have hit the barriers my sister and I did when we were teenagers. I guess it’s the same notion as society teaching girls how not to get sexually assaulted, rather than teaching boys not to sexually assault; my parents taught us how to adhere to gender stereotypes and behave in a manner that one would deem as ladylike, thus hoping to potentially decrease the potential of anything terrible happening to us, so I totally get it and I’m not trying to say that my parents did anything wrong at all – because they didn’t and I thank them every day for giving me the best life I could have wished for – but, their actions were only symptomatic of the society we were all born into: That women need to behave in a certain way in order to ascertain their true meanings in life… marriage and babies. And that is pushed onto us as much as it possibly can as soon as puberty rears its bitch of a head; we need to find a man and keep him in order for us to fulfil our biological duty. They were taught by society and the media on how to appropriately parent as much as we’re taught how to dress and how to truly satisfy our man in Cosmopolitan magazine.

Granted, my sister and I never bought into any of that shit. I decided that I wouldn’t rush the marriage and baby thing, because there is SO much do in life before I have to settle down and have kids and whilst there is always the tick tock of my biological clock, that the media is always telling me to listen to, it’s not something that bothers me. My sister decided straight up NO WAY I AM NOT HAVING KIDS I HATE THEM THEY ARE SO SMALL AND NEEDY I JUST DON’T WANT THEM and has only in the past year or so slightly changed her mind (as long as she never has girls) because she fell in love, but before that we all pictured her as some kind of spinster, living somewhere covered in televisions, game consoles and random Legend of Zelda merchandise. She would be the auntie to my children and they’d be the only kids she ever liked, but they’d be scared of her because she is a little foreboding. But, I was still the weaker one of the two and fell victim to a lot of aggression because of my independent nature… so much so that I entirely changed for a long period of time.

I’m not going to go into that element of my life in too much detail, but I did get to the point where I genuinely thought I was deserving of all the aggression, of all the ‘why aren’t you pregnant, what is wrong with you’ type conversations and a lifestyle that really didn’t cater to my needs or desires at all – my passion for writing was non-existent, because it wasn’t supported, I couldn’t even watch what I wanted to on television and my happiness hinged on the happiness of another woman; if she wasn’t happy, or if she decided I was in her bad books, then my boyfriend would act accordingly and it was usually to the detriment of my state of mind, my happiness and my emotional well-being. So, this is what I lament most out of all of my series of lamentations; I grieve for the woman who was given every opportunity in life; who did so well at school, college and university and could have explored the world, but instead ended up in a relationship that she wasn’t enjoying as it was happening, forced into being with someone who put her down at every opportunity, who’s opinion of women was so fucked up because he was raised by someone who kept him sucking at the teat of motherhood well into his adult life and who’s only real goal in life was to get to the pub; he was raised to be a misogynist and any woman who exercised any form of opinion that differed from mammy dearest’s, was punished. It was your typical, run of the mill, Norman Bates style relationship between mammy dearest and her little boy. In hindsight, I was clearly a mentalist and I am genuinely ashamed to have been a part of that misogynistic lifestyle that allowed me to become stuck and think that there was something wrong with me for not wanting to have his babies at the age of twenty one (or, ever, just to be clear).

I have learned some valuable lessons from this relationship, though and have since become a self-sufficient, adult woman who has learned from those mistakes and become someone who is pursuing her passions and living a life that I choose to lead. I have a boyfriend who isn’t necessarily a feminist, but someone who believes my passions and interests are just as important as his own and deserving of pursuing, so I get to write in abundance and be in a relationship where I’m not pressured to be anything other than myself. And that’s definitely something worth celebrating and definitely something I intend to keep up in my late twenties, because what is the point in a series of lamentations, without attempting to either celebrate my future, or make plans involving handsome beards?

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A Series of Lamentations: Food

My boyfriend (Brain) is constantly admonishing me for my relationship with food; he accuses me of being picky, which tends to catapult me into an irate state of melodrama that involves me screaming “I AM NOT PICKY, I AM THE OPPOSITE OF PICKY, I AM FAT FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, ISN’T IT OBVIOUS THAT I LOVE FOOD IN ALL ITS GLORY?!” before listing items of food that I enjoy eating, that many people wouldn’t enjoy eating, either because their tolerance for dead animals and the food created from their insides is significantly less than mine (read: non-existent) or because they are vegetarians/vegans and their love of vegetables is so extensive that they would eat things that I never would without wanting to smother everything in thick layers of cheese and probably also some chicken.

However, and this is something that I have never told Brain, through genuine fear of him turning into the haughty, self-righteous know it all that he loves to be when he realises that he has bested me and that I am, as predicted, an unending example of persistent contradictions that render all of my arguments to the contrary positively inept (like, seriously, bro, how perceptive do you really need to be? Give a girl a break!) and that I did for a long time have genuine issues with food and most of my culinary discoveries only happened in the last, perhaps, one to three years of my life.

I still maintain that I am not picky, but that I grew up in an environment where culinary exploration wasn’t really a high priority; that set meals and an avoidance of foods that my mother didn’t want to cook was imperative and as a result, my palette was relatively infantile until I went to university and discovered an abundance of cheap restaurants that allowed me to explore food in more detail. So, if you are the type of person to read between the lines, I guess you’ve come to the conclusion that, not only do I blame my alleged pickiness on my mother, I also blame her for being fat too.

Isn’t that always the way: Slightly fat human in her mid to late twenties blaming her mother for her current state of tear inducing chubbiness that no amount of Spanx can conceal? Let’s not acknowledge the fact that I don’t live with my mother and that I haven’t done full time for the past three years and that, since the age of perhaps sixteen or seventeen, she had no actual control over what I ate for lunch or dinner unless I ate at home and no she doesn’t know that today for lunch I had a handful of Skittles and salted popcorn with extra salt, because she would judge me harshly. Quite rightly too.

You see, my mother is the true picky eater in this game of life we all play and therefore, my lack of knowledge where certain foods were concerned is because of her dislike for something. Chicken, for example, is something we very rarely ate; we would sometimes get a chicken curry for tea, but not very often because she hates touching it and thinks we are all going to get salmonella and die, which is why I have never been too fond of cooking chicken, because I’m frightened of getting salmonella and dying, fitting in all too well with my upbringing. This is also why I very rarely order chicken in a restaurant, because I will sift through the chicken, sticking bits in the face of the person opposite me asking if the chicken looks too pink to them. And that if I taste a piece of chicken that tastes too chicken-like, I will refuse to eat any further and want to order something else. And this is from someone who loves chicken.

I remember once we were ordering a very rare Chinese takeaway when I was a teenager, my sister and I opted to share a chicken curry together and my mother, who was writing down what to order so that she didn’t forget, looked at us with a face full of genuine concern and said: “chicken… Are you sure you don’t want beef?” prompting, naturally, my sister and I to burst into fits full of giggles and retort with something pithy and harsh, but all very well-mannered that no,  we actually want chicken and if we’d wanted beef, we would have said. But, her attempts at coaxing us towards the evidently far better takeaway option of beef did work, because I remember eating it thinking “this tastes too much like chicken. I don’t think this is cooked. Actually, I don’t think this is chicken at all…WHAT AM I EATING?!” and I have never ordered a chicken curry from anywhere since.

My mother has always had a genuine difficulty with handling meat (much to the lament of my poor dad! HA, sorry, but a good innuendo/inappropriate joke about one’s parents’ sex life should NEVER be missed…Let that be a life lesson to you!), and whilst we can’t class her as a vegetarian due to her love of beef roast lunches and the occasional lamb dish, we can’t class her as a meat eater, because she’d never eat spaghetti Bolognese or fish and chips if it was cooked by anyone other than the one man she trusts to cook her fish. Up until Christmas last year, she hated pork and was quite pissed off with my dad for buying a huge joint of pork and cooking it in her oven, until she popped her head around the kitchen door where my dad, myself and my sister were huddled, practically suckling the pig fat dripping from it’s delectable carcass and she actually tried some. Now she likes hot pork sandwiches. (Another great excuse for an innuendo, but I’ll let it slide.)

So, as you can see, any pickiness that I have exhibited is not pickiness at all, but a deep rooted loyalty to my mam that no one – not even you, Brain – can judge. And whilst I have always heartily enjoyed meat, rarest of rare steaks and chicken in abundance (only if it doesn’t taste too much like chicken), it wasn’t until the past few years I’ve discovered food that I like:

Haggis – as a result of my ex’s dad who played bagpipes and took me along to a Burn’s night where I had Haggis Neeps and Tatties for the first time (also the first time I realised I love turnip, but only if it is cubed) and it was divine.

Black Pudding – through walking in Tesco with my dad who asked me if I liked black pudding and before I could answer, my mam shouted, ”NO, SHE DOES NOT LIKE BLACK PUDDING!” prompting me to feverishly stuff it in my mouth next time I saw it on a menu in a restaurant, which was positively divine. I think I went home that evening, pointed at my mam and screamed “I DO LIKE BLACK PUDDING, WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS TRYING TO RUIN MY LIFE, YOU HARLOT!*” and locked myself in my bedroom because I am mature and not at all melodramatic.

Mussels – I didn’t realise I actually liked mussels for a very long time, mostly because I thought choosing this dish in a restaurant meant that I was eating the muscles of fish, which seemed an unnecessary delicacy that I didn’t want to try. I mean, I had tried sushi and some of it was lovely, I’d tried salmon and loved it cooked, but would never try it raw and the idea of eating a fish with it’s head and eyes and bones still attached freaked me out, so why would I eat a fish muscle served in a white wine sauce? Waste of wine if you ask me! Then I realised they were actual shell fish and served in a white wine sauce, because mussles go amazing with a white wine sauce, also a coconut and chilli sauce if you like spicy things and taste more meaty than I would have given them credit for (because I also don’t like things that are too fishy, another trait I owe to my dearest mama).

Admittedly, I have wasted a lot of my life thinking I hated foods when I don’t. I discovered that I love both olives and soft goats cheese this year as well as gnocchi and charcoal cheese. There are also things that I knew I didn’t like, but I tried any way, because Brain peer-pressured me, like camembert, stilton and other cheeses that smell and taste like mouldy, dead people feet. I will try to amend my lack of education in the culinary arts, but only for things I want to try like ostrich and venison and shark, but won’t ever eat pigeon or tomatoes because they are sinister looking and I hate them. So fuck you, Brain**.

*Slight dramatization. Probably didn’t happen like that at all. I’m a liar.

**I say this jokingly. For the most part. Love you, really, kidda!

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Watching Explosions in the Sky:

When I was younger, my family and I would go to a council run bonfire event every year – usually in Durham, sometimes in Newcastle: there would be food stalls serving an abundance of gluttonous, sugary snacks – huge lollipops in bright colours, baked goods slathered in sticky sugar, burgers with sloppy sauces and questionable meat sources. There’d be the occasional ridiculously overpriced stall where you could throw balls at poorly placed targets, where if you were amongst the very rare and lucky to win, you could find yourself the brand new owner of an enormous stuffed toy that would be beloved until the moment it became too arduous to carry. They were family affairs that, despite the bitter cold, helped you feel the comforting warmth of being enveloped in layers both physical and emotional, keeping the harsh sting of winter away, despite standing in an open field, watching explosions in the sky. I remember those events fondly, but now that I’m older, they don’t have the same resonance as they should – it was just a firework display with food stalls… nothing special, not like what fireworks should mean, what you longed for them to mean.

As I got older, I would become slightly addicted to people watching; so much so that I would walk into people, or lose my group because I would stop dead in my tracks to watch a small family: Mother and father, with a small child perched happily on their dad’s shoulders, or an elderly couple holding hands, standing so close together for warmth that it seemed they were enclosed in a bubble no one else could become a part of. To me, the older I became, the less bonfire night meant to me. I didn’t want to stand in a cold field, covered in mud, shivering despite many layers, shuffling from side to side waiting for five minutes of mediocre fireworks, before I join an enormous queue and shuffle impatiently back to the car, before sitting in a traffic jam, bored, tired and desperate for a cup of tea. You see, Bonfire night now bores me. Fireworks hold no resonance for me. Displays make me feel impatient and indignant; I don’t want to be a part of a crowd of people, listening to some locally known, predominantly failed DJ talk in that annoying accent only DJs know how to speak in; playing chart hits I don’t want to hear, standing alone, cold, wet and bored.

Yet, despite all of this, I love fireworks. I love standing so close to a bonfire that you can feel the soft kiss of its heat touching your skin, smelling the air, thick with smoke and fire, mixed with an abundance of different food smells. I love tilting my head to the sky and watching it light up with primary colours and hearing the generic ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’ of parents and children alike. You see, I don’t hate bonfire night. I don’t hate the tradition of standing in a dark field, watching the skies. As an avid people watcher, I became obsessed with my idea of an ideal bonfire night; one that evoked in me the feelings I got when watching other people – I wanted bonfire night to mean something to me. I wanted to be snuggled inside of a thick layer of wool and scarves, wearing mittens and leaning in a casually absent minded fashion into the side of someone tall and solid, someone who would wrap one of their gloved arms around me, clutching onto my shoulder or my hips, tilting their head into mine; unable to feel them, but feeling the pressure of our woollen hats touching each other – a distinct intimacy that I always thought was an unattainable desire, something movies created to make us believe that romance isn’t something that everyone can achieve or experience, but that only people who are truly in the know, people who feel the irrevocable bliss of true and comfortable monogamy, truly know. Our heads focused on the sky, watching fireworks explode, both of us occasionally sneaking glances at the other, watching the other’s eyes light up, a small smile tracing their lips as the explosion booms throughout the sky, the soft glistening of their eyes as they squint, enjoying the moment for themselves. A pair of lips touching my hat covered head in a manner that screams I love you even though the contact period is less than a second… the intimacy that standing in a group of hundreds of people can truly illicit in two people when love is their only thought.

It’s such a silly desire, because I have that every single day. I get kisses on my forehead often. When he wakes up before me, I am awoken with soft kisses all over my face; I am looked at constantly when I’m in my own little world, smiling at nothing or crying at something ridiculously sentimental on TV, having tears wiped from my face, for no other reason that me crying is upsetting to him. I don’t need to see fireworks to know that I am irrevocably adored, yet the selfish and childish person in my longs for the Hollywood style romantic situations: Spending national holidays and events together. Doing the whole ‘standing in a freezing field smiling at the sky screaming at us’, snuggling into one another, smug in the knowledge that no one in that giant field staring at a giant fire full of old furniture know just how in love we are. I want to be the inspiration for some dorky, introverted, lanky human who let her dad choose her practical and warming blue, peg buttoned winter coat that despite it’s terrible fashion choices, kept me warm and it’s practicality is still displayed daily by the mother who walks her dog wearing said coat ten years later, who wears glasses and has spots all over her face, who doesn’t quite fit anywhere, but longs to be a part of a team that consists of two people; who wants to be loved, adored and cherished in spite of all her blatant flaws… I want her to be able to look at us and think yep… that’s what I want. That is a blatant example of two people who will adore each other until they’re elderly, decrepit by a life well lived, holding mittened hands, foaming that the winter made their bonfire night so cold, wishing they were back home, but unable to because their grandchildren are just SO excited by the explosions in the sky, far superior than what they were when they were younger… I want that. I want a life and a love inspirational to others and events like bonfire night; the true romanticism of it to be an aspiration to anyone who believes in love. Bonfire night isn’t just a night of glutton and cold, heat and fireworks, an event steeped in a bizarre and crazy tradition (terrorism, let’s not forget that), it’s a night where romance is alive and that’s how I feel about the evening. Which makes it all the more bittersweet: I have my ideal human… he’s just watching the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra… So I am sat alone drinking wine. Sad that I didn’t get my picture perfect bonfire night with the love of my life, but so proud that he’s such an interesting, intelligent and well educated individual. He’s awesome and even though I didn’t get fireworks, I am still irrevocably in love and aware that I’m adored just as much, if not more, in return. Love you, Brain.

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An Affair to Remember

 “Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories, and we’ve already missed the spring…”

An Affair To Remember is one of my favourite films. Whenever I feel sad or lonely, or even when I feel inexplicably happy or nostalgic, it’s the first thing I go to. When I talk about it, or even think about it, the tears pool in my eyes even if I just happen to think of just how happy that film makes me. It is one of the most important films in my life, something I always think of with warm, fond memories.

The first time I watched it was one ridiculously early Sunday morning, when I, still living at home, meandered downstairs, expecting to find remnants of the drunken night before that desperately needed cleaning up, but which I would happily ignore. Instead, I would curl up on the sofa, inviting both dogs: Homer and Arthur, my amazing old boxer men who are now no longer with us, up on the sofa for a forbidden cuddle (they weren’t allowed on the sofa unless mama was very drunk and feeling soft), which they both relished in. Homer would only cuddle on his terms, so I would have to invite him up onto my seat and I would have to sit next to him, burying my head into his soft, silky fur; he’d place a paw over my hand and drift off into a slumber that elicited soft, comforting snores in my ear. Arthur, desperate for any kind of affection, at any given time, would clamber onto me and fit in any spare part of the sofa, draping himself over me and burying his head into my nook or a body part that was particularly soft (usually my stomach) and we would lie there, happily, in silence, until someone else in the house woke up and disturbed our peaceful snuggles. This morning, however, it was my mama, who I found watching the end of a film I can’t remember; the living room was tidy and both dogs were laying on the floor in front of her snoring happily. They both lifted their handsome heads when I walked in, in a manner which I like to think of as disappointment, that their snuggles on the sofa weren’t going to happen this weekend… Sorry boys…

Both my mama and I made our way to the kitchen, where she made us both a cup of tea and I raided the cupboards for some kind of unhealthy, biscuit type snack, before making our way back to the living room. My mother and I, ever since I was little, have always shared a sofa, whilst my dad and sister always had their own seats. It’s not something I minded, because when I was younger, I would snuggle up beside her and lie on her tummy whilst watching television and as I got older, the tummy snuggles would only happen if I was feeling sad or very sorry for myself. Usually we’d both sit with our feet up, mine pushed against her thighs because of my lanky legs and hers sitting comfortably in front of me, because she’s tiny and perfect. This morning, we were sitting in this usual spot, drinking tea and absent mindedly watching the news when she turns and asks me if I fancy watching one of the Cary Grant films that I’d bought her as part of her birthday presents. We decided on An Affair to Remember and my love affair with this movie was encapsulated forever.

We sat in silence throughout the whole film, until the very end and the credits rolled; we turned to each other, emotions built up inside of us, desperate to escape and as our eyes made contact, we burst into tears.

“That was one of the best things I’ve ever seen in my life…” I sobbed.

I’m not sure if it was because of my love for Cary Grant, or my general obsession with great, dramatic love stories or even the fact that I’d watched it one Sunday morning with my mother; something we both shared and will always share together, but it has remained the most important movie in my life ever since.

Years later, I would be sitting in a cold house that bore no warm memories; somewhere I hated, but simply resided and I would turn to the person I’d been seeing for a couple of weeks and I’d say,

“I’ve always wanted this, look. It’s from one of my favourite movies, but it’s just so expensive!”

He would respond with something relatively nonchalant, presumably what is this monstrosity, it’s a picture of two people kissing… what’s so great about that?

And a few weeks later, when I’d moved into my brand new flat with the help of said human, I’d be sitting at his parent’s house and in he’d walk with a delivery from somewhere, which he had bought me, as a house warming gift.

It was what I’d told him I’d wanted. A vintage film poster of An Affair to Remember, the film that brings me to tears at the very thought of it. Naturally, I cried my eyes out; I’d never received a present so thoughtful, or so important. I had already fallen in love with him at this point, because it’s pretty hard not to, but I think that moment in particular made me realise that I never want to be a part from him. It’s just a poster, get a life… Yeah, I know, but it’s pretty indescribable; I had longed for that movie poster in my life for years and years and in one moment of simple internet browsing, during the stages in our relationship where we were just getting to know each other, he remembered and bought me it.

If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s about two people who shouldn’t have met. They met per chance one evening when she’d found his cigarette case and after that they spent their entire cruise back to America with one another. It wasn’t sexual, it wasn’t even romantic, nor did it elude to romance… it was two people who were getting to know each other. They met by chance, by a simple mistake and then they got to know each other more than anyone else had gotten to know them before; it’s love in its most simple and important form and I think that’s why it resonates so deeply with me.

It’s no secret that I am a raging lover of romance; I love romance. Flowers, chocolates, being wined and dined, things I’d never experienced until Brain came into my life, but things I desperately wanted – I just wanted to be loved and for me, that movie encapsulates exactly what love is about. It’s not about what you look like or how much you weigh, or if you have the right boobs or clothes… it’s about getting to know someone inside and out, it’s spending eight hours on the sofa, doing nothing but staring into each other’s eyes. It’s corny, it’s simple and it’s beautiful.

I wasn’t supposed to meet Brain. I’d accepted a job somewhere I can’t even remember when I received a phone call inviting me for an interview one Tuesday morning. I didn’t know if I could accept, because I was supposed to start a job on Monday, but I did any way… just in case. Turns out, my first day on this job was awful, so awful that my dad text me half way through and said ‘Get up out of your chair and just walk out. Say anything you want, just go.’ And I did. The next day I went to an interview and a few weeks later, after an email I’d sent thanking them for an interview (an email I can’t remember sending), I received a phone call inviting me to start the next day. And on my first day, my managers introduced me to people in the office and then introduced me to Brain; he was wearing a Bob Dylan t-shirt and shook my hand, looking all tall and shy (and bearded) and I thought to myself ‘shit…’ and well… I guess the rest is history, as they say.

So now, as you may have guessed An Affair to Remember reminds me of Brain. He reminded me that love is so important and that it’s not just as simple as being with someone for a long period of time and eventually saying it because you feel you have to, but not really feeling it. After my first date with Brain, I closed my door and I actually swooned because I’d totally fallen head over heels in love with him. And when I opened that poster and I realised that he’d remembered something I said completely innocuously, not at all expecting him to even remember, never mind buy me it… It just made me realise that I am going to be with this person for the rest of my life. He loves me and every time I look at the poster, pride of place in my living room, I remember just how he was looking at me when I opened that present. He’s the love of my life and I am so lucky that I accidentally found him too.

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