Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Things I would like to see happen in 2015

...I lied, I basically wrote this AT work. It was a quiet day.

1) For the media to stop giving Katie Hopkins the column space. Like a fight outside a pub, they need to just leave it, because it's not worth it.

2) For the media to also stop asking famous people whether they're feminists or not, like they're compiling an international register. It's getting really boring, and it's also putting me off people. I don't really need to know whether or not the woman who plays Penny in the Big Bang Theory is a feminist.

Because the thing is, if you treat something like it's a Massively Divisive Issue, then it never becomes anything other than a Massively Divisive Issue. Why don’t we just assume that everyone is strongly pro “women having equal rights” and “women being perfectly capable of making the decisions that are best for them”, and so on? Of course, we know that not everyone is, but if we all start acting like it’s the absolute norm to be Strident Feminists, eventually the non-feminist types will start to feel like the freaks.We can hope.

3) A distint lack of naked photo "scandals". Taking photos of yourself sans clothing, to share with a partner, is not a crime. It is a very normal thing to do - the first thing humans drew, with pebbles on cliff walls, were other naked humans (probably) - and let's face it, we're never going to be any younger or more attractive than we are right now, right this second. Making naked photos of someone who isn’t you and hasn’t consented available online is a crime. It's hardly PhD-level astrophysics to not be a tremendous jerk.

4) More excellent TV programmes with badass female leads, a la Carrie from Homeland. I want a female House, a lady Sherlock, a woman version of Rust from True Detective.

5) A complete overhaul of the current political system, please. (I never said these were going to be realistic goals.) I would like people who've had real jobs doing the nation's admin; people who know what works when it comes to education, healthcare, energy, transport - and/or who are prepared to listen to those who do know.

6) More women on TV. Fucking. Panel. Shows. Again, it's not hard.

7) For up-and-coming writers, musicians, artists, and all other creative types to support each other, help each other out, promote each other's work. I just think it's important. Good karma and whatnot.

8) For fewer judgemental bloody think-pieces on things like cereal cafes and Russell Brand.

9) The complete disappearance of clickbait and "listicles" (irony acknowledged).

Happy New Year!

Monday, 29 December 2014

Naughty Badger's Review of the Year

This was, unarguably, the highlight of my year.
So, the close of 2014 is imminent (which reminds me, I still haven't planned anything for New Year's Eve. Is it even a Thing anymore? Can I not just drink alone in my own house?) and as I haven't blogged nearly as much as I 'should' have done this year, I thought I'd do a round-up to fill in any gaps. Here y'are.

The "back off, dude, this is getting creepy now" moment of the year:

I'll try and nutshell this one but it could be tricky, and you kind of need the details for context.

In January of this year, I was still working at the salon. It was a cold, dull morning, and I was not feeling brilliant, having been up since about 6am with period pain (sorry, male readers, but it's best you know how utterly fucking grim it can be). In walked The Guy (42, with an estranged wife, if that's relevant), and we chatted briefly. He was a regular customer, polite and friendly, therefore immediately memorable, and actually gave me the time of day, which was rare. I made an off-hand comment about having a bad day, and his response was "oh, that's a shame, I'll have to take you out to dinner to cheer you up."

I didn't think he was serious - no-one asks someone out like that, do they? - so I replied with a feeble, "hahahaha...yeah, hahaha..." In my defence, I'd taken some pretty strong painkillers.

Ten minutes after leaving the salon, he returned - practically flying in, not looking at me - and handed me his phone number written on a napkin, and then left again. Now, I didn't think people actually did that, outside of below-average romcoms, so I just sort of stared after him, thinking "oh. What's happening? I'm not sure."

A week later, he brought up the subject of dinner again, and this time, gave me time to say "um, well, I do have a boyfriend."
"Oh. Oh." This was apparently news to him, which is odd, because I was certain I'd mentioned this fact.
"I'm sure I've mentioned him to you...?"
"Yeah, yeah, you have. Not for ages, though. I thought..."
"No. Yeah. Still got him."

Long story short, we did end up going for a friendly drink - because initially, he was just that. Friendly, and funny, and good at... just chatting, I suppose. The Valentine card delivered to the salon was perhaps unnecessary, and he was absolutely baffled by the fact that Drummer Boy knew everything and was entirely unfazed by it. I say "everything"; there wasn't anything to know. "So he really doesn't mind that you're having a drink with me?"
"No. Why would he?"
"It's just weird that he's not bothered."
"Is it?"

Drummer Boy's take on it was refreshing: "I'm not worried. Not in the slightest. There's not exactly any competition, is there?"

Yeah, I'll just leave that one there.

Bringing flowers to the salon was also perhaps unnecessary - "erm, thanks...?" - and when he suggested me going to his flat and having dinner, I started to wonder if I hadn't been clear enough about the whole "I have a boyfriend who I'm definitely not leaving" thing.

He got the message eventually, so now it's just a mildly amusing extended anecdote.

The "is this really happening - in a good way?" moments #1 and #2:

Both of these happened at ArcTanGent. The first was at the silent disco - after finding "Lake ArcTanGent" in our tent following about 19 hours of non-stop drizzle, I was not feeling especially post-rocktastic. I reluctantly joined the others at the silent disco, because the only other options were standing and staring forlornly at our soaked belongings, or scouting out some hard drugs.

And I learnt something that night: you have not lived until you've witnessed a tall, broad, burly man, who is drunk on bad red wine, jumping up and down and bellowing along to "WEEE-EEEE ARE NEVER EVER EVER GETTING BACK TOGETHER!"

Moral(s) of that story: don't ever think you're too good for a bit of Taylor Swift. Oh, and don't buy a cheap tent.

The second one isn't really my story to tell, so I won't, but in short, it's the best poo-related anecdote I've ever been told, and upon hearing it, I decided I'd never be embarrassed by anything, ever again. Just imagine having a terrible stomach upset, in a tent. On a school trip. Yeah.

The "well, that's a relief" moment of the year:

I got a job. I am gainfully employed. I pay tax and everything. Woo! It hasn't stopped Mother Dearest going off on one on a fortnightly basis - "you could be earning more money, why aren't you working in London?" - but it's a start.

The "is this really happening - in a shit way" moment:

Ah yes, a little occurrence I like to call "the time Drummer Boy and I nearly broke up after a Brontide gig".

It should have been a great night, being the album launch show for Artery. But a) we had to leave before the end, which, where Brontide are concerned, is like having really good sex but being called down to dinner before anyone's had time to enjoy themselves properly. And b) well, we nearly broke up after it.

But it turned out that the only thing worse than staying together was not staying together. At the time of writing, we're about as revolting as the couple in Dylan Moran's skit about young people.

The "they say you shouldn't meet your heroes; in this case, they are wrong" moment:

I met Caitlin Moran, after her show at Union Chapel at the beginning of July. She hugged me, someone took a photo - I won't be smiling that broadly on my wedding day, I can tell you - and like every other person in that queue, I asked her what advice she'd give to aspiring writers. She was lovely, she smelled nice, and I wanted to ask her to be my mum.

The Panic Attack of 2014:

With hindsight, Drummer Boy deciding to drive us to The North less than two months after passing his test was a Bold Move. Horsham to Manchester, Manchester to Leeds, Leeds to York, York to Horsham. That's a lot of miles in a small car (nicknamed "the sausage dog", as she's low to the ground but tries her little heart out), and in the centre of Leeds we met our nemesis, our Voldemort, our Smaug, our Wicked Witch of West Yorkshire. The combination of a new driver, a shit Satnav, a nervous girlfriend, a car that hates hill starts and some hideous town planning meant that finding our hotel was something of an ordeal. I came very close to leaping out of the car, with a "sorry, I can't do this" and seeking refuge in the nearest pedestrianised area. By some miracle, we made it to the hotel - and promptly got a parking ticket.

Nice to meet you too, Leeds.

There's loads more that could go in here, but I've rambled on quite enough, I think. I'm not one for New Year's Resolutions - who is? - but if I were to make any, they'd go something like this:

1) Write more
2) Read more (which means more books and less internet)
3) Run more
4) that's enough to be going on with.

 See you in 2015.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Other people's houses

I can't tell you how much I want to live in a converted barn. One day I will. One day.

A little slice of whimsy...

There is one advantage to being a panic-stricken cowardy custard who can't bear the idea of driving (hurtling around in a metal box, dodging other hurtling metal boxes? Do you people not understand the potential for death and disaster?!) - well, two, actually. One is that I've never had to join a gym, and the other is that I get to have a nosy at people's houses as I stroll past their front windows. Yes, I'm a creep, I'm a weirdo, I'm an interior design pervert.

It might be the need for my own space really kicking in - but let's face it, I'm probably never going to be able to afford a house. And anyway, being responsible for an entire building seems like quite a lot of hassle. But I've done it for as long as I can remember. And I can't be the only one; everyone loves a quick peek into other people's lives. I remember Saturday morning riding lessons, clattering past flint cottages with thatched rooves in the depths of rural Sussex. One house in particular stands out in my memory, not for grand reasons, for small ones: there was a table by the window, and on that table was always a newspaper folded, open at the crossword page, a pen, and perhaps a cup. I don't think I ever saw anyone sitting at the table; maybe their weekend routine was subject to constant interruptions.

We're in prime window-nosing season, because lights go on early, and every house looks warm and inviting when you're walking along a cold, dark road. And my favourite time of year is pretty much upon us, when Christmas lights twinkle at almost every window and streets are dotted with flashes of red, green and gold. I walked down to Drummer Boy's house on the evening of Christmas Day last year, and caught sight of a family congregated in their kitchen, holding mugs and chatting, the remains of their Christmas lunch on the counter. It looked so comfortable - I could picture them having all dozed off after lunch, then coming to a couple of hours later, and deciding that the obvious answer was tea, and maybe a cold roast potato, or a couple of Quality Street. (I'm basing this entirely on my own thought processes during the later hours of December 25th.)

There's a house on my route to and from work that I'm currently a little bit obsessed with. It's recently been completely gutted and re-done, after seemingly standing empty for months, but now, it's beautiful. Boden catalogue, White Company levels of beautiful. Whoever lives in it has put a window seat in the kitchen - the audacity! Who has the time to lounge on a window seat in the kitchen? The rest of the house - well, the bits I can see, peering through gaps in the hedge as I walk past - matches the kitchen: shiny and white and glossy. God, I want to live in that house. There's a place a few yards along from the Dream House that's set back from the road, but I can see a hallway, walls painted cherry-red, with a piano in it. Red would be a good colour for a kitchen, I think - it matches all the best things you'd find in the kitchen: wine, tomatoes, chorizo, jam.

Having read some of this back, I'm starting to think it's not houses I love, but kitchens. If there's one room that represents a family best, it's got to be the kitchen. Ours is incredibly tidy, verging on show-homey, and our toaster is kept in a cupboard when we're not using it. Which is so typical of my mother - you put something down for a minute, go back to it, and she's whisked it away and put it somewhere "useful". Drummer Boy's kitchen, on the other hand, is rarely tidy, but it's always well-stocked. There are always leftovers of something tasty, or some good cheese, or double salt liquorice - which you have to actively learn to like. I don't think I'd ever met anyone who genuinely liked liquorice until I met DB's family.

But it's not all about food; I like living rooms too. I appreciate seeing a good sofa, a few cushions, throw rugs, open fire places, a sturdy wooden coffee table. And bookcases. Show me a living room with a packed bookcase, and I'll probably approve of it heartily. I don't think we have any books downstairs, but I'm running out of places to put them in my room. They're on my desk, my window sill, my chest of drawers (which doubles as a place to keep my ridiculous amount of make-up), the floor. And that's just the start - the vast majority of my book collection is in the garage - ready to be loaded into a car for when I finally get to move to Bristol. Or Bath. Or even back to Belfast (basically, if it starts with "B", I'll go there. I draw the line at Basra though. And Birmingham).

Hopefully, it's not going to be too long before I can have a place that's sort of mine. A little flat - that's all I want for now - stuffed full of books, with somewhere I can put my desk by a window. "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction" - can't argue with that, Virginia Woolf. I think the same applies for women who veer haphazardly from vague attempts at seriousness to little doses of whimsy.

I've listened to this so many times this weekend. It is perfect.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

On growing up

Read on to find out why these are in any way relevant...

I'm not a proper grown-up yet. I know this because, firstly, I still live with my parents (no, it's not out of choice; how on earth would it be?); secondly, I can't drive; and thirdly, I still get excited about my birthday (it's a whole day about me -  with presents!).

At the moment, getting older doesn't scare me. Drummer Boy recently turned 25, and threw a rather half-hearted sulk about it - and shortly after, bought some yellow trousers. Should I be worried? Is that a symptom of the so-called quarter-life crisis I've read about on Buzzfeed? Anyway, putting DB's sartorial choices to one side, I've never really been fazed by getting older. I've wanted to be "grown up" since I was about six. (One day, I might get there.) It's a relief to be 24; it really is. Done with the awkwardness and uncertainty of being a teenager, I can finally crack on with putting together the person I actually want to be, without having to worry about being "cool" or whatever. I can be boring and totally embrace it.

Speaking of being boring, here's a handful of things I've noticed recently, that make me think I might well be sort of, nearly, almost a Grown-Up:

1) I bought a coat this winter. A warm, reasonably waterproof one - and while browsing coats, found myself saying over and over "I just want a coat that at least covers my butt". Yes, I'm officially my grandmother; someone find me a thermal vest. I was vindicated with this one, though; during a recent walk to work, I found - too late! - that my dress had ridden up and was somewhere around my waist. The people of Horsham would have got an eyeful of be-tighted thigh that morning - but I was wearing the coat. So I think I just about got away with it. I hope so, anyway - my route to work usually has me passing a sixth form college at about 8.35am...

2) I've overcome my intense bath apathy. I've hated baths for about ten years, and have only had them in times of severe weather or illness. But now, after a hard day's sitting down in an office, further sitting down in hot water and nice bubble bath is a treat I can enjoy for oh, all of twelve minutes.

(I mean really, what do people do in the bath? It's like being poached.)

3) I now take exercise out of choice. I have to coax myself into it like I'm tending a sick duckling, but I bloody well do it. It's mainly so I can eat and drink more, if I'm honest - you can't be greedy, vain and lazy, you can only pick two - but it does feel good. And after eighteen months, I now sort of miss it if I don't do it for a few days.

4) I like planning things: "I have a day OFF! We will get up before 10am, and we will go to this place, to look at these things! There's no time to lose!"

5) I have opinions about the following things: architecture, weddings, war, clickbait, unpaid internships, welfare.

I mean, I have opinions about loads of stuff - as I think you might suspect, by now - but those are some of the "official" ones.

6) I have sent emails chasing people to meet deadlines. I have actually typed the words, "Could I have that report by 12pm please Louise?" And then spent five minutes chewing the inside of my mouth going, "was that too harsh? She's probably swamped too. But we need that report or nothing will go out on time!" I'm never going to be anyone's boss. Least of all Louise's.

7) I like early nights now. Do I want to be out, doing shots, acquiring a hangover? No, I want to be in, drinking wine, watching Homeland, acquiring a classier breed of hangover - that's more "a bit fuzzy and tired" than "Christ, I think I'm dying, don't breathe near me please."

8) I know how much I don't know. All the writers I like and admire have read widely, and have all their references down, on everything from history to pop culture. Having spent 19 years in full-time education and only a few months in a full-time job, it's only just dawning on me now that there's still so much I need to cram into my little head. There really is no time to lose.

And here are three things that make me think I've still got a way to go:

1) I still don't quite know what my wine limit is, nor when to leave the pub. "We're in the middle of an amazing conversation about what the best Clash song is*/our plans for changing the world/what the best superpower to have would be - I'm not leaving! What do you mean, we have work tomorrow? Another round so we can solve this!"

2) I still have a blog. Go figure.

3)  I can't clothes-shop to save my life. I keep trying, but it's so... self-esteem-destroying. I have to seek refuge in Waterstones at regular intervals. You're never the wrong shape for books.

*Train in Vain, followed by Rock the Casbah, FYI.

Today, I've mainly been crushing on this guy, and these ones.