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What I Read in 2015

2015 was a bumper reading year for me – I managed to clock up 42 books. 18 were written by women, which is a bit disappointing since I had been aiming for at least 50% female authors this year.  In 2015 I learned about Brutalist Architecture, the events that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall, and why you should never read those books that are free to Amazon Prime members.

The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton

I enjoyed this, but then when talking to my friend Rob about it I realised that there are too many loose ends.  Without spoiling it too much, it’s frustrating that the character of the Miniaturist is not really explained or explored.

Ayoade on Ayoade – Richard Ayoade

I love Richard Ayoade, and this was funny and WAY better than most books written by comedians.

Concretopia – John Grindrod

concretopia

I was at the Hepworth gallery with my friend Penny, having a browse in the gift shop (in my moronic opinion the best part of any trip to a gallery or museum) and saw this book.  It looked pleasing, so I treated myself – despite knowing that I could buy it online much cheaper (yes, I am like a modern day Mother Theresa – I am awaiting sainthood).  This was so interesting and really changed my perspective on what many people think of as concrete monstrosities.  A few days after finishing this book, I was celebrating my 40th in London and took a walk down to the South Bank and saw the buildings there with fresh eyes.

Under the Paw: Confessions of a Cat Man – Tom Cox

This was a Kindle cheapy – I’d read Tom Cox in The Guardian and enjoyed his columns about living with cats.  I’m not sure it really warrants a whole book.  It’s a bit too fluffy – I got furballs.

The Casual Vacancy – JK Rowling

I finished reading this on the day that the BBC adaptation started.  Both the book and the telly adaptation were good – but quite different.  I normally hate BBC drama, but actually this story of small town politics worked incredibly well. I recommend both.

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing – Eimear McBride

I read this because it won a prize.  It’s very well written, but Jaysus it’s grim and depressing.

Santa Land Diaries – David Sedaris

After reading the Eimear McBride I needed mirth, and fast!

My Struggle. Book 1 – Karl Knausgaard

51maejxEQlL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

It felt like every day I would come across someone writing about how brilliant Knausgaard’s huge, multi-part autobiography was, and felt compelled to see for myself.  Yup, it’s good!  Nothing happens – but everything happens!  It’s a work of great skill – writing in such great depth about thoughts and feelings, revealing the parts of himself that authors would normally want to conceal.

How to Build a Girl – Caitlin Moran

We’ve been here before with Moran and, funny as it was, I’m looking forward to reading something different from her soon.

How to Be Both – Ali Smith

This is so clever – much cleverer than me, who hadn’t realised that the Kindle edition has both ‘versions’ of the book back to back and ended up reading Part 1, Part 2, and then a chunk of Part 2 again before realising my mistake.

My Struggle Book 2: A Man in Love – Karl Knausgaard

It’s very hard to explain why I’ve enjoyed reading the Knausgaard autobiographies so much this year – all I can do is heartily recommend them.

The World of Yesterday – Stefan Zweig

I think I picked this up because of a reference to Zweig in The Grand Budapest Hotel’s credits.  This guy led an amazing life – through a turbulent period of European History.  Zweig and his wife committed suicide immediately after posting the manuscript for this work and so the whole thing has an extra layer of poignancy.  I intend to read more Zweig in 2016.

Gods Behaving Badly – Marie Phillips

The blurb for this book sang to me – ancient Greek gods living in the modern world – but the reality was a bit disappointing.  It was quite funny, but (and bear in mind that I spent eight years studying Classics) I felt that so much more could have been done with this.  The end result was a bit trashy.

The Comedy Hotel – Guy Bellamy

‘Oooh now I have Amazon Prime I can read books for free!’.  Yes, there’s a reason these books are here and not in the Kindle Unlimited range, and that’s because they’re shit.  This was dreadful.

Eight Months on Ghazzah St – Hilary Mantel

I needed something substantial and turned to Mantel to blot out the memory of the previous book.  This was fascinating.

The Paying Guests – Sarah Waters

Over the last few years Sarah Waters has become one of the authors whose new works I look out for. I was really looking forward to this, and was not disappointed.  Once again Waters creates a completely believable period piece with fascinating female characters.  The plot had me gripped.

Monkey’s Uncle – Jenny Diski

This was clever and funny and I’m glad I read it, but I still haven’t warmed to Diski that much.

Funny Girl – Nick Hornby

funny girl

I really enjoyed this – a fictional account of a young woman’s rise from Blackpool beauty queen to sitcom stardom.  It had warmth and humour.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August – Claire North

There seem to be a few books around at the moment with a similar theme – living life over and over – and this one was pretty good, but nowhere near as skilled as Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life.

Station Eleven – Emily St John Mandel

There was a lot of buzz around this book and while I enjoyed reading it, it wasn’t one of my favourites of the year.  Yeah, a muted response.

Stone Mattresses: Nine Tales – Margaret Atwood

I’m not a huge fan of short stories, but I DO love Atwood, so I thought that (in light of the previous reads being a bit underwhelming) I would give this a go.  Good, quirky, inventive.

Expo 58 – Jonathan Coe

I’m a big fan of Coe and was looking forward to this coming out.  It’s a really good romp.

Lingo: A Language Spotter’s Guide to Europe – Gaston Dorren

This was really interesting and led to many of those partner-annoying conversations where you just have to keep reciting interesting facts.  The only problem is that it was quite technical and now I can’t remember ANY of those facts at all!

The Ipcress File – Len Deighton

I was listening to R4 while I was making felt skulls and a programme came on about Deighton.  I was intrigued to learn that the unnamed protagonist (Harry Palmer in the film) was from Burnley!  With a sense of home-town loyalty I decided to read it – despite not being a massive fan of spy fiction.  It was actually pretty good – although I was a bit disappointed that there weren’t any shoot-outs at the Thompson Centre or secret codes hidden in the fountain.

The Emperor Waltz – Philip Hensher

Another author whose work I always keep an eye out for.  I think this book got some fairly negative reviews, but I thought it was fantastic – especially the Bauhaus episodes.  Like Sarah Waters, I think you can see Hensher’s academic background in his work, and he creates really believable historical background and texture.

The Versions of Us – Laura Barnett

Another book which explores lives in a Sliding Doors fashion. It was pretty readable, but nothing to write home about.

Seinlanguage – Jerry Seinfeld

Love Jerry Seinfeld.  This was pretty funny, but if you’ve followed his stand-up you’ll probably have heard a lot of this before.

My Struggle: Book 3 – Karl Knausgaard

Still got a few of these to go!

The Girl With All the Gifts – MR Carey

A neat premise – the zombie-apocalypse from the perspective of the ‘zombie’ (it’s a bit more complicated than that).  It wasn’t especially well-written, but was still a page-turner.

The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

I initially resisted this because it felt like everyone and her dog was reading it.  It was pretty enjoyable, with a few twists and turns.

The Year of Magical Thinking – Joan Didion

It’s a testament to Didion’s skills as a writer that she can take us right into the heart of her own grief and pain and make it so exquisite.

Barracuda – Christos Tsiolkas

I didn’t expect to read any more Tsiolkas after abandoning The Slap about fifty pages in.  I still don’t think he’ll be one of my go-to authors – there’s something about his writing style that kind of jars with me – but I did enjoy this.

Let’s Pretend this Never Happened – Jenny Lawson

I really didn’t like this at all – I hate people blogging about what a naïve clutz they are – but all the while they’re clearly doing very well at generating interest in their blog, getting deals, etc.  It just felt a bit disingenuous – like a comic persona that isn’t that comic.  I know a lot of people are fans of her blog, but I think I have different expectations from a book.

1989: The Berlin Wall: My Part in its Downfall – Peter Millar

Loved this!  I realised that I knew very little about what caused the wall to come down – I remember it happening, but it was just an item on the news to me back then.  I think it might have kicked me off on a Cold War phase – I’m looking forward to the new TV series Deutschland ’83, and I’m also looking forward to watching Bridge of Spies.

Sweet Caress: The Many Lives of Amory Clay – William Boyd

sweet caress

Brilliant!  Double brilliant because of the use of found photographs! One of my favourite books of the year.

The Martian – Andy Weir

Everyone was reading it and I thought I’d give it a go.  It’s hardly a great work of literature, but it’s a good story.

A Brief History of Seven Killings – Marlon James

Ooh this was a chewy one – lots of different voices, lots of dialect, lots of grit.  It’s added lots of new insults to my personal dictionary (‘Get off my cardigan you bumbaclart cat!).  It’s worth the effort, and it was a worthy Booker winner.

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed – Jon Ronson

It’s interesting that Ronson often writes about things that are on the margins of society, but this was about things in which we all (one way or another) participate.  It’s a big, important subject handled with a light touch.

The Buried Giant – Kazuo Ishiguro

This popped up in quite a few end of the year lists of people’s favourite books.  From the blurb I wasn’t sure if it would be my cup of tea, but I really enjoyed the dreamy nature of the fantasy.

The Heart Goes Last – Margaret Atwood

Another really enjoyable book from Atwood.  I think she does a really good job of writing about the future without it sounding cringey or false.

The Children Act – Ian McEwen

An economically told story, that’s well-written and has a good complex female protagonist.

Spectacles: A Memoir – Sue Perkins

I’m a big fan of Mel and Sue, and was very pleased to get this memoir from my sister for Christmas.  I don’t think there are huge bombshell surprises in here, but it’s funny.

Undermajordomo Minor – Patrick deWitt

I’d enjoyed The Sisters Brothers by deWitt, so gave this one a go as my last book of the year.  It’s an enjoyable romp.

So, there you have it!  In terms of goals for 2016, I’m aiming to up the number of female authors, read more of the Knausgaard autobiography, and I drunkenly declared (on NYE) that I would finally get around to War and Peace (along with a million other people who have seen the trailer for the BBC adaptation).  I’m always grateful for reading recommendations – what did you enjoy reading last year?

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The Books I Read in 2013

Thanks to a last-minute push (otherwise known as being really lazy and not leaving the house for a week) I was able to take my 2013 reading tally up to 42.  As is the case every year, I failed to finish a book on Quantum Physics (I seem to buy a new one every year, but then read ten pages and realise I’m just not getting it).

  1. The 100 Most Pointless Things in the World – Alexander Armstrong & Richard Osman. A Christmas gift of fluff aimed at people like me who LOVE the game show Pointless. It was full of typos, and I tweeted Richard Osman to tell him so!
  2. Filthy English – Peter Silverton.  This book introduced me to the Bosnian curse “I hope your mother farts at a school meeting”. Genius! 
  3. Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel.  It took a few attempts for me to get going with this, especially as I initially got my Cromwells mixed up and was expecting a civil war to happen at some stage.  Once I got past my own stupidity, I loved this book (and the next) and am now eagerly waiting for Mantel to get the third one out.
  4. The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonassen.  A great comic fantasy, marred only by the fact that everyone and his dog seemed to be reading it.
  5. Pure – Andrew Miller.  About a man given the task of clearing a Parisian cemetery – I was reading this while undertaking my own Herculean task of removing asbestos from an old folks home, so felt a good bit of empathy.
  6. The Lost Books of the Odyssey – Zachary Mason.  Ooh this was good!  It played on the fragmentary nature of many of our surviving ancient Greek texts, and presented multiple, non-linear versions of episodes from Homer’s Odyssey – some of which were funny, some made me cry.
  7. The Rachel Papers – Martin Amis.  I remember seeing the film of this, many years ago, with Dexter Fletcher, and thought I would give it a go.  It’s a strangely hollow book.
  8. Nelson – Rob Wilson & Woodrow Phoenix (eds.).  A fantastic idea for a graphic novel (born, incidentally, at the Thought Bubble event here in Leeds) in which different artists all visit the same character on the same day in different years of her life.  Loads of different styles, but a moving and coherent whole.
  9. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce.  Another one that everyone was reading in 2013.
  10. Various Pets Alive and Dead – Marina Lewycka.  Purchased as a Mother’s Day gift, then promptly borrowed back.  Fairly fluffy, but still an enjoyable read.  
  11. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn.  I know, I know – trashy, but really gripping!  Sometimes you need to read something like this.
  12. My Animals and Other Family – Clare Balding.  I realise that at this stage in the reading year (April) my reading choices are a bit Heat, Book of the Week, and I shouldn’t be expecting a call from Newsnight Review any time soon. 
  13. Skios – Michael Frayn.  I really didn’t find this particularly funny.
  14. Lost at Sea – Jon Ronson.  I don’t actually remember an awful lot about this – I think it was a collection of his columns.
  15. The Yips – Nicola Barker.  Michael Frayn should read this, and see what a good farce looks like!
  16. Bring Up the Bodies – Hilary Mantel.
  17. Going to Sea in a Sieve – Danny Baker.  Oh Christ, committing all of this to the public domain makes me realise how much trash I’ve read this year! 
  18. The Testament of Jessie Lamb – Jane Rogers.  At this point in the year, I had developed an urge for some kind of speculative/alternative history and began casting about for some reasonable sci-fi.  This didn’t quite hit the mark.
  19. Where’d You Go, Bernadette – Maria Semple.  This book was a JOY! Best thing I read all year!
  20. The Universe vs Alex Woods – Gavin Extence.  I hate it when you read a fantastic book and then you have to read something else, and no matter how good it was, this just wasn’t Where’d You Go, Bernadette.
  21. This Book Will Save Your Life – AM Homes.  Even though the plot is pretty static, I really like Homes’ style.
  22. May We Be Forgiven – AM Homes.  So I read another of her books! 
  23. Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter – Carmen Aguirre.  This was fascinating – and a useful reminder of just how appalling it was that Pinochet was allowed to waltz around the UK despite being a brutal mass murderer.
  24. Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom – Corey Doctorow.  Another quest for interesting sci-fi.  This was better.
  25. Big Brother – Lionel Shriver.  It was good until the last few pages, and then I felt quite cross. 
  26. Before I Go to Sleep – SJ Watson.  Gripping, but insubstantial.
  27. The President’s Hat – Antoine Laurain.  I really liked this gentle little book – a tale of Mitterand’s hat, and the power it bestows upon those who wear it.
  28. Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen.  By August I was completely floundering, and went back to an old favourite!
  29. The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fforde.  So, 2013 was not a high-brow reading year for me – of that we can be certain – but I was looking for something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I wanted fantasy, but not aliens or brutal technology; I wanted a different world with different ideas.  Jasper Fforde came up in a search for ‘alternate history’ and while it didn’t quite tick all of the boxes, it was funny and clever enough to keep me entertained.
  30. Lost in a Good Book – Jasper Fforde.
  31. The Well of Lost Plots – Jasper Fforde.
  32.  The Years of Rice and Salt – Kim Stanley Robinson.  Aha!  Alternate history and then some!; what if the plague had wiped out most of Europe?  An epic exploration of a world where China and the Middle East dominate world history.  Really interesting.
  33. Camp David – David Walliams.  He came across as a bit of a nasty bitch!
  34. Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail – Cheryl Strayed.  A woman who is really lost in her life undertakes a mahoosive hike with ill-fitting shoes.
  35. When We Were Bad – Charlotte Mendelson.  
  36.  The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver.  This was fantastic.
  37. Joseph Anton: A Memoir – Salman Rushdie.  I had really been looking forward to reading this – the fatwa against Rushdie was almost a backdrop to my teens. If this was fiction, you would praise the creation of an unreliable narrator, unable to see his own flaws and weaknesses.  As it is, Rushdie the man (despite the obvious injustice of his situation) comes across as particularly unlikeable.
  38. Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy – Helen Fielding.  This has received enough of a critical mauling everywhere else for me to waste much time sticking the boot in, but oh the disappointment!
  39.  Life After Life – Kate Atkinson. Loved it! Clever alternate histories (futures?) of one woman’s life, with really painfully moving writing about life in the Blitz.
  40. The Fifth Child – Doris Lessing.  After Lessing’s death I realised I had never read any of her work, so started (at random) here.  I will be reading more in 2014.
  41. A Hologram for the King – Dave Eggers.  It felt like a modern parable, and my brain hasn’t quite processed what it’s saying to me yet.
  42. Autobiography – Morrissey.  As someone who’s been a vegetarian for 35+ years, this memoir made me resolve to get tickets to a Morrissey gig and throw sausages at him.  It’s like the Rushdie autobiography in the sense that I don’t think Morrissey realises (or cares) that there is subtext running through his words that he is too much of an arse to see.  The long section about the injustice of his legal wranglings is particularly dull.

So that was my 2013 in books.  Feel free to make recommendations for what I should be reading over the coming months!

It’s Your Funeral

Three funerals, three common denominators:

  1. My Grandma’s funeral.  She was an atheist and wanted her funeral to reflect her socialist values.  My Grandma’s cousin, a Humanist, was to conduct the ceremony.  UNTIL … a religious bit of the family decided to participate by having my cousin’s husband, a pastor, take part of the ceremony and say lots of prayers and talk about how she would be reunited in heaven with lost relatives.
  2. My friend’s dad’s funeral.  He was a bit religious, but had lots of other hobbies and interests.  His neighbour, a minister, made the whole ceremony intensely religious and there was lots of talk about how he had grappled with his religion towards the end.
  3. My partner’s auntie’s funeral.  An atheist, but someone had found a bible in the drawer of the hospice where she died, with passages marked out.  This passage was read out and the Lord’s Prayer was recited. (Don’t Gideons leave bibles in drawers in every hospice room?).

If you believe in a god or gods, then you can make sure that they are appeased in any way you see fit at your funeral, but why on earth do Christians seem intent in shoehorning religion into everyone else’s last hurrah?  At funeral #3 I turned to my partner and whispered “I’m going to have to get a tattoo that says ‘No religious funeral'”.  Even better, I’m going to make sure that I have a will which specifies this emphatically.

Yes, funerals are for the living, and while I’m lying in a box what do I care about what happens next?  But I see a funeral as the last statement that you make before you slowly disappear from the memories of those who loved you and knew you.  I would hate for that statement to be hijacked by someone else’s belief system – particularly when it’s one that I have been so contemptuous about in life.  If you believe in gods or pixies or ‘energy’ or whatever, fine; you might attend the funeral of an atheist and believe that the soul/spirit/pixie juice/’energy’ of that person is still going.  Fantastic.  That might be less depressing than thinking about a corpse being burnt or rotting in the ground, but it’s YOUR belief, not mine, so at my funeral sit and think about that silently. I attended a Baptist funeral and didn’t tell anyone that they were wrong or insane or a wee bit creepy – I kept my mouth shut and silently fantasised about the death of religion.

A slight digression, but my refusal to pretend to pray actually got me banned from school assemblies as a youngster – the teacher stopped, mid-prayer, and pointed out to the whole school that I was the only person not joining in.  My response (age 8) was “I am an atheist and an anarchist and I will not pray”.  This personal moment of triumph was swiftly followed by a slap.  An ugly scene, in response to an eight year old girl sitting quietly in a non-religious school!

In a maudlin conversation, we might talk about what music we would like to have played at our funerals.  Often, though, the end is such a big emotional mess that this stuff isn’t really communicated.  It is, after all, pretty trivial stuff.  Grieving relatives try to pick something appropriate but do you really want that 80s soft rock playing as everyone files out past your coffin saying their last farewells?

The moral of this story?  Make it clear what you want.  Make it so that it would be an embarrassing and flagrant breach of your wishes to do anything off-script.  Be a nice person, so that no-one is tempted to subvert your wishes because you were a horrid old battle-axe of an aunt, who gave rubbish birthday presents, and smelled of hummus “I hated her – she’s going Catholic-style”.

The Shit Parade

In the absence of anything particularly eventful happening in the last few weeks, here are some things that have been mildly pleasing and slightly irritating.

  • I had a conversation with my bf in which he pointed out what the current ladies’ hair fashion is.  Prior to this conversation, if you had asked me a) What is the current ladies’ hair fashion? and b) Does your bf know anything about ladies’ hair fashion? I would have answered a) Errr long, perhaps a fringe and b) Hahahaha – get out of here you lunatic!  But I am now enlightened!  Chris pointed out that emo hair has now filtered into the mainstream for women, and even the dodgiest Bramley-dweller has a hair-do that has its roots in emo.  After extensive Googling of images of hair, I now see that he is completely right about this. 

emo hair

This is apparently emo hair (with a touch of the Harajuku going on)

Emo-Hairstyles-for-girls

This is the kind of hair that a kid who kicks my garden gate has

  • Something that has really been annoying me of late is something that I shouldn’t be looking at – The Daily Mail.  I know it’s the devil, but sometimes I can’t help myself.  I keep noticing how, in Daily Mail Land (a terrible terrible land), women do not leave the house just wearing clothes – instead they parade, show off, reveal, etc.  Here’s an example from today: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2396546/Charlize-Theron-shows-beach-body-enjoys-day-kayaking-holiday.html.  I suspect that Charlize Theron did not begin her day by saying “Hey guys, my body is looking AWESOME! Let’s go kayaking so that everybody and his fucking dog can see how AMAZING I look”.  It’s very hard to go out in public and NOT show your body – unless you are prepared to wear a burka or perhaps push some screens on wheels or become a disembodied brain in a vat (Charlize Theron reveals naked brain on outing with neuroscientists?).  But, I shouldn’t be looking at this shit, so I really have no right to complain about it.
  • Today I have also been annoyed by Sunday Drivers.  Now these are people who DO go out with the intention of showing off their bodywork – but unfortunately it is bodywork that is incapable of moving at the National Speed Limit.  I get the sense that these people think they are doing us all a favour, giving us a little treat in our bleak, dull lives, by taking their quaint and unusual jalopies for a run out on a Sunday.  To these people I would say I WORK MONDAY TO FRIDAY – I DON’T WANT TO SPEND MY WEEKENDS STUCK BEHIND YOU DOING 40 IN A 60! I HOPE YOU CRASH INTO A DITCH!!  In reality I try to get my revenge by looking at their vehicles with an expression of boredom with a hint of contempt. Or studiously not looking at their car at all (as I ram them into the nearest ditch).
  • On a more positive note, I have just returned from my new favourite place – The Yorkshire Ice Cream Farm.  This is a magical place that I only discovered this year – it’s an American-style diner that sells rootbeer and has a proper soda fountain and does pulled-pork sandwiches for meat eaters and veggie hotdogs for us veggies.  They make their own ice cream and do the best sundaes.  Unlike most American-style places in the UK, they actually manage to provide American-style service too – i.e. friendly, helpful, and efficient.  The sad thing is, that they only open between April and October, and I’m already starting to wonder how I am going to get through the sad winter months without it.

 

 

An Unhealthy Relationship

I don’t think my hairdresser likes me very much.  “Why not get a new hairdresser?” you might ask, once you’ve finished laughing at what she’s done to my hair.  The problem is, I don’t think any hairdresser will like me – I’m not of their ilk and they know that.

Why I’m the sort of person that hairdressers dislike

  1. Conversation is awkward – I don’t watch soap operas or staged reality shows, which limits conversation.  Two years ago there was a golden era, where we both watched Masterchef and the chitchat really flowed.  I would time haircuts or restyles to coincide with Masterchef.  Unfortunately she stopped watching it and, after a period in which I would recount episodes in order to persuade her that she was really missing an awful lot of tough cooking, the subject was dropped.  I don’t like the music they like, I don’t fancy the same men that they like, we don’t socialise in the same places; it is AWKWAAARD.  My hairdresser runs the place with her sister, and their mother is really quite awful (from what they say) – sometimes I will make up gripes about my mum, just to fit in (though my main gripe “She never lets me pay for lunch” just doesn’t cut it!).
  2. I am not a proper woman in their eyes because I have hairy legs and will leave it a really long time to get my hair re-done.  My nails usually have a bit of bombay mix trapped down the back of them.  I like to sit and read books about the history of fonts.
  3. I will never buy any of the products that they try and flog me, because they are tested on animals.

There are therefore very good reasons to dislike me, but although she isn’t overtly hostile  she is clearly taking the piss:

Evidence that my hairdresser is clearly taking the piss

  • One time I went to get my fringe trimmed, and they were both out.  Even though I knew it was a terrible place, I went to the cheapy ‘No Appointment Required’ place across the road and they butchered me.  I was folically maimed.  When I went back to my hairdresser to help me get it sorted out, she asked if I’d gone to the place over the road and I lied and said I had gone to my mum’s hairdresser (mothers!). The worst part was that while they were sorting my hair out, another woman came in who had made the same error (but she had the balls to admit it).  For an hour they kept asking me “Are you sure you didn’t go over the road?”. That was three years ago, and yet it still gets mentioned every time I get my hair cut.
  • One time I had lots of layers put in and she said it was virtually a “Rachel” (this was in 2004 – so way too late to be in any way fashionable) – but didn’t tell me this until she’d finished.  She then put on a silly voice and said “How’s Brad Pitt?” and danced around the salon chanting “Jennifer Aniston” until I paid and left.  That was a bizarre one.
  • I recently had more fringe added, and now have a weird extra piece of short hair that is neither fringe nor rest-of-hair.  It likes to stick out of my head at a 90 degree angle.  When I went back for a trim she insisted that someone must have  surreptitiously cut my hair (“Have you been over the road again?”) and would not accept that she was the only person to have been near me with scissors in the last six months.  “Ah well,” she said, “Your hair grows like bloody grass anyway. It’ll come good”.
  • Despite strict instructions that my new hair role model is Claudia Winkelman (pictured below), she ALWAYS cuts my fringe too short.  And not just too short to be Claudia-like, it’s kooky short – which I’m not sure I’m able to carry, if I’m being honest, since I have a face that’s a bit like that of a petulant child who you’d want to smack (add that to the list) and a short fringe just accentuates the whole smackableness.

claudia_winkleman_526

Lovely Claudia and her delightful fringe

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Not quite this bad, but getting there

So, my options are as follows (I’m in a bullet-pointy kind of mood today):

  1. Grin and bear it. Suck it up. Woman up. And so on and so forth.  Develop a suitably kooky personality to go with the hair.
  2. Grow out the fringe, stop dying my hair. Never visit a hairdresser ever again.
  3. Train my boyfriend to cut hair (tell him it will improve his Starcraft skills and that his ability to defeat Zergs will improve tenfold if he can master the art of layering unruly hair).
  4. Find a new hairdresser.  Send out a questionnaire asking about favourite books, TV shows, views on politics, etc. and choose one based on compatibility.  I would also use this as an opportunity to find a hairdresser that doesn’t make coffee that tastes like Nescafe that has been filtered through a hairnet.
  5. Embrace a life of social exclusion, vilification, and mockery, and go across the road.

Of course it will now be months until my fringe is at the ideal Claudia level, so I will immediately forget all of this, leave it until it’s too late to really put any thought into it and then realise that I can’t see anything and need a hairdresser immediately and then I’ll find myself back in the arms of my abuser.  Perhaps one day I will find the strength to break these damned chains.

Candy Crushed

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I have an addiction.  It’s stopping me from being a productive member of society.  I play FAR too much Candy Crush Saga.  Perhaps alarm bells should have rung with the use of the word ‘saga’ – that’s never really something one should voluntarily get involved with (“Hey, want to come to my family saga this weekend?” “No fucking way!”).  But Candy Crush is just a symptom, it’s not the disease itself.  I’m almost certain that people have children because, on a deep subconscious level, it injects purpose into their lives.  Choosing to be childless means that I have to make a conscious decision to fill my time in a purposeful way – especially now that I have instructed friends and family to shoot me if I even look like I’m going to do another degree, so my student years are well and truly behind me.

Although my job is important to me, I could never be the sort of person who makes work their whole life – especially given that I’ve ended up in a career that’s not creative (well, apart from the accountancy side of it) – I need other outlets.  While I was sitting, staring at my phone, waiting for my Candy Crush lives to refill, I realised that this was a poor choice of activity.  Especially as I’m stuck on a particularly frustrating level!

So, I’ve picked up the bass that my friend gave me when I finished my PhD (and decided that I was going to use my advanced knowledge of Hellenistic literature to become a rock star) and my bf has taught me the bass line to Bomb Track by Rage Against the Machine.  It’s fairly straightforward and I just need to remind my hands how to stretch and my fingertips to take the pressure of the strings.  It actually felt good to do something real, instead of manipulating virtual sweeties into lines.

As my brain was kicking back into action, I had an idea that I thought would make a really good screenplay. Well, if not really good, then good enough to make an attempt to write it out.  I’m working my way through Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat and seeing if I can figure out a structure.  I pitched the idea to my sister last night, and she’s enthusiastic (shame she isn’t a Hollywood producer, but I value her judgement and ideas).

So within two weeks I’ve transformed myself from iPhone schlub to renaissance woman.  Writer. Musician. Maverick. Well, not really, but I recognise a cycle that I seem to be in, where I am really creative and then go into hibernation until I bore myself back into productivity.  I have been through the Candy Crush Saga saga, and am peering out into the sunlight once again.  Hello!

Stuff and Nonsense

TV shows about hoarding have recently replaced my previous addiction to TV shows following the police around (before that I was a bit obsessed with shows about completely anal Australian Customs officials).  Although I was once briefly involved in a police car-chase (I hadn’t noticed the flashing lights behind me, as I was very engrossed in belting out a Blondie song while driving – which may have also contributed to the fact that I was doing double the speed limit), I have much more in common with hoarders than I do with cops and robbers.  I feel very attached to my stuff.  I have a lot of stuff.  I also have a very small house which I would like to sell.

The hoarding shows on TV seem to work on the premise that people keep stuff to fill a void in their lives – usually caused by the death of a loved one, divorce, or abuse – but I can’t really say that that applies to me.  I do think that being a student for many years may have contributed to the stash – firstly because I lived like, well, a student and it was perfectly acceptable to have kitschy nick-nacks adorning every spare surface because that’s really the only way one can personalise a rented space.  Secondly, I lived for years on no bloody money and every treat from family and every 3 for 2 book deal was valued and special.  When I finally entered the workforce and had spare cash I started treating myself to books; I’ve never been one for flashy holidays and things like that, but being able to read a book review and then go out and buy it (in paperback, of course, I’m not blummin’ Rockerfeller) seems to me to be the ultimate luxury.

There is also the clothing issue.  The older I become the harder it gets to throw clothes out – partly because I now know the fickleness of fashion and am pretty sure that everything I own will at some point be ‘in’ again.  Ah if only I had kept my puffball skirt and my collection of batwing jumpers in zany prints.  Now there’s a bit of 90s grunge revival going on and I’m bringing a few of my old favourites back out from the back of my wardrobe.  Only a few though, since I was a lot thinner before I went to university and lived on pizza for the best part of a decade (and it was the best part of a decade – Lucky’s pizza was delicious!).  But perhaps I’ll lose a lot of weight when I successfully manage to stop eating crisps/complete a 500cal fast day without cracking/discover a form of exercise that doesn’t make me want to fucking kill myself.  Then those size 12 corduroy trousers bought in a variety of colours from Top Shop will fit me again.  So I really shouldn’t throw them away.

I also blame ‘the parents’.  I’m not saying that I grew up in a dirty home, but I did learn that stacking shit up in cluttered piles was a valid form of tidying up.  Evidence for the Prosecution – returning home from school one day, I pottered around the house for almost an hour before my mum got home and pointed out that we had been burgled.  Evidence for the Defence – I probably wouldn’t have noticed if the house was on fire or had been transported to a strange land, inadvertently killing a witch, as I was that kind of kid.  My bf grew up in a very tidy home, his parents even had a special folder in which they kept receipts and warranties for all major purchases.  Everything had its place.  Unfortunately my bf will put a carrier bag filled with receipts and bills and old tissues and out-of-date throat lozenges and reams of paper on which he has practised writing Japanese characters up in the loft, rather than sort it out.  So maybe I can’t blame the parents.

And now I’m trying to sort it all out, but when I watch shows like The Hoarder Next Door I can hear myself in their justifications for keeping an old dog-eared copy of The Daily Express – “But I may want to look at it one day”, “No, I must keep this broken ornament because it belonged to X”, “I’m SURE that this will come in useful”.  Even though I see myself in them, I also find myself shouting at the telly “THROW THE SHIT AWAY, YOU MENTALIST! YOU HAVEN’T USED IT FOR FIFTEEN YEARS YOU WILL NOT MISS IT”.  I really need to take my own abuse advice.  So now there are books and clothes going to the local PDSA shop (I am hoping that this will lead to the gentrification of my neighbourhood, with the people of Bramley suddenly embracing literary fiction and shunning tracksuits for my donated corduroy wonders) and the really crappy stuff is going in the bin.

I’ll never be a minimalist, but if I can get rid of enough stuff to make my house look normal, then I can sell it and buy a bigger house that I can fill with even more shite tastefully decorate and display the things that are actually important to me.