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)


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:  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.



Three Pretty Good Things

Inspired by Margotandbarbara’s lovely life-affirming blog Three Good Things, I thought that I would share some goodness of my own…

Full Metal Jousting

Chanced upon while avoiding going to bed on a Sunday night, this is a US show which is bringing jousting back to America.  To be honest, I’m not sure that America ever had jousting (apart from in themed restaurants) but hey-ho they want jousting, and jousting they shall have.  There are lots of men called things like Rope and Landon, who are all living in a shared house and are spending their days learning the art of running at each other on horses while carrying big sticks.  It kind of makes you wonder if the knights of ye olde England trained in this way…

Yes, a man was disqualified for punching a horse in the head.  All macho bullshit aside, though, and this is a really entertaining show – combining horse skills with men hitting each other with sticks.

The Yorkshire Soap Company

I never thought that I would deviate from Lush for all my bathly needs – but I got really tired of all the attention that you get the minute you walk through the door there.  The Leeds Lush has about 2m of floor space, but on one visit I got stopped by five members of staff – each pretending that the item I was looking at was their absolute favourite.  This prompted me to shout FOR FUCK’S SAKE and walk out.  Also, Lush staff always call me ‘babe’ and I really hate that.  The products are great, but I can’t face going in there anymore.  The Yorkshire Soap Company initially looked like an inferior Lush rip-off, but once I’d tried their products I was hooked – especially these little bath melt things:


The soaps also make really cute gifts


I must confess that not all of the soap and melts I bought last year actually made it to their intended recipients.  I did have a very fragrant January though!!  YSC have shops in York and Hebden Bridge, and a good online shop too.

Cielo Blanco 

Finally Leeds has a good Mexican restaurant!  Not one of those shitty stick a sombrero on it and it’s Mexican Mexicans, but a thoughtful attempt to bring Mexican street food to the UK.  I’m a massive fan of Thomasina Miers’ Wahaca, and Cielo Blanco is doing something very similar here in Leeds.  It’s the only non-chain restaurant in the new Trinity shopping mall and it’s irritatingly popular (it’s really hard to get a table).  I’m going there tonight with some friends, and we’re adopting an OAP meal time, so that we have a better chance of getting in!  Good selection of veggie food, and my bf absolutely loves their chorizo.


Photo from

Normal bitching and moaning services will resume shortly…

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.


Lovely Claudia and her delightful fringe


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.

Rocking the Boat

For the first time in living memory I have actually managed to take a holiday in the UK when the weather was glooooriuoooos.  Two weeks ago I was browsing waterproofs on Amazon, and then had to buy T-shirts and sun cream instead.  This was a most unexpected turn of events.

My bf’s parents have a share in a narrow boat and invited us to join them for a little trip around the canals.  Although I was slightly concerned about spending time in close quarters with the ‘in-laws’, I do love boating and really needed to spend some time living at 3mph (my usual speed of living is at least 5mph).  We got off to a shaky start when we were just about to set off and my bf decided to give his hair a trim and forgot to put the guard on the clippers and shaved a bald strip right down the centre of his head – leaving him with no option but to give himself a Number 1 – otherwise known as a neo-nazi or thug cut.  Although it was kind of hilarious, I was a very nice girlfriend and didn’t make any jokes about it until he was ready.  I knew he was feeling a bit better when, on the drive to the boat, he pointed out that the close cut revealed that he still had a very good head of hair and that there were no hidden thinning patches.  Crisis averted.

On the first day of boating we went through the Braunston Tunnel – this is a 2,000 yard long tunnel that was built in 1796, which reeks of history and of something a bit dank and unpleasant.  Back in the day when boats were pulled by horses, the boatsmen had to ‘leg’ along this whole tunnel, while the horses got to go over the top – so they’d basically lie on the boat and use their legs to push it along.  Thankfully I got to sit and sip ice cold Pepsi Max from the fridge and wax lyrical about how historical the whole thing was on my trip through.  Chris’ dad, meanwhile, had the nervewracking job of steering us through it and avoiding inexperienced boaters, who tend to see another boat coming towards them, panic, and then do strange things like putting the boat in neutral, which in turn makes the boat swing out sideways, and then leave you with nothing to do apart from wait to crunch into them.  This is what it looked like inside the tunnel:


The views were much more beautiful on the rest of the trip, and I was reminded that England has some really stunning countryside – it’s easy to forget that sometimes, especially when you live in the worst neighbourhood of a city, where tattooed skinheads in tracksuits stands sullenly outside a pie factory eating pies and looking like they will steal your hubcaps while the car is still moving.  In contrast, most of the people that you meet on the water are friendly and helpful (and about 75% of them have dogs, which you can then play with while you wait for a lock to fill up).  





After two days I was back in love with this green and pleasant land, and had developed a suitably casual way of swinging my lock key, while climbing from one side of the lock to the other (across ancient and highly unstable planks of wood).  But the city kid in me was starting to tire of saying ‘Hellooo’ or ‘Good morning’ to every single person I passed.  I was also getting slightly annoyed at people who were not convinced by my lock insouciance and insisted on offering me advice about what I was doing wrong, and what I could be doing better – especially as I seemed to consistently say ‘I’m fine, thanks’ and then immediately do something wrong, even though I hadn’t done anything wrong until they showed up being all helpful.  

At this point I was ready to return to civilisation – and by civilisation I mean ignoring most other people, apart from your immediate neighbours and people who might be about to steal your hubcaps and need to be watched from an upstairs window. Actually, that’s not strictly true – I do love random conversations with strangers, (which I used to think was a Northern thing but now realise is achievable even in a mean city like London with the right attitude), but the beauty of the random conversation is the unexpectedness of it.  On the water there is a general expectation that you will make small talk and be helpful, which sort of turns it into a chore – and I’m not big on chores (ask my mother).

So now I’m back home to my small house (which feels HUGE after being on a narrowboat), and my cats, and the tools that can stop my hair from turning into a big frizzy mess in the heat.  And, of course, the skinhead eating pies outside the pie factory – perhaps next time I should shout ‘GOOD MORNING!’ from the car as I pass him and see what happens?.

Travelling Man

Later this year my boyfriend turns 40 – I have to keep reminding myself that he isn’t a nonce and that I’m actually 38, so there’s nothing dodgy going on.  He’s extremely difficult to buy for, even on regular birthdays, and family have started asking me already for present ideas.  Thinking that there might be some expensive computer- or guitar-related gizmo that he’d like, I asked him to think of something expensive that we could all club in for.  After thinking about it for a while, he came back with an idea about going to Sweden for some computery Dream Hack thingumajig, so I said ‘Work out how much it costs, and I’ll see how much cash I can get together for it’.  As he started planning it, it started to sound more and more interesting – it’s expensive to fly direct to the venue (a place called Jönköping) but really cheap to fly to Denmark and then take a train up to Sweden.  The more I heard about the plan, the more I thought ‘Oooh this is starting to sound like an adventure!’.  Of course it was an adventure for my bf, not me, but I broached the subject of me tagging along and he was completely up for it (“Well I don’t really like reading on planes or trains, so it would be good to have company”).

But, of course, the worst thing in the world I could do would be to tag along and then be a nightmare girlfriend, constantly moaning ‘I’m bored!’, ‘You aren’t paying me any attention’, ‘Do you love Starcraft dorks more than you love me?’, etc.

jonkoping – Google Maps

So I started looking at Jönköping, and looking at what I could do while he was geeking out watching Starcraft.  Well, unless anyone here can tell me otherwise, Jönköping has a match museum, and little else.  Fairly soon into my search, I found a forum in which someone had asked what there was to do there – this was the first response:

I lived in jönköping for 6 months. I can tell you that the two best places to visit are the airport and the train stations. These will, at least, allow you to go to leave Jönköping and go somewhere where something happens. Dullest place I’ve ever lived in my entire life.

Hmmm.  But, I’m still going to go, because despite Jönköping appearing to be the Swedish equivalent of Telford, I think that the travelling is a big part of the adventure and if there’s one thing that me and my bf do well together is travel.  In a few weeks it will be 21 years since our first foreign holiday together (camping in Amsterdam) and we’ve been playing the same game (with the odd variation) ever since – known to us as The Alphabet Game, or Alphabetti Spaghetti.  It’s not a complex game – name actors/films/bands/TV shows beginning with the letter whatever (sometimes taken from the registration plate of the next car we see, sometimes the letter of the place that we’re heading to).  We’ve played it for so long now that certain actors names immediately take me back to a holiday (Piper Perabo – Whitstable, walking along the beach).  There are in-jokes and groans that the same films always elicit (‘Nightmare on Elm Street’, ‘Nightmare on Elm Street 2’, ‘Nooo – you’ve got to give the full title – disallowed!’).  Sometimes we let other people play, but they usually can’t keep up with the 21 years’ worth of stored up obscure TV shows beginning with “W”.  We’ve played it while looking at Gaudi architecture in 40 degree heat and while wading through a mud bath in Yorkshire, we’ve played on long drives, train journeys through France, a coach journey that took almost 24 hours, on flights and on hikes.  When things needed spicing up a bit, we added directors into the actor category, but made them worth double the points.  Sometimes when I’m packing to go on holiday I will mentally ‘pack’ some new ideas for the Alphabet Game.

We also like holiday catchphrases – my favourites being ‘Hellooo! We’re British’ and ‘Bloody joggers!’.  At this point I do realise that no one is ever going to want to come on holiday with us.

Obviously there’s all the other stuff about going on holiday – please don’t think that I’m a complete dork, only travelling so that I can play some stoopid game with my bf and to announce loudly that we’re British (as if that wasn’t obvious enough, since I’m the only person who has lost the top layer of epidermis and is stood in a one-woman queue).  I’ve never been to Sweden or Denmark before, and we have a friend in Malmo who we might be able to visit on the way home.  I’m even intrigued about how much there could possibly be to exhibit about matches (I imagine the invention of safety matches may feature heavily).  There are lakes and places nearby that look like they might be worth a visit.  Who knows – perhaps I might be able to see the Northern Lights (though I have done zero research into this).  The point is (there’s a point?) that the journey will be part of the adventure, and being able to do that with my favourite travelling companion is something that I do not take for granted.

Candy Crushed


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!