Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Saturday night with four special boys...

This weekend saw me making another pilgimage to Manchester. This time to worship at the alter of a little band I like to call Take That.

I loved Take That when I was a whippersnapper. That was back at a time when the hardest decision I ever had to make in life was whether I like Robbie or Mark more. I never did decide. Although Robbie leaving Take That did make things slightly easier - I could like them both then. I couldn't have both of them when he was in the band because everyone knows you can only have 1 favourite.

Anyway as I grew up I continued to love them and yes I did shed a tear when they split up. Come on! Things would never be the same again! Boyzone, scmoyzone. Westlife? Worstlife. (Ha. I'm funny.)

But I never went to see them in concert. I don't know why. I guess back thing, those things just weren't on my radar. (Ironically the first concert I did go to was a Robbie Williams one.)
All that changed in 2005 when I watched the documentary. THE documentary. About Take That. Then I watched as the clamour grew and grew for them to reform. Reform, reform. Came the chant. And it worked. Hundreds of thousands of now grown women clamoured for a return to their youth and needed to see the boys they had so idolised when they were younger, back on stage to perform again.

Our wish was their command and reform they did. And in 2006 I was there, at the MEN Arena, screaming so loudly I was almost sick (seriously) and dancing around to the music of my childhood.

So when I was sat at my desk at work and heard Chris Moyles say that tickets were about to go on sale for the Circus Tour, I knew I had to join in the scrum. I got my browser windows set up. I had my credit card at the ready. Work was pushed to one side. It was time to go go go!! It was as scary time and my palms were more than a little sweaty but I did it again. I got the tickets.
So off I went to Old Trafford cricket ground to watch my boys perform. Tastes have changed - I'm now loving the Jason Orange, although if he gets any more camp I'll have to choose someone else, I have to keep my dignity you know.
Now I know you're thinking, "My god she's been babbling on forever and she hasn't even starting talking about the concert. This is going to be BOR.ING." You're wrong. It's not going to be boring.

Because I don't have the words to describe it.
It was beyond amazing. It was a spectacle. It was in fact a circus. There were tightrope walkers. There was a giant mechanical elephant. There were fireworks. There were songs galore - songs from the old albums, songs from the new album. There were costume changes. There was a giant inflatable scary man. There were balloons.

I cannot convey in any words how good it was. I really really can't. It was so good that I didn't even care that the biggest rainstorm in the world (I'm pretty sure I'm right there) soaked us through to the skin (no we didn't take umbrellas). It also didn't matter that Lady GaGa didn't show up. Actually that's a lie. It did matter. She managed to perform at Glastonbury the night before but was suddenly and inexplicably struck down when she got to Manchester....ooooh it makes me mad to just think about it. So I won't. I will think instead about the lights and the crowd and getting totally and utterly lost in memories of my childhood.

Instead of me doing the talking, I'll let the pictures do that for me...

Friday, 26 June 2009

Green Fingers (Part 2)

Remember how excited I was about this little fella?

Look at him now!!
And better than that he now has loads of friends...It's really difficult to count them all but I think I have about 20 little chilli babies all in various stages of gestation.

There's just one small problem...

I don't want to pick them!

I know that I must, I don't want them to die but I just like sitting and looking at Charlie and admiring his...chilliness.

I can't help but feel a little proud of what I've done. Look at him sprout! Look at him bloom! (Actually if he is sprouting and blooming isn't he a she?) I've stood by him and checked if he needed more water and rubbed his little stameny bits (calm down now) to help along the pollination. Just call me a little busy bumble bee substitute.

Now I have to harvest my little babies. I just can't bring myself to do it - that's not what a good mother does surely.

The other problem I'm facing is that I haven't got the tiniest idea what to do with them. I mean I know how to use them, I just don't think it would be wise to cook that many chilli dishes. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be good for our digestive systems...

PS Remember how excited I was about the one pink flower on my nameless plant? Look at how many friends he has now!

Just call me Alan Titchmarsh

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Excuses, excuses...

What is the reason for me not posting for ages?

Is it because...

a) I cannot, for the life of me, think of anything interesting to blog about?

b)I have been drowning under a sea of papers and books as I try to complete my 2nd essay (and make it a masterpiece)

c) Wimbledon has started so all my spare energies are going in to watching it and wondering if 26 is too late to try and become and professional tennis player

d) I have been going to the gym and am so unfit that I come back and struggle to breathe, let alone raise a finger to type

e) I am a very lazy girl

f) All of the above?

Friday, 19 June 2009

Finally finished.

Remember this guy?

After a lot of time and more than a few pricks of fingers, it's finally finished.

Luckily I decided to give my friend a bit of time with her new arrival before going to see her which conveniently left me with some time to get things finished off and get it framed.

So, in honour of my friend's baby, I present to you my baby...

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

On your marks...

Hello Trainers!!!

What are you doing here?

I've had you for some time now. I bought you back from America remember? You're over a year old. I bought you because my other trainers were rubbish and hurting me when I went to the gym. I used to go to the gym quite a bit back then because my ex-boyfriend was a big gym freak and I kinda felt obliged.

But then he dumped me remember? And you never actually got to see the gym.

I'm sorry.

And I don't really wear you that often because you are a little bit clumpy and my feet are already a size 8 so don't need to be made to look bigger.

But now...


For in less than 1 hour we will be going to a new gym that's just down the road from me which will make it that little bit more likely that I'll actually go. We're just going to have an induction so we'll take it slowly, I'm not going to be running 1,000km your very first time.

Are you excited?

Good. Don't let me down and make me hurt please.

PS Why are you so white? (Oh yeah, I had to wash you after the very muddy Oasis concert. You did a good job there by the way.)

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Take a deep breath and count to ten...

I would like to start this post by stating that I know I'm not a teacher. I have no desire whatsoever to teach people anything, I have no wisdom to share and most importantly I do not have the patience of a saint that is needed to do the above things.

I really really did not want to undertake the task of getting my mother set up on the internet...

My Mum was made redundant a few months ago and whilst she is looking for other jobs, she's only looking for part-time positions, she was planning on cutting down her hours once she hit 65 anyway and is only 2 years away from that so she's trying to look on things positively.

Unfortunately she's not had any luck yet and decided to get a laptop and get hooked up to the internet to aid her job searching.

Now yes she is knocking on a bit but she's not totally daft and used the internet at work all the time. And the amount of stupid forwards she used to send me means that I know she has no trouble using e-mail.

However things are a little bit different when you're using the internet at home so I went round the other week to set up her dongle and show her how to connect to the internet. I also set her up a hotmail account because the only e-mail address she's ever had is her work one. I then talked her through everything she had to do to make sure she could log on to Hotmail and get in to her e-mails.

And I did this pretty well. I was patient. Despite the fact that my student was clearly not paying any attention to me.

Lo and behold. Two days later, when she decided to try it for herself, I got a phone call at home.

"It's not working" she says.

10 minutes later and just when I was at breaking point I figured out the problem.

She hadn't connected to the internet.

And it continued over the weekend....

So I went round again yesterday. This time I came prepared. I spent my precious lunch break making her a beautiful document with step by step instructions on it. Number one on the list was Turn laptop on (I wasn't taking any chances). I even had lovely pictures in the document of the actual internet window she would be looking at if she was following my instructions. I even put helpful big, black arrows on certain parts of it showing her where key things are. (e.g. THIS IS THE INBOX. CLICK HERE.)

I had all bases covered. I gave her the instructions and sent her forth telling her that she should do what it says on the paper, in that order, and only call me when something went wrong. I would meanwhile busy myself playing with Fred and Lily.

She kept calling me to the laptop. I kept referring her to the document.

Mum's problem is that she doesn't actually read instructions, much the same as she doesn't listen to instructions.

I made her do it several times and confidence that I had it nailed I came back home.

Cue phone call this afternoon.

"It's not working. I'm doing everything and it's not working"

After 15 minutes on the phone where my temper gradually frayed and Mum continued to insist that she was doing everything on the list as it was written down and it wasn't working. I continued to tell her that if that was the case everything should be working because her internet is not magically different to everyone else's.

I eventually figured out the problem.

There wasn't a problem. Everything was as it should be. "I know that there's a picture in those instructions that shows you the screen you should be looking at Mum" I said. "Are you absolutely sure it's not on there?"


"Oh. Well that bit's over the page."

I just didn't know what to say at that point.

What is most infuriating is not just that she's finding it difficult. She's not of a technological age, that's fine. What is infuriating is that she is more than capable of doing this, she's not stupid. Her problem is that she convinces herself that she can't do it and that it's going to go wrong. You couple this with her inability to follow instructions and you have a recipe for disaster. It's never going to work if she thinks it isn't going to.

It's funny really because she's spent so much time telling me that I should believe in myself and that I'm more than capable of doing things I don't think I can, that she seems to have forgotten to teach herself that valuable lesson. She constantly thinks she's incapable of doing these things and the fact is she isn't. She didn't think she could cope when Dad walked out on us when I was 16. But she did. She didn't think she could cope when she got made redundant the first time. But she did.

Somehow these life lessons haven't completely permeated her brain yet. Hopefully they will do some day.

Until then, I live in fear of the phone ringing and hearing the words "It's not working"...

Sunday, 14 June 2009

This little piggy...

...didn't quite go to market but instead went into a branch of HSBC where they have machine for you to pay in coins.

Should you happen to go to use one let me give you a bit of a warning - it's a really loud machine. Everyone will look at you as you desperately try to prise the coins out of it.

Every couple of days I take my purse out of my bag and get rid of whatever coins are in there. Any bronze goes in Mr Crocodile and anything else goes in Mr Piggy.

His contents this time are going towards my holiday fund. We're going to France for a week at the end of July and money's a bit tight so any help I can get is worth its weight in gold. I figured that Mr Piggy would have about £40 in him which would be a great start.

He did me proud. He was hoarding a rather impressive £70!

(Actually he was holding £69.96 but the boyfriend donated 4p to my fund)

So thank you Mr Piggy. I'll think of you when I'm eating cheese and bread and drinking wine en Francais.

Now start gobbling up more change please!

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Oasis - Heaton Park, Saturday 6th June

Oh blog I have neglected you! I apologise profusely. I can have no excuses. My behaviour is appalling. But you see I've been quite busy.

First thing Saturday morning I set off with a work colleague to Manchester for the 2nd date of the Oasis 2009 tour. I was a little apprehensive as the news had been full all day Friday about the technical difficulties which had plagued the first night and I was praying that it was all sorted for our trip there.

To cut a long story short it was an amazing day. But a long one. A veeeeeery veeeeeeery long one. Once we were settled in the hotel we got back in to Manchester city centre to have lunch and to pray for the torrential rain to stop. Someone must have been listening because by the time we emerged from the pub it was in to blazing sunshine (ok, maybe not blazing) with not a rain cloud in sight.

Although I've been to plenty of gigs before this was my first time at an open air gig and I was really looking forward to the experience. I've never been to a festival either and I thought that this could be my mini introduction to what it might be like.

The Enemy and Kasabian were supporting and were both good. The Enemy was a little ropey - sounded good but they just didn't have a lot of stage presence. Mind you on a stage that big that's a bit of an ask. Plus the lead singer was recovering from the food poisoning that had stopped him playing on the Thursday night. Kasabian were brilliant. I wasn't sure about them before I went because I didn't think I knew that many songs. Turns out I do! I would definitely like to go and see them again and will be buying the latest album in the meantime.

We weren't very close to the stage at all. We had ummed and aaahed about getting there for when the gates opened at 2pm so we could be sure of being in the inner circle but we voted to eat and drink where it would be a little cheaper so by the time we got there they weren't letting anyone else in to the inner circle. We therefore got ourselves against the next set of barriers which were a good way away from the stage - we were at the front of the back of the crowd if you like!

Once we got that spot we weren't going to give it up so there we stayed for the duration. Mind you there wouldn't have been anywhere else you could have gone. The only way out of that barrier was to be lifted over by the stewards and trust me that is not dignified. So I steeled myself against the surge when Oasis came on and gritted my teeth, determined to stick it out.

I have some pretty impressive bruises on my rib cage from getting crushed against the barrier and for a moment it was a little hairy but I'm pleased we stuck to our guns. I'm proud of us! (Although some might think us a little mental)

Oasis were amazing and surprisingly (to me anyway) they're cd perfect. I thought they'd be a little bit rough around the edges but that wasn't the case at all. When I could hear them (difficult when 70,000 people are screaming in your ear) it was absolutely spot on. They didn't play that many tracks off the new album, 3 or 4 I think, something I wasn't massively disappointed with because I don't love that album, and instead stuck mainly to the classics.

In any gig you go to there will be a key moment for you that you will always remember. It's the image or song that will come in to your mind whenever you think about the concert. For me it was listening to Don't Look Back in Anger just as the sun had set. It's too hard to explain why - I just couldn't begin to try. But it was great.

The boys are very much as you would imagine. Not a great deal of crowd interaction and they were very much there to play the songs and that was it. The atmosphere was supplied by the crowd, definitely not like them. I was most affronted when they just left the stage at the end. People started to walk away and I was saying "Well that can't possibly be it. They haven't even said goodbye or thank you." How naive of me.

So yes. Great night. Terrible terrible terrible management of the coaches back to Manchester city centre afterwards. Whoever was in charge in that should be in some serious trouble. The police had to step in in the end to sort the crowd out which was almost rowdier than it had been inside the park gates. We eventually crawled in to our hotel bed about 1.30am, more tired than I have been in a long time. Somehow we managed to get ourselves up at 7.30 to catch the first train back to Hull where I was picked up by the boyfriend who just looked at me as I dragged my greasy carcass along the platform. No words needed.

All in all. Brilliant experience and I now so want to go to a festival - it would be like that but on a scale a million times bigger! Ah well, next year.
I've always been a little dubious about big concerts, probably because my first gig experiences were in the Manchester Academy, which generally speaking is a fairly small venue. It's more intimate. You feel like you can react more with the band on stage and feel more of a relationship with them. However nothing quite compares to the feel of a crowd as big as the one on Saturday, pressing down around you, all of you joined together in a love of the people on the stage before you.

It's a good job really because in 2 weeks time I'm back in Manchester again, this time at Old Trafford Cricket Ground to see Take That. It's like this month is about reliving my childhood.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

This time a year ago...

...life was a little bit different for this girl.

I was not long back from this holiday and after an amazing 2 weeks filled with enough funny stories to keep me going for a lifetime, I arrived back in England, sad to be home and wondering when I would ever get back to see my friends again but also pleased to be back and looking desperately forward to seeing my boyfriend.

He hadn't come with me on the trip and whilst I was away he had been sending me e-mails and texting me, telling me how much he missed me and couldn't wait to see me.

Luckily I didn't have long to wait. I got home on the Thursday and he was going to be coming over to Hull on the Saturday so I had plenty of time to unpack and shake off my jetlag in time to see him again.

He broke up with me on the Friday.

On the phone.

Without ever really explaining why.

I was a total wreck - not only because I wondered what I'd been doing with my life for the last year and a half, not only because I'd never had my heart broken before and didn't realise how much it hurt but because I'd just left my best friend in America, because he ruined my life at a point when I couldn't have been happier - I never got a chance to talk to anyone about my America trip properly because everything got consumed with talking about the break-up.

At times like this there are few things a girl could rely on, one of which is her friends. Mine failed miserably at this task. There could be many reasons for this which I won't go into now but I soon realised that if I didn't want to sink into a pit of despair I had to go out and make my own fun.

First on the agenda was an old school friend's hen weekend. We had sort of stayed in touch after school but not massively but I knew a weekend away from myself was what was in order.

The morning we were travelling down to Cardiff we stopped off at her parents' house. This was hen party central and in the kitchen my friend's older brother was packing up the goody bags for all the hens.

Obviously I knew him from way back but purely as my friend's older brother. I thought of him in the same way I might have considered my friend's shoes - just something sort of "belonging" to her. I knew who he was but never really registered him, he was just there in the background. Especially as he was 6 years older than me - he was totally off the radar.

Anyway. Back to the hen party.

There he was again. I said hello and that was that. Off we went to Cardiff to heal my broken heart amongst 15 loud drunk women.

Imagine my surprise then when I got a message on Facebook (obviously - this is a 21st century tale after all!) from him, asking if I wanted to go out for a drink. I hestitated. I definitely wasn't ready for something new. I'd only been broken up with my boyfriend for a month, now wasn't the time.

But I had nothing else to do and didn't want to sit in on my own being depressed so in the spirit of going out and keeping busy I said yes.

And here we are.

1 year on (tomorrow)

Life's a funny old thing isn't it?

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Sitting, Waiting, Wishing

I've become determined to not let my lack of garden stop me successfully nurturing plants in the flat.

A while ago I went to visit some friends of mine that are remarkably self-sufficient when it comes to growing their greens. Their garden is full of potatoes and tomatoes and strawberries and aubergines and broccoli and a very impressive herb garden. Every time I see them I come away with something, despite my protestations that I'm not going to be able to keep them alive.

They gave me a basil plant and a courgette plant last year that lasted about, oooh, 2 weeks I think.

This time I wasn't allowed to leave without a chilli plant. I did point out that I don't have a garden and hence no means of pollination but this left them undeterred. I left with strict assurances that I wouldn't kill it and that I'd be able to do a bit of self-pollination to make sure it produces the goods.

I've had plenty of flowers and have tried my hardest but so far with no luck. However, yesterday I spotted a little delight - I think I got one!! I'm keeping all my fingers and toes crossed that I actually manage to produce a chilli. I'll keep you updated on his progress.
I'm also loving this plant that a friend gave me as a housewarming gift. Except I don't know what he is - can anyone tell me?! He's been brilliant (I don't know why but most of my plants are male - Charlie the Chilli, Bertie Basil....you get my drift) and has produced a steady flow of purpley flowers. I thought his flowering season had come to an end and then I woke up to this bright pink dazzler - I can't believe how beautiful it is and there are lots of promising buds hanging about which I'm hoping are going to produce the same colour flowers.

Yeah who needs a garden?!

Monday, 1 June 2009

A town called Diversity

I'm not really one for watching reality shows. I was the biggest Big Brother fan you could get at the very beginning - the days of Irish Tom and the love triangle between him, Melanie and new arrival Claire are all still fresh in my mind (told you I loved it, how many of you remember that from Series 1?!) However as the years rolled by and it got more and more ridiculous I've gradually tuned out. If I am going to watch one of these it'll be Big Brother or one of it's celebrity spin-offs.

Same with the others. I watched Girls Aloud be crowned winners of whatever tv show that was and Will Young crowned winner of Pop Idol, but since then my interest has trailed off.

So Britain's Got Talent passes me by entirely. I hear about it when it's on the news but I have no interest in watching it particularly.

However a few Saturdays ago my boyfriend and I sat down to dinner and there was nothing else on so we figured we might as well watch it. That was the night I first saw Diversity. An amazing dance troup made up of 3 sets of brothers and some friends from different parts of London astounded me for the few minutes that they were on. They were beyond brilliant. There wasn't so much as a finger out of step and the best part was the humour injected in to the routine with the slow motion running sequence.

I knew immediately who I wanted to win. Not only because they're talented but because of the amazing message they would send around the country. Here are a group of 10 young men whose ages range from 12-25. They are all totally different heights. They are from different backgrounds, both ethnic and social. They are such a great example to the rest of the nation.

In these troubled times when a political party like the BNP are allowed to broadcast political messages on television (sorry did I say political messages, I must have meant horrifyingly racist diatribes), we more than ever need a group like this to shine a beacon of hope to everyone all around.

I might sound like I'm being hysterical and over the top, and I admit that diversity and community cohesion are pet projects of mine, but I really don't think the importance this group will play can be under-estimated. They send a great message to young people everywhere, encouraging them to get together and do something they want to do. Instead of complaining that there "isn't anything to do", Diversity shows them that they need to get out there and do something themselves.

As much as I loved them, it didn't make me want to watch the rest of Britain's Got Talent, something I was pleased about when I heard about the last semi-final where the evening's entertainment was watching a 10 year old girl cry as her nerves got the better of her.

However when I woke on Sunday morning and heard that Diversity won the biggest smile ever came across my face. They are undoubtedly the deserved winners of the competition and their final dance showed that they have the ability to just get better and better and better. With each dance routine a marked improvement on the other and each one leaving me watching with my mouth gaping open.

Much has been made of the talent of Ashley Banjo, the 20 year old choreographer of the group. And whilst his talent is beyond comprehension (expect him to get a job choreographing Justin Timberlake soon) I don't think enough has been made of the rest of the group. You can be the best choreographer in the world but if you don't have a group as in sync with each other as Diversity is, you're never going to pull anything off. These boys know each other inside out and upside down and the bond they share will undoubtedly help them deal with the attention they must now be getting - something that seems all the more important with today's news that Susan Boyle has been admitted in to a clinic for "exhaustion".

I can't put in to words how pleased I am that Diversity won. And although these kind of talent shows aren't necessarily my cup of tea, I'm very smug that I a) saw them when they first appeared and b) said I wanted them to be the winners.

Well done Britain.

The only downside is that I've got to wait until 11th December for the Royal Variety Performance! But with that length of time to go, just imagine what they're going to come up with...

If you were one of the few who haven't looked them up on You Tube to see their winning performance...go here...now watch that and tell me they didn't deserve to win.