80. Pick n Mix

baked-box-cheese-280453

I’m helping my friend pack up her house. I said I didn’t want to help her on the day of the actual move, because it’s too stressful, and everyone ends up arguing because they’re bone tired. It’s the same reason I gave when I didn’t want to go to Ikea with her. Everyone knows someone whose had an argument in Ikea. Someone I know had a theory that they sell you the dream and slowly draw you in. That’s why it’s so cheap. Before you realise it, you’re in a giant warehouse queue wondering if all of these boxes will fit in the car, and there’s the dread of knowing you still have to build your own furniture.

However, I am expert packer, even if I do say so myself. I’ve done it dozens of times. I know what I’m doing, so she’s left me to it, whilst she packs up her books. I’m on kitchen duty. Bubblewrap. Check. Sellotape. Check. Boxes. Check. Parcel tape. Check. Marker pen. Check. Spray kitchen cleaner. Check. Kitchen roll. Check. May as well clean as I go.

Headphones on. 80s pop. Sleeves rolled up. A bag of chocolate eclairs. A bottle on the go, well, some gin in a small bottle of Pepsi max. It’s what Scroobius Pip drinks, so we call it a ‘Pepe Pip’.

After an hour or so of mildly repetitive and strangely satisfying packing of glassware, plates and saucepans, my friend finds me. She’s carrying a few hardback notebooks. “Check these out.” she says excitedly. “These,” she says, holding up the books, “are my teenage diaries.” She hands me one.

“Oh wow!” I exclaim. “Can I open it?” Everyone knows you don’t read someone else’s diary, no matter how tempting it is or entitled or jealous you feel.

“Sure. It’s probably all bullshit anyway. Angst about why doesn’t he like me or how my life would be totally perfect if I was thin or had a nosejob or better tits. Comparing myself to other girls. That it’s so unfair that I have to have a part-time job. That kind of self-obsessed crap.”

Over the next hour, we forget we are supposed to be packing up her new life, whilst we unpick her old one. We laugh at forgotten fashions, sympathise with emotional problems that meant everything, and remember how easy and carefree everything seemed back then.

“Oh my god.” She says “This is too real. This is what I wrote when I was nineteen.

My ideal man.

  • Cannot be bald, short or fat.
  • Has to have good teeth and be very clean.
  • Must have a sister, so I’m not the first girl he’s ever met.
  • Cannot have gone to an all-boys school, because they’re all weirdos.
  • Cannot be allergic to cats or snore.
  • Has to live near to me and have his own car. (Not share his mum’s)
  • Cannot be on the dole.Must have a full-time job or be studying for a degree in something worthy, like Medicine or something with prospects like Law or Engineering. (Not a Micky Mouse degree like Media Studies)
  • Cannot smoke.
  • Cannot have a criminal record.
  • Must love children, but cannot already have any children.
  • Must have already had a girlfriend but she can’t be a psycho stalker.
  • Cannot have been married or have lived with anyone.
  • Cannot have a female flatmate that he has already had sex with.
  • Must play an instrument or be able to cook.
  • Must love his family but not be a mummy’s boy.
  • Not be racist, sexist, homophobic or posh.
  • Must play sport or be in a band but cannot be a rugby lad, football meathead or have groupies.
  • Must be generous. People who are tight with money are also stingy in bed.

I must have passed up on so many men over the years, because they didn’t match everything on that list. Why am I so picky?” she sighs, and closes the diary.

I put my arm around her shoulder and squeeze it.

“God. If my mum had read this at the time, then I would have probably left home and never spoken to her again, god rest her soul. It would have been such a betrayal. I would have been totally mortified. And now it’s just a pile of crap. Wishful thinking about how life was going to be. I had no fucking clue did I? When did we get this old?”

“We’re not that old.” I say. We’re no spring chickens, but who wants all that aggro? Anyway, we’ve had our time. You only think you’re old because you could be the new bloke at work’s mum. Remember, he didn’t even know who Noel Gallagher was!”

“True”

“Do you think kids these days keep paper diaries any more?” I ask. “You know. I reckon they do it all online now, with private blogs. Selfies and pictures of them semi-pornstar posing naked under the pretence of being hashtag body positive, you know, that clean eating bollocks. I read that there is no market for paid porn for female pornstars aged between 22 and 30, because the market is flooded with so much amateur stuff. You’re a schoolgirl then milf”

“That’s really sad.” She says. “They’re obsessed but it’s all so fucking fake.”

“Except hipsters, obvs.” I say. “I bet they go to open mike nights where people read out their own teenage diary entries, to feel deliberately awkward. They probably type their journals on old typewriters or do that bullet journalling. Ha. I’m saying it like I even know what it is.”

“I’ve no idea.” She says. “Did I tell you about that time we were clearing out my nan’s house after she died, and we found some photographs of her posing in her big pants when she was young? I reckon that’s the equivalent of sexting these days.”

“I wouldn’t be young again now, you know. Too much choice. It’s all swiping right and hooking up. Yolo. Fomo. Whatever. I reckon most of them have never even risked asking someone out face to face without being pissed, and are too scared to put in the effort into getting to know someone in case they miss out on their perfect person who is just around the corner. I bet there’s loads of men out there who have never even seen public hair or unshaved legs on a woman. God, I sound bitter. Do I sound bitter?”

“Nah. You’ve not been deprived. You make sense. Someone should tell the young uns that the perfect person doesn’t exist and to enjoy what they’ve got while it lasts. It ain’t gonna be me though. No-one wants an al woman telling them not to have fun.”

Just then the doorbell rings.

“That’ll be the pizza.”

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75. Serendipity

“Love, luck and money they go to my head like wildfire.”

‘Can’t Be Sure’ by The Sundays

No matter what, it always comes out sooner or later. I know that they know. I can just tell. Their whole demeanor changes. They are just dying to ask me. They think it sounds incredulous; that there must have been a connection for this snowball effect, or some other meaning that I’ve not mentioned.

I think I prefer the people who are upfront and just say it, rather than those who pretend they are too cool to care, but you know are prepared to wait as long as it takes for details. Only once have I believed someone who said they honestly had no idea who I was, and that it made no difference.

There’s a definite shift between those who knew me before they found out, and those who got to know me after, or, more often, because. My friends used to call them ‘starfuckers’ and you can sense their desperation to be close to dining out on any association with fame, in the hope that the luck rubs off onto them, or somehow I’ll make it happen again. Few people believe that I had nothing to do with these events and that they are the very definition of coincidence.

Most people who share it, have an opinion that I care not for, and I’ve heard many times already. They are usually disappointed to find out that not only do these events not define me but that I’m genuinely pleased for everyone involved. I hold no ill will, there are no regrets and that there has never been anything to forgive. Of course the money helped, but it wasn’t as much as people say it was.

Next question please. Of course, who wouldn’t? I have had more than a few sleepless nights wondering about the endless, many, what ifs, plus lots of counselling.

So, yes. The song of my name is about me. My boyfriend and I split up, and in the weeks that followed, he wrote the song that made him a household name. Whether you believe the lyrics is up to you. The plot of the film of the song is obviously fiction, to me and those who know me. It clearly says so at the beginning, but that doesn’t stop people from thinking it’s based on my actual life. Think about it. If we hadn’t have split up, he may not have written the song etc.

Incredibly, my very next boyfriend did win the lottery a month after we went our separate ways. It was a very easy break. We talked, agreed it wasn’t working out, that we preferred each other as friends, so shook hands to seal the deal. No, I’m not bitter. We’re good friends. Better friends now than when we were going out. He bought me this lovely house. I’m godparent to his son. Money changes people. I think it must be like being beautiful. They can never really be sure why someone loves them, so they stay close to home with people who really know them.

Boyfriend number three did marry the actress who played ‘me’ in the film. Really! You couldn’t make it up. That one did sting a bit for a while, but I’m long over it now. You’ve seen photos of them on the red carpet. They’re made for each other. If it hadn’t have been for me, then they would never have met and all that.

Yes, I have seen the film, but only once, and I’m glad I waited until a long time after it came out. The press had mostly lost interest in me by then. Every so often a pap pops up, looking for a scoop on a bitter ex, but there’s never anything to report. Anyway, second ex keeps a lawyer on a retainer for me in those situations, so nothing ever gets printed. I’m grateful for that, as the British press can be quite brutal.

No, I haven’t really had a boyfriend since then. There’s been a couple of too-obvious chancers who thought I had some sort of magic touch. One that I quite liked, but I think he backed off when he found out, and another guy was convinced I was a witch. So it’s just me and the dog, this beautiful cottage, my garden, kiln and workshop. Every few months I am flown somewhere in the world by private plane to parties, have lovely holidays and always have a story to tell. My life is more than I dreamed it would be and is everything I ever wanted. I sometimes have to pinch myself to believe it is real. I wouldn’t wish it any other way.

73. Reasons to be Cheerful

Ripe cherry blossom against a pure blue sky.

Finding a sweet in my coat pocket when I’m stuck in traffic, on my commute home.

The smile of recognition from someone I forgot I ever knew.

A cherubic, fat baby holding out its arms to me for a cuddle.

Money in a birthday card.

The smell of silly putty.

Stepping off the plane into the heat.

Walking into an air-conditioned shop.

Reaching for each other’s hands.

Building a fire from scratch.

Seeing someone famous on the tube.

Hot bath towels straight from the drier.

When he perches on the edge of a table so his knees are either side of my hips and we are face to face.

A pile of birthday cards on top of a present.

A small child pottering around the garden.

The moment of leaving work the day before I go on holiday.

Camping at a music festival as a teenager.

Waking up to the smell of coffee and bacon on a Sunday morning.

Old photos of you that I’ve never seen before.

Seeing a clock change from 2️⃣3️⃣:5️⃣9️⃣ to 0️⃣0️⃣:0️⃣0️⃣

Popping bubble wrap.

Kicking up leaves in the park.

Singing along to a 30-year-old pop song, that I’ve not heard since then.

Twilight in the summertime.

Watching my dad skim pebbles across a lake.

🎈 Trying to keep a balloon in the air as long as possible.

Feeling a cashmere sweater.

A perfectly ripe avocado.

Playing with Lego.