Monday, 29 December 2008

Ringing in the new, or some such other festive bollocks

It's been over six months since I've written here.

A lot can happen in six months. And looking back on it, it did, even though it didn't seem like it at the time. So I thought to get the ball rolling again, and because I really don't have much to say that isn't self-indulgent whinging, I'd fill in one of those 'end of year survey' thingies. Y'know, since it's the end of the year, and all. Another one.

What did you do in 2008 that you'd never done before?
I played in a swing band. I did. I actually did it. I don't know what drove me to - just pure frustration, I think, at not doing what I believe I was put on this earth to do. But do it I did; I picked up my clarinet one night, jumped in the car, walked into a roomful of strangers and played. Within a week I was gigging. And it was marvellous. Exhilarating. Breathtaking. Immensely wonderful. I use the past tense because I've not been in a while due to a rather ill-timed resurgence of the agoraphobia - rehearsals are all the way across the other side of London and sometimes it's just too much. I am fully planning to go back in the new year, if physiology allows.

Did you keep your New Years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I did, although I started very late, but not a single cigarette has passed my lips since the 11th of April. A random date, I know. I will make some more next year, namely: do more exercise, eat better, write more, and to do something new at least once a month.

What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
Sleep. Good health. Fun. Goals. Laughter.

What date(s) from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
I've floated through this year without paying attention to anything, really. Half the time I didn't even notice what day it was, let alone the date. So my pick will be recent: On the 28th November, I met my comedy hero, the immensely talented and deliciously lovely Bill Bailey, after the first of the er, four, shows I've attended on his run at the Geilgud in London's West End. We talked briefly about the Westcountry, he signed my programme 'Exeter! Hurrah!' and very graciously posed for a photo, in which I, typically, look like a twat. Isn't that always the way? On the plus side though, I did manage not to faint.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I played a gig at the 100 Club in London's Oxford Street with the jazz orchestra. It was, hands down, the most amazing thing I've ever done in my life. There was a period of about ten minutes when the DJ introduced us, the baton went up and the lights flooded us from above during which I honestly thought I was going to die, for my body has not quite yet worked out the difference between good adrenaline and bad adrenaline, but once I got through that - and I did - the experience was mindblowing. A 50ish strong jazz orchestra crammed onto that tiny little stage, trumpets behind me blaring in my ears, the lights shining on me, the audience dancing... Friends came to support me and I could sense their pride. Could I remember the actual date, it would have formed the answer to question 4.

What was your biggest failure?
Well, I finally got fired in October. I knew it was coming, and frankly, at the time, I didn't give a monkey's. I'm still not sure whether I do give a monkey's or not. Honestly, it was a relief. But, this is supposed to be one of life's great failures, is it not?

What was the best thing you bought?
A 1970s Buescher Aristocrat alto sax - it's amazing. And a car, which, while an interminable pile of shit, has, for 250 quid, enabled me to get out and about and do lots of band stuff, so that's second best.

Whose behavior merited celebration?
Boris Johnson. Not for his politics, but for falling up the steps on the way to his inaugural speech as Mayor. Best laugh I had all year. John McCain, for his amazingly gracious speech in defeat, so humble that although not a supporter (of either of them, actually, since I'm in the UK) it bought a lump to my throat. My friends, who've pulled me out of really quite a rubbish place over the last few months.

Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
My own, mostly.

Where did most of your money go?
Rent, vet bills, musical instruments, nicotine gum.

What song will always remind you of 2008?
Judie Tzuke - 'Like The Sun':

What do you wish you'd done more of?
Working towards my goals. Not that I'm entirely sure what they are, of course. I've slacked off a horrendous amount this year. With good reason, but still - it's not great.

What do you wish you'd done less of?
Eating crap food. Hiding in my flat. Wasting time on untenable situations. Pissing the day away on the internet.

What was the most embarrassing thing that happened to you in 2008?
My car was crushed by the council because I forgot to tax it, and I didn't notice it had gone for three whole days. Primarily because I hadn't been out of the flat...

Did you fall in love in 2008?
Quite the opposite, in fact: I fell spectacularly, and very reluctantly, out of it. Never again. Remember how I posted last year about not loving? This was why. I knew there was a reason I didn't, and shouldn't have. This was the reason. It hurt more than I ever thought possible. Still does.

What was your favorite TV program?
Britain From Above, in particular the first episode; its highlighting of the rampant consumerism we are now practicing in this country shocked me to the core.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?

What kept you sane?
Friends. Music. Livejournal. Slash (fiction, not horror. Wonderful escapism, and the members of slash comms are some of the nicest, most genuine people I've ever met). Painkillers. Comedy. Harmless but slightly obsessional celebrity crushes.

What did you want and get?
To play in a swing band. A new saxophone. A spot in a sax ensemble. Got them all.

What did you want and not get?
A career in music of some description, but that's purely because I've done the sum total of piss all to make it happen.

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
It was a birthday weekend, and I spent it in Surrey with two of my best friends; we got quite drunk, they got me some ridiculously silly presents, made me a spag bol and a cake with a cigarette lighter stuck in it because we had no candles, and I was 36. I still have no idea how that happened.

What three things would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Better health
More motivation
Someone to share it with in the flesh, rather than over an internet connection.

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Bill Bailey. Westcountry boy made good, frighteningly intelligent, eyes you could lose yourself in, makes me laugh till my sides ache, ridiculously musically talented - what's not to love?

What political issue stirred you the most?
You know, I'm sure everyone's going to say 'the credit crunch'. I'm not, because, possibly due to my almost Good Life-like existence in which credit does not exist, I largely believe it's of peoples' own making.

What is a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008?
Question everything, never accept less than you deserve, and that music and comedy make everything better.

What quote can be used to sum up your year?
There are two:

1) "The duck lies shredded in a pancake; soaking in the hoisin of your lies" - Bill Bailey
2) "The fact is, sometimes it's hard to walk in a single woman's shoes. That's why we need really special ones now and then - to make the walk a little more fun." - Carrie Bradshaw

Saturday, 21 June 2008


This started out life as one of those silly LiveJournal memes. Y'know the sort of thing: "If you're on my friends list, answer the following questions: 1. How old are you? 2. Where do you live? 3. Where do you work? 4. Who's in your family? 5. What's going on in your life right now?" Etc, etc, repeat ad nauseum. Rather than repeating a list, it turned into a rather interesting writing exercise, and since I haven't written anything since, er, February, I thought I may as well chuck it up here. Enjoy - or not.

Two points of note:
1. I am ridiculously unhappy with the ending and will probably spend all day tweaking it and
2. UW, one of these paragraphs has made me realise I owe you some tea.


Caroline has always thought she has the look about her of someone a few years older than the thirty-six of them that she has so far tucked under her belt, primarily caused by smoking tabs since the age of ten, eating vast amounts of refined sugar on a daily basis and an inexplicable allergy to hair colourant so strong that the owner of her local salon once hurriedly gathered all her staff in a circle and used her as a live, impromptu case-study on the importance of patch tests. Most mornings, you can catch her peering vacantly over the rim of a mug that sports just a splash enough of milk, the teabag left in and the logo "", trying to decide whether she feels fifty years old or fifteen, and her conclusion will depend upon one of two things: how badly she slept the night before, or how convinced she is that she never reached the end of that stage of arrested development that is so necessary for growing up.

Although she hasn't the faintest idea why, she nestles herself equidistantly between three London suburbs; were it not for the W12 postcode staring at her from the top of the unopened pile of bills behind the door, she would never be quite sure in which she actually resides. She tells people Hammersmith only because it's better than Shepherds Bush and because calling it Chiswick would be just one small stretch too far; at any rate, her breeding, if not her accent, would immediately scream 'fish out of water' were she to try that one. She knows that the tumbledown Victorian basement flat that she calls home - or 'home' - is slightly too rough around the edges to justify the rent; it's disjointed and nothing matches, but every time she adds another uncoordinated oddity to the fray she smiles to herself because while it makes sense to nobody else, in there, that's just the way it's supposed to be.

At the end of a 15 minute bike-ride every morning, during which she will call at least one white-van-man an insufferable cunt from behind the relative, anonymous safety of a pair of five-quid shades and a cycle helmet that she knows makes her look like a tit, but prefers to the prospect of having her head mashed under a bendy bus on the Uxbridge Road, Caroline stumbles half-cocked and generally half-asleep through her days as a content-producing drone for whichever of the corporation's websites will pay her enough money to do so at any particular point in time. She emails people who sit right next to her and avoids the phone like a dose of the clap, knowing full well that this creates issues on a daily basis with her boss - a man who delights in the finer points of micromanagement but whose occasional propensity to be a nice bloke is the only reason she hasn't downed tools and walked out this week.

She's never quite able to put her finger on what it is that keeps her going in day after day, but suspects it may be something to do with the chocolate chip muffins from the fifth floor canteen, which isn't quite as good as the ground floor one in the building across the courtyard but is infinitely better than the one at the faceless government department that used to keep her head floating above the water line before she came here; casting her mind back, she's not even sure she can remember which one it was. During the course of any particular day, she entertains herself by wittering pointlessly on LiveJournal, updating her Facebook status in the most passive-agressive way she knows how, laughing at uppity people on an etiquette forum as they earnestly debate the gravity of the social faux-pas committed by a woman not wearing a petticoat in public, and making as little tea for everyone else as she can get away with while still being considered a team-player.

Well, almost. Mostly, the iPod takes care of that one.


As she currently harbours the kind of love-life that is probably best buried and unspoken of and seems to be fast approaching that thing that's not supposed to happen until one's mid-to-late-forties - oh god, forty - Caroline will almost certainly not be having children - a fact that causes her to alternate between heaving huge sighs of relief and torturing herself with the notion that she has failed at the fundamental point of human being. She regularly shrugs off the nagging thought that the strays she seems to collect are some sort of compensation; there are three who live with her and deposit fluff and leaves and unspecified bits of cat all over her clean ivory bedding, and then there's Dave, who does not quite live with her and who she only counts as half a cat, because four would just be too many.

Could she be bothered to plug it in, Caroline could set her clock by Dave; if he's meowing outside the bedroom window, it must be midnight. Dave sneaks cat food from her kitchen when he thinks she's not looking and willfully craps in the passageway outside the back of her flat as if to make a point, but she doesn't mind because while he's doing that, he's warm and dry and full, and not becoming a tasty snack to a ruthless urban fox.

Tonight, Dave has made a liar out of her by meowing outside the window at 9.23.

Caroline hates liars.


Sometimes, she wonders how much can be explained away by the fact that the now 78-year-old Patrick took one look at her in the delivery room and apparently tied a knot in it. She knows she is far too much like him for her own good: intolerant, slightly anxious and a little paranoid, but with the kind of wry sense of humour that gets them both out of trouble and the ability to weave a story from the most innocuous of thoughts. Unlike Caroline, Patrick has an interesting past in motor racing and the ghosts of the 1960s and Monaco and Fangio always ensure he has a tale to tell at the drop of a hat, whereas Caroline's words just seem to float aimlessly around in her head with no outlet, never really going anywhere or making anything of themselves except as three-line promos on a website that disappear within a week and that nobody really reads. She resembles 75-year-old Elizabeth in looks only; together, they often have trouble holding a simple conversation about anything more complicated than the weather or what's on the telly that evening for want of a single square inch of common ground, although how much of this is down to Elizabeth's possibly emerging dementia of an as yet unconfirmed type is still open to debate.

Caroline hates television with a passion equally as strong as the opposing type she reserves for music, but will talk about it until the cows come home if it makes Patrick think that Elizabeth is still conversing. She hopes that in some familial, yin-and-yang kind of way, the longevity of their 52-year marriage will cancel out the fact that she's never quite got around to it.


With every day older that she becomes, her closest friends seem to live a little deeper inside the laptop than they did the one before, waking up with her when, rubbing the grit from her eyes, she lifts the lid just after the sun comes up, and sleeping when she snaps it shut for the night. She's never quite sure whether this is a good thing or not in a social development kind of way, but wouldn't be without them for all the tea in china. Oh, there are some in the real world, though; one with whom she lived for 11 years and who she only stopped trying to kill when there were several streets, followed by several towns, between them, and then another, who she adores but refuses point blank to sleep with, and with whom she can talk semi-drunken bollocks until the sun comes up; she sees enough of neither.

This week, Caroline is spending her Friday evening wracking her brains, desperately trying to think of three-to-five big things that are going on in her life right now. The one that until yesterday morning she would have put at the top of the pile has just imploded into oblivion, so she settles for being far too excited about 8pm on Sunday night than someone of her age can reasonably get away with in polite social circles.

At that point, Caroline forgets that she hates television, because she misses him so much already that she almost can not breathe.

Caroline has no idea what she will do tomorrow, and decides, as always, that she will cross that bridge when she comes to it.