Wednesday, 20 October 2010


A text tonight from Niecey:

I'm sad there's nowhere to go today to see nan! We should really let her ashes go somewhere else! Happy birthday to a super nan!X


My mum: born 20 October 1920, died 7 December 2005.

Since her cremation, she has remained untouched in a plastic bag on my dad's dresser in the bedroom they shared for more than 40 years.

Dust to dusty.
In January 2007, I wrote to my dad about this from New Zealand:
I spent the first anniversary of her death honouring Mum's memory in a quiet way, doing a lot of thinking. After she died I put up a 'shrine' (or “Mumorial” as I called it) in my room - a collection of photos, trinkets that reminded me of her, a small vase with red rosebuds in, a rosary, a candle. On the anniversary day it felt right to take it all down, put it all away and replace it with a single photo.
This made me realise that spending time in quiet contemplation with my 'mumorial' had helped me a lot in my mourning, and it made me wonder if it isn't a bit frustrating for everyone else not to have somewhere specific to 'be' with her in solitude.
Have you thought about getting a bench somewhere or tree planted in her name? It would be nice if there was somewhere family and friends could go to focus on memories of Mum, a special spot.
Also it would be nice for Mum to 'be' outdoors again, remember how she loved it, always in the garden with a big coat on if necessary? I just think she'd like to feel the wind in her hair again after spending so long inside.

I tried my best to be tactful, to gently point out that she is not just 'his'. He ignored the letter. As far as I know, that was the first and last time anyone tried to broach the subject of Mum's ashes with him.

(It's a waste of time trying - we all know how he'd respond. Something along the lines of 'mine. Mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine.')

So, no memorial for her, because my dad is a selfish arse.

But enough about him: it's her day, not his.

My mum was lovely - good-natured, mild-mannered. Gentle and dutiful. Kind-hearted and unassuming. And funny - often unintentionally.

The one thing everyone remembers about Mum is her laugh.

That great, rusty wheeze.

Sometimes, when she started laughing, she couldn't stop, and she would set everybody off, until we were all rendered helpless, tears pouring down our faces, dissolved in mirth.

Sometimes when she laughed, she laughed so hard she farted, which made her laugh even more.

She only had one joke:

What's better than a pie on the table? A tart on the floor.

It came out without fail every sherry-fuelled Christmas.

She got muddled with names - she liked that nice Agnes Deayton - and was a terrible snob. Of a new boyfriend of mine she once demanded, apropos nothing, in her best Margaret Thatcher tone: "Are you a communist?" (he had his own business, drove a BMW). My brother-in-law is fond of recounting that she didn't speak to him for months after he proposed to My Lovely Sister, what with him having long hair and coming from the wrong part of town and that.

In true Daily Mail fashion she abhorred homosexuals, but denied Julian Clary, Lily Savage, Liberace, Elton John (etc, et al) could ever be gay because they were wonderful.

She cried when Princess Diana died, bought me a glittery advent calendar every year, and adored kittens. Liked rhubarb yoghurt, liver and onions, Harveys Bristol Cream. Supported Cambridge in the Boat Race because she lived there once, before she met my dad. Considered herself posh because she was born in Marylebone, but she grew up near Archway. Couldn't resist a flutter on the National. Lived in trousers. Liked a tipple. Kept the garden looking beautiful. Did the ironing, made the beds every morning without fail. Enjoyed puzzle books, but wasn't much of a reader. Never passed her driving test due to "nerves". Played badminton, tennis, card games. Thought eating/smoking in the street was common. Put on a faux-aristocratic 'telephone voice', about which we teased her relentlessly. Kept herself to herself. Made a mean apple pie. Volunteered at Scope for 20+ years til her arthritis got the better of her. Went to church every week. Fussy eater. Had a nervous breakdown after I was born, and never talked about it. Favourite swear word: "Balls!" (used only in emergencies). Was always 'Nan', never 'Nana' or, God forbid, 'Gran'. Wouldn't say boo to a goose. Dyed her silver hair brown to the very end.

Some days I still can't believe I'll never hear that Muttley laugh again.

I honoured what would've been her 90th birthday by stopping off on the way home from work to have beef and ale pie, new potatoes, peas and gravy in the cafe at Sainsbury's.

As one who dined in Sainsbury's many a time, I'm sure she would've approved.

Happy birthday Mum. You rocked, we miss you.

Monday, 18 October 2010

This Is Insane

(photo: Michael Y Park @ The Epi-Log - click for link)

Jonathan Cainer said, "The problem with being tired is that it's harder to stay on an even keel when life delivers one of its little surprises.

"Today, if something surprises you, take it in your stride

That Mr Cainer wouldn't lie to me.

He got one thing right, for sure - I was tired.

Not just sleepy tired - tired of getting up in the dark, tired of working in a very unlovely part of Cardiff, tired of sitting in a gloomy office all day doing dull dull things, and especially tired of having to spend thirty seven hours of my life each week with a bunch of moaning, two-faced menopausal bores.

Tired of being tired.

I waited all day for a surprise, but there wasn't one, which was no surprise. When the blessed five o'clock came round, I scrounged a lift home with the one person there who isn't a moaning, two-faced menopausal bore and hit Tescos in Albany Road.

I swooped up the fruit aisle, and then down the dairy. I examined the reduced section.
So far so normal. Then, I noticed a guy looking at me.

I thought nothing of it. He was probably wondering how anybody's hair could be that frizzy.

Up and down and round to the soy milk. At the top of the bread aisle, there he was again. This time, there was no doubt about it - he was giving me the eye.


So what did we have here? Tall, shaved head, glasses. Backpack and trainers. Intelligent-looking, possibly an arty/muso type. Rather diffident in his eye-giving manner.
Not too built, not too trendy. Quite young too, though not too young.


I peeked back.
Embarrassed, he looked away. I couldn't help smiling. Was I unknowingly sending signals with my bananas?

I took off to look for the Marmite, then bumped into him again by the cereals. Where would he pop up next? Waiting to pay, he was in the adjacent queue. Our eyes met again. This was fun, but getting a little awkward.

Gotta look - wedding ring?


He went through first, and I tried to peer surreptitiously at his groceries to see if he was doing single man's shopping - but the stupid girl standing behind him got in the way.


As he left, he turned and looked straight at me. Not at the blonde girl just over there, not at the pretty brunette at the till, or at any of the other young girlies around the place.

At me.


I felt the back of my neck go hot. This was a most unusual food shopping experience.

I paid, and gathered up my bags.

Holy shit - he was loitering outside. Waiting for me? Surely not. Now I was nervous.

But he merely flashed me a glance as I passed.

Phew! I wouldn't have known what to do if he'd said something...

"Excuse me?"


I turned.

Of course, it was him.

"Sorry, I had to ask you, did you have a typing job in the summer at...?"

Oh, well, that explained it - yes I did.

We chatted for a bit. My relief at not being hit upon after all made me all smiley and bubbly. I said I didn't remember him. He said he'd seen me around shopping and stuff a few times.

As we talked, I realised I was disappointed he'd only been looking at me because he thought he knew me, because
actually he was quite cute. Lovely eyes - gingery brown, and friendly. A nice smile.

Then he said, "Erm, I was wondering, would you like to go out for a drink some time?"

Fuckaduck. Take it in your stride, Weez.

"Errrrrr... yeah, why not?"

Now, four sweet, amusing,
and - crucially - well-spelt and grammatically correct texts later, we have a date for Thursday night.

A date! For Thursday night! My first "date" since - and I'm not kidding here - June 2000.


Friday, 15 October 2010

Fashion Crimes of Albany Road #387

(Apologies for poor picture quality. Honestly, I think the best thing is for you to all pop round to my house to have a look at the original on my laptop. The see-through "leggings" must be seen to be believed.)

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

A Filing Cabinet Adventure

It wouldn't open.

A girl tugged it, and thumped it, and kicked it.

She went for help.

A man came, and tugged it, and thumped it, and kicked it.

Someone came out of a nearby office.

Together, the three of them tugged it, and thumped it, and kicked it.

It still wouldn't open.

They went and got a trolley to fetch a new cabinet from somewhere.

Bringing the new cabinet up the stairs, a wheel on the trolley fell off.

Undaunted, they carried the trolley and the cabinet the rest of the way.

They put the new cabinet next to the old cabinet.

They tried the old cabinet again.

It opened first time.

I watched all this from my position at the photocopier (where I spend the bulk of my working day).

It was, no lie, the most exciting thing that has happened since I've been working at this place.

My life is decidedly below average.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Why America Has Got It Wrong (Or Right) About Gun Laws


I sit down on the low wall in the churchyard to eat my sandwiches, under the yew tree, a pleasant spot.

The sun is out. I roll my trousers up.

From here you can hardly hear the traffic on the Newport Road. I have a full hour, sixty precious minutes, away from that hell hole of an office. I read my book. Birds sing in the trees and bushes.

A group of boys pass by, wearing the uniform of a local high school. They slouch up the street. I barely glance at them.

Suddenly, something bounces near my foot. Then, something whizzes past my ear.

I look up. They appear to be throwing things at me.

I hope it is beechnuts, although it could be stones.

I scowl and mouth "fuck off" in their general direction.

They increase the bombardment.

"Oh you're funny, you're so fucking funny," I say, although they are too far away to hear.

One steps closer. He is close to the wall of the churchyard now. I watch incredulously as he screws himself up to full power to hurl his projectile at me.

He misses.

As the stone/beechnut flies past, that is the moment something snaps in my head. I want to teach him a lesson. I want to shoot him.

So I bend down and open my bag.

I pull out a .44 Magnum.

I stand, cock it, and take aim at the feral child.

I shoot.

He falls. His friends stand gaping. I point, I fire. Again and again and again, until they are all on the ground.

One lies whimpering among the bloodied corpses. I walk over, nudge him with my toe.

"I know what you’re thinking," I say. “Did she fire six shots, or only five?” Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, punk?"

"I'm sorry for throwing beechnuts at you while you were just trying to eat your sandwiches in peace," says the boy, weeping.

"Too late, shithead. You should have thought of that before. What has the world come to when the reaction of a group of children to a solitary stranger minding her own business is to attack her? What the fuck were you thinking?"

"I don't know... I just did it cos they did," he falters.

I consider this for a moment, then squeeze the trigger.

One less future arsehole.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Of course, the reality was they just carried on walking up the road and I carried on eating my sandwiches, but it was too late, they did not make my day.