Tuesday, 31 July 2012

How To Make Flavoured Vokda With Tuckshop Flavoured Sweets Part 2

Remember when we did this before?

Since making the spectacular Refreshers vodka earlier in the year, I have been busy in my laboratory, all George's Marvellous Medicine-like. I am delighted (slurs words) to report my most successful experiment by far has been with these little fellas....

People, Werther's Original vodka is the absolute bomb-diggedy. It is like some kind of kamikaze Bailey's, both delicious and lethal in equal measure. It whispers seductively in your ear, and then clobbers you over the head when you're not looking. I used 2/3rds of a large bag for 50cl vodka and it seemed about right, but it's worth adding slowly, as too many and it would quickly become undrinkably sweet.

Less successful attempts involved Fry's Chocolate Cream (melted in a bain marie before slowly adding in the vodka, then freezing) and Rhubarb & Custard. The chocolate cream was a bit too much like cold hot chocolate for me, although Sam loved it. I think a different chocolate bar, maybe used as a component part of a cocktail might be worth the effort. The Rhubarb & Custard just tasted acidic and weird.... more like oranges than rhubarb or custard. I'm not sure if I did something wrong as other people seem to have had success with it.

Like a good scientist, I shall forge forwards with my experiment, with jelly babies and liquorice next up. In the meantime, I'm delighted to report that Gordon at candybooze.com (that's a whole blog dedicated to putting sweets into alcohol and seeing what happens)  has actually made CAMPINO VODKA! Just for you, Roz.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Learning How To Say No

Juggling six part-time jobs is an excellent lesson in time management. At the moment I'm working about 60 hours a week, and trying very hard to ensure that all those 60 hours' worth of work aren't asked of me on the same day.

You'd think, after learning to prioritise, the next hurdle in this almighty Rubik's cube of servitude would be learning to say "no, actually I don't have time to do this. I have to sleep/eat/have a life."

You'd think, wouldn't you.

Last week, I was just coming to the end of one working day and preparing to start the next when an email popped into my inbox asking me to complete an enormous assignment by the end of the weekend. A weekend I had promised myself would remain work-free, and had worked early mornings and late nights so far to ensure that it stayed so.

Regardless....I began panicking. Turning down the offer of money when you desperately need it is not easy. But I had told myself I wouldn't take on anything more. What would you advise a friend? I thought. This is definitely the right thing to do. I balanced against my mental health and I said no.


Sort of.

After sending the "no" email, I felt the following in quick succession: guilt, panic and an enormous sense of failure. This unholy trinity of unnecessary emotion proceeded to wash over me repeatedly until I had to leave the office and give myself a talking to. I was actually shaking. When I got back to my desk, an email had come back in with an deadline extension, and I was so relieved by my "reprieve" I said yes without even bothering to think through whether I'd be much better off.

The feelings of having let myself down went away.... now replaced by the steady hum of anxiety as I tried to work out how I was going to fit this in without working the whole weekend anyway. But the feelings of having let myself down went away.... and that did feel better. I felt like I was "being good" again. I genuinely think I have a problem.

I just wonder - does any of this ever go away? I have managed to develop a brain sensible enough to know when enough is enough, and yet when I do say no the emotional fallout is so pathetic I end up saying yes again anyway. Do we need another boring burnout with a nervous breakdown? How do you learn to say no and mean it? Where do you draw the line?

Friday, 27 July 2012

First Dance Friday: The Secret Song

It's the song you share that nobody else gives a shit about.

The one where you both know all the words to the rap in the middle, or you make the "widdle widdle" keyboard sound in the middle. Maybe you have a dance to it. Maybe you just finger-point.

Its the song that really should, by all rights, have been your first dance because it belongs to you two, but in the same way you own your stinky cat and your inefficient, overcomplicated microwave, nobody else gets it like you guys do.

If you'd had it as your first dance? The whole room would have gone "WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?"

So you didn't.

It might be a TV theme, or an advert, a B-side, a novelty hit, or just some weird album track from a record you've listened to to death. Maybe it's something really obvious on the radio that you actually think is pretty terrible, but now it means something to you.

Tell me - what's your secret song?

 And do you remember ours? 

It's still a HUGE tune. HUGE.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

HBO's "Girls" Is Your New Favourite Telly Prog

I was about to write "TV Show" and then realised what I was doing and nearly bit off my own hands.

Anyway. LOOK! This telly prog is amazing! AMAZING I SAY!

It's called "Girls" and it's an HBO one so you know there's no spray tans or lazy characterisation about to go in your eyes. It's about some - er - girls. They live in New York and they're very real and very, very funny. It's like Sex and the City if Sex and the City drank cheap lager instead of Cosmopolitans. There are tattoos and Twitter and willies in squirrel jackets and drawn-on eyebrows and it's just really really good.

Plus it's written and produced by women, including Lena Dunham whose life it is sorted of based on, and she also plays the main character so you know when she gets caught in uncompromising positions her pain is all real. And also because she looks real, like a real person that you know. Maybe even yourself.

Also there is an English character called Jess who has totally made me rethink my feelings about hareem pants.

I have no idea how you're going to watch it. You might have to fly to America to do it. Or maybe I'll buy it you for your birthday. But however you do it, you must do it. I have not loved anything this much since Freaks and Geeks, which is my favourite ever telly prog, and I'm thinking rather rashly that I might even love this more. MORE THAN MY FAVOURITE EVER TELLY PROG.

There are so many caps in this post. You know I mean it.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Succeeding In Sales When You're Shy

Desperate fluffing of my CV has forced me to think long and hard about the skills I've learned in these three years of post-redundancy wilderness. I'll be honest, it's been toss at times, but I've learned absolutely loads. I've got good at stuff I have historically been useless at (anyone for small-talk?) and discovered things about myself that I never knew. The big one is that I NEED to work with people. I am fascinated by human beings, in fact. Even when they're horrid. Learning how to manipulate my Disney villain boss has been one of the hardest and most rewarding things I've done for years. Basic human psychology = amazing.

I digress. I am here today to tell you how I learned to be one of the best salespeople at our gym. Yes! Me, the girl who sat at the back of the classroom and refused to put her hand up because it would mean she'd have to speak. Me, who hates imposing herself on anybody, ever. I'm now totally confident at flogging things.

Sales skills are useful for way more than just getting people to hand over money for goods. They're useful in all your dealings with people, pretty much. That's whether you're managing a team at work or trying to sell the idea of doing the washing up to your partner.

First myth to dispell: that to be able to sell, you need to be able to bullshit. NOT TRUE. Lots of salespeople who've tried to sell you stuff will have had excellent bullshit skills, but did you buy what they bought? Of course you didn't, because they pissed you off. Or you did, and you regretted it later. That was a BAD salesperson. A good salesperson merely leads you to buy something you needed all along.

OK. so here are the things I've learned about being a good salesperson. I know they sound a bit cringey, but there's no denying that if everybody in sales did it this way, the world would be a nicer place:

Believe in your product. Even if I sometimes think the gym I work for is mismanaged, I know that the improved health and fitness you can achieve there is something that everybody can benefit from. I have seen hundreds of people come into our gym and change their lives for the better. Why wouldn't I want to help others get there too?

Understand your customer. We're a friendly ladies only gym in a working class area. We have lilac walls and hula hoops. If a masochistic gym bunny in her 20s comes in looking to shed another point off her already carb-starved BMI, she is not going to get what she needs here. If someone like that comes in for a trial and wants to walk away five minutes in, I'll happily open the door for her on the way out. She's just in the wrong building. However, if a nervous lady who's never joined a gym in her life, has just sent her first kid off to nursery and is coming to terms with the fact that she's an unhealthy body weight for the first time ever... if she comes in, she IS in the right place. And if she wants to leave without signing up, I want to know why. 99% of the time it's because she's scared to fucking death. I can help with that too. This leads me to my next point:

 Listen. Talking does not sell, listening does. Find out about people, it's the only way you'll know if they actually need what you're selling. It makes them feel comfortable with you too, which stops them from making bad decisions. If somebody comes in wanting to sign up to the gym NOW NOW NOW I always make them try the equipment first, look around the place, have a sit down and a chat. The thought of somebody buying a membership when it's not right for them makes me feel a little bit sick. I don't want to cheat anyone. I have enough guilt, I like to be able to sleep at night.

Sales doesn't finish at Sale. Oh my god I feel like I need to start doing motivational speaking. You know what I mean though. Once you've flogged somebody something, it always pays to follow it up. Are they happy? If not, why not? What can you do to help? Even if you're flogging knitted iPod covers on a market stall, giving someone your card with an email address and saying "get in touch if you've got any questions" makes people feel looked after and like you're on their team. Which leads me to my final point...

Be on the customer's side. Even if you hate them. Even if they're prickly with you - it's probably only because they've had bad experiences with bullshitters trying to sell them stuff in the past. Selling is not tough and ruthless and nasty unless you want it to be. It can also be full of flowers and rainbows and bunnies eating icecream on a hot summer's day. Which is exactly how it feels when you sell something to somebody, and it improves their life enough for them to come up to you and say thankyou. THAT is something I never imagined happening to me before, and it is quite simply ACE.

When I finally get out of this godforsaken place, there will be a few things I will miss. This is one of them.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Festival Fogey

For the first time in four years, I have not spent the penultimate weekend of July in a field in Huntingdon. By all rights, yesterday morning I should have been getting bundled into the back of the car, bleating for my annual MacDonalds and mentally preparing to spend the rest of the week in a knackered haze, trying not to walk into stuff.

This is my first year without the Secret Garden Party.

                                                             2009 - the year they put the Tower Of Babel in the middle of the lake

We decided unanimously last year we weren't going to go back. Successive years were failing to top legendary previous ones. The place felt more corporate, the festival-goers more bothered about being trend-setters than fun-seekers. There was more theft, meaning heavy (and often quite scary) security. It wasn't a garden anymore. Well, it was...... just a slightly less magical one for us.

                                                                                  2008 - my first year. Shark mouth main stage. So exciting.

Beat-Herder has none of the elaborate, quirky touches of the SGP - it's just a massive rave in an extremely beautiful place. And it would have been the perfect replacement if it hadn't been for the swamp. It got to a point on the Sunday (after it took my friend and I ten minutes to walk the twenty yards down the boggy hill to the main stage, clinging to each other the whole way) where Dunkirk spirit floundered in the face of just wanting to be clean, and not have to walk for hours to get to a loo, of wanting dry feet and to drink or eat something that didn't have the crusty tang of Lancashire mud.

Yes we're having fun, but this is the first night and look at our LEGS

It's partly the summer we're having, but I suspect it's also because I'm getting OLD.

I've toyed with the idea of Latitude(maybe I could go to a festival where people read the weekend papers in deck chairs and there's socialist comedy and lots of beards?), which quickly disipated upon getting home and realising how much it costs to go, and how much I would hate everyone there apart from myself. I started to think wistfully about how much better All Tomorrow's Parties was.... only it wasn't. Because, regardless of how good the music is, how lovely and dry the chalets are, how awesome the group you go with are.... 95% of the people who go to ATP are bloody boring bastards who can't dance and wouldn't know a good time if it dropped a glittery piano on their heads and played Happy Talk on it whilst simultaneously kicking them in the bollocks (they're all men, of course, if there were more women at ATP it would get better immediately).

                                                                                   Statistical fact: 50% of the girls at ATP are on the stage

We waded back to the car on the Monday morning after Beat-Herder, gloop slopping over the tops of our wellies, shouting to everyone "Croatia next year, yeah?". And maybe we will. Maybe abroad is the only answer remaining.

Where do you go to find the spirit of the festival without the whiff of corporate dollar? Where do you find a good time with friendly people without a heavy price tag? All this with good music AND civilised enough to not want to cry for your mother by Saturday afternoon? Is it even possible?

Lend me your thoughts!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Vote Florence!

I think most of you will have seen this by now, but for those of you who haven't.... LOOK!

Florence Finds has been nominated not once but TWICE in the Cosmopolitan Blog Awards! That's a pretty amazing achievement right there. Rebecca has done so well with old Flozzer, and I feel very honoured to be one of her regular contributors. If you have a spare moment, please go vote for FF in the Newcomer and Lifestyle categories. As if being a nominee wasn't exciting enough, imagine if it DID A WIN!

(of course, Florence Finds is already a winner in our hearts, and if you don't already read it then you really oughta).

You may be interested to hear that the last thing I won was a bottle of Lamb's Navy Rum in a tombola in the middle of our local B&Q superstore, about two years ago. I was absolutely delighted.

Friday, 20 July 2012

First Dance Friday: Singing Lessons With Jeff Buckley

Some of the most treasured albums become inextricably linked to the era of your life in which you first heard them.

I spent so much time with Jeff Buckley's Grace album on my industry placement year that it became less like a piece of recorded music and more like a companion. It was a massively lonely time for me. I'd broken up with my college boyfriend and was shuttling round King's Heath trying to work out who I was, what I was and where I ultimately belonged. I spent a lot of time in my car, a lot of time on the M1 up to Leeds to play with the band I was in. Nearly all of that time I was listening to this terribly sad, sweet music.

Thing you need to know about me is, I am a long way from a great singer. They wouldn't let me in the school choir I was so bad. After that I sort of.... stopped singing. For years. I used to mime in assemblies. Mime. The thought of anybody hearing me made my stomach flip.

But that year, that all changed. Listening to this album, on tape, on a portable stereo on the passenger seat, there wasn't anybody to listen to me trying desperately to sing alongside  this truly incredible, legendary voice. I raced after Jeff, over his runs, the little flips and tricks, and I couldn't keep up at all. And then, over time, I got better. I got the vibrato, I got the singing-from-the-pit-of-your-stomach, taking it down, bringing it back up...it all started to make some sort of sense. I got confident enough to sing in the band (mostly because nobody else dared). And, anyway. It's where it all started for me.

My favourite anecdote about Jeff Buckley is that, in spite of making this incredible, delicate, timeless music, he spent his last few years mooching round with bands like Nirvana and complaining that he'd much rather be playing in a noisy grunge band and being cool. Just as if. AS IF. No way you could have taught me how to sing all proper if you'd done that, is there Jeff? Aw, look at that beautiful face.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Specs Appeal

It gives me genuine pangs of horror when I remember how I looked upon moving primary school, aged eleven. A chunky girl, "tall for her age", sporting the hairstyle of a 1970s footballer and a pair of whacking great specs that took up most of her face.

It was the glasses that really did it. They had thick, transparent plastic frames and cheerful contrasting arms the colour of the boat on a Blue Peter badge. They were the worst possible accessory for an eleven year old girl to have in 1992. A girl who suddenly realised that, for the first time in her life, she was going to have to try to fit in.

No amount of being good at drawing cartoons or spewing forth hilariously witty banter could save me from being mercilessly picked on in that first year. Come puberty, I was written off as an asexual boffin while everyone else was getting off with each other behind the bike sheds (no cliche - we did have them, and that's where people did it). I was at a disadvantage. Because the fact of the matter was - if you wore glasses in the 1990s and you were under the age of 30 then you were about as far from trendy as you could get. You would need extra glasses on your glasses to even be able to begin to see the letter F in the word Fashionable. You were screwed.
Now look at all this here, today! All these trendy pretty people with specs on their faces! Gogs are so fashionable now that people who don't even need to wear them are poking their fingers in their eyes so they can go down to Dolland & Aitchison and get a pair of Dame Ednas. People actually wear frames with just plain glass in them! Like sunglasses but without the sun! Or the point!

It's too late for me now (too old for the current vogue, too young for the awesome Molly Ringwald-style charity shop granny glasses in the 1980s), but it does make me feel relieved for the short-sighted teens of today. They might actually get their first kiss before the age of 42.
Maybe people get taunted now for not wearing glasses. Just think!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Blogging In The Free World

I've got a confession to make.

I'm useless with blog readers.

 I keep up with blogs purely off Twitter links and URLs already in my browser history. This means sometimes I forget about sites I enjoy reading for months at a time.

I thought I was winning at first, but now I realise that my scattergun approach just means I miss out on what's going on. Also, I finally realise that committing to a blog reader is not the same as getting a dog or having a baby. Nobody will report me to social services if I don't read those 15 new articles on the Stool Pigeon I've subscribed to (idiot).

 I recently signed up for Bloglovin. (thanks for the tip, Laura). It's a bit buggy on the mobile, but the principle is neat. It loads up all your favourites into a reader on your phone/'pooter. And you can mark as read if you're really not bothered about reading an interview with the latest French neo-psych band (but don't want old-stuff hanging around on your new-stuff page and taunting your OCD).

 Anyway, if you're on there- add me! I'm trying to widen my blog clout at the moment, as it's stats I can use for my CV.

Yeah, you heard, I'm making a tangible attempt to break out of my freelance content writing/ gym monkey rut and find a permanent role (hopefully in digital content) with career prospects and a bit more stability. This working six jobs malarkey is taking years off my life. It is not sustainable. I fear my popping is on the horizon.

It's a rocky career road I'm on (not the type with marshmallows, sadly). I took it because I thought it would get me somewhere I actually wanted to be. I need to find that turn-off now. It's been three years, and I feel ashamed that in spite of working longer hours than ever before, I still don't earn enough money to buy my own food. I feel ashamed that I do menial jobs my peers probably don't even think twice about. I feel ashamed about how often I get looked down on by members of the public, and that I spend so much of my time working for less than minimum wage.

This is why I do my writing thing on here so relentlessly - it lets me feel clever again. 

So thank you for listening to me, you people out there. I was quite awed by your response to yesterday's post. It was awesome to get our own little forum going - all your passion and opinion is unbelievably inspiring and immensely rewarding. I know I do go on a bit at times, but I'm having so much fun. Do stick around, I'm sure I'll manage to write something less ponderous tomorrow.

Toot toot!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Music Writing For Girls

This month I wrote my eleventh music column for ace lady-style blog Florence Finds. As I watched the tumbleweed drift across the comments section, I started to wonder why a music column aimed at a female audience feels like such an uncomfortable concept.

As a teen and a twentysomething (when I used to read such things), the music sections in ladymags made me want to petrol bomb the offices of Bonksmopolitan. Three album reviews, one bland, patronising sentence each. You would be forgiven for thinking that women don't give a toss about the music they listen to. I know that's not true, and so do you.

I thought to myself - surely all we need is a ladymag journo who knows their onions and can write about music in an engaging way. Then isn't it possible that music might eventually become as valid a part of women's style magazines as books, food or travel? It's madness - music and style are more historically linked than any of those other towards-the-back-pages sections. Yet it always get shoved in a little box in the corner and forgotten about.

I can't bear to think that the generalisation is really true - that men want to go out and learn about music, but women find out about bands by passive osmosis.

Specialist music magazines have never really been lady territory - I can't remember ever seeing a woman of 18+ picking one up in the shops (the only exception being metal fans). Is this because most music magazines are written with a teenage or male reader in mind? Or are girls simply not interested in finding out about music that way in the first place? Chicken? Egg?

The world of music blogs has the potential to create a more gender neutral readership... clicking through Popjustice or Pitchfork is infinitely less stodgy and dull than reading Mojo. And there seem to be plenty of women music writers around - more than ever, I'd say. But as for readers? I'm not sure. I can count on one hand the number of female friends I have who have even the vaguest interest in music blogs. Is it all a bit too geeky for us, girls? Would we rather wait for music to come to us rather than going out and actively tracking it down? Do we just have better things to do?

Tell me ladies, how do you find your music?

Monday, 16 July 2012

A Walk In The Countryside

I won't take anybody moaning about the weather to me whilst I'm working on reception today. This weekend was decent.

Yesterday Sam, Ellie and I took a spin past the Emmerdale village and out to Eccup. We spent a a pleasant hour and a half trotting around the reservoir, admiring foxgloves, a palomino pony, a majestic red kite and an unspecified field mammal (maybe a stoat?) scuttling into the bushes with its dinner in its mouth.

It continually astounds me that you can get in the car and drive in any direction out of Leeds for 15 minutes and be in beautiful countryside. Did I bleat last weekend that I wanted to move to Manchester? I take it back.

I'm reading Alan Bennett's Untold Stories at the moment, and feel an inner glow every time he mentions familiar bits of Leeds (which is a lot). He grew up in the house just a few doors down to us, on the same street in Armley. They should have a blue plaque up, I reckon.

Proper mucky Leeds, right in the middle of proper blindingly beautiful Yorkshire.

I love it here.

Friday, 13 July 2012

First Dance Friday: Finding Cool Ceremonial Music

Maybe you're the sort of person who is well into those Chillout Balearic Panpipe Moods CDs with the dolphins on the front, in which case this post is not for you.

It's for people like me, who own a right lot of noisy music that will upset our Aunty Pat. Or miserable songs about break-ups and suicide which just won't sit right in the wedding context. My iTunes already looks like a wedding disco - that part is simple - but there's not a scrap of a wisp of anything delicate or pretty that fits in with acres of tulle and heartfelt wedding vows that come before the party gets started.

It's totally hard to find cool music for your wedding ceremony.

I had to look for ages to find stuff.

Here's some good ideas, so you don't have to tear your hair out.

Image by Christina Szczupak

Colleen The Golden Morning Breaks
Washed Out Eyes Be Closed
Nite Jewel Clive
m83 Splendor
Tristeza Golden Hill
Air All I Need
Sharon Van Etten Kevin's
Sun Kil Moon Floating

This mix may also successfully accompany Sunday mornings, new romance and eerie dawns.

What are your favourite chilled songs then? No panpipes allowed...

Thursday, 12 July 2012

I Miss Shopping

I'm mere weeks away from the end of my six month clothes ban.


 This skirt was in Zara a few months ago and I RESISTED

Weirdly, this longing has only cropped up in the last few weeks, and I can link it easily to the following things:
  • I read Now magazine and the Sun fashion supplement in a waiting room
  • I went to H&M with my friend to help her buy a top for Saturday night
Completely avoiding the high street and fashion magazines up until this point has actually frozen my need to consume. I feel the clothes I have are more or less adequate. I don't feel pangs for new items - or if I do, they go away pretty quickly.

It took just two short minutes in a proper shop, and I was pulling out sequinned skirts and making small mewing noises. Days later, and I'm now looking at fashion blogs again and thinking about buying Elle magazine. I have seven weeks to go.

Help me hold on tight.

How do you fight the (frankly pointless) need to buy new things when money is short?

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Ode To Chris Packham

Oh Chris Packham, with your spiky hair and enthusiasm for the natural world!

Then:  Really Wild Hair

I always knew you were awesome, even in 1987 on The Really Wild Show when I was too young to understand how my feelings for you differed from those I had towards the equally boffinacious but not quite as sexually magnetic Terry Nutkins.

Now I see you've spoken to hipster music coven The Quietus about you favourite records. And you are a music geek too! Is this possible? I SWOON.

You describe how you spent the 80s balancing your time between ornithology and punk rock, you describe how much you love Copper Blue and the Kitchens Of Distinction, how you rate the Cocteau Twins even though they're rubbish live and you are even cool enough to confess to liking an uncool band (The Lightning Seeds) and then make that statement totally cool again by describing how you played Pure at your mum's funeral just so her pet poodles could howl along to it because it always used to make her laugh.

Now: handsome, with gannets

(in the next life - totally happening)

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Con-HEN-ders ...READY! Glitterators... READY! 3, 2, 1....

*blows the disco whistle*


BF's hen weekend OWNED. And I learned some lessons.... lessons I wish I'd learnt in time for my own wedding. Lessons about how CRAP I am under pressure. Lessons about how team-work makes the dream work.

Friday night we kept it simple - just three bridesmaids and the bride for a bit of downtime and a LOT of wine drunk from the chalice of humilation - the peeny mug:

Whoever designed this mug has serious attention to detail- there's even a vein running down one side

Best game of the night was Drinks Through The Ages, where we relived BF's alcohol history. This featured (among many sugary horrors) a hideous invention called Shambles which appears to have been the staple drink of the Manchester University netball team circa 2000-2002. Vodka, Red Bull and Lambrini. Even more horrible than I remember it being.

Mmmm...snakebite and black....

BF was so excited that she got hammered pretty quickly. We only got about 20 minutes into the Dirty Dancing drinking game (you drink every time somebody says/sings the word "baby") when she had to be put to bed. I say put to bed, we tried for about ten minutes to get her to go upstairs while she screamed "it's my hen I'm not going to bed you *insert notably naughty C-expletive*" and then promptly fell asleep on the sofa.

We were up bright and early on Saturday to catch the train to Knutsford (very pretty village in Cheshire) where fifteen of us met in a beer garden and surprised BF with our amazing curly wigs in honour of her famous locks. As BF was born with a curly wig on, we had to make her a hat. Bless Sam for staying up all hours the week before and getting it ready in time.

 Le freak, c'est chic
The traffic was so bad in Knutsford we couldn't get a single taxi to take us to the top of Tatton Park for the food festival, so we ended up walking for over an hour to get there. Thank goodness the sun was shining, the surroundings were beautiful and we thought to take a pit stop at Sainsburys for drinks for the road. Luckily my right-hand maid and co-organiser stepped in and sorted a taxi all the way back to Manchester while I ran about flapping like a curly chicken, worrying we would never get back to the station in time for dinner. We only had a little over an hour at the festival in the end, but it was enough time to grab some scran, do a spot of cheese tasting, rum sampling and to put some Pussy in the peeny.
Back at home, Right-Hand Maid and I had many thwarted attempts to transfer a video message from BF's much-missed friend over in New Zealand. We wanted to show the message at the meal, but there was no way we could get the file onto the iPad. I stopped short of throwing it out of the window and instead we played it straight off the laptop just before we left the house, meaning BF blubbed her makeup off and we were ten minutes late for the taxi. I had given up stressing by this point though. It is amazing what having stoically calm and cheerful people (and a very happy BF) around you can do.

Dress theme for the evening: Something Sparkly!

We had been promised a private room for the meal so we could play games.... but we arrived to find we'd been put in the main bit. We screamed the Mr & Mrs game across a table of 18 in the middle of a crowded restaurant(luckily BF has no shame) and decided we'd postpone our CD game and play it in a beer garden later as we'd brought out an iPod dock. Got to the pub - dock fails to work on batteries. By this point I had TRANSFORMED from my usual state of chicken flapping and become a postive can-doer thinking of running my own course on positive mental attitude (Don't Let It Faze Ya' With Penny Brazier...no?). I collared Catie's colleague who let slip earlier that her flat is in nearby Spinningfields. We set off in military formation. Her boyfriend's face was priceless as he watched 17 girls and one boy in a dress march into his tiny flat, start making Jagerbombs and playing a succession of cheesy songs as BF danced around and tried to guess who picked what.

 Boyfriend hiding in the bedroom at this point

The CD game was SUCH a success, and everyone was well chuffed with their personalised copies to take home. Relieved of all duties we hit Mojo's and danced til 1am. A few stragglers dropped off, and the hardcore were lead off to the amazing Corridor Bar for one of the funniest, most ridiculous nights of dancing I have ever experienced. BF ended the evening doing gymnastics in the bar. Perfect finish to the perfect night with the perfect group of up-for-it girls. There were tears as we parted, and my inbox full of heartwarming messages on Sunday. What more could you ask for?

Monday, 9 July 2012

My Weekend & Other Henterprises

I'd just like to say, how can your best friend's hen weekend not be a raging success when your husband makes this for the bride-to-be to wear....

....and when your night out ends up randomly in the most amazing secret bar in Manchester, with her doing handstands against the wall and flashing her knickers.

Putting my brain back together again.... back with more tomorrow...

Friday, 6 July 2012

First Dance Friday: The Lancashire Hotpots

Some weeks you get to Friday on your hands and knees.

It's tempting to be maudlin, and have a good old whinge on. Sometimes you need to to have a moan or you'd pop. But after you've got it off your chest, you should always try to think about the good bits.

My good bits are my friends.

I never thought I would have friends like I do now. Sometimes I look at them and I'm actually a bit awed by them. They're so clever, funny, talented, loyal and kind. Last weekend I camped in a field with six of these excellent people. On Sunday afternoon, when we were feeling a bit mucky and tired, some of us went to see the Lancashire Hotpots. A daft kind of band, the sort you only ever go to see at a festival. They've got songs about going to Ikea and drinking stout (not at the same time). As they were playing, the sun came out properly for the first time the whole weekend. And we all danced about in the swamp, kicking up the mud and flapping our arms like knobheads. And I looked round at them, and I saw everyone's troubles lift off their shoulders and evaporate. Every direction I looked in there were people grinning at me like their teeth were going to pop out of their faces.

It was the sort of moment that makes you feel glad to be alive.

Work, money, success, love.... all that's good stuff. The stuff that life is made of. But friendships are the glue that holds all  those other things together. Nurture your friendships, and they will be there when everything else falls through. Treasure them. They will hold you together.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Herding Hens

Some women thrive on organisation. They keep their shoes in boxes with photographs of them on the front. They alphabetise their spice rack. They have a spice rack with spices in it to alphabetise in the first place. They have tidy desks. TIDY DESKS! They pay the TV licence on time and they remember to put their tax disc in their car before they lose it.

I admire these women enormously. These are the women who should be organising hen parties. Not me.

I find it impossible to concentrate on more than one thing at once as it is - even on a good day I end up putting the bread in the fridge. Sometimes I forget I'm holding things and I drop them. I frequently check the time when I've got a full drink in my hand. I'm an idiot

I am coming into the last few days of organisation for my best friend's hen party, and I have hardly any hair left to pull out. As soon as I start thinking about what I need to do for the weekend, my brain holds up its hands and cries "I surrender!" and hides under a blanket. 

It won't tell me anything I need to do apart from pack the glitter. And a penis mug. 

That's not the worst part though. The worst part is that people are crap. You don't realise how crap people are until you try to organise a hen. There are literally four out of eighteen girls who have been any use at getting back to me about anything. Everyone else has required ten more chasing emails of increasingly forced politeness and a visit from a hired killer before they even tell me they're coming. Then when they do reply they're all snivelling apologies and you  feel like an evil boarding school headmistress who's trying to take all the fun out of life with all the emailing  and the organisation. You've never met these girls, and you already want to throttle them. 

People who have no problem with being bossy - they should organise hen parties. Not me.

I call on you now ladies, if you have any hen mails loitering in that inbox that need replying to - do the right thing and get back to them. That poor girl may be somebody who puts the bread in the fridge too.

She really wants to like you. You're not helping.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Things I Miss About Working In An Office...

  • Being able to remember everyone's name
  • Having a working wardrobe that doesn't involve fleece or name badges
  • Christmas parties
  • Having a water cooler moment about last night's telly
  • Football tournament sweepstakes
  • Only getting into the car twice a day
  • Having someone to tell me how to fix things when they break
  • Knowing how everybody has their tea
  • Asking somebody how their weekend was and having somebody ask me back. In fact, having somebody ask about my life or me at all, ever.
(I don't miss meetings yet... but maybe after another year of this I will)

I am going into an office today to do some work. It's the first time in over three years I have done this. I am hoping it goes well. Maybe I will be asked back another day to do some more...

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Return From The Swamp

I'm back! My cheap, short, hole-ridden wellies have been left at the roadside in utter disgrace.
Thanks to Amy D for the pictures. I've got some of my own on a camera in a bag somewhere.

And now I have no more words. I need to sleep.