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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ready, Eddie.

This is probably not the most appropriate way to tell my mum, but Gareth and I have had our first baby.

He’s called Eddie and we keep him in the car park.

The truth is, I don’t have a maternal bone in my body so our new white van, Eddie, is as close as we will probably come to parenthood. We’re going to be very good parents to Eddie (so called because we bought him in Edinburgh). I’ve driven him twice and I haven’t even crashed yet or anything.

Eddie has changed all our plans for the summer. Gone is the idea that festivals involve a badly pitched tent, a bad night’s sleep and a phone with no battery. Eddie has a double bed, sound proofed walls and two – that’s right, count them – two plug sockets.

He also comes with a fridge, a shower, an awning, for when we have friends over, and a hob. For noodles.

Various friends and family have acquired a van over recent years and Gareth and I have only been able to marvel the home-on-wheels from afar. Yearn as we did to join Team Campervan, we could neither afford it or justify it. Not when we already had two cars.

But then, my long serving, long suffering runner gave up the ghost and it seemed like the right time to sell it to the very dodgy and pushy webuyanycar.com (they really do) and make way for Eddie of Edinburgh.

Gareth flew to Edinburgh to bring home the van and to start with, I was too scared to drive the beast. He is, compared to my little Peugeot, a mega bus. But after a few days I decided to give it a go and apart from one near miss where I nearly scraped a Porsche parked ridiculously close to where I wanted to go, we arrived at our destination in tact.

And for that, I don’t thank my driving instructor. I thank my mum. Most women can’t drive, it’s a clich√© born of truth. But my mum can. And when I was a teenager, she didn’t want her name (or car) dragged through the mud, so she made sure I knew my way around a vehicle.

I have fond memories of going to Sainsbury’s car park on a Sunday, back in the days when it was closed on a Sunday, and Mum painstakingly teaching me the width of the car by manoeuvring traffic cones until I didn’t crash into them anymore. It was a lesson my driving instructor never bothered with, but has served me well every since.

It has also paved the way for many an incredulous: ‘’You could get a bus through there!’ while I wait impatiently for the car in front to not get through a space clearly big enough.

Some of our friends have bought VW campervans, the iconic originals. The ones in which you expect to find hippies making love not war. That’s not our style. We wanted a white van, the type where tattooed men drape one brown arm out of the window. The type you’d expect to find some tools inside (that’s us!) I passed an identical van in the street the other day and they’d even added the luxury furnishing of a copy of The Sun to their dashboard. Bloody good idea. Gives an aura of ‘don’t break into this van mate, there’s a pit bull in the back.’ Ah, the Feng Shui of the Sun newspaper. Maybe I’ll get me some furry dice while I’m at it.
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Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring Forward

The weekend the clocks go forward is my favourite of the year. Not because I celebrate it specifically, but because it’s the bright red ribbon we run through at the end of the long slog of a race that is winter. It’s the certificate that we did it, guys, we bloody did it! We survived another winter, with its long dark nights and bitter cold. Yes, I know we’ve got nothing on the really cold corners of the world, but sometimes when I have to de-ice my car and my fingers go a bit numb, I get really annoyed with the Great British winter.

It sets in around September, that gloom. The knowing that the summer’s dead and all you’ve got to look forward to is central heating, snow, black ice, numb fingers, cold noses and darkness for more hours of the day than light.

Then you’ve got October, November, December to contend with. That’s a lot of months. They throw Christmas at you, pretend it’s about families and celebration and giving when really it’s about breaking up the monotony of coldness that is winter.

Then it’s New Year’s Eve and you’re fooled into thinking everything will be different, a fresh start. But it’s not because the weatherman doesn’t care for the turn of the year. He cares only for the turn of the season.

January is boring. Especially when you give up drinking.

February is quick and you start to notice the sun setting a little later. My, is that you, spring? Are you peeping your yellow little head around the corner? Then you see daffodils and you know what’s coming. You tingle. Your room is filled with sunshine at 7am and then BOOM! You only go and open a bloody window!

Next thing you know, the central heating is turned off for the summer and… drum roll… the clocks go forward.

And even though they’ve been springing forward and falling* back for every one of my 28 years, I still don’t really know when I’ll be getting an extra hour in bed and when I’m going to be jet lagged. Every year, twice a year, I have a little confused conversation with myself. Hmm, spring forward. Does that mean 6 o’clock becomes 7 o’clock, and I’m tired?

I think the fact I couldn’t get out of bed this morning indicates we’re on the one where you lose an hour’s sleep. An investment I’m totally happy to make in order to prolong my evenings.

And with that, hurrah! Summer’s basically arrived. The evenings are long, the basking in the sunshine begins. Bring on the barbies, the flip flops, the ice cream. The clocks have sprung forward, all we’ve got to look forward to now is months and months of summery goodness.

Anyone who says it’s going to rain all summer can take their weather reports away from my parade. I’ve got some Hawaiian Tropic and I’m not afraid to use it.

*I prefer the word ‘autumn’ to the word ‘fall’ but Spring Back, Autumn Forward is never going to educate the kids. What do Americans say when they want to describe something as autumnal? The poor things, it’s a great word.

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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Surprise Surprise

Are surprises all they are cracked up to be? I’m beginning to think not.

Case in point 1: My boyfriend’s 29th birthday, December 2010.

I bought ten tickets to his favourite comedian's gig in London’s swanky wanky Leicester Square, invited all his very best friends and was beside myself with excitement and pride at how very brilliant a girlfriend I was. I booked us into a hotel for the night and had all his friends promise to meet us at a restaurant for dinner before the gig.

As the date neared, I was so excited. Not only because I’d organised something great, but because I was great. He was clearly a lucky man. And we were getting to see Stewart Lee, officially the 41st best stand up comedian ever.

But Gareth wasn’t as excited as me. How could he be? He didn’t know what to be excited about. I tried to warm him up with promises of wonder, I tried teasing him that maybe he’d need his passport or an inoculation.

If anything, I’d say he was put off by the unknown. It turned out Gareth didn’t really like surprises and would have much preferred to be in on the secret so that he too could have spent the preceding weeks looking forward to seeing his friends and Stewart Lee.

Having been brought up with surprises thrown at us left right and centre by our well meaning dad, I thought other people loved to be surprised as much as I do. I don’t even tell Gareth what we’re having for dinner, and he’s been eating my food for three years. Still I get a little joy out of saying ‘You’ll see’ and then presenting him with something wonderful half an hour later. I suppose it comes down to wanting my ego to be stroked. My theory is, if I surprise him with a wonderful Thai green curry, he has to act more impressed than if I plonk it down in front on him and he knew it was coming.

Same goes with the surprise birthday party. I figured he’d love me twice as much if I got kudos not only for organising a party but organising one he had no idea about. Doesn't that make me love him more?

Dad was always surprising us. Be it actual cement in the family’s much loved ‘concrete’ cake (I believe other people call it refrigerator cake. It’s hard to slice), or actual soap suds in our porridge, he just loved surprises.

Most were more pleasant than that, but generally involved Dad telling us he wouldn’t be available for something and surprising us with his presence. We learned through watching that when you surprise someone, it gives recipient and provider a warm glow.

Case in point 2: My beautiful friend Cordelia’s birthday, last weekend.

Her girlfriend had called us all up weeks in advance to tell us a surprise party was in order. So when Cords called a week before her party and asked for my attendance, I had to make up some lame excuse about how she’d left it too late and I was busy.

The words crushed my heart as she sweetly told me she understood, I was a very busy person and she should have thought of organising something before. I wanted to tell her that no, I’d never organise anything on her birthday and I was going to be there all guns blazing. But a surprise is a surprise, I held back.

Feedback I got from Cordy’s housemates was that she was devastated that none of her best mates were available. She was solemn all week long. On the night before her surprise birthday party, she got so wasted that when Gareth and I turned up at her house, cake in one hand, champagne in the other, she was wearing her pyjamas and just about ready for bed.

Although, look at her happy little face here, as she opened her door. Maybe it was all worth it.

I’ve made a pact my sister, my best mate and my boyfriend now – and I think that covers all bases. Let’s not surprise each other. With anything. Ever. Just organise and celebrate. Simple.
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