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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Obama's Dramas

Barack Obama, the fly-swatting, basketball hoop-shooting leader of the free world, has Beyonce going gaga and Gaga in glee at his re-election, while Sarah Jessica Parker wore an Obama T-shirt and Eva Longoria cried.

Although, it might have been a tear shed at the realisation that now, the whole world knows she has posters of her own films up in her sitting room.

Oh, what, this old thing? It’s just my movie room, complete with movie posters of movies I was in. I was in the Sentinel (Rotten Tomatoes: 33%) and Over Her Dead Body (Rotten Tomatoes: 15%) but I don’t like to go on about it.

Anyway, despite my inability to remember to vote for my own Police and Crime Commissioner (along with around 80% of my nation - well done us) I did very much want to vote for Barack. He’s got a nice bum and a calming influence on me, the USA and hopefully the world in general. He’s going to fix things.

Photograph: Nicolas Asfouri

This week, he’s busy in Burma, taking off his shoes and meeting people for photo ops, like this one, where he’s seen kissing Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader and all round good egg, while he and she attempt to illustrate that they are striking a balance between progress and reform.

All I can say is, oh thank god, Barack’s pretty much the coolest guy in the world and he still gets the old ‘kiss / hug / handshake’ drama as tits up as the rest of us.

My husband is the worst perp of them all. If this was a picture of him and Aung San Suu Kyi, guaranteed Gaz would be accidentally kissing her on the lips while she pulled away in horror. He just can’t help himself. He’s a socially inept tomfool, who isn’t helped by a muddled society unsure of itself.

He’ll usually get home from work with a certain look in his eyes and I know he’s done it again. ‘What happened this time?’ I ask, curling my hands around a cup of cocoa as I get myself comfortable, ready for a ruddy good chuckle at his expense.

‘I thought we knew each other well enough for a cheek-kiss!’ Gaz will lament. ‘But she stuck her hand out. It was too late, I was going in for one, so I ended up just grabbing hold of her and forcing her into some kind of weird hug where my lips were pressed into the kiss shape on her ear.’

Oh dear.

Another time: ‘We really didn’t know each other well enough for a kiss, I thought, so I stuck my hand out, but she came in for a kiss and I ended up punching her in the crotch!’

Then there was the time we met up with some old friends. Gaz messed it up brilliantly when he tried to shake the girl’s hand, then tried to make amends by going in for a kiss with the man, who quickly moved away, leaving Gaz lingering mid-air, lips pursed, with no-one to kiss while we all looked at him a bit like you might look at a child who had just wet itself in public.

These moments mortify him, but he’s not alone. No one really knows what to do - in this country at least - they’ve got it sorted in France and other more romantic, touchy feely nations than ours, where even if they did mess it up, they’d laugh it off without any mortification at all. Does a man shake a woman’s hand? Is two kisses ever appropriate? (No, in my opinion, just the one then let’s step out of each other’s personal spaces pronto.)

The other day, Gaz and I were standing with a female associate I’d just met that day, Gaz had known for some time. We’d spent the whole day together and built up a rapport, so by goodbye time I was pretty sure it’d be a one-kiss situation, and I was happy with that. But the girl in question was Spanish, which threw some spanners in my works as I prepared to say goodbye - I didn’t know what she might try to do to me. Luckily Gaz went first and royally cocked up his goodbye, so I thought, by learning from his mistakes, I’d be fine.

He went for the one-kiss, pulled away slightly, only to realise she was going for the two-kiss, so he went back in, only to see she’d given up and was pulling away, so he pulled back, only to see that she’d seen he was coming in for the offered second-kiss, so was coming back. And he ended up in an awkward muttering of ‘ooops, one or two, don’t draw attention to it, ha ha, I’m British, BYE’.

Me, meanwhile, had witnessed and clocked her two-kiss penchant and was all ready.

But by my turn, she had clearly realised this funny little English couple were of the one-kiss variety, so she didn’t bother with the second kiss. But I did, even though I hate them, because I saw her do it to Gaz. And so we had a little kiss-dance, which resulted in me wanting to die a bit.

My favourite of all these faux-kiss-pas is when my friend Mike met his now mother-in-law for the first time. The greeting went so badly that in those vital few seconds where you’re either both on the same page and no awkwardness ensues, or you cock it up royally and years later your mate is still writing about it, Mike managed to end up patting the top of mother-in-law’s head in a mangled mess of aborted kisses and fumbled hugs. He patted the top of her head. Bloody marvelous start to their relationship.

So, Barack, I guess what I’m saying is, good job on the re-election. Either we’re as cool as you, or you’re as socially awkward as us. I’m good with either, any comparison to a world leader, albeit a comparison I’ve made myself, gets my vote.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Honeymoon Olympics

I’m sure some readers might think I’ve been banging on about marriage for a while now. This will be my last post on wedding related matters, before I return to life as the gin-drinking, mistake-making moron you all know and love.

On the hen do, I was struck by luck - all non-competitive invitees were willing to put aside their aversions to competitive sports long enough to spend a weekend humouring my desire to compete. Except for my competitive friends - they didn’t put anything aside. They just got feisty. Feistier.

On honeymoon, as if I needed proof, I realised I’d definitely married the right man, willing as he was to embark on a two week ‘Honeymoon Olympics’. Early on, we agreed that there would be a points system in place throughout the honeymoon, and whoever ended up with the most points would win a present from the other person, to the tune of £50.

As is my want in any airport, I stocked up on glossy magazines and on the plane, started flicking through Cosmo. Oh, hello, what did I find betwixt the pages of articles about sex and men and jobs and whatnot? Just a very snazzy pair of boots. The kind I HAVE to own. The kind that will make my wardrobe complete. The kind I could spend two weeks competitively thrashing my husband in any given sport to acquire.

The bets hedged, I got to winning. It was easy in the first hotel we stayed in - lavishing us as they did in things I could win at. Table tennis, snooker, checkers, mini golf, who can hold their breath under water the longest. It was almost embarrassing how far ahead I was. Or it would have been, if I didn’t have a ripped out advert of my new boots in my back pocket.

Gareth losing at checkers.
Me winning at holding my breath. Oh, that's just a mountain upon yonder.
Gareth losing at snooks.

When I owned these boots, I thought, I’ll probably do a bit more walking. People will stop me in the street to ask me where I got my boots and I’ll say, you’ll never guess, and they’ll say, no, go on, and I’ll say CLARKS! And they’ll say no! You never! Not Clarks! And I’ll say yup, they are making a come back, one leather bound foot in front of the other.

Fantasies like these drifted through my mind as I sat poolside with my gin tonico’s (that’s Portuguese for gin and tonic, I learned quickly. Who needs a phrasebook when you’ve mastered the essentials).

But it was crass of me. Cape Verde was a poverty stricken, fly ridden, barren dollop of land 300 miles off the west coast of Africa. As we walked down mountains, past ramshackle huts miles from anywhere, I thought about my boots and was disgusted with myself. Cape Verdians, living in huts four hours walk from the nearest shop, don’t beat their husbands at table tennis just so they can have a new pair of boots.

I realised I bought too much stuff, back home. I was a big spender and it was inappropriate, what with all this lopsided distribution of wealth going on in the world.

But, I did really want those boots. Did you look at the picture? They were really lovely.

So I made myself a promise. I’d win the Honeymoon Olympics, pocket the prize, then stop shopping and appreciate the smaller things in life, like my new boots.

Only, there was a hiccup. Gaz started to catch up on the leader-board. We were introduced to a local game called Oware, a game of maths. Suddenly my hand-eye coordination skills counted for nothing. Anyone who was brought up by my father has a propensity to melt pathetically at the mere mention of arithmetic. I blame father. Genius of calculus, he couldn’t understand why we hadn’t inherited his penchant for long multiplication in our heads, while he stood over us and bellowed: ‘WHAT IS 48 x 356 x 12? WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU CAN’T THINK?’

As a result, the very sight of maths makes my brain shut down, like a transformer going from sprightly, all guns blazing robot to, well, a matchbox, at best.

Gaz started to acquire points. It didn’t help that we mostly played when I had gin tonico running through my veins. The boots started to walk away from me. The prize that had once seemed so close, so easy, was disintegrating, fading away like a distant dream.

I didn’t want to buy Gaz a stupid present. £50! But we’d both benefit from the boots! He’d look great by association. I tried to help Gaz see that even if he won, we should probably just get me the boots, but it didn’t wash.

By the last day, he was three points ahead.

But there’s a reason Gaz married me. And there’s a reason I married he. He married me because he thinks it’s cute how much I like winning and how much I like boots. (Probably. Needs citation.) And I married him because he is happier making me happy than he is making himself happy.

Although, the next two points I gained definitely made him happy. That’s right, he gave me two points for a little bit of how's yer father. Well - I did really want those boots.

So then we were even. We reached the airport and I just needed one more point before wheels up to secure the boots, my future happiness, my winter wardrobe sorted.

‘If you dance in the airport, all alone, to no music, for one minute, I’ll give you the final point,’ he said.

Well this taps into a fear for both of us, it was the ultimate challenge. For me, a fear of dancing. Sober. For him, a fear of being judged by unknown members of the public. He’s a low profile kind of guy.

Yet here he was, suggesting I make a fool of us both.

Did I do it? Of course I did. I want boots. The Olympics is the Olympics.

Did I make it to one minute? No. But only because, at 40 seconds, Gaz could bear it no longer. My gyrating, my invented-on-the-spot move that encompassed putting on imaginary boots then doing a boot-wearing moonwalk. My Saturday Night Fever. He stopped me in my tracks, humiliated by the very idea that someone he’d never met and never would meet again might form an opinion of me.

I didn’t care. I got my point. And thus my boots.

Now I am not going to shop anymore, because I saw a house four hours away from any shops at all and I felt bad. But I do need a skirt to go with those boots...

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Goodbye Wedding, Hello Marriage.

Well I would absolutely definitely categorically recommend getting married.

Not only did all our lovely loved ones flock to the Isle Of Wight especially, but they all showered us in love and approval and everything one needs in order to be stood in good stead for a lifetime of matrimony.

At 7am on the morning of our wedding, Gareth and I went for a run. A run which we had announced on Facebook in the hopes our 103 guests would turn up and join us for a Chariots of Fire-esque moment of enthusiasm and team spirit.

Four people turned up, three of whom were bridesmaids and probably felt some moral obligation.

But what a beautiful run it was. I'd been running in the rain all week, (I woudn't normally, I'm a fair weather runner, but I had become increasingly does my bum look big in this as the day approached. I ran in hail one morning. Dedication.) willing sunshine to arrive, willing the forecast for Saturday (0% chance of precipitation) to be true. And it only bloody was. The sun broke free from the horizon as we jogged along the seaside. I looked at my very-nearly husband, my three bridesmaids and my one fiance-of-a-bridesmaid and I thought wow. This. Is. Awesome. We are having a moment here guys.

Then I got a bit raspy because I kept trying to talk while running and I don't usually do that. But we were having a moment and I wanted to let my runner-buds know it.

Post run, Gareth was kicked out of the bridal suite (yes, we slept together the night before. We like to slap tradition around the face) and sent packing, so the girls and I could beautify. 'See you at the altar,' I said, waving him off. Getting ready with my bridesmaids was a magical morning of make-up. I watched the little beauties transform from sweaty runners into dazzling ladies in red, ready to catwalk that aisle and reduce the entire wedding party to tears at their sheer beauty. Being so blooming organised, we were ready to go an hour before the chauffeur arrived. That's just how we roll. No dramas, no tantrums or tears. Just a bottle of champagne and a mini-speech from me about what legends they all are.

The ceremony... Ah, the ceremony! Managed not to shed a tear because I didn't want to ruin £100 worth of make-up, but seeing so many friends in tears was the box ticked enough for me. So I committed to spending the rest of my life with Gazza, the lucky devil.  I vowed to be a good person for him... and hoped the times when I'm grumpy and miserable because I'm tired and have eaten too much or not enough definitely count as me being a good person. We kissed, to seal the deal, the crowd went bananas, and then we were pelted by confetti by my rascal of a nephew. It was like being punched by rose petals. See picture.

The sun shone - thanks for that one, God. Who'd have thought he'd sort the weather out for such a fervent atheist wedding? Very kind of him indeed. The wine flowed, the people laughed and smiled and danced and posed for photographs. We ate, we cried (ok, I didn't cry) we cheered, we heckled the speeches. The fabulous speeches, to be treasured forever. My sister took to the stage to perform a rap about love. It had to be seen to be believed, it was mesmerising. Then we ate cheese.

The confetti throwing nephew came up to me while I was talking to my friend Olly and complained that he was bored. Olly asked what he'd like to do about it. Troy suggested, innocently, but with definite intent: 'Well, could you come outside and chase me?' Such a simple request, but he knew it would relieve the boredom. He's a clever kid.

Surveying the dance floor, I realised that all these people were getting their groove on - to Bohemian Rhapsody - to celebrate little old Gaz and me. I was hit with overwhelming gratitude. I was in a room full of people I absolutely adored, who might never fill one room again. I was smug that I didn't get too drunk and forget it all. Well, until the 2am beach-side shots, but I think I was allowed to get drunk by then. Three shots of Drambuie in as many minutes and I was suddenly ready for bed.

People love to know if a married couple consummate the wedding on the wedding night. I'm always slightly relieved to hear that they don't, because they were too busy having fun. Our truth? Did we heck. I don't even remember getting into bed and was quite surprised to see Gaz lying next to me the next morning. Or maybe we did and I just don't remember. Rest assured, we made up for it once the Drambuie headache wore off. It would now be complicated and expensive to break up, as Gaz charmingly pointed out.

As we packed up our bags and left the Royal Yacht Squadron (the most prestigious yacht club in the world, as my father pointed out in his speech, just to let people know how lucky they were to be there) Gareth turned to me and said: 'Goodbye wedding. Hello marriage.'

I couldn't have put it better myself. Hello marriage. I'm ready for you.

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