Monday, 18 June 2018

You'd Think I'd Change the Record...

I've been thinking about representation recently. You know, because the day of the week has a Y in it. So fasten your seatbelts and let's crack on. First of all, the World Cup.

If you can handle the grainy tape
that's been uploaded to YouTube
, this
is a spot on way to pass an hour and
seventeen minutes. If you're up for
some Italia '90 nostalgia, that is.
Yay, it's the World Cup! Leaving aside the problematic political issues surrounding this event, let's shout, 'Yay it's the World Cup' loudly and in unison. Except deep down I'm not really that bothered. Not yet anyway. Since discovering the joy of women's football and watching matches where talented sportswomen compete for little reward, I've found myself increasingly indifferent to the male game, with its ref abuse, blatant diving and aggressive sections of fans. But, yay, it's the World Cup! I realise for many others, this is an exciting time. I'm getting there. Just a bit slower than most. And the greater visibility of female pundits and presenters across the channels is most welcome and makes me want to stick with it. I'm sure when England kick off later today, I'll have re-discovered my inner fan and got behind the whole shebang. 

Last weekend, in a bid to whip up some excitement, I watched a documentary called One Night in Turin. The Italia '90 World Cup tends to be a nostalgic cockle-warmer for many people of my generation. I loved that tournament. I remember that tournament. Despite being mostly dead on the inside, I still feel the full range of human emotion when I hear Nessun Dorma. But this documentary just turned me off. Whether it was the blokiness of Gary Oldman's narration (it really didn't need a voice over in the first place) or the lack of female perspective or inclusion, (apart from Maggie Thatcher, obvs. She was there, representing all women, natch) it missed the mark for me and that's a shame. I was really interested in the topic but I struggled to stick with it because of how it was presented to me. 

My feminism, sympathy to
 the cause, and love of a good
political t-shirt all converge in
this photo.
Next up, the Irish referendum. Last month Ireland voted in great numbers to repeal the part of the constitution that said the life of a foetus was equal to the life of a pregnant woman. Much has been said about the referendum and a quick Google will give you the entire range of arguments and think pieces from both sides. Regardless of viewpoint, there's a general consensus that the Yes side won - and won big (66.4% were in favour of change) - because women's voices were heard. It wasn't led by politicians and strategists, although their contributions were valuable too. It was a grassroots campaign where women from all over the country, stood up and shared their stories. The secrecy and shame surrounding abortion was cast off as women shared the highly personal and varied circumstances surrounding their experiences. Experiences that flew in the face of the No campaign's preachings that sought to keep the status quo. Women spoke up about an issue with which they had been dealing privately for years, and it changed minds. Powerful stuff. 

Finally, my most recent pilgrimage. In April, a new statue was unveiled and added to the ones in Parliament Square in London. The eleven existing statues include Winston Churchill, David Lloyd George and Benjamin Disraeli. In fact, all eleven are men. Not all Prime Ministers - hello George Canning and Mahatma Gandhi - but political, notable men. Now here's the thing. If I'd have walked around Parliament Square before April and seen these statues, I'd have probably noticed that they were all men too, but shrugged it away as crappy sexism. Then I'd have gone to the pub. I might have moaned about it to whoever I was with, and that would have been that. But I'm not Caroline Criado Perez. She spotted the lack of equality on a routine jog, and decided to write an open letter to Sadiq Kahn. Fast-forward two years, and her campaign resulted in the unveiling of Millicent Fawcett - the women's suffrage campaigner who would have celebrated her 171st birthday last week. I'd followed the statue campaign via Twitter since it started. Just as with Criado Perez's campaign to ensure female achievements were represented on bank notes, I was glad someone with more strength and savvy than me was in my corner. Someone was fighting to amend the one-sided view of history that the world is regularly fed. Once the statue was in place, I knew I needed to go and see it. Last week, I finally managed to put a day aside for a trip to the capital. 

The banner doesn't lie. 
As I approached Parliament Square, the first thing I saw was Winston Churchill. The word 'imposing' doesn't seem imposing enough. 'Looming' is another word that springs to mind. His statue is large, creating an impression of bullish power. I am sure that was intentional. Moving on, I passed Lloyd George, General Smuts, and a couple of people whose names  I didn't recognise on first sight. All on huge plinths, towering over little old me. Then I saw the statue of Millicent Fawcett. Created by Gillian Wearing it was not imposing or looming at all. It was approachable. Indeed, it's tweed-effect texture on the Edwardian clothing invited touch. There were people milling all around, some sitting, some waiting for a turn to be up close. And in the centre of all that was the statue, standing square on, holding a banner, and facing the world. The plinth below included pictures of female contemporaries; of women that she had stood and fought alongside. Over fifty faces are included, highlighting the heroic team effort that the fight for women's suffrage was. 

And so I waited my turn, took some photos, and was grateful to the kind man that offered to take one of me in shot. For some, it's just another statue of a long-dead person. For me, it gave me shivers and a lump in my throat. Not only because Millicent Fawcett did marvellous things herself. But because this statue pays tribute to fifty-five other campaigners via the photos on the plinth. It represents Caroline Criado Perez's campaign as well as the women that supported her, and it showcases the talents of the artist Gillian Wearing - the only female artist to be represented in Parliament Square.   

Look, I can cope without enjoying a documentary about the 1990 World Cup. My life is no worse off without it. But being included, having my viewpoint considered, and seeing myself represented in the world is important. For me and for everyone. Because of Ireland's referendum, the fight for the same human rights in Northern Ireland has been reignited. Hearing and seeing your views represented in others is powerful and prompts change. 'Courage calls to courage everywhere.' A statue of a historical figure might seem meaningless when it's done purely with sycophancy. But highlighting the hidden voices and secret experiences that have shaped our present is essential, for all our experiences. Everyone needs the security of being known and understood. Whatever our viewpoint, whatever our diversity. Because at times, the lack of voices can be deafening.

Have a lovely week, folks.


Monday, 11 June 2018

Warning: May Contain Humour and Feels...

Things are ticking along nicely regarding the next book. That's to say, I am so far gone into the process that I can't give up, but whenever I re-read it, it feels like a massive bag of shite. Hey ho, I believe this a perfectly normal stage to go through. Publication is still October, I just have lots of brushing up to do before then.

The 'every word I write is shit' feeling is not unique. All writer's forums talk about the same phenomenon. And as much as my inner critic can be loud at times, it never takes over. I can keep going until the self-doubt disappears or shrinks enough. It doesn't impede my life. Just yesterday, I read the entire book from start to finish - all 69,000 words of it. And as much as there's still stuff to do with it, I felt like I will get there one day. One day before October, is the plan.

Yesterday's read through took about six hours. The vast majority of that was spent reading the text, but it did include breaks. I needed time for cups of tea, wees, and YouTube breaks. YouTube breaks are the thing I do when I need a new burst of energy without moving. I have a go-to list of videos I watch. They can be categorised as 'Amusing', 'Hilarious' or 'All the Feels'. A few minutes of something new wakes me up and refreshes me before I move on to the next chapter. They can be applied at any time, but definitely useful when a lull needs to be energised. So without further ado, let me share my current go-to enliveners. 
1. The Queen and Cows
At five seconds long, this is definitely short and sweet. I tend to watch it over and over until I'm mentally replenished. The Queen spotting cows. It's as simple as that. As Patricia Hodge might say, 'Such fun!'

2. Marion's Big Break
I can't tell you how many times I searched for this video when I've wanted to perk myself up. For cloistered nuns and solitarily confined criminals with no Internet access, this is the BBC interview with the expert on South Korea - Robert Kelly  It's the clip that keeps on giving. First it's young Marion trying out a comedy strut, then it's baby James entering on wheels, and finally it's their mother, Jung-a-Kim realising what's happened and trying to sort it. It never fails to make me howl.

3. Madeley and Partridge
It's been a long-held jape that Richard Madeley and Alan Partridge are the same person. Indeed, I've taken quizzes where I've read a statement and had to decide which of them said it for real. The fact that one of them is a fictional character and the other a DJ on North Norfolk Digital is neither here nor there. (See what I did there? Ha! I'm funny.) This clip is a recent addition to my brain-break video selection but fits in perfectly. Comedy gold.

4. Giggling Victoria
OK, I'll hold my hands up. This one might be a bit niche. If you don't know the quiz, Only Connect, you might not find this anywhere near as heart-warming or amusing as I do. But for those that do, the sight of the magnificent Victoria Coren Mitchell, losing her shit and laughing in the faces of the struggling quiz team is perfection. 

5. Jimmy and the Busker
I love this. Soz, but I just do. A lone busker singing an old Bronski Beat song in Berlin. A random guy walking his dog, stops and joins in. The busker takes the tune, the dog-walker takes the harmonies. They sing to the end. At that point the busker looks at his singing companion and realises it's... wait for it... the lead singer of Bronski Beat, Jimmy Somerville! Cue smiles, sighs and happiness from me, every single time.

6. Remember Henry Kelly?
This one should be classed under 'Comedy' and on one level it is. But that doesn't explain the goosebumps and nostalgia that the theme tune of Going for Gold brings. Relive your youth with this  - Ambassador, you are spoiling us! - theme music, and enjoy the verses, key changes, and what musician types refer to as 'the bridge'. It makes what was once an innocuous daytime quiz appear more like a motivational tool for Olympians and the armed forces. Listen and feel stirred.

7. Satire at Eurovision
I know, I know. It's done for another year, I have to get over it. But look, this is funny for ESC haters as well as those of us that love it. One of the Swedish interval acts in 2016 was this beauty. Taking the absolute piss out of the entire shebang, the hosts - Petra and Måns - delivered a song and dance belter, with cracking lyrics and a tonne of in-jokes. The result was a brilliant song that was a gazillion times more enjoyable than the eventual winning entry that year. #imho #sorrynotsorry

8. Our Graham with a Quick Reminder
Nearly there folks, last but not least we have this offering. I've alluded to this opinion before, but it bears repeating. Graham Norton is marvellous. He is so marvellous that I never think of him as a person in his own right but as an institution. He is always there, solid, commanding and reliable. I know it's Friday night because his TV show is on and I know it's Saturday morning because his radio show is on. My weekend involves four hours of his entertaining output and I wouldn't have it any other way. But it's easy to take him for granted. Luckily the National Television Awards have not, and in 2017 he got a special award. There are a couple of things to note about this clip - the one that was played immediately before he received the award. First of all, his career has been so much more than a chat show and a radio show. I know that on one level but forget it on another. The other point to make is that watching Graham's reaction to the celebrities singing his praises, is properly lovely. And when his Mum rocks up, it's perfect. Knock yourself out and enjoy.

So, I've either shared a bunch of links you'll never bother to click, or I've just perked your morning up no end. I hope it's the latter, and that now you're mentally rejuvenated, you can crack on with whatever your day requires. 

Have a lovely week, folks.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Keeping it Real on Insta...

I'm not going to lie. I'm still struggling with Instagram.

In terms of breaking global news, I appreciate this isn't much of an issue. But honestly, it's taking me ages to find a comfortable position in which to embrace the photo-posting app into my hectic online life. 

My hashtags of #brown, #1978 and #rockingit are all this picture needs.
When I first started, I aimed to post a picture a day. LOLZ. That went out the window after a couple of weeks. Because the problem is, it can't just be any old photo. It has to be Instagram-worthy. It has to be photographically photogenic. There's a pressure to make it look good. Often, my photos do not meet this criteria. My photos tend to be blurry or too random to share. The most recent pictures on my phone include two of the back of my head (to see if I could pull off a new bobble) and one of my ear to see if my 1996 cartilage piercing is infected. (The jury's still out. I'll keep you posted.) Literally nobody - not even the most perverted of ear fetishists - wants to see any of that. So instead, what should I do? Should I do what the majority of Instagram users do and stage photos? Take photos that specifically make my life look fab? Take photos that specifically make the minutiae of my existence seem fun-loving and carefree? I've resorted to this a couple of times and Reader, it's all a load of bollocks.

I'm not saying my life isn't amazing and carefree at times. It is, for a brief spell before I have to crack on with something non-amazing and care-heavy. But to only share times when everything rocks, feels disingenuous. I don't like doing it. But on the other hand, I'm not going to post pics of my throbbing ear hole. There has to be a middle ground. I'm still trying to find it.

Wise words.
Rob Beckett (yes, that Rob Beckett from the telly!) tweeted recently about remembering that Instagram is full of lies. (I may have paraphrased. He went on to make a much more serious point about mental health.) It's true though - no one's life is perfect, so don't assume that one carefully selected photo tells the full story. 

When I look back over all the photos I've posted, there's a reasonable mix I think. Some nice scenery, some nights out with a beer in my hand, but regular injections of mundane detail too. Most recently, I uploaded my hay fever medication. It summed up, in one photo, how crap my throat feels right now. Don't mention it, World, you're welcome. My Insta account has become a visual diary of things that I've experienced, but is not exclusively full of amazing, 'Isn't life wonderful!' times. I feel more comfortable with the app if I make sure I add nitty-gritty, boring stuff along with the sea views. My one fundamental rule remains...I never use a filter. There are no filters in real life so take my unsanitised reality or leave it. (To illustrate my point, there's a pic of my sweaty forehead and grey roots, after a walk last month. Knock yourself out.)

So for those that don't use Instagram, or that would rather eat their own faeces than follow me on there, here's an inkling of my more mundane posts. I've weeded out anything of any visual value, and instead concentrated on 'keeping it real'. Don't say you aren't spoilt.

I've focused on the empty chair, rather than the beer. It looks far more poignant than the moment actually was.

Recorded for posterity - the accidental combo of slippers with ears, paisley 'leisure pants' and a summer dressing gown.

Hair mousse. No idea why.

All the essential food groups.

It's not glamorous but Widnes Kwik-Fit has saved my motoring ass on many occasions. 

Let me introduce you to a good friend of mine - This is Dark Brown Garnier Nutrisse. She is nothing if not reliable.

Weren't they fun? Don't you wish you were following bondiela now? And I didn't even include the weekly photo I upload of the opening paragraphs of Monday's blog. I'm truly subverting the visual medium by taking a photo of tiny unreadable words, and throwing it into the mix. Take THAT, yummy mummies, skinny dieters and eternal travellers with their sunsets in every continent. You can't compete with a photo of a screen! But I digress. I'm going to keep going with Instagram. I'm going to keep posting the Monday morning screen of writing, as well as the boring details of day to day life. And every so often I'll throw in a decent night out or particularly well-arranged cheese platter. It's all a fine balance.

Have a lovely week, folks.


Monday, 28 May 2018

Memories of Nen...Or Neen...

It's the kind of thing old people say. Especially when giving directions. 'Turn left where the Co-op used to be, straight down to the bottom and then right by the old cinema.' Old people's memories are full of the previous uses of buildings. And now it's starting for me. 

Look, I stand by my previous blogs. Forty is not ancient. Whilst technically it might be classed as middle-aged, it feels a hundred - no a THOUSAND - mental years away from that. Yet this week something happened that'll probably happen more and more as I get older. That's how time works. This week, I read that a place I used to frequent and indeed used to live, is closing. 

Nene College was my first choice of University place. This is because they only wanted two Cs for a combined degree in two of the most oversubscribed subjects at the time. I couldn't be faffed with Liverpool and their demand for Bs, so I was happy to take the lower offer and enjoy my A Level experience with reduced academic stress. When I got to Northampton (because that's where Nene was) I realised I should have put more thought in to it. First off, nobody could decide how to pronounce 'Nene'. Some tutors said 'Nen' whereas others said 'Neen'. Apparently it depended on the part of the river to which you referred. This confusion continued over my time there. Then the year I graduated it became University College, Northampton. These days, it's the University of Northampton. Like Dr Who, it regenerates.

Where the magic happened. Flat 3, Room 2.
My first year at Nene was spent living on Park Campus. This was located about three miles away from town and could be described as leafy and woodlandy. At least in parts. It also housed the Students' Union and umpteen halls of residence so it wasn't always the calm, rural scene it implied from the brochure. But it was my first address after leaving home so it had charm. It was also where I hand-washed all my clothes (including jeans!) in the sink in my room, where I first saw Silence of the Lambs and where I spent the only time in my life living exclusively with women. Like a religious community, except not religious in the slightest. 

In my room on Park Campus.
I'd shown the hairdresser
pictures of Kyle MacLachlan,
so that's what that's about.
Park Campus is tied up with a ton of my memories. I remember the Assignment Handling Office - the tiny portacabin where paper copies of hand-written assignments were handed in centrally, complete with duplicate cover sheet. This is beyond comprehension to people that ping every essay off in an email. I remember being one of sixty residents of John Clare Hall, queuing for one of the two pay phones as soon as six o'clock hit. The cheaper phone rate along with the reliance on payphones is once again, something that the iPhone-carrying-unlimited-calls students of today have no reason to consider. I also remember the boredom. No TV, no money, and just the odd assignment thrown in every few weeks or so. It was like series one of Big Brother. 

This week I read that Park Campus is closing - at least partially for now - and a brand spanking new campus has been built somewhere nearer town. Well hurrah. That's marvellous for the new students who'll have lovely facilities from September. Good luck to them. But I can't help feeling the rural charm will be lost. Where else can you spew up outside the Union, then watch a squirrel scurry past? Park Campus will always be my go-to image of University, whatever the context. It's where my mind went when I wrote the 1996 chapters for Carry the Beautiful. It's where I watched the 1997 General Election, the first one I ever voted in. It's where I made life-long friends. 

The sun sets on Park Campus.
(Fortuitously, I have a sunset photo
of the carpark from 1996. Clearly
I knew I'd be writing this one day.)
So next time I'm in Northampton and someone asks me for directions, no matter how much pep and youth I'm externally channelling, my old-person knowledge will seep through and blow my cover. 'Go down Boughton Green Road, past the old campus and left at the bottom past the Safeway.' On second thoughts, my lack of youth will be obvious as soon as I mention Safeway. Oh well. Happy memories.

Have a lovely week, folks.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Eurovision and Pastel De Natas ...

Forgive me for not rambling much this week - cue simultaneous explosion of party poppers - but my editing schedule has gone up the wall. Plus, I've run out of clean knickers. I'm sure Alan Whicker and Judith Chalmers had the same problem. Anyway, while I sort all that out, I'll leave you with some pictures. Here's my eye-witness, first-hand account of my Eurovision 2018 experience. 

I'd planned to capture the true nature of the event and bring a personal insight that the BBC just can't manage. But I tended to take photos when I'd had a drink so the results were 'haphazard'. Also, I kept forgetting. Hey ho, enjoy the pictures that did make it. Needless to say, the whole shebang was off-the-charts epic and I was quite the giddy goat from start to finish.

Pre-Match Build-Up

It started at the airport taxi queue. Sail-like banners announcing the 'All Aboard' theme of the event. It did not make the queue go any faster but it was lovely to see.
Spotted amongst the guide books in the hotel. Mostly full of adverts, but still. Gamely representing what the majority of Lisbon visitors were concerned with, last week.
Beautiful Lisbon. But squint through the arch, and what have you got?
That's right! It's the Eurovision village! An enclosed area with a stage/screen for live events and broadcasts. Beer, food and merchandise also available. 
The merchandise queue was lengthy.
But I made it! 'That'll be a United Kingdom scarf - By the way, I don't want Brexit - a fridge magnet and a wrist band please.'
I saw a bit of the Orchestra of Lisbon, and Voces Caelestes Choir. They were good!
Hoardings were covered up by previous winners and host countries.
And another one! I took photos of all my favourite years (I'm looking at you, 1992) but you get the drift. Let's move on.
You can't tell, but I'm sitting in my favourite restaurant in Lisbon - Grapes and Bites. 
You can't tell, but minutes after this photo was taken, Israeli Eurovision winner, Netta (and entourage) walked in to eat. She was lovely, even though we all gawped a lot because we were in the midst of celebrity. (I imagine it was the energy of my subtle yet consistent gaze that spurred her on to win three nights later.)

You can't tell, but I hoovered this plate up, no mess.

The Big Game
The queue to get in to the Altice Arena for the 2nd semi final. 
Waiting for it to begin. I think they're supposed to be waves.
Scott Mills is in one of those commentary boxes. I know! The glamour!
I was in touching distance of Jon Ola Sand! Well I would have been if there weren't security guards in my way. He was in deep concentration throughout the voting. It. Is. A. Serious. Business.

Post-Match Analysis
Reality hits. Back to a dreary tarmac and not a pastel de nata in sight. 

A paused screen from BBC4. It's like Where's Wally - can you spot me? Quote from my brother-in-law - 'You look so happy, Nicky' Quote from my brother - 'Like a kid in a sweet shop.'
Yeah, so it turns out I managed to buy an Icelandic scarf rather than an UK one. (I already owned the red one.) Hmmm.

I mean, it IS pretty similar I suppose. Here I am trying to style it out with a face like an emoji. I'm not sure which emoji. But definitely an emoji.

I could go on and on, posting photos to depict the aftermath of my favourite week of the year. But it's over. I need to let the adrenaline slump kick in and get back to sorting out my washing. All that is left to say is, twenty years since Dana International won in Birmingham, congrats to Netta and Israel. Here's to next year! 

Have a lovely week, folks.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Heading to the Portuguese Front...

Happy Bank Holiday Monday, everyone! By the time this 'drops' I'll be sitting on a jammed A-road attempting to leave Wales, along with vast swathes of roof-racked, luggage-laden families. It's a legal requirement after the shenanigans of a UK mini-break. Hey ho, I'll hopefully get home soon.

2009's themed Eurovision buffet.
I particularly like the bowl
of sauerkraut gamely
representing Germany.
Indeed, I need a prompt return from my hols. In two days time, I'm gallivanting again. I know, who the frig do I think I am? What kind of international event could be taking place that means I up sticks so soon after a weekend of family fun? What on earth is going on? I think everyone of good conscience knows the score. The date's been in our diaries for months. I don't even need to say it, do I? After three, let's shout it together. One, two, three... IT'S EUROVISION!!!!!!!!!!!!

 2011. The BBC's party
pack was utilised
that year. Big time
It's been four years since I attended the Eurovision Song Contest. Copenhagen 2014. I can say (and without a hint of sarcasm) that it was the best night of my life. I'm not joking. It was utterly epic. After decades of watching the contest at home, I was actually there. Surrounded by like-minded, lovely strangers, all happy to dance, wave their flags and cheer the night away. Despite being six hundred miles from home and sitting in a revamped Danish shipyard, everything felt reassuringly recognisable. Charpentier's Te Deum opened proceedings as usual. It gives me giddy goosebumps when I'm on my sofa with my score pad, so hearing it at the actual contest was beyond words. Then Kasper Juul from Borgen rocked up as one of the hosts. Seeing his face was like spotting someone you vaguely remember from school. It was strangely familiar but took a moment to place. And then there was Graham Norton.* In his commentary booth, looking down on us all, like a lovely uncle overseeing proceedings. Everything would be OK as long as Graham was in the house. The winner that year was Conchita Wurst with Rise Like a Phoenix**. It would have been my all time favourite Eurovision winner had I been in my lounge at home - it was a cracking song regardless - but watching her win in the flesh, was spectacular. 

The message I sent to the family
WhatsApp group on 5th May 2014.
Reminiscent in style (but not so much tone)
of telegrams from the Western Front.
I have the best memories of the whole event. It was an amazing night in the middle of a great holiday, but one I've never tried to replicate. I know that as experiences go, it can't be beaten. It was unique. From the host city, to the eventual winner, to my disposable income, to the fact I'd been bingeing The Bridge and Borgen in the months leading up to it - the happy set of circumstances all aligned for Copenhagen 2014. I've positively reminisced ever since, whilst staying firmly at home. My Eurovision routine is set. I have themed-snacks, a variety of European spirits and a night of live tweeting to attend to. I've no time to leave the country this days.

I feel like Charlie Bucket
with a golden ticket.
(Mine's on Tesco economy
printer paper, though.)
Until now. Yeah, you heard. Until now! One of my 40th birthday presents was a ticket to the second semi-final! Having thought I'd only ever cheer along in front of my TV, I'm going to be in Lisbon to soak up the Eurovision week atmosphere. I cannot wait. If it's anything like Copenhagen, it'll be reminiscent of when the Olympics hit town. A lively mix of people from everywhere, all converging on one place to have the ultimate party. And I get to be there! What is particularly lovely is that I'll see the Thursday evening semi-final, and be back in my gaff for the Saturday night main event. My live-tweeting action will not be compromised. My Polish vodka will not be undrunk. My well-established routine for my favourite night of the year, remains in place. I'll just have some cracking first hand knowledge of the Portuguese vibe while I watch.

I drink a shot
whenever Poland
performs. Stocks
are low.
But for now, I'm still trying to get back from Wales. Will I ever make it from behind this camper van with the bikes attached? Will I ever see the Runcorn bridge again? Check back next week where I hope I'm awash with Eurovision afterglow.

Have a lovely week, folks.

*I've added a link for Graham just incase his show isn't broadcast in some of the far flung locations whose bots click my blog. But it feels daft. Without giving it much thought before, I listen to him significantly more than I do members of my own family. Between Friday night TV, Saturday morning radio, and the fact he commentates on my favourite night of the year, his presence, like breathing, needs no explanation.

**I was sitting on the left of the stage for that performance. Electrifying doesn't come near to describing the atmosphere in the arena when Conchita sang that. 

Monday, 30 April 2018

Seaside Fun Imminent. Bring Coats...

It's countdown to another Bank Holiday, folks. This time next week, we'll be in the final throws of a three-day weekend. (Apologies to non-UK peeps who don't get to experience such fun. We have to get our kicks where we can these days.) 

As I've mentioned before, the Family Bond has a regular jaunt to Wales each May - the first Bank Holiday of May. Returning to a caravan park of our youth, we load up our respective cars with the basic necessities required to survive a cramped, often rainy weekend alongside a mish-mash of family members. This boils down to beer and wine. Beer, wine and blankets. That's what's needed to get through. As I type (whole days before the event) the weather at home is bright and breezy. I have no doubt that the second we arrive for our Welsh weekend, the sky will have greyed and the rain will fall. It will fall for as long as we're there. But that's fine. It's what we expect. 

Skimming stones, a couple of years ago.
Who needs swanky luxury with that horizon.
There is an additional frisson of excitement this year, though. I imagine that's been obvious as you've been reading this. I'm sure you can sense how I'm fizzling with anticipation. Are you ready to be put you out of your misery? Excellent. Well let me explain. For the past decade, the grown up Bonds have holidayed in the caravan park that we used to visit in the early to mid-90s. I was a young teen. It is...and I'll whisper this quickly... a tiny bit scruffy (shhh!) but it's set on cliffs overlooking the beach, so regardless of a lack of gourmet restaurants, and some unsightly water-stained buildings, it has the sensory pleasure of crashing waves, swooping seagulls and the twinkliest night's sky on the walk back from the pub. It's lovely. But....

What the new management said to the old
management. Probably.
Yes, there's a but. This year the caravan park has had some sort of take over! There's 'new management'. I know! I imagine the phrase, I own 51% of this company has been been shouted Alexis Carrington-style at a board meeting at some point. Everything we know is up in the air and as a result of this, DISASTER has struck.* The office has not been able to take our booking. We've held on for a while, wondering if they'd get themselves sorted in time for our set-in-stone, annual jolly, but it seems they could not. We've had to find somewhere else. 

Now here's the thing. Bonds don't like change.** It has to be in the same area, with the sea nearby, on a caravan park, with a club offering children's entertainment, and two disabled-friendly caravans in close proximity to each other. There can be no variation to any of this criteria. It has to be the same every year. Happily, despite only sorting it mere weeks ago, my brother - who takes responsibility for this gig - found somewhere that met our needs. And now THIS is where my excitement comes from. 

Tethered to a washing line
LIKE A DOG. I'll be 

retrospectively ringing 
Esther Rantzen.
Grabbing a crisp with my 
bowlhead while
couple does a slowie 
behind me.
Bonds on Tour is trying somewhere new. Except, not really. It's not actually new. We've been there before, like a million years ago. It's the caravan park we went to when I was a really little kid. 1980 was the first time, and we returned repeatedly throughout the decade. Whereas the younger member of the family buzzed off the nostalgia of the boardroom-chaos caravan place of more recent years, I had earlier memories of the one a couple of miles along the seafront. It's the holiday destination that is linked to my sense memory. Whenever I smell chippy chips, the ozone, suntan lotion or beery pub fumes, my mind turns to this particular location. I am giddy that I get to go there again.***

It's cold, or my Dad's 
not beach body ready. 
Zipped up cagoules for
a mother and daughter

 day at the beach. 
I've already looked through old photo albums at previous visits. There's lots of me on the beach, several of me with an ice-cream, and a few sitting in the caravan eating sandwiches. It was all go in the 80s. Next week, I'll no doubt be doing those things again. Along with the beer, wine, and blankets. If you want to see drunken shenanigans and sibling seaside banter, I'll be adding photos to Insta****. I'm called @bondiela. But for now, I hope everyone has a great weekend, whether you're wallowing in childhood nostalgia or cracking on with your usual routine. 

Have a lovely week, folks.

*Obviously disaster didn't strike. Some people have real shit to deal with. It was just a hiccup. But still. 

** #notallbonds 

***More randomly, my mind goes back there whenever I hear the Pet Shop Boys' song, It's a Sin. The lyrics were published in my holiday copy of Smash Hits and I learnt them in the car, en route to the caravan. Sometime around 1987.

****I believe that's what the kids call Instagram. You're welcome.