Blimey, it's been a busy few weeks for news, hasn't it? Sometime ago, I wrote that I was going to try and use my phone less, in a bid to aid my sanity. But that didn't take into account the fact the world was going to implode. Night after night I scroll through madness, reading every hot take I can on the Helsinki summit, electoral fraud, Brexit, and the rise of fascism. Sleep has not been that easy of late.
The obvious thing to do is put my phone down, close Twitter and listen to whale music so I drift off. But then that feels wrong too. If bad things are happening, I don't want to ignore them. I want to stop them. Clearly, my Wonder Woman complex gives me far more imaginary power than I actually have. But the fact remains that when I read the reports on T***p's child separation policy a month or so ago, the only way I could stem feelings of utter revulsion was the fact I had the 13th July in my diary as the day I would be marching against him and his horrific policies. Being part of the Women's March gave the briefest of releases from the sense of helplessness that tends to dominate most of the time.
With the excess of globally significant news right now, I've gathered quite the bunch of journalists that I turn to, to make sense of everything. Marina Hyde in the Guardian is the best. Simply the best. Mixing razor sharp comedic writing with the keenest eye for bullshit, her pieces are always informative and entertaining, without glossing over the horrors of a situation. I once tweeted to her - in a moment of fan-girling - that I wished she could write about aspects of my own life, because I'd be able to see everything really clearly whilst finding it all piss-funny. And she replied! My fandom was assured forever. Then for more of a legal, nitty-gritty read, I've found Seth Abramson's Twitter feed fascinating. He writes long threads about every detail of the investigation into the current US president. On the one hand it can be hard to follow at times, but on the other, it reassures me that behind the scenes, progress is being made to right the wrongs. I've read a lot of his stuff recently, trying to make sense of what is going on. It's all a bit of a head-frig.
And so, there has to be a balance. A calming, relaxed yin to the gut-churning news-based yang. After a day of following parliament's votes on the Brexit white paper amendments, I found myself watching a vid of Hugh Grant talking about his best roles. Sixteen minutes of lovely, self-deprecating, funny Hugh. It was a joy. I momentarily forgot my anger at the shafting of Jo Swinson's paired vote while she was on maternity leave, because Hugh Grant was joking about how he'd played the same role repeatedly and hoped no one had noticed. Likewise, I've been watching a lot of Caitlin Moran recently. (Yeah, I'm banging on about her again.) She's promoting her new book so she's doing lots of media stuff at the moment. Watching her be interviewed in her bath by her best mate Sali Hughes, was exactly what I needed the other night.
In fact one of Caitlin Moran's book promotional vids, sent me on an amusing train of thought. It was My Life in Objects and she talked about the various things she has in her life that define her. She referenced black eye liner, her backcombing brush, her laptop, and a present her younger brother made for her when they were kids. It was all very lovely, and set me off on my own mental tangent. What would my life in objects be? What is the stuff that defines me? Because it was a damn sight more sleep-inducing than reading about the perils of a no-deal Brexit, I let myself work up a list as I drifted off. So, with no plagiarism whatsoever, here is Stuff That I Like That is Part of Me. (See? That's completely different to My Life in Objects. Definitely.)
This is Ribbet. I have no idea why I called him that back in 1980 when he was given to me, but that's just how it is. He has Joey (a name that makes a lot more sense) in his pouch, and has lived with me since I was two. He's also lived in every classroom I've ever taught, as well as having been an active participant in the Australia role play area that I shoe-horned into the Year One curriculum when I was newly qualified. These days he sits on the bedside table of the spare room. He is my second oldest possession (first oldest is my Peter Rabbit dish) and was a present from my Auntie Marie. He will ALWAYS be in my life.
2. Wrist Stuff
For as long as I can remember, I've worn stuff round my wrist. Not - let me be clear - anything that would be immediately recognisable as a bracelet. No, I prefer tattier, less polished bits of string, bobbles, old rubber bands or leather shoe laces. I think it stems from my love of 80s home-made punk fashions. My wrist stuff is always changing. I tend to leave things until they rot and fall off naturally. I've seen many a friendship bracelet end that way. At the moment, my current wrist stuff comprises of a Fitbit, a leather thong with an engraved name and year, a silver chain, and a Eurovision wristband. My wrist stuff always lives on my right wrist, and is complemented by my bass clef tattoo. Pat Badger - bass guitarist from the 90s band Extreme - had a large bass clef on his arm, and my fourteen year old self decided I was also going to do that one day. So I did.
3. Black nail varnish
I don't know when it happened, but at some point over the last decade, I went from occasionally wearing nail varnish when I got round to it, to never leaving the house without black nails. It wasn't a conscious decision. It's just how things have ended up. I have many shades of polish, but there's nothing lighter than a dark purple in my collection. The idea of a French manicure or a pinky peach, makes me wince. Lovely for others but not my style at all.
So sue me, I like slippers. If I'm feeling fed up or periody, I often find myself chucking a new pair into the trolley as I do my weekly shop. They cheer me up and make me feel comforted. But until I took this photo, I hadn't quite realised how many pairs I had on the go. They were scattered all over the house, you see. I obviously like my feet to feel cosy in whichever room I walk into. Perhaps I'll wait til I've worn a few of these out before I buy any more.
5. Comfy Clothes
I've come to realise I fundamentally dislike formal clothes. I'm lucky that I get to wear pyjamas to do my work. And when I have to venture outside, blinking into the bright lights of Tesco or Costa, I can wear scruffy jeans and T shirts without anyone caring. Dress codes do my head in. I'm always put off a restaurant or bar if I can't be my fabulously casual self inside. And then there's my Spiderman shorts. Look, I'm not going to lie to you. Spiderman is not the reason I love these shorts. I'm not really a Spiderman fan. I'm sorry if that shocks you. If you have to rethink everything you thought you knew about me, then take your time. We'll wait. But meanwhile, the reason I love my Spiderman shorts is that they're the comfiest things I have ever found to sleep in. Honest. Between the baggy elastic waist band and the stretchy T shirt material, my Spiderman shorts piss all over silky negligee shenanigans every day of the week. (Apologies for the gratuitous crotch shot. Once again, if you need to take a minute, please do.)
When I was little, my parents had a 1970s drinks cabinet with a dropdown door. It was mainly filled with glasses. In terms of booze, there was always a bottle of sherry on the go - for trifles and my Grandmothers - and there was usually a bottle of gin which was my parents' tipple of choice. I think on some level I equate a drinks cabinet with maturity. I grew up with Margo and Jerry Leadbetter, Fresh Fields and Terry and June. The characters would walk over to their drinks cabinet, continue their amusing sitcom rant about the self-sufficient neighbours, or the unreasonable boss, or annoying Sonia from next door, and get themselves a drink to signal the start of the evening. In my head I think I've always aspired to do that too. Except of course, I don't really drink spirits, and my beers are in the fridge, and I don't do sitcom rants while I use tongs to pick up ice cubes from a bucket in my lounge as my fictional spouse faces the audience and winces at my intolerance. But still, the thought's there. Here's my drinks cabinet. It gets absolutely shafted at Christmas but is barely touched the rest of the year. I do like the way it looks though.
7. My Mug
Let's keep this simple. I drink a lot of tea so I like a good mug. Too small and delicate stresses me out. Too large and pint-sized makes me need to wee more than I want. And don't even start me with a cup and saucer nonsense. This mug has been my new favourite since I got it in March. It replaced a similar sized one that is now chipped a bit. A good cup of tea is a good cup of tea, except when the mug lets you down. This is a reliable mug. It does not let me down.
In 2015 when the then-editor of The Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, left the paper, there was a tweak to the online logo that day to include his trademark glasses hanging from the 'e' of 'The'. I remember it clearly because his glasses were like mine. In fact, his glasses were like the millions of people who bought on-trend black rims a few years ago, before the oversized clear-framed craze came in. (Not a craze I can endorse, I'm afraid. My face needs added definition, not transparent nothingness.) Anyway, back to glasses. I don't imagine I will ever edit a national newspaper. So therefore, when I resign, I don't imagine a national newspaper will feel the need to use my glasses silhouette to tweak their logo in homage. And yet if they wanted to, they could, because like Rusbridger, my glasses are part of me. They're either on my face or on my head, and when I don't have them with me I feel panicky. I can't drive without them, can't see people walking towards me with any clarity, and they mask one of my many cosmetic issues - that of wonky brows.
My glasses, like everything else in this list most definitely belong in Stuff I Like That is Part of Me. Remember that's what this was all about? Yeah, I know, I've rambled on for far too long. But look, if I've managed to distract you from reading gloom and doom in the news, then hurrah. And if I've bored you senseless, then huge apologies. For now, I'm going to tentatively open Twitter again. Because you never know, there might be news of an impeachment, Hugh Grant might have been elected PM, or the heatwave is over and snow is forecast! We can but dream.
Have a lovely week, folks.