“Til death do us part”

I love New Year’s.

As a serial resolutionist any calendar event that promises the hope of a fresh start, a new beginning and a lethal cocktail of drunk friends, Jools Holland and copious amounts of confetti, well that’s my kind of celebration.

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If Benjamin Franklin said it, it must be true…

So despite all my good intentions, I’ve done it again, I’ve left my beloved little blog unattended and neglected, cold and unloved for far too long yet again. Here I come, crawling back to my one true love after flirting and sowing my writing seed elsewhere (here at Yuppee and here at Get Into This if you’d care to indulge).

I am quite used to making up this kind of ground. I am chronically late to meet friends for lunch, the clock at work runs five minutes fast, mine runs twenty minutes late, I always forget to ring my mum back, I push deadlines to the absolute limit, I get distracted by shiny things and You Tube videos of cats, I plan on being late for my own funeral just so friends and family believe that is actually me in the coffin.

Of course I could reel off the twenty-seven thousand excuses I have to hand, most of them fairly substantial, as to where I’ve been recently, but rather than relying on embellishment like a true writer I will be perfectly honest in a brief history of the last few weeks. Since the beginning of March I have been operating as a one woman Mothers Day Card production line, getting coerced into drinking into the early hours by a dear friend back from the desert for a gin-soaked weekend, going to loads of gigs, rejoicing in the misfortune of others (cruel but infinitely satisfying), finally finishing Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, catching up with old friends, mourning Ireland’s performance during the Six Nations, doing St Patrick absolute justice by partying for as long as my body could physically stand it (my voice gave up after three days), and then suffering with unimaginable fear, having my ego rubbed and then beaten to a pulp, and going against my better judgement to play, as always, the romantic fool.

You may not believe it, but in the pursuit of a career as an actual, real, grown up writer, I consider all of the above research.

For my birthday last year I received a notebook in a huge bird-themed group of presents from some very dear friends, and in this notebook all my pearls of wisdom get scribbled down, usually, frantically, by the light of my phone thirty seconds after lying down to sleep. Full of good intentions I romantically noted one of my favourite quotes on the opening page, from Benjamin Franklin:

“Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing”.

You see, like I said, research.

At the raw age of twenty-four I will not pretend to have anything of universal importance to write about just yet, although documenting my life and times as a bar wench may prove otherwise. But in the meantime I must go out, be merry, grab life by the proverbial balls and live it up, which is why another favourite quote of mine is ‘no good story every started with a salad’. So in Lena Dunham fashion I have been dedicating every hangover and heartache to the pursuit of my writing career. Eventually it will all pay off.

In the meantime, I promise not to neglect you my darling little blog.

At least not until the next drink-fueled religious holiday.

The Old Romantic rises it’s ugly head again…

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I have never bought into the whole Valentines thing, partly because I’ve been working in the hospitality industry since I was 17 and it has always been much more lucrative to serve the candlelit tables than to book them.
But I won’t be so coy or bitter as to belittle or deride the most romantic day of the year, because the truth is, and regular readers will know this, I am an old romantic.
Yes, St. Valentines Day has become a multi-billion money making machine. Yes, we are all sick to cynicism with all the inflatable hearts, teddy bears, over expensive bunches of flowers and the pink and red everywhere. There is always a sickeningly sweet rom-com to see, a cheesy compilation CD to provide some romantic background music over the aphrodisiac-fuelled five course meal costing five times as much as it would on any other day of the year. And the evil capitalist world we live in will guilt trip you into buying into it all, because if you don’t you clearly don’t love your other half enough.

We all know it. We joke about it, we scoff at it, but it is still the big pink, fluffy elephant in the room with a heart on its chest and says “I wuv you” when you squeeze it.

But beneath all the confetti and rose petals and poorly named online greetings card companies, beneath all the cheesy, tacky rubbish and decaying flowers, at its simplest, purest, most basic being, Valentines Day is a very beautiful, very lovely thing.
To show the one you love, adore, like or just fancy the pants off, how you feel, whether it’s through heartfelt declaration under a bedroom window, holding a boombox above your head, or the extravagant spending on chocolates, flowers, dinner, a movie, the whole Valentines package. However you say it, at least you’re saying it. People may buy into multi-billion money making side of Valentines Day but if the simple, pure, basic feeling is at the heart of all the spending, is it such a bad thing?
Speaking as someone who has served those candlelit tables for so many years, I can tell you it is no bad thing for all the struggling restaurants who have felt the recession the hardest.

Valentines Day aside, the idea of romance and all things love and heart-shaped has been heavy on my mind of late.
I have been single now for two years, and romance has been far and few between, not that it was such a big part of coupled-up life either. However, that is another long and arduous story for another day or another paperback chick-lit coming to an Oxfam near you.
The lack of romance in my own love life hasn’t blinded me to its presence elsewhere.
Almost all of my dearest friends are happily coupled-up, and while I try not to hold it against them, it can be frustrating to see my friends take their significant others for granted, to sweat the small stuff, to not treasure each other as they should. But that is real life. Work and family and friends get in the way of even the greatest romances. Candlelit dinners must give way to washing your significant other’s pants. Red roses have little time or place amid the dull monotony of day to day life. Which is why I’ve discovered a newfound respect for Valentines Day.

I will be spending the most romantic day of the year at work, plying the lonely hearts with cheap booze in which they can drown their lonely sorrows, but I hope all my coupled-up friends will indulge in some cheesy, tacky, rose-petaled romance.

But just for this one day, you can feck right off if you think I’m third-wheeling it with a bunch of dreamy-eyed lovebirds for the rest of the year.

Simple Pleasures.

Sometimes it’s the little things that give the greatest satisfaction. It’s an idea I’ve been thinking about this afternoon.

Just a few of my favourite simple pleasures…

  1. Bookshop browsing without intent to buy.
  2. Fresh fruit.
  3. A fresh pot of tea, the morning’s papers, and a few hours to while away.
  4. A comfortable pub, a few quiet pints, and an overdue catch-up with a good friend.
  5. Well roasted potatoes.
  6. Resting your head on a cool, clean pillowcase after a long day.
  7. Hot showers on cold mornings.
  8. Kicking up autumn leaves.
  9. Getting your hands dirty.
  10. A good hair day.
  11. An out of the blue message.
  12. Bare shoulders and warm nights out.
  13. A walk on the beach.
  14. When your favourite song comes on shuffle.
  15. A bear-hug.

A Homebird at Heart

There is something heart-warming about flying at night.

It always fills me up with sentiment, everyone tired and homeward bound. It reminds me of going home for Christmas, the happy excitement on board, everyone ready to run into the open arms at the gate, like the scene from Love Actually. It’s all very lovely.

It’s the Homebird in me.

But flying at night is alright if you are homeward bound.

It’s not quite so lovely when there is no one there to meet you at the gate, when you sit alone on the bus surrounded by drunks and screechy girls heading out on the town. It’s not so wonderful to have no one waiting at home with open arms and the kettle on, not so much as a four legged friend to give you a waggy welcome. Not quite so lovely to feel that in coming home, you have actually left home and all its comforts behind.

Liverpool has long been my home, but now and then you can’t help but miss the comfort of the family nest. Particularly on those lonely nights when all you really need is to curl up with your dog by your own fireside, a pot of tea or a bottle of wine, the company of your own folks, something to argue over on the telly, the inevitable late night suggestion of supper – Sandwiches? Toasties? Crackers? What have we in the fridge?

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Usually I do quite well at being alone. I was an only child for ten years; solitude has never been something I’ve run away from. Even when I wasn’t alone, I was quite used to passing the evenings at my own leisure, making my own way from the airport. I have always been perfectly content to cook for just myself, to spend an evening with a Rom Com or a few dozen episodes of Sex and the City or Grey’s Anatomy. I’m always at ease walking round an exhibition or a museum alone, curling up with a good book and cup of tea is a favourite bedtime routine for me. It’s only when there’s a film or a band or a restaurant offer you’d love to take advantage of and there are no friends to be found, that’s when you wonder if it might be worth snagging a significant other, if only for convenience – someone to kiss on New Years, someone to scoff at Valentines with, someone to meet you at the airport, to be with when you want most to be alone. That would be lovely.

But every rose-tinted ideal has its thorns when you look closely. And your independence is never something that you should give up lightly. Not even for a free ride from the airport.

And besides, I am very good at being alone.

But I may get a cat.

An Old Romantic

I have a confession to make.

A confession some may find hard to believe, particularly if they’ve ever had the pleasure of my Rottweiler-like customer service at work.

But here it is.

I am an old romantic.

I call it a confession because it seems in this day and age ‘Romance’ has become a dirty word.

Romance, in its truest, traditional, black and white sense has, ironically, been wiped off the face of the earth by a change in culture that we threw ourselves in front of horses to achieve.

It’s a clash of interests that tugs on my own inner conflict. I’m an old romantic but I am also, thanks to a matriarchal upbringing, and a very good education in Women’s Literature, a feminist.

I firmly believe that women should receive equality in all aspects of work and life… but then I’m also a sucker for good old-fashioned chivalry, and unfortunately, the two seem to contradict each other. We can’t exactly storm the streets on Slut Marches, burning our bras, just to reach the pub afterwards and complain that some guy didn’t hold the door open for us. By the same standards we would be expected to curtsy, and you certainly shouldn’t go around curtsying without a bra on!

Worse still, any gentlemanly gestures women do receive these days are so sparse and surprising we usually confuse them as sleazy. Granted, they often are, but it’s a sad state of affairs all the same.

It’s not often that I’ll commend any traditional belief or custom that comes out of Texas, but I relish the opportunity to serve our resident Texan at the bar, because when he says “Thank-you Ma’am” in his soft-spoken way, something inside me sings!

Something I inherited from my ancestors along with the womb and utter dependence on Tea and Chocolate, something that has grown tired and dormant through years of seclusion and neglect. All women, and men too, have it in there somewhere among the mess of hormones and internal organs, it is our old romantic, twiddling its thumbs in the faint hope that the Gentlemen and the Dandies will make a revolutionary comeback, wearing buttonholes and helping us in and out of carriages. Ah those were the days of sweet social constraint.

Yes, I know it doesn’t make any sense.

It’s the same reason that some of the world’s finest Feminist activists have a soft spot for Jane Austen and read Cosmo every month. We’re women; we are genetically built to contradict ourselves. And it’s romance’s fault.

But I still love it.

I am in love with love. I am in love with the flowers and chocolates and declarations of love from below the balcony. I adore stories of star-crossed lovers, doomed romances, the Hollywood kisses, and the black and white movies, Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  Yes it’s all very old-fashioned and cheesy but it would be nice to indulge in it once in a while.

At the age of 23 I can count my truly romantic experiences on one hand and even they are nothing to write a Rom-Com about. And most of these experiences, like most of any life-experience worth talking about, happened under the influence. It is a very lovely thing to be slow-danced down the middle of the Railway Road on a Saturday night but it’s not something either of us would have attempted in the cold light of day.

Young girls are brought up on a diet of fairytales and Prince Charming. Shrek brought it all to light a few years ago. Fiona grew up dreaming of the gallant knight who would slay the dragon and rescue her from the tower, yes she ends up marrying the ogre, but he still performs all the courageous duties of a hero to win her over.

And what is the modern age equivalent?

At the young and impressionable age of 17 my heart was won over on a tipsy walk home from the pub, when my childhood sweetheart risked life and death to run into the immaculate garden of an evil monster and snatch the perfect, beautiful, and singular Lily that took pride of place in the centre of the floral display.

I’m sure the ‘evil monster’ was in fact a lovely old woman whose garden, and in particular her prize lily, was her pride and joy, but I had to make myself feel mildly better about taking her pride and joy as a token of my young love.

That is the height of my romantic existence. And while the relationship powered on for another few years, the romance, like the lily, didn’t live very long.

Real life doesn’t give us much time for true romance or old-fashioned chivalry but it does exist. And despite all the evidence to the contrary, I endeavour to believe in true romance.

Yes, I am a contradiction. I won’t be anybody’s damsel in distress, let’s be honest, I am more likely to be mistaken for the dragon. I will not be found at the top of a tower sighing longingly at the thoughts of Prince Charming.

But I expect nothing less than a knight in shining armour.