vendredi 29 juin 2012

Go Tracy Go

A worrying development.  I recently decided that I need to add some strength/toning work to my exercise regime, as cardio alone is not going to sort out the fact that, despite being small, I am quite, um, jiggly.

So, I bought the Tracy Anderson Method DVDs.  I know.  Like Gwyneth*, I’ll be Country Strong in no time, right?

I just wasn’t prepared for how obsessed with her I would get.  Seriously, she’s fascinating.  Like some kind of miniature, speeded-up, Trojan horse, Malibu Fitness Barbie, I can’t actually believe she’s real.

She’s amazing.  My boyfriend thinks she’s terrifying (‘she looks like one of those Olsen twins, not a real person’) and she is, but she can hop about like a mad thing and do crazy things with her arms and weights like nothing I have ever seen before.

It remains to be seen whether this new regime will give me the ‘teeny-tiny dancer’s body’ (like Nicole Richie’s!) that Tracy seems to be completely obsessed with – especially as she recommends doing the DVD six days a week, and I think I could manage two or three in addition to running (which Tracy makes a point of saying she does not recommend) – but I could watch her all the live-long day.

I’ve decided to try a little experiment – between now and the end of August, when I am due to go away to Ireland and Spain, I will follow the Tracy Anderson Method as closely as I can manage, and see if it works.  I’ll keep you posted.

* Oh, and Goop?  In your little interview in the commentary, when you say things like ‘I know some women who say [whiny voice] “oh I don’t have time to exercise, I work and I have kids” – [clipped voice] um, well, so do I, but I choose to make it a priority’.  This is why people don’t like you.

mercredi 27 juin 2012

Mad M (Madame)

I may be going mad.  I don't usually like to talk about this stuff, but here it's like just throwing it into the void.  Rad.

Mania/depression/hurry up and wait.  Argh!  My head!

I am full of ideas but I am impatient and I get despondent so easily.  I am drinking a glass of wine and trying to breathe deeply.

Today I am wearing a striped T-shirt with a peacock-print neckscarf.  A woman came up to me earlier and said 'snap' as she walked past.  It took me about ten minutes of confusion, and then starting to get cross, before I realised that she too was wearing stripes and a scarf.

Today while I was out running I saw two magpies together.  I made a bet with myself that if I could run past so quietly that they did not move from the tree above, whilst making sure still to run at all times, then it would happen.  I won.

Please send me a bit of magic and make me right.  Don't let me be wrong.  ('Oh god just give me one more song so I can prove to you that I'm so much better than them' - as one heroine may say.)

Nam myoho renge kyo.  Infinity.

Music and Food Mixtape

Every year, my friend Deborah hosts an event at her house called ‘Cheesefest’.

Deborah used to be my boss, and so Cheesefest involves a get-together of our old team, who were all a fabulous bunch.  We all stayed in touch, but Cheesefest is the official day of the year when we all meet up at once.

The festival evolved because we all love cheese and music.  I mean, who doesn’t?, but I think we possibly take it to a new level.

There are several rules involved in Cheesefest, now just celebrating its third year.  The first is that we have a dinner involving large quantities of cheese – generally fondue or raclette.  The second is that there is a themed dress code – this year it was ‘Western/cowboy’ and so we all duly wore checked shirts and neckerchiefs and were greeted with a shot of tequila each when we arrived; last year it was ‘Hollywood’ and we drank martinis.

The final rule is that we all participate in a music-based quiz game.  Again, this is themed: the first theme was ‘summer’, the second ‘guilty pleasures’; this year it was ‘food and drink’.  Each of us picks two songs related to the theme (to be sent anonymously to Deborah’s partner Stuart, who is an impartial adjudicator), and after dinner we listen to everyone’s picks, armed with a scoresheet on which we have to guess: the name of the song, the artist and who picked it.

It sounds simple (my friends would argue that I would say that, having won two out of three years) but it actually isn’t.  Having a geeky knowledge store and a good memory, I am generally pretty good on the songs and artists.  However, I find it nearly impossible to guess who chose the songs.  All my friends have good taste, some of them similarly.  Every year I find myself shrieking ‘I don’t know you people at all!’ as I struggle with identifying the pickers.

This year saw some excellent choices, some of which were:

Prefab Sprout: ‘The King of Rock n Roll’
Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren: ‘Bangers and Mash’
Placebo: ‘Special K’
The Divine Comedy: ‘National Express’
Blur: ‘Coffee and TV’
Supertramp: ‘Breakfast in America’
The Duckworth Lewis Method: ‘Jiggery Pokery’
Lily Allen: ‘Chinese’

Can you guess which ones were mine?  I guessed as much.  You don’t know me at all.

lundi 25 juin 2012

My Festival History

So, no Glastonbury this year.  It occurs to me today that I have spent too many years on this equivalent Monday stuck in traffic trying to leave Worthy Farm.  I don’t envy those trying to do exactly that on the Isle of Wight today.

I love festivals.  I think they’re a very weird and quite English thing, and they have a great place in life.  I think it’s funny that everyone thinks they are being really cool and edgy for going to a festival, when I do not know a single person who hasn’t been to one.

Festivals and I fell out of love for a few years.  Perhaps this is inevitable for a woman hitting her thirties who no longer takes any drugs.  I feel like I’m finding my way with them again and I’m kind of ready to fall back in love.

A potted history of my love/hate affair with festivals:

My first great festival: Reading ’97.
It was the first time I had been to a festival for the entire weekend and I was ready.  I think it was just before festivals got unbearably commercial and expensive – but then again maybe I would say that.  It was boiling hot and I shared a one-man tent with Lou and Ian, next door to Sara and Claudette.  I drank loads of beer and saw loads of bands and wore bikini tops and had the best time ever.  Exactly what a festival should be.

My weirdest festival: Reading ’99.
Not knowing what to wear to Reading that year and being in an attention seeking phase, Russell and I fortuitously found complete wedding outfits in a charity shop the weekend before.  We put them on, brought no other clothes, and bought bottles of cheap fizzy wine to complete the look.  We just thought it would be kind of funny, but it ended up meaning that we got free drinks everywhere we went, we got some backstage access, Bis dedicated their entire set to us and got us up on stage, and we were written about in the Telegraph and the News of the World.  I was in serious trouble when I got home, in the final weeks I lived at home – staggering through the front door of my mum’s house in a filthy wedding dress that got thrown straight in the bin.  The next year, I kid you not, we saw at least a dozen couples in wedding attire.

My worst festival: Glastonbury ‘07.
The classic festival disasters all happened.  It rained, a lot – I mean, like, a lot (people died and the dance tent was destroyed when it was hit by lightning).  One of my friends took a metric shitload of drugs and disappeared for two days, and we seriously thought he might be dead.  Another friend acted like such an idiot, we have actually barely spoken since.  It was the first year when there was no Lost Vagueness field – which was where most of my best Glastonbury memories have occurred.
It was when that horrible commercial idea hit, which I still really disapprove of – the demand for tickets is so great, you have to book yours before the line-up has even been announced, which results in going to a festival at which you may not love the music, with a lot of people who just don’t care about music.  I tried to go and see Björk on the second stage, but the crowd was too big and weirdly hostile.  The one highlight was seeing Amy Winehouse live (twice, on the jazz stage and on the main stage), but even that seems sad now – although I’m really glad I had the chance to and she was great.
I remember I got home and straight into a hot bath, where I sobbed for an hour straight.  I haven’t been to Glastonbury since, and have had only occasional pangs of envy when friends have been on years when the line-up is great and the sun is shining.

My most grown-up festival: 10 Years of ATP.
This hit at exactly the right moment for me.  I had fallen dramatically out of love with Glastonbury, was feeling a little bit old for Reading (which really is a festival for teenagers, although I have been getting a hankering to go back, just for a day).  All Tomorrow’s Parties was the perfect solution.  It takes place at a Butlin’s holiday camp, so you have your own chalet with a bathroom and a kitchen; the other facilities remain open, so you can eat your dinner at Pizza Hut or go for a morning swim; the festivals are usually curated by one legendary band or artist, but this was a ten-year anniversary celebration of all the best people who had played at ATP over the years, getting as many of them as possible to play again.
Jimmy, Jack and I saw bands like Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Mudhoney, Josh T. Pearson, Devendra Banhart, Crispin Hellion Glover and The Breeders, then went back to our chalet to watch the snooker and cook a fry-up.  The only scary thing about the weekend was that it’s weird to discover that you have become a new target market – everyone there looked exactly like us: they all seemed to work in publishing or web design, there were a lot of fringes and stripy T-shirts, thick-rimmed glasses and battered Converse.  I can’t wait to go back.

dimanche 24 juin 2012


Between the Times and the Tides

Did I ever tell you about that time at ATP when Jimmy thought Lee Ranaldo waved at him? It was hilarious.  To cut a long story short, it turned out that the sisters Deal were standing behind us.

ATP is always a really good ground for indie-celeb spotting, because it has a very egalitarian policy towards 'the talent' - the bands stay in chalets like everyone else and, being at Butlins, there is no backstage or VIP area.

Last time, we found ourselves in a chalet next to the afore-mentioned Breeders, which was pretty cool.  Jimmy, who is usually unmoved by celebrity, became thoroughly overexcited at all the bona fide heroes wandering the place, and began enthusiastic games of 'Deal or No Deal' and 'Batwatch'.

We kept seeing Lee Ranaldo around the place, tall and cool-looking in a fur and sunglasses at all times.  As he wasn't officially playing, I had a hard time placing him.  He stood next to us when we watched The Breeders soundcheck (a nice moment) and we kept bumping into him in the arcade and Burger King.  We just called him 'The Man' in the end.  It was only when we arrived home the following day that it occurred to me exactly where I had recognised him from, that he was in one of my favourite bands - Sonic Youth.

The man, or Lee Ranaldo, has always in my opinion been a slightly underrated member of the band - less starry than Kim and Thurston, obviously.  But he is great - proven beyond a shadow of a doubt by his new solo album.

I've been listening to it nonstop since I bought it and am listening to it now.  In many ways, it's more accessible than a lot of SY stuff; very similar in tone to their album 'Sonic Nurse', which is definitely towards the more poppy and chilled-out end of their spectrum.

It's a lovely album and I thoroughly recommend it.  My favourite song on it is 'Angles' but the whole thing is great and I think I'll be listening to it a lot.

vendredi 22 juin 2012


So, after my last post, this morning it was announced that Giovanni Ribisi married stupidly-named model Agyness Deyn.  That would be Chan Marshall's boyfriend Giovanni Ribisi.

Yep, in another weird manifestatioon of afore-mentioned pattern, he lived with Chan Marshall for years, then within two months has met and married a new lady.

Now (although I don't want to start some sort of unnecessary celeb-bashing snark), I really do not like Agyness Deyn and never have (I think she's a pretentious thicko, frankly - a bad combination), whereas Chan Marshall is one of my all-time heroines, so I may be biased, but - shit.

The only plus being that somehow, out of all this, she has finished her new album 'Sun'.  She says she feels 'lucky' that she managed it, despite it all.  I can only imagine.

If this is any indication, we're lucky too.

mercredi 20 juin 2012

Paradis lost

Ridiculous, I know, but I'm genuinely sad that Vanessa Paradis and Johnny Depp have broken up.

I've always said she is the only woman in the world about whom, in that relationship, people should really say 'wow, HE is so lucky' rather than vice versa.

He always seemed charming, you know, as well as being a beautiful movie star.  She is not only pretty much the most gorgeous woman in the world but, in my opinion, a really underrated actress and singer.  She's been in some of my favourite films - 'Heartbreaker' and 'The Girl on the Bridge' being the top two must-sees; actually, so has he - 'Cry-baby' and 'Edward Scissorhands'.

As wwell as it being specifically a shame, like any celebrity story that resonates, I guess it's a more relatable universality as well.  As someone who is in a very long-term, non-married relationship, I have this weird sinking feeling that one of them is going to go out and marry someone else (probably young and not as cool) straight away - I don't know why, but it's a weird pattern that I guess I'm tuned into in other people because it scares me.  Gulp.

lundi 18 juin 2012


I, very luckily, received a Kindle for my birthday.

Having long been fascinated and slightly distrusting of them (as I am with most things before becoming an enthusiastic late adopter), I began to see their appeal when I went on holiday with my mum and Joyce and their Kindles.  Particularly now that I take the train to work and have a few holidays planned, I can totally see that they are very useful as well as being rather brilliant.  I probably would not have taken the plunge myself, so am doubly grateful that my mum bought it for me for my birthday.  (She also bought me my first iPod a few years ago, and obviously now I can’t believe I lasted so long on a Walkman.)

And I have found, very quickly, that I love my Kindle.  They are light, convenient, nice to read, and rather ingenious.  I have already discovered that it’s a bit too easy to buy things for them – it’s filling up already.

The only conundrum remaining is how to combine this with my loyalty to (and love of) printed books.  The idea of physical books dying out makes me sad just as I am enthusiastically downloading them in virtual form to my Kindle.  I have a lovely independent local bookshop that I like to support.  I enjoy having a well-stocked bookshelf.  I don’t want reading to become solely another screen to stare at.

I think I can combine the two, and I’m kind of looking forward to figuring out ways to do it.  I have an iPod, after all, yet still buy a lot of physical records.  I’m going to try to look at my Kindle in the same way.

As a prolific book buyer, the books I buy generally fall into two categories: the ones I truly love (classics, new novels by my favourite writers), which I look forward to and pre-order and savour and keep forever to go back to again and again; and the throwaway ones, the impulse purchases, the mid-range literary novels that won’t stick in my head, the comedies and thrillers that I will give away to friends after one reading.  I cannot envisage a time when I won’t want a physical copy of the first category, but the second category are perfect for downloading rather than cluttering up my flat and then waiting months in bags to be hauled to the charity shop.

In fact, I’m hoping that if anything it will make me buy more books and support the publishing industry even more – allowing me to be a bit more adventurous in my purchases and caring less if they aren’t great, then maybe buying both the download and the physical book if they are great.  I want to do all I can to help an industry I love, and I am passionate about trying to buy local and preserve jobs in my community – I really don’t want to contribute to anything that will mean the opposite of that.  I hope I can contribute even more – one of my first purchases was a book by a friend of mine that is only available electronically.

I still go to my local record shop and rent DVDs from the local video shop, despite iTunes and The Internet.  There’s got to be a way to do both, right?  There’s got to be a best of both worlds?

Wish me luck in not becoming lazy and complacent – let me know if I do.  Any tips for using the Kindle mindfully would be gratefully received.

dimanche 17 juin 2012


Last night (after a very fun evening round at my friend Deborah's), I had a walk home of approximately five minutes, as a taxi dropped Kirsten and I off equidistant from our respective houses.

Walking up the hill home, a man walked behind me at a similar pace.  Eventually, he caught up, introduced himself as Andrew and told me I had 'great legs'.  Although it is obviously not the best to be bothered by strange drunk men at night, he seemed harmless and friendly - and as my legs are not what I would consider my best feature, this made me smile tolerantly before quickly walking on.

Following me to the top of the hill, he elaborated more than I would have liked, to explain exactly why this was: because, apparently, so many girls these days - particularly in a trendy city like Brighton - are all so skinny that 'they practically look like dudes', it was incredibly refreshing to see a woman with 'a real shape, you know, a bit of proper meat'.

Um, thanks?

He then asked if he could take me out  for a drink sometime, I said I had a boyfriend at home, he apologised for making a drunken twat of himself and we parted ways.

This, however well intentioned (and I believe it was), is bothering me more than it should today.

vendredi 15 juin 2012

If I Lived Here I’d Be Home Now

Does everyone want to live everywhere in the world, or is it just me?

I have lived in Brighton for over six-and-a-half years now, and I suppose am fairly settled.  Still, the idea kind of scares me, which may be why I have a different idea about where I want to live next nearly every day.

I’d love to live on a houseboat.  I’d love to move to California or Hong Kong for a year.  I’d like to live in the city and the country all at once.  In an ideal world, I’d be nearer to my family.

If I was rich, I’d live in London.  If I didn’t have to go to work every day and could afford a car, I’d live near my mum.  If money was seriously no object, I could do both.  In my ultimate fantasy, in which I win the lottery (despite never once in my life buying a ticket) or my book is made into a huge film franchise, I would spend two years living in rented flats in my favourite cities of the world – six months each in Paris, New York and LA, a bit in San Francisco, another elongated spell in Hong Kong, winter in Venice – before buying my perfect permanent base somewhere a bit more rural.

We currently live in the latest of a series of small, rented flats in the centre of Brighton.  I long for the security of my own little corner of roof, but more than that I really want to be able to make somewhere our ideal home.  We both spend most of our time in (as we like to call it) ‘the garret’, pursuing our various projects as well as just hanging out – I’d love to be able to make it beautiful and, more importantly, ideal.  This would include: built-in bookshelves, dedicated working areas, corners that we are each allowed to decorate in our own style.

In fact, we were all set to try to buy a flat in Brighton last year – we put in an offer on a dreamily perfect place and were slightly heartbroken when it was rejected.  Then the following month I was made redundant from the cosy, steady job I had been in for years and it started to feel like a blessing in disguise.  It also gave me a little of the fear that anything could be just around the corner and that it’s a very big commitment.

I love Brighton.  It’s such a cool place to live – a city with its own very unique identity; close to London but existing in its own chilled-out little bubble of bohemia.  There’s so much here that I take for granted that I’d miss anywhere else – my favourite independent shops, bumping into really nice people I know everywhere, the music scene that is literally on my doorstep, running on the beach to a yoga class on a Saturday morning, generally followed by Vietnamese food.  But my existence here doesn’t feel as solid as it did last year – I now take the train to work in a different town nearly an hour away, and as I get older I worry about being a few hours away from my family and when it will be good to gravitate closer to home.  My job is on a contract, and if it is not renewed I would like to see if I can transfer abroad, as I’m now working for a big company with offices in Singapore and San Francisco.

I think of the options and I am paralysed.

Part of the problem – if it’s even a problem – is that I think I am way too focussed on the future.  It’s a cliché, but I really need to work on living in the moment more.  It’s like my life is so full of ‘what if?’s.  The biggest of those being that I have spent my entire life working on a project that has not yet come to fruition: ‘what if my book gets published?’.  Although on a practical level, it may not change my situation much; it is a huge question – and so much of my life is planned with the vague and unknown schedule of ‘when my book gets published’.  Only then will I have done what I set out to do and know what my life is really going to be.  Only then will I be able to make a decision and settle.

They say that Brighton – city-on-sea, with rolling countryside only just outside the city limits, and less than an hour from London – is the place for people who can’t make up their minds.  So maybe I’ll stay.

mardi 12 juin 2012


I am very fond of the name Beryl.  My brilliant Nan is called Beryl, for one.  My boyfriend used to be in a band called Beryl, which I do think is a particularly excellent band name.

I can now add to this, rather belatedly, a new fangirlish enthusiasm for Beryl Bainbridge.

Of course, hers was a name that I had always been kind of aware of, but I had never read anything she’d written.  Recently, I was looking up old articles written by Lynn Barber – another perennial literary crush of mine – and happened to read her interview with Beryl Bainbridge.

I was absolutely fascinated (the awesome fringe, the chainsmoking and falling over at parties, the stuffed buffalo in the hallway, wandering the streets of Camden with a bone-handled knife concealed in her tatty old raincoat) and so of course instantly set about reading everything I could get my hands on about this lady, who sadly died a couple of years ago.

Her writing practices intrigued me – how she would lock herself away in her study (at a school desk and ancient computer) for four months at a time, writing pretty much round the clock, barely stopping to sleep or eat.   Amazingly, she reckoned she could cut twelve pages of her first draft for every page that would eventually make it into print.  She would read everything out loud over and over again until the rhythm was perfect.  She made it sound easy and silly, but it wasn’t, and it was actually the most important thing to her.

This hardworking attitude was somewhat belied by her public persona, which is where the intrigue really kicks in.  I am a big fan of anyone who invites underestimating, and that was Beryl Bainbridge personified.  With the ‘schoolgirl haircut and schoolgirl voice’ (said Lynn Barber), everyone knew she liked a drink, and she’d just turn up to parties, make jokes at her own expense, and end up falling over – funny old Beryl and her eccentric ways and her slight little books.

Of course,  the real joke is that they weren’t slight at all.  She wrote so much that I wasn’t sure where to start, but I’ve gone out and bought a first batch – starting with ‘Winter Garden’.  I’ve only just started it but am already in awe of her subtle, spare style and wicked jokes.  I’ve a feeling this is going to be a longstanding crush, somehow.

lundi 11 juin 2012

You Against Me

You Against Me by Jenny Downham is a properly fantastic read.  I raced through it, fell for the main characters, was intrigued and fascinated by what was going to happen, could barely put it down, had no idea how it might end – what more can you ask, really?

On picking it up, I was slightly concerned that this seemed to be very much an ‘issue-driven’ book, which I am wary of and usually avoid.  And it is, in theory – the story of a boy and girl whose lives become entangled, when the girl’s brother is accused of raping the boy’s sister.

Of course, what makes it is the characters.  Mikey is one of the best male characters I have read in a modern book of late – he is simultaneously wonderful and infuriating (though mostly wonderful).  I spent most of the book just wanting to give him a hug, occasionally a slap.

Ellie was really well drawn, too – she reminded me of myself, and most girls at that age.  Confused, often quietly angry, and tied to the essentially ‘good girl’ role while experimenting with breaking away from it.

Many of the reviews complain that we are not told enough about Karyn (Mikey’s sister) and Tom (Ellie’s brother).  I am inclined to agree, but don’t think this detracted too much from what is definitely Mikey and Ellie’s story.  However, the character of Tom in particular hints at complexities that are never fully explored and that I would have loved to know more about.

Similarly, Ellie’s parents – in particular her father – occasionally could have done with a bit more, well, humanising.  At times, for me, Ellie’s dad was threatening to fall into pantomime villain territory – although the point was that a situation like this creates unexpected reactions, he was the only character with whom I was left with no understanding at all, which is a shame as I would have liked to.

This is a minor point.  I whole-heartedly recommend this book and hope you fall in love with Mikey and Ellie as much as I did.

samedi 9 juin 2012

Hook in her head

I’ve always liked Kristin Hersh, but she has remained at the peripheries of my cultural consciousness.  The Throwing Muses are one of those bands who I admire, but know I would have truly adored had I been a few years older.  Proof: my boyfriend, who is four-and-a-bit years older than me, loves them.

I accumulated a few of their songs on single and mixtape – Hook In Her Head, Red Shoes, Bright Yellow Gun.  I really liked them but for some reason never bought a whole Muses album.  In later years, introduced by my boyfriend, the song Your Ghost – from Kristin’s solo album Hips and Makers, duetted with Michael Stipe – was one of the most beautiful I have ever heard.  But still I didn’t investigate much further, just listening to that one on repeat.

Until now.  I am, basically, obsessed with the woman.  This has finally been triggered her book, Paradoxical Undressing (called, I believe, Rat Girl in the US).

It is beautiful, honest, shocking and sweet.  I was instantly beguiled and felt like I had lost a friend from my life when it was over.  (In fact, I quickly contacted Kristin via Twitter to ask if she was writing a follow-up; she replied straight away, lovely woman that she is, to say yes, but she doesn’t know yet if it sucks – I suspect it doesn’t.)

The book is based on her own diaries and covers an incredible year in her life during the 80s when she was 19 – when her band took off, she was diagnosed with mental illness (first schizophrenia, which was then downgraded to bipolar disorder), got pregnant and had a baby.

It is, you may have guessed, not a typical rock memoir – but this is mostly because Kristin and her bandmates (including her equally intriguing stepsister, Tanya Donnelly – ‘Tea’) are just so unusually sweet.  As many critics have noted, one of the stars of the show is definitely her friend Betty – Kristin’s best friend at university, an elderly former actress who comes along to all of their gigs and brings her priest with her.

It’s also not a typical mental-health memoir, as it’s just so cheery.  The word I keep using to describe this book is ‘sweet’ and it is, in the best possible way.  It is the opposite of bitter.

What I found most interesting was Kristin’s analysis of her own creativity.  Her songs are literally like beasts that she must give birth to; they make her ill and unhappy, but she is compelled to make them exist in the world – only because she can’t not.  It’s amazing and frightening.

When she first receives her diagnosis and goes on medication, her main conundrum is a familiar one to anyone with the compulsion to create, with eccentricities that can both help and hinder: ‘if this is all illness, then what is my personality?’.

She finds out.  She is brilliant.  She is still not at peace within herself and that is maybe both a good and a very bad thing.  She punctures some ‘artist’ myths that have always been stupid and insulting, reductive and actually damaging to a lot of people.

Read this book.  Then – if you haven’t already beaten me to it as you may well have done – get your hands on everything to do with Kristin Hersh, like I am doing at the moment.

mercredi 6 juin 2012


What a very nice weekend.  The fact that it was four days long helped, I suppose.  And it was my birthday – I am now 31.

The weekend started early – on Friday night, with a trip to the cinema.  My mum, stepdad, boyfriend, sister and me all trooped on the rainy summer evening to a sort of out-of-town entertainment complex that I haven’t been to since I was about 15.  For that matter, I don’t think I have been to the cinema with my entire family (and certainly not on a Friday night) since I was about 15.  It was great.  We went to TGI Friday’s, where I shared a milkshake with my sister and ate an amazing burger called ‘The Monster’; then we went to see Prometheus in 3D.  My first 3D film and it didn’t disappoint – I thoroughly enjoyed every minute, particularly those involving Noomi Rapace (and, OK, Fassbender).

On Saturday, it was my birthday!  I was woken by the lovely small dog and a cup of tea, and then presents.  Considering I thought I had probably had it with presents now until 40, it really was an embarrassment of riches.  Beautiful books on Leonard Cohen and Lucian Freud, along with some fabulous pieces from APC, from my boyfriend who knows me so well.  Perfect jeans and cool running clothes – and a Kindle! – from my parents.  Summer lounging pants so comfy – and so cool I want to wear them out – from my sister.  Holiday treats from my Nan.  Running accessories and birthday cakes from Tom and Jonny; Champagne from Lou and Chad; a bracelet all the way from St John from Sherri; a very well-judged book from Joyce; very useful cheques from my dad and in-laws.  What a lucky lady.

Dressed and breakfasted, I popped in to see my Nan for a birthday cup of tea, then headed by boat to The Bounty.  We ate cheesy chips and Jonny’s cakes, had a few drinks, even enjoyed a bit of sunshine.  Friends dropped in, there was much chatting and even a pug puppy, and it was just the sort of chilled out birthday I had imagined.  After some Champagne and much hilarity on the boat back, we were even home in time for a curry!

Sunday saw a lovely lie-in (followed by cookery programmes in bed with my mum and Lily the dog, which is our favourite thing to do when I am home for the weekend), and then a day of hanging around at home and cooking.  A day in the kitchen with my mum is my favourite.  The others variously watched the Kardashians and played computer games while we made many, many cakes and a vat of coronation chicken.  We sang along with the radio and then my nan came over and we watched the Jubilee river pageant on TV while we chopped and stirred and timed.  She told us the story of the coronation, 60 years ago – when her husband had bought a television especially for the occasion, only to find on the big day that it didn’t work, and so they all had to troop round to Mrs Dent’s (my great-aunt’s mother-in-law and the only person they knew with a TV set) to watch it.  We rounded off the evening with The Inbetweeners movie – surprisingly sweet and totally enjoyable.

Monday saw the Jubilee party itself, the destination of all those cakes and chicken.  A street party in my parents’ very nice road, with other specially invited guests welcome.  Both Louises wore amazing Jubilee-themed frocks.  Josh devised an official Royal quiz (in which we came second-to-last).  The food was great and the music and dancing even more so.  The late-night-festival style coldness only added to the Englishness of the occasion – we all huddled under blankets and in borrowed jumpers, as we noted that we hadn’t encountered this very specific feeling since long-ago Glastonburys.  Eventually, Jimmy, Chad, Lou, Katy and I admitted defeat and headed indoors for a cup of tea (and a last plate of lasagne, in my case) before bed – but I’m pleased to report that my parents and their friends were up dancing until 3am.

When we woke up and headed out to help with the clear-up yesterday morning, there were empty beer bottles discarded behind the curtains, and the badminton racquets used as makeshift guitars strewn across the sofa.  The marquees and trestle tables were already coming down outside as we made cups of tea for the troops.  When the job was done we fortified ourselves with coronation chicken sandwiches in front of Friends.

It wasn’t long before Jimmy and I had to haul ourselves onto the train home to Brighton, happily laden down with walnut cake and presents.  We made it back in record time and so had the afternoon to ourselves at home.  As we ate noodles and watched some David Attenborough, we felt that familiar combination of cosiness, bittersweet sadness and delayed Sunday blues.  I played with my Kindle and we had a nap to Star Wars and fell asleep on the sofa.

And now it starts again.