The ‘Big Apple’ of my eye

I have wanted to go to New York for as long as I can remember. I tried to go when I turned 30 but I spent all of my New York savings on a divorce instead (hands down the best reason to not go to New York).  This year, I’m turning 40 and as a generous early birthday gift, Brad took me to the Big Apple.

We flew with Norwegian Air, which I wouldn’t recommend unless you’ve tried to get into a tight fitting suit in January after eating 27 Chocolate Oranges and three blocks of cheddar over Christmas and would like to experience this phenomenon in travel form. It was proper pile ‘em high and price ‘em low budget airline travel, with a pilot who genuinely seemed to be asking a question when his last words prior to taking off from Gatwick were “Right, erm, off we go then?”. However, we did land safely at JFK airport, much to everyone’s surprise (including, I think, the pilot).

New York is crowded, raucous and vibrant. Like all big cities, there are elements of seediness but there is also something very charismatic about the place. The architecture is phenomenal and you spend most of your time looking up, fascinated by both the overwhelming height and exceptional designs of the handsome buildings.

At one end of the spectrum you have calm, serene, nature-filled Central Park which is enormous and reinforced how good Brad’s sense of direction is. I can’t even tell left from right so when words like north and east start being bandied around, I go to pieces. It’s a good job the two of us didn’t separate whilst navigating our way around or I think I’d probably still be in there.

In contrast you have Times Square, the real life version of a migraine; hectic, bright, colourful, crowded, noisy and confusingly not a square. It’s enough to send you off for a lie down in a dark room with a cheeky little Valium.

They call New York the city that never sleeps and it has the vibe of a strung out insomniac surviving on coffee and Red Bull. Shops are open 24 hours a day and the subway system never stops. Workers just do their thang whatever time of the day or night; a fact we discovered quite awkwardly when a man in a cradle (heavy plant not baby bed) started doing maintenance* on the outside of our fifth floor hotel window very early one morning whilst we were still in bed.

*at least I really REALLY hope that’s what he was up to

Drivers in New York are obsessed with their car horns. Brad and I started playing a game where we had to try to work out whether there was a legitimate reason for a driver to beep. I estimate that the drivers had about a 95% fail rate. In America you can turn right on a red light, but only if your path is clear. We honestly witnessed a driver blast their horn because the person in the car in front of them did NOT turn right onto a  zebra crossing filled with people.

Despite their yearning to mow down innocent pedestrians, outside of moving vehicles, we found the New Yorkers that we met to be friendly, polite and fascinated by our accents. One man in a supermarket wouldn’t put my items through the till until I’d said “Cup of tea” to him a good number of times. Of course, I hammed it up more and more each time. By the final ‘cup of tea’, the words were so plummy, I’d have made the Queen sound like Danny Dyer.

Two New York residents did not win us over quite so much; we encountered a couple in the room next door to us who considered the early hours of the morning to be a jolly good time to have blazing rows. Let me tell you, nothing will startle you into consciousness as alarmingly as a piercing broad New York accent (a la Janice from Friends) at 4am. Luckily for us, the noisy neighbours only stayed for two nights. Luckily for them, us Brits are both notoriously polite and very aware of the fact that Americans can carry guns. Conflict avoided.

On our last day, we took a trip to the top of the Rockefeller centre. The views take your breath away, although that might be the altitude, and you can’t help but reflect and marvel at how so much concrete can be so incredibly beautiful (and also just what the hell WAS that dude in the cradle doing at 7.30am?).

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I’m sorry, I’m British

The second round of the Yeah Write Super Challenge occurred a couple of weeks ago.  I was given 48 hours to write a persuasive essay about what makes a good apology.

The results were released a few days ago. Unfortunately I was defeated this time and didn’t make it through to the final round. The feedback from the judges was, however, really positive and I think that my biggest downfall was that I didn’t spend enough time answering the question.

Between you and me, I have to confess that the reason for this was that I spent quite a lot of my allotted 48  hours drinking with my friends rather than adding more substance to my essay and I’m okay with that; the cocktails were bloody awesome.

My entry is below. For those who are interested, the feedback follows.

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I am British. Apologising is our thing. It has been bred into us for generations, we are relentlessly and defiantly apologetic.

If you inadvertently bump into a British person; they will say sorry for being in your way. In fact, if a British person bumps into anything, they will apologise; person, small dog, lamppost, door frame. They don’t discriminate, the “Oh gosh, I’m so sorry” will be blurted out regardless.

If you serve a British person a margarita when they asked for a mojito they will say “My bad, I should have been clearer when I ordered” and then they will drink the margarita, even if they hate the stuff.

If you call a British person by the wrong name, they will apologise for not being called the name that you used, as this would have saved you from the embarrassment of being incorrect. My name is Jo and I once apologised when, due to a terrible administrative error, my name was recorded as Ho.

We just can’t help ourselves; apologising comes as naturally as obsessing about the weather. In fact, what we really like to do is to apologise for our weather. Upon arrival at any British airport there should be a big sign that says “Welcome to the UK. It’s probably raining; we’re terribly sorry about that.”

This is all well and good but it could be argued that the volume of ‘sorrys’ uttered in the British Isles is so excessive that the sentiment behind the word has become diluted.

Research by the New York Bakery Co. in 2011 found that the average Brit says sorry at least eight times a day. This equates to nearly 3,000 times a year.

Now I don’t claim to be the most divine being in the world, but in my 39 years of life, I’m pretty sure that I’ve not managed to make 117,000 apology justifying mistakes.

So, have my ‘sorrys’ lost perspective? Are they ‘good’ apologies or is saying sorry just a habit?

In the UK, we use the word ‘sorry’ in the same way that other countries would say ‘Excuse me’. For example, if I’m in a bar and I’m hunting around for chairs (What? I’m old now, I like to sit down on a night out. Don’t judge me) and I spy what looks like an empty seat that has the potential to be relocated for my friends and I to sit on, I might say “Sorry, is this seat taken?” instead of “Excuse me, is this seat taken?”.

In this situation, my ‘sorry’ is a token gesture to apologise for my interruption. Which is nonsense because I’m not usually sorry to disturb these chair hoggers at all. I’m generally trying to understand why said chair hoggers are sitting at a table set for eight when there is only three of them and I’m judging them for sitting down when they can’t be more than about 21 years old.

To be honest, I’m also thinking that they should be making the most of the days when they can stand up all night. Soon they’ll be nearing 40 and the only way they’ll be able to stand up all night is if they have a nap before they go out, start the night with a Red Bull and wear flat comfortable shoes. But I can’t say this, so instead, I smile politely and say “Sorry, is this seat taken?”.

On reflection, I can see that this is not a good apology. I’m apologising for no reason with completely false sentiment; I’m not really sorry, I just want to plonk my weary body down in a chair.

So, how do experts define a good apology? According to Guy Winch from Psychology Today in an article titled ‘The five ingredients of an effective apology’ “…for apologies to be effective, they have to be focused on the other person’s needs and feelings, not your own.”

He goes on to say “…so many of our efforts [to apologise] are ineffective because we’re not trying to make the other person feel better, we’re trying to make ourselves feel better.”

Yesterday, I accidentally dropped my husband’s iPhone and smashed the corner of the screen. I said sorry lots of times, pulled my cutest sad face and fluttered my eyelashes at him…. and then, focussing very much on his needs and feelings, I bought him a bottle of Jack Daniels.

He was delighted with this method of apology. In fact, he was torn between two different bottles of bourbon in the shop and I’m quite certain that he’s trying to get me to smash the opposite corner of the phone screen so I’ll buy him the other bottle.

I’m pretty sure that guilt induced gift purchases is not the ingredient of an effective apology that Guy Winch had in mind. It is very clear to me that despite my British heritage causing my overwhelming desire to incessantly apologise, I am no good at it.

For that, I am truly sorry.

***

What the judges really liked about I’m Sorry I’m British:

The essay was charming and engaging. Voice is clear and approachable, and the anecdotes are well-told and relatable.

I liked the way you injected humour into this essay, drawing the reader in with a casual and easy voice. Contextualising your perspective as British was a nice way to establish early that apologies are a regular and frequent part of your interactions with the world. You did a good job of referencing an outside source with regard to what makes a good apology.

Where the judges found room for improvement:

The essay neatly dodged the question, including only a sort of throwaway paragraph about the elements of a real apology which it then immediately diverted into a different anecdote. While elements of persuasion and anecdote were balanced, it would have been nice if the reader had used the spare 150 words or so to explore the thesis set up late in the game.

Though you went into some depth on how frequently the British apologize in daily life, the essay didn’t tackle the question what makes a good apology until the last third. When the essay did deal with the question, it was done well, with supporting information and a reflection on your application of advice.

In Memory of Before

I love writing; blathering away about my life, my thoughts, my views on the world and hoping that someone might want to read what I’ve got to say. However, sometimes I put off writing because it’s my own little indulgence, something naughty that I shouldn’t be doing, I should be working or washing up or working hard in the gym. I get the same feeling about writing as I do when I greedily eat the last biscuit from the packet, hoping that Brad’s not going to notice that there are only crumbs left. NB: This never happens, I’m just using it as an example of the sort of thing that a person might feel guilty about…

So, in 2018 my mission is to try to feel less guilt about writing and to encourage this, I once again signed up for the Yeah Write Super Challenge.

I’m very excited to report back that I have made it through the first stage of the competition and I’m through to the second round. This is quite a big deal, only 50% of entries progress to the second stage of the competition so I’m feeling suitably proud of myself.  My prompt was to write a personal essay, the subject: ‘Memorising something’ and in a wonderful touch of fate, this also links into one of my List 34 challenges.

Not only was I really pleased to progress to the next round, I was also chuffed with the feedback that I received. The essay is below. The feedback follows afterwards, and for the record, as much as I wouldn’t dream of disputing anything that the judges say, and I don’t want to sound like a diva but I don’t think there is a missing ‘oh’… see what you think:

In Memory of Before

I don’t know how it became our song but the moment I hear the “shake shake shake shake” of the maracas at the introduction, I’m filled with joy and I start channelling my inner Cleopatra; waving my arms around and bobbing my head from side to side.

Every party, every time we get together, the song is played. It doesn’t matter if we’re in the middle of a conversation, the middle of pouring a drink or the middle of having a wee, we stop what we are doing immediately, gather together on whatever makeshift dance floor is available (garden patio, church hall, bit of carpet… we don’t discriminate) and we walk like Egyptians.

We met when we all worked together, colleagues who became dear friends. It would be good to say that we were connected in a highbrow manner by shared intellectual interests, but really, we were just united by booze; the joy of getting drunk, partying and laughing together.

It would have been one of these well-oiled nights where dancing to ‘Walk Like An Egyptian’ by The Bangles became our thing. I can’t remember the details; I was probably drunk at the time.

None of us really knew the lyrics, every time we heard the song, we were pissed. The maracas would start, we would squeal, get together and murmur random occasional lyrics under our breath whilst tapping our feet from side to side until the chorus. When the chorus kicked in we would burst loudly, enthusiastically and no doubt tunelessly into “Way oh, way oh, oh way-hey hey, way oh…. WALK LIKE AN EGYPTIAN”.

Then something changed.

One of our squad died, very suddenly, at the age of 34; the silly song developed new meaning.

We did not give up the song because she would not have wanted that, but somehow not knowing the lyrics seemed oddly disrespectful. I decided to memorise the words of the song; my own small personal tribute.

Even though I consider myself to have a pretty good memory, I found this song remarkably difficult to remember. I know all 870 words to Don McLean’s epic, eight minute long ‘American Pie’, I remember my best friends telephone number from 1987 and I can recite ‘Desiderata’ by Max Ehrmann which had been pasted on the back of my Aunt’s bathroom door when I was a child. Yet, somehow the mere 260 lyrics to ‘Walk like an Egyptian’ was extremely challenging.

In order to memorise the song, I did exactly what I would have done as a teenager; listen to the bloody thing over and over again, singing along with the lyrics in front of me. Luckily technology has evolved since I was a teenager back in 1991 so I didn’t have the added stress of having to rewind a tape player to repeat the song or hand write the lyrics, hoping I’d deciphered them correctly. We’re now in the 21st Century; we have Spotify and Metrolyrics.com. All the hard work has been done. All I had to do was remember.

I played that damn song about 98 times; in the car, in the shower, through headphones whilst out running. Much to my husband’s annoyance, I would even play it before bed in the hope that the words would brand themselves into my brain as I slept.

I think Spotify was concerned that I had developed some sort of psychological disorder. It would send me little notes “We know you love The Bangles but please listen to one of the following alternatives before your family sue us for enabling your addiction” and “You don’t want ‘Walk Like An Egyptian’ again. This must be a typo. Shall I play ‘Walk this way’ by Run DMC and then ‘Walking in Memphis’ instead? Fear not, loyal consumer, I am referencing the Marc Cohn original version of ‘Walking in Memphis’ and not the terrible Cher cover version. You see? Spotify cares for you.”

Eventually the lyrics stuck but they are never going to come easily to me. They don’t flow out of my mouth as effortlessly as Jack sitting on a candlestick while Satan laughs with delight on the day that the music died.

However, the words are finally fixed in my mind and now, in memory of before, I can sing about blonde waitresses spinning across the floor and cops in doughnut shops just as excitedly and passionately as we all used to sing together: “Way oh, way oh, oh way-hey hey, way oh…. WALK LIKE AN EGYPTIAN”.

***

Feedback

What the judges really liked about In Memory of Before:

  • The line “somehow not knowing the lyrics seemed oddly disrespectful” is one of the ones that will stick with a reader. Details like writing down the words to a taped song, the way friends get together, and the new process of memorization all felt integrated into a realistic and relatable whole. Giving Spotify a persona lent a much-needed leavening touch to the middle of the essay.
  • The way you juxtaposed your friend’s death, with the humor of your memorization technique worked well to evoke emotions in the reader, and draw them into the narrative. Separating each of your memorization methods into separate paragraphs was a good way to detail both your determination, and the variety of approaches you took

Where the judges found room for improvement:

  • There’s an “oh” missing in the chorus, which is frustrating every time one runs across it (ay oh way oh, way-hey-OH way oh).
  • This essay could have used another round of edits to pick up on minor errors like the sudden shifts in tense; “I did exactly what I would have done as a teenager; listen to the bloody thing over and over again, singing along with the lyrics in front of me”. Varying your phrasing a little, for example, rephrasing the second repetition of the song’s title helps to add interest to the narrative flow.

Something Changed

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Party time

Facebook has a feature where it will take you back in time and show you what you were posting on social media in previous years.

This weekend I was reminded that on 19 January 2011, my Facebook status said “Josiejolene is the Google Queen”.

The fact that I have referenced my Google prowess is not unusual. I use Google about half a dozen times a day. So far this weekend, I’ve googled the following: “Is Gerard Butler Scottish?” because I honestly didn’t know. “Do foxes eat cats?” because I saw a fuck off big fox in the garden and I’m worried that Mr fox might fancy turning my cat into an hor d’oeuvre. “Where is the nearest McDonalds drive through?” because I could not be bothered to put ‘outdoor’ clothes on when we decided to have a bit of Maccy Ds for Saturday night dinner and “Is Dominic Cooper married?”… asking for a friend.

On first viewing, a Facebook status about googling from seven years ago means nothing at all, until I provide some context.

In 2011, I completed the Brighton marathon with a friend (I say ‘completed’ rather than ‘ran’ because due to a terrible chest infection and an unseasonably hot April day, to describe us as having ‘run’ any more than about half of it, would be a big fat lie).

When you train for a marathon, your entire world is focussed on running, you can’t eat without thinking about the impact your meal will have on your next run. You don’t drink much alcohol on a Saturday because you’re doing a long run on a Sunday.  You don’t watch telly because you’re running four nights a week and you generally become a running bore. Your yawn inducing conversations revolve around running schedules, trainers and injury avoidance.

My friend and I were fully aware of how dull we’d become. We had animated discussions about foam rolling, interval training and rehydration. We’d lived and breathed running for the past twelve months and we wanted a break.

We decided that after our marathon we would throw a party, with cocktails and cake and general merriment. Many of the things that had been lacking from our lives for the previous year. We’d visited a couple of venues in which to hold our party and we’d fallen in love with one in particular. Unfortunately the venue fell through. Because of this, my friend was despondent and lost her party enthusiasm. She suggested that we sack off the party and just go out for a few drinks instead.

Now, I like a party VERY MUCH and I was not happy that the fabulous event I had envisaged was being turned into a run of the mill night out. No! I was completing a 26.2 mile marathon goddam it. I wanted recognition and, more importantly, I wanted cake.

So, using my trusty Google search skills, on 19 January 2011, because I wasn’t giving up without a fight, I found an alternative venue.

This Google search has incredible significance in my life. This Google search was momentous. Due to this Google search, in the words of the magnificent Jarvis Cocker, lead singer of Pulp; Something Changed.

This Google search took us to a little bar that we could hire out for a party and invite all our friends and family to attend. This little bar had an Assistant Manager who helped us to create ‘running themed’ cocktails and allowed us to bring along a mahossive cake for everyone to eat. As an aside, if you think it’s a really good idea to get a cake with a picture on; in our case, a picture of me and my fellow marathon buddy showcasing our medals at the end of the race, remember that someone has to eat a piece of cake with your face on. No-one wants to eat a piece of cake with your face on so after the party you’re left with a bit of cake with your faces on. It’s a very sad sight.

Most importantly, this Google search introduced me to this little bar’s Assistant Manager. His name was Brad.

Brad is now my husband.

19 January 2011’s Google search, I salute you.

The Grand Marathon Party

It’s good to be home

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Home, sweet home

After a very tense 48 hours (when exchanging contracts became worryingly uncertain due to our buyer getting rather cold feet and coincidentally, in no way related to this event, I started making a buyer shaped voodoo doll), on 20 December, scarily close to Christmas, we finally moved house.

Having lived in my previous home for fifteen years, I have learnt some things about myself as part of this process. Firstly, I have TOO MUCH STUFF. Ten years from now, watch out for me on one of those hoarder programmes; Voiceover man: “Jo, who was divorced by her husband many years ago and lives with 28 cats, still owns cassette tapes, VHS videos, a carrier bag from Bejams and the leaving card from her first job back in 1994. Bejam was a frozen food manufacturer bought out by Iceland in 1988, Jo does not own any equipment suitable to play any of the recordings and she doesn’t even remember what job she did in 1994 nor can she decipher the ancient messages of goodwill in the card as the ink is so old that it has flaked off. However, Jo is convinced that she needs to keep hold of absolutely everything.”

I also discovered that I’m a terrible housework slut. The oven was remaining at the property that we sold. Given this, I thought I’d better do the right thing and give it a clean so that our buyer didn’t think less of me and have to deal with baked on cheese from a pizza that we ate back in March (this was before her cold feet episode; had I known she was going to cause me a shit load of stress, I’d have baked on some extra cheese for good measure). After I cleaned the oven, Brad remarked “Ooh lovely, you can see the food cooking through the glass in the door”…. I recognise that this should not be a novelty for the poor chap.

I also did not realise just how many ‘treasures’ my cat had captured over time which had found their way under the bed. Balled up sweet wrappers, more toy mice than I have ever bought, so I think there was some sort of breeding programme going on, and even a dried up half eaten cocktail sausage. I am truly ashamed, not least because I have no idea when I last ate cocktail sausages so that little devil could have been down their for years.

We were moved by ‘He-Van, Movers of the Universe’ (removal company chosen solely because of the excellent name pun) and we’ve moved to a location that is “sought after by young urbanites“, according to the BBC. I have no idea what an urbanite is, but the BBC consider young to be the 25 to 44 age category so I’m taking what I can get.

In order to afford such a desirable location, we have had to compromise on a few areas. Our new property is rocking some considerable ‘old lady chic’; we have carpets so patterned that you’re scared to drop anything because it will be completely camouflaged. I dropped a jelly tot on Christmas Eve which hasn’t been seen since (there is a chance that the cat has captured it and placed it in her ‘under the bed lair’ for the toy mice families to feed upon, of course). We also have floral wallpaper borders, random pillars and a significant excess of pink velvet curtain (not a euphemism).

On the plus side, we have a garage that will keep Brad occupied, an amazing garden and so much space that we can’t hear each other if we’re at opposite ends of the property. We now have no downstairs neighbours so if I want to do star jumps in the hallway* no one will complain and we’re in such a quiet location that I kept waking up for the first few nights because the silence and stillness confused me.

*extremely unlikely that I will actually do this

We* will start redecoration projects shortly, but in the meantime, we’re just catching our breath, relieved that the move is all over and excited for what lies ahead.

*Brad

It’s good to be home.

Colo[u]r me happy

Three years ago, List 34 was created. One year ago, I ticked “Participate in Colour Run” off the list but didn’t get a chance to write about it, I was just too damn busy with a minor life event. Fortunately, I enjoyed the run so much that I did it again yesterday so here’s the de-brief; a mere 8760 hours late…

The Color Run, with it’s dodgy American spelling, claims to be the “happiest 5k on the planet”. Until someone devises a run that incorporates cake eating, then I’m going to let the Color Run hold that title; it is an enjoyable and entertaining fun run. Everyone is smiling, there are participants of all ages and it has a great atmosphere. That said, on both occasions that I’ve run, it’s been a dry and relatively warm day. If it had been blowing a hoolie and chucking it down with rain I suspect that the experience would have been significantly less enjoyable and I may well have unexpectedly taken ill and been unable to participate.

At the beginning of the course is a hill. Last year, I was considerably fitter than I am this year. I had been running with a personal trainer on a regular basis and so I ran the whole 5k without hesitation. Last year, myself and a friend smugly whizzed past everyone who was walking up the hill, whilst yelling ‘eat my dust, suckers’*. This year, when two of my friends said that they would be walking the course, I didn’t argue and happily meandered up the hill whilst runners sped past me yelling ‘eat my dust, suckers’**.

*not actually out loud, just in my head

**not actually out loud, just in their heads

The colour stations are dotted throughout the course and involve volunteers, with slightly evil glints in their eyes, throwing coloured powder in your direction as you pass. However, I would recommend trying not to breathe too much as you run through the brightly coloured dust as it’s not the most fun breathing experience you’ll ever have. Inhaling the powder is a little unpleasant, but you might get an exciting bright purple bogie when you blow your nose later in the day, so it’s not all bad.

This year there was the addition of a foam station, a much more family friendly version of the 1990’s style nightclub foam party, without dance music or some creepy dude trying to surreptitiously touch you up through the foam. I should point out that at no point during my misspent youth did I actually go to a foam party.  I did once go to a custard pie throwing party which had similar principles but after a while everyone started to smell of sour milk and look a bit jaundiced so it didn’t catch on as a pastime.

The foam provides a lovely damp layer enabling the coloured powder to stick to you so I feel it was a positive addition to the course. You want to finish looking mucky and colourful otherwise just how happy can you possibly be?

Bring on Color Run 2018! (Weather conditions permitting).

Color Run – 2016:

Color Run – 2017

There’s literally no place like home

In February, I wrote about house-hunting and my addiction to rightmove.

Six months ago we were unsuspecting, innocent, trusting, property hunting virgins. Wide eyed and bushy tailed, we were excited about our grand home-buying quest.

Fast forward half a year and our arduous search has almost destroyed us; we are broken shadows of our former selves. Weak from smiling politely at ugly houses, tiny houses, next to a dual carriageway houses, no central heating because “we really love night storage heaters” houses. Exhausted from meeting hundreds of besuited, smarmy Estate Agents who are almost young enough to be our children and think that 1997 was the ‘olden days’. We are so over moving and we haven’t even moved yet.

We have encountered melamine kitchen cabinets circa 1982, yellowing tobacco stained paintwork and gardens covered in dog poo. We have seen houses with grass growing in the lounge (and not even the grass that would chill us out enough to ignore trippy swirly brown carpets). We have been deceived by sneaky photography and imaginative property descriptions. Yes, every property has ‘potential to improve’, but I’ll be honest, if it’s got no sodding roof, I’m not going to buy it.

Estate Agents are persistent little rascals*. I swear to God, I had a borderline stalker ex-boyfriend who called me less frequently. They are so bloody needy, constantly looking for feedback which is ‘invaluable to the vendor’. Poppycock! All the vendor wants to know is “Do you want to buy my house because I’m sick and tired of cleaning every bastard room and having to hide my freshly washed pants that were happily drying on the radiator”

*apparently I’m not allowed to call them c***s (Mum or Dad if you’re reading this, the hidden word is ‘clowns’).

What is the point of telling someone that I don’t want to buy their house because of their ‘intimate and cosy’ (Estate Agent Translation guide: Teeny tiny) garden? What are they going to do about it? Seller: “I know that the garden is a bit on the poky side, but if you buy my house, I’ll chuck in the garden next door for free”.

Or how about a scenario when the house is great but we’re not sure about location. Will the vendor pick the house up and move it two miles down the road? Of course not! I live in one of the most expensive locations to buy property in England, moving a house two miles down the road has the potential to add about £50k to the asking price. Do you not think if they could move the house, they’d have done it before putting it on the market?

We have discovered that by far the worst thing about house-hunting is the one that got away. There have been three properties that we could picture ourselves living in (despite the fact that we’ve viewed about 73 of the suckers) but only one that we actually put an offer in on.

Just like the time I innocently wrote my first love letter to a boy at school, it has all gone spectacularly wrong.  The boy broke my heart dramatically (I can’t speak for 11 year old boys nowadays but back in the eighties, they were bloody ruthless. The object of my affection mercilessly rebuffed my advances and then showed the entire class my handwritten declaration of affection). 27 years later, in similar style to the great love letter debacle of 1989, I naively trusted an Estate Agent and have ended up with a house shaped hole in my heart.

Rather like my schoolgirl crush, despite the devastating rejection, I am absolutely convinced that I can never give my heart to another. I’ve tried looking but nothing compares. It feels like I was promised a date with Matthew McConaughey but following a last minute change of plan I had to go out with Steve Buscemi instead. I mean I’m sure Steve’s a perfectly good egg but he just doesn’t have the “immaculately presented” “abundance of individual features” “warm and welcoming feel” that Matthew does…

The search continues.

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Rightmove is my bitch

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Top floor : my humble abode

I love my flat.

It’s a good size: I can do jumping jacks and lunges in the lounge if I want to without breaking something (that is without breaking something in the lounge, there’s every possibility I will break something in my body with these kinds of athletic shenanigans).

It’s in a great location: pretentious yummy mummies and down from London-ers as far as the eye can see, excellent transport links for going to other places, plus the best park in England is around the corner and so is a very handy Sainsbury’s Local in case you run out of cake milk.

It has a parking space: It costs approximately 2 million pounds per hour to park in Brighton so a parking space is a precious commodity.

My mortgage will be paid off in ELEVEN years. Eleven years ago was 2006 which feels like yesterday so I’m pretty sure 2028 will arrive before I know it.

However, as is my feminine prerogative, I am not satisfied with a nice property in a good location and the opportunity not to have to give the bank half my wages every month. No, this is not enough for me. I want a garden.

Yes, the best park in England might be just around the corner, but on the glorious and endless summer days that we experience in this country, I can’t sit in the park on a deckchair whilst enjoying a nice glass of wine at the end of the day…

… Well, technically I can but then when the wine inevitably makes its way to my bladder I’ll have to walk all the way back up the road to my flat to use the toilet. I’ll have to cart the deckchair and the wine up the road with me and then put the deckchair down as I fumble for my keys and try not to drop the wine, all the while doing the ‘I really need a wee’ dance.  It just doesn’t work.

Plus, the flat is mine and not jointly owned so I want to share the joy* of home ownership with my lovely new husband.

*Blatant lie. I actually want him to be accountable for mortgage repayments, DIY and phoning the council when they haven’t collected the damn bins again.

Unfortunately the lovely location that we live in at present is only affordable if you live in a flat and as we want a garden, we will need to travel. Leave the best park in England and move next door to a murderer/the local tip/a busy A road.

So we’re now house hunting. Well, when I say ‘we’ are house hunting, what I actually mean is that I am house hunting and Brad is supervising by approving or rejecting properties that I have vetted. I check for properties with minimal risk of murdering neighbours and consider proximity to the tip and then highjack Brad when he is least expecting me, bombard him with photographs and wait for him to say: ‘Yes, that looks good. Let’s see it’ at which point I generally respond ‘Brilliant because I’ve arranged for us to see it on Saturday’.

I am so addicted to Rightmove that I fear an injunction for harassment is imminent. I check to see if new properties have been added. I check to see if any of the properties that I like have been sold or reduced in price. Then I might refresh to check for new properties again. Then I widen the search criteria to make sure all properties are showing. Then I reduce the search criteria because actually I really don’t want to live further away after all. Then after 30 minutes have passed, I do the same again. Just in case something new has been uploaded.

Running alongside the Rightmove obsession is the compulsion to spruce up the flat that we want to sell. Don’t get me wrong, the flat is not student dormitory standard, but we want to sell it for as much money as possible make it inviting for the new purchaser.

We’re busy painting, cleaning, fixing and hiding those ‘will probably come in useful at some point but we’re not exactly sure what to do with them now so they’ve been sitting on the dining table for 5 months’ things.

Now, I’m not for one moment suggesting that we’re doing a half arsed job, we’ve been out and bought proper paint and everything – pigeon grey for the kitchen and custard cream for the hallway (suspect those are not the actual paint names) but we have had conversations a little like this:

“Dammit, there’s a cobweb that I didn’t spot”

“How big?”

“Not very”

“Can you just paint over the top?”

“Good shout. I’m all over it”

and:

“What is that mark on the carpet?”

“No idea. It’s been there for years”

“We could hire a carpet cleaner?”

“Or we could just move the rug slightly to the left?”

“That is why I love you”

So, we’re nearly there. Cobweb infused paint aside, the flat is looking pretty sharp and we have some promising looking properties to view next week.

In the meantime though, I’m just going to head on over to Rightmove to check that nothing else has been recently listed…

“Holy Shitballs we’re about to get married”

That, ladies and gentlemen, was what was written in big letters on our fridge at the beginning of October. That was the point we were at. We had reached the ‘holy shitballs’ level of panic.

The problem with wedding planning is that for 90% of the time, the only thing you need to do is to respond to the question: “So how’s the wedding planning going?”  with: “Yeah, really well thanks” and then you have about ten minutes to do ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING EVER IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD OF WEDDINGS.

The seating plan for example, caused a massive amount of stress. We had days worth of conversations like this:

“Why don’t we put Guest A and Guest B on the table with Guest Y and Guest Z?”

“But then what about Guest L? They can’t be without Guest A and Guest B because otherwise they won’t know anyone.”

“Oh yeah. Bollocks”

“Ooh, I’ve got this. If we move Guests N, O and P, we can put Guests Y and Z with Guests C, D and E and then Guests N, O and P can sit with Guests A and B?”

“By Jove, I think you’ve cracked it… hold on”

*stares intently at table plan which is by now a dog eared piece of paper covered in crossings out and expletives*

“We forgot Guests J and K. They are now sitting at a table on their own”

“Holy mother of God. Why is this so difficult?”

*splashes Tippex all over the table plan dramatically*

“That’s it. I’ve had enough. Can’t we get some long trestle tables and just plonk everyone in a line?”

“They could just all stand up?”

“To eat soup?”

*exasperated sigh*

By the time we reached Wedding Eve (like Christmas Eve but with fewer reindeer jumpers) we had this attitude:

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“Ahhh..We don’t seem to have enough napkins.” “Oops, I’ve spelt this dude’s name wrong on the seating plan.” “Oh man, the ink in the fancy pants pen has run out.” “Erm…I appear to have broken a glass.”

I DON’T CARE.

GIVE ME WINE.

***

And then the wedding happened.

6 October 2016 flew past in an awesome blur of joy, relief, delight, pride, happiness and…ahem… Prosecco.

You will all be pleased to hear that Brad eventually got himself a suit and did not have to say his vows starkers. The lovely staff at Next managed to remain incredibly professional when we went in, scarily near to the wedding date, to pick Brad’s outfit. One lady in particular put on a twinkly customer service smile and told me about the time that a best man came into the store on the day of the wedding to buy his suit. Unfortunately, Brad took this to mean that he was some sort of hero because he’d nailed his suit purchase a whole two weeks earlier than the lastminute.com best man.

Brad’s usual outfit of choice would be some sort of sportswear, and I mean comfortable tracksuit type sportswear, he’s not one for physical exertion if he can possibly help it. So I confess that seeing him all smartly dressed was really very special for me.

Men however, respond differently it would seem.  Upon seeing me in my wedding finery, my Dad, who is not known for grand displays of affection said “Alright? Have I got the right time? Do you want me now?”…. pause (where he seems to suddenly realise that I’m in a fancy frock about to be wed)…”You look nice, Jo”. Mind you, that is pretty dramatic sentiment for my old man.

I cried my way through my vows. To clarify, I was overcome with happy emotions not forcibly entered into an arranged marriage.

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Uh-oh, she’s going to cry…

The problem with crying of course is that it is highly contagious, particularly amongst the female of the species. If there is a wobbly lip or anything resembling a sob, however joyful the reason, you can guarantee an epidemic of tears, Mexican wave stylee; a Mexican weep if you will.

Once the formalities were over and everyone who needed to had double checked that their mascara was as waterproof as it claimed to be, it was time to eat, drink, be photographed 746 times before being merry and it’s fair to say that we had a ball.

My Nan, who is over ninety, took quite a shine to my new father-in-law. Flirting is a timeless skill it would seem, the minx. Not sure that her flirting technique of telling him how old she is “I’m ninety two you know” and getting it wrong; she’s ninety three, is going to catch on, but got to give her credit for trying.

My seven year old niece and flower girl extraordinaire caught the bouquet, much to the horror of both her Dad and my twenty eight* year old bridesmaid who was about fifteen seconds away from rugby tackling the poor girl and snatching the bouquet out of her tiny hands

*she wishes

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Bouquet throwing action shot

Wedding vows aside, we smiled all day long. Our faces hurt from grinning at each other, our amazing families and our fabulous friends and if we’re being really honest, also from knowing that we never have to write another sodding seating plan ever again.

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