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

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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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There is a little Bridget Jones in us all…

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Last week at work, I missed a telephone call. I heard the phone ring, but I was in the other room and I couldn’t get to it in time. It’s no big deal, I don’t work in a call centre; I don’t have stats telling me that I should answer 46.72 calls every day or that if I swig more than 39 seconds worth of tea every two hours, I’ll cost my team the quarterly bonus. It was a completely uneventful event.

Five minutes later, I casually listed to the voicemail message that had been left for me. It was my boss’s, boss’s, boss. Who has NEVER called me before. I didn’t even have her number on my phone.  The message said “Hi Jo, I’m calling about a case that I think you’ve been involved in. Can you give me a call back when you have a chance?”.

Panic stricken, I called her back immediately.

Me: “Hi there boss’s, boss’s boss [I did use her actual name, I’m protecting anonymity, I’m not a complete moron] how are you?”

Her: “I’m very well thank you. Thanks for calling me back so quickly.”

Me: “No problem, I’m sorry I missed your call. I was in the toilet. I heard the phone ring but couldn’t get to it because I was having a wee.”

Inside my head: Holy moly, why did you say that? What is wrong with you? She didn’t need to know you were in the toilet and you certainly shouldn’t have said the word ‘wee’.

Her: Chuckle (politely but slightly awkwardly) “I just thought you were on the road or in a meeting, I know how busy you guys are.”

Inside my head: See. You absolute nincompoop.

Me: “So, how can I help you?”

Her: “I’m just trying to speak to whoever dealt with the *insert completely made up name because even if I wanted to breach data protection, which I don’t, I can’t remember the name anyway* case. I think it was you.”

Inside my head: Huge sigh of relief. Phew! That’s not my case. I don’t know anything about it and I had nothing to do with it. I’ll tell her. Oh hang on a minute, will she think it’s weird that I know straight away that it’s not my case?… because she seems to think it is me. What if it is me, it’s from ages ago and I’ve forgotten all about it? It would be very awkward and embarrassing to have to call her back.

Me: “The name doesn’t ring a bell, I’m not sure if it’s one of mine. If you hang on I can look it up for you?”.

Her: “Oh yes, if you don’t mind, please.”

Me: “Okily dokily.”

Inside my head: Who do you think you are? Ned Flanders?! Why didn’t you just say ‘Okay’ like a regular person?

At this point, my computer helpfully decides to freeze and present me with the evil egg timer of doom in the corner of the screen.

Me: “Sorry, my computer’s on a bit of a go slow at the moment”……..*painful silence*……. “so, do you watch the Great British Bake Off?”

Her: “No, I must admit that I don’t.”

Me: “Really? Oh you should.”

Inside my head: Why should she? She might hate baking. *Gasp* she might hate Mary Berry….Oh no, who would hate Mary Berry? She’s the Nanna that everyone would love to have.

Me: “I love it. In fact, I was so upset when I realised that it was only Tuesday because I thought it was Wednesday and Wednesday is Bake Off day. I get very excited.”

Inside my head: STOP. TALKING.

Her: “Hmmm.”

Me: “Sorry, my computer’s still taking it’s time. Oh here we are. No, the case wasn’t mine it was another anonymous colleague’s case.”

Her: “Right, I’ll give anonymous colleague a call. Sorry to bother you.”

Me: “It’s no bother at all. It’s awfully very nice to hear from you indeed.”

Inside my head: Kiss arse. And what was with the ‘awfully very nice / indeed’ nonsense? You’re not in bloody Oliver Twist. Get over yourself.

Her: “Good-bye”

Me: “Bub-bye now.”

Inside my  head: You should not be allowed to speak to people in authority.

 

It’s the taking part that counts

So, the final results of the Yeah Write competition were announced this week and sadly I was not in the top three.

I’m oddly comforted by the fact that the piece of writing I submitted was not my best work and I really struggled to write it (probably a sign from the wedding planning gods telling me to get my shit together and stop fannying about with writing competitions when I have other more pressing issues to concern myself with).

Had I written something that I felt was really good, I’d have been more upset but by the time I submitted this entry, I was just relieved to have finished something and I suddenly started to consider the wedding invites with much more affection.

The brief was to write about any topic but to incorporate the word “bemused” seamlessly and in context into the piece…Come back PacMan, all is forgiven.

***

LETTER TO ME CIRCA 1993

Dear fifteen-year-old me,

It feels like hardly any time at all since I was you; braces on your teeth (good call on that by the way, you are often complimented on your lovely straight teeth, I mean it’s not the same as being told you’ve got a great arse, but you’re nearly 38 now so you’ve got to take what you can get), rocking out your denim dungarees over your leotard-esque bodysuit with press stud gusset fastening, clumpy Dr Marten boots, and silver rings on every finger (some of the silver is less authentic than you think and will turn your skin green so watch out for that).

I walked past your primary school today. It looked familiar but different; buildings had been added, the big blue gates were neither big, nor blue anymore. The playground looked a little fatigued and weary.

You are also familiar but different. Fat has been added (if you could eat slightly less cake in the forthcoming years, I guarantee you’ll thank me for it), your big brown hair is still quite big but it’s less ‘au natural’ brown, more ‘sponsored by Garnier’ brown and as for fatigue and weariness, they are your best friends second only to gin and tonic.

In 2016, the world is familiar but different too. People have phones that they carry around with them at all times; even Mum, although she never turns the bloody thing on. Fortunately, technology has moved forward from the huge rotary dial telephone on which you spend an hour every evening talking to your best friend about boys.

You can book a flight, turn on your heating, buy groceries, check your bank balance, read a novel, send a letter, listen to music and watch a video of a cat dancing to hip hop (trust me, you’ll deny it in public but you do watch that shit) all from your phone through the marvels of the Internet.

The Internet is a cinema, car boot sale, compulsive liar, dustbin, department store, dirty magazine, encyclopaedia, school bully, teacher, telephone, television and takeaway menu all rolled into one and it’s both incredibly amazing and completely ghastly all at the same time. Don’t worry though, you will work it out. Bottom line is that you can use it to buy shoes and that’s all you really need to know.

Excluding watching cats dancing to hip hop, you most use your phone for taking photographs. No longer do you need to buy camera film sold in little metal lined packets that require gladiatorial strength to open or have to wait three days in excited anticipation for the film to be developed and printed by your local chemist who charged a hefty £7.99 for 24 photographs.

When you got the precious packet of snaps home you usually found twelve family portraits where Auntie Jane’s eyes are shut, little Simon has his finger up his nose and you’ve chopped off Grandma’s head. There would be four pictures of blurry sunsets with warning stickers plastered all over them. Half a dozen pictures would be of Uncle Fred’s nostrils because he used the camera the wrong way around, an early example of the phenomenon now known as ‘taking a selfie’. Finally, there would always be a random picture of a cat that no one recognises. If you were very lucky, your £7.99 might buy you one or two decent pictures suitable for framing.

Nowadays a photograph can be taken instantly with a phone. A digital picture can be cropped and uploaded to the Internet in the time it takes for you to say “cheese” (or in your case due to your buddy gin and his pal tonic it’s usually more like: “What’s that? Did someone say pizza? Eh? Oh! Picture! Okay go on then”).

I’m sorry to report that there are many pictures on social media of you in your 30s with a bemused ‘this is an unexpected photo opportunity, I thought someone was offering me food, should I try to look sober?’ expression on your face.

Conveniently, very few photographs exist from 1993. The awkward braces/dungarees/Dr Martens days were not captured on film and even if someone had taken a sneaky shot, you can relax knowing that you’re probably headless or you have been replaced by Uncle Fred’s infamous selfie nostrils.

 

Wedstress

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Last night I dreamt that it was the day before our wedding and Brad’s Mum was decorating the venue. In my dream the room in which we were getting married looked like my old school hall and even had the long black felt curtains that hung either side of the stage. Brad’s Mum had tried to pull the ancient, moth-holey curtains together but they didn’t quite meet in the middle so she’d creatively placed a Christmas tree in the gap. When I walked into the room and spotted the unseasonal offering, Brad’s Mum, noticing the horrified expression on my face, exclaimed brightly “I’ve decorated it in your wedding colours” as if that was going to make up for the bloody great festive monstrosity taking pride of place at a wedding in October.

This is my current life; panicked dreams about the wedding venue, Facebook posts about finding a florist (yeah, the florist is in the same camp as the wedding invites; they’re sitting together chilling out around the fire, toasting marshmallows and wondering when Brad and I are going to show up), conversations about confetti and suits and rings and what the bloody hell kind of music we should play when we sign the register (the most recent song I had to veto was “I’m too sexy” by Right Said Fred. See what I have to work with?).

Yesterday, instead of watching an episode from our current boxset whispering sweet nothings into each other’s ears as only a soon-to-be-married couple should be, we were talking about our top table.

This is no mean feat for us because we have a shit load of parents. Honestly, we take parent numbers to a whole new level, you won’t be able to move at the wedding for people whose answer to the question “How do you know the Bride and Groom?” will be “I am/I live with one of their parents.”

Both of our sets of parents are divorced and all of them are remarried or have new partners. We love them all but you just can’t fit 8 parents, 2 best men and a bride and groom on a top table without the table having to snake around the room like some sort of abstract human dado rail.

We gave up the conversation after about 20 minutes and went back to the box set sweet nothings. Well, we’ve got seven weeks to worry about the seating arrangements, it’ll be fine…

***

Table plan: “Is anyone sitting here?”
Wedding invites: “Nah, buddy you’re fine. Grab a beer, Florist has just gone to get some more marshmallows.”

You can’t go wrong with Pac-Man

I have exciting news beautiful readers!

The wedding invitations are complete. Okay, half complete. Alright I’m about 33% of the way there. If anyone knows my future mother-in-law, do not tell her.

No, don’t be silly, it’s not a wedding invitation update. It’s this:

After moving through to the second round of the Yeah Write Super Challenge, by sharing a story of a flatulent feline, I was tasked with writing a persuasive essay in response to the prompt “Is there value in playing computer games?”. As you can imagine, I was delighted with this topic because I am positively teeming with video game knowledge. I can’t finish a sentence without reference to my immense and overwhelming knowledge of Grand..um..thieving…call of Halo?

Brad is a gamer (I know, I know, we all have our crosses to bear) so I thought I’d ask him to help me out. He started talking and it sounded very much like Charlie Brown’s teacher speaking so I gave up. The best piece of advice I ever got about writing was from someone who said that you should write about what you know. My knowledge of computer games began and ended in the 1980s, so that is exactly where I went.

Luckily for me, the judges liked it and *girly squeal of excitement* I’m through to the final round!

***

PAC-MAN: MORE THAN JUST A GAME

My knowledge of video games is pretty limited, although as a child I was shit hot at Pac-Man.

I had an Acorn Electron computer circa 1984 so when I say Pac-Man what I actually mean is that I had a game called Snapper which looked suspiciously similar to Pac-Man. The designers of Snapper originally named it Puc-Man (see what they did there?) but it turns out that the makers of Pac-Man saw through that cunning disguise resulting in a change to both the name and some small elements of the game play.

That said, Snapper was still incredibly similar to Pac-Man, a bit like when you walk into Aldi and think that you’re surrounded by named grocery produce only to discover when you get home that you’ve bought ‘Hob-Nibs’, ‘Prangles’, ‘Coca-Coca’ and ‘Wow! Who can tell that this isn’t butter?’

Despite the fact that I had budget Pac-Man, I did not care and I spent many a happy hour moving that greedy little yellow dude around the maze whilst he munched his way through hundreds of delicious pac-dots.

There was limited research on the positive effects of playing video games until the past decade. Sadly, I am so old that my gaming days were back in the last century but I firmly believe that playing Pac-Man in the middle of the 1980s had a positive effect on me. Recent research has found that playing video games improves hand eye coordination (University of Toronto study in 2014) and a study by a New York Doctor in 2007 showed that playing video games improved the skills of surgeons performing keyhole surgery.

Fortunately I don’t have responsibility for cutting people open for a living, but I’m a demon touch-typist (yes, I do realise how lame that sounds compared to life saving surgical abilities). However the good level of hand eye coordination required for typing is bound to have been improved by my childhood goal to save Pac-Man’s life.

Pac-Man also taught me about multitasking. Pac-Man has to rush around, eat, avoid things that are out to get him and remember to get some fruit into his body every so often; which pretty much describes my usual day.

In some ways, Pac-Man is a bit of a female icon. Toru Iwatani, the inventor of the game, wanted to create something that women would enjoy. At the time, many of the games were violent war or space invader type games. Pac-Man was different and held much more of an appeal for women. Given that the aim of the game is for Pac-Man to outwit characters that want to bully him and ultimately take revenge, many women saw the attraction of the game.

In 2016 video games are much more popular and easily accessible than they were when I was young. The main negative effect of playing video games when I was a child was just trying to fill the time that it took your game to load up from a cassette tape. I’m pretty certain that you could start loading the game, get called downstairs by your mum for dinner, talk to your parents about what you learnt at school that day, moan that you don’t want to eat the carrots on your dinner plate, begrudgingly eat your carrots because you really want Angel Delight for pudding, eat your Angel Delight, return to the computer and still hear the damn thing whirring away trying to load.

The media describe the main concern with video games nowadays as being the violence that games contain and argue that this has a detrimental impact on children by increasing aggression and aggressive behaviour. Luckily for me, Pac-Man and the ghosts were not known to drop the f-bomb and their simulated deaths were pretty underwhelming; Pac-Man makes a sad little noise and vanishes into thin air and the ghosts cart their body-less eyes back to their lair to be regenerated.

I did not always find playing Pac-Man an enjoyable experience. I recall once being very distressed and crying to my Mum because the four ghosts were ganging up on Pac-Man and I felt that four against one wasn’t fair, although had I known at the time that the ghosts in the video game had names and were called Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde, I’d probably have liked them a little bit more.

My Mum, who is very wise, used my anguish at not being able to thwart Pac-Man’s enemies as an opportunity to teach me a valuable lesson: Life isn’t always fair. Sometimes you will not win first prize, sometimes people will stand in your way, sometimes circumstances will challenge you and sometimes people will be unkind to you. When this happens, like Pac-Man, you have to just keep moving around the maze, keep eating, keep doing your very best and if you work hard, you might just end up with a key and 5000 points.

Pac-Man: more than just a game.

pacman

Write here, write now

Instead of writing wedding invitations, I thought a better use of my time would be to enter a writing competition…because giving myself something else to do at this busy time isn’t foolish at all (read: It is utterly foolish. I am a knob).

I got a prompt, in my case the prompt was ‘Pets’, and I had 48 hours in which to write a personal essay for the Yeah Write Super Challenge. How hard can that be? Flash Gordon only had 14 hours to save the earth and he managed it.

This is a three stage competition and I’m very excited to report that I’m successfully through to the second stage!

Part of my reason for entering the competition was because I was procrastinating, those damn wedding invitations won’t write themselves because the judges provide feedback that I can use to help to make me a better writer.

The judges give feedback on what they like about the piece of writing and where there is room for improvement. Regarding my work, the judges liked the “compelling and humorous ending scene” but felt that “the essay could have used another round of proofreading for commas and dangling participles”.

A dangling participle does sound like a painful affliction but I can assure you that it is a grammatical term meaning ‘a participle intended to modify a noun which is not actually present in the text’ (I totally googled that and still can’t work out where the dangling participles are in my essay. Feel free to let me know when you spot them!).

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I ALWAYS THOUGHT THAT I WAS A DOG PERSON

I always thought that I was a dog person, until I got a cat. Now I KNOW that I am a dog person.

Nine years ago I decided that I wanted a cat. Not just any old cat, I was very particular about the make, model and colour that my heart desired: Short haired; Kitten; Most definitely ginger. The colour was not negotiable.

We found a local breeder who had two kittens left from a large litter; one ginger, one tortoiseshell. When we arrived the little ginger madam was nowhere to be seen so whilst the breeder played hide and seek with a baby cat, I innocently picked up tortoiseshell to give her a cuddle.

It transpires that tortoiseshell was cunning. She had been turned down by other families and she realised that she needed to up her game and close the deal. She had a pretty little face with a white patch of fur above one eye that made her look permanently surprised and baby pink pads on the bottom of her feet. She looked up at me affectionately with her big blue eyes and snuggled into me, then she let out a tiny little sigh, closed her eyes and started purring contentedly.

Of course, I fell for it. Ginger who? I took tortoiseshell home with me that very day.

And that was the most affection I’ve ever had from her. Turns out, tortoiseshell is actually quite a bitch. It was a ruse, I was swindled by a twelve week old kitten. The wily minx.

Tortoiseshell’s hobbies include the popular ‘This will make her death look like an accident’ where she sneaks herself directly in front of me when I’m walking in the hope that I will trip and break my neck. The classic ‘This will probably get her fired’ where unbeknown to me she sits on my work laptop keyboard typing random letters in the middle of an important document that I only ever spot after I’ve sent it to my boss, and finally the unusual ‘I’m crazy obsessed with potatoes and don’t care who knows about it’ where if you so much as open a bag of crisps within 5 miles of her she’ll hurl herself at your head trying to reach the bag. God forbid you peel a potato in her presence, she propels herself full speed into the kitchen and up to the kitchen sink, trying to rub her face against the half naked potato. So desperate her desire for potato skins that she will plunge her paws into a water filled sink just to reach one.

She does not understand that her tail belongs her. Every time I have a bath she sits on the edge, her tail absent-mindedly trailing in the bubbles. When she jumps down from the bath I see her scowl, absolutely enraged because her tail is wet. She glares at me as if I were responsible, then starts waving it about madly from left to right, drenching half the bathroom before chasing it round in circles and finally licking it dry in disgust.

She loves all food and certainly does not discriminate between ‘cat’ food and ‘people’ food. If she is not eating she considers that there is something wrong with the world. A few years ago she became unwell, she kept being sick, lost a lot of weight and looked awful. As she really likes her food, I was worried. Eventually I took her to the vets.

The vet was concerned because she was dehydrated, they admitted her to the clinic, put her on a drip and started running tests. After she’d been in the clinic for 36 hours I had a phone call from my vet. “We’ve managed to examine tortoiseshell, her belly was pretty large.”

‘Oh gosh, this is it, she’s got a tumour or something awful’ I thought to myself. I held my breath, anxiously waiting to see what the vet would say next.

“Whilst we were examining her, she emitted a large amount of foul smelling gas.”

“Okay….”

“And now she seems absolutely fine”

£430 that cost me. £430 for the vet to make my cat fart.

My next cat will be a dog.

This is tortoiseshell, also known as Tabitha

Don’t trust this cute face, I’m a furry assassin.