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 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”.



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.

Tea for seven and seven for tea


(or seven fall into a sugar induced coma)

I am very excited to report that I have been somewhere lovely for afternoon tea, thus achieving the first challenge on List 34.

I found some friends who could attend, a venue and a menu (mid sentence rhyming, how super) that was slightly out of the ordinary. Why have PG Tips and a scone when you can have apple pie tea, meringue carrots and edible chocolate cups? At the Sanderson Hotel in the West end of London, you can have a mad hatter of an afternoon tea fit for a March hare, a dormouse and even Alice.

The hotel is rather fancy, five star don’t you know, but this is probably a good thing, otherwise I suspect at least one of our party would have insisted on us channelling our inner Lewis Carroll outfit wise and we’d have been in fancy dress wandering around the West end shouting “Off with their heads” and “You’re entirely bonkers”.

Afternoon tea itself was very creative; drink me potions in delightful little bottles (so delightful that I suspect one of our party stole one… shhhh…don’t tell anyone), cakes shaped like clocks and fizzy popping candy making a curiouser and curiouser appearance when least expected, Heston Blumenthal style.

The savoury selection was also yummy, multi-coloured triangle sandwiches nestled alongside teeny homemade quiches. Although as tasty as the cucumber and chive cream cheese on spinach bread was, I couldn’t shake the feeling that eating bright green bread was wrong on a ‘is this loaf radioactive?’ level.

There were some delicious mini savoury scones, unfortunately these were placed rather too near to the delicious mini sweet scones and some idiot got them confused.*

*possibly me

I can however confirm that cheese scones with strawberry jam and coconut scones with herb butter both make for unusual but not entirely unpleasant taste sensations.

Two hours later and we were all full to bursting and about one piece of rainbow coloured white chocolate or strawberry and cream flavoured mushroom away from type two diabetes. Alice may have thought it was the silliest tea party she ever went to. I prefer the Mad Hatter’s approach “it’s always tea time”.

Where there’s a will


Seven months ago I launched List 34; a list of 34 things that I would like to achieve before I turn 40 in ten three and a half years time.

With 34 missions and a four year timeframe, we don’t need Carol Voderman’s big mathematical brain to calculate that I need to be moving full steam ahead to complete the list in a timely manner.

So I’m very excited to share all of the marvellous things I have accomplished so far.

Here goes:

*dramatic drum roll noise to build suspense*


*longer than necessary pause like the ones on Strictly Come Dancing or the X-Factor that happen before the winner is announced*

I am the very proud owner of one ‘Last Will and Testament’

End of list

There we have it; seven months, one deed. I am ashamed. Not because there are so many other things left to do, that’s good, it gives me something to look forward to. My sense of disappointment is great because of how utterly, utterly boring this accomplishment is. Important, yes. Necessary, yes. Rock and roll? No.

I have not watched a sunset in a beautiful location (No 4) written a novel (No 6) or built an igloo (No 11), my life has been devoid of helicopters (No 19), treasure hunts (No 18) and charitable undertakings (No 28). What have I been doing with my time?

I have downloaded ‘The Great Gatsby’ (No 22) to my kindle but I haven’t read it and my savings account is not currently empty (No 32), 45p counts right?

I suppose what I have done is the bucket list equivalent of eating my green beans first (why must they squeak so?) and saving my potatoes until last (carbs are my friend). I’ve got the will out of the way and I’m heading face first into afternoon tea (No 1). Figuratively not literally, no-one wants a quiche face pack or scone exfoliator. I’m going to bust open Breaking Bad (No 14) and add to that 45p. Bring on New York (No 34).


If you would like to read my tribute to Kate, you can find it here

List 34 in full.

My friend Kate

There is a very famous first line of a novel which came to mind when I heard the news. In Love Story by Erich Segal, Oliver Barrett IV says “What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died? That she was beautiful and brilliant? That she loved Mozart and Bach, the Beatles, and me?”

The quote kept going around in my head, with some slight modification. “What can you say about a thirty-four-year-old girl who died? That she was beautiful and brilliant? That she loved food and travel, Dexter the dog, and Steve?”

There’s no other way of putting it really; on 15 July 2014, my friend Kate passed away after a tragic accident and knowing that I will never see her again, is terribly sad.

I worked with Kate for six years, but I can’t really remember her being just a work colleague, we had a lot of fun together:

At the risk of sounding like the cliché queen, Kate really was a ray of sunshine. She was always bright and positive. A doer, always trying new things and going to new places. She had a tremendous passion for life and I take comfort from the fact that she experienced so much.

Kate was witty and intelligent. At work she was calm and composed and had a confidence and self assurance that made everyone feel at ease.

Outside of work she was a pleasure to spend time with. I can remember so many social events that we enjoyed together; canal boats, comedy nights, dinners, dancing, drinking. She was at my flat when the infamous ‘Robert Leader’ cocktail was invented. I say invented as though it was something that we planned or thought through. I think the conversation went something like this:

[Quite a few vodkas into the evening at Chateau de Josiejolene]

Me: Right, who wants another drink? Vodka and orange all round?

Everyone: YES!

Me: Balls. I’ve only got a tiny amount of orange juice left.

One of the gang:  [Because my measures of vodka are always colossal] Can you add something else to it?

Me: Erm… I haven’t got much else.

One of the gang: I’ve got some Red Bull.

Me: Fair enough, let’s stick it in.

If memory serves correct, I think Kate was the guinea pig who tried the made up drink for the first time and deemed it acceptable for the rest of us to drink. I can’t recall why we decided to also stick a cocktail cherry in it. Drunk logic I’m sure.

Inspired by my gorgeous, enthusiastic, adventurous and spirited friend, I have spent a lot of time thinking about how I could best pay tribute to her and I have decided upon List 34.

The list consists of 34 things that I would like to achieve by the time that I am 40. An age that until 15 July, I was pretty apprehensive about heading towards. Now, I’m just grateful to have the opportunity.

Goodbye my lovely friend. Thank you for the smiles, the laughter and the good times: