The train causes me strain

img_0484

I loathe using public transport; trains especially. This mainly relates to my hatred of being within 20 feet of any human that I haven’t strictly vetted the hygiene levels, standards of spelling and grammar and views on BREXIT of. Yet on trains, strangers and their uncharted social skills are forced upon you.

If you travel during morning rush hour, you will find ‘commuter extraordinaire’ who is often a woman. She has bagged a seat with a table, her tiny, shiny laptop is out, she has a soy latte from Costa and a mobile phone to her ear. She’s making calls, she’s setting up appointments, she’s typing emails, she’s pretty much done a days work before 7.30am. I am in awe of this woman but I also hate her for making me feel so inferior.

If I’m on a commuter train that means it is early in the morning, my stomach will be grumbling because there is no reasonable way that I got up early enough for breakfast. I won’t have spoken to anyone, so if I tried to make any telephone calls my voice would still be asleep and I’d sound like Barry White’s Mum, plus I’d mistime the call so it would connect when the train went through a tunnel and I’d be this person:

“Hi, it’s Jo. Oh hang on, I’m going through a tunnel, hello? Can you hear me? Hello? Hello? Are you still there?”

My laptop is about 25 years old and roughly the size of a four person train table so if I got my laptop out, I’d either nearly knock someone out trying to get the damn giant thing out of my equally giant laptop bag or I’d swamp the table with my laptop leaving no space for anyone else to put their breakfast muffin down.

Outside of rush hour, if you find yourself travelling on an empty train, it is quite likely that you will encounter a random dude who just stands in the vestibule right in front of the train door. He will, without fail, be listening to music on big over ear headphones. Unfortunately you will only encounter this chap when you stand up to leave your train. You will assume, incorrectly, that the only reason he’s two inches away from the exit is because he’s planning on departing the train at the next station where you also plan to alight. But he won’t be leaving the train and you will only realise this when he doesn’t press the button to open the door and yet continues to block your way out.

At this point you’ll panic that you’re going to be stuck on the train forever* and you perform some kind of frenzied shimmy manoeuvre around him in order to press the exit button and be released from your train prison**

*I am not a drama queen

**see above

Doorway dude will be oblivious to all of this, if anything, he will look slightly perturbed that the crazy individual sashaying around him requires the use of the exit, ruining the flow of his ‘listening to music on a train’ experience.

Now, although you find people who play music on trains or watch telly without headphones, these people will generally be whipped into shape by either a conductor or another fellow passenger quite promptly. There is another category of noisy traveller who, in my humble opinion, is worse than the first two. This is the individual who is quiet and polite UNTIL they get their phone out and start texting with keyboard clicks enabled, resulting in every text sounding like fucking Riverdance. Why would you do this? Never mind the CIA using music torture to obtain top secret information, sit me next to a clicky texter and you’ll have my PIN number, my salary, the number of people I’ve slept with and my online banking password by the time they’ve finished typing their first message.

If you travel outside of rush hour, you may also come into contact with the lesser spotted ‘bewildered traveller’. You’ll usually find them getting off the bottom of an escalator and immediately stopping as they don’t know where to go and it doesn’t occur to them that they are about to be responsible for a human pile up as people attempt not to charge into the back of them. Often they look like they haven’t been on a train since they were powered by coal and will always ask someone “does this train go to *insert destination that automatic train voice has just announced that the train will be calling at*”.

However, none of these challenging travel companions are as bad as the worst offender of all; the seat thief. Don’t get me wrong, if I’m on an empty train, I may well place my bag on the seat next to me. However, as a responsible and courteous traveller when we get to a station where new passengers might require seats, I will move my bag. Some people do not do this. These people are complete fucktards.

Other passengers will be standing in the train aisles clinging onto overhead handrails that require far more core strength than you ever realise. They will be squashed together, closer to strangers than they’ve been to their spouse since Christmas 2018 following the unprecedented mulled wine incident and yet ‘Captain couple of seats’ feels that their bag containing work files/holiday clothes/mint imperials/Cinzano Rosso/porno mags/ (delete as appropriate) needs it’s very own seat.

Notwithstanding the challenges of your fellow travellers, every aspect of train travel is overly complicated. I can’t just buy a ticket from Brighton to London, I need to know if I’m buying an anytime ticket, a first class ticket, an off peak ticket, a super off peak ticket, a single, a standard return, a cheap day return, an all day travelcard, a group saver ticket. Do I have a railcard? If so is it a family and friends card, a two together card, a network railcard. Will I travel with one specific train operator or do I want to be able to travel on any train that gets me to my destination?…

WHY IS IT SO COMPLICATED?

I just want to pop up to Oxford Street in London on a Saturday to do a spot of shopping without needing a PhD in rail ticketing.

When you’ve eventually purchased the correct ticket, worked out the best train to catch, planned your journey and you’re feeling smug and confident, rail operators have a splendid way of ruining this for you.

It’s a special little game I like to call ‘station scrap sweepstake’ this will either involve the train that you’ve planned to take being scrapped completely: “We are sorry to announce that the 15.42 to Brighton has been cancelled, fuck you all”. I mean, to give them their dues, they don’t actually say the “fuck you all” bit, but it’s heavily implied.

If you’re lucky you might get a rail replacement service meaning that a journey that would take an hour on a train takes about a fortnight by bus so at least you get to maximise your extortionately expensive public transport experience in a value for money kind of way.

The final opportunity to triumph in ‘station scrap sweepstake’ is the most audacious. If this happens to you, you are automatically crowned sweepstake winner:

You get on a train heading for Brighton, but you want to get off at a small station right by your house just outside Brighton called Preston Park. You get on the slow train, the one that stops at all the piddly little stations. Half way through your journey, the train stops suddenly and doesn’t move for quite a while. Then, you hear the following announcement “Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, we are sorry to announce that we are experiencing some weather and also some daylight. Unfortunately some night time is likely shortly so we be held at a red light for some time which will delay our journey. As such, this train will no longer call at Preston Park station, thank you for travelling with this shoddy enterprise. Fuck. You. All”

Advertisements

Iceland Iceland Baby!

IMG_9654

Last year, EasyJet had one of their flash sales and on the spur of the moment, I booked flights to Iceland for January 2019. It was a country that I’d always fancied visiting even though Brad was less enthusiastic. Luckily, the way to Brad’s heart is definitely through his stomach so I won him over by massively exaggerating Iceland’s gastronomic contribution to the world and by deliberately failing to mention the rather more traditional dishes of hákarl (fermented shark), hrútspungar (Sour rams testicles) or harðfiskur (dried fish jerky).

A few months later, on a rather chilly Monday night, we landed at a snow covered Keflavík Airport and due to some rather unclear signage, we almost found ourselves heading back to the UK before we’d even left the terminal building.

After getting off the plane, we stopped for me to have my customary post-flight wee; given the option of spending a penny in the sky or turbulence free airport toilets, I’ll take terra firma any day of the week. Call of nature answered, we followed a big bunch of people thinking that they were heading to passport control, only to find ourselves patiently waiting to board a flight to Belfast.

What can I tell you? We’re British. There was a queue. You do the maths.

Eventually we realised the error of our ways, found our way out of the airport and began our Icelandic adventure.

The main reason for going to Iceland was because I wanted to try to see the northern lights, a phenomenon that has always fascinated me, so an organised northern lights hunt was our first expedition.

Our guide drove for about an hour and a half to a top secret location* which was basically a scout hut in the middle of nowhere. We worked out which direction was north and then we waited. It was -12 degrees outside so we had to keep popping into the scout hut to stop our extremities from freezing and falling off (top tip if you’re going somewhere super cold – buy a balaclava, you might look like you’re about to commit armed robbery, but at least your face will be toasty warm).

*may not have actually been top secret, it could just be that I can’t exactly remember where we went.

Eventually, at nearly midnight, the door to the hut was flung open and the booming voice of our tour guide yelled “LIGHTS” excitedly. We dashed outside to wonder in awe at the elusive aurora dancing beautifully across the sky.

I recognise how fortunate we were to be able to witness this occurrence, not least when I returned to work and spoke to a colleague who works in our financial crime team. He told me, through gritted teeth with definite outrage in his voice that he’d visited Iceland twice, specifically to see the lights and hadn’t seen them at all.

I mean, I’m not casting aspersions on him yet, but if I end up in the middle of some unsubstantiated credit card fraud investigation scandal, just check to see if it was instigated by Mr Jealous from financial crime…

If anyone had told me before Iceland, that I’d be sitting in an outdoor pool in January, in my swimming cozzie, in minus temperatures whilst the wind pelted tiny frozen spikes of ice into my face, I’d have told them that they were mad, but then I’d never been to the blue lagoon before.

The blue lagoon is a geothermal spa where you can swim in mineral-rich hot water (between 37 and 39 degrees). It’s an incredibly surreal experience; like having a massive alfresco dip surrounded by scenery that wouldn’t look out of place in a snow globe.

As part of entry to the blue lagoon, you receive a drink from the pool bar. We went with the alcoholic option to try to distract ourselves from the fact that, fundamentally, we were sharing a giant bath with a bunch of strangers. Mind you, my skin felt so amazing after the experience and I was so relaxed that I could have been bathing with plague infested rats and it would have been worth it to achieve such a feeling of calm wrapped nicely in baby soft skin.

You are also given a silica mud mask as part of your entry price. Everyone around us was applying their mask so I encouraged Brad to do the same, telling him that it would make his skin glow. Alas, this not go to plan.

The problem was that instead of paying attention to how I put my mask on, my beloved husband applied his mud in the same way that you might wash your face with soap (a blob of mud in each hand, hands rubbed together and then mud spread vigorously and indiscriminately all over the face). The mud ended up in his eyes, it went up his nose, it was in his mouth. It prompted this conversation:

Me: “What are you doing? You’re supposed to avoid all the sensitive bits.”

Brad: ”It stings!”

Me: “I’m not surprised! Why did you just shove mud in your eyes?”

Brad: “I’ve never put a face mask on before”

Me: “But surely you’ve seen pictures of women with face masks on?”

Brad: “My eyes are sore”

Me: “That’s because it’s not supposed to go IN YOUR BLOODY EYEBALLS”

Brad: “It tastes funny”

Me: “What the? Jeez dude, close your mouth!”

Cue frantic face washing and water drinking to remove the sting and taste of mud mask, fortunately he survived without any after effects but safe to say, I won’t be arranging a spa day for him any time soon.

Eating and drinking in Iceland is as expensive as the travel guides tell you. I found the best way to manage this was to eat lots of hotel breakfast so you don’t need lunch and then to NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES convert the Icelandic krona that you’ve just spent into sterling. No one needs to know that one meal has cost more than a usual weekly shop. Ignorance is most definitely the best approach. That said, we did have the most divine lamb dish on our first night which potentially cost more than an entire flock of alive sheep back in the UK and I don’t even care. I still dream about that meal.

Iceland is beautiful and such an incredibly interesting country that it made me regret not paying more attention in Geography classes at school. We went to Thingvellir national park which is in a rift valley between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates (turns out these aren’t something you eat your dinner off) and witnessed the eruption of Strokkur, a very active geyser which loudly expels boiling water and steam up in the air every few minutes like an angry kettle.

We also saw Gullfoss waterfall, which was impressive, but when you’ve seen Niagara Falls, unfortunately nothing else is going to compare. Poor Gullfoss is almost half the size of Niagara and Gullfoss’s average water flow rate is 140 cubic metres per second. Niagara’s water flows at 2,400 cubic metres per second. So it was a bit David and Goliath for me. Not to mention the fact that at Gullfoss, it was -16 degrees and I had stopped being able to feel any part of my body properly, whereas on my last visit to Niagara Falls, it was closer to 30 degrees, I was wearing a strappy summer dress and eating an ice cream rather than wearing thermal undies and becoming a human ice pole, so poor old Gullfoss never really stood a chance.

However, even if you ingest a face pack in a giant communal bath, visit only the second best waterfall you’ve ever seen or return home teetering on the edge of your overdraft because you dared to order starters, a trip to Iceland is still an absolutely incredible experience that will without a doubt, take your breath away.

IMG_9685

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?).

img_4268

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.

img_2641

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.

Something Changed

img_6440

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

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.

img_0079

Rightmove is my bitch

img_0840

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:

img_9295

“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.

jolene-bradley188

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

jolene-bradley630

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.

jolene-bradley457