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.

 

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The telly broke and we had to talk

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A terrible tragedy occurred this week. The television in my bedroom blew up. Okay, it didn’t actually blow up, it was more of a slow deterioration. Over the past few weeks it would be broadcasting quite happily before suddenly shouting out loudly and showing a picture that can only be described as “untuned black and white telly circa 1979”. Telly would lose any capacity to do anything, causing Brad or I to have to jump out of bed and sprint to the power socket to prevent the hideous noise from waking up the entire road.

Telly had been having these little tantrums every so often but as they were quite infrequent, we ignored them, hoping that it was a temporary problem that would resolve itself. Sadly it was not to be and telly passed away with a bang, leaving us with an extended version of its disturbing distress call ringing in our ears.

After the noise had subsided, Brad and I were a little bewildered. We just looked at each other, open mouthed, wondering what we were going to do next.

“We’ve got no telly, it’s gone. What happens now?”
“I don’t know, er, we could put the radio on?”
“It’s not the same”
“We could talk”
“What about?”
“Um…”
“Our favourite tv shows?”
“Too raw, how can we do that when telly isn’t even cold?”
“I’m sorry. You’re right”

Silence

“So, er, good day at work?”
“It was just work. You?”
“Same as.”

Silence

“You know New Orleans?”
“Yeah”
“Is there an Old Orleans?”
“I don’t know. I suppose so. Why would it be new otherwise?”
“Shall I google it?”
“If you want”
“Can’t be bothered”

Silence

“If you could only eat one food for breakfast, lunch and dinner without it affecting your health or your weight, what would you eat?”
“Ahh, tough one. I need to think about it.”
“I’d have cake. Or maybe cheese. No, definitely cake.”
“I’d go for a burger. You could just adapt it for each meal. Have something sweet with it for breakfast.”
“Like jam?”
“Er, no.”
“Ooh, you could have a doughnut burger with jam in the middle”
“Um”
“Or a pain au chocolat burger with chocolate in the middle?”
“Yuck. No”

Silence

“Do you think that the cat gets lonely when we’re at work, like dogs do?”
“No. She’s a cat”
“Yeah but she always seems so pleased to see us”
“That’s because you feed her.”
“Hmmpphh”

Silence

And that’s why yesterday I bought a new telly.

The last week of August

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I consider myself very fortunate to have lovely childhood memories, not least the summer holidays when my mum and sister and I spent time with my mum’s cousin, her husband and their two daughters. They lived in Somerset, we lived in Sussex and the last week of August usually involved them visiting us or vice versa. My mum is very close to her cousin and the four of us children adored the time that we all spent together.

We recently all met up again after almost ten years. It was wonderful, like we’d never been apart. We spent an evening together talking and reminiscing (if you’ve learnt nothing else about me from this blog, the fact that we’re a family of talkers should be apparent), laughing so hard that our cheeks hurt.

Us girls are pretty close in age, born between 1976 1986 and 1980 1990 and a lot of my most favourite childhood memories are of the four of us: roly polys, laughing policemen, waltzers, sunshine, dummies made of rock, beaches, paddling in the sea, fish and chips and gherkins called wallys, that incident at that wedding (you know who you are), dog walking, trampolining, sesame snaps and lots and lots of giggling.

However, our reminiscing did make me realise quite how different growing up in the world is nowadays.

It started when one of us remembered that we would spend hours creating our future dream home. This involved skills that I suspect children have become rather lacking in these days; cutting out and sticking down. We would trawl through the Argos catalogue picking out the furniture and accessories that we’d like to have in our houses when we grew up, then, after a bit of negotiation; “I like that settee”, “Yes, it’s okay but it won’t go with those cushions, we need something blue”, we’d cut pictures of our preferred household items and stick them down on pieces of paper ready for when we were home-owners.

I’m not sure what happened to the bits of paper, although knowing how sentimental our mothers are (for my mother: read ‘hoarder’) they’ve probably kept them somewhere in their lofts. Long after our parents are gone we’ll find them, yellowing with age, in a box along with a set of milk teeth, a tatty golliwog, a valentines card from 1967 and a Christmas ornament made of dried pasta, glitter and cotton wool.

We were much more economical in those days too. Firstly there was the car. We would fit four children and three adults into a mid sized family car: One adult driving and one adult navigating in the front. Eldest child in the back with youngest child on lap, third adult with one of the middle children sitting on their lap and remaining middle child on the hard, ‘not really a proper seat’, bit in the middle. No seatbelts, no booster seats or harnesses, no child locks on the doors. Mind you, if we had ever been in an accident I think it’s pretty safe to assume that we would have been alright. We were slotted together like a successful game of Tetris. We weren’t going anywhere.

If for any reason we were one adult down, the four girls would kneel next to each other on the back seat, leaning on the parcel shelf waving at other drivers out of the back window. As we got a bit older, we’d look for any handsome drivers to wave hello to or dare each other to blow a kiss to someone old or unattractive.

The cost saving theme continued at bath time too; Four girls, one bath. Gosh, I do hope that last statement doesn’t get picked up as a search term on Google or people are going to be very disappointed when they find it’s just me wittering on about summer holiday memories from the 1980’s.

Parents didn’t bother with babysitters in those days either, they just found a pub with a beer garden, bought four bottles of coke with straws and four assorted bags of Golden Wonder crisps and left the children outside. Every half an hour or so, one of the adults would pop outside to make sure none of us was bleeding and bob’s your uncle, cheap night out.

Our favourite place to eat was always a Little Chef, because they usually had a children’s play area and they gave you a lolly at the end of your meal. To pass the time on long car journeys, we’d all sing songs, “On Top Of Old Smokey” being quite prominent in our repertoire. Not the actual real lyrics but the version when Old Smokey turns out to be a pile of spaghetti and the song charts the journey of an unfortunate meatball who falls off the plate when someone sneezes or, my favourite, when the bald headed eagle is on top of Old Smokey not scratching his arse as you are first lead to believe but actually scratching his head. When our holidays ended, we would write letters to each other to stay in touch. Yes, actual physical letters with stamps and everything. It seems almost twee, another world compared to the high-tech, fast moving, instant access world that we live in nowadays.

We’re all grown up now with responsibilities, families, homes, jobs but put us together and 25 years vanish. It’s the school holidays, the sun is shining and I am laughing.

If music be the food of love, play on

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I am not a fan of silence, as anyone who knows me will agree. If there is silence, I consider it my duty to fill it with chat. Donkeys who are particularly keen on their hind legs tend to keep well away from me. An ex-boyfriend once described me as “The girl who uses too many words” An affectionate reference… I think.

I can, and frequently do, talk to the cat but she’s not a great conversationalist. Plus as our conversations are generally limited to “Are you sleeping?” “Here’s your dinner” “Are you sleeping?” “Stop getting under my feet” “Are you sleeping?” “Stop scratching my sofa” “Are you sleeping?” “Don’t try to eat my tuna sandwich” and “Are you sleeping?”, it gets slightly repetitive after a while.

Now the problem with chat is that if I am at home alone, there is no-one to chat to. I am loathe to fall into the category of someone who talks to herself, all the while recognising that talking to the cat is only marginally more acceptable. However, to prevent it happening, I have the radio on all the time when I am at home. This means that my mouth is occupied by singing instead of talking.

I was pottering around the flat earlier today and a song came on the radio that I hadn’t heard for ages, it was ‘What’s up’ by 4 Non Blondes and in that moment, I was suddenly 14 again. It was the summer of 1993, my sister had purchased the single from Woolworths on tape and boy, was she getting her money’s worth. If memory serves me correctly, she played it over and over again. Admittedly many years have passed and my memory is a little fuzzed up with 20 years worth of life getting in the way but I knew pretty much every word to that song.

It struck me that songs have such a massive impact on your life and the moment you hear a song, you can be completely transported back to another time in your life. Songs can remind you of moments, of events, of people, both good and bad (ooh, look at me getting all deep and philosophical… note to self, must mention cake or vodka or throw in a swear word shortly to bring things back to my usual level).

But, it won’t matter if I don’t hear ‘What’s Up’ for another 20 years, it will still always make me think of my sister, I will remember that it was summer when she bought the song because it was during the six week school holidays and my mum had students. I will remember that she played it really loudly and that when she first bought it, I actually quite liked it until I’d heard it played 28,000 times. That said, I very much liked it when I heard it played today and, unsurprisingly, I did know every single lyric.

I also remember that after the ‘What’s Up’ obsession, she started to get into dance music and the only noise that emanated from her bedroom was the “oom cha, oom cha, oom cha, oom cha” beat from her current favourite dance track which you couldn’t recognise anyway because she had the bass turned up so loud that you could feel the beat rather than just hear it; like you’d swallowed a tiny MC and he was performing a set in your chest.

I on the other hand, had a crush on a boy who was a Guns ‘n’ Roses fan so Guns ‘n’ Roses became my obsession. If the tape case had a ‘Parental Guidance’ or ‘Explicit Lyrics’ sticker over the front of it, all the better. My poor mother had heart stopping base beats coming from one bedroom and “Why don’t you just fuck off?” blaring out of the other bedroom. It’s a wonder that she survived our teenage years.

Talking of my Mum, the song ‘Ruby Tuesday’ always makes me think of her. Around about the same time as the summer that was sponsored by 4 Non Blondes, Rod Stewart had released his version of ‘Ruby Tuesday’ and it was playing on the radio. I was half singing along to it, and innocently talking about it, describing it as a new song. My mum, absolutely outraged that I referred to it as a new song, insisted on playing me both the 1967 Rolling Stones original and the top ten cover version by Melanie Safka from 1970 (both on vinyl, naturally) before making me judge which one was best. Let me tell you, Simon Cowell has nothing on my Mother.

My mum also contributes to the song that reminds me of my Dad; ‘Every time you go away’ by Paul Young. This song features the lyrics “Every time you go away, you take a piece of me with you”. Dad told me that the words were “Every time you go away, you take a piece of MEAT with you” so that’s what I sang for ages. One day, I said to my mum “Mummy, Daddy says that it’s ‘every time you go away, you take a piece of meat with you’, is that right?”. My mum, who is one of the most pragmatic people I know, responded in a slightly exasperated way “Jolene, do you really think that someone would carry around a piece of meat with them? That would just be silly” so that told me. Mind you, even now when I hear the song, I do struggle to sing the correct words.

Johnny Depp once said “Music touches us emotionally, where words alone can’t”, now I’m pretty sure he wasn’t referring to me as a seven year old picturing my dad carrying a lamb chop in one hand and a rasher of bacon in the other every time I headed off to school, when he said this but I think he has a pretty good point. Plus, I like the idea of ending this post with Johnny Depp. Mmmm what about Johnny Depp eating cake and drinking vodka? Fuck yeah.