The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

There’s a goblin in the Girls toilets

It’s Halloween and Husband has carved out the pumpkin ready and #1 and 2 have decorated the house with a few cobwebs and Halloween bunting. I’ve made some cute little boxes filled with sweets for their school friends and tomorrow they’ll be sent to school looking scrumptious in adorable mini witch and wizard costumes.

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This side of Halloween I can cope with and really enjoy it. The cuddly round the edges aspect of it all. At the weekend our condo held a huge Trick or Treat extravaganza and around 80 little people were dressed up in a wonderful array of costumes. It was really fun to see as they wandered around with their little orange buckets filled to the brim with sweets and treats their parents will eat for them. This Saturday we’ll be at double Halloween parties. A family one hosted by Mrs Imperturbable with Trick or Treating, party games and a BBQ. The other by Mrs Cake Pops just for grown ups and fancy dress. She’s got a photo booth coming! How cool is that? Must warn Husband not to get hideously drunk and get a four frame moonie photo. That would certainly bring the werewolves out.

What I can’t cope with is the blood and guts version of Halloween. Just today I quickly popped to the shops for some last minute Halloween things. The shops were pretty sparse having already moved on to Christmas stuff. I was busy rummaging through the racks looking for some plastic spiders, gingerly picking my way through severed hands, grotesque masks, skeleton bones and the most gruesome thing of all, a big ugly rat! Aaaaarghh! I was nearly sick and I imperceptibly jumped a few inches. I don’t think anyone noticed.

I wonder if Working Mammy (workingmammy.wordpress.com), my friend since Junior school has as vivid a memory of the goblin in the Girls toilets as I do. How the goblin got there or when it arrived I don’t recall. But somehow, one day, there it was. A green goblin had took up residency in the Girls toilets nearest our classroom.

Snort with derision if you must at there being no such thing as a goblin. I bet you think the same about a Gruffalo too. I also bet if you asked any eight year old they probably would say there’s no such thing as either goblin or Gruffalo as well. But they would soon change their minds if one was found in the toilets at their school.

This was no friendly goblin. Goblins seldom are, as Enid Blyton and J K Rowling know. This goblin struck fear and mass hysteria. If it was just hearsay it wouldn’t have been so bad but one girl actually saw it. She really must have done because she was crying and everything and she correctly identified it as being green and scary looking.

So the goblin carried on living in the Girls toilets. Mostly coming out at night apparently according to one goblin expert which means it would be in the toilets during the day. You know what that means? Crossing your legs and hoping not to pee. Or making sure you went to the toilets in groups. Well would you go in there by yourself if there’s a goblin? I remember desperately needing the toilet during class time and feeling the fear of meeting the goblin only making the need to go even greater. Fear is terribly debilitating. As is an over active imagination and anyone who knows me would say mine works quite hard.

It wasn’t just at school that the goblin could get you. Every night I went to bed with my head under the covers even though it was stifling hot. We lived in a bungalow at the time and the bedrooms were at the front of the house near to the garden gate. One night as I was hiding under the covers, the wind slammed shut the garden gate. I leapt out of bed into the living room screaming ‘The goblin is coming!’. I can feel my heart beating faster even now.

I don’t remember when the goblin moved out of our school onto the next one. As suddenly as it had arrived then it was gone. I don’t even know how long the goblin stayed for either. The concept of time at aged eight is rather unreliable. I just know that gradually I could sleep with my head poking further and further out above the covers and being able to freely go and pee again at school.

I’m glad to say that I’m no longer afraid of goblins and I’m rather fond of a vampire and werewolf. Sadly though this incident had a profound effect on my bravery levels. They just never fully recovered. I jump if Husband suddenly appears whilst I’m engrossed in something and I’ve screamed in the face of many an innocent bystander I bump into unexpectedly coming out of lifts or walking around corners.

In our adolescent years when the travelling fairgrounds came by and everyone insists on going on the ghost train, I would reluctantly join in too. But in the dark I would sit the whole ride with my eyes closed. What is it with teenagers and the dark? Brilliant New Adventure will remember our big group outings in the deep dark woods at night! Whatever for? Someone would inevitably choose a horror film on film night and my heart would sink.

I just don’t like spooky things! There. I’ve said it. It’s beautifully therapeutic to openly admit now that I’m a grown up and if I don’t want to watch a horror film or visit the London Dungeons then I won’t. It’s not worth me screaming in the face of the poor upcoming actor dressed in his spooky best reaching out in the dark to tap me on the shoulder because I can guarantee you my blood curdling scream will have them quivering in their boots.

I know it’s ridiculous and I know it’s not real. I know a film is just acting and it’s all very good special effects and make up. But the palpitations and the blood rushing through my veins when the eerie music is on and you’re moving through a darkened room with the actor waiting for the spooky thing to happen is just not worth me sleeping under the covers for.

I feel such relief!

But wait….I’ve forgotten something. I am the parent to three young children who must never know this weakness. Can you imagine how much ‘fun’ it would be just to hide behind this door and shout ‘Boo!’ at Mummy. At the moment #1 and 2 are fairly unrefined in their scaring tactics but this won’t last. Soon they will be sophisticated scaring machines and according to the Generic Parenting Guide, you must never show fear.

So who fancies a Freddie Kruger/Halloween marathon tonight? I’ll be the one watching with my eyes closed.

Happy Halloween.

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Who’s your special Aunt?

I love being an Aunt to the proper and nearly nephews and nieces but what can be more telling of your own age than when the young people in your life reach a milestone birthday? I guess to them we have always been really, really old but don’t worry, their day will come.

Just last week my nearly niece Strawberry Mousse celebrated her 21st Birthday in much the same vein as Mrs Imperturbable did with five days of celebrations. There was Go-Karting, family lunches, a big night out clubbing (that produced a rather alarming video clip of her ‘rapping’), a romantic dinner and family dim sum gathering. It’s yet another Big Life Event that I’ve missed out on whilst living this expat life but that’s by the by.

Strawberry Mousse is the youngest of three siblings and whilst I have watched all three grow up, I was 18 when she was born and only eight and nine when the other two arrived so I was much more hands on in everything with her. Perhaps it’s because I left for University before Strawberry Mousse was even a year old that helped my presence in her life remain a novelty. I missed her very much in those early days; she was a lovely, cute and happy baby and as far as I can tell she is a beautiful, funny and happy young lady now.

When you only see the young people sporadically, it’s always the fun stuff you do and so I hardly ever saw the tantrums with Strawberry Mousse. Perhaps the most noticeable one was when I was celebrating my own 21st Birthday with a few friends who came to visit and she refused to acknowledge them. Choosing instead to sit with her back to them, she was only two. Whenever I came back in the holidays and then later just for the weekend, she would insist I share her room, even if it meant she had to sleep on the floor.

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When I was just 20 years old, I was entrusted with the care of our Dazzler aged 11, and our Emilo aged 10, to take them to London for a few days holiday. All the way from Newcastle Upon Tyne up north to all the way to the capital of England, London down south. BY MYSELF! I know! What on earth were the parents thinking? I suppose I ought to feel flattered they considered me so responsible. Then when I suggested that Strawberry Mousse came to stay for a summer holiday when she was nine and I was 28 and had been living in London for a few years, they had to think about it! Maybe I had become less responsible by then?

It’s great being the Aunt who takes the nephews and nieces out for day trips, or have them to stay, show them new experiences they haven’t had with their parents and generally give them a happy time. You get all the adoration of a small child who revels in being in your company. It’s a big compliment to see someone’s face light up when they see you. To be able to raise their spirits and in turn your own.

It’s also very easy being an Aunt to small children. Their expectations of you are thankfully quite low. A trip to the pictures with a bucket of popcorn would have them thoroughly satisfied. It’s when they are pre grown ups that things become trickier. They grow up at an alarming rate and disproportionately faster than we do. That transition from being Aunt to cute and cuddly niece and nephew to people who are the same height or taller than you can be tough. They have things called boyfriends and girlfriends, they shop in the same shops as you, they communicate monosyllabicly, they stop washing, they sleep in the afternoon fully clothed, everything you suggest is met with no enthusiasm. Who are these people? Where has the fun gone?

You may be fortunate enough to see your own nephews and nieces on a regular basis but if you aren’t, it can be quite a shock to notice they have grown another few inches in your absence, it can be difficult finding your feet with them. My two nephews have always lived in Hong Kong, I’ve seen nephew #2 on four occasions and he’s nine years old. It’s only natural that it feels like I’m his Aunt in name only because we hardly know each other, you need to be visible in order for relationships with young people to work. That’s not to say it will always be like this. Nephew #1 went to study in the UK when he was 12 and we have still been able to build a good relationship. I still remember the first time at age nine, he saw a real cow and then wanted to eat steak afterwards. As they get older you have to try harder in engaging them and at times they may not be interested because they’ve reached that age where they have the freedom to explore the world by themselves and what do we know about having fun?

Sometimes though, they can surprise themselves and find that you do have something in common. Be it a band, television show, shoes, bags, books, sports, a love of the outdoors. There is always something. For my part, I need to let go and see them for the adults they have become. All bar one are in their twenties. Some are living away from home, some are Graduates and doing post graduate degrees, some are forging interesting careers for themselves. All of them are young people I am extremely proud of and now it’s their turn to be the fun one with #1, 2 and 3.

Now I say I’ve been ‘fun’ Aunt but I’m sure all of them will have their own mortifying tale to tell of how I’m actually the embarrassing one. (Can you believe that one of the boyfriends calls me The Interrogator?) The latest incident I believe is when nearly nephew came to stay last year when I was still preggers with #3. We were in a car park when some nob decides to park in the family lot. Spurred on by hormones, I let rip at him for his lack of consideration at parking there with no small child in tow and shouldn’t he move his car and so on. Meanwhile our Dazzler remains inside the car, trying to distance himself from the whole scene. I call this payback for the time I had to go to his school and deal with the teacher’s letter concerning his wiping of bogies on the school banisters.

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Before the arrival of #1, I figured that I’d spent a lot of time around babies and young children, even looked after many of them by myself at various ages, so how different could it be looking after my own? Well I don’t think I need to answer this for you to know how naive I was.

Who’s my special aunt? I have several in fact. There’s my Dad’s youngest sister who dedicated herself to looking after my Grandma during her last few years in a nursing home, travelling almost two hours each way every other day to keep her company and look after her. Tradition can be comforting but also cruel at times; a few days after my Grandma passed away, so did my uncle and if you follow strict Chinese tradition like my Aunt does then you can only mourn the loss of a direct family member which meant a daughter could not attend her own mother’s funeral whilst tending to her own husband. It’s because in effect she had married out of the family. It’s not something I understand or would do myself but it’s something I have to respect.

Then there’s my Aunt by marriage, always the one known for being ‘modern’ because she smoked in her younger years and that was considered way out there in Chinese culture. Her eldest of my four cousins, is only five months younger than me but he milks those five months when I’m older than him by a whole year for all it’s worth and I see him as my Lil Bro. This Aunt has always been very good to me. So even though she is now divorced from my wayward Uncle, she remains to me that same Aunt as before.

I have a maternal Aunt who is the kind of Aunt everyone should have. Kind, cuddly, always smiling and laughing. You feel safe and warm with her, she really looks after you and is constantly asking if you need anything to eat. She’s the kind of aunt who has no regard for what age you are or whether you are a parent yourself, you’re still that small child she looked after.

Then finally, I have an Aunt who raised me like her own from when I was the age of three and who I am very proud to call my Mum and I don’t think I need to say anything more than that.

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Let me tell you about……..Nana Moon

Have you found yourself feeling a bit curious about some of the people I’ve mentioned so far? I thought as much and so from time to time I’d like to talk a bit more about them.

Let’s begin with Nana Moon as it’s her Birthday and because she’s currently in Berlin and won’t read this for ages without free wifi around. She’s one of the few people I’ve known consistently for over twenty years now which is rather exciting for me. Perhaps less exciting for her as she’s already got friends she’s known for over thirty years.

Where to begin though. How about some photos.

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I think if anyone could start a Consultancy on How to Be a Student, then it would have to be Nana Moon (albeit a Student circa the early to mid nineties). She was very good at the whole Student thing and I think I enjoyed that time all the more because someone else seemed to know what to do. Maybe’s it was because she had older siblings who had already tread the same path before her. She quickly had her room sorted out just so (a newspaper cutout of Ciaran Bracken by her bed and a poster of Damon Albarn on her ceiling), joined the University badminton club for alleged badminton tournaments (a mere front for the frequent badminton club pub crawls), she was confident, self assured, a little bit fearsome and very likeable. We lived on the same landing in our first year at the University of Salford and we shared the same house on Tootal Road in our second year but we haven’t lived together since then, although you can never rule out the same older person’s community housing in the future. Like students of the modern age, we too wore strappy dresses with hemlines just below the butt cheek. Except we rocked the look with an added layer of t-shirt (black or white), thick black opaque tights (which made the hem line below butt cheek acceptable) and a pair of trainers. Sounds fetching in type. She’s the only person I know, outside of Our Jenn in the early 1980s, who taped songs from the Top 40 charts on a Sunday evening. I can still see her now poised over the Pause button and getting extremely annoyed if she missed the crucial Pause moment.

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We are who we are mostly because of our own choices but also because of the people we surround ourselves with. I said in my last post Them their Students, that I can be with certain people and be thrown back to that time. That’s not to say that she or I have failed to move on or that we have nothing in common anymore but that time of our lives. It’s just the familiarity born out of knowing someone for so long I guess. Although we Skyped the other day (for the second time in five years because her old desktop wasn’t able to support Skype and she definitely wasn’t going to upgrade it until the Museum of Science and Technology claimed it as a historical artefact), we usually catch up in the old fashioned way. Besides Mr Li, she is one of only two people I still have long, lengthy telephone conversations with. Actually Mr Li doesn’t even count because after 15 minutes he tells me I’m neglecting #1, 2 and 3 and to get off the telephone. I chat to her in the same way I have always done and it’s very easy, sometimes I even fail to breathe and Husband will often tell me I was meaning to end the call a while ago but then he’ll hear another ‘Oooh and one more thing I must tell you…’.

With Nana Moon, I can indulge the things I like (probably influenced by her with some kind of Jedi mind trick) that as a grown up we mostly put aside. The television programmes (Charmed, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, Alias), the films (Harry Potter, the digitally remastered Stars Wars Trilogy and new episodes), the bands (Blur – I would fight her for Damon, Pulp, Take That, The Wonder Stuff, The Bee Gees), the books (The Enchanted Wood, The Magic Faraway Tree, Star Wars again, Clive Cussler), the board games (Frustration, Monopoly, Connect 4). She doesn’t make me feel like I can’t still have these in my life as well as the grown up stuff. Nana Moon makes me regress a little which is interesting when we’ve gone to stay at hers in the UK with #1 and 2 in tow (she’s yet to meet #3) and I’m asserting parental authority. But then how could I not when she gets out the Sega and asks if we want to play Micromachines? It wasn’t that long ago either when I would nominate her to take on food eating challenges at parties. There have been several house parties where someone has decided it’s a good idea to cram as many mini muffins, chocolate eclairs or satsumas in their mouths and I’ve always put forward Nana Moon but she’s a bit coy about her abilities. She drew the line when I suggested custard creams as a counter challenge.

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If I were a superstar celebrity then she’d be the kind of friend I’d be talking about in interviews and describing as the one who keeps me grounded. She’s rather straight to the point and very honest with her opinions and after she’s voiced them then the decision to do what you will is your own but you’ve heard what she thinks. So you always know where you stand. She thinks I can’t disguise how I’m feeling by the look on my face but she can’t disguise how she’s feeling by the tone of her voice. The indignation and utter disbelief when she found out I had never seen any of the Back to the Future trilogy or Indiana Jones films was immeasurable. When she reads this now that I still haven’t watched them all properly, her voice will rise two octaves higher: glass will shatter and dogs will cower. She’s the one who pointed out with Husband the correct response to ‘It was nice to meet you’. My ears bled afterwards.

She thinks I’m rude for asking what kind of Sunday roast it will be before accepting the invitation but I think it would be more rude to sit down at table and not eat if it were to be roast lamb which I don’t like. I think she’s incredibly stubborn which is really funny to see when it’s directed at someone else. So you best not let her know any habits she has that annoy you because she’s not going to drop them and will do them all the more.

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She has led a life quite well traveled so far and some of it I wish I had done myself like taking time out to go travelling in our early twenties. During our long Skype chat the other day, she showed me her latest thing which was a map of the world where you colour in the countries you’ve been to and whilst she’s been to many countries, she really needs to go to Russia, Canada and Brazil to make the map look really impressive. She’s quite a dark horse too but very discreet about it. I don’t think even Carnage UK could catch her unawares but if you look closely, you can see she’s been up to some sort of shenanigans like the time we found the dining table chairs were misaligned. One time she stayed over after a party when we were flat sharing with Uncle Monkey who gallantly told us she could have his room as he wasn’t coming home. Lo and behold who should return in the middle of the night and proclaim to be ‘Just getting in’. She’s not stupid you know!

Most important of all, I trust her. I always have done and it’s cemented by the fact that she is Godmother to #1, 2 and 3. Besides the responsibility of upholding the teachings of Christianity, I rather want #1, 2 and 3 to have the influence of someone who has very similar interests to me but isn’t like me. They can learn a lot from her independence and I’m sure she’ll be thrilled that there’s someone who is finally interested in the meaning of all the road markings designed to promote road traffic safety. She’s a Civil Engineer and I’m very proud that she’s thriving in a male dominated profession but I just don’t get the excitement of a new chevron on the road. All those years ago when I first met her and emerging from a rather strict upbringing and a fairly unconventional family background, she was one of the first people I talked to about it which was a big deal at the time. She’s brave but not reckless and she gives me the courage to do things out of my comfort zone. She’s always been the sporty type and seems to get a lot of enjoyment out of jumping off tall things attached to elastic. If Mr Li knew about this he definitely wouldn’t approve. Actually I’m so glad I didn’t go travelling with her because whilst it would be nice to add that to my CV, I actually want to vomit in my mouth at the thought of bungee jumping or sky diving. But I know she would be able to talk me through it. I’m not very brave at all and I need a push sometimes (quite literally) and so a few years ago when Nana Moon came to visit with Ms Beefy we found ourselves down on Sentosa at the Megazip Adventure Park doing the tree tops assault course. I mean there were children a third of our age doing it too but you can’t help what you’re fearful of. So I’m stuck on this plank and even though I’m tied to a safety harness I freeze and I think I might cry and really want someone to come and rescue me until Nana Moon sensing the genuine distress puts on her lower octave voice and gets me through it. She knows when she’s needed and takes that responsibility very seriously.

She’s been my guide to the south of England, around many pubs and bars in many towns, given an education in the A-Z listing of her huge CD collection, she taught me the Beaver Patrol, she tells me I’m ‘Never too old to spoon’ – make of that what you will, she makes me arrange a bag of Skittles in a jar in order of flavour preference, she toe waves at me with her socks half falling off, she rests her elbow on my head when she’s tired, she’s hardly missed a special occasion and she is the best companion to get you through the big events in life like my 30th Birthday (mint Polos at the ready so you don’t chunder in the taxi on the way home), planning my surprise Hen Do and driving us to my wedding in her car that smells of wet dog.

No, unfortunately I can’t really tell you about the special people in my life in just one blog post. A good thing really because it means we’ve been through a lot and there’s a lot to say. Nana Moon is coming to stay in December for 10 days on her way to visit family in New Zealand. #1 has started to play Frustration but plays by his own rules. I’m not sure Nana Moon will make any concessions for a four year old either. She once challenged an eight year old Strawberry Mousse (my Nearly Niece who is 21 in a couple of days) to Connect Four, lost that one game and never played Connect Four with her again. I best get out the Connect Four then and I’m sure Nana Moon will be doing the same too.

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Them there Students

I like a good mug of tea and I have far too many mugs in the cupboards to get through. Like socks and underpants, I never seem to throw them out unless they get broken and then that upsets me greatly. In our family, it’s each to their own mug. These two mugs have been with me since my University days. Twenty years of teagetherness.

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Now, the Newcastle United mug is legitimately my own but the Garfield one was ‘left behind’ by a tea drinking student whose name I forget until I ask Nana Moon. Nana Moon nearly always says something about how I stole it from a boy (now fully grown man I presume) called Rob who was a Depeche Mode fan. So she always gets her tea in that mug.

I was reading the recent media coverage of Carnage UK in Liverpool and Manchester about students disgracing themselves with binge drinking, throwing up and making out very publicly. How utterly disgraceful! I don’t know how long this blog will survive in cyberspace but just in case #1, 2 and 3 are reading this then your Mam never behaved like that. Ever. Can’t say the same for Nana Moon, Ms Beefy and Elbear though.

So twenty years have passed since I landed in deepest, darkest Salford. I should have suspected something was awry at the University Fair, when the University of Salford rep said ‘Don’t be put off by what you see in Coronation Street, Salford is not that bad’. Didn’t ring a bell, whilst I obviously had seen Coronation Street before, I was still very much taken by the beautiful young people of Neighbours and Home and Away.

I figured Salford is right next to Manchester and I’d been to Manchester before so how different could Salford be? Like with all big cities, there are going to be some dodgy areas and some less dodgy areas. Salford had a lot of the former in those days (and perhaps still does, someone told me a few years ago that you could buy a whole row of houses for £3,000 but you know how I am with the things I think I know). Anyways, don’t all students have to live in the really rough areas of any University town? Even those who went to Oxbridge?

When you’re young and away from home for the first time you really don’t see these things, even if our parents would have preferred to drive us straight back home again. Besides everyone is in it together and there’s always safety in numbers. That’s exactly how we operated. I really don’t know how true it was but there was always this thing about the Locals against the Students. You must never go out on your own else you’d be beaten up. There was even talk of a riot one night between the two in the first term of our first year. I wouldn’t know because I fell asleep early evening and woke up to find no one around, they were probably rioting. I was wandering around the corridors looking for non rioters and happened across two of them, Patster and Big Scary D, just loitering around. In the age old adage of student hospitality I offered these two poor, hungry Students with rumbling stomachs copious rounds of tea (Tetley) and toast (Warburtons white sliced – Husband calls it knock off bakery loaf). It wasn’t until years later that Big Scary D admitted that the rumbling was in fact due to a dire need to do an enormous fart. Students are vile. We lived in Oaklands Halls which was knocked down a few years after we graduated (to stop the risk of rioting Locals and Students I expect) and is now a sensible residential area. It’s a real shame it no longer exists because I’d like to go back and see whether it is as how I remembered. We were perched on top of a hill and my room overlooked some fields leading down to the self catering Halls of Residence and The Pav where many a drunken night was spent. Not a burnt out car in sight.

Leaving home for the first time is such a life changing, life enriching experience that I always advocate the young people in my family to try it. However, I come from a different point in time and much has changed. In those days, my career path was very clear; you either went to University or you worked in the family takeaway. I’ve mentioned before, in Chinese culture there’s a strong sense of duty and responsibility and a stronger sense of the will of family. So I had rarely enjoyed a social life before leaving home and there was some resistence to my leaving but everyone can adapt to change. Term time was only 10/11 weeks long and I was still back home for the holidays and just as well really as I appreciated having a ready job.

So after a pretty sheltered and strict upbringing it was just weird and a little frightening to be amongst all these unknown people. Hoards of them! I arrived thinking everyone would be more worldly wise than me. Some were but most weren’t. A friend drove me and my belongings to Halls and there were just masses of people that I was too scared to face being amongst them and spent the evening with other friends already in Manchester. I wasn’t quite ready to go it alone but I should have done, like everyone else. As we lived in catered Halls, we used to all go for breakfast and dinner together. Safety in numbers. Then of course, Fresher’s Week. All these activities designed to help new students settle in with the support of cheap watered down pints. Therefore always go for bottles. I missed the Fresher’s Ball though as I went home after two weeks, I suppose I wanted to let my family know I was still around.

When I came back though, I realised something quite important, that this was a life of my own. I may not have been able to control what had happened before this point but that wasn’t how it was going to be forever.

I was looking through photos to use in this blog and you know what, we absolutely looked like STUDENTS. I think modern day Students look too well groomed and probably won’t look back on their digital photos and exclaim what exactly are you wearing and what is going on with that hair? I really, really enjoyed having a laugh at them. There’s hardly a photo without a look of extreme happiness and laughter, most of them helped along with a bucket of ale. Of course I’m going to look back on those days with fondness. Especially that first term. Nothing can beat that first term of University where everyone is on a level playing field. It doesn’t matter where you grew up, what you aspire to be in the future, how popular you were back home; all of us were in a situation of starting over. You could be whoever you wanted to be. With the wisdom of age, compassion and understanding, I can reflect on the people who were perhaps not the most popular at school but had the chance to fit in at University. There are so many people that you’re bound to find your niche somewhere. Isn’t that a marvellous thing?

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Did I find mine? Well, I still carry with me some important people from back then: Nana Moon, Ms Beefy, Elbear, Big Scary D, Big A and Mrs 192 to name a few. Somehow, we have managed to adapt our friendships with the life paths we have each chosen. When we all first met, it was under the same circumstances but after University some people we were really close to went back to their real lives back home and others you find you have nothing in common with after all. I’m pretty sure that besides knowing each other for twenty years, there is a genuine fondness for the people we have grown up to be. Otherwise, Nana Moon wouldn’t be off celebrating her 39th Birthday in Berlin with Ms Beefy and Elbear and of course I would love to be there too. Assuming I would have been invited if I wasn’t out here in Singapore…..

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You may have figured by now that I’m a sentimental soul at heart and I feel great warmth when I hear of people who have friends they have known since childhood. I do have a few of those but if I’m honest they are only in my current social sphere with the help of Facebook. There’s something about the longevity of a friendship that has weathered many changes with you and understands the quirks you have and forgives you for them too. So much has changed in these twenty years, as of course it should with the passing of time. Yet quite often, I’ll hear a song (anything Britpop), have a chat with someone, see a bottle of MD 20/20, watch a film and it throws me right back there like it was just recently. What I need to do is see someone I haven’t seen since then and then I’ll really know we’ve aged 20 years!

Mrs 192 lives in Brisbane now and I last saw her almost four years ago with her husband, eldest daughter and #2 on the way. If I wasn’t here in Singapore then the last time I saw her would have been in ‘A Derry’ on her wedding day back in January 2005. She is still the same funny, captivating person she was back then and absolutely no one tells a story or makes you live an experience the way she does. She is the first (and only) person I have ever met who has conversations with their parents liberally peppered with the F word. I was shocked!

Mrs Wheatsheaf who hails from Bradford is also mother to three children. I last saw her in May 2010 on a trip back to the UK. She’s quite sensible now but she was the one who stomped around in Doc Martin boots and smoked her own roll ups. What a rebel. She would often sleep on my floor in Halls even though her room was next door to mine and sometimes I’d end up sleeping on my own floor whilst she slept on my bed! I know she worked very hard during term time but the last night of term before the holidays would start, you could guarantee a rather messy end in the Halls bar ( sometimes along with Nana Moon). I’ve said before that I’ve had a rather sheltered life (because I was never allowed out!) and so when she and I went to a Soul Asylum gig because I liked their one song ‘Runaway Train’, she warned me it was going to be rough. Oh my word! Like being a pea being shook up and down in a bottle full of golf balls! Yet she did her utmost in protecting me and she’s about two inches shorter than me too! Fun.

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I rather think that Students should be left to enjoy their lie ins, their six hours of lectures a week, their randomness, their hangovers, their slovenly ways, their endless discussions of answers to the Big Questions because as you and I know, all too soon they’ll be faced with the Real Life Big Questions and quite frankly, University doesn’t really prepare you for the Real Life Big Questions but it does give you some wonderfully, funny, carefree years and hopefully a good bunch of people who may be able to help you with the Real Life Big Questions.

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Embracing 40……..With your very First Birthday Party Ever

I know! It’s hard to believe but I kid you not that my friend Mrs Imperturbable had her First Birthday Party Ever last night at The Cufflink Club, Singapore. We were out shopping earlier this week for a party frock befitting the host of a 40th birthday party. Little did I know it was her first ever party host frock. When I asked her if she had anything in mind, her reply was ‘I have no idea about dresses. Other than something in a light fabric with slightly oriental features and either red or black, v-neck with short sleeves’. Those are quite specific requirements don’t you think? We didn’t find a dress like that.

Quite casually she throws into the conversation that she has no childhood recollection of celebrating her birthday. No photographs, no parties, no presents from friends. But apparently her eldest sister has wonderful memories of very happy birthday celebrations. It seems being the youngest of three, by the time it came to Mrs Imperturbable’s birthday, everyone was partied out.

Now, at this point any good friend would express deep sympathy and ‘Oh you poor thing’. Except I always fail to grasp the seriousness of a situation when talking to Mrs Imperturbable because she is by nature very measured and matter of fact. So what did I do? I laughed because I thought she was having me on! We walked around the shops some more until very calmly she says to me,’Were you just laughing at my tragic childhood past?’. Oh.

I’ve known Mrs Imperturbable for almost four years now. We used to live in the same condo and I used to see her with her eldest son by the pool and wondered whether she would like to be my friend. So I took the direct approach and passed my number to her husband to see if she would. And she did.

You always need someone much more grounded than yourself. A voice of reason to calm the chaotic thoughts in your mind. Someone who listens to the chaotic thoughts without judgement because sometimes, like therapy, you don’t need someone giving you the answers. You have the answers already but you need someone to listen whilst you get to the answer you’re looking for. This is what I like about Mrs Imperturbable, she lets you decide for yourself what’s best. Even during a time of great personal loss, she still had the ability to listen to my troubles without making them seem trivial.

I really felt I needed to make up for my insensitivity about her childhood Birthday memories (or lack of) and get her a thoughtful gift for her 40th Birthday. So I turned up to the party with this…..

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Never ever buy anything on impulse. Luckily by the time we arrived at The Cufflink Bar, Mrs Imperturbable was fully embracing her First Birthday Party Ever to barely notice the wording.

Thankfully for her, she has far better friends in others than in myself. Like Hen and Stag dos, a 40th Birthday celebration is no longer a one night affair. Last night Mrs Imperturbable said she felt lucky to have such caring friends whose excitement over her 40th made her feel all the more excited about it. She has had, by her own admission, a fantastic week.

To kick off the celebrations, her real kind and caring friends took her out for dinner to Haji Lane on her Birthday Eve; they queued in the ridiculously long queue at Tim Ho Wan for dim sum lunch on her 40th birthday; they took her shopping for shoes and make up when shopping is not a particular pastime of hers. Although I think Mrs Imperturbable has rather surprised herself on that front, that shopping can actually be rather fun. A very special dinner with her husband was organised at The Tippling Club, Dempsey for a gastronomic assault on all the senses worthy of Heston Blumenthal.

Then last night was her First Birthday Party Ever. I think she rather enjoyed it too. What is there not to love about a birthday party? Your friends coming together to make sure you have a really fabulous time. I could definitely see that was going to happen. There was the friend with the new baby on her first night out since becoming a Mum, it’s no small thing to make that first evening outing. There was the good time friend who would have stayed up all night if Mrs Imperturbable had had the stamina (I did not). There was the friend who kept her glass topped up with champagne. A really good effort for someone who never took much notice of their own birthday before.

When the time comes (just 10 months to go now), I may not be able to celebrate my 40th with much the same group of people as I did for my 30th but I’m glad to know that there is a special group of people in Singapore I would happily celebrate with too.

One final note for Mrs Imperturbable (who is also quite stoical, I seem to know many such people), I’ve seen the effort you put in for the Birthday celebrations of both your boys. The handmade decorations; the detail of the home baked cakes; the care and attention put into every aspect of every party. I can guarantee you that in the future, neither of them will have anyone laugh at any tragic childhood birthday stories because quite simply, they will only have excellent ones to talk about.

Happy 40th Birthday to you Mrs Imperturbable. I’m sure a lot of people present and afar, are very proud of the grown up you are and to see you happy and enjoying all that comes your way.

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When it was just us two

I suppose it’s inevitable that after three children and approaching Middle Age, my locks are looking less than lustrious. Yet as I was looking in the mirror this morning and asked Husband whether I was losing more hair or if it were just the harsh lighting, he said ‘No, you’re definitely losing your hair, that’s how mine started’. Pause. ‘Only joking!’. Really? How is that even funny. Then I asked him, ‘Do you remember what day it is today?’. He thinks he knows, ‘The day after our wedding anniversary’, he answers decisively. Pause. ‘The day we got engaged’ he amends. Yes, and I was going to write nice things about you in my blog today but I think I’ve changed my mind.

At moments like this morning and even worse moments of being trapped in a small space he’s filled with fart fug, it’s hard to believe that seven years ago, this same man got down on one knee and proposed marriage with a ring ready and everything. Yesterday, I talked about our Wedding Day and you may have noticed I didn’t mention a whole lot of slushy stuff about Husband. It’s because there’s a Chinese part of me that does not do Public Displays of Praise and if I’ve got stuff like that to say then do you really need to know about it? I think Husband would rather hear it from me than read it somewhere else.

However, before the frenzy of wedding planning and public declaration of commitment, there was that private moment just the two of you knew for certain that this commitment was for life. (Let’s not bring up the statistics today). Although I consider myself a forward thinking almost feminist, I waited to be asked. The point of getting married had been discussed before, perhaps the year before it happened because it’s good to know that you are going somewhere and not just drifting along as you can do in your early thirties without much happening. But when it was going to happen was the mystery.

In 2005, we spent a lovely festive season in Florence. A very good proposal setting if you need some ideas. Loved Florence for the art history, the museums with the statue of the naked man, the churches with traditional nativity scene and the gorgeous Ponte Vecchio conveniently lined with jewellery stores. It wasn’t here. Neither was it at Pisa where the tower really does lean and lots of tourists painstakingly spent much time getting that comedy photo of them propping it up. Fun. Although it may have seemed an ideal setting, it wasn’t going to happen somewhere that seemed obvious Husband later said.

When it did happen, it actually did take place somewhere obvious come to think of it. Down on one knee, on a deserted beach in the dark (so there would be no witnesses if he was turned down), with the waves crashing against the shore and after dinner so no distractions caused by hunger (mine apparently). We were on holiday in St Lucia and it would have been a fabulous holiday even without a gem to take home with me. Loved St Lucia for it’s Friday Night Fish Fry, the Pitons for amazing climbs to the summit and the live volcano for real hot mud baths even if you do pong of rotten eggs afterwards. It’s a gorgeous island; so beautiful and relaxing with amazing views and our first fancy holiday. When we first arrived we stayed at the Ginger Lily in Castries, and we marvelled at how the towels were made up like swans and that rose petals were strewn on the bed which actually isn’t that practical when you have to pick them off and then they go all brown. The second part we stayed at Crystals (www.stluciacrystals.com) owned by an unconventional British expat of indeterminable age. We had a view of the ocean and the Pitons from our hut. Really spoilt. Then of course we had to be the hapless tourists who drove down into the local town and had a local just casually open the back seat door and climb in claiming he worked at Crystals and he would be happy to give us a tour around the area. Can you imagine this happening in many other places? He was quite knowledgeable actually and if I’m ever stranded on a Caribbean island I know to find me some hibiscus blooms that will lather up rather nicely to give me perfumed clean hair. For his time he asked for nothing but a hospitality beer. We found out the next day he was nothing to do with Crystals and on our penultimate day when he tried to play the same trick again, we were wise and told him in no uncertain terms we had already been had before.

I like to know that the whole caboodle of getting engaged was completely work of Husband. I like how he made the nervewrecking decision of choosing the ring by himself which I like very much. What is there not to love about a precious gem? I like how he thought solely of me in making these decisions and had a plan made up all by himself to surprise me. How often does something fabulous happen unexpectedly? The rest of the holiday was spent with only us knowing our news and it made us giggle (well just me I think), with excitement and happiness.

It’s an overwhelming feeling being newly engaged. You’re moving on and taking another giant step to becoming proper grown ups. It helps that some of your close friends have already made that move. It feels less like you’re breaking ranks and changing the social flow. But I remember feeling almost embarrassed breaking the news. I think it must be to do with the focus of attention you find yourself under and then all the questions that follow regarding wedding plans. Answers you don’t have because you’re still getting used to having a ring on that finger and you haven’t been out to legitimately buy that first Wedding magazine yet.

It’s that first step to feeling the full force of good wishes that the people who care about you hold for you. And for a few glorious weeks (if that) when Husband was still feeling the full romance of it all, there was wondrously no entrapment in small spaces filled with fart fug.

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Celebrating your Wedding Anniversary

I am definitely that person who whoops with excitement upon hearing the announcement of an engagement. What is there not to love about someone’s happy news? Such great news is infectious and I think it would only be a true cynic who wouldn’t allow themselves to be swept along with the romance of it all even if statistics do say one in three marriages end in divorce.

As a child I never swanned around with a pillow case on my head dreaming of my own wedding because let’s face it, at that age it’s not about the getting married per se as for the chance to wear a nice, big Princess frock and that’s not something you get to do everyday. Today, when we see a radiant bride (and you see them an awful lot around Singapore, randomly having pre-wedding photo shoots about town), #1 and 2 will call out ‘Look Mummy, it’s a Princess’ and we’ll stop and admire her. They never call the Groom a Prince though.

Up until the age of 26, the weddings I had been to were of the Chinese banquet variety hosted by parents of the Bride/Groom or both. It never seemed unusual to me that guests would turn up, hand over a Lucky Red Packet to the hosts, sit down with whomever they chose, ate (usually ten courses), drank (always Carlsberg, a bottle of red wine and a bottle of Asti Spumanti – the height of sophistication), toasted the Happy Couple when they came to your table, ate some more, drank some more and left. All within three hours. That was quite normal. Of course for the Happy Couple, there’s a lot more traditional rituals that happen outside of the banquet celebration but the actual banquet celebration is mostly about the parents. Apparently in recent times there’s now a karaoke interlude during most wedding banquets. Lovely.

I think with your own wedding, there’s so much going on and emotions are running so high that a lot does pass you by in a haze. A very happy one though. Our wedding was a civil ceremony at Blackbrook House, Belper, Derbyshire (www.blackbrookhouse.com), a location inbetween where our families lived and London. It was an independent venue and we were lucky to stumble across it really because the owner, Lavinia, offered a bespoke service that helped us to combine some Chinese elements into our wedding which was important to me because I wanted my family to feel comfortable having only ever been to sit down and eat Chinese banquets before. I loved thinking about planning the wedding, a real legitimate reason to look through the Bridal magazines. Something you would never dare do before an engagement ring was on view for fear of being labelled weird or desperate. There’s also something deliciously voyeuristic about seeing what other Brides get up to from the properly ostentatious to the simple and fuss free. I like how everyone does it differently and I like how creative people can be. It may not be for you the amount spent on flowers or doves at dusk symbolising your ever lasting love but it’s their day so why not. Too much choice, like with all decisions, can send a Bride slightly mad and it can be so easy to be swept along with things when a very persuasive wedding planner gets in on the act. I think it’s best to know beforehand exactly what you want so that your day really is your day.

I’ve now been to many weddings and all hold a special memory. There’s the wedding where the bride gave an exceptional and funny speech but to do otherwise just wouldn’t be her. There’s the wedding where the bride wore an amazing amethyst jewel toned gown. There’s the wedding where the Groom wore a pale blue suit. There’s the wedding where the Bride wore five dresses and four were made by herself. There’s the wedding where the first dance was a classic House tune. There’s the wedding where the Grooms danced perfectly in synch. There’s the wedding where for years the Bride insisted the first song would be Glenn Medeiros but in the end it wasn’t. There’s the wedding where Ms Beefy was my plus one and stayed sober because I was preggers. There’s the wedding where only a privileged few were invited. All and many others have been unique and great occasions, thank you for inviting us to share your special day. Then there are the weddings I’ve missed out on because I’m out here in Singapore, I’m sorry for that too.

As it was my wedding day, then of course I’m going to say it was a great day! The things I remember quite clearly include that feeling of happiness when you see all the people who you love and mean something to you in one place; the look of pride and relief of Mr Li that finally at the age of 33, I was off his hands; the neverending smile my Mum had for me; the effort that Big Brother Li had made to come from Hong Kong with nephew #2 and my much loved Kowloon Aunt; the support of the Bridesmaids and Best Men; the effort of Our Jenn mobilising a busload of our family from Newcastle. Then there are the smaller details such as being unable to have pre-ceremony champagne for fear of the dreaded Chinese drinking ‘glow’ spoiling wedding photos; laughing inappropriately during the vows; not holding the bouquet at the correct height as detailed in the wedding magazines; being able to finally have a drink and get round to seeing everyone; the new mother in law taking away my gin and tonic when she deemed me suitably inebriated; nephew #2 asleep the whole way through the ceremony, no wonder it was so quiet; dancing to Kate Bush ‘Wuthering Heights’ with my Hairdresser. I could go on but just these memories makes me smile.

Then there are the things that I didn’t get to see such as Mr Steamer getting so steaming he had a nap on the lawn in the dark; my Hairdresser getting so steaming he orders a cab to the train station and back to the hotel because he forgot what he was doing there; Nana Moon and Ms Beefy getting so steaming they somehow end up with Uncle Monkey in their bed; a nameless guest getting so steaming he has a chew on my new Father in law’s ear in the hotel bar.

Like with most things, you only appreciate the effort that goes into organising a wedding when you’ve done it yourself and now I would take even more time to appreciate the flowers, the table settings, the entertainment and all the surprise elements carefully thought through by the Bride and Groom, it may be exactly what they want but it’s also to please us as their guests. People the Happy Couple have asked to share their day with and for me, there is huge appreciation for those who attended our wedding because it’s no small thing for people to make the journey and put in the expense to celebrate with you.

Our wedding celebrations then went on tour up to Newcastle where we celebrated with a Chinese banquet (sans karaoke) organised by Mr Li and Big Brother Li with 110 guests, most of whom I had never met before let alone Husband. It still puzzles me how Mr Li knows so many people for such a quiet man. This was a rather less glamorous affair, the Bridesmaids and I (one coming straight from school) got changed in the store room of the restaurant. Lovely. I have to say though that Richard Lee (www.richardleephotography.co.uk) did an excellent job of our second lot of wedding photos and most importantly made up for that missing shot of just me and the Bridesmaids that the Best Men were responsible for making sure happened at the Blackbrook House wedding but didn’t and it was typed up in the Bridezilla notes and everything for them. No, I’m never going to forget that Uncle Monkey.

Last month Breaking Bad actor, Aaron Paul, was quoted as saying ‘Marriage is easy’ but to be only four months into a marriage then I should hope that it still is. Marriage, like any long term relationship is not easy. Getting married is. Although when you’re in the midst of wedding planning and seemingly faced with a lot of choice and decisions and pressure then you may not think so. But I think getting married is the easy part as you bask in the warmth of all the well wishes as you make it publicly official the commitment you probably made to each other a long time before a precious gem was presented to you.

No one gives you advice on how to make for a successful marriage and what works for one couple would drive another apart but I have always been aware of the saying ‘a marriage needs working on’. What is meant by that? Surely if it needs working on then it’s not the right relationship and perhaps we shouldn’t be married after all. Whether you are married or happily unmarried in a long term relationship, at some point the unglamorous Big Life Issues come in to play and stir things up causing a temporary less harmonious partnership. Perhaps in previous relationships this may have sent you bolting out of the door. What makes it different now is that as the grown up, mature, people we are, we will stay and resolve these Big Life Issues as difficult as it may seem because the person we are committed to is worth all that we give up and compromise on. In the old fashioned order of things, most people get married before having children and the shock children bring to your otherwise ordered life is a huge adjustment. It’s now not just about you and Husband/Wife/Life Partner. Before children when you had the time, energy and finances to indulge in all sorts of fancy stuff to keep romance a bubbling of course relationships are easy. After children though when priorities change, your energy levels nosedive and finances are stretched, is when work is needed on the relationship that came first.

Today is our 6th Wedding Anniversary, mere fledgelings in the journey of married couples. Last night we went out for dinner to mark the occasion by ourselves and today we’ve been out for lunch to celebrate with #1, 2 and 3. We’ve dug out the wedding photographs to share with them and in doing so, reminded ourselves of what a special and meaningful occasion it was too. We’ve come a long way since then and we hopefully have a long way to go. It has been hard at times but that’s just life and it’s how we respond that matters. I’ll probably never fit into my wedding dress again, perhaps a good thing because there’s no guarantee that husband wouldn’t come home to find me just casually wearing it around the house just to get a better cost per wear out of it you understand.

I secretly hope that when we come to celebrate our tenth anniversary, we’ll be able to do so with our very special Bridesmaids and Best Men who made the whole journey a lot of fun and a lot less stressful.

Happy Anniversary Husband!

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Embracing 40……..Las Vegas style

I’ve often said that this blog is not all about me, it’s also about you. So earlier in the week the thought came to me that wouldn’t it be a good idea to share with you how everyone else I know is embracing their 40th Birthday.

Now this can be seen in one of two ways. I know Uncle Monkey (Best Man and Godfather to #1, 2 and 3) will be thinking it’s my way of broadcasting worldwide the fact that you’re 40 before me like some sort of Public Service Announcement. But his judgement is obscured and not to be trusted because he’s just sore that he’ll be 41 whilst I’ll still be in my 30s.

The way I like to see it though is that it’s a jolly good reason for a celebration in any way you like – big or small scale. Giving it some thought now, I think what makes a 40th Birthday celebration so utterly fabulous is that you’re old enough to go sophisticated without seeming too try hard, young enough to go all extreme sports without huge risk of your body caving in and any kids you have are too young to feel mortification at any inappropriate behaviour. May their celebrations inspire you (and me) to make yours a truly Fortabulous affair (the first time I typed this it said Fartabulous, childish I know).

Except I think we may have peaked before I’ve even begun.

Our friend Mr Cupping is currently larging it up in Las Vegas with six of his oldest mates from University. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t that what your Stag Do is for? I think Mrs Cupping has outdone herself with this amazing gift. When Husband heard Mr Cupping was off to Vegas, I could hear a thought ping in his mind at having missed a golden opportunity to legitimately relive his Stag Do and was inwardly kicking himself. Ah well, there’s always your 50th but that wouldn’t really work as well because a bunch of 50 year olds living it large in Vegas may just look a little bit wrong.

Husband and I have known Mr Cupping for over 14 years now. Something which I hadn’t given much thought to until now, he’s just sort of been there. If you were to ask me off the cuff to name my oldest friends, I could reel off a list of names from my world of school, University and work. People I found myself so to speak. Then there’s the people you meet through other people and somehow you have a long history with them too. It may not seem obvious at first but you think a little bit more and you see clearly who they are.

So my first encounter with Mr Cupping was back in the summer of 1999, in the heady days of going out ‘clubbing’ at Turnmills, London and randomly shouting ‘Tune’ to songs without lyrics. Except on that occasion he never made it into the club; unceremoniously booted out of the queue because his mate was very, very drunk. I don’t think it would have been a better story if it were he who was the one very, very drunk because this character trait is one that has been consistent throughout the time we have known him. He can be the rather loyal type and that is apparent by the childhood friends he is still close to, his current stint in Showgirls with old University mates and the fact that on our three trips back to the UK he has made sure that he and his family are able to meet up with us. This is no small ask because our schedule is usually hectic and windows of time are small and we all have children to work around. I also want to tell you about my first encounter with Mrs Cupping which was watching a video of her skydiving, clutching on to her helmet and screaming away upon the descent. Needless to say it wasn’t used in the promo ad nor inspired me to give it a go myself.

Husband and I have celebrated many key moments with the Cuppings from other lesser numbered Birthdays, to weddings, to the arrival of small people and countless occasions that are not so momentous such as freezing yourself silly at the fireworks display at Alexandra Palace, Muswell Hill, (although fireworks are a personal favourite for me), being available to pass the time with over a pint when I’ve forgotten house keys and having to wait for Husband to come home and not to mention all the random drunken occasions of our youth just because we could.

I asked Mr Cupping the other day now that he’s 40 what are his aspirations for the future. The strongest point he made was to get the balance right between providing for his family and focussing on work with spending more quality family time together. I imagine this is a thought facing lots of us at this stage. We all have more balls in the air to juggle. Health and general well being is another area he wants to improve upon. It’s a fact that our lithe bodies all require a bit of extra work these days to keep it ticking over. It’s a shock to discover though, having abused it with late nights and debauched activity for so long without much grumble that it’s finally telling us enough is enough and refusing to recover as quickly so we can’t do it all again the next night. Mr Cupping ran the London Marathon not that long ago for a very good cause and for very personal reasons so I’ve no doubt he’ll be able to touch his toes again one day.

I also don’t think he’ll let me finish this without a public apology for roping him into a sponsored bike ride ten years ago up in Hertfordshire when I was working for the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign. An accidental hangover meant I overslept and never made it out of my front door to do the appropriate cheering on but he and his mate took part in the event regardless.

So he’ll probably be too drunk to take notice of this right now. He did say he’ll send a photo from Vegas to accompany this post, I doubt he can remember his own name at this point but I’m sure Mrs Cupping will have sewn it into his t-shirt with a return address. Then when he gets back home he’ll need to take a month to recover and after that I’m sure he’ll have many a story to tell. He’s always got a good story to tell and naive though I may be at times, does he really think I believe the time in Amsterdam that stumbling into that club was sheer accident?

This last decade may have brought about a myriad of changes that separate the carefree years to the ones now filled with responsibility but we’re all in the same boat and we are always there.

Happy 40th Birthday to you Mr Cupping! You may be wondering how I’ve chosen your pseudonym, well I know what goes on tour stays on tour but how could I not know about you, Uncle Monkey and a very comfortable sleeping position.

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