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

Me and Our Jenn

on May 11, 2014

Whenever I get asked who Our Jenn is, I find it’s not enough to simply answer she’s my cousin. I always have to add but she’s like my sister. I feel it’s important that the importance of her to me is made clear from the start.

She’s the youngest of four by a long way but when I came to live with her at an age I can’t even remember, she became Big Sister to me. So whilst I never really grew up with Big Brother Li, I do know what it’s like to grow up with someone like a sibling.

Whereas Big Brother Li takes care of things and shoulders responsiblity, Our Jenn has done the special things filled with lots of thought and love because her aim has been to make me happy.

As I sit here and think about it all, I realise how much she has done for me and perhaps I haven’t let her know just how much I’ve appreciated it.

So here’s my chance. But I have to keep it short because whenever she sees one of my posts, she goes ‘But there are so many words!’

The first influences on our young impressionable selves are going to be the older relatives in our family. The ones who can wear what they like, go places on their own, do stuff and not be the tagger alonger. That independence is what we all strive for when we’re little. I probably did cramp her style being the tagger alonger so often when she was a teenager but she took me along anyways without complaint.

Much of my 80s popular music knowledge stems from her record collection way before 80s Club Trop night at Manchester Academy. A huge Duran Duran and Madonna fan (how I wish she’d kept her 80s wardrobe), I remember all those 80s tunes blaring out the speakers when no one else was home. Our Jenn loves to boogie. Proper boogie and she’d love the disco dancing lifts at the Legoland Hotel more than anyone.

About her 80s wardrobe. No one could walk as fast in sky scraper spiky stilettos as she could. Bat wings, big hair, lace and velvet. She had it all. Yet when I was 13 and the ‘in’ cut was a jaw length inverted bob with shaved step at the back, she outright refused to let the hairdresser do it. So I got the opposite and ended up with a bob and a weird looking ledge round the back that looked like a layer had been left uncut by accident and I soon had to get it cut all one length again.

Shame she didn’t put a stop to the misguided spiral perm the following year which resulted in one big frizz and that is not so easy to rectify. Oh actually, she couldn’t stop me as she had just got married and moved far away to Newcastle.

Whilst I then got my own room, I missed her very much. Nearly nieces arrived two and four years later at a time when I was just beginning to get a taste of my own independence. It’s only now when I have children of my own that I realise I should have been there for her instead of thinking she didn’t need me when she had a family of her own to care for. Sigh.

Our Jenn loves a good surprise, perhaps that’s why I’m slightly nervous of them. When it was my Hen Do back in September 2007 and she couldn’t come, I was disappointed but understood when she said she couldn’t get the time off work. My whole Hen Weekend was a mystery until the day we left for Madrid and so when we were sat outside a cafe bar waiting for all the girls to arrive and Nana Moon went off on a covert tour to meet some of them, I didn’t think too much about it. I was full of excited nerves and anticipation as it was. Then suddenly there was Our Jenn! All the way in Spain. I’ve only ever seen her once outside of the UK and that was when we went on our only non Hong Kong family holiday to Tenerife in 1984.

I didn’t know what to say! I didn’t have a clue. I remember there was a lot of ‘Eeeeing’ going on. Not that kind of E, I’ll have you know but the Geordie kind of ‘Eee….’ when one is lost for words. Followed by a lot of ‘Manning’.

You can guess who provided all the embarrassing photos from my youth which everyone wore. Laminated no less. A practical touch in case anyone chundered on them.

Who doesn’t get embarrassed by an older sibling? All the time. From funny faces when out in public to backing my school books with pages from Smash Hits and having Billy Idol stare back at me every Geography class to the time she found out who I had a crush on in my class at school. Hideous! And when we had to stay at my other cousin’s shop with no central heating when I was very little, she’d stick her cold feet on me to warm them up. No wonder I hate feet (except small chubby baby feet). And she was the one who said there was a doll with the rotating head guarding the factory in Chester-le-Street to freak me out.

But I can live with that because she’s always there for me. From organising a minibus for our family to come down from Newcastle to Derbyshire for our wedding, to making one hundred origami boxes for said wedding. From making sure she came to my Graduation and for giving me and some friends a place to stay overnight to celebrate my 21st. Times were very different back then. For always giving me a place to stay actually whenever I came back up north.

In Chinese culture, you’re meant to leave your maiden home before heading off to get wed. I suppose it didn’t really matter at that point because I was already officially married but the night before the Chinese wedding banquet, the best place I wanted to be was with Our Jenn. To have those memories of us being on our own together before such an important day in my life is what I wanted most of all.


I don’t know anyone who laughs as much as or as easily as Our Jenn. There’s a Chinese saying about laughing properly that goes ‘you can see their teeth but you can’t see their eyes’. Which is why you can tell her a semi funny anecdote and she’ll make you feel like it’s the funniest thing ever. I must get #1 to work his jokes on her as he’ll think he’s the best joke teller ever.

Equally she’s the soppiest person I’ve ever come across. I mean, I know I’m bad but she’s far worse. When she came to visit me in Manchester one year when Titanic was on at the pictures, I took her to see it. She sat there snivelling for nearly the last half of the film and then blames me for not warning her it was going to be sad. There was never going to be a happy ending with a film about the Titanic.

If she knows I’m sad, she’ll be sad too. In fact, it’s not just me that applies to but all who are close to her. Empathy is one of her greatest strengths. I guess that’s why she’s taken such good care of me all these years. No one can understand a family than family themselves and she gets everything. Lucky for me really to have someone share things with because it makes it easier to let go of many things that don’t make sense. It makes it ok to move on from things when someone else understands those parts too.

She’s incredibly inspirational and strong too. Sometimes life doesn’t work out how you imagine and being brave enough to make a change that will give you a chance of happiness elsewhere takes courage. In doing so and building a different life, I’ve seen her graduate from college and take up opportunities that were not available to her but were available to me when I reached that age.

She’s not so brave when it comes to spiders which is quite odd considering they don’t do anything and she loves all other animals. Horses in particular and I remember the first present I bought for her one Christmas all by myself was this £4.99 horse and cart ornament I got from the local post office/gift shop/sweet shop.

There is so much more I could share with you about me and Our Jenn but that would be far too many words. I hope you get the picture though. She’s brilliant is Our Jenn. So much more than my cousin.

It was just her birthday last week and next year is going to be a Big One too for her. If I’m not back in the UK already, I’ll make sure I’ll be back for that because nothing is going to keep me away from sharing her special day with her.



2 responses to “Me and Our Jenn

  1. Kelly says:

    Hahaha legoland disco lifts?
    She hasn’t changed one bit in that last photo! And you look a spit of Georgie!


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