I wasn’t really sure what to write about this week, as most of it has been heavy concentration, disciplined routine, and more US TV obsessions. Last weekend was a bit strange, though, especially Sunday, and I was uncertain whether to include it at all, because it’s going to make me sound like a crazy person but, having scanned over this blog for the past couple of months, I think that ship has sailed already.
Saturday, I met up with my producer friend, Heidi, to discuss a short film project that we’re both very excited about. I’d chosen The Lime Kiln, as it combined both wi-fi, and cheap alcohol, and I knew we’d be OK, sanity-wise, as long as we were out of there before 6pm, when the zombies came out to play. After a very pleasant working lunch (Thai sweet chilli noodles with chicken breast – 350 calories…bottle of wine – er, 900 calories….), Heidi left around 5pm, and I stayed behind to let the first series of 30 Rock, which I’d never, ever seen, finish downloading. I have a problem with US sitcoms, mainly because I don’t find them funny. With drama, I think they’re superior. With comedy, I just can’t stand that obsession they have with really bad canned laughter, plus the incredibly annoying ‘jazzy’ music they insist on using to link scenes. Just go to the next scene! Don’t force a 4-second brass section on my eardrums to ‘playfully’ lead me from one scene to another. I know what a scene change looks like. Anyway, I was feeling charitable, so decided to put 30 Rock and Modern Family in the queue of “Stuff I Feel I Should Have Watched By Now”.
Arriving home, I was met outside the building by the doleful face of Antoine*, my drug-dealing student neighbour, who has single-handedly boosted the share prices of Earplugs’R’Us, with the constant drum and bass emanating from his smelly, student pit. “I’m locked out.” he said, “I left my key on the table, I can’t get in.” In the Collegiate Debtors Prison, we have those stupid front doors that lock automatically the second they close behind you. Like real prison cells. I had my headphones in (The Saturdays’ Forever Is Over is on a loop right now…) and so I was half-tempted, as I tried to conceal my joy at Antoine’s predicament, to pretend I hadn’t heard him, hadn’t seen him, didn’t really give a toss…but of course I couldn’t, so I let him inside the main building, and said I’d google him a locksmith. Heck, I even gave him a beer.
As we waited for the locksmith, I began grilling him about his obvious hearing problem, and why he felt the need to wear concrete boots to stomp up and down the stairs every five seconds. He, however, was too fascinated by the plastic tray I have under the draining board by the sink, to answer me. “Wow…” he said, trippily, wide-eyed in wonder, “So that stops all the water dripping onto the floor…?” Common sense has yet to reach the National Curriculum, then. He reached into his pocket and brought out a spliff. He’d hardly touched his beer. “You want?” he asked, offering it to me. Naturally, I was moved that he thought me cool enough to share his weed but, unfortunately, cannabis makes me very sick. I’ve smoked it twice in my life, and both times it felt like my head had been thrown into a washing machine. What is this ‘mellowness’ everybody speaks of? I’ve never experienced it, and doubt I ever will, but that’s just me. I have nothing against it, ethically, as I think alcohol is far more dangerous, and a way more mind-altering substance than cannabis. I just don’t get on with cannabis, physically, whereas alcohol just loves me.
I declined his offer, but also told him he couldn’t smoke it in my flat, and not just because I knew the smell would make me throw up. We have very sensitive smoke alarms in the corridors outside each apartment. In the 8 years I’ve lived here, the fire brigade have been called out at least six times, when the alarm has been triggered by cannabis smoke coming from one of the apartments. The system is so sophisticated, that it’s possible to pinpoint the exact apartment of origin, and no way was that going to be me. Against my better judgement, I actually warned Antoine of this; information for which he was very grateful. We chatted some more, and I realised he was actually quite a sweet kid, just drifting through his business admin course, with not a clue about what he wanted to do in life. He asked why I didn’t have a telly or X Box or Wii or microwave or, seemingly, any other worldly possessions of any value. I told him I was a writer.
Eventually the locksmith arrived, who simply shoved a piece of cardboard into the door jamb, flicked his wrist, et voila, the door was open in 3 seconds flat, said locksmith disappearing another 3 seconds later, sixty quid richer. But so grateful was Antoine for my Good Samaritan act, that he was knocking on my door again five minutes later, a Post-It in his hand. “I noticed you were using one of those shitty little dongles to get on the internet.” he said. I suddenly felt like that kid in the playground in the hand-me-down school uniform. “Here’s my code for my wi-fi.” he continued, handing me the Post-It. “It’s unlimited. Use it as much as you want. Films, games, whatever, dude.” I always said students were the future of this country.
Sunday, I was knackered, on account of staying up all night downloading everything HBO have ever made. It was Derby Day. I felt sick. I’d arranged to meet my friend, Karl, an ex-pat, now living in Kings Lynn, who was back home for a week or so, catching up with old pals. Karl won’t mind me saying this, but he’s hard work. He talks non-stop or, rather, he shouts non-stop, because he’s deaf in one ear and can’t hear what he’s saying. He’s also hyper, all the time, and just cannot sit still. We’d agreed to meet in the William Gladstone on North John Street, at midday, so we could get seats in front of the TV. Obviously, everywhere was going to be heaving, but if he was forcing me out to town to watch it (which I’d never normally do), then it had to be as comfortable as possible. I hate bagging seats in pubs for people who haven’t arrived yet. In such situations, it’s usually me who arrives first, because I’m so paranoid about being late for things, I’m always hours early, instead. I bagged the table, but wasn’t sure about the number of seats. My friend James had said he was coming into town, too, to watch it. With, I assumed, his girlfriend Mandy. I was under the impression we were all meeting up, so I texted him to this effect but received no reply (and never did for the rest of the day). Kick off was 1.30pm, but it was nearly 1pm by the time Karl eventually turned up, without a care in the world. I told him I’d spent nearly an hour on my own, ‘protecting’ the seats, at considerable personal risk, but he explained that he’d “got talking” to his old mate, Dave, in O’Brien’s, and he’d “lost track of time”. It’s Derby Day. How can anyone “lose track of time”?
So, we watched the game, got robbed again, which seems to be the mantra of our season so far, but the six-quid bottle of wine I drank all by myself seemed to dull the pain. By six, after a quick trip to Flanagan’s Apple and the White Star, Karl had worn himself out with all his talking, and decided to go home. Knowing Peewee and the boys would be back from Goodison, and getting slaughtered in the Slaughterhouse, I decided to hop over there and have a late-afternoon-cap before heading home. My excuse, was that the bus stop was around the corner. Of course, three hours later, I was also slaughtered in the Slaughterhouse, from where we then ventured over to Studio2 at Parr Street Studios, for some Soul4Soul. It was here that I had my out of body experience.
It was busy, so the boys and I had scattered to various corners, wherever there was space. About half an hour in, I was sat on a stool, the band about to strike up again, when I suddenly felt this overwhelming sense of despair. I was in a room full of people, the vibe was upbeat and fun, but I felt inexplicably alone. It’s very, very hard to describe, because it wasn’t anything tangible, and it didn’t creep up on me. It was sudden, like someone had slapped me around the face with a big, black cloud of depression or, as Brenda suggested to me yesterday, that someone had dropped a not-so-happy-pill into my drink.
I had to go, I knew that much, and it wasn’t late, maybe half nine. I texted Peewee to tell him I’d gone, and made my way up to Lime Street. I didn’t have money for a cab, and the bus was on the other side of town, so I was in for the walk. Going past The Vines, Cy Tucker and the Friars booming out from the back room, I realised I had tears streaming down my face, and I had no idea why. All the way up London Road, I just couldn’t stop crying, I was sobbing, my hand over my mouth, trying to stay in control, yet inside my head I was thinking what the f**k is this about?? I cut through the dark bit around Bayhorse Lane, just trying to get home quicker, then I thought that someone was behind me. Usually, I’d quicken my pace, or have my keys in my hand, just being vigilant. But I didn’t care. I was actually thinking that, even if the worst was about happen, that there was nothing they could do to me. I’d never felt lower, it was like every positive atom in my entire body had crashed through the floor and all that was left was oblivion. Of course, I wasn’t being followed at all, but what was more frightening, was that I really didn’t care if I was.
Warning: The following contains talk of a menstrual nature, including the word ‘period’. Several times. Male reader discretion is advised.
At home, Peewee called to see if I’d got back OK, and I just collapsed, in bits. Every time he asked me what was wrong, I couldn’t answer him, because I just didn’t know, I had nothing to tell him. It was crazy, I was crazy. That seemed to be the only explanation. After convincing him I wasn’t going to jump off the turret, I took a couple of industrial Co-Codamol and went straight to bed. In the morning, I awoke to the crippling, but familiar, pains of stomach cramps. I was five days early on my period, which is unheard of, as I’m more regular than my debt collector. Still a bit shaken from my Madwoman in the Attic impression the night before, I got to thinking, about Sunday….had I suffered my first ever attack of PMT? Obviously, I’d read about such a condition, and listened to other people when they’d described it, but I’d never actually had it. Never. Ever. I’ve only ever had physical pain – severe, debilitating physical pain, that I’ve had to control with a cocktail of drugs, every month, for the last 25 years. But I’ve never had PMT, to the point where I even doubted its existence. I thought it was just another made-up medical condition, like ADHD, ADD, MFI, IKEA, to get people off in court. When I’d read stories in the papers about women who have assaulted their partners, gone shoplifting, or even killed people, then blamed it on PMT, I’ve always thought “oh get a grip, come ON, seriously?? Sheesh….“. I just didn’t get it. I didn’t understand how hormones could make women go nuts, because it had never happened to me. Physical pain, I can handle, for two reasons. First, because we’re women, and we just get on with it. Secondly, because there are tons of drugs we can take. But after researching this so-called PMT, it’s the only explanation I can come up with for how I felt on Sunday. And if that’s what PMT is, then give me the abdomen full of kitchen knives, every time.
But why has it struck now? Why does everything seem so f**ked up, just lately? Just because I hit 40 in the summer? Is Mother Nature being very un-maternal, deciding to screw with my brain as well as my belly? Is my body simply getting back at me for a quarter of a century of systematic abuse? Or am I…am I…am I (see, I can’t even say it) preparing to go through the MENOPAUSE???? Because I really need that right now.
Thankfully, I had work to distract me. I’d already loaded the freezer up with chicken breast fillets, stir fry sauces and various vegetables, and I was pretty sure the 3kg of grapes and 4 litres of yoghurt, would be sufficient for the week. Throw in the 3 tubs of reduced fat houmous and three whole cucumbers, and I was all set for hibernation. This week, I’ve been tendering for all sorts of 10p-an-hour projects, from homo-erotic fiction, to copywriting for a Victoria Sponge recipe website. I’ve also been writing 50 mini city-guides for a Canadian travel company, and have learned heaps of stuff about the buses in Kathmandu, dolphin conservation in Palau, and the wealth of things to do aboard a Disney Cruise ship. I was so wrapped up in all of this, that I completely forgot we had a League Cup match on Wednesday night against Swansea City (by 10pm, I still wished I’d forgotten). It would be my first serious test of the week. Not because I was going to the match, because I wasn’t, but I would have to go to the King Charles to drop off Jon G’s fancard, of which I am custodian. And that meant drinking, even if it was just for an hour prior to the game, before coming home again. Fortunately, the stars aligned to make me stay within my calorie limit. First, the match was not on telly, which meant that the temptation to sit at the bar and watch it, while everyone else trundled down to Anfield, was removed. Secondly, even if the pre-match vodka had warmed me sufficiently to consider staying in the pub to watch Chelsea v Man Utd, and await everyone else’s return – and thus, probably, a “session” – I knew that Lee and Ali were driving, as Lee was on the redeye to London the next morning and couldn’t afford the hangover. I was most smug, then, to enjoy a simple couple of double VDCs, and a walk back home. Thursday and Friday, I was good, too, so Diet Yoda has been awarding me shiny new merit badges left, right and centre. Or so I thought, until this morning’s weigh-in. Obviously, keeping more or less exactly to my diet plan, hardly deviating at all, unlike other, sinful weeks, this is why I have put on weight this week. Jeez…
We play Newcastle tomorrow, and I am planning to do the same as Wednesday; a few pre-match VDCs with the gang, then home. At least now, thanks to the lovely Antoine, I’ll be able to watch the match live on a stream on my laptop. The only potential stumbling block, is knowing the King Charles will also be showing it, on a lovely mile-wide telly, with Tammy’s “special measures” of VDC, awaiting my indulgence. Depending on the result, things might even “turn karaoke”. I left the pub, sober-ish, on Wednesday night.
I. Can. Do. It. Again.
Things I’ve Learned This Week
1. It’s good to talk.
Even when you’ve got sod all to say, or can’t articulate what it is you do want to say, it’s good to just have someone to not-articulate to.
2. “30 Rock” and “Modern Family” are actually quite good.
Thought the pilot for 30 Rock was a bit dodgy, but two or three episodes in, it found its groove. Tracy Morgan is a comic genius, and even Alec Baldwin is watchable. Modern Family obviously owes much to The Office, particularly the Phil Dunphy character, but I like it.
3. Having piggyback unlimited wi-fi could be fatal
Aside from Modern Family and 30 Rock, I’m also overdosing on The Amazing Race (is it wrong to go all funny when Phil Keoghan says “racearoundtheworld” very fast??), although my top telly must-see at the moment is definitely The Cleaner (no such weird attraction concerns with Ben Bratt…). It’s about an ex-addict-turned-interventionist, who saves people from drugs. It’s a bit like Highway To Heaven meets The A Team, and sometimes William Banks’ monologues to the God-he-doesn’t-believe-in, are a bit cringeworthy and cliched, but hey, maybe I’m not watching it for its dramatic merits…
Around 8 o’clock every night, as I’m winding down with my CSF (chicken stir fry) and 10th coffee of the day, I’m watching back-to-back episodes of all of the above, often until 2am or 3am. As my friend Maria always says, “you’re obsessive-compulsive…”.
Things I’m Dreading This Week
1. Eating chocolate
I don’t even really like the stuff, but there’s a huge box of Finnish chocs standing in the kitchen, and I know from past experience, that they’re really quite nice. Our friend, Paavo, is a Finnish sports journalist, and usually combines his trips over to Anfield, with an interview or three. For the last Euro game, he was interviewing Rafa Benitez, but forgot to give him the thank you chocs. Paavo had to bring them to the KC, pre-kick off, they got put behind the bar while he was at the game, and then he forgot them when he went back home. Because I was last out of the pub (hmm….), Tammy sent the chocs home with me, and they’ve been staring at me ever since. They are the size of tiny Quality Streets, and are 42 calories each (I spent half an hour working this out, having to count how many chocs were in the box, then doing maths stuff). Maybe I’ll take them back to the KC tomorrow, and share the joy.
2. Opening my mail
I don’t open mail often. Maybe once a fortnight, maybe longer. The only mail I ever get are death threats, suspended prison sentences in absentia, and love letters from the council. Today, it’s a month since I opened anything, and the postie is complaining that there’s no space left for him to deliver anything. I’m wondering, if I accidentally drop a lit match inside the pigeon hole, is that technically a crime? It’s my pigeon hole. Can’t I do what I like with it?
*I have changed the names to protect the guilty.
The stats bit:
Week 1: 3.25lbs
Week 2: 4lbs
Week 3: 0.75lbs
Week 4: 0.75lbs
Week 5: 0.50lbs
Week 6: 1.75lbs
Week 7: 1lb
Week 8: 2lbs
Week 9: plus 0.75lbs – first week of weight gain.
Total after 63 days: 13.25lbs