Month: September 2015 (page 1 of 2)

Eating dinner this evening and talking with my husband about his impending trip to Washington D.C. whilst stroking the cat, I came up with a great idea.

That place in the US where some bloke lives

That place in the US where some bloke lives

Everyone knows that cats ease stress (except for those poor soles who are allergic to cats, for whom cats increase stress). Hospices use cat therapy for their patients. Cafes now provide cat therapy for coffee drinkers (not yet in Shrewsbury, I might add). So, now I ask: how about an airline that provides cats to ease the stress of flying?

I think there is definitely a future for people like me (cat people who find the whole being airborne experience quite stressful) in airlines with cats. I’d pay an extra few quids for a cat to sit on my lap during take off and landing.

Not sure this is what I had in mind

Not sure this is what I had in mind

Picture yourself on a United Airlines flight from London Heathrow to Newark: the in-flight attendant is moving down the aisle, pushing the trolley, with the bottles rattling gently to the turbulence. He stops by your seat and asks: ‘Would you like something to eat, sir? Chicken or vegetarian? Drink? Milk and sugar? Cat? Ginger or black-and-white?’

Cats on planes? Great idea

Cats on planes? Great idea

I think it is a brilliant idea. So good I am going to keep it quite, I’m not going to tell a soul, and my ambition now is to get myself on Dragon’s Den with my idea in time for the next series.

That's me in the future

That’s me in the future

My 18-year-old self’s comfort objects

I seem to be in the nostalgia and reminiscing zone at the moment. Perhaps it is age. Yesterday I was reminiscing about secondary school and today, it is the turn of university.

Hope Hall, Exeter University

Hope Hall, Exeter University (where I watched two episodes of Brookside)

It occurred to me earlier today that it is, give or take the odd day, 25 years since I arrived at the University of Exeter (probably the best university in the world, as the car sticker says) as an excited and nervous fresher. My 18-year-old niece has just started her Freshers’ Week at Loughborough University (incidentally, Freshers’ Week in 2015 is a very different beast to what it was in 1990 but that is another blog entry). I am also about to experience Freshers’ Week as I am on the cusp of starting Year 3 of a BA (Hons) degree at the University of Wolverhampton (not sure I will be out drinking and dancing until 2am this time, I might just have half a pint somewhere). So all these things combined: my niece, my own impending studies, and a major anniversary since my first attempt at studies (I scraped a 2:1) have got me thinking back.

Me at university, at the end

Me at university, at the end

My weird thought relates to ‘things’. I am a big fan of ‘things’. Most of my art practice of recent months has centered on objects or things. Many of my weird thoughts and other blog entries are about ‘things’. I read a lot of books about ‘things’ and our relationship with such things. In fact, books are one of my own ‘things’. We need things in our lives. Things bring us comfort. We surround ourselves with the things we love and those things might not necessarily be the sort of ‘things’ normally regarded as comforting things. Without our things, anxiety and depression ensues. We may kid ourselves that we could live without things so long as we had health and family. Nope, not true. We’d fall into a well of loneliness without our things.

One of my favourite things

One of my favourite things

My current must-have things are: a black furry blanket purchased half price in Tescos, my current book, my sketch pad, real coffee, a black pen, a cushion (any cushion but preferably a velvet one), my children and husband (yes, people can be things), my cat and my hula hoop. These things are very different to the things my 18-year-old fresher self needed to have close by.

My 18-year-old things were: Brookside, my best friend Jane (sorry, Jane, for describing you as a thing), a duvet, tea, my favourite Top Shop trousers, my cat Crackers and my mixed tapes.

Can Brookside be a thing?

Can Brookside be a thing?

When I arrived at Exeter (a long way from home), I couldn’t take all my things with me. I certainly couldn’t take my cat Crackers and my best friend Jane. The others, I could just about manage. I sneaked a small black-and-white TV into halls but not having a license I only ever watched it under my bed when my two roommates were out. I think I only manged about two episodes of Brookside during the first term. So with just a duvet, my Top Shop trousers and my mixed tapes, I was a bit lost. I didn’t have my things with me, or at least not all of them. However, as time passed I adapted and found new things to love: my new friends, the library and books.

Yes, there was even an Exeter University BT phonecard

Yes, there was even an Exeter University BT phonecard

I wonder what my niece’s Freshers’ Week and beyond ‘things’ are? Perhaps the only correlation with my list of essential objects would be the duvet and feline company. I shall ask her. I suspect ‘phone’ or ‘laptop’ would feature in the 2015 student’s list.

A 'can't live without' thing

A ‘can’t live without’ thing

When your child starts secondary school

My weird thought is this: when a parent’s eldest or only child starts secondary school, they are flooded with their own memories of starting secondary school and this is involuntary. At least, this is what happened to me just under three weeks ago when my son started Adams Grammar School as a little, squeaky clean Year 7.

My fresh Year 7 boy

My fresh Year 7 boy

His first week (which was only three days long as he started on a Wednesday) was somewhat fraught. He missed the bus home twice, he lost (and found) his coat, he lost (and found) his pencil case, and he lost (and eventually found a week later) his school jumper. He was very tired that week. I suspect that if I’d told him he didn’t have to go back (i.e. get up at 6.30am) on the Monday following Week One he would have accepted it (although possibly changed his mind by Tuesday). He had lots of new books given to him. He had homework. He talked of quirky teachers, break times, lunch, corridors, stairs, PE lessons, German words, French words, tutor group time, protractors, rulers, rubbers, pens, books, and future friends.

My first year science book

My first year science book

So far (it is now Week Three) he has arrived home every day at about 5.20pm bringing with him a wave of fresh autumn air. Every day he has flumped on the sofa next to me, rosy cheeked and full of stories of his lessons and anecdotes. He has brought a rush of cold air but it is refreshing. It is the highlight of my day to spend five minutes before he removes his coat and shoes and puts his bag down talking with him about stuff. He insists on spending this time with me.  I love it. I hope it lasts.

There are many events, conversations, colours and objects that a long time ago I had put into the ‘remembered but no longer needed’ box. These are things about my first few weeks of secondary school (which happened in September 1983). These things have now resurfaced with a boom. Not all of my ‘first’ memories correspond with his ‘first’ experiences (as we have / are going through this 32 years apart).

These memories include: covering books with wallpaper; new stationery; new potential friends from other primary schools (many far more clever and street-wise than me); good, bad and very bad teachers; queuing up for dinners; daddy long legs on the outside walls; home economics (my Little Red Riding Hood basket of ingredients); maths on the top floor; stairs, bags; PE with showers; and homework. When I think of those first weeks I also think of Danger Mouse, He-Man, tiredness, smelly socks, huddling by the gas fire, conkers, the wonders of the art department, doodling, hunger, independence, friends, nasty words, pushing (to get to the vending machine), lockers, wet towels, hockey socks, banging boots against the PE block wall, avoiding, hiding, and being silly (very silly).

Why was I so interested in Claire Bailes's love life at the age of 12?

Why was I so interested in Claire Bailes’s love life at the age of 12?

I hope that my son’s memories stay with him, perhaps they will become dormant as new experiences replace existing ones. But I am sure they will resurface when his eldest child starts school. This sort of nostalgia is very touching and precious I think. This experience has reminded me that I went through what he is going through and it is helping me to help him. Perhaps that is why the mind plays this trick. It has been fun reliving those days again.

And I also hope that my son isn’t as silly as I was at that age. I was very good at detention.

 

My issues with classical music and Shakespeare

This is an on-going weird thought, one I’ve had to years. And it seems to be an issue I don’t share with many other people in my family.

I’ve always had a problem with classical music and Shakespeare. I used to think that my issues with these two icons of good taste meant that I was just uncultured and a Luddite (although the Luddites were not actually uncultured they just didn’t like change). But over time, and after having seen Shakespeare plays and experienced live classical music, I think I know why I do not ‘do’ classical music and Shakespeare. It isn’t because I can’t appreciate the finer arts humankind has created, it’s an all-or-nothing thing issue that I have. If you are going to listen to classical music, you need to listen to classical music. If you are going to experience Shakespeare then you have to be there and have Shakespeare delivered to you. You can’t just read it in bed or on the train. It’s just not the same.

This man touches the heart, but only in person

This man touches the heart, but only in person

Equally, I can’t just listen to classical music in the car, or house and NEVER at low volume. It is just not the same. It doesn’t move me. It doesn’t excite me. Whereas listening to classical music at the Barclaycard Arena moves me and the experience is all-encompassing. I feel it in my toes as well as my belly. I don’t feel anything listening to classical music in the kitchen at home. In fact, in that context it is completely yawnsville.

I’ve tried to read Shakespeare for pleasure but it doesn’t work for me. My mind drifts if I try. I can’t absorb the words. I don’t feel the emotion. I’ve seen Shakespeare performed and felt myself swept away on the wave of drama and emotion. Why can’t I recreate that feeling at home? It is quite expensive to be afflicted so.

You had to be there

You had to be there

I guess that means that great music, great literature, great art and the like can only be truly experienced first hand. At least, that is the case for me. I’m not a Luddite, I’m a fussy so-and-so. Just like my egg on toast has to be cooked in a certain way.

My egg on toast does not look anything like this.

My egg on toast does not look anything like this.

 

 

What is it that makes me want to share EVERYTHING about a great experience on Facebook?

This is a weird thought I had on Sunday night after posting the following to Facebook:

I know I’ve been a bit in your face these last two days but please indulge me for a few more hours. I’ll be quiet probs from 10am tomorrow for about a week. I hope I haven’t annoyed you all too much… If so sorry

That addictive social media beast

That addictive social media beast

Over a period of 48 hours on my recent trip to New York I posted a total of 72 times to Facebook (only twice to Twitter) with comments, check-ins and photographs. This count begins from the point of setting off from our house and ends upon arriving back at the same house. This count doesn’t include comments and replies to posts. I can’t imagine what number that comes to.

An outsider may question whether I actually saw anything of New York since my face and fingers was almost permanently attached to my phone. Why wasn’t I able to enjoy my experience without feeling the need to share with everybody?

I’ve been questioning my motives since Sunday. Was I just boasting? ‘I’m in New York and you are not!’ I don’t think that is it. I hope not, at least. Was I bored? No, certainly not. I had a brilliant time. Am I addicted to social media? Perhaps a little, but that’s not enough of an explanation since today I’ve only posted twice to Facebook. I think the real answer lies in the artist in me who just wants to share great things. I see something amazing,  ordinary, or extra-ordinary and I want to share the joy I feel at seeing those things with everyone I know. Social media allows me to do that in an instant. I get a kick out of seeing a blue sky over the New York skyline. I feel joy at drinking a very potent Cosmopolitan at the end of a night. I feel happiness at wandering around China Town. So I want to give some of that feeling to the people I care about. I know I’m not the only person who feels this urge to spread the joy. There are a few of us out there.

New York cocktails - a must share with friends

New York cocktails – a must share with friends

However, perhaps I need to consider the fact that not everyone wants to have a piece of my astonishment at the weird and wacky world we live in thrust upon them. But I’m not sure I am able to stop. My virtual friends, as I’ve expressed before, are as valuable to me as my real ones so I do want them to be with me in some small way when I have great life experiences.

I think that I also get something in return from sharing. I’m sharing because I am selfish. I get joy and release from the act of sharing on social media. There has been some research into the ‘oversharing’ on social media phenomenon. It functions in a similar way to therapy. One of the great things about therapy is that you can let spew your thoughts, anxieties, and issues without judgement and immediate response. Facebook is a bit like therapy. Generally, there is no response and if there is a response at all, it isn’t immediate. By which point the oversharer has had the boost to their happy hormones that they so badly desire.

I think that oversharing is also is like looking in the mirror, which we do for confirmation of the inner perception of the self. By sharing something of the self that might in the real world be keep concealed, the oversharer is seeking reassurance.

It is also argued that the oversharer is desiring a level of celebrity. I am certain that I fit into that category. I’m not sure that is a good thing to admit. It seems shallow. But if I didn’t want celebrity I wouldn’t be writing now in an online forum, I’d be writing it in a little notebook kept locked under my bed.

These people want fame - who are they?

These people want fame – who are they?

So I apologise dear virtual friends, but the oversharing will most likely continue. You are my therapist and you make me feel good.

 

Why do I love New York so much?

I had this thought while at Newark International Airport with nothing much to do for an hour and ten minutes while I waited to board a plane to Heathrow. I had spent the last 48 hours in New York and I was sat at Newark asking myself: why do I love New York so much? What is it about the city that draws me in? Why do I want to return there after only 12 months since the last visit? This is a thought that is made more curious to me because I know people who have been to New York and have professed that they were disappointed by the experience and even concluded that they disliked, and even hated, New York. I don’t understand that because after two visits, for 48-hours each, I love the place. I’d live there if I could. What is there not to love?

The city of endless possibilities

The city of endless possibilities

So I decided to kill my time at Newark International Airport by writing a list of reasons why I love New York. This is my list:

The smell

I love the smell. I wish I could bottle the smell. Times Square, where our hotel was, has a distinctive smell. This is a smell that I cannot preserve and return to at will. I wish I could. Someone needs to invent a technology that allows us to capture a smell and ‘share’ on Facebook or just keep for future reference. The sense of smell is a very important provoker of memory (just ask Marcel Proust).

This man again?

This man again?

Times Square smells of diesel, pretzels cooking, nuts roasting, rotting rubbish, steam and frying food. I love it. When we first arrived at our hotel, I opened the window, eleven floors up, and the smell hit me like a wave of city life. Chinatown smells of noodles and soya. The Lower East Side smells of coffee. Central Park smells of trees, fresh air and summer. The subway smells of engines and sweat.

Can you smell it?

Can you smell it?

The people

I love the people. They are interesting. I just wish I could spend more time with them. I would love to stop and talk to them and find out more about their lives. They come from all sorts of walks of life. Some appear beaten by life and others bolstered by it. The cultural diversity of New York is refreshing. Everyone moves with a purpose. They rush but not through stress. They drink coffee on the go. They listen to music on their iPhones on the go. They cross the roads while screaming down their iPhones ‘I know, that’s outrageous’.

The art

New York is the most cultured city I have been to. It is full of art and artists. I am with the like-minded there. I love the streets, the coffee shops, the art galleries as well as the inspiration of art (the people).

One of the many fabulous art galleries

One of the many fabulous art galleries

The feeling of youth

New York is a youthful city. Everyone is young (at heart if not of body). The youthfulness of the city is infectious.

The optimism

New Yorkers are optimists. They see possibility everywhere. They look on the bright side of life. They smile at strangers. They are happy all the time.

The bookshops

I haven’t had much time to peruse the bookshops of New York but I know that the bookshops are there, waiting for me. I only managed to browse books in the art galleries, the tenement museum in the Lower East Side and Barnes & Nobel but that was enough to whet my appetite for great books.

The people-watching opportunities

I love to people watch. What better city to do that in than New York? New York obviously knows that it is the perfect city for people watching. Many of its cafes and fast-food establishments are set out in the style which I call ‘last supper style’. This means that they have a big window and a bar with high stools along the window facing out. In other words, you can sit and enjoy your coffee and watch the world go by. To passers by, the people sitting along this bar resembled that very famous painting of the Last Supper.

Most cafes have a bar at the front for people watchers like me

Most cafes have a bar at the front for people watchers like me

What the cafe windows look like

What the cafe windows look like

You can go there for a weekend

I know it seems mad to go to New York for the weekend but it is possible. I’ve done it twice now. So my advice is: go to New York for the weekend and see if you love it as much as I do. I hope you do.

Things that weird me out about America

There is a lot of water in the toilets and it is quite high up

This really weirds me out. I don’t like American toilets, the use of which is unavoidable unless taking a really short trip. Two nights is quite a short trip but not short enough for avoiding that. They seem to hold more water than British toilets, you also  feel closer to the water (and the contents later on) and also the flush is really quite violent and sudden. Your produce is whooshed away as if down a shoot.

Toilets are different wherever you go, there is good and bad

Toilets are different wherever you go, there is good and bad

I also don’t like the public toilets. The doors are short and do not reach the ceiling or the floor. They are simply stalls. They remind me of the ‘outside’ loos at Leasowes Junior School which the class of 1983 avoided using at all costs for fear of peeping people. I feel that same fear in the US (it has not yet happened but I don’t like the idea of being heard either). I am also challenged by the automation of US public toilets – the flush, the soup dispenser, the water, the dryer. On the plus side, US public toilets are always free whereas over here we may have to pay a small sum (more than a penny) to visit the micturition station.

Sitting in the stalls

Sitting in the stalls

The hotel rooms make full use of mirrors

Every hotel I have stayed in, in the US, has contained lots of mirrors: in the lobby, in the lift, in the hotel room and in the hotel room toilet. I don’t really enjoy seeing my naked self or my naked bottom perched on the funny toilet (see above).

My photographing the big mirror

My photographing the big mirror

You can’t just have a bagel

This applies to coffee, bagels, pizza and in fact almost any food stuffs. I have quite simple needs in the morning: a coffee and a bagel. It’s not easy to order that. On my first ever trip to the US (Boston) we had to cross the road to the bagel shop to get some breakfast and the first time I remember feeling somewhat confused by the person serving me when they asked: ‘What sort of bagel would you like, ma’am?’ I think my response was ‘Huh? Just ordinary please’.

Panel bagel with no frills

Plain bagel with no frills

Everyone moves so fast

This might only apply to New York and Boston (I have also been to Cape Cod but that was 15 years ago). Certainly in New York the people move as if they are being chased. They don’t run, though. They are still walking but they walk very fast. They would struggle with the slowness of a day out in Shrewsbury.

The fast-moving people of New York

The fast-moving people of New York

I blend in well

This is something I like about the US. I have some weird and wacky clothes (not too weird and wacky, but perhaps a little wacky for Shrewsbury) but in New York at least I look less like the eccentric artist.

Videos in lifts

I’ve only ever encountered this phenomena in the US. Perhaps it is only a New York thing. But both hotels I have stayed in in that city have had videos in the lift.

Videos in lifts

Videos in lifts

Revolving doors

This is most likely a New York thing but the city is full of revolving doors. In the UK the only place you will find one of these is in Morrisons.

One of the many revolving doors

One of the many revolving doors

Everyone walks around (very fast and with purpose) with a drink in their hand

Everyone (again, perhaps this is a New York thing only) walks carrying a Starbucks or similar cup, presumably of coffee. They do this at any time of day or night. They also often are attached to headphones and an iPhone. They also are more likely to use their phone as a phone. They like to march across the road, phone against ear in one hand, coffee in another.

The adverts for medications list all the side effects

I love watching American TV because it is different and refreshing. On our second morning, I enjoyed an hour or so watching the US-equivalent of BBC Breakfast or GMTV. One of the adverts during this programme was for a sleep medication. The narrative of the advert was very convincing. It sounded too good to be true. Towards the end of the advert a different, and faster-speaking narrator, listed all of the side effects of this medication which included: suicidal thoughts, anxiety, depression, liver problems, kidney problems, death. It was almost as if the angel and the devil were competing with each other. I certainly wasn’t convinced by this wonder-drug by the end of the advert.

I have returned home now and already I miss the energy of the US. I may be ‘weirded out’ by the things in the list above but I am also energized and inspired by the very same things (if at the very least, to write this blog).

British values aren’t that hard to define

This is the weird thought I had today over lunch (not on the toilet, I might have to change the name of this blog at this rate).

Sometimes I like to engage my children in lively debate over mealtimes. It’s fun (for me at least). I like to know what they think about various contemporary issues and topics (I also often do this on car journeys as well when they can’t run away from my annoying questions).

Today over posh soup and bread from Morrisons I asked them: can you name any traditional British values?

It's not Heinz

It’s not Heinz

Number one son replied with: I don’t know what you mean. What do you mean?

Number two son said: Oh we did that at school, I can’t remember.

Number three son didn’t respond.

Number two son, after some careful thought, finally came up with: tea!

A traditional British value: the love of tea?

A traditional British value: the love of tea?

The reason I posed this question was in response to the most recent ‘coffee and chat’ session between parents and the headteacher at my two youngest sons’ school last week. At the ‘coffee and chat’ we talked about the most topical recent addition to the curriculum for primary schools: the teaching of British values. Ofsted will now judge schools on, among other things, their teaching of British values. The discussion was lively and the conclusion was that British values are quite abstract concepts and hard to teach and the same as the values of most regions in the world: tolerance, democracy, individual liberty. They are mostly common sense.

The Internet, that oracle of truth, tells me that Ofsted lists four British values that primary schools should be teaching. These are: democracy, rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect, tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.

These do indeed seem to be universal values. However, my children appeared to have little understanding of the first two certainly and some limited understanding of the latter two. As all they could come up with was ‘tea’, which I was swift to point out came originally from China and India, this doesn’t bode well for their understanding of the issue at hand. I’m just glad there isn’t an exam.

However, after giving this matter some thought I managed to come up with, over lunch, some fundamentally ‘British’ values that may or may not be found abroad and that my children might be able to grasp:

  • Respect for tradition (we are very fond of old things and anything with a bit of pomp and circumstance such as a Royal Wedding)
  • Respect for people who are more senior in age (this is a ‘value’ that we share with a country such as Japan, where respect for elders runs very deeply)
  • Respect for those with more experience than us (in this area, we are again very similar to the Japanese)
  • Decorum (we all know when to turn on the please and thankyous)
  • Tolerance of the expression of individuality (we are a nation of eccentrics after all, such as the man number two son saw in HMV last week dressed as a dog)
  • Tolerance of minorities in our society (we live in a country which has been conquered and which has in turn conquered so we are by our history multicultural – tolerance is a must)
  • Openmindedness (we have lead the world in granting equal rights to all regardless of faith, gender, sexual orientation etc)
  • Strong work ethic (compared to many of our mainland European neighbours we are very ambitious and career-orientated and many of us are complete workaholics). This probably comes from our Protestant past. As I pointed out to my children, look at how much work mummy and daddy do – too much.
  • Strong education ethic (we want the best for our children and we want them to achieve better than we did, however impossible that might be). Again, I blame the Protestants.
  • Belief in our right to democracy (our ancestors fought very hard for democracy so we feel very strongly that it is a given in our society)

I’m sure there are more ‘British values’ that we didn’t come up with over lunch of posh soup from Morrisons today, and some of these above fall into the values listed by Ofsted. However, I think mine are very peculiarly British.

I wonder if I am feeling a bit more patriotic than I was when I wrote this?

So then after the discussion I asked my children again what they thought constituted a British value and number one son responded with: Sunday dinner?

Granny Food

Granny Food

 

 

Why I am like Sally

Like buses, the weird thoughts arrive in quick succession. This is my second today.

This is actually a thought I had last Sunday when my family and I decided that it would be novel to have breakfast at Frankie and Benny’s instead of in our house. It was actually my husband’s idea. As we were lying in bed that morning enjoying the bliss that is Sunday mornings he proposed leaping out of bed, getting dressed, and driving to the nearest Frankie and Benny’s for breakfast. I had no reasonable argument against his proposition, so jump I did.

Upon arrival at Frankie and Benny’s we were treated very well and very efficiently. We were quickly seated and handed menus. Twice, while we were perusing the menus, we were asked if we were ready to order yet. Everyone was, except me. The reason: I am a very fussy eater. I am a Sally. I know what I like and I know how to create it. People in restaurants do not.

This is what I wanted:

The lighter breakfast.

What I wanted to eat but...

What I wanted to eat but…

However, I didn’t want what was on offer, exactly. I wanted to swap the scrambled eggs for a fried egg and the sausage for beans. I also wanted toast. I only wanted one rasher of bacon and I wanted that bacon to be crispy.

What I chose:

The full monty

The full monty

I ordered the Big Breakfast with a side of toast. I went for this rather than the lighter breakfast partly because I didn’t want to do a Sally in Frankie and Benny’s and embarrass my family and also I reasoned that I’d get all of what I wanted plus some and I could palm off the bits I didn’t want on my children.

However, when my order arrived I had a few problems with it. There was nothing wrong with the meal if you analyse it objectively. It was exactly as expected. However, it wasn’t what I wanted. For a start, the plate was too big and there was far too much food on it. I really don’t like being given more than I can eat. That makes me quite cross. Also, the bacon was a bit oily for me and not quite crispy enough (there was also too much of it). The sausage was big and too herby (I don’t like herbs in my sausages). The portion of baked beans was too small and in a dish (why?). There were too many herby potatoes. The fried egg was wrong too: the egg white was overcooked and the yolk undercooked. The side order of toast consisted of brown toast when I’d prefer white. It wasn’t toasted enough. It wasn’t hot enough. There was too much of it.

I also ordered an orange juice to drink. This was also wrong. The orange juice came with a tonne of ice. I don’t like ice in my orange juice. The ice melts and the orange juice tastes watery. I hadn’t been asked (as happens in a pub) whether I wanted ice or not. If I had been asked I would of course had said no. I felt cross that nobody asked me. I took all of the ice out in a huff.

So after my food arrived I puffed and powted my way through my breakfast, ungrateful wench that I am. It was just so wrong!

However, the experience of a family breakfast in Frankie and Benny’s was pleasant enough to make it a future good memory. I hope they don’t remember how awkward I was.

Today, my husband kindly offered to make me breakfast and I requested my new favourite breakfast: one single fried egg on two slices of toast with a slither of cheese between the egg and toast and Heinz BBQ sauce on top. However, I failed to specify to him (he hadn’t made this to me before) exactly how I wanted this cooked and served and I had to intervene.

I had failed to tell him that I don’t like much cheese on the toast. I need very little in fact. In addition, the cheese should be sliced wafer thinly. The butter should be applied to the toast as soon as the toast comes out of the toaster so that it melts perfectly into the toast. The BBQ sauce should not, under any circumstances, go on the buttered toast. That is wrong on all levels. Half way through the cooking of the egg a sprinkle of oregano and ground pepper should be added to the egg. This shouldn’t be added too early or too late or it won’t taste right. The BBQ sauce should be dribbled over the egg only, and only when, the egg has been added to the toast. This meal should always be served with a small (not large) glass of orange juice. No ice of course. Then, and only then, has this dish reached perfection.

My egg on toast does not look anything like this.

My egg on toast does not look anything like this.

He did good though. And I was sure to tell him.

I know that I can be a complete Sally sometimes with food. But I just know what I like and that’s not a bad thing, is it?

 

Why don’t I like Telford?

This is a weird thought I had, not on the toilet, but in Telford today.

Every six weeks my middle son attends a writers’ workshop co-run by author Kate Long in a small settlement in Shropshire called Oakengates. This workshop lasts 2 hours. Oakengates is 20 minutes from our house so it isn’t really worth me coming back home again before I have to fetch him. The first time I took him, I tried to hang around Oakengates for 2 hours. I failed as I couldn’t find enough to amuse me in that time (I had two coffees in two cafes). Oakengates, in case you don’t know, consists of a theatre (where my son was), a scattering of sad-looking charity shops and two cafes.

The Theatre in Oakengates

The Theatre in Oakengates

The second time I took him, I went to Telford shopping centre to find amusement, which is 7 minutes away. There is indeed enough to amuse me there (at the very least, a Zara, two Costas and a Waterstones) but I don’t like Telford. I go there with a heavy heart and a cross brow. So my weird thought is: why don’t I like Telford? Plenty of people do like Telford. People even live there. Why does the thought of going to Telford make me feel cross? Why do I profess to hate it so much? What has Telford ever done to me?

The town with no soul

The town with no soul

There are a number of reasons for my antipathy towards Telford:

  • I always get lost in Telford as it seems to consist solely of  roundabouts and ring roads and all lead to each other. There is no logical way out.
  • I always get lost in Telford because my sat nav thinks it is mostly fields.
  • There is no middle of Telford. It is just roundabouts (yes I know I should love these as I love roundabouts) and a shopping centre.
  • Telford has no soul (not having a middle).
  • The Waterstones, although a highlight of a visit to Telford, is fairly crappily stocked (it only has one floor).
  • Telford has no black-and-white buildings. I like black-and-white buildings.
  • The people don’t look happy. They must be, they are in Telford. They don’t look it though. They drag themselves around the shops as if searching, yearning, for something indescribable. I don’t think they will find it in Telford. I feel as if I ought to tell them to go to Shrewbsury instead.
  • I always get lost in the shopping centre.  It is quite big and it all looks the same.
  • All the houses in Telford are new. I don’t like new houses.
  • The sun always shines in Telford. That can’t be real. I don’t think I’ve ever been to Telford in the rain.
  • Telford reminds me of Seahaven from The Truman Show. Everyone looks as if they are acting (they couldn’t possibly be there by choice, could they?) and the buildings look artificial. Is Telford a reality TV show?

I hope I haven’t upset anyone who lives in Telford with my disparaging words. I’d be happy to engage in some lively debate with a Telfordian and be convinced that Telford is actually a nice place. Please do feel free to try if that is you. It has an ice rink, after all. So it isn’t all bad. I think the main reason I don’t like it is because it isn’t very old and I live in Shrewsbury which is very old (we have a lane called ‘grope lane’ where the ladies of the night used to hang out in medieval times – and a very interesting history is attached to such streets).

My favourite street in Shrewsbury - no ladies of the night here now

My favourite street in Shrewsbury – no ladies of the night here now

I keep thinking I need to learn to love Telford and perhaps I should start an art project about the town so I can grow to love something about it. I suspect that there is something about it that part of me loves (like when you fancy someone and you are mean to them). I have a love-hate relationship with Telford. It just seems such a sad place where the only leisure pursuit is to shop in the search for happiness or a meaning to life. Shopping is just not the path to happiness though, or is it?

These people live in Telford

These people live in Telford

 

 

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