Thursday, 31 July 2008

Reality sucks but it can be really funny!

I have to say that since starting to write this blog I have discovered a change in myself. I am more aware of what is happening in my life and how funny life sometimes is. In the midst of pain and suffering the world over there is always something to laugh about... most of the time!

In my family we embrace our faults and quirks. It makes us the people we are! For every quirk that you have you are that little bit more memorable and in a way more appealing to our family. When my brother and my sister and I are together we love to make fun of our parents. I don't know why but they are so very amusing! We tell each other what our Mum has said and we have a voice that we put on which sounds a bit like the Queen of England and in this voice she rolls her "rs". In our impression she says things like "the public house that he frequents" and so on. It makes me laugh every time. Even when we tell each other text messages that she has sent us we use this voice. For our Dad we have an american accent. He is actually from Dublin but spent years in America. So again when we talk about him we say things like "poor guy!" We don't do it for anyone else just our parents or at least not to my knowledge! My brother and sister may have a voice for me but they have never let on! Each of us is ridiculed lovingly for our quirks. Mine is for my moodiness and general bad temperedness. My sister is for her drama and moodiness. Some of the funniest times of my life are my sister as a teenager like when she was dragging her text books down the stairs in a big bin bag after her last exam even before she got the results and saying she would not need these anymore! My brother is just generally hilarious! He is one of those people with a Simpsons sense of humour. He is self critical and is the sort of person that always made you laugh in church. Mum often separated us as I could not contain my laughter when my brother would deliberately clap to songs ultra loudly and out of the beat of the rest of the church.

Even in our toughest times we are always able to find some dark humour in it. I can honestly say that some of the hardest times in my life are sources of great amusement to me. I'll give you an example. About 3 years ago I had a wisdom tooth removed in a rather barbaric way in a small town in Norfolk. It actually involved (I kid you not! Although there is always at least one story like this floating around!) the dentist injecting my gum, pulling on my tooth with my mouth wide open, realising that he didn't have enough leverage to remove it and actually putting his knee on the arm of the dentist chair as he removed my tooth using both hands and a pair of pliers whilst making the grunting noises of a body builder lifting an extra heavy weight. Approximately 4 minutes later I was shoved out the door having paid £120 for this, let's call it "procedure" with wadding covered in blood hanging out of my mouth. Sorry if any of you are squeamish!

By the time I arrived home I could barely stand but had been told by the dentist I would be allowed to go back to work the next day. The next day came and I was starting to resemble a chipmunk storing a winter's full of nuts in his cheek. I didn't go to work... it was not fair on the public! As the days went on my cheek got bigger and bigger until I eventually lost my chin to the swelling. Everyday by way of update and to get lots of sympathy I would send my mother a picture message on my phone with a suitably pained expression on my face (Come on! I'm not pathetic we all do it!) and she would immediately ring me and coo down the phone how much pain I must be in. Not to labour a point here but I was in pain and my mouth tasted like what I imagine a soldier's sock tastes of when he has been in the trenches solidly for 6 days!

After a week of my swollen face increasing in size daily and various trips to the doctor my mum came to stay with me to look after me. The doctor had told me I probably had a "little infection" and not to worry. A few days later I appeared to be slipping in and out of consciousness as my mother spoke to me. She then noticed a line of poison (Not sure if it actually was a line of poison? Is there such a thing?) travelling down from my cheek towards my heart... doesn't this sound dramatic? So my mum insisted we went to the hospital. When we arrived it was a smallish hospital in King's lynn and they told me I had a high temperature but there was nothing they could do for me so they would have to send me to another hospital 50 miles away. So with my elephant man face I got in the ambulance and we were driven to the hospital where I was admitted some 4 hours later.

As I laid in bed after they had informed me I had a massive abscess in my cheek under the stitches. Oh did I not mention that in the four minutes of my procedure the dentist also had time to stitch up my wound? (As an aside point this was not the first time I had been hosptialised with an abscess. I did have one before on my hip from an injection which involved me being in hosptial for three weeks. As if that wasn't bad enough I was put on a bowel ward where people were having their bowels removed. A young, rather good looking trainee doctor was sent to examine me and whilst doing his internal for 5 minutes unquestioned by me- think bowel ward and you'll get the drift- he said he couldn't feel the abscess so he thought it was gone... to which I replied "It's on my hip". He told me, red faced, it was always good to do an internal and that everything was fine down there.) Anyway at the hospital they removed some of the stitches from my gum and the doctor who wrote everything down on what I can only describe as a screwed up cocktail bar's napkin and scrunched it in his pocket, told me I now had septicemia. I finally got to the ward. This was not a particularly vibrant ward as I was the youngest person by about oh I don't know...60 years! Bearing in mind the fact that my aunt told my mum that my university graduation photo looked like a 12 year old graduating I looked even younger with my swollen cheek.

The following day my whole family arrived in force; my mum, sister, brother, brother-in-law and father. I knew by this time I was in serious trouble if they were all here! Nonetheless I enjoyed my sister and brother sitting on the bed making fun of my bulbous cheek. As the evening drew on though I was aware of the fact that I couldn't really follow their conversation and I felt like I was slipping down into the mattress.Not just in a "oh how comfortable way" but as though the mattress was sucking me into it. Weird huh? I was later told by my brother and sister that whilst they carried on chattering my eyes started to roll and they realised I was not at all well and they started to panic. In the only way brothers and sisters can do they reverted to times when we were younger and pretended everything was normal and continued to chatter. This technique was also employed when my brother was babysitting us one night and a man tried to break into our house. We huddled in front of the tv with the sound up trying to ignore what was going on!

As I laid in the hospital bed thinking I was possibly delirious I then remember my father coming to speak to me and sitting with my brother and sister. At this point he decided it was a good idea to ask his ailing lawyer daughter law questions! I know this is totally reasonable! I mean what an opportunity! I could barely focus as I tried to grasp exactly what he was saying. Ever trying to impress I tried to conjure up the thoughts in my brain of legal matters but realised that at that point I wasn't even sure I knew my own name! After trying to put together anything that resembled a sentence I decided on the only strategy I could think of and that was to try to cry... I say "try to" as I didn't even have the energy to do so and so whimpered that I did not think it was really the best time for me to give legal advice.

The next thing I remember in that hospital bed was being violently sick and my sister carrying sick bowls to me on a regular basis whilst my brother put cold towels on my neck and back. Where were the nurses I hear you ask? Oh they were too busy either chatting or having tea breaks or just generally ignoring the annoying young girl who was "pretending" to be sick! So when it was eventually announced that I was going to have to have an emergency operation to have my abscess removed and they might have to cut the side of my cheek to do so, my mum went into terror mode and was begging the doctor (yes the doctor of the crumpled up napkin fame!) not to cut my cheek unless it was the last resort.

Looking back now there are serious low points in my life but puking puss has to be the ultimate of low! However the hilariousness of my family dealing with it the only way they knew how by acting as if nothing was happening always makes me laugh! It always makes me giggle that faced with adversity they respond by laughing and joking. Apparently one of their funniest nights ever was whilst I was in surgery they were down in the lobby having not slept for 24 hours in hysterics as my Dad twirled in front of them remarking how thin he was! Oh how sorry I am I missed that! Typical!

Upon arriving back from surgery and very groggy I was not particularly sure if I was living in reality or not. By the time I was back on the ward and saw my concerned parents leering at me with concerned looks on their faces I decided I was in fact dead! I had to be. I had not seen these two people together since I was a teenager so there was only one answer. I was dead... was it heaven or hell? I wasn't entirely sure but I knew one thing they looked old and concerned and as it was dark in the ward apart from the light from the corridor they had a glow around them. In reality this was the glow from the corridor but in a dazed state I was convinced they were ghosts or angels of something out of this world. I looked up at them and immediately said "So i'm dead then?" In my head I was thinking this is so bloody typical! I'm going to die from having a wisdom tooth removed by a hic dentist! I haven't even had a chance to go to Hawaii(one of my dreams!) or find out what exactly my brother and sister had been laughing and joking about when I was incoherent!I would not be remembered for the face I had but as an overgrown chipmunk with no chin! It was just so unfair.

I was still not convinced that I was alive when my mum told me I was until the nurse came in to me when they left and told me off for worrying my "elderly parents". I remember laughing out loud and thinking to myself "elderly" god they are not even 60! What a joke! And I knew then that I had to be alive because they did seem old and I needed to tell my brother and sister about this! Once the pain kicked in from laughing I was sure... bloody typical I'm not dead, I'm alive and in pain!!!

So dark times in our lives are not necessarily funny. In fact, sometimes, they are quite tragic but we have laughed till we cried during those times. When we are ill something funny seems to just happen to lighten the mood like when my brother took my sister some soup up to her in bed as she was unwell and then because his mouth was watering with hunger dribbled into it as he passed it to her.

Sometimes you feel like you shouldn't be laughing which makes it all the funnier and that's how we get through it! Reality sucks but it can be really funny!

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

The embarrassment of an Ebay seller!

Now one of the really bizarre things about me is that I love to read... Ok so anyone reading this blog probably enjoys reading as well! But if the truth is told I can't live with out it! I spend all day long reading and writing letters in my job and then I come home and spend large amounts of time lying on the floor in front of my laptop with all its connecting wires reading things on the internet or thinking of what I can write on my blog! Now to some this may not seem too odd but if you add on top of all that reading the fact that I also read approximately 2 novels a week (sometimes more!) you probably are starting to see how ridiculous I am... I mean how do I find time to sustain relationships with anyone? How do I have friends? I could really freak you out and tell you in a low creepy voice that the characters in books are my friends but that is not the case! I promise! No, I, in fact, find the time to continue to talk to people and snooze my life away... The worrying thing is when I go to bed at night and see that I have 150 pages left of a book I think "right ok then I'm near the end I may as well finish it tonight". Recently when my Mum came to stay with me I told her proudly of the amount of books I read thinking she was bound to be impressed. After all this was the woman who taught me to read at 3, took me to the library regularly when I was little and encouraged me in spelling competitions. She too is a big reader. So with a big grin on my face I told her in a boastful voice "Do you know Mum I'm getting through about 2 novels a week at the moment" to which she looked at me with a concerned look on her face and replied "Have you told your doctor that?". Now don't get me wrong I adore my Mum but I didn't quite understand why I would share this particular information with my doctor who surely is more worried about hearing physical symptoms of illness and not my reading capabilities? However, my mum later explained that in fact she thought that amount of reading was over the top and I must be suffering from depression! I've never heard of reading as a symptom of a depressive illness but I will research this fact and I promise if I find out the answer is that my mother is right, I am concerned for myself and all of you and suspect we should set up a support group for all us depressed readers out there!

I'll be honest I am more likely to be depressed about what I see on the news then characters in a book although I often do get emotionally attached to some of the characters... (Stop adding up my symptoms ok? I promise I am not a lunatic nor am I suffering from a depressive disorder!). I do, of course, have my depressive moments, who doesn't? But let's not get depressive moments and my bad moods and irritation mixed up! Being grumpy is my personality and not an illness!!!

As I read so much I am constantly over run with a stupid amount of books. I live on my own so it doesn't particularly matter but I also try to keep my possessions down to a car load so that I can move with ease! Just a funny thing I do to ensure I can get away quick and with minimum effort. I'm not on the run and would never leave without warning but I hate moving with a passion and in the last few years seem to be constantly moving.

Anyway, in a bid to get rid of some of these books I discovered Ebay! I swear I have not been stuck in another time frame until recently, I just was a late starter when it came to the internet so I have only really just discovered it. I curse having to take pictures of all the books and think of interesting things to say about them in the listings but once it is done I spend many a happy moment clicking on and off my ebay summary to check if anyone is watching them.

After a few auctions I admit I started to get greedy and was soon hunting round for other items I could sell. At last I decided on various beauty products and a couple of pairs of shoes. One pair of shoes in particular were a lovely pair of strappy sandals (well I would say that as a seller- but actually they were quite nice!)I don't really know why I had never worn them but I hadn't and so I put them up for sale. I was thrilled when I noticed that I have 4 watchers and various questions asking about the shoes. On the 3rd day of the auction I got an email from someone saying that they liked the shoes but couldn't see them well enough in the photo. Immediately I downloaded another photo and sent it off. This time the person responded that they were lovely but couldn't understand how the straps worked. Could I put them on my feet and take a picture? Now to some of you who are a bit less trusting at this point you might have heard alarm bells but all I could see were the £ signs for the money I could make on these shoes if I sold them right! I was wearing my mankiest pair of pyjama bottoms and some very thermal socks and I took the socks off, rolled up the pyjama bottoms, put the shoe on (slightly cringing at the sock mark my sock had left indented into my leg) and started to take pictures. It took me quite a while as I had to crane my foot to the side so that I could see the reflection in the long mirror in my bedroom and then take the picture.

After much huffing and puffing I sent the pictures saying "this is the best I can do! Sorry!". I immediately got a response saying "Oh can you not just zoom in a little more so that I can see the detail? Ps Lovely toes". Now I know I probably should have done something differently at this point but I already knew I had probably gone too far. Was I imagining that this was a little weird? Was I just being unkind to feel uncomfortable? No! I would carry on and sell these shoes to this very nice, interested prospective buyer. I went through the same process again cursing myself that I had put my sock back on and so had another indent in my leg to match the one slightly higher up and made a note to self to get some less tight but warm socks! This time I spent ages taking photos of every conceivable angle, moving my foot in odd positions and taking pictures of every detail of the shoe in zoom. Finally after 40 minutes I returned to my laptop and emailed the photos with a short message " Sorry for the delay. This really is all I can do now. I am starting to feel embarrassed and am cringing at my feet! Please bid if you want them. Thanks for your interest!". Immediately I got a reply saying "Gorgeous. You have beautiful toes. I have had some great pleasure from your photos. Thank you so much but I never wanted the shoes. I would love to see more of you if your toes are anything to go by." At this point I wanted to cry. Not because of anything other than my own stupidity. Still I was reluctant to give up on the sale! I immediately emailed back "So you got me to go through all that so that you could see my feet. That is really unkind. (And finally)So you don't want the shoes then?" How pathetic am I? As you can see I always find it difficult to give up on things! To which I got a swift response "No. Sorry but thank you I've had a great night!"

As I watched in horror as the sale slipped out of my hands I also realised that this situation was very embarrassing. Yes I had naively fallen for it through my own greed but also because my feet have always been embarrassing!The realisation of the ridiculousness of my evening was hitting me hard. I imagined my work colleagues sitting at home having normal evenings whilst I was embarrassing myself taking pictures of my feet! They are chubby feet that are actually very wide and square. They have short stubby toes and I often think this is from squeezing myself into shoes that are too small. They are far from alluring! I called my mother who did the respectable thing and said "You poor thing! Oh you are far too trusting Clare, you really are! You must report him as he obviously has a sexual fetish!" and then I rang my sister who did what you would expect any self respecting older sister to do... she burst out laughing... immediately shouted to tell her husband the hilarity of my evening and then proceeded to make fun of the whole situation before remembering we weren't 14 anymore and said seriously, "Mum's right you probably should report him".

And so I did. I wasn't sure if it was necessary as I wasn't sure anyone else would be so stupid. I was reluctant to because I was embarrassed and yet I still did it in case it was the right thing to do. As I wrote my humiliating email to Ebay support I imagined an office full of people laughing their heads off at my misfortune and cringed some more. However I did get a notably sympathetic response and was told that I should get some support for this violation if I felt I needed it! I didn't. But I did learn a lesson about how easy it is to do things without thinking of the consequences in excitment to get a sale. I am pleased to report I did get a sale from a girl who just wanted the shoes and was not interested in my feet and she loved them! So in future I will not go to such lengths to sell things. If they want them, they want them... minimum effort! I haven't given up ebay but I concentrate more on the books then other things. So if the man who got great pleasure (oh yuk yuk yuk!!!) from my feet is out there reading this... (actually bit freaky if he is!) please delete the photos of my stubby feet from your inbox. The thought of finding my feet on a foot fetish website one day is awful! If I had known that they might be seen by others I undoubtedly would have painted my toe nails with fresh paint, got rid of the sock mark and maybe even added a toe ring! Be fair now!

Thursday, 24 July 2008

The art of snoozing and time management

As I have explained before I am a lawyer and although it is something I worked very hard to achieve I bizarrely forget that I am. You see the thing is when you plan to become a lawyer you kind of think that when you finally become one your whole life will change. First of all you will suddenly develop a maturity you never had, you will be stylish and look like Ally McBeale. You will be full of energy and have a real sense of purpose. You will sympathise when necessary and you will show strength of character when faced with what you blattantly can see is an injustice. You will probably regularly attend the gym and will be super organised and a whizz at time management.

The reality however is that you are exactly the same as you were before but people's expectations of your knowledge and ability increase. As for time management I am still useless. My main problem is the mornings. It's not because I don't wake up in time... actually who am I kidding? It's because I don't wake up in time! I snooze alarms for over an hour. One goes off at 7am (I groan and turn over)and the other at 7.10am. This is torture but one I have to put myself through. If I get out of bed by 8.20 I know I'll be late. Most mornings I get out of bed at 8.25am. When I was training and working in a firm I was lucky enough to live 15 miles away and on a very unreliable bus route. This meant I always had an excuse for being late for work. However I knew that people (you know the ones - the ones who get into work for 8.15am for no apparent reason... they are also the ones that never yawn in work and they always have their own mug for tea, teabags in a container in their desk and various treats of a low fat variety to eat during the day) generally didn't appreciate the fact that I was late. Truth was I could get the early bus and sleep all the way as I normally did anyway or I could get the bus that got me in after 9am and sleep all the way. The later bus allowed me to have an extra half hour in bed... you do the math!

When I went for my job interview for my first job as a qualified lawyer I arrived 45 minutes late for the interview due to bad traffic and not leaving myself enough time. They were very sympathetic to this and offered me the job anyway! My view from then on was they knew exactly what my faults were and they were prepared for me to be late every morning. And I was. Again I had an excuse because I lived 46 miles away. When I moved to the town where my firm was however it became a little more difficult to explain myself. Particularly when there was another woman who worked for us who was always late but she was also a darling of the company and everyone she worked with. She would come in with her basket on her arm and would hand out various vegetables that she had picked that morning. So she got away with it. I started to get noticed. When I pulled into the car park I knew how late I was by whether there was a parking space and whether or not the other late woman was already parked.

Imagine my alarm when this firm decided to send me on a time management course in London. The course started at 10 am so I knew I had to wake up early. Not to mention the fact I had to get the train which took about 2 hours and I had to find the venue. As I stormed through the door of the course where other simiarly useless time managers were seated and had arrived on time... I was roughly 2 and a half hours late! The course leader had the cheek to then seem disgusted! But I hadn't even done the course yet so how could I be expected to be a good time manager?! I was brazen in my lateness and sat down as they discussed how we all needed to allow ourselves enough time to get places. I spent the rest of the day pinching myself and drinking strong coffee in order to stay awake. I then left early (My god people don't judge me I had a train to catch!) with the time management course notes under my arm. I then fell asleep on the train and when I changed trains somehow managed to leave the course notes on the train. For the rest of the 2 years I worked at that firm I remained truthful to myself... I continued my late arrival and continued to deal with it in a brazen way! What other option did I have? If a time management course couldn't even inspire me or save me I was doomed to be a late arriver!

It is not that I like to be late or even enjoy rushing to catch planes, trains, arrive on time for a friend's wedding or generally being cursed until I arrive. I have every intention when I go to bed to be up on time and to be sitting at my desk before 9am. However as I struggle to wake up for the first hour of the day everything takes longer. I think this is a disease or certainly a condition and one which I can't control. Other people have other problems. But as I struggle to make up the time I've missed by being late I actually reckon I am more efficient at work... certainly in the moments I am not fighting sleep. This is because I am always behind schedule and revising lists that I have written to compensate for my late arrival! I even go to bed making plans in my head for things that I will do when I wake up early and have extra time... however I have never done any of those things but it doesn't mean I never will! I'm hoping that as I get older I will start to suffer from that whole wake up early, funny how I only need 4 hours sleep as I get older thing! That way I will have plenty of time and I will manage it well! Until I get older however you all just have to bear with me. I will be late... I even set my watch so that it says it is five minutes later than it is in a bid to scare myself when I look at the time. However the only thing this does is make me take the five minutes off and then think to myself it's ok I've got at least another five minutes!

We are always told life is too short and that we shouldn't sleep our lives away but if you like to sleep and you love a little snooze in the afternoon (for 20 minutes but you wake 3 hours later) then so what? If that is how you work, accept it... it's not fun fighting sleep all the time but for some us it is a reality! It's not professional, it's not lazy, it's not boring... it's just a love of sleep... it's just me! I'm sorry but when I'm old perhaps I will be living on just the 4 hours a night and then you will all be wishing I will just shut up and go to sleep! Alternatively I might be the old woman who drops off mid conversation and not realise... Who knows? Whichever one it is I just have to accept it...snoozing and me is the best combination!

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Ground hog day... is the joke on me???

Ok so since the last time I wrote I have turned 31 though decided to leave it saying I'm 30 on my profile... mainly because what's the harm? In fact now wishing I had opted for a lower number... let's face it no one really would have known especially with my airbrushed picture!

Also since I last wrote my car has had a bit of a hit. Basically I pulled in in order to turn round and go back the way I came. I should point out my car is a white rust heap and there was a massive BMW jeep who was parked up next to me. The owner of the vehicle came out of the building and jumped in his car and immediately started reversing. Bearing in mind I was directly behind him you would think this was a bit of a stupid idea but to be honest the stupidity of what later happened has nothing on this! So he started to reverse without looking behind him and I knew immediately he was going to hit me. As he started to reverse I started to panic and although everything was happening quickly on the other hand I could see what was going to happen so time moved incredibly slowly. As I tried to quickly put my car into reverse.... not an easy task as the lever is very stiff and so there really is nothing quick about this car... particularly when you live in Jersey and the maximum speed limit on the island is 40mph. However I couldn't put it in reverse in next thought of survival and protection for my car was "Ok hit the horn as hard as you can and shout in your own car". I knew he wouldn't hear me shouting "Stop reversing you idiot I'm behind you!!!" but as my horn didn't seem to make any noise as I pounded it he was more likely to hear me shouting than anything else. As I banged repeatedly on the horn I realised that it was the first time I had attempted to use it and like many other things in the car it didn't work. So instead I just had to sit there and watch him reverse into the side of my car and break the light.

As soon as the car had been hit the driver of the other car got out and immediately started shouting at me, "What the hell are you doing? You just drove into my car?" I actually laughed. Not because I had, nor because I thought it was funny my car was now damaged but that he was actually going to try and pull this one on me! My response was "you are kidding me!" I was stationary and my car was in park! He carried on ranting and raving at me while a vein in his forehead started to pulsate. I responded and got out of the car to face up to him. As I balanced on my flip flops...sorry did I not mention one of my flip flops rather bizarrely broke as I got out of the car... and I forced myself to stand up to him while I considered the fact that for no reason what so ever my flip flop had broken and now I would have to storm down to the shop I bought them in and get them exhanged. The injustice of his words were slowly but surely ravishing my temper and I was forced to behave in a frenzy of accusations. I told him that he was being ridiculous and how dare he suggest that I drove into his car. He then said that it wasn't his fault that he couldn't see my car out of his wing mirrors.... Sorry was it my fault? I really ought to make sure whenever I park that I can always been seen by wing mirrors. I told him that I had never had anyone hit my car before and I wasn't really sure what to do. Eventually as if he was giving me some kind of charity he said "Look ok ok we can sort this. Here is my card, get it fixed and I'll pay for it." I snatched his card of him and huffed and puffed as I got in my car before warning him that I would now be reversing and I would appreciate it if he would let me move my car before reversing himself. He didn't seem to take to kindly to this... but hey it was nice to get the final bit of sarcasm in after he had accused me of driving into him!

As I drove off my car was making the normal rattling noises together with some new noises which sounded a little like things falling off the car but I tried not to worry as I went to park my car in the extortionant car park which is a mere 10 minute walk from my apartment.

As I got home I was in a bad mood. Ok this is not particularly abnormal but I just wonder how bad moods develop so quickly and then set up a mortgage in your nervous system for the rest of the day. My mum was staying with me for a few days so she knew better than to talk to me. Next thing I knew there was a loud buzz of my door bell. I opened the door to the guys who were coming again about the shutters on my flat. Regular readers will know of the shutter guys who came to fix the shutters without notice and who I asked to leave when I discovered they had cut the cable on my sky tv dish (see Whatever happens you are not taking my sky dish!) Anyway it was different men this time but I couldn't stop myself I treated them as if they were responsible for their work colleagues. They asked me to open my back gate so that they could take off the bolts from the shutters. I agreed but as the locks are totally golden brown with rust I was unable to pull them across. It had taken about half an hour to get them on anyway! Eventually one of the men said "how bout i just jump over". I grunted and returned to the house. After all I had again had no notice of this and furthermore the agent of the property had told me that noone comes round without notice!

Now bearing in mind I only have 4 tv channels now and they are very fuzzy... when the men removed the bolts i could hear my mum saying "oh great now you've made the tv go funny". As the wrath of my protective mother started I could hear she was telling the men off for making the tv fuzzier than it was before. She then had them fiddling with the cut cable to try and get her a better picture on my tiny but faithful tv as she drank a cup of tea and ate biscuits and barked instructions at them "better, no worse again, better, there, stay there that's it... no it's gone again". After 10 minutes my tv was returned to the slightly fuzzy but not terribly fuzzy and we could once again make out most of the people on the tv. Eventually the men left and left the bolts off my gates once again so when i have a spare half hour and the cuts from the last time have healed I will go out and lock the gate again!

Now Mum has returned home and as soon as she got home she called me to tell me that she had a card through her door saying that British Gas have been trying to get hold of me at her address and that they had sent a representative round to talk to me! As fury grabbed hold of me ... you may recall that I have NEVER had an account with these people I rang the number given and luckily Keith (the British Gas guy) didn't answer and so I left a snotty message asking him to ring me and explaining again that I NEVER HAD AN ACCOUNT WITH THEM!!! (See Electric Nights if you want the full story on my British Gas torture... )

So I sometimes wonder if someone is playing a big joke on me... perhaps I'm in a tv show like the Truman show or perhaps God has a very sick sense of humour?... all I know is that there are days when life pushes you to extremes! This day is one of them... a groundhog day or just an average day in the life of Clare! The point is whoever it is that is responsible for this ... it's not funny anymore!!!! I refuse to be beaten and I will NOT end up in a mental institution because of British Gas! I will live without electricity if I have to as a mark of independence!I can take it!

Friday, 18 July 2008

Growing old... gracefully! The wrong side of 30!

Oh my god it's my birthday on Monday and I am going to be 31! My twenties feel like a distant memory and I just can't fathom how it all happened. One day I was old enough to be considered an adult; to live on my own, have my own bank account and money (or lack of it!) and spend my overdraft any way I desired! I could build up my own credit card debts and spend money before I earned it. I could wear whatever I wanted - god I could even get a tattoo! (I didn't - got a bit of a problem with needles!) This is probably a stupid thing to say but I never in a million years thought I would be 31! I mean I remember when my parents were in there thirties which means I was old enough when they were in their thirties to have memories of it! And they seemed so old - middle aged and uncool! Actually to be fair they were quite cool at the time but looking back now they weren't that cool at all!

When I was around 18 and I went to university I really felt young but old enough to realise I wasn't really a child anymore... except when I was not well and needed my mum! (To be fair that hasn't changed even at this age!) And then when I got to the age of about 23 I thought this is it I'm an adult. But if i'm honest I really didn't think I would get any older! This was as old as I was going to be. I was always the youngest in my year at school, I was the youngest child, the little sister, my mum's baby so how on earth am I now the wrong side of 30?! There is no way back. I now have 9 more years of being in my thirties and then... I can't even say what comes then but you know what it is! On the eve of my tenth birthday I remember bursting into tears at the thought of the next day being double digits. It took me ages to come to terms with it and this has been a constant battle. All my life I have struggled to accept my age... I seriously don't understand where all the time has gone! I can understand every other person in the world ageing but not myself. I have blond hair so I don't have to contend with going grey but other things are still a concern. I've noticed that my eyes have many more wrinkles, that I can't cope with late nights like I used to and that weight goes on easily but doesn't come off... at all! Yet on the inside I feel exactly the same! Apart from a little more jaded and able to deal with things but apart from that I am the same person I have always been!

So what were my plans when I was younger? What did I expect at this age? The answer is I had no idea because I honestly, honestly never thought I'd be this old! I don't know if I've exceeded my expectations or not and I don't know if I'm doing what I ought to be because who would have thought I'd ever get to this?

When I see kids I love them. I honestly do. They are so much fun and I love their outlook on life yet I don't understand how they will grow up to be my age. The thing is for ages when I saw my niece she used to treat me like I was her age and my sister (her mum) was old. I played with her and encouraged her thoughts on this. It was great! Then it dawned on her when she went to school that I am actually old! I was once walking down to the shop and a young teenager said "out the way the lady wants to get past". I looked behind me assuming that there must be a woman trying to get past me but there was no one there. After a few seconds the realisation hit me! The cheeky kid was talking to me! How dare he? How could he think I was a lady? I immediately stared at him with my best look of death stare and said "I'm not a lady- I'M A GIRL". He snorted and I stomped off with my best youthful flick of my hair!

So as I sit here tonight preparing myself for my last few days of being 30 I realise that I have to put a positive spin on this one! The plan is this... as I get older I will become the grumpy old woman I have always admired! You know the ones who complain about everything and expect to go to the front of the queue by virtue of the fact that they have lived on this earth longer. The ones who can moan about life and the youth of today without really meaning it but enjoying the shock and disdain from the young people around them. The ones who are rude and make you feel immediately like a child when you are with them because they know best... and you are slightly scared of their sharp tongues so you just want to keep quiet in case they decide you are their next victim!

When my Grandad had cancer he was still as chirpy and funny as always but he was also more blunt then he ever was before. He dealt with his illness without complaint and had the war time spirit that you would expect from someone who lived through the 2nd World War. One day someone came to the door selling something or other and asked how my grandad was. My grandad replied "I'm dying. How are you?" To this day I still think how amazing it would be to just say whatever was in your head. Not to hurt people but just because you are comfortable in your own skin and you know your own mind and you are not scared of the world as you have lived in it. For those 70 or 80 years that we live , the world is our world alone. It doesn't belong to anyone else and when you leave it - yes it goes on for those you care about but it ceases to belong to you anymore. So as I approach my 31st year I realise you may as well just be who you are while you live here because this world belongs to you for a limited time and so you have to just grow into it.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Love, relationships and the heart break diet!

As I am a family lawyer I spend a lot of time listening to people's relationship problems. Within a few months of doing this job I realised that everyone's relationships are different and what we are all striving for is the same thing... to be able to be with someone who will not let us down but will also support us in everything we do. Along with that however are the expectations of relationships from films and tv. We see celebrities walking hand in hand in blissful love within a few days of meeting each other and our view of what real love is meant to be is immediately distorted.

We are told that we are supposed to be constantly in lust with each other, never argue and if we do end the argument surrounded by broken plates we should find ourselves in each others arms once again realising the importance of our love. The reality however is very different. If you have got to the stage of broken plates it will take weeks to get over. One or both of you will resent each other for letting it get to that stage and one or both of you will resent the other for making you give in! It was an important point you were making... certainly important enough for you to lose your mind over... I mean in what other circumstances would someone irritate you so much that you would consider breaking china?...and yet an hour later you have apologised and told your loved one that you were just being silly after all! Unless of course you have got to the stage where you actually know in your mind that you are in the wrong and probably should have not let it get out of control but you can't seriously back down now without looking like a freak so it is likely you are just going to have to stick with it till the other person can take no more of your stupidity and will just accept it.

When client's come into my office there are 4 types of people I see; the angry hurt ones, the devastated ones who can't eat or sleep, the ones who have moved on and are already having a baby with their new partner who happens to be their old partner's best friend and finally and perhaps the scariest type of all...the ones who have lost all sense of rational. These people are normally very sane and capable human beings who have lived their lives without so much as an embarrassing moment but faced with the reality of heart break and rejection become the opposite of their former selves. As the months go on you watch as they start their own healing process which normally starts with hoping that their ex will come back even though they haven't even looked behind them. It continues with hatred and paranoia. Their ex is sleeping with everyone and even their lawyer (me) is probably on the side of their ex! Followed by an intense case of lunacy. It starts with the lawyer of the ex writing to me and telling me to ask my client to stop text messaging their client. Followed by the next letter accusing your client of shouting abuse in the street which then escalates to the client sending tempting sexual text messages to lure the ex back into their arms and away from the new partner to finally being told that the lawyer for the other side will be issuing an injunction to keep my client away as they have tried to run their ex and new partner down in the street in her renault megane or have sent a dead snake through the letter box.

The question is what brings us all to this level of stupidity in matters of the heart? How is it that a relationship failing with one person in our lives can makes us feel that the world has ended and that someone is standing on our chest and stopping us from breathing? How can our brains which functioned normally when we were together with that person end up filled with thoughts of that person as soon as they leave? And WHY on earth can we manage to live on nothing but fresh air when we are heart broken but when we are happy in relationships find it impossible not to scoff our faces with donuts or crisps? The heartbreak diet remains a mystery to me... why when we are so unhappy does the one thing that we have always wanted happen...? We get thin! And why does it happen when we can't enjoy it? As we try and force ourselves to swallow food to stop ourselves from feeling nauteous why is it all such an effort when a few weeks earlier we were eating non stop and watching our increasing waist lines unable to control our gluttony!? My thinnest times are always my saddest and yet when I am relatively happy I am striving to be thin... oh one of the great ironies of life?

The other great mystery of heart break is how are we not totally dehydrated from our tears? Where do they all come from as our grief stricken bodies curl up regularly throughout the day to cry as though we are in physical pain? And also why does it feel like physical pain which is totally unbearable and for which the only relief is sleep? When you finally do get to sleep from pure exhaustion of no food, energy wasted on plans to get the partner back or get revenge on them and all those tears you then find yourself waking up early having only managed about 2 hours sleep whilst you dream of your ex.

At the start of any break up you watch your client change as sanity disappears and bitterness or depression sets in. Believe me as people go I have an amazing ability to sympathise with people... I immediately take my client's side and believe all they tell me. But in their bid to rid themselves of blame for the break up they sell themselves as perfect people which I soon realise they are not. We are all capable of hurting our partners but the reality is that most of the time people it seems to me just forget to concentrate on their relationships. When we first meet someone the early days are filled with thoughts of that person and the relationship. As everyday life kicks in and you realise the person you have been with has lots of faults and possibly is not nice all the time and has smelly feet or gets unattractive spots on their bum from time to time you realise that they are not as perfect as you thought they were in the early days. For most people these days this realisation leads to discontentment followed by pure resentment and dislike. It is only when the relationship breaks down that they think hmmm maybe they were lovely after all.... maybe I didn't realise it all till it's too late. Before you know it you are back to stage one where you are thinking of them all the time and wondering where it all went wrong. Unfortunately the other person is normally relieved to be away from all the criticism and is in the grips of someone else who is thinking of them all the and relationships are complicated things!

The good thing about my job is that you see people at their worst. I don't mean I like seeing people in pain but it is interesting to watch the human condition and realise that on a basic level we are all the same. You watch them as they crumble and take it all out on you... and this is when you really know you are doing your job! I often say to client's if you feel like ranting and raving call me and tell me I'm to blame rather than sending a package of dog poo through the post and being arrested for it. I don't take it personally. I have had client's hang up on me and call me every name under the sun. But when the divorce is over and the finances are sorted and the person has moved on normally realising that their ex was wrong for them after all you see them in the street and they look completely sane again. They are no longer brandishing their mobile phones ready to text 67 messages to their ex partner imploring them to return and followed by abusive texts about their mother when they get no response. They are getting on with their lives as though nothing has happened and for them maybe life will always be different and they will always have a sense that people will let them down but for the majority of them life goes on with a semblance of normality. I on the other hand may listen for months to their moaning and grievances and memories of their gymnastic style sex life with an understanding look on my face whilst thinking not only have I heard this all before but nothing shocks me and sometimes wondering do they ever leave my office and think hmmm I wonder how Clare is? She looks a bit tired or sad.... because no to them I could be a stuffed toy gorilla sitting in a chair nodding and consoling them... it really wouldn't matter! They just need me to be on their side and if they think I may be wavering in loyalty they need me as the person they can take their frustration out on! Break ups hurt but they are a reality of life... you can lose your sanity and make a fool of yourself every day during it but no one will judge you because we have all been there and we could all be back there at any time!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Life before laptops ... was there one?

Since living in Jersey I have discovered the internet.... I know it's ten years later than the rest of the world but I couldn't get to grips with it before! My brother works in computers and I had a natural inclination to switch off whenever he spoke about it. I remember the first time he ever told me about the internet. He explained it was called the "World Wide Web" and soon it would be taking over. It would provide an online resource of information which we could get at the click of a button. Cynically I thought he was a lunatic! He was obviously getting over excited about this and let's be honest he thought robots were going to be in every home by the year 2000 and unless I'm behind the times I haven't got a robot who cooks me dinner... although to be honest that would be nice! I always worry a robot at home would end up needy though and develop feelings and then the next thing you know you would be comforting them on the sofa, rubbing their hard metallic bodies as a row of lights flashed on and off signifying tears and they sobbed in a techno voice " I can't believe robot 46254 doesn't love me!" And so when my brother told me about the internet I just couldn't take it seriously.

10 years on when everyone else has been using the internet over the last decade I'm finally understanding it and can't understand what we did before it!

The same goes for mobile phones. My Dad and brother were always ahead of their time and we had mobile phones at home way before anyone else did. They were huge. The size of a large oversized hand bag but in the shape of a massive brick and as heavy as bricks too. Dad and my brother would walk around carrying these huge phones which had a curly telephone wire from the battery to the large heavy battery and base and act as though they were extremely mobile peices of equipment. Of course the rest of us in the family were humiliated as we watched our brother and Dad walk around shopping malls with these ridiculous phones! Of course we had two of these things! I honestly thought they would never take off but they did and would you believe it I have 3 mobiles and various sim cards to cover me when I visit Ireland or anywhere else! I remember when I got my first one and no one else really had one. My brother had insisted I got one. As my mobile rang in the middle of a lecture at college I tried to ignore it. I could see if vibrating in the pocket of my bag and worse still everyone was looking round to try and figure out where the noise came from. I looked on trying to pretend I couldn't hear it and everyone else was just deluded but as the blush crept up my face it was hard not to know that I was the guilty culprit with the mobile phone. I however never admitted it and continued to pretend I knew nothing about it. I was thoroughly embarrassed by the whole experience!

Devices like mobile phones and computers were a constant in my family. My brother had a really early apple computer in which he spent most of the time poring over a book whilst he wrote various codes and then the word "run" only for it to return the words "syntax error". It was a source of constant frustration for him and as my mum told him "never do anything with Computers when you are older there is no money in it!" he continued his obsession with all things technological. Even as kids we were always pretending tictac boxes were walkie talkies and that we were talking to each other. My brother also had one of those massive calculator watches which he would constantly add things up with. So I was not suprised at all when my brother decided it would be funny to wind up our parents and put fake "bugs" round the house. The idea was that we would make them think someone was bugging them and that all their conversations were being recorded. We set about making our bugs by taking the spongy bits off headphones from our walkmans (before the days of discmans and way before the days of mp3 players) and we would then use the speaker bits and cut the cords. We then attached them in subtle places with blu tack. We started under tables and hidden in cupboards but as our non observant parents didn't notice them we took it to the next level. For the next 2 months everywhere you looked there would be a bug attached with blu tack. It started on the bed frame of our parents to the inside of lampshades moving on further to the outside of lampshades, the edge of the bath, the inside of our dad's briefcase and finally to the steering wheel of our Dad's car. It was only at this point that Dad started to notice and started to cover his mouth and whisper to us that he thought he was being bugged. We looked at him like he was crazy and carried on until the paranoia had really set in for Dad and we were bored. So the next obvious move was to send him a fake letter stating that his breath had been smelt and they would like to bottle his halitosis for medical reasons. Again Dad was horrified....but for us it was hilarious.

As I battled to adapting to a computer literate world, I had a friend at school who was so intelligent I was in awe of her. As I sat next to her in French I tended to look over and check what I was doing against her work which would mean that if I was doing something different I was invariably wrong. This caused problems one day as I realised I had written her name on the front of my new note book. I tried to cover it up but didn't manage to in time! She looked at me disgusted when she saw what I had done and immediately said with a curled lip "Have you put my name on your notebook?" I just looked at her blankly and nodded. She ignored me and sat somewhere else after that. As I explained to my family how intelligent this girl was and how I wished I was more like her they seemed not to understand the level of intelligence. So I explained to them that I imagined all her thoughts came up in a computer language in front of her eyes and had various graphs etc coming up in her head. She would then process this information in milli-seconds and as her eyes moved there would be a computer sounding whizz go through her head. After that they soon realised this girl was really bright and seemed impressed that she may actually be a human computer...Perhaps she was a robot who knows?

So for all of us technology has been present for some time but I am only just really getting it. I never would have thought I would get into it but now this evening I have been playing around with my new touch screen mobile phone which I got on the weekend and wondering why we ever bothered with hard buttons on our phone when we can have the smoothness of a touch screen! How did it happen? And what will happen to the next generation. My nephew is already pointing his Dad's mobile at things and saying "See my shoes Auntie Clare" as he doesn't understand that not every phone has a feature that means I can see him on video. But the concern is how will technology keep going...? How will it increase our need for it... more importantly what is next? I could really do with something that would get me dressed me in the morning so I didn't have to put in the energy to do so... but with our problems with obesity in this world is technology going to make it worse? All I know is right now I'm loving technology!!! Life before laptops... was there one?

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

The Transformation through make up and beauty products

For the last few days I have lost my identity to a fringe. I decided to have a fringe cut in my hair on Saturday and after been puffed, blowdried and had 3 different colours put in my hair I left the hairdresser looking completely unlike myself when I arrived. Since Saturday I have walked past mirrors or windows and caught a glimpse of myself - unrecognisable to myself and others- and jumped wondering who the person I see is.... almost as though someone is right beside me and I haven't noticed... someone has taken my shadow. It also reminds me of that programme Quantum Leap where the main character is always going through time and landing in someone elses body... the down side of this was he never knew what he looked like until he looked in the mirror and spent the rest of the episode dressed in woman's clothes normally with his hairy legs. Now on Wednesday I am slowly getting used to my new hair do and it is a "do"... not quite a "bonce" but certainly a "do". As I bump into people I haven't seen for over a week they say "Ah you've had your hair done! looks nice" and now I'm coming across as though I'm bored of the compliments or that I just know I look good as I wave my hand and say "thanks". The problem is I'm not too sure about it as I've lost my identity. I am for the next week or so a "do" or a "fringe" until my face grows into my hair!

It's funny but for a time when my mum used to go and have her hair done each week I used to say that she had gone for a barnet bashing because most weeks she would not have her hair cut and would just have it washed and blow dried. I found this hilarious as it seemed like for 2 days a week before she washed it she had big hair. Most of the time she walked out of a hair dresser with hair that was twice as big as it was before she went in. However one time I went to have my hair cut and I came out looking like I had styled myself as a librarian. As I looked in my reflection the hairdresser stared in horror at what she'd done but then smiled calmly and told me it was lovely as it was a cleopatra hair cut. The problem is for at least the last 100 years as far as I'm aware Cleopatra has not been a style icon! That particular hair do not only took the longest time ever to grow out but made me refuse to go to the hairdresser again for at least a year after.

As there were 3 women in my house growing up it was commonplace for bad hair cuts to take over our lives at some point. My poor sister had a perm one time which she tried to wash out as soon as she got home as the tight curls made her look like a poodle. It was also not uncommon for either me or my sister to rush out the bathroom crying and hysterical after we had left our hair dye on for too long and it had either gone white or ginger. In a bid to rid myself of this problem area in my life I decided to have a short hair cut from the ages of 14 to 18. This was my rebellious stage. As I prided myself on not caring that my hair was short and I was not like all the other girls at school I was horrified at different stages when someone would ask my mum whilst I sat next to her what her son's name was. She would say this is my daughter Clare... she just wears her hair short. I would be deeply wounded but the reality was I did look like a boy but I didn't run crying out of the bathroom or hair dresser anymore!

It wasn't only hair that has been a problem to us! We have battled weight, bad dresses and dodgy fake tans. We have done it all! One time after putting some fake tan on my face I then developed a migraine. I have these headaches since I was little and the only thing that will solve him even at this age is to have someone stroke my head as I lie in darkness with a cold wet flannel on my face. I should make it very clear I have an allergy to flannels. I never use them and I never have them in my bathroom. The remind me of hankerchiefs which I also find completely disgusting. It seems wrong to blow your nose on a bit of material and to put it up your sleeve or in your pocket. In fact even as I write I am gagging slightly. Flannels have the same effect. They smell damp and of old soap. They can get crusty when the dry and when I am at my mum's having a bath and her flannel slips from the hook above the bath and into the water I cringe! So there I was having just applied the fake tan and with a migraine so I laid down on my bed and put the flannel over my head. I fell asleep and woke in the morning. As I looked in the mirror while I got ready for work I saw on my face were streaks of fake tan. Not just faint ones but orange streaks all over my face like a mask. I immediately tried to scrub it off. Now for those of you that have ever used fake tan you will know this is completely impossible and so as I scrubbed my face just got red underneath the orange streaks. I read the back of the fake tan and apparently you should not wet your skin after putting it on for at least 12 hours. I of course had not only slept with a damp flannel on my face but also had woken up twice in the night to re wet it! As I arrived at work with my orange and red face which I tried to cover up with thick foundation I realised that no one said a word.

You see the thing is when someone has done something really stupid like this to themselves normally people won't mention it. They wouldn't dare. The shock for them is enough and they realise that it is likely it could happen to them at some point. When my dad first went grey he used to dye his hair jet black. One day before he went to an important dinner with my mum he decided to quickly dye his hair before he went. As he confidently put the dye on without reading the instructions he let the dye drip down on to his forehead in numerous large drips. For some reason it didn't occur to him that this would stain and so when he had completed the dye job we all went into the bathroom and watched my mother trying to remove the drip stains which even went down his nose with a brillo pad. Realising it would not come off but unable to delay the dinner my father and mother attended with dad in all his glory. Apparently everyone politely ignored the dark black drip stains on his ultra white skin. Dad did what any confident person would do and instead of feeling uncomfortable he made himself the life and soul of the dinner. He did not shy away from talking or try to cover up the stains - no he was the centre of attention as usual and chatted away reminding everyone how great he is - stains or no stains!

When my sister got married my mum and I decided we would get our make up done professionally. When we arrived the youngest woman in the salon did my mum's make up and the oldest woman did mine! This meant that when my mum turned to me with bright pink lipstick on asking me if it looked alright I responded that she looked like a clown and the colour was changed. I however was covered in peach and blue colours. As the woman remarked on "my broken capillaries" I wanted to slap her. But it wasn't until she moved me over to stand by the window as she pointed out in a disgusted voice that i was "so pale". She spent the next 20 minutes rubbing blusher onto my cheeks from a make brush in long sweeping upward motion. As she repeated this time and time again and my face started to burn I was starting to get that feeling of immense torture that you can only get from repetitive motion on your skin. My grandmother used to stroke my arm as a child with her slightly sharp nails. This was enjoyable for a few minutes but after 30 minutes I would be close to tears as I tried to politely pull away as my skin crawled with irritation. As I left that beauty salon after payin £40 I grabbed a tissue from the reception desk and said to my mum through gritted teeth " get me home so that I can get this stuff off my face". By the time I was in the taxi with my face sore from all the blusher I was already wiping the caked make up off my face so that I could redo as soon as I got home.

All the people I know have had these experiences... or if not they are better at hiding them. I do think that these are the things that seem so important at the time but that you look back on and laugh. From the breaking of the heel on your shoe (happened more than once to me!) to the rip in your trousers that you don't realise for a number of hours and that no one tells you about to the dodgy hair cuts and dye jobs. In a quest to look better sometimes exactly the opposite will happen but it is only temporary and you will always go back to looking slightly crap like you did before.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

"The Last Shot"... the O'Connor Heirloom

One of the funny things about my family is we have very few possessions. If I can't move house in a car load I start to panic. By not being able to fit everything in a car it means that I have to stay put. I immediately start to realise that I'm in fact not able to leave in the space of a few hours... not that I ever would... but what if I had to? The thought of not being able to drive away from one place with all my worldly possessions to another scares me somewhat and yet I also have a shopping addiction so you can explain that irony. Of course the fact I can't open my car boot of my car is a concern but I'm trying not to let it take over too much. I figure the seats can be put down for more room. I think part of the reason I am like this is my family have a habit of good times turning into terrible times. We are the comeback family. We flog a dead horse for as long as possible. We simply find it difficult to let go of things when we are failing at them. This is not as depressing as it sounds. It's merely a case of never giving up. This I believe is why I have such loyalty to my own tv... the guilt of getting rid of it is too much to bear. And why should I give up on it when it never gave up on me?

Because of this we find ourselves not worrying too much about savings or expensive things and focus on the sentimental. Which brings me to the things that I possess. I have a birthday card from my parents from my 3rd birthday. I have set of green vases with yellow small swirls round the top which belonged to my grandad and when we cleared his house no one wanted them. Because noone wanted them they became my most favourite possession. The patheticness of them made me love them even more. My mum describes them as hideous. I however have bought duvet sets to match them and decorated whole rooms based on these vases.

I also have a book that I loved when I was little called "the detective guidebook". This book revolutionised my life as it made me cynical and suspicious about everything. I soon realised that the majority of people in life are "up to something". It was like my bible of childhood as I realised early on that men in macks are not to be trusted. I also have a tiny naked doll with a massive head and ginger hair... god only knows where her clothes went to... and a little plastic mermaid and seal which my brother gave me when I was about five for my birthday. These are just things I can't get rid of. I've lost friends, jobs and my mind at different times but I always know exactly where these things are! My brother has one of my grandad's dirty old pipes. He always knows exactly where this is and regularly takes it out and puts it in his mouth when he is thinking. His car keys however are a permanent mystery.

There are things that I know I will get in the future that I will not want particularly but will hold onto for the rest of my life. I'll give you an example. As a child I told my Irish Catholic grandmother that I loved the 2 pictures she had in her bedroom. Both are large black and white pictures. One is of Jesus dressed in a white gown holding his heart between his hands signifying the Sacred Heart. The other is of the Virgin Mary holding her heart. The gruesome thing about these pictures are that the hearts they are holding are real looking pumping bloody hearts that look as if they have been very recently ripped out of someone. There is a glow around these pictures which can be seen eerily when the lights are off. Their eyes peirce into you and the whole concept of the pictures are frightening and unnerving. My grandmother is now in her nineties. Her memory is practically gone and she always says she doesn't recognise me when she sees me ... but the one thing that never fades from her memory is the fact that I liked those pictures! She has told me a few hundred times that she has told everyone when she dies I will get those pictures. And so one day no doubt above the green vases will be the pictures of the sacred heart which will then move from house to house filling all children who visit with fear.

In our various moves over the years my family have lost things, things were broken, things destroyed but there is one thing that for some unknown reason remains unscathed. This is our "heirloom"! It is a china drinks dispenser in the shape of a dog. This dog has been in every house I ever remember. He is brown and white and looks like life has dealt him a hard blow. He has given up. There is a big tear coming from his big droopy eyes and he looks dejected and well if i'm honest and I hope he doesn't mind me saying... he's suicidal! His paw is up holding a gun above his head and this can be removed with a cork at the bottom of it to dispense the drink. At the bottom is a wind up musical box with the words printed "the last shot". As kids we loved this dog but we were very concerned about him having the gun above his head so instead we always had it turned round to face the ground and for safety reasons we tied a small red and white check ribbon round the gun to stop the trigger being pulled... just in case. All three of us kids love this heirloom. It signifies everything about our family. The patheticness of the dog, giving it your last shot and the fact that we don't want him to give up!

Now our mother for some reason unknown to us and one which we would never understand anyway hates this dog. Which is quite unfortunate for her because it lives in her house! Numerous times I have had to lift the heirloom out of a box going to the charity shop or boot sale. Every time my mum tries to get rid of it I immediately ring my brother and sister and dobb her in! We all get defensive and protective and tell our mum it's our heirloom and she can never get rid of it. The lack of respect she shows for it by calling it junk of course makes us love it all the more! We unite against our parent as a show of solidarity for the dog.

To some "the last shot" may seem tacky or distasteful. For us it is part of our make up as a family. Our loyalty to it knows no bounds and I always have a sneaky suspicion that "the last shot" will be the one thing that makes our family rich in some way. I suspect it has the combination to a safe where our ancestors buried their gold bullion. When us three kids used to play my brother used to pretend to fall down the stairs and when he got to the bottom he always used to pretend to be dying. As he lay on his back feigning death he would always grab one of us by the arm and say in a slow dying voice "the treasure is hidden in a safe. The combination to the safe is 4, 6.... "and before he could finish he would fake die! My sister and I would try to resucitate him but he never came back to life to tell us the full combination. I used to think why when he is fighting death does he always start with the treasure is hidden in a safe? Why didn't he shorten it so he had time to give the full combination?

And so I expect that the full combination to the safe my brother so often referred to is in fact in the depths of the music box of "the last shot". I doubt any of us however would be prepared to break it to find out and so we will remain paupers with all our junk but we will be loyal till the end!

I dedicate this blog to "the last shot" - You have brought much joy to 3 O'Connor kids ... we will not forsake you!

The "Dolly" Lama

Well I promised I would tell you the reason I found myself in Coventry airport. It is not somewhere I intend to go again but was necessary to get to Birmingham the cheapest way possible. My oldest friend had bought tickets to go and see Dolly Parton.

Now let me just make this clear. We are only 30 - well she is a little older but we are still ultra cool people ok? When I was young I lived in Florida...I really am truly glamorous I know. My parents were 80's dreamers and in a rather crazy way we moved from Bury St Edmunds to Florida when I was three. The relevance of this is purely to explain why I was attending a Dolly Parton concert and not to boast! I loved country music and remember squidging my feet into a pair of cowboy boots and convincing my parents that they fit perfectly despite the fact they were in fact 2 sizes smaller than the rest of my shoes. My Dad also loved country music and when we used to drive around in the car with the windows closed whilst my dad chuffed away on cigarettes filling the car and make us all feel car sick we listened to Anne Murray and Dolly! Oh the abuse I hear you cry! I'm sure it was toxic in the car but we never objected although my mum had a permanent smokers cough despite having never smoked. Although I should also say this was what we were told as she skipped hurriedly passed her honeymoon photo showing her holding a cigarette as though she was filming for a marlboro advert.

When I became friends with this particular girl in high school I kept my "dirty secret" of enjoying Dolly Parton until I had lured her into a solid friendship. Before she could turn her back on me and once I knew plenty of embarrassing things about her which I could use against her. I like to pretend because of Dolly's song "D-i-v-o-r-c-e" I became the lawyer I am but I think it is more likely because I wasn't particularly interested in any of the areas of law I learnt. After my confession of being a country music lover I begged for forgiveness. My friend however shared my fascination and soon became a bigger Dolly fan than I was. And so a few months ago she rang me with the news of the tickets. After spending an alarming £44 on my return ticket to Coventry, I arrived and shared a taxi with a girl who was also luckily going to the train station. I realised my luck was in as she headed for the only taxi outside and I asked if she was going to the station and she said yes. I had no shame when I bundled into the taxi realising I would have to count up my change from the bottom of my bag to try and share the cab fare. As I tried to be polite I tried to engage in small talk about the flight before realising she was actually ignoring me and was in fact on her mobile phone. Relief washed over me as I realised that I didn't have to be polite and I could sit in silence listening to her dragging out her conversation to avoid having to talk to me. It was a dream come true. You know sometimes there is nothing worse than the stilted conversations that you end up having with strangers. She felt that she was better off for not speaking to me but to be honest she was giving me a present of silence.

After arriving in Birmingham and meeting my friend we went to the hotel and got ready for the concert. She happily got a pink cowboy hat out of her bag from the last Dolly concert she went to and told me that it didn't actually fit her head. I however could wear it. My immediate reaction was I would not be wearing this hat! But as I looked at my reflection in the Comfort Inn hotel's mirror I made a mental note to start wearing more hats. Particularly of the cowboy variety!

We got to the concert and took our seats as the sound of an announcement filled the arena stating that we could not take pictures. This annoyed me as let's be honest any pictures we take we are hardly going to make any money out of... not to mention the fact that I had bought a new camera and felt irritated that I would not be allowed to take pictures of this ageing crooner. The steward sat looking at the crowd ready to pounce on anyone that looked that they would be disobeying the rules. He took his job very seriously scanning the crowd for offenders. From what I could make out during the concert he did not accept reoffending. If he had told you once not to take photos you were out of time. One strike you were out! He had authority and he was waiting for one of us to try and test him! The protection of Dolly from pictures had him focused. As the concert started I looked round at the crowd. It was a weird mix with numerous people wearing cowboy hats and acting as if they dressed like that all the time. Men were in levi's, cow boy boots and shoe string ties and women were wearing the obligatory pink dolly hat. However, when Dolly appeared it was like the whole audience was sitting in church. There was not a stir in the crowd. No one sang or clapped. Perhaps they were all scared of the steward who glared every time you even took a sip of your drink in case there was a camera attached to the glass or perhaps Dolly was some sort of saviour to people. Whatever it was these people were serious.

At one point I wondered if the 45 year old man beside me was actually alive as he was so quiet and still. However he really let lose during "nine to five" when I caught him do 3 consequetive taps of his foot. Two men in their twenties were behind us acting as though they were forced there by their parents. However, a couple of times I heard them singing at the tops of their voices and could not contain myself from turning round and glaring at them. Not only because they were not particularly good singers and they were singing loudly into my ear but because they too were "ultra cool" like we were and yet they pretended not to be! My friend was bouncing in and out of her seat with excitement which was making the whole row of seats bounce. I realised Dolly had her work cut out with this crowd!

As she got onto her old hits... the "golden oldies" I decided that I would try my luck at taking a photo. Trembling and excited by my sheer disregard for the rules I got my camera ready and waited until the steward was busy telling someone off behind us and with his back to us. I now suspect that the stewards throughout the arena had a high tech monitoring system of the crowd and quite possibly had tapped into our thought processes as each of us walked through the door of the arena. "Please leave your thoughts at the door and go and take your seat." (Which reminds me of the time my brother told me about yet another one of Richard Branson's new business ventures and I tried to convince my brother that Richard Branson was now buying people's souls).With my thoughts now under the ownership of the stewards and with our steward's senses heightened to those even considering putting Dolly's figure into the frame of a picture I knew immediately I would be caught. However I was determined. As she came into the frame I glanced over at the steward to see him still telling off one of the crowd. My finger pressed down on the button to seal my fate. Within seconds the steward was leaning over the people next to me and in a no nonsense way insisted that I listened to his strong words, "If I catch you again taking a photo you are out and I'm taking your camera off you". I tried to look innocent as I still had the camera in my hand but felt the strength of his wrath. This man had power! I immediately put the camera in my bag and decided to retire from my criminal life and to rehabilitate. I later thought about it and wondered what kind of jurisdiction this man had for taking my possession off me. This was not a weapon of destruction but merely capturing a memory.

It seems to me that when you don't break the rules often you are not very good at breaking rules at all. I was always rubbish at breaking rules! When I wrote on a wall with a pen in my parents room as a child I cunningly wrote my sister's name as a way of taking the heat off me... of course it was obvious my sister was not stupid enough to write her own name on the wall to incriminate herself and so I was immediately convicted of this crime. The rest of the concert was spent under the accusing eyes of the authorities. I felt the shame as everyone else continued to sit quietly and under control. Where was their passion and their drive? Why did they conform so easily and more importantly why did I feel as if I'd let the whole crowd down...."there's always one that breaks the rules and makes the rest of us suffer!"

I felt shunned by the crowd. It appeared that noone would meet my eye and people shook their heads when I tried to make eye contact! The immense disapproval was alarming... but I had my picture. I had broken the rules and I was walking away with one picture. Dolly was captured on film by me but for others she was in their hearts...

When we left the concert I was shocked by the crowds of people waiting for buses or taxis, dressed completely normally and scowling due to people pushing past them and yet everyone of these people looked moody and self righteous but wearing their pink spangly cowboy hats. For one night only these people got on with their normal lives on the way home but under the guise of being Betty Sue, Tammy Jo and Billy Bob. I, however was going home as I came in ... just as Clare.... but now Clare the criminal, the rule breaker, the one who let the crowd down, the one with the past. I imagine I would not be allowed in the fan club now... maybe I'll start my own for other Dolly fans who are outlaws too... maybe she could write a song about it.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

The pain of being kicked by a feather

So I have officially met the most annoying couple in the universe today... I was on my way back from Coventry .... another story that I will fill you in on later today. Having arrived at the airport, hot and tired I waited in the ridiculously slow queue to check in on my flight to Jersey. I got the distinct impression this airport was not particularly used to passengers as they had to have 2 people on each desk. One vacant looking girl to look at your passport and print your boarding pass and then a drippy looking boy on each desk who had the very important job of putting the labels on your luggage!I asked for a window seat and glared at them throughout their job... inwardly and I accept probably outwardly sighing as though I was extremely short on time... even though I already knew my flight was in fact delayed and I was early. Although these people working on the desk were particulary annoying they had nothing on the couple that I spotted in the departure lounge...

As I sat down with my packet of crisps and my magazine I saw a girl walk past who immediately irritated my very soul. Let me just tell you how irritating this girl truly was at first glance. She had long blonde, just got out of bed in a very sexy way hair - not like when I get out of bed and I can't even run my fingers through for being so matted - but the kind of hair that my Grandad used to describe as looking sucked. Every hair is separated with lose curls. On girls who have this hair they spend a great deal of time flicking their hair in the faces of people behind them, pulling their hair round to the side to show off their tanned necks and twirling their hair in a kind of Oh i'm so cute way! However this was not the main annoying thing about her. She was my age and wearing white hot pants showing off her beautifully tanned legs which were long and enviable. Even this is not the main annoying thing! She was very aware of how good her legs looked and she "teamed" her shorts (Sorry just love that expression) with a pair of mid calf tan coloured ugg boots. Not the cheap £10 version from new look that I own - oh no the real ugg boots. Even this however was not enough to be irritating to the extreme irritation I feel! She was also wearing a mocha coloured jumper and carrying a beautiful perfectly new but fashionably worn looking prada bag. Out of this bag spilled hello magazine, perfumes and various beauty products. Jealousy you may think but I promise it is so much more than that. She was followed by her boyfriend.

Now let me fill you on this boyfriend... he was wearing expensive looking dark jeans on his relatively short legs. He had a black v neck t shirt that showed his unhairy tanned chest. But even this didn't annoy until I looked up at his hair. He too had wavy, sucked looking dark hair which was probably a style from a top london salon but from the back looked like an old woman's hair do after she has had a blowdry and set. As they stood near the gate before boarding yes I admit I was slightly irritated by their look but nothing could really make me dislike them without knowing them. They flirted and chatted and she spent a lot of time kicking her toned tanned leg onto the chair and pointing at non existant let's say grazes which her boyfriend (let's call him "the bonce") would then look at and rub. As we were called to board I was a little relieved that they were no longer in my sight. If people annoy me even slightly I develop a sick fascination with them. I stare, I watch, I take in every detail. I'll even move closer if I have to to gain some more insight into them so that I can be even more irritated.

When I got on the plane I looked for my "window" seat. When I arrived at 10F (my seat) who should be sitting in the seat but the bonce next to his girlfriend. I immediately said " oh sorry I think you are sitting in my seat". To which the bonce replied "oh it doesn't really matter does it?"As I fumed in my head... "well yes it does actually I asked for a window seat"... I replied "well it's my seat". "Yeh but there's no point us moving now is there? We're settled." I should point out she was already pushing up the armrest between them and lying on his lap!

I sat down in a huff next to this couple and she eventually sat up for take off and insisted on having her legs crossed so they touched mine and flicked quickly through hello magazine with her perfect finger nails. As she flicked her hair into my face and flicked the magazine pages over my magazine in my lap I wondered how hatred really starts to form.

I closed my eyes to ignore the couple as they hogged the window so I couldn't see out past their obnoxious hair styles. As we headed towards jersey the air stewardess brought round the duty free. As they approached I got some money out to buy something. I could hear them saying that there was only one bottle of the perfume i wanted left to each other. I turned to the girl for god knows what reason and said "did she say there was only one bottle of chanel left? " She nodded. As the duty free approached us the air stewardess looked at me and said "can I get you anything" to which the sucked hair girl replied whilst actually clicking her fingers "yes could i have your last bottle of chanel please". She was passed this and took it in front of my face whilst ordering 6 bottles of spirits for her and the bonce. I sighed loudly at the injustice of this and wanted to rip the perfume out of her hands. Instead I put my money away and told the airstewardess I did not want anything. As I sat back in my seat the girl lent forward to put her chanel in her prada bag and her ugg boot kicked me to which she promptly said insincerely "Oh i'm so sorry darlin!" Now of all the things for her to be sorry about the soft ugg boot kick was not the one! She could have been sorry for buying my perfume, letting her boyfriend nick my seat, hogging the window or just generally making her legs the main focus of the flight... but oh no! She was really sorry for kicking me with her soft, furry ugg boot... almost like kicking me with a feather. OW!

By the time we landed I could barely contain my annoyance as I scowled every time either of the couple breathed. When the seat belt signs went off she insisted on jumping up to get her other bag from the over head compartment which involved me standing up without even an excuse me from her and she promptly got her bag down, swung her hair in my face and then swung the prada bag over her shoulder catching my lip on the edge of it. No apology necessary.... remember she has already apologised for kicking me with her super soft ugg boot!

And so I got off the plane and went to get my baggage and the couple were across from me... I watched her splaying her legs all over the place as he kept kissing her head and every few minutes they would wave frantically at a person waiting for them through the doors. I found the sick fascination of their annoying beings taking over once again. Of course, their louis vuitton bag arrived before my tiny primark hold all arrived which intensified my feelings.

Now I don't know if I am jealous of the nice things they had, the tanned toned legs she displayed or if I just felt an immense overpowering irritation for this couple... all i do know is that by the time I returned home I was still feeling the irritation and wondered how two people with such big hair ever found each other... despite it all I suspect they were a perfect match. I however, hope I never see them again in this lifetime!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Summer, sleep and weddings....

Having arrived home to another British Gas bill on my door step... for some reason my mum decided to post it on to me I had something to eat and then decided to lay down for a little snooze. This is one of my favourite pastimes and sometimes I think whole chunks of my life are missing to these little naps! I have always felt like a particularly tired person. Getting up is a constant effort and fighting off sleep for the rest of the day is the norm for me. Generally speaking I cannot talk to anyone until I have had at least 2 cups of tea in the morning or some other form of caffeine injection. I remember once my friend had come to sleep over my house for the first time. I was about 14 years old. When we woke up she started chattering happily. I stared at her with a disgusted look on my face and she continued talking! Why would anyone do that? As she tried to engage me with conversation I managed to ignore her for 30 minutes and then started to grunt to various things she said. I realise to some this may appear a little harsh but I normally have snotty words going through my head of irritation in the morning and it was either ignore, grunt or a tirade of abuse. After about 45 minutes I noticed she had left my room and gone downstairs. Relief washed over me as I realised I would no longer have to deal with her upbeat chirpiness until I was ready.... Then I could hear quiet sobs and the cooing of my mother comforting her... "I think I've upset Clare and she's not talking to me!".... "Now now don't be silly she's always like this in the mornings.. you didn't try to speak to her did you? Oh dear just leave her for a while until she wakes up!" Strangely she did come round many times after that but she never said a word until I spoke to her!

On the days my sister and I used to walk to school together we would often take turns closing our eyes whilst the other one led the way so that we could get some extra sleep and I often came home from school and had a little sleep before dinner. The down side of this of course was I was then totally irritated by people's eating habits at the table as I had not been awake for long enough. I wanted to eat in silence but my family insisted on chatting! I have at times contemplated what it would be like to push a yoghurt pot in my mother's face as she slowly spoons the yoghurt into her mouth in slow, even perfectly timed spoonfuls. Even now when I visit her if she eats a yoghurt she tends to leave the room. It's not that I'm a bully... it's just that I have a very low irritation threshold and one which when the criteria is met cannot be stopped.

I had one summer in particular that I remember my irritation levels were at their lowest. Everything annoyed me. I complained about everything from the bins that smelt all over the city when I was out shopping to the way my shoes always make my feet blister in the heat. It is not unusual for my ankles to swell up bulbously so that I look like an old woman with her ankles hanging over the straps of her sandals. This particular summer was the summer everyone I knew was getting married. I should add not only was everyone getting married but everyone was asking me to be bridesmaid. I spent the whole summer yo yo dieting to get into the range of 4 dresses that I was due to be wearing for the occassions which went from size 8 dresses to size 12 dress. The size 8 dress and size 12 dress weddings were about a month apart so I went from living off the sweat of a strawberry or the pip of a grape and having regular seaweed wraps which made me wee for 24 hours solidly to eating big macs and blocks of cheese whilst lying down and avoiding exercise in the space of a month. Every wedding was different. I had the catholic wedding of my sister where the priest kept saying my name instead of the brides and in which I wore a lilac dress in size 10, to the Quaker wedding where I was late by 30 minutes as our taxi had got lost and the first part of the wedding video is everyone asking where I am and the bride sitting outside in the car to the church of england wedding where I was expected to be size 8 in a gold fitted dress with the biggest hair do in the world. I had various bouquets and did various readings at the services. By the end of the summer I was joking to my family that I could start a business called "rent a bridesmaid".

As my brother and I spent hours coming up with ideas for the business we laughed at our own jokes - own dresses in various colours, no hymn book required, any denomination acceptable, own bouquets, willing to read from any gospel. "Been let down by your bridesmaid... call rent-a-bridesmaid". As the summer ended all the jokes about "always a bridesmaid never a bride" were solidified when my best friend gave me her bouquet rather than threw it into the crowd as she thought I needed it more than anyone else! The summer was over and relief crept through me... no more weddings to attend, no more stinky bins from the heat, no more blistered bulbous feet as I was back in my comfy boots so all that was left was the normal morning blues and my mum's love of yoghurt.

As we hit october I received a phone call from "Take a break" magazine. This very important, efficient sounding woman rang and told me that they wanted to do a 2 page spread on my business "Rent-a-bridesmaid". I didn't have the heart to tell her this was a joke as she asked for details of the website address. It turned out my mum had decided that the magazine would be interested in my idea. As I created my fake business out of my jokey emails with my brother the lady on the phone was delighted and interested. I fobbed her off saying the website was under construction and I would get back to her at a later date. After phoning my mum and demanding an explanation I was embarrassed to even think about it and left it at that....

"My mum was in the doctors surgery reading take a break and saw a picture of you as a bridesmaid saying you were going to start a business called rent a bridesmaid". My friend was laughing as she told me that her mum had brought the magazine home to show her. I rang my mum in a state of despair imagining all the various people i knew in doctor's surgeries all over the country reading about this embarrassing situation! My mum was thrilled! She told me that they had given her £75 for this little picture on the inside cover and a little explanation of how I was forever a bridesmaid... Oh the shame!

And so that is why I find summer irritating! Even my own jokes at my sad misfortune come back to haunt me and I am spending the whole winter cringing about the summer. It is exhausting way to live and so as I approach the summer I intend to sleep more. By sleeping more I will then be able to avoid any invitations to weddings or any other happy event and just live my life without the torture of it all!