THANK YOU FOR THE MUSIC

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You took me swimming when mum didn’t want to. You let me eat sweets on the way home from the park, regardless of what time dinner was. And of course, you told me to never talk to strangers. Or trust men in leather. You are a joker, a prankster, a party animal. You have given me pocket money, happy meals and just this morning you handed me a head torch to take to Glastonbury.

But the best gift of all? You’ve given me The Smiths. Sting. The Cure. Morrissey. Suede. David Gray. Annie Lennox. Van Morrison. New Order. Jamiroquai. The Pogues. Jimmy Ruffin. The list goes on. And on and on. You’ve handed down to me an adoration for music and a belief that a life lived without it is a life half-lived. You took me to see B*Witched at ten and shrugged that Morrissey cancelled his Roundhouse gig that we had tickets to because… well… it’s Morrissey.

Our love of music will outlive a packet of penny sweets or a lift to the pub. We will still be dancing to the same beat even when we don’t share the same dance floor anymore.

Thank you for the music dad. I will probably ring you at some point during The Who’s set on the Pyramid Stage next Sunday, no doubt slurring all of the wrong words down the phone to you. So apologies in advance.

Happy Father’s Day.

EASTER WEEKEND 2015

We celebrate Easter in our house as though it were Christmas. Huge roast, bubbles and board games.

This year was no different. Except for the Ouzo. That wasn’t anticipated.

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This smug chap at the end is my brother. He won every game of Articulate that we played, regardless of whose team he was on. Super intelligent or just plays this game too much? You decide.

THE UNCONDITIONAL LOVE – A GUEST POST

0b65cdb9bd90edd60b3af64015f50fb7Nothing prepares you for the moment where life as you know it, changes forever.

In an instant, the days of “I” and “me” are gone and are replaced with both “we” and “us”.

From the moment you set eyes on them, it’s love: pure, unconditional, primitive love. There’s a rush of emotion like no other; a combination of panic, joy, dread, fear, and a happiness that is paired with an instinct to protect at all costs.

You worry at every stage. From making sure that they aren’t too hot or too cold, to their first steps and worrying if they’ll make friends at school, to whether their boyfriend will be kind to them or whether they’ll pass their exams. In fact, your worries are so extensive and uncontrollable that you start to worry about your own sanity.

Then the time comes for her to leave home when all rationale goes out of the window. Will she eat well? Will she be warm enough? Will she be safe or will she choke on her own vomit? The list is endless and leaving your child alone in a city 400miles from home gives you a pain like no other. As you drive off with a stuck smile and false wit about not drinking too much, your pride quickly fades and is replaced by a sense of loss. However nonsensical it all seems, there’s no controlling it, leaving you feeling helpless and exhausted in its wake. However over the top, and at whatever age, your little one leaving home feels a lot like a bereavement.

These irrational thoughts don’t just stop at daughters as one might suspect. Even sons who are reaching the ripe old age of 28 get in on the act. But instead of picturing leachy men in bars or skirts that are too short, my vivid imagination veered towards muggings, stabbings and fights with the bouncers of west London when he was out on a Saturday night.

Once he had surpassed his teenage years, I thought my worries would have died down, until I heard the dreaded words: “I’m going travelling”.

And off he went, to far off places that I have only ever dreamt of seeing, when the thoughts came flooding back in. The worries – the irrational ones, the ones that drive you crazy at 4am – return with a vengeance. But this time it’s different. This time it really is out of your control. Kidnappings, stolen organs, yellow fever and rabid dogs were never too far out of reach for my imagination. Throughout all of this inner turmoil, you smile and show photos to your work colleagues when they ask how he’s getting on, and the sane you knows that he’s having the best time as he makes new friends, treks across distant lands and tries the local cuisine because that’s what you do when you’re trying to “find yourself”. Plus, the chances of anything actually happening to him are as rare as rocking horse shit.

So when all the fighting is over, the unfinished homework is laid to rest, the wobbles of teenage years, endless broken hearts, illness, globe trotting and all week partying are a distant memory, the time comes for them to share their life with someone other than you.

And how do you cope? You do so by reflecting on how proud you are of them, how they’ve grown into the person you always wanted them to be, how your heart still leaps when you see them and how unashamedly you smile when you think of them.

So I ask you again, how do you cope? You do so by hoping that the person they have chosen loves them the way you do: purely, unconditionally and primitively, for the rest of their lives.

When you are sure of this, and only when you are absolutely sure, only then can you then begin to let go.

Written by my mum, a living legend. 

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The Sibling

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The other day, my brother sent me a picture which read: ‘You haven’t had a childhood unless you’ve jumped from one sofa to the other to avoid the lava.’ I had a chuckle to myself and then a thought dawned on me: what would it be like to be an only child?

What would I do without that someone I can share childhood memories with? And what would I do without someone on this planet who understands how utterly insane our parents actually are? Who else would’ve embarrassed me in front of my teenage boyfriends or told me, when no one else would, that I needed to lose a few pounds? Who else would have watched All Dogs Go To Heaven with me on repeat, followed up by The Land Before Time, every single day for about eight years?

Only a sibling, of course.

When I look back on the past 25 years, many of my favourite memories include my brother. That trip to Disney Land (during his fat-phase) where he drank the bottomless drinks dry, that time he stunk out the mini van with his old trainers, that time he almost choked to death and I was laughing too much to call an ambulance and that time he came to visit me at university and… ahem… got on really well with my house-mate. Oh the joys (and double standards) of siblinghood.

As I’m sure we all could, I could regale you for hours with tales of our childhood, teenage years and even our twenties. In fact, the time he called me at 3am when he tried to escape the wrath of a one night stand but set the burglar alarm off is worth a mention- but aside from that one story it would be pointless to share the rest as they just wouldn’t be as funny to you as they are to us. Besides, you have no idea who Granny Helen is-or Gizmo for that matter. And Leysdown and Westgate probably just sound like made up words to you. Never would anyone else have shed an actual tear on my graduation day and never will anybody understand the utter heartache we went through in 2006 better than him.

So, my dear big brother, you’re off on a brand new adventure, half way across the world right now, and this time: it’s without me. Have a blast, but more importantly: look after yourself.

Even though you annoy me more than words can say and you cut all of my hair off the day before my second birthday party, I would still like you back in one piece. With a panama hat stored safely away for me in your rucksack.

Happy travels you petulant human.

The Holiday

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On a recent, very relaxing trip to Greece, mum and I found ourselves delightfully sandwiched between Malia bound mischief makers on the flights there and back. Cracking.

The heat that was radiating between the bombshells and reemsters hit me harder than the humidity on arrival in Crete and they were practically bouncing off the walls with the excitement of their impending “MEGALOLZ”. On the way back however, it was a completely different story. The sexual tension was still paramount but they were absolutely ruined. Hair extensions were sandy, suncream had clearly not been a priority in thirty degree heat and the “Bang Tidy Becky” t shirts were looking somewhat weathered.

I’m not going to lie, I judged them. And I would’ve judged them as a seventeen year old too. But do I have the right to? And what was I judging them for?

Three years at uni were spent mainly going out and getting hideously drunk. Every festival I’ve ever been to; obliterated. Pretty much every Friday and Saturday night; hammered. I’ve held a friends hair back on a street corner before and have definitely fallen over in public. I, too, have kissed randoms in clubs and can think of one or two nights with a DJ I’d rather forget. So why do young holiday makers get such a bad wrap for what they do when we’re all doing it at home, more often and probably twenty times as hard? Is it because we aren’t doing it in hot pants and a “Military Men Only” vest that it’s deemed okay?

For me, there’s just something a little different about going abroad and doing as you please (aside from it being pretty disrespectful to the locals). On visiting a small town close to Malia, all I could see behind the coloured lights were vulnerable British girls, teetering around in heels, clearly inebriated on too much Ouzo. I know it shouldnt be the case but the dark streets scared me; if a girl were to be separated from her friends for a second, she would be lost and alone. And that’s when I realised: I wasn’t judging them for having fun, I was judging them for putting themselves in danger. I just think that if you’re old enough to go abroad, you should be old enough to keep your wits about you AND have fun. Something I just wasn’t seeing.

You’re probably thinking I’m old as shit. And I sort of feel it as I write this. But if that’s the case, I’ve been as old as shit since the age of sixteen. My friends and I have always joked about how gutted we are that we’ve missed out on a holiday where you drink so much your fanny falls out. But since that trip to Greece, I’ve reassured them that it’s okay: we didn’t miss the boat, we, in fact, jumped right off of it.

So on the dawn of a fresh set of GCSE results, I’m pretty sure there’ll be a few more departures to Greece over the next few days with one thing in mind. I just hope they know how to take care of themselves.

And judging by the number of youngsters I’ve seen sheepishly buying condoms in Boots, they’re definitely playing it safe.

Safe and hopelessly optimistic.

Happy holiday!

The Family

When Harper Lee wrote that “you can choose your friends but you sho’ can’t choose your family”, she was, well, pretty much correct.

From school to university to the office, I’m sure you’ll all agree that friends have come and gone, and while the precious few will still be hanging around eating chips with you on Tottenham Court Road at 4am, you can only truly rely on your family one hundred percent.

Why then, do we find them so unbelievably embarrassing? Taboo almost?

My household appear happy. I’ve heard people say countless times that we are the perfect family. And although generally quite content, this makes us laugh to a great extent. My dad and I clash over TV timetables, my brother thinks it’s fine that he hasn’t lifted a duster in 25 years and my parents bicker over old people things such as who is making the next cup of tea and who ate the last bit of cheese. This is the “normal” stuff that I’d admit to, of course. The rest of it will be shoved firmly in the vault under the stairs that we have willingly thrown away the key for.

Hopefully you aren’t now questioning whether my dad is a spy and me a drug baron. Instead, I hope that you are nodding in at least partial agreement, much like during that blessed moment in the best of friendships where you are sitting there at two in the morning, sipping on leftover wine from dinner, when someone confides in the group that something is not quite right at home. And then the floodgates open. Not pathetic tears of a clown caused by too much Pinot Grigio, more like a lot of talking. Be it money troubles, divorce, affairs, drugs and even just a petit argument, everyone begins to nod their head in appreciation and knowing because something very similar has, or is, happening to them.

And if they aren’t, they’re lying.

So why do we find it so easy to gossip about our friends sleeping with the enemy and the awkward moment between “Sarah” and “Jim” at the pub last week? Because we are not directly linked to them of course and it’s therefore no reflection on us as their companion. Contrary to this view of our friend’s stupidity, people consider their family to be some sort of mirror-image of them. And one that we should hide should it be a little cracked.

A friend of mine’s family are channelling The Carpenter’s and have set up a band together, another’s mum once force-fed me home-made peach schnapps at three in the afternoon and another’s grandma once wore a hat made solely of faux-penises to a “P” party. If they were my relatives, I’d be mortified. (If you’ve met my mother you’d know that’s a complete and utter lie). But it’s only as I get older that I’ve begun to realise that embarrassing family members make a four-hour-long christening that little bit more exciting and Christmas Day so eventful.

So if you’re worried about your boyfriend meeting your great aunt dotty who is never to be seen without a glass (bottle) of gin, just remember that you probably ‘ain’t seen nothing yet.

Wait until you meet his half-uncle Richard, he’s a treat.