Railtown Loco Rollers

It’s been ages since I’ve blogged, and I know not why, just haven’t been stirred to write about much lately. There’s been loads going on though. I’ve been to loads of gigs here and there, met lots of nice people (as ever!) and I’ve even developed a liking for real ales. Who knew!?

One new development I am DEAD proud of though is roller derby. I began to notice a few of my Facebook friends were getting into it, and really REALLY falling in love with it. They’re all looking fit, firm and fiesty and they’re all women who’s opinions I trust and who hold similar political ideals. A co-incidence? Mais non. Turns out that roller derby is a feminist movement on wheels. Community, support, fun, self-esteem building… all really good things in my book.

So where was the team in Crewe, a town I thought would need this kind of movement as much as any? Nowhere to be seen. Lots of teams around us in Stoke, Liverpool, Wirral, Chester and so on. But nothing here. Hmmm… strange.

I went to Liverpool with Michelle from OffBeat Brewery to watch the Liverpool Roller Birds bout at Sefton Park and was blown away. What a great afternoon! Everything impressed me, from the organisation, to the style of play, to the gear the skaters were wearing and the way everyone drops to one knee to shield and protect a skater who is down and injured. That is team.

I still don’t know if it’s a good idea, but I went a bit Billy Bonkers and decided to form our own team in Crewe. After a few false starts I came up with “Railtown Loco Rollers” as our team name, and as with anything worth doing these days, I set up a Facebook page. Unbelievably, people started ‘liking’ it and before I knew it, I had a dozen women saying, “So, where do we sign, when do we start?”. Shit!

I did a bit of emailing round, and Sir William Stanier sports hall were very good bout helping a fledgling sports team with some time on a Monday night. Brilliant! The worst bit was getting messages from friends saying they work on Mondays and couldn’t be there, but it was the only time and date we were offered so I had to take the hit.

One of the new team members messaged me and said she had just moved to the area from Blackpool, had been in their team until she left, and was DYING to get her derby on again. In addition, she’s a graphic designer and would be able to do logos… for cake and beer! That’s the kinda currency I like, so today we got our logo too!

So we have a roller home, a name, a logo and a few women who can’t wait to get their wheels on! We even have a sister team, Stoke City Rollers, who want to join up and train with us, and amazing offers of guest coaching from bout-ready ladies from other local teams. The rest will come, I’m hoping to get a bit of something in Crewe Chronicle this week which hopefully attract a bit more ‘fresh meat’. It’s all coming together ridiculously quickly!

But the one question everyone has asked is, “So, will you be putting skates on Chappers?”, and the short answer is no. There is nothing in the known universe that could induce me to put wheels on my feet. I have a terrible phobia of falling over. Wet leaves, wonky paths, ice and downward escalators are my nemesis. BUT I can organise the shizzle out of anything, so let me introduce you all to:

RLR Logo

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Stand Upright.

It was a weekend of ups and downs, mostly caused by booze.
I shall start at the very beginning.

On Friday the 17th February, Dodgy gave a command performance at The Box, here in Crewe. It was to be the first gig of the tour to support their new album ‘Stand Upright In A Cool Place‘. A warm-up gig, if you like, before they hit the bright lights of the big cities. The band arrived on the Thursday and used the venue as a rehearsal room, to polish up a few rarely heard songs from the first album before adding them to the setlist.

In my new and shiny position at Redshift Radio, it was my absolute pleasure to get one of the band into the Redshift studios to discuss life, music, and other less important stuff. So on Friday afternoon I collected Mathew Priest from the rehearsal venue and deposited him into to studio for a half hour grilling by the lovely Liz Southall. The fairly hilarious results can be heard here.

Straight afterwards I met up with Elliot and Eleanor Howells, some more of the Dodgy family and we went for a slap-up carvery lunch together. The conversation very quickly found its level when Elliot sniffed the passenger car seat, after I told him that two minutes previously I had dropped Math off after the radio interview. I had been in their company for about thirty seconds at this point. I knew I was going to love them dearly from there on in. They were clearly very weird people.

Later on at the venue it was lovely to see so many familiar faces. Local friends who had come to see what all fuss I was making was about, as well as friends from further afield, such as London and Newbury! Blimey. A couple of liveners were had in the Corner Bar and then off to The Box to hear Smoke Feathers‘ set.

I’d never heard them play before, although I’ve heard some of their recorded output. I was blown away. I really rate them, and wholeheartedly encourage you to have a listen to them for yourselves. Their album’s out, and well worth a few quid of your hard-earned wedge.

Then Dodgy. We’d all built this gig up so much that I’m fairly certain that Dodgy could have walked on stage lowered their jeans, farted and walked off again, and we’d all have applauded and retired happily to the bar. Good though that they didn’t. They played songs from their first album that I have never heard live before, a great big chunk of their latest album which is wonderful both in a live setting and recorded, and then a selection of Dodgy favourites.

A drunk woman in the toilets said, “I wish they’d hurry up and play Good Enough, that’s the only one I know!” and with every fibre of my being, I fought the desire to punch her repeatedly in the face. Sometimes pacifism sucks, man.

The gig was utterly fantastic, and after a bit of a boogie at the indie disco afterwards, we all said big drunken huggy goodbyes and went our separate ways. Drunk, tired and very happy indeed.

The next day I woke up with a moderate to raging hangover, and collected Julia from Crewe station. She had travelled up from Harrow to spend the remainder of the weekend with me. For those of you who don’t know, Julia is the woman who was foolish enough to make me ‘Guardian Aunt’ of her firstborn daughter. That’s a bit like Godmother, but without the involvement of religion. Stu Thoy of Smoke Feathers summed it up for himself with, “So, right, if they die in a car crash, you’ve gotta like look after the kid? Wow. So what’s in it for you?”. There is a distinct possibility that he may have taken strong drink that night.

Julia came back to my place to meet Che the cat and to begin the weekend’s proceedings with a nice mug of coffee and a healthy splosh of Tia Maria in it. It was only 11:45am, but we figured it was Saturday, so what the hell. After I had gathered my thoughts and thrown some stuff into an overnight bag, we headed for the train station to catch the next train to Liverpool. Dodgy were to continue their new album tour at Eric’s, the famous venue on Mathew Street, and so Julia and I had treated ourselves to a posh room at the Hard Day’s Night Hotel.

Once at the hotel we reasoned that since it was lashing down with rain outdoors, there was no sense in going sight-seeing in Liverpool. As beautiful as my beloved spiritual home is, it’s true to say that it’s just as grim as any other collection of streets and buildings, when you’re huddled up to avoid a soaking. So we took advantage of our plush and palatial hotel boudoir. I fired up the coffee machine, Julia drew a deep, bubbly bath for a soak, and we chatted and nattered about all the things we needed to catch up on since last time we spent quality time together. It was bliss.

Heading towards gig time, we dressed, threw on some war paint and headed downstairs for expensive cocktails. Very swish indeed. However we realised quickly that we needed food before we embarked on any serious drinking and so we headed out into the direction of Pizza Express. “Have you got a booking? Ah well, you’ll have to wait 45 minutes then”. Oh bugger. So we left and  wandered along looking for an alternative.

A sign about the size of a postage stamp said, “Metro Bar & Grill” and so we followed it underground into a mainly empty, but properly lovely little place. It was tarted up kebab food, but beautifully done and jolly reasonable. We ordered halloumi and chicken, and a load of rice and chips and salad and you name it arrived too. Far too much for us, but we soldiered on, until we were at Mr Creosote bursting point. Once we’d left, we had a little walk along North John Street to ease our full tummies.

At Eric’s we laid heavily into G&Ts in plastic glasses. Smoke Feathers were playing, and so we caught most of their set again. Great stuff. One by one we said hello to all the people we expected to see there, and then joy of joys, we spotted Angela and John Devine! We hadn’t known they would be there, so it was great to see them. We took up our audience positions near to them.

There were a few weirdos in the crowd (a man called Mark who tried it on with every attractive female in the crowd – not me, a drunk woman with yellow hair who did a proper bump and grind to even the most sensitive songs on the set list, and two men who stood millimetres away from the 12″ high stage, so that pretty much no-one but them could see Nigel), but then that’s Liverpool for you.

The gig was monumental. One of the best ever. Julia was absolutely made up, I was beside myself with happiness, and the band themselves seemed rightfully pleased with the way it all went. John, Angela, Julia and I danced and sang and cheered and clapped, and gave each other knowing nods and smiles throughout the set. Just as it should be. Music, friends, love and happiness.

We saw lots of other friends there too: Prowsey & Bernadette, Olivia, Cath & Andy, Chris, Paul and others who the fug of drink has caused me to forget. Do forgive me.

We left the gig and Stu from Smoke Feathers was standing in the corridor brandishing a bottle of white wine. We chatted for a while, he offered us a swig from his bottle, and said the magic words: “There’s loads more booze backstage”. Music to my ears, as if more music were needed. So we toddled off, availed ourselves of a couple of very friendly vodka and oranges and got comfy as Prowsey and Math entertained the crowd with rock and roll anecdotes. Booze was being passed around and Julia and I drank well. At one point I turned around to see her swig neat tequila from a bottle, which is something I never thought I’d see Julia do. But then I never thought I’d ever hear her say ‘cunt’ either…

Time to leave and wander back to the hotel. We tumbled upstairs (or was it down? I’ve gone a bit fuzzy on that bit) and found a fantastic soul band playing to a packed floor of movers and groovers. We stayed for a while, threw a shape or two, but then conceded that it was bedtime for Chappers & Jules. Quite a merry gang spilled out onto Mathew Street and lots of boozy goodnights and goodbyes were said by everyone. I seem to recall leaning against a statue of John Lennon to smoke a cigarette, but where I got the cigarette from, I have no recollection.

Back at the room, we performed our ablutions, got into jimjams and as I turned out the lights, Julia said, “G’night Mary Ellen..”. Obviously, I replied, “G’night John Boy..”, at which point she sat up and exclaimed, “BUT I WANNA BE JIM BOB!”, and fell back down onto her pillow. To sleep; perchance to dream.

We woke at about 9am. Julia was satisfied that this was sufficiently late to count as a lie-in, in her capacity as a mother of two titchy people. So we lazed around a bit longer (because we could) and then checked out. I remembered from a previous visit with Lis Lambertsen that there was a branch of Patisserie Valerie round the corner, so I suggested eggs benedict and hot chocolates for breakfast. Nom and indeed nom.

Having further put the world to rights (the UN ain’t got nowt on us), we set out towards the Albert Dock, to go and pay homage to the mighty Mersey, and to visit one of my favourite places in the world – the new Museum of Liverpool. I especially wanted Julia to see it, because I knew she would ‘get’ it, and understand why I feel about Liverpool the way that I do. The exhibits in there say everything there is to say about the city and I insist that if you go to Liverpool, you MUST visit this museum. Julia hit the nail on the head when she said, “Seems to me, London is a city of business and buildings and things and activity. Liverpool is all that too, but it really is all about the people”.

As usual there are things in that place that make me weep. Four times I’ve been there, and every time I’ve sat down and shed tears, looking out of that huge pillar box window, the Three Graces to my right, the Mersey to my left, and the Irish Sea before me.

My mate Ann (Liverpool born and bred) says you don’t have to be from Liverpool to be a Scouser. It’s a state of mind, a way of life and kind of soul. I count myself lucky to be one of those people; not born in Liverpool, but as Scouse as I can be despite it.

 

Remember, Remember…

…the fifth of November. And what a night it was. No gunpowder, not much treason and very little plot (that was lost years ago), but definitely an awful lot of booze.

I had spent the afternoon relaxing and nattering with my Mum and was invited down to Stafford to hang out with Ann. Her daughter Tilly was staying at her friend’s house and so Ann and I had an opportunity to pop out to a local pub for a quiet one. Once RBS had got their act together and decided to reboot their digital banking system (“Have you tried switching it off and switching it back on again?”), I was good to go, and whizzed down the M6 like a whizzy thing. I did however take care not to be too whizzy as some people had just that afternoon perished in an enormous pile-up on the M5. Eeep.

I got to Ann’s and was greeted by two enormous breasts and a French Martini. While the breasts were quite lovely, it was the Martini that impressed me most. There is a distinct possibility that I kissed the glass and said, “Come to Mama”, but I couldn’t possibly confirm or deny this. Ann’s French Martinis are perfection. Vodka, Chambord, pineapple juice and a tiny dash of vanilla. Deeeeelishuss. Two Martinis in, it became apparent that it was going to be ‘one of those nights’. I thought it wisest to put make up on, just in case. Ann did the same, we scrubbed up lovely.

By this stage we had a boogie playlist blasting through Ann’s iPad, and we were dancing like Pan’s People wished they could dance, round Ann’s living room. Then we made a tactical switch to Southern Comfort. I was called a number of less than politically incorrect names for asking for Coke with mine; Ann necks hers straight. She’s nails. Hard as. And then red wine, with Coke. I decided that since it looked like we were going embark on a bit of binge drinking, I’d better charge my phone up and take some photos. I leaned over to plug my charger in, draped my favourite animal print scarf into a lit scented candle and set fire to it. As I patted out the flames, Ann proceeded to wet herself on the settee. While she was crossing her legs, rolling around and crying a bit, I tried to raise awareness of the potential seriousness of the incident by shouting, “Ann! There was an actual flame! An ACTUAL flame!”, which served only to send my companion further into hysteria. With friends like her…

Having recovered from my near-death experience (which Ann still insists is one of the funniest things she’s ever seen with her own eyes) and found the funny side of the two holes that were now melted into my scarf, we decided it was best to get out of the house and treat the good people of Stafford to the Annie & Chappers Roadshow. Those lucky, lucky people. We got a taxi (our driver was George, who was amused, but not really joining in) and not knowing what the best watering holes in Stafford were, we said for him to drop us off at the first one we came to. The Shrewsbury Arms.

Now then, at first glance “The Shrew” looks a bit weird. My first impression was, “It looks like the Slaughtered Lamb off American Werewolf. If we walk in here and everyone turns round and stares, I’m off”. We opened the doors, Ann fell over a bar stool, shouted “SHIT!”, and everyone turned round and stared. So in the much respected style of Aveline Boswell, we just smiled and shouted, “Hiya!” to our new audience. A man with a tattooed face said to Ann, “So, are you from Liverpool then?” and Ann replied (in the broadest Toxteth you have ever heard), “What the fuck do you think, Einstein?”. It could have gone either way frankly, but everyone laughed, and within seconds we had free Jagerbombs, a snug full of new mates, a handshake and a welcome from the publicans, and an official introduction to the pub’s pets (a cockatoo that bites and an iguana called Iggy).

While the welcome was warm and the craic was outstanding, we decided not to stay, and see what other pub based adventures we could have in Stafford. We wandered along and ended up in Joxer Brady’s. As we walked in, we heard a guitar and a singer and gave each other that look: we’ve hit the mother lode, we’re here to stay. Among many areas of compatibility, Ann and I have discovered a lot of our musical ‘likes’ are similar. We have also discovered we both like watching hot men sing and play songs, and that we both like getting pissed. So when we found ourselves in a very nice pub, with a red wine & Coke each (we like to think of it as a winter spritzer), and a very pretty Irish boy playing all our favourites, we had to check we hadn’t died and gone to Heaven.

Luckily, our fears of a premature deliverance to St Peter were quickly allayed. As we walked into the back room to get a better view of the entertainment, I was pounced upon by a man who looked like the love-child of Michael Stipe and Gollum. This was proof, if any were needed, that this was not the after-life. However, Gollum/Stipe was a great laugh and Ann and I danced and sang along and got the rest of the pub off their arses too. Turned out to be a great gig for Yer Man too, despite him refusing to sing rebel songs, because “England’s been good to me”. Hm.

As the music ended (which, after a number of encores, only happened when our hero broke a string) Ann and I staggered into the bar. I went over to buy us another couple of drinks “for the road” while Ann got busy with her organisational skills and her iPhone, and ordered usa taxi home and a kebab. I swear, given enough lip gloss, hairspray and carbohydrates, Ann could rule the world with that phone.

While she did all that, I chatted up a very good-looking, one-armed man at the bar. I mean he was hot, had the cute beard thing going on, the twinkly eyes and a lovely accent. He lived in Stafford but came from somewhere in Lancashire originally. Don’t know where. Anyway, his lower right arm was missing, which is quite a distinguishing feature in anyone’s book, and so if you happen to know him, and he happens to be single, point him in this direction? Cheers.

JUST as I thought I was getting somewhere with this guy (although I was so fucked at this stage, there is a good chance he was just tolerating me to be polite, or was just plain scared), Ann came over to remind me that I went to get drinks half an hour ago, the taxi had arrived and it was time we left. I necked the red wine I had purchased, Ann downed hers too, and we staggered off into the night.

Along the route home, we attempted to convince the taxi driver that we needed to get home quickly. Instead of admitting that this was because we had kebab-based loveliness on its way, we told him that it was because we were due to do a live-feed show from Ann’s house, for Babestation. Our driver laughed. Now I’m still not sure if that was because there were two well-upholstered women on his back-seat and he thought it unlikely that we were telling the truth, but by the time we had got home he was actually crying. Might have been because I told him my minge looks like Hagrid. Who knows.

Shoes off, telly on, another drink poured, kebab delivered, feet up. We were still laughing and still doing a post-mortem on the night into the early hours of November 6th.

Eight hours later, we were up and nursing hangovers, and being soothed by mugs of tea and Noel Gallagher on the BBC red button thingy. Lovely.

“But ANN! It was an ACTUAL flame!”

Socks Appeal.

It’s that time of year when I am in the dreadful footwear quandry of the 36-year-old woman. What to wear? I am mostly a flip-flop person. A few childhood years spent in South Africa have shaped my hatred of having my feet enclosed, although strangely throughout my teens I was rarely seen without Dr Marten boots. As a result of wearing either nothing or something that resembles orthopedic rambler’s shoes, my feet have a distrust of the shoe. This year I discovered Fit-Flops, and that was like discovering walking again for the first time. So comfortable.

I am yet to understand what pleasure there is in having one’s toes squashed together. Why must I have my heels rubbed and not complain? Why blisters? WHY? I really don’t have a clue why a huge number of my friends have (in these Sex And The City enlightened years) become obsessed with the perilous heels, pointy toes and pinchy straps of Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik and Kurt Geiger, when they look just as great to me in Converse All-Stars and Birkenstocks. But that’s just me.

There is a whole market out there for foot remedies, cool patches, blister proofing, comfort cushions and all manner of relief for people who choose to ruin their feet in this way. But you know what is the saddest thing? They’re almost all marketed to women. They all have daisies and butterflies on the packaging, and not spanners and fishing rods (well if they will have their stereotypes, I’ll have mine). So why aren’t men afflicted in this way? Because they’re not wearing ridiculous shoes to impress anyone. That’s why. As long as a man’s shoes are fairly ‘with it’ and relatively clean, we’re usually happy, right? So why do women quite literally still feel the need to injure themselves in order to be attractive?

I’m lucky in that I have a fairly robustly upholstered chest, and so not many people notice my feet. Sometimes, they don’t notice my face either, but that’s often for the best too. However, I have never ever, not once heard two blokes talking saying something along the lines of, “She’s lovely, but her shoes are just so last season..”, or even, “What a pretty girl, but I won’t be asking her out, her heels aren’t high enough, and that wedge needs to be in a blue patent..”. Never, not once.

So with the spiky shoe fashion being a big no-no, ‘shoes’ basically means ‘flatties’ to me. In this in-between season where there’s a chill in the air, and yet the sun’s still shining, the choice is: a) flip-flops and chance the weather, b) shoes, or b) boots. It’s too warm yet for boots (for me anyway). Flip-flops will sadly have to go back in the cupboard soon. Which leaves flat shoes.

I inadvertently opened up a whole kettle of fish on this issue this morning on Facebook. The thing is, how does one (as a woman in her 30s or 40s) wear a shoe without looking like a twat? Boots are easy, you bung socks on, pull the boot up and they go under or over everything. But flat shoes are a weird no-mans-land. Youngsters (God, I sound like my Granny) wear leggings or slim jeans on their lovely legs, and ballet style flatties or brogues for a gamine look, but they all seem to have no socks and an Elastoplast or two hanging out of their heel. As a woman of a certain age and (ahem) shape, what do I do?

The idea of wearing a shoe without the protection of some kind of hosiery fills me with horror. I will not tolerate foot torture, that is out of the question. So what are the options? Socks are great but does it give the right impression if you’re in a business meeting with one of Primark‘s fluffy finest poking out between shoe and trouser leg? And what if you’re a skirt wearer? Short skirts mean you absolutely MUST wear tights which never fit very well, or stockings which automatically make you feel like you should be doing it roughly, over a canteen table. What if you just want to be comfortable? Long skirts hide a bit more leg, but even so, they still reveal too much ankle to make socks an option. Aaaargh!

No woman in her right mind would still wear tights under trousers. It’s not something I’ve ever done, but I’ve heard of the upsetting things it does to people’s undercarriages, needing the topical application of ointments. Ouch. So in terms of The Shoe, we’ve found issue with trousers and socks, trousers and tights, skirts and socks, skirts and tights, skirts and stockings. And that leaves one last option. Trousers and… The Pop Sock. Oh Christ no, not the pop sock…

I’ve never owned one, never worn one and cannot even look at one without considering it to be something from another generation, like liberty bodices and tuberculosis. But isn’t it the most practical solution? It’s not attractive by any means, and it’s about as rock and roll as Horlicks, (unless you’re Nicola Roberts) but is the pop sock the way forward? I have to say I’ve shuddered at the mere thought of it, but from a logical point of view… Oh I dunno.

Since I cannot bring myself to be a shoe and pop sock person, I’m afraid I’ll have to carry on wearing my jeans long enough to cover my socks, or flit carefully between flip-flop and boot until the Winter arrives properly. I am also a bit astonished that this seemingly innocuous issue was warranted almost a thousand words and not a little angst.

Weather: too cold for flip-flops, not cold enough for boots. Fuck.

Tramadol Nights.

I have a badly behaved wisdom tooth. Every six months or so it decides it’s going to grow a bit more and bring my head into a whole new word of pain. It lasts only a couple of days, and some medium weight painkillers usually see it off a treat, but not this time. This time it hurts till I could cry, and I’m no wuss. It kept me awake the whole of last night, and I don’t function well on anything less than seven hours’ sleep a night, nevermind with added agony.

Thing is, I knew it was just teething pains. You know your own body/mouth/mind, right? But because I was a baby and bleated on about it to anyone who would listen on Facebook, I began to doubt myself. I have alot of very caring lovely friends (including Ann who is a proper Dental Hygienist, and is quite within her right to kick my ass over this), and an online intervention was put together to make me go to a dentist and get this pain checked out. People messaged me with horror stories of infections and impactions and (gusp) DEATH, so I decided I ought to go.

I haven’t been to a dentist in YEARS, maybe 12 years. In fact, I wasn’t even registered at a dentist anymore, until today. Mum grasped the nettle and rang her dentist. She knew they were taking on new patients and asked if there was a possibility I could be seen today. I was already on the edge of a sob just with the throbbing, but then the thought of someone’s latex-clad hand rummaging about in my painful piehole tipped me over the edge – a proper cry.

Suddenly I was petrified of going to the dentist. Actually not so much the dentist himself, just the potential for more ouchiness. I’ve never been afraid of the dentist before, in fact the only reason I haven’t been in years is because I just kept forgetting and nothing bad ever happened. I’ve been pretty lucky with my teeth; didn’t need braces, never had a filling and apart from not being as white as I’d like them (I want them TOWIE white please), they’re pretty good gnashers. Good dental genes on me Mum’s side I think.

Eventually the time came to go and meet my fate in the masked-man’s whizzy chair. I picked Mum up (she wanted to hold my hand, but even I am a bit braver than that), and went to the surgery. After filling out some forms, I was introduced to Rosario, my new dentist. And then Rosario took his paper mask off to say hello. HELLO! He looks and sounds exactly like Gino Di Campo. In fact I’m still not convinced it wasn’t him. Gino, erm.. I mean Rosario sat me down in his whizzy chair and down I went (no tittering at the back please). He asked me about what pain I was getting, where it was, how it felt, if it had happened before and had it ever been this bad before. Then he had a look.

Unfortunately I can’t open my jaw very wide because of the inflammation, so he did what he could with a limited aperture, bless him. Rubbery fingers and a couple of pokey instruments went in, and Rosario had a good rummage round. Surprisingly, it didn’t hurt nearly as much as I had psyched myself up for, and so I left feeling quite chirpy. Turns out I was right, and I do know my own mouth. The tooth’s just having a growth spurt, it’s inflamed and just being generally painful. Phew. He drew up a prescription for Amoxicillin in case there was infection present, but basically said it’s okay and he’ll see me in six months. He did add though that if this much pain happens again and I’d prefer to have it removed, he’d gladly whip the fecker out.

Back at Mum’s I realised that even though I have no appetite, I hadn’t eaten in over 24 hours, and so she tried to tempt me with cheese and beans on toast. It took me ages and it hurt so much it made me cry again, but I ate it (minus the crusts), and washed it down with a brew. She then brought me one of those gel packs you microwave to apply heat to poorly areas. That was gorgeous. I fell asleep on her sofa with that pressed under my cheek, and had an hour’s snoring practice. Bliss.

So now, here I am at home, up to here *touches forehead* with Codeine (which no longer works), Anbesol, Difflam, Amoxicillin and just for a bedtime treat tonight, Tramadol. I was hoping 200mg of Tramadol might see the pain off a bit and let me sleep tonight, but no, no effect whatsoever.

Has anyone got a spare bag of smack?

Weather: cold as the dead, miserable as sin, grey as Bruce Willis’s singlet.

Four Counties.

Last Saturday I had an X Factor and vino date with Becky but she had most inconveniently caused herself a neck injury and a migraine through decorating her bathroom, and so we postponed to the results show the following night. I still don’t understand why she was decorating – she has a husband, so why have a dog and bark for yourself? Anyway, this left me with a Saturday night with nothing to do except catch up with the Dodgy tour, which had stopped off at the throbbing metropolis of Shrewsbury. The rain was absolutely wazzing down, but I figured if I took it easy along the back country lanes (no laughing at the back), it’d be okay. It was, phew.

It was a weird place for Dodgy to play in; the Four Crosses Hotel in the middle of the Shropshire countryside, and it looked more like a mock-Georgian wedding venue than a kicking gig venue. However, I was (unusually) wrong, and it turned out to be fantastic. The room was absolutely packed and the crowd were jumping, the gig was truly fantastic, the whole thing sounded amazing and it was nice to catch up with the boys, as always. I was driving home again (uurgh) so I stayed sober (double uurgh) and stayed just long enough to say ‘hello’, ‘great gig’ and ‘see ya soon’.

During the following week I visited my mate Mark the Yid on Monday, had tea at me Mum’s on Tuesday, went to see Dad and took Bryony out to McDonalds (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it) on Wednesday, had pizza and stayed over at Ann & Tilly’s place on Thursday, and had a wonderful dinner at Marie & Paul’s on friday, which was produced from the River Cottage Garden vegetable cook book I bought for Marie a couple of weeks back. Busy bee, huh? I love it like that, nothing better than catching up with friends and family, and putting the World to rights.

Friday was also birthday day for two of my younger pals. Bryony turned 15 (going on 30), and Tess had her first birthday. I’ve decided that since so many people have birthdays at the end of September and the beginning of October, sex during the Christmas and New Year holidays should be banned. Do your friends and relatives a favour people. If you’re even vaguely fertile, keep your genitals to yourself from mid-December to mid-January this year. Thank you. As you were.

Saturday came, and with it a BRILLIANT weekend ahead in the best city in the entire World – Liverpool. Oh, and I need to point out that you can try to tell me London’s better or Manchester’s better, or that there was this place in South east Asia you saw when you were backpacking in 1994, but you’d be wrong. It’s Liverpool, end of.

Having taken Mum to get her ‘flu jab and helped to change Granny’s bedding and one or two other errands, I finally got to the railway station and on the chuffer to Liddypoolsville. Ahhhhhh, the feeling you get as the train crosses the Runcorn Bridge, and you know you’re nearly there. It’s just the best. I always start to get butterflies as I get to Lime Street (it might well be my liver groaning as it realises what we’re about to do). Once I’m on the station concourse and can feel like I’m really in the city, I take a deep breath in through the nose. A lung full of Liverpool – nothing finer for the constitution.

I met Lis at the uber-swanky Hard Days Night Hotel, where she had very cleverly booked us into the best room the place (in my opinion). Room 402 has a balcony which gives you a view all the way down Mathew Street, from North John Street, past Pink, past the Cavern, past Eric’s, down to the Grapes and so on. At one end of the balcony you can see the Three Graces over the rooftops, and at the other end you can see the iron arch and slated spires of Lime Street station.

In fact the only thing that is wrong with Room 402 is the portrait of Ringo, who’s pervy eyes follow you around the room (shudder).

Having absorbed a bit of luxury in the hotel, Lis and I wandered along Mathew Street, into town and found a table in a pub that sold bottles of plonk for £6. Oh yes please. We polished that off at a fairly alarming rate, and simultaneously caught up on each other’s news and gossip, since we’d not spent time together since July. Then we wandered on to meet some friends at Villa Romana. I hadn’t been there before and have to say, it was gorgeous. Beautiful restaurant, great staff, and the food was out of this world. Four starters, four mains and two bottles of vino came to £80. Can’t say fairer than that, eh? Thoroughly recommended for a belly full of Italian in Liverpool.

We jumped into a cab and got to the venue just in time to get drinks, assume a decent position (as opposed to an indecent one) and wait for the first band of the evening. Damien Dempsey is an absolute powerhouse of a man. He’s more Irish than… well, anything really. There is a school of thought that enthuses that Dempsey is currently the very best singer/songwriter this side of Jupiter. I’m not of that school, but I do think he’s really bloody fantastic. Pretty easy on the eye too (wink nudge).

Then Amsterdam. This is a band I got into accidentally. I had been to a couple of Ian McNabb gigs, at the insistence of my then boyfriend. He told me that he knew I would love McNabb’s music, because “it’s music for lovers, and music lovers”. He was right, and long after he and I split up, I was still going to McNabb gigs. I met a few new friends at those gigs (Lis being one of them), and some of those people suggested that I would also like Amsterdam – a celtic, folk, rock, punk, rollercoaster that was a bit of the Clash, a bit of Dexy’s and a whole lot of Ian Prowse, their brilliant frontman.

So, then Amsterdam came on stage and my stomach turned with excitement. Some of the best BEST gigs I’ve ever seen in my whole life have been Amsterdam gigs. I’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of all kinds of gigs, and I’m not easy to please musically, so that’s quite an accolade. Saturday night’s show did not disappoint, it was blinding. You just cannot fail to be turned on by an eight piece band like Amsterdam, but if you do fail, call an undertaker. All my favourites were on the set list, as well as new material I’ve never heard before and am looking forward to hearing again. I sang along, clapped, stomped, laughed, cried and squealed with delight. Luckily for me, Lis filmed almost all of it on her fantastic new little Cisco FlipVideo gizmo. To top it all off, we met up with a huge bunch of friends, old and new, some we expected, and others we just didn’t know would turn up and it was a wonderful surprise to see them.

After the gig, Lis and I walked a little way through the city with Dave and Chris, and then we girls peeled off to walk towards Mathew Street. Saturday nights on Mathew Street are always pretty raucous affairs (think Hogarth’s “Gin Lane“), and so we decided to walk along through the mayhem, to our hotel. We saw one immaculately turned out girl in a fabulous red dress, with full WAG tan and make up, long ringlets and a handbag that probably cost more than my car. As we got level with her, she staggered, leaned against a littler bin, sicked up into her own mouth, held it in with her hand, and swallowed it back down. That, ladies and gents, is true class. Once back inside the Hard days Night, we peeled off to the left into Bar Four. A bloke at the bar ordered two cognacs, which were served heated over a flame, and cost him about £30. Bloody hell. We ordered a pair of rum and Cokes and sat down quickly for more gossip and some priceless people watching. Feeling suitably rummed up and snoozy, we eventually wobbled off to our lovely room, and got all jimjammed up. Having had a final pillow-based gossip, it was lights out and the end of what had been a wonderful night out with a much-loved friend.

We woke late and after we had taken our turns in the shower and got dressed, we wandered through Liverpool a bit more. We breakfasted at Patisserie Valerie – one of a small chain of Belgian patisseries that seem to be popping up here and there. After a mini shopping spree en route to Lime Street (all Lis – I was entirely innocent of this) we acquired tea and coffee and hopped onto our train. A slightly sad journey back after such a smashing time, but we chattered away nevertheless and before we knew it, it was time for me to leave Lis at Crewe, and she then carried on to Birmingham, and onward to deepest, darkest Berkshire. A happy time had by both.

Once home I was able to catch up with Facebook, sort my bag out, spend some time with the cat (who didn’t seem to have noticed I was away) and speak to my pal Ann, who had gossip to share. After a long phonecall, catching up with each other’s news, we decided it would be easier for me to pop over there, so we could natter and watch the X Factor results. With bellies full of KFC, we settled in to shout at the telly, especially that Kitty one who needs a metaphorical thump in the gob, as far as I’m concerned. There’s no-one really grabbing me from this year’s finalists so far. We’ll see…

Much silliness and hilarity at Ann & Tilly’s place as usual, and then Spooks. I haven’t been able to watch Spooks since an episode years ago where the ‘baddy’ put one of the Spooks faces into a chip shop deep fat fryer. She came out screaming, fried and disfigured and when eventually she passed out from the agony, the ‘baddy’ shot her in the head. This gave me terrible dreams for ages, and so I have never watched it since. However, this episode was fantastic! Shame it’s the last series. Fucking typical.

This morning, Ann introduced me to something else I’ve never had. Tinned spaghetti and fried egg on toast. When I admitted I’ve never tried this combination, she called me a “Southern Poof”. I can now say with some certainty that having had tinned spaghetti and fried egg on toast, and having declared it delicious, I am now both thoroughly Northern and utterly heterosexual. Eeeeh…

This afternoon I went to pick up the lovely Lucy, and we went into Hanley to sample the food at a brilliant little caff she has discovered and insisted I sample too. She was SO right. Lángos (pronounced lahn-gosh) is a tiny little Hungarian caff, tucked away at the back of the market under the Potteries Shopping Centre. It is named after the traditional Hungarian flatbread that makes up much of the menu there. It’s the sort of thing you can have with cheese, sausage and garlic as a savoury meal, or with chocolate spread and ice cream as a dessert. Delicious doesn’t even come close. Lucy and I had goulash which was pretty much the most amazing tasting dish I have tasted in years. We drank hot apple and maple tea, and then had lángos for dessert. Lucy ordered hers with chocolate spread and banana, and I ate mine with honey and vanilla ice cream. Two meals, two desserts, two hot drinks, less than £10. Perfection. If ever you’re in the Stoke area, try Lángos. It looks like a tiny little teapot and toast style caff, but serves top notch restaurant food at soup kitchen prices.

So now I’m home and I don’t think I’ll be moving from this seat at any point soon. The weather’s gone a bit biblical, there are Jack Russel dogs flying past at some altitude, and all the trees have gone a bit horizontal. The cat’s wandering round with eyes like saucers, like something off a Halloween poster.

I’ve done quite enough gallivanting just lately, across four counties and covering many, many topics of conversation, many types of food and drink, a handful of music genre and with some of the loveliest people I know. It occurs to me tonight, as I relax on my own with my thoughts, that just like everyone else I have my problems, issues and things that go AARRGH in the night, but I have to say that I am a very lucky girl indeed. Thank you so very much to everyone who makes my life so lovely, and bollocks to all the rest… 😉

Weather: buy a chin strap for your wig, probably best if you don’t go out with a big umbrella. Just saying.

The Baby Gap.

It’s that time of year (nine months after Christmas) when just about every other woman I see is either heavily pregnant or is showing off a beautiful newborn baby, and it’s bloody wonderful. But it’s not for me.

I’ve never wanted kids. Never. Not once. Even when I was grown-up and married and had the opportunity, I never wanted to. That’s not to say I dislike children, in fact quite the opposite. I really enjoy the company of children, of all ages. I have all the time in the World for my friend’s kids, who mostly call me Aunty Chappers. One of my friend’s daughters even refers to me as her ‘second Mummy’ and buys me a Mother’s Day card, which is a HUGE honour for me.

The most amazing and yet the saddest thing is that my lovely friends Jules and Ian bestowed the title ‘Guardian Aunt’ on me, following the birth of their precious and much longed for first daughter. This is a couple who I had only met through gigs in London, and a few other social occasions, but we had become firm friends. When, after a long and worrying time, Julia finally became pregnant, I was one of the first people they told. And when Martha was born I got a phone call explaining that although they weren’t going to have a Christening or a Baptism, they like the idea of Godparents, and so had decided that Martha would have a Guardian Aunt and a Guardian Uncle.

I thought this was their way of building up to saying, “So anyway, we’re going to have a huge barbeque and there’ll be lots of booze and do you fancy coming along..?”. But no, Julia asked me if I would like to be Guardian Aunt. To Martha. Their beautiful precious daughter. I broke down and had to end the call, then call back when I could speak. Through tears of joy (and amazement, frankly) I agreed and am delighted and honoured to be Aunty Chappers to the most beautiful and gifted three year old in the World. My Martha.

But why is this sad? It’s not sad in itself, but I feel sad when the important stuff happens, or the funny stuff, or just the stuff I would just like to be there for. You see Martha is 170 miles away and sometimes when she calls me to tell me silly things like, “Aunty Chappers I ate too much popcorn today”, or just to sing an Abba song to me, I laugh like a drain for a couple of minutes, then have a little cry because I wasn’t there to kiss her face.

But as much as I love My Martha (and I do, so much so that it hurts my heart sometimes), I’ve still never wanted a child of my own. I like my life just as it is. I like my freedom and independence. I like going to gigs and zooming about to see friends. I like sitting quietly alone whenever I want to, or having a noisy party whenever I like, and most of all, I really like my vagina, just the way it is.

However, you would not belieeeeeeve the hassle you get over it. You know that scene in SATC2, at Stanford and Anthony’s wedding, where the fan leans over to Carrie and says, “I am you..”? And then the disappointed and pitying look she gives to Carrie and Big when they reveal that they don’t plan to pro-create? Well, ladies and gentlemen, that happens in real life.

It seems that if you don’t plan to stop using your tits as a means of getting free drinks, and start using them to give free drinks to your offspring, you’re odd. If you don’t ever intend to squeeze another human being’s skull through your money-maker, you’re weird.

And there’s quite a few of us freaky weirdos about, and we all have different ways of dealing with the “Use Your Womb” brigade. Sometimes we lie and say we hate children, often we just say we’ve never met the right guy, occasionally we humour them and say, “Maybe one day…”, but rarely do we tell the truth and say, “I just like being able to sneeze without pissing myself!”.

The crux of it is, it’s not children that bother me. Children are bloody great. It’s pregnancy, birth and Motherhood that scare the bejeezus out of me, and so I figure it’s best left to those who will be brilliant at it.

And when I’m allowed, I’ll step in to change nappies, babysit, bring presents, be cool Aunty Chappers and I’ll even teach your offspring to swear at the appropriate juncture…

Weather: torrential, biblical, wouldn’t be surprised if there was a plague of boils.