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

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!”

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.

I’ve Had The Time Of My Life!

Last Wednesday was my 36th birthday. I’ve come to realise that if I tell people that I’ll be 24, it’s now such an outrageous lie, that no-one questions it:
“So, how old are you this time?”
“Umm… twenty-four.”
“Sorry?”
“Twenty four.”
“Oh. Right. Good, well have fun..!”

My birthday celebrations actually began the day before my birthday, with a slap-up curry tea at Mum & Kev’s, and a veritable skipful of presents to open including scrummy jumpers, a bracelet, fab booze, a bubblicious foot spa, some smellies, and all kinds of other groovy stuff. It was brilliant, really lovely way to kick off the shenanigans.

On the Wednesday, I met with Vampyre Marie, Chicken Tina, Psycho Sarah and Perksy at Giovanni‘s for lovely Italian grub. It was also Perksy’s 40th birthday and so while she thought she was simply joining a quiet birthday celebration for us both, we got balloons and table confetti and banners and all kinds of celebratory paraphernalia to show the town exactly how old she is. Hehehe. Needless to say I’m leaving town for my 40th, and will STILL be insisting that I’m 24.

The food was fab, and there were more beautiful gifts and GORGEOUS cakes, but during our meal all hell let loose. Blue light after siren after blue light after siren passed the restaurant’s frosted windows, and then when they started to stop outside the windows, and all other traffic ceased, we decided that Chicken Tina should nip out for a fag, and see what was going on. Three minutes later, Tina came back with the news that there had been an underground electrical surge so strong that it had blown manhole covers out of the pavements, and fire was shooting through the resulting apertures. Holy fuck.

The main road through the South of the town was on police lockdown, and the restaurant we were in was bang in the centre of the exclusion zone. Furthermore, our sixth guest, La Fudge, was still on a train in from Euston, and her train was stranded outside the station due to a total lack of electricity along the railway and into the station. Eeep.

Eventually the station re-opened and just as I was about to set off in search of La Fudge, she appeared on the restaurant’s car park. Huzzah! Onwards then to Square One, my favourite boozer. We met up with JaffJaff, Bitznpieces an Pokey and I was given some really pretty jewellery and an appetite for getting thoroughly pissed. A few gins and shots later and La Fudge and I were the last men standing. Time to go home. Back at the ranch we had birthday cake and Southern Mist, and took ourselves off to our respective boudoirs.

On Thursday the heat was cracking the flags. Mental late September heatwave really added some glamour to the proceedings! After some lounging about and chasing the remains of a mini-hangover away, we set off for Liverpool. Slow traffic, Cocteau Twins on the stereo and the last glimpse up Summer’s skirts sent La Fudge into an M6 snooze and without too much hassle we found ourselves on the Albert Dock. I parked up easily and we headed off in search of lunch.

En route we bumped into a callow youth collecting comments from passers-by, regarding the Labour Party conference that was going on nearby.

[Youth, over excited] “‘Scuse me, I juzz clectin’ VoxPox from peeble ’bout thuh confruuunce. You godda minute to ansah couplah queshtuns?”
[Fenella, initially disinterested] “I beg your pardon?”
[Youth, exasperated now] “‘I juzz clectin’ VoxPox from peeble ’bout thuh confruuunce. You godda minute to ansah couplah queshtuns?”
[Fenella, playing dumb] “I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you mean..”
[Youth, smug face] “Yeah, okay, wot VoxPox are, is, right…”
[Fenella, losing will to live] “Look I KNOW what Vox POPS are, thank you very much. But which conference are you referring to?”
[Youth, incredulous] “The Labour party one…”
[Fenella, holding back a great left hook] “But what makes you think we are AT the conference? We’re here for LUNCH!”
[Youth, deflated] “Oh.”

We looked for a place with a nice view that was sunny but in the shade, and found a table outside PanAm. Food was good, but we were surrounded by Labour Youth. I was disappointed, frankly; not a beret or Guevara badge or scuffed Doc Marten boot among them. We left and wandered along, past the Tate, past Billy Fury and along into the big new Museum. We spent a happy half hour wandering around the music and culture bit and then the city history bit and then it was time to return to the car for our next adventure. EXCITING!

The traffic between Liverpool and Burnley was shite and it took us nearly 2 hours to get there, but we were off to see Dodgy (favourite band of me and la Fudge) so we didn’t mind. Once we found the venue, we found a guitarist (Andy) and a bassist (Stu the Fugitive) smoking at the back, and a frontman (Nigel) and his nephew (Handsome Chris) smoking round the side, closely followed by a non-smoking Derek. La Fudge and I found a Weatherspoons, found an additional Claire (aka Brierley O’Reilly) and sat down for drinks and grub. The band soon followed and lots of laughs were had until they had to run off to get on stage. We ladies finished our drinks and followed rather more casually.

The set-up at Burnley Mechanics felt weird at first; a dancehall room with a theatrical stage, set out with circular tables and seats in a cabaret style. However, once the magic began, it felt right. The crowd listened intently as Dodgy played songs from the new album, and really loved the old stuff played with new treatments. We absolutely loved the gig, properly loved it. Brierley O’Reilly  almost burst with happiness at one point, it was that good.

After the gig we stole booze and fags from the band and their entourage, and then disappeared in a tired but happy fug, along the M6. En route, La Fudge sent a text to Janice Long requesting a shout out for we weary travellers returning from the Dodgy gig. The shout came, but about 10 minutes after we got home. We never heard it, but the band did. Once home we had more birthday cake, more Southern Mist and then beddy byes.

On Friday we were Manchester bound. Having had a lie in, and wander round Crewe in search of something snazzy to go out in that night, a cooked brekker in town and a pot of tea, it was time to leave for the station. It seemed to be no time at all before we were pulling into Manchester Piccadilly, but not before most of the overhead luggage rack had emptied itself onto La Fudge’s head, much to the loud amusement of our fellow travellers. Hehehehe…

A cheeky and stylish sashay through the station concourse, a cab round the corner to Great Ancoats Street and hey presto, we were in our Flash Harry apartment. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, lounge but best of all (considering the mental heatwave) was the balcony. Easily five or six metres of sun-baked decking with glorious views of… the roof of an Aldi. Well, you can’t have it all ways, and we were only there for a night. After a cuppa and a doze, La Fudge and I applied the war paint, fluffed our wigs out and hit the town. Food was acquired at the fabulously new and groovy Band On The Wall, as was the first of about half a dozen bottles of house red.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen Dodgy since they re-formed in 2007. I was there at the first re-union gig in King’s Heath, and now I can say I was there the first time Stand Upright In A Cool Place was played in its entirety for the first time. But however many times it’s been, maybe dozens, this THIS was the best ever. It was the best Dodgy gig I’ve ever seen, and I’d even go so far as to say it was the best gig I’ve ever seen full stop. Really and truly. The crowd was properly up for it, the band were in top form, harmonies were perfect and every song from the new album not only sounded brilliant, they started to sound like favourites, and even better, like instant classics.

We laughed, cried, sang, danced, bellowed, hugged and drank. Oh boy, did we drink. By the time we left the venue, I think we had managed to tuck away a good half a dozen bottles of house red. In addition to this we met old friends and new. Really grand to see Jez, Chris, Nicola and a few other familiar faces, and equally lovely to make new friends in Amy, Martin, Henrietta and Emma. The latter two proved to be our drinking partners into the wee small hours, as we escaped from Stu the Fugitive and Handsome Chris and went for veggie kebabs to soak up some vino.

Having scoffed kebab, and laughed about the best bits of the night so far, we retreated further to Henrietta’s place, which is a pretty terraced house just a couple of streets away from all the action. In her garden we drank sangria and texted abuse to Math, who had abandoned his drinking duties to slope off to bed. Shameful. Him that is, not us. Obviously.

Somewhere between 3am and 4am La Fudge and I wandered back along Great Ancoats Street to our apartment, went back onto the balcony and discussed the evening over mugs of tea. Bed at 4:30am and then up at 10am because of the bloody sunshine, which is lovely… when you’re not suffering the biggest hangover known to mankind. Aaaargh. I caught some rejuvenating rays alone on the balcony, and shortly afterwards La Fudge arrived, shuffling out into the sunlight, like a little ginger pit pony in pyjamas. Nothing needed to be said. We just looked at one another, immediately remembered all the ridiculous stuff we’d done the night before and burst out laughing.

Eventually we left, got a cab to the station and found trains to take La Fudge and I to Euston and Crewe respectively. Big hugs on Manchester Piccadilly concourse and the best birthday adventure in years was nearly over. After I returned to Crewe, Becky picked me up to treat me to a tarot reading at Shanti, Dad and Anne Louise treated me to lunch on Canal Street the following day, Ian treated me to pizza that night and yesterday Ken treated me to cuddle cake, sausage butty and tea, and Lucy treated me to crystal healing, another tarot reading and a long and enjoyable chinwag, in which the World was put to rights.

It has lasted a whole week, but it’s been the best birthday adventure ever, and probably the best 24th birthday anyone has ever had.

Weather: hot as fuck. Very peculiar.

Le Weekend.

After my gig-going shenanigans on Friday night, I didn’t get to sleep until about 4am for various boring reasons, and so I awarded myself a lie-in on Saturday morning. I got up at about 11ish (I can actually feel those of your with small children seething at this), and went round to Mum’s for a brew and a bit of dinner. We caught up on gossip (I’m a bugger for gossip, it has to be said), flipped through her new Joe Browns catalogue (one of each please) and fadged about with her eBay account for a bit.

Mum’s an avid eBayer, and by ‘avid’ I actually mean ‘thoroughly addicted’. She gets up at 4am to see how her auctions are getting on, and very often the first thing she says to me is, “Hello lovey, how are you? I’ve got eighteen people watching those sandals now! EIGHTEEN!! Good innit!?”. Hehehe, I love it, but if you sit still long enough at Mum’s you’re liable to end up sold for £17 on a Buy It Now, and parcelled off to Godalming before you can say Special Delivery.

At teatime Kevin my step-Dad was bringing his children to the house with their chippy teas, so I left to let them get on with their meals and spend some time together. Being teenagers, my step-siblings spend alot of time in their bedrooms, either reading (vampire books in Kaitlin’s case), playing on their PCs or (in Dan’s case) playing with the ’00’ guage railway that was especially built in the loft. It’s a bloody huge thing and they add features to it all the time. I’m secretly intrigued, but there’s no fucking way on this Earth that you’ll get me up those ladders into the loft. No way. Anyway, before they disappear into their respective territories, Kevin and Mum like to spend a bit of time with the kids over Saturday tea, to catch up with what they’ve been up to at school etc., so I leave them to it generally.

I came home to watch a bit of tellybox and think about what to have for tea while waiting for X Factor. I know I know I know that it’s a terrible programme that is morally bankrupt and has more rigging than the HMS Victory, but I can’t help it. Someone I know (I forget who) once described watching X Factor as like picking off a scab; “I know it’s wrong and that it’ll be painful, but I just have to”. We all know that the best of them have been pre-picked and invited to ‘audition’, and we know that the less-talented ones with borderline learning difficulties have been put through for people to laugh at, because Cowell has identified that we all still love a freak show, even in this supposedly enlightened age. But having said all that, there’s nothing like those moments when a geeky looking kid who looks like they would probably take a daily beating if they went to my school, opens his or her mouth and what comes out makes the hairs on your arms stand up in amazement. Nothing like it.

However, what actually happened was that Ann rang from Stafford. Her school friend Cathy was visiting from Liverpool and they wondered if I’d like to come over for drinkies. Initially I resisted, but in the end I put me jeans back on, jumped in the car and drove down. Within seconds I had a cider in me mitt, and I was treated to some brilliantly funny school-life stories from Ann and Cathy. My particular favourite was when Cathy deliberately smacked a volleyball straight into a classmate’s face, but it lifted her clean off of her feet, and landed her out cold, flat on her back: “I mean, you know, she was our mate an’ all, but we never actually liked her…”. Love it. This was followed by a very long game of “Yer Ma”, which somehow got mixed up with a very odd conversation about fondly remembered pop artists of the eighties. It went a bit like: “You know who likes Aswad? Yer Ma. When I went round, they were just leaving, but she said, not to worry ‘cos Pato Banton, Chaka Demus AND Pliers were still there…”. Hee-lar-ee-uss. Much booze and then some Chinese takeaway was consumed.

In terms of booze, it has to be said that Ann’s special cocktail has to be the French Martini. She is the master at the French Martini, but her greatest booze related revelation to me to date is red wine and Coke. Now, I know that there are a few people incredulously spitting their Châteauneuf du Pape through a wide arc at their screens right now, but bear with me on this. Half red wine, half Coca-Cola, handful of ice. It’s bloody delicious. Don’t cock a snook at it until you’ve tried it, and when you’ve tried it, come back and tell me it’s delicious. It’s the next big thing drinks-wise, I am TELLING YOU. Overnight I dreamed that Cathy, Ann and I were on a train drinking champagne, and that Cathy kept telling everyone who passed us in the carriage to “fuck off”. Then I dreamed that Cathy and I were visiting Ann in a HUGE new house, and that she had told us there were five toilets but we could only find four, so we went on a search for the secret fifth toilet. When I told Cathy and Ann of my dream this morning, Cathy declared that it must’ve been a ‘piss dream’. She’s probably right.

This afternoon I went over to Dad’s. He has a regular DVD delivery from LoveFilm and he watches 2-4 film a week, every week. This week two have a arrived that wouldn’t play. I checked them out and declared them both faulty, since there are other DVDs in the house that play perfectly well. Very odd that two faulty ones arrived at the same time, but the relevant reports were sent off to LoveFilm and the DVDs were returned. Then we went for our weekly drive out into the countryside. Today we headed towards Chester, had a bit of a drive round Beeston and Peckforton castles and then headed back. Beautiful day for it too.

This evening I’ll be a good girl and do my washing and some housework, and may even watch some tellybox, I might even do some work ready for the new week ahead. And since I’m being so angelic, I may just balance all that goodness out with a naughtily large glass of red wine and Coke.

Weather: hot and sunny – hurry up Autumn…