Romance isn’t dead – it’s just being drowned out by the Formula One…

YOU can be happy as larry and utterly in love and still find your partner annoys the hell out of you.

This is the reality The Fiance and I are coming to terms now we’re fast approaching our fourth anniversary.

Gone are the days when he would tidy up before I came home or ring me at work ‘just cos I wanted to hear your voice, snugglebunny!’

Now we bicker lovingly over who’s hogging more of the duvet or the fact I can see more socks on the bedroom floor than carpet.

I think this is why people say a successful relationship requires patience.

I can tell you now: they’re not wrong.

I’ve used bucketloads of the stuff – and that’s just to get me through the endless Formula One races that The Fiance thinks are interesting.

He’s wrong, obviously, but he won’t have it.

And then there’s Formula One qualifying. And Formula One ‘free practice’. And don’t get me started on the snooker, football, rugby, cricket…

But apparently I’m no saint myself.

“Oh my god,” he says in his best ‘long-suffering’ voice, as he surveys the pile of women’s magazines littered around me on the sofa.

“How many times do you need to read the same gossip? Does anyone even care whether Khloe Kardashian has a bikini body? And what kind of a name is ‘Khloe’ anyway??”

He pauses then adds: “By the way, you didn’t rinse your Weetabix bowl this morning. It’s minging when you leave it to go crusty.”

But romance isn’t completely dead – and in the last two weeks he’s bought me flowers, sat through several trashy American dramas and tonight we’re going on a date.

This, he says, is on the condition that I stop leaving almost-empty shampoo bottles around the edge of the bath.

Of course I won’t, because there’s a system that he just doesn’t understand.

And there’s no point in us both being wrong is there?

Article first published in The Westmorland Gazette on February 13, 2014

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“I’m going to write a strongly-worded letter to the council about this!”

THE Fiance has a bee in his bonnet about bad parking.

The worst offenders, he says, are tourists in Bowness, although the problem is apparently ‘widespread’ throughout the county.

“Nobody in Cumbria can park properly!” he fumes, when we come across another car parked haphazardly across two bays.

“They should pay twice for that! Or get fined! Or get clamped! Or get banned from car parks altogether!”

My suggestion that we park in the space a mere three metres away is not warmly received.

“That’s not the point!” he says. “I’m going to write a strongly-worded letter to the council about this!”

He speaks in exclamation marks when the topic is parking.

He also regularly rolls out the phrase ‘strongly-worded letter’, although as far as I know he’s never written one.

In fairness, I’ve only written a letter of complaint once, when I was pushed past the limitations of British politeness by a waitress who dropped food onto my lap, burnt my leg and ruined a pair of jeans.

Before blowing her bubble gum, telling me she was ‘soz’ and walking away.

But mostly us Brits seem incapable of managing more than an aggrieved tut, or at best A Bit of a Moan.

The French wouldn’t stand for bad parking. They’d leave an angry note, at the very least.

But the majority of Britons, I’ve found, simply get annoyed, sigh loudly and then get back on with their days.

We’re like a nation of Hugh Grant film characters, circa 1995.

“Well yes, I am slightly upset that you’ve burnt down my house, slept with my wife and turned all my children against me,” you can almost hear. “But hey ho, c’est la vie, and all that. No hard feelings, eh.”

Still, I think we’re getting better at being assertive.

Last week a woman pushed in front of me in the supermarket and I tutted, sighed loudly AND gave her my best ‘dark look’.

I think I really showed her who’s boss.

Article first published in The Westmorland Gazette on January 30, 2014

“I did jazz hands to illustrate my point…”

SMALL talk is one of those things that you’re either good at or you’re not.

There are those that remain cool as cucumbers when the conversational heat is on, and those who think ‘euthanasia’ is another word for hello.

Unfortunately, while not one of the worst offenders, I’m sadly familiar with the latter category.

“So, the economy, eh?” is something I actually said to a complete stranger before Christmas.

I cringed on the inside but my brain continued without my permission: “What do you think about that whole ‘situation’?”

I did jazz hands to illustrate my point.

‘This is not small talk’, is what I quickly realised, as I got a slightly scared: “No idea, love. Is your receipt okay in the bag?”

I think the problem is I can spot an awkward silence from a mile off and I end up blurting a panicked: “Religion! Yay or nay!?”

Apparently not even the slowest of checkout staff want to talk about anything more than the weather.

But I don’t think it’s just me that has this problem.

I went to the hairdressers on Saturday – a hotspot of stilted conversation – and could hear it happening all around me.

“Where do you stand on paparazzi livelihood versus the privacy of celebrities?” said one customer, as she was handed a copy of Hello magazine.

I could see a panicked look in her hairdresser’s eyes.

“I…er…just a trim is it??”

But the woman continued unperturbed: “And while we’re on the topic, what do you think about celebrity culture and the way it affects the mental image we create for our own appearances?”

I might be exaggerating the last bit, but the hairdresser’s confusion was genuine.

I think someone should publish a book on ‘things it’s socially acceptable to say to a stranger’.

“Hang on, just let me find the page,” we’d say, casually. “Ah here we are: are you going on any holidays this year?”

Nice, normal conversation – balance restored.

And there wouldn’t be a jazz hand in sight.

Article first published in The Westmorland Gazette on February 6, 2014

“I never see it happen but it frightens me to death..!”

THE subject of ghosts has come up several times in the office recently following a ‘sighting’ by a colleague’s wife. 

It turns out we’re all firmly in one of two camps – those who believe and those who think the believers are idiots. 

 The latter are the people who say hauntings are a figment of our imaginations; that everything can be explained by physics. 

Then there are those who say some things just can’t be explained – and most of them have a creepy, if-there’s-a-power-cut-right-now-I-might-actually-die tale to tell. 

Personally I’m a believer – and I’ll champion it until the day I die (and at that point, if I’m right, there’s going to a very self-righteous ghost stalking the streets).

I ‘believe’ because no matter how many times I’ve looked at it since it happened in 1998 I can’t explain how my bed disappeared from my room and ‘appeared’ somewhere else in the house – when only my mum and I were at home, and were as freaked out by the incident as each other. 

I’m sure a sceptic would say someone broke into the house, moved the bed without us hearing it and then disappeared without stealing anything – as all burglars do. 

However, we’re not the first in the family to have experienced something that, on the surface, seems quite inexplicable. 

According to family folklore my great-grandmother, Clara, was a bit of a ‘psychic’. 

She allegedly once saw an old friend looking decidedly ill only to find out shortly afterwards that he had died several days earlier. 

She also ‘sensed’ on several occasions when people in the family were seriously sick – and was undoubtedly proved right later on. 

It’s a divisive issue and a poll by the BBC found most people come down firmly on one side or the other. 

“Of course there are no ghosts,” said one respondant. “It’s always the creepy guy from the amusement arcade! Extensive research by experienced ghost hunter Scooby Doo has proved it.” 

But another said we all fall prey to ghostly happenings. 

“Every month I work to exhaustion,” he said, ”and as soon as I get paid a mysterious ghostly hand dips into my pocket and walks off with half my wages. 

“I never see it happen, but I feel kind of uneasy, and it frightens me to death.” 

 Article first published in The Westmorland Gazette on November 7, 2014.

“Nobody says ‘hunk’ or ‘dreamboat’ anymore!”

Apparently I’ve started to talk like I’m several decades older than I am. 

This is according to The Fiance, who tells me ‘it’s a bit nippy outside’ and ‘ooh my joints are aching’ aren’t sentences one should hear from the mouth of a 28-year-old. 

 “You sound like my grandma,” he says. 

Several times a week. 

 “Nobody says ‘hunk’ or ‘dreamboat’ anymore.” 

I reply: “But look at Johnny Depp! He is a hunk and a dreamboat – and a fine figure of a man, come to that!” 

 I’ll admit my grannyisms go too far though. 

 A low point was: “Honestly, look at that girl, she’ll catch her death if she doesn’t layer up.” 

 Then three seconds later I shed a tear and cried: “Oh god, I just said ‘layer up’!” 

 I’ve been on a campaign to be ‘Cool Auntie Anna’ to my nieces and I know it’ll never work if I keep up this sort of behaviour. 

 In a bid to be hip and groovy (oops) I’m trying to cancel out my anachronisms by talking like an 18-year-old. 

 Nobody’s explained the rules to me, but it sounds like you just shorten a word and then stick either an ‘s’ or the word ‘balls’ on the end. 

 “Oh em gee, your shoes are totes adorbs!” would be an example. 

“And that onesie is amazeballs!” 

 For normal people I think this means: “Oh my God, your shoes are totally adorable! And your all-in-one item of leisurewear is amazing.” 

 Speaking in exclamation marks is also key, apparently. 

 But I feel like a fraud, and I think at least one of my nieces knows this.

Auntie Anna…you don’t have to pretend to like One Direction,” she said, after I told her I think they’re all ‘totes gorge’. 

 “I love you even if you are old.” 

 I think, for now, that’ll have to do.

 Article first published in The Westmorland Gazette on January 16, 2014