Tag Archives: Youth

Youth Don’t Leave Me

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I may well have slipped onto the slide of middle-age and am currently flying past every marker Cliff-Richard_2225978bon route. This week’s marker was, at first glance, something only the young do: waiting for concert tickets to go on sale to ensure purchase. Then I realised I was over 40 and my chosen concert was to see an old heart-throb (yes I used that word) Mr Robbie Williams, who by the way has also passed the 40 mark. As a teen I humoured my mother and her love of Cliff Richard, thinking not so secretly that he was passed it and my mum slightly embarrassing in her love for him. I have become my mother. So has Robbie Williams become Cliff Richard? I imagine he thinks not. When weighing up the evidence I concluded that 25 – 30 years ago Sir Cliff was in his 40s, an ageing heart-throb who was and to some, still is, a superstar. Check – Robbie too. My Ma was over 40 and although never his number 1 fan did have a very soft spot for him. Check – I have loved Robbie since he first appeared in his underwear with his Take That buddies back in the early 90s. In conclusion, Middle Age.

RW poster_habI started calling the ticket line 2 minutes before the tickets went on sale. When I stopped calling 45 minutes later it was still engaged. Luckily, old I may be but clued up in the ways of t’internet I am also. The website not so much crashed as got stuck, sent me back instead of forward, made me register with them 3 times (3 different email addresses) but eventually I stumbled through the Hebrew and ascertained that I had indeed bought the 6 tickets I had intended to. Yes, I have a number of other ‘we’re not middle-aged, we’re too young’ girls (and one boy(straight!?)) coming with me. Ah, but did I buy 6 or have I inadvertently bought 12? Due to the incredibly annoying website I had to wait another 3 hours to get the email confirming my purchase and as it stands 24 hours later I am now the proud owner of 6 tickets.

This year has been quite a year for this old dear. I have been to see Justin Timberlake (what a professional) and Lady Gaga or is that GaGa. The latter concert we left early due to our inability to see the stage and therefore the distracting dancers that would have entertained where the music failed. Sorry Gaga fans, just not my thing, but it was free. I have also finally downloaded music onto an ipod that has been sat in its box since last April. I won’t embarrass myself by ‘fessing up to what is on my playlist. Oh. Dear. No.

I have mentioned previously that I am no muso. I leave that to my incredibly knowledgeable and infinitely cooler friends. Problem is, they too are getting on and so therefore they must also be dropping in the cool stakes. I can rule out riding on the coat tails of knowledge from teenage kids as mine are still one foot in nursery rhymes and the other in Gangham Style. The radio stations in Israel have 30 records and after 2 long car rides I have heard them all and no “(I’ll Never Be) Maria Magdalena” by Sandra (1985) does not count as cool, it never did.

I therefore must admit to myself that I am indeed middle-aged, my children will think me article-2512569-1999C82100000578-667_634x867ultimately uncool and Robbie, I still love you, grey, married, over 40 and with kids and damn it I will love you when you get your knighthood and we are both in our dotage. I hope that relative peace stays intact until May and the Israel haters don’t put you off. There are a lot of us not middle-aged-middle-aged fans waiting for you.

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Last Night

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I have a new best friend, in my dreams.  In my dream he is rich and famous, enormously (suprisingly) talented.  He lives in New Orleans (surely that should be Memphis) and he wants to be my best friend.  In my dream he is Justin Timberlake.  Oh woe is me.  I have a teenage crush at 41.  Last night I joined an assorted crowd of JT fans in a park in Tel Aviv to see my new best friend in concert.  At the end of the concert I was shocked by the talent and professionalism.  I had enjoyed bobbing up and down to the music, I even raised my hands above my head at certain moments.  He can sing, play guitar, play piano, dance and lets face it he is easy on the eye.  He wasn’t however my new best friend.

Then I went home to sleep.

By 7am he was my best friend.  I was enjoying myself so much, hanging out in a cafe with him, introducing him to my family, being introduced to his friends that I asked my 3 year old to let me sleep a little more rather than admire the art work she had done for me and wanted to be stuck on the wall,  This surely is a mid life crisis.  I am already looking forward to going to sleep tonight so I can hang out with him again.

In very recent years the major acts are starting to add Tel Aviv to the concert circuit.  Slowly, slowly they are returning after the 2000 intifada and the fear of being accused of political/religious bias kept them away.  Now the instagrams of stars at the Western Wall, Dome of the Rock or floating in the Dead Sea are appearing on a weekly basis. Rihanna liked the Dead Sea so much she was still floating in it when she should have been on stage.

 

My first job in Israel back in 2005 was for a music promoter.  I was in charge of looking after the ‘stars’ from the moment they landed their private jets until we breathed a sigh of relief when they climbed back on.  It was still too soon for the really big names to come so unfortunately I didn’t meet the Madonnas and Elton Johns of the world.  My first band was Faithless who were actually very nice.  Their lead singer was a little demanding but by the time they left I was quite a fan.  The other bands were famous but I had to look them up before they arrived (I ain’t no music officinado).  Some were more demanding than others, ‘I want the tent dressing room to be swathed in white silk and filled with white lilies’ – the “star” in question was one of many acts at a festival, had a 3 song set and was in the ‘dressing room’ for precisely half an hour.  When she left I picked up the lilies which had been thrown on the floor and trodden on.

These backstage riders are actually negotiated before the arrival of the acts.  The promoter and the manager thrash out whether the stars will get French champagne cooled to a certain temperature or not.  In true Israeli fashion we agreed to everything and then provided a version of the requests.

My personal favourite moment was when Phil Collins arrived.  We had a police escort to the

hotel from the airport (why?) which was very exciting.  We weren’t allowed to address ‘Mr Collins’ directly and there were to be no tip offs to the press and no unauthorised photographs.  When the cavalcade arrived at the hotel the entrance was packed with the paparazzi (I was confidently assured that they had been tipped off to boost ticket sales).  The hotel manager came to greet Mr. Collins and the hotel photographer was summoned to take the official hand shake photo.  Collin’s manager was turning puce. The piece de resistance was the cake the hotel had prepared and presented to Mr Collins so he could cut it – again, why?  The cake was decorated with a life size sugar paper photocopy of Phil Collins’ face which he then proceed to stick a large knife into.  Classy.  Collin’s manager then demanded that the whole band, techies, entourage, et al be moved to another hotel.

So back to my bezzie mate.  I have tried to online stalk him just so I know where he stayed and I have wondered what was on his rider.  As I know him so well I think he would just ask for water – he’s no diva.  The one surprise is the fact that my crush is purely platonic.  That’s what age does to you.  I wasn’t the oldest at the concert I am happy to report but my friend’s 9 year old shattered my idea that I was doing something vaguely young and cool by asking,’who is Justin Timberlake?’.  Even Justin is too old for da kids.  Back to dreaming then.

 

Confessions

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Confessions

December 14th, 2013

“Would you like the same present for your birthday that I got you last year?”,

“what was it? pyjamas? yes I like new pyjamas”,

“no, sellotape*”

(*that’s scotch tape to my American friends)

And with that it all came rushing back, the trauma and turmoil of this time last year when I turned 40.  I actually thought that the set of coloured biros and coloured sellotape was a sweet, albeit interesting choice of present but as No. 1 son had obviously chosen them himself I was all the more appreciative.  It was a small highlight in an otherwise dark day.  I didn’t like turning 40.  Having started writing my mutterings on the run up to my new decade I had thought I had it well under control. Looking back I now see it was a huge rite of passage  and only now, as I turn 41 do I think I am really OK with being ‘old’.

This time last year I was stricken with  a throat infection and determined not to miss out on the surprise gathering my husband had planned for that evening (yes, sorry I did know) I stuffed myself full of every over-the-counter remedy possible, plus a healthy dose of my 2-year-old’s antibiotics.  Yes, that was a secret too, which one year on I am not ashamed (well only partially) to admit.  I figured that if antibiotics started working in 24 hours then 1 dose the night before and 1 the next morning should do the trick.  I hadn’t counted on the enormous amount of sugar in an adult size dose of children’s antibiotics.  My kidneys ached for days and I worried silently of the permanent damage.  That’s how desperate I was to celebrate my big 4-0, I know, I know, sad and shameful. I also drank a lot of water – I mean a lot for weeks afterwards.  Rather goes to show that with age does not come sense.

The good news is I made it out that evening and my drama training stood me well as I don’t think anyone suspected I knew what was in store (least of all my darling husband who was v proud of himself).  By that time, slightly high on medication and a couple of glasses of cava I had a lovely time.  Not so much the next day.  Then the hangover and realisation that I could no longer consider myself ‘young’ really kicked in.  Goodness knows how I’ll be at 50.

I spent yesterday thinking about the ‘must do’ list I created pre-40 and thought about what I had achieved in my 41st year.  I have finally taken up exercise and have surprised myself by enjoying it.  It has meant I have gained weight which I am reassured is muscle but I’m not so sure.  I have worn shoes with heels much more than I did.  I have tried to be less sensitive about other’s opinions (still trying) and I have gone from 1/4 time job plus full time parenting to 3 jobs and only partial full time parenting (hooray for kindergarten).

December 15th, 2013

So what about today I hear you ask, how is the birthday so far.  Well, I have had 2 cards and one happy birthday.  I am not sick, not stressed about my age – 41 somehow sounds younger than 40 – go figure. I have not taken any medication, mine or the children’s and I am 100% sure that no surprise gathering is being planned. I am in fact quite calm. No doubt I shall be receiving colourful sellotape, or some other comedy present from the childers this afternoon (it’s actually very useful), I am presuming cake and candles will make an appearance and I am happy to report that I am in a far better place on December 15th 2013 than I was on the same date in 2012.

Happy birthday to me.

In Search of a Good Pub Story.

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Prologue.
My first full-time job after university was as a runner in London.  Back in the mid-90s the film business in the UK was experiencing a renaissance, successes like Shallow Grave, The Madness of King George, Four Weddings and Trainspotting meant that anything out of the UK was hot and Soho in London was the hub of all that was film and TV.  As a keen, naive runner lugging film canisters and Beta Max tapes from one editing facility to another I was very much on the outskirts of all that was cool – not much chance of me hanging out with Hugh Grant or Ewan McGregor but still it felt pretty good to be where it was ‘at’ for the first and only time in my life (to date).

ThisLifecastThese were the days of the groundbreaking BBC series, This Life, about a group of 20 something lawyers living together in South London.  My friends and I loved that show and I think, thought to a degree we were living it, not that we had the money of trainee lawyers, but that we were in London, house sharing, working, experiencing stuff every day that as newly graduated first jobbers we were just not used to (no matter how hard some tried to convince otherwise).  Age 22 in the big city with no authority – no wonder they made a show about it.

One night I went to a party in the basement of some club at the end of Carnaby Street, I was wearing borrowed pvc spray on trousers (eeugh on all accounts), a sheer sparkly mint green shirt and some unsuitable shoes.  The shoes were unsuitable not because they were too high or too small but because they were the only other pair of shoes I owned outside of my ‘work’ shoes (trainers).   I reckon I thought that the trousers would distract any prospective shoe viewers, I do have long legs.  The only recollection of the party I have is that it was dull, full of people I didn’t know including the ‘friend’ I went there with and way too cool for me, but those were the days when I was so eager to experience everything London had to offer I would have gone to just about anywhere I was invited to, if it were free.

Gratis, I attended screenings of art house unknown films, gigs and comedy shows, Red Lionfootball games, museum exhibits I also spent an inordinate time in the pub – The Old Coffee House in Beak Street and later the Red Lion in Great Windmill Street.  I was determined to squish as much as I could into my life which is pretty hard on less than a hundred quid a month.  The truth is that the other 98.5% of my life was spent at home watching my portable TV wrapped in a duvet to conserve fuel costs.  Fond memories of searching coat pockets for loose change to buy a pint of milk/bag of crisps/ 10 Silk Cut or a bottle of Kwik Save’s wine of the week come flooding back.

The benefit of working in TV and film post production was that a) I wandered around the West End all day in all weathers so would easily pass The Knowledge (the London black cab drivers exam) for that part of London b) My wanderings resulted in many celeb sightings which was pretty incredible for a small town girl like myself c) I felt a part of what was happening, albeit as an inside outsider.  The downside of all this was a) I was paid 100 quid more than the cost of my rent and monthly tube pass b) I was a skivvy to every jumped up musician, director, voice over, actor that set foot in the editing house I worked in and c) I was panicking that my degree was actually a waste of time – who needs a degree to hang around outside an edit suite whilst those inside got drunk, stoned, high and fail to produce the tape I was waiting for.  Remember these were the days of very few mobile phones; internet, email etc were not part of everyday life, Britain had yet to go digital (I was carrying Beta Max tapes for god’s sake) so walking the streets meant you actually looked around you and you couldn’t bitch or brag to your mates at a minute by minute rate.  Makes you pause for thought right?

1997 saw the Vanity Fair Cool Britannia  issue which made everything in Britain suddenly cool britannia - Geriofficially cool – even the Spice Girls and Tony Blair (not so much now).  The magazine was published in March 1997, I left London mid April to travel the world and re-think my career.  When I returned 18 months later I caught the scrap ends of the zeitgeist but the time was over.  Many of my friends had moved on or away and taking the first crappy job that came along as long as it was vaguely related to your career of choice was no longer enough.

The friends I made then are some of the most incredible people I know and in many ways it was an amazing time; the music, the buzz, the feeling of starting out. You can’t replace that. It was also exhausting, mentally demoralising and highly emotional for the group of friends I was part of. We all cared too much about what others thought of us and were trying too hard to look like we didn’t care, after all this was the age of Liam Gallagher. If I’d stayed any longer I could well have imploded, or become an escort to raise the rent money.  Shudder.

Still it all made for a good pub story and at the end of the day that’s all any of us were really after.

Reasons to Celebrate #4: Musical Nostalgia

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When the rain starts here every other song on the radio is about rain.  It’s a rare occurrence you see. It’s Raining Men, Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head and Why Does it Always Rain On Me get a little repetitive so I was excited when I heard an old favourite  by a former heart-throb, Shakin’ Stevens.  Yes you heard right, there was a point when Shakin’ Stevens aka ‘Shaky’ was my schoolgirl crush (for those of you who are not familiar, think not terribly convincing 1980’s British  Elvis – OK that’s impossible; see picture attached.).

Between the ages of 9 and 11 I had a few crushes; Shaky, Limahl from Kajagoogoo, Adam Ant and all of Bucks Fizz. Oh come on, they were a good-looking foursome and Making Your Mind Up is a pop classic, isn’t it? Unluckily my taste in music hasn’t really ever progressed which is why I find myself humming along to One Direction and my favourite all time band is Take That, but that’s for another time.

Shakin’ Stevens singing It’s Raining is one of those songs that immediately whizzed me back on the nostalgia express to a time when I was 9 or 10 and thought I was oh so grown up listening to pop music.  To a time when the weekly church youth club, ‘Wednesday Welcome’, demanded at least two telephone conversations; Fame dress or ra-ra skirt, leg warmers or burgundy ribbed tights, or both…hmmm.  A time when knowing the names of the girls in Bananarama was must know information and little girls wanted to be Lady Diana (and look how that turned out).

When I was about 11 I went to a Bucks Fizz concert with my best friend.  I remember screeching with excitement when my Mum told me I was going. It was our first pop concert and my friend and I spent many hours discussing what outfit was suitable for such an auspicious occasion, I mean, what if they wanted us to go on stage with them?  The fact that we would be alone at the concert (none of the parents could hack listening to 2 hours of screeching 10 year olds and sugary pop music), was just the icing on the cake.  I settled on a maroon velvet pair of pedal pushers (remember them?), cream over the knee socks, a frilly blouse with puff sleeves (wanna be new romantic) and to top it all a fake fur jacket.  My mother had different ideas and sent me in a lemon t-shirt dress and white cardigan.  Thanks Mum, no I haven’t forgotten.  The highlight of the concert was when Bobby Gee sang Do You Think I’m Sexy and ripped his shirt off.  The crowd went wild, as did we, though I’m not sure if we knew why, children were more naive at 11 than they are now.

As I watched the wet motorway pass the other day and listened to It’s Raining I chuckled at my memories, then the needle scratched to an abrupt halt in my reminiscence; where is Shaky now?  Well Shaky is well on his way to being shaky now at 64.  He still performs apparently although I imagine he needs help up when he drops to his knees on stage.  I will stick to the memories rather than the reality and look for You Drive Me Crazy on You Tube.  Getting older does have its advantages; nostalgia is free and the nonsense of the 80’s provides plenty of guaranteed moments for cringing and chuckling in equal measure.

Shaky www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1DO1H09T4Y

Bucks Fizz http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pACePi441ds

Reasons to Celebrate # 3: New Skills

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It’s a  fact that the skill of language learning is a child’s game; the younger you learn  the easier it is.  Children’s brains are like sponges and age unfortunately hardens the sponge, making it way more difficult for languages to sink in.  At 18 I briefly lived in France and worked for Eurocamp, a British company that employs students to look after clean up after their clients on enormous campsites in Europe.  I learnt French until age 16 so had a very basic grasp, and I did pass the Eurocamp language test so I reckon that made me more than competent to deal with the campsite management and local community.  I managed quite well and following a brief fling with the campsite chef (only in France does a campsite have a chef), I was able to converse quite adequately.

My Hebrew teacher

13 years later when I moved to Israel the sponge had dried a little too much for another language and 8 years on I still struggle.  Part of the blame has to lie on the shoulders of one of the first experiences I had here.  Fresh off the plane I enrolled in the State’s language school, The Ulpan.  I was convinced that going to this school would be like attending lectures at college, learn something new with lots of people in the same  situation.  Wrong.  Think primary school without a common language.  Add to that the bizarre twist of a film crew making a documentary about us. If any of you have learnt a new language as an adult you know that there is nothing more shameful than having to do it in front of an audience, bad enough that my fellow students were witness to my ‘Hello my name is Katie and I am from England’ but to have a camera in my face and a boom swinging above my head took it to a whole new level. Those who eventually saw the documentary series they made, The Ulpan (here’s a clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMtZ2eJFD-A), will know that we also had a neurotic teacher who, whether for the cameras or because she was crazy, felt it fit to burst into tears in front of the class, storm out of the classroom in a fit of anger or smother her students with kisses and bear hugs.  I am English – we don’t hug random strangers and we certainly don’t cry in public.  Suffice to say I finished the course with little or no knowledge of the language, an inherent suspicion of all Israeli women over 50 and due to the high turn-over of students (98% have since left the country), very few friends.

My husband has an aptitude for languages having lived in many foreign parts in his childhood and has always proclaimed he can speak French, which without a shadow of a doubt is a lie: A few years ago he travelled to Moscow to cater a high end dinner (he’s a pastry chef) and told the organisers that he spoke ‘kitchen’ French.  Being able to pronounce baguette and croissant does not constitute speaking French but as they had said their chefs spoke Russian and only a couple knew a little French he figured he’d get by. ‘Passez moi le spoon et le bowl sil vous plait’ apparently worked for the duration of the experience as it turned out the Russians had also been telling porkies, his speaking English in a faux French accent had them thoroughly fooled.  Think ‘Allo Allo’ in Russia. It does rather go to prove that the major talent behind speaking a language is confidence and that is a skill honed over a lifetime.

My confidence in speaking the language has taken some knocks in my eight years here; asking for a watermelon sandwich in a café is not one of my finest moments in my early days.  There have been great swathes of time when I have refused to speak a word in anything but English for fear of looking ridiculous.  As part of my coming-of-age quest to right some wrongs and make some changes I went back to (a different) Hebrew school earlier this year and lo and behold discovered that I have actually mastered it to a certain degree and I am  proud of my skill to learn such a difficultt language at such a late stage.  I give all credit to my son who is 4 so you can imagine the level of my vocabulary; still, in the right environment I have grasped the skill well enough to get by. Not only can I speak to a large extent these days I can also read enough to know when the  translation is wrong on the TV subtitles.  I have even figured out how to open books and magazines back to front which sounds easy but believe me it takes some figuring out.  The confidence part might take another 8 years so until then I will remain playground mute and only speak Hebrew when absolutely necessary.

Reasons to Celebrate # 2: Friends part 2

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click here for part 1 Scott didn’t seem overly pleased to see us.  The reason was probably that he’d spun such an enormous web of lies back in the UK that he knew he was going to be caught out when we arrived.  We stayed in the Granny flat attached to his house so we had our own space and we were in heaven.  Sleep, food, not sitting in an airline seat and the holiday ahead of us.

A couple of things set off alarm bells early on but we chose to ignore them thinking we were over sensitive.  He’d told us the weather was warm, the cost of living cheap and that he would take us on safari, up to the lakes to see flamingoes, we would be his guest.  All lies.  In reality after I spurned his advances on the first day his mood became considerably cold towards us.  He told us Nairobi was too dangerous for us to go out alone and therefore he had to chaperone us everywhere; to the mall, to his friend’s house to watch them play football,to his other friends house to watch Indian movies.  Not on safari by a long shot.  When he went out and he didn’t want us cramping his style he locked us in our Granny annex, literally.  They lived in a gated community with a locked gate at the front of the house so we were in fact prisoners.  We considered going to the embassy but we had in the back of our minds that maybe it wasn’t that bad, after all it was just Scott from university, his parents were somewhere in the background, how bad could it get?  We just needed to get away from him, problem was he wouldn’t let us.  He reluctantly took us out with him in the evening and we spoke with his friends about the situation.  They didn’t believe us, except one who suggested we go to Mombasa where the weather was better (it was raining in Nairobi).

We wanted to get to Mombasa as soon as possible.  Not as easy as you may think.  When he got wind of our plans he hijacked them and arranged for his Aunt and Uncle to be our chaperones in Mombasa. We had other plans but we accepted their offer gratefully and figured we’d only call them in an emergency. We decided to travel on the overnight train but it was pricey and we were skint, so we bought tickets for the overnight bus.  Scott and his friends told us we were making a mistake, that it was dangerous, but they told us that everything in Kenya was dangerous and we were beginning to think it was a ruse to keep us locked up.  For what end who knows.

Just before we left he graciously took us on the promised safari. He brought a girlfriend with him.  If a safari is speeding and skidding along dirt roads, whizzing past a couple of zebras then we went on safari.  The phrase bitter disappointment was made for times like this.  Youthful optimism and our  ability to laugh in the face of adversity stood us well.

We arrived in  Mombasa in the early hours before the sun was up and made our way to the beach to find a place to stay.   By this stage a feeling of fear had been instilled into us.  We had been locked in our prison until now and it took us a few days to realise that everyone wasn’t out to rob us, rape us or kidnap us.   We had a few days of freedom and exploring but I am not sure our hearts were in it by then.

Soon it was time to head back to Nairobi to fly home. We went to Scott’s friendly cousin on the last evening as she had offered to take us to the bus stop at midnight.  The Aunt and Uncle on the other hand had heard from Scott that we were ungratefull, terrible people and not to be trusted (?), so we had a frosty reception to say the least.  What a surprise, the bus was cancelled. We went back to the open arms of the cousin’s family and stayed the night.  Hiding in the room and 30 Mills and Boons books later (his Aunt’s only English books) we caught the bus the following night.

The holiday had been a wash out; in Kenya but no safari, in an exotic new country but locked away, there seemed to be a conspiracy between the people we had met and we were throughly disliked by all.  We sat on the bus and sang ‘Take Me Home Country Road’ and laughed about the flight home, would we  even make it?  Then out of nowhere we hit something, the bus started to roll over,  it was pitch black, people were screaming. The bus was on its side hurtling through the dust and rocks.  As we hit I shouted ‘get down’ to Rachel and we both went into the brace position.  Luckily we had already adopted the brace position a couple of times on our flight over so we were old hands at it.  I was sitting by the window and I was braced on top of Rachel, my back being scraped along the rocks as the window had magically disappeared.  Eventually it was quiet.  The bus had stopped moving; eery silence after the terrifying noise of the bus, just the sound of crying.  Within seconds people were climbing over each other to get out, pushing and shoving.  The front of the bus was on fire, I don’t know what happened to the driver.   I felt my back was hot and wet but was too scared to get Rachel to look, everything was red anyway from the dust and it was pitch black bar the fire on the bus.  Did I say, ‘move back its going to blow’, or that’s just how I remember it?  Once out, Rachel  was first to gather her senses and decided that we had to go back onto the  bus to get our passports and money.  What a hero, Rachel climbed back onto the burning bus and recovered both our bags with all our belongings.

A bus crash on that road was commonplace.  No ambulances, no fire engines, no-one knew and there were no phones.  We were miles from civilization.  We found another passenger who spoke some English and she told us that we should all walk back to the road and wait for other buses and trucks to drive past.   When we finally reached the road, we saw the cause of our accident, a baby elephant. heartbreakingly gigantic, laying silent on the road. This was the only elephant we saw on our trip and we had killed it.  We followed the crowd and stood together waiting for the first truck or bus to pass.  The first driver took 2 people, he told us to stick together and if we were still there towards dawn to light a fire as it was lion country.  Lion country?  Are we in an episode of candid camera?  2 down 48 to go including 2 incredulous Brits, not known for their pushy nature.  No doubt we were going to get the last ride.  Eventually a bus stopped and the driver let us sit in the aisles. For the pleasure of being rescued we had to bribe him.

We finally made it back to Nairobi to be met by a very unhappy Scott, ‘ You’re late’.  Picture if you will how we looked.  Rachel had bright orange hair from the dust, we were both covered in dirt, our clothes were ripped and I was bleeding.  ‘You’re late’????  That was the final straw.

Our return flight was, thank god, uneventful.  We kissed the ground when we got off the plane in the UK. I had a couple of cracked ribs and suffered for many months from the trauma of the crash mixed with the side effects of the antimalaria drugs we’d taken.  A week after returning home I received a parcel in the mail.  It was some photographs of Rachel in a safari suit hiding in the bushes in her Dad’s vegetable garden. Dotted around were cuddly toy lions and monkeys.  The note attached said that, instead of the real thing she had mocked up some safari pics for us to remember our Kenyan holiday.  You can’t get a better friend than that.

Reasons to celebrate #1: Experience

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There are times when I think; thank goodness I am older and wiser. I am less likely to get myself in the scrapes I did as a youngster.  Experience counts for a lot at any age and although I owe a lot of my better judgement to age and experience I also owe a lot to my husband.  Within a week of our relationship I’d been in the hospital, written off his car and been locked in a strip club, with the owner.  This must have given him a fair idea of my bad luck/naivety/thirst for a good pub story.  Although I can’t say the first two won’t happen again my husband has taught me some key skills to trusting people eg. that man owns a strip club, you don’t know him, don’t go to his club at 10am, that sort of thing.  Here’s a story of one of my scrapes from my university days. As its Sunday you might want to get a cup of tea before starting this one, it’s longer than usual.

When I was 19 I hitchhiked for charity to Amsterdam with a bloke on acid.  He’d been to Amsterdam before (of course he had) so I figured he was a good travel partner plus he was also a good friend. We were one of about 20 couples taking part for our University’s Rag Week. My partner, we’ll call him Garth, and I made it in double quick time; hitching with two rides down to Sheerness, the overnight ferry and then one very speedy ride right into the centre of a chilly early morning Amsterdam.  When my friends arrived a few hours later Garth was firmly on the road to oblivion, by the time we were due to hitch back the following day he had set up camp there and was showing no signs of return.

I led him out of the city on public transport to where I thought the main highways were but as I didn’t have more than a city map it’s a mystery how I could have thought I knew where we were going.  Eventually we reached a highway, Garth in his crazy-world wisdom was convinced we had to hitch from what I was convinced was the wrong side of the road.  Travelling alone did not seem like a viable option and even though he was worse than useless, he was familiar, and more importantly he was a danger to himself. So I bowed to his cracked judgement (more fool me) and crossed to his side.

We made slow no progress, what with taking lifts North instead of South. Garth was chattering, arguing, chuckling, being abnormally quiet or jiggling around; behaviour which made us unpopular passengers to would be rides.  5 cold hours after leaving Amsterdam we found ourselves back on the outskirts of Amsterdam heading in the correct direction for the port. FYI It’s one hour from Amsterdam to the port in Vlissengen.  By this time Garth was sober and tired and very, very grumpy.

We had a couple of hours before the last ferry of the evening when a car stopped for us with an elderly man in the backseat.  Rule number 2 of hitchhiking (number 1 being, don’t hitchhike) is, don’t squeeze next to an elderly man if you are female. After a few minutes the elderly passenger started muttering in Dutch and his hands began wandering over my thighs. I hissed to Garth that it was time to get out.  Garth came up trumps and was very gallant, yelling at the guy, ordering the driver to pull over.  Bravo Garth! Regrettably we got out on the hard shoulder of a busy four lane highway in the dark, in sub-zero temperatures, and it was snowing. After walking for a few minutes we realised the danger we were in and called from an emergency phone to ask how to get off the highway.  They told us we were breaking the law and to get off the highway. Not terribly helpful. Half an hour later at the next phone we told the police to arrest us.  Eventually a police van turned up.  We were overjoyed at the prospect of at least warming up on our way to the cells.  But no, they had come in a dog van so no back seats just a cage.  Thank goodness they didn’t make us crawl in, instead they put their headlights on full beam and we walked in the glare of the headlights down the hard shoulder – a mini chain gang – until the next slip road where they gave us directions to the nearest train station.

We had less than an hour before the ferry left.  We got the next train to Vlissingen, arriving just in time to see our ferry steaming out of the harbour with all our friends on it.  I clearly remember sobbing as it disappeared from view, never had I felt so desolate and cold. We went back to the train station, the only place open in Vlissengen port, and slept on a very cold stationary train with one ear cocked for the engines starting up.  Suffice to say, freezing and in a state of near panic that we would miss the next morning’s ferry and would be locked in the nightmare for ever, I didn’t sleep, Garth on the other hand merrily slept off the effects of his weekend. I clearly recall the smell of his socks and sound of his snores.

We were finally met at Coventry train station 24 hours later; dirty, tired, hungry, penniless and borderline hypothermic. My mother had been on the phone, the University authorities weren’t too impressed and my friends thought it was hilarious.

My unlucky travel experiences are many and varied, that weekend just one of many, fortunately it just made me want to travel more.  At a stage in my life where travelling is pretty impossible (and with Syria as a neighbour it’s also ill advised) I find myself reminiscing about the ease of living in the UK and cheaply visiting Europe.  As soon as I get the chance I will resume my travels albeit on a smaller scale than in the past and look for new perhaps less risky experiences, well, what would I tell the kids?

Pre-preparing to celebrate

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Like a wedding day I believe a girl can throw caution to the wind and spoil herself with frivolities and vanity for a big birthday.  If I were rich and less afraid of any kind of beauty establishment I could be waxed and buffed, mani-ped’ied, plucked and made over.  Unfortunately I can’t quite pluck (pardon the pun) up the courage to enter a place, let alone ask for a treatment.Once a year (on my birthday) my husband sends me for a massage or a facial and I have been known to enjoy it, not least because I just walk in, remain mute and leave an hour later.  One year he sent me to a very exclusive manicurists and that experience underlined my innate fear.  First of all if you are not a seasoned regular of a nail ‘salon’ you don’t know the etiquette, add to that not being able to fully speak the language therefore unable to converse or read any of the glossy mags provided and you are left with a highly uncomfortable and tedious couple of hours whilst two glamorous women grate your feet and tut at your cuticles.  I left their salon on the edge of tears and vowing never to put myself through it again.  I also had to thank my husband genuinely whilst hinting that next birthday a simple dinner out would be more acceptable.  I wonder where my fear came from because I am no shrinking violet.  Maybe it’s just because it makes me feel like I am on show and these beauty professionals are judging my lack of beauty.  So many women enjoy these treatments, I really think at my age I should grow out of it.

Once I was in a French pharmacy and one of the assistants came up to me and asked if I’d like to be tested for which range of skin products would suit me.  I had time to kill before my next meeting so duly put my face in some ultra violet machine and then listened as she told me some shocking truths.  Imagine the French accent (and please don’t be offended),” I sink zat you mebee do not drink enough watter, no?”, umm correct, “you are also a little tired I sink” umm definitely (I’d been out on the lash with co-workers the night before), “also I sink mebee you smoke a little” well at that she could have sold me the whole chain of pharmacies, my not so social habit was clear to see on my face so god knows what my insides looked like.  I left the store with an expensive and tiny pot of serum which she promised would work over night and unbelievably, it did.  I was even complimented on how ‘fresh’ I looked the following morning.  For years I bought it and only when I stopped living a jet set (ha ha) life and could no longer justify the expense of something so small (£42 for 15ml) did I stop.  Must invest before my celebrations begin.  By the way it was Darphin Aromatic Purifying balm.

darphin-aromatic-purifying-balm-15ml

“Life is what happens while we are making other plans”

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I recently read that Cameron Diaz feels better about herself now than she did at 25.  Like me, Ms. Diaz is a product of 1972 along with Geri Halliwell (if you believe her) and Gwyneth Paltrow, so with a birth year of such an illustrious alumni, it’s fair to say, in my opinion, that ’72 was quite a vintage.  All three women are beautiful and successful by most peoples’ standards and due to good genes, good grooming and a large dash of cash are ageing particularly well.  Apparently the bubbly Cameron made There’s Something About Mary when she was 25 and feels physically better and more capable now than then.

So let’s do a quiz, a comparison if you will.  Answer yourself honestly. What did you think of yourself when you were 25?  Do you think of yourself the same way now? Do you feel better or worse now, or then? After I read the interview with Cameron Diaz and saw her photo on the cover of Esquire magazine I decided that I feel the same physically now as then (still have as many bad habits and as few good ones), feel less capable only because I am more restrained by responsibilities and at both times would not for a moment pose for a picture in any state of undress, with or without photo-shop. I wonder if she had any idea that she’d be commanding between $15 and $20 million per movie fifteen years later, or even at that stage if she cared, some people just don’t look too far into the future.

Let’s try another quiz:  What plans did you have a 25?  Which plans are you yet to complete? Have you changed your plans since 25?  I am pleased to say that some of my major plans did come to fruition; career, kids, travel and then it struck me; that’s why turning 40 is hitting me so hard – I have run out of plans, apart from the Novel (that old chestnut), I need some new plans.  Some attainable, though life changing ‘thing’ that I can work towards.  I have always been a planner, in fact I once had the job title ‘Planner’, I made lists in my childhood diaries, made choices based on how to get to D via A,B and C and due to circumstance I can no longer plan a thing and quite honestly its making me jumpy.  The 25 year old me was newly loved up, just beginning to make it on the career ladder, ambitious, hungry for experience but with a pretty clear idea of where I wanted to go, but happy to go wherever life took me and life definitely took me.  It took me to a foreign country, it took me to a new culture, a new language, it took me to a new reality that was so far from anything I could have ever planned that I gave up planning. I have certainly had some experiences but I now feel I need to take a little bit of the old me back and start planning again.  I will use these last few months of my thirties to make some plans, dream some new dreams and consider posing semi clad for a photo.  Let’s face it you probably wish you had a nice pic of your young 25 year old bod now, and one day, believe it or not, your 40 year old  semi nakedness will look pretty buff to you too. Oh and by the way, Eminem was 40 this year too.

image borrowed from Hollywoodreporter.com