Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Candle in the whirlwind

I sit tapping this in a lull between replying to a wrong number texter, blowing my nose and rearranging my diary due to illness.

I have been burning the candle at both ends and that proverbial candle is possibly me. I am totally frazzled.

It was inevitable a nasty cold would get me after 8 consecutive nights going to bed between 1.30-4 am. I successfully delayed it when it made its first attempt on 28th November.
I have successfully moved everything around and saved money and internal organs by being housebound.

My only complaint is that I missed Under 1 Roof charity night on Saturday which involved Chris Martin duetting with Alan Partridge. Yes it really happened, this is not a delirious dream I had.

It's been a long time since I wrote.  That means I'm going to do that very lazy thing of listing what I've been up to.
In no particular order.

Went to Q&A with Will Ferrell (I didn't got with him you understand) followed by a screening of Everything Must Go.

Had 2 facials and a massage (not on the same day).

Had my karaoke birthday party.

Saw Voldemort & Rodney Trotter in The Tempest. Ok, in layman's terms I saw Ralph Fiennes & Nicholas Lyndhurst but it does sound as surreal as the aforementioned duet (Chris & Alan, not me & Charlie in photo).

I was treated for my birthday to dinner at The Ivy by Tracy (thank you Snoops!) Saw Michael Stipe & Thom Yorke amongst others but they were my favourite diners.

Went to see Ghost the musical with my sis-in law and didn't cry.

Started regular quizzing – I love a quiz! Won some money for not winning - or losing. Win, win. Or is that not win, win?

Saw Feist at the Palladium.

Met up with two friends I haven't seen for ten years. One was an ex. I talked way too much. What me, nervous? I deny it!

Went to the Museum of Everything.

Finally saw the truly incredible Mark Rylance in (the truly incredible) Jerusalem. A few weeks later booked a ticket to watch a Q&A with him. I wish you could buy plays on DVD...

I was lucky enough to have a day trip to Madrid to see Coldplay. Mylo Xyloto was released and we hopped on a plane for a press conference & launch gig in the Plaza de toros Las Ventas.
It was directed by Anton Corbijn. We flew straight back to do Radio 1's Live Lounge followed by a gig in the UEA, Norwich – a very strange juxtaposition to the previous show.  
Coldplay are actually on tour at the moment so in the past week I went to the Manchester's MEN Arena, Camden's Dingwalls (487 capacity) and London's O2 Arena.

I did some more recording for my voice showreel and was pretty happy with the results though my Mum couldn't tell it was me! (That's a good thing in my opinion).

Saw Driving Miss Daisy starring Vanessa Redgrave – I have never seen the film, but I enjoyed it.

Visited family. 3 separate visits actually. Of course that included my gorgeous great niece who insisted while I was reading her a bespoke personalised Disney Princess book I got her to "read it properly" – such was her disbelief at her actually being in it!

Watched the amazing Rae Morris, this time at KOKO.

Put up 2 Christmas trees - one real, one fake.

Joined a gym. It has a pool.

Had dinner(s) with charity winning bidder(s).

In fact, had a lot of lunches and dinners with some of my favourite people. I've managed to see many people who don't live near me too which has been wonderful.

Watched a few films. Twice to the cinema - if there's an Oscar ™ for hair(dresser), it should go to My Week With Marilyn - a couple of DVDs and sofa bound TV movies.

So that was the nutshell, here comes the stuff that I've found shocking, funny, interesting and thought provoking.

I loved the Hallowe'en rules that were put up where I live. It's a gated community and to keep everyone happy, there were guidelines to adhere to:

I did see a Justin Bieber cartoon (excuse the blurry pic) that made me laugh – yes that was tempting to cut the middle man and just call him the joke:

The Poppy Appeal campaign was rather inappropriate this year I thought. I'm sure the various celebs gave their time for free to endorse the slogan "standing shoulder to shoulder with all who serve" that had me puzzled. Er, no, I think you'll find we're not shoulder to shoulder, we're sat at home all safe and sound. Weird. 

Ad watch:
There have been too many adverts attracting my attention for whatever reason.

The Oops ad where that woman who clearly doesn't have any weak bladder mishaps gets her skirt stuck in the lift? Well... I have the exact same underwear as her (not wee stained either I may add) – I've never had that problem but that's not the only co-incidence. I asked the guy from the ad out last year. He said yes but it never happened. Imagine if he'd seen my underwear?

The Very advert is so very annoying with Diana Vickers telling us that her 70s jumpsuit can "make you look taller & slimmer" rather than her size 8 frame and 8 inch heels. Don't get me started on the leather jacket that makes her feel "good to be bad".
The Uniform Dating advert is perhaps the most stupid of all. It starts with a fireman rescuing a woman from a burning building then a nurse appears by a man's bedside - both hit by instantly fancying the uniform. I can't believe there is a dating site to fix you up with someone who wears one! That fire won't put itself out mister so get your hose out. No, not that one!

I am not wasting breath on either the John Lewis or the M&S ads although the latter does lead me finally to the X Factor final.
To me, the X Factor is an entertainment show, a TV show no less and it just so happens that people sing on it and there are musical guests. I tend to skip the Sunday results show as it's usually reserved for manufactured boy/girl groups, previous winners of such talent shows or mega U.S stars with a product to pedal. I can't abide seeing the judges give standing ovations to mediocrity either but the final week, it was deserved - and I obviously do not mean Westlife. 
I have never considered it a very cool thing to appear on X Factor but I will assume that's because of my chosen profession. I have found fun in ranting week in, week out but didn't actually care who won. Then the unthinkable happened. My boys agreed to perform on the final show. I was torn. Surely this was not a credible decision? I have to say I will always defend and support the band to the death (dramatic eh?) but what I witnessed on Sunday made me realise, it doesn't matter what I, you, he, she think... it was for those few minutes finally just about the music. It was an incredible performance and I was actually proud they decided to do what they wanted rather than what they knew other people wanted or expected. To be honest, I can't put it better than the band's Roadie #42 did.

So as I sit here wheezing and sneezing watch this clip and see the shock in the eyes. I leave you with this.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Au revoir France, Jambo Kenya

I'm sat in my warm cosy flat feeling absolutely wiped out. As is always the way when you return home, the previous trip always seems so distant. Time flies when you're home but sometimes not so when you're away and want it to!
Let's start with the nearest to a holiday I've had in 15 months. A 3 day trip to France. Big Kudos to Darren for cajoling me back in June into attending Michael & Amy's wedding. I thought it would be mental to go with the arrival back in the UK a mere 24 hours before leaving for the Mount Kenya climb. As it goes, it was the best decision for so many reasons.

It took 10 hours to get to the gite in Provence which was a mere hop and a skip away from the impressive fairytale setting of the Chateau de Robernier. It's a long story why we didn't have a key upon arrival so Rhian & I sat with our supermarche supplies making impromptu sandwiches by tearing bits of baguette and stuffing them with sliced cheese and ham. We had chosen the one bottle of wine with a cork so could only covet the rose until we had access to a corkscrew. As it goes, I had chosen unwisely anyway.
When everyone else arrived we got started the only we knew how. Pain, vin, du boursin (well, fromage of every other kind).

I was sharing a room with Darren, Helen & Mark. Darren & I took the bunks and we had a curtain separating the other sleeping quarters. Thanks heavens for ear plugs and eye masks to block out the snoring, coughing, swearing and light.

The wine was going down far too easily so after copious amounts I went to bed early as I was up to train. I heard the hardcore drinkers go to bed at 5 so knew that I could be out and back before Dan rose for his birthday breakfast. 

The weather was beautiful as I set off walking through the vineyards. I picked up pace in the heat and disappeared beyond the chateau deep into the heart of the landscape. It was beautiful but strangely eerie with my iPod blasting out the surrounding sounds of France. I took photographs with my mind to keep and made my way back an hour later patting myself on the back.
Dan still wasn't up so I hadn't missed anything. After a shower and a quick breakfast we wished the birthday boy well before we went back to the supermarche for more of everything.

We didn't need to get ready until 4pm which meant extra caution on not getting too drunk. We lined our tums and proceeded to scrub up. Pretty well by all accounts, everyone looked so lovely. We made our way to the chateau to be greeted with the first of many champagnes. Lots of familiar faces all dressed up and wearing shades as the weather continued to be kind.  The groom was relaxed moments before showtime.

As we took our places with cones of petals in one hand (hand-picked from Amy's Mum's garden) and bubbles in the other, we all faced forward with the most incredible view. The strains of Feeling Good
began and the door behind us opened to reveal another; the future Mrs. Morris.

We did a sterling job of singing God Only Knows (lyrics cunningly concealed under our seats) before the canapes began. A brilliant - if a little hazy - night ensued. The only grumble was being sat on the Cheese table rather than the Family Guy one. Ah no, there was another. I was dancing to Crazy in Love when a female leg adorned with a metal spiked Christian Louboutin wrapped itself around me digging into my leg. Ouch!
Very late to bed and a slight hangover for Pool Party day. The sun had been replaced with heavy cloud and my tropical look lasted all of 20 minutes before returning to the gite to ditch the swimsuit for full wool dress, tights and cardigan.
Other than accidentally locking myself in the bathroom for half an hour it was a great day. Rhian, Nick and I made our way back at a reasonable hour admiring the stars that appeared. Kenya was looming and I needed a good night's sleep.

Monday was an early start with cleaning and packing to be done before the hour or so drive to the airport.
I was being collected by Anthony at 10.15 in his flash BMW hire car. As he checked a text from me en route, he hit a ditch and got a flat. No spare. No repair kit. No time to wait for roadside assistance.
I felt sick. Anthony was flying to Japan the next day and I was of course off to Africa. We needed this like a hole in the head.  We had to ditch the car (no pun intended) and get a 150 Euro cab to the airport. Thankfully Avis reimbursed that cost. Turns out Avis' policy is not to provide drivers with any of the aforementioned emergency kit as they tended to get stolen. It was a scary end to an idyllic trip but a possible prelude of things to come. Perhaps someone was trying to prevent me from going to Kenya after all...

Tuesday was a day of repacking, collecting currency, a final walk and ticking off the kit list. The rush hour cab arrived and we hit inevitable traffic and a mammoth tail back. Luckily we had a driver who lived near Heathrow and he proceeded to take every back route and break every road offence to get us there in record time.

It'd be pretty pointless to go through every single mundane clue to impending doom but trust me, there were hints everywhere alluding to my demise.
The flight wasn't so bad and I was pretty excited about the night having finally arrived. I managed a sporadic snooze, little did I know it was to be the longest sleep for the next 10 nights.

We had a lovely lunch at the foot of the National Park after a long bus ride from the airport. The peak of the mountain was concealed by cloud so we still didn't quite know what was awaiting. The first night was supposed to be a camp night but for one reason or another (lions or weather?) we spent it in a resort. It was basic but great food and meant a proper bed and unexpected shower before we started the real journey.

Our first wake up call was 6 a.m (as was every single morning bar summit day) and after a hearty breakfast we separated our kit into 3 piles. Daypack, bag for mountain, bag to stay down mountain for the last night and journey home. We split into small Rascal type vehicles to be transported about an hour to our first starting point at Sirimon Gate (2,800m). We see our first glimpse of the mountain. It's quite daunting yet seems so far away.

It was a warm morning and I knew I would struggle as I always do on Day 1 of any walk. My body needs to get into its rhythm and used to the inclines. Sadly as it was day 1 I was eager to chat and get to know people and that cost me dearly. I was walking faster than my comfortable walking pace. I commented to Tim "Gosh it's hot isn't it?" He replied that no, he was fine and that's when I noticed my heart rate had gone sky high and my shallow breathing was fast running out. I slowed down until I was at the very back with everyone disappearing over the horizon. I don't like (can't) a walk uphill and my body hates it even more but it was nothing I wasn't used to. Slow & steady was my way forward now. It's no fun walking alone and at the back but I'd always known that would be the case so I just took in the scenery (missed a monkey) as best I could whilst concentrating on my breathing. A couple of hours later I felt a familiar - albeit from 7 years ago - pain in my left hip. Uh oh. I tried to ignore it and other than massaging it with Tiger Balm I didn't really attend to it all week. Mistake in the making.
We made it to our first camp (3,330m), watched our first sunset played our first of many "I'm in Business" games and even had a cheeky beer gazing at a beautiful starry sky. 

Things learned on first day/night: I will be last to the summit. There are lots of big personalities - mine will have to hang back. My sleeping bag is shit.

6 a.m start and a great walk up. Again, it was no surprise as I know that day 2 usually goes with me feeling on top form and getting into my stride. It's not feeling like Africa if I'm honest but it's stunning. It was a lovely camp (3,700m) but such a very cold night with rain. 

The next day was very split for me, the first half was sunny and a great ascent, I loved it.  The moment we got to the top to descend into a valley, the mist came in and brought rain. I felt my knee ping on the way down and needed medical attention. The rest of the walk was wet. Cold & wet. Marsh, bog, sleet, hail, rain, snow... I hated it. A turn occurred. I don't just mean the weather.

It became usual for me to listen to the people in front or behind and I learned a lot about folk this way but couldn't really join in as I was struggling. I think people would be surprised how much I know about them. 
It was a brutal day but weirdly after an hour or so at camp (4,200m), the sun came out. It wasn't quite enough to dry everything out but was welcome nonetheless.

Our camp was pitched on very wet land so it was quite uncomfortable. We were going to be here for 2 days to acclimatise. I wanted to get up the mountain as soon as possible, get down as soon as possible and get on the first available flight home. Palpitations, headaches, dizziness and irregular heartbeat had materialised as high altitude side effects. I hit my wall when I awoke shivering with numbness in my left foot and a few fingers (I was wearing several layers including socks, hat and gloves) needing the loo. I waged that if it was around the 4 a.m mark I'd ride the pain. As it goes it was 23.45 and that created a panic. I struggled to manoeuvre in my sleeping bag and as I tried to get out, another panic. The zip on the tent was frozen. I couldn't get out. I panicked - again. I tried to regulate my breathing and began a mantra that everything was ok. It seemed to work and after a loo stop, I felt better if not frozen.
The next day I was so emotional. I fought back tears but couldn't. I missed everything and everyone. I wasn't scared of the mountain but I didn't like the unknown. It loomed over us for its second day and beckoned us with menace. I spoke to it a lot over those hours. I told it in no uncertain terms that I was coming for it. It wouldn't beat me though it may try to kill me.
Kerry & I decided perhaps unwisely that the song to lift us out of the slump (that seemed to have taken hold of a few campers) was Fix You. It brought tears but somehow the lyrics resonated with us. 
Under orders from Raj - our resident chief - I remained at camp rather than take a walk around the surrounding area. A few others stayed behind too. We sat in the early morning sun and played games with John. It was distracting and for those moments I was having fun. 

The 12 o clock news was coming though (the rain that made its way in around midday). This gave time to have some me time playing scrabble on my Nintendo and snoozing for an hour in the tent. Anxiety was building but at a very manageable pace. In fact, I was more than happy at the prospect to be getting up at 1.30 a.m as it would mean less time in the sleeping bag and less time to not need a wee.
I went to bed at 10 with 7 layers on and was more than ready for the challenge when we got our wake up call.
It was -6 degrees and dark when we tackled breakfast. We stood in single file at 3 a.m and began to walk with our headlamps. I had a delightful natter with Freddie for the first part though the air was thin so it was difficult to sustain. 

A lot of that walk was on auto-pilot. I remember all of it but it didn't seem quite as long as it was. Watching the moon rise quickly followed by the sun was an astounding sight.

By this point there were 3 of us at the very back. Brigitte, Rox and myself accompanied by Rolfe were taking our time and really not concerned at all with deadlines or time restraints. We helped each other and still found time to take photos and sing appropriate songs pertaining to walking, mountains, sunshine... you name it, we probably sang it!

We reached the actual Lenana summit (4,895m) at 8 a.m. I was proud & tired as I drank in the view but I was surprised at my lack of emotion. It was incredible to see where we had worked our way from and to see where we were about to head for. 

We ran down some of the mountain (like running on chocolate brownie mix I imagine) and headed for our next camp via a last minute short cut. It was beautiful but exhausting and hard on so little fuel. Bad news had reached us as we headed along teetering ravines above steep falls; the porters hadn't reached camp (4,270m) and were still behind us which meant no tents or food awaited us.
We ate "lunch" at around 6 which was a staggering 16 hours between meals. My snacks didn't really suffice. Maybe it's my age but running on empty for so many hours was messing with my body & mind. 

I would never have predicted that the next day was the worst. We again rose at 6. I had breakfast at 7.15. The plan was to have a show (Great Gig in the Sky) at 8 and be on our way by 9. It was such a great setting with amazing performances and really good fun. 

Me and my precision timing started to twitch when we left at 11 and my snack supply was already being tucked into. Another warm day was quickly on the turn by this point and the first hour was up, up and more up. Something seemed to happen at this point. My legs gave up. I was dragging myself along on my poles. Kerry got sick. We were a slow group. Every estimated time of arrival seemed to grow further away. My snacks ran out. My willpower ran out. Oh to see an animal of note. I felt sure that would lift my spirits. I needed a lift. I needed a helicopter.
Just when I though the end was in reach I slipped on the red mud along a ditch and landed hard on my trekking poles. I couldn't get back up and I burst into tears. I needed Raj to head back to get me up. I threw my poles and had a huge diva strop. The dodgy hip had been menacing all day not to mention both knee joints causing me pain. My legs were shaking and I had no energy. It had now been 9 hours without a meal. I didn't think I had anything left to give. I could feel the lump under my trousers and knowing my bruise history, already hated the huge ugly thing that was forming on my skin.
Having Seraphin hold my hand after my fall attempting to hold me up was actually comedic. If he went, I went and vice-versa. I tried not to let go as he slipped more times than I did! 

Although I'd had a dream the previous night that we spent our final night in a wooden hut, I couldn't help feel there was truth in it. One member of the group made a point of checking if there was. I was left guilty for suggesting such a rumour. I was more than happy to be proved right by whatever shamen means when we turned up at Bandas (2,950m) to find little huts with beds for the night. We had our "lunch" - it must have been 7 o clock - followed by chicken & chips for dinner a few hours later. An end of tour quiz rounded off the evening and given our team of 3 didn't come last to other groups of 6, we didn't do too badly. I am cross I took my eye off trusted John as he wrote "Baby, baby" rather than "Hit me baby one more time". Maybe it was cool to get that wrong though and did me good.
Our last morning was another 6 a.m start. Looking back across at the other side of the mountain in the morning sun seemed strange. Had we really climbed that?

There was an emotional ceremony of thanks, tip giving and goodbyes. We'd had an amazing crew of some amazing guys. 
All that remained was a 2+ hour landrover ride that apparently would be bumpy. 

It was white knuckle for the most part and not without its drama. I secretly enjoyed it.

We arrived to the meeting point where we were to all get on one bus to our hotel for the final night. I called my Mum and tried not to cry. The bus journey was long, hot, frayed and quite frankly petrifying. I did not raise £9,259 and go all that way to conquer a mountain only to die at the hands of a driver falling asleep whilst overtaking on blind spots. I realise that's how they drive there but I did not welcome the custom with open arms or closed eyes.

By the time we reached our plush hotel we didn't have time to swim in the pool given a drink at the bar was certainly the priority. I opted for a Kir Royale by way of celebration. Sadly not of the feat achieved but of the impending departure that could not come soon enough for me.

A quick shower and spruce and we made our way out once again. 

Carnivores was much the same as any churrascaria with the addition of a few curious meats - testicles and croc for example that I skipped. No jokes about me turning down balls eh?

Meat, booze, dancing, shots, more booze and bed at 3.30. I had no idea what time the wake up call or etd was until the telephone crudely rang at 6.30. Many of the group had a mere hour in bed and were still drunk but we all made it to the airport even if some of their belongings didn't.

I almost cried (again) when we touched down in London and as much as I did an amazing thing, I had more going on personally than I shared with anyone. It had meant more to me that I could explain and I'd still rather not. Suffice it to say, I put a lot of pressure on myself & the trip and it didn't deliver & neither did I but hey, I climbed a bloody mountain. If anything I am more proud of the people that showed such generosity and donated to the cause. The grand total was £10,391 before take off. I can't express enough gratitude for that and money is still coming in! Thank you to everyone. Hopefully in the coming days, weeks, months or years the trip will take on a new memory but just yet it's too soon, too raw and far too painful to recall. I love looking at the photos everyone took as if looking at some movie that I wasn't in. I'm glad everyone loved it at least.

I can't explain how happy I am to be home and for the sunshine to be here on my return. I feel I could sleep for a week and never complain about the cold again. I have a feeling that in a few weeks some will be reminding me of that last statement given I do feel the cold.

It's my birthday on Saturday and here's hoping 42 really is the meaning of life.

Ad watch (with Kenyan twist):


Monday, 12 September 2011

Another One Bites the Dust

Ah August you lovely little month you. How I miss ye. September... would you mind leaving please? Or at least starting again. Or how about we just forget the first couple of weeks and make it all about 13th- 30th?
Back to the seductive charms of August. A gentle start with Pilates classes, an acoustic Rae Morris gig, a model scouting job and a couple of gym sessions all in the first week set the month up nicely.
Caroline & I took a train to see our chum Emma in Canterbury. We had a short & sweet stint shopping, lunching, drinking and chatting. It was lovely and long overdue.

That evening, London suffered the first night of its riots that quite frankly I won't waste breath on.
Sunday's weather may have been dark and damp but sat undercover watching As You Like It was a delight. I am so lucky to be included in on so many of Tracy's 40 for 40 fun plans and this was another. I have always wanted to see Shakespeare at the Globe so I am ticking off my own list simultaneously!

I had evening plans but we decided to have a drink. One drink turned into two as we decided to pass time until my Trekstock charity auction ended. I didn't want to be sat on a tube when the bidding ended. We made our way across Millennium Bridge and counted down from ten. An incredible £780 was bid!

The following day my best friend from primary school who is also like a sister to me arrived to stay. We went out and she met my other separated at birth friend and it was great to have them both meet and get on like I knew they would. The riots did their best to spoil the week but we tried to work around them. We had to cancel stuff but it didn't matter. I wish she lived nearer as I always feel sad when we part.

After a trek Q&A evening, Kerry & I went off to Dorset for some hardcore training. It was much needed and we really put the hours in. The first walk was tough and I was worried about how unfit I felt. The second walk felt much easier. It made me cross I hadn't trained harder and for longer over the past months. Sadly I am sat here now with a week to go and feel exactly the same! Eek, how did it get here so fast?

The winner of the auction lives in Istanbul and so we're meeting later in the year which left me with a voucher to redeem. I took Neva as it was her birthday and the restaurant didn't seem too interested in my companion so I didn't mention the change in plan. It wasn't like the press were there or anything!

My dear friend Bebs came to stay and that pretty much always goes the same way. Non-stop talking and a few drinks whilst putting the world to rights and not a single taboo subject left uncovered.
Poor Bebs though, we arrived at Euston and the entire departure board read CANCELLED. She had to go home from St. Pancras via Leeds but as I had a pressing engagement, I left her.

I made my way back to Highgate to meet 2 members of The Slow Readers Club who it turns out had been bidding for dinner with me all week and had been pipped to the post at the last minute. They offered a whopping £500 to meet with me. I know this all sounds a bit weird and I wouldn't want anyone to think I've been pimping myself out but... they wanted me to listen to their new self-financed album and offer advice. We spent 5 hours in the pub so it worked out at £100 per hour. They got a good deal I think. Ha, ha! The fact they donated so generously and even gave me a lift home before making the long journey back up the M1 to Manchester didn't have any bearing on my view. They're a great band. Phew. How bad would that have been if I'd have hated their music and felt compelled to slag it off?

Mondays I try to stay in and this week it was much needed with another busy week planned.
A lovely soiree to celebrate a good friend's birthday on Tuesday. First to arrive last to leave. Oops.
A BAFTA preview screening of An Idiot Abroad followed by a Q&A with Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant  & Karl Pilkington.

At the middle of the week my liver started to scream at me. On my drunken way home after BAFTA and booze, proclaiming to the social networks that my life was great and I was so lucky, so happy etc. etc. I dropped my iPhone and the screen shattered. The August tide turned.
I awoke feeling rough and the torrential rain did little to lift my mood. I made my way to meet a friend but for one reason or another arrived late. I hate tardiness.
After a healthy lunch to help my battered body recover, I headed to a meeting. I waited around for an hour for the woman to arrive and wasn't best pleased when she didn't. I complained quietly until I realized I was a spectacular 24 hours late. I really hate tardiness.

Caught up with Jane on her visit down and once again the stupid unpredictable weather interfered somewhat. I got to take this photo though so it was worth it.

Bank Holiday Monday the funk kicked in. I have no idea why or where it came from but it took a hold of me and refused to budge.

Another busy week was filled with great stuff but all of it tinged with doom and hinged on gloom. 
I walked to Vicki's before a dinner with my adopted nephews. It took me an hour fast pace walking to get there but an incredulous two to get the bus home. "The bus" was actually 2 but it's a long story but not one for a blog. I got in at 1 a.m in the foulest mood due to bus drivers from hell.
Still with a cloud hanging over me, September arrived. It followed me despite the pleasure of seeing Lucy for the first time in 14 months, meeting Patti Rose - the new addition to the Hamer-Stubbs family (and borrowed kit from Rich - star), dinner with my publisher (*meeting went well but an important part of my writing was met with negative comments which threw my mood a shade darker) and adding (or rather, subtracting from) to my ever decreasing fund pot by buying stuff of the trek kit list.
I spent the weekend in a drunken stupor - I might be the reason that word sounds similar to stupid - and hazily made my way through Mark's 30th (fun) and Inbetweeners movie (funny). After two sober sobering days I went spectacularly up and down like a rollercoaster. I shall refer to the incident only as McGate as I wouldn't want to ruin the memory of John Grant - possibly the greatest gig of all time.

My cultural experiences last weekend were intrinsically linked without me realizing - until now in fact. Once more Tracy's list offered me a new experience. We went to Burlesque at Proud Cabaret that was more strip than tease.
The following day I made good use of my National Arts Pass to gain free entry to the Courtauld Gallery to see Toulouse-Lautrec & Jane Avril Beyond the Moulin Rouge exhibition. Saucy lady. 
What a treat to find other permanent collections there by Gauguin, Picasso, Manet, Degas and countless other greats...

On Friday I am going to France to see my lovely Michael & Amy get married (well, technically they wed last Friday). The weather is currently 31 degrees so hopefully it will be a lovely sunny trip. I get back Monday evening and then (drum roll) Tuesday leave for Kenya.
I packed my bag on Saturday to weigh it and make sure everything fits. It was very underweight and does indeed fit. It's all very real now. As David Walliams completed his Thames swim tonight I couldn't help feel an extra surge of motivation. I'm as ready as I'll ever be (not enough) and raring to go. 
I upped the target a few weeks ago and the total now raised is an amazing £10,131! I am proud to say that my sponsors' donations total £8,969 and for that all I can say is a HUGE thank you to all those amazing people who gave to this great cause. I will think of you all at any point I feel like giving up.
I can tell you now I will cry, I will struggle but I will endeavour to have the most amazing experience to share on my next blog. See you on the other side.

All that remains is ad watch but first, my boys released Paradise today. I loves it I do. Check it out.

I only want to mention one advert with one word: catonkey!

Now, the problem I have with a particular Guzzle Puzzle advert is one of the essentially rude looking sweets has non-consensual sex with another. That said, we're supposed to take sweets up the mountain for little bursts of energy. Judging by the way it leaps into the other, maybe they're the perfect fix for me. Yum! Let's face it, it's going to be the only action at 17,000 feet!

Sunday, 31 July 2011

You're so vain...

... you probably think this blog is about you. Well it isn't, it's about me, myself and I.
I don't think I have ever done so much in such a small space of time. I don't want to bore anyone with my tales but some of the highlights are worth sharing and may I start by saying I am SO lucky.

In chronological order, my own vanity begins.

Had my first visit to the wonderful BAFTA to see what was billed as a "Masterclass: Writing for comedy with Miranda Hart". It was more an interview to be honest but all my questions were answered and I got the motivation I was looking for.

I went to Venice on a day trip to see Coldplay perform at the Heineken Jammin Festival and as I was sat on the "wrong" side of the plane, my view as we came into land wasn't the picturesque Venice that I have been lucky enough to visit twice before but a more industrial scene. Turns out me & Jonny got a good view of the festival site and my photo of it wound up on the live blog for their official website. 

It was great seeing everyone again, some of whom I hadn't seen since the Latin American tour. I watched the show from the sound desk with a glass of Italian red and sang my head off. 

I made myself useful too by collecting the hard-drive for Roadie #42 at the end of the set. It was an amazing night and the weather stayed fair for us despite the previous downpours threatening a wet one. On the way home we supped Champagne to celebrate Vicki's birthday and crawled to bed in the small hours.

I did acapella Karaoke with Est & Nic at Vicki's party the night after, once everyone had left. Sang Dolly Parton's 9-5 at the top of our lungs. Got to bed at 3 again. I don't know how I made it through the next day or the following night at another birthday that saw me get to bed at a rather disgraceful 8 in the morning. 

A ditched "Dance like Britney" class means the only training for trek / exercise has been a few trips to a local circuit training centre for ladies who were impressed with hula hooping skills - and one walk around Hampstead Heath with fellow trekkers. Got a walking trip to Dorset coming up. I'm not walking there, but walking when I get there.

I met with my publisher for dinner and that turned into drinks and laughs after going through new ideas that I promised to have sample excerpts of in his inbox before noon the day after.(Celeb spot - the very cool Rich Hall.

I managed to get the work done before hopping on a train to Bristol to see the Halo reunion gig at The Fleece. It was so bizarre being there for the first time in probably ten years. It was so great to hang out with the boys and I managed another 3 a.m night. 

You know when you regret not whipping out the camera for a YouTube moment, well I had one of mammoth proportions. While we waiting to go to an after hours club night, I saw two drunken male friends (of each other, not of mine) who could barely stand. One dropped his trousers and bent over slapping his own arse, not a pretty sight I can tell you, while his friend filmed it on his phone. Two police officers walked by and turned a blind eye. The bare cheeked one waddled after them with his trousers round his ankles before giving up as they walked on oblivious.
I went on a date. Yes, a real one. It was quite good but first impressions aren't always that spot on. He turned out to be a complete **** so won't be seeing him again.

I went to one of my cultural foreign film visits & saw 17 Girls, a film based on real life goings on in Massachusetts where girls made a pact to become pregnant at the same time when one fell pregnant. I didn't enjoy the film or the subject matter but a documentary about the real girls would be of interest. That probably won't happen given their identities are protected because of their young ages. Crikey, I cannot imagine that happening at my school even though two of my friends did have their first child during what would have been term time had they stayed. If there'd been a meeting suggesting any such thing, I'd have been as immovable as I would be now.

Blog interlude: Blackadder.
If we had to compare subsequent careers of Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, who would we say has had the better path? If I just take one thing for each:
Rowan - Mr. Bean
Tony - Time Team
Hugh - House
Stephen - QI
I'm loving Stephen the best I reckon.

Back to blog:
I decided to skip Glastonbury for reasons I'll keep to myself and as soon as Coldplay took to the stage I immediately regretted the decision and made a promise to myself to never let the reason be the reason again. I sat and drank cider whilst watching and had lots of texts from people as well as my mate Stephen to keep me company. In fact, Stephen decided that the following day we should do something to almost make up for it. We wandered to the Secret Garden (shhhh) and then on to 100 Club for an intimate Alice Cooper show. Special guest was 
Jonny Depp on guitar which caused quite a stir. The aftershow was quite possibly the most sophisticated, decadent aftershow I have ever been to. The food and drink at the W hotel was sublime. A great night out and had a natter with Alice at the end of the night who proved to be an interesting witty fella.

I had a little jaunt to Dublin to see Gina, my oldest friend (as in known the longest, not in age). It's never long enough. I always feel emotional when I leave her. Soft git that I am but she's like a sister to me. I have 2 friends that I wouldn't be surprised if I was to learn we're related and Gina is one of them. Given my known feelings on not wanting my own children, it's always a pleasure to spend time with hers. 

There was a Take That at Wembley show but my experience was that disastrous I'd really rather never mention it again as long as I live! The highlight was having my sis-in-law and her sis staying with me. Thankfully they had a great time.

Once more a friend rescued me the following day to make up for it. I went to fulfil an ambition of 25 years; I saw Grace Jones live. It was so incredible even though I had been abusing the free bar all afternoon but wow, what a lady. Kudos to Sam whom I watched with - a new friend was made. Pulp headlined and all in all a great day was had with a visit to the Met bar to round of the evening. 

T in the Park was something I had been looking forward to. The first night in Glasgow was great, tipsy and let loose in a casino. Watching of course, not gambling. It marked the first night out in what was to become almost 15 on the trot. I have to say that from the second I turned up at T's box office and they gave me the wrong pass, I should have known then how the weekend would go. Beyonce was great fun but the promoters, the jobsworths and the security destroyed my Coldplay experience. So much for skipping Glasto for THAT! Sunday's weather did little to pick me up although seeing Hurts live made me extremely happy. 

The following nights were out meeting friends, drinks, cinema visits (including Bridesmaids and Harry Potter 7 pt ii), parties, comedy, curry and a free treat to We Will Rock You which was fantastic! The last night out for a while culminated in the show that was to make up for Glasto & T; Coldplay at The Roundhouse as part of the iTunes festival. An incredible performance in what seems such an intimate venue these days. Got to hang out with lots of wonderful friends too that night and I really did feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

Saturday was a casual day meeting my much missed friend Jake for a late lunch in Camden. Round about the time we left the restaurant, unbeknownst to us at that time, an emergency call was being made from Amy Winehouse's home also in Camden. 
I was on the phone with Vicki when the text came through. I felt sick and prayed it was a hoax. Still on the phone I googled and it confirmed what I suppose I had dreaded years ago. I posted a video online 5 weeks ago criticising the fact she'd been allowed anywhere near a stage. News of her death had a profound effect on me. It took me by surprise. The sadness was overwhelming and although I didn't know her, I knew people that did. I have been a fan for 8 years and bought both albums and was lucky enough to see her live twice. The damning negative toxic spew that has been said since her death makes me very angry as we don't have a clue what's been going on in more recent times. I had hoped people would have more compassion. It's not because she was famous that I care, it is because she was young, talented and very ill. I have heard many people claim that drugs killed her. I say that ultimately her addictions probably did. I think we should all look out for the people we know who suffer at the hands of any addictions or mental health issues. If anyone thinks that drugs are glamourised in the music industry, go and watch YouTube clips of Amy surrounded by anything but glamour...

Thankfully I had a great fun day out yesterday that will lift the sombre mood. My friend Tracy is completing a list of 40 things to do in a year of turning 40. Yesterday she, I & Jude went to Hampton Court's maze and Thorpe Park to tick off, er, 'do the maze at Hampton Court' and 'ride a giant rollercoaster'. I agreed to go cos I fancied the maze bit (bit disappointing to be honest). We all started at the same point and agreed to meet in the centre. It wasn't that big so didn't take long but it wasn't as easy as I had hoped so I got there last!

I was happy to accompany Tracy to the theme park but didn't agree to riding the ride. Stupidly a few nights before I texted to say that I was coming round to the idea that I may actually go on one. BIG mistake. I was held to it and yesterday after bailing out of one queue as the fear had turned to palpable levels, I found myself in the queue for Nemesis Inferno!

I loved it! We then went on a rollercoaster in the dark that went backwards and Tidal Wave - it's not called that for nothing. There wasn't a millimeter of me that wasn't drenched. Super fun! Thank goodness we had the most amazing weather.

There was a sign as we queued that said "You will get very wet on this ride". It wasn't lying. We finished off with a ride called Zodiac that was like what I expect getting into a tumble dryer is like. Handy given how wet were were but by 'eck it was fast and pretty dizzy inducing. It was a brilliant day out but if you fancy it, do take advantage of 2 for 1 tickets as it's £40 each and we only got there at 3.30!

I was going to moan about Matthew Wright's obscene treatment of a 33 year old cancer sufferer on his show but you know what? He's not worth it.

Now for some big news and I may need you to help me out on this one. As you know, I am trekking up Mount Kenya and have been raising money for Trekstock. The amount is still growing but I am looking to raise more. I have decided to do something daft. If you could follow this link to eBay and watch the video, I would appreciate either bids or a tweet / email of the link to as many people as you can send it to.
I won't spoil the surprise so you can benefit from laughing AT me but any help at all in getting this viral asap would be amazing!

Finally to ad watch:
Lots of people love the Birds Eye polar bear but did you know that it was this amazing actor?

A favourite amongst many is the Old Spice, definitely cooler than I remember but has the smell changed? If not, I doubt even the dude on the horse can save it.

I wanted to mention a few ads that 'borrow' familiar tunes to advertise with soundalike tunes. Currently doing the rounds are a Coldplay, an Elbow and a Rihanna. They seem to be mostly insurance companies so good enough reason not to link to them. They're not subtle enough to not notice but I guess I am nepotistic when it comes to Coldplay. 

But then, I did say something about vanity at the start of this blog. 
If the cap fits...

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Miss May

I took off my clothes and lay waiting for him. His hands were warm. He asked if it was hard enough, I replied I'd like it harder. He said that he usually used his elbows... whoa! You haven't stumbled upon some kind of soft porn fiction or any intimate diary by mistake. This was my first encounter of a male masseur. I wasn't even asked if it was ok. It was more than ok though, he was great. Hailing from Tibet he slipped me his card (what did you think I was going to say?) as I left so I could book him privately. Oh come on, stop with the filth you lot!

The word massage comes from the French word meaning "friction of kneading" which is something I did earlier. With dough. I tried to make fresh ravioli but had a couple of disasters. I don't know why I changed my mind at the last moment but I did. I went for a different recipe and a different technique. It was a total flop. My food processor is knackered courtesy of James Redmond and Paul Foot breaking it on Celebrity Come Dine With Me. I then decided to use my blender (totally different and stupid idea). I ditched that for a good old fashioned bowl although I wish I'd done the entire thing on the worktop. Hey ho, it didn't quite look right so I made just one little parcel filled with ricotta and spinach. It wasn't as bad as it looked but I think I need to try again another day.

How did I miss blogging for the whole month of May? I have no idea but I must have been busy. There was Easter weekend which didn't quite go as planned due to something someone out of my control. Miss May was referring to that by the way, not one Imogen Thomas. May I comment? (Excuse that bad pun, I assure you it was accidental). I think I am allowed to. What did she expect getting involved with a married man? I'm afraid I have no sympathy as that's saved for his family. Actually 'him' who can be named (I hope) is Ryan Giggs and today more allegations came out. I know that people cheat and it's a common fact of life but if someone pressed pause on your life just before the lustful deed and fast forwarded to the end, consequences and all I wonder how many people just wouldn't bother? 

May has gone, it's June so half way through the year feels as good a time as any to see how my New Year list is going.
Stop smoking. Still not had one. Not missing it all but... Since giving up smoking I seem to have piled on the pounds and because I like a tipple, it's just not shifting.
Keep a food diary. Oops, every so often I do but not enough.
Drink between 1-2 litres of water /day and keep skin hydrated. Nope. I am rubbish at this. I have no excuses. None.
Reduce alcohol intake. I do actively have days where I will make sure I don't drink any booze but there have been so many social gatherings it's been hard.
Up the fruit & veg intake. Not much. 
Take a digestive enzyme. I ran out of them. I can't afford luxuries!
Meditate once/twice a week. Erm, next!
Attempt to improve sleep and change patterns. Ah well apart from crazy 3/4 a.m nights the sleep has improved. Patterns not so much. I'm finding it hard to adjust to being awoken at 4.30 every morning (birds are noisy little blighters). 
Get out in the fresh air every day. Almost every day I do go out and have been walking a LOT. Mind you I do have a balcony so technically it's not hard for me to get out in the fresh air at any given moment.
Be more exposed to daylight - stop being a vampire! I have no choice to be frank. I do wear my eye mask in the early hours but this flat is very light & bright.
Exfoliate once a week. This isn't going well is it? Every other week? Maybe.
Improve posture. Oh dear. I try when I remember. I forget a lot.
Massage/treatment every 6 weeks. Oooh now I have probably done better on averages here. I have had 3 in 6 weeks. Phew, at least something is going well.
Hair cut every 3 months. Ha ha ha! I had my haircut on Thursday. That was first time since 11th February.
Budget wisely and make sure that I am debt free by December 31st 2011. I am budgeting but again, not by choice. I am broke. There's never anything left at the end of the month and it's the first time in about 9 years I have been in this situation. I HATE it. So what am I doing about it? I'll tell you next time!

Maybe I should print the list and stick it up somewhere I can see it?!? 

I pushed my nerves to try something very new. I attended a voice over workshop and have to say that I didn't mind the playback half as much as the recording. I've been in vocal booths before but there's something about performing that does make me very nervous. There were only 3 people listening to me but it made me self-conscious. It was a great adrenalin kick and apparently I wasn't bad.

I'm finding training difficult in terms of trying to get fit. I am still very much struggling with uphill walking/running too. Jogging feels so unnatural to me but I'm trying to raise my stamina and levels of fitness. I'm not dreading the trek just yet though as I still have over 3 months training to go. Oooh speaking of:

As usual I have spent quality time with many good friends having a ball but I have to say that one particular highlight was going to see my boys perform at the Forum for family & friends. I haven't seen Coldplay in that venue since 1999 and to see them back there again with 4 albums under their belt about to embark on the festival circuit was a treat. Reports back from the first 2 nights are incredible and I can't wait to see them on a big stage in a field somewhere soon.

There have been birthdays, a marriage, the end of a friendship, new friends made, a visit to see the family, a birth and sadly a death. 

Hopefully the next time I write there'll be no bad news and I'll be a few pounds lighter, but not in my wallet!

Here's the latest instalment of ad watch:
I don't care much for what's going on at 31 Bywell Avenue quite frankly. Why is Danielle covering her bits? More worryingly why is the lady in senior years commenting on her being tidy? I doubt she knows that much about grooming nether regions. Silly.

Which is a word I would also use to describe whoever thought that Suremen is a good brand name for a male deodorant. Condoms maybe given it looks like it's called semen. What? Oh come on, I set the tone right from the start. Blame the hot weather.

Last on the list is a local and I feel I must apologise as I have met him and he's lovely but by 'eck Vernon's Mum is a much better actor than him.  

As summer is almost here maybe next time I will have a perfume ad special featuring hot men I fancy. Perfume ads are just so sexy. Taking off their clothes as they lie waiting... Oh we did that already didn't we?