Saga Sagas

I have a new friend at Caffè Nero. His name is Cecil and he’s 87. My quota of octogenarian acquaintances may soon outgrow my dwindling band of ‘normal’ friends. I’m not sure how worried I should be.

Cecil comes into Nero on a Saturday. Like all the other lonely souls, what he really wants is someone to talk to. He moved to Leeds from the East End in the war and lived in a back-to-back in Harehills. He used to travel to school on the tram for a ha’penny but he was too poor to afford a cap.

I’ve yet to snap a candid picture of Cecil but to put you in the picture, he’s a cross between Patrick Stewart and a kindly wizard.

Cecil is entirely pleasant company. If I’m being honest, I’m beginning to grow a bit weary of my other coffee shop friend Peter and his constant carousel of desperate dates.

Pushing 80 himself, widower Peter is still pursuing the entirely unsuitable 50-something year old business woman, who not only has a partner already but appears to be stringing poor Pete along. I’ve tried to point this out to him but he seems completely blinded by love. Never a fool like an old fool and all that.


I mentioned such concerns to fellow Nero regular Linda the other day (former miserly, seen here uncharacteristically shrouded in fur, who’s actually turned out to be surprisingly friendly).

She nodded along sagely, before stating: ‘Peter is a petulant child. Like all men, he’s completely self-obsessed and selfish.’

I haven’t been able to look at Peter in the same light since. I saw him on Saturday and he regaled me with his usual tales of myriad dinner dates, Italian holidays and trips to the opera, while simultaneously dabbing wet eyes about his deceased wife and lamenting how lonely his life is. I couldn’t help but think, perhaps Peter is a bit selfish?

Peter concluded the conversation by telling me about his weight training and the dumb bells he’s been lifting at home.

‘However, I hear you’re very fit,’ he said. ‘You’ve been spotted at the gym.’

‘By who?’ I said.

‘Colin Firth!’ he said.

(Colin Firth is a harassed-looking dad, who brings his kids into Neros on a Saturday, usually leaving a trail of biscuit crumbs and destruction in his wake. Don’t be fooled by the name either: he’s a less attractive, ginger version of his Hollywood doppelgänger)

I’m assuming Firth meant ‘fit’ as in healthy, not the ‘phwoar’ sense. But still, I find the idea of frazzled-father Firth and petulant Peter having such a conversation about me a little unnerving – not least because all I really do at the gym is flap around on the cross-trainer for half an hour.

Peter also seems to have turned on another Nero oldie: Malcolm (dotty old Majorca fan).

‘Malcolm isn’t happy that I’m been getting on well with Bridget,’ said Peter.

(Bridget being another wholly unsuitable love interest)

‘He keeps coming over and standing right next to us, puffing out his chest like a peacock. I’ve had to tell him to push off.’

photo 2-16

‘Anyway, you’re on half term next week,’ continued Peter. You’ll be able to see all this for yourself!’

Perhaps it’s time to retreat to Starbucks.

New Kid On The Blog No More

Happy 1st Birthday to the blog.

That’s one whole year of whimsical witterings, narcissistic natterings, and very first world woes. Thank you for suffering through it.

Here’s what I’ve learnt about blogging:

1. People read the blog but never, ever comment.

I seriously thought no-one read my blog apart from two friends and my sister. Then, I kept meeting up with random people who would say, ‘I like your blog by the way’. Apparently, some of the husband’s work colleagues read it too (much to his alarm). When you’re writing to a largely silent audience, you would just never know.

So, without wanting to write a gushing Gwynnie-style Oscar speech, thank you to the small band of people who do like, share and comment on a frequent basis. It really is appreciated.

2. Friends live in fear of me blogging about them.

My friend’s husband – a loveable hybrid of a harried Hugh Grant and a bumbling Mr Bean – is a walking calamity, frequently getting himself into sticky situations and social awkwardities. As a result, he lives in a perpetual state of fear that I’m going to blog about him.

He should be worried.

I mean why wouldn’t I want to write about the time he leapt up from the seat in our local bar and got a lampshade stuck on his head?

Or the time he came bounding out of his house – arm outstretched – to meet The Husband for the first time, hollering: ‘Great to meet you Phil, I’ve heard SO much about you,’ (The husband’s name isn’t Phil).

Or just the other Saturday, when I was conversing with him in Caffe Nero, he absent-mindedly STOLE another man’s £10 note off the counter, popped it in his wallet and ambled off with his cappuccino.

3. People actually want to be written about.

Contrary to point 2, people do actually love a name check. My friend Anna (actress/ psychologist/ Jacqueline-of-all-trades) said, ‘If I’m not in the blog by Christmas, something’s gone awry.’

Shortly after, she clambered up on to the bar, started dancing, and then set her hair alight with a nearby candle.

Another zany friend Abi – owner of the boisterous dog, a yacht that she impulsive purchased in St Tropez, and many other loveable qualities (terrible tardiness not being one of them) – also longs for a starring role. Given the amount of material I have on her, I think she should be worried.

Here’s a taster: This Saturday, Abi was hungover, tired, and faced with the prospect of cooking dinner for five people. So she did the only sensible thing: throw money at the problem.

Following a trip to Marks and Spencer’s – in which she somehow managed to part with £106 – she threw all of her vacuum-packed purchases into ceramic pots to give it a homemade feel, and passed it off to her dinner guests as her own three-course culinary concoction.

4. The blog evolves over time.

My Family And Other Oddities (inspired by Gerald Durrell’s famous novel of a similar name) began as a little way of charting my parents’ quirks and foibles, which I found so endearing I believed they deserved a platform of their own.

Over time, this kind of progressed to little stories about other eccentricities, including our nosy neighbours, strangers in the coffee shop, yours truly, and, of course, the long-suffering husband – poking fun at our largely middle class lifestyles.

Last week, I made an impulsive decision to change the name of my blog. I happened to be ordering my usual latte, when One Shot Extra Hot sprang to mind.

On a whim, I emailed the helpful people at WordPress and before I could say one-shot-extra-hot-no-foam-soya latte, they’d transferred the whole site to its frothy new name.

Things seemed to be going well until I was faced by a host of technical issues: lots of images hadn’t made it across in the transfer; my tiny fan base (Hi Ted!) couldn’t get the link to the latest post via their email; and all my old links were broken.

Things might not have been so bad, had I not have met up with friends Anna and Sam that very evening, who took one look at my new blog name and said curiously:

‘One’s Hot, Extra Hot?!’ (note the apostrophe).

Yep, depending on how you viewed my new URL oneshotextrahot, it could be read as either:

a: the way the author orders her coffee.


b: a posh mentalist proclaiming how ‘hot’ she is/ the Queen having a hot flush.

I hastily emailed WordPress back, who managed to switch it all back again (thank god!). My Family And Other Oddities is currently back in business.

I’m still thinking of new names… Cheese At Fourpence (a proper Lancashire saying) is a favourite. It means to be left standing awkwardly, as in ‘I felt like cheese at fourpence’. Lancashire folk actually do say it as well (my mother included). I like it.

5. People don’t like what you write.

Blogging about everyday stuff and escapades of your nearest and dearest invariably leads to upsetting the odd friend or two. I’m still living in fear of our busybody neighbours-at-large SuDick getting wind of my posts.

And who could forget Barry Scott the man who turned his shower power spray on me? ‘I’ve never read such vacuous, self-indulgent nonsense in all my life,’ he wrote.

I thought I was a pithy Carrie Bradshaw but it turns out I’m more of a loathsome Liz Jones.

I had a little read back through my posts. Old Cillit Bang Barry has got a point. The blog is frivolous, vainglorious and any other self-seeking synonym you want to throw my way.

But I hope a healthy dollop of self-irony still makes it through.

To quote another of my mother’s favourite phrases: you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

I suppose if you don’t like what I write, there is a simple solution: just don’t read it.

(But please let me know if you do!)

Party Pooped

I looked up the definition of a party pooper today and it said: ‘One who declines to participate with enthusiasm, especially in the recreational activities of a group’.

I read this and thought, ‘That’s me!’.

These days, I’m more of a two-glasses-of-vino-and-home-at-a-sensible-hour kind of girl. When the clock strikes midnight on a night out, I’m usually thinking, ‘Hmm… Let me see. Now I COULD start downing shots of tequila, dance on the bar and set my hair on fire (hello Anna!) or in half an hour, I could be tucked up in my cosy bed blissfully reading the Guardian magazine.


I wasn’t always a party pooper; I’ve truly partied with the best of them (hello Ibiza 2002 – 2005) but as the dreaded 30s loomed, I began to suffer from The Curse Of The Two-Day Hangover.

I have friends that can happily sink several gallons of wine, stumble in at 4am, and rise at 8 for a brisk morning jog (hello Abi!). If that were me, I’d be bed-ridden for most of the day, feebly sipping water with a shaky hand, while a pneumatic drill buries itself in my skull. And then the day after that, I still feel like I’ve been run over by a steam roller, complete with heart palpitations and basically the feeling of wanting to die. Dramatic? Never.

The last time I got more than a little tipsy (hen party January 2011), I was so ill the next day that I actually uttered the words, ‘Husband, you might need to call an ambulance’. I am so fearful of this happening again, that I’ve begun to eschew alcohol altogether. If someone insists on buying me a shot, I’m forced to throw it over my shoulder or surreptitiously seek out the nearest plant pot.


The best part of being a party pooper is that you can still go out, have a great night, get to bed at a reasonable hour, and then be productive the following day. And if I really want to put the ‘poop’ in pooper, I might even decide to (cue shock from Sambuca-loving pals) DRIVE myself to a party, thus sparing me the hell of the nighttime taxi queue, with the added advantage of being able to depart whenever I desire. It’s great.

But boozy party animals don’t see it like that. Come midnight, you can’t simply stroll up and say, ‘I’ve had a great night but it’s time for me to be going now. So long!’ and contentedly trot off home.

Oh no, drunk people won’t let you just LEAVE. Despite assurances to the contrary, they are convinced that your early departure means you haven’t had a good night. They hug you (repeatedly) and then take you hostage, foisting more drinks on you and hollering, ‘BUT THE NIGHT’S NOT EVEN GOT GOING YET!’

Based on this, I’ve developed a fear of saying goodbye to people. I now have to head in the direction of the toilets – feigning nonchalance – and then just quietly slip off into the night, in order to avoid The Farewell Fuss.

Announcing your goodbyes to a large group of people should especially be avoided at all costs. Once you’ve started the hugging and kissing process, it often takes so long that by the time you’ve hugged the last person, the first drunk person has forgotten about your planned departure, so the whole long-winded process starts again. I’ve known departees at a party take a whole hour just to say goodbye.


Party poopers often seek out other party poopers. Come midnight, I usually start trying to suss out who else’s enthusiasm for the evening is beginning to wane. Classic signs are sneakily ordering a glass of water, taking furtive glances at their watch, and making vague murmurings of ‘having to get up to do some DIY in the morning’.

If I can get another party pooper on my side, it makes my escape plan a lot easier. But the problem with Stealth Party Poopers is that, even though they secretly might be dreaming of their cosy bed, they feel bound to the night through a sense of duty to the host and – naturally – not wanting to be deemed a party pooper. They would rather gamely stick the evening out than risk the pooper label.

It takes a brave party pooper to announce: ‘This has been a fantastic evening but, for me, the night has reached its natural end. Thank you so much everybody – my carriage awaits… Bon soir!’

But I’m not that brave.

I’d much rather just climb out of the toilet window and make a run for it.