The Old Faithful

There comes a time in your 30s when the sad realisation of, ‘I’m just not that cool anymore’ suddenly dawns on you.

That moment came for me a couple of years ago, when I was teaching an English lesson and one of my pupils mentioned they liked Nicki Minaj.

‘I’m sorry, I’ve never heard of him,’ I said, to a chorus of incredulous laughter (yeah, yeah, I know, Nicki Minaj is a woman).

Last night was another of those moments; I’d bought the husband tickets to go and see Paloma Faith at Leeds Arena for his birthday. Due to the fact I eschewed Radio 1 for Radio 4 some years ago, I’m unashamedly out of touch with popular culture.

Still, the husband once mentioned he liked Paloma Faith. And given that he’s the most difficult person ever to buy birthday presents for, I immediately pounced on this small nugget of information.

Tickets procured, I casually mentioned to the husband one evening, ‘You really like Paloma Faith, don’t you?’

‘Not particularly,’ he yawned, looking up from his copy of New Scientist.


Anyway, off we trundled to Leeds Arena last night… basically thinking, ‘We’re off to see Paloma Faith… Aren’t we cool? How down with the kids are we? (Tip from a teacher: if you actually want to be down with the kids, never, ever utter the words, ‘Aren’t I down with the kids?’)

Now, I envisaged arriving at the gig and being greeted by a sea of young hipsters. I’d even rummaged out my old Vivienne Westwood coat from the mothballs for a bit of Paloma-esque quirk factor.

So imagine our shock to rock up to the 13,000-capacity stadium to be greeted by…. vast hoards of old people. There were people in their 40s, 50s, and scores of grey-haired pensioners. In fact, from our seat in Block 104, I couldn’t locate a single person under the age of 30.

For one insane moment, I actually thought we’d stumbled into a Barry Manilow concert by accident – before realising there was only one arena in Leeds.

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‘Why are all these old people here?’ said the husband, as he took his seat next to a particularly irascible looking 60-something-year-old, whose bespectacled wife had her foot in a plaster cast jutting out into the aisle.

‘I don’t know,’ whispered the husband. ‘But I’m sat next to The Incredible Bulk; he’s spilling into my seat.’

‘I think we’ve woefully underestimated the demograph,’ I whispered. ‘I thought Paloma was cool – we’ve been hoodwinked!’


‘This is a nightmare for Paloma,’ said the husband. ‘How can she possibly have any street cred when you’ve got Brenda and Beryl behind us bobbing along to the beats. It’s really bad for her brand.’

The arena darkened and on bounded Paloma.

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I glanced behind me to see some of the oldies on their feet, singing along to her opening number and doing what I could only describe as an embarrassing ‘Dad dance’.

‘You may mock Dad’s Army over there,’ I said to the husband. ‘But I tell you what, they know all the words to the songs.’

Meanwhile, Brenda and Beryl behind us had been getting increasingly drunk and raucous, waving their hands around and sloshing white wine down the back of my neck.

The husband was looking increasingly annoyed and kept glancing irritably over his shoulder, as did The Incredible Bulk.

‘Do not engage with Beryl,’ I whispered in his ear. ‘She is volatile and could turn violent. I repeat, DO NOT ENGAGE!’

‘Stand up,’ yelled Beryl. ‘Everyone stand up.’

She reached out and grabbed hold of my shoulder as I shrank away in fear. Losing her balance, she toppled forward on top of the husband – who was instantly doused in more Pinot Grigio!

‘Be quiet!’ growled The Incredible Bulk, who up to now, had been watching the show impassively, without so much as a flicker of excitement. His invalid wife pursed her lips in disapproval and clutched her injured leg protectively.

‘We’ve come to here to have a nice time and listen to the music.’

‘Shut up yerself,’ snarled Beryl.

From out of nowhere, a security man arrived. I silently pointed at them and made a discreet throat-slashing motion with my hand.

Beryl and Brenda were escorted out, staggering as they exited. They were never seen again.

Trunky Want A Bun?

A peculiar email from our old nosy neighbours snooping Susan and deflated Dick landed in my inbox today.

Our favourite curtain twitchers (details here) may have moved out six months ago but it’s reassuring/ slightly frightening to know that they’re still keeping tabs on the comings and goings of our apartment block – from their new abode several miles away!

Hi Katy,

Thought I would send best wishes for 2015, particularly for happy relationships with your neighbours.

I had a brief phone conversation with Bea (Apt 2) recently, who told me about the party in our old apartment: held by son of new owners, with police being called, she thought. She also thought the police had been back looking for the previous woman tenant of no. 4, but she was a bit vague about it.

Here in new apartment: all quiet, reliable and pleasant neighbours, all owner-occupiers with one exception – and that tenant sleeps here during the week only, and we have never seen him since our arrival in July!

Best wishes,

Susan and Dick

I re-read the email and am still completely baffled as to its purpose.

Is it that they merely want to boast about the serenity of their new domicile?

Do they want me to tell them how hellish it is living here, in order to justify their move?

Or are they simply hoping I will provide them with insider information about their erstwhile neighbours – to feed their insatiable appetite for gossip?

Answers on a postcard please…

* Trunky want a bun? – possibly my favourite-ever phrase to describe a nosy person (trunky being an elephant sniffing out a bun).

Floored By Indecision

I realised this week that there’s been no update on The House-that-we-bought-but-then-couldn’t-get-planning-permission-for for some time.

That’s probably because I became so fed up with the house, I have been largely pretending it doesn’t exist and going about normal life in our apartment quite contentedly. 

I occasionally drive past our woebegotten domicile, just to check it hasn’t accidentally burnt to the ground (which, thinking about it, might not be such a bad thing, as I’m sure building a house from scratch would be easier than the complex to-ing and fro-ing with the planning department over building a rear extension that NOBODY CAN EVEN SEE).

To cut a long and convoluted story short, I didn’t end up having an affair with planning officer Peter Grant in order to get our plans passed (as I was contemplating in previous blogs). This wouldn’t have been possible anyway, given that after a while he stopped taking my phone calls.

What actually happened in the end was that we had to re-apply to the council for a large single-storey extension under Permitted Development rights: another arduous process which basically involves submitting the plans to the same planning department who rejected our plans in the first place – just for them to confirm that these new plans do not, in fact, actually need any planning permission. Confused? Me too!

The final perverse twist to this planning saga is that we’ve ended up pretty much the same rear extension we wanted to begin with, yet now the council have absolutely no control over it. Take that, Laura Hogg!

In the midst of all this red tape wrangling, I was supposed to be putting together some sort of design scheme for the house. I went through all the usual motions of buying home magazines, creating boards on Pinterest, and re-igniting my old Farrow and Ball obsession.

But then I realised I was completely and utterly paralysed by my old affliction CHRONIC INDECISION.

When you suffer from chronic indecision like me, choosing just one bath tap might take two to three weeks of extensive research, followed by another week confirming the decision, followed by another two weeks worrying about whether you made the right decision or not, followed by the dawning realisation that you might have made the wrong decision and would have to live with it for the REST OF YOUR LIFE.

So the thought of committing to several bathrooms, a kitchen, floorings, carpets, decking, windows, doors, fire places, door handles – basically every fixture and fitting in a whole house – was completely overwhelming.

First, I decided to tackle the flooring. I spent days visiting flooring shops, scouring the internet and perusing Pinterest. Eventually, I decided I wanted a dark wood floor in the hallway. I then couldn’t decide exactly which type of dark brown: a reddy dark brown, a browny dark brown or a dark dark brown.


It was a first world problem on a whole new scale.

For about a week, I was gripped by flooring indecision. Jonny at the flooring shop down the road became my new best friend. I’m not sure how to describe Jonny: he was like a young Tom Cruise, with slicked down hair and a baby face. He was infinitely patient and never seemed to tire of my deliberations.

But what really stood out was his smell: he smelled really, really nice – like freshly washed laundry. Together, we poured over every dark wood flooring he had in the whole store, while I umm-ed and ahh-ed and took photos and looked at each piece in every possible light.

The following day, we went through the same process again, while I inhaled baby-faced Jonny’s summery meadowy scent.

I didn’t manage to get a shot of Jonny but you can just see his polished shoe peeking into the corner of this picture. And how nice are these carpets?!


Later that week, I was just down at the bathroom place choosing tiles (with a man called Gary who became so exasperated with me he actually broke out into a sweat and kept clutching his chest like he was in the grip of a bad bout of angina), when I decided to pop in and see my NBF Jonny.

It might have been my imagination but when I walked in, I’m sure the guy who sits opposite Jonny muttered, ‘Oh look, she’s here again!’

‘Hi Jonny,’ I chirped. ‘Don’t worry, I’m not stalking you!’

No sooner than the words had left my mouth, I realised that perhaps I WAS stalking fragrant Jonny.

‘I just thought I’d pop back and have another look at the difference between Autumn Dawn and Cherry Oak,’ I added, trying to adopt a bright smile and an air of This Is Perfectly Normal Behaviour.

Jonny looked scared.

That weekend, I took the husband to see Jonny. This was now my fifth visit in one week.

‘I apologise for my wife being such a pest,’ said the husband. ‘She is very indecisive. I’m sorry that you have to put up with this.’

Jonny smiled at me in a way one might placate a psychiatric patient and dutifully went off to fetch two samples of the dark brown wood I was currently deliberating over.

‘Have you smelt him yet?’ I whispered to the husband.

‘Huh?!’ said the husband.


Barry Scott… and the Hate Mail

I received my first-ever blog hate mail yesterday – from a man calling himself Barry Scott.

My first thought was, ‘Isn’t Barry Scott that silly man from the Cillit Bang commercials, with a really loud and annoying voice?’

My second thought – upon closer inspection of his message – was, ‘Uh-oh. Forget the bathroom spray, Barry Scott REALLY hates me.’

Here’s a snippet of what Barry Scott had to say:

I have to say I have never read a more, indulgent, vacuous, self-loving load of nonsense in my life. Boastful of your life, you are without a shadow of a doubt a horrible person. It is wonderful that your problems in life are small for you, but the way you write about them is quite frankly detestable. 

I know of some people who would love their problems to be turning up late to a wedding in London, or their cleaner buying them presents, but the world most people live in, they would never consider that a problem, never mind posting it onto the internet.

I think you seriously need to do some growing up, stop thinking that people are interested in your ‘perfect’ life, and then find some compassion, and learn how to treat people.

I sat in the bath running these words over and over in my mind. Horrible person… detestable… vacuous… Isn’t it funny how one nasty email can plummet you into the blackest of moods?

I didn’t even realise strangers were reading my blog. In fact, the only people I thought read my silly ramblings was my sister and a handful of friends – more out of loyalty than anything else.

I only wrote my blog for a bit of light-hearted fun; a little hobby because I missed writing. Yes, I could write about truly worthy causes such as poverty, war, cancer… but the whole premise of the blog was just daft, everyday trivia that stuck in my head and made me want to put pen to paper.

My blog is supposed to be self-deprecating and firmly tongue-in-cheek. Does Barry Scott genuinely think that my only worries in life revolve around arriving late to weddings, my big feet, puffed-up ankles, and whether a bearded hunk catches my eye at the gym?

And how does Barry Scott define my life as perfect? What is a ‘perfect’ life anyway?

As my thoughts spiralled, I then started thinking, ‘Oh no, if Barry Scott thinks this, what if EVERYONE thinks I am this vacuous beast of a person, who truly thinks that I’m worried that my cleaner keeps buying me presents (which is – obviously – THE most ludicrous first-world problem I could possibly imagine. That was the point!)

In fact, what if Barry Scott is actually someone I know, hiding behind a preposterous pseudonym and a veil of venom?

The husband, bless him, said that you can’t take anyone who calls themselves Barry Scott and peddles shower spray for a living seriously. He didn’t even leave a real email address.

Still, Barry Scott’s message stung. I decided to delete his comments, and cheered up slightly.

Bang… and the dirt was gone. But it did leave a mark behind.

Curse of the Cankles

I’ve got a problem with my ankles.

I went on Google, typed in ‘pain at back of ankles’ – and diagnosed myself with Acute Achilles Tendonitis. It’s basically a serious-sounding name for puffed up ankles.

The reason my ankles have puffed up is because I’ve been attempting to walk/run/trot 20,000 steps a day. This madness began when I acquired a Jawbone UP band, which you wear around your wrist to chart your activity during the day – from calories burned, hours slept and the amount of steps you complete.


An average active human should be walking around 10,000 steps a day. But being the competitive type, I wasn’t happy with a mere 10,000 – so I rather ambitiously set my target to double it.

The problem with attempting to do 20,000 steps a day is that despite running 5km on the treadmill, sweating it out on the cross trainer for half an hour, and then spending the rest of the day galloping up and down the stairs at work, by the time I get home, I’m still about 3,000 steps short of my target.

This has meant that most evenings, the husband had landed back from work to find me pacing around the living room like a deranged Duracell bunny.

Another feature on the UP band app is that you can add friends who also have this step-counting device. I only have one friend: Anna. I can see how many hours sleep she gets, what she been eating and – most importantly – how many steps she does in a day.

It’s all rather competitive and, if I’m being perfectly honest, a little bit stalker-ish.

I was quite happily charging around for about three weeks, revelling in the knowledge that I was one if the top steppers in the UK (and beating Anna’s steps on a daily basis), until I woke up one day and realised I could barely walk. My ankles had seized up.

My wails of, ‘I’ve got cankles on my ankles!’ were met by complete indifference from the husband, who has long been impervious to my hypercondria.

Incidentally, I haven’t got cankles on my ankles. I didn’t even know what cankles were but the rhyme seemed to add a certain seriousness to my situation.

(I then googled ‘cankles’ and realised to my horror that it’s a condition where the calf meets the ankle without tapering at all. In short, your legs resemble those giant inflatable tubes they put down the sides of a ten-pin bowling lane for beginners. Thankfully, this isn’t an affliction I’ve been cursed with after all).


However, when I casually mentioned that my Achilles’ tendon might be the source of the problem, the husband put down his New Scientist magazine and suddenly looked serious.

‘If it’s the Achilles, you need to stop exercising immediately,’ he said gravely – probably having horrific visions of spending the next 50 years pushing me around in a bath chair, while I bark orders at him.

‘If your Achilles snaps, it will be VERY serious,’ he added.

So there we have it: I can’t go to the gym. I can’t pound the pavements watching my steps rack up. I can’t canter up the stairs at work, two at a time, thinking, ‘steps, steps, glorious steps’.

No. All I can do now is meekly hobble round like a stiff-ankled sloth, knowing that – if I’m lucky – I might clock up a paltry 5,000 steps, while receiving updates on my UP app that say: ‘Anna has completed 18,000 steps today.’

I should be mourning the fact that I can no longer exercise and that my ankles will soon turn into giant squidgy sausages.

But knowing that Anna is achieving the top 5 per cent of steppers in the country, while I’m languishing in the bottom percentile, along with the injured and the infirm… now that’s my real Achilles’ heel.

Belligerent Bill… and his Crocodile Smile

An encounter with Belligerent Bill this week – my first since the angry email I sent, lambasting his hypocritical, self-imposed parking rules.

He was polishing his car in the visitor space that I often use and – astonishingly – actually waved chummily to me as I drove past.

Avoiding eye contact, I parked up and scuttled sheepishly to the door.

‘Katy!’ he called cheerily, clutching his chamois leather. ‘You can park back here if you want. I’ll move my car for you.’

‘It’s okay…’ I said. ‘I’m going back out shortly…’

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Move his car for me? Really? This seemed extraordinary behaviour coming from the meanest, most selfish man on the planet to whom my last words were, ‘Please don’t bother me with any more of your silly messages and practice what you preach…

I smell a rat.

He probably wants to lure me back in with his crocodile smiles before smothering my front door in 100 ‘NEVER PARK HERE’ Post-It notes.

Well… Bill, my friend, two can play at that game.