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The Happy Swordfish

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New Year, on my boat, eating Wotsits. [01 Jan 2011|01:10am]
1. What did you do in 2010 that you'd never done before?
Signed on.  Got to a permanent mooring in a marina.  Crossed the Ribble Link under my own steam.  Sailed past the Liver Buildings and the Albert Dock in my boat.  Attended the Labour Party Conference. Got sacked.  Had an interview on a big wheel.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I don't think I made any.  In 2011 I'm going to shift all this fat I put on with my beer and takeaway diet from uni.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

4. Did anyone close to you die?

5. What countries did you visit?

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?
A sex life.  Skinny thighs.  Something to sit on (I burnt my sofa as firewood).

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
The day I got to do the 'Liverpool Link' - Aintree to the Albert Dock by canal, passing all my old stomping grounds on the way.  Spent lots of time in my youth around that canal and never imagined seeing a boat it, never mind my own.  Also it would have been my Grandad's 101st (?) birthday, so going through the docks was a nice tribute.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Passing my boatmaster exam.  Should have done it last year when I did the training, but my ex-boss is a prick.  Also managing to get money back that was owed to me.  For some reason it's harder to get money that you're entitled to than to win the fucking lottery.  Doing an interview complete with Powerpoint presentation.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Dropping out of university, I suppose, but I don't see it that way.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
No.  I'm never sick.  I'm really worried that when I start eating healthily and cut down on alcohol to get rid of this chub I'll suddenly catch everything.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
These new wood briquettes, keeping my boat nice and warm.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Clive Grunshaw, the Labour candidate for Lancaster and Fleetwood, who accepted  (a bitter, narrow 333 vote) defeat graciously.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
My own, when drunk.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Paying back student loans.  Spent about £500 in one day on the boat as well.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
This is so sad, but politician spotting at the Labour conference.  In the space of 2 minutes I told Diane Abbott I loved her, shook Dennis Skinner's hand and was given a free beer.  Oh, and all the free booze and food.  I'll be going again this year.

Also coming back to Liverpool.  As predicted, now I'm here I hate it and miss the quiet, picturesque, wandering life.

16. What song will always remind you of 2010?
I only listen to Radio 4 these days, maybe the Archers themetune? It's my ringtone.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder?  Happier.  Boat is a fucking pain in the arse at the moment, no running water, but I'm taking everything as it comes.

b) thinner or fatter?  HAHAHAHAH SO FUCKING FAT.  Joined a gym and in 3 months gained a pound, and according to the weight machine my percentage of body fat went UP.

c) richer or poorer?  Hmm, currently skint but the future looks bright.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Boozing, eating.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
Just the parents and the dog again this year, a blessed relief.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009?
Did I fuck.

22. What was your favourite TV program?
Question Time, whilst simultaneously twittering.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
The Lib Dems.

24. What was the best book you read?
Quitting university I got my reading mojo back.  Fell in love with Sherlock Holmes.  Read a book called 'The Other Hand' which I couldn't put down, read in one sitting.  Read the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, quite liked them.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Amanda Palmer.

28. What did you want and get?
I didn't want to be skint, jobless and single at Xmas and thanks to a new job and some nice cheques I was only single.

29. What did you want and not get?
Sexual fucking intercourse.

30. What was your favourite film of this year?
Inception. Fucking ace.  Probably the only film I went to see, though.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Er...  I must have gone for drinks in Lancaster.  I know Becky got me a Mini Eggs easter egg, I still use the mug.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
A husband.  Or a wife with a penis.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?
I did the 'capsule wardrobe' thing and bought a load of vests, skirts, and trousers mostly in black.  Still rocking the Karrimor, but they're on their last legs.

34. What kept you sane?
My sense of perspective: knowing that if I don't like being a student or living in Lancaster I could just change it.  Being a member of a union.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I believe I am the woman who could tame Jazzer McCreary from the Archers..

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Fucking all of them. Froze my arse of campaigning in a by-election, the General Election, the anti-cuts campaign, against the EDL in Bolton.

37. Who did you miss?
Been sending a few drunken texts to my ex, but I don't miss him in a romantic way just every time something breaks on my boat (which is often) I think fondly of him and his toolbox (not a euphemism).

38. Who was the best new person you met?
Not met all that many, but I have great neighbours in the marina and my new work colleagues seem fun.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010.
Drain your Paloma water heater whenever there's a frost.  I did already know this, but I really learnt it this year.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year

Fuck you - Cee-lo Green
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I feel moved to write... [29 Jul 2010|09:50pm]
[ mood | contemplative ]

Lately, if I'm honest, I've felt a bit cheesed off with boating life.  We've had a spell of heavy rain and gloom, which is shit when you're stuck in a little metal tube without enough electricity to even have light (my batteries are knackered - item #2826 on my to do list).  So cheesed off I spent the last two nights in my parents' caravan, watching TV and farting around on my laptop.  But yesterday I woke up at 10am and by 10pm I hadn't got dressed or barely even changed position.  I realised that life on dry land doesn't suit me much either.  I felt pretty glum.

But today there were patches of blue sky so I came back to my boat.  I had a good chat with my current neighbours, who are L-O-V-E-L-Y and gave them one of my courgettes, and they were chuffed.  Took myself back to my boat and prepared to spend another evening in the dark, reading Sherlock Holmes by headlamp.  Which is actually not the worst way to pass the time, but hardly enough to kick start my va-va-voom, y'know?

Then a boat pulled up opposite.  I know the guy who owns this boat, I met him at a lock on the Leeds & Liverpool canal and he showed me a trick for going down locks singlehandedly for which I'm for ever in his debt.  He uses this boat so underprivileged families can have holidays.  I see it around all the time.  Today there's a youngish white couple with a black kid, so I'm guessing he's adopted or fostered.

So they pull up and tie their ropes, and the kid gets out a fishing rod and starts pulling tiddlers out of the canal, really excited.  They seem like a nice bunch.  I took my glass of wine and Sherlock Holmes and sat on a picnic table next to my boat.  Suddenly I hear a voice, loud as anything:


It was the kid.  He was sitting on the front deck of the boat with - surprise - a big slice of chocolate cake in a bowl.  He didn't know I was there, and probably didn't care.  He was just making that announcement to the world, because when something so monumentally fucking awesome happens like getting the biggest slice of cake of your life while you're on holiday in a boat and you've just conquered nature by yanking live fish from their habitat, you do just have to shout it out loud, don't you?

Anyway, kid and his cake may have provided me with the cure for my jaded life.  I live on this canal and I work on this canal, so it's only natural I get bored of it.  But there are two boats here which offer holidays to families who could never otherwise dream of doing it (take a look at the price of hire boats and make sure you're sitting down) and I'm going to try and volunteer my services (did I mention I'm a QUALIFIED BOATMASTER now? if not, that deserves a post of its own and I'll rectify that soon).  For totally selfish reasons, because I think I need to see boat life though the eyes of other people who really, REALLY appreciate it to remind myself of all the things I should be thankful for.

Because there's more to life than electricity.

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Too long for twitter... [28 Apr 2010|10:55pm]
[ mood | amused ]

I was working on the boat tonight (have I mentioned on here that I work on a boat now? Well, I do) with a bunch of people from Lancaster's cultural intelligentsia. Two people came to the bar, a gent from the local community radio station, and a lady from the city's Maritime Museum.  The gent asked if he could interview the lady, and she invited him to the museum.

Gent: I'd love to come.  Although, I do have an issue on the slavery exhibition.

Lady: Really? How so?

Gent: Whenever the topic of slavery comes up, no one ever mentions all the British people that suffered.  More crew members died on those ships than slaves.

Lady:  Yes, we do mention that in our exhibition, actually...

(me and lady exchange glances... I mutter something about having a choice to go to sea...)

blah blah blah... Something about Whitehaven

Lady: Well yes, most of the transported slaves did end up working as domestics and servants here, unlike in the US where they worked on plantations.

Gent (smiling):  Exactly.  You could say they were brought here to be free. (goes back to seat)


Ah, fun times.

ETA: ah, I forgot the kicker.  The radio station the old dude works for is called Diversity FM.

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Where I'm at now [18 Mar 2010|05:34pm]
[ mood | contemplative ]

I'm halfway though my second - and last - year at Lancaster Uni.  I'm not going back next year, I don't enjoy my course or the university/city.  I dropped French at the end of my first year, because I had a choice between doing a split masters, with one module in language and one in culture - and the culture course was abysmal - or a minor, with just the one language module.  But that would have meant just two hours a week of lessons.  Didn't see the point.

So I stuck to Politics, but they threw in a load of International Relations modules, which is all about war and not my cup of tea.  I've not been keeping up with the work - my own fault, being a student and living on a boat don't mix, so I'm dropping out.

I don't do the snake handling job anymore, John does it by himself these days, so instead I got a job working on the passenger boat that goes up and down the canal.  I spent last summer serving endless cups of tea, fish and chips and hotpots to lovely old folk and supposedly this year I'll be driving it.

I've been reading back over my old entries in this journal and there's posts from Montpellier, Paris, Sweden and Berlin.  I haven't left the UK in over two years and I'm stuck in one of the dullest places in the country. It's time for change.  Just haven't decided what/where/how yet.

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Guess who's back? [12 Mar 2010|10:15pm]
[ mood | thoughtful ]

I've decided to fire this old thing up again, in an attempt to cure my bout of writer's block (which is really a pain in the arse when I'm supposed to have written 12,000 by next week and I've wrote... none).

So better late than never, my review of 2009. I wrote this out over Xmas but never got round to posting it because I forgot my password.  Let's see if I remember how this works...

Review of 2009Collapse )


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2008 [02 Jan 2009|09:25pm]
Review of the yearCollapse )
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Must remember to update this... [23 Nov 2008|03:25pm]
...because I like looking back on it from time to time.

My life now is full of awesome. Living on my boat in Lancaster, going to university where my grades are spectacularly mediocre, meeting lots of people, and I have the BEST JOB EVER.

When I first arrived in Lancaster I was filling up my water tank at the marina and another boater came over for a chat, didn't think much of it. A few days later I bumped into him again on the towpath. He said he was on his way to see me because I'd said I was a student and he could offer me some work. He said he runs the 'Creepy Crawly Roadshow'.

"Wait," I said. "I have a terrible phobia of moths and butterflies."
"That's ok," he said. "I just need a snake handler."

So we go to schools and he gives talks on animals, he really knows his stuff and the kids love it. Not only do I place the pythons around the kids' necks, I also get to handle the cockroach, millipede, stick insect, snails, and I was really proud when he let me pick up the big spider by myself. I'm learning loads of interesting stuff and I'm really enjoying working with the kids, surprisingly.

Here's Popeye the Python. He is awesome.Collapse )
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[17 Aug 2008|08:19pm]
[ mood | optimistic ]

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Goodbye rat race [07 Jun 2008|07:20pm]

Chez moi.
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It's good to be back [14 Mar 2008|01:29pm]
[ mood | happy ]


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[29 Feb 2008|11:13am]
_Languedoc 08 130_28_29

Arrived in Carcassonne yesterday, right now I'm a McDo (as they call them here) waiting for Sigh to arrive and then we'll do more exploring of the medieval city and tonight we head to Montpellier (happy dance).

I was in the medieval city last night as the sun was going down, it was brilliant, bats circling my head, and it was almost deserted. I made a girl scream really loudly when I popped out from behind a corner to quickly.
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Went to Lourdes... [06 Feb 2008|01:05am]
...bought this pen.
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My week in France [02 Feb 2008|05:31pm]
Been here a week and so far I've learnt how to:

- fish
- get off a chair lift
- light a real fire stove
- drive one of these:

All the while speaking ace French like a native and quaffing lots of wine and eating lots of goats cheese.

Not bad seeing as I'm not even supposed to be on 'holiday'.
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Back to France... [22 Jan 2008|01:45pm]
I'm crazy bored here in Liverpool so on Saturday I'm heading to Toulouse (via Gatwick - boo!) to stay in the house that's Sigh's working on in the middle of nowhere. We're planning to spend a day or two on the slopes...

And I'll be job-hunting, either for office/teaching jobs in Toulouse or a bar job in a ski resort. I'm also really hoping Jenny and Sylvie and come visit.
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2007 [20 Dec 2007|03:10pm]
[ mood | contemplative ]

Previous years
Yearly questionnaireCollapse )

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Yuck, what a horrible evening. [30 Nov 2007|01:55am]
[ mood | melancholy ]

Well, I've been having misgivings about this job for a long time now, in fact I intended to give them my notice as soon as I got back from the half-term break, but there'd been some kind of change in Pablo and I was actually enjoying spending time with him, so I put it off.

Something changed last Friday though. We were playing Monopoly and at the beginning I was winning (for once). As normal, he was trying to cheat so I was watching him closely (I don't care who wins, but I hate cheating, there's no point in playing if you do that, and he's well old enough to learn). He didn't like this and started getting nasty. Everything I'd say he'd correct, and not in a nice way, he'd say stuff like "why do you say that? that doesn't mean anything, it's stupid" which leads me to try and explain that I'm not bloody French and it's not easy for me, to which he'd say "well the last au pair didn't make mistakes like you. She did at first but by the time she'd been here this long she could speak better than you". This really smarted, cos I'd been dead flattered a couple of weeks ago when he told me my French was much better than hers!

So I was sitting there having my language and my Monopoly skills insulted, which I agree isn't the worst thing in the world, but it was completely relentless. I felt overwhelmed and bruised by the end of it.

Luckily, I spent excellent Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights out with my friends which really cheered me up.

But Monday came around and he was being quiet and distant with me, so I just let him be. But as the days went on it got worse, every time I tried to start a conversation or even ask a simple question I got shot down. He just spent loads of time alone watching TV, which he doesn't normally do. So my mind was now thoroughly made up to quit. I don't want to be here, it didn't look like Pablo wanted me here and I didn't think Michele would care either way.

So tonight I took Michele aside and told her, look, I'm not happy, Pablo's not happy, there's other stuff about this job I'm not enjoying so I don't want to come back after Christmas. I should have prepared myself better, after all she's a top journalist and knows how to argue. In her eyes, Pablo's been miserable this week because his dad's been away (even if this was the case, still no excuse to be horrible, in my opinion). Also, when I tried to argue it seemed better for Pablo if I left, she used the argument that the best thing for Pablo is to have as stable a home as possible, seeing as his parents are splitting up (a situation which wasn't spelled out to me before I came). Well, then you should have checked my references, lady! Then you'd see that if consistency and staying-power is what you were after, I'm not your girl! I know when you take a job looking after children you have to have a degree of loyalty to them, but it's not an uncommon thing for au pairs to quit or change families. You can't expect everyone to just turn up and live somewhere for a year when they hardly know anything about the place or the family beforehand.

So I spelled out to her that I was very much under the impression that Pablo wasn't happy with me at the moment, and moreover the entire time I've been here I've felt more like his servant than his boss. But I made it clear that I didn't think he needed to be punished, it wasn't his fault he was unhappy, he just needed it explaining to him that his behaviour can't go on like that. So she said she'd talk to him, and asked me to wait a couple of weeks before I decide to leave or not. I could only say yes.

Then, when I was back in my room, there was a knock on the door and she came in with Pablo, who had obviously been crying. Apparently he'd heard a lot of what we'd said - brilliant. Then she made him look me in the eye and apologise. I cringed - this wasn't what I wanted, really, and I certainly didn't want it to seem I'd been telling tales. I was less bothered about my hurt feelings from the insults than the fact he's felt the need to be so petulant and sulky lately. Then, she said absolutely the worst thing to him - if your behaviour doesn't get better in two weeks, Helen is going to leave.

I still feel like staying here even UNTIL Christmas is going to be unbearable, but know he's going to feel like it's all his fault when I leave. He sees his shrink(!) tomorrow, I only hope he does him some good.

P.S. Also, I tried to mention to Michele how I don't think his piano lessons are going very well because his teacher is too strict and Pablo isn't very enthusiastic anyway. She said, "well no children like piano lessons, you can play piano, didn't you hate it?" I couldn't believe that! I taught myself piano, I'd have loved to have had lessons. When I was a kid I always had a musical instrument of some sort in my hands, I was addicted to making noise. With Pablo I practically have to strap him to the piano stool. I think forcing him to take lessons does more harm than good, I really can't see any point to it.

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Divan du Merde [11 Nov 2007|06:27pm]
[ mood | aggravated ]

I'm on a bit of a downer about France, especially Paris, at the moment. I already knew I hate living in the suburbs but I'm not even sure I'd be happy if I lived in a massive apartment overlooking the Sacre Coeur.

I had a great time back in Liverpool last week, even though I didn't get out much and just had a few low key drinks in a couple of pubs. But I think it just reminded me how much of an outsider I am here.

Jenny, Sylvie and I ended up in a nightclub last night called Divan du Monde. The night was called Pigalle Rock Party, and when we walked in they were playing 'Who put the bomp..." by Le Tigre so I thought we'd found somewhere pretty decent. I should have known by the clean, kinda expensive decor that it was going to be crap. Good clubs have crap decor... c.f. the miss-matched pub stools in Le Bateau.

Ok, so the French don't have binge-drinking, but instead they're incredibly amateur drunks. Bad dancing, falling over, and worst: extreme lechery. We spent a good two hours trying to get rid of a gag of nobheads who started out amusing but ended up bordering on sexpests. In fact, every bloody group of French blokes we met yesterday felt impelled to tell us how beautiful we were (this stopped being even remotely flattering in no time at all, however, when the very last nutter we met told me my French was good, I turned all coy like a schoolgirl. *That's* the way to flatter me!).

Also, apparently the law here says you can't play music too loud. That meant we were able to talk to each other all night without shouting, but it also made it pretty hard to get into the music. Which was shit anyway. Bah! I need to dance and work up a sweat!

p.s. special mention should go out to the guy in the internet café singing karaoke hits from James Blunt to Shaggy. I tried to video him but it didn't work, gutted.

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A lesson learnt. [27 Oct 2007|10:54pm]
[ mood | miffed, but grinning ]

So. I spend the day in Paris, tout seul. I find myself drawn to Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur to watch the sunset, imbibing the odd kir on the way. Near to Place du Tertre an Irish bar beckoned me with it's terrace and Guiness sign. I settled down with a half of the black stuff and listened in on a conversation between a few tourists on the tables next to me and a portrait artist on the pavement.

The artist was holding an audience, he was a great raconteur. Then, one of the tourists pulled out the picture that this very artist had done of him, and it was incredible. Total photorealism. So then the idea hatches in my brain to get one done. I become intrigued as to how I'd appear in the eyes of an artist and figure that it's a fun thing to do and I'll get 20 minutes of French conversation out of it at the least, and maybe even end up with something that might replace the goddamn photos of me aged 7 that my parents still display on their walls.

Unfortunately, Monsieur Popularity was soon snapped up by some other tourists, so the I waited for the next guy with easel in hand and asked him how much. "Normally, I charge €50, but for you, €25". I told him I'd pay €20 and we had a deal.

It was quite awkward, he looked at me very closely, but of course you think that's part of the game, what with him being an artist and whatnot. Although maybe I should have worried when he took off his gloves to reveal shaking hands. Anyway, the ordeal was over surprisingly quickly. The result I can only say was well worth €20, although not because it will grace anyone's mantelpiece for generations to come. From the moment I saw it I did nothing but grin.

Mona WilkCollapse )
I can't help but think it serves me right for having the vanity to want my portrait done. All the same, I don't think I can draw but I'd have thought someone plying their trade anywhere would be better than me. I got home and did a quick self-portrait, the first time I've doodled in years. It's no work of art, but is it worth €20?
my attemptCollapse )
The only thing that smarts is that I went to the actual Place du Tertre where artist have stalls set out with samples of their work, and asked one guy with some really good examples how much he charged, and he told me €30.

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Further to my previous post... [19 Oct 2007|03:42pm]
Clamart, the town where I live, is twinned with Scunthorpe.

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Something I'd never thought I'd miss... [17 Oct 2007|10:21pm]
[ mood | thoughtful ]

Wetherspoons. Well, cheap locals anyway. Spending the majority of my time either alone in the house, with French speaking people or with a French speaking child makes me crave grown up, English speaking company. Add to this that my working day is normally around 5pm - 8pm, when the evening arrives I'm wide awake but I have nothing to do.

Well, I have homework to do but I can't do that unless it's the very last minute. But unless I can be bothered to spend an hour on buses and the metro (and another hour on the way home) to go into Paris itself, there's nowhere I can go to get out of the house in the evening. I already spend 2 hours a day on public transport when I go to college. There's just nothing to do around here. I know plenty of other girls who also live out in the suburbs, but they're even harder to reach by public transport.

I used to complain about Reading that London had sucked all the interesting stuff away from it, but nothing is as dull, or unattractive, as a Parisian suburb. I'm much closer to Paris than Reading is too London, but the nearest thing to nightlife around here is a drive through McDonalds.

I hate being restricted to having a life only at weekends. I hate it even more when I find out at the last minute I'm working on the weekend. At the moment I'm taking a good hard look at why I'm here.

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