Wednesday, May 31

I am all for feminism, but...
The modern woman has it tough. Us 21st Century ladies, we’re meant to have it all: fulfilling career, a great relationship, lasting friendships, a great social life, lots of hobbies, perfect figure, beautiful home.

My mother came over on Monday and joked about the seedlings I’ve got on the kitchen windowsill that I haven’t planted out yet, the fact I haven’t bought a new kitchen light bulb, the fact that there was cat hair on the curtains - basically, she thinks I am totally inept and that my life is chaotic with no order or organisation. Although I left home over 12 years ago, she still thinks that I am the 18-year-old who lives out of a rucksack and off pasta and Dolmio sauce.

My mother is super-organised. Her house is always immaculate, she never forgets birthdays or anniversaries, she is always well turned-out. However, my mother has a very different life to me. Firstly, she has never had to work full-time. Secondly, her and my dad have very ‘traditional’ roles. Dad is the breadwinner and does the DIY, the gardening and all the ‘man stuff’. Mam does the shopping, cleaning and cooking. They’ve lived in the same area all their lives so have a small but close circle of friends who also live in the same area. They have a nice life, but it’s quite a simple life too.

This is where my life differs. I am the breadwinner in our house. I work an 8-hour day and spend an extra two hours travelling to work and back. I have a very energetic doggy who needs walking for at least an hour a day.

I do 90% of the cooking, plus plan the menus and shopping lists too. I don’t buy anything pre-prepared and cook everything from scratch.

While my house isn’t a show home, it’s always tidy and we spend every Saturday morning cleaning it.

I organise all our household budgets and pay the bills. I juggled finances to get Mr Meep though university – and bought and renovated a house at the same time. Unlike most people of my age, I don’t have any debt. None. Not even a student loan or overdraft or anything.

I’m rarely at home during the evenings – generally go to two aerobics classes a week, do volunteering once a week, plus have lots of different groups of friends so have to juggle seeing them too. On the weekends, we’re often whizzing up and down the country visiting friends – we’ve moved around a lot so know people all over the place.

Then there’s the added pressure to look good too – to be thin, have nice clothes, a fit body, glowing skin, lovely hair. OK, so I don’t do this bit too well, but I’m past the days of stripy tights and Dr Martens and manage to look presentable when I make a bit of an effort.

Even if I was a six figure-earning lawyer with a size 6 figure, loads of beautiful children, amazing houses in New York, London and Sydney, a Nobel prize, my mother would still be wondering why I hadn’t found the time to dust the top of my wardrobes or re-paint the kitchen walls.

I would love, love, love to swap lives with her for just one week so she could see that I don’t sit around reading books and drinking coffee with my friends while my house falls into disrepair around me. Come on Channel 4, commission Life Swap instead of Wife Swap – I’ll be the first guinea pig.
Something quite shocking has happened

I have been turned down for a rather crappy job.

The money wasn’t great but it was close to home and the right sector, plus it was a 30-hour week. It was easy work – updating their website, writing a few leaflets and a bi-monthly newsletter and helping volunteer groups with their marketing and PR.

When they invited me for interview, they sent me an example of the sort of work they do. I was in shock. It was a newsletter done on a Clip-Art programme in Comic Sans, really badly written, full of typos and, well, really crap.

I thought I’d go to the interview anyway and see what they were all about. When I got there, I was given a writing test – I had to write a news story. They put me into a room without windows and gave me… a pen and some paper. Yes, that’s right. I had to write a news story on a lined A4 pad using a Bic biro.

I flew through the interview. The people were lovely, but I still wasn’t convinced that I wanted the job though. The office was a bit grotty. The job was very ‘officy’ and not very creative. Not meaning to sound like I’ve got an inflated head, but I honestly think I was way overqualified for it.

I have just got a rejection letter.

What do these people want? I was Deputy Editor of a magazine. I’ve written Annual Reports for big companies. I had things published in The Guardian. I’m organised, articulate, enthusiastic, experienced, great to work with, professional, blah de blah de blah. I even do more than my fair share of making the tea – and I bring home-made cakes in most Fridays.

I would probably have turned the job down anyway, but that’s not the point.

Pah.

The buggers.

Thursday, May 25

Janet and Luther were right

The best things in life are, indeed, free.

I’m listening to my favourite radio show – the fantastic Jeremy Vine on Radio 2 (sorry, news snobs). They’re talking about money and whether it equals happiness.

Pah, of course it doesn’t. I don’t have a lot of money. Ok, I’m not exactly on the poverty line, but Mr Meep and I aren’t high earners – nor do we have any aspirations to be.

So this programme’s got me thinking: what do I really need for happiness?

  • Mr Meep
  • The pets
  • Friends
  • Family
  • Cwtches
  • Health
  • Books
  • Nice food (and a kitchen to cook it in)
  • Walks
  • Nature
  • Music

    I don’t want a wide screen TV, a dish washer, a big house or a fancy car. I don’t need designer clothes, the latest gadgets or fancy holidays in far-off lands. I don’t feel the need to show friends and family I care with expensive presents or to brighten up my dark days with the latest lipstick shade.

    Today, the sun is shining. Mr Meep is picking me up from work to go to my favourite beach with our cute little doggie.

    Cost = nothing. Happiness = lots.

    Disclaimer: Although the above free things do make me happy, I would never say no to any of the following: a meal out at a nice restaurant, a bottle of sauvignon blanc, sparkly lip balm, cookery books, cute clothes.
  • Friday, May 19

    I feel so frumpy
    Last night I went late-night shopping. While wandering through Howells – full of trendy clothes, expensive cosmetics and shop assistants that look you up and down - I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror.

    I was wearing a red coat, a green and blue dress, some flat, black, mid-calf boots that were a mistake but I’m feel too guilty to get rid of, and thick black tights. I looked a right state. My hair is straggly, in really bad condition and v obviously a DIY highlighting job. My skin – usually clear – has broken out in spots.

    I looked like a combination of Sue Pollard and The She Devil.

    I went home and felt disgusting, unattractive, ugly, frumpy and just… bleurgh.

    I need a makeover, I need a stylist, I need a haircut, I need Trinny and Susannah.

    Buying lots of clothes doesn’t go with my Womble philosophy and I feel guilty for spending money (it’s the Catholic guilt mixed with the anti-consumerist beliefs). But desperate times and all that.

    Most of the clothes in my wardrobe were bought pre-2002 before Mr Meep became a student and we had to tighten the purse strings, so I shouldn’t feel too guilty for spending. And if I try to get second-hand stuff or buy online from ‘ethical’ shops, then I can rest easy in my bed at night.

  • Loose 10lbs to get back to normal weight
  • Get hair colour sorted out by a professional (and not get Mr Meep to try and do it with a £3 kit from Boots)
  • Find some shoes for summer that I can a) walk a long way in and b) aren’t frumpy
  • Buy a new summer wardrobe for under £200, involving cute tops and plain skirts that I can mix and match

    I will be stylish, I will feel fabulous. Well, maybe not, but I’ll be a whole lot better than I am now. Hurrah! I might even be brave enough to post some before and after photos.
  • Thursday, May 18

    Words
    Last night was the second night of my volunteering. It's going really well. I'm helping a really lovely bloke in his early 20s, who's painfully shy and severely dyslexic.

    Even after two sessions, he seems a bit more confident. He's reading better and has come out of his shell a little bit.

    I feel like I'm actually contributing something - a feeling I've never, ever had in my normal job. Ain't altruism brilliant?

    When I was on my way home last night, I was thinking about how difficult it must be if words don't come naturally to you.

    Almost everything I do involves words. I'm a copywriter, so I work with words. When I'm not writing words for work, I'm using words for pleasure.

    I read. All the time: books, magazines, newspapers, websites.

    I organise my life by writing lists and I carry a notebook everywhere with me to scribble down ideas.

    I write my blogs.

    I'm learning Welsh - more words.

    Words, I bloody love 'em, me.

    Wednesday, May 17

    The Mobile Phone Mystery
    A couple of weeks ago, I lost my mobile phone. I wasn’t too bothered about this as I’m not a big fan of the mobile – too intrusive, give people an license to be late, probably fry our brains, and the ultimate symbol of consumerism. We were perfectly happy without them 10 years ago, now they’re a ‘must-have’ for everyone. Plus there are a squillion of them clogging up landfills and leaking nasty things all over the place.

    Anyway, I always end up leaving mine at home and I never, ever remember to charge it up, so it’s hardly worth me having one. I was cross at losing everyone’s numbers, but I felt more of a sense of relief when it was gone.

    After a week, I hadn’t replaced it. People were in shock.

    Mr Meep: “You have to have a phone – what if you’re out late and you need to ring me or I don’t know where you are?”. He always knows where I am. If I’m at work, we’re on MSN. If he’s at work, he rings me at home for a chat. And if we’re not at work, we’re generally at home. Together.

    But he panics. I once went to the pub after work and forgot to tell him I was going. By 7pm he thought I was dead in a ditch. I was drunk in Cheltenham.

    My mother: “You must have a phone – what if the car breaks down?” Er… I drive maybe once a fortnight tops. And Mr Meep is usually with me. And he has a phone. And if he doesn’t there are phone boxes or those emergency telephones that get you through to the RAC.

    My dad has an old phone of Mr Meep’s that he carried with him “in case of emergencies”. He never uses it, so insisted that I have his. I said no, thanks, but I didn’t really need one. The next day, he popped in to drop it off.

    It was sitting in my kitchen, uncharged, for about a fortnight. Last weekend, I gave in. I charged it up and spent way too long typing in everyone’s numbers one by one on the annoying keypad I wasn’t used to and generally getting very cross. I don’t think there’s anything I would have liked to be doing less. Ever. Well, maybe clubbing baby bunnies to death wouldn’t be that great either, nor standing in a barrel full of squirming s.n.a.k.e.s. But this was bad.

    On Sunday we were going out for a walk. Mr Meep went to get his walking shoes from the car boot. He came in, walked up to me and held out his hand.

    There was my lost mobile phone. It was in his shoe.

    Answers on a postcard please.

    Tuesday, May 16

    When I turned 30, I did what all 30-something women do...

    I turned to the self-help books. It all started with Carl Honore's In Praise of Slow, which isn't a self-help book as such, more a sort of philosophy book about how we all rush around too much and need to learn to take things a lot more slowly.

    Ironically, I got so into it that I read it two days.

    Next was Feel The Fear... And Do It Anyway, one of the classics and very inspiring indeed.

    A friend is also a fan of the self-help book and has loaned me a stack of them to give me enough guidance to last for the next few months.

    Next up is The Journey, Brandon Bays' account of how she made her basketball-sized tumour disappear through letting her emotions flood out and drinking broccoli juice.

    I've also got another of Dr Jeffers' books: End the Struggle and Dance With Life.

    I'm particularly looking forward to I'm OK, You're OK - I'm not sure what that's about but maybe this blurb from the back cover might help.

    I'm OK, you're not OK
    I'm not OK, you're OK
    I'm not OK, you're not OK
    I'm OK, you're OK

    Can you become slow, get everyone to be OK, heal your emotions, dance with life and feel the fear all at the same time?

    Saturday, May 13

    Hideaway Saturday


    Today was probably the most boring day ever. We hid away in the house to avoid the hideousness of a squillion football fans in Cardiff to watch the FA Cup final. Eurgh.

    You couldn't even escape them in Splott. There was a stretch limo full of them whizzing through the streets shouting things out of the window. Eurgh.

    However, I did manage to do lots of useful things, like cleaning and washing and sorting and tidying.

    And I did lots and lots of cooking - including these yummy but evil chocolate brownies. I'm now off round to a friends house to eat them. With wine. Yum.

    Friday, May 12

    The Friday list
    I've got 10 minutes before I rush off and catch the train, so it's going to be a quick one. And as I've been having a reflective sort of week...

    Things I would like to achieve in my life
  • Live in an eco-house
  • Own a coffee shop
  • Visit Japan
  • Learn to sing
  • Live by the sea
  • Write a book
  • Own a campervan
  • Have some bouncing babies

    That's all quite achievable really. I'm easily pleased, me.
  • Wednesday, May 10

    Out of the comfort zone
    I am easily excited by so many new things and I'm always on a quest for self-improvement. In theory, this is great - but not if you have some kind of crisis about said new things every five minutes.

    It usually goes like this. I have an idea about something I'm going to do. I love it, it's fantastic, it's amazing, it's the best idea I've ever had, I can't wait. I get really excited and enthusiastic about it. While still in the excitement stages, I sort out actually doing the thing that's been getting me so worked up into a frenzy.

    Then a couple of hours before it is due to happen, I get the fear and start panicking about whether I've done the right thing.

    It could be anything - a new fitness class, a night out with people I don't know that well, inviting people around for a meal. Anything at all.

    Tonight, I am starting volunteer work with a dyslexia group.

    The fear has kicked in.

    What if they don't like me?

    What if I can't find the right room?

    What if the people don't want my help?

    Gah. I feel sick.

    I need Dr Jeffers.

    Tuesday, May 9

    Near death on the 17:27 to Cardiff Central
    Last night, my friend Al and I escaped the horrors of daily office life to catch the train back home to our respective pads in Europe's youngest capital for an evening of risotto-making and knitting (me) and smoking wackety backy, bonking and whatever else it is that 20-somethings do (him).

    It was a train with rows of two seats on one side, an aisle, then rows of three seats. I chose the three-seat side as you get a great view of: this castle, the River Taff and a field full of bunnies. It was nice to have a bit of leg room for a change. We sat on either end of the three seats and put our bags in the middle. It was a sunny day, the windows were open and we were full of home-time good vibes. Lovely.

    We'd just left the glamourous location of Treforest and the train was picking up speed, when suddenly, there was a deafening noise that sounded like an explosion. The whole carriage went silent, fearing the worst. Surely there weren't bombers on the Valley Lines service to Merthyr Tydfil?

    A bit shell-shocked, Al looked down at the seat next to us. Right in the middle of it was a rock the size of a clenched fist. The banging had been the rock. Crashing against the open window, bouncing off the ceiling, then landing erm... a stone's throw... away from our heads.

    A few inches to the left or a few inches to right and either one of us could have been a goner in a Goliath stylee.

    Monday, May 8

    Sunday Scribblings: Shoes



    I'm not like other girls - I'm rubbish at shoes. I've got big feet, am 6 feet tall and have a husband the same height as me. If I try to wear some sexy, Manolo-esque killer heels, I end up tottering around, towering over Mr Meep and looking like an under made-up drag queen.

    I long for the days when all I wore were my Dr Marten boots. For my parents, the boots represented the first stages of teenage rebellion in their, up until then, text book good-girl daughter. “You’re not having a pair of those things, you’ll look bloody ridiculous.”

    For me, they represented being cool. They were for people who listened to indie music (before indie became mainstream) and drank pints of cider in grotty pubs. They were for people who smoked roll-ups and drove VW Beetles.

    After a long and hard-fought battle of wills, I won and bought a pair of 8-hole black DMs. £29.99 – bought on a trip to Cardiff with the wages from my Saturday job in the market bakery stall.

    When I eventually got them, I wore them absolutely everywhere. I wore them to work, I wore them to school, I wore them on days out and nights in. I wore them to the pub, to clubs, to parties, to gigs.

    I painted little flowers on them in art class – yellow-centered daisies in red and green and blue.

    I staggered around in them the first time I got really drunk – on Diamond White cider in a dodgy Valleys nite spot.

    They were witness to the heartache of unrequited teenage crushes and drunken snogs with long-haired boys with guitars. They were even there, strewn at the foot of the bed, the first time I ever had sex.

    They were regular festival go-ers. They raved outside Joe Banana's blanket stall at Glastonbury, rocked out at Reading and boogied to jazz in Brecon.

    They were with me on my first day at University, when I nervously shuffled into the induction session hoping there’d be someone there who wanted to be my friend.

    They walked me into the church for my grandad’s funeral.

    They travelled en France on an exchange trip and to Turkey for a girls-only fortnight in the sun.

    They were my constant companions through my teenage years. But as I moved on, so did my footwear.

    They were replaced by a pair of retro, three-stripe Adidas trainers circa 1995 that saw me through my early 20s and could tell many stories of their own.

    More about Sunday Scribblings here.

    Friday, May 5

    After a few glasses of wine, I become a murderer
    I got a bit drunk last night. After I’d stumbled in, rolled around on the floor with the pets and put my pyjamas on, I made the odd decision to go into the garden and check on my plants.

    I do this most nights, but I’m normally a) dressed and b) sober. On a normal night, I would spot the snails slowly schlurping their way towards the flower bed, on their journey to destroy the plants that I have lovingly nurtured since they were just tiny little seeds, killing them senselessly just to fill their slimy bellies.

    When dressed and sober, I usually pick up the snails and throw them over the hedge onto the fields at the back of my house. I get rid of the snails, and they get a nice soft landing onto undergrowth that they can munch their way through until they’re too fat to fit their shells. Everyone’s happy.

    However, with about a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc inside me, I wasn’t feeling so kind. When you get out there really late at night, there aren’t just one or two snails – there are squillions of the buggers sliding their way towards a midnight feast. And not just snails either. Slugs. Thousands of slugs. Thin ones, fat ones, brown ones, black ones, all intent on causing bedlam in the borders.

    I got the torch out. It was bad. I was cross. It was war. I was inspired.

    Salt. Slugs don’t like salt. I was straight in the kitchen, frantically filling up the grinder with the best Maldon sea salt.

    Then I was ready to attack. I ran through the garden, the pyjama'd pest controller, grinding salt on every slimy thing I could spot. And it worked – the slimies stopped sliming. As each grain of salt made contact with their bodies, their slippery skin bubbled and fizzed like sherbert. Only the revenge was sweeter than any sugar-based confectionary. I could almost hear them squealing: "I'm melting, I'm melting".

    This morning it was carnage. In the dawn sunlight, the path was covered in half-melted slugs, slime worthy of Saturday morning kids TV oozing out of thier insides. I felt bad. Really, really bad.

    It’s only a matter of time until the dog ends up in the microwave and I’m whizzing up a post-pub snack of cat and Branston sandwiches.

    And I’m a… gulp… vegetarian.

    Thursday, May 4

    Picture the scene

    The Meep household, 8pm on a Wednesday evening.

    We’ve just eaten a lovely mushroom risotto with purple sprouting broccoli on the side (all organic, of course). We’re having a bit of Green and Blacks to accompany our after-dinner cup of Fair Trade coffee.

    We flick through that day’s Guardian, while Radio 4 chatters on in the background. The cat and dog chase each other around the shabby chic coffee table.

    It is a scene of clich├ęd, urban, middle-class, nouveau hippie, domestic bliss.

    In the kitchen, the Mooncup is boiling in a pan of water on the hob.

    (Sorry, that’s officially the last mention of the Mooncup. Promise).

    Wednesday, May 3

    Lost
    Generally, Mr Meep and I rarely get to spend any time together on our own. This week, every night's booked up with one thing or another, except for last night.

    So to make the most of our one evening of chilling out at home, I went to work at stupid o'clock, so I could get the flock out of here as early as possible.

    Mr Meep was at a meeting quite near my work, so he called me at 4.30 and said he'd pick me up. You know, in the car.

    5pm No sign of Mr Meep.
    5.15pm Still no appearance.

    (I have lost my mobile phone, so don’t have his number on me to call him)

    5.30pm Where the bloody hell is he?
    5.45pm Just me left in the office trying to kill time by looking at pictures of cakes on Flikr.

    6pm Now have the holy trinity of feelings guaranteed to get me really, really cross: bored, hungry and tired.

    Then I remembered – his mobile number is on his website.

    Bring, bring, bring, bring
    Mr Meep: "Where have you been?"
    Me: "Where have YOU been?"
    "I'm in The Rhondda."
    "What?"
    "I'm in The Rhondda."
    "I heard that – what are you doing there?"
    "I… er… took a shortcut and got a bit lost."

    The 'shortcut' had taken him on a 35-mile detour, ending up in one of the most depressing areas of South Wales - possibly the world - famous for heroin and high unemployment.

    "How long have you been up there?"
    "About an hour – there are no signs telling you how to get out."
    "Why don’t you ask someone?"
    "I did – they didn’t really know. At one point I just pulled over in a car park and screamed. I've never done that before."

    He was right – once you get into the Rhondda, there are no signs anywhere pointing to civilisation. You can not get out.

    We did get home eventually – at 7.15pm. Bah.

    Tuesday, May 2

    For those of you who asked about The Mooncup...

    (If you are a man that actually knows me, I apologise for this and feel free to never look me in the eye again).

    I love it. It’s the best thing ever. I feel like I’ve got a new toy that I want to tell everyone about.

    I was a bit disturbed when it arrived as it looked a bit... well... big. It also says that you should give it three months before you make your mind up about it, which implied it was going to take a bit of getting to grips with. I had visions of wrestling with it in the work toilet and it pinging over into the next cubicle and bouncing off the neighbouring urinater’s head.

    But it was fine. It’s easy to use and clean. It’s comfortable – I really don’t know it’s there. There’s no nipping off to the toilet at work with your handbag in a ‘Look everyone, I’ve got my period’ stylee.

    It doesn’t absorb, er, all the other, um, lady juices like tampons do. It seems cleaner and more natural. Not shoving a bit of bleached cotton up your chuff has got to be a good thing.

    And best of all – no festering tampons sitting in landfills or floating in the sea. No cardboard boxes, plastic packets and applicators. Just a little rubber cup and a cute little bag to keep it in. And it lasts for 10 years.

    According to someone on the testimonials on mooncup.co.uk, you can use your menstrual blood to help your plants grow – a kind of icky, eco-friendly version of Baby Bio. My tomatoes can’t wait.

    Next stop, wee on my compost, grow my armpit hair and attend the goddess conference.

    Ladies, you need to buy one.

    Monday, May 1

    I can hardly move
    Yesterday morning, I ventured to my local leisure centre to get those endorphins pumping with an hour of cardio kickbox.

    I have a really irrational fear about fitness classes. I dread turning up and being the only person there. My nightmare is just me and some uber-fit, foxy, early 20-something instructor - them yelling instructions at me over the banging techno tunes while I sweat, wheeze and pant my way through the longest hour of my life.

    I was a bit late, so as I rushed up to the doors, the banging tunes had already started - they must just be getting going on the warm-up.

    But when I opened the door, it was just me. The nightmare had come true. Just me and a female instructor who looked like she'd just come off the set of Prisoner Cell Block-H. Just me, "The Warden", the banging techno - and a set of boxing gloves and pads.

    "Don't worry," she said. "I'll partner you."

    Oh. My. God.

    I was expecting a Thai-Bo style workout - girlie aerobics with extra kicks and punches. Instead I was about to embark on sixty minutes of sparring with a woman who looked as if she'd seen a fair few fights in her time.

    I wanted to run away, but we were straight into the warm-up, then on to the toughest work-out I've ever had in my life.

    Punch. Kick. Harder. Sprint. Jab. Jump. Run. Skip. Squat. Sprint. Faster.

    For one whole hour.

    Today, it really hurts.