What a weekend.
My usual Saturday goes pretty much like this:
Crawl out of bed > Watch a lot of sport > Do the grocery shopping > Pub > Bed
Saturday 2nd December was more like:
Crawl out of bed > Drive from Leicester to High Barnet station > Take train to Chalk Farm > Bridge House book launch > Journey in reverse back to Leicester > Wash and change > Nan’s 90th birthday party > Pub > Watch the Ashes > Bed
It began around 7am. Not the time I had intended to wake considering I’d only gone to bed a few hours before, but anxiety stuck two fingers up to that.
I was out of bed at 10am and ready to leave just before 11. Our plan (mine and the hubby’s, my designated driver / carer for the day), was to drive down the M1 and head to High Barnet, park at the station and then take the Northern Line to Chalk Farm.
It all went remarkably smoothly. There were no delays on either the motorway or on the tube. We did have a small delay outside Chalk Farm station when I couldn’t figure out which direction to go in, so we just walked up and down the same bit of pavement like the out-and-proud weirdos that we are until we found Bridge Approach, a lovely old pedestrianised railway bridge that I would’ve liked to take a closer look at had we had the spare time.
A short walk later through a very nice neighbourhood reminiscent of Cherry Tree Lane in Mary Poppins (and if you didn’t just read ‘Mary Poppins’ in Dick Van Dyke’s shit accent then go back again and do it properly), we found ourselves outside the Princess of Wales where the Bridge House book launch / celebration was held.
The event began at 2pm, and we walked through the doors at 1.57pm, which I thought wasn’t bad after a three hour journey by road and rail and foot. The pub was very nice, very busy, very expensive. £5.50 for a pint of lager and freshly-squeezed lime that was tart enough to strip the upper layers of skin from the inside of my mouth. Whilst waiting to be served said drink, I got chatting to a lovely American lady. I have no idea what we talked about since I couldn’t hear her voice above the din, and I think she was a tiny bit drunk. I smiled a lot and nodded, and then I said goodbye and we headed up the stairs.
I had, by this point, reached the zenith of my anxiety. I was about to walk into a room full of strangers, take part in some kind of speed-dating thing where I’d actually have to talk about myself to other people, hence my mind wasn’t on the job of climbing stairs, hence I walked straight into a giant ornate mirror and almost tore my arm off at the shoulder.
I still have the bruise and I cannot lie in bed on my left without crying. This was not to be my only injury of the day, but I’ll get to that later.
As for the Bridge House event, it was brilliant. Everyone was lovely and welcoming, the speed-dating task, whilst nerve-wracking at first, was a great opportunity to meet some very nice, very talented people and to talk about something we all shared a love of. After the speed-dating, Gill (James) and Debz (Hobbs-Wyatt) of Bridge House Publishing both did a speech and a little promotion of some of their books and authors (you can read my story ‘A Very Unseelie Act’ in Glit-er-ary by Bridge House here, out now in paperback and ebook!), and then many of the authors in attendance (bravely) did a reading of their work.
Sadly, we had to make a very swift exit. It was 4.35pm and my Nan’s 90th birthday party (back in Leicestershire) was due to start at 7pm. My Nan is the most important woman in the world to me and there was no way I was missing that party. She’s also what we colloquially call a ‘whittler’ (probably where I get it from), and whilst she never said anything to me, I knew that she’d be worrying that we’d get stuck in London and wouldn’t make the party.
So off we headed back through the Cherry Tree Lane-esque neighbourhood, back across the lovely old bridge to the tube station, back to High Barnet and then up the M1. It was all going smoothly. We met no hold-ups on the tube or the motorway. We even ended up following Dara O’Briain through Northamptonshire:
And then I got an email.
It was 6.17pm and the DJ was outside the venue of the party, which was locked and in darkness and apparently empty.
I emailed straight back and said I’d find out what was happening, then I sent a text to the lady who’d booked the room to see if she knew what time they opened. I didn’t get a reply so I tried to call the DJ, who didn’t answer his phone. Then I tried the venue, who didn’t answer their phone.
I tried the DJ again, who answered on my second try, but then I couldn’t hear him so I hung up and tried again and still couldn’t hear him. Third time lucky and it was crisis over: someone was there now, along with the guest of honour, who was demanding to know where I was, which told me she was most definitely whittling that I wouldn’t make the party.
We made it home at half past seven. A quick shower and change and we made it to the party at half past eight, by which time I was just as stressed as ever and had developed a raging headache, possibly from the travelling, possibly from an irrational but deep-seated belief that I have to be where everybody wants me to be when they tell me they want me to be there, regardless of whether that suits me or not.
So we walk into the dimly-lit function room. Tables to the left. Bar to the right. Dancefloor front and centre, where my Dad was taking full advantage of the karaoke and belting out one of his go-to songs, the name of which escapes me.
I look around the room for my Nan but can’t see her. Then several things happen all at once.
Hubby, who has made it to the bar, asks what I’d like to drink. At the same time I hear a familiar voice to my left, and turn to see Mum asking how it went in London. Before I can answer either one of them, I then hear another voice and here’s the guest of honour in her wheelchair, who promptly grabs my arm and pulls me down and towards her for a hug, except she nuts me instead and then smears my black lipstick across her face and mine, and then she promptly bursts into tears because she thought I wasn’t coming.
So now I’m just bent there awkward and lippy-smeared and smarting from the headbutt, and then I see my Dad walking over now he’s finished with Amarillo or whatever he was singing, and he’s got a bloody hole in his head!
I extract myself from the lot of them and go to the bathroom to mop up the damage. I’m accosted on my way back and told to tell the DJ the buffet is ready, so I go and do that, and then I find my way back to hubby and a much-needed beer. I’m lifting said beer to my lips when I’m accosted again to be told that the buffet isn’t ready and the cling film’s still on. My Dad is still there with the hole in his head but I go and take care of the cling film crisis because suddenly I’m in charge of catering as well as public service announcements, despite the fact I only just got there.
So I wrestle off the cling film to make sure my extended family don’t starve, which is not a simple task when you’re wearing this blouse and it’s dangling in the creamed-cheese sandwiches:
Catering rescued, I go and find my beer and then finally get to find out why Dad has a hole in his head.
“Tripped up the stairs,” he says. “Banged it on the skirting board. Wouldn’t stop bleeding!”
This doesn’t surprise me, seeing as he’s on Warfarin. “Are you feeling all right?” I ask. “It looks pretty nasty.”
But he tells me he’s okay and then gets swept up in the Great Dash for the Buffet, so I finally get to tell Mum how it went in London, and then me and the hubby find a quiet spot to hide whilst my blood pressure settles.
It isn’t very long before I’m summoned once more, because now I am needed for the cake-cutting ceremony.
The lights go up. We all sing Happy Birthday. My Nan sits ready with the knife in her hand, wielding it just like a hoodie on the rob. I help her cut the cake. It is large and rectangular and far too big. We’ll be eating it for months.
And then I take the cake into the buffet room, which apparently signals I am now in charge of cutting it and serving it.
I’ve had enough by this point, and maybe it shows because someone suggests that I just cut the cake up and then tell folk to help themselves. Not party etiquette, apparently, so someone who I won’t see for years whinges later.
By this time I’m hungry. My total sum of food for the day has been a protein bar and one slice of pizza. I pick over the remains of the buffet to see if there’s anything veggie, and return with a slimy wedge of cheese and onion quiche and a wilting stick of celery. I’ve just finished eating when I’m told that Nan is tired and going home. Her niece, Susan, is the designated driver, but can I follow in my car and bring her back to the party so she can have a drink?
We get to the car park outside Nan’s bungalow. Susan gets Nan into the wheelchair then asks if I can help her take the cards and the flowers and the presents from the back of the car.
So Susan is leaning in one side of the car, and I’m leaning in from the other side, and then Nan’s neighbour who caught a lift back with us shrieks and shouts, “Margaret’s off!”
We both look around to see the neighbour running after my Nan, who is sitting quite serenely in her wheelchair as it rolls down the car park, oblivious to the fact that there is no one at the helm.
Thankfully, the neighbour catches up with her, and then we all fall around laughing, and my Nan, who is still utterly oblivious to what’s happened, doesn’t know what the joke is, which makes it even funnier.
So we settle Nan in home and then we head back to the party. Hubby’s looking bored and Dad’s got the mike again. Family parties aren’t our favourite pastime, but we bear it past eleven PM and then it’s time to go.
Parents unloaded at home, we head to our local, the Vic Bikers Pub, to finish off the night (the same Vic Bikers Pub featured on Channel 4’s Four in a Bed last week – click the link and head to episode 37 to see all the fun).
It’s a fairly busy evening in the main room, but the bar is quiet so we sit ourselves down with a couple of friends and do our best to unwind after what has been a hectic day.
All is going well, until a gentleman approaches the table. He tells us we look like an interesting bunch and can he sit with us and talk to us. We’ve never seen the guy before but he seems very pleasant and we’re a friendly lot anyway so we say yes, of course.
We learn that he’s from Northumberland and is down here visiting friends, who are in the other room. Eventually one of these friends comes through to ask our guest if he’s okay. He seems quite surprised by the question and says yes, he is. She then leans towards him and I hear her say, “I know what you’re up to.”
Up to? As far as we’re concerned he’s just a friendly bloke looking for a sit down and a chat. Anyway, she wanders off, and soon our guest does to.
It’s getting quite late now and I’m ready to suggest we leave when our guest reappears with his friends – three of them – who sit down at our table, and when I say sit down I mean surround us, because that’s what it soon came to feel like.
Northumberland is sitting to my left. His friend, a forty-five year old bespectacled bloke in a waistcoat and skinny jeans – he looks like a cross between a hipster and steampunk – sits opposite. My husband is on my right, and to his right is the woman of the ‘I know what you’re up to’ comment. Next to her is someone else, a guy I think, but can’t be sure. There are two others in the group but they come and go and don’t have much to do with us.
At this point the bloke sitting opposite me – we’ll call him ‘Mr Pretentious’ – asks a very odd question. Odd because I didn’t know who he was and had to figure out what he was talking about. Then I remembered.
The Vic Bikers Pub is a rock bar. The disco plays rock music, mainly – AC/DC, Metallica, Motorhead, that kind of thing – so to hear any goth, unless you request it, is a rarity.
About six months ago, hubby and I were chatting in the bar when we heard a Sisters of Mercy track and happily went to dance. There were two other people on the dance floor at the time, and this was the couple who had requested the Sisters. They also asked for Killing Joke, Fields of the Nephilim and others I can’t remember.
This, as I was about to find out, had been Mr Pretentious and his partner.
“You like the Sisters of Mercy, right?” he asks.
“Of course we do,” I say.
He nods. “Right. So why did you sit down when (insert song name I can’t remember) by Red Lorry Yellow Lorry came on?”
“I beg your pardon?” (Or words to that effect).
“When you were dancing last time. (Random song I don’t remember) came on and you went and sat down. Why?” His tone is more interrogatory than enquiring and I’m not sure I like it.
“Because I don’t like Red Lorry Yellow Lorry,” I tell him.
“What? You’re kidding? But I thought you two were goths!”
“Then what bands do you listen to? Nephilim, Sisters?”
“Yes, amongst others.” I mention The Cult, Siouxsie, The Mission…
“I love The Mission! What about Bauhaus?”
“I don’t like Bauhaus either,” I tell him.
“What?!” Indignant now. “How can you be goth and not like Bauhaus?”
Because I don’t like every goth band ever and their entire back catalogue, I think but don’t say. Pretending I do in an effort to make out I’m more goth than you would be pretentious, I think but don’t say. Prick. I probably should’ve said that.
I have never met a fellow goth who’s tried to play the ‘I’m more goth than you’ game. That’s because we’re generally pleasant, inclusive people who recognize and embrace the fact that ‘goth’ means different things to different people. Take this helpful diagram for instance:
As a rule, I’m usually a mixture of romantic, fetish and victorian. However, I was once told by a non-goth friend that I wasn’t ‘a proper goth’ because I didn’t look like Black Friday (a well-known goth blogger who takes hours over her hair, make-up and clothes everyday and is more of a trad goth – more power to her elbow, but I don’t have the patience or the time to maintain that kind of look, and I don’t think I’d suit it if I tried).
Anyway, I very quickly tuned the guy out and settled into resting bitch face mode in the hope that someone would notice and swiftly take me home. Nobody did, and then Northumberland got chatty again. I don’t remember much of the conversation, only the parts where he kept telling me he was a weirdo, delivered in a way that suggested there was some hidden meaning in his words that I couldn’t quite grasp.
At which point I figured it was definitely time to leave!
So that was my Saturday. May I never have another one like it!
Don’t forget to check out Glit-er-ary, £9.00 via Amazon in paperback which is a perfect size for a stocking (hint hint!) and is chock-full of stories with sparkle and glitter. Ebook is £2.28, or free with Kindle Unlimited.