10 December 2007


Ok, Question (as our American friends tend to say, causing a hush as everyone pricks up their ears in anticipation of the seriousness that will inevitably follow). Ok, Question...

Is red lipstick, especially at this time of year, a glamourous and celebratory statement of charming self expression? Or is it just a little too 'Santa baby, slip a sable under the tree... for me'?

Also, is it sophisticatedly bohemian or, frankly, a tad slovenly to leave smeared red lipstick marks on the edge of a glass, slowly hardening and staining just like the dark wine dregs?

Is it too much? Or is anything less not enough? Or is it too much in a good way?

Exquisite and flawless or garish and clown-like?

Such are the dilemmas of the season. There is a fine line between style and tack.

Anyhow, I shall take inspiration from such screen sirens as Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, flash and brash with scarlet smackers. One of Santa's reindeer is named Vixen after all.

3 December 2007

And So It Begins...

Floating within a sea of seminars, lectures, pub trips, work avoidance and Sex and the City watching, it's miraculous if I know the hour, let alone day or date. So, lo and behold, on realising it was December 1st I was knocked for six.

Without the bickering and hoo-ha that accompanies every December evening, heralding the doling out of story and sweets from the lovingly created home-made Advent Calendar, I knew not how to cope with the onset of the merry month. In a civilised manner, one supposes.

Or, indeed, with the greatest concoction known to man (or, more likely than not, woman). Mulled wine is quite simply the most delicious, comforting, Christmassy thing. Ever. Even Sainsbury's own brand. And especially at a student halls party, prison cell walls bedecked with mistletoe, baubles, and splattered orange pulp from the steaming pan.

Warm, spicy, alcoholic. The Holy Grail is said to be a cup. I could understand all the fracas and tintamar surrounding this cup of contention if what it contained was the divine brew of the sweetly mulled grape.

Following this celebratory start to frolicking festivities, Christmas is coming thick and fast. A family roast dinner, complete with evergreen foliage and red berry table adornment, a bag of marrons glacees (brought back by B from Rome no less) consumed after midnight, a diary filling up with jolly occasions. And that is just the beginning. It all starts again when I hit Hexham baby.

25 November 2007

Observations from my anthropological study of Intercollegiate Halls life:-

The words Chav and Essex are considered profanities of the highest order and are used in reference to others at one's own risk.

Americans need clarifications, such as the DTR system. There is none of that very British timidity and reluctance to actually verbalise what the hell is going on. Define The Relationship is a common and useful part of their culture. E.g 'We need to do some DTR-ing'.

Sporty Irish lads can eat veritable mountains of food. It is a marvel to behold.

Philosophers are erudite, articulate, stoners, lovely and laid back, and incomprehensible. They muse on Sartre over starters, Mill over main course and Descartes over dessert.

Characters who are 'allergic to empty glasses', always have an open door and an open bottle of something, who sport berets and can recite Donne off by heart come to be known as Legends.

'Scrubs' is a unifying force.

Queueing has become a social occasion.

Lift smells are a constant source of surprise, revulsion, and mystery and can change hourly.

There is absolutely nobody from Newcastle or beyond. The sole native of Newcastle I have encountered, and indeed the only one residing in the whole of London, lives in different Halls. And he went to RGS so barely counts.

People become nocturnal beings. Body clocks change on entering the accommodation, and it is doubtful they will ever return to normal.

17 November 2007

I Do. You Do. We All Do The Haiku.

In keeping with the spirit of Cumberland Lodge and all that happened in this glorious place of firesides and tapestries, I have decided to be more 'creative' with my 'writing' and relate the essence of the trip through the medium of Haiku.

Over strong coffee - You
Write like an American,
John Sutherland said

From black to white to
Sublime to silly - Hitchcock
Master of the flicks

Striding out in frost
Bobble-hatted, happy, high
Hopes to meet Darcy

Sinking in sofa,
Drowning in tea, reading
The Guardian - joy!

Politics aside,
There's something to be said for

8 November 2007

A burgeoning snobbery

To desecrate such sanctified and hallowed ground with the audacity and irreverence I had the misfortune to witness shocked me, shocked me to my very core.

People (and note the plural, there was not just one person but multiple people) had actually dared to bring into the holy theatrical sanctum that is Covent Garden's Royal Opera House a London Lite. The free tabloid paper thrust into faces and fists each day in the streets. The streets! I tell you. I shall do my utmost to restrain my vitriol in reference to the spelling of 'Lite', and instead direct it very much towards the blasphemy incurred upon the lustrous velvet seats and gloriously plush amphitheatre. The whole thing reeked, positively reeked, of incongruity and insult. It is akin to bringing a burning effigy, accessorised with voodoo dolls and Wicca crystals, into Sunday service, parading it round the font as the altar is set alight and all the sacrificial wine is drunk, then sticking it up the vicar's arse. Such is the sacrilege.

To actually come prepared with such a rag for the interval leaves me speechless.

I blocked my eyes to the latest about Livingstone and Kate Moss's new hairstyle and tried very hard to merely sit and soak up the atmosphere of artistic brilliance, steeped in decades of theatrical mastery, when waiting between acts. Despite being surrounded by the tempting rustling.

I twiddled my thimbs and remained resolute. I am a true follower of the faith. A born-again believer in a 'swish night out to see the Ballet, dahling!'. I will not have it besmirched by London Lite.

4 November 2007

Excess, not XS

There is seemingly one constant in the everchanging realm of Kirkdom (otherwise known as 'my current life') and that is Excess.

Starting with the excess of wine drunk the night before the excessively long megabus trip up to The North, Excess became the name of the game that I was sportingly going to play over an extended weekend. I took a suitcase instead of a little holdall - which might be considered by some to be a little excessive - in order to bring an excess of books and, naturally, dirty washing. An excessively choclatey chocolate cake was presented on my arrival, celebrating the birthday of my excessively youthful father.
I hadn't even realised it was Autumn until venturing out of the city, but in Northumberland it is Autumn to excess. In fact it is a leaf-wading, hat and glove, Gap advert Autumn, that is how excessive the season is being. There was not, however, an excess of booze on the eve of Dad's birthday, as every last drop of many a bottle was consumed and enjoyed.
Hexham, with its excess of charity shops, geared up to Bonfire Night as I wandered through the excessively familiar streets, bumping into an excess of familiar faces. Excesses of split-ended hair fell about my person as I finally, after an excess of days, weeks, months, got my hair cut. I was excessively embarrassed by the state I had let it get into. An excessive amount of locals (and, indeed, those from further afield) swarmed through the town for the famous fireworks, which were excessively stunning and are both memory-stirring and memory-making to excess.
The excess people at Spoons had a smoke whilst waiting to get to the excessively busy bar, whilst those of us who battled our way with excessively pointy elbows got served surprisingly quickly. I became excessively overwhelmed and excited at seeing the excess of old friends and recognisable Northerners. Which lead to excessively red cheeks and excessively wide grins.

Excess is no bad thing, as the positive excess can just be scooped up and used later and sustain me for longer. And crikey, I sure feel better for, what some might say, was an excessively long lie in. I would say it was just right.

26 October 2007

If ever I'm feeling a little glum, the best cure I find is to simply mull over that precise expression of melancholy.

Feeling a little glum

I imagine a gnome-like creature, small, round and fantastical (perhaps even Tolkeinesque), being tickled to death by little roving hands whilst it wears a resolutely grim facial contortion, before it cracks up in hysterical glee. This always causes a fleeting smile and snigger, therefore banishing the former gloom.

The glumness is solved by envisaging Glums. Glums being felt up.

20 October 2007

Thankyadada for taking us to Wagamama

Despite the excess of ambient noise, it was an excellent choice of restaurant.

Jam packed with punters and bustling with hungry hip young things, the canteen style layout is perfect for chatty social interaction. Bevies of efficient, yet mildly stressed, waiting staff sweep up and down the length of the tables, bowing to one's every need and self-indulgent gluttonous whim.

It is astonishing what powers a serving of hot, deliciously fragrant, invitingly comforting food can possess. The disgruntled twittering of malcontent that had previously filled the air quickly abated once cavernous vessels yielding fragrant fancies were placed before wide-eyed souls.
I almost drowned in a big bowl of aromatic noodle soup, laced with coconut and chilli and studded with chunks of tofu. When delving into it I may easily have been lost forever if I hadn't had my feet wrapped around the table leg and a brother on hand to fish me out.

Noodles submerged in an oily broth and chopsticks does not make for attractive eating. Spattering myself (and anything that was in a five metre radius of my gesticulating arms) in globules and flecks of yumminess, we shouted happily above the din, cheeks full and chops smeared with grease. Messy eating, especially in public, really is the best. It makes for funny and amiable babbling, yakking away nineteen to the dozen, whilst making a contented fool of oneself.

The philosophy of the place is 'Wham-bam-thank-you-mam!' Dishes come thick and fast, senses are all heightened (bright eyes, smells abounding, getting hot at the frenzy of it all), and there's only two chefs. No, three - 'I didn't see that little one there' - only a voraciously bobbing red hat visible above the counters. So much is going on, in terms of movement, sound, and taste explosions, one could almost forget that it was 'family outing' and that families are supposed to bicker and argue and not get on. This is the magic of such a place, it makes people rub along jolly well. Even people who are related. Super choice, five stars.

Just don't prod my stomach. It may burst with a satisfied pop.

7 October 2007

Horseplay for Philistines

Of course I felt awful. But Dad said it took him the best part of his life to realise that if he wasn't enjoying a book it was not actually compulsory to finish it. What is the point if you are willing the end to come with all your might and the book in question is soul destroying? It is a waste of time. You could be doing something infinitely more pleasurable and fulfilling.
I applied this same logic to a play.

It did make it worse that the first time I walked out of a performance was at the esteemed Globe theatre. BUT, I hasten to add, it was not Shakespeare, which would, of course, be sacrilege. Instead, it was some political drama (if one could call a lot of men sitting around in period clothing voting on matters of Government 'drama' as such) that documented American goings on within state arounf the time of Franklin etc. So it was to be expected really.

I love the Globe, and the whole ambience of the inspirational setting. Even the venue, with all its Shakespeare in Love connections, was not enough to redeem this play. The accents were dire, ranging from caricature hillbilly, to variations of Irish and Scottish (which at least was entertaining in its way) and there was an awful lot of thespian posturing, and placing of cast members within the audience. A frankly terrifying notion, as I was in a constant anticipatory state of dread that they would explode into action right beside me.

And so it was that I left in the interval (I would never be so rude as to leave mid-actorly gesture or speech) for the Tate Modern. Along with half the audience. Alas, poor production company. And for shame at leaving in the middle. I do harbour insecurities about not sticking it through, but really... American politics?

Incidentally, and incomprehensibly, there was a horse brought on a little while into the performance. It added absolutely nothing to, well, anything really. I suppose it was merely there to be talked about later, poor thing. 'Did you see that awful American history lesson masquerading as a production? You know, the one with the horse?'
Animal cruelty at its height- being the mascot for a truly mind-numbingly bad play.
Adds a new understanding to the phrase 'even wild horses couldn't hold me back'. This one couldn't hold me back from the exit point.

2 October 2007

A mere whisp of the Big Smoke

'Where the devil have you been?', I hear you cry en masse. 'What the Dickens have you been getting up to?', you add as an afterthought.

Well, I'll tell you what I haven't been doing. And that is watching 'Neighbours'. Alas, my intellect has been called for elsewhere. And it certainly is necessary for all brain cells to be present in order to get off at the right bus stop, dodge raindrops effectively, and use all their strength for keeping my arm affixed to my body when lugging bloody great literary tomes around. That 'Riverside Chaucer' will be the death of me. On the plus side, I'm starting to resemble Popeye after the spinach magic. Only in one arm though.

Disregarding the loss of 'Neighbours' (I softly sob in sweet lament of this afternoon delight) I am attuning to the quirks and quaintness of our fine capital.
I shall give a taster of the observations I have made of late.
The library is organised in a nuts fashion. One could get lost in a dusty corner and never experience natural light again. Or, indeed, a common sense approach to alphebetisation.
Jeremy Bentham has his own pub. Which is marvellously cosy but a little overpriced. Now, is that the most happiness for the most people? At £5 for a large glass of wine, I think not. Though it is pleasing to see his brightly coloured features leering down at one from the pub sign.
Tutors all have their bizarre oddities. They are either named after Greek lute players, have disturbingly long fingernails for a middle aged man in corduroy, have a penchant, or even a fetish, for dashes in text, resemble Miss Cackle from 'The Worst Witch', or have fascinatingly lyrical names like Dr Ardis Butterfield.
The bus seems to be the place to be when the 'Dad gene' kicks in and I stare at people gormlessly without realising it. Totally captivating.
Large stacks of mattresses are transported from lorry to building in the middle of the street. Mattresses that I shall, in time, be laying my head on. Atleast I can see that they're doing something to my soon-to-be abode. I'll have a bed of sorts at any rate.
I actually have to read for the English course. A lot.

There are a billion other things too. But I can't recall off the top of my head. The cranial matter needs a rest. That is what 'Neighbours' is for.

27 September 2007

Spot the difference

What I have feared all along is, in actuality, true. All Kirks are the same.

Even when they pretend to be otherwise, by giving themselves a different surname in the vain attempt at escaping the curse of Kirk and evading the pitfalls that are inextricably bound to the genepool and DNA strands. It is a futile endeavor to denounce what Kirk ancestory has granted.

To be dubbed 'Hankins' fools nobody.

Nature seems to prevail over nurture if the family dynamics of the household I am currently ensconced within is anything to go by. Despite living hundreds of miles away from my own fair family unit and being brought up by different parents and in a different environment, offspring are interchangeable. No doubt a swap could occur within the brood and we would be none the wiser for at least a week. Especially if dishwasher loading and unloading is chucked into the mix. The Kirk approach seems universal. Delegation and avoidance, mostly. If only an aga were here, and I'd feel quite alarmingly at home.

And parental approach to wine drinking is comfortingly similar also.

19 September 2007

First impression = Worst impression?

I have been working on my introductions.
My unforced, seemingly off the cuff, decidedly unpremeditated introductions that I will undoubtedly have to repeat about a billion times on arriving at university.

So, this is what I have come up with so far...

'Enchanted. I'm Anna and I'm reading English as I am so enamoured of the romanticism of the literary scene in Bloomsbury, steeped in its creative and scholarly traditions. I just cannot wait to steep myself in it also, being that I am such an ardent admirer of all that is encompassed within this grand institution. Don't you just positively ache to immerse yourself in the culture and ambience of the whole Fresher experience? I'm so pleased to make your acquaintance.'

'Nu! Call me Country Bumpkin Kirky. I'm from Up North. That's a bit further than Harrow. Where sheep outnumber people and you have to wait a mite longer than a minute or two for a bus to anywhere. Yes, the legends are true. And no, I'm not inbred. To the pub, where mine'll be a Newcastle Brown. Cheers!'

'Umm...Err...Hello, I'm Petrified. I mean I'm Anna. As well as petrified. Nice to meet you. I'm doing English, well, will be doing English, you know, when we start doing things. Studying things, I mean. And by things I mean books. Well, in my case anyway... So...what about you?'

Though once I get the old vino rouge down my neck all will be fine. There'll be no stopping my inane and blathering chit chat. Flow of conversation may well depend on flow of alcohol.

Not that I want to give the impression I'm an alcoholic.

15 September 2007

The Little Things

Sometimes it gets to the point when one just wants to cry out, in the immortal words of Dr Evil, 'Throw me a frickin' bone here!'.
After being kicked one too many times when already very much down, bruised and bloodily pulpy from the blows, the little things that bring so much pleasure ordinarily take on almost mystically regenerating properties.
So when I learned that my Big Box of Books were going to arrive that day, I felt instantly brighter. There is nothing like new books. I am all for ancient, musty smelling and yellowing tomes, but there is something so beautifully clean and wholesome and uplifting about glossy, brand new, pristine books. They are nothing short of exciting.
And the fact that they would be inevitably arriving in a brown delivery box only served to add to the charm of it all- something so very 'brown paper package tied up with string, these are a few of my favourite things' about the whole postal procedure.

I put off going in the shower for hours so as not to be otherwise engaged when the doorbell rang, announcing the books. I just wasn't in the frame of mind to cope with the disappointment of them being dragged away due to nobody being in. So I sacrificed my cleanliness and tolerated the smell in order to be there when the bell tolled. I was busy practicing my swanky gait when it finally did, getting used to my absurdly high new red patent leather heels around the house, but leapt three feet in the air as I heard the man arrive, leaving my shoes resolutely stationary on the ground as I did so, like in the cartoons.
He was a big, bald, beefy chap. Immediately the box was thrust into my arms, then he passed me the dinky signing contraption on top of this. Now this seemed silly. He was a strapping man of Mitchell brothers-muscle. I am a scrawny waif like creature, often mistaken for an urchin boy of distinctly Dickensian pedigree. So to have to sign this screen with that impractical little pencil/poking thing whilst lumbered with a box weighing over 5 kilos was a little bit rich. But it barely ruffled a feather, being, as I was, so excited and preoccupied with the treasure within the cardboard chest.

Wielding scissors manically, I sliced through the sellotape and beheld the innards. I beamed.

10 September 2007

Technological Healing

In the current social climate we live in, shadowed and tainted by terrorism, attacks and the media stoking the fires of fear within the masses, I was not surprised to be receiving flashing boxes popping up on my laptop alerting me to the fact that there was a 'THREAT DETECTED'. Dum dum duuuuum....!

What I was surprised to see was that one of the options presented in dealing with said 'THREAT' (which was not elaborated on- it was apparently enough to know that it would be threatening) was to 'heal'. I could either 'ignore' or 'heal'. Naturally I opted for 'heal'.

And lo, a new box appeared instantaneously informing me 'the object is healed'. And there was great rejoicing in the land, and the trumpets sounded and all exulted in the power and the glory, and the laptop was praised.

So there you go, it's as easy as that. Threats can just be healed. By computers no less. Computers channelling the grace of God.

3 September 2007

Puddings of the Past: Chocolate Childhood in a Bowl

It is a true classic. Synonymous with family life and formative childhood experiences, Mum’s Chocolate Mousse is forever entwined with vivid, animated images of crowded dinner tables and smacking lips. It surpasses the Chris Garner Chocolate Traybake, and even the Slightly Sticking Yorkshire Pudding on the Kirk Family Classics scale.

Its fame is widespread, reaching as far as any extended family member or family friend has deigned to hold a celebration or gathering over the past decade or so for which we were required to bring dessert. The notoriety and infamy of such a pudding exceeds any that has come before it. It really is that good.

A firm favourite with the menfolk of the Kirk clan, who lap it up as though they have been working the Cumbrian fields since sunrise and have been hard at manual labour which coarsens the skin and puts muscles on their backs, the ritualistic trundling out of the whipped up indulgence never fails to make the revellers eyes light up. Eyes that are often bigger than their bellies. Bellies that have invariably already been stretched with fine food and good wine. The family resemblance between Dad and Uncle D is never more apparent than when presented with the fancy ‘special occasion’ glass bowl of Chocolate Mousse.

Everybody has their own tried and tested way of embarking on its lusciousness and tackling the richness that could take out a rhinoceros with one spoonful. I favour the method of using a small spoon and accompanying the bowlful with a large glass of water that is sipped between mouthfuls, and gulped in the aftermath. Dad drowns his in double cream (‘I’ll have some mousse with my cream, please’) to ‘cut’ through the rich chocolate. N eats his at a (literal) fair lick, asks for seconds - still heady from the first instalment of sugar and cocoa – then promptly keels over from overload, unrepentant in his greed. Mum savours, but consumes at a reasonable pace, smug in the fact she is established in her running program. J takes it slow and steady and, to my extreme surprise, cannot finish it. It is his all time fave after all, requested for his birthday. I’m shocked until I learn he finished off the luxury chocolate cake with butter cream and decorative chocolate shavings earlier. One chocolate hit too far. Deadly.

Thank goodness it was requested however, as it meant I could sample its magical qualities one last time before leaving home. And I had the extreme privilege of making it on this occasion. With the proper type of chocolate that is purchased especially to be used for the Chocolate Mousse no less. The type of chocolate we feared had disappeared forever but was actually bought by Nestle. We shall have to withhold political ethics in this instance, for the greater good of the perfect dessert. Even though, once having been refrigerated, a hammer and chisel is required to break into the dark, velvety yumminess that holds all the answers to childhood. Oooh, mystical... Never underestimate the powers of pudding.

29 August 2007

Avocado Skins

Living, as we do, in the wrong neck of the woods to be eligible for any kind of modern, new age technology that actually allows us to get channel five, let alone this new-fangled 'digital' tv that I have heard legend of, mere rumours whispered on the breeze as they pass through our country bumpkin dwellings, I have had to wait until now to watch the appraised 'Skins'. Our stone-age bubble around the house has dictated that we must make do with terrestrial. This is one of the many sob-story, MontyPython Yorkshiremen sketch-style tales I will pass on to the grandchildren with a wistful tear in my eye.

Anyway, now that channel four has deigned to give us lowly analogue viewers the chance to revel in the teenage exploits of the wild southern group of pill-popping, vodka-necking, gonad-groping sixth formers, I have a reference point for our own parties.

Quel difference??

They fall short in terms of sheer wildness, recklessness, and downright destruction. Bottles of wine, hippie-rollies, bowls of Tesco's Taste the Difference crisps, quilt-strewn sofas, Cyndi Lauper/Bob Dylan/Aretha Franklin on the hi-fi, raving in the kitchen, heart to hearts in the basement, cheese and crackers before bed. That kind of civilised fare. As opposed to shooting heroin, discarded syringe littering the floors, vats of spag-bol chucked around, swinging from the chandelier type activity. Don't get me wrong, when throwing a shindig it's no tea party we have in mind, and it wouldn't be an amazing stretch of the imagination to envisage the 'Skins' situation going down in here Hexham. I'm just saying that, instead of poppers, it's popped avocados that get us high.
The morning after and L looks in her bag. 'Ewww, there's avocado mush all over my stuff! You gave me one as a present last night and it's popped!'

Two more popped avocadoes were discovered during mission clear up later that day. It's a problem in these parts.

And as I always say when eating salad, that green pulp just coats everything.

21 August 2007

Textbook Case... with doodles

A horrifying realisation has been made. It is mostly horrifying because it has taken me this long to make it. I have realised that, on paper, I am a textbook lah-di-dah little lady of what is considered to be snort-snort toffiness and goody-two-shoes privilage. Not just any two shoes either, but the shiny patent leather t-bar kind that girlies wear when going on special outings. It is that bad.
Ballet lessons from the age of four with the quintessential ballet mistress with scraped back black bun and ankle warmers. Private flute lessons, possible the most lady-like and ponciest instrument there is, so I could play refined classical pieces. In various choirs throughout the educational process. Taking part in dance and theatre productions for which my mother often made my costumes. Trips to the ballet, art galleries, operettas, music recitals. Noel Streatfield being a favourite of mine for many a year, especially 'Ballet Shoes' in which I yearned to be a character. A penchant for pretty things: hand-crafted buttons, silky ribbons, ornate perfume bottles, intricate embroidery. I have been known to be in possession of a Little House on the Prairie-style frock and a collection of Alice bands that were invariably clamped to my head. I even have a Degas poster on my wall and a box set of hardback, beautifully illustrated Lewis Carroll books on my shelf.

I bow my head (of gleaming locks, 100 brush-strokes before bed naturally) in shame.

So, of course, I am grateful for all the other things that are not 'on paper', as it were. The fact that I can recite all of 'Robin Hood: Men in Tights', 'The Princess Bride' and the majority of the Star Wars trilogy by heart. The endless Roman wall outings and visits to castles, acting out scenes roitously with plastic swords and shields. Having every single screen version (both silver and small) of Robin Hood there is, on well-worn video. Scratching, punching, biting my way through many a 'play' fight with those of the opposite gender, and often coming out triumphant. Being the sole member of my family who can watch whole episodes of Rome without flinching at, or turning away from, the blood, gore and violence. In fact, I revel in it. Being brought up watching, what I was amusingly reminded of the other day as being referred to by a two year old N as, 'Henry the Viv'; the Laurence Olivier version of Henry V. Having an 'Empire Strikes Back' poster in place next to a Van Gogh. Being known to shriek 'On guard, you varlet!' with violent frequency when wielding weapons throughout childhood.

Thank goodness for the counterbalance. One might have thought me a wussy, prim, thoroughly revolting and precocious girly-girl. I hope I have set the score right.

14 August 2007

Bla, bla, bla - Ignore if Bored by Waffling

It seems as though the more escapades I get up to and the more time I have, the less I blog. How odd.
So a great many things (of which you are going to have to only imagine- though some are beyond mortal comprehension it must be said) have occurred that could have filled post upon post of blogtastic entertainment. I cannot, alas, be arsed to cover these. They will not get the attention, wit and painstaking yet subtle handling they deserve if I dash off a few hasty typings.
Instead I am going to pepper this post with a smattering of observations that have been observed (which is what observations usually are. Observed I mean) of late. Nay, the very purpose of this post will be to provide a series of aforementioned observations. Lucky, lucky you.

1. Although I recognise that dogs and cats are very different things, not least anatomically, I am more concerned with the subtle differences between them. The dog we are looking after is, admittedly, very like a cat, but it has been noted that I act differently with the canine creature than its feline nemesis. By which I mean that when I am skulking around home alone I will talk amicably to the animals in a conversational manner, but to the dog in straightforward English, and the cat in French. Why? Je ne sais pas.

2. Icecream vans are creepy. When up in my room I hear the soft tinkling of a nursery rhyme tune drifting on the breeze up to my window, luring innocent children with its haunting and frankly sinister melodies. There is something of the Pied Piper in the whole business, a fairytale I always had trouble with as it made me uncomfortable. A grown man leading young bairns away with a quick blow on his whistle? Shudder. And not to mention how reminiscent the icecream vans are to that familiar figure of children's nightmares, the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. An absolutely terrifying chap, all greasy hair, wiry limbs and long, crooked nose.
It is even more disconcerting when the faint, repetitive ditties are heard as night falls.

3. Doing crosswords when one is forced to copy out the grid from the puzzle in the paper may well be fun the first time, what with the novelty of creating a slipshod forgery, but it is most definitely not when done every day. It becomes a cumbersome task. But when there have been cross words over crosswords (sorry, I couldn't resist) one must do one's duty and relent to the wishes of the disgruntled parent. Just as long as they are aware of my martyrdom.

4. I am actually incapable of receiving compliments like an ordinary human being. It all goes well at first, with me smiling graciously and thanking whoever has been lovely enough to pay me one. But then I always have to go further and be a little bit manic in my reply. For example, when complimented on my new shoes, which has happened rather a lot actually, I then go on to immediately say how they were an absolute bargain from Save the Children at only £4 yada, yada, yada. People don't want to hear that. They want the moment to swiftly move one, having done a nice thing in saying something good about another and hoping that it will be reciprocated. They don't want to hear how I am the bag lady of Hexham, scrambling about in charity shops and being tight with money. I can't help it though, it all just spills out in a rather high-pitched voice, nineteen to the dozen. I must learn to say 'Thankyou, and I simply adore your vintage lycra jumpsuit'. Easy as that.

5. Being an only child (though only for a few days, granted) may not be all it's cracked up to be. It's basically the same as having siblings but with less satisfaction from winding up, less exasperation from observing the habits of others and less entertainment from the exploits of the young. A sedate ride is not necessarily preferable to one with peaks and troughs, as the rollercoaster industry is well aware.

Over and out on the observation front. It's time for Neighbours.

6 August 2007

Oddie's Kirkwatch: Summertime

To paraphrase the sainted Gerald Durrell, whom is the apple of my father's eye, families are animals. Be it roving beasts, exotic birds or, in my case, all-out monsters, there is a certain animalistic quality at the core of every pared down, stripped bare family, feral and untamed.

Though I never got along with the overgrown boy scout tales of our familiar friend Gerald (far too wholesome and angst free for my liking- though I appreciated the naming of an elephant Rosie) I see there is some truth in his comparison. After all, is there really a vast difference between anthropology and zoology?

So, to the horseplay and monkeying around of the Ingleside livestock. A fair bit of rabid frothing is common at this time of year, what with increased exposure to the habits of other mammals in the vicinity. As well as pouncing on prey and ripping them limb from limb in a bloody frenzy. (Well a verbal frenzy of expletives at any rate).
A great deal of preening, posturing and fluffing of feathers is also noticeable, especially after the offspring dupe the elders into purchasing new clothes for them. This meticulous and extensive grooming increases just before the mating dances and strutting of stuff when going on hunts, out for the kill.
Nocturnal activity becomes the norm, with the young of the brood rarely rising before noon and staying wakeful well into the night. Though often dormant during the day, hibernation is not quite on the cards, despite supplies being horded in and around nest areas.
It is common for the youngest to have all manner of flora and fauna plucked from his wayward mane, but it is rare for these to be consumed ape-like by the one grooming.
The mother within the pride must accept that her cub is no longer of nurturing age, and after a recent birthday must fly the nest, spread his wings, leave the coop.

However, he may still need keeping an eye on as he is still inclined to try and sit on chairs that are simply not there and come crashing to the ground like a herd of elephants. Which makes the onlookers cackle like hyenas.

31 July 2007

Happily Ever After

Once upon a time there was a girl who indulged in a little regression and was bestowed with a fairytale treat. All Princess attributes were accounted for in this great gift magically conjured by her Fairy Godmother: Beauty, Grace, Wisdom, Grandeur and all-out oppulence of the most decadent degree. Scrubbed and shining after immersion in rivulets of steaming water in a vast sparkling bathroom, and clothed in spanking new gown of lacy detail, she was swept into the fading evening light for a night of enchantment.

Residing in red velvet and gold embellishment, she fell in love with the Handsome Prince, as Princesses are accustomed to do. She tried hard to ignore the cut of his luxurious jacket that acted as a blatant arrow to his already prominent nether regions, as if they were not glaringly distracting enough (what with the tights and all), and was instead captivated by the solo bearing of his soul during the effortless leaps, bounds and emotive choreography of his movement. She sat, awe-struck, listening to the swelling of the orchestra and catching the flick of the conductor's wand in the corner of her rose-tinted, blurred and glazed eye, and was drawn under the Wicked Fairy's spell, destined to favour this imaginary, flawless, lavish world over the reality that must be borne outside of the Royal Opera House for all time. Once in a white overshirt that fell in soft folds about his shoulders, the Prince proceeded to charm and whoo the girl, making her yearn to be in the pink satin pointe shoes of the Spanish ballerina he twirled and kissed the hands of.

Though they bowed, gracious and autocratic, and left the stage in a haze of flowers, sequins and closing of thick velvet curtains, the dancers, fairytale characters and Prince did not cease to be. They lived on in the eulogistic gushings of the girl and her Fairy Godmother when sipping from goblets of chilled white wine, over plates of hot pasta and ornate bowls of Italian ice cream in a candlelit restaurant named 'The Ballerina'. The romance continued as the rain poured and the pair had to gracefully leap and skip back to their dwellings to avoid the cascading droplets. Swaddled in thick dressing gowns of the most luxurious fibres in the land, the girl, sleepily drunk on spectacle, excitement, Princely love, and white wine, laid her head on the pillow and slept for what felt like one hundred years. Dreams of Nureyev, Tchaikovsky, Aurora and Prince nourished her unconcious mind.

The spell has not lifted, and nor would she want it to.

24 July 2007

What a way to make a living...

Things I have been mostly saying this week:

'I'm so sorry to bother you...'

'I assure you, we are not trying to sell you anything...'

'Perhaps there would be a more convenient time to call...?'

'Yes, yes, I am aware of what time it is...'

'Yes, I do realise that people have better things to do with their time...'

'You wouldn't be interested in participating? Okey-doke then, Cheerio!'

And all said in a cheery sing-song voice that morphs into violent swearing and spluttering as soon as the phone is in its cradle. There is nothing to inspire such celebration of the human race as being a minion of market researchers and calling le grand public of an evening.

I often muse as I call about whether I could tip a person over the edge. For instance, some of the surveys we carry out have certain criteria that must be met in order to take part, such as being in a particular age boundary or having so many children. So, if somebody is coming to terms with getting older and is really rather depressed about it, being turned away from a survey they have agreed to partake in (a rare occurrance though this is) due to their mature years could throw them into turmoil or intense mental instability. Likewise with an infertile person, or somebody suffering great trauma in trying to conceive, being ineligible for a questionnaire as they are childless. I could be causing deep personal agony and may be the final straw before suicide is contemplated or attempted...
Or they may try track me down and come after me and strangle me with the telephone wire for causing them such heartache. I am putting my own life at risk by undertaking this job. There are some nutcases out there after all.

Thus, this is the great responsibility I commit to when walking into work each evening. And for only five pounds an hour.

17 July 2007

Home SWEET home? Home TANGY, CRUNCHY home!

There are, of course, many things about home that I miss when away from home, and it is only on returning after a bit of a jetset break that I realise how much I take these things for granted.

Yes, there is obviously the whole family thing. Those who are most beloved, have nurtured me, and provided me with a lasting formative experience that will serve me well throughout my life. Then there is the fact that the fridge and pantry are stocked by those little fairies that work so hard out of sight, and who also do the washing, ironing and cooking. They are indispensible creatures. And of course there are the many cafetieres at my disposal.

But what I am really referring to, the thing that is best about home, the thing I most take for granted and will sorely miss on leaving, is being able to eat a big bowl of pickled gerkins whilst in pyjama bottoms, crunching noisily and slopping pickle juice down me in front of Loose Women, and not even having to worry about the smell or the state of my breath.

That is what home is. Home is where the gerkin is.

11 July 2007


Yikes, the cyberspace documentation of the amazing adventures of Anna has been neglected for too long I fear. One of the pitfalls of raving in Magaluf for a week. Another is glowstick related injuries, such as fluorescent goo to the eye and over-enthusiastic wielding of said rave prop.

So, I think a summary is in order.

Someone pulled a Pedro

I got sunstroke and almost vommed on ravers

A Spanish keyboard player with a perm named Tony helped A practice her Spanish

Gammon Daddies were both ridiculed and embraced

C and I discovered how liberating pole dancing is

We ate mac in a can

I rode in the lift about a billion, trillion times

Eye liner 'taches and monobrows were applied for a night out in bars

I obtained a perfect white strap across my red raw back

A 'Cribs' style video was recorded in our appartment, complete with theme music

We got addicted to Smack (a breakfast cereal)

I mourned the loss of a big bug that was murdered by C

Sand got absolutely everywhere

We blocked the shower plughole with hair, ewww

Cheap vodka is the way to wildness, especially when in Long Island Iced Tea - yum

My tankini top blew off the balcony, but was later retrieved from a bush

We met a chap from Corbridge, randomly

Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, and many other classics were danced to in a cheesy club

We sat on the bed drinking tea and eating choccy wocky (as it is now known)

C took over the mic from the Spanish indie band and stomped her way through a rendition of the White Stripes

We lay on the beach at five o'clock in the morning looking at the stars

'She's Electric' became the anthem of the week

I raved continuously to DJ Sammy for hours and hours, and actually LOVED it - who knew?

This is only the tip of the iceberg too. A great deal can happen in a week. And the result of it all boils down to me sitting at the dinner table on my return, having a perfectly civilised conversation with the parentals, peeling great sheets of skin from my back and placing them on a tissue. Both surreal and gross.

27 June 2007

Badger me this...

The true embodiment and quintessence of versatility itself is the gloriously useful and fascinatingly malleable word 'badger'.

And not just in the animalistic sense, as in 'Is that fashionably monotone, snufflingly teddybear-esque creature, ridden with tuberculosis and perhaps liable to speak like they so disconcertingly do in Prince Caspian, possibly what is commonly known to the countryside dwellers as a BADGER?', but in the haranging and annoying sense also. Which is always a far better thing. Nature is so-so, but the potential for irritating and nagging? That's what I'm talkin' about.

To badger (verb): to harrass or urge persistently; nag; pester
I badger, I badgered, I will badger
You badger, He badgers, They badger, We all jolly well badger together

No doubt you are now all beginning to share my joy for the word. That's what sheer repetition does to the English language, rendering whatever word is being repeated nonsensical and somehow rude sounding.

It can be used perfectly adequately, nay favorably and proficiently, out of context as well. Such as exchanging the word 'riddle' for badger, 'Badger me this, why don't you?'. Or swapping 'ticket' for badger, 'That's the badger!'. Or, indeed, any swearword at all, 'Oh badgeration! I stubbed my badgering toe! How the badger did that happen?!'

It's just a word that keeps on giving.

Incidentally, can you tell that I first started musing on the subject of this post when in that dreamlike state between deep sleep and conciousness as I was waking up this morning? Nah, thought not.

23 June 2007

Groundhog Day, Every Day

Just like there are re-runs of programmes like The Simpsons and Friends shown endlessly on TV at exactly the same time each day, that you can set your watch by and can be safe in the knowledge that you've seen them all before, my mind plays re-runs.

Admittedly there are a few original thoughts that flash through the old cranium. But aside from these rare and exotic things, there is pretty much a loop of the same thoughts that occur to me at round about the same time each day that I never think about except at that moment, day in, day out. I have endeavoured to remember them out of context.

When I push down the cafetiere most mornings I always think how much it sounds like a sound effect from Star Wars, the Death Star atmospherically ploughing through a galaxy far, far away perhaps, or Dr Who when the Tardis is embarking on travelling through the space time continuum.

When I use the remote control, usually about Neighbours time, that statistic about how many germs and bodily fluids are present in the peanut bowls at bars always occurs to me as I muse over how many grubby little fingers have poked at the volume and channel buttons.

When I am making use of a towel, after a shower or the like, I am always reminded of that riddle: what gets wetter the more it dries? A towel. This is rather clever and I wish I didn't know the answer so that I could think on it and be delighted by the solution to the riddle.

When I am alone in the house and venturing into the pantry I always imagine what it would be like if I accidentally shut the door and was trapped inside. I suppose there are worse places to be trapped as at least there are plenty of provisions in a pantry. But I always see myself as a decomposing corpse in rigor mortis, look of horror on my bloodless face, when discovered by returning family.

When returning from the pantry I always contemplate life itself and the transient nature of it and all I have achieved in my own short existence as I see it flash before my eyes when tripping over all the shoes strewn across the floor, narrowly avoiding a broken neck.

All these thoughts and more are touched on, however fleetingly, each day as they are provoked or inspired by whatever external activity I am involved with. Often to the point of annoyance as I feel like saying 'Yes, I know that, I have thought that before, many a time, get out of my head and leave me to be otherwise cerebrally disposed'. I am trapped in a loop of my own thoughts.

17 June 2007

They can do something right

Say what you will of the Americans, but they sure do have some great surnames.

Take, for instance, Horowitz, Zimmerman, Kowalski, Liebowitz, Kellog, Roosevelt, Brudwig, Rodriguez, Delfino, Abramowitz, Katzoff, Stefani, Duff, Gyllanhaal. It sounds as though a couple of young tykes, so enamoured with the experimental potential of language, spent many a happy hour just playing around with noises with delightful consequences. An auditory landscape of gems and idiosyncracies that just get better with repetition.

Before you say anything, I realise that these surnames are evident all over the world and have many different origins etc etc. But I doubt that they would all be together, say in a highschool classroom, in any other country but the US. Not the banality and blandness of multiple Browns, Joneses and Smiths for them. They shake it up a bit, have some variation, keep on adding syllables and obscurities in order to construct more unique marvels. Registration must be an event, a source of fascination each day.

In fact, I would even go so far to say that I would ditch all my ingrained feminist sensibilities in a certain case and actually agree to take a partner's name. Now hold your horses and let me explain. If I were to meet and fall for a guy going by the name of Kowalsky (and lets face it, that would probably be the reason I fell for such a guy. His first name would be something like Duane, Bud, Chip or Biff knowing those crazy kids across the pond) I would consider adding such a suffix to my own simple title.
Anna Kirk-Kowalsky has a certain ring to it I'd say. You know you would.

14 June 2007

'Is it wrong to taste the milk and honey? Oh Moses, Mo-o-oses, Moses'

It's been a while but I have had a packed schedule of glancing distactedly and worriedly at my 'filing system' of revision notes behind my sofa, making cups of coffee and watching 'Loose Women'. It's been a tough old week.

However, there have been some highlights. And I am unfortunately not referring to those jaunty fluorescent pens that everybody insists are fantastic revision aids but actually are of no use whatsoever apart from giving the effect that New Rave slugs have been partying on your notes.

One such highlight involved a very surreal evening in Byker.
I mingled with the members of the education profession that fall under the hippy-dippy category at a pub that has a regular ukulele club.
I was bought a drink by an ex-supply teacher's second husband (her first husband used to be a vicar before converting to Islam, a decision which apparently 'had something to do with the bird he was shagging').
I was enlightened by my Philosophy teacher's band that consists of one dreadlocked hippy (said Philosophy teacher) on vocals/guitar/mouth organ/saxophone, one crazy-eyed hobbit in a Pete Doherty hat on vocals/guitar/violin, one skinny, spruced up trendy on keyboards and a bass player who seemed to have a dislocated, deformed hand when playing though admirably looked quite chipper about it. Plus there was the trumpet player (another Philosophy teacher incidentally) and the large female cello player who came on for the odd song. An eclectic mix of styles issued forth from the set, the most memorable song of the evening being one about Moses called 'The Promised Land'. An anthem for the modern age, it is a heartfelt power ballad that includes a reference to taking succour from milk and honey and is surprisingly catchy. Other notable songs were one about the stories of C.S Lewis and one in the blues style that calls on our 'supreme Lord'.
I was coerced into a peck on the cheek by hippy teacherwhen going to congratulate him, from which I though I would never emerge alive from within the mass of dreadlocks. Shudder. Still having the nightmares.
I danced to such classics as 'Cotton-eyed Joe' and 'I am the Music Man' as the bands cleared up.
I went on a trip round the whole of Byker (multiple times) and eventually made it to Kingston Park at 1 0'clock in the morning for provisions after getting horribly lost and confused due to the person giving directions being absolutely wasted after tallying up 13 drinks. Do not fear though, as we had 'The Promised Land' playing to get us through (we bought the CD at the gig). It's the kind of song that you have to close your eyes to when singing as it has so much meaning and passion to convey, and clenched fists have to accompany it as well as walking through some landscape involving a smoke machine.
I ended up in a hovel of a bachelor pad where Chinese alcohol was shot, a viser was worn at a hip angle, and chocolate ice cream was passed round the circle in a refreshingly communal fashion. God love the hippy scene.
Good times were had.

Little else of note has been going down this side of the hood.

4 June 2007

Anecdotal Antidotes

In rare moments of clarity, when life, the universe and everything in it etc is seen in straightforward, black and white simplicity, it seems as though everything can be divided into poisons and antidotes.

Even when it looks like all hope is lost once a poison has been taken, such as in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in the opening sequence when Indie is looking all Bond-like and has taken a fatal substance which can only be cured by drinking the green contents of the infuriatingly small phial which gets lost in all the crystal and glass amongst some Chinese people and the restaurant singer decked out in red jewels, there is always an antidote and sometimes half the excitement is in the chasing of it. In fact it can often lead to a whole adventure in India, involving a wisecracking kid named Shorty, weird sacred stones, eating monkey brains and generally being the lesser film of an ingenius trilogy as evidenced by the Harrison Ford analogy.

Anyways, I shall illustrate my point further.

Poison: Boredom
Antidote: A swift episode of Sex and the City
(I'll start off nice and simple)

Poison: Lack of revision
Antidote: A swift episode of Sex and the City
(See, sometimes antidotes can cure multiple ills caused by poisons)

Poison: Feeling a bit meh* about turning nineteen
Antidote: Lunching at an art gallery with a mother followed by an afternoon at a fabulous vintage store where ball dresses are purchased and fashion dreams are realised. It does not matter what age one is when in this timeless cave of treasures, where everything is swathed in beads and scarves, glamorous mirrors abound, mannequin heads sport intricate and over the top head wear, shoes from all eras litter the floor and all is splendidly dazzling.

Poison: Nuts and infuriating people, putting one into nuts and infuriating situations
Antidote: All material for the comic novel

Poison: The awkwardness of a long term guest, and the efforts needed to seem halfway normal to said intruder
Antidote: Presents, especially french perfume
(Also the fact that the guest is an unassuming sweetie)

Poison: An exam
Antidote: Browsing in a book shop when plied with book tokens

Poison: Stingray dying in Neighbours
Antidote: ..................

Okay, for some things there is no antidote.

But my theory is otherwise infallible. And an uncharacteristically optimistic one.

*'meh' is a new and lovely word used to convey any feelings of blahness, shrugdom, or hmph-ing. Use it in a sentence today.

28 May 2007

A Short Study of Folk Folk... (though a big well done, and sorry, to N)

The people of Hexham dug deep in their wardrobes (and capacity for community support and tolerance) for lumpy wooly jumpers and/or handstitched kaftan-like ensembles in preparation for a weekend of folk. The bearded and bohemian flocked in their droves to be vigorously fiddled and fluted until their eardrums were worn down and withered away with a little sigh.

Even I embraced the Folk Philosophy and sported an oversized knitted affair. One has to appear willing to fit in at events such as these; it is hard to tell the expressions of folk lovers due to the abundance of wild, untreated (unless with henna) hair that they are enshrined in, despite the ample use of scarves and hippy head wear, but I would hazard a guess that they convey anger and disgruntlement adequately towards those openly shunning their beloved music.

There is something mildly disconcerting about the way a seated audience mutely and motionlessly watch folk bands on stage, who in turn are motionless apart from whatever part of their body is required to produce instrumental sound. They stare out into the crowd, soulless and disturbing, with only a foot manically tapping in time, whilst the music is full of life, rhythm and vigour (even if every single tune is actually the same one repeated, I refuse to believe otherwise). It is fascinating.

Actually, I may be exaggerating slightly. There was the odd person in the audience who insisted on persistantly juddering out the beat, making the entire row of seats shake. That, and the infrequent half-hearted whoop from an embarrassingly 'in the zone, feeling the music' spectator.

In direct opposition to the dead-to-the-world players was the awe-inspiringly enthusiastic and animated host of the event. The word 'magic' was associated with the horrors of folk music no less than 17 times. Fact. And I lost feeling in my fingers due to the requests made for 'showing support' and thanking those on stage and generally celebrating the joys of musical collaboration, youth, high spirits and jigs. One more clap or mention of the 'wonderful power of making music together' and I would have been done for.

A woman behind me actually lent over to the girl seated at my rear (who, incidentally, had been one of the jigglers and whoopers) and said 'You know, it's a very good thing that you're crying. It shows the strength of emotional reaction to the music.'

I'll show her intense emotional reaction to the 'music'.

20 May 2007

An Education

Life at school is a bowl of strawberries and cream.

Quite literally in the case of our last lesson with Clenny. Punnets were produced, complete with sugar for sprinkling, cream for pouring and spoons to cram the summery combination into grateful, fruit-smeared mouths. Pearls of wisdom from an experienced, if eccentric, source have been duly noted over the months, and now we are festooned with fare fit for Wimbledon? The man has class. One such pearl that was collected and stored away eagerly was that Augustus had a pet name for the poet Horace, and that name was 'Little Cock'. Thus ended our affair with Clenny.

The last week has come upon us, as has the sun, leading to long and lazy days sitting out in the grounds and avoiding revision. Perhaps this is why schooldays are referred to as the best of one's life. It is almost nauseatingly idyllic.

If the media is to be believed I should really be suffering both verbal and physical abuse at the hands of hooded, foul-mouthed yobs, be subjected to dire teaching as all the concentration is on the ADHD kids, have to hang around in bleak, grey concrete blocks of misery when not failing at the 'dumbed down' A-level curriculum and vandalising school property. Instead I am reclining on luxuriantly green grass beneath pituresque overhanging foliage, drinking (reasonably) fresh coffee from sixth form cafe mugs, watching frisbee and football, and having a bit of lighthearted banter with passing teachers as we wile away frees.


Of course, this is between having panic attacks due to failing exams, being suspended for being drunk at school in the morning, sneaking out for tabs behind trees and outside school grounds, being asked to move yet again from directly outside one of the rooms where GCSE's are going on, scrawling profanities unfit for repetition all over folders and books in despair at the true tedium of work, getting shaky from sugar highs due to all the sweets the teachers are loading upon us in the final lessons before breaking up, and being guilt-tripped into not attempting anything that could be contrued as harmful, destructive, or indeed fun in any way, on muck-up day (despite the clue being in the name).

It will all be mourned and sadly missed no doubt.

13 May 2007

Last Orders

I have come across a new drink doing the rounds whilst on my extensive pubtastic travels. It tastes delicious, despite containing one of the most disgusting concoctions known to man: Southern Comfort. There must be some sort of chemical reaction that cancels out the yukness of this vile spirit. All I know is that it tastes goo-oo-ood. Lip smacking.
Ingredients: Southern Comfort (one shot for the already merry, two for those on a mission)
Shot of Lime
Ginger Beer to top up

I like. What I am not so sure about is the name. This amber brew, a tall glass of nectar, has been dubbed a 'Gatsby'. The intention, I presume, is conjure sophisticated images of decadent, swinging parties and to give the drink romantic connotations. Fair enough, but it doesn't quite fit.
When one thinks of Gatsby, one thinks of a pyramid of babycham glasses with bottles of champagne being poured lavishly over the top so that bubbly is overflowing over the rims, and flapper girls hold them precariously in one hand, cigarette holder in the other, whilst they dance the Charlston. Lickety spit.
I do not connect ginger beer with the suave yet troubled enigma that is Gatsby.

Just my two cents worth for those marketing chaps down in their underworld of consumer dictatorship and flashy suits.

If I don't end up being a mad old cat woman (as is foreseen) I should like to live in a castle type of place - or near enough, some pile of stones would do me as long as it looked stately - wearing knitted garments over satin or tulle frocks, woolen socks and slingback heels, copious amounts of pearls and gems, and stalk about drinking from babycham glasses filled with clear spirits or bubbly. The glasses would be slightly dusty and there would be silver champagne buckets dotted about to catch the drips from the leaky roof. I would draw my finger round the rim of the glass to make that haunting high pitched note that would resonate when I stood at the window, so the locals would grow suspicious of the old eccentric. I would think of Gatsby and his parties and how I used to drink a cocktail named after him.

7 May 2007

The weekend starts here...

There are two answers to the question 'What did you do this weekend?', a different one given depending on the person asking and how I wish to come across. Both are true, though through omition and manipulation differ in the telling.

I was mostly home alone this weekend and used my time in ways I saw fit.

Answer a)
I finished 'Vilette' and started 'The Bell Jar'.
I wrote an Ancient History essay on how Augustus gained the support of the people and how effective this was.
I perused the Guardian Review section for snippets of literary inspiration and exploration whilst sitting out in the sun.
I composed a poem based on T.S Eliot's 'The Waste Land' for English.
I watched 'The Culture Show' and thought about the transience of blockbuster franchises and the rediscovery of the original Manic Street Preachers sound.
I lit candles and was enamoured of the second half of the arthouse film 'Bagdad Cafe'.

Answer b)
I drank so much coffee my hand began to shake amusingly, which I then proceeded to smirk at, fascinated.
I read every word of the Weekend, though starting with the fashion pages.
I played solitaire intermittently, but never for less than 35 minutes each sitting.
I read Glamour Magazine on the internet and looked at the celebrity fashion pictures.
I talked to the cat.
I watched 'Dr Who' whilst eating a (salt-laden and saturated fat injected) ready meal off my knee.
I lay in the garden looking at the sun through my fingers, making light patterns and causing blotches in front of my eyes, listening in to the neighbours conversations either side, whilst trying to stop the Review section of the paper from flying off in the wind.
I ate pints of ice cream straight from the tub, remote control furiously flicking in my spoon-free hand.

A solitary weekend well-spent. Whichever way you look at it.

2 May 2007

The Creeps

He looks like the archetypal British tourist abroad. He is either anorak clad or sporting a fleece. He has the most enormous rucksack I have ever encountered. He is allergic to everything. And I mean everything - it is non-stop sneezes, sniffles, deafening nose-blowing, and throat-clearing. He is an expert on ancient battles, talking about armour, tactics, weaponry in excrutiating detail. And I drew the short straw today and had to sit next to him.

Few people actually make me physically shudder, but the Phlegm Dislodger (as he shall be referred to) invokes this reaction effortlessly. His leg, usually in some shapeless tracksuit bottoms or multi-pocketed combats, nudges right up close and shakes in a way that conjures thoughts of things I would rather leave unconjured. Dirty old man or sexually frustrated adolescent....yuk just doesn't cover it. He leans over close and breathes in my face as he asks me which source we're looking at or which page we're on. Spine chilling. At Christmas we were going to watch a video at the suggestion of the teacher, but the Phlegm Dislodger said loudly and firmly 'Am I the ONLY person here who actually wants to pass my exams?' Yes, yes you are, because the rest of us all want to fail miserably of course. So we spent the lesson working half-heartedly, with him to blame and the incident never being forgotten. Also, he knows Suetonius inside out and back to front, which should always raise suspicion and denotes an unsound mind.

Today a new revelation was made. He commented, in a series of distracted mutters, that a member of our class who was being rather vocal at the time should be 'tied up, gagged, thrown out the room and left there'. Charming. When this remark came to light there was uproar from the victim which resulted in the Phlegm Dislodger attempting sounds akin to chucklesome mirth and saying 'Sorry, I apologise for thinking nasty thoughts about you.'

I dread to think what goes in his mind. I bet he sits there in his disconcerting fidgety way running unsavoury thoughts through his brain about each and every one of us.

I understand that he's a bit of a loner and that often he's just wanting some social contact, but I can't help feeling a bit uneasy when he comes up and tells me that 'you look very nice today by the way, have you done something different? I really like you're scarf, I like scarves'. Or when he sees I'm doing ancient history on the computer and asks if I need any assistance, like he's the world expert on the subject despite getting crap results last year. I realise I should be a better human being and answer his cry out for a friend. But he kind of gives me the creeps. There, I said it. Bad person.

But somebody should not make you be a little bit sick in your mouth when they come too close.

24 April 2007

Life Lessons a la Musicals

Knowing, as I do, that we all worship at the altar of St Julie Andrews, and that it is the Sect of The Sound of Music's holy light that is bathed in and revered above all on high in particular, converting multitudes from all backgrounds, creeds and sexual preferences who join the Musical Theatre flock to the sacred word (or should I say song) of Our Lady, Julie, I thought I would pay my respects by sacrificing this blog post in benediction. In short, the theme will be These Are a Few of My Favourite Things.

First of all I would like to state that I do have a certain fondness for raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens and the like. A tear can even be brought to my eye (glisteneing upon my eyelash as dew clings to grass, sparkling under the sun's warm glow) by the arrival of a brown paper package tied up with string.
However, in order to prevent nausea and the need for sick buckets I shall swiftly move on to things that are marginally more stomach-settling and that actually are My Favourite Things...

Bohemian dressing rooms.

Being in the darkness of the cinema and forgetting where I am, that I am actually in public, due to being so totally immersed.

The warmth that comes with slightly sweaty pyjamas under the duvet.

Brushing my teeth the morning after the night before.

Having my feet prodded.

The view from the sitting room window just after it has been raining (that is a soppy one, granted, but only because it is like some vivid drug trip with all the colour and blurred edges).

The first sip of a glass of red wine when really comfortable and sleepy.

Green eyeliner.

Heated intellectual debate, usually regarding literature, when it doesn't bother me how pretentious or arsy I sound.

Proving people wrong when in heated intellectual debate.

Watching Sex and the City on my laptop at half 2 in the morning when the rest of the house is silent.

Looking through old photos.

Memories of Simnal cake.

Storms, with me on the inside.

Crying at some relentlessly weepy film so much it hurts to swallow and I have no inclination to wipe away the streaming tears.

Reading The Guardian, especially at the weekend.

Seeing people at those moments when they have no idea they are being seen, and they are all cute and childlike and look like they are a snuffly four year old again.

Our kettle.

Books. Fiction. The smell of old, yellowing paper. Feeling like I never want a novel to end.

Sitting on battered leather sofas.


Drinking Sally's Mum's special blend in Sally's house, with Meg the dog finally ceasing her growling and sitting on my feet.

The unity between siblings when fighting against parental authority in common cause and rare affinity with one another.

Clean sheets.

The list goes on and on...
I could provide endless material for the Von Trapps in The Sound of Music II. No doubt, after having tackled Nazis in the first one, the War on Terror would be solved by a problem like Maria. She would soften the opposition with images of warm woolen mittens.

18 April 2007

Geek Chic

There are times when one* mooches (or even, if being positively wiiild, skulks) about doing the same old things in the same old way, with it never ocurring to oneself that the mooching through the quotidien of life would be regarded as odd, bizzarre or disturbing by any other party that may happen upon said mooching.

Then there are those times when the realisation hits that other people may not do things in quite the same way, or have the same priorities, principles or inherently held belief sysytems as oneself. In fact, they may even think one a wee bit anal or obsessive or just downright weird for carrying out these certain mooching rituals.

I am of course referring to Dr Who.

And this is so much more than a mooching ritual (the definition of which is most clear if I define through example: reading the Guardian Weekend magazine before late afternoon on a Saturday is a mooching ritual, as is using the half hour between The Simpsons and tea time to catch up on the blogs and witty websites). It is a fully established institution. It cannot be carried out in isolation, but must be watched by the family en masse (though in near complete silence naturally). It is an absolute priority, and the closest thing the Kirks are likely to ever accept as religion.

I had never even entertained the thought that every other family was not like mine in its true, dedicated following of the Timelord. But when I explain that I can't possibly go out to the pub until after the sacred programme I am met with either a little chuckle at the joke I have so evidently made (followed by an embarrassed cough as they realise I am deadly serious), or just wide-eyed bemusement. And so the lesson is learnt once more: not everyone is like the Kirks.

There are two types of people in this world. Those who realise that everything must, and should, be put on hold for the 45 glorious minutes of Dr Who, excepting nothing, and that totally get that nothing above the faint sound of necessary respiration can be uttered during this time, and understand the all-consuming shivery awe the theme tune invokes as the hypnotic title sequence hurtles us to other dimensions. And those who just don't.

Dr Who really is a unifying force. One that should not be underestimated. One that should not be missed by going to the pub. And one that is so cool it even advertises converse.

*By 'one', I of course mean me. But I am trying to be inclusive, and tar everyone with the same grubby brush as I tar myself. For this I apologise.

12 April 2007

School Holidays

I face another moral dilemma.

There are so many throughout the day that one loses count, but this one is particularly pertinent. Mostly because I am reminded of it whenever I sit at my computer, or recline on my sofa (which, I am ashamed to say, now bears the imprint of my backside, rendering it even more difficult to peel myself off). The DVD of the book I am reading is positioned alongside my laptop, tempting me, imploring me, downright yelling at me to watch it.

To watch the film version before reading the novel? Sacrilegious! It is a Thing Not Done. I would regret it straight away.

But It's not like I wouldn't read the book. It's not a case of either/or. Just which to do first. Yet I know I couldn't bear to complete the book with my images of the characters, places etc besmirched and tainted with those of the film.

However, reading the book first prolongs the excuse of not doing any work whatsoever. If I have to read the book before I watch the film that is crying out to be viewed then getting down to anything else is prevented due to my ever-increasing list of Things To Do. Dilemma.

Somebody asked me yesterday, in a conspiratorial whisper, how the 'work' was going. I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about, and looked bemused for some time. Then it dawned on me. They meant the pre-exam work I was expected to be doing. As in the life-defining A-level exam work. Ah.
I changed the subject.

The very same person, however, passed on a huge pile of Style magazines to me. It is cruel. Absolute cruelty to tempt me so. Will the constant stream of distractions and much more preferable occupations never cease their vicious, unrelenting attacks? Oh, the anguish of sunny afternoons! Oh, the torment of enticing literature and trashy magazines! What did I do to deserve you?!

Oh dash it all. I'm watching the bloody DVD. Glass of wine in hand, and chocolate accompanying me. If one is to sin, it will be in style.

8 April 2007

Gno life like the Gnome life

I used to wonder how the streetlights would all light up at around the same time, and seemingly without any warning or human intervention.

It had to be magic.

The only explanation I could come up with was streetlight gnomes. Little men who were small enough to be settled in the base of the light, where it is slightly wider, and who had long poles that they would use to switch on the light at the top of the column when a pre-set alarm went off.
There would be a little community of streetlight gnomes, all using their poles to light up the country at the same time. In all likelihood there would be walkie-talkie system going on.

People often say that they would love to be a cat as it is such an easy life just to laze around all day, occasionly stretching and being stroked. But surely it would get a bit dull, not being able to read, converse etc (though I'm sure our cats do watch the t.v when it's on; nothing can resist or fail to understand Neighbours). No, I would much rather be a streetlight gnome. They have big squashy duvet covers in which they are swaddled cosily in, piles of books around them (both classics and lighter froth), the occasional glossy magazine, endless period drama dvds, hot fresh coffee on tap, with a thick and clunky mug to drink it out of comfortingly. And the only responsibilty they have is to twiddle their pole to activate light at a particular time.

Sometimes a streetlight is on in the middle of the day. Just the one, and for no reason. That's when I imagine the little gnome inhabiting that particular streetlight was so engrossed in his novel, all cosy and sleepy, he failed to hear the tuneful alarm alerting him to the time when his one job must be done.
And I sigh and think of how lovely it would be to be a streetlight gnome.

31 March 2007

Egos a-go-go

I am sure that alter egos run amok in any given household. Characters we play when not being our regular selves. Or, indeed, exaggerated versions of those very real aspects that are normally hidden under the many layers of etiquette and dilution/delusion. Just as the Incredible 'you wouldn't like me when I'm angry' Hulk takes over Dr Robert Bruce Banner when provoked, we all have our inner monsterfications.

And there is certainly more than our fair share in this family. I like to think it reflects our obviously advanced and complex intellects, the deepness of the Kirk psyche, and the sensitivity of our souls. That, and the fact that we just get really mad sometimes.

So when the invoked spirit of Bob Dylan, or a bat (as in totally batty) is not the prime motivation of the actions of N, for example, his alter ego is a household smoke alarm. Let me elaborate; they go on and on and on for no good reason, not being stopped by any human means, until they have been ignored for long enough and have saturated every cell with the incessant wailing noise. Then it stops for no more reason than it began, bringing welcome and delicious silence.

Dad's is a dopey guard dog. Sleepy and content for the majority of the time, doing his own thing, occasionally scratching. Until he will pick up on some obscure scent and pursue it for all it is worth, barking and growling terrifyingly at it until satisfied, safe in the knowledge that some nod to the job he is supposed to be doing has been made. Then back to a nap. An alter ego that makes an appearence every so often as well, is a history teacher, David Starkey-esque in tone.

Harry Potter (an ever reliable source) holds the key to J's alter egos. It'll be Dobby one moment, babbling excitedly but incomprehensibly, Moaning Myrtle the next, complaints abounding. And then, of course, there is the Whomping Willow. Watch out is all I can say. Those branches can seek you out however careful you are, giving you a big old metaphorical smack in the face. These all switch from one to another like magic. Yet all these personas can be summed up rather more simply: Teenager.

Having so many fingers in so many pies, and being the epicentre of home life, it is inevitable that Mum has so many alter egos. There is Delia Smith (or Nigella Lawson if in a more adventurous mood), Beethoven (battling on despite deafness) and Napoleon (strategist and general extroadinaire, and often striking terror into the troupes, i.e us) to name but a few.

And mine? Well, my alter ego is the sedate clam.

25 March 2007

A Plea, Will Self, and I

This week I have been mostly being a freedom fighter and culture crusader.

Whereas last week saw me flying the flag for Fair Trade in assemblies, it was the turn of freedom and the abolition of slavery to be ignored by a hall full of blank, sleepy faces each morning this week. On the bright side, I do get to use a microphone and hear my voice booming about me in a diva-like fashion at an ungodly hour. There are perks.

Today marks 200 years since slavery was abolished and has been dubbed Freedom Day. Happy Freedom Day to all! To show our support at school we put forward a plea for all those interested to contribute to our Freedom Wall (which, I suppose, should technically be a Flimsy Freedom Sheet, but same difference) and we were inundated. It was the lure of paint, and mess, and the association with first school frolics with handpainting that drew the crowds. What we were left with would not look out of place as an instalation piece at the Tate Modern. I have only just rid myself of the paint beneath my fingernails. The lengths I go to for a good cause (looking like a grubby street urchin/child from down t'pit), and the sacrifices I make (my gnarled fingernails) know no bounds. Let's just hope that they fail to notice that the permanent marker and paint went through to the corridor wall...

And so from the charitable and compassionate, to the downright Self-ish (see what I did there? Clever huh?). Who would have thought Hexham was such a cultural hotbed, a literary feast of sustenance to nourish us throughout the weekend. And the patron saint of grumpy himself, blissfully acerbic, sardonic, and laconic, Mr Will Self graced our humble theatre with his mighty presence. Decked in head to toe black, walking booted and sallow cheeked, he enthralled with his drawl. The 'creative writing' tinged tone of the festival surroundings paled into insignificance as he took to the stage.

What a dude. And we have an autograph. Not for sale on e-bay. J insisted on asking him what a dystopia was (a preoccupation and repeated theme of the talk). Will - and I feel that we are now on first name terms - gave him the same answer as I did. 'You know what a utopia is? Well, it's the opposite of that really'. J was determined to ask a clever question though, and I looked like a pillock, knowing fine well what dystopia meant and grinning blankly. I should have made some cutting remark, looked really grumpy, and asked him for a cigarette or something stronger. That's the Self style after all.

Poetry the morning after didn't have quite the same 'struck right between the eyes' effect. Flowers and singing birds just don't strike the same tone funnily enough.