The Cherry on Top of Time

One of the greatest joys of getting older is revisiting things you did when you were younger that are even better now with age. Like talking to your mates’ parents about life. Massive drag when you were young, but now you nod along like the Churchill dog. “I KNOW, VALERIE – I get really narked when the bin-men just leave my food waste bin lying on its side like they don’t even care too. I know. I know, Val. You don’t have to tell me; I KNOW. Now, do you want another slice of quiche?”

Or lying on grass – an ordinary act for kids pooped from running through the ambrosial fields of their youth, but for an adult it is a prostrate way of sticking it to the man. “Yeah, that’s right. There’s no grass in the office, so here I am, lying on grass outside the office. YOU WON’T SHACKLE MY SPIRIT, THE MAN.”

Or flicking a V sign at a rude kid in the street. Unremarkable when you’re the same age as them, but when older than them it’s dead exhilarating. Plus you are providing a service. You are keeping those precocious twits on their toes. “Mummy, why is that lady swearing at me?”, “Because you’re a dick, dear and it’s high time you knew it. Now stop eating your boogers or I’ll have you adopted.”

(Exceptions to the ‘things being better when you’re older’ rule are: gnawing raw Oxo cubes, and weeing by the side of the road when things gets desperate. Not the same. Never the same. Avoid.)

This week I added another thing to my list of things I did as a kid but now love more as an adult. Sending and receiving handwritten letters. When they come out of the blue they can really knock your socks off.

I’d been chatting to a friend on the ol’ Facebook. Nattering about books and writing and how sometimes they are the best things and sometimes they are the worst things. She’s an awesome comedian who’s already written two books so I had nothing to offer but the odd “go gettum, tiger” type sentiment. When we said goodbye I thought I had probably been the exact opposite of useful.

But a few days later I received a floral envelope in the post. I thought “those pizza dudes are getting very metrosexual”, and then I opened it and saw my friend’s name written at the top of the page above her address. She had included her middle name, which is the penpal version of tongues, and had written my name in big swirly letters with an exclamation mark. It was like getting banged in the heart by the 90s.

The letter contained lots of funny charming things, underlinings and capitals for dramatic effect, and ended with a thank you. And it made me so happy. I was routinely obsessed with writing letters to my friends while growing up. I had pen pals dotted around the country that I’d met on holidays, and as if that wasn’t enough correspondence to be tending to, my school friends and I were caught in an infinite loop of notes. We didn’t have texts or emails. We had paper and pens. And the best letters were the ones you had to wait for. The expanse of time was exquisite torture. We didn’t have the Internet or mobile networks, we had the Royal Mail.

This unexpected letter from my friend was the loveliest reminder of something I used to love, but it brought it right up to date. It was like the 90s with a cherry on top. And the cherry is the knowledge that I was lucky to have the 90s. In the 90s I just thought the 90s were dead normal. But they weren’t.

I wrote back in various pens on multi-coloured sheets and my friend wrote back again, including a page ripped out of a magazine with a picture of some sheep “really looking” that made me guffaw. Two women in their mid thirties, talking about things they love – big girl stuff, real life stuff, books and publishers and birthdays and age and shoes and drinking and love and dogs – but adding dinosaur and rainbow stickers to the envelopes which means we’re extra cool and the 90s can, actually, just bite us.

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Ravaged by the Sun in a Suburban Sex Dungeon

I’m not very good at being hot. I know this because when I got my arm stuck in the slats of a venetian blind earlier while trying to push the window open wider I just stood there because I didn’t know what else to do. My brain was so sluggish and my arm was so happy to feel a breeze that I just let myself be stuck for a bit. From the outside it must have looked like someone had been drugged and kidnapped and was trying to make an escape out of the box room office of a suburban sex dungeon. But no one came to my aid because they were all suffering their own hell, inanely holding mini-fans to their faces and dreaming of that time they nearly drowned in an icy lake when they were five.

Heat does funny things to people. Like, I am staring out of the window right now, in between prodding these sweaty keys, melting like marshmallow at my touch, at a lady in the street who has tied her hair up in a turban fashioned from what looks like a t-shirt, and has tucked her long skirt into her knickers. It makes her look very exotic like an African queen, but like you wouldn’t want to be stuck in a lift with her because she’s hosting orphaned pigeon chicks in her pubic nest. Actually that would be awesome, what am I saying, I’m smacked off my tits on Vitamin D. Over there by the tree that shits purple wax on cars are boys kicking their heels with their tops off, smoking. That just isn’t safe. They are past the point of having any moisture left, they could go up in flames like a hay-bale. Elsewhere the panting of dogs is causing minor tsunamis five thousand miles away, people are stockpiling fruit cider torn from the shelves of ravaged off licences, and no one is talking. Tongues have swelled too big to get the words out, and besides – they all hate each other.

Earlier in the day I caught myself at various instances doing the following:

1) Shaving the dog and thinking about running the clippers over my head too. (I thought better of it. I haven’t the cranium for a GI Jane and people already think I’m enough of a lesbian as it is.)

2) Lying face down on a pile of newly-washed and still-wet towels on the kitchen floor because, well, why wouldn’t you. They’re cold and wet and you are in a survival situation. It’s a Bear Grylls basic.

3) Conducting heat tests around the flat to see which bit was cool enough to get around to replying to a text in. Not managing to work my thumbs, I left a friend hanging on an important question because I just didn’t care enough. So what if they needed me. Sort your own life out, you selfish shit. I’m dying.

4) Splaying my fingers into a V sign from my prostrate near-death position in the hall at a plane that flew overhead in case it were off to somewhere like Iceland or the North Pole. Bastards.

5) Leaning into a big freezer at the supermarket and consider dragging all the peas and nuggets out onto the floor so I could fit my whole body inside, shut the door and pretend I was in Narnia or a morgue fridge or some other frosty dreamscape.

6) Getting home and standing in front of my own freezer because no one was there to judge. Rubbing ice cubes over myself in a way that might be sexy on a Brazilian model but on me probably just looked like I was having a delusional ice-related Disney breakdown after hearing ‘Let It Go’ one too many times.

7) Finally caving and watching the clip of Kanye West being an unutterable twat at Glastonbury. (Something I would never have been compelled to do when of sound mind.) Thinking I saw an old friend coming on stage to be his backing dancer but assuming it was just a mirage like when Hunter S Thompson sees weird shit in the heat-wafts of Vegas off his cock on acid.

8) Forgetting what I had been intending to write my column about before the nation was attacked by forces from outer space (i.e. the sun). Deciding it would be a good idea to write about how rubbish I am when I’m hot instead. Et voila.
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