Sunday, 22 November 2015

Reasons why Fran might need to buy a woolly hat

I lost so much weight yesterday ...

As I gazed around me at the floor of the hairdressing salon after my haircut, I thought, 'Surely that's at least a kilo.'

My hairdresser went a bit crazy with the scissors, like a person with a lawnmower who can't find the off-switch. I think she may have been cross with me because I rang her in the morning and begged for an afternoon appointment. ('Please, please, please fit me in - I look as though I've been dragged through a hedg - no, scrub that - I AM that hedge.')

Why would she be cross, you ask? Surely she wants the custom.

The thing is, I only ever have a dry cut.  Unlike most other women I know, I hate being shampooed and frothed and dried and fluffed and puffed about in the salon - I want to get out of there and back home where people only touch me with my permission and ideally a warrant.

So she sprays my head with a garden sprayer, cuts for about five minutes, takes a paltry amount of money from me, and off I go, leaving her needing to book in three perms and a full highlights if she's to pay the rent.

So, yes, I think I may have annoyed her, which is why she went at me like Edward Scissorhands in a hissy fit. Hence, before I went into the salon, I looked like this, minus the orangeness and the cocaine-eyes ...

When my hairdresser had finished with me, I looked more like this.

I know you think I'm eggsaggerating, but when I washed my hair this morning, it took three drips from the tap and one atom of shampoo, then I mostly dried it by strolling past a draught coming through the bedroom door keyhole. Then my husband breathed out as I passed him, and that was the hair-drying sorted.

On Sunday mornings I go to church. I hesitated today, though.  I felt as sheep must do who've been diagnosed with lice in their wool, shorn as a matter of urgency, and then sent back into the field for all their fully-woolled and fleecy friends to laugh at.

I walked to church and arrived, newly-exposed ears as red as peonies from the winter chill.

I had conversations with twelve different people during the course of the morning, and not one person mentioned the haircut.

I would use the term 'the elephant in the room' but for its unfortunate connotations. See earlier comment about weight loss.

'I felt like someone bereaved,' I said to my husband later. 'You know, when people you talk to just beat around the bu - skirt around the key issue and avoid looking you in the eyes. Or higher.'

'Maybe they just didn't notice,' he said.

'Pff,' I said. 'They noticed. I saw some eyes widen in a kind of Gandhi-and-Yul-Brynner-have-nothing-on-her way.'

He told me I was being over-sensitive, although now that all my brain tissue has been laid bare to the elements, that wouldn't have been surprising.

Tomorrow, I have to go to school, teach a total of one hundred students about English and have them stare at me, wondering where it all went, and how someone can look so like Sinead O'Connor while not looking like Sinead O'Connor.

If any of them say, 'Miss, are you leaving teaching to go into the Army?' I will run out, sobbing.

And I certainly won't risk teaching Hairy Potter

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Evidence that doing crosswords could soon get really awkward

Words are so totally, like, last YEAR.

In case you missed the news, Oxford Dictionaries announced a new Word of the Year yesterday, except that what they've chosen is to the world of words what I am to the world of Paris catwalks, little black dresses and getting through train station barriers without turning a smidgen to the side.

The 'word' they have chosen is this.

It's the graphic that's been chosen. Ignore the word 'emoji' underneath it. (Why not just go ahead and ignore all words, every word, from now until you die? Everybody's doing it.)

The graphic is called the 'Face with Tears of Joy' emoji.

Here's a news article all about the winner and reasons for its choice. The piece also lists some of the words deemed not to deserve the title of 'Word of the Year'. One of them is 'refugee' but, golly, who's heard THAT recently?

Another candidate is 'they' as in the kind of they used instead of he and she when you reach that awkward 'am I about to be sexist?' moment.

The fact that they have chosen a 'Face with Tears of Joy' emoji and not a real word makes me feel like this:

This is called the 'Face with Tears of Linguistic Disappointment' emoji.

However, it could also be

1. an entry into the 'Person Most Able to Cry Perpendicular Tears' competition

2. a person's effort to wash his her their chin in a way no one else washes his her their chin

3. proof that when you are bright yellow your tears look a different colour to everyone else's

4. a reason not to have eyes shaped so long and narrow that your tears can only come out like tagliatelle

5. evidence that using too much blue eye shadow just before you watch Bambi is never a good idea

6. a reason to cut down on the blueberries

7. one way to make people feel sorry for you but not just because of the crying

8. proof that even if you have no hair, if you cry like this, you get a beard of sorts

9. an entry into Who Can Do The Best Charade For 'Cry Me A River'? competition

10. a handy way for a schoolteacher schoolteachers to demonstrate the primary colours, but only if he she they sticks stick his her their tongue tongues out while crying

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Evidence that Fran has in fact learned things as she's got older

Things I have realised about five ten twenty thirty years later than I should have. 

1. That 'Frances can be verbose' wasn't a compliment. A Junior School teacher wrote it on my school report and until I was thirty-nine I thought it meant 'good with words'.*

2. That the secret of looking confident is usually just that. Looking it. And most people don't get past that stage, and still manage.

3. That other people don't always appreciate you singing along, so my Granny was right to clamp her hand over my mouth in 1972 when she took me to see 'The Sound of Music' and I was screeching 'Climb Every Mountain'.

4. That in the middle of the night, a classroom seating plan or a phone call to a difficult relative is a Massive Issue, but at nine in the morning, can be calmed with marmalade on toast.

5. That the friend's mother who said I had a 'silly little face' in the 1980s wasn't exactly an oil painting herself ...

.... unless it was THIS oil painting.

6. That people who can't sew, demonstrated by having made a pair of flares at school in 1976 which turned out as jodhpurs because the legs were the wrong way up, should delegate their sewing to other people and just be cool with it.

7. That a creative oeuvre comprising hundreds of teenage angst-filled poems should not be stuffed in a bin at the age of eighteen in an attempt to prove oneself a grown-up.

8. That colours which match youthful skin tones can make an older skin look as though jaundice - or death - has taken hold.

9. That if you're under eighteen, all adults are forty-five or older.

10. That tears when you're upset or angry shouldn't be resisted, because otherwise they turn into big stones called Despair and Resentment in your upper chest which hang on in there, their arms folded, until allowed out.

* I know. I know. I see the irony, too. Bitter, bitter irony.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Reasons why Fran is anti-Santa at the moment

I posted a 'letter to Santa' on a writers' blog today and the readers there seem to have enjoyed it. So I thought I'd inflict it on you, too. Followers who've been around for a while will know of my long history of communications with Santa. This is yet another addition to the saga.

Dear Santa

I'll get straight to the point. No good going through all that peace and goodwill to all men stuff when what I really want to do is make a complaint. 

Do you remember last year I asked you for a publishing contract? No, don’t pretend. You can’t possibly have forgotten, because I wrote a long, long plea, with all the reasons why I deserve one, in green highlighter pen and letters an inch high. The man at the Post Office wasn’t happy that I’d tried to shoehorn forty-seven pages into a ‘large letter’ envelope and in the end we had to parcel them all up in a Jiffy bag the size of a North American prairie. I hope your elves managed to carry it in and didn’t get back trouble like they did the year I sent you that list of George–Clooney-and-Johnny-Depp-related Christmas gifts I wanted. The Clooney tea towel you eventually delivered wasn't even on the list, by the way. A poor show. 

A helpful juxtaposition of lion to Jiffy bag to demonstrate just how big the parcel was 

And what did I get last year in response to my letter asking for a publishing contract? A box of strawberry creams - I don't even like soft centres - and a new ironing board cover. 

I'd also enclosed with the publishing-contract request letter a cheque for £100 which wasn’t a bribe, as you insinuated in your pointed reply. Do you realise that the world’s children would grieve to know you could be so sarcastic?  No, it was a charitable donation so that you could provide some deprived children with better toys. Little Tommy next door to me, for example, is one of seven and his family has little to spare. One year, you sent him a second-hand scooter and a jigsaw with three pieces missing. It’s for children like Tommy I sent you the donation and it hurt to have you misinterpret my motivations. I weep for children like him.

If you’re looking for ideas, though, I’d suggest for Tommy something to keep him quiet. He yells through the wall and I can’t concentrate on my Sudoku. Perhaps a gag? Or a few pounds of Thornton’s toffee, the kind you have to break up with a hammer. 

So, back to the publishing contract. I’m 53 now, Santa, and I can’t think of one year when you’ve sent me exactly what I asked for. You tried to point out that in 1981 I got the Build-Your-Own-Greek-God-of-a-Husband kit I requested but, to be fair, as soon as I’d built it, I realised that a cardboard cut-out of a Greek god doesn’t show off the six-pack the way a proper statue does. Fortunately in 1982 I married my husband and although he’s a bit short on Greek god features, at least he’s in 3D. And can load a dishwasher.

As I was saying: the publishing contract. Santa, I just can’t see why you’re finding this so hard. All it needs is a phone call from Penguin saying, ‘I’ve just read your blog post. You are the next Victoria Wood. Have you written a novel? Yes? Let me give you a twenty thousand pound advance.’

I’m beginning to think my infant children were right when I made them sit on your lap in the grotto at John Lewis and they screamed like banshees at the sight of you. I’m feeling some of that same disillusionment myself.

Yours very unhappily unpublished,

Fran I’ll-be-writing-again-if-I’m-not-satisfied Hill

Friday, 30 October 2015

Evidence that even in the tiniest of poems, Fran can fit in some deceit

I have a brand new website.
I hope that you'll pop by.
I made it all myself.
(That last sentence was a lie.)

Come over and have a look

This is what would have happened had Fran tried to design her own website

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Evidence that seaside holidays can feature all kinds of exciting fun and adventure

Here are some experiences from our holiday in Tenby, South Wales, last week.

Newer, more naive followers now expecting pictures of the Great Outdoors, such as sandy beaches, seascapes and bird life, look away now, or go here ... pictures of oceans on the National Geographic website

So, Saucepan-gate.

This is the second time this year we've rented the same Tenby holiday cottage. We went there at Easter, too, when we took our grown-up ex-Masterchef-contestant-and-cook-extraordinaire daughter with us. She was our chef for the week and the reason why, when we got home, we only battled through our front door by wearing elastic pants and breathing in.

She'd brought on holiday with her at Easter a selection of knives and other equipment from her own kitchen. But at the end of the week when she arrived back at her house in London, she realised she'd left a favourite pan behind at the cottage.

We knew we'd be going back at some point - it's the best cottage ever, overlooking the beach but only one minute's walk from the biscuit aisle at Tesco, so we've been there six or seven times now.

I texted my daughter last Saturday to say, 'We're here', and she replied with Hope you're having a lovely time Was your journey good? What's the weather like? Is my pan still in the cupboard?

I took the above picture and texted it to her. 'Yes! That's my PAN!' came the reply, as though we'd been on an episode of Who Do You Think You Are and I'd shown her a photograph of a relative in New Zealand she lost touch with in the 1980s.

We don't have a car and so travel by train. Taking this large, heavy pan back with us - one of those you can lift BEFORE you've cooked rice in it but not afterwards - wasn't an option. And we refused to send it back via the Post Office even though she texted, 'But I want it NOW.' We could see that little venture becoming a saga involving boxes, packing material, sticky tape, string, broken nails, twenty pounds for postage and a day of our holiday gone. That wasn't the kind of holiday we'd had in mind. I for one had been looking forward to the long hikes around the Welsh coast reading in cafes.

I'm sure there ARE activity holidays one can go on of this ilk called 'Packing for Pleasure' or 'Partying with Parcels', held in country houses in Shropshire, with string seminars and polystyrene packing material workshops, and evenings around a log fire discussing different types of knots. And I'm sure people who sign up for those holidays are very nice and not in need of urgent psychiatric treatment at all.

In the end, when some other members of our clan came to visit us for the day, we asked them to take the pan, and put it in the back of their car, so that just before Christmas, when we see them, it can have its second vacation of the year in our kitchen until we see our daughter. I am tempted to pack it up and put it under our tree as her Christmas present. In fact, so I can do it in style, I might book myself on a seasonal package holiday of the type described above, perhaps called 'Christmas and Cardboard For Fun'.

I had all sorts of other typical seaside adventures to tell you about, but the saucepan saga has taken a whole blog post. These saucepans are needy types, wanting all the attention, and deliberately hiding in cupboards so as to cause a lot of fuss and bother just when people are busy in cafes trying to eat a whole piece of lemon drizzle cake the size of a semi-detached house.

Reasons for elastic pants #2

Friday, 16 October 2015

Evidence that even Fairy Godmothers can't always come up with the goods

To celebrate National Adapted Fairy Story Day, I thought I'd post a version of Cinderella.

It's NOT National Adapted Fairy Story Day?

National Adapted Fairy Story Day's not even a thing?

(Long white space to symbolise grief.)

Well, I refuse to be bowed low by this tragic news, and hereby declare that, in my household at least, it is National Adapted Fairy Story Day. And here is (one of) my version(s) of Cinderella to celebrate it.


A beautiful girl called Cinderella lived with two ugly sisters who treated her like a slave.  One morning, an invitation came from the Prince to a lavish ball.  Both of the ugly sisters were very excited, and had already booked Botox appointments, but Cinderella, who was not allowed to go, despite being naturally smooth of forehead, was sad. 

A forehead? Or a part of Australia on Google Earth? 

            As the sisters set off that night, fluttering their fans, their foreheads newly-taut, Cinderella cried. 

            She sat alone in the kitchen.  Suddenly, there was a ping and Cinders glanced towards the microwave, but the ping was not to do with a Pot Noodle.  It was to do with a Fairy Godmother who had appeared in the corner of the kitchen.  (Cat flap?)   Unlike most Fairy Godmothers, this one was not smiling or happy.

            ‘What’s the matter?’ said Cinderella, kindly. 

            ‘It’s no good,’ said the Fairy Godmother.  ‘I had all these great plans to send you to the ball in a coach made out of a pumpkin and now it can’t happen.’ 

            ‘But why not?’ said Cinderella, thinking that she had never before received good news and bad news in such quick succession.

            ‘Because Nigella made pumpkin soup on TV last week and I can’t get a pumpkin for love nor money,’ moaned the Fairy Godmother, her head in her hands.

            In the end, Cinderella made the Fairy Godmother a cup of tea and they both sat, disconsolate, until they heard the Ugly Sisters clacking up the garden path.  The Fairy Godmother pecked Cinderella on the cheek, said, ‘Maybe next time, poppet,’ and disappeared.  

            Cinderella sighed and awaited the arrival of the Ugly Sisters.  She knew that they would gloat over the evening’s events; she could only console herself with one thing.  The party guests must have noticed that, despite having preternaturally-smooth foreheads, the Ugly Sisters’ necks and cleavages were as saggy and wrinkled as Noah’s testicles.