Tuesday, 26 June 2012

In which everyone gets married and has babies

Marriage and babies! Marriage and babies! When they started billing 2012 as a summer to remember, nobody warned me that the chief sporting activity I'd be forced to sit through would be everyone in the country immediately getting wed and squeezing out an infant.

While the athletes limbered up and the Queen polished her handbag and I awaited the opening of Muswell Hill's new Waitrose with all the zeal of a bloodhound, everyone else has been sprinting towards the finish line of adulthood in white satin slingbacks with a nappy bag over their shoulder.

I'm not making this declaration based on firsthand experience, exactly, but on two nearly-as-stable sources: Facebook, and people I've seen on the tube. I know it's officially wedding season because every weekend morning for the past couple of months, I've shared station platforms with at least three agitated couples in a scratchy-looking array of formalwear. She's pashmina-clad with her fascinator in a shopping bag, he's wearing shoes his mum bought him for a job interview; they've already had three arguments and it's only 11am. Both wear the haunted look of people who are about to see their own future, and pay £70 in train tickets plus a Le Creuset casserole dish for the privilege.

But aside from the passenger-watching, all this nuptial action has left me pondering the really important question: how many of someone’s Facebook wedding photos is it appropriate to look at before you become properly creepy?

I’ve settled on the following scale. Thirty photos is just healthy curiosity, 70 is 'intellectual interest for future dress/table favours/photography business that I may one day start', over 100 is undeniable fascination, over 200 is reaching for popcorn and calling off the day's appointments. And before you know it you sheepishly realise you've flicked through 431 photos of the wedding of two people you've never met, attended by someone you barely know who you met once at a house party in 2007.

So far, you see, it's all been vicarious wedding attendance from the comfort of my laptop - because the tidal wave of wedding and baby action has managed to stop just short of my immediate circle, meaning I haven't been invited to any of it. But that hasn’t stopped me developing a strong set of purely hypothetical wedding opinions (patterned carpet, for example. WHY, when you’ve spent months working to a delicately regimented pastel colour scheme, would you choose a venue with a swirly red carpet? Why do venues even have swirly red carpet? Why does anyone?) and an increasing feeling of hen-party dread in the pit of my stomach.

“We will NEVER do that to each other,” my friends and I announce solemnly, as yet another album of pink tiara-ed pole dancing lessons and erotic pass-the-parcel roll into our news feeds. ‘When our turn comes, we’ll have a nice lunch somewhere. In the countryside. With no body glitter.” But who can really make that promise? Once the starting pistol is fired and my own lot start pegging it towards the gold medal podium of marital bliss, I’m pretty sure the hurdles of reason, taste and ‘but will they really eat a thousand pounds’ worth of cheese?’ are swiftly leapt over without a second thought.

Still. I’d rather the wedding Olympics than real sport, I suppose.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

In which the saga continues

I received an ominous message from my flatmates a few weeks ago.

"We thought we should let you know that there has been quite a lot of evidence of a mouse in Tara's bedroom."

I girded myself and took a deep breath. "Oh right," I replied. "What was the evidence?"

"Well. It was an actual mouse."

And so began the ongoing saga I like to call MouseHouse '12, or sometimes Haus of Mouse, to lend the suggestion of camp European costumery to proceedings. It isn't easy to glamourise a rodent infestation, but I believe we must try. Maybe, rather than just indicating slatternly behavior with our toast crumbs, having mice makes us terribly bohemian and we will later reference this period of our lives in a bestselling novel and arthouse movie.

The first thing I have learned about having mice is that everyone in the world has an opinion on how to get rid of them, and not a single one will concur. "Get poison!" says one. "No don't!" says the next. "Buy a sonic repeller!" says one. "They don't work!" declares the next, cheerfully. And it is always cheerfully, because on the whole people quite like hearing other people have worse living situations than their own. It makes them feel better about their rising damp or anaglypta wallpaper.

Some will be reassuring, with tales of how in the end they grew quite fond of their mouse and it ended up a bit like Ben the rat in that Michael Jackson song, but mostly they say things like, "you know their spines turn to liquid and they can squeeze through a hole the size of a pencil?" or, "you never get rid of them. Aunt Agnes found one in her porridge and we had to move house." Gee thanks, The People.

The second thing I have learned is that it's surprising how long you can go without entering your own kitchen, if you really put your mind to it (and buy your dinner in the pub a lot). And the third thing I've learned is that I'm slightly braver than I think I am, but still not nearly brave enough to manoeuvre a dead mouse into a bin bag on my own. Particularly when the dead mouse starts moving halfway through.

I've tried to overcome my fears through a programme of mouse sympathising. I think about Jerry, of Tom and Jerry, and The Rescuers, and Rastamouse. Cute mice. I remember the hamsters of my childhood, who were nothing but fluffier, lazier mice after all - and didn't I love them? Well yes, until they escaped, at which point they instantly transformed from cuddly caged pets to wild, roaming vermin in my 11-year-old eyes. But anyway.

I know in theory that they’re more scared of me than I am of them – but there’s little danger of me trying to climb into their beds, isn’t there? So until my Lovely Mouse Readjustment Programme comes good (still to start on the Angelina Ballerina boxset), I’ll be spending my evenings in Starbucks a lot. Possibly working on the script for that movie.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

In which I don't hate football

Ah, football. Football football. Kicking. Goals. Headers. Footers. All of that.

So far, summer 2012 is really delivering. Like a well-choreographed national cabaret, just as the Jubilee ends and we all need something new to get in a tizzy over, the rain reaches biblical proportions, David Cameron leaves his kid in a pub and the Euros begin.

I am not, you might have gauged, a football fan. Aside from a brief stint in year 5 when I borrowed my brother's Adidas t-shirt and started my own girls' football team, The Black Panthers, which after three sessions devolved into a cheerleading squad because we didn't have enough people and didn't know how to play football anyway, the beautiful game and I have kept respectful distance from each other, like awkward relatives at a party.

But I don't hate it. That's the problem. We're not feuding relatives, just relatives who don't quite understand each other and maybe once had a falling out over some egg mayonnaise. I'd like to be more into football. I'd like to watch a game without taking a book along. A few weeks ago, in the role of dutiful girlfriend, I found myself in one of North London's grimmest bars, sat right next to the screen while 50 fans bellowed at me like I was trying to steal their first born. Well, not at me - towards me. But still, it was stressful. I read Middlemarch and had to be placated with a Magnum at half time. 

The first step, of course, would be learning enough to maintain a proper conversation about football that doesn’t end up with me arguing that cotton kits would be so much nicer and less sweaty. At the current moment, I could probably name about 15 players (Steve McManaman still counts, right?) and tell you roughly how well Brighton and Hove Albion are doing based on when I last saw my father cry, but that’s about it.

For several years I got by on borrowing The IT Crowd's catch-all phrase, "the trouble with Arsenal is, they always try to walk it in…", which would produce sufficient nods of acceptance and leave me to retreat peacefully back to my packet of peanuts. But then that wore thin because too many people became familiar with the reference, or Arsenal stopped trying to walk it in (I have no idea which) - and then I was back at square one.

It would be much easier if I just hated football. After all, when people are getting really worked up over a match, I do enjoy cutting in with a quick "you know it's not you on the pitch, right? Just some men you've never met, and probably wouldn't like if you did." But my heart just isn't in it, because in truth I'm a bit jealous. It would be nice to be that passionate about something. As I sat watching the roomful of polyester-kitted men, women and children screaming at the screen, I realised that I hadn’t been that enthusiastic over any result since Will Young won Pop Idol.

But there are upsides to ambivalence. When I do get involved, I sit in a really comfy middle ground where I can be happy if we win, and not care remotely if we lose. It’s quite nice. It saves energy.

‘We scored? Hurrah!’

‘We lost? *blank face* How about this RAIN, eh?’