Ellie the Elephant

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Not Ellie, but I loved these fuckers too ❤

Last weekend, as we Netflix and chilled at my brother’s (actually, ew), my Sister-in-law brought out Maeve, her childhood lion and I was reminded instantly of Ellie the Elephant.

In a forever kick-yourself moment, I handed Ellie over ‘temporarily’ to the great-aunt of that bastard I used to live with as we jetted off to start our new life in Canada. Last Chance Saloon I called it and boy was it. But Ellie couldn’t come for some reason and I’m so mad at myself for not stuffing her into my suitcase anyway.

I thought I could always go back for her and then everything ended, and now Ellie’s gone forever. You’d think that was a small price to pay for my freedom and maybe it is but still. I’ll always regret that decision.

In my heart I know she was probably burnt to a crisp in a garden bonfire, renamed Christa as a grotesque effigy of me after I left but I don’t want to believe she’s gone. I suppose I could pick up the phone, swallow my pride and ask for her back but I can’t handle the truth, or the inevitable abuse.

Ellie the Elephant, legend has it, was given to me as a newborn by a group of hospital staff in Toronto. My father had apparently misjudged my delicate character and presented a giant gorilla that made me cry so the antidote was Ellie, a baby pink elephant twice as big as me.

Life for us was a rollercoaster from that moment on and Ellie bore the brunt of everything I ever went through. All the rage, the playful torture from my brother, the kickings, the kidnappings – Ellie felt all my feelings, washed down by a million angsty tears. And she was rewarded for her loyalty by losing an ear and one glass eye. She was sewn up and re-stuffed more times that I can remember.

Ellie was the confidante and the cure; she was my very best friend when sometimes I felt like I had nobody. She didn’t travel as much as I did because I just couldn’t bear the idea of losing her in some far off land, or more likely Amsterdam but she was always there when I got back, she was there for me when I was happy and there when I’d given up all hope.

Seeing Maeve made me feel sad. Poor grubby Maeve with no mane and a distended body, looking like she’s carrying all Maddy’s secrets. Her and Ellie would have been great friends.

I want her back, wonderful crusty Ellie the Elephant, aged 38 (and 2 months) ❤

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I Used To Love Him: Michael Jackson (AKA Teenage Idol)

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“Hey spider, you’ve got a Michael Jackson stuck to your butt…”

Who did you idolise as a teenager? Did you go crazy for the Beatles? Ga-ga over Duran Duran? In love with Justin Bieber? Did you think Elvis was the livin’ end? Via The Daily Post (January 11th 2016)

Justin Bieber? How young do you think I am?! (*Fluffs hair*).

It’s been quite a pressured week, so I’m taking time out to do a blog prompt because sometimes I like to seek inspiration rather than think for myself, alright? So sue me.

Obviously this week we very suddenly and shockingly lost a true legend in the shape of Bowie, and the world is still reeling. I haven’t seen this much widespread grief since Diana (or the person I’m about to wax lyrical about) and it’s incredibly sad.

It’s made me think on and off about heroes growing up, personal influences and how they mould us as young people and how we carry them into adulthood, like pretty, shiny talismans (men?).

I was obsessed with Micheal Jackson from a very early age. Like OBSESSED. Every video, album, film starring my boy – I was all over it. My Mum made me a ‘Bad’ birthday cake and there were MJ themed parties. I even convinced the girl next door, who was terribly uncool and ate only oranges and peanut butter, that I was named after my hero.

“Michael can be a girl’s name too, you know” is what I’d haughtily respond when she questioned me. I wish my name had been Michael to be honest but alas, my parents were not major fans themselves nor mind readers.

I would lie in bed at night with my Walkman plugged in, lip syncing the Vincent Price bit at the end of Thriller to myself. I knew all the words to Liberian Girl.

Man in the Mirror actually did make me look inside myself and ponder if I really needed to change. I decided the answer was no, I was only ten and perfect as far as I could see. 

Alas, my hero did some heinous things that caused his shine to all but extinguish. I won’t rehash those things here, nor will I deny them because I believe the accusations are true. There’s no defense and no amount of love for a former idol, who carried you through the awkward years into adulthood, that can excuse what he’s done.

My hero was messed up and then he messed up very badly. I think even before he died I’d forced myself to move on because good people don’t hurt the vulnerable, they don’t hurt anybody, even if they themselves seem vulnerable and childlike.

My ultimate hero wasn’t going to be a bad man even if he was Michael Jackson, King of my Heart. The first man I ever loved who wasn’t my father.

I can’t remember how I processed all that but I must of because by the time he died I was very sad but accepting. It had seemed only a matter of time, judging by his frail outward appearance and rumours of drug abuse. And again, how could I forgive him?

I still feel sad for the loss and that I’ve never felt the way I did about him since, about anyone. No more idols for me.

Actors and Musicians I like very much, sure but nobody I’ll ever pretend to be named after.

Mama

It’s show your ma you love her day here in the UK and I do, I do love my ma. She is an absolute peach.

But before I Iaunch into an ode to my dear old mother (she’s not old, she’s only, like, 66), I think it’s only fair to take a moment to think about those who can’t be with us today. Days like this are all well and good but there are people out there who have lost their parents, some recently and it’s understandably hard to keep cheerful on occasions like this. Believe me.

So, to all the mums that can’t be here with us, I’m thinking of you too; all those left behind and you, my Nana.

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Photo credit: Imagining the City

Back to Penny M, the greatest lady in my life. Everything I know today and every good quality I have, I learnt/inherited from my mother. If I am anything at all, I am my mother’s daughter and I wouldn’t change that for the world, because it’s blimming awesome. Here are just a few reasons I adore my mum:

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Photo credit: Claudia Rose Carter
  • She very, very smart and has a thoughtful answer for everything, which I admire. I like clever but I love subtle intelligence that doesn’t feel the need to announce itself loudly and arrogantly.
  • My mother reads more than anyone I know and this is where I got my passion for the written word. I started reading mature titles early on because I had access to them and Mum never tried to stop me reading them, which is amazing.
  • When I was 18, Mum bought me my own TV for my bedroom and it was here I started to watch amazing films late into the night, thus cementing my adoration for some of the greatest ever film makers. And horror. Lots and lots of horror. Thanks ma!
  • When she swears, I die. It’s the most hilaire. But she’ll still slaps me around the head if I use a really bad word, even though I’m 37 years old!
  • I can talk to her about absolutely anything.
  • Whenever I am going through a shitty time, she’s right there telling me that it’s all good material for ‘the book’. This is the book she truly believes I have in me, even though I’m not so sure. She also doesn’t judge me as hard as I judge myself, and tells me I’m just as brilliant as other people who have actually done things like further education, great careers, etc.
  • My mum understands me and even though sometimes it shoves my nose out of joint, when I go back and really think about what she’s said, it’s normally spot on.
  • Sometimes she calls me or sends me something when I most need it, and I don’t understand how she just knows.
  • She did shots at my brother’s wedding (below), the first time I have ever witnessed that. Plus, later on she was getting low with some of the bridesmaids on the dance floor, which was amuh-az-ing!
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Photo credit: Imagining the City

My mother, the legend. I love you Mum, more than ever and forever. Happy Mother’s Day!

All photographs from Madeleine and Tim’s Whitstable Wedding, December 2014, by Imagining the City and Claudia Rose Carter.

Weekend 2: Photography 101

So this weekend I’m supposed to play with light at different times of the day; dawn, the middle of the day, afternoon and dusk. Well, ain’t nobody got time for that, I have things to do and people to see today. And hoovering to do.

However, I have something even better to share, I think.

Last night something made me think of my old Flickr account, so I went looking for it and found all my old pictures! While rummaging through my digital memories, I found an album entitled Scanners (2008). Basically, all I had to create these images was my mother’s scanner, a computer and – voila! – this series of incredibly pretentious shots was birthed.

Aren’t they special?


Now, when I look at these, all I see is a silly girl trapped in a life she didn’t want but the images are kind of great. Yes that’s a banana (and my boobs).

As for the rest of the pictures on Flickr, I’m tempted to delete them all forever. I’m tempted to pretend I was never that stupid hopeful girl; and maintain that I was always this together and flawless. (Insert maniacal laughter here).

Life isn’t like that though, nor should it be. We’ve got to hold on to the memories, no matter how sick they make us feel now. It’s all a matter of comparison, after all.

Have a great weekend, all!

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret Review

wpid-img_20150207_131346.jpgWhen I mentioned at the weekend that I would be having a look back at some vintage classics, starting with a couple of Judy Blume‘s best known works, my news feed came alive with nostalgic comments.

A lot of my friends remembered the books fondly and it made me feel even more excited about hunkering down with some familiar characters over a cup of tea.

I wanted to read Forever first but in the end decided to save it until after I’d revisited Margaret. I’m glad I did that, for reasons I will come back to in the Forever review (spoiler alert: it’s still quite saucy!).

But to this book. I love it still and the thing that stood out most for me is the fact that the writing is really good. I have to confess that I half expected to be taking the piss out of the books that I was so into as a kid/teenager but there wasn’t a trace of that as soon as I picked them both up.

AYTGIMM follows 11 year old Margaret Simon as she navigates her way through a new school, new friends, a secret club, periods, boobs and boys. Written from her point of view, we learn some of the secrets that she doesn’t care to share with her friends, such as her true feelings for Moose, the boy who cuts the grass, and how much she really wants to get her period.

Margaret’s core group comprises Nancy Wheeler, Gretchen Potter and Janie Loomis. Together they form the Four PTSs (Pre-teen Sensations) who meet every Monday to pore over their boy books, talk about periods and do their boob enhancing exercises.

All my life it seems I have been semi-aware of the “I must, I  must, I must increase my bust” mantra and it comes from this book. It may have been a thing way before it was set to paper but this is where I picked it up. Yes, I did do it myself (and look at me now!). It was very pleasing to get the warm and fuzzies whilst remembering it.

Despite her intimate circle, every night Margaret chats with the one person (or entity) who will listen to her no matter what. But when she starts to question religion on a deeper level and it brings up issues she doesn’t like, their relationship becomes strained. Will Margaret continue to turn to G-O-D or with they grow apart forever?

I thought that the religion thing was actually quite inspired. Margaret is brought up in a similar way to how my brother and I were; encouraged to choose her own faith when she feels ready. Margaret’s father is Jewish, while her mother is Christian so Margaret decides to give each a fair crack before she commits to one of religion, if at all.

I won’t go into it too much, but it’s quite refreshing to think that this topic was approached head on and then handled in such a sensitive way. I’m impressed with the diplomatic way it raises questions but doesn’t veer in any one direction.

Margaret also shares a close relationship with her grandmother, Sylvia. Keen to convert her granddaughter to Judaism, Sylvia nicknames her “Jewish Girl” which just adds pressure to Margaret as she tries to work out which way she should turn, biblically (or Torah-ly).

Blume also addresses the subject of slut shaming, although I am confident that this was not a phrase back when I was 11, even if it was definitely a thing.

Poor Laura Denker is labelled a bit of a goer (my words) because she is tall and well-developed for her age. She is  the subject of much bitching (but mostly envy) within the secret club, who have heard rumours about her getting felt up behind the bike sheds (or the US equivalent, the bleachers?) by Nancy’s brother, Evan and the aforementioned, Moose.

But the main topic on all the girls’ minds is of course, puberty. The girls do focus a lot of attention on boys, mainly Phillip Leroy, the class fitty but that’s nothing compared to the massive amount of time they all spend fretting about growing up, finally getting their periods and proving that they are normal.

I remember so vividly how I used to feel before the Big P came along, how much I wanted to get it and kick start womanhood. It’s nice to be reminded of the girl I used to be, who still pops up her head every now and again, who sometimes has the same worries she used to about the way she looks.

Ah, the simpler days.

(Incidentally, on the day I finally got my period, I was running indoors and banged my head, cutting it open. That day I bled from both ends, proof you should be careful what you wish for. Although, as compensation, we did get fish and chips for supper).

All in all, I adored my trip down Memory Lane. Judy Blume did so well because she understood, and was able to convey what it’s like to be this age. In 2010, Margaret was placed on Time magazines Top 100 fiction books written in English since 1923 list:  ″Blume turned millions of pre-teens into readers. She did it by asking the right questions—and avoiding pat, easy answers.″ (via Wikipedia).

Which sums it up better than anything. She just gets it.

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Cover by Julian Montague

The question to answer, I suppose, is does the book hold up? I think so. I mean, I’m 25 years older than the main protagonist so the things I worry about now are somewhat different to then. However, from a nostalgic point of view, I can remember those feelings of inadequacy and pressure like they were yesterday.

I like to be reminded of who I was and of being that age. I also wonder if there is that much difference between being (nearly) 12 years old back when I was 12, or indeed back when AYTGIMM was first published in 1970 (over 40 years ago), and being 12 now. I would imagine, at the centre of it they have the same worries with a lot more besides.

I think my generation are lucky they didn’t have to grow up in the digital age. Nobody had a phone of their own until the very early naughties (or I definitely didn’t) and MySpace was just about the most exciting thing happening on the web, which was still dial-up and patchy at best.

I can only imagine what this book would be like if it were rewritten in today’s setting. A hell of a lot more slut shaming, a bit of internet trolling and a lot of distracted tweeting, rather than two minutes in the closet, I’d bet.

I’m sure I’d still love it though.

Book details:

 Next up: Forever by Judy Blume.

Stories: the One With the Internet Date

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Way more glamorous than our first flat in Brighton…

Back in the early noughties, back when I was still fresh, single and somewhat naive, my friends and I found a delightful source of entertainment called Love@Lycos.

It was the sister site of Lycos.co.uk the search engine and was solely designed for dating, hooking up and lurve.

Set up so you had your own page (sort of like Facebook looked when it first began), you had a visible bio, pictures if you were feeling brave and you could chat to your heart’s content, either privately or publicly (as I recall). Nothing that innovative thinking back but it was user friendly and like, the funnest thing ever!

Now, dating apps are ten a penny and people meet people everyday with no qualms at all. Which is great. But then, to us at least, this new gateway through which we could fearlessly talk to boys (or in my OBFF‘s case, chicks), was wondrous and exciting – we were obsessed.

The three of us, OBFF, B and I would all go to work as normal, Love@Lycos chat all day on the sly, then reconvene in the evenings to compare notes.

During this period in time I wasn’t all that experienced, had had just the one ‘boyfriend’ and a small series of silly liaisons. In fact, I recall (and this may make another full Stories post) having just been dumped by text when we moved to Brighton from our hometown. Text!

So I was snogging boys like crazy, from work and the like, but was definitely looking for love by now (hey, I’ve always been a romantic). Hence pinning my secret hope on the love part of Love@Lycos.

Alas it was not meant to be. I don’t remember any of the boys I talked to now except one, and only because he takes his place on my Map of Life as the Only Boy I Have Ever Met From The Internet/First & Last Blind Date. Which is pretty significant, I feel.

NB: I am using the term ‘boy’ and ‘boys’ throughout this post because that’s what they were then. And I definitely didn’t feel like a woman yet either.cat-gemma-correll-haha-illustration-internet-Favim.com-144975

Looking back I can’t believe I was so brave when it comes to meeting RunsWithScissors. He just seemed to be attuned to my sense of humour and seemed to like WondyWoman as much as she liked him (Wondy was my alias).

He ran a website that seemed sarcastic and bright, lived in London and was willing to come to Brighton for the day, I believe he had a sister here. So all systems were go after a few months of back and forth.

Our chatter was not sexual or particularly flirty (that I remember), so perhaps this is where the balls came from to go and meet him IRL. I don’t know.

All I know is that, one Saturday night, I somehow made it to Palace Pier by way of the corner shop, where I stopped to buy a tiny mini-bar sized bottle of Cointreau. As the sickly cough medicine kick of the orange liquid hit the back of my throat, I started to calm down. And with every step I felt better.

When I saw him, I was delighted. I can’t say how he felt when I rocked up, but he didn’t run away or stand me up so it felt positive enough. There was no attraction at all on either side though.

I should point out here that we hadn’t seen each other’s real photographs. This was a blind meet. Almost unheard of now!

He was very good-looking. Dark, piercing blue eyes with great chiseled bone structure. He was also charming and funny and exactly what it had said on the tin.

We spent all night laughing in the Hop Poles and then he came back to mine. When it came time for bed, I leaned in close and whispered minxily: “You can have my bed if you like, I’ll sleep on the sofa…”

And he let me! In the morning, we woke up early, had a cup of tea and then I drove him to his sister’s house.

No kiss, no romance, just a good fun night.

We stayed in touch for a little while longer, but like lots of things around this time, it fizzled out. I’m sure he did, and I hope he has had a lovely life as he was a lovely guy.

What I learned: This may have come around the same time I started to realise you could have male friends that you didn’t kiss. Sounds stupid now, but I used to look at every boy I saw as a potential love interest and that didn’t always make for a good time for either party.

Meeting and getting on well with, but not shagging/snogging the arse off every male I met (or imagining it, more likely) was a new and fruitful discovery. As soon as I got my head around this phenomenon, my life got infinitely better and easier.

So it was a good lesson and a good experience. I haven’t met anybody else off the internet since, except my husband, but I don’t count that as we had already met in the flesh. The Internet facilitated our long distance relationship, but it was not born of it.

I’m all for internet dating. It looks so fun and I love hearing stories about it. My friend recently signed up to Tinder and although, like most things, there is obviously a dark side to it, she finds it hilarious.

Do you have internet dating experience? What are your thoughts?

I Used To Love Him #1: Kiefer Sutherland

Where have all the cowboys gone?
Where have all the cowboys gone?

I was reminded this morning of my gargantuan crush on Kiefer Sutherland back when I was still a kid. It all but evaporated the minute he (allegedly) cheated on Julia Roberts back in the early nineties, but until I decided he was no longer worthy of my love, I was obsessed.

Looking back I think I fell for him in The Lost Boys, aged just ten (Me, not him, obvs). His character wasn’t exactly heart-throb material, being an evil vampire an’ all but I liked him all the same. A year later came Young Guns and suddenly, something was stirring within me.

I’m confident it wasn’t sexual desire, though maybe subconsciously as I broke through into early adolescence, but I wasn’t really thinking in those terms then. I can’t explain what it was but it was there and so were the posters on my bedroom walls.

Cheer up guys
Cheer up guys, you’re supposed to be in love

It was with to my dismay that he got together with, and subsequently engaged to nineties sweetheart, Ms Roberts. I was pretty in love with her too to be fair; that hair was so naturally gorgeous, her smile so wide that how could I not be under her spell too?

I wanted to be her and since I was head over heels for Kiefer, I accepted the union because, frankly, what more could I do? My childish heart quickly grasped the reality of being 13 and unlikely to ever meet and steal him for myself.

In 1991 they were due to marry in a lavish ceremony, according to People magazine, and a great article from that year I just found online. Although, having read it back I wonder if I’ve distorted my version of events.

Did Kiefer cheat with a stripper on his Stag night as I had been lead to believe, or did I imagine it? Or was Julia the naughty one, leaving the country pretty sharpish with Jason Patric on her arm, having just shattered Sutherland’s heart? (And who can really blame her?).

Who knows what went on back there in the heady nineties? All I know now is perhaps I should have heard Kiefer out; not reacted so strongly to a piece of celebrity gossip that could very well have been completely made up.

If only I’d had the wisdom I have now, back then, eh? Maybe he’d still be on my wall and in my heart.

Then again: Freeway, Eye for an Eye and The Vanishing – perhaps not.