When did you first realise you wanted to go into counselling and why?
Well, it's not really one of those racy, exciting careers, like being a fighter pilot or rocket scientist, so I didn't experience one of those "When I grow up, I want to be..." moments - more a gradual realisation while I was at university. I love reading and I love researching, but absolutely hate the politics of academia, so it was a case of trying to find a job where I would have an excuse to keep up to date with my knowledge and practice, at the same time avoiding working in a large educational institution. I've mostly achieved this, although I still do some work for a university, lecturing on one of the courses and sitting on the ethics panel.
What's the scariest thing about setting up in business for yourself?
I don't think it was particularly scary for me. Because both my parents died when I was young, I had a trust fund, which I gained access to when I was twenty-one. It paid for my Masters degree and more or less bought the house outright. I could've bought a flat and had no mortgage at all, but opted for a house, as I was going to work from home. In fact, I did start off working from home, but it makes it really hard to shut down, which is why I took on the office space where my surgery is and I only need give six months' notice, so there's no real financial risk. Based on my friends' experience though, I'd say the scariest thing is the risk involved in getting it established to begin with, especially if you're already working and earning a fixed salary. If you get it right, the returns can be fantastic, but if you get it wrong you can end up losing everything.
Do you find that you are a counsellor to your friends as well? If so do you charge them, or would you expect some other 'payment in kind'?
Yes, no and not really.
One of the reasons I chose to study psychology is that I'm a natural people-watcher. I've always been fascinated by the way people behave and their lack of awareness of the signals they send out - what we call unintentional non-verbal, or meta- communication. It's not something I can switch on and off, it just kind of happens. Added to this is that I'm good at keeping secrets, so people know they can confide in me, and I'm not often shocked by what I hear, so of course my friends talk to me and sometimes ask me to help them work through things, but I'd say this is less about being a counsellor and more about being a good friend - is this not what friends do? Look after each other and care about each other's feelings? As for charging them - not a chance! Even if they wanted to pay I'd tell them to take a hike. The payback is in seeing someone through a crisis and knowing that you've helped them get back on their feet again, although I guess I do expect 'payment in kind' in the sense that I hope they'll return the favour and be a good friend too.
Is it more difficult to maintain the professional role when acting as counsellor to your friends?
That depends on why they come to see me! The little gripes and stuff are not really a problem, but the bigger things can be. When it's a client, it's impersonal and I don't have to think so much about the impact that their issues have on the other people in their life, although I do have to take it into account to a certain extent. When it's a friend, what they're going through affects our other friends and I'm implicitly aware of my own emotional investment also. So I'd say the most difficult part is trying to maintain objectivity rather than problems with confidentiality or anything like that.
Do you sometimes have to juggle the little white lies?
To be fair, life is always about juggling the little white lies. We'd have no friends at all if we didn't. "Do you like my hair?" No, it looks like you've been attacked by a two year old with a pair of blunt craft scissors. "Am I making a mistake?" Yes, and it's a whopper. Are you really so stupid that you can't see it for yourself? You see what I mean? Even in our most honest and trustworthy of friendships, the little white lies are necessary to avoid hurting people, even if it is only about things that are relatively superficial, like new outfits or haircuts.
Have you ever been drunk and if so can you remember the first time?
Hasn't everyone who went to university? There were a few parties when we were still at school where I had a bit too much to drink, although I wouldn't say I was drunk as such and certainly no hangovers back then, which these days is how I judge whether I was drunk or not. On that basis, I'd say the first time I got properly drunk was during my second year at uni, at a party in the law halls of residence. It was a brand new building, with en suite rooms, really well furnished, bright kitchens on every floor. Very nice and quite expensive, I believe. My housemate was seeing one of the first year students and she invited us. I can't remember a lot more about that night, other than one incident, where there were a few of us stood on the third-floor landing, with our glasses and bottles balanced on the banister and my housemate knocked the whisky off with his elbow. I'm not kidding - it bounced on every single stair, like something out of a movie, and made it all the way to the bottom before it broke. We'd only had a bit out of it too. Not sure what we ended up drinking after that - probably whatever was going, but my word, was I rough the next morning!
Are you still in touch with any of your friends from university?
Yes. The aforementioned housemate for one. There's a couple of others added me as 'friends' online, although I wouldn't have said we were friends as such at uni.
Have you got any pets?
My grandma had a cat called Claude. He died when I was about ten - I think she brought him over from France with her - but apart from that I'd never had pets, until recently. Now I share my living space with Blue (German Shepherd) and Jinja (cat), though technically neither animal is 'mine', for as much as one ever owns a cat.
What is your earliest childhood memory?
I'm not sure. My grandmother looked after me while my mum worked, and I can just about remember her coming to pick me up. I was three when she died, so that's probably the earliest, but it's very vague and no doubt all fabricated from what I've been told since. My first clear memory is from school, when we were sent to choose a reading book and I'd read all the ones on 'our shelf'. As a four-year-old, I remember being quite frustrated by this, because it meant there were no books left for me to read, as when you're told "This is your shelf" all of the other books are out of bounds, not yours. Anyway, once the teacher realised I wasn't being deliberately awkward in not choosing a book, she told me I could pick one off the first-year shelf instead and I remember feeling like I'd done something really naughty, sitting there with my big fat book with small writing.
Most interviews will ask questions like milk or dark chocolate, red or white wine. Your question is XBox or PlayStation?
Do I really come across as that much of a geek? I'll answer all three of those anyway. Milk chocolate all the way, although I do like dark chocolate too, if it's part of a dessert or has a filling of some sort. I'll drink wine if it's offered and I quite like Champagne, but I'd rather have beer. I like the continental beers in bottles, for future reference.
As for games consoles - I must confess to having a full collection, not that I get much time to play on them. I've upgraded each time the newest model comes out - it's part of my gadget thing - phones, tablets, ebook readers, games consoles - I love them!
If you could choose anywhere in the world to go on holiday, where would you go and who would you take?
Austria; specifically Vienna. I'm a big fan of Freud and I'd like to go and visit his apartment there, which is a museum in itself. I'm told Vienna's a beautiful city full of fascinating architecture and rich cultural history, particularly in relation to the arts. Then there's the mountains - I don't want to go skiing or anything like that. I'd be more than happy renting a little cabin somewhere and enjoying the view.
Who would I take? I think the trip to the Freud Museum in London pretty much finished Ellie off, so I guess it would have to be George. I doubt anyone else would be able to put up with me for an entire holiday!
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Marrying the love of my life. It only took us thirty years. Not bad that, eh?
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Being with my family.
What is your current state of mind?
Pretty good. I'm a happy person in general. I've got a great job and the best family ever. What is there to be miserable about?
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Um, that would be... Joshua Sandison. It's not a secret.
What is your greatest fear?
Cows. They're big and damn stupid.
Where would you like to live?
Living on a farm or ranch (without cows) would be awesome, but somehow I doubt my husband would agree, so I'll just settle for being with my family.
What is the quality you most like in a man?
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Same as for a man.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
My rage. I'm quite a chilled person, but sometimes I seriously lose it, and I'm frightened I'll hurt someone.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Not being true to themselves.
What do you most value in your friends?
Their unconditional love. It took me a long while to realise that they wouldn't think any less of me for being different to them.
Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
Captain Kirk. Runs a starship and kicks serious ass when the need arises.
Who are your heroes in real life?
My mum, my husband and my friends - for all their different virtues.
- My mum brought me up on her own and gave me everything she had. She's hard as nails, but very caring and the best person ever to have on your side. Don't tell her, but I love it when she gives someone what-for (a verbal arse-kicking).
- Dan, for his loyalty to the rest of us. He's like an action hero in casual clothing.
- Andy, for grabbing life by the horns and riding her hard (does that sound rude?).
- Adele, for her secret strength.
- Shaunna, for being tough and caring (she's a lot like my mum).
- Kris, for never giving up on his dreams.
- Ellie, for being sensible (mostly) and for looking after Josh while I was in Colorado.
- Sean, for always being there when he is needed most (and also for knowing when to leave).
- Soph, for being my best woman. She just gets me. It's awesome!
- Josh, my hero.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Everyone thinks I know exactly what to do in a crisis. I have no more idea than the rest of them. I'm just more of a pushover.
On what occasions do you lie?
I don't. More like I can't.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Ha, well, I guess it's "Oh, man!" because that's what comes out of Shaunna's mouth when she's doing her impersonation of me and everyone laughs and says it's spot on.
What is your motto?
The one my mam always uses - "F**k 'em all", by which she means don't care about what other people think of you. Be yourself.
Who is Shaunna?
Let's ask her and see!
Hi Shaunna. Thanks for agreeing to answer a few questions.
First off, that question you're not supposed to ask a woman, but...?
I don't mind you asking at all. I'm 39 and looking forward to turning 40. I'm kind of doing the whole living it up thing in reverse! I've got a brilliant job that I love, great friends and an amazing daughter...
Do you have any brothers or sisters?
Nope. Just me, but I do have quite a few cousins in Ireland.
How about your parents? Are they still alive? Are they married? Are they divorced?
My dad is still alive. My mum died of breast cancer eleven years ago. Dad's doing OK, but he's very forgetful and needs quite a lot of support these days.
If you were sent to a deserted island what three things would you take?
Mobile phone? Oh, wait. That probably wouldn't work. I'd definitely take tea bags, and...a distress flare. Ha-ha!
Do you have a hidden talent?
Not totally hidden, as my mates know, but I'm not bad on the footy pitch. These days there's less stigma about girls playing the game, and women's football is becoming really popular, but it wasn't like that back when I was at school.
Do you have a habit you wish you could break?
Not that I can think of. I don't bite my nails, or anything like that. I could maybe drink less tea?
What features do you like the most about yourself?
My hair. I'm a ginger. Well, it's more the colour of barley sugar, and dries into major curls. It's quite long too - when it's straightened out it's past my waist, and none of the redheads in my family have gone grey, so I'm optimistic it's going to keep me looking young forever!
What feature do you dislike the most about yourself?
Freckles. I'm covered in them and I'm fair-skinned, so no lush tan for me. I'm totally jealous of people who can get a good tan.
Do you have a hobby?
At the moment it's doing a short psychology course - part time from home. A couple of my friends are psychologists - they were chatting about it - showing off, really. Anyway, it snagged my interest, but I don't want to make a career out of it. I might study something else next. Pottery? Conversational Spanish? Car mechanics? Yeah, maybe not the last one.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Ha! Lots of them. I'm told that I'm the star of a book of some sort?
That's right. It's called Red Hot Christmas.
Red Hot? How about that! Well, you can no doubt find out more about my most guilty pleasure in there...hopefully heavy on the pleasure, easy on the guilt.
What kind of music do you like?
Pop, rock, anything really. My favourite of all time is A-Ha, fronted by the dreamy Nordic sex god, Morten Harket.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
Smelly dog. I know they can't help it, and I love the dog, but he really does stink at times, and then the house does too.
What is your favourite food?
I'm more of a favourite drink kind of girl - tea, strawberry milkshake, blueberry yoghurt crush, or yoghurt-not-smoothie as my dear friend Sean likes to call it. Food-wise, pasta is always good. And I love chocolate fudge cake. Yes, actually. It's chocolate fudge cake.
Do you have a passion and if so what?
Krissi - my daughter. I had her when I was fifteen, so she's been my life. Now she's all grown up maybe I'll find something else to get passionate about?
Do you consider yourself and introvert or extrovert?
Definitely extrovert! On my psychology course we all met up for a 'day school' and they gave us a fun introvert-extrovert test. I came out second highest out of all of us!
What is your idea of a perfect day?
Lie in, cup of tea, maybe even breakfast in bed, followed by doing something fun, preferably with someone fun.
Who is your favorite author?
Err...I don't actually read. Honestly, I've never read an entire book. I love films, and film adaptations of books. That would probably make my favourite Bridget Jones's Diary.
What would the first thing be on your bucket list?
Ooh, that's a tricky one. There is quite a big thing currently at the top of the list. Maybe I'll stick it on my Christmas list too, and see if Santa thinks I've been nice enough to get it. ;)
If I asked you to write an entry in your journal what would it be about?
Depends if you wanted to read it afterwards...just kidding. Right now it would probably be about getting organised for Christmas. My aunty is having my dad stay with her, which is really kind of her, as we've had a hell of a year and I'm looking forward to the break, but I'm not done Christmas shopping yet!
Tell me something no one else knows about you?
That book I mentioned? I have a feeling you'll get to know a couple of biggies in there. Who knows, it might even get a little steamy...with any luck!
A quick interview with Sean Tierney (caught on the hop between jobs)
Place of birth: Derry, The North of Ireland
Parents: My lovely mum, Saorla; dad...let's not talk about him.
Siblings: Older brother (by four years), Finn
Ethnic Background: Roman Catholic (minority in the North of Ireland)
Favourite subject at school: I really loved religious studies, actually (don't tell Joshy). I was taught by nuns, and there was a fair bit of religion in our curriculum. I always found it (and them) fascinating. I even thought about entering the priesthood for a time. It's not for me, though. Apart from the cups of tea and chatting with people. I could do that all day, which is why I chose the career I did, obviously.
Job: clinical psychologist (palliative care)
Married: No. I was. After the divorce, Sophie and I got together. That was five years ago, and we have a young son, so we're as good as married, I suppose.
Children: Just the one - Dylan Robert. He's a cracker.
Who do you most admire? Anyone who's happy with their lot, whatever that might be.
Relationship with God: I can't decide whether I believe in Him and wish I didn't, or I'd like to believe in Him but don't.
Overall outlook on life: I have my ups and downs like anyone, but I'm pretty cheerful most of the time.
Favourites: Food: pizza - and my mum's cooking Drink: tea Books: any at all Movies: action-packed, no thinking required Sports: football (playing and spectating) Colour: green, of course best way to spend a weekend: long bath, lazy lunch, bit of telly, family time and football pets: Sphinx - a Persian/Siamese cat with attitude
Do you have a secret? Wouldn't that be telling?
What do you like best about Josh? His charming way with words.
What do you like least about Josh? He always sees me coming.
Who is your best friend?
Laney (Elaine) - self-employed, has a small business selling alt accessories in The Galleries (an artisan farm market)
How did you meet?
At uni in the café - Laney was wearing a scarf of her own design and I stopped as we passed to compliment her. We clicked instantly! A few weeks later, she gave me her scarf - it's the one that's usually tied around my mic stand.
What sort of things do you do together?
Not much these days, sadly. We live too far apart. But we get together when we can and pretty much spend the entire time laughing. I love Laney's sense of humour.
Your typical outfit?
When I'm teaching, I go with the traditional shirt, tie, slacks, jacket. The rest of the time I'm kind of goth/indie, loads of black and arty prints, make-up, big hair, high-heeled boots. I love dressing up to go on stage.
None at the moment - no pets allowed in our apartment building, but I might get a cat one day.
What are your parents like?
We're Turkish (from Istanbul) - Mum and I moved to England when I was five. My dad's still in Turkey, but we don't hear from him much. My mum, though...she's lovely. It took her a while to come around to me being who I am, but she's always accepted it. She's my number one fan.
How d'you feel about kids?
Being a parent? We've talked about it, but it's a long way off yet. We've only been a couple for eighteen months and lived together for two.
Do you trust anyone to protect you? Who, and why?
Mum - you always hear of mums sacrificing their life for their child - that's my mum. It's a big part of why we left Turkey. When I told her I was queer, she admitted she'd known when I was little that I wasn't like other boys, and I was getting bullied a bit. So even though it meant leaving behind the rest of the family and starting with nothing - my mum was a teacher too before she became a mum - she moved us to England.
If you died or went missing, who would miss you?
The world! Ha-ha. I'd like to think my fans would, and the band, of course. My mum and my GF, maybe Laney too, but it would take her a while to notice.
Who is the person you despise the most, why?
I don't 'despise' anyone, but I don't much like Stu Drake right now. My dad's not very high on the list either - nor I on his. Mostly, I like people. I get on with my colleagues, have a ball with the guys in the band, love seeing my fans and bumping into kids I've taught. But Stu - it's not even the cost to Hatful, although I'm still angry with him for that. He did the unthinkable. The unforgivable.
Are you generally introverted or extroverted?
Extrovert, definitely. I'm a better person when I'm in company - write more, work harder. People inspire me.
Are you generally organised or messy?
Pretty organised. I like to be able to find things again, but I'm also minimalist - well, in everything but my appearance [grin].
Name three things you consider yourself to be good at, and three things you consider yourself to be bad at.
Good - performing, being reliable, knowing my place
Bad - overreacting, pushing too hard (kids at school, band), showing off
What three words best describe your personality?
Show-off, closet geek, queer
Are you right- or left-handed?
Left-handed but kind of ambidextrous, like most musicians, as far as I can tell.
What does your voice sound like?
Ambiguous. I'm a high tenor, and I have a large range (almost three octaves). My voice is nothing special on its own, but it works for the kind of songs we write.
On what occasions do you lie?
To save other people's feelings and protect my own privacy. When Hatful gathered momentum, we were interviewed by some big names in music journalism, and they asked ultra personal questions. They nearly always ask about my pronouns and how that relates to my relationships - do the kids call you Miss or Sir? You have a girlfriend - ever had a boyfriend? I sometimes make up ridiculous answers just to show how ridiculous their questions are, but it takes a lot to piss me off to that point (as one journo in particular discovered).
Do you have a motto? If so, what is it?
I'd like to say no, but I guess it would be 'just do your best' as I say it a lot!
Josh's Journal (AJ = Annus Josh. Book #1: Josh was 35)
When in Paris... (February, AJ-30)
Ellie's had me running in circles this morning, trying to find the perfect set of luggage for our weekend away. I keep telling people she's bossy, and everyone just laughs, knowing I'm right and finding it utterly hilarious because it's not them on the receiving end if she's focused on me.
For instance, the last time she insisted we go away for my birthday: to Paris, she said, the most romantic city in Europe. Nonsense, I told her. That's Venice, surely? She disagreed, which - I discovered when she vomited into the Seine - had far more to do with her landlubber status than the magic of the city itself.
So off we went to Paris, and visited the museums, and galleries... The Louvre - a compulsory destination - was all I had imagined it to be, which is to say it was full of tourists, although I had not anticipated it would be so vast, and even I had to admit the sculptures were magnificent. The Mona Lisa commands her daily audience, all of whom were far taller than Ellie and me, so we walked on by.
Of course, we also visited the Musée Dupuytren - a collection of preserved specimens of anatomical intrigue. The museum has since closed, the exhibits moved elsewhere. They make for grim viewing indeed. However, to have seen Leborgne's brain, the organ that arguably revolutionised my own academic discipline... It were as if Broca conversed with us through the aeons. Such irony, but that is Paris all over.
We seemed to eat and drink constantly and - to do this day I know not how - we ascended the Eiffel Tower. I recall, hazily, a shot or two of Absinthe was involved. What I do not recall so well is how we later descended nor how we made safe passage back to our hotel, over the Pont des Arts, the bridge that would be famed for almost collapsing under the weight of the lovers' locks affixed to it.
There were no locks at all when we visited, nor did it occur to either of us that we should leave one there. And yet, it was on that very bridge I shared with Ellie to story of Most Ljubavi - what is believed to be the original Bridge of Love - in Serbia, where a young woman's fiancé had proposed to her and then left her. The padlocks left there by other women were the hopes that their fate would not be as hers.
Perhaps, in light of Ellie's then-recent divorce, it was not the best story for me to tell, but she does insist on taking me to these places. For what purpose, I cannot say.
And so, it is time once again to leave behind these familiar four walls and 'enjoy' another slice of the Big Wide World. She has allowed me to pick our destination this year, thus, to the Freud Museum we shall go. I fear she will not like it in the least, and may deter her from ever travelling with me again.
Which would be a crying shame.
Zsa Zsa (March, AJ-37)
So, it's a typical Thursday for me - one of my two busiest days of the week, but my ten o'clock didn't show, which is just fine by me. Sorry folks - you book my time, you get billed whether you choose to use it or not. After all, once my thirty minutes has been 'bought' it ceases to be mine.
Anyway, as I say, it's one of my two busiest days. Usually Wednesday is busier, but not at the moment, and there are two reasons for this. The first is entirely my own fault: some clients prefer to work in calendar months, others book weekly (in varying frequencies) and I really ought to standardise this so that I don't get sudden gluts of appointments coinciding, as has happened this week.
Second, I have one of the diploma course students working here on a Wednesday - an arrangement that was sold to me on the premise that it would free up some of my time.
The thing is, some clients aren't too happy about seeing someone else. In private practice, people book to see a specific therapist, rather than to use a counselling / therapy service in general, so I can appreciate that this issue may not be immediately apparent to other professionals (for instance, clinical psychologists working in a hospital setting). I'm also implicitly aware that this is more of a problem to me than it is to some of my clients. Regardless, the consequences are the same, as I now have to 'oversee' a student, at the same time as somehow squeezing in moved appointments elsewhere in my somewhat over-stuffed schedule.
But I'm not bitter.
And I suppose it could be far worse, given that the initial arrangement would have meant having a trainee counsellor work here both Wednesday and Thursday, as opposed to just Wednesday, but we came to a…
…let's call it a compromise.
You see, I'm not easily pushed around, as the counselling course leader knows. Indeed, the harder you push, the less compliant I become. Unfortunately (as the course leader also knows) I have just one weakness: my friends. Here again, I can be very strong-willed and perhaps a little self-opinionated, but the bottom line is that I will do anything for them. Thus, when George asked (for 'asked', read 'was told to ask') if he could undertake his placement with me, I didn't really see as I had much choice in the matter.
Of course, I'm glad it's George and not somebody else, for much as he can be irritatingly particular about some things, it does mean he leaves my consulting room precisely as he finds it. That said, I couldn't put up with him being here two days a week, so today he's with 'Zsa Zsa Gabor'.
Real name Zara Kaminski-Lederman, she must be well into her seventies by now. She lives in an old town house with three storeys, the topmost of which is where she has her 'rooms'. To gain access, one must first persuade Zsa Zsa that one is in need of treatment, then ascend the ornate, white enamelled wrought-iron staircase which spirals up the left side of her manse. It's no more than a glorified fire escape, but it really does add something to the experience, although I've been up there just once and it's not an experience I'd like to repeat.
The first time I met Zsa Zsa was the year after I took out the lease on my own rooms and before I fitted the keypad at the bottom of my (indoor) staircase. She threw open the door and swept into the room, her silken paisley kaftan wings billowing as she swooped and circled, surveying the modest, carpeted expanse of my office, almost as if I were not there.
"Oh yessss, dahleeng," she declared, "thees ees jas purrrfect!" She flung herself onto the sofa, à la Lord Henry Wotton, scissored her linen-draped legs and took a long, slow draw on her Sobranie cigarette.
I was transfixed. She was utterly fabulous; there was no other word for it. She still is, for age is not brazen enough to jade Doctor Zara Kaminski-Lederman, although I have seen her only twice since that day, because we are not 'friends'. She doesn't have friends; she has clients past and present, ex-husbands and poodles.
She stuns George to silence, which is quite some achievement. By the time I get home tonight, he'll have cooked some kind of fancy pasta dish with cream and garlic and Lord knows what else. We'll sit down to eat.
"What's this?" I'll ask.
"Penne, with a white wine and cream sauce," he'll say. "I've added a little black pepper, a pinch of rosemary, half a teaspoon of oregano, a dash of olive oil, a sprinkling of sea salt..." I'm making this up as I go along - I haven't the faintest clue what he puts in the pasta, but you get the idea.
"And how was Zsa Zsa today?" I'll ask.
"Fine," he'll say.
End of conversation.
I think she's hilarious. Tierney can't stand her. He says she's a fraud. Of course she's a fraud, I told him. Aren't we all?
George's birthday (April, AJ-37)
It's George's birthday.
The age we all are, birthdays aren't that special, but they're usually a good excuse for a get-together. However, he decided he didn't want to go out for the usual Chinese meal, he didn't want any presents and there was nothing else he could think of that he wanted to do. It's because he's a skint student these days, not that he'd admit that's the reason why.
Needless to say, we took no notice of his grumping whatsoever. Shaunna, Kris and Adele have taken him off on a shopping trip to a huge, out-of-town shopping centre, or Hell On Earth, as I like to call it. They suggested I might want to go with them, cancel my lecture this week. Sorry, I told them, I can't possibly do that—it would be letting the university down, after all—and what would all those other poverty-stricken students do without me? No, thanks. In my list of least favourite things to do, spending the day wandering around an overcrowded shopping mall comes top of the list, so they're most welcome to it.
The place they've gone to is truly massive (by UK standards) and probably quite impressive if you're into that sort of thing. It's also a good hour's drive from here, so Dan dropped them off this morning on his way to a meeting down south somewhere, and I'm picking them up, which is why I'm currently sitting in the campus café, waiting for the phone call to say they're ready. In fact, my phone's been pretty quiet since George called earlier. Can't imagine why!
See, when he said 'no presents', everyone listened; we gave him money instead! He did his usual "I can't possibly accept this" nonsense and of course we listened to that, too—everyone gave the money to me and I gave George my credit card, suggesting that he get himself something 'small', plus if he saw anything else he wanted, he could buy it and pay me back when he had it. By 11:30 this morning, I'd had six text messages, all more or less saying the same thing: seen an amazing shirt / pair of jeans / t-shirt…is it too expensive? The first five times I replied to tell him that it was fine and to just buy whatever he wanted. The sixth time I ignored it, thinking he'd get the point. He didn't. He called.
"Put Shaunna on," I said.
"Why?" he asked.
"Just bloody do it," I told him.
"Shaunna. From here on, you're in charge. He can spend as much as he likes."
"Copy that, wilco, over and out."
Cue radio silence, and me doing a bit of internet searching to translate what she'd said. I say silence, I got a text from her a little while ago that simply stated "mission accomplished".
Ah, there goes my phone again…
They're ready, so that's me done. Tonight, we're going to attempt the cinema, just the two of us—not sure why, as our cinema trips rarely go as planned. Perhaps the less said about that, the better.
Kris's birthday (January, AJ-38)
Kris's birthday: he's 39 today and for some reason decided to celebrate first by sticking old photos of himself online (denial), then by suggesting we ditch the usual birthday meal in favour of a trip to a night club (double denial with a dash of stupid). We decided to stick with the Chinese meal, having discussed the alternative like the sensible, rational adults we are...
I wouldn't have minded the club idea so much, to be honest, and Andy was up for it too, but George is working, Shaunna's working, Dan's working, Adele is...not up to going clubbing.
...which is, of course, why you now join me on a journey back in time to a very different birthday celebration.
The time: our first year as sixth formers - some of you will know it as 'lower VI', others as 'year 12'. I met up with a teacher from our old high school a while ago, and he uses the two interchangeably, much to the chagrin of his 'year 12' students, who perceive 'lower' as meaning 'lesser'.
The place: Andy's 18th, in the function room of an out of the way pub. Of course, these were the days when landlords did not live in mortal fear of losing their licence, so none of us had ID with us. It just wasn't an issue - luckily, as I was only 16 and the others were 17 or thereabouts. Andy was the typical grungy teenager, with hair down to his shoulders, jacket over hoodie over shirt over t-shirt, jeans with so many rips they were hardly worth wearing at all, and baseball boots.
And the ear-ring. I thought it looked kind of cool, but he was forever being told to take it out at school - we attended one of those schools where uniform was compulsory and the dress code strictly adhered to by most people, including a rule prohibiting the wearing of anything other than plain stud ear-rings, but that was the sort of guy Andy was back then. Rules were there to be broken. He and his mates looked like trouble, and they often were, which paid off for the rest of us, at his 18th in particular, because we were kind of 'normal' in older people's eyes, by comparison.
I've never done fashion particularly well. I know what I like and I tend to stick with it, which, surprisingly, irritates Ellie more than it does Adele, although I think mostly it's because Adele's given up on me. However, at Andy's 18th she was more than happy to take advantage of my old-fashioned dress sense, because it made me seem older than everyone else. Ironically, as we speed towards the dreaded big-4-0, I'm vain enough to allow myself a little smugness at the fact that I am weathering better than most. And I've still got my hair - for now. We watched something about hair loss the other night, and it did worry me a little, I must confess. I wonder how well fine, blonde hair holds up in the fight against male pattern baldness? I might ask Shaunna later...
Duty calls, alas.
To be continued.
Another Friday… (April, AJ-37)
It's not yet ten o'clock, and already it's shaping up to be a pretty eventful day—comparative to the usual Friday drudgery at least. I was up by six and could have done with a little longer in bed, but I had the personality lecture to plan for next week, so I thought I may as well get up and get on with it. Next door's dog was up not long after me, barking and racing up and down the stairs, after the screaming toddler, no doubt. I don't mind children, really I don't, but…let's just say I don't plan on having any of my own any time soon, or ever.
So, I was up, and out of the house just after 7:30, arriving here at the university a little after 7:45, which highlights the first benefit of coming to work early, further enhanced by my discovery of a very empty campus, where I had my pick of parking spaces. Better still, I didn't have to share the ride in with George (library obsessed). I did offer to give him a lift—he (un)graciously declined. I think he might even have sworn at me. Whatever, he said he'd make his own way in later, with Sophie, I would imagine. They really have hit it off rather well, I'm glad to say, as it gave me a bit of peace over Easter. I'm guessing he was helping her out with some decorating, judging by the state of his jeans. I did tell him gloss paint wouldn't wash out…lucky it's his birthday in four days, really.
It was this that reminded me of Adele's 18th birthday bash. Her birthday's on American Independence Day, and for some reason she decided to have an American themed 18th, which, in essence, consisted of a few American flags hanging around the place, hot dogs and their sub-varieties, and root beer. Vile, disgusting stuff. If I enjoyed the taste of Germolene, I'd just squeeze a tube straight into my mouth. Anyway, it was the only party I've ever been to where jeans were an entry requirement, along with chaps, cowboy boots…you get my drift. And if I sound critical, I really don't mean to be (I promise, Adele—in case you're reading this—it was a great party), but I wasn't feeling very well. I think it was some flu-type bug, or other, maybe food poisoning. I hear it can drag on for weeks, and I'd been feeling sick all the way through the exams. To be fair, we were all a bit subdued that night, marking time until our A Level results, knowing it wasn't long until we all went our separate ways to university, wondering if our friendships would stand up to the trials of time and distance.
We made a promise that night: we said whatever happened, even if we all drifted apart over the years, we'd make it up to Adele. We'd give her the American theme party she wanted, for her 40th birthday. It seemed such a long way off then, so improbable that we would still be in touch with each other. I wonder if Ellie's ordered the banners yet…
And that was the another thing that happened this morning. Ellie and James have finally found a house they like. Well, they've found a picture of a house that, once built, they think they'll like. It's one of the new houses going up on the edge of town. She emailed me the sketches from the estate agent and they do look quite impressive: detached, four bedrooms, two bathrooms, kitchen, lounge, dining room, garage, miniscule garden. I love how the sketch artist even went as far as drawing in furniture and pictures on the walls. There was even a facsimile of a pan on the hob. Four bedrooms, though: presumably she's planning on following the Davenport BIG family tradition.
There was something else occurred today, too, but I got disturbed by the phone and can't recall what it was now. Apparently, 'the course leader' has decided he needs to meet to discuss observing next week's session for his records. A bit of notice would've been nice. Ah well, duty (and coffee) calls.
Goth of Christmas Past
Black Hole (Krissi and Jay)
In The Stars
Hiding Behind The Couch
Josh: Underneath - Adam Lambert
Back, back further in this drunken reminiscence, Josh felt an uneasy twinge, for there had been just one other to make it past the gatekeeper; no tricks of diversion, no sneaking through when he wasn’t looking. They just walked right in and set up camp. Set up camp? Ha! They brought the bricks and built a castle. But it wasn’t Ellie mocking him from across the moat, forever consumed by her own consuming and incapable of knowing his doors were open.
George glanced back from his vantage point on the edge of the kerb. “Have you got your umbrella?”
Before she could protest, he was in front of her, and her plastic shield was gone. Nothing between them now but air, and even that seemed in short supply. She tried to take deep breaths; her head was spinning, and she could smell him, the gentle musk of his scent, mingled with cologne and mint. She picked up a towel and tried not to see him, feel him, breathe him, closed her eyes, refused to take in more air, gasped as she felt his finger under her chin, tilting her face upwards. She opened her eyes.
“Just swallowed my gum,” he said, taking the towel from her and dropping it into the basket. He moved closer, felt their torsos touch, and at those points a spark, igniting the smallest of flames, radiating outwards like a newborn forest fire.
“The lust I can handle. The rest I can’t. I love you. I want to make love to you. I want to take you far away from here, from all of this, and make love to you over and over again. I want to show you all of the things I have seen, take you high into the mountains, flying through the sky. And I want you to show me what life is about. I want another baby, with you, and I want the chance to be a father, to get it right. I know I shouldn’t be telling you all of this, any of this, but I can’t help myself. I love you.”
“I was about to say the same, bro,” Dan remarked, which was true. Being the younger brother, he’d spent his life avoiding anything that might lead people to compare him to Andy. With Mike, it wasn’t so bad. The age difference was sufficient and their personalities distinct enough for their similarities to go unnoticed. But with only a year between them, Dan was aware that he and Andy weren’t just alike in looks and personalities. They shared many of the same interests in music, sport and their attitude towards life.
Adele bounced up onto her toes to reach George’s ear. “I want to start my own business, doing this.” She swept her arm to indicate the room. George shook his head, not sure what ‘this’ was. “Organising social events—college balls, weddings, clairvoyant nights—I love doing it, and I think I’m OK at it, too.”
George smiled. “You’re more than OK, Adele. Our wedding was out of this world.”
“Awww. Thanks, George.” She hugged him again. “Where’s your husband gone, by the way… Oh! He’s with mine. Well, not my husband—as good as.”
“You still not up for making an honest man of him?” George joked.
“Ha! I could marry him, but he’d still be a rogue.” Adele grinned and gave George a wink. “I kind of like him that way.”
Saorla: Bí Thusa Mo Shúile (Be Thou My Vision - Talyn Prescott
Aileen had dismissed Saorla’s offers to repay, saying, ‘They’re as good as my children, it’s the least I can do.’ And here she was, as always, at Saorla’s side, happily singing away. She’d been in the choir when she was younger and still had a lovely voice, so sweet and melodic. It was all kinds of wrong what ‘Bí Thusa Mo Shúile’ from that woman’s lips did to Saorla…though it had to be said, when Aileen was in full swing, she could outdo the vacuum cleaner.
Aileen must’ve sensed Saorla’s eyes on her, because she turned and smiled as she sang the Irish, not English, “Is tabhair domsa áit cónaí, Istigh i do chroí.”
For the first time in years, Ferg had proper clarity in his thoughts. He needed so hard, so very hard. If he could just get there, it was not too late. Ade would understand, he knew he would. Ade had asked him so many times, tried to dig away at that wound, but Ferg had fought back. Too hard; much too hard. Ferg had hated Ade, because his love burned a trail all the way down, down to that coiled ball of wire. Ferg had tried to stop that burn—to halt that slow, sweet pain, the only way he knew.
“Every single one of us is standing right beside you. We can’t slay the dragon for you, but we will be there with you to fight it, to the very very end, and if you ever drop your sword…” She turned away, but there was no attempt to hide that she was crying. Instead, she opened the cutlery drawer and reached inside. The sunlight coming through the kitchen window glinted off the object she now held in her hand and Jess looked up.