Don’t Insert Hand

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All I want to do right now is insert my hand. I need to. I am in a slightly sticky pub somewhere near Lancaster, I hear the slight suck of my hand leaving the table and wonder at who wants to spend £13.99 on Gammon and Pineapple here. Maybe to read last Tuesday’s i paper. I suddenly feel depressed and think of all the things and places in the world I have not seen because I am in a slightly sticky pub near Lancaster. I have ennui but I cannot revel or drown in it because someone is trying to chat to me. He looks a bit BNP. Meanwhile my child is trying to insert his hand in the machine.  I wait to see what occurs.


I have a Booths card- bow before me peasants. Oh.

I’ve just paid £2.20 for a hot chocolate, a cup of premium tea and a glass of wine in an artisan cafe in Garstang. This is it, the pinnacle of my life, there is no going back now. I have jumped the shark of my life.


Booths  ( or Boobs as my three year old keeps ‘hilariously’ calling it loudly in front of teenage boys) makes Waitrose seem a bit on the slummy side. In fact, I heard once on Radio Four on one of those mid- afternoon programmes that nobody actually listens to unless they’ve got crippling Norovirus, a hangover, bad reception or are retired that Booths is actually posher because they stock more types of expensive caviar than Waitrose.  This has become one of my ‘Actually I’ll think you find..’ quotes about the North  I repeat like a pub bore every time  I go down South.

Being the owner of a black embossed Booths card (free when you enter your email address into the website form) makes me feel a bit special. I hold it out casually with a smile, a triumphant smile like somehow I have made it into that special club. That special club where you have to write your email address into an online form.

It is quite sad my life has become to this really. BUT ACTUALLY NO!  Because with the Booths card comes free hot drinks-even hot chocolate. Yes, even hot chocolate.  EVEN FUCKING HOT CHOCOLATE! It’s the beverage equivalent of climbing Mount Everest but without the death and stuff.


So the hot beverages are free so I can absolutely justify a small bottle of wine for two pounds whilst I sit in laminated splendour, the queen of my brightly yet attractively lit domain.

Until the random envy and spite directed at the other plebs with their free hot beverages.

I go downstairs and pretend to think about purchasing luxury pickles. That’ll learn em. I accidentally purchase a luxury pickle.
I think I understand how marketing works.



Listening to Bryan Adams in Ayr

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The worst music in the world is to be found in Ayr. Maybe they haven’t paid their licence. Maybe the only music in Ayr is an old Now 47 double cassette tape. But the fact remains that the worst music in the world is to be found in Ayr.


Actually I do the World a disservice. Sorry, World. When I say World, I mean bad chart records from the UK that you had forgotten had actually existed.


I sit in an otherwise quite pleasant pub. There has been an effort to make it look old but the beams may not be real. We are told sternly to use the beermats. The wine comes in miniature bottles. We are in Scotland. ‘Everything I Do I Do It For You’ is playing and I am suddenly reminded of my horrid first kiss at a teen disco in Barnstaple.

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There is a sudden fury of a gale outside. It is August. Rain smatters furiously at the windows. On Facebook, people are complaining it is too hot. They are not in Ayr.

There are moments of bombastic glory, an ancient yellowing neo-Baronial building toppling gently towards a barbers. The old, the new and the simply a bit broken sliding haphazardly along the same street.

My boyfriend who has driven a considerable way for this glumly declares it ‘Bolton.’

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Songs from Now 47 plaintively bleat in the charity shops. I had forgotten about Chesney Hawkes.

In the ancient thatched Tam O’ Shanter inn, Robbie Burn’s pub of choice apparently, stalwarts of heavy day-time drinking lean against the timeless bar muttering incomprehensibly against a backdrop of Something Bad from the Eighties as bemused American tourists wonder if this is a living recreation. I yearn to tell them not to try a Macaroni Cheese Pie from anyone, anywhere but I am left silent and floundering due to a large vodka and mixer for £1.60. I definitely preferred it to the Red Hot Chilli Pipers CD and six  pound large vodka of olde Edinburgh hostelries, mind.

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Next, a place recommended by Trip Advisor as being excellent for vegetarians. I ask for lentil soup. Then to a backdrop of Cher, I ask if I have just eaten bacon. I am informed it is probably beans. She goes to check. I have eaten bacon. Nice soup though and it is wiped from my bill. I suddenly have a huge desire to go on a mad bacon rampage through Ayr whilst listening to Sinitta.


Another bar, an Alternative bar and I sadly realise that I look like a mum waiting to pick her kids up when they are finished on the pool table. I never thought I would be so glad to hear some Sisters of Mercy B-sides in my life. I think about having a Macaroni Cheese pie and am frightened by myself.


Last port of call, an accidental discovery of a cocktail bar on the way back to the car. The designated driver sighs heavily at this point. It seems to be populated by actual people from the eighties which is an exciting change but we leave when I start having Delerium Tremens about MC Hammer offering me a Bramble Gin.

I quite like Ayr.

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The Best Pub In The World (made up for camping)

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I hate camping. The waking up at a 90 degree slant with a dry mouth, an over- full bladder and a hairbrush molded painfully into your pelvis after someone on ketamine called Ketamine Pete stumbles over your tent-pegs repeatedly and his mate, Si, laughs with a really annoying high pitched burst  at irregular short spaced intervals all night long.

Then you semi-wake from drifting uncomfortable burning/broiling hellish semi-consciousness with either the unrelenting sound of rain smashing against the sagging flaccid Ketamine Pete shaped dome of your Eurohike or burning relentless sun making you feel like an unappetising hairbrush and stale alcohol flavoured pizza in a sagging burning  Eurohike topping.

It will be 5.35 am at this point and you will NOT get back to sleep.


And if you piss in the saucepan, the saucepan is always too suddenly too tragically too late small for the surprise enormous piss and you discover the hurriedly  emptied by being splashed outside the tent saucepan being used to make baked beans by a cheery eyed fellow tent-person who loves camping.


This cheers you up.


I hate camping. I have only ever done it at festivals  for the pure reason to be gruesomely debauched at a  festival and certainly never ever considered it festival-less with a small child. I’m not an idiot.


It is festival season now and I am with a small child in a campsite minus a festival. It is a very pleasant campsite, Low Greenside Farm, hill and field ringed and pleasingly free from the sea of irritatingly jolly expensively water-proofed campers I was fearing wide-eyed at four am the previous morning. I’m not a general fan of people. Especially when they rustle.


Tragically, I greatly enjoy researching holidays on the internet. Since the decline of cash and the arrival of the child, the excited search for the best deal on boutique hotels in Edinburgh ( ‘well someone on Tripadvisor said the lavender chocolates on the pillow were the same for two days running!’) has been sadly discontinued.

Now I am looking for cheap campsites in a safe proximity  to our house.

I try to utilise  this to my advantage and look for campsites near good pubs. The Lake District is out because our only view would be the kayak on top of the car that is worth more than our house in the queue in front on the M6.


Hmmm,  Ravenstonedale- 45 minutes away and two good pubs, the campsite looks refreshingly deserted of hoards of ruddy faced pains (who might even sing in a jolly fashion-that has been another major concern )  in Hunter wellies, indeed pleasantly free of anything apart from toilets.

I approve of toilets. They are better than people.


Ravenstonedale itself (and is that not the best name for a place ever? You think of err, ravens, stones and even dales if you have a particularly imaginative frame of mind. Often places called things like Cherry Tree Orchard have been named by Persimmon or Barrat Homes to replace what was previously there but here in Ravenstonedale ( say it again and it’s all Tolkien) there are no Barrat homes, just jovial people who beam at you and give a jolly ‘hello’ and a coment on the weather before touching up the Tudor exterior timber on their annoyingly ancient beautiful house like that is a totally normal thing to be doing in 2014. In a recession. In the North.


It is a village that time and Barrats Home forgot. Apart from the prices of a large red wine. And we all know that is a major theme of Unicycle Emptiness.

However and you will probably all faint at this. I have finally been to the BEST PUB IN THE WORLD.

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That’s it now. I have jumped the shark. Life is now meaningless. My search for the best pub in the world (well within a close proximity to the North West of England) is over. It is the Black Swan. I feel a bit like Edmund Hillary.

If Edmund’s main endeavour had been sitting getting slightly drunk in a massive pub garden that he discovered on Tripadvisor.


It is a particularly massive beer garden though with all the things I am doomed to never discover in a beer garden again- a stream with a tyre swing over it,  a friendly cat, red squirrels, a hammock, trees, garden games such as quits and skittles, a bbq hut and bbq selling for a reasonable price freshly grilled local meat or in my case a portobello and halloumi burger with watercress (£4)

Oh and the camping? Reader, I managed it.

Despite the five am rain.



Appleby Horse Fair 2014

An elderly female volunteer looks out of the window of the charity shop and her eyes fall on a Traveller girl wearing approximately eight inches of platform wedge and six inches of neon nylon.

‘ Aww, she looks likes she’s dressed for a night out’, she beams in delight.

It is 11am at Appleby Horse Fair and I am in a slight state of shock and awe.

And annoyingly fear.


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I am on my own as deciding the three year old bolter was probably not suited to a place featuring fast moving horses, I have left him and his dad at Kirkby Stephen to wholesomely look at trains.



The train from Kirkby Stephen to Appleby is surely the best ever way to spend four pounds (return fare) Fifteen minutes of mountains, packhorse bridges and fields slide past in a happy glow. The man sitting opposite me with the Sunday Times and a real ale ( it is not yet 11am at the point) is probably in even more of a happy glow.


Then suddenly Appleby, a small quaint town normally sitting in a homemade snug smug nest  of pastel bunting and Very Nice Cake.



I am suddenly the only person on my own. People seems to be travelling in herds, laughing, swearing and joking. I go to cross the road then seeing the horses and traps whizz past, wonder if it is viable to just stay on the same side of the road all day.


I feel pale and old compared to the vibrant throng around me, the Spectre at the feast. The feast I can’t eat as the smell of meat permeates the air. There seem to be no other pale mid- thirties single vegetarian Goths here. I don’t normally define myself as a Goth but compared to everyone else’s skin tones, I appear to have been recently exhumed.


It is of course utterly brilliant. I have heard about the fair, seen the horses and bowtops traverse through Lancaster, romantic and timeless (‘unless you’re stuck behind one’, I hear an angry voice from the Daily Mail shout)

Now I am bedazzled by primary coloured throngs, snatches of equally colourful banter and the horses, the only staid placid things in this merry carnival. Until you try to cross the road.


Oh and just as an aside to the imaginary Daily Mail reader shouting at the back, they are all in fantastic condition. Glossy eyed and haired, well kept coats and no signs of neglect. And today I learn the Fairy Liquid is the best horse shampoo ever. You would be an idiot to mistreat an animal here anyway as the RSPCA, the police and Blue Cross are out in force.

In fact I am probably the only thing in Appleby without glossy eyes and a thick mane of hair.


Snatches of conversation drift past (‘sure they may be beautiful girls but..’) intangible and alien accents when trying to decipher through a cloud of whinneys, splashes, shouts and car stereo bass.


Some Traveller girls step out of a cafe into the path of  a mobility scooter plowing through the crowds. They apologise. She stares at them angrily and silently before continuing her constantly thwarted quest along the pavements of Appleby.

I’m still hungry but the pubs and cafes are rammed and either there has been a massive VAT rise since I last came to Appleby several months ago or cafes are cashing in Glastonbury style- a fiver for a bowl of bloody soup from a distinctly average slightly sticky cafe? i decide to just not eat. That’ll show them.

I queue in a smart polite line for the cash machine. You don’t see that sort of thing on ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.’ Then someone throws a bottle out of a 4×4 whilst laughing. Bugger. I hope no-one from the Daily Mail notices. But  a thousand telescopic lenses flash around me in a cacophony of glee and spite. Possibly.


Dyspraxia means I walk around the town three times looking for the market until someone tells me the actual directions and I realise I don’t have time to go. Or indeed to look at the rows of ancient gypsy caravans which was my original intention.

I have just spent three hours trying to cross the road to be cross about the price of soup and envying teenagers thighs instead.


For fucks sake.

Next year will be very different.










Steampunk in Morecambe- a beginners guide.

Q. What is steampunk?
A. It is Goth in the future from the past. Octopuses also feature.

I hope that has been of help.

If you want your child to stay off depravity and vice, I thoroughly recommend you getting them obsessed with death. A penchant for skulls and Victorian mourning jewellery normally seamlessly melds into a liking for a nice cake and a cup of tea from a pleasing vintage cup. There is no bar but in the Wacky Warehouse next door, there is no-one to be seen in seventeen petticoats apart from me.Looking like a Victorian prostitute whilst sitting on your own in a chain family pub in Morecambe is strangely edifying.

The market consists of very very lovely things sold by very very lovely people. If you don’t consider ‘very very lovely’ things made from glass eyeballs,cogs and superglue, then you have wasted the two pounds entrance fee. And I pity you.

When watching Ash Mandrake perform, I yearn to have the power to make him attend every primary school in the country instead of the general insipid live performances of Robin Hood. He is a one man band, storyteller and singer featuring satanic eyes, murky folk tunes, hypnotic loops and a double necked guitar. Genial Men with purple hair and waistcoats eat strawberry cake and clap politely.

It is not raucous here.

Carlisle Clog and Sword performers dance around with swords without killing anyone, an amazing feat for this card carrying dyspraxic to watch in-between working out how many petticoats are still in her pants after having a post Wacky Warehouse Echo Falls related wee. This is a sentence I never thought I would have to say.

I buy hairclips with ravens on in a post Echo Falls/ petticoats in pants haze from women in full Victorian attire.

It has been a splendid day out.

Wray Festival 2014 (with a furry Lou Reed)


I could probably not write anything else and people would be sated and happy to see a picture of a furry Lou Reed on a bank holiday.

Like a grim analogy of the current government, this mechanical boot kicks limp defeated buttocks for all eternity.

I was vaguely disappointed at slightly less political scarecrows than usual. The theme was Heroes and Villains but I think Wray might have overdone sarcastic Nick Clegg scarecrows and Con/Dem alliance puns in previous years.

However when living in a leafy well off village in Lancashire, one can always be cross about something.

Now without going all Daily Mail, I generally prefer not to narrow that fraught line between scarecrows, Toy Story and sex.


I’m not sure if you can make out the handcuffs in this one. They may have been obscured by the beer. If I lived in Wray, I might well make obscene scarecrows just for the lols and not having to make small talk when picking my child up from nursery as I would be delightfully shunned like a harlot from the past.

I’ve always wanted to be that.

Ghandi in paper mache form still made me feel at peace with myself and I stopped wanting to make a scarecrow from a sex doll just to annoy my fantasy neighbours.


It is absolutely definitely time for another furry Lou Reed interlude.

It’s how he always wanted to be remembered.

He actually flashed! No cock shot sadly. But a pressed button and a flirtish lift of the kilt. I had to sit down for a bit.

A sentiment I am sure we’ve all felt.

Hurray! It’s Nigel himself! With a fag and an empty pint. A splendidly posh man booms happily at him. I am unsure whether he realises it is a scarecrow representation of the man.

Enjoy your bank holiday and remember, sleep tight everyone…

I forgot a clever thing I was going to write about Milnthorpe

There was something very clever I was going to say about Milnthorpe.

I was pleased with my splendid wry bon mot. It was definitely a site specific phrase as well. I don’t normally do this but because I was amazed with the fecundity of my brain, I laboriously stabbed it into the Notes app of my dieing Samsung. Just like Charles Dickens. Then did not press ‘save.’

Forgetting and/or losing something you have created instantly make is it the best thing to have ever existed.

Milnthorpe is quite small and I was waiting for a lift anyway so I walked around it again for that ‘oh fuck, that was the inspiration for that amazing witty thing what I wrote then deleted then forgot.’

But the squat grey buildings stared at me impassively.

I have either missed a major artery of Milnthorpe or am just stupid (both equally valid options) because in my head there was a really good bit (now escalated to just like Narnia in my head)  but in real life, just struggling veins clawing out of the main artery of  a few random shops  and a Friday only market where I guilt purchased a small amount of  shockingly priced cheese because the man was nice and I did not want him to think I was poor.


Then I sulked about being nice but poor  in a graveyard whilst eating a tiny piece of organic blue Yorkshire cheese.

There was definitely something funny and humorous that I wrote about but I just can’t see it.


When I saw it, I thought of my few readers rolling in the aisles at my sly dig at The Funny Thing.

But I looked around Milnthorpe again and did not find anything funny anywhere at all.

This will haunt me for ever more.


They don’t even talk about death in the charity shops

Over my ‘pot’ of coffee, I realise that the shaking elderly man opposite may not be suffering from Parkinsons after all. He has just had a ‘pot’ of one pound coffee from Cafe M. All those genially chatting elderly ladies? They’re not chatting, they’re manically gibbering, froffing cheap coffee from every orifice.

I am a firm believer in quantity over quality but the third mug defeats me, the silver stainless silver pot still impossibly full. Silver haired quivering old dears applaud every bit of my child’s bad behaviour insisting he is ‘just lovely, just lovely’, rubbing his head with wired shaking claws as I chase him out of the cafe into the grim drizzle of a Cleveleys spring.

It is rare for me to feel young but with both hips still mine, mine mine and pure caffeine roaring through my veins I roar up the high street, dodging more signs, more signs for 80p coffee, coffee ‘happy hour’, in and out the charity shops, my child bending his head in a desperate effort to thwart the zombied fingers heading towards him with the shaky chorus of ‘those curls, those curls..’

Cleveleys is a few miles away from Blackpool where even at this early time, a drunk man from Kidderminster will be aggressively trying to chat up a traffic warden under the red eyes of his howling sleepless friends.

Here, people have risen early to put on ties or a nice warm coat, purchase the Daily Mail and have jolly banter outside the butchers, the bakers, the cheese shop or the greengrocers.


They don’t even talk about death in the charity shops.




I am suspicious and scared and leave quickly, wondering at this strange new tribe who have found eternal life by the North Sea.

I shall drink more coffee in future.

It costs 40p to piss by Lake Windermere.

If you don’t care about the fact I have just paid 40p to go to the toilet, then look away now. There is no need for you here. I am in the Lake District but fell climbing, the glory of a Lakeland spring or considerations of  the majesty of Nature will be noticeably absent.


If a Golden Eagle landed on my head, I would be too busy muttering to myself about  40p to even notice it. Mind you, suspect the Lake District probably charges a hefty premium for Golden Eagle Head Landings (weather permitting, Orange Zone Only)

We are in Windermere, Bowness to be precise,  Blackpool for the middle-classes and my desperate panic to not pay 40p to use the public toilets after a calm demand from my child resulting in a flurry of dragging him into closed or toilet-less cafes and attractions ends up in me angrily shoving 40p in the toilet  coin machine to find out it is too sodding late.


I used to find 20p an outrageous affront to use a public toilet but now I dream of those halcyon days, a dreamy miasma of well priced toilets, their lids somehow smiling through a peachy mist after paying 40p to remove a pair of wee pants off a child who refuses to take the lollipop out of his mouth during the entire process, a fact definitely noticed by a woman in a headscarf  loitering outside.


Yes, the view is amazing, almost more iMax cinema than actual reality, you expect to see a T-Rex lumber past at some point. That would slightly make up for spending 40p to badly clean up a wee. Slightly. It would probably need to also talk to be fair. The rising snow capped peaks mean nothing to me now. And everything smells slightly like piss.


Genial middle-aged non locals chat to me about my ‘darling child’ as we walk about avoiding the alarming amount of psychotic looking swans. I manage to bring up the fact of the 40p charge to use the toilet at the closest available opportunity. Most people are pleasingly horrified. A few look a bit scared and make an excuse to depart, almost definitely on their way to the Council offices to complain. I work out how much it would cost to come for a day here if heavily pregnant.

Starving, we look for somewhere to eat that we can now afford. A pleasingly ramshackle pub up a side road looks promising until I see the mostly meat based menu. The child is not for turning and I am too weak and tired to fight for now so order chips and a pleasingly ironic kitsch looking starter of chilli cottage cheese on ‘warm pineapple’ with chilli relish and garlic bread.


It is actually strangely OK until I have stopped being hungry and then feel the need to make the child eat something other than chips, ie a bit of pineapple, something that he generally is fond of. He refuses to touch it so lets now fast forward to the bit where we had to leave and where he is lying in the actual road screaming.

I drag him up another side street and there is the sort of pub that you only see in Hardy adaptations on ITV. I offer him the promise of some Bacon Fries if he is good again, pop my name on Worst Mum Ever list and order a large red wine and some Bacon Fries whilst the boy looks nervously at a stuffed fox and the stuffed fox looks nervously back at him.

Everything here is stuffed. If I had a dog, I would take him to the toilet with me to be on the safe side.

I leave the child.

It has been a bad day to be fair.


The poshest people in the world come in and roar at me across the tables. The man is so posh I am still unsure if they were from Wales or Wells. I pretend to be au-fait with both of them to be on the safe side.

They casually order a bottle of not cheap wine and that sort of spreading overly ambitious posh pub sandwich bigger than the average head. I bitterly think they probably have not had a wee in the Bowness public toilet. In my head now is the largesse I could have had if I had not paid 40p to pull off some wee pants.

A raincoated elderly woman shuffles in, head down, sits at a table and drinks a glass of white wine surprisingly quickly before shoving herself silently out of the door again. Posh Friendly Southern Man sagely states, ‘a local. ’ and his wife nods wisely.

The fox says nothing.