Oct 20 2012

Romance is Dead

It is about six years ago. I have just moved to Lancaster. I am in my twenties, have rented a tiny prettily shambolic terraced house with a dodgy boiler but a walled garden.

I set out to explore my new territory. I was living in Bath and was thus residing in rarified glorified surroundings. Every time I went for a walk, I saw picture postcard beauty, calendar shots and soaring white wedding cake architecture. And tourists.

I was living in a city which did not feel like mine. The rent was impossible without help from family and few seemed to live in Bath without help from family, whether alive or deceased.

A leek from the farmers market would come to such a price that I would back away nervously and pretend I had been mugged and thus had no purse. I loved it very much but I could not continue to live in a theatre and did not have the funds to do so, only the debt.

My boyfriend lived in Fleetwood in a flat big enough for two but after an embarrassing experience involving looking for feta cheese in the town, I did not want to live there.

Lancaster looked nice on the Internet so I gave in my notice at work in Bath and trusted my life in the safe hands of Google Images.

In our new snug (tiny) terrace, which cost less than a leek in Bath per month to rent, when my boyfriend went to work, I was suddenly alone to explore my new city.

I wandered along the road to the quay-neglected and empty where toppling red brick factories surrounded me, smashed windows and such urban dereliction that I nearly wept for sheer delight.

And on a parched stretch of weedy wasteland, there was a boat. A tired old fishing boat, paint shattered, broken yet jaunty and with its name still written on the side. I phoned my boyfriend to tell him, forgetting he was working and he could not understand my excitement.

I saw the boat before the river and at first thought it was parched and dry on an inland isle.

Then I saw the huge river Lune over the sudden drop. There is something so magical about seeing something unexpected and unknown-every road in Bath was worn-out by semi-empty tourist busses.

There was no magic left, even despite the beauty it was a worn out to well traversed and photographed husk, a dry fake representation of a fake past where nothing apart from Georgian elegance had apparently ever existed.

A parched wreck of a fishing boat would not have existed in a city like Bath; it would have been cleared for a new All Saints shop.

I was somewhere different.

And I loved my little fishing boat.

I walked past it every day. I became pregnant and then walked past it with my baby every day.

There was something about the incongruity of a pretty major city with two universities, three theatres but yet still yet a few minutes from town, the dry weedy Strongbow can bedecked dock of a little boat, crumbling gently against the shadow of the old factories, their old windows disintegrating gently in the wind.

I saw a local performer, Rat Bit Kit’s accordion punk video performed in the wired off area of wasteland around my little boat and even though in some strange way it felt like my little secret, it made it more romantic and anarchic.

The little boat dilapidated over the years but you could still see her name.

When the planning permissions about the old factory buildings were plastered up, it meant little.

It’s a recession. Nothing will happen to change this Ozymandius walk to the city where the great red buildings crumble and slightly shatter, where a fox or feral cat might be seen skating from one behemoth industrial building to the next.

But now suddenly it has gone.

Were this Bath,  this would have been Heritage. But Heritage does not exit unless women in multi tiered gowns have gently supped tea in it- not the working class so now the bulldozers have been removing real peoples lifetimes by the scoop.

I saw them coming towards my little fishing boat. It was on the other side of the road, that tiny strip of wasteland between the road and the river. No good for building, no good for anything.

They kept coming closer but my little boat was solid and sensible just like it always has been, a barometer for my life, no matter how I’m feeling, that little boat has always been there, this little jetty of jetty of romance and mystery.

I walked past it every day, every day and thought about it and how it came to be here. I walked past it when I was unemployed and bored, pregnant and scared, then with my little boy.

I thought about who owned it and when, where it used to go and how it came to be here-so high up on concrete it could only ever hear the river, its bright blue paint disintegrating.

The diggers came nearer but I watched carefully and they didn’t travel far each time.

My boat was still there safe on its concrete tide.

They came closer and then it was gone.

It had evaporated. I visually searched the huge piles of dirt left where it had sat and concluded that someone had rescued it. There was no sign, not a single shattered weather-beaten blue board to show that a little blue fishing skip had once sat here, so close to the river it had not felt in so long.

Someone has saved it.

I talk to a friendly man who is working on the site.

‘It’s been smashed into smithereens,’ he says and smiles at my son.

You can never make a new beginning.


Oct 18 2012

Blog North Awards-Deaf Institute, Manchester


I am only here due to an epiphany in the second quarter final of The Great British Bakeoff.

When I found out I was shortlisted for The Blog North Awards and had an email asking me to attend the awards, I was initially suspicious, then nervous then a fleeting thing called glee flashed quickly across my narrow slightly smelling of damp horizons before deciding that A, I won’t be going to win anyway with my sporadically updated three year old WordPress themed ramblings about pizza and ghosts, B, I can’t go anyway because my boyfriend is working late, there is the existence of the Bad Toddler and even if I found a babysitter, no-one in RL would want to travel to a blog awards as it seems akin to inviting someone from work to a Minecraft convention.

And no way can I go on my own to Manchester as everytime I attempt to catch the train to Morecambe I seem to end up on an Icelandic trawler.

Oh and C- I actually look at the other blogs and feel slightly guilty to be lumped in with them like a tramp in an ill-fitting coat smelling slightly of piss sidling up against elegant cashmere (i.e. capability to use different fonts and a working knowledge of English language)


Anyway, it was the second quarter final of the Great British Bakeoff. I was having a guilty mumsy crush on a 21 year old nice young man with sensible knitwear, big glasses and tempting foccaccia whilst spooning slightly stale pickled onion Monster Munch into my mouth.

I was becoming Emotionally Involved in a television programme about baking and I may have even shouted at a judge at one point. I suddenly realized the actuality of a quarterfinal meaning closing to an end and thus nothing to look forward to in the week. I actually felt a chill of self-hatred and terror-the realization of becoming everything I hate.


I decide to go to the blog awards. On My Own.


There is a babysitter and a very good friend who knows of the worst of the Bad Toddlers proclivities and I mean to warn her of more but then instead of trying to make myself look less of an obvious blogger by using hair straighteners and stuff, I spend two hours trying to unscrew the battery compartment of an Early Learning Centre cash register. It then does not work.

There is a special place in hell for those who give away broken stuff to charity shops.

The issue of the overpriced £4.49 cash register has occupied my mind overmuch and then there is suddenly a babysitter and I am barefoot, underdressed and annoyed.


I am dyspraxic and fearful. My boyfriend has patiently shown me how to use Google Maps several times to get to the Deaf Institute-I still fuck up and walk forwards and backwards in a sweaty panic outside Manchester Oxford Road in my one pound charity shop coat whilst mumbling and confused. The comparison with option C in the opening paragraph is startling and worryingly relevant here.


The Deaf Institute I have imagined in my head to be an actual deaf institute and thus a draughty hall with plastic chairs. I was not expecting chandeliers and cocktails. And people. Too many people.

I am nervous and turn to a woman by my side and cheerily say that I was expecting a crappy old back room in a pub and then find out she is tweeting the event for Blog North. I feel a slightly rude faux paux may have been committed by me and resolve not to speak again. She is very lovely though.

I had been invited to speak at the event and declined as the thought of speaking to more than two people panics me. I did think that it would be other nervous socially unacceptable people clutching a sweaty piece of A4 and muttering miserably into their microphone in front of a silent awkward market clothed audience of several so at least I would not look quite so bad but I still declined as I would be even more nervous and neurotic than them.

And in a triumph of confidence, I can happily state that my decision to say no and be pitifully insecure was the best decision of my life. The other bloggers readings were amazing. Annoyingly amazing.

Hello, Amy, pretty girl in black with the wide smile and casual eloquence- I don’t read many blogs due to work, the death of my computer and the Bad Toddlers behaviour and subsequent crashing out fully dressed in bed covered in Wotsit dust at 9pm. Thus I was not expecting a confident and humorous account of being forced to wear swimwear when not swimming as part of a crappy job in a sportswear shop



Then an unassuming guy comes to the stage and brings to life an average day in Huddersfield with such concise vivid yet unassuming detail I was able to quote him the next day. This is a big thing for me as my memory is such that we often go for weeks without washing up liquid. http://themostdifficultthingever.blogspot.co.uk/ He is the winner in his category and I am glad.

Then a man with the aura, confidence and hair of someone famous came and recited smart modern sonnets on modern literature. http://sonnetreviews.tumblr.com/ He is like a good feature from The Guardian come to sudden springy haired life and why Tim Dowling is paid to write and he isn’t makes me confused. And angry. Or maybe that’s the second large house red. I find out the judges include Stuart Maconie and Someone From The Guardian.

In the interval I go outside and conscious that I am on my own and slightly embarrassed by it as other blogs have entourages and I am a female on my own, I try to chat to a guy next to me. He smiles coldly and says he enjoys observing. I go back indoors.

A blogger has recorded the first year of a baby from Moss Side. http://herfirstyear.co.uk/ He speaks professionally, eloquently and compassionately and the family he has blogged about come to the stage-despite the multi tiered crowd, they are a natural family and act as such, the little girl grabs the microphone and beams. The couple on stage are united in the affection and concern of her and are thus are not embarrassed by the audiences attention.

I wish I was like that. James from The Great British Bakeoff was calm and jolly in front of millions. He made Turkish delight for the first time in front of the black blank glares of  television cameras.

I am too nervous to get up to go for a wee.


The awards are announced. The screen shots make me cold inside. There are graphics here. This is serious business. There are entourages cheering. I have a WordPress blog, which should be updated regularly, but as I write about vaguely Northern places of interest and since the Bad Toddler, I am terrified of public transport and am also utterly skint and too shattered to write so my blog is sinking in a mire of despondency, boredom and inertia. And so am I.

Apart from when James makes a good pastry on the Great British Bake Off and then blinks in a confused sexy way.


I am runner-up in my nominated category of ‘Best Neighborhood Blog’ and nearly fall off my chair-and this is nothing to do with the house red. I am an occasional stabber at an elderly desktop and this to me is blogging. The winner of this category is a blog that speaks passionately and informatively about Liverpool, a place both trendy and loved but sneered at and misunderstood-the Essex of the North



I get a bit lost on the way home and see a slight fight. I feel guilty for feeling a bit excited about it. Then I go home, sleep and am vacuuming by 8am.

But this time I am smiling.

Until I see that fucking cash register and reality beckons.


Thankyou to all at http://www.blognorthawards.com/ for a fantastic night.