#BEDM14: Toxic Friends

Sally sighed. It had been her birthday night out. Jamie and Daisy had taken her out to cheer her up, just the three of them. And then the other two had turned up.

She had become firm friends with Jamie and Daisy when she’d first met them in playschool, and now twenty years later, they were as close as they ever had been. It had seemed obvious that the three of them would live together.

But now she regretted it. Jamie and Daisy were twins, so naturally shared a close bond, and while Sally was close – with outsiders even suggesting she could be the ‘third twin’ – she wasn’t as close to them as they were to each other.

She always felt slightly on the outside. Then Jamie had met his boyfriend David, and Daisy had met her boyfriend Mark.

Now, she wasn’t even just a third wheel, she was a fifth.

She’d spent the night on her own again, watching her two best friends getting off with their perfect boyfriends. Lying in bed after more than a few drinks, she’d been kept awake all night by the sound of sex coming from both of her flat mate’s bedrooms.

Sally sighed again, grabbed her towel and headed into the bathroom for a shower.

*

The sound of a mobile phone vibrating angrily against a wooden surface woke him up.

Before he even opened his eyes he could feel the dull ache behind his eyes that told him he was hungover. Again.

Without opening his eyes he reached for his phone, but his fingers found only fresh air. He slowly opened one eye and found himself in a strange room.

Suddenly, he was aware of a weight behind him, a hand on his shoulder. He turned his head to look behind him, and as he did the memories of the previous night came rushing back to him. He wasn’t at all surprised to see Jamie, naked and smiling.

“Morning, gorgeous.”

*

Sally opened the bathroom door, and went to cross the hall into her bedroom. She stopped when she saw a movement at the end of the corridor.

He hadn’t seen her yet, so she stepped back and watched from the doorway of the bathroom. Mark was in the darkness wearing nothing but his tiny tight pants.

It was a sight that she was used to seeing, but she didn’t often see him sneaking out of Jamie’s bedroom. What had Mark been doing with his girlfriend’s brother, wearing nothing but his tight white pants?

*

Daisy looked up at Mark as he came into the room, in just his underwear.

“Where have you been?” She asked, looking him up and down. “And where are your clothes?”

“Woke up on the sofa, again. Must have taken my clothes off in the night. Fuck, it’s cold in here, why have you got the doors open?”

Mark crossed the room and shut the patio doors that led out onto Daisy’s balcon

“Oh, don’t – “ Daisy started, but Mark quickly shut them and jumped into her bed.

“I missed you last night.” He said, snuggling into her.

*

Sally was sitting at the kitchen table, absent-mindedly staring out of the window, wondering where she had gone so wrong in life to keep ending up single.

Her introspection was interrupted when she saw a pair of feet slowly descend into view outside. She watched with curiosity for a moment, but curiosity soon turned to alarm when a pair of genitals also appeared, and then shock as she saw David’s face come into view.

He didn’t see her watching him until he had let himself in through the back door. He quickly clamped his hands over his groin.

“What were you doing on Daisy’s balcony?” Sally asked

*

Jamie jumped upright in bed as Sally entered his bedroom.

“There’s something I need to tell you.” She said.

“No, me first.”

Silence fell between them, Sally waiting for Jamie to speak and Jamie waiting to find the right words.

Sally held her hands up, gesturing for him to talk. He hesitated again, briefly.

“I slept with Mark last night. What am I going to say to Daisy?”

*

Sally left Jamie’s room and sighed. She was slowly piecing together the events of the previous night.

Before she could get any answers out of David, he had rushed into the downstairs toilet, hiding himself from her, and refusing to come out.

She’d gone to speak to Jamie about it, only to hear his bombshell about sleeping with Mark. What disturbed her most, was he seemed rather pleased with himself for pulling his sister’s boyfriend.

Sally hesitated, and then pulled open the door to Daisy’s bedroom. She found her best friend, crying, alone in her bed.

“Oh, Sally, I’ve done something terrible! I slept with David! I slept with my brother’s boyfriend!”

*

David found Mark, alone in the front room of the house. “I’ve got something to tell you.” He said.

“No, me first,” Mark said, “I’ve done something terrible… I… I slept with Jamie.”

“You slept with my boyfriend?” David stared at Mark for a moment, and then laughed. “Oh, I’m sorry. Sorry.” He said, noting Mark’s dumbfounded look.

They both sat down on the sofa and David turned to Mark. “I laughed, because I… I slept with Daisy.”

“What? But, you’re gay?”

“And you’re straight!”

This time, they both laughed.

Mark reached across and took hold of David’s hand. “You know, I was actually looking for you.”

David smiled, leant in and kissed Mark, gently on the lips, “That’s funny, because I was looking for you.”

They kissed for a moment longer before Mark pulled away. “We’re going to have to tell them, you know.”

They kissed again, neither of them noticing Sally walk into the room.

*

Sally sat at the kitchen table, drinking a cup of tea, and looked across at her four friends, all of them chatting as if nothing bad had happened.

She looked at her two best friends, both of them oblivious to the fact that they’d both had sex with each other’s boyfriends. Both of them oblivious to the fact that their boyfriends were having an affair with each other.

Her head hurt to think about it.

Suddenly, she was glad she was single. And she realised that by having spent so much time on the outside of the group, she was now very much at the centre. She held the power. She could hold the group together… or tear them apart

She smiled, realising that her birthday might be more enjoyable than she’d first thought.

 

Prompt: Write a short story

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#BEDM14: Getting Mashed

There are four shelves in my freezer – bear with me on this one.

One of them is currently empty.

One of them is for ‘potato products’ – mostly chips, but sometimes waffles and a delicious new product to the market ‘Mashtags’ which are potatoes in the shapes of commonly used twitter characters: @#*

The third drawer is filled with chicken. Chicken nuggets. Mmm. They are my go to dinner when I just can’t be bothered. If I can’t be bothered, but am feeling a little bit adventurous, then it’s fish fingers.

The fourth drawer is a very special drawer indeed.

The vodka drawer.

It gets a drawer of its own, mostly because one of the bottles leaked once and I was getting pissed on chicken nuggets for weeks, but also because now, I’ve actually started to acquire more and more bottles.

Vodka is my drink of choice (mixed with lemonade) when I’m out on a night out – mostly because after all these years, it’s the only thing that doesn’t give me a hangover. Vodka and coke pretty much floors me, though.

I don’t really drink it at home, though, tending to stick more to wine. I recently had a Eurovision party, and bought myself a bottle, forgetting I already had a bottle. Someone else brought a bottle with them, so the vodka drawer is growing.

I’m going out tonight, and I will be drinking vodka, lime and lemonade – a combination I used to enjoy but had forgotten about.

The reason I’m out tonight, and the reason I’m telling you is because a certain Mr Matthew Hogan is turning thirty and is having a little (big?) celebration. Those of you who like the missing vowels round on Only Connect will find him on Twitter easily, everyone else can find him by searching for @mtthwhgn.

Tonight, I will be heading out and ignoring all four drawers of my freezer, but in fact, possibly paying homage to all four:

I’ll be getting mashed on vodka, and looking for some young chicken to take home with me – though likely will go home with nothing!

Prompt: Why is the freezer always full?

The Enemy of Innovation?

I’ve talked about routine before. Only once, though. I’ve not routinely talked about routine.

I actually quite like routine, it helps me order my life and means I can get more things done.

I get up at 8am. I go to work. At 12, I come home for lunch. I go back in just after 1, and then work until approximately 5. Then I go home until 10pm when I go to bed and read for an hour, before heading turning off the light at 11pm

(It’s important to know for the purposes of this routine that I live across the road from work)

That’s my basic weekday routine. Each day within that has it’s own separate routines.

What this routine means to me is that when I wake up before my alarm (often) or when I get home, I know exactly how much free time I have. That means, I can read, or decorate, or more importantly, write.

I don’t, however, have a writing routine, because I recognise that the important parts of life should be unstructured.

Some people don’t like routine, but I think that’s because they’ve got too much routine… OR they’ve got the wrong routine. These people find their lives dull, not because their lives are dull, but because they’re living it wrong.

And, of course, remember, that we are ever-changing people. No person stays the same, so it is important to (routinely) review your routines and make sure they still work for your life.

I don’t agree that routine is the enemy of innovation. I think that routine is the mother of efficiency. It allows you to make the most of that free time so you can create and innovate.

Or look at pictures of hot guys with their tops off. You know, whatever.

Prompt: Why is life so painfully monotonous and dull?

#BEDM14: 5 and a Half Reasons to Get Out of Bed

1) Really, really, really needing the toilet.

2) Wanting to get into the shower before the todger (#ReplaceLodgerWithTodger) gets there.

3) When the inconsiderate postman rings the doorbell at stupid o’clock in the morning (sometimes as early as 11am!), because he’s got a parcel for me. I mean, yeah, it’s my parcel. And yeah, I want it. And yeah, I don’t really want to have to drive over to the sorting office to pick it up. But, still… I’ve offered him a key so he can just let himself in, but he asked me never to talk to him again.

4) The very rare occasion when I wake up after a heavy night of drinking and finding a strange man in my bed.

4a) The even rarer occasion when I wake up after a heavy night of drinking and find myself in a strange man’s bed.

5) The even, even rarer occasion when upon waking naturally without my alarm having woken me up, and I feel completely and utterly well rested. I think about everything that I have to do that day and I’m excited by it and I’m not worried about anything at all. Life is good, the weather is gorgeous and no one’s going to spoil this mood

Until they insert random blank columns on a spreadsheet! GRR.

Prompt: 5 reasons you get out of bed

#BEDM14: Excelling in Stupidity

I have a problem.

I get annoyed really easily. By the smallest of things.

I used to think it was my problem, that I was too fussy. That I expected too much.

The biggest thing that annoys me is formatting on spreadsheets. Or rather, the lack of it.

In an office environment where data and files are shared across multiple teams and people are working on many different projects, it’s important to be able to communicate information and ideas quickly and efficiently.

All I look at when you send me a rubbish spreadsheet is that something in cell C3 isn’t capitalised.

Or you’ve coloured in a whole row in deep red and HAVEN’T changed the font to white so that it’s readable.

Or you’ve put grid lines round that section, but not all the way across.

Most of that is aesthetic stuff, and I get that a lot of it is probably personal preference, but the serial offender actually causes problems.

Inserting columns on shared spreadsheets – bad enough, I hear you cry, could there be anything worse? NOT putting a header in that column, or worse, leaving the whole thing blank.

Then some idiot comes along and sorts the spreadsheet and the first half no longer matches up with the second half.

AND THEN EVERYONE DEMANDS THAT YOU FIND A WAY TO STOP IT FROM HAPPENING BECAUSE YOU’RE THE EXCEL EXPERT.

Eight years. Eight years I’ve had to put up with this nonsense.

There is a way to stop it. Fairly simple one. But sadly I don’t have the power to fire you.

It’s not my problem. It’s yours. You’re an idiot

Prompt: What annoys you every day?

Shiny, Happy… Toasters

My toaster is about the only thing in my kitchen that I like at the moment.

Sure, it’s a bit grubby at the moment because I’m not the greatest cleaner in the world, but in theory it’s a very shiny red. Very posh.

The kitchen itself was put in when the flats were built five years ago.

A few people have said to me – why are you changing it? It’s only five years old!

But it was put in by the builders who were working to a budget.

It’s not a very big kitchen, the biggest issue I’ve always had is that it doesn’t have enough storage. But it’s generally a bit shit anyway.

SOMETHING under the sink has been leaking for a couple of years which has ended up rotting some of the paneling. Most of the cupboards are too small to be useful for anything and to top it all off the washing machine broke at the beginning of the year.

Obviously it hasn’t always worked a hundred per cent, because that would suggest a decent product had been bought, but this time it properly died.

My mum’s been doing my washing (and happily) my ironing since February.

I decided to get a new washing machine rather than repair the current one. But I also knew I wanted to install a new kitchen. I’d always sort of planned of doing it eventually now that most of the flat decorating is done, but I have moved it up the schedule a little.

The new kitchen is coming at the end of June. Once it’s installed you can expect lots of shiny instagram filtered pictures of it.

It will be a duck-egg blue that will compliment the light purple of the front room quite nicely.

I’m very excited about it, but it has occurred to me as I sit here imagining it in place, that the shiny red toaster will clash.

The only thing I like in my entire kitchen will have to go.

The upside is, I’m now in the market for a shiny, metallic blue toaster…

Prompt: The toaster. Discuss.

Three Queens and a Dame (And JK Rowling of course)

The idea of who you would invite round for your dream dinner party is not a new one, so today’s blog post is not going to revolutionise the bloggersphere, however like a university student spending a night in A&E there are rites of passage that we must all go through.

So, here’s mine.

 

The Food

Arguably the most important part of any dinner party. My only suggestion would be, keep it simple.

The chances are you’re going to have a fairly mixed crowd, so you’ve more chance of people being happy by picking something basic.

But basic doesn’t have to mean nasty or bland. It just means something you enjoy and know that you can make really, really well and easily.

For starters, Leek and Potato soup with bacon lard-ons (love that word), then my specialty – it has to be bangers and mash. Seriously, I could eat it all day.

For pudding, I’m not sure. I’m not great at puddings, so I think I might just steal my sister’s recipe for cheesecake.

 

The Entertainment

Really? There has to be entertainment?

This is what’s always bothered me about Come Dine With Me. If the food is right and the guests are right and the wine is flowing, there is no need for any planned activity.

The entertainment will come from the conversation. It may end up in an impromptu display of line dancing, or a game of strip poker. But you don’t need to structure fun.

 

The Guests

Well, here’s the biggie.

I think I’d probably have to have a few different dinner parties in order to entertain everyone I’d like to.

I’m gonna take four guests here. The first one would be Dame Julie Andrews. I’ve got a bit of a thing about her at the moment as she’s over here doing a bit of publicity for her ‘Evening with…’ tour.

She’s a fascinating woman who starred in what is probably the best film ever made. But ultimately, I don’t care what she has to say, as long as she’s saying it. Her speaking voice is beautiful.

Having seen Will Young on Question Time previously, he’s very educated, and eloquent man. He’s also a beautiful singer (perhaps he could be the entertainment?) as well as a beautiful man. If the party gets out of hand and we all get a bit raucous and drunk and Will wants to stay over for the night, well then, that’s fine too.

The next one is a bit of an obvious one if you’ve read my blog before – JK Rowling. I love her. I think she’s a brilliant writer and a real inspiration to me. I just want to ask her and talk to her about everything about the writing process.

Queen Elizabeth II.

I mean, how amazing would that be, right? She’s such a familiar face, but we know next to nothing about her.

I’d love the opportunity to interview her and hear candidly just what exactly makes her tick. What she likes and what she doesn’t.

 

So, that’s it. That’s my dinner party. A singer, a writer, an actress and a monarch. A fascinating (to me) mix, and now I’m a bit disappointed that it’s not actually going to happen.

 

I’m also surprised that I didn’t pick anyone from EastEnders. Is Pam St Clement free?

 

Prompt: Channel 4 invite you to do Come Dine With Me. Who’s invited and what’s your entertainment?

#BEDM14: Let Go of the Lego

If you’re lucky your childhood home goes through four stages.

The first is the eighteen or so years of your life when you actually live there.

The third is very short and hopefully comes many years down the line, when you have to pack up your parent’s things and sell it on.

The fourth will be when you view it from the outside when someone else lives there.

I’m currently, though, in the second stage. The stage where I don’t live there, when I rarely visit there unless offered dinner.

It’s during this stage that every six months or so you receive a phone call from your mum. She’s having a clear out.

A shudder goes down your spine.

She’s in the loft. She’s in the garage.

She’s got black bags.

My instructions are always the same.

“Do what you like, but don’t touch the Goosebumps books. Don’t touch any on my Nintendos. And don’t touch the Lego!”

I’m probably never going to use any of them again, and when we get to stage three, I will probably transition them to my own home, never to be touched again.

Maybe I should learn to stop hoarding, but all three of those bits are massive parts of my childhood. I’m not ready to move on yet.

Prompt: Lego or Meccano? Trains or Planes?

#BEDM14: If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them

For a period – it doesn’t happen so much now – most long running American TV shows resorted at one point to a clip show.

Friends did it. The Simpsons did it. Even Star Trek did it once.

The typical reason for doing one is rarely to move the story along, but to make up for time and budget constraints.

Typically, they repeat the best bits, but they’re still a repeat.

I’ve always thought it was a bit of a cop-out, but now, I feel the need to change my mind. Mostly, because I’m about to do just the same…

Two of my earlier blog posts help me answer today’s prompt.

In ‘Seeking Immortality’ I said (and I’m selecting only a few bits of the post, not all of it):

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a writer when I grow up – apart from a brief period when I wanted to be car salesman, because I thought you got to keep all the money from each sale, and therefore, why wouldn’t you want to sell cars for a living? You could sell one, and then take a couple of months off. Seemed relatively simple to me. And I purposefully said when I grow up, because I can assure you, at 26, I’m nowhere near grown up yet. Although I’m old enough to have had to double check how old I was.

Being a writer, wanting to write, is as much a part of me as my name is.

I remember thinking quite a while ago, that the reason I wanted to be writer was so that I could leave my mark on this world. You see it a lot in futuristic TV shows and films where Captain Picard is reading Shakespeare, and I think, how phenomenal would that be? To do something so brilliant, to achieve something so amazing that people are still talking about it eight hundred, nine hundred years later?

It’s the closest thing to immortality we have.

A well put together story can give pleasure to so many different people, and the storyteller, gets a pleasure from seeing people enjoy their words. 

That’s why I want to be a writer. That’s why I am a writer. It’s fun.

Then, in the following post ‘Stop Playing on That Bloody Game Boy’ I said:

I’m a storyteller. I want to tell stories. I write fiction and I constantly see new plots in every part of my life.

There’s a magic in holding someone’s rapt attention by telling them something that only existed in your head prior to that moment. I love making things up and telling them to my cousins, I come up with ideas for television shows, plots for existing TV, stories and dialogue for all sorts of characters that live in my head. 

Sometimes, I will retell a real event, but with the retelling, it gains embellishments, certain events may move because it makes for a better story. That’s why I couldn’t be a journalist – I’d probably be sued for misrepresentation of the facts.

Now, when I tell people I want to be a writer, internally I chastise myself, because I don’t want to be a writer. I need to be a storyteller.

 

What do I do?

I write.

I tell stories.

I make cut and paste blogs that I try to pass of as new material.

That’s what I do.

Prompt: If you can’t use your job, how would you answer ‘what do you do’?

#BEDM14: Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

If yesterday’s blog post about perfection was a sequel to the one about regrets, then today’s is the closing part of the trilogy.

This is about the word ‘sorry’.

The reason I’m not keen on people who claim to have no regrets ‘because it made them who they are today’ have a disturbingly localised focus on life.

Either that or they’ve led an entirely blameless and faultless life.

Yesterday I said that in order to achieve perfection you had to stop measuring yourself against other people, and start measuring yourself against what you could be.

But that doesn’t mean you have to stop thinking about other people completely.

It’s too easy to forget than even the smallest of our actions have an impact on other people.

Sometimes just the way we phrase a daily greeting, or failing to make eye contact with someone while they’re talking to you, can have a ripple effect.

I discovered it myself this week, when a colleague of mine informed me of another colleague who had stormed out of the office last week in a huff. I hadn’t been around at the time, so knew nothing about it, but when I went to see him to ask him about it, I discovered that the reason, or at least part of the reason, was something that I had said.

I’d been fairly dismissive of a piece of work he was doing, partly because I knew he didn’t believe it had any value, but I basically told him I wouldn’t have anything to do with it, because I was too busy.

I was busy, but that doesn’t excuse it.

The fact was he’d spent some time on it, because he had been asked to by his boss. Turns out, he completely agreed with me, he thought it was a waste of time and had argued as such with his boss.

By the time he’d gotten to me, he’d spent a couple of hours working on it, when he could have been getting on with something more valuable. And I just shot him down.

It was the straw that broke the camel’s back, to use an old adage.

Anyway, my point is, I could have probably phrased my response a little bit better. Though I didn’t know how stressed he was, ignorance is – as with most things in life – no defence.

As Elton John once sang, sorry seems to be the hardest word. And I think the reason why it’s so hard is because it admits to a failing on our own part. Admitting, that somehow, we are weak… not perfect.

But think about it the other way round.

All those other words, those other easy words that we just throw out there without thinking about it, the ones that sometimes lead to us needing to apologise, can ruin someone’s day.

‘Sorry’ can make it better again. It should be the easiest word.

Prompt: Apologies for that