we started watching Borgen

Yes, I know we are terribly late to the party on this one but truly, you should have seen how we dragged our heels over Downton and then devoured the lot in the space of a few weeks.


My husband and I actually don’t have that much in common. Which sounds terrible, but isn’t really. We sort of muddle along in happy discordance. Me: Running. Him: Swimming. Me: Fish. Him: Steak. Me: Breakfast-skipper. Him: Fast-breaker. Me: Books. Him: Football. Me: Shopping. Him: Surfing. Me: Weekends spent exploring and socialising, and as far from anything remotely resembling chores as possible. Him: DIY and pottering in the garden.

Anyway, you get the drift. Factor in work, kids, friends, general grind and it’s hard to get adequate doses of quality time, although surely this is the case for everyone, whether they connect over a shared passion for the History of Mongolia or not?

So I was cheered to read this article by Francesca Hornak in the Sunday Times Style a month or so back. We’re normal! We’re normal! Flopping exhaustedly on the sofa and zoning out to a box set or serialised drama is what we’re all doing. Cool.

Recently, we’ve covered House of Cards and Broadchurch. Last year: The Killing, The Bridge, Homeland and, as mentioned, Downton Abbey. And last night we started on Borgen, which I’d bought from Nordic Noir after meeting them at the Scandinavia Show last year. There was a nice sense of homecoming about it; the by-now-familiar sounds of the Danish tongue and a strong female lead. Not to mention a handful of recognisable faces from The Killing!


And, in other truly excellent revelations: the news that 24, complete with the wonderful (and fanciable!) Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer, is returning to our screen in 2014. Hooo-LA!! Now this one really makes me happy. After all, we are the couple whose engagement was punctuated by an episode of 24, with the proposal coming, inconveniently, just as the programme started, meaning that the answer was not given until full 24 hours – oh alright then, one hour – later. What life-changing decisions might we make during the course of Live Another Day, do you think??!!



I am turning into my mother

It seems appropriate that I’d ponder on this fact today, since it’s not only International Women’s Day but also just two days before Mother’s Day.

So as I stood at the sink earlier, washing the egg pan, I clocked that I was, as I always do in the kitchen, standing with one foot placed firmly on top of the other. Clear as anything, I can see my mum standing and peeling potatoes, with exactly the same stance.

Given the amount of time I spend in the kitchen, this one is practically a constant, but there’ve been more instances lately that signal to me, as loudly as if they had shouted in my face, that I’m becoming more like my mother every day.

Take complaining. No, not just random moaniness, I mean formally complaining. My mum was always one to make the call, to ask for the manager, to write the letter. “Ugh, how can you be bothered?” I’d ask with the bored indifference of a teenager. “It’s like, a couple of dollars. Who cares?”

“It’s the principle of the thing,” she’d say grimly, only to receive a lifetime supply of apologetic Tim Tams/ salt & vinegar crisps/ free rail travel by Special Delivery a week or so later.


So when my husband and I saw Les Miserables the other week, and it was projected in the wrong ratio, meaning that heads were chopped off in almost every scene, it didn’t wreck the film, exactly. But it was annoying, even more so when we got a limp response from the staff member we mentioned it to. The very next day, An Email Was Written.

“It’s the principle of the thing,” I said grimly, an expression that was swiftly replaced with the glee of vindication when the cinema emailed asking for my address so that they could post out complimentary tickets.

And then there’s the Cryptic Clues. My mother had a way, some would say a cruel and unusual way, of writing “guess what it is” style clues on gift cards. Cruellest of all was the year that I, like many 15 year old girls at the time, longed for my own novelty telephone, shaped like a piano.


There was a square box under the tree, and on it, a card inscribed with “Hope this helps to keep you in touch and on the right line.” The phone!! The phone? No a box of bloody stationery with a fancy pen. She swears it was unintentional, but I’ve never quite forgiven her.

Fast forward to 2013 and my 8th wedding anniversary. My husband had spotted an original poster from the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow at one of our favourite shops, The Witch Ball in Cecil Court. I went to have a look at it and, just to test the waters, came home and told him it had sadly been sold. His reaction was such genuine and bitter disappointment that I got on the phone immediately and bought it.

Posters on the wall of The Witch Ball in Cecil Court

Posters on the wall of The Witch Ball in Cecil Court

Since the 8th anniversary gift is traditionally bronze, I did a bit of googling and found the names of an Australian female and British male bronze medallist from those games. Then I realised that, if you count up his 3 wedding rings (he lost the first one in the surf, broke the second one and has managed to keep the current one for a couple of years) and my engagement ring + wedding ring, well, you get 5! Five rings! Like the Olympic rings!! And fiddle around with the year 1980 – 9 minus 1, 8 plus 0 – you get 8!! And it was our 8th anniversary!!


Excitedly, I put together a Pages document with all of this information on it, pictures and whatnot. I even referred to him as мой муж (my husband) to drop a Russian hint. Never mind that he wouldn’t recognise Russian if it was sitting on top of a vodka bottle. I thought I was being massively clever.

He was, of course, completely non-plussed. But he was very happy with the poster. And I know that my mum will get a kick out of hearing about my efforts. And I figure I should be pretty happy about my similarities with her. After all, there are worse people I could be morphing into. As long as I remain a decent cook. Sorry mum, but you know what I mean, right?

she offered me a tissue

Seriously, what was I thinking? I’ve read Les Misérables several times and seen the stage production a few times on top of that. I’ve recounted the bones of the story to my children, and allowed them to watch excerpts of the musical on You Tube. Not once, not one single time, have I managed to do any of these things without blubbing uncontrollably.


So why on earth did I go to see the film last night armed with not so much as a single tissue? I’m a mother of three for heaven’s sake – pocket sized packs of tissues are plentiful in my home. I was canny enough to take a tub of Inspiral kale chips with me (sooo much better than popcorn) but tissues? Nope.

Actually, I’m a bit cross with my husband on this score too – he knows that Les Mis is akin to a leaky faucet for me. Why didn’t he bring any tissues? Huh? Huh?

Disappointingly, a rubbish projectionist at the Odeon persisted in chopping the heads of characters off in almost every scene, but even so, throughout the film, especially during my various flashpoints (Javert’s suicide being a biggie) I sensed that the lady sitting next to me was glancing sideways at me as I sniffed and snivelled and surreptitiously tried to wipe away the tears that rolled helplessly down my cheeks. I was too emotional even to be embarrassed.


She leaned in. “Would you like a tissue? It’s clean,” she whispered, reaching into her bag. Absolutely yes please, I would. And do you know, the other thing that I was pretty happy about is that I’m not much of a makeup wearer. Grateful for that tissue as I was, I don’t think it would have been sufficient to deal with a mascara-striped face. Vive the bare-faced look! Vive the kindness of strangers!



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