Sex, drugs and frock ‘n’ roll (Part two)

After lunch, we go to GAP, trying clothes on in changing rooms that are directly next to each other. It is here that I tempt her with another thought.

‘Slish, I just thought, you know what we could do today?’

‘What?’

‘We could go and get your boobs measured.’

Silence. And finally a ‘No.’

‘That was a very delayed response,’ I say, laughing. It seems, like countless other women in the UK, that she still isn’t fussed about knowing whether she is wearing the wrong size bra. Although I know what really bothers her is getting her developing chest out to a stranger despite my reassurance that she can keep her bra on.

Neither my support nor the thought of that of an enhanced underwire nature, sway her. Still, we go back to M&S. I try on some leggings behind a shoe display before finding her on the floor, wrestling with some strappy heels. I tell her that I am going to the changing room to try on some different leggings. While in there, I get a text: ‘Where you at girl? Xx’ It’s from Slish. With limited phone reception, I quickly redress and find her ogling the same shoes.

We pop over to Waterstones. She follows me around both floors, declaring her lust for the M&S shoes as I try to find the one copy of this particular book that’s suppose to be instore. We leave Waterstones and she looks at me as if she’s just realised Bambi’s mother is shot after all. ‘I don’t know what to do,’ she says, elongating every vowel. ‘Oh, the shoes. Let’s go back before they close?’ I say. Back in M&S, she strides in front of me, questioning everything there is left to question before buying them just as the lights begin to dim and a voiceover tells us that the store will be closing in 10 minutes.

Outside, we wait for her bus. I ask if she’s got everything off her (‘I’m never getting measured’) chest. I go over everything we’ve talked about and tell her that she can always talk to me, not to worry and to keep me updated. I spot the 211 and I put my arm out and keep it out despite the bus indicating. Slish opens her arms to say goodbye. I hug her, saying: ‘It was lovely to see you.’ ‘Yeah, you too,’ she replies. I ask Slish to make sure she lets me know she gets home OK. She gets on the bus and goes up to the top deck. I wave to her as the bus suddenly lurches forward to catch up with the traffic ahead.

We continue texting for the next hour or so (with a brief phone call from Slish after the bus terminates earlier than expected at Fulham Broadway) until she’s safely back in Chiswick. Her final thoughts on the day read: ‘I hope to god that day will never come xxx’ (She is talking about eating toast out of a bowl. Again.)

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Sex, drugs and frock ‘n’ roll with Slish (Part one)

It started with a private Facebook message sent at 20:09 on March 22. Although we’ve regularly messaged since we stopped living together, this particular message from Slish included the following lines:

‘i would like to see you soon my dear, are you free ths Sunday perhaps? i have some boy trouble thats troubling me.
xxxxxxx’

So today,  we went to Frock Me! at Chelsea Old Town Hall. On the bus there, I get a text. Turns out I have a new answerphone message and a missed call from Slish. I ring her and she says where she is waiting and that her dad is also there, which I was not expecting. Arriving at the coffee shop, I feel like Michael Aspel considering the surprise on Crazy Yank’s face (he was expecting Slish’s other friend with the same name.) He gets up, gives me a kiss on the cheek and a hug and tells me I look thin.* Slish gets up and gives me a hug. I sit down. We chat, catching up on each other’s lives for the next 10 minutes or so although we know most of each other’s news as Crazy Yank had also recently e-mailed me and I’d of course replied.

Afterwards, we walk a little down the King’s Road, another kiss on the cheek and hug goodbye and a (slightly) bemused Crazy Yank departs. Soon after, as we walk to a nearby cash point, I ask Slish if she wants to spill her guts to me then, during the vintage clothes fair or afterwards. She starts to offload and thankfully, it’s the usual early teen awkward-boy-situation-where-friends-get-too-involved-scenario. I advise as much as I can not once but several times during the afternoon.

Once inside Chelsea Old Town Hall, we walk from stall to stall, mesmerised by the seemingly endless trinkets, array of patterned clothes and striking characters with every step. She buys two necklaces and I grow balls the size of raisins to “haggle” by asking: ‘Would you consider taking anything less than £18?’ for an oversized sky blue Burberry tartan shirt. (I pay £15).

We creep up the King’s Road, buying semi-identical lunches at Marks and Spencer before sitting among the stub-legged pigeons opposite the Saatchi Gallery.  She fills me in on further teen angst although thankfully it is that of her friends. A lot of it is shocking although sadly not unexpected for a group of well-educated girls and boys growing up in London. She then asks me if I still eat toast out of a bowl. ‘Why didn’t you just use a plate?’ she asks. ‘ ‘Because I liked the bowls,’ I reply. It seems the memory still annoys her as much as the action did itself.

*I’ve always been lean but turns out I’m a little underweight. I also recently learnt at the doctors after having blood tests that I am low on Vitamin D. The doctor advised I take supplements and said how it’s not uncommon considering the long winter we’ve just had. Although, of course, it could be a delayed reaction to having inhabited a bedroom with no windows for such a long time. I did not mention this to the doctor or to Crazy Yank and Slish today. I just hope it doesn’t turn into full-blown Rickets.

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A-Z lodger survival guide: C is for Confidence

I (think I) know what you’re all thinking. You can’t have C without Crazy Yank. Right? Wrong. Such is Crazy Yank’s all encompassing character that he can’t be restrained to a single alphabetical entry. His omnipotence and omniscience means that he’s always here. On this blog. Not that he’s God or a ghost that’s haunting me (I hope not, anyway.) But he could be Big Brother. (I jest or once again, I hope I’m joking.)

No, instead, I’m going to talk about confidence. In terms of having confidence and being told things in confidence. To be honest, it’s more about the latter. And because of that, I could simply say no more because that would prove my lesson here that what a lodger is told must be always kept in confidence as, and when, it requires such discretion. As much as I found myself being consulted as rarely, or in fact as equally, as Demon Cat (sorry, Demon Cat but it’s true) about a lot of household choices, something I still feel most honoured, and also a little amused, about is that on more than one occasion, I was in the fortunate position of being a confidant for Crazy Yank, Wonder Boy and Slish. Sometimes this would happen simultaneously either about the same subject or something completely unrelated. What I found truly fascinating about this is that this often meant that, in terms of knowledge and what makes each individual tick, I was able to understand each person and the particular situations from a number of different angles and with a far greater understanding than any of the others did. I felt lucky being in such a position if not a little overloaded from time to time.

And having confidence? Well, when you’re lodging, confidence is of course important for integrating and building a rapport with the rest of the family to the best of your ability. It’s having the confidence to realise that you still have a life and that you’re not living with your friends because of bad timing, different budgets and contrasting preferences in terms of location. And finally, it’s quite frankly having the confidence to resist rising to the tiresome bait and/or forcing out a laugh when your twenty-something friends insinuate that you have a boyfriend nearly the same age as your father and have adopted two children (and not forgetting a demonic cat) for the umpteenth time.

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A Portrait of the Artist as a Yank Man

If you thought I was stretching the truth on Crazy Yank or any other part of my earlier ‘Ahoy Deck Season…’ tale, you would be wrong. To prove this, I have decided to paste the edited version of the ‘Ahoy Deck Season…’ post I recently wrote as edited by Crazy Yank himself. I e-mailed him the post to make sure he was OK about me writing this blog. Thankfully, he (and everyone else) was – bar a few of the changes he made below, of course…


Ahoy deck season . . . .
‘If you come on my deck, those Mickey Mouse socks will have to go!! You will have to be naked,’ are among the first words Crazy Yank say to me when I go upstairs today.

I live in the basement. In a room that was a garage before it became a converted cinema before it became a bedroom. It’s a great space even though it has no windows and I’m showing signs of rickets. This afternoon, I could see the sun shining through the glass panel above the front door so I went back into my room and put on a mini denim skirt, a tankini top, cardigan and Mickey Mouse socks.

‘Everything down to there is sexy until you get to those Mickey Mouse socks!!hip Crazy Yank begins.

I tell him I don’t care because my feet are cold and no-one’s going to see but I know I will have to negotiate to gain access to the deck this season.

‘It’s my sanctuary. I don’t let the kids go up there… Where are you going?’

‘I’m going to go up to the deck,’ I say, clutching my socks.

He follows me up the first stair case and then the next: a private stair case that leads to the master bedroom with en-suite bathroom, MTV Cribs-style walk-in wardrobe and the deck. We step outside among the Buddha heads and plant pots. Two loungers are next to each other. One is barely in the sun and the other is entirely in the shade.

‘It’s too early for the sun,’ he says.

‘Who’s going to sit there?’ I ask, pointing to the sun-lit lounger.

‘Me,’ he says, lying down, grinning.

OK baby,I say as I untie my little nothin’ and let it fall to the deck.

I go down the two flights of stairs and put my socks back on. My friend rings to say she’s five minutes away in the car. She arrives and we set up camp in the back garden. Then Crazy Yank appears.

‘I’m renaming the cat Govinder. I’m in my transcendent zone,’ he says balancing on one leg as demon cat rushes into the house. Govinder, Govinder, come on. Come here, he says, wandering back inside.

‘That’s groovy, lover,’ I say.


I think the blog needs to be a tad more flattering to Crazy Yank.
He’s a cool guy whose springtime has hit him somewhere between his Dharma and south of his navel.
So what if he wants to keep his dojo a sanctuary ?
He deserves it and it’s all he has to call his own.
. . . . Hey, you think chicks are going to read this blog ?
. . . . . . OK, that was a little sad.
Take another look at Crazy Yank
but this time look a little deeper.

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A-Z lodger survival guide: B is for Bonding

As a lodger, you must resist trying to speed up the bonding process (although in hindsight, biscuits could’ve really helped with this family as you will find out in a later survival guide post.) Anyway, bonding will happen at its own, natural pace.

Crazy Yank initiated bonding pronto. The man speaks, bleeds and urinates bonding with whoever he meets. The way in which he reached out to bond with me varied from his ‘Please act like this is your home,’ to his ‘I told you it would be fun living here,’ which he said repeatedly for the first six months whether I showed any signs of enjoyment or not. But with Wonder Boy and Slish, things weren’t so straightforward. And I’m not really talking about the usual monosyllabic, moronic teenage syndrome when I tried to talk to them. Often,
in the beginning, they look terrified when I was around. (Again, maybe it was the short hair?) I got used to saying goodbye and not really hearing one back. Conversation was as exhausting as walking in sand with dumbbells tied
to my feet.

And then? There was some sort of turning point. It was initially very subtle; they looked less scared of me and would initiate conversation with me a bit. Started saying goodbye. That sort of thing. I guess they got used to seeing Sandy Shaw – I mean, me – hanging around their pad.* Soon it was Wonder Boy’s sixteenth birthday. His main present was a XBox 360. This eased the bonding process. Wonder Boy and Slish actually wanted me to play on the XBox with them.

But what really sticks out in my head is at about the same time as that, the four of us went out for dinner for the first time together. This one balmy summer’s evening, we went to Nandos on the Chiswick High Road. And then we went for ice-cream at Foubert’s. And then we came home and, because no-one wanted to go to bed quite yet, we played Scrabble, mocking each other’s attempt to outdo each other, until about 1am. That, for me, was the real turning point in our relationship as a more comfortable, natural household. And I think we all
knew it.

*(Months later, Slish said she thought I seemed sad in the beginning. Well, I was finding it hard to deal with a break-up, London and the new job at the time… and of course was also saying goodbye to people who weren’t saying goodbye back.)

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Ahoy deck season…

‘If you come on my deck, those Mickey Mouse socks will have to go. You will have to be naked,’ are among the first words Crazy Yank say to me when I go upstairs on a particularly warm day last April.

That morning I had stepped out of my bedroom to see the sun shining brightly through the glass panel above the front door. I felt warm in its reflected rays. So with a reinforced optimism, I went back into my room to dress accordingly: a mini denim skirt, a tankini top, cardigan and Mickey Mouse socks.

‘Everything down to here is sexy until you get to those Mickey Mouse socks,’ Crazy Yank begins.

I tell him I don’t care because my feet are cold and no one’s going to see but I know I will have to negotiate to gain access to the deck this season.

‘It’s my sanctuary. I don’t let the kids go up there… Where are you going?’

‘I’m going to go up to the deck,’ I say, clutching my socks.

He follows me up the first stair case and then the next: a private stair case that leads to the master bedroom with en-suite bathroom, MTV Cribs-style walk-in wardrobe and the deck. We step outside among the replenished Buddha heads and plant pots after his recent trip to Homebase and TK Maxx. Two loungers are next to each other. One is barely in the sun and the other is entirely in the shade.

‘It’s too early for the sun,’ he says.

‘Who’s going to sit there?’ I ask, pointing to the sun-lit lounger.

‘Me,’ he says, lying down, grinning.

‘I’ll come back later,’ I say.

I go down the two flights of stairs and put my socks back on. Lily rings to say she’s five minutes away in the car. She arrives and we set up camp in the back garden. Crazy Yank appears.

‘I’m renaming the cat Govinder. I’m in my transcendent zone,’ he says balancing on one leg as Demon Cat rushes into the house. Govinder, Govinder, come on. Come here,’ he says, wandering back inside. Continue reading

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A-Z lodger survival guide: A is for Acceptance

Listen closely lodgers and non-lodgers alike. It may sound melodramatic but acceptance – your first lesson in lodging – is fittingly one of the most important in terms of staying sane and, ultimately, surviving.

For a long time, I didn’t accept my situation as a lodger. I would let being at the bottom of the ‘caste system’ within the house get to me. For example, trying to negotiate with a then 15-year-old boy and 12-year-old girl to watch something we all like on the television would, for a long time, frustrate me enormously. My requests to be fair would usually be ignored or refused. And when we rarely negotiated away from MTV Dance or the Disney Channel, it would inevitably be E4 and Friends or Comedy Central and Scrubs. Often episodes that I’d already seen and quite often they’d already seen. But at least it was a compromise. And that soothed me. Although any equality I had was non-existent when South Park was on.

And when Crazy Yank was in control of the remote, I initially expected negotiation to be greeted with the maturity of another adult. Instead, my meek ‘Why don’t we put on something we all want to watch?’ would inevitably translate into Extreme Sports, some obscure documentary about a molecule that nobody wanted to watch and him commenting ‘How fascinating’ and ‘Wow, get a load of this’ before telling us facts and figures about something completely unrelated… or Nigerian Movies. Whatever his choice, we would watch the television at an average 50 volume (10 was loud enough for the average person). Once I watched, as I sat two metres away from the dolby surround system, as the volume crept to 72. I was screaming inside.

But it is that these sorts of times that I learnt to walk away, down the stairs, close the door and regain some control. Yes, I could still hear the television in my bedroom. I’m sure the neighbours could hear it. I’m sure that’s what made the cat transform into Demon Cat because he apparently never suffered from severe mood swings or a stare that said: ‘Just as you’re dropping off, I’m going to jump up on to your pillow, sit on your face until my furry backside suffocates you and you die’ as a kitten. And no, I couldn’t change the TV channel in my room because all the television channels linked up to whatever was being watched in the lounge. But I could put on a DVD. Read a book or a magazine. And stop myself from screaming inside my head. For a while at least.

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