Monday, 26 October 2015

My Fair Lady

So, online dating is weird.

Also exciting. And nervewracking. But mainly weird.

I'd set up my profile pretty quickly - I wasn't sure what was normally expected from this kind of thing, so I just ended up waffling a couple of paragraphs out in a friendly and chatty style. I'd barely finished when the first email popped up - already?! This was amazing! Heart thumping, I'd clicked on the icon to find the following masterpiece of the English language;

Hey. Hw's u?

Not exactly inspiring... but firmly deciding not to judge a book by its cover (or in this case, a guy by his opener), I emailed back.

By the time I had, I already had three more emails waiting for me, all similar variants of the first. Each got a chatty, open email back inviting further conversation, each taken from a quick read of their profiles. 

An hour passed in an instant, the newness and excitement of apparently being so popular making the time disappear. After an hour I had also become a tad bit more cynical... And learned that I was a language snob. After emailing First Guy a few times, I had to admit that his bad spelling was putting me off enough to never want to meet him. The same went for the next few - it wasn't just the misuse of 'ur', 'bby' or any other horrible abbreviation, but they just didn't seem to be able to hold up an interesting, articulate conversation. The best of them were just boring - the worst gave up on even the pretense of getting to know me and quickly just moved to asking for boob pictures. Those got instantly deleted, along with the apparent 90 yr old who just wanted to tell me how long his member was.

I know how much of a snob I sound like. It wasn't anything to do with education or thinking myself 'better' than anyone - I had enough of a complex about that from my grandparents.

It was just that I love language. I love reading and always have done from a very young age. From that, I've learned to love a unique turn of phrase, incorporating unusual and fascinating words into daily conversation, bringing this complex, beautiful, growing mess of the English language to life. To me, language isn't merely a way to communicate - it should be celebrated! I wanted these guys to put effort into their replies, to look at my profile and actually respond to it, to have wandering and twisting conversations leading on from those open doors - essentially, I wanted to be seduced by words. Good looks were nice enough, but if you didn't know 'your' from 'you're', then you might as well have been the grandad with the 10 inch schlong.

I spent another half hour browsing through what Edinburgh had to offer, putting a few filters in - no smokers, no kids and no one over 35. The first two were deal breakers - the last one wasn't solid, but getting too close to my dad's age made me just a tad uncomfortable. I picked out a few that intrigued me and sent off brief openers, hoping that they'd get back to me.

My phone buzzing interrupted me, and when I saw it was the president of the uni football team, my heart jumped. I knew the team was meant to be playing a cup game in Dundee today, and that the bus was meant to leave in 90 minutes - maybe they needed me? Maybe I'd actually get to play?!

No such luck.

"Hey, Jane, we may have a problem..."

Oh good. My favourite words. Didn't I love that I was hearing so much of them at the moment?

"So, the bus is meant to leave at 12. However, Dundee have just phoned Ryan up saying that the pitch is still slightly frozen. They've essentially said that they think it will be good for the match, but there is a chance that we turn up to find it called off."

I instantly understood why she had phoned me, the treasurer.

"Ah - the bus money. We can't afford an extra bus for a replay this season."

Money had been a nightmare for the club this season. I was only meant to be the treasurer, with two supporting fundraisers, but both girls had flaked out of their responsibilities. I had spent too much time before Christmas frantically trying to arrange fundraisers which barely a third of the team turned up to. I recrunched the numbers every week hoping to come up with new ideas, but as we stood we would end the season with 15 quid in the bank. It gave us absolutely no error room for unexpected costs.

It's an awful situation to be in when you're actually hoping for your team to lose cup games so that you don't have to pull an extra £300 out of a hat that doesn't exist.

I heard her sigh down the phone. "Yes, exactly. I wanted to check what the situation was if we have to replay - do we have to cover the costs? Will it be up to Dundee to pay for the replay bus or can the union cover it?"

I closed my eyes, wincing. "I'm afraid not - because they've given us warning, they won't be liable if they cancel the game when we turn up. And because it's not the later stages of the competition, we won't get any help from the sports union offices. I hate to say this so late, but we have to cancel it. We can't afford to replay this match. I know it's a pain for the players, but unless anyone can come up with an extra £300, we just can't. And in order not to be charged for today's bus, I need to cancel it now. Can you speak to Ryan and let him know?"

"Yeah, sure, I'll phone him back just now."

Rubbing my temples, I decided I needed food before hunting out the bus number to cancel. I was just wandering back through with a pile of tuna sandwiches when I noticed my phone madly buzzing again. I dumped the sandwiches on the table and grabbed it, barely looking at the name.

"Sorry, sorry, hello?"

"Jane, it's Ryan here. We can't cancel the game today."

"Wait, what? Ryan, have they explained the money situation to you-"

"Yeah, but it's only a couple of hundred quid - what matters is that the girls are up for this game today, they're in a fantastic place from the last few training sessions and we have to play. They said there was a good chance the pitch would defrost, so we're going for it."

"But we can't afford it! We don't have the money for a replay bus!"

"I'm sorry Jane, but I have to overrule you here - we're playing this game."

The sharp beep let me know that he'd hung up on me. I sat there in shock staring at the phone. Overruled me? What gave him the right? He was the coach, not one of the running committee! He got paid to turn up once a week, whilst we all did this voluntarily in our own time. He wasn't the one staring at the numbers which didn't add up for hours!

Panicking, I phoned our president back. She was in less of a state than me, but essentially had had the same conversation - Ryan was playing this game. She did manage to calm me down by emphasizing that Dundee were pretty confident that the pitch would be OK for the game - I just had to somehow convince my churning stomach of that too.


I couldn't focus for the next few hours, waiting to find out whether we were screwed for the rest of the season. My pile of tuna sandwiches lay forgotten on the table - my stomach was so tense, I couldn't face the thought of food. The kick off time slowly approached and passed; my pacing grew ever more frantic. The budget spreadsheet lay open on my laptop, but no matter how I looked at it, we couldn't cut any more costs further than I already had. Eventually, my phone rang, and I grabbed it.

"Ryan, hi, is the game on?"

There was a heavy silence.

"No. The pitch was frozen."

Anger flared up as I glared sightlessly at my bedroom wall. I breathed out slowly, then hardened my resolve.

"Ryan. Due to your decision, if the club doesn't make an extra £300 in the next few weeks, the club is bankrupt. We will not be able to pay your fees at the end of the season."

I heard him move to interrupt. "No, Ryan, I'm not finished. I understand why you felt we had to pay this game, but with all due respect, you are not on the running committee. You do not get to make these decisions, as you don't know what we go through to keep this club off the ground and working."

"Jane, look, I'm sorry. Surely we can get the money together somehow?"

I barked a short laugh, then caught myself. Keep it professional, but unmoving. "Ryan, we've been trying to fundraise all season, but the players aren't supporting the fundraisers I pull together. You know this - you've been here all season. However, this changes now. You put us into this mess - I expect you to be the one to lead us out of it. I can set up another fundraiser, but you are going to be there, and you are going to be the one to get the whole team behind it."

I half expected argument, but to his credit, Ryan quietly agreed. I quickly phoned our president to update her on the situation, then leaned back on my bed, shaking slightly. I hated conflict, and that was something I'd have never done if I hadn't been so furious.

Weirdly, though, I was proud of myself. I'd stood up for the right thing, and because of it, the club might actually be OK.

As a reward, I let myself have one last glance through the new emails before turning back to work. One in particular caught my eye - one of the guys I'd emailed had responded already!

Greetings, my fair lady. I have to admit, I am greatly intrigued by your profile - it is so refreshing to find someone who tries to capture who they are instead of the usual 'travel, food, love nights in and out' nonsense. After all, doesn't everyone love nights both in and out under the correct circumstances? They may as well put 'I am a functioning human being!' - but that wouldn't be nearly as fascinating, would it?

I'm afraid I have lost myself rambling, but the essence of it all is that it is lovely to hear from you. I would be very interested to continue our conversation, if that pleases you? To start with, I see that you are a steadfast fan of Doctor Who - who is your favourite Doctor of the new seasons? I have to admit that Eccleston is mine, but Tennant had his flashes of genius as well. Which are your favourite monsters?

And again I ramble! I shall end this here, and wait attentively for your response. Good day, fair lady.

I couldn't help it - I knew it was cheesy, overly flowery and aimed to flatter. Chances were he'd sent countless other ladies similar emails.

Yet, I was utterly charmed. 

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

I've Got A Terrible Feeling Everything's Coming My Way...

~ Author's Note:

I'm sorry for being away so long! I have no decent excuses - blogging takes up a lot of time, and as soon as you fall out of a writing pattern it becomes very difficult to pick it up again. However, I still very much want to tell this story, so I'll be hopefully back to posting once a week - maaaybe increasing to twice if I can write fast enough. I'm also changing to an offshore rotation for the next year, so hopefully that means lots of writing time in the evenings stuck in the middle of the sea! For the moment anyway - enjoy the latest post... ~

I forced myself to keep smiling, even as it felt like my heart was about to burst out of my chest with panic. All the guilt that I thought I was over rushed back, threatening to overwhelm me as I stared into the face of the last person I wanted to meet.

However, even as most of my brain remained paralysed, a small part was dispassionately taking notes from the back. Frankie was... well, plain. And apparently shy, and quiet, as I managed to exchange the basic pleasantries. All in all, from my first impressions, she was not at all who I expected Bob to be with. He was so charismatic, and loud, and full of life - and she was... mousy.

It just made it worse. I had imagined a gorgeous, vibrant, sassy rugby player who had charmed Bob from the pitch as he coached their team. That, I could have dealt with. With that, I could have understood his devotion to her, his determination to make long-distance work. That, I could have used to finally, finally get over him.

But this? He'd chosen to stay with this over me?

A wave of horror ran through me, breaking me out of my thoughts. Who did I think I was, judging this poor girl on thirty seconds of conversation? What right did that give me to think I was any better than her? I knew nothing of their four year relationship, of what they'd been through together, of what experiences and laughter and love kept them together.

At least she had an honest claim to him.

Feeling sick to my stomach, I sat back down and buried myself in work, trying to pull together hydrocyclone calculations for the group project. A while later, I glanced up and Ray caught my eye. As he gave me a sympathetic smile I felt my self-control begin to crumble, pathetic under even the slightest ounce of pity. Shaking my head at him desperately, he picked up the hint and quickly engaged me in an explanation of his working for our economics essay, giving me time to pull myself together. I gradually started asking questions, engaging more in the discussion, until I felt calm again - or at least as calm as I could be when this tired, hungover and stressed.

A buzzing from my phone distracted me. Picking it up, I saw a message from Peter:

Did you know Alyssa has a boyfriend?!

I perked up immediately. Had she finally opened up about the mysterious engineer she'd been dating? Did we have a name?!

Don't tell me it's engineer dude! Are they official? Since when?

Engineer dude? Wait, how did you know about him? No one tells me anything!

I frowned at my phone.

'Nothing' - yet you still know about the relationship before I do? Spill your secrets and I'll spill mine!

I was completely engrossed in dissecting every tidbit of gossip between myself and Peter that I didn't hear Ethan yelling my name until he was right behind me,

"Jane, seriously! We have important issues here!"

I spun around quickly. "I'm so sorry, had family gossip to deal with - what can I help with? Is it the project - how are you getting on with the crystallisation research?"

He looked at me weirdly. "Uh, no. I'm having a Sporcle quiz break. Far more importantly - which musical does 'Oh What A Beautiful Morning' come from?"

"Oklahoma!" I smiled, then realised a second voice had chimed in with me. Looking over, I saw Frankie had answered too.

"Oh, you know it?" She smiled shyly over at me.

"Um, yes, I saw a student show version of it recently... it was awful though, definitely not one of the better classic musicals."

"Oh, really? It's my favourite!"

"Ah, sorry, I didn't mean - it was probably just the student version -"

Ray non-so-subtly kicked me from behind. "You, hole, spade, you moron."

I blushed scarlet and quickly turned back to my seat. "Please, just let it end..." I moaned quietly to Ray, wishing I'd just stayed in bed that morning.


I finally made it home after ten, having stayed in the labs far later than everyone else. I couldn't face going home to my new flat to just sit with my thoughts. Frustratingly, I hadn't even been that productive, getting stuck going round in circles on my project research. I was going to have to work a fair amount this weekend to keep up with my study plan.

My phone buzzed as I made it to the top of the stair. Puffing slightly, I glanced at the screen: Ian? What did he want at this time? Probably something to do with the project, but my brain was too fried to cope with anything complicated.

"Hey, what's up?"

"Hi, Jane..." I immediately tensed at his tone - he sounded like he'd been run over by a bus and dragged around half of Edinburgh.

"Ian, are you OK? What's happened?"

"I'm fine, I'm fine, don't worry. Well... actually, I'm not fine. But I'm not hurt badly or anything..."

"Just tell me, what happened?"

"My flatmate opened a door into my face."

I had to hold down a burst of completely inappropriate laughter.

"Ouch, I mean, that's not good!"

"No, not really... and I'm just back from the hospital, and I have concussion."

"Oh no... That's awful. How long for? Is that why you called - do you want me to cover your work for the project next week?" I winced even as I offered - I was barely coping with my workload, never mind someone else's. It wasn't his fault at all though, and I knew no one else would get it done, so I figured I could shoulder the extra work for the next few days.

"Well... that's the bad news. Apparently it's a very severe concussion. I'm not allowed to read for longer than ten minutes for at least the next two months, and potentially up to six months."

My stomach dropped. That was Ian out of the project. That was my right hand man gone.

"Jane? I'm so sorry. I know what this means."

I snapped out of it. "Ian, it's not your fault. Oh my god. I'm so sorry. How will this affect your degree? And exams?"

"I have to speak to the head of department tomorrow, but they should be able to cover it with a medical exemption. I think they'll make special provisions so I only have to sit minimal exams in May, and then sit the rest in August once I can properly revise again."

"That's some relief then." My head was spinning, immediately trying to plan what I was going to do with the project first, prioritising the key tasks I'd given to Ian as well as mine.

"I'm sorry to cut this short... but I need to go and lie down. It's been a really long day."

"Oh, of course! And Ian - seriously, don't worry about it. I'll deal with the project. You just focus on getting better - and avoid those doors!"

He chuckled into the phone. "I will do. And... good luck, Jane."


I shuffled into the kitchen and started throwing together a no-effort meal of pasta and pesto. There was so much to do. So much to think about. So much to research, and to write. All those process flow diagrams to design with a program I loathed, the whole reason I'd been delighted when Ian offered to take that job. A whole other nine people to keep motivated and working to get this project together - yet nine other people who were already overloaded with their own work, who I couldn't ask to do any more. This was meant to be the whole reason I'd taken extra classes before Christmas - so I could focus on the project. I just needed to focus...

My thought process was interrupted by the kitchen door opening, and for one brief, glorious moment I fully expected Dave to walk through the door. Dave would let me rant, and then he'd make some stupid joke and all the stress would flood away. Dave made everything better.

My third mysterious flatmate walked in and froze abruptly as he saw me, a look of panic on his face. I forced a smile and started asking how he was - only for him to about turn and all but run out of the room. I stood there, bowl in hand, trying to understand what I'd done to make him so uncomfortable, but all I could think about was how different this flat was already from my home with Dave. How empty this one was. How lonely it was.

Hot tears started streaking down my face. I just about made it to my room before I sank down onto the floor, head in my shoulders, as the floodgates opened. I missed not waking up every morning dreading the workload ahead. I missed actually getting sleep. I missed Dave, so, so much.

I missed what I would never, ever have with Bob. I missed the easy, simple friendship we'd never had.

I cried out the stress, the hurt, the pain, the guilt, until nothing was left except exhaustion.


Eventually, curled up in my mountain of blankets and pillows, I finally felt like myself again. I'd decided that I was letting myself have a lie in - for one, if I got up at my usual time I'd be good for nothing all day, and two, I deserved a treat before the madness hit.

I scrolled through my emails, clearing all the junk out. Reaching a promotion from, I mindlessly reached to press delete, but something made me pause.

I'd said I was going to get over Bob, right? Properly, this time.

And I'd tried it the 'usual' student way, but the whole drunk pulling thing hadn't worked for me. And if I was honest... I couldn't see it working. I just didn't like clubbing, or even really drinking if I was completely honest.

But this. This was getting to know people first, being able to set my own standards, figuring out what I did like. And with the initial six month promotion, it wasn't even too expensive. The idea sparked and took light, brightening the more I thought about it. Say I gave myself six months - in which to learn more about myself, put myself out there - and actually put some action behind my promise to move on. Even if it didn't work, I wouldn't be any worse off than I was right now.

Heart quickening, not quite believing I was going to do this, I pressed 'register',

Monday, 11 May 2015

Who Doesn't Want To Samba?

Groaning, I leaned back and stretched out my neck, feeling it crack as I twisted it from side to side. Ethan paused next to me as everyone else filed silently out of the room.

"Hey, you OK?"

I nodded, tired. "Yeah, I will be. Just wasn't the most inspiring first meeting back, right?"

"You can say that again..." He muttered, eyeing up our group project advisor as he left the room. Although all of us in the group had had work to do over the holidays, it was no surprise that it hadn't been done. At least, not to me - but apparently, it was the ultimate sin to Dr Lee. We'd just endured a full thirty minute lecture on our utter laziness, culminating in the threat that he wouldn't waste his time with us at our meetings any more if we didn't put the effort in, and then where would that leave us for the project?

Probably in a better position considering the complete lack of help you are... I grumbled silently in my head. So far, the only 'help' he'd provided was either telling us to research topics that we'd already identified or sending us off on wild goose hunts to find 'very useful textbooks' that were no longer in print or available anywhere online. If he suddenly disappeared from our group meetings, they'd probably last half the time without him waffling on.

Seeing that I wasn't really in the mood for talk, Ethan flicked my ponytail and headed out. I began packing up my stuff in the empty room, preoccupied with planning everything I needed to do to get this project going. After getting most of my university credits covered last semester, I had significantly more free time up until Easter, and I planned to use all of it to make sure our project was perfect. Everyone had their specific sections to work on, but I knew I could start the more admin side on things by setting up a draft copy of the main report and sorting out the structure. I'd run it through with the group next week and see if any changes were suggested (I wasn't a complete dictator!), but I knew it would be so much smoother if someone (i.e. me) had already put some effort in before.

I was so wrapped up in my thoughts that I jumped a mile when someone rapped on the door. My heartrate immediately slowed when I saw it was just Ian.

"Oh, Ian! Sorry, I was a million miles away..."

"No, my fault! I just wanted to talk to you about maybe starting a bit of extra work ourselves - maybe about sorting the structure of the report, and maybe getting an overall diagram made of the process on Visio?"

I grinned happily as we started discussing all the work we could get started on in detail. It was good to know I wasn't the only perfectionist control freak in the team - and having Ian as invested as me meant that I was far less likely to burn myself out and enter scary meltdown territory - a good thing for all involved.


I bounced into our computer lab room and plonked myself down on a chair next to Ray and Bob, who were giggling away at some funny picture on 9gag. Seeing me, Bob immediately grabbed the arm of my hoodie and pulled me over.

"Jane, Jane, I have to show you this, this is HILARIOUS, put my headphones in..."

Laughing at his infectious enthusiasm, I rolled my chair over and squeezed in next to him, taking the headphones as he typed 'children's orchestra space odyssey fail' into YouTube. Giving him back the second earphone so we could listen together, I was soon crumpled over in laughter at the hideous sound being produced. Suddenly reminded of another funny video that my brother had shown me, I leaned over Bob and started typing myself, struggling a little to reach the keyboard from my awkward position.

"Aww, is the little hobbit struggling with her little hobbit arms?"

I wrinkled my nose at him. "Shut up, you, else you don't get to see this awesomely funny video, and then where would you be?"

"Hmmm... maybe actually doing work... You're such a distraction, you need to go back into the hobbit hole!"

Ray looked over in confusion. "The hobbit hole?"

We started talking over each other. "The hobbit hole, it's where she lives, we found it during Christmas revision -"

"Ignore him, he's so mean! There's this random cupboard near the roof of their kitchen -"

"It's perfectly sized for someone of her hobbit stature, I really don't know why she complains about it so much -"

"And he wants me to go live in there! All cramped and dusty and covered in spiders -"

"What, so no different than you are normally?"

I gasped in mock horror and swatted Bob on the arm as Ray shook his head at us and turned back to his research.

It was some time later when Ray leaned over and interrupted us. "Uh, Bob, didn't you have a group meeting... about ten minutes ago?"

Bob swore and jumped up, throwing his untouched books back into his bag. "Seriously Jane, making me late for meetings! Just what a hobbit would do..."

I stuck my tongue out at his back as he left, knowing that he'd turn around and see me just before reaching the doors. He burst out laughing and narrowly avoided walking face first into the glass, causing me to burst out in giggles. I sighed happily, and turned back to roll my chair back to my computer, only to come face to face with Ray's reproving stare.

I opened my mouth to start protesting, but the words died in my mouth, the happiness bubbles I'd had in my stomach a second ago suddenly disappearing.

"I don't even need to say it, I can tell from the look on your face that you know, but I'll say it anyway. You two haven't looked away from each other for the past hour. You know you can't keep doing this."

"An hour? It can't have been, it's only been about fifteen minutes..." My voice trailed off as I saw that it was actually quarter past three, not two like I'd thought. The afternoon had disappeared in a blur.


Ray smiled sadly at me. "I'm sorry, dear."

I sighed again. "Don't be - this is what I asked you to do." The side of my mouth quirked. "Maybe revising together every day for a month wasn't the brightest idea..."

He put his arm around me and squeezed. "We all make mistakes - you just got to learn from it from now on. No more personal revision parties, OK?"

I laughed weakly. "I promise!"


Curled up on my bed later that evening, I opened up my email and started writing a new message. I'd promised Dave that I'd keep emailing him the entire six months he was away so he didn't miss out on all the incredibly exciting drama in my life. Teasing him, I started an incredibly descriptive paragraph of what my soup for lunch had tasted like, before even I couldn't stand it any more. I started writing away, telling him all about the first week back at uni, about how weird it was not to be in constant lectures this semester, and of course how my new flatmates were stacking up against the incredibly high standards he'd left me with. I'd ended up lucking out with the new flat - a family friend from home had bought a flat for their daughter at Edinburgh University, and due to difficulties with one of the flatmates, they had needed someone to take the room immediately after Christmas. I'm not sure who was happier - me that I'd found a decent place to live with good rent, or them that they had a tenant they'd known since I was born who they knew they could trust to look after the place. I got on really well with their daughter, Emilia, and so far living with her had been great fun. The only 'but' was the other flatmate, a guy who I'd only seen once since moving in a week ago. He stayed permanently hidden away in his room, and the one time I'd seen him in the kitchen, he'd run away as soon as I entered the room. Still, I figured I just had to break him down with friendliness - he couldn't keep avoiding me for the rest of the year, right?

Before I knew it, the email to Dave had exploded into a massive essay and it was 10.30pm. Well, I had warned him! I quickly sent it before I accidentally lost the entire thing, and checked all the ignored messages on my phone. Renae had sent one out to all the girls in our friend group: Thursday night girls, who's up for heading out?

Most people had replied saying they had other things on, but Renae and Elsa seemed really keen. I groaned, thinking of just lying back on my bed and absorbing myself in more Buffy on Netflix - after all, I had uni the next day. Admittedly not until the afternoon, but I hated being exhausted from nights out during the week. However... the conversation with Ray was still bouncing round my head. If I was serious about proving that I wasn't interested in Bob, wouldn't a night out be a good place to start?


I stared around as we entered the club. Renae had been over the moon to hear I was coming out too, and after the three of us had finished off most of a bottle of Malibu, we were more than ready for a night out on the town. Elsa, another girl from my course, had decided that we needed to head to Espionage as it was 90's night. I'd never been there before, but at that point as long as it was inside and warm, it could have been a cowshed and I'd have been happy.

It was still early and so the floor was pretty deserted, apart from a few guys out on the dancefloor. I followed Elsa and Renae over to the bar, only to feel a hand land on my shoulder from behind. Squeaking slightly from surprise, I spun around defensively, only to be faced with what can only be described as Brazilian guy heaven.

"I... uh... I..." I stuttered, half extending my hand to shake his before realising and shrinking back in embarrassment. However, before I could he grabbed my hand in a warm, firm grip and expertly spun me around on the spot. Flushed, all I could do was smile as he pulled me close, leaned in towards my ear and asked, "Beautiful lady... would you care to learn to samba?"

Overwhelmed, I nodded as he pulled me towards the centre of the deserted dancefloor. Glancing over my shoulder, I could see Elsa and Renae looking worriedly towards me, but I smiled and waved at them to let them know I was fine. In fact, I was more than fine, albeit freaking out a little - I was never the girl who guys approached on nights out, I had no experience in this kind of thing - what was I meant to do? My train of thought was interrupted as he placed his hand on my waist and started showing me the basic samba steps to the music. I'd always loved dancing, and who wouldn't want to be taught how to samba by a gorgeous sexy man? It was way better than a creepy guy just feeling you up and assuming that he could kiss you any time he - what?!

Taking me (again) by surprise, Brazilian Dude swept down and started kissing me. I froze slightly, but feeling his lips on mine - I hadn't kissed anyone since Gary last year, and it was so nice - and this is what I was meant to be doing, right? This was me proving I could go out there and pull with the best of them, I mean, Bob who?

With those thoughts continuing, I held on to Brazilian Dude as he leaned me over backwards and held me ever closer to him. We continued that way, alternating between dancing and making out, until before I knew it the dancefloor had filled up and we were surrounded by people. Leaning in to my ear again, he asked if I wanted to move out of the crush, then pulled me along with him before I could answer. He found a secluded booth at the edge of the dance floor and sat down. I moved to sit next to him, but he held up a hand to stop me and then pulled me onto him so that I was straddling him.

"Oh, oh, OK..." I muttered to myself, not sure where he was going. It was a public place, he couldn't be expecting that much... I instantly froze as one hand went down the front of my skirt, jumping off quick and accidentally kneeing him in the process. He glared up at me, indignation clear on his face, motioning for me to get back on him.

I leaned into his ear before yelling "Sorry! I, uh, I need to go find my friends, right now! Exhibitionism isn't really my thing!!"

I turned and ran off without waiting for his reaction, my brain incredulously running over what had just happened. Really? He'd tried to feel me up down there in a public place?! If this is what I'd been missing out on at clubs, then I did not mind at all - I can get as freaky as the next girl in private, but in public all my clothes are staying very much on!

Bright red, I eventually managed to find Elsa and Renae. They'd joined up with a group of engineering guys who'd appeared, and were all playing limbo in the middle of the dancefloor. I appeared behind Renae and tapped her on the shoulder to let her know I was back. Both her and Elsa turned around and burst into hysterics at seeing me.

"Fastest. Pull. EVER!" Elsa yelled into my ear, holding herself up on my shoulder. "And even better - it was YOU!" I started making a face back at her, but a giggle burst free and before I knew it we were all holding onto each other, tears running down our faces. "Seriously, never again!" I shouted over the music, making a cut throat movement with my hand. "Not worth it!" The two of them nodded in agreement, before we got back to the important business of the night - 90's style limbo!


 I stumbled into the computer lab room the next afternoon to the sound of cheers from all of my friends. A couple at the other end of the lab glared over as I bowed unsteadily, accepting my dues.

"Elsa and Renae get you all up to date then...?" I laughed along with them, giving in to the inevitable teasing.

"Ohhh yes, yes they did!" Ethan grinned over at me. "Heard someone got a little Brazilian action last night - and that he even got in your pants..."

"Uh no!" I exclaimed loudly. "Not true! Well, he tried to, but I am a classy lady, and a nightclub is not the place for that kind of activity!"

"A classy lady who pulls in less than ten seconds..." stage whispered Renae across the room, prompting another wave of laughter. Shaking my head, I headed to the free computer next to Ray, who gave me another personal round of applause as I sat down. As soon as the others looked away, he poked my shoulder urgently.

"Jane, quickly, there's something I need to warn-"

I was distracted by Bob calling my name from across the room.

"Jane, come over a second?"

I motioned to Ray that I'd be back in a second, and walked around the bank of computers to the corner Bob had taken over, along with a random girl he was sitting next to. Or not so random, as he placed a hand over hers...

"Jane, I'd like you to meet my girlfriend, Frankie."

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

New Year

It was New Year's Eve, and I was sat on the floor of Dave's living room with his family with a dog fast asleep on me either side. It was like having a warm, slightly vibrating blanket keeping me warm. We were watching the run up to midnight from across the world, seeing Sydney's and Dubai's firework displays and debating their particular merits versus Edinburgh and London. Personally, London is always my favourite - despite my Scottish heritage, you just can't argue with how amazing the London Eye looks and the inventiveness of the firework display. It's always around this time of year that I decide I should really take my engineering degree and become a fireworks display creator instead...

A sudden bang outside woke the dogs up and they immediately ran through to their beds to hide. Dave's little sister jumped off the sofa and started tugging on her parents' hands.

"It's time to go outside! It's time!"

I looked over at Dave questioningly. "We always go outside to see the fireworks going off across the valley at midnight, but the earliest fireworks usually start about half an hour beforehand."

I pushed myself up quickly. "I just need to go grab something from upstairs - wait for me?"

Five minutes later, I was back down with my canvas bag slung over one shoulder. Dave raised an eyebrow but I just smiled mysteriously and shook my head. Shrugging, he opened the door for me and led me down to the bottom of the garden. His parents had pulled out a few deck chairs, but he walked straight past them and hopped up onto the stone wall at the bottom of the garden. I joined him, and squinted out over the pitch black valley. Slowly, my eyes adjusted and I began to make out the shape of the hills and the faint twinkling from other houses.

"So... what's in the bag?"

I tutted at Dave. "What makes you think anything in the bag is for you?"

"Because I'm amaaaazing." He tilted his head and tried to bat his eyes at me, but ruined the effect by half falling off the wall.

Laughing, I pulled him back up. "You're a liability, that's what you are... But actually yes, there is something in the bag for you."

"Oooh!" His face immediately brightened and he scooted closer over towards me. "I have presents?!"

"Yes, you have presents! You can't go off to America completely unprepared..."

I reached into the bag and pulled out the first parcel.

Dave took it off me and weighed it. "Hmmm... I predict DVD..."

"Well, you did manage to get into university, so I presumed there were some brains in there somewhere..." I grinned as he scowled at me. "Go on, open it!"

He tore the paper open eagerly, then burst out laughing when he saw what he was holding: season 1 of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. "In West Philadelphia, born and raised..." I started, motioning for him to join in, but he was laughing too hard. "See, you can't move to Philadelphia without this!"

"I love it! But... you know it's set in LA?"

"Wait, what? But - the song!"

"That's the whole point, he moves from Philadelphia to LA... but I really love it anyway! Thank you!"

Slightly disappointed by my mistake, I moved on to the next gift. I was really proud of this one.

"OK, this one comes in two parts. Open the small present first..." I waited until he was opening it before continuing. "And hereby, I would like to officially promote you... from Sous Chef of the Dave & Jane flat, to Head Chef of as yet unknown American flat!" He put the toy chef hat on his head, laughing again. I handed him part two. "And here's to make sure you don't starve!"

He wasn't laughing with this one, instead silent as he opened the pages and looked through. I'd found a place online that created notebooks with personalised pictures on the front, so I'd picked out a picture of the meat turtles we'd once created and which we considered our proudest culinary moment. The notebook itself was filled with all the recipes of the meals we'd eaten together over the past three years, along with anecdotes of stupid things either Dave or I had done and reminders not to do them again.

As he passed into the dessert section (followed by 'REMINDER - blowing icing sugar over pies WILL result in kitchen snowstorm apocalypse situations...'), he finally looked up at me. "Jane... this is amazing. I don't know what to say."

Luckily, he was saved by having to say anything else by the firework display started in the nearest town. I smiled happily up at the sky and glanced over to see Dave smiling too, his face lit up by the reds and golds and greens of the fireworks in the sky. He looked down and held my gaze for a second, both of us unable to stop smiling at the other.

After the fireworks had finally finished, Dave slung his arm around me. Leaning into him, we watched the valley fade into blackness again.

"I'm really going to miss you."

I sighed. "Me too. Why couldn't you have just found a nice placement in Edinburgh?"

I felt him laugh against me. "Yeah, what idiot goes all the way to Philadelphia for six months?"

"You, apparently!" We were silent for a moment. "And in any case, you only have to cope without me until after exams, and then I'll be straight out to sort you out from all the trouble you'll be getting into without me."

He chuckled again. "True! Until after exams."

I nodded into his shoulder. "After exams."

Author's Note: I'm so sorry about the late post! I might not be able to keep to Saturday's but I'll try and get posts up as soon as I can.

Also, for anyone intrigued, here is the meat turtle recipe - but be prepared, your life may never be the same again...

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Adventures in Yorkshire

The train journey down to Edinburgh passed in an instant - I was so tired when I got on the train at 7am that I fell asleep for the whole journey. Having to hang around in the train station for my connection woke me up a little bit - it looked like everyone was travelling on New Year's Eve, and the crowds were insane. I managed to find a slightly empty corner and grabbed a little respite from the solid wall of people - I'm not properly claustrophobic, but I always felt a little panicky when caught in such big crowds. It was with relief that the platform for my connection finally flashed up and I managed to force my way through to the ticket barriers.

With another four hours to go before I reached the station nearest Dave's home, I'd prepared by downloading half of the first season of Nashville. My sister had been raving about it over the past week, and promised it was nice easy viewing for a train journey. I don't know about you, but I can never focus on anything serious on a train, there's far too many distractions for me to follow any form of complicated plot.

Alyssa had been right - the relationship dramas interspersed with fabulous country music helped the hours fly by, until before I knew it the conductor was announcing the next station as Dave's. My excitement grew as I spotted his familiar grinning face as the train pulled in.

"Daaaave!" I basically jumped on top of him a hug, with him collapsing between the combined weight of me and my full to bursting backpack.

"Jane! You made it!"

"I did indeed - it's been a very, very long journey, but I made it! Also, what's with everyone travelling on New Year's Eve? Are they crazy?"

He gave me a measured look. "Says the girl who just travelled half the country on New Year's...?"

I dismissed his look with a wave. "Pfft! Mine's different, I bet all the others didn't have best friends about to abandon them for half the year, I had special reasons!"

He held a hand to his heart dramatically. "You mean... I'm special?"

"Special reasons does not make you special." I mock shook my head at him. "I've told you enough times the real reason I'm here..."

He sighed as he led me to his car. "Yes, yes, I know! The dogs!"

"Exactly. The dogs!" I smiled happily as he started the car. "Ooh, this is weird. Driven by Dave. Should I phone my mum and warn her I might not make it back?"

"Haha, very funny. No, you'll survive, it's all the other drivers you need to watch out for round here..."

"Typical man driver, blaming all the others!" I giggled as he glared over at me.

"Um, who exactly is putting you up for the next two days? Keep this up and it won't be me..."

"Aww, you know you love it really! But fine. You're the exception to the typical man driver rule. Happy?"

"Much!" He grinned smugly back as I tried and failed to contain my smile.

Less than ten minutes later, we turned off onto a winding country track. As we came around a copse of trees, Dave's house slowly turned into view - it was stunning. A huge sprawling country house, with at least three levels, and a huge garden around the back. I'd known that his family was fairly well off, but this was amazing!

I tried to hide my awe as I got out of the car, not wanting Dave to see. Luckily as soon as we went into the house I felt more at home - the building was amazing but obviously quite old, and the inside was your typical country house scene: wellies strewn everywhere, big winter coats hung up, and a large flagstoned kitchen with a glowing Aga. I heard the skittering of paws on the floor before a wave of yapping erupted and two beautiful collies flew round the corner and slid to a halt, staring at me in suspicion.

I knelt down on the floor and held my hand out to them, letting them come to me. As soon as they'd sniffed my hand and realised that Dave didn't seem threatened by me in any way, they jumped all over me. I grinned in pure happiness as I repeatedly told them how beautiful they were, being licked all over.

"Such a pushover!" sighed Dave as he picked up my abandoned suitcase and started climbing the stairs to my room. "Believe me, you'll have plenty of time to stroke them later, come on!"


I was sitting on the floor giggling away as eager tongues explored my face when Dave's mother walked in. Jumping to my feet, I introduced myself before getting stuck between whether I should go in for the handshake or a hug. Settling on an awkward little wave, she made my mind up for me as I was enfolded in a giant hug.

"Oh, Jane, it's so good to finally meet you! We've heard so much about you, it's wonderful that you could make it down for New Year."

I blushed a little. "It's really no problem at all, there was no way I was letting him go halfway across the world without a proper goodbye!"

"You're such a sweetheart. Now, has he been a good host? Has he offered you a drink, or a snack before dinner?"

Dave snorted. "Food? All Jane wanted was the dogs!" His mother gave him a look as he protested further, before with an exasperated air I was provided with a glass. We settled quickly into easy conversation about the holidays, before a bump at my knee made me look down and burst out laughing. The younger collie was sitting there with an expectant look on his face, with his lead in his mouth, and as I stared down at him he deliberately bumped my leg again.

"Think that's your cue, Dave! Take Jane out around the lake, give them a proper run and tire them out." His mother shooed us out of the kitchen, with the dogs excitedly prancing around us as they realised that walkies were actually happening.

Dave drove us out a short distance to a little car park next to a fairly large lake with a number of sailboats moored up at the edge. He noticed my gaze and nodded towards them. "We own one of those, actually."

"You own a boat as well? How much posher can you get?" I teased him. "Seriously though, I didn't know you could sail!"

"Ha, well there's a reason for that - I definitely can't! It was something my older brothers always did with my dad, he could never get me out on the water as a kid."

We wandered along the rough path, laughing as the elder collie repeatedly tried to pick up stones from the path before dropping them in favour of 'better' ones. It reminded me of my collie, Isla - collies always seemed to pick up odd compulsive habits for no apparent reason. In Isla's case, it manifested when we moved her kennel from behind my parent's bedroom to the bottom of the garden. We'd had this wendy house on stilts, with a large space underneath that a kid could easily stand upright in. As we were now all grown, the wendy house was rarely used, and so dad converted the area underneath into a kennel with a little flagstoned area, and contained with a fabric net so that she could still see outside into the garden.

Dad was so proud when we put her to bed that night - which only turned into consternation when we got up the next morning to find her lying outside the back door. A quick investigation found the method - a chewed hole in the net. Hence replacement of the fabric net with wire netting. However, same thing the next night - albeit with a slightly more painful grin from Isla. Next step - getting thick wire netting with very small holes so that she couldn't bite into it - for her safety as much as keeping her in the kennel overnight.

For the next few nights everything seemed fine. Every morning we'd go down to the kennel and she'd be sitting inside, waiting to be let out. Bring on the weekend - and suddenly she was back to greeting us at the door. However - this time there was absolutely no indicator of how she'd escaped. Netting in place, door tightly shut - we'd somehow become the owners of the genuine canine Houdini. The battle continued for a few months further between dad and Isla, with the kennel being constantly upgraded and Isla mysteriously beating all improvements, until mum caved and started letting her sleep in the nice warm conservatory every night. And who says humans are the clever ones?

Dave's collie finally decided on a stone he liked, and with a happy toss of the head ran into the lake to chase the younger. Dave laughed, and started telling me about how when he was a puppy, they had to repeatedly take him to the vet's to remove all the stones in his stomach. We continued sharing stories until we suddenly hit upon the topic of holidays.

"Oh, that reminds me! You know I said I'd come visit you?"

He scrunched up his face. "Oh god, yeah, how could I forget about that horrible threat?"

"Yeah yeah, you know you'll miss me. Anyway, I was thinking, instead of me coming to Philadelphia... how about we make it a holiday for both of us? You'll be in Philadelphia for half of the year anyway, and there's so many amazing places in America to visit, so we might as well make the most of it!"

"Yes! That's such a good idea! We could go to Chicago, or Boston..."

"Or, I was thinking, maybe even somewhere like Hawaii!"

He stopped and gave me a look. "Uh... how far away do you think Hawaii is from Philadelphia?"

I returned the funny look. "Surely not that far. You'd just have to nip across the country and then it must be quite close to the coast, right? And internal flights are so cheap in America!"

He shook his head at me in disbelief. "I can't... Yeah, I'm not explaining that one, I'll let you look up the costs and how long it takes and then come back to me on that one... Maybe a better idea is going south along the east coast, there's always Miami and New Orleans, all that area..."

"Oh!" I exclaimed, a thought coming to me. Dave mock covered his eyes, already despairing of whatever suggestion I had.

"Oh shh, this is actually a good suggestion! Philadelphia is quite north, right?"

Dave cautiously nodded.

"Well, how about heading up to Canada? Isn't Toronto quite near the border?"

His face lit up. "Wait, that is a good idea! And then we can go see Niagara Falls as well, that was on my list of things to go see whilst I'm out there!"

I started getting excited too. "Yes! And I've always wanted to go to Canada, I'm even thinking of looking for oil and gas jobs out there maybe, so it would be amazing! Plus don't they have that really tall tower you can eat in? We should have a super duper fancy meal up there and pretend to be really posh - except it won't actually be pretending for you..."

"You, stop it!" He pushed me off the path and into the muddy bog, laughing as I gasped at the cold slime creeping into my trainers.

"Oh, you did not just do that!" I chased after him down the path, determined to get revenge one way or another.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Festive Perfection

As the train pulled away from Edinburgh, it felt like all of the stress and tension of the last semester was draining out of me. I had two books and my mp3 player ready to distract me over the next three hours until home, but before I knew it my eyes had closed, and I'd passed out into a dreamless sleep.

A buzzing in my pocket woke me up. Squinting outside, I saw that we were almost at my home station. The buzzing turned out to be a message from my mum, just letting me know where she was parked. I'd also missed a few snapchats from Bob and the others - from the sounds of it, the bar crawl was going very very well.

As the train slowed down, I double checked I had everything on me and hauled my bags out onto the platform. Walking around the station building, I immediately saw my mum waving from the car. I ran over and dumped my stuff in the back, before climbing into the front seat and leaning straight over to give my mum a hug.

"Hey, you! Someone's glad to be home!"

"You have no idea..." I muttered into her shoulder, surreptitiously wiping a few tears away.

I was quite happy to let mum chatter away on the drive home, filling me in on the local community and what everyone had been up to since summer. Living out in the country, the village grapevine was thriving and well, meaning nothing ever stayed secret for long. On the other side, whenever anything bad happened, it meant you had an entire community immediately there to help. In the summer, when my neighbour's barn had burned to the ground due to an electrical fault, they could hardly move for all the offers of help that had poured in.

I felt myself begin to truly relax as we wound up the country roads towards our house. I'd missed the countryside so much - as a city, Edinburgh is beautiful, but it doesn't hold a patch to the forests and rolling hills of my home. Every house we passed was lit up by Christmas lights, adding yet more beauty to the landscape.

When we opened the front door, the house was silent apart from a sliver of light from under the living room door. I went to drop my bags off in my room first - I knew once I sat down in there, I wouldn't be moving for the rest of the evening. I'd just shrugged off my backpack when I heard running steps behind me and two forces rugby tackled me onto my bed.

"Jaaaaaane! You're home!"

Laughing, I wriggled out from underneath Peter and Alyssa and started messing up their hair. "I am! Finally!"

"Come on, hurry up, you need to come through to the lounge!" They both grabbed my hands and pulled me down the corridor.

Going into the lounge was every bit as amazing as I'd been dreaming of. There was tinsel on every picture frame, and Christmas cards adorned every shelf - and the tree, oh the tree was beautiful - filling up the corner of the room, glowing softly with its multicoloured lights and every inch of it covered with decorations. The fire was roaring and the scent of pine floated through the room. It was perfect, and as my dad enfolded me in a giant bear hug, everything seemed to hit at once and I started sobbing into his jumper.

"Hey, hey, it's OK, you're home!" Dad led me over to the sofa and let me lie down and cuddle into him, as Alyssa and Peter stared at me in worry.

"Sorry - I'm OK, I really am - they're happy tears, honestly. I'm just so glad to be home. These past few months have been awful. I'm just so happy to be home and able to relax and actually sleep for three weeks!" I smiled and tried to wipe away the tears from my face as mum opened the door. Isla came bounding into the room, and made a beeline for my sofa as soon as she noticed me. I couldn't help but giggle as she enthusiastically started licking my face clean.

Moving onto the floor so I could properly cuddle her, I noticed Alyssa and Peter impatiently waiting with something behind their backs.

"Surprise! We kept your Christmas decorations for you!"

"And not just one - Peter liked one, but I liked this other one better, and as you missed putting up the tree we thought you deserved two." Alyssa held out something sparkly to me in her hand.

It was a family tradition with us - every year, each of us kids got a new decoration to put up. It meant our tree was always a glorious hotch-potch of mismatched, weird and wonderful decorations telling a story of places visited, of unique decorations found and of whatever theme had been the craze that year (leading from three tiny sparkling Harry Potter lightning bolts, to the Frozen Planet year where we each had a polar bear, a penguin and a narwhal decoration between us).

Alyssa's decoration for me was a gorgeous, delicate shimmering collection of snowflake strands, tinkling against each other. Peter's was a fluorescent green shimmering orb with a picture of a collie on it. I adored them both, and pulled both of them into a giant hug with the dog in the middle, feeling perfectly content.


Christmas morning passed in a wonderful blur of Santa presents, helping mum in the kitchen and taking the dog for a walk with dad. I know I'm a bit old for Santa presents, but having two younger siblings, my mum always feels she can't not provide me with something to wake up to in the morning. As Alyssa and Peter have grown older and more appreciative of lie-ins, I've slowly become the person to get up first on Christmas morning to help mum stuff the turkey.

After Christmas lunch, we settled down in the lounge, stomachs full to bursting, to swap our family presents. To keep Isla happy, she always got to 'open' hers first, which mainly involved us half opening the wrapped bones and treats until she could smell them, and then she generally took care of the rest. This year we'd also bought her a new bed, which she immediately curled up on with a bone in the middle of the room.

I'd bought Alyssa a pair of book-themed earrings from Etsy, with the character names 'Tess' and 'Angel' from Tess of the d'Urbervilles in each ear - it was one of her favourite books and she adored the BBC adaptation with Eddie Redmayne as Angel.

For Peter, he'd been joking with me for ages about stealing Dave's giant beanbag from the flat to give to him, so I'd actually found him one of those 'gamer chair' beanbags that support your back whilst you sit on them. It was in a massive box, so we hadn't actually put it under the tree, and I had to go carry it in from my room. It was completely worth it for the look on his face - both when I entered with this giant box, and when he opened it to find his beanbag inside.

Time flew past for the rest of the afternoon enjoying our gifts and playing board games. I nipped back to my room for a second to check my phone and reply to all the Christmas well wishers. Working through all the generic 'Merry Christmas' messages, I hit across one from Bob: Ahh! Doctor Who in an hour!

Checking the timestamp on the text, I realised it was less than ten minutes until it came on. Jumping off the bed, I ran down the hall into the lounge.

"Guys! Doctor Who time! Ten minutes!"

Peter whooped and high fived me, whilst Alyssa made a face.

"No, do we really have to? It's Christmas, who wants to watch some stupid sci fi programme, let's watch a film..."

Dad ruffled her hair from behind. "Come on Ally, it's a Christmas tradition! And we'll watch a film after, your choice..." Slightly placated, she leaned back against dad and was soon absorbed back into her book.

I lay down on my stomach in front of the fire with a cushion to rest my arms on, soaking up the heat. My phone buzzed again: Are you ready...?! 

I grinned to myself and quickly typed back. Yes! Who do you take me for? Wouldn't miss this for anything!

He texted back straight away. Well, hobbits are very hard to predict at times...

Peter looked up as I giggled, and shared a look with Alyssa.

"Beep beep beep! Beep beep beep!"

I glanced up in confusion. "Uh... why exactly are you guys beeping?"

They dissolved into laughter. "It's the Bob alarm!"

"Yeah, every time you talk about him, or start texting him, the Bob alarm goes off!"

I frowned at them. "Well, how do you know I'm even texting him now?"

Alyssa raised an eyebrow. "Fine. Who are you texting?"

I blushed deep red and looked down.

"Knew it! Beep beep beep!"

Luckily at that point the Doctor Who theme music started, and dad shushed everyone before they could say any more. Clearly, though, I needed to get more of a control on how much I talked about Bob - not exactly a good mark in the 'I'm completely over him' argument I'd been trying to convince myself of for so long.


Before I knew it, the holidays had flown past to my next major landmark - my birthday. Having a birthday between Christmas and New Year was something people always assumed I'd be upset about - after all, what about all those joint presents I must get? And what about the fact that no one was ever around?

Luckily, as my gran had a birthday on Boxing Day, my mum had been raised with the very strong mentality that giving joint birthday/Christmas presents was never acceptable. It was true that people were never around - but honestly, I liked just spending the day with my family and getting full control over the dinner menu. I went through phases of what birthday cakes I wanted: when I was younger, I had a bone cake made from swiss rolls and white fondant icing for a good four years, before graduating to 'fish cakes' decorated with white chocolate buttons. Recently, I'd formed a little obsession with my mum's pecan pie, and I'd been craving it for months. Not the most orthodox 'birthday cake', but it is the one day I can't be judged!

And this year, it wasn't going to be a completely relaxing day anyway. I had train tickets booked for 7am tomorrow to head down to England, to spend New Year with Dave before he left. On one hand I couldn't wait - I'd never met his adorable dogs, and it would be fantastic to have some revision stress-free time together. On the other hand I didn't want tomorrow morning to ever arrive... The thought of not seeing Dave again until September killed me a little inside. What would I do without my best friend and flatmate to keep me entertained in the evenings? Who would I feed all my failed culinary creations to? Who would I have to give me tough love when I needed it? It felt like a little piece of my heart was going to leave with him.

A hand waving in front of my face brought me back to earth.

"Calling Jane, calling Jane, is she there? It's our turn!"

Grinning, I took the box of cards from my mum and turned to face Alyssa and Peter. I'd got the board game Articulate for my birthday, and we were absolutely loving it.

"OK, the topic is places... let's go!" Mum quickly turned over the timer, as Alyssa and Peter waited for me to start explaining. "Right, it's a big bit of water, not an ocean or a lake but somewhere in between-"

"A sea!" Peter exclaimed.

"Yes! But a particular one, it's a colour..."

"Red Sea! Red Sea!" I shook my head at Alyssa. "No, the other one! Other colour!"

"Green sea! Blue sea! Purple sea!" I started laughing helplessly, frantically waving to indicate Alyssa should keep going. Peter rolled his eyes. "Seriously, Alyssa! Black Sea!"

"Yes!" I put the card down and kept going. We managed to get three right before the timer ran out, which wasn't bad considering my particularly awful geography knowledge.

As dad picked up the cards, we all turned to face him in anticipation.

"Any reason they're all staring at me like that...?" Dad muttered to mum next to him.

She laughed and patted his shoulder. "Let's say you have a rather... unusual... way of thinking, dear. It's fine though, I've not been with you over 25 years without learning how your brain works! Let's thrash them!"

They were also on places, so shaking my head at my mum's competitive spirit, I turned the timer over and set dad off.

"OK, it's a place." He paused and looked at mum expectantly.

"Yes, I get that, keep going!"

"We've been there." He paused again, whilst mum stared back in frustration. "Go on, guess!"

"You've not exactly narrowed it down! Scotland? England? France? Italy? Australia?"

Dad was shaking his head. "No, no, you're miles off. I had them in the World Cup sweepstake we did."

"What, the one we did six months ago where you had six different countries?!"

At this point all three of us kids were in hysterics.

"Dad - what even...?" gasped Alyssa before the laughter took over again.

"Shhh, you're wasting our time! Jamaica?"

Dad nodded energetically. "Closer! What's next to Jamaica? Big country!"

Mum stilled and looked at him in disbelief. "Please tell me you've not been trying to describe America." Peter and I looked at each other and crumpled against the sofa, almost in tears from laughing so hard.

"Yes!" Dad grinned and threw the card down as the timer ran out.

"Dad - literally anything - stars and stripes, Obama as president, Washington as capital? Next to Canada? Anything!" I wiped the tears from my eyes, my full stomach hurting from all the laughter.

At that point the dog, woken up by all the hilarity, ran over to dad and jumped up to lick his face. He put an arm around her and tickled her ears, pulling her close. "You appreciate me and my logical thinking, don't you Isla? Even if that lot don't!"

I leaned back against the sofa and smiled as the teasing continued. This is why I loved my birthday being where it was - I had my family, my dog, and my home, still filled with the smells of the Christmas tree, the wood burning in the fireplace and the lingering aroma of gorgeously cooked food. How could any birthday be better than this?

Monday, 16 March 2015

Author's Note: Apologies

Hi everyone,

I know I've been absent recently, but I should be back up and writing very soon!

There's no excuse for not updating sooner. The reason is that the past month went a little crazy - there were a huge number of job cuts at work, plus lots of travelling for training. In addition... for the first time since my best friend broke my heart a year and a half ago, there was a guy I was interested in. There were so many red flags, but every time I questioned if he was really ready for a relationship, he'd convince me to see where it went, or tell me that the last thing he wanted to do was hurt me. And I fell for him hard and fast, completely head over heels, and in between the work madness I've been spending every free minute with him.

Untill yesterday, when he suddenly decided that I had been right and there was too much going on in his life for any form of relationship. I'm running on very little sleep and it was a horrible day at work, but now I'm finally home I think I'm OK. Even if I'm not, I will be.

And the good news is that I will have a lot more time to start writing again now, so hopefully next post will be up this weekend. This guy will eventually work into the blog one way or another and you'll learn all (although there is a LOT of drama to come first!). All I can do is apologise for the hiatus and for not giving an explanation sooner.