Well, that’s a first

Yes, it’s another tag post… I totally stole this one from Audrey of Life as Louise, who in turn got it from Stephanie (who I believe was actually the original creator). It’s all about “firsts”. So, let’s just get straight into it.

What was your first word? My baby book says it was “Dada”.

Do you still talk to your first love? What do we consider first love here? The boy I thought I was “in love” with at 10 went to a different secondary school and I haven’t seen him since. The first person to break my heart and the person I really liked throughout my entire teenage years are both my friends on Facebook but neither actually interacts with me, ever.

What was your first alcoholic drink? Apart from trying sips of my parent’s wine/beer (and hating them!) probably a glass of Babycham at Christmas. Do people even still drink that?

What was your first job? Does babysitting count? I didn’t get paid for taking care of my siblings but some of my mum’s friends paid me. Otherwise it was giving tours of my university to potential future students. We got paid 10 pounds per tour, 50p of which was taken off as National Insurance contributions.

First pet? A cat called Rocky (short for Little Rock). He was actually my uncle’s but we looked after him for about a year.
Here’s a (blurry!) photo of me aged 4ish with a pet who was not mine:

B and Cindy
Me, aged 4ish, with my grandma’s dog

What was your first car? Ha! I can’t drive.

Who was the first person to text you today? I haven’t received a text today.

Who was the first person you thought of this morning? Jan. The thought was along the lines of “either snooze your alarm or turn it off, but please make it stop!”.

Who was your first grade teacher? I have no idea! My mum might know.

Where did you go on your first aeroplane ride?  (Sorry, had to change it to British spelling!). I’m assuming it was when we moved to Northern Ireland, so Belfast.

Who was your first best friend and do you still talk? A girl called Jennie. She was my mum’s best friend’s daughter so we were kind of brought up together and forced to be best friends. We occasionally communicate via Facebook but I haven’t seen her since I was about 15.

Where was your first sleep over? I imagine it was at Jennie’s. We were at each other’s houses all the time. Unless I slept over at an aunt’s when I was really tiny? Both sets of grandparents lived 6 hours away so it wouldn’t have been there.

What was the first concert you ever went to? I have no idea! Possibly Boyzone? (Let’s not talk about how I had weird taste in music at 13!).

What was your first broken bone? I’ve never broken a bone.

What was your first piercing? Ears, on holiday in Wales. I think I was 7. I know it was a birthday present anyway.

What was the first foreign country you’ve gone to? Is that even correct grammar? Anyway… it was Greece.

What was the first movie you remember seeing? Beauty and the Beast with my grandpa, the year we moved back from Northern Ireland. (Wait… does this even mean at the cinema? Audrey answered as if it did, but the question just says “first” and I’m sure I watched Alice in Wonderland on video before that!).

When was your first detention? Ooh, I don’t know! I can’t remember if I ever got detention before I moved to my dad’s, but I had a few at the high school I went to up North. Mainly for not doing homework, once for talking in Maths (even though I was telling somebody to leave me alone! The teacher was really strict and awful.).

Who was your first roommate? Umm, nobody. The only person I ever shared a room with was my sister. And people I shared a flat/house with are not roommates whatever Americans might think!

What was the first sport you were involved in? I played netball in year 4.

What is the first thing you do when you get home? I work from home 😉 On the days I have to go into the office I come home, grab my mail (if there is any) and collapse on the couch.

When was your first kiss? It was in Northern Ireland, so I was probably about 7. I was with the aforementioned friend Jennie, who talked me into it. I don’t remember the boy’s name, but he was older. After that I never had another “real” kiss until I was 13.

This post doesn’t have many photos, so here’s one of me in my Brownie uniform at around the same time:

Brownies

Okay, that’s it. Tell me some of your firsts in the comments… or if you decide to do the entire thing let me know and I’ll come and check out your post.

Gotta love the Liebster Award

I wanted to finally catch up on my final few weeks in Germany and share some photos from a day out that I arranged as part of my 35 before 35, but although the card reader is sitting here on the computer desk I can’t find the cable for it so no photo uploading for me! Instead I’ll go with another post that I’ve been needing to write for a while…

I was nominated for the Liebster Award again… this time by Holly from Full of Beans and Sausages. She nominated me weeks ago, but I’ve been putting off answering because her questions are haaaard! Thank you Holly. I’m happy that you think I’m worthy of this award.
And now the questions:

1) What is your favourite room in your house?

Since I’ve literally just moved it’s probably a little early to tell. But I’m going to go with the dining/living/kitchen area (it’s all one big space) because that’s where the balcony is, and also where my books live. Of course the books’ home is my favourite!

2) What is your life plan for the next 5 years?

See what I mean? Haaaard questions! Well, I am very much hoping that Jan will continue to enjoy his job and things will go well enough that we’ll still be in Basel in five years. However, it is a fairly small company so it may be that at some point he wants to move on to something a bit bigger? It’s difficult to judge right now, although so far things are going well. In the meantime, I’ll continue working at my company for now, then hopefully within the next 1-2 years we’ll have our first child (Dear family members who are reading: do not hold me to that!! I have no idea whether it will work out. And no, I’m not currently pregnant!). Obviously my plan involves Jan and I staying together for the next 5 years. Oh, and a puppy. Beyond that I honestly have no idea, and thinking about it kind of scares me so I’m stopping now!

3) Describe a typical day from when you were a child.

Wow, again a question that’s surprisingly difficult. Typical days are hard to remember! I suppose it would have to be a week day, since weekends/holidays were never typical, so I’ll do a school day. It would start with my mum shouting to my sister and I to get up for school. We’d take turns in the bathroom, then dress in our school uniforms before heading downstairs. Breakfast was always cereal – usually something like Frosties or Coco Pops. Then it was back upstairs, teeth brushed, downstairs again for our shoes and coats and we’d head off to school. When we were really little my mum took us, but by the time I was 9 we walked together with some friends from our estate (when we lived in Northern Ireland, my mum always walked me to and fom school – my sister was still in nursery then). School consisted of morning lessons followed by first break, where everybody had to eat fruit. Us girls would skip or play clapping rhymes, then it was back into school for more lessons. I was on packed lunches for most of my time at primary school, which meant second sittings, so at lunch time I would go out to play first then come in for my lunch when the first bell went. If we ate quickly enough we would then have more time to play after lunch. This was followed by afternoon lessons then home time. The ice cream van always stopped on a road close to the school right around home time and anyone who had money would buy something. Usually I did not have money,but sometimes a friend would take pity and lend me ten pence for a WHAM bar (who remembers those?). Back home, we had to immediately change out of our school uniforms and do any homework we had. Then, if it was a nice day, we would go outside to play until my mum called us in for tea. On rainy days, we watched children’s TV… back in the days when there was only half an hour of children’s TV after school and not entire channels for it! Tea would be something like sausages, beans and chips or fish fingers and vegetables. There was hardly ever dessert, but the fruit bowl was always full and if we were still hungry after tea we could help ourselves. Then it was time to get our bags ready for school the next day and get into our night clothes. Sometimes we would watch TV again, but usually we just played in our rooms. At bed time, I always begged to be allowed to read for a bit and the answer was almost always yes. Then, after half an hour, it was lights out and no more talking (I shared a room with my sister). Then it all began again the next day. That’s how I remember it anyway. The details may be off.

4) Tell us about the most unforgettable moment from your life.

Hogmany in Edinburgh. Not really a moment, but the whole trip was fabulous. From the torch-lit procession from the Royal Mile to the top of Calton Hill (proceeds from those who bought a torch went to charity) to the candle-light carol service in St. Giles Cathedral on New Year’s Eve to seeing KT Tunstall live in Princes Gardens on 1 January for a mere 11 pounds. So far, no new year’s trip has beaten it – although Brussels comes close (Madeira was fantastic, but Edinburgh wins on actual New Year celebrations)

5) Tell us about the worst idea you ever had.

Numbing the top of my ear with ice cubes before letting my friend attempt to pierce it with a safety pin (that we had “disinfected” using bleach). Luckily it hurt too much and I made her stop, otherwise I’m sure the end of the story would have involved an infected ear and antibiotics. As it is, it’s fairly boring. Sorry! (The time I got drunk at 17 and threw up all over myself in the toilets of a pub was also a close contender, but smuggling in a bottle of vodka wasn’t actually my idea so…)

6) What can you see out of the window you are sat at right now?

I’m not at a window! Hold on, let me just go to one…. okay, I see part of the outside wall of our spare bedroom (which is currently full of boxes waiting to be unpacked and a bed that hasn’t been put together yet), the building opposite and some trees. If I look a bit to the right, beyond that building, I can see some of the houses on the hill.

7) What qualities do you like to have in a best friend?

Honesty (if I’m being stupid I want them to tell me!), loyalty and a good sense of humour! Also, they need to be slightly weird because normal people don’t like me.

8) If you could live in any era of history which would it be and why?

50s so I could wear clothing that actually suits my body shape! Although the whole not working and being expected to be a perfect housewife thing would get old fast! Actually, I wouldn’t mind living in a few eras for a while just to experience first-hand what it was like. Maybe a year in the 20s, then some time in the 60s with the hippies before popping back to the time of the industrial revolution and experiencing for myself what it was like when the very first steam train appeared…

9) How would you spend $100 right now?

I would buy something new for our flat. We still need quite a bit but it has to be a gradual process because Switzerland is expensive! If someone randomly gave me $100, I’d probably buy balcony furniture (not the highest priority item but the most fun!)

10) Today is the first day of the rest of your life – what will you do differently today?

Well, first of all I would like to say that I now have the Green Day song “Church on Sunday” in my head (it starts with “Today is the first day of the rest of our lives!, okay? YouTube it!).
What would I do differently? The same thing I plan to do differently every day – be positive, enjoy the little moments, greet Jan properly when he comes home (instead of just chucking a “hi” over my shoulder while attempting to cook and do multiple other things all at once), keep on top of stuff throughout the day so I wouldn’t need to be multitasking as Jan walked in the door. Hopefully this will also all actually happen now that I’m not commuting for an hour every day. (I’m not counting this week because I’ve been on holiday which is never the same as normal life).

And now for my questions.

1. What is one thing you’re really good at?
2. What is one of your favourite memories?
3. What was your first pet? (If you’ve never had a pet, what pet would have liked to have?)
4. What’s the weirdest search term that’s ever found your blog?
5. How did you come up with your blog’s name?
6. Which is your favourite blog post you’ve written? And which is your least favourite?
6. Who is your favourite singer/band?
7. Where do you want to travel to next?
8. What was your favourite book as a child?
9. What is your favourite flower?
10. If you could have any name other than your actual one, what would you choose?

That’s it! Sorry I’m so boring 😉 And now I nominate:

Kaelene from Unlocking Kiki
Diana from Life in German
Briony from Fear of the Reaper
Allane from Packing my Suitcase

Have fun, guys!

10 Books That Have Affected Me

I was tagged on Facebook to lists ten books that have had an impact on me. Actually, the precise instructions on Facebook were: don’t take more than a few minutes or think too hard. They don’t have to be the “right books” or great works of literature, just those that have affected you in some way. Of course, I dutifully listed my books on Facebook. But before that, Angelle had also been tagged for the challenge (except in her version it was 15 books) and chosen to make a blog post of it, complete with explanations. I loved the idea so much that, when I too was tagged, I knew I was going to have to copy Angelle and write my own blog post. Except with ten books, because that’s how many were in my tag…

Here are my ten books (and it was very hard to narrow it down to only ten!). I’m linking the Wikipedia pages for those that have one.

  1. When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson
    I’ve written about this book before, here. I first read this story about a lonely little girl named Anna in primary school, and although I had quite a few friends then, I’d already started to realise I was different to most people so the story really resonated with me. It stuck with me all the way into adulthood, when I finally bought myself a new copy so that I could read it again, and discovered that I still love it.
  2. January’s Child by Jenny Oldfield
    This book is about a 15-year-old girl who is living with a foster family, until said foster family is told they have to either adopt her or put her back into care. The family decide to keep her brother but send her back, whereupon she decides to go on the run until her 16th birthday, when she’ll be able to do as she likes. The story is about everything that happens to her during that year and is utterly heart-breaking. I first read it when I was about 14 and have read it at least once a year since then… and it still makes me cry every time.
  3. A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond
    I loved Paddington as a child… absolutely loved him! Obviously Winne the Pooh was also a huge part of my childhood, but I think Paddington was my favourite bear. I mean, he his bacon in his briefcase in case he got peckish. How hilarious is that? I recently bought A Bear Called Paddington (no idea what happened to my original copy) so Jan and I could take turns reading it aloud to each other. I’m pleased to report that Jan now loves Paddington too!
  4. The Chalet School series by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer
    These are perhaps not the best written books in the world, and if you tried to read them for the first time as an adult I’m sure you’d quickly get bored and give up in disgust, but this series accompanied me through my childhood from the time I first discovered a few that used to belong to one of my aunts at my grandma’s house. I had finished all the Mallory Towers books, and these new (to me) boarding school books came along at just the right time. I then obsessively got them out of the library one by one until they had no more for me to read. These books are 100% of the reason I wanted to live in Austria… of that’s not having an impact on my life I don’t know what is!
  5. So Much to Tell You by John Marsden
    If you clicked on the link under When Marnie Was There you’ll have seen that I wrote about this book in that post as well. I picked this one up in a charity shop when I was 13 and immediately fell in love with it, despite the fact that it was the first book since Black Beauty that had made me cry real tears. I’ve read it many times since then, but I’ve never forgotten the feeling I had that first time (and yes I still cry every time I read it. I’m sensing a theme here… also, note to The Fault in Our Stars. This is what a sad book looks like for me!)
  6. Reise im August by Gudrun Pausewang (English title: The Final Journey)
    This one is also reviewed in the blog post linked above. This is a children’s book, but I read it as an adult when I did a course about Naziism in children’s literature during my year  abroad. The journey that main character Alice is sent on is to Ausschwitz (not really a spoiler, that much becomes clear about 3 pages into the book), and as you can imagine it’s a powerful and devastating story. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to be affected by this book!
  7. Brother in the Land by Robert Swindells
    I read this book in English class at secondary school and later bought a copy of my own so I could read it again. This is a distopian children’s novel set England at a time after a nucelar attack. The majority of the adults were killed in the attack or disappeared afterwards, leaving the children to fend for themselves. I think you can understand why this book affected me! Also, towards the end of the book, something happens that makes me cry, even though I know it’s coming.
  8. P.S: I Love You by Cecelia Ahern
    I don’t think I need to explain this story.. surely everyone knows it by now? (The film is nowhere near as good, by the way!). What can I say… I’m as soppy as the next girl and the idea of a dying man writing a letter to his wife for every single month of the year following his death makes me feel both happy (because of the romance) and very, very sad (because he’s obviously dead and doesn’t even get to see the results of his actions). Also, it’s a cancer story and cancer stories are always sad.
  9. Night Watch by Terry Pratchett
    I could have listed a number of other Pratchett books here, but there’s something about the glimpse into the life of Sam Vimes as a young man and the insights into the bonds between some of the older characters in the Ankh Morpork/City Watch books (Vimes, Fred Colon, Lord Vetinary, Nobby Nobs, Reg Shoe) that just somehow gets me. I mean the lilac guys. And the spoon! “How do they rise up, rise up, rise up?
  10. Haunting by James Herbert
    This was the first “adult” horror book I read (after devouring the Point Horror books all through my teens). I stole it from my mum’s bookshelf, read the whole thing in a single sitting then had nightmares for about the next four nights. I was only about 12 and I found it terrifying, but also amazing. I’ve been a fan of James Herbert ever since (and was genuninely sad to hear of his death last year at the age of 69).

So, that’s my ten. Books that narrowly avoided making the cut included the Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Cleary, Clocks by Agatha Christie (the first “adult” book I was given permission to read), Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (the first book I can remember making me cry) and Summer Sisters by Judy Blume (I think her only adult novel, and another book that made me cry… told you there was theme!). I’m not going to tag anybody here (I already did that on Facebook), but if you would like to join in I would love to see how your version compares to mine… and maybe get ideas for a few more books to read 🙂 Also, I apologise for my overuse of both exclamation marks and brackets in this post. It just seemed appropriate…

35 before 35: Item exchange

I have decided to exchange the “Vist Ukraine” item on my 35 before 35 list. While I do still want to go there, I’m thinking it may not be the best idea right now! And since I don’t know if/when the situation will improve, I’m removing it from the list as a precaution.

I wanted to replace the item with one that is at least vaguely similar, so as of now the first item on my 35 before 35 list will be “Visit Belfast and see whether I recognise anything”. For those who don’t know, I lived in a place caled Holywood close to Belfast for two years as a child (dad/step-dad were posted there with the army) and we used to visit Belfast for things like shopping. We left when I was 7, so it would be interesting to see whether I recognise anything. (I’m ptetty sure I would recognise things on my actual estate, but as it’s an army barracks I wouldn’t actually be allowed in! So Belfast is the best I can do).

To see all the items on my 35 before 35 list (including what I’ve already completed), click here.

My Life in Books

I saw this over at Land of Candy Canes and couldn’t resist stealing it. So today I am answering a few questions related to books. I’m not going to tag anybody specific, but if anybody would like to join in please do – I would leave to read your answers!

Lovely, lovely books!
Lovely, lovely books!

1. What is the first book you remember reading?

I have a very vague memory of some book with Spot the Dog with flaps to lift, but I’m not sure whether I could actually read at that stage or was just turning pages. The first book I really, truly remember reading all the words in is The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. I wish I knew what had happened to that book… I loved it!

2. What books make up your childhood?

Basically any book by Enid Blyton, as well as all Roald Dahl books. I remember reading the Narnia series over and over as well (I was convinced Narnia was real and I just needed to find a way to get there). I also loved the Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Clearly – I first started reading those because the author had the same name as me, then I got hooked. Later I was obsessed with The Babysitter’s Club  books and at around the age of 9 or 10 I got started on Point Horror (which is probably what led to my love of Stephen King and James Herbert!). Then there were all the individual books: Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (aka the first book that ever made me cry), When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson (I loved this one so much I bought a new copy a few years ago so I could read it again), A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond, I Am David by Ann Holm, just to name a few. But even back then you could have placed any book in my hands and I would have devoured it.

3. What’s the first series you devoured?

I’m going to guess the Secret Seven books by Enid Blyton. When we lived in Northern Ireland, I tried to set up my own Secret Seven club! I would have been about six years old then. I was probably reading other Enid Blyton series, including The Famous Five and Mallory Towers, at the same time though, so it’s hard to say which one I got into first.

4. What books have you or could you read over and over again?

If I like a book, I will almost always read it more than once. I have to re-read books because I keep running out and I have neither the space nor the money to be constantly buying new ones! But here are some that I’ve read more times than I can count: The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graeme (when I was younger – it’s still in England so it’s been a while since I’ve read it), Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer (it went missing during one of our moves though. I really need to buy that one again because it’s still along my favourite books ever), several of Terry Pratchett’s books including Witches Abroad and Mort, Chocolat by Joanne Harris, The Orchard on Fire by Shena Mackay and Brother in the Land by Robert Swindells, despite the fact that it makes me cry every time!

5. What books take you back to a certain time in your life and why?

All Agatha Christie books remind me of being ten years old. I’d run out of my own books and was bored, so my mum gave me the few Agatha Christie books she had, figuring they were tame enough for me to read. I was so proud of being allowed to read adult books!

6. What book changed your life, or could at least change someone elses?

Not a single book, but a series. I’ve been obsessed with Austria ever since I discovered the Chalet School books by Elinor M. Brent Dyer when I was about ten. They’re about 90% of the reason I lived in Austria for a year after graduation. I’m not exactly sure whether that’s what was meant with the question, but I certainly don’t think I would have lived in Austria if I hadn’t read these books.

7. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, which would it be?

No, no, no, no, no! I refuse to even contemplate this. One book! That’s like a nightmare scenario to me. *Shudders*

Those of you who are interested can read Katrin’s answers here. And if you decide to join in, please do let me know!

Summer 2014 Reading Challenge

**Apologies for the two posts in one day thing. I didn’t know about this when I wrote the first one, and I really want to join in with this challenge**

As you may know (or some newer readers may not), I love to read. As a child, my mum would take us to the library every weekend to pick up books and I would have ready my pile before the day was out. Yes, I was that child who would rather be indoors reading that out with my friends (although I was still outside a lot because if the weather was even vaguely nicer, my mother would hound us out of the house. I was always allowed to read for a bit before going to sleep though, so I still got my book fix). So, when I read on Amanda’s blog, Rhyme and Ribbons, that she plans to take part in a reading challenge organised by another blogger this summer, I immediately wanted to join in too. Because all the book reading I’ve got going on for my 35 before 35 list clearly isn’t enough…

The challenge runs from 1 May 2014 until 31 August 2014, with only books read during that time being allowed to count. All the books have to be at least 200 pages long and there are 12 categories that need to be fulfilled to complete the challenge.

Here are the categories, and my book choices:

5 points: Freebie! Read any book that is at least 200 pages long.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, because it’s been on my list for way too long now!

10 points: Read a book that was written before you were born.
Flowers for Algernon by David Keyes (published 1966) if I can get it – I’m not finding it on Amazon Germany.  If not, I’ll go with Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin (published 1967).

10 points: Finish reading a book you couldn’t finish the first time around. (You must have at least 150 pages left in the book.)
The 1312 Lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers. Jan and I started reading this book years ago but we never actually managed to finish. Time to try again! (The first one that came to mind was The Silmarillion, but I’m convinced it’s not even possible to finish that book!).

10 points: Read a book from the children’s section of a library or bookstore.
I read children’s books allll the time, well young adult literature anyway, which I assume is in the children’s section at the library? But here’s one from my Amazon wishlist: The Mysterious Woods of Whistle Root by Christopher Pennell. It claims to have 224 pages and be for ages 9-12, so it’s perfect for the challenge.

15 points: Read a book that is on The New York Times’ Best Sellers List.
Little Girl Lost by Brian McGilloway. I like a good crime novel and having lived in Northern Ireland as a child, I’m intrigued by the idea of a book that’s set there. (I just hope it will actually have 200 pages seeing as it doesn’t even seem to be available on Amazon Germany yet…)

15 points: Read a historical fiction book that does not take place in Europe.
Hmm, I’ll have to find one first!

 15 points: Read a book another blogger has read for the challenge. (That means you have to wait till the first check in in June to see what other people have read already.)
Ooh, I’m excited to see what others recommend!

20 points: Read a book with “son(s),” “daughter(s),” or “child(ren)” in the title.
The Murderer’s Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers has been on my list for ages! Perfect opportunity to finally read it.

 20 points: Read a book that will be/was adapted into a film in 2014.
Errm, I’m hopeless with films so first I’ll have to discover what’s even coming up this year!

25 points: Read a book by a blogger.
I can’t think of any! Suggestions?

 25 points: Read a biography, autobiography or memoir.
Captain James Cook by Richard Hough. And it’s non-fiction so I get to count it towards my 35 before 35, too!

30 points: Read a pair of books with antonyms in the title.
Oooh, this is hard! I’ll let you know when I think of something…

The challenge is being hosted by Megan at Semi-Charmed Kind of Life. I know it’s 1 May is tomorrow  (I only found out about this today!), but I’m sure there’s still time for you to join in if you’re quick! You can also follow along on Twitter via the hashtag #SCSBC14.

Throwback Thursday

While I was in England I actually managed to make some headway on clearing out my old bedroom at my dad’s and in the process I found some old photos, so I thought I would completely embarrass myself and share a few of them with you. Apologies if the quality isn’t the best, I had to take photos of photos again.

Little baby Bev
Little baby Bev

This is one of the very few photos of little me where I was actually (sort of) smiling. There’s writing on the back of it: “Hello there. Looks like mam’s bringing me food?”. Apparantly somebody (presumably my mother?) is trying to imply I was only happy when I was getting fed! Also, what the hell colour paint is that on the wall?! The army has a lot to answer for, I’m telling you! (They’re also responsible for the awful brown carpet… although the “lovely” sofa was entirely my parents’ doing. What can I say… it was the 80s!).

Me aged 2 and  a half with my baby sister
Me aged 2 and a half with my baby sister

It seems I wasn’t too impressed at having to hold my little sister! Not sure who I’m giving the evil eye to here… (Usually I don’t post photos of other people, but in this one my sister is a baby! I’d love to see someone pick her out of a lineup based on this!).

First time in snow (probably)
First time in snow (probably)

Check out my fabulous snowsuit! I actually remember it because my mum kept it til I was about 10, but I don’t remember ever wearing it. The photographic evidence says I did though.

There you are. I hope you enjoyed your glimpse into my babyhood. Maybe one day I’ll share more…

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!
Photo: Wikipedia

Today is Halloween, the day of hosts and ghouls and things that go bump in the night! One of my favourite things to do on Halloween (or actually on any given dark night) as a child was to tell scary stories, so, this Halloween, I thought I would share my favoruite childhood scary story with you…

Heavy Breathing

It was Friday night and Jessie was babysitting for her a family down the street neighbour. The baby hadn’t stirred all night and she’d been watching TV, but now she was starting to get bored. She was considering going to make a Midnight snack when the phone rang. Thinking it was probably the neighbours checking up on her, she answered.

“Hello?”. The person on the other end didn’t reply. All Jessie heard was heavy breathing. She decided it must be her brother trying to scare her and slammed down the phone. A few minutes later, the phone range again.
“Hello?”
*Heavy breathing*
“Gary, I know that’s you!”
*Heavy breathing*
“Stop it, you’re scaring me now!”
*Heavy breathing*

No longer so sure it was her brother, Jessie hung up and called the operator (people still did that in those days).
“Hi, I’m sitting for my neighbour’s baby and somebody keeps phoning me but not saying anything. Could you trace the call please?”
“Of course, just give me the phone number and we’ll get back to you as soon as we know more.”

Feeling better now that something was being done, Jessie hung up and headed to the kitchen to finally get her snack. Just as she’d finished making a sandwich, the phone range again. Oh good, the operator! she thought and hurried to answer the phone. More heavy breathing. This time, Jessie hung up straight away. Immediately, the phone rang again. Fearfully, Jessie answered
“Huh.. hello?”.
“Hello, this is the operator. We’ve managed to trace the call. You need to get out of the house now. Forget about the baby! The heavy breathing is coming from the phone upstairs!”

* * *

Versions of this story have been doing the rounds for decades – it even has a Wikipedia page! I was about eleven years old when I first heard it and was actually babysitting at the time, together with the friend who told me the story. Just after she’d finished telling it, the phone rang and we both jumped a mile! It turned out to be my mother, checking up on us…

Happy Halloween! What’s your favourite scary story?

My hair through the ages

This post was inspired by Jane at Is That You Darling, who recently shared some of her past hairstyles on her blog. Unfortunately, a lot of my old photos are in England so I can’t go back quite as far as Jane (no baby photos here), but I’ll do my best.

I was born with black hair (as was my sister), but it wasn’t long before it became clear that I was going to be a red head. By the time I got to about 10, I hated my hair colour, mostly because the other kids called me gingernut – even though my hair colour was technically too dark to be properly ginger! My mum always referred to it as “the colour of autumn leaves” because if you looked closely, it had bits of blonde and brown in it, as well as the red.

This first photo was taken when I was about 3 or 4. I do apologise for the quality of the photo (and most of the ones from when I was a kid). I have no scanner, so I had to take photographs of photographs…

B and Cindy

The dog in the photo with me is Cindy. She belonged to my grandma and I was devastated when she died. In this photo she’s probably about 5 years old.

The next photo shows me aged 7. I’m sure on the age this time because that was the age you had to be to join the Brownies! I was so proud of my uniform.

Brownies

Now for a few “special occasion” photos. One was taken at my cousin’s christening in 1991, which would make me seven (it was before my birthday). I’m including it despite my looking less than impressed because it gives you an idea of how different my hair can look depending on the light.  The other picture is from an official family photo session (was anyone else dragged to those every few years?!) – my brother and sister are actually in the photo with me, but I’ve cropped them out seeing as I don’t have their permission to post them all over the Internet. You can see my brother’s arm still, though. Judging by how little my brother is, the photo must have been taken in late 1991 or early 1992, making it less than a year after the other photo and me 8 years old.

In the christening photo, the light makes my hair look almost blonde. The other one shows my actual natural hair colour. See, I told you I was a redhead! Also, note the crimped hair in the second photo. That was the 80s/early 90s for you… the minute there was a special occasion, the crimpers came out!

Once I got older and was given permission to start doing what I wanted with my hair, I started dying it various colours to get rid of the red. Ironically, as I got older, my hair’s natural redness began to fade to a more brownish colour, at which point I started dying it shades of red that are much more intense than my natural colour ever was. In between, I’ve experimented with plums, browns and even blue (it went green… not exactly the look I was aiming for!). Meanwhile, my natural is still red, but you can only tell in the right light, so most people assume I’m naturally a boring mousy-brown. Here’s a photo that was taken after my hair started to darken:

Shirl

I’m not certain of my exact age in the above photo, but I can’t have been older than about 11 because the woman in the photo with me is my step mum and she died only a few months after I turned 12. Look how thick my hair is! That was the reason my mum went and got it cut really short at some point. I then moved to a new school at 13 and spent months being asked “Oi, are you meant to be a boy or a girl?” Needless to say, I soon grew my hair out and have never dared go any shorter than chin-length since! I can’t show you any photos of the short hair phase because (thankfully) I don’t have any here…

How about some more recent photos?

Both of the above photos show my natural hair colour at roughly the same time. The difference is, one was taken outdoors with the sun shining on it and the other is indoors away from the light. Notice how one looks plain brown while on the other one the ends at least seem to have a hint of red?

Above are some more of the various colours and styles that have graced my hair over the years, from left to right:
1. Dressed up as a goth, aged 17, for a sixth form Halloween social. The black dye was temporary.
2. Me at uni in 2003 after an attempt to lighten my hair (I later did it again and ended up an orangey-blonde colour)
3. Year abroad, either the end of 2003 or the beginning of 2004. Natural colour and far too long! I acheived those waves by putting my hair in two plaits over night.
4. Year abroad, June or July 2004. By this time I’d had my hair cut and dyed it dark red.
5. Austria, December 2005. Back to my natural colour. I’m including this because I cut my hair myself! And yes, it’s a selfy!
6. A different shade of red, 2012

And finally, the most recent photo I have of myself. This one was taken at the Weinfest on Saturday. Considering I still had toothache here, it’s actually not a bad photo 😉 (This time it’s my friend who’s cropped off, not a sibling).

2013

Phew… I think that’s more photos of me than I’ve posted on my entire blog until now! I do hope no dodgy people are going to track me down because of it…

Friday letter(s): Older

As you all know, my 30th birthday was on Tuesday, which means I’ve now been older than my step mum for a whole three days. Well, technically I’ve been older than her for a while – she died just over a month after her 29th birthday – but that’s something about the number changing that makes it seem more official. So I’m dedicating this week’s Friday letter to my step mum. I apologise now for any abundance of emotion, and also for the length.

Broken heart
Photo credit: johnkoetsier

Dear Shirley,

It’s weird to think that I’ve now reached an age that you never did. For all these years, I’ve thought of you as the adult and me as the child. And now I’m 30! I wonder what you would think of me now? I was 12 the last time I saw you. You didn’t see me though… you were in hospital and although you’d woken up that morning, by the time we came to see you in the afternoon, you were sleeping again. It was the 23rd of December, and the next day my mum was picking us up to take us home. The plan was to come to the hospital before making the drive back down South, and my last words to you were something like “See you tomorrow”.  I never saw you again. At 1 a.m., you stopped breathing and quietly slipped away. Christmas Eve – your favourite time of year. I still can’t remember if I told you I loved you before leaving the hospital that day, but I hope you knew.

We didn’t always get along. Of course we didn’t! I was an argumentative child and you could be incredibly stubborn. But I never once resented your marrying my dad. You made it perfectly clear from the start that you weren’t there to take my mam’s place – to this day, I remember you saying “You’ve already got a mum. I’m always here if you need me, but your mum is mum. I’m Shirley.” So instead, my sister and I would make you mother’s day cards labelled “To the world’s best step mum”, and in my eyes you really were. You were always interested in what we were doing at school, you listened to me recite my times tables for hours (although I’m sure it must have bored you senseless!), and whenever we came to stay, you were perfectly happy to bake and do crafts with us – no matter how much glitter we got on the dining room carpet! It’s true, you were not our mum, but there was a time when you were more of a mum to us than our real mother was. I  wondered why somebody so great did have kids of their own, but you always told us my sister and I were enough… and I’m sure that was true. But It wasn’t until later that I discovered breast cancer ran in your family and now I believe part of the reason was that you didn’t want to leave your children without a mother. Losing you broke mine and my sister’s hearts as well, but like you always said, we at least still had a mum.

After I moved to my dad’s at 13 (just over a year after you passed away), I would have loved to speak to you on many occasions. I love my mam, but 360 miles is a long way, and back then phone calls were expensive. I love my dad, too, but as a teenage girl, there were some things I just didn’t want to discuss with him. Since then, there have been many occasions that I wished you could have been around for. My 18th and 21st birthday parties, the day I graduated and, more recently, when I became a godmother. I always wondered what you would think if you could see me in whatever situation I was in … finally becoming a legal adult, getting a degree, moving abroad, being chosen as a godmother. Not being religious, I have trouble believing in a “heaven”, but if you can somehow see me now, I hope I make you proud.

You’ve been gone for more than half my life now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t remember you. I still think of you often. You may not be here, but I still love you with all my heart, and always will.
Love from your now-older-than-you step-daughter

Beverley