Getting older, not wiser

Most of us aren’t keen on getting old. You start having to wear cardigans in the summer, and eating sweets that taste like medicine, and being tutted at by 15-year-olds for not leaping upstairs like a youthful gazelle.

You also have to abandon all hope of having any idea how to use new technology, if my nan’s attempts to work a DVD player are anything to go by. And I recently had a frightening glimpse of this scary world we all face, if we’re lucky.

Unlike most people (especially @helenwrites, who once made me celebrate midnight on New Year’s Eve continuously for an hour so she could get the perfect picture), I’m not that bothered about taking photos. I prefer to enjoy a moment in the moment then use my brain to remember it. Plus I hang out with @helenwrites an awful lot, so I can always rely on her for pictures of me singing Auld Lang Syne through gritted teeth at 12.45am when I need them. 

But when I was told by a friend’s bridesmaid recently that we all had to bring a photograph of us with the bride to her hen do, I was stumped. I wasn’t worried about finding one – @helenwrites had about 5,000 on Facebook.

But I had no idea how to get it from the screen into my hand. I couldn’t even explain what I wanted to do. ‘I want to turn that into that,’ I told the girls at work, stabbing my finger frantically at my computer screen then waving a bit of paper. ‘Print it out,’ they said, not unreasonably. ‘No, no, shiny. SHINY,’ I bellowed. This, I realised, is why your nan calls voicemail ‘that nice lady.’ 

I eventually found out they have machines for this kind of thing. I’m not sure what they’re called, but you get them in branches of Boots (and other places, probably. Maybe you’ve all got one at home, who knows?). And luckily, there was one round the corner from work.

So I downloaded my picture onto a USB stick, and skipped to Boots (not literally. I’m not nine). But that’s where the fun ended. Because I was about to find out what it’s like to be cowed by technology.

My first problem came when I was faced with this:

A media insertion thingy

What was it? Why was it looking at me like that? What did it want from me? It looked like it needed feeding, but I wasn’t sure that was the right course of action. I soon found out what it wanted when the screen told me to insert my media, the filthy little slut.

Squinting, I shoved my USB key in, and pictures started uploading onto the screen. I was quite proud of myself. I’d worked it out! Who da man? ME da man! But then things started going very wrong. While trying to expand the screen with two fingers like it was an iPhone (pointless: it wasn’t an iPhone), this happened:

Fatty (small)

A picture I’d taken a couple of years ago to convince me a diet might be a nice idea (less pizza, more lettuce, that sort of thing), popped up on the screen. (I’d like to add a disclaimer here – I’ve lost a stone and a half since this was taken, and no longer look like I’m in my third trimester). 

Boots was busy. I wasn’t keen on people seeing this photo, really. It’s not the kind of thing I like to share (except with you, Twitter. You’re special). So I started poking it with my finger. Unfortunately, that angered it. And this happened:

Fatty (not so small)

The picture now took up the whole screen. And I had no idea how to get rid of it. (Incidentally, while taking the pictures for this blog, the exact same thing happened. I’m that stupid). Luckily, pressing ALL THE BUTTONS IN THE WORLD in a desperate attempt to make it go away worked eventually.

And it only took another half hour or so of swearing, sweating, kicking stuff and crying to print off a grainy, low-res picture of me and my friend. The upside was that it only cost me £70.15p (I was so fucked off by the whole experience that I went straight out and spunked £70 on these to cheer me up):

Nice, huh?

The point of all this is that this is how your nan feels when she tries to put a CD on her record player then manages to delete all your apps within five seconds of you showing her your new phone. So next time you see an old person struggling with modern life, don’t tut. Give them a cuddle instead.

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Lessons I have learned (2010)

Ahh, the dawn of a new year. A time of drinking and puking, and laughing at people queuing outside Next for discounted polyester work trousers, and kissing people at midnight (or with bootless cries, beweeping your outcast state), and crap blogs about the previous year. And here’s mine. ‘Hooray!’ I hear you cry. Well I don’t, obviously. No-one is crying, ‘Hooray!’ They’re just crying. But now you know what this is about, you have my permission to leave. Go on – scram.

2010 has been unique for me, in that it represents the aftermath of a year that I sincerely hope will remain unsurpassed in its awfulness. In February 2009, my 34-year-old brother – a sensitive, intelligent and funny dad of three – died very suddenly of pneumonia. Nine months later in November, my boyfriend of eight years, who I assumed was in it for the long haul, ended our relationship. It meant that 2010 was a year of picking up pieces, and of Learning Stuff. Some of it was helpful, some of it less so (I’m not sure how useful it is to have discovered what lettuce looks like after spending six months in the fridge). I still only feel a little bit fixed. But a little bit is better than nothing, and I’m working on it. And here are the lessons I’ve learnt along the way.

Lesson 1: Pessimism is a virtue

By anyone’s standards, 2009 was no walk in the park, for me or my family. But strangely, being a natural-born pessimist helped me to cope. My glass isn’t just half empty – it’s smashed to smithereens on mum’s best rug, and she’s already warned me twice. I’ve had a Cassandra-like feeling my whole life that something terrible was going to happen, and my fear of all forms of peril, no matter how mild (see my earlier blog), stems from this – by being really, really careful, I thought maybe disaster could be averted.

What I didn’t realise then is that my fear of tragedy – and most pessimists’, I imagine – was actually a fear of being unable to cope with the aftermath. It’s the same with death. Few of us, except the crazy, hell-and-brimstone-believing types, worry about actually being dead. It’s the potential of our own fear or pain in the run-up to it, and that of our loved ones afterwards that we worry about.

Behind every imagined car-crash or emergency Heimlich manoeuvre was complete panic that if the worst happened, I’d fall apart. But it turned out that having an over-active, faintly ghoulish, imagination served a purpose. So often had I pictured worst-case scenarios, I almost knew what to expect. It was like a dress rehearsal for pain and, I imagine, meant I coped a lot better than if I’d spent my life walking around with a dopey grin on my face assuming that every time a bell rings a fairy gets its wings.

So now, when I have a low moment, I remind myself that being a natural worrier isn’t all bad. Sometimes, pessimism can be your friend.

Lesson 2: Never underestimate the importance of carpet.

In February 2010, I moved out of the flat I shared with my ex in Crouch End (he got custody of Waitrose, farmers markets and Simon Pegg) and into a new one in Bethnal Green. The flat was shiny and new and full of white walls and glass and laminate flooring. We were within walking distance of Brick Lane. My housemates were a lads’ mag journalist, a stand-up comic and a documentary producer. I mean, how cool does that sound? Really cool, that’s how cool. Unfortunately, I was too busy thinking about my fresh new start, and how awesome I’d look wandering around East London with my fixed-gear bike (I assumed the room came with one), to think about what I actually needed. Which was a cosy home full of fluffy carpets and chintzy wallpaper and housemates who wanted to stay indoors and bake. Instead, they spent much of 2010 whizzing around London being media-y and having sex, while I sat watching Sky, my lonely tears bouncing off our 80s-chic glass coffee table. I’m much happier now. But next time I have my heart torn out, I’m moving somewhere with shag pile.

Lesson 3: Real life is better than Twitter…

Before you run away crying, I’m in no way disparaging Twitter. Twitter is amazing. But it’s even better if you turn it into a 3D past-time. In 2009, I spent my first single New Year’s Eve for eight years at home spying on two Tweeters simultaneously watching a film together from their separate homes. Caitlin Moran was also doing something or other, but I can’t remember what. Since then I’ve met (as in, properly chatted to, not seen across a crowded room at Boring) around 60 people from Twitter, and made some fantastic friends. Okay, so their numbers are saved in my phone as things like ‘Sian Sparkles’ and ‘Suzanne Azzo’, and when you introduce Independent columnist and Scritti Politti musician @rhodri to other people as ‘him off of Twitter’ he looks quite murderous (it’s fun: try it). But that’s by the by.

Lesson 4: …But be careful if you’re dating 

I’ve tried Twitter dating twice this year, partly because I’m very lazy, and like the idea of finding boyfriends while drinking in my living room. But also because Twitter is the ultimate dating site. You can get chatting to people without any agenda at all, and if you seem to have lots in common, you can usually work out if they’re single by looking at their timeline (Does he / she tweet a lot on Friday nights, and after midnight? Have they ever live-Tweeted dinner? Do their #MyView pictures happen to include ‘accidental’ shots of a shapely thigh or muscular arm? Single, single and single). Then you start DM-ing, and it gets all flirty and lovely, and if you’re lucky you end up with a date.

The downsides are very similar to the upsides. My first foray into Twitter dating ended very suddenly after three weeks, when it turned out he wasn’t as keen as I thought he was. I then had to watch him being all happy and flirty on Twitter, while I spent a few weeks going ‘WHY DOESN’T HE LIKE ME? AND WHO’S SHE? AND WHY ISN’T HE CRYING? WHYYYYY?’ I deleted my account about 15 times, only to re-instate it after ten minutes to do some more stalking. Not very healthy, but hard to avoid if you don’t have any other hobbies.

My second attempt to date someone off Twitter ended very recently, mainly because I don’t want kids (do any men not want kids? If you know any, chuck them in my direction, please). It’s hard to avoid running to someone’s house with a peephole bra, some pizza vouchers and a Scrabble box set when a) You both still like each other and b) You’re both on Twitter on a Saturday night going, BOO HOO SOB SNIFF WHY AM I SO ALOOOOONE? So if you’re going to date people on Twitter, proceed with caution. It’s easier to find someone – but it’s harder when you lose them, too.

Lesson 5: The heartbreak diet is awesome

21lbs! In six months! Seriously!

Lesson 6: Things can change in a moment

They can change for the worst. But they can also change for the better. When I was asked on a date by my most recent boyfriend, I really wasn’t expecting it. And I certainly wasn’t expecting us to get on as well as we did. But it’s made the last few months of 2010 better than I ever could have imagined back in February (apart from the whole splitting up bit, obviously, but you can’t have everything). Bad things happening doesn’t mean that more bad things won’t happen – see @taniaglyde’s excellent blog for more on that. But it doesn’t mean that good, unexpected things can’t happen either. For all of you who have had hard 2010s, I wish you everything lovely and shiny and wonderful for 2011.

Here’s to us.

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I’ve found a friend in Jesus

When I was little, me and my brother used to cherish a dusty book from the 60s which was filled with photos of the paranormal. Our favourite section featured sightings of the Blessed Virgin Mary (or BVM, as the book respectfully abbreviated it) – vague blobs that looked a bit like they might have a halo and be wearing a dress if you squinted and tipped your head 90 degrees.

With the book long-lost in my mum and dad’s loft, I have to satisfy myself with those pictures in the papers of crazy people who see heavenly sightings of Jesus in random objects. Usually toast. Like this lady, who has thoughtfully matched her lipstick to her holy relic (this is not a euphemism):

I’m sure these pictures are entirely real. Jesus is hanging out with those lions that Jehovah’s Witnesses insist spend all day licking you when you hit heaven, and he thinks, ‘Eternal bliss is all very well, but fucking hell, those harps are getting on my tits. I might pop down to Earth and have a look. Maybe appear on some toast.’

So imagine my surprise when he started appearing in common or garden – usually easily manipulated – foodstuffs around my home and workplace! Well, he didn’t. But I enjoyed pretending he had. First one to say, ‘That looks more like Bill Bailey’ gets a Chinese burn.

Jesus in some pepper!

Jesus on a fajita wrap!

Jesus in some pencil shavings!

Jesus in some milk!

Jesus in toothpaste!

Jesus in ketchup!

Jesus in eyeliner!

Jesus on a pizza!

Jesus on a coffee mug!

Praise be, indeed.

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Rhythm is a wanker

Think of the most provocative four-word sentence you can utter. You might assume it’s something like, ‘I’ve given you herpes,’ or ‘Slankets are the future!’ But try saying, ‘I don’t like music,’ on a regular basis, and see what happens.

Saying you don’t like music is akin to saying you don’t like breathing, or sex, or a nice cup of tea (I don’t like tea either, actually, but you’ll just have to deal with that one). Asking a person what kind of music they like comes third place after asking where they live and what they do in terms of universal ice-breakers.

Everybody likes music. Everybody has an answer to the question, which will then trigger an enthusiastic conversation, or a punch in the face. So when your answer is, ‘Well, I don’t, really,’ people gape in horror, as if you’ve started lactating through your tear ducts, or answered, ‘I love a bit of Razorlight.’

It’s hard to explain why I don’t like music, especially in 140 characters, which makes Twitter a bit of a hurdle. Everyone on there bloody loves the stuff. Coming out of their ears, it is. So I decided to write this blog. And the next time anyone asks, I can just post a link. I might be an unfeeling, music-hating robot, but at least I’m practical.

Anyway, the main problem I have with music, is that it clings to memories and emotions and just won’t let go. Smell is thought to be the most evocative of our senses – get a sudden blast of your nan’s favourite perfume, and you’ll go all dewy-eyed with memories. Suddenly, you’re 12 again, giddy with excitement because she’s whipped out her Charles and Diana commemorative sweetie tin. Although maybe that’s just me.

And music is, of course, incredibly evocative, too. Just a few bars of a song that’s soaked up some of your past can send twinges of nostalgia scuttling through your heart. But unlike the perfume your nan bought from Woolies in 1943 and eked out until the mid-90s, it’s everywhere. You can’t escape it. You don’t have to go to any effort to find it – it finds you.

And there’s the rub. Although I’ll happily listen to new music, I’m not particularly keen on having memories thrust in my face willy-nilly when I’m in a taxi or a shop or walking past someone’s house. It’s okay when it’s happy songs – although for a glass-half-empty kinda girl like me, these tend to be in the minority. And like most people, I’m all for a good wallow – putting on a playlist of songs that make me sad just for the hell of it when I’m in a reflective mood.

But what if I don’t want to feel sad? What if I’m in a lovely mood, and want to stay that way? Then what if suddenly, the opening notes of Meet Me Halfway by The Black Eyed Peas drift out of a window? Of course, many of you would argue that in this situation, most people’s mood would naturally come crashing to the ground.

But it’s even worse for me, because it drags me back to the moment I broke down in the shower after splitting with my ex. I wasn’t even aware it was playing at the time. But I am now, because every time I hear it, I’m right back there in the shower again, covered in soap and tears. Even now, months later, it’s played bloody everywhere, and I get to relive the moment again and again. Cheers, Fergie.

Other songs I could do without hearing include:

Parklife by Blur. Amazing album. But it was the soundtrack to a job I got as the world’s most gloomy 18-year-old (and there was some stiff competition), in order to buy some cherry-red DMs. I can tell you exactly which bit of the school playing field I was grumpily picking up litter from with my special litter-picky stick for each track of the album (Tracy Jacks was the tennis courts).

When The Going Gets Tough by Boyzone. I fell out with my best friend at a party to this song. If I could’ve picked something more epic and dignified, I would’ve.

An unidentified hip-hop song which features a particular ‘bing bong’ sound that, tragically, sounds a lot like the noise computers make when you hit the wrong key. It was in the charts when I had a job I loathed, and was played in the office on heavy rotation. If my current colleagues made more keystroke mistakes, I would have bludgeoned them to death by now.

All of The Beatles – too depressing to explain here, but you try avoiding every song ever written by them because they make you want to cry, and see how successful you are. It’s a tricky one.

Umbrella by Rhianna. No reason. It’s just shit.

People tell me that the reason I don’t like music is the same reason they love it – it brings back all these memories and they get to go all wistful, and start conversations with, ‘Oooh, remember when…’ And I agree, that’s lovely if you choose to take a trip down memory lane. But I’d like to have some kind of control over it. To be able to decide when I get these shocks of emotion that can darken my mood in a moment (and occasionally, admittedly, lighten it).

But I can’t. It’s everywhere, all the time, and I can’t switch it off. And that, Twitter, is why I don’t like music.

Next week: Why I hate puppies, sweet old ladies and cuddles

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A funny thing happened

A funny thing happened the other night. I was in a club (I don’t do clubs, but I was wearing a skirt, so everything was okay), when the man I was standing next to made a joke. Something about Jesus’s hair – I can’t remember what, but it was well funny. I let out a huge cackle, and it sliced through the background drone of cocktail glasses clinking and women in (lesser) skirts flirting, and everyone looked at me.

Although all of the people I’d been chatting to that night were lovely (even the guy who used the phrase, ‘It was all thanks to my faith. You know, in GOD’), none of them had made me laugh that hard. And suddenly, I was powerless. I was like a Watership Down bunny, or Carrie Ann trapped in the television, staring mesmerised at The Light. I can’t resist a sense of humour. So I started looking at The Man With The Jesus Joke all gooey, until his girlfriend glared at me, then swept him away to play on the quiz machine.

Until recently, I thought every woman in the world was searching for their comedy other half. The man who makes them laugh more than anyone else. When you find that person, that’s it – like ducklings who follow the first thing they lay their eyes on once they’re hatched: that’s it. You’re done.

So I was pole-axed to discover that plenty of women aren’t actually that bothered about a sense of humour in a man. After meeting someone who felt that having similar taste in music was more important than laughing, I expressed my incredulity to a friend. I almost grabbed her, screaming, ‘He could like Lee Evans, but as long as he listens to The xx, she wouldn’t even CARE!’ But my friend just shrugged and said, ‘Yeah, I’m not that bothered either. I just want someone fit who I can talk to.’ Bloody hell.

If I’m being very fussy, my criteria for a man are: ‘funny, kind, intelligent, can catch spiders, no beard.’ I’d add, ‘Must enjoy pizza,’ but that’s ridiculous. Everyone enjoys pizza. And if I strip things right back, funny’s all I need.

Nobody cruel or stupid would be able to make me laugh properly, because while clever and cutting comments might make me go, ‘heh heh,’ they never make me go ‘HAHA!’ I can catch spiders myself if you give me several hours, a baseball bat and a paper bag to hyperventilate into. And I’m sure I could live with a beard at a push, if we had sex with the lights off. For example, I’d happily do Bill Bailey purely on the basis of his song about love anthropomorphising a duck where, ‘Mr Duck’s embarrassed and the other ducks are laughing.’

And when I was in my 20s, finding someone to make me laugh was no problem. All my friends were rushing into the arms of men who knew the bouncers at Basildon’s premiere hot spot, Bas Vegas, or owned a Ford Escort, or wore more than one sovereign ring. I followed behind, happily scooping up all the sweet, nice, weird-faced men who made my stomach hurt – not with desire, but with laughter. (A sense of humour is intrinsically sexy, but properly funny men are rarely that good-looking. Handsome men are usually too busy looking at women’s willingly naked bodies to bother developing much in the way of a sense of humour.)

Take my ex (No, please, take him. Ha!). He was shorter than me when I was wearing heels, and had only ever read one book, and got me a sparkly plastic cup and a novelty icing set from Topshop for our fifth anniversary because it was all he could afford. He’d also only kissed one girl until he met me, despite being marvellous, because women are often too busy ticking imaginary boxes to realise that none of the superficial stuff matters at all – not one tiny bit – when someone can make you spray Diet Coke out of your nose with a joke about a laminating machine.

My ex is now with a girl who’s eight years younger than me, knows a good thing when she sees it, and is adorable (the cow) – although she’s also vegetarian, proving definitively that you can’t have everything. Meanwhile, I’m up against women who spent their 20s chasing unsuitable men – and probably learnt a plethora of exotic sexual techniques that remain a mystery to me along the way – and have finally caught on to the secret of a happy relationship.

All the women who were lied to and cheated on by their bad-boy other halves are suddenly ready to settle down, and after men like my ex. Men who are sweet and funny and kind – qualities that last far longer than a six pack or a chin dimple. Which means there are less of them out there for me. While they’re busy being snapped up by the women they couldn’t hope to get ten years ago, the weird girls who once championed them are now all grown up, and left on the sidelines. It makes me want to shout, ‘Fuck off! I thought of it first!’

I’m the Elisha Gray of the romance world. Bah.

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Eat this, not that

If I could click my heels three times and wish myself anywhere, it would be America. I’ve never been that bothered about travelling (although, as a Sagittarian, I’m supposed to love travel. And socks and pineapples and sunshine and rainbows and unicorns, probably). But if I die before seeing the Statue of Liberty, underneath my expression of eternal bliss (I’m going to heaven, obviously), I’ll be secretly fuming.

The first thing I’ll do when I get to America, is go to Disneyland and give Mickey Mouse a hug and buy a Goofy hat with floppy ears that hang down either side of my face and maybe, if I’m feeling brave, go on the Teacups. And the second thing I’ll do, is head for the nearest supermarket and spend a whole day looking at the food. Not the nice stuff. The junk.

I absolutely adore junk food. I appreciate it the way a wine connoisseur would appreciate a 2009 Chateau Latour Bordeaux (cheers, Google). I harbour a not-so-secret admiration for the wildly imaginative ways Americans find to stuff more calories into food. They are absolute geniuses at it.

You might think that stirring a few chunks of cheese into your baked beans is a bit cheeky. But that’s nothing compared to the ability of the Americans to cram fat and calories and (I assume) awesomely delicious amazingness into their junk food.

I once owned an book called Eat This: Not That (sadly missing from my shelves, although I know there’s no way I threw such a gem away). It featured page after lickable page of American junk foods, suggesting ways of pruning the odd calorie here and there by swapping for healthier alternatives.

Along the way, it listed some of the most fattening foods it’s possible to order from US chain restaurants. These included two foods which, despite a desire to live past 45, I’m aching to try. First, was The Bloomin’ Onion, a speciality of the Outback Steakhouse. A breaded, deep-fried onion with dip, this is a starter that contains 2210 calories and 134 grams of fat. A starter.

Second, was the most calorific entrée in the whole of the US (apparently) – which also comes courtesy of the Outback Steakhouse. Cheese Fries With Ranch Dressing does exactly what it says on the grease-sodden tin – a huge plate of fries smothered in cheese and ranch dressing. And bacon bits, just for good measure, presumably because 2900 calories and 182g of fat is for bloody wimps.

 

I can’t help having deep-rooted respect for that kind of dedication to triggering a cardiac arrest. There are people who are paid to formulate food with the precise combination of sugar, salt and fat to make us addicted to junk food – and the absolute world experts clearly ply their delicious trade in America. (‘This burger has lettuce in it, dammit! What shall we do?’ ‘Don’t panic, Troy. We can always replace it with Super Chee-zee Bacon Flavoured Krispi Bitz’).

The US is home to the Double Down KFC burger (chicken in a bun made of chicken) and the Burger King Pizza Burger (2500 calories that are ‘intended to be shared,’ and which personally, I’d hide under my coat until I’d eaten it all myself). And wonderfully, unlike in the UK, a love of terrible food isn’t something to be treated like a shameful secret.

Recently, food blogger and chef @lukemackaycooks posted on Twitter a video of US legend Paula Deen making deep-fried cheesecake. Watching her chubby little fingers lovingly sprinkle chocolate shavings onto frozen cheesecake, fold it into a wonton wrapper, deep fry it, then ejaculate chocolate sauce all over the resulting mess, was beautiful to look at.

And biting into it, icing sugar coating her frosted fingernails, she looked much happier than anyone has ever looked eating a Legerra (a Pizza Express creation featuring a soggy glory hole filled with salad. Have a Sloppy Giuseppe instead, eat three less biscuits tomorrow, and stop dribbling over my Romana, please).

Despite my abiding love and respect of crap food, I mainly avoid it, due to a wish to fit into knickers that can’t house a small family of refugees. But when I finally find myself landing on the shores of the spiritual home of junk food, I will make my way to the nearest supermarket (hopefully a Piggly Wiggly – I learnt how to do joined-up handwriting by happily writing those two words over and over).

When I get there, I’ll treat it with the hushed respect of a museum, making my way down the aisles, eyes lowered in reverence to make sure I don’t miss anything on the bottom shelves. I’ll stock up on jars of Marshmallow Fluff and Rice A Roni and Hamburger Helper (“Italian Lasagne – just add hamburger!”).

And maybe while I’m there, I’ll buy a moo-moo, too. Just in case.

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Life in the slow lane

Yesterday evening, I was offered a backie by my friend, who has a lovely bike with a bell and a basket. Three thoughts sprung immediately to mind. The first was that it’s not 1985, so why in Christ’s name was I being offered a backie? The second was how extremely disappointing it is that at 32, I’m still being offered lifts by girls with bicycles rather than men with E-type Jags upholstered in Italian calf’s leather. And my third thought was, ‘That’s awfully dangerous. Someone could get hurt. Walking is much safer, and I do hope she’s wearing a helmet.’

So I politely refused (‘Are you fucking joking?’), even though I was wearing the kind of kick-ass (stupid) shoes which meant the ten-minute stroll to The Fitzroy Tavern took half an hour and enough swearing to make passing women cover their children’s ears. Not because I wanted to maintain my dignity and an air of exotic mystery – chance would be a fine thing – but because I was far too scared of hurting myself.

Among my friends, I’m renowned for being massively square (do people still say ‘square’? Probably not. Never mind.) But it’s my dearest wish to be a bit more daring. I’m not even talking bungee-jump daring. Just being able to sit next to someone who’s eating a steak without mentally rehearsing the Heimlich manoeuvre would be lovely.

To the chagrin of both me and Health and Safety inspectors everywhere, a healthy respect for peril is anathema to all things sexy. No one ever got laid by following the Green Cross Code. When I was 17, my best friend rode on the back of a motorbike while chewing cherry-flavoured Hubba Bubba, which she still claims was one of the best moments of her life (even though the owner of the bike was called Wayne, which added an edge of tragedy to the whole experience). When I tried to do the same, I refused the gum on the grounds that it was a choking hazard, and nearly made a death-leap off the back when we hit 40mph.

Unfairly, having an encyclopaedic knowledge of hazards around the home (“In 1998, 37,048 people were hospitalised by slippers!”) isn’t considered especially sexy either. Being told to chew every mouthful and wrap up warm and give three rings when you get there is quite the passion-killer. I used to warn my ex to hold the banister whenever he walked downstairs, which really pissed him off. ‘Careful, it’s steep,’ just isn’t in the same league as, ‘Take me now,’ or ‘How on earth do you walk straight?’ in the pantheons of sexytalk.

But the person who suffers the most is, of course, me. When I found out that laughing while eating is a main cause of choking, I stopped watching Friends with dinner. I absolutely love theme parks, but if I so much as go on a swing too high, I scream my little socks off, so I’m always the one left holding the coats. And if I ever want to go on a boat, I have to spend half an hour beforehand going, ‘But how fast is it? No, but really? I don’t care if you think it’s slow. Are we talking canoe fast? Or catamaran fast? Show me with your hands…’

I’d love to be more daring. But I think it’s time to accept I’m the kind of girl who always waits for the green man.

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