A friend recently spoke to me about a wedding present dilemma.  She was going to a wedding blessing (the couple having been married abroad shortly before) of the daughter of a school friend, so not someone she knew well.  She was going to the blessing and “light buffet” with a couple, also school friends of the bride’s mother.  The bride and groom, as they lived abroad, hadn’t wanted gifts, knowing it would be hard to get them home, so had asked for money.  My friend didn’t know how much to give and felt uncomfortable that the friends she was going with had suggested they mirror amounts per person, which was a suggestion of £5 each.  In the end, my friend gave £15.

I thought that was a tricky scenario as the bride wasn’t someone particularly known to the guest, and as it was a low budget event, the bride and groom had been able to invite people I suspect they wouldn’t have invited to their wedding, namely a fair few friends of the bride and groom’s parents.  So what do you give?

I don’t like giving money or vouchers as it seems crude, like leaving the price label on a gift.  But I can see that for some couples, that really is all they need as they have fully kitted-out homes and a nice chunk of money could go towards all manner of things, from the honeymoon to DIY or a new car.  Weddings are expensive and the couple pay a lot to have you at their wedding, it just sits a bit uncomfortably with me that by giving money, you sort of end up paying for your invite.  In Japan, however, guests put crisp new notes into a special envelope as the wedding gift (new notes to signify new beginnings and an odd number, often 30,000 yen, which cannot evenly be split, emphasising their union).  This money traditionally goes toward paying for the wedding.  The couple then usually give their guests a gift each, sometimes even chosen by the guest who may have been given a gift list to choose a gift from before the wedding!  But that is a tradition that we don’t have in the UK.

I chatted to another friend about wedding presents and we easily agreed that if a good friend got married and had a wedding list, we’d probably buy a present on the list and an additional gift off-list, something more personal to reflect your relationship with the one or both of the couple.  Neither of us felt comfortable about giving cash, though a compromise could be part cash and part present.  But if the couple want or need cash or, say, holiday vouchers, it’s their wedding, right, and you’re going to spend money on a present anyway so why not give them what they can and will use?

However, the main reason I like to give a present is that I love the idea that the couple will remember that the big blue vase they love so much is from me and that seeing it in use reminds them of me and of their wedding.  That sounds incredibly naff, having written it down, but I do think that.  I am also a sucker for wedding thank you cards whereby the newlyweds thank you for joining them on their happy day and for [present], which was first used when [present-usage scenario].

I also like the idea of couples who have everything being given experience presents.  Three of us did that for a friend’s wedding, knowing where they were going on their honeymoon, and we were all really happy to get a wedding thank you card in the form of a postcard from each of the sites of the two travel gifts we’d given them.

There are lots of other wedding present dilemmas, particularly if you pay a lot to travel to or stay at the location of the wedding, which is a shame, but despite any moans I’ve ever uttered about such things, it’s always worked out well and I have thoroughly enjoyed every wedding I’ve ever had the privilege to attend.


Like so many others, I was glued to the TV for my annual dose of dreadful music, infuriating voting politics and whacky outfits.  What’s not to love about Eurovision?  And for those I saw on Facebook announcing they were poised to turn over, it being that awful, I bet you at least watched all the singing!

Last night I watched it with two friends.  It is impossible to watch without participating so it was a night of shouting at the TV, gazing in open-mouthed wonder and feeling slightly naughty for laughing at Graham Norton’s at times marginally un-PC commentary (I think he’s done a good job of filling Sir Terry’s popular shoes).

Possibly the most memorable entry for me from the 2012 Eurovision final was Turkey and the bat pirates.  I loved (an open-mouthed moment) the boat with the straining body of the figure head emerging from the rubbery bat wings.  Priceless.  I was in another room for one of the early entries, possibly Albania, but I could hear wailing; that was awful.  The Hump put on a good performance, but it was a pretty awful song and it was missing two key elements, of which at least one must be in abundance: novelty (think Russia) and a tight, revealing outfit adorning a lovely.  This is where the likes of Cyprus gained extra points, enhanced by a wind machine.

My favourite was Germany (no novelty and no crotch enhancing attire, hence they didn’t do well), though in part that was because I had a small crush on Roman Lob, who it transpires is a mere 21 years old.  I had a few issues with treacherous Jamie Cullum having played a part in writing the song though, where are his loyalties?!

I also rather liked Moldova’s entry.  I am totally in love with the lampshade dresses of the dancing girls (one of the turquoise ones in particular) and their legs-dipped-in-gold tights.  And then they lay on the floor and kicked their legs about, merrily flashing their pants, shortly followed by belly rocking between the legs of the singer.  Truly, I thought that was an excellent entry.  What was with the MC Hammer blacksmith look though?!

As for Jedward, well, you did Ireland proud.  Sort of.  They are two of the bounciest, sweetest people, but, seriously, get over the jumping chest-to-chest thing!  Suitable costumes and hair for Eurovision, I felt.

Oh, it’s so much fun writing about this because it makes me think about it and I have iPlayer open as well so I can refresh my memory.  I suppose I should mention Sweden.  I think she did well because she wasn’t scantily clad (I was fully expecting her excess clothes to be ripped off at some point but, no, it was a serious performance).  It was a proper dance track, though as soon as I heard it I thought it was something else.  However, it was a decent entry and was one of a few that had credibility as a winning song.

But why, oh, why, do I, does anyone, watch Eurovision?!  The votes are beyond infuriating, the people who announce the votes for their respective country usually embarrass themselves and it goes on for far too long.  Yet still I blinking well watch it!  And another thing, did anyone else notice that a lot of the performers looked similar?  I was sure that some were singing for two countries.  And lips, did you notice a lot of large, pale lips?  Oh, I’m about to get into full flow but I’m going to leave it there.  Hurrah for Eurovision and a whole evening’s entertainment!

{20/05/2012}   Birthday blog thank you

     *WARNING: this degenerates into naffness!!!!****  It’s potentially a bit sad to blog about your birthday but as it’ll only happen once over my six-month blogging challenge, I’m going for it!

     I started my birthday in a festering mood, sleep deprived and aching.  I stayed with my mum last night and had my cat with me.  She usually stays at mum’s on her own and sleeps in my bedroom.  With me in “her room”, she stood outside my door and yowled.  And yowled.  So I felt I had to let her in.  She kept me awake what seemed like the whole night.  She pounced on my feet, walked across me, played and, most disastrously, could be heard drinking water … which I realised was the saline I’d poured into sake cups to house my contact lenses in the event of forgetting my case.  She hadn’t got down to the lens, fortunately.  I also developed aches across my chest and arms from the previous day’s kayak rolling clinic!  So I actually felt like I’d aged about 15 years.  So I felt quite sorry for myself!

After a fry up with mum and some issues with fruit netting, I then got to Chris’s, and was again made a fuss of, had a nice chat with a neighbour on the train and felt in fine fetter by the time we got to London Bridge.  I was then quite overwhelmed with the loveliness of everyone who came to my semi surprise lunch.  Thank you to all of you for making it such a lovely afternoon.  And to those who texted, Facebooked, posted cards, sang Happy Birthday and called me.  I really did feel special today and very much like a bit of a birthday princess!

I also realised how useful it is to have a blog in the run-up to your birthday as there was a distinct theme to presents and cards, based on things I’d mention in my blog!!  So there was tea, cake-related things, some quirky and interesting books and kayak themed presents.  I also got my birthday Battenburg cake from my mum and as one friend gave me a (very grown up!) cake stand, I now have my birthday cake taking pride of place on the stand, though I have mauled the iced age numbers as there is a slight degree of denial that I am ploughing through my 30s at a rate I just can’t quite comprehend!

Totally pointless blog in terms of general interest, but I really was overwhelmed with lovely birthday cheer and vibes today and it’s lovely to be reminded that you have wonderful friends.  I also really appreciate Facebook messages from people you wouldn’t otherwise hear from on your birthday.  It’s all lovely!  And a big thank you to Chris for organising today, rather him than me!   I think I may actually be gushing so I’m going to curtail this!  Thank you to everyone who contacted me in any way today because it was my birthday; my sleep deprived, achy self would’ve moped for the rest of the day otherwise!

{17/05/2012}   Celebrating birthdays

It is my birthday in a matter of days.  While this does not fill me with dread, it does make me feel a little nervous, like when you were young and went to school with a new haircut; you know your friends are going to say something and you kind of want them to but don’t because you don’t want to be the centre of attention.

This year, and a few previous years, Chris has organised something for me.  This is good, though a surprise is like going into class at school and everyone noticing you’ve had your hair cut without your realising it’s been cut!  It’s ok once the dust has settled!

To be completely honest, the best things about birthdays is when friends you’re not in touch with that often write you a card, ideally accompanied by a letter, and/or text or email and contact is made.  I am also always touched by the effort good friends go to when it comes to presents or meeting up plans.  Of course I love presents, and the older you get the more thoughtful and appropriate presents seem to be, but in an ideal world – well, a semi-ideal world as opening presents is fun – I would love to see each good friend for some quality one-to-one catch up time.  The older I get, the more I appreciate my and friends’ time and time is indeed a special gift.

As for sociable birthdays, it’s lovely to see a group of friends and to be made to feel special.  It’s unusual for me to go out with groups of friends and I always get a bit of a kick out of seeing friends who don’t know each other getting on well.  But, oh, how hideous when you have a big group and you realise that either no one is talking , small groups are talking and some people are looking left out or, what I have been known to do, my becoming a blatherer, holding court!  Dreadful!

Another cool thing about birthdays is that there is usually a social/going out element to the celebration of your making it to another year and these are usually memorable.  I have had a complete surprise dinner with a load of friends, a treasure hunt, a long weekend away with a group of really good friends, dinner for two at NoPi, favourite places revisited with my mum, drunken parties, karaoke, Ethiopian food (that nearly lost me my tastebuds!) in San Francisco, friends round for Eurovision and themed food and drinks, a retro party … and there emerges the key theme: being with people you have chosen to be with, who you want to spend your precious time with.  Roll on Sunday and my surprise-but-not-really birthday party!  Oh, and how could I forget:  CAKE!  The cake completeth the birthday!  I hope my mum doesn’t think I won’t want my annual Battenberg cake anymore!

{08/04/2012}   Easter Sunday

I am not religious and I do not celebrate Easter but I do at least like to understand and keep up a few traditions.  I’m not even referring to chocolate, it’s the pussy willow tapping that I’m interested in!
My fact for the day is how the date of Easter Sunday is determined.  Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the first full moon following the northern hemisphere’s vernal equinox (this occurs twice a year around 20th March and 22nd September and is when the centre of the sun is in the same plane as the equator, when night and day are approximately the same length).  For Easter purposes in Christian countries it’s taken as 21st March, thus Easter Sunday is between 22nd March and 25th April.
Easter eggs nowadays stand for new life but they actually symbolise the empty tomb of Christ.  Easter Sunday marks the resurrection of Jesus, the foundation of the Christian faith as per the New Testament.
In England, apparently we eat ham on Sunday and tap people with pussy willow branches to bring good luck.  I can see there could be some misunderstandings; I wouldn’t be hugely impressed if a stranger came up to me and hit me with a stick!  There is also a game called Lifting and Heaving that we play.  This is to fill time on Easter Monday and Tuesday.  On Easter Monday, tradition has it that young men would carry a chair decorated with flowers from village to village and any female could sit in the chair and be lifted three times to bring her good luck.  She would thank the men with money and a kiss.  I am not entirely surprised this tradition seems to have died out, though it could make for some fantastic YouTube clips.  Oh, and on Tuesday, the women do the same to the men!
The Scottish (apparently) follow a pagan era tradition of lighting fires for spring festivals.  I like the idea of spring festivals.  But where I live it’s pissing with rain so I’m not sure what a plan b would be.  It’s April showers!
Ireland does a lot for Easter if my minimal research is accurate.  Today, there should be lots of dancing in the streets and dance offs for the prize of cake!  Excellent, I like that idea.  Apparently a lot of eggs, real eggs, are eaten, often dyed and decorated.
As for the chocolate egg tradition, I have been hugely put off this tradition in recent years because of the stinginess of chocolate egg makers (the mass produced kind at least) and that the eggs are on sale for a ludicrously long time before Easter Sunday.  But I’m not going to rant about excess, over indulgence and packaging.  It is the French and Germans who started the chocolate egg Easter in the 19th century.  In England, Cadbury made the first mass produced Easter eggs in 1873.  I bet they had more chocolate in/on their eggs in those days.
As for my Easter Sunday, it will be with two friends and we will be embracing the feasting element of Easter (not that I think any of us gave up anything for Lent so as to justify Easter Sunday excess!).  This may not be a faith-inspired Easter Sunday but it will be one about friends, sharing and good quality Kentish roast lamb.  And a nice Rioja (thank you Fiona, of kitchen and cellar, for that recommendation!).

{01/01/2012}   Day Two

Saturday, 31st December 2011

Today is New Year’s Eve. I am feeling oddly optmimistic. My friend Rachael and I met in Whitstable for our second annual New Year’s Eve lunch and walk there. We wrote our resolutions and I re-read mine from last year. I managed 6.5 out of 24. I was disappointed. We were sitting in JoJo’s in Tankerton. I looked around and concluded that I really, really want my own cafe. I think being busy and in an environment I love would be fantastic. So 2012 is going to be the year I take a huge risk and somehow get the funds for a cafe. Please, please let me do it.

I feel a need for some profound thoughts. I am 36 years old. Many years ago, I would have expected my 36 year old self to be married with children, a nice house and to have had a good job, because that’s what I grew up thinking you were supposed to do. As it happens I am single, living in my 20th rented flat over 18 years with my cat, I have an unconventional job that I never planned or thought of doing, I have no intention of having children and I am a little bit unsettled.

But, I surprise myself here, life isn’t too bad. I just need to focus a bit and get on with doing what I want to be doing. It’s just a shame I feel that the key to my work and lifestyle issues is money and the getting of enough to set up a cafe. I have no savings and there is a horrid recession on. Oh well!

Today, 500 words isn’t so easy. But I surprise myself that I will succeed with day two.

I am quite impressed with myself because today, this evening in fact, I cleaned large swathes of my kitchen, including a full-on hob clean. It took ages but I feel extraordinarily pleased with myself. I always do a big clean for the new year, but never as late as New Year’s Eve evening. Rock and Roll, eh?!

Do you see what’s happening here? I don’t have writing focus so I am waffling on. I know the purpose of this daily writing is to get me writing a book length blog and to get into the habit of writing every day, but, really, can I get away with this much blathering?!

Tomorrow I am expecting to have a hangover. If I don’t – I am also planning to drink lots of water and eat loads – I would like to go to Dungeness. I am in my flat with Chris. He and I have an unconventional friendship. We are both going to do some writing tonight. This really isn’t how I usually, in fact ever, spend New Year’s Eve (do I need to write that with capital letters?) but I quite like the tidying/cleaning, writing, not socialising and not spending a fortune going out thing. I have bought the most expensive bubbly I’ve ever bought, £35 Pol Roger. Apparently it was Churchill’s favourite tipple and my dad liked Churchill and my dad died almost 13 years ago. Sorry, dad, that was a blatant excuse for buying an expensive bottle of fizz!

So here’s a toast to absent loved ones, family and friends. Have a fantastic year in 2012, may it be a bloody good one! Cheers.

et cetera