You’re Welcome

I sent a thank you card to one of the restaurants I frequented when I made a solo staycation to Belfast, Northern Ireland.

(God knows what I wrote inside, I can barely remember what I ate for lunch five minutes ago.)

Whatever its contents were, The Northern Whig clearly enjoyed them enough to prop it up on their fancy bar and share it on their Instagram story.

Caption reads: Such a thoughtful thank-you card from @aeb.thewriter

You’re welcome guys, hope to visit again soon. x

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It’s Official: I’m a FULLY Vaxxer!

This is my obligatory public service announcement that I’ve now had my second dose of the Covid-19 vaccination. Whoop! Go me/science/go-away pandemic.

And, because I’m also that kind of person, I used it as an excuse to post a number of letters on the way home. That’s right, I’m so productive!

I spent the vaccination part of my appointment talking to the nurse about my fabulous taste in dresses (best two minutes of any girl’s life) and the fifteen minutes wait time afterwards reading a book. I could have taken a photo of either one of these two activities but it really wasn’t that exciting. Posting letters in a pillar box, that was more exciting.

In short, the process to get both my vaccines was so laid back, it was virtually horizontal. All super friendly people, with big smiles and even bigger bottles of hand sanitiser.

I’m not going to get overly-preachy, but I’d highly encourage anyone to get jabbed (*if it’s something that’s offered to you and something you can medically take).

Still unsure? Browse information published on medically recognised websites, log onto your national health webpages (in the UK, anything endorsed by the NHS), talk to medicine women/men. Don’t listen to idiotic turnips, the ones who own little more in the technical department than a cheap keyboard and have way too much time on their hands to write whacky blogs (oh, wait…)

Anyway, this is my little bit to inform people that yes, I’ve had my second dose of the Covid vaccine and yes, that does mean 14 days from now there’s a heightened risk that I’ll start running around and hugging people for no apparent reason. Also, I may start crying. No reason, I just might.

You have been warned.

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Opinion: Don’t use Covid-19 as an Excuse for “Closure Culture” of the Arts

It’s not often I hop onto my soapbox, least of all on anything bordering on political. That’s not what 99% of you guys came here for, to be quite honest it’s not really what I came here for. However it has now reached a stage where I cannot sit here in good faith and say nothing.

Back in March 2020, at the start of the first UK wide lockdown, all museums and attractions across England were forced to close. This included Swindon Museum and Art Gallery (SMAG), a small site located in the heart of the town’s oldest district. Like all respecting patrons of art and culture institutions up and down the country, I fully supported this government-enforced directive.

On the ending of the first lockdown in Summer 2020, Swindon Borough Council refused to reopen SMAG. While other heritage sites reopened their doors, awash with safety posters and guidance on basic handwashing, the chains around SMAG’s grand entranceway continued to rust with dejection. Now, in August 2021, dejection has slipped into acceptance, the rust into rot. It feels like culture was never here at all.

Throughout the assorted protests and disjointed cries from local residents, the council has strongly defended their decision, stating this move is only intended as a short-term measure. Other rumours speculate Covid being used as a thin veil of scapegoating the closure on underlying problems the council had been failing to redress for years, including low footfall, costly repairs and accessibility issues. This, and the proposed £33,000 per year saving it would make to the local budget, at a time when the council needs to urgently balance the books.

Apsley House, location of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, until it’s closure in March 2020. Photo credit: https://englandrover.com/listing/swindon-museum-and-art-gallery/

For the years I have lived in Swindon, I openly admit to being less that a frequent visitor to SMAG. In fact, one of the few visitations I made was on a first date with my (now) ex boyfriend, which dates it very well. It was a long time ago.

I had thicker brows then, but (unsurprisingly) the same clothes.

But, on the few times I went, I enjoyed it. Aside from the unchanging artefact exhibits (complete with the much-loved “Apsley the Croc”), there was also an extensive art collection which went through frequent rotations. I was never a fan of the 1960s extension, bolted on in the 1960s, but as far as the contents was concerned I respected and enjoyed the contents for what they offered. Only in hindsight do I realise how little I fully appreciated what we had; now it’s gone.

In some ways the council’s decision to close SMAG is predictable. For years, concern was tempered with optimism over plans to relocate the museum to a newly constructed “Cultural Quarter”, proposed as part of a 2019 bid for Heritage Lottery Funding. Housed closer to the train station, the site would also contain a digital media centre, dance studio, and an expanded 1200-seat Wyvern Theatre. It was estimated to cost £80 million to build, create up to 1200 jobs and pump in an estimated £35 million into the local economy. Sadly, this bid proved to be unsuccessful.

Artist impression of new museum, situated in Swindon’s “Cultural Quarter”. Phot credit: Swindon Advertiser
Architectural “cut through” of the proposed museum design. Photo credit: Swindon Advertiser

At the time of writing (August 2021), all capital investment projects are on hold. Headlines will often cite the pandemic as the main reason, however the pessimist in me would also cite that by the council’s own omission, work on constructing the theatre alone wasn’t due to start until 2025. In other words, this project was always going to be a slow burner.

During the course of writing this article, I’ve discovered Swindon Borough Council are now considering different options, including having an “Art Pavilion”, and/or touring Art and collections in pop-up spaces, in a format being referred to as “Museums Without Walls”. Citing the museum elsewhere is also being considered. But these conversations are incredibly early in the process, and this response is quite possibly driven by community action by the Friends Swindon Museum and Art Gallery group (and local news coverage). Where the preservation of Arts and Culture is concerned, it shouldn’t take a group of people shouting and screaming to force the hand of local government. When the justification reads as “temporary closure, due to Covid”, was the expectation that we’d all forget? That we wouldn’t care?

Why does it matter?

I get it, not everyone is big into History; not everyone enjoys stuffy old exhibits and random bits of art. And that’s absolutely fine. But here’s the thing, when you’re sat in a boxy little room, planning ahead for the future, it becomes increasingly harder to pitch your town as being a “place to be”, “up and coming” or a “desirable” if with the other hand, you’re eroding the cultural bedrock on which it stands.

It’s why most towns in the UK will have a heritage centre of some size. It celebrates and brings communities together or, to be a bit more cold-hearted, it adds to the sales pitch. “Move to Swindon, we have…houses”, it doesn’t quite butter the parsnips.

Yes, the museum had a small footfall and yes, there were many areas in which it was crying out for improvement, but we’ve slept-walked into losing another thing that celebrated this town for what it was. With it, and an increasing trend of young professionals adopting WFB (Work From Bedroom) jobs, I fear we’ll start losing the point of why any of us are here at all.

So, where does this place the arts and culture in this sprawling town? It seems the future is set to remain uncertain indefinitely. And this post only relates to one type of cultural attraction; novels could be written of the erosion of a good deal of other services (libraries, community groups etc) in the years leading up to 2020.

In light of all this, I have only one thing to ask of the local council; don’t use Covid-19 as an excuse for a move that can only be described as closure culture. Because, at the end of the day, I think we’re all smarter than that, don’t you?

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Swindon Museum and Art Gallery website: https://www.swindonmuseumandartgallery.org.uk/

Friends of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery: https://friendsofsmag.org/

Petition to Save Swindon Museum and Art Gallery: https://www.change.org/p/swindon-borough-council-save-the-swindon-museum-and-art-gallery

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Supporter Shout Out: Baker Tea House, Cardiff

A massive thank you to the team at Baker Tea House in Cardiff for the lovely card and coffee and cake vouchers! Super unexpected but a wonderful delight.

Baker Tea House is my absolute, number one, favourite coffee shop, quite possibly ever (definitely in Cardiff). I have been frequenting it for years. Located in the High Street Arcade (opposite Cardiff Castle), this multi-level venue stocks oodles of teas, alongside the coffee classics.

Thanks to the pandemic I’ve been unable to go for over a year. Which sucks. Wales said that English people weren’t welcome to cross the border, the politicians in power said so. And we all know what happens when people say no? That’s right, it turns it into forbidden fruit.

Gareth Bale…

Gareth Bale makes decision on offers to leave Real Madrid during summer  transfer window - football.london

Welsh footballer, Gareth Bale, now counts as ‘exotic’, on account of him being someone that, at one stage, it was illegal for me to visit.

Huh? No, I don’t fancy him. Just, *whispers*, forbidden fruitttt. (I’d probably fancy a chimp in a suit if it was classed as forbidden fruit…don’t tell my employers I said that.)

And don’t tell me I’m using the pandemic as an excuse; it still counts.

What were we talking about again? Oh yeah, Baker Tea House.

For anyone interested in visiting, here’s a handy link – https://www.barkerteahouse.com/

(The same management also operate Coffee Barker. Handy link – https://www.coffeebarker.com/)

NB – for the avoidance of doubt, no one sponsored or asked me to write this post. It’s written it in thanks and appreciation to the staff and owners.

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Deleted MHAM Posts From the Cutting Room Floor

Some of the photos and posts that I wanted to write for My Housemate’s a Mermaid, but didn’t quite have enough material (pictorial and verbal) to fill.

Deleted MHAM Posts From the Cutting Room Floor

  1. The time how, at the start of the pandemic, Mumma B spent hours cutting squares of old fabric to make laundry bags for NHS key workers

2. When I stayed up so late that I ended up watching a much younger Nicky Campbell presenting a Top of the Pops episode from 1990

Some people had more fun than others.

I continued to watch it, even when this was played from the UK top twenty for the week.

3. How very surreal my office was when I went back to empty my locker

4. My sister’s attempts with one of those packet face masks from South Korea

It ripped off a load of skin, but not a lot else.

5. Squeak, the cat, being rebellious

6. The time I saw my old/favourite History lecturer from University on the BBC and I absolutely lost my cool

I mean, WITH LUCY WORSLEY!!

7. The time I found this in a shop and it perked up my mood

(But not enough that I bought it.)

8. The generous gin measures down the local pub

9. The generous measures of lunch portions while living with family

10. The thinking behind this at the Travel Lodge Hotel in York

It was in the foyer for several days…

11. A post detailing the contents of my bookshelf

12. Everything about this account that started following me on Twitter

How did it take you to spot that’s a semi naked woman?

13. A post on me rekindling my creative mojo during the pandemic

14. The importance of good friends who call-out when you have really bad body odour

15. The ‘what the fudge-ness’ of this targeted advert

Yes, I did tap the link and yes, I am still getting adverts for werewolf fan-fiction as a result.

16. Lockdown birthdays

17. The large number of self-published books with Covid themes

18. The other strange things being self-published

Although I am still a bit in love with the title of this book.

19. My attempts to have a massive clear-out

…which were ultimately foiled by a mixture of procrastination / charity shops being closed / Bubble the cat.

So there you go, a snippet of how much gets filtered before making it onto this website. What can I say? You get what you pay for.

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For Anyone Questioning The Quality of My Work

Remember the post I did, titled Very Cotswold Problems, #3001? It turns out Mr Maverick Lawn Mowing services (catchy name) liked the video upload, and they liked it a lot.

24 seconds of top-notch video footage of my Mumma B and her lawn mower shed antics and the dude has both liked and subscribed to my YouTube channel (still working on getting them to like the actual blog content).

If that doesn’t scream quality comedy, I don’t know what does.

Hang on…have they liked this just because of my Mum?

Seesh. Anyway, moving on…

UPDATE: Maverick has taken down their comment. Rats.

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Remember Eurovision’s Daz Sampson?

Saturday was rough. Real rough.

By now pretty much everyone in Europe will be aware that Britain’s entrant for this year’s (2021) Eurovision scored 0 points.

Ye-ep.

For those who haven’t already seen/heard it…

Compare this to Germany’s entry…

Germany scored 3 points. At the risk of eroding the UK’s diplomatic relations with Europe further, 3 points was plenty.

And before you go all “Alice, you’re from Britain so naturally you’re going to be a sore loser about this” – well, do you remember Daz Sampson? Back from the 2006 Eurovision in Athens?

Let me refresh you.

Daz Sampson was originally part of Uniting Nations, the duo that, in fairness, brought out this one-hit wonder in 2005:

(Side note, was I the only person deeply uncomfortable with the trend to sexualise women in music videos, even back then? Why was this an acceptable thing?!)

Needless to say, the guy knew how to make a club banger.

But when it came to our Eurovision entry, we got this:

Basically the same setup from Out of Touch, but in a school setting, with DJ turnstiles, none of the tune status and, to quote one YouTube comment, “your drunken Dad trying to rap at a wedding.”

Dear goodness.

This is the edited version, in the XXX director’s cut I’d wager the women get on the desks while Daz fans their awkward dancing with cue cards and revision notes.

I mean, just look at the album artwork.

The wannabe hard guy who peddles drugs at the school gates and then tries it on with the 16 year-olds, even though he’s 45 and still lives with his mum. Tell me I’m wrong.

The best bit? We got 25 points that year, 25! By British scoring standards that’s alright, a fair crack of the whip. So please, please don’t tell me that the 2021 entry is of inferior quality compared to that. Don’t tell me it levels with Britain’s only other nil point entrant from back in 2003.

Exactly.

And that’s all I’m going to say on the matter.

What has Daz Sampson been up to since Eurovision?

Still trying to get back into Eurovision…by representing Belarus.

To quote the article, “will the dynamic duo make it to Eurovision?” Well no, they didn’t.

Ironically, Belarus went for another song called “I’ll teach you” which was itself disqualified on account of it’s heavy political agenda, mocking of the ongoing peaceful protests against recent election results. Lyrics (translated into English) here.

Make of that what you will.

I wonder why the country weren’t prepared to enter Daz’s number?

Honestly, I have no words left to say and a cupboard that’s now chronically low on alcohol.

Christ.

I’m off to urgently restock.

(If you enjoyed this, you may also like my other Eurovision-themed post – British Politics, as Told Through the Medium of Eurovision Songs)

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Fancy Chinese Footwear

So here’s a bit of background for you, on the jazzy socks featured in Why Alice is *Still* Single…Probably.

Back when I was living in London I had the absolute pleasure of attending the Tate Modern’s critically appraised exhibition Picasso 1932: Love, Fame, Tragedy. It ran between 8th March – 9th September 2018.

I didn’t attend “1932…” until late on, days before it was due to close. Why? Because I’ll be honest, Picasso had never really been my bag. I appreciated his reputation and there’s no denying Guernica is a masterpiece of political demonstration, but otherwise I just saw the man as someone who took a lot of credit for not a lot.

Don’t shoot me.

In the end, it was a little voice inside my head that urged me to go, that I’d only regret it if I didn’t. (Also, because at the time I could get in for £5. Minor detail.)

I’m so very glad I went. For one, turns out the man is just as trigger happy on the paint brushes as I am on my blog. In one year he produced over 100 works of art (mostly of his mistress). Secondly, some of his work isn’t too shabby.

Don’t get me wrong, I still had questions. Most of my secondary school art projects were on par with Yellow Belt.

And yet God knows, you never saw my Art teacher praising me as the Second Coming. I took a snapshot and sent it to my Mum, she still insisted I keep the day job.

So what has all this got to do with socks? Well, sometime after the exhibition I was browsing the wonderful world of Far Eastern shopping when I came across some socks printed with the iconic painting The Dream.

I’ll spare you my cobble-dash description on this painting but yep, the way he painted the face is intentional (classic playboy Picasso). More information here.

Short story, shorter, I found a pair of socks online depicting this masterpiece (or, as the sellers called them, “style #3 sleeping lady”). Don’t ask how or why, it’ll be easier for us both. Neither did I enquire as to the copyright, given the same people were also selling “magic man” socks of Jesus.

12 million months later my socks arrived, looking something like this:

First observation – no way in hell were these made for a ladies foot-size 5 (EU 38). Definitely men’s socks. But still, the print detailing was alright and the image had been flipped. Without disclosing the price, (*cough* 99p), you get what you pay for.

I couldn’t wait to try them on.

Then I looked down…

Because the socks were bigger in size than expected, I’d had to pull them up higher, and because my calves are the size of tree trunks, the print was stretched-out even more.

Far from looking mellowed after a bit of artist lovin’, Marie looks genuinely pained from having her face stretched to that of a horse. And let’s not even go there with where that places Picasso’s perceived manhood.

Oh well.

I’m still gonna wear them though. I mean, Picasso socks! How cool is that?!

…What? What’s wrong?

Thanks Col, babe. xx

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Why Alice is *Still* Single…Probably

Candles, erosion excitement and a scurvy-inducing diet, we’ve got all the reasons (and more) why I’ve quite possibly still yet to become one half of a “smug couple”.

Why Alice is Still Single…Probably

First Things First

  • I can’t help that a pandemic happened.
  • I don’t proactively choose to shun humans (Yeah, I’ll call up my insurance firm now. “Hello, I’d like to record my profession as ‘Aspirational Spinster’ please? What do you mean, that’ll increase my premium?”)
  • Although, for the benefit of reassurance, I am attracted to humans.

(But I am also attracted to that part of YouTube.)

I’ve Made My Memory Foam Bed, and it Serves me Well

I live where I live and do what I do. And before you give me that Sliding Doors baloney, “if only you’d taken that fictional job somewhere else, then maybe things would be different”, I mean, sure but…

A) Not God.

B) There are loads of amazing things I’d have missed out on.

C) I lived in London for a year and guess what? Despite getting my bag stuck in the Tube countless times and missing countless more trains altogether, John Hannah still didn’t show up and I’m still not Gwyneth Paltrow.

(But at least my accent isn’t that grating.)

My Cooking is Beyond Questionable

Case in point, I routinely eat leftover Chinese with pasta. I call it “East Meets West” (no, really, I do).

I know what you’re thinking and yes, I am the kind of girl who brings a stapler and a rack of business cards to dinner (and you thought the Chinese was hot stuff).

As a rule of thumb, the dishes I cook involve three ingredients. E.g. scrambled eggs: eggs (no milk), bread, butter for bread. Soup: tin of soup, bread, butter for bread. Chips, fish fingers, peas.

I also routinely snack on dry cream crackers.

#NoShame

I’m Not in the Market of Being Someone I’m Not

I’m so out of habit with makeup I barely wear it nowadays. The idea of putting all this stuff on my face to create something to satisfy everyone but me just doesn’t do anything for me (you can’t see your own face after all).

Looking at this from a positive angle, this is presently the worst I’m ever going to get:

*Well, excluding when I’m chilling out in the back of Shoreditch clubs.

Moving on…

Everything Excites Me…But Men

Things like having David Nicholls, author of One Day, like my Tweet:

(Reason .5 for staying single – I like using words like golly)

I also like seeing the effects of coastal erosion on tiny pebbles:

Longshore drift is a thing y’all.

Even these socks with one of my favourite Picasso paintings, they got me excited:

I didn’t even care they only were available in a men’s size. Why? Because I’m now the proud owner of Picasso socks. Duh.

It doesn’t take much to get me excited, but on the downside, it doesn’t take much to get me excited. I don’t need a guy to be the *sole* provider of my joy…unless you have Picasso socks. And yes, pun intended.

I Have Awesome Friends

Doesn’t everyone bring hand sanitiser and a banking card reader to their girls’ night in calls?

Granted, things are a smidge surreal at the moment, but I still have my girl (and guy) friends. And if I can’t meet up with them in real life, I still can connect with them digitally.

Dressing up and dancing around my bedroom, it’s like the teenage years I never had. Back when I was too busy wearing jeans and playing about with hair straighteners and knives.

Oh, Cotswolds, you do crack me up.

Nb, that was taken on my eighteenth birthday. Disney need to do a rerun of that film, 13 Going on 30.

We’ll call it 30 Going on 13, and it’ll be 90 minutes of me struggling to comprehend water installations in urban environments:

Ten years on and I’m still trying to work them out.

Hmm, I think we’ve gone a bit off topic somewhere around here. What were we discussing, again? Oh yeah, why I’m single.

Me, Myself and I; We’ve got Our Own Thaang Going on

*cough*

This is How I Dress

This is How I React to Confusing Things

I Already Have an Interim Solution, and it’s a Candle

I can’t quite fathom how Glade have done this, but I swear this candle smells like a ‘best of’ man collection. It’s kinda musky and has a nice cologne-like secondary smell. I think it’s a honey and chocolate combo.

I can’t share the smell, but trust me, it’s solid. And no, I’m not backing down on this.

And Then There Are the Creeps

Ooh! Bear with, just got a new match.

Right, let’s open this up…

Ah.

In Summary

Your best bet is to cook me something with four ingredients, invest in quirky socks and dip yourself in molten wax.

Guess what? I’m eighteen years old in that one too.

I need to get into teen movies. Where is my non-existent agent?

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London Recalling: The Throwback-set

“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there” – L.P. Hartley

Tower Bridge

A year ago today, I returned from a London city break and published my first post. I’d spent a year living in the UK capital, so for me it marked a refresh of the best bits of city-living, including art galleries, theatre performances and catching up with old friends.

Days after my return I was left encumbered, battling a mystery illness. Those following weeks I pressed on the best I could, putting it down as another one of those viruses which circulate in densely populated environments. A year later I’m no closer knowing what struck me down; we all have our theories.

Back then, my friends and I had whimsically noted the high-adoption of face coverings being worn by the predominantly Asian tourist base. We mused on the foreign illness that was gripping other continents, but to comprehend the possibility that our own country could already be rife with disease was a step too far. We were better than that, we were British. Instead, we continued to pack ourselves into dense sweats to watch live music, feasted in noisy restaurants and embraced fondly.

If only we’d known.

So, with perhaps a naively romanticised view of what were truly the last days of normality (late January 2020), here are all four parts of London Recalling.

London Recalling – the Mini-Series

Part One – Straight Lesbians, Like Us

Part Two – The Creative’s Curse

Part Three – Solo Sell-Outs

Part Four – Wapping Old Stairs

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