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Profile for jennymnemonic:
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I like tea, pretend accents, and making a nuisance of myself.
I have a silly face.

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» Presents

In which disappointment and hand-tooled leather
And another one...

It was the first Christmas of my high-school career. I was twelve years old, skinny, white as fuck and with a lovely Hilary Clinton bob. I was not, you might say, at my best.

Although I was getting on OK at school, I was eternally conscious of the fact that my peers' parents had a heckuva lot more money than mine (I was a scholarship kid) - we did have uniforms, but mine was second-hand from a girl who lived in the same village as me and was about 4ft 10 and quite rotund. It did look a bit daft - skirt held together with safety pins, torn pockets, fingerless gloves Oliver Twist whinge whinge blah. As everyone knows, though, when you have a school uniform it's the little things you do or have that make you stand out. Tiny things, insignificant to the adult eye, that mark you out as cool or not. The way you knot your tie. How long you leave the secondary part of it hanging down. How many buttons you do on your blazer (none! ever!), how you do your hair, how you knot your shoelaces.

And then of course, there's your bag.

Despite going to a school Nazi-ish enough to stipulate in the rulebook the exact height of shoes, brand of swimming costume and colour of hair bobbles one was permitted to wear, bags were a free-for-all. Those were the heady days of the brightly-coloured Head rucksack and the Adidas holdall. I can still remember the bag my longstanding crush touted for five years (Willys, mustard yellow with a reflective stripe and a chunky zip.) I, on the other hand, was in a bit of a fix, bagwise. I had a plain, slightly foetid, thin black canvas drawstring with a single strap. Sort of like a slightly more sturdy version of a primary school PE kit bag.

It wasn't branded
It wasn't brightly-coloured
It wasn't bloody waterproof

It was the millstone around my neck, the shameful burden I was forced to bear. And the single strip dug into my shoulder something rotten on the mile walk to the bus stop.

I hated it. It was beginning to exact comment from some of the louder, bitchier members of my class. And I wasn't yet anywhere near secure enough to carry it off. This bag - this wretched, second-hand, flimsy horror - could be my undoing. I was savvy enough to know that. The vultures were beginning to circle. And so, for Christmas, I asked for a rucksack.

I knew the one I wanted. It was a modest beigey mushroom colour, with a nice front pocket. It had two straps and reflective bits. Best of all, it was Quiksilver. Quiksilver! My cool rating would go through the roof. It was about twenty-five quid, which was slightly more then than it is now (but only slightly.) And so began my stealth campaign.

'Dad. Daaaaad! You know that shop in the town? The one next to the arcade? Yeah? The sports one? Yeah? There's a rucksack in the window. It's beige. I've seenitandireallythinkitwouldimprovemyacademicperformanceif - '

'Don't worry,' said Dad, with an overexaggerated wink. 'I think I know what you mean. You'll just have to wait and see what Santa brings you, eh?'

Brilliant! My plan was coming together, in all awesomeness. Christmas arrived, and the parcels were placed under the tree. There was the one from my parents I'd been after. I duly poked and squeezed and assessed the undeniably baglike contents. Not long now, I thought to myself, after enduring another round of snarky comments on the school bus. Not long.

Come Christmas morning, and all is shiny and bright. There's a tradition in my family of opening our presents slowly at individual intervals throughout the day, and so it was afternoon before it was my turn. With a look of great pride and collusion, my parents pushed the bag-shaped parcel towards me. My hands itched as I carefully peeled away the sellotape. This was it. This was...

This was not it.

This was a rectangular, brown leather briefcase, something between that which could have belonged to a nineteenth-century doctor and a down-at-heel telemarketing executive. It was a briefcase. A briefcase. To take this out of the house, let alone to school, would be social suicide. No. Social jihad. Even the smelliest old teacher didn't have a briefcase. To a twelve-year-old neurotic girl, this was the worst thing that had ever happened to anyone.

I looked at the briefcase. It seemed to glow with the fires of the hell of mockery into which I would be cast forever come next term. Then I looked up at my Dad's face. He was beaming with joy, oblivious.
'Now I know you said you wanted a bag,' he explained, 'but I thought I'd get you something a bit special for doing well at your new school. It's real leather. Cost quite a bit, but it'll last for years. There's a special compartment to put your pencil case it, here. And....' (with the flourish of a magician performing his best conjuring trick...'I had them engrave your initials on it. Just under the handle there. See?'

I saw.

'So that everyone will know it's yours.'

I stared at the briefcase, then back at my dad, who had gone way out of his way and probably budget too to make his only daughter happy. I gave him a massive hug and told him it was just what I wanted.
(Fri 27th Nov 2009, 12:21, More)

» Siblings

Siblings...I've had a few...
I've been jolted out of my recent QOTW torpor by this one, though it isn't so much of a light and frolicsome piece as a case study in secrets and lies. Come to think of it, the tale bears a remarkable resemblance to the Mike Leigh creation of the same nice. But I assure you, dear readers, that however prone to exaggeration I may sometimes be, that this is utterly and absolutely true.

And massive. Sorry about that.

Until the age of fifteen, I cavorted and stumbled about the place under the misapprehension that I was the eldest of two kids.

Mnemomic Minor, I will note here, is one of the sweetest, most innocent-natured creatures that was ever besmirched and shat upon by this uncaring world, and as such is an utter anomaly within the brood of rat-bastards that comprise the rest of my family (within which designation I do not hesitate to include myself.)

He's five years younger than me, and I'm reliably informed that for several of his most influential years my pastime of choice was to perch on his (third floor) windowsill, declaring that I was about to fly off to Neverland and not return, and wouldn't relent and come down until he was in a state close to asphyxiating fits from crying and pleading with me not to go.

Which isn't as bad as when my older cousin convinced my younger cousin to drink dog piss running down a pavement by telling him it was lemonade. But I digress.

One fateful morning, when I was fifteen and he ten, my mother (generally speaking an undemonstrative creature) came into my squalid pit of a bedroom, and perched herself awkwardly on the end of my bed, hands in her lap. Disgruntled at the invasion of my sovereign space (and the unwanted interruption in my rapacious devouring of the latest Harry Potter), I grunted something vaguely approaching an inquiry as to the purpose of this interview. I remember thinking with horror that this might be some kind of birds and bees chat, as recommended in that week's Bella.

She leant towards me. There was something in her hand. So consumed was my brain with the refrain of 'please don't let it be the sex talk, please don't let it be the sex talk', pounding through my overinflated teenage cringe gland, that I failed to notice this for some moments, although it was clear that she wanted me to. Eventually, she caved.

'I got a letter this morning,' she said.
'Oh?' said I.
'Yes,' said she.
'So?' I grunted.
'It's from your sister', she said.
'Wha?'

Turns out that, a long time ago, she'd had a child she'd been forced to give up for adoption. A familiar story - it was the sixties, she was nineteen, it was simply not the done thing. She was in denial about the pregnancy right up until the end. And this is where it gets sad (although I suspect this unfortunately won't be a singular tale in the chronicles of those times.) My teenage mother was refused pain relief by the anaethestist, on the grounds that she ought to suffer for what she had done. She had to crawl on her hands and knees down a ward corridor, because the nurse wouldn't come when she called. She gave birth for the first time, alone and terrified and with no medication, after having been in labour for thirty-six hours.

And then they came and told her the baby was to be taken away. She hadn't a say in the matter. Except then, for whatever reason, they didn't. My mother was left to look after my sister in the hospital for six weeks while they found her a suitable home. She fed her. She named her. And then one morning, my mother woke up and my sister was gone from the cot beside her. And that was it - she got her coat and went home.

I'm not a parent - although I know some of you are - and so I can't fully imagine what it must be like to have a six week-old baby taken from you. What little I can conceive of, I can't really handle. Suffice to say, it messed my mum up. Her family just wanted to forget about it, and it was never spoken of again. She told my father when they married but not us, or anyone else, even her closest friends.

When my mum told me this story, it made sense of a lot of things. I'd never really been close to her - we'd had a lot of problems and her behaviour towards me was often very irrational, with her reacting violently over quite trivial incidents. Apparently when I was born, she didn't sleep for days on end and wouldn't leave my room, because she was terrified someone would take me away. It all sort of made sense in the light of what had happened.

But to return to the story. My sister had through the help of a friend finally tracked her down, and had written her a letter seeing if she'd like to make contact. My sister had been adopted by a very well-off family (lucky swine), had had a great time of it, and was married and living in Bristol. To cut a long preamble short, they met, and then we met, and it's all worked out extraordinarily well, actually. They are shockingly similar (my sister is nothing at all like her kind but very straight-laced adoptive parents, and is a fashion designer. My mum is also a fashion designer.) And my sister is beautiful and happy and in general has a life I'm rather jealous of, in a good sort of way.

To return, though, to that morning, and to me, bemused in the bed, and having discovered I had a half-sister. Mum asked if I'd like to read the letter, and I said I would. She left the room. I had just about finished, and was trying to let it all sink in, trying to make sense of this sudden familial expansion, when my dear old Dad stuck his head around the door. (If you can, imagine his part in the following dialogue conducted in a thick Welsh accent.)

'Alright Jenny?'
"Yes, I'm alright. I think so.'
'Your mum tell you then?'
'Yes. Can't believe it, really.'
'OK. Well, there's one more thing.'
'What?'
'Oh. Well you know Sam Walsh from down the pub. The barman.'
'Yep?'
'Right. Well, he's your half-brother too. I used to be married to his mam. I'll put the tea on, shall I?'

Yes, I think you'd better.

And that, ladies and gents, is how I was shunted from the first of two siblings to the third of four in the space of around twenty minutes. Surprisingly, it wasn't all that traumatic, and things have pretty much pootled on as they always have done. But that's village life for you - we do things differently here.

Still, good job I didn't snog Sam Walsh that time he tried to grab me round the back of the village hall a year earlier. Now that would have been a Trisha special in the making.

Length? Depends on who the hell you ask, in my family...
(Sun 4th Jan 2009, 23:55, More)

» Worst Nicknames Ever

Sticks and stones (and coathangers)
It was pointed out by a "friend" a couple of years back that I look like a foetus (small features, big forehead.) Thus, I was nicknamed, with stunning ingenuity, The Foetus. Various friends have amused themselves making jokes around the theme, wombs, umbilical cords, ultrasound scans etc.

The best however was a drunken friend chasing me round a pub carpark in front of a busload of suprised grans, brandishing an unbent wire coathanger and loudly and repeatedly threatening to abort me.

The Foetus. Now come on, that is bad.
(Thu 18th May 2006, 16:19, More)

» Sexism

(groans, head in hands.)
I largely have faith in b3tans as a more-than-averagely enlightened bunch, so this probably isnít directed at you lot. Certainly not all of you lot. But a lot of what Iíve heard on this subject of in my still relatively-few years on this planet has been variations on the following:

You're a woman. Some women like babies. Therefore, you like babies.
You're a woman. Some women are gold-diggers. Therefore, you are a gold-digger.
You're a woman. Some women are over-emotional and irrational. Therefore, you are over-emotional and irrational.

This is whatís known in the trade as fuzzy logic.

I try and take people as individuals. I donít (and nor, probably, do you) judge folk on their skin colour, their religion, their nationality or who they prefer to shag.

I donít think or say things like Ďall X (gays, Spanish, Sikhs, black people) are like Y and Z.í It would, I hope, very quickly be pointed out that this was both stupid and unfair, for you canít possibly make a blanket statement about an enormous and massively diverse set of people with any semblance of accuracy. That, my friends, is bad science.

Yet somehow, itís seems it OK to do this when it comes to gender. Why assume I have anything in common with another human being because we have matching genitalia? Itís boring, itís offensive, and it doesnít make sense.

Iím not saying men donít get equally idiotic and patronising comments thrown back at them. They do. But it feels like women suffer much more from this kind of collective-designationing than the chaps. Those women on hen nights, doing that Ďhere come the girlsí crap? Yep, they're a fucking embarrassment, but I know that for every moronic female wearing a pink plastic cowboy hat and screaming about penises, thereís another in a white coat patching someone up in a hospital, defending people in court, flying a plane, teaching in a university, bringing up a family or hell, just sitting on the sofa having a biscuit and minding their own business. Some people, though, even people I love, will point at that as a clear-cut and concrete example of standard universal female behaviour. Well, Iíve got a first-class degree from Oxford, and my best friend is a cardiothoracic surgeon. We didnít get there by flashing our knickers, so donít tell me Iím stupid, bitchy, incompetent, shallow, mercenary or irrational on the basis that Iím a woman. (You can do that when you meet me; itís immediately obvious that Iím an idiot quite independently of anything else.)

I donít evaluate folk on anything other than your thoughts and opinions and what youíve done with yourself in this world, and thatís all I ask in return.

Oh, and I can reverse-park just fine.

The End.
(Sun 27th Dec 2009, 15:59, More)

» Kids

Cake Tale.
I like kids. I seem to have a particular affinity for stompy, shouty little boys who enjoy being hung upside down, rolled about in filth, and all that sort of thing. And I plan on having several of my own, should my ovaries not prove bullet-proof (a possbility, considering my parents couldn't have children. Yark! Narf! But seriously...)

It seems that the key if you wish your children to avoid obnoxious brattery is to have more than one kid. By all accounts, I was an absolute horror until Mnemonic Minor showed up when I was five - a goggly-eyed ball of dough with bright ginger hair and one ear bigger than the other (he's now tall, blonde and a part-time model, the b@st@rd.) Before this (partly due to medical problems which meant I couldn't walk til I was three, and partly because my parents had lost a couple before I came along) I had far too much attention and fuss made of me. Being ignored - or at least no longer the centre of attention - was the best thing that ever happened to me.

To illustrate, I shall tell you the tale of the village fete - a story of Machiavellian plotting, rebellion, and cake.

...

I would have been about four when this happened. Mum, for reasons lost in the mists of time, had thought it was a good idea to take her organically-reared (read Ė sugar-starved) offspring for a stroll down to the village hall, where preparations were being made of the annual Flower and Produce show. (yep Ė we know how to throw a party in rural Dumfries.) She was probably just bored off her tits trapped in a house with an insomniac, rabidly-questioning child whoíd just learned how to get about independently, adn was making full use of her newly-acquired skill. The Flower and Produce show was, as might be expected, your typical WI set-up Ė the Biggest Marrow competition (no silliness please), home-grown produce rosettes, hand-knitted sheep, flower arranging, a needlework prize, and Ė most importantly Ė the Bakery Contest.

As we went in, I was put under strict instructions ďnot to lay a finger on any of the cakesĒ, on pain of death, or at the least a hefty spanking. Mum went over to the other side of the hall to talk to some middle-aged ladies in beige two-pieces. I wandered about the displays for a while, sneezing at the flowers, tentatively stroking a knitted teddy bear. But slowly and inevitably, I was drawn towards the long trestle table where the cakes had been set out, ready to be judged later that day.

The cakes sat, plump and alluring, on a cloth of perfect white. They seemed to glow with an inner light of their own. To my childish eyes, there appeared to be hundreds, a feast, a fantasy banquet. We werenít really allowed cake at home, but here, in case you havenít already clicked, was cake aplenty, There were sponge cakes oozing jam, deep crumbly chocolate cakes, gooey caramel cakes, layer cakes topped with thick buttery icing and a swirl of raspberry sauce. There was a deep scarlet cherry cake topped with cream and generously decorated with deep red fruit. There were tiny fairy cakes iced in all the colours of the rainbow, topped with violet icing flowers.

Then I came to the end of the table, and there it stood Ė the piece de resitance. The Great Gateau. It was at least five layers high, and iced in palest pink, with brilliant gold sugar roses piped onto the sides. It was a thing of wonder and delight. I looked at those sweet, shining, roses, and I began to salivate. Just one, just a little one, from round the backÖsurely nobody would notice? But I couldnít touch. Iíd been told specifically to keep my hands firmly behind my back. There was nothing to be done. I would have to go cakeless. UnlessÖ

All of a sudden, the wail of a demented beige-clad banshee split the silence of the hall. ďWHOSE is this CHILD??Ē

Mum span around to see me, hands clasped firmly and obediently behind my back, blissfully face-first in the cake. I had simply leant forward and taken a massive bite out of the side. But I hadnít laid a finger on it.
And yea, it was delicious.

And I STILL got a spanking. Bloody kids? Bloody parents, more like.



I like cake.
(Tue 22nd Apr 2008, 17:14, More)
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