Monday, 19 August 2013

The Great Tampon Fire - Part II

Previously in 'The Great Tampon Fire'

Katrina and Annette have left the party and arrived, drunk and disorientated, at an empty train station with no way of getting home.  With bellies full of beer and only a packet of Consulate menthol cigarettes between them they head off to seek shelter nearby and are about to attempt to light a fire...

The Great Tampon Fire Part II

The problem for girls that think things like Scouting and Guides are ‘for knobs’ and ‘well boring’ is that, unless you have parents that are socks–and-sandals wearing, practical, outdoorsy types, you may never be taught some of the things that are very useful when you are frozen to your marrow and wondering how you will make it to morning.  Like making a camp fire.

As ill-educated as we were in the ways of survival, we were conscientious enough to realise that setting fire to the train station would be a bad idea and made for a wooded area nearby to ‘make camp’.

The lights from the station cut through the gloom and enabled us to see a disused hut within the woods that whilst not exactly a hotel, did offer some shelter.  It had a dirt floor and someone had helpfully put some beer crates inside as seats. 

Annette and I agreed to split up for five minutes to search for ‘things to burn’ (kindling had not yet entered our vocabulary) and then return to the hut with our spoils.  It was dark and damp but Annette came back with some nice little branches that seemed dry and I – wonder of wonders – had found some magazines! 

“Check this out Annette,” I said, “I’ve got some magazines, so we can definitely have a fire.”
“Nice one,” she replied, “What are they?”
“Dunno,” I said, squinting at the pages beneath me, “hard to see out there, hang on.  Let’s hold our lighters over them.”

I opened one of the magazines, put it on the floor and we flicked our lighters at the same time.  The darkness lifted slightly to reveal an impressively hairy fanny.

“Oh my fucking God!” shouted Annette “that woman’s got her minge out!”

She was quite right.  Not only did the woman ‘have her minge out’, she was also holding her legs apart and looking at the camera as if to say “Yes, this is my vagina, and I’d greatly appreciate it if you would take some time to have a really good look at it.”

We flicked to another page, more of the same.  I had inadvertently brought a selection of porn mags into the hut.

“Uurrgh, I don’t believe I’ve touched those.  They’ve probably had some blokes’ jizzy fingers all over them.  Oh this is rank.”  I felt truly rotten; this was not the triumph I was expecting.

“Well,” said Annette, “these deserve to be burned, dirty perverts.  Let’s get the fire going.”

This was easier said than done.  We knew nothing of making nice little balls of paper to get a fire going and even if we had, I can’t imagine either of us wanting to touch those magazines any more than we absolutely had to.  Annette edged the magazines into the centre of the hut using her boot and then artfully arranged some of the sticks on top.  It looked kind of ok but after some encouraging burning at the edges of the paper the flames expired.  The lady was still there, but now her minge was singed. 

“I think we need something to really get it going.”  Annette said. 
“Like what?” 
“Dunno, like a fire lighter or something.”

Whilst we  knew neither of us was going to have a fire lighter on us, we were hopeful and so emptied out our pockets to see whether we had anything that might prove suitably flammable.

Bus tickets – not big enough
Train tickets – not big enough either
Fag packets – too valuable, needed to protect our precious last few cigarettes

We decided that what with tampons being made of cotton, they must be great for starting fires and set about placing them on the magazines and in between the sticks.  They lay there, like stillborn mice, little string tails laid out behind them.  I think we hoped that if we lit the strings they’d go off like dynamite.  We scattered the bus and train tickets on top to add to the fuel then set about applying our lighters to everything possible.

As we were to find out, tampons are not an effective alternative to fire lighters.  Our efforts at keeping ourselves warm using only our wits and found items was a stinking, smouldering mess of masturbatory material and sanitary wear.  The smoke and the shame took us back to the train station where we waited, freezing and miserable until the 0825 to Basingstoke came in and took us back home.  To add to our feeling of stupidity the guard informed us that the milk train had ceased to exist at least 20 years ago.   

Compared to the previous night's lodgings my mum's house felt like a spa and after I had scrubbed my hands clean of every trace (real and imagined) of my futile foraging, I slept through most of Sunday.  In hindsight, our complete ineptitude as arsonists was a blessing in disguise – the hut we had been in was made of wood.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Paperback Writer

Hello to you all!

I'll cut to the chase and share the news that my book Reasons to be Cheerful Part One is now available to buy as a Kindle download from Amazon right here:    I've got an author page and everything!

In it you'll find a collection of the best essays from the blog over the past year all polished up, shiny and grammatically correct for your reading pleasure ;)

With the book published, I've retired most of the posts contained within it from the blog but have kept the ones I really love on here for posterity.  I'll also continue to write new pieces and share with you more of the work I am doing on the next book as well as my efforts to get Reasons to be Cheerful printed as a paperback (takes deep breath).

Thank you to all of you who have read the blog, encouraged and supported me, it's been one hell of a journey so far, looking forward to the next step!

50% of the curious £3.08 price point will be going to charity - definitely a feel good purchase :)

Soundtrack: Paperback Writer - The Beatles

Sunday, 4 August 2013

I'm a Fire Starter

As I'm in the midst of getting 'Reasons to be Cheerful Part One' ready for print, I'm not able to dedicate quite as much time to blogging as I'd like to, and so I thought I'd share with you an excerpt from another book I'm working on.  Part fact, part fiction, a bit of swearing and a lot about teenage girls who have the magical combination of the funds to buy alcohol and an off-licence owner who never ever asks for ID.... 

'The Great Tampon Fire'
I have never been sure whether our parents were too distracted by their own grief to try to exert more authority over what we got up to during the evenings, or if they truly did believe that we were responsible young people in possession of basic survival skills and a spare ten pence to phone home.  Whichever it was, we were frequently out most, or all, of the night and always nowhere near where we had told our parents we were going to be.  With friends who were now at college we had a ready supply of invites to parties and people old enough, and willing, to buy alcohol for us.  This was a time of much revelry, cheap cider, black leggings and moshing to Neds Atomic Dustbin.  It was also a time of going out and not thinking about how, or if, we were going to get home.  And it was inevitable at some point that we would end up roughing it, as Annette and me did after one such party in Bramley.

Bramley was a short train ride from Basingstoke and boasted five pubs for a village with less than five hundred people.  Living in the countryside requires the constitution to cope with extreme weather, extreme boredom and extremely high alcohol consumption.  This night would test us for all three.  We had told our parents we were staying ‘at a friend’s’ and so arrived full of excitement and a sense of being very clever at getting an all-night pass.  The venue was the village hall and we were in our finest indie kid attire.  I was attempting to rock Robert Smith-style hair back-combed to within an inch of its life and Annette was pale and angular, with eight-hole Doc Martins.  I was planning to save up and trump her by buying some ten-hole ones in Ox blood red but until then had to make do with cheapo monkey boots from the army surplus store.

By the time we arrived, the party was already well underway, the room full of goths and shoe-gazers; Inspiral Carpets ‘Cool as Fuck’ t-shirts alongside frayed cardigans.  But even teenagers, who hate everything, secretly like a disco light, and so flashes of red, green and blue cut their way through the thick fug of cigarette smoke.  The parents, aware that their presence would cause a huge dent in their son’s cool, had left us to it, hoping that the evening would not result in them facing a huge bill for damages or having to publish a public apology on the Parish Notice Board. 

We walked in, our green plastic bags each containing six cans of Special Brew (our tastes at that time were dominated by strength rather than seeking out hints of gooseberry and citrus aromas) and in our pockets a pack of twenty Consulate menthol cigarettes.  Somehow smelling and tasting like a minty ashtray was far chicer than smelling and tasting like a normal one.  We sought out the birthday boy, offered our congratulations and cracked open the first can.

We drank our way through our green bags and then set about procuring some more alcohol using our minty charms.  I acquired a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale and Annette got a can of Tennents Super.  We knocked them back and headed to the dance floor to flail our arms to ‘Sit Down’ by James.  Unfortunately for me, the belly full of beer coupled with flailing and the fact that I was a fifteen year old girl, and not a six foot, sixteen stone man meant that I had definitely had more than enough and it was with a sense of great panic that I realised that there was a very real possibility that I was going to puke all over the person next to me.  Somehow I managed to career through the room quickly enough for the arc of bile that left my mouth to reach a toilet and not the dance floor.  I was at once relieved and then horrified.  I had thrown up blood, and lots of it.  I screamed for Annette but really didn’t need to as she had seen my swift exit and followed me in. 

“Annette, I’m dying man, I’m throwing up blood!”
“You what?”
“Blood, oh my God, oh my God, call an ambulance!”
“You’re such a twat Katrina”

Annette crouched down, rubbed my back and gently explained that in the same way that Sugar Puffs makes your wee smell, Newcastle Brown Ale makes your sick red. 

On discovering that I wasn’t about to die, I perked up, stuffed half a pack of Wrigleys in my mouth to disguise the foul taste of Newky Pukey and went back to dance.

The rest of the evening was the expected mix of drunkenness, crap fights and mums and dads arriving to collect their teenagers; instantly making them look five in front of their friends.  By the time it was all over it was half past Midnight and it was then that we realised the following:

Everyone we knew had gone home.
We had no way of getting home.

It was a sobering thought.  There was the option of calling Annette’s dad to come and get us but as she put it “he’s told me if I cause him any more aggro this week he’s going to throw me out” so we decided against risking his wrath and instead bit the bullet, nicked some left overs and walked out into the night.  We decided to make our way to the train station as we had figured that the mythical ‘Milk Train’ that we believed travelled up and down the country delivering vats of the white stuff to towns and cities before being put on milk floats would probably stop by in the next few hours and drop us off in Basingstoke before the morning.  

How wrong we were….

We got to the station and looked around.  It was a typical village station – two small platforms with two benches, one locked waiting room and that was that.  We took a bench each and decided to try to curl up and get some sleep.  It was there that we learned a simple equation:

Light clothing + February in England + bench for bed = sub optimal sleeping conditions and possibility of dying of exposure. 

After an hour of fruitless shifting (you can’t ‘plump up’ a wooden bench) and shivering to the point of aching we decided to do something about our predicament.  We would light a fire.....