Can't cook, shan't cook

This weekend I made pancakes. This sounds like such a simple statement, right? Millions of people make pancakes in March for pancake day. People make pancakes all the time. They aren’t really particularly complex. The thing is, I don’t. I am in my mid thirties and I have never made pancakes. In fact, I don’t really cook at all. I’ve ‘helped’ other people make pancakes. I ‘help’ Mr RDP cook often. ‘Helping’ generally means chopping, stirring, getting ingredients all over the floor and eating the tastiest raw ingredients when the person cooking isn’t looking.

I have in the past set fire to kitchens on at least 4 occasions. Two of those were within the same week, in the same kitchen, setting fire to something I’d placed on top of the grill while using it to cook veggie sausages. One was trying to make toast under the grill and forgetting. Others generally involve forgetting that I am heating something up, having wondered away and seen something shiny.

I have cooked meals for past partners so bad that they’ve suggested we get takeaway instead. One ex loves to bring out the hilarious tale of how, early in our relationship, I asked if he wanted some food before we went out to a club. I returned from the kitchen with 10 vegetarian frankfurters on a plate and a bottle of ketchup. Another enjoys reminding me of the time I tried to made a veggie spaghetti bolognese but didn’t rinse the sieve properly and the whole dish tasted of Fairy liquid. I tried to make cupcakes once for a charity bake sale. They tasted like jelly beans, with a not dissimilar texture. They bounced when you dropped them.

My inability/reluctance to cook, or in fact eat much at all, goes way back. I was a picky eater for most of my early years, working out rather early on that ‘moo cow’ and ‘baa lamb’ were both the cute animals outside my window and the meat on my plate. From that point on I would only eat meat as long as it didn’t look like meat, which meant that my diet consisted of processed things like chicken nuggets and fishfingers. I would also refuse all vegetables, convinced that I did’t like them. I’d only eat melted cheese. I didn’t like crunchy or crispy things as I didn’t like noisy food.

As I grew, my diet became more limited as I discovered what a ‘vegetarian’ was and started to insist I wanted to be one. It reached the point where the only things I would eat was soup or pasta and sauce.  When after years of badgering Mummy Dinosaur finally capitulated. “FINE you can be a vegetarian. But seeing as you don’t like vegetables  you’d better learn how to cook, because I’m not cooking separate things for you. What are you going to live on? Soup?”. And thus from the age of 13 to the age of 23 I pretty much lived on condensed soup and pasta, with the occasional veggie sausage. At university I would make a big batch of condensed-soup-pasta on a Sunday night and eat it throughout the week.

This continued up until I moved in with a close friend who, after several weeks of watching me eat nothing but pasta and veggie sausages, snapped and made it her life’s mission to get me eating vegetables. Each week she’d cook something delicious, place it in front of me and wander off. “Eat it, or don’t. But at least try it, because I cooked it for you so if you don’t eat it you’re basically a massive dickhead”. Within the space of a month, I discovered a whole new world of vegetably things that were actually tasty. Spinach! Peppers! Red Onion! Leeks! Who knew. I started to wonder why I’d refused so steadfastly as a child to eat all of these things, and how that stubborn refusal had turned in adulthood to a belief that I hated vegetables.

My inability and/or reluctance to cook certainly doesn’t come from the paternal side. My Dad’s family are part Italian – food is important. It must be tasty and plentiful. My Dad is an excellent cook – when my parents ran a B&B in my childhood I remember sumptuous meals – roast dinners, shepherd’s pie, faggots and mash.
My dearly missed Grandmother GG was known for her feasts. She’d make vast 3 and 4 course meals, make sure everyone had seconds and thirds of everything and there were always at least 4 choices of dessert. One Christmas of family legend everyone had eaten so much that no one could move, lolling on the sofas groaning and replete; GG entered from the kitchen and breezily asked “Cheese and biscuits anyone?” after a loaded silence my uncle J said “oh piss off mum”.

On the maternal side, Mummy Dinosaur can cook very well – but I’ve always suspected she doesn’t really enjoy it. She likes having cooked something that people enjoy,  but she doesn’t like all the faff and preparation, and definitely doesn’t like the clearing up afterwards. She now runs a B&B in South Africa with Step-Daveosaur. He does the cooked breakfasts, she makes the fruit salad, they pay someone to clean up; a perfect arrangement. It appears I take after my mother.

Mr RDP loves to cook. He’ll get excited about recipes and ingredients, always slightly changing a dish to make it his own. He understands seasoning and temperatures and the difference between leaving a lid on or off. My approach to seasoning is to just put smoked paprika on everything. Even a BBQ isn’t a simple affair for Mr RDP.  My BBQs usually involve me discovering that disposable BBQs are on offer in the supermarket, the weather is nice, RESULT, I don’t have to wash up later. He needs several days to prepare so he can make complicated marinades and sauces and an Excel spreadsheet with all the exact timings for each dish.

Mr RDP has, in the course of our relationship, gently encouraged, forcefully hinted and downright nagged at me to learn to cook. I’ve made the odd simple pasta sauce here and there but my repertoire remains basic. I can cook a veggie spag bol, a stir fry and a basic noodle ramen. It’s all I know and I am terrified of following recipes. Therefore it was with some shock and a fair amount of trepidation that he reacted to my announcement yesterday morning that I was “going to make PANCAKES. Proper ones. Dairy free. With wholemeal flour and almond milk”.

I don’t know why I wanted to make pancakes. I’d never made them before. I had a vague sense that they weren’t complicated. So  I Googled, found a recipe and hit the supermarket. My very first pancake was too thick and didn’t cook in the middle. The second I left for too long and it burnt. The third was going really well until I over-enthusiastically flipped it and it broke in half. The fourth? LOOKED LIKE A PANCAKE. After 10 minutes, I had a little stack of small, unevenly sized and misshapen pancakes. I piled them up, added blueberries, maple syrup and some melted dark chocolate mixed with soy cream (we hadn’t been able to find nut & dairy free chocolate spread. I have low dairy tolerance, Mr RDP doesn’t do nuts).

The first attempt
The first attempt

I served them to Mr RDP with pride. He had the look of a parent that, having said “what a lovely picture” now realises that the picture will have to stay on the fridge FOREVER. Having encouraged me to take an interest in cooking, he now had to eat the result. We survived to tell the tale. Not only were they not bad, they were actually rather tasty. 

This morning, buoyed by my success the previous evening I decided that I would make a pancake brunch and set to the ingredients with an enthusiasm I didn’t think I was able to muster when it comes to cooking. After a shaky start I achieved two breakfast brunch stacks. I largely gave myself the misshapen monstrosity early attempts, giving Mr RDP the ones that looked like pancakes you might actually want to eat.

Unconventional, but tasty. No, really.
Unconventional, but tasty. No, really.
brunch me baby
brunch me baby

I admit, there was a moment in Sainsbury’s where I was staring at a wall of flour, googling on my phone to check whether ‘wholewheat’ and ‘wholemeal’ meant the same thing, and wondering what on earth ‘baking soda’ actually was, when I was tempted to just buy the 99p bottle of pre-made pancake mix. I am glad I didn’t  – not only because mine were handmade and healthier, but because now I have the ingredients in the cupboard  I can make MORE PANCAKES. 

Ok, it isn’t much. I follow a few food bloggers and to put these sad attempts next to one of Jack Munroe’s amazing austerity dishes or one of Cookwitch’s foodporn creations is just embarrassing. But I am unspeakably proud of having MADE something. I followed a RECIPE and didn’t set fire to anything, or break anything, or make anyone sick. I actually made something really tasty, and I enjoyed making it. I might even try giving cupcakes a go again. Hopefully this time they won’t double up as a squash ball. 

It’s all fun and games

I thought I had a breakthrough last night. We headed to our new local, a lovely big pub with artfully tatty decorations, mis-matched furniture and an excellent drink selection. Looking at the available options I realised they had my favourite beer (I am not generally a beer drinker but this one tastes like a Piña colada) and really wanted one. Not to get drunk, but just to drink it. That was a new experience. My breakthrough was short-lived however. It’s a popular pub so we managed to get a table only by hovering nearby people who looked like they were leaving. As they left and we sat down I saw the drink they’d left behind – a bottle of wine and two glasses and I felt that familar pang; the desire to get completely ratted. The desire was so strong it shocked me. Continue Reading

storm clouds and silver linings

It’s funny how sometimes the worst situations can actually bring out the best in the world around you; how sometimes an unexpectedly positive  aftermath of the most unsettling or upsetting of events can almost make you glad the dreadful thing happened. This week was one of those weeks. It started with a very sick kitty indeed, making a stop at a £200 set of new locks via a pickpocket before the final destination of renewed faith in humanity…

With our usual excellent planning skills Mr RDP and I accidentally adopted a rescue kitten in the same week we moved in to our new flat. Much deliberation was had over what to name him – I favour silly names like ‘Pumpkin’, Mr Darcy’ or ‘Schmetterling’. Mr RDP likes unlikely human names, such as ‘Steve’, ‘Bruce’ or ‘Rob’. We toyed for a Yiddish word for a while – perhaps ‘Dybbuk’ or ‘Lokshen’;  but finally settled on ‘Manny’. For Mr RDP that means he’s named after a character from his favourite computer game, Grim Fandango. For me he’s named after Manny from Black Books. This means that I constantly say things to him like “did you eat all my bees?” and “you’re a LONELY soldier”.

Mr RDP has never had a pet before, and so having a small furry monster around the place is a whole new experience. I had numerous pets as a child – as a small dinosaur I lived in the West Country where my parents ran a B&B. At one point we had a dog, three cats, a hamster and numerous goldfish. I went through goldfish at a rapid pace because, well, three cats. When my parents divorced mum and I kept two of the cats – one a clawless toothless softhearted old lady called Mungo, who had been a somewhat untraditional wedding present to my parents, the other a younger scrappy character called Sooty, an unwise 4th birthday present to me. Both sadly were put down when I was a teenager due to a series of unfortunate events and I’d not wanted to own a pet since; partly due to trauma avoidance,  partly because they require more care and attention and money than I was prepared to give, and mostly because I am horribly allergic to all furry animals. I build up a tolerance to specific animals if I am around them often, but it takes weeks of sneezing and sniffling and red eyes and itchyness. However, Mr RDP had fallen in love at first sight with the-furmonster-subsequently-known-as-Manny so despite all my “are you sure? It’s a big responsibility…” type concerns, the kitten moved in to the new flat on the same day as us.

Within 2 weeks of the three of us taking up residence together, Manny fell ill. Having been an absolute terror, running all over the place and eating everything in sight (apart from cucumber, which is thus far the only thing that he won’t try to eat), when  we came home from work to find him curled up in a sad little ball, shrinking from our touch and refusing even Cat Crack (aka Dreamies) we knew something was seriously wrong . The vet was concerned at his presentation and high temperature and admitted him for an overnight stay so he could go on an antibiotic drip. Poor little furball. On the way home in the car I realised I was desperately worried, and that I’d fallen in love with the little monster despite my own better judgement. How do cats do that?
They are basically furry little psychopaths who are only nice to us because we give them food. And yet we love them.

Fortunately he was fine and recovered overnight, so when I got the call from the Vet the next day that I could pick him up at 5 I arranged to leave work early and rushed home to get the cat box and hopped on the train – Mr RDP being once again away for the weekend (how does he always manage to time being away when Things Go Wrong?)

Mr RDP had suggested I get a cab home, but I figured the train journey was so easy – only a 5 minute walk at either end – that I would SAVE MONEY by just getting the train. Remeber that, ladies and gentlemen. I was trying to SAVE MONEY. When I got off the train near our flat and went to touch out with my Osytercard I experienced that feeling. You know the one – like a horrible cold dead hand slowly encircling your heart and giving it a slow and delibrate squeeze. The feeling you get when you realise  your wallet is no longer in your bag. Your wallet containing your Osytercard. All of your cash. Your bank card. and your HOUSE KEYS. Then that feeling when you can’t quite feel your arms or feet or knees when you realise that not only do you not have your house keys, but that you have absolutely no way of getting into your house, because your other half is away. And you’ve not got around to giving a locally living friend a spare set of keys, despite talking about it for weeks. Fortunately, I’d taken my phone out of my wallet to take a photograph of the cat to send to MR RDP, so at least I had that and so poor Mr RDP received an hysterical phonecall from the Rockstar Dinosaur Pirate who was standing in the middle of a street in East London with a cat in a box,  no money and no way to get into the flat for the next two days.

Mr RDP gave me the audio equivalent of a couple of slaps to the face to snap me out of my panicked hysterics and told me to find somewhere warm to settle while he called the locksmith. Stumbling along the street I passed a new coffee shop and more or less fell through the doorway.

The owners of the café fed me. I was given tea, cake, sandwiches. Manny stole most of the cake – so at least I knew he was feeling better. They offered their wireless password and their phone so I could call the police and cancel my cards. They gave me a tissue to sob into and let me sit in the cafe for an hour while waiting for the locksmith even though they knew I couldn’t pay them anything. They even offered to lend me money and made sure I had somewhere safe to go for the night. I started sobbing all over again at their kindness.

Once the locksmith arrived I discovered that Mr RDP and I had originally bought very good locks indeed. With a spate of burglaries in our local area recently, it’s good to know that it took a professional locksmith well over an hour to break into the flat. Of course with a spate of burglaries in the local area recently, a guy noisily breaking into a flat for an hour attracts rather a lot of attention. I was deeply embarrassed. I felt like I was wearing a sign that said HI. YES. WE’VE JUST MOVED IN. SORRY CHAPS. THERE GOES THE NEIGHBOURHOOD. Several neighbours all around me came out to see what the noise was and I apologised profusely to every one of them. And yet, none of them were cross or annoyed by the noise – just concerned for this tearful cold girl, alone in the street with a cat in a box.

I was given a card for a builder by the man opposite so we could get a better front door. A chap down the road with a lovely big dog had a long chat with the cat. I was offered tea by several of them which I initially refused out of embarrassment until one neighbour  insisted that I mustn’t stand out on the street and ushered me into her house while the locksmith carried on breaking into ours. Thus I found myself in my neighbour’s flat with a mug of peppermint tea in my hand, watching Kung Fu Panda with her son.

The next day I called the train station as recommended by the police – they had my purse. It had been a gift, and means a great deal to me, so to have it back in my hands was a relief.  The station staff let me travel on the train for free to collect it, as I had no means to pay for the journey. The purse itself had been emptied of most things of monetary value (except for my Costa Coffee card with £8 on it. HAH opportunistic scumbag, you may take my keys but you’ll never take my soy latte) but bank and oyster cards are replaceable, and our locks were already replaced. The station staff had found the purse on the floor, someone clearly having nabbed it, taken what they could and thrown the purse itself away. I went into my bank where the staff were exceptional, allowing me to take cash out over the counter having verified my account information with the phone banking people. With enough money to get by until a new bank card arrived, I bought a small bunch of flowers and popped into the coffee shop that had rescued me the day before.

The owner was so touched by what I considered a small gestures compared to the kindness they’d shown me the day before. Her reaction had me in tears again as I walked away. “You didn’t need to say thank you” she told me. “We’re neighbours. That is what neighbours do. They help each other. You would do the same for me if I were in need”.

London has a bad reputation when it comes to community spirit. Apparently no one speaks to each other. You mustn’t make eye contact on the tube. Or in lifts. Or on the streets. In fact, just avoid eye contact at all times, with everyone.  Apparently no one knows their neighbours names. When I first moved to London friends said they could tell I grew up in the countryside because I still said “thank you” to bus drivers and started conversations with shop assistants.

I am not sure that it is true that Londoners are so unfriendly. With the day to day routine perhaps Londoners aren’t generally that friendly, or open or welcoming. But at times of stress or trouble London can be at it’s best – as demonstrated by the aftermath of the London Riots’  ‘broom army’.

While a stressful (and expensive) experience, it has reminded me, a  West Country girl at heart, that a smile and a kind word can go much further than you realise. I am determined to pay it back – and forward – for my community by trying to be a good neighbour. I am going to start by making sure I take everyone I know to that little coffee shop on the corner, and by putting a thank you card thorough my neighbour’s door. Strong communities start with small kindnesses.

no spoke without fire*

I have been cycling to work since around 2006. It started as a vague attempt to get fitter and save money, but ended up becoming something I genuinely enjoyed.  Nowadays I only commute by public transport if I really have to and it makes me so grumpy and irritable that’s it’s best all round for everyone if I just get on my bike. The biggest unexpected benefit of cycling to work was far fewer illnesses – not just because you are a little fitter and healthier but because you are not in the plague pits of the tube or a London bus during rush hour. One zombie-lurgy ridden commuter sneezing on the tube can infect the entire carriage. I try not to think too hard about what sort of gross things that might be living on the seats or handrails.

I took the cycling proficiency test as a child, and cycled pretty much everywhere up until my bike was stolen shortly after graduating from University.  With my massive graduate debt and having got a job far from where I was living I didn’t bother to replace it. Therefore  before I took the plunge into full time cycle commuting six years later I dusted off my copy of the highway code and re-familiarised myself with the rules of the road.

Full Disclosure: I don’t drive. In fact, I can’t  drive. I owned a copy of the highway code from taking driving lessons in my early twenties. I struggled a great deal with the driving lessons. An hour into my second lesson my driving instructor said, “It’s ok, some people just aren’t meant to drive” which in retrospect was not as reassuring as he probably intended it to be. My problem with driving wasn’t about using the road so much as using the car. I couldn’t understand the gears. I couldn’t get a sense of how much space on the road I took up. I didn’t like not being able to feel or see where I was on the road, or be able to judge or control my speed. Reversing was completely unfathomable. I particularly didn’t like the way I couldn’t trust any other bugger on the road.

Cycling is completely different – you know where you are and how much space you take up because you can see it, you don’t have to sense it. You know exactly how fast you’re going because you can feel it, and you can control your speed with your own body. Cycling feels so natural to me, and every bike I’ve owned that I’ve truly loved has felt like an extension of my own body. Having a bike you love stolen almost feels like someone has stolen a part of you.

I enjoyed commuting by bicycle from my very fist week – discovering new parts of London by accident when getting lost, exploring different routes (fast ones by main road, longer but safer back streets, pretty but muddy off-the-beaten-track routes…) and was never without my battered A-Z in my bike bag (this has been replaced with a smartphone with GPS navigation app – because we LIVE IN THE FUTURE). It amused and irritated me in equal measure when people said “Oh you’re so BRAVE cycling in London. I wouldn’t dare!” or “Isn’t cycling very dangerous?”. I always reassured those people that it was wonderful – as long as you knew what you were doing and cycled safely it was no more dangerous than walking to work. I had a few near misses over the years – a few car doors nearly opened into my face; a few incidents where I was run off the road by boy racers or white van men; one nasty incident where I was actually groped by a man in a van while trying to turn right off a main road. But the near misses were occasional and the benefits of cycling to work far outweighed the downsides.

Things have started to change though, which is strange because over the last couple of years cycling has become hugely more popular – particularly in London and in the area in which I live/work in East London.

While  cycling has become more popular over the last few years it also feels like it’s become far more dangerous. I am having near misses regularly, and experience considerably more aggression from motorists. I am regularly run off the road by irritated, angry or oblivious drivers and am frequently verbally abused, often being told that I ‘don’t belong on the road’.

I’ve thought a lot about why this might be. There’s been much discussion over the last few months about cyclist safety, following a series of tragic accidents where 6 cyclists were killed in London within a fortnight. Every article, be it pro-cyclist or pro-car ended up the same – with a big debate in the comments section full of the same complaints. Motorists don’t look. They don’t indicate. Cyclists run red lights and don’t stop for pedestrians. Cyclists are too slow and get in the way. Motorists drive in bike lanes. Cyclists ride on pavements. Motorists kill baby seals. Cyclists steal the souls of first born sons. And so on.

I personally feel that part of the problem is this increasing media and Government rhetoric that pitches the cyclist in opposition to the motorist which actually creates conflict and defensiveness on both sides. Setting up cyclists and motorists against each other in to some sort of War of the Road is only going to exacerbate the problem and prevents meaningful change.

Personally I am a law abiding cyclist who obeys road signs and crossings and rides to the highway code. I find cyclists who run red lights and have no regard for other road users hugely frustrating. I also  find pedestrians who run out in front of me on a red pedestrian light, and drivers who run red lights hugely frustrating. I don’t dislike ALL car drivers, or ALL pedestrians, or ALL cyclists simply because I witness SOME of them doing Really Stupid Annoying Shit. A rhetoric which encourages Group A to hate Group B (and vice versa) because some of the Other Group occasionally do Really Stupid Annoying Shit is unhelpful and ultimately dangerous. It has the effect that people can feel justified in shitty behaviour towards each other.  A motorist feels it’s ok to cut in front of a cyclist or pass by too fast or too close because “fucking cyclists go through red lights bastards” and a cyclist feels it’s ok to scrape the side of a car or shout WANKER at someone because “fucking motorists never look and they all hate cyclists”.  Don’t even get me started on the motorists who feel I shouldn’t be on the road because they “pay road tax”. 

As a law abiding road user, I try to share the roads, and would like all road users to do the same, be they cyclists, motorists or pedestrians. I am fed up to the back teeth of every discussion – both in real life and online – of how to increase safety for cyclists being derailed by circular debates on who is the worst road user. Poor road use by some cyclists should not be an argument against putting in safer cycle routes or improving existing dangerous ones.  Poor road use by some motorists should not be an argument for banning cars from certain areas. To be effective it is vital that changes to the transport infrastructure in London  are made holistically; taking into account the needs of the most vulnerable road users (pedestrians and cyclists) as well as those of the majority of road users (car drivers) and the needs of London’s economy (public transport, delivery vehicles, HGVs). And I say that as a cyclist.  A fully integrated transport system is possible, but to truly visualise what that could be like we have to drop the Them vs Us/Road Entitlement mentality.

Having said all that I am going to be a massive hypocrite, but this is my blog and I’ll do what I like, YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME. I have a few requests to  make of my fellow road users, and to try to lessen the hypocrisy slightly I will make three requests from each group.


  • It’s Stop, Look, Listen. Not Listen, I Can’t Hear Anything So I’ll Suddenly Step Off The Kerb With No Warning While Texting Oh Shit I’ve Just Been Hit By A Cyclist.
  • Your child is not a canary. Please look before shoving your pushchair out into the road.
  • A cyclepath is a CYCLEpath. The clue is in the name. No, I am not cycling on the pavement, and it’s not called Smallchildonascooterpath.


  • They are called INDICATORS because they INDICATE. If you don’t INDICATE how is anyone to know where you’re going? Magical unicorn mind reading powers?
  • Please learn what this sign means and stop making rude gestures at me for cycling down this street the opposite way to you.
  • This is rule 163 of the highway code and it’s a good one. Please to be following.


  • If you see this sign, GET OFF YOUR SODDING BIKE YOU BASTARD.
  • Look behind you regularly, especially if you are planning to move to the right. It is possible that someone is trying to overtake you, and if it’s a cyclist you won’t hear them. If you’re listening to music on headphones you won’t hear anything at all, so how about you especially look behind you if you’re wearing headphones. Or just don’t wear them.
  • Don’t go through red lights. They are either red to allow pedestrians to cross or to allow traffic to pass in the other direction. Also, it’s stupid and dangerous. Oh, and ILLEGAL.

I could go on, but I’d be here all night. And really, all of my bug  bears and annoyances of other people on the road could be resolved thusly:

All road users:

  • Obey the highway code
  • Share the road
  • Use some common sense.

Actually, I could boil that down to one rule, which I try to obey every time I am out on my bike:

  • Don’t be a dickhead.

Thanks to Mr RPD for the punny title.

The benefits of clarity, the price of Tch

The last week of Dry January has been an easy one for me – very few opportunities or temptations as Mr RockstarDinosaurPirate and I are moving into a little flat he’s just bought – he’s on the first rung of a very expensive property ladder. Therefore this week has featured mainly planning, packing, and occasionally camping out in the flat enjoying the empty space before it’s taken over by all of our possessions (we have so much stuff. Oh god. So. Much. Stuff.) The activity and minor stress of the week has left little space for drinking, and I haven’t wanted one.

Mr RDP completed in the week that it was revealed that the average house price in Hackney, where I lived happily for years before moving in with Mr RDP and where I work, is HALF A MILLION. Don’t get me wrong, I love Hackney, I think it’s great, but HALF A MILLION? House prices are high across the country, but in London they are insane.  BabySisterDinosaur (my  half sister is in her mid twenties and she’ll be my baby sister for ever. Even when she’s sixty and I’m seventymumble.) has also recently bought a flat, but in North Devon. The comparison size for size, cost for cost, finish for finish from her place to Mr RDP’s place is not favourable. By comparison, hers is a sprawling perfect palace at a teeny price. Not, of course, if you factor in wage difference etc etc, but it’s hard not to make that comparison.

Daddy RockstarDinosaurPirate and The Wicked Stepmother  (a long used and utterly inaccurate nickname for her, for she is not at all wicked, and is in fact completely lovely)  came to visit this weekend  Daddy Dinosaur is a builder by trade, and he spent several hours happily knocking on internal walls, poking things, making ‘humph’ and ‘tch’ noises, scrambling around in the loft (to my alarm; he’s 60 and needs an artificial hip)  and drawing on the walls. They also live in North Devon, and were shocked at the comparison to BabySisterDinosaur’s flat. I had a copy of a local paper and showed them some of the other properties that are going in our area, where prices have risen about 20% in the last 6 months (partially due to Hackney becoming so unaffordable).  You would naturally expect prices in London to be more, and living here I guess I get a little desensitised to it. Seeing the folks’ reaction to it from the perspective of outsiders really brought it into focus. Especially when Dad started pointing out all the things in the flat that needed doing up, fixing, changing and improving and how much these things might cost. 

Due to excellent planning, entirely typical of the RockstarDinosaurPirate household, Mr RDP is away for the weekend with some old schoolfriends, back late tonight, with the removal van arriving tomorrow. While ‘camping’ at the new place, we discovered that there was a gas leak. This resulted in me camping at the new place on my own for most of the weekend while gas men make ‘tch’ noises at the boiler (illegal) and the pipework (nonsensical). The costs of buying the place itself was bad enough, but all the ‘tch’ noises I’ve heard this weekend seem to add up to lots of ££££. I have been astounded at all the things a survey *doesn’t* bring up.

I suspect that if I wasn’t on my non drinking trip, while camping I would have got myself a bottle of wine or some boozy ginger beers, thinking that they’d cheer me up and make the weekend more fun and bearable – but in the cold light of sobriety it’s clear that actually they would have made me less able to cope with the ‘tch’ news and the early mornings and the bad news. The clarity brought by lack of booze-fog has made being a Practical Grownup so much easier.

Ok, so perhaps being in my pyjamas on a Saturday night by 6pm and watching Miss Marple isn’t the most rock and roll ways to spend a Saturday night, but I didn’t feel sad, or anxious, or lonely. BabySisterDinosaur even commented on my FB this week that “You’re so happy all the time when you don’t drink!”. I made a joke about it on the time, but have been thinking about that comment a lot – have I? Has it been easier to cope with stress and ‘tch’ when you just have to get on and COPE, and not go fuck it, I’ll have a glass of wine to chill out? This is something I’ll have to think about as the months go by. I have had problems in the past with anxiety and depression, and there are clear links between mental health issues and alcohol. I’d never even considered in the early days of my non-drinking experiment that a side effect could be improved mental happiness. I’d been more worried about people thinking I am boring, not going out as I wouldn’t know what to say or how to have fun, and getting more depressed. But perhaps the opposite is true.

Judging by the about of ‘tching’ I can hear from the gas men in the kitchen right now, I am going to be glad I am not spending money on booze as much of it might be needed to go into this flat, and glad of increased resilience over the next few months.

Reward and Punishment

This week has been hard. My job can be pretty stressful at times, and this week – Friday in particular – was really tough.

By the end of Friday I wanted a glass of wine (and wine isn’t usually my go-to drink of choice) so badly that it made me grumpy. Of course the result of the week and that day in particular being stressful contributed to that grumpiness, but the fact I wasn’t able to relieve that stress and grump with a class of wine made it worse.

I am pleased that at no point did I seriously consider just giving in and having a booze – that wasn’t an option and never even entered my mind – but I was keenly aware of how much I wanted one, how I felt I deserved one, and how I ‘knew’ that nothing else would achieve the same result.

I asked on my facebook: “Work day from HELL. What can I do after work that will achieve the same result as a large glass of wine without being alcoholic or fattening?” Continue Reading

Sugar logic

Three weekends in and I’ve still not hit the wall. I’m still enjoying not drinking, and while last weekend had some wobbles there were few this weekend.

The closest I came to a wobble this week was on the countdown to 5pm at work, with a colleague’s leaving drinks and a wedding reception to attend. As the weekend drew nearer I started to feel like there is slightly less joy to that weekend countdown when there’s no glass of wine on the other side of 5 o’clock. It did make me wonder why I have such a strong association with the end of the working week and a booze drink. I think this is pretty typical of our culture; we see that glass of wine/beer/G&T etc as a reward, as a gift to ourself for our hard work. I love my job but it can be stressful at times and my office environment is full of people doing REALLY stressful jobs and there is definitely a link between having that rewarding drink and unwinding and letting all the crap of the week go so you can enjoy the weekend. Some of the drunkest nights I’ve had have been Friday after work drinks with colleagues. I suspect as the year goes on and this gets harder (and I am sure it will, once the novelty wears off) I am going to have to ensure that I make plans for Friday nights or Saturday morning so that I have something to look forward to that isn’t alcoholic. Continue Reading

January continues

On Monday  I went to a free ‘Introduction to British Sign Language’ evening course. I cycled there, and got a bit lost. I stopped to ask for directions and – this being the sort of thing that happens to me –  the dude I ask is deaf. He manages to give me pretty good directions, considering all I know of BSL pre-course is limited to the  finger spelling alphabet and the makaton for ‘biscuit’ and ‘toilet’ due to teenage years spent volunteering with children with special needs. The course was great  – and so I have signed up for the 6 month level one course. Mr RockstarPirateDinosaur pointed out that with the amount I drink, I’ve pretty much paid for the course if I don’t drink for 3 months. A sobering thought indeed.

And so, we’re two weeks into January. We’ve successfully navigated the  allegedly most depressing day of the year, and the dry Januaryists have survived a third of their abstinence. Continue Reading

Introduction to the Rockstar Dinosaur Princess Pirate

When I was 5 I wanted to be a rockstar dinosaur pirate princess when I grew up.

30 years later I am none of these things, although I was briefly one for a while and one out of 4 of such lofty goals ain’t bad.

2014 is the year I will be closer to 40 than 30 and this makes no sense to me whatsoever. When I was 5 and had my rocking giant lizard corsair dreams 40 was so incredibly old I couldn’t even imagine ever reaching it.

2013 was the year I quit roller derby – the only hobby I’d ever truly stuck with – and it left a gaping hole in my life that I soon realised had, pre-roller derby, been filled with drinking, partying and general excesses. I made a list of things I wanted to achieve in the yawning chasm that became my spare time. Here is that list:

  • Learn to sew. Start with cushions, end up with dresses
  • Learn Sign language
  • Start writing again

It’s not a big list. And for the 6 months after roller derby I did nothing with that list other than make a half hearted and not terribly good cushion out of a roller derby t-shirt and ask a friend if I could borrow a sewing machine, which is still sitting in her hallway months later waiting for me to pick it up. The knee injury that hastened my retirement from sport became an excuse to do nothing and eat everything and my weight slowly crept back  up to a level it hadn’t been at since a year on Weightwatchers back in 2002. I let life slide along, not entirely miserable but not exactly happy either. I started to feel like I was somehow participating in my life but not really living it; going through the motions but not really taking part.

Then New Year’s Eve 2013 happened. I don’t quite know what happened – but the short version is I had a horrible drinking experience. Possibly the worst of my life (and I have had some pretty horrible drinking experiences in my time) which lead to much sobbing, several panic attacks, a three day (at least, I’m still living it) hangover. It nearly ended my relationship. It’s a blessing almost that I don’t remember exactly what happened while drunk, but what I have been told makes me very sad indeed. Both the dreadful things I did and said, and the wonderful things that happened that I cannot remember. It made me really think about my relationship with alcohol, and how it has impacted on so many parts of my life.

I have a number of friends doing dry January, which I’d never even considered before. I’ve always been of the belief that January was miserable enough without denying yourself the best escape from that miserableness. But then I re-evaluated that statement. What it is about alcohol that makes it so important in my life? I mentioned to a few people I was considering going off the booze for January, and possibly longer. Reactions were a mix of horror, disbelief, condemnation and ridicule. This only made me think more about how alcohol – in particular social drinking – has taken on this huge significance in my life and that of my work colleagues, my friends and my family. How the act of not just drinking but of *being drunk* is tied up in my psyche. I want to really think about this in 2014 and unpick it.

So back to The List. It has grown, and changed.

  • Learn to sew. Start with cushions, end up with dresses
  • Learn Sign language
  • No drinking for 3 months – re-evaluate on 1st April whether I want to stay off booze for a further 3 months
  • Start writing again – and document my attempts to do all of the above

New Year’s Resolutions can go so horribly wrong, especially when you announce them to the entire world. It remains to be seen whether I will wake up in a pool of my own dribble after a massive bender in two weeks’ time, whether that sewing machine will remain in my friend’s hallway and whether my knowledge of sign language will be limited to the alphabet.

Possibly the hardest thing will be getting into the habit of writing weekly. I can’t even promise that my weekly posts will be about The List – I have a tendency to get an idea or a rant in my head which has to come out – so future posts might even cover feminism, politics, society, animals, the weather or whatever it is that has made me think or feel or cross or cheerful that week. I am open to suggestions.

So to sum up, just as I am not the  Rock Star Dinosaur Pirate Princess I aimed to be when I was 5, this experiment of mine may turn out to be something quite different than where it started – with The List. But much like those intervening 30 years, it could also turn out to be just as interesting.