Cast your mind back. Way back.
No. WAY back.
Oh come on. Work with me here.
Way, way, WAY back.
Ok fine. Let me give you a hand. Well, a date, actually. GO back to July 2012. Specifically, the 4th of July 2012.
I know, bleeding yonks ago, right?
On the 4th of July, 2012, a lot of shit had not even happened. Kim K’s pelvic floor muscles were still intact, with baby North West nothing but a twitch in Kanye’s boxers. Abi Alton believed that the X Factor was her ‘Go Straight To Stardom’ pass, as opposed to something that would break her fragile soul. Joey Essex had not yet gone on his jungle mission to replace the English language with a series of winks, gurns and emoticons, and we all still thought Tom Daley was straight…..ummm…
One thing that had happened though, was this. My blog. Specifically, my last blog entry before now. 537 days ago. For those of you who subscribed – I imagine you’re wondering why you bothered. For those of you who bothered – I imagine you’d forgotten you’d even bothered. And finally, for those of you who remembered you’d subscribed and wondered where the feck my blog went – I’m really, really sorry. I promised regular, written LOLs and those LOLs did not come. It’s a bit like that time in 1989 when I signed up to the Neighbours Fan Club and all I got was a shit Stefan Dennis button badge and a grammatically-shoddy newsletter promising ‘more Ramsay Street treats on their way’. An annual subscription fee of £12.50 and the Neighbours fan fun stopped right there (and somewhat quite poignantly, the badge fell off my purple, padded bomber jacket not long after – last seen somewhere between the Stockport branches of Our Price and Tammy Girl. A sad, sad story).
Stefan Dennis – The Michael Flatley of the Australian Soap Industry…
Anyway. Back to you. Back to this blog. Long and the short of it is, I got a job, started commuting 4 hours a day, working like a motherfucker. Blog went dowwwwn. And to be honest, up until last week, I thought the blog was dead. But then something happened. More to the point, something came into my life. Blog-pal, I found this:
The Polar Opposite Of Take A Break
I was on a train (if there’s one thing you need to know about me, it’s that I am ALWAYS on a train), and the lady who’d been sat next to me, left it. Dude, this magazine costs £3.99 – I was almost tempted to run after her with it but then, you know, I was kind of bored and short on reading material so I snaffled it for myself. Hey, train lady got off at the posh stop – she wasn’t going to miss this glossy. I imagine her mag rack is stuffed full of glossies (fnar, fnar – insert Sid James cackle here).
So, a free House & Garden mag for me. Hooray!
Actually, no. No hooray. And really, I should have known from the cover that all was not right. That this was 100% not a publication intended for the likes of me.
For one, there was this:
Subtle sparkle? ‘SUBTLE SPARKLE’? It’s Christmas, who wants subtle sparkle when there are disco balls and glitter cannons in this world? Know another thing about me, I love camp. I LOVE CAMP. When Barry Manilow did Copacabana at the Children In Need gig last month, I was so enraptured by his performance, I started a meeting at work with a clip of it the very next day. Not seen it? Spoiler alert; it ends on Manilow doing a flamenco-inspired ‘olé’. It’s fucking glorious. Watch it right now.
For two, there was the tree. Or, more specifically, the tree in such close proximity to the words ‘Family Home’.
Now I don’t know about you, but I live in one of these ‘Family Homes’, one with kids and pets and shit, and my tree does not look like that. In fact, my tree is the opposite of that. Where the House & Garden Tree has silk rosebuds, mine has Poundland baubles. Where the H&G tree has gently twinkling lights, mine has ones that made a weird fizzing sound and prompted my husband to double check the ‘Fire Damage’ section of our home contents insurance policy when we switched them on. And where the H&G tree has its decorations spread evenly across it’s plump, grassy branches, mine has a job lot of festive fancies hanging from one, bare branch – bare because the kids have insisted on piling 3 kilos of faded tat onto the one twig and the pine needles can’t take it, and bare because the cat keeps lollopping into it and knocking every one of those FUCKING FESTIVE FANCIES on the floor.
So yeah. The tree is the opposite of mine. And soon, as I peeled back the pages, it became obvious that EVERYTHING beneath this cover was the opposite of me. I wasn’t just reading a magazine, I was stepping through a portal into a world that I never have, nor will ever, inhabit. House & Garden is 178 glossy pages of a parallel universe. One in which I own a country pile in Surrey, wrap presents by candlelight and own a dachshund called Theobald.
Candlelit Gift Wrapping: A Big Ol’ Wanky Fire Hazard
This world that this magazine represents is INSANE. So insane that I need you to step through the portal too. Picture the A-Ha Take On Me video – I’ll be Morten, you be the girl with the Lady Di hairdo – take my hand, come with me…because I need to show you some crazy shit.
If someone asked me what a ‘Lavinia’ was, I’d hazard a guess that it was a part of your fanny.
Me: Is the baby ok?
Midwife: perfectly healthy, although I think we may need to stitch up your Lavinia.
Turns out Lavinia is a name. A name so posh, I have never, ever heard of. Says here ‘Lavinia’s sleuthing uncovered a sixteenth-century Suffolk farmhouse’. Yeah, well my sleuthing uncovered that unpleasant college ex of mine on Facebook – turns out he married a girl with a lazy eye and a penchant for scrunchies. Ha! to the ex and in your face, Lavinia.
£20 FOR THREE ROLLS OF TAPE
Unless each roll is 700 metres long, I’d say that’s probably not value for money. Unless you’re the jammy beggar who’s selling this shit to a bunch of bankers’ wives at some overpriced crafts fair in Chelsea, in which case, money-wise, YOU. ARE. WINNING.
“My boyfriend has an irrational dislike of Christmas Trees, so I miss out’.
Aside from people who know people who’ve been killed by Christmas-trees-gone-wrong, who actually has a dislike of them? Alexander’s boyfriend? Grow up. Alexander? You need to stand up to this pissy nonsense. He’ll be telling you what to wear next.
Meet Bonnie. Bonnie thinks Christmas trees are wasteful, so instead has decorated this ‘early 20th century ladder’ (£350) that she just ‘landed upon’. Sure, that’s already pretty mental, but Bonnie’s ladder debacle takes a whole new spin-of-crazy at the end of the piece when she says:
‘Sadly ladders do not smell quite as nice as real trees. ..”
The Kind Of Tree I’d Imagine A Squatter To Have
QUITE as nice? So you’re suggesting ladders so smell almost as nice? Do early 20th century stepladders actually smell, Bonnie? Do they? Or do you maybe think it’s time for you to take a little break? Has the House & Garden editor been making you work late? Come on Bonnie, let’s go have a little lie down…
Do you have a ghost-baby living in your 16th century Suffolk farmhouse, crawling the hallways, falling over stepladder trees, searching for something crazy and haunted-looking, and costing in excess of FOUR THOUSAND POUNDS, in which a ghost-baby can sleep? Then may I suggest this. You know the film The Others? This is 100% the bed that the dead ‘you’re not my mother’ girl sleeps in.
Oh HI there, poor person. Check us out. We’re all minted. We’re also at a party that’s serving free champagne and gin cocktails, and yet not one of us looks remotely shitfaced, nor do we have a bit of sick-splashback on our tops from where we’ve had to bob to the loo for a tactical chunder. Not in my world House & Garden. Not in my world.
And then, THEN, just as I’m thinking that I really need to put the magazine down and revaluate my now seemingly trite, not to mention piss-cheap, life, I come across Herbie and Heather Hancock. In real life, my path and the path that Herbie and Heather Hancock stroll down, do not cross. Mine is a road signposted with Prawn Rings, Seagull Punch-Ups and Crisps For Tea, the Hancocks’ is one landmarked with grouse shoots, partnerships at Deloitte and great big, burning piles of money that they simply can’t spend quickly enough.
MEET HERBIE AND HEATHER
Herbie and Heather must have a very lovely life. They’re happy, right? I mean, look at them, with their big, fuck-off house and seven-page spread in House and Garden. Well done, you two, WELL DONE. But as I was pouring over every minute detail of the Hancocks’ lives, something kind of weird happened. Call it sleep deprivation. Call it train-sickness. Call it me being a massive bitch….all of a sudden, the happy house of Hancock took a more sinister turn…
House & Garden Say: “Herbie and Heather Hancock decorate the Christmas tree in the hall of their North Yorkshire home…”
My Eyes Read: “Heather decorates the tree while Herbie glares at her from the stairs . ‘For pity’s sake, Heather’, hisses Herbie, ‘the theme’s red and gold, what’s that fucking turquoise bauble all about?’”
House & Garden say: “Herbie sits in the kitchen with Heather…”
My Eyes Read: “Herbie sits in the kitchen while Heather is made to stand and think about the bauble incident. ‘Why am I never allowed to sit next to you?’ asks Heather. ‘You know why’, growls Herbie as he snatches up the cheeseboard and leaves the room.”
House & Garden say: “Herbie reads the newspaper in the drawing room”
My Eyes Read: “Herbie reads the newspaper in the drawing room, pretending not to hear Heather tapping on the door. ‘Can I come in please? I really fancy some Cathedral City’, whines Heather. ‘Not a chance’, whispers Herbie, as he sits on the cheese board to spite his hungry wife.”
House & Garden say: “A fire blazes in the wood-burning stove in the sitting room”
My Eyes Read: “While Herbie builds a fire in the sitting room, Heather uses the time to leave the house for a few moments…”
House & Garden Say: “Heather and Robert Phillip, a Highland-cattle expert, inspect the cattle on the moor…”
My Eyes Read: “In hushed tones, Heather pleads with Robert to help her. ‘I don’t care if it’s Christmas we must leave tonight’. ‘Did he sit on the cheese again?’ asks Robert, as Heather blinks away tears. ‘BASTARD’ seethes Robert, not noticing Herbie at the window.
House & Garden Say: “Herbie and Heather go on a shoot.”
My Eyes Read: “For the first time in years, Herbie asks Heather along on a shoot.”
House & Garden Say: “Herbie has a drink at The Queens Arms with Roger, Yvonne, Emma and James.”
My Eyes Read: “Herbie has a drink at The Queens Arms with Roger, Yvonne, Emma and James. ‘Such a shame Heather couldn’t make it’ says Yvonne, ‘do you think she’ll be joining us any time soon?’. ‘Oh, I VERY much doubt it’, cackles Herbie, draining his glass and throwing down his winning domino.”
Woah. WOAH. Shit just got dark.
Sorry about that. I’m not sure where my mind went then. If this were an episode of Dallas, I’d be coming to in the shower right about now, wondering what-the-Bobby-Ewing just happened.
But anyway, listen, thanks ever so much for reading and a very, very Happy Christmas to you all…
From me and the Hancocks…
*softly closes laptop. Un-tapes fake passport from underside of desk. Heads to meet Herbie at Heathrow….*