Sunday, 8 December 2013
(*Extract photographed by 'One Day' by David Nicholls.*)
I am a bookworm. I love to read. I have a lot of books, and I have read a lot of books so far. By the time I am silver-haired and wrinkly, I will have lived vicariously through so many different people that I will believe that certain, brilliant fictional things actually happened to me. That is a promise. 'Yes, fine Grandchildren of mine, Grandma did go to Hogwarts.'
Because I'm so wormy for books, I thought it was about time I introduced this passion to my dusty, little corner of the Internet. Yes, readerfolk, we're putting up a virtual bookshelf. Hammer, hammer, bang. Ah, isn't it lovely? Welcome to Kathy B's Book Club. It's like a night club, but with silence and beds and onesies, and absolutely no tequila slammers. Three weekly on a Sunday I shall be sharing with you something 'booky' and giving away a copy of one of my favourite books so that it can bestow upon another human its awesomeness, and so that we can all get excited over it and possibly weep.
Today I thought I'd get things started by telling you about my favourite book of all time, 'One Day', by the wonderful David Nicholls.
'One Day' tells the story of Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew, who meet at university on Friday 15th July, 1988. Each chapter then revisits the same date for the next twenty years, vividly unravelling the course of their lives and more importantly, the course of their friendship and its will-they-won't-they potential to develop into something far greater.
I love many things about this book, but the thing I love the most about it is not its intricate plot or its clever structure or its innate ability to make me laugh out loud throughout. The thing I love the most about this book is the integrity of Emma and Dexter's relationship. There's Emma: an awkward, self-depreciating, 'world-changing' creative type who is desperate to write for a living, and then there's Dexter: confident, popular, and spontaneous; whose only plan is to be successful, somehow, and to sleep with more than one woman at the same time.
Together they are charming and hilarious and beautiful and fraught and painful. Their relationship is unpredictable. It's about almost, but not quite having sex with someone on the first night you meet them. It's about the sacrality of youth and its intrinsic hopefulness. It's about serving up half-stale burritos and smelling of onions whilst the one person who can make you feel better is galavanting across the world, being seduced in every hotel room. It's about going to dinner with a drug addict, wearing an orthopaedic high heel and a sorry smile. It's about loving someone so fiercely but disliking them all at once. It's about breaking rules and going skinny-dipping and laying a little too close to each other after a bottle of wine. It's about 'how we were then, and how we are now'. It's about seeing each other through life's great and awful surprises. Ultimately, it's a heart-warming and heart-breaking story about friendship, and about love, in its most raw and dynamic state.
The book is unassumingly profound in that it offers itself to us as a literary reminder of our own mortality; of the value of time, a red flag, if you will, towards the perils of just sitting and waiting for things to happen for us. Twenty years go by in just 435 pages. The book quietly shouts at us to live our lives: to love, to do what makes us happy, and to carpe that diem.
And through this poignant message about time, the book itself becomes timeless. And quite extraordinary.
I'm giving away a copy of 'One Day' to a fellow literary worm/Kathy B book clubber. If you'd like it to be yours, just follow me on Twitter (@KathyB5710) and tell me so. I'll choose a bookworm from the virtual garden next Sunday and get it posted.
Friday, 6 December 2013
You might wonder why I've taken the time to write you this before you even exist. After all, that day may never come. Right now I'd rather have five month calf cramp than have children, and believe me, that's saying something. But if you do become my reality, and you are reading this letter, hello. I sincerely hope you haven't inherited my inability to walk past a nude statue without dry humping it.
I'm 22 as I write. I have no children of my own yet. My parenting wisdom is therefore pretty much non-existent. I do however know that I will want to build a fortress around you. I will be proud of your accomplishments, but I know that there will always be a silent, crippling anxiety that the world will hurt you, and I know for certain that the world will. There'll be times I won't let you out. There'll be times I'll squeeze you so tight that you'll tell me I'm the most embarrassing woman to ever walk the planet. (I'll never let on that you are in fact correct). We'll have our blazing rows and I'll say silly, unreasonable things and possibly throw my shoes at you. I guess I just want us both to remember that I was once young like you. I was a human being long before you came into this world. And I have experienced the things you have. So here it is. Here's a rambling of the truth so far, captured for you, waiting for you.
People are probably asking you what you want to 'dooooo' with your life. What are your plans for the future? Society will have instilled within you an anxiety about this. There's every chance you've crapped yourself about it once or twice. You will feel that you need to know and that you need to know it right now and that your life will be one giant, sodding disaster if you don't. Guess what? It won't. It's okay to be lost. It's okay not to have a destination in mind. All I ask is that you stay true to your heart. If you want to ride tractors, ride tractors. (I want to ride tractors too. Get your wellies).
If you're anything like me, you're going to be one curious cat. You'll have a hungry brain. Feed it with knowledge and experiences. Learn as much as you can about everything that you can. Books are tonic for the idle mind; immerse yourself in them. Appreciate creativity and literature and music and science and technology and religion and history and sports and people and places. Appreciate everything, even the lesson on 'breeds of gulls' which may well be told to you by a half-pissed, bearded man on a train. If you never speak of it again, at least you will know which birdie is most likely to steal your tuna sandwich.
Be lovely. Practice your manners. I fear that niceness is a dying art. Promote it. Never be that girl who laces her social media pages with quotes like, 'I'm a bitch, take it or leave it muah.' We'll leave it, thanks. It's not cool to be a bitch.
You probably spend evenings cursing yourself for things you've said or done that you feel you shouldn't have. It is intrinsic to your existence as a human being to fuck up. So go ahead; fuck up. Permit yourself to make mistakes and those same mistakes will become lessons of value. You'll laugh about them one day, I promise.
Look after your body, and remember, the most important thing about it is its health. Don't put too much shit into it. Eat broccoli. It's good for you. It also turns any plate into a dwelling of vegetably, foresty goodness. And never take up smoking. I have watched too many people in this family screw up their bodies through smoking. If you take it up, I will kill you before the cigarettes do.
Keep your dignity when your heart gets broken. I can absolutely promise you that those desperate, unsolicited drunken messages will not be worth your humiliation, especially if they involve your Betty Boops. I can also absolutely promise you that although you may feel like that one person has obliterated your one chance of insane, heart-shaped happiness, you will move on. If you can't do it yourself, time will do it for you.
Always remember that human beings are awesome creatures. Even when they're the worst person you've ever met and you'd rather sit on a cactus then see them again, human beings are perpetually fascinating. Remember that. Watch them. Talk to them. Mock them. Mock yourself. Treasure those who make you feel extraordinary: people who can turn you into a jolly, hysterical, urinating mess, people who get you right to the depths of your grubby, beautiful soul. Those people are what life is all about.
Do lots of cartwheels. The world looks funny upside down.
Finally, if I'm angry/weepy/being hideously grumpy for no apparent reason, make me marmite toast, give me a notebook, and Google me an amusing picture of a giraffe. Nine times out of ten it will work.
Lots of love,
Mum. (When I was never you, but more you than I am now).
Sunday, 3 November 2013
Years ago, in a single bed with Ivy, their bodies curled around each other beneath the limp blanket, Albert Carter had contemplated death. He’d told Ivy there and then that she made him feel like he’d live forever, and she’d smiled giddily into his chest. They’d been so young once, and with this youth came their great invincibility, and with their great invincibility came the great impossibility that one day this would all be over, that one day this precious, simple moment would be a precious piece of their entwined history that could never again be recreated. But of course, one day this moment would be just that. For sixty years later, Ivy Carter had breathed her last breath, and Albert felt the kind of heartbreak that he never knew existed until he knew that he would never hold the love of his life in his arms again.
For so many years he had carried this heartbreak with him like a badge of honour; as if to lose his pain, in its most raw and suffocating state, would be to lose all that he had left of her. It was stupid, he knew that, but somehow he had lived the past three years of his life like this, and it was only now that he himself were dying, that the realisation of how much time he had wasted had thrust itself upon him like an unruly stranger at a party; irritating and vaguely satisfying all at once.
'You see Sophia, I've realised something,' he said tenderly, 'you can spend a whole lifetime looking forward, only to one day look in the mirror and see creased skin and tired eyes and terminal cancer and realise that looking forward isn't so appealing anymore. So suddenly we look backwards, and suddenly all those things we contemplated doing are the things we desperately wish we'd done. What if this one decision had the power to change your entire life for the better, and yet this decision was one you chose not to make?'
'Oh Albert, you really think I should do this, don't you?' Sophia groaned, 'you want me to be stupid and wreckless. You want me to lose all inhibition and just go with him, don't you? What if it's all a facade? What if he murders me?'
'What if it isn't? What if he doesn't?' Albert winked, a playful smile teetering on the corners of his cracked lips, 'my point is Soph, is that love, or whatever it may or may not be, isn't really that complicated. You light up when he's around. That's raw and it's rare, and it should be celebrated with passionate, sleepy, awkward sex at silly o'clock in the morning and sunrise chasing at dawn. Go out there and give it a chance, my dear, I dare you. If he gets all those little quirks of yours, and he makes your life better just by existing, and better still, he's mad enough to actually feel the same way about you, then you take that. And you hold onto it.' He paused, as if to collect his thoughts, 'and you occasionally bribe him, with beer and bosom of course.'
'Ah fuck,' Sophia said quietly, laughing into the fresh, autumnal air, 'I really hate it when you sound like you could possibly be right. Quite the wise old owl, aren't we Sir?'
'Oh please,' Albert snorted, 'I haven't been called Sir since I was chained to a bed naked in 1956.'
'What was she like Albert, your wife? Apart from being clearly ravenous in the bedroom?'
'Ivy? Yes, she was quite something. Big, bright eyes, doe-like almost. Self-depreciating, funny, disgracefully sexy, sarcastic, beautiful. There wasn't a single bad bone in that woman's body. A tiny part of you reminds me of her. Perhaps that's why I'm so fond of you.'
'Oh gosh,' Sophia sighed, playfully nudging away from him on the bench, 'you did promise me you weren't a raging pervert when I moved in. Please don't tell me this has all been a secret ploy to get me to chain you to a bed naked and recreate your wild, married youth."
Copyright; 2013, Kathy Brown.
Sunday, 13 October 2013
I'm so sorry that you have to go through this again. It's weird isn't it, how life turns out. If, 3 years ago, somebody had told us that 3 years from now one of us would be at war with leukaemia, the chances are that we wouldn't have believed it for a second. We might have even laughed in disbelief. And then we'd have gone back to inventing our next ridiculous excuse as to why we'd be rolling into work late next weekend, inventing mystery appointments and dramatic plot-lines just to allow us an extra few hours to throw hideous shapes the night before.
Although our jobs changed and our priorities changed and the same, grubby nightclubs lost their appeal, there were some things that were never meant to happen, and this was one of them. And for that, my heart can't help but break a little for you, but really, it's the cancer that has the biggest fight on its hands. You beat it once, and you will beat it again. Never stop believing that, and never take your eyes off of the finish line. We will all be crossing it with you. Some of us will get naked and film you the saucy Macarena to celebrate. (Aka me).
I know we have a bizarre fantasy that we will go to Hogwarts one day, but let me tell you this. You don't need a wand, a cape, or a grand castle to make you wizardly. There is a magic inside of you that even our idol-chum Dumbledore would envy. You have a fierce spirit and an incredible strength that I am in complete awe of, and that I know will carry you through the days ahead.
And remember, courage isn't just about warpaint and marching on like everything's fine. Courage is about falling apart and still waking up the next day with the desire to fight this hideous disease. Courage is about feeling scared and sad and angry and still finding little reasons to smile. Courage is everything you see when you look in the mirror. Even on the days you can't feel it, I promise you it will always be there.
So here's to your fight, you glorious hunk. Be brave, stay focussed, and try to find something beautiful in every single day; a smile from your mum, a funny little moment with your awesomely peculiar boyfriend, a cloud shaped like a unicorn. Do what you have to do to see the next sunset, to enjoy the next adventure, to laugh so much you're a shrieking, hysterical mess, to achieve all of those big dreams of yours, to fall even more wildly in love, to grow into a silver-haired fox, to be mischievous, to live the life you so deserve.
I will be here for you every step of the way and give you absolute permission to cry on me, be sick on me, and convince me to do ridiculous things to cheer you up. I love you with the entirety of my heart (and my breasts) and I look forward to the day you've kicked ass all over again.
You're one of the best friends I've ever had, and though I don't know much; I know this. You are Emazing. Cancer's not having you. Before you know it we'll be back sitting on the beach beneath the fireworks, enjoying a cuddle and a hearty chinwag about nudity and sex and menfolk and taking hideous, wonky photos that cut our heads off and make us laugh for a million years. You can even serenade me again with your horrific 'cat-in-labour' voice, if you really have to.
Love you forever,
Kathy (aka Kaff/Pat/bitch features/Voldemort lookalike)
Next month I will be taking part in 'cuffed for cancer', a fundraising initiative that I came up with to raise lots of money for the incredible charity who are supporting Emily and her family through this difficult time. If you've got a spare fiver in your bank and want to make a difference, you know what to do.
Sunday, 6 October 2013
(*Image sourced from and credited to weheartit.com*)
My name is Kathy B and I am a pedestrian. I know, try not to all gasp at once at this shocking revelation. What's that? You're a pedestrian too? My gosh, we have so much in common. Isn't this spooky?
I seem to have done a lot of walking recently, and by walking, I don't mean glorious hikes across the beautiful, muddy terrain of the Autumn countryside (sigh), I just mean walking, in public places (aka between Topshop and the Oxfam bookshop) amidst a throng of fellow pedestrian stranger-folk.
I've come to the conclusion that the majority of pedestrians are irritating. We do have some peculiar habits, don't we?
Firstly, and possibly the most irritating of such habits, we seem to enjoy playing very sudden games of musical statues. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Am I just stopping in the middle of a busy crowd for absolutely no reason whatsoever?! Probably. In those split seconds, we forget the entire purpose of our trip and all that we are. 'Who am I? What am I here for again? What even is the meaning of life? Oh gooooshhh, I can't move until I crack it.' And if we're not suddenly stopping, we're suddenly making a swift change in direction, charging like a wild, angry boar out of nowhere towards the path of a panic-stricken shopper. It's like Grand Theft Auto at 3mph. (There are obviously some things worth charging for though. These include Greggs, sexy buskers, and avoiding a reunion with Mr Annihilation).
A further irritating habit us pedestrian folk have is that of speaking loudly on the phone, because everyone within a 10 metre proximity is definitely incredibly eager to hear that we've bought a chicken and brocolli pie for dinner, and that YES, WE'RE MORE THAN HAPPY TO BUY YOU SOME SANITARY TOWELS, HOW MUCH ABSORPTION WOULD YOU LIKE? Why? Why, the second we swap roof for sky, does our televolume get so bloody high? Why do we shout, what's that all about? Why are we yelling? Well, that would be telling. (I think I must be the only person in the entire world ever to write a jingle on this subject. It was surprisingly enjoyable. I nearly turned it into a sonnet and lost the rest of this blog post).
Some of us also like to carry about 7138 more bags than we are able to control. (Guilty as charged). Trying to navigate your way through town centre with too many bags is like trying to navigate an elephant through a china shop. It is particularly difficult and carries a substantial risk of injury. And yet we still do it... We still load up our entire body with shopping and unintentionally swing it around like unruly bag-o-planes, giving everything, and everyone in our path a mighty bio-degradable bashing. One day I half expect to unpack my shopping and find a kneecap.
Finally, we've mastered the art of extreme impatience. We don't just press the pedestrian crossing button once. Oh no, once could never possibly be enough. We instead conduct our own awkward, angry, roadside musical, tapping away with that index finger at a billion mph like the lights will never change otherwise. 'Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap'. (There's a reward of £10 and a compliment if anyone can guess what I song I tap-tapped).
Yup, pedestrians are irritating. And on that note, I'm off to figure out the meaning of life in the middle of the busiest pavement in town.