I woke up to find a For Sale sign under the bed… Some party (this is for Mother’s Day):

My Aunt was like a mother to me. Unlike my actual mum.
My aunt took me in after I’d been drifting from sofa to sofa, and she got me back into school and supported me through applying to university (it’s a longer story, you don’t want to hear it, I don’t want to tell it), something I never thought I’d do, along with the millions of other things that mothers do for their children.  Nobody asked her to, but she did it anyway because she thought it was the right thing to do.
I don’t always appreciate her anywhere near as much as I ought.

Anyway, that’s why my article on mother’s day is actually going to be about my aunt.
It’s inspired by Laura’s post over on Laura Living Life where she talks about the secrets we keep from our parents. I was thinking about the “breaking things” thing, and remembered a funny story from about 10 years ago, before I moved in with my now-husband:

My aunt and uncle had gone on holiday somewhere (I think Italy), and the cousins were in charge of the house. They planned and executed a house party, while I was at my other aunt’s house for the week, staying with her. She drove me back and I arrived in time for the house party. I think I drank most of a bottle of Jack Daniel’s that night – at the time, every party I went to, I’d drink most of a bottle of whatever whisky was available (or whiskey – I’m pretty sure I have resistance to both from the Irish side of the family though), otherwise I’d go for any other alcohol in similar quantities, so I don’t remember everything that happened.

I remember myself and a couple of other people attempting to walk across the kitchen to prove how sober we were, and I remember that we were pretty much walking sideways. I remember talking absolute crap about nothing important, and probably being a crashing bore (as I was prone to). I remember posing for this picture (my cousins were more sensible):

beer trophy for sale sign
That’s me at the front. I had absolutely nothing to do with the acquisition of the sign, I just thought it was really funny. I think one of the lads in the picture stole the sign but I don’t know.

I have no idea where the For Sale sign came from or how it came to be in my room, but when I awoke, it was there, under my bed, in the room I shared with my cousin, and my 3 cousins had no better idea than I as to where it came from, let alone who had got it up the stairs or why it was under the bed!
When we ventured downstairs, we were horrified to see that there was more to this story:
There was also a Little Tykes rocking horse see-saw thing, in lurid green plastic, there was a ladder, and I’m pretty sure there was also a duck.
There were other things too, but I don’t remember what they were. Unfortunately last year when I lost all my old photos (except the ones I’d grabbed off Facebook before I deleted my account, which is how I have the picture above) the other pictures of this party went the same way.

Now I think about it, I’m pretty sure at least one person used the ladder to get onto the garage roof, with the intent of getting back indoors via the bathroom window (which they thankfully didn’t actually manage).

But the For Sale sign was the sticking point. We needed to get it out of the house before my aunt and uncle got back. I can’t remember if they were due back later that day or not.
The four of us carefully manoeuvred the huge sign out of my bedroom and down the stairs. I think I was at the front. The thing about those stairs is that they curved, and there was a window and a holy water ceramic ornament thingy by the window, then there was the front door. The sign started moving a bit too fast from behind and suddenly we were about to put it through the window so we turned it sharply to avoid it, and I felt it smack into the holy water ornament thingy. I think we all just winced in horror as it hit the floor and smashed, but we still had to get the sign out of the house, so we tried not to break anything else as we worked out how the hell to get the rest of the sign around the corner of the stairs and out the front door.  It was like one of those impossible puzzles.

At the time, the cousins all shared ownership of an ageing N-reg Renault Megane, which isn’t the largest car in the universe. Somehow, we managed to get this For Sale sign into the car (I still don’t know how we did it) and then went back into the house to grab the other beer trophies. We had to be incognito because it was now broad daylight.
So someone started the car up and we drove around Uttoxeter trying to remember where all this stuff had come from (which was difficult, because I’m pretty sure none of us were actually involved in the stealing of any of this stuff, so we just had other people’s vague descriptions, half-remembered from the night before, to go on). We had directions like “the rocking horse came from the place with the big hole in the fence and the angry dog” to go on. But somehow we managed to return all this stuff to vaguely where it had come from and we got back home.

There was a LOT of cleaning up to be done, and a few things had been broken or lost.
I’m pretty sure some party guest made off with my uncle’s slippers, because he was wandering around the house looking for them for weeks afterwards (I really don’t know why anyone in their early 20’s would steal a pair of grandad slippers but then again, how did we end up with this Estate Agent sign???) so there was a lot of stuff that didn’t really make any sense.

At some point, I remember looking at the broken ornament on the floor of the hall. It was very badly smashed, and I don’t think there was anything anyone could have done to repair it at that point. One of us wrapped it up in newspaper and put it in the bin. It might have been me, I can’t remember.

When they got back, my aunt kept asking what had happened to it. I felt awful. I wanted to tell her but I didn’t want to land my cousins in trouble for having a house party. So eventually I said “I do know what’s happened to it but I can’t tell you because it’ll get someone else in trouble” (I was a pompous ass at this age).

I honestly don’t know how we managed to get the house looking even vaguely tidy after that house party, as hungover as we were, but we went on to have other parties in the years to follow, so we became cleaning ninjas – my aunt and uncle have NO IDEA how much cleaning we did to get the house looking like no-one had cleaned in a week, every time they went on holiday.

Which just leaves the question of exactly what happened to the duck, which is anybody’s guess.

Happy Mother’s day.

11 words British people don’t actually say.

This article is about the “British” words and phrases we don’t actually use in Britain, so if you’re planning a holiday to England, Scotland or any other part of Britain, and trying to learn some colloquialisms, scratch these from your list – the consequences of saying some of them can be a fist to the face (which, curiously, we tend not to call “fisticuffs”). This article has occasional use of the f-word etc.

This article about British words came about after an American blogger mentioned how if he ever came to the UK he’d be sure to tip a bob to the waiter. That was shortly followed up with someone (also American) commenting on a page on dialects with some sense of authority that British people said “sitting room” or “parlour” instead of “living room” or “den.” If you’re writing a British character for a book, these words will throw up a big red flag that kills suspension of disbelief for anyone British reading the book, and if you’re coming to Britain for a trip or travel, you will be mocked for using these words.

So here’s the words and phrases we just don’t say (or very, very rarely) in the UK:

1. British Accent – we rarely classify ourselves as “British” as opposed to our individual countries. For example, I’m English, my mother was Irish (which ISN’T part of the UK), my father was Jamaican (we say Afro-Caribbean not Afro-British, BTW), the man on my birth certificate was Scottish, my best friend at uni was Welsh. So we would start by saying “English accent” or “Scottish accent.” Then we’d get more specific, such as “Northern accent” for people from the north of England.

2. Bob – we call it money or cash, we use the word quid to mean pounds, or p (pronounced “pee”) to mean pence (multiple of penny). If you say “pennies” (multiple of penny) to anyone from the UK who speaks Polish, they will laugh at you because that’s how you pronounce the word “penis” in Polish.

3. Ta – Nowhere do people in the UK say “ta” for goodbye. That’s an Americanism you have imposed on us. “Ta ta” might be said by a posh elderly aunt (or a young lady with adorably misguided aspirations) from time to time, and “tara” (pronounced ter-rah with a long a at the end) is another word for goodbye, but we don’t say “ta” to greet someone’s departure. Ta is an informal way of saying “thank-you” in the North of England (as in, ‘ta very much’).

4. Cheero – Nobody’s said this since the second world war. Cheerio is sometimes used by older people, but again it’s dying out and it’s considered more old fashioned than roast beef. The last time I heard it was in the lyrics to a song in Oliver Twist, in the context “so long fare thee well, pip pip cheerio…” and we also don’t say “thee,” so it shouldn’t be considered an accurate representation of our modern language (it was made in the 1960s, after all).

5. Codswallop – Another old-fashioned term, we tend to say “bullshit” “bull” or “crap” (crap has three meanings – excrement, something that is really terrible, or something that is untrue). Our favourite, however, is “bollocks” when we want to call out something as untrue. The only time in living memory that a British person’s said codswallop was when Hagrid says it in Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone (we call it Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, BTW) – and that’s set in 1991 (if you do the math from the gravestones etc this adds up).

6. On your bike (actually, it was always “on yer bike”) – Very dated to the 1980s. We tend to say “fuck off” these days or, if we’re being polite, “sod off” or “get lost.”

7. Fitty – this isn’t a word. I’ve lived in Britain for 29 years, I’ve travelled all over, I’ve voraciously devoured literature, and nobody has ever used this word in any context. It’s made up. Some people would say someone is “fit” meaning attractive (or “she’s well fit” or “he’s dead fit”), and there’s the very outdated and generally offensive word “totty” which again no-one has used for a very long time, but we just don’t have the word “fitty.” It even sounds made up. Referring to someone as “fitty” will probably have people wondering whether you think they’re epileptic. If they buy into fear-of-rape culture, they might even use this opportunity to make a scene.

8. Rumpy Pumpy – if you suggest having some ‘rumpy pumpy’ to any woman under 45, she will tell you to fuck off. AVOID! Nobody’s used this word since 1995, and even then it was only in an ironic sense. Nobody actually uses this word to describe sex that they have had or are going to have.

9. Sweet Fanny Adams – no, we say “fuck all” to mean the same thing. Nobody’s used “Fanny Adams” to mean “Fuck All” since World War II.

10. Toodle Pip – again, the only time this gets used is by people who are being ironic. It’s a joke. People are taking the piss when they say this.

11. Cack-handed – I got this claimed as “I’m not co-ordinated” from this page but actually it’s a derogatory term meaning left handed (the hand that you wipe your arse with if you’re right handed), from the days when schools were run by a certain type of nuns (and other pro-social psychopaths) who thought that left-handedness was a sign of the devil. There are plenty of British people out there who hate on lefties due to their subconscious cultural conditioning. Use it anywhere near a left-handed person and prepare to get bitch slapped. It’s as offensive to a left-handed person as the N-word is to most human beings.

12. Fisticuffs – another one from Oliver Twist, people tend to call a fight a “scrap” a “punch up” a “brawl” or a “fight.” Then they tend to call the police. Assault is a crime in Britain, and is defined as “any unwanted physical contact” but people still do it and the police are utterly arbitrary in whether they choose to enforce it or not, like most other things here. I know someone who got a criminal record for putting their hand on someone’s shoulder, and I know someone who got away with trying to kill their child after years of abuse. It varies.

Generally when looking at British words and phrases, when faced with the choice between a bigger or smaller word, we will use the smaller one. Water will always find it’s lowest level, and it’s the same with language – think about what the minimum is that you need to say to make yourself understood instead of trying to dress it up with loads of words or phrases that might be inaccurate. Communication is about understanding, and the only real rule of communication (at least, general communication, not specialized e.g. academia) is that if most people can’t understand you, you’re doing it wrong. I stated “most people” not “all” because you can’t please everyone and some people will just never understand you.

Cleo defeats the Mechon Robot

Take that, mechon robot!  For I have defeated you with softness and snuggles!  I am Cleo, defender of all things soft and cosy, and I have nibbled your nose!  Your reign of cold metallicness will be no more!

I was born ready... to snuggle.
I was born ready… to snuggle.
It's over... for now...
It’s over… for now…

This was a working K-9 model I made for a fancy dress party about 5 years ago.  It was remote controlled and generally made of awesome.  I found it when I was clearing my dad’s flat.  My aunt, when she robbed the place before I got there, had left it crumpled and broken and in pieces on the floor.  I’m thinking K9 deserves a Viking burial.  In the meantime, the rabbits are having great fun playing with the component parts.  Since K-9 is obviously a good guy, I’ve decided that the bunnies are defeating a giant mechanoid robot thingy.

Scotland’s Most Unusual Hotels

Ever wanted to stay in a genuine stone Scottish blackhouse, a railway signalling house, an art gallery or a traditional broch?  Dreaming about spending the night in a castle?  Fancy hanging out in a yurt?  This list of the best unusual accommodation in Scotland will inspire you!

1. Mongolian-style Yurts, near Loch Lomond:

This organic working farm in central Scotland has three traditional Yurts for a sustainable tourism experience in the midst of the beautiful Trossachs and Loch Lomond.  Each Yurt sleeps 4, and the centre often has lots of activities and crafts for you to join in with.

stay in a yurt in scotland on your next holiday yurt1

Find out more and book: http://www.westmossside.com/

2. Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, Isle Of Lewis, Hebrides, North Scotland.

Off the top left of Scotland, the Hebrides Islands sit waiting for you to discover them.  What better way than whilst staying in a traditional longhouse (called a Blackhouse) with all the modern amenities, but with architecture that gives you an insight into how people lived in the Iron Age.

blackhouse hotel accommodation self catering scotland stay

Find out more and book: http://www.gearrannan.com/

3. The Brochs of Coigach, Ross-shire, Highlands

Two iron age roundhouses in the North of Scotland, renovated and fully modernised, these are a truly luxurious way to explore a rugged and uninhabited corner of the world.

broch hotel accommodation scottish highland lewis

Find out more and book: http://www.achiltibuie.info/

4. Stay in a real lighthouse. Shetland Islands,

Make a trip to Shetland even more memorable by staying in a lighthouse on the main island.  Just imagine what sort of views this lighthouse gets!

lighthouse hotel accommodation scotland highlands holiday travel

Find out more and book: http://www.shetlandlighthouse.com/eshaness-lighthouse

5. Holiday like a King in a castle, numerous locations across Scotland

Scotland has a huge selection of castles to accommodate those with a taste for luxury and something a bit different.  With 41 castles to choose from, if one is booked, you can always try another.

castle hotel scotland holiday travel trip

Tulloch Castle Hotel

castle hotel scotland accommodation

Carberry Tower

Find out more and book: http://www.celticcastles.com/castle-search/list/scotland/

6. Stay in a church on the shores of Loch Ness

Drumnadrochit is the town with the Loch Ness visitor centres, on the banks of the stunning Loch Ness, a huge glacial crevasse filled with water and famous for entertaining kids with its stories of the Loch Ness Monster.

drumnadrochit church hotel acccommodation loch ness holiday in scotland

Find out more and book: http://www.visitscotland.com/info/accommodation/glenkirk-bed-breakfast-p180831

7. Or how about staying in Europe’s smallest working Cathedral instead?

cathedral1

This fully functioning cathedral on the Isle of Cumbray in southern Scotland takes guests.

Find out more and book: http://www.visitscotland.com/info/accommodation/college-of-the-holy-spirit-millport-p212221

8. If that’s too formal, there’s always this delightful treehouse, in Skye:

treehouse1

Find out more and book: http://www.sykescottages.co.uk/cottage/Fort-William-Isle-of-Skye-The-Western-Isles-Fort-WilliamAn-Gearasdan/Acorn-Lodge-18920.html

9. Stay in a first-class train, at a train station in Sutherland:

train hotel Scotland UK

You can stay in a first class train, which has self catering accommodation.  Each carriage sleeps two people.  Sleeperzzz also offers a converted bus, and they’re all next to a working railway station – but don’t worry about losing sleep, after all, how many trains go to the north of Scotland each day?

Find out more and book: http://www.quirkyaccom.com/sleeperzzz

10. Or you could stay in a Signal Box, at Kyle of Lochalsh train station:

signal house train station kyle hotel Scotland UK

If you don’t want to stay in the train, how about the signalling box?  At Kyle of Lochalsh station, you can pretend you’re the Station Master and re-live Thomas the Tank Engine.  Just don’t start believing your life is being narrated by Ringo Starr…

Find out more and book: http://www.quirkyaccom.com/kyle-station-signal-box

11. An art gallery

glasgow art house hotel arthouse accommodation gallery

The Arthouse in Glasgow… is it a hotel? Is it an art gallery?  It’s both!  And it has a restaurant.

Find out more and book: http://www.thearthouseglasgow.co.uk/

12. A working water mill

watermill hotel holiday

This listed 18th Century watermill offers accommodation in Bonar Bridge, Sutherland, Highlands.

Find out more and book: http://www.migdalewatermill.co.uk/

Which of these is your favourite?  I want to stay in all of them!!  Let me know which you love (or hate) in the comments and don’t forget to subscribe to Invoke Delight via WordPress or Bloglovin’ (links to the right).