Monday, 6 February 2017

Blog Challenge: Day 5: On Food.

I love food. Cooking it, eating it, watching other people cook and eat it. Talking about it. Reading about it. I have unashamedly used a recipe book for bedtime reading. One of my best friends is a chef, which my mother thinks "makes sense." I think this is rude but am not entirely sure why. I once went for a meal with a friend and during the meal all we talked about was other nice meals we'd enjoyed. When I think about a past relationship, I often think, "we ate a lot of nice food together." Aged fifteen my friend and I set up a baking business and while our entrepreneurial efforts were quickly quashed by our local health board and some minor detail known to many as "the law", our enthusiasm for cake in all its varieties did not diminish. I love the way food brings people together, and sharing a meal at home has always been an important part of family life for me.

Today, I've deiced to make this "list your favourite foods" post about some family favourites. Recently, my sister-in-law bought Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course for my brother who'd been missing my mum's cooking.

My mum is quite a plain cook. Everything with potatoes and boiled-to-death vegetables. She's "big into" carbs and cooks the same amount for three as when there were seven or eight of us at the table. However, she has a few showstoppers for special occasions. Here are our favourite meals and treats, and links to the recipes. They are all Delia. Obviously.

Pork Chops with Lemon, Mushrooms and Cream 

This is baked in foil and served, because it's my mum, with boiled potatoes. It's a treat if someone is coming over, like an in-law or old friend.

I don't think this is exactly the one mum makes, as it's got creme fraiche and "wild" mushrooms (goodness), but it's pretty similar.

Beef in Beer 

She's switched this one up on the website too. "Beef in Designer Beer": I ask you. We always make it with cheap beer, without whatever that topping is meant to be, and with mum shouting "NOBODY EAT THE BAY LEAF!"

Serve with boiled potatoes. Again.

Mince Pies 

I will not eat shop-bought mince pies. I refuse. And this is the reason. The crisp, short pastry my mum makes them with is second-to-none. Always half butter, half lard. Mum has recently branched out into making her own mince meat, some of which is vegetarian, but shop-bought will do just fine.

If you want to emulate the Minnocks further, omit the pinch of salt from the pastry. Mum doesn't allow salt to be added to anything - for better or worse.  Baking spread can be used instead of butter - though I know this is a hotly debated issue. That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.

Mum has just shockingly informed me that the mince pie recipe she uses was originally from Good Housekeeping - but above is exactly the same as we always make. The more you know!

Lemon Meringue Pie 

This isn't one of mum's actually, it's one of mine. A favourite dessert, I have this down to a fine art and Delia's lemon curd always works out really nicely - the secret is a thick bottomed pan and a low heat, and to leave the zest in quite large pieces. I even adapted this to a cupcake recipe once. I can't get enough and neither can most of the family.

Again, the pastry is so crisp.

There you have it. Those are a handful of nice childhood memories for me, and I hope you enjoy making some of your own.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Blog Challenge: Day 4: A Public Service Announcement: My S**t is Not Together

For the fourth blog post of the challenge, yes on the twenty-fourth day of the month (shut up), the challenge was to say something "about me: the good, the bad and the ugly."

I have decided to use this opportunity to address a common misconception about me - one which has a very "ugly" truth behind it, a lie which makes me appear "good", and which actually isn't that "bad."

It has recently been brought to my attention that many of my peers, those who are close to me but not so close as to share the same living quarters, are under the impression that I "have my shit together." To quote a famous evil wannabe dictator (not the one you're thinking of): "This. Is. A. Lie." It's not even the "alternative truth" that some might like to call it. It is simply inaccurate and wrong.

I hear it all the time. "I wish I had my shit together like you do," people say, They discuss behind my back: "that girl has her shit together. Her shit is so, like, together." The phrase is everywhere. And, while I appreciate the sentiment, and I certainly have had and will have worse things said about me, the inaccuracy of this makes me a little uneasy. To demonstrate the point, I relayed these comments to my mother one day over Skype, and she laughed in my face. Right there into her iPad. A proper creasing laugh.

My shit is not together. I have a gift of often sounding as though I know what I am talking about - to those who can't see inside my brain - but I honestly feel ignorant and unhelpful in many of the discussions I am part of. I haven't had my shit together since around 2014, which was when I started University and henceforth had no further plans. Now, I have even fewer plans. In a way, it's good that I don't have a dream job - which I'll discuss in a further post - but it would be kind of nice to know where I want to be at least, if not exactly where I'll end up.

I decided at quite an early age to be a "yes" person - and don't get me wrong, I highly recommend it. You've got to say "yes" to get anywhere in life and have valuable experiences. But I now say "yes" all the time to all of the things, and that becomes problematic. Oddly, I have no problem not giving a "yes" to invitations to the pub or on nights out, but I do struggle when someone wants me to do something. Can I write this/ edit this/ look at this/ join this committee/ organise this? Of course I can. This results in a mounting to-do list and I seem to always be doing just one thing too many, so something has to give. And often, it ends up being work for a seminar that I am really interested in. Or trying to make myself employable leaves no time to actually look for and apply for jobs. More sadly, it can often end up with not being there for a friend as much as I should.

So just to reiterate to any of you still under the impression one has one's life together - none of my socks match. I forget one vital task each week at least, usually for someone important to me if not for myself. I can rarely find my keys. I Skype my parents at least once a week an can't survive seven days without their advice and words of comfort. I can't drive. I am useless without eight hours of sleep and can be a real baby about having to get up at the ungodly hour of 8 a.m. I cry a lot. The crying is rarely serious, but it happens. I have very little self control around food and have put on weight recently due to this. Last week, I left the remains of some tomato soup burning to a pan for several hours, having gone out for the day - I now owe my housemate a new pan: it was not salvageable. I HAVE NOT STARTED WRITING MY DISSERTATION. Truth be told, I only vaguely know what I'm writing it on. And I really, really need a hug most of the time. Oh, and I recently found out I'd been wearing the wrong sized bra for quite some time. Who knew.

This draws an interesting conclusion: if my shit isn't together, is anyone's? If I am - somehow - a person who, in the eye of others, is totally sorted out and successful, and yet on the inside I am fretting, forgetting and fantasising... is this the case for all those whose shit I deem to be together? Do they always slightly miss the mark, too? Are they dependent on loved ones just as I am? Do they weigh just a bit too much and feel guilty just a bit too much? And do they sometimes just really, really need a cuddle?

I sure hope so.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Blog Challenge: Day 3: How to make bar staff hate you

*disclaimer... this is all tongue in cheek, I really do enjoy my job, and love most people I meet. Most. 

Today's challenge was to discuss my "top five pet peeves."

I seem to have fewer pet peeves as I get older, I think just because I have less time to be annoyed by things other people say or do, or things that are simply part of the world as it is. I spent a while coming up with some and conclude the main two are talking in the library (the place I go to focus on work and not have to deal with people), and being told to calm down (as if I hadn't thought of that).

Then I remembered my job. I work as a barmaid part-time, and like many of my fellow hospitality workers I enter into a furious rage about seemingly insignificant things (or significantly rude people) and then t forget about them as soon as I go home, if not as soon as I serve the next customer. So here are a few of my work pet peeves, and a sure-fire way to become despised as a patron of any pub. If only for a moment.

Of course the main "peeve" any of us have, women especially but by no means exclusively, every day, is the risk of being sexually harrassed. But as that's more than just a lighthearted peeve, and would require more than a few lines, I won't address it here. Moving on...

What not to do when you walk into a pub:

Order your Guinness last.

Now, sometimes this is inevitable because you might not know what you want, or your friend mightn't have decided what they want... and we sypmathise with that. The annoying part usually comes when you've ordered five drinks beforehand, one at a time because you assume my tiny brain can't remember more than one item (or even write it on a till), got confused over your group's kitty or whip while the entire pub waits with bated breath, checked with much prompting that you've ordered the same amount of drinks as people... and then you remember that John at the back hasn't had his Guinness - and he always has a Guinness. You then proceed to tap your foot impatiently, unaware that a proper Guinness should actually take two minutes to pour, and behind a busy bar two minutes feels like ten, and complain a little bit to those behind you in the queue. Don't bother: they hate you and so do we.

Mention the fact that you used to work in a pub.

Literally nobody cares about this. If you do currently work in a pub, that is slightly more relevant but still pretty common - believe it or not, we have met many people who work in pubs. They're usually our colleagues. Mentioning this can be a conversation starter, but eighty per cent of the time will end up with you saying that "this is actually the wrong glass" (it isn't), and that "it works better if you just tilt it a bit more..." (it doesn't). Members of staff have either been there long enough so they know what they are doing, or are still in training - which is not your responsibility, so don't worry about it. Really, don't.

Tell the barmaid to smile.

I've said "barmaid" here because this seems to be an issue women battle with, not exclusively, but a lot more commonly than men. I've had "SMILE" shouted at me in the street as I go about my busines, and I have it shouted at me by customers in my place of work. I definitely get that when you work in hispitality, smiling is a huge part of the job. Nearly every custoner I serve i greeted with a smile as I ask isf I can help them, and I always smile when I hand them their drink or change, too. I think it's important and even when you're tried, a smile costs nothing and customers all deserve to be treated pleasantly and with respect.
HOWEVER. People shout "smile" at me a if they expect me to be doing it all the time, to never stop smiling, to be wnadering around with a big grin on my face, which is frnally quite a frightening thought. Why should i be smiling at the pump as I pour beer, or smiling at the mop as I clean up beer or vomit? I smile at people because I like people - but shouting at me won't help that either.
Next time you see a woman and she has the audacity not to be grinning like an idiot, here is a suggestion: instead of shouting at her to smile, why not make her smile instead? Say something nice, or maybe even smile at her!

Complain to the staff about the prices

As an adult, you should know (especially if you are one of the adults above who "used to work in a pub, actually") that a member of staff on minimum wage probably doesn't have control over the prices of anything on sale at the establishment. Complaining to them about the price is like complaining to them that your train was late - what exactly are we supposed to do about it, and how does it affect us? "It shouldn't be that much," a man once stared at me blankly as he took his three drinks. "What do you mean?" I asked . "It shouldn't be that much," he repeated, helpfully. "It's quite en expensive pub isn't it," I commented, equally helpfully. "It shouldn't be be that much," he said. I was beginning to wonder if he needed his batteries changing. "Well... I could print of the receipt for you." I did so and showed it to him, confirming that - shockingly - he had paid for the exact drinks he'd bought. "But it shouldn't." He repeated. "Oh," I realised as he walked away with the drinks, "you mean morally." Again, I could write to the bigwigs at the gigantic company I am a tiny little part time employee of, telling them that whatever that man's name was believes they are immoral and should charge less... but I probably won't. If you as a customer want to make complaints about that, please do... but to someone a little more senior than me.

Putting your rubbish in your glass

I am actually including this as a public service announcement. It makes sense. I've done it. We all have. On the surface, it is an act of kindness. You'll put all your crisp packets, napkins and other rubbish into one or two glasses which will, in theory, make it easier to tidy the table. It does, until we get to the glass washer and have to reach into a glass and peel out some beer-sodden napkins which may or may not contain chewing gum and cigarette butts. Our hands might even get stuck in the glass. Don't do it. Promise? I used to as well, but it's something that since working in a pub I've vowed never to do again.

If you do want to be helpful, why not wipe off any lipstick instead?

Monday, 2 January 2017

Blog Challenge: Day 2: What Relationship?

Today's challenge was to talk about "your relationship" - with the kind, sympathetic addition that "if you're single, you can write about being single." How understanding, how kind, how thoughtful.

If you haven't guessed it yet, I don't have a relationship. I don't even have an almost relationship and I am not currently discussing being in a relationship. There don't appear to be the first throes of romance - and if there were, I am really not the sort of person who would post about them on my blog.

If I were in a relationship, however, I'm not sure I'd want to talk about that either. I've referenced boyfriends in the past on my blogs, but I feel like to actually talk about the ins and outs of a relationship would be kind of like talking about these people behind their backs. Even if they agreed to it, they still wouldn't get to tell their half of the experience. It's all a bit of a conundrum to be honest - and a danger when perhaps you might feel one way about a person and then change your mind when  it's already online.... FOREVER.

In a way then, the only thing I can talk about is being single - but I don't think it's really much to talk about at all. I'd feel like someone who commented on a social media post: "who the hell cares about this?" - if you don't care, why comment? Being single, for me, is just the absence of a partner (not, I might add, that anything is lacking), so therefore there isn't really much to say on the subject. Being single isn't really a thing that you do, or a specific interest, and for me it's not an important category I fit into, so what would there be to talk about? I'm aware that this isn't the case for everyone, but allow me to remind you that I am twenty years of age. My biological clock is hardly ticking. I already have four people to live with so I don't need to find another one. In fact, I don't even know where I am going to be living in six months time, so choosing someone to share my life with, when I have no idea what that life will entail, is not at the top of my list.

I am, however, no longer adverse to a relationship. I am not one to take these things lightly - dating casually can be fun, but a relationship is something I think some people don't take seriously enough, and shouldn't be entered into without a serious level of commitment and willingness for things to work out. A year ago, I ended a relationship that wasn't making me happy and since then the idea of being in any kind of relationship or commitment at all has made my stomach turn. "Love" is a lot of pressure. I have a big heart (believe it or not), so actually giving love to someone is a positive experience. I love looking after people and trying to make them happy. But being loved, being the object of someone's love, can be quite a difficult thing for me. One reason is that I feel they put me on a pedestal and I have to somehow live up to this vision of me that isn't... well, real. I also feel like there is a lot of power to handle when you are the object of someone's love: you are able to hurt them. And that's something I really don't want to have to deal with. Presently, however, it is the first time in a year where I believe that if I did happen to meet the right person (may God have mercy on their soul), I wouldn't run screaming in the other direction. That's the most positive thing I can say on that matter.

This post, whether about relationships or "singledom", has actually got me thinking about other things I have learned about myself both while single and in relationships. Therefore, if you want to be as fabulously successful (and fabulously single) as I am, you might like to read this unsolicited advice.

  • Don't try to be the "cool girlfriend." I'm not saying you should be a nag, but if you do have an issue you shouldn't feel afraid to speak up. If you try to be "cool", your boyfriend will shave his head before your graduation and you will regret not throwing just a small hissy fit. 
  • If you "feel like you've known someone all your life" - you haven't. Don't be fooled. This can be in a very positive way - it takes years to really know someone as a person... sometimes, though, that's the funnest part.
  • There are so many kinds of love and attraction. Platonic love, romantic love, sexual and non-sexual attraction and many more all exist on a spectrum, and everyone feels a mix of these in totally different ways. Don't assume everyone experiences this in the same way you do. 
  • Underestimating yourself and your worth is not only harmful to you but also to others. You might mean more to them than you think.
  • Especially as a girl, people are going to judge every single thing you do and don't do, in and out of relationships. If it feels like the right thing and makes you happy, and it's not hurting anyone, do it. If not, don't. 
  • Never assume - and make sure other people aren't assuming either. Often, clear verbal expressions of disinterest will leave your mouth, but they might enter other people's ears as "let's get married!" Don't worry too much about this, but be aware it's a possibility. You meet all sorts. 
  • It is not your job or your responsibility to feel the same things someone feels about you back to them - but you should always be honest about this, it's kinder in the long run. 

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Blog Challenge: Day 1: What, Where and Why I Write.

I've decided to ring in the new year with this blog challenge, which should end up being 30 posts over January under given headings. At the end, I'll post the titles if anyone is interested in taking part in them themselves.

The reason I'm doing this challenge is because I really enjoy blogging, but often run into problems planning and brainstorming my posts, and actually this title for "Day 1" is a great way to explain these reasons.

Recently when I've blogged about my daily life - literally writing everything I do in a day, often in pretty boring, deadpan detail, people have seemed to really enjoy it. It's given me a taste of the thrill I used to love seeing my views go up, or when people came up to me at school and told me they'd enjoyed something I'd written that week. I was also surprised and pleased by the interest people were taking in my life and what I'd been up to - whether they were friends nearby or family in other countries, or even a few strangers on Twitter.

I stated writing at about 12 when I decided to write a novel. It was, and I'm sure is, absolutely terrible stuff. But I really enjoyed it. I fell in love with characters I had invented - and probably fell out with them a lot, too - and escaped into my own little world for an hour or so pretty much every day. At fifteen, I decided I liked writing so much I wanted to share it with the world - but I would never share my fiction (for the sake of the general public), so I started to write factual stuff instead. By sixteen I was a "blogger", for my own personal blog as well as for another couple of websites. It was really enjoyable, and as I had chosen to aim my writing at a target group - Irish teenagers - it was generally easy to come up with relevant content. I was also part of a huge network of people doing the same thing I was - and the support and inspiration they gave me was unbelievable. On leaving school, I had  bit of a following, to the point where people and small businesses would get in touch to request content, and I decided to start this newer website to track a more adult journey, and also to write about myself - which I hadn't done before. University, however, with all its distractions and providing me with an actual "life." By the time I got to second year, I was back writing again, but this time as an editor for the student newspaper, Concrete. That taught me to face a lot of my writing fears and put aside the impostor syndrome and just write about things I had researched as much as the next person. However, now, I've put that aside to concentrate on the publishing society I helped set up, and I really miss getting things put in print every fortnight.

Now, it's become a bit of a struggle to know what to write. I'm aware that many female bloggers and content creators   - both huge industries and art forms. I really admire those women, and I always find reading and watching that sort of content really interesting - but I just don't have that immense knowledge or the passion to research and write about it. There are things I do know lots about, but I don't think early modern History is something I'd want to fill a whole blog up with - at least, not at the moment. I have lots of opinions, too - but being part of a generation who are constantly reminded by our better-knowing elders that our opinions are not important (as if we thought they were life-changing), it can often be hard to put something online only for millenial-haters (let's call them millenemies, I just made that up, let's go with it) to tell (remind) you that you haven't got a clue what you're on about and don't know you're born. So I guess the only thing I feel qualified to write about is me.  Is that boring? My readers don't seem to think so, but I remain unconvinced.

Where do I write? Now, I write everywhere - as well as everything, come to that - and I'm not sure how positive that is. I think that when writing becomes life - and when you don't have that "creative space", a phrase I myself might scorn - it can be harder to separate the everyday from the extraordinary, and all those parts in between. An email is functional, a document analysis is necessary, a newspaper article is an achievement, a piece of prose can be from the heart, and a blog usually ends up as all of the above. If I were to write the way I used to write when I sat up in bed at all hours - inventing worlds and pouring out how I really felt into Microsoft Word, through the safe, private medium of the fictional protagonist - in the same place as I wrote my essays or even opinion pieces - when I am decidedly writing "as me" - I think it would feel quite uncomfortable. So perhaps finding a different "where" should be my first step if I really wanted to give "proper writing" a go.

As for why, I often forget. When writing becomes  your life as it is for so many of us - lecture notes, essays, blog posts, emails, social media comments, even shopping lists - it can be hard to remember what a real joy it can be for those of us who "write, write." I'm hoping that the next month will help me to remember how much motivation and success I got out of doing what I love - to remember the why, and hopefully, to decide what it is I'd really like to write about. 

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas Time in Ireland: The Rounds

Thursday, 22nd December.

I've been back in Ireland for a week at this point, and still have yet to finish my Medieval literature essay. It's due on the 5th January but I want to finish by Christmas day in order to prepare for next year's Egg Box publishing projects and my new academic modules as well as my dissertation. These will include the publication of an anthology, prospective talks by professionals in various areas of publishing, learning about Tudor rebellions and death in the Middle Ages, doing more research on midwives and hopefully finding someone foolish enough to employ me on a full-time basis.

For now, though, I have a horrendous cold. Getting up in the morning is a struggle and I make it out of my cow pyjamas by about eleven. I am on holiday so this is absolutely fine, and my parents are actually quite good advocates of people getting lots of sleep in the holidays - term time, however, is a different story: they have been known to cajole me into lectures via Skype. Some medicine revives me and I talk to dad at length about all the things I need to do, adding to the list as I speak and increasing in panic with the realisation that I need to do all these things but I want to be able to do nothing like other people seem to sometimes.

I panic and faff about bookmarking job applications after lunch - which myself, mum and dad all sit down at the dinner table for as I gather is their habit as retirees - and mum and dad go into town to buy some presents. On their return we all begin doing "the rounds." The rounds are common in our community and among our family in the days leading up to Christmas. They are basically piling into a car loaded with presents and calling to the extended family, staying up to a few hours in each house and drinking copious amounts of tea but behaving each time as if it is one's first cup. Pretty much everyone does it - but our family has decreased from six to three (as I'm the last without a partner which is FINE) so we're slightly less of an imposition now.

"Family" in this case actually consists of a man dad went to primary school with and his wife, and dad's childhood next-door neighbour and his wife and daughter. We are out for around four or five hours in total, which is quite brief by our standards. We have some nice chats about things like hearing aids, and when my dad's older brother first brought his fiancée home fifty odd years ago ("We had to get our faces washed and we were only the neighbours!")It's nice visiting the relative at this time of year, for me particularly as they are generally very pleased and proud that I am doing well in my degree and happy with my job - it makes an interesting change from mum, well-intentioned as always, asking me why I don't have a deposit and three months' rent for a flat saved up, and informing me that when she was at college she had her own car and no parental support or loans. Somehow. Was it like this for everyone in 1974 or am I just being crap in 2016? More distant relatives are just happy that you are doing well, and in further "rounds" I am told by elderly relatives that, in fact, I needn't worry about not being engaged yet - thank Goodness.

We will visit a lot more people in the next few days - obligation is a big thing in my family, though maybe "obligation" sounds like a less pleasant task. In fact, we enjoy it. It's important and heartening to call round to so many friends and family members, and everyone makes the effort at Christmas especially. Cars pass each other filled with selection boxes, potted plants and biscuit tins, our own being no exception, and it's not uncommon that you'll "call" for a particular family while they are "calling" for you. As Christmas Day draws closer and things become slightly more frantic, some of us will pray that at least one person won't be in, just to save time - we'll catch up with them after Christmas, of course.

We then nip home to put some potatoes in the oven - all we eat is potatoes - and then set out to give my cousin her birthday and Christmas presents, as well as presents for her kids, who are my age. My family is a bit of an anomoly like that. As we are pulling out of the drive, another first cousin pulls into it. The latter cousin informs us he has just been to the former cousin's house, and she wasn't in, so he'll leave his presents for her with us. The logistics of Christmas never cease to amaze. We have a cup of tea with my cousin - we are his third to last stop before being back to Dublin by the evening. We chat about family and his PhD.

After he leaves, it's pretty much television, tea and bed. At some point I bring up the hatred of millenials on social media with mum, and she asks what a millenial is, and what she is if she isn't a baby boomer like dad or a millenial like me. This takes some time to decipher and discuss, as well as some Wikipedia searches, but eventually mum decides I shouldn't listen to people who scorn millenials or Uiveristy students - we briefly mention civil rights for Catholics in Northern Ireland and then go to bed before we're up another hour talking.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

A Year in Norwich: A Week in the Life (UEA) IV

Thursday, 20th October 

It is the eve of Libby's birthday so the first thing I do that morning is nip into town to get something for her. I get her a bath bomb and bath melt from Lush, going on the idea that we are all in third year and need to relax, and thinking these fit neatly with what I know she's getting from other people. I then go to Tesco to get some ingredients for her cake, which I'd hoped to make this morning but am running a bit too late.

I get the bus from town to campus, do some last minute reading and head to my seminar, which lasts no less than three hours. These are my only timetabled hours of the week - hence the lack of organisation. I really love my module however and the seminar goes well. We learn, among other things, that a "gentle cock" is in fact a "gentile cock." Not just your common or garden cock, a posh one. Posh enough to write a poem about. There's a break for sustenance halfway through. I eat a caramel square and then we discuss Chaucer's Wife of Bath which we'll be reading next week. 

The concepts are all fascinating but I begin to worry about how this will all actually be assessed, as I want to start planning whatever essay I have to write ASAP. There's an option to do a creative or critical assessment and while the creative intrigues me, I think the latter will be a much safer option - especially as it'll be worth 25% of my final year, and therefore 15% of my degree. There's a lot of focus on context in this module as well as close reading, which as a historian I really enjoy, but I think the others would prefer more literary reading. I think this will develop as the weeks go on. We're a week behind as one seminar got cancelled, so we're only in week 4 confusion rather than week 5 panic right now. 

I go home immediately after my seminar, make myself some food and start on Libby's cake - double chocolate. While it's cooling, I unwind in the shower and then Skype my parents. Libby and Issy (who she used to live with) arrive and I hear them notice the cake. I decide not to worry about it being a surprise and ice it standing beside Libby as she makes her dinner. "You know you're getting a cake," I tell her bluntly, but I still hide it in my room when it's time to get ready for her party - partly because I want at least the decoration to be a surprise and partly to protect it from hungry dunk people. I have been one of those.           

That evening people arrive for pre-drinks. We have already warned the neighbors so as not to be the Hated Student Layabouts on the street and have promised to be out by eleven. With much herding, this does happen. Earlier in the evening, lots of people mill about around the house, and we try to make sure we talk to everyone as even in a student house, there is such thing as the pressure of entertaining.  I realise I've had too many Woo Woos from my new cocktail collection and have to go up to my room, sit down and have a quiet word with myself. I probably send a lot of Snapchats at this point - or so I am told.

I can't recall who I end up walking with but we seem to arrive at our chosen club in no time at all - the drinks are cheap, the music is good and the atmosphere is decidedly less threatening than many other establishments. As we go through the doors I recall the occasion when I let several people in to the club for free by accident and hurry past in case I'm recognised from this incident. Not that I would be. 

I've said I'll only stay for a couple of hours, for Libby's sake... I shouldn't be out at all as I've got work at 10.30 and if loss of limb will not excuse me, then a hangover certainly won't. At some point in the evening we are all dancing in a circle - there are maybe seven or eight of us - with Libby in the middle and, at Abi and Sam's request, the DJ wishes her a happy birthday and plays a song by Sean Paul. I feel proud because I learned who Sean Paul was earlier this week, and it is probably the happiest moment of Libby's life so far - or that's what she assures us of, both while drunk and the next day while sober. Therefore, it must be true.

A couple of epic karaoke performances later, I have spent much longer here than intended - but how can I deprive people of my angelic voice? As we leave - separately but somehow ending up together when we reach the main street: this defies all logic and reason - I feebly suggest my favourite fast food vendor, but Libby already knows where she is going. With a determination not often seen in her eyes - or in anyone's eyes, for that matter - she marches us up the street to a place with indoor seating. On the journey, hand outstretched like a single beacon of hope in an apocalyptic world, she mumbles "cheesy chips" half a dozen times. When we get there, the seating is a blessing because there are so many people it appears to have a kind of ticket system. They must have heard about the chips. I order a cheese burger and stand for perhaps fifteen minutes - or was it a fortnight - waiting for my food as everyone finds a table and sings Libby "Happy Birthday." It is probably louder than any of us remember.

At the end of the night, I am eating a cheeseburger at 4.30 am, Libby is entering her twenty-first year, and I don't think Abi or I can actually walk properly so we decide on a taxi for what would only have been a fifteen minute walk. It is the best £3 I spend all evening. My four and a half hours of sleep before work are not enough.