A mini, yet epic weekend

On Saturday night a hot topic (I say ‘hot’, it was discussed for over a minute, yet under 5) of conversation was what of my weekend would end up blogged. When questioned, I couldn’t immediately come up with an answer – not that none of it had been blogworthy, just that I’m not a ‘this is what I did with my long weekend’ kind of blogger, so I’d therefore need a kind of hook to get into it.

I’m still not sure what to say (“so why write?” – you may well ask), but there are a few things that need documenting.

Firstly – the Firsts. I’m pretty sure this was my first trip to the town of Hemel Hempstead – exotic place in Hertfordshire that I’m sure to return to as Jenni now has a lovely flat there. It was nearly my first experience of a fish pedicure, but they didn’t have room for us. But it was definitely my first ever meal at a Harvester on Saturday night. [We don’t have them in London.] No, it’s not classy but they do serve unlimited salad and make special Mini-Egg sundaes at Easter, so that alone made it worth it. (Besides, for me, dinner is all about the company.)

It was also the first of our girls’ weekends away to be tweeted – with its very own hashtag: #minigwa (and as one person has her tweets protected that link mostly just looks like me tweeting alone). As only four of us are on Twitter and only three of those own iPhones, this was a tad pointless and probably incredibly annoying for our followers, but who cares! One of my followers was unsure of the hashtag’s meaning and suggested ‘Girls With Attitude’ – though quite how ‘mini’ would work in front of that is an interesting question. Actually, the ‘mini’ is totally misleading – none of us are mini in stature. In fact it was in reference to the fact that this was a smaller group of the usual GWA bunch, owing to our smaller location. Rather than 17 of us in a 20-bed YHA house as we had last year, this 10 were in a one bedroom flat in the former Kodak building.

Yes, 10 giggly girls in a one bedroom flat – and on the hottest weekend of the year so far too. Sleeping arrangements were…interesting. Seven fitted in ok on Thursday, but ten on Friday was a challenge – and this was how we solved it:

Yep, that’s a double air-bed in the kitchen. (Plus: another double air-bed adjacent to it in the lounge area; 2 on a sofa-bed; 4 squashed into the bedroom.) 

What else to say? We met hot firemen – twice – in the lift (the second time was quite embarrassing, I think they thought they’d acquired stalkers – they hadn’t). We went out for dinner twice and on both occasions annoyed the heck out of our waiters. We found a bar with a dance floor and had our handbags meticulously searched by men in stab-proof vests. The others danced while I sat in the corner guarding bags and wishing I’d left my book (or crochet) in mine. [I wasn’t in a mood, tiredness had simply overcome me.] Otherwise we simply spent a lot of time outside and eating.

Jenni’s fabulous Saturday breakfast: Simnel Muffins

Oh, and I made people photobooth – with varied results:

As I might not be forgiven by my friends for posting potentially unflattering photos of them, I ought to finish up with one where we’re all scrubbed up and ready to hit Hemel – I don’t think the town was ready for us.

Snow – and the fools it makes of us

Is it because we see snow so rarely that it, without fail, brings out the child in us? Snowball fights, snow sculpting, running around as if aged 6 and carefree…? Well, I say ‘us’, I perhaps mean just me – possibly.

Saturday morning dawned bright, with a hint of further snow and in daylight it emerged that the house we’d occupied the night before had rather extensive grounds, and a rope swing…

I like swings, but I think I like them because you sit down on them – thus requiring little effort or balancing skills. Rope swings are a very different matter, so much so that I can’t recall ever having been on one before. However, in the snow I regressed in age by a couple of decades and believed that all things were possible – which is why I attempted it, over and over again. Witness: [Courtesy of three friends & Facebook – thanks guys.]

See – I made it in the end (securing another 2010 first in the process, though, thinking about it I’ve not explained my “2010 firsts” thing yet – you’ll just have to wait…). The problem was basically that it was a tad too high, and my hip joints are not that supple. I am also not too keen on being pushed into a tree at speed and am generally a bit of a wuss who gets paralysed by giggling in awkward situations.

But there was even more foolishness. For some reason, whilst walking across a snowy field (singing Leona Lewis’ Footprints in the Sand, swapping ‘sand’ for ‘snow’ – I’m a genius), I was inspired to recreate a moment from High School Musical 2 in which Troy Bolton dances his way across a golf course. At one point he picks up handfuls of sand, then throws them wildly (and camply) into the air – I copied it, but with snow. To fully appreciate the photos below, you may need to watch this clip (1:35 precisely).

This is not normal Liz behaviour – I have no idea what came over me! All I can do is blame the snow…

Sororal telepathy strikes again

I’ve mentioned before that my sister and I have occasional moments of telepathy, either in things we say or how we dress. Lately, it’s happened again, but in a rather more comedic vein…

We both happen to be fans of Fat Face clothing, particularly their sales. In the run-up to Christmas they had some sales and special events which we both took advantage of – me in London and Mim in Cheltenham. I vaguely recall her mentioning a lovely a dress and I told her of a gorgeous skirt I bought whilst Christmas shopping.

Back in the shire for Christmas, I showed her the skirt and she exclaimed [in an accusatory tone]: “but that’s the same fabric as my dress!” – as if I should have (i) known and (ii) done something about it. It didn’t need to matter, especially as we generally live over 100 miles apart. I’m pretty sure that I also mentioned that I was intending to wear it to our family gathering a couple of days later…

…she insists that I didn’t mention that particular nugget of information, and that’s how we emerged from the car to the realisation that we were clad in matching outfits. Normally, we’d just have laughed and the wider family would have been somewhat amused, however this was the first time we were meeting our cousin’s fiancée and I didn’t really want her to think that this was a habit of ours!

Anyway, it was fine. My skirt was under the table most of the time, so it didn’t matter. Only thing is, this weekend we managed to do it again. It’s my current favourite skirt, so was the logical choice for a ‘smart’ outfit for our Christmas Dinner at the weekend away. There was also a little bit of me that suspected she’d bring the dress, and I rather liked the comedy aspect of it – but in no way was it pre-arranged. Sure enough, we came down to dinner dressed alike, again – to roars of appreciative laughter.

To illustrate: (Note that the fabric is subtly different close up – mine is more purple than hers. I also own the socks she’s wearing…hmmmm.)

Oh well, what can you do?

Incidentally, this weekend was a very interesting revelation into the workings of sisters…there were four pairs of them (and should have been five), all with their own dynamics. The one thing they all shared? A general dislike of discussing their sister’s relationship status – in jest or seriously – though I believe my sibling was the only one to declare my personal life to be “gross”. Thanks. [It’s not. There is nothing to tell. We were discussing hypotheticals…]

Some lessons learned at the weekend:

Although I love snow, I hate the cold.

I am not designed to be cold, I reckon it’s because I was born in the tropics. Honestly, I’ve never been colder than I was on Saturday afternoon when we got caught in a blizzard whilst seal-watching.

Baby seals are very cute, adult ones not so much. They’re also very noisy.

Going seal watching during pupping season is also a little gross, what with the patches of after-birth scattered around. Ick.

Jigsaws are a surprisingly fun (although untypical) Friday night entertainment.

I’ve never been that into them, but I was absorbed for a good hour or so. So absorbed that me and my fellow puzzlers couldn’t bear to drag ourselves away when the last lot of girls arrived.

My trademark hot chocolate cures all ills and defrosts the most frostbitten of extremities.

Apparantly, my friends have decided that I’m more than a little ‘special’, because:

– Whilst killing time in the back of the car post seal-watching, I amused myself by taking self-portraits with my camera. Then I took a few more a bit later.

– Once back in from the cold I kept my hat on for several hours. What was deemed unacceptable was that I tried to wear it during dinner, at which point it was forcibly removed from my head and my resulting ‘hat hair’ was then laughed at by every person in the room. [Is the hat that bad? See adjacent self-portait with not particularly good view of the hat…]

And finally…

…gathering a group of your favourite girls together for a girly weekend is definitely the best way to enjoy a freezing cold weekend. Bring on next year’s gathering!

A house full of girls and one monkey

Today is a good day, for several reasons:

(i) I’ve got a half day from work. (Because of reason iii.)
(ii) I’m meeting a lovely friend for lunch who I’ve not seen for a while.
(iii) A gaggle of giggly girls is gathering tonight for the second “Girls’ Weekend Away”, following the success of last year’s inaugural event. [Quite impressed by the amount of not entirely intentional alliteration in that sentence.]

Last year we hired a chalet in Somerset and had a fantastic time eating, shopping, talking and dressing up for no reason other than we could and it’s fun. This year, we’re in Lincolnshire and the plan’s to do some walking and visit some seal pups being born on a local beach, then spend Saturday night having a pyjama party. Honestly, how cute are we?

It’s all made all the more exciting because the current forecast for this part of the country uses this symbol! I’ve even packed my wellies, just in case we get proper snow.

The greatest thing about this group of friends is where they’ve come from. We all met through the O&S (or to give it its official title, the MAYC Orchestra & Singers) which is a youth choir & orchestra for 13-25 year olds. Although we only did gigs 3 or 4 times a year and lived all over the country, I count many of the friends I’ve made as amongst my closest.

By the time we were approaching 26 and the prospect of being kicked out, we thought it was time to create an event where we could catch up, and in the words of its facebook event page ‘enjoy proper showers’. Plus, we get to do lots of the fun stuff we enjoyed at O&S events (talking late into the night, eating sweets & drinking) without the hours of rehearsals that would get in the way.

So my bags are packed. Cheesy dvds gathered (The Holiday – check; Little Mermaid – check; Rent – check…) and many warm layers worn in preparation for the ‘big chill’. Bring it on.

And the monkey?

Well, his name’s Steve and he’s an honorary girl for the weekend. And before you question the fact that he appears to be a toy, how many toys do you know with their own facebook page? Just look up Steve M. Onkey if you don’t believe me. (My sister at one time had way too much time on her hands!) Steve goes all over the place – just check out the Steve & Chums group – he’s very popular.