livin’ it up

This time of year is all about life innit? New life, the creation of life, germination. It’s a time for seeds to be planted and lambs to be born. It’s a time for buds to shrug off the green sheaths that have housed them and burst forth with colour; it’s a time for chicks to batter their little beaks against the inside of their shell until they see the light of day; it’s when Jesus woke up after his nasty ordeal.

This Easter I’m even more aware of it all – as the proud new owner of an allotment and the unsuspecting new owner of a two year old cat called Kajagoogoo. The allotment has always been a dream of mine. The cat just appeared one weekend. I’m a dog person me, but you can’t turn an animal away can you? And you can’t seem to rename one either, no matter how hard you try. It’s a girl cat but surely ‘Limahl’ would have been preferable to Kajagoogoo whilst retaining the connection which I assume is something to do with the fact that she’s quite a timid little cat – ergo, “Too shy shy, hush hush, eye to eye.” Of course I don’t often use her full name. Except yesterday morning when I was greeted by an elephant sized poo in the middle of the dining room floor. Where did it all come from? At first I wondered if it was a little Easter prank. A little chocolate treat. Then I breathed in.

She only seems to do it when we are in the house alone. In other words when I’m the only mug around to scoop it up with my t shirt pulled over my nose and carry it at arms length out to the garden, screwing my nose up and muttering how disgusting it is and how if she was my cat she would never do that. She’s not my cat though. I don’t own a pet (except for the imaginary dog that comes everywhere with me.) No, I don’t own a pet and yet this Easter weekend I seem to be responsible for the little lives of two cats and two goldfish. It’s actually quite satisfying. I feel all nurturing and maternal. Not so much for the goldfish but it was nice having a cuddle with my neighbour’s cat, Mittens this morning. (They call him ‘Mittens’, his street name is ‘The Nailer’.)

And now with my allotment I am also responsible for the lives of 64 red onions, 58 musselburgh leeks, a cherry tree, a pear tree, a gooseberry bush, a strawberry patch, a raspberry bush and more beans, potatoes, and squash I could possibly consume between now and the next harvest. That doesn’t matter. I shall gift organic produce to my neighbours, my friends, my postman. Of course, I‘ll save a fortune on fruit and veg…and on tea bags (lemon balm or spearmint – just clip off the top leaves and dunk.)

Ah yes, spring is in the air and I’m feeling all earthy. Don’t stuff your faces with chocolate – get out there and get your hands in the soil. Dig. Plant. Grow. Nurture. It’s good and natural and life affirming.

Oh, no…don’t dig there. That’s where I buried the cat poo.

he ain’t heavy

The doctor frowned a bit when I said that I saw it as a relief that I’d spent the last 25 years ‘caning it.’ I took note of her precision symmetrical bob, her perfect nails, her bright eyes and the framed pictures of the two beautiful young clones perched on the windowsill and wondered that perhaps she didn’t know what ‘caning it’ was.

“Do you know what I mean?” I asked.

“I think I do,” she offered.

“Like, the fact that I’ve been so debauched up until now means I’ve just got to be less debauched from now on.”

“That’s right,” she smiled. “You are going to need to make a few lifestyle changes. And I suppose the first of those would be…” she paused and looked at the computer screen, “I suggest you…”

“Stop caning it?”

“Stop caning it, yes. Or at least cut down a bit.”

So, the bad news is, less partying until the early hours; less booze; less pies; less burning the candle at both ends then scraping up the wax to form another candle and setting light to that as well.

The good news is, the fact that I have been doing all that stuff, consistently, over a prolonged period of time means that less is just…less. Not none at all. And at least I have stuff to give up. Some people end up in this condition through no fault of their own. Just bad luck. Or bad genes.

This condition, thanks for asking, is a condition of dangerously high blood pressure, high cholesterol and low functioning thyroid. I had gone to the doctor’s to request a couple of regular standard blood tests for a project I’m working on and came out with a request for half a dozen blood tests, two urine samples and an ECG.

Now, I have to admit I’d have to be a complete idiot not to have known I wasn’t going to skip out of the doctor’s surgery having been told “Everything is fine. Just keep eating the way you eat and drinking the amount you drink and you’ll live to a ripe old age. In fact, you could snack in front of daytime TV more often – it’ll do you good…” And If I’m honest I was kind of hoping for some sort of ‘diagnosis’ – some sort of a something wrong. Not just as a kick up the arse to encourage me to make changes, but I was desperate to be given a reason for this sudden massive weight gain I seemed to have suffered recently. Please, tell me there’s something wrong, doctor. Then it won’t be all my fault. It won’t just be because of all the pies.

Of course, I couldn’t hide my delight when the doctor mentioned ‘under active thyroid’. That was the condition I was hoping for. Bullseye. Now I could look concerned, turn my eyes to the ceiling and say, “Hmmm, yes, I thought there must be a reason for this sudden rapid weight gain. Right, so what shall we do about it doc?” Now I could say to people, “Yes, I have gained a few pounds. Under active thyroid. Not my fault. Terrible condition. Awful.” Of course, it would sound more like “Yesfh. Hmmf nnd few pounds. Unnd acc roid hmf. S’terrible. Hmfawf.” Because I’d have a mouth full of pie.

“It’s all reversible,” my doctor smiled. Sensing I had become a bit upset. Even if it’s what you hoped for it’s still a bit of a worry to find out there is actually something wrong.

“I’ll give you some pamphlets. Cut back all you can in the next few months, then we’ll do all the tests again and see where we’re at. And as you say, the good news is, you can make those changes.”

She made it sound so easy. I thought of my brother and whether he might have similar issues, what with us both sharing the same genes and all. Last time I told him I might have high cholesterol he suggested I try eating granola. But it’s not a gene related issue. And granola is full of sugar isn’t it? I thought about him anyway and that made me tearful. That and the fact that I’d have to stop caning it for a while.

“So, let’s just get you weighed before you go shall we?”

“Er, no. Let’s not.”

There are few places, no, strike that, there are no places that weighing oneself as an overweight person is an enjoyable experience. At the gym (in between hefty workouts); in the bathroom (after squeezing out every last drop of liquid and every last ounce of solids); at a weigh-in (after lying about what you’ve had to eat all week). But the worst, the absolute worst has to be in a doctors surgery. Especially when the doctor is slim and blonde and glowing and healthy looking and really nice and likely to ask me to ‘just pop myself on the scales’. No. Please don’t.

“Just pop yourself on to the scales.”

I go for the knee jerk natural action of kicking off my shoes.

“Don’t worry about your shoes, I’ll make an allowance for those,” she smiles.

I close my eyes and step on the scales. I don’t want to see the dial. I open my eyes. I can’t see the dial. My tummy is in the way.

“What does it say doc?” I don’t actually call her ‘doc’. That’s for comedic purposes. Or it would be, if it were funny.

“Well, what did you weigh last time you weighed yourself?” she asks brightly.

I tell her. I don’t even lie. Then I ask…”has it gone up? Do I weigh more than that now?”

“Well,” she sits back down and starts typing the data in to her computer. “Not unless your shoes weigh two stone.”

They must do. That must be it. Heavy shoes. I hate these shoes. I’m going to throw them straight in to the bin. After I’ve been up Sainsbury’s and bought myself a bag of granola.

mini tour

Very excited to announce my mini tour of the West Midlands next week courtesy of Laughing Cows…Tuesday – Leicester; Wednesday – Birmingham; Thursday – Coventry. Then I’ll be joining the entire cast of The Short and Girlie Show on Friday for Funny Girls. Compering at a 50th Birthday bash on Saturday and Sunday the Short and Girlies will be at SheSoho on Old Compton Street. Fan bloody tastic!! I’ve downloaded everything ever written by David Sedaris for all the train journeys I’ll be ‘enjoying’ – starting with Eurostar to Brussels in the morning for an improvisation workshop for Dramatic Resources. #livinthedream

See you along the way I hope, if you happen to be in Leicester on Tuesday, Birmingham on Wednesday, Coventry on Thursday, Brighton on Friday or London on Sunday….don’t come to Brussels tomorrow though. That’s private! xxx full deets on ‘the gigs’ page xxx

don’t tell me when to be happy

This year, on the first day of spring, as well as singing “spring started last tuesday (when I met u)”, the fabulous and classic, hitherto unreleased and unknown track from my fabulous and classic, hitherto unreleased and unknown debut album, ‘fruition’, I also developed an ear worm of Pharrell Williams’ glorious song, “Happy”. Due in large to the fact that it was playing in the background on the morning news when I was informed by two brightly dressed, smug, over made up presenters that today was ‘National Happiness Day’. “So spread the smiles everyone and stay happy all day!!” Try suggesting that to someone who lives under Waterloo Bridge.

Can we manifest happiness? Can we just decide to be happy. One day. All day? I have to admit that I felt pretty good scrubbing in the shower and belting out…”clap along if you feel that happiness is the truth…” and it was a good day. Was that because I was near the sea? Was it because I spent it with friends and loved ones? Was it because it fell during the one week of the year that I don’t suffer mood swings due to a hormone imbalance? Or was it because the smiley lady on the news told me it should?

Of course, I’m a great fan of happiness and very keen to promote a national day of happiness, but shouldn’t we strive to be happy every day? Shouldn’t that be the general aim. In the same way that every day should be a ‘good knickers day’. To be happy and to do all we can to elevate others to the same state? But also, when we are sad, to allow ourselves to be sad. When our loved ones are sad, allow them to cry and just be there to hold their hand. It’s kind of organic. Unavoidable. Unplannable.

A bit like, the following Sunday being told that we all need to love our mums. Treat her to lunch. Buy her some flowers. Visit her. Give her a hug. Shouldn’t we just do this? Anyway? As a matter of course? A friend of mine, ages ago, refused to send her father a father’s day card on these very grounds. As I sealed the envelope and stuck the stamp on a card to my own dad she staunchly refused to be instructed by society to show affection for her father on this one arbitrary day of the year. I sort of agreed with her. But I also knew that if I didn’t send a card my dad would think I’d forgotten him. Damn. They’ve got me! “I’ll send a card to my dad on another day of the year,” said my friend, defiantly. “A day when I choose to send him a card to show him that I love him.” She never actually did though. Turns out she didn’t actually like him very much. Didn’t even go to his funeral.

And then the clocks went forward! Another instruction from the management. How crazy is it that we suddenly all just….you know….change the time?? It’s just decided – most of us forget until we are suddenly reminded by a radio announcement or a poster or by being an hour late or early for an appointment. I was reminded by an announcement made as I wandered round the Edible Garden Show in Alexandra Palace. I was completely unaware until that moment. Unaware that we would all just randomly lose an hour. Is that it? We lose an hour when they go forward? Gain an hour when they go back? I always think that’s really dumb – surely it would be better to gain an hour in the spring when at least there’s a chance of some nice weather to enjoy it? Spring forward, fall back, as my mum always says. Oh shit, my mum! If we lose an hour tonight then that means I have to leave an hour earlier on Mothering Sunday tomorrow for my three hour drive down to sussex to tell her that I love her.

sing when you’re springing

Spring started last Thursday. That’s not a song title. It’s true. The song title is “spring started last tuesday” and as it was trendy in the 90’s – when the song was composed – to have a bracketed suffix, there was a bracketed suffix of (when I met u). It was also trendy to use the letter “u” in place of the word “you” and this was before texting was even invented. Imagine. spring started last tuesday (when I met u) all lowercase, was the opening track on my album “fruition” (also lowercase).

It was written in the early throes of falling in love – less than a week into a budding romance -  and speaks of how, in this heady period of an affair of the heart, the sky seems more blue; the grass seems more green; the birds seem to sing a happier song…you get the gist. How, when first in love our senses are heightened and we revel in the very joy of the simplest pleasures in life.

It was also, as the title would suggest, written in the spring. A time for new beginnings; where all life is springing forth; buds are appearing and the harsh, barren landscape of winter is suddenly bursting with vivid colour.

It was written by someone who was getting laid.

Once the premise for the song had been set, I was looking for a tag line. It didn’t have a chorus as such but I wanted there to be a memorable line that repeated throughout the song and I just couldn’t think of anything. I was visiting my parents for the weekend (obviously an arrangement that had been made previous to the onset of aforementioned amorous entanglement) and I was sitting having some lunch with my dad who was reading the paper. Distracted as I was, I munched on my ham and coleslaw sandwich and daydreamed about my new beau. The rhyming couplets of all things good and beautiful in the world swirling around in my overexcited, love addled, intensified songwriter’s imagination.

“dawn is lighter the day is brighter
sea is deeper the ocean’s wider
on sunny days the sun is warmer
la la la la la la corner – yeah…”

I was getting somewhere. But what was the tag? What’s the hook? What’s the memorable line?

Dad looked up from the paper. “Spring started last Tuesday”, he said.
Boom. That’s when we had met.

Did I dream that “spring started last tuesday (when I met u)” would become a huge hit. Yes. Yes, I did. Did I fantasise that “spring started last tuesday (when I met u)” would be played on radio stations throughout the country, nay, the world every spring from here until the end of all seasons? Yes. Yes, I did. Am I surprised now, twenty years later that it didn’t happen? No. No I’m not.

But I am rather pleased that I got to express the manifestation of my emotions towards someone who was exceptionally special to me. And that my dear old dad made his contribution to my songwriting. (He likes to make a contribution to pretty much everything). And that I, if no one else, enjoy humming it away to myself on the first day of spring every year. Even if it is just me. Of course, if you’d like to join me in ‘the song of spring future’ then do feel free to purchase the track here: http://www.laraking.co.uk/?page_id=138#, or by contacting us here: sunshinesounds@hotmail.com and we embrace your musical participation on the first day of spring every year until the end of all seasons. Hey, we might even get on the radio…

spring started last tuesday (when i met u)
words and music by lara A king

never tried to write a love song – no no

babe i never needed to

thought the world had enough love songs

then i met you

and now

the grass is greener – yeah yeah

there’s a bridge over every stream and

birdsong’s sweeter

i’ve met you

and the sky is more blue

or it’s red and gold behind you

and the magpies all fly in twos

i’ve met you

dawn is lighter the day is brighter

sea is deeper the ocean’s wider

on sunny days the sun is warmer

and love lies round each corner – yeah

and there’s a new blue in my eyes

more stars shine in the night sky

and i’m closer to paradise

i’ve met you

i’m still loving you with each new day

tomorrow more than today

spring seemed to start last tuesday

when i met you

the breeze leads the grass in tango

and hills all wear sunshine halos

there’s more colours in the rainbow

i’ve met you

talk of loving you know i’ll listen

gonna show me what i’ve been missing

sugardoodle me – with your kissing

never tried to write a love song – no no

babe i never needed to

now i wanna fill the air with love songs

cos i’ve met you

i’ve met you

© lara A king. 1995

the first text is the deepest…

So, on a delightful walk through Highgate Woods I bump into an old friend and get bumped into by an enormous shaggy haired black bear. Which turns out to be my friends new puppy. A very energetic giant poodle called Lulu. She’s utterly beautiful and is literally bouncing off the trees, pounding down the paths and jumping over logs. The dog is quite lively too.

Ha ha. That was like an old fashioned joke.

So, me and my friend – who shall remain nameless – were chatting, and I was saying how gorgeous her new puppy was and she was telling me how long she’s had the dog and how often she walks her and what she eats and where the vet is and then she laments the fact that she doesn’t have her phone on her because she could have shown me some fantastic pictures of the dog from last summer when she really was a puppy and had been clipped in that way that only poodles can be. So they look like they are wearing nothing but ankle warmers and a pom pom hat. Adorable. She said she’d send me the picture.

As we parted company, my friend who shall still remain nameless, unless you know someone in the Muswell Hill/Highgate Woods area who has recently acquired a giant poodle puppy and named her Lulu in which case you’ve probably already guessed that it’s Belinda. Damn! Well, as we parted company she said “I must take your number, to send you that photo. I often think of calling you, and now I have the dog you could join us for walks through ancient woodland.” I added the bit about ancient woodland. My friend didn’t say that.

“That would be great,” I say. “Do you know your number off by heart?” She gave me that look that anyone that gets asked that question gives when they get asked that question. That look that starts off saying “…of course I know my number off by heart – what do you think I am? Some sort of retard?” and gently slides into “…ooo, I’m not sure I know my number off by heart…” She then suggested a selection of random numbers at me punctuated with some “oh no, hang on, it’s not that, it’s 743…no, 473….no hang on…” until she was finally satisfied that she had indeed provided me with her full and genuine phone number.

“Well, look”, I said, “I’ll send you a text now and then you’ll have my number. Call me, for sure, I’d love to come on a walk with you and Lulu.”

And as I walked away, I did just that. I sent her a text. Then I tried to remember where she lived so that I could run as fast as I could round to her house before she got there, break in, ransack the entire place looking for her phone, find it and delete the text I had just sent so that she never had to ever read the message that says…

“Hi, it’s Lara. Can’t wait to see the picture of your shaved Lulu.”

misty memory

Today I entered into a new era. I didn’t really want to but it just happened. My cousin has a twenty year old son. Let’s call him Hector. Which may be his real name, it may not. Hector has read my blog, or at least he says he’s read the first three lines of my blog…then, in his words, he “wandered off, or fell asleep.” When I seemed unimpressed by him being unimpressed he pointed out that to encourage him to carry on reading I should be more ‘engaging’.

“You’ve got to capture the reader…make them want to read on…

Thanks Hector. Bet you’re blummen well reading on now eh?

Hector….Hector? Wake up.

Yes, so, Hector was staying the night at my house because he has a meeting this morning at the American Embassy to get his visa sorted so he can go and work on a camp in the USA for the summer. Like I did in 1989. Ah….the summer of ’89. The summer I still refer to as ‘the best summer of my life’ even though there have been twenty five summers since, all with their good moments. The summer of ’89. That summer. A crystal summer. The summer “I got my first real six string…” …amongst other things. Oh I could write and write and write about it, but I won’t. Not today. Today I have other thoughts. And Hector doesn’t need to read about what ‘Auntie’ Lara was getting up to during Shabbat services at camp Cedar Lake. Not yet. Not that he’ll still be reading this of course. He will have wandered off. Or fallen asleep.

I showed him the photos, last night. The photos of a young, slim, fit, blonde, bronzed sailing instructor. Then I showed him some photos of me, boom boom! He said all the right things…”you haven’t changed a bit!” Such a good boy. “Well, maybe a few extra wrinkles…” Yes, and a few extra stone. Then he stared at the page for a very long time until I realised that he doesn’t know how a photo album works.

“You have to turn the pages”, I pointed out. “Like a book. you’ve heard of books haven’t you?”

I showed him the pictures of the tent I lived in for six weeks. Pictures of my days off, chasing the waterfalls that inspired the song “Remember Monday”. I showed him pictures of my post camp travels: Chicago, New York, Niagara, Miami, Florida. I said “I’d give anything to be back there and do it all again”, then bit my lip and we laughed at how pathetic it was that I was lamenting like an old person. How I sounded like my mum, or his grandma. We discussed how much money he should need and whether it was better to travel by Greyhound or to buy a cheap car. He was worried by some stories he had heard about ex convicts travelling by Greyhound. I think I put his mind at rest when I told him that there’s every chance you could get on any bus at any time, anywhere in the world and be sat next to an axe murderer.

That’s when I became conscious of the fact that I was fulfilling a different role to the one I’m used to. I’ve always been the youngest in the family. I’m usually the one going off and having adventures and seeking support and advice from my elders. Suddenly I am the elder. Hector was coming to me for guidance and recommendations. He wasn’t really invested in teary eyed memories of my experience and didn’t indulge my moment of nostalgic melancholy. He wanted to know whether it was better to fly or drive from Las Vegas to Orlando. And more importantly, how to get from my house to Piccadilly.

In the morning it was foggy so I walked him to the bus stop, gave him some change incase his oyster card didn’t work and told him to make sure he took a bottle of water with him on the tube. It took all my efforts to restrain myself from licking a hanky and wiping his face with it. For I now was the adult. The advisor, the mentor, the consultant. For him, I was in the same category as the family members that had counselled me all those years ago. I was the grown up, at the side of the road, waving to the young hopeful, off on an adventure.

“Text me when you’re there safe,” I called out, “…and fly to Orlando, don’t drive. Remember?”

He wasn’t really listening now. He was on the next leg of his journey and had put his headphones on and sat down next to a pretty young mum with her toddler. But I called after him anyway as the bus pulled into the misty morning, “….and Hector, watch out for axe murderers”.

you can’t catch me…

Is it a sign of the world we are living in that if you cough or sneeze in public these days instead of offering sympathy and medical advice, people just back away with their handbags over their noses screaming: “Don’t you dare give me your lurgy”. On the tube on Saturday night one woman sat next to me and blocked her left nostril all the way from Camden Town to Kennington. I am well aware that currently my resting breath sounds similar to an asthmatic with an iron lung attempting to play the harmonica, but it’s me that’s suffering from an unspecified or indeterminate illness here. Not you. So why is it that every time I clear my throat I feel I have to apologise profusely and announce that you’ll all be okay because my particular strain of bronchitis is not contagious.

I have self diagnosed it as bronchitis because it is worse than a bad cough but not quite TB. And I’ve decided it’s not contagious because I don’t want to upset anyone. There’s no point in going to the doctor as the doctor will just pretend to listen to my chest while holding the cold, steel disc of a stethoscope up to my back (surely the fact that the chest is round the front is one of the first things they teach you at medical school?)  Then the doctor will say, “Have you tried steaming?” They will also say “Cough mixture doesn’t help really.” And most likely, “There’s something going round at the moment.” They will then suggest a cough mixture that no one has ever heard of which is weird because if it’s that good and it works then why aren’t we all already using it? And will then say “If it’s still bothering you after a week then pop back in and I’ll give you some antibiotics.” A week? A week of rib breaking coughing and spluttering, no sleep and everyone on the tube scowling at me as if I’m trying to destroy civilisation with germs as my only weapon?

Rather than go to the doctor, I had a ‘once removed’ appointment with the doctor over the phone. Because apparently doctors are so clever these days that they don’t actually need to be in the same room to know what’s wrong with you. Even though they don’t know that the chest is round the front. So I explained that I had had a bad cough for almost a month and that it had become unbearable over the last few days and then, a bit too much like it was for effect, like when you’re pretending to be ill when you call in sick, I coughed. Loud and long and hard into the receiver.

“Wow,” said the doctor. “That does sound bad. Have you tried steaming?”

I told him I had.

“Well,” he continued, “there is something going round at the moment but cough mixture doesn’t help really. Unless you use Codeine Linctus, have you heard of that?”

No, I hadn’t heard of it. Which probably means it works. And having spilt a drop of it on the counter earlier I know that if it doesn’t work as a cough medicine then it makes a very effective furniture polish.

That was yesterday and it’s either due to the Codine Linctus or the two hot toddies, three red wines and mug of brandy that I had last night that leads me to believe that I think I am now over the worst of it.

And there are lots of worst bits to choose from. Having to cancel a gig. That was bad. Having to do a gig. That was worse. Possibly made so by the fact that half way through the evening the PA went down and I had to pull a raffle for 300 people without a microphone. Try projecting without projecting, if you see what I mean. Both these pale in comparison to definitely the worst worst thing to happen during this bout of bronchial hell: a coughing fit in the jacuzzi.

Yes, on doctor’s orders I went to have a deep steam followed by a relaxing jacuzzi to ease the pain of ribs bruised through three nights of consistent coughing. And it did feel better. I had the entire jacuzzi to myself for a while. Then I was joined by a pretty young couple. There are two jacuzzis at the gym. The other one was inhabited by a rather large gentleman who appeared to have fallen asleep and not noticed that his jacuzzi had stopped bubbling. Made me wonder why he didn’t just stay at home and sit in the bath. Obviously not wanting to disturb him the pretty young couple slid into my jacuzzi and sat looking lovingly at each other.

At first I thought I could mask my coughs but something in the jacuzzi had got to me and I just could not do anything to prevent the eruption of wheezing and barking that rendered me helpless and breathless before this poor, young, pretty, amorous couple. I turned away hoping they wouldn’t notice but the whole pool area is tiled and the acoustics bounced and amplified the coughing fit right back at them. When I turned back around, concern had wracked their pretty young faces so, being a people pleaser I tried to put their minds at rest by announcing “I think a bit went down the wrong way,” thereby suggesting that not only were they being forced to share their moment of romance with what sounded like a performing seal but that she was also attempting to drink the jacuzzi.

“Do you need a glass of water?” asked the pretty boy.

“No, I’ll be fine,” I wheezed as I clambered through the bubbles. They smiled at me and I noticed the pretty girl put her hand up to her face. “Don’t worry,” I smiled back, “It’s not contagious.”

giving up giving up

If, like me, you have failed to ‘give up’ the thing you said you’d give up for New Year, and have also flunked ‘second chance’ Chinese New Year, fear not. Today is ‘third time lucky’ Ash Wednesday. It’s ironic that this is often referred to as ‘a moveable feast’ because this is the part in the story where the grown up beardy man Jesus spends forty days and forty nights fasting in the desert and being tempted by a very persistent bogey man. Consequently, in (some parts of) the modern world we choose to abstain from luxury to pay tribute to his misfortune. Just until Easter. But not on Sundays. We get let off on Sundays. Try telling Jesus in the desert that. Personally I think we should ‘give up’ reading silly stories. In the Bible.

And watch more programmes by Bear Grylls and Ray Mears and then we’d know how to survive (hallucination free) for forty days and forty nights in the desert by eating scorpions and the insides of a camel and drinking our own urine through a sock. In the Jesus version it all turns out okay. He resists Satan and the angels bring him lots of goodies at the end.

We precede ‘giving stuff up’ by stuffing ourselves like greedy, gorging little hamsters on Shrove Tuesday or ‘Fat Tuesday’ which it is also called due to the fact that we eat fatty foods, not as a reference to the effects of too many pancakes. Pancakes are humble fare and this is traditionally seen as an opportunity to to get rid of the cupboard contents to prepare the home for a more sparse, more simple spell. Usually this is marked by going out to the supermarket and buying flour, eggs, caster sugar, nutella, strawberry dessert sauce and golden syrup. These products which we rarely eat at any other time of the year will then be forgotten about and will hang around sticky and unfinished until next Fat Tuesday by which time they will all be out of date and we’ll go out and buy some more. But won’t throw the old ones away.

This time of year always reminds me of an assembly at my primary school. Not Pancake Day, that reminds me of eating pancakes at our dining table in the 1970‘s. Made by mum, with lemon and sugar (classic, strawberry dessert sauce hadn’t been invented yet) and listening to Concorde breaking the sound barrier.

Which must have happened on a Tuesday. In the 70’s.

So, at this assembly. The headmistress, who we shall call Mrs. B, incase she’s still alive, (and no children, that does not stand for Mrs Blabbermouth) explained to a class of suddenly traumatised and bereft six-year-olds this procedure of ‘giving something up for Lent’.

MRS. B: So, Lara. What will you be giving up for Lent? (Her eyes flick towards my chubby tummy)

ME, AGED 6: Oh, I don’t know, smoking I guess. You?

MRS. B: I’m giving up chocolate.

ME, AGED 6: Wow, is that the only sacrifice you’re prepared to make to honour the man who (allegedly) suffered immense hardship, starvation and near death in the desert to save you from sin? Not to mention the frightening hallucinations.

MRS. B: It will be hard.

ME, AGED 6: Instead, why don’t you give up your attempts to indoctrinate young children in an arcane and antiquated custom that simply serves to perpetuate the belief that we are all guilty of inexcusable sin; obligating self examination, self flagellation, abstinence and repentance in the hope of eventual redemption.

At least, I think that’s what I said.

And I stand by that today.

Perhaps if we are going to continue to observe this tradition we should at least relinquish something in a way that serves the world; ‘giving up’ unattainable dreams perhaps? Third world poverty, invading other countries or our seat on the bus.

Me? I’m giving up pancakes. Sick of the sight of them.

And nutella.

At least until Sunday.