Love

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I inherited my rolling pin, its pale wood slick with the grease of years of rolling out scones, Eccles cakes, mince pies… Believe it or not, some cookware is meant to be that way: in the same way you’d season a wok, what I had was a baking tool that worked like a dream because of how often it had been used. I ruined it, though: my hands are too hot for pastry and I put it to work rolling sugarpaste instead. A handful of trips through the dishwasher to clean it of food colouring, and it’s as good as new – pale, clean wood that bears no trace of its heritage.

I tend to think I’ve been more shaped by the men in my life than the women. I’m a daddy’s girl par excellence: not only do I go to my father for affection and for advice; I mirror him in personality, too: that desperate desire to please that hides a deep-seated anxiety. Which was why, when I was in therapy a few years back, I astonished both myself and the therapist by bursting into tears when she asked about my maternal grandmother.

She died when I was eighteen, and on my gap year. I didn’t get to say a proper goodbye. I cried, as you do, but it had little concrete impact on my life: we didn’t live that close and I probably only saw her five or so times a year.

I didn’t see her much more often as a child either, but how those visits have stayed with me. These are my most vivid memories of childhood: bingo in the village hall on a Friday night, winning £5 and putting it towards Take That’s Everything Changes album, being allowed to play it, ad infinitum, in the kitchen, while she made dinner. And younger still: being left in the bath, the bathroom door ajar, while the Coronation Street theme tune leaked through from the lounge. A hot water bottle already in bed waiting for me, and a glass of hot milk on the nightstand – a skin forming where I didn’t drink it quick enough. Being tucked in so tightly I could barely breathe, and allowed to pick my bedtime reading material from a huge pile of Woman’s Weekly and Best magazines.

But more than anything, it was the cooking: butterfly cakes, coffee and walnut sponge, sweet and sour pork, rice pudding. She’d stand me on a chair and let me help, and I learnt to bake that way. When my gas hob died recently, my mum urged me to switch it for an induction one instead but I won’t – yes, new pans would be more expensive, but it’s more than that, the smell of a gas flame, the condensation on my kitchen windows – all of those things take me straight back to my grandma’s kitchen.

When she died, my granddad burnt a lot of her stuff in a fit of grief. I’d done well, on paper: my mum paid for her only diamonds to be reset into rings for me, her and my sister, but the only thing I really wanted was her recipe notebook, which went on the fire. I have the next best thing, I guess, the beautifully titled ‘Radiation cookbook’ filled with her notes and cuttings, but it’s not quite the same.

I always mean to put music on while I bake, but somehow I always forget, and I realised the other day that that’s because when I’m baking I can channel that immense love: it makes me feel closer to her, and more than that, to all the women in my family. I’m neither religious nor spiritual, but I can find peace in flour, eggs, butter and sugar, almost without exception.

Last week I made a chocolate fudge cake for a bake sale at work – the proper 80s kind that’s all cocoa powder and no real chocolate. I topped it with Smarties, because hey, all the best cakes have Smarties.

I dropped it off at 10. At 11.30 a friend rang. ‘Your cake’s all gone,’ she said, ‘Already.’

‘Yeah, well,’ I said, ‘Everyone loves Smarties.’

That’s not what I was really thinking though. What I was really thinking was ‘Thanks, grandma. I love you.’

PS I owe thanks to two bloggers, Ella Dawson and Floraidh Clement, for the inspiration behind this one. Ella, for her post on what someone said ‘sounded a lot like happiness‘ and Floraidh for reminding me that yes, women are hot, but we love them for their ‘strength, wisdom and talents,’ too. Thanks guys! Also, a reminder that if you haven’t yet voted for your favourite post in my ‘Don’t read clickbait, read this instead’ competition, you can do so here. It’s too close to call currently, so it’s definitely worth doing!

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Shoop Shoop

Sometimes, conversations on Twitter rumble on in the background for so long, I forget what the original point was. This was one such conversation and I had to actually go back and retrace it to its roots. Turns out I started it. Colin Firth: would he be good in bed?

Most of Twitter said no. ‘He’d take it *way* too seriously, ‘ seemed to be the most common concern. And from there it spiralled into a conversation about what makes us assume a man will be good in bed. Dancing appeared on the list, as did ‘quiet confidence.’ But kissing? Kissing came up again and again and again.

I make no secret of the fact that that’s a long held belief of mine. Potential partners have lived and died (not literally) by their kiss.

Way back when I was seventeen or so, there was a guy in a nightclub. He may well not have been attractive, but the Smirnoff Ice  had been flowing and when he approached me on the dance floor it didn’t take much to persuade me to snog him.

‘Who was that guy?’ one friend asked, as we stumbled home. ‘He looked like he’d fallen from the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.’

Harsh.

But fuck me, he could kiss.

I think he was only the second guy I’d ever kissed, in fact. He was the first to show me that good kissing (and ok, ok, a well-placed thigh between my legs) can make me wet faster than anything else. Kissing makes me want to both rush headlong into full on sex and delay full on sex for as long as possible so that we can just keep on kissing.

Cher had it wrong, sadly. You can’t tell if he loves you so from his kiss – like it or not, that is in the way he acts. God knows good kissers can make you feel like it’s love, though: I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said to friends, ‘But how can he kiss like that and not *mean it?*’

With sex, I think if you asked me to rank positions by preference, I could do it pretty easily. Missionary, WoT, Doggy. If you asked me to list my preferences regarding kissing, I’d struggle. Those butterfly-soft kisses all over my face when his cock is deep inside me? The ones that are so punishing they bruise? The first one of the evening, when, for a few moments at least, I get to stop worrying about when I’ll next see him and just get to enjoy it?

How on earth could you ever choose between any of those?

Game changer

Mini-breaks are game changers. Literature (in the loosest sense of the word) and film both tell us so.

Take Lydia in Pride and Prejudice. It’s not Wickham & co. being stationed in Hertfordshire that causes problems here. Oh no. It’s when she goes to Brighton for a spot of seabathing (I may be paraphrasing) that it all goes dreadfully wrong. And how do Wickham and Lydia get punished for their flighty behaviour? They are, according to Mrs Bennett, “banished to the North.” The death of lust is spelt out by having to spend an indeterminate amount of time in one (fairly grim) place.

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We’re just people who fuck … and buy each other Christmas gifts?

Sometimes I worry that online shopping is my greatest skill. Seriously, I’m the kind of girl who not only has three Amazon wishlists for herself (one for stuff I’d like as gifts, one for boring stuff I need to buy myself and one for stuff to treat myself to – which is mostly erotica), but also has a private one that runs all year round with gift ideas for the people I love. I don’t technically *start* my Christmas shopping until November, but usually I know long before then what everyone else is getting. I don’t understand why people put themselves through the hell of the high street in December when there’s so much good stuff being made and sold by independent designer/makers and retailers. And books. If you have no other ideas, there are always books. Don’t even get me started on the joys of wrapping …

As usual with my blog posts, none of the above has that much to do with the central point here. The point is that, despite all my fabulous lines about how much I don’t care about him, about how we’re not even friends, just two people who fuck, I think I’ve pretty much undermined that with a lot of what I write here, so it probably won’t kill me to admit that, yeah, not buying him anything feels weird.

Actually, since I’ve known him I have bought him gifts at Christmas. Except for this year. Look, I’m trying to stay emotionally detached, ok?! He doesn’t buy me stuff, except for my birthday last year, when he did (best that I leave the specifics to your imagination!) This post isn’t about accusing him of a lack of generosity – he’s definitely well up on the tally chart when it comes to paying for drinks when we’re out and about, nor, really, about accusing him of not caring enough – he’s never made any promises regarding affection – it’s just that buying people stuff is one of the key ways I demonstrate to people that I like them, but I can’t do it with him because it just makes me look stupid.

So, essentially, I don’t want him to buy me a gift because I think I deserve to get stuff from him, or even because, whether I deserve it or not, I want it anyway (and don’t get me wrong, I do *love* it when guys buy me flowers). I’d like him to buy me a gift because then it means I can do  the same for him. Because, in my opinion, when it comes to saying ‘I care,’ nothing says it like ‘I spent twenty minutes tying this ribbon and it still looks wonky and shit.’

Casual sex – just how intimate should it be?

The last couple of posts I’ve written have been pretty personal, and there’s one more post I’d like to write in the same vein, but I have a feeling it might be a lengthy one, so I’ll save it for later in the week. For now, there’s something else I’ve been thinking about – when it comes to friends with benefits, just how much intimacy is desirable?

I’ve always liked casual sex for its lack of intimacy. The boys I fucked at uni always got kicked  out of my room before anyone was likely to fall asleep and a close male friend of mine who came to stay for the weekend and who I ended up sleeping with ‘just to test the chemistry,’ got sent back to the spare room before he’d barely even caught his breath. I still feel pretty bad about that.

So the fact that the guy I’m currently sleeping with doesn’t stay the night doesn’t really bother me. I always think there’s a Cosmo type pressure that makes us think we should snuggle up together after the act, but seriously, wouldn’t you rather have the whole bed to yourself and a good night’s sleep? As far as I can see the only downside is that you don’t get a second round in the morning.

But then the boy went and wrote about how good he thinks he is at / how much he enjoys intimacy – how he likes looking into someone’s eyes, stroking their face, staying spooned together after he’s come, Honestly, that’s not my experience with him, or at least the spooning part isn’t – there’s rarely any snuggling after sex – but as I’ve mentioned previously, he also has other partners, so who am I to say how intimate he is with them?

It gets to me more now than it used to, though. I’ve written previously about how much I love the traces he does leave behind, and although I like getting my bed back, I do wish he wouldn’t spring out of it quite so quickly after the act, just like I also wish he’d fuck me under the covers from some time (I get that he likes the view of being on top of the duvet, but sometimes I crave the closeness of being underneath it) and that there was sometimes more focus on the hotness of undressing one another (sure, there’s something very horny about urgency, but being skin to skin from top to toe is usually hornier, in my opinion).

Why does it get to me more now? Well, because I care about him more, surely? On the surface, I’m saying one thing (usually ‘Stop pretending we’re friends. We’re just two people who fuck’ – which rarely goes down well), but on the inside I’m wishing he’d be more honest with me, about everything from what’s going on in his life to his likes and dislikes in the bedroom. Or at least, half of me is thinking that. The other half is thinking ‘No, keep the intimacy  out of it, especially if it’s something you can turn on and off like a tap.’

Because, after all, one day he’s going to get out of my bed and not come back to it, isn’t he? And that’ll be the one time that I am grateful that we’re not friends, just two people who fuck.