How to Make Money Upsetting Accountants.

Last week, strapped for cash and with too much time on my hands, I took part in some market research. The deal was that Lord Ashcroft’s minions asked you questions about Britain and the EU for a few hours and you got paid £120 for your opinion.

I know, right? Suckers.

Lord Ashcroft, if you’re not familiar with him, is the tax-evading Tory lovechild of Charles Hawtrey and Emperor Zurg. He runs a website called Lord Ashcroft Polls where he throws money at disgruntled bartenders like me to help him formulate opinions on things and advise the Tories on what do about the EU, the shortage of women in UK politics, and what on earth to have for lunch since the chef has run out of gravlax.

Don’t judge me. I make £80 a week.

Lord Ashcroft just having a casual Guinness in a pub, there.

Anyway. So here we were, about a hundred of us from all walks of life, representing the average Joe and the common man and everyone else. It got off to a great start – the ten people on my table were interested and had varying views on the issues of staying in and leaving the EU, and we all got on really well and had a good discussion. We had guest speakers come and highlight the good and bad points of each side (Charles Grant, Ruth Lea and some nervous intern whose name I forget), the free all-you-can-eat lunch was incredible, and the coffee was alright too. So far, so good.

Of course, after my third plate of ragu everything went terribly, terribly wrong.

“We’re going to do a fun exercise now!” beamed the moderator, and I wilted inside. Fun. The F word. There is nothing fun about someone else’s idea of fun. Especially when the fun you’re about to have is in a conference room at the Park Plaza Hotel, debating the future of Britain’s involvement with the EU.

Our moderator wrote a list of words on the whiteboard. Biscuit. Car. Job. Outfit. Animal. Random nouns, essentially. She turned to us.

“Now then. If Britain was a biscuit, what biscuit would it be, do you think?”

I wish I was joking. I wish I could say that we all sat there, incredulous, sharing glances of what-in-the-hell-just-happened with each other. But no.

“Ooh, I think a Hobnob.”

“Ooh yes. Sturdy, reliable, but sweet!”

“No, definitely a rich tea.”

I sat there reminding myself over and over that I was getting paid for this.

“What about a job? I think Britain would be a policeman.”

“No, an accountant.”

“Policeman!”

“Accountant!”

It was at this point, desperate and frustrated and quickly getting indigestion from my cramming at the buffet, that I decided to humour them. So I said, “it’s interesting that we can’t decide between a policeman and an accountant isn’t it? Because Britain is divided, and you think of a policeman as the working class profession, probably didn’t go to university, it’s a practical, important job… whereas an accountant will have spent loads of time and money training to sit in an office and gain a nice decent salary because it’s a specialist career… so our indecision stems from the fact that Britain’s national identity is based on class division and we don’t really have the ‘all in it together’ thing that we think we do… isn’t that kind of interesting? A bit?”

“So… a policeman then?” said the moderator.

I shut up.

Then each table had to present to the room on what biscuit, or job, or animal they thought Britain and the EU would be. This was a pretty awful process (especially the guy who compared the EU to a ‘horse and cart… probably pulled by a dirty old Romanian’) and then it got to our table. Surprise surprise, nobody wanted to stand up and recite what they thought about Britain in terms of baked goods or jobs etc. So guess who did it.

 

I really tried. I did. I repeated my nonsense argument to the room, maybe throwing in some poorly-thought-out phrases such as ‘Britain has no imagination’, ‘Britain lacks ambition’, ‘what’s the point of this exercise anyway.’ I took a dump with my trousers on, essentially.

I sat down to a deathly silence and prayed for the next coffee break to come quickly.

Then, in the coffee queue, I was tapped on the shoulder. I turned around to see an immensely tall woman and her companion, who looked like a teapot with tits, both scowling furiously at me.

“I didn’t like what you were saying about accountants. What do you have against accountants?” the tall woman demanded. I wondered if there was any point me explaining that I wasn’t having a go at accountants – that they’re probably the people I feel most ambivalent about in the world – and that she seemed to have missed the point of my admittedly awful tangent. However, she was furious and I was small.

“Sorry,” I said, “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“I’m an accountant”, she snapped. Then her little teapot friend leaned forward, right into my face.

And I’m Spanish”, she hissed.

I was very confused.

So I collected my £120, pocketed some free cheesecake, and ran home.

Taxidermy Adventures

I’m a card-carrying taxidermy fanatic. Fortunately, Brighton – with its weird Victoriana fetish and oodles of old trinket emporiums – is pretty much the hotspot of taxidermy these days so I’m in good company! I’m fifteen minutes down the road from the Booth Museum, Eaton Nott and Snoopers’ Paradise, so I have all the borax and wood-wool stuffed critters I could ever hope for.

Recently I booked myself a place at a workshop with the London Taxidermy Academy. They’re great because they run very small classes, with a maximum of around six people (there were four at mine), so you get a lot of guidance and attention from the intense and heavily bearded tutor, Lee Paton. The class was so much fun, and the process is very therapeutic. It’s much easier and far less gory than you’d think – unless you accidentally stab the guts and spill mouse soup everywhere, like my classmate did.

So without further ado, here’s how to skin, clean, stuff and sew a little mouse! It’s under a cut, because I know some of you are a bit sensitive 😉

Continue reading Taxidermy Adventures

Ideas for a Roller Derby Valentine’s Day

We’re halfway through February. Not only does this indicate that we’re nearly at the end of a miserable rainy winter, it means that in a few weeks’ time we’ll be able to skate outdoors again, eat grilled meat and drink in beer gardens.

Oh, also it’s Valentine’s Day on Friday.

image: forkparty.com

If you are the kind of person for whom Valentine’s Day is just a repulsive celebration of forced sentimentality and hackneyed satin-covered doe-eyed ‘feelings’, then great. Join the masses. If, instead, Valentine’s Day means microwaving a roast dinner for one, then that’s great too. In its own way.

But what if you kind of, you know, want to celebrate your affections for a derby person? After all, the definition of a ‘partner’ is someone who you fart in front of, share chips with, and occasionally hump (if you’ve been good.) Somehow, it seems only fair to go along with Valentine’s Day for SOME of the ride – if only to let your person know that you don’t mind how bad they smell after training. Here are some ‘romantic’ ideas to help you get down with a roller derby Valentine’s Day.

  1. Wash each other’s pads
image: best-tec.com

Everyone has their own post-derby fragrance. Somehow your own doesn’t seem too bad, but the warm-parmesan-and-raw-meat smell of your loved one’s wristguards can be a truly testing experience – and washing someone else’s is a pure and beautiful act of love. Put on a respirator if you have to, and get some tongs. Quickly and without  vomiting, stuff gaskets, elbow pads, wristguards, and the squishy bit inside their knee-pads into a pillowcase. Tie a knot in the top so the pads don’t infect everything else in there. Wash as many times as it needs and hang those not-so-pungent articles out to dry. If you can get through this, your relationship will survive anything.

2. Scare them with home-made sex toys.

image: fdp.pl

No-one really knows what to say when presented with a translucent vibrating shape. Generally sex toys are a bit expensive, a bit naff and a bit overrated – and the amount of pressure on the recipient of the rampant rabbit to act pleased and not slightly unnerved is unfair. But why settle for a shadow of uneasiness on their face when you could have A HOME-MADE MASK OF TERROR? Duct tape a cheese-grater to a pair of pants, or draw a pair of tits on a toy dinosaur. Fix a maniacal grin to your face as they unwrap it, and bingo. Instant gratification.

3. Groupon vouchers

image: slate.com

Every day I’m bombarded with Groupon offers for things like ‘romantic escapes to Cornwall’, ‘dinner for two at a three star restaurant in Hastings’ and ‘500 edible roses’, etc. Traditional romantic gestures through Groupon smack of insincerity and desperation, but let’s not be unfair on Groupon. It is a treasure trove of cheap gifts. Instead of trudging to Cornwall in the rain, where you’ll be too grumpy to do anything, Groupon instead offers:

Laser Lipolysis, only £59!

Driving lessons! £15!

£40 towards plant products!

An MOT for £19!

An online accounting course, £60!

 4. Sexy lingerie… sort of

image: neverundressed.com

Your average derby girl will spurn a lacy Ann Summers thong in favour of comfy spandex knickers. For men, it can be the opposite, but it depends who you’re dating. To be honest, the pH level of the sweat that trickles down into your blocker’s butt-crack means that pretty girly underwear will dissolve like a Berocca, so sexy underwear is not the way forward. Instead, I recommend butt padding. Nothing says ‘you’re alright by me’ like a well-protected coccyx.

5. Write them a song

image: wordpress.com

If you’re musical, you might want to put two rubber bands over a Tupperware for a makeshift guitar and write a song about how much you love your sentient flesh accessory. It has to rhyme, you have to sing, and you are only allowed to use five different words. Record it, or give them a post-coital performance. For example:

In the key of C:

Baby, we got a bath

Bath, got a we baby

Got a we baby bath

Baby bath got a we

(Repeat until single)

Have a successful Friday.

Tiny teeth, beautiful bugs

Hey all,

As some of you know, I have a little shop called Lily’s Shop of Horrors 🙂 you can find my shop on Facebook and on Etsy.

I sell pretty handmade jewellery made of bones, teeth, dead insects and the like, as well as some little Breaking Bad bits and pieces (because I am OBSESSED with that show.)

Here are some photos of my stuff! If you’d like to buy something, drop me a line on my facebook shop (prices are all on there) or send an email to lily.liar@gmail.com.

202720_798167010209460_262943334_oBee in a bottle! £8 + P&P

1008620_798167240209437_2111905400_oOak eggar moth wing (female), £8 + P&P

905385_798166900209471_206868984_o 1506268_798166926876135_1444758737_o 1518226_798167456876082_1058052823_oHeisenberg necklaces! £8 + p&p

1537546_798167340209427_836094189_oGenuine canine toof from either a cat or a fox – I’m not sure (I found it, you see, and they didn’t leave a note.) £8 + p&p

1540315_798167213542773_261430181_oBee & Lavender. £8 + p&p

1553126_798167090209452_1075699058_oDor beetle & lavender, £8+p&p

1654791_798167413542753_1335957880_oCream coloured moth, £7 + p&p

1658436_798167433542751_1931962006_o 1795209_798167373542757_92094851_oShield beetle, £7 + p&p

1795313_798167300209431_317572572_oTulips in bottles with glass soil! £10 each + p&p

1795356_798167173542777_1692696080_o 1836695_798167126876115_1328004990_oDor beetle and lavender. £8 + p&p

1278125_701224149903747_2144094346_oSheep-teeth! Hand-pulled by me from a skull I found in the Lake District 🙂 £8 each or £8.50 with a bell on, + p&p

Thanks for looking ❤ I’ll be adding more stuff in the near future so watch this space!

Stickers! Scribbles! Seaside!

Hey all,

Since my last post some exciting things have happened! The Croydon A and B teams beat Milton Keynes Roller Derby, I quit my job at the pub and started a new one in Brighton, and kind of sort of properly moved in with Ed.

Here are a few pictures of the flat!

Mr White, my beloved polecat:

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My bit of bottles and bones…
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Sleeping cave…

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Notebooks, crafty box and some new stickers

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Salt’n’ pepper

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Now I know where Japan is.

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IMG_2601So now I’m just sitting around the flat, taking photos and drinking tea, until my first shift at the pub at 7.

I’ve moved house six times in the past four years, so it’s nice to finally have somewhere I can bed down properly in! It’s such a lovely place to live too 🙂 there are cats that come in and just sit on your lap, and there’s loads of space for me to make stuff. And don’t even get me started on the beautiful sofa.

I’m so excited for the coming weeks: tomorrow the coaches from Victorian Roller Derby are coming to teach a session at Croydon, then Sian and I are going to see Taylor Swift on Tuesday (no, I’m not joking and this is not a drill), Monday 10th I get to taxidermise a mouse, and then on the 15th is the Brighton Tattoo Convention! I’m saving my pennies hoping that I can get some work by Jaclyn Rehe or Angelique Houtkamp there. Oh, and did I mention that we’re bouting against Portsmouth on the 22nd of February? I’ll be going up against one of my all-time roller derby heroes, R.I.P. McMurphy. I really hope I get a bruise to take home…

I’ve been trying some more of  my own tattoo-esque scribblings too, though I have a lot to improve on…

The Track is Always Smoother…

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I love roller derby. I think most of the people I know love it too; but there comes a point when you have to step back from it, look at it for what it is, and think about whether the ‘roller derby til I die’ mantra might be a little unfair on you.

I have been skating for just over one year. Although I’m no Kamikaze Kitten, I can go pretty fast and get low. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved, and I’m proud of what my fellow skaters have achieved, but the thing I’m most proud of is the thing that I also feel a bit guilty about: my attitude towards the game.

As with any sport, there have been ups and downs in the time that I’ve been training with Croydon Roller Derby. Ligaments have made peculiar popping sounds; I’ve been made to do Infinite Jammer with a dreadful hangover. I’ve gone to training with the sudden, sad death of a friend on my mind. I’ve put my skates on after a six –hour tattoo session. I’m not trying to say that I’m particularly hardcore – I’m not – but there has been one, singular reason that I haven’t let the peaks and troughs of derby affect me in the same way that other things have.

It’s just a game.

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I do feel like I’m missing out a bit on the ‘derby is life’ attitude. I know women who eat, sleep and breathe roller derby, who spend every moment of their free time on skates; and who consequently beat themselves up because of how much they love it. Roller derby has given them a kind of freedom and power and, understandably, they want to feel like they are doing justice to this wonderful sport. I wish I had that conviction, but although I love derby, it isn’t my whole life, and I don’t feel I owe it any more than I’m giving it. Derby has made me happier, and healthier, but is hasn’t saved me.

Derby is certainly part of life. I spend a lot of time training, and thinking about skating, and meeting up with the other skaters – I LOVE bouting, and hearing the question “will you jam next?”, and losing sucks and winning rocks, but it has never given me a sleepless night. It has never made me cry and I’ve never felt that I’m not good enough for it. It’s a game, and because I haven’t made it my life, it has never stopped being fun. It’s like alcohol – small amounts now and then make me feel awesome, but if I drank constantly, I’d be drained and sick and I probably wouldn’t love it. There you go. Roller derby = beer.

I love waking up late, having coffee in bed and watching Adventure Time on my laptop a lot more than I love going to the gym. I know I SHOULD go, but I don’t feel like a massive failure when I don’t. I tree-trunksworry about the future – I worry that I’ll be stuck working in a bar for the rest of my life while my personal dreams and ambitions float just out of reach. Yes, occasionally I worry that I should glue my left toe-stop on because it keeps coming out. More often, I wonder whether there will ever be enough in my savings to travel around America.

Here’s a corny anecdote about fencing. When I did fencing, I let the sport consume me. The social aspect and all the drama that went with it; the pressure of the competitions; and the constant fear of not being good enough hindering my performance. I spent stupid amounts of money on kit, thinking that better equipment would make me a better fencer. I loved fencing so much that I grew to resent it for not loving me back, because there was always someone better, someone faster, and that someone didn’t love it as much as I did, and that meant that their victories against me were unfair. A couple of years on, I realise how ridiculous that was.

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Fencing, the be-all and end-all of my existence for two or three years, is a sport where two people in white gimpsuits hop around poking each other with blunted swords.

Roller derby,  my favourite pastime and the basis of much of my social life, is a sport where women put on rollerskates and whizz around in an oval shape trying to hit each other. It’s kind of funny when you think about it.

You think Betty Crocker flipped a table every time she burnt a sponge? The sport that you play is not an entity – it is a pastime. It is a series of movements and tactics and skills that you assimilate into your lifestyle. You are what you do, so you are the sport. There will always be someone better than you – someone who has been skating for years and years, who never takes their skates off and who has the most up-to-date gear – but that doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve to do the sport.

You don’t need to beat yourself up, derby girl.  It’s just a game.

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The Horniman Museum, scribblings and Fresh Meat Tryouts!

My lovely friend Robyn came to visit this weekend. She was here to try out for the Croydon Roller Derby Fresh Meat programme, but the clever git has also been a runner on a TV show!

Robyn is an animator, and pretty much the nicest and most talented person I know. We’ve been friends for around eighteen years, from our halcyon days pretending to be Mice With Swords (we got through a lot of Redwall) right through to the discovery of boys and the misery of the graduate job market. On this occasion, we ended up going to the Horniman museum…

Taxidermy at its weirdest.

I met an owl and was too starstruck to say hi.

Robyn and her new boyfriend.

And we found some bees too.

See?

We also drank three bottles of wine between the two of us, and had a rowdy game of Cards Against Humanity (my little brother won, because he’s a deviant) followed by an evil hangover and lots of skating.

Croydon Roller Derby held its Fresh Meat trials on Sunday, and we had a great turnout – there were even a couple of familiar faces in the paceline! There were a few people there who had skated before, some hoping to transfer from other leagues, and others who had never even put on a pair of rollerskates. Riot Squad and Vice Squad, our A and B teams respectively, are playing against Milton Keynes Roller Derby this coming weekend… which means I need to stop eating biscuits and do some press ups. I’ve found that Tabata high intensity workouts are good – they’re usually under an hour but there’s enough in there to make you really knackered. (A note to the derby contingent – I am far too poor to afford gym membership, but the FitnessBlender workouts on YouTube are fantastic – highly recommend ’em!)

I’ve also started making use of this beautiful sketchbook I was given for my birthday! The first one is me completely ‘borrowing’ Angelique Houtkamp’s style…

And this is a little sad Saint Sinead O’Connor I spent far too long on.

Yes, I know. John Singer Sargent I am not, but it’s a start.

I also finally, finally saw Frozen. I know it gets a lot of comparisons to Tangled, but I think I actually preferred it to Tangled… it’s got a great little curveball at the end, and I’m happy that there seem to be so many films popping up at the moment with the sentiment “boys: they’re not that important” rather than “be skinny, get married, profit.” Even the talking snowman wasn’t as irritating as I thought he would be.

The week ahead promises adventures with the Portuguese, and a Max Richter concert followed by carrying a watermelon around a party with a man dressed as Patrick Swayze (it’s 80s-themed, and I got carried away with notions of making a huge Falcor costume for Ed before realising that Dirty Dancing was probably easier). I’ll also be trying to stay motivated in the eternal hunt for a job that doesn’t require me to sell Jagerbombs.

Hurrah!

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