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By Becky Bond 24 Dec, 2017
Marta Christmas is like Santa with the fun sucked out. The festive equivalent of a grumbling cold sore, ready to crack and rain down on the sparkling charade.

To the untrained eye, Marta is the epitome of seasonal cheer, bedecked with bauble beads and alpine footwear, a soft burgundy knit beneath a fir green jerkin. She and her home will both smell of spiced satsuma, ginger and fig from early December and the tinkling of medieval harpsichord music will burst forth from her iPod shuffle as she trudges back from the market in the snow with her hessian bags bursting with celeriac.

Her decorations are handcrafted, the snacks are homemade, the gifts are ethical and the turkey probably sauntered into the oven of it's own accord due to it's gratefulness for such an organic life thus far. It probably stuffed it's own arse with apricots and wholemeal bread on the way in, raising a juanty wing as the solar powered oven door slammed shut.
By Becky Bond 03 Sep, 2017
Once again, I left mum and wept. She has dementia and has been living in a care home for eighteen months. One of those months was with dad.

Dad lived with prostate cancer for ten years, but the last year involved many hospital trips. After five weeks on an oncology ward it was clear he wasn't returning home. Around that time, mum was diagnosed with dementia, then broke her hip. So they went from hospital to care home together, where dad lost his war on cancer but mum remained. It was all rather grim.

I fill the time during my visits with non-stop chat about what I've been up to. I busy myself with putting new flowers in the vase. I check the clock – has it been half an hour yet? Today, I had a good three hours to spare, but I made my excuses after forty minutes. I really wanted a hug, so I bent down and squeezed her bony frame and she squeezed me right back. I held her hands and looked into her eyes and told her how I wished I could see her more, that I really loved her and thought about her all the time. She smiled a big, wide smile and I think she welled up. But I couldn't stay.

I don't know how to make her happy again, so I just talk. But while the words are spilling out of my mouth, I wonder, does she want me to shut up so she has chance to say something herself? Does she know I'm over-compensating? Is it because she can't think what to say or because she's forgotten how to begin a conversation? Maybe she really wants to tell me something, but it's too jumbled to articulate? She struggles to remember names, so perhaps feels embarrassed to ask how people are. Is she sad or content? I don't know. 

I tell myself that if she was compos mentis, she'd be shoving me out, insisting I go and enjoy myself instead of sitting in a stuffy room with an old lady. But I do it because I want to see a glimpse of my old mum. The mum who was a force to be reckoned with, the mum who helped others, played golf, raised four children and numerous pets. I want to ask her advice, confide in her and have a giggle. I'd like to go shopping with her and have lunch out. But that's never going to happen again.

Most of the time, it's fine. My siblings also visit and the care home staff are fabulous. But today, I just couldn't hack it. I said goodbye, got in my car and sobbed. Some people like to cry on their own, but that's not really me. I mean, I do, but then I always want to reach out and talk about it, so I rang my oldest friend Jill.

Jill lost both her parents so knows how it feels. She knew mine from the age of five and has witnessed most of our family highs and lows – birthdays, weddings and funerals. She let me catch my breath between tears. We compared notes on how we felt about our mums and dads and by the time we'd finished, she had me in stitches over a story involving a home-made curry, six bottles of Peroni and her new slippers.

And life goes on. Tomorrow, I'll get up, do a job I enjoy, have tea with my husband and children and probably watch a bit of television. And next weekend, we've got a family wedding, which will be wonderful.
So anyway, that's just how it is. No veneer, no pictures of fluffy guinea pigs or stories of hilarious japes. Just a bit of what occasionally goes on in my head about my mum, her dementia and what it's like when I go to the nursing home.
By Becky Bond 14 Jun, 2017
Politics is show business for ugly people, so the saying goes. I couldn't possibly comment, but I've certainly had my fill of MP's and manifestos, kitten heels and curtain calls for a while. Well, at least until the next big vote.

As a freelancer, I'll pretty much take any job going. Really. I'm not that picky. If you're paying and I've got a day free, it's a 'yes' from me. One of my proper jobs though is producing local radio programmes for the BBC, and this election lark has kept me very busy.

I had to organise a debate with five candidates and an audience of fifty. It's the sort of job which calls for spreadsheets and back up highlighters. You really have to dot the i's, cross the t's and tick all the boxes. This kind of undertaking jolts you awake at 4am, having dreamt you went to work with only a bag of blancmange and a fork.

Questions plague you constantly: Have I got a fair spread of opinions? Are the topics relevant (Brexit) but not boring (see previous bracket)? Will there be enough tension, but not a fight? Did I remember to order the vegetarian sandwiches? It's a miracle I got the job really as I'm the least political person in the newsroom. Usually, I'd rather just do some baking.

Amazingly, my plan worked though. Panellists turned up, debated and left without incident or embarrassment. The audience were engaged, the microphones were crackle-free and nobody tripped over a cable. I didn't even spill coffee down my new suit from Zara.

But no sooner had I re-organised my pencil case, than it was election night. And this was an even bigger job, involving Sharpies. I needed to coordinate six reporters into a live programme between 1-6am. I can't remember the last time I stayed up a full 24 hours without a trace of alcohol in my bloodstream.

The building was buzzing with phones pinging and tweets declaring seats for left, right and centre. Debs from the café came in specially to rustle up a trolley of goodies for the team and Mussy, one of the Producer/Presenters (aka The Office Feeder) brought in a vat of curry to help us push through until daybreak.

Hours one and two were a breeze, but then it seemed every result in West Yorkshire came in at once and I had to ditch my dream of a mid-show masala. As the reds and blues merged on screens before my eyes, reporters rallied, statisticians tallied and by 6am parliament was hung.

At 7am, I caught my slumped, haggard reflection in the train window on the way home and realised I had more in common with the candidates than I thought; as the saying goes, radio is really just television for ugly people.
By Becky Bond 28 May, 2017
I nearly went to a wedding dressed as a hamster. I'd misheard the bride-to-be and thought she'd said the theme was hamsters and moles. Turns out it was gangsters and molls. Luckily, I found out before the big day, but had already googled furry suits and told everyone I was going to a really weird do.

It wouldn't have been the first time I'd made a fool of myself at someone's nuptials though. I was a bridesmaid for my friend Caz, who married the son of a preacher man in Tennessee. Bruce (the groom) liked a brewski with the best of us, but his Momma and Pappy were teetotal, so at the Holiday Inn reception, guests kept sneaking off to their rooms for a livener.

The thing is, I accidentally copped off with one of Bruce's mates when he offered me a top up in room 309. It must have been quite late in the night because we fell asleep afterwards. But the next morning, I was due to meet the newlyweds and all their extended family for brunch in a café down the road. Which I did, fully dressed in a turquoise bridesmaid dress, due to the unknown whereabouts of the rest of my clothes. I was greeted with a mixture of dismay and applause.

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