twochubbycubs: 2020 – it is what is

Well, hello there! A slightly different post to wrap up the year, as we are likely to be super busy next week. I will try and squeeze one more recipe before we head into 2021, but hey, I haven’t had a chance to write in a long while and I wanted to sum up our year. 2020 has been our annus horribilis, and not just due to the state of Paul’s anus. Apologies if you saw that joke earlier in the week, but we only have so much in the tank. Let’s talk 2020!

Our year started with the release of our first cookbook, twochubbycubs: the cookbook (it’ll still make an amazing Christmas present for a loved one, just saying) which we loved though didn’t expect to do that well. It did amazingly: we went to the top of Amazon, we broke our own records, and best of all, you all absolutely loved it. That was the biggest success of all, that our dowdy little blog full of swearing and nonsense was welcomed into your homes and you all took the time to tell us you were chuffed with it. That made our year. The publicity machine started, and we were off!

We were thoroughly enjoying the book-signings, the media stuff, appearing on Brexit Radio (no I don’t know either) and dealing with the very occasional person stopping us in the street. Yes, they were asking us for a pound for the bus, but I could tell from the twinkle / conjunctivitis-crackle in their eyes that they knew who we were and were simply too shy to ask us to dance.  We appeared on James Martin where Paul cocked up making a salad and I failed to convince James that I’d make a terrific wife, something I remain sore about to this day, though perhaps not as sore as I’d like.

The first three months were truly a whirlwind – we became Sunday Times Bestsellers, we turned up in (and equally, knocked back) newspapers and magazines. It was all going so well. Then guess what happened to stop all that? That tricksy little thing called coronavirus. Suddenly we were all afraid to cough, shake hands and get up to dickens. For us, all the fun stuff stopped and we fell into line along with everyone else.

Now, we were lucky – I have a job with a terrific business who were already indulging my working from home requests anyway, so not much changed for me. Paul is NHS and as such, had it much worse, having to suffer the indignity of a big rubber mask and blushing when the neighbours start clapping. All was shite, but like everyone else, you struggle on. Luckily, the neighbours issue didn’t continue for long because, in what was a big steamy sweetcorn kernel sat atop the turd that was 2020, our house burned down.

Yes, Chubby Towers went up like a box of knock-off fireworks. Readers from earlier in the year will notice we’ve been staying in a hotel and that’s why. Waking up in the night and noticing that the end of the world seemed to be occurring outside will stay with me forever, as will the giant handprint on Paul’s buttocks from where I slapped him as hard as I could to tell him the house was on fire. He went from fast asleep to swearing at me and then shitting himself within 1.5 seconds.

Whilst I’d often fantasised about having a fireman smashing my back door in and flooding my passage, it was never like this, and certainly never six of them. It’s all very surreal now. I remember sitting in the front garden, cradled by Paul, and crying my eyes out as our house burned. One of the firemen went inside and grabbed a duvet to keep me warm and even through my tears I was mortified to spot the streaks of dried jism splattered across the one he chose. Paul was absolutely incredible – he had the same fright I did and was watching our things go up in smoke, but was there keeping me calm and safe. Never thanked him for that, because I’m me, but he is really is the most remarkable of treasures.

The house was fucked, but thankfully, our insurance were utterly golden and they moved us into the hotel where I’m currently writing this from. It’s a really lovely place, even if only have two rooms have meant Paul and I exist in a permanent state of being one un-picked-up sock from caving each other’s faces in. The house is being rebuild, delayed perpetually by COVID mischief, and the cats are fine (albeit housebound), currently residing with a friend up the road. It’s them I miss more than anything: a bath doesn’t feel complete unless I spend most of it staring into Sola’s bumhole whilst she fusses around the edge of the bath and tries to hide the smell of petrol on her fur.

Living in a hotel has presented another issue though: health anxiety is bad enough when there’s a global pandemic, it’s made even worse when you’re traipsing past strangers in a hallway and getting into lifts with guests who think personal hygiene is wiping their lips with a KFC wetwipe once a year. The resulting anxiety has been a constant low-level thrum, like living near a substation, and it can be exhausting. I’ve had three bad episodes, each more exciting and doctor-filled than the last, and I’ve only recently got on top of the last one. For all I waffle endlessly via twochubbycubs, I keep that side of me far more discreet than most realise, sometimes to my credit and sometimes to my dismay. All I’ll say on that, if you’re reading this in the midst of your own health anxiety, just know that it eases.

We managed to get away to Scarborough for a long overdue filthy weekend back in September. Very excited we were, it being the first time Paul was able to get some time off and me returning, slightly creaky of jaw, back from many weeks in self-isolation (Paul first, me second). We had no sooner received the key and made small-talk with the farmer whose farm we were staying on when Paul received a text message to say he’d been around someone with COVID. A test then revealed he was positive, and I was negative, and we were forced to spend another two weeks apart. I, somewhat inexplicably, didn’t get it, but having him poorly next door was an absolute nightmare: he was calm and collected and although it wasn’t great for him, he didn’t die. I naturally assumed he had died every time he didn’t reply to his Whatsapp of a morning or I heard a cough through the walls. Still, we got through, and it didn’t half show me exactly how much that little ball of butter does for me.

Then, the last couple of months, also been meh. I hate not being able to plan anything, explore anywhere or make any concrete plans because, as we’ve just seen with Boris the Dancing Clown fucking all the tiers up again. I’m not exactly a social butterfly, but I miss spontaneous trips out, holidays away, absolute nonsense. I want to spend Christmas with my family – not with Paul’s, because presumably his mother will resting from scaring the children away at hallowe’en – but everything just feels risky. My parents are fairly old and my mother is 86% pure nicotine at the moment. We’ll see.

So yah: crap year. We’ve all had it, to some degree, but I wanted to put ours down because frankly, I’m a massive egotist and wanted to scratch a writing itch.

But, you know what. It wasn’t a shit year. It wasn’t a shit year at all.

It’s so easy to look back and think what could have been if COVID hadn’t kicked off or if our house hadn’t burned down, but those things happened and that’s that. Take COVID: it’s been a stress, it’s been awful, but we’re lucky in that no-one close to us has been killed by it – hell, I only really know Paul who had it. That can’t be said for so many families around the world and whilst doubtless it’ll hit us in some way at some point, we can be grateful it hasn’t wreaked havoc with us. Cancelling book-signings is fuck all compared to having to bury a loved one.

And anyway: we’ve still managed to have fun, whether together or apart. Evenings with nothing to do have forced us to talk to each other, and I’m reminded why I married him in the first place. We’ve had nights just driving and singing. Paul’s worrying addiction to Lego which I nurtured, allowed to flourish and then knocked on the head when it threatened to bankrupt us. We’ve cooked new things, told new stories and brawled over whose turn it was to go downstairs and ask for more dishwasher tablets. And then, separately, I’ve personally had some amazing, breath-taking adventures with my mates which are the best they’ve ever been. I’ve travelled when I can, with the restrictions meaning nothing being taken for granted. It’s been an incredible journey of its very own.

And the house? Absolute kick in the bollocks, but as I said, our insurance have been amazing: nothing has been a trouble and at the end of it all, our house will look gorgeous and so much more us. Naturally, we’re going to sell it and move to pastures new the second we realise that we can’t fall asleep there without panicking and fretting, but we’ll cross that bridge / Atlantic Ocean when we come to it. The hotel that they put us up in is also used by all the local engineering companies which means my days have been awash with men in dirty hi-vis that I’d cheerfully push Paul into a thresher for. Being away from the house has made us realised that we’ve been putting off doing all manner of things which we’re immediately putting right when we get back there with getting a dog being right at the top of that list. We’ve already decide: it’ll be a Boxer, it’ll be a slobbery little bugger and it’ll be called Goomba. I absolutely can’t wait.

Finally, the best thing of all: twochubbycubs. At the end of this year, our second cookbook will be released, with us using the time together in the hotel to create a beast even better than the first. and we’re off again with plans for 2021. That means that this year we’ve had three published books, deftly handled by the same publisher who Stephen King, my favourite author no less, rings up when he’s got a 50,000 word novel on haunted milk bottles or something. It’s utterly bewildering when we think of it. Even now, we’re a two-man affair (makes a change for me): Paul does the cooking, we do the eating and I do the writing. The success of the first book has meant for the first time in our entire lives we are ‘comfortable’, and fuck knows that’s a decent position to end the year on. We never set out to monetise twochubbycubs: it’s why our website is so old-fashioned that you’ll probably get prompted to install ICQ if you go back far enough. The fact our hobby turned into such an incredible success is still so baffling that even now I doubt it’s ever going to go anywhere.

That’s not meant as braggy, either, and I hope it doesn’t come across as that. But when I sit and mope about what could have been if only we’d done that, or if this hadn’t happened, or if we’d played this a little differently, this is what gives me comfort.

And look, we couldn’t have done this without you. I know we say it a lot in the group, or the dedications in our book, but fuck me f it wasn’t for you lot reading the recipes, sharing our stories, telling your friends or just taking part, this whole thing would just be me writing into my diary and wondering why Clippy never calls me back. We may have made twochubbycubs possible, but you made it happen.

So, this brings me to the final thing I want to say: thank you. Our year may have had some hurdles, but hell if it hasn’t all been worthwhile to get to the end, with you lot following behind with your thighs burning and chests panting. Please don’t ever lose sight of the fact that we love you, each and all, so very dearly, and we will continue to try and give you what brought you all here in the first place: free, decent recipes with a 2,000 word pre-amble where I mercilessly take the piss out of my husband or tell you about the time I farted in a cupboard.

I did want to finish on a nice quote, but the one I had in mind I’m slightly mortified to have since found out came from the Twilight books and I just can’t bring myself to finish on that level of schlock. So, instead, from Francis Bacon – ‘hope is a good breakfast, but it is a poor supper‘ (and he’d know about good breakfasts, being a Bacon). Hope is a wonderful thing to spur you on when you need it, but nights spent in a sea of what-ifs and could-be-ism gets you nowhere other than sitting at 5am with a sad heart and eyebags you travel the world on. Things aren’t as good as they could be, but you’re reading this somewhere warm and safe as opposed to in a hospital bed with Johnny 5 making your lungs work.

Things could always be worse – one to remember!

Have a safe and pleasant Christmas, doing the best you can, and we will doubtless see you all in the New Year.

With endless love and constant pride,

J, and I suppose, P


PS: I resisted the urge all the way through, but please, if you do love us, pre-order our new book. We’ve got new cat toys to buy! Click the banner below!