Joyous epiphanies and why l now hate lizards

My summer has been a long, busy and lots of fun. I packed in everything I possibly could; I did multiple festivals, had a lovely trip to Paris and managed to catch up with/visit lots of friends and family. However I also ended the summer with no money, an achy back from so much sleeping in tents, and due to the high level of cider and ice cream consumption that took place, I now resemble a dumpling – particularly facially – and this is far from ideal. You win some and you lose some, and I just wish I’d won less flab and lost less money, but at least I had wonderful time doing it.

I discovered and learnt many things this summer, some of them the hard way and some were joyful epiphanies.

Firstly I have learnt that I take on too much and I say yes to almost everything – even if I really don’t want to. YES, I’ll come for coffee and patiently listen to you whine about how unfair it is that you’ve gotten fat and can’t wear crop tops and tiny vagina-shorts anymore (very few people can), even though I have 5 billion things I need to do today. YES, you can borrow £30, even though I don’t really have it to spare and I know you’re only going to spend it on crisps and fags. Yes I’ll come clubbing on a Tuesday with your weird friends from Swindon because it’s your birthday and YES I’d love to buy you a birthday flaming Sambuca even though it costs approximately £47. And of coooourse I’ll hang your washing up for you as you’ve got a really really important meeting you’re late for at the PUB. No, there is no need to for me to say yes when I really don’t want to, and from now on I am going to try to just say no if I want to say no. I like to think I have boundless energy and time, but there were many moments this summer amongst all the raucous fun when I longed for some quiet time. All I really want is to have a whole night free to myself paint my nails and listen to my 101 R’n’B Hits CD and eat multiple Kinder Buenos. I will make this happen.

Secondly I am finding this summer that a lot of people mistake me for a child. Automatic child fares buses and trains, extra assistance when using the self-service till in supermarkets and kindly motherly types offering help and asking if I’m lost whenever I wait anywhere outside for more than 5 minutes. I know I am somewhat vertically challenged but I do resent having my bag packed for me in Tesco by someone who calls me ‘sweetie’. My solution to this is that I need to adopt an air of adult confidence and fierce capability so this mistake is not repeated. Worst comes to worst I will start unashamedly wearing sensible Clarkes walking sandals, only shop at Waitrose and say things like ‘GOD, I DO LOVE ALAN TITCHMARSH’ loudly. (If you don’t know who he is, Google him ASAP. Gardeners’ World is something else.)

The worst incident out of a series of many this summer happened whilst I was at Green Man in August. One of the evenings we all painted our faces as tigers, and later that night we were all sitting on a grassy slope, ciders firmly in hand, watching Beirut perform (just need to say, they were AMAZING). Suddenly, some woman sitting next to us squawked: “LOOK AT YOU, YOU’RE ALL PAINTED LIKE TIGERS!” Once we’d congratulated her on stating the fucking obvious, and had exchanged the usual strangers-who-accost-you-at-festival niceties and had a bit of a chat, she narrowed her eyes and pointed at me and yelled: “AH LOOK DOWN THERE, YOU’VE PAINTED THE LITTLE GIRL AS A TIGER TOO! A BABY TIGER!” I am just going to say at this point that she was lucky I was not in fact a ‘baby tiger’ as I would have gone and sunk my tigerish-claws into her right there and then. Also, was she blind? Do children drink cider? However, as I saw red and glowered from under my stripes, the rest of my ‘pride of tigers’ fell about laughing, much to the joy of Mrs Squawky. My friends did not let me forget this incident for the remainder of the weekend, with much head patting and ‘witty banter’ about how I am the size of a child. I vowed never to dress as a tiger again.

Starting my second year of university has helped with my adopting this air of adult confidence and fierce capability, as I so often feel old and wise around the recent onslaught of freshers. The freshers poured into Bath with a seeming aggression, and after a lovely summer of milling around sunny café courtyards and cosy evenings in the pubs (with somewhere to sit), it now feels that everywhere I go there are eighteen-year-olds throwing up into the gutter, getting off against Biffa bins and being indecisive about how many thousands of tequila slammers they are going to purchase at the bar, and in doing so causing endless delays for my modest purchase of a simple gin and tonic. I am aware that it was only a year ago that I too was a fresher, but I don’t recall myself being quite so thoughtless and annoying. When I was out last weekend, there was one very young looking ‘lad’ who was wandering round the dance floor throwing up, seemingly oblivious to the fact he was doing so, and then continuing to drink his pint in between voms. I didn’t know whether to slap him for being such an utter disaster, or to ask him for his mother’s phone number so I could call her and tell her she needed come and save him! Luckily a bouncer saw what was happening and threw him out before I could intervene.

However, being a fresher isn’t always easy and I can still sympathise. I remember being at a silent disco during fresher’s week, supposedly ‘partying’ with hundreds of people I didn’t know, all of us listening to different music, all doing different dancing depending on what music, unable to chat due to the headphones, and yet all desperately trying to find common ground on which to make friends. Whoever thought a silent disco on a fresher’s week was a good idea was a bloody idiot. Although I do miss the carelessness that comes with the first year of uni – your work doesn’t actually go towards your final degree, so, as long as you don’t entirely fail, daily pub trips instead of daily essay writing seems the only legitimate and reasonable thing to do. And we did exactly that. I am only 2 weeks in to my second year, but I already feel the pressure and workload mounting. All those chilled evenings idly wandering from pub to pub to club, or simply staying in bed and watching an entire TV series in one sitting with a cuppa and biscuits, are speedily fading into the distance.

My plan this week was to get my shit together and organise my life as much as I could. I decided to get loads of work done, get my bedroom ship-shape, get an eye-test, get my stationary and notebooks organised, buy my reading list for all my modules, buy tickets for upcoming literary events in Bath and soak in some culture, join the gym, join the yoga society at uni (inner peace and happiness here I come) and generally to eat better and drink less. So far my week has consisted of doing a bit of work, watching a lot of Desperate Housewives, getting furious as I can’t find any of my notebooks or any pens that work, eating a lot of kale and soon getting very tired of eating kale, and sorting out my clothes up and realising that the clothes to bedroom storage space ratio is dangerously unbalanced. I am living in a sea of t-shirts and leggings and I genuinely fear drowning. I also got very very drunk, bought cheesy chips, slept in all my clothes and texted my ex saying ‘You’re very very annoying’ followed by ‘I miss you’. Terrible terrible decisions over-all were made. I also was so hungover after my night out that the following morning I managed to put my knickers on so that the left leg hole was round my hips, and my right leg through the middle bit. That makes for an uncomfortable day I assure you, especially when you have no idea why your fave pants suddenly are the least fave thing you’ve ever worn.

However, despite my week not turning out quite as I hoped, I did go to yoga class, which was more enjoyable and relaxing that I thought it would be. It was ‘hot yoga’, which essentially is yoga in a heavily heated room, which makes you sweat more and therefore detox more. I liked the sauna feel it had and it definitely relaxed my muscles, but it also lessened my concentration and I completely fell over whilst trying to do ‘the lizard’ pose. My rather loud fall, which incidentally was forehead first, was followed by a deafening silence as all the other women were quietly poised with their toes up their noses and their ankles wrapped around their ears, eyebrows raised. It was both embarrassing and painful for me. And I did not feel even a tiny bit zen. Who even wants to look like a sweaty lizard anyway I say.

As for the gym, I joined that too, and following my excruciating ‘induction’ I have been a few times since despite the trauma I endured. When I arrived at the gym for my induction, the jolly instructor lady at the desk told me to take a seat and wait a moment. I breathed a sigh of relief, as I know my fitness levels are similar to that of a very tired slug, and I didn’t want some pumped-gym bunny judging me as I struggled to use the new fangled machines. This lady seemed nice, and she might understand my pain. Then in walked 6’3” pumped-up gym bunny extraordinaire, complete with a white vest, excess hair gel and tanned guns of steel. He introduced himself enthusiastically as Marvin (of course he was called Marvin, the vest-wearing idiot), and I followed him up the stairs to the gym with a sense of impeding doom. Once I finally reached the top of the stairs (Marvin had bounded up two at a time and kindly waited for me at the top, what a gent), we went into the gym and began the induction.

As luck would have it, Marvin first asked me to do some press-ups, followed by some sit-ups. This was what he called ‘a warm up’, which is otherwise known as ‘let’s see how little upper body-strength you have’ followed by ‘how flabby is your tummy, really’. After not managing to do a press up properly, Marvin said that we would work on that but should leave it for now as I look like I might hurt myself. I had turned an alarming shade of letter-box red, partly from effort and partly from embarrassment at banging my face on the floor mid press-up. Ideal. He took pity on me and decided we’d do squats with weights instead, however he suggested I did them side-on in the mirror, so I could see how low I was squatting. After the initial horror at having to squat in front of a full wall-sized mirror, I found I was quite successful at squats due to the misguided amount of time I’ve spent at Bump n Grind 90s RnB night dancing to ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’. I also have the fortune of not having a bum that resembles a bin bag of baked beans when I wear leggings, however I wish to maintain this and so I’ve decided squats are the way forward in life (this was one of my few joyful epiphanies). The rest of my body is a whole different matter however, but I won’t go into that now. We then continued to try out the rest of the machines – cross-trainer, rowing machine, abs blaster – and I managed to do each of them without too much catastrophic redness and sweating. We then got to the pull-down machine, where you have to pull the bar down in front of your chest from above whilst sitting with your knees tucked under a padded bar to keep you in place. This is harder than it perhaps sounds, and I got on feeling over-confident after acing the rowing machine (I say acing – I didn’t die, fall off, or get my hands trapped under the slidy seat). Whilst Marvin was chatting to a fellow gym-goer about the lack of skipping-ropes available (this person needed to go away and shut up, you don’t need skipping ropes in a gym), I got on and pulled the bar down quickly and with unwarranted confidence, soon realising there was no way I hold this weight, and let go. The bar promptly smacked me in the nose as it zipped back up to the top with a loud clang. Marvin ran over with a look of frustration and despair whilst my eyes watered, cursing myself for not taking note of the large burly man who had just removed him self from said machine without changing the weights. That concluded my ‘induction’, and in the end I didn’t dislike Marvin and his vest so much, I felt more of an apologetic gratitude for his immense patience with me. Nonetheless, I have been back to gym a few times since and actually enjoyed it (joyous epiphany), but I’ve stayed well clear of the pull-down machine and have not yet attempted a push-up.

I am going to try to post more frequently on here as the gap has been a bit long since my last post (almost 5 months!), and I’ve missed having a place to rant and share my daily struggles on. However if you don’t hear from me soon its because I’ve paralysed myself trying to do ‘the lizard’, or I’ve knocked myself out at the gym, and in that case please send help and/or flowers to my home address.

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Why If You Ever See Someone Standing In a Puddle of Piss, You Should Not Assume They Have No Bladder Control

I spent the weekend in London au pairing for my 3-year old cousin Ella, and before Ella’s mother had flown off on her business trip, she and I had planned some ‘fun days out’ for the time I was staying. It was the hottest weekend of the year so far, and the idea of a sunny weekend in London seemed perfect. I had plans of exploring bustling food markets, strolling through Hyde Park in the glorious sunshine and eating ice cream outside cafés whilst watching the world go by. However, this is not how the weekend unfolded.

     It had been a long, hot day, and Ella and I had spent the afternoon at Battersea Park Children’s Zoo in London. This ‘fun day out’ mostly consisted of me arguing with Ella about the positive aspects of wearing sun cream and a sun hat, battling with a buggy on the tube and spending over two hours looking at otters and donkeys in the blistering sun. FYI donkeys and otters don’t do that much, even if you stare at them for two hours solid.

    However it had been wonderful chatting and playing with Ella all day, and despite finding London excruciating to navigate in 26 degree heat, the day had passed with reasonable ease. (Not mentioning how toddlers become very slippery with all the sun cream which has to be applied, which makes the job of keeping the said toddler ‘safe’ on the tube all the more challenging, especially when they charge off up escalators at any given moment.)

     Another thing that struck me in London that I had not experienced when au pairing in Paris (the Parisians have no time for parents or children, as they are about as interesting as pigeons to them), is that if you are with a child other mothers start chatting to you and asking all sorts of detailed questions about your life. On the way back from The World’s Most Disappointing Zoo Since The Beginning of Time as I now call it, we found ourselves waiting with two mums at the bus stop.

     They had children the same age as Ella and one of them started chatting to her. One of the mothers asked how old Ella was and we soon began discussing the difficulties of toddlers. She quickly asked me (in a strong cockney accent) how often Ella goes to the loo, if she still wears a nappy at night, and what age did she stop breastfeeding – a conversation I was happy to have, but usually would not discuss with a complete stranger. But somehow mothers just do, and it’s fine. We then got on to the subject of the ever-rising price of public transport in London. I readily agreed with them, because as a ‘penniless student’ the price of transport seems unreasonable, and we soon bonded over the unfair hand those unable to afford a car are dealt.

    I suddenly realised that through all this mum-chat I had somehow not clarified that I was not Ella’s mother (I just knew an alarming amount about her life and toilet habits as I had au paired for her on and off since she was born), and therefore I was not a single mum who was not only supporting myself, but a child too. I was merely a student on her weekend off uni getting a bit of extra money and helping out a relative at the same time. I must point out that Ella comes from a well off family, and her father is a sports car fanatic, and from a young age he taught her to recognise a ‘good car.’ And, of course, just as I was blabbing on about how ‘even with a railcard, the train seems awfully over-priced’, Ella pointed at the road and shouted ‘Look, a Porsche!’

    ‘What the fuck?’ said one of girls, her eyebrows rapidly disappearing into her hairline. ‘You posh or what?’

    The silver Porsche very similar to the car Ella’s father owns glided past, cool and sleek between the bumbling buses and taxis. ‘Porsche, Porsche, Porsche!’ Ella yelled, jumping up and down. ‘Daddy’s Porsche!’

     I sat there, mouthing like a goldfish, and pulling Ella to my side as the girls got up and bustled their children onto the bus, giving me a look that clearly translated as ‘posh traitor’. I decided to get the next bus, and hoped no more Porches would appear.

     Once we returned home from the mania of hot trains and angry commuters (commuters hate buggies, and children, and the sound of laughter it turns out) to the safety and comfort of the big, cool house, I felt relieved. The worst was over. Or so I thought. We were waiting for a food delivery from Waitrose – sometime between 5 and 6pm they said – and then I would cook dinner for when Ella’s brothers and father got home. But by 6.45pm there was still no delivery, Ella was irritable and tired after a day of walking, there was only an array of useless tapenades and parmesan in the fridge, and everyone would be returning home hungry in the next half an hour. I was feeling stressed.

     Suddenly the doorbell rang. ‘Food!’ shouted Ella and ran for the door. As she ran, she fell, and in her tired, hot state, she began to scream and cry. Scooping her up, I bolted for the door and let the delivery guy in, Ella howling on my hip. He immediately was annoying, and sauntered into the house with a wink and made some hilarious comment about what a welcome he had received. I ignored him and showed him where to put the copious amounts of shopping and tried to soothe the still screaming Ella. As he put the bags down he asked me if I lived here, and I curtly told him I did not, I was the nanny of sorts. I was feeling irritated by his questions as I was clearly busy. ‘Oh, cool,’ he said grinning. ‘So… fancy going for a drink sometime?’

      Just has he said this Ella stopped crying and looked up at me and whispered ‘I did a wee.’

As I held the wriggling child in my arms, I looked down to see wee dripping from her sandals on to my sock-clad feet. I stared up blankly at the delivery guy, as aghast as I was dumbfounded at his bizarre attempt at romance at such a time as this. ‘Please go’ I said, putting Ella down and trying to seem aloof and pretending I wasn’t literally standing in a puddle of piss.

    He suddenly looked down at the puddle, his eyes widened, and he looked back up at me. Did he think that I had pissed myself? As much as I had no interest in holding up any kind of façade of demure sexiness (as one usually does around delivery guys, obviously) I sincerely hoped he didn’t think I was incontinent. Ella had conveniently run off by this point and I just stood there, just waiting for him to leave, my eyes on the ceiling, past the point of caring about manners or showing him out.

    He quickly scarpered, backing out of the door like a man who had just been the sole witness of a murder, and I was left in a puddle of wee, still with a soggy child to find, wash and change, the shopping to unpack and then dinner to cook. And all in half an hour. I wanted to cry, and I wanted to drink gin. And lots of it.

     I heard the front door slam as the delivery guy escaped from his incontinent never-to-be date, and I looked in the first shopping bag. To my joy and elation I found that an entire box of eggs had been squashed between a butternut squash and a huge jar of marinated artichokes, and what’s more the courgettes I had been planning on cooking for dinner were covered with smashed egg. I cursed middle class shopping deliveries and their weighty goods!

    Just as I was considering doing the only reasonable thing I could think of – putting my head in the oven – Ella’s dad came home from his important lawyer job and found me standing in wee, surrounded by shopping, my hands covered in egg white and shouting ‘ELLA COME BACK HERE NOW, I NEED TO TAKE YOUR PANTS OFF!’

   ‘So it’s going well then?’ he said, his face as straight as a fireman’s pole.

    I looked at him, dismay washing over me, and he looked back at me, eyebrow’s raised. Suddenly, we both burst out laughing (I was actually crying, he just didn’t realise), and I felt undeniably relieved he was home. He took care of Ella and I was left to clear up the disastrous shopping mess, cook dinner and mop the floor.

    Just to be clear, the socks went in the bin, I don’t like delivery guys and I am never going to the zoo again.

How Cher Lloyd Helped My Heartbreak (and I’m not joking)

You know it’s time to sort your life out when a Cher Lloyd song comes on, and you catch yourself thinking “Mm, yeah, I can relate to this. This is so meaningful!” rather than pressing mute as quickly as possible, and/or throwing your radio into the nearest toilet. This happened very recently and violent alarm bells began ringing, warning me to stop feeling sorry for myself. Moping and sulking over a break up will help nothing, especially if this forlorn self-indulgence makes you enjoy Cher Lloyds’s painstakingly atrocious songs, wear baggy leggings and an inside-out cardigan as a daily staple outfit, or publicly cry into your Strawberry Daiquiri after 2-4-1 cocktail night has turned into a 8-4-8 cocktail car crash. This form of sulking also quickly becomes dangerously expensive, and being single and poverty stricken is something I refuse to be.

So I am trying to be more positive and carefree, wear pyjamas less, and completely avoid scenarios in which I end up shouting “I’M ON THE REBOUND BABY!” at unsuspecting members of the public, at the Slug and Lettuce, on a Tuesday. No good can ever come from this. Ever.

My plan is to distract myself by perfecting (I say perfecting – acquiring may be a more suitable word) my culinary skills, writing and ranting on my blog more frequently, and spending more time outside in the (occasional) sunshine. And just generally spending less time in bed watching 10 Things I Hate About You. I would say I plan to spend more time concentrating on my work and going to the gym, but I would simply be lying. Contrary to popular belief, the gym does not heal a broken heart, it just makes you realise that you have astoundingly weak pectoral muscles, and nobody wants to face up to that fact.

Seeing as it’s Valentine’s Day next week, romance is in the air and I am newly single, I thought I’d write The Definitive Guide of What NOT To Do When Your Love Life Goes Suddenly and Terribly Tits-up. I sincerely hope none of you will need it in the run up to Valentine’s, but here it is nonetheless. Here are the 15 Do Nots, followed by the singular all important Do!

  1. Do not go out every weeknight and drink your own weight in Jägerbombs.
  2. Do not give your mobile number to someone you do not find attractive, interesting or even the least bit alluring, even if it makes you feel a tiny bit better, just momentarily. The person you’re trying to get over won’t know (or care) that you’ve given your number to a random guy from that stag-do you met at that pub. And now some twat you never liked has your number. Just say no.
  3. Do not drunk call your ex and then hang up. And especially not 8 times an hour.
  4. Do not end the night by aggressively accosting the cloakroom attendant as you have lost your ticket but blame everyone else, mainly the cloakroom attendant.
  5. Don’t then call the cloakroom attendant a wanker. You certainly will not get your coat any faster.
  6. Do not walk home alone in the rain eating soggy chips and listening to ‘Irreplaceable’ by Beyoncé on repeat – and then hope that a rain/romance/The Notebook scenario will somehow happen with a mysterious Ryan Gosling lookalike.
  7. Do not watch The Notebook.
  8. Do not bulk buy Kettle Chips, ice cream and red wine and consume all of it whilst watching the Notebook, even though you know you’re not allowed to be watching it.
  9. Do not mentally justify ridiculous things you do, just because Bridget Jones did them. Slutty see-through with bra entirely visible top – no. Branston pickle from the jar with a spoon – no. Fuckwit men with floppy hair, a charming smile and poor taste in Chinos – no. Neat vodka and wailing – definitely a no.
  10. Do not fool your self into thinking buying a glittery, outlandish clothes with make you feel better and like a new woman. Yes, you may look amazingly like a human sized Christmas tree decoration, but it’s not Christmas and you cannot wear that gold sequin boob-tube out of the house, and well, frankly you wouldn’t want to as you look like a fucking massive bauble.
  11. Do not listen to any of the following artists – Adele, Tracy Chapman, John Mayer or James Blunt. One should never listen to James Blunt anyway, but you could not choose a worse time to make this terrible life choice.
  12. Do not publically daydream about burning the clothes he left behind. It shows in your face, people will mistake your facial expression for mental illness or severe constipation.
  13. Do not tell people you’ll be “more sassy” without him. It’s embarrassing for everyone involved.
  14. Do not drink gin, at any point, for any reason.
  15. Do not sleep with him 3 months after the break-up, because he was “in town”, you were bored and you liked that he wanted to be back in your bed. Of course he did. There were good reasons you broke up, remember them.

However DO relentlessly Google Tom Hardy and convince yourself you’ll marry him one day. It honestly helps.

New Year’s Reso-bullshit

    So my 2014 New Year’s resolution is to start a blog, as quite few of you have asked me to do so (which is very flattering), and it seems like a far more realistic resolution than all the previous laughable life-bettering vows I normally make. The usual “I’m going to sort my life out and become a better person”, or “I’m going to lose 3 stone and join a gym and have the svelte body of a gazelle”, or “I’m going to drink less and concentrate on my studies”, and best of all “I’m 100% going to avoid attractive men who are fundamentally bad people but have great shoulders” never quite seem to happen for me. In reality, all these resolutions are completely preposterous and I soon found out (about half an hour into the new year) that in sticking to these resolutions my life was about as exciting and enjoyable as eating a plain Ryvita washed down with a glass of salty water, i.e not at all.

So in writing a blog I feel I am working towards my so called ‘literary career’ and will feel less bad about not going to the gym on a daily basis, drinking entire pints of wine in one sitting and shamelessly flirting with the barman who looks like Ryan Gosling’s less attractive younger brother. I am working for a better future. Or something like that.

Last but not least, despite the fact that some of you have ‘humorously’ suggested it, I don’t think I’ll be vlogging! A vlog is a massively embarrassing experience for everyone involved and I won’t put myself, or more importantly any of you, through such an ordeal.

I’ll be posting more things in January, until then I am mentally and physically preparing for commencing 2014 falling headfirst down the stairs clutching a bottle of Cava with Abba’s ‘Happy New Year’ shamelessly blaring.