Thursday, 22 December 2011

Dear God, I Swore At A Nun. Don't Tell St. Peter And He Might Still Let Me In.

Given that we are now far enough into December for Christmas to actually be near, I am beginning to feel slightly more festive than I did during the Christmas CD week of November. Work have obviously moved on as they have now taken to randomly playing Auld Lang Syne whenever the mood takes them. They'll probably be celebrating Easter by the time New Year's Eve comes round... However, instead of letting myself get riled up about the premature appearance of Cliff Richard, I have instead poured all my efforts into figuring out who has who in the work Secret Santa. I'm especially excited to be involved as I was banned from playing last year in my house at university because I had ruined it for everyone else the year before. (This was the same year I ate the chocolate out of my housemate's advent calendar and replaced it with mean handwritten notes. Once again, I narrowly miss out on Housemate of the Year...). Anyway, this year has proved more of a challenge as there are quite a few of us on the deli, and it has been especially difficult due to certain uncooperative members of staff. My offers to buy drinks and extra presents for people who release information have not been well received and I was even refused when I told someone I would give them a quid per name, which I thought was a very reasonable offer. One co-worker even ignored a note that said, 'Who is your Secret Santa? Tell me and you will be rewarded my child. Love, God'. (Me and God have extremely similar handwriting, it's really weird). I'm not saying her ignoring the note was wrong, I'm just saying that she should think about how she is going to explain herself on judgement day, that's all. The Lord does not look kindly upon those who ignore his wishes.

Probably due to my Secret Santa sabotage, I have suffered some serious karmic justice in the past week or so in the form of a tooth pick through the palm of my hand, leaving me bleeding and wounded. (N.B. have since been able to pass mark off as Stigmata, thus reinforcing note from God). I had been put on the cheese tasting table at work to cover someone's dinner and became so bored that I resorted to creating a miniature Merry-Go-Round made out of toothpicks and Brie - a startling masterpiece, if I do say so myself. Unfortunately, just as I was putting on the finishing touches, The Boss That Sees All strolled around the corner, forcing me to hurriedly squash my creation underneath my hand and smile politely as I felt all my blood slowly drain into a block of French cheese.

I should probably prepare myself for a spate of karmic attacks after the week I've had - I somehow managed within the short space of 30 seconds to say both 'oh my God!' and 'bloody hell!' to a nun. My mum has just retired from working at a Catholic primary school and as such we were required to go to her retirement mass on Monday morning. It's been so long since I've actually attended mass that I'd forgotten how difficult it is to sit still and be quiet for an hour whilst someone else speaks. I was starving as well and actually contemplated at one point going up for seconds of Holy Communion. We did, however, get a shoutout from the priest when he said he was happy that "Mrs. Rooke's daughters" had been able to attend. I'm not entirely sure my hollering from the back of the congregation when he said it was acceptable, though...

One of the best things about my mum retiring is that there will be no more screams of, "HI MRS. ROOKE!" when we are trying to walk around in Morrisons. Sometimes I just feel like grabbing the child, explaining to it that I was this close to getting my mum to buy me CheeseStrings, and now he has ruined it by reminding her that I am not a child and should not be eating CheeseStrings in the first place. Also, now she has retired I can go to the fridge and eat something without worrying that I have just eaten tomorrow's lunch or the disciple's food for the year one production of The Last Supper. I'm aware that most of these advantages relate somewhat to food, but then again, welcome to my life...

Monday, 12 December 2011

"Where's The Hamster?" "Oh... Shit."

You know when you have those out-of-body experiences where you look down at yourself in that one moment in time and say to your other self, 'what is going on with your life?' Well, I had one of those last Friday as I sat curled over the bar in the pub, sobbing hysterically into my pint because someone had mentioned my dead dogs. (And it wasn't an "I've had too much to drink and now I'm emotional" cry, it was a "my dogs were just that good" cry). It's odd how attached people get to their pets, especially if they've got a track record that's anything like my family. Our old cat Shelley, God rest his soul, was mercilessly plowed down by my mother as she reversed down our drive on her way to work in 1999. Having to say goodbye to your lifelong pet as he is wrapped in a blanket in a cardboard box with a tyre print in his tail is not the best way to start your day. Saying goodbye was something I never really got my head around - my old hamster Gindy had been dead a good six months when I decided to dig him up from his shallow grave in the garden and parade his corpse around at my sister's 8th birthday party. Needless to say, the other children did not show as much affection to his frail little body as I would have liked. I'm actually surprised my mum continued to let us have pets after The Big Guinea-Pig Mishap of '97. This basically consisted of my sister and our friend Irene from down the road creating a make-shift 'guinea-pig run' from a piece of square drain pipe. As most of you have figured out, a round (and pretty fat) guinea-pig isn't going to have much luck wriggling down a square pipe and, naturally, it got stuck. After half an hour of trying to push it out with the help of washing up liquid, cooking oil, and a variety of other slippery substances, it was obvious that he was in there for the long run. No one really wanted to admit it, but there was only really one feasible option left... It was time to get out the saw. Reinforcements were brought in (i.e. Uncle Duncan from next door) and the operation began. After five minutes of sawing, the front half of the pipe finally separated from the back, but what we didn't realise was that whilst the guinea-pig's back end had stayed where it had started, his front end had carried on running and thus his body stretched to twice it's normal size. As such, Uncle Duncan's saw had been literally millimetres from our pet's precious little nose. As far as childhood experiences go, I don't think it can get much more horrific than actually sawing your pet in half, and, although he was fine (for a week, until he died of natural causes...), it was still rather traumatising and we were demoted to only being allowed fish for another couple of years until we could show we were responsible. We weren't even allowed hamsters after I left mine in its exercise ball overnight and forgot about it. (I'm not sure we were even responsible enough for fish actually as I distinctly remember my sister and I repeatedly putting our hands into the fishbowl so we could stroke them like cats...) I realise that this post makes me sound like some kind of heinous animal killer and I feel the need to state that we did actually love all of our pets and, if it makes anyone feel any better, we now have no pets whatsoever.

Seeing as there are no animals to resurrect at work, I have had to find other ways to amuse myself this week, although unfortunately, my boss always seems to be walking past at inopportune moments - for example, he will happen to appear out of nowhere just as I am exclaiming, "oh my God, this piece of industrial sized cling-film can hold my entire body weight!", etc. Sometimes he pretends not to notice, leading me to think he is just storing it in his mind so he can use it as ammo during the Big Telling Off that I will probably one day get, during which he will fire at me every incident he has witnessed within the last three months, leaving me unarmed and defenseless. I was actually told off by a stranger this week in town, but, to be fair to her, I did almost accidentally scalp her small child. To be fair to myself, though, I slipped on some ice and the body's natural reaction when falling is to cling onto whatever is closest. It just so happens that in this case, the closest thing happened to be her child's head...

Given that this week has been excessively icy, I have fallen at least five times walking to and from work, but thankfully I have not yet been attacked, something I have been wary of ever since Sheila from work warned me not to walk home with my headphones on. "Why?" I asked, to which she replied, "you will get attacked from behind". Oh, cheers Sheila... Not someone might attack me, but someone will attack me. At the time, it was 12pm, broad daylight, and there was standstill traffic all the way home - not ideal attacking conditions, but Sheila was adamant nonetheless. I was more concerned about the lorry that I almost walked into after it was horizontally sprawled across the pavement after going through a wall outside the shop. I should probably stop looking at my feet when I walk as I was about two steps from walking smack into the side of it before I looked up. The only thing worse than being hit by a lorry would be having to explain that it did not hit you, but rather you walked into it whilst it was stationary. I'll admit though, I do sometimes get scared walking home at night. I live in a pretty small village, so it's a given that someone I know will drive past me when I'm walking and beep their horn in what I assume is meant to be a friendly 'hello'. However, as it is usually pitch black, I can never see the people in the cars, and therefore instead of thinking, "oh, that car that just slowed down and beeped at me is probably an old family friend saying hello", I think, "oh, great, a killer". More often than not, I find myself planning escape routes through the fields and creating scenarios in my head, the majority of which end in me using my quick thinking to escape death's clutches by centimetres. In the event of an actual attack, however, I would probably just sit on the floor, cry, and ring my dad telling him to come and pick me up...

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Three Tiered Hoop? Get Over Yourself, We've Got A Cardboard Pig.

So, as it is now December, my work has decided that it is acceptable to start playing the annual (obviously) Christmas CD. (They actually started playing it in November, but I was so outraged that I couldn’t even speak, never mind blog about it). I’m not particularly a Scrooge when it comes to Christmas, but after hearing the same horrendous Christmas song played over and over for forty minutes after someone in the office ‘accidentally’ put it on repeat, you start to question your festive spirit. I’m still keeping it alive with my Advent calendar, although my friend told me the other day that I was getting ‘too old’ for an Advent calendar, a point I would like to negate, if I may. First of all, I am a Catholic, and the only reason I partake in this activity is so I can monitor my religious progress during the festive season and make sure Jesus knows I am counting down the days to his much anticipated birthday. I find taking the religious route is a sure fire way to justify most things during the Christmas period. For example, when I was in primary school, we had an annual hoop decorating competition, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like – everyone decorates one of the hoops from the P.E. cupboard and the teachers vote on the ‘best one’. Now, during The Big Competition of ’99, one boy went a step above the rest and made a three tiered hoop. This hoop was amazing, it had all the makings of an award winning piece: there was tinsel, there was glitter, I mean, come it – it was triple tiered! It was obviously going to win. So assembly time comes around, and this lad is sat there, cocky as anything, knowing that his hoop is going to win. However, when it came round to announcement time, shock horror – it wasn’t him. It was, in fact, me and my best friend Adam. It was probably partly because our mums were on the governors and were best mates with all the teachers, but mainly because we had half-heartedly shoved a cardboard cut-out of Mary, Joseph and an animal that looked like a pig but was obviously in context a donkey, in the middle of the hoop. We had no tinsel, no glitter, no additional tiers – in fact, we had spent most of the time dedicated to hoop decorating fannying around in the art bay and mocking the other children. However, according to our teachers, we had captured the ‘true meaning of Christmas’ and as such we deserved to be recognised. I tried to carry this method on throughout secondary school by every so often drawing a picture of Jesus on the bottom of every crap piece of homework I handed in, but its success level decreased with each passing year and by the time my A-level R.E. exam came round, my artistic flare was overlooked completely. (This could also have had something to do with the fact that I had been recently suspended for my lack of religious respect in mass, but that’s neither here nor there, really...)

Secondly, (we’re still talking about Advent calendars here), I think you are only too old for an Advent calendar if you wake up in the morning and your first thought is not to do with opening the next door. If you wake up, go to work, come home, make tea, and don’t remember about your chocolate until late evening, you do not deserve your festive treat. Also, another good point, due to my mother being the sugar nazi that she is, we had a wooden Advent calendar until I was about eighteen and behind each door was a wooden ornament that you then hung on a little wooden tree, so, in terms of chocolate, I have a lot of catching up to do.

One of my less favourite things about winter is my inability to differentiate between slush and black ice. I find it difficult not to trip over my own feet anyway, but when snow comes into the equation, I am somewhat of a lost cause and end up looking like a severely overweight deer learning to walk. However, falling over is a small price to pay for my favourite weather. Every year, I tell myself I will act my age and not get overly excited about the snow - I even try to throw in a bit of complaining about the chaos on the roads to make myself seem even more mature, but then as soon as I see the first flake, I find myself running around work like a headless chicken, bounding up to the canteen for a better look out of the window to try and find out whether or not it’s sticking.

Excitement was all over the place at work this week when we had a power cut on Sunday and had to shut the shop for a whole three hours because one of the workmen outside has snipped through a wire. While my boss hurried around trying to figure out what was going on, I was running around eating all the free fudge from the tasting table and trying to scare people with stories about ghosts. (I regretted this when I had to go to the walk-in fridge by myself, but sacrifices must be made). Running around a supermarket in complete darkness is probably one of the most exciting things I have ever done - maybe not in my life, but definitely during a Sunday shift. It even beats the time one of the butchers’ shelves fell down and hit a customer on the head, and that was a good day. I didn’t fully realise before writing this entry the extent of my immaturity, but now I am thinking maybe it is time I grew up a little bit. The other day two of my colleagues had a conversation about how challenging I must have been to raise and how they offered their sympathies to my mother. I, personally, feel that I was a joy to raise – I think the real victims here are the people I had to live with at university that had to come home every day to a new disaster and sit down while I gently explain to everyone that I have pulled the clothes rail out of the ceiling, smashed a full bottle of vinegar all over the pantry, or accidentally let a man from a random electricity board into the house and signed us over to a different company without realising. Everyone likes a challenge though, right?

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Nothing says 'I love you' like a tip-exed circle with Happy Mother's Day! scratched out of the middle.

As many of you may remember (and by many, I mean the three people that actually read this blog), my sister recently hurt her hand in an accident at work. We tried to get her on one of the adverts, but she just wasn't television material and slicing your hand open isn't as hilarious as a woman getting her foot caught in some tape and falling over, which is understandable. Anyway, she is mostly on the way to being fixed and has thus regained the ability to drive. I can't say I feel 100% safe watching her steer with her newly deformed claw, but at least it's not my mother driving. I've realised over the years that I am a terrible backseat driver - even before I passed my test. I have a very vivid memory of my mother shouting, "Amy, who's got their licence and who hasn't?" at me as I tried to helpfully direct her outside the co-op. I may not have my licence, but I have eyes and I can see the car you're about to crash into... (She did crash into it, by the way, and I don't think a formal apology has ever been made. Mother, if you're reading this, yes I accept cheques). She may be a questionable driver, but she's good at dishing out the advice - "you've just got to keep your eye on everyone these days," she told me the other day after she was accidentally over-charged 4p for a grapefruit...

In retrospect, I should probably be clinging to any piece of life advice I can get my hands on, the way my life seems to pan out. Last week I got a letter from my old best friend the Student Loans Company, and if anything ever made me feel less of an intellectual than I already do, filling out the horrendous forms they sent me would be it. I spent at least half an hour rooting through my Box of Important Things before I found all the correct reference numbers and ID codes - although, granted, finding them would probably have been easier if my Box of Important Things wasn't filled with not so important things, i.e. a space hopper puncture repair kit. Being in charge of important things like this always makes me panic. I mean, I can't even get my mum a Mother's Day card without messing it up. Seriously. One year I went to the 'mum' section in Clintons, picked out a socially acceptable card, and then it wasn't until I got it home and started to write it that I realised it actually said Happy Birthday! in it... Nothing says 'I love you' like a tip-exed circle with Happy Mother's Day! scratched out of the middle...

I feel like I have somewhat excelled myself in terms of exercise this week - at the moment, my dad is dogsitting for his friend's dog (obviously) and as such I somehow let myself be conned into walking him. If you've ever put a lead on a grizzly bear and walked it to the pub, you will be slightly closer to understanding what I went through when I was walking Roly. This dog is a monster. He pulled so hard that my shoulder popped out of its socket (it sometimes does that) and he only calmed down when we were about a minute from the pub and another dog barked at him in a manner that was, although useful, not very friendly. Still, I think it gave me some well needed exercise - the other day I looked in one of those mirrors that makes you look skinny, and whilst everyone else looked anorexic, I just looked like a normal person... Also, when I was walking to work, a man was riding his bike uphill faster than I was moving. For a while, we stayed at the same pace and the only sound was my uncomfortably loud breathing - I felt making small talk whilst I was in the middle of a premature heart attack and breathing like a sex fiend would somehow not be considered acceptable...

Tuesday, 22 November 2011


In light of my new speeding fine, I am trying to sell all of my things on eBay so I am not completely skint, but unfortunately I don't think people are going to be rushing all at once to buy some old Doc Martens and a used Ricky Martin album, so, if by some measure of good fortune you are not a pauper like me, feel free to buy some of my photographs. I would be extremely grateful.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Arts, Crafts, and Sausage Rolls.

After all the initial feelings of good fortune at getting an extra hour in bed due to the clocks going back, I am now very much starting to detest getting up when it is still pitch black outside. It genuinely takes every ounce of determination I have not to phone in sick every morning because I feel like I've just been born every time I switch my light on. It makes it especially difficult to want to go to work when, after all my efforts, the customers don't even seem to appreciate my being there anyway. Last week, one woman got so angry at me because we didn't have a section in the shop exclusively selling gift cards that she made me take the flowery label from a packet of bulbs she was purchasing and use my creative skills to turn it into a gift card myself. I get paid to sell pork pies, not to involve myself in intricate arts and crafts projects. She was one of those customers that seem to think we are slaves and not assistants, one of my least favourite types. Still, they're not as bad as the customers who think we are somehow similar to primary school teachers or baby sitters - there is nothing I want to hear less at 8am than, "tell the nice lady what you want!", whilst a two-year-old child is shoved in my face and I am expected to decipher whatever mishmash of words comes out of its mouth. By the end of the charade (which, by the way, is usually about twenty minutes later), I am forced to tell the disillusioned parent that, no, it is not clearly obvious that your child was saying 'sausage roll', no, I can not heat it up for you, and no, I am not going to politely ignore the fact that your child is now licking the front of the counter and rubbing the saliva in with his hands.

I feel my lack of maternal feelings is starting to have some serious karmic repercussions. The other day I was forced to give the finger to a highly obnoxious child on the train when his mother wasn't looking (don't hate me, he did it first), and then ten minutes later my dentist informed me that I had to have re-root canal. (When I said that the child did it first, he was actually holding up his index finger, but I could tell from the look in his eyes what he was trying to get at). Another karmic repercussion (of my lack of maternal feelings, I am sure), came in the form of a speeding ticket - on re-root canal day, no less. A £75 fine and a speed awareness course to look forward to - nothing makes you feel quite like a criminal like breaking the law. It's a mark of how many years I have spent in education that my first thought was whether or not I would get a qualification out of the course - it's a long-shot, but I take what I can get at this stage. In an attempt to lessen my exposure to the cruel Gods of karma and make myself known to the generous ones, I have taken to performing random acts of goodwill whenever possible. So far, these have included picking up someones wheelie bin after it had blown over, ringing the roadwork people to tell them their temporary traffic lights had stopped working, and not telling a young girl that her 'AMY <3s JLS' hoodie should be burnt. I eagerly await my lottery win...

This week has seen me regress to my trademark trail of destruction after ripping one of the fridge doors off its hinges at work, thus forcing a sliced meat evacuation process and having to secure the door with copious amounts of sellotape. This is not the first time this has happened - we had a similar incident in first year where a drunken raid of the freezer saw the door somehow end up in my hands and unattached to the rest of its body. It probably wasn't the best idea I've ever had to then scrawl "we're not getting our bond back" across the door in bright green marker pen...

Also, whilst Googling whether or not 'unmaternal' was a word, here is what I found:

Clearly, I am dead inside.

Monday, 7 November 2011

The World Would Be A Better Place If We All Just Wore Pajama Jeans

I have literally no idea what I've done to the font and background of this post and I am not computer savvy enough to fix it... Anyway. Onwards. 

I think everyone needs to sit down before they take in the following piece of information. Are you ready? Pajama jeans. They exist. Jeans that are made from pajamas. PAJAMA. JEANS. If there was ever an article of clothing that encouraged me (not that I need added encouragement) to leave the house in the clothes I have slept in, this would be it. It's like the world wants me to be even lazier than I am at present. If these jeans had existed whilst I was at university, there is very little chance that I would ever have changed my clothing. Ever. This is a whole new take on the entire jeggins revolution and I am not sure how to take it - yet another element of the fashion industry for me to ponder over and wonder how these things exist. Another thing I never really got my head around were clutch bags. Why would someone invent a bag with no handles? Surely it's less of a bag and more just a floppy box that I am 100% likely to lose should I ever take it out of the house. (Not that I ever would use a clutch bag anyway, the only thing I would look less unnatural holding would be a child's hand). 

In other news (not that pajama jeans can really be construed as news, in the fashion world or otherwise), I went to the cinema the other week and, upon seeing the credits, suddenly blurted out, "What kind of name is Buggy Driver?" I then realised that Buggy Driver was his credit name (i.e. job title) and I had been an absolute imbecile. If people didn't name their children things like Mini Driver, these kind of mishaps would not be an issue and I would be able to retain my status. Although, I doubt I have much status left at the cinema after I went last week with Kezia and Chris and had to sit there and try not to attract too much attention as Chris casually applied savlon to... himself after an unfortunate incident in the bathroom. This would not have been such an issue had the lights not come on mid-application, leaving the people in the surrounding seats to witness something truly special...

Anyway... Within the past fortnight I have both graduated from university, genuinely pondered whether it was spelled 'univercity', had an internal debate about 'spelt' and 'spelled', and stolen my dad's car to drive to Sheffield and see a band in a sporadic act of post-adolescent rebellion. (Ok, I didn't steal it in any way, but sometimes events have to be somewhat embellished for dramatic value. I'm aware that the dramatic value of this story has now been significantly decreased due to my explanation, but there's not much I can do about that now). Driving all the way to Sheffield (I threw in 'all the way' just to make sure everyone knows that Sheffield is quite far from my house) wouldn't be that big a risk had I driven on the motorway before, but I hadn't, and therefore was somewhat terrified. If you've ever seen the 90s film Clueless, you'll remember this scene when they end up driving on the freeway and, in my head, this is exactly what was going to happen. I think part of my fear stemmed from the fact that I'd spent the previous day trying to jump start the car at work having left the lights on for 6 hours and drained the battery... At the time, I was in the middle of a 12 hour shift and overheard my boss saying that I had 'saved the day' by staying for so long. I don't think he'd be as happy with me if he knew that I'd taken an hour and a half lunch break and taken four of his staff with me whilst trying to push a ten tonne Renaulx Scenic through the customer carpark. After the hard part was over and we'd pushed it to the top of a country lane (I say 'we', I basically just held on to the window and pretended to look tired), we sat one of the greenhouse boys in the front, crossed our fingers, and heaved it Cool Runnings style down the lane. As I watched my dad's car plummet away from me forever, I realised I would probably never be trusted with anything ever again, and my fear was only heightened when the car failed to 'bump start' and we were now five members of staff (plus one that came to watch) and a car at the bottom of a hill with no chance of getting back up. After a bit of debating about towing it back up with hill with a JCB, we managed to get hold of a willing man with some jump leads and get everything going again. I didn't want to correct my new saviour when he was sympathetic about cold winter mornings and old batteries (I decided he would be less so if he knew I'd left my lights on like a dickhead), so I just gave him a knowing nod and thanked him for his help. 

Getting into trouble with my parents is something I never quite grew out of, as was proved by last week's fake-blood-and-cream-carpet mishap in my mother's living room. Hallowe'en always seems to be surrounded by misfortune in my experience - last year I got ridiculously drunk and ended up with green facepaint all over my bedroom (something my landlord was not very happy about), and I will always remember the year I discovered that the word 'pumpkin' had a second 'p' in it. I always just thought it was 'pumkin', which, now I have seen it written down, seems ridiculous. Anyway, I did manage to get most of the blood out before my mother returned by using a clever little housewife trick I learnt the last time this happened. (It happens fairly regularly, if I am entirely honest). Even so, I still got my comeuppance as half an hour later I spilt an entire bottle of fake blood on the crotch of my jeans - sometimes, God just lets these things happen to me, and I don't know why. Thankfully, nothing horrendously embarrassing or socially undesirable happened at my graduation last week, which actually left me with a slight feeling of unease. Well, I say nothing embarrassing happened, I think walking around the city centre in a stupid hat and an equally stupid gown is pretty much up there on the scale. I think my nervousness was eased somewhat when I realised that the guy sat next to me was drunk and therefore the chance that he would at least stumble and take the heat off me was increased. His name was Martin and we spent most of the ceremony either planning what to do if one of us fell or humming the Blackadder theme tune after finding out that our guest speaker was the guy who played Baldrick. He made a hilarious speech (Baldrick, not Martin), had a banana prop (which promptly broke), and then topped it all off by making a sex joke. In a cathedral. The look of shock on the faces of the unsuspecting and (until then) proud grandparents sat in the aisle opposite me definitely heightened my enjoyment of the day. The only not-so-fabulous element of graduation day was the fact that I'd chipped (and subsequently eaten) one of my bottom teeth about three days earlier. Thankfully, my photo was already ruined by my I-feel-so-awkward fake smile and my unpolished (much to my mother's dismay) boots, so looking a little white trash was somewhat expected. 

Speaking of white trash, I spent a few days last week in Northern Ireland and realised whilst there that a 4-star hotel is a place that I do not fit comfortably into. (I should have realised this when the guy at the car rental place said, 'no baby seats required?' and I thought, 'well, if there's one going spare...'). I was actually starting to think that the whole 4-star rating of the hotel was a bit of a lie as all the lights in our corridor were faulty. It wasn't until we'd been there for two days that I realised they were actually on sensors. Very sophisticated indeed. The journey home, however, was less so, as I got stopped and searched at Belfast airport. Given that it was only a short trip, I had taken everything in my hand luggage, an idea that seems somewhat less practical when an airport official is sifting through three days worth of dirty clothing. In all fairness to her, she did try and make small talk about the Giant's Causeway as she separated my knickers and socks, but she became decidedly less friendly when I came out with, 'oh look, the rest of my family have also been seized...' Three sections down Kezia was stood around looking shady as someone rifled through her bag whilst my mother was trying in vain to fit all kinds of lotions and potions into just one plastic bag, which led me to wonder whether she actually had a face underneath it all. Meanwhile, my auntie Sue stood at the side, avoiding eye contact and doing a crossword, pretending that she was neither related to, nor travelling with, the family from Bradford holding everybody up. 

After all this 'out of work' activity that has been flying around my usually mundane life, it was actually nice to settle back in and spend some good quality time earning money and taking the piss. I especially enjoyed this week's chicken-oven fiasco which resulted in a mixture of smoke and steam emitting from the machine and pouring over the deli area. As it happens, Celine Dion's Power of Love was playing over the radio at the time, and, despite the slight smell of cremated bird, I think the smoke did excellent justice to dry ice and I had an excellent time pretending be on Stars In Their Eyes and leaping out of the counter every now and then crying, 'Tonight Matthew, I'm going to be...!' In-store entertainment at its best. Given my previous reputation, I should probably exercise more caution when it comes to my behaviour at work, but I just never seem to learn. What I have learnt this week, however, is that the work appropriate response to the question, 'have you ever seen the Rocky films?' is not, 'no, but I can demonstrate', and then smacking your colleague in the face. Who knew? (Probably most people, actually). 

Monday, 17 October 2011

"You Could Knock Me Down With a Feather!" "Well, Maybe If You Got Laser Fat Removal, I Could."

You know when you buy someone a gift, and then you eat it yourself (assuming it's food, of course), and then they ring you as you are eating it to tell you they are in hospital after slicing through their hand at work, is it a given that the karmic consequences will be seriously severe? (I'm asking for a friend, by the way. I would never do that to someone. Especially not my own sister...). So anyway, Kezia has sliced through the tendons in her hand and I came up top as sibling of the year by taking the morning off work and taking her to the hospital. (I would have done it anyway, but it did ease the Malteser induced guilt I was feeling, which was an added bonus). Whilst we were there, I realised that five years worth of watching medical dramas and sitcoms has somewhat warped my view of what actually occurs in a real hospital. Subconsciously, as we walked through the doors, I think I really did expect to be met by a handsome doctor hand in hand with a glamorous nurse, and then sit and watch in suspense as they both run in slow-motion to save the life of a young, widowed father who is 'coding' (who actually knows what that means?) whilst How to Save a Life by The Fray plays in the background. In reality, however, all I saw were tired looking nurses who looked nothing like Elliot from Scrubs, stressed out doctors and a 14 year old boy who had fallen off his bike. I also (probably unfairly) slightly questioned the competence of the doctors after they drew an enormous black arrow on Kezia's hand pointing to the wound as if the bloody tendon hanging out of it was not indication enough as to where it was... I always get slightly terrified in hospitals in regard to mobile phone/MP3 player rules. Part of me thinks it's a myth they made up for their own convenience, but then another part of me (the dominating, cowardly part) is terrified of taking the risk and accidentally screwing up 'hospital waves', consequently killing someone. This is the part of me that also tells me to move my phone away from my stomach incase the invisible waves are making me infertile or giving me cancer.  The same goes for electrical items on planes - once, on the way to Lanzarote, I realised that I'd left my CD player on throughout take off and spent the next four hours shitting myself thinking we were going to crash in the middle of the Atlantic ocean and all our lives would be over because of a Ricky Martin album. Needless to say, we did not, but that album still gives me cold sweats whenever I listen to it. (Which is never, by the way...)

I heard something at work this week which made me want to crawl into my articulate shell and stay there forever. A customer actually used the phrase, "he ran like a house on fire". Seriously? Have people become so stupid that not only do they struggle to string together a sentence of their own creation, but they somehow manage to butcher the ones that are already made for them? That's the beauty of a cliché: you don't have to think about what you're saying, your point has already been articulated by someone else and all you have to do is reproduce it and sound like you know what it means. Some clichés annoy me, like the ones that do not make logical sense, for example, "You could knock me down with a feather!" Could I really? Because the last time I checked, being shocked does not miraculously cause dramatic weight loss - I'm pretty sure if somebody told me I'd won a million pounds, it would still take someone of significant size and strength to knock me over. I also like, "I'm eating for two now!" Is a fetus really going to eat an entire adult sized portion of curry? If you're not careful, it'll need laser fat removal before it's even born... I actually saw a sign at work the other day for laser fat removal. Who even thought to invent that? Where do these ideas come from? I don't doubt that it will be a fabulous money maker, but I don't think they've fully thought through the consequences of this. What if The War of the Worlds actually happened? A spaceship would land, and, instead of a city running for shelter, there'd just be a herd of fatties (probably led by me) waddling towards the laserbeams, all limbs a-flailing, hoping to come out looking like Kate Moss and instead coming to a sticky, chronically obese end. It's a disaster waiting to happen, you mark my words...

Monday, 10 October 2011

"That's Kids For You, Isn't It?" "Er... I Don't Know, Is It?"

So, this week's big news (in the world, not my actual life, which is quite boring) comes in the form of the death of Steve Jobs. It's odd how people of different generations react to this news - the majority of my generation are like, "Oh my God, did you hear about Steve Jobs? So sad, technology innovation will never be the same", and then we all hug our iPods ever closer for an added bit of comfort. With my parents' generation, however, I doubt that the majority of them even know who Steve Jobs is. When you think about it (which I do, because my life is boring), technology actually creates a massive divide between people of different ages (when I say massive, I mean slight, but I am embellishing for dramatic detail). For example, when I text my friends it is always with perfect diction, spelling and punctuation. My mother, on the other hand, texts like this: "where R u?!1 x w y y w x y". I mean, I know it's only a text, but a bit of proof reading wouldn't go amiss, would it? And to think she's educating our next generation... Well, I say educating, I came in from work the other day to be greeted by some kind of angel floating in our hallway. After praying that I hadn't been chosen to be the bearer of the second coming, my mother informed me that it was her old wedding dress and she would be wearing it for 'medieval week' at school (waste not, want not, and all that). I think trying to explain the medieval period to children that can't even write their own name is a bit ambitious myself, but there you go. I thought that it was some kind of tradition to hand down your wedding dress to your daughters so they can wear it on their wedding day, but given that this one will probably end up covered in crisps and playdough, I guess I'll be wearing off the rack...

It does bother me a little bit that my generation is no longer considered the 'young' generation; a customer at work the other day laughed as her child flailed around like an idiot, then rolled her eyes at me and said, "that's kids for you, isn't it?" I just sort of gave her a blank look and said, "er... I don't know, is it?" - Have I become of an age where it is acceptable, granted even, that other adults think I have children? Personally, I don't think that, at the ripe age of twenty one, I qualify for this, which must mean that this woman thought I looked a lot older than I am... Bitch. It's not even like I act particularly mature at work, or mature at all actually. The other day I spent a good ten minutes walking around behind the counter pretending to be a pterodactyl. I was doing the legs and wings and everything - my boss just looked me up and down and said, "well, at least she's here..." I was also caught by a customer (presumably not the woman who thought I was 35. Bitch.) shouting, "BACK WHENCE YOU CAME!" at a rogue sausage roll that had fallen off of its tray. I'm surprised we still have so many customers considering how weird some of the staff are (admittedly, mainly me). The other week we were doing sausage tasting and, after being wrongly informed as to what stout was, I accidentally told a significant amount of customers that it was "sort of like a small weasel". We realised (the next day) that stout was actually beer and we had it confused with a stoat, so, if you bought any stout sausage from my work and thought you were eating weasel, I apologise profusely. The worrying thing is, no one seemed particularly surprised to be eating weasel, which leads me to wonder whether or not my work has a reputation for being somewhat 'eccentric'...

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

My Inner Criminal Has Finally Emerged.

As is the case with my everyday life, things tend to go from the average mishap, to bad, and then to worse. This week's 'bad' consisted of a well avoided (until now) trip to the dentist where I was informed (after at least two sudokus worth of waiting) that I would be forced, yet again, to voluntarily sit in a chair for an hour and cry whilst someone drills into my gum and casually asks me how life is going.  I don't really know what root canals are, but I know that I am not overly fond of them. I also got treated (why does 'tret' sound right?!) to a series of x-rays, throughout which my dentist struck up various topics of conversation and then proceeded to look at me expectantly, waiting for a answer. How he expected me to reply when I had a mouthful of plastic, I do not know, so I looked up and gave him my best deadpan stare instead. (I'm not entirely sure it had the desired effect as I was, at the time, drooling, but still.) It's times like this I really wish I hadn't ripped my front teeth out as a child, a story I'm aware I probably can't skip over as casually as I would like, so here it is:
As a child, I was always rather clumsy, or accident prone, or unlucky, or basically just any adjective that isn't as harsh but really just means stupid. Until I was about thirteen, I was one of the aforementioned children from my  previous blog that needs entertaining every minute of the day. Due to this, I often ended up getting myself stuck in various unfortunate situations as a result of some experiment or other that had gone somewhat awry - for example, the time I stuck my thumb in the end of a recorder to see what would happen and got it stuck, or the time I sucked 1cm of coca-cola from the bottom of a 2 litre bottle for about twenty minutes, thus resulting in my lips swelling to twice their average size and not returning to normal for another hour and a half. Anyway, on this particular day, I obviously thought that it would be fun to see if the light pull in my dad's bathroom could hold my entire body weight (I was only seven at the time, but I still weighed the equivalent of an underdeveloped whale). In short, it couldn't (not that I really expected it to...) and thus I lost forever the majority of my front teeth. In hindsight, it hasn't been one of the most successful experiments I've ever conducted, but I have learnt from it - mainly that chew bars are not really an option anymore, but I'm sure somewhere there is an actual moral to the story.

Anyway, onwards and upwards, my day gradually got worse when I received a message from my dad telling me I had been fined for driving in a bus and taxi lane. It always baffles me how cameras detect these things - my dad's car is so big that it's practically a bus, a large taxi at the very least, but apparently we do not meet the required criteria (the standard is just so much higher these days), and so instead I was sent not only a nice little letter asking for money, but also a lovely photograph of myself in said bus and taxi lane. I'm half tempted to pin it to the door of my house with the caption, "Beware: Criminal" to frighten off any unwanted guests. It depressed me so much that I went to Morrisons, bought (and subsequently ate in two minutes) an entire swiss roll. You'd think that after my trauma God would leave me to eat my feelings in peace, but no, I was joined by an entire secondary school Geography class wanting me to fill out a questionnaire about Guiseley and the surrounding environment. I told them I didn't live here and could they please leave me alone to cry into my swiss roll in peace. Thankfully, they obliged, although I'm sure one of them made some kind of snide remark about my walkman as they did so... I almost went and bought another swiss roll, but seeing as I had a motoring offence fine to pay I decided my money would be better saved than spent.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Guaranteed Happiness and Fulfillment For £9.99

In honour of my attempt to turn my blog into a slightly funnier and slightly less mundane book (since getting my degree I am going to try a new career every so often, starting with this), I ventured into Waterstones in order to find some kind of writing aid to give me a kick start. What I found instead, however, was an obviously put-out Paul sat on the floor in front of the self-help section with his head buried in I Can Make You Thin by Paul McKenna. Apparently, his last date didn't go too well as his new potential mate waited roughly 30 seconds before blatantly ignoring any kind of social norms and demanding to know how much Paul weighed, declaring anything over 9 stone to be "disgusting". He himself was obviously no bigger than a new-born goat, and the runt of the litter at that. (I just took a writing break to Google whether or not goats actually have litters - apparently they give birth in a relatively similar way to humans, apart from the fact that the ending result is obviously a goat and not a baby. I would've preferred this information without the graphic photograph, but that's the internet for you). Anyway, back to the original point, how do people like this actually exist in the world? They're probably the sole reason for the sale of most self-help books, with the obvious exception of I Can Make You Thin, which, quite frankly, sells itself (seriously, he can make you thin!).  I joined Paul on the floor and was amazed at the sheer amount of help, and life altering help at that, one can get for the small sum of £9.99. If you think life is hard, I suggest you take a stroll through the aisles of Waterstones and realise just how wrong you are. In the space of just a week, you can transform yourself into a successful, thin, self-assured organic vegetable grower with "joyous and honest relationships that serve the deepest life purposes of each partner". And you get a free Indian head massager. What more can you ask for? (Although, personally, I wouldn't recommend the head massager for people with big hair - once when I was younger I spent an entire day trying to de-tangle a toothed headband from my mane, the remnants of which are probably still there today). There are even books on child rearing, one in particular that caught my eye called How Not to Fuck Them Up. If I ever reproduce, this is probably exactly the type of book I will be seeking out, although I sincerely hope that this is no time in the near future.

I imagine pregnancy to be somewhat akin to that feeling you get during your first roller coaster ride, sat in the seat as the safety bar goes down, feeling pretty nervous but excited at the same time. Then suddenly, it starts clicking up the tracks and you realise that you have just made the biggest mistake of your life and you need to get off now. You try and explain your situation to those around you, only to be greeted by smiles and congratulations on your bravery as the peak of the hill looms closer and the people below get smaller and smaller; and then you are suddenly thrown forward at about 400mph as your body flies downwards, your stomach stays at the top and you basically wish you were dead. Pregnancy, right?

Even worse than pregnancy (I imagine), is the actual process of having and raising a child. I won't go into detail about how I imagine actual childbirth to be (I don't want my blog turning up in those kind of searches) but I feel that raising a child is a feat somewhat underrated. I always thought that having a baby wold basically consist of feeding it, putting it to sleep (not in the animal sense), and hoping it doesn't shit all over you - rinse, lather and repeat until school age. However, after spending not even and entire day with my cousin's two-year-old, I have realised that this is not the case. They need entertaining every minute of the day. Literally, every minute, and in exchange for a moment's silence you are required to sacrifice something of your own. In my case, it was the entire contents of my phone. I don't even know how he did it, he is the most tech savvy (/only) two-year-old I know. Despite being only two, however, he still managed (like the rest of the general population) to humiliate me by running his thumb up and down the screen of my phone until I was forced to explain that it wasn't an iPhone but a historical Nokia, very popular in the late 90s. Even toddlers can sense that I am uncool. However, unlike the two-year-olds that come into my work and scream obscenities, he does not make my ovaries recoil in horror and drive me to overdose on birth control pills just in case. (I did accidentally do this the other week - I was overly emotional for about a week but a least I didn't grow an extra womb. Or have a child.).

Obviously, I imagine that once you get to know your child, you probably like it a bit more. My mum obviously quite likes us because she took me, Kezia and Kezia's boyfriend Chris all the way to Leeds last Saturday to go to the pictures. We got lost and didn't end up actually seeing the film we had planned to, but the thought was there none the less. We somehow ended up spending twenty minutes circling The Light with no thanks to the SatNav, who was obviously having an off-day and was just being a complete bitch (a word to the wise, never choose "Sheila" as your guide or you will seriously regret it). Chris was slightly more helpful by finding out when the other showings were on his phone, although none of us were really up for another two hours of circling so we went to The Odeon and saw something different. Given that, as a trio, my mother, Kezia and I are relatively well-travelled, we do end up getting lost quite a lot. My favourite time was during a road trip through America when we somehow ended up in a US military training camp. At twelve years old, there's not much else more amusing than watching your mother try and explain that she is not a spy and, somehow, in the middle of the Nevada desert, after not passing another car for about 4 hours, she has simply managed to take a 'wrong turn'...

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

I Say Mrs. Aqua-Marine Hat!

Every Monday, without fail, I psych myself up and tell myself that this will be the week that goes right. This will be the week that I get through without embarrassing myself, without dropping an entire joint of roast ham on a customer's foot and then refusing to let her husband haggle the price of a pork pie, and without pulling down an entire ancient stone wall in the Yorkshire Dales whilst running away from a herd of rams. Unfortunately, all these things have happened within the past fortnight and I fear this week will be no different.

Despite the occasional projectile roast ham, my last week of work was even more boring than average and I thus spent the majority of my time thinking up ways to amuse myself; for example, putting on a Jeremy Paxman (of University Challenge fame) voice and insisting to contemplating customers that I am "going to have to rush them". I am also contemplating pretending to be a Bingo caller and practicing my new found profession when calling out ticket numbers: "It's two fat ladies, 88!" - of course, this could easily backfire if ticket number 88 was actually two fat ladies, but I like to think this adds a real sense of danger and adrenaline to the sport. Thinking about it, I'm not sure my adrenaline could actually take much more after my dad let me drive his ginormous car the other week. If you've ever driven either a tank or a bus, you'll know where I'm coming from. I'd have loved to be a fly on the wall for that car journey, watching my dad scream, "REVS! REV IT! YOU NEED MORE REVS!" and me screaming back, "I'M REVVING!" and then proceeding to stall in front of a huge line of traffic. To be fair, you can understand my hesitation as just before we set off he explained, in detail, what would happen if I crashed, thus making driving the car somewhat akin to surfing on a feather. If I didn't have heart problems before, I definitely do now. We calmed ourselves down when we got home by having a curry, only to then set the microwave aflame after accidentally putting tinfoil in it. After telling ourselves we had just imagined the flash that came from it, we turned around to see basically this in the middle of the kitchen:

Ok, so maybe it wasn't that extreme, but I'd had a long day and this was just the flames on top of the Christmas pudding. (See what I did there?). The last half of the week was substantially happier as I went camping in the Dales with Belinda (although we did almost have a repeat of the kitchen inferno after an incident involving a gas camping stove and a lit cigarette). It was good to get away from Bradford for a bit, even if it was only to Austwick. That's Austwick, by the way, not Auschwitz, a mistake at least two of my friends have made after Sally went, "ooh, that's a bit morbid, who'd want to camp there?". Thankfully, we were not in a concentration camp, although it did seem at one point that God was planning on another plague after it not only rained but hailstoned on the tent. I should have guessed the weather was going to be shit when I went into work the day before and a child was walking around in a snowsuit... Belinda wasn't too happy when I told her I was just going for a wee and could she please just pop the tent up? No such luck, unfortunately. We did manage to get it up in record time though, although my well deserved cup of tea afterwards was not as satisfactory after I realised I'd forgotten to bring a mug and instead had to down a bottle of beer and then shove a tea bag in the top to create a makeshift cuppa. This was soon rectified after going into Settle and purchasing a new one, despite the lack of selection - in the end the cheapest one I could find had World's Greatest Mum painted on the side... It did the job though, and now it can double up as a Christmas present for my mum. How thoughtful I am.

In other news, my secondary school has burnt down. After emitting small bursts of hope every time the fire alarm went off during the six years I spent there, I can't believe I've missed it. Still, I'm keeping the spirit alive by continuing to play childish games whenever I get the chance. I got Rebecca at work the other day with the old If-Your-Hand-Is-Bigger-Than-Your-Face trick. If you don't know this, it's basically a playground game that renders the slapping of another human being in the face acceptable and one I think should be used much more commonly in the workplace. In fact, I think most playground games should be introduced in the workplace - especially The Priest of the Parish Has Lost His Hat. (Can you tell I went to a Catholic primary school?) I always got really carried away with that one though and forever refused to be the normal 'Mrs. Red Hat' or 'Mrs. Blue Hat'. No no, I insisted on being 'Mrs. Aqua-Marine Hat'... Ever the unconventional.

Monday, 29 August 2011

4 Alarms and 39 Missed Calls Later and I'm Raring To Go.

Another blog and it has only been 9 days since the last one - who am I anymore?! Do not panic though (I know all of you were), I am still the queen of procrastination. In fact, in writing this blog entry I am actually putting off the tidying of my bedroom, which has been a giant mass of clothes and banana peels for the last three weeks and is probably now home to a variety of new parasites. Instead of cleaning though, I have just decided to start eating fruit with an edible rind and re-wearing the clothes that are already on the floor, all the while trying to convince myself that it is, in some way, a form of recycling. (I am aware that it is not).

Work has been incredibly slow-paced this week (I know, how fast-paced can a deli really be? You'd be surprised) so I have mainly been spending my time practicing my ambidexterity whilst writing Eat Today labels and seeing if the ticket machine remote control can work from inside the fridge. It's a walk in fridge, by the way, just in case anyone thought I was some kind of freakishly small and freakishly flexible being that had the ability to get into an average size fridge, which I'll admit I am now tempted to try. Thankfully, I am incredibly skinny, so this should not be a problem..

Although I regularly get told that I talk too much whilst working, a customer the other day told me I had exceptionally good manners. I think a lot of people tend to confuse good manners and politeness with Mystery Shopper Paranoia, which I am a victim of at least three times a day. I'm starting to think I maybe have some underlying trust issues - as soon as a customer asks any kind of question about our produce, I am immediately alert and on the ball with all these suspicious thoughts flying around in my head, "why are you asking that? No one cares that much about meat, DID SOMEONE PUT YOU UP TO THIS?!" Instead of firing accusations, however, I keep calm and proceed to be as polite and obsessively helpful as is possible without making myself look like a creep (a battle I fight most days, to be honest). Knowing my luck, the mystery shopper will have been the woman I served whilst having a laughing fit and telling one of my colleagues that she bears an uncanny resemblance to Po from Teletubbies...

This week hasn't just been fun and games in the deli though, oh no. I have had three days off since my last blog, during which I have welcomed my old university lifestyle of getting spectacularly drunk with open arms. Friday night consisted of Lauren and Kelly's 21st birthday celebrations where I got very drunk but thankfully managed to stay respectful and did not attempt to grab the microphone from their parents as they were making a speech, something I attempted during my mother's speech at my sister's 18th birthday party where, thankfully, I was restrained and minimal damage was done. I also went out on Saturday night with Megan and some people from work which is somewhat more of a blur apart from a vague memory of being lifted into a taxi and sent home. Respectful, as ever. I paid for it the next morning though as I managed to sleep through all four of my alarms and 39 (39!) telephone calls from my father trying to wake me up, only succeeding when he rang Kezia and had her come and kick me out of bed and into work.

During my days off I also ventured back into Bradford city centre, which was as wonderful as ever. Within 100 yards of my house I had already witnessed a woman screaming "I HOPE TO FUCKING GOD YOU FALL!" as her small child ran full pelt away from her with a Satanic look in his eyes (no doubt inherited from mother dearest) and a bus driver shouting, "Oi! Tosser! Go back to your own country!" at a man from Denmark who was refused from the bus after trying to pay an 80p fare with a £50 note - the driver then gave me a look as if to say, "hey, nothing wrong with a little bit of casual racism on a Sunday morning!" I gave him a look back which I think said something along the lines of, "I disagree, but the next bus isn't for another hour, so I'm just going to stare at you and then sit down silently".

After a few more sightings of racist numbskulls and profane parents, I headed back home and spent the rest of the day Googling song lyrics after being unfairly mocked because I used to think that the Tracy Chapman song Fast Car said: "your arms and legs wrapped 'round my shoulders". I  remember wondering as a child how that could be possible, especially sat in a car, until someone corrected me and told me that what it actually said was: "your arm felt nice wrapped 'round my shoulders". An easy mistake to make. I started to wonder what else I had misheard after realising that the Toto song Africa probably didn't say: "I guess it rains down in Africa" when, quite clearly, it does not.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Unexplained Riots in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds... - They Probably All Just Got Ticket Machines

Work has been relatively interesting this week, mainly due to the arrival of our new ticket system. Not such a big deal, I know, but to the hoards of 70 year olds that make up the majority of our customers, it is a huge change - and not a welcome one. Despite the thoughts of whoever decided to install this chaotic new addition to my life, it does not work well. Instead of simply shouting out the numbers to have an obliging customer stroll up to the counter with matching ticket, it mainly consists of all of us running up and down the counter shouting, "are you number 53? Are you number 53? Who's got 53?" only to find that the next ticket is actually 64 due to the fact that a hoard of annoying children have walked past the machine, each in turn taking a ticket and then proceeding to laugh as they watch the entire deli staff fall to pieces. The customers are not taking well to it either - the first couple of people I told were so outraged that some of them actually bypassed the counter altogether, mumbling angrily to themselves about how they only wanted a pork pie anyway and deciding that the strenuous task of taking a ticket from the machine would be too high a price to pay for one. Then there are the "well, it wasn't there last week!" people, who continue to stare blankly at you as if expecting a full account of how, when, and why this annoyance appeared in their lives. After the tenth person to say this, I was strongly resisting the urge to snap, "well it's there now" and stare just as blankly back. I refrained, however, as I felt it would be treading on thin ice after having already been told off by the manager once that week already. I was hauled into the office and told that I am spending too much time talking and telling stories and it would be appreciated if I 'calmed down' a little bit and basically wound my neck in. I don't think my internal argument that I was just trying to raise morale would have been appreciated. (To be fair, the other day I did spend 15 minutes off counter talking to the person running the children's bun decorating table and playing with the helium balloon machine, so I can sort of see where they're coming from). I did feel a bit like a naughty school kid when I got told off though - even more so when I got home later in the week to find my mother fuming over the fact that I had dyed my hair red in her newly decorated bathroom. I didn't get a speck of it anywhere, but apparently The Great Hairdye Disaster of '09 is still fresh in her mind. (This basically consisted of my sister running down the stairs to get a snack mid-hairdye, consequently dotting my mother's cream staircase with various blotches of colour. We then spent the next week trying to concoct a story strong enough to ensure we avoided any punishment. Given that one of the contenders was to cut out cardboard monster feet and place them all the way up the stairs to my mother's bedroom, strategically covering hairdye stains in the process, it is safe to say that this did not work.) I got my comeuppance though - I was washing my hair last night and momentarily forgot I had dyed it, thus when I looked down at all the red in the bath I had a sudden panic attack and thought I was hemorrhaging.

I have a day off work tomorrow (finally) and I am worryingly excited about going somewhere, anywhere, that does not involve ham, cakes or pasties. The other day I saw a sign saying Home Sweet Home and for one terrifying moment I read it as Home Roast Ham. I think this definitely calls for a day off, even if I am only spending it by going to the bank and then hastily buying birthday presents for Lauren and Kelly for their birthday (obviously) next week. I'm excited to go out and get drunk for it, something I have missed dearly since leaving university. Saying that though, I did go on a pub crawl last week with some people from work, which was good fun. I'm going to have to learn to get used to drinking in places without hoards of students though - I've realised that using your elbows to get to the bar is only acceptable in places like the Student Union and tends to be frowned upon elsewhere. It was a good night though, although I did wake up in the morning wearing a pair of slipper socks I've not seen since I was about seven years old. I couldn't understand what was happening at first when my feet were sticking to the kitchen floor (they're those slipper socks with grips on the bottom) and for one horrifying moment I thought maybe I had urinated on the floor in a drunken haze. Thankfully not though, and just for the record, I have never done that. Not in the kitchen, anyway.

Friday, 5 August 2011

If you see a tramp sat in a pub in Chester playing with a pack of porn star cards, wearing a green cardigan and a Primark bra and brandishing a HSBC letter addressed to myself, claiming to be me - it isn't.

Well, haven't I had a laborious week? The answer to that is most definitely a yes, beginning with me and my housemates attempting to empty and clean our entire house in the space of half a day. (We did originally have a whole day, but we wasted the morning fannying around complaining, then decided we'd had enough and went to McDonalds leaving us with just a few short and stressful hours in the afternoon to complete our task). Over the course of the day, many items that should probably not have been hoovered up ended up being so, thus by the time my turn came to use it I found myself sat on my bedroom floor speaking words of encouragement to our little Henry whilst picking up various small items and feeding them into the nozzle. In hindsight, I could have just thrown said bits away, but my bin was downstairs soaking in the bath and I felt that given it was my last night in the house a little bit of ingenuity in the name of laziness was a fitting tribute to the way I have lived for the past 3 years. (I don't know why I thought leaving university would make me less lazy - I found myself nursing a hangover in bed the other morning whilst trying to will it away with brain power instead of having to go downstairs for some paracetamol).

At least someone benefited from our house clean though - after all the work was done we went into the alley at the back of our house to find that all the bin bags we'd put out earlier had been ripped to shreds by someone we assume to be a tramp. Naturally, most of the stuff was mine and as such a variety of items ranging from old bank statements to a pack of porn star playing cards Megan bought in first year (don't ask) were strewn all over for the whole world to see. As me and my housemates stood staring at a collection of my bras and knickers, I started to regret throwing out the bag of laundry that had been under my bed for a year. Apparently the tramp was pleased though as when we went back to check later a cardigan and two bras were missing from the pile (and probably a few bank statements, too), so if you see a tramp sat in a pub in Chester playing with a pack of porn star cards, wearing a green cardigan and a Primark bra and brandishing a HSBC letter addressed to myself, claiming to be me - it isn't.

I had one last day of freedom with Jayne during which we went to see Harry Potter and then I was back to laboring as I began a horrid 59 hour week at work. I am only into day 5 and already my feet hurt and my body feels like how I would imagine an over-worked coal miner's would. (That is probably a bit dramatic - I don't even do that much work, I spend most of my time walking from the deli counter to the walk-in fridge or going for a wee because I am bored). I have found, however, that now I've finished university a lot of people expect me to be doing something incredibly interesting, or at least more interesting than selling pork pies, anyway. The other day a woman from down my road came in and asked me what I was doing now - I must admit, I did feel a bit of a tit handing her some ham and just saying, 'erm... this...'. (To be fair, at the time I had a massive label gun stuck to the neck of my apron as I'd put the neck through it and then realised I couldn't get it back out, so that was probably the main reason I felt like a tit...) I am already starting to get rather frustrated with the general public though - especially those who assume we are all intellectually stunted because we work in a supermarket. I had a customer today come up and ask for 'four slices of ham'. We sell about six different types, so upon my asking her to specify a type she simply stared at me and said, very slowly and clearly, "FOUR." For a moment I considered just giving her four slices of beef but I refrained. I could not stop myself, however, staring in awe at a customer who asked me if I could take the peas out of the keema and peas curry. I don't know if she expected me to put on a pair of gloves and individually remove each pea or what, but she did not look too happy when I asked her if she wanted the onion taken out of her onion bhaji. Really, though. I also spent ten minutes yesterday explaining to a woman that her kitten would not die a horrible, painful death if it ate ox tongue but, just to be on the safe side, recommended she buy ham instead - or even push the boat out and buy it actual cat food. Why people spend so much money on the most expensive meats for their pets, I will never understand. I imagine domesticated animals to be somewhat similar to myself - if they are fed, they are happy.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Marx! Nietzsche! How are you, old chaps?... No?

After my last post bragging about how competent a traveler I am, I obviously annoyed the Great Gods of Travel and as such they provided me with the Steve Irwin of the driving world during my journey back from Chester. The first sign came when Howard (I know) suggested everyone on the coach have a 'group sing-a-long', complete with him harmonising on the microphone. People singing when they're going on holiday is one thing, but on a bus to Bradford I doubt that anyone has ever possessed enough holiday spirit to start up a round of Ten Green Bottles. Even if we had wanted to, it would be nigh on impossible as the breath was knocked out of us all when Howard thought it a good idea to go from 0 - 80mph in roughly two seconds. This was not a good idea, as he then found it extremely difficult to stop when he noticed a lorry the size of my house directly in front of us, forcing him to slam on his breaks and resulting in everyone's luggage flying through the air. The lady opposite seemed severely disgruntled that her travel pillow had been dislodged - I think this was her first time on a bus as she had also felt the need to wear flight socks... I thought things might settle down once we reached the motorway, but apparently Daredevil Howie is not one for gridlock, as he demonstrated by flying down the hardshoulder at 100mph, much to the shock (and, to be honest, excitement) of his passengers. We eventually arrived safely in Bradford after a tiny detour that made everyone over the age of 50 have a minor panic attack and I am now back in my beloved home city.

Apparently my penchant for procrastination has not been left behind in Chester. Whilst trying to ensure that my bedroom is habitable for when I move back in, I found many ways to keep myself distracted. There was, for some unknown reason, an old desktop computer keyboard stashed away in my wardrobe and I spent a good 10 minutes seeing how fast I could type various different words into it. However, it wasn't connected to anything, so not only was this exercise pointless, but it was also very difficult to measure my results. I then spent at least a further 30 minutes trying to get a spinning top to go for more than ten seconds. I even made a mental list of different tactics in an attempt to prolong the spin - it was a short lived dream that spinning it anti-clockwise as opposed to clockwise might make some miraculous difference. Obviously, getting a degree has not resulted in my being included in some elite group of society that gathers together and talks about Marx and Nietzsche like they were old school friends. Shame.

After getting my degree the first thing I did was open (for the first time since I got it three years ago) my 'Student Cookbook', seeing as I now have the time (and sobriety) to actually make food. I thought I'd start easy and bake a cake - mainly so that I would have the cake mixture left in the bowl to console myself if it went wrong. The cake itself was, well, a piece of cake (the time has come. I am now making puns worthy of women over 50); it was the fancy, decorative cream in the middle that was my downfall.  Apparently you can over whip whipping cream, so much so that it gradually morphs into cottage cheese and starts producing its own weird, watery substance. After trial-and-erring my way through an entire carton of cream, I decided to make buttercream instead, thinking it couldn't be that hard to do. In the end I just melted a bar of Dairy Milk chocolate and shoved that in the middle instead.

Along with baking cakes, there have been a plethora of other things since I left university that have drawn my attention to the fact that I am finally getting old. I realised this as I sat surrounded by 50-year-old women (most of whom were on reunion trips) at a James Taylor concert the other week in Manchester. Reassuringly, me and my sister seemed to be the youngest people there, but still... I think we enjoyed it a little too much to still be considered the hip young things that we are. Soon I will be on a par with my mother, wearing slippers and putting Rivitas in a plastic bag so they don't dry out. How much drier can a Rivita really get?! However, I have accepted my fate and begrudgingly removed the Parental Advisory poster that has adorned my bedroom door since I was fourteen. (Although, to be honest, the message still stands). There's still a little bit of rock and roll left in me though - I've recently taken to putting my contact lenses in shot glasses over night as I left the case at Megan's house last week. See? I can still be cool. I have, however, drawn the line at downloading music as opposed to buying CDs. For one thing, I like the album sleeves, and for another I can never quite get the hang of downloading. I've realised that unless you pay close attention to the progress of your songs, you can never be quite sure what it is you're getting and suddenly you'll have your iPod on shuffle only to hear, "I was driving to work when a cyclist pulled out in front of me" at the beginning of a song. More than once have I accidentally downloaded a good minute of someone attempting to defend Michael Jackson's sexual assault allegations. Despite my general dislike for the human race, I think I'll stick to buying music from shops so as to avoid accidental downloads of Two Girls, One Octopus. (If you've not seen it: don't, and if you have... Well, the damage is done and these scars will stay with you forever).

This week has been my last week of freedom before I get back into the dreaded lull of mindless work and I've spent it, mainly, wandering around Yorkshire taking photographs. (Right, that's it, I'm old). I went to Swaledale yesterday with my dad and, despite my being told off for getting chocolate on the seats of his car, we had a lovely day and I spent two hours on a photography "ramble" being taught by a real live photographer how to actually use the camera that I have owned for two years. Apparently all the numbers and letters that appear on the screen mean something and I should be looking at them before taking a photo. Who knew? I've also got a little bit of photography work lined up with one of my mum's friends - I've just got off the phone with him and he worryingly left the conversation saying, "We'll leave it to you, you know your stuff"... There's a big, dusty pile of camera manuals that have been sat in my bedroom for two years - I guess it's about time I got a wriggle on and read some of them so that I could hear someone say, "you know your stuff" without resisting the urge to hang up the phone and run for my life.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Going Wild in America! (And by that, I mean smuggling tweezers into my handluggage...)

After being in America for two weeks, I am tempted to greet each and every one of you (i.e. the three people who read this), with a short, simple 'hello' to prove to myself (and to America) that it is not necessary to greet every single person you see with, 'hi, how are you today?' The amount of times in the past fortnight I have gone to reply, 'fine, thank you, how are you?' only to realise that I am being ignored is innumerable. Apparently it is polite to ask, but not polite to wait for an answer and at least pretend to care. It's sort of like when people say, 'I don't mean to offend you, but...' and then tell you how hideous your baby's face is. Or maybe I am just too British in terms of what I consider to be polite. Anyway, enough of American supermarket etiquette.  I've been in California for the past two weeks and as a result I am suffering from jet lag induced nocturnality, (Google says it's a word, therefore it is a word) and high levels of I-dislike-England-and-I-wish-I-could-be-in-California-with-the-ever-so-friendly-checkout-people syndrome. Coming back to the north of England after being in California is like getting married, only to watch your significant other fall to their death at the altar, squishing your new born baby in the process. And your puppy. There are a few things I have missed about Mother England, though. For example, British public toilets. Every time I go to the States, I forget just how public American public toilets are. I mean, what is the point in even having a door? It's extremely hard to go for a wee when you can practically make eye contact with the person in the opposite stall, especially if they notice you and say, 'hi, how are you today?'; then it's downright impossible.

There are two things I have done whilst in America that have made me swell with pride at my own competence. The first is successfully flying there and back without any major complications. Minor complications are, of course, expected - for example, being taken to one side and being asked like a child to have a 'good, long think' after giving a very vague, 'I don't think so...' in response to the question, 'Are you holding any weapons?' (Incidentally, I wasn't).

The second is successfully mastering the Los Angeles city bus system by myself. I can barely manage getting to Leeds and back, so this is a milestone in my traveling career. I also managed to accidentally rip off all the bus drivers after getting it into my head that an American quarter is worth 50p, thus only ever paying half of my fare. (Incidentally, they're not).

During my plane ride there, I was fortunate enough not to sit with any questionable characters, which I was thankful about. However, after seeing that the man next to me had just watched me drop yoghurt on my iPod and proceed to lick it off like a cat, I realised that I was the 'questionable character' I had been looking out for. He looked at me in disgust as I concentrated on 'America's Funniest Dogs' (it was bad in-flight entertainment) and pretended I hadn't noticed. The final straw for him came when he saw me look in the back of my sudoku book for answers and he subsequently huffed off to the toilet.

After being collected from the airport by Molly and Brezil and doing the same 'you're-getting-in-the-wrong-side-of-the-car' routine that happens every time I visit, we embarked upon phase one of Amy's American Adventure: San Francisco. Due to unforeseen circumstances, phase one began with spending the night in the living room of a friend of a friend's apartment, which would have been simple enough had his drunk Mexican roommate not come stumbling home at 2am shouting, 'who are these bitches sleeping in my living room?!' as we, the bitches, pretended to be asleep. Thankfully, although not until hearing said drunk roommate throwing up in various locations around the apartment, we were rescued by aforementioned friend of a friend and finally got some sleep.

The next day, fueled on little sleep and lots of coffee, we, or rather, Molly with our 'help', drove to San Francisco in search of bigger and better things than Placerville. (Not that an old goldmining town full of antique shops isn't exciting, of course). San Francisco definitely did its job and provided us with lots of excitement, the first of which came in the form of what can only be described as the shadiest parking garage in the entire of northern California. After deciding we would park in it anyway, we walked out to the smell of cannabis and a gang of what, at first glance, appeared to be women. At a second glance, we promptly moved the car. After finally finding a place to park that was neither threatening nor impossible to get to, we spent the day exploring the city centre, during which I was talked into buying a book of poetry from a homeless guy who said he was only selling them because he wanted to be 'cool, like [me]'. I'm a sucker for people who think I am cool. We later headed to the Golden Gate Bridge, which took us over an hour to get to as opposed to the fifteen minutes recommended time due to our missing turns, getting trapped on one-way streets and the combined efforts of four people all looking at different road signs. Eventually, we got there and promptly locked ourselves out of the car with nothing but a camera and what seemed to be the windiest day San Francisco has ever had. After waiting an hour for the AAA to arrive and a long struggle trying to explain where we were, we drove back and comfortably indulged ourselves in Placerville's version of excitement: trying to entice the neighbourhood bear in with a leftover meatball.

After San Francisco, I took my ambitious city hopping to the next level and jumped on a Greyhound bus to Los Angeles. Having never been to a Greyhound station before, I had only one piece of passed on information about them: don't go at night. Naturally, my bus was at 10pm. I took this opportunity to put into use my nifty, incognito, under-the-tshirt bumbag (its difficult today to travel both in style and in safety...) and spent a while mentally sorting through the items in my bag and picking out those which would be best put to use during self defense. Not having very many possessions with me, the best thing I could come up with was a shaving razor, which I doubt would have come to much use if I was being attacked. 'Don't mug me or I'll SHAVE YOUR FACE'... Threatening, no? Anyway, I thankfully didn't need to use the nunchucks I had crafted out of two pens and a belt and I arrived safely in L.A. nine sleepless hours later.

After circling my hostel a few times (it seemed at first like the only way to get in was by climbing up the fire escape until I found a tiny, Alice In Wonderland door at the side), I checked in and headed out, bumbag at the ready, to explore Hollywood. By the end of the day I had completed my entire checklist of things to see, including 'Hollywood Forever', a graveyard full of (apparently) famous people. The only two graves I recognised were Dee Dee and Johnny Ramone, which were amazing but not worth the $5 I spent on a map. It was still exciting though, despite being surrounded by vicious geese, whom I later ran into again in Placerville with Molly after we fed one bit of bread to a duck and suddenly found ourselves running full pelt back to the car with an entire gaggle of adult geese chasing after us. I also visited Kat Von D's L.A. Ink tattoo parlour and got all my pent up tourist frustration out in one. Everyone in there was the epitome of cool whilst I stood at the side with a sunburnt face and a bumbag. I may as well have been wrapped in a towel, wearing crocs and carrying a beach ball.

Like any big city, Hollywood is full of beggars and I almost made it an entire day without being asked for money. Apparently, handing over a few cents and saying, 'sorry mate, I'm just as broke as you' does not have the same effect when you're sat there with an oversized digital camera and listening to an iPod. However, in Beverly Hills, my next destination, carrying a camera and an iPod is nothing to write home about. If you ever have a desire to know what it feels like to not fit in, try walking down Rodeo Drive in a scratty pair of denim shorts with unwashed hair and a box of crackers. However, bear in mind that there is nowhere to go for a wee - rich people must not urinate as much as their pauper friends, unless they all wear adult nappies in an attempt to even more dehumanise their characteristics.

Oh, also, if anyone is wondering where gay central is in L.A., it is apparently West Hollywood. I discovered this as I walked into what looked like, from the outside, an average bookshop. However, once inside, after the first thing to meet my eye was a giant poster of two men in a position they must have practiced yoga for years to do, I soon realised that this was not an average bookshop. By that time, though, it was too late and I was already at the point where the attendant had acknowledged my presence (hi, how are you, etc.) but not yet at the point where it had been an acceptable time frame to leave. Thus, I was stuck for the longest 3 minutes of my life in a homoerotic limbo, diverting my eyes to the only thing I could look at without seeing a penis: chewing gum, and vaseline...

After another week of having fun with Molly, spending my nights negotiating with her possessed cat about who gets how much of the blanket and flying down her drive on a chair on wheels (I'm aware that my inability to even walk without tripping means I should probably rule out any involvement in makeshift extreme sports, but I don't), I found myself back at Sacramento airport preparing for the flight home. As I didn't get a direct flight, I was stuck in Philadelphia for four hours trying to entertain myself before my flight back to Manchester. Being trapped in an airport for hours bores me to the point of reading all of the warning signs, one of which stated that 'Baggage containing dry ice must be clearly labelled'. Who the hell is taking dry ice on a seven hour flight?! In hand luggage as well?! You can't bring tweezers, but sure, you can bring dry ice... It always baffles me why tweezers on aeroplanes are prohibited. Imagine how much of a party you could have if you were allowed both tweezers and dry ice? You could create your own Stars In Their Eyes: 'Tonight, Matthew, I'm going to be a very well groomed terrorist!'

Blog in progress! Reverting back to handwriting it in a coffee shop due to lack of a laptop.

Monday, 13 June 2011

No Longer A Student... Now Just A Pauper.

So, since my last blog I have handed in my dissertation, successfully (debatable) completed all my exams and am now free to take on the world, one £9,000 mistake at a time. My exams went as well as I could have hoped, given that I finished the first one in record time as the subject I had revised the shit out of didn't come up. I wrote down everything I knew about Seamus Heaney and Carol Ann Duffy, then spent the rest of the time wondering how better I could have spent my tuition fees. I almost didn't read through my exam before I left (I never see much point when I know I've done rubbish; it's like vomitting and then sifting through the sick to try and find a diamond). I did, though, and I'm glad as I discovered that throughout the entire thing I had been calling the novel by a completely different name. On hindsight, maybe I'd have got a better mark if I'd left it... The second one went marginally better - although, I'm not sure if it actually did, or if I just think that because at the time I was off my tits on cold and flu capsules... We shall see.
The relief of handing in my dissertation was dampened somewhat after I got an e-mail the day after is was due saying I was meant to submit a copy online, despite having handed two hard copies into the office, and asking the woman behind the desk whether I needed to submit it online, to which she replied no. Twice. I had only just stopped myself from inwardly screaming over the stress of the binding process. If you have ever bound something, you will know what I am talking about. I stupidly refused the option to pay more and have the library staff bind it for me - first mistake. I then spent FIFTEEN MINUTES trying to figure out how to work the machine, after which I got cocky and offered my expertise to the girl next to me who also looked like she was about to cry - second mistake. Turns out she had a different machine and the spiral binding ended up flying out at what seemed to be 100mph and hitting another innocent bystander in the face. It was embarrassing, but it definitely made the process more entertaining. I then cheered myself up by watching my friend carefully place her 30 page dissertation into the machine, sheet by sheet, and then watching her face drop as I pretended to offer my help and lifted the entire pile off again. I'll admit, it was mean, but I regret nothing. (By the way, I got a 2:1 in my dissertation, which I am now going to frame and hang around my neck for the rest of my life).
I have now completely finished my degree and am faced with the daunting prospect of growing up and moving back in with my mother. This means I can no longer refrain from emptying my bin by instead spraying it with body spray every time I walk past and I'll have to actually clean my bedding as opposed to every so often hoovering the dust off it. It would be nice to have a tidy room for a change though; I stood on a water bottle last week and for a split second the possibility that it was a rat genuinely went through my mind... I also discovered that I had done a cheeky sick in an empty Strongbow box on Friday night and then strategically hidden it from view under my desk, consequently creating a strange, yet oddly sensual, odor. This further leads me to the conclusion that I am not as respectable a person as I have been assuring myself I am my entire life and that finishing university is probably a good time to turn over a new, more sanitary leaf. I should probably stop being so lazy as well - I spent half an hour the other day attempting to lasso in my window so I didn't have to get out of bed and close it...
Moving back in with my mum has definite advantages, like the fact that she always has toilet roll, which means I won't have to repeat last week's upsetting experience of having to substitute it with babywipes (one of the stranger sensations of my adult life). I am not looking forward to moving back the city of tramps and murderers itself, though. I had a minor incident last week where for a split second I thought that there was a gang of chavs in Chester - a rare sight. As they got closer though I realised they were actually middle aged women from the local weight watchers group wearing matching Kappa tracksuits. Still frightening, but at least I came away with my wallet and skull both intact.

I did pay a quick visit to Bradford a few weeks ago, you know, just to ease myself in. I'd been out late the night before and as a result I was continually drifting into a sleep/daysleep on the coach. Usually this would be fine as I always put as much effort as possible into making sure no one sits next to me. However, no such luck this time and I ended up sitting next to a woman who looked about 90 and probably shouldn't have even been out of bed, nevermind riding her life away on a piss-stenched bus between Manchester and Bradford. As I was having one of my "daysleeps" as I like to call them (that state where you're asleep, but you're fully aware of your surroundings), I was dreaming of myself in the shower (you know you're bigheaded when that happens), and out of the corner of my eye I saw my shampoo falling in slow motion off the shelf. Instinctively, my arm shot out to save it, thus causing the old lady to have a very near heart attack and making me throw my bag on the floor in a panic. I apologised, but she still looked like she was having minor palpitations and I had to keep checking on her every ten minutes to make sure she hadn't... left us. I was thankful when she got off.
I didn't do much in Bradford except revise (the wrong topic) and go to the pub with my dad, which was fun - barring the night he thought it would be hilarious to do an impression of a very loud and obnoxious goat. It was not hilarious. He also spent a fair amount of time trying to jog my memory of the couple that used to teach me and Kezia gymnastics when we were younger. I struggled to remember because I left gymnastics after a short while as I wasn't, shall we say, a natural. Basically, whilst Kezia was doing cartwheels on the balance beam, I was straddling it like a sloth, trying to pluck up the courage to roll to one side or the other and plummet to the floor. The only thing I vividly remember about gymnastics was the week after I had decided to quit - my dad and Kezia came home from practice only to inform me that it had been someone's birthday and I had missed out on the buffet. You can imagine what news like that does to a fat kid. Actually, I think that may be one of the reasons I am so very fond of buffets today... The moral of the story? Don't take fatties to gymnastics.