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...