Sunday, 26 February 2012

Nothing Says 'Thanks For Your Hard Work' Like a Pair of Fluffy Handcuffs and a Pack of Naughty Snap.

Given that I do a very limited amount of actual working when I am at work, it was difficult to relax even more than usual during my last shift. Amongst a variety of lovely presents, my leaving parcel worryingly included some of the more interesting presents I have received in my lifetime. Nothing says 'thanks for your hard work' like a pair of fluffy handcuffs and a pack of naughty snap cards... (I've already been trapped in my handcuffs once during one of many periods of packing procrastination. It was funny until I realised the key was at the other side of the room and the only way to get it was drag my desk along the carpet, a task that has left me both a little traumatised and nursing a carpet burned wrist). I eventually released myself and vowed never to go near them again, regardless of the situation. Unsurprisingly, that was not the first mishap of the week due to an unfortunate incident involving an electric sheep wire. Seeing as I am living in Australia for the next few months with no job, I have been getting the last bus home whenever I go to the pub so I don't have to pay for a taxi and instead I can save a bit more travel money. The last bus home is not the most enjoyable of experiences - there's always that one drunk person who sits at the back, working their way through an entire packet of Pringles and occasionally falling asleep on the passenger next to them. (Ok. It was me). Anyway, as I may have mentioned, I live in the middle of nowhere and as such my bus stop to home route is limited to either walking through a muddy field or walking through the cemetery. No matter how old and brave I get, there will never be a point in my life where I willingly walk through the cemetery at night on my own and so I chose the field. However, due to one too many beers at the pub, my balance became somewhat questionable, resulting in me grabbing some barbed wire for support and thus electrocuting the shit out of myself as I did so. To make matters worse, I was so drunk that it took me a good ten seconds to realise what was going on, by which time my hand had gone numb and, let's face it, I had nearly pissed myself. I think my only consolation was the fact that it was pitch black and no one could see me. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of a small incident on my drive two days earlier. If you're familiar with my drive, you'll know that it is very steep, very cobbley, and very slippy when covered in snow. I had barely been out of my door two seconds when I fell for the first time, dropping all of my belongings at the top and subsequently sliding halfway down the drive. After ten minutes of continuous falling that I think can only be challenged by the stations of the cross, I eventually began the slow, degrading crawl back up to the top, digging my fingers into the cobbles to try and heave my body up. If you've ever seen Homeward Bound, you'll remember the scene when Shadow gets stuck in a ditch and has a fair whack at trying to get himself out. Barring the fact that I am not a Golden Retriever, nor do I have the support of two other loving, talking animals, the scene was pretty much textbook Shadow. Every time my fingertips grazed the edge of my bag, I would slide another foot down the drive, desperately flailing around trying to grab anything I could on my way. When I finally did reach my bag, I figured that I may as well just go down the entire drive on my arse because, a) I was already drenched, and b) I didn't have another choice.

The week before my flight was basically just one big panic week, consisting mainly of packing, passport hunting and extreme Tetris. (If you don't know what extreme Tetris is, which you won't 'cause I made it up, it's basically just like normal Tetris except I play it when I really need a wee and don't let myself go until I've got at least 100 lines. It's quite the thrill). I also spent a fair amount of time making sure that there was nothing suspicious left in my room for my mum to find whilst I'm away. It's not that ideally have anything suspicious, but once when I was 14 she found a packet of coloured liquorice and thought I was on drugs, so anything's a possibility. Frankly though, judging by her performance at her retirement party on Saturday, I think I should be the one that's worried. Watching your mother be physically carried out of a party is something everyone should see once in their lifetime. Me and Kezia weren't much better - she repeatedly called one of my mum's friends (who's a nun) 'Mother Theresa' instead of 'Sister Theresa', and during an act of polite small talk I accidentally told someone that my grandma was 'fine', when in actuality she died over a year ago...

Anyway, I am leaving all embarrassment behind and thus begins a new chapter in my blog as I am now in Australia. Thoughtfully, England gave me a farewell humiliation when I accidentally wandered into the men's toilets at Heathrow airport. I'd already made it halfway to a stall before I noticed that four men stood in a line with their trousers round their ankles was not a sight one often came across in the women's bathroom. In my defence, I had recently been gassed by my mother who thought it a clever idea to waterproof my backpack with proofing spray whilst it was in the boot of the car about two minutes before we set off. Nothing like a breath of toxic air to remind me of mother England. It's actually a marvel that we made it to the airport at all bearing in mind that my mother, obviously off her tits on waterproofing spray, swerved a across four lanes of traffic on a roundabout because we were about to miss out exit. I won't say I wasn't scared, but I welcome and cherish any opportunity to drop an 'F' bomb in front of my mother.

After I had made it through security without being frisked (I won't lie, I was sort of disappointed), I spent the next 11 hours on a plane to Thailand, gnawing on a packet of headphones - you don't realise how valuable scissors are until you don't have access to them and are forced to resort to primal instincts in order to open anything. My pain and misery was added to when I gradually started losing feeling in my legs due to my one-size-fits-nobody flight socks. After a good ten minute struggle trying to force them on at Heathrow, I shuffled off from my mum and by the time I reached Thailand I may as well have had no feet at all. I was in so much pain that it almost blocked out the upset I felt at not being in first class. I hate how they parade you through like some kind of in-flight entertainment, "Have some champagne and watch the paupers as they shuffle through in their flight socks!" Still, at least I won't have deep vein thrombosis or whatever it is they prevent. I may have no nerves left in my legs, but you win some you lose some. Thankfully I wasn't sat next to some cretin on the plane like I usually am. His name was Jim and he was 79 years old - had I known he was going to spend the next 21 hours of our time together telling me war stories I would have retracted my offer a wine gum. It's not that dislike war stories, it's just Jim had a way of starting them halfway through really intense scenes in the film I was watching. I was actually crying at one point (I don't know why I watch sad films on planes, this is not the first time this has happened), but either Jim failed to notice or just plain didn't care - either way, he was undetered. Still, he was better than the old man who gets on my bus in Bradford and thinks I'm his granddaughter. I used to correct him but it's gone on so long that now I just greet him with, 'alright, grandad' and tell him about my day. To say he's my grandad, he's never once bought me a Christmas present. He's a bit shit really - if he wasn't family I'd probably just ignore him.

On the topic of strange old men (as I so often am), I had a wonderful (read:horrifying) experience with a coach driver yesterday. He first of all went on a somewhat racist rant about a woman on the phone, suggesting that whilst she was in Australia she should at least modify her accent to Australian - he himself was Alf Stewart to a T. He then insisted that everyone on the bus call him 'coach captain' as 'driver' was demeaning... To make matters worse he was one of those 'if there's a microphone, use it' types that forced overly rehearsed jokes on everyone which, by the third time round, failed even to get pity laughs from the old couple at the front wearing bumbags and mix'n'match Crocs. I was suspicious of him straight from the start, and even more so when halfway through the journey his accent changes from Australian to West Country... Still, he got me to where I wanted to be and I spent the rest of the day feeding wallabies and cuddling koalas in a place called Kuranda. This was all well and good until the koala I was holding casually placed its hand on my breast. I'm not 100% sure on the sexual harrassment laws in this country, but I'm relatively certain they don't stretch to marsupials. He looked a bit downtrodden though and had probably spent the day being mauled by tourists, so I thought allowing him a quick grope was really the least I could do.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Eating Your Way Through £75 of Complimentary Biscuits Is Harder Than It Sounds

Some American people in England just don't do themselves any favours, do they? I thought this as one strolled into my speed awareness course last week, sunglasses on (inside, in England, in February), strapped up in sandals and wearing shorts - I'm surprised he wasn't carrying a water bottle and wearing a bumbag. He sauntered in wearing one of those 'how-hilarious-is-this' smirks - you know the type people do in school when everyone is in detention together and there's that nice sense of criminal comradery? Except this time it wasn't school, we were watching videos of children being knocked over by speeding transit vans, and instead of spending lunchtime in a classroom, we were spending the entire afternoon in a building in Bradford. Plus, we had all been forced to pay £75 to be there, and, apart from the complimentary biscuits, there was not a lot to smile about. I placed myself as far away as I could from this man and opted instead to sit at a table of middle-aged women who appeared to have all reached a silent agreement not to judge each other and I could tell by their faces that they were all pretending this was book club and not a course for law-breaking citizens. We were also joined by a woman named Jean who was well into her eighties and obviously fancied herself as a bit of a boy racer. I realised (too late) that sitting with middle-aged women meant that I was sat with the people most likely to start crying when the Speeding Kills Children videos began. In all fairness, they were horrendous, but there's only so much awkward back patting I can perform whilst simultaneously jotting down all the potential hazards in the video and trying to eat my £75 worth of complimentary biscuits before the end of the session. By the end of the first hour, I realised just how little I knew the highway code after only getting 3 out of 8 road signs correct on the pop quiz. (I suppose that's what I get for copying Jean, who obviously has a complete disregard for the law and probably hasn't looked at the highway code since she passed her test in 1905). I did feel slightly better though after noticing that Christa Ackroyd, our local newsreader, was also on the course after being done speeding on the same road I was caught on. We had a nice little chat during the break and found some of the criminal comradery the American was after. I mean, it's not like we were sharing a cell and showering together, but I'm pretty sure she'd have let me plait her hair if I'd asked. (I didn't).

As punishments go, it was one of the more expensive consequences of my wrong doings. I rarely got grounded during my teenage years - it's difficult to punish a social hermit who's a little bit fat (I never left my bedroom anyway and it's going a bit far to starve your own child), so my mum just used to ban me from the internet and I would have to find entertainment elsewhere. This usually meant playing human Buckeroo in the living room with Kezia. If you're unfamiliar with Buckeroo, it's basically a children's game in which small plastic toys are piled on a small plastic donkey and then the donkey bucks and the toys all fly off. We didn't have it. Instead, I would curl up on the floor underneath a duvet whilst Kezia piled a varied assortment of objects on my back (including but not limited to kitchen appliances). I would then leap up (buck, if you will) at random intervals and scream BUCKEROO!, thus sending said objects flying around the living room, repeating the process until something got broken and/or I got tired (fat kid, remember). It was one of the many cheaper alternatives to the real thing we had when we were younger, another of which was a Mum's-On-A-Budget version of Hungry, Hungry Hippos. Instead of hippos, they were dogs, there was only two of them, and instead of the dramatic Hungry, Hungry Hippos name, it was instead called something like Somewhat Peckish Dogs. And whilst I'm on the subject, another of my mother's money saving schemes was to sit us on the children's rides outside Morrisons and let us play around having the time of our lives. It wasn't until we were at least ten and (in my case) too big to ride them, that we realised that if you insert money into it, the ride moves. This mean trick of hers backfired when I walked out of Sainsburys one day and got on a stranger's real motorbike thinking it was another stationary ride... It would seem the tables of embarrassment have turned these days, however. I was forced to cut short my Friday night Gilmore Girls marathon last week to go and collect my drunk mother and her friend from Bingley at 2 o'clock in the morning. I assumed that a text saying, "come now i'm the frands x y w x" was her way of telling me that she was ready for collection and drove around for the next twenty minutes looking for them after being repeatedly put on hold and hung up on because my mother was too drunk to answer her mobile. (To be fair, even when she's sober she struggles to operate anything that isn't the BT BigButton500... Seriously, that is the name of our house phone.) Eventually, I made my way through the sea of drunk girls showing their underwear (one of whom, for one horrifying moment, I thought was my mother) and found my two passengers staggering around on the pavement. You wouldn't have thought it, but even in her inebriated state my mother still managed to backseat drive (with her head out of the window) all the way home.

Work has been relatively dead recently, excluding the panic buying epidemic that happened on Saturday due to a small bit of snow. Every year it snows, and yet every year, without fail, it still somehow causes chaos. As always, though, I found sufficient ways to keep myself amused. Last week me and Nat spent a good portion of the morning figuring out how much her boobs weighed if measured in units of industrial tins of corned beef - finally, learning Maths at school has been put into practice in a real life work-based situation. Unfortunately, someone in the office obviously failed to put their Geography education into practice after decorating the Burns' night advertisement board with Finnish flags instead of Scottish...