Sunday, 12 August 2012

So, Dressage - It's Not a Joke?

As the Olympics draw to a close, I am becoming increasingly worried about how I am going to fill my time now there are no more dancing horse events to watch on the telly. (I did have an idea about maybe teaching a cow to dance the Macarena and seeing if we could get into the dressage events in the Rio games, but that started a big debate about whether a cow could stand on its hind legs and, if so, would I be able to stay on its back... That idea is on the back burner. For now.)

It's been a fantastic two weeks and it's been amazing to be able to watch and support the most incredible sporting talents from all over the world perform things I wouldn't have thought the human body was even capable of. It's baffling that the gymnasts are even able to walk as they clearly have no bones, but they seem to manage it pretty well and for that I commend them. I was also pretty impressed at the amount of people who actually knew the British national anthem - I put on the BBC subtitles and got the lyrics up in an attempt to learn it, but they kept getting it wrong. (Unless it does actually say, 'God save our noble tea', which wouldn't be all that surprising...).

If the Olympics has been good for one thing, it's getting the country all excited about exercise and pushing everyone into that 'get fit' frame of mind that is very common around New Year's Eve. I myself have ventured to the swimming pool this past week with my sister and her friend Gemma as part of a 'Get Fit, Stay Fit' regime that will probably go to shit around this time next week. Routine exercise is something that everyone always says they do but never actually does, like washing jeans or using the left wing mirror on the car. (What does that mirror even do, really? I'm fairly certain it is for decorative purposes only and provides no function whatsoever). In terms of self confidence, weekday evenings are definitely the best time to go swimming as the pool is not full of thin, athletic people who can swim ten lengths under water without coming up, but rather 50+ year old women who have come under the pretence of 'exercise' so they can gossip out of ear shot of others and then go home and eat 5 crumpets because they've 'already burned off the calories'. (OK, so the crumpet thing was really me, but I bet they did it too). Plus, as Gemma pointed out, we get labelled as 'serious swimmers' because we're the only ones in the pool wearing goggles. Admittedly, I would have felt more serious if I wasn't in a bright turquoise swimming costume as it was the only one I could find. It was clearly made for sunbathing only and not actual swimming though, as I discovered after inadvertently flashing my boobs to the rest of the pool and subsequently forcing Kezia to tie the knot at the top as tight as she could so it wouldn't happen again. It didn't, thankfully, but it came with consequences and by the end of the hour I could feel neither my arms nor my breasts, neither of which were too great a loss.

Now, I am still unemployed (not for lack of trying), but be under no illusion that I am not being productive. I spent all day Thursday trimming the hedges in the garden (including the Laurel bush, thank you very much) and making the outside of my dad's house look exceptionally neat, tidy, and professional. Well, sort of. I soon realised that trimming hedges was very similar to cutting your own fringe. You know when you just keep saying, 'oh, just a little bit more... I'll just even this bit out... and just here...' and then suddenly you're sporting a crew cut and wondering what happened? Same thing. I often get out of control when I am allowed any use of tools and/or stationary. I'm sure I can't be alone in this - one trip to the stationary shop and suddenly everything in the house needs stapling together or gluing or tying up with string... I should really use all of my new found free time to exercise my self control, but when there's holes to be punched, who has the time? Maybe I should jump on the bandwagon and start reading 50 Shades of Grey, just to see what all the fuss is about. I've not really heard fantastic reviews about it, although I did get a rather mixed one from my mother the other week: 'God, it's such crap! I mean, I'm halfway through the third one and...'  - need I say more?


Wednesday, 1 August 2012

No Job, No Money, No Life - The Only Way This Could Get Worse Would Be If A Bucket Of Piss Was Thrown In. Oh, Wait...

So, it is official now. I am unemployed. I am not 'in education', 'travelling', 'in between jobs' or any of the other excuses I have been using for the past six months to justify my lack of employment, I am simply... unemployed. I feel like this has given me some kind of a lesser status than I had previously. Instead of asking me intelligent questions about literature or communism, my friends have started asking me questions like, 'If monocles are called monocles, why aren't spectacles called bicycles?'...  I know that this is not what my parents had planned for me - it's definitely not what I had planned for myself - but this is not a pity party. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Being unemployed is everything I've always dreamed off. Instead of getting out of bed and going to work, I am spending my time writing CVs and generally talking about how great I think I am, which is a nice little hug for my ego. (Or, at least, I thought it was going to be until I realised that I don't actually have any skills that will be useful in a place of work, unless that place of work involves playing Tetris, which I am exceptionally skilled at.) My least favourite part of being unemployed is the severe lack of money flow, which is not working well with the lifestyle I am accustomed to. Instead of going out and spending, I have been trailing to the supermarket with my mum after her kind offer to 'get me out of the house for a bit', searching the house for books that I've not read yet (so far the highlight has been Why Love Matters: how affection shapes your baby's brain), and spending a lot of time huddled up in my bedroom, sitting in front of my mirror and playing my favourite game This Is What I'd Look Like Bald (if anyone's interested, the result is always 'not great'). Still, it's a nice way to let off steam after a hard day of applying for jobs, which is in itself actually quite strenuous. Bullshitting your way through various applications for cleaning jobs really takes it out of you. There's only so enthusiastic you can pretend to be about such work, you know? And it's not just acting like you're really passionate about a finely mopped floor either, you've got to actually prove that you're qualified to do it. After failing to recall any cleaning jobs I have ever performed that would be application worthy, I finally settled on insisting that I was 'proficient in the use of various cleaning tools, including but not limited to Mr. Muscle and the common dish cloth'. If that's not cleaning material, then I don't know what is. (I know, I know, I'm not really in a position to be making remarks like that on application forms, but I did impress myself the other day in an interview when I refrained from saying, 'I've spent £8 on bus fare and I don't want it to go to waste,' in response to being asked why I wanted the job).

I suppose I can't really complain too much, though. It's not like I haven't seen this coming. I even gave myself a post-travelling relaxation period during which my favourite American, Molly, came to stay, giving me further reason to prolong the daunting process of finding employment. I used her visit as an excuse to do some mini-traveling in England, Ireland, Scotland and France. (Sorry Wales, you got displaced). I went down to meet her in London and, keen to avoid the stigma that comes attached to all American tourists, spent the majority of the first day saying things like, "so, do you miss Canada?" in the hopes that people would be more accommodating. This would probably have worked quite well on the whole, but all pretense went out of the window when she whipped out her hand sanitiser faster than you can say "tramp on the underground". If there's anything that screams California, it is hand sanitiser, second only to a chihuahua in a handbag, which thankfully Molly does not possess. On the whole, she did very well and only got shouted at once by a stall owner for saying dollars instead of pounds, and only once did I have to remind her that we drive on the left in England and that, no, that small child is not driving a car. I think I was enjoying her struggles a little too much and was put firmly in my place when we got to Paris and, whilst Molly rattled off degree level comments about the art pieces in the Louvre, I, meanwhile, spent most of the time keeping an internal tally of the amount of genitalia on display and wondering whether or not it would be worth it to start a mosh pit in the crowd gathered in front of the Mona Lisa. (The Mona Lisa, incidentally, was one of about three pieces that I actually recognised). I also spent a fair amount of time wondering whether the chairs were art forms, were there for practical uses (mainly sitting), or were purely decorative. In the end I decided they were for sitting, but I still ended up doing that thing where you sit down but don't put all your weight into it, just in case it had once been thrown up on by Marie Antoinette or something.

I found culture a lot easier to come to terms with in Dublin when all that was required of me was to get drunk in a pub and listen to people singing songs about people getting drunk in a pub. That is culture that I can get on board with. There was a brief moment during our Dublin trip when we were forced to leave the comfort of the pub and go to the Guinness factory, but, again, that was a cultural requirement that I was perfectly happy complying with. Thinking about it, I'm not entirely sure what there is to do in Dublin if you either don't drink or aren't yet old enough to. I can't imagine it's a top holiday destination for anyone under the age of 18, which is unfortunately not something I can say about Edinburgh as it seemed to be somewhat overrun with small children. To be fair, we did spend quite a bit of time hanging around the children's section of the Camera Obscura museum, but still. Nothing made me feel older than watching children run back and forth through a vortex tunnel that Molly and I had just had to vacate for a fifteen minute breather due to a severe bought of motion sickness after walking through it once...

After a camping trip at the weekend with what seemed to be the entire population of my local pub, I think my travelling days have finally come to an end. It wasn't until we arrived at the campsite and started attempting to put up the tent that my mother admitted that the last time she had been camping was when I was 7 weeks old and as such had no idea how to erect a tent and was slightly rusty on the rules of camping. (If you just laughed at the word 'erect', shame on you). I had to aggressively explain to her that it was not good camping etiquette to bring a bucket into the tent in case she needed to go for a wee in the middle of the night, nor did it make it any more acceptable if the bottom was lined with kitchen roll so it 'didn't make a noise'. There were suggestions from my friend Bella of a catheter but I daren't mention it to my mother in case she got any more ideas and decided that it could double as a pillow or something... (Although, one of my mum's friends did have the idea of inflating an empty bag from a box of wine and using it as a pillow, which was decidedly brilliant and impressive). We did eventually manage to get the tent up once reinforcements had been delivered in the form of my mother's friends, by which time I could just stand there touching a bit of canvas and make it look like I was helping. I was especially thankful than my mum had invested in some tent pegs after discarding my sister's reassurances that it wouldn't blow away if we were in it and it wasn't windy. That's not a chance I'm willing to take with a bucket of piss in the tent. In the end, I did actually put my foot down and disallow any use of the bucket, only to have my mum wake me up in the middle of the night to reassure me that she was going to the actual bathroom and would not be using it. There aren't many things I am thankful for at the moment, given my lack of job/money/life etc., but knowing that my mother would not be squatting in a tent next to my sleeping bag and weeing in a bucket was a weight off my mind.