Friday, 13 December 2013

"While I’m sorry to read that you’ve made a number of disastrous life decisions, I can’t see how our letter is responsible for these." People just won't take responsibility for anything these days.

I know it has been a while since I blogged and you're all probably wondering what I've been doing with my life, but you can stop worrying about whether I have finally given up on modern technology, thrown my new phone to the dogs and gone to live in the wilderness without a computer, because here I am. (I know this is probably not the case, and you have probably just been getting on with your own lives and my blog has crossed your mind only once, possibly twice, in the past month, but there are certain things that I need to cling to in order to make it through the day, and the fact that people on the internet might like me is one of them.)

This blog is going to mainly consist of a letter of complaint I wrote to a big company who accidentally sent me a letter about life insurance that was meant to go to my mother. I was extremely proud of it when I had finished until someone brought up the good point of how successful my life could be if I put as much effort into doing something productive as I put into being a dickhead, but nevermind that. To my joy, I received a letter back the following week from a man that I can only assume wears a suit and hates his job but was marginally cheered up by my amusing (distressed) letter. Here they are:

From: Me
To: The Big Company 

Dear Sir/Madam,

I recently received a letter from your company suggesting that I invest in your improved life cover to ensure my loved ones will receive a cash sum should I come to my untimely demise. At twenty-three years old, barely reaching my prime in life, you can imagine the distress and unease receiving this letter has caused me. There is enough pain and suffering that comes with beating a path through the ever thickening forest that is the life of a twenty-something without being forced to think about the possibility of one’s death and it is a pain and suffering that cannot be minimised by your promise of £75 worth of Marks and Spencers vouchers. A new pant suit is not quite the comfort you think it is. 

As a consequence of receiving your letter and your insistence that ‘every day matters’, I have felt an obligation to reassess my life choices and have subsequently made a chain of rather disastrous decisions regarding my career, my lifestyle, and my now somewhat tangled love life. By suggesting I dwell upon the fragility of my mortality, you have caused a significant amount of emotional upheaval in my once calm and collected life. Not only have you caused distress to me, but my elderly mother, who was sitting with me as I read your letter aloud, was pained to think of the death of her youngest and most intelligent daughter. 

I hope I shall never receive a letter like this again and that similar letters have not been sent out to others my age. We are already a generation fighting our way through a swamp of tiny electric radiators and beans on toast, the last thing we need on our innutritious plates is companies like yours forcing ideas of death down our still youthful throats.

Yours faithfully,

Amy Rooke

From: The Big Company
To: Me

Dear Miss Rooke,

Thank you for your recent letter, which we received on 12 November 2013. I’m sorry you’re unhappy because you’ve received a letter from us asking you to invest in life cover. This has caused you distress and emotional upheaval, as our letter has caused you to consider your own mortality. You read our letter aloud to your mother, who was pained to consider your life ending. You’re 23 years old and feel there’s enough pain and suffering at your age, without being forced to think about your death. You feel our offer of £75 worth of Marks and Spencers vouchers doesn’t minimise the pain our letter has caused. Following our letter and our slogan, Every Day Matters, you’ve reassessed your life, which has resulted in a chain of disastrous decisions. You’ve asked us not to send you similar letters and hope other people your age don’t receive anything similar. You’re concerned your generation has enough to deal with, without having ideas of death forced down your throats. 

I’ve looked into your complaint and I can’t see we’re at fault. Although I’m sorry for any unintended upset or distress our recent letter has caused you or your mother, it was sent in good faith. We had no way of anticipating your reaction, or that you’d read it aloud to a family member. All our marketing letters are compliant with guidelines provided by the Financial Conduct Authority. They’re also prepared with guidelines set down by the Advertising Standards Agency in mind. Please allow me to respond in more detail below.

You mention our letter asked you to ‘invest’ in life insurance. However, it’s important for me to point out that like most insurance policies, there’s no investment element attached. Unlike a conventional investment, our life policies have no cash value unless a claim is made. Our marketing letters therefore don’t promote life insurance as an investment. 

Our letter was intended to prompt you to consider and need you may have for life insurance. It wasn’t our intention that you’d consider the wider issue of mortality and we certainly didn’t recommend or advise you to make any changes to your life. While I’m sorry to read that you’ve made a number of disastrous life decisions, I can’t see how our letter is responsible for these. We’ve many customers aged 23 and younger who have life insurance policies and it would be unfair for us to assume that younger people have less of a need than older people. This is why we send marketing mail to a wide audience. 

Our ‘Every Day Matters’ is the slogan we’ve chosen to represent our brand. It embodies what we believe in, care about and stand for as a company. Most companies use a company slogan to represent what they stand for. However, the intention of ours isn’t for customers to completely reassess the way they live their lives. Any changes or decisions you’ve made following our letter have been your decisions and I don’t feel it’s reasonable to hold ‘Every Day Matters’ responsible for this.

Our offer of £75 Marks and Spencers vouchers is a promotional offer for customers agreeing to take out the advertised policy. The vouchers are intended as a ‘thank you’. I’m sorry you’ve interpreted this differently. 

Our Marketing Department have suppressed your details from our mailing lists and Transactis have done the same. However, you may receive one or two more marketing letters, as they’re prepared in advance. I’m sorry for any further unintended distress these cause and if this is the case, please feel free to destroy them. 

Thank you for allowing me to respond and I hope my explanation addresses your concerns.

Yours sincerely,

Big Man in Suit

He didn't really sign it Big Man In Suit, but I think he would have done if he'd been allowed. I think my favourite part of the response is the bit when he says that my disastrous life decisions are not his fault. People just won't take responsibility for anything anymore, will they? And the worst part about the whole ordeal is that I didn't even get £75 worth of complimentary Marks and Spencers gift vouchers. I guess I will just have to continue trudging on through life, eating beans on toast in a decidedly average pant suit and wondering if I can make a living from writing complaint letters. 

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Mess With Me And Your Memoir Mention Gets It

It's here. It's finally happened. (No, I've not started to do something with my life if that's what you thought. Sorry to get you excited if it was). I have got a new phone. It's shiny and modern and takes good photographs and lets me go on the internet when I'm on the bus. On the BUS. Can you imagine? You probably can, because you probably have one of these phones too, but for me, it's all brand new. I have been using the same beat-up Nokia since the late 2000s and have been refusing and refusing for years to upgrade to anything. My reasoning was very much along the lines of, "I don't want to be one of those people who sits in the pub on the phone all evening," and I knew that, should I have the opportunity to, I would probably do that. Because I love the internet. I've not got to the stage yet where I'll sit in the corner all night looking at it, but I did walk into a tree walking home from the pub on Friday night because I was looking at my phone. I've never been hit by a car, but I imagine that it is a pretty similar to what I went through. My glasses flew off my face, my phone flew to the pavement, and my head ricocheted off the tree and into the night. I was so embarrassed that I had to stagger around and pretend to be a lot drunker than I actually was just so the man walking towards me didn't think I was an absolute moron. He probably still thought that, but at least he'll have thought it's because I was highly intoxicated.

The main reason I got a new phone was because I was sick of hearing my friends pipe up with snarky comments every time I got a text. "Ooh, someone just got a message from the nineties!" - Unacceptable behaviour from friends. They should know by now the one most important thing about me: I can dish it, but I can't take it. It's a gigantic problem I have and I'm afraid I've always been this way. I throw a snowball and it gets you right in the eye? Hilarious. I will laugh manically for a good ten minutes, regale the story with mirth for years to come, and still 100% expect us to be best friends forever. You throw a snowball and it gets me in the eye? Oh no. Big no no. There will be a little bit of fake laughter, and then I'll move the conversation away from what just happened whilst secretly thinking, 'oh my God. I thought we were friends. I can't believe they hate me. And that actually really hurt (my feelings).' I will then spend the next week wracked with insecurity and trying to figure out what I've done wrong in our relationship to make you stop loving me. The blood-shot eye from the snowball attack will calm down, but, unfortunately, our friendship cannot be salvaged. I had one of my famous I Fucking Hate X, Y and Z rants the other day about leopard print. I hate it, I really, really despise leopard print, and I will not hesitate to sit there for fifteen minutes solid and list everything that I think is wrong with it. After listening to my passionate speech about the vomit inducing print, my friend told me that she was going to buy me a leopard print t-shirt as a joke and then pretend it was a serious gift. This is the kind of joke that I will happily do to someone else but would never play along with should it be done to me. Even if I suspected that it was a joke, I would never voice my doubt. I would accept it, tell her that I usually don't like leopard print but this is different, maybe it's something about the cut of the collar or the unique fabric that it's made out of? I don't know, but I just love it. I would wear it the next time I saw her. I would wear it even if I knew I wasn't going to see her, just in case I ran into her. I would wear it so much over the following year that people would stop referring to me as, 'that weird girl I always see spilling her pint all over herself in the pub,' and instead I'd be known as, 'that girl that really likes leopard print.' Eventually, one evening as we are cooking tea or playing Scrabble, my friend will say to me, "I can't believe how much you love that t-shirt. I initially bought it for you as a joke, haha!" and then she'd laugh and continue checking the Scrabble rule book to see if adding a Z to pluralise a word counts for points as it's, "how they spell it in the ghetto," and I would sit there, looking like a complete knobhead (not least because I am wearing leopard print), and once again, I would have to scratch another person off the list of people whose friendship I can count on. The moral of the story? I don't really think the moral of the story is not to play jokes on me, I think the moral of the story is probably, 'Amy needs a slap,' but still. Don't play jokes on me. Because I will cry, and we will no longer be friends, and then when I am a rich and famous blogger and I release my largely anticipated memoirs, Rookie Mistakes, that really funny story of us doing something absolutely hilarious will not be included, and the money you could have made from being my friend will be no longer existent, all because of one silly mistake on your part. Think about that next time you think, "wouldn't it be hilarious to do this to Amy?" - because unless you want to be a pauper for the rest of your life, no. It wouldn't be. 

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

What Do You Mean, I Can't Be Enid Blyton?

For some reason, whilst I was up to my usual tricks and putting salt in my coworkers coffee for a laugh, someone at work thought it would be a sensible idea to employ me as a part time marketing office monkey. This basically means that as well as working behind my beloved deli counter, as well as working in the glorified burger van and actually flipping burgers for a living, I also get to spend part of my week getting coffee for the big bosses, sorting out press cuttings, playing on the internet and making sculptures of golden eagles out of paper clips. Within the first hour I had already almost lost a thumb in the paper shredder after trying to unjam it whilst it was still plugged in, so I think my dubiousness about working in an office was not unjustified. When I was younger, I never thought I'd be flipping burgers in order to pay my rent, but just as equally I never thought I'd be working in marketing. Here were my top go-to answers to The Big Question of what I wanted to be when I grew up:
  • A social recluse
  • A marine biologist
  • A writer of adventure novels
  • A cartoonist
These are all the things I wanted to be when I was younger. I spent a few of my adolescent years being a social recluse until I hit seventeen, realised I could get into bars and drink myself into a stupor every weekend, and decided it wasn’t the road for me and I had a good four or five years of talking and socialising to catch up on. My dreams of being a marine biologist went out of the window when, during my GCSEs, I realised I just wasn’t good enough at science for this to be a realistic goal, mainly because instead of listening in science lessons, I was too busy figuring out what I could set fire to with the Bunsen burner and reading the graffiti in the textbooks. (I don’t know about anyone else, but in my school it was commonplace for someone to devise a little game at the bottom of the pages in school textbooks to entertain other pupils. It went something like this:

Turn to page 18
Now turn to page 22
Turn to page 20
Turn to page 83
Turn to page 91 

…and then on page 91 someone had scrawled, ‘your dad’s gay,’ and drawn a very detailed picture of a penis. My school was full of these artistic genii and, although I appreciated them at the time, I now blame them 100% for the fact that I am not in the middle of the ocean right now studying exciting plants and exotic fish. Thanks a lot, dickheads.)

My dream of being a writer of adventure novels went out of the window when I realised that I didn't actually want to write adventure novels anymore because I am no longer seven and have eventually come to terms with the fact that I can't just write Famous Five fanfiction and call it my own. As for the dream of being a cartoonist, that ended when I figured out that I couldn't just draw a doodle of a hippo being eaten by a crocodile whilst sat in a coffee shop and then call it art.

 As such, I have hit a wall in my search for a career and am instead just floating around various roles within the same trusty old workplace until someone trots up with my dream job on a silver platter, artistically decorated with a little sprig of fennel, and tells me they are going to pay me lots of money to sit around and draw animals.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

When In Rome... Don't Do Anything I Did.

Hello world, and welcome to another exciting episode of Amy's Travelling Life. I've not been on my travels in a while (unless you include the seaside towns of northern England, which, no offence to them, I don't really), so it was a good feeling when I woke up one morning and found myself in Italy. (I didn't find myself there in the Alice in Wonderland sense - my sister and I had booked it a while ago for her birthday and then we got on a plane, so it wasn't really a shock...) I'm glad that the universe has not yet given up on trying to traumatise me every time I go to the airport - it's nice to know that there is something reliable that I can depend upon when the rest of my life descends into chaos. The first strike happened just as I was walking through the security checks at Leeds Bradford airport. I can't be the only one that feels nervous walking through security - it's the same feeling of overwhelming and yet entirely invalid guilt I get whenever I see a policeman. I know I've not done anything wrong, just like I know I'm not smuggling five kilos of cocaine through customs in my luggage, but I still feel like they're looking at me with their knowing eyes, watching me sweat profusely, patiently waiting for their sniffer dog to pounce on me and pin me to the ground, ripping bags of drugs from my underwear with its teeth whilst I pretend to look shocked and insist that I'm wearing somebody else's pants. As I repeat my mantra to myself, ('you're innocent, you've not done anything wrong, if Kezia gets taken down for having tweezers in her hand luggage, it is not your fault!'), I feel something strange happen. I can't tell exactly what it is at first, I just know something's wrong. It's like getting in the shower with your socks on - at first, you can't put your finger on what feels different - you just know that something isn't right. It takes me about ten seconds, just enough time for me to get to the metal detector, to figure out what it is. My bra has come undone. If you're a woman, or a bra wearing man, you will know the feeling of panic that floods through your body as you realise this has happened and there is no way to do it back up without drawing a lot of attention to yourself and exposing way more of your midriff than is acceptable in public. As soon as the realisation has dawned on me, everyone knows. I know they do. I can feel airport security looking at me quizzically, trying to determine whether or not I have something suspicious going on under my top. I close my eyes and walk through the metal detectors, praying that they don't go off and prompt the terrifying security guards to start prodding and patting me, discussing between themselves whether or not it is believable that my bra wasn't hiding any drugs and just happened to 'spring open of its own accord' as I walked through security. (Which, by the way, it just did.) Thankfully, the alarms didn't go off and I was able to rush off and grab my backpack, then stand there with my arms folded, hissing at Kezia to hurry up so she could come and discreetly re-do my underwear. A good start, if ever there was one.

Strike two came not too long afterwards, approximately 32,000ft above strike one. As a general travelling rule, Kezia likes to indulge in crappy magazines at the airport so she can be entertained on the plane and ensure that, by the time she lands, she will be well informed of the sex lives of the oddly inhuman women that write into Cosmopolitan. As for me, I'm only in it for the free gifts. (OK, I'll admit it, I like reading about the weird women's sex lives too, but that is neither here nor there.) Anyway. One of the free gifts with this month's Cosmo came in the form of a little sachet of cocoa butter, my favourite of all the body butters, partly because it smells like what I imagine heaven to smell like, and partly because it makes my skin as soft as the silk robes of an Indian prince. As I applied it to my hands, it became apparent that the hand to cocoa butter ratio was not well proportioned and I would have to dispose of the excess butter by rubbing it on my arms. This is where the fun begins. As I stretched out my arm, ready to liberally apply this delightful substance, my cocoa butter-covered hand accidentally made contact with the head of the bald man sat on the row infront. There is no guide to life that could ever instruct me in what to do in this situation. Do I acknowledge it and apologise, thus owning up to what just happened, do I ignore it and feign ignorance if questioned, or do I make up some elaborate story about what it might have been - for example, a raindrop, bird poo, the tears of a flying squirrel (a completely non-fictitious member of the animal kingdom, scientifically referred to as pteromyini)? I opted for the second option, admitting it only to Kezia in a mortified whisper as she gave me a look that was a mix of both amusement and the kind of shame reserved for family members only.

We managed to make it to Rome without any further hiccups and, after dropping our stuff at the hostel, set off to explore. We'd both been told it was a beautiful city so decided that, whichever direction we took, we would end up somewhere nice. Wrong. We managed to take the only street that wound up taking us off the map and into the Italian ghetto, in the pouring rain, with no grasp of the Italian language and only a 3Euro umbrella I bought from a slightly dodgy man outside the train station to shield us from the torrential downpours. It took us well over an hour to make it back to the hostel - we were wet, cold and tired, but ultimately just pretty glad to have not been stabbed. The next day, after a girl in the hostel warned us not to go down the street we had ventured down the night before, it was sunny and warm and we managed to find the real Rome, which, I'm relieved to say, actually is pretty bloomin' beautiful.

As our duty as embarrassing English natives demands, we spent the following week speaking terrible Italian and discovering that there is absolutely no correlation between ordering in Italian and getting what you thought you were ordering. Apparently, a breakfast board saying, 'cappuccino and toast' really means, 'cappuccino and weird ham sandwich', and latte is Italian for milk, not coffee and milk like Starbucks has tricked us all into thinking. When we discovered this, we were too embarrassed to admit it to the waiter and were so determined to shake off the ignorant English-speaking stereotype that we pretended we weren't surprised at all and proceeded to drink a nice cup of warm milk in the middle of the day in 30 degree heat.

As if this wasn't punishment enough for being ignorant, we spent a significant amount of time the following day looking for the Pantheon in order to reinstate our titles as cultural, educated young women. As the designated map reader for the week, I took us down every side street and through every corner cafe before declaring that we were taking a cappuccino break (no more warm milk for us!) in a nice little square with a pretty fountain and a majestic looking building until we were ready to go looking again. We ate pizza and talked about how pretty Italy was, how we loved the little shutters on every window, the cobbled streets and the mopeds, the sunshine and the great coffee. We talked about how beautiful all the buildings were, the one we were sat in front of was particularly beautiful. We wondered what it was. So beautiful was it that we took photos before spending a further 45 minutes walking around the city looking for the Pantheon.

Here is one of the photos we took of the building we were sat in front of.

Yep. That's the Pantheon, alright.

We're really not ignorant. Really. My sister is one of the most intelligent people I know. She can speak Arabic. Arabic, for God's sake. It's just, sometimes, we struggle with things that normal people don't. And neither of us had ever seen a photo of the Pantheon, so you know... We're not entirely to blame in this. I, personally, blame it on a mixture of going to a pretty rubbish comprehensive school and the fact that for the majority of my adolescence I cared more about Nirvana and Harry Potter than learning about things I probably should have been learning about. Kezia got an A in History. She should have known better.

Anyway. Once we discovered that it was the Pantheon, we sheepishly wandered inside and spent more time than was really needed reading the little placards in an attempt to rectify our mistakes. There were some pretty impressive tombs in there and it got me to thinking that, when my time comes, I wouldn't mind being buried in a majestic looking tomb. I realise that it is doubtful that I will ever do anything that has enough impact to warrant me being buried in a tomb, so instead I have made a contingency plan. In the event of a premature death, I will play one last practical joke at the expense of my mother and insist she dispose of me in any of the following ways:

  1. Scatter my ashes in the Bronx area of New York, wearing a Celine Dion t-shirt and neon leggings
  2. Climb all the way to the top of Mount Everest and then fling my ashes off in the most flamboyant manner possible
  3. Take me to the Australian outback in the middle of summer, mix my ashes with water, and then hold me up towards the sun and sing me personalised songs of worship until I evaporate
I know it's a bit farfetched, but given that she never took me to Rome as a child or showed me a picture of the Pantheon, it's really the least she can do.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

If Anyone's Looking For My Mum, She'll Be in My Childhood Bedroom, Getting Stoned and Listening to Enya.

I'm alive! May all of your worrying stop, your tears dry up and your lives be full, once again, with mundane recaps of my extremely average life.

In case you're all wondering (which I'm assuming you have been, and I am also assuming that all the e-mails about my well-being and whereabouts have been lost somewhere in cyberspace), I have not been off fighting crimes or saving citizens, I have just not had the internet for the last two and a half months and have been doing real things with my life instead of staying in all evening looking at videos of Julia Gillard falling in high heels and reading articles exposing the top 20 most shocking Disney secrets. (n.b. by 'doing things with my life', I actually mean, 'going to the pub a lot more than usual and re-reading my entire bookcase'). Now I've got the internet though, all the fun can stop and I can once again spend the majority of my nights sat in a bath towel two hours after vacating the shower, trying to think of big words that I don't understand so I can Google their definition and then use them in a blog post to make myself seem intelligent. It's nice to get back to normal.

As can be expected, my limited access to the internet has resulted in my having to leave the house on a regular basis and there has consequently been a significant increase in my interaction with the tramps and vagabonds of Bradford. Half of the population of Bradford is taken up by lovely strangers who will hold the door for you and old school mates who will pretend not to see you whilst you pretend not to see them because neither person can be bothered with small talk. However, the other half (to be honest, it’s more like the other 70%) is taken up by crack heads, homeless people, and creepy men in leather trilbies. I got on the bus the other day and was leaning against the pole because all the seats were taken. A member of the creepy-men-in-leather-trilbies club was sat opposite and decided it would be appropriate to growl, “I’ve got a spare knee if you want, love.” Despite his obvious allure (and the fact that he may or may not have had an erection), I decided it would be best to decline his kind offer.

Whenever I see a homeless person, I'm always overcome with this horrible guilt knowing that I have a roof over my head and food in my cupboards (even though the food in my cupboards mainly consists of Cornflakes and the roof over my head could theoretically fall down at any given moment). When some poor chap wrapped in a sleeping bag asks me for 8p for bus fare, I can never say no, even when I know that the majority of the time it is not for bus fare, and even though as soon as I reach into my pocket they usually say, "oh, if you could round it up to a quid, that'd be great, thanks love." The other day, I gave someone a pound for 'bus fare' and he replied, "cheers darlin', you're as sweet as a carrot, you!" - Part of me wanted to sit myself down next to him and spend some time explaining similes, but I wasn't 100% sure that I didn't used to sit near him in my year 8 maths class and I didn't want that awkward what-are-you-doing-these-days? conversation. (And also, when I told this to my friend later on in the day, she advised me that actually carrots have quite a high sugar content, so I guess maybe he was trying to teach me something...)

I guess I can’t really complain about earning below the living wage when I can still afford to eat and spend ridiculous amounts of money on cooking appliances. Last week I bought a frying pan that cost £16. Sixteen pounds! I suppose to someone who actually cooks and makes fancy, culinary masterpieces, that might not seem like a lot, but when all you want is an omelette and the occasional pancake, it is nothing short of extortionate. Here are some of the things I could have bought instead:

  • A taxi to town, a pint, and a taxi home
  • 16 5-packs of Animal Crackers
  • 16 scratch cards (or 8 of the good ones)
  • 32 games of pool
  • Several outfits from Primark
  • The whole Friends series on DVD (only if they’re pirate copies)
  • A book on how to save money, with a pound left over for a scratch card
  • Five pints and five packets of crisps
  • A replica of Miley Cyrus's VMAs performance outfit on eBay
  • 16 copies of Katie Price’s novel from a charity shop
  • A down payment on an item of clothing from Urban Outfitters

I'm aware that some of these would not explicitly be classed as 'necessities', but when a grown adult in full time employment cannot afford animal crackers, then something is up with the world. I went for tea at my mum's last night and whilst I was there I did my usual subtle pilfering and managed to make off down the driveway two hours later with a jar of Branston pickle and a handful of washing tablets.That's what parents are for, correct? I also feel like she kind of owed me as whilst I was there she broke the news, not very sensitively, I might add, that she's turning my childhood bedroom into a 'therapy room'. I'm not entirely sure what this entails, but I'm assuming it involves some kind of Indian head massage apparatus, healing crystals and some other new age, hippy paraphernalia. I'm slightly concerned that the next time I go round she'll be sat in there getting stoned, lighting incense sticks and listening to Enya, but I suppose there are worse roads she could take.

Maybe I should go into the field of tunic wearing, soft talking spiritual therapy. At least then I would have something to say to old friends of my mum's who still come up to me and congratulate me on the degree I got two years ago. When I point this out to them, they laugh as though I've said something hilarious and then say, "well, yes, but it's still a very good achievement!" - What they really mean here, is, "well, yes, I know, but you've not really done anything since then so I have to pretend that you're still impressive for the sake of your poor mother. God love her. No wonder she's turned to marijuana." Some of them take the other route and, when I tell them I still work in a farm shop, they click their tongue and say, "but you're so clever!" - That's my particular favourite. I think they've all clearly overestimated me - obviously none of them saw me spend ten minutes the other day looking for my phone before realising I was talking on it.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Catapults, Space Hoppers and Dogs That Look Like Bears

Now I’m settled in my new cemetery home, I have taken on the mighty task of going through all of my junk and discarding everything that I don’t have space for in my very full life. If you’ve ever been in my bedroom, you’ll know that I am just on the verge of being someone that could be classed as a
proper hoarder. I have enough stuff (only a tiny amount of which has any actual worth) to fill an entire house and still not have adequate space. Pointless things I discovered during my task include a stress ball I bought in Canada in 2002 and have never once used, a dinosaur from McDonalds that I acquired when I was still in primary school, several juggling balls, two inflatable guitars, an adult sized space hopper, a catapult, a Moroccan drum, a glass cube that has absolutely no function whatsoever, 13 odd slipper socks, and a pair of glasses that say Year 2000 across the top. (The glasses very almost made the ‘keep’ pile as an historical artifact of turn of the century fashion, but it was between them and the space hopper, and ultimately, I felt that the space hopper would prove a more enjoyable object and could maybe make me a bit of extra cash if I tape the handles down and rent it out to my mum as an exercise ball.)

One of the hardest challenges I faced was deciding which notebooks to keep and which to discard. I wouldn’t say that I lose things a lot as everything eventually finds its way back to me, but I do have a slight problem with keeping track of all my pointless shit and all too often my treasures find themselves geographically misplaced for months at a time. As a result of this, I have roughly 1,000 notebooks (only an ever so slight exaggeration), each showcasing on average about seven pages of writing before they inevitably got lost, only to be discovered years later tucked underneath the storage box of an adult sized space hopper. I think my biggest problem is not being able to differentiate between interesting notebooks that would be worth keeping (for example, diaries, although the sheer humiliation that comes from re-reading them isn’t really worth it), and notebooks that are full of rubbish (for example, games of hangman and repeated graffiti that has worryingly narcissistic undertones).

A small part of me wants to hire myself a life coach who could convince me that I don’t need a space hopper taking up vital space and I could similarly probably live without the catapult that also made the ‘keep’ pile. It worries me to think that I am only 23 and my obsession with buying junk does not seem to be faltering in the slightest. Already my CD collection is taller than my ceiling, but that’s not so bad as I think that having an abundance of CDs has its positives as well. For example, I can use them as make shift coffee tables, coasters, mirrors etc. And, the more CDs I own, the easier it is to disguise the fact that I own a Gareth Gates album, three Savage Garden albums, and more than one CD that only plays whale calls and ‘sounds of the ocean’ repeatedly for an hour and a half…

I think out of all the boxes of useless crap, my favourite find has got to be my old school reports. I always thought I was a pretty smart kid when I was younger (and yes, before you ask, I did just go downhill from there), but after coming across a project I did in year 7 where I blatantly admitted to the teacher that I’d not done the work (something I apparently struggled with my entire way through school, if my GCSE report is anything to go by), I’m not so sure. In this particular book report, I had filled out the answer booklet with the following answers:
Q. Why did you like this part of the book? A. Because the man dies.
Q. What are your predictions? A. Someone else dies.
Q. Why do you think this? A. Because it happens in a lot of books.
Q. What do you think the main point of the book is? A. That people shouldn’t live forever. I know this because I read part of the book.
Q. Do you agree? A. I agree with the main point because of what people have told me about the book.

I’m not convinced that a ‘smart’ child should be so honest about their lacklustre approach to their studies, and, judging by the “redo and see me” comment scrawled in red pen at the bottom of the page, my teacher evidently agrees. She obviously still liked me though, as later on that year I got a certificate to take home to my mum. There were several boxes that could be ticked as reasons for the award, including ‘kindness to others’, ‘excelling in class’, and ‘continuous effort’, however all of these had been left blank and instead my teacher had ticked ‘other’ and written, ‘Amy is a lot of fun!’ - I’m taking this to mean that I was crap at history and socialising appropriately with the other children, but she would definitely want to go for a pint with me.

I always knew academia would never be a significant element of my lifestyle after I had finished my required education. My approach to life has always been fairly laid back and easy-going – I think you can probably tell a lot about the things that go on in my head if you take a quick look at my internet history. My past Google searches include such gems as ‘dogs that look like bears’ and ‘how do I make my pancakes fluffy?’ My YouTube recommendations are also pretty telling – last week it suggested a video of a slow loris eating a rice ball. Incidentally, for your own benefit, you should all definitely Google dogs that look like bears. They’re amazing. Also, watch the video of the slow loris eating a rice ball. It will improve your day tenfold. It’s like yoga for the internet community. In fact, better yet, feel free to come over and watch it at my house, where not only will you have the greatest time fawning over the slow loris, but you can do it whilst sat on a space hopper listening to Savage Garden. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a fantastic way to spend a weekend. I imagine it’s almost as good as actually having a life…

Friday, 14 June 2013

All My Neighbours Are Dead

You know when you’re younger and you read stories about people living in weird but exciting places, like theme parks or tree houses or that Christmas film with the family that live in the tent section of a department store? I always wanted to be one of those people, but I think that somehow my request has fallen victim to the cruel fate of Chinese whispers and somehow been muddled up, so although life might have tried its best to grant me my wish, instead of living in a theme park I am now living in a cemetery. Not next to a cemetery, not near a cemetery, but actually in a cemetery. People tend to be a bit apprehensive at first, but then they start to come around to the idea when I tell them how low my rent is. Working for minimum wage tends to lower your standards in most aspects of life, so an old cemetery house with a bathroom sink that may come off the wall at any given moment is really no big deal. Low rent combined with finding nearly £8 inside an old armchair pretty much means I’m rolling in it now - or as much as a poor person can be considered rolling in it anyway. My mum and I eagerly slashed open the bottom of the poor chair after hearing coins rolling around inside it – all we need now is a fridge in the garden and we’ll be a proper white trash family.

When I’m not torturing myself with thoughts of zombies, trying to decide whether the smell downstairs is rat urine, dead bodies, or just ‘old house smell’, or doing my best to give off the impression that I am normal to my new housemates, I actually really enjoy living amongst the dead. They’re excellent neighbours, they never complain about the noise, and my garden is always full of fresh flowers. It does have its down sides, though. For example, it’s not very well lit, so when I’m trying to find my front door in the dark coming home from the pub, there’s always the slight possibility that I’ll end up flat on my back in a freshly dug grave. I think that would give a whole new meaning to waking up in someone else’s bed…

Another downside is my new abode happens, purely coincidentally, to be a 45 second walk from my mum’s house. I never wanted to be that person that moves around the corner from their mother, but sometimes things just work out that way and you have to deal with them. Living so close has its benefits, don’t get me wrong. It was particularly useful in the first few days when I’d not done a proper shop and I could wait until she went out and then sneak round and make myself some dinner. It’s also very convenient that she is close enough to pop round and do handy jobs like putting up blinds and shelves for me whilst I’m at work – it pays to have a loving, retired mother at times like this. She doesn’t half make life hard for herself sometimes, though. Last week she spent an hour and a half trying to drill holes in my wall before realising she had the electric drill in reverse and was in effect just forcing it into the wall with the productivity rate of a teaspoon… (Despite all her helpful efforts, she is not doing a great job with the ‘make Amy seem normal’ plan – during my first week she took it upon herself to lay a new shower mat in the bath. Normally, this would not be a problem, however, this particular shower mat was bright green and in the shape of a crocodile. Naturally. Because who can live without one of those?)

As a general rule in life, I have grown to accept my lot. I have accepted that my mother is going to buy ridiculous home furnishings and lay them out for all of my housemates to see instead of gradually letting my weirdness out in small bursts so that by the time they realise just how weird I am, we’re already friends and it’s too late. I have accepted that I am going to find myself in an awkward situation on a bi-weekly basis, and I have accepted that life is usually going to do everything it can to make me look like a knob, but there are still times when I find myself in a situation and all I want to do is crawl into a hole in the ground and ask whoever is listening, ‘why me?’

Some Why Me moments are worse than others. For example, the time I accidentally pulled the emergency cord in Waterstones’ toilets – humiliating, but not crushing. The time I set off all the alarms in Tesco after accidentally stealing an orange – embarrassing, but recoverable. The time I projectile vomited at the back of the bus and then had to sit there waiting for my stop as sick gradually made its way all the way down the aisle to the front – embarrassing, humiliating, and just all around mortifying. This week’s Why Me moment consisted of my new manager calling me Jean (see previous post about name badge), and, instead of correcting her, I answered to it, had a conversation with her, and then let her walk away and continue to think my name was Jean. I guess I’m just going to have to change it by deed poll and deal with it. Verdict: Awkward, but avoidable if willing to make alterations to birth certificate.

Work really has been all fun and games this week as not only have we got a new manager, but I also got to go on the health and hygiene course, which was beyond exciting, let me tell you. There’s nothing I love more than sitting in a tiny, stuffy room on my day off, looking out over the fields as the sun is shining for the first time since last year, listening to someone tell horror stories about finding a worm in a Sainsbury’s sandwich, finding ants in a loaf of bread, and a butcher going to jail for accidentally killing 19 old age pensioners after a serious incident of cross contamination. When she started asking us what the best conditions were for micro-bacteria to reproduce, I couldn’t stop myself from offering up ‘mood lighting and Barry White’ as an answer. Apparently, that was incorrect and she was slightly displeased, but a little romance never hurt anyone. (She was also displeased when a sheep from the field outside the window backed up, rested its rear end on the windowsill, and defecated all over the window, but some people are just difficult to please).

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

"We Both Know About the Food Chain, We Both Know What's About to Go Down, So Get Off My Patch, You Onesie Wearing Weirdo."

Good afternoon, fanbase! I hope you all enjoyed the sunny bank holiday last weekend as much as I did, although it's highly doubtful as I had the greatest weekend camping at the seaside, consumed a grand total of 29 pints of cider between Friday and Monday, went paddling in the sea and ate ice cream. My personal highlight of the weekend though (along with the cider, the sea, and the ice cream), was my friend's mum eating what her husband assured her was mangetout (I, for one, would be suspicious of anything named that anyway), but turned out to actually be a very hot chili. I have a sneaking suspicion that if I ever have a near death experience and my life flashes before my eyes, that moment will be on constant loop until my time comes, along with two other of my favourite moments in life, one being when a woman fell down the escalator in Primark (she wasn't hurt, it's not as mean as it sounds) and the other when I saw a pretentious, snobby woman walking through town get her high heel stuck in a grate. All three are fantastic moments and I think all have played a part in the person I am today.

As drinking goes, 29 pints over one weekend is probably my greatest achievement yet (at one point, I actually drank the pub clean out of cider, which I'm quite proud of) but I don't think it's a personal best that I'll be trying to top anytime soon as I'm fairly certain that some damage has been done to my internal organs. After regaling the tale to my mum, she did not try to hide her displeased tone and wasted no time in telling me that I was probably going to contract some horrific disease and die before the end of the week. I've taken it upon myself to have a detox month - not because I think she's right, but... you know, just in case.

I feel that camping in Britain, even in the summer months, is a risk that inhabitants of warm countries just cannot understand. There is nothing worse than trying to put up a tent whilst rain is hammering down on you and the wind is blowing your ground sheet halfway across the campsite. (Well, there are probably some things that are worse. For example, I'd probably take the tent over getting aids or being eaten alive by a crocodile, but unhappiness is relative.) Fortunately for us, there was quite a lot of unprecedented sunshine over the weekend, which helped a lot with my "tan" but did not provide as much support as I would have hoped in terms of erecting my tent. There are some many things in life that I am not good at, and putting up a tent is one of them. (The list also includes putting duvet covers on, doing cartwheels, long division, cutting wrapping paper in a straight line, making good first impressions and doing things with my life.) Even with four other people helping my tent still ended up being wonky, but I found solace in walking around the campsite in a crocodile onesie and assuring myself that, despite my tent erecting skills, I was still the coolest person on the campsite, as one young child dressed a zebra discovered after I shouted, "bring it, bitch!" and gave her a knowing look that I hope translated as, "we both know about the food chain, we both know what's about to go down, get off my patch, you onesie wearing weirdo."  (For future reference, onesies are very warm for camping in but, with hindsight, they are not the best attire for getting up to go for a wee in the middle of the night).

To be honest, I don't think onesies should be worn by children anyway. Unless you have the skills to wee in a field without weeing on your crocodile tail, then you don't deserve to wear one. You know what really creeps me out about children? (Once again, my maternal side is just bursting to get out.) How nonchalant they are about the concept of pregnancy. "Oh my God, I can switch this light on and off seven times in a row - how HILARIOUS is this? I just don't understand how it can be off and then, suddenly, there's light! What the hell! Mental! What's that? There's another human living parasitically inside mummy and in nine months it will come crawling out of her vagina and come and live with us? Cool." How does that make sense? They can't figure out why putting a square block into a triangular hole doesn't fit, but they're fine with the idea that you can grow your own human? (I'm aware that I am talking about pregnancy a lot recently and I would just once again like to reiterate that this is not indicative of my maternal state, although I am starting to wonder whether my unconscious is trying to tell me something. If in six months I buy a puppy, you'll all understand why, although I feel like I will never be in a place in my life where I feel comfortable enough to be solely responsible for an animal. Every time someone leaves me alone with their cat and it has a hairball in its throat, I convince myself that it is choking to death and I will have to either a) be blamed forever for the demise of someones beloved family pet, or b) have to give mouth to mouth resuscitation to a cat. I'll be honest, neither option is particularly inviting.)

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Nobody Likes You When You're 23

I don't look much older. I don't feel much older. I definitely don't act much older... But, as it is, I am much older. I am 23, and that is that, and, according to blink-182 and a birthday card from my sister, 'nobody likes you when you're 23,' so I'm just going to have to deal with it.

I have gone to the liberty of making a list of things that, as a 23 year old, I should probably try and phase out of my lifestyle:

  • Wearing a name badge at work that says 'Jean' because I have lost mine, and then refusing to answer to anything else
  • Letting my boss catch me 'playing hopscotch up and down the counter for ten minutes and not doing any work'
  • Correcting my boss when she reprimands me for this by telling her it was not hopscotch but in fact the Cha Cha Slide dance routine
  • Anything involving the Cha Cha Slide dance routine
  • Cheestrings
Instead, I will fill my time with only intelligent conversation and respectable actions. My working attitude will be less belligerent and I will execute my customer service with the gravitas it deserves. As a kickstart to my new, dignified lifestyle, I had a trial run and attended a dinner party at my friend Bella's house. (I say attended, I was technically co-hosting, but mostly all I did was turn up in denim, take control of the music, and force Tequila on the other guests). During the dinner party, conversation turned, as it does at dinner parties, to people's experiences of being on TV. Notable appearances include Bella's dad having multiple cameos on Time Team and our friend Alun expressing his views on politics, doctoring, and the new 20p coin. When it came to my family, however, we deviated slightly from standard dinner party etiquette as our only claims to fame were my cousin Steve debuting on Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents and my sister making an appearance on a channel 4 documentary about phone sex. All we need now is for me to go on Jeremy Kyle and we've got a full set.

Once, when I was twelve, I went on holiday to Gran Canaria and the musician in the bar let me have a go on his guitar and play a really depressing Nirvana song to families drinking sangria and trying to be happy. (This was the start of a stage I went through where all I would wear were baggy jeans with skulls on them and big jumpers. Even on holiday. In 35 degree heat). As I left the stage, the musician thanked me and said maybe he'd see me on TV one day, and then, in an undertone, 'on Crime Watch.' I only hope that one day I can fulfill this man's prophecy and end up on Crime Watch, if not because I have committed an impressive crime, then at least as a victim in a reconstruction of a mugging, complete with dramatic screaming and, I can only hope, a swag bag.

I feel like if I ever got mugged in real life I would be the biggest disappointment ever. (Story of my life, I know). Someone would come over with a pistol and demand all of my valuables, and I would just have to stand there, probably having pissed myself, and hand over the Nokia mobile phone I've had since 2007 that has a missing back and £3.42 in change. I think I would end up being more embarrassed than traumatised... Maybe I'll invest in an iPhone, just so I can have a scrap of dignity when my time eventually comes. To be honest, I'm not sure why I don't just get a new phone anyway, regardless of mugging prospects. I think I've grown so used to all of my possessions being broken through lack of care that I can't actually envision a world in which I don't have to stand on a chair holding my radio aerial in order to get Radio 1 or support my camera lens when taking a photo so it doesn't fall out of the body. My glasses have also recently joined my growing collection of broken possessions after I dropped them at work and broke the frame. I had to spend my morning in search of a strong adhesive to hold them together and then, in the afternoon, I had a phonecall from Specsavers saying that as I have ignored their relentless phone calls and letters, they are assuming that I no longer require their contact lenses and have cancelled my direct debit. Consequently, I am now too embarrassed to go and get my glasses fixed and I can't wear contacts because my supply has been cut off, leaving me walking around with broken glasses that are, despite what the last ten people who've noticed have told me, very noticeable.