Thursday, 30 July 2015

Nothing says 'I'm doing fine and my life is exactly as I planned' like three bowls' worth of oats coming out of your outside drain...

When I was younger, I had the deluded impression that by the time I was 25 I would have my life together and I would no longer be that one person that everyone used as an example of what not to do and how not to live. It turns out that my impression, as with most childhood impressions, was wrong. Nothing says 'I've got my life together' like running out of your house in a panic at 6am in your pajamas to put the bin out and then battling to find a good place by the side of the road after all the smug bastards that got their bins out on time took all the good spots. Likewise, nothing quite says 'I'm doing fine and my life is exactly as I planned' like three bowls' worth of oats coming out of your outside drain after being poured down the sink, creating an effect that makes it look like your drain has had a rough night out on the town and has now vomited all over the pavement. I mean, lets be honest, nothing really says, 'we're an upstanding part of the local community' like making all of the other kids in the village walk through your breakfast oats on their way to school, right?

On the bright side, despite my life not exactly turning out as planned, it at least has some consistency in that it is not just the outside of our house that fails to give off the impression that we've got it all together, the inside is also doing a fine job. Domestic duties have never really been my forte, but in my defense there's only so good you can be when your appliances are more of a hindrance than a help. Our hoover, for example, is so disastrously inept that it took me almost an hour last week just to hoover the living room. Imagine what it would be like to vacuum a room using a drinking straw and you would come close to something similar to the frustration I experienced. I spent most of the afternoon picking things up off the floor when the hoover missed them (which was almost every time), examining them, and then replacing them on the floor to give the hoover another chance instead of just accepting failure and placing the item in the bin. I'm not sure where this need to give the hoover another chance comes from, it's almost as though it's in our human nature to root for the underdog - resilience in the face adversity and all that. Not that it did me much good - eventually I ended up just picking them up and shoving them up the hoover until they disappeared. Obviously, by the time I had done this with all of the tiny bits of paper and twigs and other things that accumulate when you live with children, the hoover had been on for over an hour and was starting to overheat. I turned it off because I was slightly concerned that the spider Cat had hoovered up three weeks ago was still alive inside the hoover bag and was growing larger and larger, biding its time until the hoover inevitably exploded and he could rise from the dust and take his place as ruler of our house once again. Thankfully, the hoover never did actually explode, however it did refuse to turn on again (obviously its minimal effort and my bringing things to it had caused it to feel overworked) so I had to go creeping to my parents and ask if one of them would lend me their hoover. I did phrase it in such a way that gave my mum ample opportunity to reply with, "well, I'm never at home anyway so you may as well just have mine and keep it," but she didn't accept the bait so I just borrowed my dad's with the sinking feeling that a multi-pack of straws was going to have to last us until next Christmas when I can ask Santa for a new hoover, a new drain, and a the promise that by 30, I will have my life together. As it happens, my dad ended up telling me to just keep the hoover when it became apparent that he was either going to a) never get it back, or b) get it back in three years, broken, and filled with twigs.

Domestic traumas aside, I had an extremely distressing experience recently whereby I almost accidentally consumed a metric shit tonne (genuine measurement) of cocaine. Here's how it happened in a nutshell: my friends and I went out to a bar and got chatting to some people who were out for their friend's birthday. Birthday boy was too much of a wimp to do the birthday shot his friends had bought him, so being the tough rebel that I am, I volunteered myself to do it. Shortly after downing the entire mystery shot, one of the strange men I had just met and accepted a drink of unknown provenance from says to me, "Amy, do you do cocaine regularly?" to which I reply, "no, I've never done cocaine in my life. Why?" He looked sheepishly at the ground and went, "oh, it's just... there might have been a shit load of cocaine in that shot you just drank."

You know those moments in life where you just suddenly think, "oh shit, I have just accidentally consumed all of the cocaine in the world and now my eyeballs are probably going to start bleeding?" Suddenly oats spilling out of your house seem like a treat. As it happened, there turned out to be no cocaine in the drink, which I was extremely relieved about. I've never coped well with drugs - I once left the lid off the glue stick for too long and thought my house was a Hungarian Horntail, can you imagine what cocaine would do to me?

By the way, dad - I know that you're going to read this and then ring me and tell me off for accepting a drink from a strange man in a bar and almost accidentally doing cocaine, so I will fill in my part of the conversation now and save you a job:

You: *ranting down the phone about not accepting drinks from strangers*
... I know...
...I know...
...I know...
...I don't know...
...I know...
...Ok, bye...

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

R Kelly's Body Would Never Have Told Him Yes If He'd Ever Been To Boxercise

Last month marked the one year anniversary of the last time I posted a blog. I realise that this is a significantly long time to be away from the computer, and there have been lots of goings on both in my life and the outside world whilst I have been gone that I feel I should address.

literally the biggest thing to happen to the internet since that time someone leaked naked photos of Jennifer Lawrence. (White and gold, by the way.)

Someone leaked naked photos of Jennifer Lawrence - and it started a big debate about whether it was or wasn't OK for people to search for them, but by the time the verdict came out that it wasn't, everyone had already looked and just had to pretend that they hadn't and agree that it was an awful breech of privacy and the photos should never be searched for again.

Hipsters are out - and, as usual, I have no idea what is in.

I confirmed everyone's suspicions and turned out to be gay - then decided to take things one step further and moved in with my girlfriend and her three kids. Don't feel like you have to pretend to be surprised so as not to offend me - almost everyone I have told so far in the past year has either feigned surprise ("really? No way! But you've always been so... feminine...") or said something along the lines of, 'oh, is that not something that was already a thing?'

I got a new job (finally) - and now I work in a bank and earn a little bit more money and have to wear nice clothes and only work in 8 hour shifts. (Fear not, though - there is still ample opportunity for me to make disastrous mistakes, only now instead of receiving disapproving looks from my superiors, my consequences will come in the form of dismissal and/or a jail sentence.)

So there we are, the internet is all caught up on my life choices and I am now taking it upon myself to pull my socks up and regain my title as Yorkshire's my friendship circle's finest blogger. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank my browser, Google Chrome, for being there when Internet Explorer wasn't. I'd like to thank Firefox for stepping in that time Google Chrome broke and wouldn't stop bombarding me with pop ups of naked cartoon characters - I know it was short notice, and I know it can't have been easy for you, but you did a fantastic job and this blog wouldn't be here without you. I'd like to thank TalkTalk for taking three months to set up my internet when I moved out of my mum's house that time. You showed me that if I really needed the internet, I had the inner strength to seek it (at my mum's house that I'd just moved out of). Nothing sparks determination like deprivation. I'd like to thank my loyal fan base, for always giving me a tonne of hits and then not caring about my well being when I disappeared for over a year... Your lack of e-mails meant a lot to me. Dicks. (I forgive you though. Please still read my blog. I don't have the stature to be picky about the fact that my existence is negligible to you). So thank you everyone, this blog would not be what it is what it once was without you. All of you. (Except you, Internet Explorer, but you knew that...)

As per tradition, I am now going to ramble on about the banalities of my life in such a fashion that is slightly humourous and somewhat embellished, but mostly just cautionary. The first lesson I wish to bestow upon my lovely readership regards the hell-born activity that is boxercise. Understandably, I am assuming that most of you either a) don't know what it is, or b) do know what it is and are therefore mystified as to why I would volunteer myself to take part in such a heinous ritual. As it happens, I was coerced by my former colleagues and, foolishly, agreed to take part. (I'm pretty sure that the name hints at what it is, but I'm just going to quickly explain the art of boxercise here for those of you that are uncertain. Basically, it consists of a roomful of belligerent middle aged women beating the shit out of each other until one collapses in a state of distress and the other is declared victor and presented with a prize of chocolate and a box of Kalms.)** I have only been to three sessions as of yet, but three sessions are enough to realise that my acceptance was a mistake. The first session took place on a Monday, and on the Thursday that followed I was still unable to reach behind me and fasten my bra strap unaided or stand up without crying and causing the people around me to look around in alarm thinking I had gone into labour. I'm finding it difficult to find the emotional and physical strength to go back. In the words of R Kelly, my mind's telling me no, but my body, my body is also telling me no.

*Not technically the definition. There is no prize. There is no winner. There are only losers.
**Also, no one actually gets hit. We just hit at pads like kangaroos with PMS until we collapse in genuine distress.

Monday, 3 March 2014

No, girl I have never met in my life, the noise from downstairs is not bothering me. The fact that you are now crawling underneath my duvet at 3am is.

People are strange, aren't they? One minute, they're complete strangers to you, your paths never having crossed and greetings never exchanged, and then the next minute, it's 3 o'clock in the morning and they're lying uninvited in your bed (whilst you are in it) talking about their work photographing pigs and explaining that, despite never having met you before, they really like you and would very much enjoy being your friend.

 Wait... That's not normal behaviour? Oh. Right. Maybe someone should have explained that to the girlfriend of the housemate I have only met once when she decided that it was acceptable to do just that one night after getting in drunk after a work's Christmas party. There I was, trying to block out the noise of house music emanating from downstairs so I could get to sleep, when my bedroom door opens and in walks a girl I have never seen in my life. Groping her way across my bedroom in the dark, she sits down on my bed and beams at me. "Hiya! I'm Kate! Is the noise from downstairs bothering you?" I stared at her. No, the noise from downstairs is not bothering me. The fact that you are now crawling underneath my duvet is. Of course, that's not what I actually said, because I am too ridiculously polite to tell a stranger to get out of my bed, even if it is completely justified. Instead, I made small talk for an entire quarter of an hour, gave her a courteous pat on the back when she leaned in for a very uncomfortable (for me) and intimate hug, and then told her to go next door and meet my other housemate Nathan, as I'm sure they would get along great. (Nathan was asleep at the time and was somewhat less welcoming than I had been. He has now put a bolt on his bedroom door.)

In other news, I have a new job! Don't get too excited, it's still in the same work place, only now instead of slicing up ham and being patronised by customers, I am in a nice warm office (read: roasting) doing things that fall under the category of 'marketing'. Sounds profesh, right? Part of me (worryingly, the dominant part) wanted to turn up on the first day carrying a briefcase and wearing a power suit, but I didn't want to send a misleading message (the message that I am in any way competent and/or professional.) At first, I was surprised that I'd got the job, but on reflection, I can see why. I mean, who wouldn't hire someone that had created a slide that said 'pause for applause' at the end of their interview presentation? It's understandable. My first week ran as smoothly as can be expected. I spent most of my time (and am still spending most of my time) Googling marketing buzzwords, listening to instructions with a vacant expression on my face and wondering what the hell a spreadsheet was. Even if I had listened in GCSE I.C.T., that was eight years ago, and in the period of time that has since passed I have consumed copious amounts of alcohol and killed a worrying amount of brain cells. After some in-depth internet research that consisted of me doing a Middle Aged Woman search on Google (different to a normal Google search in that instead of searching the words relating to the topic one wishes to explore, one simply asks Google a question. For example, "I am at work and someone has said the word spreadsheet and now I am possibly having a stroke. Can you help me?"), I eventually managed to scrape together enough knowledge to open a new page on Excel and start inputting some data. I always thought of Excel as being like algebra or French - something teachers tell you will come in useful during your life, but deep down you know it really won't and consequently feel it is acceptable to pay no heed. Up until now, I thought I had made the correct decision.

Week two was also not without its trauma. On Monday, as I was taking a stroll around the outside of the shop, treating myself to some fresh air and giving my mind something to think about other than how difficult it is to work at a computer and not play Tetris, I happened upon the goat pen. Noticing one of the goats had only one horn, my sympathetic nature took over and I hung my hand over the pen to pet the unfortunate beast, thinking that his life must have been a hard one, filled with the bullying and the stigma that comes with being a little bit different. The goat (George, if you're interested) came to me like a moth to a flame. He nuzzled the palm of my hand, grateful (it appeared) at my friendly gesture. He soon began to let himself be vulnerable, allowing me to run my hand over his rough fur. I have trouble letting myself be vulnerable with new people too, and George and I definitely had an emotional connection. Before long, he was licking my hand affectionately as I chatted to him about spreadsheets. It was like we'd been friends for years. I was just about to suggest we do something fun over the weekend, maybe eat some cardboard from the warehouse, or perhaps he would let me braid his fur, when out of the blue I felt a sharp pain in my finger as George sunk his teeth into my flesh. My world collapsed. This four legged beast, the one soul who had listened to my Microsoft woes, had comforted me, had let me in, shown me the side of him so often hidden, had bitten me. As the heavy tears, saturated with hurt and betrayal, threatened to cascade down my face, I gave George one last pleading look. I was destroyed. But I was a survivor. I could get over this heartbreak. I took solace in knowing that the friendship we shared was special and would always be a part of me, regardless of the events that just occurred or any that would inevitably follow. (I also took solace in the fact that he was standing in his own shit. Not so tough now, are you dickhead?)

I am into week three now and, so far, things are not looking too bad. I have not broken the printer or caused the entire floor to stink of burning plastic after accidentally melting a whole sheet of plastic in the laminating machine. In fairness, it was a slight improvement from the first time I used to laminating machine when I just put a piece of paper in and expected it to come out the other side laminated. Apparently the plastic is not in the machine. Who knew?

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.