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Dreadful Nonsense

"I've read your blog. it's really funny. you should write a column." - Jon Ronson

30 November 2005

Tea At the Ritz Part Two.

I know people who have lived in London all their lives, and have never had tea at the Ritz. Me, I’ve been here for just over half a year and I’ve been twice. At this rate I’ll be spending £140 per annum on clotted cream and muffins.

As with anything, the second time around isn’t half as exciting as the first. We were a bigger group, rather than the intimate gathering of myself and Mrs Bishop the last time, which meant that we got a bit more service – and the ladies I was with LOVE their refills – but a lot less attention. The ladies I was with were Kiwis, and desperate to get their money’s worth from the occasion, switching types of tea at every opportunity and eating more than I thought was possible of scones and cream cakes.It was still a glory and great fun to behold, but I think I might leave it a little while before the next trip. I spent more time trying to take good photos of the tea pots than paying attention to the murmur and pomp around me. One becomes too blasé too easily, doesn’t one.

28 November 2005
I can count the number of times that I’ve thrown up in the last ten years on the fingers of one hand. I, lovely ladies and gentlemen, am not a puker. I do not vomit easily. There is not a great deal of up chuck in my life. Alcohol makes me twirl around and fall over, and gives me poorly head and sicky tummy the following day, but I’ve only ever thrown up twice due to alcohol. Twice in one lifetime. That’s quite a good score.
That’s why I found myself standing on the platform of St Pauls tube station with a look of mild surprise on my face. I had finally got around to leaving work, about 4 hours after I really should have done, because I do not vomit. I had decided to get on the tube despite slight reservations because I do not vomit. I had only leapt off the tube I had got on because it was too hot. Not because I was about to vomit. Because I do not vomit.

I threw up on the platform of the tube station. Five seconds later, and the train would have left, with me on it, and then there would have been vomit all over the lovely tourists on the central line.

I’ve always wondered about those ladies that you quite regularly see sitting up and down tube stations across this great city, particularly during the summer, being crouched around by tube station staff and passed cups of water. I need wonder no more.

So there I stood, vomit on my skirt and boots and still that look of mild surprise on my face, being closely followed by an urge to cry, and a slightly stronger urge to faint. The commuters all filed past me and ignored me completely, until one lady, on the tube that had pulled up behind the one I had leapt off, spotted me through the window and got off the train to come and help. She went and got a tube man, and then, having pressed a huge lump of tissues into my hand, got back on the next tube and went on her way. At that moment I felt deeply shamed for having adopted the same London-style attitude numerous times in the last six months when I saw ladies in a similarly distressed state.

Food poisoning is not fun. It is almost in fact the complete opposite. Not only do you get to vomit, but you get to vomit copiously, and over a period of hours rather than minutes. Eventually, your stomach doesn’t quite get the message that there’s nothing left to vomit, and you’re left doing that empty vomiting when you’re going through the motions of vomiting without any of the relief, and wishing to die right then and there.

Twenty four hours later, and all I’ve eaten is boiled 7up, which seems to be staying down quite nicely It’s supposed to be incredibly difficult to get food poisoning as a vegetarian, something I had smugly remarked to He Who Only… just the week before. And the worst thing is, He… had eaten exactly the same food as me the night before, and wasn’t in the least bit affected.

25 November 2005

You will all remember fondly the time, about a year and a half ago, when I went and got my first tattoo. I expected to freak out. I half thought that maybe I would faint. I at least thought that it would be quite a painful experience. It was none of the above. Oh, okay, so it hurt a little, and it did some bleeding, and I spent the following eight hours showing my arse to people that I barely knew while rambling around Edinburgh in a drunken embarrassment, but 16 months later and I have yet to regret getting it done. I still catch myself looking back at myself in mirrors, and buying new trousers dependent on how well they show off the old tatt.

I have in actual fact been absolutely desperate to get another one, and that itching became all the greater once the original tattoo’s anniversary came and went. I had always intended to go back the following year to Edinburgh and get another one, but with one thing and another that didn’t happen, and I couldn’t come up with a design that I felt would be suitable to follow me through the rest of my days. If there’s one thing you shouldn’t rush in to, it’s the indelible scarring of tattoos.

Which is why it kind of came as something of a surprise to me on Tuesday 22nd of November when I found myself sitting on a chair with a lady sitting in front of me, who was drawing stars on to the top of my right foot without a care in the world. Stars? Foot? The thought hadn’t even occurred to me two weeks before hand.

I’ve been scrambling around for ages for a design of an angel that I’m happy with to get done just below my right shoulder. I have a very vague idea of what I want, and a very strong view on what I don’t want, and what I don’t want is everything I’ve seen so far, so it’s quite frustrating. But I didn’t want to keep getting little tattoos done, because, as Mrs Bishop quite rightly pointed out, I’d end up looking like a child had taken a pen to me while I slept. The Kelly Osbourne / Robbie Williams approach to tattooing, where you start off with one tiny thing and then wake up one day covered in permanent scribbles.

But then the stars idea came and I couldn’t stop the run away train that is my compulsive nature. And so I found myself clutching on to a chair and trying to look brave while a lady touched my feet – I HATE PEOPLE TOUCHING MY FEET I CAN’T EMPHASISE THAT ENOUGH – and inked me good and proper.

Can I just stress for people who’ve never had a tattoo, but would maybe quite like one if only they were brave enough – Tattoos. Don’t. Hurt. They really really really really don’t. They really don’t.

They don’t.

I’m incredibly happy with the result. Sure, it doesn’t make my foot look any less dumpy or my toes any less tiny and weird looking, but it makes me sparkly every time I see them. I’ve been walking around barefoot every time I’m indoors and sockless every time I’m outdoors. I’ll be dead by the end of January, but who cares? Sparkle feet!

24 November 2005
Okay. I’m sorry. I’ll admit it: the rumours are true. It has been almost two weeks since the last update (I think that’s a personal record right there) and I am about to do the mother of all back entries (don’t be rude). But I’ve been waiting for Hello to upload my wonderful photographs, which is refusing to do, and I’ve been waiting for blogger to stop hosting porn so that I can post during working hours, which it is refusing to do, and I’ve been waiting for life to slow down a notch or two so that I get the chance to breathe and reflect, but it’s refusing to do that too. So, therefore, dearest kindest most best looking reader, do hang on and keep coming back. Do, please, keep coming back. An audience is what I live for, I long for your praise and more importantly your approval. Also, photos. Some of them of naked feet. Imagine that!

23 November 2005
I was queuing at a cash machine at the top of the high street a couple of weekends ago, and, it being London, there was a homeless man sitting directly beside the cash machine, cap out in front of him and huddled up against the cold, asking each person, as they reached the machine, for some spare change.

This particular man, however, seemed to have been slightly under the influence of some kind of substance, and in my limited experience on this matters, I'm guessing that the substance he had imbued was slightly illegal.

There were still two people ahead of my in the queue when he suddenly jumped up from his huddled position and started telling to two girls behind me, who were having a perfectly reasonable conversation about shoes or ponies or babies or something, to shut up. "Shut up!" he yelled, "nobody can hear me if you keep talking!" They looked startled, and almost immediately then turned back to each other and resumed the conversation, as if being heckled in a queue was a regular part of their life.

"Be quiet!" he yelled again, "stop talking! Stop it!"

"Now," he declared, turning to the rest of us once the girls had momentarily stopped again, "can everybody hear me clearly?"

We all looked around, at our feet, across the road, anywhere other than in his direction. This didn't see to concern him. At this point I was at the front of the queue, and started to take out my money, worried that at any moment he would notice and start speaking directly to me. He hadn't, however, yet finished with the chatty ladies.

"You two! Can you hear me?"

They looked at each other and then looked at him, and didn't respond.

I took my money and walked away.

Last night, running slightly on my way to the pub, I passed the same man on a different part of the street. As I passed, he held his arms out as if to hug me and started laughing. "I LOVE YOU!" he yelled.

20 November 2005
I got to the platform with about 30 seconds to spare before the train was due to arrive. The signs at the train station are forever scrolling through a variety of information, which I find sticks in my brain every morning if I stare at them too hard, and so I know the exact order of each and every train station between here and Liverpool Street, which runs through my head in a monotone, much akin to the manner in which the shipping forecast is delivered.

It took me a moment to realise that the train time, rather than reading "10.06 - due 10.09 - 10.06 - due 10.09" or some such spurious and quite often highly inaccurate information, was instead reading "10.06 - cancelled - 10.06 - cancelled".

Oh bums, I thought, since I'd left myself less than an hour to get to the Ritz in time. I considered my options, and decided, instead of asking the man napping in the ticket office above the platform that I'd ring the train information service people, because I thought that talking to someone in Newcastle, Belfast or Bangladesh was just the thing I needed at that moment.

I got through to Newcastle, and a jolly young man asked me for the route of my intended journey. I told him I was already standing in the train station, and that the information sign was saying "10.06 - cancelled - 10.06 - cancelled" over and over again in what, I suspected, was a mildly smug tone. I asked the man, who was sitting directly beside Scotland and therefore quite far from where I was shivering in my skirt and frankly fantastic boots, if the next train would be arriving any time soon.

The man considered it for a moment, and then told me that the 10.06 had been cancelled. Yes, good, I thought, he's looking in the right direction at least. "Mmhm," I said, hoping to prompt him in to further information. I glanced down the track. Something glinted in the morning sunlight.

"There's been a fire in a signal box," the man continued, "so the 10.06 has been cancelled."

"Yes," I said, hoping he'd carry on with some information that we hadn't both already established, as I squinted down the tracks to try to make out clearly what the big, square, metal thing on wheels was coming towards us.

"There won't be any more trains on that line for at least two more hours."

"Right," I said, "two hours?"

"At least," he continued, as I watched the 10.06 pull into the platform in front of me.

"Okay, so," I said, boarding the train, "I'll go get a bus. Thanks for your help."

"No problem," he replied, clearly confused by the beeping noise he could hear down my phone that could only be the closing doors of the 10.06 to Liverpool Street.

14 November 2005
Brief search on books about blogging - I'm loving the second in the list of "you may also be interested in these items..."

Bit too appropriate a metaphor for blogging, really.

13 November 2005
Pick up two heavy bricks. Hold them either side of your head. Use them to repeatedly hit yourself across the head and face until the ringing in your ears drowns out the sound of your own screaming, and you drop to the floor.

This is approximately how much fun flat hunting is.

Combining the joys of irritating your current housemates by putting them through another torturous round of housemate interviews, causing stress to your own relationship by suddenly revealing to your better half the exact extent of your frightening control freakery, and inducing the limb numbing misery of having to deal with estate agents on a daily basis: flat hunting is not and has never been a respectable hobby.

The long and short of it all is that we've found the best flat in the world, located directly between the train station that takes us to work and the pub in which we spent all of our wages (i.e. the two places we will be found when not in the office or at home), fully furnished and more importantly fully affordable, and one thing after another means that we probably will never get closer to the sniff of moving in. It's only been two weeks, I grant you that, but blimey heck I think we've already suffered enough.

All I'm asking, internet, is for somewhere to live. I don't think that's a tremendous amount to ask, is it? Also, I'm asking for permission to kill the estate agent we're currently dealing with. Again, is that too much? Is it?

I didn't think so.

09 November 2005
“Of course,” he said walking towards me, “I would never hurt you.”

As conversation openers go, that’s certainly a show stopper. Oh Christ, I thought to myself, we’ve got a live one here.

“I just want to touch you,” he continued. I looked around for back up, but couldn’t see anyone anywhere near. The man kept advancing. Somewhere in the distance, a bell rang, and someone started calling about what sounded like ‘fresh pies’. I started stepping backwards, but he kept moving towards me, and in the end all I could do was hold my arm out to stop me coming any closer. He took my left hand, and shook it limply.

“Do you know this song?” he said, pointing at the ceiling from where a song was being played. I did, as it happened. It was in fact my favourite song ever in the world, which I’ll admit isn’t showing my good taste in all its glory, seeing as how it was I’m not in love by 10CC. (Shut up right now.) I decided that engaging this nut job in conversation wasn’t a good idea, and so just shrugged and shook my head a little bit.

He didn’t take the social cue that I wasn’t as incredibly comfortable with talking to strangers as he was, and continued his monologue, moving closer to my face as he spoke. “It’s 10CC, it’s 10CC, you see, they used to play this on the radio.” I nodded again, and tried to move past him, looking over his shoulder for someone, anyone, to come along and help me. No one arrived. How was this possible? This place was packed out just a moment before.

“It used to be on the radio, the DJs used to play it, they don’t have DJs any more, I remember when there were DJs, do you remember Sting?”

“I think…” I ventured an answer, maybe stall him, keep him talking, pretend we’re all cool and calm here and everything’s fine, “I do remember Sting, yes.”

“Of course you do!” he crowed, delighted we had found some common ground, “they used to play that on the radio, there was a DJ called Tony Blackburn, he used to be on in the afternoons…”

I managed to move past him and started deliberately slowly away, staring behind him with great intensity, as if I was just continuing on my way while still paying the minimal amount of attention to him, so that he wouldn’t try to block my path again. “…and in the mornings there was Dave Lee Travis, I remember him, he was on the radio all the time, of course he’s not anymore, there don’t have DJs any more, do you remember?”

I nodded again, and he again seemed triumphantly pleased to have jogged my DJ-related memories. I turned the corner, and my heart sank as he followed me. “Do you need any help, you just ask if you need help, do you need any help?” I smiled, and said no, and then turned around to look at all the other people who had suddenly reappeared, none of whom were looking in my direction and completely ignoring my silent pleas for help, from anyone but the man who was offering.

“No, thank you,” I finally turned and said, “I’m okay, thank you.” I smiled to let him know that I meant this and then deliberately walked away down the aisle. He called after me, “Just ask anyone if you need any help!” and then started talking to the next lady he came across. “Remember me from last week?” he asked her, and she, obviously remembering very vividly her previous encounter with him last week, fastened a fixed smile to her face and said yes. I didn’t hear the rest of their conversation, but I imagine it involved DJs.

I’m all for equal opportunity employment, and applaud the supermarkets for their equal employment policies, but dear Lord, that man needs couching on what is and isn’t an appropriate conversation starter. Also, personal space issues. And hygiene. I’m just saying.

08 November 2005
On Monday night I experienced one of those relationship milestones, one of those things that we all have to go through in order to grow up, move on, develop and go forward feeling strengthened and renewed. This kind of event happens to us all, I understand that, but caught in the moment it seems like an almost surreal happening, and I just hope that I coped with it as well as all of you have when you’ve had to face up to it in your relationships.

That’s right. On Monday, I faced that old classic where some girls have made badges of your boyfriend’s face, and other badges that say things like “I love [He Who Only…]”, and they are wearing them as decorations around their great big heaving bosoms.

Of course, I’d seen it dealt with in a humorous manner on American sitcoms. I’d heard it discussed on Trisha and Richard & Judy. But it’s funny; no matter how long you’re expecting it to happen, it always comes as something of a surprise.

I think the only person more horrified by the idea than me was He Who Only… himself, although I forced him to go over to talk to these ladies, who were sitting at a table not far from us, with the instructions that I wanted a “I love [He Who Only…]” badge, and he was not to return until he got one. And, true to his word, back he came about 10 minutes later clutching said badge in his hand and looking a little faint.

Having been a lady who regularly attends comedy gigs for the past ten years or so, I’ve been on the receiving end of many a vicious glance from comedian’s girlfriends, as they misconstrued my interest in their boyfriend’s performing work for something a heck of a lot more predatory, and now that I’ve found myself on the other end of that particular stick, it’s a very strange place to be. Although I’m not sure that my suspicions about these particular girls’ interests in He Who Only… are misplaced, I decided to be the bigger person in it all, and so a short while later I went over to the table of girls, from whose aforementioned heaving bosoms my boyfriend’s face was merrily smiling, and congratulated them on a job well done. If anything, I was enjoying this, simply because it was making He Who Only… so darned uncomfortable. I don’t think I’ve seen him looking quite so ill at ease without two belly dancers and my parents also present.

06 November 2005

This is what happened on the evening of my birthday. My birthday panned out thusly:
1. Showed numerous people around house in order to try to get some of my already-paid rent back off evil landlords. Potential flatmates were very nice and very weird in equal measure, with one particular candidate looking quite likely to produce knife from behind back and begin stabbing for no reason at all.
2. Went for long walk around marshes, more of which tomorrow, or possibly Tuesday.
3. Watched fireworks in Victoria Park. I've never been to bonfire night in my life ever before, and also I got to hold sparklers which, for a lady of some considerable age (as I now am) I got a bit too excited about. The bonfire was astonishing - as it's the 400th anniversary of the Gun Powder Plot, they decided to show what should have happened in 1605 and proceeded to burn down a replica of the Houses of Parliament, complete with exploding Big Ben. Even those people around us who had started the evening given sarcastic and knowing "oooh"s and "aaaah"s at the start of the show ended up actually genuinely "oooh"ing and "aaaah"ing along with the rest of us at the splendour of it all. Very brilliant.
4. Walked slowly home, having inadvertently spent all day outside in cold and brisk weather.
5. Retired to pub (see above).

Perfect day, really. There was fire and there was beer, and what more does anyone need?

04 November 2005
I had a dream last night that –

Yes, I know. Any blog entry that begins with the phrase “I had a dream” is either written entirely by Martin Luther King, or is the most boring post ever, apart only from those blog entries that lists the things that that blogger did that day, including what they ate for their lunch and what they plan to eat for their dinner. But y’all trust me, right? We’ve been through a lot together already. And heck, it’s Friday, so hear me out.

I had a dream last night that He Who Only… dumped me. Not only dumped me, but dumped me in the back garden of my house in Dublin. I can’t remember the reason why he did, although it was irritatingly absolutely impossible to argue against. I was immediately driven to that state of crying which is a combination of anger and despair. I could feel the wrenching, heartbreaking heaving sobs, the kind where you are trying to catch your breath but you can’t, and the adrenaline is flowing through your blood in such quantities that you feel simultaneously capable of breaking everything in sight and completely unable to move a muscle.

While this was building up, and I was desperately trying to speak but not uttering a word, He Who Only… was sitting passively on the bench that sits at the bottom of our garden, with this strange false-sad look on his face, like he was acting the part of sorry without actually feeling the emotion. I turned and went into the house, and met my mother. I told her – without speaking, because I was still totally incapable of speech – that he had broken up with me, and she looked past me into the garden at him sitting quietly on the bench, and said how brave it was of him. That, at least, managed to interrupt the choking sobs momentarily. I think I just stared at her, and she said how difficult it must have been for him, and that really I had to think of how he was feeling. I went upstairs to find my sisters, who were sitting in the bunk beds we used to have in our bedroom when we were kids. They both also expressed concern for He Who Only…, and absolutely no regard for my hysteria, and so I turned and stumbled out of that room and back down the stairs.

At this point my power of speech came back, and I was back out in the garden and screaming at him, while he continued to sit, now with his head bowed, not really saying anything and still with the strange, calm, not-sad sad look on his face and I thought the world was about to end.

And then I woke up. I lay there shaking, trying to remember that it was only a dream but the dream hangover was so strong that I needed further clarification, and so I turned around to see if he was there, and he was, there beside me, asleep, and as I lay there looking at him and calming down and remembering none of it was real he turned over and elbowed me in the face and I knew it was all going to be okay.

And the saddest thing is, that’s honestly almost better than the constant dreams I’ve been having about filing.

03 November 2005
Thanks for all your questions. You're absolutely right in thinking that my friend sounds like a brilliant, talented and downright great person to be around. You're also all absolutely right that she's the kind of person that would cross the road to pet a dog, and in fact goes quite high pitched in their very company. And yes, again, it's uncanny how right you are in thinking that she's prone to celebrating her own birthday once a year.

Speaking of birthdays, it's my birthday in but two days! Yes! Look at that! How quickly time flies between one reason to buy me a present and the next reason to buy me a present. I've already bought my present to myself, the magnificent digital camera bought with the very specific purpose of posting up photographs on this here blog, but of course my internet connection at home has decided to go do-lally over the last few days and my photographs have been languishing on Eggers, waiting to be posted to a wider audience. As soon as the connection comes back, there'll be all sorts of sights for you to see.

So to celebrate my birthday, I've decided what I'll do is show complete strangers the inside of my bedroom. Now, in a previous life the inside of my bedroom did certainly see a lot of stranger action, with all sorts of callers trooping in and out any time of the day or night. Sadly Thankfully those days are behind me, as I have a steady gentleman caller all of my own, and no need for that sort of behaviour no more. Nowadays, in order to entice strangers toward my inner chambers, I must instead put advertisements on websites.

And so it is that on Saturday I shall be showing at least six strangers my bedroom, in order that they may judge whether or not it is up to their own standards. As blinking usual, I'm moving house, and so need to replace myself in the hearts of my housemates with a worthy successor. So far today they've pretty much been a constant parade of mentals, but one or two sparkling gems have emerged. The constant refrain of my birthday morning will therefore be "... and down here is the kitchen", but that's okay - the sooner my room is filled, the sooner I get some money back in order to start adding it to the massive debt mountain myself and He Who Only... are happily building for ourselves, all the better to laugh and point at and then hide away from under the safety of a booze blanket.

02 November 2005
Before beginning to read the following post, it’s very important to remember this is about a friend of mine, and not about me. Blogging about your place of work while you still work there is a ridiculously stupid thing to do, and I would never do something that irresponsible. So this story is about a friend of mine, and this happened to her a few years ago.

A few years ago, on a week not unlike the one that we’re currently experiencing, a friend of mine was temping in a company. She had been having a wondrous time, having fun in her week nights and fun in her weekends, and even work wasn’t going too badly, and she used to come home at night and enthuse to her boyfriend (because my friend had a boyfriend) about what a great job she’d found herself in, how it kept her busy but not too busy, and how everyone seemed quite nice, and she’d even managed the week before to do some things above and beyond the call of duty and hopefully would be recognised for such without having to blow her own trumpet, and really everything was going well.

This friend of mine came into work on the Monday of that week, the Week Where It All Went Wrong, and was accused of doing something that she didn’t do. The worst thing about this accusation, according to my friend, and I’ve no reason to doubt her, was the fact that the accusation was implied rather than directly stated. Something wasn’t where it was supposed to be, and now it couldn’t be found at all, and my friend was suddenly at the end of a long line of people who were all pointing in her general direction, without any solid implication being actually said out loud. People like her boss and the department head would come stand at her desk every now and again and sigh about this thing that was missing, and wonder aloud where it could be, and ask my friend over and over again if she’d looked in the most obvious of places (of course she had, she’s got a head on her shoulders). One of them even insisted on looking again in all of these places, and then came back to my friend’s desk and sighed and said that she couldn’t find it.

“Of course you couldn’t find it”, my friend later told me she thought, but didn’t say, “it’s not f*cking there.”

My friend began to feel terribly frustrated by this situation, seeing as how this thing that had gone wrong, and was still going wrong, seemed to be growing into an incident. The woman who insisted on looking in places already looked started to keep a closer eye on my friend, and then the holes started to be picked.

“Is that work?” she asked while passing my friend’s computer. My friend gritted her teeth and said that, no, it wasn’t work, but she had been working through lunch and was now catching up on study during her 1 hour law-enforced non-work related period of rest.

“I’ve been asked to speak to you about filing”, the woman said a while later, and my friend began to want to cry. The filing in this job, this job that had otherwise been a dream, had always been an issue, and my friend had already spoken to this woman about the filing on a few occasions. My friend assured her that the filing was under control.

A series of emails then started to fly between my friend and this woman, in which the woman was initially flippant and then outright aggressive in relation to the nature of my friend’s work, implying again that some of the things that had happened in the last few days had all, somehow, been the work of my friend.

My friend started thinking about ringing recruitment agencies.

But then my friend got to thinking on the train on the way home. Recounting this story to me, she explained that she remembered she was about to move in with her boyfriend, possibly as soon as two weeks from that day, and she wasn’t financially able to be without pay for long, if at all. My friend also remembered that this was a temporary position, a temporary assignment that, when left, would never come back to haunt her. She also realised that she was young and pretty, whereas the woman who insisted on looking in places already looked was old, haggard, bitter and jealous.

Yes, you heard right, my friend was moving in with her boyfriend.