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Dreadful Nonsense

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

31 October 2006
I was walking in to work today feeling good about the world this morning. I got a seat on the train, I got a seat on the tube, I’m going on holiday on Thursday night, I’ve got my new shoes on, it’s not raining, I’m wearing black eye liner - there’s a lot to be feeling good about. Turning in to the courtyard of where I work, my MP3 player shuffled on to one of the best rocking tunes on the mother rocking earth. I began strutting my stuff up the street, because I am at one with my music, and because me and my music ROCK. I was, in fact, getting perhaps a little too into the music, if you know what I mean. But that aside, I strode up the steps to work keeping in time with the rhythm and I don’t mind telling you I felt pretty damn cool. And then the pointy end of my stupid new boots caught in the seam of my over long trousers, I stumbled, I fell forward, I regained my balance and I kept walking so damn quickly I nearly went head first into the glass door.

Oh yeah, I rock.

30 October 2006
We went to the ballet last night, because we’re young and cultured with disposable cash and know about the finer things in life, plus if you’re ever presented with the opportunity to stare at the legs of a man who could crush your head with his thighs and a fine behind that could - nay, should - be used to crack nuts, you should always grab that opportunity with both hands and use it to fuel your imagination for weeks to come.

One of my friends is the type who knows about these things and gets email notifications when cheap tickets are going, and that was how, last night, we found ourselves in seats that would usually have cost us a day’s full wages. The seats were quite far back, quite high up, and we realised on arrival that the phrase “no arm rests” translates in ballet terms as “pressing up against each other, skin touching, in an uncomfortable way for over three hours”. BUT! It was the Royal Opera House in London’s famous London, it was the Royal Ballet, it was Sleeping Beauty and dear blimey those ladies were SKINNY and PRETTY.

I love looking at tiny fragile people leaping through the air. I love to watch them throw each other about, spin each other around, fall over in a swoon, get back up again, pretend to be cats and kings and queens and rats and witches and swans. I love it when they all move at the same time and strike an uncomfortable post in a long line. I love it when they dance together as a group, and I love it when they take solo turns. I love it when something bad happens and the prima ballerina must fall gracefully into a faint, or even die slowly while pirouetting. I love it when they stand on their toes for an impossible amount of time, or adopt a pose that must be so unbelievable uncomfortable I got a cramp in my foot just looking at them.

Skinny people are very entertaining when they sparkle and twirl. I remembered that again last night as the third hour of the ballet stomped forward with no sign of abating. When I grow up, I want to be a pretty ballerina. Or a fairy princess.

24 October 2006
It's been really interesting to read people's different interpretations of the brick-carrying story. When I read it first, it struck such a chord with me that I thought there was obviously only one interpretation of it, which is why I didn't elaborate any further when I first posted it. But the comments that followed it made me re-think my first impression. So, here's the story again (this time without the typing mistakes) and below is what I think it's saying:

Imagine a happy group of morons who are engaged in work. They are carrying bricks in an open field. As soon as they have stacked all the bricks at one end of the field, they proceed to transport them to the opposite end. This continues without stop and everyday of every year they are busy doing the same thing. One day one of the morons stops long enough to ask himself what he is doing. He wonders what purpose there is in carrying the bricks. And from that instant on he is not quite as content with his occupation as he had been before.

I am the moron who wonders why he is carrying the bricks.

Forget for a moment the fact that it's an extract from a suicide note - that kind of detail adds unnecessary weight and gravitas that I don’t think the author intended. I really like the style of it, and the fact that the message is stated so simply, but apparently still open to great realms of interpretation.

What it says to me is that, the moment you start looking around and trying to improve your lot in life - whether it’s day dreaming about winning the lottery, trying to get another stupid degree, aiming for a promotion, trying to get your television show commissioned, attempting a career change, hoping to conceive, even just planning a day out while banking on good weather - the moment you start using optimism and forward thinking in your planning for your immediate or long-term future, that’s when you open the door to all sorts of problems you had never even considered before.

I know of many people who get paid a lot less than I do for doing a lot more work than I have to. I know other people who had to take courses and gain qualifications to do the crummy job that I do. I know still others who have tried and failed to get a job like I have, who would give their right arms (not literally, that would make the job very difficult and even more - no pun intended - out of their reach). And five years ago, I was really content to be doing what I do for a living, and saw no reason to change it, because carrying the rocks from one end of the field to the other filled my days and weeks and I wanted for nothing more.

But then I started looking around and decided that I didn’t want to be in a position where I was always answering to someone else, where if they had a bad day, that meant I had a bad day. I didn’t want people to be uninterested in, or even disappointed with, my answer to the question “what do you do?” I hated the assumptions that people made about me, I hated their sudden reassessments of both my intellect and my general worth as a person. I, in short, suddenly didn’t want to be carrying bricks any more.

And I wish that hadn’t happened. There are people in the world, people in this country, people in this city and certainly people within a one-mile radius of where I’m currently sitting and whinging that would love to be where I am right now, have the things that I have and would never want for anything more. And that pisses me off too.

In short, that’s what that story says to me. In the bleakest possible interpretation, I think that it says you’ve got to be happy with your lot and you should settle down with what you have. You shouldn’t expect to get any more, and you certainly shouldn’t hope for it. Be a moron, carry the bricks and never look up to see what else is on the horizon, because for a brick carrying moron, there is nothing else. The story says to me that unless you keep your head down and keep carrying, you will never be happy again.

But that’s just my interpretation.

23 October 2006
The first disadvantage that I’ve discovered now that I’m no longer spending my time in anticipation of studying is that nothing is as interesting as it seemed it would be when I was longing for the time when I would be able to do anything, anything at all, other than studying.

When I was studying, when it was either writing essays or preparing for the exam, everything in the world was more interesting. I would spend time tidying up, particularly in the kitchen, because it seemed so important to do, and I couldn’t possibly sit down at the computer which is located in another room altogether if there were a couple of plates in the kitchen that hadn’t been washed, and actually I think all of the tins in the cupboard need to be moved around and I didn’t realise the fridge was so dirty I should probably take it all apart and Cif it to death before I can possibly start that essay.

And telly! Dear god, the telly. Telly was so interesting when I was studying. I’d want to watch everything from episodes of Columbo I’d seen already (her foot brushes off the wall as he’s carrying the body out! I see that now!) to actually watching entire episodes of the last series of Goodnight Sweetheart, the one when they’d managed to make the worst television programme in the world EVEN WORSE by constantly telling the actors they looked fat/their hair was receding/this was the last job they’d ever get/their puppy had just died, to get them to deliver every single line in such a joyless manner that even if there had been any comedy in the script - and there never was - it would be buried underneath layers of ennui and vaguely suicidal intentions.

And this was the most entertaining thing in the world to me. Picking up books that I wasn’t allowing myself to read, and then rearranging the entire bookshelf. Folding and refolding my UNDERWEAR was fascination itself. You don’t want to know what I did with He Who Only…’s sock drawer.

And then this last weekend, I was so BORED. There was exactly NOTHING on the telly, I didn’t want to read a SINGLE one of our vast book collection, the internet held NO JOY for me and darn it all it was raining so why don’t I just sit right here on the floor and DIE because there’s nothing in the world worth breathing for.

Me? I’m never happy.

21 October 2006
The exam basically went as well as I could possibly have hoped. Considering the very short amount of time I gave myself to cram in as much study as possible, how limited my range of topics of study was due to said time constraints, and the huge gamble I took on certain questions coming up, I did sigh a MASSIVE sigh of relief when I took the first look at the essay questions.

There they were - my top three: the cognitive-experimental approach to understanding the "self"; the question about racism and the effect of group membership; the psychodynamic approach to studying relationships. Hoorah, said I, hoorah.

Unfortunately, when it came to the racism question, my mind drew an absolutely enormous blank - I could remember all of the stupid mnemonics that I had memorised as prompts for this question, the mnemonics that were supposed to remind me of the theorists, the studies, the experiments and the criticisms of the approach - but I couldn't for the life of me think of what the stupid mnemonics referred to. So my exam booklet has scribbles all over it that read "PIES", "SCUUM" and "PAAN", but nothing else. It's great.

Luckily that section had another more general question at which I was able to throw some general information and every single name and study I could think of, and I'm hoping that the examiner is kind enough to pick the bones out of it and see enough information to let me pass.

Due to the fact that I have some of the most "special" needs known to man, I was taking the exam in a "special" little room, all on my own, on my "special" laptap with just one "special" invigilator who sat behind me the whole time and stared at the screen as I typed. I can't imagine the levels of boredom he managed to descend to in the three hours I sat there variously rocking, sighing, banging out paragraphs of text only to delete them all, throwing my hands up in the air in despair and, at one memorable point, putting my head down on the desk in sheer desperation that the four words that "PIES" stood for would suddenly come flying back to me (three days later and they still haven't). The invigilator was a very sweet man who was possibly just a touch chattier than invigilators should be - any time I looked up from the laptop, he would immediately ask me if I wanted to take part of my "special" 15 minute rest period that I've been allocated due to my "special" circumstances. When I'd finally finished, we continued to chat for about 20 minutes after the exam was taken out of my hands and posted off to Milton Keynes. I think I may have talked him into take an evening class. If I have done that, I'm terribly sorry for the pain I'm about to inflict on him and his family.

Results come out just before Christmas. New term starts in February. Ho hum.

19 October 2006


I fall down now.

News tomorrow.

Many thanks to everyone for all their lovely thoughts and cards and words and texts.


18 October 2006
I have just spent the last two weeks cramming a nine-month course of social psychology into my brain. I don't think it all fits, but thank God there are less than 38 hours left until I can sit down in front of my laptop in the exam centre and start bashing out everything I know, because if I had any more days like the days I've had in the last two weeks - staring at paper, convinced that none of it is going in, and at the same time starting to go mad because I'm applying theory - different, very diverse theory that is in fact in constant conflict - to every situation in my life.

This last two weeks I've been studying (a) what it means to be a person; (b) what it means to be a person in an intimate relationship; (c) what it means to be a person in a social group. Holy Fuck, you guys. That's a lot for one tiny brain to take in, especially from five different psychological perspectives.

So when He Who Only... turns around to me and tells me he has just had a dream about a train, I have up to five different theories on why he's dreaming about trains. (When I wake up sweating in the middle of the night having dreamt about sitting exams and failing, I've got five different theories on that as well, but at least on this point if no other they're not in conflict.)

What's funny is that, even though my mind's been suddenly jolted awake into constantly analysing, dissecting, contemplating and pondering on the meaning of each and everything that happens in the world around me, everything that happens to me and He Who Only..., everything that happens on my way to work, at work and on my way home from work, I still can't but hurl myself into the cliched behaviour of every other brick carrier on the planet.

For example: this evening, I went to pilates class, and then came home and had a lovely healthy meal of green vegetables, rice and tofu. I then sat at our dining room table, made hundreds of lists of things that I needed to do tomorrow on my last day of study, looked at internets, sat down and watched some god-awful programmes on Channel 5 and had a lovely glass of wine. The evening was fantastically pleasant, not least because for a rare evening I had the house to myself, as He Who Only... was out with his boyfriend writing comedy for all the world to enjoy.

And yet. The very moment he called to say that he was running late, but to be assured that he was still on his way home, I immediately descended into a sulk because HE WASN'T HOME THE MOMENT HE SAID HE WOULD BE, AND ISN'T THAT TYPICAL OF MAN, BLOODY MEN.

16 October 2006
Things that I hate:

1. My job.
2. Waiting for MP3 files to download on to my computer.
3. Bloggers who don't update their blogs.
4. Studying for exams.
5. Exams.
6. The woman who stood beside me on the tube this morning.
7. Carrots when they're cooked.

My D317 exam is on Thursday. On Thursday at 5.31pm, the sound of weeping that you will hear echoing around Camden will be the sound of me. That sound will indicate my relief at the exam - and therefore my college term - being finished for this year. It will also indicate my extreme frustration at the fact that I only now understand what they've been trying to teach me these last eight months, and it's too late to learn it all now. It will also inevitably indicate my disappointment that the very few things that I did understand and have learned did not turn up in any of the exam questions, and I have had to pretend to misunderstand the questions asked in order to crow-bar in everything I know about the theory of fundamental attribution error.

I haven't been so convinced before about the fact that I'm definitely about to fail an exam since I took my final physics paper in 1994 (I failed it). But then again, I was utterly convinced that the last essay I wrote for the OU was a load of old codswallap and that got me a high 2:1 mark, so that either means (a) I'm a bigger genius than I thought or (b) I'm a bigger idiot than I thought, because I don't know a good answer when I have one.

Jeeeeeeeeesus. Everyone's now telling me that what I'm better off doing is laying off the study, because at this point I'm driving myself demented. I've written and re-written and then bullet pointed and colour coded and then re-written again all of my notes until now they're just names, dates, scribbles, prompts, acronyms and tear stained meaningless blobs of nonsense.

I'm also now torturing myself with the thought that at the end of all of this - what will be four years of part time study which takes up more time, energy, sanity and money than I really can afford to spare - I will come out with another BA that I never use again, and the feeling of worthlessness and uselessness that has started to weigh around my shoulders will get heavier and heavier until I find myself eyeing up speeding tube trains during rush hour.

One of my friends said to me last week that he doesn't know of anyone else in the world who deserves to win the lottery more than I do, because he is convinced that I would do something amazing and worthwhile with the money. I'd like a chance to do something amazing and worthwhile with my life, please. Paying my way through a part-time degree as I leave the final gasps of my 20s is not turning out to be as amazing, worthwhile, or even as tragically romantic as I had hoped it would be when I started. All I want now is to not have to work in an office where I hate up to 90% of the people there (including myself). Dear Jesus God Lord On High Above, is that really too much to ask?

Now, lovely people of the blog, can y'all please do me one favour? Please cross all fingers, toes, eyes, legs and squeeze your genital regions for all their worth in the hope that questions on racism & group dynamics, psychodynamic theory on relationships and whether or not social psychology is a science comes up in the exam. Otherwise you'll have to put up with me complaining about my commute every day from now until I find myself sizzling on some train tracks, and I don't think you'd like that to happen.

A great many thanks.

09 October 2006
There are usually only two reasons for a prolonged silence on my blog: one is that I'm so giddy and happy with life that I don't have a moment in which to sit down and make a note of everything, because it's all too exciting and I have to just keep on experiencing every moment, y'all. The other reason - the one that's kept us all apart for so long this time round - is because I'm too miserable and uninspired to think about writing about anything but the one thing that's bugging me, and I can't bring myself to document it because writing things down (and posting them on the internet for the world to find) makes them true, and this is one of the many things that I don't want to be true.

But then I came across a passage in one of my text books this evening while I'm trying (and failing) to study. This passage spoke to me. I'd like to share it with the group:

Imagine a happy group of morons who are engaged in work. They are carrying bricks in an open filed. As soon as they have stacked all the bricks at one end of the field, they proceed to transport them to the opposite end. This continues without stop and everyday of every year they are busy doing the same thing. One day one of the morons stops long enough to ask himself what he is doing. He wonders what purpose there is in carrying the bricks. And from that instant on he is not quite as content with his occupation as he had been before.

I am the moron who wonders why is carrying the bricks.

Make of that what you will.