Why renewing a passport has a higher casualty rate than The Hunger Games

Seven mind numbing hours, a labyrinth of security and an institution of the most depressing human beings on the planet- Welcome to the Passport Games. Today i am writing to congratulate the Newport HM passport office for successfully ensuring the maximum human suffering possible for those who wish to acquire a new passport. Having realised my own was going to expire two weeks before I left the country, I was forced to enter into the dark world of “fast track instant passport renewal”-A tempting carrot on a stick that guarantees a new document in four hours…the only condition being that you survive the process.

For those who do not know, this test begins with the three hour pilgrimage across the UK to locate your nearest passport office. If ever you are stuck for something to do on the M6 you can spot these passport pilgrims from the driver’s aura of despondency and a small forest of paper envelopes on the dashboard. Across the nation Ford fiestas are tirelessly travelling to and from accessible locations such as Durham, Glasgow and Newport. For myself, a Midlander,  a gentle five am wake up and drive to South Wales where HM revenue had set us their first test.

7:30am : We arrived in the dark, the car thermometer recorded one degree Celsius as we hurried into the town centre of Newport, paper envelopes in hand. High above us in a bulletproof glass bubble i imagine the staff peering down and rubbing their hands together as we approached a signpost.

HM passport office- to the right, five minute walk. It took us thirty five minutes, a street map, a Sat nav and a local Welshman to decide that this signpost was in fact wrong and was purely the scenic route to “Ujee’s Hats and Tats”- a shop that boasted one pane of glass between three windows  and a cardboard cut out of Elvis Presley. However, with the help of said Welshman  we were eventually able to navigate ourselves to the real passport office-  a concrete 60’s atrocity, notably in a different location to either map. Less fortunate pilgrims have already fallen by the wayside, endlessly following street directions to a building that changed location six months ago. “Ujee’s hats and tats” receives more custom than it’s ever had before as helpless Brits tattoo themselves with the face of the European passport.

Meanwhile my dad and I had reached reception where a surly looking man in his late thirties was crammed behind a desk. The sort of man who looked as if a life of administration had slowly sucked the joy and humanity from his soul. This is your typical passport office employee- as accommodating as they are charismatic.. I like to think of the following as the troll under the bridge stage.

“Hi I’ve got an appointment for half past eight”

“It’s ten past.” He scowled, pointing at the clock behind him.

“Yes we’re quite happy to wait in the waiting room.” My dad replied.

“No you won’t. wait outside. There’s no room until twenty  past.”

The pair of us glanced behind him at the empty room of chairs, stifling a “what the fuck” before shuffling to the exit. Behind us we could hear fellow pilgrims attempt a similar pursuit and fail, joining us outside. At twenty past eight on the dot, the eyes of the Foyer troll suddenly unglazed and as a group, those who hadn’t frozen to death, scuttled in from the cold as he waved us through.

Stage 3: Airport security. This is where many of the remaining few realise they could live without a passport after all, as they stand barefoot on a musty carpet and watch their belongings emptied into plastic trays. I imagine behind the desk a hoard of sniffer dogs are chomping at the bit, slathered with foam as they ready themselves to divulge upon a Kleenex tissue or packet of twiglets. My father takes five minutes at the desk emptying his pockets of change, all the while an emotionless man in grey staring into his soul. An overhead metal detector blocked his way like something out of a bad dystopian fiction. Of course he sets it off immediately, another grey haired man coming running to scan him up and down with a glowing metal stick. Luckily another unfortunate must be being torn apart by the pack of Doberman and so he is allowed to remain. It is my turn.

“Do you have any sharp objects in your possession?”

“No.”

“No knives?”

“I’ve got a fork ” I laugh, holding up the Sainsbury’s bag of lunch we brought in the event of a return journey. To my surprise this was immediately confiscated and handed over to the foyer troll. A sheet of paper was attached to my files with the word “FORK” in black marker pen. This safety precaution is of course due to the increase in cutlery related crime we are continually hearing on the news. The amount of times they must have heard “renew the  passport or I’ll spoon your eyes out like melon balls “… it’s almost understandable.

Stage 4: Once through airport security, if one hasn’t been arrested for possession of a  Ploughman’s, you face HM’s test of mental endurance. Handed a series of letters and numbers on a scrap of paper, your job is to remain constantly vigilant. When your collection of letters and numbers is called you have exactly three minutes to make it to the right cubicle in order to discuss your application with a human being. However, many do not make it this far.

“Person 03596cft4dh87jook attend cubicle 1”

At the sound of the intercom everyone grips their seats, scrupulously nodding through each digit on their scraps of paper like a room of bobble heads. but after the third digit some poor fool has lost count and assumes it is not him, blissfully unaware that his dreams of ever reaching the end have been mercilessly crushed. This man is destined to remain in the waiting room for the rest of his existence.

Those who do recall their numbers may pass. My father and I were among the lucky ones and sat down in front of a young woman with square glasses. She was good at her job…don’t acknowledge the customer, don’t look at the customer, attempt to instil feelings of despair. It was 8:29. The meeting we’d driven hours for was concluded one minute later at 8:30 with a jerk of her head and a “come back in four hours to pick it up”. In the minds of the weaker candidates doubts begin to creep in- “surely there must be a more efficient way? This entire one minute interaction will collectively cost me seven hours of my life.” But these people will not make it back.

Three mugs of coffee, two hot cross buns and a potential sighting of Katherine from season 3’s Bake off later, my father and I survived four hours holed up in a  Costa in the town centre. After a while you begin to question how many of the surrounding people are here for the same reason. I wonder if in ten years time, when students pick up their geography textbooks whether a yellowing photograph of the high-street will grace the pages, captioned ” Newport town economy: the only one in Britain to be sustained entirely by HM passport office”

When we finally went back for collection it was with triumph. The air smelt sweeter, the high street less run down and the spring in my dad’s footsteps said- “GARY DIDN’T END IT ALL AND NOW HE FEELS EPICCCC”. They handed over the documents and we burst out of the foyer  doors, the wind in our hair and the smell of freedom on the horizon. We vowed never to repeat this experience. Therefore I can only thank and congratulate Her Majesty’s Passport Office, Newport for successfully engraining in their clients the desire to always check the validity of important documents.

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Working in a supermarket over Christmas- the pitfalls.

I have just finished working as a supermarket Christmas temp (or rather “festive team assistant”). Four weeks of Michael Buble’s Christmas album and a PTSD later it is has amazed me how this season of goodwill can unleash, in our everyday shopper, …THE DARK SIDE. *clap of thunder*

Curtain raises. A conveyor belt in Leicestershire where sits a tired festive team assistant. Enter John Smith, IT consultant from Sedgley.

“Oriyte mayt.”

“Good morning sir, can I get you any bags at all?”

“nah I ‘ave one ‘ere somwheere.”

“Brilliant”.

Checkout girl continues to pack afore mentioned bag whilst maintaining enough eye contact with John so that he knows he should have packed it himself.

Enter Middle aged woman in a beanie at urgent gallop. Woman dumps armfuls of shopping onto the conveyor belt including a tub of celebrations. She crosses to stand in the packing area.

Checkout Girl: “Oh you’re together?”

Woman: NO.

John: Yes. (simultaneously)

(Woman’s jaw drops)

Woman: How dare you even suggest that I’m in a relationship with you? You don’t know who I am?

John (vaguely embarassed, flushing red): Oh Nah I meant the celebrations. They’re with me.

(John points at the box of celebrations in checkout girl’s hands waiting to be put through the scanner).

Woman: pevert… Do you think you’re funny?! Them’s mine?

John: I think I know what I’m getting.

*It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…”

Woman: What is this some sorta mind game??

John (losing his temper): Don’t get your fucking knickers in a twist it’s a tin of celebrations….jesus.

*…eeeeverywhere you go*

(as if watching a Wimbledon final checkout girl regards first John then beanie woman. John motions to pass the chocolate through)

Woman: Oh PISS OFF! Them’s mine.

(Before the threat of a tug of war, woman wrenches celebrations out of checkout girl’s hands, in doing so knocking a tablecloth off the conveyor belt to reveal her own identical tin of celebrations. Her jaw drops and face flushes.)

John: Fucking idiot.

( a few minutes later: Exit John, holding his tin of celebrations as a shield and brandishing middle finger at beanie woman. Curtain falls.)

Is this what we have become as a nation? How is it that the sound of sleigh bells and synthetic violins inspires such lack of understanding? My god man there are people walking miles for dirty water. Walking over to the confectionary stand takes less time than it does to say Merry Christmas.

 

The Candle Party- One to avoid

Today I took part in the combined celebration of boredom and misandry known most commonly as a “Candle Party”. This, for those lucky enough not to know, is an event which encourages a self-actualizing female (usually by the name of Jan or Linda) to inhabit your front room, pressing ludicrously expensive merchandise on your chosen friends. I like to think that I’m an optimistic sort of person. Therefore, when my cousin rang at half eleven the night before to ask me to turn up as a couple of the guests had cancelled I accepted the invitation… Albeit under the blissful misconception that there would be alcohol involved. At seven o clock promptly I was perched on a beanbag in my cousin’s living room. The “party” I’d been promised was five others-my cousin Anna, her university friend Becky and three other girls whose names I cannot remember. It was all rather uncomfortable. The girl on the neighbouring beanbag, despite all attempts at polite interaction, was as communicative as a piece of gravel. She had sunken eyes that drifted listlessly over the room as if she would rather be anywhere else. A pink hairgrip held back a lank fringe that stuck to her furrowed brow and rendered her perpetually anxious. To my right was a tall girl in a flowery dress, hair in neat blonde curls on her tiny shoulders. She was currently engrossed in her cuticles as Anna passed her a glass of Prosecco. (Mine was behind the sofa, ready to water the vase of flowers at a more appropriate moment).

I felt slightly out of place in my trench coat and docs and was nursing a faint headache as our host for the night “Helen” burst bullock like through the door and strode into the centre of the circle. With a dramatic “ahem” she finished arranging her display of candles and embarked on a true epic- the tale of one woman’s reinvention through the medium of wax…

“Good evening girlies my name’s Helen and I’m going to be your host for this evening. I hope you all have a fab time tonight but firstly a bit about me myself and I.” Another tinkling laugh.

“I’m forty two I worked as a nurse for 25 years before I realised enough is enough babe this just isn’t allowing you to be yourself anymore. You know what I mean? What inspired me most of all to change destinies was the need to grow and develop not just as a person but as a woman. I feel like us ladies need to carve our own paths in life. Selling the scents of these candles defines that strength and independence in me. I want to share that with you girlies.”

“Helen” was certainly a presence in the room- her voice was booming and seemed to hurl itself from the depths of her diaphragm like an amateur dramatist. Of course she was not a small woman, in honesty she was “fairly robust” as my grandma would say, with a large chest and stocky hips.

I turned to roll my eyes at the blonde girl but found her listening enrapt. Miss poker face on the other beanbag was staring vacantly at a spot on the wall, a lock of brown hair wound round her chubby finger.

With the threat of winter approaching Helen concluded her autobiography, ending with a shoutout to “Jason” who left her for another woman. Around the circle the sound of tutting passed from one woman to another.

She brought out the candles then and there was a temporary hush as she passed round strips of wax entitled “Nightly Kiss” and “cinnamon bun”. Together we were taken on a spiritual journey through her 40 scent collection. It was a shame that my inferior nostril could only detect strawberry after the first five or maybe it was “berry bonanza”? Next to me the blonde girl gasped with joy at the Christmas collection, fervently asking as to whether it would be headier in a tealight or wax burner? I began to experience the same feeling I get when I sit down to watch Downton Abbey. The faint sense of timelessness as life trickles slowly between your fingers.

When the last blob was enthusiastically sniffed we got pizzas delivered and the catalogues were handed out. I took this opportunity to remain in the kitchen for as long as possible. Forced to return to the living room as the sound of Helen’s foghorn “My god gal look at you eat!” obliterated the calm. I opened my “Candle booklet” in feigned interest, eyes widening in horror.

Tealights (x10) £16.99. Good god what are they made of? I looked up in incredulity and swallowed a cartoon gulp as I caught Helen’s suddenly steely eye. She was burning a row of “Blueberry Cobbler” and the reflection of the flames was suddenly against the black of her pupils. In my mind I entertained the image of smoke pouring from her ears as she pawed the ground with a socked foot.

Meanwhile the remaining guests hurriedly signed away their money. A couple of mums had appeared from down the road and delved into Jack Wills’ purses.

“HELLO PAULA!” bellowed Helen at a curly haired woman in her mid-forties. “How’s the family?”

“Mick’s at the pub for the third day running watching the match so I thought I’d drop in. I barely see his face. Lazy git… and when I do he leaves his football kit in the bathroom and the whole place stinks for weeks… “Plush peony” is perfect-I’ll take five. If he wants to spend all his money so will I!” Visibly inflating with pride as she dished out handfuls of twenty pound notes. Miss poker face nodded approvingly.

“Good for you Paula. If you can’t beat them join them! That’s what I always say. Us girlies need our treats too don’t we!” Came Helen’s gushing reply.“My ex was just the same. Freeloading around…..”

(To the side Paula confessed quietly to her daughter they would now have to walk the journey home as she had spent the taxi money).

Eventually I was the only one who hadn’t handed in my form. The blonde girl turned to me for the first time in the whole evening. “Aren’t you buying anything?” (She’d just spent £29.99 on “Fresh Linen”)

“still considering my options…”

“Oh you’ve got to get something” Said one of the others. All the while Helen’s eyes boring into me. I couldn’t bare her satisfaction. Finally just as I was about to crack under the surrounding disapproval I found myself calling out.

“Helen? Is it alright if I take this catalogue home? I know my mum would love something but I can never guess her taste. Can I get back to you tomorrow?” She could do nothing but agree. Pocketing the booklet I texted for a getaway driver and on arrival home took great satisfaction in screwing it up in the recycling bin.

Bye bye Helen.

 

Sitting by a stranger on public transport-The pitfalls.

This morning I had the unfortunate pleasure of sitting next to Mr Gary Marlon on the 10:55 to Birmingham. He was a white male, late fifties with floppy silver hair and an overly pink face (probably from all the blood charging round). With his glasses sliding down the brim of his nose he was a delicious caricature of the troubled businessman. The tension practically radiated from the starched collar of his shirt and the way in which he crossed one leg firmly over the other.

“MICHAEL, ITS GARY” He bellowed into his Samsung Galaxy. I was sat reading Anne Frank’s diary and jumped in surprise, forced to hold the corner of page 167 should it turn over in the gale of his vocal chords.

“HOW IS IT PROGRESSING?…THAT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH…I NEED THIS BY TUESDAY. NO TUESDAY… YES!!” He hit the back of the chair in front with a spasmodic gesture. A couple in the seats opposite had turned, brows’ furrowed in British exasperation.

Gary was blissfully unaware…”ASAP ISN’T DAMN GOOD ENOUGH…I HAVE A DEADLINE. NO. EXCUSE ME…? ITS WHAT? BY HOW MUCH?” This rocketing inflection followed by a lengthy pause- “ FUCK. SHIT.”  The T sound producing such spittle that I was unable to avoid it as it projected whale-esque from the flapping hole in his face. It almost reminded me of standing on the end of the pier at Whitby… I clung to these memories as I wiped my cheek on the 12th June 1942. he hung up abruptly and dialled another number with a sigh. A page of Anne Frank’s diary turned itself.

“JOHN. ITS GARY MARLON. THIS IS A DISASTER. INSTALLATIONS ARE TELLING ME THE HEARTH HAS BEEN MEASURED UP THE WRONG SIZE. IF I FIND OUT IT WAS ONE OF YOUR GUYS ITS THE LAST STRAW. STOP PISSING ABOUT AND CALL  07909 74832.  BYE.”

From Smethwick to Birmingham there was a brief but glorious silence while Lord wind sock violently adjusted his tie, his cheeks taking on a magenta hue as somewhere in Hockley John the hearth fitter wept into a mug of tea. It wasn’t 5 minutes before Gary’s cufflink polishing was interrupted by a horse whinny from his crotch. He snatched up the phone. The couple opposite threw me a sympathetic nod and I closed my eyes, bracing myself against the head rest…

 

 

 

 

Humans: The Wonderful Eccentrics

 

On Earth there are 7.4 billion people. A few months ago I found myself in an interview waiting room with some of the most eccentric.

By trade I’m not a morning person. This is an understatement: If found interacting between 6 and 10am the primal grunt tends to communicate any of my pressing concerns. Thus arriving at 8 o’clock in Cambridge for a university interview was not my idea of ” a jolly good show”. In fact I wish I’d appreciated the landscape more now. Stepping out of the car it was truly beautiful in red brick towers against perfectly manicured lawns- the sort of grass that makes you want to kick off your shoes and charge like a gleeful toddler over the “keep to the path” sign. Bleary eyed I decided to seek caffeine first.

It had been a rather chaotic sort of morning-having been reading Chaucer under a hotel radiator for a significant part of the night I’d woken up a little rusty, frantically forcing down toast complimented by a shot of  that weirdly nice UHT milk from Premier Inn. At quarter past 8 a student union girl was leading me towards a waiting room. She was tall, immaculately dressed and, I noted, a veritable morning person.

Closing the door It was a beige place that smelt of air freshener. As it turned out I appeared to be the only non inanimate object present, taking a seat next to a fellow dining chair. From the amount of food they had out it was clear the university was expecting a small army. The fold out table in the centre looked as strained as I felt under a cornucopia of bourbons and custard creams and for a moment I questioned whether there was a stage in the interview I hadn’t been aware of-Perhaps one that involved a group of teenagers fighting to the death over a French fancy.

I killed time looking through my interview schedule, which happened to involve a 2 hour wait before my second of two ten minute appointments. In short: I prayed for company. Gradually people arrived. They came and went; Spanish, French and English voices all merging together in a nervous babble. The boy chanting algorithms had flown in from China, the little girl to my right from Japan the night before. Hovering in the doorway parents perspired anxiously, one such who with a dramatic sigh swept into the room and began combing the hair of her unfortunate offspring. The words “how are you feeling?” echoed by other such mothers from the hallway outside.

It continued. At half 8 I took an aptitude test next to a girl who introduced herself as “Si-AN” adding fervently “It’s iambic.” She gestured graciously to the boy next to her “This is Caspian.” Safe to say I had strayed a little outside my comfort zone…a world in which it is acceptable  to shout “Oi Oi” at a passing friend from a 40mph Ford Fiesta.

As it happened nobody I asked had been timetabled the same 2 hour wait, so after the exam I returned alone to the beige room, finding it completely empty and anticipating the slowest time passage of my life. For a good ten minutes I did everything I could to take my mind off the interview- that ritualistic ripping apart of the personal statement followed by the question “This is a piece of paper- how does one go deeper.”

Instead I ate my life’s weight in custard creams, I counted the trees out of the window, I planned my funeral, I blew bubbles… I was just considering lying faced down on the carpet when I realised there was actually another person in the room.

From behind a stack of chairs at the back of the room there came a wet sneeze, quickly stifled. Mad with boredom I shot up like an agile David Attenborough to survey my catch. At just over five foot and hunched skeletally over a rubix cube, a tiny male creature could be found squashed in the gap between the wall and a chair. I stared rather taken aback. From his rhythmic rocking backwards and forwards he gave the impression of someone that didn’t particularly want to communicate with the human race. Long strands of dark hair stuck caveman-esque to his forehead, all oddly incongruous with the expensive suit he was currently using as a handkerchief.

As a good friend of mine once said to me- God loves a trier and so with hours to waste I gave it a shot and attempted to break past the barrier of silence.

“Er..ahem.. Hello. Are you alright?” Looking down I was half braced for a claw to the face and the hiss “my precccious.”

For a moment nothing came. I stood awkwardly.Then slowly as if the whole process was beneath him, he lifted his head and looked me in the eye; pinprick pupils magnified doubly by a pair of glasses. He was, and I hate to say it, utterly terrifying.

His waxy, pale skin was devoid of life as he shuddered in my direction, not offering a reply but instead attacking the rubix cube in his lap with long white fingers. During this time he refused to break eye contact, twisting the squares round with an unconscious frenzy. Click. Click. It was a large room. The high ceilings echoing the sound around the empty chairs where luckier individuals were being grilled elsewhere.

Behind me the door was shut with 1 hour 46 minutes remaining. Slowly I returned to my seat-If I wasn’t as mad as my colleague before I left it would be a miracle.

The Exam Factory- from the perspective of a simple lab rat

There’s a quote by Einstein “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a goldfish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” For a while my experience of people who quoted things was limited to the pretentious few that used Keats to express how nice their ham sandwich was. I am so grateful for my education but when I read this, something stuck- it actually meant something.

Like every young adult I’ve spent the last ten years of my life being examined. For me, AS exams and a greying 60s sports hall where beige seemed to be the only colour available. The sort of hopeless shade that fades easily beneath the squadrons of identical desks. Two hundred white papers and two hundred chairs that look like they’ve been on a lads holiday together and are now feeling it. Around me an army of shoes blurrily reflect themselves on the waxy floor until there’s no space left. I sit here, hemmed in by the symmetry of other bodies with a sense of detachment, a numb stillness. There is nothing less inspiring than that, being called by a candidate number, being sat at a coordinate in a vast maze of other nameless insignificant possibilities, disappearing into the distance until you’re just an object:

Brain 9227 attached to a chewed biro.

Like a lab rat I’m an insignificant part of this exam factory . The monotonous “you may begin” echoes from A to Z as the sound of two hundred pages turn in sync. Perhaps I’m naïve but can that many minds really work in the same way? What happens to the “goldfish”- the ones that can’t play the game? Reaching out and taking marks from the hands of bored examiners. I sit here, waiting for something. Watching silently the invigilators navigate the straight lines, surveying their samples with mild curiosity while the 199 other brains work on overdrive, cogs whirring, some panicking, all thinking the same thoughts.

And it’s too much.

The internal noise spills out into the hall through the scratching of pens and the aggressive tick of each clock hand until it’s in my head, this lack of individuality. It’s mockery- even the paper staring back violently white against the muted background. From somewhere distant I watch myself guess what it is I am expected to think.

That quote then nothingness.

No panic.

Just the faint sense of entrapment as the grade slips slowly between my fingers…

Social Humiliation via angry college students

It takes a certain type of person to sit in the wrong exam seat. I always envisioned myself as the one watching sympathetically whilst smothering derisive laughter into a contraband tissue. Turns out it’s not so fun when you’re the Einstein causing the ten minute delay.

I walked in for the English Exam thinking positive thoughts- the ones your mum always tells you to think but you pretend you’re above until your walking through the exam doors conversing with your inner being. Yeah the usual. YOU ARE THE CHOSEN ONE. YOU WILL COMANDEER THIS PAPER LIKE THE LOVE CHILD OF BEYONCE AND JULIUS CAESAR. It did occur to me after a period of blissful ignorance that I was totally and completely lost in a room full of chairs. Seat number? Yeah….one of the possible 200 combinations. What can you do.  I chose the only attractive option as the last one in- sit down fast  and act like you own it.  It was initially hysterically amusing to see the invigilators throw puzzled glances from their clipboards. The sort of all in the head, mentally exhausted laughter that generally accompanies internal screaming and rocking back and forwards. That was pleasant. The social execution less so.  Why don’t humans like it when other humans turn and look at them in a group? Being escorted to the front like a terrorist with a poetry collection was not on my bucket list. It’s cliché but the aisle went on for sodding ever and all I’m thinking is how the earnest clipboard bashers look like they’ve  either just died or are on their way out. They discuss the seating plan lethargically, making slow motion pencil gestures until I’m actually considering whether they will all make it through the 2 ½ hour exam. I Risk a glance behind me. A firing squad- 400 eyes. It felt like that scene from toy story when buzz jumps into the arcade game and all you can see are aliens right into the distance. Except instead of “Claw” each face says:

You Git.

Revision Leads To Questioning Existence

Today during that point in study leave where you’ve had 7 days off, been awake for 10 hours and still NOTHING’S GOING IN, I  decided to go philosophical. When you think about it…it’s pretty awesome that out of the 7 billion+ people on Earth, you met the people you did meet. How easy is it to carry on living your life at a parallel to someone and never know they exist. Like when you look through a friend’s photos and see the life they had before they knew you, knew you were alive. Maybe that sounds arrogant but there’s always that theory “if a tree falls down  in a forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a noise?” and I think it does. But I can’t help entertaining myself that every time you meet someone new you write a bit of the story they tell their kids or their grandkids or just their dogs after a few too many beers. Maybe they don’t remember it all, maybe the tree would still have made a noise if you weren’t there, but seeing as you were- that is some serious power.

I need to stop eating mushrooms on toast. Also Check out Hans Zimmer’s “Time” soundtrack from the film Inception and turn the lights off- for some reason the bass is better in the dark.

The Trauma of the Bath

I don’t think I’ve ever had a relaxing bath. These people who write statuses on Facebook about their heavenly candle lit meditation bathing really fascinate me. “Just chilling in the bath for an hour with an Agatha Christie novel and a box of dairy milk”. An hour!? Yeah I think this too is an excessive amount of time to be spent lying in a pool of your own dirty water- to put it nicely. More importantly how the hell do they have the patience to keep it warm? The infuriating battle against tepid water is one in which I have no patience whatsoever. I start by running my bath to boiling point on the basis that.. last time’s bath went cold. So there’s the brave first step in and for a second I think “Yeah this is ni-“ then the boiling starts and your feet turn an interesting purple colour while your arms and legs jerk about – Don’t tell me you haven’t been there. First the uneasy shift from one foot to the other until you’re hopping around trying to get the hell out of the water but end up slipping on the sides.

As for chocolates and a novel well I’ve tried that but as predicted it lasted 10 seconds before I knocked them onto the floor simultaneously sending JK Rowling swimming whilst trying to rescue them. There must be some skill involved.

Anyway what I’m trying to say is that baths for me are overrated and sitting in cold water while trying to stop the dog from jumping in with you is not my idea of relaxation. What’s more, there’s always that awful moment when you realise you’ve remembered all of the interesting and unnecessary bath products but not the towel. That is where, what is known in our household as, the “Risky Run” occurs. Take an unfortunate, dripping wet individual and let them frantically scamper round the house naked in an attempt to locate the towel. Enter family members to the house and observe the risky runner’s panic level increase.

Many a time I have taken part in the Risky Run but never so traumatically as the other day. It was dark, between 6 and 7 in the morning, The lights were off and the landing light was broken. Silence- I wanted it to stay that way. After having a shitty  bath upstairs I  was faced with the Risky Run after discovering a lack of towel that I blame completely on another Risky Runner’s heartlessness. Holding armfuls of bath products I began to negotiate the stairs in the darkness, anxious not to get lit up like a Christmas tree as I hurried down. It was therefore unfortunate yet inevitable that I tripped over my own foot and gracelessly face planted 10 stairs before sprawling on the carpet, lights pinging on around me as the sound of a felled tree awoke the others.

I am now a shower person.

Organised people- How do you do it?!!

1

Organised people- some of the strangest, most admirable human beings you may ever meet. At school I am surrounded by them and it’s like being amongst a different species. Their meticulous highlighting of texts, colour coordinated pencil collections, Diaries to hand in their conveniently shaped blazer pockets all up to date and time tabled. Birthday presents often bought months in advance! How terrifying.

It seemed important to fit in so I did try, but unfortunately I remain the biggest scatterbrain to grace the planet. Some people envied my lack of stress as I glided into the music department for an early morning practice session, unbeknownst to me that the rest of the year were assembling in front of the head teacher for the GCSE English exam results. I was missed apparently. They sent out a search party and it ended up being a friend of mine bursting into my toilet cubicle shouting “YOU WALLY! DON’T YOU KNOW WHAT DAY IT IS?”.  I said I didn’t, though  my immediate thoughts were focused on-thank god I’d pulled my trousers back on.

It’s things like this that I really can’t seem to help. Unfortunately forgetfulness and disorganisation really do go hand in hand. These traits got me the title of Metro hoarder as I never remember to recycle my morning newspaper and sling them into my locker. On the last day of school it took two people 3 trips to clear the years worth of papers and much mocking laughter.

Organised people just don’t seem to understand this behaviour. Some find it laughable and others horrifying. I know a girl who has to fold her worksheets 5 times over before sticking them in, as beautiful as origami. Another who sets his wrist watch for 1 minute before the end of every lunch break so that it gives him a beep beep in time for him to assemble himself and sweep out of the room like a punctual Dracula.

How do you do it?

I guess OCD’s not for everyone.

Right. I’ve had my fill of starting things and never finishing them. It’s the 20th January and I’m planning to write every day until the next one. Tough? CHALLENGE ACCEPTED…