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?!!


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…

Public Embarrassment

To anyone who’s had an embarrassing day….. I salute you in proud comradeship because mine was just a corker…

The first day in my new home town I thought I’d enjoy the new area. I’d Take a look around, visit the town and get my bearings whilst the rest of us unpacked. I seemed to have this rose tinted view on the whole experience. Until I went out. It took only a day for me to be asked what was in my bag by a stranger lacking shoes dragging a guitar across the pavement. To have a man scream at me “Oggy Oggy Oggy” out of a two storey building and finally for a friend to walk up to me and announce….

“Hey you moved here too. Welcome to the shit hole.”

As you can imagine, a few years on I don’t expect miracles when I step out of the door. I know the lady on the desk of the local shop will throw the change at me and there’ll probably be a chav smoking something dodgy on the corner. But today was just something altogether unexpected. There’s me and a friend walking up a street with the dog, having a chat in the sun. I was having a laugh and it seemed like quite a nice day,  so when the dog stopped to do his business I offered to do the cleaning up as an act of  my gallant and selfless nature. An act of kindness I now totally regret.

So I’m down on my knees getting it up whilst the friend holds the dogs lead who has disappeared behind a wall- totally invisible though I’m completely oblivious. I’m about to get the last of it into the bag when a jerky looking car pulls  up on the other side of the road. Rather suddenly,  a bloated, red faced man reels down the window and sticking his neck out of the car shrieks with disgust “YOU DIRTY GIRL!” across the street, seemingly adamant that in my squatting state and poo nearby I was in fact defecating the public pavement. I turned, ashen, towards the nasally sound to watch him shake his head and climb back into the driver’s seat before bumping away. People stared oh did they stare. Putting the offence into the doggy bin I just wanted to flee whilst evidently presenting my dog to the passers-by, who weren’t yet convinced that they shouldn’t incriminate me. Instead I was faced with no dog and a friend who was taking part in the kind of laughter that requires tissues and propping up as they’re no longer in control of themselves. Safe to say someone found it funny.

I found the dog pottering around behind the wall on the end of his lead which happened to be coiled up in the friends pocket. He’d been having a great sniff while I faced public mortification.

Never again will I be so gallant.

I wish small talk didn’t exist

Imagine being stuck in a Jane Austen novel- how crap would that be. I speak from the point of view of the only family member to not enjoy her books. I’m not gonna sit on my arse and slag her off because she’s renown for writing classic literature and has gone down in history for her work  and frankly I’m a normal teenager who watches Japanese game shows and draws goblins in her spare time. There’s no comparison. But what I can say is how uninteresting women’s lives seem to be after reading some of her work.

The endless small talk each character endures is enough to make you want to pull your own ears off. I know that this was standard in the early 19th century but seriously I thought school small talk was bad. Let’s get this straight, both speakers know when it’s “fill in a gap to make you look social” talk and you both feel it’s intense awkwardness and yet you still rabbit to each other about nothing.

“Hey how was your weekend?” We only speak every other week on a Monday afternoon and I know for a fact you couldn’t care less what I did on the weekend and are only talking to me because you’re waiting for someone more popular and want to seem angelic entertaining the peasants of the school society.

Yeah well I bet the cast of pride and prejudice would have killed for “How was your weekend?”. The film adaptations one has to sit through with an obsessive Jane Austen fan for a sister is just insane and so you really get the feel for women’s lives as they stroll through a paradox of hedge gardens arm in arm talking about their hopes to receive letters perhaps detailing a new arrival of a servant or something similarly invigorating. OH MY GOD.

It doesn’t matter what your views are on Jane Austen it’s hard to believe how often you have to wade through verbal crap just to talk to someone genuinely. I’m not an antisocial person- I like chatting as much as the next teen but sometimes ( and I don’t know if anyone else does this) I just get the urge to hide when I see a small talker approaching. I feel bad but it’s like an instinct XD The kind of people that seem intent on robbing the Breakfast news of their weather reporters.

“Ooh did you feel the cold this morning- they say it’ll lead to black ice all over the main road. You’d better get your grit ready!”

What’s more, it’s always the way that when you’re trapped in this web of dullness you can see your best friend coming from over their shoulder. They’re doing that grin like they’ve got a secret to spill but you bite your tongue and continue being verbally whacked on the head by the smalltalker.

You know, sometimes I think dogs have it easier…

one butt sniff and they’re done.  :)