Thursday, 5 November 2015

17 Of The Most Grandparent-Ish Things My Grandparents Have Ever Done

The Black Country Embroidery Society are total bitches.

I recently had the misfortune to share a train with them, and pretty much all of them are very terrible people.

The Black Country Embroidery Society is made up exclusively of women who are, at a rough guess, aged 70 and above. They are also all, exclusively, small, rude and racist (I specified both rude and racist as I felt it was an important distinction; you can’t just assume that all rude people are racists and vice versa – some of the most well mannered people I have ever met have turned out to be incredibly racist.)

Trains don’t bring out the best in people, I get that. Especially not when they are a four carriage Arriva train from Cardiff to Birmingham International, arriving at Wolverhampton after the last four trains have all been cancelled.

That said, there are rules.

Not sure of the exact order, but I think loudly proclaiming that ‘we (a group that I am not comfortable with being included in for reasons soon to become apparent) should flush them back to where they came from’ has got to be high on the list of Don’ts.

Look, they were just horrible women. Women that used their sinewy, surprisingly strong arms and arthritic chiselled hands to claw their way through the crowds and get you right between the ribs.

I had always taken it for granted that grandparents were nice. They let us do whatever we want, and in return, we behave better for them than we ever would for our actual parents. That’s the deal, old folks!

It was as I was being stared at by a particularly sour-faced old hag that I realised how lucky I am to have such nice grandparents.

I had, foolishly, just assumed that all old people were nice. Deaf, and nice.

But the Black Country Embroidery Society proved otherwise and as I swiftly left that train in favour of one in which I was free of the scornful gaze of small women whose wrists were padded with old tissues, I realised three things:

1. That perhaps my grandparents are a delightful anomaly
2. That I am surprisingly okay calling racist old ladies bitches in my own head
3. That thinking about how nice my grandparents are at a time when I am enraged enough to call any type of old lady a bitch in my own head is like a big hug – one of the ones with a little back rub incorporated.

And sometimes, when I feel uncertain and mixed up and as if I am balancing precariously on my entire life, that’s exactly what I need.

Here are a very small amount of the things that, when I think of my grandparents, make me feel hugged.

17 Of The Most Grandparent-Ish Things My Grandparents Have Ever Done

1. My grandma looking into my innocent eyes as I, aged 8 and fresh off the plane from Portugal, proudly displayed my new ankle bracelet and telling me “That’s what ladies of the night used to wear.”

2. Both of them shunning modern medicine, firm in their belief that all that is needed to cure a clinging bout of depression is a regimented course of cream teas at the local garden centre.

3. Both being unrelenting in their ambition to collect all of the free pens that they have ever been given, or have ever been in close proximity to, in the last forty years.

4. Serving me Cointreau and lemonade made with Cointreau that is older than my mum.

5. In an effort to be nice, talking to all gay people like they are on the other side of a very busy road.

6. My grandma being completely baffled as to why everyone is suddenly drinking water now, as if it hasn’t been around since the dawn of time – or possibly before, I’m not a scientist.

7. My granddad, when going on holiday to places such as South Africa, Thailand and Goa, taking half a suitcase full of notebooks, pencils and felt tips for local schools. (I know that it is tasteless and crass to brag about your own charity work, something that I run a low risk of doing seeing as I don’t really do any, but do the same rules apply if you are talking about a member of your family? Is that just being proud, or is it also a social faux pas?)

8. My granddad calling me to reverently warn me of impending pick pocketers whenever he knows that I’m planning to visit London.

9. My granddad being absolutely repulsed at the thought of chocolate with sea salt in it.

10. My grandma waiting until the age of 82 to have a curry…

11. … And the age of 83 to try lasagne.

12. My granddad being completely incredulous that you would ever order anything described as a ‘sandwich’ in McDonalds, despite reassurance that it is, in fact, just a chicken burger.

13.  My granddad insisting on polishing whatever shoes I’m wearing when I’m visiting, even if they are sandals.

14. My grandma never turning her mobile phone on, but somehow amassing £67.32 in credit

15. My granddad inviting me round, using a roast dinner as a ploy, to go through the extensive filing system that he had entrusted to me when he dies, meaning that should we need the insurance guarantees for their last three sofas when making funeral arrangements, I’ve got it covered.

16. Managing to leave me an 8 minute long voice message that consisted solely of them arguing about whether they currently have a whole cucumber or half a cucumber in the salad drawer.

17. My grandma being so delightfully small that she can’t reach into the chest freezers in certain branches of Sainsburys.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

A fail-safe way to know whether you're good at sex...

Something you might not know about me is that I spend a fair amount of time considering what people are like in bed.

And when I say ‘in bed’, I don’t mean whether they starfish or sleep with the duvet between their legs - I’m talking about what they’re like at sex.

I appreciate that this piece of information might make you feel simultaneously flattered and creeped out, but allow me to negate those feelings with one simple, but devastatingly true, statement - I don’t think about it because I want to sleep with you.

Because, seriously, I really don’t.

I approach it with the same morbid curiosity, and total objectivity, that makes people curious as to what people would say about them at their funeral (people would say nothing at my funeral - there would be a nationwide 24 hours silence, ended by the screams of my exes as they executed themselves samurai style in mourning and regret for what they lost).

Anyway, now that you know this about me you can more accurately imagine my delight when I read recently that scientists had taken a break from the important stuff to declare that ‘fans of toasted cheese sandwiches have a better sex life than those who don’t eat them’.

The reason that I have taken the results of this study as truth are twofold; 1, as someone who exclusively lived off of cheese toasties for around 7 months during my final year of university, and who still makes time for one at least once a week now, it reflects well on me and my sexual ability (although, granted, not my body or cholesterol) and 2. it has also, in many ways, legitimised the way that I use mundane tasks to judge a person’s sexual prowess and for that I am glad.

However, I do feel like it could’ve gone deeper*-  what do the enjoyment of other foods suggest about people’s sex lives?

Well, scientists, take a break - I’ve done the hard work here** and have compiled a list of what I believe are quite concrete indicators of someone’s ability to get you off based on what’s in their fridge.

- Mild cheese:
You are the worst at sex.

Mild cheese is actually better than you, as I can think of two reasons for why mild cheese exists; 1. To wrap around tablets so that a dog will eat them and 2. To fold up and wedge under a wonky table.

I can think of only one reason why anyone would want to have sex with you, and that is as a way of making relatively clean sheets legitimately dirtyso that they have an excuse to use the new ones that they bought last week and are super excited to sleep in, as they think they will really add something to the bedroom - unlike you and your insipid, too-soft sex.

- ‘Nom’:
Ok, not a food, but if that’s the kind of noise that you make, or type, when you’re about to eat anything that isn’t lettuce then the thought of what kind of noises you make when you’re about to do something that is 153-times better than a Whetherspoons burger makes me want to die.

- Hot sauce:
You recognise that, sometimes, things that are already pretty great could do with a little extra something to make them exceptional and for that you should be applauded - and banged.

You’re not afraid to add a couple of shakes of Sriracha to a tray of macaroni cheese, just like you’re not afraid to introduce a rogue angle or a light spanking, and you get the balance just right - correct amount and it’s lightly flushed faces all round; too much and things will start to burn and the whole evening is ruined.

- Boxed sushi:
To be fair to sushi (and we should be fair to it, because it’s delicious), this is not about the sushi itself - this is about the attitude that some people have when they eat sushi.

I enjoy a box of sad Tesco sushi at my desk as much as the next person but I am under no illusion that it makes me in any way cultured. Some people, however, are; they enquired about sushi once when visiting their shitty hometown and the fish-fearing locals have treated them like an international superstar ever since, and unfortunately they have massively bought into their own hype.

So, smug, creepy men on trains after 6pm; when you’re stabbing your final bits of discounted duck sushi into the tiny pool of soy sauce that you’ve poured into the lid, I’m imagining that you use your penis with the same amount of finesse - and I’m not into it, so stop looking at me.

- Coconut water:
Someone once told me that it’s not that bad if you add vodka - a saying that I imagine is easily applied to sex with someone who willingly drinks something that tastes like a puddle in order to fight off a case of the sniffles.

- Light mayonnaise:
I wouldn’t even worry about sex if I were you, just start by working on not being such an awful human. I’m not going to waste my time here - basically, if you eat light mayonnaise then you are shit and I hate you.

If you have your own thoughts on how the foods that people eat hints at their sexual prowess then please do share them with me - I will assume that they are either about you or someone that you’ve slept with and I will very much enjoy telling everyone that I know all about it.

* Which is exactly the phrase I have used to describe having sex with people who, almost proudly, claim that they don’t like sauces - any sauces.

** A review of sleeping with someone who enjoys wafer-thin ham, there.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Clegg, Farage, Miliband and me…

Nick Clegg, Nigel Farage, Ed Miliband and I all have two things in common.

One, is our inexplicable but powerful sexual magnetism.

Two, is that we all quit our jobs this week.

This week was the week of the quitter, and whether you made cocky statements that later forced you out of your job, screwed up so bad that there was no coming back, suffered a humiliating defeat in front of an entire nation or just decided that you should probably be doing literally anything other than your current job, this week was the week to put it right, quit and call your mum to tell her to buy up all of the loungewear that Sainsbury’s has to offer, ‘cos you were gonna be needing that.

The great, daunting, and eventually mentally damaging, thing about quitting your job is that you are suddenly granted access to a shit tonne of free time. However, after you’ve stubbornly forced yourself to go for brunch for 13 consecutive weekdays, purely as a big FUCK YOU to all the other suckers who are working for The Man, and are sat staring at a plate of smoked salmon and cream cheese waffles with dead eyes, you’ll realise that you still have another 22 hours of the day to fill.

Well, don’t worry lads. Miliband, Clegg, Farage - we’re going to get through this together, and in my first act as self-appointed President of the Dirty Quitters Club I have compiled a list of all the stuff that you can do now that you’re unemployed. While my advice isn’t revolutionary, I have made it very easy to spot the exact the point where I became tired of this but forced myself to continue in order to be able to think of today as productive, therefore making this all charmingly relatable.

You’re welcome.

Learn a new skill
Now is the time for character building. To realise your dreams. To become the leading role in the movie of your own life. To do something that you’ve always wanted to do, but have always been too scared to try. To do something totally out there. Something different...

For me, it’s driving.

Quitting my job was my first step towards becoming a proper person, and I suppose this should be the second. I honestly can’t think of a better time than now, when in a month’s time I will have no stable income, to start something that is going to cost me at least a thousand pounds a year for the rest of my life.

Basically, I can’t put it off any longer, and if you think that getting public transport during rush hour is shit, try getting it at 3pm on a Thursday afternoon.

Also, I recently drove an automatic around a deserted car park at around 6 mph and the rush was un-be-fucking-lievable.

Get back into body scrubs
Honestly, a warming salt scrub will make you feel a thousand times better guys. You basically get new skin, whenever you want (Farage, please consult your GP before purchasing a scrub - I am assuming that you shed your skin once a year anyway, so anything extra may be risky for you.*), which is good when you’re current skin looks like uncooked sausage from where you have neglected it in favour of crawling into bed every night, feeling sad about what you had to do that day instead of implementing a strict body-brushing regime.

Pair this with a body lotion from Kiehl’s and make sure interviewers brush your arm - your skin will blow their mind and the job is yours.

Start doing something regularly and call it a hobby
I have long thought that hobbies are for annoying people, and people who lied on their online dating profile about what they’re into but are so taken with the person that they’ve been on three dates with that they’ve had to hurriedly take up kayaking.

However, I now have a lot of time for hobbies, literally, and I’ve given quite a lot of serious thought about what mine is going to be - I think I’ve finally decided.

I’m going to take up freaking out about leaving a stable job and telling myself that I am totally out of my depth by trying to go freelance whilst eating paprika flavoured Ruffles, the greatest crisps of all time.

Sort your shit out
Apparently, you can’t think properly about what you want to do with your life if you have loads of stuff. Stuff ruins everything, and according to pretty much every Google result that comes up if you Google ‘Things to do when you’re unemployed’, the only way you’re going to better yourself and, more importantly, earn money again is by giving at least 63% of your stuff away.

This means you’ll have to put everything you own into categories that suggest how much you want to value it, and if popular culture is to be believed, then this is the perfect time to invite your friends round, pop open the Prosecco and, like the feeding of the five thousand, share one box of MatchMakers between all four of you for the entirety of the 56 hours that it will take for you to decide that, actually, you want to keep all of your stuff.

Top Life Hack Tip - have an empty cupboard or chest ready to shove everything in to when you realise that you’ve been doing this for the whole of the second Sex and the City movie and you’ve only managed to categorise your underwear into ‘thongs and g-strings’, ‘matching sets’, ‘shorts’ and ‘period’, and the rest of everything else that you own is all over your bed.

Read more
Every 6 seconds, someone, somewhere, says that they want to read more.


Feel guilty about everything you spend money on
It’s really important that you do this, as if you don’t, other people will make you. Up until the second week of unemployment, everything is a #cheeky treat - after that, it’s all an unnecessary expense. Interview clothes? Surely you’ve already got something. A Boots meal deal? Pretty sure there’s a fridge full of food at home. Tampons? A frivolous luxury, you flash cow.

Who’s paying for that bottle of Ice Tea, huh? The taxpayer, that’s who! Doesn’t matter if you’re not making a weekly trip to your local job centre to sign on, suddenly every news item is about how much money unemployed people are sucking from the country and you, my friend, are now part of the problem. Don’t you dare enjoy yourself.

It’s easy to feel deflated, bleak and like a total fucking waster when you’re unemployed, but, above all, remember that something will come along.

As long as you’re not a soul-less, toupee-wearing Pepperami, a drip who fucked everything he was supposed to believe in or a man unable of eating anything without looking like a cat who has a hair stuck on its tongue then something will totally come along.

* On second thoughts, risk it.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Stuff I watched on TV when I was too young to watch it on TV

I first got a TV in my bedroom when I was 12, and I'm pretty sure that's where all of my life's problems started.

It was my birthday and whilst I was downstairs sitting on the sofa with my knees up to hide the fact that I had a bit of boobs from my family and opening cards (cards first, presents afterwards – that’s just good manners), my dad had crept upstairs to balance the 'ice blue' TV and Video Combi precariously on my chest of drawers. 

This in itself was unusual, because we don’t really do ‘big present reveals’ in my family but now that I am older and can 1) roughly estimate the cost of an Ice Blue TV and Video Combi at the time and 2)have a greater understanding of our financial situation at the time, I think that the 'big reveal' had more to do with the fact that my dad had most likely bought the TV second hand somewhere and didn't have the box for it. 

I loved it regardless. I could finally watch all of the stuff that everyone else at school was allowed to watch in the living room, alongside their parents, because seriously, how bad could it be?

Turns out, this bad.

First shout out goes to Crimewatch, as it was because of Nick Ross and his merry bunch of E-fits that I was awake to watch all of the other stuff in this list.

I would like to start of by saying that I didn't even watch Crimewatch on my own tiny TV - this whole thing was down to irresponsible parenting, and a great display of anti-bedtime related cunning by me.

I used to do this thing where I would pretend to fall asleep on the sofa, just so that my dad would carry me to bed. I have tried it with boyfriends since and no, doesn’t work, so don't bother - they literally just leave you there, and go off to bed where they will lie diagonally across the mattress. Anyway, because I was so good at sleep acting, I would end up being left there for a while and my parents would watch stuff on the TV that they wouldn't have watched if I was awake. In this instance, it was Crimewatch.

Listening to Crimewatch once a week embedded in me the incessant, gnawing fear that we are all just one second away from something awful happening to us. When I was 12, and was only aware of one ninety-sixth of the bad things that could actually happen to us at any moment, my main concern was that were going to be burgled and my dad would be beaten with some kind of sporting equipment (cricket bat, golf club etc).

In my self-imposed role as house security, I would lie away for hours into the night (until approx 10:25pm, I would now guess), listening for any noise that
could suggest we were going to be burgled by Diadora wearing, but surprisingly well spoken, men who would punch my dad and take our stuff.

Never happened, of course, but I feel like it will now that I've written this.

Luke From Hollyoaks being raped
I'm pretty sure that 74% of Hollyoaks Late Night's audience was made up of children, lured by the naive title and the promise that Hollyoaks people would most likely swear at each other, as opposed to calling each other 'cows' or 'idiots', which was the most you could get away with at 6:30pm, even on Channel 4. With that in mind, I think the progressive and sensitively handled Luke From Hollyoaks gets raped story line was a little lost on most of us.

Not helped by the fact that I had most of the episode on mute because I was scared my mum would hear, I understood about 3% of what was happening. I remember actually thinking that this gang of men were going to wee on him, which disturbed me no end. Thankfully, this was before I had broadband and a computer that wasn't in the middle of the lounge and the innocence of Encarta kept me in the dark about what exactly 'rape' was for another two years.

The next day at school we covered all the big issues, with much conversation being devoted to the fact that you saw Luke from Hollyoaks' bum in the shower - albeit when he was manically scrubbing at this skin and sobbing, traumatised by what had just happened to him. 

Looking back, I think I had the same amount of indifference towards guys' arses then as I do now, but it seemed like something that grown up women would discuss on their lunch break (much of what we'd learned about grown up women being gleaned from snatches of Loose Women that we saw when we off sick), so we forced ourselves to talk about it in hushed but flirty tones, like we were in a highly insensitive Diet Coke ad.

I thought it was going to be a film about dancing, and by Jove, was it a film about dancing. I fell asleep before the end, but the opening featured about thirteen bare boobs, so I knew it was something that I shouldn't have been been watching, hence why I forced myself to watch it – this would provide great playground chat the next day. 

The most vivid memory that I have of watching that film is the pool sex scene.
I didn't understand much about sex at the time, and wasn't entirely sure that's what I was actually seeing, but I didn't question it. 

Now that I am 24, I am questioning it. Despite what liars and bullshitters say, pool sex is terrible, and if you're lucky will end with underwhelmed smiles and if you're not will end in you fucking your data charges whilst Googling what Spanish is for cranberry juice is.  

The pool sex in Showgirls is really ridiculous pool sex. Like, literally no one working on that film even tried to make that scene in anyway realistic, least of all the actors involved. I mean, I’ve had sex- I’ve had good sex and I’ve had amazing sex, but I’ve never had sex that illicits the reaction that Elizabeth Berkley (who previously I'd only ever seen in Saved By The Bell, in which she was much, much more wholesome) enacts in this scene and I don’t think that I will, unless I ever sleep with a guy whose penis doubles up as an electric cattle prod, and I’m fine with that. 

I have long suspected that once popular BBC hospital drama series, Casualty, is the biggest contributor to soaring diagnoses of anxiety within my generation. We all watched it because the fact that it was on past 9pm and we were allowed to watch it made it seem like The fucking Wire. The story lines from Casualty seeped into my brain at weekly intervals, and gradually worked away at telling my innocent, best-believing child brain to fear everything and that even the most benign household item could cause a slow, painful death. Laundry baskets, novelty bread bins on high shelves, a lone AA battery and that doe-eyed bastard Henry the Hoover - they will all result in a subdural hematoma. 

Casualty basically taught me to fear everything. I mean, I get it, Casualty writers. There is little drama to be found in realistic A&E scenarios; a doctor and a nurse who have engaged in an on-off relationship for the past three years are not going to be reminded of what really matters (that’s love, apparently) over a girl who cut the bottom of her leg after trying to cut the straps of her shoes with a bread knife as she was too drunk to undo the buckle. That won’t get you a second series, sure, but how about exercising a little responsibility, huh? To this day I am still terrified of curtain ties and of accidentally hanging myself with one after tripping over toys that my mum kept telling me to put away. 

Other things I learnt from Casualty were, 1) never hang up disco lights at your local community centre - at best you will end up in a coma and 2) healthcare professionals could not care less about you - they are just waiting for you to leave/die/their shift to end so that they can shag each other. 

Graham Norton
I have always loved Graham Norton. He is funny and bitchy, without being mean - a quality which I have yet to crack the ratio off. I would like him to adopt me - something that I'm quite convinced is going to happen at some point, as how can anyone be happy without children?

I stumbled across So Graham Norton one night and never looked back. If you could watch this show openly as an adult then stick a cigarette in my mouth and plonk me on a sunbed, because I was totally up for aging.

Most of what I saw on So Graham Norton has melted away over time, but I definitely remember seeing a woman play a flute with her vagina. It baffled me then and, despite having a much better relationship with my own area now than I did aged twelve, when it's mere existence mortified me, it baffles me now. 
I don't think I will ever be old enough to see that and not feel totally confused.