Monthly Archives: March 2014

A Life Without Bacon

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Hello reader!  How are you this morning?  Good weekend?

One day last week two friends and I were pootling towards central London on a Piccadilly line train, asking each other ridiculous questions and generally amusing ourselves.  One of these friends is a vegetarian who has decided that she will never eat meat again.  My other friend and I were impressed but perplexed: who can promise themselves that they’ll never eat bacon ever again?  Even if you could manage a few months or years, surely you’d crack eventually?  And if the bacon doesn’t get you, surely the burgers will.  No?  What about steak?  Pulled pork?  Chicken nuggets?? Apparently not.  Not to be put off by something as trivial as our friend’s important life decision, we started baiting her a bit:

“Would you rather eat meat or poo yourself in public?”
“Would you rather eat meat or have to sleep with your gay best friend?”
“Would you rather eat meat or have us follow you around asking these questions for the rest of our lives?”

I’m very proud to say that our silliness did not deter our veggie friend one bit: she will never eat meat again.  She was a bit taken aback by our fascination (partly, I think, because she has no idea what she’s missing – roast dinners, for crying out loud!) but mainly because in her head this topic has never even been up for debate.  She has never doubted her decision for a second, and no matter what we threatened her with – career failure, being single forever, bad hair – she was unmoveable.

I have an enormous amount of respect for her, and for her certainty about something that must inform quite a big part of her lifestyle.  I think that we all have things that we are fairly sure about without being absolute.  For example, I don’t think that I will ever watch a Keira Knightley film ever again, BUT if someone casts Christian Bale in a movie with that talentless ironing board of a human being, I will have to do some serious thinking.  I’m getting stressed out just thinking about it.  Ooh, coffee…

We all have opinions that we’re pretty sure of, and beliefs that we don’t think we could compromise on.  To a certain extent it’s more difficult in our generation to have any absolutes in our mindsets, because the internet, the news and the people who monitor equal opportunities can all throw us a curve ball at a moment’s notice.  New information, new opinions and new possibilities emerge all the time, and it can be a struggle to hold on to your beliefs in the wake of them.  I’m not suggesting that it’s a good idea to cling to an opinion that’s been proven wrong by science or what have you, just that if you’re a Christian (for example) and the Richard Dawkins brigade are throwing copies of his books at your house, it’s hard to keep resolution without becoming discouraged.

Well, let’s not be discouraged.  Let’s have some faith in ourselves and our beliefs.  Your instincts, thoughts and feelings are all valuable and worth hearing, and you mustn’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  I might be incredibly sad for my vegetarian friend that the joy of a cooked breakfast is forever unavailable to her, but I am very proud of her conviction.

Have the best Monday that anyone has ever had in the history of Mondays.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Good morning and Happy Mother’s Day!

Today is obviously a good day to tell your mum how much she means to you, and as soon as I’ve written this I will skidaddle off to Watford to do just that.  Before I do, I’d like to pay homage to some of the best mums I know:

  • The Single Mums

One of my best friends is a single mum, and she manages to juggle a career in the arts (and all the ambition, uncertainty and madness that goes along with it) with being a mum to a gorgeous little boy.  When I was a teenager I used to babysit for a single mum who had been through a lot of terrible things, but she was the most gentle, compassionate and fun person I’d ever met.  I have so much respect for single mums and dads who raise their children with high standards and a lot of love.

  • The Dear Departed Mums

My heart goes out to anyone who has lost a parent.  I can’t imagine the pain that that kind of loss entails.  To the mothers who are no longer with us: we miss you.  Thank you for the lives you made.  You have left your families with fond and happy memories, and they will think of you during good times and bad for the rest of their lives.  Your example will serve as an inspiration to your children whenever they have to make a decision or work through difficulties.

  • The Not Yet Mums

I am not a mother and neither is my house mate Ash, but she definitely takes care of me the way a mother would.  My life is full of maternal, compassionate people who are not mothers but will make damn good ones one day (except the boys; they’ll be terrible mothers), and I’m very grateful for them.  If you have a nurturing instinct you can guarantee that your friends adore you for it, because there’s an incredible sense of safety and confidence that comes from knowing someone will always look after you.

  • The Surrogate Mums

It might be because I’m very close to my family, but I’ve always thought it was important to make an effort to connect with my friends’ families.  Sometimes I have taken it too far: my two oldest friends’ mothers essentially dragged me up (and one of them was still force-feeding me vitamins when I was nineteen).  Wonderful, generous, warm-hearted women they may be, but they’re also honorary parents in my head.

  • My Actual Mum

My mother has given me so much: a terrible short-term memory, the tendency to leave mugs of coffee all over the place, four lunatic siblings whom I cannot live without, inspiration, a brilliant example, confidence, an education, humour and above all an enormous amount of love.  I am constantly bowled over by the lengths my mum will go to to look after her children, and I hope that if I ever become a mother I will be just like her: selfless, strong and incredibly kind.  (It’s highly likely that I will be more prone to sarcasm, forgetfulness and accidentally leaving my kids in shopping centres, but her characteristics are what I’ll be aiming for.)

Happy Mother’s Day one and all.  I hope that your Sunday involves awesome things like Yorkshire pudding.

Girl Code: Not Quite as Complicated as the Enigma Machine

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Hello dear reader, and welcome to your weekend!

First of all, a lot of congratulations are in order: to my friends who just got engaged, the ones who got married yesterday and the ones who, as of this momentous day, can now get married in the UK.  What a fantastic day for love and marriage.

Now, to the topic at hand (which as usual is pretty silly): those of you who watch How I Met Your Mother and/or are male will be aware of a mysterious set of rules called The Bro Code.  This is a list of regulations that men are supposed to abide by when they’re out and about with their mates, and a lot of them pertain to their duties as wingman.  It’s fairly standard stuff about solidarity, the pursuit of women and being manly.  A lot of the guys I know follow this code whether they realise it or not, but here is my question: where’s the Sis Code?  The Magda Carta, if you will?

Well it exists, but it doesn’t, if you see what I mean.  You know how people talk about there being “unwritten rules”?  Well, girls have those rules off by heart backwards, upside down and in seven different languages.  We don’t have to write them down to know exactly what they are, and when we sense someone breaking the Girl Code we can tell over a distance of up to eight hundred metres (reduced to six hundred on a blustery day).  But just so that there are no misunderstandings, I have written a few of the rules down:

  • When a girl shows you a photo of the guy she likes, the appropriate response is only ever “Aw, he’s lovely!”  THAT’S IT.  Don’t comment on his massive ears, don’t start drooling over him yourself, and for heaven’s sake don’t ask what’s up with his facial hair.
  • You must always hate the new girlfriend of your friend’s ex-boyfriend, at least until said friend is over the situation.  Which brings us nicely on to:
  • Your ex’s friends and your friend’s ex are off-limits.  This is non-negotiable.  No, not even then.  Or then.  No, definitely not.  Stop trying to find ways around this; it’s insurmountable.
  • Use your make-up bag for good, not evil: if you’re dressing up and going out, make sure that you are doing it for the sake of your own confidence, not to make another woman feel small or to impress a man.  (Example: don’t wear white to someone else’s wedding.)
  • Always accompany your friend to the bathroom.  Guys never understand this, but there are several possible reasons for making this activity a team effort: being in an unfamiliar place and not wanting to get lost alone on the way; protecting one another from scary loo attendants; continuing a conversation that is already in progress.  There are loads more, but those are the ones that sound least odd.
  • On a related note, if you are out in public and your friend turns to you and says “I need to talk to you”, then you drop everything.  There is probably a socially-awkward situation to diffuse, or a wardrobe emergency.  As you get to know your friends you will be able to communicate this non-verbally across tables, crowded rooms and dance floors, but remember to use your eyebrows sensibly.  You don’t want to end up like Emma Watson, whose acting style is entirely dependent on the caffeine-infused caterpillars above her eyes.
  • Don’t be mean for no good reason.  (Ok, I definitely just broke that one by being mean about Emma Watson, but seriously.  Her eyebrows genuinely worry me.)
  • This one is my biggest pet peeves, and unfortunately loads of girls do this: don’t be a story-topper.  If someone tells you something really good or really bad that’s happened to them, do not under any circumstances say “Well if you think THAT’s good/bad, listen to what happened to me…”  You haven’t been listening to your friend, and it’s painfully obvious.  One day you will hear yourself say “Well if you think’s THAT’s good, I’ve just been made High Majestic Overlord of the Seas and Sky!” and realise how ridiculous you’re being.
  • Always be willing to lend your shoes.  I don’t know why, but it’s important.
  • Take the time to compliment each other, and not just “oh, I love your earrings, where did you get them?” Make the effort to tell people that you think they’re brave, kind, good at roller-skating, etc.  It’ll take you two seconds and it’ll make their day.

There are hundreds more of these, but I won’t keep you from your weekend any longer.  Have an amazing Saturday!

I’ve Got “Changes” Stuck in My Head Now

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Happy Friday, lovely reader!  Got any nice plans for your weekend?

Last night I watched the season finale of My Mad Fat Diary on that absolute blessing of a website, 4oD.  For those of you who don’t watch it, don’t worry: I’m not going to go into any massive amount of detail about it (although it’s well-worth watching just for Nico Mirallegro, who is beautiful, as you can see).  For those of you who do watch the show but haven’t seen the finale yet, also don’t worry: I won’t spoil it for you.

The reason that I brought it up at all is because one of the key messages that came out of the episode is that you really never know how things are going to change.  You might think that you know how you feel about something, and then find that your opinion is entirely turned around.  (For example, I live in hope that one day I will wake up and discover that I like olives.)  You can think that you know how you feel about a person, and that can change without you even noticing.  That’s how old friends fall in love and old couples fall apart; sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s terrible, but it does happen.  You never know how you might change.

I’ve just typed the word “change” so many times that I’ve now got Bowie’s Changes stuck in my head.  (Weird fact about that song: when it was released as a single in 1972 it never reached the Top 40 in America or the UK, but it got great reviews and has since been listed as #127 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 2004 list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.)

Lots of us think that things happen to us, and that we are forced to adjust to them.  Sometimes this is true, but a lot of the time we actually have more of a say in how we feel than we realise.  If something changes that you genuinely can’t help, you can always find a way to adapt to it.  For example, when I lost my job a month or so ago I could have sat around feeling sorry for myself, but I didn’t.  (My friends and loved ones would never have let me do that, because they’re brilliant.)  I have registered as self-employed, I’m writing this blog and articles on other websites, and I’m finally giving my theatre company some much needed attention.  I have time to see my friends, and I can appreciate living in London for what it is: a bizarre adventure.  Sometimes it can be confusing or a bit lonely, but mostly it’s bloody good fun.

I decided to take that course of action.  I chose not to accept “Episode 7: The One Where Vicki Loses Her Job” as the season finale.  Think about times when something’s gone wrong for you in the past.  Did you sit around and feel sorry for yourself?  Maybe for a while.  But where are you now?  Are you still sulking?  Of course not.  You’re a wonderful human being with a lot of brilliant stuff to do.  You chose to respond to that situation by getting the flip on with your life.  You, my friend, have been commissioned for an additional twelve seasons at least.  (I don’t know why I picked twelve.  I have no idea how the television industry works.)

Most of this week (as you may have noticed from previous posts) I have been in a bit of a strop on behalf of myself and my friends, because we think that having feelings for people makes us vulnerable, and we don’t like that at all.  No siree.  But I had a truly enlightening conversation with a friend the other day, who told me that loving someone (in any way, not just romantically) is not just something that happens to you; it’s something that you decide to do.  You can fight your feelings and you can hide them, but they’ll still be there.  Isn’t it better to use them for something positive, even if you don’t know what will happen?  You don’t necessarily have to make massive declarations of eternal devotion or (God help us all) some kind of huge gesture worthy of a Hollywood rom-com.  You just have to be brave.  You have to admit to yourself how you feel, and then see where it takes you.  I suppose that’s an example of instigating change rather than being a victim of it, which can only be a positive step.

I think that that’s a big ask (especially on a Friday, for crying out loud), and I think it takes most people a while to be able to do that.  To be perfectly honest, I’m not quite there yet.  Although surely if I can master that bit, the olives thing will just happen automatically?

Have the Friday to end all Fridays.

Songs for When You’re Sad

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Good morning, reader!  How’s your Thursday so far?  Yeah, same here.

What is the one thing that can make you feel better when you’re low?  The answer varies from person to person, but I think we can all agree that certain songs always put a smile on our faces.  This is tricky to do accounting for everyone’s different tastes, but here are some songs that I definitely recommend listening to if you find yourself flagging a bit (we’re nearly there, but it’s STILL not Friday), and need cheering up.  YouTube links are in the titles:

1) The Middle – Jimmy Eat World
This is a great song for people who are feeling a bit stuck or lost.  The song itself is upbeat and rocky (I should apologise now for the fact that I have no idea how to describe music, by the way), and the lyrics are encouraging.  An all-round excellent motivator for anyone who feels victimised at work, left out by their friends, out of the loop or just fed up.

2) I’m Not Crying – Flight of the Conchords
This is for anyone on the verge of tears.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t know or watch Flight of the Conchords (although you really should check them out).  The reason that this song works so well for when you’re upset is that it covers all bases: its tone is melancholy and appropriate to your mood, but the lyrics are so funny that you end up laughing at your own sadness.  Any time that I’ve been crying or upset and listened to this, I’ve immediately felt better.  It’s like the Pro Plus of uplifting music.

3) Send Me On My Way – Rusted Root
This one’s just common sense by now, surely?  Alright, none of us know the words, but does that really matter?  It’s been a firm favourite since childhood thanks to Matilda and Ice Age, and it’s still got an irresistible cheer factor now.  I defy you to be unhappy while listening to this tune.

4) Every Little Thing – Delirious?
This is a song by a Christian band (don’t knock ’em til you’ve heard ’em), and it has been making me feel better about life since I was fifteen.  It’s actually more of a cathartic tune than an immediate happy-maker, but its message is very simple: everything is going to be alright.  And it is, you know.

5) Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da – The Beatles
Really?  Out of every Beatles song ever, I’ve gone for this one?  Yep.  Two reasons: firstly, it’s got some cracking lines: “Desmond says to Molly ‘girl, I like your face'” which is just brilliant, and b) during recording Paul McCartney  sang the lyrics wrong at the end, implying that Desmond and Molly Jones are actually a gay couple, which you can hear them all trying not to giggle at.  I think it’s very sweet that they kept and used that recording, because the song is just a cute little love story – who cares if it’s about a gay couple or a straight one?

6) This Too Shall Pass – Ok Go
Cracking, cheerful song and, as always from Ok Go, an insanely amazing video.  In fact, any of their videos will do the trick.

7) You Should Be Dancing – Bee Gees
You know, you SHOULD be dancing.  Forget your troubles and have a boogie, I guarantee you’ll feel better.

8) The song that reminds you of your best friend
This one has no YouTube link (obviously), but it’s probably the best song on the list.  You might recall from this post that my lovely friend Becca introduced me to lots of very good music when we were at university together.  Whenever a song comes on that reminds me of her, I think about how brilliant she is and how much fun we’ve had together.  So go and find the song that does the same thing for you and your best friend, and then if you’re still feeling sad, give them a call.  That’s what best friends are for.

Have the best Thursday since records began.

Twenty-Four Going on Sixteen

Hello and welcome to Wednesday!  I hope your week is treating you extremely well so far.

Last night two actor friends of mine came round for the first rehearsal of a short play that we’re performing in Camden in April.  The piece is about two people whose friendship is on the rocks, because they’re no longer sure what they want from each other.  The rehearsal went really well and we had a lot of fun (especially a certain unnamed actor who got a very serious case of the giggles), but we also had a very interesting discussion about relationships, friendships and how our feelings make us behave.

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As you can see, we took the rehearsal very seriously.  Anyway, as those of you who read yesterday’s blog will already know, my friends and I are not fond of fancying people.  It’s difficult and stressful and it makes us feel unnecessarily girly (and yes, that includes my male friends).  Apart from the obvious vulnerability that goes with having feelings for someone, I think that one of the problems my generation has with the entire dating thing is that it makes us feel like we’re still sixteen.  Even in our mid-twenties, when we have  a fair amount of emotional experience under our belts, we’re still not entirely sure what we’re doing or what the other person is thinking.  That’s hard to process.  How can we not have conquered this in a decade?

We as a generation have been programmed to aim high: we’re fighting against a tidal wave of economic uncertainty, we have to fight hard to get jobs (and even interviews) in a way that not many generations have had to do before, and we are annually told that our excellent A Level grades don’t mean anything.  Of course the exams are getting easier; why would we be getting cleverer or more conscientious?  It’s not like we’re trying to succeed at life or anything.  OH NO WAIT.

If we are so good at working hard for professional success, why are we so bad at coping with our personal lives?  When we were discussing this last night, one of my actors made a very good point: to a certain extent, we have control over our professional progress.  We might not always get the jobs or the opportunities that we want or think we deserve, but to a degree fate favours the people who put the hours in.  When it comes to relationships, friendships and other people in general, we have absolutely no control over how they feel about us.  Sure, we can dress nicely, smile a lot and be the best possible version of ourselves, but there’s no equity involved: being as awesome as you can be doesn’t guarantee that someone will like you.  Unfair, but true.

The bizarrely reassuring thing about this whole situation is that it gives us all a level playing field: nobody feels completely sorted when it comes to this stuff, and even the highest-flying executive can be baffled by a crush.  We have learned a lot since we were teenagers, but no one has yet conclusively proved how feelings work, so at least we’re not alone in our confusion.

Have a wonderful day, and make sure you have something delicious for dinner.

The Tinder Tantrum

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Good morning, dearest and darlingest reader.  How’s the world with you?

Yesterday was a lovely day for me, partly because so many of my close friends had lots of good news to share, but also because I got to spend most of the afternoon on Skype to my friend Steven, who is currently teaching dramatic stuff to bambinos in Italy.  Steven is a very good friend to have for many reasons, but mainly because he is just as good at silly voices/inane chatter as he is at serious and intellectual discussions.

In a slightly odd mixture of the two, yesterday our conversation wandered into Tinder territory, and the conundrum of online dating in general.  I should make two things very clear before I continue:

1) I have absolutely no problem with people who go in for online dating,  nor would I judge anyone for the origins of their relationship.  One of my friends is now blissfully happy with (and engaged to) a guy who got hideously drunk on their first date and behaved like an idiot, so it clearly doesn’t matter how things start out.

2) Having said that, I fear and mistrust online dating with an extremity of feeling that I usually reserve for my hatred of Keira Knightley.

If the good people at match.com are to be believed, a quarter of relationships now start online.  This is all very well and good: modern life is very busy, stressful and it flings us into all sorts of faraway geographical locations and bizarre schedules.  In times and places like these, it makes sense to engage with your dating life through a convenient and easy to navigate service.  I think that there’s something quite sweet about talking to someone for a bit before you meet them to gauge how well you get on, and obviously it’s handy to be able to pick and choose the photos that go onto your profile.  Best face forward and all that.

However, there are some very practical issues to consider when dipping one’s toe into the man-made reservoir of online dating: firstly, the safety issue.  It’s a well-worn topic, but you can pretend to be anyone you like online, and that’s just creepy.  Watch an episode of Catfish and you’ll see where I’m going with this.  In addition, real life doesn’t work like that: you don’t get to re-write conversations half way through because you’ve realised that the sentence you’re about to say doesn’t come across very well, or re-style your hair to look more like that photo of you from so-and-so’s wedding when you looked really nice.  It’s just not possible, unless one of you has got hold of Bernard’s Watch, in which case we should probably be putting it to better use than manipulating dating situations to your advantage.

If you’re particularly busy and/or attached to the idea of smartphone apps, then Tinder is the online dating forum for you.  Call me naive, but the idea of simply swiping through reams of potential partners makes my skin crawl.  According to Steven, the guy who invented Tinder said in an interview that he doesn’t understand why people have a problem with the app’s format, because it’s simply a digital translation of what we do when we are out in bars, clubs, etc.  We scope out the talent, if you’ll excuse that hideous turn of phrase.  It’s a valid point, but we are evolved to look for potential partners when we’re around other human beings: we’re trying to continue a species, here.  Smartphone apps and technology in general are supposed to be making our conscious processes better, not bolstering our innate instincts.  Educational podcasts, tools for early learning, apps for locating the nearest pub showing the Arsenal match and more are all there to challenge our brain power and help us to see as much of this amazing world as possible.  (With the possible exception of the football/pub app, which I realise is just something I find very handy on a Saturday afternoon.)  Why do we need apps and websites to help us do something that we can do perfectly well on our own in the real world?  We’re hard-wired to find each other attractive and then do something about it.  There’s no need to bring Apple into this.

My main problem with online dating is that it takes all the fun out of meeting someone and finding that you share a spark.  This conversation happens between the women in my social circle quite a lot:

“I really like *insert guy’s name*.”
“Aw, that’s great!”
“No it isn’t.  He gives me butterflies, for Christ’s sake.”
“Oh dear.”
“Exactly.”

My friends and I don’t like liking people.  It makes us feel vulnerable and girly and, as you can see, a bit grumpy.  But I would so much rather get cross about being emotionally exposed than go about my love life in the same way I go about banking or applying for jobs.  Ok, the butterflies are a pain, but they’re also pretty important, and you don’t get them with an app.  How can someone give you butterflies when you’ve never seen them smile at you?

I think the crux of the matter is that underneath many, many, many layers of sarcasm and a predisposition to sneer at lovey-dovey stuff, I am actually a bit of a romantic.  Urgh.  How embarrassing.  As I said, I don’t have a problem with online dating per se, but I hope that it never overtakes the joy of meeting someone for the first time and feeling like your insides have become the London Butterfly House.

Have a truly joyous Tuesday.  Make sure you drink plenty of water.

It’s Only Monday

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Good morning and welcome to the new week!

Lots of people hate Mondays, including Garfield, the Bangles and the Boomtown Rats.  I personally quite like them, for the same reason that I love early mornings: the potential.  The beginning of something is always full of possibilities to explore and opportunities not yet taken.  Inevitably, Mondays (and early mornings) are also riddled with moments of clumsiness, missed trains and coffee spillages, but as far as I’m concerned it’s the good stuff yet to come that’s worth thinking about.  Who knows what this week might hold?

This time of year is a bit of an odd one, because British people’s moods are almost solely dictated by the weather: some people are a bit blue because it’s so chilly and there’s a lot of damage to be fixed after the floods, whereas others are tilting their faces towards the lukewarm sunshine and thinking dreamily of summer.  It is technically British Summer Time now…but we have to show some self-control.  Put down the deck chairs; we’ve got a few months and several degrees to go.

Apparently, people have always tended to be feeling a bit extreme around this date.  Whether these were all on Mondays or just end-of-March madness we’ll never know, but let’s look at some examples:

1603: After about a year of watching her closest mates drop dead one by one, Queen Elizabeth I succumbs to peer pressure and follows suit.  After forty-four and a half years on the throne she must be knackered, poor thing.

1832: Mormon Joseph Smith is beaten, tarred and feathered in Ohio.  I know I should be appalled by that, but actually it just made me giggle.  It’s the idea of a religious fanatic running around covered in feathers; how on earth could anyone take that zealous lunatic seriously after that?

1837: Canada gives black people the right to vote.  This is pretty amazing, especially when you consider the fact that America took another thirty-three years and a civil war to come to the same decision.  Good for you, Canada.

1882: German scientist Robert Koch announces the discovery of the bacterium that causes tuberculosis.  The disease has been considered hereditary until this point, but Koch’s work discovers the truth (and wins him a Nobel prize in 1905, and undoubtedly saves a heck of a lot of lives).

1906: A census of the British Empire reveals that Britain rules a fifth of the world.  Slightly awkward to look back at now, but is beautifully summarised by this Eddie Izzard clip.

1972: Northern Ireland’s Parliament is suspended after the prime minister resigns.  Britain’s direct rule over Northern Ireland is introduced.  This is just getting embarrassing.

1973: This one isn’t an example of March madness by any means, but on this day The Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons is born.  He is looking very well for someone who hit the big four-one today, I must say.

I hope you enjoyed your miniature history lesson.  May your Monday turn out to contain all sorts of amazing things, such as the legendary all-chocolate Kit Kat.

Get Thee to a Wetherspoons

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Hello, lovely reader.  How are you?  Have you completed your challenge to take a chance yet?  I’m about to do mine and I’m terrified, so don’t worry about it too much.

My birthday is coming up soon, and the plan for the day is to get a load of friends round, eat a lot of cake and then go to the pub.  Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  It won’t be.  I haven’t chosen a pub yet.  I was seriously considering the Montague Pyke in Piccadilly, because it’s large, central and pretty cheap, but I’ve been shouted down by some friends of mine who have better taste (and more experience of the Montague Pyke) than I do.  The hunt continues for a large, central, cheap pub in London.  And for my missing pet unicorn, Ephraim.

I know that I’m a “grown up” now, and I should have acquired a taste for the finer (or at least less rubbish) things in life, but deep down I’m still a student and my heart belongs to Wetherspoons pubs.  Here are five reasons why:

1) Consistency
Any Wetherspoons in any part of the country serves the same drinks, food and surly sarcasm.  You know where you stand with a Wetherspoons menu.  Even in the farthest flung corner of the British Isles (Inverness), I can tell you for a fact that the only difference between that menu and the ones in my local is the addition of neeps and tatties as a side.

2) Price
So it’s not the most glamorous place in the world.   You won’t come across any sultry jazz music or atmospheric lighting in a Wetherspoons pub, but you will be able to buy a pint without remortgaging your internal organs.  I don’t really care if there’s a group of asshats making too much noise in the booth next door, or the toilets are a ten minute walk away; the beer is cheap.

3) The toilets are a ten minute walk away
Which is good for you.  Exercise and all that.

4) Something for everyone
I feel very, very sorry for my friends, because going out for dinner with me is a nightmare.  My dietary requirements include a lethal (and I mean lethal) allergy, an intolerance of casein (because lactose is too mainstream, apparently), and a lifestyle choice to give up carbs.  It’s a wonder that my friends can even look at me sometimes, let alone sit in a restaurant with me.  But in a Wetherspoons, all of that goes away: the extensive menu has something for everyone, no matter what kind of allergy/faddy diet/craving you’re restricted by.  Problem solved.

5) Remember the good times
Remember that story about a friend of mine who re-enacted the Stations of the Cross with a burger, chips and excessive ketchup?  (It’s here if you’re floundering – don’t feel bad, I tell a lot of stories and most of them involve a slightly strange friend.)  That is just one of literally hundreds of happy memories I have that took place in a Wetherspoons pub.  From the New Crown in my beloved Southgate to the Westgate Inn in Canterbury (hour for hour I think spent more time in there than I did on my university campus), and back to where it all began in the Wetherspoons pubs of Watford and Rickmansworth: I owe Wetherspoons some of the best nights (and mornings after) of my life.  Christmas Eve with my best mate doing uni essays, inventing very complicated drinking games that involved stealing books, meeting some of my now closest friends, falling in love, getting into arguments, re-enacting stuff with food (it became a recurring issue), laughing until we cried: all of the best and most ridiculous things in my life have happened to me in a Wetherspoons pub.  It’s not glamorous, but it’s fun.

So.  Where shall we go for lunch?

Truly Madly Busy

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Good morning, dear reader!  I hope you’re revelling in the glory of a well-earned Saturday.

Today’s blog starts with a confession: my short-term memory is beyond appalling.  This will come as no surprise to those of you who know me.  I can clearly picture many of you smiling and rolling your eyes, probably thinking about a conversation that you had with me at least six times before it got lodged in my head.  Sorry about that.  It’s not that I don’t care; it’s that my brain is a very leaky sponge.

Having a rubbish memory is both a blessing and a curse.  In one way, it’s a joy to go through life in a Dory-esque fashion, constantly believing myself to be discovering things for the first time.  On the other hand, my lack of retention heralds in the slow but sure descent into dementia that definitely awaits me in my old age, and it tends to make my diary a lifeline rather than a useful reminder.  Even when I do look at my diary, I appear to have started writing things down in a haphazard manner, without any reference to times, places or even dates.  It’s a miracle that I’m ever on time for anything.

I would love to be able to say that at least some of this woolly-mindedness comes from the fact that I’m very busy, and that it’s difficult to keep track of all of the things I’m meant to be doing.  In some ways this is true, but I know lots of people who are far busier than I am who cope just fine.  My friend Laura has only recently stopped working 82 hour weeks, and another friend balances drama school with two jobs (and still finds the time to learn lines, write emails and – I sincerely hope – sleep and eat at some point).  My life is full of self-employed people who co-ordinate incredibly complicated schedules, and still more full-timers who find time for very active social lives.  One of my friends lives in Singapore working something ridiculous like 7am – 8pm every day, and he finds time to explore local countries, play music and be on a sports team.  I cannot get my head around any of these people’s schedules.  Their diaries must look like the Matrix in paperback format.

I love being busy, and I think that most of us can agree that being busy (even if we are perhaps a bit stressed) is much better than being bored and feeling unproductive.  Sometimes we feel the need to occupy ourselves to the point of frenzy in order to avoid thinking about a certain person/problem, and that’s ok, too.  I am a big fan of denial as long as it’s making itself useful, and if you can use your issues to make yourself more productive, more power to you.  You might even find that a solution pops into your head unbidden while you’re doing something else, or that bit of space from the problem makes you feel differently about it.   At some point you’ll be forced to confront your fears, but in the meantime I firmly approve of using the fingers-in-ears approach to get stuff done until you work out the solution to your dilemma.

Having said that, in yesterday’s blog I tasked you lovely people with the challenge of taking a chance this weekend, so maybe this is the perfect opportunity to get your head out of the sand and go and fix the issue…you never know, you might end up solving the problem.  If you don’t, I hope you’ve got access to some nice coffee and a friend who will hug you.  If not, you can borrow one of mine (friends, that is.  Mine are pretty awesome, as friends go.  I’ve also got enough coffee for everyone, so do feel free to pop by if you’re running low).

Have an insanely good Saturday.