Tag Archives: friend

Morals from Monsters

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Hello, lovely reader!  How are you?  

As I said in this post, day trips are brilliant, and yesterday’s was no exception.  I had a very successful meeting, went for some delicious food with my friends, and then we went all touristy and messed around on Brighton pier.  The last ride we went on was the ghost train, which is what I’d like to to use as a slightly odd starting point today.

The ghost train was my favourite part of yesterday’s trip.  D’you know what’s weird about that?  I didn’t even want to go on it at first.  One of my friends was very keen, but I was pretty reluctant because I hate everything horror-related.  But the train ride was a brilliant combination of quite jumpy (lots of stuff made us scream, even though it was mostly in surprise) and gloriously awful (lots of terrible, clunky puppets that made us laugh hysterically as soon as we’d finished screaming).

I think a lot of people find life scary, particularly those who are still working out their post-uni plan or a specific career path.  We don’t know what we’re doing, where we’re going to live or what to pursue.  As children we were led along the SATs-GCSEs-A Levels pathway with very carefully worked out stops for coursework, Duke of Edinburgh Awards and the always-awkward sex education lessons.  In other words, we always knew exactly what we were doing, even if it made us roll our eyes and start doodling on our notebooks.  

When you get out of education you have to start planning things based on your own timings, not end of term exams or essay deadlines.  Some people take to this like a duck to pancakes, but for some of us it’s more difficult to establish our own way of working.  How do we know how well we’re doing when there are no parents’ evenings?  How can we tell if our careers are progressing at a good pace unless we are graded?  When does it become unacceptable to own (and use) a Thunderbirds lunch box?

I’m not suggesting that adult life should be run like a school – no more navy and yellow uniforms for me, thank you so very much Watford Grammar School for Girls – but I think that the lack of objective structure to real life is a bit of a shock to the system after education.  Not knowing exactly what to do is pretty scary. 

A lot of the big things about adult life are like getting on a rubbish ghost train: you’re not sure what to expect, it could be pretty scary, and there’s no real way of knowing which direction you’re going in.  On a brighter note, the scary bits can be funny afterwards, and it’s all a lot easier to cope with if you’ve got a good friend with you.  I cannot believe that I learned a life lesson from a rubbish ghost train.

Have a gorgeous Thursday.  I hope you have the mother of all lunches today.

Working Wonders

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Hello, reader!  How was your weekend?  I hope you’re feeling well-rested and ready for your Monday.

Today I’d like to pay homage to colleagues.  In the working world we have no way of knowing what kinds of people we will end up alongside, or how much their company will influence us throughout our lives.  I have been lucky enough to work with some truly brilliant people, and I hope that you have, too.  Here are a few examples of co-workers we could all do with:

The Boss You’ve Accidentally Turned Into
Classic example of my first boss’ standard behaviour: I turned up to work one day with no make-up on and, as sod’s law dictates, I ran into an ex-boyfriend on my lunch break.  My boss’ response was pretty straightforward: “It’s your own fault, girl.  Why do you think I’m always dressed up, even when it’s just to come to this place?  You’ve got to be prepared.”  Wise, wise woman.  I can’t claim to be as savvy (or as well-dressed) as she was, but sometimes I find myself using her turns of phrase and management tactics, which can only be a good thing.  We all resist turning into our parents, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with turning into our favourite bosses.

The Friend Who Keeps You Going
One of the only things that I miss about my last full-time job is the girl I sat next to in the office.  Over the weeks and months we discovered that we got on extremely well, and that we had some fairly important things in common.  When the job started to go sour and I was feeling pretty down about things, it was this colleague whom I confided in, and whose support was invaluable to me.  I hope that you never have a job that makes you sad, but if you do, I hope that someone in your office can make you smile.  Those people are godsends.

The Cool Kid You Randomly Get On Really Well With
I recently did a stint as a front of house supervisor type thingy on a large-scale kids’ show.  My second in command was absolutely brilliant, but here’s the funny thing: I remember sitting next to her in the group interview stages thinking “dear God, this girl is so cool.  I bet we have nothing in common.  And she’s just given a really good interview answer.  Bollocks.”  It’s nice to look back at that and realise that yes, she is insanely cool, but she’s also really good fun.  Not judging people based on first appearances turns out to be particularly important in the working world.

The One You Keep Hold Of
One of the weirdest aspects of leaving a job is that you can go from spending all of your time with a group of people, getting to know their habits and coffee preferences, and then suddenly not see them for ages.  In certain cases the friendships that you strike up with your colleagues can traverse job hopping, geographical relocation and even months of no contact.  It’s strange to look back over my employment history and see how many ex-colleagues have ended up being good friends, and where our lives have taken us.  Harry is a perfect example: we started out working together in a box office, and now he effectively runs my theatre company.  I’m very glad I kept hold of him, and I hope that you’ve got people from your working life who’ve stuck around for your real life.

I also hope that you have an amazing Monday, and that you get to listen to your favourite music on the way to work.

“Find a happy place, find a happy place!!”

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Good morrow, fair reader!  How fares the world with thee today?

Ahem.  Anyway, today I’d like to talk to you about happy places, and the different forms they take.  We all have literal locations that we love, but we also have mental go-to places that put us in a better mood.  Here are a few examples of the best happy places.  I hope that you have at least one of each of these:

The Happy Place of the Past
Isn’t it weird that when someone asks you to think of a song, every tune you’ve ever heard goes straight out of your head?  It’s the same when we’re asked to remember a time we felt truly happy.  That’s not to say that we’ve never been happy, but that the pressure of recollecting our bliss on demand is a little too much to deal with.  When we are at leisure to consider, we can all think of a period in our lives that brought us real joy.  Whether it’s a childhood era, an irresponsible summer in adolescence or an eye-opening travel experience, each of us has a memory that can bring back a lot of warm, fuzzy feelings.

The Happy Place that’s a Person
Sentimentality alert – our loved ones are also our happy places.  Whether it’s a partner, a family member or a best friend, the right person can immediately transport you away from your woes and worries into a place that only you two know about.  When we talk about real love, isn’t that what we actually mean?  The people we love don’t have to be perfect, or entirely compatible with our every personality aspect, or even physically present – they just have to represent a safe and happy place. Keane know what I’m talking about.

The Happy Place that Never Lets You Down
Some places make us happy time after time.  Lots of my friends have theatres that they always enjoy visiting, or pubs that always deliver a great night out.  Especially when we feel lost in general, or when life is confusing and annoying us, it’s a great thing to know that there is somewhere we can go that will always make us feel better.  If you’re stuck for ideas (and you happen to be in Richmond), I would like to recommend The Farmery, which I have visited three times in the last week.  I’m not even a tiny bit embarrassed about that.  Their frozen yoghurt is seriously tasty.

The Happy Place that’s a Good Old-Fashioned Metaphor
Whether it’s a memory, an idea or a vague daydream, we all have a handy bit of our brain that allows us to transcend the humdrum and the horrible.  We might not like to publicly admit the exact nature of our personal happy place, but it’s very healthy and helpful for us to have them.  Heck, have more than one.  Have as many as you like.  As long as you daydream in moderation, there is no limit to the places your mind can take you.

The Happy Place that’s Yet to Come
This might be a literal location – for example, I really want to visit Egypt one day – or it might be an ambition that you hold dear.  Either way, the best days of your life might not be ahead of you (although I sincerely hope that they are), but there is definitely happiness of some kind waiting for us one day.  If we keep working towards what we want and where we want to be, we can take comfort from the fact that we will always be moving closer to another, exciting happy place.

Have a glorious Wednesday.  May the place you are in be extremely happy.

Home Alone 6: Lost in North London

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Good morning, fabulous reader!  Did you know that, according to Wikipedia, there have been five Home Alone films?  (I had to look it up in order to make sure that this post’s title was accurate.)  Crazy, isn’t it?  I know.  We should watch them all at some point.

This weekend my darling flat mate has (foolishly) left me home alone, and I would like to share some of the main reasons why, at the grand old age of twenty-five, I should probably have been left in the care of a babysitter, social worker or similar:

  • Memory issues: as discussed in previous blog posts, I have the memory of a senile goldfish who’s recently sustained a concussion.  When I left the house yesterday afternoon, I automatically left the living room light on in order to bamboozle potential burglars.  (That’s right: bamboozle.  That’s how I roll.)  When I got home later that evening, I saw the living room light on and thought “ooh, Ash is home!”  She was not.  Which leads me on to my next problem:
  • Intelligent conversation: when I thought that Ash was home, I wandered up the stairs calling out greetings, gossip about my day and general musings.  It took me – I kid you not – it took me at least five minutes to realise that no response was forthcoming, because I was alone in the house.  Did that stop me from talking?  Did it heck.  Talking to ourselves is one of the greatest joys in life, and if our own psyches start to get annoying, there’s always the furniture to chat with.
  • Misadventures: the guy who lives downstairs from us is a lovely old chap by day, but he is inordinately fond of playing loud music and drunkenly shouting at himself very late at night (or very, very early in the morning).  If Ash is not here to stop me (or at least calm me down slightly), there is a very strong chance that I will lose my temper and throw something through his living room window.
  • Sleepless in Southgate: I haven’t been sleeping very well for a couple of weeks.  My friends have had to become accustomed to me zoning out of conversations, being unable to think of words, having no spatial awareness etc.  Without Ash in the house this weekend I am basically helpless.  It sounds silly, but if you’d seen me try to work out how to change the channel on the television a few minutes ago, you would understand the need for caution.  (Seven attempts to hit the Sky button.  It’s just not cool.)

With a due sense of dread and fear, I’m going to go and try to make coffee.  Have a tremendous Saturday, you lovely person.

Phone Off for Friday

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Good morning!  It’s finally Friday!  And it’s sunny!  What did we do to deserve such good fortune?  I don’t know.  Let’s just enjoy it.

I have decided to turn my phone off for 24 hours, as of 9am today.  On the one hand, this is a pretty big decision that will have an impact on my ability to contact people, check the time and look up travel plans, but on the other hand, it’s just a phone and it’s not going to kill me.  Let me walk you through this seemingly random decision, and then see whether you might want to do the same thing:

Distraction
My friend Andy told me recently that I seem to be really, really busy for someone who doesn’t go to work.  And he’s right.  (Let’s brush over the fact that I tend to work in my pyjamas, ok?)  The point is that I genuinely do have stuff to get on with, and having my phone on my desk is just a distraction.  You’re a  busy person with a lot of stuff to do too, aren’t you?  Exactly.  Imagine how much more efficiently you could work without your phone in the corner of your eye.

Responsibilities
Speaking of work, lots of my friends have several email, Twitter and Facebook accounts synced on their phones (because of all the theatre company stuff we get up to, you see), so whenever anything happens on one of those, we feel the need to respond immediately. However, I have made a life-changing discovery: we don’t have to do that.
If your work comes down to email messaging (i.e. you’re not a doctor, fire fighter, etc.), then it’s really not that urgent.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that you have to work at the same speed as technology all of the time.  You don’t have to stop walking in the middle of the street to reply to a message, or halt a pleasant conversation to check your emails.

Social Skills
Which leads me neatly on to the next problem I have with phones: what the crap have they done to our social skills?  It has now become acceptable to get out your phone and tinker with it if you are in a large group conversation, feeling a bit shy or just bored while your friend is talking to you.  (I have a friend who does that quite a lot, and I won’t name and shame, but you know who you are.  Stop doing that.)

Rejection
There’s a bit in the first Bridget Jones book where she complains about the passive-aggressive role of the telephone in dating, i.e. that getting home to find messages on your machine means that you are loved, beautiful and popular, whereas having no messages means that you will die alone and be eaten by Alsations.
Sometimes we have the same problem with mobiles, don’t we?  The immediate response thing is an emotional issue as well as a work one: when our friends and beloveds don’t reply to texts straight away we feel wounded and wronged.  Let’s take a day off from that.

Rebellion
I’ve just started reading the His Dark Materials trilogy, and it strikes me that we tend to see our mobile phones the same way the characters in the novels see their daemons: embodiments of our souls which we cannot emotionally or physically bear to be parted from.  They’re not.  They’re just phones.
I know that mobile technology makes life a lot easier, but I also know that I was perfectly fine for fourteen years before I even heard of mobile phones.  Our phones do not rule our lives or define who we are.  We exist without our phones, and we are actually far more interesting without our faces glued to them.

Have a record-breakingly good Friday.

Aaaaaaaay Macarena!

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Good morning, and a very merry Sunday to you!  I’ve just put the kettle on.  Do you take sugar?

Last night a friend and I went to a dance performance at Sadler’s Wells.  My friend is a ballerina and all-round dance expert, whereas my knowledge of dance extends as far as the Macarena, so the experience was a new one for me.

When we left the theatre after the show, I genuinely had no idea what I thought of the piece.  I have never, ever left a theatre without having formed a strong opinion on what I’ve just seen, so I was a bit discombobulated by this turn of events.  As far as I could see, the show was an extremely well-executed performance of the bleep test, combined with some energetic writhing.  That is not an insult to the show or the performers in any way; I’m sure that to a fan of dance the piece was extraordinary.  But I am not a dance fan.  I’m a words girl.  I can’t feel anything about a show that doesn’t have any words in it.

Bizarrely, the friend I saw the show with had the opposite view.  To quote her directly, “I don’t want to hear words.  Tell me the story with your bodies!”  This confuses me slightly because she did a Drama degree…the same one that I did, in fact, which is how we met.  And there were, as I recall, a fair few words involved in that.

I love going to the theatre with people whose views are so different to mine.  I have a friend whom I go to the theatre with quite regularly, and we nearly always agree on what we like and dislike about performances, which is great.  It’s always nice to have your opinions validated by someone you like and respect.  But it’s also a lot of fun to expose yourself to the weird and wonderful, and to try to see something you care about (i.e. performance) through someone else’ eyes.  I’m not saying that everyone should love every genre of performance, but it’s good to challenge ourselves a bit from time to time.  Go and see that show you’re not so sure about, or read that book that’s had mixed reviews.

But first, have a coffee and relax a bit.  It is Sunday, after all.

“I Made A Friend!”

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Good morning, and congratulations on making it all the way to Friday!  I hope your week has been productive and filled with first-rate conversation.

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2012 was one of the most challenging, stressful, enjoyable and amazing experiences of my life so far.  Of the many things I took away from that month of madness, the one I think I am most pleased about is that it taught me to be happy about going to the theatre by myself.  Don’t get me wrong, I almost always go to the theatre with a friend – in a few hours I am off to see Titus Andronicus with one of my best friends from university, in fact – but at the Fringe you see four or five shows a day, and it’s impossible for everyone to see everything they want to unless they split up.

A few months ago I went to see 1984 at the Almeida Theatre, and I went by myself.  An unexpectedly joyous side effect of this excursion was that I got chatting to the chap sitting next to me, who turned out to be an actor with whom I got on very well.  I came home to my flat mate that night saying “I made a friend!” in the excited tones of a six year-old girl, which amused her greatly.  However, she went to a vlogging event today where she had exactly the same experience, and it was lovely to hear her gleeful description of making a brand new friend in her mid-twenties.

We all have friends from various walks of life: primary and secondary school, college, university, work, and in my case, a summer school for gifted and talented teenagers (I’ll tell you about it later).  These people have seen us grow up and go from being starry-eyed youngsters to bleary-eyed adults.  They have been with us through crises, triumphs, boredom, hangovers, exams, dinner parties and summer days in the park.  A shared history with a friend is a wonderful thing.

The thing about these friends is that they have known you for long enough to make an educated assessment of how much they like you and want to spend time with you.  They have years of experience of your whims and ways under their belts, so to a certain extent you know that they have a firm grasp of who you are deep down.  Someone you went to Brownies with is not going to judge you based on a moment of verbal incontinence that happens in your twenties, for example.

Making friends as an adult – whether they’re a new colleague or a stranger at the theatre – is an added bonus to the strange situations life throws at us, because these fully-formed people meet you and make a judgement about being friends with you based purely on who you are now.  They don’t know anything you’ve done in the past, the places you’ve travelled to or the greatest successes you’ve had.  They decide to like you based entirely on what you say and do in that first moment of meeting, and that is just brilliant.

Your friends are absolutely right to love you for who you have been, but your new friends are equally correct in liking you for who you are now.  Clearly, the result of your endeavours to become a proper grown-up person have worked a lot better than you could have imagined.

Have a genuinely spectacular Friday.

The Duke of Edinburgh Wants to Help

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Hello, reader!  How goes the world with you today?

A couple days I ago I got offered a front of house job with a kids’ theatre company.  It’s only for a couple of weeks in June while their touring show is in London, but I’m very pleased about it.  I am also pretty chuffed that they’re sending me on a paediatric first aid course this week, even though it’s pretty far away in London terms, and it’s happening during another tube strike.  Wish me luck.

Yesterday I was on the phone to a friend of mine who works in a pub.  (He’s also an extremely talented actor, but don’t tell him I said that.  It’ll only go to his head, and I have to work with him in Edinburgh this summer.)  When I told him about the first aid thing, he retorted “well, I’ve got a…um…food hygiene certificate!”  First of all, first aid beats food hygiene in my humble opinion – come on, my certificate means I can save lives – and secondly, why are we competing (even in jest) over qualifications that neither of us is particularly fussed about?  We would both rather have theatre credits to our names than certificates in health and safety.  So why do we care?

I think all of us care about our qualifications, even the ones that have absolutely nothing to do with the career we’ve ended up pursuing.  This is true of those of us who have GCSEs in obscure subjects that we promptly forgot about the day we turned up to sixth form, and the Duke of Edinburgh Award victims who reminisce about their experiences with haunted expressions.  And why shouldn’t we?  They’re all achievements, for heaven’s sake.

Qualifications that have nothing to do with your main passion are an excellent thing, because they demonstrate that you’ve had a variety of different interests throughout your life, and consequently your personality seems all the more fascinating and multi-faceted.  Also, the only good thing about vamping up your CV to apply for jobs is remembering all of the amazing stuff you can do and have already done.  It’s nice to have a confidence boost just before you throw yourself into the harrowing world of job hunting, isn’t it?

The other great thing about having qualifications that are outside your main field of interest is that you never know when they’re going to come in handy.  My paediatric first aid qualification will be very valuable if I’m ever confronted with a choking child, and although I cannot express just how much I never, ever want that situation to occur, at least if it does I’ll be able to do something about it, which is nice.

Have a lovely bank holiday Monday!  May your day be filled with small but pleasant suprises.

Commute Like A Champion

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Good morning, dear reader.  How are you?

If you are a London-based commuter my heart goes out to you on this, the first full day of the tube strikes.  What a nightmare.  During the last strike it took me three hours on loads of horrible buses to do a forty minute journey.  In hindsight, I wish I’d just hired a Segway and had a bit of fun getting to work.

Given that public transport is not huge amounts of fun at the best of times, I have decided to compile a list of ways to improve our lot.  After all, if we are obliged to spend a couple of hours a day on trains, buses and enchanted broomsticks, we may as well have some fun with it.  You’re a very busy person and your time is precious, so don’t waste those hours being bored or annoyed.  Use the time to your advantage.

  • That is Fascinating

Music is great, but if you’re listening to a podcast by these guys, for example, you will be learning about all kinds of fascinating things just by sitting on a train.  Granted, when I listened to their podcasts on the way to work I tended to have a perpetual “surprised and intrigued” face that looked a bit odd to other people, but it’s hard to beat the feeling of having really learned something before 9am.

  • Story Time

This one might just appeal to me and my friends because we’re all silly drama types who like making stuff up, but it’s basically a fun extension of people watching: make up stories in your head (ONLY in your head) about your fellow passengers.  This one is particularly fun when there is an old lady on board, because I like to think that it’s the queen in disguise monitoring her loyal subjects.  This is especially fun when you get to “Green Park – alight here for Buckingham Palace” and the old lady gets off the train.  What more proof do you need?

  • If You Had To

Again, this is almost definitely something that my friends and I are peculiarly drawn to, but it does pass the time.  You have to select three people from the individuals in your carriage/on your bus whom you would spend the rest of your life with: marriage, kids, mortgage, everything.  (Again, this is just in your head or, if playing with friends, in VERY quiet discussions.)  The joy of this is that at each stop your selection pool changes, and the joy of playing this with male friends is that they take it incredibly seriously.

  • Magic Tricks

If you commute for long enough you learn all sorts of transferable skills.  You can essentially teach yourself Houdini-esque body contortions by boarding a train bound for Marylebone from Aylesbury before 8am, and ladies tend to get very good at applying make-up in extreme turbulence.  Think of your commute as an opportunity to hone these magic tricks of yours, and be proud of yourself for mastering them.  I personally am at Level 6: Liquid Eye Liner on the DLR.

  • Make Someone Else’s Day

This is as fun for you as it is for the other person: smile at someone (BRIEFLY – this is England, for heaven’s sake), give up your seat, help an old lady with her granny shopper or a mum with her pushchair.  It  takes two seconds and you’re making someone else happy.  Plus, you know, you can legitimately feel pretty smug for at least half an hour.

  • This is My Stop

I have actually done this one on a lift before, but one day on a tube train (two seconds before my stop, obviously), I really want to open my handbag, peer into it and say “have you got enough air in there?”  I will then close my handbag, look at the other passengers suspiciously and draw my handbag closer to myself in a fit of protective fear before sweeping off the train with a haughty sniff.

Have an absolute cracker of a Tuesday.

Sticking to Your (Metaphorical) Guns

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Good morning, lovely reader.  How is your weekend going so far?

As those of you who have read this post about me bullying a pepper pot will already know, I recently made a sweeping declaration about a particular aspect of my life, i.e. that if something hadn’t changed by a certain point in time, I would have to radically change my behaviour.  Without delving too far into the hows and the whys and the “do you mind if I don’t?”s (sorry – I can’t resist the opportunity to include a Blackadder reference), I will tell you that the deadline for something to change is today.  I now realise that I was being ludicrously optimistic about that time frame.  Radically changed behaviour, here I come.

When my house mate gave up smoking, she went completely cold turkey straight away.  I have rarely seen such impressive will power, especially given that she went to a snazzy industry party in Soho three nights later and could very easily have reneged on her decision.  She was out in central London with a lot of booze, a lot of smokers and some very famous actors, but she didn’t give in.  Amazing, isn’t it?  I know.  She’s a legend.

It is examples of self-control like that one which make me determined not to go back on my deadline thing.  It’s going to be painful and difficult.  I will probably change my mind about it in the next few days, hours or even minutes.  I feel incredibly sorry for my friends, who are going to have to put up with a lot from me for the next few weeks, but it has to be done.  This may have started with a sweeping declaration and an unfortunate condiment container, but I think we all know that when we try to make big decisions about our lives it’s because we recognise that something is wrong, and our job as human beings with a sense of self-preservation is to get the heck out.

Who knows what we are missing by pursuing things that are bad for us?  What kind of amazing stuff is happening that we don’t even know about because we’re too busy being addicted to a harmful substance, malingering in a dead end job or chasing after someone who doesn’t love us?  I can tell you for certain that you are a fascinating person with a lot to offer, and I hate to think of you wasting your time on something that is hurting you or holding you back.  Make the decision to stop what you’re doing, and then stick to your guns.  I cannot stress enough how utterly and completely metaphorical these guns should be (unless you’ve got water pistols, which are just cool).

Have the kind of Sunday that will make for a great anecdote tomorrow.