Tag Archives: nightmare

The Great British Nightmares

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Good morning and happy Saturday!  I hope that you drank in moderation last night, and if you didn’t, that your house mate/partner/unexpected guest has some painkillers for you.

As comedian Bill Bailey said in his show Part Troll, it’s very difficult to describe being British to someone who’s not from these blessed isles.  He came up with a pretty accurate description, though:

“We have strong prevailing south westerly winds, um…52% of our days are overcast, so as a nation we’re infused with a wistful melancholy…but we remain a relentlessly chipper population, prone to mild eccentricity, binge drinking and casual violence.”

I love that quotation, but I think that there’s another way to describe Britain – or rather, what it’s like to be British – to someone from a foreign land.  Predictably, I have chosen a method that allows me to provide you, dear reader, with a top ten list.  Here are the ten worst nightmares of British people:

1) How was your trip?

Particularly in London, people walk with purpose, direction and whenever possible, the speed with which to overtake the tourists just in front.  It is devastating, therefore, to massively stack it in the middle of a public place.  Sod’s law dictates that this will happen when you are walking past a group of threatening-looking youths, wearing supposedly flattering high heels or in a tube station during rush hour.

2) Stand clear of the closing doors

Speaking of the tube, it’s a wonderful feeling when you manage to squeeze into a crowded carriage on your commute, and if you’re the last one in there’s an Indiana Jones, just-in-the-nick-of-time element to your euphoria.  But this joy is short-lived if and when you discover that your errant coat/bag/scarf is the reason that the TFL guy on the platform keeps shouting “Stand CLEAR of the CLOSING DOORS, please!”

3) London is not your Oyster

Another London-based issue, and again this relates most strongly to the havoc of rush hour: being the person who queues up for ages to get to the ticket barrier, only to discover that your Oyster card simply does not want to play ball.  You definitely topped it up this morning, so what’s its problem?  “Seek assistance”, indeed.  I will try, but I have to apologetically shuffle back through this crowd of cross commuters waiting to use the barrier first!

4) Turn around (every now and then I drop my drink)

Assuming that you manage to navigate your way through the streets and train networks, you might make your way to a pub to see some friends and enjoy a nice, cold drink.  On a weekend night in particular, the inevitable queueing process at a bar is arduous (but it will not defeat you – you’re British after all, and you know how this works).  So once you’ve finally got your drink in hand, the next task is simply to turn away from the bar, carry your drink through the crowd of soon-to-be-sozzled people and find your table.  Easier said than done.  One errant elbow from an inattentive stranger and your pint/wine glass/soda and lime can go hurtling onto the floor.  Back of the queue.

5) Decaf soya latte with sugar free hazelnut syrup, thanks

The beverage-related nightmare doesn’t end there: as a nation we are globally renowned for our love of hot beverages, and it’s always alarming when you come across somebody who doesn’t drink tea or coffee.  (Honestly, it gives me the heebie jeebies just typing those words.)  Worse than that is to be a coffee or tea lover, but to be very particular about how you take your drink.  We live in a world where syrups, soya milk and cinnamon topping (why?) are available in coffee shops all over the country, but if you’re at someone’s house and they offer you a hot drink, it’s excruciating to have to say “er…do you have any brown sugar?”, or make a similarly difficult request.  I come up against this embarrassing situation quite often, because I’m allergic to dairy stuff and I don’t like black coffee.  It’s not  really my fault, but I’m English, ergo I am embarrassed by being honest about my preferences.

6) Well, gosh, I suppose, um…well, yes, actually, I do think you’re rather…I mean to say I think you’re very…no, silly me, forget I said anything

Being honest in general is not something that this country is good at.  We love a good moan as much as the next nation (by the way that’s not a dig at France, who are technically the next nation), but when it comes to being open and frank we are petrified.  I had coffee with a friend yesterday who advised me to be honest with someone about my feelings – Christ, can you imagine?!  One shudders at the very thought.  Getting a British person to be communicative on an emotional level is like teaching Keira Knightley how to act.  It really should be done at some point, but heaven knows how difficult and painful it would be.

7) The sneezing spree

Speaking of painful, sneezing several times in a row (for NO APPARENT REASON) is horrendously embarrassing, and it provokes most people to adopt a furious, baffled “what on earth is wrong with my sinuses?!” expression, in order to demonstrate to their companions that this is a completely unintentional display of violent noise.  The same applies to coughing fits, even if you’re ill and you’ve forewarned people of the fact.

8) Please leave a message after the person you’re calling has scrambled around in their bag, desperately trying to turn their phone off

Making any unintentional noise in public is excruciating to a British person.  Last night I genuinely had a nightmare that this happened to me: I had forgotten to turn my phone off, and someone called me in the middle of a theatre performance.  I go to the theatre most weeks and my memory for small tasks is terrible, so this event is a very real possibility, but only a British woman would wake up in terror at four in the morning because she subconsciously imagined her phone ringing during a production of A Streetcar Named Desire.  Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry were playing Blanche and Stella, as I recall.  Sterling performances.

9) Shall we dance?

You’re walking along.  Someone is walking in the opposite direction.  You’re on a collision course.  Panic stations: you edge left, and they move to their right.  You go the other way, and so do they.  CRISIS.  Instead of apologising and running across the road in blind terror, I think that we should all use the opportunity to have an impromptu boogie.  The next time this happens, take the other person’s hands and launch into a spirited impersonation of the ballroom dancing scene in The King and I.

10) Always take the weather with you

Last but not least, that great and faithful ally of awkward conversations: the British weather.  In this instance, it can create a nightmare scenario by simply changing halfway through the day.  When a gloriously sunny morning fools you into thinking that an umbrella won’t be necessary and then a downpour strikes as you leave the office; when a brisk morning leads you to don a jumper, only to find that the day has become a record-breaking scorcher by lunchtime; when the weather forecasters scoff in the face of a possible snowstorm, and within an hour of you leaving home the world looks like a Christmas card.  This is why many British people carry sun cream, an umbrella and gloves with them at all times.  (I’m not joking.  You should see my hand bag.)  Better to be overloaded with stuff than to let the weather lull you into a false sense of security.

Have a stupendously wonderful day, everyone.

All You Need is Love (and Cheese)

As a single girl, there are three sure-fire ways to deal with Valentine’s Day:

  • Dismiss the entire day as a consumerist charade that turns love into a grotesque corporate pantomime.
  • Take the opportunity to celebrate love in all of its forms, even though EVERYONE else seems to be focusing on the romantic aspect.
  • Pull a full-on Bridget Jones: slump on the sofa, wear pyjamas, drink wine and sob uncontrollably, preferably whilst watching Bridget Jones.

I have tried all three in my time (let’s be honest – we all have), but these days I tend to go with the second method.  Love is love.  Ok yes, it would be nice to be able to share this day with a man who likes the fact that I’m incredibly sarcastic and unable to boil an egg, but if you don’t have a love life to celebrate, celebrate the love in your life.  I may be single, but I have a lot of love in my life that I’m very grateful for.  Here are a few examples:

1) Towards the end of 2013, my brother was very ill and in hospital.  My brother is one of my favourite people in the world, and him being ill is the stuff of my worst nightmares.  This was a very hard time for me and my entire family (who all dealt with the situation amazingly well, as did my brother’s girlfriend and closest friends.  Super proud of and grateful for them all).  I knew for certain that he was going to get better on a particular day about two weeks into the nightmare, when he’d been sort of awake for a couple of days, and had just about started talking again.  I had bought him this postcard: i love you more than cheese-500x500

and when I gave it to him, he looked at it, looked at me, looked back at the postcard and then said “I love you more than cheezex?  What the hell is cheezex?!”  My first instinct was to call him a git, but actually I felt so relieved that he was capable of being a cheeky little sod that I nearly cried.  I think he knew, even though he was so unwell, that I needed to hear him say something silly.

2) When I was in my third year of university, I had a very unfortunate and slightly scary situation with a guy who wouldn’t leave me alone.  One night, after a particularly unsettling conversation with this guy, I called my oldest friend Evelyn and literally sobbed down the phone at her.  I couldn’t even form the words to being to explain what had happened.  The conversation went something like this:
Ev: “Vicks, what’s wrong?”
Me: “He…I..aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah”
Ev: “What happened??”
Me: “He…aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah”

And so on and so forth.  No sense was made.  What did Evelyn do?  She put down the phone, got into her car in Surrey, drove to where I was in Canterbury, put me in her car and drove me back to her flat, where she fed me and hugged me and let me cry out the problem.

3) Yesterday, knowing what a tough week I’d had, my friend Julia drove down from her university in Northampton to surprise me at my flat.  She is incredibly stressed and busy right now, what with being in her final year and having a gazillion things to do, but she found the time to visit me, go out for dinner with me and some of our friends AND have a boogie in the kitchen to Robin Thicke.

4) My lovely house mate Ais is the most wonderful friend anyone could ask for.  She is the best person to have around when you need looking after (Irish genes, obviously), and also the most fun person to go on adventures with.  She thinks of ways to show people that she loves them all the livelong day.  For example,when I woke up this morning I found this outside my room:

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5) When I lost my job on Tuesday, several people called me to tell me how sorry they were, how angry they were on my behalf, and how much they loved me and believed in me.  It is overwhelming to feel so cared for by so many people, and if this day is about love then it should really about them, because they all took the time to show love to someone who was truly in need of it.

Thanks for reading; I hope you have a lovely Valentine’s Day, regardless of your marital status.  You deserve to be loved no matter how single/married/divorced/prefer not to say you are.