The Bored Girl at the End of the ‘Phone – Part 1

 

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An Existential Quandary

Having never managed to get round to reading Sartre’s Nausea, I recently checked the general meaning of existentialism with my younger, learned brother. He described it as thus:

..when you come to a point of questioning so much how the world got to this point that you almost consider it fractured and as a world unreal…

If this is the case, I feel I have been correct the many, many times that I have reached for the phrase and decided to apply it to my life. It’s seen me through sixth form, periods of involuntary social inertia and more pressingly, my career.

No job.

My long-term job?

My job that must be a career by now because I don’t try to leave it.

And really, this difficulty to categorise, to sum up the actuality of where my body has settled that my brain wills it on from, is the greatest, if not main reason for the constant invocation of a theory set down by a French man (he was French wasn’t he?) that I have never found the time to read.

How has my world stopped and sputtered at the gates marked Fruitless Endeavour? There was even a signpost that read ‘EXIT HERE TO AVOID BRAIN DEATH’ but I passed that by around the spring of 2009.

But, for all my complaints, I took a route and exhibit a pressing reluctance to leave. For this account to be completely true, I owe a clear, simply set out explanation of how it came to this. Before the light of ambition was snuffed out, before the glow of motivation died.

Before these things, there was a plan.

The Plan

By 2010 the plan had started to unravel. But, the time before that, from 2004-2009, the plan had been 75% exercised. A degree had been started and finished, a good result had been achieved; I was able to say

I am a Law graduate

but I’m not quite sure how often I did. I definitely don’t now. In the August of 2007, I embarked on what should have been my final year of full time study under the strict regime of the Legal Practice Course, a practical framework so dry that the wood had chipped and onlookers suspected imminent forest fire.

£10,000 for the pleasure, which coupled with a 7.5% fixed interest rate (I thought I was being sensible to avoid the unpredictable meaning of ‘variable’) increased the fees to produce a ten year repayment plan that never seems to decrease.

The course was arguably insufferable – a constant tide of group exercises, dynamic problem solving and a library of books collected on the first day that could proudly break the back of a cart drawing horse. Or the boot of my father’s car.March 2008 002

However, the intensity of the approximately 10 month course was a constant drive to push on. The January blues of black mornings and frozen fingers was unaided by the never ending modules, though I had started to really enjoy the walk from Charing Cross Station to Tottenham Court Road. I even invented games to make avoiding crowds fun, like the one where I pretended they were zombies and I’d have to avoid colliding with them to ensure my non-zombie state. I was in my early twenties. Early, mid, what’s the difference now anyway. Then there was a death in the family that was so close and unexpected that the dirge of the LPC felt a million miles away, a luxury of angsty boredom that rightfully belonged to another life.

Finally, May – perhaps June rolled round, the study requirements ended and I traced my initial and surname in The Times, a tiny print amongst the hundreds perhaps thousands of eager and anticipatory post-graduates emerging just that summer, from just that college. Around the country – thousands is definitely the correct ball park figure – finished the identikit courses at a variety of (expensive) providers.

So, in the summer of 2008, I found myself with nearly a full set of equipment to complete the plan, The sole item I lacked was the ambitious confidence that had dwindled remarkably over the second half of the LPC, and that little matter of a training contract.

The training contract was the golden ticket – seemingly impossible to arrange, despite the rolling publication of the Training Contract Handbook, which I excitedly cracked the spine of during my second year at undergraduate level, before feeling overwhelmed by the pages and pages of tiny font firms that I would plan to apply to – the single, even double page spread firms were, as I had discovered at another point, out of my league. I made applications throughout the second, third and post-graduate years and received in return a shower of personalised emails with variations on the theme of how many applications they receive each year and how sorry they are that it wasn’t me that year.

I took their multiple apologies and turned them into Plan B – a much better plan, through which I would manage a Paralegal role (usually earning about £12-14,000 at the time), show the firm how useful I was and eventually win a heartfelt training contract.

 

I was ripping up a notebook and found that I had written the above into it. I think I wrote it about a year and a half ago when I was working in the worst job ever for about the third and a half year. This was the end of this section, with nothing following it. I may aim to carry on where it stops!

Quitter!

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A few years ago I took a quiz that told me I viewed cigarettes as friends.

At the time, having a lot of friends was very, very important so it was quite an assault for my computer to smugly suggest that my actual friend could be purchased from most retailers, took up to four minutes of my attention at a time and ended the session as a tiny pile of ashes.

However, despite the problem I seem to have developed with placing far too much weight on inanimate objects, the computer does seem to have been onto something. Since I gave up giving up in 2011 (following an approximate 10 month stop), I have quickly been catapulted back into the gloomy murk of the short life and smelly times of a heavy smoker. The second thing I think of in the morning is where the cigarettes from last night are – it doesn’t matter if it’s Alex’s pack – if he doesn’t hide them, he clearly means for me to smoke them. A boring day at work can be fixed by intermittent hazy breaks, My Friend the Cigarette a predictable comma to the sentence of jaw grinding 9-5 routine. My Friend the Cigarette comes everywhere with me. If not I find myself contemplating how much more I would be enjoying myself with them. When I look back to before I was a smoker and consider the dramas, traumas and panoramas that occurred, I can’t believe I went through it all without My Friend the Cigarette.

Perhaps the reason that the friendship aspect is becoming clearer is because the friendship has altered and I’m not getting what I used to out of it. My Friend the Cigarette has started to slow me down and I can’t deny that some resentment has set in. My hair’s flat, my nails are yellowed, my clothes smell. I’ve tried taking a break, so just so we can both have some time to think, but the time apart makes me overplay what we do have and by the time I’ve caved in, I wonder why I bothered trying to cut them out – My Friend the Cigarette always has a way of getting back in. I think it’s because they’re non-judgmental; on the downside, they’re emotionally unaffected by my efforts to drop them, which makes me wonder what sort of respect they have for themselves at all. And that’s how I have started to realise that the relationship has turned toxic.

What to do when your best friend intends to kill you

Avoid the places you are likely to meet them

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Ah, the smoking shelter at work. Both a great relief and simultaneously, a great frustration as it stands in a wind trap. There’s nothing quite like the smell of burnt hair to remind me that My Friend the Cigarette really isn’t investing as much as I have been. Of course it could be worse. Many years ago I had a fringe and around the same time lost my only lighter (79p in addition to a pack of twenty while unemployed just doesn’t seem sensible in a house full of gas powered gadgets) so fell into the habit of lighting up off the hob. An ever present stench of burnt hair and a round fringe were my most striking physical features that summer.

View them as the rest of society does

As a collective, smokers have become a deposit for social scorn, hatred and general point of blame for all reckless consequences born from lazy hedonism so the idea of  jumping sides ever so slightly offends my pride. However, my analysis is already causing me to see the habit as pretty thankless. My so-called friendship entitled me to a £50 fine for dropping an end on a street. My Ex-friend the Cigarette led me into a situation in which I was threatened with police action for doing something I have done hundreds of thousands of times before. It’s difficult to deny that people hate smokers, particularly when there’s legislation written in such a way as to finally punish them for the littering blighters they are. Still, dropping is always better than setting oneself on fire, as I tried to point out to the nice Cigarette Butt Warden. Perhaps I won’t be able to open a personal floodgate of scorn and hatred, but I should at least avoid being the focus of it.

Explore the effects of adversity in challenging times

People get very irritated when I start talking about quitting because they prefer consistency – the smokers fear they’ll lose a die-hard and the non-smokers get bored because they’ve listened to every single one of my dreams of the promised land of low CO2 rates and seen me renege each time. But what if – what if this time I actually quit? What if I finally sever all ties with My Old Friend the Cigarette – then what will the non-smokers say? They will look at me afresh and have in their eyes the wonder of a new world from a collapsed civilisation. For me to propel change will be good for them. A certain Sister I have will no doubt poo-poo this whole plight. But I’ll show her. I’ll show them all.

Smugly rise above it

Maybe that Nasty Cigarette only has plans to kill me. But I’ve decided that I’ll be the one to walk away – like I have before I know, but over and above everything else the worst thing about quitting is the failure to quit. I hate failing. I hate that feeling of creeping back to the pack I have located and quietly pulling one from the pack to light it as quietly as I can – when the house is empty is best as Boyfriend can’t be there to kindly understand that once more I have failed. I hate that first moment I excuse myself straight after dinner and have to explain that,

Yes, I failed again – haha!

And I really hate it when Sister tells Dad that I’m smoking again. I hate the look I get. I hate the tone I hear. I hate it all.

So…

Enough of this relationship stuff. I told myself I would quit when I hit thirty (I didn’t). But toxic relationships must be left with my twenties; thirties are about water, positivity and a concentration on lowering the chances of developing a disease from the cheery Ways to Die roulette. Stopping is the only answer and like the worst relationships, I’m not really sure what kept me coming back.

So, from tomorrow morning, that’s it, no more – finito. I won’t miss the way you stick to me, but I liked the way I knew you were always there. Maybe we’ll see each other again – from a distance – maybe you’ll be there for someone else. As for me, I’ll be moving on – using my lungs, tasting my food, enjoying the lingering smell of my perfume.

Goodbye old friend, we had a lot of fun but times have changed and, with regret, I will be finding a new best friend.

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Into the blurb

This will be my first, and possibly single wholehearted blog. Though if my positive attitude continues, it may just be the first of many. 

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Herein lies the beginnings of my novel. Yes, I’m one of those people, who will die saying I’m trying to/thinking of/really, really want to write a book. This is my fourth genuine attempt in eight years (the first attempt swallowed four of those years), though I can count at least three more that stopped to fascinate for a while. Of those three genuine attempts, I am still yet to finish one of them – finished in as much that I can give them to Husband to read without having to supervise the reading experience by explaining exactly what it means in the context of the scenes and information that I haven’t yet got round to writing, because – don’t worry – they’re in my head.

The ghosts of course of the previous attempts are surrounding my table now, whispering discouragements – 

- You’ll only stop halfway through because you’ll get BORED – 

- It’s never as good when you actually start writing it – 

- You’ll never write a book! Never! NEVER!

At the moment I don’t have a lot to reply to them with – I’ve been waving them away most of the afternoon with a flap of one of the three notebooks I’ve decided to use.

Which really brings me to the main reason I decided to blog instead of cook dinner. I’m a self-confessed stationery obsessive, but I had always functioned on the belief that the more notebooks I brought, the more organised I would become – one for writing, one for cooking, one for gifts, one for books that I’ve read…

In April I set myself a cold turkey mission and told Husband that I was throwing away all the notebooks that I wasn’t currently using, which would leave me with one hardback Moleskine, one mini Moleskine and my then brand new super exciting all singing all dancing Arc notebook. For any concerned readers, the detox actually involved lovingly wrapping the unused notebooks in newspaper and storing them in a cupboard with labels like ‘Blank’ and ‘Can be used as blank’. Actually, they were the only two labels. 

Saturday morning, I woke in a panic at 5.30am (panic due to some absurd worry that all my current ideas for ‘the new book’ would fly out of my mind unless recorded right that second). I made numerous cups of coffee, ‘tidied’ the living room (moved a few glasses into the kitchen) and then decided that it would be best to go and sit at the desk upstairs and start to write things down. Then I broke into my stash and rescued one Moleskine cahier, one brand new still in its wrapper soft Moleskine and a (at the time a recklessly spontaneous purchased) Moleskine project notebook. I never had any projects to work on, so it really had been greedy of me. 

However. They have all come into a pretty interplay, the two smaller notebooks bound in a Filofax Flex that I found in a TK Maxx for a fiver. I spent a while on Saturday morning trying to set up a Flex dashboard like the ones I had spent waaaaaaay too much time reading about on blogs when I brought it, but gave up when I realised I was fussing. And procrastinating.

Which is what the biggest ghost said all day – there’s no way I’ll ever get this book done as long as I sit around and play with the notebooks. So I played in a different way and made up stories. A lot more fun, and hopefully a lot more productive!

 

Honeymoon Day 1: World War T

It’s challenging being a Briton abroad. We sort of carry the weight of the average impression on our shoulders. You try to be extra polite, extra gracious and extra embracing because you are extra aware that we have an international label of extra fussy.

Dalaman Airport, Turkey emptied the plane promptly onto two buses. Great! We knew we had a few hours ahead of us in a hopefully air conditioned car (though if it was just rolled down windows, that would be okay too – we’re not fussy!) – leaving the plane so quickly was a bonus!

And then came the queue for Passport Control.

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Except it wasn’t a queue. It was a mass. A mass of mainly British holiday makers. A mass of mainly British holiday makers in 28 degree heat. A mass of mainly British holiday makers in 28 degree heat with one thing on our unified mind:

Protect your queue – for Queen and Country!

The photo is from about the halfway point and just before my realisation that Husband and I would have to jiggle into a snaking line of tourists that was making its way more directly to one of the Passport booths. At the point we joined, along with how many others, you couldn’t even see the booths.

An angry and likely overheated teenage boy to my right was eliciting advice from his more quietly angry mother about what to do as more and more people merged with their ‘queue’.

Don’t let them in,

She said with all the certain control of any good matriarch,

There’s too many…

A boy of about five or six to my left had already declared his exasperation at everyone joining his queue. I’m beginning to think it’s something they put in our water.

About a fifth of the way to go, we heard a whistle behind is and could see the crowd trying as best it could to part, fanning back in a reluctant Mexican wave for a man in a wheelchair. Yes, the same man who had been bouncing spryly up and down for the toilets, the trolley and for Husband to get past him, in the seat at the end of our row on the plane. Clever old people. However, the look of unabashed delight as he flew through the mass was sort of worth it. More whistles came, more suspect wheelchair inhabitants, along with large groups of family trailing past us behind them.

Behind me, a conversation broke out.

Well, now you’re in our queue!

I’m not in your queue.

Yes you are. You were in that one, and now you’re
in this one!

[sheepishly] I’m not in your queue.

I turned to see the speaker of the first more tense interlocutor and beheld a red faced bespectacled English man berating a younger, more embarrassed looking Englishman with scrunched up shoulders, sort of caught between both queues.

Because there were no queues.

And when that happens to the British – when one of our great underpinnings of polite society is challenged, we descend into chaos.

Or, because we’re British, terse verbal exchanges with other holiday makers.

Reading Challenge 2014 So Far…

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I thought I should make a list to see how this resolution’s going…

B – Bellman & Black, Diane Setterfield – 1/5

F – Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, Matthew Quick – 4/5

G – The Girl on the Landing, Paul Torday – 3/5

H – The Husband’s Secret, Liane Moriarty – 4/5

L – Life After Life, Kate Atkinson – 4.5/5

M – May We Be Forgiven, AM Homes – 4/5

N – The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern – 4/5 

R – The Rehearsal, Eleanor Catton – 3.5/5

W – What Alice Forgot, Liane Moriarty – 4/5

 

Ohhh – I thought I had read more!

Any suggestions would be appreciated for the many missing letters!

Wedding Week Day2: It’s Too Late to Change!

I was sitting on the sofa last night, slotting the Order of Service invites into the cards. These things have taken me a while. It started on Saturday when my printer decided to hiccup, throwing the whole ‘can I even print them’ question into the equation. I printed 20 successfully. Then I ran out of ribbon after the first 16. Proactive Friend, who had lent a hand with the mind numbing double sided tape exercise disappeared to Bluewater and returned with three new reels the next day. By Monday, All 62 were printed. I finished sticking. I finished binding with ribbon. Now, to insert the pieces, drop them in the rubbish brown box that I should do something to prettify.

Boyfriend, a little more engaged now that the World Cup has abandoned him, decided to flick through the completed versions only to notice that I had forgotten to put his friend’s name in bold to show that he’s a reader. Boyfriend asked me to re-print – it would only be the inserts. Um.

On another note, the bridesmaids are in rebellion. Possibly the subject of a later post, their dress hunting has been for me the most M. Night Shyamalan part of this process – they were going to wear blue – but they wore pink! They were going to wear pink – but now they’re wearing cream! They were going to choose their own outfits – but then they couldn’t decide! They were going to wear different dresses – but now they’re wearing the same! They said they liked the dress I eventually chose – now they don’t!

When Cousin asked if she could change out of the (news to me) unflattering dress, I didn’t act with poise or nonchalance about the fact that it is just a dress, I made a snippy comment instead. I have since realised the error of my idiocy and within twenty minutes retracted the refusal and told her and Sister to wear whatever they want in the evening. For crying out loud, it is just a dress.

For Sister’s perspective, maybe check out her account of the last few months in The Aftermath – I felt a little bit Bridezilla after reading that! And maybe I should have read it earlier than three days ago!

Wedding Week: Day 1

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It’s Monday.

 We are getting married on Saturday – at 2.30pm in case you’re interested.

Downstairs, there are forty something Order of Services to be bound and decorated with pink stripe ribbon; there are about twenty serviettes left to be rolled and wrapped in raffia, the delicately hand written heart wood pieces to be attached.

 Boyfriend and I are finally listing the songs that will make it onto the playlist. We decided to ‘go personal’ and ask for three songs from each guest, and add a selection of our own choices. This equates to nearly seven hours of music. We only need music for three and a half. Editing is required.

 Seating is still to be finalised. I still have to subtly find out the surname of a close friend’s boyfriend (without giving away that I have completely forgotten it despite her telling me only a few weeks ago), and I also need to find out whether another friend is bringing a husband or a mother.

 We still have to buy the wine for the reception. My eyebrows are in dire need of some hot wax attention. Suitcases are to be filled with honeymoon clothes. Mum still has to buy flowers, the bridesmaid’s owed money and my bridal hairstyle –as yet unarranged – is likely to be a slightly back combed and sprayed version of my normal hair.

 Boyfriend has put the imitation Champions League Cup Trophy over his head.

 I am upstairs having a Blue Moon. I think this is the best way.