Archive | September, 2010

You people are doing everything within your power to destroy me.

27 Sep

Originally posted at Three Blog Night.

I was an ill teenager when I wrote my last blog post. I am less ill and teenage this time, but I have compensated for my lack of infirmity and youth with unspeakable levels of anger. I think it was watching Robin Ince on the same day that I left my teenage years that inspired this. Not that Robin Ince himself makes me angry. That’s a cruel thing to imply. I like Robin Ince. It’s more that public displays of anger seem infinitely more acceptable if you’ve witnessed them from a 41-year-old man who wears cardigans and walks around with a little wheelie suitcase full of books about crabs and Jesus and specula.

Although it’s fairly local, I’m largely unfamiliar with Birmingham and on Thursday I found myself needing to get to the Midlands Art Centre so that I could go and see an angry man shout about Mills & Boon. As I’d only been 20 for a few hours, my optimism and faith in humanity hadn’t yet been shat on so I asked someone who worked at Birmingham New Street for help in finding the bus park. I managed to say, “excuse me, do you know where Queensway bus p…” before she cut me off and said, “I DO NOT DO THE BUSES!”

“DO YOU NOT DO COMMON COURTESY OR LOWER CASE EITHER?” I didn’t ask her in response. Because I’m not a cock. I thanked her for her time and asked if she knew who might be able to help me. She repeated that she DID NOT DO THE BUSES. Of course. I conceded that yes, it was indeed a stupid question and apologised. She didn’t do the buses. I knew that she didn’t do the buses and I still went right ahead and asked her about buses. I’m a prick and deserved none of the politeness that she was clearly capable of but chose to reserve for less idiotic acquaintances.

Fortunately for me, I found a bus driver wandering around outside the station who wasn’t aware of how much of an idiot I was. I knew that he was a bus driver because his eyes were sunken pits of despair and hatred, and also because he was wearing a fluorescent vest that said he was a bus driver. I asked him for help and he told me that I needed to get a bus from outside of Argos. He gave me the wrong directions to Argos but I was still really grateful because at least he hadn’t spat in my face.

20 minutes later I decided that I should probably ask someone else for directions to Argos. “The next person that I see,” I thought, “will be asked for directions to Argos.” I should say at this point that I was with my mother, but she was less inclined to ask for directions because she was old enough to know that everyone is A Shit. I was not old enough to know this and had failed to heed the earlier warning signs offered by the woman in Birmingham New Street station. I saw someone. I thought, “this person will be asked for directions to Argos.” I made eye contact with the person that would be asked for directions to Argos. “NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” screamed the person before I could ask them for directions to Argos. I apologised and thanked them for their time.

I used Google Maps on my phone to find Argos.

Once I was outside Argos the finding the bus bit was easy, because I was standing at a bus stop and buses are really big and quite distinctive in form. And also because my mum said “there’s the bus.” She was right, too; the bus was there. I got on it without falling over or anything. My day had suddenly become brilliant. I asked the bus driver if he’d be able to tell me when we were close to the Midlands Art Centre so that I could get off. He stared at me and then asked me to repeat what I’d just said. I repeated what I’d just said. He said no. Luckily I’d had the foresight to check the bus route before I left my house – I needed to get off at Willows Road. I asked whether he could tell me when we were on Willows Road. He said no again. I asked whether he went down Willows Road. He said he didn’t know. He didn’t know. I couldn’t help but feel that knowing whether or not he should go down a particular road played a pretty significant role in his job as a man that drives buses down particular roads, but decided that I was probably just being silly and sat down. I tried to work out how many miles we’d have time to walk before the show started in case we got off in the wrong place, but failed because Birmingham had broken my mind.

I did manage to find the theatre. Another passenger took pity on me and told me she’d let me know when to get off the bus, which was nice, and then she drew a map for me so I wouldn’t get lost afterwards. This was very kind of her, and also confirmed that everything about my appearance and demeanour screamed “absolute fucking idiot” because there were lots of massive signs to the theatre and there was no conceivable way that anyone could get lost unless they were an absolute fucking idiot. I didn’t get lost. Probably because of the map rather than the massive signs. It was a good job she’d given me a map, I could’ve gotten lost.

In direct contrast to the rest of humanity, Robin Ince was excellent (as was his guest, James Cook). In fact, when I went to the venue bar and bought a pint my mum informed me that it was “not a girl’s drink”, but even this failed to overshadow the brilliance of Ince. BrilliInce. I am overtired. But you must go and see him immediately. His tour dates are at www.robinince.com.

I’ve read this back and realised that what I’m experiencing isn’t so much “unspeakable levels of anger” as it is “crushing and relentless disappointment”. The moment I turned 20 everyone felt it necessary to go out of their way to turn me into a cynical bastard like they all were because I was HAPPY and the world HATES happy people. Well, fuck you all. Just wait until you see how much of a curmudgeon I’ve become by the time I turn 21. You’ll wish you’d just gone ahead and given me the directions to Argos.

I have decided to try my very hardest to be a bastard.

22 Sep

Originally posted at Three Blog Night.

On Friday I spent £60 that I didn’t have because I am pathetic and live in constant fear of disappointing people.

I got an email a while ago from my university asking for volunteers to help out with a departmental open day, which I ignored because Oxford is far away and I suffer from chronic apathy. But then I got another email a week before the open day saying that they’d only managed to get half the number of people that they needed, so I decided that, despite the fact that it’d cost me £60 to get there, I’d step in and be a hero like some second-rate, slightly paler version of Enrique Iglesias. So at 6am on Friday I left for Oxford, and spent most of the 3 hour commute considering how my life could be improved exponentially if I were to become a terrible person.

In my 3 months away from Oxford, I’d almost forgotten about the abject hideousness of the zoology building. The “dreaming spires” thing is a myth. MY bit of Oxford looks like a poorly designed car park. They keep it hidden – it’s about a 10 minute walk from the proper Oxfordy bit of Oxford, and to get there you have to pass a group of militant animal rights activists holding placards and insisting that you, personally, take it upon yourself to inject sulphuric acid into the eyes of adorable puppies. But the department was dressed up on Friday with big green banners, as though they compensated for its architectural shortcomings and seeing the words “BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES AT THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD” in massive letters was going to make a 17-year-old more likely to study in this one particular city for three years.

What might make a 17-year-old more likely to study in this one particular city for three years, however, would be the provision of free refreshments. And boy, did we have free refreshments. Now, if I’d been in charge of organising these, I’d have chucked a kettle, some tea bags and a few packets of digestives on a table. Maybe Maryland cookies if I really wanted to push the boat out. But oh no. Not Oxford. Oxford had shortbreads that were wrapped individually and delicately arranged in a basket, and I swear, they had varieties of tea there that weren’t even brown. They were all Twinings like what that Stephen Fry has, and some of them said they were fruit flavoured. What are these people?

After I’d finished taking ungrateful, cheap shots at my university’s generous offering of tea and biscuits, my day was spent trying to be friendly and helpful towards infuriatingly young, bright and enthusiastic 17-year-olds. Most were lovely, which I hated them for because I can’t write anything spiteful about lovely people. The bastards. Particularly, I met one girl who was clearly very smart but was afraid that she wouldn’t fit in because she “didn’t come from a grammar or private school or anything like that.” I sympathised with her, hugely, because I had the same concerns 2 years ago. One of the reasons that I volunteered to help on the open day was because I really struggled with my decision to come to Oxford, but I genuinely feel that going through with my application was one of the best decisions that I’ve made, and if I could play even a tiny role in helping someone else make their decision, then I wanted to. And I did. I talked with her over some of that fruity shit parading as tea and she seemed reassured that beating poor people isn’t really a mandatory activity here. It’s just heavily encouraged.

There was the odd cock there, though. Right at the end of the day I overheard one girl ask the admissions tutor whether she’d have any chance of getting in because she’d already started a course at Oxford Brookes, but had found herself “starved of any opportunity to even attempt to engage in vaguely intelligent conversation with [her] peers.” To which I thought, “yes, you’re the sort of pompous knob-end that would fit in perfectly here. HAVE ONE OF OUR INDIVIDUALLY WRAPPED BISCUITS! They taste of pretension and environmental destruction.”

Now, you might read this and say, “wait a minute, Heather. Only 1 paragraph before this one you spoke of a young woman who struggled with the idea that she might not be an “Oxford type”, and of the fact that you yourself had this same struggle 2 years ago. Surely if, as you believe, the Oxford stereotype is largely unfounded, your perpetuating it for the sake of a cheap laugh is not only contradictory, but singularly unhelpful in the effort to convince other people like yourself and that young woman to apply?”

To which I might respond, “yes, you could indeed argue that. However, here is a video of a cat eating a watermelon!

After I’d done with being a frickin’ hero, I met up with two friends who were already back in Oxford because they are intellectually masochistic, and we bumped into one of the kids that I’d seen at the open day. I smiled and said hi. She didn’t. I don’t get that. I just don’t. Why are people so unfriendly? I know that most of the people that I meet are pricks but I’m still nice to them. I’m not a prick and they’re awful to me. The pricks.

Maybe if I’m more of a prick, people will be less prick-like towards me.

From tomorrow, I am going to be a prick. A 20-year-old prick.

FUCK YOU, PALEONTOLOGIST RICHARD LEAKEY.

16 Sep

Originally posted at Three Blog Night.

My friend Matt, who feigns authority over this blog, turned 20 on Monday. I grew up with him – we’ve known each other since pre-school – and there are only 10 days between us, so him being 20 now… it’s odd. Don’t get me wrong – I recognise that really, this whole age thing is arbitrary. We are constantly aging – I’ve aged by several seconds in the time that it’s taken me to write this sentence and you’ve aged by several months with the effort that it’s taken you to read it – so the day that separates being 19 from being 20 probably shouldn’t be so significant. But there’s something about it that scares me. I’m not going to be a teenager anymore, and that’s a pretty frightening thought. You can get away with stuff when you’re a teenager, like behaving in an overtly stroppy manner, or sporting illogical headwear, or sleeping with minors. When you’re a twenty-something? Not so!

If you’re reading this then you probably followed a link that I posted on twitter, and if you’re following me on twitter then there’s a pretty significant chance that you’re over 30. And if you’re over 30, there’s an even greater chance that you hate me right now because I am flaunting my youth in your face and you will die soon. But I’ve had a problem with the concept of ageing since I was 7 years old. I remember being in a newsagents when, as is customary when you’re 7 years of age and surrounded by overpriced confectionery and softcore pornography, I was struck by a profound thought. I can’t remember what that thought was, but I remember having an overwhelming desire to receive affirmation from an adult that I wasn’t close to old-age, incontinence and death. So I asked my mother, with relative confidence that I’d get a comforting response, whether 7 years was a long time. And she looked at me, with a tired exasperation that I will never forget, and answered, “Yes, Heather. 7 years is a long time. 7 years is a very, very long time.”

I was destroyed.

But it’s been over the past year or so that I’ve really started to become aware of the fact that I’m not going to be a kid for much longer. People have started to react to me differently. If a child ran in front of me, their parents used to ask them to “move out of the way of that girl”, but recently I was referred to as “that woman”. Replying with, “ACTUALLY, I AM NOT A WOMAN! Yet.” gets surprisingly negative responses from the parents of young children. And in Edinburgh I didn’t always get asked for ID when I tried to buy alcohol, although I’ll concede that I’m clutching at straws with that example; even the toddlers in Scotland piss gin. I’m becoming increasingly aware, though, of the fact that my time here is finite. I’ve done almost two decades. Nearly 20 years I’ve been here! That’s a long time. I mean, fuck. SEVEN years is a long time, as we’ve established. But twenty, and not only have I achieved nothing, but there’s always an army of utter bastards determined to highlight my inadequacy. From this website: “aged 19, paleontologist Richard Leakey launched his first expedition in search of human fossils.”

What a cunt. Richard Leakey didn’t even give a shit about fossils. A decision like that serves no purpose but to deliberately piss off your dysfunctional, underachieving peers by reminding them of what dysfunctional underachievers they are.

Now, I only have a week of not-being-elderly left so if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go and read all of Stephenie Meyer’s novels, watch One Tree Hill and listen to Jonas Brothers on loop. Whilst weeping.

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