Bus-ted.

A terrible thing happened to me on the bus yesterday afternoon.

While on my way home from work I bumped into one of my best friends from school.

Now, I am an avid follower of what people from school are doing, I really am, but I have no desire to find out from them in person. Instead, I like to occasionally creep on their facebook profiles, as well as their profiles on any other social media platforms they may frequent (which is, like, none. The people I went to school with are shockingly bad at the internet and I cannot understand it at all. It’s almost as if they’re out talking to people face to face, or something. Sickos.) and suss out where I stand in my own invented rankings of ‘Post School-Era Success’. To give you an idea, I currently fall somewhere between the honest-to-goodness, actual stripper, and the honest-to-goodness, actual mathematics PHD student. Not too shabby, either way.

Anyway, my bus journey started so well. I correctly predicted exactly where the driver was going to stop so I could be right in front of the doors, I blocked an old lady who was trying to push on before me but was actually not yet old enough to warrant that kind of treatment, and I got a seat on the ground floor. Is it a ground floor on a bus? I’ve never once considered this. Answers on a postcard, please.

I sat down, feeling smug. Then, I happened to glance up, and I spotted a school person getting on the bus. My heart dropped into my stomach, and my first instincts were:

  1. Freeze. For a brief moment, I admit, I confused my old human friend for the T. Rex out of Jurassic Park. And let me tell you, humans can definitely see you, even if you sit dead still.
  2. Think ‘Oh, it’s OK. I chopped all my hair off at the weekend, so he won’t recognise me’. But, genius, you did not chop off the face that he sat next in every single lesson, every single day for two years, did you? Man, those A* GCSEs were really not worth the paper they’re written on.

In a shocking turn of events, neither of those things helped me. I suddenly felt the need to become very involved in untangling my earphone wire. This was despite the fact that, for once in its miserable, plastic, tangly life, it was perfectly fine.

There was a tapping noise on the glass partition, which I studiously ignored. By that point I was starting to come to terms with the fact that I probably wasn’t getting out of this without making at least some small talk, but I was determined to delay it for as long as possible. I figured if he questioned me about why I didn’t look up I could claim I thought I was being very unsubtle-y harassed on the packed bus full of commuting types. Every weirdo’s natural pickup location.

“Nicola”. That was the final, dreadful moment when I knew I’d been rumbled.

Did I look up straight away? Of course not.

“Nicola. Nicola. NICOLA!”. He always was persistent.

So, randomly bumping into old friends. Kind of a treat? Or social minefield? I know which one I’d say. But then, I apparently think people have the same characteristics as CGI dinosaurs so, really. What do I know?

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It’s All Tube Much: Notes on the other passengers

The tube strike. It’s 10am and I’m already kind of sick of hearing about it. Although I wrote this last night and I scheduled it, so ‘I’ of the past (present) am guessing that ‘I’ of the (present) future will be sick of hearing about it. Holy tenses, Batman!

Anyway, what I was trying to say is that I’m probably sick of hearing about it by now so with that in mind, I assume other people will be too, and I apologise for bringing it up more than necessary.

This isn’t even technically about the strike. It’s about the bit before. You know, the bit where TFL warned us not to be on the tube after 6pm, and then lots of peoples’ offices let them go a bit early, and then people started getting nervous and leaving even earlier until what you actually saw when approaching any tube station were hordes of  people coming from every direction, pretending to be casual, and then just breaking into a run as they got overwhelmed with the tension of it all.

My train was a lot busier than it usually is, considering I unashamedly live in the Suburbia at the very arse end of the Jubilee Line, and with that business came every character imagineable. I couldn’t get over the sheer number and variety of people in that tube carriage with me and, in an effort to practice my observation skills (and because I was so crammed in I couldn’t physically hold a book out in front of me if I tried) I wrote a list of people I saw on the tube.

You lucky, lucky readers:

  1. Woman reading pornographic book and thinking nobody would realise because it was on a Kindle (reading over the shoulder is alive and well, lady).
  2. Man holding with epic B.O. in only one armpit, causing panic in at least half a dozen people around him 50% of the time he moved his arms around.
  3. Man with ears so dirty I couldn’t unsee them. Or stop staring. Note to self: Expect nightmares.
  4. Woman having Eastenders-worthy shouty conversation on the phone, about which I have a long list of follow-up questions that I couldn’t ask because she definitely would’ve punched me.
  5. Group of banker-types who just left Wimbledon and felt the need to relive it very loudly.
  6. Terrifying elderly man who demanded priority seat from an even elderlier elderly man. Old man fight.
  7. Small child wanting attention.
  8. Medium-sized child wanting attention.
  9. Large child wanting attention.
  10. Woman developing an eye twitch because she clearly shares my belief that we should have child-free tube carriages. Especially at rush hour. Especially especially in ‘if you don’t get home now, you won’t get home at all’-style mass-panic-induced rush hours.
  11. Group of ladies with Gins in Tins who didn’t bring enough to share with the class.
  12. Guy whose eye I caught and briefly thought he was flirting.
  13. Girl standing directly behind me who the guy I thought was flirting was actually looking at.

And, to top it all off, girl standing in the middle of the carriage getting in literally everybody’s way because she suddenly decided that she was a 25-year-old Harriet The Spy who needed to creep everybody out by staring at every little thing.

Um, My bad.

The Selfie Saga, Part Three: Selfie Ever After

This is part two in a three-part series that is so self-obsessed I’m wondering if it’s actually almost Meta? Maybe not. Anyway, part one can be found here. Part Two can be found here. My dignity can be found nowhere.

After I printed off my selfie (It’s probably to late to start calling it a headshot, but I sure wish I’d done that)  I was still fretting about the photo I’d chosen for my exciting thing. The problem is, I was sure I knew how they’re going to use them – there was a whole load of us invited to multiple events, and they were going to lay out our pictures on a table and then move them around like they do in Britain’s Got Talent, and decide who they want to see again.

So my problem (aside from the fact that I have the capacity to overthink one tiny thing this much) was that I wasn’t happy with my face. I think I mentioned it was the one I posted on Facebook to show off my new haircut. Since it was quite drastic, the appropriate facial expression seemed to be one of modest, wide-eyed, almost innocence – as if to say ‘this really isn’t a big deal’. Because then it’s not too showy-off-y when you’re, you know, showing off. But in a ‘picking people out of a talent pool line-up’ context, it was going to look like a picture of an unsure person.

So, I spent Sunday afternoon occasionally taking photos again in the hopes of surprising myself into looking quietly confident, and definitely not like somebody who had already made three attempts to take one decent photo. Miraculously, it worked.

So, armed with new photo (also new Facebook picture because when you have one nice photograph of yourself you cling to it with all your might and they can pry it from your cold, dead fingers – whoever ‘they’ are.) I made a quick stop in the Boots closest to my work, which has five shiny photo machines, and very few idiots at not-even-8 am. Every single one was out of order.

So at lunch time I had to bus it (because it was raining and my new hair doesn’t enjoy that. Or rather, I don’t enjoy the new flicky bits it has started to form) over to the seventh circle of hell Piccadilly Circus to try for the third time.

Finally, there was success. At least, once I’d navigated past the creepy man who was standing at a machine, not printing any photos, just looking at everybody else’s. I took my three copies of my own face with a slightly different expression to the counter. The nice till man could still see what I was buying, he just didn’t know there were three of them.

Even so, he looked down at the picture, and then looked back up at me.

“Is this you?” He asked.

“That’s me.” I told him, probably quite loudly because all of my blood had rushed to my face and was pounding somewhere in my ears. It’s a massive cliché, but I definitely wanted the floor to swallow me up.

“Wow.” Was all he said.

Which I am choosing to believe was ‘wow, you look nice, and I would totally accept you if I worked on the exciting thing you need this photo for’, and not ‘Wow. You’re kind of into yourself’.

In case you’re wondering, my answer to him was somewhere along the lines of ‘flurble’. I think I had selfie exhaustion.

And so ended The Selfie Saga. I had achieved a reasonable hard copy of a photo. When I went to my exciting thing this week I did, of course, hand that picture over (and offer them unnecessary copies just to show how prepared I was) with a nonchalance that totally belied all of the bloody palaver surrounding it. But I knew, And the internet will know, the inspirational and life-altering story behind it.

Does anybody know any children in need at all? I should probably become a role model to somebody ASAP.

The Selfie Saga, Part Two: The Selfening

This is part two in a three-part series that just goes to show exactly how self-obsessed people who write blogs can be. Part one can be found here.

When I finally gave up on taking the right picture I decided to just use one I’d taken to show people my new hair, and planned to get it printed out that weekend, because I’d been putting it off for the entire previous week and had run out of time. I ended up on an unplanned trip with a friend to see a play, and there was one grotty Boots near the theatre. I left my play date (not a euphemism. We literally went to a play because we are thesps.) and ducked inside to quickly print off my photo.

At first, I thought this particular Boots was so grotty there actually wasn’t any photo machine. Why couldn’t I find the machine? Because it was hidden behind some idiots who were trying to print off 700 pictures of them standing in various bikinis on various beaches drinking various stuff out of things (pineapples, coconuts, and the like). I shouldn’t call them idiots. I’m trying to do this thing at the moment where I don’t automatically hate everybody I see, but seriously. I was still standing behind them twenty minutes later, as they discussed the individual merits of each photo and then occasionally accidentally deleted everything from their basket. It was like my tutting and foot tapping meant nothing to these people.

Eventually they walked away, and I could print off my own face several times over. I waited for the little slip for the cashier to scan, which never arrived. I stuck my hand into every available hole in that machine (wahey), hoping it would remember to give me the stupid receipt-y, slip-py thing, and it didn’t. So I went to the counter without it.

I told the man at the counter that I had three prints and, like a diligent employee, he wanted to check. So I handed them over and had no choice but to stand there and take the shame as he flipped through the three copies of my own face. After that, it turned out that he actually didn’t know how to let me pay for them without a slip, and called over his colleague. She had a look at the three copies of the same selfie. She didn’t know how to do it either.

Seven employees later I was able to pay. I wasn’t – and I’m still not – sure exactly how many people really needed to be involved, but the staff of Boots taught me a valuable lesson that day, which is that if you’re going to pay money to print out several copies of your own face, you have to be willing to admit that to several people wearing white tabards.

This is part two in a three-part series exploring how self-obsessed I can really get. We’ve only just started plaumbing those depths, believe me.

The Selfie Saga, Part One

I have been causing myself trouble. Or, more correctly, my selfies have been causing me trouble. And not in any of the ways one would usually assume that a selfie could cause trouble.

I had an exciting thing to go to recently, which required me to come armed with a photo of myself. I took roughly 1000 in the lead-up to try and find one that exuded ‘no, honestly, you do want me to be involved in your really cool thing because I am brainy and a promising talent, but also quite attractive and quietly confident and just generally all around very good people’.

My phone is very perceptive – and/or terrifyingly close to being sentient – and sometimes does this thing called ‘Auto Awesome’, which I have no idea how to control. It pretty much just means that my phone notices when I’ve taken a lot of photos of a thing – case in point, my own face – and edits them in fun ways that it thinks I’ll be into. This week, my phone decided to make a nine-frame collage of my face as well as a GIF. A GIF of me pulling selfie faces. As if to say ‘Well, this is obviously what you want, you self-obsessed knob.’

 

Andy Warhol eat your heart out.

Andy Warhol eat your heart out.

I do not know in what world I thought any of these faces was appropriate.

I do not know in what world I thought any of these faces was appropriate.

Is there a way to explain what’s happening to a phone? I feel like somewhere in the world there’s a really bored Android software developer who is seeing this stuff and judging me. I judge me too. However, I refuse to delete things like this because it is shame I deserve.

But anyway. This is just one in a long line of selfie-based trauma. Tune in tomorrow!

Of Swift And Sandwiches

I work in Celeb-land.

I also exaggerate sometimes, because, actually, I work in a normal (albeit nice) office which just happens to be close to a super-renowned, super-expensive hotel, which is where a lot of famous people stay. The paparazzi hang around a lot, and occasionally they get really excited.

I went out to get lunch last week, and that was exactly what was going down when I got back, fish finger sandwich in hand. I don’t usually pay it much mind, because I often haven’t heard of the famous person being hounded, so I was about to go inside to enjoy my delicious sandwich while it was still hot. But then one of my colleagues came up to me.

“Nicola. It’s Taylor Swift.”

“Fuck off.”

T Swift is kind of my role model. I mean, she’s not really, but she’s the same age as me so I sometimes hold her up as an example. By which I mean I will sit in front of the TV in my dressing gown and a sprinkling of toast crumbs and say ‘Nicola, Taylor Swift got Apple to back down, you can probably get dressed’, ‘Taylor Swift wrote a whole bunch of albums which are all you want to listen to ninety per cent of the time, I’m pretty sure you can get off your arse and write a couple of jokes’, or even ‘Taylor Swift sings about wearing red lipstick, you should probably try that’, which is a bad example, because I then just look a bit shit if I don’t also have T Swizzle’s makeup artist to apply and then constantly fix it for me.

Anyway, Tay. Exciting times.

We waited around for the next twenty minutes, as my sandwich went soggy. We waited, and waited. We got more and more impatient. A car was waiting, exactly in line with the door to the hotel. The exit was thronged with teenage girls. The paps kept testing their cameras. We were all primed.

Then, it happened.

Kim Kardashian rushed out, climbed into the waiting land rover, and was whisked away, chased by the paparazzi, who are, incidentally, terrifying.

I’ve never felt so betrayed by Kim Kardashian. I’ve actually never had any feelings about Kim Kardashian at all, so that was new.

And with that, the excitement was over. I went back to my office, sat down at my desk, and tucked into what was, by then, a bag of cold mush.

Kim, if you are reading this – and I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t be – you owe me a damn fish finger sandwich.

Chillin’ At The Bus Stop

This morning I had a dilemma. I was waiting for a bus, as I so often am, and it was late. It was, like, really late. It’s actually late a lot. I’ve been threatening to write strongly-worded letters for a couple of months now, but since I’m not 70 years old and since I still have a life (albeit one where I’m constantly running late for stuff because buses) I haven’t.

ANYWAY.

I was waiting for the bus.

We’re in that awkward time of year now where it’s sort of supposed to be summer, but it’s sort of definitely not that warm. If you happen to be standing in the sunshine in some kind of miraculous ditch that is sheltered from all breezes and also probably covered by the comfy London pollution blanket, then it could probably pass. Otherwise, I still think it’s questionable.

A couple of nights ago I spent a long time in the foyer of my office (for work reasons, nothing weird) and I noticed that most of the women leaving had bare legs. Since I am a massive sheep and I only ever do things when someone else has done them first I decided the time was right for me to do the same. #Summer.

So, the next day, I didn’t wear tights. Fortunately I still had a pair in my desk because whoever controls the air conditioning where I work wants everybody to die of hypothermia. I lasted about 4 hours, which I was proud of, like one of those people who jump into holes in the ice in the Arctic. But eventually it was time for me to wrap myself in a metaphorical foil blanket, and some actual, physical emergency desk tights, and calm the eff down with my ideas that it might already be summer.

So, if I hadn’t mentioned it, this morning I was waiting for the bus.

About 3 minutes into my wait I got chilly. It was cloudy, and breezy, but Carol Kirkwood had promised me I was going to be warm, and the bus was already past due, so I stuck it out.

About 5 minutes in, I regretted that.

About 7 minutes in, I started contemplating whether to duck behind a wheely bin and quickly pull on my emergency desk tights, which I happened to have with me after I wore them home yesterday (What? I only wore them for an afternoon. They probably didn’t need washing yet.). There was a policeman parked over the road, and for a split second I even thought maybe I could ask him if I could duck behind his car to ‘tight up’. After all, if they have to let pregnant women pee in their helmets, surely they have to help out silly girls who made bad outfit choices too.

The wait for the bus ended up being half an hour, and I spent most of it hopping from foot to foot (in an ‘I’m cold’ kind of way, not like I needed the loo or anything) telling myself ‘OK, I’ll duck behind a hedge and put my tights on now. Ok…. Now. No, now.’ I was paranoid the bus was going to turn up mid-tights-application, and so I never took the leap.

I think me talking about ‘taking the leap’ sounds like I’m trying to be quite profound, so at this juncture let’s not lose sight of the fact that I am literally talking about jumping behind a dustbin.

So, tights-amundo. We’ll try again in a fortnight.

Happy Friday!

You’re Canapé For That

I hate events that involve canapés. As a person whose job sometimes involves being around them, I’m often very uncomfortable.

This week I had to work at a few events involving waiters with pointlessly little bits of weird food on trays, and I had to pretend to have a professional opinion. It’s never a good thing when people want me to have any opinion, let alone a professional one.

The kitchen was a hive of activity. The event manager was stressed, the waiters were stressed, the guests expected a high-quality service of high quality fare. The first thing I did was giggle when a nice man offered me one of his salted caramel balls. That nice man looked at me weirdly.

Shortly afterwards I was given a piece of tuna on a stick. On closer inspection the stick wasn’t stick, it was a pipette. The pipette was full of stuff, and I was required to do things with it. I’m not 100% sure what the stuff in the pipette was, because I had a minor stress blackout at that point. Some kind of sauce. And the sauce had to be squeezed into the seafood.

A tuna - lets just shove a piping bag up its arse and call it a full meal.

A tuna – lets just shove a piping bag up its arse and call it a full meal.

I grabbed the tuna with my bare fingers, and squeezed. Sauce went literally everywhere. I saw the waiter’s eyes twitch when it splattered all over his shoes, but he just smiled patiently, and wearily told me that ‘you were supposed to squeeze the sauce once it was in your mouth’. Now there’s a chat up line and a half.

It’s a weird day when you realise that people probably think you were badly brought up because you don’t know how to eat a lump of fish off of a piece of lab equipment.

On the way out of the kitchen I was offered a waiter’s last salted caramel ball. I giggled.

Nobody looked surprised any more.

Nespresso Yourself

I’m a creative person. I know that, because I carry a notebook (Moleskine, of course) full of sporadic scribbles almost everywhere I go. Sometimes, I even open it. If I’m really pushing the boat out, I occasionally actually write something down. I went to an artsy unisveristy to do a thoroughly useless artsy degree, and most of my friends are artsy people with varying levels of success.

When I left university I thought I’d get a creative job. Because that’s what I was promised would happen. It very quickly became clear that the careers teacher at my secondary school was full of government-subsidised shit. After six months, I got the world’s worst job. It depressed the hell out of me, but in a funny way I felt hopeful. If I couldn’t have the dream creative gig, at least a horrible job would mean that I wouldn’t get too comfortable. I was a struggling writer dealing with a less-than-ideal situation, who would be full of amusing stories about my time as a receptionist when I went on Desert Island Discs, or ran into fans in Starbucks (because even famous, I would still be basic.).

So naive.

What happened was that I spent most of my free time trying new hobbies to make me feel like I was doing anything with my time. I also spent most of my day fantasising about enacting alborate and violent revenge on all of the people (everyone) who annoyed me. And also, on occasion, about jumping in front of trains.

So anyway, my ideas about day jobs were wrong. I did not write, because I was too busy trying to drown my sorrows in wine, evening classes, and teaching myself the ukulele.

Then one day, I gave up. I took a job without even considering how I’d manage to write around it, because maybe I’d just been kidding myself, and I accepted that. I got comfortable in my first week. And they made it pretty easy, too. There was a Nespresso machine on every floor, as well as a fridge full of other drinks, free fruit, free snacks, a discount on gym memberships… I could go on. Everybody was lovely. My hours were good. I even voluntarily worked overtime (and was paid money for it) because I just liked it so much.

I went from being someone who did the bare minimum to somebody who put effort into their day job, which I had always assumed would be the death of my will to write. But it turns out that getting comfortable in a nice full-time job was exactly what I needed to get working in my spare time again. Having sixty per cent of my time accounted for made me want to sort out the remaining forty. I even know that if that means the odd late night here and there it won’t matter because Nespresso.

Time was, I’d go home and be so furious about the things that had happened during the day that I couldn’t have focussed even if I’d tried. Or I’d be so exhausted by trying to maintain a normal social life in London when I didn’t live or work in London that, well, ditto.

image

Ah, the Nespresso machine. The source of my happiness and lifeblood.

My point really is that people shouldn’t always feel like they’re giving up if they take a nice, corporate-type job that requires a little bit more work in a field where there interest actually isn’t. Yes, for some people, the misery of a soul-destroying gig serves as that little kick in the arse to get shit done. But that doesn’t work for everybody. Sometimes it’s nice to be taken care of, and to feel valued. It might be that that is what ultimately makes a person want to pick up their pen, or paintbrush, or – hell – marionette and videocamera again, and get to work. And ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

There’s a General Election? Nobody mentioned anything…

Ah, politics. I hate it. I hate it so much that I’m actually really, really interested in it but I want to punch most people in the face when they post about it on Social Media, make jokes that make me realise I don’t understand as much as I think I understand, or just generally share an opinion.

I never want to be dragged in to a debate. One of my friends (I actually wouldn’t use that word – he’s actually the husband of one of my friends, so basically somebody who has been thrust into my life and onto my Facebook newsfeed without me choosing to have him there) posted something very arrogant and very, very incorrect about the election a couple of weeks ago. I stepped in with a reasonable* comment to let him know that he was incorrect, and he replied with kind of an insult. In that moment I thought of at least four fantastic comebacks which would have been very hurtful to him personally, and I was a grown up and didn’t utter a word. I was so angry for the rest of the day that I couldn’t sleep and, even now, my hands subconsciously form into fists when I think about it. I didn’t even mean to tell that story, but it was on my mind and it just came spilling out. Grr.

So anyway. Today is a politically nothing-y day, really. We go and draw our little crosses on a slip of paper, and then have to sit around awkwardly avoiding political conversations with people at work whose opinion would be severely affected if they knew you were a virulent UKIP supporter, or a hemp-wearing Green Party fan (for the record, I am neither of those things). If we go near the internet we’re subjected to people wrongly thinking their Twitter followers care in any way about their personal leanings, and if we go near the TV or radio (because I am old-fashioned) we’re subjected to news bulletins urgently reminding us that NOTHING HAS HAPPENED YET.

Nothing is really going to happen today, anyway. Sophie Raworth is going to be jumping around on a giant map outside Broadcasting House. She might get something funny yelled at her by a drunk stumbling away from Oxford Street at 1am if we’re really lucky. Jeremy Vine is going to be galloping around like a loon inside a CGI version of the Houses of Parliament, and colouring in the seats at his own whim. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I would pay good money to sit in the studio and see what he looks like before they add the graphics that make him look a tiny bit less mental. At 2am we might find out the results for a couple of seats – which is really only a good indicator of places you don’t want to visit. If you really think about it, it means they either contain over-zealous counting fans, or are so small there’s probably nothing there. It’s so much easier to sleep through it all and wake up to find there’s a new posh man in charge who isn’t going to really change very much.

They should make taking illicit photos of ballot slips into an extreme sport. Never has my heart raced so much. Such a rush.

They should make taking illicit photos of ballot slips into an extreme sport. Never has my heart raced so much. Such a rush.

But I bloody love it. I wasn’t so interested last time, for my first ever general election. I think I actually accidentally spoiled my ballot because I didn’t realise you weren’t allowed to tick the box instead of using a cross. I mean, seriously, people are clever enough to be trusted to ensure that our democratic system is upheld and yet they’re not bright enough to realise that a tick is probably a person saying ‘yes, I choose this candidate’? I’m still bitter. Anyway.

I turned up at the polling station before it even opened today. I was so excited to be the first person to cast a vote in my constituency. I imagined there was some kind of badge of honour, or possibly fanfare involved. There was not. And, despite me being there at godawful-o’clock (6:55am) I was the fourth person in line. And now I have to wait a whole five years until I can enter that race again. Next time I think I’m bringing a tent and just camping out. That gives me five years to get myself a tent. Or a life. Things could go either way. I guess it’ll all depend on who’s in charge in 2020.

 

 

*Obviously, even if it wasn’t a reasonable comment I, as one half of the argument, would be inclined to say that it was. However, on this occasion I’m actually in the right.**

**No, really. I am.