THE ART OF BEING SINGLE

Helium balloons and soft toys shaped like internal organs. It sounds like the makings of a thrilling time, doesn’t it? It’s unforgivably deceiving, the entire façade of Valentines Day, but that is why I love it. It’s as if I’m watching the most intense and ridiculous romantic drama take place over the span of a few days.

You have happy couples strolling down the street, grinning serenely as they anticipate the arrival of Valentines Day, however, at least one half of that love-sick pair is bound to forget the occasion and end up having to present a can of condensed milk and tinned sausage to their lactose intolerant, vegetarian partner.

The wafting scent of chocolate and red roses stinks out the street like Mustard Gas when the dreaded day arrives. I look on fondly as people sprint in their pyjamas like greyhounds to corner shops and card stores before the crack of dawn, in the hope that their futile efforts will save their relationship for disaster.

I am single and free of obligations, Valentines Day is the only day of the year when I am #WINNING.

The good bit comes afterwards. As February 15th rolls into town, I take pleasure in strolling up and down the seasonal aisle of Tesco to embrace the essence of crushed dreams and unreturned texts, whilst I rid the shelves of discount chocolate and cheap wine.

Happy Valentines Day to me.

HOW TO HAVE THE GREATEST SUPERPOWER

It can be infuriating at times when you’re sat opposite someone and have absolutely no idea what cogs are turning in their heads. This feeling may arise when meeting a figure of authority for the first time, or even if your life long friend has a very well practised poker face.

When conversing with a potential customer in sales, or dragging your slick palms down freshly ironed slacks in an interview, we all wish we had the power to delve into the depths of someone’s head and see their perspective of ourselves. We want people to like us and we long to know how to make that happen. Over thinkers, like myself, may leave a conversation feeling like a complete inept at human communication. Did I nod too much? Did I sound pretentious and pompous? Did I do that jerky thing with my arms without realising?

If only we could be reassured by the knowledge that the other person were just as insecure as we were.

Tracy, who you thought found you tramp-like? Yeah, well she’s wearing last weeks knickers and it’s beginning to chafe.

Adam, the vegetarian you persistently offered sausage rolls to? Yeah, well his grandpa used to bludgeon piglets to death every evening and pretend he was a gladiator.

Hayley’s not even listening to you, she’s too busy worrying about the five slugs she found in her kitchen and considering staying at a hotel for a night, or possibly forever. Now she’s envisioning the slugs in graphic detail and you can’t seem to swallow the piece of cake you were eating.

How traumatised would we be if the true extend of the world’s insanity was visible to us? 

Having immediate access to other minds would probably leave you none the wiser to whether the other person liked you or not. They would either be thinking of something else or just point out every little thing they notice about you.

Why is she wearing a huge jacket whilst indoors?
You gradually slip out of your layers, even though you’re cold.

Is that her fifth slice of pizza tonight?
You leave your plate on the side and pick up a bowl of lettuce.

I’m kind of hungry
You offer them your pizza

‘Don’t they know I’m on a low carb diet?! Are they trying to sabotage me?
You apologise profusely and ram the remaining slice into your mouth to make yourself shut up and end up choking.

Huh? Wow what a freak.

Are they okay? Why is their face that colour?

Okay, I’m going to leave. 

Before you know it, you’re left standing there, a cold, hungry, weeping mess, worse off than before and utterly humilated. Despite your best efforts and good intentions, you’ve managed to bend and alter your actions and personality based on what other’s want. Each person you meet will be thinking something different, wanting something different and you can’t conform to all their expectations.

So don’t, it’s exhausting.

Leave your coat on, pick up your pizza and talk to people naturally. As long as you’re not intentionally a douchebag, then it doesn’t really matter. Misinterpretations happen all the time, we’re all guilty of them, but generally don’t hold them against people. it’s human error.

Felicity might find your voice annoying and Craig might hate the colour of your scarf, John thinks you’re a sociopath and Lacy doesn’t think you’ll succeed in your field. These things are true to them, but not to you.

Similarly, if Eunice idolises you and Gareth hangs on your every word, it doesn’t mean you’re great. Knowing that Iden thinks your lasts piece on Oil Spills was the best piece of journalism every written doesn’t make it so. We don’t need to know any of this. if the interviewer thinks you’re an uneducated slug from Hayley’s kitchen floor after you shake hands, you tried your best, keep your coat on and go for some pizza.

I want the superpower to access my own mind, to know it inside out like my favourite book. Look subjectively upon my own thoughts and change according to what I record.

The answer is not now to get people to like you, it’s how to get your own brain to like itself and other people. Have a mind that would make Hayley or Graham or Eunice or Felicity comfortable keeping their coats on and to reach for another slice of pizza. Now that’s a superpower.

A WEEK ON THE OTHER SIDE

I don’t know if the teenage population of the rest of the world have to suffer this, but here in Britain, most 15-year-olds are required to complete a week of work experience. My particular school required me to find my own placement through a series of poorly penned emails and husky phone calls. My first call was to a well know book retailer that kept asking for my age and hung up on me after 54 seconds. It was lunchtime, they were busy and I was a kid trying to emulate Lord Alan Sugar’s tone of voice as to sound more professional.

21 phone calls later, I was rewarded with a pending case of tonsillitis and the knowledge that if you choked on your spit during a phone call, they would just put you on hold until you died and then move onto the next person.

For a few months, all efforts to confirm a placement jumped out the window with clipped wings and waited to become fossil fuels. My classmates had gotten placements at the vets, law firms and the House of Commons. They were destined to become well accomplished members of society with secure bank accounts and a glass of wine with cheese of Friday nights. On the other hand, I had a new mole on my middle finger and earned myself a detention when I showed it to my teacher.

So of course I ended up in a primary school.

My mum took me shopping the weekend before I was due to start my placement at the primary school door. I brought a new shirt in my least favourite colour and another blue pinstriped shirt with an odd silky texture as well as some black slacks. My mum didn’t seem too concerned, I mean, how badly could I mess up in a school? I was yet to be kicked out of my own.

Monday rolled around and I dragged my scuffed shoes off the bus and towards the bright scarlet entrance of the school. I ducked into the building and quietly informed the receptionist that I was Miss White’s work experience placement.

The school had no Miss White.

After 10 minutes of my insisting adamantly that the email I received from them clearly stated ‘your will be placed in Miss White’s classroom,’ the receptionist asked for me to take a seat and wait for the staff meeting to end. Annoyed, I slid my phone out of my pocket and tapped on the email.

‘you will be placed in Miss West’s classroom,’

Following my red faced apology to the receptionist, I greeted my temporary boss by calling her Miss White again and followed her into her classroom, which made me feel like the BFG’s freakishly gargantuan sister. Clearly having no idea what to do with her bright pink helper, Miss West asked for me to open her blinds and we stayed in stony silence for twenty minutes as I eventually began wipe the water stains off her windows with my spit.

Then, oh gosh the children came tumbling in like a wild eyed, sticky hurricane that smelt like soap and old trainers. I felt my entire being seize up as they seated themselves and Miss West asked for me to come up to the front. 38 pairs of ten-year-old eyes fixed into me and immediately regretted my choice of bright pink attire, they could charge at anytime.

‘This is our lovely helper for the week, her name is Vivien.’ Miss West said, a boy at the front squinted at me with a frog-like expression. Did he need to be burped?

‘Let’s make her feel welcome, okay?’ Miss West continued and then proceeded to hug me.

Now HOLD UP lady, I have no warranted you access to my bingo wings, back off or at least buy me sushi first.

Three hours later, I’d broken the school printer, sprayed coffee all over the new classroom display and argued with a child that 7 squared was 42. In the staff room, I was offered juice by a tall teaching assistant who must have pitied me, declined his offer and anxiously stood there gulping down glass after glass of ice cold water, until I choked and puked in my mouth.

By day three, I got so bored of doing nothing and still cocking up that I emptied a pack of cashew nuts into my trouser pockets for something to do whilst I stood at the back of the class, leaning against the top of a drawer. (I hadn’t been offered a chair and was too shifty to ask for one.)

I was trying to stay awake whilst a observing a Powerpoint presentation on Sir Richard Branson with far too many slide transitions, when I was tapped on the shoulder by Miss West and presented with four A4 sheets. She wanted each of her 38 students to have one of each and would I please go to the office and photocopy them all in time for the activity that she wanted to start in 5 minutes.

Sure, except I had no idea how to work a bloody photocopier.

The first time round, I accidently printed off 80 copies of an A3 sheet on individual A4 sheets and stood there helplessly as the copier spat out sheet after scorching sheet.

Eventually, I managed to get it right and stood there sweating vigorously as the office staff glared at the huge mound of paper in the recycling bin. I relayed each individual sheet as they came out of the copier to Miss West to make up for the amount of time I’d spent in the office and I could tell she was seriously considering asking me to please leave before I broke something else.

That lunchtime, Miss West told me I was free to go to the staffroom for lunch, clearly relieved to be free of me for an hour. Upon entering the staff room, I realised that I’d walked into a meeting where the same nurse that had taught me how to use a tampon five years ago, was informing the teachers on how to answer their student’s questions about sex.

After returning to the classroom and informing Miss West of the meeting that was taking place, I was horrified when she told me to go on in anyway. So I was left stranded in the corridor, hungry and unsure what do to. The only solution, it seemed, was to eat my bagel in the surprisingly clean bathroom and peek out the door until I saw the meeting end.

On my final day, I got tired of standing up and sat on the drawer I’d leant against for the whole week whilst everyone else was outside and yes, it broke.

That really was the mouldy cherry on the asparagus flavoured cake.

Dear school, I promise to try harder in Maths class so long as you never send me back there.

(please note that all names mentioned in this post, excluding my own, have been changed to respect the owner’s privacy)

INSANITY DREAMS

I have dreams that would make great screenplays and should probably be illegal. Now I know what you’re thinking, ‘I don’t have enough for intensive therapy, please just stop at ‘illegal.’ I consider myself to be doing you a favour here, okay? These ideas I’m sharing with you are free for you to use at anytime what so ever. Aspiring screenwriters with no inspiration – I’m talking to you.

Somewhere around the last week of my 2014 summer holiday, I woke up brimming with adrenaline and sweating from all outlets. My dream: a modern day Hunger Games that took place right in my school building, wherein all pupils who failed the half term maths exam were put into the reaping. I spent an exhilarating few hours bounding over toilet cubicles like some kind of mutant werewolf and inexplicably ended up in a sterile white basement with a life sized marble statue of Buddha who had a scented candle melted to his forehead. At some point I was shot in the hand by the girl who scored 3% more than me and my goodness did it hurt. I’m sure there’s some kind of psychological reason for why I dreamt that I wound a dozen rolls of Andrex around myself and pasted myself to the art room wall with PVA, but that would make great entertainment.

My next venture into the hidden depths of my subconscious revealed the adrenaline junkie side of my. I went skydiving above Paris with a faceless friend and landed in a fountain in a town square. Unknown to me, the fountain was sacred and my dear friend had decided to empty the contents of his bladder into the clear pool of blue (I know him to be male, because I’ve never seen a girl pee so comfortably whilst standing upright, and also he didn’t wash his hands, so come on.) We were promptly arrested by the French authorities and interrogated by the FBI which was all very puzzling because I only scraped an A in my MFL language test last year and once told my French teacher that the holiday resort gave me three pigeons to make mushroom sausages with. Earnestly, I told the French police that I went with my mother and sister to the cinema yesterday and I liked the movie, but the popcorn was dry and bad. Needless to say, they were unimpressed and had just danced an Irish jig around the table before I woke up and realised I’d forgotten to complete my chemistry homework.

I’ve saved the best from last and all you cartoon fans out there may want to resist the urge to read on.

When I was about 6 or 7 I had this recurring dream that would one day become the root cause of my phobia of wheelie bins. I must have dreamt this same dream 10 or 15 times and I think it deserves a mention. It starts with a crumpet at my child-minder’s house, there I was enjoying my crumpet and thinking about the next three when the doorbell rang. It was Goofy, but not the lovable bubbly Goofy you and I are accustomed to, but his Goofy had a uni-foot, two oversized feet that merged into one huge foot, attached to a single oversized thigh. Now I have no idea what the hell was wrong with me, but when this monstrous Goofy said: ‘I’m here for Vivien.’ I obligingly went along with him. He would carry me down the street and throw me in one of three wheelie bins, leave me there until it was dark, and then take me back to the child-minder’s where my parents were waiting.

I make Stephen King look like a candyfloss unicorn, I know. God forbid my kids refuse to eat their asparagus, Goofy’ll come knocking. I’m joking, I hate asparagus.

If any of you reading this are psychologists or analyse dreams or whatnot, let me know if I’m insane in the comments below and for any screenwriters who become famous for their unique story line about Buddha’s adventures in creepy Goofy land, you’re welcome.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME, I’LL SEE YOU AT THE HEARING

I’m awfully sorry about your quiche matted carpet and Uncle Jim’s bruised belly and I know I probably should have waited for her to blow out the candles before eating. Please accept my heartfelt condolences about Bubbles too, he had a good run – are you sure I can’t help you extract him from the radiator?

On a big standard day, my social incompetence and I manage to co-exist swimmingly. Dinner parties, however, are a whole new kettle of fish. They provide the ultimate platform for public humiliation, larger and more well lit than Times Square on New Years Eve.

My very first experience of a dinner party was really more of a tea party. I was around 8 years old and had been invited to a house belonging to a friend of the vicar, along with some other kids from Sunday school, for sandwiches and squash.

So there I was, seated on the floor with a cup of strong blackcurrant squash, sipping from my cup as if it were a hi ball of bourbon and I a jaded war veteran, wise and windswept. The squash was far more concentrated than my mum ever allowed for me to drink and a deep, royal purple.

After setting my cup down, I engaged in the re-telling of old war stories with the ex-marine to my right and showed him my medals. Feeling rather parched from all my tale telling, I reached for my hi ball to find that it’d emptied its entire purple contents across the thick ivory carpet.

As I goggled at the bruise that had bloomed, the cup rolled a few inches to the right, mocking me.

‘Too busy to pay attention to me, huh? Look where that got you, jaded veteran my ass. ‘

Like any other normal person, I leapt up and apologised to the host for my clumsy mistake.

Is what I should have done. 

Instead, I backhanded the sneering cup under the sofa and shifted myself over the squash drenched carpet. Now if I could just sit there until the house became derelict, I would be fine. 

‘They’re going to report you to the police,’ The cup hissed from underneath the sofa ‘or even worse, call your mother.’

I continued to press my buttocks into the stain and felt the dampness begin to soak into my jeans and pass through my skin. I wondered what Ribena would do to me if it entered my bloodstream.

‘How about you tell them that you’ve acquired an illness that results in you spontaneously pissing purple, berry scented fluid?’  The cup suggested. After a few moments of careful consideration, I hissed back:

‘That’s stupid, they’d get worried and check with my mother. Now shut up and be a cup.’ 

A few Emerils later, people began to ascend from their seats and file out of the room. Utterly mortified, I remained where I was, buttcheeks clenching in fear and my face contorted with horror. To our superviser, I must have looked severely constipated, as she urgently attempted to usher me out.

I have to tie my laces, you go first,’ in my nervous state, my voice came out as a strained whisper and I barely noticed her glance at my Velcro straps before she left, clearly convinced that the child at her feet was seconds away from producing a pair of incense sticks to perform a demonic ritual with.

With the place now blissfully empty, my purple ass leapt up and slipped out of the house gleefully scot free.

I realise now, of course, what an asshole move that was and if the host of that tea party is reading this – I’m sorry and hit me up if you want to press charges.

But as you can see, dinner parties and I didn’t exactly get off on the right foot and our relationship was only destined to worsen.

In my opinion, the most dreadful type of dinner party is where the food is laid out buffet style and you get to serve yourself on a paper plate. Before you get the wrong impression, let me just mention now that I would usually be thrilled at the prospect of unlimited shrimp toast, but with so many watchful stares following you around whilst you pile your plate with a socially unacceptable amount of food and infinite opportunities for catastrophe, shrimp toast begins to look less appealing.

I mean, one minute I could be sprinkling my salmon with pepper and the next, have the host SCREAMING what the hell I was doing to her grandma. 

Don’t even get me started on the paper plates, flimsy flimsy things that bend all which ways whilst you attempt to pile obscene amounts of food onto it. You end up having to perform some sort of frenzied waltz, tripping over a pair of Crocs and nearly splitting your head open on Uncle Jim’s beer belly, to get to your seat.

Once seated, you discover that it is near impossible to spear anything with your fork without the plate sinking into the crevice between your knees. A few bites later and it ends up looking like you’re trying to engulf your meal with your thighs.

And finally, I doubt I have to alert you to the fact that you’re spending an ENTIRE night in someone else’s house, filled with THEIR PRIZED POSSESIONS, children and idiotic goldfish that leaps behind the radiator when you tap the glass.

So by the time they kick you out onto the front porch with a pending restraining order, not only have you used their deceased relative as seasoning, but also made their little brats cry, ruined their upholstery, and slaughtered their dear pet.

You should have just stayed in with pizza and Netflix.

Comment below any stories you have of eventful dinner parties and please Like, Follow and Share if you enjoyed this post.

EMAIL ME with any questions or queries.
Thank you for reading and I’ll see you in the next blog post.

Viv 😉