Tuesday, 9 September 2014

I've Lost My Keys

In my life I have always acknowledged that to some extent, I am kind of a dickhead. You might think I'm being a wee bit harsh on myself here but actually, I'm pretty okay with it. It is a realization that occurs to me like a football boot to bollocks quite frequently; for example, when I ignore everybody's advice to "slow down a bit" at predrinks, then I pass out in the birthday girl's bed an hour later and miss the night out. I realise it on the many occasions when I say too little when I should speak up, and when my filter suddenly disappears at times when maybe, I should pipe down a little. It happens especially so during Mighty Boosh marathons when Howard says something lame and my response is not to guffaw at the screen, but to nod and wistfully think "y'know we'd probably be great pals if you were a real person?"

To be honest, the "you're a dickhead, Flo" realization is hitting me again right now. I have just finished eating Indian food with my dad, who has since popped off on the Subway back to his hotel. I would like to be doing what he'll be doing right now - lying in bed, full and content, like a pregnant penguin - but instead I'm sitting by myself in the library. I'm locked out of my flat. Lost the bloody key. I've lived there ten days.

It is surreal typing that though - "my flat". Unlike "my halls" it's got this wonderfully adult quality to saying it; it signifies having my shit together, paying actual rent to a landlord and cooking actual meals and even doing a bit of dusting now and then. Saying "my flat" beats "my halls" any day. Check me out - I bought bin bags for my flat today. And kitchen roll. Because I'm an ADULT in MY FLAT. That's what we all do, right?

You'd think that would be the case. But I don't think real adults lose their keys.

So I feel more of a pretend adult right now, really; kind of like a toddler in nursery school playing in a plastic kitchen whilst the real adults smile and utter through gritted teeth "oh, she's really..energetic?!" Sadly those nursery school days are even further behind me now, since I turn twenty in over three weeks. I'm not looking forward to it. Once you turn twenty, you have to accept the fact that you actually are a sullen bitch and it really isn't just those pesky teenage hormones. Saying you're twenty years old has no wonderfully adult quality; just the regular kind - "I miss the days when I didn't have to care about the shit like kitchen roll".

In other news that doesn't make me feel like I'm pretty much going to fail all the basic tasks life naturally gives me, I now have a column for qmunicate! Considering I had roughly twelve Twitter breakdowns over my application, several crisis talks with my mum and maybe one too many "consolatory entire packets of Maryland cookies" after getting a bit upset over it, this has undoubtedly been the best thing to happen to me in my first year of university. Proclaiming that something is a "dream" of yours always sounds a bit naff, but since learning I could coherently string a sentence together, writing a column has been...well, yes. A dream of mine. "Triumphant" is a good word to sum up how I feel - like Marythe cow from that advert ("she's always wanted to be a horse...")

It came at an especially good time too, since my blog inspiration has been a little low recently and when people know that you write there seems to be this pressure to...always write. Write and be funny, write and be thoughtful, write and write and write.

Moral of the story: lose your keys, start writing.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

My Big Health Kick - No, Seriously!

“…what’s all this about?”

Really, my dad was well within his rights to ask me this with a level of suspicion as I pulled my running trainers on recently. Since, well, birth, I have been a bit… willingly immobile. You know, more of a “running a bubble bath for me to lie in for the next three hours” kind of gal, not really “running, actual running with my actual legs because FITNESS!”

But this was all before My Big Health Kick. Don’t laugh at me - even if the chances are we’ve hung out and you’ve seen me lying in bed balancing an Irn Bru on my stomach and Marks and Spencers ready meal under my chin. I am being serious.
For once in my life - which has often revolved around my next sugar fix, packet of Monster Munch or glass of pear cider - I am wholeheartedly trying to be healthy.

I am trying to move more, and not just from the couch to the fridge. I am swapping my carbs for cardio. I have started excitedly running into my parents' bedroom in the morning to let them know that I have beaten my Plank record. I don’t drink lots of wine after working, I whine lots after I work out. Whilst I have not mustered up the courage to actually ask anybody what they actually are, I acknowledge the existence of electrolytes, which are important (?) for exercising and I might (?) need (?) them. There's a playlist on my iPod dedicated exclusively for motivating my cellulite-ridden arse to get out of bed to do some sit ups. I purchased weights the other day, too – I know. Bloody weights. Can you believe it? I barely can.
But it’s not all rainbows and (cauli)flower beds; the “healthy” route has not been an easy one to follow. Especially on days like yesterday when THIS of all things ends up standing in my way:
You are shitting me

But overall, I give the whole "looking after myself a bit more" experience an 8/10, so far. Sometimes it’s all I can do after doing some squats (my all time exercise nemesis) but ponder in despair “this is all very well, but when do I start looking like Iggy Azealia, man?” but by and large, I think those medical types are right about endorphins. You know, those things that are released after you exercise which make you…happier? Something like that, yeah? Well I think they’re a little more active these days.
Nonetheless, if I ever go a few hours with no social networking activity, you’ll know where to find me – collapsed in the middle of some forsaken country road, trainers thrown into a nearby hedge and crying for somebody to feed me Monster Munch.


Sunday, 10 August 2014

Danke Schon und Auf Wiedersehn, Deutschland

Right now I’m sitting in my bedroom as I’ve always hated to see my numerous bedrooms over the years. It is stripped bare, the walls are blank, unsettlingly free of mess, and toxic fumes of cleaning fluid are heavy in the air. This bedroom is painfully impersonal. It doesn’t feel like my bedroom. It is simply “a” room.

The future of this room is uncertain, and the forces lifestyle is one full of uncertainties: where will I be this time next year? Will my dad be at home? Will I live in a different house? Who’s leaving? Who’s staying?
These questions are regularly up in the air. But for me, there is always one constant certainty - Germany is my home.
But it’s time to pack up our bags and move again, which brings me to the next certainty; every day from now on, I am going to miss Germany.
I will miss the bakeries and the ice cream parlours on every street corner. I’ll miss the unfailingly warm summers at the outdoor pools and freezing cold winters spent on the ski slopes. I’ll miss the Christmas markets. I’ll miss cycling everywhere (cyclists rule the pavements in this country, not pedestrians). I’ll miss the German traditions; whilst I’ve never been quite sure what exactly they are or why they happen, any excuse to dress up and get drunk is fine by me. I’ll miss the German cities which are so vibrant and rich in culture with beautiful, intricate architecture. I’ll miss the nightlife, however pricey it may be. I’ll miss the summer evenings walking through Gutersloh or Bielefeld and the brief, happy realisations of “how lucky am I to be here?” I’ll miss my friends who are people in the same boat as me, not quite from anywhere, never quite sure where they’ll be next. I’ll miss living within the military community intensely – every single last thing about it.

I’ll even miss natives’ somewhat dismissive attitude to queuing.                                                     
Though this time there will definitely be no moving back, I have moved away from Germany before and I know how it's going to be. The first few weeks are hellish as it doesn’t seem to sink in that you’re not ever going to be returning. You feel like you’re on some strange, extended holiday in somebody else’s empty house for a little while. But one day something hits you and this is how it is now, you think. You need to move on. After that it starts to become manageable, the old memories you still long for are pushed into the back of your mind as new ones are created. Yet now and then, something will take you back; the scent of a certain food; an old photograph capturing a different time with gleeful smiles that reveal the world was kind to you and life was carefree; a school jumper with the distinctive crest; when it’s a scorching hot day and you wistfully think “god, I’d love to be at an outdoor pool”.

Moving away from a place you dearly love is like grieving not for a person, but for a life you once had. I was blessed for this one and I will never forget these incredible ten years in Germany.
Whoever lives in this bedroom next will be lucky to have it.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Come Dine With Me: A Story of Love and Scoreboards

Come Dine With Me is the best show on television. I don’t want to argue about it. I am not prepared to listen.

Because the thing is, I am in love with Come Dine With Me. I am properly, unashamedly in love with it. The show is the Brad to my Ange; the Kanye to my Kim. I often cosy up with Come Dine With Me after a long day and find myself basking in a warm, besotted glow, like I would with an actual human lover. Also like an actual human lover, it reminds me that even when essay deadlines loom and the cupboards are not stocked accordingly with Haribo, the world is simply not all that bad – how can it be when Ricky from Sunderland roars like a lion when he laughs? Or with the fact that Pam from Brighton keeps a scorpion carcass in her DINING ROOM?! For SOME RIDICULOUS REASON?!
So my feelings are strong, very strong; that much is clear. A love so intense can only blossom through some serious chemistry. The secret is, Come Dine With Me wooed me by indulging my ultimate past time: people watching – or it’s truthful name, being incredibly nosey. 

It leaves me chuckling every time. I love seeing people in their natural environment, doing things their way, no matter how odd their ways are; watching them flap over the fact that the napkins do not look exactly like swans, attempting to laugh off the fact that the cat has actually just taken a dump on the worktop or violently insisting that everybody will eat the steak they are preparing their way because it is their damn dinner party. Classy and stylish Come Dine With me is not. But Come Dine With Me is people being their fascinating, bizarre and often worrisome selves, and that's what keeps me running back to it.
My favourite part of the whole show is when a contestant boldly introduces "entertainment" to their evenings, such as drag queens, discos, DJ sets or - my personal favourite - "now, I would like you all to try your hand at some love poetry!" The results are frequently hilarious and cringe worthy. Take the older, conservative men awkwardly attempting a tiny two step shuffle to Party Rock Anthem in a suit that is clearly too formal, or the gobby lady who's had a little too much to drink, is hiking her skirt up and getting very carried away with Highland dancing; surely this is far more entertaining than Gino and Mel Do Lunch, which I have only ever been able to watch blankly.

Speaking of other cooking shows, you might presume that I myself am a "foodie" since I enjoy Come Dine With Me so much and it is - arguably - primarily a cooking show. This is not the case. I wouldn’t spend my television watching hours fawning over Nigella as she rustles up something “oooh, soooo lovely and scrumptious!” with her glossy hair and ample cleavage spilling over a baking tray. Nor do I find Gordon Ramsay’s crazy swear-fests particularly entertaining. Truthfully, I would skip any of Jamie Oliver’s shows purely because they rather annoyingly remind me just little my body has to thank me for. But what makes Come Dine With Me so unique is the way it depicts the preparation of food as what I personally understand it to be: a massive hassle. A pain in the arse. Never all that smooth sailing. Makes you sweat and swear a bit. A bit awkward.

But it's not about cooking, is it, really? Come Dine With Me is about the mini domestic drama of every episode, coupled with Dave Lamb's commentary laden with sarcasm and pure piss taking at the contestants, who's every move will inevitably merit a verbal swipe of some description. People will make total arses out of their selves, whether it is by taking the competition that little bit too seriously or by making clearly outrageous comments to their other contestants. Of course, these poor souls are selected on the basis of how much trouble they are likely to rustle up, rather than the meals they'll prepare. Still, when popular TV is so often filled with images of people being so unnervingly talented, it's refreshing to watch a show that highlights the honest truth - it's never "just us", everybody can be a bit mental.
So take your X-Factors, Britains Got Talents and all the other popular prime time TV shows. You may be content with those, and I am happy for you. But I am content with Come Dine With Me. So happy, in fact, that Floraidh from Fife is gonna score it a "10".


Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Public Displays of Affection: It's a No from Flo

This may be hard to believe, but I have not always been the kind of single girl who makes Bridget Jones look suave. There was a time when I didn't fill my days fantasizing over wholly unsuitable men, watching, re-watching and re-watching again the TV shows these men star in and idly wondering if I'm ever gonna sort out the cellulite that's appearing rapidly on my thighs.

I've had boyfriends, and I remember what it's like to be head over heels for them. I know how it is when you look at your new beau and envision rainbows and chubby angel babies and many nights ahead stuffing your faces together watching films that he will pretend to enjoy because he likes you that much. I remember how it is to lose sight of everything because you are blinded by love unconditional fondness and the idiocy that often accompanies it. I understand how that all works.

But I don't understand PDA.

If you did not know, PDA stands for Public Displays of Affection. Examples of PDAs might include cuddling on the sofas in Starbucks; kissing with almost violent urgency in the middle of dance floors in clubs; generally remaining tightly entangled in one another's arms even in company, that sort of thing. PDAs are essentially couples getting physical in public, whether they're just out and about together or in the company of their awkwardly spectating friends.

Contrary to what you may be thinking now, my dislike of PDA is not because I'm bitter that I don't have anybody to "eskimo kiss" over a McFlurry. I'm actually fine about that. Ask any of my friends who are couples; I have no problem being the companion who stares unsettlingly at them together and sporadically squeaks comments like "VLARGH! YOU GUYS ARE SO CUTEEEEEEE!!!!" or "YOU'RE A GREAT GREAT GREAT COUPLE!!!! I LOVE YOU GUYS!"

Hey, if it hasn't evolved by itself yet, I am even quite happy to get the ball rolling with ideas for their "power couple" name.

But you couples who engage in Public Display of Affection in front of us all: please know it makes me feel very uncomfortable. It makes everybody around you feel very uncomfortable; I can't think of a single time a couple has gone all "Allie and Noah" in front of a group of pals and we've unanimously reacted with "awww! How lovely! Tongues and all eh?" PDA drags everybody else in on something that should be kept intimate between you two. Behind closed doors, it doesn't matter what crazy shenanigans you get up to - but in front of them, you should know a little better.

One thing that strikes me about couples who really put go to town with putting on a show in public is wondering why they feel the need. If I were honestly happy and secure in my relationship, I wouldn't feel the need to make it seem official by attaching myself to my boyfriend's hip and planting a big smacker on his lips every time I need to leave for a second. Something to prove, perhaps?

Also, it isn't terribly considerate to the single people in your presence. Even if your love life is going swimmingly and your new partner always "has a little something on their lips, let me check - ha ha ha!" that doesn't mean it is not going disastrously for somebody you're with, who may see it as a painful reminder. As somebody who foresees having to buy a small dog to dress up in a tuxedo once a year to re-enact the wedding I'll never have, I actually don't appreciate seeing the sort of thing I will probably miss out on. It just isn't considerate to anybody.

This doesn't mean I'm totally against all PDA, period - hand holding is sweet. Hugs from the right person can be the boost you need on a bad day. A peck on the lips is a pick up. If you've not seen the person you would drunkenly dedicate "Halo" to at a karaoke night in a long time, chances are there is little to restrain you from jumping on them, where ever you are. These things I can all understand.

But as for everything else, I'd like to propose a new meaning behind PDA: Please Don't, Actually. Because when it comes to public displays of affection, well yes - please don't, actually.

Friday, 27 June 2014

In Which I Teach Menfolk the Ways of Women: REVISITED

My blog "In Which I Teach Menfolk The Ways of Women" was one of my most well received, which saved me a lot of embarrassment really, because there was a massive jig behind writing it. Of course there was a jig. There usually was, all those fourteen months ago. But what was it?

I thought my boyfriend at the time was being a bit of a shit. So, instead of just saying "darling, seriously - stop being a shit" I wrote a blog detailing all the things I felt he needed reminded of in order to stop being such a shit, pronto. Aha! I guess it might make sense now. I took the popularity of that post as people taking my side in the argument.

Phew, that's that revelation out of the way. I mean, looking back on it, I'm not proud at all. Still, you may be pleased to know that in the fourteen months since I wrote the blog, I have grown simultaneously in wisdom (ish), experience (ish) and patience (of course I'm kidding!), plus I've stopped indirectly blogging to people who irritate me (okay, not so sure if I'm kidding..).

But I thought the blog topic would be an interesting one to revisit, as I read it again recently and noticed it was quite problematic, and probably a bit clichéd. Whilst writing that post, I do feel I got so lost in getting my own personal message across - "oi dickhead, you taking notes yeah?"- that my judgement was somewhat clouded. So what the hell do women look for in men?

There are certain points I do stand by from the original blog. My cheeks flush a bit even considering the idea of going on a fancy, high brow dining experience for a first date, not least because I'm a fussy eater and would probably not like the food, but also because it screams "I have loads of money, but not much original thought to woo you with" Also, period pains genuinely are horrible, and I still believe that little gestures which mean big things are very important if you're trying to prove to somebody that you are worthy of being their Big Spoon. There will be people who disagree for sure, yet I can't help but genuinely believe that most girls would agree those points to be true.

I mean let's be honest, there really are girls who get off on guys being nonchalant, unresponsive and all round under the false pretence that these girls in fact, do not exist. But I think that's called "playing hard to get" or something. Since that's a notion I am totally and utterly unfamiliar with, it'd be wrong to try and write extensively on it. But those girls are out there.

I definitely can't speak for them, the same way I can't speak for all women. I'll hang out anywhere as long as the person I'm into is with me, whether it's cheap, freezing or even a bit dodgy; some girls like to cavort somewhere more upmarket. I talk about sex and my general lack of it openly; some girls won't want to talk about anything that happens between the bed sheets. It's probably one of my least useful traits, but if I genuinely like somebody then I work with the method I use for every other endeavour in my life; throw myself into liking them wholeheartedly, passionately and committedly, then feel really embarrassed about it the next day. And then some girls are actually, like, cool.

The main point is, I feel like my original blog was wrong. It perpetuated some old fashioned myths about us womanfolk. Unlike what Cosmo or some of the illegally ridiculous people on Thought Catalogue seem to believe, there's no set agenda. It's the painful truth - we all like different traits, have different standards for dating and have different approaches to the dating game and stepping around it (or if you're like me, falling over it and making a tit of myself)

Ultimately, I think all anybody wants is respect - man or woman. Everybody likes feeling adored, and everybody enjoys putting their energy into adoring somebody else. I also believe that everybody wants to think that even if the person you like didn't text you a three page essay today just to say how fantastic your legs are, or how much they are willing to laugh at your un-funny jokes because they're so dead keen on you...they were at least thinking about it at some point recently. Nobody wants to feel like they're putting in all the effort. Everybody wants feels comfortable knowing their secrets are safe. Nobody wants to feel like something is not being said, and feel like they must anticipate the worst.

Apart from those points, who actually am I to say what all women want? I have no authority on the matter, but I surely I know what I want: a game of Bop-It, Aaron Paul, some rollerblades and a cuddle whilst watching any HBO series where everybody is either a fundamentally rubbish person, or is going to die sooner or later.

Because of course, you don't need me to tell you, that's probably not to every woman's taste.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

When The Princess Met The Portaloo - My First Festival

“Nope nope nope- somebody’s taken a shit on the floor”

Before I went to the Isle of Wight festival last weekend, I’d never said those words before.
Portaloos served as the single greatest reminder that human faeces come in a wholly disturbing variety of colours, consistencies, sizes and smells. I shit you not (hohoho) I thought I’d pretty much seen all of the gory horrors that the bowels could ever possibly have to offer from three years of communal living - I hadn’t. I saw worse, and they weren't always where they belong.
But of course, I eventually learnt this was festival living. It is living with the human condition in its most candid form; the human without Herbal Essences, a mirror or a pillow to rest their heads on (and with a sore neck, from resorting to using a vodka bottle instead).  
From the beginning, everybody said I wouldn't be able to hack it. At the time I would feign total outrage - "I'm not a bloody princess, it's no biggie, it's just some camping dude!" - but quietly accept that they were probably right. I am a girl who just really likes her home comforts.
That fact became startlingly clear on numerous occasions over the weekend. Firstly, I had kind of assumed that the British weather would hold out for me. Come on! I'd travelled all the way from Germany to get there! It wouldn't rain, that would just suck. Fair enough, it was mostly sunny over the weekend but during one night the rain fell mercilessly onto my tent, which didn't put up much of a fight. The tent was a one man affair, the manufacturers obviously assuming that anybody who camped alone must be pretty tough - what's a little rain, eh? Well, as the tent collapsed and I lay there with only a thin, cold sheet of material separating me and "nature", I started to realise a little rain could actually result in quite a lot of discomfort. And awful smells.
Speaking of smells, by Day 2 I was beginning to emit some pretty terrible ones, myself. Come Day 3 I was spraying dry shampoo all over me in a desperate attempt to give off something a little rosier than sweat, cider and some vague shame. I began to dream of baths and the aisles upon aisles of exotic soaps, shower gels and fragrances that you never pay much attention to in TK Maxx at the time.
My shameful camping amateurishness aside, the most important and wonderful part of the whole weekend was the music. Seriously, for every moment I spent wide awake at night wondering exactly what kind of insect had just flown into my ear or noticing just how matted my hair was becoming, the music made all of it totally worth enduring. Honestly, in those crowds you forget that you're living in squalor and look like an extra in Les Mis and become entirely immersed in the brilliant things happening in front of you, instead. Over the course of the weekend I saw Boy George, Rudimental, Biffy Clyro, Calvin Harris, the Pretty Reckless, the 1975, John Newman, the Specials and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. As somebody who hasn't been to many gigs, I didn't play it very...cool and aloof about the whole thing, shall we say. I was bloody dazzled by everybody and everything.
The Specials got many a fan girl scream out of me during their set. Despite fairly ticking along in life these days, they interacted brilliantly with the crowd, asking us to show some hate for both UKIP and Luis Suarez (I had to tell my friend who that was, by the way - I am an awfully sporty person, as you all know) Biffy Clyro were also particularly great, even though I'm not a big fan there was no denying they put on a great show. Simon Neil also referred to them as "Biffy FUUUUCKIN' Clyro" a lot too, which I found endearing. Quite amusingly, I got chatting to some friendly Glasgow Uni graduates next to us in the crowd during their set who asked if I went to the Hive - Glasgow uni students, I will let you decide how you think I answered that
Moving on, despite spending the duration of the show a) close to passing out from dehydration b) delirious from the heat of thousands of bodies around me c) unwittingly nestled under a randomer’s armpit, the obvious highlight of the weekend for me was the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who are one of my all time favourite bands. We were stood around two metres from the stage, so we could literally see the sweat gradually forming on the band members, eeeek! I croaked along to every lyric; I screamed every time the chords of a new song were played; I died a thousand little deaths each time I convinced myself that Anthony Kiedis was looking at ME, literally DIRECTLY INTO MY EYES; and I fell into loving, devoted silence every time Flea said something inspiring to the audience (every time he opened his mouth).
So what did I take away from my first festival experience, aside from a new found appreciation of toilet bleach and an intrinsic distrust of "really good!" portable straighteners? Well, not to prioritise looking like Kendal Jenner over being warm and comfortable is right up there. I spent many an hour scouring the shelves for waterproof mascara, but not enough of them finding actual waterproof clothing. My faded denim jacket did look quite edgy and rugged, yes, but it wasn’t keeping me warm in the evenings, and nor were my specially purchased elephant earrings. If I could pass on one nugget of wisdom acquired the hard way to any festival rookies, it would be this: purchase pillows over pretty dresses. Dress for the purpose of “warmth”, not “wow, I look edgy, dude!” Buy products that will make your life comfortable, because in the end, everybody will eventually look like they've gone through some traumatic experience - but they'll have some bloody brilliant stories to tell.
But the main thing I took away from Isle of Wight is just how truly wonderful the experience of live music is. My general history of live music has been limited to listening to live albums on my iPod in bed at night. This is completely unlike the insane, elating experience of being part of this huge audience who are just as dizzy with excitement as you are, watching the artists at their most raw and truthful right in front of you. "Mesmerized" didn't come close to how I felt watching the sound, lighting, choreography and music all coming together. I’ve been pretty geographically unlucky in the sense that I've always lived far away from major music venues, so to see so much of it in one weekend? I got the biggest wake up call to what I'd been missing out on.  

I would do it all again. Portaloos and all.