Friday, 20 July 2012

The Best of the Best

My current plan for this year is to move with my boyfriend to what my Dad resolutely refers to as That There London. Part of the moving process, along with convincing my darling man that picking up his towels post-shower is the good and right thing to do, is reducing the amount of stuff I own. This process has been difficult because it’s the first time I’ve looked at objects that I have had for years and had to consider them through the eyes of somebody else. I have never had to look at my various ornaments, books, CDs and DVDs and had to ask myself “will he like these?”

The most difficult example of this is my Grandmother’s lamp. My Grandma died in 2009 and my Grandfather followed her four months later and as such all of the things in their house needed to be sorted and kept, donated, or thrown away. The lamp in question had been on my Grandma’s bedside table for as long as I can remember and it reminds me of her, which is why I claimed it and placed it on my own bedside table. I miss her very much, and so my judgment is clouded. Through all these layers of affection and nostalgia I have a niggling suspicion that this lamp, my beloved lamp, might actually be hideously ugly. Part of the problem is the size; the thing is bloody huge, and as such, un-ignorable. The other problem is the design itself. It consists of a large cream lampshade supported by a gold metal base on which sits a six inch tall golden dog looking wistfully into the distance. And I still adore it.

I couldn’t get rid of it, and so my boyfriend may have to learn to love it as much as I do, although whenever I look at it I can’t help but think of the wagon-wheel coffee table of When Harry Met Sally fame and see, years in the future, my boyfriend shouting “I will never want that gold greyhound bedside lamp”.

Not all of my possessions have been as lucky as the lamp. I haven’t been able t stand by them all. My books have suffered as I haven’t been able to muster the same affection for history books I was forced to read during my A-levels as I have for inherited lighting fixtures. However, my bookshelves are still full, and these are the ones I would recommend to one and all…

The Crossing – Cormac McCarthy
I did my dissertation on McCarthy and Thomas Hobbes so I’m a little biased about him as an author. If you haven’t read anything by him before I would not recommend starting with this as his style takes a little warming up to. The Road is a better read for deciding whether or not McCarthy is for you. The Crossing is also part of a trilogy (the first book is All the Pretty Horses, the third Cities of the Plain) but it’s actually fine as a stand-alone novel. It’s dense and dark and fairly violent but it’s so beautiful that you’re carried through the more difficult descriptive sections fairly quickly. If you can manage this, have a go with Blood Meridian although I warn you, there’s a lot of scalping.

The Dispossessed – Ursula Le Guin
This is the first Science Fiction book I have ever read, and it was completely unexpected. Instead of focusing on the science aspect to an alternative future reality, Le Guin focuses on the unique social experiments conducted by the characters. It’s about science too, but it’s mostly about people, and because of that I found it unspeakably interesting to read.

One Bloody Thing After Another – Joey Comeau
Written by one of the co-creators of The best zombie story I’ve ever read, as it’s hilarious and utterly devastating…sometimes simultaneously.

What Katy Did – Susan Coolidge
Finally I return to my Grandma. I have a copy of this book that belonged to my Mother, and a copy of What Katy Did and What Katy Did Next in one book that belonged to my Grandmother. Like the lamp, they are things I can never get rid of, not just because of where they came from but because the stories are lovely, if a little old fashioned. Although, in a recent Google search I found a site called that sells pin-up style lingerie. I definitely don’t remember that being in the book.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

5 Things I Can Do

Due to the fact that I am currently unemployed (I did an English degree and no one wants to give me a job – madness) I have recently been considering my CV and the various claims that I make in it. The statements in it are all true, but also mostly a little dull. There’s a fair amount of travelling on there, but the majority of the fun activities I enjoyed have had to be tailored somewhat in order to be included. The copious amounts of drinking I did on my gap year has translated to “team building activities”; the last minute essay writing at university became “ability to work under pressure”; the hours spent watching episodes of Jersey Shore and The Bachelor during my study abroad year was in fact “successful interaction with an alternative culture”. Not to say that I don’t also possess these highly regarded skills, should any potential employers be reading. I do, and in copious amounts. I also have excellent customer service and seven years experience in the Literary Retail trade. Just in case anyone is interested. However, there are other skills which I am equally as proud of and yet am unable to put on my neatly composed curriculum vitae.

In order to celebrate them, I shall now present the best of the skills that I possess which, unfortunately, cannot be considered vital employee qualities. These are the 5 things I can do.

Public Bathroom Acrobatics. 
The dingiest pubs sell the best quality ales in my experience, and I’ve been to enough festivals to be pretty non-fussy about where I pee. It simply requires a bit of expertise. Every girl I know has been in this position, where the only free cubicle has bodily fluids on the seat, an unidentifiable liquid on the floor, a broken lock and a lack of toilet roll. So, first you take the tissues out of your bag (see “ability to plan ahead” on the CV) and wedge the strap between your neck and shoulder. Then you have the delicate procedure of hovering delicately over the seat whilst holding the door closed with one foot and keeping your balance by bracing your elbows against the walls. Thighs of steel and the grace of a ballerina combined for toilet comfort.

Balloon Animals. 
And I mean proper balloon animals. Not just dogs, or mice, or giraffes (which anyone familiar with the world of balloon sculpture will know is the same thing with elongated torsos/necks/noses as appropriate) but works of truly beautiful balloon art. I have made bumblebees, bunches of flowers, lions and once even a guitar. I’ve also had a lot of balloons pop pretty painfully in my hands, but what self respecting artist can say they haven’t suffered for their masterpieces?

Pretend to have read a book. 
Most people can say they’ve read a book and everyone who has completed an English Literature degree can say they’ve read a lot of books. However, the skill I have perfected over the years of being subjected to modules on Medieval literature and plays from the civil war and renaissance periods, is being able to sit in a room of educated people and have an in-depth discussion about something I have read half, a quarter, or none of. I really love reading, and for most modules I read everything, but when you only need five texts in the exam you can afford to miss out a book when you’re having a bad week. Also, Moll Flanders is around 500 pages long and all of those pages are depressingly awful.

Flip drinks coasters. 
With my knuckles. And catch them. In stacks of ten. Pub skills are still skills.

Draw a decent arse. 
And how on earth, you may ask, do I know that I can do this? When I was in Sixth Form myself and a friend took a life drawing class together. In the course of this class I learnt a whole load of things that I can’t do. I can’t draw feet, hands, faces, male genitalia (of which I saw an alarming amount during that particular school year) or heads. What I can draw, are arses. I drew them so well in fact, that my Mother has blu-tacked one particular charcoaled image (almost life size I might add) to our living room door. It’s very nice that she is so proud, but it also means that the question “Whose arse is that?” has been asked of me more than once in the comfort of my own front room.

They may seem childish, some may be a little disgusting, and, I agree, they are not technically marketable skills, but that does not mean that I’m not a pro at them.