Saturday, 24 June 2017

Waterworks: A Case For the Benefits of Sulking

He has a strong Mancunian accent over the phone. He tells me he's downstairs. I instantly warm to him.
    'Be down now!' I chirp.
    I'm wearing a carefully selected sloppy outfit when I answer the door. My flat is large for London and I live alone. I'd hate for anyone to mistakenly think I'm rich. I am not.
    I have a problem with my toilet. Every three to four flushes the water runs and runs and runs, forever. I have managed to live with it for ten days now, by a careful, considered poking at everything in the cistern until it miraculously stops. This, of course, is not a long term fix. Since it started, I have been panicking about a whole host of undesirable outcomes: coming home from a day at work to ankle deep toilet water, an extortionate water bill at the end of the month, complaints from my downstairs neighbour of dripping through his ceiling. All of these things seem unlikely, but you can never be too sure.

I was quoted an absurd fixed price of £105 when I first called Plumb Force Direct. Following my incredulous gasp, the voice on the other end of the phone immediately dropped it to £70.
    'And I won't get any nasty surprises when it's time to pay, will I?'
    'Nope.'
    'It won't go up once the plumber gets here, will it?'
    'Absolutely not.'
    'And he won't leave until it's fixed?'
    'Well...'
    'So that's confirmed, £70 to fix my toilet and no call-out charge? Right? Is that right?'
    'Provided there's no major part to change...'
    'Do you take card?'

I lead Paul the plumber through to my bathroom, cheerily.
    'Excuse the mess!' I say, even though the flat is much tidier than it usually is.
    I linger by his elbow while he pokes and prods away with seemingly no logic or pattern.
    'Hmm,' he says.
    'I know,' I say. I'm not sure why I say this. I obviously don't know.
    I sense his discomfort at my proximity and leave the bathroom to linger in the hallway. I resist for about a minute and a half before going back in.
    'What's the verdict?' I say.
    'It's not good,' he says.
    My heart starts racing. I wanted him to tell me it was good.
    'Oh no. What do you think's wrong?'
    'For a start, I don't know why they've built the toilet in behind the tiles like this...' He glances at me quickly to check it wasn't my decision to build the toilet in behind the tiles like this.
    I shake my head, as exasperated as him, giving him permission to carry on.
    'I can barely get my hand in,' he says.
    His hand is pretty far into the cistern at this point. I nod my sympathy.
    'Stupid idea, wasn't it?' I say. 'Looks cute, until you actually have to get in and fix something.'
    I don't know what I am saying. He is unperturbed. He has removed his hand from the toilet cistern now and is banging the side of the bath quite hard.
    'You'll be stuffed when something goes wrong with the bath. No way of getting behind there without smashing all those tiles off.'
    Smashing is a very violent word that I wish he wouldn't use about my sweet little bathroom.
    'One problem at a time!' I say, voice not quite as neutral as I planned it to be.
    This isn't going how it was meant to. Paul the plumber is yet to do anything that I haven't already tried myself.
    'This part needs changing,' he says, indicating one part of the cistern. 'And you might as well change this one too while you're at it.'
    I don't want to change parts. Changing parts sounds expensive.
    'Honestly, if you ask me, your best bet is a new cistern. Would work out about the same in price.'
    It's only a bit of running water. Surely it doesn't merit a whole new toilet.
    'Is there not a temporary solution I could try?' I say, beginning to sweat.
    Paul the plumber shakes his head. 'Could turn your water off.'
    He wanders into my kitchen, and without invitation, plunges himself below the sink. He groans as he tries to unsuccessfully turn a dial. 'Too stiff, that.'
    He has knocked over every upright bottle under the sink and doesn't pick them up. I'm not sure how switching my water off would be even a temporary solution, but I stay quiet.
    Instead, I say, 'so what would you do?'
    I already know the answer before he says, 'change the cistern.'
    'How much would that be?' I wince.
    He picks up a stack of papers and starts to write. I know that when a figure has to be written down rather than said aloud, it is a figure which is too high for me. He has the decency to frown as he hands me the paper.
    'I don't think you'll be happy with that,' he says.
    I am not happy at all. The figure dancing on the page is eyewateringly close to £500.
    'I can't pay that,' I squeak.
    He shrugs. 'Have a little think and let us know. If you decide you do want to, we can always take off today's fee from the total.'
    I register what he is saying. 'Don't tell me I still have to pay you the £70.'
    He nods. 'That's how it works with the company.' He is removing himself from all responsibility.
    'But you haven't done anything!'
    'I know. That's how it goes.'
    I look up at his expressionless face, and say, 'I'm going to cry.'
    His expression doesn't change.
    I realise very quickly that I really am going to cry. 'I really am going to cry,' I say, just in case he had any doubt.
    I cry.
    I cry so much that he takes a step back and says, 'are you... alright?'
    'No!' I say, tears streaming. 'I can't afford this!'
    Paul the plumber looks incredibly uncomfortable. He is a Northern man. He is not built for dealing with sobbing strangers.
    'Shall I give you a few minutes?' he says, inching towards the door.
    'Please,' I sniffle.
    As he shuts the front door softly behind him, I call my mum and ask her what to do.
    'Stop crying, for a start. It's just a toilet,' she says, with annoying logic.
    The many times she's cried in frustration to me about the internet not working again, she must have forgotten this flawless rationale.
    'But it's not fair!' I say, a stamping toddler moonlighting as a functioning adult.
    Paul the plumber interrupts my wailing by calling me and ringing my doorbell at the same time. I briefly consider ignoring both and pretending I'm not in.
    I traipse downstairs and force a smile in my doorway. He is standing on the bottom step and seems unwilling to come any closer.
    'I'm sorry about that,' I say. 'I'm very embarrassed.'
    I am not at all embarrassed and am only sorry that I will have to pay him £70 for knocking over all my sauces and treading mud into my carpet.
    'I called my boss,' he says. 'You don't, of course, have to pay the call-out charge.'
    Of course.
    'And if you want,' he continues. 'We'll take off £100 for the new cistern.'
    I am grateful for the gesture, but know for a fact that I would rather drown in my own piss than ever call Plumb Force Direct again.
    Paul the plumber hurriedly hands me the paperwork and nods his goodbye.
    'Wait!' I shout. 'Can I shake your hand?'
    He complies, offering a limp five fingers.
    'Thank you for being kind,' I say.
    I don't think he has been particularly kind, more nervous and then terrified, but it seems like the right thing to say.
    I watch him half-jog back to his van and go back upstairs to my running toilet.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Second Hand Trauma

‘Y’alright lad?’

‘Yeah, sound. Just ate at me grandparents’, like.’

‘Mmm.’

‘And you know how me grandad isn’t me blood grandad? You did know that? He married me nan before I was born.’

‘Mmm.’

‘He’s covered in scars all over his body. Proper deep, nasty ones. And he’s never talked to any of us about how he got them...’

My ears pricked up. I let my gaze stray from the words on the page so that I could concentrate on the words being spoken. His companion didn’t seem terribly interested, but I was.

‘So our Paul was there too. You know him. Me cousin. He was at Bec’s party that time, remember?’

‘Mmm.’

‘And just out of nowhere me grandad tells us the whole story, like. Apparently he got in this accident. This lorry rammed into the side of the car they were in and flipped them right over, it was on fire and that. And me uncle Louis got out and managed to pull me grandad out, but they couldn’t get Janice - that was me grandad’s wife at the time - free, because the whole thing was a ball of flames. And that’s how she died.’

‘Heavy that, lad.’

‘Me grandad got sixty percent burns, like.’

‘Heavy.’

‘He showed us the article in The Echo from thirty years ago. It made the news. Seven people died.’

‘Heavy.’

‘Goes to show. If he can get through that, you can get through anything.’

‘Mmm.’

‘Heavy though, isn’t it?’

‘Yeah.’

I let the story fester. I thought of all the incredible stories which die with the elderly, purely because nobody younger thought to ask.

‘Everton are playing Arsenal tomorrow. Don’t fancy their chances much, do you?’

‘Nah mate, they’ll be crucified.’

Friday, 7 October 2016

Blue boots, split ends

She woke up panicked and sticky skinned. She'd dreamed of walking down the aisle to him. She'd been wearing blue ankle boots and her hair needed a trim, but all she could think about was how glad she was that her mum was there.
    When her alarm sounded his name was on her screen.
    Calling him back, she yawned, 'you called at the exact time my alarm went off.'
    'You set your alarm for 11?'
    '10:50.'
    He laughed, rueful.
    'I had a dream about you,' she said.
    'What was I doing?'
    'I can't remember,' she said, even though she could. 'How was your night?'
    'Good. I had my pals over and we drank a lot, played poker. Jenny was a mess again.'
    'Oh,’ she said, stretching her limbs across the duvet. ‘That was my dream. Joe and Jenny got married. We went together.'

Thursday, 11 August 2016

The Tube

‘On se voit la semaine prochaine?’
    ‘Oui, rentre bien,’ I said, leaning over to give Elodie the bises.
    She disappeared behind the closing tube doors. I inched past a trio of excitable American students, and after assuring myself that I wasn’t depriving anyone frail or pregnant of the same privilege, lowered myself into an empty seat. Southwark brought no incident. Waterloo offered only four or five drunk teenagers dressed in velour and trainers that cost more than my council tax for the whole month. At Westminster, I counted the stops. Five until mine. There wasn’t time, not really, but I pulled my book out of my bag anyway. I was reading a classic that had been collecting dust on my bedside table for months, a book which I was eager to finish and forget. If I could fit in even a couple of pages before bed, I would be that much closer to the end.
    Page 74. I flicked through the paperback to see how long I still had left. 342 pages in total. Eugh. I read the first line on page 74 once, twice, three times, then shut it. It was late, and I couldn’t be bothered to concentrate on the endless description of the main character’s relationship with his mother. Not tonight. I stared ahead and my eye unwittingly met the eye of the man across from me. We both looked away immediately. I lowered my gaze to his lap, where he was fiddling with the wires of a generation of iPod that they no longer make. I could hear the buzz from his earphones. He was listening to something embarrassing, the kind of music that you wouldn’t want anyone to know you listened to. Flo Rida or someone equally uninspiring. His knee jerked up and down in time to the rhythm.
    Green Park. A moment of panic as the doors opened to let passengers off. A woman shaking an older woman and a young child wailing much too loudly. Mother, daughter, grandchild. I watched, mildly interested, but mostly irritated by the noise. Once I was home I had big plans to take a mug of tea to bed with me, where I was going to watch an episode of the new BBC comedy that made me belly laugh, or maybe just half of one, depending on how long I could keep my eyes open.
    ‘Mum, please!’ the daughter shouted, desperately. ‘Just get off the bloody train!’
    The mother’s eyes were tightly closed. They weren’t going to make it. I prayed that the daughter wouldn’t hold us up by jamming her foot in the door to gain a few extra seconds.
    More people were looking at the source of the commotion now, similarly annoyed at the audacity of someone disrupting the peace of the carriage.
    ‘Mum!’ She shoved her mother, whose head was lolling around on her wrinkled neck, catching on the back of her seat. Drunk. ‘Mum! Get up!’
    I tutted to myself. The doors closed and the train started moving again. The granddaughter, no older than six, clutching a dirty teddybear with one eye, had become hysterical. I caught the eye of the iPod man again, and he raised his eyebrow very slightly in my direction. I decided I’d make a conscious effort not to look at him for the rest of my journey.
    ‘Nanny!’ the little girl sobbed, and the train jerked to a halt.
    Someone had pressed the emergency stop.
    ‘For fucksake,’ I heard someone mutter under their breath.
    An inconvenience. Another minute away from my bed and my show.
    The two women were still positioned in their eery tableau, the younger one dressed in a flowery dress, with fussy diamante sandals - a party outfit picked out especially for a summer’s evening - towering imploringly over the older one, whose checked shirt hung loose out of shabby jeans, completely unresponsive, her dignity left at the party.
    ‘Mum, please,’ the daughter’s voice broke. She was no longer shouting.
    Another passenger approached to offer help. ‘What seems to be the problem?’
    Very British: polite, but detached.
    ‘It’s my mum. She won’t open her eyes. She has a condition...’ the daughter said, holding the child close to her leg with one hand, and with the other steadily tugging at the shoulder of her unconscious mother. My heart dropped a little in my chest.
    Not drunk then, genuinely unwell. We were between stations, and there was no sign of movement from either the train or the prostrate woman.
    ‘She’s not breathing,’ the daughter said, ‘I don’t think she’s breathing. It’s her heart.’
    ‘Nanny!’ the little girl howled, prompted to despair by the concern on the faces surrounding her. ‘I love my nanny! I want to see my nanny forever!’
    I swallowed hard. These were private scenes, the kind that usually take place behind closed doors, and then become diluted and more easily digestible by the time they reach your ears.
    Time sped up and suddenly everyone was getting involved. The helpful passenger helped. I’m not sure what he did, but I know he did more than me. The daughter passed the little girl onto the lap of a kindly curly-haired passenger, who cooed meaningless reassurances into her little ear.
    ‘Has she had anything to drink?’ the helpful passenger asked, voicing my own shameful doubt.
    ‘We had a couple of bottles of wine with our dinner,’ the daughter said, and, despite myself, I felt a wave of disgust towards the woman speaking.
    Why would you drink with your mother - how could you watch her drink - when you know she has a heart condition? I thought, but even as I thought it I remembered all the times I’ve been with people I love and seen them do things they’re not supposed to do and intervened with nothing more than a disapproving look. You never think the one time you step out of line will be the time that the thing that you don’t want to happen happens. 
    ‘She’s dead,’ someone whispered, and we all stopped looking.
    ‘That’s it, you all just sit around and do nothing!’ the daughter said and I shifted uncomfortably in my seat.
    I wished the curly-haired girl hadn’t already handled the weeping child; that’s the only help I felt equipped to offer up. I could ask her about the teddybear with the missing eye, turn her away from the sight of her dead grandmother, stroke her wavy hair. At a loss, I peered into my handbag. I don’t know what I was looking for; I don’t carry anything that would be of use in a situation such as this one. We were past tissues and bottle of water territory. The interior pocket where I keep a packet of paracetamol was no use to us now.
    The curly-haired girl could do little to calm the granddaughter down. She’d heard the whispers; she was beyond reassurance. Her nose ran and ran, and her glasses slipped down her button nose. Nobody pushed them back up for her. She didn’t need anyone to keep her from looking at her grandmother. She kept her own face turned away. She didn’t want to see.
    A soft-faced Asian man with a can in one hand made his way to the scene from another carriage, and, through her tears, the daughter peered at him suspiciously.
    ‘Come to see the show, have you?’ she accused, her face screwed up, ready to attack.
    ‘I’m a doctor,’ he said, calmly, placing his beer on an air vent.
    The daughter wasn’t convinced, ‘And you think you’re going to come anywhere near my mother when you’ve been drinking?’
    ‘I’ve had half a beer,’ he said, and again, I felt like I shouldn’t be witnessing any of this.
    I wished Elodie was still on the train. Safety in numbers. We could have both pretended to do something together, rather than me just pretending alone. My book was still on my lap. The man with the iPod hadn’t turned off his music, which I found strange. He’d stopped jiggling his knee around though, and this time when he caught me looking at him he didn’t look away. You can’t afford to be too polite when there’s a death in your carriage.
    I kept thinking to myself, ‘there’s a woman over there, a person, and she’s just died, and I haven’t helped and I’m still not helping.’
    I was pulling what I thought was a compassionate face, but even the fact that I was concerned about looking compassionate was troubling to me.
    ‘There are a lot of other people who aren’t helping either,’ I thought, and couldn’t keep from peeking at the granddaughter from the corner of my eye and wondering whether she’d truly registered that her grandmother was dead. I was twenty seconds away from hot, wet tears, and I knew that I couldn’t dare cry. This was nothing to do with me, my non action proved that much; I didn’t have any right to be sad. And yet I was. I could see on every other face in the carriage that there was an inner dialogue much like my own playing in all their minds.
    Too many cooks spoil the broth, even though this was a human woman, and not a broth. We were all feeling a tangible guilt that we hadn’t taken a First Aid course and didn’t instinctively know how to help and what to do to save this crying little girl’s beloved grandmother.
    ‘We need to get her off the train,’ someone said.
    ‘Has anyone called for help?’ someone else said.
    I hadn’t even thought to say these two obvious things. I was less than useless. Was I in a state of shock, or was I simply a shit? At least I’m not listening to Flo Rida, I thought, but I might as well have been.
    While I continued to detachedly think about the whole event as if it were already over rather than still right in front of me and in the process of happening, the Asian doctor did useful, proactive things like try to get the dead woman to prove she wasn’t dead after all.
    ‘Mary?’ he said, after having managed to convince the daughter that he was truly a doctor and not an alcoholic, and in return she’d granted him her mother’s name. ‘Mary? Can you squeeze my hand?’
    ‘Mmm,’ Mary mumbled, and with that murmur the whole carriage released the breath that we’d been holding for the last five minutes.
    She wasn’t dead.
    The doctor proceeded to do many other ingenious things like get Mary to open her eyes and sit up straight, and by the time we pulled into Bond Street, Mary was loathe to let go of the doctor’s hand and had become quite attached.
    At Bond Street, hoards of useful people, loaded with useful equipment, and prepped to be useful in stressful situations just like this one, piled into the carriage to help Mary, and Mary’s daughter, and Mary’s granddaughter. The general consensus was that she’d had too much to drink and passed out. Nothing more, nothing less. But we’d all had quite the scare.
    For the last three stops I kept my head down. I didn’t feel like looking at anybody. I was glad that Mary was okay, but I wasn’t very glad about anything else.
    When I got home, as planned, I made a mug of tea, got into bed, and put on my show. I watched three episodes. I didn’t laugh once.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Home: London vs Paris

Like most people, I have many, many homes. There's the house I grew up in in Nuneaton, where my tiny mum still lives to this day, a place I instantly feel relaxed in the minute I walk through the door. I have felt at home in a miniscule French village named Millau; my nonna's house in San Donaci will always be a part of me; there was a time when I'd pass Runcorn on my way to Liverpool and feel like I'd arrived home... Home is a state of mind more than anything else. But you still have to go back somewhere at the end of the day. You can't live in your head. I mean, you can do whatever you want - we're all adults here - but you do need a roof over said head.

As one such 'adult' (ha) there have been three formative cities that have moulded me into the well rounded, adjusted (ha) individual you see before you today. Those are, in chronological order: Nottingham, Paris and London.

Nottingham was my uni city and the first place I ever lived alone without my aforementioned tiny mum. It was the scene of many a laugh, it introduced me to pretty much all the people I love (excluding the ones I'm forced to love or have known so long that I don't know any different than loving them), and it was generally an incredibly important place in my life. However, since I graduated I have only been back once and it felt so weird and unpleasant, I vowed never to go back again. Traipsing back through those well worn streets almost made me physically shiver. The thing with uni towns is that once you've thrown out all your Miss Selfridge body-cons and have learnt how to iron (I say this but I still to this day don't know where you put the water in an iron and maintain that if you fold properly you can truly live without one), i.e. once you've become a fully functioning real life human being, you feel like a bit of an outsider and it somehow, almost overnight, ceases to be your city. Other people need it more. Younger people with fresher livers. FRESHERS! GET IT?? Sorry.
So, as dear as I hold Notts, the only two real contenders for my fickle heart are Paris and London. Paris stole my soul within twenty minutes, London’s a slower burner. But I love them both with all their imperfections (and, contrary to popular belief, they have plenty.)

Let the sparring commence.


Contest 1: The people

I wouldn’t say that either city is famed for its open arms and hospitality. In that respect they’re actually quite similar: mildly unwelcoming, much too busy and important to stop and say ‘iya and a teeny, tiny bit terrifying when you first arrive.
When I touched down in Charles de Gaulle airport (first time round), twenty cases in hand, I was coming from the South of France, where smiles are gifted generously, croissants are buttery and as big as your head and your neighbours take it upon themselves to invite you to dinner and lend you their ski clothes unprompted. A place that even now I think of as the equivalent of an afternoon spent wrapped in a fuzzy, well-worn comfort blanket with a camomile and re-runs of Downton Abbey. Whereas when I moved to London I was coming from Nuneaton, where I can now count my friends on one finger, I still have to ask my mum for lifts into town and the height of entertainment is going to the Asda. A place that I think of as the equivalent of being stuck in the Departures lounge when your flight’s six hours delayed and you’ve already gone past Duty Free, and now all you’ve got is a pocket-sized W H Smith and a Burger King to keep you entertained.
Also bear in mind the following: I was anxious to live in Paris, absolutely itching to be there. With London, it was a necessity. After almost a year of interning for free I’d finally got a full time, paid (ha, only just) job in publishing, and in my haste to accept it, I’d conveniently ‘forgotten’ that I didn’t actually live in even the same county as my workplace. Cue six months of Virgin trains and delay repay forms and thirteen hour days. Commuting back and forth was never going to be a long term solution.

Both moves were urgent and desperate, with the difference that with one of them I urgently, desperately wanted to move, and with the other I urgently, desperately needed to move.
So let’s compare the citizens of each. Parisians in five words: cool, opinionated, angry, thin, aloof. Londoners in five words: polite, self-aware, sarcastic, busy, aloof.

I don’t know whether it’s a big city thing or just what, but there is a lot of aloofness around. Maybe it’s a survival technique and you need to retain some element of separateness just to get by, but somehow, I think not. The aloofness does eventually develop in you though, no matter what, even if you fight it, even if you think you’ll never be one of those people wearing a navy blue suit with Oasics running shoes and a permanent bad smell under their nose and a distinct air of do-not-speak-to-me-I-am-not-interested-in-making-any-new-friends-I-already-have-three-and-that’s-more-than-enough.
One of P.R.’s (a real born and bredder London friend) favourite stories ever involves me, an angry and busy Londoner and an escalator. It goes a little something like this: I was visiting P.R. one summer, making my way from Euston to Finchley (which is quite far and involves a number of changes to be fair to the version of me that features in this story) on the tube, pretending to know what I was doing and where I was going. I didn’t really know either of those things, and I think it showed in my whole demeanour (think trembling knees, excessive map checking and general uncertainty). Inevitably, there were some escalators involved in my journey. On one such escalator, I made the fatal mistake of pausing. You’re not allowed to pause on escalators. I know that now. Just like you’re not allowed to stand still on the left hand side, just like you’re not allowed to approach the barriers until your Oyster is out of your pocket and poised ready for a speedy exit, just like you’re not allowed to make eye contact with anyone else in your carriage. Unfortunately, 2011 Silv did not know any of those things. Up until that point I’d even hazard a guess that I’d probably fumbled around for anything up to ten seconds trying to find my Oyster in all my pockets, and attempted to smile in the direction of at least two people on the tube. And I paused. I paused right on the last step of the escalator to adjust my shoe (you know, to avoid tripping to an untimely death), and in doing so I caused the woman behind me a three second delay to her journey. People in big cities don’t like having three second delays to their journeys; they don’t like it at all. And this woman in particular, she really didn’t like it. She was mad. A usual Londoner reaction to something on this scale would look a bit like this: an eye roll, a tut, a muttered, tame insult – something like, ‘bloody amateur’ (but very, very quietly so as not to cause any real offense.) Rather than opt for the typical controlled reaction, this woman chose drama and intrigue: she pushed past me, turned to openly stare at me as she overtook me and shouted, at great volume, loudly enough to ensure as much offense as humanly possible, ‘you fucking idiot, watch where you’re fucking going!’ So there could be no doubt of just how much I’d inconvenienced her, she made sure to turn back around and shout, ‘fucksake!’ for good measure.
In a state of shock, I looked all around me to check I was indeed the intended recipient of her wrath. I was.

Londoners are definitely not known for their approachability. But then, neither are Parisians. Case one, asking for directions in Paris on my first ever day as an honorary Parisian… The woman in question not only did not provide me with any help whatsoever, but also, so dismayed was she that I would even dare to ask, she positively growled at me, ‘I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS!’

Neither city really deserves the point for this one, but London gets it by a fraction, based on the fact that Brits are just bloody funny and weird, and I’m one myself so I don’t mind their bad bits quite as much.
Paris: 0; London: 1    

Contest 2: The weather
This is a short one, because the weather is atrocious in both places, and I’m finally at one with the idea that I’m destined to forever live somewhere where 21 degrees is cause for celebration.
Paris: 0; London: 1

Contest 3: Shopping
This is similarly a short one, because shops is shops, and, with the exceptions of Whistles for the UK team and the Sandro stock store for Team France, Bond Street could be in Paris and Rue de Rivoli could be in London, and you definitely wouldn’t even notice they’d swapped round. I like Zara and & Other Stories and Cos, and you get all of them in both places, and also, you know… internet, so I’m happy wherever.
Paris: 0; London: 1

Contest 4: Food
Oh here we go. Now it gets fun. Spoiler alert: Paris wins this one. I will give you a list of reasons why Paris wins this one (and they are all food shaped):

-Croissants

-Bread

-Cheese

-Cheap red supermarket wine

-Macarons

-Angelina Café

-Comme a Lisbonne custard tarts

-L’as du Falafel

-The sushi place next to my old apartment (best when bought to take away and then consumed in bed)

-Savoury crepes from Breizh café

-Coffee from La Cafeotheque

-Galette des Rois (mmmmm)

-Le Chalet Savoyard for the best (nightmare inducing) fondue

-Hot, chocolate drenched gauffres

-Shop bought aubergine riste

-Bistro burgers and chips and omelettes and salads and still-mooing steaks

-Pastrami sandwiches from Shwartz’s deli

-Moules frites

-Chouquettes

-Baguettes jambon beurre (trust me)

-Pink Flamingo pizza

London, I feel sly, but I’m yet to find anywhere in you that makes me want to write a gushing list like the one above. This is also not really all that fair, because when I lived in Paris my ‘kitchen’ consisted of a micro/oven combo that didn’t really do either task efficiently and one electric hob, so it was either eat out three (or four) times a day or die. In London I make most of my own meals, so, arguably, if I don’t enjoy the food here as much, it’s purely because I can’t cook.
Paris: 1; London: 1

Contest 5: Boys
Cristo. The Parisian lothario vs the charming Londoner. I can’t really comment on this with any great confidence, because, although I have dated in both cities, I don’t think I’ve actually been involved with locals from either place. I’m just thinking… (But I’m mostly thinking so that it seems as though I’ve been on enough dates to lose count…) Yeah, no, no locals here. What I can comment on with some degree of confidence is what it’s like to date in both cities.

Paris. Sigh. It’s not known as the most romantic city in the world for nothing. Sharing bottles of supermarket Cotes du Rhone by the Seine, strolling through the Champ de Mars at night, feeding each other snails and frog legs (I’ve actually done that in London too, but that was with someone who’d made a conscious effort to recreate a fake Parisian scene, and who failed spectacularly)… It’s bloody lovely to be in love in that bloody fancy little city! It just is.

London… Yeah, it's alright. Most of my dates here take place in the pub, and, in theory, that’s how I like it. But in practice… I do actually quite like being taken to hidden rooftops that look out over the Marais or rainy palace gardens. London boys, take note, I never, ever react well to the following invitation: ‘I don’t mind. You can pick where we go!’
However, even though English boys may well accidentally slam a door in your face and get their calculator app up on their phone to work out how to split the bill in proportion to your salaries, they're also far more likely to make you belly laugh, and when you're giggling fit to burst you don't really care about all the other stuff anyway, so London, you can have this one.
Paris: 1; London: 2

Contest 6: General Activities
I don’t do all that much here. Or anywhere. Me and activities don’t really mix. Unless by ‘activities’ you mean binge watching 90s hip hop videos on Youtube or filling your basket on Asos and then never actually purchasing anything, which you probably don’t. I am a girl of simple pleasures, most of which can be found in the comfort of my own home. However, sometimes you do need to leave the house, and for whenever that need does rear its ugly head, both London and Paris are queens.

The easiest way to judge this one, I think, is to list all the things that I love to do in each respective city off the top of my head and see which list is longest.

Paris activities

-Sitting/picnicking/thinking/snogging/daydreaming/writing/breathing by the Seine (anything by the Seine, forever)

-Trawling vintage shops in the Marais for a bargain

-Spending whole afternoons people watching in Montmarte

-Cheap(ish) cocktails in Bastille

-Waxing at Les Petits Soins (this may seem like a strange one, but the beautician who owned it was the sweetest lady in the world and it was always a joy to spend thirty minutes, legs akimbo, practicing my French with her)

-Reading in Les Tuileries

-Pretentious, overpriced films at Bercy

-Playing hide and seek in the park
-Penalty shoot outs
-Pokemon tournaments
-Watching Peppa Pig until my eyes dry up

London activities

-Pubs. All pubs. Just pubs

-Hampstead Heath. The loveliest heath in the land. Apart from Ledger, R.I.P.

-Primrose Hill. Again, the loveliest hill I know. Apart from Lauryn. Similarly, R.I.P.

-Flat hunting (that's all I ever do these days. Hold tight for the upcoming post about estate agents. The ones I've fancied - Stockholm syndrome? - and the ones I've wanted to stab in the head with a nail file repeatedly until they are no longer able to pronounce the words 'I'm not being salesy but...')

-Drinking in Shoreditch (this is basically reiterating Point 1 in a slightly different format, but I’m counting it as its own thing)
-Going to the big Sainsburys on Finchley Road
-Browsing Foyles until all the books start to blur into one

Okay. I admit it, I hold my hands up, put the gun down. The Paris list is slightly longer. HOWEVER, if you look closely, you will see that the Paris list is ever so slightly longer because of some unignorable reasons: when I was in Paris I was hanging out with a small child 70% of the time, and small children are inventive and fun and get very easily bored if you're not doing entertaining shit every second of the day, so forcibly, when around small children, you do entertaining shit more often. Whereas in London I have a normal 9-5 and during the day mostly hang out with teenagers and three older women, whose ages ascend in decades up to 60 and who therefore have their own lives and things to do, and the rest of the time I interact with other people who, like me, now find themselves spending 80% of their time working and making dinners and jogging around a park and keeping on top of their personal admin and remembering to check in with their grandparents every so often and making sure the fridge always has a bag of salad in the bottom drawer. So I don't think it's a fair contest, and for that reason both cities get a point, and it's my list and my blog post and my life, so I decide.
Paris: 2; London: 3

Contest 7: Looks
Ooh child. Everyone says that beauty is skin deep and in the eye of the beholder and fades with time, or whatever people say to convince you that you don't look rough, and even if you do that not everyone has noticed. But it is important; it's lidicrously important! I don't want to live somewhere ugly. I've already done that. I've served my time. Now I want to be surrounded by cute little streets and green, lush parks and well thought out Mary-Portas-curated shop windows. I deserve it.
So who's the fairest of them all? Paris or London?
Well, I mean, it's Paris. It's quarter to ten, and I really want to go to bed and watch Celebrity Masterchef with a cup of tea, so let's not drag this out any longer. London, you cute, but you also have a lot of fat days. Paris, you're a snobby little bitch, and know how gorgeous you are - a bighead of the worst kind - but that doesn't take away from the fact that every corner and crevice and back street of you is stunning. You are the city equivalent of Marion Cotillard, and how fucking apt is that?
Paris: 3; London: 3

Contest 8: Bonus Round
There's an extra point up for grabs for being part of the EU, and guess who gets it...
Paris: 4; London: 3

And that's it. Paris, you win. But, London, I live in you, and I'm warming to you more and more every day, and even though, on paper, you're second best, you're where I'm setting up my little life, and, really, if I'm being a truthful Trisha, you're not second best at all.

London, je t'aime.

Friday, 27 May 2016

The Library: My Expectations vs The Cold Hard Reality

My library job happened a little by accident and a lot by fluke. It had less to do with having a burning ambition to keep the Dewey decimal system alive and everything to do with how much I hated the job I was in at the time. Anyone who had the misfortune of knowing me in any capacity between the months of February and November 2015 will know that I was miserable. I hated my job so much that I would often quietly sob as I was getting ready to go to it. My housemate stopped asking how my day had gone because he knew it would never be good news. On the phone to my mum, I'd hear her breathe a sigh of relief if I said, 'today wasn't completely shit.' That was all I hoped for. For my day to not be completely shit. Anyway, woe is me, whatever. The point is: I wanted to get out at any cost. When you're in a state of acute desperation like I was then, you envy everyone who's not you. On lunch breaks with my lovely colleagues (they were my little rays of sunshine in the office and still are now in real life) we'd look at dogs running round the park without a care in the world and want to be in their shoes (paws.)
'I wish I was that dog.'
'I wish I was that tree.'
It was my first full time job. I was 24 years old. It was ridiculous that I was jealous of a tree.
I was constantly trying to work out how to get doctors appointments during the day, how many weeks it was until the next bank holiday, how best to use my generous holiday allowance of 16.5 days to give myself the longest possible break from the office...
I was all consumed with thoughts about how soon I could leave without completely fucking up my CV. I very quickly worked out that I wasn't up to doing a full year like I'd originally planned, and as time went on and I became ever more anxious, I started to think about what I could do that would pay more (most things) and give me slightly more holidays (anywhere.)
I was disillusioned with publishing - it wasn't what I thought it would be and I needed a clean break, but books and literature are all I know. I couldn't fathom working in any other field. So what could I legitimately do with my (limited) skills? I'd worked in schools before, and am good with children (I actually find them to be a lot less unpleasant than most adults), but I knew from how miserable my teacher ex was at the time that you should never teach unless your whole soul is crying out to you that it is your one true vocation in life. I was done with crying in the mornings. I wanted an easy life.
Books and kids... Books and kids... Where could I find both of these things under the same roof? A bloody school library, that's where!
I did extensive research, of course (as long as if by 'extensive' we mean me googling 'how much do librarians earn?' and 'schools North London' on my phone.) It turns out that the school librarian is dead. They are now known as 'LRC Managers.' Well that was that dream over, then. How could I jump from a 'co-ordinator' (a fancy word for slave) to manager overnight?! I wasn't qualified. But it turns out that LRC Managers earn salaries as fancy as their job titles, and I repeat, I was desperate. So I applied to an advertised vacancy. It was a half hearted attempt at escape and was completed as such. If I remember rightly (which I do) I filled in half of the application on my ex's tablet on his bedroom floor, sulking because he was marking books and not stroking my head, and half of it on my phone on the bus. It took me a week.
Against all odds, I was utterly convinced that the job was mine. It had to be. How could you want something so badly and not get it? In what unfair world would I not deserve to get the very first job I applied to? (Again, remember I completed the application on a floor and on a bus.) I checked my emails obsessively for a month, and then admitted defeat. As unjust as it seemed, it probably did make sense that someone with absolutely no prior experience of working in a library or any librarian qualifications (they exist! Check if you don't believe me!) would maybe not be entrusted to run a massive school library singlehandedly.
But then, two days after being cruelly dumped by the boyfriend who was too sad to stroke my head, when everything had got to the point where I was seriously contemplating moving back home and living off my mum forever, I got the email inviting me to interview.
This was it! My one way ticket out of misery and shit holidays!
I couldn't believe my fucking luck (and it was luck, nothing else, because I repeat, I wasn't even slightly qualified for the role.)
I was at Hell Job when I saw the good news, so I summoned my lovely colleagues to the kitchen or basement or one of the other many places we would use to cry or moan or hide, and showed them the email and we all hugged and danced around and maybe even teared up a bit (I mean, I almost certainly did. Don't know if you'd heard but I was crying quite freely at that point in my life.)
I prepped ferociously (watched loads of YouTube videos called things like 'misconceptions about the modern librarian' and 'why it pisses me off that people think librarians are sad and wear glasses and need to get laid.') I was ready.
I went into Hell Job on interview day with my Sandro dress hidden under a massive wooly jumper and felt delirious about my secret. Lovely Colleague 1 and 2 kept catching my eye across the office and winking. I had this in the bloody bag.
When the time came to toddle off to the interview, I completely misjudged just how far away the school was (I live in North London and Hell Job was central London and New Job is about as South as you can get and still confidently say you're in London.)
It took me an hour and a half to get there. I was late. I ran all the way from the bus stop, halting only very slightly as I approached the doorway so as not to look manic and red and deranged. I wasn't the only one interviewing. There were five other candidates, who had arrived in good time and didn't have stringy fringes and looked like your typical librarian. I don't want to be a generalising little twat, but my competition were not dressed in their best Sandro dress. My competition were dressed in cardigans and sensible lace ups and wire rimmed glasses. (I'm not just making this up for dramatic effect, all five of the other people at the interview were either already librarians elsewhere or fresh library degree graduates.)
But I felt good anyway. I literally had not one thing to lose. I liked being in a school environment. It was refreshing. The Hell Job office was stuffy and overheated and my heart sank every day when I swiped my way through the front door. The school was buzzing with life and activity and movement. I already knew I'd be working there soon. Not in a blowing-my-own-horn way, but I smashed the interview's head in. I was my most sparkly, charming, well spoken version of myself (and it didn't hurt my confidence any that another one of the candidates had a panic attack halfway through and had to put her head between her legs for ten minutes.) They said they'd let me know within the week.
They called me the next day.

Handing in my notice at Hell Job was one of the happiest days of my life. I'm not exaggerating. My lovely colleagues bought me flowers and I couldn't, not even for form's sake, keep the smile from my face when I asked to speak to my boss 'in private.' I was so excited I forgot to delete the 'Monster' logo from the template I'd used to write out my Notice letter. My boss noticed and made a massive deal out of it, doing a fake tinkly loud laugh, and in my head I just kept thinking, 'after this month I never, ever have to see your face again, and it won't be a moment too soon, you life-ruining horror woman.'
I walked on a cloud for the next four weeks. I still cried a bit (quite a lot), for the other thing, but I clutched my impending new job to my chest like a talisman. I'd made a change, I was in control of my own life again, and I was going to be happy (happier) one day soon. Plus let's not forget all those glorious school holidays I was about to qualify for. Fuck you, dog-in-park! I can run around and be fancy free too!
I was so giddy with not working at Hell Job anymore that I almost entirely forgot that I did actually have to go and start a new job and do everything that comes with that. I didn't really know what to expect. The closest I'd ever come to working in a library environment was when I applied to Camp Hill (a less than desirable area in my hometown) library for a Saturday job and my feedback post interview was 'enthusiastic but probably not equipped to handle the trickier, occasionally aggressive patrons.'
Instead, my first Saturday job ended up being as a waitress at my local football stadium, tripping over people's handbags, dropping plates of food and forgetting to ask whole tables to pay. I have weak wrists and the crockery was heavy. I've never worked in hospitality since.

Things I was maybe expecting to do as a school librarian:
-Recommend books
-Catalogue books
-Instill a love of reading to impressionable young minds
-Start a book club
-Use my contacts from my time in publishing to get authors in to chat to the students
-A poetry slam 
-Potter around, organising the shelves
-Generally be a Miss Honey/Dead Poets Society/Coach Carter hybrid inspirational human being

Things I actually do day to day as a school librarian:
-Say 'shhh' until my face hurts (if only this cliche wasn't so true...)
-Crowd control
-Break up fights
-Reconcile friendship fall outs
-Give out pens like they're going out of fashion
-Fix computers
-Litter pick
-Whistle blow (not literally, although I do have one in my top drawer for emergencies)
-Hand out hair, friend, relationship advice (even though I'm not sure I'm qualified to preach about any of the above. The extent of my hair adventures is a home dip dye in summer '13 and a fringe that's taken me nine months to grow out, I have approximately six mates that I plan to keep until the day I die, and I always bring up my high cholesterol on first dates. But they ask, and when I suggest things they listen, so I must be doing something right)
-Lend something like two books a week out (and this is often only because I physically thrust the titles that I think particular kids will like into their unwilling little paws)

Conversations I thought I might have with the library users:
-'Miss, have you got the new Malorie Blackman?'
'Sure thing, Khadejah! Have you read her earlier stuff? Why not try the Noughts and Crosses series?' (A few of the younger girls will actually ask me for books, but always very quietly and discreetly as if it's a dirty habit they need to hide)
-'Miss, can you possibly help me with my English coursework?'
'Sure thing, Jeremiah, one A* coming right up!' (This too, does in fact sometimes happen, but unfortunately I'm little to no use as I can't remember any of the shit they're studying, not even A Streetcar Named Desire. And I loved A Streetcar Named Desire (well, I fancied Marlon Brando in the black and white film, even though he was a midget and a misogynist, and it felt important to be studying a play, so I guess that's the same as loving A Streetcar Named Desire)
-'Miss, can I confide in you about a juicy, interesting, but not life threatening, personal problem, please?'
'Sure thing, Egypt, pull up a seat!'

Things that students actually ask me, in order of frequency:
-'Miss, how old are you?'
Quickly followed by:
-'Miss, aren't you a bit young to be a librarian?'
-'Miss, where are you from?'/'What's your heritage?'/'Where do you live?'/'Was that you on the 196 to Brixton speaking in a foreign language on the phone?'
-'Miss, did you go to uni?'
Quickly followed by:
-'But if you have a degree why do you work here then?'
-'Miss, have you got a good man at home?' (Only ever phrased like this. 'A good man at home.' I mean. First of all, if I did have a boyfriend, he would not be a 'good man at home,' for a number of reasons. For one, he wouldn't be at home, and he definitely wouldn't be at my home, and then he also wouldn't necessarily be 'good', just quite nice and good at kissing and picking where to eat. So.)
-'Where did you get that?' about every single item of clothing I ever deign to wear. I always lie because sixth form can wear their own clothes and I really could live without Tanequa in Year 12 coming in in the same trousers as me on Monday
-'Are you staying next year?' said cautiously, as every librarian they've had before me has gone running for the hills after a few months. Can't think why.
-'Can I have a pen/paper/scissors/kidney?'
-'The printer's out of paper.' This is, admittedly, not a question, but I still have to deal with it, so it counts.
-'Can I leave my bag with you?' NO. I AM NOT A CLOAKROOM.

Really horrible/incomprehensible things the kids have said to me:
-'You're jarring, man' x 500
-'You're so extra' (yeah, I'm not sure what that means either...)
-'Shhh' (it doesn't work quite as well this way round)
-'I'm dead' (this confusingly doesn't literally mean that they have passed away whilst visiting the library and that I'll have reams of follow up paperwork to fill in and that they are miraculously telling me about their new state from beyond the grave. Rather, it means that something is funny or unbelievable or generally worth an exclamation of some description.)
-'Why you being a little snake?' (Said after I called for assistance during an actual bonafide physical fist fight.)
-'This woman!' (Me) 'I'm going to slam this laptop off her head!' (Not only did she not slam said laptop off anyone's head, I also got her excluded for the rest of the day. Snake fo' lyf.)

Really horrible/incomprehensible things I have started saying to the kids (I am almost definitely now my grandmother):
-'If you're just going to socialise then you can take it outside!'
-'Unhand that girl!'
-'Who's rustling? There's crisps in here! I can smell them!'
-'We are still way too loud!' (Don't know why I choose 'we' as my pronoun of choice; I'm never the one making any noise.)
-'That doesn't look like work to me!' (Said while looking at students having any form of fun, ever.)
-'I know books, not computers.' A lie. I know computers just as much as the next person.
-'You are all horrible and I hate you.' This makes them laugh, and then I laugh, and then at least we're all laughing for a second.
-'Let's all try to live in harmony, shall we?' (Who knows.)
-'What are your intentions today?' (I want to throw myself out the window whenever I hear myself say this one. They're 15-18 years old. They have no intentions.)
-'Shhh' (Often said at the top of my lungs, which, really, completely defeats the object.)

Really lovely, thoughtful things the kids have said to me that make my day and make me so glad I filled in that application on a floor and on a bus:
-'Miss, you're my favourite teacher.' I used to be pedantic and correct them, but then I realised it's not worth the effort. If I can be someone's favourite teacher without doing any teaching of any description, then I'll take it. 
-'Miss, you could do loads better than this job.' Not too sure what to make of that one, but I'll also take that.
-'Miss, you've got the best style.' This is said to me at least three times a day no matter what I'm wearing. I mostly wear jumpers and an array of high waisted trousers. I've worn the same loafers since January. They say 'I see you!' every time I do absolutely anything different with my appearance (I've worked out that this does not simply mean that they have 20/20 vision, but that they approve of what's in their eye line.)
-'You're cute.' (Said by the cutest 14 year old girl ever, so it means even more.)
-'Miss! I see you with your eyeliner on! Who you seeing? Where you going? Looking peng!' (Peng is still a thing, apparently.)
-'You've got a great face, miss.' That's all I've ever wanted. Some twat I was seeing when I was 19 once text me that I had a 'weak face' so fuck you, Saarah in Year 13 thinks quite the opposite. 
-'Miss, you look like Lucy from Made in Chelsea/Dakota Johnson/that goth in Eastenders.'
-'Miss, loving the new hair!' (I'd simply changed my parting.) 'Your baby hair's looking buff.' (I hate baby hair. Why are they even noticing baby hair? Why don't they read a book and stop looking at my scalp?)
And my favourite ever was when a little tearaway tapped his urchin friend when he'd raised his voice at me and said, 'don't speak to her like that. She's really nice and just doing her job.'

Hear hear.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

'You're a 10, and he's a 2' and other well meaning lies your friends will tell you when you're 'back on the market.'

I dunno if you'd heard (and I mean, you have, because I mention it frequently), but it wasn't my choice to be single. However, a matter of months have passed and in the interest of remembering that my ex is not the only person on the planet and also of not becoming a hard hearted, jaded, cynical ice queen, I have put myself back on said market. With a little encouragement from my harem of supportive friends.
I was in dire need of this support, because, alone, I was very lost indeed. I thought I was doing well if I made eye contact with a stranger on the tube.
It started out innocently enough: a suggestion of a single friend that I might get on with.
'You both like books!' one of my gal pals squealed with glee as she showed me a selection of his carefully curated profile pictures. 'And he's tall.' (That all important criteria, that seems to swallow any other unattractive qualities, such as emotional unavailability and a contagious skin disease.)
'Okay...' I said, already terrified.
'He has a weird relationship with food though.'
'Oh.'
'And I think he's a little bit autistic.'
'Babe...'
'Just a tiny bit!
'I don't think-'
'He's a really nice guy though!'
This phrase was repeated endless times as she listed all manner of other inappropriate matches for me, of which some she seemed to fancy herself and some seemed destined to die alone. Somehow, almost completely against my will, she talked me into giving autistic overeater a chance.
'It won't be some weird thing. I'll just invite him to my party and you'll be there too, and we'll just SEE WHAT HAPPENS.'
Nothing happened because he couldn't make it due to a suspected nervous breakdown.
I didn't lose much sleep over that one. She's still keeping an eye out for me.

Another one of my friends took me out to Shoreditch a lot post breakup. I assumedly like boys from Shoreditch. Not sure where this idea came from, but that's what had been decided. She got fucked out her face, made up a dance routine based almost exclusively on pretending she was underwater, and did laps of the bar to find suitable bachelors for me. I had no say in this whatsoever. She came back triumphantly ten minutes later to tell me that she'd given my number to 'Adam from New York' who was in town for the weekend. He joined us at our table, was perfectly charming, and we all proceeded to bond over endless games of Heads Up. His hand was a bit snakey, and had to be slapped away a couple of times, but nothing major. Until we got outside and he whispered seductively in my ear, 'I'm half Jamaican, you know. I could really stretch you out.' I so wish I was joking. I grabbed my friends, ran for the hills (the kebab shop) and my matchmaker friend's still apologising now.
To make it up to me, she told me that I should have a fun French fling with her best friend from home. He was undoubtedly attractive, sounded eligible and had also been shown pictures of me and not been displeased. It was perfect.
'So, he's not planning on coming to England for a while. But if you visit next summer I'll definitely introduce you!'
I can't do much with 'if's and the summer's a very long way away. We chalked that one down to a 'probably not worth the hassle.' She is also keeping both eyes peeled for me.

My third mismatch was suggested by someone who should know better. She knows what I like and she's been on the scene long enough to have witnessed my varied arc of love interests in all its glory.
She was so proud of herself when she showed me a photo of the boy she had in mind. It was her boyfriend's best friend.
'We can double date!' she said.
'Christ,' I said.
'You'll love him!' she said.
I didn't.
She couldn't understand why I wasn't into it.
'He looks just like your ex! Look, he's even got the same shirt. And he's a teacher!'
Sound logic. If I was trying to go out with my ex again. But I'm not. That would be psychotic and I'm not Rachel in Friends, dating Russ.
Also, all the qualities I liked in my ex don't necessarily translate into general qualities I'm looking for in anyone.
I refused to comply. She still brings him up from time to time. R.I.P. Russ.

I sometimes let my friends reply to messages from boys on my behalf. P fucking lives for evenings in with my phone. If I dare to reach for it back she gets scratchy and screechy, so I've learnt it's easier to just leave her to it. I'll hear her cackling to herself and just quietly despair. She gives compliments that she herself would like to receive, but that unsuspecting boys in their 20s don't quite know what to do with.
'I like your COS aesthetic!' she typed frantically to one such critter.
'Ah thanks,' he said, because what the fuck else could he say?
'Do you know what COS is?' she said, unsatisfied with his lack of enthusiasm.
'If you mean the store then yeah.'
'I get the feeling you're not really digging me though,' she said, and looked around at me, both thumbs up, proud of the work she'd done.
He never text us back again.
She absolutely delights in general trolling. If she deems someone a 'dumb-dumb' she will openly mock them.
'Hi hun x' someone once dared to say.
'Hi hunni x' she text back.
'Wat u been up to?'
'Not much babes, u? x' she typed back and laughed like a drain.
'Just been the match. Wat u do at weekend?' This sent her over the edge.
'Chill at home. What u do?' she text, just so pleased with herself.
'Sweet! Same :)' he said. Harmless enough.
'(Smiley poo emoticon)(Bride emoticon)(Sassy flamenco dancer emoticon)(Crying emoticon)(Plane emoticon)' P text him, with no apparent relation to anything else that'd been said.
I glared at her. She winked back.
'He won't even think it's weird. Watch,' she said to me.
Sure enough, he text back straightaway. One word: 'lol.'
She raised her eyebrows, triumphant.
'Delete his number,' I said.  

The matches I organise all by myself are no less of a shambles, don't get it twisted. I get it wrong even more than they do. One boy I was speaking to had suspected alcohol/drugs dependency/AIDs and would only ever suggest coffees or walks. The less said about him the better.
There was the guy who was trying to be my boyfriend after two dates. He will go down in history as the boy who went out to buy me breakfast and came back with two types of Tropicana: one with bits, one without, because he didn't know what I liked. I don't know why, but this caused mass hysteria.
'What a sociopath!' each and every one of my friends said when I told them.
He also made me dippy eggs and soldiers and watched me eat them without having any himself. But that's a story for another time.
It's worth mentioning the fact that my friends also couldn't stomach the fact that he was completely bald but with the biggest beard any of us had ever seen. He was no Common though. 'Pubey' was the general consensus. I stopped texting him back the day he lost his job. An unhappy coincidence. And not my proudest moment.

It's not all doom and gloom though. I found myself a promising one. Just so promising. We had five and a half excellent dates and I started to think that everything was going to be fine. There are fun boys with unusual faces that will make me snort laugh and suggest normal dates at bars and that will make me feel safe enough that I won't have to keep my phone clutched in my hand under the table all night, finger hovered over my ringtone in case I have to pretend that someone's calling and I have to urgently leave! Or so I thought.
He got weird. Fast. He disclosed that he'd gone through every single one of my Instagram photos and knew things about me that I'd never told him. He took me to a gig and didn't talk to me until it was over. He took a piss on my doorstep in some kind of weird dirty protest and then admitted to it the next day with something close to pride. All my friends without exception hated this one. Comments ranged from 'he has a triangle head' to the simple 'SICK'. One of the girls physically recoiled in horror when I showed her a picture of him and then apologised profusely, saying, 'honestly, I just wasn't expecting it.'

For now I'm going to be a good sport and keep my well meaning, lying friends vicariously entertained with all my disastrous mismatches. Safe in the knowledge that there are definitely a few fun boys with unusual faces that will make me snort laugh and suggest normal dates at bars out there somewhere. They can't all be fucking awful, can they...?