Hot Plasticy Orifices

“The printer’s broken.”

I blink at my colleague. I’ve just walked into the office, over-priced coffee clutched in my hand, traditional Monday scowl plastered across my face. I haven’t even sat down yet.

“Right. So you want me to have a look at it?” I manage to say without peppering the sentence with profanities.

“Would you mind?” Says the non-management idiot. “Thanks.” I look at him as he slopes off. He has two arms with hands on the end and some eyes in his face so I’m not entirely sure why he wasn’t able to attempt a repair but if I’ve learnt anything during my years of being a PA, it’s that if there’s a PA in the vicinity, THAT’S the lucky sausage who fixes the broken stuff (read: coffee machine, photocopier, laminator, voicemail, dishwasher, etc).

I hang my jacket up, metaphorically roll up my sleeves and look at the little instruction screen (which is somehow invisible to my colleagues).

It says:

CLEAR MISFEED

Right, well that’s the first clue as to what might be wrong with it. I feel angry. It’s obvious what’s wrong and the paper that is currently jammed somewhere deep inside the cogs of the printer is NOT the result of a print job I am doing, ergo why am I the one who has to clear it? However, if a PA allows herself to think like that, it’s only a short trip to furious insanity and possibly the purchase of a sniper rifle, so I squash that thought and press the little arrow sign.

This reveals a picture of the printer with one of its flaps hanging down like a grotesque robot autopsy. I locate said flap and open it.

No paper.

This printer is a bastard. It’s a gormless, useless heap of metal encased in cheap beige plastic. I hate this printer and I’m pretty sure it hates me. I begin systematically opening every one of its seventy five flaps. I twiddle knobs, I poke my fingers into its hot plasticy orifices in a deeply dangerous way. I yank out the waste toner cartridge and get a shower of toner over my hands so I look like I’ve been slapping a chimney sweep.

Nothing. There is NO PAPER jammed anywhere. I slam the front cover closed and glare at the printer. It sits exuding smugness and little puffs of toner.

I grab a sheet of A4, lick my finger and using the moistened toner, I write ‘OUT OF ORDER’ and stick it to the printer’s lid. I wash my hands and pick up the phone to call the engineer.

Over the next thirty minutes, I watch twelve different people approach the printer. Each one looks at the sign, clearly smeared in jet black toner and each one says ‘Is the printer broken, then?’

Each time I swallow the bile that’s risen and say calmly ‘Yes, I’ve called the engineer.’

For some that’s not enough. Some decide that I must be WRONG in my assumption that only a fully trained printer engineer can fix it. They assume that even though I’ve spent the best part of fifteen years, elbow deep in printers like James Herriot with a calving dairy cow, I can’t POSSIBLY have checked ALL the flaps.

So they start checking flaps. They open and slam the flaps as they watched me do not ten minutes before. They press the touch screen buttons and tut loudly before announcing ‘Yeah, definitely a job for the engineer’ and wandering back to their desks to fuck around on Facebook until lunch.

The printer watches them go and rolls its eyes at me. We share a moment. But I still hate it.

Have You Got Tissues?

Last week I went into my boss’s office to make the appropriate noises of interest and admiration over her new iPad2. As soon as I saw it, propped on her desk looking all shiny and gum-dryingly expensive, I felt the familiar panic rise within me.

My brain decided, at that moment, to imagine what would happen if I reached out to touch the iPad and my sleeve caught the glass of water on her desk, sending the contents cascading over it, probably making the iPad explode or at least catch fire, almost definitely relieving my boss of her eyebrows and, shortly afterwards, me of my job.

This happens all the time.

My dad is an artist and on my last visit home, he was showing me a painting he was working on for a commission. A very lucrative commission. He explained to me very clearly how the painting had taken months of work to reach its current state.

I could barely enter the room.

I looked at that painting and as my dad explained the details, my brain imagined what would happen if I SPILLED INK ALL OVER IT. Fucking ‘ink’? I have no idea where that came from, I wasn’t holding an open bottle of Quink for God’s sake. Who even uses ink any more? But there it was before my eyes; a horrifying vision of me casually swilling black ink around in its open bottle, inches away from my dad’s VERY EXPENSIVE PAINTING before…WHOOPS! There goes the bottle, splattering across the precious watercolour as my dad falls to his knees and weeps, quite possibly disowning me and definitely cancelling all future Christmases.

I think I know where this bizarre mental tick of mine comes from. It’s the result of growing up with a mother who would shriek ‘CAREFUL!’ if you so much as picked up the remote control or turned to look at a squirrel. The soundtrack to my childhood was a constant litany of warnings and advice. Dinner time came with the same number of health and safety warnings as a game of Swingball in an acid testing facility. “Careful, that plate’s hot.” “You should be wearing a pinny.” “MIND THAT SAUCEPAN HANDLE!” “Careful, that knife’s sharp.” “Are you eating it in the lounge? Then for God’s sake use a tray!” “Mind your sleeve on that hob!”

Of course it was all said with love and concern and I’m grateful for that, but the result is that I spend an unnaturally high proportion of my time working out the most likely horrific scenario and taking steps to avoid it.

Speaking of steps, they’re the worst. When I was five, I fell headfirst down a flight of wooden stairs so my fear is not entirely down to extreme parenting on this one. Now, every time I have to descend a set of steps, I imagine catching my foot and hurtling helplessly down them. Tube escalators! I always walk (or run) down them, flying carelessly in the face of ALL DANGER, yet everytime I do it I imagine tripping and somersaulting down the escalator like a drunk, underqualified acrobat or worse, taking out a fellow commuter and paralysing them for life. I’d have to spend the rest of my days doing fun runs for them and stuff. I mean IT COULD HAPPEN.

I have tried to be nonchalant. I’ve tried to saunter through life with the attitude of someone whose mother has never once dropped them off in town, then leaned out of her car window and bellowed ‘HAVE YOU GOT TISSUES?’ However, I am a more careful person because of it which I’m sure will be a comfort to you if you ever find yourself alongside me on a tube escalator.

A Ton of Stupid

I’ve been looking after a new PA who joined the company today. She replaces an utter fucktool so I was slightly trepidatious about her arrival but I showed her round earlier and she didn’t mistake a fire extinguisher for the Finance Director or physically assault anyone so my fears have been slightly allayed.

However, her arrival got me thinking about The Dumbest Thing Ever Said To Me. Yes, I’ve capitalised it, let’s move on.

Her predecessor-but-one (not the last fucktool, the fucktool before that – the Original Fucktool) was already here when I joined the company, terrorising the fifth floor and generally behaving as though she had a railway spike rammed through the parts of her brain that control NICENESS and NORMALITY. 

I work for an international company (get me) and something all the PAs here have to do is organise international meetings. It means we have to be aware of time zones, starting with the fact that they exist and ending with not forgetting about them when inviting seventeen countries to a conference call about branding or budgets or buggery (not buggery). Now, Original Fucktool (OF) had a real problem with time zones. She just couldn’t seem to grasp that if it’s lunchtime in London, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s lunchtime in New York. I frequently had to stop what I was doing and check a meeting invitation before she sent it, or sit and stare reassuringly at her, nodding like an encouraging parent as she used her fingers to count how many hours ahead Singapore is.

I thought this was bad enough but her stupidity was about to show itself in all its ghastly glory.

One of her bosses was flying off to America for a week. The flight was due to leave London at 11.30am and would land in the US at 6pm local time which is midnight in the UK. At midday, I happened to be going out for lunch at the same time as OF and as we walked across the square, she said this:

“Isn’t it incredible to think that even though her plane only took off half an hour ago our time, she’s already landed in America?”

She carried on walking while I was rendered immobile as the sheer force of her idiocy hit me in the face like a ton of STUPID.

“What?” I said, spitting out bits of stupid.

“Well, the flight lands at 12 and it’s 12 now. It’s amazing isn’t it? I’ll never fully understand time zones.”

Not only had she confused US time with UK time, she’d confused 12am with 12pm and most importantly, she thought her boss could TRAVEL THROUGH TIME.

Even as I type this, I’m astounded at how her brain managed to crumple up reality like that, chew it up and spit it at the wall of logic in a mangled, wet clump. Even after I’d taken her through the concept of time zones yet again, she didn’t seem to grasp it. She was fired shortly after that (this is true).

Dear Nan: An Open Letter

Dear Nan

This is the most painful letter I’ve ever had to write. Well, except for the one I had to write to that woman saying sorry for when I thought her toddler was a Jack Russell and threw a chunk of my Zinger Burger at it outside KFC. Oh and that time I had to email Auntie Jackie to explain why smearing coronation chicken into the hair of your son’s bride on their wedding day, just because she didn’t want you to play the tambourine during the service was wrong. So actually, this is the third most painful letter I’ve ever had to write.

All my life you’ve been there for me. Every time I had an argument at home I knew I could go running round to your house and you’d get out the Battenburg and a pot of whelks and I’d pretend to know what Gin Rummy was and we’d have a game. You never let me win which you always said was a very important lesson. It certainly was important; I never try to win anything these days and my squalid, pointless life is all the easier for it. That’s down to YOU, Nan.

Now everything’s changed. I received your card in the post on the morning of my birthday and I could barely contain my urine. ‘A card from Nan!’ I thought. Mainly because I thought it was a card from you. What happened next shocked me so much I’ve only just felt able to publish a letter on the internet about it. I held the unopened envelope in my fingers and felt for the hard disc, the little coin I felt sure would be taped within, but I felt nothing. I blinked back tears of disbelief and, barely noticing the padded cartoon of a cat in a Wellington, I shakily opened the card.

THERE WAS NO POUND COIN SELLOTAPED INSIDE.

Do you know how that felt, Nan? It was as if you’d reached your nicotine-stained fingers into my chest cavity, pulled out my heart and baked it into one of your revolting upside down cakes. It felt THAT BAD. I may be thirty-two and employed but that doesn’t mean I’ve got everything I need. Do you know what a pound can buy you these days, Nan? I mean, I know you only spend your pension on pop socks and Baileys but let me tell you the real value of the humble pound. Let me tell you what I could have bought with that pound of which you so callously deprived me.

ANYTHING IN POUNDLAND.

Yes, that’s right Nan. I would have wandered into that emporium of possibility, your lovingly bestowed pound clutched in my hand and surveyed the shelves like someone in Poundland with a quid to spend. I’d have spent hours trying to decide between an ashtray shaped like a frog, three hundred toilet rolls or a fleece with a wolf on it. That dream was shattered, Nan. Shattered by an old woman hellbent on destroying her grandchild’s faith in humanity.

All things considered, I should never speak to you again and if I ever become a world-famous chef you can fuck off if you think you’re going to be my CEO. But I’m a grown up now, Nan and I’ve decided that the only way we’re going to get past this and become a close, loving family once more is if I publicly publish this letter that has absolutely no bearing on anyone else’s life and that I could quite easily have put in an envelope and posted to you rather than whining on about it to the whole world like a giant moron. I think you’ll agree Nan that this way you and everyone else who reads this will see how hurt I am but that it’s me that’s the bigger person, that truly deserves everyone’s sympathy and some money from a magazine to bang on about it a bit more under a predictably sensationalistic headline.

Please remember I love you and if you’re any kind of human you’ll write back publicly, reminding everyone of this all over again so I get a bit more attention.

Your loving granddaughter

x

London

London: Your Guide To Mastering The Capital

So you want to move to London. Any change in life can be scary but it’s important not to worry. London is not only the fashion capital of the bottom right corner of England, it’s also full of incredibly interesting people all waiting to shake you by the hand (they may or may not let go so check for any open sores before you accept). You may be moving to our great city because you have managed to secure one of the ten or so jobs currently available, or perhaps you have relations here. Maybe you just fancy living life as though you’re in a particularly aggressive computer game. Whatever your reasons, you’ll need to know the basics before you even think of trying to work out the queueing system in Pret A Manger.

Finding Somewhere To Live

Unless you’re Bear Grylls or that bloke who built a tree house in a conifer outside Sydenham, you’ll probably need to rent a room. Many people embarking on life in London are young and usually quite poor so your best bet is a ‘flat share’ (or prostitution but that’s frowned upon by many law enforcement professionals). There are many websites that list available rooms so once you pick your desired side of the river (see next point) you can quite easily find somewhere cosy. London flat shares are famously luxurious and it’s not uncommon to find seven or even eight people with whom to share that luxury. Imagine the fun of getting home from a long day behind the till to fight over the single gas ring with three burly Australians and a worryingly thin Eastern European in order to cook your Lidl noodles. Afterwards, you can retire to your room to lie back on your sleeping bag and pile of rolled up jumpers while ignoring the animalistic sex noises. This is truly how friends for life are made!

Your Side Of The River

As you may know, London is divided by the Thames river (the ‘h’ is silent). When you move to London you are required by law to select your side of the river based on the many guides available and once you live there, you’re there for life. You MAY NOT change sides at any point, as this would lead to anarchy, chaos and fluctuating property values. You are permitted to cross the river for employment purposes but without the correct permits and properly displayed badges you are liable to be pushed into the river Thames (silent ‘h’) by a Beefeater.

Public Transport

London’s famous tube network is among the most reliable tube networks in London. Technological advances in recent years mean it is now possible for up to FIVE out of every seventy people to get a seat. Impressive I’m sure you’ll agree! Now obviously service like this doesn’t come cheaply and you will find most if not all of your wages going on your weekly travel. However you wouldn’t be able to afford to get to work if you didn’t work so it’s like the circle of life, really. When using the tube network it’s important to remember four things:

1. Your elbows are your jabby, annoying tickets to that cushy square foot of space near the door. Keep them pointing out at all times and use them to move people out of your way (don’t forget to dip down for children).

2. Learn how to read while walking along. Studies show that people trapped behind you as you meander aimlessly along with your nose buried in The Metro are likely to become calmer and happier as a result so try and do it whenever you can, especially as you approach the escalators.

3. You encounter many different types of people on the tube, most of whom don’t actually realise they’re on the tube. Remember; it’s not your job to point this out to them. If you interrupt their singing, argument with someone invisible, or enthusiastic defecation you’re likely to receive a sharp, often physical admonishment!

4. Do not speak to anyone. Ever. This really can’t be emphasised enough. In recent times, accidental eye contact accompanied by an embarrassed smile has become almost acceptable but is still ideally avoided. If you address someone it must only be to insult them in the traditional fashion, or to point out that someone has just stolen their purse.

Nightlife

London comes alive at night. Don’t worry, there are no (dangerous) zombies! Rather its bars, clubs and pubs present a myriad of possibilities, all involving alcohol. Whatever your tipple, be it a glass of chilled wine, a pint of beer or a mix of the two, you will find it in London. Many of the traditional pubs will have a fascinating array of characters. You can spot them by their medals, scruffy dogs and yellowy beards. They’ve always got a story to tell so buy them a pint and sit comfortably! If you find yourself in a bar with a large amount of exposed brickwork and/or giant silver pipes running along the ceiling that look as though a builder got bored halfway through and walked off the job, then you must employ certain phrases. These are:

“Fourteen pounds for a mojito is extremely reasonable, have one yourself barman!”

“The DJ has picked just the right type of music and volume for 5.30pm on a Tuesday.” (This is usually shouted)

“Yes, toilet attendent, I would very much like a paper towel, a squirt of knock off perfume and a Chuba Chups lolly for a pound, you’re so kind! I wish you worked in MY toilet! Hahaha.”

Hopefully you have found the points in this guide useful and your resolve to move to London to join the hoardes of blissfully happy and fulfilled people is even stronger. Once you understand the way our glorious city works, you’ll find you never want to leave. Obviously you can leave, London isn’t a prison! Well bits of it are, but don’t think about that. Anyway, before you start applying for those coveted café jobs, don’t forget to send your bank details to the address on the back page so we can send you your ‘Stick a fork in me, I’m lonDON(e)’ badge (£7.99 inc p&p). Good luck and see you soon!

Underwear

As a commuter in London I’m bombarded every day with thousands of adverts. Normally it all passes me by in a blur but this week one craftily snuck by my mental filters. The advert in question features the unbelievably gorgeous Bar Refaeli posing for Passionata in their latest lingerie range. The images are, of course, extraordinarily provocative. Bar poses casually on a swing in a tutu, much like I do after a long hard day at the office. The underwear in the advert is, frankly, secondary to her beauty.

The problem I’ve got is that as a woman, I’m supposed to look at those adverts, ignore the ludicrous staging/perfect hair/perfect make up/and…well, not so much ‘come to bed eyes’ as ‘I hope you’re going to wipe that up’ eyes and think ‘By jove, that underwear’s great. If I buy that, I too will look as amazing as that twenty five year old Israli siren.’

I don’t think this.

What I think is more along the lines of: ‘Oh for God’s sake look at that smug cow, I haven’t even had coffee, my cheap bra is digging into my side boob and that bint’s being forced through my retinas. Must lose weight! Oh bugger, look at the queue for the escalator…’ I don’t think this response was Passionata’s aim.

I understand, of course, that the average woman isn’t suitable for underwear modelling. You have to be tall, curvy yet inexplicably thin and photogenic. By contrast, I don’t want to look at some pale, round-shouldered girl who’s been shoe-horned into a peach bra and knickers set and plonked on a swing in a draughty studio in Basildon. I do appreciate that the inherent sexiness of the model displays the underwear in its best light but my point is, how many women actually look at that advert and think ‘Them’s the undercrackers for me!’ Not many, I’ll wager.

I have one friend who exclusively owns ‘sets’ of underwear. Each bra has a matching pair of knickers and she never interchanges them. To her, underwear is a joy. She feels great if she knows she looks great underneath it all. The rest of us can only dream of being so perfectly coordinated and groomed.

If you’re anything like me (not you blokes obviously, although I’m sure the images of David Beckham displaying his ‘golden bulge’ in jockey shorts for Emporio Armarni didn’t exactly make you feel good about last night’s curry), then you’ll own underwear in the following categories:

Possible Shag: Yes that’s right, a man is probably going to see your underwear. He may not actually identify it as underwear at the crucial moment, rather as a scratchy, fiddly hinderance that needs to be disposed of sharpish. Unless of course you go in for the strip ‘n’ prowl move but if you do you’re probably wearing a set of underwear so flammable that if you get within ten feet of a Bic lighter it will be welded to you for all eternity. I think men appreciate underwear but only really as a challenge. No man has ever paused in the throes of passion and said ‘Good lord! Is that the new Agent Provocateur half padded plunge with the crown elastic trims?’ It’s probably more like ‘Pink and black stuff! Must…remove…must…aaahhhh boobs.’ Women do feel more confident in a nice set of underwear though and so we keep two or three sets of fancy stuff with lace for just such an occasion. Obviously if the relationship progresses, you’ll probably never see that underwear again.

Work Underwear: If you do an office job, you inevitably spend most of the day sitting about and while this doesn’t sound like much of a challenge for your average high street underwear set, achieving comfort for 8 hours in a chair is fraught with difficulty. VPL is hideous, we all know this and so to avoid the ‘four bum cheek’ look in your smart work trousers, you wear a thong. Unless you’ve discovered a thong made from kitten fur and silk, the chances are that bit of lace-edged cotton up your crack is going to start chafing and not just at the back. Every girl has, at some time or another, popped to the loo to pull the thong out of their intimate regions for five blessed seconds before wearily letting it ping back into place to rub for another hour or so. Bras are another challenge. Most people have appalling posture so unless you sit like with a back like a ramrod then you’ll probably spend a large amount of time with a small portion of underwire digging in. Giant pants and miraculously supportive wire-free bras in seamless cotton would be best but high street retailers have yet to bring out the ‘Desk Job’ lingerie range.

Time Of The Month: (Men – skip this bit. Honestly, you don’t want to know.) So Flo’s in town and we’re feeling several thousand degrees below terrific. All we want to do is lie on the sofa shouting abuse at Come Dine With Me while drinking tea by the gallon. We do not (and I really can’t stress this enough) want to go rollerblading. No woman has ever, EVER worn white jeans on her period. The nineties tampon adverts were designed to make us believe we could but most women would rather play chicken on the M25 than attempt something so dangerous. Of course, advances in sanitary product technology mean you can now wear a thong during your period but most women I know have a greying, holey, limp collection of knickers that once a month at the peak of the discomfort are guiltily put on underneath our otherwise fabulous outfits. They’re Period Pants and by God, they’re wonderful.

Every Day: Most women, most of the time wear pretty boring underwear. There is nothing exciting about a white cotton set but it’s comfortable and practical. We don’t expect anyone to see it, bar an impromptu liaison or freak accident involving the office shredder and we wear it in the knowledge that it’s supporting where it should, isn’t showing and is generally inoffensive to the world at large. M&S are the masters of this and their underwear adverts are far more realistic (even though hardly anyone looks like Ana Beatriz Barros).

You may also own a couple of pairs of stockings, bought on a whim and either never worn, worn once on a date or laddered before you’d got one over your knee and shoved them angrily back in the drawer. Stockings are one thing but I don’t know anyone who wears suspenders, seriously I don’t. It’s hard enough stopping most pairs of knickers rolling up at the sides without then having to strap yourself into the lingerie equivalent of a safety harness.

Underwear choice is of course, deeply personal but I honestly don’t think the over-sexed adverts are aimed at women. I think they’re aimed at men and in turn women think ‘Oh blimey, I bet he’s expecting all that frou-frou nonsense, I’d best nip down La Senza and see what’s on sale.’ I’m sure I don’t speak for all women but on the whole, comfort is paramount and this has never involved wearing a tutu on a swing.

Exercise

It’s good for you isn’t it, exercise? Oh yes, all that running about, squeezing things, pushing things, pedalling things, jumping up and down, going puce. It’s healthy! Muscles get bigger, bums get smaller and one emits the smug glow of someone whose endorphins smell of raw achievement.

I hate exercise. God, I hate it. Unsurprisingly I’m quite lazy by nature. I find it hard to motivate myself to do anything you’re ‘supposed’ to do, anything tedious but essential or anything that’s going to leave me feeling as though someone has doused my muscles in Deep Heat then run me over with their Land Rover.

Ever since school people have said ‘You just need to find something you enjoy! Then exercise won’t seem like such a chore!’ Generally these are people who have as much need for a sports bra as a hedgehog does for a provisional driving licence, go baby pink when they exercise instead of ecclesiastical purple and count fruit as carbohydrates. Or they’re my mother.

Well I’m sorry but I have yet to find any form of exercise that doesn’t make me want to claw my face off with boredom. For a start I was always rubbish at games at school. I’m tall and quite strong so on Sports Day I was always forced into discus, shot put or javelin which I was fine with as I didn’t have to run anywhere. I just stood and chucked things with varying degrees of accuracy and injury to spectators. In the fifth year I was inexplicably signed up for the 1500m race. 1500m! Do you have any idea how far that is?! Well obviously it’s exactly 1500m but in terms of the number of times round the track it was close to a million (give or take). When the day came I turned it into a comedy event. I walked it, making faces at my mates and taking exaggerated bows every time I did a full circuit of the track. The event had finished and they were setting up the hurdles by the time I sauntered nonchalantly over the finish line. I couldn’t have run 1500 metres if there’d been a pack of rabid dogs chasing me.

Over the years I’ve tried netball (rubbish at team games), basketball (ditto), volleyball (can’t hit straight), yoga (boring), pilates (boring and farty), swimming (lung capacity of a toddler) aerobics (fuck off) and have been a member of several different gym chains. One of my major issues is having the coordination of an epileptic elephant, so when it comes to doing aerobics I’m always the one going the wrong way and knocking my lycra-clad classmates over like dominoes. I once did a step aerobics class and was so out of time the teacher took my step away because I was putting the others off their rhythm. I continued the session stamping away on the floor like a drill sergeant in a tap class. I was mortified.

Gyms completely intimidate me. The smell of sweat and envy heavy in the air as all the really toned people stretch and flex in front of mirrors. The girls with their perfect ponytails swinging in time as they pound the treadmill or swish their legs about on the cross trainer. The matching lycra, complimentary rucksacks and ear-splittingly loud music. I would sidle in, clad in my gigantic man’s t-shirt and tracksuit bottoms and do an apologetic half hour workout before dashing into the changing rooms to have a panic attack in a cubicle before going home.

I don’t have the stamina or attention span for running. Pounding mindlessly along a pavement, your skeleton rattling with every step, sweat plastering your hair to your face and motorists pointing and laughing…OK so not that last one unless you’re really unlucky but the rest is right. Besides, who wants to go out running when the kettle’s just boiled and Columbo’s on?

The truth of the matter is, I wish I wasn’t like this. I wish I loved exercise, that the memory of the endorphin high post-workout was enough to keep me coming back for more. I wish I cared less about what people thought so that looking like a beetroot having a stroke didn’t bother me. I wish I was coordinated and energetic and enthusiastic instead of clumsy, lethargic and cynical, but I’m not. This is, unfortunately, me. I am destined for brittle bones, clogged arteries and a heart that will probably require a bypass by the age of 45. Unless I can motivate myself, find the spare money every month for gym membership and find the time to travel the three hour round trip to a gym where no one knows me, then perhaps it’s not too late to discover a love of exercise. I’ll just put my feet up and think about it.

Funky Cold…what?

When I was around twelve years old I had train track braces, a corkscrew perm and had just started noticing boys for reasons other than one had thrown my bag over the science block or yanked my ponytail in the playground. It was slowly dawning on me that the approaching teenage years held great potential for sulking, mood swings and obsessional behaviour. Amidst all this I was given an album, Now That’s What I Call Angst or whatever, with a selection of tracks seemingly hand-picked to coincide with my coming of age. For example, Boys by Sabrina (remember the video? Oh yes you do), Can I Play With Madness? by Iron Maiden and the pinnacle, the jewel in the crown of this appallingly inappropriate cheese-fest; Funky Cold Medina by Tone Loc.

Have you listened to that song recently? If not, set aside four minutes and eight seconds of your life and you’ll discover that what we have here is a rap record advocating early use of Rohyphnol in the pursuit of getting laid. Loc casually buys a mysterious substance from some dude draped in glassy-eyed ‘hos in a bar one night and proceeds to pepper every woman he meets with this potentially fatal narcotic.

Cleverly, Loc doesn’t just wait for the victims to come to him. He decides to increase his chances of roofie-rumpy by applying to be a contestant on the American equivalent of Blind Date. He is accepted onto the show and despite the fact that any girl on a dating show is probably a safe bet, he decides to drug the girl who picks him. He can’t have thought that through in my opinion. Surely she’d mention it the following week when they popped back to the Love Connection for a chat about the date. “Well, dinner was lovely but I don’t remember much about the horse back riding on the beach. I am quite sore though…”

As if that weren’t bad enough, in an act of animal cruelty that would have the RSPCA weeping into their polyester shirt sleeves, he drugs his own dog causing it to be gang-raped by the local hounds in a Medina-induced frenzy. Loc’s logic that female dog equals female human in all but number of legs probably goes some way to explaining why he feels he needs to drug women in the first place.

The only highlight of the song is that in a situation reminiscent of a scene from Crocodile Dundee, he encounters a transvestite (‘Sheena’ – a dead giveaway for anyone but the sex-blind Loc) and fails to realise it’s a man. Only when the old boy comes out does he realise the potential pitfalls of dosing all and sundry with the monstrous Medina (Medina, incidentally, is a city in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia – apparently nothing to do with love potions or novelty rap). Additionally, we never find out why it has to be cold.

Tone Loc may have written the song as a cautionary tale to all about the dangers of drugging helpless women in bars so that they’re ‘good to go’ but given the current rampant abuse of the drug, I would say he failed. I have a suspicion his dubious turn in Ace Ventura Pet Detective was merely the result of a community service order on the way to well-deserved obscurity. Tone Loc, where are you now?

Technology

*Disclaimer* I don’t know all the big special words or fiddly bits.

I am writing this on a laptop. Oh, really? I hear you yawn. Yes, I yawn back (well, they’re catching). This is amazing for two reasons. Firstly, two nights ago in a fit of mindless stupidity, I flailed one of my arms around and knocked a glass of wine over this very laptop. Now, I don’t like exercise (stick with me here) but I surprised myself with the rattlesnake speed with which I leapt up, rescued the laptop, shut it down, grabbed all my tea towels, made up some new expletives and wept. Within approximately 10 seconds, by my egg timer. After a tense night in the Laptop Hospital (airing cupboard), I gently coaxed it into life by pressing ‘on’ and lo, it lived.  Phewsomeness all round.

Secondly, it’s a COMPUTER that I can balance on my LAP.

Technology astounds me. I don’t mean I wander around gawping at lamposts and going into paroxysms of wonder every time I use an electric toothbrush, I mean proper, life-enhancing technology. For example, I’m quite old. Well, nearly thirty two, which means I remember a time when no one had a mobile phone except Yuppies (I remember Yuppies!) and when having a computer was the preserve of the rich kid at school who had an Amstrad and occasionally let you play Lemmings on it if you promised not to get popping candy in the keyboard. My family didn’t get a video player until I was old enough to shave (my legs, obviously) and even then we had to build an extension just to fit it in the house. Having a computer was a faraway psychedelic dream, possibly featuring Bowie as some kind of long-haired MS-DOS soothsayer.

Now those massive, beeping, flashing things that looked so utterly ridiculous on shows like Lost In Space are essential to our lives in minute and (relatively) affordable form.

The first bit of technology I owned was a pager. Yes, a pager. No, I’m not a doctor and no, I wasn’t a drug dealer in Compton in the early 90’s. I got it from a friend who worked for BT. She was the only other person I knew that had one and therefore the only person who ever ‘blew up’ my pager. It was pointless but I wore that thing clipped to the waist of my ludicrously baggy jeans (probably disguised by my Global Hypercolor t-shirt) as though it was the flashiest piece of kit ever made. My first mobile phone was made by Philips (do they even make phones any more?) and was roughly the same size as my forearm. The aerial extended so far that it frequently interfered with air traffic over Hampshire. I may be wrong here but I have a distinct memory of not being able to text on those early models so it was, essentially, a very expensive cordless phone. I went through £5 top up vouchers like a suicidal diabetic goes through doughnuts. I felt as though I was at the dawn of something new and exciting, and I was! Soon I would have a phone the size of my thumb! Now of course, my phone is the size of my hand to accommodate the emails, texts, camera, video, whole internet, diary, calendar, calculator and smoothie maker.

At my first job I used a computer but it was a DOS thingy that used floppy (snigger) disks and had no mouse. I’d used them at school and even then I knew they were crap. In my lifetime I’ve gone from a giant black screen with robotic orange typeface (no choice of font of course – in those days a font was just something you found in a church) to a lightweight, speedy, wine-proof laptop. My phone knows more about my life than I do and when I’m not tweeting on my laptop, I’m tweeting on my phone.

Young people now ask “What did people do before mobiles and the internet?” Well, I’ll tell you, young people. We telephoned our friends on a landline and if they weren’t in…well that was us screwed. We had to wait for a decent interval to elapse in order for them to return home from the shops or work and then call again. Once we’d secured their presence on the phone we’d arrange to meet them. Once you’d made this arrangement, it was tough luck if your friend was running late, you simply had to wait. There were no ‘Sorry! Running late! Can we make it half past?’ text messages. You jolly well stood outside Miss Selfridge in a mood and waited. Waiting! There’s something else made a lot easier. As David Mitchell’s character in Peep Show says, ‘You’re never alone with a phone.’ You can scroll through texts and surf the web, anything to avoid looking as though you’re being kept waiting. Back then you just had to plug your Walkman in, fold your arms and WAIT while trying not to look too pathetic.

What did we do before the internet? Let me just Google that (fnar). We used the Yellow Pages which was more than just a handy step for young amorous boys to kiss tall girls in Christmas adverts. We went to the library and wrote our essay plagiarism out long-hand rather than cutting and pasting from Wikipedia. We went to dating agencies and got our jokes out of books or off the TV. We never told a joke in London only to have it repeated within minutes by someone in Cape Town. We didn’t email, we faxed and before that we wrote and posted. Snail mail didn’t exist back then, it was just the mail (well, the post – we’re not American).

I am currently unemployed and job hunting. Aside from the odd trip to a recruitment agency, I can do this from the comfort of my own (well, my landlord’s) sofa. When I first started job hunting I went to a careers advisor and took cards off a pin board on which there were job descriptions written by hand. I looked in the local paper and wrote out covering letters using that special Basildon Bond plain notepad that came with the lined insert page that you could trace over so your handwriting stayed straight. I received my rejections by post, a fortnight after I’d sent them. This is why, when I nearly banjaxed my laptop with wine the other night, I was so panicky. I literally have no idea how one job hunts now without the internet, without spending soul-destroying hours in the Job Centre using their special Kill Yourself Now You Unskilled Gobshite job-search system. Hideous.

So it would seem that although I may occasionally be terrified by technology, I may have no idea how to answer a call on an iPhone and I may occasionally sabotage technology with various liquids, overall I HEART, sorry I mean I ❤ TECHNOLOGY.

Recruitment

If I dyed my hair bright green and wore a t-shirt that said ‘I’m sexually attracted to bees’, you can bet that any recruitment consultant will still forget me the second I walk out of their office. They’re an odd breed, recruitment consultants. They are, of course, sales people who are paid commission to flog a commodity except in their case, the commidity is people. It’s like human trafficking without the sweaty lorry rides and fake passports.

The problem with this of course, is that humans are different. Vastly different. A recruitment consultant’s commodity never remains the same, therefore what choice does Kayley/Bernie/Odette/Melissa/Kanga have but to treat us as the same person with a variety of slightly different heads? The best course of action for any recruitment consultant worth her acrylic nails is to cross her fingers and hope to God she gets your name right.

“Hi daaaaarling! It’s Juicy from PA Pimps, I’ve got an AMAZING role I need to run by you.” It may well be an amazing role, Juicy, but it’s probably not the role for me, is it? For example, I specified a small agency based in the West End of London, relaxed environment and definitely nowhere corporate. The call I got this morning was telling me about a lovely role 3 miles north of the West End in the corporate office of  major retailer. Why do we sit in interviews with these people, glassy smiles on our faces and bile in our gullet, pouring our hearts out about our ‘ideal working environment’ if they choose to hear what they like (or what they can through their overstyled hairdo’s).

Well, it’s because unfortunately, the London job market is as cut throat as a pirate who’s just lost a game of ‘Who’s Best At Throat Cutting?’ and is in a bit of a stabby mood. If you’re not represented by Tinky/Carynata/Lupey then generally you’re no one. Especially if you’re a PA. PAs and EAs (Executive Assistant – conjures up an image of handjobs under the desk for me, not sure why) are ten a penny. Not good ones, I hasten to add, a genuinely good PA is hard to find in a sea of bored pretenders. Ask any ‘career’ PA what her background is and you’ll normally get the same answer: Didn’t go to uni (or did but did a pointless degree like History of Basket Weaving), fell into a reception/admin/team assistant role and rose through the ranks to the heady heights of PA to middle management, then senior management and then if you’re exceptionally good at diary management and hiding your real personality in the workplace, a board level director. No one grows up wanting to be a PA. When I was asked at primary school what I wanted to be, I knew I wanted to be a journalist, but couldn’t spell it so I wrote ‘pop star’, like every other girl in my glass. When I finally did tell a teacher I wanted to be a journalist, she looked as though I’d presented her with one of my turds and then said ‘Oh you don’t want to do that! Ghastly profession.’ I believed her and I am not a journalist (totally her fault, of course). I coasted through school and hated the few months I spent at college so what was left for me? A life on the shop floor of Dolcis, later on Office or even (gasp) Russell & Bromley, or typing and answering the phone in an office where people go to the pub at lunch time and you don’t have to touch anyone’s feet? Obvious choice.

So if that’s the path onto which you’ve stumbled, you need a recruitment consultant, or preferably several, in your life. They are a necessary evil because generally, good companies don’t advertise their jobs on Gumtree or in the local paper. In fact unless you’ve registered with a few agencies, you’d think the whole of London was on a recruitment freeze except for bars and restaurants. The problems with consultants arise when their commodity turns against them. If you dare to hint that perhaps the role paying £10k a year less than your old Saturday job, based fifteen miles away on the bus, working for a vivisectionist doesn’t quite match your original criteria, you’re immediately blacklisted as a trouble-maker and your CV is stuffed in the filing cabinet under ‘Difficult’.  So along you trudge to pointless interview after pointless interview simply to appease Meringue/Starrrr/Polyp so they’ll keep you at the top of the pile for when/if the right job does finally come in.

Job hunting is a souless, competitive, joyless task but what’s the alternative? A life spent on the sofa, drinking yourself to death watching Jeremy Kyle and scratching yourself, wondering at what point you forgot how to spell ‘Strongbow’, or fake smiles and air-kissing with Jocasta, Yappy and Blossom until they finally come through with a rent-paying job? No contest. If you’re seriously thinking about that question by the way, I’d switch from Strongbow to White Lightning; it’s cheaper.