Sunday, 23 August 2015

Pass me my zimmer frame.

Another birthday has been and gone. It's now becoming increasingly more difficult to use my youth as an excuse for my terrible decision making and my lack of financial security. However, I do enjoy taking advantage of the fact that there is one day each year where it's a requirement to be fed cake and to treat yourself. To me, treating myself involves ensuring that all of my friends hang out with me and encourage my need to act ridiculously. I see it as the hen party that I'll probably never have.

Last year, I got quite stroppy with some of my friends for not making an appearance on the actual day of my birthday. The strop was a definite mistake because they decided to more than make up for it a few days later at Reading Festival. It started off quite innocently with them buying me a birthday cake (they know cake is the way to my heart). It escalated quite quickly when I was funneling a beer and they thought it would be hilarious to simultaneously poor a bottle of vodka into the funnel. I'm pretty sure instead of being hilarious, it actually counts as a severe crime given I had to sit down and give myself a pep talk on how I was going to survive the night. 

At first, it appeared that my pep talk had done the trick. My main crime was smushing my birthday cake into most of my friends' faces and for some of them, that's definitely not the worst facial they've ever had. The havoc didn't come until we went to visit another camp. I had never met the people at this camp before and within less than half an hour, I'd rolly-pollied through their campfire because I'm apparently Evel Knievel reincarnated when vodka kicks in. I then proceeded to break a few of their campchairs because I heard that's a good way to make excellent first impressions. Being the fatty that I am, I also stole a sausage and swallowed it whole. The sausage didn't stay down for long but it did still remain whole (which I'm worryingly quite proud of). Eventually, my friends hauled me back to my own campsite and folded me into my insanely small tent.

Ridiculously, that isn't where the havoc stopped. I woke up in the early hours of the morning and somehow managed to locate the toilets and purchase a cup of tea. When I went back to what  I though was my tent, I found a boy sleeping in my place. It was like a festival version of Goldilocks and the three bears. Naturally, I began shaking his legs and shouting, "get out of my tent, boy!" whilst simultaneously scolding him with my tea. Fortunately, it only took me a minute or two to realise that the boy was sleeping in a copious amount of bedding and I had hardly brought a sleeping bag with me. Awkwardly, I zipped the poor boy's tent back up and stumbled back to my own campsite and my own tent. 

This year, I might have managed to avoid rolling through a fire but my birthday was still quite ridiculous. The day started off quite respectably given I mainly spent the day treating myself. I even treated myself to a pedicure which, if I'm being honest, was probably more of a treat for the people of St. Michaels who have to see my feet regularly. 

In the late afternoon, Steve the local pirate offered to take my friends and I on his sail boat. Steve might have failed as a pirate to supply rum but my friend had bought me wine and cake so I was more than happy. After an hour or so of sailing, and enjoying how ridiculously gorgeous the view was out on the bay, we decided to get in the water. Despite not having any appropriate swimming gear on, I jumped in right after my friends because I've never really understood why it's deemed as unacceptable for people to see you in your underwear. Although I do believe that jumping in the water with eye-liner on should definitely be deemed as unacceptable. Smudged eye-liner is not a good look and I don't want people thinking that I'm taking my new love for Giant Pandas too far.

After a while, our stomachs were telling us that we needed to head back to land and get some food. Although it was delicious, the cake I had proudly scoffed wasn't really substantial. Despite this, when we docked the boat and went to get some food, I decided that I was no longer hungry. Not eating was definitely my first mistake. Some might say that eating is cheating but sometimes, eating is actually a necessity. 

My second mistake was playing a game with my friend that resulted in me drinking two buckets of rum in under ten minutes. Seriously, there was no rum left at the bar because I had literally drank it all. Before I knew it, I was ordering my friend to pass me the mini american flags that were decorating the bar so I could be toplessly patriotic. If class was a requirement to stay in this country, I'd definitely be on the next plane home. 

The rest of the evening is hazy but thankfully, my friends are more decent than they make out to be and made sure I got home safely. Their efforts were slightly wasted though because I didn't stay at home. I had an extremely short nap and woke up thinking that my friends had sent me to bed early. Given I suffer terribly from fear of missing out (FOMO as it's known amongst professionals), I decided to cycle back out again and meet my friends out. I'd failed to take a light with me so naturally, I swept up a garden light as I was cycling. I then proceeded to hold the light as if I was Aragorn leading the Host of the West into battle. Luckily, I realised before I got to the bar that it was actually gone three in the morning and my friends were already in bed. Awkwardly, I turned my bike around and cycled home. 

Finally, I ended up in bed but still continued to make ridiculous choices. I thought it would be a great idea to message an old friend and tell him that he was shit for not remembering my birthday. I then proceeded to tell him that he'd changed. When he asked how he'd changed, I merely sent him a stream of poo emojis. Unsurprisingly, he hasn't replied. The internet may have made a lot of things easier in my life but it does mean, even when there's an ocean separating you, it's still easy to drunkenly harass someone. I can move to a different country but if you're in my contact list then you're at risk. You've been warned. 

Despite the minor theft, indecent exposure and brutal hangover (they really do get worse every year), I had a great birthday and I'm grateful that I still have friends that don't mind hanging out with me. I'm looking forward to avoiding coming of age for another year. 

Monday, 17 August 2015

I didn't choose the push bike life.

And the push bike life definitely didn't choose me.

In order to avoid walking this summer, I bought myself a fixie bike from Walmart. Buying a bike from Walmart was probably my first mistake.When I was first riding the bike, I thought I'd just purchased a bike that was single-gearedly trying to ruin my life. It was so difficult to ride, crawling everywhere probably  would've been easier and quicker. It wasn't until my friend offered to swap bikes with me for a little bit that I realised I'd actually been conned into buying a bike with a punctured tire. I guess I can rule out becoming a bicycle mechanic as a future career.

Buying a fixie bike with no lever breaks was definitely my second mistake. On my first day on the bike, I nearly cycled directly into a car because there was the slightest of ramps and I hadn't quite figured out how to stop the bike. Instead of reversing the pedals like a normal person would've done, I flung myself off the bike like the amateur stunt woman I'll never be. This was the first time I fell off the bike and it wasn't to be the last.

Okay, I doubt even having lever breaks would've helped that time I cycled directly into my friend and bounced off his wheel onto the floor. Nor would they've helped that time I cycled into a ditch and crashed into someone's mail post. On reflection, maybe purchasing a push bike at all was my actual mistake. My knees have been grated this summer more than a block of cheese.

Even though my bike has let me down sometimes (due a damaged kickstand, it's even let itself down occasionally), I was devastated when I found that a true scoundrel had stolen my bike in the late hours of last Saturday. It's true that you don't know what you have until it's gone.

Luckily, I have been able to 'borrow' a bike from work (who said that two wrongs don't make a right?). Yet I doubt my thighs would agree with the use of the word lucky given they have become a serious victim to an intense level of chafing. I would prefer to think the chafing is because of the wide bike seat rather than all of the second helpings I eat. Although maybe chubby chafe is better than regular chafing because, due to the amount of friction between my legs, I'd definitely be a cycling fire hazard if oxygen could reach the inside of my thighs.

Embarrassingly, in order to minimise the pain from when my thighs touch each other, I'm having to walk like a cowgirl who had too much fun on a Friday night. I'd really like my old bike back before the chafing gets so bad that I end up becoming temporarily immobile and have to genuinely call in sick for work. No one needs to have 'a serious case of chubby chafe' on their personnel file.

 Yes, I'm taking the search for a crappy Walmart bike international. Watch out Interpol.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Giant pandas and a full moon.

Last week my friends and I ventured out of the small, fireball-whisky drinking town that we've been staying in and headed to Washington D.C. It was definitely more educational than any organised school trip.

I've finally learnt that I should not be given the responsibility to book accommodation for other people. A few years ago, my sister and I were interrailing around Europe and  I had been trusted to book the first night of accommodation. The hostel ended up being located in the outer Bronx of Paris and the owner had no recollection of our reservation. This resulted in her putting us up in a room that required my sister and I to get way too close to an Italian Stallion who refused to acknowledge either of us. Seriously, Freddy Krueger would've been more approachable. In D.C, the hostel I dragged my friends to also had no record of our reservation. Although unlike Paris, I awkwardly realised (after insisting that I had made the reservation through the hostel's own website) that I was actually causing a scene in the wrong hostel.

Once we reached the correct hostel, my friends and I decided to spend our first day exploring the National Mall. This highlighted how important it can be to think through your clothing choices. Wearing your bumbag with true tourist pride might make you feel like the King of the Mall but nothing will take the edge off like wearing a thin shirt in over 30 degree heat when you have very heavy hair. My back was so sweaty it was like Niagara Falls and everyone in D.C could see it. Although unlike Niagara Falls, I highly doubt my back will become a tourist destination anytime soon.

I've also realised that tourist attractions can very disappointing. Visiting the White House was incredibly underwhelming and in my opinion, borderline creepy. I'm not sure when it became socially acceptable to stand outside an attractive man's house and take pictures through an iron gate. There are a lot of tourists out there, myself included, who are probably now due a restraining order.

Visiting the National Mall also reinforced the brutal fact that dreams rarely come true. Before visiting Washington, I'd always dreamed of re-enacting the scene from Forest Gump where Jenny runs through the reflecting pool. When we finally reached the reflecting pool, that dream quickly vanished. The only thing I would've gained from getting in that grotty water would've been genuine sick days off work. Although Lincoln's memorial must have provided some inspiration as I decided to try and overcome my fear of birds by taking a selfie with a duck. Okay, it might not be as impressive as issuing the Emancipation Proclamation but everyone has to start somewhere. 

When you're exploring the night life of a city, it probably is better to visit that city on a weekend. It turns out that on a Tuesday Night, Washington D.C. can provide nothing but karaoke (I obviously wan't complaining). Although a few guys in Nellie's Sports Bar (a gay bar) did apparently have something to complain about when my friend and I got on stage. Nothing puts you off your Dirrty by Christina Agularia rendition quite like people trying to hustle you off stage for not being gay. All I wanted to do was entertain the bar whilst showing them that I'm too dirrty to clean my act up, jeez.

For our second day in D.C., my friends and I decided to take advantage of the free activities on offer and visit the Smithsonian Zoo. The Zoo is where I learnt that no matter how excited you are to see giant pandas for the first time, it is not acceptable to push small children out of the way to gain a better vantage point. I still maintain the fact that the judgemental looks from the parents were worth it because I was able to witness a giant panda re-enacting an 80's workout video. The panda had an impeccable crunch technique so all he was really missing was the fluorescent socks and a high-waisted workout thong.

My friends had to leave D.C a couple of days earlier than I did and that is when I began to learn more about hostels and exploring a city on your own. It's true that hostels really are a great place for meeting new people, although not all of them will be the greatest people you'll ever meet. After forgetting to pack my pyjama bottoms, I obviously include myself in this category. When people say that full moons are beautiful I sincerely doubt that they're referring to my bottom as I'm climbing up and down a bunk bed ladder. Unsurprisingly, the guy sleeping in the bed underneath me refused to say a word to me throughout the entire duration of my stay.

On the other hand, you can also meet the greatest people in a hostel. A few guys I met actually encouraged my love for organised fun and even let me create the rules for a bar game we found. Yet this could've only been because they'd already had a few cocktails and the actual rules took a long time to read. Even if that is the case, they still seemed to enjoy some of my museum puns the next day and trust me, that's rare. Although, I don't think we quite reached the stage where it would've been perfectly normal for me to have asked them to photograph me whilst I pretended that a replica dinosaur was eating my face. That requires true friendship.

Even though my toes may have been crippled from walking so much and my skin may have literally been fried (I wouldn't recommend putting baby oil on instead of moisturiser), I loved D.C. and all of its lessons.

Monday, 20 July 2015

I'm sorry but you appear to have a vagina.

Throughout my childhood, I wasn't even aware that were gender stereotypes or things girls can't apparently do. On a Saturday morning, my sister would go to gymnastics and I would go to football practice. Although that could've simply been because I really did suck at gymnastics and given my dad was a coach, it was probably highly embarrassing for him to have me anywhere near the gymnasium. Apparently I've never been one for grace and control.

When I was growing up, I was never once told 'you can't do that because you're a girl.' Apart from maybe when I wanted to learn how to pee standing up. But now with the invention of shewees, I've even mastered that art (although I doubt my friends who had to witness the 'mastering' would agree). Equally, as far as I know, my younger brother was never told 'you can't do that because you're a boy'. He wasn't even told this when we were playing fancy dress and he would claim first dibs on the best dresses. If I'm  honest, he really did rock a frock better than my sisters and I did anyway.

Throughout more recent years, I have been fortunate enough to make great friends that do not conform to gender norms either. My best friend went to Scouts instead of Guides when she was growing up and now she is a boss bitch in the world of science (which is good because I'm planning to live in her garage conversion when she finally qualifies as a surgeon). My male friends would never exclude me from an activity because I'm girl, but that might mainly be because I often don't give them much choice. Nor would they ever censor their conversations because they are around a girl. But if they are censoring their conversations, they should all definitely be in jail.

This summer, I'm working and travelling in America and I've often read that you're more likely to learn if you travel on your own. They were right. I've learnt that I was extremely lucky to have a childhood where gender norms were irrelevant. I'm fortunate in that it's taken me 23 years to truly experience for myself how different things can be when people realise you do in fact have a vagina.

For the first time in my life, I've been questioned about my abilities to do a job because I'm female. Having to persuade someone that my lady arms can carry things is probably the most ridiculous thing I've done recently (and I ended my 4th of July celebrations by walking into a lake on my own and trying to part the water like Moses). I've also been excluded from adventures and conversations because I'm female.  When discussing this recently with a friend she replied with, "I love proving boys wrong." This friend spent a few months last year killing poisonous fish in Yellowstone National Park. Yes, she is a total badass and it's insane that there is a need for her to prove any guy wrong due to gender stereotypes.

Oscar Wilde suggested that women have more fun because there are more things in this world forbidden to them. Even though I probably love to have too much fun, I'd much rather have true equality and acceptance for my vagina and puny lady arms.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Short shorts and a flimsy bikini.

Sometimes it pays off to ignore the fact that there's a high chance you're probably gatecrashing a 'lad's day out' and just get in the back of their car. If I hadn't, I'd have just spent the day on my own in the shade (I'm probably paler than some corpses). Instead, I got to spend the day playing at the beach (yes, I'm aware that I'm probably too old to use the verb 'play').

I managed to resist the urge to suggest typical car games throughout the entire car journey because I now finally understand that not everyone shares my love for organised fun. Once we finally made it to the beach, we headed straight for a dip in the sea. Almost immediately, my friend traumatised most of the children there due to a strong wave and very short shorts. Sometimes, in order to benefit the general public, it's important to accept that you have actually grown since you were fourteen years old and buy bigger swimming shorts. 

After mocking my friend, I followed pretty swiftly with some indecent exposure of my own. It turns out that bikinis aren't really designed for waves and karma really is a bitch. It's also not that easy to readjust a bikini whilst  you're being hit by more waves. Ultimately, I spent a lot of my time in the sea looking like a beached whale trying to recover from a very unappealing strip tease. Maybe next time I should just avoid this problem and bring back swimming costumes from the 1920's. 

Once we had swallowed enough salt water and filled up on questionable Mexican food, we decided to play a round of crazy golf. Although I'm not sure if it counts as crazy golf if the crazy simply comes from having to walk through a plastic cave mid-round. In fact, the craziest part was probably when I bent down to pick up my golf ball and half the Atlantic Ocean ran out of my nose. Apparently my brain cannot store my own telephone number but it can store a vast amount of sea water. Even my own body is out to mug me off.

After heading back to the Sea and continuing to traumatise the other tourists with our various indecent exposures, we decided to head home. There's only so long you can spend pulling up your bikini before you become at risk of being arrested. I might be a fan of Orange is the New Black, but I don't think prison life is quite for me.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

How to make friends and embarrass them instantly

I'm not known for giving out reliable life advice but I think it's safe to say that when you've just met a group of people that you'll be spending the whole summer with, you should probably not start your night at a bar that serves 99 cent sangria (especially when the cheap sangria actually contains alcohol). Even though it sounds like a gem of a bar, it's probably more of a social error when you're with people who aren't yet aware of how much of a liability you can be. After less than a mere 5 dollars, we were all lured to an Irish bar with the promise of karaoke. Again, this probably isn't an activity to do with people you've just met. Sometimes sharing really is too caring, especially when your voice makes sitting next to a screaming baby on a plane seem like a good experience.

After little persuasion, I agreed to sing Sean Paul and Blu Cantrell's Breathe because I'm convinced that my previous years on sing-star have enabled me to perfectly impersonate the Jamaican rapper. To my disappointment, it was only the lyrics for Blu Cantrell that were displayed. This meant that I spent the entire song repeating the word breathe in an awful Jamaican accent whilst my friend (who actually sings in a gospel choir) took over. Even though I was only singing one word, the man managing the microphones still deemed it necessary to turn my microphone down.

The man's efforts to silence me did not stop me from trying to launch a depressing solo career with a horrendous version of Stacy's Mom. I knew I would have to make up for my lack of singing talent with a strong stage presence. Luckily, my gospel singing friend is a good sport and held my sunglasses so I didn't have to worry about holding back. Although I probably should have held back on the head-banging given all I achieved was a lot of judgemental looks and very big hair. The only person that seemed slightly impressed by my performance was Steve the local pirate.

After exhausting my collection of questionable dance moves, I agreed to go home. I was pretty surprised to walk out of the bar and find that my bicycle was missing. Turns out that whilst I had been flaunting what my mother gave me, someone had decided to take my bicycle out for a joy ride. Luckily, the joy rider had left their iPhone 6 behind so I had a way of bargaining the return of my bicycle. Apparently people in Maryland either suck at committing a crime or just have a really generous guilty conscience. Either way, my bike was eventually returned to me.

Before I knew it, I was at the front desk of my living quarters in my pyjamas asking for directions to the snacks. Despite it not being a great night for first impressions or my waistline, I can't wait to go back and reinvent my solo career.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

I think the big apple at night does the exact opposite. Unless your body can handle copious amounts of dairy, vodka and questionable toilet seats.

It was Friday Night and luckily, the hostel arranged nights out so I didn't have to roam New York like a complete lone wolf. The night began quite normally, if normal is watching a comedy show in the back of a Gothic beauty salon. Seriously, Marilyn Manson would've looked conservative there. Surprisingly, the comedians were actually hilarious. Although I'm pretty sure one guy thought he was hosting his own pity party. This meant that during his set, I spent a lot of time awkwardly looking for my care cup which hasn't been full since I missed out on playing the role of Hermionie back in 2001.

Once I had cry-laughed most of my mascara off, we headed to Artichoke Pizza. Normally, I'm a firm believer in 'eating is cheating', but who can really say no to pizza? For a girl who spends a lot of time saying that she can't eat dairy, I spend a lot of time eating dairy. On this occasion, I was so glad I'd cheated because the pizza slice really was incredible. The cheese was so perfectly melted, I literally had to face-plant the slice to eat it. Yes, it was definitely worth having a face made out of cheese for the rest of the night (not that my face requires help in order for it to look like the moon).

When our stomachs were seriously lined, we moved onto Coyote Ugly. It has always been a dream of mine to dance on that bar and shout 'Hell No! H2O!' whenever anyone dares to ask for water. Don't worry, I'm well aware that I don't exactly 'dream big'. In reality, dancing on that bar did not seem as hot as the movie made it seem so I kept my feet firmly on the ground. This may surprise those who have heard about the 'bar in Tenerife' incident of 2009, where I definitely made the most out of getting on a bar. I guess sometimes you really do learn from past mistakes (no one should have to ask a stranger for their top back).

What I thought would be the last port of call was a bar called One and One. If this bar is anything to go by, New York is still stuck in the 2000's and I loved it. Seriously, who doesn't love singing along to Sean Paul and Blu Cantrell? Sometimes you really do have to let it just breathe. There was also plenty of opportunity to introduce everyone to my dad dancing (I'm pretty sure I'll be starring in the next Step Up movie).

Back in England, I would consider this a successful night and make my way home with some cheesy chips. But this is New York and the night wasn't over yet.

Someone made the suggestion that we should head to Brooklyn Bridge and watch the sunrise. It was a brilliant suggestion and honestly, something I will never forget. There is something hauntingly beautiful about drunkenly watching the sunrise over New York with a group of people you've only known for a few hours. Although I probably could've done without the keen morning runners passing us by. Who needs reminding that they're probably not winning at life at 6am?

Eventually, we headed back to the hostel. Thankfully, no one abandoned me when I fell asleep on the subway. My dad had already warned me that I'm an easy target to mug and I think that I'd have probably been an even easier target if I was alone and asleep.

To my surprise, that wasn't even the end of the night. It turns out that in America, if you make drunken promises to a guy you've just met - they will take you up on that offer. It also turns out that in America, hostel maids will let anyone in to your room. This leads to one very awkward wake-up call from the guy you made out with and several judgmental looks from your roommates.

A few hours and a thorough shower later, I'm back on the subway. Despite being sleep deprived, sun-burnt and lost, I knew I'd fallen in love. New York; I love you and your useless subway map.