Tuesday, 30 August 2011

I'm out of the office

I remember the first time I sent an email. I was 14. My dad had brought a computer home from school, and my brother and I hauled the whole thing out into the hallway and plugged it into the phone-line.

I had mail.

My teenage years were spent patiently waiting for dial-up to load. My parents loved dial up less than their teenage children and spent their time (less than patiently) insisting that ‘someone is probably trying to get through on the phone.’

When I say insisting, I mean yelling.

These were the good old days; when MSN messenger was the height of sophistication, when Facebook’s founder was still playing with meccano and when no-one even knew they wanted internet on their mobile – for they had all they needed in snake.

Now of course, we are slaves to our email. Recall that time when, if you were on holiday – you were on holiday. You were not attached to a blackberry, recalling all your blunders at work and remembering that you forgot to email so-and-so before your left. You didn’t check your blackberry every 15 minutes, as if the world might collapse otherwise, when in reality your colleagues were probably delighted that you weren't there.

So yes, email has got my goat. The world still turned when we couldn’t check them 24 hours a day. Business deals still got made. Companies survived.

For goodness sakes, I’m think I’m getting arthritis in my thumb from smart phone scrolling.

I have been out of the office for 2 working days. I have 127 unanswered emails. Imagine how much work I could do if I didn’t have to answer all these e-mails. Even as I type I am watching for that friendly email icon bubble to pop up in the corner of my screen. Something incredibly important could arrive at any second. Invariably it won’t.

I honestly do not require viagra, ‘special’ offers, a lottery win from Nigeria or advice on ‘how much my injury claim might be worth’.

You do not ‘value’ my opinion, this email will probably not ‘make me laugh’ and I'm not sure I want to add you as one of my friends.

Email was once a breakthrough. Now we wonder how we ever lived without it. I have more to say on this subject, but I have to answer a facebook message from someone I almost know.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Needs a tumble drier.

I have moved in with a boy. Or more accurately, he has moved in with me.

He told his mother. She said to me, “You don’t know what you are letting yourself in for.” Encouraging this was not.

My flat is a small city flat with habitat cushions and candles which claim to smell of ‘fresh linen.’

He turned up with a broken computer held together by dirt (cables lost en-route), one suit,  some questionable household furnishings, his car – the ‘silver shadow,’ (which, I am told,  is named after Minder’s trainers) and a bathroom bin which reportedly cost him £6.

4 weeks in and my boyfriend thinks I am a nag.

I think that on the scale of womankind I am not a nag. He agrees with this. He does however still think that I am a nag.

Ok, so I do occasionally feel a little bit panicky about where we can dry the towels. Over the doors is messy. On the floor is horrific. I cannot live in a damp smelling abode. It really is a quandary.

I am a firm believer in getting a grip. If you are a regular reader you will know that I have been known to throw pans away to avoid washing them. However, the other night I found myself teaching him how to make a bed.

Please understand that he is quite capable and more than willing to make the bed.

It’s just that, well, it’s just not as nicely made as when I make it. Let me explain; he leaves the pillows underneath the duvet. The blanket is not folded perfectly in half along the mattress. The pointless scatter cushions are not scattered in exactly the right way. Half way through the lesson he asked me ‘And how important is this exactly?’ I concluded ‘not at all’, but just in case he is now fully trained in hospital corners.

I’m not all bad. When I returned home from work to find that he had shaved his beard all over the bath pristinely bleached just hours before by the cleaner – how I laughed.

When the removal man asked him for a ‘dust-sheet’ in which to wrap my old TV, he simply stripped the 800 thread-count Egyptian cotton one straight off my bed and handed it over. Only a nag would complain about that.

But it’s fine. We have agreed a place for towels, at least for now. And if the towels don’t smell of fresh linen, at least the candles do.

Later, I apologise in bed for caring at all about the location of towels. ‘No worries’ he says, closes his eyes, and promptly snores in my face. I of course wake him up, because I am awful.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Is it really inevitable?

This weekend I was accused of ‘turning into my mother.’ The crime in question was my suggesting that I might postpone leaving the house until the washing machine had finished.

This in indeed something my mother would do.

I foolishly thought that I had a few years of independent thought and deed before that one hit me. In fact I thought I had 4 good years before I knew the exact way to hang up washing, iron a shirt and where exactly the scissors were at any given moment.

I say 4 years because Hallmark have been doing some research – no doubt rigorously conducted by team of sociologists and qualitative research teams that they have on hand at all times – which has revealed that 32 is the age at which women turn into their mothers. This disturbs me more than a little.

Whilst we’re on the topic, I do also keep finding myself involuntarily tidying. Whole evenings are suddenly being lost to this hidden art. Tidying is a relatively new discovery for me, and something I have previously considered quite a waste of time. My mother has an altogether different opinion of tidying.

I grew up in house where spillage was a serious crime, shoes were swiftly removed at the front door, and if you left anything unattended, even for a moment, it was swept into the dishwasher/ washbasket / bin. Like every good child I rebelled wholeheartedly against this.

I have been known to leave a case fully packed until the next holiday rolled around. I have thrown pans into the dustbin because I could not face removing the scrambled egg burnt onto the bottom. I have been out and bought new underwear to avoid laundering. (In my defence on the final one, I did not have a washing machine in my own home.)

All of these things would result in serious tones of disapproval from my mother.

Of course many of my mother’s traits are apparent. I’ve got the ability to witter on, the financially ruining love of shopping and the compulsion to always take fresh products in the supermarket from the back of the shelf and check the sell by date.

But when do I get the good stuff? The efficiency, the managerial competence, the discipline, a life free of chaos? My mum doesn’t need to watch a ‘how to change a lightbulb video’ on you tube before she attempts the task. When do I learn to do DIY without first scouring the internet?

The good news is that I did in fact leave the house before the washing machine had finished. I decided that life is short, and whilst I would love to have a home that is immaculate, and a laundry basket that never overflows, I’m just not quite ready to put in the appropriate level of effort.

As for the scrambled egg pan, I haven’t had to throw one of those out in a while. Not since the discovery of non-stick you’ll understand.


Monday, 1 August 2011

It's the American way

I have just landed back in Edinburgh from America.

What this means is that I am now in that dreadful state of ‘jet-lagged.’ Somehow I lost the night (and the sleep that the night tends to encourage) in a hop, skip and a jump across the Atlantic.

I feel a little drunk. Not the good kind of drunk where you are the funniest person you’ve ever met, are singing ‘don’t stop me now’, and dancing on table. No, the kind of drunk where you realise it’s time for  you to go home, have to hold onto the bed owing to the spinning, or even more likely, the kind where you find yourself, sitting on the kerb, head in your hands, shoes in the gutter and sick in your hair.

So, before I go and crawl into bed or collapse right here at the desk, I thought I’d share a little about my time state-side.

Let’s start with the most important question. Why does every American think that every Brit loves Monty Python? I was asked no less than 20 times (within a week) on my feelings towards the show.  In the end I just lied that I loved it.

And what is wrong with the understatement? I missed understatements this past week. Not quite as much as I missed a well made cuppa, but a fair bit. The Americans do not understate. We’re part of the ‘E’ for excellent team – don’t you know.

But the problem is that the Brits are ‘E’ for expert in the understatement team. We are not trying to be witty, we are just endlessly un-enthused.  Of course the reasons for the understatement are quite clear to see. As a nation we do not like gushing, emotional outpouring or boasting, and as such must go to the opposite end and feign utter indifference.

When we are seriously ill, it’s a ‘bit of a nuisance’, a dreadful experience is ‘not ideal’ and something incredibly impressive is simply ‘alright.’

We do not admit to ‘wanting to become an unstoppable force,’ to ‘paving the way to success’ or to being ‘exceptionally exceptional.’ I do however like the idea that when you run out of superlatives, you just repeat them.

We Brits much prefer a spot of modesty. Even if we are bright, successful and rich, we must deal with the embarrassment of having succeeded by making a self deprecating joke of the whole sorry matter. Of course this rarely works in our interactions with foreigners. They do not understand our hatred of boasting, and therefore tend to take our ‘witty’ downplaying remarks at face value.

And then we’re really stuck. We can’t very well shout after them, ‘no no – sorry – I’m playing down my achievements to conform to our culture. I’m actually blooming marvellous,’ can we? No. Of course not. Perhaps we’d be better off saying we were exceptionally exceptional from the outset.

However, when people were crying  (one woman was practically wailing) at the end of the conference I was attending, I was suddenly glad of our British emotional repression. We are a nation of the stiff upper lip, and would certainly not see fit to quote Martin Luther King in a closing plenary.

When I was the only one not partaking in the standing ovation I felt the fullest force of peer pressure.

I was thinking about this blog post as my plane came into land just a few hours ago. As we touched down (after a pleasingly non-eventful flight) the many American’s applauded and cheered. ‘Hurrah, we didn’t crash.’ ‘Amen, we survived.’

Now I am all for praise where praise is due, but if a pilot cannot land a plane with a pretty high success rate, he really should reconsider his career choice. 

I admire this generosity of praise, the ability to cry in public, the willingness to express emotions, to openly talk about what their therapist has suggested, and of course the TV series  - ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.’

Maybe the Americans are just nicer?

Or maybe not. I’ll end with a joke, from a guy from Georgia, which I rather liked.

Person 1: ‘Where y’all from?’

Person 2: ‘Where I’m from we don’t end our sentences with a preposition.’

Person 1: ‘Oh I’m sorry. Where y’all from, bitch?’