5 Everyday Nightmares

It’s almost Halloween and, over the years, we have created a wide range of creatures such as vampires, werewolves and ghosts, all designed to scare us and give us nightmares.

However, I personally think everyday life contains more nightmarish scenarios than any horror movie ever could.

As a result, I have decided to honour Halloween by writing about a load of random things that the majority of us encounter on a daily basis that I would consider ‘a nightmare’.

1. Having to engage in any form of small talk

Small talk is hands down my least favourite form of communication and I don’t think I’m alone in this.

One of the worst things that ever happened to me as a human being on this planet occurred when I was taking train journey up to Edinburgh and the woman sat opposite me proceeded to make aggressively cheerful small talk (the majority of which was centred around her five cats) with me for four hours straight.

Nobody really wants to make small talk, or is even remotely interested in it, but we are all forced to engage in it on regular basis.

Ultimately, I guess participating in small talk is the result of being stuck between a rock and a hard place – when choosing between an awkward silence or small talk, people choose the lesser of two evils and opt for talking about the weather and their weekends.

We all have different tolerances for small talk.  

(I personally have a one hour window on a Monday morning where I will tolerate talking about the weekend…)

My friend once told me that she could tolerate small talk if every five minutes, she could ‘take a break and go scream into a pillow’ to which I replied I could tolerate small talk if every five minutes, I could climb a mountain, stand at the summit and scream into the chasm below or, better yet, rocket myself into space, warp jump myself to the black hole at the centre of the universe and scream into an all-consuming void in which nothing, including small talk, can escape.

But each to their own…

2. Washing your hands in a small sink

In addition to small talk, I also hate small sinks, especially when they are attached to taps with aggressively high water pressure.  

There is one of these sinks in one of the bathrooms in my current workplace. I do not know what masochistic engineer designed this sink but it is literally the size of a cereal bowl and the water that sprays out of its tap does so with the equivalent force of Blastoise’s water cannon.

To make things worse, the height of the sink and the curvature of the basin means that when the water is projected violently out of the sink, it is fired directly at your crotch which really is highly inconvenient when you’re trying to get through your working day with your professional dignity somewhat intact.

3. Having to deal with GP Receptionists

It is often said that only constant in life is change.

This is a very profound and thought-provoking statement but one with which I ultimately disagree.

Sure, the world exists in a state of continuous flux but, if there is one constant in the ever-changing ebb and flow of life, it is that GP receptionists are always, without fail, miserable as fuck.

I have never applied for a job as a GP receptionist for fear that it will suck all the joy out of me and leave me a husk of a human but I can only assume that one of the essential skills on the person specification is the ability channel all of your internalised resentment in the world into your customer service skills.

As far as I’m concerned there is no greater nightmare than really needing an appointment and being forced to stand in a borderline empty GP surgery whilst a hostile medical receptionist tells you that there are none available.

4. Group Chats

Hell is traditionally conceived as a fiery underworld where morally corrupt humans are sent to be punished for their sins.

However, my own personal conceptualization of hell is being forced to join 50 WhatsApp group chats and not being able to mute any of them.

There is no torture like being tormented by an endless onslaught of notifications, GIFs, selfies and out of context in-jokes.  

Honestly, give me a lake of sulphur any day.

5. Mansplainers

If you’re not sure what mansplaining is, let me mansplain it for you.

Mansplaining is when one human explains a concept to another human in condescending way.

Now, I don’t want to assume that mansplaining is a gender-specific construct that is used solely by men and that women are not immune to falling into patronising explanations.

That being said, I once had my own personality mansplained to me by a guy who was trying to ‘let me down gently’ by telling me in great detail about that I was so kind and clever and funny etc. but also a bit too guarded and therefore he didn’t feel he could be in a relationship with me. When I told him that he’d got the wrong end of the stick and I wasn’t actually into him, he then proceeded to explain to me that I was but I just didn’t know it yet. Honestly. having your own non-existent thought processes laid out before you is truly mansplaining on steroids.

Another time, I was having a panic attack and a man tried to help me through it by telling me to ‘chill the fuck out’, a truly revolutionary insight that I’m pretty sure could singlehandedly dissolve the need for the therapy industry and ease the NHS’s strained mental health budget.

Preach, sir, preach.

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Why I Am Not A Professional Actress…

When I was younger, I was quite shy and self-conscious and struggled to express myself in social situations.

As a result, my mum was always on the lookout for activities that I could participate in that would push me out of my comfort zone and help me develop confidence socially.

So when I was in Year 11, she encouraged me to audition for the school play.

The prospect of getting involved in the school play made me quite nervous because, up until that point, my track record in drama hadn’t exactly been great.

My confidence had been dented by an incident that had occurred several years earlier during my primary school nativity when I was playing the part of a sheep.

Compared to the other parts in the nativity, the role of the sheep was relatively straightforward.

I only had one very simple line to deliver.

However, when my moment of glory arrived, the pressure of the audience staring at me caused me to panic and I slipped completely out of character and messed up my lines.

Following this, the teachers no longer trusted me to be able to handle the role of the sheep and, as a result, I was cast as the back-end of the donkey when nativity rolled around the following year.

The role of the donkey’s arse was a non-speaking part, which meant that I didn’t have to worry about messing my lines up, although I did find it hard to get fully immersed in my character and the overall narrative arc of the play.

As a result of my experiences in my school nativities, I didn’t have a lot of confidence when I went to audition for the play in Year 11.

The play that year was Oklahoma which was set in the Southern States of America and I was cast in the role of a generic milk maid.

Like the part of the sheep, the role of the milk maid was pretty simple and only involved saying two or three lines of scene setting dialogue.

However, during rehearsals, the teacher gathered us all around her and told us that, in order to give the audience the most immersive viewing experience possible, we would have to put on our best accents.

This was slightly problematic due to the fact that I couldn’t do a Southern American accent, or any accent at all for that matter. In fact, the only accent that I could do was a stronger version of the accent that I already had.

As a result, our school’s production of Oklahoma featured eight Southern American Maids and then me, the extremely Liverpudlian one.

Btw if you’re not sure what a Liverpool accent sounds like in the middle of Oklahoma, imagine that Cilla Black has been transported back in time and is presenting an episode of Blind Date in 19th century America.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the audience laughed at me when I delivered my lines, something which I interpreted as an affirmation of my inherent comedic talent as opposed to a reaction to my dubious ‘American’ accent.

Following this ‘success’, I decided that I actually quite liked acting so, the following year, I auditioned for the school production of MacBeth and was cast as a witch.

Whilst this was an upgrade from my previous role as a milkmaid, it was still a relatively minor part.

However, at this point, I was beginning to develop a little more confidence in myself and was sick of playing a background characters.

I became convinced that the only reason that I that I wasn’t getting to play starring role was because I was being forced to play two-dimensional supporting characters that didn’t allow me to explore the full range of emotional expression that I was capable of.

I thought that if I fleshed out the character of Witch 2, I would be able to form a better emotional connection with her character and really show off what I could do.

Unfortunately, my teacher didn’t seem as onboard with my attempt to diversify the roles of the witches, especially when it started to interfere with the performances of the other students.

I was never cast in another school play again and my acting career has never quite recovered since!

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The Time I Accidentally Ran A Half Marathon

Back in 2016, I worked on an outdoor education centre in Canada.

During one of my weeks off, I decided to take a trip to Vancouver Island with a few friends.

The journey to Vancouver Island was quite long and involved sitting on two coaches and a ferry for several hours.

By the time we arrived at our Airbnb, my legs were quite stiff from sitting down for so long so, the following morning, I decided to go out for a run.

I did not set off intending to run a half marathon.

I only wanted to go for a light jog to stretch my legs.

However, around 10 minutes into my run, I began to notice that things were slightly strange.

The streets were really quiet and there was no traffic on the roads, despite the fact that I was running close to the city centre.

A few minutes later, other runners started to pass me, one or two at first, and then several at once.

To go from seeing virtually nobody to seeing lots of people was quite confusing so I followed the runners around a bend in the road, curious to see where they were going.

I turned the corner and, all of a sudden, found myself being funnelled between a set of barriers leading to a blow-up arch. There were lots of people crowded behind the barriers, clapping and waving their hands in the air.

Stunned, I removed my headphones from my ears and realised that they were cheering.

It suddenly dawned on me that I was in the finishing straight of a half-marathon.

As the reality of the situation settled upon me, I decided to try and exit the race by climbing over one of the barriers. However, the sheer amount of supporters leaning against the barrier made this impossible.

One woman even patted me on the back and yelled the words ‘you can’t give up now honey, not when you’ve come so far!’ into my ear before shoving me back onto the road.

In the end, I had no option but to cross the finish line.

I stood dazed among the other finishers, most of whom were bent over double or collapsed on the floor, having run 21km.

I, in contrast, had run a grand total of 2km max.

After a minute or so, a volunteer shoved an energy drink and a chocolate chip cookie into my hand, before enthusiastically congratulating me and placing a medal around my neck.

Then, before I knew it, I found myself being ushered towards a beaming man who was holding a microphone in his hand.

‘Congratulations,’ he said, holding his hand out for me to shake. ‘You are our 2nd placed female finisher!’

It turned out that, not only had I unwittingly finished the race, but I had apparently completed it in a time of 1 hour and 25 minutes.

Now, at this point, I should have corrected the man and said something along the lines of:

Instead, I looked him dead in the eye and said:

I’m not sure exactly what compelled me to say this.

Maybe I hadn’t wanted to disappoint the man, who looked so happy and thrilled on my behalf.

Maybe I was secretly flattered that he thought I could pass as an accomplished athlete.

Or maybe I had just liked the look of the free cookie I had received as a reward for finishing the race and didn’t want to risk it being confiscated if someone found out I was fraud.

No matter the reason, by accepting the fabrication that the interviewer had shoved upon me, I had begun to spin a web of lies from which there was no escape.

Evidently unaware that anything was amiss, the interviewer proceeded to ask me how I was feeling.

I wracked my brain, searching something that would make me sound like a legit sportsperson.

In hindsight, this made me sound more like an amateur surfer than an elite runner.

‘I bet you are!’ the interviewer said.

The interviewer patted me on the back. ‘Well, I’ll have to congratulate you for a second time then!’ he said. ‘Did you have a race plan?’

Considering I wasn’t planning on running the race in the first place, this was a pretty defunct question.

‘No, not really…’ I said.

The interviewer gasped. ‘You must be a natural then!’ He glanced down at my shirt.

I expected the man to laugh, but instead he nodded his head sincerely and said ‘it happens’ before moving onto the next question.

‘I get it,’ he said, tapping the side of his head. ‘Keeping it on the DL. Wouldn’t want your competitors knowing your secrets.’

He nodded at a woman behind us, most likely the actual second-placed finisher, whose abs were clearly visible through her skin tight shirt.

I flashed him a strained smile, flabbergasted that he was even entertaining the idea that she and I could be considered competitors.

The man smiled back. ‘One last question and then I’ll let you go and rest. Those legs must be tired after all!’

There was a silence. The interviewer stared at me, a frown etched onto his forehead.

I looked down, cheeks burning, ashamed, convinced that my web of lies was about to come crashing down around me.

I prepared to hand over my cookie.

Then, the interviewer bent over double and started laughing.

Eventually, I left the finishing complex with a thoroughly undeserved cookie in my hand and a medal round my neck and, if I’m honest, the satisfaction of eating the cookie outweighed any feelings of guilt or remorse I may have felt about being a complete athletic fraud.

To this day, one hour twenty-five minutes remains my lifetimes best half-marathon time.

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My Least Favourite Christmas Song

The Twelve Days of Christmas is my least favourite Christmas song, mostly because it is very repetitive and, as a result, extremely catchy.

Every time I hear it being played, it manages to worm its way into my psyche, playing on repeat for hours, sometimes even days, in an incessant loop of festive merriment.

It is absolutely infuriating – nothing makes me feel more like the bastard child of Scrooge and the Grinch quite like listening to The Twelve Days of Christmas.

I also find the lyrics of The Twelve Days of Christmas absolutely ridiculous. 

As most of you probably know from having been subjected to the song every year, the Twelve Days of Christmas is about a person whose true love brings them a series of increasingly elaborate presents over the course of the twelve days.  

These gifts include seven swans-a-swimming, six geese-a-laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge that comes with its own complementary pear tree.

Now, I don’t know what was considered a normal Xmas pressie in the 18th century but if someone brought me an entire flock of wildfowl, I wouldn’t be inclined to write a jovial Christmas carol about them – I’d be questioning their mental stability.

I mean, after the delivery of the initial partridge, I would be pretty confused.

On Day 3, I would be getting pretty concerned.

By the time Day 4 rocked around, I’d be looking to report my them to the RSPB.

I also think the idea of giving someone six geese and seven swans as a gift is pretty far-fetched.

Considering geese and swans tend to get pissed off whenever you go even remotely near them, I doubt they would be cooperative if someone tried to turn them into a festive offering.

In fact, as far as I’m concerned, geese and swans would make a much better Halloween present because they are absolutely bloody terrifying.

Now, I’m aware that The Twelve Days of Christmas is a beloved Christmas carol that the majority of people enjoy singing every year.

Maybe I am just bitter as I haven’t got a true love who is willing to provide me with an entire aviary’s worth of birds for Christmas.

In fact, if I’m getting anything for Christmas, it’s more likely to be an unsolicited commentary on my love life from one of my elderly relatives…

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My Work Experience Experience.

When I was 15 years old, I had to complete a week of work experience as part of my school’s ‘student enrichment’ programme.

Initially, the prospect of doing work experience excited me.

I was eager to temporarily escape the classroom and enter into professional environment for the first time.

I envisioned myself working for the local news station or a cool hipster tech company where employees sat in bean bags instead of desk chairs.

However, my enthusiasm reduced significantly when I was placed at my local Garden Centre.

My supervisor at the Garden Centre was a guy called Alan who was relatively new to the world of work himself.

Alan was seventeen years old, had zero managerial experience and had absolutely no idea what to do with me.

After giving me some brief instructions, he handed me a t-shirt with the words ‘You Plant A Question, We’ll Grow You An Answer’ printed on the back and then made himself scarce.

I went to the bathroom, changed into the shirt and walked back out onto the shop floor.

Before long, customers that had previously been ignoring me started approaching me and asking me questions, clearly assuming that I was now a font of horticultural knowledge.

This wouldn’t have been so bad if I’d known a single thing about plants.

However, the sum total of my gardening knowledge came from an episode of The Teletubbies I’d seen as a kid where I’d watched a man tend to his allotment through the telly in LaLa’s stomach.

As a result, I was completely unprepared to answer any of the customer’s questions.

For the first three days of my work experience, I stood awkwardly on the shop floor, dishing out dubious horticultural advice to a series of confused and dissatisfied customers.

Eventually, on Thursday, one of the managers on shift took pity on me and took me off the shop floor.

She handed me a batch of Yankee Candles that had just been delivered and asked me to arrange them into a display.

After three days of talking to customers, I relished the opportunity to do something vaguely creative so I sat happily in my own little world, experimenting with different colour arrangements and taking the lids off the candles to smell the different scents inside. 

However, after a couple of hours, I was approached by an old lady who had been browsing nearby. I braced myself, expecting her to ask me a question that I didn’t know the answer to.

I was relieved, therefore, when she asked me to help her retrieve a trowel from a high shelf. Finally, I thought. A task that is within my capabilities. I can actually be useful and help this old lady fulfill her trowel-based needs.

I picked up a step-ladder and placed it next to the shelf. However, as I climbed up the ladder, I suddenly felt a bit lightheaded.

All the candle sniffing had obviously gone to my head and I swayed slightly, causing the ladder to rock dangerously.

I waved my arms about, desperately attempting to restore my balance, but to no avail.

As a result, I tipped backwards and fell directly onto a nearby cactus.

To cut a long story short, I essentially flattened a cactus with my arse.

Just in case you have never fallen off a ladder onto a cactus before, let me tell you, it is a pretty painful experience.

After I had gotten over the initial shock of the impact, I tentatively raised myself to my feet and, for a few moments, stared blankly at the plant that I had obliterated with my butt cheeks.

I wasn’t sure what to do about the state of the cactus or, for that matter, my arse.

I remembered the adverts that I’d seen on TV offering compensation for people who had had an accident at work but I’d never seen one featuring someone falling onto a cactus. I wasn’t sure if it even counted as an ‘accident at work’ but I reckoned it would be worth looking into.

At the very least, I thought I should probably report the incident to my supervisor so I handed the trowel to the old lady and went looking for Alan.

When I found him, I was still slightly traumatised by the incident. My brain wasn’t functioning properly and I couldn’t think clearly about what I was saying.

As a result, I ran up to him and the words, ‘Alan, I’ve got some pricks in my bum!’ just fell out of my mouth.

Alan was, understandably, quite taken back.

Alan gasped and looked quite worried.

I was initially quite touched by this. I thought that maybe I had underestimated him as a manager. It seemed that he really cared about my wellbeing after all…

Despite my unfortunate encounter with the cactus (RIP), I managed to get through the rest of my work experience unscathed.

The following week, me and the rest of my year group returned to school where we were asked to write a reflection about our experience in the world of work.

Needless to say, mine turned out a bit different to most other peoples’.

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