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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This Is Why I’m Not Very Good At Clubbing.

I went clubbing for the first time since lockdown last month.

I’ve never been a massive fan of clubbing.

I once got spiked in a club and spent most of the night clinging onto the wall for dear life whilst everything spun around me like some sort of intoxicated gecko.

I’m not sure at what point humanity decided that being in a darkened room, breathing in the sweat and germs of strangers whilst listening to deafening music was a recipe for a good time.

I guess the whole idea originated in those 18th century dances you see in shows like Pride & Prejudice and Poldark where the youth of the day used to go to the local manor house and have a boogie to whatever music was top of the charts back in Jane Austen times.

Back then, the whole purpose of these dances was to help eligible bachelors meet young ladies and, in that regard, I guess things haven’t changed too much, although the whole ‘courting’ aspect tends to be slightly less sophisticated nowadays…

THEN:

NOW:

I’ve never been massively into dancing either which doesn’t really do much to improve my clubbing experience.

Even as a child, I wasn’t keen on it. 

I have vivid memories of being forced to do a school performance of Saturday Night in Year 4 and wishing it actually was Saturday night and I wasn’t in school being forced to dance to Wigfield.

I’m also not a very rhythmically coordinated person so dancing makes me feel quite awkward and self-conscious.

This awkwardness translates itself to my physical movements. If I had to choose, I’d say my go-to dance move is the robot and, when I say ‘the robot’, I mean a robot that’s malfunctioned and is just jerking around randomly. 

The only way I can get myself past this state of crippling self-consciousness is to drink a load of alcohol.

Unfortunately, drinking a load of alcohol tends to propel me to the opposite end of the spectrum, filling me with the sudden and certain belief that I can dance incredibly well.

This is unfortunate as the effects of the alcohol tend to mean that my bodily coordination is, in fact, even worse.

Let’s put it this way, if anyone is getting down on the dance floor with me it’s because I’ve inadvertently sent them flying with a flailing limb whilst doing my best impression of John Travolta in Night Fever.

To make things worse, I am a massive lightweight and, as a result, my metabolism tends to burn through alcohol quite quickly.

Therefore, after a couple of hours of manic dancing, I tend to get quite sleepy.

At this point, I normally apologise to anyone who I may have inadvertently injured and head home to crash, although I have been known to fall asleep on the club toilet after popping in for one last end of the night pee.

Speaking of toilets, if there’s one thing I’ve missed about a night out, it’s making friends with random girls whilst waiting in the queue for the bathroom.

Now, people say a lot of things about the toxic nature of female relationships. However, as far as I’m concerned, these people haven’t experienced the sense of camaraderie that exists between girls in a nightclub toilet.

Whenever I have doubts about the nature of mankind, I sometimes think about interactions I’ve had with other girls on a night out and it helps to restore my faith in humanity.

You could come out of a cubicle, having spent the last twenty minutes leaning over the toilet, alternately spewing up the contents of your stomach and crying over the state of your love life, and you will most likely find yourself surrounded by women who still consider you to be a radiant goddess.

Let’s face it, clubbing may be pretty shit but at least you can always rely on other women to have your back when you’ve had one too many on a night out.

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My Worst Holiday Ever.

When I was 10 years old, my parents took me and my brothers away to the Isle of Mull for a week.

The Isle of Mull is a remote island off the coast of Scotland renowned for its wide range of wildlife and breath-taking scenery.

My mum, in particular, was very excited about going to the Isle of Mull, seeing it as an opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle of civilisation and immerse herself in nature.

So, in the last week of July, my parents bundled us all into the car and we set off for Scotland and, after a day of travelling, we arrived at the cottage where we were staying for the week.

Around ten minutes later, as we were unpacking the car and moving our stuff inside, it started to rain. At the time, my parents shrugged this off, assuming the rain would pass overnight.

Five days later, it was still raining.

My mum had structured the week’s activities under the assumption that we would be outside 90% of the time. However, the torrential rain made this pretty much impossible.

To make things worse, we were in a remote area and there was little to do in the nearby village. As a result, we had no option but to sit inside the cottage and wait for the rain to stop.

Whilst this was boring for us as kids, it was arguably even worse for my parents who were trapped inside with three small humans all under the age of 11.

It wasn’t long until we’d got through the books we had brought with us and were looking for something else to do. Unfortunately, we could find very little to entertain ourselves with.

The only game in the cottage was a tattered old Scrabble set that my brother found under his bed.

Now, considering my brother is dyslexic and I was an insensitive prepubescent Grammar Nazi at the time, this was always going to be a recipe for disaster.

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I really was the worst.

The cottage also had a bulky TV in the corner of the living room. However, there was no satellite disk so we couldn’t get any live channels.

After some searching, we found a grand total of two movies in the cupboard underneath the TV (video cassette tapes of Annie and Alien – apparently, the owner had a niche obsession with films with 5 letter titles beginning with A…)

Our parents immediately confiscated Alien from us on the grounds that it was too scary so we were forced to settle for Annie.  

Over the next three days, we watched Annie six times. After the third screening, we were getting seriously bored of the film and begged our parents to let us watch Alien instead.

Eventually, on the fourth evening, they cracked and allowed me and Robert to watch Alien with them after they had put our younger brother to bed.

Now, you might think that this was quite an irresponsible parenting decision. However, if you consider the nature of our predicament, you can’t really blame my parents for not wanting to listen to the song ‘The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow’ for the seventh time.

As the days passed and we became increasingly bored and frustrated, my Scrabble arguments with Robert continued to intensify.

Eventually, my mum confiscated the board, gave us some pens and paper and told us to play Pictionary instead.

However, this backfired when we ended up channeling our scrabble-fueled contempt for each other into artistic expression.

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Following this, my mum got my dad to supervise our Pictionary games.

However, perhaps because he too was frustrated with the way the holiday was turning out, he ended up getting drawn into the in-game bickering as well.  

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Eventually, after days of being cooped up indoors listening to near-constant squabbling, my mum finally cracked.

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As far as she was concerned, there was only one option. She had come to the Isle of Mull to be outside and have a good time and she was going to do everything in her power to make that dream a reality.

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It soon became apparent that there would be no arguing with my mum so we put on our waterproofs and followed her outside for a walk, regardless of the fact that the intensity of the rain had now reached Biblical Flood levels.

Unsurprisingly, the ground was completely water logged. What had once presumably been a solid footpath, was now a quagmire, filled with mud that slipped beneath our feet and clung onto our shoes.  

Fifteen minutes into the walk, Robert had fallen face first into the mud, I had lost a shoe and all five of us were wet through.

My mum, meanwhile, was desperately trying to keep morale up.

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Ten minutes later, things took a distinct turn for the worse when Robert found a leech on his leg.

Catching sight of the slug-like worm latched onto my brother’s skin, my mind shot back to the parasitic creature I had watched terrorize the space crew in Alien the previous evening. I immediately assumed the worst.

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Naturally, my outburst did little to help the situation.

Eventually, my Dad managed to prise the leech from Robert’s leg (all the while reassuring him that he wasn’t going to suffer the same fate as John Hurt) and threw it back into the bog.

Once the leech had been banished back from whence it came, my mum decided that it probably was best for us to head back and disinfect the bite.

By this point, my younger brother, Will, was getting pretty exhausted so my mum lifted him onto her shoulders as we trudged back towards the cottage.

Due to his extra weight, she walked more slowly and ended up at the back of the group.

After around five minutes of walking, I heard a sudden, sharp yell behind me.

I turned around, searching for the source of the sound.  

I could see Will, lying on the ground, looking slightly shocked and tearful. There was, however, no sign of my mum.

I ran up to Will. ‘Where’s Mummy?’ I asked in a state on semi-panic.

Will pointed to his left, eyes wide and sincere. ‘The bog ate her’.

I followed the direction of his finger and screamed.

Something was pulling itself out of the bog, a tall, groaning figure that bore a strong resemblance to the Mud Monster in Scooby Doo. 

It took me a few seconds to realise that the bog monster was my mum.

She had fallen into a deep ditch and ended up almost completely submerged in the muddy water that filled it.

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At the end of the day, I guess my mum got what she wanted out of the holiday – she achieved her wish to be immersed in nature.

It just didn’t manifest itself in the way she had hoped…

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Things My Parents Argue About Now That They’re Retired

Like every couple who have been together for a significant amount of time, my parents are prone to the occasional argument.

I don’t think that this is particularly their fault. They have been together for thirty years now and being with same person for three decades has its challenges.

In addition, two years ago, my mum joined my dad in the realms of retirement and, as a result, the two of them have been spending more time at home together than they did previously.

Before they both retired, they spent long hours apart working shifts which provided them with a healthy break from each other. As the saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder but presence does a frictionless relationship squander (not sure that this is an actual saying, not even sure that frictionless is a word tbh..)

Like most people, my parent’s never fight about the actual emotional tensions in their relationship.

Instead, they tend to use everyday items and mundane issues as proxies for the underlying problems that they are attempting to address. For example, they recently had an argument over a jar of jam which they insisted was ‘about the jam and nothing but the jam’. However, I personally think it was about my Dad’s percieved lack of emotional transparency.

Like most couples who have enjoyed many years of marriage, my parents have an unparalleled ability to create an argument out of just about anything, including the process of arguing itself. One of their favourite arguments is the ‘We’re Not Having an Argument’ argument in which each of them tries to convince the other that they are not pissed off whilst progressively becoming increasingly pissed off.

This argument, which sometimes feels like an infinite loop of disagreement, can basically be summed up as the following.

The pandemic has also put a lot of additional tension on my parent’s relationship.

Being together for thirty years is challenging.

Being together for thirty years and then retiring and living together in the same house is even more challenging.

Being together for thirty years, retiring and living together in the same house WITH NO FORM OF ESCAPE is another thing altogether.

I first realised that my parent’s relationship was suffering from pandemic pressure a few months ago when they had a full-on meltdown argument over a towel.

The argument started when my dad made the grave mistake of disrupting a towel washing system that my mum had put into place during the first lockdown.

I’m not totally clear on the intricate details of my mum’s towel washing system (something to do with keeping light and dark towels separate) but I assume she made it in an attempt to create some sort of order for herself in the middle of the coronavirus chaos.

Therefore, when my dad tampered with the system, he was messing with one of the things that was helping my mum cling to some semblance of control; this is the only thing I can think of to explain the ferocity of her reaction.

My dad bore the brunt of my mum’s towel-fuelled wrath for around fifteen minutes, making several further impassioned comparisons between her domestic activities and Orwell’s 1984 in the meantime.

The argument eventually climaxed when my dad stormed out of the house in order to get some ‘freedom from oppression’ time and threatened that he might not come back. However, his rebellious resolve didn’t last long as, ten minutes later, he returned home because he needed a wee.

Now, I don’t want you to get the impression that my parents have an awful relationship; they don’t. Obviously, things have been very stressful and uncertain over the last year and a half and this manifests itself in tension and outbursts of rage over insignificant things.

I’ve heard that it is important to look for small blessings in times of hardship and, as far as my parent’s relationship is concerned, I guess one of the small blessings is they haven’t been going on as many car journeys together as they would have done in the before times.

The car is probably one of the worst places to have a squabbling match as it physically impossible to take a time out unless you do a Ladybird and lob yourself into the road. Therefore, any argument that my parents enter into the car tends to escalate and become quite heated.

Obviously having an impassioned argument isn’t one of the things that driving instructors tend to focus on when teaching people to drive safely.

Maybe then, it is a small solace that my parents have been stuck in the house together because at least then I don’t have to worry about them inadvertently crashing because they’ve been fighting about towels.

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to check out some of my other posts. For more blog posts and drawings, you can also follow me on Instagram and Facebook .

My Lockdown Diary Entries

I started writing a diary in March 2020.

I was struggling with my mental health at the time and thought that writing down my thoughts would help me gain some perspective on how I was feeling.  

The escalation of the coronavirus situation also made me feel like I was living through history and I quite liked the idea of documenting life in the pandemic like some sort modern day Samuel Pepys. I imagined people in the year 2500 discovering my diary and lording it as a priceless historical artifact, offering profound insights into life at a time of international crisis – a relic of a bygone time.

I recently read back through the my diary entries from the last year. This somewhat derailed my ambitions of becoming an iconic 21st Century diarist.

Firstly, the entries are generally too short and sporadically written to provide a cohesive account of what happened over the course of the pandemic. Secondly, some of them are so melodramatically emotional and swear word ridden that they make absolutely no sense whatsoever.

As a result, I decided to put together a compilation of a few of the more legible, lighthearted entries on here in an attempt to make some sense of my lockdown experience:

19th March 2020

Things have gone completely mad. Everybody is freaking out and panic buying supplies. People are raiding the aisles like they’re on some sort of dystopian version of Supermarket Sweep.

Saw a video on Instagram of two women fighting over a packet of toilet rolls as if their lives depended on it. It was a bit like The Hunger Games but in Asda.

23rd March 2020

So Boris has put us in quarantine. Feels like we’re all straying into unknown territory. Bear Grylls will probably be in talks with the BBC about producing a show on how to survive.

1st April

Grandad rang today and said that he didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. He told us that it had been much harder for his parents in the war. I told him that just because something is more bad than another thing doesn’t stop the thing itself from being bad. He told me that I was being ridiculous and that I’d understand someday. I wanted to see things from his perspective so I visualised myself as an old lady telling my grandkids how hard lockdown was.

I guess it is a little less impressive than surviving two wars…

10th May 2020

Boris just made a lockdown exit speech where he effectively told people to go out to work but also stay at home which is, quite frankly, a paradox. Honestly, watching his speech was like watching two separate versions of Boris from different parallel universes being merged into one and talking over each other. But maybe that’s going a bit too Rick and Morty on the whole thing.

15th May 2020

Spent all day in a minion onesie. I feel like I would have judged myself for that in the past. I mean is a minion onesie even an acceptable thing for a 26 year old to own? You know what? Fuck it. Society’s closed. If I want to wear a minion onesie then I bloody well will.

Some day in May (I’d lost all concept of time at this point)

Had a breakdown today which was weird because I’ve been feeling pretty emotionally numb all week. It’s a bit like all my feelings have been put in lockdown and every now and then my brain decides to relax the restrictions and I ended up crying hysterically into a packet of Doritos.

5th June 2020

Played sims today. Moved my family to the beach and they had a welcome BBQ with all the neighbours. For some reason,  I suddenly started feeling really really jealous of them getting to socialise so I put them in the pool and removed the ladder. Afterwards I sat down and analysed my feelings and realised that my actions were unnecessarily harsh and impulsive. Felt bad about the whole thing in hindsight but I’d already pressed save so there’s no going back.

21st April

Did pilates today to try and be more aware of myself in my body. Don’t think the awareness I achieved was the type of awareness I was originally going for.

17th July 2020

Listened to another one of Boris’ addressing the nation speeches – poor guy had no idea what was coming when he took the PM position on. I reckon the smuggest people in Britain right now are the introverts and Teresa May. Probably triumphantly running through a field of wheat as we speak.

12th September 2020

Saw a middle aged man dressed in a full superman costume riding a Segway down the prom whilst blasting the Superman theme out of a speaker. Probably would have judged him in the before times. Now it’s like, you know what mate, it’s a tough time and if that’s your coping mechanism, go for it. You do you.

29th October 2020

Mum told me that she was standing in a queue today and the man behind her wasn’t wearing a mask.  She asked him to wear one and he told her that he was a human person and if he decided not to wear a mask than that was his prerogative. Wonder if when he said human person, he actually meant total dickhead?

10th November 2020

Trump was trumped by Biden. What a relief, almost makes up for how awful that Trump pun was.   

19th December 2020

Government just announced that London is going into a Tier 4 lockdown two days before Christmas. I feel bad for Londoners but even worse for the kids of the future sitting history exams on the Government’s response to COVID-19 and having to memorise like a billion different things.

24th December 2020

Mum came into my room today whilst I was getting in touch with my inner zen (meditating) and asked me to contribute to the housework. I told her that unfortunately contributing housework would be destructive to my relationship with my inner zen. She told me that my lack of cooperation was disruptive to her inner zen and also the Feng Shui of the house. I told her she could always ask Santa for some Feng Shui if she liked it that much. I am a terrible daughter.

30th December 2020

Played Catan today with my brothers. Got into a massive fight with Robert about ore supplies after I built a settlement on an ore hexagon that he had wanted to build on. He said that I had completely screwed him over with my ‘total dickhead’ of a move to which I replied that he could always trade with me if he wanted to increase his ore supplies. He said I could take my ore supplies and stick them up my arse. Nothing like a nice family board game to lighten the mood.

4th January 2021

We’re in lockdown again. Sigh. Feeling much calmer this time round. Resigned to my fate.

6th January 2021

A load of Trump supporters marched straight into the capitol today. I guess some small deluded part of me though that we would leave the shitshow behind in 2020 but it seems the series of unfortunate events is continuing into 2021. Feel like I’m living in a Lemony Snicket novel.

This was my penultimate diary entry. Now, you would assume that the final entry would have a thoughtful concluding comment, some sort of witticism to up the whole coronavirus experience in a profound way.

Instead, when I turned the page, I found something that looked a lot like this:

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