Am I thought pretty?

Am I thought pretty?

You are generally thought to have been pretty

This week I did something totally out of character. I gave up makeup. For a full seven days I conducted my life with a completely naked face, a face I might add, that no one has seen since I was thirteen. To understand just how monumental this is I should explain that on my first day of secondary school I was a picture of sense and propriety – my school skirt hung past my knees, my tights were thick and woollen, hair severely scraped back and shoes… shoes that were BOYS SHOES.

It began to occur to me that girls who enjoyed school were the ones who wore short skirts and high heels. By my final year the fresh-faced and earnest thirteen year old was barely recognisable. I had skin as dark as mahogany, hair as yellow as the sun. The six inches lost from my hemline was quickly gained by my heels (resulting in my being roughly the same height as a double-decker bus). My hair became blonder, and bigger – oh, so much bigger (think Kylie in the 80’s) and I lovingly applied my make-up with a trowel. My transformation from 13 year old to 35 year old in a school uniform was complete, and I knew I looked good.

My changed appearance gave me entry to a social realm where all words were abbreviated. We said such clever things: ‘The bant was rife’ was an incredibly witty way of saying something was fun; all sentences were punctuated with ‘like’; we fell out (for life) over haircuts which caused emotional distress and mocked people who played musical instruments. When the right of passage came – the ritual otherwise known as the post-A level holiday, it was decided that 20 of us would go to the culturally rich destination of Playa de Las Américas, Tenerife. I was under the unfortunate impression that reading books on beach holidays was acceptable. Books, it was soon announced, are what ruins holidays for everyone.

It was then that I began to suspect that all this fitting in had created someone I didn’t really want to be. I liked correct grammar and books and art. I didn’t really hate people who played the trombone. And so began a journey of recovery.

It’s true that old habits die hard; my hair is still blonde (though no longer peroxide) and my skin is a vaguely normal colour – though the years of St Tropez abuse have left a permanent stain which I fear will always make me look slightly jaundiced. It did take time to come full circle; I view my week without makeup as the culmination. The character I took on as a teenager was undoubtedly a coping mechanism for my new life, but in coping it altered me into someone who felt stretched and self-conscious. I’ve learnt to detox the unnecessary; the friendships that were superficial, the image of myself that was never true, career aspirations I thought I should have but didn’t really want… and in doing so I’ve come to know myself better. Does that sound trite? I suppose it does a bit. What’s surprising is that for the first time in my life being thought pretty is no longer so important – which is almost as liberating as the realisation that reading books on holiday? It’s ok.

Advertisements

Forgiving Nick

“Ought I to forgive?”

“Do not be too hasty about it”

You know when people think you’re a tory, only you’re not? I really hate that. In my second year of university I joined the UCL Liberal Democrat society – or rather, I tried to. At the very first meeting they ran away from me when I wasn’t looking.

“Are you a Lib Dem?” I asked a lone smoker (dressed in skinny jeans and a bicycle helmet) who was loitering outside the Union. He ignored me, no doubt lost in a very deep existential thought about some abstract thing.

“I told them I was getting a coffee – I think they left without me” I continued.

“Perhaps it’s the gilet? Thought about joining the conservatives?” One thing I hate more than people thinking I’m a Tory are tortured artistic souls who wear ironic knitwear.

I wanted to tell the hipster that the truth was I had considered the conservatives – granted not for very long, and Labour (not much longer), and the Green party (marginally longer) but I liked the Lib Dems. I think that Politicians should be honest and decent – not shiny and charismatic, somehow their apparent lack of spin made them seem trustworthy to me. Their core belief in equality of opportunity was important; I agreed with the need for electoral reform, Vince Cable was clearly an economic genius, I was impressed with Simon Hughes’ commitment to environmental issues, and don’t even get me started on Evan ‘hottie’ Harris… But most of all I believe that even if you have to make everything else more expensive – education should be free. If I were to vote on a single issue then the scrapping of tuition fees would have been it.

Prior to the televised debates, I found myself constantly defending my political views. In response to my lecturer mocking me, I used the very articulate and shrewd defence of “well Clegg studied Social Anthropology”, to which he laughed and replied “So did Prince Charles”. I believed then and I still do now, that given time this was a party that would one day make the United Kingdom a better place – for everyone.

Maybe I should have taken the Society’s rejection of me as a sign. Perhaps I should have known then that disappointment was now somehow inevitable. Instead I sent a very angry email to the Chairperson outlining (in great detail) my disgust at their behaviour.  The following week I was out canvassing with them.

There’s an article in the Guardian today which writes that the Liberal Democrats have been good for the coalition but the coalition has been disastrous for the Liberal Democrats. Maybe that’s true, and maybe we are all guilty of expecting a bit too much. A quiet part of me knows that whether they made huge election promises or not, a junior coalition partner was always going to have a tough time. The real issue has been the sudden transition from opposition to coalition. It’s far easier to fight for electoral reform and free education when the final decision is not yours to make – and I suppose that was my hope, to help the fight.

They reached out to a new generation of voters and then monumentally let them down. Nick Clegg’s apology for making a promise – as opposed to breaking it – is in my mind insulting. He may not call policemen plebs or be best friends with phone hackers, but taking two years to apologise makes him look like a simpleton. It’s going to take a bit more than ‘I’m sorry’ to win voters trust back.  So I asked the oracle ought I to forgive? Probably, but I’m not going to be too hasty about it… I’ll at least wait until I’ve heard the second single.

Tagged ,

Fifty shades of Grey

Once upon a time, in a land of poor grammar and an oversexed imagination, there lived a self-obsessed plain girl who was prone to thinking evil thoughts about her best friend and wallowing in her insecurities. One day she met a boy, a beautiful rich boy – who, after lavishing her with expensive modern technology, bent down on one knee and asked her the question every girl dreams of…. “Would you be my submissive?” After a great deal of unnecessary legal negotiation she accepted, and entered a world where pleasure, pain and unbearable references to her inner goddess were one. ..

To be honest, I blame the crazy bookshop lady – she brow-beat me into getting it. It was the moment she turned to page 177 to show me the ‘contract’ that I knew it was too late – “anal fisting” she whispered gleefully, and right then I had to get it, I had to get this over-hyped, over-publicised book – purely so I could mock it. What I didn’t realise though was that my life was about change that day… and not for the better.

To which of the two persons that I am thinking about ought I to give the preference?

The choice is easy, one is no better than the other.

Before I explain how this book altered my life – and really it did, I’ll give you the breakdown (just in case you haven’t been unfortunate enough to read this literary gem):

To cut a long (and very boring) story short, the plot centres on a girl who meets an attractive, wealthy man who gives her an Audi and a mac and then she lets him beat her repeatedly because even though he’s a fruit-loop, he has a sweet sensitive side that appeals to her materialistic schizophrenic self. He wants her to be his submissive and when she doesn’t understand what he means, he recommends she look up S&M on Wikipedia. On discovering Ana’s a virgin, Christian proves he’s a real gentleman because he promptly gets that technicality out the way before he beats/strangles her. There are many sex scenes. Many. Each more excruciating than the last. Christian has a red leather “playroom”, which smells of citrus – (because obviously there is nothing sexier than the aroma of a glade candle). She never uses the word vagina. She calls it her ‘sex’. That still confuses me. She eventually gives in to the S&M, but because she’s so super independent she resists the hard-core stuff, this is S&M 101 for a modern day feminist… She runs away in the end because she realises she craves love, much the same way he has an unexplained need to give a good flogging (but mainly because E.L James realised she was onto a good thing and could squeeze at least another two books out of this non-story). Reliable sources inform me that Ana ends up pregnant and he reforms. Never saw that one coming… I wouldn’t really know though because I would sooner gouge my own eyes out than read another of these books.

My issue with this book is not that it glamourizes domestic abuse or even that is paints women in their twenties as morons, my issue is that it is written REALLY, really badly and it’s really, really boring.  Until now I rated the collaborative Kardashian novel ‘Dollhouse’ (a present, I did not buy this book nor do I condone doing so) as one of the worst things I had ever read. That was until I read 50 Shades, a book so much worse that each sentence acts as a blow to the head – you are left stupider, and that is a fact.

Here are my main reservations:

  1.  “My Inner Goddess was doing the merengue with some salsa moves” I was a happier person before being introduced to the concept of an inner goddess, I can’t get that back.
  2. The many references to Christian’s long elegant fingers: “He extends a long-fingered hand to me”, remind me of salad fingers. All that is conjured up is the sound of rusty spoons, it took three years to expunge that noise from my memory.
  3. “He really is beautiful; no one should be this good-looking” THIS IS NOT OK. Just because he is hot does not make it acceptable for him to beat you. Plus he clearly isn’t that good looking because he has tousled copper curls; you are attracted to side-show-Bob Anastasia, the scariest looking cartoon-man ever drawn.
  4. The playroom. It is red, leather and smells of citrus. The dude has a playroom, he calls it the playroom.
  5. There were two especially traumatising scenarios: one with a fur glove and the other with a tampon. No further comment necessary or physically possible.
  6. My insides practically contort with potent, needy, liquid desire”… food-poisoning imagery, is like, so hot.
  7.  “My inner goddess is beside herself, hopping from foot to foot. Anticipation hangs heavy over my head like a dark tropical storm cloud. Butterflies flood my belly – as well as a darker, carnal, captivating ache as I try to imagine what he will do to me” Never have  I read such poetic prose. Future generations may well be reading this in the classroom, this could be the future of literature.
  8. He has decadent hair. Decadent hair?

I realise that in condemning this book I may well sound like a crazy bra-burner – and all I can say to the people in love with Christian is that one day he will be old, a bad business decision will mean he is bankrupt and all you are left with is a wrinkly pauper who likes to tie you up when you buy the wrong flavoured pot-noodle. The oracle is right, as always, when assessing which character is the better it is patently clear that they are both as bad as each other. And this book is truly woeful. If you buy it, you will live with it in your mind forever… it’s really not worth it.

Tagged , ,

The Tenth Prophecy

Have I any enemies?

Answer –

Where is the simpleton that would thus lose his time?

A few years ago I went to see Mama Mia with my enigmatic ex-boyfriend. Exactly 23 minutes into the film he leaned over and whispered to me….

“Babe – why are they singing?”

“Cos it’s a musical”

“Ah shit man”

Whether it was the fact that it took him 23 minutes to realise we were watching a musical or his sheer outrage when James Bond started to sing I don’t quite know, but at that moment his excellent cricketing skills and dazzling blue eyes seemed to fade away… and right then all I knew was that I hated him. However that was then, and this is now – and all feelings of hatred have since passed and I can simply reflect on our romantic monosyllabic-sweet-nothings (usually about the greatest ever batsmen) with warm fondness.

I write this on the eve of the 12th – tomorrow men in bowler hats and white gloves will march across the province in celebration of a battle fought in 1600andsomething when a Protestant King beat a Catholic King in battle… I’ve seen Sweet Home Alabama, I know that this is not unusual – there are many other places where grown men celebrate battles of ye olde-times. While some may choose to dress up as confederate soldiers and re-enact battles, others prefer a marching band and a shiny orange sash. And though I may mock, the past few days have seen much coverage on the topic of hatred in Northern Ireland.

I am particularly proud of my part-Irish heritage – over time mind-sets have altered and the persistent hatred that has plagued this small part of the world has finally begun to ease. Of course there are some who, largely out of sight, have views so deeply rooted you wonder if any amount of time will dilute them, but for the most part there is optimism about the future and the city I know is very different to the one I hear about in stories.

This morning on radio Ulster – a 55 year old woman (also called Kate) had phoned in to profess how much she detested Catholics, although she did say that she didn’t actually know any personally. When asked to explain why she hated them she had no explanation, just that it was her opinion. And though I thought she hadn’t much skill in debate, I did find myself feeling sorry for her; I pitied her for being ideologically left behind. The declaration prompted many other callers (some were Catholics: “Hi Kate, I’m a Catholic and I don’t hate you” and some were Protestants too, but none could budge Kate – not even the story of a catholic fireman who would put out fires in any house, regardless of religion) and for my part I couldn’t really understand either. To hate on the basis of race, religion or sexual orientation is something so completely irrational to me I find it almost impossible to comprehend.

The woman on the radio made me think of the musical-hating-ex-boyfriend, who famously once refused to take a photo of me and the Fame Academy choreographer on account of him being black. As a white Zimbabwean you could perhaps explain his racism – it was ingrained, but as a fellow human being I could find no excuse. Is the oracle right? Perhaps only simpletons have enemies, because surely those with an ounce of sense must see how futile hatred is.

They say that 1% of hate is love. I’d argue that hatred is less to do with disappointment or revenge or even love, but more associated with self-preservation and fear. The most racist white Zimbabweans were a minority who desperately clung to their positions of power, suspicious and afraid it would all come to an end. IronicallyI can’t help but feel that the narrow-mindedness of some facilitated their demise. Perhaps the same holds true for Northern Ireland; a fear of history repeating itself, a fear of what the ‘other’ side is capable of – essentially a fear of on-going change. And that I can understand. We live in such chaos that we so often cling to what we know when really letting go could be all we need to set us free from such detrimental feelings. The more I think and write about it the more I become convinced that the answer lies in thinking beyond yourself. If a change in perspective is what gives us wings then perhaps our focus should be more in achieving that, and less focused on what history has told us.

Image

p.s my ex-boyfriend wasn’t Desmond Tutu

Tagged , , , , ,

The Ninth Prophecy

Last week I realised I didn’t know what the Capital of Colombia was…but I did know that Reese Witherspoon has two pet Donkeys called Honky and Tonky. And that Hilary Duff’s husband is called Mike Comrie. I own Miley Cyrus’s autobiography. I ordered Horse Shampoo off amazon because that’s what Jennifer Aniston allegedly uses. Processing these truly disturbing facts about myself sent me into a whirling spiral of self loathing and despair – emotions I usually only experience after eating two cheese pastry twists in succession.

“If my fault is discovered, will it be pardoned?”

Answer –

They will forgive you, but you will soon begin again

With my grown-up political job starting soon I have become increasingly paranoid that I will be discovered for what I really am – something so shameful, so obscene… I have a borderline addiction to celebrity gossip and I live in fear that they will find out. When celebrity-gossip.net is your homepage you’re a loser, but it’s not the worst – not yet. In fact I only realised I had hit rock bottom a few weeks ago when someone in the restaurant was talking about Avril Lavigne, I interjected that my friend’s step-brother was going out with her. They all nodded in admiration ‘Oh Kate, you know so many famous people’, I smiled, because it was true. Or half-true. Or actually not true at all. What was true was that I had passed from the realms of loser to the land of delusion. For all the non-freaks out there – Avril Lavigne’s boyfriend is Brody Jenner; Brody Jenner is Kim Kardashian’s step-brother. In my paparazzi-addled brain I actually believed that Kim Kardashian was my friend. As I said, rock bottom.

This morning as I clicked through page after page of mindless poorly written blurbs (where words like ‘shutterbug’ and ‘fab bikini-figure’ feature heavily) I felt nauseated –  I found myself wondering how do you balance who you want to be and who you really are. I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t drag my eyes away from Ashley Tisdale’s (of High School Musical fame) birthday party and I found myself grappling with my different selves. The one I most want to be is a Rhodes Scholar; I want to win Nobel Peace prizes and listen to radio 4 willingly. The truth is in reality I’m like a reject-reality TV contestant – I read Heat magazine and listen to cool.fm – so far my less impressive self is winning.

And so something has to be done. In a months time I’ll be taking over a job from a legitimate Ronan-Farrow type who is not only incredibly politically savvy but horrendously likeable too, and I’ll be working for one of the most inspirational Politicians in our green and rainy land – if my lazy inner-self obsesses over celebrities, my ambitious and unsatisfied self wants to be better. So I’m giving up celebrity-gossip, I’m un-following all Victoria Secret models on twitter – I’m cleansing myself with Jim Naughtie and political philosophy. The Oracle is always right, so no doubt I’ll fall off the wagon soon – but for now my perusal of intelligence means I’ll learn something, I now know where Bogota is… and I know a little bit more about who I want to be, and who I don’t.

Image

Tagged , , , ,

The Eighth Prophecy

As July looms I find myself contemplating what annual illness fate has in store for me. I know that I am a fully fledged hypochondriac, but I can also see a pattern when there is one – and for the last seven years every July (without fail) I have been struck down with some particularly unfortunate and generally unattractive illness. With this very much in mind I consulted the oracle:

Shall I always enjoy good health?

Answer: –

Your health depends on your own inclination

Last July I got Chicken Pox for the unlikely second time (whole other blog post dedicated to this trauma), but really that story does not even compete with my previous health track record. After second year finals I went to Kenya to stay with a friend and one day we went to a giraffe sanctuary where you could feed the giraffes – I put a food pellet in my mouth so that a giraffe would kiss me (I’m not a weirdo, other people were doing it too). It seemed like a great photo opportunity at the time (in persual of a totes amazeballs profile pic you know), however not only did some thief in Nairobi steal the camera shortly after but I ended up in hospital for two weeks because I’d consumed faeces. July 2010 I got E.Coli.

For my 21st Birthday my brother flew me to Cape Town for a month – my brother is one of my favourite people in the whole world, kind and funny – he’s always been a role model. But he can also be quite terrifying. He has zero tolerance for smokers and was less than impressed to see his baby sister lighting up a Marlboro on the first night I was there. Realising the wrath of an older brother was far worse than any nicotine cravings I promptly swore never to smoke again. One day though he left me at a shopping mall, and I broke my oath. I had an illicit cigarette. I suddenly felt faint, and feverish – was this God punishing me? Perhaps. Bed ridden and lesson learnt, July 2009 I had Swine Flu.

The previous year I woke up and saw a half human, half bull-frog mutant staring back at me in the mirror. Glands like golf-balls – it was July 2008 that I got glandular fever. Perhaps the most impressive bodily-malfunction to date was a pustule-growth the size of a pea on my left eye. July 2007 I had the largest stye ever witnessed by the city hospital.

However it was the previous year that really cemented my status as a medical-freak. One morning I woke up with a half paralysed face. I went into school regardless, thinking it was just a spasm – the teachers sent me to hospital thinking I’d had a stroke. For almost two months I had no movement on one side of my face, excess droolage, and an eye I had to tape shut at night. July 2006 I had Bell’s Palsy.

Throw in Malaria and a few others and healthwise, it would be fair to conclude that my luck is not the best. So with this extensive list in mind I feel I am perfectly justified in being concerned about what next month holds in store for me. I’m not sure how many more bizarre attacks my special-needs immune system can withstand. With this totally melodramatic revelation comes a good dose of perspective.

It’s the curse of July for me; it’s made me obsessed with my health. That fear of getting something else strange and disfiguring. It’s much like the curse of being human, the fear of not having a full life, of missing opportunities. It is worth thinking about for a bit; but eventually you have to come back because really, it really all depends on your own inclination.

Image

Tagged , , , ,

The Seventh Prophecy

What is generally thought of my intelligence?

Answer: –

That you can make better use of it.

Ever since I returned to the grey-greenery of my teenage years I’ve been spending a lot of my time with my father, who deserves a brief introduction – he is a quite brilliant artist, semi-recluse and generator of many, many ideas – with a former nom de plum of Quaid-Bert, he now refers to himself as Hercule O’Hearlihy. Hercule’s current muse is Sofie Gråbøl (the Danish detective who wears the ugly jumpers). He sometimes writes letters to her inviting her to tea at the Baytree. One day we were walking by the sea when he said:

“Kate, do you want to see how Sofie Gråbøl walks?

“Ok”

 “Wait there and then follow me”

(Fifteen minutes passed of him demonstrating how Sofie walks and me trying to avoid eye-contact with passers-by…)

“Kate, do you want to see how the Chief Inspector walks?”

Once when I was a child, he formed such an irrational dislike for a man in our town that he constructed (in our garden) human size vultures pecking a model of this loathed-man to death. Awkward, especially when the neighbours sought an explanation. If he teaches me the importance of questioning and thinking beyond our social confines, Hercule also acts as a potential warning – I wonder how possible it is to straddle the spheres of convention and anarchy, and if this is possible, then how do you maintain that middle ground before you start making sculptures of large birds eating people you know. If it is a question of intelligence – and Hercule is incredibly intelligent – how do you best use it, push your thoughts to the edge without losing reason.

I realised that my own mind was teetering on the precipice of insanity when I caught myself watching the traffic warden. Whilst rinsing out the mop,  washing away the grime from the night before I let my thoughts wander, and as I looked out over the high street I found myself thinking about the traffic warden. It was at this moment that I realised how I often think about him. Often as in a lot, like a lot a lot. I even talk to customers about him. (Please note: This is not a tale of unrequited love, it is a tale of voyeuristic anthropology). The Traffic Warden is the most hated man in our town. He stalks the streets with an almost religious-mania, and unlike most residents, I know that he is only hated because he is truly excellent at his job. His complete lack of sympathy when confronted with panic-stricken drivers (who are literally crying over their tickets) only endears him further to me. He is ruthless. His face is part hidden, his warden hat angled – the mysterious lone ranger of the high street. His boat-like shoes pound the pavement relentlessly; he is always on the look-out for cars that have outstayed their allotted hour. He is a shiny red and black uniformed keeper of the law.

I told Hercule I had been watching him, mesmerised by his dedication, restless with my own conflicting ambitions. My greatest wish you see is to earn a living where I can be as focused as he; this realisation along with the oracles revelation proves that to discover my calling I must in fact make better use of my intelligence.

This thought was reinforced when I read about an exhibition at the Guardian Gallery, Kings Place, N1 called ‘Beneath the surface’ – which shows Steve Bloom’s photographs of South Africa in the mid 1970s (I think it’s on until the 28th of June). One of the photograph’s that was featured in last Sunday’s observer has haunted me this past week. Not so much because of the obvious social contrast but more because of the quiet defeatism seen in the man’s face, his expression broke my heart a little and it made me think of Zimbabwe – I thought of a documentary I saw several years ago when a man of a similar age was interviewed, sitting outside his home in the sun – he hadn’t eaten for three days. He had the same expression. I wrote I wanted to avoid being pushed beyond reason, but so much worse to be pushed to the extent where you lose all sense of hope. It made me think how self-indulgent I am with my thoughts. There are things in the world that we choose to ignore for our own sanity. Sometimes I angrily wonder how there be so many people living such brutally awful lives, yet we don’t talk about it. I know I’m just as guilty; all I talk about are job interviews and traffic wardens. Seeking world peace seems so naïve, but perhaps the only way to live in a better world is to do as much as you can with your own life – to be grateful for the opportunities that so many others are denied, showing that gratitude by making use of what comes your way – knowing this and living by this… well to me, that’s the best use of intelligence I can think of.

 http://www.lfph.org/diary/beneath-the-surface

Tagged , , , , , ,

The Sixth Prophecy

How many husbands shall I have?

Answer :-

“Several in jest and one who will cause you to weep

It may come as a surprise to discover that once upon a time I was engaged to be married. Even more surprising is the fact that technically I think I still may be. So far the oracle has been completely right, and if the following account (coupled with the sixth prophecy) is anything to go by – my future looks far bleaker than even I could anticipate. Unemployment I can deal with, marriage I cannot.

About two years ago I found myself at the mecca of Southern-Hemiphere scummery. The Church is a nomadic nightclub in London which I first encountered when it was located in Kentish Town, allegedly it has now moved to Clapham, but I can’t be sure or bothered to google it. My advice is simple, never ever go there. My fellow Afro-Irish friend Tasha (a platinum blonde bombshell with a collection of tattoos and miniscule skirts) had come to visit one weekend, and as homage to our childhood we made our way to the Church. The Church opens at midday on Sundays and closes at 4pm, the floor is covered in sawdust and you can only buy (with tokens) your drinks in three’s – these come in a plastic bag which most attach to their belts. With pre-historic strippers for entertainment and all the worst 90’s classics to dance to – this is a cultural experience of the highest order.

Initially we promised not to drink (we were there to observe and Tasha was worried dodgy saffas would replace the alcohol with chemicals that would make her blind), yet it soon became clear that the sole way to endure this hideousness (despite potential loss of eyesight) was to purchase our own plastic bags of Fosters (our dignity may fast have been approaching negative points – but please note that not once did we resort to fastening our beverages to any part of our clothing which I hope did us credit). Those who arrive in costume are waived an entry fee and I can assure you that the Southern hemisphere-ites choice of fancy dress make even Prince Harry’s party attire seem positively tasteful. Think boot polish. We thus avoided making eye contact with anyone dressed up, thereby considerably reducing the number of people we could talk to. Tasha was instantly cornered by every beefy buffoon in a ten metre radius and I (with my darker hue of blonde hair) was left talking to some seriously wigga kiwis. Before I embark on my explanation of how it was I became engaged, I should really give a bit of background information regarding previous suitors as means of an explanation as to how it was my betrothal came about.

I’ve always assumed my aversion to marriage came as a result of previous and unfortunate specimens of romantic interest. If this was ye olde times then one would be forgiven for presuming I had met the majority of my suitors at the travelling circus when viewing them in the cages they were so rightly kept. The modern day freaks i’m attracted to can be divided into three main categories:

Specimen One: The Southern African Abroad

Appealing qualities are mainly aesthetic, a lifetime of sport and sunshine means that those from this category are well built and tanned. Good sporting knowledge. If made temporarily homeless this homo sapiens would be capable of slaughtering something for dinner (just don’t expect him to cook it).

Unappealing qualities: somewhat lacking in the intelligence department (one too many rugby balls to the head). Unlikely to believe in evolution or equal rights or conservation. Prone to shooting things. Unlikely to be able to read or speak in words of more than one syllable.

 

Specimen Two: The Rah Boy

Appealing qualities – generally excellently groomed with a good head of hair. Well travelled. Nice taste in shoes. Knows about cricket and rugby. Good command of a knife and fork, well mannered around strangers.

Unappealing qualities – cries easily (result of boarding school abandonment issues), weak chin. Finds un-funny things hilarious especially when it comes to the mocking of poor people; homosexuals, those with disabilities and foreigners. Presumed secret empathy for the BNP. Zero knowledge of politics but supports the Tories regardless (on the grounds of lenient inheritance tax.)

 

Type number three: The Irish Militant

Appealing qualities – nice eyes. Good sense of humour. Down to earth and friendly (providing you’re from the right side of the divide… or left – religion depending). Somewhat skewed, but nevertheless, real passion for history. Would be able to protect you, regardless of dubious methods used in doing so.

Unappealing qualities – often short in stature, and therefore frequently in possession of Short Man Syndrome (unrelated, but have there ever been any tall dictators?) alcoholic, pyromaniac, not overly tolerant.

Overall none were really keepers.

So there I was, having just ended a long-term relationship with a member of the Southern African Abroad group, I was feeling disillusioned and alone. When my new kiwi friend announced in desolated tones that he was due to be deported, a flash went off in my head. As a plumber on the underground he was in possession of good vocational skills, he owned a car, seemed neither aggressive nor overly stupid and most importantly he did not fall into any of the categories I usually found myself landed with. What more could you want in a husband? And so it was that I proposed to him, with heartfelt offerings of my British Nationality. He said ok, and offered me a holiday in New Zealand in return. I love the Lord of The Rings. We were clearly soul mates.

Tasha, meanwhile, had managed to offend one Flinstone-of-an-Australian and in retreat had beckoned me to replenish our supply of Fosters. With the decision to follow her, I turned my back on my impening marriage. I never saw my fiancé again. I did look for him, but to no avail. I never even knew his name. In retrospect I suppose this was not necessarily a bad thing, if I am (as prophesised) to have several marriages in jest then one less can only be good economics.

The Ladies Oracle is preoccupied with questions of the heart… I have so far avoided asking any of these. Traumatised by failed engagements, racist boyfriends and the occasional propensity to stalk interesting people simply because they use coloured writing pens and break things when intoxicated, I have sworn myself off men for the past few months. I resent the number of questions dedicated to the male sex because it highlights the worst of stereotypical female characteristics. What I do know to be true is that there are far too many people in relationships simply to avoid their own company, and whilst ideally you should be happy with yourself I do believe far better to have a marriage (or several) in jest, than one to in order to escape yourself… So in light of the fact that I refuse to believe happiness lies purely in a relationship (and *vom* actually lies in the one with youself), if any more husband related questions arise from the oracle I will simply have to use my long-lost fiancé as reference, (as painful as may be) he was once almost my husband and for now that will have to suffice. Besides I have several more coming my way, so what’s to worry about?

Image

(Fiance is the one in the hat, and I make no apologies for my t-shirt)

******************************

p.s thank you for all the concern regarding my near destitution, I actually do have a paid job and an internship, so offers to send me food are not really necessary. I’m occasionally prone to slight exaggeration, and my last posts were more to highlight the lack of interesting jobs and my inability to secure any of the rare ones going! Appreciate the thoughts all the same though.

Tagged , ,

The Fifth Prophecy

Will my position soon be changed?

Answer : –

“It will change if you change it, not else”

They did warn us post-graduation that finding a job would not be an easy task, that we would be poorer than our parents were. Our generation would pay for the materialistic consumer driven mistakes of those who had brought us here –  this carbon gassed, war ridden, and immoral world. I paid little attention to the doom and gloom of my elders. They were old after all, and I was young – and everyone knows that to be young is the key to success. Besides I had gone to a prestigious red-brick university in London and the world was my oyster. Very soon I would be living in Cheslea, dancing in red soled shoes on the Kings Road and drinking over priced cocktails – happiness epitomised for any half-wit, twenty-something girl.

Deciding on the glamorous world of publishing, I applied for a graduate training scheme with Harper Collins. I spent more time researching what publishers wore than what they actually did (appearance is everything), and so on the day of my first interview I looked the part, whatever that part was meant to be. I spoke enthusiastically about a Turkish writer I had seen on a TED talk, and a few weeks later I was invited to a final interview. Finding a job was clearly not as difficult as they had all predicted. And I believed that, until it all started to go wrong – firstly because of Rupert Murdoch, and then because of a three year old –but really because of me.

I woke up very early on the morning of my final interview. Feverish and aching all over, I initially attributed these symptoms to nerves –however when a cystic acne face stared back at me in the bathroom mirror, my worst nightmares were quickly confirmed. I had chicken pox… for the second time. Too tired to wash my hair, and too itchy to attempt any proper concealment of my blemished face, I went to my interview in spite of my better judgement (and I’ll admit, a complete lack of concern for the pensioners I was unwittingly murdering on the tube – that thought has plagued me since if it is any consolation).

One of my interviewers made a joke and laughed – I glared at her, didn’t smile and continued to scratch my incredibly itchy elbow and look out the window. When asked which literary character I most identified with, my response was Elizabeth from The Naughtiest Girl in the School books (Enid Blyton is an excellent shout for those wishing to demonstrate sophisticated literary tastes…) improving my performance, I changed my mind and said actually no I was too square to be like Elizabeth and I didn’t know who I was like… next question?  By the time it got to the presentation part of the assessment (and my acne had now turned into a delightful collage of aggressive boils) I had difficulty remembering where exactly I was. I do know that the entire Harper Collins board of directors were watching me, and a few were sniggering (I don’t blame them), the CEO definitely passed a note to another executive– more laughter, but by now most of my attention was on how much my back itched, and how it would be very hard to imagine a worse day, and the total humiliation sort of passed me by. Maybe I have more of a moral conscience than I realised, and my bout of chicken pox was a physical reaction to the notion of working for Rupert Murdoch… a deeper part of me thinks it was fate’s cruel lesson on the evils of complacency.

I left Harper Collins HQ looking like a Clearasil experiment that had gone very wrong, delirious and completely demoralised.  A bag of haribo, and the realisation that publishing is actually just about sales (and largely sales of really bad celebrity autobiographies) made me feel a little better. I tried to be optimistic, and rather than focusing on the fact that I studied an arguably arbitrary subject for three years (I am yet to discover how any knowledge of Trobriand Islanders social rituals could ever be useful) or that after 19 years of education there are no desirable jobs, and little prospect of any in the near future, I have maybe learnt something. Namely:

• That despite Harper’s Human Resources director not believing me, you can get chicken pox twice. I am living proof, and he is a stupid-head.

• If you apply to work for a News Corp company, my experience tells me there is an extremely high chance that you may develop a serious childhood illness for an unlikely second time.

• In a face-to-face interview: not answering questions, looking out the window and never smiling will not win you a job. Take it from me.

• Equally unappealing is greasy hair and continuous scratching of your body, this will give the impression of poor personal hygiene and should be avoided if at all possible.

• No one likes a show off, however having Enid Blyton as your favourite author (aged 23) is not overly impressive. It would be nice to suggest some sort of progression in reading tastes.

My series of unsuccessful applications since has shown me that a sense of entitlement is one of the greatest disadvantages my generation has to deal with today. I left London the day of the riots, with a real sense of sadness. A lot of school and not many prospects, I felt angry with the world too. I felt angry that I had wasted time and money; that I had voted for a party that did the opposite of what it promised. I feel angry now, I’m angry that I’m working in a restaurant that I worked in before University, regression? Perhaps, more so for my single hard working mother who had mistakenly thought she had seen the back of all her children, it isn’t just my generation that’s suffering. I have also discovered that the things I so badly wanted when I was a student no longer appeal to me. Having spent time with my family, had time to really question what it is I want to do with my life I know the oracle to be right. Five out of five. I suppose all we can do is hope, try and expect a little less and do a little more – “It will change if you change it, not else”

Tagged , ,

The Fourth Prophecy

Johnny the Jig is Holywood’s most famous child. He sits on the high street and plays his accordion. A child from another era, he looks bedraggled and content. The sculpture is my favourite thing in Holywood and while I was photographing it the other day I found myself thinking a lot about my own childhood. The oracle offers only one question on the subject:

“Am I still thought a child?”

the answer I was given –

“They know there are no children in this age”

I suppose accessing childhood memories becomes harder for everyone as they get older, but for me so many of my memories are half formed from stories and photographs – the other half a vague recollection of what my infant-self witnessed. Leaving Zimbabwe was difficult, and I think for many years I found it easier to simply not think about it. But now that I’m older (and extremely wise) I’ve discovered that thinking about my childhood has been vitally important, not just in understanding my own identity but in appreciating just how lucky we were.

I remember granadilla’s growing at the bottom of the garden, the horse eating the paw-paws, my father’s weird sculptures located in even weirder places, and dress up – I lived for dress up. I remember a new word ‘war veterans’ being introduced into our vocabulary, my mother telling me stories, I remember being feverish with malaria, and I can still smell the sweet flowers of the Jacaranda trees and the feel warm gravel burning under my feet.

I can remember Veronica shelling peas outside in the sun – I put a plastic bag over my head and she told me that I had to take it off because if I died Jesus would come from the sky and shout at her. That was the first I’d ever heard of Jesus.

I remember nights in the dormitory when we whispered about boys from under our counterpane’s and snuck out into the courtyard to gaze at the stars. I remember avoiding hippos as we canoed down the Zambezi and agonising what single sweet to choose on a trip to town. Mostly I remember a time that was largely spent in our imaginations, oblivious to the crumbling walls of the world around us. There would be other nights when our whispers turned to worry – fears of the future. The rumours and tension had slowly eased their way into our world unnoticed – and with their arrival they took the last moments of our childhood. The first white farmer to be killed was from our town, the bitter irony is that there are so many others to have suffered that we will never know about, skin colour still determining political relevance.

When I think back to those days I realise that we were the first generation where the racial divide was starting to matter less and less, schools were integrated and the colour of your skin rarely mattered. The generation of Zimbabwean children who left, like myself, undoubtedly suffered – having everything you know taken from you is traumatic – but we also had something that most will never know, we knew what it was to be children. I was a lucky one, I think of my school friends, both black and white, who were left behind and I know it was worse for them. Looking at Johnny the Jig, and thinking of my own upbringing I realise that the oracle is right, with half the children in the world living in abject poverty and the other half raised with only materialism as guidance, there are no children in this age. I think that’s worth thinking about.

Tagged ,