Monthly Archives: October 2014

#8 ~ Humour is like a piece of cake

My sister is a joker. At a very young age she learnt the art of laughing at herself and therefore with others. I have tried numerous times to master said skill. Sadly I tend to be the one people are laughing at, yet i regularly convince myself they are laughing with. When the penny drops (often after i’ve laughed myself into a coughing fit) my embarrassment turns to frustration turns to a sour face.

Today as we were cracking joke by phone, we (read I) casually embarked on some shared (read self imposed) Facebook stalking, upon which we (read I) stumbled (read searched thoroughly for) some (read specific) images of a friend I admired. Gushing to my sister about how great they were, her first response was

They have a monobrow

I was crushed.

But look at the cheekbones I implored.

I’m a superficial person – she laughed, as I desperately tried to do an eye transplant via the phone line so she would see what I was seeing.

But they’re so sweet – I continued. I wasn’t sure why I was putting so much effort into this attempt to let her see said individual from my perspective – the endeavour was embarrassing if not, on reflection, creepy at the least

Look, i’m sure they’re great, but i believe in the separation of their eyebrows, they deserve freedom, emancipation is their’s for the taking.

I could not control the laugh that screeched out of my voice box. See my sister has this deadpan sort of humour – when it’s transcribed it comes across as rude (which it is!), but she manages to express herself with a gentility that is sweet and harmless at the same time. And also, cruelly funny.

Talking to a friend earlier today about laughter, I’m always reminded how little I laugh when I’m not at home. It’s as though humour were a piece of cake, a small slice of deliciousness that one can’t eat whenever they want, partly because there isn’t occasion to consume regularly.

I want to delight in humour more this year. Humour at other people’s expense isn’t the greatest form, but there are so many different types, so many ways to laugh, to laugh with others, to laugh with oneself. To be filled with humour would be a delicious thing to achieve this year. With that in mind, one of the first stand ups that ever made me really laugh – the late Mitch Hedberg:

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#7 ~ Library Hustle

The library used to be a place of utter un-productivity for me. The silence, the stuffiness and the feigned concentration all brought me into direct contact with the greying boarder of a comatose state. But then I discovered working in my room just meant extended nap time – so me and the library had to sort out some kind of effective working pact. Yet, now traversing my final year, there are a few things about the library and the evident hustle that takes place in it, that I have decided to take some real issue with.

No .1 – The Stage Whisper.

I work in the SPS library. It should stand for Select People’s Study Library considering very clear-cut gang lines develop as the year progresses. Territorial possession of tables and glowering stares are the welcome party for newbies who have not been pulling solid 9-7’s since October. But it stands for Sociology Politics and…I actually don’t know what the last S is for. It could be Social Anthropology….i’m genuinely not sure. But anyway, this library, designed to let natural light caress your double-strength, high-gloss text-book pages, is open planned. It means sound carries. The librarians, a pretty chilled-out lot, occupy the lower level, so us students have free reign up top – yet the taboo of speaking still holds court. So to get around it, happy homework gangs, crowded around adjacent tables decide to whisper. But not the imperceptible whisper that is conducive to putting together an escape plan while your kidnapper is negotiating with the police. A stage whisper. You know, the type of whisper that takes place by actors on a stage to convey the idea of a real whisper, but audible enough so the AUDIENCE CAN HEAR??!!

What is the point. Seriously? Why go to all those lengths. Just talk normally. Because when said culprits whisper all this unchartered air begins to gush out between their teeth as they start to over enunciate and develop an elongated lisp so all I hear is the crashing waves of sss’s and punctuative, plosive ‘ps’ and ‘bs’ that sear through my headphones. And then they laugh – because obviously essay planning can only be endured with humour. Imagine that – a stage whispered laugh. If you can’t, it sounds like rapid fire heavy breathing and asthmatic inhaling. Why? Just. Why?

No.2 – Adopting the Studious Position with Pzaaaaz

You know those people. They clomp up the steps, huffing and puffing so all the tables shake and everyone raises their head in anticipation of their entrance. Swinging their backpack/handbag some kind of holding device off their shoulders they let it land on the table, wham, the impact rippling through the stacked books and forcibly re-arranging the metal casing of your laptop, so that your equipment ends up with a sympathetic dent. Then throwing themselves onto their chairs, they sigh at all the (un-called for ) effort they have expelled, before scrambling (loudly) to unpack their chargers, snap open their laptops, smash their (constantly vibrating) phones in the space that separates your elbow from their sprawl of papers.

Click goes the top of the highlighter, preeeeessssss goes the nib engraving their thoughts into the very psyche of the long dead table their elbows are pressing studiously into. They exhale, nostrils flaring as your skin is engulfed in a stream of air.

WHY SO MUCH EFFORT PEOPLE. Making notes just isn’t that deep. The library is a quiet place. Learn to unpack quietly. Learn to notes take quietly. Learn to BREATHE quietly. We all know that this year is a hustle year, we’re all getting into gear, but being extraneously noisy is at best a distraction at worst an inconvenience. Stop, please and learn the art of gentle working.

And last but not least….

No.3 – “Hey, i’m in the library…what’s up?”

Are.You.Mad. It’s not a question, it’s not even a form of rhetoric, it is the sound of utter exasperation. Not only is your phone ON (and at this point i’d like to also call out the jingle for what’s app messages – that is seriously getting to me, a still non-smartphone user), but you both register the call, register your surroundings, and answer – in a more than AUDIBLE voice. At this point I urge you to bring back the somewhat redundant stage whisper at least. That is better than the blatant causality with which you engulf all within sonic reach with the ins and outs of your life. Stop.

I’m not saying i’ve never answered my phone in the library. Sometimes things happen. But when they do, you cup your hand over your mouth, whisper ‘in lib, hold on’, and dash down the stairs to the freedom of outside. Upon your return, you nod your head apologetically to all who greet your presence, place said phone in your pocket where its’ vibrations will not be heard, and return to your work. The precarious peace has been restored.

The library hustle is a serious thing, but let’s make it a hush hush hustle.

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#6 ~ Let the Rain Wash Over You

Her crown of purple and gold was drenched by the intermittent tears that fell, like rapid fire, from the tempestuous faces of a fatigued crowd of underfed and overworked clouds. They grumbled their discontent each time a proposition to suspend their lethargic tantrum was presented. And so the tears fell, pooling along bitumen lined roads, washing them slick with the image of sweat, a covering that turned them from trusted friends to slimy paths that shimmered belligerently under drug induced headlights. I watched their shallow tears fall, washing over the hushed night like a damp blanket that brought no comfort but the anxiety of further ill. I thought of their cries, hollowing out the heavens with each unexpected shower, bursting over the huddled figures gracelessly, carelessly.

And I thought of how each cry was mimicked, behind concrete and wood lined walls, in the cracks of brick and ageing mortar. I heard the disaffected chorus welling up, swelling over doorposts and under window frames, trailing round fences and gates. A moaning, wailing, mournful chorus that shook tears onto carpets, and scrunched screams up in shredded sheets of paper.

I thought about how the rain was meant to wash things away, how it was supposed to beckon in new dawns lined with fresh sprays of freedom and hope. How it was meant to cover the evil that had erupted from the clods of earth and manure we built our foundations upon.

But that night, the rain was not a blanket of peace, it was not the amniotic sac that preserved what was good in this world, holding it gently until dry land was found upon which life, crowned by a white dove, could be re-born.

That night, the rain washed over a scar wrenched city, each drop a nail hammering into already broken minds, the cries of the clouds only swelling that grey matter, their rumblings covering the pitiful moans with a forecast of tempestuous weather.

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#5 – Don’t Compete

Exhaustion is bred from external competition, but any good athlete knows discipline and planning is what wins the race.

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#4 ~ Have No Shame

Some tops are not made to be worn, not if, like most, moisture accumulates underneath your arms when you are cold. Some tops are great for days like that – the body moisture (note to self: because you drink water it has no odour), blends perfectly well with the texture and colour of the top so when you raise your hands for a salutary high-5 there’s no awkward pause from the responding partner. Some tops suck at that. Into this basket I throw fitted dark grey cotton polo necks. They look fit, but the problem is they fit (haha) too well and tend to shift from grey to black in the under-arm section of the otherwise perfect selection of final-year battle gear.

So this evening I found myself crouched (literally) under a dryer with my body twisted towards the ceiling and my arm looped over a less than capable stainless-steel contraption (it was the second one I had accosted), as I slid my body up and down the tiled bathroom wall trying to repeatedly trigger the sensor so small puffs of supposedly hot air would dry my underarms.

It looked weird. I was so hoping no-one would dash in for the toilet, as the sight of me polishing bathroom tiles with my rib-cage and inadvertently thrusting my hips at the fitted ceiling lights was disturbing even for my reflection, let alone someone actually detached from my being.

But, I found myself in said position, because I had two options:

Option 1: Rock about with black patches oozing from your armpits to under your bra-line and feel self conscious that your body is leaking

Option 2: Fix it.

Now there is nothing wrong with our bodies natural functions. I recognise the image I have just depicted would seem as though I were sweat-shaming myself and in the process all other human beings with sweat glands who wear clothing. I love my sweat, it keeps me alive, keeps me cool, sometimes it acts as a natural moisturiser (ok, that’s a joke gone too far), but I don’t really have a problem with it as an essential part of my being. Of course my noted insecurity is a product of a social image I have all but digested which presents the body and all its natural functions (especially anything that leaks and moreover is related to the female anatomy) as grotesque – and we have a long journey to fight such a warped view of ourselves, BUT, before I digress and begin pontificating about my various stances of feminist politics, I learnt a valuable lesson today, one in PRO-ACTIVITY.

I was pro-active about my situation. I didn’t like the position I was in, I didn’t want to wear a self-created 2 tone polo neck, so I did what I could to avoid such a situation. I took initiative and went in search of a ‘cure’, or at least a means to achieve my desired goal – a non-sweat obvious piece of chest clothing.

I’m about to start my first week of lectures. For the past few years a lot of material has skipped gloriously over my sculpted head, sometimes it even sings a lullaby as it goes by. I’ve been afraid in the past of asking questions, of approaching lecturers or fellow class mates. I’ve felt stuck – i know i’m supposed to ‘get’ the information, but I don’t and I don’t know how or where to ‘get’ it. So I walk around with obvious dark patches in my intellectual knowledge and my weekly essays.

This year I’m finding that dryer – two if need be. And if it means sliding up and down metaphorical bathroom tiles (which, in context, would be the equivalent of pulling night shifts in the library and being the student who asks a question *breathes sharply* at the end of lectures) in order to get that puff of dry air, that spark of inspiration, then so be it.

If your armour has holes in it – it’s pretty shit. If your armour doesn’t protect you as expected, it isn’t doing its job. If you don’t have the initiative to get an alternative and thus place yourself in the most confident and comfortable position possible, then the only person you’re hurting is you. And if you don’t know how to fix your armour, then you are a handicapped soldier. Solutions start with you – have no shame to ask the question, have no shame to do what it takes, no matter how embarrassing, to get what you need (so long as it’s legal and doesn’t actually injure or harm another human being…or this planet).

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#4 ~ Make a List

Make a list. Make lots of lists. Cross out things on said list. Then make some more.

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#3 ~ Go For A Drive

I don’t drive. Rephrase, I can’t drive. I’m in my early 20s and I don’t even have a provisional. I’m that recalcitrant clubber who whips out their passport for ID – the same passport that does not fit in the clutch bag and therefore inhibits your once-in-a-blue-moon party hard nights because you know if you lose it, the levels of poverty you will sink to in order to replace it are just depressing.

I’ve been meaning to apply for a provisional for over a year now, it’s part of my ‘get your ‘ish together‘ To Do List, but in the meantime my legs and I have become best friends, and my feet are as trained as an SAS soldier hitting his PB for the fourth time in a row.

However, saying all that, today I got a lift from a friend after some dissertation fieldwork I was doing 2 hours out of town. I’d had to power-walk, bus and train it to my chosen destination, but on the way back the motorised cruise was a welcome break to my slightly blistered feet (because, note to self, it does NOT take 20minutes to walk from my house to the station).

I have found, that like most people after a certain age, in life, especially in a life where contact is easy, one has many, many acquaintances, and very few friends. Friendships take time, heck, even well meaning acquaintances take time and ‘intentionality’. You have to want to get to know somebody more than stalking their Facebook photos and briefly catching the side of their chin across a crowded room soaked with perspiration and alcohol fumes.

And time is something no-one wants to part with – because it’s precious. But it’s also necessary. It’s necessary in order to develop you into that person that survives and goes on surviving every test, every hurdle, every fork in the road that comes into view.

During my exam term last year, I sat with one of my best friends in our canteen for a revision break. Mourning the lack of food on our plates and the stinginess of the dinner ladies, our conversation undulated between dark humour to student wisdom. In and amongst this raucously sincere conversation my friend challenged me about friendships.

“You’re someone who does a lot of stuff. I’m sure there are plenty of people who would like to get to know you, but they probably think you don’t have time for them. So they never approach you and you never get to know them.”

[insert dramatic script writing, e.g.:] He looked at me from under his young eyebrows and said in a grave voice that belied his years

“You have one more year in this place [BEAT] make it count”.

I do do a lot of stuff. This year has barely begun and my diary has been highlighted in four different colours, whilst each designated day is covered with permanent black scrawl and lead pencil possibilities. No doubt it will look like a spiders web of ink by the end of next week and a fully illustrated manga volume by the end of the year.

Yet my heart twinges when I think there are people out there, people who might enrich my life, that I won’t meet because I appear too busy.

Sure i’m getting myself geared for battle, but every soldier gets a few days of R&R. So today, as I drove home during one of those rare moments when work, internet access and urgent phone calls were not even a possibility, I had a chance to chat, more or less uninhibited, about faith, and from faith to school work, to what a carburettor is, to how a car engine works. From compliments to aspirations to affirmation and then it lead to key chains and sprockets,guitar strings and microwave meals and jam sessions and – discourse.

I might not get such an opportunity again, but that drive, those few hours outside the bubble reminded me that there was something I was moving towards that was on the other side, and it was populated with, living, breathing, growing…people. And when you get a chance to talk to those people, you get a chance to grow.

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