Life as we know it

The future looks more like the past than the past did.

When I was a kid, I thought that in 2005 I would have those self lacing hi-tops from Back to the Future and be living in a Jetsons style apartment in space.

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The future

The technological advancements have been amazing. Even if I do seem remarkably underwhelmed a lot of the time.

Why can’t I Whatsapp underground? Why won’t my internet work faster if I click a thousand times every 5 seconds?

I suppose there’s a disappointed child in me that wanted the future where pizza rehydrators existed.

Despite technological advancement and surface improvements, we continue to live on shaky foundations. As an animal we’re a real show off. Look at how clever we are, we can fit a camera on a phone. But we’ll continue to perpetrate ideas of race superiority, act violently and bomb the brains out of each other, because we’re retro like that.

Maybe that’s why Lavish Reynolds chose to stream the moments following her boyfriend’s shooting. Use our technological advancements to showcase our failures as a society. We’ve failed to progress if even one person is being treated this way, let alone thousands. It’s even worse that others make excuses for it, or try to downplay serious social injustice.

Killing people is wrong. Acting out of hate and prejudice is wrong. Controlling people through fear is wrong.

It’s like that film California Man. Yes, they dressed him up so he could fit into Encino life, but he was a caveman and continued to behave that way. That’s how humanity has started looking to me; like a PG Tips advert where the chimps have gone feral.

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Let’s have a cuppa. We’re not animals.

We’ve all got a brain. We can all think. Reflect. Take responsibility for our own lives. Our own actions. Yet so many people would much rather make excuses for their behaviour. He scared me. She was provoking me. So and so says we should be wary of those people. Why don’t we just think for ourselves? Why do so many people think they are exempt from basic human decency? Why do so many people buy into the crap spouted by hateful people, blindly assuming they have our best interests at heart?

Why abdicate your own reason in favour of someone else’s?

Erich Fromm called it The Fear of Freedom. It was too much to be responsible for our own decisions and use our free will responsibly. What if we made a mistake? The majority would rather be told what to do. How to think. Where to shop. Who to blame. Then it wasn’t their fault. It was what they had been taught/told/shown.

But the ‘He told me to do it’ defence doesn’t hold up.

We advanced too fast and weren’t mentally prepared for it. But a handful of opportunists were. Peter Parker got the “With great power comes great responsibility’ talk. What did we get? Pictures of my dinner, smartphones and Kris Kardashian’s pasta primavera recipe.

Distractions.

They released the self lacing hi-tops a few months back.

Oh, how far we’ve come.

Vicious Cycle

The only person you can change is yourself

Einstein once said that the definition of madness was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

You can fall into unhealthy patterns with certain people. I always thought if I tried harder, compromised and practiced patience, things would improve.

But people show you what they’re about. Ignore what they say. Mute and watch.

You’re not supposed to call it. You’re not supposed to change. You’re meant to perpetuate the cycle.

My relationship with my parents is a vicious cycle I have often tried to escape from. The stuff that Grimm Fairy tales are made of. I’ve always been quite wary of people and their intentions as a result.

If it was still socially acceptable to dump a daughter in a forest for not agreeing with you, my dad would be all over that, and my mum would blindly second him.

Why it’s like this is a mystery to me. My parents have always seen me as a troublemaker. My mother says it’s because I was a horrible child. Always crying. Having to defend why I cried as a baby was a particular low point.

I talk a lot. I have a fiery temper. I stand up for myself. I sing in the shower.

Not everyone likes that.

I was always pleasantly surprised by people who enjoyed my company. Growing up, being me was something I was told was offensive to others. The friends with ulterior motives, cheating partners, and bullying exes were to be expected, if I believed what my dad had to say.

It was easy to leave home. But cycles aren’t broken by walking away. You find a way to continue them.

If I kept asking people who didn’t value me what I was worth, I would keep on getting the same miserable answer and feeling bad about myself. There were better people to ask.

Saner people too.

I have had nothing but time on my hands in the last few months. Time to sort out my affairs, make plans for the future and readdress relationships I have had that have been one sided, disrespectful and disloyal.

It’s made me happier, albeit a few friends lighter.

There is no winning at home. If I’m not there I’m ungrateful, if I am there I wasn’t welcome in the first place.

You can’t argue with that.

You can put on headphones on and look for jobs abroad, or somewhere else to live.

It’s nice to be supported and liked by your parents. But not necessary.

My sanity and happiness, I can’t live without.

 

Main Image courtesy of Gratis Photography.

Rebel Rebel

I clearly do not like being told what to do

A paramilitary tried to train me for a cross country run once. I thought running with someone else would be fun.

Wrong.

The clue was in the fact he was paramilitary. As a result, he thought barking at me to run faster, run backwards, slow down, go faster, would motivate me. I stopped about 2k in and said I wasn’t going to do anymore. He did the whole, “Don’t quit on me now!” soldier bollocks that might get a different person hyped up and grunting like a frat boy.

I just stopped turned around and started running in the opposite direction.

“I know you’re type.” he said when he caught up to me. “Don’t like being told what to do.”

He was right. I don’t like being told what to do. I don’t like being yelled at. I definitely don’t like the combo with the added stress of an increased heart rate when I am covered in sweat.

Before I could wheeze something offensive at him he pulled out some ninja death stars and a butterfly knife, and said we could go and practice being ninjas in the park instead.

Funnily enough I didn’t mind being told how to throw a knife.

My dad says I always have to be difficult. Do things the hard way. Or the weird way.

Maybe he’s right.

It’s unfortunate we seem to be so diametrically opposed in our approaches to life.

I never considered the tattoos, piercings, short hair, red hair, late nights, drunk nights, or any of the rest of it an act of rebellion. I was just doing what I wanted to do. It just so happened there was someone on the opposite side telling me not to do it.

Is that what makes it rebellion?

Discussing the topic with a friend she told me of her own rebellion: joining the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

It was a bizarre situation.

Her parents thought she needed spiritual guidance. Unfortunately it’s rare to get a Hindu priest knocking on your door.

Cue the change of religion.

I’m still not clear what they hoped to achieve by having the nice Watchtower ladies talk to her once a week. Maybe they thought they would calm her down enough for Hindu control. I bet they didn’t expect her to join the Jehovah’s Witnesses though.

It took two years before she felt her point had been solidly proven and returned to being a happy agnostic.

Was this a completely necessary point to prove?

Probably not.

But when you’re a teen there’s the need to assert who you are. Followed by the notion you will slow down, calm down, or grow out of it.

Now that I’m older, I feel somewhat obliged to behave in a sensible moderate way. But the need to assert who we are isn’t something confined to our hormonal teens.

There’s no one really telling me what to do anymore. Only my brain.

What do

Well brain, I do what I want.

 

 

 

Happy Endings

All it took was one bite of the egg.

I heaved up the banana milkshake quicker than I’d drunk it. Then whatever else was left of the Tonsai devil burger I had at the start of my journey.

That’s what I get for eating a burger at the beach.

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I should have known…

I was climbed out. Tired. And I had been eating pretty healthy for about a week. One burger couldn’t hurt. Plus I thought it would see me well on my epic  boat, bus, plane and train journey to Ayutthaya.

But now it had me hunched over the toilet bowl of a tiny restaurant at 7 am.

My first instinct was to head back to bed. Or even better: Bangkok. But when would I get to come this close to Rama’s city of Ayodhya? That’s what Ayutthaya was meant to be, the city of temples, old capital of Siam. A slice of history, mythology and my childhood.

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Ayutthaya

The Ramayana was one of my favourite stories as a child, stories of princesses, demons, flying monkeys and a city all lit up to welcome home an exiled prince.

I couldn’t just leave.

So I pushed myself to do a five hour walking tour of the temples. A tour which ended with me hailing a tuktuk to help me round the last leg.
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I even went on a riverboat tour of the waterside temples. Each one filled with ornate Buddhas and crumbling buildings. There was a calm beauty to it all. But I was feeling out of sorts.

It could have been too much in a short span. I had temple overload and zero perspective to appreciate what I’d seen. More likely the food poisoning had muted the experience.

It wasn’t how I’d wanted my trip to end, but it was how I returned to Bangkok.

Funnily enough though, Bangkok was the real surprise. I didn’t expect to enjoy the tail boats and temples as much as I did. Nor that I would feel as peaceful and calm in the city as I had at The Sanctuary wandering around the temples and palaces that Ayutthaya had inspired.

Maybe I’m just a city girl at heart. Maybe I’d found some inner peace.

Or the parasites had changed me irrevocably.

The temple at Wat Pho fast became my favourite place for peaceful meditation and a massage. I’m addicted to Thai massage now. There is something strangely relaxing about being forced into yoga positions and cradled by a stranger who will then crack your entire spine.

It put a smile on my face.

Though I’m pretty sure it shouldn’t have.

 

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I visited the reclining Buddha one more time before I left.

The immensity of it, filling a whole temple had me in awe when I first saw it. Looking upon it again I felt content and at peace before I left and ready for whatever might happen next in life.

Leaving countries is always so bittersweet for me. It’s like cutting a conversation short when you’re really getting to know someone.

I’ll be back Thailand.

If for nothing more than another massage.

Asian in Asia

It’s 7am and I have a yoga class in an hour. I woke up because of the sea. Living in London, I’ve never had the luxury of waking up to anything other than the sound of urban foxes shagging. Mexico City wasn’t much better. Although sirens were often interspliced with drunken arguments, or thumping music. I didn’t realise how much I love to wake up to the sound of the sea.

The journey to get to Koh Phangan was not as tranquil.

The first night in Bangkok was spent wandering around the Khao San road shopping and avoiding teams of men in matching wife beaters, trying to drunkenly chat up anyone in grabbing reach. People like to touch here, not just drunken Brits out on a stag. I got poked in the boob, had my tattoo stroked and was awkwardly patted by a couple of giggly vendors, who may have been at the laughing gas balloons.

The night in Bangkok was a sensory overload. Lights. Vendors. Food. Massages. Rats. One of which I had an unsettling run in with that left me contemplating how much I really needed my right foot.

It was loud and bright and dirty and seedy. I liked it.

At 5am we were abruptly woken by our panicky Thai host who thought we were going to miss our flight. She had taken the liberty of booking us a taxi that was waiting as we spoke. I don’t think I’ve got packed and ready so quickly. I silently cursed her all the way to the airport.

The journey to get to Koh Phangan was a two fold nightmare. Unlike Alex Garland’s romanticised journey through jungle, jumping off waterfalls and swimming across the island, ours was more pedestrian and disgusting. The waves were dangerously high, so our speedboat jumped along the ocean for nearly two hours. The nausea it provoked was understandable. I regretted inhaling a pork bun and chilli chicken curry on the dock before we boarded. But the real kicker was the synchronised vomiting that began to take place about 20 minutes into the journey. Smiling faces handed out pink plastic bags and tissues, then the pukefest began. It was like the story Chunk describes in The Goonies: one person barfed and everyone else just joined in. It surrounded us and we sunk into our seats hoping we wouldn’t be hit by the spray.

My body’s natural defense mechanism in situations of high stress is to shut down. Much like a possum. Only more like a narcoleptic. I pass out.

When I awoke and drowsily got off the boat there was still another journey left to make. Kerry, had warned me that transport to The Sanctuary was a mafia. It’s lucky I had her and her amazing litigation skills to get me this far.

You couldn’t get a cheaper price no matter how good you were at haggling. What was worse they had decided to hike the prices up, to make the best of all the business that was anxiously waiting. We held out for as long as we could as the surliest driver in the world bitched at our attempts to bring the price down.

It didn’t feel great having to concede and get in the back of his shitty truck. It felt less great as we were hurled about along bumpy back streets out into the middle of nowhere.

Luckily we were headed towards Sanctuary.

Know your role

As I stood there watching the young man writhing on the floor, lip locked with a rubber IKEA oven mitt, I wondered what the hell I was doing here.

My friend Abner has been encouraging me to go to auditions, to network, make contacts with script writers. “You’ve got to get out there and follow your dream!” He was right.

Consequently, I’ve been signing up for auditions and taster classes. It’s been something to get me out of the house at weekends. Plus it’s free, which sums up my criteria for entertainment these days.

It’s definitely been entertaining.

At the writer’s workshop, I felt like a moody teenager. I was sat at the back, all dressed in black, screwing up my face every time someone bleated at the opportunity to read their work out.

I was grateful for the pair work. At least then the other person could strain their arm enthusiastically in the air, while I continued to slouch apathetically in my chair and text.

The activity was a silent dialogue, set at a party. Pradeep and I commenced our silent conversation. Needless to say, in real life Pradeep and I would a) Never be found at the same party b) Would never have commenced to converse because I would have been able to see his conversation coming a mile off and hot-tailed it to the bathroom.

Writing classes and workshops are a great place to meet a writing partner; your lobster.

Pradeep was not my lobster.

There weren’t any lobsters. Just people trying to figure out what their ‘love’ was. But maybe loving something wasn’t enough. Nor was Marcela. She gleefully shared her comedy creation, Paul: an extremely fat man good at his job. “Fat isn’t a character flaw. What’s his flaw?”

“He works too hard? But sometimes it’s difficult because… he’s fat!”

“So it’s funny because he’s fat?”

“Yes!”

This went on for a while before we all just gave up.

This would never happen at TGS

The following weekend I was amidst a group of actors. Some of whom found it hard to mask their disdain at the fact I was a tourist. ‘It seemed like fun’ is not what the competition want to hear at an audition.

They want the part.

They will even use a five minute break to try and get it, as I found when I was faced with the ridiculously energetic Eva. Her heart-rendering performance of the day she fell over in the rain went sadly unnoticed by the director. I think I’d asked her if there was a Tesco nearby.

I couldn’t bring myself to participate in the improv. The group of people on the floor fighting over a toilet brush, while one waggled his tongue in and out his heat protected hand, left me speechless.

I have no problems looking like a fool. I just won’t fight other fools to do it.

They really wanted this. I needed to have that ‘willing to pretend to make it with a glove’ type of desperation. But I couldn’t even make eye contact with anyone. Every line I delivered was aimed at someone’s crotch or my own cleavage.

I was their Pradeep. Their Marcela.

My friend got a part in the play, without having to romance homeware. I signed up for the comedy writing class.

I think my first piece will be a drama about a woman trying to write a play about an overweight man trying to make it as an actor.

Maybe IKEA guy could play him. He seems like he would commit to putting on 20 kilos.

 

 

The Line

“Do you know Colonel Gadaffi ma’am?”

I was sure this wasn’t a general question. It wasn’t your typical segue to an insult though. I was mildly impressed the kid knew the name. From what I’d seen in class, he didn’t know much.

It took a bit of willpower not to come back at him with an “I don’t know him, but I hear your mum does…” style comment. I hate low level disruption.

Being a teacher invariably means taking the high road, being reasoned, patient and understanding. Basically, keeping your comebacks and insults to the English office, or pub on Fridays.

Kids will say anything, do anything, push boundaries, take liberties. You teach them what’s acceptable. In my case, you also have to fight the inner child in you that wants verbally decimate them.

You learn to be a patient and controlled person.

The school I am covering for is quite small. An intimate setting compared to the sprawling, two site, jungle of hormones of previous inner city schools I’d worked at. It’s been a tame experience in comparison.

No shits in corridors.

No chairs being thrown.

I had been in two minds over returning to a classroom. Would it be one of those short term stop gaps that evolved into long term giving up on writing?

Would I be able to cope with the indiscriminate arseholery of teenagers? I hadn’t fared that well with adults…

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If you can’t beat them and don’t really care, join them approach. Bad Education

 

School was my social experiment, where I got to test drive the happier, more self assured version of myself. A version that stopped taking shitty behaviour so personally, left people to be responsible for their actions, and was honest about where my line was drawn. It would be the ultimate test.

When a student coughed Curry at an Indian TA the other day, I calmly handed out a detention.

The following class, Gandhi, Dhal, and other innocuous words were woven into responses to questions on Sherlock Holmes, in a show of camaraderie .

It was a banal attack of racially motivated tourettes.

It may seem funny in retrospect. Could even be brushed off. I mean what were they doing wrong? Being silly? Saying random famous figures and names of food? How was that harmful?

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The Snape approach to teaching was still met with subversion.

I’ve been told that as an intelligent adult I have to make concessions for idiotic behaviour, ignorance and those who weren’t raised better.  I was expected to take the high road. To be the better, more understanding person.

I remember discussing my ‘take the high road approach to life’ with an AirBnB roomie.

Why? Was his response.

“Why do you always have to be the adult one when someone else is acting like a complete child?  That guy’s allowed to be a dick right? He’s never called on his bullshit behaviour. But you are because you’re the smarter person. Fuck that.” And with that he disappeared into his room.

It was true. Not everyone is called on their bullshit. If you’re smart you make concessions and cut poisonous people out of your life. When you can’t cut someone out, you have to make a stand.

THE-LINE-MUSTAfter the third random mention of Gandhi  I decided to shine bright like a diamond, and rage on four boys in my class. Anyone ever seen me angry knows this wasn’t pleasant.

The arsehole who maliciously started it, blamed someone else for his behaviour and stormed off bitching with his mate, who had wisely chosen to stay out of it.

The students with a sense of right and wrong tried to apologise for offending me.

The rest watched and learned.

Then a kid who looks about 30 years old decided to hit another student in the face with a balled up pair of PE socks.

I handled it.

I think the experiment is over. Bring me the grown ups.