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.

 

Imperfections

The new year is a big deal for some reason. Successfully orbiting our sun matters to us.  I can’t say I know how difficult, or dangerous it was, but I’m sure it warranted a drink.

Manchester is currently the shining example of how ham we go on a NYE celebration. I have little recollection of my own NYE, but from the accounts of complete strangers who I ran into at the Guinness factory, I was absolutely destroyed.

For those of you that didn’t go full pagan, here’s what you missed out on:

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My own mayhem was not quite the renaissance masterpiece above, but I did my best to try and drown the old year in alcohol.

Maybe it’s the promise of a clean slate with our hangover that pushes some of us over the edge. The need to obliterate the memory cells of whatever it was that made the last year so horrendous. The joy at being surrounded by the people you love the most.

We go out how we have to: Civilised drinks with family and friends, or pinned to the ground by feds.

Either way, we all deserve a fresh start.

With that fresh start come expectations. I mean it has to go better than the last. There has to be progress. I have to be better than I was.

I think I stopped making resolutions in 2003. There were only so many times I could tell myself I was going to be a teetotaling, non-smoking, gym fanatic who read 40 books a year.

I do alright as I am.

I will still get wasted on occasion. I will still have a drunken fag. I will read, but never as much as I could. I will work out, only as much as I need to in order to be able to eat two whole Nando’s chickens on my own.

Obviously there will be change. But it will come at its own pace.

My New Year is all about acceptance.

My resolutions were always about being a better person. Kinder, more tolerant, more forgiving. Or it was about how I could improve my life to fulfil some imaginary standard others would appreciate.

Showing the same kindness, tolerance and understanding for myself never occurred to me.

Moving past my short comings, be it  getting so drunk I fall off a pier, or ignoring my intuition, is something I find hard. My failings are the sun which I have been stuck in orbit around for years.

Rather than trying to evolve into someone perfect, this year will be the year I embrace my dumb ass self for who I am. An alcohol imbibing, wise cracking loud mouth, with an occasionally impressive rack, and a life that often looks a bit like a Manchester high street on New Year’s morning.

Here’s to happiness  and shenanigans in the New Year.

 

 

 

 

 

Tinderlude

1655856_10153590962320552_5826856312381107258_n (1)When I first met my ex I told him he should go on Tinder. He’s a good looking guy and was single. I thought he would clean up. I hadn’t thought I’d be dating the guy. I was off to Mexico a month down the road. Plus he had seen another man’s penis on my phone.

Long story short: never show a married friend a dick pic. She will tell her husband. He will make you show it to everyone at breakfast when you are too hungover to quickly sit on your phone.

It’s a miracle our relationship ever got off the ground.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me when he popped up on my Tinder feed after the break up. But I deleted the app off my phone all the same. It was like he could see me.

Dating has always been my go to move when things are going badly in my life. When I say dating I mean Tinder. I have no desire to get to know someone in the hopes of cultivating a relationship. Not when I’m heart broken. Shameless superficial hottie snap, and texts filled with innuendo is all I look for when moving on.
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I had signed up again because I thought I needed to move on swiftly. I needed to remember that other good looking men existed.

The shock of seeing his duck face staring back at me in various poses made me realise I wasn’t ready yet.

Cue Rio: a city where the word Sex is literally everywhere, and everyone is hot and semi-naked. It was a disappointment to find out that Sex- Dom was not a sensual version of the Crystal Maze, but the equivalent of Sat-Sun abbreviation. More of a disappointment was the fact I just wasn’t into anyone and would have had no use for a real sex dome unless I could charge my Kindle there.

My trainer acted like we’d conceded a goal when I told him I had just enjoyed the sights.

“What’s wrong with you?! Get laid woman!”

It had been 4 months. The ‘Get over it’ was coming in thick and heavy.

I decided to give it one last swipe.

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Straight off the bat I gave a cute guy my number. Almost immediately his penis was on my phone, completely unsolicited.

The penis was a shock. But not as much as the fact the guy had been so quick to whip it out that he had forgotten to hide the bald patch he’d disguised in his pics.

He apologised for the penis, but couldn’t explain the hair. I no longer felt compelled to respond to his messages.

That’s when my Tinder game changed. How it happened I don’t know.

Instead of cuing me up some hot sex  I built a small support group for the texting wounded.

Now all my messages seem to be pasta recipes, or stories of dates gone wrong. It’s almost like having a stable of boyfriends, who every now and then suggest a meet up.

I’m finding it hard to say yes though.

I said to one guy it was timing and location. If he wasn’t where I was at the right time then it wasn’t happening.

I may yet go on a date. I leave it to GPS, alcohol and wifi connectivity. But It’s not my priority anymore.

I won’t be deleting the app this time.

How will I know how ‘Strap’ and sex dungeon boy are doing on their quest for love?

Anyway, Dario told me he’d send me a recipe for cannelloni that I want to try this weekend.

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Thanks to #TinderNightmares for this bounty. Mine were too explicit, or too boring to post. 

Day of the Dead

Over the last few few months I have been trying rewire the way I look at life and focus on the positives rather than my relationships and other failures.

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The British Museum Days of the Dead Exhibition

It has been a mourning period for me in many ways. I have spent months putting to rest my expectations. Trying not to be angry about the plans that I had given up so easily, and the life I had chosen to leave behind.

It’s hard to move on. As terrible as you might feel in the place you’re in, you get used to the misery in a way. I’ve been as positive and active as I can, but it sneaks up on me. 

My ‘ex-rages’ were a symptom of the fact I wasn’t over it yet. I could be in the middle of a perfectly nice evening, travelling, or out drinking with friends, and then a wave of anger would sweep over me. It was like Tourette’s. Anyone close enough would get a comprehensive list of grievances against him, and a demand for an answer to where the hell did he get off texting me to call me a ‘waste of his time.’

When I wasn’t raging, I was trying to just get on with life. Being as busy as possible. Remembering my life wasn’t defined by a man. Then I’d find myself in tears because this wasn’t how it was supposed to have worked out.

Between the bitching and crying my observant six year old nephew chipped in his two cents worth.

‘Forget him.’

The infant was right. But how do you move past it?

Our break up had been quite abrupt. We hadn’t seen or really spoken to each other in weeks. The last act had been a death in the family.

The British Museum Days of the Dead exhibition

The British Museum Days of the Dead exhibition

There are certain expectations around death and how we should treat each other, and behave when someone passes away. It’s a time to be sympathetic, to come together to put your differences aside, and offer your support.

I had wanted to do all these things. But after endless fights, unresolved issues and his go-to-move of ignoring me for three days at a time I just couldn’t find it in me. People can kill your sympathy. Especially when they demand it of you constantly. So I left him to it.

He had expected me to be there to support him. But after so much drama, I just didn’t have it in me anymore. I ended it the following week. In true dramatic fashion I was told never to contact him again. Cross the road and pretend I don’t know him style break up.

Relationships with people you love can end abruptly. I learned that young. My little brother passed away when I was five years old. From one day to the next someone I love had disappeared from my life.

My parent’s generation are not great believers of discussing ‘adult’ topics with children. We never spoke about death. It was just something that was innate knowledge.

After my brother died, his pictures were put away. His clothes were given away. I didn’t get to go to a funeral, or a memorial. Three years of my life with another person just disappeared and I wasn’t to ask any questions, and didn’t get to say goodbye. We couldn’t say his name in the house, or speak openly about him for fear of upsetting my parents. It was something we got used to.

My parents were trying to protect us and themselves. They bottled up their feelings and were ‘strong’. But I could see you couldn’t stay strong that way. We suffered silently. The pain seemed to last forever.

Life carried on, but I felt like he was being ignored, despite him clearly being on everyone’s mind. The only remaining signs he had existed were the crying, or the look on a face when his favourite song came on the radio.

Mensajes para los muertos Messages for the dead

Mensajes para los muertos Messages for the dead

I needed Day of the Dead when I was a child.

From October 31st to November 2nd in Mexico and other countries around the world, Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead is celebrated. The belief is that the spirits of the dead reunite with their families and loved ones. They honour them with offerings or ofrendas, and put together on an altar for the deceased. The altars are often illuminated with candles, decorated with cempazuhitl (marigold flowers), their favourite food, drinks, photos and memories. The family will celebrate together, often lighting candles, eating, drinking and sharing anecdotes. They reminisce and celebrate the lives of the deceased fondly.

Day of the Dead helped me to come to terms with ideas of death and loss and move forward in a healthy way. It gave me a chance to celebrate my brother’s life, and the lives of the people I loved who were no longer with me. I looked forward to the beautiful ofrendas and rites that took places. From scenes of the floating of candles on the Patzcuaro lake, to bringing food, drink and even Mariachis to the graves of loved ones so they could enjoy their favourite songs with family. IMG_1086

This year the British Museum put on an impressive exhibition. They had huge skeleton sculptures towering on either side of the entrance. As you entered there was an authentic Atlanchinolli dance troupe,  performing a pre-hispanic Aztec dance ritual to remember the dead. There were also workshops where children could make their own marigold flowers to hang on a tree sculpture with their messages for their loved ones who had passed away. It was particularly child friendly. Helping them understand this concept and view on death. Something I think all children should be given the chance to do.

This weekend gave me time to reflect. I hadn’t been honest about how I was feeling. I was pushing myself to be over things. I hadn’t given myself the time to get over it, to feel sad about it, be angry or upset about it. Which is why it kept creeping up on me despite all my attempts to be happy and act like things were back to normal. They weren’t.

There is a reason why you have a mourning period. It helps you to come to terms with what happened and make your peace with it. You get to say your goodbyes and move on.

I just need a little more time.

Itchy feet

Margaret smiled at me. She looked very mum like.  I always run into well meaning mother figures when I’m abroad.

She and I were the only passengers on the airport shuttle into Budapest. We got talking about the plane delay. Complaining is a great way to start a conversation it would seem. We got on the topic of why we were in Hungary. She was there for work. I was there because I could be. I was lucky enough to have friends there, the time, and no responsibilities.

Parliament in the Pest side of Budapest

Parliament in the Pest side of Budapest

“For £500 you could buy a Eurorail pass. Travel around Europe for a month.”

It’s around £500 if you’re 18- 25. If you’re 26 or older, it’s closer to a grand to get a Eurorail pass. It wasn’t a bad idea though. When I got out in district 8, Margret told me to do it while I was still young. I thought about how ‘young’ I was. I was strongly considering it.

It had been four months of applying for jobs I didn’t really want, and getting no where.

One morning I woke up and I contacted my agencies and said I was having a crisis and wouldn’t be available for work until the new year. This may be the only time when I’d have the money to travel and no commitments. When I could take a last minute deal. Buy a cheap ticket and see some more of the world.

I’ve realised I have quite a good network of friends around the world. I’m off to Brazil in November. A weekend in Paris in December. Perhaps Singapore in the new year, or China. I also know a lot of teachers scattered around the world in schools that need an English teacher. Maybe the life of a travelling teacher could be resurrected in Europe or Asia.

My friend Diana was right. I wasn’t fat and toothless. I did have options.

There is a lot to be said for having your gap year in your 30s. On the plus side, I have some money saved. I can do it in a bit more style. Hungary was a whirlwind of G&Ts, steak dinners and strudel. It beat my pizza pie budget when I was in New York.

Foie Gras Fantasy. Not really my cup of tea. Great strudel though. The Strudel House

Foie Gras Fantasy. Not really my cup of tea. Great strudel though. The Strudel House

On the downside, my mum and dad think I’m having a mental breakdown, and my savings are starting to dwindle, while my credit card balance gets bigger. It’s all I want to do though.

I didn’t have a gap year before uni. Well I did, but I was living at a mates house after my dad had kicked me out, working three jobs and desperately trying to lock down a job at Topshop #ambition.  It was hardly ‘See the world before uni’ It was more ‘Prepare yourself for how much your life is going to suck when you have bills to pay and nowhere to live.’

I didn’t save a lot that year. Enough for a ticket to New York. I managed to meet my friends at the end of their travels, listen to their adventures around the world. We all still travel. Alone most of the time, I’ve noticed. We’ve even met up in different countries.

I think it’s something in your blood, wanting to be out there in the world alone, on your own adventure.  Some people can’t live without it.

I like travelling alone. It’s never been something I thought was unusual. I always had a friend to meet somewhere, or I would make friends when I got to where I was going.  I’ve never felt lonely. I’ve felt lonely at parties, in relationships, stuck at home. Traveling is something I’m happy to do by myself. 

The reactions I get when I tell people I’m travelling alone make me smile. The concern, the sympathy. Did I have no friends to go with? Surely I’d enjoy it more with other people? Next time I could ask them to come along.

Being a woman makes it seem dangerous, but it’s just as risky as it is for men. I have been mugged three times, but I’ve made it out unscathed and often with most of my possessions. 

You call that a knife?

You call that a knife?

The first time was at knife point and I was able to talk my way out of it. His pen knife was an embarrassment. I’d rather have been stabbed. The second time I was being an idiot, and wandering around at night with my headphones in. He got my iPod. But only as he ran away after i beat the shit out of him with an umbrella. So British. The last time I was mugged, it was at gun point, so I couldn’t really fight my way out of it. I managed to hold onto my shopping. It was worth more than the crap in my purse. Suckers.

Ok, it may seem uncertain. But it’s no more dangerous than your own back yard. You take the right precautions, you’re careful who you trust, and it all works out, most of the time. Occasionally you get a bit of bad luck, you wander into a bad area, fall asleep on the night bus with your iPod out; or date a man who thinks it’s acceptable to hold your possessions hostage because he’s teaching you a lesson for breaking up with him.

There are risks in everything we do.

Over the years my travels had introduced me to wonderful people, some of whom I’m lucky to still be in touch with. Sometimes you just spend a few nights having a good laugh, going to bars and wandering naked into the ocean. Other times you make travel buddies and end up at reggae festivals, or crossing the border into Panama.

I have had hand made pizza straight out of a make shift oven in a friend’s cave. It even had a door. The cave, not the pizza. 

I’ve soaked in thermal baths under the stars. I’ve hiked up a mountain in Andorra, cooked my own dinner and then hiked down into France for breakfast. There were parties on the beach, night swimming in lagoons, and once I jumped on a motorbike to a ghetto in Belize to shave a man’s beard off.

Dick Fountain. Or a more formal sounding name for this fine monument.

Dick Fountain. Or a more formal sounding name for this fine monument.

Traveling has been good to me.

There was never a trip I regretted. Not even this one back home. It took me to Hungary, a dick fountain, dear friends and the knowledge that Hungarians will not budge in a bar. Soon it will take me to my nap buddy, caipirihnas and samba.

I was told I couldn’t live like this for the rest of my life. Maybe what they meant to say was that they couldn’t live like this for the rest of their life. It’s not for everyone.

If you have a  travel suggestions let me know. I live out of a suitcase.

All the Symptoms

Since I discovered WebMD, my resolve to never visit another doctor, or hospital, has been stronger than ever. The only exception being when I nicked an artery, and realised that an industrial strength plaster wouldn’t cut it.

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You won’t be laughing when I’m dead…

I’m scared of doctors. I won’t take medication. I hate hospitals. I could easily be patient zero in the ensuing viral apocalypse.

I was pretty sickly as a kid, or at least that’s what I was led to believe. I never felt that ill. I was an asthmatic child. This meant I was constantly being scrutinised by doctors, and my mother would have a panic attack when I played Hide and Seek, believing me to have silently suffocated in some corner of the house.

Fun Times.

Like I said I never felt that ill. But not being able to breathe and subsequently passing out may have warped  my judgement. During severe attacks, the GP would be called to give me a suppository.

Yes. You read it right.

Was the ass the quickest way to the lungs?  Maybe I could swallow the tablet. Surely if I was kicking and screaming it was proof I was able to breathe? But my best arguments never worked. I would spend the rest of the day breathing easily and sulking.

I learned to hide the attacks out of pride. I never trusted that doctor. He put all my ailments down to asthma.

Headache? Asthma.

Sore throat and fever? Asthma.

Need stitches out after you were run over? Maybe the car hit you because your asthma left you too weak to cross a simple road.

I decided to adopt the old “Physician Heal Thyself” motto. Ok, I’m not a physician, but apparently neither was my GP,as we discovered when we heard of all the malpractice suits came flooding in.

Being my own doctor I’ve discovered diagnosis is hard. So many illnesses have similar symptoms. Diarrhoea could mean food poisoning, Gastroenteritis, or IBS. All three are possible after eating questionable street food at 4am.

I’ll check another website for a second opinion. But sometimes their diagnosis is worse than Web MD and I end up bequeathing my music collection to my brother via Whatsapp.

Maybe I’m a bit of a hypochondriac, I accurately fit the Buzzfeed profile. I’ll think Dengue Fever, or premature menopause, before I check to see if someone left a radiator on.

Or maybe it’s just good common sense. How many hangovers have turned out to be meningitis or Swine Flu?

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Maybe I’m indestructible?

I am currently wishing I had taken part in those drug trials I saw advertised on the tube last year.

They pay two grand a pop. And blindness and/or anal discharge doesn’t seem as bad as whatever it is I’ve got at the moment.

If I die may my epitaph read “I knew Dengue had come to Acton.”