My new hobby, or: Become a GARDENING PRO with this one weird trick!

It’s been a while, etc, etc. But I’m back, and I’ve managed to age at least thirty years since I last posted. Read on to find out more about my middle-aged life…

You may be familiar with the ‘Expectation vs reality’ memes that were everywhere a few years ago. They tend to be amusingly cynical or self-deprecating, and go something like this:

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Nine things not to do in the Quiet Carriage

Shhhh… let’s just forget about my month-and-a-half absence and plunge straight into a brand shiny new rant-listicle-combo (a ranticle?).

I’m not a religious woman. I try, albeit in my fallible human way, to believe only things I have good evidence for, whilst being tolerant towards the other inhabitants of this deeply flawed little planet. However, there is one sacred place in which the tiniest misdemeanour can turn me into a furious rage-monster. (Anyone who’s seen me when I’m hungry may take issue with the idea that I don’t often become irrationally enraged, but that’s not the point.) Friends, let me introduce you to the Sanctity of the Quiet Carriage. Continue reading

Have YOU spotted these four omens of the impending Apocalypse?

Check out my exciting click-baity title – I thought I’d try doing a Buzzfeed, just to see if it makes any difference to my stats. Let me know if you found yourself inescapably drawn in by the potent gravitational pull of a *gasp* combined rhetorical question and listicle, with just a dash of hysteria thrown in for good measure. Now hold on to your hats for a quickly-penned, ranty one on the highly original topic of How Everything Has Gone To Sh*t Nowadays. 

Once again, I must apologise for being shockingly absent from your online airwaves for the last month or so. This is, as ever, due to a combination of factors, mainly being pretty busy and coming down with various things, including another bout of writer’s block. I think the latter is partly to do with how depressing the internet has got lately. The moment I open my laptop, I’m bombarded with articles confirming that the universe is literally coming to an end. If it’s not climate change, IS or the mass murder and displacement of millions, it’s dead celebrities, embarrassing politicians or the slightly disappointing new iPhone. Continue reading

On opting out: How to make life choices when you’re a professional ditherer

On Saturday, I put the final nail in the coffin of my plan to do a masters. You may not know that I’d applied for UCL’s Comparative Literature MA, got in and even found some (very partial) funding, but for a few months at the end of 2015, that was officially The Plan. Then, over the first half of this year, I gradually wobbled towards a change of heart. And just the other day I sent the email that made my declining of the offer official. Continue reading

Crying in public: about my overhydrated eyes

I know, I know, it’s been a fortnight… But I’ve been busy, alright?! If you want to see what I’ve been up to, have a look at the line-up pages on Larmer Tree’s website – I wrote/edited almost everything under the headings of Literature, Food and Workshops.

Now to continue my experiment where rather than just recounting stuff I’ve done, I edge perilously close to the territory of the Personal Essay. I’d like to have substantiated my musings by finding some of the actual sources I’ve read back in the hazy past, but I don’t have time and this is not intended to be remotely scientific. Soz. Regardless, here’s some thoughts on crying.

I’m a crier. I cry very easily, and very often. Here’s a small sample of the many things I’ve cried about as a fully fledged adult:

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Pub life: How I learned to love home

This post is mainly about the second of my three ex-jobs: bartending/waitressing at the Royal Arms. It’s one of those weird posts that was written in instalments over a period of great change – I started it last week, and since then, I’ve moved house, started a job, and become prime minister (spot the odd one out). That all entails a certain amount of inconsistency, but I’ll try and make it vaguely coherent.

On Friday I had my last shift at the Royal Arms before moving down south, and it felt like a little piece of my heart was painfully crumbling into sappy, nostalgic dust. To get the terrible clichés over with, my local is the sort of pub that has a fantastic sense of community spirit. There’s something about watching fifteen regulars standing around the bar and the fireplace, all chatting and laughing together, that warms the cockles of my cynical heart until I start unironically saying things like ‘community  spirit’. Playful banter and the odd bit of genuine hostility abound, of course, but everyone knows more or less everyone, and it’s clear that people will pull together when something goes wrong.  Continue reading

Working with your hands: A risk assessment

 As promised, here’s the final version of one of the many semi-posts that was languishing in my Notes app until recently. This is about one of the three jobs I’ve been doing in my sort-of gap yah, and why it’s the perfect counterbalance to Oxford; similar ideas are discussed in this post. The other two jobs, by the way, are bar-tending and tutoring, both of which I might write about later. 

Over the last six months and many summers, I have worked as a carpenter’s assistant and general dogsbody at Hollow Ash Shepherds Huts. This involves odd bits of Actual Carpentry, with complicated measurements and the like, plus occasional on-the-hoof conferences about seemingly impossible problems such as how to get an 18-foot shepherd’s hut out from between two load-bearing poles that are around half that distance apart, with no manoeuvring space (hint: it involves an approx. million-point turn and quite a lot of swearing).

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And, occasionally, a tractor.

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