Why I’m Actually a 70 Year-Old

Some people, when they get invited to a night out with their friends upon short notice, are thrilled. They accept the invitation willingly, already looking forward to it and thinking “what a great night tonight will be!”

Honestly, I have no idea how such people do that. Where do you find the energy? The enthusiasm? I’d spent a tiring day out with my best friend at Go Ape (a tree-top obstacle course thing) today and on the way home I received a random text from one of my friends asking if I wanted to go to TGI Friday’s tonight and then “who knows what”, as he put it. My literal reaction upon first reading the text was “Are you fucking kidding me?” I then groaned and moaned quite a lot, wondered whether I could make up a good enough reason to decline, decided that I couldn’t make up a good enough reason, and ended up saying that I’d go.

It’s now just past eleven and I got home a few minutes ago, but to be honest I really couldn’t endure any more. The group of friends I went with I haven’t spoken to in about a year and overall I didn’t really have a great time. When we were at TGI’s they kept asking me just why I wasn’t ordering the burger with Jack Daniels sauce instead of the boring pasta and I was just screaming in my head that I’M NOT ORDERING THE GODDAMN BURGER WITH THE GODDAMN JD SAUCE BECAUSE I DON’T FUCKING WANT IT.

Eventually I ordered the pasta while they all had the burger and after about an hour and a half of slightly awkward conversation we went over to the bar. By now I was really quite ready to go home, but no, they insisted that I had to “try at least one drink” because it just doesn’t compute in teenagers’ heads that a fellow teenager doesn’t like alcohol and therefore doesn’t drink. So, I was forced into ordering a sizeable amaretto (which I drank very slowly because firstly, it wasn’t that nice, and secondly, my friends were taking ages to drink their cocktails too). While we were at the bar I eventually tuned out to what they were saying and just watched the bartender (who was quite good-looking, I must add) mix other customers’ cocktails. Also, the colour-order arrangement of the spirits behind the bar pleased my inner neat compulsion and the skull-shaped vodka bottles were fascinating. The sky blue bottles of SKYY vodka looked decidedly evil in their simple bottles and the wide, brown bottles of whisky reminded me too much of the endless whisky bottles my Dad used to have lined up in his kitchen.

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This was it. Crystal Head vodka. Awesome.

Anyway, by about half ten we left the bar and my friend suggested that we go back to his, but that was just too much for me and I made a semi-plausible excuse to leave and headed home. I was tired by that point anyway, so the prospect of spending a further few hours at someone’s house was practically hell. So now I’m home in bed, nice and comfy and glad that I’m not out at my friend’s house.

I really do feel sometimes like I’m a 70 year-old in a 19 year-old’s body, because I just don’t have the interest or energy for all this socialising and bar-going business. I simply do not see the point at all in drinking, because why would you want to spend so much money on drinks, only to get drunk and then forget what you did? To me the whole thing’s just incomprehensible and I know I’m going to have an extremely tough time at university explaining to people why I don’t want to go out and why I don’t want to go drinking with them. I think I’ll just have to hide in my room all the time and hope that I’ll stumble across the one other person on the whole campus who doesn’t drink. I can just see it now: by the time I leave university I’ll have no entertaining stories about wild nights out. But I don’t really care. I don’t enjoy staying out late and drinking, so why should I waste my money on it? Why waste an hour’s salary on a glass of liquid?

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Me on a night out.

My god I am literally the most boring person I know. I don’t like socialising, I don’t drink, I don’t like dancing/clubbing…my idea of a fun night is to sit in bed and write or read and listen to music. Tonight I spent £16 on a meal which wasn’t very nice and a drink that did absolutely nothing for me and overall the night wasn’t even very enjoyable. Anyone listening to me would think I’m the saddest, most boring, empty person they’d ever met. But I don’t really care.

Anyway, in other news I went out for my first 6:30AM run this morning. I’m planning on running on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and this morning I surprised myself because apparently I’m not as unfit as I thought I was. The river was lovely, as it always is early in the morning, and I managed to get this great photo:

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When I ran regularly in two years ago I used to be able to do five miles plus sprint training within 45 minutes, but it took me an hour today, which is slightly disappointing. I reckon that eventually, perhaps by the end of the summer holidays, I’ll be able to get it back down to 45 minutes.

Also in other news I wrote around 3,500 words of a possible new story last night. I’m hesitant to call it a new story because over the past week or so I’ve written about three openings for possible new stories and none of them have gone anywhere. I always say that I’d like to carry a certain on, but it never happens. So I’m not going to say anything about this latest one – I’ll just see where it goes.

Comic Relief

Earlier I read a post on this blog which mentioned, very briefly, stand-up comedy, and sometime after I’d read the post I happened to glance at my bookshelf and see my copy of the Beyond the Fringe scripts – an early 60s stage revue that I’ve mentioned before. It then got me thinking about how I used to listen to the CDs or watch the videos of the show all the time and how I hardly do so any more because I’ve been so preoccupied. It’s really (and strangely) difficult to put it into words, but since “discovering” BTF when I was fifteen/sixteen, the sound of four young men’s voices, still with a twinge of the Queen’s English accent that pervaded southerners in the 60s, was oddly comforting. I even used to go to sleep with the ten-minute ‘Aftermyth of War’ sketch playing on the lowest volume through my earphones, because their quiet voices, mixed in with the occasional background piano and numerous sound effects, was the perfect thing to lull me into unconsciousness. Of course, the sketch (which I knew every single word to) wasn’t intended to send teenage girls to sleep at half eleven at night – it was a witty, biting take on the futility of war that came under the new umbrella of “satire”, a word that practically sprang to life in 1960 and which all four of the Fringers hated.

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My boys. From left to right: Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett, Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller.

But anyway, that was then. Now I haven’t listen to or watched BTF in ages, so I decided it was high time I sat down, relaxed and dug out the hour-long video of a live recording of the show from somewhere on my hardrive. As I began to watch the grainy black and white film, the lighting, sound and quality so bad that it brought back waves of happy nostalgia of when I first watched it, a running commentary began in my head about the socio-political relevance of it all. So, because this internal monologue/embryonic documentary became more and more refined in my head as the show went on, I thought I’d share a few of my thoughts, because why the hell not. We all want to know about the social background of a 1960s stage review written and acted by four Englishmen in black suits on a bare stage.

So, here we go…

As I was watching it I still found that I was laughing in all the places I used to laugh, finding the same jokes funny now that I did before and it really made me wonder whether BTF was going to serve as that timeless pick-me-up – something that I’d always love and find funny. I really hope it does and I can almost see myself in thirty years, laying in bed and chuckling along to all the politically incorrect jokes said by four young men who had comb-overs. Anyway, the first sketch in the show is called ‘Home Thoughts From Abroad’. The live recording is of a show they did while in America and the jokes within the sketch were particularly relevant (and sometimes cringe-worthy). At this time in America there was the racial problems, anti-communist attitudes and all sorts of things and ‘Home Thoughts From Abroad’ picks up every single one of them, taking the mick out of America as much as they can (while getting away with it). Some of my favourite lines are:

“Isn’t there a very serious colour problem over there?”

“Yes, there is, but you won’t have any difficulty.” [They're all white and even hearing the line now makes me wince a bit as I smile.]

…and then…

“I gather the Negroes are sweeping the country.”

“They are. It’s one of the few jobs they can get – and very well they do it, too.”

I think my favourite part of the whole sketch has to be this, though:

“Isn’t there a lot of poverty in America?”

“Yes, there is, but luckily it’s all be concentrated in the slum areas. It’s beautifully done. You’d scarcely notice it.”

The ways it’s said…it just conveys the upper class 60s British attitude to poverty really, and it’s brilliant. They’re all just so silly and blasé about it, but then again that was the whole point.

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From these photos it’s hard to imagine them being serious at all…

Anyway, the other sketch that I thought was very interesting (and it’s incidentally my favourite) is a short sketch called ‘Bollard’, in which the four of them play extremely camp gay guys preparing to be filmed for a cigarette advert. The one thing that strikes me during the whole sketch (apart from how funny it is) is how amazingly skewed people’s views were on homosexuals during that time. Of course they were over-emphasising from comic effect, but I think the sketch still echoed all too truly society’s views on gay people. Perhaps not their views (because one of them, Alan Bennett, was gay – or bisexual, as he’s implied now), but certainly a lot of other people’s views.

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An awful scan of them during the Bollard sketch

The sketch starts off with two of them – Peter Cook and Jonathan Miller – mincing onto the stage wearing sou’-wester hats (Alan’s acting as the cameraman behind them on the podium…and I’m pretty sure he has a lollipop) and they start off by discussing mauve and green vests (“Never mind, I think you look lovely in green – it really shows off your tanned navel.”). Dudley Moore then comes on-stage very flamboyantly and after some more exchanges, he and Jonathan “notice” each other, with Dudley smiling shyly and going, “Ooh, hello!” whilst giving Jonathan a cheeky once-over. He then complements Jonathan, saying, “You know, you look rather like Robin Hood today” and then Jonathan pretends to shoot a bow and arrow (in a really camp fashion) and goes, “Ooh, twang!” and I swear to god it’s the funniest thing in the whole show. It’s been the one bit I’ve laughed at the most ever since I first saw it and it just never seems to get any less funny.

Anyway, I think it was somehow brave (that’s definitely the wrong word) for them to do a sketch playing such blatantly camp and gay men, because obviously the attitude towards gay people was really quite negative in those times. But still, the sketch got massive laughs and was debatabley their best-received sketch, so I don’t know. Perhaps it wasn’t such a bold move after all (although apparently, because all stage scripts had to go through the Chamberlain in England in that time for approval, they were told to remove the stage direction “Enter two raging queens”). I think they all found the sketch fun though and I still wonder whether Alan was consulted about it at all. It seems likely to me that they knew he was gay, but I think it was definitely something to not be talked about. They probably knew, accepted it and got over it. I don’t think they’d worry about him feeling offended or whatever, because the whole point of the show was to be zany and satirical and none of them were homophobic (although I have my reserves about Jonathan because, in his biography, it was said that he used make little quips and snide remarks about homosexuals. I don’t think he was homophobic though. Just a bit of public schoolboy banter).

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So unbelievably fabulous

So yeah, as I made my way through the hour-long show my deep thoughts about the social background and political situation of that time began to fade towards the end and for the last sketch I really was just watching and enjoying it (it’s my second favourite sketch).

I think BTF will always hold a special place in my heart as that old, black and white, men-in-suits-telling-jokes thing and I hope I never stop finding it funny, because it really does relax me when I listen to the recordings. It just reminds me of the days a few years ago during the summer holidays when I used to have the French windows of my bedroom open while BTF played on the hi-fi, the posh-accented voices talking about the Great Train Robbery or how “young boys everywhere flocked to join The Few” during WWII. I could never get over Peter Cook’s immaculate comb-over, or Jonathan Miller’s lankiness and I think I’ll always fancy Alan Bennett a bit (I mean come on, he always wore a three-piece suit and his hair was just luscious).

Good times.

 

I Only Had a MILD Breakdown…

So today was interesting. Firstly, we received our last ever school report, which was both sad and anxiety-inducing because you never know what teachers are going to say about you. But, mine was 98% good and I’ll give you some of the highlights:

My form teacher: “I have really enjoyed the time spent with Victoria in tutor group…and it has been a delight to get to know her.” Okay firstly, I’ve spoken to him a handful of times in the two years he’s been my form tutor and most of those have involved him handing me a letter and me sarcastically replying “yay”. All I know about him is that he did his Biology PhD on barely.

One of my Chemistry teachers: “Her mathematical skills are sound…” – umm excuse me but the reason I got such a shit mark for my mock exam was because I failed most of the maths questions – “…and she can sometimes be a bit confused by the speed of the lesson…” - first of all, what does that even mean?? Secondly, excuse me but I’m always one of the first to finish work during the lesson and get it correct so I don’t know what you’re on about if you’re implying that I can’t keep up with the lessons.

My Philosophy teacher: “It [the Religious Language topic] seems to appeal to her very logical and analytical mind.” Lady if I had a logical and analytical mind I’d be good at maths.

My Ethics teacher: “Victoria can be a little reluctant to lead a discussion at times which is a shame as she has such insightful points to make.” One time I asked whether Karl Marx had to tie his beard in a little ponytail when he writes because there’s no way he could see past his vast, protruding beard to the page below.

So clearly, my teachers know me well. I’ll have to send a photocopy of the report to my Dad and this time, I’ll be prepared for the oncoming storm of “WHY DID YOU GET A D IN YOUR CHEMISTRY MOCK, WHY AREN’T YOU GETTING 5,000 A GRADES, WHY ARE YOU TAKING PHILOSOPHY THAT’S SUCH A WORTHLESS SUBJECT, WHY DIDN’T YOU TAKE MATHS,WHAT USE IS ETHICS GOING TO BE EVER, WHY AREN’T YOU AN ENGINEER LIKE ME ASKFSJGKJGNIJWFGSDHFGHSF” until he eventually spontaneously combusts a spectular show of narrow-mindedness and high expectations. But, I will be ready and I will stay calm like always.

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How I imagine my Dad will react to my Chemistry grade D

Anyway, to the title of this post. Today in Philosophy I sat down when I got into the classroom, took out my folder and pencil case, ready for a normal lesson. Right? Wrong. I’d completely and utterly forgotten that we had a timed essay and no joke, I almost cried. Because I’d completely forgotten about it I hadn’t revised and I knew nothing. The teacher, oblivious to me having a mild breakdown, then wrote the essay title on the board: “How successful are myths/symbols in conveying ideas about God?” We could choose between doing it on myths or symbols and because I could hardly remember anything about either of them I just had to go for the one which I could make up the most about…which turned out to be myths.

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How I felt.
(Why is this crying cat GIF always so relevant to my life??)

Luckily I wasn’t alone in my panic and while the teacher left the classroom for two minutes, we all had a whispered brainstorm about what to write, which helped a bit. I only managed to write just over a page, which is absolutely woeful. Still, it was over a page of panic-fuelled rubbish and I don’t care what anyone says, that’s impressive. To be fair though, my final sentence was cracking. A real punch to end on. Good, raw, philosophical stuff.

Well, that’s what I thought, anyway. It sounded good in my head as I wrote it. Alas, I know how awful the essay was and I’m fully prepared to get my first ever D or E for Philosophy since year 10.

Recent Happenings in Philosophy

Today in my Philosophy class the teacher handed us back our essays that she’d marked (they were on whether religious language has meaning) and I got 94%, which is an A*! I’m immensely pleased because it’s the first or second essay I’ve ever gotten an A* for in Philosophy at A Level (A*s are very hard to get). To be honest though it was on my favourite topic, but still, I didn’t think I’d get 94%. So I’m very happy about that.

Anyway, in today’s lesson we started the much looked-forward to topic of the feminist approach to Genesis. And by golly it was an intense and interesting lesson, because in an all-girl class the topic content is going to get right on our nerves. And so it did. We had a discussion and were taught about the various implications for women in today’s society as a result of the Christian interpretation of Genesis and then looked at some quotes from old Christian scholars regarding women. I’ll tell you a few of my favourite:

The first quote is from a guy called Tertullian, who wrote, in his On The Apparel of Women: “You [women] are the devil’s gateway: you are the unsealer of that (forbidden) tree; you are the first deserter of the divine law; you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert-that is, death-even the Son of God had to die.” So basically, all women are inherently evil, women are much more susceptible to being seduced by evil than men, and it’s womens’ fault that Christ had to be sacrificed on the cross. Good ol’ Tertullian. I’m willing to bet he never had a girlfriend.

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Eve clearly using a lot of force to tempt Adam to eat the apple. What a bitch.

Another of my favourite quotes is from Augustine, who said: “I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children.” So the only thing we’re good for is churning out babies and apart from that we’re totally useless.

But, I think my absolute favourite quote has to be again from Tertullian, who also said that: “Woman is a temple built over a sewer, the gateway to the devil. Woman, you are devil’s doorway. You should always go in mourning and in rags.” I mean, seriously. This dude. Talk about mummy issues. To be honest being called the “devil’s gateway” makes me feel powerful. It makes me feel as though I corrupt the holiness of any man by just speaking to or touching him.

Anyway, after looking at these quotes we then went on to look at how Augustine said that women aren’t in the image of God and that the only way they can be is through union with a man (you know, because men are perfect and fully in the image of God). It was all very interesting stuff and I think from now on I’m definitely going to consider myself as the devil’s gateway, my purpose being to corrupt as many men as possible within my short lifetime by flaunting my “seductress” nature and bringing fickle men to their knees so that they give in to their temptations (which, as Clement said, they’re entirely unable to control in the presence of women).

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Eve, clearly being a saucy seductress

I think it’s fascinating how centuries of misogyny and sexism have resulted in Christianity (and society) from a misinterpretation of the Hebrew Genesis and the very anti-women views of some early Christian scholars. I mean, if Peter’s ideas had triumphed instead of Paul’s, I wonder how different society would be in their views towards women. Obviously not all Christians/religious people have negative views of women, but I think the anti-women view has percolated through the ages so much that it’s hard to separate it from interpretation of the Bible, or religion.

The One Time in my Life Where a Chemistry Practical Has Gone Well

Today was the first of our two Chemistry practical exams. Today was CHEM3X and in a few weeks’ time we have CHEM6X. The two practicals we had to carry out today were test tube observations and a flame test, and multiple titrations. Neither of the practicals were particularly difficult, but I usually screw up practicals by either spilling the chemicals or breaking the equipment (e.g. the time I spilled hydrochloric acid all over my hand and the time I burned the plastic clips on some distillation apparatus and also set fire to the pear-shaped flask). However, today the practicals actually went well. I didn’t set fire to anything…I didn’t spill corrosive chemicals all over myself.

The only written piece of work we had to do for each practical was draw up a results table and write down our results. The whole thing went well, but the only thing I’m fretting over is the fact that for my titration result table I wrote, as one of the headings, “Initial burette volume (cm3)” and not “Initial burette reading (cm3)”. I don’t know whether “reading” would’ve been better than “volume” but hey, it’s done now. There’s no going back.

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Your basic titration, although they’re doing it the easy way and using a pH meter. Also, I don’t know why they’re using a beaker instead of a conical flask…

In other news, the levels of airborne pollution and smog in the UK is horribly high at the moment because of the Saharan dust that’s conveniently blowing all over the country, amplifying the current levels of pollution. So at the moment London’s pollution level is “Very High” (the UK pollution meter goes from “Low” to “Very High”) and the numerical value for London’s pollution is apparently 9 out of 10. Which is great. Unfortunately, the smog and pollution’s heading north so that means we’ve got “High” levels of pollution where I live, which is just great. It’s so nice to be able to look out my bedroom window and literally see pollution.

The Met Office has issued a warning to those in “High” to “Very High” level pollution areas to stay indoors if you have asthma or any other pulmonary/respiratory problems. Despite this, my friend, who’s asthmatic, decided to “fuck the establishment” and walk to and from school this morning (right through the pollution, which is what I also had to do). I asked him whether he had his inhaler with him and and he replied, “I may be daring and rebellious, but I’m not prepared to die”. He then pulled out his inhaler from his insider blazer pocket and took a puff of it before putting it back and striding outside.

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BBC’s weather forecast for my town :(

Also in other news, everyone received a little booklet during form time today entitled “Preparing for University” and while we had a quick skim-read of it, we found a wonderful little passage that said, “It’s very often said that you spend the first term making friends and then the second term trying to ditch them and find new friends – it may take time to find your “soul mates”.” I think this was an example of the teachers who wrote this trying to be funny/down wid da kidz, because later on it mentions “hanging out with your new friends in clubs, drinking Jägerbombs and dancing to a few cheesy songs.” So basically they’re telling us that the friends you make in the first term are shit and that you’re gonna try and ditch them ASAP for new friends.

They make university sound so promising.

The last piece of “in other news” for today is that I finished Spinoza’s Ethics, so I don’t know what to read now. I have some Bertrand Russell and Peter Vardy lying around, but I’ve also got some actual fiction books – the last two books in Anthony Horowitz’s ‘Power of Five’ series. I think I started reading the penultimate book Necropolis ages ago but somehow never got around to finishing it, so I’ll have to start it again. So it’s whether I read a fictional book (I can’t even remember the last time I did that) or whether I move straight on to more philosophy/ethics.

Decisions, decisions…

My Hand-Washing Compulsion’s Getting Worse

Over the past few days my odd, erratic compulsion to wash my hands has gotten slightly worse. Before, I was only washing my hands around ten times a day, but now I seem to be doing it a lot more and I don’t know why. Today for example I washed my hands twice within the space of about half an hour at school – once during lunch and again during Biology. I’ve been leaving lessons just to wash my hands a few times now, which is strange because I used to be able to wait until the end of a lesson, but now I simply can’t.

I always wash my hands in the morning before I shower (yeah I have no idea why…), numerous times during the school day, immediately upon getting home and then before I go to bed (sometimes washing my hands between getting home from school and going to bed). I don’t know why it’s becoming worse, but it’s annoying. And it’s not as if I can carry hand sanitiser around with me either, because if anything that makes me feel worse and then I have to spend twice as long washing my hands.

I don’t even know what it is that makes me want to wash my hands. It’s just a feeling I get that makes me absolutely need to wash them. I can see the the skin on my hands is suffering, since it’s all dry and horrible on my knuckles and between my fingers (especially that piece of stretchy skin between your forefinger and thumb). But then I can’t carry moisturiser around with me either because I hate the feeling of moisturiser on my hands. It’s all very annoying and puzzling, but I guess I’m just going to have to deal with it.

Anyway, in other news, I have a Chemistry test tomorrow on transition metals which I’m probably going to fail, I made my firm and insurance choices on UCAS last night, and I received the latest issue of the Biological Sciences Review magazine today, which was very exciting.

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It now means that I’ve lost my other three offers, which is very scary. All I have to do now is get the right grades…

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What can I say, the pretty colours excited me…

In Which I Bitterly Regret Not Applying for a Philosophy Degree at University

The title says it all really. I’m bitter. Well, I’ve been especially bitter since about six o’clock this evening, but I’m always slightly bitter at the back of my mind at the fact that I didn’t apply for Philosophy at university. Whenever I feel an intense wave of bitter regret, I usually do things to make it worse, so since about six o’clock I’ve been mindlessly looking at the university league tables for Philosophy, looking at different universities’ entry requirements for their undergraduate Philosophy courses, and staring wistfully at the philosophical books on my bookshelf. When all this became too much, I then went onto the Tumblr blog of this girl I follow who’s doing a Philosophy degree (at Cambridge, I think!) and scrolled through her posts, crying internally whenever I saw posts like this:

Imageand this:

Imagebecause I just think, “That could be me in a few months’ time if I’d applied for Philosophy…”

It’s all very depressing. When I’m in a bitter mood of regret like this, it always help to make me feel more bitter to think about the fact that even if I wanted to I couldn’t have applied for Philosophy, because there’s no way on this earth my parents would’ve let me. My Mum would probably say that it’s a “pointless” degree and that there’s no way I’ll get a decent job out of it and my Dad would just point-blank refuse. Even when I bring my A-Level Philosophy + Ethics up he just grumbles and mutters stuff like “well that’s going to be useful” and “bloody waste of time that is”. I mean, last year when I was briefly discussing possible university courses with my Mum she made it quite clear that I wasn’t going to be applying for Psychology or English, so there’s hardly a chance that I’d get away with broaching the possibility of doing Philosophy.

But, there is another way I could do a Philosophy degree and that’s to do a post-graduate course after I’ve finished my Biochemistry course (the “useful” course). The only downside to this is that the student debt I’d build up would be phenomenal (I’d been in debt to the tune of around £63,000 after both courses) and so that would make post-university life considerably difficult. I know the thing to say now is “but what’s money compared to doing something you love?!” Yeah well I wish I could think like that and I wish things were that easy, but they simply aren’t. I think I’d rather have less debt and live a partially financially affluent life, rather than be up to my neck in debt and hold two degrees.

But I don’t know. The idea of doing Philosophy after Biochemistry is very tempting, but I know that if I did that I probably wouldn’t receive any financial support from my parents.

Anyway, I’ll probably continue to be bitter about it all for a few more hours and then I’ll force myself to forget about it because nothing can be done now. I’ve applied for Biochemistry and that’s the end of it. But the fact that I won’t be starting a Philosophy degree this year still almost makes me want to cry.

Dr.-Who