10 things that will happen to you on a British holiday

If there’s a time when the British holiday triumphs over the minibreak abroad, surely it is Easter Bank Holiday, when families load children, tent and rubber ring into the car and drive to the sea at dawn with fingers and toes crossed for good weather and no fighting in the back.

This Easter I’ve been true to my word and vay-cayed in the Yorkshire Dales and Exmoor. Having thus traversed more or less the length of the country this week, I can confidently tell you that, while the scenery may vary greatly, the British are up to the same old slightly bemusing antics wherever they may be.

Here are 10 things that will absolutely happen to you on a British Summertime holiday.

  1. Whatever the weather forecast says, you will pack for Spain and freeze to death.

Having packed for Yorkshire on a gorgeously sunny southern day, it seemed incomprehensible to me that the weather for the next week could be anything other than baking hot. Cue me rifling through sundresses, teeny shorts and kaftans on arrival to find the one emergency fleece that would be my companion for the whole week.

Think there’d be a learning curve there? I’ve done exactly the same for Exmoor. I write this shivering in tiny shorts as the wind howls outside.

  1. As in the times of our forbearers, you will allow the animal kingdom to dominate.

Whether it’s slamming the breaks on for a pheasant bumbling across the road or waiting patiently for two massive cows to strut past (this happened to me and I was terrified), you will acknowledge that all the greatness of humanity is reduced to nothing in the face of a belligerent sheep.

  1. You will befriend a total stranger.

What are we like? If we haven’t seen a fellow human for a few hours (and in Malham this could easily be a few days), we feel the need to treat the next one that comes along to the full force of our friendship. If we did this in the city no one would make it out of their street.

  1. You will attempt physical activity well beyond your range of fitness.

At home I will occasionally attempt a 15 minute jog. Why then on holiday do I think I’ll be able to climb a mountain? Having moaned my way through an 11 mile hike yesterday, I think I need to reassess my abilities.

  1. You will feel compelled to consume an obscene amount of local produce.

Cheese. Cider. Cornish pasties. ‘Nuff said.

  1. You will spend at least half the holiday engulfed in an ordinance survey map.

Nothing says ‘I am a strong and powerful man’ like an OS map. The bigger the map, the bigger the, ahem, distance travelled.

  1. You will feel obliged to live as if it were the dark ages, even if your apartment has all the mod cons.

Rarely in my day to day life do I suggest a family game – suddenly on holiday this seems like a fantastic idea – and probably one of the chief sources of fun to be had, especially when one’s great Aunty confuses the innocent Articulate word ‘ramp’ with ‘romp’ and gives the clue ‘fun and games on the floor’. Lord forgive us all.

  1. You will visit an obscure museum and pretend to have fun.

The Dog Collar Museum in Leeds is a real thing.

  1. Stopping at the services will be the highlight of the trip.

Is there more fun to be had than the anticipation of which sandwich to choose? I don’t think so.

  1. When you return, you’ll tell everyone it was the best holiday you ever had.

Because, I’m afraid, this crazy peninsula is where we belong.

How to make a good impression at a party (from someone who has done this at least once)

This weekend has seen me enjoy an unprecedented amount of socialising in the Pip.* Boozy meet up in Gordon’s Wine Bar on Thursday, house warming in Brixton on Friday and birthday party in Greenwich on Saturday – somebody stop me! (No seriously, I’ve maxed out my Oyster card and run out of evening wear).

It hasn’t always been this way, oh-ho-ho no – believe it or not there was a time when I would shy away from a social gathering like a pescatarian from a butcher’s. Nevertheless, as someone who was described as ‘trendy’ at a recent event (read into that what you will), it seems I have finally stepped onto the first rung of the social ladder. So, from one socially awkward person to another (no offence), I thought I’d share my way of making a good impression at a party, or, at the very least, ending the night with one’s dignity in tact.

First things first, and crucial if you are to maintain face at any event – know when you’ve had enough nibbles. I know, I know, the buffet is free and eating is a far easier use of your mouth than making small talk, but seriously – did anyone else get a look in on those sweet chilli sensations? Make one satisfactory trip to the buffet (we’re talking bread, we’re talking cous cous salad and a slice of quiche) and then do not return, unless you want your bodycon dress (or chinos boys) to be uncomfortably tight and to not have any room for drink (I speak from painful experience). You may be able to forge a bond with a fellow guest over the range of sandwich fillings or dubious crisp flavours – but once that’s cemented be on your way.

On the subject of small talk, let’s brainstorm some appropriate topics. What you do for a living and general interests? All fine. A specific gripe with someone who may or may not be in attendance at the party? Not OK. (Once again, I speak from past me’s drunken experience – please let me believe that I have gone through this process so that you don’t have to. Like a socialite Jesus.) Another handy hint: talking is a two way street: you ABSOLUTELY MUST respond in reference to what someone has just said to you. I think I’m bad at conversation, then I come across those buffoons who pursue their own agenda no matter what comes their way, like Simpsons Hit and Run when you accidentally swerve onto the pavement. Do not be the verbal version of the Plow King.

Dancing, as far as I’m concerned, is a somewhat taboo issue. Those faux wooden signs you hang on doors will tell you to ‘dance like no one’s watching’ – this may be worth taking with a pinch of salt. I dance like no one’s watching when no one is watching for a reason, and when people are watching I make at least a moderate effort to not look like a baboon in the climax of an elaborate mating dance. If, like me, you suffer from over-enthusiasm on the dance floor, my advice would be to dial it down a notch at least until the disco area is suitably crowded. Once everyone has a beer or two behind them and has reached an acceptable level of flailing, then you boogie like the dance goddess you are. Similarly, I have been known to throw an almighty sulk when other people choose not to dance, which has managed to put a considerable dampener on the night. If the diva streak runs strong through you too, may I suggest that this is something to save for closer friends, and in the meantime to purchase a dance mat?

Reading this back, I have come to the somewhat dispiriting conclusion that making a good impression involves displaying a somewhat watered down version of your true self. Rather than considering this a horrifying defeat, I like to think of it as a tantalising whetting of your audience’s (/future friends’) appetites for what’s to come. Because, really, where can you go if you pull out the Beyoncé moves and ‘look how many cherry tomatoes I can fit in my mouth’ trick on the first night?

Begin with a glimmer, and people will want to see you shine.

 

* Do you think this will take off as a pet name for London? Like the Big Apple but cuter and more approachable.

How to write 5000 words in 2 days

In my last post I succeeded in steadfastly ignoring the 5000 word essay I’ve been set for the holidays by completing a wide range of unnecessary but fulfilling household chores.

Of course, as is always the case, the day came round when I couldn’t ignore my real work any longer. Sitting down to plan my two weeks of freedom, I suddenly realised, social butterfly that I am, that I hadn’t actually left myself much time to get a considerable amount of words under my belt, never mind on the paper.

Yet here I am, a mere seven hours later, sitting on a cool 3600 – brimming with confidence that in one more day’s hard graft I will have the requisite 5000. Now, I never said I was the best writer, but I’ll be damned if I ain’t one of the speediest. Read on for my tips to reach the word count in minimum time, leaving you free to spend your weekend/evening/holiday however you see fit. Good luck!

Tip 1: Kiss goodbye to perfection.

One thing you have to let go of right from the get go if you want to be the speediest writer in town is the idea of perfection. I’m not saying don’t proofread, nothing says ‘I did this half asleep the night before while eating a pizza’ like a bunch of typos, but you need to accept that the content isn’t going to be your finest. At Cambridge, this used to be more taxing, as I would then be forced to spend an hour the following day unpicking an essay I already knew to be deeply flawed with an expert in the field. If submitting semi-anonymously via Turnitin, however, this works an absolute treat.

Tip 2: And your friends and family, for that matter.

If you want to bosh out some serious wordage in 2 days, you need to commit. We’re talking lockdown. Some substantial one on one time between you and your computer. No texting, messaging, whatsapping – ideally no one in your house either. Study group? Bad idea. Remove all distractions and you’ll be done much faster.

Tip 3: Reference as you write.

Who are these people who allocate a separate day for referencing? If you have time for that, you don’t need this blog post in your life, or my friendship frankly. Start your bibliography from the get go and chuck stuff into it AS SOON AS you know you’ll be using it in your writing. While you have the book in front of you/the web page open you have all the info you need for your bibliography. Refuse to make your life a misery trying to find your sources later by getting them down there and then.

Tip 4: Get yo self a playlist.

Unless you are in the library and have forgotten your headphones, writing in a silent room is a punishment that no student deserves to endure. To really get you in the zone, I find it works well to have a playlist of music you that like (obviously) but that’s not your usual leisure genre. Find what works for you: I used to love the elven themes from The Hobbit until the Tauriel song kept making me cry. So I found this alternative that is the right blend of soothing and motivational. Get some background noise on and everything else will fall into place.

Tip 5: Motivate yourself with treats.

So the stick is you’ll get a right telling off if you don’t hand this essay in, but where’s the carrot? You want treats, you need treats and you deserve treats. Set yourself mini landmarks in your work (500 words written, 10 pages read…) and reward yourself without fail when you reach them. It might be as simple as sending a smug text to a loved one (the only communication allowed during lockdown). It may be food based. If you’re lucky enough to have a rich parent/husband, it could be monetary. Find what motivates you and work your socks off for it.

Tip 6: Watch this video.  

If, having tried all of the above, you inexplicably find yourself on Netflix, watch this. If Shia can’t help you, I’m afraid I don’t know who can.

Chores

That’s right, I’m on holiday again, and aside from the 5000 word essay looming over me I’m feeling pre-e-e-tty chill. So, rather than get anything meaningful done, this weekend became an opportunity to do all those chores I didn’t know existed – cleaning the fridge, rearranging the living room and generally anything to create a cushion of productivity to shield me from actual work. I haven’t learned anything about planning across the primary key stages, but I have developed quite the archive of songs to do your chores to. If, like me, it requires a motivational tune for you to get even the most basic task done, read on.

Getting sh*t done for work: LunchMoney Lewis – Bills

There’s nothing like a song about money to remind you that you have none. This dude has such a cracking tune about it that it will trick you into thinking you’re enjoying work.

The Tesco shop: Galantis – Peanut Butter Jelly

What better song to do your food shop to than one whose video is set in a supermarket!? Possible risks include looking like a wally moving your trolley to the music and taking twice as long to get round all the aisles with all the front back and side stepping you’ll be doing. Worth it for the joy factor.

A job that needs to be done rapidly (such as cleaning the fridge): The Benny Hill Theme

Originally recommended to me to get my children to tidy up quickly (seriously, try it) – I’ve found the fast pace of this fun yet repetitive song works just as well on adults. You’ll be moving at twice the speed, having twice the laughs.

Revising: Magic – B.o.B.

Need a little ego boost to get you in the zone? Got no one to do that for you? Turn to B.o.B. and remind yourself that everything you need to achieve is right there inside. Disney may also help.

Completing a task that others think you can’t: The ‘I’ll show you how valuable Elle Woods can be’ montage from Legally Blonde.

Ah Elle – is there anything she can’t teach us about life? Her dedication to her studies when the frat boys are living it large outside makes me ashamed of my own paltry efforts to get on when the only thing outside my window is gravel. If you’re blonde, the analogy feels even stronger.

So there you have it, a failsafe playlist to get those Easter chores well on their way. Feel free to add any belters I’ve missed off in the comments. And when you’re finished? Reward yourself with this.

News

Can we talk for a moment about the awkward sextet that is Nicola Sturgeon, Theresa May and their legs? It won’t be news to you that the Daily Mail has caused a storm by making the meeting between two of the world’s (Europe’s?) most powerful women about their pins.

As with most modern tragedies, it was the Guardian and its readers who were hit hardest.

Poor Owen Jones was frightfully het up, although not lost for words, as he wrote with considerable pent up enthusiasm about the ‘open sewer’ that is the right wing press.

Of course, much as it begrudges me to admit it, Owen’s right. These pillars of British democracy (lol Theresa) represent something far more important than a well-matched pair of skin tone tights. You know that, and I know that. And guess what – the Daily Mail knows that too. But what the Daily Mail has twigged about the British public, that we may not yet know ourselves, it that we also love to be outraged. Paul Dacre is sitting somewhere rubbing his hands with glee as smoke starts to billow from the nation’s noses – I don’t know about you, but it’s the first time I’ve visited the Daily Mail website in a while.

In these testing political and financial times, there’s nothing we love more than a good rant. As a teacher, I’ve been told that it’s frowned upon to let my rage out on the kids, so I’m forced to get my kicks elsewhere. Here’s a few things not on the political spectrum that have outraged me this week:

  • Seeing a topless (male, calm down boys) jogger. It’s March. March!!!
  • How cheap Tesco own brand soy milk is.
  • How watery Tesco own brand soy milk tastes.
  • When the guy in front of me dawdled down the M4 slip road at 30 on my way home.

It seems apt that May’s response to the madness was to ignore it. Makes sense – she’s too busy running the country to respond to something so beneath her. Don’t like the Daily Mail headline? My advice would be not to buy it. Instead, check out Oh Comely magazine, have a cup of tea, and be thankful we have more sense than the front-page news.

Running

A few weeks ago I made a scene about people who run to work. It is thus with more than a little sheepishness that I inform you that I have just been on my first run of the season. You’ll know if you see me doing one of these early runs, because there is remarkably little ‘running’ involved, compensated instead with walking, limping, grunting and crying.

Still, not unlike getting a haircut, it has to be done.

Sadly but truly, running is the only thing that has even a hope of combatting the sheer amount of crap I eat (yoga just doesn’t seem to cut it). Plus if I get into the right rhythm my ponytail swings side to side in time to my feet hitting the floor. You just can’t get that in a pump class.

So off I went: trainers laced up, TeachFirst t-shirt donned (seems as good a time as any to do a spot of marketing), spirits as high as can reasonably be expected. As I don’t have a Fitbit (yet, ahem, gracious readers), I measure the length of my run by the number of songs I can work through on my iPod.

Song one is the Kings of Leon ‘The Bucket’ and I’m cruising down the main road wondering why I ever gave up this running lark. By song two (bit o’ Mika) I can feel a stitch coming on. At song three I suddenly notice the wind is against me – has that been there all along? Try to bear in mind that on way back it will be in my favour. Something to look forward to.

Song four is the halfway point (hey nobody said it was going to be a marathon) and I cling onto the Windsor and Eton bridge admiring the view through bleary eyes. Decide now might be a good time to stretch. Do a few token toe touches and try to look like I know what I’m doing.

Song five – will I even make it back? Breathing is worryingly heavy and am feeling slightly sick – must be all that peanut butter I ate for a pre-run protein hit. No sign of favourable wind hoped for earlier. Song six is a power walk. Legs have completely failed me and will no longer bend – am walking like the woman in her cardboard jeans in the Lenor ads.

Song seven – what I had planned to be a triumphant sprint finish back onto my road has become a rather languishing diminuendo as I shuffle over the finish line. Line up song eight for when I’m safely back indoors: a tear-jerking ballad.

Considering how badly that first run could have gone (falling in the river, blisters, sudden heart attack), I think it’s safe to say it wasn’t a total wash out. Decide to hold off on running to work for the time being – I’d need considerably more songs.

Nibbles

Another week, another evening cut short as I fall asleep on the sofa. Slight change being that this time the sofa was in Cambridge (meaning the background noise that lulled me to sleep was a rather lively chess match as opposed to the girly chit chat of the week before).

Ah, Cambridge. Place of dreaming spires, where tweed and red chinos are promoted to the ranks of day wear and my lecturer’s turn of phrase was so bedazzling I’d copy it down word for word knowing full well it would never be used for revision.

While perhaps not quite as populated with toffs as the media leads one to believe, Cambridge does boast a considerable percentage of the UK’s eccentrics. Fortunately for me, as it meant I blended in quite nicely on Friday.

Ever since I’ve been trying to normalise my relationship with wine by resisting the urge to pour a large glass to celebrate the successful completion of every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, it has become apparent that I cannot hold my drink. A secret which I could have kept quite nicely to myself, but instead decided to demonstrate in a number of rather bizarre ways at the weekend.

As delicious as the food turned out by the Corpus Christi kitchens is, everyone knows the two main highlights of formal: the cheeky bread roll already waiting for you when you take your seat and the little minty chocolate that accompanies your coffee after dessert. While tispy Isobel (Tipsobel?) managed to register that the butter was off limits due to vegan Lent, she didn’t quite manage the leap that eating other people’s bread was probably a fine dining faux pas. Fortunately, the victim of the robbery was for too amenable to make a scene.

Spurred by this victory, I began to get an appetite (fun pun!) for the food thug life. Lounging around in the after dinner mingling area, my roaming gaze stopped in its tracks when I noticed not just one minty chocolate daintily poised on each saucer, but a WHOLE BOWL FULL of them just ripe for the taking. The catering staff are clearly a trusting bunch. Despite still having the presence of mind to acknowledge that these discs of delight probably aren’t vegan, I felt the need to fill my pockets with them ‘just in case’. I’m still finding them in shoes and bags that I didn’t even take on the trip with me several days on.

It comes as a rather devastating truth that my drunken trait is greed (although perhaps a bit far-fetched to assume I’d suddenly become the sexy one) – still, my doze on the sofa was the contented slumber of an evening well-spent in food-based criminality. In fact, there’d have been very little incentive to change my ways had I not picked my cardi up at an awkward angle after being prodded awake, only to unleash an avalanche of minty goodness onto the proceedings.

Cambridge, we had our time in the sun, but food? From you I will never be parted.