The Ballad of Toaster

When she stabbed him there were only two people in the house.  Her and him. That’s why in court it was super difficult to determine what had actually happened beyond: she stabbed him 5 times with a carving knife.

People say there are always three versions of a story: yours, theirs and the truth. Unfortunately, we are rarely able to hear the objective truth.  However, there is almost always something that would know.  A couple of things that bear witness to everything you do, and they’re in your home or office or public garden right now.

“She’s going to lose it.”

“Do you really think so?”

“Well she’s just bashed him with the frying pan so I think we’re definitely headed towards a serious skirmish. She’s looking pretty psycho with make up all over her face and the hysterical crying.”

“To be fair, he shouldn’t have been at it with Susan from number 12”

“Well no probably not.  But I don’t think he quite deserves the level of maddened behaviour we’ve got going on here.  I mean, a carving knife? Really Karen? Get over it. He seems like a pretty solid bloke.”

“Wow, Clock you seem pretty calm considering what’s going on here.”

“Seen a lot of murders in my time, Sideboard.  Back before the days of cheap Swedish furniture we’d get to stand in tens of living rooms and dining rooms, and see a ton of things. I saw the whole industrial revolution from the window sill of a small medicine shop back in Nottingham.  How things have changed for the Boots’.  No use getting worked up over any of it, just sit back and watch them. What can we do?”

 “BLOODY HELL HE’S BLEEDING ALL OVER ME!! PHONE!! She’s stabbed him!! Call the police”

“You know I can’t do that, Rug.”

“What can you do then?”

“Same as you, Sideboard you idiot.  You know very well we can’t do anything except sit here.  There’s no control over anything.  I wouldn’t know where to even begin thinking about lifting my receiver.” 

“Wonder how we’ll get divided up? I’m not sure they’ll bounce back from this.”

“Can’t see Keith bouncing back from 5 stab wounds in his chest at all Lamp. Probably sold – Oi, Toaster! Did you come here with him or her?”

“What have you asked him for? You know he’s mad.”

 “Doomed to watch the world are we,

Sitting on the side,

People come and people go,

There’s nowhere they can hide,

 

They think that we’re unconscious,

Not capable of seeing,

But we’re here and we’re watching you.

Furniture.”

 

“Alright Toaster mate, we’ll figure it out later. Didn’t his poems used to rhyme better than that?”

 

Imagine the stories they would be able to tell if they really could talk and watch.

It would probably be a mix of trauma like witnessing a murder or complete mundane day-to-day things like;

“Gladys wakes up at 8am every day.  After I’m boiled she makes a cup of tea and head out of the room.  I don’t see her again until 2 when she comes in to make lunch. On Sundays she fills me up right to the top because her kids visit.”

Antiques would probably be the most fun pieces of furniture to interview.

With family heirlooms being the most protective over the humans they’ve watched grow up and live and die over and over.

Older furniture probably has a sense of permanency while the newer Ikea era furniture knows it’s more temporary and less likely to be passed down.

Older furniture probably thinks more traditionally about itself and its other furniture colleagues; while, newer furniture is more likely to be open to non-traditional pieces of furniture joining its ranks, like sofas made of palettes and storage shelves made of cardboard.

And so, to conclude, your furniture’s watching you. It’s got opinions on what you’ve matched it with and where you’ve placed it in the room.  They’re probably keen advocates of Feng Shui.  It’s most likely a reluctant accomplice to where you hide the extra biscuits, and knows exactly where that pair of glasses you lost is.

How to be Unemployed

Being unemployed has led me to seek the opinion of and take comfort in the experiences of others who are also unemployed.  I wanted to add to that, so this post is about how my experience has gone thus far, how I’m coping and how I think you should try to cope if you’re in this situation.  

For me, my experience can be summed up into a circular process consisting of three stages:

  1. Living the dream
  2. Momentum and Applications
  3. The Sky is Falling

People will tell you there is a fourth stage; acceptance. I don’t think you ever accept being unemployed.  Maybe at 2pm on a Saturday when you can justify the 8 episodes of ‘The Good Wife’ you just watched because this is what employed people do too.  But that feeling never stays long.

Stage 1: Living the Dream

Common thoughts that occur during this stage:

“I’m not that worried, something will come along.”

“I have enough money to survive many winters – I’m going to be fine.”

“I can get in shape!!”

“I can FINALLY do that juice cleanse”

This is a nice position to be in and a really positive way to feel.  Cling to this.  You can normally churn out 3-4 quality applications daily and you don’t mind taking a day or two off.  You tend to get to the gym easily and you’re feeling confident that this time is like a holiday that won’t last long.  Wasn’t everyone unemployed at some point?  Maybe this is your artistic awakening.  You finally have time to paint!

If only it lasted, because I feel that if you stayed in this stage you’d be all right – you’d probably rock your juice cleanse.  It’s also a nice state to be in because the steely silence of your inbox just rolls off your back. You know it’s going to be all right.

 

Stage 2: Momentum and Applications

There’s no wasting time, you have to treat unemployment like a full-time job.  You will get a job today that will be your sole focus.  You’re having a little less fun and the guilt is starting to slowly build. You miss a day of applications and lay awake thinking that you could’ve missed the ultimate opportunity that appeared for one day only.  You’ve probably stopped shelling out on the pair of jeans your bank balance says you can afford, but the threat of long-term unemployment knows you can’t. You’re also setting yourself mini-targets like:

“I’m going to have a job by Thursday”

Unfortunately, save for sending out more applications this isn’t something you can control.

For the most part however, you’re still feeling positive. You’re going outside and delivering CV’s and it’s great.  You’re going to fix this situation.

And you might fix it during this phase – in which case, AWESOME!

If not, then eventually, like a tidal wave, stage 3 hits. And it hurts.

 

Stage 3: The Sky is Falling

I woke up at 7am.  I checked my emails once before 9am and again at 9:01am in the hope of some communication from a potential employer. Nothing.  I conducted my daily trawl of Indeed.ca in the hopes of finding a new opportunity and I made some toast.  Then at midday, I cracked.  I physically couldn’t complete any more applications because thus far it felt like every hour I’d slaved over sending out cover letters and every second I’d spent perfecting my CV had been for nothing.  I was useless and worthless and hopeless.

So I did what any reasonable, grown-up, individual does when a hard time hits. I went to bed.

I also ate a litre of ice cream and watched 10 episodes of Friends, and wept.

At this point there is next to no joy gained from doing anything because you either feel too guilty to enjoy it or you feel like you’re letting those around you down by enjoying yourself when you should’ve been considering your situation.  It’s getting difficult to justify the purchase of anything, even milk.  You get to the point where you feel you don’t deserve coffee with milk; you’re unemployed! You’ve decided there is little need to get dressed because you’ve got no interviews or anywhere to go and sometimes, you get up just to go back to bed.

Here’s why it’s okay for the above to happen to you.

It’s really difficult to be unemployed.

It is an emotional rollercoaster, that isn’t always rational – OF COURSE YOU CAN HAVE MILK IN YOUR COFFEE! It’s really hard to maintain a sense of identity and determination and momentum when all you get in return is silence.

The two fundamentally, above all, most important things you need to do to get through these times are:

  1. Take good care of yourself and your mental health
  2. Ensure that any application you send out is of the absolute highest quality.

A few additional notes on point 1:

DO NOT DO A JUICE CLEANSE.  You will get upset, angry and you won’t be able to write any kind of quality job application because all you will be thinking about is the amount of cheese in your fridge and the biscuits in your cupboards.

Don’t panic if you have a mini-emotional breakdown.  Take an afternoon and cry it out. The combo of guilt, lack of purpose and fear of wasting time is a huge burden to bear.  So yeah, cry.  Afterward, or the next day, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep going.  To quote, what I consider the single most under-quoted movie of all time:

“Everything will be all right in the end, and if it’s not all right it’s not the end” – Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Even if it’s not all right next week, or next month, eventually, with hard work and determination it will be.  You have to make it all right and you can and you will.  But don’t worry if it’s not tomorrow.

Finally, try and exercise and do try to give yourself some kind of routine.  Setting an alarm to avoid the guilt of a wasted morning helps a lot!

Exercise also helps.

So, okay, I don’t have a job but I’m lifting heavier weights than ever and running a lot faster. It’s a small sense of accomplishment in a time where you can be very quickly convinced that you will never accomplish anything.

Take care of number 1. Power on through.  Get help if you need to.  There is no shame in asking.

Some additional notes on point 2:

There is nothing worse than reviewing your CV after sending it out to 30+ people and finding that it has confused tenses and a couple of grammatical errors.  You want to send out best version of yourself to the workplace (even if you’re doing so in your PJs). It’s also tempting to have written a cover letter and be so tired from writing about yourself that you just hit send.  You’ll feel better for taking a minute away and then coming back to read it refreshed.  Take it from someone who learned the hard way, you HAVE to proof read. AHHH.

Exciting websites I would direct you to for some interesting employment reading are:

  • Askamanager.org – there’s tips for CVs and cover letters here as well as interesting questions from readers, e.g. “My co-worker clipped his nails during an interview, should I have said something?”
  • Your local university careers service. Even if you’re not a student, this is a great spot for cover letter and CV tips. If you’re at the University of Leicester, I cannot tell you how much they want to help and how capable and opportunity-ridden the service is.  I’m sure that this is pretty standard in all universities.

 

Ultimately please remember the following:

  • Unemployment is hard, you can be upset and you can ask for help.
  • You do need to continue to apply to positions, even if it’s entry level shovelling, just try and fill your time, you’ll feel better.
  • Take the best care of yourself, even mini achievements go a long way to boosting your morale at this time

It will be okay.  You are important and valuable and useful and you will find something.

Just. Keep. Going.

Me, Eyebrows and the Benefit Lady

Occasionally, maybe it’s when there’s to be a full moon, I have some horrendously awkward experience with a customer service/ sales associate.  Here’s one for your enjoyment.

It was Christmastime in Nottingham.  The leaves had fallen from the trees and as I stepped off the bus into the city centre the place was heaving.  My two aims of the trip were:

  1. Buy some presents
  1. Have a look at some make-up and maybe go for some kind of contour palette or get an eyebrow pencil or something. I don’t really know what I was looking for specifically, but I knew I wanted to do something about my face.

I end up in Boots, browsing the brands, not super high end, but your Maybelline, Bourgeois, Rimmel priced stuff.   I was also having a look at some brushes.  So basically I was wandering through 6 aisles of products occasionally picking items up, deciding “yes, this is the product that will help me with my face” then walking about some more before changing my mind to “I don’t know how to use this item on my face” and hurriedly putting it back.

This process continued for quite some time.

On reflection it definitely looked like I was going to steal something.  Maybe that’s why she approached.

“Hi, can I help you with anything today?”

Okay – it’s a Benefit lady.  Benefit is far too high end for my face.  Financially I mean. This could mean trouble.

“Um…maybe, I don’t really know what to do with my face” – this is exactly what I said, and I remember because as soon as I said it I knew that this was going to be the start of an adventure.

She starts talking about my face – I don’t wear lots of makeup to work and what I do wear is put on at 7am, it is now 5pm. I’m not looking that great.

“Okay so do you ever put anything on your eyebrows?”

“No.  I’m a bit scared to do that”

“Well you have to put something on your eyebrows – *adds something about drawing the eye down the face – I am terrified and confused*”

Please don’t offer to put me in a chair and apply some product to my face.

“Why don’t we go over to the chair and try a product  or two?”

All-righty, here we go.

Make-up lovers this is where I get SUPER amateur.

Her opener was “you’ve got lovely eyebrows, do you pluck them yourself?” I do – in fact, I had recently done them. “Yeah, thanks” I say, she quickly adds “make sure you don’t over pluck them”.  Oh.

She puts this fancy paste on my eyebrows.  Eyebrow paste is not for me, and when I look in the mirror, I can’t hide how horrible I think I look, coupled with the uncontrollable “wow” that flies out of my mouth before I can catch it, this is not good.  She notices and says “this mascara stuff will do something extra to it” – okay that’s not what she said, but I don’t remember her words. Regardless,   she’s now putting some mascara style stuff on my face.

 

These brows are dark.  It’s December and I skipped a tropical summer holiday so I am ghostly white.  It looks horrible.  I have virtually no other makeup on than my now super dark eyebrows.   It’s just terrible and then to top it off here comes the sales pitch.

This is a serious problem; I could end up with these products.  Just to describe them, they are thumb-length, little finger wide tiny pots of goo. I don’t want them but tactfully decide that I will consider buying one if it is a fiver – although there is a tinge of guilt considering the whole 15 minutes she’s spent painting the little hairs above my eyes.

“So they’re £20 each, not huge costs for great eyebrows like these”

Hell no.  I’m out.

I don’t feel that bad for wasting her time any more.  I stumble through some crappy line about seeing what Santa brings me and run out of the shop.  I spent almost an hour and a half in Boots, purchased nothing and now have the most ridiculous eyebrow/ghost face situation going on.  I decide to forgo any present shopping and run to the bus to get home; hand and hair strategically placed to try to cover the eyebrow disaster.

Describe a First

I was looking at tips for creative writing recently and came across this as a method of explaining things, describing events etc.  Well, I was a dancer until I was 18. Hitting that triple threat – Ballet, Tap and Modern.  I went through it all.  I had bobby pins stabbed into my head, I had the horror of forgetting a dance half-way through (this happened all the time, normally during solos), I squeezed into leotards and tutus and wore tap shoes when screws had fallen out them.  I had an amazing time.  I hope one day to qualify and teach.  But this looks to be a more long term investment, that I really need to start getting more serious about.

Anyway, here is an account of my first pair of pointe shoes, it’s a combo of a touch of fiction and mostly fact. 

Gran spilt a latte. Which is so un-Gran-like because she is usually the most well together, organised and tidy person in the world. Of course she had copious numbers of napkins to clean up said latte and thus her Gran-like persona was restored almost instantaneously, but nonetheless, she spilt a latte. It was her first latte, and her last, as the experience had scarred to that extent.

We were in Bristol, me, my mum, Hannah and Gran to get my first pair of pointe shoes.  I was beyond nervous. Having been going to ballet for about 10 years, and gone through the ankle strengthening in preparation, I was definitely ready but still terrified. We’d driven two hours from home to get these pointe shoes, and I’d been prepared for what to expect, two of the girls already had theirs. I was to try on hundreds and hundreds of pink, off-pink and near pink shoes with a flat edge on the bottom, have to stand in first position, go up on my toes and asked how I felt. I’d also be issued with a pair of ‘ouch pouches’, potentially some lamb’s wool and maybe some toe separators.

So – after the latte incident, we went to the shop.  It was a small shop with a red door on the corner and a large white rimmed window. We went in and perused all of the shoes, ribbon, leotards and full range of Dance materials ballet girls and their relatives just go crazy about. Although not really because most of the stuff is so damn expensive. Anyway, we meet with a lady with curly-ish brown hair.  She is friendly and nice enough but there is something intimidating about her.  This is a fundamental trait of all ballet teachers and people in the dance world.  They are nice and friendly and they smile at you but there is something underlying that is utterly terrifying about them.  It was a trait I have been trying to develop every day since this one but have yet to conquer, because it’s great.

She puts the first pair on my feet, they feel horrendous and I look like a penguin in them.  My toes are scrunched and the shoe is so tight. “are they pinching?” she asks me. “Yes a little” I say, “well, that’s to be expected”. I stand in first, do a little plie and rise up onto the tips on my toes, my mother to this point thought I would be standing on literal blocks of wood and had been treating me like some sort of hero, this attitude was quickly altered when she saw the hardened canvas/cardboard combo and not wood on the ends of me feet. So the first pair was a no for reasons only the lady knew.  Settling in for the long haul I tried on the second pair, tilting them 45 degrees so that my big toe could get right to the end of them.  That was it. They were my pointe shoes; a pair of pink Bloch pointe shoes. And I loved them. The lady suggested we darn them so they lasted longer but my teacher had said not to bother as the studio floors weren’t the traditional wood of so many studios so they wouldn’t be scratched or full of splinters.

I kept those shoes for years. Even after I finished dancing somewhere  in my mum’s attic lie those shoes, ribbons torn to shreds, bottoms scratched and scuffed, a lighter shade of pink having been covered in camomile lotion to try and restore them to their former glory during a last minute panic about some exam.  I do miss my ballet days, and will never forget the shoes, the tights, the resin, the leotards, the satin; the ribbon, the hairspray, the glitter, the blood, the pain and I never would be able to considering I have a left hip that sometimes seizes up as a result of all of my years of hard work.  One day, I’ll return to teach – I’m sure of it; however until then I am happy to remember my first pointe shoes.

The Wannabe Writer

Every single time I sit down to search for jobs I end up here; writing the first sentence of a blog. I swim through endless administration jobs, “Be your own boss!”, I read one article about how someone somewhere managed to change their lives and can now do something they love or have always wanted to do full-time and then I’m here.

Sometimes I get as far as becoming a member on WordPress, even as far as creating a title for my blog but then, about two paragraphs down into my first post while I’m reeling off all of my thoughts, feelings, notions, anecdotes and tales of the world I stop, and I hit backspace, frantically.  As I complete each step of the process to getting started on a blog I have got started on 1…2…20 times before, I get more and more full of anxiety.  What if everyone hates it?  What if the people I know who happen upon this laugh at me? What if my mum judges me?

I feel like a fraud.

What qualifications or experiences have I got to share with the world that are unique or different? I am no expert on anything. I worry that no one will agree with me.  What if I have an unpopular opinion I can’t defend better than someone else can argue? We all want to be special, but most of us (me) want to do it by staying in line or keeping quiet and not really making too much of a fuss.  We want to be individual and unique just like everyone else that whenever we do step out of the norm we feel weird and vulnerable. Like someone might laugh at us.

This is definitely where I get to.

For me it’s with writing, perhaps for you it’s with wanting to post that picture of your abs, or putting on some blue eyeshadow or maybe you’re Billy Elliot and you just want to dance.

More and more recently, I’ve been thinking about the most influential people in the world and when it comes to writing their biographies or autobiographies, were they always doing influential, out of the box, different things? ‘Jimmy was selling shoes since he was born and now he’s Jimmy Choo’. Or one day did they just wake up and start?  If I’m ever going to be one of those people I need to wake up and start because thus far, it’s been a lot of ice cream, complaining and wondering.  If we look in the mirror and think we could be doing more than this, better than this, different than this, then why are we still looking at the bloody mirror? Why aren’t we doing it?  Why are we so scared?  I feel this way about meeting my neighbours, getting in shape, having a career and a million other things except I spend so long feeling this way or thinking this way and not actually doing it, that time is ticking by.

I recently moved abroad.  I’m a Brit  living in Downtown Toronto and everyday I’m here it becomes clearer and clearer that nobody is going to come and knock on my door and say ‘Lorna – you are just the person we’ve been looking for, come and change the world’.  Or, if you do this one job for now then one day you won’t have to do it because everything’ll work out and you’ll be in a dream job. (The inconvenient truth there is that I need a job to pay my bills like the rest of you, but still) Nope. That’s not going to happen either.  If I sit in my flat I’ll make friends here, right? Wrong! So unbelievably wrong, but it’s what I’ve been doing.

But I’m not doing it anymore.  I’m posting this blog-in-the-making. I’m getting in shape, hell I might even go and meet my neighbours. I begin this blog by telling you that the musings and writings here aren’t happening because I’m an expert on swimming (or anything), or because I have a message you need to know (you don’t).  I don’t really even know what the majority of this content is going to be about.  It might be a pile of creative writing, but if you’d like a guide to what might happen here; well, you’re probably looking at a bit of politics, and I’m pretty passionate about education, the gym, films, places to eat, globalisation and really anything else.

Honestly, I feel more nervous about this than I did about moving abroad.