Tag Archives: life

The Bar Etiquette Bible: The Last Will and Testament of a Retiring Barkeep

23 Jul

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Just over four years after graduating, I have finally got a (sort of) job. Well, yes, it’s another internship. But in a baffling turn of events, I’m actually getting paid this time. This means that once more I’m hanging up my pinny and leaving the pub game- and who knows, this time it might be for good.

Having started working in a bar at Manchester in 2007, I have come to learn a lot. It’s a trade that can be really good fun and very satisfying, but also wretchedly stressful and bloody hard work. It teaches you how to talk to people, multi-task and keep calm under pressure… but it also gives you an insight into the worst habits and rotten core of human nature itself. A bit dramatic? Try dealing with a pack of lecherous, middle-aged men in the twelfth hour of their drinking session.

So it is now that I feel I should offer the following twenty rules to make the world a better place for barpersons and patrons alike. Anyone who has ever worked in a bar, please know that you are not alone. And anyone who ever frequents a bar, please take these points on board. They might save your life one day. Okay, that actually was a bit dramatic.

1) You know, as a barkeep, having to offer an assortment of options for each drink is just as knackering for us as it is for you. However, some useful advice to keep close to hand is that ‘normal’ is neither a classification of size, taste or indeed, brand of beverage.  If we’re to take such a guideline literally, I suppose we should be grateful for the amount of faith you put into us and our perceptions.  I regularly talk in cat-speak and bite my toenails.

2) The phrase ‘when you’re ready’ is poison to a barkeep’s ears. If we were ready, we’d be serving you already, you utter berk.  By abstaining from this bolshy practice you are in fact retaining your deserved position in your server’s mental queue. If you choose to indulge in it, we can only wish you the best of luck.

3) Coming to a bar whilst mid-conversation on your mobile and still expecting to be served is as good as holding out your hand and saying ‘Hi, I’m an Ignorant Pr*ck, pleased to meet you.’ It’s one of the most infuriatingly rude of all customer crimes, suggesting that we’re not even worth giving your full attention to as you place your order. We are not a vending machine. To be fair, we probably don’t want to talk to you either- but unfortunately, it’s something that the conditions of our pay require us to do.

4) You may find it hard in your intoxicated state to remember the pocket-cripplingly long list of drinks in your round, but please, don’t think that means you have to dispense it to us in some kind of weird, alcoholic breadcrumb trail. One-at-a-time ordering draws out this affair much longer than necessary and will result in an impatient reception, often coupled with eye twitching. (Unless you spot a barperson with a pedometer, in which case they will probably be grateful of the seven mile journey of to-ing and fro-ing you send them on.)

5) Waving notes around or unfurling wads of cash for attention usually only proves effective in strip joints, and should be abandoned when awaiting service in any other pub or bar. You will be instantly branded as a flash kn*bhead and 99% of witnesses of such practice will secretly hope that a pickpocket targets you.

6) No, it is not okay for you to place your order, leave your money and nip to the toilet. I can’t actually think of any other place where this may be considered acceptable mid-service. If you went to a bank you wouldn’t turn to the cashier and say ‘I’m just going for a wee whilst you count that out’ or announce to a Vicar that you’re off to empty your bowels whilst he breaks the bread.

7) Whilst we’re on the topic, it’s probably around now that you should know that dumping money onto the bar top when paying for drinks is just not cool.  If we have a hand outstretched awaiting payment, that’s where the money goes. Not in the puddle of ale you’ve created as you snatched and spilt your pint. If you still insist on doing this you should hope that you’re not owed any change. Coins can hurt when thrown.

8) Just because you know a barperson’s name, it doesn’t automatically entitle you to a bespoke customer service experience. Shouting their name loudly over a busy crowd of thirsty punters isn’t going to bump you up the queue. If anything it’s going to make you look like a bigger tw*t when you’re publicly snubbed by someone who clearly doesn’t want to know. Sorry to break it to you, but you’re not the only one we talk to. It’s not you, it’s us. Does that help? No? Well, get over it. We’re busy.

9) No matter what, always remember your P’s and motherf*cking Q’s. Your cash may buy you a few short minutes of our attention and service, but that does not elevate you to some kind of slave-master role and exempt you from treating us like real human people. I have been known to deny an overheated and profusely sweating youth of his abrupt demand of ‘WATER’ at a teenie-mosher gig until he had realised and rectified his omission of a simple ‘please’. It felt like a motherly scolding but my God, it was worth it.

10) If it’s late, the bar staff are cleaning things and we politely tell you that we’re closed, ‘you’re joking’ is not the best response to give. Not only are we probably tired and desperate for release, you should respect that we could probably fabricate some better gags for our stand-up routine. No, we’re not joking. Clearly. That’d be even less funny than that ‘knock knock’ joke about bananas and oranges, which I still don’t really get to this day.

11) Another thing to bear in mind whilst we’re discussing closing time is that we’re not in the mood to wait for you while you carry on your conversation and slowly finish your drink. Having to be asked more than three times to drink up and responding with an off-hand ‘yeah, yeah’ will get you struck from any barkeep’s Christmas card list. If you’re about to make a comment about us being abrupt or rude, well, we are truly most frightfully sorry. You’re right, it’s not your fault we’ve been sober and on our feet for eight hours whilst you slowly get wrecked… but would you mind most terribly if you jog onwards now, kind sir?

12) In most retail roles, that age-old golden rule of ‘the customer’s always right’ is true… but not here. The bar staff are always right. Please hold back from telling us how to do our job. We won’t come into your office and tell you that your filing system leaves much to be desired if you can accept that we know how much head there is supposed to be on your pint. Deal? Good.

13) It may come as a surprise, but your average member of bar staff exercises absolutely no control over the cost of the drinks they sell, so please don’t get arsey with them about the price. Angrily exclaiming ‘how much?!’ whilst sifting through a handful of coins with indignation isn’t going to help anyone. Believe us, we’d much rather that it was a boozy free-for-all too, but that would mean that we ourselves would be collapsed behind the bar in a drunken coma and there would be nobody left to serve you. Swings and roundabouts.

14) Abbreviations. Southern Comfort may have tried to get down with the kids by actively encouraging requests for ‘SoCo’, but it’s the equivalent of a middle aged try-hard reversing a baseball cap and sitting down on a backwards chair thinking they’re Snoop Dogg. Requests of ‘OJ’ or a ‘pint of numbers’ are habits that jar against the grain of my heart, soul and very skin like a blunt, rusting knife. Just talk like a ‘normal’ person, please.

15) Do you think shredding beermats, tearing up menus or peeling bottle labels before scattering them like confetti all over the floor makes our job more fun, or less fun? If you think the latter, well done and have a gold star. The former? You’re a d*ck. Please drink at home.

16) Also, just so you know, when your mate hurls his guts all over the floor/table/upholstery, this does not make them a ‘legend’. If you think it does, we’re going to come and find you when you are exhausted after a long day of work armed with a bucket of warm sick for you to deal with, with only a mop and some paper roll as your permitted tools. Gloves? Ha, no.

17) If you come to a busy bar and wait for ten minutes, we assume that by the time it’s your turn, you know what you want. When we say, ‘what can I get you?’ please don’t stare back, open-mouthed like we’ve asked you to work out the square root of 48,642. Sadly, most companies can’t afford telepathy training so you’re going to have to decide. We also heard you grumbling to your friend about how long it was taking to get served, so please don’t do this now. It’s not that hard. Promise.

18) Dealing with so many members of public, you soon discover some strange, widespread habits. The one that seems to stand out is the inclusion of the word ‘just’ before placing an order. There have been many attempts of working it out, but why do so many ask for ‘just a Carling, please’ or ‘just a large white wine and some peanuts, thanks’? Is it because they want to let us know they’re sorry to bother us? It’s okay, we don’t mind. Are they trying to sound flippant and casual? We don’t really care. Is it because they didn’t want us to think they were going to be ordering a hundred items? I’m sure we would have realised that as you said more things. It’s an odd one.

19) Underage drinkers: yes, we’ve been there. Yes, it’s a bit rubbish. But unfortunately, giving your soft, young innards toxic booze makes us bad people that get fined a whole lot of money. Frankly, the outcome of your night out doesn’t mean that much to us.  So please don’t:

a) Tell us that we’re out of order

b) Say that you really are over eighteen, promise!

c) Attempt ‘go on, just one’. Did you not hear what we just said?

d) Pat your pockets down and sadly report that you left your ID at home. That has never worked. Ever.

20) And finally, we really do welcome your gratitude in the form of taking a drink or a tip. We honestly do appreciate it, and can be the best tonic for a terrible night (quite literally for lovers of gin.) However, please do remember this. Just because you bought us a drink does not mean that we owe you anything. We thought it was because you were being nice, not because you thought it worked like some kind of fast-track system. If you do think that, please up the rate of bribery, because we’re not cheap, beer-pouring hussies.

N.B.  Leaving the five pence of your change does not, repeat, not constitute a thoughtful tip. So please don’t swan away from the bar on a cloud of your own sense of generosity like you’re Bob Geldof.

You’ve Got to Procrastinate to Accumulate

11 Jan

Christopher Parker: A modern day Socrates

A great actor once said, ‘procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill’. Well, I say great actor. It was apparently the chap who played Spencer Moon off Eastenders. Christopher Parker, his name was. The reason I know this? Because I just Googled him. I can also now tell you that he also won a ‘TRIC Award’ in 2005 and fronted a show on Gala Bingo’s TV channel a couple of years ago. I have plenty more important things to be doing with my time. It’s as if I haven’t listened to a word the man has said; for I am like a veritable infinity mirror of procrastination.

 

It’s a condition that affects many creatives, much like black lung has marred the profession of miners through the generations. Often, it’s not that you don’t want to get on with something. It’s just that your brain is as co-operative as a Jack Russell pup that has just spotted a flock of pigeons in the park. The idea that was once fizzing fresh in your mind like a new morn’s Berocca soon sinks to the sludge-filled bottom of your cloudy mind-lake alongside the corpses of book ideas and inventions to take to Dragon’s Den. It’s a atrocity that should not go unpunished.

 

So, who are the deplorable villains of this serial crime? Taking the obvious, such as furniture rearranging, sandwich making and wondering what it would like to be a cat out the equation- there are the big three. Facebook. Youtube. Wikipedia. They need hauling up into the dock and have a thousand sentences rain down upon their unforgiving cyber souls in penitence for all of those precious hours snatched from our grasp. Each of these dastardly characters possess qualities that surmount to an ultimate and irresistible power, much like the Deathly Hallows that Voldemort was after.

 

Facebook. The infinite source of social gossip and outlets for nosiness. We’ve all ended up scouting the profile of our work colleague’s younger brother’s best friend’s cousin. Right? Youtube. A twisted labyrinth to make Bowie’s Goblin King cower in terror. It will never let you go. It will never stop suggesting you should take a look at that man popping a blister. Wikipedia. The relentless pull of the factoid. Just when you think you’ve finished an article about the Rhodesian Security Forces there will be just one more of those little blue links to coax you down another back alley of useless knowledge.

 

The problem is, these evil forces aren’t going anywhere… and deep down we don’t really want them to. Perhaps one day, they will prove a force for good. Perhaps to a young writer who left her application for a Columnist job far too late and panicked about a topic last minute. (Erm, yeah. This is what this blog post was originally written for.) Who knows? Until then, beware of falling foul of these bewitching booby-traps, or you are doomed to creative vegetation; with only with the world’s funniest woodland creatures video to comfort you.

2012, The Apocalypse and Me

3 Jan
Apocalypse

The Four Horsemen. They look well metal. Rawr.

As the fireworks crackled across London’s smoked filled skies, I took a sip of my Champers and desperately searched for the words to Auld Lang Syne in my fuzzy head. The annual frivolity of exploding millions of the tax payer’s pounds looked as spectacular as ever when the London Eye transformed into a Catherine Wheel that made us feel Lilliputian.

Of course, I was just watching on telly. It’s far too much hassle to actually go and witness the display live. Besides, since childhood I’ve found that the anticipation of a firework’s bang has always caused me to literally blink and miss it. ‘Happy new year!’ I turned and slurred to a friend; accompanied with that smile we do when we get excited about it turning midnight that one day a year. Perhaps the antithesis of how Cinderella felt.

‘Yes, happy new year! Well, it should be a good one until December 21st at least.’

I scrunched up my less-than pristinely made up face in confusion as I questioned why.

‘What, Max’s birthday?’ I enquired with a figurative scratch to my head. If Facebook has been good for anything it’s been for remembering when to send warm Hallmark-worthy wishes to my dearest friends. Well, that or an ‘HB xxx’. I was well aware that Max could be a bit of a dick, but was there any need to bring in the new year scorning the thought of him reaching another anniversary of his birth?

‘Who’s Max?’ I had forgotten I had only just met this ‘friend’ tonight and that it was unlikely he would know a boy that I had met when I was fifteen. What can I say, I’m not a Champagne drinker for good reason. ‘No, it’s the end of the world this year isn’t it. You know, that Mayan thing. There was that terrible film with John Cusack in it. 21st December 2012. The apocalypse.’

‘Poor Max. I mean, oh yeah. I remember.’

I had totally forgotten until this moment that we are indeed ‘apparently’ entering the final year of our existence. 2012 has been the date destined for disaster for centuries- not just since the announcement of London’s Olympic bid win, despite what so many of us think. According to the Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar, we will be experiencing the end of the 13th b’ak’tun which will herald cataclysmic change for the world as we know it. Yes, it does seem somewhat unfair for our doom to be finalised by something so unreasonably challenging to even understand. Sort of reminds me of how I felt as I stared at the second paper of my Maths GCSE exams with tumble-weed eyes and a pen gnawed down to it’s nib. I also got ‘Do The Conga’ stuck on repeat on my internal jukebox that afternoon, but suffice to say that wouldn’t be on my ‘Doomsday’ themed Spotify playlist.

So, it’s the end of the world, and it was always going to be. Those cheeky Mayans went and pre-dated our demise like a cheque we never wanted to cash. As we all try to escape on a private plane to track down Woody Harrelson on a dusty American hillside (this may be exclusively part of the adaptation according to that terrible film with John Cusack in it) we can all say, ‘ah, well. Wasn’t much we could do really.’ Well actually, there probably was.

Should the world indeed blow up on December 21st 2012, the last thing that will be Mother Nature’s lips will be ‘serves you right.’. Let’s face it, we’ve not done a very good job of looking after our planet. Essentially, what we’ve done is the equivalent of house-sitting a beautiful mansion, only to cake mud into the carpets, set fire to the curtains, smash up priceless treasures and leave a poo in the bidet. Our once stunning home is gradually falling to pieces as we continue to burn up it’s resources, tear down it’s rainforests, and generally treat nature like a playground bully would. With the rapid speed of the Western world’s development and endless consumption, we’ve spawned Veruca Salt generations of always wanting more- whatever the cost. While we may not all be fat cats of large factories flowing waste into the oceans or CEO’s of global brands knackering the trees, we do all leave our own dirty little carbon footprints on the carpet.

Cheap food, cheap living, fast travel, fast fixes- they all come at a price for our poor world. There’s a lot to be sorry for I’m afraid, and our selfish actions and avaricious lifestyles have left Earth gasping for breath like an obese cross-country runner. It brings to mind an old folk tale that’s been in my family for generations. It’s about a notoriously hoggish man who finds a cave full of food that is absolutely huge. As he explores, he stuffs his face until he meets a giant who forces him to eat all of the food to point of literally bursting. The giant only agrees to let him go when he’s promised to never be so indulgent and gluttonous again. Mr. Greedy humbly agrees and then goes back to all the other Mr. Men and sheds a few pounds. It’s pretty resonant stuff that we should all learn from- something that perhaps reflects what the Mayans were trying to tell us should we wake up in one piece on December 22nd.

As we take our first few tentative steps into this new year, I do so with a number of hopes. I hope the Mayans were wrong, that we don’t blow up and die. It sounds rubbish. I also hope Max gets to enjoy his birthday. But most of all, I hope that perhaps we all, like Mr. Greedy, can take a look at the damaging effect we are having on ourselves with our excessive consumption and selfish actions.

Maybe then we can relax a bit and look forward to drinking Champagne in 2013. Happy new year.

Merry Christmases and Round Robins

31 Dec

I suppose I should say it. Happy new year!

 

Ever since I was little, the days between Christmas and New Year have filled me with great impatience. Let’s face it, it’s a cheerless no-man’s land where we all complain about how rotund we’re feeling as our belt buckles snap and we gaze upon the futile twinkles of our presentless Christmas trees. There’s no more meat left for sandwiches and the return to reality that January heralds is creeping up behind you like a crap pantomime villain. It’s New Year’s Eve though… hooray! And we will all groan at the prospect of having to drink yet more alcohol, spend more money, and potentially have to shell out on an alternative outfit to accommodate for our new flabbier frames.

 

There is something about this time of year that makes us all go terribly existential. How many of us have already used some of our energy to consider what punishments (sorry, resolutions) we’re going to enforce upon our 2012 selves as soon as we switch Chitty Chitty Bang Bang off on New Year’s Day? Smokers, I know there will be a lot of you that have been seriously debating your relationship with your cigarettes. Unfit folk, I know you will have started to notice how knackered you feel after one flight of stairs with two medium sized bags of shopping. I am also considering opening a sweepstake on how many ‘Bring on 2012… It’s gonna be my year!!’ Facebook statuses will be flooding the old news feed. Come on, there’s enough year for everyone. Chill out, yeah?

 

If we’re not looking forward just yet, we’re certainly looking back. Reflection is a brilliant thing. Not only can it be a method to see if you’ve got something drawn on your face after passing out, it can also be in that figurative sense in which we can learn stuff and things. It can be an adventurous jaunt down memory lane in which we can revisit those highs, lows and ‘meh’ days. One traditional way in which these ponderings seem to find an outlet is through the ’round robin’.

Cute and cruel in equal measure.

 

It might sound like a bird that’s just put on a few pounds, but it’s quite often less comedic than that. Maybe they don’t plague everyone, but there seems to be an abundance of relatives and friends of my family that like to include a small essay in their Christmas cards detailing what they’ve done in the past year. Why they might assume others might want to read what they have to say is often a mystery (erm… yeah, blogging is different, right?) There have been letters which have made me want to whip out a red biro, correct the spelling mistakes with an ‘SP’ in the margin before posting it back to them. There are the ones that leave me reassessing my own subsistence through my lack of holidaying and employment successes. Yeah, Happy Christmas, fuckers.

 

My absolute favourite this year came courtesy of a distant cousin of my Mum’s whose existence I wasn’t fully aware of before. Not only was her round robin letter printed wrong- being double sided and losing it’s ending; it’s content was the verbal equivalent of tumbleweed. With a tone of one of those people who include too much unnecessary detail when recounting a tale, it was the persecution on a level of a maths class and holiday slideshow all in one. Within the eight or so paragraphs, she mentioned specifics of visiting around twelve different piers across the country. Each to their own and that, but… really?

 

So what have I done? I’ve left Manchester to get out working in a bar to find myself… working in a pub. I’ve worked four out of the last twelve months full time for free. I got asked out by mentalists on the train on two occasions. I went on dates with mentalists from the train on two occasions. I did a wee in my tent at Glastonbury. I helped drink a free Jager bar dry backstage at Hevy. I’ve started eating more cheese. I’ve giggled at the jokes of musicians I adore and admire like a massive girl. I dyed my hair pink. I dyed my hair orange. I’ve vowed to stop drinking at least three times. I’ve done a fair bit of fishing. I’ve made new friends. I’ve made new enemies. (I didn’t really make enemies… I don’t think.) I haven’t visited any piers.

 

It’s been a very fast year indeed and I hope it’s been a good one for all of you. For those of you going out tonight have a hideously good time. For those of you currently updating their Facebook with an ‘It’s gonna be my year!’ status, stop it. Now.

 

The Future is Bleak: Career Guidance with Chris Grayling

28 Oct

True to this blog, three years on from becoming a graduate I am still struggling. At twenty five years old, I am very much part of the statistics that have been dominating the news for most of 2011. The youth employment rate is at it’s lowest for twenty years we are told. You can give us as many bar graphs and interactive graphics as you like, but none of this is particularly comforting as you settle down for another day of trawling the internet for the faintest glimmer of hope for your future. I just popped ‘faint glimmer of hope for the future’ into Google. Nada.

I have been ticking all the correct boxes in my attempt to make a career of writing, building a portfolio and taking on internships- but certain frustrations have begun to come to a head. It’s ever so easy to sit on the sofa in your pyjamas half-ranting about how unfair things are whilst being distracted by the latest laughable situation unfolding on The Jeremy Kyle Show, but I decided to be proactive. Instead of letting things stew, I thought I would take some action. I set to my laptop and I drafted a letter to the Conservative MP for employment, Chris Grayling. He is actually my local MP, someone that my community- including my parents- have put faith into since 2001. Let’s just say that after our interaction, I doubt my parents will be voting for him again.

Chris Grayling

He's not got as friendly a look as 'Dear Deirdre', but I hoped for some good advice nonetheless.

As I closed the email informing me of my latest job rejection, I decided that today was the day that I should share what was said.

I was pleased with my letter. I’d be happy to have sent it to Points of View, or the Queen. It sounded that accomplished- just give it a click and see.

 

Letter To Chris Grayling

I thought this was a perfectly fair and well-thought out point of argument. Work experience and internships are a necessity to so many careers as Grayling has pointed out himself on BBC Five Live recently;

One of the constant complaints from young people is the old adage: if you can’t get a job, you can’t get experience, but you can’t get a job unless you’ve got the experience.”

However, as more employers seem to realise this, the idea of an ‘internship’ is being totally abused. It feels like all too often they are simply used as a means to avoid paying young people for their hard work by exploiting their desperation to get a break in their choice of career.

Well, I had my fingers crossed. I sat expectantly looking at my emails, getting irritated by every offer for discount penis enlargement and chance to win an iPad that spammed my way. The day the response arrived I clicked on it as fast as my finger would let me.

There is no formal system in place unless the person concerned is on benefits.

‘Oh.’ I thought. ‘Mr Grayling seems to have forgotten how to write a letter to someone.’

Okay, so I didn’t expect a full ‘sender’s address in the top right, recipient in the bottom left’ jobby, but a ‘Dear Miss Sanderson’ would have been nice? Maybe even a ‘thankyou for your message, it’s good to hear from you’, but perhaps I’m getting confused with Jimmy Saville.

Oh and also, may I point out the thorough uselessness of this opening line given the fact I had already clearly stated that I’m apparently not allowed to be on benefits?

I have to say I share your misgivings about the way internships are used.

Well thank goodness for that. Maybe we don’t have to graffiti devil horns and a goatee onto every picture of him we see in the paper.

However it is easier said than done to stop – if an individual is willing to do the work, then banning it is difficult.

Did I ever say ‘ban’? I do appreciate that it would be difficult to ‘ban’ a widely used system that has been in place for decades, yes. It’s not The Human Centipede 2.

What we have done though is create a new work experience scheme were we are organising places in a wide variety of organisations for unemployed young people. They can stay on benefits for up to two months while doing work experience, and so far we have found it to be a pretty good way of getting people into work at the end of that period.

Well that’s brilliant. I researched this (because he didn’t bother letting me know what the scheme was called or tell me where I might find more information on it) and apparently it’s a scheme for those between the ages of 18 and 21, so there might be a bit of a problem for me there. There also seems to be that overlooking of the whole I’m-not-eligible-for-benefits thing, and that it isn’t necessarily the finding of internships that’s the problem.  According to the website:

“Work experience is getting the backing of some of Britain’s leading employers such as Homebase, Hilton Hotels, McDonalds, ISS Facilities Management, Chums, De Vere Hotels, Carillion, Coyle Personnel and Punch Taverns.”

So, I guess this still isn’t really answering any of my questions in regards to those seeking employment within the creative industries. Okay, so what else did Mr Grayling have to say?

My advice for someone in your position is always to take a job, whether or not it is in the area you are ultimately aiming for. As an example, if you worked for a major retailer, and succeeded in your career, it opens the opportunity to move into head office functions, including marketing and communications, and from there it is an easier step into what you are trying to do.

As we come to the crux of this solution, it would seem that Mr Grayling’s advice to me is as simple as ‘give up your ambitions and go work in a shop’.

The truth is that media jobs are ferociously in demand at the moment, and the opportunities to go directly from university into the media are very limited. So my advice is to work your way towards what you want to do in a more around and about way.

Best wishes

Chris Grayling

I think this is the first time he has actually acknowledged the relevant career area at least, but the overwhelming sense of not being listened to before being fobbed off is as much of a kick in the gut as every job rejection that appears in my inbox.

It is with these words of advice ringing in my ears… well, eyes, I shall do everything I can to ignore absolutely everything that was said. As countless more young people find themselves lost and drowning in the job market in the months to come the government will wonder why it is that the population becomes more disheartened and agitated. Just ask Chris Grayling. He’s clearly the guy you should turn to in any crisis.

Let’s just hope he doesn’t get sent to help out on the phones at the Samaritans on a misguided publicity appearance any time soon.

Plentyoffish Hall of Shame: The Neanderthal

16 Sep

As you are probably aware by now, I am an internet dater. I go through cycles of disillusion with this strange and often murky world, but I can’t resist having an account open nonetheless. I still enjoy reading all the messages I’m probably never going to reply to, despite most of my mail being a mere penning of ‘nice tits’. It’s still good to know. However, a gentleman messaged me recently who I couldn’t just ignore. I wasn’t able to close his message and tut. I had to bite back.

The man in question looks like many others. From his pictures, he struck me as one of your generic, nondescript guys that will put on a Burton shirt, jeans and loafers on the weekend to sink a few pints with ‘the lads’. As our conversation developed, I came to realise that this guy didn’t think much of women with a brain- so for the purposes of these screen shots, I have gifted him undeserved anonymity by replacing his picture with one of celebrity sexist, Richard Keys. Just to clarify, I was not conversing with the ex-Sky Sports pundit with a penchant for smashing things.

'Youre a very attractive girl, why spoil that with all those tats? I dont get it. what happens in 20 yrs when you start to sag??'

'Youre a very attractive girl, why spoil that with all those tats? I dont get it. what happens in 20 yrs when you start to sag??'

Now, I appreciate that tattoos aren’t for everyone. However, this was a particularly tactless message by anyone’s standards. I wasn’t sure about some of his language choices and I wasn’t too keen on the thought of him considering the buoyancy of my breasts. As I was quite taken aback, I looked through his profile. It contained the following sentence under a list of ‘dislikes’:

women who need to dye their hair red and have a million tattoos just to enjoy rock music.

Interesting. I decided to approach this in a diplomatic and eloquent manner.

I thought this was pretty fair. I wanted to put forward the idea of subjective beauty and differences of opinion. I didn’t want to sound quite as condemning as his message, but I couldn’t help bringing up the ludicrous statement in his profile either. I thought this might be the end of our exchange.

Oh no, silly me. Instead of him perhaps getting to hear just how stupid he sounded, he decided to make matters worse. So, just so we’re all clear, according to this guy- women don’t like rock music. Also, the only reason I dye my hair and get tattoos is to fit in with this music I don’t like. We only like Pussycat Dolls and JLS and don’t you dare think of leafing through Kerrang.

As someone who has gone to gigs for over a decade as well as working at a music venue, writing about alternative music and generally rocking wherever I roam, I couldn’t let that one go.

Aw shucks, I can do better than that.

Okay, so maybe I lost my rag a little bit. At least it was subtle? I don’t know why I couldn’t let it drop, perhaps just because I couldn’t get my head round his bizarre way of thinking. Oh well, at least he couldn’t wind me up any more, right?

Uh-oh. The ‘I’m untouchable because I’m a serviceman card’ has been pulled. Let’s just remember that Hitler was also involved with the military, and I hear that he wasn’t exactly the most excellent of chaps to date. He’s right, it is just his opinion that women don’t like rock music. It’s just a shame that it’s such a retarded one. So just to refresh, not only do no women like rock music, but if you watch rugby then you only do so for the fit men. Glad we’ve cleared that one up- I’d better send this transcript to the organisers of the Women’s Rugby World Cup.

At least he thinks I sound like I can write for the Guardian. Maybe I started to feel a bit bad for calling him names…

I thought that would be a good place to end this frustrating conversation. Ooh… maybe not…

Oh yes, he’s right. It’s TOTALLY different. And I do feel so stupid to not see his first message as sweet and sentimental as a kitten presenting me with a bunch of roses.

At this point it was with a sigh of exasperation I thought that this matter could draw to a close. The chap clearly wasn’t understanding how much of a backwards twit he was sounding. Silly me…

Oh wow. Sorry, I was too busy drooling over my ‘butch men’ scrapbook to have really taken on board what he was trying to say. Then I was going to put on some metal to listen to but I didn’t have my uniform ironed. But I’m not the right girl for HIM? Well, he’s right… I have a brain and I set my bolt cutters on the chain that attached me to the sink.

In my mind I was flouncing out of this arena of conflict, swinging my hips from side to side and giving him a satisfied smile with my ‘femme-fatale red’ lipsticked lips. There was an empowering theme tune playing- probably something like ‘Man! I Feel Like A Woman’ by Shania Twain. I was just reaching the door…

It was a feeble, yet angry cry coming from somewhere far behind me. I stopped dead in my tracks then spun around on my killer heels. I gave him a cold look right in his eyes as I opened my mouth to speak.

BOOM!

The single act of correcting the spelling of someone so clearly frustrated and angry was the equivalent of a middle finger and a Street Fighter ‘KO!’ all at once.

Of course, I promptly blocked this cretin.

‘Richard Keys’ may have lost this battle, but I fear there may be plenty more monsters that need to be defeated in this noble quest through the volatile landscape of internet dating.

Red Hot: A Heatwave Through The Eyes of a Ginger

1 Aug

I wouldn't dare show that much shoulder.

‘Ooh that’s better, summer’s finally here. That’s glorious,’ is uttered from sweating faces with relaxed mouths and closed eyes.

‘Oh yes. ‘Int it lovely?’ will say another from the comfort of a sun-faded garden chair, hands clasped and ruddy elbows rested on its searing hot plastic arms.

For our weather-obsessed nation, the proclamation of a good run of weather is akin to Moses’ appearance at the brow of Mount Sinai waving a couple of slabs of stone around. It’ll hit the front pages of every tabloid, usually with some buxom, bikini-clad young fillies ‘making a splash’ or ‘making summer get a bit hotter’ on a beach somewhere.

Your peripheral vision will be invaded by hairy knees and crusty, beflip-flopped feet and my intolerance for sunglasses etiquette abuse soars off the scale. (Unless you are blind or committing the fancy dress cop-out of ‘being a Blues Brother’ then shades should not be worn indoors.) Generally, spirits are high and moods are fantastic.       That is… for most people. But there are other people. Forgotten people. The misunderstood and downtrodden, the ostracised and wretched.

The gingers.

 

For gingerkind, the utterance of ‘heatwave’ inspires fear as well as igniting a panic buying mission to Boots for soothing gels and sunscreen. ‘Have you not got anything higher than 90?’ is spat out at mousy shop assistants with a sense of urgency seen in disaster films. If you’re not one of this freckled and pasty people then you just won’t understand.

I’ve been living as a ginger for nearly 25 years now, and it never gets any easier. I’m currently in hiding, my true identity concealed beneath a shocking pink mop of hair that actually makes me feel more accepted by society than my natural form. As a kid, I actually hit the jackpot in terms of aesthetic setbacks for the reputation by being a ginger with glasses, braces and really good academic success. Had I had acne I would have been the poster girl for society’s notion of ‘Geek’ across the land. It caused me to be shy and almost painfully quiet, a kid that would have been adored in the speak-when-spoken-to Victorian parental era.

Summer holidays often meant a trip away with my family somewhere sunny, which only complicated my relationship with my gingerness. While all the other kids could run around in the sunshine in a fashion replicated by adverts for Soltan and Haven Holidays, kicking up sand and glowing with heat and happiness- there I was having to shelter from the vicious rays. I distinctly remember trying in vain to tan over the years, to the point where my skin would go so pink that my freckles looked a bit green. Have you ever seen such a sorrowful creature beyond the boundaries of a monster-filled fairytale? No. Before my teens caused me to squirm away from my mother’s sunblock-wielding grasp, every step beyond the safety of shade would see me grabbed and endure a facial slathering of weakly coconut scented grease to protect me from that great burning foe in the sky. 90% of early holiday snaps feature my brother and parents golden and smiling next to what looks like a sulking ghost.

The worst part of a ginger’s summer can actually come at the end, just as you return to normality after your glorious holiday feeling relaxed and refreshed. You can almost lay money on the following kind of conversation occurring:

Acquaintance: ‘Not seen you around for a couple of weeks, are you alright? Where have you been?’

Ginger: ‘Oh, I just got away to Lanzarote for a couple of weeks.’

Acquaintance, confused: ‘What- really?’ Surveys Ginger’s post-holiday glow. ‘Was the weather no good?’

So as you can see, summertime might not be all it’s cracked up to be.

At this gorgeous time of year, please spare a thought for us ginger people. When you complain about the longevity of tan, please just remember that we have a choice of red, pink or white. Such a limited palette can get awful depressing. When a ginger friend returns from holiday, remark on how well they look. Try and see beyond their peeling shoulders and angry looking complexion. What we all secretly hope for is that one day the Elizabethan trend for cadaverously pale skin will knock the day-glo look well and truly off its perch and when that day  happens, you may very well want a ginger friend by your side.

Gingers have feelings too.