Wednesday, 27 November 2013

24 hour party people

On the face of it, the tubes running all night from 2015 seemed rather brilliant news. No more night buses! No more two hour crawls through the backwaters of the metropolis with your sleeping head half resting in a box of Chicken Cottage! No more strategically planning your seating with reference to whoever looks least likely to be sick in the aisle!

With regular tubes throughout the night, people’s departure will be staggered and manageable - there’ll be no more desperately contorting oneself into the human Tetris of the Piccadilly line at 12:30am, as though it were the last chopper out of Saigon. We shall all be warm and safe and civilised as we speed home to bed in the safe bowels of the world’s finest metro system.

But then it suddenly dawned on me: without a last tube to catch, I’ll no longer have reasons to leave parties. The dawning of 24 hour travel means the end of excuses.

Up to now it’s always been easy – you can go out and have a nice time, relaxed in the knowledge that as soon as midnight strikes you can trill, “must catch the last tube!” and skip off like Cinderella. No one can argue with the last tube argument; we all know the alternative is sharing the back seat of the N253 with a gently drooling student vet in a penguin onesie.

But from 2015, what will I say when I want to go home?

Obviously it can never be the truth – “It’s been lovely, but I am the wrong side of 25 now and I’ve run out of small talk and there is a cup of rooibos and an electric blanket at home with my name on them” – so I’m worried that instead we’ll be compelled to think up increasingly extravagant cover stories to get us out the door.

I’ve started compiling a bank of them in advance, so I’ll be ready. “I really must go home and mist my orchids,” is a current favourite. Likewise, “I put a wash on earlier and need to hang it out before it gets that mildew smell.”

Perhaps a new code of party conduct will form. “I make a point of never staying after the guacamole's gone brown. Cheery-bye!” “It's been grand, but I think my software updates will be installed by now.”  “I left the slow cooker on 6 hours ago and my beef shin is about to reach peak tenderness.”

"I need to get home to cancel my free month's trial of Amazon Prime."

"I realised this was the wrong house four hours ago but was too polite to say anything."

Monday, 25 November 2013

In which I go boarding

It’s nice when you suddenly discover you have a hobby. I didn’t try on purpose to get one - in fact I’ve always been sort of hobby-devoid, believing them the preserve of children or people who had lost their TV remote - but it just sprung up suddenly of its own accord one day, like bathroom mould. My new hobby is board games.

Not Monopoly, which I fell out of love with the day I discovered the rest of the world doesn’t play the Bravo family way; gently waiting three hours till you land on your favourite colour, then wandering off to make a cup of tea and never returning. The real Monopoly is an ugly game, exposing everybody’s secret avarice and pedantry. Plus, geographically misrepresentative - I’ve lived in London seven years and never once walked down Vine Street. 

No, the games that have been bringing a flush to my cheeks on these long autumn evenings are distinctly less glam and a lot more, shall we say, nerd-adjacent. There’s Bananagrams, which is like Scrabble for people with anger management issues, Ticket to Ride, which thrillingly involves the building of railways across Europe, and then there’s the one I love most of all: Settlers of Catan.

The premise is thus: you’re on an island, composed of five key materials - wood, brick, sheep, wheat and ore. You must collect the materials to build roads, settlements and cities, conquering new territories and stealing resources off your opponents. Like all good geeky pastimes, it comes with its own special vernacular. “We built this city, we built this city on wheat and oooore,” we sing to the tune of Starship, merrily trading our cards in for tiny wooden cathedrals.

One of the things I didn’t expect to be doing with substantial chunks of my mid-twenties is spending it hunched over a kitchen table pleading for people to swap me a sheep. If you’d told early-twenties me, with her daft shoes and her ‘music taste’ and her going out sometimes more than TWICE in a WEEK that in a few short years she’d derive most satisfaction from building a tiny wooden road into someone else’s wheat field, she’d throw a kebab at your head.

But the thing is, it’s brilliant. Not only are board games largely cheap (I say ‘largely’ because my boyfriend just spent £50 on Game of Thrones: the Board Game, which comes with its own instructional dvd and a, one presumes, a vitamin D lamp), sociable and a good excuse to spend most of your weekend sitting down with a mug of tea on hand, but all that strategic thinking has got to be good for the brain cells. 

Now I just need to make it cool, perhaps by turning it into ‘strip’ Settlers of Catan, or using phrases like, “Hey dude, you boarding this weekend?” to give the whole thing an extreme sports edge. If bored people are boring people then board people are… well, something else entirely.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

In which the boiler is making a noise

The boiler is making a noise.

It makes a lot of noises, generally all of the time it’s on, but this is a new noise. Specifically, a jingly noise. “Did you hear that?” I ask my boyfriend. “The boiler is making a jingly noise.”

He gives me his world-weary look, the same one he uses when he opens my laptop and finds “ear cancer” or “do people still get consumption from tight bras” typed into the search bar.

“Listen!” I say, as it does it again. “Jingly. It sounds like there’s a set of keys jingling about. That’s not normal.”

“Maybe there is a set of keys jingling about in it,” he suggests, ever the pragmatist. I stick my head under the boiler and peer up, silently begging it not to explode on my face. No keys.

“I think it might explode,” I say, at the exact same time he says, “It’s not going to explode.”

But he doesn’t know it isn’t going to explode, he’s only guessing. One of the things that bothers me most in life is not knowing for definite whether or not things are going to explode. And surely, just after saying “it’s not going to explode” is statistically the most likely time for something to explode?

This could be exactly like in my old flat, when I thought we had a gas leak and everyone kept saying, “we don’t have a gas leak,” in exasperated voices, then it turned out that we DID HAVE A GAS LEAK. Neurosis 1: logic 0.

And so we sit – him watching Game of Thrones, me watching the boiler. I have convinced myself that if I stare out the boiler, nothing bad will be allowed to happen.  A watched boiler never explodes; that’s the motto.

The jingling stops, then starts again, then stops again.

I Google ‘boiler making jingly noises’ for reassurance, and am dismayed to find that not a single other person on the whole of the internet has had a jingly boiler. Not one. There are boilers that bump, and bang, and rattle, and wheeze (which now I’ve written it looks like a fantastic dance record from the late 50s) but no boilers that jingle.

Maybe it’s just a matter of phrasing. I try ‘boiler making jangly noises’, and find nothing. I try ‘boiler making tinkly noises’, and find nothing. I try ‘boiler making metallic noises’ and find one post on a forum from a man who seems to think this is A Very Bad Thing, so I quickly close the tab in fear and go back to staring at the boiler.

If I keep staring at the boiler, it can’t possibly explode – that would just be too much of a coincidence. Maybe if I tell more people about it, the boiler definitely won’t explode. Maybe if I write a column about it, the boiler won’t explode.          

Or maybe I just turn the boiler off and put another jumper on.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

In which the awkwards explain

Hey everybody, I have a new theory! 

Gather round, gather round. It’ll be better than my theory about how silica gel is probably utterly delicious but ‘the man’ just doesn’t want us to find out, I promise.


Ignoring the fact that I’ve started to think in booming, paranoid Daily Mail headlines (IS THIS BISCUIT GIVING ME CANCER? QUICK, I MUST FLAUNT MY CURVES IN THE GHERKIN AISLE AT LIDL), I think I might be onto something here.

It came to me in a flash on the tube earlier, after someone had got up and left a vacant seat, which a teenage girl and I had both made a move to sit in. Naturally, the minute I realised I had competition, I got flustered, backed off and walked halfway down the carriage to prove I never wanted the seat anyway.

Meanwhile the girl tried to give me the seat. “No, no, it’s fine.” I said airily over my shoulder as I scuttled away. “No honestly, you have it!” she clucked, leaving it empty. “No, no, haha, you have it.” I shrugged, turning pink. “Seriously! Have it!” she trilled after me. “It’s FINE!” I snapped. And just like that, I was suddenly the rude person.

Things like this happen to me at least three times a week. I hate drawing attention to myself in public, so in an effort not to make a fuss or prolong awkward human contact for any longer than is strictly necessary, I come off cold and grumpy.

I’d like to take this moment to apologise to every cheery shop assistant and waiter that I’ve muttered one-word replies to without looking them in the eye. I’m not a horrible person, I promise, it’s just that unprecedented small talk makes me squirm. Even being asked if I want a carrier bag makes me squirm. Make me wait too long for a receipt I don’t need, and I practically break into a sweat.

But if it happens to me, then maybe it’s happening to lots of you too! Not all of you, of course, because there must be the opposite faction to cause these painful situations to begin with (I like to think of them as “non-awkwards”, or “the selfish friendly”), but plenty of you. If a significant number of you are also out in the world looking accidentally rude on a regular basis, think of all the ways society could be suffering!

The non-awkwards are probably angry at the awkwards for their supposed rudeness, while the awkwards are angry at the non-awkwards for making them feel awkward to begin with. And so we rattle around in the world, the non-awkwards creating loud scenes and the awkwards staring at their feet trying not to get involved.

I’d propose some sort of government-funded initiative to combat social awkwardness and teach smoother public interactions with strangers – but I’m just too shy to suggest it.