Fish out of Water

It finally happened. The nightmare has come true. That which I always knew would happen and yet hoped never would has come to pass. My mum has discovered Whatsapp.

You always hear from your friends the horror stories involving parents figuring out various aspects of technology and the repercussions of these discoveries, but I will be honest, I never thought they would apply to me for one very good reason, my parents are truly woeful with technology. And when I say woeful I am not exaggerating, they are completely and utterly useless. I can’t count the number of times my mum has called me down from my room because she can’t work how to put on a DVD or watching Dad desperately trying to figure out how to download an episode to watch on the train the next day (“What does streaming mean?”). That being said the frustrations are easily outweighed by the hilarity of watching them hitting every cliché on the head

My mum goes for what we might call the traditional approach. Now I can guarantee that the majority of British people (and indeed the world) will recognise this particular method but for those few who have been living under a rock this past decade it goes as follows: Step One is to bang the monitor and keyboard with both fists. When this inevitably fails Step Two takes over. This is, quite simply, a repeat of Step One just injected with an escalation in violence. This is then followed by Step Three which is five minutes of swearing, which, whilst being about as helpful as yelling at a tree for not getting out of the way, does have the knock on effect of making one feel better. The final stage (and by far the most entertaining) is calling for outside help. Now to do this a password is required but if you are like us then this has inevitably been long forgotten and so we come to the bane of so many households, the security question. Don’t get me wrong, not all of these are difficult, some are even straightforward (maiden name, first pet etc) but the amount of time the whole family sits around scratching their heads as they try and figure out just what was Dad’s favourite film back in 2007 is bordering on ridiculous.

And this leads neatly into stereotype number two in the form of my Dad. Now, if I had to make just two guarantees in this world they would be as follows. 1. When a technology related problem occurs in our house Dad will back himself to fix it and 2. The attempted ‘fix’ will be an absolute, categorical failure. You see, my Dad is that person who we all know, who believes he is much better with technology then he actually is, and as such, buys various electronic toys that are always just that little bit too complicated for his level of skill. The best example I can give that epitomises this is the trial by fire the whole family goes through when he tries to download a book onto his kindle. Now, it is widely acknowledge that when it comes to kindles, Amazon are ‘the man’ and the reason for this is because they are so simple a monkey could use them. Unfortunately common knowledge and my Dad have yet to be introduced which is why he decided that the Sony Ericsson E-reader was the way forward. To this day I could not tell you how the Sony reader works but the amount of electronic appliances and length of cable required is quite extraordinary, NASA launched the MAVEN probe with less.

The town mouse and the country mouse

I found myself talking to someone in the pub whilst watching Match of the Day the other night. A usually avid fan of Match of the Day my attention was wandering as it was Stoke vs Manchester United and these mid-table clashes hold little interest for me (sorry, had to be done).  Readers of my previous blogs (and yes I am going to allow myself the pleasant delusion that these people exist) may well point out that this is not the first time I have taken life advice from an intoxicated stranger at a bar and whilst this becoming a common practice may not seem like the greatest idea, they do provide excellent material for blogs.

“Mate,” the guy stared blearily over at me, “London is like, really different.” OK, so this particular man that I was talking to wasn’t called Oscar Wilde but he did have a point. London would seem strange to anyone but to someone who has grown up in the tiny village called Little Glemham it is all the more bizarre. For those of you who have never been to Little Glemham (ironic chuckle) picture a small cluster of buildings framed by a variety of potato fields and you have the gist. I have no idea what the actual population is but considering we lose 30% of the dwellers every time the ducks in our pond migrate south for the winter it is not what you would call a thriving metropolis.

Anyway, one of the biggest and best aspects of London for me is the incredible variety of takeaways and sandwich shops. I have found some truly mouth-watering dishes but there is one habit which nearly every shop has adopted which I can’t get my head around. I will give you an example. I was at Liverpool Street the other day and decided, for no reason whatsoever, that I deserved a bacon sandwich. The bread was fresh, the bacon cooked beautifully, nothing could improve on such perfection, nothing that is except…

“Sir, would you like some brown sauce with that?” Yes. Yes I would.

What followed though was not what I expected. The man handed me the sandwich in a bag, trotted over to the counter, and proceeded to heave two sachets of brown sauce at my head with the speed and precision of a turret gun. As much as I would like to claim that I plucked them both from the air in a breath taking display of athleticism I am afraid that I would be lying through my teeth. Due to the early hour and a serious lack of caffeine in the system I fumbled the first cachet and took the second straight in the eye causing me to reel away clutching my face. Now I do not follow American Football particularly closely but if anyone from the NFL is looking for a new star quarterback I strongly recommend they scout out the morning shift at Uppercrust.

The man was very apologetic, and even gave me a free coffee in compensation, but I was slightly confused as to why he had served my brown sauce basically as a side order. Don’t get me wrong, I have no qualms about garnishing my own sandwiches when required, but if this becomes the common practice where does it stop? “A bacon sandwich? Coming right up, can you just chop up this loaf first for us?” “Of course you can have scrambled eggs, can you just check the chicken hutch for the latest batch?” It seems to be somewhat of a slippery slope. Anyway, that’s another blog on absolutely nothing completed, now if you will excuse me, I am off to put some ice on my throbbing retina.

  

Out of the frying pan…

Despite the fact that we have swapped civvies for suits and lectures for a nine till five, my flatmates and I are still very much students at heart. The walls are bland, the furniture doesn’t match and the kitchen is, quite simply, a disgrace. Even the conversation still has that University lilt. “Mate,” my flatmate said the other night, “I am going to drink so many pints” (he did), “and then I’m going to get with such a fit bird” (he didn’t) but you see my point I’m sure. However the clincher that well and truly lands us back into that student camp is, of course, the subject of cooking.

“Remember you aren’t a student anymore so please try and eat healthily,” these were the last despairing words my mum said to me as she dropped me off at my new flat. I assured her I would, and as I waved her goodbye I genuinely meant it. And this brings us neatly into the fiasco that was Wednesday night when I set about trying to keep that promise. Everything was set up perfectly, my flatmates were out, the music was on and I even had the bible that is “Nosh for students- Simple meals in thirty minutes or less.” It seemed almost too straight forward. Oh how young and naive I was.

Step One: Chop up the onions- Clearly people had been exaggerating how hard this cooking business was, it was almost too easy. Sure the onion pieces were slightly more lopsided than the picture in the book and there was a splash or two of blood from when I had nicked my finger but overall it was the bright start I was looking for and confidence was sky high as I approached step two.

Step Two: Boil the water- Without wishing to brag I absolutely nailed this bit. Duel wielding both a kettle and a saucepan the transfer of water from one to the other was simply flawless and should turning on a cooker ever become an Olympic sport then GB have a potential champion in their ranks.

Step Three- Collect the albumen of three large eggs- Looking back I think it was here when the first tendrils of alarm began to register. I would never be able to tell you what it was, a tingling in the back of my neck, a slight shiver down my spine, either way the unnecessarily complex wording of this phrase raised my hackles and told me that this was not going to be as straightforward as I had first thought.

Step Four- Butterfly the Chicken- It was here that the transition from minor discomfort to outright annoyance took place. The author had clearly been in a particularly vindictive mood when they wrote good old step four. If you are going to throw a curve ball like this and genuinely replace the verb ‘cut’ with an animal, at least give me a sporting chance and use an animal that wields claws. It’s called common courtesy.

Step Five- Simmer the Farfalle- By this point my cockiness had evaporated as quickly as the boiling water. I was exhausted, hot and in all my life had never been so reliant on a dictionary, and coming from someone who had stumbled through Latin and Greek at Uni that is saying something. What the author thought they were accomplishing using this culinary jargon I will never know, but I cannot believe their editor didn’t take them aside and point out that for a student cookbook a simple ‘Bung in the pasta’ would have been far more productive.

As much as I would like to walk you through the rest of the night I am afraid that for the sake of my sanity and the pre-watershed status of this blog I simply cannot reflect on it anymore, but let’s just say it took a dark turn, with the final result being an unrecognisable mess that swiftly cemented itself to the bottom of the saucepan. Needless to say I didn’t eat it. In fact I didn’t dare open it. Not since Pandora’s Box has something that horrific been sealed away, and unlike Pandora, I had to wash my box up. The whole night had been a blur of heat, pain and misery and I was so tired I felt like having a good cry. But then again that might have just been the onions.

Us graduates really do not have a clue.

“Everyone should write a blog, even if you have nothing to say.” That is what I was told last Friday. A simple statement to understand and one that doesn’t really make sense when you actually stop to think about it, but for some reason it has stuck with me. Who was the deliverer of this sage advice? A smartly attired businessman from the finance sector? A wandering monk stopping at a local watering hole? Actually it was neither. My Yoda of marketing and self-promotion came in the form of a drunk football fan who had turned up to watch England’s game and, four goals and six pints later, was in a good enough mood to impart the wisdom of his years to the fresh faced graduate next to him. Because that is what I am, a graduate straight out of University and one week into his new career, as bright eyed and bushy tailed as they come and so green that it makes the luscious fields of Jerusalem look like the Mojave Desert. That being said, I have taken the advice of my new intoxicated friend, and decided to give the world of blogging a crack.

Now, my opening point, and I am calling on the vast experience of five working days to make this (four if you consider that Friday was the annual offsite), is simple. The person who first claimed that University would prepare you for the working world was either a. drunk b. deluded c. a liar or d. all of the above, because nothing, and I really do mean nothing, could be further from the truth.

I have started new schools and joined new clubs and I have been in that awkward situation where you meet your fellow Freshers for the very first time but I don’t think there will ever be anything as intimidating as walking into the office on your first day of your first job. It wasn’t that people were unfriendly, in fact there were a few nods of greeting and even a smile of two in welcome, but the sea of unfamiliar faces bored into me and the scrutiny made me want to duck down and hide. Of course being six foot four and ginger the available options for that particular course of action were limited but you get my point I’m sure.

Now, perhaps I am the wrong graduate to trust on this, especially as the NUS has just deemed my degree (Classics) as no longer worthy enough to be called a degree in its own right (ouch), but I cannot believe that even the most dedicated Maths student would be equipped to deal with the sheer exhaustion of working life. Now don’t get me wrong, I did my due diligence at Uni. I have been through Freshers Week where you juggle introductory lectures and trials for various sports clubs by day and party by night and I can quite honestly say I have never been more tired than this last week. And the most ridiculous thing about it is that I have been getting close to eight hours sleep a night. Thursday was a bleak point. I lay there in the near darkness whilst my specially purchased alarm (ocean noises guaranteed to wake you in the most soothing and tranquil of manners) pierced my brain like a dagger through the eye. Forcing myself to get up on that particular morning made the labours of Heracles look like a lazy Sunday afternoon.

And it isn’t just the jet lag, I would like to meet even the most battle hardened engineering graduate who is ready to deal with the dog fight that is the Northern Line on a Monday morning. Allies are a luxury you cannot afford and I was one of the earlier casualties of this rule as I approached a kindly old lady and asked her to possibly direct me to the correct platform. It is difficult to describe the look I got in return, but it was a brutal combination of such suspicion and hostility you would have thought I had asked to try on her dress. Now don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed my first week immensely, exhaustion and cold shouldering grandmothers aside, but a friendly piece of advice to any fellow graduates about to start their working lives, be warned, because you are about to find out just what ‘bringing a knife to a gunfight’ really means.