Saturday, 14 January 2012

The Second Hat

One of the greatest labour-saving inventions of today is tomorrow.

I have put it off for long enough. Tonight you will find me with my thinking cap on, angrily gulping a large mug of coffee. I will not 'furiously inhale' the large mug of coffee because my fiction tutor doesn't realise think that makes sense. Long story - can you tell I'm touchy about it?! The task for tonight is finishing my stories off for my upcoming module deadline. For those who didn't know, I've been posting my short stories here, but none uploaded so far have been short-listed for my portfolio. I will inevitably post them once they have been fiddled with/actually written.

In case you were wondering, the hat above does say POO BUM. It was created as a Petrol Bashers prototype hat for the Toyota Technology Challenge. I entered as part of the PB team with my friends Amelia, Hannah and Jade (or Milz, Hanz and Jay-Z) in 2005-2006. Photographic evidence of the finished hat can be found herehere, and here, and all the years in between. There I am, in all my 14 year old, gormless glory, inexplicably on a billboard. I still have those Converse. They have Batman on them. We didn't win (in spite of the war paint) because I pushed our chariot off the starting line rather too enthusiastically; it did a wheelie and fell over.

And to close, here is another shot of the prototype.

Clearly I was an angry young hat maker.

Monday, 9 January 2012

The First Hat

A gentleman is any man who wouldn't hit a woman with his hat on.

It's weird when you start noticing stuff. When you learn the history of Somalia and suddenly it pops up everywhere. When you hear the song 'Thank You Very Much' for the first time, and somehow it's in your head any time anyone thanks you for something. And most pertinently, when you watch Lord of the Rings for the first time and, as if by magic, you have hair like Frodo and everyone's quoting Gandalf. I was fairly certain that once I started making a point of wearing hats more frequently for my New Year's Resolution, I'd start noticing more hats being worn. It's been a little disappointing.

However, all is not lost. After a wonderfully slow start to the year, my Fellah and I managed to haul-arse to Benjamin Disraeli's house for a late afternoon walk. It was a bit nippy, so I wore my new coat and my old Amelia Earhart reminiscent boots. I also accepted the offer to borrow a hat. It was blue and covered in what I can only assume were small, woollen nipples. It was noted that I looked like a 1930s 'Where's Wally? Oh, there he is, with the Fuehrer'.

Attempting to look fascist noble.
Bring on the hats.

Saturday, 31 December 2011

New Year's Resolutions

The only way to spend New Year's Eve is either quietly with friends or in a brothel.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas. Mine was filled with small dinosaurs, Michael Caine and a cacophony of boozy drinks. Joy to the World.

Is anyone making New Year's Resolutions? I certainly enjoy asking everyone what theirs will be, and it seems like everyone is a little more cynical this year. Maybe it's the uncertainty of what the future will bring; the generally dreary outlook of 2012 from the Daily Mail seems to be weighing heavily on everybody's shoulders. What about my job? What about my mortgage? That tracker rate looks a little more risky now. It's a bit sad, it's a bit scary, but I figure there's not a lot I can do about that myself.

What about those little personal perfections? Dance more, fib less. Do sit-ups, don't speed much. Be more punctual and less predictable. Make more sense and less cheese sandwiches. Start the novel, stop the stuttering. But these are the things I work on everyday, the little changes that don't really need to be validated by a glass of champagne and a slurred version of Auld Lang Syne. Then there are the big ones: lose weight, stop smoking, pay off debts. Good luck to you. Just remember that if you fall off the bandwagon briefly, there's no reason to stay off. Okay, you may have just spent three grand on Cuban cigars and more tins of rice pudding than you could ever reasonably need, but it's not too late. To err is human, but to redeem is noble.

So what is my resolution? It's really simple. Are you ready?

I'm going to wear more hats.

I was shopping the other day, trying on hats and generally fartarsing about and I thought to myself, "I like hats. I'm going to wear more of them." It seemed to be a good idea at the time.

Happy New Year everyone, here's to doing pointless things that make us happy.

Monday, 19 December 2011

To lend, or not to lend

Never lend your car to anyone to whom you have given birth.

I've been away for a little while! If you're with me on twitter (coughMASSIVEHINTcoughFOLLOWMEcoughCLICKHERE...ahem) you may have noticed that not too long after the Christian Union incident (which is here), I emptied a mug full of hot lemon barley water all over my laptop. That was a really bad plan. I can only assume that it was karmic retribution; it's implausible that I do something that stupid without divine intervention. So what with no laptop, a Disneyland Paris trip, drinks with flat 76 and ice skating at the London Eye, I've let LFL fall by the wayside a tad. Until today.

After spending the morning cosied up somewhere in deepest darkest Peru Highgate, and eating far too much brioche, I decided the time had come for me to head home. By the time I'd got to Charing Cross to go to Crayford, my phone had ceremoniously died. Darling Mummy Stedders had agreed to pick me up from the station, but Charing Cross was pandemonium.

"An expired train between London Bridge and Waterloo East has caused severe delays." a voice droned over the tannoy. Fortunately one of the first trains to arrive at the station was to be mine. However, I couldn't let Mummy Stedders know. I'd emailed her on the Fondle Slab (God Bless WIFI at Charing Cross) but she hadn't replied. Slab in hand, I approached a couple that I can only assume were my age and explained the situation.

"Afternoon! Sorry to bother you, but my phone has run out of battery and I need to call my mother; she's meant to be picking me up from the station."
They looked at each other briefly, apparently attempting telepathy. As he reached into his pocket she said "I'm sorry, mine is dead too. No battery." He swiftly removed his hand from his pocket, smiled nervously at my knees and apologised. Clearly neither of them had The Shining.
"No dramas," I said, "thank you anyway." and walked away.

A man was stood nearby with his two daughters using his Blackberry. No harm trying, eh?
"Afternoon! Sorry to bother you, but my phone has run out of battery and I need to call my mother; she's meant to be picking me up from the station."
"Of course you can, as long as you don't run off with it." he passed me the phone.
"I'm not going anywhere."
"And don't call Australia!" he pulled his younger daughter in for a hug.
"Only Gravesend."

I chatted briefly with my mother, arranged a pick up time, and gave the man his phone back.
"Thank you very much."
"That's quite alright.
"Merry Christmas!" I said, and we shook hands as the train rumbled into the station.

It got me thinking, would I lend my phone to a stranger? Would it depend more on what they said, or what they looked like? Is that stereotyping, or is it common sense? Frankly, my phone is so regularly dead that I don't think it's a dilemma I'll have to consider.

Apparently technology and I just don't get along.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Exploiting the Christian Union

Most people like short prayers and long sausages.

I was sitting at the dance executives' meeting on Tuesday evening at the pub, when a small man jumped into the centre of our circle and asked if we wanted free toasties.

"Of course we want free toasties!" we chorused, "What kind of question is that?" I'd like to know what large group of students wouldn't spontaneously want free toasties. He seemed very pleased with our enthusiasm and, after dropping some leaflets on the table, he scampered off, ready to offer hot sandwiches to some other unsuspecting drinkers.

Unashamed of my desire for warmed bread, I picked up a leaflet.

"Brunel University Christian Union, Text-A-Toastie. 1) Decide on two toastie fillings (cheese, onion, ham, tomato) and a question about God. 2) Text them, your name and location on campus to ***. 3) Receive your toastie and answer, completely free."

Obviously I dropped them a text.

"Ham and tomato please! Emily Jane in Isambard first floor dance studio. If God is loving, why are there natural disasters? Thank you!"

I was initially tempted to go for a slightly wittier question, but I hadn't had dinner and there was no way that I was going to risk my free toastie for a biscuit, so to speak.

Leaving the pub to go to the dance studio, I started feeling a little odd somewhere in my belly. Maybe it was in anticipation of my religious toastie, but honestly I knew the feeling well; this was not the first time I had taken advantage of the Christian Union. Frequently during the blur of Freshers Week I left the SU bar to find them camped outside, at some unholy hour of the morning, giving out free tea and biscuits. We'd engage in light chit chat and I'd head off home with several Rich Tea in hand. Nothing religious mind, just small talk.
"How was your night?"
"Fine." I'd reply, occasionally a little slurred, "Why are you here exactly?"
"We're the Christian Union"
At the time that seemed to be a worthy answer, and I would promptly toddle off into the darkness. But thinking back on it, it's not much of a response. They held other events too, like "Mocktails in the Pavillion" and "Ice Cream Friday". The Mocktails were nice, but it's only fair to say the ice cream was not quite as solid as it should have been. Can't win 'em all I guess.

On my way to the dance studio Tuesday evening I wandered past the CU building. The smell of toasted bread oozed out of the open doors, as representatives of God flitted out across campus. I started feeling more guilty. But then again, why were they doing it? If I was feeling cynical, I'd have said it was a recruitment exercise, and they were using the excuse of free food to brainwash people into Believing. Maybe they were putting some weird Christianating drug in the cheese, or they had tomatoes laced with religious hallucinogens. Or perhaps, perhaps they were just doing it because it was a nice thing to do. Because giving out food to the poor (sort of) is part of their repertoire, along with generally trying to be friendly (again, sort of).

By the time I got to the studio most of dance class was already there. No sooner had I asked if someone had arrived with a toastie for me, than two girls arrived with a toastie for me. It was hot, lovingly wrapped in tin foil. I had expected that they would give my bog standard, plucked out of nowhere God question a bog standard answer. In actuality, they started asking me questions: Was I religious? Did natural disasters make me question His existence? Did I feel God's love? Why didn't I have faith? How long had I been searching? And on and on and on... So we ended up having a rather long winded discussion. The worst part was the lying. If I had been an honest person, I would have owned up to having absolutely no interest in God and can I have my free toastie please? The thing was, I wasn't sure how they'd take it, and was a little concerned about what would happen to my sandwich. Instead, for a good 15 minutes, I stood in the eyes of the Lord and lied through my teeth. I'll admit that some of what they said was thought provoking, but they moved onto Armageddon and how that would be a "good thing", at which point I abandoned ship.

I did eventually get my toastie, which I later ate on a bus feeling even more guilty than I had before.

Exploiting the Christian Union is a dilemma that had actually been on my mind prior to the Toastie Fandango (which was incredibly surreal, I must say). Is it ok to fake religious interest for free food? Why are they doing it, really?

Next time I walk past their early morning biscuit stand, I think I may pass by on the other side.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

1000 views - Thank you!

If you can read this, thank a teacher.

Just a very brief thank you - we passed 1000 views at Love from Life yesterday. So thank you for reading, for commenting and for being lovely.

Muchos gracias.

Just to let you all know, I'm on Twitter at emilyjstedman. I very much enjoy Twitter conversations, however perplexing I found them at first.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Face Your Fears: An Afternoon of St Agur.

Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mould myself? 

Spiders are not a problem for me. Bring 'em on. Actually, let me revise that. Spiders that I know are there are absolutely fine, surprise spiders I'm not so good with. Yes to Boris the tarantula, no to anonymous arachnids in my bed. Similarly, I'm down with heights, sharks are pretty cool, and being alone in the dark is just One Of Dem Tings. I'll admit to a slight aversion to knives, but that's just a Risk vs Benefit thing. The benefit of you pretending to stab me with a kitchen knife is outweighed by the risk that you may actually stab me with a kitchen knife. I digress; I do have one genuine phobia. Mould.

Even thinking about it makes me feel really odd. University kitchen fridges are famed for mould, perhaps explaining why I have an aversion to buying anything that requires refrigerating. And why most of my food comes in a tin. Everyone always tells me "But that's what penicillin is made from!" I'm allergic. Move on. More upsettingly, I've frequently been told "But that's what cheese and yoghurt is!". As a dairy enthusiast, I am fairly well versed with the yoghurt and cheese industry. It started after I dabbled in small-scale curds and whey production as a seven year old, when I left a glass of milk to fester in the microwave for two weeks whilst we were in Ibiza. Coming home to that was a bit of a downer (I remember very little else about that holiday), made worse by Mummy Stedders announcing that that was how They made cheese. I didn't know who these mysterious They people were, but they clearly had sick minds, a lot of microwaves and really nice tans.

Fortunately, my older and occasionally more rational self understands that, although many dairy products are effectively mould (as is anything that requires fermenting I suppose), it's done in a controlled manner and That's Okay. It's the uncontrolled, accidental mould that is Not Okay - much like surprise spiders. I'm still struggling with blue cheese; I know it's just as controlled as regular cheese, but the whole fun of a phobia is surely the irrationality. Like the people that are scared of buttons, or oranges. "BOO! I'm full of vitamin C." 

So the other afternoon, as I waited for my hair dye to take (more on that anon - that dyeing session was a learning curve and-a-flopping-half) Mummy Stedders and I sat watching Elf and contemplating what we should have for lunch. Her idea of course, but we ended up having St Agur on crackers. Gosh. It was just so yummy. For those of you who are unversed with the glorious St Agur, it's a very soft, blue cheese. Not a lot of blue, I'll admit, but it was there nonetheless. It stared up at me from my first cracker, and dared me to do what I had never done before.

The key I've discovered over the years is, when doing something scary, to not think. Not even a little bit. Just stop it. Whether you're going alone into a roomful of people you don't know, standing up to sing solo, or jumping off of a 35ft totem pole onto a trapeze, don't think, just do it. This is not the time for looking before leaping; it's the thinking that'll stop you. So after a nanosecond of hesitation, I wolfed down the first bluey, seemingly mould-ridden cracker. It was so good. I don't even know how many I had in the end, but I ate a good half a wheel of it in a delirious and delicious blur. Maybe there's something good to be discovered from embracing one's fears.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to be smothering myself in mould any time soon. Eugh.