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.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

When is it too early for Christmas?

There's more of gravy than of grave about you.

My general standing is that all bets are off once November has hit and, more specifically, Daddy Stedders' birthday has passed. Generally there are four stages of Christmas mood. First comes an awareness that the festive season is on the way. Shops are adorned with tinsel, and you can hear Wizard just about everywhere you go. Second comes the thought process: do I have enough blank cards left from last year to scrape through? What should I buy for Brother Stedders? Where can I inconspicuously leave my Christmas list? Third is the merging of acceptance that Christmas is coming with personal participation. It's sometime during this period that The Choirboys are ceremoniously welcomed back to my car. And the final stage, the Christmas Rush. Although the time of glad tidings and goodwill to all men has hardly come as a surprise, the day itself always creeps up alarmingly quickly. Suddenly it seems like everything still has to be done. Where is all the selotape? Have we bought enough parsley? What the giggidy goo can I get for Brother Stedders?!

This year, as an experiment, I've done it a little differently. Stage three always seemed to come a little too late; I had never managed to give myself enough enforced festive feeling to feel sufficiently jolly when the time actually came. Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas (as if you hadn't guessed that already). However, one needs a little motivation to complete the less entertaining festive activities, such as writing hundreds of cards, or testing far too many fairy lights. So a couple of days after Daddy Stedders' birthday this week, Mummy Stedders and I curled up on the sofa in our Christmas pyjamas and Santa hats, watched a snowy film and drank tea from the snowman mugs. The Choirboys went in my car. I started singing carols in the shower. Yesterday I ate a mince pie.

Funnily enough, now I've initiated the festivities, everything else seems to be fitting nicely into place. The Christmas trees in shops are beautiful, not gaudy. I'm appreciating the presence of Wizard. As I wrote this post in a glittery conglomerate coffee shop yesterday, I could see out across the town. The lights were twinkling, and maybe it was just me, but there seemed to be a hint of excitement in the air.

Bring on Christmas; I'm more than ready this year.

Unless, of course, I'm sick of it by then. I'll let you know how it goes. 


Sunday, 6 November 2011

Emily Jane by Paul

When angry, count to four. When very angry, swear.

There I was on Friday, merrily getting lost in Spitalfields after a much needed haircut, when a man asked me if he could take my photo.

Turns out his name is Paul and he writes a fashion blog called London Fashion by Paul . Seems to do what it says on the tin. He asked me very nicely if I could tell all my lovely friends about his wonderful blog, so here you are. You should read it.

Would just like to note, I wasn't as angry as I appear to be in the picture; I'm just not allowed to smile in photos.

What lesson did we learn from this excitement?

Always say yes to strangers.

(Terms and conditions apply)

Thursday, 3 November 2011

It's been a while

Time is what prevents everything from happening at once.

For the past seven and a half weeks I’ve been at university. I’m nestled somewhere in the depths of North West London studying CreativeWriting. No, not English. Not even English with Creative Writing. Just straight Creative Writing. Apparently my future employers will deem it The Soft Option, but I wanted to do the comedy module. Seemed like a laff.

“So,” people say, “you’re going to be a writer?”

The thing is, before seven and a half weeks ago I hadn’t considered it as a realistic potential career choice. Writing was just something I enjoyed, much as I enjoy art galleries, pie, and all sorts of other glorious things. Just like the numerous art gallery and pie-based careers I had overlooked, being a writer had simply not crossed my mind.

That’s what university is all about, so I’m told. People (the same people that ask if I’ll be a writer) say that it’s here that you find out who you truly are. I can see that; I’ve met new people, done new things ,and done even more of the things I had done before. But in those first five weeks I became someone I didn’t know very well. Gone were the perpetual heels and the everyday hair washes. I waved goodbye to eating anything other than custard creams, and I frequently couldn’t remember the last time I had eaten fruit, vegetables or meat. Most evenings were spent with cider, and I went for five consecutive days without milk…several times. 3am was my new bedtime, evenwhen I hadn’t been out on the razz, and I didn’t have any clean clothes. Acouple of times I said ‘innit’ without being ironic. In short, I was a dirty, nocturnal, inarticulate mess, surviving on carbohydrates and booze. Also known as a common or garden student.

In no way am I attempting to encourage stereotyping students. There are plenty of perfectly clean students, who do their laundry and cook every night. I’ve met them; they live upstairs.

Inevitably what one reverts
to at home
After those five initial weeks, during which I’d only done one food shop and one laundry excursion, I went Home. I arrived on a Wednesday with embarrassingly visible roots, a vitamin deficiency and eight loads of washing to do. On Thursday I was in a National Trust cafĂ© with Daddy Stedders. On Friday I watched Have I Got News For You with Mummy Stedders. On Saturday night I was inbed by half ten. On Sunday morning I was up by eight. I ate three meals a day and didn’t drink any alcohol. My hair and clothes were clean. It was nice. I felt more like myself then than I had in the past five weeks.

So here’s my question: am I actually capable of living normally whilst in the abnormality of university halls? Goodness knows, but I’m giving it a go. The two and a half weeks that have passed since I first went home have been promising. Today I got up, unprovoked, at nine. I haven’t spent all day unwashed in bed eating dry cereal. I wore fresh clothes, and I’m currently enjoying some casserole. I’ve even got a haircut booked for tomorrow.

Importantly, I have discovered one vital thing.
Before, people said “So you’re going to be a writer?” and I would reply “I guess so, maybe.”
Now they say “So you’re going to be a writer?” and I say “I already am.”

Prepare for an info dump; life is teaching me oodles.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The Moonwalk Theory

I always wanted to be an explorer, but it seemed I was doomed to be nothing more than a very silly person.

Genuine moonwalking, Apollo 11 style, is admittedly incredibly cool. But unless you're American or Russian (and, oh yeah, an astronaut) bona fide moonwalking is an achievement way beyond our imaginations. However, thanks to Mr Jackson, The Moonwalk is almost as impressive. True, it is a feat beyond the capability of millions, but if you can slide backwards across lino you'll be a crowd pleaser. It doesn't matter who you are, where you're from, (what you did), performing the moonwalk will always inspire a smile. And that's important! Wouldn't it be lovely if everyone's mission everyday was to make at least one person smile..

The Moonwalk Theory was actually inspired by my Grandad Stedman, who likes to make his lovely German osteopath smile by moonwalking for her. He's scraping eighty, and I'm not even convinced he can actually do it. It's the thought that counts. I've actually been working on my moonwalk for the past million years or so, and it seems that I've almost got it. Only problem is is that I can't do it without also doing a 'Wow, I'm constipated' facial expression. Again, it's the thought that counts.

"So what is the Moonwalk Theory?" I hear you whisper into your computer screen. What a good question (you should probably ask me that though; your TFT-LCD monitor is unlikely to know). It's simply the idea that by doing so-called "silly" things, we can make people smile. You must have been there, when the opportunity to make an arse of yourself came up and you bailed. I once refused a dare to rub round an angry colleague like a cat. In retrospect, I probably should have gone for it, as chances are, they might just have found it funny. Or they could have Spartan kicked me for being a moron. Got to risk it for a biscuit.

Next time the opportunity arises to do something a little bit foolish, go for it! Sing at karaoke, share the cracker joke, and of course, whack out a moonwalk. And always remember, sheer enthusiasm will make up for any potential lack of talent.

Emily Jane sings Like a Virgin. Badly. Loudly.
I don't have three arms; the extra arm on the right is actually that of a passing lesbian, who ambushed me half way through my performance. Excellent!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Love from Life

You can't legislate intelligence and common sense into people.

The longest battle waged in the history of time, that has lasted the entire length of human existence, has been the war of


Among our Neanderthal predecessors, common sense was coming out on top every time. They couldn't find the length of the hypotenuse, but they had figured out that hitting passing animals with rocks made for tasty meals.
Intelligence 0 Common Sense 1.
Fortunately for people like me, society has developed, and it's no longer a pre-requisite for me to know how to start a fire using two sticks and my imagination. Kudos to Mr Blaisdell for inventing the Zippo lighter.

School teaches us many things, and I'll put my hand up and be the first to admit to being a big fan of education. However, I also have to admit that, throughout my lifetime, events have occurred that no amount of "AMO AMAS AMAT" chanting has helped with. These are the common sense requirements, personal battles that we face every day that schools across the globe didn't deem worth mentioning.

Why won't this toilet flush?
How do I use this confusing kitchen utensil?
Should I shout at this random man?

I think I love learning these lessons even more than learning about Napoleon. So here are some things I've learnt along the way. I hope this information comes to you before it's too late.

Dear Emily,

Here's a lesson.

Love from Life.