A Confession.

The reason you’re reading this is because you want the confession, right? Well first things first then. It’s that I cannot count. Well, I can COUNT, but the level of all other maths skills I have are so shockingly low, that I may as well not be able to get past ten. What’s brought this confession on? Well. At work, another waitress who works as a teacher gave me a maths sum that her Year Three class all completed successfully, yet proved impossible for the pair of us.

Snigger away. Any of you that haven’t come into contact with my arithmetic skills may be underestimiating just how bad I actually am. Those of you who have seen me try to split a restaurant bill between three people will be well aware by now. It’s not that I can’t actually do the maths, (okay, 80% of the time), it’s more that I’m so worried about getting it wrong, or making a fool of myself, that I just freeze up. It’s called “maths anxiety”, and apparently, it’s A Real Thing. I can’t be bothered to do the research, but I’ll just assume its a little bit like dyslexia but specifically to numbers, or a deep set psychological block between you and the equals sign. Either way, I have self-diagnosed myself with it.

Real life examples of my shockingly low ability aren’t exactly far and few between. Totting up the bus fare in change, figuring out monthly budgets, calculating the student discount price; I get so uneasy doing it that I usually give up. If I’m ever in debt to somebody for the splitting of a taxi or whatever, I’ll patiently wait until someone else suggests the repayment total before contributing.

I’ve always been keen to learn other languages, but the one place I always fall down at is when it comes to learning the name of numbers. I’ve been studying Chinese for two years, and it’d take me a good thirty seconds to remeber the word for 22. I’ve been doing French for over five and I’ve still no idea how to say 78. If it wasn’t so pathetic, it’d be funny.

It’s not as though I’m unintelligent, either. At least I’d like to think so. I got B at GCSE level (my proudest ever number-related achievement), I’ve functioned successfully behind a till before, and I happen to be a student at The University of York- so it’s not as though I’m completely incapable of any complex thought or analytical skills.There’s something about algebra that draws a blank expression, every time.

I’m in the middle of attempting to combat this embarrassing inability.  I’m taking an online course offered by the wonderful careers service at The University of York called “Numbers At Work”- a fact that my nearest and dearest have taken plenty an opportunity to mock me over. They just can’t believe that I’d voluntarily opt to be assessed on my knowledge of Pythagoras, wherever that is. (I’m joking. Calm down.)

The reason I’m putting myself through this unknown level of hell is simple. Self improvement. To avoid future embarrassing situations, the ones where people slowly turn to look at you in awe when they register that you’ve actually just publicly admitted to not being able to times by four without a calculator. Where you get looks of confusion when you purposefully overestimate how much a taxi will cost, just so you don’t get caught out. When people judge you for not being able to instantly determine the cost in GBP when the price is written in euros.

People are very judgemental about numeracy skills. Having a way with numbers is considered the proof of how clever a person is, and the fact that I am substantially lacking in this area leaves me by the wayside, still trying to count my fingers and toes, while everyone else is already sussing out the complexities of intense mechanical mathematics. At least, that’s what is seems like. And I’m ready to sacrifice the time to prove that I am in fact CAPABLE, I just choose to hide behind my achievements in English-based subjects in order to avoid ever being proved wrong. Because at the end of it all, that’s what this is about. I hate being wrong. Being wrong torments me like the most unachievable algebraic equation in the world being completed by a class of nine year olds while I struggle on. And I just won’t stand for it.


The Yorker Archives- Single’s Valentines Day!

The fourteenth of February. Are you spending it loved up in an Italian restaurant? Or having a cosy night in with a soppy film and an early night with your partner? Travelling across the country to run into the arms of your loved one at the other end of the train journey? No? Well, you’re in the right place.

If you’re planning on spending the night sulking, doing your best Bridget Jones impression, or pretending that the significance of this day simply doesn’t exist, then (ironically) you are not alone. Valentine’s Day divides people into two distinct kinds- couples and singles. The couples are -ahem- spoken for tonight, the singles are at a loose end.
But instead of falling asleep hugging your pillow, drunk on wine and loneliness, make this night that little bit less tragic by making it your own Anti-Valentine’s Day.
Step One: Avoid the centre of York. Restaurants will be choc-a-bloc with couples, as will bars. During the day, you won’t be able to cross the street without weaving in between legions of hand-holding shoppers. Don’t dream of going to clubs; tonight’s the night for desperation in Willow. Unless you’re happy to spend the night being eyed up by people who are out completely alone on the day designed for lovers- give this one a miss.
Step Two: Don’t wear anything pink. Simple, this one. If you wear pink, then you’ll blend straight into the background, against all the lucid fuchsia cards and decorations.
Step Three: Don’t turn on the TV. Another simple one. Watching The Notebook, or some Wedding Special, is a dangerous path to take on V-Day. One minute you’re enjoying your standard Eastenderspub brawl, the next you’re being subject to proposals and sickly sweet love proclamations. Instead, crack out the least romantic film you have; Might I suggest Creep, or Hostel, or something equally terrifying/angry.
Step Four: Do not get drunk. Although it may seem like an easy way to avoid anything loved-up (vodka is, after all, the simplest way to wipe a night from existence), in reality, you just end up whining about how forever alone you are. Or worse, on the phone to your ex, screaming the lyrics to an Adele song. I’m trying to get you through this day dignity intact, so trust me on this one.
Step Five: Distract yourself. Maybe get your mates round? Surely you have some single friends. Maybe tackle that essay you’ve been putting off all week, or finally do all the washing you’ve accumulated over the term. You could even bake a tonne of cupcakes, and only give the out to single friends. Ha.
If all else fails, just make the most of the snow by pelting snowballs at people who look too damn happy. Not that you’re bitter. Not at all.
(First published by The Yorker at http://www.theyorker.co.uk/lifestyle/theknow/10435)

How To Behave.

Last year, I was voted “Least Posh” out of the seventeen people I lived in halls with. While it’s one accolade I’m probably going to forget to mention on my C.V., I wasn’t offended. My competition was a Northerner who pronounces “pasta” “paahsta”, and a girl who legitimately owns a yacht. A YACHT.
Despite my democratically assigned title, however, I’ve been thinking a lot about etiquette lately. It has many ways of tripping people up- be it whether you have to wait and hold the door open for the person at the other end of the corridor, or that point in your third conversation with an acquaintance when you realise it’s just too late to ask their name.

For instance, not long ago, I had to rush out of the shower to answer the door. Imagine my frustration when I opened the door to two charming elderly women, who wondered whether I’d ever “encountered God.”

I was wearing a towel, lone drops of water were running one after another down my nose, and the shampoo was turning cold in my hair. I was already going to be late and I knew there was a queue for the bathroom, but there was no way I was going to be one of those people that slams the door in a Jehovah’s Witness’ face.

Instead, I stood there, freezing in the breeze that my open door was letting into my already under-heated house, nodding along to what they had to say. I know that people of this particular religion do not walk streets in the cruel cold, knocking on door and door, just because they want to piss people off. And I know that they will get treated rudely on a frequent basis. I’ve always quite smugly thought that should I ever answer the door to a Jehovah’s Witness; despite having no invested interest in forming a religious belief in what they say; I would be at least polite enough to listen.

So I did. And they could clearly see it was not an ideal time for me to explain whether I had ever prayed, so they asked if it would be okay to call back at a more convenient time- an offer I accepted graciously, clutching at my slipping towel as they passed me a leaflet. They never did come back; I imagine the sight of my eye-make up half washed down my face put them off or something.

The point is, even though I was really uncomfortable at that moment, I couldn’t bring myself to come off as impolite. It’s a strange phenomenon often found in people who work in customer service positions. I’ve been insulted by customers, and mocked, and outright ignored by them- but it doesn’t shake the fact that I’m going to be cheerfully courteous to them.

When I’m with friends, though, it’s a completely different story altogether. In fact, on telling a friend what I’m currently writing about, she jokingly responded with “you’re not polite”. I was outraged and immediately shouted at her, probably disproving my point. Whatever, she’s a close friend and is used to my abuse by now.

What really gets to me is flamboyant impoliteness. Not saying thank you to someone letting you pass by. The train conductor who’s intent on being as impatient as possible as you hand over your tickets.  Drivers speeding up through a puddle to create a bigger tidal wave over the poor bloody pedestrians. That kind of rudeness that can only stem from arrogance, and is found in the people jumping the McDonalds queues at 4am, post-lash.

So while I might not be the type of person who knows the first thing about polo, I take some comfort in the fact that I find it almost impossible to be purposefully rude to strangers. The title “Least Posh” is fine by me, just so long as it doesn’t translate into “Most Rude” for others. Unless you’re a close friend, that is. Then you can expect incessant abuse, and nothing less.


This Is Not a Photo Blog

But here’s a couple of pictures anyway. (Variety being spice of life, etc.)

Taken on platform four of the train station, the train that takes me home to Huddersfield. Usually it’s quite busy, so this was a bit of a rare opportunity to have the place to myself.

 This is my friend on Bonfire Night last year, in the campus Costcutters. I’d always wanted to catch a sneaky shot of the campus shop, but felt a bit too self concious getting my camera out, so this was a rushed affair. and on what planet pineapples are in season in the middle of November, I don’t know.

 From my first few weeks in York, exploring the gardens on campus known as “The Quiet Place”. These bushes from the outside look oddly futuristic and (in my humble opinion) a bit over groomed.

This was “Mexican Night” in my halls of residence. Making fajitas for 18 people isn’t a job I take lightly.