Monday, 11 May 2009

The day after my stats exam

May 2006.

I've been doing my psychology degree for a year now, and think I'm pretty hot stuff - at least as far as the biopsychology and general foundations units go. Stats scares the shit out of me. The one bright spot about it is that I quite fancy my lecturer - mainly because a) he reminds me of the first true love of my life, David, my boyfriend from my creative writing degree, who was imaginative and gorgeous and magical. We used to take hallucinogenics, look at porn and write stories together in between having amazing bouts of sex. He used to take me shopping, in a way that no-one has taken me shopping before or since. Seriously. He ended up having to move out of his flat and back in with his mum because of our shopping bills, and I'm not even joking. You can see why I loved him. And b) because he (the stats tutor, not David) had an Apple Mac. This instantly makes me warm to a person, in the same way that discovering they read Melody Maker rather than the NME does. Or that they like Arrested Development. (The ironical American sitcom, not the dreadful hippie hop act.)

Anyway, despite lusting after the tutor (who was gay as the day is long, I needed someone to point out to me), stats held very little appeal for me. I am phobic about numbers and can barely read a telephone number out correctly. Again, I'm really not joking, ask any of my friends. But being a pathological goodie goodie and crazy perfectionist, I studied and studied and then studied some more until I was crying with the boredom of it all and about ready to jump off a bridge. As a result I finished the exam an hour early and walked out knowing I'd got a first.

I'd only just started getting to know people on my course, and had suggested, since the stats exam is traditionally much earlier than the others, with a decent gap before the next one, that we all go out for lunch and get drunk. Sadly, I think I was the only person who listened to the second part of that instruction, as my main memories from that lunch are asking for the bill twice while everyone looked at me askance, like, who's that drunken ho in the corner, and then dragging two of the other girls on a crazy shopping mission in which I stuffed my face with cake and bought some shoes which I returned two days later. I came home on the bus and - I imagine - watched TV with James all night. I'd guess we ate chips and had a cuddle, but I see that time through rose coloured glasses these days, so like as not we ignored each other all evening and had a row. Who can say?

May 2007

Stats in the second year was HARD. It made the first year look like a walk in the park. Means? Medians? Modes? PPPPFFFFF! Try some Anovas and some regression on for size! How do you like THEM apples? Our teacher had had her face painted on with a trowel and scared the bejesus out of all of us, but my god did she make us work. I'd spent weeks enmeshed over worksheets with Suzannah and Jane, and I knew my stuff.

I had a brand new boyfriend and was in the first flush of giggly, brand new love. The kind that seems like the first and only time every single time you have it. I was wearing his yellow vest that day, which he'd worn to bed, and so which smelt of him, even though yellow that close to my face makes me look like I'm in the last stage of consumption. It was at that kinda stage.

Once again, swot that I am, I finished an hour early and danced out knowing I'd aced it. I must confess, I rushed a bit as I wanted to tell people I left early, but it was a gamble that paid off. I got the glory and the marks. All that sitting inside learning when everyone else is having fun has to pay off somehow, you know! I went to the bar, which was horribly crowded, and a girl called Sarah who I didn't really know bought a bottle of wine which we drank while waiting for our friends to emerge. I don't think I stayed long. I can't really recall what happened next, but my guess it is involved romping around with the new boyfriend and generally thinking I was the bees knees, smug bitch that I was. (What a thing it is, to be jealous of your former self!)

May 2008

By now, I was getting perhaps a wee bit too pleased with myself. I'd done ridiculously well on the first two years, and although I knew I wasn't a natural and had to work at stats, I figured the hard work paid off. This year was a bit harder - our tutor, who must have been vague at the best of times, although I wouldn't know - seemed to be going through some kind of breakdown, whereby she would leave the class halfway through a 3-way Anova, or write something on the whiteboard and then rub it off before anyone had a chance to look at it. We essentially had to teach ourselves. But I was feeling pretty good on entering the exam room, although of course I feigned nerves so as not to look too full of myself.

Oh, how pride comes before a fall!

The exam had plainly been written in one of the latter stages of the aforementioned breakdown, and it honestly wasn't just me that thought that. I won't even bore you with how complicated it was, but no-one finished it and it was a complete mess. No swanning out early this year, rather a concentrated scribbling and scrabbling with a leaky biro right up until I'd been told three times to stop. Oh, the crashing crush of feeling stupid after all that work and previous success!

It was my year anniversary with the no-longer-that-new boyfriend, and for once I'd convinced him that it was worth going somewhere slightly more pricey than a Harvester to eat. We went to a very fancy Japanese place in Holborn. I'd arranged to meet him there, all the better to dazzle him with my posh frock and smug post-exam glow, or so I thought. Instead, I cried all the way home, cried all the way into town, went the wrong way out the tube once I arrived, limped all the way down High Holborn in my anniversary high heels before realising it's one of those accursed roads that goes 1 -2-3-4 in numbers rather than 2-4-6-8, if you follow me, so had to limp all the way back and was late. And of course, pathological goodie goodie and crazy perfectionist that I am, being late gives me a knot in my stomach and makes me want to hurt myself, so when I arrived I was really not love's young dream.

May 2009

Today was my last ever stats exam. Critical Analysis - you have to write for four hours on a paper you've been criticising all weekend. I cannot tell you how much my hand hurts.

We finished at two, and my friend and I went to Giraffe, where I got plastered and she, responsible mother that she is, looked at me fondly. We had delicious food and tore the exam to pieces, and then another friend arrived and joined in. Why is it that I'm always the only one drinking at these things? Is it really so wrong to want to get drunk after so much work? But however, three gin cocktails in and I decided that I deserved to go shopping, so I went to Wood Green and bought myself:

one belt
one pair of sunglasses
two novels
some make-up
some hello kitty tat
two pairs of earrings.

Will this suffice for fattening food (I'm on a diet) or a consolatory cuddle? I should think so. Shopping tends to do that.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

One day til face banging

So, tomorrow I'm going to a three day mega-rave in Camber Sands called the Bang Face weekender. Bang Face being a club night in London where people dance to crazy break core music and chuck inflatable smiley faces at each other. It's all very silly.

I'm mostly looking forward to this very much, since last year was heaps of fun. It's at Pontins, which means no need for tents. This is very good news for me since, being what you'd find in the dictionary under the definition of 'girl', I loathe tents with a deadly loathing. I can never sleep, my back hurts, they're too cold or too hot and never anywhere in between and they invariably involve a lack of showers and peeing somewhere undignified.

Not so with Bang Face! There are proper beds, proper toilets, a proper shower. There's brilliant, crazy music all weekend long. There's an arcade with loads of games (including dance mats, which are surely the greatest thing since the last greatest thing), a beautiful beach nearby and, best of all, a party in the swimming pool, which is the stuff that dreams (well, my dreams anyway) are made of. I think there's very little that the addition of a swimming pool or some water chutes can't improve.

However, careful observers will have noted that I'm only 'mostly' looking forward to this. Why not more? The answer is that the ex-boyfriend, him from three posts down, is also going. And we were all happy and together when we booked it. And we were REALLY happy and together when we were there last year. Fortunately there's approx. 8,000 of us going (well, about 30) so I don't have to share a chalet with him. But I do have to be in the same place as him, something I have done for more than about 20 minutes in three and a half months.

How will I react? Last time, I stared at the floor, felt pretty naseaous, and grabbed my dearest friend as soon as she arrived and made her take me somewhere else. This isn't really an option this time since there is nowhere else and, much to my distress (and hers!) my dearest friend can't come to Bang Face cos of her flingin flangin exams.

One part of me feels that this is just about choices, and that if I choose to be grown up and polite and not get upset, I can do so. Another part of me knows I'll spend the whole weekend staring at the floor and feeling slightly naseaous and wishing my dearest friend could come and save me.

Which way will I turn? Only time can tell I guess!

Perhaps I'm being bitter and spiteful not wanting to be friends with him any more. He wants to be friends with me. But I think it would hurt my brain too much, and my brain hurts enough anyway. I have my reasons. Most of the time, they sound convincing. I don't know.

And here's something on a different note... what am I gonna do with this blog? Do I let everyone see it and risk their wrath? Do I email a few select people and look very full of myself for assuming they'll be interested? What is the point of it if no-one sees it? Will I be reviled and hated if everyone sees it? Hmmm. Something to ponder.

Monday, 20 April 2009


This has not been a good day. Here is a poem.

This time last year.

my soul needs saving from my memory
it catches me off guard with scenes that i don't want to see
we're over packing limes for a trip to the silver sea
face to face, warm skin; eyes reflecting beauty

i wish that i could switch it off somehow
so tired of fighting, of this angry, tear-stained row
to lose even one distracted touch is more than i'll allow
i wish i had forgotten you by now

Thursday, 2 April 2009

My life as a freelance sub-editor

Keen followers of my waffling will know two things about me. Well, hopefully more than two, but they will include these two things. The first is that I've long advocated the idea of a government sponsered Take Your Friend to Work Day. In the US (at least, according to Arrested Development, and TV wouldn't lie to me), they have Take Your Daughter to Work Day. I figure kids suffer enough with having to go to work experience, why make them suffer more? But if we could go to our friend's job for the day, that would be like a holiday for us and it would, I think, be pretty interesting.

I listen to my friends talking about their jobs, and I nod like I know what they're talking about, but they all use a language I don't know which is specific to their office, and they discuss a cast of characters I've never met. Unless I'm being singularly stupid, I can only assume it's the same for my friends when I talk about my work. Don't panic, though... I am not, in the following extract, going to bore you all by describing the minutae of my day and telling you exactly what 'pull-up' or 'fitting' or 'tracking' mean (oft-used phrases of the sub-editor), I'm just going to have another moan (phew, I hear you all cry!). But I still thought I'd mention Take Your Friend to Work Day in the hopes some bored minor MP will read this one day and start it off.

Anyway, the second thing that anyone who listens to me open my yap for more than ten seconds learns is that I HATE FREELANCING.

I've been a freelance sub-editor for almost five years now, ever since I got (boo, hiss!) made redundant from a TV listings magazine run by a big evil corporation. I will name no names in case 'the man' gets me. Unlikely, that seems, but still. I was shaken and bothered hugely at the time by this redundancy. Much as my constant misery may disguise this fact, I've lead a pretty charmed life. Nice parents, good schools, no abuse, no hideous facial features, only a teensy little mental health issue which I think adds charm anyway... I am not the sort of person who gets made redundant! Surely, I thought, there must be some mistake.

But, no, apparently anyone can get the boot these days, myself included. Shortly afterwards, I realised that I hate sub-editing anyway (well, that's not quite true, I do actually quite enjoy the pedantry and pathetically superior feeling of going 'I think you'll find it's 'the group found their way,' not 'the group found its way' and so on on a regular basis - but I do hate the long, long periods of sitting around waiting for something that needs sub-editing to turn up, gazing blankly out the window and asking myself if this really is as good as it gets) so it really wasn't such a disaster. I promptly wrote a novel (Killing Benjamin, it's called, fact fans, and hopefully it'll be available in a book shop near you soon) and then, while waiting for a publishing deal, fame and fortune to land on my door step, decided I'd better think of an interim career I could embark upon that didn't make me want to pull my own fingernails out with misery.

Being a contrary so and so, the only thing I could think of was being a psychotherapist, which it turns out takes years and years of training. So that's what I'm training for. And in the mean time, I need money. And so I continue to sub-edit, only now it's on a freelance basis as no-one will give me a part-time job. And this brings us back to something I may have mentioned earlier, which is that I HATE FREELANCING.

It seems unfair. I know many people, both in the real world and the fictional one, who feel tied down by their steady jobs, who hate the monotony of going to the same place and seeing the same faces every day. They wish they had the nerve to go freelance or become a contractor. More money, they think... more variety! More autonomy! What could be wrong with that? Why hasn't life handed them what its saddled me with?

I want security. I want things to stay the same. If I had to eat the same sandwich for lunch every day for the rest of my life I'd be happy, as long as I could pick it (it would be avocado, mozzarella and salad on a baguette, in case you care). How did I end up going from place to place, talking to new people all the time and never ever really fully feeling like I know what's going on?

You know what I dream about sometimes? Having my own desk. My own desk and my own computer that stay the same every time I go to work. A desk that isn't the dumping ground for every else's used coffee cups. A computer screen that doesn't have a funny green glow going down a third of the screen, which gets shunted onto the freelance desk cos none of the permies will touch it. A chair that isn't broken and spewing stuffing. A mouse that doesn't agitate my RSI. Then I could leave some snacks and a spare pair of glasses in the drawer. I wouldn't have to carry a fork with me wherever I go with which to eat my pathetic little lunch, which spears my leg every time I sit down on the tube. Oh, the joy of my own desk!

I think perhaps the hardest thing of all is that I've been doing this sub-editing lark for almost a decade now. I know what I'm doing (well - for the most part. I am aware a missed out a couple of words in my first entry and I am shamed to my core as a result). And yet wherever I go, I'm treated as the new girl who doesn't know what's going on. It's not good for the soul.

However. Enough of this. There's only a few more months until I can start a new course, and then I'm gonna study full-time, and then I'll doubtless have a whole new set of things to complain about. So stay on the edges of your seats, there, readers!