Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The Pizza Express Incident

What I am about to tell you is a tale of misery, desperation and woe that could probably rival War and Peace, or at the very least, The Hunger Games, which is one of my favourite books as of late and is very relevant here.

This happened to me many months ago now, but I remember it all too vividly.  I was with a large group of people (around 35-40) all dining at Pizza Express; so large, in fact, that they had insisted on us ordering our food in advance so that they could close up and clean the kitchen as soon as possible.  I didn’t even need to think about what I was going to order, as I always have the ‘Padana’, which is a mixture of goats cheese and red onions.  I was very excited about the food- I had not eaten since lunchtime and it had been an extremely busy day, including being on the stage with my fellow restaurant companions.

After about ten minutes of us sitting, the pizzas began to arrive.  Every time I saw a pizza I sat up in hope, but I never heard anyone say ‘Padana’, so I waited, and I waited.  Five minutes later, looking around the table I saw that I was the only one without a pizza.  I mentioned it to the waiters and they were very confused because they’d only had one Padana on their list and they had already given it away.  I was FUMING.  Someone had stolen my pizza!!!!

This is pretty much the epitome of a first world problem, but the next 30 minutes waiting for my pizza was one of the worst 30 minutes of my life.  (Because they’d switched all the ovens off it took them that amount of time to make a new pizza for me.)  People were eating happily, standing up and giving speeches and getting increasingly drunk, while I sat there, seething with rage and bitterness.  Right after my pizza finally arrived I was forced to eat it very quickly so that I could catch my train home, still mad as Hell at the person who ruined my evening; being extremely hungry is bad enough, without watching 35 other people around you stuffing their faces.  A couple of people offered me a bit of theirs until mine came, but, alas, they all contained the flesh of either mammals or birds, which I do not eat. 

Though the incident itself wasn’t especially horrifying, and would be the kind of thing I might laugh about nowadays, at the time I was going through a terribly rough patch and the one thing that might have made my miserable existence even slightly better would have been getting my pizza on time.  Just a few days later I was doing a survey online, which asked me if I felt positive about my health, my friendships, my love life, my career or my financial situation, and I broke down and cried to Giraffe when I realised that I couldn’t tick ‘yes’ in a single column.  It’s always darkest before the dawn, however, and my life completely turned around in the next month, acquiring, in this order, Foofy, new students (therefore more money), many new friends, and a job lined up for the Autumn (which I am currently on.) Although the pain gradually faded from my life, I would occasionally think of my pizza thief: “I wonder what he/she is doing now?” I would muse, grinding my teeth and staring rigidly ahead.  Often I would be doing my normal, every day activities like brushing my teeth, or performing to a large audience, and I would think of this vile human being, and get a huge bubble of rage inside me.

The story doesn’t end there, however.  A couple of months after this horrific incident, I told Foofy the story, wanting to describe the state of depression that he'd helped bring me out of, and I saw that he had a strange expression on his face.

“What?” I asked.
“You did say a ‘Padana?’”
“That’s right.”
“…Oh dear.”

I looked at Foofy in horror, remembering that he’d been at the dinner as well, but on the other side of the room.  I'd only met him once at that point and we'd never been formally introduced.

“Did you steal my pizza?” I said ominously.
“I MIGHT have done.” Foofy replied.

As it turns out, Foofy, unlike the others at the dinner, had not pre-ordered his food, and when he’d ordered his own ‘Padana’, the waiters misunderstood and thought that the one on the list was his, but going by Foofy’s history of this kind of thing happening to him, I still blame him rather than the waiters.  NAUGHTY FOOFY!!!! It was very funny to finally uncover the identity of the person who I’d been wishing death upon for the last two months as the same person that I’d been shnoogling with.

I love you, Foofy; though several oceans separate us, I would pluck out all my fingernails and toenails one by one if that would make you happy, but NEVER GET BETWEEN ME AND MY PIZZA AGAIN!!!!

Saturday, 13 October 2012

I need the Toilet! (WARNING- TMI!)

Sometimes I really resent the fact that I have a bladder- don’t get me wrong; I’m very grateful that I have one as opposed to having some kind of awful condition, but I wish humans had been invented not to have to wee at all.  Many day to day activities are completely governed by the fact that I have to be near a toilet.  If I am going on a trip, I can only have either orange juice OR hot chocolate for breakfast, which, as you can imagine, is pretty much as serious a problem as is possible to have.  There are even some drinks, like tea, that seem to go literally straight through me.  The other problem I have is that I can go from not needing the toilet at all to OHMYGODI’MGOINGTOWEEMYSELF in the space of just a few minutes.  On tour, we have very long trips in our van, and I have taken to going to the toilet every time we stop, whether I need it or not.

This has worked for the most part, but the other day I had an almost-disaster.  Coming up to a town in Italy, I knew that I needed the toilet, but we could actually see the town, so I knew it wouldn’t be long.  Besides, we were stuck in traffic, so even if I'd said I couldn’t have gone anyway.  Because there was nothing to be done about it, I didn’t mention my desperation until it was too late.  Thankfully this story does not end in me weeing myself in a van, but the fact that I didn't mention my complaint for a long time reminded me distinctly of this incident when I was very small:

I went through a period of being car sick when I was young where even the mere prospect of a long journey or simply smelling the inside of the car would put me on the edge of vomiting.  I seem to remember that both my sister and I would complain of feeling 'car sick' before we'd even left the house.  Anyway, moving back to a different kind of bodily fluid, I was desperate for the toilet, and the traffic was moving about a metre a minute, if that.  45 minutes later, we had only just arrived into the town and I was the most desperate I have ever been.

It’s funny, needing to go to the toilet- it’s painful, absolutely, but it's worse than mere pain as it consumes your entire body and mind and sends you utterly potty.  (If you’ll pardon the pun!) I was told by my van-mate later that he was really worried about me because I looked to be in severe distress- whether he was sympathetic about my pain or merely worried that I'd soak all his worldly possessions in urine is neither here nor there, but I don’t remember much from the agonising 20 minutes that we spent driving through the town at 5mph dodging various people on bicycles and pedestrians that obviously were not used to cars being on these roads.  I recall that I tried to comfort myself with some Leonard Cohen, but his soothing, husky tones only made things worse.  After a while, I realised that if I didn’t do something in 20 seconds, I was going to wet myself. 

I asked for the van to be stopped, whereupon I said- “don’t worry, I’ll find the hotel!” Not even knowing what it was called.  Thankfully, somebody reminded me to take my phone with me.  Staggering deliriously into an ITALIAN restaurant in ITALY, I ran, wide-eyed, up to the first waiter I saw, and almost yelled:

He said he didn’t, but I asked: “Kanne ich seine toiletten habe bitte?” Which I think means “Can I please have your toilet?” But thankfully he understood me and I ran for the door.  My wee lasted for over a minute.

Coming out of the restaurant, I was faced with the glorious sights and sounds of Italy, and thought to myself- “life feels GOOD right now.” Like I was on some kind of drug (they should market a drug that always makes you feel like you’ve just done a wee- I think it’d be a top seller!) I happily noticed that the van had only moved 8 metres in the time that I was in the restaurant.  I got back into the van, realised what a fool I had made of myself and remained almost silent for the rest of the journey.  The smile didn’t go off my face for hours, however.  

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

On Tour

Now that I am devoted to travelling around Europe for the next 7 months, these seem to be the main recurring motifs in the symphony of my life:

1.   Never knowing where my toothpaste is

EVERY SINGLE TIME I get to a new hotel, which is almost every night, all I want to do is brush my teeth and go to bed, but my toothpaste is always ALWAYS at the very bottom of my bag.  Because of this I have to unpack and repack my entire suitcase every time I want to brush my teeth.  While I’m brushing my teeth, all I am thinking about is how I simply MUST put my toothpaste somewhere accessible this time, but every time thus far I have forgotten my own advice when the time comes to actually put my toothpaste away, and it goes back to the bottom again.  (It is worth noting that a similar thing happens with my pyjama bottoms as well.)  Yesterday I thought I had been clever by putting my toothpaste and toothbrush in my handbag instead of my suitcase, but, of course, by the evening I’d forgotten all about this and emptied out my suitcase to look for it before I remembered where it was.  You win again, past me.

2.   Stealing stuff

I’d never considered the little toiletries and knick knacks that you get in hotel rooms to be useful before, but at the moment I’m stealing everything I can get my hands on…pens, paper, plastic cups, teabags, sugar sachets, shampoos, body lotions, and soaps.  This may seem crazy but it all adds up; I’ve not had to buy a single bottle of shampoo since the beginning of August.  I’ve also got into the habit of putting breakfast food into my bag to eat later; sometimes I merely slip a banana in while nobody’s looking (that’s what she said) and other times I brazenly butter bread and construct magnificent sandwiches right under the noses of the people running the hotel.  I’m such a rebel!

3.   My food bag

I need to have somewhere to put all the food I have stolen, and in this case it is a medium-sized cloth bag that Foofy bought for me in Munich.  Despite being washed several times, the inside of this bag tends to resemble some kind of biological disaster; you never know what you might find when you delve into it; will it be a piece of stale bread? Some sweaty 3-day-old cheese? Or perhaps even a rotten peach?  At the moment I have 3 bars of ‘Ritter Sport’ Chocolate which each have one square missing because I couldn’t decide which one to open first.  Other people would have been crippled by indecision but I simply opened all three at once.  Also taking up a large amount of space in my food bag is a huge packet of Leberkuchen, or, soft ginger biscuits, which doesn’t seem to be decreasing in volume despite me eating several of the biscuits a day.

4.   Endless BREAD

Because I cannot exactly put soup or porridge into my ever increasingly disgusting food bag, I am forced to take bread-related items and graze on them slowly throughout the day.  Even things like yoghurts are out of the question as they might burst, ruining everything in my bag.  Some theatres very nicely put on food for us when we arrive, but, again, it’s always ALWAYS sandwiches.  I’m certainly not complaining about this because they are under no obligation to provide us any food at all, but due to my utter stubbornness surrounding how I spend my money, I cannot possibly go out and buy different food if there is free food available.  Rather than buy something delicious for a few Euros, I despairingly struggle my way through my third sandwich of the day, only marginally happy that I’ve managed to save some money.

5.   Laundry

Although I did visit a laundrette once (while we were in Denmark), at the moment doing my laundry usually consists of washing each item of clothing separately in my sink with a stolen bar of soap, or, if I’m feeling luxurious, some hair conditioner as well.  I am both lucky and unlucky to have a bright pink costume; It looks wonderful, but anything it is washed with will inevitably turn pink.  My clothes then need to be hung out to dry for a number of hours to ensure that they are wearable the next day, and one time I grossly failed at this, meaning that I had to wear a wet costume in one of the performances.  Thankfully the wetness didn’t show, but it felt very strange indeed. 

6.   Mess

I am not the tidiest person in the world but I have significantly improved recently as I’ve grown up and have had my own space to make nice.  In tour we don’t have a space to make our own, so this doesn’t happen.  I also used to be incredibly considerate when it came to hotel rooms, making sure that I cleaned up after myself meticulously so as to not make any extra work for the hotel staff.  However, after a month of travelling my laziness has slowly increased, and I have taken to leaving a trail of pure destruction in my wake: within one minute of entering a hotel room every surface will be covered with screwed up receipts, bread and croissant crumbs and dirty underwear, which I will attempt to tidy up later by randomly stuffing in my suitcase next to all my clean clothes.  I need to develop some kind of a system.

This was my current hotel room on arrival:

And this is it LITERALLY three minutes later, including the apple core which I still haven't moved from my bed:

7.   Bruises

Although I have an (albeit, limited) knowledge of how to fall safely, yet dramatically on stage without hurting myself, the little injuries can build up.  Every day (sometimes twice a day) the same part of my thigh suddenly and sharply comes into contact with a corner of a heavy solid metal structure.  Although each incident in itself is not enough to cause a bruise, the repetitiveness of it has led to a large cluster of bruises on my right inner thigh.  Very appealing! I’ve also hit my head a number of times, but it’s all part of the fun.  There’s something strangely satisfying about going back to my hotel room and showing Foofy all the new 'owies' I have received that day over Skype.

8.   Music

Although I have a Kindle and a computer at my disposal, I find that my primary form of entertainment on long van journeys is listening to music on my iPhone.  Yesterday we had an 8-hour-long journey and I thought I’d listen to every Leonard Cohen song I had in my collection. (But in fact 8 hours wasn’t enough to get through them all!)  I was giddy and delirious from flu and at one point I could have sworn that I’d been listening to ‘Waiting for a Miracle’ for about 20 minutes, and I realised that, despite putting the songs on shuffle, it had played my three different versions of this song one after the other.  Apart from Leonard Cohen I have very little choice; I have the complete works of The Divine Comedy, The Beach Boys and Gilbert and Sullivan, as well as other bits and pieces.  The most shocking moment for me on this journey so far was when I was relaxing to Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ and feeling very artistic, when, very suddenly, ‘Here’s a case unprecedented’ from the Gondoliers screeched through my headphones and made me almost cry out in fear.  I love Gilbert and Sullivan but I HATE that song.  I could go into more detail as to why that is but I trust that only a tiny handful of people would be interested.   

9.   Losing all sense of time and place

This is the first time in my life that I’ve repeatedly woken up not only having no idea what bed I’m in, but also what country I am in.  One time we were on the border between Germany and the Netherlands and I didn’t want to ask which one we were in because we’d already been told and I'd forgotten.  I have also entirely lost the concept of days of the week and have given up trying to refer to the past or the future in conversation.  I feel like I don’t really have a solid location in space and time at the moment and that my situation could more accurately be described as in constant physical and temporal flux.  Before I look at my phone for the date and time, rather than being aware that we will be at some kind of time and I just don’t know what it is, I am positive that time has just stopped existing until I look to see what it is.  What is time, anyway? That’s another story.