Saturday, 29 September 2012

A Blind Date

I have been on very few dates in my life, and have not been on any blind dates at all.  I couldn't imagine anything more nerve-racking than walking into a restaurant and looking awkwardly around for someone who will be just as nervous as you are and will probably raise their hand and give a wave and a nod and then you walk over and make desperate attempts to be interesting for 3 hours.    

One day I will blog about tales from my romantic life, but those are all other stories.  This is the story for this evening, however, and I am pleased to say that it is in no way related to real life.


I’ve always found imagination and dreaming far less confusing than reality; even in the flu-induced dream I had last night where I was living in a giant sachet of Nutella, which was a particularly upsetting dream as there was no Nutella left in the sachet.  While other people are slaves to their subconscious in their sleep and are completely free to act in whatever way they wish in real life, I find real life stifling, confusing, and sometimes downright upsetting, but my dreams, I find incredibly easy to control.

This all started when I was very little and was traumatised by watching the film Watership Down; the horrors of which I have already described in a previous post.  As a result of this trauma I would only sleep for an hour every night; the time between 6 and 7 where my parents would let me sleep in their bed with them.  My dreams became a horrifying mish-mash of thoughts, fears, and frankly quite psychotic images and sounds; probably a result of my mind trying to give me 8 hours-worth of sleep in just one hour.  Here is one featuring the weird skeleton with octopus arms:

And here’s another where a duck exploded:

Despite the passing of almost 2 decades, I remember these nightmares as if I’d just woken up screaming from one of them.  However, if you have enough nightmares, you really begin to notice when you are having one:

After a while I became fascinated by lucid dreaming.  There was a particularly interesting one when I was about 8 where I kept waking up, realising I was dreaming and waking up, then realising I was STILL dreaming, and waking up again, etc.  I began to really take notice of waking life, occasionally saying to myself- “I’m NOT dreaming.  This is REAL.” And before long, this comes up in your dreams as well.  It’s all about confidence; I know now that if I ever have to ask myself the question “Am I dreaming?” Then the answer is most definitely “Yes.”

One of these days, of course, I will jump off a cliff or strip naked in the street because I have the mistaken impression that I’m in a dream, but, fortunately, that day has not arrived yet.  I tend to use my lucid dreams to do constructive things, like practicing speeches, flying, practicing ice skating moves, or simply create a landscape and having fun in it.  Real life can be okay sometimes I guess, but there’s nothing like sitting, alone in a dreamt landscape, painting ones desires onto an imaginary canvas and watching it come alive in front of you; everything you create is yours to command, and everything you command shows you something you didn’t know; unlocking the secrets of your subconscious and revealing what is troubling you and what is really important.  It’s a bit like ‘The Sims,’ but with better graphics.

I don’t get nightmares anymore, but I still dream things that disturb me.  Even though I control my dreams, the ‘me’ of my dreams is very unlike the ‘me’ in real life.  I am spontaneous; vivacious, confident, and arrogant to the point of rudeness. (Whereas in real life I’m just a delight!)  My dream minions, who I suppose are just different versions of myself, are very unlike people in real life, who won’t stop in the street, push me up against a wall and kiss me ferociously, or cheer heartily when I walk into a room.  I guess that I worry that the dream 'me' is actually the real me, and she can be quite a biatch!

My chocolate mousse I make in my dreams, unlike the one I make in real life, is to DIE for, (though I must admit I still haven’t got the texture QUITE right…) and on my dream ice rink I can do a triple axel without even thinking about it.  I do a fair amount of flying, too.  It’s a bit like moving through water but without any water.

The thing is, though, it’s not real, and I know it’s not real even when I’m living it.  I can never get truly involved in the fantasy because I’m fully aware that it’s all the product of a deranged imagination.  I feel isolated by this world; I don’t get other peoples’ jokes, and they don’t get mine;

Things in this world can be messy and dirty, things can be too expensive, and I would have to travel 1000 miles in a plane to see Foofy.  The chances of being absolutely happy in a world where things like unkindness and avocados exist are fairly slim, but ultimately I’d rather struggle through this world than live a pain-free life in my dreams any day.  If only I’d spent all that time that I spent perfecting my dreams on actually figuring out how best to live my life in the real world, I might have been a much happier person today.  I used to blame the world for isolating me, but really it’s my fault for isolating myself and living in a little dream bubble.  Now that I’ve been travelling to new places and having great experiences with new people, I’ve been lucid dreaming less and less.  This is a bit disconcerting, but probably a good sign that I’m beginning to become a real human person.  Or duck, that is.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The Pen Saga

The other day I bought some stuff in a shop in a Danish town called Odense, and I chose a particular checkout because there was only one person in the queue.  Unbeknownst to me, I would spend a total of eight minutes waiting for the shop assistant to find out the price of a plate for the person in front of me, so, in hindsight, my choice was a bad one.  I didn’t really mind though because the shop assistant’s name was ‘Xander Storm’ and this pleased me.

This incident reminded me of something that happened to me when I was a wee girl of 17, and was in Edinburgh for the very first time trying to buy a pen.  I don’t know about anyone else, but my overall relationship with writing materials has not been a good one.  In the 26 years I have been on this earth, I must have spent over £50 on pencils, but I have never yet managed to finish one, i.e. sharpen it down until nothing is left.  I’ve never even been close; I just lose them instead.  Similarly, I have owned what has seemed like thousands of pens, but very few of these have run out; they either dry out or I lose them, meaning I somehow manage to buy about 30 pens a year.  So anyway, here I was again, trying to buy a pen.

I had my eye on one of those pens that we used to use in school; the outer casing was red and it said ‘berol handwriter’ on it, but the pen itself was black.  I took it to the counter to pay, and that is when the trouble began.

First of all, when I took the pen to the cashier, she looked like she’d never seen a pen before in her life.  She looked at me, looked at the pen and frowned, and looked at me again.

“Where did you get this from?” She asked.
“It was in a pot over there.” I said, pointing to a clear plastic pot on a shelf full of pens, clearly labelled with ‘£1.29.’
“Right.” She frowned again and tried to scan it, but there was no barcode.

There was a 20 second pause before anything else happened.

“I think it’s £1.29…I think…” I said doubtfully, even though I knew for certain it was £1.29.  Back then I was terribly timid a lot of the time and had trouble asserting myself.

“Let me just have a look.” The lady walked out from behind the desk and went over to the clear plastic container of pens.

“£1.29.” She said.
“£1.29.” I added, for no reason at all.  The lady completely ignored me and shouted for another assistant.
“Susan?” I don’t actually remember her name- I just made it up.  Susan walked slowly over, and when she saw the pen, she froze mid-walk.
“What’s that?” She said, apparently not knowing what a pen was either.  You would think that I was trying to buy a Yeti or something.
“I didn’t know we sold these.” The first cashier said.  “Do you know how to put them through?”
“I don’t know.” Susan shrugged.  “How much are they?”
“£1.29.” She replied.
“£1.29.” I echoed, again, for no reason at all other than to have some kind of input in the conversation.
Susan and the first lady were utterly mystified, and both looked at the pen as if it was about to explode taking the whole universe with it. Susan went to the phone; she picked up the receiver, dialled a number and waited a few moments. 
“Gary?” She said.  I don’t remember his name either; it’s all LIES.  “Gary, could you come down here please?”
30 seconds passed.
“I’m sorry about this.” Said Susan.  I smiled.  One minute passed, and Gary arrived.  He was wearing a shirt and a tie, so I took him to be the manager of this shop. 

“What’s the problem?” He asked the two girls.  They explained about the pen not being on their system, and, despite my nervous bleats of:

“It’s £1.29” and “I could just get another pen…” He insisted on finding a way for me to buy that one.  After about a minute and a half of him typing away on the computer keyboard and discussing with the girls what he could see on the monitor, and fruitlessly trying to put other black berol handwriter pens through the till, he shrugged, and looked as baffled as they were.  The expressions of sheer worry and confusion on their faces would have been very funny, had I not been so eager to turn back time and choose a different pen.

He then told me to wait, and picked up the phone again.  I don’t remember exactly what he said on the phone, but I quickly ascertained that he was on the phone to head office, as he was describing what the pen looked like, then he said:

“Okay, I’ll hold.” And after a couple of minutes where we could all hear music coming from the phone, he was engaged in another conversation which lasted several minutes, and I realised that he was on the phone to the company that made the pens.

In the end, it had taken three people 15 minutes to work out how to sell me this pen, which they, strangely, offered me for just 89 pence, and not the £1.29 that was advertised.  It was the most baffling thing to ever happen to me in a shop; I still to this day don’t understand why they couldn’t have just taken my money and worked it out later.  Perhaps they needed a barcode to open the till.  In any case, I found it more amusing than annoying because it was quite refreshing in a way to be given such excellent customer service!

Later that day I went to the site of the battle of Bannockburn where I bought a better pen, which I used for the next two years, forgetting about the first one.  After two years I lost it and I was so upset about it that I went back to Bannockburn specifically to buy another one.  However, any time spent learning about the misfortunes and weaknesses of King Edward II is certainly not wasted, but that’s another story.

Sometimes I truly believe the fable in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that all pens secretly long to return to their home planet and will escape Earth by any means possible.  Perhaps this container of pens simply showed up one day in the shop hoping to somehow get noticed and shot into space one by one, and that was the reason why no one in the shop seemed to understand their existence.  I have no idea where the pen is now, but I'm hoping that it's somewhere like this:

Friday, 14 September 2012

I'm not agreeing with you, I've just got Tourette's

The worst thing about having Tourette’s Syndrome is not the fact that I have to nod my head, clear my throat, sniff, shrug my shoulders and go ‘hmm’ every 8 seconds, but the fact that everyone thinks they’re an expert on it.  There are two general reactions that I get to telling people I suffer from Tourette’s:

People think that Tourette’s is a ‘swearing disease.’ instead of taking one minute to investigate on Wikipedia what it actually is they brazenly choose to believe that I am making it up for some bizarre reason.  I don’t know what their thought process is here- perhaps they think that I'm inventing a disease to make myself appear more interesting, or that I somehow enjoy the attention of having people glare at me when I’m sitting next to them on a train.  (It’s the WORST on trains!) I used to tell people about it all the time when I was younger because I wanted to make excuses for my strange behaviour, but due to these reactions I am reluctant to tell people about it now.  It has only struck me recently just how often it comes up in conversation, and how it’s usually referred to in jest. 

Now you may have guessed from reading my blog that I have a sense of humour, thus:

And I am all for laughing at hilarious diseases; I mean, a disease that makes you do weird things for no reason has comic value and I shouldn’t be too sensitive about it, and I’m not, as a matter of fact.  Diseases like AIDS and cancer aren’t particularly funny because they affect the lives of millions and millions of people and, even if one has never known anyone that has had a horrible, life-threatening, disease like that, we have some understanding about how us or a loved one having the disease could make us feel.  The effects of cancer, for example, are so vivid and real in everyday life that there is literally nothing funny about them at all.

Tourette’s, on the other hand, must seem completely inaccessible to the general public; they can empathise with losing one’s hair or having a tumour removed because that is something that could potentially happen to them.  What people don’t seem to empathise with is things they don’t understand, and when people don’t understand things, the easiest thing to do is to laugh at them.  I’m not trying to be all high and mighty here as I’m completely guilty of this too, and, seeing as it must be very difficult for a person to understand what it is to have no control over one’s movements or vocalisations, it’s not surprising people make jokes about it.  By the same token, I have no idea what it would be like to have my testicles kicked, and so laughing at it is very easy.  And Tourette’s, let’s face it, is a hilarious disease when not properly understood.  I laughed myself silly at a book called ‘Pets with Tourette’s’ which involves an adorable rabbit yelling out ‘Tossbag!’ It’s not the general public’s fault that they’ve been given a false impression of what the disease is, so I bear nobody any ill will for making Tourette’s jokes.  80% of the time, I find them just as funny, and I don’t mind at all when people laugh at my tics. The other 20% of the time I give an inward sigh and wish that the disease that I happen to suffer with wasn’t one that also happened to be hilarious. 

Just in case people don’t know what Tourette’s is, it’s not actually a disease in itself, but just a way of categorising tic disorders.  Many people have tics, but, to have Tourette’s Syndrome, you must have had at least one vocal tic and at least one physical tic (at the same time) for over a year.  Mine have been going on for 17.  (The disease where people swear uncontrollably is actually called ‘Coprolalia’, and can be had completely independently of Tourette’s.  In fact, only 1 in 10 Tourette’s sufferers have Coprolalia, but the media don’t want anyone to know about this for some reason; maybe because people simply twitching and making random sounds isn’t quite as funny as if they were yelling 'CUNT!' at the top of their voice.)

Let me show you what having Touette’s is like.  Imagine there is a tiny cloud in your brain; I don’t know why it’s a cloud but it is:

Now this cloud, for no reason whatever, will slowly begin to grow and grow over 10 seconds.  It’s not painful, and it’s not like an itch.  I would liken it to feeling like the snowstorm that you used to get on old TVs being inside your brain.  It’s fuzzy; it’s grey, it’s sticky, and it’s really, really annoying.  You can choose to keep it there and get increasingly more frustrated, but after about 8 seconds it gets so unbearable that you need to shake it away; then you get about one second of wonderful relief, before the cloud begins to build again.  The cloud can be in the head, or it can be in a limb, or it may be in the nose or throat, meaning that you have to make a noise to get rid of it.  Sometimes I’m in a situation where performing these tics is not an option, meaning that I have to sit still and bear it; the effort of repressing them is so great that it means you cannot concentrate on anything else.  So, contrary to popular opinion, Tourette’s tics are not strictly involuntary (like a sneeze, or snatching your hand away from something hot), as you can control them to an extent.  It’s just really, REALLY hard.

I often wonder what my life would have been like without Tourette’s; on the one hand, I find myself fanaticising about how WONDERFUL it would be not have to do tics every few seconds.  To actually possess control over every inch of my body would be utterly amazing; THINK WHAT I COULD DO!!!! As is often said, freedom is wasted on the free; everyone out there who doesn’t have Tourette’s has an incredible gift in that they are free not to sniff and twitch their heads and can just sit and watch something for more than 3 minutes without feeling like they want to scream.  On the other hand, there are far worse problems in the world, and, in a way, I am incredibly lucky.  Having this disease completely shaped my personality into what it is today; I was forced to be weird and eccentric because it allows me to get away with odd things; often people don’t even notice I have tics until I tell them because I compensate for them in all sorts of inventive ways:

It also made me into the actress that I am; on stage, you see, my tics just vanish completely.  I mean, the character doesn’t have Tourette’s, does she? It’s ironic that I am only truly free to be myself when I am pretending to be someone else!  The energy stored up from tics that I have not performed is then used to raise the stakes for my character and make her as present on stage as possible.  In this way, my disease is a gift.  Hooray for me!!!! J

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Ich Spreche Deutsch!

Hallo, Ich Heisse Duck; Munchen ist sehr gut, ja? Ja.  Abendzeitung! Blah blah blah. 

I am currently sitting in a hotel room in Stockholm, Sweden.  I badly need a shower but it looks so dirty that I’m worried it’ll shoot out grime instead of water or alternatively just come to life and consume me in its filthiness.  There’s a baby panda being measured on the television though so everything’s nice and balanced.

Anyway, I am in Stockholm, where I cannot speak a word of the language; compared to Swedish I’m practically fluent in German by now.  I can do all kinds of things, like ask for beer, ask where things are, and say ‘excuse me’ if I bump into someone, which is all you need, really.  There have been some quite funny moments over my last three weeks in Munich involving me using some very haphazard German in order to get my point across.  Today, at the airport, I forgot to bring a little plastic bag to put my liquids in so I had to buy one from a machine.  The machine, alas, did not accept my €2 coin, leading me on a wild goose chase around the airport:

This was probably not exactly how it happened but my memory is fuzzy.

One of my favourites was when I was trying to ask for a take away box for my food in a restaurant but I forgot the word for ‘takeaway box’ right has I was about to say it, making me do a really weird hand motion:

It’s kind of difficult to depict, but it made it look as if I was asking for something else entirely.

The trouble with Germans is that they are too nice; they don’t allow you to struggle through your sentences and learn as you go, but, instead, they cut you off and begin speaking in English.  I was very pleased with myself when I was ALONE IN HAUPTBAHNHOF STATION and managed to ASK FOR DIRECTIONS!!!! I walked proudly up to a lady in a reflective jacket and this happened:

After our tour of Scandinavia, which I’m sure will involve having very expensive ice cream stolen by seagulls at the Helsinki docks, we will be returning to Germany and I’ll get more opportunities to practice my superior language skills.

Auf Wiedersehn!

Monday, 3 September 2012

Lazy Burglars

A couple of months ago, Foofy and I had to stay in my old house in Reading on our way to Paris.  My BFF, Giraffe, (again, not his real name, but I totally wish it was) very kindly offered his room for us to stay in.  Initially, we were going to sleep on an air mattress, but Giraffe expressed a desire to camp outside in the garden because that’s the kind of thing he likes to do.  He had recently been to Penzance with his one-man tent and had a whale of a time.  We inflated the air mattress, put it in the tent, and, with that, Giraffe went to sleep and Foofy and I slept in his bed.

The End.

I am, of course, joking.  We slept well, and were excited to begin preparing for Paris the next day.  When we went outside to wake up Giraffe, though, he had a very interesting story to tell:

After drifting off into a deep sleep, he was unexpectedly woken up at 4am by a torch shining on his tent and someone telling him to get up.  Shocked, he unzipped the tent to be greeted with three policemen.  They told him that there had been a burglary in the area that night and that Giraffe was a suspect and they had to search his tent.  The reason he was a suspect? Because he was camping in a garden near the burglary.  I find this hilarious, not just because Giraffe must have been so surprised when he was woken up, but the fact that the policemen must have considered that a burglar, fresh from a-burglaring, would not only have been too lazy to leave the scene of the crime, but would have had the foresight to actually bring a tent to sleep in afterwards alongside everything he had stolen.

Honestly, burglars today; just lying around!