Category Archives: Embarrassing Revelations

Becky says things about … a 13 year-old’s diary

Great and powerful Listener, I have been inspired by the wonderful Tess at If Destroyed Still True, who does the unthinkable and publishes her teenage diaries online for the world to snigger at. She has inspired me to delve into the first diary I ever kept, at the tender age of 13, back in 1998.

Listener, it is a hotbed of invaluable life lessons and insights.

Come, if you will, and allow me to share them with you.

The sky’s the limit 

Monday 19th January 1998

I’m 13. Wow. What a thought! I’ve decided I want to be a detective or a police woman if I don’t get to be an actress. Or I’d like to do stuff with the Titanic, like be a ‘Explorer of the Titanic’ because I find that ever so interesting.

Friday 23rd January 1998

Watched Parkinson. It had Dawn French, Carol Vorderman and Geri Halliwell on it. I’m going to be famous and get asked to do something like that. I know I’ll be REALLY famous when I get asked to be on Parkinson.

Computer games are extremely important

Thursday 15th January 1998

I still can’t get off level 4 of Theme Hospital, and really don’t know what I’m doing wrong. No matter how neatly I make the rooms or clean up the sick or stop the rats from spreading I just can’t get to level 5. Oh well. Keep trying.

Wednesday 23rd September 1998

I have found a way of cheating on levels on Theme Hospital!!!!! BEST DAY EVER.

Thursday 24th September 1998

Went to Megan’s to help with her homework. I ended up showing her the Theme Hospital cheat but it doesn’t work on her computer. I’m quite pleased about that actually.

Teenagers occasionally lack empathy

Saturday 7th March 1998

I’m really not enjoying flute lessons. Linda keeps giving me a load of crappy exercises to do which are either really boring or really difficult.

Saturday 25th April 1998

Didn’t have a flute lesson because Linda’s mum died. YES GOT OUT OF A FLUTE LESSON.

 

The world doesn’t revolve around you

Monday 2nd March 1998

Told Andrea about getting a hamster. She didn’t want to talk about it. She doesn’t like talking about ANYTHING apart from herself.

Boys are an emotional roller coaster 

Tuesday 28th July 1998

Went to Tom’s with Kyle and Aaron and we were going to watch a horror film but ended up watching Fawlty Towers, which is so much better. Me and Tom were snogging but then he started eating cheesy Doritos so I pretended I’d had enough of snogging because YUCK.

Saturday 3rd October 1998

I think Tom’s losing interest in me. He hardly ever phones me now. Oh well. That didn’t last very long.

Sunday 14th February 1999

Went to Pizza Hut with Tom. Then we went back to his house and he made me laugh for approximately two and a half hours.

JUST REMEMBERED it was Valentine’s Day today!!! We didn’t even get each other a card!! I wonder if that’s why he wanted to take me to Pizza Hut, as a Valentine’s treat? Bit rude if so, as I paid for half.

Pride comes before a fall

Monday 8th June 1998

I got the highest possible mark in History!!! For my slave diary!! Mrs Waite said it was worthy of publication!!! I AM A GENIUS AT HISTORY.

Tuesday 9th June 1998

I got 28% in Maths. I will never understand Maths.

 

Witty comebacks are a skill to be acquired

Monday 20th July 1998

We did the fashion parade in Drama (‘Plastic Fantastic’). I wore my plasticky skirt, high shoes and sparkly top. Bit cheaty, I suppose, but I didn’t have time to actually make anything. Well, when I did my little catwalk thing, I got back and there’s Erica and Caitlin. Erica’s going ‘She looks like a prostitute – a right tart!’ Then she goes ‘You’re cheating, it’s not very plastic, is it?’ So I go ‘Well your face is.’ I’m not sure it was a good insult but it’s the best I could do at short notice.

The first proper party is everything

Friday 24th July 1998

There was a party at Julia’s! Mum and dad let me go because I begged. Me and Tom were snogging loads, and we all sang songs in the attic room and mucked around with a Hoover. At 4am it started getting light and I did one of those ghosts boards with Ellie and Candice (can’t remember what they’re called – weejie board??). Anyway I don’t know why we did it or what the point of it was, but we were awake until FIVE THIRTY and then I fell asleep on a windowsill and woke up at nine!!! It was SO COOL!!!!

Fashion is mega important, but occasionally tricky

Sunday 26th April 1998

Went to Kingston with Mum and she bought me some new Nike trainers and some Adidas shorts, and some combat trousers and an army top. They’re all really cool and I look like All Saints in them.

Friday 17th July 1998

Wore my really cool pinstripe trousers and new Reebok jumper to Mufti Day. Really cool. My make-up was a disaster though. I did it from my big new make-up box from Argos, and I did my eyeshadow in orange and with thick eyeliner like all the girls wear, but mine just looked awful.

Teenagers can be harsh

Thursday 17th September 1998

The most terrible thing happened today. Between me and Alyssa. Because I STUPIDLY told Cara and Robyn about the list of the people Alyssa hates. I told them not to tell anyone. I go into the form room at lunch. Alyssa comes in. EVERYONE goes ‘Why do you hate me, Alyssa? Who else is on your list?’ They were all yelling at her and I’m sitting there thinking ‘Oh my God. What have I done??’ I made her cry. I felt SO bad. I have never been so horrible to anyone in my entire life.

 

Trying to be a grown-up is fraught with difficulties

Saturday 26th September 1998

Went to see ‘Lethal Weapon 4’ at the cinema with Ellie. It was a 15 certificate!! But we didn’t get asked for ID or anything! As we were going up the stairs into the cinema, we heard our names being shouted, and Megan and Alice were in the queue and they yelled up ‘Did you get in??’ IDIOTS. We legged it into the cinema and hid in the seats.

Sometimes, life is unfair

Friday 13th October 1998

I got moved in German because I was chewing on my jumper. Not sure it was fair to move me. It was MY jumper, after all.

It’s the small things

Monday 25th January 1999

Me and Susie had fun with a note under the table in French. Cara flicked a spring at Mr Hickman and I threw a rubber in her mouth. It was so cool.

A social life doesn’t always work out

Friday 16th October 1998

Me and Ellie went to what we THOUGHT was a planned sleepover at Julia’s but when we got there her parents were in and Julia wasn’t there and we ended up watching two episodes of Friends with her parents and then we left and wandered round New Malden and went back to Ellie’s and Dad picked me up.

One is aware of one’s abilities

Thursday 1st October 1998

I hate Art, I hate Maths, I hate French. We had to draw SHAPES in Art today. I AM 13 YEARS OLD. I know how to draw a rectangle for pity’s sake.

Technology had a long way to go 

Friday 29th January 1999

Me, Ellie and Ruth tried to do a three-way phonecall. It didn’t work. I thought we’d pressed all the right numbers but I ended up hanging up on them both and when I tried to call them back they were both engaged.

Presents were brilliant

Friday 25th December 1998

Christmas Day. Got some BRILLIANT presents: a manicure kit, a sheep hot water bottle, fibre optic lamp (cool!), Robbie Williams album, Austin Powers video, Body Shop smellies, chocolate, a Delia Smith cookery book about eggs, pink folder, fluffy pencil case, a blow-up picture frame, make up bag, bubble bath, nice earrings x 2 pairs. I think I’ve done rather well.

So what have we learnt from this experience, loyal Listener?

1) Being a teenager was cool.

2) Lethal Weapon 4 is a hugely underrated film.

3) Not everyone wants to talk about hamsters.

4) Inevitably, you will get old and ask for a slow cooker for Christmas.

 

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Becky says things about … the human brain

O sweet and graceful listeners, let us speak of the human brain.

I’m a big fan of the brain. There are many things that that lump of moist cauliflower is good for; namely, and in no particular order:

  • coming up with sassy comebacks to impertinent comments
  • knowing not to eat things that wouldn’t agree with us, such as exposed wiring, or brick

  • remembering all significant dates in the world wars, or the dates and fates of Henry VIII’s wives, or the crucial cinematic progression of important Disney films between 1938 and 1952
  • recognising mistakes and rectifying them accordingly, such as ensuring that you write ‘kind regards’ and not ‘king retards’ in an email to the CEO of a multi-national company (NB. the human brain occasionally falls short on this one)
  • understanding when it’s appropriate to greet someone with a polite, palm-tickling handshake, and when it’s appropriate to use another form of greeting

  • being able to apply the correct sentences to correct situations, such as ‘I’m so incredibly happy for you’ at a wedding, and ‘I am deeply, deeply mournful’ at a funeral, and not the other way around
  • keeping you entertained with hilarious jokes

But sometimes the human brain doesn’t cooperate. Sometimes it gives up, or sabotages you, seemingly deliberately, out of spite or apathy.

I was recently in a very important meeting where I was a trifle out of my depth. I was being asked questions that really tried to fly over my head, but my brain was somehow managing to net them and fire back reasonably intelligent responses. This was a textbook example of teamwork: my brain and I were happily working together, and we did a small high five every time I responded to a question with actual words that made moderate sense and not complete hogwash.

And then a difficult question was thrown at me. It’s okay, I thought, my brain’s got this. It’s ready with its pen and pencil, scribbling down an answer, and my synapses will take but a milisecond to transmute an answer to my mouth.

But instead of filing a response into my mouth, my brain sat back, crossed its arms, shook its head, and proceeded to tell me this:

I tried desperately to clamber over my uncooperative, starved brain and fumble for an answer, but my brain stood up and plonked its fat behind on the question, and instead of words coming out of my mouth, there came…

…nothing.

Nope, not a thing. For seconds, I stared dumbly at the asker of the question, while my brain stopped telling me I was hungry, and instead helpfully started pointing out that

Finally, after what seemed literally weeks, I slapped my brain quiet, and gave a response that made it very clear to everyone in the room that I had no idea what the question was:

The human brain can also be pretty ruddy irritating when one is trying to get to sleep. Why, why, when a brain can literally spend all day saying ‘I am just not going to do anything today, you’re on your own, you pitiful creature’, does it then suddenly come alive the minute you get into bed?

Here is an excellent example of the acrobatics my brain can do when I’m trying to get to sleep:

God I’m tired what about boats in a nice turquoise sea oh that holiday to Austria in 2002 was lovely I wish I had a dog not been to the Hart’s Boatyard for dinner in ages mmmmmm scampi I wonder what the temperature is in New York right now Christ space is massive what about that guy who jumped out of a rocket that’s mad I must start running again and get a massage what’s that tune in my head I think it’s Mozart I really should take moisturising more seriously ahh those house parties we used to have with alcopops were great where has my youth gone ooo if I could have one sandwich right now it would be salt beef with mustard must get some kitchen towel tomorrow God I love flowers especially blue ones

When you’re brain is doing that to you, you may as well try to get to sleep like this:

See, look, here’s a prime example of the human brain not cooperating: I’m trying to think of a brilliantly inventive and amusing way to end this post so that my lovely listeners will think ‘God, she’s a terribly comical wag, that Becky’, but all my brain is saying is ‘I can’t think of a brilliantly inventive and amusing way to end this post’. See? So unhelpful. And there’s literally nothing I can do about it, so I may as well just jack the whole thing in and go and make myself a cup of tea.

I’m sorry, faithful ones, but don’t blame me for this heinous anti-climax, blame my stupid lazy human brain.

 

Bimble wallop.

 

Oh shut up, brain.

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Becky says things about … staying positive

‘Crikey Moses, what the hell’s going on over there?’ my splendid international listeners must be wondering. ‘Britain looks like a pair of tangled headphones covered in unidentified soiling that have been found at the bottom of a crud-filled handbag, with one earpiece snapped off and the other one stuffed with wax. What a terrible mess! But it’s okay, I’m sure the Brits themselves know what is going on. They must know what is going on.’

Tell you what, splendid international listeners. I’m going to hold a referendum on whether we Brits know what is going on right now.

 

ref1

So, what you are reading and seeing in the Media – images of a smouldering British wasteland filled with vultures, clowns and flying pigs – is exactly what it feels like.

It seems we’ve learnt the hard way that when you give a very hungry dog a bone, he might just eat it.

ref2

Whichever box we crossed on Thursday 23rd June, it is fairly unanimously acknowledged that the immediate outcome has been, how shall I put it, PRETTY SHITTING DIABOLICAL, and we’re now floundering in the smelly discombobulation of an Unexprectit.

But it’s okay, because we Brits have a remarkable ability to remain positive in the face of adversity. It’s the war spirit. We won’t be dispirited by this chaos and uncertainty and anxiety. We have many things to be positive about.

I mean, look, I know it appears to be terrifying and dangerous now, but at least we have a strong and faithful leader to guide us through the most economically, politically, financially and socially difficult times in recent history.

Oh no wait.

ref3

But it’s okay, at least we have strong candidates to guide us through the most economically, politically, financially and socially difficult times in recent history.

Oh no wait.

ref4

But it’s okay, at least we have a sensible leader of the Opposition to rise up and present the country with a strong alternative leader to guide us through the most economically, politically, financially and socially difficult times in recent history.

Oh no wait.

ref5

But it’s okay, at least everyone who voted Out is sticking by their decision now that we’re Out.

Oh no wait.

reff6

But it’s okay, at least all the promises that were made about Brexit are being faithfully kept.

Oh no wait.

ref7

But it’s okay, at least we have the football to remind us what a strong footballing nation we are and boost our morale when we need it most.

Oh no wait.

ref8

But it’s okay, at least it’s nearly July and it’s high summer and the sunny weather will cheer our dampened spirits.

Oh no wait.

ref10

But it’s okay, at least we can pack up and escape the country and seek solace in far away lands.

Oh no wait.

ref11

Oh.

 

Shit.

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Becky says things about … what happens in your 30s

Gentle Listener, I am now 31.

I’ve learnt things.

I want to share them with you.

Here they are.

  • If you can’t think of a hilarious and verbose introduction to a list-based blog post, short and sweet is king.
  • Everyone in the world is either married or engaged.
  • If you are not married or engaged, you start to fear that the reality of aged spinsters silently knitting alone is coming your way, baby.

30s1

30s2

  • You start tutting at loud music in shops.
  • Your friends start discussing mortgages and car insurance in the pub, and you’re too embarrassed to ask if anyone saw ‘World’s Most Dangerous Newts’ on Channel 5 last night.
  • Crouching for long periods of time doesn’t become impossible, but unpleasant.
  • The wrinkles that you see on grown-up people suddenly appear on your own fair skin, overnight. Next to the fresh spot that popped up yesterday.

30s3

  • Facebook is swamped with first smiles, first steps, first birthdays, first school photos, first managed-not-to-shit-on-the-floor-but-in-the-allocated-potty-in-the-allocated-poo-station-in-the-corner-of-the-bathroom-s.
  • If you don’t have a child with which to adorn Facebook with its firsts, your parent friends assume that there is an old ice cream tub where your womb should be.

30s4

  • If you accidentally buy trousers with elasticated waists, you do not freak out at their tragic agedness, but rather relish in their supportive yet luxurious comfort.
  • A nice cup of tea and a sit down is literally the shit.
  • You find bits of your body evolving into places you cannot follow.

30s5

  • You don’t buy clothes on their fashion merits, but on your judgment on whether they will maintain you at a pleasing temperature.
  • A bottle of wine + ‘British kids’ TV theme tunes from the 80s’ on YouTube = Best. Night. Ever.
  • You see your friends every two months instead of twice a week because of children / honeymoons / mortgage repayments / late-night working / business trips to New York / prison.
  • You have to start taking paracetamol before, possibly during, and definitely after a drinking session to mitigate the risks.
  • You genuinely start to not give a poppins about what people think of you and you’re much better with criticism.

30s6

30s7

30s8

  • There is literally nothing more exciting than discovering a 70-part show to binge watch on Netflix.
  • People falling over is still funny.
  • You start asking for grown-up things like saucepan sets, slow cookers and new mattresses for birthdays and Christmas, and are genuinely thrilled when you receive them.
  • You see your childhood toys labelled as ‘vintage’ and ‘retro’ on eBay, and a small part of you dies (but you secretly don’t mind now being ‘retro’).
  • You are still not too old or grown-up to act like a right brat in front of your parents.

30s9

  • You keep a packet of Rennies or Tums in your bag, because indigestion is an evil you do not care for.
  • You fear for humanity when you see pictures of Leonardo DiCaprio looking a bit old and podgy.
  • You cannot grasp what a ‘gif’ or a ‘vine’ is, and you’re too afraid to ask.
  • Vicious forces start mucking about with Time, and as a result, Christmas comes round every three weeks, yesterday was 5th May and today is 30th October, and when someone asks you what month you went to Greece, you assume this pose:

30s10

  • You realise that, when you thought at the age of 22 that by the time you were 30 you’d know what words like ‘dividend’ and ‘remittance’ mean, you were naive, and you don’t.
  • You are utterly fascinated by teenagers, because the last time you spoke to one, you were one.
  • Instead of saving up all your money to go on a £100 blow-out on a Saturday, you drink moderately and consistently throughout the week.

30s11

  • If you’re a writer, the phrase ‘Write drunk; edit sober’ is literally the best advice anyone has literally given to anyone literally ever.
  • If your night out edges much past 11pm, you start desperately worrying about transport.
  • You get vague pangs of envy when you see nubile, dewy, smooth-skinned 20-somethings prancing around and necking shots, but then you remember you have a fresh packets of crumpets in your cupboard at home.

30s12

  • You still catch yourself thinking the phrase ‘When I grow up’ and wince inwardly and painfully every time.
  • None of the above is really so bad.

So, if you are yet to tumble into your 30s, you have all this to look forward to; and if you are past your 30s, please don’t spoil the surprise. We’ll find out soon enough.

Like, TOMORROW, at this rate.

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Becky says things about … how to detox

My name is Becky and I am disgusting.

And if I’ve got to admit it, my darling Listener, then so have you. Admit it. You are disgusting. We are all disgusting. We have spent the last fortnight slouched on various sofas scoffing various beige food (the best party food is always beige), chucking endless booze down our flabby throats, and passing out into bloated, saggy comas.

It’s been wonderful.

And then came Monday morning and we put on our work trousers.

detox1

I shall admit, dearest Listener old pal, that I was alarmed on Monday. I thought someone had kindly placed some cushions in the seat of my desk chair, and then I realised that I was in fact snuggling into the comfortable squidge of my own love handles. I spent the day gently perspiring, which I can only assume was my body finally ridding itself of two weeks’ worth of non-stop festive alcohol.

So, naturally, and along with literally everyone else, I decided to detox.

And as I have just completed my first day of detoxing, I thought I’d write you, my lovely listeners, a helpful guide to assist you in your quest for cleansed perfection. You’re welcome.

detox2

What you will need 

  •  Willpower
  • Motivation
  • Delusions of success.
  • Approximately £10,000’s worth of fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, wholegrains, ominously-named health food shop items, and some form of mystical rare plant powder off the Internet that claims to boost your vitality, purify your system and improve your football dribbling skills.

Day 1 Detox Plan

07:15 Wake up with vague sense of dread. Quickly cast aside the implausible yearning for a bacon sandwich and a cheeky morning pint.

07:33 Let the struggle with which you pull on your previously loose-fitting skirt encourage you to make this day brilliant and to be the healthiest and most motivated person in the world and to transform yourself into a vision of saintly excellence. 

07:46 Retrieve from the fridge the unidentifiable-green-sludge-that-was-supposed-to-be-a-juice-but-you-don’t-have-a-juicer that you made last night using thirteen different green ingredients, including moss, algae, seaweed, pond scum and the mystical Internet powder, spent twenty minutes pulverising in your inadequate blender which resulted in your kitchen looking like Fungus the Bogeyman had had a particularly violent cold up the walls. Remind yourself that this green sludge is breakfast. And lunch.

detox3

08:24 Order a flimsy black coffee instead of your normal frothy latte. Tell yourself you’re doing it for King and country.

09:03 Finish watery coffee and, in a single, glorious second, think ‘Well at least I have a lovely bowl of sugary granola smothered in thick, creamy yoghurt for breakfast’. Then remember about the green sludge.

detox4

09:58 Breakfast. Retrieve green sludge from the fridge. Quickly realise you can’t drink it from the flask because its sludgy, thick consistency means that thick blobs of gloop simply slide onto your face, and instead eat it with a teaspoon. Try to ignore the mounting bitterness that is not only filling your mouth, but your heart.

detox5

10:07 Put remaining green sludge in fridge. Ignore colleagues’ questions, remarks, and utterly unhelpful comments about how tasty their own breakfasts were.

10:11 Experience a brief but pleasing sensation of smugness as you consider the goodness that you’ve just put in your body.

10:12 – 12:10 Throw yourself into your work, and imagine your body exorcising itself of evil.

12:15 Ignore colleagues’ declarations of where they are going for lunch, or how many types of cheese they have stuffed into a French stick. Continue to work doggedly. (Useful tip: have some tissues at hand to wipe away the solitary tear that will fall from your eye as you consider the green sludge waiting for you in the fridge.)

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13:00 Moodily stomp outside for a walk, then experience the astounding revelation that you only ever step outside your office during the day in order to hunt for food, and thus are now utterly directionless because you have no need for food as you have the green sludge.

13:02 Walk moodily round the block, and stomp moodily back into the office. Tell your colleagues it’s just started to rain.

13:28 Sit hunched at your desk in front of Google images of ‘best burgers in the world’ and slurp green sludge from a teaspoon. Follow with a cup of peppermint tea and a healthy dose of resentment towards humanity.

13:47 Feel momentarily euphoric because you don’t feel full or sluggish, and remind yourself that the green sludge gives you nothing but goodness.

detox7

13:48 – 15:09 Get on with your work, and genuinely forget about the green sludge.

15:10 Get up to go to the toilet, and walk straight into the hard wall of hunger. Realise you are dangerously hungry. You have probably never been this hungry. Look wildly around the office. Note the tin of sweets left over from Christmas. Squeeze out an ounce of willpower and try to focus on the taut stomach and inner peace you will achieve if you stick to the green sludge.

15:39 Give the following response when one of your colleagues says they will bring to the office the enormous unopened box of Christmas biscuits they didn’t eat at home.

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15:43 Weep softly.

15:44 – 17:20 Finish the working day with increasing fatigue, bitterness, and irrational rage.

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17:21 Crawl home. Do not for one second contemplate the prospect of a glass of wine or a chocolate biscuit. Instead, get home and immediately put on your jogging pants.

18:12 Flap-arse about in your bedroom with a couple of dumbells, download the 30 Day Squat Challenge app, do half the squats you’re supposed to do because they’re uncomfortable, and lug your drooping, groaning buttocks out of the door for a jog.

18:30 Jog.

18:33 Seriously contemplate going back home.

18:39 Experience an endorphin.

18:41 Realise you have the actual ability and physical fortitude to run a marathon. Make mental note to sign up for one when you get home in four hours’ time.

18:42 Get an excruciating stitch, trip over a stick, hack your guts up into a bush and try to tell yourself you don’t need an ambulance.

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19:01 Having crawled home, have a shower and prepare dinner. This will involve 23 green and obscure ingredients and won’t use anything normal like potatoes or pasta.

19:25 Consume your virtuous green creation in front of Man vs Food. 

19:31 Sit very still in front of an empty plate and fight urge to order a pizza.

19:45 – 21:30 Absorb yourself in something engrossing, like a Netflix binge or mountaineering.

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21:49 Make tomorrow’s green sludge.

21:56 – 22:33 Clean the kitchen.

22:38 Crawl into bed in a cocoon of confusing mixed emotions over the day’s apparent success and the excruciating hunger that is literally consuming your entire being.

22:52 Text your work colleague and ask him nicely to please bring in that unopened box of Christmas biscuits to the office tomorrow.

 

Repeat the above on days 2 and 3, and on day 4 replace green sludge with brie and bacon baguette, three packets of crisps, a sausage roll, two doughnuts and four pints of self-loathing.

Good luck!

detox14

 

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Becky says things about … the first day of Uni

Wondrous Listeners, many 18 year-olds are about to embark on the biggest adventure of their lives: University.

(Well, the second biggest adventure – the biggest adventure is the epic trip to Wilkinson to buy more kitchen supplies than they will ever use, 90% of which will spend the entire first year under their beds, never touched by human hands).

So what happens on the first day of this epic adventure?

I shall tell you a story.

My first day of University was on the 21st of September 2003.

[Pause while I consider the dreadful fact that this was 12 years ago.]

uni 1

I arrived at the concrete jungle that is the University of East Anglia with my parents and my younger sister. I went to the Student Union (what the hell was a Student Union?) to collect the keys to my room, trying to swallow the fear of being surrounded by more 18 year-olds than I thought existed in this world (where did they come from?). The girl who handed me my key said ‘Oh, you’re in Waveney Terrace. I was in Waveney Terrace in my first year. You’ll have a wicked time! Just don’t be put off my appearances.’

My mother almost drove me home there and then.

uni2

The girl was not wrong. I later heard a rumour that the design of Waveney Terrace had been inspired by that of a Swedish Prison, and there were definite incarceration-like qualities about it: a great, snaking concrete building that ran from blocks A to Q, each block with four floors. I was in N Block. A long corridor, seven rooms on each side, one kitchen with a McDonalds-style plastic table bolted to the floor, and a ‘bathroom’ with three toilet cubicles and one shower.

One shower.

For 14 teenagers of various genders and hygiene standards.

uni3

My room was a tiny breeze-blocked cell with a single bed barely big enough for Billy Bear and Huggy Bear (yes of course they came with me). My family and I stoically unpacked my things, my ears pricking at any sound of approaching fellow students. After a couple of hours, my family said they had to go.

I waved them off, watching their car trundle across the muddy car park.

I went back to my cell and stood in the middle of my few possessions. What did you feel, Becky? I hear you cry. Was it excitement? Freedom? No. What did I feel? I’ll tell you.

uni4

I then undertook the single most incredible feat of bravery that I have, to this day, ever performed: I swallowed the burning urge to burst into tears and hide under my bed, legged it up the corridor and exploded into the kitchen where two people were sitting awkwardly at the table, and yelled

uni5

[Extracted from Chapter 3 of ‘How to Break Ice’, by Prof. Becky Mayhew]

And so it began. One by one more quivering teenagers skulked into the kitchen, each eyeing the others with the fearful stare of a rabbit about to be ploughed over by a Ferrari, and I realised something wonderful: everyone was shitting themselves. Probably the greatest realisation of my young life. It made it so much easier. (Note to any impending Freshers reading this post: always remember, you are only as scared as the Fresher next to you, and he is cacking his pants.)

Conversation happened quickly. Judgements were made almost instantaneously (100% of them turned out to be wrong, obvs). Soon there were about ten of us bundled into the kitchen, and so I learnt another important nugget: on your first day of University you spend a lot of time yelling place and subject names at people, and it works remarkably well.

 

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After we’d all exhausted ourselves by yelling our home towns at each other, someone uttered the words that would become the most frequently used phrase next to ‘Whose eaten my Admiral Pie?’: ‘Shall we go to the uni bar?’

And off we trundled, clinging to each other like King Penguins, to the heaving Uni bar which was full of other clinging groups of King Penguins who were – hallelujah! – all shitting themselves. And there, over insanely cheap drinks (99 pence for a gin and tonic. I know. Take a moment to digest that) more barriers were broken down, common interests were discovered, and I bonded with Mel and Emma in the toilets when my bra strap snapped.

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And then, a couple of hours later, someone said ‘Hey, I’ve got some cheese – fancy going back to halls?’ And we must be the only Freshers in the history of Fresherdom who went back to halls at half past nine on the first day of Uni for cups of tea and a cheeseboard.

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Then came the dread: it was suddenly half one in the morning, I was exhausted from being so inhumanely sociable for so long, and I wanted to go to bed. But no one else had gone to bed. I couldn’t be the first one to go to bed! I would forever be remembered as The One Who Left the Party Early. I knew how crucial this first day was, how important first impressions would be. Fortunately, the urge to snuggle up in my Aspirin packet-sized bed outweighed the fear of being labelled lame, so I bade them goodnight, claimed that I’d been up since five that morning (a heinous lie, but needs must), and scuttled off to my room. And, even more fortunately, about half an hour later, I heard them all do the same.

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So there are several morals to this story, which you may like to share with anyone who will be starting University in the next few weeks:

  1. Congregate in the kitchen. The kitchen is the centre of your world on your first day.
  2. Don’t let your parents hang around. The longer they hang around, the less time you will have to yell your home town and subject at your new friends.
  3. Even if you want to crumble into a sandy heap of terror, run up to the nearest housemate and bellow your name in their face.
  4. Never forget that everyone else’s pants are equally as soiled as yours.
  5. Bring a cheeseboard.

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Becky says things about … laughing

Since the news broke last Monday about the smackingly sudden exit of our short, furry and funny friend Mr Williams, the Internet has been transformed into a veritable psychology journal, brimming with probing analyses of depression, suicide, alcoholism, hope, lack of hope, life and death. Darling Listener, I don’t want to add to the already lengthy index of opinions on the meaning of life; and besides, who am I to comment on the bleak, crushing force of depression when the saddest moment of my day was realising I left my lunch at home?

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So, most splendid listeners, let us focus on the bright side of life; let us look at what Mr Williams made us do when he put on a rubber mask and shouted ‘HELP IS ON THE WAY, DEAR!’ or when he told Rufio he was a paramecium brain:

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O Listener, I just love laughing. I love every kind of laugh: the painful, uncontrolled giggle that invariably results in an undignified piggish snort; the silent, head-shaking nose-laugh when someone tells you a joke that is wrong on every inconceivable level and you know you are going straight to hell for finding mirth in it; the unexpected, explosive laugh that may well result in an unexpected, explosive emission from your lower regions that you definitely didn’t intend and which you hurriedly try to cover up by making your laughter acutely disproportionate to the thing that made you laugh in the first place.

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Just today I have experienced that joyful, convulsed state that is brought on by perhaps one of the most delicious laughs of all: the ‘finding-something-vaguely-amusing-at-work-and-trying-not-to-laugh-because-the-office-is-quiet-and-people-are-working-which-makes-it-a-thousand-times-funnier-and-eventually-you-are-choking-on-your-own-fist-and-tears-and-sliding-wetly-around-in-your-chair-like-a-floppy-otter’ laugh. Can I remember what made me laugh? Can I bobbins. The laugh made me laugh. The same naughty and forbidden laugh we all experienced a dozen times a day at school when we passed a note that said ‘Mrs Lamos has a hairy back’ during silent reading time.

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Laughter is in everything: that well-timed belch in the middle of a meeting; the little trip up a kerb that you have to turn into a run; the accidental sign-off ‘Love Becky xxx’ in an email to an extremely important and solemn chief-executive; the tail-end of a conversation overheard in the street.

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But we all know that there is no greater joy, no laugh more acute, than the laugh expelled at the misfortune of others. O, Listener, how many ribs have I bruised guffawing at the suffering of my friends! When my chum slipped over on the wet deck of the Statan Island Ferry, going from a perfectly stationary position next to me –

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– to this position –

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– in less than a second and for apparently no reason, I laughed so much that a concerned German had to walk the entire length of the ferry to help her up.

The story of another buddy, a normally dignified yet cumbersome sort of fellow who, whilst stomping home with a bag of fish and chips, fell over his front gate and was deposited in a flower bed, will cause me to erupt in a splatter of glee every time I think about it. My father running into the patio doors, my best friend tripping down her stairs and landing in a heap at the bottom; my sister – crouching and mid-wee – falling backwards down a grass verge into nettles after panicking when I told her there was someone coming (there wasn’t); my boss pretending to use his office chair as a wheelchair and promptly wheeling himself out of it; my pal drunkenly stumbling through a park at night and failing to notice the large pond in the middle of it – all these things make me ecstatically happy.

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Sadistic, you say? Nay, Listener – tis not sadism. Tis merely a keen appreciation of slapstick comedy. We all laugh when Oliver Hardy is bashed in the face with a solid wooden plank, or when Stan Laurel is run over by a trolley bus – why shouldn’t we laugh at our friends and family members doing stupid things?

Life throws up many surprises. Some, like a leaky roof or syphilis, aren’t particularly pleasing – but others, like discovering the wit of our fellow humans, are magical. The world is full of funny people. You, my most dear Listeners, are hysterical. There is barely a liquid I haven’t dribbled painfully through my nose whilst reading some of your blogs or your comments to my posts. And, whilst some of those liquids were especially painful, I loved every second.

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We are all used to comedians showing off their best jokes and their most sparkling wit – but it is the ordinary Colin on the street that makes me laugh the most. Overhearing a grumpy exchange between two old blokes in a pub can brighten my day tenfold.

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What’s better than trudging through your daily commute with a thousand other sorry souls, every single one of you despising the human race and everything it stands for, and then having your train driver come over the speaker and say ‘Good morning everyone – as you can see, we’re going nowhere fast. I wish I could tell you why we’re stuck here, but I can’t, so instead I’m going to tell you that today happens to the be the 30th anniversay of the release of Wham’s astounding hit single ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go Go’… and if someone could please wake me up before we go go, that’d be very much appreciated.’

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I made myself laugh yesterday when I went to get in my mother’s car, which I begged her to let me use while she’s on holiday, and to which she eventually agreed against all her better judgement – and I discovered its battery was flat. Dead as a squashed badger. I left the lights on. Is this a royal pain in the arse, and one that will potentially cause me stress and grief and a ‘Rebecca, you can’t be trusted with anything’ comment? Undoubtedly. But I have to laugh. Particularly because I have no intention of telling my mother, and she will only find out by reading this blog post from her hotel in Greece.

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Listener, there is sadness and sorrow and despair in the world. We know this. Anyone more than five years older than us delights in telling us this every single day. But there is also laughter. And Mr Williams may or may not have contributed to some of the laughs in your lives, but he has been the cause of a billion smiles over the world, and I’ve certainly enjoyed mine. Wherever he is, I hope he’s trying on his old Mrs Doubtfire costume, parading in front of a mirror, and chuckling.

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Charlie Chaplin said ‘A day without laughter is a day wasted’. And, whilst it is undoubtedly easier to laugh on some days than others, this isn’t a bad mantra to live by.

 

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