Category Archives: People

Becky says things about … the last days of term

Can you hear that, fair Listener? It is the ecstatic collective squeal of school children around the globe as we approach the summer holidays.

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And, if you listen carefully, you will hear the exhausted wails of several thousand teachers.

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Fact: there is nothing more exciting than the last days of term.

Amongst the hysteria and the chaos and the inevitable child that got over-excited and quietly soiled herself in assembly, one thing was certain as we approached that last golden week: teachers would stop doing their one job.

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Each lesson would become a lucky dip of unfathomable treats. What would await us on the other side of the door? A TV on wheels, stationed at the front of the class like a proud, tubby Emperor?

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Or a wordsearch? The end of term is the one time in a human being’s life when a wordsearch is legitinately and shamelessly thrilling. When presented as an alternative to distilling some water, or reciting the German for ‘When the weather is good, I play tennis*’, a wordsearch is your ticket to happiness.

*Wenn das Wetter gut its, spiele ich Tennis. (Aber, wenn das Wetter schlecht ist, spiele ich Tischtennis.)

Sometimes, however, the teachers couldn’t even bring themselves to provide us with any form of stimuli, and instead left us to our own devices.

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Oh, the thrill of getting away with slight alterations to your uniform! The teachers’ stringent term-time sartorial rules would gradually relax in the run-up to the holidays – they would half-heartedly frown at your trainers, or your whimsical approach to doing up your tie – until eventually they literally didn’t give a shit.

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There were vague last-ditch attempts to send us on our way with some educational remnants in our brains, by making us sit through a final assembly on the importance of listening to our parents and doing our Tudor projects over the holidays, and remembering at all times that we were representatives of the school, but they may as well have been talking to a hedge.

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And the peak of a mountain of almost unbearable happiness? The half day.

As the clock inched to 1pm on that final day, the teacher would take a last register and tell us to get the hell out, and as we left the school gates we would wipe away a single tear.

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Oh, yes, I enjoyed years and years of tremendously exciting last days of term.

Until my very, very last day of term, in my third and final year of university.

I sat my last exam in the second week of a six week term. As I put down my pen on my Literature of World War One exam, I realised, with a strange mixture of elation and trepidation, that I had just completed my life in education. The years of coursework, seminars, lectures, revising, binge-eating Malteasers, were over. (Happily, it soon transpired that my life of binge-eating Malteasers had only just begun.) Naturally, I wanted to celebrate.

I rushed into the pub, expecting to find willing drink-gin-until-we-puke comrades, but was instead met with a silent citadel of revision.

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I went home, had a cup of tea and watched Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, so I think you’ll find I had the last laugh.

So, enjoy these last days of term, particularly if they are your very last, as from now on there are no last days of term: just a continuous drudgery of work with no foreseeable end.

Enjoy!

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Oh no wait.

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

Oh no wait.

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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.

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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.

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

Oh no wait.

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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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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:

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.]

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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[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 … kids’ books

Before I commence, faithful Listener, Stickman has something to say to you.

 

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Oh great, thanks a lot, Sticky. Now can you say that other thing please? And do it properly.

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Why do you have to be so difficult about everything?

Anyway, moving on.

I recently gave my friend’s daughter the first Where’s Wally? book for her fourth birthday. She ruddy loved it. Within minutes she was hunched over the glossy pages and musing ‘Where’s Wally on this page?’ (She was soon firmly telling me that she knew exactly where Wally was on every page, because it was ‘in her brain’. I’m sure Stephen Hawking started with an equally momentous educational training.)

I am very much hoping that Where’s Wally? becomes one of little Lily’s favourite childhood books; which has led me to consider my own favourite childhood books, and would you believe it, there’s a list of them RIGHT HERE!

 

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George’s Marvellous Medicine 

 Roald Dahl

 

Fortunately, this book did not make me want to murder my own grandmother, but it did, however, lead me to make a series of glorious concoctions in the bath, while I was in it, using everything from Dad’s shaving foam, bubble bath, toothpaste, soap, talcum powder, and, on one unfortunate occasion, bleach. Oh yes, I became the Evil Genius of the Bath, swilling around in a murky cocktail of my own satanic invention – until Mum came in and told me to get the hell out and clean it the hell up.

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Tom’s Midnight Garden

 Philippa Pearce

 

A young boy, bored in a 1950s converted mansion house, wakes up on the strike of 13, and ventures out of the back door to find, not a dusty yard with bikes and bins, but a beautiful, verdant Victorian garden and a cast of Victorian characters who have somehow entered his dreams. I would wake at approximately 11pm, creep through the kitchen to the back door, unlock it, and stand irately on our patio opposite the rabbit hutch. What the book didn’t teach me about believing in the power of  my own dreams, it taught me in disappointment.

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The book3Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

 C.S Lewis

 

See Tom’s Midnight Garden, except replace the kitchen door with my wardrobe, and a foot-stomping, baffled frustration at finding not a snow-draped forest and a friendly family of beavers, but a heap of my old school projects on Vikings and the box of Christmas decorations.

 

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Would You Rather 

John Burningham 

 

Decision-making is one of the most crucial skills a child can learn. Life is crammed with bone-crushingly significant decisions that we are forced to make, so what better way to be trained in this art than considering whether you would rather have breakfast on a river or supper in a castle, or whether you would rather your house be surrounded by jungle, water or fog? In addition, the choices we made in this book may well have given our parents some crucial insight into our developing characters.

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Where’s Wally?

  Martin Handford

 

(Yes, my American chums, this is your Waldo. Let’s not get into that old debate. It is upsetting for us Brits.) I spent many happy hours hunting for Wally as a child, and the books also taught me the first hint of that important adult concept of putting off duties.

 

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The Famous Five

Enid Blyton

 

These books taught me despair. Reading about a bunch of kids my age being let loose on clifftops and in forests and caves, solving mysteries, catching bad guys and generally having a jolly spiffing time, and knowing that I would never in my entire life have as much fun as they were having, was a pretty hard pill to swallow; not to mention the picnics that Aunt Fanny (snigger) would chuck at them to ensure they had sufficient nutrition for fighting evil. Would I have liked to sit on a grassy knoll with my best chums and eat tinned pineapple, ham rolls, hard boils egg and barley sugars? Yes. Yes I would. book9

 

 

 

 

 

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The Railway Children

E. Nesbit

Yes, the 1970 film adaptation taught me that it is possible to cry so much at the end of a film that several major organs are at real risk of collapsing, but the book made me want, more than anything, to own a red flannel petticoat. Okay, it also made me desperate to live in a stone cottage in the country and muck about on railway tracks, but I really wanted a red flannel petticoat. Red flannel petticoats, as well as being stonkingly cool, save lives. 

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So tell me, Listener! What was your favourite childhood book?

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Becky says things about … hobbies

As, splendid Listener, I have just turned 30, WHICH WE SHALL QUICKLY GLOSS OVER WITH THE SPEED AND STEALTH OF A RABBIT TRAINED IN NINJA SKILLS, I feel I should mark the beginning of a decade by taking up a new hobby.

I’ve never been very good at hobbies. I have always admired and/or detested those folk who answer a ‘What are you doing this weekend?’ question with ‘Oh, I’m going rally car racing then I’m foraging for fossilised mountain goat horns. It’s my hobby, you know.’ That sounds so impressive.

Back in the day when you had to put your hobbies on your CV (or resume for my American buddies), I had to reel off sad banalities like ‘going to the cinema’ or ‘reading’ or ‘socialising’; I was never able to write ‘alpine belly sliding’ or ‘taxidermy’, which was a shame.

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I tried photography for a bit in my teens, which was pleasant, but once I’d filled an entire photo album with slightly blurred pictures of sunsets and close-ups of flowers, there wasn’t much else to do apart from occasionally look at them and wish I knew what an aperture was.

I once played badminton two Tuesdays in a row, so that was nearly a hobby.

As a very small child, I collected stamps with one of those magazine subscription offers that try to get kids interested in wholesome pastimes instead of plummeting into a life of drug abuse and prostitution. I got a stamp book, some tweezers and a magnifying glass (which I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with, as I could see the stamps perfectly well using my normal eyes), and I quite enjoyed myself; but then I saw my friend’s rock and precious stone collection from National Geographic magazine, and my stamps became a vicious symbol of my inability to judge the excitement levels of a hobby.

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Then I thought I’d take up ice skating. My aunt took me on my first trip to an ice rink, and I, filled with confidence at the simplicity of figure skating because I had watched Torvil and Dean in the 1994 Winter Olympics, decided I would take it up as a hobby and become brilliant and move to Switzerland and compete in skating tournaments. Then I put on a pair of ice skates, spent 15 minutes clutching for dear life onto the side of the rink, and quietly crossed off this diabolical recreation and cursed my physical ineptitude.

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I am currently sitting in front of a list of hobbies on Wikipedia, so let’s see if I can draw some inspiration for my new hobby.

Electronics. Well, I turned on the bathroom light earlier, then about four minutes later I turned it off again, and I’m currently using electrical gadgetry to use my laptop and cook my cod fillet – hell, I’m already doing electronics as a hobby and I didn’t even realise it!

Jigsaw puzzles. Now, I love a jigsaw. My Funnybones puzzle gave me many hours of pleasure as a child. But surely you can’t do a jigsaw puzzle every night. I’m certain that after a while it would affect your day-to-day life.

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World-building. According to Wikipedia, world-building is ‘the process of constructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a whole fictional universe’. If that is the case, then I spent most of my childhood engaged in this hobby every time I opened my BIG RED BOX OF LEGO DREAMS.

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Hula-hooping. I cause enough damage to objects and people around me when I’m standing still, let alone when I’ve got a giant wheel of death spinning round my torso at 3,000 miles an hour.

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Wood-carving. I do not have the urge to see a particular object represented in wood. More to the point, I can’t peel a carrot without slicing off five layers of skin, so hacking away at a block of oak means certain amputation.

Soap-making. I buy soap in the shops. They sell it in shops.

Archery. Listen, unless you are Robin Hood, or at least live in Nottingham and regularly get into scrapes with the local Sheriff, you shouldn’t be anywhere near a bow and arrow.

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LARPing (live action role playing). I think I’m already doing this hobby: I quite often pretend I’m being chased so that I’ll walk faster and thus get home quicker. Also, when I’m listening to music, I almost always pretend I’m in a film (the genre of which depends on the type of music, it goes without saying). So, one hobby I can tick off the list!

Rock-balancing. Rock balancing. It’s an actual thing. And I’ve just spent nine minutes looking at pictures of it on Google images. It’s like an extreme yet almost meditative outdoor Jenga. I like the sound of it. I’m going to take it up right now. In the absence of any rocks in my bedroom, I’m going to balance my favourite mug on top of a lipstick on top of a glass of Merlot on top of a picture of my grandmother.

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It’s a stupid hobby and I don’t want to do it anymore.

Well, maybe I won’t take up a new hobby. Oh no wait… people watching! That’s a hobby? You mean all the hours I’ve spent staring at strangers and silently making up personalities and histories for them and eavesdropping on their private conversations, is actually a hobby??? Hurrah! I’ll just keep doing that, then. I wonder if I’ve still got that magnifying glass from my stamp collecting days…

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