Tag Archives: journal

Becky says things about …. dreams

Dearest listeners, I had a most peculiar dream the other night.

I dreamt I was wandering the corridors of my old school and came across a lady I used to know when I was a teenager. We had a little chat – an ‘Oh hi there, haven’t seen you in ages, how’s it going?’ sort of chat, all very normal – and then suddenly we were both standing in a pool of steaming water, completely naked.

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And as if that wasn’t startling enough, we then had a steamy naked hug. Not a sexy hug – this wasn’t The L Word, or anything – just a ‘Oh well, we’re in this steamy pool and we’re naked, we may as well have a hug’ hug.

And then I woke up.

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Listener, I cannot explain this dream. I haven’t seen this lady in well over a decade. Sure, she pops into my head to say hello every now and then, as most people from my past do from time to time, but why should she suddenly wander into my sleepy dreamy brain? And how did Dream Becky get from the corridor of my old school to a pool of steaming water? And – perhaps the most pressing question of all – why were we naked? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy being naked as much as the next gal, but to suddenly get naked with a lady I haven’t seen for over 10 years seems a bit forward.

It wasn’t an unpleasant dream by any stretch of the imagination. The hug was a bit sweaty, but if anything it was nice to see her. I might give her a call and say hi.

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Isn’t the brain mad and wonderful? Confusing and sometimes terrifying, certainly, but what an occasionally brilliant place to be while you’re asleep! It is a rare treat when you have one of those excellent dreams that you try desperately to squeeze yourself back into when you feel yourself waking.

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Whilst wandering through a gothic cathedral in a recent dream, I stumbled across a smashingly good-looking chap in a Bond-y tuxedo, and we proceeded to do some rather compromising things behind the alter. It was, frankly, thrilling, and gloriously distasteful.

Unfortunately, just as things were getting really disgraceful we were interrupted by a man in a tall white hat, whom I can only assume was a dream pope.

And then I woke up.

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I’ve done so much more in dreams than in real life! I’ve rescued Jeremy Irons from falling out of a skyscraper window. I’ve explored a mystical underground realm with a team of Girl Guides and hidden from a foul subterranean monster (I can’t remember if I saved the Girl Guides – they may well have been eaten). I’ve been on stage with Liza Minnelli and performed a Western-style dance number before an audience of green people.

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It’s not all been exciting, though. I once dreamt I walked into my parents’ living room, stood in front of their DVD collection, selected a DVD, put it on the coffee table, then sat on the arm of the chair. I didn’t even watch the DVD. Just sat there. Waiting to wake up, I suppose.

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Then there was the time I dreamt there was no cutlery in the world, and I awoke confused and full of questions.

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Sometimes it’s taken a while for my dream to leave me. I once slid into consciousness with the phrase ‘All words are spoken upwards’ tumbling round my brain, and for a good five minutes I was convinced I’d stumbled across some profound linguistic revelation, then eventually realised that there was nothing profound about it and my head was full of nonsense.

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Then there are the bad dreams. The anxiety dreams.

The teeth dream.

O, the teeth dream.

Is there anything worse than the OH SO REAL feeling of your teeth wobbling, falling out one by one, and crumbling to dust in your mouth? Feeling the grit and the crunch, like a mouth full of gravel. The dread, the helplessness, then the absolute RELIEF when you wake and frantically feel all your teeth and realise you don’t have to call the emergency dentist.

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I suppose we just have to accept that when we’re asleep our brains do what the hell they want, and if that means ladies from our past strip off and give us steamy naked hugs, then so be it.

NB. Psychoanalysis of the abovementioned dreams is unnecessary, thank you very much. They have already been comprehensively logged in the book of Becky’s Incredibly Strange Nocturnal Brain Antics Volumes 1 – 67. 

 

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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 … things YOU want me to say

RIGHT.

Darling listeners, it’s happened.

After over two years of saying things about things and other things, the unthinkable has occurred.

I HAVE RUN OUT OF THINGS TO SAY.

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Yes, I admit it. Right now, there is more action in a home for elderly tortoises than there is in my brain.

SO.

I have decided, rather than say half-hearted things to you about my elbows or how I feel about Tuesdays, to ask YOU what I should say.

I’ve toyed with this idea for a few months, but feared it was rather self-indulgent – after all, it rather assumes that you CARE what I say – but to hell with it, I think it sounds like fun, and I like a challenge.*

(*I actually don’t, I hate a challenge. Failure is so, so real.)

So, my most cherished, adored, heavenly listeners, I would like you to tell me

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– yes, all right, tell me and Stickman, what you would like me to say things about. Or, if you are a grammar fiend, about what you would like me to say. The choice is yours. The result should hopefully be the same.

COME ON, TELL ME! ANYTHING!! Knock me out with your suggestions! Let me put Stickman in awkward and embarrassing positions!

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Shut up Stickman, you’d be nothing without me. Literally nothing. You exist because I own a mouse and a steady hand.

Every week for an indeterminate number of weeks I shall endeavour to use one of your suggestions and say things about what you want me to say, with, obviously, a lovely link to your excellent blog.

HOW BRILLIANT DOES THAT SOUND??? I don’t know why I didn’t do this before!*

(*I know exactly why I didn’t do this before: because there is a very real chance that a) I won’t be able to say ANYTHING about ANY of your suggestions, and b) no one will make a single ruddy suggestion in the first place, but I shall neatly side-step these problems by just remaining very, very silent for 6 months and then bounce back as if nothing has happened and we shall never speak of it again.)

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Let’s DO this thing.

TELL ME.

WHAT SHALL I SAY THINGS ABOUT???

 

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Becky says things about … the little embarrassments of daily life

Faithful Listener, I embarrassed myself today.

Someone waved at me. I didn’t know them, but I waved back. It’s polite to return a cheery salutation. Then I realised they were waving at the person behind me, who did know them. I was embarrassed. I immediately pretended I was receiving an important phonecall, and proceeded to put my silent phone to my ear and talk into it. There was no one on the other end of the phone, Listener. No one. Just my own crippling indignity.

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And the whole sorry incident led me to contemplate the little embarrassments with which we must contend in daily life. No one escapes them. Least of all me. I am constantly embarrassed.

My above example is an excellent one.  Pretending to be on the phone. We’ve all done it. It gets us out of various disagreeable situations, in particular:

  • A boring conversation. Someone’s talking at you. They’re boring you. You need an ingenious escape. You reach for your bag or pocket. You say ‘I’m so sorry, I just have to get this’. You walk away and have a conversation to no one for three minutes, hoping that by the time you get back to the boring person they’ve forgotten what they were telling you and will talk about something more interesting.

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  • Avoiding someone you don’t want to talk to. You see someone approaching whom you just know is either going to demand that money you’ve owed them for three years, or will ask you again to go out with their acne-riddled and rather maladroit brother. So it’s phone out, head down, and there ensues an extremely intense conversation to NO ONE along the lines of ‘Yes, I know they said they’d get it done by Tuesday, but Tuesday  isn’t soon enough, I need it by Monday or the whole deal will fall through, and you know what that means’. Crisis averted.

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However, these sudden-important-phonecall strategies will not pass without embarrassment. Your phone will ring as you have it desperately pressed to your ear whilst absorbed in fervid conversation. Why is your phone ringing as if someone is calling you whilst you’re having a conversation into it? Is it because there’s no one there and you’re actually just pretending to have an important conversation to avoid talking to someone? Yes. Yes it is. You socially awkward buffoon.

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But Listener, these daily trifles can always be made more embarrassing. Observe.

Not long ago, I was walking. I saw my friend walking towards me. A friend whom I regularly call ‘Cockface’. As it was definitely my friend who was walking towards me, I waited until he was close enough to definitely hear me, and I called out, nice and loudly, ‘All right, Cockface’.

It wasn’t my friend. Not even a little bit.

What do you do, wise Listener, when you have yelled ‘All right Cockface’ in the face of an innocent bystander? Do you chuckle, apologise profusely, say ‘I’m so sorry, I was convinced you were my friend’, both have a bit of a laugh and continue on your journeys amused by this light-hearted yet harmless bungle? Or do you do what I did and whip your hand to your face, make that shape with you little finger and thumb that is the well-recognised international symbol for ‘phone’, and start talking into it?

No. No of course you don’t. Because then not only would you have called a stranger ‘Cockface’, but you would have made yourself appear mentally dangerous by having an intense conversation with your own hand.

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But what about the other little embarrassments that plague our daily life? Anyone run for a bus, missed the bus by a millisecond, and turned your desperate sprint for transport into a casual afternoon jog? Of course you have. You probably do it every day. And what about that little accidental trip up a kerb? Turned that into a playful jog as well, did you? Thought you’d style it out and run a few steps like you were suddenly filled with the joys of life and just had to expend some energy? Of course you did.

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And don’t forget the friendly toot from a car horn. You’re crossing the road. The car at the crossing toots at you. You cannot ignore that toot. It is the toot that says ‘The person who is driving this car recognises you as a chum and would like to register their greeting by utilising their automobile’s method of acknowledgement; furthermore, they demand a response’.

You give the windscreen a cursory glance. Your worst fears are immediately realised: all you can see in the windscreen is a reflection of the sky. 

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You have two choices:

1) You ignore the toot and walk on. When you are later faced with a chum who says ‘Hey, I beeped at you earlier and you completely ignored me’, you say ‘Oh, did I? God, I’m so sorry, I must have been in a world of my own’. Situation resolved. You win. Have a biscuit.

2) You throw caution to the wind and peer at the windscreen, squinting like there’s no tomorrow, knowing full well that the person in the car is thinking ‘Christ, she looks like a ruddy idiot squinting like that – she’s known me 20 years, can’t she see me? Why is she making that stupid face? Bloody hell, she looks like an absolute dick, I wish I’d never tooted in the first place. Jesus, this is embarrassing, maybe I should just run her over and make this whole situation less awkward for both of us. I could say I was overcome by a sneezing fit and accidentally put my foot down. Oh, this is horrible.’

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It is a terrible, terrible situation. The only real way to escape it is simply to run away. Just leg it. Then deny you were ever on the scene. They can never prove it was you.

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And I haven’t even mentioned bodies, Listener. Bodies. The very structures that comprise our existence are mortifying. 

You nip to the toilets at work. You smile at Sandra from Accounts plucking her chin hairs in the mirror. You enter a cubicle. You sit down. A fart like a foghorn bellows forth into the aural receptors of everyone within a 60 foot radius, not least Sandra from Accounts whose hairy chin suddenly doesn’t seem quite so embarrassing. You can do nothing but curl up into a toilety ball.

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The list goes on. The violent sneeze that releases a small but entirely audible parp from your lower regions, the unexpected burp that erupts in the middle of a supermarket aisle and offends a nearby elderly gentlemen, the thoroughly unannounced throat gurgle that growls like an angry tortoise in an otherwise silent office. Your body is your enemy on these occasions. It is a vile, shameless noise machine with the sole intention of causing you social angst and self-disgust.

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Listener, these are the moments that make us the people we are today. Let us laugh at ourselves and the social gaffes that bedevil our existence. And if you find yourself faced with a moment of particularly acute mortification from which you believe you cannot recover, just do as Basil Fawlty does in such moments, and freak out.

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