Becky says things about … work emails

Ah, the work email. A minefield of misinterpretation, ambiguity and passive aggression. I once received an email that was so laden with classic passive aggressive venom that I’m surprised it managed to waddle into my inbox:

Hideous, yes? No. Being a happily passive aggressive person myself, this gruesome missive in fact provided me with the holy grail: the Smug Passive Aggressive Email Counter Attack. I swiftly responded with:

Listeners, that gem of an email encounter kept me going for weeks. 

Aren’t work emails fantastic? Oh, the multitudinous ways you can imply that you consider the email recipient to be a moron! The unabashed glee of being able to write ‘For clarity…’, knowing full well that the email recipient will, quite correctly, translate that short phrase to mean ‘To hammer home this point that has been made literally millions of times before and which you seem incapable of grasping and which is screamingly obvious to the other 3,407 people who are copied in to this email, who now also see that you are a monumental luddite…’

The giddy revelry of beginning an email with ‘Thank you for your email’, being completely aware that the recipient will – again, correctly – translate it as ‘I am about to launch into the most scathing attack on the pitiful incompetence you have displayed in your previous email and I will do it under the guise of polite professionalism so there’s no way you can complain that the obvious subtext is YOU’RE A MASSIVE DICK’.

And, if you’re very lucky, the perfect beauty of being able to end an email with ‘Happy to discuss’, which basically means:

But emailing is not all glee and smugness.

You must deal with non-responders.

There are various levels of non-responders, dependent upon their previous experience of not responding, their incompetence, and their inherent knobbishness. They all deserve a lifetime of misery.

The softcore non-responder will be embarrassed into submission after a couple of ‘I look forward to hearing from you’s, and may well display some contrition in their eventual response, however unfeeling:

The hardcore non-responder is a different beast. The hardcore non-responder will retreat into a mire of silence, sit back in their chair and simply watch as your emails get more and more desperate and less veiled with professionalism.

The hardcore-non responder is not even flustered by the dynamite of passive-aggressive email tools: the Read Receipt. A hardcore non-responder simply will not accept your Read Receipt, and therefore you have no way of knowing whether you are emailing a rude person or a dead person.

But there is a level above that: the extreme hardcore non-responder. This Dr Evil of the workplace will accept your Read Receipt, knowing that this will trick you into thinking that, as they have definitely seen your email, they will, at some point, respond.

So after 2 years and 437 increasingly demonic emails from you, it becomes patently clear that this extreme non-responder saw your email and made the conscious decision that you are not worthy of a response, and, they not only do not care that you know this but they want you to know this. 

This warrants only one response.


Then there are the email typos.

Unless you have actually made this mistake yourself, you won’t necessarily appreciate how perilous the innocuous phrase ‘Kind regards’ is, and how the proximity of certain letters to other letters can result in a potentially catastrophic email sign-off:

Fortunately, in the half-second before I pressed ‘Send’, my eyes fell on my terrible error, and my left hand was able to stop my right hand from committing a potential disciplinary.

And as for email greetings and sign-offs – well. Just look what a difference it makes.

This is okay, isn’t it?

Then this. This is not okay.

What about the accidental kisses? A strongly worded email to your local MP advising them that you think they are a useless sack of balls is slightly undermined by:

Equally, a misplaced ‘xx’ at the end of an email attaching a job application may as well scream ‘I WILL SUCK YOUR TOES IF YOU GIVE ME THIS JOB’.

I look forward to your comments.

Best wishes

Becky xx

SHAMELESS PLUG:

I publish greetings cards! If you fancy one (or two, or three, or ten), check out my shop on Etsy here! 

A few lovely examples…

 

 

 

Becky says things about … an American road trip – PART 6: New Orleans

Our Airbnb in New Orleans was a two-bedroom apartment in a Victorian doll’s house, in a quiet leafy street ten minutes from the madness of the French Quarter.

It had an enormous balcony. It is important that you understand some crucial facts about this balcony, the significance of which will become clear later on:

  • The balcony overhung the pavement, which ran underneath it, 10 feet below
  • The only access to the balcony was either through the French doors in Sarah’s bedroom, or the French doors in my bedroom
  • If you wanted to access the balcony from the pavement, you would either have to climb the nearby tree, or scale the side of the building. Neither option was possible to someone who wasn’t Spiderman.

We managed to resist the urge to buy eight cases of wine and spend the rest of our lives drinking them on the balcony, and delved into the tangled criss-cross of streets in the French Quarter.

It was like any picture you’ve ever seen of New Orleans: the wooden Victorian houses were slapped in every colour of the rainbow; hanging baskets dripped from balconies that were held up by spindly, cast iron supports; strains of jazz wafted on the hot, humid air.

But it was when we came across a jazz band in the middle of a street who were playing a jazzed-up version of The Flintstones, watched serenely by a dude in a red tailcoat and a top hat relaxing on a kerb, that I really felt we had arrived in New Orleans.

We then came to the joyful realisation that, as we were no longer in Tennessee, we didn’t have to eat BBQ ribs anymore. Prior to this trip I didn’t think it was possible to not want to eat BBQ ribs every day, but it turns out it is eminently possible, and even vital to your physical and psychological health. Happily, New Orleans offered something else on which we could endlessly binge: shrimp.

So we went to Johnny’s Po Boys and shared one of these bad boys.

Shortly after this we found ourselves at the mad end of Bourbon Street.

Bourbon Street is the street that comes up in Google Images if you search for ‘New Orleans’. It runs right across the middle of the French Quarter. At one end – the end nearest our apartment – it is quiet, lined mainly with residential doll’s houses; there’s a cluster of gay bars as you get to the centre, then jazz bars, and gradually the jazz bars outweigh the apartments, then as you get nearer to the skyscrapers of the city centre, the jazz bars become full-on clubs with names like ‘Jubbly’s’ and ‘Smokin Tits House of Fun’ and ‘Sloppy Cocks’, and then suddenly you’ve unwittingly joined a bachelorette party and you have downed 37 shots of unidentified alcohol for $10 and you’re lying face-down on the putrid floor of a pulsing club and a bare-chested man is simultaneously dry humping you and trying to get you to come to the club next door where they have live bear-baiting and everyone is naked.

So I exaggerate. But it’s not far off that. The mad end of Bourbon Street was a cross between Blackpool, Brighton and Croydon on a Saturday night, with lashings of Las Vegas spewed over it for good measure.

It was hideous.

We decided we would avoid it at all costs and stick to the jazz and wine bars. This decision doesn’t make us old, just civilised.

Due to road trip fatigue, we decided to make fajitas in the apartment and get an early night. So by 11pm we were both in bed, looking forward to a long, refreshing sleep.

This long, refreshing sleep was, however, not to be.

I was awoken at 2am by what I first thought was thunder.

Upon fully regaining consciousness a few seconds later, I realised it wasn’t thunder. Thunder doesn’t go BANGBANGBANGBANGBANGBANGBANGBANG.

I realised with horror that it was the sound of someone trying to get into the front door of our apartment.

Not half a second later, I realised, with considerably more horror, that it was actually the sound of someone trying to get into our apartment through the French doors of Sarah’s bedroom – which, if you recall, led directly onto the balcony.

No sooner had I realised this appalling fact, the BANGBANGBANGBANGBANGBANGBANGBANGBANG suddenly stopped.

I briefly wondered if I was dreaming and had made up the whole mad banging thing.

This brief wonder was unfortunately very quickly smashed to pieces as the BANGBANGBANGBANGBANGBANGBANGBANGBANG started again, and this time 100 times louder on my French doors, three feet in front of me.

Here are my French doors, at a more peaceful, less terrifying point in our stay:

The only way I can describe to you the urgency and violence with which my French doors were being shaken is that it sounded like Godzilla desperately trying to escape a nuclear apocalypse. The measly door knob immediately flew off and the door was being held only by the tiny single bolt at the top, and the rest of the door flapped and shook like a sail in a hurricane.

The illogical part of my brain was going:

The logical part of my brain decided that if this was a burglar or an axe murderer, it was the worst burglar or axe murder in the history of time. The logical part of my brain also realised that if I didn’t do something pretty quickly, the door would fly off its hinges and whoever or whatever was trying to get in would burst through into my bedroom, the prospect of which was undesirable.

So I leapt towards the door, yanked aside the shutter, and came face to face with a guy in his mid-twenties.

In a tone and pitch I had never heard come out of my mouth – which I now know to be the ‘terror’ setting – I yelled ‘What the FUCK are you doing??? I DON’T KNOW YOU!!’

To which the guy replied ‘Holy shit – am I at the wrong place?’

And disappeared.

Silence.

With my heart having some sort of awful 90’s rave, I crept into Sarah’s room where I found her in bed clutching her sheets to her face.

After both agreeing we were shaken up like marbles in a cup but essentially okay, we heard voices from outside. I listened at Sarah’s French doors (she forbade me to go out onto the balcony) and heard the unmistakable sound of drunken arseholes from the pavement below. These drunken arseholes remained laughing and talking loudly for the next hour.

Using our combined training from years of watching True Crime documentaries, we came to the conclusion that our intruder was part of the group of guys staying in the apartment downstairs, who had clearly got absolutely wasted and locked himself out, and had mistakenly thought in his drunken stupor that our balcony was part of his apartment. Whilst this was fucking irritating, it was a relief to decide our intruder had not been a mad drooling axe murderer running amok on our street.

After a few fitful hours’ sleep, we awoke in the morning to the unmistakable sounds of drunken arseholes yelling and laughing in the hallway downstairs as they left for the day, presumably to go and get utterly bollocksed and drink each other’s piss out of pint glasses.

We called our Airbnb host, who turned up an hour later with two handymen. As we surveyed the scene on the balcony, I proudly showed them the exterior handle of Sarah’s French door that the drunken arsehole had yanked off the night before, and which I had spotted in next door’s gutter.

As we speculated how the hell the drunken arsehole had scaled our balcony, and one of the handymen exclaimed in awe that ‘Motherfucker’s got some upper body strength’, they repaired my broken French doors and assured us that, as they also owned the apartment downstairs, they would contact the drunken arseholes to give them a serious warning and to let them know that they had nearly caused the two women upstairs to give birth to their entire digestive systems.

We discovered from our host that the drunken arseholes were in the US Army, and were from out of town. This was ironic, considering that everyone we’d met on our road trip had warned us to ‘be careful’ in New Orleans as it could be ‘dodgy’ – where in fact we experienced nothing but friendliness and kindness from everyone in New Orleans, including the people on the street you might consider ‘dodgy’ – and here we were, having drunken out-of-town arseholes from the US Army getting smashed off their faces and trying to break into our apartment.

Our host left us with an assurance that we were perfectly safe, and that we would get some money back on our stay to make up for nearly dying of shock and terror.

We then did what any normal human being would do when recovering from a heinous shock: we had shrimp in a hollowed-out baguette, and got horrendously drunk.

We hit the gay bars in Bourbon Street with a mathematically impossible 1,000% enthusiasm.

A brief summary of our night, in useful bullet points:

  • Drank beer, not like it was going out of fashion, but like it was coming back into fashion after a lengthy period of absence
  • Watched jazz and drank beer in a Wizard of Oz-themed bar
  • Sat on the balcony of a gay bar and drank beer and listened to a man inexplicably playing bagpipes in the street below
  • Got an emergency hot dog from a street stall
  • Drank double Southern Comforts and lemonade on the balcony of another gay bar, and got chatting to a young girl who was in town for a work convention; when she went to the toilet and said ‘You’ll be here when I get back, right?’ we nodded, after which Sarah immediately went man-down and said ‘God I am so drunk we need to leave’. So we left.
  • I was so overcome with guilt about abandoning the lovely girl, that I propped Sarah up outside and went back up to the bar to say goodbye, and found the girl wandering around looking bemused and holding three huge shots. I did a shot out of politeness, apologised, wished her a long and happy life, and left.

When we returned home at 2am it was all silence from downstairs, but we had not only forgotten about the drunken arseholes, it was entirely possible that we made so much noise clattering about and drunkenly laughing and dropping things that we woke them up. Whilst this would have been a satisfying payback, waking up and thinking ‘I wish those idiots upstairs wouldn’t tread so heavily’ is not quite on the same level as waking up and thinking ‘OH MOTHER OF GOD SOMEONE IS TRYING TO BREAK IN AND GUT ME LIKE A FISH.’


The next morning, Sarah was woken, not by someone trying to break into her bedroom, but by the sound of me retching into the toilet.

I did not feel well, my friends. Not well at all.

And so our road trip ended with us dragging our feet round the streets of the French Quarter, stopping briefly in a rainstorm to chat to a homeless guy (‘I don’t like Hilary Clinton, but you know, bitch was right all along about global warming’), and collapsing in front of the TV on our last night with some pasta and, bizarrely, the Downton Abbey Christmas special.

Conclusion: New Orleans is beautiful, generous, and super friendly. New Orleans is completely bonkers. If you go, go at the end of your trip, not the beginning. You will need all your strength to do it justice. And to kick the shit out of the drunken out-of-town arsehole that tries to break into your bedroom at 2am.

 

 

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.

 

Becky says things about … small pleasures

Most glorious Listener, the other day I returned from purchasing kitchen roll to discover… that I already had kitchen roll.

Quite apart from being peeved that I had over-stocked, I was perhaps unjustifiably delighted. I had gained kitchen roll! I wouldn’t have to buy any more kitchen roll for at least four days! I could be frivolous, perhaps even whimsical, with my surplus supply of kitchen roll! I was almost tempted to knock over a glass of water just so I could mop it up with my abundance of kitchen roll without the creeping fear of running out!

You will agree, loyal Listener, that this would constitute, in the grand scheme of life, a small, perhaps even minuscule pleasure.

But it is these small pleasures that can brighten the otherwise turgid monotony of our days.

Consider this: a vicious cockwombling driver roars dangerously in front of you, filling your car with noxious fumes and preventing you from hearing a crucial moment on Radio 4. A few moments later, you come to a serene stop next to the disgraceful bumface at a red light.

That, my friend, is a small yet palpable pleasure.

As is taking a priced item to a checkout – an item that you were perfectly prepared to purchase at the stated price – to then discover that the item is three pounds cheaper than the stated price.

But what of the divine pleasure of catching someone in the exact moment that they do something stupid? What joys can be gained from seeing a hapless stranger (or even better, a friend) spill drink down themselves, or trip up a kerb, or accidentally fall on a knife? The other day I was fortunate enough to glance at a dude in a cafe at the exact moment he stabbed himself in the mouth with his fork.

And yes, the post-workout feeling of intense smugness and rejuvenation and vitality is undoubtedly something to celebrate, but it pales in comparison to having your well-meant exercise attempt thwarted by something entirely out of your control.

And what of this? You are at a restaurant. You are in great company. You have ordered your food. Your companion is scintilating, witty and beautiful, and is offering you the best that social small talk can proffer. But all you can think is whereismyfoodwhereismyfoodwhereismyfoodwhereismyfood.

It is a tense time. It doesn’t matter how stimulating the company, waiting for your food to arrive is a time of anxiety and mounting hunger.

So you go to the toilet. You don’t need to, but in four minutes you can distract yourself from the screaming absence of food.

And, if the Gods are smiling down on you, if Life Itself has dealt you the perfect hand, you return to your table…

…and your food is there.

Let us not forget the power of a good floss. You have scrubbed your teeth vigilantly and with gusto, you have mouthwashed and spat into the sink with the force of a thousand bullets, and yet one touch of a silken thread of floss through your back molars reveals a piece of mouth gubbins so substantial, that your self-disgust is trumped only by self-admiration at your dextrous ability to rid your mouth of such a monstrous piece of culinary refuse.

Celebrate the small pleasures, dear Listener. Each small pleasure is a tiny triumph in the marathon of Life (particularly seeing someone fall over, which is worth at least five small pleasure points).

 

 

 

 

 

Becky says things about … acne

Listeners, we need to talk about acne.

If you suffer from it, I understand; now sit down and listen to Auntie Beck tell you a lovely story about her acne. If you don’t suffer from it, you are a lucky swine, but you need to listen all the same, because I bet you know at least one person with zits the size of Jupiter who could do with some empathy.

Sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

I had textbook teenage spots: the equilateral triangle of whiteheads on the forehead; the oily pimpular dusting on the chin; the bulbous protrusions on the temples.

It didn’t bother me that much; I was gloriously confident, and wore a lot of animal print. Then I went to a house party and some dude casually said ‘Ah, I see you’ve grown a spot since I last saw you.’

To be fair to the snivelingly rude arsehole, it was a gargantuan spot, but from then on I took acne more seriously. Happily, me taking acne more seriously coincided nicely with acne taking me more seriously, and it ventured onto my back in cheerful globular mounds, and to my chest in snug, tight little pustules. Mum took me to the doctor and I was prescribed some green gel that had three noticable characteristics: 1) it stung like hell when applied; 2) it left crispy flakes on my bedsheets; and 3) it did bugger all to clear up my acne.

So I bumbled on into my late teens, single-handedly keeping the concealer-stick industry afloat, and then at university my acne got bored and wandered off. Not completely – I was still never without a peskily determined blemish – but it took a holiday.

Then when I was about 26, my acne folded away its Hawaiian shirt, turned off the TV, put on its industrial boots and went back out to work.

Spots appeared where they had never appeared before, namely on my jawline, up my cheekbones, under my chin, on my neck. And they were angry. Painful. And so there.

No amount of foundation or concealer is going to completely conceal an acne-splattered face. You can still see Everest when it’s covered in snow, can’t you? Well, you can still see savage boils of hell on your chin when they’re slathered in expensive ‘blemish concealing’ foundation. You can see a spot particularly well just as it’s starting to crust, and your foundation forms a little moat of oily goo around the flaky peak.

Two things happen when you try to cover up spots: 1) You are constantly convinced that everyone is staring at the vicious pustule on your chin (which they may well be doing); and 2) due to your acne-prone skin being insatiably oily, by 2pm your blemish concealing foundation has slid right off your face.

The good news for acne sufferers is that there are many thousands of products you can spend your hard-earned money on that will definitely categorically 100% certainly get rid of your acne and give you perfect baby skin. The bad news for acne sufferers is that you have to purchase every single one of them to eventually find the one that actually works. The worst news for acne sufferers is that 99% of them are bollocks.

Becky’s Guide to Acne Treatments

1. Buy every single item in your local pharmacy’s acne aisle. Constantly dab at your pustules with witch hazel sticks, smother your skin in chemical-smelling gels. Result. Your spots laugh at your pathetic attempts to get rid of them, and you are £40 worse off.

2. Venture to department store skincare counters. Swoon over promises of radiant, blemish-free skin. Buy five products from the ‘acne-prone’ range. Follow a complex 17-stage cleansing, exfoliating, toning and moisturising regime twice a day. Result. Your skin looks like it’s been doused in paint stripper, your spots shake their pus-filled heads in amusement, your productivity levels plummet because you are spending four hours a day removing various products from your face in small delicate circular movements, and you are £160 worse off.

3. Go for the highly-advertised cures (only available online), which are backed up by science and research. You receive a clinical gift box of scientific unguents containing all the seriously-named chemicals that are clinically proven to obliterate your acne, like hydrational hydrabollockychlorzine acid or badgerzhoric A12. The clinical gift box comes with an informative booklet telling you that, in addition to the science that you have just sold all your jewlerry to purchase, you should eat lots of fruit and veg and drink 497 pints of water a day to cure your acne. Result. After three days of using the highly-advertised scientific cure, your acne looks slightly better. You tearfully rejoice at the miracle of science for ending your carbuncled misery. On the fourth day, you have 13 extra spots, your skin looks like it’s been sandpapered by a bad-tempered wilderbeast, and you are £90 worse off.

4. Resort to home remedies. Study ’17 home remedies that WILL cure your spots!’ on the Interweb, and scrub at your skin with cider vinegar, lemon juice, lavender oil and turmeric whilst quietly weeping. Result. A turmeric face pack leaves you looking dangerously jaundiced for at least a week, your bathroom is in a right state, and your spots are finding it all hilarious.

Listener, I tried them all. When I found myself following instructions for a sweetcorn and angel tear face pack I decided enough was enough and went to my GP.

And I was unfathomably lucky: despite my acne not being comparable to some of the cases that some poor souls suffer, my GP understood that it was affecting my life, and prescribed me isotretinoin (also known as roaccutane or accutane). I had never heard of it. I had thought the only last option available to me was lasering my skin off in an exclusive Harley Street clinic and living the rest of my days inside a rubber giraffe mask.

Now, isotretinoin is no walk in the park. I had to have blood tests to make sure I was physically well enough to start it, and it comes with a whole heap of fun side effects, like incredibly dry skin, sore lips, joint pain, dizziness. Within a month of being on the drug my lips felt like they would blow off in a sudden gust of wind, and my skin was feeling decidedly dry and shrivelled.

For the first time in my life I was buying moisturiser for very dry skin and slapping it on my face so that I resembled a seal caught in an oil slick. But, gradually, old spots faded, and new ones didn’t materialise. I couldn’t believe it. I can’t believe it. I took my last pill nearly four months ago, and right now the only really visible blemish on my face is a red mark on my forehead which is the result of a poorly-aimed eyebrow scratch.

There is no sugar-coating acne. It is rubbish. You can spend all day listening to fluffy platitudes that ‘you are beautiful no matter what’, but you can pretty much guarantee that the producer of those platitudes has never had to deal with a crusty, seeping Eighth Wonder of the World in the middle of their forehead. If you have acne, it is a daily battle.

And it’s easy for me to say ‘Go ahead, try isotretinoin’  as one of the lucky ones who has had a success story; but, like a smug ex-smoker, there’s always a chance that my acne abstinence will break and those devilish little swines will creep back onto my face again. But if you haven’t tried it, give it a go. It might just be that one thing that works for you. It’s surely better than spending a third of your life exfoliating your skin with the sap of an ancient Babylonian mountain plant (only available online).

And whatever you do, don’t try the turmeric face pack. Trust me.

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. 

 

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!