Becky says things about … going back to work

Greetings isolators / key workers / gone-back-to workers / reluctant commuters / working-from-homers / sunbathers / exercising 29-times-a-dayers / whatever the hell we’re supposed to be doing or calling ourselves these days.

This has been a funny old business, hasn’t it? The world has been infected with the same virus, as countries and nations we’ve been given the same “instructions” by our respective governments (or just told to use our common sense), and yet our individual experiences of this pandemic will vary gigantically: some of us will have never worked harder or under more stressful or demanding circumstances; some of us will have knowingly risked our health and our lives every single day; and some of us will have descaled the kettle.

I’m a kettle descaler. My work was wiped out back in mid March and has yet to resurface. As a result of not working for nine weeks, I have made an important decision: I am never going to work again.

I have decided that not working is just better than working. Especially when the weather is amazing and that nice man Rishi Sunak has given me some money under the self-employment grant scheme, so I’ve decided that I’m going to write to Rishi Sunak and ask him if he’ll keep it coming.

For those of us who have been kettle descalers throughout this pandemic, this will likely be the longest time since we were about three years-old that we have not had anything to do. When was the last time you had a nine week holiday?? Are there any studies to show whether a human being can even do work after a nine week holiday? Because I feel pretty certain that if I was asked right now to look at a document or write a paper or do anything that I was doing before the pandemic, I wouldn’t be very good at it.

Also, if I go back to work I won’t have time to do anything important, like go for long directionless walks, or bake cookies, or put a load of clothes in a binbag then change my mind and take half of them out again, or sit down at my desk on a sunny afternoon with a sharing bag of Twiglets and write a blog, or do my Painting by Numbers. Painting by Numbers has become a very important part of my life. Before Covid-19, I hadn’t done a Painting by Numbers for about 20 years because I was a grown-up and I went to the pub instead, but since lockdown I have done two and I’m on my third. I cannot imagine life without Painting by Numbers. I do my painting and I listen to podcasts. It is lovely. If I am forced to go to a meeting, all I will do is think about Painting by Numbers.

And anyway, due to a cunning time-filling tactic practised throughout lockdown, things now take far too long for me to fit in work. Showering and brushing my teeth takes at least an hour. Breakfast isn’t until 11am and is barely over by 1pm. Thinking about going to Sainsbury’s, preparing to go to Sainsbury’s, walking to Sainsbury’s, being in Sainsbury’s and walking back from Sainsbury’s is a good four hour process. That’s already an entire day filled, and did you spot any time in that schedule to fit in some work? Didn’t think so.

I mean, I do realise that in order to rescue our crippled economy and prevent a devastating recession we do all need to get our arses in gear and start doing some work, but does the economy really want the help of a load of braindead layabouts like us who have spent the last two months watching Pointless and clearing out the loft?

So, it really does all make sense, you see, and once Rishi Sunak agrees to keep paying me not to work, things will just be great because there’s so much stuff I’ve yet to do that isn’t work: there’s a patch of grass outside my window that I want to go and stand in, I  still haven’t hoovered behind the radiators, and the Sky Crime channel won’t watch itself, so I’ll have a pretty full life.

And for those of you who haven’t had a nine week holiday, you are absolute heroes and legends and we salute you. We’re all legends for getting through this, except some of us are actual legends and some of us are kettle legends.

Becky says things about … staying alert

Good day, isolators.

Frankly, I’m ashamed of you. The amount of confused confusion over and around the clearness of the clarity and non-unambiguity relating to and concerning the government’s recent and previous but now and continually updated guidelines on how we should act and behave and not misbehave not only but definitely now and also in the immediate and potentially foreseeable future, is pitiful.

The slogan ‘Stay alert’ appears to be the crux of the befuddlement, which is ridiculous because it’s self-explanatory and couldn’t be clearer. I mean, it’s not as though a load of oiks at Number 10 would just come up with a vacuous and meaningless slogan and hope the general public will just accept it and abide by its ambiguous instruction, is it? Think, you fools!

But as I’m a responsible citizen I thought I’d explain it to those of you whose brains have clearly been besmoggled by lockdown inertia and not doing enough crosswords.

The concept – nay, the science behind the ‘stay alert’ slogan – is essentially a 1,046.723% guarantee that we will be just as safe travelling on public transport, or sitting in an office, or sending our children to school, or meeting people in the park, or exercising outside 29 times a day, or buying a much-needed phormium tenax variegate from the local garden centre, as we were when we stayed at home. But how? the more dense amongst you are asking. Why are we allowed to start doing all this when hundreds 0f people a day are still dying of the virus and there’s no PPE and no vaccine and workplaces aren’t ready and don’t know how to put social distancing measures in place and it’s impossible to get on a train without having at least three people empty a bodily fluid onto you? 

Because, dunderheads, just do what the slogan tells you to do: stay alert. It’s foolproof! If you stay alert, you will see the virus coming. If you don’t stay alert, you will not see the virus coming. If you’re lolling about in a queue for a supermarket poking around on your phone instead of staying alert, you’re not going to see the virus scuttle up your trouser leg, up your jumper and into your mouth, are you?

So what should you do if, through your continued alertness, you see the virus?

If you see the virus, you should then – as the slogan advises – control the virus. If the virus approaches you, shout very loudly and clearly ‘I see you’ or simply ‘No no no’, and the virus should scuttle off into the distance, embarrassed. Or, consider purchasing a virus alarm. If you see the virus – which, again, to stress so there is absolutely no ambiguity, you will only do if you stay alert – blow four short blasts followed by six long blasts into your virus alarm and three officials from the Virus Apprehension Group (VAG) will immediately appear and control the virus by tackling it to the ground.

If you are being forced to go back to work because the government has told you to if you can’t work from home but you should definitely try to continue to work from home but if you can’t you should go to work but don’t go to work if you can work from home but do go to work anyway, despite the fact your employer doesn’t know what ‘Covid Secure’ means but has made it very clear to you that your employed days will be numbered if you don’t get the hell back to work even though you can technically work from home but they’d prefer you in work because they don’t want you to work from home, and you have no option but to travel by public transport despite the fact the government advises you not to travel on public transport and to work from home if you can but please do go to work, there are several things you can do:

1 – Stay alert. If you are alert the moment you leave your house, you are more likely to spy one of several thousand mythical animal volunteers who have signed up under the Mythical Animal Transport Scheme (MATS) to transport people to work who live miles away from their workplaces but don’t want to risk the virus-soaked air of busses and trains.

2- Stay alert. If you don’t manage to hitch a lift from a unicorn volunteer, stay alert on the Bakerloo Line by staying alert for the virus and staying alert to maintain social distancing and, as the government suggests, simply keeping your head turned away from other commuters, because, if you use your common sense, there is plenty of empty breathable air on the London Underground, you just need to be sensible enough to find it.

3 – Stay alert. Once you arrive at your workplace, do not question your employer’s dubious social distancing measures: your workplace will be Covid Secure. Covid Secure means that, due to a watertight combination of social distancing, staying alert and good old English common sense, it will be literally impossible for the virus to either enter or survive inside your workplace.

Some of you are also having problems with the government’s calculations about how we keep down the R rate and keep up the alertness and keep the things in the middle at an even level but not too much and as much as possible, so because you’re clearly all so dopey I’ve recreated the government’s helpful and extremely clear graphs as though I would for a toddler.

Speaking of toddlers, if, as a teacher, you’re unable to stop a class of 4 year-olds hugging each other or putting bits of the classroom in their mouths or all licking the same windowsill, quite frankly I’m not sure how you got to be a teacher in the first place, but as everyone appears to be so dense I’ll spell it out to you: use your common sense to instil common sense in the children, I mean this really isn’t difficult, a 4 year-old is bound to be understanding of the situation.

I trust that’s all clear now, because I hope you realise that if you now go to work or get on public transport or pop off to the garden centre and contract the virus, it will be as a direct result of not staying alert and therefore entirely your fault. What else can the government do to keep us safe other than release us back into society way before they originally said they would and give us extremely clear guidance on how not to be so witless as to catch the virus?

I know these things because I’m alert. I am so alert I haven’t slept since the government told me to be alert. This slogan came out last week. I am literally crippled with sleep deprivation but I am alert alert alert, and with a little bit of common sense, you could be too.

To test your own alertness I have devised a self-alertness test by inserting a picture of a chicken in this paragraph and if you see the chicken you

are clearly alert enough to go about your business and remain 1,046.723% safe from the virus. If you didn’t see the chicken you are clearly not alert enough and I suggest you just stay at home. Except don’t. Except do. Kind of.

Becky says things about … a life in loungewear

Greetings isolators!

What beautiful weather we’re having! Isn’t it just so fantastically nice of Mother Nature to gift us with day after day of wall to wall sunshine when we’re only allowed to go out in it for TWENTY-EIGHT SECONDS.

So, a month into the Universe having an absolute freak-out, and I admit I am settling very easily into a life in loungewear. The other day I went for my daily walk and I didn’t want to take a bag with me, and the particular leggings I was wearing didn’t have any pockets, so I was forced to hold my keys and my phone, which really annoyed me (no one wants to hold things) – and it was only halfway into my walk that it occurred to me that I could have put on my jeans. My jeans, which not only have sufficient pockets, but some would say plentiful pockets. But there had been no part of my brain that had tapped on the inside of my skull and whispered ‘Excuse me, Becky, you have other trousers you can wear that aren’t leggings.’

So when I got back I put on my jeans, just to see what it was like.

I quickly took them off again.

Let’s face it, we’re living the dream! This is what we’ve always wanted! How many times have we sweated to death on public transport in an uncomfortable suit, or been bum-sliced by evilly tight trousers, or wished that our skirt wouldn’t ride up our legs with every miniscule movement: we spend our lives wishing we were at home in our loungewear, and now here we are! Jackpot!

And gone is that concept that so often makes people late to social occasions: ‘I just need to pop home to get changed’. Get changed? ‘Oh, here’s me spending the whole day loping about in my loungewear, and oh dear it’s half seven I’d better get changed for my Zoom call with my chums.’ Don’t be ridiculous! You may as well put on shoes for your Zoom call. The very idea!

And not only can we justifiably spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in the most comfortable clothing known to mankind, we can really let ourselves go! One of my favourite things about lockdown is having absolutely zip diddly reason to blow dry my hair. I loathe blow drying my hair; it is SUCH a boring use of time, and the return I get for my investment is always shite, but now, just hop out of the shower, give it a quick brush and shove it up in a bun! Heaven! And anyway, I’ve not had a haircut since November so blow-drying it would be as pointless as handing a plaster to Anne Boleyn.

I don’t have to paint my nails! I am rubbish at painting my nails, and I am fed up of spending minutes carefully and lovingly brush-stroking them of an evening, to then have to spend an entire meeting the next day trying to hide my nails under tables and in paperwork because in the cold light of day they look like they’ve been attacked by a varnish-wielding hippo with the use of sight in only one eye.

I’m not so keen on the eyebrow situation, because having been swept into the moderately painful but extremely effective world of eyebrow threading over the past couple of years, the concept of plucking my own eyebrows is one I’ve tried to ignore, but the passing of time is rendering it increasingly hard to gloss over, so that’s one thing I might actually look into.

But hey, a life in loungewear and of relaxing our grooming routines is a luxury that won’t be around forever, so make the most of it. And anyway, we shouldn’t look too presentable, as this might raise suspicion when we go outside.

 

Stay healthy, stay home and look after each other, and endless thank yous and a million claps for the heroes that can’t stay at home in their loungewear. You are wonderful. xx

Becky says things about … losing it in lockdown

Greetings isolators!

IT’S FRIDAY!!! Quick, get out the party poppers and the party hats woooooo.

Put your hands up if you lost it to the Week 3 Wobble last week?

MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

The Week 3 Wobble was borne from the following factors:

  •  By Week 3 I realised I’d completed most of the time-consuming activities I’d planned to keep myself busy (cleaned the blinds with a toothbrush, arranged my tinned food alphabetically, took all my books out of the bookcase, set aside one for the charity shop, put them all back in a slightly different order etc.)
  • By Week 3 the last dribs and drabs of work had fallen away completely
  • By Week 3 the novelty of having all this time and of being able to hear the birds and smell the flowers and see the sky bla bla bla had worn off
  • I suddenly remembered why we’re in lockdown.

And all of these factors clicked into place at exactly the same time, setting off an uncontrolled snowballing of doomish truths: suddenly my friends and family seemed very far away and I realised I was utterly desperate for human contact of any form –

– the prospect of another evening in my tiny flat was suddenly grim; the pressure of relying solely on my own motivation to keep myself occupied became suddenly overwhelming, and the fear of this virus as the deaths ceaselessly climbed to eye-watering and devastating numbers became suddenly acute and terrifying, and all of the above exploded in the Week 3 Wobble that manifested itself in a brief but fairly intense meltdown on the floor of my flat.

But having spoken to several chums, it would appear that many of them also lost it to the Week 3 Wobble, as the adrenaline of the novelty of the first two weeks subsided and stored-up feelings of frustration, despair and fear managed to break through the sunshine and blue skies and remind us all that

THIS IS DEFINITELY NOT NORMAL.

And whilst I feel much better this week, this lockdown is definitely starting to take its toll.

For example, I appear to be losing my ability to communicate with real-life human beings in a face-to-face manner. A few days ago I approached Sainsbury’s, and there was no one queuing outside but it looked fairly busy inside, so I stood behind the queueing barrier like a responsible socially-distanced-aware citizen and waited to be admitted.

Whereupon a woman strode right past me and through the doors.

Now, in my head the words that subsequently came out of my mouth – ‘Excuse me, I’m queuing here’ – were supposed to be uttered in a polite and gentle tone, something that sounded like:

Instead, due perhaps to this strange and unpractised form of face-to-face communication with a human being who isn’t on the other end of Zoom or Skype or WhatsApp, the words ‘Excuse me, I’m queueing here’ actually came out in a tone that may as well have said:

I immediately felt AWFUL about my aggressive tone, made worse by the fact that the woman immediately and profusely and so incredibly politely apologised and hurried to stand behind me, and explained so apologetically that this was the first time she’d been out in four weeks and she didn’t know the rules of shopping and she was terribly sorry, and I felt SO bad at my unwarranted outburst that I spent the next five minutes orchestrating a desperately friendly conversation, and by the time I was admitted into the sanctuary of Sainsbury’s I knew where she’d met her husband, the middle names of her four children, and her bra size.

This was not the only queue-related momentary loss of civility I have had.

Is anyone else noticing that, whilst there are many examples of some first-class queues forming outside supermarkets, there are also plenty of examples of absolute queuing abominations?

An example, for your delectation: outside the post office earlier this week, there was a smattering of people loitering on the pavement in a manner that can only be described as willy-nilly.

This is a bird’s-eye demonstration of what they should have looked like:

This is a bird’s eye view of what they actually looked like:

It’s as though the social distancing measures are weakening the gravitational pull of the person in front, and queuers are going spinning off into the Deep Space of the pavement like wayward space badgers – and because this ‘queue’ looked so slapdash, shoddy and slipshod, I asked one of the dawdlers, ‘Excuse me, is this the queue?’

His response was an unfriendly ‘Well we’re not standing here for the fun of it.’

At which point I again forgot the fact that I am actually a very placid person, and drew my sword, drove it through his heart and screamed in his face:

Well, I didn’t actually slay him, but I did say most of those words in an extremely murderous tone, the ignorant queue-disrespecting dick.

Happily, I’m not the only one who has had instances of losing it in lockdown.

A very good friend of mine told me the heart-warming story of her pushing her baby through a park the other day when, and I quote, ‘an egg-faced ham of a man and his smug-nosed pierced twat of a daughter’ approached up the path behind her, encroaching on the sacred two-metre realm around my chum, and she was forced to move the buggy out of the way while they heinously brushed past her, causing her to experience a solid gold loss of all decorum and scream after them:

After which she burst into tears.

So I don’t feel so bad about my public outbursts, I’m sure we’ll all lose it during lockdown and say and do things we don’t mean at some point, won’t we? You snivelling bunch of toads.

 

Stay healthy, stay home and look after each other xx

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 … an American road trip PART 3: Gatlinburg, Tennessee

After an overnight stop in Athens, Georgia, we ploughed up through the green and red fields of rural Georgia under a crystal clear sky, briefly cutting through a thin slice of North Carolina, where we passed more churches than was surely practical. I immediately had a burning question for these churches:

WHERE DO YOUR CONGREGATIONS COME FROM?

Seriously. This is how the drive went:

Church. Church. Fields. McDonalds. House. Church. Gun outlet. McDonalds. Fields. Church. House. Church. Gun outlet. Fields. Church. Rifle range. Church. McDonalds. Church. House. Fields. Gun outlet. Church. Church. Fields. McDonalds. Church.

I can only imagine that their congregations are solely made up of gun-wielding McDonalds’ employees.

After an hour winding through the deep green veins of the Smokey Mountains, we emerged into the flat valley of Gatlinburg. I had imagined a quaint Swiss-style resort tucked humbly in the mountains, hanging baskets blooming from wooden chalets, the smell of mulled cider wafting on the fresh breeze  – the odd cow roaming pensively – instead, we got the Blackpool of Tennessee. Under the disapproving gaze of the hazy blue Smokies lay a bustling strip of arcades, amusements, hot dog and doughnut stalls, tacky bars, shops selling all the tat you could possibly wish for – and it was when I saw the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and the movie memorabilia store that I wiped a tear from my eye. It was ruddy brilliant.

Upon walking through the door of the Airbnb office, the moustacheod cowboy behind the desk drawled ‘Ah, there y’are, Becky and Sarah,’ and when I asked how he knew it was us, he replied ‘Cos there ain’t no other soul comin’ my way today.’

Three minutes later we were back out the door with the key to our condo. This relaxed process was a far cry from the Spanish Inquisition we’d had checking in to the Daytona and Athens hotels, where we had been asked for ID, credit card, date of birth, known allergies, top ten favourite album covers, mother’s maiden, and favourite sexual position.

Our Airbnb was on the fifth floor of a condo complex (block of flats to us Brits), with a view from the balcony that was reasonably acceptable.

A couple of hours later we were sailing high above the mangle of shrubs and trees as a ski lift hoisted us up the mountain, our bare feet dangling in the hot air, our knuckles whitening and our colons twitching at the beautiful yet almost-certain-death below us.

At the top of the mountain, bathed in the red evening sun, was an Alpine Disneyland: a toytown of chalet-style shops, a bar, and a complex of rope bridges clutching the tree trunks of the mountainside. All accompanied by some yodelling. When one finds oneself in a mountaintop toytown, the only thing to do is to have a pint of incredibly strong local ale and go for a stroll on the perilously high treetop walk. This we did with the alacrity of a couple of slightly tipsy mountain goats.

The next morning, we felt we should do A Walk as that’s what people do when they’re in the mountains, so we drove into the darkening, tangled heart of the Smokies to do A Walk to Grotto Falls.

At the entrance to The Walk was a sign telling us that at any one time there would be 37,000 bears watching us, and if we should come face to face with one we should firstly try this:

And if Mr Bear took umbrage to that, and if we were still alive, we should secondly try this:

That was the long and short of it, anyway.

Fortunately we didn’t get to practice our bear-survival skills, and made it to the extremely pretty waterfall with merely a few splodges of bear poo on the soles of our trainers.


Are you a die-hard supporter of the 45th president of the United States? Do you live in the Gatlinburg area? Do you enjoy a statement t-shirt? Then it’s your lucky day!

Bizarrely, neither Sarah nor I fancied any of these jolly t-shirts, but we DID fancy the movie memorabilia store, where we spent probably the happiest 20 minutes of my life.

After a hard day of not seeing any bears and avoiding being gunned down by Tennesseans as we took photos of us giving Trump t-shirts the finger, we spent the evening on our balcony playing cards (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cards – thank you, movie memorabilia store) and drinking wine, which was a delightful way to spend an evening until a bug flew into my nose and I threw my wine in Sarah’s face in shock.

Question: what do you do if you’re staying six miles from a Dolly Parton-themed theme park called Dollywood?

Answer: go to Dollywood.

It.

Was.

Brilliant.

For three solid hours we were flung about on some of the best roller coasters I’ve ever been on, and I became intimately acquainted with Sarah’s vocal chords.

In the gift shop – a veritable shrine to Dolly Parton, her plastic face beaming from every item – I had the following illuminating conversation with the pink-capped girl at the checkout:

Then came Funnel Cake-gate.

A Funnel Cake is America’s way of making a doughnut even more lethal to your arteries. Instead of a single lump of batter plopped into the fryer, the batter is piped into the hot fat so it creates an intricate nest, thereby increasing the surface area of available fat-soaked dough by approximately 23,000 times. It is then doused in icing sugar.

We demolished this arterial onslaught in around eight minutes (theme parks are hungry work) and experienced a brief moment of sugar-induced elation, during which we planned every detail of our campaign to be the first female presidential duo of the United States, and then, as though draining through the bottom of a bucket, our blood sugar levels succumbed to the greatest sugar and adrenaline crash in the history of the universe.

It was all I could do to drive us back through the mountains and crawl into a late afternoon coma. The lesson? Roller coasters + funnel cake = absolutely nothing. Forget it. You’re finished.

Conclusion: Gatlinburg is F.U.NAnd if you’re a Trump-supporting, church-going, gun-toting, bear-fighting, Funnel Cake-loving adrenaline junkie, then you should definitely go.

UP NEXT: Rain, country music, and another booze-filled afternoon in Nashville, Tennessee.