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. 

Becky says things about … New Year’s Resolutions

Isn’t January wonderful!! Isn’t it glorious to feel so refreshed and motivated for the year ahead? So full of zeal and gusto??

And what’s the best thing about January? Why, New Year’s Resolutions, of course! You are not truly a person unless you march into a new year equipped with an arsenal of things that you are definitely going to achieve this year. And if some of those things are the same things you’ve marched into every other year with? Then, hell, you’ll be all the more equipped to achieve them!

Can you smell that? That, my friend, is the smell of your determination. It is a heady aroma of grease, sweat and pureed spinach; it is a wonderful smell! It is the smell of success! This is the year you WIN AT LIFE.

Are you excited? You should be. What’s not exciting about the prospect of making your own vegetable smoothie every single morning?? You can feel the goodness seeping into your body, washing away all the gin and cheese-induced negativity and evil kebab thoughts. You will take pleasure in perusing the gleaming vegetable aisles, and you will smile broadly at the checkout, because you know what? You cannot put a price on SUCCESS.

You will laugh in the face of the slimy mess that will slide over your kitchen worksurfaces every morning as you fumble bleary-eyed with the blender to create your cocktail of vitality and victory. And when you throw away three bags’ worth of rotting vegetables at the end of every week, you will not despair, my brave warrior: you will overcome this by BUYING SOME MORE.

But you will not stop there. You will become a GOD this year. If you haven’t already signed up to a gym membership, do it NOW. Perfection does not come to those who do not open January gym memberships! Think of the tingling anticipation of entering that brightly-lit, slightly moist cavern of likeminded winners, united in their pursuit of glory.

The thrill of the push up! The quiet arousal of the star jump! The dignified ebullience of the lunge! Run, run, my friend, on that treadmill, sticky with the fruits of previous winner’s mighty endeavours; squat your way to eternal happiness; hoist the dumbells of negativity into the cosmos of triumph! YOU ARE A GOD.

But the attainment of physical supremacy is only the beginning. This year will bring so much more! FEED YOUR MIND. Can you imagine the thrill of finishing your novel? Of completing that symphony? Of putting the delicate finishing strokes to that oil painting of an aubergine in peril? Of course you can imagine it. BECAUSE YOU ARE A WIZARD OF YOUR OWN DESTINY.

Kale is not the enemy. Spelt is a delicacy to be discovered and relished. That soft nightly slab of brie will be tossed asunder to make way for the yeast-zapping prowess of a pot of live biocultures. Those silken cubes of dark chocolate will shrink into the shadow of a carefully measured cup of unsalted almonds. Walking three miles out of your way to work in order to achieve your 10,000 steps a day? A triviality. Calling your mother every evening to talk about her psoriasis and the new conservatory? A simple pleasure. Replacing your nightly bottle of wine with a flask of camomile tea? You laugh in the face of such an easy task. Why have you never managed to do these things in previous years? Because you did not truly assemble the bracken of self-belief in the hearth of motivation and light it with the touch paper of success. But this year? This year will be different. YOU will be different.

I know, I know. I make it sound so easy. I am alarming you with the force of my belief in you. You are nervous – perhaps a little unsure – about your ability to withstand the pressure of cultivating and maintaining perfection in all aspects of your life, every single day. But, my soldier of prospect, you have the greatest tool within you to achieve all of this: the NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION.

So go – go, my darlings. Adorn your fridge with the post-its of determination, which will form a collage of your own victory. You are you. This is 2018.

And if you don’t do any of this in 2018, you can always try again next year.

 

AND IF YOU LIKED THAT…

… then you may be interested to know that my friend Stickman has made it onto a range of greetings cards! You can buy them on my Etsy site here. All proceeds go to putting Stickman through astronaut school.*

*May be a lie.

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 … the human brain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Bimble wallop.

 

Oh shut up, brain.

Becky says things about … pain

Gentle Listener, I want to take you on a journey.

A journey of pain.

It is a journey I have been on in the last week or so, and I felt that it would be selfish to keep all the pain to myself – considering that there was such an incredible amount of it – so I decided to chronicle my pain to share with you.

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Friday afternoon
2pm – Whilst eating a roll for lunch, I get a twinge in my upper right-hand second premolar, on which I had root canal treatment three years ago. This is not unusual, as it occasionally twinges. I think no more of it and cheerfully finish my roll.

6pm – On exiting my office into the cold, I get another twinge in my upper right-hand second premolar. It is a slightly more intense twinge, up in the gum. Hmm, I hmm, what dark force is this? But it’s Friday evening and no time for dental concerns, and I go and get drunk with my best friend.

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Saturday

10am – Through the blur of a mild hangover, there is a dull ache in the root above my upper right-hand second premolar. Hmm, I hmm, this is the same upper right-hand second premolar in which I was getting twinges yesterday. Let’s try eating something on it. I eat something on it.

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2pm – The aching bud above my upper right-hand second premolar has blossomed into a delicate tree of unpleasantness. It is very sore to the touch and, every now and then, I get a cold, icy ache flaring up towards my eye socket. This brings back happy memories of actually having the root canal treatment and being able to feel the dentist shove a rod so far up my face that I felt it nudge said eye socket. I buy precautionary painkillers.

9pm – Despite the precautionary painkillers, the sharp, twisting sting above my upper right-hand second premolar is now throbbing. I cannot even think about touching it. Eating on that side of my mouth is inconceivable. I take more painkillers and try to go to sleep. Lying in bed feels like this:

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Sunday

5am – I am still awake. My mouth and cheek are alive with the sound of pain. I have taken two more doses of painkillers. I finally fall asleep from sheer exhaustion at around 5.30am.

7am – I am woken by a fiery shot of pain so intense that it makes me sit bolt upright like I’ve had a nightmare in a film. A blue fire licks at my root and burns my cheek. I tearfully call the NHS emergency dental number and, through a fabulous spoonful of luck and the wonders of our National Health Service, I get a dental appointment at the nearest hospital at 9.30am.

9.30am – I stumble to the hospital. I see Dentist Norman. I hope Dentist Norman will tell me I’ve just got a bit of food stuck between my teeth, and send me home with some dental floss and a sticker. Instead, Dentist Norman tells me I have an infection at the top of my root canal, the root canal on which I had treatment three years ago. He gives me two sets of antibiotics and tells me they should kick in within 24 hours. I wish Dentist Norman a happy Valentine’s Day, and crawl to the nearest pharmacy where I collect my drugs, after almost passing out over the counter, and hunch outside like a junkie on a comedown and shove drugs into my shattered mouth.

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6pm – Pain. I live within it. I have never been without it. Crunched in by my cell of pain, my non-painful life does not exist. Work, play, friends, food, hopes, dreams, YouTube, have gone, all crushed to pulp by my pain. I don’t know what day it is, I don’t know where I have been or where I am going. The pain is like someone jabbing a rusting steel rod up into my root and twisting. I slurp some lukewarm tomato soup and lie in my death bed like a broken, drugged dish cloth.

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Monday 

7am – I have had a few hours sleep. Twice in the night I sat up in bed mournfully eating half a slice of dry bread to line my stomach before taking more painkillers. This morning the pain has clearly decided to branch out, and has spreads its thorned wings to my lower jaw, my ear, my eye socket, my nose. I weep snottily through fears of the antibiotics not getting off their arses to take my pain away.

1pm – I curl weakly in bed clutching an ice pack to my cheek. Every time the ice comes into contact with my skin, the pain instantly fizzles and dies for two glorious, beautiful seconds of pure relief, before roaring back into my face like some sick prank. Electric shocks of pain are now gripping my eye so that it feels like the lower rim of the socket is shattering. Lighting bolts of pain crack along my jawline. My cocktail of codeine and ibuprofen is no longer a match for the pain, serving only to faintly dull it for 20 minutes or so, before giving up and letting the pain grin its hideous grin. Through the blue bars of pain and the doped-up haze of all the drugs, I seriously contemplate stumbling out into the road in my pyjamas and asking someone to drive into me.

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7pm – And then… a miracle. The electric shocks are not so intense. The throbbing is not so powerful. The feeling of a rusting steel rod being twisted into my root is not so acute. Could it be that the antibiotics have finally woken up and decided to do their one job???

Tuesday

9am – Instead of spending hours of fitful consciousness writhing in pain, I woke only once to take painkillers. Otherwise I have slept like the dead. I check on the pain. Yep, there it is. But it is a different pain. It is as though the pain in my root above my upper right-hand second premolar has got bored with being above my upper right-hand second premolar, and has wandered off to explore other parts of my face instead. My back lower molars are agony. The bridge of my nose is throbbing. My eye socket – and this is probably my favourite of all the pains, that feeling that the delicate ridge of my eye socket is being drilled by a needle – is bursting with pain. But my upper right-hand second premolar? Not so bad at all, thank you.

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2pm – After spending yet more hours in bed, the pain is slowly but surely fading, like a tide going out. A tide of needles, fire, and bombs.

7pm – I manage to eat something that isn’t a) Heinz tomato soup; b) dry white bread; c) my own fist. I haven’t taken a painkiller since 1pm. The drugged wooziness is slowly lifting, leaving in its place an exhausted, crippled shell, like a woodlouse that has fallen asleep in the sun.

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Wednesday

10am – I have slept for nearly eleven hours. I take no painkiller. The pain – all the pains – is sinking, all the time sinking. And what commences instead is a spectacular painkiller withdrawal involving me shouting and then crying at two of my best friends, trying to itch the twitching feeling of unrest deep inside me somewhere, and writing ‘Never take up heroin’ on the fridge.

And now, a week on, the pain has all but gone, and the tooth of doom is being whipped out imminently. I want no part of its heinous cruelty anymore. I have been advised that the infection will only return, and that does not interest me one jot, so out it must come.

And what advice can I give you, after going through my journey of pain? Keep the number of your friend with the fastest car next to your bed.

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