Becky says things about … YouTube

Sweet Listener, we are in the presence of the most powerful threat to mankind ever conceived.

Apparently innocuous, seemingly good and true and wholesome, ostensibly gratifying, this beast is possibly more evil and more destructive than an elephant with a digestive complaint.

And what is this force of savagery and doom that places the entire human race under threat?

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YouTube??? you cry. That fantastic platform on which you can view every facet of the world, for free, in the comfort of your own home???? 

Oh, innocent Listener. They’ve got to you too.

Therein lies my point. You have every single facet of our world at your fingertips. Want to learn how to be a heart surgeon? Done. Need an idea for what to buy your guinea pig for Christmas? Check. Want to find twenty seconds of commentary from the second half of a football match between Swindon and Port Vale in 1988 that you remember watching with your dad and the commentator made a funny noise in the 73rd minute that you’ve always remembered and want to relive? No ruddy problem.

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There. Is. Nothing. You. Cannot. Watch. On. YouTube.

I have never ever not been able to find what I’ve been looking for on YouTube. Obscure TV programmes from my childhood that I’d feared I’d imagined, how to correctly apply bronzer (thank God for you, YouTube), hilarious compilations of people being knocked over by large pets. It’s all there for our viewing pleasure.

Where once we were forced to spend hours of our most successful procrastination time playing Spider Solitaire, or Minesweeper, or trying to work out how in the name of humanity you play Freecell, we now have millions of hours of people on magic mushrooms to enjoy.

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But, naive Listener, this apparent enjoyment has a dark side.

Picture this: you arrive at the gates of Heaven expecting to be handed a certificate of all the super things you have done in your life, like been continually empathetic towards the elderly, shown tremendous kindness towards tortoises, made at least two people very happy, and eaten all your fruit and vegetables. Instead, you are presented with this:

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Oh, the novels you could have written! The songs you could have composed! The dinners you could have cooked from scratch instead of scraping glutinous artificial matter from the base of plastic containers! The sex you could have had! The money you could have made!

ALL FOR THE SAKE OF SOMEONE DOING THIS:

YouTube could have been single-handedly responsible for destroying humanity before humanity had even had a chance to get itself going:

In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth , and animals, and a Man and a Woman, and YouTube, and thence forth everything ground to a halt, for the Man and the Woman consumed their days watching videos of cats being sick and badgers falling over rocks and lightning bolts hitting the bare dusty ground, and the Man and the Woman thanked God for creating seven whole days that they could dedicate to this most pleasurable of pastimes and this went on and on until the Man and the Woman and the animals became very old and died and then there was just the Heavens and the Earth and YouTube, and God wondered why he’d bothered.

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YouTube has created needs for us that we didn’t think we had: we now need to see what happens when someone eats the hottest pepper in the world; we now need to remember the theme tune to Blockbusters; we now need to know the absolute, categorical and unequivocally effective method of preparing vegetables. HOW DID WE EVER MANAGE BEFORE?

Ohhh, the lost hours, Listener. Just the other night I snuck in a bit of YouTube action before going to sleep (why? BECAUSE THERE WERE VIDEOS OF BABIES LAUGHING AT PAPER TO BE WATCHED), and I found myself staring at a compilation of people falling down stairs. Had I sunk low enough? No. I sunk lower when I realised

I HAD SEEN THE RUDDY VIDEO BEFORE.

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Oh YouTube. You undoubtedly do some good. Some of your videos are very inspiring and beautiful and emotional, but please – WHY ARE YOU MAKING ME WATCH THIS???

Stop it, YouTube.

Becky says things about … hangovers

I would first like to say, dear suspicious listener, that just because I am writing about hangovers doesn’t mean I have recently suffered from one.*

*It completely does. I have recently been killed by a hangover, and miraculously came back to life, a bit like Jesus.

Hangovers are God’s way of telling you you’re an idiot. Hangovers are a punishment for having fun. Hangovers are your body deciding that it’s going to take away a day of your life by preventing you from doing anything remotely productive and instead forcing you to spend the day in bed eating bowl after bowl of cereal and watching episode after episode of The Golden Girls on YouTube.

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Most certainly, Stickman, but it is far more enjoyable when one chooses to spend a day in such pleasant diversion, not when it is literally the only thing that one can do apart from lie on the floor in a pit of self-disgust and softly wail. And if you’ve eaten all my cereal I am going to be livid.

Like life itself or the quality of supermarket own-brand products, hangovers are unpredictable. You can never tell whether they are going to be a mere mild irritation, like a slightly sunburnt elbow, or a fatally catastrophic life-altering event that forces you to reassess your very existence.

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Sometimes, the sheer meekness and mildness of a hangover can be a stupendous victory that makes you feel like a superhero with a liver and stomach made of titanium (I think they call that particular superhero ‘Low-Density Corrosion-Resistant Transition Metal Major Organs Man’). Those nights when you start on the beer, then have a few cheeky wines, then some bright spark suggests Jagarmeister, then before you know it you’ve got your face in a bucket of Sambuca and someone is preparing a syringe with which they mean to inject absinthe into your eyeballs, and you wake up the next morning to nothing but a slight headache and an ambiguous stain on your lapel.

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These hangovers are worth celebrating. You are clearly bionic and incredible, and that deserves a pat on the back and a massive full English breakfast, a stroll in the park feeling fresh and breezy, and quite possibly a few cheeky beverages later on in the day to thank your body for being so utterly super and brilliant.

And when those nights of absinthe-injecting and tequila-inserting and Sambuca-snorting do catch up with you, and you wake up to cataclysmic devastation and horrible awfulness and a cat is on fire and people have died, you don’t mind so much, because you know you ruddy well deserve it.

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But sometimes your body doesn’t want to play. Sometimes your body thinks ‘Hey. You. Person that I keep alive. You’re going down, you hear me? You gowin daaaaooowwwwnn.’ (Yes, my body sometimes does a Samuel L. Jackson impersonation. It’s confusing, but fun.)

After a hard day at work you think to yourself ‘I’m going to imbibe a couple of well-earned alcohol beverages because I have been productive, efficient and generally smashing today, and what harm can a mere two glasses of wine do to my most excellent body?’ And you pop down the pub. You consume said two drinks, perhaps three, if you have one forced upon you or there’s a sudden and unpredicted thunderstorm outside and to leave the premises would be dangerous. Then you go home and you go to bed. It is a perfectly pleasant evening.

And then you wake up and you feel like this:

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Your second emotion is confusion. Your first emotion is an intense wish to die, but you quickly pass over that on the grounds of it being dramatic. You are confused. Why has this happened? Why do you hurt so? Who hates you? Did you really only have two drinks, or did you have thirty, get chucked out of the pub, mug an old lady, steal her pension, use it to buy Special Brew and White Lightening, find a bush in a park, drink £80’s worth of almost illegally-strong alcohol in said bush, gatecrash a student party and achieve a record for sucking the contents of a bottle of vodka up your bottom through a straw, steal ninety-five cans of cheap lager, drink them all whilst standing on your head and get a cheer for vomiting into a pint glass and then mixing it with Lambrini and drinking it, then fly to Dublin, wipe out an entire village of its Guinness, fly back, and get hit by a transit bus carrying holidaymakers to their plane to Malaga?

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These hangovers are confusing. They’re unfair. They are disproportionate to the amount of alcohol you consumed. The ratio of fun to pain is deeply unbalanced. They are nefarious. They are like a malicious Pain Lord wreaking havoc in your innocent body with his pointed stick and his penchant for inflicting misery. They are not to be trusted. They make you doubt yourself. They make you think you are destined to a life of tea, coffee and fizzy pop, ultimately leading to stained teeth and offensive wind. You begin to yearn for liver disease.

Hangovers make you slow. If your hungover motor ability was a tortoise, it would be jeered at by the other speedier tortoises.

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Hangovers confuse your stomach. One minute you are gorging on fried sausages and two loaves of bread, and the next you experience that phenomenon of Sudden and Categorical Certainty that You Will Vomit if You So Much as Move a Millimetre of Your Body.

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So, dear listener, let that be a warning to you. Next time you fancy a quick drink down the pub, think again. That quick drink may be your undoing. That quick drink may change your life. That quick drink may force you to watch forty-seven videos of squirrels falling off walls and babies laughing at paper on YouTube.

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Becky says things about … verbal diarrhoea

Firstly, dearest listener of the things that I say, I would like to pause for a second to note the most absurd spelling of a word ever.

DIARRHOEA.

I mean, isn’t it ridiculous? It doesn’t even look like a word. It looks like a concoction that’s been made by a toddler playing with letters, or by someone off their face on crack shuffling around their fuggy room with a Biro and trying to express how they feel by writing random letters on receipts for supermarket oven chips. It’s a ridiculous word, impossible to spell without the aid of a dictionary, and I would actually rather be confronted with the embodiment of the word than the preposterous word itself. That is how much I dislike this word.

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Now that I’ve got diarrhoea off my chest, the above paragraph illustrates beautifully the crux of my problem. I suffer from verbal diarrhoea, or ‘word discharge’, if you will. There is a faulty nub of my brain that detaches itself from the rest of my correctly-operating brain – my Broca’s area perhaps disconnects from my Wernicke’s area in my cerebral cortex, I don’t know, that’s just a guess – and this malfunction primarily occurs when I am faced with large groups of people or people with whom I am not on familiar terms. This gremlin in my frontal lobe (urgh, imagine that –

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– pretty annoying) results in ordinarily calm and pleasurable social situations becoming disturbing, exhausting, and upsetting for all concerned.

There is a veritable bounty of examples of such incidents over the years, but let me give you a couple of significant citations, if I may.

About a year after I left school I went back to collect a project I’d done. (Don’t know why. Maybe I just wanted to leaf through the pages of my former academic eminence and softly weep.) I found myself confronted in the corridor by not one, but four of my old teachers. Enthusiastic greetings ensued, along with demands to know how I was getting on at university, and other such friendly and interested inquiries. My answer was thus:

‘Yes I’m fine, university’s great, I’m loving the essays, though not loving having to go to the launderette and wait for people to come back and collect their washing and drying that they’ve just left in the machines, and I think I’ve had an allergic reaction to the powder I’ve started using, because I do occasionally get skin rashes, I used to get one on my neck years ago and ever since then I’ve had to wear hypoallergenic necklaces, which is a bit of a pain, but I can’t really complain because my friend gets awful eczema all over her shins and she can never find the cream she needs and the queue for the pharmacy on campus is just awful, I was in there for almost twenty minutes the other day when I went in to get some cream, not for a skin rash but for errrr something else, nothing embarrassing, well, moderately embarrassing but it’s fine, the cream sorted it out, but apart from that, yeah, university is great and I’m loving the fact I can buy Admiral’s Pie for 99p from the campus shop and I have it with peas and that’s me done.’

I jape not, listener. That is almost a blow-by-blow account of what I said. To four ex-teachers who had previously considered me a headstrong, sensible, charming young lady. Needless to say, they were rather taken aback. 

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After sinking into an exhausted and mortified silence, I mumbled my farewell and scuttled away with my project under my arm, leaving these poor souls wondering what the holy crumble had just happened and whether anything would ever be the same again. This incident, nearly a decade on, still occasionally wakes me with night sweats.

A second example – if you’ll permit me a second (you will? Oh, you are indulgent, and very pretty too, I might add) – happened just last week. I was at work and had to pop into my boss’s office to get him to sign something. He bequeathed his signature to me, and as I was exiting his office he made the fatal mistake of asking ‘So how’s your writing going?’

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Now, pretty listener, a normal person would have answered, calmly and humbly: ‘My writing’s going very well, thank you; I try and do a bit every night, and I very much enjoy it and hope I finish my novel one day, and thank you very much, sir, for asking, and may I fetch you a cup of tea?’

Sadly, my answer did not even remotely resemble that. My answer resembled this:

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My answer to this innocuous and well-intended question was as follows:

‘Ohh yeah it’s going well, I’m writing a novel at the moment which is really hard work and I think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, but I do some every night when I can, which isn’t always every night, but I try for most nights when the old self-discipline is going my way, but as my novel is about a pub I tell myself that I’m performing research by going to the pub hahahahahahaha but no seriously, I do struggle with self-discipline, I always have done, it’s just really hard to motivate myself when there’s no definite goal at the end of it, you know, no guarantee that anything will come of my blood, sweat and tears -‘

At this point his friendly smile was fading.

‘ – and I could just really have spent, like, years of my life pouring myself into this novel that no one even wants to publish and, Christ, I think I’d just kill myself with a hammer if that happens, so I’ve just got to pull my finger out really and sit at my desk instead of making cakes and watching videos of snakes eating antelopes on YouTube -‘

He looked at his watch. He actually looked at his watch in front of me.

‘ – which I spend way too much time doing, it’s a nightmare, I was thinking of trying to disconnect the Internet but I write a blog so I don’t want to do that, and plus you don’t realise how much you just need the Internet nowadays, I mean, what would we do without the Internet, I mean, can you believe how ubiquitous it’s become in what’s really a very short space of time -‘

He got up, moved towards me so that I had to back out of the door –

‘ – so the guy that invented the Internet must be laughing, I wonder if he has problems with his Internet connection hahahahaha -‘

– and he mumbled ‘Got to be off’, walked past me and disappeared round the corner.

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Listener, I do not understand what happens to me. The functioning part of my brain knows what’s happening. The ailing part of my brain can do nothing about it. So whilst I am projecting linguistic excreta into the face of whatever poor fool happens to be in my company, the following battle is going on in my head:

Functioning Brain: What are you doing?

Ailing Brain: I’m talking.

Functioning Brain: Yes, but can’t you hear yourself? You’re talking absolute bunkum.

Ailing Brain: I know. I know.

Functioning Brain: Then stop. Why don’t you just stop?

Ailing Brain: I can’t stop. I literally cannot stop.

Functioning Brain: But you are making a monumental donkey of yourself. I mean you are seriously a complete tit right now.

Ailing Brain: I know, don’t you think I don’t want to stop?

Functioning Brain: Then stop. Please. What’s the matter with you?

Ailing Brain: I don’t know how to stop. It’s gone too far. I’ll have to keep talking forever or until someone physically assaults me.

Functioning Brain: I urge you stop before you get to that point.

Ailing Brain: Oh it’s all very well for you to say, you’re functioning. I’m not. I’m ill. You have no idea what it’s like to talk utter baloney at speed in front of someone you don’t know very well and not be able to stop.

Functioning Brain: I do. I know exactly what it’s like. You’re doing it to me now. That’s why I want you to stop. For the love of God. Just stop.

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It is physically, emotionally, mentally, orally, linguistically, grammatically, spiritually, biochemically, fundamentally, metaphorically and literally exhausting. The cause of this terrible condition is as yet unknown to me – perhaps it stems from an ingrained and psychologically scarring fear of awkward silences, or just an intrinsic inability to conduct myself sensibly in everyday situations – and I am yet to find a cure. I battle on with this mortifying, terrible affliction, and I hereby apologise in advance if I ever projectile-diarrhoea my words all over your nice clean shirt. Don’t ask me to pay for the dry cleaning because I’ll just tell you how I can’t give you any money because I spent my last fiver on tins of salmon, which were three for two in Sainsbury’s so I just had to get them because tinned salmon is the sovereign of all tin-encased freshwater fish, but even at three for two it’s rather on the expensive side, I mean, £1.67 for one small tin? I always get the cheaper one that includes the tiny bones and the skin because the bones are the best bit, it makes you feel like an evil giant crunching maliciously on some poor creature’s spinal column and

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Becky says things about ………………….. procrastinating

Having just undergone an enforced period of saying-things absence due to the need to write my university dissertation, I feel I am very well equipped to say things about procrastination.

A writer’s life is made up of 5% thinking, 8% writing, and 87% procrastinating. Every writer knows that. But the range of avoidance tactics a writer will employ to avoid sitting down and actually doing some writing is nothing short of astounding.

1. Eating

Don’t write that short story, have six slices of toast and Marmite instead! And then, hell, make a cake! Then eat the cake! And then because it’s time for dinner, make dinner – and eat dinner! And hey presto, not a single word written! Hurrah!

2. Cleaning

Hang on, are you really about to sit down and try to plot that novel you’ve been meaning to write for five years? Good gracious, woman, don’t you realise that the back of the tumble dryer needs cleaning? I mean, there really isn’t a moment to lose! Run, run from your desk and your evilly blinking Microsoft Word cursor, and clean! Because after you’ve tackled the tumble dryer, just take a moment to think: have you ever cleaned out the dishwasher filter? Hmm? Have you? Well maybe you should do it! RIGHT NOW!

3. YouTube-ing

Oh, YouTube. How many bestselling novels would I have written if it weren’t for your irresistible videos of people falling into open manholes and drunk grandmas burping the alphabet. I’ll just sit down and do a spot of writing – got a good character I want to develop, explore some really interesting themes and make a social commentary on the declining morals of the 21st century OH BUT HANG ON, THERE’S A KITTEN THAT SOUNDS LIKE IT’S SAYING I LOVE YOU WHEN IT MEOWS!!!!!!

4. Exercise

No one really likes exercise. No one would choose to do exercise over something fun like, say, watching videos of babies farting on YouTube. But when it’s a choice between sitting down to try and work out that rather fiddly bit of plotting, and running literally anywhere, then it’s running, every time. You suddenly realise how idle you’ve been recently, how you haven’t done any exercise for AGES, and, heavens to Betsy, if you don’t do some RIGHT NOW you will wake up tomorrow and be eighty stone and as it’s such a lovely day you must run out of the door NOW and just RUN RUN RUN AS FAR AWAY FROM YOUR LAPTOP AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN BECAUSE ISN’T EXERCISE BRILLIANT??

Or you start doing weights. Lots and lots of weights. Don’t write that synopsis, pump some IRON. You know bodybuilders? How do you think they got so big?

5. Developing a New Interest

Isn’t it funny, that every time you open up a blank Microsoft Word document to start a new story, you suddenly realise you’ve developed a burning interest in 13th century architecture? Or French knitting bobbins. Or how hemorrhoids form. And luckily, because your computer is connected to the internet, you can close that blank Microsoft Word document and spend six hours Googling your newfound interests! Isn’t the internet WONDERFUL?

6. Running Away

The most desperate of procrastination attempts. You can sit in front of your laptop all you want, you can twirl that pen around between your fingers, you can open and close all your creative writing books, but there’s no escaping the fact that you’re going to run away. I did that once. I got in my car and drove 40 miles to Reading. For literally no reason at all. When I got to Reading, I drove back again. Killed three hours. No writing. Job done. Just run for the hills.

Procrastination is all well and good. It is part of life’s rich tapestry. It is only when your time has come and you’re in the queue at the pearly gates that you might regret it.

Becky says things about … pretending to be in a film

You’ve all done it. I’m certain of it. You’ve all been listening to your Walkmans, or Discmans, or MP3 players, or iPods, or iPod Shuffle 23rd iGeneration iPodPad Super iPhone Players, or whatever, and a particular song has filtered into the entangled coils of your brain, and before you know it you are in your own film with its own soundtrack.

I do it all the time.

Yesterday, during my bike ride, I was listening to my iPod (technically dangerous, I know – sorry) and Firestarter by The Prodigy came on. Within seconds, I was no longer cycling amiably over Kingston Bridge, but I was hurtling through a dark, monstrous city in hot pursuit of an evil overlord who had done something very naughty.

It made me peddle like a mentalist, I’m telling you. I only became aware I was doing it when I felt a strain in my face muscles, and realised I was pulling a devilishly determined expression quite suitable for pursuing evil overlords, but not so suitable for cycling through a sunny town centre on a Sunday afternoon.

I have quite a comprehensive catalogue of songs that have provided soundtracks to my life. I used to lie on the floor of my bedroom and enact a dramatic death scene involving lots of gasping and whispered last words to my empty room with this playing on my CD player:

Unfortunately, as the piece is only a minute and a half long, I had to keep rising from my death bed to press the rewind button to replay the track, which kind of dampened the drama. (The familiar among you will know that as  Gladiator only came out in 2000, and I was born in 1985, I could have been no younger than 15 at the time of this little playacting, which is probably far too old for that sort of thing and I will almost definitely regret revealing this silly information.)

During reflective times at university, I would lie on my bed in my cell-like room in halls, and listen to this (while a camera did a close-up of my emotion-strewn face):

And this is particularly good for a moody walk on a dull depressing day, with lots of pausing to gaze out at the grey landscape and reflect on the futility of life:

But the best, the absolute best, for pretending you’ve come face to face with your arch enemy, exchanging a few intensely dramatic looks with each other, and then breaking into a Bruce Willis-style run while you chase your enemy through burning buildings and leap off rooftops and your sweaty muscles are bulging through your ripped t-shirt and you’re covered in bloodied cuts from recent fights-to-the-death and then everything explodes (while actually only going for a jog through the park), is this:

So, if you ever see a 27 year-old woman sprinting down a high street with teeth bared, eyes fierce and fists clenched, or standing on the banks of a river gazing dramatically out at the water with hair whipping round her face, it’s only me having a bit of an act.