Taking the Plunge

YOLO.

The sun was still shining with gusto but clouds had started to form on the horizon of the Atlantic blue. A brief shadow passed over my face as I suddenly realised it was 4.30pm and I still hadn’t done what I’d come here to do.

I dutifully closed the magazine and gently levered myself out of the sunbed, bathed in a heady daze of hot skin and dehydration. I simply couldn’t face the failure of having walked all the way to the Lido bathing area in Funchal, just to return home having done nothing but lounged in the sun for three hours, without dipping a single toe into the sea. It was now or never. ‘And it might as well be now,’ I told myself sternly, ‘technically speaking, now is as good a time as any to carpe diem and get the bloody hell on with it.’

As I walked passed the lifeguard on duty I paused hopefully to ask if there was any possibility that the sea might be too rough for swimming, or temporarily off limits for some unforeseen reason. He happily assured me that this was not the case and so minutes later I found myself following the concrete steps down to the water’s edge, shooting poisonous looks at the waves and still wondering why I was intending to put myself through such a torturous ordeal. ‘It’s warm in the sun,’ I thought, ‘what on earth is the good of getting all cold and wet, just to say you’ve been in the sea?’ The body did not respond to the babble of internal monologue however, continuing to move slowly towards the rise and swell of the ocean, as reluctant as a small terrier approaching a cold bath.

It was on the fifth step down that I faltered. Waves burst over the concrete tide barriers and the swell heaved and roared in front of me. The cold, swirling water took in the sight of a small, pale English tourist and the small, pale English tourist glared back, equally as unimpressed. My mind was churning out every excuse possible:

‘Seriously Mads, it’s too cold, it’s really not worth it.’

‘Why do you have to swim today anyway? Just go next weekend.’

‘You could come back in a bit, it might be calmer then.’

‘Do you really want to jump in that??’

The romantic appeal of a dip in the Atlantic was receding rapidly. I backed up a few steps and looked over my shoulder, realising that I’d been standing there motionless for the past ten minutes.

There were now not one, but four lifeguards watching me. As I turned around, they shuffled about embarrassedly like a flock impatient seagulls and gave a small shout of encouragement to see if I was alright.

‘Vais?’ Are you going in?

‘Sim, sim vou!’ I waved with feigned enthusiasm.Yes, I’m going!

They waited there, expectant. I wondered if they were hedging bets on how long it was going to take me. I looked down at my feet, pensive. There was really no excuse left.

With a deep breath I turned and plunged into the swell. Not entirely without grace, I hoped. Surfacing again was another matter. Temporarily devoid of the ability to breathe by the shock of freezing water, I rose, gasping like a fish and tried to put on a convincing display of aquatic dexterity for the benefit of my audience. Below my legs were floundering against the strong current, which was dragging me away from the safety of the steps. After some success during the first twenty seconds of submersion, the tide turned and began to push me back inland, towards a sharp wall of rock. I saw a flicker of concern pass over the row of lifeguards who, I now realised, had in fact been more worried about my swimming abilities than whether I was ever going to enter the water or not. I tried not to let the panic reach my face as the swell picked up speed and the rocks loomed closer. I saw four figures poised, ready to jump to the rescue.

By some twist of fate I managed to desperately thrash through the water, just far enough to grab the side railings before the tide swept me past. Hauling myself out and shakily onto my feet I walked, trembling, back up the steps and to sanity. I passed the lifeguards, trying to brush off the terror from my face with a careless smile.

‘Por fim!’ I joked. Finally!

They laughed but weren’t entirely fooled, exchanging looks of relief that they hadn’t ended up with drowned foreigner on their hands.

I tripped back to the sun bed and sank thankfully into towel, warmth and comfort. I was exhausted but exhilarated. Thirty seconds of cold water was apparently all that was needed to quench my desire for adventure in one day, but I didn’t care. Work deadlines on Monday now seemed irrelevant, uncertain job prospects of no concern, the issue of what to cook for supper of minimal importance. I had conquered the wild seas of the Atlantic and was ready to face anything else life chose to throw at me.

Its amazing what perspective you gain from a short leap of faith into the unknown. Pouring cold water on life’s problems certainly makes you aware of how insignificant they really are.

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Very Hungover British Problems

Waking up at 7am after a night of revelry and artless dance moves in Clapham was always going to be a challenge. However, by 8am not only had I made it to the train station on time with all my belongings hastily piled into the suitcase, but I’d also managed to purchase much needed sustenance and a plastic cup of tea. The birds were chirping, a summer breeze lilted past my fuzzy head and I felt entitled to congratulate myself on the achievement.

It was on the train that things took a turn for the worse.

The flapjack was consumed without hitch, but the earl grey was not to meet with the same fate. As I was about to take the first soothing sip, the cardboard holder slipped and broke, letting lose a cascade of scalding liquid over my hand, train seat and carriage floor. Eyes watering in pain, I gratefully accepted the tissues and bits of newspapers that kind onlookers pressed upon me to mop up the disaster. There was laughter and a chorus of appreciative “oh dear!” as I painstakingly cleared up and deposited the soggy morning’s news in the bin. The first nudgings of the hang over were beginning to kick in.

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Intent on restoring the necessary fluids into the bodily system, I grabbed at the cup a second time. Alas the limbs seemed intent on scrambling the nerve impulses that morning. My hand swiped at the tea, missed, and upended the rest of the earl grey all over the floor, causing the woman opposite me to hastily shove the remnants of her newspaper at me. As I resumed the cleaning duties she informed me that if I didn’t mind she would save the last page which had the crossword puzzle. She then moved further up the carriage, lest I cause “another flood”, and away from the chaos. I was left in a soggy mess of The Daily Star with a now rather throbbing headache.

From then on the day hit a decline and began to roll downhill, fast. My next train from Blackfriars was delayed for half an hour and then mortifyingly cancelled due to a trespasser on the track at Elephant and Castle. I was marooned on a platform which had not one vending machine or kiosk selling bottled water. When I arrived in Hertfordshire over an hour late, I was greeted enthusiastically by my patient family who then bundled me into the car for a 2 hour drive to the South West. Here I was called to make small talk with distant relatives at a large family party, and extend the hungover agony by toasting good health to all with glasses of champagne. Pain killers were scarce and glasses of something softer hard to come by.

On this particular occasion I cannot agree with Frank when he says that he feels sorry for people who don’t drink. I finally returned home at 11pm, amid the most potent waves of exhaustion and dehydration, an empty shell of my former self. It was certainly not the best I had felt all day.

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Have you tried a Gin and Tonic?

A Letter to My Two Year Old Goddaughter

Following a toddler tantrum with toys, books and clothes thrown across the room, I was called upon to offer some words of advice to my Goddaughter.

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My Dear Pink,

I understand that parents are tough. Believe me, after 21 and a half years of being a daughter, I know what I’m talking about. They insist on the consumption of vegetables, they dislike your favourite muddy wellies on the cream carpet (completely unaware of the fact that mud prints add a somewhat artistic flare to an otherwise boring rug), and they seem to be obsessed by the idea that things should remain in cupboards and drawers instead of in a pile in the middle of the floor.

But I’ll let you in on a secret about parents which I wish somebody had told me when I was younger: they don’t budge. You can try all the tactics you want (I’ve got several up my sleeve if you need tips), but they remain unswervingly and stubbornly firm in the belief that they’re doing the right thing, whether that be feeding you carrots and peas, enforcing the removal of wet shoes at the front door, or religiously tidying away toys and clothes. It’s a bore, it’s a bother, but they are never going to realise that you are right.

So my advice to you is this: lie low for a bit, do as they say and lull them into a sense of false security that you are obedient. You can start to reason with them in later years, but for now work those blue eyes and the blonde hair if they’re looking for a guilty suspect. If things do get untidy, blame your brother. Or the dog.

Lots of love,

Your Godmother

Let us begin…with Laptops and the Library

And so here I am writing my first blog. Being one of those people who usually prefer to stick to the old fashioned paper/pencil combination, I never thought this day would come. But it has, so let us begin.

Why am I writing one? Well it could be because I’ve had enough of doing work in the library. I find the library a strange place – to enter into it is to enter into a foreign territory; one where conversations must always be in hushed tones, normal movements must be made noiselessly and the crime of using a free computer just to log on to Facebook is equal to murder. In my one and a half years at University, never before have I spent much time in the library – so why am I here now?

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It started with a laptop. Although I have never had the best relationship with my Samsung (“Hot Pink” in colour), when it gave a distressing cough and ground to a halt last Friday, I was devastated. Memories of painfully slow downloads, frustrated evenings when it failed to stream films any faster than in ten second bursts at a time, as well as the amount of abuse I got for having a pink computer faded into fond yet distant memories. I had loved it despite the fact that it was awful and picturing how life could continue without it was unfathomable.

After some urgent telephone calls to the 24 hour computer helpline, it was arranged that my laptop would be picked up the following Thursday somewhere in-between the very precise time slot of 7am and 11am. This was the first technology crisis of any kind with which I had dealt on my own, and I fell asleep that evening foolishly thinking how simple it had all been. This happy situation was not to last. The company (who shall remain nameless) sent me a friendly text the next day telling me that they would collect the laptop on Tuesday. This unsettled me but I was resolved to make myself free in between the hours of 11am and 2.59pm as they suggested, all was not lost. I spent all of Tuesday on campus sitting on the edge of my seat and jumping every time I received a text, waiting for the guaranteed warning message half an hour before their arrival. At 3pm I heaved a sigh of relief, and switched off my phone to do some work, assuming that I was right and that they’d probably meant to pick it up on Thursday after all.

Two hours later I was aghast, when I switched my phone on, to find a message from the mystery laptop man. He had arrived at my flat at quarter past three (an entire sixteen minutes outside of the allotted time slot might I add), assumed I wasn’t there, and left. After swiftly weaving through the automated “press 2 for…” options on the laptop helpline I reached “Darren” who politely listened to my concerns and assured me that someone would come on Thursday as originally planned to pick up the damned computer (between the times of 7am and 11am of course).

Today it is Thursday. The time is 1.32pm and I am here, in the library as I mentioned before, because I need to use one of the University’s loaned netbooks to do my work. This morning I got up at 7am and arrived here at 8am to finish a presentation I needed to deliver in a seminar at 9am. Early mornings are not my thing, and so when I set off for my seminar with my work completed, I felt entitled to congratulate myself on my dedication to my studies. I had succeeded in compiling a reasonably interesting document on Carmen Miranda, a Brazilian icon from the 1930s-50s, all without my own laptop. All that remained was to dispatch the broken laptop into the hands of a professional who could fix it and deliver my presentation to the class. Well done me.

Half way through my seminar I received a call from the laptop man who had arrived and was waiting for me outside my house. He hadn’t sent me the 30 minute warning text, and told me could I hurry up because he was on a tight schedule? Having previously warned my teacher that I might have to make a dramatic exit, I sprinted home to meet him, I was not going to miss this for the second time!

When I arrived 10 minutes later clutching the brightly coloured machine, there was no one outside my house. Nothing. A terse 20 minute conversation with another imbecile on the helpline called Josh revealed that they had given the driver my parents’ address back home in Essex, instead of the University one in Exeter which I gave them on Friday. The result was a stressed driver waiting outside a pink house in Essex, some 274 miles away from a flat in the South West of England where a furious student stood feeling defeated, out of breath and clutching a useless piece of technology.

I arrived back at the seminar just before it ended. The teacher was annoyed that I had missed giving the presentation that I got up at 7am to complete. She wasn’t the only one.

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Where is Ctrl Alt Delete?

And so that is why I am still in the Library, some three hours later, a broken character with no functioning laptop and no will power left to do any work. I am currently surrounded by fellow students who are all scribbling away furiously and shooting me dangerous looks because I don’t have a monstrously tall stack of books next to me. I have only a flask of now lukewarm tea, a cheese sandwich in a box, and a determined expression on my face as I grapple with the modern technologies of writing something on the internet. It is this terrible beginning to the day which has compelled me to start this blog, and this blog which I hope will compel me to do something productive today. Let us see.