Trolls and LOLs: Funny is a feminist issue.

I write for a student newspaper with 1.3 million monthly readers. Its unsurprising that occasionally someone will disagree with a point of view, or even take offense, even though it’s tongue in cheek and generally approached with the expectation of humour. I’ll admit it, I probably crease myself up on a more regular basis than I do anyone else, but I’d imagine that the majority of the world’s level headed people would take a pitiful attempt at comedy over a conscious effort at aggression. The long and short of it is this: I’m sick of the trolls.

 

Any way you look at it, there’s a level of amusement behind the fact that people are honestly taking time to troll someone as small news as me. Up until this point, I have always just laughed and moved on. But there’s a difference between not really caring, and really not caring. Unfortunately, I seem to be regressing away from the latter stage. It’s convenient that this relapse times in with the growing prevalence of the “Why women can’t be funny” issue.

 

A quick Google and I’ve found a webpage declaring that, “women aren’t funny, they aren’t blessed with wit, like men, so they talk about their vaginas or periods or intend to shock- or if they don’t they are like Victoria Wood and cater to other bored housewives… female comedians are so unintelligent and devoid of wit, it is shocking… it’s not a natural state… women go for guys with an IQ around 5 points higher than their own. Men tend to care more about youthful looks that signal fertility.” The author? A woman. I think it’s time we re-consider what we think of as “natural” in the 21st century.

 

These opinions are by no means common, but they’re not exactly uncommon either. The evidence suggests that humans find men more funny than women. There are no more than 5 or 6 ‘famous’ comediennes, and, although I hate to partially agree with whoever wrote the aforementioned statement, a lot of their jokes revolve around negative appearance. They call themselves fat, we all laugh. What’s up with that? Why are we not empowering these women to be funny further than their arguably unfortunate appearance? People like Sarah Millican or Jo Brand or Dawn French or Miranda Hart. These women are intelligent. Don’t let them reduce themselves to nothing more than a body.

 

I personally choose not to write about my appearance, or love life, or bodily function. And yet I am at the receiving end of the exact same comments as any funny female who does. My first ever experience with a troll went along the lines of, “Let me ask you a question. Why are you so fat?” I was 14. My most recent, on an article about my university giving personal details to the police without a court order, was “Belle Johnson shut your damn whore mouth.” I wish I could see the connection between content and comment, but I don’t. I also can’t rationalise the unending connection between wit and promiscuity. Slut, whore, slag. All labels employed when commenting on the material women have worked hard to make funny. These are specifically female insults. I am sure there are men who are trolled, but I highly doubt its for being funny, or relates in any way to their sexual habits.

 

What I’m really getting at is this: no matter what your gender or your race or your upbringing, why does anyone feel that the mask of a keyboard and a computer screen obliges them to be derogative about another human. It’s not an equal playing field. As writers we expose ourselves, not only through our work. Pictures of me are frequently part of what I write, as are details about what I do and where I go in my day to day life. My writing is very personal to me and I work hard to form a unique style, which is then commented on anonymously. What’s more interesting to me than any of the comments is that when people do have the gall to attach their comment to a name, nine times out of ten it is male. When a troll addresses you by your full name, or mentions in a comment that they know where you live, it’s threatening, whether you’re female or not.

 

I’ll be honest, on the whole I do find comedians more amusing than comediennes. But I’m not trying to be either. I’m writing a little bit about what I find funny because it makes me happy. The internet is capable of a mature, even handed discussion. If anything I write makes anyone think, or is even offensive, I welcome that feedback. I voice my opinion, I would love to hear yours. Tell me why you’re angry, not that you think I should shut my damn whore mouth.

 

I’m told that acknowledging your trolls only gives them more power. Let’s be honest: trolls have power over you whether you admit it or not. That’s why I’m writing this piece. Not because I want sympathy, but because if I stop even one troll, then my writing has achieved something good. What do you gain by being anonymously foul? Does it make me any less funny? Does it make you any more?

 

One final question, which might just shunt everything into perspective, and then I’ll stop. How would you feel about your mother seeing what you’ve written to me? Mine has to, why shouldn’t yours?

B xx

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Bacon Fish Finger Malibu diet? Bacon Fish Finger Malibu diet.

It’s April. If you’re a real grown up, you have two months until summer. If you’re any student that doesn’t study medicine or something else real, you have approximately 30 seconds. We all spent yesterday watching hoards of belyrcaed people bouncing in no clothes for 26 miles without a single jiggle. NOT A SINGLE ONE. I ran one time. The man on the treadmill next to me sued for unprovoked assault. Luckily for every person who went home, jumped up and down in front of the mirror in a sports bra and cycling shorts, and has been pushed only further into depression by the realization that every therapist in the country is booked up for the next seven years, a new real life science study has revealed why we’re all so fatty fat fat. Here’s where we’ve been going wrong; fat doesn’t make us fat. Which whoever named it clearly didn’t know, so don’t feel too stupid. According to this year’s latest fat FAD, its sugar that makes us so sweet fat. Luckily, some clever sod (at the Daily Mail…) has also formed a list of all the sugar free substances known to man, and therefore, by direct logic, a diet plan guaranteed to make anyone who tries it lose a minimum of a stone every week. Here are the basics:

 

  • All fruit is at least 96.4% sugar and must be avoided at all costs.
  • Alcohol is better for you the stronger it is.
  • You can eat as much as you like of the following: Bacon, Hash Browns, Potato Waffles, Twiglets, Mini Scotch Eggs, Mayonnaise, Nandos Extra Hot piri-piri sauce (specific, I grant you, but don’t shoot the messenger,) Ready Salted Crisps, Babybel, Mini Pepperami, Fish Fingers, Turkey Numbers, Cheesestrings, Malibu and Gravy Granules. It’s every birthday party I ever went to before 2004. Especially the bit about the Malibu.

 

The jury is still out on whether or not it’s most beneficial if you eat them one by one, or all together at once (the foods, not the jury…)

Oh, and lentils have no sugar either, but they’re the work of the devil and must be avoided at all costs.

If you don’t believe this granted slightly patchy account of the science behind the logic, you can read more here:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-2568682/Special-report-Sugar-bitter-truth.html

(This article is also top if you love a panic formed pun. The bitter truth. About sugar. Because sugar is sweet. Get it? Side splitting.)

 

Until next time,

The mayonnaise enrobed scotch eggs are on me,

B xx

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Beautiful, Dirty, Broke

The Beach Boys, well known for their observant might, once went on a mad one, accepted a brownie from Shane MacGowan, and realised that Christmas comes at roughly the same time every year. Snaps for you AND your silly hair. If you’ve got the mental strength to listen closely, you may also note the moment they spot their post revelry bank balance, embodied in a painfully flat wail in E major. We’ve all been there. Yes, your offensively small dog would look Just Too Cute in his own matchy matchy American Apparel hoodie, but unless you go for the friendless fruit option, survivingly solely on co-op meal deals from now until July just isn’t going to help with that New Years weight loss resolution now is it? So, from she who quite frequently and inexplicably returns to her hovel with more money than whence she left, I humbly present to you my top tips for how to be a baller in 2014. Somebody inform my Father.

1. #Table4One. Go out alone. Not only do you not have to worry about splashing out for a round of 8, knowing full well that even if only half of them return the favour you’re 93% certain to end up with your head crammed between the railings of Brighton Pier, you also don’t have to fret the concept of who you’re about to owe one sentimental and/or vaguely comical gift, because the answer is no one, you massive loner.

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Can’t talk, on a date with American. Total Hottie.

2. Almost ironic fancy dress. The coldest of the months have apparently been assigned as a time for dressing up and pretending you don’t enjoy it, so why not go all out and make yourself look so fierce that people literally just throw their drinks at you? Not only is it a cheap way to go on a bender, it also really sharpens that hand eye coordination you’ve been meaning to work on since that rounders “accident” in 2004. Yes I’m still bitter. You know who you are.

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Katy Perry, step down.

3. Subliminal mind trickery. Dress like a present and presents will be brought unto you. It’s basic science.

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Have I given you my Miley Cyrus?

4. Two words; neighbourly drinks. We both know full well that John and Janet’s yearly Christmas raves are a hoot, where the cheap prosecco flows and the off road parking gossip is ripe. Did someone say free offensively tiny quiche? I think yes.

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Not had a single drink, I’m just naturally a Really Fun Person. Let me babysit your children.

5. Be selective with your thank you letter sending. A first class stamp is worth roughly the same as a student loan. A llama donated on your behalf to a small tribe in a mountain you’ll never ever visit is not.

6. Give the man wearing shorts in late December the fireworks, he seems responsible enough not to light them upside down. At least that’s one less person to have to cater for come the morning. Happy New Year…?

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Look busy, the end is nigh.

7. And, if all else fails, park your Porche Carerra in the car park of any Wetherspoons, and wait in the bar until you entirely stick to the floor. By this point, your wheels should have been nicked to the point where your inevitably overpriced insurance will pay for all nineteen assortments of meat which you served this festive season. Cheers to that.

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And now we wait…

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St. Jude. Patron Saint of Lost Causes… Brilliant.

The Great Apocalypse of 2013; how was it for you? Newspapers are telling us that we’ve been “battered” by “hurricane force winds” and that the end is very much nigh this time. We promise… Probably. Storm St Jude, as it has been so pantsly named, is simultaneously the worst storm since 1987, since 2000, since 2008 and since Thursday lunchtime. The main problem is that we’ve not had snow in almost a year, and the panic of that day when it was a bit clammy earlier in July has worn off, and so we’re fast running out of legitimate reasons to make weather-based small talk at cocktail parties where no one can fit through the door on account of the tidal wave of umbrellas flooding the hall. So, in Britain’s slightly embarrassed aftermath I’d like to ask the question, what did you do when you found out that the Aztecs forgot to take account of leap years and you had somewhere between 4 and 4 million more hours to live? 

I personally did the sensible thing and sourced as many tins of 99p hotdogs as i could lay my hands on. This was naturally followed by some serious petit pan microwave defrosting action on account of the inevitable powercut-followed-by-slow-and-watery-death, and Somme style fort building in the kitchen/dining room/ living area/ soon to be graveyard. We then had a short recess to panic eat strawberry laces while we considered our next strategy. Onion goggles were located. A “crickey, that’s still quite a stormy looking storm” window staring rota was drawn up, meaning that we had at LEAST hourly checks on the general state of affairs, which frankly didn’t change all that much, other than getting a touch soggier over time. It was during one of these checks that I witnessed the bravest act of selfless mentalism which my 19 long years have afforded me; one of our team actually LEFT THE APARTMENT and STOOD IN THE RAIN, just to check that the world was actually ending. It was not.

The totality of our destruction can be found in list form below:

1) Packet of crisps flung from top of cupboard slightly more crushed than before.

2) Twister mat a bit scrumpled.

Oh, and our recycling bin got a bit damp. (Yes, we did leave a window open…) And i’m on the coast, so you can fold away the arm bands for another 30 years or so.

All the usual dignified affection,

B xx

 

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17 things which can only happen in Greece.

I’ll open with a word of warning: next time you’re in one of Britain’s largest international airports, engage that little filter which stops all the midnight garb being projectiled word-vommed at the omnipresent ears of armed security men. If you loudly say, upon seeing that your suitcase for one week weighs a mighty 17kg, “I’ve no idea what’s in there,” don’t be surprised if your entire luggage is swabbed for class A drugs, and you are then frisked within an inch of your existence by a woman who sees no issue with whispering, “I’m just going to have a go at your waistband” in your ear at 3am. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. But we’ll sashay swiftly along to my Definitive List Of Things So Abnormal, You Must Be In Greece.

ONE. Slightly harrowed looking Y-registration driver reversing back over the traffic line upon realizing he’d jumped a red light.

TWO. 3 very pale English girls becoming stranded in the central traffic island of a dual carriageway holding €130 of eggs, ice cream, tzatziki and vodka.

THREE. Kittens smaller than a Converse Allstar being allowed to be a thing… they also happen to favour aforementioned sensible footwear as ideal sleeping place. Causing all 10 ovaries present to spontaneously biodegrade.

FOUR. Putting aforementioned kitty on a scrambley egg becoming a genuine possibility. 

FIVE. Taxi drivers having basil stuffed into their air vents as a cheap alternative for air freshener/ convenient snacks. Same taxi driver making genuine attempt on 5 young ladies lives, following up with, “shh. Is ok,” accompanied by a gentle stroke of the right knee. Fight over the front seat is never quite the same again.

SIX. Driver squeezing enough people into the back of one car that they are pulled over for the illegal shipment of T-Rexs.

SEVEN. An attempt being made on Tiny Kitty’s tiny life by Belle forgetting self and trying to speak with a 4 minute old mouthful of water. 

EIGHT. Nutella not only becoming a legitimate meal, but a entire jar being devoured by 5 people in under 10 minutes.

NINE. Ordering an Amstel beer and be given a quadruple Absynth. To be consumed on an empty stomach.

TEN. A night in Kavos, home of the shorts so short they’re embarrassed by the length of a cocktail stirrer, seeming like a good idea. Yes, i have gone full circle. No, i do not learn from my mistakes. (See first ever blog ever for clarity.) 

ELEVEN. There being a genuine possibility of meeting a man who wears Yugoslavian military headgear not for fancy dress, but as a daily essential. He may or may not tell you that your “face balcony” is very beautiful.

TWELVE. The true and painful reality of existence being demonstrated by the four day old water finally being propelled from one’s ear as you are rugby tackled into a yet larger body of water, which in turn starts the process all over again.

THIRTEEN. There being a serious risk that a girl will Cotton Eye Joe you with such force that you experience unassisted flight, and tear a ligament in your foot.

FOURTEEN. It being acceptable to ignore aforementioned torn ligament, and tap dance with or without shoes in the street. Prior knowledge of tap dancing is very much optional.

FIFTEEN. The overwhelming presence of Italian men forcing one to resort to such rejection lines as, “nous sons Lesbianonos,” “gelato Roma Roma,” and my personal favourite, “no prostituto.”

SIXTEEN. A ‘fake’ email informing you that your flight has been delayed by 12 hours is established as being very very real upon arrival at worlds smallest airport.

SEVENTEEN. One man can spend €80 at abovesaid airport without even buying an aeroplane.

Oh, and a huuge huge Thank You to Mr and Mrs Smith for allowing us to fill your beautiful home with sand, cat nip and our broken dignities. You are the bravest people I have the pleasure of knowing. 

Hope you’re all chillin’ out, relaxin and/or maxin’ all cool.

In a bit,

B xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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10 reasons for the Brits to have boeff with the French

  1. They regard midway round a roundabout as a totally legitimate place to park. Other acceptable car dumping grounds include behind another parked car, prompting a village-wide game of literal manhunt/ on my hopes and dreams.

  2. They name their roundabouts. Unless “Fareham in bloom,” which we’ve not had since the recession, or “sponsor this roundabout” count, we don’t do names for inanimate road layouts. “That one near the place where souls go to die” will do the British just fine, thank you VERY much.
  3. They do baguette far better even than Sainsbury’s Taste The difference. We do not appreciate being shown up in this way.

  4. They refer to Macdonalds as a restaurant. To paraphrase President Bush, the problem with the French is they have no word for cuisine.
  5. When you land in France, you get a friendly little text which says, “hello, you’re now in France this is France terribly sorry about the smell. If someone tries to swap your daughter for a pain de mie, call 112. For a good time, call Sandra. Drive on the right. We’re also truly soz about the wooden barriers on the side of the mountain passes, we are aware that they won’t stop your car falling off the edge into the maritime part of the Maritime Alps, but we’ve not been able to afford health and safety since that time with Napoleon.” It seems, however, that the French themselves never actually receive this text. They then see an English person on the road and think they’ll make us feel nice and at home by driving on the left, which can also be referred to as ‘straight at your face.’ I will tell you one thing for free; the French have no number to call upon impromptu urination.

  6. They spend a lot of time setting up supermarket situations solely and alone in order to make me have a panic attack; one good example is keeping smelly raw fish in polystyrene boxes.
  7. They name PG films “Fanny” in earnest.

  8. They train their restaurant staff not to give you food until you’ve got through three hours of painful jazz, and as many litres of San Pellegrino. This then results in you having to sign away your squatter’s rights by the time you manage to actually leave the table, having left the entirety of your student loan in tips.
  9. Their women have no issue with openly judging anyone who might let a small, “olive me, why not take olive me, I’ll beetroot to you til the endive my days” slip in the middle of the fruit and veg section of the local E.Leclerc.

  10. 10. Their airport explosive-disposal experts have no issue with employing the “shake it and see” technique when investigating suspicious packages less than 5 metres from the nearest tourist.

Feel free to get into your own creative rages, and let me know the unreasonable reasons behind your own personal broadly generalised dislikes in the comments below.

Ciao bellas (we’ll get onto the Italians in the next installment of my long hot summer.)

B xxx

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It was a very good year

Can anyone who belongs to a gospel choir contact me ASAP, I need someone to hallelujah in harmony so that the whole of the south-east knows that I avoided sunburn for 14 whole days. Normally I look like a Neapolitan ice cream come mid August. But this is 2013 baby, whack some aerosol cream on my head and call me Dame Blanche.

With that aside, lets just address the lack of welcome party at the airport on my arrival. I excepted better of you. I mean really. Despite this frankly shoddy performance, lets both pretend that we’ve got an awkward car journey home to do, and let me regale you with my tales aplenty.

Days 1-3 of Team Johnson Fun Bonding were spent pretending not to notice the fact that we were in the midst of a forest fire zone, and were therefore likely to have approximately the entire sea, including the odd slightly confused diver, dumped upon our unsuspecting heads at any given moment. There was also a nightly wrestle between wanting to go and party at the r@ve house across the valley, and not wanting to walk up the worlds largest hill to get there. Despite this, you’ll be glad to know that I still achieved a nearly constant state of reclination.

By day 4 my NBFFL (noo best frend 4 lyf) was a frog, whom I named Alfonzo. On day 5, I learned of his harrowing backstory, and decided it was probably time to get out of the house. What a tease that frog was. Less Imaginative Sibling tried to name him Freddy, but we came to the conclusion that it just didn’t quite do justice to Alfonzo’s colourful personality and playful wit.

Day 6 birthed the morning upon which we discovered the flashy bear claw salad servers. Four-six hours later, and we’d worked out why you never see a bear eating salad. This also explains their perpetual grumpiness, which we have now attributed to permanent low blood sugar.

Having enjoyed approximately 144 hours of relaxation, I awoke in the small hours of day 7 to the prompt conclusion that our house was indeed haunted and/or being burgled. Rising from below came what sounded like a chipmunk being trodden on by a member of slimming world in a stiletto, followed by what I imagine a cartoon bear to sound like, were it mourning in slow motion. (Which we told the plumber in fluent French the next morning, who probably went home and told his wife that some English people had been done good and proper by google translate.) Within twenty seconds I had decided that between one and three members of my family were being killed in their beds. First things first, I located my pyjama bottoms. I’ve seen enough CSI to know that you do not want to star in an episode entitled Knickerless in Nice. Next I did the brave thing and sat on my bed staring at the door for 15 minutes. At 2.20 am, I finally summoned my courage and crept downstairs, ready to confront our attackers, armed with an iPhone 4 some impressive panda eyes. Luckily for me, my father was already on the scene, and had contained our attacker, which took the form of a creaky tap. Which, in retrospect, is still a worthy opponent and efficient destroyer of both iPhones and make-up smudges. All things considered, it was a pretty harrowing night. Eventually I did manage to fall asleep, where I dreamt that Jesse Tyler Ferguson taught me to build a Gerbil assault course using breadcrumbs and masking tape. He’s still not tweeted me back with his opinion on what this could mean.

As a special “well done for being brave treat,” we took a daddy daughter daytime day 7 bonding trip to E.Leclerc the next day, laden with approximately 700 Casino ‘bags for life.’ Just because we Cannes. (If you didn’t give at least a dim courtesy chuckle, either google the names of French supermarkets, or punch yourself in the face.)

On day 8 we heard tell of a new monster down our neck of the woods. The local children refer to it alone as, “she of the reddened face.” I may or may not have also taken up jogging just before this happened.

On day 9 I made a new frog friend. We called him Toulouse, because he made cat noises whenever people came near. This, we decided, was probably to fool the French types into thinking he wasn’t a frog and therefore dissuading them
from relieving him of his little leggies.

Day 10. A valuable lesson to be learned. No sound can instill fear into the hearts of brave men more efficiently than that of an unseen mosquito.

By day 11 at least 70% of my body was one huge bite, as a result of the stealthy attack of the previous night.

On night 12 we had thunder and lightening. It was very very frightening (me… Mama Mia Mama Mia Mama Mia Figaro) Luckily, my mother is basically Julie Andrews in both Mary Poppins AND The Sound Of Music. And, as we have learned, you’re never too old to play bed swap if the elements are against you and you happen to be sporting a matching pyjama/ henna tattoo. You must, however, also live in a house where no one will threaten to attach you to the pool Hoover if you start singing about whiskers on kittens in the small hours.

By the evening of day 13 a nice lady in a tiny backstreet shop had offered to sell me her “ass milk soap,” which I will let you make your own minds up about. Then I had to sit at an adjacent table to a man wearing a Victorian swimsuit. It’s weird, but something about being able to see other people’s nipples tends to put me right off my escalope. We then had an evening of jazz thrust upon us by a man who looked like a slightly Frencher Chris Moyles. Given that the main attractions of the one street town seemed to be the soap and honey shop, and the durex machine behind the town hall, there truly was no escape. The pain of our evening was made worse only by the fact that we’d decided it was a good idea to leave the house dressed as the Von Trapp family. The hills were alive with the sound of rusty trumpets and my assorted foot related complaints. (I am all over the Sound of Music references this evening. I’m like a cloud that you can’t catch or pin down. I’m an unsolvable problem. You’d almost think my name was Maria…ella.)

Day 14 saw our return to England, home of the easy accessible, reasonably priced mobile Internet. “Welcome home,” our little house said, “Your fridge is now a mound of gently whirring fungus. We can’t explain how that happened. You might want to befriend the dettol. Nice to see you though. You’re one of the few people who can work a sunglasses tan and still look super sassy.”

That is The French Holiday according to Belle, chapters 1-14 (written during a 12 hour delay at a tiny Greek airport) (which will explain the delirium.) Thank you, and goodnight.

Xx

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I have come to the conclusion that the Dutch have assumed that the rest of the world queues for its own amusement

A great philosopher once said, “no time like the present, especially if the present happens to find you stuck in a two to three hour traffic jam and your options have come down to blogging or bashing in the driver’s head with the butt of your iPhone just to make them stop drumming on the steering wheel.” And so we have it that I come to write this slightly frenzied account of Shamsterdam days 8-14. Whilst you’re reading please give some consideration to the various methods by which you could reach us with food and/or water and/or magazines and/or a new CD. There are only so many times that you can listen to a Muse album before you actually biodegrade.

Much like 2 Chainz, all I wanted for my birthday was a big booty ho (and a new potato masher but that’s largely irrelevant… Unless you happen to really really like mash potato… Which I do.) ANYWAY. So it was that one very excitable Lily was dropped into the lap of Amsterdam. And so it was that on DAY 8 I awoke beside someone who’s pancake enthusiasm tops even my own. Being a Dutch national not only allows you the vote, it also, and far more importantly, gives you an innate sense of where the nearest pancake house is. Five minutes and fifty yards later, we were seated adjacent to a woman uttering the words, “can I get the bacon pancake, but without the bacon?” So just a pancake then, you massive id. Clearly new to the area; shun her.

On day 9, all of the children of Amsterdam united in a new initiative which essentially involved doing a little trip and then holding onto my bottom for support. Come on and shake what yo mama gave you, or alternatively use it as a land based life jacket for the young and unstable.

On day 10 the blood-weeping split-leaping twerking dead French revolutionaries suddenly ceased to be the strangest people under the train track. Being hugely important and responsible (not good enough at my job to be able to do it alone) I had three new volunteers all of my own to work into the ground on a nightly basis. Day 10 Dude walks in, does a little double take, turns back on himself and stops at the dumpster which we share with the construction site next door. He then proceeds to retrieve a half-eaten baguette from within aforementioned dumpster, offers it around the assembled group, is wholeheartedly surprised when no one accepts, and eats it with the look of a small child devouring their first ice cream. All the while I am trying to brief him on his role, whilst trying to ignore his mullet and his pea green harem pants (we all know how I feel about harem pants after 2011) which go entirely transparent as soon as he stands in front of any light source. Ie: ALWAYS. I might just add that pantlessness is also apparently part of ‘the look.’ Anyone who can execute the above whilst still retaining some level of comprehensible Dutch should be awarded a Victoria cross for bravery in the face of the very very unusual enemy. Rosetta Stone, I am here when you want to hire me.

To get over the shock of day 10, and because calories don’t count if you’re not within 10 miles of home, we went back to the Pancake Bakery on day 11, where we were unfortunately seated by the entrance, meaning every single person who came through aforementioned door did all but actually lick our pancakes on the way in. They’d all kind of droolingly eye up our wares and stroke the table longingly like we were in the red light district. One lady, having devoured her own pancake at the next table, decided that mine looked nicer so came over to ask to try it. This is one of those conundrums where nationality plays a huge part. Had I been truly Dutch, I would have pushed her into the canal tied to a bike. I’d already conquered angrily standing my ground whilst in a queue, but I’d not quite got to lesson 14; how to act when a stranger approaches you and asks to share your breakfast. And so it was that i not only ended up feeding the Japanese masses, but also went a British step further and wrote down the name of what I was eating so that she could order it herself next time. What a first rate citizen I turn out to be.

On day 12 I shared a tram seat with a man dressed from head to toe in an orange football strip which simply screamed, “I am tourist, hear me roar!” Had they sold them in the right size, I would have bought one for my dog.

On day 13 I cried a lot but we’re pretending that didn’t happen. Ok? Just… Ok? I also did some real life proper technical work. Coincidentally, this happened to be the day that it was discovered that giving me a lighting board is a lot like giving a mentally challenged earwig an x-box.

Day 14. The reason behind all the crying/ chocolate eating/ wine in a vase (glass just wasn’t big enough) drinking. What my teachers used to, with a grateful sigh, refer to as “home time.” Made all the more difficult by the apparent unwritten rule that in the world of train station two way ticket gates, broad with child trumps short with suitcase. And apparently all the women in Amsterdam are suddenly spontaneously simultaneously pregnant. Selfish if you ask me.

My airport highlight (yes, I’m the kid who has airport highlights) was travelling on my British passport, because everyone assumes that you therefore neither speak nor understand Dutch. This also means that they think it’s safe to ask each other if they reckon they could confiscate the cake from my hand luggage (yes, I’m the kid that carries cake in her hand luggage) just because it looks nice and they’re feeling a little peckish. The answer is, whatever you want to smuggle onto an aeroplane, be it a kilo of cocaine or a small Mexican, hide it behind a piece of cake. Slightly unnervingly, I managed to get back to the UK before anyone, including myself, noticed that I had a knife, a razor and a needle in my handbag. Don’t ask.

On the plane I was sitting next to a baby. Not near a baby. Not behind a baby. Next to an effing baby. It was one of three people between me and the loo. And I’d had an entire litre of diet coke instead of supper. They should inflict that sort of exercise on the monks practising mind focus and/ or the general ability to tune out/not punch infants at 30,000 feet.

So now I’m home again… For just long enough to wait for my clothes to get smelly before I finally unpack, give them a quick wash and re-pack them for my next little luxury. To be honest with you, I’m a bit disappointed to be back. I had just got used to doing the one with all the AAEEII-ing (afsluitdijk. I rest my case,) and now I’m ruddy back in England again, home of the standardised vowel:consonant ratio. Similarly, not entire sure how I feel about the EPassport gate displaying a huge screenshot of my poorly lit slightly confused post plane face for the rest of the patiently waiting/ impatiently bustling (depending on your nationality… I had indulged in a spot of both) queue to enjoy at my expense.

The last inevitable humiliation came in the form of the awkward carousel trot after my bag… Which then, after a Usain Bolt in high heels style effort, turned out not to be mine. It was at this point that I genuinely considered climbing onto the conveyor-belt in the hope that, if it took my away for long enough, no one would recognise me upon my return.

So, there we have it. My rather public diary of an Amsterdam Working Girl. I can’t tell if my experience is out of the ordinary, or if I’ve just been off the stage for too long. I miss the days when one could carry a naked male mannequin down a corridor crowded by 11 year olds without anyone noticing anything unusual. And when did I stop enjoying smearing fake blood on wedding dresses and making homemade veils on the number 80 bus? When did I stop making little dens out of scaffolding? I’m no doctor (probably lucky for anyone planning to be ill in the next 5-15 years) but I’d say the cure is simple: get me back under the arches! (We’ll take a brief recess for you all to vomit at my naive outlook on life.)

See y’all after the next jaunt, when hopefully I will be so relaxed my hands will have forgotten how to type and ill just have to make happy noises at the screen and hope it works.

LUSMB,

B xx

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“A bit like Les Mis, but with a generally higher frequency of breast.”

You know the little box which every human has stored at the furthest corner of the attic of their mind, the one which everyone has accepted is A Bad Idea To Open on account of What’s inside? You know, the place where you store every weird thought or dangerous idea you’ve ever had? It’s been scientifically proven that in actors and their tech-team playthings, this box is up to ten times larger, and boasts a slightly looser catch which often pops open at large family gatherings and other times of intense boredom. Maths exams and the suchlike. And when one of these little ideas is acknowledged by another theatrical type, they have a dangerous tendency to be ‘tried out’… ‘for fun.’ What I’m trying to say, from my metaphorical therapy couch, is that I have SEEN inside the little black box inside the most dangerous little dark mind of all; that of a stage manager. And for two weeks, that little dark box became my little dark playground. 

To quote Blackadder, which frankly I don’t think is done enough, I wouldn’t know what makes a good tech if one stripped naked, painted itself pink and did a little dance in front of me singing, “talented techs are here again.” Which, funnily enough, is more or less a perfect synopsis of my two weeks in the centre of underground Amsterdam. Despite not recently having been allowed into a sound and lighting box as a result of my tendency to break things and/or press red buttons, I found myself with a drill in one hand and enough cable ties to capture Paris in the other, being given Actual Responsibilities. Proper grown-up things what actually impacted other grown-up things. I know! My new life mantra is, “never hand power tools to anyone with an addictive personality.”

Let me paint you a word picture, one which I’d like to call, “A day in the life of a Techie.” It goes like so:

Coffee, wrapping inanimate objects in aluminium foil, spray painting Meaningful Things onto bits o’ concrete, getting spray paint in and around your eye, staple gunning things to other things, staple gunning yourself to other things, watering the floor, coffee, strategical dead doll placement, coffee, precisely and carefully lighting cans of beer, holding ladders moving ladders climbing ladders, innovative tea, watering the floor some more, ice cream, throwing fairy lights at your fellow techies, throwing fairy lights at actors, having tantrums thrown at you by actors (and fairylights.) Coffee.

On day 1, in the very short break between my tenth and eleventh unit of caffeine before lunch, I was introduced to a man named Coon. Believe it or not, Coon is allegedly to Holland what John is to England. For rizzles. They have no idea that it’s racist… or a brand of Australian cheese. I’m not sure which would upset them more.

On day 2, the church outside the house played Frere Jacques at midnight, and then again at 3am, 5am and 8am. To recap: they played a FRENCH children’s song in a CHURCH in the totally randomised small hours. If anyone could explain this musical insanity to me, I’d be super grateful. Maybe you could sing me your answers? There’s a lady who stands on the church steps (next to the National Gay and Lesbian information kiosk) and warbles pretty much 24 hours a day, so feel free to join in whenever you feel the moment take you.

On day 3, we had our first “I just can’t WORK like this.” Tears ‘n’ all. It was very nice. The only slight glitch was that no one could quite take our Prima Donna seriously, mainly on account of the fact that he was only wearing a jock strap, having just rollered his on-stage wife’s breasts in red paint. Maybe time that one a touch better next time… The only person who seemed to empathise was my friend in the pants/ transparent raincoat/ kneepads combo. SS14, you better check yourself before you wreck yourself.

Aforementioned strop escalated into full scale revolution and, ultimately, a general refusal to rehearse. Obviously, this lead directly to schnitzel, chips and beer. I so wish it had ever occurred to me to refuse to rehearse at school. Would have been far more interesting than the obligatory “well done on working hard and not crying too much” custard cream/dishwater tea reward. Whilst the rest of the cast metaphorically threw beer and blame at one another at the far end of our table, I tried to work out whether the bird on the corner of the bar was real or not. As it turns out, yes it was. Apparently, “afblijven” means “leave alone,” and is not just another creative Dutch name. If I become rabid, you’ll know who to blame.

On day 4, I got a splinter in my bum and more or less resisted the urge to spray paint my entire face gold. I also nearly got run over by a man carrying an open bottle of wine in the waterbottle holder of his bicycle. Make of the above what you will.

On day 5 I watered 400 square feet to the tune of “No Diggity,” then witnessed my first pre-show warm up, which looked a lot like a warehouse rave from my most cheese induced nightmares…Obviously I dream about various rave locations, being intensely individual and free spirited. The cast shook what their mama’s gave them dressed in what can only be described as ‘Coffin Chic’ to the tune of “Allemaal Lichten” be Jebroer. The score says death metal dubstep. The words say, “why is the sky still blue… what day is it today.” Yep. Maybe don’t go to Amsterdam at Halloween.

On day 6 I learned two vital lessons:

1)   The Dutch really really hate Putin.

2)   The Dutch really really do not know how to spell Putin. To explain would be to read far more into that fact than is necessary and/ or interesting.

On day 7, I had the duvet of youth torn from me like a particularly odd bikini wax, and was thrust head first into the world of adulthood… again. Being 19 does, however, also include presents so I’m sort of ok with it now. I considered buying myself bunting and creating an avant-garde neck embellishment from it, but I came to the conclusion that that was far more sadness than 99 cents was worth. For those of you who have never heard the Dutch birthday song, it bears zero correlation to the rest of Europe’s versions, and is about 4 hours long. If you feel at all weak of heart, I suggest you avoid admitting to it being your birthday if you are a) in Holland or b) in the presence of a theatre company and/or trap singer. If you do find yourself in such a situation, I suggest you cram at least 3 cupcakes into your mouth and smile as serenely as is possible whilst adorned in a dungaree.

What I did find bemusing about my birthday is that Facebook send you constant notifications telling you that the world and his 7 wives have written on your ‘wall’ for your birthday. I find that quite presumptuous. Yes, it happens to be the anniversary of my birth. You have no idea what the people I rarely speak to and only vaguely recognise might have to say to me. They might be reminding me that my tax return is due, or asking me to sign a petition to stop X-Factor making another series. They might be suggesting I hold onto the perch on which I am balanced before trying to tackle another cake, foreseeing that failure to do so would indeed result in my falling off backwards, and only-just-proverbially tearing myself a new one, which would then lead to having to ask a stranger to swab my thighs with disinfectant at the grand old age of nineteen. And not in a fun way. It is also not considered amusing if your response to a sympathetic, “gosh, it’s so swollen” is, “no, you’re alright, that’s what my thighs always look like.”

And so it was that I spent the last hour of my birthday clearing both fake and real blood from the floor of a tunnel underneath Amsterdam Centraal.

Tune in in another month when I finally get around to writing days 8-14. You know you’ve read so far that you’re basically obliged to…

B xxx

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“Oh, sorry, I assumed you were English because of your nose.”

Amsterdam? AmsterDAMN. So, obviously The Dutch heard I was coming and just weren’t ready for me, so paid some pilot five million tulips and a windmill to delay my flight for two hours. Que mid-scale panic amongst the interesting mix of business men who would be late for their meetings and ‘Ladz’ who would miss their first “how to be a prize moron” seminar. I suppose it was an inevitable eventuality, given that I’ve not had a flight delayed before it’s even understood my snack requirements since That Time in Munich, 2002. You want me to tell the story don’t you. FINE. The things I do for you sometimes, and then you don’t even sing to me on my birthday. Talk about a one sided relationship. It’s almost like I’m just talking to myself. So in 2002 I was 8, and our flight was delayed for a whole hours. That’s 18 episodes of the Simpsons. Maybe now you understand the sheer gravity of the situation now. Not only were all the shops closed meaning I nearly ate the entire travel monopoly set out of sheer boredom, but I also had to be at school by 8 the next morning in order to hand my travel diary in in time to be in with a shot of going up to the stage in assembly to get a pat on the head and a mars bar. NOT an opportunity I was ok with missing. I said it then (in not so many words I imagine,) and I’ll say it again now; if there’s one thing the British do really well, it’s tutting at inanimate objects, such as the terminal 1 Café Nero baristas, or departure screens.

So there I found myself, abandoned in the East end of London which, by the way, is essentially a zoo. I mean, the W H Smith didn’t even sell wholewheat tortilla wraps? You can get a tin of souvenir shortbread in return for your student loan, or an a4 sized magazine cover of some lady named Kelly’s cellulite, circled in yellow and blown up just in case your first reaction was “come on, that’s not that bad,” and that’s about it. They did, however, sell permanent markers. Had my flight been delayed for another 10 minutes, I probably would now be on the no fly list on account of all the sleeping tourists someone had left lying about. I also found a 500 gram bag of tiny house shaped biscuits, and spent the next twenty minutes trying to work out how many you’d have to eat before you’d had an entire biscuit. In the interest of making me feel good about myself, lets say the entire bag. “Great for sharing” it said on the label. I’m sorry, until you do a coke and give me a specific name of a person with whom I am obliged to share my noms, you may jog on.

Luckily, there was some poor grammar to keep me entertained. Next to my flight number was written, “delayed until 17.40 for refreshments wait in lounge.” Now… has the plane been delayed on account of some refreshment based emergency, or should I be waiting in the lounge in order to be refreshed? Are you promising to bring me more yummies, or did the pilot fancy stopping for a drive thru somewhere above the north sea? Quite frankly if you’re not on good terms with the comma, I’m not sure I trust you to be able to tie your own shoelaces, let alone steer a pressurised tin can moving at 500 miles per hour across France with me inside it.

Having taught myself fluent Spanish from the conversation of a family sitting at least 50 feet from me, I decided that what I really fancied was to partake in the confusingly legal tax-avoidance scheme of Duty Free Shopping. More biscuits for Belle. And they were like totes from Fortum’s so, the calories totally don’t count because the Queen eats them too. Blogger today, lawyer tomorrow. I find that airports have the chlaustro feel which makes purchasing irresistible, just in case you never make it out and this is the last shopping you’ll ever get to do. I mean, with enough time anyone could persuade themselves that a small fortune of champagne dressed as a Wimbledon player is an essential traveller’s companion, second only to my highland’s chic walking boots. Thankfully, being that it was a sweltering day outside, a good proportion of my two friends was on facebook, and therefore free to limit my spending/ further my education. Let’s cut to the chase: hands up who knew that Jesus didn’t, in fact, hand out charcuterie meat at the feeding of the 5,000. As it turns out, and I have this next bit on good authority, sausages didn’t actually even exist back then, mainly on account of the fact that no one ate pork, and Coles weren’t yet in business to be able to sell their two dollar beef types. So, if it turns out that karma wasn’t just another practical joke and my primary school religious education teacher is reading this; you’ve been busted. I see your game, son. Just you wait for 2015, that is going to be one 10 year reunion you will not be forgetting any time soon. Parents, take note: if you send your children to a forces boarding school, they will go about spreading the antipasti word. We must fight this together, and get the Asda thick cut white loaf truth out amongst the masses. Moving on…

In that little awkward holding room when they’ve already torn the boarding pass you paid two hundred pounds for but havn’t actually shown you the goods yet, I devised a cunning formula to define who belongs to which nationality. It’s very simple really; if you’re British, you will stand and pretend to text someone important whilst avoiding eye contact with everyone except the frogs on your tiny wellies (as you can see, this theorum is also applicable to a 1999 version of me. God I miss those boots.) If you’re Dutch, you will happy flump over to the free seat between two total strangers, TOTAL STRANGERS, and proceed to make conversation about cheese, and how compeed just strong enough for them there pesky clog blisters isn’t. Also: all Europeans were taught to speak by yoda. That’s another fact for you, because I’m feeling generous today. QUICK THEY SAID WE CAN GET ON THE PLANE IF WE DON’T ALL STAND UP AS ONE AND RUSH TO THE BUS WHICH WILL DRIVE US 5 METRES ALL THE GOOD TINY PACKETS OF TRAIL MIX MIGHT BE GONE. Lucky I pointed my elbows with a nail file this morning then, isn’t it LADY. If you’re one of my new flatmates, I promise I am actually not a psychopath and I only resort to elbow based violence when forced. I may or may not, however, steal your mars bars.

 

What I did find amusing is that there runs a river directly parallel to the London City Airport runway, on upon that river row rowers. I personally like to entertain the thought that they’re just impatient passengers who have decided it would be quicker to row to Schiphol than sit through the only talk you wish would be over swiftly more than THE talk. I mean, how can you expect me to give my full attention to your little life jacket dance when you are doing fiddly and interesting things to the wing, pretty much THE most important bit of the plane after the free bar. Let’s save everyone some time and upset, skip the speech and come do my hair like you did yours instead, like some sort of weird, mid-air slumber party. The only part I actually heard was, “iPods, nintendos and PDAs may cause damage to that thing that’s bad news if it gets damaged.” And that was literally only because I was rofling at the fact that public displays of affection have finally been officially defined as dangerous to the general health and wellbeing of those around you.

I’m going to save actual Amsterdam for next time, because I know how much 1,000 words of aiport based dilemma tires you out, so you’ll probably need some sort of nap and/ or cornetto before we proceed. On a final side note; never ever again recline your seat onto my lap whilst I’m mid tea sip if you want to live. Also, gum in seatbelts. What the mother is that about? Of all the places to put your used chewing gum, you choose the buckle of the thing which stops me hitting the ceiling when we hit a cloud? Come on dude, don’t ruin humanity for me. I apologise endlessly for assuming that any of you would ever break aeroplane etiquette in such horrific and life altering ways, but I have no other base from which to vent. Other than Facebook and Twitter but, you know… no comments/ likes/ retwats risk. Just too high.

Tot ziens! * does little wave, falls off bike into canal *

B xxx

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