Friday, 23 September 2011

The German Girl

Michael, Alex and I have just walked back into the pub that we had only just left 30 seconds earlier. We have just recieved notice from Becky that she and a couple of her friends were on their way to the pub that we had just walked out of. So, as I said, we headed straight back in.

We had been on a pub crawl starting in Berrylands, passing through the Coronation Hall in Surbiton and then we found our way to the King's Tun in Kingston. We had a great booth in the pub and had just dusted off a jug of Blue Lagoon and Cheeky V between us, yet by the time we walked back in there was suddenly limited seating and we had to settle for a window table. A very cramped window table, in fact.

Eventually, Becky, Tina and a German friend of Becky's called Sophia joined us. Tina had to leave almost straight away, so we were soon down to the five of us. Suddenly, I was left with Sophia. Becky and Alex had gone to the bar, whilst Michael decided that now was an appropriate time to go to the loo. I decided to put Sophia at ease with a fantastic conversation starter, "Don't worry, I won't make any jokes about the war". On reflection, that doesn't seem to be the best line I could have opened with.

I then went through the usual pleasentries you exchange with a new person. I found out she was from Cologne, I still think that is a strange name for a city. Well, at least it must smell nice. I discovered she knew Becky threw a relation to her knowing Becky's mum. She was on a gap year before starting University. I learnt that she liked Angela Merkel. I even had a brief conversation on German football, detailing all from Lukas Podolski to Borrusia Dortmund.

Michael soon returned and after he and Sophia ran through a pretty similar conversation we had just had. The fool. Sophia must have felt he was a mere copy of myself and that he took all his conversational wizardry from myself. I then managed to make my next blunder though.

"So, was the ball over the line then in the World Cup final?" Why had I just asked this. It is well known that the Germans are still sore over that goal. She responded by saying that "Yeah, I don't think the ball was over the line". I then went to Michael for his thoughts on this historical classic, yet I'm not sure he quite knew what goal we were talking about though in his English pride, he felt that the ball was over the line.

I decided it was probably best to quieten down a bit. Yet, I ignored the rational part of my brain and decided to try and speak German. Now, I studied German all the way from Year 7 to Year 11 at school and I was good at it. Very good, in fact. I gained an A Grade at GCSE level. Quite the achievement I'll have you know. It's been a long time, however, since I last had a conversation in German and I was unsuprisingly terrible. Sophia must have thought I was mocking her even more. This really was going badly.

The table conversation soon moved onto music after Michael brought up the fact that I had asked Sophia whether they have "Western music in Germany?" Everyone laughed. I cringed. Why had I said that? I then remembered the quite terrible band I had listened to in a German lesson many moons ago. They are called Wir Sind Helden and I spoke in such depth about them that I get the feeling I may have come across as Wir Sind Helden's number one fanboy.

Soon Michael corrected my grammar. This brought out an almost instinctive reaction in me that I really shouldn't have said. "Grammar Nazi!" I fired back at Michael. Oh God. I just said the N-word in front of a German person. Had she heard? Well, I didn't exactly matter as I was cringing. Then I managed to make things worse. Much worse.

Now, the day before, a friend of ours did a Nazi salute in a pub. I don't think he quite understood what he was doing and he was most certainly joking. I know for a fact that he is joking because I have not seen an ounce of Nazi paraphernalia in his house. However, I seemed to think that Sophia would see this a witty, hilarious anecdote that she would tell all her friends back in Germany. She seemed shocked. I'm pretty sure I even heard gasps around the table. She uttered back, in a broken tone, "Oh...OK..."

She soon went home when we left the pub for another venue and Alex told me that I had come across as a Nazi sympathiser. I would like to stress that I am not though. I have quite a dislike for what they did and stood for. Plus, Hitler isn't exactly my favourite historical figure.

The next day after completing the pub quiz, we all went to McDonalds to get some food. Becky, Sophia and Alex remained in the car whilst Michael and I went instore to order. As we only had an order from Becky for a cheeseburger, I decided to pick up a few. I hastily paid. We offered Sophia a cheeseburger and she accepted. She went to get her £1 to reimburse my slightly worse off wallet, however, I declined her pound and told her "Don't worry" about paying.

Hopefully that cheeseburger will have slightly improved Anglo-Germanic relations.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The Charity Case

It's 3:30PM on a balmy Friday afternoon. Philip and I are in Kingston for our second time today. Now before you ask why, I will say that we aren't wildly in love with our hometown. No, you see we are here to film for our debut video for our YouTube channel.

We reach the section of the High Street by the Bentalls Centre and then we are approached by a man in a blue top. I could tell he was one of those people who pound the streets trying to get citizens to give money to charity. I had two reasons to believe this. First, I have previously been lured in by these people and ended up giving money to a charity. Second, he was wearing a Battersea Dogs and Cats Home T-shirt and he was holding a clip board.

"Oh wow cool camera" said the man, who we got to quickly know as Waleed. I could tell he was good at his job. His opening gambit was impressive. Philip was drawn in by this conversation wizard, the fool. Philip and Waleed then proceeded to discuss cameras and the fact Philip wanted to be a film director despite the fact he is studying geography at University. Waleed certainly had his game face on. He had struck quickly and found Philip to be easy prey. Someone he felt he could get to sign up to charity, quite possibly because he was walking around a Greater London borough with a video camera nonchalantly in hand.

 Waleed then posed a question that rapidly drew the conversation round to his advantage. "Do either of you like dogs or cats?" This was a tricky situation. It would appear rude to say I hated dogs and cats in front of someone on behalf of the premiere dog and cat charity in the country, yet I didn't want to lie to Waleed. I responded with a casual "I only like declawed cats". As I said, casual. Philip though said he prefered cats, he clearly felt it important to appeal to Waleed's cat side, even though Waleed told us straight after that he wasn't exactly a fan of either even though he had a dog. At least I had offered a semi-humorous response.

When Waleed went in for the kill to see if either of us would pay £2.10 a week to help the charity, I instantly went on the defensive. "I don't think I'd be able to afford it as I already give £5 a month to Unicef", plus let's be honest, £2.10 is the price of a pint of lager. As a student, I need to think about my lager based finance before agreeing to fund the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. Waleed then turned to Philip to see if he would stump up the noble fund in the name of innocent dogs and cats around the country.

It was at this point that I knew Philip wouldn't stump up the cash yet I felt it best to help Waleed. At the age of 18, he was already the Head of Direct Marketing. He had already achieved adulthood despite being two years younger than me. Philip then feigned a phone call, yet the minute that had ended we both decided to work on Philip to get him to save the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. It's not often a man can say he saved an age old charity and pilar of British life. Yet Philip didn't seem to want to take up this opportunity.

He posited to Waleed that he didn't want to give out his card details to a man in the street. This is a relatively sound point, yet Waleed assured Philip that the information he needed was still not enough for anyone bar a registered charity to break into his account. This didn't seem to convince my friend though. Then, within a flash, our friend David had turned up and it soon began to become a 3 on 1 situation. Waleed, David and I were all ganging up on Philip to get him to donate to charity.

Philip, however, reiterated his paranoia in having his credit card hacked into by giving out his details on the street despite the fact it is far more risky to give out your details on the internet in order to purchase products. He still wouldn't hand over the two small details that could allow the charity to take a weekly £2.10 from his account, two details that wouldn't be enough for Joe Bloggs to hack into his account. I assured Philip that I had given out my details on the street to Unicef before and that all was fine. He still woudn't pass over his details though.

After much discussion and probably wasting Waleed's precious time, we walked away. We had failed. Philip didn't buckle under the pressure and refused to give to charity. As much as it dissapointed me that he didn't want to give to charity, I could only admire his sheer stubborn quality in sticking to his guns. I guess you can call that an adult quality.

We then went back to Philip's house to edit our video and it was then that Philip offered us a more startling revelation. He told us his Dad didn't trust wireless internet because "anyone can hack in" despite the fact that you can security protect your network by using a password.

Suddenly, his worry that his credit card could be accessed illegally by someone due to giving out just two details to a licensed charity worker seemed a hell of a lot more sane and a lot less paranoid.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The Bad Day at Work

Recently, I have been thinking that it is time to grow up. It's time to become more of an adult. It's time to act like a mature 20 year old.

This has largely been due to the fact that I have had a fair number of conversations with different friends about the future and the big issue of what to do post-University. They have been interesting, revealing and life-changing conversations. Conversations that have had a profound impact.

Essentially, my main problem is that I only really have my long-term aims in life. I'd love to be a writer and I'd like to dabble in radio presenting and also politics. However, there seems to be a stepping stone missing as I really lack the short-term aims. I had no plan post-University.

However, that has all changed thank to these conversations. I have now a plan in place, something that I will actively pursue in the short-term. It's a basic plan. It's very simple. It's a plan consisting of only four word's. Get a graduate job.

In essence then, this has been my last summer of total freedom. The last chance I will ever have to control my life over a period of up to three months. Except, I haven't got total control at the minute. You see, my parent's both work at the same hospital in different departments yet they are both on holiday at the moment. Whenever my Dad or his assistant are unable to make work, I fill in. It pays suprisingly well.

My parent's offered me the choice to come on holiday with them, however, I felt it best they had a whole week to themselves and I felt it best to probably earn some money and prove my work ethic by filling in for my Dad whilst he was away enjoying a well earned break.

The first day in the job was easy. It was stuff I had done before whilst helping my Dad out. Now, whenever I work with my Dad I enjoy making his day that little more entertaining/stressful by mucking about and having a laugh. However, as I was working with my Dad's assistant, I decided it best to try my hardest and not muck around. I tried my best, or at least I felt I did.

Then I turned up today after getting stuck in the worst traffic to ever hit New Malden and ended up getting what I will term as bullied. It turns out I made two small mistakes in orders, I gave one ward three plasters by accident instead of three boxes and in my morning haze I had, by mistake, given the cleaners on one small ward 30 individual hand towels instead of a 30 packs of hand towels. Two mistakes that would only take one minute to rectify yet caused "great stress" according to my Dad's assistant. I apologised for my mistake. Only a nice person would do this.

Then she carried on this bizarre tirade at me, in front of one of the cleaners. I had left at 2:15PM after being told by my Dad before hand that I only had to work between 8AM and 1PM, generally people only work the times they are told. I had worked an extra hour and a bit, I felt this to be very noble of me. Coral, Dad's assistant, asked if I wanted to go for lunch at 2 and I told her "Oh, but Dad said I could leave at 1PM" to which she said "Oh, ok then". I even made sure later that I asked her if it was fine with her if I could go, to which she replied "Yeah OK". She then claimed today that she didn't want me to go, to which I thought "Well you could have said...."

She then went on to insinuate that I had a bad relationship with my Dad purely because I said he probably wasn't the best person to ask about my future career plans, she attacked my supposed lack of work ethic based purely on something my Dad had said to her and put two and two together and claimed my moral stance against the idea of private hospitals made me purposely screw up the orders.

I then proceeded to waffle on about politics and spent the rest of the day ignoring her as best as I could and doing the best job I could, mostly to hopefully help my Dad have a less stressful week at work next week.

I was then told by Coral in a sarcastic manner that "I guess you want to go home" at 1PM and I left and told my sister, who also works at this hospital, that I would pick her up later. I felt it important to negate this woman's cynicism and hateful attitude by being as nice as I could to every person I could. I drove at the correct pace. I stopped to let every person cross the road. I stopped to let every car get out of side roads and into the main road. I even bade a "good afternoon" to the owner of our local cornershop and opened the door for her whilst she moved the newspapers from the stand outside to the inside of the shop itself.

I felt good for this. I felt I had hopefully made the world a better place for these people with my small, nice gestures and that made me smile.

Oh, and Coral is such a stupid name.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

The Shirt

"Loose, footloose, kick off your Sunday shoes!" I sing at the top of my voice.

Nope, I'm not just singing the classic Kenny Loggins song in a sudden burst of 1980's infused craziness. No, for I am in a nightclub. Not just any nightclub, I'm in the cheese room at Oceana and I'm ever so slightly tipsy.

I am having a great time and I'm surrounded by friends and there is a lovely warmth in the feeling of the evening, something I can assure you is difficult to achieve at Oceana on a Wednesday night.

The DJ continues to play some terrible songs from the 80's that we all secretly like. Although, based on the fact we are all singing and dancing along means it isn't exactly secret anymore.

Unlike most of the other people here wearing t-shirts, I decided to go for the classy look and wear a shirt. However, this is not just any shirt. It's a shirt I had only recently purchased from Hollister that looks and feels brilliant. It was suddenly my favourite shirt. I feel like I want to go to the DJ booth and grab the microphone and say "Fellow reverllers, as you can see I am a man of impeccable taste based on my shirt, now bow down before me!" Though, I realise this would probably result in a beating so I continue dancing and singing in a merry manner with my friends.

Then it happens. The worst thing that could happen right here, right now. I see another man wearing the same shirt. "Who is this shirt challenger?" I think, "Who is this man who thinks he can break the unspoken social rules of wearing the same shirt?"

Then it gets worse. He and his friends come and dance near our group. I suddenly felt very awkward. I had the feeling there was the odd person seeing this situation and mocking. However, what do I do? Do I hold my nerve and stand my ground or do I do depart?

So, in the most unconvincing way ever, I try to dance my way to the bar ever so slowly in the hope the same-shirt man won't witness my cowardly act. Then his group seem to gradually follow. Bugger.

I trudge off to the bar quickly and order myself another Stella Artois. I stand by the bar feeling stupid and rueing the man who wore the same shirt as me.

I have yet to wear the shirt since.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

The World of Topshop

It's a typical Saturday morning. I'm sitting in my chair, reading The Sun, watching Soccer AM and eating my breakfast. Multi-tasking at its finest, I think you'll agree. I had my phone on charge up in my bedroom and I went upstairs to go to the loo. I thought I may as well check my phone to see if it has charged. It had. Success. An early morning task completed.

I noticed I had recieved a text. A text inviting me somewhere. It was from my friend Alex. It read, 'Do you want to come to town to meet me becky and rice at like 1 to 1:30 ish??'. As any good friend and reader of the classic Danny Wallace book Yes Man, I decided I only had one answer. Yes.

Now, here's an interesting sub-plot. It's also my parent's anniversary. Their 28th to be precise. My sisters weren't in at this time and weren't coming back all day so my parent's weren't exactly dissapointed I was going out. If you can read between the lines, that is a sentance I never wished to write.

So I had arranged to meet Alex by the roundabout. It's a well known place in Berrylands. It's almost as renowned as the pub. However, he was late. His mum was giving us a lift into Kingston, yet an apparent trip to petrol station was taking longer than expected.

I had been sitting, waiting for an age and then some lady proved that women drivers are in fact rubbish. Of all the parking places, she decided to park right by where I was sitting. The cheek. How dare this lady play mind games with me? How dare she take over my land? I thought I should stay strong and remain where I was. I had to win the battle of minds for men all over the world united against women drivers. I got up and called my friend. He informed me he was nearly here. I had lost the battle of the wills against the lady. She walked off to the park knowing she had won.

Suddenly, a massive group of OAP cyclists flocked through the park and round the roundabout. I had never seen such a thing. This day was starting to become rather odd.

We eventually arrived in Kingston and we met up with Becky. We went to Topman to buy one so Becky could buy a girl friend some socks. Yes, I did say Topman. It's odd how women can get away with wearing mens clothes, yet it's considered strange how men can't wear womens clothes. Although I guess it is odd to see a man wearing female clothes. Anyway, we soon went to Topshop in search of these socks and then it began.

As any man will know, it is a frightening experience entering a female fashion store. Especially one without a male fashion section. I've been to these female fashion stores before with my mum but I always knew that as long as I stuck by her side and I didn't complain about being in the shop then my mum would happily go to shops that I would like to go too.

However, we soon got trapped. Becky had thundered around the shop at a lightening pace. We, though, were stuck. Trapped. Cornered in a small area of the shop surrounded by hundreds of female shoppers and dummies. As far as I could see we were the only men in there. We must have looked creepy and strange. Women will have wondered what we were doing there. They were probably whispering and pointing at us.

Luckily we soon escaped what was fast becoming hell and caught up with Becky and went to the top floor. It was here where the men were. The men who were there for their women. Their female friends, wives, girlfriends, daughters. The whole male spectrum was here and they all looked equally fed up and petrified. One man was carrying his girlfriend's bag, one was following like a depressed sheep and another was merely standing at the side. He looked especially trapped and lost in this world for high street female fashion. I wanted to nod to the man to give him the 'I-feel-your-pain' look but if I had I suspected he would have been even more distressed.

We eventually made it to the male safe haven of HMV. I was looking for Ninja Assassin, but another soon caught my eye. Ninja Cheerleaders. It sounds brilliant. It has ninjas who are cheerleaders and they must compete in a strip competition to gain some much needed cash. It seems like a film that is probably worthy of an Oscar. It only had one downside. It was £12. However, I've found a copy on for £5 and I plan to buy it soon. If you're lucky I might even give you a detailed review of the film.