I did not know you but may you forever Rest In Peace

I did not know you but your premature death on Saturday saddened me and touched my life.

I did not know you, this lady that I come to write about: the lady who was tragically lying under a red blanket on Stoke Newington High Street whilst the masses milled around you, taking pictures, others making jokes or those still queueing at the butchers less than 3 feet from where you lay dead. I counted me as the sole person crying.

I do not know which I was more saddened by: your tragic death or the response around you as your shopping and shoe lay in the street, serving as a poignant reminder of how insignificant such things are in life.

The sun still shone, life still went on but society died with you. Humanity, compassion, respect all left this Earth when those that took pictures decided that their egos should be the overriding factor. People wanting to be the first one with the story; the person who knew the most; the person who had the most representative picture; the most detail; little understanding that it wasn’t about them, that the moment belonged to you.

That strangers cared more about you in death than in life is sad. That your image would be on social media sites before your blood was cold and whilst your relatives thought of you as alive is soul destroying.

I wish I could have shielded you from view and got it through to people that you were a human being – a person – and not a spectacle; that your death was not for their entertainment but I couldn’t and I am so terribly sorry that you lost your life and in doing so those around you did not afford you the dignity you deserved.

May you forever rest in peace.

To Whoever Invented Xmas

To whoever invented Xmas,
I know it was an idea loosely based on the idea of Christmas. And I respect your ability to take an idea and run with it…probably to the bank and back again and again but who am I to make assumptions?
I have to admire your ability to turn millions of people into unthinking consumerists prepared to be indebted to banks/credit card companies/payday loan companies/loan sharks for Xmas. People who somehow believe the concept of paying for presents over paying for rent and council tax is a good idea.  There is something you have tapped into in the human psychology that means that people willingly conform and I admire that you made it happen, in a ‘I would never be able to do that’ kind of way of course – in the same way that I admire people that can drive behind a really slow car and not get at all angry or even swear –  it truly blows my mind and so I admire that.
I imagine those Business Managers at the bank gave you a hard time when scrutinising your business plan: “You mean to tell me you think you will get millions of people around the world, to spend billions of pounds in the name of one day of the year?” I imagine them asking. They must have laughed you out of the same banks you are now running to…and back again. How you must enjoy the last laugh.
I like that you try and pretend to bear a resemblance to Christmas through the medium of television adverts; that there is a Xmas spirit and seasonal goodwill but as I do not see Coca-cola buying me anything, I suppose I find the goodwill on these television adverts a little one-sided and self-serving. I think this makes me see this goodwill as not so good.
As an aside about goodwill, I remember the snow fall of January 2009 when people were off work and strangers played together in the streets and picked each other up when they’d fallen over really badly. Yes there was some laughing at them but there was goodwill.  The best thing about it? It was free!
You may wonder why I have written to you, Whoever invented Xmas, I am kind of wondering too. I think it is because I don’t get it.  Remember that film Big with Tom Hanks and he stood up like the boy in the Emperor’s new clothes and he said (ironically, in a toy store boardroom) “I don’t get it” when everyone else was fawning over a new toy.  That’s how i feel. I don’t get it.
I haven’t got it for some time but I’ve gone along with it. I have decided that this will be the last year that I go along with it until I start getting it again.
I will tell you some things I take particular umbrage with and maybe that will help.
I asked my sister what she wanted for Xmas (because nobody seems to know what to get anyone anymore), she told me and I will buy it for her. I will wrap it up and I will give it to her.
My sister asked me what i wanted, I told her and she will buy it for me, wrap it up and give it to me.  We will thank each other and be grateful. But, Whoever invented Xmas, wouldn’t it have been easier to get what i asked her for for myself but not necessarily at Xmas?
The reason I had not bought what I ‘asked for’ previously was that I decided I could not really afford to spend money on something I didn’t really need that much. At xmas that rationale goes out the window which by Xmas logic means I spend money I cannot really afford on something for someone else that they don’t need that much and vice versa. Why? Is that what you envisaged was the best use of time and money?
Don’t get me wrong, I love presents. I love giving good gifts (as opposed to pointless ones that people have told me to buy them when pushed because it was not something they had really wanted) and I love getting something I haven’t expected or something I have really really wanted. When someone gets it right, my heart and spirited is lifted by the idea that someone has put enough thought, effort and listening in to me to know what I would like. But that happens like once in a lifetime if you’re lucky – at 10 years old. Maybe it is that 10 year olds are easier to please (well they were in the 80s). Every year after that is spent perfecting the right facial expression and tone of voice that hides the disappointment/anger/irritation at the present you have just opened wondering why nobody puts in enough thought/effort/listening into what you really like.
It’s not like there is somebody whose job it is to know this. Someone who knows what you want, whether you’ve been naughty or nice. Oh there is?? Santa Claus you say? Wow, you’ve covered all bases.
Now I like Santa as much as the next parent – which is nowhere as much as the kids. My biggest problem with him is that he will have taken credit for what I have had to endure since September – my daughter at every advert break asking me “Can I have that for Christmas?” I only hope that her memory is as bad as i have given her credit for because she will be severely disappointed at the small haul she will receive and not the hundreds of presents I have told her she can have because I cannot be bothered to experiment with saying ‘no’. But no matter how big or small her haul is, Santa will take but all the credit.
Do you think that my expectation of Xmas is too high; that I shouldn’t expect life to carry on as normal or i am what you have others call people that do not like the concept: Scrooge or Grinch or bah humbug
You see, I decided some time ago that I would make it my life’s sub-text to avoid anything that causes stress or makes life that little bit more difficult. For the most part i did quite well. Then i got a kitten and i realised i couldn’t win ‘em all.
If we take my kitten out of the equation (or just take my kitten…please) I do quite well. However, every so often Xmas comes around and really tests my life’s sub-text and so this is why I am writing to you, because xmas is everything I strive to avoid the rest of the year and I question why we all do it.
But as free-thinking person, I realise that it’s not you, it’s me. I went along with it for far too long and it has to stop!
Maybe I just thought you should know that.

This is an actual essay written by a college applicant to NYU in response to this question:

This is an actual essay written by a college applicant to NYU in response to this question:

Sometimes articles come along that have a level of humour, intelligence and imagination you can only aspire to. That make you feel inadequate in your own writing and make you think: “I won’t give up the day job whilst this guy/gal is still around”. This is such an article.

No news please, I’m British

If I had to make a list of things that made me feel genuinely guilty or bad, it would actually be pretty short. Parenting would definitely be on the list but parenting would also be on the equally short ‘Things that I think I am sometimes good at’ list, so doesn’t figure that highly.

The list would also consist of: eating the wrong things often and frequently spending money I don’t have on things I don’t need. Top of the list would definitely be my reading of celebrity gossip.

Please do not think less of me. I genuinely want to be one of those people that reads newspapers (maybe even more than one); watches the news on a thrice daily basis; has an opinion on all current, political and economic affairs and some understanding on the happenings in the Middle-East. But I am not.

Misunderstand-me-not, I do have a grasp on what is going on in the world. I do watch the news most days and read newspapers when they’re lying around and I find that I can tend to have an opinion on most things but I wish I could do it with gusto.

I wasn’t always like this. I used to be an avid news consumer but I am afraid to say to all of you that haven’t been able to draw a conclusion without my having said so, that currently news in Britain is rarely good. In fact, life in Britain is currently: economic downturn; credit crunch; welfare reforms; gun crime; escaped terrorists and bad weather. I am also a bit fed up (and slightly overwhelmed and frightened) with hearing about the technology that I have not kept abreast of; people my age or younger that are changing the world and making me feel bad about myself and people who are merely watching Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and Homelands. It is not because I have anything against any of these programmes and their viewers, I am sure each programme and their viewers are great but the somewhat sheep mentality of it all is slightly depressing.

And so I reject it. I don’t want it. No more news please! I do not say it out of ignorance – it is not even blissful to not know about these things. Shutting off is like knowing that the country is harbouring a secret but you don’t know what it is – it doesnt lighten the load, merely shifts it. It is because it is depressing and my own life is not without its own fair share of problems thus I cannot bear to hear any more bad news!

Instead I choose to read about other people’s lives. Lives that in magazine or website copy are devoid of reality, meaning and any deep or second thoughts for the world outside of their existence. A place where words like “work” and “stress” take on a whole new, more insignificant meaning; a world in which none of what I have heard on the news seemingly matters. And on occasion that seems blissful.

Delving between the pages of websites and magazines, reality is further set adrift whilst reading articles such as 23 celebs you didn’t know were twins and looking at pictures of a sweat patch and someone wearing the same outfit twice.

And for the minutes it took to read about it, I was spared from thinking thoughts that would have been previously reserved for energy price increases and and climate-change. And to give these people their dues, they were right, there were at least 10 of those celebs I didn’t know were twins. I found it passably interesting and the best bit of all was that it wasn’t going to effect me in the slightest – not financially, emotionally or psychologically.

I know that none of this celeb stuff matters whatsoever but I enjoy the escapism. Of course there are people that take what they have read seriously which is worrying and give people like me a bad name – but then again so do Daily Mail readers.

But I do not want to have to hide my brightly coloured, glossy pages whilst in coffee shops and on buses any longer. So on today of all days: the day that Jennifer Lawrence borrows Victoria Beckham’s hairdo, I emancipate myself from your judgement.

All the Single Ladies….

People rarely ask what it is like to be single. It is because they are either single, so pretty much know what it’s like or they’re in a relationship but think that being single is just like being with someone but without actually being with someone.  Well, that’s what I assume they assume because people rarely ask.

And this is not written from the view-point of being single as a choice, transitional period or whilst dating. No siree, because that part is often great: fun, freeing; a chance to rediscover yourself, no ties, no attachments, just you and the excited anticipation of the next love affair waiting around the corner.  No, this is for the long-term singles for whom being single is a way of life. For those that have been single for a length of time that lends a year an ‘s’. A length of time that stops people asking ‘why are you single?’ because they do not believe (not even for a second) that it is not something about you that is the reason you are single. This is for those who cannot afford to spend time kissing frogs but who are now prepared to wait it out for Prince Charming to present himself in the guise of a man and not an amphibian.

So what is being single like?

It is a time when you assume that having a boyfriend would improve life. An assumption that every non-single person you know is probably doing something better than you. A time when you are envious of all the things you assume you would be doing if you had a boyfriend: picnics, cinema trips, holidays, hand holding – even arguing seems like a romantic thing to do.

It is a time in which the wedding dress you imagined yourself wearing in your twenties has morphed into a trouser suit because you envisage that by the time you get married, if ever, that’s what will be more age-appropriate.

When you waste the best years of your life with nobody able to appreciate you; nobody telling you how amazing you are, how beautiful you look or how fat you aren’t. On the one hand it’s good because you have to be your own self-booster but on the other there is nobody saying, “my girlfriend is so great, self-confident, independent and generally amazing and beautiful and not fat.” Because by the time you have found them, you may be back to being the dependent, insecure person you were all those years ago.

It is always having to do everything for yourself: catching spiders, driving yourself to places, going to shops, getting something from the fridge and passing yourself the remote. Then calling a friend to come round and pass you the remote just so you don’t have to do it for yourself and on the way to open the front door, realising that you’ve in fact walked past said remote and could have passed it to yourself without the hassle of now having to entertain a friend – a female friend at that – for minutes on end.

Not having someone to appreciate how witty you are on a general day-to-day basis. It is a crime against humour for nobody to have heard all those funny things you think. I mean, your head knows how funny you are but it would be nice to have a conversation out loud with someone who is actually physically there appreciating it.

Conversation. Free conversation, without risk of brain tumours, with two people, in the same room, at the same time – that would also be quite nice; as would a male perspective on things from time to time.

Having to look at Facebook for ‘something to do’ and wanting to be one of those braggy people in a relationship doing relationshippy things like watching telly or taking photos together and making dinner for each other. Who use Facebook solely to remind others a few times a day that they’re in a relationship. ”Derek kept me awake with his snoring but its ok because we took a picture of us making dinner before we went to bed so that we could upload it before we go on holiday tomorrow ” and that kind of subtle thing.

When your friends’ social circle increases because they are making friends with their partner’s friends’ girlfriends and your social circle decreases because your friends are out with their partner’s friends’ girlfriends.

Not having someone to blame. Do you realise how upsetting it is to break something/run out of something/forget something and know categorically that it was your fault?

A time when the suggestion of a ”girls night in” is met with an internal thought of ‘you mean that place where no men are going to be?’

That a good number of people you have known for a good number of years would ‘not be able to imagine you with a boyfriend.’

When beer goggles improve the standard of man you’d usually go for these days.

Never having a birthday with an expectation of a present.

Wanting to be able to say ‘my boyfriend’ – that!

When you don’t want to go out because it’s only couples.

When you are not invited out because it’s only couples.

When you don’t want to go out because you don’t want to return to an empty house.

When you don’t want to stay in because you don’t want to be in an empty house.

When your favourite films are your previous romantic encounters replayed in your head .

Always imagining that being in a relationship far outweighs being single!

Steadfastly refusing to accept anything less than what you have spent all this time waiting for.

Don’t even get me started on sex.

But, in being single’s defence, it sure beats being in the wrong, unhappy relationship hands down!

Disclaimer:  All of the opinions expressed on the subject of being single are my own and do not represent the views of ‘All the Single Ladies’ unless explicitly stated (although they would probably agree with some of it).