Archive | July, 2010

Stephanie

28 Jul

Dear Steph,

How will I miss thee while you are in Japan? Let me count the ways…

At New Year when I have no one to dance to Madonna with.

Every time I hear/see/quote/think about Friends or Sex and the City.  This includes every time I go down some dangerous steps, eat a sandwich, realise that I have to live with a boy or get red Ross about something (50 times a day).

Every time I eat breakfast and you’re not there, and Mike hasn’t brought it to us on a makeshift tray with a choice of condiments.

At Christmas, when none of my friends have used their ironing board as a serving table.  Particularly if no one will let me have the quiz team-name ‘I wish it could be Quizmas every day’.

Whenever I see a dog.

Every time I look in the mirror, and raise my eyebrows because I ALWAYS do, and no one starts laughing at me and giving me ‘I know!’ eyebrows.

When it’s the morning after George’s birthday this year, and no one is in my bed adding ‘… who I got with last night’ to the end of every sentence.  Hopefully Cake will still have a bad case of necker’s chin though, so all will not be lost.

On my birthday.

When I have to start using the UglyCam3000 to record my life and take photos to show you because a) you won’t be there, and b) you are the only one of us who isn’t useless and takes photographs.

When I’m at the top of a castle and it’s really, really windy.

If I ever find myself in the Tut/drinking any drink with the suffix ‘and black’/doing a quiz where we don’t know any answers but are very enthusiastic and give it everything, only to get beaten by a team of smug old people.

A year isn’t that long.  And at least you’ll be able to cook me amazing meals when you come back. And at least I can come and visit you, if a doctor will ever give me strong enough tranquillisers to get on the plane.  And at least we are both in love with the internet. And at least you won’t be in Doncaster; even I’m not selfish enough to wish another year of that upon you.

I plan to think about all of those consoling thoughts when the former ones get too much, and all I can think about is that I can walk up and down your street all I want, because you don’t live here any more.

ps. be careful and always wash your hands.

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Luck

25 Jul

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned the curse of Sinclair Bad Luck before.  It’s nothing terrible, but it certainly dictates that anything that can go wrong definitely will, and that there is no point entering any competition, as winning is not something Sinclairs are prone to do.  Bearing this in mind, can we all just bask in the glory of what I received through the post on Saturday morning:

Yeah, that’s right! My very own Newcastle University Alumni Association navy blue polo shirt! And all for filling in a little postcard with my name and address at my graduation ceremony, ironically, so I could have an Alumni tote bag, thus negating the need to buy any expensive merchandise.  I was alerted to this wonderful victory by an email entitled ‘Congratulations! You have won an Alumni Association polo shirt!’, which I thought could have been worded slightly more cryptically to create a bit of suspense.  Naturally, I opened this email positively hooting with delight, to reveal a cheery message from my new best friend Charlotte, who informed me that I had been picked out in a daily prize draw, and that if I sent her my address, my new polo shirt would be with me by the weekend.  I made sure to repress the knowledge that if I hadn’t been picked out during the preliminary polo shirt rounds, I may now be the proud owner of an iPod Touch, and replied with the utmost gratitude.  In your face, Sinclair Bad Luck, next step: The Lottery.

You can't wear an iPod Touch

It is a shame my new-found life success (ha…) could not have translated into baking success earlier today.  My friend Richard came round to undertake a little task we had been planning for a while; namely, making school-dinner-style Chocolate Concrete.  We had previously believed that this delicious pudding was a nationwide favourite, but, upon conversations with our university friends from both the North and the South, had been met with responses such as this:

Me: Ooohh, I could really eat a piece of chocolate concrete right now.

Ignorant friend: WHAT?

Me: You know, chocolate concrete and custard! Sometimes pink custard! Or cold from the tuck shop at break… (cue wistful expression)

Ignorant friend: WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT YOU HORRID DONCASTER NIGHTMARE?? CHOCOLATE CONCRETE? YOUR SCHOOL DINNERS WERE NAMED AFTER BUILDING MATERIALS? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU??

Me: IT IS REALLY NICE SHUT UP.

In an attempt to prove how nice the somewhat unappetisingly named dish actually is, I used my connections, through my previously mentioned job as a dinner lady, and acquired the sacred recipe.  Richard and I then set about learning how to make the perfect batch so as to wow all of our unenlightened friends with the chocolate shortbread/cake/biscuit hybrid dessert.  All went smoothly until it came to taking it out of the oven.  On the list of haphazardly scrawled instructions was the word ‘bang’, which seemed very mysterious, until we saw our creation rising like some sort of SPONGE out of its inch deep baking tray.  A quick bash on the kitchen doorstep after the prescribed 20 minute cooking time knocked it back into its intended flat form, and the situation seemed to be under control.  That is, until we realised the whole thing was basically raw.  In a desperate bid to avoid salmonella, we took to kamikaze cookery, and threw it back into the oven, vowing to just leave it there until it resembled its namesake.

Here are the results.  Please note the fact that we had to eat a cooked bit from the edge, then slice it down the middle and create two, smaller slabs, so cooking may have some hope of happening.

Not as disgusting as it looks.

Luckily, after much panic and guesswork, it actually turned out very well, and with a little tweaking, will definitely be up to school dinner standards.  As Richard moves to London this week, he has been sent on his way with a carefully copied recipe, and a vow to single-handedly educate the South.  I am looking forward to making Mike a batch as part of my ongoing quest to do nice things for him so he continues to ignore the fact that I have never emptied the kitchen bin, and do not intend to start.

Nice… personality?

18 Jul

Slayer of my (little) self confidence

Some things in life do not bode well; the fact I looked like an angry, Scottish farmer when I was born, for example.  A further thing that does not bode well is my feedback from the BBC’s Big Personality Test, as curated by the kindly, moustachioed academic Professor Robert Winston .  I think this jolly little table of results speaks for itself.

Bugger.

I tried not to GET NEUROTIC about these results, and obediently listened to all the little videos explaining them to attempt to console myself, and then read the reams of information on each category, and how it applied to me.  I think the most telling statement was this:

‘Scientists would like to know more about the personalities of people with life goals similar to yours.’

After all these years of just thinking I was a bit of a worrier, the BBC have pretty much confirmed my underlying NEUROSES that I am, in fact, some sort of scientific freak who needs studying.  You may be wondering what these mythical ‘life goals’ are. You are probably thinking they must be really loony, which is understandable. Boringly enough, they are that I prioritise family and harmonious relationships over a high powered or hugely influential career, which, for such an apparently disagreeable individual, is surely a good thing.

It’s not like being 100% neurotic came as much of a surprise, as worrying is my first instinct in any given situation.  I watched the video of Winston talking about neuroticism feeling almost proud of my perfect score, until he ruined my life by saying that highly neurotic people need to be equally conscientious to achieve success, as the combination of planning and structure plus nerves and adrenaline gets jobs done accurately and quickly.  This is all very well Rob mate, but  HAVE YOU SEEN MY CONSCIENTIOUSNESS SCORE? You’d be forgiven for missing it as it is so minimal.  I might as well give up now.  With my apparently hugely shoddy organisational skills coupled with my chronic terror of day to day life, I am doomed to fail, have low job satisfaction, poor health (argh) and spoiled relationships forever-more.

My aim is to try to forget about these results by reassuring myself that I am young and hugely inclined to change, grow up, and consequently stop worrying, just in case my horror towards them creates some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, and I end up unemployed and married to my cat when I’m 40.  It’s either that, or writing a snappy letter to the BBC suggesting they either stop being so mean to poor neurotics, or make a television programme where scientists investigate my apparently bizarre ‘life goals’ whilst I get paid lots and lots of money.  Who’d be an extrovert then, BBC?!

NB. They definitely have a point about conscientiousness.  This has been my personal statement for about a week now.  I’m considering just submitting it.

The MA is in the bag.

Avada Kedavra*

15 Jul

Today has seemed to be a day of impossible feats.  This began when my mother, after cleaning the bathroom, requested I have a shower ‘without splashing the tiles’.

WITHOUT SPLASHING THE TILES!??!! That is surely about as impossible as asking someone to have a bath without wetting the bathtub.  I really did start out with good intentions, but by the end of my shower the precious tiles were thoroughly soaked, with a few ginger hairs and soap suds adorning them just for good measure.  Clinging desperately to my towel, I tried to dry them with a ratty old sponge I found, but I merely left great smears of water on them instead of drips, and was forced to admit defeat and sweetly anticipate a telling off. Oh the joys of moving back home for the summer.

Whilst still coming to terms with this failure, my friend Katherine alerted me to a game she was playing online.  I am pretty rubbish at all logic puzzles and card games, so my hopes weren’t high, but when I saw the sacred words HARRY POTTER I knew that this was something I may be victorious in.  The concept of the game seemed simple enough: name the 200 most-mentioned Harry Potter characters, in no particular order, in 18 minutes.  Helpfully, the game recognised first and last names separately (so putting in Weasley gained you a rapid nine points), and included owls, wizards and house elves alike.  ‘How hard can this be?!’ I thought complacently. ‘There are so many characters in Harry Potter that I am not going to be able to accommodate my vast knowledge of them in this tiny grid!!’

I am now prepared to admit that I WAS WRONG.

As I consider the Harry Potter books one of my very few specialist subjects (others being Jenny Lewis trivia, BBC dramas and internet memes), my failure in this field came as a crushing blow.  When, on my first attempt, I saw the seconds tick away and my score remain, agonisingly, on 85/200, only to reveal that I had forgotten the existence of CORNELIUS FUDGE, I was ashamed of myself.  Even my recollection of Professor Grubbly-Plank could not redeem such a failure.

Mean Girls meets Potter.

I tried not to let it get me down.  I tried to work out whether the best approach was by chronology or category.  I laid out a prospective list of categories, but then realised the error of my ways:  Should Lupin go with teachers or members of The Order of the Phoenix? Was it enough to have a Hogwarts Students bracket, or should they be broken down into their respective houses? AND WHY WAS BEEDLE THE BARD ON THE LIST BUT NOT THE SORTING HAT??  Questioning the game became far too stressful.  I decided to play again with no strategy, and hope for the best.

Upon getting 121 on my second attempt, my feelings of impotency grew to an all time high.  Why couldn’t I remember the Death Eaters names? What was that stupid headmaster of Durmstrang called?  I wanted to stop but I couldn’t, as by this point three more of my friends were playing, one of whom was doing it on a train with a pen and paper, and sending me texts like ‘crap shit who is the professor who loves collecting the best students?’ and ‘who’s that bitch in Slytherin?’  My long term relationship was thrown into question when Mike forgot both Umbridge and Cedric Diggory yet remembered Nicolas Flamel.  The whole thing had got out of control.  Luckily, my mum shouted me for my dinner just as I was getting hysterical (an actual joy of moving back home) and dampened the tension somewhat, with pasta.

I seem to have broken the cycle of panic > relief > self loathing now, and have come to the conclusion that, much like showering without wetting the walls, naming 200 Harry Potter characters is completely impossible.  Who the hell is Mafalda Hopkirk anyway?

* I assume this is the wizard equivalent of kill me now.

My Graduation (Also known as ‘That day I broke my nose’).

8 Jul

In a desperate attempt to avoid writing an academic personal statement, I thought I would record the antics that took place on my graduation day.  Not that I am likely to forget the day, as the lovely new bump in my already pretty ‘interesting’ nose is probably going to act as a constant reminder.  I will apparently do anything for a good anecdote.

Monday was an all round good day.  Not only did I get to look like a wizard for ages, but I also got the keys to the best rented accommodation I have ever seen, never mind lived in.  However, it got off to a rather frenzied start, as the drive up to Newcastle from the hole that is my hometown took a little longer than expected due to a combination of traffic, a 50mph limit and my ageing father’s need for increasingly frequent toilet stops.  Luckily, before I got to the stage of high-pitched ranting from the back seat, we arrived at the best flat ever, and I was distracted by real wooden floors and hurried make-up application.  I met Mike and his parents who, due to their genetics not containing the Sinclair Lateness Gene, were already at our flat, and had been in Newcastle long enough to have been shopping.  A large taxi was summoned, and off we went to the university campus, all very excited, and in my case, nervous to the point of nausea.

Thankfully, the excitement of wearing massive robes for the first time completely overruled my increasing panic, as I distracted myself with numerous Harry Potter jokes (jokes in the loosest sense of the word, more like ‘What’s under your cape, Severus Snape? lololololol’).  Before I knew it I was sitting in Newcastle’s special occasion room, which I had only seen once before when they were trying to impress me as a scared little fresher, trying to stop my dad standing up to take embarrassing photographs.  I was determined not to look as nervous as I was feeling.  A famous parent anecdote is about my A-Level presentation evening, where I positively jogged across the stage, snatched my certificates, tugged at my hair anxiously and disappeared in the blink of an eye, much to their amusement.  This time I was intent on not providing them with any further laughs at my expense, and consequently have genuine photographic evidence of me shaking hands with the important man in a hat (Vice Chancellor? God knows) grinning and looking like he had just told me that my hair looked nice.  Fake confidence – 1, Sweating palms – 0. I’m just sorry that jolly looking man had to touch them.

Harry and Ginny having passed their N.E.W.Ts

The ceremony went by rather quickly, and was rounded off by a moderately depressing speech that basically said ‘there are no jobs for you, but the world loves a trier. Have you considered expensive postgraduate education?’ which luckily I have, thus staving off official unemployment a little longer.  Relief flooded me as I stood up to file out with my fellow wizards, but then DISASTER STRUCK. As disasters go, it was fairly moderate, but I could definitely have done without it.  At the last minute, I remembered I had put my graduation ticket under my chair, and realised that without it, I wouldn’t be getting any free champagne (bad), and that the line in front of me was starting to move quite quickly away from me (very bad).  I had to act fast.  I bent down trying not to let my gown fall off, and in doing so, smashed my face on the back of the chair in front of me.  NOSES ARE SENSITIVE.  Tears sprang to my eyes and a ‘fffffuuuuuuuu’ began to escape me, but then my urge to please my parents and not embarrass myself overcame me, and I managed to file out without crying or having a nosebleed, and was so smug about how brave I had been, I’d almost forgotten my terrible incident until my mum saw me and said ‘WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO YOUR NOSE, OH MY GOD, I THINK I HAVE SOME CONCEALER, OH GOD ARE YOU OK, JESUS HELENA, YOUR NOSE????!!!!!??!!1111??!!’ and so on.

This rather put a downer on things.  I was presented with a mirror, and was rather disheartened to see something resembling a kidney bean sitting on the disfigured bridge of my nose.  Luckily, my mum is a proper mum who carries a handbag full of everything you will ever need in any given situation, so we set to work on concealing my wounds so I could have my ‘professional photos’ taken without anyone being horrified.  My usual melodramatic tendencies were overshadowed by my graduation-euphoria and the nose story became quite a good ice breaker in awkward conversations, but as it has now been two days and the bump and pain still remain, I am beginning to be a little more pessimistic.  

Once I looked presentable again, we queued for photos for about six weeks. As an only child, I have to accept the full responsibility for such parent-essentials as graduation photos, so tried my best not to moan that all the free drinks would be gone by the time we arrived at the reception.  By trying not to moan, I mean I only said this about 20 times, whilst whimpering softly about my nose to encourage maternal sympathy.  Luckily, a fresh batch of champagne was being produced as I arrived, so all was well, and I was able to get rather drunker than intended as it was about 6pm and I’d only eaten half an egg sandwich. Many photos were taken and I was able to fangirl over a couple of lecturers (unfortunately my favourites weren’t in attendance, or maybe that is fortunately, as I definitely would have gone in for a hug or two) before we had to hand our robes back and go home.

The parents had laid out a giant feast of Marks and Spencer’s food for when we returned to our house, which was HEAVEN.  Sparkling wine flowed and we ate until we became food zombies, to the point where I could only speak to say ‘this day has been so niiice, I love this house, it’s so niiice, this is the best day ever, everything is nice’.  That state was probably not the best basis for a night of emotional gin drinking with my departing friends, but I seemed to survive to tell the tale.

I will end with a photo of me looking like a smug borrower in my new bedroom (I am 5’9”, the ceilings are ridiculous).  Roll on my next graduation, when I am pretty sure the English School will be sick of having to announce an excitable, cloaked Helena Kate Sinclair, invariably pretending to hex them.