Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Thirteen Going on Farty

After a rather stodgy adolescence and an even lumpier entrance into my twenties, I am now growing, at a considerable rate, into a man. 

I've been looking forward to this ever since I was 11, when I learned about what it was to be a man. As my teacher held up a leaflet about wet dreams and feelings, he told me and the other boys in my class that girls tend to mature faster than we do. "Codswallop!" I thought. "HAHA look at this plastic willy! Look how veiny it is!" said the student next to me, hitting me over the head with it... Maybe my teacher had a point.

But then, my teacher lied to us all. This charlatan, this phoney, this con artist, looked us all in the eye, his brothers in arms, men of the future and said "Don't worry, you'll catch up later on!" Oh yeah, Mr Norris? (his name has been changed because I don't want to be telephoned by somebody from Operation Yewtree or be accused of slander because I just associated him with it) WHEN are we going to catch up? I'm 21 now and I'm still no closer to being as sensible as my girlfriend as I was when I was 12!

The trousers in our relationship have been firmly whipped clean off my legs and placed onto hers. She placed one leg in firmly in an estate agents earlier this week, and then the second in the bank, just to stop me sneaking a sly toe in anywhere. I've been completely blocked out of trouserdom, and now I have to spend the remainder of this relationship, however long that may be, at Trouser Border Control standing to one side bashfully in my vest and pants while I am searched, in case I try to smuggle some stupidity into our relationship. Probably by storing it in my anus.

Off we march to the estate agents. She with a firm stride, I holding the umbrella which is keeping her whole body and half of mine dry as I try to keep up in the driving rain. My girlfriend is not happy. This excuse of an establishment has cocked up our contract for our new tenancy three times, as well as a host of other failings from this woman who, after we paid our deposit and fees, seemed to stopped giving a toss, which is pretty unacceptable. I'm expecting my Iron Lady to bang her fists on the table and demand our money back. All of it. With interest. And a grovelling assurance that it will NEVER happen again. And more interest. Between the two of us, our overwhelming fury can be vented in such a manner that we can recoup some money which we have wasted on this useless company.

But the problem is, it wasn't the two of us confronting the woman who had failed us. My gripping fear of confrontation meant I was unable to look at anything other than the floor and my phone, and suddenly took an unusually keen interest in a message from somebody I have never been particularly enjoyed speaking to. My girlfriend was left to take centre stage, and was simply repelled by a whole spiel of "very unorthodox  and "human error" and "mistakes can be made"; the sort of jargon that only somebody who is constantly accused of mistakes can fall back on. Not that I could chip in- I spent too long creating a buffer zone around me in the doorway, ensuring that I was safe from having to administer a telling of, I couldn't break it now! I was just as livid, but I refused myself a chance to let that rage be known. I'm too hot-headed, anyway- I would have only used offensive language to describe this poor woman's family, turned her desk upside down, and made sure that her computer screen could be fed through a letterbox, I imagine. 

We leave empty handed, the rain hammering down on our defeated heads outside. I am thanked for my total lack of help, which I can only assume meant I wasn't holding the umbrella well enough. 

Then on to the bank to open a joint account. My girlfriend has every right to feel aggrieved with this as well; she, a full time worker, is substantially wealthier than I, a student. She's at a totally different stage in her adult life to me. The age gap between us is just 5 months, but, as has just been proved, in terms of maturity, it's more like somewhere between 10-20 years. But I digress; back to our unnamed bank.

We are invited into an office to discuss our situation. Instantly, our advisor, Alan, knows who he should be dealing with, and it certainly isn't me. My mouth is confined to making noises such as "mmm", "I see", and "Okay, yeah" for 10 minutes, while Alan and my girlfriend talk about what account we should look to open, as well as some possible decisions we should be thinking about in a couple of years, once we've built up some savings. She talks about 12 month, 2 year, 5 year strategies and plans we could reasonably stick to. She also discusses our jobs. She's cabin crew for British Airways, flying all around the world serving the rich and famous in First Class. I work in a bar. It's actually quite rewarding- plus I've met some of the cast of Hollyoaks. She's met Keith Richards, Jose Mourinho and Colin Firth... I've met some of the cast of Hollyoaks.

It's agreed that we should get a current account, and Alan dives in for the hard sell. "Now, do you know about our 1-2-3 Current Account?". Silly man! I've seen the advert with the terrible acting from Rory McIlroy, Jessica Ennis and Jenson Button- of course I know about your 1-2-3 Current Account! (If it isn't obvious by now- or you haven't seen the advert- we were in Santander. I've given up hiding it for security purposes. There's no point. Go on, take it! Take all my money which I have with Santander!). My girlfriend says she's not entirely sure what it is. 

"I know!" I chirped up. My girlfriend is surprised I've taken time to learn about a possible financial move we both can make together. Alan is surprised that I have managed to master speech and conscious thought at the same time.

"Ah, very good! How did you find out about it?" How did I find out? I think sarcastically, as if he doesn't know! Ha! The genius his question! This has played right into my hilarious hands!

"Rory McIlroy came into my kitchen and told me all about it!" I chuckled.

Nobody laughs. For quite a while. It's a verbal void bigger than the one I experienced at the dentist's straight after I proclaimed, rather loudly, that the protective glasses I was wearing made my dentist's assistant look 3D. The only time I will be given a longer silence is upon my eventual demise and departure from this world. I wonder if they've seen the advert- but of course they have! Everyone has! Oh god, it's really quiet in here now. Nobody is talking in the entire building. Cashiers have stopped, computers have frozen, doors are jamming. But Alan, who is increasingly annoying me with his lack of laughter, proceeds to tell my girlfriend what this shitty account is, and eventually we decide it's best if we don't get it. I think it's humiliating enough for her being with me in front of a financial advisor. The thought of being seen with me in front of Rory McIlroy, Jessica Ennis or Jenson Button is truly mortifying.

I sign a piece of paper opening the account, confirming that what's mine is hers and what's hers is hers, and we leave.

We agree on the drive home that all matters which are important to our livelihood should be left to her, and everything else, such as picking a DVD to watch and what to put on my toast in the morning, she can simply offer advice on for me. Then it hits me- I know what to say to Mrs Useless from the estate agents! I check for a junction in the road so I can turn around and tell her how useless she's been, but then I realise it's nearly an hour and a half too late, which is a shame, because I would really have given out an ear-bashing.

I lie there in bed that night, simmering. God, that woman wouldn't have known what hit her! But then I realise something- that life's too short to be getting angry at people, telling rubbish jokes with wasteful silences and bullshitting about my job. I really should grow up a little bit. 

With that thought, suddenly a strange feeling rushes through my body. Right from my gut, up to my head and back down to my toes. A feeling I haven't had since I joined University. Now, two weeks before I leave it, I have an epiphany  Should I, James Brittain, miserable bastard extraordinaire, be enjoying adult life? Am I leaving it too late to embrace the little fortnight of youth I have left? Should I mature gracefully, and simply appreciate that I can be a blend of experience and youth together? Am I becoming (whisper it) an adult myself?

But then I realise it's just a massive fart I suppressed from dinner, so I aim it at my girlfriend and stuff her head under the duvet to enjoy it. Adulthood can wait- youthful misery and confusion is the way forward!

Waiter! More beans! And get rid of all those fucking wristbands up your arm- you're not at Glastonbury now, dickhead!

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

A Whole New World

Guys! I have some amazing news!

Well, it's not really amazing, but it is at least news!... Actually, it's not even news, or even anything of any remote interest to anyone.

I handed my dissertation in this morning, and then instantly regretted it, as I realised I had committed the biggest oversight in University history; I forgot to take a picture of it and share it all with you.

Which is why I've decided to tell you on here, so that you can sleep soundly in your beds tonight knowing that I not only have written my dissertation, but also handed it in! Can you imagine! Just imagine that! Literally, imagine it now- there I was, in flip flops and some swimming shorts I was given at work (in Wales in April- what am I like?!), with a bag over my shoulder containing my dissertation and some books I needed to hand in to the library, and off I plodded, iPod in my ears, listening to David Bowie's latest album, and handed it in! I even saw somebody I knew from the Rugby League Society, and said 'Hi!' to him, and it is vital you know this, and just handed in my dissertation! I wish I could have shared the whole experience with you! But alas! I blew my chance, and only realised when it was too late to offer you a visual aid to this incredible story.

But thanks to social networking, you CAN experience this incredible story, thanks to my just describing it to you. In fact, thanks to social networking, you can poke your head over the considerably high garden fence separating your world from mine (which I personally had erected, because I hate you) and look down in wonder at every moment of my life which I decide to share over the Internet.

The Internet is a whole new world our predecessors never had, and by discovering a new bit of it every day, we are the pioneers of our time. But it is a gift and a curse to civilisation. A gift in the sense that it provides us with videos of cats dressed as sharks chasing ducks on hoovers, instant information, a chance to connect with loved ones distant from us, but a curse in that it is becoming impossible to escape the banalities of everybody's everyday life. Just look down your own timeline now, and imagine saying it all out loud to my face. Now move to the next friend on your list (if it's alphabetical, it'll probably be somebody with the surname "Brown", but if it's proportional to our friendship, I'm probably somewhere between Abu Hamza and Max Clifford), and say exactly the same thing out loud to their face. And the next friend, and the next one...

Hopefully, if you've done as I asked (and I hope you have, because we're friends, right?), you will have realised, by about friend 87, that this is an expensive and actually quite a soul-searching journey where you physically see everybody on your Facebook friend list. So deeply touching, in fact, that you decide to tell everybody about it, face to face, one by one... and the cycle continues...

Looking at 3 carefully selected friends on my list, I can see that one is in Stevenage, one is in Portsmouth, and one is in Stuttgart. Only 1 of those places is actually a desirable destination, but unfortunately it is too expensive to go to, so it looks like I'll be on my way to Stevenage to show my cousin a picture of the coffee I was just about to put up on Instagram. When I (very naively) joined the site, I thought it would be the hub of all excellent photography and a collection of some of the most fascinating pictures witness through the eyes of some incredibly interesting people would surely emerge. Instead, the first 5 pictures I see on Instagram contain some food, a sunset, and 3 pictures of dogs, with a dodgy filter on them all to make them look like they were taken on a camera from the 1920s, but really they were taken on state-of-the-art iPhones. Whoever works in the camera department of a phone company must wonder why they bother making a photograph so crystal clear, when they know full well some halfwit is going to change it so it looks like it's been printed on sandpaper and dropped in a puddle. 

Luckily, photographs don't have to be around forever, especially on Snapchat: an app where you take a photograph or video of yourself and send it to somebody to appreciate for 10 seconds or less, then it is wiped from memory. Unfortunately, the fact it that is IS wiped straight away has lent itself to perverts and "exciting" couples alike, who cheekily send their friends pictures of their most intimate parts of the anatomy, safe in the knowledge that in 11 seconds' time, nobody will ever see it again. This is all well and jolly good fun, until the owner of Snapchat transpires to be a pervert who is hoarding every photograph taken of your genitals and intending to use it against you as blackmail, something which I wish I'd thought a bit more about before downloading the app and 'hilariously' sending pictures of the best 4 inches (on a good day) of me to everyone on my contact list. 

Twitter is probably the closest I have been to trying to start a conversation with my toothbrush, babbling on about sporting occasions and whatever's in the news at that particular moment in time, to no response. Twitter, I find, is very similar to sex; firstly, I always find whatever I have to offer ridiculously short-lived and incredibly underwhelming for everybody involved, and I'm mostly doing it on my own with nobody responding, so it's all a little bit tragic. Secondly, bloody teenagers are doing it a lot more than I am, and doing it a lot better than I could ever hope to, every which-way, in their rooms, in Starbucks, in parks, yet they're the sort of people who should have it taken away from them, because they can't be responsible with it. I think I just do it out of habit now, and when I do it's never any good... Tweet that is.

The whole of University life can be lived on your computer or phone now. Gone are the days when a girl would emerge from a gentleman's house in the early hours of the morn to do a "walk of shame" straight into a Kodak store to get the pictures of last night developed, or taking a picture of your food took so long for the shutter to move you could actually see mould developing on your sandwich. Gone are the days when you had to walk into campus for a lecture, take notes, because most lecturers- in a bid to look as if they're competent with a computer- put all their notes up online afterwards, meaning you can learn just as much sitting in your week old underwear in bed compared to sitting in your week old underwear and stinking of Lynx in a lecture hall.

Maybe I'm just an analogue clock in a digital world, and the hands of time are simply ticking away behind me, mercilessly moving at an hour per hour. The old me (by which I mean the young me) would never have stood for this, this pixelation of a canvas. I wish I could justify myself to the younger me; tell him times have changed, it's the best way to speak to friends, and show him a video of somebody eating a tablespoon of cinnamon powder. Maybe then he would realise, life isn't so bad!

But maybe that's the difference between the old me and, er, older me. The old, younger me would be out there, living his life, forgetting about his GCSEs, but instead feeling the soft grass beneath his feet while he sneaks off for a quick cigarette with that girl he likes from yesteryear, wishing the sun could shine for another moment as it vanishes on the horizon (wow, this would be perfect for Instagram!). But the new, old me is stuck online, the umbilical cord between him and cyberspace too strong to sever. Now the newly old, new old new me (still with me?) is here, on your little screen, sitting right next you, laughing at us both. Laughing at how addicted we both are to the Internet. Neither of us can turn away, like a staring contest between two goldfish, gormlessly bopping our mouths at one another. At least then we could forget this ever happened in 10 seconds.

Unfortunately, the other option is destroying the Internet, and indeed all technology, returning to the medieval ages, full of disease and squalor. But luckily, we've moved on since then. Well, I say moved on- except the measles... and the general squalor; we still have that. Actually, don't go outside- you WILL catch something.

Maybe it is best to lock your doors and stay online after all.