Tales from Behind the Bar…

Warning: NSFW.

Of all of the jobs I’ve held over the years, one of my favourites was working behind the bar in different pubs and nightclubs. Of course, any job that involves dealing with the British public (particularly when alcohol is involved) is always challenging, but despite it being a physically and mentally exhausting, I absolutely loved it. I loved the staff, the interaction with the customers, the music, the atmosphere, the DJ’s – on a good night it was almost like being paid for a night out with my favourite people.

After a few years I found that the same characters appeared in every establishment: Continue reading

He-Man and Fairy Wings

Childhood toys that I miss

This month’s NaBloPoMo is all about examining the past, present and future, and I like the idea. I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection over the last six months and I find it useful to reminisce occasionally – it often serves as a reminder as to how far I have come.

Yesterday’s post about my stuffed toy elephant, while it wasn’t planned, seems to tie in with today’s theme of childhood toys.

As an adult I’m a sucker for all things cute and fluffy – cuddly toys being no exception. However, as a child of the 80’s I was obsessed with cartoons and the action figures that came with it. It was predominantly a female household – my father being completely outnumbered by mum, my two sisters and I, but toys were never gender specific for us. He-Man, She-Ra and Thundercat figures adorned my bedroom, along with the She-Ra ‘Princess of Power’ Palace and Lion’O’s large plastic ‘Sword of Omens,’ complete with a central circle that lit up when you pressed a button on the handle. Combined with my epic fairy wings and an Inspector Gadget watch that I got as part of a McDonalds Happy Meal (I always wanted to be Penny and was regularly disappointed that our Beagle, Patch, didn’t possess the skills that Brains had), I was an unstoppable force of awesomeness that saved the world regularly. Indeed, my mother still reminds me of the times she walked past my room to find me saying ‘And then Skeletor had an idea…’ I’m not entirely sure what his idea was – I have no recollection of it – but he was certainly a crafty so-and-so.

However, despite being thoroughly spoilt throughout my childhood, there was one toy that I always wanted: a porcelain doll. I had plenty of dolls already – ones that talked, wet themselves, others that came with makeup so I could paint their face – but porcelain dolls were in a different league. I thought they were pretty, with beautiful delicate faces and curly hair. I loved their little dresses and matching hats. My friend has several, and I always remember the jealousy that ensued whenever I went to her house, particularly as I wasn’t allowed to touch them.

In preparation for this post, I googled ‘porcelain doll’ to remind myself of what it was that appealed to me. I now know why my mother never bought me one..

They’re bloody terrifying.

Dont believe me?

A porcelain doll

 

See! Terrifying!

With their soulless eyes, deathly pale skin and blank expressions, I can imagine that deep in their little petticoats they are hiding weapons of mass destruction to use when they take over the world. I can only imagine the nightmares that would have followed should I have had little Pollyanna staring at me from the top of my bookcase.

I think I’ll stick with He-man and my fairy wings…

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks, my Pinterest page http://www.pinterest.com/suzie81speaks and my Instagram page http://www.instagram.com/suzie81speaks.

7/7: In Memoriam

imageIt has been ten years since a group of suicide bombers coordinated a series of attacks across the London transport system during the morning rush hour, killing fifty-two people and injuring over seven hundred.

I was at a job interview in Birmingham, my first since graduating. I didn’t want to be there – it was for a telecommunications company and I knew that it would mostly entail cold-calling the general public – but fear of not being able to pay the bills meant that I found myself in a room with about twenty-five other people, making polite conversation and building structures with Meccano to demonstrate my ‘team working’ skills. Continue reading

Student Life

imageIt was a glorious day on Sunday, and I decided to go for a wander outside to enjoy the weather. Across the road there were a group of five people who were moving into a house. Everything about them screamed ‘student,’ from the items that they were carrying out of a small white van, to the way that they were dressed, and it made me smile, particularly when they sat outside with bottles of beer and cigarettes after they had finished. Watching those people (while doing my best not be be obvious as a nosey neighbour, which I blatantly am) brought back memories of student days. I remember the student accommodation I lived in during my first year…

Then I realised something – it was fourteen years ago that I started university.

Fourteen years?!

I did everything a little differently to most of my friends after sixth form college (for 16 – 18 year olds) had finished. Instead of applying to a university, I knew that I wanted to go to a music conservatoire instead – I had played the violin for ten years by that point and had decided that my dream career was to be a session musician – and so I took a gap year so I could audition, earn some extra cash and spend a little more time studying baroque instruments with my A Level music teachers. My audition was on 6th November 2000 in Birmingham (I’ve never forgotten the date for some reason), I fell in love with the city and was I ecstatic when I was offered a scholarship for the following September. The first thing that I did after receiving my acceptance letter was to visit the local Woolworths (which those of you over thirty in the UK will remember) and purchase two cooking pans, a matching plate and bowl and a cheap cutlery set, despite it being ten months before I was going to move away. I worked as a supervisor in a nightclub during the week and every time I got paid, I bought something else.

Ten months later, I was standing in my Halls of Residence. My belongings had fit into the back of a Ford Mondeo (eventually, after my father had inevitably lost his temper), my sisters had grunted a goodbye at me and we had made a two and a half hour journey where my mother was trying not to cry. My box room was part of a shared accommodation with nine other people – there was a bathroom per two rooms, with a single kitchen and lounge area. The building was old, my bathroom was mouldy, my mattress had a plastic covering on it and there were cigarette stains on the ceiling of my bedroom from the previous tenant. My mother (who has always been a clean-freak) was quietly trying not to have a heart-attack at the state of the place, discretely taking out cleaning products and scrubbing brush and blitzing everything that she could get her hands on, despite my protestations. There was a welcome pack hung on my door – it contained a Pot Noodle, some lollies, some stationary and a condom, which caused my mother to freak out even more.

After they had left, I went to the window and had a cigarette while I surveyed my new territory – my parents didn’t know that I smoked at that point and it was the first time where I didn’t have to worry about the smell being obvious. In fact, it was the first time where I could do anything I wanted – it was an overwhelming feeling of freedom. Within an hour I had unpacked everything. Looking back, I realise how little I had in the way of possessions – I had no TV or computer and my phone was a Nokia 3210 (which I affectionately called the brick). There was no Internet, no Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram – they didn’t exist – all I had was a CD player and a stack of CD’s, my kitchen items, a mirror, my clothes, a hair dryer and brush, some make up, bed linen, towels, my favourite twenty books and a couple of memory boxes that I had created over the years. I adorned the walls with photographs of friends and family and posters of my favourite singers. I made my bed and finished the cleaning that my mother had started, and then went to the pub with some of my new housemates.

image

I can honestly say that that point was the cleanest it was all year…

I regret that I have no photographs of that little room, because what followed was one of the happiest years of my life. It was small, it was basic, but it was mine, and I bloody loved it.

What about you guys? What are your memories of student accommodation?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

Mother’s Day: Things To Say To Someone You Love Today

It’s Mother’s Day in lots of countries today and my reader is filled with bloggers stories and poems dedicated to one of the most important in people in their lives. While we celebrate Mother’s Day in March here in the UK, I am lucky to have been blessed with the best mother in the world…

Others aren’t as lucky. A tear is always brought to my eye with the heartfelt memories of loss, of grief, anger, and from those who would give anything to have more time, even if it just for a minute. Combined with the loss that my friend suffered recently and the untimely passing of Grayson Queen, they serve as a reminder of just how short life is and the missed opportunities to tell the important people in our lives just how much they mean to us.

Here are things I am going to be saying to the people I care about today…

1. Thank you. It’s amazing how often that these little words are forgotten. Take the time to thank somebody who has gone that extra mile to support you.

2. The fact that you like having them in your life and that you enjoy spending time with them. It’s taken for granted that we spend time with the people (usually) who we enjoy being around and who makes us happy, but have you actually ever said this to them?

image

3. What you appreciate about them. My mother, The Bloke and my friends are funny, intelligent and talented people. They listen to me. When I’ve had a bad day, my friend V meets me in the pub, buys me a drink and let’s me rant. M invites me round to her house for dinner and regularly listens to stories of my blogging exploits. When I was in the hospital, C and M visited me. When my cat Wobbly died, G brought round cupcakes to my house. They buy me flowers, send me messages of support, make me laugh, entertain me and invite me out to places so we can spend time together.

4. That you find them attractive. This is something that would probably be best saying to your partner – I think my mother and friends would be concerned if I suddenly said this to them. However, a compliment on how they look and what they’re wearing would potentially make somebody’s day.

5. My best memories involve you. The ‘do you remember when…?’ conversations are always good for strengthening a relationship. Reminiscing about hilarious past experiences never fails to remind us of why we have the friendship in the first place.

6. That you support them. They may already know this, but it wouldn’t hurt to let them know that you’re there.

image

7. That you love them. There are different kinds of love that are reserved for different people, but take the time to let them know (where possible – verbalising love for somebody may be taken in the wrong context in some situations).

What about you guys? Is there a special person you are grateful for?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks.

 

A Lovely Blogging Surprise!

tumblr_m5n3knmhcb1qfi7g6

Early last week, one of my favourite blogs, Dating a Sociopath featured a post on the changing laws surrounding emotional abuse in the UK. I had written about the exact same thing a few months ago, describing my experiences of being involved in a relationship with a sociopath years ago, and as I hadn’t wanted it to be too long I had split it into three parts. My blog was originally created to share stories from my past that had troubled me and the process of writing it down and the support I received from doing so exorcised a number of psychological demons that had haunted me for a long time.

I shared the link to my post with her in the comments – I wouldn’t normally do this as I feel that using someone else’s blog to promote yourself is poor blogging etiquette, but I admire her writing and wanted her to see it. She responded positively, and I logged out for the night.

When I awoke the next day I did what I always do first thing in the morning and checked my stats, only to be pleasantly surprised that I had received an unusually high amount of views for that time of the day, with most of them coming from Stumble Upon. I have an account but never use it, so I was intrigued, and I discovered that the story about my sociopathic ex that I had linked the day before had been posted onto Stumble Upon, and it was obviously being shared around… a lot.

It started fairly slowly, with about a thousand views for the first few days, even on Christmas Day. However, yesterday my stats exploded, resulting in my blog receiving the third highest ever amount of views for the month since I started it in April 2013… and it’s still going!

image

It’s amazing – that one shared link has resulted in something far bigger than I could have ever expected and it has been a lovely end to a very positive blogging year! I hope that it is helpful to someone…

If you missed the original post, simply click on the picture below.

image

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks

Image 3 credit: Datingasociopath.com

 

For The Fallen: Lest We Forget

Every year I watch the service at the Cenotaph with pride as we observe moments of silence to remember the fallen. While the official Armistice Day is the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, today is Remembrance Sunday here in the UK and so I would like to share a tribute to the millions of people who have given (and who continue to give) their lives in war. I will never forget your sacrifice.

image

Ode of Remembrance, taken from ‘For The Fallen’ by Laurence Binyon, 1914

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

 

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

 

Useless Things I Learned in School

One of the benefits of the British Education System is that students are offered lots of opportunities to be introduced to new subjects and ideas and as a teacher I believe that a well-rounded education and a love of learning is important. However, not everything that we learn will have a useful impact on our adult lives, and these will differ depending on our strengths, interests and career choices. Sixteen years after I left school, here are some of the things that I learned and have not used since. Continue reading

A Wedding To Remember

image

My youngest sister got married the other day. To say that we haven’t had the best relationship is an understatement, but the impending event has thankfully almost forced us to build some bridges over the last few months. I was anxious – I had only met her husband twice briefly since their relationship began and was feeling completely out of my comfort zone, but after months of stressing about imaginary scenarios and potential altercations I decided to simply buck up and get on with it.

I play in a string quartet and as a result have participated in hundreds of weddings over the years, but this one was organised better than any I have ever seen, to the point where the military could have learned a thing or two. By the time mum and I arrived at my sister’s house everything was almost finished – the hairdresser had done all the girls hair and was waiting for us, the bridesmaids were ready, the flowers and photographer had arrived and all my sister had to do was put on her dress, which was stunning. I lent her our grandmother’s eternity ring – she passed away a few years before my sister was born and this is the only thing that we have left of them. I had bought a beautiful new dress that flattered my figure and hid my various lumps and bumps. However, what I hadn’t taken into account were the tights that I had bought to wear underneath. Despite the fact that I had picked a size that I assumed would be more than comfortable, upon taking them out of the packet I realised they would be more suitable for an eight year old child, and the subsequent battle to squeeze myself into them has now made me consider a potential career change and become a contortionist. After much wrangling, sweating and swearing I emerged victorious, only to discover that I couldn’t breathe. I decided to keep them on as the dress looked beautiful – and who needs oxygen when a dress looks that good???

I sat through the service with my other sister’s new boyfriend, who I had met for the first time that day. I was impressed – he’s a lovely bloke who obviously dotes on my sister, he has a great job and was flying out the following morning to Madagascar, where he is spending six weeks doing marine biology (as you do), and I was really pleased with the effort that he made with the family, who can be extremely overwhelming for newcomers.

The service was lovely. I took the opportunity to take some photographs as my mum started to walk my sister down the aisle (who looked absolutely stunning) but then I turned my attention to the groom. The expression on his face was just wonderful – while I can’t claim to know him at all, by all accounts he’s a nice man, and that one look showed me everything I needed to know – he loves her, and she was so happy it almost appeared that she had to stop herself from grabbing him and jumping up and down there and then. The photographs afterwards were done quickly (again, with almost military precision) and the bridal party and groomsmen jumped into a minibus to go to the reception.

This was the part I had been dreading for the last eighteen months.

It was being held at a small venue where my sisters and I grew up. We spent our childhood walking the dog and playing in the fields surrounding it, referring to it as ‘The White House’ because of the colour of the building, and I haven’t been there since 2002. Circumstances meant that my mother moved away from the family home when I was at University, and so I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye – it’s been something that has plagued me ever since. Upon arrival it was the strangest feeling – everything was so familiar and instantly brought back a million memories. I broke down, just as the bride and groom were arriving in their beautiful Rolls Royce. Being the classy person that I am, I went and hid in a large patch of shrubbery and smoked a few cigarettes in my dress and heels until I had calmed down so they wouldn’t see me.

I got over myself and went inside. The reception was full of people that I hadn’t seen in years, namely my sister’s school friends and their families. It was surreal – the once rather loud children that I knew were now beautiful adults, with careers and some had families of their own.

It was one of the best receptions I have ever attended. The decor, the food, the atmosphere and the speeches were brilliant, and my sister had even organised a photo booth and a ferris wheel of sweets (candy for you non-Brits) for the guests. My sister and her new husband moved around the room and welcomed everyone, and I took the opportunity to get to know my new family-in-law a little. I was particularly enamoured with the groom’s nieces, who at the ages of 12 and 9 were two of the most intelligent and well-mannered little girls I’d ever met.

By 10.30pm I had eaten and drank my own body weight to the point where my dress had appeared to have shrunk, my feet hurt and I was tired, so my mother and I left. I had a huge sense of relief – relief that it had gone so well for them, that I had a lovely time, and relief that I could get out of my stupid tights, change into my jammies and actually breathe again.

It was certainly a day to remember, and it’s taught me a few things:

1. I need to stop worrying about potential scenarios and start living in the present a little more.

2. I need to move on and start getting to know the sister that I have now rather than the one I knew.

3. I need to stop underestimating exactly how large my bottom is when I am purchasing tights in the future.

I hope they had a good day and that they’re happy, and if the way that they looked at each other throughout the day is symbolic of the rest of their lives, I know they’re going to have a wonderful time…

What about you guys? Have you any funny wedding stories that you want to share?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

It’s a Small World. Sometimes, It’s a Little Too Small

Oh. Dear.

Oh. Dear.

After nearly a decade of working in the British Education System I have recently noticed just how many contacts I have made in my adventures, to the point where it is now a rare occurance when I don’t run into someone when I am out and about in my personal time.

I walked into the staff room a few days ago and was greeted by a visitor – a very attractive woman who was about the same age as me. I knew that I hadn’t met her before, but as I said hello there was something oddly familiar about her face, and I asked her what her name was. When she told me, an image of her smiling face in a photograph flashed before my eyes, and it clicked where I had seen her before. A very handsome friend from university (that I still occasionally play in a string quartet with) was in a relationship with her, and had promoted her picture many times across his Facebook page when she had made it to the finals of an acting competition, with the prize being a part in an Aussie soap. I got very excited at remembering this, and this was the conversation that followed.

Me: Did you have anything to do with Neighbours?

Her: (rather shocked expression) Erm… Yes. How do you know that?

Me: You’re M’s girlfriend! I went to Uni with him and I remember your face from the competition pictures he used to put up.

Her: (awkward expression) I was his girlfriend.

Me: Ah. Ok.

I quickly changed the subject. However, as I was in the middle of this conversation, I suddenly had a further flashback. That wasn’t the only reason why I knew her.

For my 30th birthday, I invited a large group of people to a party that was taking place at an 80’s themed nightclub. While it isn’t most of my friends favourite venue, to their credit they all turned up and threw themselves into drinking, dancing and general debauchery, and I was having a brilliant time. I had been surprised at several points throughout the night by good friends that I hadn’t expected to show, and half way through the night M arrived. I was really pleased to see him, as were lots of my female friends (he really is extremely attractive, I can’t emphasise this enough). One in particular thought he was lovely, and it was obvious that the feelings were mutual.

I don’t remember that much of the later part of the evening, but I do remember that there were lots of photographs taken, most of which appeared on Facebook over the next few days. I received a phone call from my friend, who told me that M had gone back to her house and spent the night. I was quite shocked with him – I knew that he had a long term girlfriend, but my friend had no idea. It was a douchy thing to do on his part…

I panicked a little in case his girlfriend found out and caused trouble for my friend, so I went onto M’s Facebook page, and through that, clicked onto his girlfriend’s page (the woman that was sitting in my staff room the other day) and promptly cyber-stalked her to see if anything revealing had appeared. She didn’t have any privacy settings, and so it was easy to navigate around it.

To make matters worse, I didn’t just click on her page on that day, I must have checked it out on several occasions over the next week. Nothing appeared to have surfaced after a while, and so I stopped, and haven’t thought about it since. Am I a bad person for not saying something? Yes, probably, but the news wouldn’t have been welcomed, she probably wouldn’t have believed me and my friend would have received unnecessary trouble. Her relationship was none of my business, despite the guilt that I always feel in those sorts of situations. I’ve learnt from experience that it is always best to mind your own business where possible.

When I remembered this, I blushed furiously, to the point where one of the other staff commented on the colour of my face. I didn’t say anything about what I remembered and I won’t – I don’t know the circumstances of their break-up, but I’m assuming that she must have eventually found out that, while he is actually a lovely bloke as a friend, he isn’t exactly boyfriend material. Yes, the world is a very small place. Sometimes, it’s a  little too small.