A couple of people have recently (and rather rudely) raised the question as to whether I am perhaps running out of steam now that I am a whole THIRD of the way through my grievances. I answer these doubters by exclaiming that I’m only just getting started. Anyway, if I ever do find myself running out of rants, I will take a leaf from the book of those 100happydays-ers and start repeating myself. Instead of endless photos of food/alcoholic beverages (I post those anyway), I shall adorn your newsfeed with tales of terrible tasting menus and disappointing drinking holes, letters of complaint and threats to take matters further (I have a whole folder of such correspondence on my laptop). Sorted.
In the meantime, I am not remotely close to reaching the end of those instances of annoyance. Actually, NEW things seem to irritate me on an almost daily basis. Take yesterday, for example. It came to my attention just how annoyed I am by formulaic ‘chick flicks’ (don’t get me started on the sweeping generalisation that is that genre title itself), and indeed Netflix categorisation in general (‘exciting films’, ‘super swashbucklers’ ‘independent films featuring a strong female lead’…). I also wasn’t impressed with the titles the app advised I watch based on my previous selections – how on earth did it arrive at these ridiculous recommendations?
Interestingly, Netflix was able to inform me that the last film watched was titled ‘Hot Girls Wanted’… When I’d finished falling about laughing at the BF’s claim that it was, in fact, a documentary, I looked it up and found out he was telling the truth. What a STUPID and misleading name for a documentary. I’m not planning to run out of grievances any time soon.
The change in the weather was obviously perfect fodder for a new gripe. I – along with everyone else – was all hot and bothered last week. So much so that I actually braved the crowds in Primark in order to buy a new pair of trews before embarking upon my pub shift – I knew I might actually kill someone if I had to endure 6 hours behind the bar whilst dressed in jeans. Primark is hell on earth in much the same manner as the sports shop I mentioned last month.
Today, in contrast to the majority of last week, I am somewhat underdressed. The temperature has dropped by about 15 degrees overnight, I would estimate. Yet today I set off for work wearing Primark cut-off linen trousers and a vest top. That is all. No cardigan, no jumper, no nothing. Then of course, it started to rain and I knew with absolute certainty that my high quality Primark linen trousers would go see-through when I went out to fetch my lunch and would then stick uncomfortably to my legs for the remainder of the afternoon. I was correct.
In a most uncharacteristic declaration (on an unusually positive note), I have to state that I love the sunshine. I simply cannot pretend otherwise; I can often be found first thing of a summer’s morning, perched in the garden, jammies rolled up to my knees, head angled towards the sun, dozing contentedly. I think it’s a throwback to growing up somewhere with significantly less summer sunshine – when the sun comes out now, I’m scared I’ll miss it and it’s almost a compulsion to spend every possible second basking.
I also quite like the fact that I can listen to Belle and Sebastian again – they don’t sound right during the winter months – and I like having freezing-things experiments.
This week alone, I have discovered that frozen coconut water is tasteless and that frozen Ribena is delicious, although you have to put a surprisingly high concentration of Ribena in there if you want it to taste right. Next I am going to try frozen gin and tonic and frozen blueberry yoghurt (not together, you understand), and I am expecting great things. Clearly I am going to use my new-found knowledge of correct concentrations when glugging in the Gordon’s (no point using decent gin in freezer experimentation).
And now back onto a more characteristically grievance-riddled ground… One thing I absolutely abhor about the start of summer is the way that the hot weather encourages people to shed their clothes. All the papers feature pictures of crowded beaches and bikinied ladies – I don’t want to see such scenes when I am waiting in the lunchtime sandwich queue. However, if ever there is an entirely apt time and a place for wearing a swimsuit, it is during a heatwave on a beach. Other venues are not quite so suitable. In particular, I am referring to men who think it is a good idea to wander around urban areas sporting what can only be accurately described as beachwear. Topless in town? Two words: NO NEED.
It’s not just the sights of summer that annoy me, I also detest many of the sounds: buzzing wasps, high-pitched and splashing kids, sinister-sounding ice-cream van jingles, and, most particularly, birds in the morning. Their grating crack-of-dawn chirping makes me so cross! At this time of year, closing the windows is not an option so I am subjected to the worst of early morning alarm calls – one that cannot be snoozed.
I spent my formative years living beside the sea so the sound of a squawking seagull is not alien to me. Having said that, you usually couldn’t hear them over the sound of the rain lashing the windows or the wind howling down the chimney. I currently bide in Reading – that’s about as far inland as you can get – yet there are still seagulls! How is that even possible? Where I dwell these days, the sound of one lone seagull can be heard every single godforsaken morning. We’ve decided that somebody must be keeping it as a pet – tied to the end of a string in a terraced-house garden. There’s no other explanation.
I moved from the seaside yet didn’t manage to shake off the plague of the dreaded seagulls and their screeching salutations. I was, however, greeted with another summertime affliction. Hay fever. For the first three summers I lived down here, I genuinely thought I contracted a season-long cold each year. I also tended to blame my choked-upped-ness on the Rubbish English Air that I was being forced to breath (a close relation of the Rubbish English Water with bits in that I was having to drink…) I argued with anyone who dared to suggest that I might have fallen foul of the curse that is hay fever: “But I don’t get hay fever” I would naively announce. And then I took an antihistamine tablet (just to shut someone up, I recall) and have never looked back. Nobody can be right all the time, I suppose.
Hay fever is prevalent here because Reading sits in a valley and all the pollen sits in the valley too. Then all the pollution from all the many cars belonging to all the aggressive Reading drivers who never slow down to allow poor pedestrians to cross sits on top of all the pollen and keeps it all squashed down in the valley. Or something like that. In Scotland all the pollen gets blown away.
As already stated, I love the sunshine – I don’t miss that bad weather at all. Being as peely-wally as I am, I tend to get my sunburn out of the way nice and early in the year in a “don’t be ridiculous, of course I don’t need factor 15, it’s only April, now pipe down” kind of a way. I burn once and then that’s me – lesson learned and epidermis adequately protected for the remained of the year.
Having covered the season’s sights, sounds, and tastes (gin ice lollies – keep up!), I think it would only be right to finish on a small discussion relating to summertime smells – in particular, barbecues. I love a good barbeque, who doesn’t? What I cannot abide, however, is other people’s barbeques that:
a) Smell amazing and make me wish that I, too, had some tasty sausages to cook and not just a fridge full of leftovers, various flavours of sriracha sauce and a variety of small pieces of cheese wrapped in cling film and in various stages of decay. I grew up in a household where we were only allowed two types of cheese open at any one time – usually medium cheddar and red Leicester – the novelty of being allowed to open anything other than this (in terms of quantity and of interesting variety) has yet to wear off…*
b) Make all my washing smell as it dries on the line.
What I also don’t love is a bad barbeque. Just because an over-processed Farmfoods burger (contains 63% pure beef… which begs the question as to what exactly is the other 37% made up of), is cooked atop a barbeque, it does not suddenly become something tasty. My other BBQ bugbear is the fact that people tend to cook everything for far too long ‘just to be sure’… Sure of what? Sure it’s going to resemble a lump of charcoal by the time it reaches my plate?
On that note, I’m off to put an hour or two’s concerted effort into perfecting those palate-numbing lollies. I’m pretty sure there’s some sloe gin lurking somewhere and that would work WONDERFULLY with the Ribena…
*Thinking about it, there were several food variety limitations in the Bruce household: we were also only ever allowed two types of cereal open at any one time (almost certainly why I have 5 different varieties going soft in my cupboard presently) and one of these was always unsweetened muesli – my dad’s favourite; 2 types of cracker (one of which was consistently oatcakes – again, my dad’s variety of choice); 2 variants of conserve (the Roberson’s marmalade that Dad has spread on his two pieces of toast every single morning since time began, and then either strawberry or raspberry jam – never both at once); and two types of ‘sweet’ biscuit (generally two out of the following unappetising selection: plain rich tea, plain digestive, garibaldi, and brought-back-from-a-camping-trip shortbread which was always slightly soft and smelled suspiciously like stale tent), I don’t think I need to clarify who enjoyed such Calvinist biscuit varieties. Interestingly, there was never any limitations placed on the number of malt whiskies that could remain open in the drinks cabinet at any given time…