You Have to Read This Because It’s My Birthday

No, really. I’m 22 today, which means I should probably stop telling myself that I’m in my late teens. I should probably accept that 2005 was more than three years ago as well, now I think about it, but let’s not go down that rabbit hole…

Last year I made a list of things I want to do before 2020, then promptly forgot about it. I just had a look and I’m quite smug, because I can tick off passing my driving test and visiting South East Asia. Publishing a book and finishing a screenplay are still works in progress – arguably they are not even ahem in progress – and I haven’t been to anywhere new in Europe or taken up a sport, but I am currently at two jobs, not five. I’m getting somewhere!

Possibly the thing to do with life lists is to hide them away and only refer to them occasionally so you don’t stress yourself out. Then again, it’s nice to have little reminders of where you want to go and how far you’ve come. A year ago I couldn’t picture what Laos looked like, I couldn’t parallel park and the idea of actually finishing short stories and posting them on the Internet hadn’t actually occurred to me. Possibly I should add ‘be less dense’ to the 2020 list…

Luang Prabang, Laos
For the record, this is what Laos looks like.

I haven’t got a list of things I want to do at 22, or at least I haven’t got anything concrete and quantifiable. By 23 I want to have written loads more, and kept up my Etsy, and stopped having heart palpitations when I drive, and I’d like to have as good a laugh as I’ve had this year. No one I know has been ill, there have been no accidents or massive dramas. All things considered, 21 was a year well lived. If 22 is as good, I think it will be a success.

I am going to see my family and overeat now, so I will leave this. I know a lot of people prefer to make goals and resolutions in September instead of January (and why not it’s the best month) so if you are one of those people, or even if you aren’t, let me know what you’ve aced in the last year and what you’d like to do in the next year. Maybe we could keep each other accountable?!

I Want Your Car Stories! | How I Grew a Driving Phobia

Afternoon. I can’t believe how autumnal the weather is today. Yesterday I was in shorts and a t-shirt and thought I might fry to a crisp, and this morning I wore gloves walking the dogs. I had to learn where the windscreen wiper controls are in my car (heads up, car designers: those little symbols make absolutely no sense).

Today I want to talk about cars, actually. Well, driving. I think the last time I wrote here I was looking for a job alongside my internship; now I have one! I think it’s bad luck – or stupidity – to talk too much about new jobs before you’ve put a few hours in, but I start in September and I’m tentatively excited. There’s just one catch: I have to drive there.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever bored you all with the exact details of how I learnt to drive, or rather how long I took to learn to drive. I started lessons the summer I left school and passed my test last December. There was a break of a few months when I moved, so I think it took two years. I immediately went to South East Asia and didn’t sit behind the wheel of a vehicle until April, so it’s safe to say my practise-acquisition rate is low. This is mostly my fault. When I was about eight and we were walking home from school, I saw a teenager get hit by a car. I can’t actually remember actual collision when I think back, just weird details like the woman who was driving was taking her grandson home from school, and she wore glasses. But it must have stuck with me, because ten years later I sat in my instructor’s Kia in a side road in the suburbs and couldn’t believe I was trusted to operate a car just like that. Aside from the standard sight test, no one wanted to check I was competent enough to drive on an actual working road. I did not feel competent enough to drive on an actual working road. I felt strapped to a friendly, powerful machine with too many working parts that can be accidentally used to kill.

It probably didn’t help that I’m not naturally good at any of the skills driving requires. I have no sense of direction, my reaction times aren’t that quick and I don’t trust my own senses. I also soaked up all of those driving awareness adverts as a kid – don’t drink and drive, don’t do drugs and drive don’t be that person – and while I was in senior school, a girl a couple of years above me died in a horrible car accident that reverberated through all the schools in the area.

I’m very aware that humans are very easy to kill with cars and I’ve spent most of my life assuming I’ll kill someone with mine.

When I was taking lessons in a dual controlled car with an instructor I trusted – hi John! – the dread in the pit of my stomach gradually ebbed away. When I bought a 2002 Nissan Micra off my cousins’ nan so I could practise with my family, it snapped at my feet but rarely came closer. I used to go out at night, which I weirdly found easier because I’m always more alert when it’s dark out, and piled up the hours. Dread flitted into my car here and there, but everything seemed to be on track (ha). I scraped through my theory test and took my practical with the attitude that if I didn’t pass, I could try again after I came home from Asia. Fear circled, biting at my shoelaces, but I repeated that anecdote that, hey, people who pass second time are safer drivers. I passed first time.

About a week after I came home from Asia, I picked my nan and my brother up for lunch, ignoring what was by then butterflies, and settled back into the Micra thinking ‘goodness, how did I sit comfortably before, it’s quite clunky on junctions, I must say that this car probably isn’t built for me. Perhaps when I have a job I shall upgrade to a comfier one.’ I had sweaty palms, but I had literally just crossed South East Asia. I could cope with a ten minute drive in a car on my own. On our way home, an SUV hooted me on a roundabout; I physically jumped from my seat and when we got home I realised I was shaking. I could not cope with a ten minute drive. The certainty that I’ll kill someone one day was back in my bones. Like I haven’t got enough to think about.

I’ve tried a few cures since then. I sold the Micra to my friend Robyn and bought a newer Mini because they are supposedly good for shorter drivers. Also, they are in The Italian Job. It’s comfier and smoother, but more expensive to insure which does not help my stress levels. I learnt that vehophobia is one of the ten most common phobias in the UK (and judging by how many articles I found, it’s fixable). I keep up with Maggie Stiefvater’s Jalopnik articles and look up car maintenance on YouTube. I go for drives with my uncle on different roads. I do the weekly commute to the supermarket with my mum. When there’s someone in the passenger seat to talk to – and to remind me where I’m going, because 21 years of living in Southend has not imparted any knowledge of the road system – I’m okay. I’m nervous, but in the same way I get nervous for job interviews. It’s a bearable nervous. But when I’m on my own, I’m eight again.

The boy who got hit by a car that time was fine, by the way. The driver was doing about 20 miles per hour and if I remember correctly, the boy had run out between two cars to catch the bus and sort of bounced off the bonnet. No blood or death or anything like that.

My certificate says I’m a qualified driver. I’ve spent hundreds of hours behind the wheel. I don’t shake, vomit, cry or hyperventilate when I’m driving. I like cars. I like the smell of petrol and wind on my face during an evening drive and I fully intend to one day purchase a vintage muscle and drive it across a desert. I am very good at parallel parking and don’t overtake in stupid places. I can drive, for god’s sake. I’m just paralysed with fear by the thought of my impending part-time commute to the other side of Southend. I don’t like being scared, I don’t have time for it and it’s interfering with my plans, but I can’t afford refresher lessons or therapy. I can’t afford a sat nav either, which would probably help. It would give me something to talk to, at any rate…

I’m not sure what to do next, other than force myself into my car and drive until the dread disappears or I don’t notice it. Maybe I should nose the Mini into a tree to get the inevitable over with. Maybe I should spray paint it to feel cooler and therefore braver. Maybe I should sell it and take the bus.

I have a request for you guys: tell me your car stories. Tell me about taking your driving test and backing into a bollard and knocking your wing mirror off on a van. Tell me about your first car and your last car and the weirdest shit you’ve come across on the roads. Tell me which car you’ve always wanted and which one you’ve ended up with. I want something to think about on the commute.

Are You There, Internet? It’s Me Again.

I came back from a walk this afternoon and did some admin, then thought ‘I would like to write a blog.’ I didn’t get much further than that (topic? Title? Relevance to target audience?) but I’ll take what I can get, so I made a hot chocolate and sat down to say hello. So far I’m really into the hot chocolate.

Right, so, hello. It’s been a while. Well it hasn’t really, but a lot has happened since I last wrote, and in my head I had to post. You see that monthly archives list in the sidebar? That lists every single month from November 2009, because I have posted here every single month since November 2009. In the back of my mind I’ve always been convinced that if I miss a month, I’ve failed. I don’t know why I’ve never mentioned this before now – I think probably because it’s slightly vain but also quite depressing. Look, kids, that girl ties her self worth to a blog archive that she can choose to remove from her website! Part of my mini break was to reclaim some headspace, and I think that writing honestly will help with that, so there you go. I nurse fragile self worth and high standards no one else cares about! Well, that felt… suitably awkward to write. Now I think about it, I’ve probably written a lot of blogs with dubious levels of honesty, but I think that might be something to explore in another post. For now, let me catch you up on everything that’s been going on since my last blog. Now I sit and think about it, I’ve been busy in a good way:

Operation Instagrammable Bedroom is going well! I have a desk now, and I’m in the midst of spray painting shelves. The actual bedroom part is a bit doubtful, because my lack of shelving until this point has allowed me to give into my messier inclinations and leave stuff on the floor. I added some art to the wall as soon as the desk was in, and I can’t wait to decorate it more:

Office Decration
Seen here: correspondence from friends (and Cuba), two fandoms worth of art, my old designs and a postcard from Chantal Claret.

I’ve been hard at work on Francesca’s Words and I’m going to tell you all about it. Another weird thing in my head was that I couldn’t blog too much about running my Etsy, because it would be self serving and sound as though I were begging for business. The back of my head is an idiot: this entire blog is self serving and so is my shop. My name is literally on the door. God. So, in the last few weeks I’ve made a couple of big changes. The first is that I now offer free UK postage on everything in the entire shop. There’s no messing about with coupons or links either. At the moment it’s just a trial, but so far people seem to be pretty into it. I’ve also been designing new products and re-designing old ones, and I recently swapped banks. I know how boring that sounds (okay, I know how adult and therefore unpalatable that sounds) but the fresh start has spurred me on to take another look at my business practices, my running costs and my goals. Other than ‘make enough money to take regular overseas trips’, I want Francesca’s Words to be a stopping place for anyone who’s fed up with shit stationery and patronising greetings and gifts. No one likes giving crap birthday cards, and no one should have to spend a fortune on a nice notebook. Enter, me. You’re welcome.

I actually downloaded that social media blocking app. It really works, too. I’m on the wrong side of broke at the moment because I didn’t have my publishing internship for most of July, so I might have to stop paying for it for a bit, but I can already feel my bad habits edging away. I’m still doing Headspace with relative frequency too, and I’m trying to work my physiotherapy back into my daily routine. I’ve found it helps to pretend I’m in physio because I’m a medal-winning Olympian and not a Millennial who spent too long texting as a teenager. I spend an hour or so each evening writing and it’s going well, although I keep oversleeping the next day. Oh how one suffers for one’s art.

Oh, I also rang up my car insurance firm yesterday, mere hours after receiving an email detailing my ridiculous bill for the next ten months, and instead of ignoring it I put the bill onto a direct debit in my designated ‘car shit’ bank account. Look at me, finding solutions to problems!

I’m going to take a small break from my desk now – I have a stool instead of a chair for the moment and comfy it is not. I’m not sure when I’ll next blog, or what it will be about. I’d like to keep posting my Asia blogs, and I’d like to talk more about running Francesca’s Words alongside everything else I’ve got going on, and I’d like to reach 2012 levels of participation from my readers. Fun fact: Indifferent Ignorance peaked, audience wise, five years ago. Do you have any idea what it feels like knowing that your 16 year old self was better crowd draw than you are? Hint: it’s a bit like watching Usain Bolt lose a race to an athlete with questionable morals. You can’t do anything about the situation but seriously?

Look at me, getting all current events-y. This has been fun. See you soon.

Brownout & Beige Sofas (I’m taking a mini-break)

I’m thinking of taking a holiday. But you already had a giant holiday in Asia, you can’t just live on holiday! Not that sort of holiday (although Southend Airport has announced flights to Malta, so if you hear about me making any bad financial decisions, it will involve a payday loan and a budget flight to Valletta). Since I got home I’ve been on a job-searching-life-affirming-I-will-spend-my-days-doing-things-I-love-let’s-have-a-fresh-start mission, and so far it’s gone pretty well. I have two internships, new hair – well, new colour in my hair – fewer ugly clothes in my wardrobe and a new car. Taking a break from my Etsy really helped me get some perspective and it’s doing better than ever. There’s loads of freshness! New things! New me!

Except this afternoon I trudged back from town wearing a pair of tracksuit bottoms that really should not leave the house, and I felt exactly the same as I did when I was freelancing. I was still worrying about my bank balance, I was still working eleven hour days and sleeping through alarms. I had the precise feeling that made me go to Asia and look for a fresh start in the first place. The only way I can describe it is that it’s the emotional equivalent of a beige sofa. There is nothing wrong with a beige sofa. Plenty of people are very happy with beige sofas. I’m just never going to willingly own a beige sofa. It’s fucking beige.

Now my savings are gone and because I’m refusing to do anything that isn’t relevant to my career interests, the internships are all I’ve got for the moment; I’m earning a lot less than I was before I went travelling. I should mention that the eleven hour days are entirely my own fault – since I still have so much free time I’m putting together a business plan for my shop and swapping banks doing all the behind-the-scenes business shit that I might not have time for in a few months. So although everything is pointing in the right direction, I’m still pressed for cash and stressing out about it. I’ve even started stressing out about stressing out, which is a new low.

I read that there’s a thing people get called ‘brownout’. Unlike burnout, which is a recognised condition, brownout is what they’re calling it when you’re technically fine – you’re putting in the hours, you care, you’re miles away from a breakdown – but you’re overwhelmed and disengaged. Even though you’re checking your email 8000 times a day and #poweringon, you’re not actually getting that much done. Apparently technology and a change in work patterns since the recession is to blame. Wonderful.

I think I’ve got a touch of brownout. In retrospect think I might have had reoccurring bouts of it over the years, but you can’t really beg time off work because you’re feeling a little lethargic. Also, I love to work. I could spend all day working on my Etsy listings or drafting blog posts or whatever. I’ve got an empire to build and a new car to pay for and I will see you tomorrow at 8am!

Back to the holiday. Regardless of whether or not I’ve just diagnosed myself with a problem that may or may not actually exist, I think I need to rethink my working practises. The empire won’t get built if I’m too busy thinking about how I don’t want my life to be a beige sofa. Even with all the free time, I’m not writing that much more than I was before I went away. I’m still struggling for blog ideas and wearing ghastly tracksuit bottoms. This was not part of the plan. So this weekend and next week I’m going to take a mini-holiday. I’m going to turn off my pointless alarms, see my family at my cousin’s 21st and decide how I want to proceed with the empire building. I think I might start with an out-of-hours notice on my email accounts and an app that blocks Twitter after 9pm.

Has anyone else experienced this? Do you have any tips? I’ve never kept hours before. What are normal hours? HELP. I’ll get back to you, um, within two-to-three working days?!

I Learnt How Tennis Works and Now I’m an EXPERT. Also, here’s a drawing of a rodent.

I started a quick five minute sidebar update about… half an hour ago? More? I can’t even remember what the intended effect was but I know I don’t want to look at the sidebar for another half an hour. You look instead.

Possibly I chose the wrong time to poke about with delicate design work – I’ve not really woken up from Saturday’s heat/festival/but seriously the heat brain fog and I’ve got one of those to do lists that seems to be getting longer every time I tick something off it. I just tried to spell ‘to do’ as ‘two do’. Hmm. Possibly what I need to do is clock off early and watch Wimbledon. I recently learnt that ‘game, set, match’ isn’t just a turn of phrase. Whoever wins the most games wins the sets and whoever wins the most sets wins the match. How did my exemplary education miss out that nugget of info? Now I actually understand what the point of Wimbledon is!

It is of course possible that my exemplary education did mention that, and I was too busy rolling tennis balls across the court with the edge of a racquet to notice.

18th century drawing of a shrew from unseeliefaerie.tumblr.com
I was looking for a sporting gif and this 18th century illustration of a shrew perfectly sums up my attitude to physical education. Hahaaaaa. [from unseeliefaerie.tumblr.com]
Anyway. The festival. I wrote some actual thank yous over on my portfolio site but in case I haven’t been vocal enough: I loved meeting everyone at Village Green and I can’t wait to do another market or event and meet you all again… once I’ve had about 30 hours sleep and a sack of Colombian coffee. I’ve had about a thousand and one ideas for art and blogs and projects, so watch this space – well, I’m in a lot of spaces on the Internet, I think that’s what I was going for when I added 20 links to the sidebar – and in the mean time, I’m curious: is there anything you guys would like me to blog about? Indifferent Ignorance has been, amongst other things, a politics blog, a book blog, an MCR fan blog and a satire blog. Sometimes it’s been all of them at one time, sometimes it’s been none of them. I quite like that I chop and change according to the weather, but I’m aware that can make for uneven viewing. Since I’m feeling very enthused (honestly, I’m so delighted by the game, set, match thing) I thought I’d put it out there.

If you guys just want more shrew illustrations, I am totally down for that.

Once More Unto the Soft Furnishings Department

Afternoon. Apologies for being a bit quiet – I was sick last week (actually physically sick for the first time in years god I hate vomiting) and the house looks worse than it did when moved in. When we moved, we plonked stuff down with the understanding that we would decorate later. Now we are decorating, our stuff has to go into rooms that still contain their normal stuff and to cut a long story short I am sleeping on a mattress in the dining room next to two snoring dogs.

The end is nigh, though, and I am getting excited about the fun bit: moving in. My new room is painted plain white so I can hang up all my prints and pretend I live in an art gallery, and I’m getting my own office space. Technically it’s a space in a built-in wardrobe where the boiler used to be and it is barely five feet in width, but it’s a space. I am considering painting the walls, partly so when I move the new owners can marvel at how pedantic the previous occupier was, and I have been frequenting Pinterest for the best ways to fit a desk into a cupboard. Surprisingly, little offices aren’t just for those lacking in space – I’ve seen some beautiful, Instagram-pornography-esque offices clearly installed by someone who wanted a beautiful, Instagram-pornography-esque office.

I’m considering plagiarising those ideas and adding some floating shelves, getting a clip-on lamp and possibly braving a trip to IKEA to turn their kitchenware equipment into an elaborate pen pot stand. I haven’t decided on a colour scheme – you’d better believe there will be a colour scheme – but I am considering investing in a set of wireless speakers and enough paper trays for my entire Francesca’s Words envelope collection.

There’s a bit to do before I get to actually buying any of these things (apparently carpets and net curtains are basic requirements) so while I am still in Pinterest mode, let me know: what are your home decoration tips? Have you ever done up a space as small as an ex-boiler cupboard? What do you think of rose gold and pink as a theme? Help me out here, I can’t afford to buy a pen pot from IKEA only to find it messes with my Instagram ambitions.

Grasping at Straws (okay, leaflets)

Today I spent four hours in a virtual queue waiting for tickets for The Cursed Child, only to spend my allotted twenty minutes of browsing time searching fruitlessly for the right number of tickets on the right number of days in the correct type of seats.

So ‘miffed’ doesn’t really cover it.

Frank Iero gif
from Tumblr

Anyway, the good news: I made some things to help you survive – and, dare I say it, thrive – during the upcoming general election.

Here’s something to encourage the youth in your family to vote:

Students' Guide to Voting General Election 2017

Here’s something to help you all decide how to vote:

Ho Do I Hate Least Political Party Comparison

My constituency hasn’t announced its candidates yet (something tells me the Conservatives will win) but I’m considering the Women’s Independence Party. Or signing up for that Mars mission. You can buy and print those designs here if you want (actual prints are coming this week, hopefully) so you can spread the democracy and all that. I suppose if someone decides to vote after seeing them, or if the shop makes some money on them, the current state of British politics won’t be entirely a waste of human intelligence…

Reasons to Let Trump into the UK

This post isn’t about South East Asia! Anyway so in case you’ve been living under a rock (great idea, by the way), there’s a petition asking the government to downgrade President Dickhead’s state visit to a regular one. I haven’t signed it, because although a state visit for a US president during their first year in office is unprecedented, and despite the opportunities it gives Katie Hopkins and Nigel Farage to spout more self-aggrandising bile than we thought possible, I think a Trump administration state visit actually holds a wealth of opportunity for us all. No really bear with me:

The Queen will have to meet him

She might not be able to comment on politics, but she can publicly make subtly scathing conversation without raising an eyebrow. Various aides will have to murmur behind napkins ‘you certainly have done a lot’ does not mean she agrees with you on the Muslim ban, it means she can’t believe you haven’t been impeached yet. Yes, she really is offering you another biscuit.

Prince Phillip will have to meet him

Less subtle and witty. More like ‘the trifle is gorgeous today, isn’t it? So are you planning to start World War III with China or with  Iran?’

There will be loud, intrusive protests everywhere the delegation goes

The British tradition of just not mentioning unpleasant smells won’t be enough for officials to avoid bringing up how angry people are about the US administration’s desire to defecate over everything it sees, and the UK government’s desire to hold the toilet paper as long as it puts us in good stead come Brexit. Because how do you avoid bringing up signs like these?

Petition for Ian McKellen to get another knighthood.

Boris Johnson will almost definitely insult Trump to his face

Using words like ‘piffle’ and ‘codswallop’. For the first time in Boris’s political career everyone will be pleased about it. I guess this would also happen on a regular visit, but if it’s during a state visit he might be wearing a black tie and tails and the memes alone will be glorious.

Banning a man who’s spent his presidency banning things is too much like playing his game, and the British game is so much more fun

A lot of people just want him barred from entering UK airspace and although any type of Trump visit will be detrimental to our air pollution goals, I just don’t think a ban is particularly British. I think what is British is satire, sarcasm and a succinct declaration that we are quite cross.

Remember Je Suis Charlie? Now’s your chance to make good on the free speech and satire quotations you retweeted then. When Trump visits – and he will, at some point – every mildly eloquent, satirical or artistic person with access to the Internet gets to let loose. Whether it’s Have I Got News for You or The Last Leg or some bloke named Steve live Tweeting a press conference, the message will will be unambiguous: we will not hold the fucking toilet paper while you shit on our values. Columnists will crack their knuckles; cartoonists will sharpen their pencils; protesters will take their signs, chants and sit-ins to acidic new levels; Banksy will decorate a high rise. Small children will ask ‘why does my mum break china when he’s on TV?’ to the point where schools will hold assemblies explaining civil unrest. Alt-right neo Nazi scum will look at one another and gulp. Republican higher-ups will blink and realise that the special relationship isn’t about the Prime Minister’s Brexit negotiations. It’s about neighbours looking out for one another even after the odd failed invasion of the Middle East and dodgy extradition attempt. We will invite you in for a cup of tea, Mr Trump, but we reserve the right to spit in it.

I can’t believe I’m 21 and just made a toilet paper analogy. Yes, I can. Anyway what are your thoughts on the state visit? Do you have any ideas for protest signs? Tell me. (Next post we go back to regularly scheduled chat about Cambodian beaches.)