Evening! (It’s not five as I start this but it’ll be waaaay past five by the time I publish.) How is everyone doing with the new-ish social distancing/lockdown rules? I’m assuming they’ll have changed by the time you read this. At time of writing, I’m 90% sure that I can’t socialise with more than 6 people, and probably shouldn’t hug my nan, but I can go to my local, badly-ventilated Spoons with 100 other people as long as we all get up and leave by 10pm?
I’ve got a cold at the moment – standard autumn snottage, nothing corona-y – and I can’t lie, it’s nice to have a different type of illness to think about. I might be a brain foggy sneeze machine but my toes look all right and I don’t need to lock myself in my bedroom for two weeks… ugh, the luxury of a common cold.
I feel like I have loads to update you guys with, assuming you’re here for hot gossip about my life. Over the last few weeks, I’ve discovered that 25 is the birthday at which people start gifting you candles, and that Microsoft Teams is infinitely superior to Zoom (remember Skype? Awww, Skype. I don’t know why I’m saying that, I still use Skype). WHAT AN ADULT SENTENCE. What a 2020 sentence.
Why are you using Microsoft Teams, I hear you wonder, are you conducting online tarot readings?
Ha, no. I was supposed to start a degree this week, but the college cancelled it back in August; I deferred my place and I’m doing a diploma for a year instead. Then the diploma went online-only because you need so many metres between so many people and the upshot is Microsoft Teams. I bought a folding screen to block the sunlight and create a ~ dedicated workspace ~ so now I have to do my homework, because folding screens are weirdly expensive given how little they weigh.
I’m only a week into lessons and have so far learnt that a) my note-taking technique is hellish, and the Cornell method is something secondary school teachers should have a legal requirement to suggest and b) I’ve very slightly improved my attitude to homework and time management since I left school, but like I said, it’s only been a week.
Speaking of time management, I’m going to be closing my Folksy and Etsy shops for a few weeks of October, November and December (and realistically January, etc.) so I can meet my college deadlines and my story deadlines. Also so I don’t, you know, drown under pencils come Christmas. Or drown a little less than I did last year? Maybe?
I secretly love drowning beneath pencils. Ugh. Please buy some. Oh! I almost forgot: I have an offer-y thing going on the No. 1 Readers’ Club until Wednesday 30th. Anyone who joins until the end of Wednesday will get a cute little story, by me. Well. It might not be cute, it might be ghost-y or magic-y since Halloween is coming up. Also since ghosts and magic are two of my favourite things to write about.
Right. Pitch over. I’m going to go nurse the cold and check my homework’s done for tomorrow – no call to 111 required! Just an early night and lots of liquids! I’m almost enjoying thinking about it! – so I will leave this here.
How is your autumn going? Has anyone else started school/college/work? This time of year always feels like a mini-new year and a fresh start. I’ve been watching YouTube videos by people who vlog entirely about studying. I feel like I might have turned over an academic new leaf… I am realistically going to continue watching Schitt’s Creek, as soon as I’ve checked my planner, though. Maybe I’ve turned over a baby leaf. A little petal. Ha.
I’ve been trying to use all this dead time to do a couple of minor tasks each day, since I have little inclination to do anything really useful (I was chatting to my cousin and we said that being isolated can feel a bit like having a cold – you know your brain cells could stretch that bit further, but they don’t want to).
This afternoon I started organising the drawer in my dresser. A basic case of moving some plasters to live with the other medicine stuff in a cupboard, moving a couple of make up things I don’t use that often to somewhere I can actually see them. It beats thinking about dinner, which let’s be honest is now everyone’s only favourite hobby. Then I came across this monstrosity, which had until a recent tidy-up been hiding in a bag some 10 years after someone gifted it to me:
I gave it a squirt.
I thought, this is the scent of body odour.
I thought, I am in year nine getting dressed after PE.
I thought, this is the smell of thirty teenage girls who have just been forced to run in circles while a very unfit older lady chats to another unfit older lady on the side line and occasionally shouts at you.
Then I realised: the sweaty smell I notice on myself after a long day in adulthood is anywhere between ‘slightly gross’ and ‘god what did you do.’ But in my head, I’ve always considered it like, oh I guess I’ve done some sweating, good to know my skin works properly, I’m going to carry on with my life. I’d never really associated sweating with the actual term ‘body odour.’ I mean, I’ve inhaled next to some pretty disgusting humans over the years and it’s been a case of ‘oh, that’s a person who doesn’t have access to a home and a shower’ or ‘oh, that’s a person who probably needs prescription deodorant, that must be hard.’
At no point in the last 24.5 years have I inhaled bodily odours and thought holy fuck, someone please saw off my nose.
Until just now when I sprayed Into Glamour into the air and had a proper sniff.
I knew that smell can invoke memories in a way that other senses don’t, and I knew what sweaty human smells like. But I’ve only just realised that deep in my brain, Impulse’s nicely packaged Into Glamour Body Fragrance equals BO.
I’m never spraying it again.
What am I supposed to do with it? It’s still half full (I’m aware this means I probably took it to school in year nine). I know aerosols are flammable – I know a guy who chucked an old can onto a bonfire and it exploded – so is it a good idea to put it into the recycling? Or even the black bin? What if the crushy thing in the collection lorry pierces it and I kill the local bin collectors? No one deserves their last breath to be full of this stuff.
Maybe I should keep it to keep mosquitoes away? Or in case I ever have a date and need the person to leave really quickly? Or maybe I’m the only person who associates Into Glamour with disgusting teenagers and uncomfortable quick changes after PE?
I can’t believe I’m now thinking about PE. I THOUGHT I LEFT YOU IN 2010. I legitimately might have to go for a shower.
Drop me a comment if you have any suggestions for what I can do with this stuff! Let me know if you have any similar smell-memory stories! Oh and if you’re a brand rep from Impulse: it’s not your fault your product has activated some long-forgotten associations. I’m sure some of your other fragrances are lovely. I’m not likely to risk trying them out, though, in case they take me back to year eleven maths or something…
The new school year is upon the nation’s sproglets and there’s a new-ish argument in Parliament and the media about grammar schools. Am I glad to be back home. I want to add my two cents to the great grammar school debate, because I actually attended one – after 1974, which as far as I can tell is when most politicians left university – and no one seems to have thought to ask grammar school pupils what they think.
I went to a grammar school in Essex from 2007 until a couple of years ago, partly because I grew up surrounded by them, and their students looked very accomplished and clever and grown up in their uniforms and I wanted to be like that, and partly because my parents and teachers had worked out by the time I was eleven that I was a precocious academic brat. Also, the alternative schools were shit. They weren’t all shit schools, but they were shit for me. Had I gone to the local comprehensives, I would have spent my teenage years with the same people I went to primary school with. I did not like most of the people I went to primary school with. I was shy and awkward and did all my growing in year five, so I looked 15, not 10 – and wearing a bra and shopping for sanitary products when your classmates are still getting the giggles when they look up ‘vagina’ in the dictionary is less fun than it sounds. Plus I loved reading and reading = smart, right? SO I WAS GOING TO TRY OUT FOR THE GRAMMAR SCHOOLS.
At school we already had to do shitty tests and homework and SATs, and I signed up to the Eleven Plus assuming it was basically the same, which it was. I fucking hated all tests and homework right up until year 13 – so shout out to my parents, who gritted their teeth and walked me through my verbal reasoning book, and to my primary school teachers, who ran extra classes for the kids they thought could try out for the grammar schools, or the grammar stream that ran in one of the comprehensives.
I don’t remember much about the months leading up to the Eleven Plus, other than I listened to evening radio while I finished my verbal reasoning, and that’s where I got into MCR. But I do remember visiting the different schools, and one of my classmates mum’s saying to one of the teachers at an all-girls grammar: ‘Lucy much prefers boys to girls. She doesn’t get on with girls. Would that be a problem here?’ The answer was yes. Lucy went to a comprehensive. I never got on with her – and I thought boys were mostly gross, and I saw no reason to share a desk with them unless forced. My other resounding memory of that time is another child’s mum saying in the playground ‘I won’t let my daughter go to the girls school. It’s full of posh people and dykes.’
My friends and I conducted pretty thorough studies over the years and trust me, it’s really not.
Anyway, a lot of children at my school went in for the Eleven Plus, and a lot of us passed (again, shout out to the teachers for having faith in so many of us). A few went to the different grammars, but most went into the grammar stream at the comprehensive. I don’t know if that still exists, but if anyone reading this is worried their little girl might miss the company of the Y chromosome aged 12, consider that.
In my first week of year seven I was surprised at how quiet the classrooms were. My primary school was raucous and busy and chairs got thrown and kids hadn’t met their parents for years and kids were on medication and kids were loud. I couldn’t get over how much people wanted to learn (to anyone who taught my classes after year nine – sorry we couldn’t keep that up).
By the end of year eight I had learnt that I went to school with girls who were thick as shit but whose families had the money to tutor them through the Eleven Plus, with girls whose families didn’t have enough money to buy food and the expensive school uniform, with girls whose parents seemed to treat the grammar system as an extension of the private school system, with girls who are smart enough to run the country. I also learnt that I would not contract lesbianism by virtue of not being near boys, although I took an extra-curricular karate class just to be on the safe side. I still think boys are mostly gross but I would like to apologise publicly for confusing queerness with the flu. In my defence, I went to primary school with kids whose parents were twats.
I also learnt that I kind of hated school. I hated homework and poncy assemblies in which we politely applauded the latest hockey victories. I hated standing up when a teacher came in (show me some respect and I’ll show you some, dude) and the optional but-not-really letters asking for ‘small donations’ and the PE lessons run by people who never seemed to exercise and the ridiculous assumption that we should all go to university. I hated that the highest standard wasn’t high enough, I hated that the arts were ignored in favour of maths and science, and that maths and science was ignored in favour of sport.
But I loved my friends, my blazer’s many pockets and the weird little intricacies that came with a century-old institution. We had two staircases, one going up and one going down, and sometimes someone would lose a shoe on the way up. We celebrated our school’s birthday with giant fruitcake and a rousing rendition of Jerusalem. We’d visit foreign language teachers in spare offices once a fortnight to play with index cards about verbs. I hated that the highest standard wasn’t high enough, but only when it came to homework; I give the same attention to my work now that teachers wanted me to give to my work then.
I did well in my GCSEs by grammar standards, and badly in my A Levels by grammar standards. I’m doing okay now in life standards, although probably not grammar school ones – I didn’t go to university, I work for myself and I’m broke, there’s nothing about me that they can put on a brochure to encourage the next generation of precious academic brats.
If I had gone to any of the comprehensives, maybe the part of me that says ‘fuck’ a lot, dyes my hair pink and refuses to get a normal job would have flourished a lot earlier. Maybe I would have been more relaxed about homework and less frustrated by all the hoops I had to jump through as a student. Maybe I would have gone to university. Maybe I wouldn’t be blogging, wouldn’t be an MCR fan or wouldn’t be a writer. I have yet to see if being an alumni of my school can open doors; I’ve had more interviews based on my blog than I have my qualifications – although a during lot of local interviews people have mentioned that they went to a grammar, or their kid did, or their aunt’s cousin’s neighbour did. I don’t know if that’s an exclusive club I want to be in.
So, politicians and parents and teachers and, for once, the kids who are in the education system today:
I don’t know what’s best for you. Your parents might not know what’s best for you. A wonderful teacher and a supportive home life will get your far further than the number of A*s you’ve achieved. I didn’t do well in primary school because I was magically gifted, I did well because my teachers were brilliant and my family gave a shit. I’m no smarter than the children who didn’t go to the grammars, although my parents are smarter than the parents who didn’t let their children try out for the grammars. If you fail an exam aged eleven, you have the rest of your life to do everything in your life. If you want to try out for the Eleven Plus, do it. If you want to dye your hair pink, do it.
Only one of those things will ruin your clothes, your bathroom and some of your job prospects.
On Monday I bought some trainers. I wasn’t in the market for trainers. Well, I’ve had my old ones for about eight years and they no longer fulfil their function as shoes, so I was keeping my eyes open – and these were sat in the bargain basket in Aldi, cheap but not shitty (a venn diagram game I don’t usually win at). So there went some of my emergency cash.
The trainers are specifically running trainers.
So I’m going to learn to run.
Or at least walk quickly. I won’t be partaking in any marathons, thank you very much. But I have so far done one run around the block and although my body thinks it’s 11pm, not 11am, I am feeling VERY SMUG. Partly because I’ve raised my heart rate without entering a gym, partly because I really do feel better for it, partly because I did something I said I would do. I don’t think I’m going to start watching the Diamond League or buying fancy socks, I don’t think I’ll go every day or even every other day… I do think I’ll probably put a knee out by accident, because I haven’t physically run since I got a text that The Raven King was in Waterstones half an hour before the shops closed, and the last time I ran before that was probably year nine PE. Which wasn’t really exercise in so far as the only muscles I used were my eyebrows, every time the teachers claimed we should be enjoying ourselves.
You’ll know if I keep it up, because I’ll add ‘funds to buy muscle cream’ to my Patreon. Right, I need another coffee.
Is it raining where you are right now? Unless you are in Australia I think you are completely justified in saying ‘f u weather bye’.
I’ve been on Tumblr too much. But seriously if this is summer then I want to be a theist just so I know where to lodge a complaint.
Yesterday some friends and I went back to our old school to collect our certificates of 13 years of unpaid slave labour education and it was pretty weird because a) I left a year ago but it felt like 15 years and five minutes, and b) they let us drink wine which was disconcerting to say the least, not to mention you could speak to teachers almostlike they were real people…
I just skim-read the post I did last year about going to school when you don’t really want to, and it reminds me of how bitter I was about my school experience. In retrospect I should have seized the day and all that shit, and appreciated how lucky I was to have free education until I was 18, but at the time all I wanted to do was leave, become a writer and set my own hours.
Now I have in fact done that for a year, and to be perfectly honest I don’t feel like I’ve magically got everything together. ‘Becoming a writer’ was a great plan, but that was all I had. I didn’t really know about personal finance or budgeting or product research or good rates for copywriting or the importance of self discipline, and all those other little things that you learn as you go but wish someone had warned you about. I didn’t appreciate that consistent income is something you only miss when you don’t have it any more, or that building a portfolio career means sticking with projects for months on end even if they pay absolutely nothing… and it’s only been a year. In another year, if I’m still doing this, I’ll have (hopefully) learnt a lot more. Maybe I’ll even have a consistent, national-average income, although I looked up the living wage versus the minimum wage yesterday and nearly fell over, so I’m not holding out too much hope.
I do hope I’m still doing this in a year, though, and not just because a lot of people I saw yesterday for the first time in a year thought my job was cool. (These are people who are studying mechanical engineering and foreign languages and medicine full time for a £40k debt holy shit they are the ones with steely determination.) As hard as it is to make sure I’m doing copy and freelancing and trying to improve my Etsy sales – hint: you can help with that one – and blogging and not ready to pack it in and move to Tibet, I know in my gut that I made the right choice between this, a ‘regular’ job and uni.
Heads up: this is not an April Fool. Thought I’d better add a disclaimer in case of people thinking I’d spend 500 words taking the piss…
I only got two A*s at GCSE, and I say ‘only’ because I went to a grammar school, and as far as senior management were concerned I was too low on the food chain to bother with after my year nine end of year exams. I’m quite proud of them, though, because I worked hard for them… mostly. One was for English Literature and generally required candidates to read stuff, which was, you know, really tough. The other was for Media Studies.
Don’t look at me like that, subject snobs. I also took three whole humanities and I wanted to take something colourful for balance. It turned out to be one of the smartest things I ever did, because now I use what I learnt in my job. How many of you use your entire Maths GCSE every day? Thought not. (Incidentally I have a tax return to file soon and I regularly calculate how much money I haven’t earned, so I do use snippets of Maths Unit Whatever. But now’s not the time for Francesca’s Thoughts on What Children Should Learn About Money.)
I’m writing this now because last week it was announced that the eduction official people have cut a load of subjects from the curriculum, but left in the ‘often-maligned’ Media Studies. I never thought I’d say this, but good for you, Ofqual.
If I hadn’t taken Media, I would have no idea how to use Photoshop. I wouldn’t know what a press release or Google Docs or a sans serif font is, I wouldn’t have such an interest in the media, this blog wouldn’t have continued in the vein it has and I wouldn’t have my internships/commissions/shop. I might actually have gone to university to study a humanity – or, God forbid, English Lit – instead of setting up as a freelancer. When I was in school I got to take a break from essays and learn how to make things – and I still did pretty well in my other subjects (A*-C all the way, thank you very much). Of the four grammar schools in my area, mine was the only to offer Media, and a lot of teachers, students and parents looked down on it.
Joke’s on them, though, innit, because if our school system’s going to make everyone in it a miserable grade-obsessive, it might as well show kids that at the end of the misery their skills are still relevant. And if that’s not academic enough… I don’t care. I really enjoy my job and I didn’t even build a massive debt to get it. Plus, writing this counts as part of my working day.
I’ve been thinking about tweaking the way I do this section of the blog – should I call it a feature? An aspect? – and the section itself is probably the best place to do it!
I started the News because I wanted to incorporate school work with home stuff, and discussing aspects of my Government and Politics course was ideal. Since I’ve finished school, though, I’ve wanted to branch out a bit. Analysing a news piece every single week can sometimes be quite hurried, especially if the story hasn’t reached its ‘finale’. Sometimes I feel like a columnist, bashing out a half-formed opinion to meet a deadline.
So I’ve been thinking that it might be more fun to do something once a month or once a fortnight which is a bit more thought out and makes me feel less like I work for a paper. It might also be fun to do more audioblogs or maybe videos so there’s more variety to the whole process… what do you think? I mean, I’ll probably let whatever I do just evolve but you guys have to look at it, haha.
No one ever did confess to being under the age of 11 so I’m going to assume you guys are in the same-ish age bracket as me and are school-age. By ‘school age’ I mean ‘in compulsory education’. I’m technically university age but am also technically on a gap year and I don’t have a clue how you degree-types work so I’m going to assume you guys have your shit together because this post is a guide to…
Going Back to Hell*
*In this instance “hell” can be taken to mean “school”.
Let’s level with each other first of all. I kind of hated school. I liked to learn – mostly – but I loathed deadlines and homework and pressure (seven years in a grammar school and a talent for being too conscientious made for one mini heart palpitation per day and cold sweats every fortnight. Oh, I’m kind of tense? Really? Ihadn’tnoticedI’monadeadlinefuckoffI’mfine). My favourite parts of lessons were when you could have conversations with friends and the teacher and learn without realising you were learning. Too bad it took until year 13 for that teaching method to really be okay with senior management…
So I was always reluctant to go back to school after the holidays. Every holiday, up to and including Easter 2014, I dreaded not just the first day back but all the days until my next piece of freedom. Once I was there I was fine. But I always resented my school for not being more like Hogwarts or Camp Half-Blood. (Why can’t we have 12 Christmas trees and a lava wall? What is wrong with singing furniture and classes lead by students with the best monster-killing record?)
In retrospect, not fully embracing my fate as a pupil at an all-girls English grammar school probably set me back. No lesbian jokes please.
Because when I think about it, if I had fully considered the workload, if I had understood that sometimes you have to play the game in order to finish it – woa I’ve been watching too much sport – I would have made the correct preparations. In, say, August.
Since I care very much that you all don’t spend nine months of your life wanting to stab your eyes out with you HB pencil, I have put together a short list about how anyone – yep, even you with your weird as shit academic situation – can make school slightly less shit. You’re welcome.
Step 1: Prepare
Did Mo Farrah just turn up to the Olympic Stadium and go for a jog to win those medals in 2012? No. I presume he planned that gig, preparing himself for the utter tedium of a 5 billion lap run. He was not taken by surprise by the circus he was in.
So let’s confront the facts: you have to go to school. No matter how late you stay up playing Sims pretending tomorrow is Saturday, you’re going to have to get yourself out of bed and learn some information at an absurdly early hour. Take a moment to fully appreciate this, since acceptance that you have a problem is the first step to solving it. (I hear the same concept applies to quitting drugs.)
Now you’ve faced the butt-ugly truth, it’s time to review your physical belongings. Your uniform if you have one. Your bag. Your pencil case. It has been pointed out to me that I buy more time buying stationery than I do clothes, which is totally justifiable because you can’t see every piece of clothing you wear but you do have to get your pencil case out five times a day, five days a week. So it’s got to look damn cute and actually hold pencils for more than a term. Now get yourself down to Staples and if your parents don’t want to pay for functional equipment, point out that if fineliners are the tools of Oscar winners, you need them to not fail A Levels.
Step 2: Organise
… and stay organised for as long as possible. That goes for setting deadlines, completing projects, revising for exams, planning your actual life around school, etc. You will definitely fuck up somewhere along the line – I once forgot to go on a school trip; Ellen forgot to go to an AS module. But you can keep your shit together for more than the first week of September by doing one teeny tiny thing: using the brain cells you just exercised in class to remember all the stuff you have to get done. Or if that’s not your gig, then by utilising your school planner and covering your calendar in so many notes it looks like a courtroom puked. Use colour coding if it helps/you want your calendar to look like pride week puked. Keep your timetable safe. Keep your passwords noted. If you’re planning to skip school to see your favourite band play in Camden, do that day’s work in advance. That way you’ll get to see JBiebs or Green Day or whoever floats your boat and your teachers won’t think you’re a delinquent arsehole for missing a topic for the immortal sight of Jimmy Urine sticking a phone down his pants.
For the record I never skipped class for a band. MSI was playing Camden on a godly scheduled teacher training day. No one had to negotiate homework to see Jimmy do something freaky.**
Step 3: Retain Your Sense of Humour
Sometimes your attitude toward the dickheads with whom you spend 35 hours a week is this:
Sometimes you and your non-dickhead friends will experience this attitude:
But mostly you’ll be like this:
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is compulsory reading for anyone who’s school age, by the way. But seriously, the ability to laugh will get you through those lessons where the clock has definitely slowed down or the lunchtimes when your friends are gloating that they got higher marks in some test no one will remember in two years’ time. You might be laughing at yourself or the situation you’re in or maybe at somebody else (don’t be a dickhead to others to make yourself feel better though, it’s very year six).
Sometimes things will be very grey and if you’re having more than just a few low days, do everyone a favour and talk to someone – turns out teachers are people too, how about that – because if you’re going to get through school it should be in one relatively happy piece.
So there we have it.
Three golden nuggets of advice to make your life superduperperfect less shit. Hopefully.
**For the record, I can’t remember if Jimmy did actually put a phone in his pants. I do know, however, that he fake-called the Queen.