You’re lying on a beach, the warm Mediterranean sun kissing your sun cream-sheen body. There’s a Pina Colada in hand (it could be the second or third, but who’s counting anyway?) And you think to yourself, “yes, this is pure bliss”. Suddenly, out of nowhere…
“Things are going to change around here!”
You’re sat in an English beer garden in summer, holding a pint of ale that comes recommended by the landlord himself. There’s a gentle breeze flowing through your hair as you idly watch dog walkers stroll by. It could just as easily be Devon or as it could be Suffolk (but who’s reading the map anyway?) And you think to yourself, “can’t go far wrong”. Then…
“Things are going to change around here!”
You’re stood by a roaring fire, munching down on festive treats. Outside it’s dark and cold, but inside you worship only the primitive flames. The wine is pouring a plenty and the boxes of mince pies are never ending. You don’t care much for the brand (who’s checking the price tag anyway?) And you soon find yourself curling up into a ball and drifting off by the glowing embers. As your eyelids slowly lower, with loving family all around, you think to yourself “life doesn’t get much better than this.”…
“Things are going to change around here!”
All three of the above are, give or take a few juicy words, all scenarios I’ve shared in the company of my beloved Papa Bennett. It’s basically a family tradition, when you reach a sweet spot in life he will almost always cry out those seven words. “Things are going to change around here!”
Usually the statement will be followed by something that he feels is currently out of balance. These fall into two categories and you can usually pin point what he’s going to say and when he’ll say it down to a T. For example, Christmas time after eating four mince pies in one sitting = health, three days into a beach holiday = work balance. And every time we tell him “work less hours!” Or “eat less junk!” all we get is a look of horror. “I couldn’t possibly do that!” he says.
Papa Bennett aside, used in the right way the statement does have weighting to it. I think to myself, wouldn’t it be better to, instead of pledging resolutions at New Year, instead say TAGTCAH? (Does that read like a Lord of the Rings character? Or a nasty throat infection?)
Without going into the potted year of the Alice Bennett show, 2017 has been so unbelievably busy. New house, new car, new job (and everything else in between). I’ve dealt with busy builders, evil energy suppliers and a mortgage provider who tried to fob me off with a blank cheque. Swindon stays the same, sure, but everything else has changed.
What’s going to change around here in 2018? Well, things I hope for:
Life to calm down (at least the things I can control)
I received a Christmas card this year with the added note “hoping 2018 is just as thrilling as the one before!” Well no, no I really hope it isn’t. I’ve invested enough time and money on the power three (house, car, job) in the past year, I welcome a break!
Stop worrying over the little things.
Recently someone gave me a piece of written feedback. I highly paraphrase, but it went something like “you’re doing great, but you’ve seriously got to stop worrying and overanalysing everything.” (So I’m going to stop fussing so much over the little things.)
Learn how to read electronic messages.
…My knee jerk reaction to the above email was to heavily defend why I cared so much about my job. I reread heir comments a week later and realised that I’d completely misread what they were trying to say. They’d written the comment in good humour as part of a longer email as a gentle nudge to relax a little. And yet I latched onto one slightly negative thing. That was silly and I wish I could take it back and not given out the Alice Bennett sob story. So as a writer I also need to learn how to read (hah, how ironic).
Stop overanalysing emails. (See above.) Because colleagues will think it weird and will be scared that they’ll appear on blogs, like they’re working with some kind of corporate Taylor Swift.
Write something awesome
Like truly awesome
Grow nails, preferably by finding something/one as actual motivation.
Because nothing else is working and I hate my hands and want nails so bad. I’m thinking like The Rock or Channing Tatum as personal trainers, Richard Branson staring me down from the other side of the office, and/or a naggy Martin Freeman? Not fussy, whichever comes easiest to hand (eh, see what I did there? Pun Goddess.)
Be you Alice because when you’re not spilling coffee everywhere you pass off for a decent human being. And you need to damn well appreciate it more.
(Also because Oscar Wilde’s people called. Turns out he’s already taken.)
So there’s my ‘things are going to change around here’ list for 2018. Comment below any of yours, in the meantime I’m off to take on the new year.
I remember the racket they created in the minor feud between black and yellow. A child of only infant class, I dived under my cot bed while the scuffles continued in the second room. They took my mother away with relative ease on their part. Owing to disease the birthing rate of Executive class were at an all time low, so naturally there was only one place for her.
“Where’s the girl?” Came a wheezy voice from the room beyond. My father’s answer not forthcoming enough, the guards hit their victim with meaty blows and turned to searching the apartment themselves. Five men and three rooms, they found me soon enough.
I remember kicking and screaming as they brought me out into the communal space where my father was being propped up. The lead guard stood beside him, like a puppet prince, he sickly smiled as I was brought forward.
“Good food makes for bad honour” he commented as he took a single dirty finger down the length of my dark skull.
“How many times Jacon? If you feed your women you’re going to get only pain and misery. This daughter of yours looks positively balanced, how can you let a juicy thing like this wander the township? No signs of hardship or rationing at all.”
This being evidence enough, the stranger proclaimed my father’s fate. He was to be branded as an enemy of The Cause and sentenced to hard labour in the Southern fields.
“Reduce me to Half-Kind!” My father begged. “Or an Executive! Anything but the fields!”
The Cause representative was unmoved as he turned again to look at me. I vaguely remember his face, it was angular and dented, covered with a stretched yellow skin and two dotted eyes. He lowered himself to my level and took my face in one of his bony hands. The official’s dirty spider fingers sprawled across the sides of my face as he turned it side to side. I dared not flinch.
“This one will make a fine candidate,” he said as he turned to face my father. “Thank you for reminding me of the State Agreements Jacon. Despite all your flaws you always had a way with making sure we stayed true to The Cause.”
Recent law had declared that each family of Cousin class offered support in the disease ridden fields South and East. An Executive was required from each household, but the age and gender had never been specified. So, alongside his own, the prisoner also witnessed my sentencing to become a field Executive. My father’s loose tongue decided my fate. Stupid Fallen. As they took me away I remember the briefest of looks on his face as the front door shut on my old life.
By the time I’d been dispatched into the Executive role the field plagues had tapered off and, unlike many of my colleagues, I survived. Our role was meant to be a temporary position, but as the years passed and my life continued I came to reassess my outlook. To develop feelings for others was pointless, humans die, but The Cause remains. Glory to The Cause.
But then my father is now dead, so this account is irrelevant.
(Written in response to the WordPress prompt of the day Torn)
There are streaks on the old coffee mug. Lines of paling foam which dribble down the tarnished china, coving all but the crackled logo of its home and owner.
The ceramic piece has been washed a lot over its five vintage years, too many times to count. Half a decade of rich coffee and change. The changing of customers, of staff, of interior, the coffee mug has seen it all. And yet the humble object has remained immutable throughout. Sat above in pristine whiteness, looking down at the clientele one minute, lowered to the table with a soiling of fouling brown the next. Wash, stack, use, wash, stack, use. No one expects more of it than that. But now the cracks in the logo are beginning to show, it’s white youth has become tanned by the pseudo Mediterranean paintings that hang on the walls.
“The roads, they lead to Roma” mutters the old Barista as she passes the aged ceramic to a colleague. She says that a lot nowadays, either out of habit or misinterpretation. The fresh-faced coffee within the old mug takes the Barista’s comment all too literally however as it makes a break for freedom. It suddenly pours itself over the edge and, within seconds, brown streaks are wandering the side of the mug like the great Egyptian Nile, starting as a mass of foam, splitting into separate lines of individuality. The unsuccessful delta columns stop mid way, the successful ones pool on the thin napkin at the base. Regards of how hard each strand has tried, the liquid’s efforts have resulted in nothing but a sticky trail across the mug.
“They really must put less sugar in these things,” a disgruntled consumer complains as they place the old mug on one of the newer tables. “Or at the very least stop over filling the cups.”
Another drop of brown stops short of the mug’s base.
“I agree,” her companion replies, “the staff here really do nothing to help themselves. I’ll go and ask for a fresh one, you shouldn’t get your hands sticky over something so trivial.”
The companion waves flamboyantly at the old Barista behind the bar, as if the employee were blind and he were crippled. In no particular hurry she lowers the box of protein bar refills and meanders to the small table.
The customer points at the offending object. “Deal with it.”
Without emotion or word (for the staff here either cannot or will not speak the customer tongue) the Barista scoops the streaked mug and swiftly empties its contents down the drain. As she stares down the plughole stands of greasy black hair fall out of her loose bun for the third time that day, perhaps the only thing that remains of the rebellious nature that characterised former youth and beauty. That disobedient streak which took her away from there to here. There, she was a smart and charming girl who had everything going for her, here she avoids the stares of her English masters and the attractive panini delivery man. Even he is too good for her here. A fresh personality ground down to little more than six characters. “I clean”, mumbled as she scuttles past the grumpy man in the tight shirt. She quickly twists the hair strands behind her ear as she dashes away. “I’ll cut it tonight” she thinks to herself.
Throughout all this the old mug hangs off the bony finger without comment. Of all the changes the ceramic has seen, hers has been the greatest and least unnoticed. The human glances down at the crackled lines and thinks the same of the object as they both dive into the back room.
In the dull light of a kitchen that scrapes hygienic regulation, the streaked mug is ceremonially dumped into a vat of industrial foam, alongside numerous others that are stacked on the side. Under gentle washing the streaks on the old mug slowly begin to disappear, revealing in their place dark tan lines and chips stained with pale lipstick (or that’s what the Barista hopes). Dirt and age that no amount of washing will remove. The manager’s instructions are clear though: There’s logo, there’s use.
At this moment the mug turns in the bowl and lifts its fading logo to peer up into the droopy eyes of the Barista, as if were trying to convey a message or a plea. Outside there continues the crashes and bangs, the shouts and grinds of the daily, but yet in the backroom of nowhere, for just one moment, these two objects share a unexplainable connection. The sentient being nods at the weary object in what she considers to be mutual understanding, and drives the mug hard under the murky water with pale, delicate, hands and a scouring pad.
The old mug has never been seen on the high shelf since.
“Ah.” “What?” “I don’t think I’ve packed the extra pair of long trousers.” “I left everyone in charge of their own packing, if you’ve forgotten anything you’ll have to buy it out there.” “Can I pull over and check?” “We can’t turn back now.” “Please, it’s starting to play on my mind. I’m not sure if I packed them or not.” “No.” “Mum, just let him pull over. I can’t take the suspense at 2am.” “I’m pulling over.” “Fine.”
The Bennett holiday had begun.
This time the choice location was the Greek Island of Zante, located in the Ionian Sea (fun fact – in Greek the island is actually called Zakynthos. Who’d have thought, another culture manipulating foreign words just to suit themselves?)
Ah Greece, the land of fine olives, ancient culture, traditional music and, most importantly, free alcohol:
(Greece were robbed of their victory in the 2013 Eurovision, robbed.)
Because we were staying at an all inclusive the alcohol actually was free, free by the bottles of gallons (I wasn’t in the slightest bit smug about this). I was literally drinking wine by the pint.
In fact I wondered if Greece had the whole drinking culture nailed more than us Brits. I mean, why have one glass bottle of 750ml when you could have plastic bottles of 1.5 litres for half the price?
It might also explain the tombstone craftsmanship.
Anyway, back to the hotel. It had an awesome infinity pool, WITH NO CHILDREN!
And some stunning sunrise and sunset views.
Don’t ask me to explain the yellow dot on the left. Just tell yourself it’s God. And yeah, that silhouette is mainland Greece.
The hotel’s entertainment was funny but not in the intended way. The Bennett clan being very British and dry in humourous outlook, we found the various failed attempts of the hotel’s animation team hilarious. One example was ‘botched Bingo’. Having done it outside for an entire season, two members of the team struggled to set up the Bingo projector inside, constantly trying and failing to prop up the canvas on a table, followed by difficulties putting a projector into focus. It was the apparent simplicity of the task which made it comic gold. Having sat down after a 18 hour day travelling and fuelled by a couple of cocktails we were howling at the two men. Later in the week the Greek Gods would reap their revenge on us via the kids club.
“The clown and donkey are heading towards us.”
But, saying that, the place wasn’t too shabby as a whole. I had muchos Greek yoghurt and hummus every day. Even the ants wanted in on the local cuisine.
The resort’s local town was a short walk away (but then holiday reps call anything under an hour ‘short’). It contained a suitable amount of tourist tat shops, bars, restaurants and had a lovely coastal strip. It passed the ‘makes Alice look sophisticated’ qualification so all was good there.
Particular highlights of the holiday included a visit to the island’s capital town which funnily enough was called Zakynthos. There we learnt you could purchase a range of goods including turd toys and spend money in a store called Euro Shop where nothing is a Euro.
(Brexit strikes again if you ask me.)
It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that Zakynthos is NOT the place to go if you have a phobia of Turtles. It’s basically the island’s spirit animal. There are frequent excursion trips to a see them swimming about so the only logical argument we could devise is that the turtle toy reps invaded sometime around five years ago.
No turtle is too weird or creepy looking to be on a shop rack somewhere.
If you don’t buy a piece of turtle merchandise you’re basically damaging the local economy and may be arrested on the plane. I luckily purchased a pair of tasteful turtle earrings thereby avoiding a fate of becoming turtle food.
Jokes aside (and I won’t dwell on it too much), but outside of the shiny streets and away from the club strips and bars that get featured on all those awful 18-30 Channel Four documentaries, behind all that is actually a tourist island that is barely surviving on their limited tourist season. For every one nicely done-up street there are at least ten falling apart in the local resident districts. It makes you wonder, if this island can only just hold it together then how is the mainland coping? These people were hardly living a life of luxury. But, like I said, that is a debate for politicians and scholars to have. When they pay me to impart my pearls of wisdom I’ll spend more time writing, less time taking random photos.
The island as a whole still remembers and suffers from the massive damage caused by an earthquake that hit the island in 1953. As well as the loss of most of the island’s historic buildings, the long term damage included mass emigration, with a high proportion of residents emigrating to the USA, UK and Canada following on from the natural disaster. This royally buggered up the economies of Zakynthos and neighbouring island Kefalonia.
In an attempt to remind people of what existed in the past and preserve it for the future, Zakynthos’ art gallery holds a collection of religious art and frescos taken from ruined churches and monasteries across the island.
That said, Mary doesn’t half look scary when she covers for God on his holidays:
And I’m sorry if this is a stupid question, but why is there a cow here?
Another highlight of the holiday was a general trip around the island which took in all the cultural highlights Zakynthos had to offer. This included visiting the monastery of the island’s Saint, taking in some breath taking views out to sea (i.e. of a tourist-ified ship wreck) and a tour around the famous blue caves
We choose to not dwell on the boat only having a couple of foam noodles in case of a emergency and the bus parking strategy.
India and I may have also had a few too many of the free sweets and samples of the commonplace unbranded liqueur…
Which, combined with a hot bus, resulted in this:
You may well laugh, but we’re presently being considered to represent Greece at the 2018 Eurovision.
I used this holiday and trip out as a chance to get a selfie of the whole family – something which had only been done in the past with limited success. The difficulty was convincing Mumma Bennett round to the idea. To her the selfie stick resembled the work of dark magic.
Other than that, not a lot to report. A week of predictable sun (there’s something to be said about walking along the beach in a thin dress on October 1st), bottomless food/cocktails and the odd random conversation along the way (“do they prevent all male and female parties at Centre Parcs because they’re worried they’ll get murdered in the woods?” “…What?”)
I suppose a good gage of how well a holiday went is linked to how Papa Bennett adapts to the environment. As a comparison, he looks at lot better in Zakynthos than he did waiting for a plane at Birmingham International Airport.
And if that’s not the sign of a good holiday I don’t know what is. Well it helps if you don’t contract Swine Flu…
…And it’s also nice to get, after 500 million attempts, a decent family selfie by the sea. That too.
I don’t know about you, but I aren’t half irritated by all this talk of North Korea and the like.
There’s no easy way of addressing the rather sticky topic of a country that has barely two sticks to rub together but a tonne of bombs ready to light. Even the utterance of the word ‘Kim’ nowadays makes people shudder. (I feel for anyone of the same name, it must make office discussions a nightmare.) No longer is “Hitler” deemed the ultimate buzz kill of conversations, no, that title now falls to the bomb-drop (pun not intended) of “so…North Korea, eh?”
Drop the mic and never pick it up.
Maybe the dictator is threatening to blow us all up because he tried Instagram and realised that he’s not Kim Kardashian?
Me personally I’ve got to a point where I’m a bit fed up of hearing all about it. Personally I always considered myself to be akin to Cypher in The Matrix. Sod all the misery and slavery in the real world, give me an amazing life in the fake one. As such it doesn’t half frustrate me when I keep having to watch news about increasing tensions, followed by relaxations, then changed up to tensions again. If I wanted to watch a little fat man in a suit I’d have put on Thomas the Tank Engine.
(And we can all get covered in falling pails of milk and it’ll be hilarious and harmless in equal measure.)
As a British person I’m presently faced with three equally delightful prospects of the future: a) death by war, b) death by global warming or c) death by lack of French cheese and wine through Brexit. It’s all water off a duck’s back now, in fact I’m probably more likely to complain to the BBC if the news report does not feature at least two of the above. Unless the article features tea, I’m super hopeful that we’ll get all of that tea China promised us some 150 years ago. I’m going to ask Father Christmas for it this year, that or duct tape for Boris Johnson, whichever suits.
In truth I feel more frustration and sadness over the people who live in North Korea. There is nothing for them there but poverty, misery and worse. No one reports on them, no one thinks about how sanctions hit the citizens who have done no wrong. I’m no politician or John Lennon, but it just seems like such a screwed up country and people are treating it, on the surface, like it’s one naughty child and shouting at it for long enough will calm it down. But since when does that work with normal children? Or Trump? You take away their bacon and they get more irritable.
If we learnt from past mistakes I swear the world wouldn’t be in such a mess right now.
People just need to calm down, and someone needs to give Kim a girlfriend or a new hobby. Has anyone thought about introducing the dictator to cross stitch for example? Or maybe the satisfaction of a well maintained allotment? Just thoughts you know (and considerably cheaper than a world war – sign him up for one of those monthly magazine kits for sale in WHSmith.)
The issue of North Korea isn’t great, I get it, but when I get home from a long day at work can you perhaps not tell me I’m going to die from an exploding bomb or the after effects? I’ve just cleared a backlog of admin and health and safety e-learning and with the greatest of respect Trump I really, really, do not want to know right now. Don’t tell me that the hour spent learning how to position my monitor screen is about to go down the drain. Because seriously, I do not have time for it.
In a nutshell then I’ve basically explained the problems in North Kora through use of Instagram, a children’s TV show and a kid with a bacon addiction. I guess some writers are just born with it.
*FYI – all views are mine (because what other crazy fool would write the above?)
Theatre Review: Titus Andronicus @ The Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-Upon-Avon
Alice Bennett (for The National Student)
In the Royal Shakespeare Company’s recent production of Titus Andronicus (currently showing in Stratford-Upon-Avon) all the foulest deeds of mankind come to roost. Murder, affair, execution, rape and even cannibalism are unashamedly showcased in Shakespeare’s bloodiest play. As I found myself watching execution after execution I found it hard to believe that this play could have possibly been penned by the same great man who also wrote about fairies dancing in the wood and young lovers coming together in merry song.
Titus Andronicus, a great general who has fought greatly and lost much, returns home to much praise from family and supporters. However the decision to refuse his nomination for the throne, coupled with his backing of the weak Saturninus for emperor, starts a chain of uncontainable blood and devastation for all sides. Formerly persecuted by Titus, the empress Tamora and her lover Aaron sees to the destruction of the general by inflicting increasingly gory and brutal punishments on his family. As the bodies started to pile up on stage, I was left on the edge of my seat, wondering not who will survive, but how will they die.
This 21st century adaptation of the Roman-based play sees actors in hoodies climb graffitied fences in the opening scenes, crying out for justice only to be swiftly beaten down by armed police officers. From my comfy seat I was witnessing a society falling apart right in front of me, knowing that there was nothing I could do to stop the pain and misery. It’s that feeling of helplessness, that visualising of a dystopian future that is more relatable now than ever before. That sadness that what I was seeing on stage was, is, happening around the world as I type this very review. The language changes, but the darkness of human nature always prevails.
This classical play is attributed with a suburb acting cast, headed with the great David Troughton. I cried with Titus as he cradled the head of his son, felt rage at the sight of his raped daughter and felt a sick, twisted joy from witnessing the execution of the perpetrators. In under ninety minutes my civil nature was swept away in the rivers of blood that flooded the stage, I was hooked from the very start until the very end.
Forget notions of concealed knives under armpits and melodramatic deaths, watching this adaptation you will be forced to absorb some of the most difficult and painful scenarios known to man. The stage will be covered in more than just the spit of the actors. There’s the closest thing to a real-life public execution, scenes of female empowerment which you’ll loathe and outright racism that you cannot shout out against. Leave your political correctness in the clock room, this is an Elizabethan play like no other. More blood please!
Because the world would be a better place if we let out the hate and let in the tea.
Speech to the Troops at Tilbury Fort – Queen Elizabeth I
I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a strong tea drinker, and of a tea drinker of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade my beverage stocks on a Monday morning…
Address to the Army at the Beginning of the Italian Campaign – Napoleon Bonaparte
Soldiers, you are naked and ill tea-ed! Government owes you much and can give you nothing. The patience and courage you have shown in the midst of these rocks are admirable; but they gain you no renown; no glory results to you from your endurance. It is my design to lead you into the most fertile tea plains of the world. Rich provinces and great cities will be in your power; there you will find honour, glory, and rich beverages. Soldiers of Italy! Will you be wanting in Breakfast or Earl Grey?”
We Shall Fight Them on the Beaches – Winston Churchill
We shall drink tea on the beaches, we shall drink tea on the landing grounds, we shall drink tea in the fields and in the streets, we shall drink tea in the hills; we shall never surrender…tea
I Have a Dream – Martin Luther King Jr.
I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be replanted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made green, and the crooked places will be made straight rowed, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation’s into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, coffee drinkers and tea lovers, knowing that we will all have tea one day.
Chairman Mao Zedong
An army without tea is a dull-witted army, and a dull-witted army cannot defeat the enemy.
Neil Armstrong (on the invention of fruit tea)
That’s one small step for tea, one giant leap for mankind.
Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own action to make a good cup of tea.
Presidential Inauguration Speech – Donald Trump
From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this moment on, it’s going to be only Tea First. Tea First. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American Teabags and American Tea drinkers. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our caffeine, and destroying our mid-afternoon breaks. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body and I will never, ever let you down Mr PG Tips Monkey.
You get the idea.
Written in response to the WordPress prompt of the day: Tea
Reason #8587839 why the English language is so hard to learn – Savor
a) Savor is American.
b) Savour is the exact same word spelt differently (and correctly might I add) in British English (i.e. English, English).
c) Savour is too close to the Jesus Christ the Saviour, for my liking (especially when robed men go about and start including bread in the same conversation).
And that was another episode of “Look, All I’m Sayin’…” next week we’ll start the first of a special ten part special into how every element of following phrase should never have slipped through the net:
“No way did you knowing read a trashy colored book called ‘from Reading to Rubbish’! I saw someone reading that too. It was whilst I was on the see saw in the park with the poor car parking. You might as well pour your pounds down the drain with that one, but then no one reads anymore anyway. If I had it my way I’d do a ‘U’ turn on policy preventing pupils from using their pupils on lunch break, and let their creativity break loose by buying books in bimonthly sales, or else we might as well say bye-bye to the future.”
Written in response to the WordPress Prompt of the day: Savor