Monday, 28 June 2010

Apparently sausages grow in fields now...

NAOMI SAFFERY

I have to congratulate the advertising executives who dreamt up the latest ad featuring Jamie Oliver. Truly, it is a work of sheer and masterful hilarity. I remember the ‘early years’ Jamie sliding down his banister and throwing ‘bits and bobs’ around the kitchen. Now he has graduated from the school of ‘alright me ol’ mucca what can I do yer for’ to serious campaigner and activist doncha know. Yes, gone is the cheeky chappy, and instead Mr Oliver is fighting childhood obesity, bad parenting and general food-related issues that, according to him, aren’t ‘pukka’.

So, he tackled school dinners and twizzling turkeys. But it doesn’t end there – now he needs to reform the nation’s bad food habits. And how is he doing this? A series of adverts for a leading supermarket. Yeah, because their vegetables flown in from Kenya and washed in chemical solution are so fresh and healthy. So we had Jamie on the road – chucking food around for giddy mums to try. But that wasn’t enough – now his beef is with taste.

Apparently, things that taste good are what the supermarket is all about because things that taste good are pure and healthy and virtuous, and if Jamie says it’s good then it must be. In the latest ads, Jamie is filmed rambling on a hillside, clutching a fork, becoming more and more out of breath. ‘Where is he going?’ I asked myself as I tucked into my TV dinner of kebab and chips. ‘Gosh, he is struggling – is he looking for water or an inhaler perhaps? Or is the fork to catch a pheasant with?’

Nope, he heads straight for the frying pan on a stove in the middle of the field. Of course, that’s what grows in fields! I had always wondered. In the pan sizzling away are a load of juicy-looking sausages. Miraculously ready and waiting for Jamie’s fork to plunge into their meaty goodness and hold up to the camera. Before I have time to blink he has roughly bitten into a sausage and uttered the phrase “Everything [the supermarket] stands for in a bite.” Then some more rambling and banging on about taste and the grand finale – a doe-eyed stare into the middle distance.

Well, I learnt two things from this very informative advert. Firstly, that sausages are actually vehicles for philosophical musings and secondly that sausages are not, as previously thought, manufactured out of noses, ears, eyes, lips, trotters and arseholes in a factory somewhere grim. Nor are they stuffed full of salt, preservatives and all sorts of other little nasties which make them taste unbelievably good. No, they grow in fields! Fantastic. And that is what the supermarket is about: honest, wholesome, good-tasting and natural food. We already know that Jamie Oliver doesn’t advocate processed food like turkey twizzlers. So, in another ad exec’s words, ‘simples’: sausages cannot be processed food. Jamie ‘lovely jubbly’ Oliver can’t possibly be misleading us, because he wants the nation to be healthy and happy.

There you have it – sausages are natural food found in fields somewhere on what looks like the South Downs. I don’t know about you but I reckon I can save a fair packet if, instead of buying sausages, I just go and forage for my own. Read more by Naomi.

No, we will not be frollicking in the park, thanks

MADDIE YORK
I so agree with Sam: summer is so difficult. I really cannot be doing with it. For starters, it’s too hot. It’s TOO HOT. How am I supposed to function when it’s like this? Oh yes, I’m supposed to eat silly too-cold food, wear silly clothes that look like underwear, and I’m supposed to do a lot of silly lounging around in public areas.

Forgive me, but if you sat about on a bench in winter, just lounging, even on your day off or on a bank holiday, you’d be distinctly frowned upon. People would think you were a tramp, frankly. But when June rolls around, the whole of Britain suddenly has twice as much time and starts lolling about eating 99s or freeze-pops (or, if you’re posh and called Sebastian or Tilly, strawberries and bubbly). And everyone’s suddenly spending four hours spreadeagled on a lawn, as though hot weather gives us a licence to to behave like we’re at Glastonbury. (Don’t even get me started on Glastonbury – or festivals, generally.)

I am just not someone of sunny disposition. Not by any stretch. I get a buzz from heavy rain, especially when it starts with that end-of-the-world-ish darkening of the sky and then – KABOOM! Fantastic! I like being inside, see, either all curled up with a paper or book or something, or at my desk. I actively choose that sort of indoorsy lifestyle at all times of the year, so it’s not as if any so-called ‘bad’ weather’s going to get in the way of my life. If anything, bad weather helps me function.

So, when TV weatherpeople start warning us in their pretend-sad voices to ‘carry an umbrella’ or ‘remember to pack the fleece this weekend’, I don’t react in the way we’re supposed to. I don’t feel remotely disappointed that I won’t be able to skip off to the park and eat lollies, wearing flip-flops and later cooing ‘Ooh, typical me, I’ve caught a bit too much sun’. Instead I think: perfect, I’d prefer to stay inside anyway, and now I’ll get that rainy-thunder soundtrack that I have actually considered buying on a CD because I love it that much.

Those inevitable invitations that come flying at you from all sides at this time of year, to go and relax in your bikini in a park on a Sunday afternoon, just because we can, are awfully hard to say no to – you just end up sounding like a total happiness-hating freak.


And if you start to address your reasons for not joining in, you come across all repressed and awkward. Try confessing to any of the following: I feel uncomfortable sitting on a lawn for that many hours because I tend to get lawn bum and lower back pain; I don’t know how to arrange my legs without ending up lying down completely which seems quite anti-social; I don’t like using public park toilets; I get squinty in the sun but don’t like it when everyone wears sunglasses because that inhibits my reading of facial expressions; all my summer trousers are white and they’ll get grassy; I’d rather have a normal lunch at home than eat silly dippy-sticky food I would never normally choose.

Exactly! If you say any of that your friends just laugh at you – believe me, I’ve tried – and make withering, superior comments such as ‘Oh, you really don't know how to live, darling.’ So you end up having to make lame excuses or pretending to be busy, all the way through to the end of summer when everyone comes to their senses and realises they’ve been lying about in public wearing garments that are not actually, when you think about it, any more decent than a BRA AND PANTS.

Then, as a windswept Peter Cockroft (someone bring the poor fellow down from the BBC London roof, for goodness’ sake) strains to warn us that the nights are drawing in, I shall light the candles, pour a glass of blood-red wine and growl happily, ‘shut that door’. Read more by Maddie.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Facebook brings out the inner teenager

ROSIE MCGEE

I like to think of myself as a grown up. It’s taken me a while to get here but now I feel I can fairly call myself an adult. I have a mortgage, I keep my bank statements in a labelled box and I watch Newsnight, sometimes. This adult status means that I’m sufficiently calm and able to deal with life’s little tribulations without slipping into adolescent conduct.

Yet some things still have the power to bring out the inner teenager. These include my mother telling me I’m intrinsically selfish, my hair refusing to go into a style I’ve coerced it into many times before because I want to impress someone and, so it seems, people from the past. They bring with them all the joy of laughing at old shared jokes but also a sense of who you were then. Maybe you see your juvenile self reflected in their eyes as you giggle together. Whatever the reason for this phenomenon, it’s a force to be reckoned with.

I know this because last Wednesday night I ended up outside a minicab station at 11.30pm screaming and waving my arms in a performance worthy of any Jeremy Kyle guest. Once inside my taxi, with a mounting sense of shame, I pieced back together the chain of events which had led to this.

It goes way back to the 90s when Friends was the funniest show on TV and coolness was measured by how many pairs of Kickers you owned. A dark time when I used to wear a black bomber jacket, complete with faux fur collar, which could be completely reversed to bright silver.

Thankfully I grew out of it, went to university and began to slowly lose contact with almost everyone who’d witnessed me in such a cringy phase of my life. But, a few years down the line, along came Facebook. People you’d long forgotten about crawled out of the woodwork, requested your friendship and snooped through your photos to find out if you’d got fat.

Many of us happily accepted requests from people we’d not set eyes on in years. With some, a message or two was exchanged. But aside from pestering the masses to join this group or play with that stupid app, most of the forgotten friends remain just that. However, there will be the odd person who you actually strike up a proper friendship with. Often someone you didn’t know that well years ago, but the intervening decade has turned you both into people who have something in common.

It was at dinner with my new-old 90s friend that the trouble began. New-old friend is a man and also friends with someone I had a brief and very teenage relationship with in 1999. For the mathematically slow, that’s coming up on 11 years ago. After a glass too many of wine it slipped out that we had previously been spotted in the heinous crime of having a drink together.

This serious offence caused the convening of some sort of committee meeting by friends of the ex-boyfriend to discuss what was to be done about such unacceptable behaviour. New-old friend was then forced to go to ex-boyfriend (from 1999) and seek his permission to carry on being friends with me.

This is quite clearly ridiculous. Anyone sensible would feel a sense of acute embarrassment for those to whom so little of interest has happened in their twenties that they still carry on soap opera-like melodramas from their teens. Sadly, upon having this story relayed to me, I ceased to be sensible.

Floods of indignation welled up in me. How dare these people all sit around and discuss me behind my back? They were all no more than a very faded memory to me. Why was I still a larger-than-life character who clearly posed some sort of threat to them? I hadn’t done anything wrong. It just wasn’t fair.

Imagine those statements yelled in rage as I stormed along the street arms flapping around, and it’s a pretty faithful rendition of what happened. Initially I wanted to know: why didn’t new-old friend stand up for me and defend our newfound friendship? But, demanding loyalty is so teenage. We adults accept we may well have friends who don’t like each other, for whatever reason. So everyone behaves diplomatically and known foes are not seated next to each other at your birthday dinner.

I think what it comes down to is that some relationships come with too much baggage, even though it’s not immediately apparent. It’s these weighty appendages which drag you down to being someone you wouldn’t be at any other time.

I only wish I’d had this moment of Zen-like enlightenment before I got home and began publishing my rage through angry status updates on Facebook: the ultimate in immature behaviour. Still room for a little more personal growth ... Read more by Rosie.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

The 'F' word

SELINA NWULU
Way back when, before the likes MySpace and Twitter, If I’d referred to ‘the ‘F’ word’ we'd have all known that I was talking about the four-letter expletive. Now, in the digital age of blurbs, blogs and celebrity Twitter pages, it has taken on a different meaning. It’s grown. It’s got double the letters and a few more spikes. I’m talking about Facebook, and yes, this ‘F’ word is beginning to make me feel as dirty as the profane version.

(If I could just throw out an informal, backtracking-before-I’ve-even-begun disclaimer: I am on Facebook. Although I’m not on it very often, everything I say applies to me too.)

In the good old days, Facebook was only for uni students and you were safe in the knowledge that any mishaps would be kept between you and your fellow students. It was a comfy place - and then your mum, your nextdoor neighbour and his cat (literally) and your great, great aunt all jumped on the bandwagon.

Now we all have to tread so carefully. Suddenly we’re haunted by stories of people being fired after inappropriate status updates about skiving off work or entire relationships dissolving at the click of a button revealing: ‘it’s complicated.’

It uncovers the narcissistic nature in us all. Hours are wasted choosing the most fitting, attractive but cool yet nonchalant profile picture. Nights out become punctuated with cheesy Kodak moments and squeals of ‘Ooh I'm going to tag you in that!’

Unwittingly we’re engaging in an unspoken competition to see whose life turned out the best. We’ve all spent hours weeping at the wedding pictures of first loves before stalking the new spouse in question to discover faults - like that Rick Astley fan page on her profile.

We know better than to go on Facebook when feeling down. Your mopey self inevitably ends up reading status update after status update of vague acquaintances saying things like ‘Oh I’ve just got my dream job and I didn't even try!!’ Not to mention the sickening, ‘I have the best boyfriend in the whole wide world; he made me breakfast in bed’, or some do-gooder letting you know they’re ‘feeding Nepalese orphans after having built a school with my bare hands in India’. I’m drowning in everyone’s fancy, overachieving, loved-up, saving the world-spangled lives.


Think, when was the last time you actually wondered what someone you used to know was upto? Can’t remember? Well neither can I, because they are all on Facebook! These people could have been anybody in our imaginations. The troublemaker from school could have been the graphic designer his talent suggested he could be. Instead he turned out to be the waster everyone predicted, still knocking around the same haunts and spending too much time on Facebook.

It takes away the element of mystery and reminds us of the sheer banality of other people’s lives. I know what almost everyone from school became. Surely no good can come from such knowledge. Didn’t we learn from Friends Reunited?!

In the beginning it was so enticing. I was drunk on the power of knowing, of being reacquainted, but that interest dwindles. After the initial curiosity is sated and you soon realise that you are forever stuck with their inane comments about Home and Away, and you realise why you lost touch with them in the first place

More than just disappointment, there’s also the whole new level of malice: the delete button. ‘She upset me ... that’s it, I’m deleting her ass off Facebook. That’ll teach her!’ Sometimes it has to be done. Realistically you are never going to see the guy wearing the Guinness hat at that house party again. But what to do when you bump into someone you deleted on Facebook in real life?! Play nonchalant? Be coy? Feign indifference? Thinking about this brings me out in cold sweats.

Who knew there was an etiquette to it all? People get upset if they’re not included in a note. And if I personally take the time to write someone a long message, the last thing I want to see is them updating their status every two minutes about the growing levels of mould in their fridge instead of replying to me.

I decided a long time ago to distance myself from Facebook. I’m still there because we can’t deny it does have some brilliant uses. Yet I even find myself generally drawn to those who don't have a Facebook profile; they’ve become like the new elite cool set people I want to get to know. Conversation is a delight with those ignorant about pokes, fan pages and tags, and who know the forgotten joys of emailing. Brave new world!

I feel better for having got that off my chest. Now if you don't mind, I’m just off to post this link onto my page ... Read more by Selina.

Image: luigi diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, 21 June 2010

Let me on the techno bus!

SHELLY BERRY

I like to think that as I go about my day-to-day life I cope quite well with modern technology. I listen to my MP3 player on my phone on the way to work, I use wifi when on trains and in cafes, I can carry out basic tasks in Microsoft Office and even produce a newsletter at work on desktop publishing software.

But beneath the fa├žade is a technophobe desperately trying to hide her panic whenever someone starts talking about the latest gadgets on the market that are said to be the “next big thing”.

It’s not that I don’t like technology. I think modern technology is great. I love my little netbook, and can’t wait until I am due a new mobile upgrade so I can get a BlackBerry (I have one for work and it’s AMAZING!). I think my problem with it is that by the time you have got to grips with something, those boffins at Microsoft or Sony or NASA decide to introduce a new and improved version and, before you can shake your Nokia at them, all your techno treasure is once again outdated, null and void.

Take DVDs for example. I will never forget the day I walked into my Blockbusters to find out that they no longer stocked movies on VHS. “What???” I screamed. “What if you don’t have a DVD player?” The assistant chewed his gum nonchalantly. “Well, maybe you need to go out and buy one.”


I was outraged. OK, so you can buy DVD players for about twenty quid, but that wasn’t the point. I had a perfectly good VHS player, thank you very much, and a nice selection of videos to go with it.

I didn’t bother to buy a DVD player. In fact, technically I still don’t have one. I just watch my DVDs on the fella’s Xbox, and have a portable CD drive to use with my netbook if I want to watch one in the bedroom. You see, I have made progress. It has been slow going, but I am getting there.

About three years ago I went to work with a floppy disk. You remember them, right? I was nearly laughed out of the building when I complained that my work computer didn’t have a floppy disk drive. Sulkily I went to Argos on the way home and bought one of those USB memory sticks. I admit it was a revelation. I haven’t looked back. True, I still have only one and should possibly look at getting one of those hardy ones you see on the Gadget Show, but I made that leap of faith and was rewarded.

Thing is, even though I feel I am making progress, I still keep missing the techno bus. Take Facebook for example. I finally signed up to it about two years ago – and about two years after everyone else. And I think it’s great. I even have my own blog  – as well as contributing to this one – and I managed to set up my account on Blogger all by myself (well, once someone told me how easy it was). But even now I feel I am falling behind.

People keep going on about Twitter. I went on the website once and didn’t get it. Then there’s Flickr. Sounds fabulous but I haven’t dared even go there. A few weeks ago I got talking to a journalist about how to break into the writing market. I told her about my blog. She suggested I send my e-newsletter to magazine editors. I smiled and nodded, panicking that I didn’t have a clue how to set up an e-newsletter, let alone mail it out to prospective eds.

It doesn’t end there. I still buy CDs and have never bought a download in my life. Although I have an MP3 player on my phone and have inherited my fella’s iPod shuffle, it still takes me about three hours to figure out how to change my playlists on them. And as for uploading my photos from my phone onto my computer, well, it’s a task I put off until I absolutely have to. Like when my phone is finally being replaced or it has run out of memory.


Speaking of mobile phones, mine recently came up with an error message telling me to contact the manufacturer. I took the phone into my local O2 store and they sent it off for me to get it fixed. I got it back yesterday, with a little note telling me they had upgraded the software. And making a point that I could actually do that myself as it’s all very simple really. No need to be patronising, Mr Techie!

So, despite my ignorance, I get by. I have nearly replaced my VHS collection with DVDs and even though I haven’t quite figured out how Sky works a year after having it installed, nor figured out how to use my answer machine (or 1571), I live a relatively pain-free existence. That is until Blu-Ray takes over the world, we go digital and CDs go obsolete.

All I ask, techies, is that you give me a little bit of notice so I can figure out how to use your new equipment before it’s too late and I fall into techno-hell oblivion. Read more by Shelly.

Image (DVD drive): Gregory Szarkiewicz / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image (flip phone): Francesco Marino / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Short but not short of attitude.

SHERMAINE WILLIAMS

It was with interest that I read the posts of my fellow Grumpy Youngsters, Shelly and Selina, who stand taller than the average woman. I already know what being short is all about, so I often find myself curious about what life is like for someone taller.

I have no problem with my diminutive height – the world would be a very boring place if we were all the same - but I get the distinct impression that other people are not quite as accepting as I am. In fact, it could actually be rather enjoyable were it not for the moronic behaviour of others; I’d be able to revel in the fact that people automatically assume me to be innocent, I’d lap up the ‘cute’ comments and getting asked for ID (Alright, I confess, it only happened a couple of times years ago, but it still counts). Instead, it ain’t even close to being a barrel of laughs because I have to deal regularly with being patronised.

Let’s leave aside all the clothing alterations that I have to get done. (I’ve accepted the fact that clothing manufacturers hate short women, as proven by the fact that petite clothing ranges are harder and harder to find.) At least my dry cleaner loves me (yep, I can’t sew; the shame!) The issue of clothes that don’t fit becomes positively trivial when someone, who successfully gives the impression of having a two-digit IQ, speaks down to you.

Not only do people speak to you like an idiot, but being petite seems to make people assume that you are a pushover who will happily take their nonsense. Though, I do get some pleasure from the surprise that results when I reveal the fact that I don’t suffer fools. Apparently, being small also means that I can’t speak for myself.

My theory is that, to many people’s minds, short equals young and young equals stupid. It’s called the Moron Theory.

All this is on the basis that I’m actually noticed. Of course, there are occasions when not being seen can be greatly beneficial, but its mostly just plain annoying. I can’t count the number of times that I have been walking along the pavement, my pathway clear and free from obstructions, only for someone walking on the other side of the pavement to turn directly in my path. I have had fully sighted people actually bump into me in broad daylight when I’m walking in a straight line on a wide pavement. Never have I wanted to punch someone in their face more than when the answer to “What do you think you’re doing?” is “Sorry, didn’t see you there.” Then again, I’m probably too short to reach: I could elbow them in the stomach first. I’m well aware that I’m shorter than average but I’m far from being the size of Tinkerbell.

It can even affect the mundane things like going to the supermarket, which becomes a hazardous pursuit. Not because I put myself in danger by clambering up to reach high shelves – it’s a risk I’m prepared to take – but because of how I hold my basket. The level it reaches is the perfect height for small children to run into as they tear around the supermarket without watching where they are going in an attempt to knock themselves out. It really is the final straw when you go unnoticed by people smaller than you.

I learnt very early on that making assumptions about people will often leave you with egg on your face, but I obviously went to a different school of life to many others. Today there is only one very easy lesson. Pens at the ready...don’t judge a book by its cover. Well done, you’ve passed. Read more by Shermaine.

Image: Marcus74id / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, 7 June 2010

The trouble with shoes

ALICE LINLEY-MUNRO

All I want is a pair of new shoes. A pair of black peep-toe shoes without too high a heel, so that I can still walk at the end of the evening and don’t have to be carried home. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? However, as a woman with size 12 feet, shoe shopping is never a walk in the park.

My choices are either old lady loafers that you could imagine Hyacinth Bucket wearing, or shoes designed for transvestites, made from perspex and PVC with 7” heels which would make me 6’9” and unable to walk. I don’t have any desire to look like my name is Chardonnay Love-Honey and I swing round a pole at night, nor do I want people to think that from Monday to Friday I live my life as Alan from Accounting.

My friend recently took the plunge and purchased her first pair of Christian Louboutins, which now take pride of place in her expansive shoe collection, revered above all other pairs. The joy of such a moment will never be mine, unless I take the route of the ugly sisters in ‘Cinderella’ by the Brothers Grimm and start lopping off bits of my feet to fit the shoes.

At 28 I should be over the age where throwing a tantrum is viable, but whenever I enter a shoe shop with a small-footed friend I have to fight hard to resist the urge to slam my handbag and body to the floor and go mad. Why is it so impossible to comprehend that just as people are expanding, so their feet are expanding, and therefore there is a large market for bigger shoes? If I had even a modicum of artistic talent or business nouse, I’d start my own shoe line and make a killing.

My shoe rage isn’t just confined to the fact that I can’t skip about in pretty little shoes and that if I need a new outfit I have to start with the shoes and then hope I can find clothing that matches. I feel the shoe-related rage bubbling up inside me when I hear the ‘schlump schlump’ noise of hordes of girls, and some fashion-confused guys, schlepping their way round campus in UGG boots. It makes me want to screech ‘Pick up your feet, you slovenly harlots!’ before bemoaning that back in my day girls had the ability to walk properly and not shuffle about like they’d stepped in gum and their feet were stuck to the pavement.

I thought that particular branch of my shoe rage would be limited to autumn and winter, when people tend to want to clad their feet in dead sheep and be toasty warm, however the rage is starting to rise due to the dawning of the ‘flip flop slide’ where, yet again, people demonstrate their complete inability to pick up their feet. It’s as if they actually want me to screech at them like a banshee.

I think my only solutions are lobbying the university and making it a footwear-free zone, or carrying round a roll of duct tape and sellotaping shoes to feet. I appreciate that picking your feet up enough to avoid the shuffle sound when wearing flip flops might make you look like you’re wading through treacle or strutting your stuff down the Milan catwalks, but rather that than me attacking you with the sticky stuff, hmm? Read more by Alice.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Sandals, sweat and sunscreen acne. Oh, good, summer's here.

SAM PECZEK

It’s getting closer – you can see the signs seeping in through the cracked corners of your little world. That spring in the steps of the many as they saunter down the street; that extra little pinch of pep that whispers summer ...

Needless to say, I am not a summer person. I have no beef with the sun and all its lovely life-giving warmth. I like the flowers and the nature and things not being dead. What bothers me is excess; the sticky, dirty, clingy heat that plagues me between the months of June and September. The cancer-feeding UV rays can be a bitch as well, especially if you’re blessed with that kill-me-now skin type that’s simply begging to turn on you if you forget to reapply your factor 60 paste less than 38 times a day.

Yup, everyone hates sunscreen. Sure, I’m glad that it stops me from sizzling away in the sunlight, but why do they have to make it smell so godawful? All day, the sickly pseudo-coconut scent clogging up my pores and my nostrils until I can scuttle back home to a shower and safety.

If only the smell was the worst of it, but no; there’s the delightful way it greases up my skin, giving me the wonder that is sunscreen acne. Needless to say, when your face is quite literally melting all over the shop (and anywhere else you dare tread) makeup is not an option.

"All the sandaly, flip-floppy crap I’ve tried has always ripped my feet to blood and blister-ridden shreds."

Don a giant hat, search for the shady side of the street; it’s not enough. Clothing is a major issue, one that I’ve never managed to resolve. Like most winter folk, I like wearing lots of clothes. Liken it, if you will, to walking around in an almost duvet. If I could get away with sticking armholes in a sleeping bag, don’t think I wouldn’t have tried. It’s happening already; girls everywhere sporting their floaty dresses and sandaly shoes. I tried to go with it, pretend to be okay with all the summer stuff, sneaking into a shop and looking at all the vintage dress-shaped garments. No hope; all the patterns were hideous – and this is coming from someone who at one point aspired to a granny wardrobe of ugly flowery dresses. Instead I left the shop with yet another plaid shirt, only to encounter throngs of those annoying skinny girls prancing about in their little dresses. Or worse, those odd characters wearing coats – I swear they’re doing it just to mock me.

Footwear is the mother of all summer evils. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, I’m about comfort over aesthetics, so it’s trainers all the way. Sadly, they are not the best option in hot weather. And yet all the sandaly, flip-floppy crap I’ve tried has always ripped my feet to blood and blister-ridden shreds. Even the ones not made from plastic and whimsy. Yes, even those.

Which leads us to the trauma of transport. We can rule out the underground straight away – we all know how ghastly being crammed into a tube of moist, hot, and odorous bodies with no clean air, praying that the train won’t stop in between stations for a perilously long (ie, more than half a second) moment. Time does not exist underground; you have entered (albeit voluntarily) an abyss where time and hope are sucked out of your feeble existence until you are able to crawl out into the godforsaken sun once more.

Buses, I have discovered, are only fractionally less painful. Sure, you get to look out the window and know that the world outside still exists, but those dammed rays of burning heat beat at your fragile skin relentlessly. Added to this is the maddening way that the radiators continue to pump even more hot air at the half of your body that is below the window. I remember once, being stuck in traffic on a remorselessly hot day, and thinking ‘yes, this is actually hell’ (the fact that I was also on Streatham High Road is purely incidental).

And finally – the workplace. I spend my weekdays in a very windowy room, which is lovely for the precious, soul-soothing daylight, but also rather apt at creating something of a heat trap. To resolve this, we open windows and employ the use of a very, very loud fan. Or close the windows and try the air con (also not so innocuous sound wise). This makes communication somewhat of a mission, especially when answering the phone. I’d like to think I’ve mastered the art of guessing what people might be saying, but alas, this has proven not to be the case. I shall spend my free time scanning ads for telepathy lessons… and flights to (and jobs in) those mythical cold places I’ve spied on a map; the sort of place where people understand the pains of summer and get how it’s you guys and your weird sun worshiping ways who are the freaks, not me. No need to wish me luck, I have a good feeling about this plan ...

Read more by Sam.