Sunday, October 30, 2005

ADS: Attention Deflection Syndrome

Today I was supposed to read five, yes FIVE, papers for tomorrow's day at college. The word "supposed" is key to that statement. Instead, I suffered from Attention Deflection Syndrome, that well-known ailment many students mysteriously suffer from when faced with any kind of course work.

I woke up at 9.30 feeling very well rested and made a lovely breakfast of toast and marmite accompanied by a bolstering cup of tea. I pulled on some comfy slob-out clothes, put some Chopin on the stereo and lay down on the sofa to read "The Counsellor and the GP, the Gulf and the Isthmus". (What's an Isthmus?)

Well actually, that's a lie. I did all of the above apart from the reading bit and watched all of Sunday AM (my eyes bled a little when The Proclaimers did a live bit. Should've gone to specsavers), quite a bit of the Heaven and Earth Show, a little Futurama and, to my psychological detriment, rather more of Hollyoaks than is strictly good for me, i.e. one nano-second. (I was heartened to see that they were handling Date Rape with such incredible insight and sensitivity.)

I turned off the telly, having had more than enough of that welsh twat from T4, with every intention of beginning my reading. Then suddenly I became inexplicably taken with the idea of spring cleaning the kitchen, which I did with much attention and not a little gusto (I even cleaned under the microwave plate). I had a break for lunch before starting on the bathroom and finished up by dusting down and having a little hoover around the living room.

Then I had a bath.

Then I did my laundry.

Then I had a snooze.

Then I cooked dinner.

Then I did my recycling.

Then I watched Bleak House (pretty good) followed by the end of Lost (frankly rediculous).

Then I cleaned my bedroom and took the rubbish out.

Then I watched Top Gear (mildly amusing).

Then I had another snooze.

Then I had a glass of wine.

Then I painted my nails listening to Maria Callas.

Now I'm going to bed.

My intellect may not be vastly improved, but at least my house is immaculate! And my nails look quite nice too!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Panic Stations

It was all very embarrassing really. One minute I was asking the school receptionist for a plaster and the next I was being driven to hospital by my boss's girlfriend, all for a cut on my shin the size of my little finger nail.

Let me rewind.

It's taking me a little while to get used to my new Vespa, The Blue Meanie. Not the riding of it, no! It's the parking of it. Yes, it seems I can ride it around London without mishap, but when it comes to parking the thing up it all goes a bit tits up!

To be fair it's a heavy old peice of kit, deceptively so, and there's a special knack to getting the thing on to its stand. But before you even attempt that, you need to get the bastard onto the pavement first.

First off I cut the engine and tried to push the thing up the curb manually, but for the life of me I couldn't do it. So I tried it with the engine on. Just the tiniest bit of throttle while I stood beside it guiding it up and I figured it would be fine. Perhaps predictably, that didn't turn out to me my most sensible decision. The Blue Meanie flew up out of my hands, whacked a lamp post and then came crashing down to the pavement via my shin.

It didn't hurt. In fact I didn't even realise it was bleeding until I bent down to tie up my shoelace on my way into the school. Okay, so it may have looked a lot worse than it was... there are a fair old few veins in the human leg and my little Vespa appeared to have punctured one of them and so I can understand why maybe the receptionist panicked a little and called over the school tanoy system for the school's Designated First Aider. And I guess to be fair to the school's "Designated First Aider" she would usually be dealing with primary school kids who cry at the tiniest of scratches, but I did really start to get irritated when the Designated First Aider shook her head an annouced that this was a job for Brenda. The receptionish gasped, I sighed and the Designated First Aider held my leg in the air.

At this point I should remind you that the cut was pretty small. Deep, maybe, but really very small and so imagine my surprise when Brenda finally appeared brandishing The Largest Bandage in the World, more or less the size of your average table mat.

"Of course, you'll have to get a proper nurse to look at this," she said as she enveloped me in medical gauze and tape.

"Well, I could always pop into the hospital on the way home", I replied with every intention of not doing that at all.

"But how would you get there?" asked the white-faced receptionist.

"On my scooter."

"Oh, well we couldn't possibly let you do that," said the Designated First Aider.

"No," said the receptionist.

"You might pass out," said Brenda.

"The bus?" I ventured hopefully.

They tutted and sighed, shaking their heads in unison.

At that point my fellow sports coach peeked her head round the door to see what all the fuss was about.

"She's gashed her leg,"

"Blood everywhere. Look!"

Now, I'm convinced that if my colleague had actually seen my leg, she would have persuaded them that it was okay and that I could just whack on a plaster and get on with the coaching. Instead all she could see were three panic stricken women brandishing a bloody trainer and so she obviously thought the whole thing was much worse than it was. She called our boss to see if he could give me a lift to the hospital and she announced he would be there in 15 minutes.

Half an hour later, imagine my mortification when my boss's girlfriend, who I've never met before, pulls up, tells me that Boss is in a meeting and that he called her to ask if she'd drive me to hospital.

"He asked me to give you a tenner, too, you know, for a cab ride home. By the way, I'm Eileen. Hows the leg?"

Eileen was lovely and I thanked her as I got out of the car hoping to wave her off and catch the bus home. Instead she walked me into the hospital and waited until my name was down on the list before she left me to it.

Eventually my name was called and the nurse put me onto a bed and delicately took off the massive bandage clearly expecting an injury worthy of Jaws. Instead she just looked up enquiringly at the tiny scab beginning to form wondering why the hell I would sit in a hospital casualty unit for a couple of hours when a small plaster would have sufficed.

"It's a long story," I sighed.

"I'll just pop a bit of glue on and you'll be fine."

I didn't get a taxi home. I took a bus instead and spent the tenner on a movie and some pop corn.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Born to be Wild

I'd overslept and so only had time to roll out of bed and pull on the nearest clothes before I left for the motorcycle school. I was quite excited and yet slightly daunted. I'd never ridden a scooter before and didn't know how hard it would be.

While all I needed was the Certificate of Basic Training, I couldn't help thinking that five hours of instruction wasn't really enough time to learn how to drive a Vespa at speed around London. It seems crazy to me that sixteen year old boys can jump on a machine with up to125cc and zoom around to their hearts' delight with only a day's training and a couple of L plates. Still, if the DVLA thinks it's okay, who am I to disagree?

"You must be Laura," said one of the instructors as I stepped into the portakabin.

"How do you know?" I asked.

"You're the only woman coming in today."

Feeling distinctly underwhelmed at this prospect and more than a little intimidated by the big biker boys wearing leather trousers and Axl Rose neck scarves, I sat at the back of the little classroom and waited. I looked up at the sound of heavy footsteps and my heart sank. An enormous biker with a skin head, a bolt through his ear and tattoos up his neck took a seat next to me. He was wearing an all in one leather black and white biker suit (that made him look not unlike a Power Ranger) and an ugly scowl. I shrank back into my seat.

Our instructor, a dry Australian who evidently takes the whole business of biking extremely seriously, came in and talked us through some basic safety before taking us out to the bikes. I took to the whole thing pretty well, even though I say so myself and much to the surprise of my fellow classmates who seemed to be having a harder time than I was. The Power Ranger said very little, preferring to glower at people instead. After all, he was the only one on a "proper" motorbike.

We weaved in and out of cones, performed figures of eight and learned how to turn left and right without getting ourselves killed. Still the Power Ranger glowered menacingly, his skin head gleaming in the autumn sun.

"Time for the emergency stop," said our instructor. "You've got to get the sequence right unless you want to fly over the top of the handlebars. Understand? This sequence is probably the most important sequence you will learn on the bike as it will save your life and the life of the little girl who runs out in front of you. Get it? THE SEQUENCE IS EVERYTHING!!!"

I think I'd pretty much got the message.

"So, number one, release the throttle." He looked up at us expectantly. We nodded vigorously, but the power ranger just glared and glowered some more.

"Two, squeeze the right brake a little. ONLY A LITTLE. Too much and it's over you go and you'll be overtaken by your packed lunch."

I wasn't exactly brimming with confidence.

"Three, squeeze the left brake A LITTLE and then, four, squeeze both brakes together as hard as you can. For those of you with gears," he looked at the Power Ranger, "you've got a fifth part of your sequence. Putting the bike in neutral." The power ranger gave no sign of recognition and the instructor tried again.

"Mate, that's a sequence of FIVE. One, two, three, four and five." He demonstrated as he counted but received no more than a stare. He tried once more his voice heavy with irritation.

"One! Two! Three! FOUR! and Five! Got it?"

At this the Power Ranger cocked his head to one side, shifted his wait and levelled his gaze at the instructor. The class took a collective breath as he went to speak.

"So, what you're saying, mate," he growled, "is that it's a bit like salsa!"

The instructor looked at him incredulously.

"You mean salsa as in the dance?"

He nodded and grinned cheekily. Counting up to five just like the instructor, he demonstrated a little salsa move and chuckled.

"Sequences," he said. "Just like salsa!"

The whole lesson was much more fun after that.