I’m the kind of person that attracts unsolicited advice. Friends, acquaintances, sometimes even strangers on the bus – people of all walks of life take it upon themselves to bestow onto me all manner of pearls of wisdom, ranging from advice on how to find the best pub to stylistic writing conventions. It’s not uncommon for, when I’m sitting on a bench or low wall, a well-meaning passerby to approach me with thoughts on how I should lead my life.
[Sometimes they just want to tell me to get off their wall, though.]
I think it has something to do with my general air of incompetence. People don’t see me and think, “There’s a level-headed lass who’s got her shit together;” rather, they see a vitamin-deficient bed-headed waste who needs all the help she can get.
They’re not altogether wrong.
Anyway, I think it’s pretty selfish of me to hoard these nuggets, so, please, enjoy the following lil slices of wisdom.
[Don’t write me letters complaining about mixed metaphors. This blog is not a democracy.]
Gravitate towards pubs where they serve mash.
Admittedly, this doesn’t really qualify as a piece of advice given directly to me. Rather, this is something I’ve picked up from my favourite podcast, the supposedly football-themed Athletico Mince.
Bob Mortimer, when touring with Vic Reeves at some point in the last century, would search the area around his venues for pubs which served mashed potatoes. Supposedly, only pubs with decent kitchens can offer mash, because (for some reason) it can’t be whipped up in a microwave by a teenager on their work experience.
For this reason, Mortimer reckons that the best pubs going are marked by a mash-heavy menu. Sure, it’s not a system without exceptions, but mash does give an indication of a certain level of culinary prowess.
Personally, I live for mashed potatoes. A tummy full of cheesy mash feels identical to happiness, and I’ll fight anyone who picks new potates over the clearly superior mashed variety.
That said, so-called gastropubs make me uneasy to my very core, so this is a piece of advice I’m still eyeing with suspicion.
Read ‘The Master and Margarita’.
This happened to me in Year 11, when I was sixteen years old.
[If you want to know what I was like as a teenager, imagine me now but less well-adjusted and with longer hair.]
Back in the day, I had even fewer hobbies than I have now, and my favourite pastimes included Sitting, Looking At Walls, and Contemplating Death. Sometimes, when I was feeling particularly creative, I’d write existential poems and blu-tack them to shelves in the library when the woman behind the counter was busy helping someone check out a book on Macclesfield’s silk industry.
This was an unusually exciting day, because a friend and I had taken a break from the crushing ennui of GCSE revision to go to Waterstones. We were floating around the literary fiction section, considering buying yet another book by George Orwell, when a man came up to us.
He handed me a copy of ‘The Master and Margarita’, said, “If you want to read something really good, get this,” and left.
What a way to recommend a book!
I showed my friend. I honestly think the moment I realised I’d actually already read it is still the proudest I’ve ever felt about anything. “It is really good,” I said to my friend. “It’s esoteric.” (I didn’t, and still don’t, know what that means.)
As it happened, neither of us ended up buying the book; we were both absolutely skint and my friend’s mum had told him that if he brought another book into her house, she’d sell him to the circus. (This might sound like a disproportionate response, but he was buying books at the rate of one every two days and reading them at the rate of one every two and a half years.) Plus, as I did not fail to mention, I had already read it.
My life goal since that moment has to be recommend the very same book to someone in exactly the same way, but, unfortunately, I seem to have assimilated the book’s message more thoroughly than that gentleman in Waterstones:
Never talk to strangers.
After all, you never know, they could turn out to be literally the devil incarnate.