Category Archives: Bland Stuff

Ro Daniels: Who Are You?

I’ve been writing this blog regularly for a few months now, and an attentive reader has probably built up some kind of picture of the girl behind the keyboard.

For those who don’t take careful notes every time I post anything, I thought I’d try and sum myself up. Give you a bit of context and that. However, as anyone who’s ever tried to write a CV knows, describing yourself in a couple of paragraphs is a pretty colossal task.

Where do you even begin?

Then, in bed last night, I remembered something – an event which, I think, tells you absolutely everything you need to know about Ro Daniels (ie yours truly).

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Artist’s depiction of me.

It was March. I was living with a Russian host family in St Petersburg, and the weather was testing my physical endurance: it was -25 out with wind chill. The streets were slathered in sheet ice; walking to the bus was treacherous; standing outside was suicidal.

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I let myself into the flat, frozen stiff from the two minute walk from the bus stop, draped in piles of clothes, eyeballs feeling more solid than normal. I felt like my legs, covered in a mere two pairs of trousers, had been skinned with a blunt knife.

The flat was mercifully warm and there was a delicious smell coming from the kitchen. My host mum, an angel constantly concerned that I didn’t eat enough, offered me a bowl of soup.

We sat at the kitchen table together, she drinking a cup of coffee, me hunched over my soup so the steam melted my frozen eyebrows. We chatted about the weather, about politics (a delicate topic that I always tried to avoid), about Russian books she thought I should read. I felt perfectly at home, and the soup and conversation warmed my heart and tummy.

Then, I saw it. In the soup. A spider. Quite a big spider, meaty. Legs curled up like a fist. And, dear reader, here comes the part of the story that tells you about me.

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Reader, I ate the spider.

Not only did I eat the spider, I didn’t even think for a second about what I could do to avoid it. Like, I could have politely said, “Zoya, there’s a spider in my soup.” Or I could have just, I don’t know, not eaten the fucking spider. I could’ve left it in the bowl, or delicately picked it out when Zoya, my host mum, was looking at her phone.

No, it never occured to me for a second that there was another option; as soon as I saw the spider I accepted my fate, and my fate was to dine on insects rather than experience a, at the very worst, slightly embarrassing situation.

I hope you feel like you know me better now. I am Ro, eater of spiders.

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– This list will make you uncomfortable

 

  • Stains on library books

 

  • Sitting down on a warm tram seat

 

  • Crusty matter stuck between the tines of a fork

 

  • A tissue that’s gone through the washing machine

 

  • Other people’s feet

 

  • Bird poo

 

  • When people put speech marks instead of apostrophes

 

  • When the landline rings

 

  • Gunk in the plughole

eeeeeeeeeeeeeuuuurrrghhhh

Milestone

To celebrate this, my 100th post on the Bland Blog, I’d like to share a video with you.

This is genuine footage of me going down an escalator.

Footage.

#realjokes

Other Ways To End Emails

Use with caution.

 

  • Unkind regards,

 

  • [Sent from my Nintendo 3DS]

 

  • Good luck with that,

 

  • Forever yours,

 

  • Humbly,

 

  • Yours frankly, (after a brutal message)

 

  • Don’t feel pressured to stay in touch,

 

  • Not yours,

 

  • All’s well that ends well,

 

  • Stay distant,

Rosie

Introducing an Exciting New Button in the Menu Bar!

If you read my blogs on the WordPress reader or subscribe to my endless emails, you won’t be aware how much effort I put into making my website (click here) look as swanky as possible. Sure, I’m not saying that the hours I spend clicking on slightly different shades of orange ever convert into user enjoyment, but at least it keeps me busy.

If you’re one of the few people who visits the real site, you’ll know that the menu bar is a veritable litany of titillating headings: About, Little Tragedies, The Year 2079… A well-placed click up there will take you deep into the archives of the bland blog, articles organised by theme for your convenience.

Well, today a new addition has made its way onto that lofty list: Prague Pubs.

Whilst this category probably needs no more explanation than I’m in Prague and I like a good pub, stay tuned for a long, emotional spiel about why I think pubs are so important and, indeed, integral to the foundation of a happy life.

I’m British and I live in Czechia; appreciation of a good pub is in my bones.

Prospective Titles for my Autobiography

Through my blogging and my daring interpretive dance set, I’ve reached a certain level of notoriety recently.

The public have begun asking questions, most commonly, “Who the fuck are you?”

I take this as an invitation to share my life story, such as it is, with the people. I’ve entered into talks with a leading publishing house (for legal reasons, I can’t reveal which – but if I drop the hint that it was founded by a prominent quantity surveyor, I think you’ll probably guess) and I’m hopeful we’ll have ironed out a book deal by the new year.

Whilst I’m waiting for the go-ahead to actually start writing my memoirs, I’ve been weighing up a few prospective titles. Here’s a sample.

  • Writing self-deprecating notes to yourself doesn’t make you modest & other closetothebone home truths.

 

  • Having never had a boyfriend AND having cold sores is really just adding insult to injury & other tales from my adolescence.

 

  • Maybe you should try NOT thinking that way & other pieces of useless mental health advice I’ve received.

 

  • Esoteric & other $5 words I pretend to know.

 

  • Camus? I love him. He’s so esoteric. & other lies I’ve told to sound smart.

 

  • Bedheads and Hockeysticks: PE at 8am – a Survivor’s Story

 

  • Oh wow it turns out getting a tattoo actually hurts quite a lot & other things I’ve said after making a snap decision.

On the Dangers of Taking Smiths Songs too Literally

Sweetness, sweetness, I was only joking…

About a month ago, Steven Morrissey did another thing that made us all realise what an arsehole he is.

morrissey

This time, his comments had to do with Halal meat and London mayor Sadiq Khan, and, as the tweet above so rightly puts it, none of us should have been surprised. Morrissey’s questionable-at-best-downright-toxic-at-worst opinions have been bothering his fans for a while now, and many people are asking themselves whether art can be separated from problematic artist.

The problem is, as far as I see it, all of us went through that Smiths phase. The band wrote the gold standard of anthems for misfit teenagers, and who amongst us didn’t have at least a few months of Doc Martens, t-shirts printed with that Verve album, and vinyls of the Smiths?

The music of the Smiths is an important part of our cultural landscape – even now, thirty-something years after the release of Hatful of Hollow, people still stick This Charming Man on when the party is drying up and listen to Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now to remind themselves that, no matter how low they feel, they’ll never be as blue as Steven Morrissey.

We all lost a bit of faith in him after he wrote that dire book, but, nonetheless, Morrissey’s lyrics are part of our consciousness. How else do you explain the upward trend of vegetarianism?

Sure, some of the things he wrote are just true – belligerent ghouls do run Manchester schools – but I’m hopeful that as Morrissey the man reveals his true colours, I’ll be able to reassess some of the weirder poetry I’ve been subconsciously living by.

What does “hand in glove” even mean, anyway…?

Ode to Flakiness

“Rosamund M. Danny,” a good friend of mine said in exasperation, “you’re flakier than an overbaked croissant.”

I looked up from my steaming mug of Horlicks. We were in an aggressively hipster cafe a stone’s throw from our university, and outside the rain was lashing down on the heads of the people waiting for the bus.

I’d been watching them: no buses had come for twenty minutes, and they were getting agitated. An androgynous figure in a grey mack had stomped to the corner, apparently to try and see the bus coming, and then huffed back shaking waterproof head.

It was true: I am flaky. When I type “plans” into my phone, it tries to autocorrect it to “unplanned unavoidable occurrence.” When I try and put an event into my calendar, the software doesn’t even try and hide its incredulity: “Are you sure?” it asks. “You’ve planned to go to York with Jade four times already; what makes you think it’s gonna happen this time?” My phone is a little passive aggressive.

I’d been trying to get into the habit of physically turning it off when I was with my friends – I’d noticed myself becoming one of those “checks Instagram any time the conversation stops flowing to feel less self-conscious” people – and no one likes that. It lay on the table beside my mug now, black screen reflecting the ceiling. I wondered whether, one day, screens would become so hardy that people would use them as coasters; for the time being, I thought, taking a sip of my drink, it was best not to risk it.

The Horlicks was substandard today: they’d not stirred it properly and there were undissolved lumps floating in the top. I took a pen from my pocket and swirled the liquid about, but to no avail: the surplus powder seemed chemically incompatible with the rest of the drink.

I couldn’t blame the cafe – a good mug of Horlicks is an art, after all. You have to introduce the water very slowly, stirring the powder into a thick paste. You can’t rush it: that’s how you end up with a watery monstrosity like the one I was faced with. A good Horlicks is a combination of time and care, that’s what I always say. You have to put your soul into it.

My friend was finishing her cappuccino with an extra shot of espresso. She looked het up and tense.

“What did you say?” I asked.

Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

Twelve years old. Library card. Fringe.

Sarah led an aggressively sheltered life in a green English village. Her parents, a self-consciously counter-culture older couple, had done everything they could to give their only daughter a childhood free from any harmful influences, even going as far as to request that she not take part in the Year 6 production of My Fair Lady – they feared that the themes of poverty and class struggle would upset her.

Sarah had, at age ten-and-a-half, watched the first ten minutes of a South Park episode, glued with rubbernecking horror to the screen. Her dad, half-dressed for his cycle commute to work, overheard the set and, one arm in his anorak and wearing a single clip-on bike shoe, lurched into the room and tackled the TV.  Standing over its mangled remains, all sparking wires and broken glass, he bellowed in uncharacteristic rage about stiff letters to the people responsible and cartoons these days.

From then on, Sarah was not permitted to watch television. She was allowed to watch any of the dusty pile of kids’ VHS tapes, collected from years of car boot sales, stacked behind the hastily repaired set, but, after a year and a half of heavy use, they were badly warped; the characters jolted through their storylines like badly wound clockwork automatons. Before very long, Sarah had stopped watching the tapes chronologically, and instead would use the remote to make the characters zoom backwards and forwards, creating her own stories as she jabbed at the slightly sticky buttons.

The highlight of her week was her visit to the local library, accompanied either by her obstinately greying mother or her father in his purple and green anorak. Each week Sarah would return a finished book and, once her choice had been approved by her censor, take a new one to the front desk, where the librarian, whom Sarah felt deeply attached to, without ever knowing her name, would stamp the front page with a new date.

As though forgetting the thousands of times Sarah had already stood before her, the librarian would always spend long minutes scrutinising Sarah’s library card as though she suspected her of some kind of fraud. Each detail, from the signature on the back to the logo on the front, would be surveyed in turn, and every few seconds Sarah herself would be gazed at with unconcealed suspicion. Whilst her papers were being checked, Sarah always found herself staring at the librarian’s cold sores, which festered at the corners of her lips. Some weeks they would glisten like open wounds; other weeks they would have scabbed over and look as if they were beginning to heal.

It was November when the library, desperate for more custom, launched a new system: two tables, one for adults and one for children, were piled high with books wrapped in anonymous brown paper. A handwritten sign on the wall read, “Don’t judge a book by a cover.” Sarah approached the children’s table; she saw that the librarian had painstakingly written a short, purposefully vague description of each tome on a star shaped gift label – “boy wizard’s adventures at school“; “a teenage spy faces his toughest challenge yet“.

Even though she suspected it contained The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Sarah selected the package labelled with “four siblings discover a snowy land“. Having read it twice before, she was in no hurry to tear off the brown wrapping when she got home; she spent some time watching the Peak District rain beating at her bedroom window. Finally she slipped her finger into the badly selotaped fold and slit open this week’s entertainment.

But the book that fell onto her woolly blanket was not the one she had expected. Rather than a vintage drawing of two girls riding on the back of a giant lion, she was faced with a blank green cover, on which were the words, JAMES BALDWIN; ANOTHER COUNTRY. Intrigued, she flipped the book and read the blurb:

Education is indoctrination if you’re white – subjugation if you’re black.

This was definitely not one of the Chronicles of Narnia.

Heart hammering, feeling as though she was committing some dreadful crime, Sarah opened the book and started to read –

He was facing Seventh Avenue, at Times Square. It was past midnight and he had been sitting in the movies since two o’clock in the afternoon. Twice he had been awakened by the violent accents of the Italian film, once the usher had awakened him, and twice he had been awakened by caterpillar fingers between his thighs…

Eyes wide open, she read on, savouring every new word and new idea. There were many words she didn’t know (blow job, wop, nigger), but she didn’t dare look them up in the family’s Oxford Dictionary, sensing somehow that her parents would not approve.

By the next morning, she had read the entire book, and, without pausing, she flipped back to the front and started all over again:

He was facing Seventh Avenue, at Times Square. It was past midnight and he had been sitting in the movies since two o’clock in the afternoon. Twice he had been awakened by the violent accents of the Italian film, once the usher had awakened him, and twice he had been awakened by caterpillar fingers between his thighs…

Surely, she thought later that evening, quietly sipping her soup at the kitchen table, there had been some mistake at the library: there was no way that was a kids’ book. But she needed more; she knew she would never again be content with a book from the children’s section, with its papier-mache rainbow and tiny chairs. She began to wonder how she could slip away from her parents and grab armfuls of forbidden tomes to gorge on in the privacy of her bedroom.

Fate seemed to be smiling at her: on Monday morning, her teacher, already familiar with Sarah’s parents’ peculiarities, took her aside and explained that the class would be starting their sexual education in their biology classes. “But you can just go to the school library,” said the teacher, trying to preempt an inevitable meeting with the girl’s abrasive family.

“The school library?” Sarah had not even known that her school, a grey, Northern comp, had a library.

Sarah had a window of an opportunity: for an hour every week for however long sex ed could last, she rushed from shelf to shelf, grabbing A-Level texts and checking them out. She would take them home and hide them under her mattress and read them only in the deep of night, curled up under her unbearably hot blanket with a torch.

UlyssesThe Naked Luncheverything by D.H. Lawrence and Sylvia Plath’s anthology.

Her parents noticed her panda eyes and exhaustion, but they attributed it to puberty and a lack of iron and bought her supplements, never suspecting that under her covers she had access to a thousand foreign worlds they could never dream of. Sarah’s childhood, as they defined it, was over.

Thoughts from my bean bag chair

Takes a puff on my soap bubble pipe.

In this day and age, the closest me and my friends will get to owning property is buying a domain name.