how to tell if

How to tell if your barista is an unlicensed tattoo artist

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if there are two things that don’t mix well, it’s artisan coffee and tattoo ink. Seriously, no matter how much your friends try and convince you it’s the next best thing, don’t try it. It has a horrible aftertaste and your dentist will tell you off in front of the entire waiting room for getting residual ink all over her favourite dentistry tools.

That’s right! The dentist in that story was a woman.

Unfortunately, as has been proven time and time again, not everyone is as enlightened as I am. Tattoistry and coffeistry are two of the hippest istries in today’s society – perhaps it’s no wonder, then, that many baristas are branching out from one acrid black liquid to another. Thanks to the astronomical prices of tattoo licences (sometimes upwards of £8/annum) some erstwhile baristas are practicing their craft illicitly, carrying out undocumented tattooisms in unregistered studios, e.g. in the small room behind the counter marked STAFF ONLY, next to the paninis, under bridges etc.

Well, but how can you tell if your barista is plying the blue needle between espressos? Luckily for you, I have compiled the following handy guide. If the answer to most of the following questions is Yes, I urge you to contact your local council or similar authority. Indeed, if the answer is Maybe, why not contact them anyway? Local councilors are famously charismatic and you may just make a friend for life. #yourewelcome

Have they ever

served suspiciously blue coffee?

Nay, even bluer than this coffee.

Even the most careful of barista-cum-tattoo-artists is sure to slip up at some point and froth a latte with a recently used needle instead of the traditional milk wand. The results, whilst aesthetically charming, are shocking.

By the way, if you do see a barista making coffee with a used needle, I’d advise against drinking it. For one thing, you don’t get nearly as frothy a cup, and, for another, transmittable diseases and that.

And, just like that, I’ve done more for AIDS prevention than my high school sex education teacher, who had us put condoms on bananas, but never told us why.

worn no socks to work?

*shudder*

Just as tattoistry is the edgiest of the barely subcultural arts, so too is no socks the edgiest kind of sock.

Maybe it’s the association with Count Olaf, or maybe it’s just the thought of human skin coming in contact with that much vegan leather, but there’s something deeply unsettling about an unsocked adult. In one’s own home, sure, go barefoot. But – and you might call me a conservative, a prescriptionist, a footwear fascist – you dress your feet properly: shoes and socks. 

Semi-naked feet is as sure a sign of underground tattoistry as I can think of, and (as you can see) I have thought of many.

asked you if you knew anything about fraud, tattoo-related fraud specifically?

“Your brother is a lawyer, isn’t he? Does he know anything about tattoo licences? Like, does he know anything about what would happen if someone had been secretly tattooing people on the counter next to the sandwich press and putting it through the till as ‘hot drink – unspecified’? Do you think he would know anything about that?”

Maybe I’m jaded, but there was something about his tone that made me suspicious, and the box of needles next to the George Foreman struck me as fishy.

accidentally left their MacBook open and you saw it was full of pictures of tattoos and of them tattooing people next to the panini press?

“Does this also work if it was a PC?”

Fuck off, what barista owns a PC?

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how to tell if

How to tell if your best friend is secretly a trade unionist

You’ve had your suspicions for while: sure, you’ve known Jeff since you were both impoverished former miners’ sons in a comprehensive northern pre-school, but recently he’s become radicalised. He’s started spending a lot of money on placards and you thought you saw a leaflet about The Worker under a throw pillow at his bedsit.

Sure, you might not think it’s important to know whether Jeff is into supporting workers’ rights, but, as I always say, it’s better to be sure about these things. 

Live in doubt no longer, friends. Here is the ultimate guide to figuring out if your BFF is secretly well into workers’ rights.

Do they…

love the colour red?

The angle symbolises the subjugation of the working classes; also, I will take literally any opportunity to post this picture.

…because, if so, it’s a bad sign. Red is the universal colour of the left wing (except in America, where it’s the universal colour of caring more about gun rights than women’s rights #politics).

If Jeff has spurned his emerald blazer in favour of a claret harrington, that could be a sign that he’s started leaning to the left, as it were.

constantly talk about overthrowing the mill owners?

…it’s a subtle one, but expressing an unending, edging desire to hoist the local landowner by his own petard may imply a corollary desire to unionise. There’s a saying in my line of work: if Jeff goes on and on about taking back power from his employer, he might be into unions. It’s not a very catchy phrase, but it has served me well.

insist on sitting on the big shared table whenever you go to the local roastery?

‘Roastery’, as I understand it, means ‘cafe with a particularly strong coffee smell’. Wishing to share space with one’s fellow man is as sure a sign as any of unionist tendencies. (I mean unionist as in trade unionist, not as in believing in a united Ireland. Jeff, like all English people, is completely ignorant about the whole Irish situation and does not feel qualified to comment. That said, this is also a sign of being that kind of unionist, too.)

always want to watch Billie Elliot?

Bonus points if they openly weep when the miners are all forced into the service industry. There’s a deleted scene from the movie where Billie Elliot’s dad starts working in a Hungry Horse and, honestly, it’s deeply, deeply moving.

wear obnoxious socks?

This one is a bit less obvious, but my extensive research has uncovered an undeniable link between wearing expensive, geometrical socks and supporting trade unions. The facts don’t lie, friends. They don’t know how. I think it’s because that style of sock originated in Sweden, AKA the country with the most aggressive labour unions in Europe. Sure, Jeff might not explicitly draw your attention to his footgloves, but he’s wearing cropped jeans for a reason, and it’s not so all the ladies can appreciate the curve of his ankle.

advice · Bland Stuff

How many people can fit in stuff?

A post for your entertainment and education.

Sometimes, you really need to know exactly how many people will fit in a washing machine. This blog is for those times.

How many people can fit in the Sun (centre of our solar system)?
33,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 people
Source: https://www.quora.com/How-many-humans-could-fit-inside-a-sphere-the-size-of-our-sun
How many people can fit in the gap between the train and the platform edge?Untold thousands of people.
How many people can fit in the largest stadium in Wales?74,500 people
Source: Principality Stadium promotional material
How many people can fit in the entire Harry Potter canon?772 people
Source: reddit
How many people can fit in the mouth of a blue whale?100 people
Source: I asked Siri
How many people can fit in an Uber XL?6 people
Source: Google search
How many people can fit in a washing machine?1 small person
Source: personal experience
How many people can fit in the Sun (tabloid newspaper)?<1 person
Source: estimation by Ro
How many people can fit in this picture of me outside St Basil’s?

The more you know.

🙂

Bland Stuff

Ocean

I generally try and avoid infecting my blog with my pretentious and derivative taste in poetry – I prefer to keep bland-blog.com pure satire-cum-thoughtsaboutpigeons – but I’ve had this in my head for a few days now, and I think it’s lovely.

Ocean. Ocean, 
get up. The most beautiful part of your body 
is where it’s headed. & remember, 
loneliness is still time spent 
with the world. Here’s 
the room with everyone in it. 
Your dead friends passing 
through you like wind 
through a wind chime. 

Ocean Vuong

Bland Stuff

A Debate

Reasons to knitReasons to knot
– Creative hobbies are good for the soul
– Being in touch with wool (& synthetic substitutes) is character building
– Fluff
– Repetitive action is calming
– The capacity to make socks
will make you an invaluable member of any tribe should the apocalypse come  
– The courage to take pointy things on aeroplanes is enviable
– Good excuse to watch TV a lot
– Finally a hobby that doesn’t involve letters*
– You probably come from a long line of knitters
– You are bad at it
– Family and friends do not always appreciate being given itchy accessories
– Fluff
– Wool (& synthetic substitutes) are surprisingly spenny
– Outcome can be terrifying**
– Effectively a waste of time and sheep resources
– Bamboo or metal needles????
– Not a big fan of silent ‘k’s

*My other hobbies are blogging, learning languages, and competitive Scrabble.

**This idea is based on the true story of when I knitted my niece a teddy and was forbidden from giving it to her because it was so nightmarish

Bland Stuff

TOP THINGS I’VE SEEN PIGEONS DOING

Although they’ve been called rats of the sky and dusty disaster doves, pigeons have a special place in my heart. I love the way that they, like the humble canal, represent a marriage of urban and natural elements – they’re creatures and they poo outside (which, despite my friends’ protests, is certainly natural), but they also live in concrete and eat KFC – decidedly urban pursuits.

In my long career of Looking at Pigeons, I’ve spotted them doing some pretty funky shit. Here are my favourites:

  • Washing their bottoms in Chap Fountain
  • Fighting on the windowsill
  • Browsing at a farmers’ market
  • Sitting in the elephant enclosure at Chester Zoo
  • Hopping on one leg
  • Sitting next to the elephant enclosure at Chester Zoo, seemingly watching the elephants
  • Standing next to other birds eg ducks, flamingoes etc
  • Scaring me (on purpose?)

Never change, pigeons.

Bland Stuff

In Defence of Being a Terrible Cook

I’m a bad cook, and that’s an understatement. Everything I cook turns out monstrous. Not like, my soup is bland, but more like – my soup has three eyes and it’s out to get you. I can barely boil an egg without birthing a godforsaken creature hell-bent on destroying civilisation – and one of the greatest things about no longer cooking meat is that my recent Frankensteins have had a little less punch than the ones made out of actual flesh.

I have a beautiful flat equipped a mighty fridge, a kitchen island so big it’s practically a peninsula, and a gas oven – but I carefully schedule my visitors to arrive between mealtimes.

“Sure,” I say, “Let’s hang out. I’m free from 2pm until 6.30.” Like a humanist vampire, I go to great lengths to save innocent people from myself.

That said, being almost unable to nourish yourself isn’t all bad. Take, for example, the following significant benefits.

  • It’s healthier.

Because if everything I eat is going to taste shit, it might as well be rich in iron.

  • You save money.

“But Rosie,” I hear you protest, “surely being unable to eat at home means you spend  more money on food out!”

Ah, my naive friend, you are forgetting one important point: I am incredibly cheap. Eating out often, whilst delightful and nutritious, goes against the very fabric of my being. Each forkful of restaurant food, no matter how delicious, would taste of the same thing: money I could’ve spent on beer.

As it is, my terrible, awful, no-good food helps me save money for two reasons. Firstly, I only ever have to provide food for one person, because no one who’s seen the slop on my dinner plate would ever willingly sit at my table. No matter how much a person loves me, they will stop at poisoning themselves to make me happy. Moreover, people who love me, whilst stopping short of ingesting my food, occasionally take pity on me and bring me real sustenance: breads, hearty soups, fishless sushi. That kind of thing.

  • It’s character building.

Because nothing strengthens the resolve like staring down six litres of just edible tofu casserole. 

beanbag chair

Simple joys

I’d been struggling to see the sunshine in life, but for the last few days I’ve felt glorious: positive, full of life, and with a healthy appetite for fun (and, also, for food).

It’s one of the unfortunate truths in life that the principles of mindfulness are much easier to follow when you’re feeling good than they are when you’re down – when you really need them. I’m writing this list of stuff I enjoy, partially because (as you, dear reader, already know) I’m an actual saint, and partially because I think having a public, concrete reminder of them will help me out next time I need an injection of sunshine.

Anyway, here’s some blessed stuff.


Doing your weekly shop

Maybe I just don’t get out enough, but the rush I get from doing my food shop is exhilarating. I love food, I like cooking, and I enjoy fluorescent lights. A trip to my local Albert is a joy and a pleasure.


Noticing creatures

Most commonly, dogs and squirrels. Given the season, most other creatures have hibernated or emigrated, but the other day I did see a hedgehog (the gentleman pictured is for illustrative purposes only) and once, when I was living in Petersburg, I saw a woman holding a ferret. 

Seeing animals brings me great joy. I think because I’m so happy I get to wear clothes and live in a house.


Leaves

Truly, the feathers of trees.

Prague is an exceptionally leafy city, and I think this, along with the beer (of course), contributes to a generally high standard of living.


Treating yourself

This one is tricky because the way I take care of myself is usually based on food and/or spending loads of money. I’m concerned about my waistline and my wallet, so I’m trying to find pleasure in free stuff, like walking the long way home or going to bed a little bit earlier.


Listening to new music

I’m a particular fan of music that people I love have recommended.


Throwing stuff away

No one needs that many clothes!


Car boot sales

Now you’ve got rid of all that shit, you need more shit.


Abandoned buildings


Learning new words

Not just fun foreign words, but also English words, like ossicle or pellicule.


Wearing mismatched clothes

One of my favourite games is, “How many colours can I fit on my body?” and it’s a game I play every damn day.

and, last but not least,

Getting a tattoo

My parents might not love it, but it really does rejuvenate you to get something you love on your skin forever.

Bland Stuff · Gripes

Pros and Cons of Morning Shifts: a Discussion

I’m not a morning person. Like, not at all. It takes me four alarms and two coffees to get going, and even then I’m bleary-eyed and croaky-voiced. I had to turn down a ludicrously well-paid job as a breakfast waitress because I knew I wouldn’t be able to hack the early starts – there was no way I’d be turning up to that job appropriately bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Honestly, I also reject any kind of job which requires me to wear black and white, especially since the shoes I’d panic bought for the interview were a little too small and shredded my feet like a cheese grater.

Illustrative picture of breakfast

I just don’t flourish in those kinds of conditions.

Then again, I’m not too sore about it: there’s something I mistrust about people who can function normally at 5am, and if they start claiming it’s the best time of the day, I actively avoid them and their seditious lies. Let’s be honest: no one likes that one person who rocks up to a 9am lecture looking like bluebirds made their bed. Have some decency and look how we feel – like you left most of your brain on your pillow.

That said, I’m not really a night owl either. Come 9 o’clock, I’ll either be settling in to my knitting (on a particularly active day) or snuggling into my pillows (if I missed my traditional 2 o’clock nap). 

Maybe it comes from my constant compulsion to complain about everything, or maybe there really is something wrong with my circadian cycles, but I do seem to spend 80% of the hours I’m awake wishing I weren’t. I’m beginning to realise that I’m neither a night person nor a morning person; in fact, sometimes I doubt that I’m a person at all.

Illustrative workplace photo

The day before yesterday was a special day for me: it was my last shift at what I consider my first “proper” job – I was working as a receptionist in one of Prague’s largest hostels. The job was largely composed of telling people where the lift was, explaining that we use crowns not euros, and directing people to the nearest, largest seller of cheap Pilsner. (Hint: in Prague, the nearest, largest, cheapest pub is always very near, large, and cheap.)

After a childhood and adolescence full of carefree frolicking and pointless study, the realities of having to “get up” and “do things” hit me pretty hard. That said, despite what I consider a congenital allergy to productivity, I like to think I overcame my natural barriers and came to be a valued and useful receptionist. I don’t normally toot my own trumpet, preferring others to toot it for me, but I think that towards the end of my tenure I became a decent receptionist, particularly if the alternative was No Receptionist.

My last shift was also one of the first morning shifts I’d ever done, and it was quite a departure from my typical afternoon shift. My normal working day at Plus Prague Hotel & Hostel ran from three in the afternoon until eleven at night, although my general idiocy usually meant I was still trying to balance my till at midnight. You can imagine, then, the sheer pain I went through to get myself to work eight hours earlier than usual. It was an upsetting and deeply disorientating experience.

On the other hand, I will say this for morning shifts: you finish early. I was shocked and delighted to ride the tram home in the light. It was a revelation to get back to my neighbourhood before all the shops closed. Imagine – I could buy bread! I could get food that wasn’t from the 24 hour Mexican with its nightmarish mixture of coriander and gloopy salsa.

In order to collect my thoughts about the whole experience, I’ve decided to compile a +/- list.

Plus Prague Hotel and Hostel morning shift – plusesPlus Prague Hotel and Hostel morning shift – minuses
– Looking at the people on the tram at 6am
– Frost on the window of the tram
– Breakfast (free)
– Finished work at 3pm
– Relaxed shift, so managed to read a chapter of my book
– No need to call the police
– Got to speak Russian 
– Got to speak French
-Being reminded that mornings exist
– Tram was cold
-Breakfast (not that nice)
-Tired, so went to bed at 8pm
-Favourite character died
– Did have to reset the fire alarm
– Got addressed as ‘girl’, as in, “Tell me, girl, how do I get to the centre?”
– Spoke French very badly (namely, with regards to the subjunctive)

Overall, then, a mixed bag. Farewell Plus Prague Hotel and Hostel, I hardly knew ye – that’s why I always sent people to the wrong rooms.

advice · Bland Stuff

Teaching Pronunciation

As those of you who obsessively note down details about me will know, I’m living in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, at the moment. In order to make money and fill my days, I’m splitting my time between teaching English, working on a reception, translating, and (this is what eats up the most hours but brings in the least $) Sitting and Looking at Walls.

(Sometimes I wonder whether I publish too many personal details about myself on the Internet, but then I remember that a) most of my readers are related to me and b) no one cares.) 

(this is where I live)
Possibly not Prague’s most famous sight, but my favourite.

Whilst all of my different occupations are challenging in their own way, teaching English is certainly the hardest. For one thing, I never realised how much I rely on idiom and cultural reference to get my point across; for another, although I consider myself relatively fluent in English, being considered an expert on it is a bit of a stretch. Here’s an example: I just spent a few minutes saying 

“Expert on English? Expert in English?”

out loud, trying to decide which one sounded more natural. 

(Eventually, frustrated and exhausted, I googled it. According to a site called Learner’s Dictionary, they’re interchangeable, so all that vacillation was time well spent.)

To give you an example of my dubious English expertise, let me tell you about an advanced class I taught last week: we were talking about spelling, and we did a spelling test with some of those bastardish English words. The words were played on an audio track, so I decided to throw my hat into the ring and try my hand at spelling alongside the students. The results were… not ideal.

delicious and nutritious, but hard to spell

OK, I did do better than anyone in the class, but I didn’t get them all right. And, like, I’m a teacher. An English teacher.

But I digress.

Even though I do think I’m not the sharpest tutor in the mixed metaphor about tutors, I will say this for myself: I try really hard. As I would say to my mother, “I’m really trying.” And as she would hilariously reply, “Yes, you are very trying.”

One of the things I find most rewarding is when I bring something to classes that I think most other teachers wouldn’t have thought of – when I spice up the classroom with a little of my signature blandness, as it were. 

Here’s an example: last week my advanced classes were looking at San Junipero, the episode of Black Mirror. The episode (spoilers ahead) deals heavily with the topic of euthanasia, a term I assumed my students wouldn’t know because I myself didn’t learn it until I was in Sixth Form, and it’s not usually included in language syllabuses. 

To my surprise, however, the meaning of the word didn’t bother anyone: it turns out that the Czech translation is a cognate, both words having come from the same root.

What did flummox my students, though, was the pronunciation. After all, it doesn’t really sound a lot like it looks.

Then I remembered: youth in Asia.

but… mainly young people in Asia?

Thanks, Ali G. Just another victory for Sacha Baron Cohen.