Tag Archives: advice

Vegan Sandwich Ideas

Lads, not eating meat is really hard. Like, really hard. Not a day goes by when I don’t have to ask myself whether I really consider chickens animals, or whether they’re not, technically speaking, some kind of mushroom. Unfortunately, my dietary choices are non-negotiable: without them, I’d not be able to get on my high horse nearly as much.

I spend hours in the supermarket, pocket dictionary in hand, translating every ingredient on the back of packets of biscuits, just to make sure no one’s sneaked a cheeky flank steak into these custard creams. And I wouldn’t be surprised: as well as consuming an ungodly amount of beer, Czechs are serious meat eaters. Prague street corners aren’t complete without a whole roast pig in a weird glass tank/barbecue mashup.

It might be hyperbole when, desperate for bacon, I complain that “vegetarianism has ruined my entire goddamn life why do I even bother”, but it has definitely ruined my lunch. Because lunch, somehow, definitely is the hardest meal to render meatless.

By now, reader, you’re familiar with my charitable, giving nature. I live to enrich your experiences. With that in mind, I’ve compiled this short list of vegan sandwich fillings. May your picnics be cruelty free!


food healthy dry pattern

Peanut butter and banana

Everyone (except my friend Jim who would die if she ate peanuts) loves peanut butter. It combines everyone’s two favourite things: paste and tree nuts. Until scientists prove beyond any doubt that peanuts are sentient, I’ll keep eating an actual tonne of them every day. Add a banana to the equation, and you’ve got a sarnie fit for a king.


bird meal animal squirrel

Peanut butter and apple

Everyone (except my friend Jim who comes out in hives if she sees a Snickers advert) loves peanut butter. It combines everyone’s two favourite things: misnomers (it’s not actually butter) and a high sodium content. Slap a sliced apple in there, and you’ve got a butty fit for an emperor.

[Note: the squirrel is pictured for illustration only. Don’t start thinking squirrels are a legitimate vegan alternative, because (I checked) they aren’t.]

brown peanuts

Peanut butter and pear

Everyone (except my friend Jim whose throat closes up if people talk about nuts too loudly around her) loves peanut butter. It combines everyone’s two favourite things: the perfect golden brown colour and the choice between smooth and crunchy. Stick some pear in there, and you’ve got a roll you’d be proud to present to a non-gender specific ruler.


food healthy red sweet

Strawberries and black pepper

Unless you’re five years old, you probably agree that berries, broadly speaking, are an inappropriate sandwich filling. However, if you sprinkle strawberries with crushed black pepper, you can convince yourself they’re basically savoury and chow down on some vitamin C rich delights come midday.

Genuinely, this isn’t actually as bad as it sounds.


Hummus and rust

Ah, the humble chickpea. Such a staple of my diet these days. Of course, you’d be crazy if you thought that a hummus sandwich, with no garnish, was an acceptable lunchtime snack. For one thing, hummus and bread are too close in colour to make a satisfactory meal.

Adding finely crushed rust will give your sandwich the pop it needs! Plus, if you’ve not eaten meat for a while, you’ll really need the iron – and what better source than actual oxidised metal? Bon appetit. If it’s not grinding your teeth down, you’ve not added enough rust.


vegetables market basket carrots

One carrot (grated)

Pro tip: squeeze the carrot shavings in your fist before you stick them between slices. This will remove any excess water from the carrot, and it’s also extremely cathartic. Taking out your anger on vegetables is, I think, a wise and sensible course of action generally.


Coriander and sliced limes

For a zingy and refreshing lunchtime roll, why not put citrus fruit and herbs between bread? At the very least, it should help keep the scurvy at bay.

[I know the plant pictured isn’t coriander. Don’t tweet me.]

addiction chemistry close up colors

Saccharine tablets

Say what you will about artificial sweeteners, but they are (presumably) vegan. Crushing them up and putting them inside bread will give your lunch a delightfully chemical flavour. In the future, when everyone’s a vegan and no one cares about cancer or taste, this will be the sandwich filling of choice, trust me. My pro tip? Spread marg on your bread first so the crushed pills stick to the slices. You’re welcome.


appetizing beef black background breakfast

Imaginary Ham©

It’s the bane of my life that ham, and, indeed, most pork products, contain high levels of pig flesh. I know, who’d have thought it?

Luckily, there’s Imaginary Ham©, a brand new product from the Nestle group. When lack of ham is getting you down, Imaginary Ham© is there for you. Simply slip a slice of it between bread and you’ll hardly know the difference. Available from all major supermarkets; RRP £7.59 for a 200g pack.

Imaginary Ham©: It’s like ham, but it’s imaginary.

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New Laws

I’m not sure exactly why (I sense Brexit has something to do with it) but the British government has just finishing codifying some interesting new laws. The police officer in the featured image may be smiling, but she’s ready to bop you on the head with her truncheon should you infringe any of them in front of her.

Not sure if “to codify laws” is a phrase, but it sounds about right.

You might be scratching your head, wondering what on earth I could be talking about. “But, Ro,” you might be saying, “I am a British citizen. I think I’d know if we had a spate of new laws coming in. I think I’d have seen it on Twitter.”

Yeah, you’d think. The sneaky, sneaky government has purposefully made sure no one knows about this new legislation by posting it exclusively to Google+. And why don’t they want anyone to know about these laws? Because their infringement incurs a hefty fine – money which goes straight into Johnny Westminster’s pockets.

Luckily for you, Google+ is the only social medium I use. I prefer it because I can post sarcastic comments about my loved ones without them ever finding out. Also I can slag off Love Island without anyone thinking I’m just doing it for the attention.

For that reason, I’m abreast of the upcoming laws, and I’m more than happy to share them with you. Be careful: you don’t want to get caught out!


person pouring seasonings on raw meatsNo fish on Tuesdays.

This one’s as simple as it sounds: from October 2018, absolutely no fish are allowed in the United Kingdom on Tuesdays. Persons found to be infringing this law will be subject to immediate arrest and a fine of up to £200. Fish found to be infringing this law will be eaten by the local constable.

That picture is actually a little misleading, so let me clarify: it’s not that you’re not allowed to eat fish on Tuesdays, but rather that fish generally are not allowed. It’s expected that police officers will be SCUBA trained as standard in order to enforce this. If you have a pet fish, make sure to hide both it and any paraphanalia (eg fish tank, model castle etc) related to it on Tuesdays.


person holding drafting paper

All drivers must wear high-viz.

If you’re getting behind the wheel after the 1st of March 2019, please, please make sure you’re wearing a high-visibility jacket that conforms to government standards. If you don’t, you’re liable to pay an on-the-spot fine of up to £70, and, if what you’re wearing is particularly subdued, your licence may be revoked.


black and white business chart computer

No more saying, “I rate it.”

I know what you’re thinking: “It’s the bloody thought police!” No, it’s not. It’s the speech police, so reign in your disapproval, George Orwell. Jesus.

Anyway, the police are cracking down on increasing numbers of people saying, “I rate it,” to express approval. After December this year, those heard saying this will be put under house arrest.


light golden retriever puppy close up photography

Pick up after your dog.

You might say, “But, Rodge! Leaving dog poos around is already a crime.” Yes, true. But this law goes one step further: in an effort to combat declining standards of tidiness in the canine community, dog owners will have to pick up any and all toys the dog carries around the house and place them in a designated dog box.

If a homeowner is seen to be remiss in this duty, whether because toys are outside of the dog box, or because the dog box is incorrectly labelled, they will be sent to prison for a maximum of 35 days, during which the dog will be cared for either by the police constable (if it’s a cute one) or a nominated relative (if it’s gross).


document id uk driving license driving licence

All citizens must carry ID cards.

I don’t know if you remember, but there was actually a move to introduce a similar law not so long ago.

However, under this legislation, set to come into effect from November 2019, citizens must carry the ID card belonging to the last person they shared a pizza with. Those carrying their own ID cards will be subject to serious scrutiny, since they’ve either never shared a pizza with anyone, or shared pizza with a chain of people until their own ID card ended up back in their pocket.

Those with missing or irregular documents will be forced to either pay a £17 fine or present the local police constable with £15 worth of pizza. It’s not clear whether this act will constitute giving or sharing a pizza, so no one yet knows whether the buyer of the pizza will have to swap ID cards with the police constable. I’ll let you know more when I do.


Mrs Brown’s Boys is outlawed.

I can’t argue with this. It’s for the good of the nation.

I can’t even bring myself to find a relevant picture.


The more you know.

Insultial Czech

This title combines the words “essential” and “insulting.”

You don’t have to tell me; I know I’m a wordsmith.

Amongst pedagogues, there’s a school of thought that suggests students learn languages better when they’re not constantly forced to repeat boring phrases. You know the kind of thing:

Teacher: Hello.

Student: Hello.

Teacher: How are you?

Student: I’m well, thank you. How are you?

Teacher: I’m fine.

That’s the kind of shit that rots your brain after a few repetitions, and students quickly lose interest – especially children and teenagers whose concentration span is low at the best of times, and non-existent when they’re being forced to say the same boring stuff again and again and again and aga-

animal bear big blur
bored

Anyway, some thinkers believe that students are kept motivated and interested by being exposed to more colourful language – in effect, by being allowed to repeat crazy stuff like this:

Teacher: Howdy.

Student: Y’a’right.

Teacher: How’s it going?

Student: I’m sick of the sight of you. What’s going on with you?

Teacher: Teaching cretins like you makes my blood fizz.

For some reason, this approach isn’t favoured at the language school I work at, so I’m forced to stick to the conventional “Hello, how are you” greetings.

That might sound ridiculous, but the idea behind it is that students will remember grammatical structures and vocab much better if there’s something interesting about them. Sure, students taught in this way might not be able to speak to anyone without insulting them, but they’ll turn up to each class with joy in their hearts and dazzling language engraved in their brains.

acrylic acrylic paint art artistic
Colourful language!

With that in mind, I’ve compiled a nice sample dialogue for you to enjoy. It takes place between two friends; friend B wants to go for a coffee and friend A is a bit of a vůl. It’s short; it’s snappy; it gets right to the point. Never say I don’t put enough effort into lesson planning.

Kamarádka: Ježišmarjá, ty jsi tady.

Kamarád: Kečáš. Chceš na kávičku?

Kamarádka: Kéž bych mohla, ale vlastně nechci.

Here’s the translation.

Friend A: Jesus, it’s you.

Friend B: Stop chatting shit. Do you wanna grab a coffee?

Friend A: I wish I could, but I really don’t want to.

Anyway, the theory is that you’re way more likely to remember the na + acc. structure for events if you’ve been exposed to this kind of example. Of course, this doesn’t work if no one’s bothered to explain what that structure is and I absolutely will, right this minute!

So the thing you have to know about Czech is –

Oh, shit, that’s my bus! Sorry, gotta run.

Love,

Rodge

(I’m not good at swearing in Czech so here are my sources:)
https://news.expats.cz/czech-language/czech-swear-words-and-put-downs/
https://www.czech-stuff.com/czech-swear-words/

 

Essential Check

I study Czech, Russian and Polish at university, and most people’s response to that is, “Why, though?”

The honest answer, that I don’t know – it just seemed interesting, never seems to satisfy anyone. And, reader, if you know anything about me, you know that I live to please: an unsatisfactory conversation is a weight on my very soul. I’ve started brainstorming better answers:

  • “I love beer.”
  • “I really like chess and I thought it’d be related.”
  • “My grandfather/uncle/childhood friend/goldfish was a Slav.”
  • “I love vodka.”
  • “I want to work as a spy. Wait, I shouldn’t have said that. I mean, I want to work in banking.”
  • “War and Peace changed my life. No, I’ve not read it. I mean the TV show.”
  • “I’m just super into pickles.”
  • “I’m an aspiring nesting doll.”
  • “Solidarity, innit.”
  • “Why do you think?”

This last one is particularly interesting – the ideas people come up with are always way better than anything I can dream up. One suggestion sticks out – someone asked if I’d chosen Czech, Russian and Polish because of the potential for puns.

It’s true: of all the ~6,500 languages spoken on Earth, the three I’ve devoted my education to are amongst the most pun-rich. Puns, of course, rarely translate into foreign languages, which is one of the hardest facts I’ve ever had to come to terms with.

For our own education and enjoyment, though, I’ve decided to translate all the homophones of “Czech” I could think of into Czech. Enjoy this meaningless list of vocab.

  • Czech (adj.)

český

  • Czech (noun; language)

čeština

  • Czech (noun; Czech person)

Čech / Češka

  • Cheque (noun)

šek

  • Check (noun; situation in chess)

šach

  • Check (noun; inspection)

zkouška

  • Check (noun; control)

kontrola

  • Check (noun; a mark, usually a tick)

křížek

  • Check (noun; a lengthwise separation of the rings in wood)
I didn’t manage to find a translation for this; that might be for the best.
  • Check (verb; to inspect)

prověřit

  • Check (verb; to mark with a checkmark)

zaškrtnout

  • Check (verb; to control or limit)

kontrolovat

  • Check (verb; to compare)

kontrolovat

 

Isn’t learning fun?

20180125_142251
This is an unrelated picture of a bear I saw in the zoo in Brno last year.

Interview Tips

businesswomen businesswoman interview meeting

Thanks to my recent post, your CV is as fine-tuned as a good-looking fish. By this time, no doubt, you’ll be practically wading through interview offers; employers, seeing your paperless/pictorial/well-fonted resume will have been falling over themselves to get hold of you and invite you for a coffee and a chat.

Incidentally, conceptualising interviews as nothing more than a chill cup of tea and conversation with your mates is one of the best pieces of advice I can give you. See below for details.

I don’t care who you are or how great your interpersonal skills are: interviews are emotionally draining for everyone. And since it’s because of me and my great advice that you’re faced with the prospect of so many interviews, I thought it’d be wrong of me to let you go into that situation without a few handy tips.


Wear clothes

img-20170417-wa0013

Originally, I wrote, “Dress for the job you want,” but that advice is so open to abuse (e.g. turning up to an interview for an HR position dressed as a fireman) that I decided to simplify it.

Friends, you absolutely must wear clothes when you go to interview. Very, very few employers look kindly upon naked candidates. (Classic exceptions include when applying to work as a topless model, lifeguard at a nude beach, or accountant in a large multi-national.)

What kind of clothes you should wear does, of course, depend on the position in question. Hope this helps.


Chill out

Just calm down!! Like, seriously, if you can’t keep your nerves under control, there’s no way you’ll get this job. You’ll have to move out of your flat and live under a pile of newspapers on the corner of the street. You’ll have to sell your plasma. So, you must relax. I can’t stress that enough. Hope this helps.

img-20151103-wa0000

One thing that always chills me out is the thought that, even if I don’t get the job, at least I’ll have a free cup of instant coffee and excuse to talk about myself for a couple of hours. Free substandard coffee and Rosie-centric chat are amongst my favourite things. “I guess it all started when I was eight…”

I think it’s a good idea, to sedate the butterflies in your stomach, to imagine that you’re heading to a mediocre, somewhat sterile business-themed caf to have a chat with a friend of yours. Don’t think about it as a job interview: think about it as a conversation with a mate who always insists you wear suits whenever you meet.

Sure, this falls down because very few friends are quite that interested in your employment history, and you probably shouldn’t swear quite that much at a potential boss, but it will give you a certain joviality and cheeriness. Those are qualities, as we all know, which are valued extremely highly by businesses.


Prepare answers for predictable questions

No two interviews are exactly alike, but most employers are bound to ask similar sort of things – why do you want this job, what experience do you have, why have you brought a wasp nest to a business park. That kind of thing. It’s worth scripting answers for some of the more common questions so you can reel them off fluently. Here are a couple of examples; feel free to use them, although I fear they’re not as universal as I’d like so you may have to adapt them.

Tell me about yourself.

Here’s something I really should’ve been prepared for. In the heat of the moment, I think I described myself as “rather reliable and quite hardworking,” but I wish I’d had this to say:

Switch out “Louella” for “Rodge” and “thirty-seven years of age” for “a legal adult, I can show you ID”. Apart from that, this is spot on.

The important bit runs from 00:08 to 00:37; I included the whole clip partly because it’s a banger and partly because I dunno how to crop videos.

What makes you want to work as a breakfast waitress?

This question genuinely did stump me for a couple of seconds because the honest answer was that I really didn’t. I managed to cobble together the following, though:

We have a phrase in English: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I completely agree with that. I think there’s something really special about how that first coffee of the morning can change your mood: it’s almost magical seeing how a person changes after drinking a coffee.

Of course, my Czech isn’t that good. Here’s what I actually said. (Imagine it with lots of pauses and flamboyant hand gestures.)

In English at home we have a certain expression: breakfast – it’s the most important food in the daytime. I agree, yes. To me I’d say there’s something very unusual about when you drink coffee for the first time. You feel better. It’s nearly bewitched when you watch a man drink his coffee.

What are your biggest flaws?

It’s a classic. I started off bullshitting, talking about how I’m too much of a perfectionist and other lies, but I’ve changed my perspective. I reckon honesty is the best policy.

For a start, I’m pretty underqualified for this position and I really don’t have any relevant experience. I’d always much rather be writing my blog than stocktaking and I’ll never value efficiency over having a nice sit down. My sense of humour is pretty childish – I’ll struggle not to laugh if a customer falls over in front of me. I don’t know how to iron shirts so my blouses are always creased, and, anyway, I think spending a long time ironing clothes you’re gonna put on is pointless. My time management skills are appalling; I’m often late for things because I get distracted on the metro and miss my spot. I don’t proofread very well and stuff I write often has anagrams of the words I meant to say. I’ll definitely steal toilet paper from the office; you might as well factor it into my pay.

Workplace flaws aside, I’d rather listen to the same album a million times than branch out and try something new. I’m uncomfortable at sea. I dislike my own first name. I take wasps wherever I go; I don’t know why. Sometimes even I don’t know if I’m joking.

Do you have any questions for us?

This might seem like a simple concession to your lack of knowledge about the workplace, but don’t be fooled. It’s actually a key part of the interview process, and you will be graded on your response.

What’s your policy on pets at the office?

How’s things? Really, though. How are you?

What’s your policy on employees crying in the stationery cabinet?


No wasps

This is a piece of advice quite often left out, but I do find it crucial. Absolutely do not take wasps into the office with you – it really is frowned on.

gravid yellow jacket wasp close up photography
Just leave him at home for the afternoon.

I know what you’re saying, “No wasps at all?”

None. No wasps.

Hope this helps.


Leave the interviewer wanting more

As in, literally take some of their stuff.

Kind-Hearted People Told Me More Stuff

For more advice – from both myself and the general public – click  h e r e.

Don’t bother buying a ticket if you’re traveling between Sheffield and Macclesfield.

train rails photography

…Because neither station have ticket barriers and the train’s always too full for the inspector to sidle down.

However, this advice doesn’t account for Sod’s Law AKA my bad luck; I know, with 100% certainty, that the day I chance it and jump on the train without a valid ticket will be the day Sheffield invest in automated ticket gates and a shark tank for those trying to sneak into Yorkshire without proper documentation.

It may be ridiculous to have to pay £14 for a 38 mile journey, but whenever I start to get grouchy about the cost of riding the rails, I comfort myself by imagining that the alternative is getting devoured by hungry fish when I set foot in Sheff. It really does make the ticket feel worth it.

Don’t split infinitives.

Also, don’t end sentences with prepositions.

This is a tricky one, because when I’m writing I consider rigid grammar conventions stuffy and unnecessary; but when I’m reading and I spot even a slight stylistic whoopsie, I’m scandalised.

One rule for me, one for everyone else, I reckon.

Curricula Vitae

Yeah, I did just use the incredibly pretentious, “technically correct” plural form of Curriculum. Fight me.

So, as I might have mentioned once, twice, or a whole pile of times, I recently moved to Prague to give myself a taste of adult life. As a sheltered student never having had to earn my own way before, this has been a terrifying and emotionally scarring experience. I’ve only got through it with the help of beer, chocolate, and long international calls to my family.

grayscale photo of religious statue

At the time of writing, I’m in the process of applying to every job I’m qualified for, and quite a few that I’m not. As such, my CV has undergone a lot of strain recently – before this summer, I hadn’t updated it since Sixth Form, at which point my greatest achievement was playing Mary in my Year Two school play.

The first step in my journey to making myself look employable was deleting every reference to the flash poetry mob I’d tried to start in school. After that, the document was a lot smaller.

Partly motivated by a desire to build a life for myself in Czechia, and partly just because it felt easier than actually applying to any jobs, I dedicated myself to perfecting the art of CVistry. Through a combination of research, instinct and graft, I’ve compiled this list of tips to make your Curriculum Vitae sparkle.

Thank me when you’ve got more interviews than you can shake a stick at.

Do your research

Companies like it when it’s clear you’ve looked into their organisation a bit. Achieve this by, for example, changing your font colour to match their logo, or stealing answers from their FAQ page. Employers will appreciate your attention to detail and readiness to plagiarise.

Become an accredited organisation

That way, you can provide yourself with extra-curricular seminars and classes. If you get a printer, you can even do yourself some charming certificates to show off at interview.

Here’s an excerpt from the “Further Qualifications” section of my own CV (notice my daring experimentation with font & intriguing slogan):

Capture.PNG

[For those wondering, First Aid is ambulances; Second Aid is the doctor at the hospital; Third Aid is the cup of tea your mum makes when you get home; Fourth Aid is sympathy from your friends; and Fifth Aid occurs at the moment your friends judge it appropriate to start taking the piss out of you. I’ve heard rumours of a so-called Sixth Aid, but I don’t know what it entails. I reckon it might be made up.]

Include a picture

This helps let employers know that you’re presentable and outgoing. Stick a little thumbnail of you doing your best “please hire me” smile on every printout.

In fact, include two pictures.

Hell, why stop there? Delete all the words. If you can’t tell the story of your employment history pictorially, what’s the point? Your future boss will love your brevity and creativity.

Here’s an example:

This CV shows that Rosie Daniels is assiduous, creative, at home in a hard hat, studious, all round good egg, etc. etc. etc.

I don’t have a great deal of work experience so I’ve included some other people and stock photos in mine. I don’t think you can tell, though.

The one problem is providing contact details in pictorial form. You have to commit to the format though. Here’s an example of how you can spell out your phone number:

Honestly, if a potential employer can’t figure that out, do you really want to work for them?

Lie

Because no one’s gonna check if you’re actually the first person from your village to have been conceived through IVF, but it sure as shortbread sounds impressive.

Include hidden messages

Like this:

super grape.PNG

Go paperless

Every good employer is as concerned about the environment as you are, and they’ll appreciate your thriftiness and commitment to frugality. Instead of printing off your CV, buy forty or fifty memory sticks and hand them to potential bosses. Not only does it take some of the pressure off the rainforest, it makes you look like highballer with millions of pen drives to spare.

 


 

Now, go forth into the workplace, my children! Stand by for my equally down-to-earth and level-headed interview tips (coming soon).

More Assorted Advice!

I posted a short compilation of some of the advice I’ve been given over the years, but if you’re anything like me, you need as much help as you can get. With that in mind, here’s a couple more tips for your assessment.

Go gluten free.

rice wheat field
I actually don’t really know what gluten is. This is a picture of wheat I found on the Internet.

A bunch of people, probably tired of hearing me complain about various gastrointestinal discomforts, have suggested I’d get tummy aches less often if I changed my diet. My generally haunted appearance does, I think, make people wonder what’s up with my nutrition – although, if I do say so, I reckon I eat pretty well.

As such, I’ve followed exactly none of the following guidelines, and, honestly, I think I’d die if I did.

As well as cutting out gluten, people have recommended that I

  • eat sixteen almonds every day;
  • increase my calcium intake;
  • stop eating meat;
  • only eat things of one colour at any one time;
  • liquidise all my food;
  • start eating meat (after I stopped);
  • only eat foods people are allergic to (jury is out on whether cat hair and pollen count as food – dust definitely doesn’t);
  • take every vitamin supplement under the sun;
  • only eat vegetables that are grown underground;
  • lay off the mashed potatoes;
  • drink a glass of lemon juice every day;
  • and, probably most weirdly, only eat naked. (Surely this just increases my risk of soup burns, though…?)

Never have sex on carpet.

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My friend, with a wide-eyed sincerity I’d never seen before, said this to me during a mostly unrelated conversation.

Never,” she said, “have sex on carpet.”

I looked up from my mug of Horlicks. “Yeah?” I said, a bit taken aback by her intensity.

She pulled up her shirt and showed me a shiny patch of skin on her back.

“Oof,” I said. It was a nasty burn.

“That’s from two years ago,” she said.

“Oof!”

The opportunity to take her advice hasn’t arisen yet, but I do remember it whenever I have sex or see a Carpet Right – that burn was pretty massive. Save a life; spread the word.

Miscellaneous Advice From the Well-Intentioned: Part One

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.

potatoes
Pre-mashed potatoes

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’.

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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.

Another Cautionary Tale

This story takes place in Blinders, a bar in St Petersburg that I wrote an incredibly soppy blog about yesterday.

The month was April; the canals had just thawed and I had swapped my thick winter jacket for my very slightly thinner spring fleece. I was, predictably, in the pub, tasting the newest pint they had on draught. It was called Raskolnikov, and it was the second best beer I’d ever tasted.

“Oof,” I said.

I was keen to make conversation with Lyosha, the barman, and to practise my Russian, so I wasn’t content to leave it at that. “That’s really nice.” I realised I could stretch my Russian a little further, so I added, “That’s very tasty.”

“Yeah,” he said. He and I were the only people in the bar. I fiddled with my receipt and started folding a crane. Lyosha rearranged some glasses.

“It really is very… nice,” I said, failing to think of a third synonym. I decided to draw on this native Russian’s experience: “Lyosha,” I said, “what do you call it when something is, really, just very, very tasty?”

“Oh,” he said, “we can say it’s ахуенно [akh-oo-yen-a]. If it’s really good.”

“Cool!” I said. “Well, this beer is ахуенно!”

Lyosha laughed heartily; I was thrilled: making Russians laugh was a personal goal of mine, and not one that I achieved that often – with the exception of at my expense, when my accent crossed the line from bad to egregious. Another customer came in; they spoke in Russian too quickly for me to understand, but soon after a friend joined me and we got to talking.

“How’s the beer?” he asked.

“Ахуенно!”

I kept describing my pint as such, and my enthusiasm was met by smiles every time. This is a great word, I thought to myself. People love it.

I went to university in high spirits the next day: yesterday had been so unexpectedly full of smiles and people asking how much I liked my beer that my spirits were soaring. My teacher, seeing my uncharacteristically bright expression, asked me how my evening was. I was keen to use this fabulous word, to replicate the great reception it’d received the night before.

I replied cheerily, “Well, it was simply ахуенно!”

My teacher’s face dropped. “…Rosie,” she said, “where did you hear that word?”

“In a bar,” I replied, bemused. This wasn’t the response I was used to.

“Rosie, please, don’t talk that way,” she said.

Later, in Blinders, I told Lyosha what had happened, tone full of confusion and wide-eyed with innocence. He burst out laughing, called his friend over and had me repeat the story.

“You told me it meant good!!” I said, watching both men wipe tears from their eyes.

“It does,” he said, “but it’s not the kind of thing you say to your teacher.”

[After careful etymological study, my friends and I have concluded that the closest English translation to ахуенно is the rather charming cuntastic. Remembering saying that to my seventy year old Russian teacher will stay with me to my death bed.]

From that moment until the day I left Russia in June, Lyosha introduced me to friends, and, indeed, strangers, as the girl who said ахуенно to her teacher. The story was met with singular hilarity and disbelief.

Anyway, this is a cautionary tale to anyone who, like me, is stupid enough not to attach context to the words you learn in bars.

Have an ахуенный day, dear readers!