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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Bland Stuff

Reasons I’ve Got Coffee in My Shoes

There are a lot of unexplained mysteries in the world: the Bermuda Triangle, crop circles, tofu, and the Mary Celeste, to name but a few. Sure, everyone’s got their own pet theories – and some confident souls clutching scientific equations, previously undiscovered historical documents, or curds made from coagulated soy milk might insist they’ve stumbled across the answer – but we’re still all basically in the dark about these intriguing enigmas.

Not that anyone minds too much: there’s something delightful about an enigma. It’s just human nature to be drawn in by riddles – how else can you explain the popularity of murder mystery parties, or those shit jokes in Christmas crackers?

silhouette of a man during sunset
This is a stock photo I found by searching for “mystery”

To add to the expected head-scratchers, something both mysterious and inexplicable happened to me when I got home from work yesterday.

Let me set the scene: it was half past eleven, GMT+1. It was a crisp night, and I’d just navigated my way across a Prague heaving with the usual Saturday night crowd (ie mostly stag and hen does intoxicated by a mixture of a excitement, b cheap beer, c cheap absinthe, and d a little bit more beer). I was exhausted from a dramatic and challenging shift at the hostel.

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This is the only picture of myself at work I have. Note the impressive 8.3 rating.

(The boiler had broken down and, as the closest thing to a Czech speaker on shift at the time, I’d been dispatched to the heating room to be remotely guided through the resetting process by the maintenance guy. (Phone conversations are so stressful that it took me a good five minutes to understand he was telling me to push the giant red button.) Also, a group of lads had been caught smoking out the window, and I’d accidentally given someone $50 worth of change rather than 50€ (ie grossly shortchanging them). But I digress.)

I got home, so exhausted from boiler/currency exchange drama that I could barely find the strength to put the kettle on. Little did I know that I was wearing this generation’s Loch Ness Monster on my feet (in terms of mysteriousness, not smell and/or plausible imaginariness); and yet – when I took my shoes off, there it was: a whole bunch of ground coffee.

How can I be sure it was coffee grounds and not, say, dirt or generic brown dust? Because, thanks, I think, to my extreme tiredness, I didn’t hesitate to smell the mysterious stuff, and recognised the aroma of everyone’s favourite socially acceptable addictive substance.

What the actual (sorry, Mum) fuck? Sure, I drink a lot of coffee and I’m pretty clumsy, but I’ve never spilt a drink so badly that it’s ended up in powder form in my shoe. This was something else.

Invigorated by the mystery (and, maybe, by the delayed effect of caffeine entering my bloodstream via the ankle), I fixed myself a steaming mug of Horlicks, installed myself at the kitchen table and, equipped with pencil and extra large receipt, made the following list of theories.

Perhaps I

  • jostled someone transporting stolen coffee on the metro;
  • fell victim to a good-natured prank at work;
  • developed the ability to secrete coffee powder through the heel;
  • unknowingly walked through a coffee spillage somewhere between the tram stop and my home;
  • was on the receiving end of the mild revenge of the customer I short-changed;
  • unknowingly had my shoe stolen by some looters to use as a receptacle for their liberated coffee – on completing the job, they returned the shoe, plus some spare grounds, to my flat via the cat flap;
  • fell victim to a mean-spirited prank at work;
  • or, and this is a long shot, spilt coffee grounds when I was making a coffee this morning.

We’ll never know what really happened, of course. Surely heads will be scratched over this particular mystery for years to come.

future

Peanut Butter Sandwiches in the Year 2079

Maybe it has to do with reaching the threshold of adulthood, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the future.

It’s not just me: whenever my friends and I meet in a cafe, the conversation inevitably turns to what’s going to happen in the coming years. We hunch over cups of Horlicks, BBC News open on our phones, and prophesy doom about global politics, Brexit, graduate schemes, house prices in London. That kind of thing.

To be honest, when I’m on my own, I rarely think about such lofty aspects of future life. When I’m done with my homework and I’m too lazy even to watch Netflix, I like to sprawl in my armchair, wrap myself in my duvet, and think about how life will be in the year 2079.

What will people do for work 81 years from now? I ask myself. Where will they live? What will they do for fun?

I will be an old lady in 2079 with squadrons of great-great-grandnieces and nephews, and I think it’s important to catalogue my expectations of society so when, bribed with sci-fi sweets and glow sticks, they gather around my atomic rocking chair I can bore the kids with stories of retrofuturism.

“Put down the nanoflobuliser and stop messing with your sister’s space suit,” I will say, “and come listen.”

As any dedicated bland-blog reader will have discerned, approximately 60% of my brain power at any one time is spent considering food. It’s not surprising, then, that one of my favourite things to wonder about is food in the future. Will, as my parents believed, the next generation grow up on pills, spurning regular food for lab-generated, vitamin-balanced supplements?

No. That’s science fiction, and on this blog, dear reader, I’m concerned with facts. I’ve studied global food trends and conducted surveys with consumers and with giants of the food production industry, and now, after years of painstaking research that’s had a huge impact not only on my degree but on my private life as well, I present to you my findings. This, I can tell you with 84% accuracy, is the food that will dominate the dinner table of the future:

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Your eyes do not deceive you. That is a peanut butter sandwich.

More specifically, it’s smooth peanut butter spread on white bread with a garnish of sliced bananas.

Maybe you’re disappointed: maybe you were hoping for something futuristic and unrecognisable – a plate of concept food you can barely comprehend. Test tubes of gloop or strange, fluorescent orbs full of a viscous jus. Compared to the science fiction food of your fantasies, the humble peanut butter and banana sarnie must be something of a disappointment.

The science doesn’t leave room for interpretation. The peanut butter sandwich is the food of the future, and, if you think about it, it makes sense. As the meat industry loses its capacity to sustainably feed a growing population, more of the world will become vegetarian. And the vegan’s treat of choice – a spoonful of peanut butter scoffed over the kitchen sink.

In the year 2078, the status of the peanut butter sandwich will have been elevated. Now a guilty midnight snack, in the future it will be the very zenith of haute cuisine. The Queen (yes, she will still be alive) will spurn roast swan for her Christmas dinner in favour of a toasted peanut-butter-and-banana delight; the top restaurants in London will boast about the superiority of their bread:spread ratio; and cooking shows, from Saturday Kitchen to Hairy Bikers, will be centred around making your own peanut butter from scratch.

People, living in their biodomes on Mars, will stockpile bread and jars of peanut butter and the artisan coffee shops of the Martian capital will be rated based on the quality of their sarnies.

Also, and I don’t want to believe this either, instead of pudding, people in the year 2079 will eat ham yoghurt. To be clear, that’s a regular greek yoghurt with Billy Bear ham stirred through. Stuff like that is just hard to swallow.

Bland Stuff

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.

advice

Beauty Regime

“Rosie,” they say in awe, “your skin is so grainy. Your hair defies all known laws of physics. Did you know irons exist?”

I’m used to the public’s veneration by now; I nod modestly and try and change the subject, but my admirers are unstoppable.

“You look like an extra in a film about rickets,” they say, “Have you put eyeshadow under your eyes or have you not slept for twenty years?”

I smile a Mona Lisa smile, sip my Horlicks.

“Tell us your secret,” they beg. “Tell us how we, too, can look like a background actor in Peaky Blinders.”

Up to now, I’ve always brushed off requests to share my beauty regime, but the time has come to tell all. In this, a bland-blog exclusive, you can find out how to achieve my sought-after look.

Cucumber

Throw it out. You’re in Russia now; the only vitamins you’re allowed are from the piles of dill added to every dish. Don’t worry, though – this monochrome diet will give you the wide eyes and pallor of a Victorian urchin. Very chic.

Shave ur head

More specifically, have a friend of a friend do it for you.

Sick of my fringe getting in my eyes, I let my most stylish friend drag me to a part of the city I’d never visited before. We ducked into his mate’s barbers: “Do exactly what you want,” I said to her, more proud of the fact that I’d formed the imperative correctly than actually wanting a haircut.

“Exactly what I want,” she said thoughtfully, and whipped out the scissors. A couple of minutes later, she said, “I’m going to use the машинки, are you ready?”

I’ve got used to having no clue what people are saying to me. “Yep, ready,” I said. Turns out машинки are hair clippers.

 

 

Sounds stupid but I really didn’t expect my ears to look like that.

In other news, it turns out having a cool haircut doesn’t make your selfie game any stronger – I don’t know why I didn’t take the fucking toothbrush out of my mouth.

Stay humble

Sure, you look incredible, but keep in mind the envy you’re bound to be inspiring in everyone who sees you. Drop in the odd self-deprecating comment (or, if you’re feeling extra, full-length blog) to keep yourself grounded.

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Humility’s a virtue

 

Cats

Here’s a secret: when you’re having a bad hair/face/overall appearance day, use cats to distract people. They’ll look at your adorable furry friend and your bedhead will be overlooked.

Case in point:

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Bet you didn’t even notice I’m in that.

Mate with massive camera

It turns out a talented photographer can make anyone look cool as fuck, even me.

 

Side note – on the day we took those pictures, I was hungover as shit and wearing yesterday’s clothes.

“Shouldn’t we wait til I’m having a good face day?” I asked.

“This is your look,” he replied. “Now go stand by that wall and look miserable.”

Go figure.