We Need to Talk. Period.

It’s safe to say that women are far better off today than 50 years ago, but there’s nothing that reminds me more of how much further there is to go than the stigma around the time of the month when Satan – I mean, ‘mother nature’ – comes to visit. It’s amazing how many people are ‘grossed out’ and pull a face whenever someone mentions anything to do with periods. A tampon falls out of your bag and suddenly everyone is looking at it in horror. I mean I could understand if it was a used one, but when has anyone ever had a used tampon in their bag? That’s not what happens.

I went to an all-girls secondary school, so luckily was in an environment during the dreaded teen years where everyone was pretty accepting about periods. The times girls used to bring it up to male teachers to see what would happen occurred fairly often, and nine times out of ten the male teacher would pale, panic, and send the girl to matron. The only negative experience I’ve had about periods in school was when one teacher literally yelled at the class about how girls just needed to ‘man up’ (great use of language there) and stop asking to leave the class because you felt ill from your period, which was then repeated in an assembly. This was only made up by the fact that another teacher completely disagreed, explaining that when she had her period as a teenager she would often have to call in sick. It seems to me that not many people understand that, like bodies, everyone’s period is different. Some girls have light periods, some girls get heavy periods, and some girls have different kinds every cycle. Some throw up, some get cramps, some get excruciating headaches, and some barely notice their period come and go.

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So why don’t people know these sort of things? Well, despite the fact that are society is improving, the ‘period’ is still a taboo topic – and when you really think about it, it’s difficult to understand why. Those who have periods, whether they identify as women or not, are made to feel ashamed for bleeding each month like it’s disgusting, as if we can just choose not to. Is it just not common knowledge that periods are 100% natural, aren’t unhygienic, and literally happen to everyone who has a vagina? Hell, it’s still front page news when someone posts a photo of themselves with blood spotting through their jeans. There are protests and campaigns with women free bleeding that make people lose their minds. I didn’t know that everyone experiences something different when they have periods until my late teens, simply because we just don’t talk about it. It’s like we have to act like having our period is some dirty little secret, despite the fact that everyone knows about it anyway.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic recently due to the campaigning about the moon cup, known in some places as the diva cup depending on which brand you use. Typically there are two main ways to handle your period, which are using tampons or sanitary towels or both. Both of these aren’t good for the environment with a lot of packaging, but it’s all that was on offer. There are some other options like some birth control that stops your period all together, but who knows the long term effects that has on someone’s body – you’re literally using drugs to stop a natural cycle the body goes through.

Despite this, there have been some new products being introduced. The two that I’m aware of are the THINX underwear, which are underwear that you can wear on your period that you can just stick in the wash after wearing them for a few hours, holding as much as two tampon’s worth of blood. Reusable, completely hygienic, and far less hassle. The second is the moon cup, something that’s recently taken a real spike on social media and has won plenty of awards. Essentially it’s a cup that sits slightly lower down than a tampon does and it collects the blood. Again, it’s reusable as you can easily clean it out, and overall better for the environment. I decided to give one a try and, when I had some positive results, I talked to a few friends and family members about it. I was mildly surprised to find that some just didn’t want to know about it, the very mention of the word ‘period’ striking such horror in their hearts that they couldn’t bear to go on. The mere idea of blood leaving someone’s vagina just as bad and disgusting as discussing explosive diarrhoea. And it’s simply mad.

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Why is society still enforcing this stigma around periods? Why are we still teaching young kids that this is something you don’t discuss or talk about, that it should be kept ‘hush hush’ because people just don’t want to hear about it? Why must those who have periods have to suffer because of everyone else’s unwarranted distaste? Again, a period is 100% natural, and trust me – it is far worse for the person who actually has to have the period. When I was a young teen I became physically sick each month, and still get excruciating cramps that I have to pretend aren’t happening and just breathe through, feeling sick for a good couple of days. Why should I have to keep quiet about it? Why shouldn’t I be talking about it? Why can’t I discuss something natural about my body without worrying that someone else will be uncomfortable?

This is why we need campaigns like the moon cup and THINX. We need to normalise periods and stop tolerating those who punish us when it’s mentioned. I was going to talk about these campaigns in an application for a job answering a question about important campaigns, but was advised not to because it might put off any men looking over the application. This is not what we should have to be concerned about, and it is not a precaution I should have to take just to protect someone’s sensitive ears from talking about what so many of us have to experience. We should be making a move to stop this kind of behaviour. We need to march up to them, sit them down and say:

“We need to talk. Period”.

Quick to Judge

It’s taken me a while to try and gather my thoughts on this particular topic, and I still don’t think I’ve fully committed to one thing or another, but I’m going to try to articulate my warring emotions anyway.

Most of you will have heard in the news about Cincinnati zoo killing a gorilla as a boy fell into the enclosure. There are many opinions flying around, as they are wont to do, and obviously everyone is devastated that the gorilla was killed. People are blaming the zoo, the boy’s guardian, the boy himself – and my main thought coming from this is that everyone is very quick to judge and lay blame on someone. Most claim that the gorilla was protecting the child, as we can see in the video leaked that the gorilla is standing over the boy and keeping him close. I have not yet seen footage of the gorilla moving the boy, as the video shows them in two different sections of the enclosure, so of course I can’t say whether he did drag the child or move him violently.

For me, I think that, yes, the gorilla may well have been protecting the boy, and it is very easy for us to jump to that conclusion. But a very tough decision had to be made. If they tried to tranquillise the gorilla, it would have taken too long to take hold and could have very easily angered the animal, bringing potentially more harm or even killing the child. If someone else tried to enter the enclosure, the gorilla could have harmed them.

There is no black and white clear answer. At the end of the day, a decision had to be made and I think the people who had to make that decision shouldn’t be criticised. In that circumstance, there isn’t much you can do under such pressure and a time limit. They couldn’t leave and come back with clear minds – the life of the boy was in danger, and they had to put him as priority. I don’t know whether we should be trying to find someone to blame. Sure we can blame the parents or guardians, but again for the majority of us we just don’t know what exactly happened.

It’s the easiest thing in the world to judge someone else’s actions. The ‘what ifs’ are dangerous, but understandable. Maybe we should question parenting. Maybe we should question zoo security. Maybe we should question the lives of animals in cages. One thing is for certain though – it’s easy to jump to decisions when you’ve read one article written by one person or heard something through the grapevine. It’s easy to blame someone else and claim that you would have acted differently.

But you probably weren’t there. You weren’t the one who had to make the fast decision between ensuring the child’s life or leaving it at risk. If the child had died instead of the gorilla, what would the headlines say? The zoo would be at fault, a mother with tear-streaked face would be everywhere – and maybe that one thought of animals in cages being wrong would pull through.

I don’t know all the answers. I don’t know what was right or wrong in this situation. Like I’m sure everyone does, I want to think that there was somehow a way to save both the child and the gorilla, but there is no certain way of doing that. So far, no one has offered an option where that would have been possible – yet at the same time, we’ve all had time to think up ways and possibilities and chances and opportunities.

So, I’m sorry, but I don’t know who to blame. I’m devastated that a gorilla had to be killed, but I understand why that decision was made. It’s so easy to judge, and when we can all comment on an article on facebook and voice our opinions to the world it’s tempting to take the superior standing and yell at everyone. However, that doesn’t make it right.

Ten bizarre moments in Ancient Literature

When we think of Ancient Greece, we see a society of culture, dedicated to the highest forms of art. There are the great philosophers like Socrates and Plato, or great tragedians such as Sophocles and Euripides. The ‘Golden Age’ of our time, the people we aspire to be like. However, there are some scenes in the so called ‘great’ pieces of literature that aren’t exactly, shall we say, so refined. As a classics student, this is clearly a subject that I adore and what better way to share that love than with a fun list?

  1. Medea’s exit

Euripides’ Medea is one of the most well-known tragedies. Studied in schools, cited by scholars, revived in modern theatre – this play is a perfect example of how these ancient pieces of work still permeate our everyday lives. The Medea is known mainly for our central character, the bitter Medea who is known from another great work, Jason and the Argonauts. This is one of the only plays that has a female character as the central one, and it’s easy to see why. We follow her throughout the play, plotting her revenge against Jason, who has chosen to marry someone else – and a Princess at that – despite all that Medea has sacrificed for him. In true stereotypical jealous woman manner, Medea exacts her revenge, which ends up killing not only his fiancée, but so that he is utterly destroyed, she kills her two children. This is the part of the play that most of us can recall – ah, yes, the woman who killed her children to ‘get back’ at her husband. Well, there is one detail that is often left out and that is Medea’s uncommon exit. Just as she’s killed her children and laughs at Jason’s despair, she proceeds to exit on a chariot pulled by dragons. I’m sure many of us would like to know whether this was just accepted by the original ancient audience or laughed off.

  1. Ajax’s blind rage

Sophocles’ Ajax recounts the demise of the great, notable Ajax, a warrior who was present at the Trojan War, second only to Achilles. In Sophocles’ play, we see the great warrior enter a fit of rage over Achilles’ armour, gifted to Odysseus instead of Ajax, and so begins our tragedy. Ajax is known for entering this fury, only to end it by symbolically killing himself with the sword of Hector, the Trojan Prince. There are a few more details that need to be added to this common knowledge, however. First of all, Ajax’s rage incited him to murder some of the generals and soldiers of the Greek camp, but he is stopped by the Goddess Athena who adds a certain ‘blindness’ to his rage. Ajax so turns his bloodlust not to his fellow men but, and here’s the kicker, some sheep. Yes, we have a tragedy where the central killing is that of a flock of sheep, who Ajax believes to be men. There is even a scene where Odysseus and the Goddess watch as Ajax tortures a sheep, believing it to be Odysseus.

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  1. Aristophanes’ Frogs

Ancient comedies are known to be pretty vulgar, what with the giant phalli and poor slapstick comedy. Aristophanes is one such playwright that we have several works from, and one of the well-known plays is his Frogs. Already we can anticipate the nature of the play and shouldn’t be surprised that there is a chorus of, you guessed it, frogs. However, there is one particularly odd moment in the play that really deserves a mention. In the Underworld, we are with the God Dionysus and his slave Xanthius and, in true comedic fashion, they have encountered a spot of trouble. Naturally, the issue is proving themselves not to be a God and, as we all know, Gods do not feel pain, so they are whipped (most likely on their bottoms) to determine who is the God. The height of comedy does, indeed, come down to a spanking.

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  1. Aristophanes’ Frogs 2

It’s not surprising that there is another instance that deserves a mention in Aristophanes’ Frogs. This is at the beginning of the play, where we see conversations between Dionysus and Xanthius. Dionysus, the God of Theatre and Wine, is shown to be cowardly and not the brightest bulb in the box, whereas Xanthius his slave is the sarcastic, intelligent slave who often outwits his master. One truly enlightening scene to their characters, and why this has made the list twice, is when Xanthius tries to scare his master, yet his plan backfires. As in, Dionysus literally backfires. There you are, watching something by ‘masterful’ playwright, and in true slapstick fashion, a character opened his bowls over the stage.

 

  1. Women in charge

At this point, we can gather that women are not exactly given the best light – unsurprising with the background of Medea killing her children and the adulterous Helen causing the Trojan War. However, Aristophanes earns a third and final mention with his Lysistrata. This is a comedy about the lengths women go to in order to stop the Peloponnesian War. The central plot of the play, which is what most people remember, is the women withholding sex from their husbands until they stop the war – this, naturally, works, and succeeds in insulting both genders. As if this were not bizarre enough already, there is the dialogue that litters the play. Among the usual innuendoes such as ‘big and meaty’, we have discussions of the ‘lioness on a cheese grater position’ and women’s own personal pleasure with ‘big, black, leather jobs’.

 

  1. The Swan Child

There are many odd moments in Ancient mythology, but this one is a personal favourite. The God of Gods Zeus is known for having a large sexual appetite, and one day he decides that he wants the beautiful Leda. To do this, Zeus decides to turn himself into a swan and to rape her in that form. This act then produced, as it is want to do, a child – a swan child, if you will. This child is of course the beautiful Helen, who runs away with Paris and starts the Trojan War.

  1. Aphrodite’s birth

Many people can tell you that Aphrodite is the goddess of love and beauty – there is even some very poor modern literature out there where female leads are called Aphrodite. However, her birth, her ‘origin story’ if you will, isn’t exactly what you would call beautiful. Cronus, the son of Uranus and Gaia, ends up chopping off his father’s testicles and throws them into the sea. Foam begins to foam around them and it is from this foam that the wonderful Aphrodite is born.

 

  1. The Rock

The reasoning for hacking off his father’s genitals is due to Cronus wishing to help his mother Gaia, whom his father Uranus torturing by forcing their children back up her womb. (Suspension of belief is important for these stories, if you hadn’t already gathered). Cronus, however, also did not have a good reputation with his children as it was foretold that he would be overthrown by one of them. This then causes him to swallow each baby after it was born. In retaliation, Gaia hides one of the babies – the notorious Zeus – and instead hands Cronus a rock instead of a child. Cronus, the clever god that he is, does not notice and swallows the rock. Zeus ends up growing up and eventually frees his brothers and sisters, who are miraculously still alive. That’s mythology for you.

  1. Elpenor

We go back even further now to The Odyssey, the great Homer, the foundation of all Ancient Literature. Many of us know the tales of Odysseus, how he faced the Cyclops, slept with lots of women but still remained ‘faithful’ to his dear wife Penelope. We know all about the wily, cunning Odysseus, but it turns out that he isn’t always the smartest man around. This is shown when one of his men, Elpenor, gets slightly intoxicated, falls off a roof, and dies. As is usual in the ancient world, when you die you go to the Underworld. Back to the living, Odysseus decides to travel with his remaining men to the Underworld for certain reasons and, unsurprisingly, bumps into Elpenor then. It is at this moment, that Odysseus questions how Elpenor managed to beat them to the Underworld because, indeed, how could have his dead comrade reached the Underworld before him? A puzzling one, that.

 

  1. The Beetle’s entrance

I feel it’s only fitting to once again mention, and now end, with another classic moment from one of Aritophanes’ plays, Peace. The bizarre moment in this place – well, at least my favourite one – occurs right at the beginning. You meet two slaves who are gathering excrement to feed a dung beetle – not too out of the ordinary at this stage – who is owned by their master, Trygaeus. Moments later, Trygaeus enters the stage. Unlike Medea, Trygaeus clearly likes to make a dramatic entrance – but this time, it is not in a chariot pulled by dragons. No, Trygaeus enters the stage flying on top of a giant dung beetle and flies upward to visit the Gods. There is also a demand from him to the audience, requesting that they do not fart or poo so that they might not distract his mount.

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It’s safe to say, it’s all Greek to me.

It’s a Resolution

Yep, it’s that time of year again. Time to look back at last years resolutions that I wrote down and to make some new ones.

2015 was an interesting year for me; survived first year, got a new job, met wonderful people, had surgery (again), moved to Vauxhall, also moved to Hove/Brighton area – and I wrapped it all up on New Year’s Eve watching the London fireworks from just outside my flat with my friends.

Right, let’s see what I wanted last year.

  1. Have a great first year – academically and socially.

Honestly? I did. I passed the year, made wonderful friends, and since starting second year have made even more. It goes to show that if you make an effort to get out there and are friendly, you’re bound to meet some fantastic people.

2. Do more writing and DO something about it.

Yes, past self, I done did. Now a consistent writer for The London Economic, more updated on now two blogs, and I’ve contacted agents left, right, and centre. Yes, I got rejected time and again, but I tried, and I’ll try again. I also participated in NaNoWriMo, and rekindled my love of writing.

3. Be more outgoing. 

Well, that depends on your definition (which I notice, past self, that you did not include – for shame). I’ve tried clubbing a few more times (still prefer a nice chat in a pub with food), but I have been able to be the first one to start conversations and go around chatting to as many people as possible like I’m collecting cards for something.

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…So, that was 2015. Moving onwards.

  1. Be happy, be positive, keep going

It’s hard to try and not regret anything, but that’s what I want to do. I don’t want to just pretend to be happy when I’m not for other people’s sake.

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2. As hard as it may be, write more and contact more agents. 

Rejections, here I come. If you don’t try, you can’t succeed and all that. 

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3. Now for a book challenge: read 50. 

One down, 49 to go.

There’s a theme this year and that’s to keep going. A piece of advice my Mum gave me this year: don’t put yourself down, everyone else will do that for you. Ignore the haters, future self, you’ve got this.

Good luck, you’re going to need it.

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Friendship Heartache

I’ve seen a couple of posts about this, but not many, so I thought I’d get to writing my own.

The amount of books, songs, films, shows etc we have that focus on heartbreak is astounding. If you turn on the radio, you probably can’t avoid hearing a song which is about breaking up with someone, or the mixed jumble of feelings you have for ex-partners. The amount of books I’ve read which have the premise, or even the climax, of the main character going through the stages of grief after breaking up with someone is just as high.

One thing that isn’t talked about nearly enough is that special kind of heartbreak you feel when you lose a friend. This can happen in so many ways – whether it’s just from not speaking to someone in a long time, or having a huge argument, or coming to realise that you no longer want to be friends. Many people would argue that losing a boyfriend/girlfriend is far similar, because more often than not they’re your best friends as well, but in my opinion the friendship heartache is something very different. Sure, heartbreak from a relationship can be crippling, but hopefully your friends are there to pick up the pieces and help you through. When it’s your friend that you lose, who’s there to help you through? How do you explain that that friend just got you in so many ways, and that without them you’re not entirely sure who you are? Who are you supposed to text or call when you overhear a nasty comment about you or when you find out that tesco is no longer selling those reduced chocolates that you’ve been gorging on for the past two months? What are you supposed to do when either you, or they, or both of you, realise that you’re not as close or even want to be as close as you used to be?

Let’s go to my own sob story. In primary school, I had a few people who I would call good friends – not that I’ve spoken to any of them in years – but more or less I was ‘friendly’ with everyone. The first year or two of secondary school was similar; I never really found a group that I thought ‘THESE ARE MY KIND OF PEOPLE’, so I sort of drifted from group to group. Towards the end of my second year (Year 8, when I was about 12/13 years old) I found a group of girls (not a surprise, seeing as I went to an all girls school) that I thought were my best of friends. One girl in particular I called my best friend. She seemed to know everything, and we just had so much fun together. We’d have sleepovers where we’d talk about the boys that weren’t in our lives and the celebrities we wish were in our lives. We’d talk about our families, and hopes, and dreams, and fears – you name it, we probably talked about it. Every now and then, we’d fall out for a few days after a petty comment or argument, but soon enough we were best friends again.

This girl, my best friend, had the power to absolutely destroy me. The amount of times I cried because of something she said to me or said about me to someone else (who then told me – thanks again to girl school gossip) was ridiculous. Over the next few years, I found other girls who I soon called best friends as well, but this first girl was still a fixture in my life. Honestly, she wasn’t a great person. She hurt a lot of people, but I was still friends with her. There was one instance I can remember clearly when I called her up because she was ill, telling her to not worry about anything and to get better soon. When she next came to school, she yelled at me for being such a bitch, calling her up to rub it in her face that she was ill and everyone else wasn’t. There was another time when she took me to ‘the bike sheds’ during one lunchtime and she again shouted at me. She had two other girls with her – and together they made up the original three girls I thought were my closest friends – but they didn’t say anything. It was clear though that they were there to support her. I was told that I was a horrible human being and that I was just jealous of her and hated her because she could wear skirts and make-up and I couldn’t. (I should probably mention here that I never wore make-up – mainly because I had no idea how to use it – and I always wore trousers – I really didn’t like my legs).

She knew exactly what to say to upset me, and she did know exactly what she was doing. The next day, she was back to pretending nothing had happened.

And so the years went on, and in my last two years of school I came to the realisation that I didn’t have to be her friend. I tolerated her, even to the point where I would sit next to her in one of my classes and chat, make jokes – all of that rubbish. I would chat to my true best friends, who would never ever say such awful things to me, and I would feel reassured that I wasn’t the only one who didn’t like this girl. The amount of instances where she made me want to curl up in my bed and never leave it’s safety are too many to count. After our final exams – when we were eighteen years old – I felt like I was a young teen again when one of my friends told me that she told them that she deleted me on facebook and was ‘really smug about it’. That hurt. Despite not even liking this girl, the years that we were friends would flash through my mind. Where was the girl who told me that she thought I was pretty despite my acne? Where was the girl who could make me laugh until my stomach ached?

What did I do? Well, I blocked her, because I didn’t want to see anything about her any longer.

I still feel a huge mix of weird feelings when I think about her now. Weirdly enough, she goes to university in London and I heard something about her from a friend of a friend. Turns out she’s upset a lot of people already at university, and the relief I feel that I don’t have that in my life any more is incredible. It doesn’t do anything to stop that little twinge I feel, that pang of heartache when I think about the times we were friends.

What’s the cure? Well, I’m still working on it. Surrounding yourself with other friends helps, as does eating copious amounts of chocolate. Also writing a blog post seems to help – writing it all down and throwing it out into the world is pretty cathartic (I hope you’ve ‘enjoyed’ reading about all my very important feelings). For me, finding confidence was a big factor. Being strong enough to just think that it was better to have known her and learned something than not at all. I’m better for it, because now I’m not afraid to tell someone ‘no’. I’m not afraid to have opinions, because I know how to fight my corner. I know that I can be independent, and that those stupid teenage fights we had were just that – stupid teenage fights. I have no desire to see her again, but I’d like to think that if I do ever have to speak to her again, I can be the bigger person.

I’ve moved on. I hope she has too.

Lions, and Tigers, and Bears – oh my!

You could literally write a book for every family filled with a collection of their stories, from things grandparents say about modern technology to that time when the child mistook rabbit poo for chocolate. Today I want to share one of my favourite stories from my family, about my Mum and her second student accommodation.

My Mum studied music at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, with an interesting opening few weeks. In fact, she lasted only three weeks at the halls of residence when her course mate upset the kitchen staff (the line ‘this shit is inedible’ was mentioned) which led to them being banished. They then went on a search and found a couple of rooms to rent within a family’s home, but it wasn’t exactly ordinary. 

The landlords of the house were friends with the owners of Bell Vue zoo, and so they were the ones who usually took in animals after they were rejected by their parents. This meant that, when my Mum moved in, there was a lion, two tigers, three afghan hounds, a seventy-year-old man, and a baby.

A fantastic and almost unbelievable setting, this was the place were a couple first-year students lived. The lion apparently loved going out in the car, so they would plonk him on the front seat and go driving – stopping at zebra crossings were the best part of the journey, as the reactions from people all around them were hilarious. Another time when someone came to fix the oven and walked through the sitting room to say hello, only to encounter the lion spread across the sofa who let out a roar at the stranger. The tigers apparently had a game that they liked to play with them in the garden, where one of them would distract the two of them as the other stalked them. 

The story ends when the lion had to go back to the zoo as, although he was relatively young, he was very big. Unfortunately he was too tame to go into the enclosure with the other lions, so had to go into a cage on his own. My Mum and her friend stayed for a year and left when there were a few leopards and the baby-turned-toddler.

If that happened today, it would no doubt be a viral hit on buzzfeed with photos being shared all over the internet. A few people have even rolled their eyes at the story, probably muttering to friends later on that it couldn’t possibly be true. When you get down to it, it’s ridiculous to think about all of these stories that everyone has – so I’m making it my goal to find out as many as possible. Talk about great inspiration fodder.

My time at ‘The Pub’

As promised, my tale of woe which was my time at ‘The Pub’.

At this moment in time, I have a job as a hostess at a football stadium and when I first started working this second job, it wasn’t out of necessity. My parents and I decided to go to one of the many pubs in the village that I live in for dinner – seriously, the village isn’t all that big yet we have 3 pubs and 3 churches (priorities sorted here) – but found that the main pub we use was fully booked. So we decided to walk down the road to the smaller, less commercial pub. It has one of those typical pub names, like ‘Red Lions’, ‘Rose and Crown’ or ‘Kings Head’, but for today I’m just going to call it The Pub – original, I know. We walk in and find it more or less empty, only to be greeted by an eccentric man with glasses that seem too big for his face who declares he has no room. My Dad uses a few charming words and he relents, saying that we’d have to wait a while. We sit down to order, and surprisingly it comes reasonably quickly. The customers seem friendly, all locals, and I overhear the landlady saying that they really need some help so, without thinking about it, I offer to help out. I write down my name and number on a piece of paper and that was that.

I did not see what was coming. 

My first shift, I discovered that ‘eccentric’ doesn’t even cover the landlord – who we’re going to call Frank. He doesn’t run or walk, but does this strange leaping, shuffle glide all over the place whilst wearing a discoloured netted hat. My first job was essentially a dishwasher, but I’d wash up everything and then put it into an actual dishwasher. Wait until it was done, unpack and put away – rinse, repeat. I’d be in the kitchen with at least one other, sometimes it was Frank and sometimes it was someone else. They would cook and I’d go out to deliver – also having to wear one of those checkered aprons and scratchy hats. Unfortunately Frank decided that I needed to be introduced – loudly – to every table, where he would declare ‘This is Eleanor Rigby – she’s new here!’. I swear, there is nothing worse than people actually knowing you’re new. Sure, if you mess up I’m the first to say ‘I’m so sorry, I’m new’ but when they know, they’re ready to criticise every movement you do. Not to mention that they were having Frank sing Eleanor Rigby whenever I entered the room. I’ve never wanted to hide from the world more than in those moments.

Luckily that sort of died down after a couple of weeks, but the crazy didn’t exactly end. Frank was as friendly as could be, everyone loved him, but he did every job there – waiter, bartender, cook, landlord and entertainment. For me he was like marmite, some days I loved him and the next I hated him. One day he’d tell me that I was doing really well, and the next his breath stank of gravy and his fingers were blacker than usual – on that note, one of my biggest issues with working in the pub was the food. It didn’t really click how pub food was actually made, but let me tell you that the main appliances used are the fryers and the microwaves. Fish and chips? Take them out the freezer, throw them in the fryer, put them on the plate and go. And the gravy? I get a jug, pour in a few tablespoons of instant and fill with boiling water – all which Frank insisted on taste testing, so his breath always stank of old instant gravy. When someone ordered a cappuccino, I wanted to cry as that too was instant.

Still, I kind of liked working at The Pub. My colleagues were fun and always ready to crack a joke or have a laugh. Frank wasn’t always so bad, apart from the time that there was a mouse in the kitchen and he told us to just leave it (luckily the mouse got out after a minute, but still). The only sort of sour note was the landlady, who would come down to complain to customers, yell at Frank, tell me that a strand of my hair was loose and then claim that she could leave for Scotland at any time. Unfortunately, it all went downhill pretty quickly.

It all started when I turned 18. All of a sudden, I was no longer just a dishwasher-waitress, but a dishwasher-waitress-and-legal-to-sell-alcohol. Frank announced that I was going to be put on the bar and to come for my next shift at 6.30pm to be bar trained. I was actually pretty excited, along with incredibly nervous, about finally being on the bar but I figured that it wouldn’t be too bad. Again, you can all guess that I was horrendously wrong.

It turned out that the only thing I actually knew how to use was the till, which was broken when I showed up for my shift. Frank also told me that if I needed anything he’d be in the kitchen, and so he left. Me. Alone. On. The. Bar. With no training. No clue. Not to mention that I’m a serial worrier through many years of practice and panic. There were two typical local blokes standing at the bar who had finished a day working as builders and were finishing their first pint of the night. The local alcoholic was also sat on one side of the bar, quietly drinking his beer. I was behind the bar, quietly panicking.

The two blokes then told me that they wanted a pint each, so I told them that I’d have to go get Frank to show me which of course set them off to loudly complaining and being insulting. Frank arrived, pulled a pint, and then left again. I tried to pull the second pint but ended up with a bit too much head. The bloke complained and told me that I had to redo the whole thing. Unaware that I didn’t need to completely redo the drink, I was soon met with laughter and more comments on how stupid I was being for a ‘blonde little girl’. Eventually, I sorted the drink, but by then a couple was up to the bar wanted their drinks. Frank was leaping-shuffle-gliding around the kitchen, too busy to help me. I managed to pull another pint for the man, but the woman wanted a drink I’d never heard of. I apologised and she told me, if somewhat reluctantly irritated, but I had no clue where anything was. Ready to almost burst into tears, the town alcoholic caught my attention and silently pointed to the fridge. I found the components of the drink and was ready to pour them one by one into the glass, but he stopped me with a hand up and made a motion to pour them simultaneously. I thanked him profusely and gave the couple their drinks, only for the man to tell me that I was pretty useless and that I took too long for two simple drinks.

I ended up being dismissed by Frank after thirty minutes. He stood next to the two blokes who’d been nasty to me earlier and seemed to be telling them a funny story whilst telling me to go home. ‘Look, you’re a girl who knows nothing, can’t pour a drink and I have customers – because of that I have no choice but to close the kitchen and I will have to do the bar’. He shrugged at the blokes in a ‘what am I to do’ gesture, chuckling as they laughed and drank their beers.

I don’t really care if it makes me a ‘wuss’, but I walked home with tears in my eyes and burst into tears when I got there. I worked at The Pub for the rest of the summer, but never called back again. Frank apologised after being told to by one of the cooks that had worked there for years, but I dreaded every shift that I was told to be on the bar for. My last shift was a week or so before I needed to start university, and I haven’t been back since. My word of advice? If you ever get asked to be a bartender, get proper training. Also, keep your hands and fingernails clean if you’re around food, that’s just basic hygiene.