Reflecting on the Year of the Rat
I’m back, folks.
For the last three months I’ve had a loooot of time on my hands (shout out to unemployment) and there are only so many books I can read on Victorian photography (#weirdflex).
Previously, I used this blog to charter my journey across the globe. HOW TIMES HAVE CHANGED. Now, I am using it to pass the slow turning small-hand of the clock. I’m not sure about you, but this year has felt like there’s been a lot of slow turning hands of the clock. I left you chaps when I was living the high life in Vietnam, swanning around eating bahn mis in the hot, hot sun. Now I’m back, sitting with a heater between my legs, wearing fingerless gloves as I tap away on my old laptop with 4 missing keys. How the mighty have fallen.
I started January as an administration assistant, whiling away the hours feeding paper into a shredder and completing the all-important office Sainsbury’s shop. Before, the office Sainsbury’s shop had consisted of white bread, water crackers and Philadelphia. With me at the helm, the office saw an influx of exotic olive mixes and large wheels of camembert (not sure I was ever quite forgiven for the resultant festering stench).
I had a crash course in the mundanity of office life; first as a curious bystander in ‘hummus-gate’ - the mysteriously rapid disappearance of the new pot of hummus (and consequent aggressive kitchen inquisition); then as a covert biscuit smuggler, routinely slipping upstairs for my 23rd afternoon biscuit. I made my first work BFF (Hi Hannah!) by putting mince pies on Hannah’s head every time I passed her seat (which was a lot, given my predilection for jammy dodgers) and fell asleep in the 2019 round-up meeting (I thought I’d gotten away with it until a colleague ominously whispered “I saw that”).
In mid-January, I left Hannah alone amongst the filing cabinets (sorry) for the snazzy heights of corporate brand consulting.
I really thought I was the big cheese. The swanky glass office looked over Tower Bridge, my work laptop was the latest Mac, the working day consisted of impromptu table tennis and foosball tournaments, and I was writing slogans for a living. Alas, it was too good to be true. On a high from my first work-BFF connection, I was ready to ingratiate myself into my small team of three and make some more. The team, consisting of our boss, James, late twenties, and Victoria, German, my age, was very close knit. Extraordinarily close knit. Excruciatingly close knit.
Looking back, it’s hard to see how I could’ve misjudged the situation so enormously. I was so determined to be best friends that I just wrote everything off as part of the amazing team dynamic. After all, creative consultancies are fun and different, right?! At first, I thought it was quite sweet that James and Victoria seemed to turn up to work together every morning. A Northern Line coincidence, I used to chuckle to myself, half-wishing I lived below the river too. They take every single smoking break and lunch together, sure, but that’s part and parcel of the creative working life! James makes lunch at home for Victoria and brings it in? That’s very nice of him. Can’t wait ’til I can get involved! Victoria calls James ‘Jamesy’? Should I start using nicknames too? It’s funny that Victoria’s favourite books are exactly the same as James’ - they must have great synergy! James wants to learn German? Commendable team spirit! Victoria has a note from James saying ‘I believe in you’ taped to her work laptop? What a supportive boss! Our desk is covered in post-it notes written with ich liebe dich? That’s just nailing the early basics! Matching crystal necklaces? Serious dedication to team bonding! An unwrapped condom packet under my chair? That’s… that’s… Oh.
Sadly, once I put two and two together, the excessive giggling which had previously been endearing (if not slightly irritating) became absolutely intolerable. I can confirm that third wheeling 9-5 is as awful as you’d imagine, and by March, banished to the ‘work from home’ life, I was secretly relieved. The few team calls we had; I was forced to endure the theatrics of “What a coincidence! We both seem to have dodgy internet!” even though the sonorous echo was clearly because they were attempting to video call from the same room.
This summer saw questionable (desperate) attempts at self entertainment (see: endless trick shots) and dubious working from home set ups in Nat's garden (see: precariously propped up umbrella).
It's hard to write totally light-heartedly about a year which has been so awful for so many people. I found the tail-end of 2020 pretty miserable – job hunting in a global pandemic has not been a favourite pastime, but I'm aware that things could have been so much worse, and I’m very grateful that everybody I know is safe and well (if not agoraphobic).
In lighter news; two attempts and five years later, I’m back on the roads, gearing up (if you’ll pardon the pun) for yet another crack at the old driving license. I'm thinking things can’t get much worse than my last instructor, Stuart, who used to direct me during the lesson to the McDonalds drive-thru so that he could pick up a McLatte and stamp his Mcloyalty card, locking me in the car and advising me to stay frozen in case I set the car alarm off.
This time I’ve gone for James, curiously the only instructor in the region with any availability. I think things are going pretty smoothly, until he white-knuckle grips his seat and whispers “ohmygoddohmygodohmygod” on my approach of a junction. I can’t tell whether James is neurotic or I’m terrible at driving. Filling out the end-of-lesson checklist, I see James write the words “manic” and “thrashes around in car” on my piece of paper. Has anyone else's driving instructor ever likened them to an eel? I need solidarity.
Tier 4 means that there will be no test for the foreseeable (a blessing or a curse?)
Back to the pavements I go.
It’s been a long year for everyone and more than anything, 2020 has made me re-appreciate the value of health, board game cafes, and a good hug.
I wish you a hearty and wholesome Happy New Year – my fingers are crossed for the day, not too far away, when the word ‘tier’ only alludes to the spongy layers of a ginormous cake.