Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Two Humps One Motherboard

Recently I went to Dubai and had four days of rest time in the middle of the tour. Terry Pratchett has a wonderful series of books about tiny gnomes, and in this book he explains that "the faster you live the more time stretches out, it's all a sort of relativity."*

I am smaller than most adult humans, and I firmly believe that my attention span runs in accordance with Pratchett's laws concerning time. I need approximately one day of rest time every three weeks. Less than that and I loathe myself and the world, more than that I begin to climb the walls.

Four days off in a hotel without my people and my comforts and a strong idea of something I could pop out and do was too much for this gnome.

I decided to take myself on an adventure; a terrible, tacky, touristy adventure to a Nature Reserve in the UAE where I could sample the delights of Emirate culture along with 150 other people and neatly packaged into a 3 hour window. Pretty perfect.

On the drive out I was the only one in our pick-up car travelling alone so I got the front seat next to our driver Salim, who, as a born and bred Dubai native, began to happily tell me all about the sights and sounds of Dubai and the suburbs as we left civilisation and drove into the desert.**

Salim pointed out all the sights: "Those are flamingos, that's the tallest hotel in the world, that's modern slavery dressed up like progress." All the sights of Dubai.

Then we passed the camel race track and my mind boggled at the amount a good camel will go for. Turns out I would even be underachieving were I a camel rather than a human. I listen avidly to all facts about the camels and the races and the culture and then Salim slips in this little nugget of information...

"Of course, they don't have human jockeys any more - they have robots to ride the camels."

There is a short pause while I process this information and I flare up slightly... "No way? I call bullshit. Just because I'm a naive woman, travelling alone you think you can feed me this bull and I'll just sit there nodding and lapping it up? No."

He's still going, "The humans drive around in an inner track controlling the robots from the cars."

No, no they don't. Yes, obviously I’m stupid enough to have paid you for this trip to see “the real Arabia”™ circa a white person watching Aladdin in 1992 but I’m not going to believe everything you say.

The rest of the evening progresses beautifully... I lose a shoe in some sand, make friends with a Chinese couple who both sell lifts. Yep. I try and pose for a sunset selfie alone while all the men take photos of their girlfriends leaning back on the tops of the dunes. I do worry for this generation that entire relationships are going by without a single photo of the male portion of the relationship being recorded. But that's not my worry; I don't think my husband has ever stopped in his tracks to record my moments of grace and beauty. He is normally looking for a wet wipe to help me get the ice cream out of my hair.

I return to the hotel that evening and graze around on the internet for a bit before my mind returns to camel jockeys and I type it out and hit search. To be confronted by picture upon picture of tiny robots in jockey outfits sitting confidently betwixt two humps and awaiting their day in the perpetual sun.

Huh.

I firmly believe we are all about 10 years away from losing our jobs to some kind of robot, I just don't think jockeys ever suspected they'd be first in line.

What an awful meeting that must have been... to be called into the Race Manager's office.

"We've got to move with the times... I'm afraid, from now on we're going to be racing with robots."

"Oh hey, no, that's ok... I can ride a robot... I'm sure once I get used to it..."

"No, sorry - you've misunderstood... the camel is keeping it's job - it's you that's got to go."

To be less employable than a camel?
To belong to a species that has written itself out of something it invented for its own pleasure and exhilaration?
To be such a lazy species that we've written ourselves out of a sport where WE WEREN'T EVEN THE ONES RUNNING?

Makes you proud to be a human, doesn't it?

First they came for the jockeys and I didn't speak out for I am over 5'5"***

I like to believe the dole queue that week was just check out assistants and jockeys looking dismayed... a sea of older woman who loved a natter and a bag pack sitting looking forlorn amongst the feline men and women of previous racing fame.

"One day I just came in to work and there was... an unexpected item in the bagging area. A fucking robot. Between my humps. My humps! My humps! My humps! Replaced just because we're heavier than aluminium."

"We were replaced just because Tesco are a sack of shits and Sue often stole from the till. It's awful."

"We can't believe robots took our jobs."

A lonely cigarette raises its head in the corner, "Me neither doll face. We thought we were invincible."


Robots have snuck into every area of our lives, replacing jobs - yes. Also, freeing up people and time and energy to invent new things, new jobs and new ideas for the future as technology has always allowed.

Not all these robots, however, are doing a better job. I certainly don't remember in days gone by handing a load of £10 notes to a human cashier and having her accept 6 of them only to look at me, baffled, and hand 4 back saying,

"I'm sorry, I don't know what these are."
"They're £10 notes, just like the other ones."
"Are they though? Maybe you could just smooth down the corners?"
"Yeah, sure ok, here you go."
"Ok, I'll take these two but I still don't know about these two. Have them back."
"What if I give them to you the other way up?"
"Dunno try it."
"Here you go."
"Yeah, ok. I'll take one of them now but what the hell is this other one?"
"Take it."
"No."
"Take it."
"No."
"Take it."
"Oh look a £10 note! Great, I'll bank that for you."











* Do read The Bromeliad Trilogy if you haven't already and my apologies if I'm teaching you to suck those quail nuggets Grandma.

** We'll discuss at a later date to what extent I truly believe Dubai to be civilised.

*** Obviously I am not and was therefore at the picket line speaking out.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Egg Layer

I had the dream childhood; just hard enough that people still seem to like me now I'm an adult, but so easy that I never would have believed how much effort went into keeping my days breezy.

I grew up in the middle of Somerset; fields to the side and back of the house and estate of cycleable roads and playwithable children to the left. Pubs that could be worked in come my teenage years and plenty of villagers to nod at whilst walking the dog.

Nodding took on several meanings as I progressed through childhood... in the early days the nod meant "Yeah, you're damn straight I have a dog" then it progressed through several different incarnations of dog-nods from "Yeah, I can't believe my lazy ass parents make ME, a child, a prodigy waste my time of walking this furry shit-machine either" to "I'll nod at you but you really need to get a life, you're friends of my parents don't act like you know me" to finally "This nod is going to really mean something to you when I've gone away to University and become a famous actress."

I was always above my station.

Nowadays when I go back there is no dog left to walk, Caspar our golden retriever ate one sock too many (true story: you always knew which shits were his up the field because they'd have one of your best socks curled through it) and bit it about a decade ago. Now when I pop back the only option is to maybe walk mum; easier in that I rarely have to port a bag of her offerings around the block, harder because she has opinions on more than lamp posts and other dogs. If I ever have to manage a nod to someone on one of these walks you can be sure my inner monologue is "How are you still alive?! I left YEARS ago..."

The highlight of my childhood memories are the holidays... I am one of four children and every year come redundancy or high water we would be loaded into a car, top box bursting and tent at various stages of decomposition and carted off to some form of escape.

As I understand it, my early years were dominated by trips to the Caribbean and the Mediterranean but then my gluttonous parents decided that two angels were not enough and they bred two more... significantly reducing the luxury of our trips but greatly increasing the chances for excitement. Not that I really remember the beaches of St Lucia or the bays of Turkey... the one thing I can recall is having to have my hair braided at kids club and being utterly condescending about the ridiculous of the whole affair.

Looking back now as the wannabe liberal, left loving person I've attempted to become I'd like to try and claim that my reticence for corn rows was based on a desire to not culturally appropriate and not to use someone else's culture as my whimsical fashion statement. In reality, I think it just fucking hurt and I was annoyed that my sister had already cried off it and so I was stuck in the chair to save my mum's blushes at having two awfully behaved daughters.

Our family holidays soon gravitated to boats; a life long passion of my father's and something we all learned to yearn for. We would spend a week on a little watery caravan pottering up and down various rivers and canals in France - pulling in to small villages just in time for them to shut for whichever local holiday that day was (in reality I think they just enjoyed pissing off nob-head tourists by closing the shutters whenever someone with a guide book strolled into town) and begging my Dad to let us steer.

About three times a day Dad would need a beer or a wee and so the steering of the boat would be left to one of us. Whichever one it was would sit in the drivers seat looking piously at the others and pitying their total lack of competence. That was until the nose of the boat gently edged into the river bank and the cold sweat would appear instantly right the way down the back. Dad would reappear with a beer in one hand (regardless of whether he'd gone for a pee or a beer) and a small cigar in the other and try to coax us back into a straight lane with some encouragement, guidance and passive aggressive comments on our ineptitude at boat driving. One can only assume that by 8 he was Nelson.

Once the driver child in question was safely in tears and despondent at the idea of driving they would release the wheel back to Dad and he could resume his holiday. As a child I remember worrying that holidays were not fun for Dad; he just had to sit there steering the boat drinking beer and no one was allowed to talk to him much in case he couldn't concentrate. The man is a genius.


Last year we all went on holiday again. Unfortunately we were missing one sister, who has, one can only assume spurred on by the popularity of Game of Thrones, gone to live in the wild. They claim to have a house and cars and roads and things but I have looked on a map as to the location of their village in the Scottish Highlands and I refuse to comprehend how late night food deliveries and other such essentials arrive.

Since childhood we have now gained husbands and the next generation... they were all loaded in too. Minus my husband because he was working and my next generation because they do not exist. I needed to rewind the clock; I needed to feel that the world I used to know still exists somewhere hidden under a layer of decisions I now have to make and consequences of decisions I didn't make well enough. I thought if brie could still taste the same when eaten with trembling, exhausted post-swimming pool fingers, and air beds still went down in the night and pine needles still got everywhere despite your best attempts to brush your feet off before you went in the tent then... then what? I don't know. Then I was still living in the same world; it had all happened, and I could still be happy.

I bought an inflatable crocodile and orca on eBay, I got myself a camping chair and I booked a ferry and a campsite that looked like the past. My past. Off we went... I was loaded into the back of my sister's car with her two children... two little boys who were utterly furious with me for not being my husband but delighted because I have an inferiority complex and was therefore trying to make them love me by outshining my husband in the fun stakes. I failed but they let me try.

We put up a tent in the crushing rain, I argued with my mother, she argued back, we played cards into the bug filled night and we searched for gluten free food for my sister amongst the very few French words we could string together.

"Sans... what the fuck is gluten? Gluteene? Sans Glootin? Sans *mimes stomach ache*?"

Day after day of this holiday kept happening and I was having two different times; a time that was magical; a time that I knew I would always look back on fondly. Watching my one nephew spend the day wearing ear defenders and playing chess; refusing to come swimming or join in anything because he's 8 that 8 year olds are weird. Watching my other nephew come flying out of a tent shouting and wetting himself because he was weirded out by this prospect of predicting your pee in time to get to the toilet block. 14 is no age to go camping for the first time. I'm just kidding; he's 5.

The other time I was having was... hollow though. This wasn't right, was it? Sure - all the components of my childhood memories were there but I was different. I felt panicked and frightened all the time that I wasn't doing it right; I wasn't making the memories properly. I was shit now. Am I shit now? Has France and inflatables and everything stayed the same and it's me that's wrong? That's a route I'm scared to explore for long.

And then one evening, I found the clearing in the wood where the two paths converged. The nephews were grumpy and my brother was drunk and my sister and her husband were cross.

"Let's play 1, 2, 3, and in."

I think it was my idea but I'm sure family legend stated that we by now all think it was our own idea.

"What's 1, 2, 3 and in?" My brother the IDIOT asks.

"You know," I said, "Like hide and seek but you have to get back to the base and tag yourself in..."

"Oh!" He says, "You mean 40/40 in?"

My brother is 10 years younger than me and, it turns out, generations of children (much like regional herds of cattle) have slight variations to the way they speak. The very same game will have a million different names and variations as it spawns across years and counties.

We played. First we played on the empty plot by our tent... each running and chasing and hiding and laughing. It began to entertain the nephews; us playing a 1, 2, 3 and In Lite in order to patronise and occupy them but it soon turned into an all out war between the adults that delighted the children even more than the game set up to pander to them.

Footwear was exchanged for items with a more competitive grip on the foot and pretty soon we were all in agreement that we'd "completed" the game in this area of the campsite and a further challenge was required. We were off to the park.

There we were; four adults ages 21- 34 slamming round a childrens park with a 5 and an 8 year old losing their minds over what appeared to be happening.

"I'm not sure we should be doing this" says my wonderfully socially conscious brother in law, "it might be offputting for actual children who want to play here? The park is meant for them."

I looked over at the line of curious looking french children who were peering out from the edge of the park. They looked back at me. Feeling more self-conscious than I've ever felt before, conscious of being too old to be doing this in every possible sense of the phrase; I waved.

"Vous joue avec... us?" My half-baked sign language and I asked. The children looked to their leader; the older girl who looked like she'll be taller and more competent than me but July this year. She looked at them and let out a stream of the language I had so viciously mocked.

"We would love to; thank you."

And with that we had 5 little extras added to our game. No rules needed explaining; they'd been watching. They got it. "Un, deux, trois et ici" (None of us could for the life of us remember "in") had begun.

I felt not shit.

"Tell them off for egg laying!" My brother shouts, in response to the smallest French girl hanging around the base just waiting for us to peak out.

"Oh piss off, what the hell is "egg layer" in French?" I shout back.

"Oeuf! Oeuf is egg!" says my triumphant sister sprinting towards the bench that counts for the "maison".

"Couche d'oeuf! Couche d'oeuf! Pas de couche d'oeuf!" is our best approximation and we launch it at the baffled children who continue to giggle and run around with these laughing adults and their two little boys.

I felt really not shit.

By the time the light faded and the French parents began ambling across to find out where their children were and take them home to their first night of sleep with their own new family holiday memories in, we had 14 French children whisked in to our game.

I lay down on my combination of air bed and the French countryside that counted for mine and felt really, really not shit. I was sun burnt and tired; full of paella and a weird basil cheese we'd paid too much money for at a market. I'd played in a park with my brother and sister and some random French children we couldn't speak to but had played a game with; it was just like the past. The relief at still being someone other people want to play with... my god it was like a shower after sunshine or a kiss on the top of the head. The relief that, as a team; we still got it. I cried for the best reasons that night.

The next day I nod to lots of people on the campsite as I walk a furiously hopping 5 pee filled five year old to the toilets, "Yeah, that's right; I still got it. Probably still can't drive a boat but me and my sister are the ones your kids want to play with".

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Cheers Iokasti

I'm having a glass of wine to celebrate... a glass of wine from a bottle I was given on holiday in Crete nearly two years ago from the loveliest restaurant owner I have ever met. We do that thing that people with no money do with wine; we put it in the cupboard and save it for a special occasion and then spend years assuming that nothing that happens to us is special enough to deserve that wine. So the bottles accrue and suddenly we have all these bottles sitting there; waiting for our lives to get good enough to drink them.

I certainly didn't think I'd be drinking this bottle on a Wednesday in January whilst building my dream house with my husband on Sims. A project that's now in its 12th hour and really does answer the question of what childless couples do when they've run out of sex to have. I have to say though, this house is smashing. It's really cool. I'll DM you some photos if you're interested.

We didn't open this wine to celebrate the house... we'll get a Sim bottle for that. Feels appropriate. We're celebrating that today, I finally finished my course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and am released from Wednesday sessions until further notice. This bottle of wine feels appropriate because without a glimmer of exaggeration that holiday in Crete is the last time I remember feeling like little old rock solid me before everything broke.

When I last wrote about being put on medication and starting therapy a lot of people got in touch to say it was helpful and I liked that; I don't really like publicly grieving as it's not useful to me but publicly sharing information I do enjoy. This, by the way, is in no one to put down the experience of publicly sharing pain for other people; fuck no. Do what you have to do by all means and if anyone has an issue with you, wonder why it's easier for them to vocalise their complaint than scroll past and get on with their lives.

I debriefed with my CBT therapist today and we looked at the difference between the crash and now. It was really quite astounding. I had always previously downplayed my problems and my struggles for the big reason; I am not destructive. Other people with issues like mine turned to alcohol or other things and addictions to get themselves through and their lives suffered as a result. I am not like that; I'm not a particularly addictive personality. Obsessive; yes. But not addictive. So, in the maelstrom of everything going on in my head my life was continuing as normal and I really did just get on with everything. I was able to tell myself things couldn't be that bad because I wasn't losing work due to my drunkenness, I wasn't cheating on my husband to get a buzz, I wasn't anything; I was just broken.

On this side of the therapy I am able to see that those destructive behaviours are not depression or anxiety; they are symptoms that one may or may not have and the fact that I didn't have them did not make me faking in any way. If you feel similar; it's ok to be broken but not breaking anything.

The other thing masking a problem was stand-up comedy... somewhere along the line my life had boiled down to pretty much nothing except the pursuit of becoming a comedian. I had no hobbies, no interests, no pets, no children, and a fear of putting anything in my diary that wasn't comedy in case comedy came up. I would cancel any social plans for work and only travel to see friends around the country if I already had something in the area.

This level of dedication is possibly necessary to make it in comedy, but it doesn't make for a healthy human being. The difficulty is, a career in comedy is so varied and lively looking from the outside that it masks the unhealthy nature of being obsessed with your job. If I had been in an office and disappearing in to the office at 8am, coming out at 10pm, answering phone calls during dinner, leaving social events to deal with clients, not booking holidays in case work came in then it would have been easier to see the problem. Comedy masks that by looking fun. It's not even a case of working myself too hard, because let's face it; I'm hardly on Junior Doctor levels of exhaustion. It was about not being able to see that I had systematically removed everything except comedy from my life.

Even if you like your job, like I do (I love it) for me, having one thing be everything can't be right for a healthy mind, can it? I have had to comb through my time and try out some hobbies to see if I like them; nothing with targets or challenges or anything like that. Just out and out hobbies.

When I have finished this bottle of wine, I'm going to book a holiday with my husband to go somewhere and get given another one. I'm going to get a dog this year and look at houses and go horse riding and book tickets to things on a Saturday night and so fucking what if I'm offered a gig; I have plans. Plans to build the best goddamn house the Sims has ever been seen. They'll name Sims 5 after me. Sims 5: Lexxpansion Pack. Nailed it. Plans to play with the Magic: The Gathering cards I got for Christmas... sure, it sounds like most of my hobbies were plucked from the mind of a 15 year old, but THAT WAS THE LAST TIME I HAD HOBBIES so it's all I know ok? No judgement thanks.

I have a lot more to say on the subject of anxiety and depression and I'm going to keep writing it down here. Hopefully in a way that is fun in places. If it is useful or just interesting then I'm very glad of it and please feel free to point it or me in the direction of anyone else it might be useful to. Here is a link to my experience with anti-depressants in case you know someone who might find this anecdotal information helpful, or it's good for you:

http://lauralexx.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/you-be-you.html

I am also currently putting together a new solo stand-up show that touches on these experiences in a definitely funny way and if you're interested in seeing it, head to my website for details: www.lauralexx.co.uk

Cheers.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Saintly

Do you know what the trouble with having a load of New Year Resolutions is? You realise exactly why you haven't been doing all of them forever - they're difficult and take some effort. Who wants to put effort in during January?

January diets are a myth; I'm totally convinced of that. No one has a clean cut off with the leftover chocolate from Christmas, do they? January is for finishing that guilt free because you have to or it's wasteful and mumbles something about rainforest or something, right?

I have got round the misery of a January health kick by actually starting it in December so that I don't feel like such a New Year twat. I saw a personal trainer once on the 20th December and then ate my body weight in potatoes every day for a week because it didn't matter; I'd seen a personal trainer. This was perfectly because I could confidently rock up to see the personal trainer on the 2nd January without feeling self-conscious that this new fad wouldn't last because I'd cleverly begun it last year. Take that, all you judgey looking dog walkers in the Brighton area who looked sceptical at my leggings. The only slight snag in this plan was arriving at the park only to have the personal trainer look at me with her head on one side wondering why the woman she had trained in December had managed to triple in size since learning what a squat was.

Hopefully, what I've managed to do there, though, is increase her passion for the job by showing her what a difficult task some people can be. I'm not sure she's ever trained anyone with burpee tourettes before but I think constantly being told where she can fuck to every time she politely asks for "3 more" of anything is going to really mould her into a better, more patient person.

As I'm still wading through Hotel Chocolat's back catalogue in order to get to my sofa, I thought when I visited the cinema this week I would try and avoid wasting a literal £20 on a box of popcorn. "I'll take my own snacks!" said 2018 me and popped a bag of hula hoops and an apple into my handbag.

The reason, I now know, that cinemas don't sell you apples in the foyer is twofold:

1. Apples do not provide the obligatory floor stick necessary to make a cinema feel like a cinema.
If someone spills popcorn on the floor it is oddly nostalgic; it's light and fluffy and doesn't get in anyone's way. Unloading a bushel of apples into the row in front causes an issue; apples are much harder than popcorn, they're bigger and they ferment. All in all, it's a ticking time bomb waiting to get the kids club drunk at 10am on a Saturday morning. There's also nowhere handy to put the core once you are finished... for some reason every single seat is furnished with a cup holder, but not even one of them has a core holder for the health conscious film lover. The floor seemed inappropriate for slippage reasons, but I'd not eaten the hula hoops yet so I didn't have a bag to put it in.

2. It is VERY hard to chew an apple in time to songs and dialogue you have not previously seen or heard before in order to not disturb other cinema-goers with the boulder you have decided to eat next to them.

I would have needed precisely two more weeks in a rehearsal room with Zac, Hugh and Zendaya in order to be able to not annoy each and every person sitting within 10 seats of me.

Some combination of apple and tooth provides the amplification of a top of the range Bose. Previously undiscovered levels of volume are exposed to the world when an apple meets a set of gnashers.


All in all, I'm not feeling apples as a cinema snack for the future. Some places I think apples are very appropriate as a snack:

1. A concert largely consisting of white noise.
2. The iPad shop.
3. When being attacked by a horde of doctors you need to keep at bay for a day.


In a week of trying to stick to a few new ideas to mould my life a little, I feel like apart from the apple hiccup* I have not done too badly... exercise has been done, hobbies have been sought, disposable bottles and cups have not been purchased. It is a little disheartening to have got the 6th of January and not been sent any form of medal or light financial incentive but, I suppose it's best not to rub it in the faces of people who haven't seen a miraculous turnaround like me. Who amongst you can honestly say that you've gone so far as to sweat in a park for 40 minutes AND choke on an apple this week?

Quite honestly by the end of next week I fully anticipate looking exactly like Jameela Jamila and rolling my eyes every time poor Meghan Markle is asked how she intends to be more like Laura Lexx in future. All the best women alliterate, don't you know.










*and again, I apologise profusely to the man who got home from The Greatest Showman in Brighton Odeon on Tuesday to find apple on the back of his neck. I hiccupped and the rest is obvious. I'm sorry.