My recent review of Vice Versa, currently showing at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-Upon-Avon (England).
If you’re feeling like nothing is going right, like your everyday diet is not on par with the rest of the world and your place on the humanity scale is (at best) questionable. If you’re feeling any of these things then just tell yourself; it could be worse, I could the person who said this in the office…
“Gruel: if it worked for Oliver Twist then it works for me.”
Alice E. Bennett, 2017.
Have you ever had that moment when you stop momentarily in the middle of something (be it mundane or professional) and think “gulp, I’m an actual adult now”? For me it happens alarmingly often, and I never quite know if it’s a good thing or not. Seeing as I tend to get it whilst singing along to Horrible Histories songs or dancing around to S Club 7, it’s probably more likely the latter.
It’s funny how things which made no sense at one stage of your life can make complete sense years later when it’s too late to go back. Case in point, this video which I first viewed as a student. I thought then I knew what it was like to be an actual grown up, but hahahahahaha I was so wrong. (WARNING: video below contains adult content.)
Pulling things back in my defence for just a moment, can I just say Horrible Histories was/is awesome and, yes, it was used as a revision aid during my University degree finals…
(100% true story)
Furthermore, there have also been a few occasions where, in stark contrast, I realised that I’m actually more mature than I let on (yes, that was a serious comment).
Remember those children’s magazines where there were double page pizza spreads? I knew I was getting more mature then because by the age of nine I was choosing to enter in for the draws where the prize had the most monetary value or use in my life. Hobby Horses? Hah, no way, enter me in for the prize to win the designer riding clothing worth over £150 (another fun fact, I won that competition. Mumma Bennett thought it was a hoax at the time so didn’t tell me for days until she couldn’t ignore the calls anymore. That riding gear was amazing.)
Shortly after that I took a liking disc 2 of Now That’s What I Call Music and boom! There went my childhood. We all know that feeling. Overnight I went from listening to this:
From Darius and Steps to Amy MacDonald and Plain White T’s. No complaints here.
Yet years down the road, on a Wednesday evening, I’m sat on a sofa, covered in tea (as per usual), watching clips of Tots TV (I’m not even going to try and explain it – if you’ve never heard of it, YouTube it). And apparently I’m an adult? How, just, how?? It’s all a bit alarming really, I mean I have the following things (sorry not sorry if it comes across as smug):
- A house
- A car
- A job
- A 6″ 7 beast of a man
- All the things referenced in Nina Simone’s “Got no, got life”
Basically all the things that naturally are meant to mature one into feeling more adult like. All I’m missing is a pet and/or spawn but then those things cost money and require more time and effort than a tea round for all the King’s horses and all the King’s men. Can’t be dealing with that.
So I guess I better accept it, I’m an actual adult now with actual human responsibilities. But does that make me mature? Hell no, another slice of cake please sir. Why? Because I’m an adult and I darn well can!*
*Just make sure that cake is billed to anyone else but me – I may be an adult but, owing to expenses outlined above, I (ironically) have no easily accessible money. Being an adult is hard!
When the tall one suggested trying out The Greek Olive on Faringdon Road I must admit I was a little thrown. In British culture you get so used to going out for either an Italian or Indian that the notion of Greek caught me off guard. However, keen to try something different I gave the suggestion my full backing.
I had high expectations of the eatery, in the weeks preceding my visit I’d heard nothing but positive feedback from my friends. As the tall one and I sat down at the table our thoughts turned to drink. We spared little time in opting for a one litre jug of Greek house wine which came in at £12. Given a lot of restaurants charge an arm and a leg for a very average bottle, we found the quality, quantity and price of the red wine to be very fair.
On this particular night we opted out of having a starter (it was a tough call, the selection to choose from was very tempting), however upon ordering our mains the waiter presented us with complimentary bread and freshly made hummus. “This is much better than the stuff in the shops!” the tall one remarked. Between us it didn’t take long to demolish the portion.
Onwards to the main course, for me a Kleftiko (slow cooked lamb) and for the tall one Beef Stifado (meat cooked in a rich red wine sauce). Despite making a classic Alice faux pas of accidentally eating some of the paper wrapping covering the lamb (I thought it was filo pastry, alright?) the food was superb. The lamb fell off the bone with ease and tasted amazing with the feta cheese and Greek seasoned vegetables. Positive feedback also shared by the consumer of the Stifado and, although the portions were enormous, we refused to let any food go to waste. Clean plates all round.
With stomachs full of rich food and wine our plan was to also skip dessert and ask for the bill. That was until the waiter gave us two pieces of Baklava, a Mediterranean sweet dish (which actually does contain filo pastry) and said my three favourite words, “on the house”. I mean the dish was pleasant enough, but even tastier given it was free. This was swiftly followed up by a complimentary shot of liqueur (“how much free stuff are they giving us?!”) which by choice had to be Greek ouzo. The reactionary head shakes of strong alcohol marked the end of a very enjoyable meal at the little restaurant.
Unsurprisingly I’d very much recommend The Greek Olive for anyone wanting a change from the standard Italian but not keen on a hot spicy Thai. The staff were unaware that I was a writer yet they went out of their way to make sure our dining experience that little bit more special versus a predictable meal out at Nandos. I’m just gutted that I’ve written an entire review on Greek food and haven’t been able to make a single reference to My Big Fat Greek Wedding (I really tried to think of one but alas I have failed).
Three word summary: So much food!
The below complaint letter got me a £2 compensation voucher. I mean sure it took a bit of time to put together and yes the postage stamp was close to the value of the voucher. Plus the fact the snack bars themselves cost £1. So technically I’m actually working at a loss right now. Hmm, note to self; you cannot make a career from witty complaint letters.
Cadbury UK Consumer Relations,
Bournville, Birmingham, B30 2LU
Dear Sir or Madam,
I’ll keep this simple and to the point (because as riveting as complaint letters are, we’d all rather be somewhere else right now). I recently bought a box of Chocolate Chip Brunch bars and they are a bit pants.
As I know ‘pants’ can be used to describe a variety of situations from cold tea to literal pants, let me diversify. I bought a six-pack box in Poundland in Swindon (bear with me, that’s not the pants bit), however upon biting into the first bar at work I noticed the snack didn’t quite taste right. I opened the bar fully to discover it had gone off. I checked the sell by on the wrapper but the Brunch Bar appeared to be well within date. This is what it looked like:
You can imagine the disgust and horror when I realised my hard-earned pound had gone to waste. I need my chocolate hit so very badly, it is often the only thing standing between me and a terribly put together advertising campaign. Imagine if, instead of a Gorilla, Cadbury had decided to use a dancing Stingray reading a recital of Keats for the iconic advert? Besides making for a difficult display in Cadbury World it wouldn’t quite make the mark. That is how crucial a mid-morning snack is to both me and my company’s marketing strategy. It’s ruddy big stuff.
All things considered I think you’ll agree that these Brunch Bars are of a pretty pants standard. Please can you check standards of production and do whatever needs fixing, pronto.
Alice E. Bennett
Because the world would be a better place if we let out the hate and let in the tea.
Speech to the Troops at Tilbury Fort – Queen Elizabeth I
I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a strong tea drinker, and of a tea drinker of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade my beverage stocks on a Monday morning…
Address to the Army at the Beginning of the Italian Campaign – Napoleon Bonaparte
Soldiers, you are naked and ill tea-ed! Government owes you much and can give you nothing. The patience and courage you have shown in the midst of these rocks are admirable; but they gain you no renown; no glory results to you from your endurance. It is my design to lead you into the most fertile tea plains of the world. Rich provinces and great cities will be in your power; there you will find honour, glory, and rich beverages. Soldiers of Italy! Will you be wanting in Breakfast or Earl Grey?”
We Shall Fight Them on the Beaches – Winston Churchill
We shall drink tea on the beaches, we shall drink tea on the landing grounds, we shall drink tea in the fields and in the streets, we shall drink tea in the hills; we shall never surrender…tea
I Have a Dream – Martin Luther King Jr.
I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be replanted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made green, and the crooked places will be made straight rowed, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation’s into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, coffee drinkers and tea lovers, knowing that we will all have tea one day.
Chairman Mao Zedong
An army without tea is a dull-witted army, and a dull-witted army cannot defeat the enemy.
Neil Armstrong (on the invention of fruit tea)
That’s one small step for tea, one giant leap for mankind.
Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own action to make a good cup of tea.
Presidential Inauguration Speech – Donald Trump
From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this moment on, it’s going to be only Tea First. Tea First. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American Teabags and American Tea drinkers. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our caffeine, and destroying our mid-afternoon breaks. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body and I will never, ever let you down Mr PG Tips Monkey.
You get the idea.
Written in response to the WordPress prompt of the day: Tea
Six weeks after my first mortgage meeting I found myself sat in the same bank branch, listening to the same generic music, with Mum by my side. The latter element caused a great deal of unease among the staff, the Customer Service Assistant’s face said it all. She handed us drinks and scuttled off to warn Katie about the deeply unhappy customer and her menacing bouncer.
In stark contrast to both former advisor Jack and her telephone demur, Katie was a quieter, more reserved figure. The sort of person who looked very knowledgeable and nice, but not built to handle stress or pressure. Like Jack she looked not much older than me, although the engagement ring on her finger suggested a higher degree of maturity and stability compared to her predecessor. Early on, as part of attempts to break the tension, she commented on her house purchase. Oddly enough, it didn’t work.
By the time my meeting with Katie had come around I had developed strong, understandable and justified reasons to be ticked off with BankUK. Waiting for the elusive Saturday slot I’d had time to simmer, research and rebound. I’d sat in my small house share room fuming at the situation, firing off emails to solicitors promising all was in hand. The offer had been put on the property in November and it was now mid-January, unsurprisingly people on both sides were starting to ask questions regarding the legitimacy of funds. The emails I sent back were at best holding emails, at worst down right lies. I settled with telling myself they were white lies, the only thing that could hold the sale together. When I wasn’t on email I was on the phone, researching and grilling BankUK. I didn’t believe for a second that what they’d done was above board and was determined to find out more. One Thursday evening the exhaustive, repetitive, calls finally bore fruit.
“…well BankUK’s lending policy changed on January 5th. We decreased the lending multiples on that day.”
“Remind me again what date my mortgage was declined? The application which was based on the higher lending limit?”
“It was declined on January 7th Miss Bennett.”
“Right. I want a transcription of this call please.”
With this previously withheld knowledge now firmly in my grasp, Katie’s attempts to try and lighten the mood did nothing but make her look like an increasingly fragile figure.
“Now, I’m aware you have a complaint with us, but I am here to start a new mortgage application, as discussed on the telephone…”
“Yep, I remember that call,” I replied with a straight face.
“We’ll pick up the other outstanding issues once I’ve submitted your new mortgage application,” Katie quickly added with a strained smile.
It was at that time I realised that Katie was perhaps not as hard faced as her telephone manner had suggested. When the office scanner started playing up I could see her hands visibly shake. Trying to cover up her emotions, Katie squeaked “this printer always plays up!” I meanwhile sat across the desk, unsure what to make of my new advisor. “This can’t be the same woman I spoke to on the phone” I thought, “a puff of wind would blow her over”.
Watching someone get into a state is never particularly pleasant, especially when it’s over the presence of one’s own mother. Minutes later, with advisor and printer getting into an ever worsening state, the Katie dashed out of the room to find an alternative scanner.
“She’s freaking out.”
“She wasn’t expecting me to be here. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s gone to her manager.”
“I’m not angry at her, she’s not the one responsible for messing this up. But if I don’t assert myself they’ll think they can walk all over me.”
After a vacating for a lengthy period, Katie returned to the room in a more composed state. I did everything I could to speed the meeting and forced myself to think happy thoughts when I agreed to apply for the lower sum. At the end of the meeting Katie took the print outs of the emails and a scan of the famous birthday card and promised that the complaint would be looked into.
“In order to move this on, I suggest we meet this Thursday.” Katie said, shuffling papers.
“I work in Swindon during the week. Can we do Saturday?” I asked.
“I do alternate Saturdays I’m afraid.”
“Do I need to come to this meeting? If all it involves is signing the agreement can I post it?”
“Sorry, it needs to happen in Heathley branch. It’s policy.”
I sighed. “Fine, I’ll use my annual leave to sit in a finance meeting.”
“Great, I’ll see you then.”
And that was that.
Other than a quick email confirming my second application had been approved (“too ruddy right it has been”), the next time I spoke with Katie was in the second meeting. And if I thought the handling of my application was already poor, the situation was about to get a whole lot more bizarre…
This post is part of the ‘First Time Buyer Diaries’. To view the full series (so far) click here.