MHAM FAQs

Because I get a lot of “what inspired you to start writing?” and “what motivates you to be creative after a long day’s work?”, here are some of the reasons I started writing and why I write now. In short, I’m fed up of answering the same questions and I’m now too lazy to respond to them. Read this instead.

 

Q. What Made You Start Writing?

A. I was debating which multipack of loo roll to buy one evening and I decided to start a blog. (FYI I bought the larger pack which was on offer – I had more toilet paper than sense, but I was the smuggest housemate that Winter.)

Q. How Did You Come Up With The Title?

A. I was walking back from the supermarket and thought it up. It also helps that it is/was a true statement and I’d been using “I live with a mermaid” as an ice breaker for months before.

Q. Had You Ever Written Before?

A. Other than for educational purposes, no, not really. I mean there was one time in university when I tried to start a blog about the adventures of a Pineapple in a party hat…

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…But then I quickly realised that Pineapples go off and are relatively expensive to replace (as fruits go). I also don’t like Pineapple so the fact we shared a room together naturally got a little awkward, especially towards the end when it started to rot. Also Instagram happened.

In all seriousness though, I think because I was doing so much essay writing and constant research it completely drained any creativity I had in me, the thought of returning to a keyboard for pleasure seemed crazy, if not impossible, at the time. Now that I’m not writing 10,000 word dissertations it’s easier to make the time for type work in my free time.

Q.  Where Do You Think Your Writing Style Comes From?

A. No idea, I think I’ve always been a bit kooky (see Pineapple example above), but then before I started blogging I never had an output for it. Turns out when I started doing that I realised I wasn’t as bad as I thought.

Q. Why Do You Write?

A. It may be a shocker for some, but often I writing as a form of procrastination. One night it could be that I don’t want to wash my hair, another time it could be linked to an email I’m putting off. Right now I’m completely starving, I haven’t eaten since 4pm, but I’m typing away because I’m putting off making dinner. It’s very typical for me to type and type and be completely unaware how late it is or how hungry I am. I’ll only discover it when I stop typing and hit the Publish button. In short, I write because I’m too lazy to do anything else.

Q. How Much Time Do You Spend Per Piece?

A. Varies. The maximum I’ll spend is two hours, but those are bigger posts which feature a lot of imagery or video links. Less than that is the goal, with most pieces getting the bare minimum amount of editing (unless it’s a particularly creative piece). In my mind’s eye it used to take me about two hours to write a first draft of a 2000 word History essay, so I apply the same approach to my writing. If I was paid I’d obviously invest more time in it, but in the wonderful, sparkly, world of WordPress no one gets paid for setting up a free account.

Q. What Do You Listen To When You Write?

A. Classical or I type in silence. Anything else is a distraction.

Q. Would You Write For Someone if They Paid You?

A. I’m currently working full-time but if it was on a freelance basis, sure. I’ll consider anything.

Q. Are You Planning On Writing a Book or Something more Substantial?

A. I keep doing dribs and drabs for books but I want to get more invested into them. The truth is I find it easier to blast out a blog post in a couple of hours and get the immediate feedback as opposed to spending months/years working on something which may take longer to gain gratification from (if at all!) Basically me writing this is distracting me for being a famous author. Gee, thanks guys!

Q. Anything Else To Add?

A. No, not really. I’m sure people will comment below if I’ve missed anything off.

 

 

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A Crumble by Any Other Name

I’m looking at an apple crumble made by Mum, complete with a dollop of clotted cream on the side. Because it’s homemade I have no idea when it’s use by is or, indeed, was. Because it’s me I don’t really care. It’s sweet and sugary and has fruit somewhere deep inside and in my world that’s all that matters. (Well, that and not being poisoned by it, of course.)

I debated whether to take a snapshot of the squidgy, crumbly, goo but then opted against. “The world will not judge my eating habits today!” I triumphantly thought, before typing up my eating habits for the world to read online.

I momentarily stop in creative passion to return my attention to more pressing matters. The beast calls for what it cannot grab from its imprisonment within. Like a puppet dancing on strings my hands respond to the master’s call. Ten twitching digits grab the faded bowl which had been lain on crumb-covered sheets, the dirtied spoon lifted from a used yoghurt pot beside.

“They cannot judge what they can’t see” I uttered to myself once again. A scoop of dessert piled high with cream onto the small tea spoon, the perfect combination of dry and moist. Each component would be lost without the other, and yet under the strain of such a mass the teaspoon could almost be heard squeaking for mercy. I happily donate my charity to the plea as I inserted the mixture into my mouth, eyes closed in anticipation.

Suddenly the relaxed, drawn, eye lids sprung open to reveal a very different emotion.

“The cream’s gone off.”

 

(Written in response to the prompt of the day: Crumb )

7. A Surreal Settlement: Mortgage Conclusions

Disclaimer: names of individuals/financial institutions marked with * have been changed.

Same bank, same branch, same waiting room with the same generic music. The only difference was the day. Yet another meeting with BankUK* and advisor Katie*, yet another week in mortgage limbo.

“I should be in work now.” I thought.

At this point it’s worth noting how lucky I was to still even have sniff of the house I’d set my hopes on. The offer had been accepted by the seller in November, yet here I was in January with nothing more than a Chamberlain scrap of paper to suggest the funds were in place to buy the property. Since then there had been no requests for updates from either my solicitor or the agent which suited me to the ground. To tell the truth would be buyer suicide.

I walked into a different meeting room, this one blander than the others. The other rooms had photography with inspirational sayings on, this one had a single thank you card in the small, square, window which faced onto next door’s brickwork. The only ounce of personality in a white-washed cube. I half wondered if I was living in the Truman Show, that the same utilitarian chairs, desk and room was also used by dentists, consultants and middling management. As if at any moment a forklift truck would lift up the confined box and move it to different location, to film another character in an ongoing Soap which I was part of.

Such ponderings were brief, Katie walked through the door swiftly with all the relevant paperwork for signing.

“Before we sign the formal documentation for your mortgage, I’d like to sort out this business with your complaint.” Katie opened with.

“Ok,” I replied, “what’s the situation with that then?”

Katie went on to explain in detail the nature of my complaint, that the comments in the subsequent letter sent to head office had been fed back to her. She understood my frustration but told me it was something none of them could have predicted or prevented against, that their policy was underpinned by UK law. In other words, “our hands were tied, what could we do?”

In equally “I don’t give a stuff fashion” I nodded through her comments until she got to the bit we all cared about, what BankUK were going to do to shut me up. It was clear that I wasn’t going to let this drop easily, I’d already threatened further action on the phone and in my letters. I was looking forward to a big settlement.

“So, in light of all this, we’d be prepared to offer you a cash amount to the value of the administration fee on this mortgage. Given your original application was for a different mortgage at the same interest but fee-free, we believe this settlement to be fair. We are prepared to offer you £99 today. If you accept this now, we can close the complaint and move on with your application.”

Kate slid a prewritten cheque across the desk, signed by an unknown individual, presumably the branch manager.

Silence. I looked at the cheque and then up to Katie, then down to the cheque, then to Mum who was sat beside me for support. Her face was a mirror of mine.

“And the rest?”

“Sorry?” Katie blinked twice.

“Well, this can’t be the entire settlement. Given I’m not getting the full mortgage amount I was promised and after how much I’ve been messed about. I’m meant to be at work right now, not here. Besides, I should have got the fee-free mortgage in the first place. Thank you for this opening offer, but I reject.”

I handed the cheque back to my advisor. My response to what Katie, her manager and BankUK had assumed to be a fair offer stunned the former who once again returned to the same nervous state witnessed in our first meeting.

“Urm, can you give me a moment? I need to talk to my manager.” Katie requested.

“Sure,” I said, leaning back in my seat. “Take all the time you need. I’ve got all day.”

She returned a short while later to after apparently speaking to the invisible bank manager which we weren’t allowed to meet.

“My manager wants me to ask you if you had a settlement figure in mind.”

“A figure?”

“Yes, something for us to work with. What would it take for all this to go away?”

“Can we meet the manager?” Mum chipped in. “I believe my daughter requested this on a previous email which you agreed to.”

“I would, but she’s in meetings all day today, but if you feedback to me I can pass any messages onto her.”

That was it, I decided. I’m officially banking with the mafia.

“Well I’d have to go away and carefully put a figure together. There’s money owed for transport, time off, stress of a house sale almost falling through and so forth. I think it’s best you tell your manager that I can’t be expected to pull out a random figure out of the air without some thought and analysis. It wouldn’t be very professional or fair to BankUK.”

“Yes, I suppose so.”

“But that said I would like to get this sorted today. So, in light of that, I propose that I take the £99 today (as this is money you owe me anyway) and I sign the mortgage documentation so I can get the ball rolling on my house purchase. Meanwhile, I want to keep that complaint open for me to take this further with your regional managers.”

In my head all I could hear was Aretha Franklin singing Respect. Part of me wanted to flick my hair storm out of the cube room right there and then.

“Let me speak to my manager.”

Those six words marked the end of face-to-face negotiations with the white collar mafia. They accepted this temporary deal (more than anything to get rid of me). I signed the paperwork and finally secured a mortgage. Not the mortgage I’d originally wanted, but a mortgage nonetheless.

After another month of further discussion via letter and email a more reasonable settlement was agreed. In digging about to prove they were in the right, BankUK discovered that Jack*, my first advisor, had actually been in the office for several days prior to his accident. Several working days where he’d forgotten/put off contacting me about my failed mortgage application. Coupled with the birthday card and Katie’s admittance that they’d failed me, BankUK had little to use in their defence. They’d have to give out more than £99, either through the imposing financial regulators or one woman and her persistent emails. They went for the logical option, firstly by offering the higher mortgage value I’d originally applied for, followed by a request for a final figure to close the complaint for good.

I collected all my receipts and carefully justified every penny of compensation but in the end no hard evidence was required. To say they handed me a blank cheque would be over selling it, but to say they cared deeply would be false. At the end of the day they’re a bank who would be taking interest payments from me and millions others in the years to come. They weren’t short of money then and they aren’t short now. The figure on the cheque wouldn’t make the slightest difference to them, but it would to me. Was it the greatest victory in the world of small claim settlements? Nah, of course not, but it was a victory nonetheless. I’d taken on the banks and won.

The icing on the cake was my demand to sign the settlement paperwork in no other location but Swindon. Previously an unthinkable request, BankUK shoved Katie in a car with a cheque and sent her packing to Wiltshire.

I signed the documentation, took the cheque and wished her well in life. It was the closest thing to a thank you card she or BankUK were ever going to get from me. After all the stress and frustration, I finally had a mortgage and could start formal proceedings on my house purchase.

 

This post is part of The First Time Buyer Diaries. To view the full series (so far) click here.

50 things to do instead of watching The Great British Bake Off

Recent article written for The National Student (a shortened version of the 100 point list I did last year):

50 things to do instead of watching The Great British Bake Off

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Monday Motivation

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.

On Becoming an *Actual* Adult

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:

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!