When I went to pick up the house keys from the estate agents on a grey drizzly Saturday morning I felt in a rather neutral mood. Being stubborn and British I decided to walk the distance of almost two miles up hill to avoid paying for a bus or taxi, resulting in a matt of tangled, curly hair and a nose that continued to pour, even when I stepped inside the ultra clean office.
A man with overly gelled hair and patchy stubble directed me to a sofa while he consulted with a female colleague. All the staff looked like dolled up fifteen year olds, and I think no one could quite believe a young woman in unbranded jeans and a tatty Gap hoodie could possibly have bought a house from them.
The lady tottered over with a clipboard and let me sign for the keys. I politely smiled and said thanks, but she’d already gone. Everyone else was continuing to hit their keyboards in a monkey-like fashion, so I took my cue and left.
That was it. I owned a house, my house. I checked the envelope ten times over just to be sure.
“Oh my God.”
I was so overjoyed I didn’t know what to do with myself, so ended up marching straight down the hill in record time and landing back to the house I lived in. I dumped my bag, threw off the soaked hoodie and dashed around next door with nothing more than the key.
I held my breath as I inserted the key into the door and slowly opened the door. I stood there for a moment before walking in and sitting on the bottom step. I stroked the banister rail, like some prized pet.
“You’re mine now, and I am yours” I muttered.
With rain cold feet I ascended the first flight of stairs with ease and entered the bare living room and then the empty kitchen. Suddenly without warning I started laughing, then screaming, then running up and down stairs and into rooms and out of rooms. Slamming doors, apologising for slamming doors. Spinning round and round and round. I lay on my bedroom floor and took my breath.
“This isn’t happening, pinch yourself Alice, you just can’t have done this. Oh my God, what is happening? A homeowner? A homeowner…A homeowner! You. Are. A. Ruddy. Homeowner!”
I ran next door and grabbed my laptop from the top floor before rushing back round to my house. I turned it on and loaded Spotify, before blasting out Nina Simone, Arctic Monkeys, The Killers, B*Witched. Anything and everything which came to mind. I screamed every lyric from every part of the house until my throat was hoarse from all the yelling, before lying in a heap on the cold, dark living room floor.
Why? Because I could.
This article is part of The First Time Buyer Diaries. To view the entire series (so far) click here.
Evoking emotion in me is like filling a massive man-made dam. You keep pushing and pushing to go further, to fill it higher, until suddenly the walls break and water goes everywhere. Many lives and friendships lost, terrible mess, nightmare insurance claim.
Problem is I often don’t know when to stop. It’s like the world is challenging me to tip toe over the thick red boundary, to see the signs and ignore the warnings. To step over “the line”.
Within our family we’re pretty good at keeping each other in check. A slip of the tongue and down the phone you’ll hear me dryly saying “line! Line!” As if I’m voicing a submarine siren or hitting a desk buzzer. I used to mimic the action, that was until people in public places started expressing concern that I was having a some kind of seizure.
“Line! Line! Line!”
Outside of family there’s no such restriction on what I say. Now obviously I never say anything offensive or plain stupid, I’m not Donald Trump, but that doesn’t stop me saying things that are a bit kooky and classically Alice. A throwaway comment that develops into a very strange trail of thought, carrying on and on until I look up and realise that, at best, no one is listening or, at worst, I get “a look” which says it all; “must remove from LinkedIn.”
Only recently have I discovered that I’m not alone in evoking stupid thoughts. Someone at work is equally resilient to being unable to locate the line. At first I thought “oh my God, another one exists! Yay!” now I’m thinking “oh my God, how does this end? Will the world implode if we share one pun too many?”
I’ll spare you the full detailed story that has developed between us because honestly it’s pretty weird (I know, even by my standards). This fictional life started with an innocent accidental wave on Facebook – 30 minutes later and it had become all kinds of Mighty Boosh.
To make matters worse, the colourful (and ongoing) contents were inadvertently brought from the safe confines of social media and into the office today. You can only imagine the looks (or non-looks) the pair of us were getting. I may have discovered the older, more ‘out there’ version of me, but I’m also discovering why “you can never have too much of a bad thing” isn’t a common saying amongst sensible people. The banter is wonderful, but the confused looks and hole-digging explanations? Hmm, that’s harder to put up with on a day-to-day.
Where is my conversation controller, my stupid stopper, my tame talker? Where is my internal, one word, monologue when I need it the most?
You’re lying on a beach, the warm Mediterranean sun kissing your sun cream-sheen body. There’s a Pina Colada in hand (it could be the second or third, but who’s counting anyway?) And you think to yourself, “yes, this is pure bliss”. Suddenly, out of nowhere…
“Things are going to change around here!”
You’re sat in an English beer garden in summer, holding a pint of ale that comes recommended by the landlord himself. There’s a gentle breeze flowing through your hair as you idly watch dog walkers stroll by. It could just as easily be Devon or as it could be Suffolk (but who’s reading the map anyway?) And you think to yourself, “can’t go far wrong”. Then…
“Things are going to change around here!”
You’re stood by a roaring fire, munching down on festive treats. Outside it’s dark and cold, but inside you worship only the primitive flames. The wine is pouring a plenty and the boxes of mince pies are never ending. You don’t care much for the brand (who’s checking the price tag anyway?) And you soon find yourself curling up into a ball and drifting off by the glowing embers. As your eyelids slowly lower, with loving family all around, you think to yourself “life doesn’t get much better than this.”…
“Things are going to change around here!”
All three of the above are, give or take a few juicy words, all scenarios I’ve shared in the company of my beloved Papa Bennett. It’s basically a family tradition, when you reach a sweet spot in life he will almost always cry out those seven words. “Things are going to change around here!”
Usually the statement will be followed by something that he feels is currently out of balance. These fall into two categories and you can usually pin point what he’s going to say and when he’ll say it down to a T. For example, Christmas time after eating four mince pies in one sitting = health, three days into a beach holiday = work balance. And every time we tell him “work less hours!” Or “eat less junk!” all we get is a look of horror. “I couldn’t possibly do that!” he says.
Papa Bennett aside, used in the right way the statement does have weighting to it. I think to myself, wouldn’t it be better to, instead of pledging resolutions at New Year, instead say TAGTCAH? (Does that read like a Lord of the Rings character? Or a nasty throat infection?)
Without going into the potted year of the Alice Bennett show, 2017 has been so unbelievably busy. New house, new car, new job (and everything else in between). I’ve dealt with busy builders, evil energy suppliers and a mortgage provider who tried to fob me off with a blank cheque. Swindon stays the same, sure, but everything else has changed.
What’s going to change around here in 2018? Well, things I hope for:
Life to calm down (at least the things I can control)
I received a Christmas card this year with the added note “hoping 2018 is just as thrilling as the one before!” Well no, no I really hope it isn’t. I’ve invested enough time and money on the power three (house, car, job) in the past year, I welcome a break!
Stop worrying over the little things.
Recently someone gave me a piece of written feedback. I highly paraphrase, but it went something like “you’re doing great, but you’ve seriously got to stop worrying and overanalysing everything.” (So I’m going to stop fussing so much over the little things.)
Learn how to read electronic messages.
…My knee jerk reaction to the above email was to heavily defend why I cared so much about my job. I reread heir comments a week later and realised that I’d completely misread what they were trying to say. They’d written the comment in good humour as part of a longer email as a gentle nudge to relax a little. And yet I latched onto one slightly negative thing. That was silly and I wish I could take it back and not given out the Alice Bennett sob story. So as a writer I also need to learn how to read (hah, how ironic).
Stop overanalysing emails. (See above.) Because colleagues will think it weird and will be scared that they’ll appear on blogs, like they’re working with some kind of corporate Taylor Swift.
Write something awesome
Like truly awesome
Grow nails, preferably by finding something/one as actual motivation.
Because nothing else is working and I hate my hands and want nails so bad. I’m thinking like The Rock or Channing Tatum as personal trainers, Richard Branson staring me down from the other side of the office, and/or a naggy Martin Freeman? Not fussy, whichever comes easiest to hand (eh, see what I did there? Pun Goddess.)
Be you Alice because when you’re not spilling coffee everywhere you pass off for a decent human being. And you need to damn well appreciate it more.
(Also because Oscar Wilde’s people called. Turns out he’s already taken.)
So there’s my ‘things are going to change around here’ list for 2018. Comment below any of yours, in the meantime I’m off to take on the new year.
woke up this morning to find God had bestowed a belated birthday/early Christmas present on me…
Now I know most normal people would look at this with utter delight, but because I am basically the love child of David Mitchell and Richard Ayoade I naturally am disgruntled by this sight. If God had four Christmas parties to attend to and several board meetings lined up I’m sure He’d feel the same.
So my day started with that, followed by the world’s most middle class Christmas argument, fuelled by the family having too many Christmas lights:
“We’re not putting multiple sets of lights on the tree.”
“But look, these are similar.”
“The clue is in the word ‘similar’. They’re not the same.”
“We can make it work. Lets lie them out first and turn them on…”
“Oh just turn the frigging lights off. Look, I’m having to get off my backside now to do something.”
“Wow, that language is a bit strong.”
“Dad, if you’re going to judge Mum’s use of the word ‘backside’ then seriously we’ve got issues. Also, I’ve just found another box of lights…”
I kid you not, Times Square has nothing on the Bennett household right now.
The evening has now drawn to a close with four adults heckling The Snowman (35 years later and I still think it’s nothing on the 1998 often overlooked classic The Bear)
(Why did you take the bear from his home! Then the girl loses her toy and starts crying even though her Mum gets her a replacement and then…well it’s about then that I start to lose my faith in humanity and become an emotional wreck. It’s a rapid spiral I grant you.)
Anyway, I digress (and have had multiple Christmas parties and realise I should really get this post written before Mariah gets put back into her festive cave with Michael Buble and half of Band Aid).
Ah Christmas, that wonderful time of year where decorations cover the shops, festive TV adverts fill our little homes and language that in any other context would be weird and mildly uncomfortable is apparently acceptable.
It’s also a time for those working in marketing to don their “how far can we push this?” hat in a bid to convince consumers that very uninspiring, essential, items are really amazing things.
That said, I did wonder if we were approaching the end of the world and/or Christianity when, before Advent had even begun, I saw this in Wilko…
(Naturally I stock piled a lot of thermal leggings and chocolate in preparation for what would happen on the 14th December. Spoiler – my boss still expected me to be in work and double spoiler the Devil didn’t make an appearance. Let down.)
As for me this is the first Christmas in my new house (would be smug but have no money), I set out on the very new experience of buying decorations for one’s own home. Typically the conversation in my childhood around buying festive ornaments has gone something like this:
Alice: “Mum can we buy this bauble?”
Mumma Bennett: “How much is it?”
Mumma Bennett: “No.”
(Still better dialogue than Twilight.)
And, to be fair, one must be watchful because if you’re not careful the big retailers can run rings around you. Take these decorations for example. Now although they’ve been reduced in price, if you look very closely you notice there’s actually nothing ruddy well there.
(Don’t worry, it took a while to spot it myself.)
This year however the conversation on my purchase of decorations was altogether different…
Mumma Bennett: “You must buy lights.”
Alice: “Ok. Here, what about these?”
Mumma Bennett: “Oh no! That many will not do, you need more. Here, get the next box up.”
Mumma Bennett: “Trust me, a tree with too few lights is worse than one with too many. They’re worth paying the price for.”
Alice: “Hey Mum, it’s Alice. So what you were saying about lights the other day…yeah, I have too many. Decided to put them around the large canvas and hope they don’t burn the house down. How flammable is oil paint? In other news, Georgi has never seen mulled wine in a bottle and the other Alice thinks Tree Skirts are the work of black magic. Gotta dash, speak soon!”
When I returned home next I returned the favour of giving bad advice by getting them to play this awful, awful song:
Other than the minor health and safety issue of LEDs and poorly labelled products, I’ve discovered that there are also a great wonder of WTF goods out there to be bought. E.g. when it comes to buying Christmas interiors I draw the line at pooping into an elf.
I mean, this girl has standards.
And as for this craze which randomly appeared overnight and now is at every Christmas market…what?
I know a way to radically reduce your costs and overheads. You get a stick and sell it – it’s called a stick man. Even better, get a few and you have this wonderful thing called kindling which you can set on fire and use to keep warm. No need to thank me.
But then I see a pair of punny socks and my blood pressure drops a little.
Then I see this sign and I hope to goodness that the designer drew their inspiration from Friends.
If not than this whole hipster craze really needs to calm the shizz down.
Oh, and for anyone buying me presents this year, don’t get me this:
And women, if you really want to please your man, may I recommend you take him to this stand and leave him whilst you do the present shopping?
So there you have it, another Christmas edition of Alice Bennett’s inner warped, deeply sarcastic, but wonderfully enlightening mind. Things to take away from this piece:
The Bear is amazing, snow on roads is not
Christmas lights were sent by God to test us, just like a number of stupid products being sold under the umbrella terms “festive” and “Christmassy”
Thermal leggings are NOT a suitable present.
So Merry Christmas to all, and to all may your gingerbread lattes be overflowing and your heads forever covered by wolf hats.
So, the WordPress prompt of the day is ‘Mercy’ and when I think of mercy my natural reaction is to get on a podium and dance.
And to think, if I’d decided to study Politics I may have had a different reaction to the concept of mercy. A world where Alice is unmoved by the above song. What a sad world that would be.
It did however lead me to wonder: where is Duffy now? Where is Duffy, and Dido and Celine Dion and everyone with a D under five characters?
Well it transpires I wasn’t the first one to think this big question (about Duffy that is. No one seems to have a clue about Dido and I’m quite sure Celine is making plump middle aged women cry in Las Vagas still). Duffy wise, Digital Spy has already addressed this point.
I didn’t even have to look hard for the article, on a Bing search (don’t judge, I’m too lazy to switch) it came up as second in results under the keyword “Duffy”.
The article paints a story that is heard all too often in the music industry. Too much fame, too quickly, leading to breakdowns and even firing her own publicity team. She went quiet and then fired off a batch of new singles in early 2017 following a break from music. I know, I was completely none-the-wiser either. (If you want the full article click here.)
So there you go. Who says you don’t learn stuff from this blog.
Written in response to the WordPress prompt of the day: Mercy
What does one get a family member who has everything? More to the point, what does one get a family member when one has no money, no time and has a terrible habit of writing in the ‘one’ tense? That’s right, she makes a truly amazing video featuring Phil Collins (obviously).
It seemed such a good idea to make a video for lil bub Bennett’s birthday, but then in truth I think I may have really just wanted to pay tribute to Phil Collins and feed my middle age condition (the one where people are born liking The Archers and consider staying up to watch the BBC News at 10 to be a ‘crazy’ one. Yeah, that one.) Anyway, I thought the video would be a nice thing to do for her.
20 hours later…
Brain dead, caffeine overdosed and fed up of seeing my sister’s face more than my own, I finally created a masterpiece. “She better love this” I thought, before dashing into Lush the next day to buy a back up present. Safe thing too, when I first presented her with the gift she seemed less than amused at the offering.
“Right. Ok, well that’s a very nice memory stick Ali, thank you.”
“No you donut, it’s what’s on the stick.”
“Did you seriously think I’d give you a cheap USB stick for your birthday?”
“Just play the video.”
Luckily, she loved it. And now, for your viewing pleasure, I have added that same video here. Enjoy! (Well as much as you can given you know nothing of my family and it’s in-jokes…if nothing else watch it for Phil.)
Written in response to the WordPress prompt Dancing