Sunday, 24 April 2016


Those of you who have read my blog before will know that I am an avid fan of Avenue Q, and regularly quote it.

You will also know that I am a huge fan of making people happy, and that my deepest wish is that I could make a living the same way that Ant and Dec do- simply bringing happiness to normal people.

One could argue that that is part of my job, but not quite in the same way as Ant and Dec so I won't be wording it like that on my CV just yet.

Anyway, one of the best songs in Avenue Q is Schadenfreude. For those of you who are unaware, this means 'pleasure derived from another person's misfortune.' The examples cited in Avenue Q include laughing at ice skaters falling over, feeling warm and cosy watching people out in the rain, and watching actors fail to get to the end of their Oscars speech.

Now you may be thinking that it doesn't sound very nice- it isn't. But we all do it, so it's okay to embrace it. Be honest with me- did you laugh at Madonna's Brit Award incident? Did you watch Jennifer Lawrence falling over at the Oscars? If you didn't, are you going to look it up the second you've finished reading this? (And not a second before, may I add.)

I think if I'm ever going to make a living making people happy, it's going to be using schadenfreude. I think I regularly bring people happiness by the simple gratitude that they are not me, in any given embarrassing moment...

It's the night before I start my new role. More responsibility. More pressure. I'm going up in the world.

I've been at a social dinner for all of the managers in Essex, and am now walking back to my car, swallowing back tears as I regale the story of the very embarrassing thing I did in front of twenty of my colleagues in the Lakeside branch of Bella Italia.

"Why can't I be more like Princess Kate?" I wail, opening my car door and throwing myself into my seat, "she would never have done that."

"No, you're right. She wouldn't have done." My mum replies, attempting a sympathetic voice as she laughs her head off. "Ooh but you know who would!" She perks up, adopting her look-on-the-bright-side tone. "Miranda Hart!"

Ah. The other person every little girl wants to grow up to be.

Thanks Mum.

I messaged my friend Alice- about both the embarrassing act and my mum's reaction- who immediately replied 'who wants to be like Kate? At least you're not boring!'

The truth is that I want to be like Kate. I want to sail through all life's social occasions with the ease and grace of Julie Andrews. I want to be able to leave the presence of people without cringing as I replay everything I said and did on the drive home. I want to be able to marry Prince Harry without being terrified that I'm going to bring shame on the family with my ridiculous, and genuinely accidental, antics.

My nearest and dearest are now so used to these stories that they just half laugh and half despair at how I do these things.

But another friend pointed out that it's what makes her relaxed around me, the fact that I have these stories to tell, and that I (have no choice but to) make fun of myself, means that she never feels stupid in front of me.

(There's a compliment in there somewhere.)

Anyway, Alice has a point.

They're stories to tell, right?

So tell them I will.

Please bear in mind that these four things happened to me in the past seven days, so this represents my average week...

1) The Work Incident

Rewind approximately half an hour to before I rang my mum.

I've spent the whole evening sat between my regional manager and a manager from another centre that I've never met before. It has all been rather lovely- despite the most unhelpful signs all the way to the correct car park I did make it on time, contrary to my concerns I struck the right balance between dressy and casual in my outfit choice, I managed not to fall on the dodgy tiles in my heels on the way to the toilet, the conversation has been natural and full-flowing, and the delicious food all managed to make it to my mouth rather than down my front.

Successful, all in all.

We've requested the bill, the last of the drinks are being consumed, and we're all feeling satisfied that it has been a simply lovely evening, when- with absolutely no forewarning and for absolutely no reason at all, I fall off my chair and fly backwards across the floor before I come skidding to a halt in front of twenty colleagues from across the county, my regional manager, and several Bella Italia Lakeside staff- all now silent and staring, unsure what to do.

I hit the floor really hard, so hard that if I were in a room on my own I would have burst into inconsolable, teething-baby tears.

The shock of whacking my backside on the dodgy, faux-wooden floor- apart from the pain- knocks the breath out of me.

I feel everyone's eyes on me- unsure whether to laugh or to comfort me.

I realise I have to lead this.

If I want to keep my new job, I think, I probably need to choose a route that isn't 'burst into tears and insist I haven't had anything to drink.' (NB. I was driving, and genuinely had not had a sip of alcohol.)

"I'm fine, I'm just mortified,' I shout, trying to keep the wobble out of my voice.

The room erupts into hysterical laughter which- my mother will later point out- is probably for the best. If everyone had been nice I may not have been able to keep my tears at bay.

I laugh merrily along and swallow my drink with my horror, before escaping at the earliest possible second and calling Dale- who said "brilliant, does this mean we can move to Australia?"

2) The Wedding Part 1

I went to Oxford for a wedding.

Oxford is quite far from my house.

(Though the majority of the guests travelling from Malaysia means that I can't emphasise this point too much.)

Instead of booking a hotel like a sensible person might have done, I chose to drive there and back in a day.

It was absolutely fine, I enjoy driving and it's only a couple of hours each way.

Except that it started at 12, which meant getting up and totally ready by 9 (for those of you that don't know- getting ready for weddings takes time), to allow myself an hour to get lost. (I have been known to get lost on my way to work, I was never going to make it all that way without a couple of hiccups.)

I made it to the Park and Ride having only taken two wrong turns and managing to get myself straight back on track. What I hadn't taken into account was that I would have to pay for both the Park and the Ride (last time I used it in Essex you just paid for the bus, not sure whether that's changed across the country or whether Oxford just have their own expensive rules), and that it would take TEN YEARS to pay over the phone for parking because I didn't have enough change with me for both.

I clearly stated the registration, make, and colour of my car as requested, only to be told that the voice recognition thing wasn't working, I would have to text them, and then call them back.

I felt like they were doing it on purpose- you know like Rowan Atkinson in Love Actually?

Having finally paid, I raced to the bus, jangling every penny I had with me, and buying the only ticket I could get with the very little change I had with me (who has change with them when they're in their fanciest frock?), making a mental note to get money out for the journey home, and then...proceeded to sit on the bus for what felt like another hour whilst they checked that everybody within the vicinity of the car park had made it onto the bus.

The second the bus pulled up to Stop E1 (unbeknownst to the driver- when I had said I need to get to Stop E1 he had rolled his eyes and said he thought I probably meant the city centre. Turns out I did.), I ran up the road, frantically holding my phone at a strange angle as I attempted to use the map Dale had sent me to navigate my way through the city, whilst also holding the five hundred other things that I would have been carrying in a handbag had I realised earlier that I needed one. (In the absence of a bag that matched my meticulously paired shoes, dress and fascinator combo I had thought it a good idea to just carry my lipstick, chewing gum, invitation, purse, phone, and Bonjela (my wisdom tooth is coming through), forgetting that I would look even more ridiculous than if I had gone with a slightly odd coloured clutch.

Kidding myself that I was having an adventure straight out of a movie, spinning around in my pretty dress in the sunshine as a musician played a guitar in the square and a Preacher stood on his box shouting about how loved we all are, I scuttled down a street that looked like it might be the right one- only seven minutes to go until the ceremony was due to start.

Stretching to see past parked cars and walking tours, I spotted some bright and beautiful bridesmaids scurrying through a gateway. I'd found it.

I took a deep breath to pull myself together, and turned to the shop window beside me to arrange my bright blue fascinator, boost my hair a bit and replace the lipstick that had undoubtedly slid off during the more stressful parts of my adventure.

It was only as I smiled at myself in the window that I realised that there was a very stern faced and scary man directly on the other side of that window, with raised eyebrows and not a hint of amusement.

3) The Wedding Part 2

Another fascinator story, sadly.

I made it into the wedding (although it did involve squeezing past the bride- who was ten minutes early and who I have never met- desperate to shout: I am invited! I know your fiance!) and was casually strolling back through the city to the reception, catching up with an old friend, when a bus drove past.

All at once my fascinator flew off, my arms flailing above me to rescue it; my dress flew in the air to reveal my underwear (I wish that was the only underwear/naked embarrassing story I had to tell. I could write a book just about all the times I've inadvertently flashed horrified onlookers), my wrap fell and got caught up in my legs, my chewing gum skidded to hit the toes of a man waiting innocently at the bus stop, my lipstick rolled in the opposite direction, and paper scattered the floor as the various parts of the invitation escaped my grip.

The friend I had been walking with scurried about trying to rescue all my things whilst the other guests gracefully collected my various belongings like the true princesses they are, and I wished desperately for a hole to swallow me up and take me away to an underground lair full of embarrassing idiots to save the beautiful and graceful University of Warwick graduates of the world from having to deal with us.

4) Specsavers

I think you might actually relate to this one.

In fact, I think Princess Kate may even relate to this one.

Earlier this week I visited Specsavers for my bi-yearly check up, and the second I was called in I found myself inexplicably giggly.

I always get a little bit nervous at the eye doctor. Last time I actually did something exceptionally embarrassing. I'll let you guess at what that was- fortunately I was spared that this time.

Instead, I found myself faced with a round, jolly optician. Santa without the beard, if you will.

"Ooh sorry," I said as he had to adjust the machine for the third time, "I must have an exceptionally small head."

"Oh no," he replied conspiratorially, leaning in and whispering, "the lady before you had an exceptionally large head."

"HA. Oh you are funny. Ha ha ha." I began, melting into over the top and unnecessary giggles.

'Pull yourself together!' My head said, as my body continued to convulse with laughter at nothing.

Then they took me through to the next room, where I was presented with a beautiful Asian man with bright blue eyes.

I had to bite my tongue to stop myself saying the absolute nonsense that had come out with Summertime Santa, especially as he made all the machines much smaller.

Then the lights went out and he started poking about with my eyes.

The world got a bit small, and a bit tight, and I couldn't breathe, and I couldn't stop wriggling, and...

He turned the lights on.

"You've gone very pale. I think you're about to pass out. Let's have a break." The beautiful man said, concern etched over his perfect face.

"Has anyone else ever needed a glass of water to avoid passing out at a standard eye test?" I was desperate to ask. I didn't, because I was quite confident about the answer, and I already felt stupid enough.

I heard a bout of unreasonable laughter come from the next room.

I can only assume Santa was whispering conspiratorially about my unusually small head.

Not only do I have a lovely talent for embarrassing myself in simple situations, I also have an exceptional talent for saving other people's embarrassment for them.

I spend so much of my time feeling mortified that I will do almost anything to save other people that awkwardness.

I have so many examples of this (including having to pretend to be a vegetarian for a year, and buying a chest of drawers that I did not want or need), but this is Minnie Mouse's favourite, so I thought I'd share it with you....

I climbed aboard a bus in Coventry to be met with the friendliest bus driver I have ever and will ever meet.

"How are you?!" He asked, with unusual enthusiasm for Coventry.

I answered, matching his enthusiasm.

"And how's your sister?!" He said, "How's her new job going?"


How embarrassing for him.

He thinks I'm somebody else.

How do I break it to him?

I don't have a sister? I've never met you before in my life? I'm not who you think I am?

None of them felt right.

"She's...great!" had escaped my mouth before I could stop it. "The new job's a challenge but she's enjoying it. Thanks for asking! You take care."

I took my seat on the bus and hoped against hope that he wouldn't ask anything that I couldn't lie about.

He didn't.

What he did do, however, was stop the bus at a stop approximately three stops before I needed to get off, and shout "here's your stop mate! Have a nice day, won't you?'

I'd already lied. I couldn't make up an excuse as to why I might be staying on for three extra stops quickly enough- I didn't know who I was pretending to be. But equally, I couldn't now tell him that I wasn't who he thought I was.

So I got off.

I got off, and waited twenty minutes in the freezing Coventry cold for the next bus to come along, and prayed that I would never get on his bus again.

(I didn't.)

I could tell you so many more stories like these but I am just about ready to burst with embarrassment having regaled these ones, and I imagine you are now desperate for the bathroom or another cup of tea, I have gone on a bit, so will leave it there.

What I am hoping is that I, like Miranda Hart and Nicky from Avenue Q, will have made you feel better about your own faux pas, and that next time you fall off your chair, or break wind in public, or show the world your underwear, or pass out for no reason, and you're wailing that Princess Kate would never do that, someone might tell you "she wouldn't, but you know who would?! Rebecca!"

And you might think- Oh. Yeah. Well at least I'm not boring.

You may even think of the cast of Avenue Q, who remind us as the song finishes that "we provide a vital service to society, you and me- schadenfreude, making the world a better place to be" :)

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