Have you read Miranda Hart‘s book, Is It Just Me?, yet? No? Why on earth not?
I finished reading it yesterday and feel the need to share now. I laughed (out loud, sometimes, while in public places), I almost cried, and I nodded my head in agreement quite a lot (on pretty much every page actually – must have looked like some kind of nodding dog). Throughout most of the book a knowing smile was spread across my face, and people around me on the train or in Starbucks must have wondered what it was that I knew that they didn’t. It was simple – I knew I was reading a gem of a book!
Just before I read the final chapter of the book I had been wandering along a quiet street in south-west London when I suddenly imagined myself bumping into Miranda Hart (probably literally, since we both seem prone to bumping into things). I often imagine such scenarios, and now I know that it’s not just me who does this, which is reassuring. After bumping into Miranda, I imagined apologising profusely, laughing it off together, and then explaining to her that I was just about to finish reading her book and that I loved it. In the past when I’ve met famous people I’ve become a jabbering sweaty fool (sorry Jonathan Ross!), but on this occasion I would exude confidence and wit and Miranda would instantly see that I was her kind of people (that’s how the fantasy went, anyway).
Because I am, dear reader, I am her kind of people. The book asks “is it just me?”, and I can say with total confidence that it most certainly is not just you, Miranda. Never have I read a book I related to more. It was hilarious because life is hilarious, isn’t it? And if you don’t laugh, you’ll probably just cry. Or sit around frowning, which I admit I am prone to doing sometimes.
Right from the first page I knew I was going to love Is It Just Me?. Miranda talks about where you might be reading the book (I was stood in Sainsbury’s having not actually bought said book yet, trying to kill some time because the tills weren’t open – bloomin’ Sunday trading laws). On that first page Miranda makes a reference to commuting, which perfectly describes why I hate it with such a passion: “Maybe you’re standing on a commuter train, using this book as a filter between you and a repellent armpit. If so, I’m terribly sorry. That’s no way to start the day, is it? Face in a pit.“. I knew I was going to love every word that followed.
Is It Just Me? is an amusing romp through life’s trials and tribulations (good word, ‘tribulations’), in which Miranda talks to her 18-year-old self, who attends and all-female boarding school. As she covers each topic, from music and hobbies to office life, to diets, dating and dreams, Miranda gives advice, tells anecdotes and asks “is it just me?”. If you’ve ever seen her wonderful BBC comedy (currently showing series 3 on Mondays at 9pm), you’ll have an idea what kind of stories you’re in for. These are stories of ordinary stuff, like how to balance a drink and plate at a buffet and actually eat the foot on your plate (you can’t, it’s impossible), making small talk with super intelligent people (just don’t get me started on that!), and carrying watermelons (we’ve all seen Dirty Dancing, right?).
But it’s the last chapter on ‘dreams’ which I really adored, and which actually brought a tear to my eye. I won’t ruin it for you, because I do insist you buy and read this book yourself, but Miranda talks about the importance of following one’s dreams, just as she has done. She reminds us all that life is silly and difficult at times, but that we must hold on to our dreams, even the little ones. We must also be honest with ourselves about what those dreams are, and not attempt to make our dreams fit in with what we think we should be doing or what the rest of the world thinks we should be doing. If it’s been your dream since childhood, and it’s still your dream now, then it probably is what you ought to be doing. I’ll give you a small quote:
I think it’s sad when people stop dreaming, or start losing hope. Because holding onto the bonkers dream might just turn out to be the most marvellous thing you ever did…. Allow me to sit back, fold my arms, hoist my trousers northwards and say, ‘YOU. YOU are the person this industry has been waiting for.
So it was with this thought about dreams that I finished Is It Just Me?, while riding on a slightly sweaty Piccadilly Line tube, face not quite in a pit. Ever since I can remember I have been writing stories. When I was a kid I wrote stories about killer piranha fish and Sylvanian Families. Now I write stories about Japan. Although it’s always been my dream to be a writer, I guess I struggle with the idea that I actually could. I find it hard to imagine walking into a bookshop and seeing my book on the shelf (I’d better hurry up or bookshops might cease to exist, what with all this technology), or being invited to a bookshop to give a reading, but why shouldn’t I achieve my dream?
When I heard Miranda had a book out, I just thought it would be a jolly good laugh to read – such fun – and it was, but I didn’t expect to get a real life lesson too.
Thank you, Miranda Hart, for what I call I really fabulous book!
I was walking home tonight, when I saw guy I know from work waiting at the bus stop. Normally I would just say ‘hi’ and continue walking (I don’t know him so well), but he waved me over with a huge grin on his face.
“What’s up?”, I asked.
His reply was to show me his cell phone with a picture of his two-week old baby boy on it. (Last time I saw him, he was still expecting.)
I think I reacted appropriately. “Wow! So cute! Congratulations!” That’s a normal reaction, right?
The thing is… I faked it. Just as Miranda Hobbes fakes her sonogram in Sex and the City (Season 4, “Change of a Dress”), I faked my reaction to this guy’s baby. I mean, yeah, it’s great news. And he was clearly thrilled. But it’s so hard to get excited about other people’s kids.
I’m definitely at that age where all my friends are buying houses, getting married and having babies (although not necessarily in that order!), and I can’t help wondering… is there such a thing as a ‘settling gene’? And, if so, do I have one?
As a single girl in her (gulp!) late-twenties, living in rented accommodation, and doing a job which, let’s face it, probably isn’t a lifelong career, I really do feel worlds apart from most of my friends right now. But I have no maternal instinct urging me to settle down and procreate. I do want to buy a house someday, but I don’t know where I want to live yet. And I don’t know if I want to buy that house with someone, or go it alone.
Two of my co-workers are planning weddings right now, and two of my best friends back home got married last year. Another of my friends back home is getting married really soon, and one of the best friends mentioned above is about to have her first baby. I’m thrilled for them all, I really am. But I do find it hard to really be interested in it all when, honestly, I’m not. I’m mean, of course I’m interested in my friends and what they’re doing. But I’m not really interested in weddings and babies.
Is it possible that I am in fact just missing a gene? A gene which would make me dream of white weddings and storks? I am romantic, and I’m not opposed to the idea of settling down (with the right person), but it doesn’t seem to be something I’m going to be doing this side of thirty. And if I do settle down, I really don’t think there will be any babies!
I don’t think I’m completely alone in this line of thought, though. In fact, I’m reading a great book at the moment (The Group by Mary McCarthy), with this excellent line in it:
“It was plain to Polly that many of her married classmates were disappointed in their husbands and envied the girls, like Helena, who had not got married.”
Maybe I, like Helena, could seem to have an enviable life, at least to those who are unhappy with their own. I have no ties, from either a husband or a baby, which means I am able to live in a foreign country and basically do as I please. My free time is my own, my money is my own, my choices are my own. I don’t really have to answer to anyone, and I’m free to change my mind, my hairstyle, and my sheets 😉 as often as I like. Maybe I’m better off without the settling gene?
What do you think?