sirisa clark

the things I do and the words I choose

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We’re going to Glastonbury 2013!

It was a close call too: we got through about 5 minutes before they sold out completely. I’m feeling a mixture of elation that we got tickets, and bummed out for my friends who didn’t.

Buying Glastonbury tickets is a bit like playing the lottery. What other festival in the world sells out 200,000 tickets in 1 hour 40 minutes, without announcing a single act?

We got up at 8:40 on a Sunday (I know, I nearly expired when my alarm went off), flicked the kettle on and set up Headquarters in the living room. Sam came over, and the three of us sat there for 90 minutes: mobile in one hand (Call Back Call Back Call Back Call Back), landline in the other (hang up redial hang up redial hang up redial) and laptop on my lapt (F5 F5 F5 F5 F5). I got into such a rhythm with all three devices I started to worry I’d get through and then accidentally hang up.

And then all of a sudden, Rani calls up, and she’s through and I’m handing over my card details to lay down a £400 deposit for 8 people. Can’t make rent this month but who cares?

So here is my Glasto 2013 wishlist:

Pyramid Stage:

Saturday night: Radiohead. Sunday night: Talking Heads/ Tom Tom Club surprise reunion! All other times: Coldplay, U2, or some other rock behemoth I don’t give a stuff about, to draw the crowds away from my favourite stage…

Other Stage:

Bjork, Parliament/Funkadelic, Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal, Spoon, TV on the Radio, LCD Soundsystem, M.I.A, Santigold, Beastie Boys, Arcade Fire, De La Soul.

My fantasy: Santigold, Beastie Boys, De La and Bjork all join George Clinton onstage…

West Holts (on a really sunny Friday afternoon):

Mungo’s Hi Fi, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Roots Manuva, Femi Kuti, K’naan, Afrikan Boy, Easy Dread Allstars.

Some tiny tent somewhere, with a smoky intimate feeling despite the crowds:

Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Be Good Tanyas, Gillian Welch, The Black Keys, Cat Power.

Dance Village:

Groove Armada, Basement Jaxx, Mr Scruff, Andy C, Skream, Benga, 2 Many DJs.

Please Mr Eavis, any and all of the above, just not at the same time!

What I will really be doing is getting hold of the line-up and listening to as many of the bands as possible, because even if you’ve never heard of them, you can rely on Mike and Emily to book the best music going, so it’s a brilliant way to discover new music, and then arrive at the festival totally psyched to see them.

That’s why it’s maybe the only festival in the world that can completely sell out without announcing a single act.



Take it like a man

When I was a kid, I read a magazine that counselled its readers to learn to accept compliments graciously. They suggested that, rather than responding with a list of all the things wrong with your hair/face/clothes/weight, you could simply adopt the attitude of a chic Parisienne; smile and say merci.

“This old thing? Oh it makes my hair turn into a ball of static frizz, seriously.”

I never quite understood why they considered French women the bastions of self-posession in this instance, but I thought the advice was sound and tried to adopt the approach.

Because here’s the thing about compliments: it can be hard to take them without feeling embarrassed or full of yourself, but it can also be difficult to give them.

You might be surprised by how shy I am: it took me 3 days to pluck up the courage to go and invite the new girl at work out for lunch, even though I remember how lonely I was in that position a year ago. 3 days! I actually did that thing where you walk halfway over and then turn around and run away again. She must think I’m nuts.

So if you’re getting a compliment from me, you might want to know that I probably rehearsed it several times in my head, to make sure it didn’t sound cheesy, or like I am trying too hard, or like a backhanded compliment that is designed to make you feel bad about yourself. And even as I’m saying it, I’m probably thinking “oh no! I over-rehearsed it in my head, and now it sounds wooden and fake! Argh!”

Because even though I’ve done my best to master the serene smile and thank you (or as it shall henceforth be known, the French Method), I still end up over-analysing any compliment, to ferret out any subtle allusions or double meanings. Here’s just two recent examples:

Woman at work: Look at you! You look smaller and smaller every time I see you!

Me: I’m sorry?

Woman: You’ve lost weight, you look great!

Me: Oh, thanks! [no I haven’t. If anything I’ve gained weight recently. Why does she think that? Am I fat in the mental image she has of me, and so when she actually sees me, she’s always surprised by how slim I actually am?? DO I HAVE A FAT AURA?!]

That’s actually mild insanity on my part right? I mentioned this exchange to Ben, and before I could even comment he said “I hope you didn’t find a way to take that badly”. How well he knows me.

Italian woman of my acquaintance: Ah, you look so much like my daughter! I have a daughter your age, she is… [waves hand vaguely at my chest as if searching for the Italian word for buxom] She looks just like you, che bella! But she has two young children.

Rational Siri: all parents think their children are gorgeous. Being compared to someone’s child is a serious compliment.

Crazy-Ass Insecure Siri: I’m pretty sure she just implied I have the figure of a woman who’s had two kids, and simultaneously pointed out my failure to reproduce.

Rational Siri: Crazy-Ass Insecure Siri, you’re a dick.

As a little experiment, I asked Ben when he last received a compliment:

Ben: Yesterday, when you told me how great I look in the jacket you bought me

Siri: and what did you think when I said that?

Ben: [beatific grin]

So there you go ladies: you look fucking awesome today. Take it like a man.

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my heart skips a beat

I didn’t write yesterday! I feel a bit like a spell has been broken, and actually looking at the time (23:54) I won’t manage to blog today either. Rats.

In truth, I wasn’t blogging because I was out having a good time: singing my heart out in a karaoke booth in chinatown for my girl Sam’s birthday. I think the internets can wait for that.

Today I’ve been doing next to nothing, due to a prolonged sensation of wooziness since about midday (perhaps I’m really not meant to give blood). I have napped, drunk tea and knitted, watched Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who.

It has been glorious.

So, a rather dull post today, but to make up for it I’ve included a vid of the version of Empire State of Mind I like to sing at karaoke:


Success Tastes like Lemon Squash

Guys, check it: I gave blood today. LIKE A BOSS!

It took a long time again, but I’ve come to realise that is kind of par for the course when you’re a Zimbabwe-born nomad with a history of fainting. Man, they get really uptight when you mention fainting. And they get this really worried look when you start talking about your ears ringing and vision clouding, apparently they’re not cool with that at all.

So, some lessons learnt from my first ever blood donation:

1) This was probably not my first ever blood donation

Crazy huh? After a bit of a chat with the nurse I found out that my first attempt 11 years ago was probably successful. It turns out they only contact you and let you know if you’re malaria test is positive. If it’s negative, they just invite you to the next session, and you fall into the regular donor schedule. The fact that they didn’t write to me for four years was just some weird oversight.

Which is great and all, but I’ve been dining out on that story for years. What do I do with it now?


2) Not fainting requires Buns of Steel and syncopated rhythm

To reduce the risk of fainting they instructed me in some butt-clenching exercises to keep my blood pressure up, and also recommended crossing my legs one way then the other. I sat there feeling like a fidgeting, uncoordinated idiot: trying to simultaneously open and close my hand, cross and uncross my legs, and clench and unclench my bum at the varying speeds they’d suggested for each action.

It’s a wonder I didn’t fall off the bed.


3) Being a blood donor doesn’t make you special

Yeah sorry about that, but having spent two evenings in blood centres this week and trying to make appointments several times, I can tell you that the World and his Wife are out there pouring out the red stuff. It’s a regular old blood-letting.

Case in point: I saw the librarian from my UCL library there giving blood, while my sister ran into a family friend at the blood donation centre this morning. I’ve also been finding out how many of my friends are donors from their facebook comments on my blog. Which is all good because…


4) Sometimes Special isn’t so Good

I’ve always thought ‘wahey, I’m a universal donor! I’m part of just 7% of the population who are O negative, and my blood can be given to anyone. It’s like unicorn blood!’

Then I was chatting to a friend who is also O negative, who likened donating blood to putting money in the bank, or an insurance policy. Because while your blood can be given to anybody, you can’t receive any of the other blood types. And furthermore, the O neg blood stocks are always being called upon in emergency situations.

So if you’re O neg, it’s very much in your interests to give blood when you’re healthy, to increase the chance that there’s some in the bank for when you’re not.


5) Success Tastes like Lemon Squash

Buckets and buckets of the stuff. In the two hours I was at the donation centre, I don’t think I was ever without a glass of water or squash in my hand. I’ve also eaten enough biscuits to turn me into a jammy dodger. I should be sugared up to the eyeballs, but of course I’m actually very tired.

I’m going to go sleep the sleep of a lifesaver.


A Girl Made of Stone

You know the saying, ‘like blood from a stone’?

Photo Credit: stock.xchng

That’s me apparently. I had a blood test a couple of months ago, that could not have gone much worse. The nurse checked both arms for viable veins, stuck me in the right arm and connected the little glass bottle to the end of the needle. Nothing happened. Ordinarily blood starts flowing into the bottle. The nurse and I both stared dumbstruck at the empty bottle.

“That’s funny, I could have sworn I’d found a vein. Maybe it was a tendon or something”

(Seriously? Excuse me while I process that by puking everywhere).

She tried my left arm, and the exact same thing happened. At this point she packed me off to the local hospital’s phlebotomy centre to let the professionals tackle me. The Bloodless Wonder Arms struck two more times (and by this point I was looking like a serious junkie), before the phlebotomist decided it would have to be a vein in the back of my hand. I’m just really glad it didn’t progress to the feet or groin.

I tried to give blood today. I was mildly apprehensive about having Empty Arm syndrome again, but I did not bank on failing to give blood for the fourth consecutive time. Here is my attempted donation history.


I climb into the back of a van in a Sainsbury’s car park – bear with me, it’s not as seedy as it sounds. I answer a million and one questions about all the naughty I might have done in my life, and being a fairly clean living 18 year old, answer no to all of them. But then the killer question:

Nurse: Have you travelled in a Sub-Saharan African country under the age of five?

Me: Why, yes. I was born in one.

Nurse: Ah, sorry, we won’t be able to take your blood, in case you have Malaria.

Me: … Um. Pretty sure I’ve never had Malaria. I think… I think I would have noticed.

Nurse: No you see, exposed at that age, you might be a carrier and never know it. Don’t worry, we’ll take a sample and test it, and let you know.

Reader, they took a full pint of my blood and they never called me! Maybe that van was as dodgy as it sounds…



Fully four years later, I receive a letter in the post: Good news! We have changed the rules on Malaria-screening, and you are now eligible to give blood! (Really?? Brilliant!! What the shit guys, do I have Malaria or not?!)

So I dutifully trot down to my local church hall where they are taking donations, skip through the field of questions like a hippy: all is well with the world, and I am going to give this nice lady my blood and save lives… only:

Nurse: you seem to be sniffling quite a bit. Do you have a cold?

Me: well uh, I had a bit of one last week I guess, but I’m feeling pretty good now, so it’s –

Nurse: are you producing any green mucus?

Me: that’s a bit gross, but yeah I guess

Nurse: you can’t give blood with an infection, you could kill somebody with your germs.


Summer 2005

Woo! I am in Wales visiting my awesome boyfriend Ben, and he is totally a regular blood donor, and there’s a blood drive in town and I’m going to give blood AT LAST! I’m feeling good: no cold; still not shooting smack or selling my body in Sub-Saharan Africa; nobody knows or CARES if I have Malaria!

I sail through the questions like it ain’t no thang, and finally reach the iron test stage – you know, where they prick your finger and put a drop in a blue solution, and if it sinks you have enough iron to donate?

Now when Ben tells this story, he likes to tell people that my blood drop plopped into that blue water, then rose up a clear foot above the jar, like the angel Gabriel at the Annunciation. My memory is more that it rose to the surface and just kind of disintegrated. Either way, they decided it would be prudent to test me for anaemia.

I arrived home a week later to a letter that said:

URGENT: Your mean hemoglobin level is 6.6g/dL. You should take this letter to your doctor immediately

Okay. Thank you, Professor Context – what does that mean? It turns out 12g/dL is considered healthy for a non-pregnant woman. 10 is anaemic. 6.6 leads to a conversation like this with your doctor:

Doctor: Oh my god. How did you get so anaemic? Are you vegetarian?

Me: Not at the moment. I have been in the past, but I’ve been living in France for 7 months, land of the Steak.

Doctor: And you only found out by trying to give blood? How did you not realise you were anaemic? You must feel tired all the time

Me: Yeah, but… I just figured I was a low energy kind of person

Doctor: But. This level of anaemia, you would have had pains in your legs!

Me: I do get pains in my legs. Nobody ever told me that was a symptom of anaemia.

After three months of 3 iron pills a day, I was back on form.


September 2012

This time, I was ready, this time it would work. It’s 18 months since I got back from India, Morocco was completely above Saharan, I’ve been cold-free for an unusually long time, and I have a brief window of opportunity before I go to Italy (yes, Italy is now also contraband for the National Blood Service. They should simplify the questionnaire to just one question: HAVE YOU LIVED?)

Today, it came down to a question of just pure administrative bullshit. Who knew every single person in Brixton was a card carrying blood donor, who has the good sense to book their next session 4 months in advance? (I’m not kidding, they were taking bookings for the end of January today). I tried to book an appointment a week ago, but was advised to try dropping in instead. So I left work early, got there at the start of the session, put my name down, and waited.

After nearly two hours, I asked the nurse on the desk what was happening. She gave me a really shitty response that 10 other people were still ahead of me just to have their paperwork processed. So I left.


Man, after 11 years and four attempts at giving blood, you would think I would know by now – the Blood Service do not want my blood. What gets me is, I’m a universal donor. When I tried to book an appointment last week, they had an appeal on their website for more O Neg donors. That’s me!! I felt like jumping on one of the gurneys and shouting “I’m a Universal Donor! I’m more useful to you than half these bloody people! Shut up and take my blood!”

But yes. Even with my stony veins and terrible track record, I’m going to try again, because of this:

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Dream Job

My career aspirations over the years have varied wildly – from street sweeper (I wanted to make the world a more beautiful place, and also sweep up autumnal leaves) to US President (what do you mean they probably won’t take a British Australian national born in Zimbabwe? What if I brought my own rake?)

I think that all told, my ultimate job would be a cat. I’d be really good at it too! I’d make an amazing cat. In the manner of the most effective job applications, I have mapped my personal skills and qualities against what is required of the role:

Ability to sleep 16 hours a day – anywhere, anytime

I have this one down pat. I used to get home from school, drink a cup of coffee, and pass out on the sofa for 4 hours before bed. I have slept through three consecutive 9 hour flights. I have slept from one end of the Victoria line to the other. I have snuck off at weddings for a quiet siesta, and dozed through death metal bands at Wembley.

My personal best is 16 straight hours of sleeping, but I think everybody has space for development in their careers, and pushing that record forward is a challenge I’m keen to take on.

Just give me a minute… I’ll… zzzzzz


I have been adored, more than once in my life, and have sought on many occasions to foster this feeling in others. The most relevant example from my recent career history is Ben, who adores me enough to marry me, which I think is a pretty strong indicator of my skills in this department.

Altogether now, awwwwww

Receptiveness to Stroking

I cannot stress enough how much I love to be stroked, and how persistent I am in seeking out opportunities to get stroked. If you need somebody on your team who can hassle someone until they get a pet on the head, I’m your girl. Cat. Girl.

I am also very cuddly and snuggly, and less inclined to switch on you than most cats.

Yes that’s it! Right under the chin… purrrfect

Ability to Purr

This kind of goes hand in hand with the previous point, but rest assured: I can do this. I would be happy to demonstrate these skills at interview.

A Certain Aloof Quality

Many of my close friends have commented that in the early stages of our friendship I came across as ‘stand-offish’, and I think I have a real skill in reticence towards new people that makes me ideally suited to executing the kind of cold shoulder only a cat can pull off.

Fuck you gold scarf, you don’t know me

Bottomless Desire for Food

Over the past 9 years I have trained my Human, er Husband, to respond to non-verbal demands for food, culminating in a simple mouth open, finger pointing gesture that has been known to summon hot chocolate, slices of cake, and yummy yummy fish pies. Like most cats, I have a total disdain for catfood. It smells like arse.

What the hell is this? Where’s the filet mignon?

Ability to React to the Slightest Noise

I am a naturally skittish person, and have spent many a sleepless night twitching at the sound of the fridge whirring. My most recent accomplishment in this area was two nights ago, when Ben’s toe brushed mine as I started to doze. My half-sleeping brain was convinced a spider had run across my foot, and spent the next ten minutes a gibbering mess.

Natural Grace and Athleticism


So, that is my application for the post of Cat. If anybody would like to hire me for this position, I would consider a starting salary of £40,000 (this is a dream job after all) but am open to negotiation. As is customary in the terms for this kind of position, I reserve the right to disappear at night and for days on end, suggesting I potentially have a second home (I do, it’s here with Ben).

Job offers can be left in the comments below. For now, I leave you with 4 minutes of cat magic: