HOLLY MIRANDA SMALE

Writer, photographer, "rapper" and general technophobe takes on the internet in what could be a very, very messy fight. But it's alright: she's harder than she looks, and she's wearing every single ring she could get her hands on.







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Monday, 30 March 2009

Survival Skills

Dad texted me this morning from wherever it is he's gone. (Italy, I think. Possibly Budapest.)

Did you get my present? the text said, which caused me some alarm: it's incredibly rare for me to miss any kind of gift, however tiny it is.
No, I replied. Where is it? Gimme.
On top of fridge, dad messaged. Enjoy.

Why dad decided to leave a present on top of the fridge I have no idea: he knows full well that left to my own devices I'll live on Pot Noodles and cheese muffins, and neither of these need to be kept cold. It was very lucky, I thought as I wiped a bit of butter off my foot and left the rest of it on the floor, that it was a present and not a first aid kit or the back door keys, because it could have been a very dangerous oversight in the event of an accident with a tin opener.

On top of the fridge was The Worst-case Scenario Survival Handbook, with a note. Just in case, dad had written. Very useful, he added at the bottom of the electricity bill he hadn't opened (we both like doing that: if in doubt, just turn it over and doodle a happy face on the back).

I stared at the book for a few minutes, perplexed. In case of what? I wanted to text him, but that would be ungrateful and then he wouldn't bring me anything back from Italy (or Budapest) either. We had been laughing about desert island survival techniques earlier in the week, so perhaps this was to help me out if I got the job; or, perhaps it was to help me out during the four days this 27 year old adult would be spending all on her own. Including: How To Survive Runaway Camels; UFO adbuctions and leeches, it said on the front. Which was a little alarming, to be frank: when dad rang to mention the builders were coming at 9am on Friday, he hadn't mentioned any camels, UFOs or leeches at all. Perhaps he thought it was self-explanatory. We do have a half-hearted pond in our back garden after all, and the solar lights mum put in the flowerbeds would make it terribly easy to land a spaceship there.

After a quick browse, however, I came to the conclusion that the book is genius. How to crash land a plane on water, it said. How to stop a runaway passenger train. How to navigate a minefield (with the brilliant first suggestion: keep your eyes on your feet and don't move). How to jump from rooftop to rooftop (summarised: if you can't, then don't).

As a book, it's perfect. Women enjoy reading it because they can go shopping afterwards -reassured that there will be no minefields or runaway horses - and men enjoy reading it because they can go shopping afterwards and pretend that there might be. I have no doubt at all that after reading it dad felt a little more comfortable as a man, because he now knows how to catch a fish without a rod and survive a riptide. On the other hand, as a woman I feel reassured by the advice given (although, frankly, if I ever get stuck down a well I am so not inching up in an L shape, because it'll make my jeans dirty).

It missed out a few key survival tips, however, that would also be very useful in every day life. How to make sure your dad doesn't see the splodge of black insoluble paint you dropped on the carpet, for instance, would be handy. How to clean the house in 2.5 minutes, when he gets back earlier than you thought he would. How to hide his favourite, now smashed, mug; and pretend you didn't spend the emergency household money on Dominos.

On a larger scale, other techniques would have been appreciated over the last few weeks. How to get a second date would have been great, as would How not to cry in front of a BBC film crew. How to get more than 20 votes a day, would have been brilliant, as would How to make your mates hate you a little bit less. How to know when 'I'll call you' actually means I'll call you; How to conduct yourself on national radio when rated out of 10; How to say the right thing to Important People at the right time; How to get foot back out of mouth; How to know which foundation doesn't make your skin look orange. There are many, many topics that I would really quite have liked a 5 stage plan for over the last few weeks, but there weren't any. Nope: no books there. Just camels and UFOs and leeches, which - although thrilled that I can now avoid them - are nowhere near as dangerous as the holes I fall into on a daily basis. Holes that I do actually need a helping hand with.

Well? dad texted after half an hour. What did you think?
Umm, I texted back: handy. Very handy.

Because I'll say this for the book. When dad gets home in half an hour and sees the state of the house, knowing how to survive a volcano eruption might just be the most useful thing I've learnt all day.