We all need a vice

This week has so far been my worst at university. And the utterly strange thing is, I don’t really know why.

Undoubtedly, most of this was to do with not passing my shorthand exam. I was actually expecting this. Despite the months worth of practise I put in, when I sat down in the exam hall and realised my hand was so shaky that holding a pen was going to be as difficult as David Cameron opening his mouth and not pissing off the whole country, I knew I wasn’t going to pass. And this has made me stupidly miserable.

My family and friends were as usual, highly supportive and lovely about this.

My mum said, “Poor baby, but don’t you worry, it was just a test run. Next time to control your nerves, maybe you should staple something to your pencil case that makes you feel calm, like a picture of a burning candle, or a happy dolphin.”

My sister said, “Guinea pigs make me happy.”

Lauren said, “What you need is a vice.”

I’m not sure if he’s happy or just really hungry

We were in our friend Rose’s room, curled up under her duvet, eating the new Cadbury’s chocolate eggs with the mousse in the middle and playing FIFA.

“A vice?”I said.

“Yes, a vice. To help your nerves. For example, I like vodka.”

Rose laughed, “As do I.”

“I like Peach Schnapps,” I said hopefully.

“Nope,” Lauren shook her head. “You don’t drink it to help you through life. You drink it, and I quote, ‘because it tastes like sweets.'”

“And it’s fun to say,” I muttered.

“So what do you use to help you cope?”

I thought for a moment. “Harry Potter.”

“Harry Potter isn’t a vice,” said Rose. “Harry Potter is a pleasant past time.”

“And it isn’t detrimental to your health,” added Lauren.

I was beginning to feel left out. Viceless behaviour tends to get you an innocent name for yourself. Which is all very well until your friends start apologising every time they let a swear word slip.

By Valentines day, I had decided I did in fact have a vice. A few in fact.

“Okay,” I said to Lauren. “I know what my vice is.”

“Hit me,” Lauren said, sipping her drink. We were camped out in Costa, determinedly having an excellent non-Valentines Valentines day, but losing our edge every time a couple walked in by saying loudly, “Who needs a man when you have coffee and The Times crossword?” The man drinking his orange juice next to us was stubbornly reading his iPad and definitely not tilting his head to better hear our more cynical comments.

“Baking,” I said.

“That’s a hobby, not a vice,” said Lauren, scribbling ‘voluble’ into the crossword.


“People have vices because they write,” Lauren pointed out.




“You just don’t have a vice, admit it.”

“But how am I going to stop worrying without a vice?”

“Apart from the shaky hand thing, you seem to be coping okay. Do you know what a ‘Spanish peninsula’ is?”

I decided that actually, Lauren was right. I may have gotten stupidly worked up about my shorthand exam, but putting pressure on myself is one is the reasons I got into university. Okay, sometimes I do let worrying take over, especially at two in the morning when I’m still awake fretting over whether or not I spelt “Iain Smythe” right in the latest newsroom exam. But it’s my determination that’s got me this far. And that’s something I shouldn’t ever try to get rid of.

So it’s time to stop beating myself up about this one thing and concentrate on my latest ‘vice’. Namely writing as many articles as is humanly possible with a jammed timetable and watching any films that star Steve Carell.

Because let’s be honest, we all have to let off a little steam somewhere.

Even his face makes me happy

Images courtesy of Google


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