Archives for category: Uncategorized

female toilet lady lavatory

Every man will tell you that he is fascinated by what goes on in the Little Girl’s Room. Not so much biologically, because after all, we don’t do that do we? But more because through that stick-woman adorned door is a Narnia of gossip and beautifying and pillow fights in our underwear. Or some such.
But even to a self-confessed (and biologically proven) woman such as myself, bathroom etiquette is often equally as fascinating. Just last week, for instance, I stood in a dank bathroom in a nightclub, walls reverberating from the heavy bass as sweat formed droplets on the ceiling and splashed heavily onto the floor. And I was forced to stand there – back to glistening wall – for fifteen minutes until the two cubicle doors opened, and out tumbled six girls.
Six.
Three in each.
These are the type of cubicles you have to reverse into, squat five inches from the seat, and pee whilst holding your vodka tonic aloft in one hand and your handbag just high enough to avoid touching the floor with the other. There’s no way three girls could have fit in one of these cubicles. And yet, using powers only gifted to groups of females in a bathroom, they did, no doubt executing a Cirque du Soleil-esque feat to arrange themselves inside the grimy pen. Fascinating.

During the 20 years following my transition from nappy to potty to full-blown adult lavatory I have witnessed varying degrees of utterly bizarre bog behaviour. ‘Six girls two loos’ is at one end of the scale – the end often accompanied by the consumption of alcohol/narcotics and inhibitions which fall to the floor as quickly as some people’s knickers. The other, tamer, end of the scale is quieter, less scandalous, and involves less toilet paper stuck to the soles of your shoes – but nevertheless is equally as mind-boggling.

With this in mind, may I introduce you to the first stop of my brief journey through The Little Girl’s Room:

The silent visitor

I only encounter these individuals in such places where sobriety is expected. Think: work/funerals/Doctor’s appointments/performing surgery….and so on.

This is how the encounter proceeds:

  • I walk into a bathroom.
  • This makes vibrations in the air which are translated by the human ear into sounds.
  • Some human ears are controlled by owners who like to pretend that they never pass solids.
  • Therefore, a presumably active cubicle suddenly becomes mute as the inhabitant pretends that they, and their distinctively ‘engaged’ door, do not exist.

I have often entered a bathroom purely to apply my face – a process that takes a punchy 9.25 minutes – and not heard a peep from the other person I share the 20 cubic square feet with. I can only imagine they are willing me desperately to leave so they can conduct their business in peace.

Apologies, muted toilet-goer, but there are dark circles to attend to…

Some silent visitors are clever. They shuffle their feet or tear off sheets of Andrex to give the impression of activity, although they do so in their knickers sitting on top of a closed toilet seat desperately praying that they will soon be alone. Often, sniffly noses provide enough noise to distract from a distinct lack of flushing, but it is usually the case that upon leaving the bathroom you hear an audible sigh….
The mirror avoider

The first of a juxtaposing pair.

As you leave a toilet cubicle, feeling pleasantly relieved, you are undoubtedly faced with, well…..your face. Your face, looming large in unforgiving bright lights above the Kimberly Clarke sink you find yourself scrubbing your hands in.
There’s no secret to the fact that if you were alone your cheek would be pressed up against the glass as fingers busied themselves on your skin; prodding and poking and pulling. Hair would be plaited, patted down, pinned up, pulled back. Lips pouted, parted, plumped. All in the comfort that no-one was privy to your temporary moment of blissful narcissism.

However, the strictly enforced ladies’ loo etiquette dictates that the moment you are joined at the sink, you must look down.
Eyes focused on soap-smothered hands, you daren’t barely breathe, let alone nonchalantly check your reflection in the mirror for fear of being instantly and damningly labelled ‘a vain bitch’ (attention males: I’m not making this up, THIS SHIT HAPPENS).
Even if all you wanted to do was fish the spinach out from in-between your front teeth, you would have to attempt to do so blindly (using only your tongue) outside the confines of the loo. Because no-one in their right mind looks at themselves in the mirror in front of strangers in The Little Girls’ Room.

 

The mirror lover

Mirror lovers strut up to the counter and stand in a row with any number from one to as-many-as-you-can-reasonably-fit-in-your-bathroom mirror avoiders. The room is often doused in silence and air freshener. The mirror lover turns the tap on and washes her hands, but does so LOOKING UP. At her FACE. Gasp. Rather than stare intently at her talons, she is freely, and rather confidently, examining her crow’s feet. It’s bizarre, and it’s fundamentally wrong. It is a ladies’ loo social faux pas. She is being glared at from the corner of the mirror avoiders eyes. She is not making any friends here.The opposite of mirror avoiders, and a minority within the female population. We’re sliding from sober territory into tipsy territory here, because only those with naturally low inhibitions (aka pole dancers, strippers, Jodie Marsh), or those who have consumed a significant amount of alcohol/cocaine, would attempt this move.

On the plus side, however, she has extracted all signs of salad leaf from her teeth.

 

Your best friend

 Not your actual best friend. Rather, a complete stranger.

Picture the scene: you’re in a bar. You pop to the loo. There’s a queue. Behind you, a girl falls through the door and her glass full of Sex On The Beach spills on your shoes. She apologies profusely and it is at this point you garner that she has had no less than 6 cocktails already, simply because she has lost the ability to speak. The next 2 minutes passes in a blur as she begins to tell you about her night, then her ex-boyfriend, then her nan’s jelly mould set, then her other ex-boyfriend, then her two-faced best friend, and on and on and on, until the 120 seconds have sped by and have culminated in her sobbing onto your shoulder.

You are less drunk. You pat her once or twice and pull ‘this is awkward’ faces as your fellow loo-attendees. She turns her face to you and says ‘you’re the only person who understands me’, then asks for your number. Honestly, I have had this happen to me. Many a time. It’s an effective pick-up method for a lesbian.

Of course, you are trapped in a confined space with a drunk crying girl. You do what any sane person would do. You do as she says, give her your number, and suddenly you find you have a new best friend.

 

In addition to the above, there are hundreds more ladies’ loos personas, each weirder than the last.

The problem is, at one point in time, 90% of these have no doubt applied to me.

A few years ago, I had an unfortunate incident with a bag of Pret popcorn. I wrote to the CEO about it. He replied. See below for more:

 

My letter –

Dear Mr. Schlee.

Meet Stephanie.

Stephanie likes Alan Partridge, The Secret Cinema, Clingfilm (don’t ask), incessant shoe shopping, and painting her skirting boards.

Stephanie also likes your Skinny Sweet n’ Salt Popcorn.

Sorry…………….did like. (See sad face for infallible proof).

Image

In all honesty, I did too. So did Andy. As did Mark.

Mr Schlee, please allow me to tell you why Microsoft’s Ctrl + i command has just been put to good use:

A rather debaucherous night of drinking had preceded the fateful day in question. Needless to say, the agency’s collective liver was feeling sorry for itself, and decided to enact its revenge in the form of 4 exceptionally colourful hangovers. We survived the morning (albeit sporting every shade of green on the spectrum), but……oh Mr Schlee……lunchtime was miserable. And we usually LOVE lunchtime, Mr Schlee. Imagine our despair.

At approximately 1530 hours, we emerged from a painful post-prandial slump, and when boborygmia resumed, Stephanie here had a lightbulb moment. ‘Popcorn’ she playfully whispered. The heads of those with auditory prowess shot up. My eyes darted from Mark to Andy to Stephanie. 4 nods later and it was decided.

The rescue party, consisting of myself and the snack-instigator, staggered out into the street, shielding our eyes from the sun and snarling at Barclay Bikes blocking our path. The walk was long and arduous, Mr Schlee. See below for details. 

Image

By some sweet miracle, as we bee-lined for the jaunty wooden crates nestling below the fridges, we were greeted by 4 remaining bags of rustling joy. No more, no less. Fate, no doubt?

Bounty in tow and a lengthened stride, we managed to arrive back at our office avoiding severe incidence. So far so good, Mr Schlee. Oh, how naïve we were.

Nothing could have restrained our hungry hands as we ripped the bags apart. Unadulterated carnage. The first few shovels were, as we have always experienced, pleasure in the purest form.

But wait.

Something was wrong.

At first, no-one said it. No-one wanted to be the pall-bearer. To affirm what we all knew was true. But it was etched in each and every one of our faces.

I spoke first.

‘Is it me….’, I tentatively ventured, ‘……or is this…quite……….salty….?’.

That was the trigger. A cacophony of expletives and outrage erupted! Spluttering and coughing, grimacing and gurning ensued!

It appears we were all in agreement.

If only we’d had tequila and lime, Mr Schlee, for we certainly had the salt. If only we weren’t already excruciatingly dehydrated. If we were slugs, we would have been flopping around inside out after 5 mouthfuls. Sweet n’ Salt Popcorn, you say? No. Quite simply, No. Your healthy little snackette elicited a false economy: the only conceivable treatment was an emergency chocolate binge to regain the sweet/salt balance. It appears the salt-man was a little too vigorous with his salt-shaker. Maybe he was overtired? Or poorly trained? May I suggest you invest a little more time in the NaCl people, Mr Schlee, for they are capable of turning lovers to haters.

It is with heartache and sorrow that I felt the need to regale you with our story. Memories of a once treasured snack have now been tainted by achieving 500% salt GDA in 30 seconds. Regrettably, not only have we lost all palate sensitivity, but also the urge to purchase this product again.

Hopefully in time the aftertaste will fade and we will be drawn back to you, but this may require some convincing.

Yours most minerally,

Jo + Co

 

And my reply from Mr. Schlee:

Image

 

steak soho flat iron

I had assumed, as only carnivores do, that everybody bar ‘them that don’t eat meat’ must love steak. Saliva-gland-stimulating, juicy, tender steak. Then I remembered my friend Laura, who tried her first ever steak in New York’s famous Balthazar restaurant no more than eight hours after we had staggered out of a sweaty nightclub on 17th Street with veins full of tequila and bags empty of phones/wallets/hotel keys. Which, in hindsight, may not have been the best time to bite down on your first slightly pink chunk of cow. Needless to say, she wasn’t impressed.

Fast forward 18 months and Flat Iron lands with a stylish wallop in London’s SoHo, ringing the bell for round two. The steak house is a down-to-earth, stripped back, British version of a traditional Entrecôte, and like many recent additions to the Soho scene has nailed the formula to create an eatery that people are literally queuing out the door for.

Aided by the same group who struggled to overcome a nauseating urge to curl up in a ball on Balthazar’s parquet floor, Laura was coerced into agreeing to attend.
We soon found ourselves surrounding a very friendly lady with a clipboard in Flat Iron’s snug entrance just off Beak Street. Unassuming but stylishly moody both inside and out, you’d easily walk past towards a more gaudy, attention-seeking SoHo bar if it wasn’t for the endless trail of onlookers pointing out the restaurant they’ve heard is “Really really good OMG!”. Word of Mouth and some well-placed marketing speaks louder than neon signs.

interior flat iron steak

As with most debutants to the London culinary scene, they enforce a no-reservation policy. Frustrating? Yes, but compared to the likes of MEATliquor, at least you can ask Friendly Clipboard Lady to take your name down as you dual-task waiting for a table with quaffing carafes of wine and popcorn in the basement bar.

Entering the main restaurant is a squeeze; it’s a small floor space so they’ve packed the tables in tightly, then they pack you onto the table tightly. There’s no room to be shy either, you’ll most likely be rubbing elbows with other meat-revellers on either side of you throughout your meal. This is ok though, because everyone is so excited to have a place at the table that they’re a very friendly bunch. No Nasty Nicks here.

We got lucky and were led to a ‘detached’ table; the 4 bedroom house lording it over the block of flats next door. Maybe they could see fear in Laura’s eyes and wanted to ease her into the experience. Ordering is quick and painless; steak (however you want it, Laura risked a punchy medium), a selection of four sauces (the usual, plus Fred’s sauce; a spicey tomato conconction) a small range of sides (chips and creamed spinach for me please) and more wine. A light hum of chatter fills the room, easing you back in your chair as you relax and wait for all of ten minutes before your food arrives. Service With A Smile makes sure you’ve got everything you need before tucking into the dish; tender sliced fillet steak, chilled fresh salad, crispy handcut chips and utterly filthy (in a good way, always in a good way) creamy spinach. The food was fantastic and gone in minutes. Not just on my plate but Laura’s too, her mini meat cleaver slamming down on the warm flat iron with a hefty “I LOVE STEAK!”; the cry of the converted.

£20 a head for the creation of a steak lover? Priceless.

accident

The awful news today about the Helicopter crash in Vauxhall, and the way in which the masses responded, got me thinking…

If you say you’ve never passed a nasty car crash/accident/flashing siren and nearly given yourself whiplash craning to get a better ogle of the potentially gruesome scene, you’re lying. We’re all guilty of rubbernecking at nasty accidents – and for those who were recently captured taking pictures of an horrific crash on the M1 near Northamptonshire (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-northamptonshire-19247077) – the word guilty can be used in the most literal of senses.

Whilst this response may be common, understanding why so many of us exhibit ‘Car Crash Syndrome’ is perplexing. Unfortunately, behaviour such as this doesn’t stop at accidents that we stumble across as we go about our normal business; there is an audience who actively seek out pictures of mutilation or tales of gruesome murders, and therefore several dark websites such as bestgore.com or rotten.com exist to serve them with this content. (I removed these links to prevent our dear friend morbid curiosity tempting you into clicking on them).

As with all things psychology-related, there are several theories in play as to why we can’t look away. Some theories make us seem like bad, bad people (at a very primal, subconscious level) and some make us feel better about the fact that we are all fascinated, to varying degrees, in macabre events. Here’s a selection of explanations for our dark voyeuristic tendencies:

  • The survival theory:

Evolutionary psychologists suggest that observing dangers and their resultant harm allows us to recognise potentially dangerous situations in the future, thus boosting our chances of survival should we ever come across a similar situation. Hm. Interesting. Believable. And yet I can’t agree that that’s the sole psychological reason for rubbernecking. If it was, I’m not convinced we’d find ourselves talking about recent horrific events with our colleagues at the water cooler days after they have passed (do people still have water coolers?).

  • The ‘one up’ theory:

Life, undeniably, is hard. Earning enough money to feed yourself, forming the right kind of relationships to make you happy, keeping yourself healthy in order to prolong survival, is all hard work. Some psychologists rather solemnly believe that witnessing the hardships (and sometimes mortality) of others has the slightly disturbing power of making us feel good, because we’re still alive, and therefore still winning the competition of life.

  • The empathy theory:

Humans, by and large, crave emotional connectivity with our peers. It’s what makes us feel like part of a wider community, makes us feel needed, evokes affection and love. When we see others suffering, our emotions peak. This doesn’t often happen as we go about our mundane daily routines in an otherwise steady and unchanging environment. It helps us to put everything into perspective, and makes us realise that maybe we don’t have things so bad after all.

This, in my humble opinion, is the theory I can most easily buy into: we crave those heightened emotions which often accompany death to make us feel alive.

Image

I didn’t catch his name.

Maybe it was because the blanket-thick heat deafened me. Or maybe it was because he said it so quickly, tumbling words obscured by the eager manner of his speech. Or maybe, probably, it was because I was in an unknown country, and everything was unrecognisable to me.

I turned my face against the clinging humidity towards the direction in which his hand enthusiastically pointed, eyes arriving at a tattered vehicle parked askew down a sun-trodden street. The motorbike, he explained – more by way of gesture than words – was the engine. The woeful cart attached loosely by rust-eaten chains was to be my carriage.
Had I been cooler, or familiar with the roads, I would have abruptly denied the smiling man his fare. But exhaustion held me in its worn reins, and my aching desire to get There dampened my streetwise inhibitions.

I accepted a ride from the stranger.

“Oh frabjous day!! Callooh! Callay!” he suddenly sang, steadying the rickshaw as I clambered aboard. Bewildered by this shoeless Cambodian man’s grasp of The Jabberwocky, I reflexively returned his apeish grin. One commanding kick and the motor awoke sharply, a throbbing pulse signalling life. With trained obedience it responded to my guide’s enthusiastic battle cry, the ensuing burst of speed pushing me back in my seat as a wave of sodden heat pinned me against molten leather.

My guide’s relentless chatter eased any lone-traveller anxieties, and I eased my head back onto tasselled cushions. Chin tilted towards the first glimpse of morning sun, I watched the towering 5 star hotels give way to canopies of green as we slid out of the city.
Tourist-laden elephants were the first sign that we were nearing It. Ambling alongside the throng of cars and rickshaws I watched as monkeys danced around their feet, revelling in the attention of the parade. My guide saw me react, eyes-wide, mouth agog, and a deep belly laugh erupted from his mouth.

Then we stopped.

I had been so captured by the menagerie that I’d failed to notice our arrival. I took my guide’s eagerly outstretched hand, and as sandals touched dusty floor, turned to face Angkor Wat. Standing still with eyes transfixed, my breathing slowed as beads of sweat traversed unnoticed across my brow. The crowds slipped away, ceased to exist. I was alone, silently rejoicing at the beauty of It.

Hours passed in that minute. Only when a cold hand touched my sun-torched arm was my trance shattered. My t-shirt clung to me, my mouth dry, lips cracked. I panicked, frantically searching for a sliver of shade in the open temple grounds. Then I found some, directly overhead. Looking up, I saw my smiling guide hold a parasol high, its protective wings blocking the blazing rays. He pressed a chilled bottle of water into my hand and belly laughed at my thirsty gulps.

I never caught his name.

oxford-street-christmas-s-006

I barely recognise myself anymore.

I’m no longer the girl who once ran through the Trafford Centre on December 23rd muttering ‘shit shit shit shit shit’ (etc), clawing at the left-over tat and trying to pretend that my mother would surely love a nautical-themed toilet roll holder (I bought it. She didn’t). This year, I turned over a new tacky faux-gold holly leaf. On Friday 30th November I attempted to complete my entire Christmas shopping requirements before I tumbled head first into a vat of mulled December.
I’d written a list, I’d checked it a couple of times, and I’d given myself a motivating pep talk before leaving the house. If this year’s emotion-drenched John Lewis advert taught me anything, it’s that you must go that little bit further for your loved ones this Christmas. So I strapped on a pair (of comfy boots), sharpened my elbows, and set forth into the otherworldy abyss of Oxford Street. And it’s upon surfacing from an inexplicably sweaty tube into a face-full of arctic wind that I morphed into Lady Scrooge. It’s quite wonderful really, how a street rammed to bursting point with gaudy festive cheer has the ability to turn your arteries into icicles.
The main reason for my disgruntlement was the bizarre, erratic, and hugely antisocial behaviour exhibited by fellow shoppers. I’ve taken the pleasure of grouping these horror shoppers into three distinct species:

1) The ‘Wall-formers’:

Tis’ the season in which inhabitants of lands far far away make the treacherous journey to the capital solely to embark on their ‘yearly Christmas shopping trip’.
With their entire families. And no less than three buggies per person.
And because they aren’t used to this strange land, and haven’t yet mastered the nimble agility of a rush-hour commuter, they decide that adopting a line formation is the most secure way to traverse the pavements. Except, of course, much the same as it would be in shark- infested waters, it’s the poor sods flailing around at either end of the line that get picked off by predators like me, scraping them with my unnecessarily large Eco-friendly paper bags as I squeeze by in a desperate attempt to beat ‘The Wall’.

2) The ‘Doorway Dicks’:

The lesser known but acutely more irritating species. These are the individuals, couples, groups (all can be inflicted) who have entered a store, seen an item they would like to purchase, purchased said item, had the intelligence to know they must then leave the store, but then stop. Dead. In the doorway. Looking left, right, sometimes even up, as they engage their brains and work out where it was they were meant to be going next. Additionally, they are more often than not larger than a pregnant Jessica Simpson on the rotund scale, and therefore possess the ability to block the entire doorway. Bravo.

3) ‘The Non-movers’:

Most shoppers shop for enjoyment purposes, hence why their average 5mph walking pace drops – often instantly and right in front of you – to a 1mph stroll. If you want to entertain the thought of a completed shopping trip in under 3 hours then you must move faster. Which is tough, when the pavements are crammed to buggery and people in general are completely oblivious to everything. Just when you think you’ve mastered the art of the dodge, the game of life throws in an enemy boss in the form of a ‘Non-mover’. Don’t be fooled by this species; they are intelligent beings, and are surprisingly aware of their surroundings. They are also rude to the core.
They see you coming from 10 metres back, see the determination in your eyes, and narrow their eyes in response. Their bodies stiffen and tilt forwards. You side-step left to dodge a Wall and find yourself in their path. They have time to adopt the twisted, half-limbo pose often used to circumvent Doorway Dicks and avoid a collision, but make a conscious decision not to. Meanwhile, the laws of physics have dictated that because you just threw yourself left, the momentum will now swing you back right. Right into the Non-mover’s solid path.
Bodies thud against each other, bags tangle, a ripple effect momentarily halts the flow of people-traffic. And you say “Sorry”. And the Non-mover says words. And after a few drawn seconds you realise they aren’t words of apology but words of anger, forcing you to recoil, mouth open, eyes agog, into a little ball of Christmas shopping fury.

I met many of each on my trip that Friday. Retiring early from my challenge with a distinct lack of ticks next to my list, I trudged home and swiftly vowed that next year I’d do it online, in the comfort of my own home, strong gin in hand, happy as Larry in my slippers.

hangover drunk alcohol fear

I’ve got the alcohol fear.

When people say they’re afraid of falling, what they actually mean is that they’re afraid of landing. I have the same relationship with booze. The falling part is ridiculously fun, but then I undoubtedly land (with increasing savagery) in a pit of soggy, festering hangover. And it’s the landing that has made me very, very scared of the falling.

7 years ago as a university fresher I took my liver on a wild ride, and didn’t let it off. Much like a kid who tries to release their safety harness after a pant-wettingly terrifying go on Oblivion, only to find they chose the dud seat and they have to go round and round. For 5 years.

My liver chose the dud seat.

I can’t remember the number of times I woke up not remembering the night before. I’d spend hours trying to put the pieces of the rum-drizzled puzzle back together, only to learn 6 years later that you don’t actually make memories when under the influence, so I wasted valuable ‘feeling sorry for myself’ time scrabbling about in the far corners of my brain wondering why I had apparently replaced my heels with novelty Bart Simpson slippers at some point during the night. Then I would prop myself up long enough to get a 24 box of chicken nuggets down my throat, before slipping back into a coma until Deal or No Deal.

Suddenly, after years of blissful substance abuse (alcohol and worcester sauce Wheat Crunchies) I entered the real world; where there was a requirement to be mildly functional during the day. I learnt this the hard way, once curling into a foetal position on the toilet floor of my workplace and catching 15 minutes of sleep. My colleagues spent those 15 minutes with their heads out the window gasping for fresh air, before I came back in and breathed sambuca on everyone.

This experience, and several others of the same ilk, have slowly but surely conditioned me to be wary of the beast that is booze. I like to think of myself as the human equivalent of Pavlov’s dogs. If, of course, the dogs had been fed vodka jelly until they were convinced they were really very good at doing ‘the worm’.

Image

So Movember (the month formerly known as November) is upon us.

On October 31st, humans with both an X and a Y chromosome up and down the country took to their sinks, razor blade in hand, and shaved their fuzzy faces. Emerging fresh-faced and boylike, they took a last longing glance at their smooth upper lip and bode it farewell, for the next 30 days will see a testosterone-fuelled conquest to grow the most manly lip-fringe possible.

Since its humble beginnings down under (Australia, not someone’s trouser area), Movember has raised hundreds of millions for prostate cancer, generating $79.3 million last year alone. Mo Bros (the ones growing the tash) and Mo Sistas (the ones encouraged to ‘help out’, presumably by stroking the upper lip of males in a downwards manner in order to stimulate hair follicles) the world over unite for the very worthy cause of ‘Changing the face of men’s health’, and the faces of our male colleagues and friends along with it. 

Prostate cancer is a scarily unrecognised killer, and therefore requires all the attention a mass murderer of this scale deserves. And yet, I have a sneaking suspicion that the Mo Bros, whilst of course supporting such a worthy cause, aren’t solely in it for charitable purposes. Instead, what Movember has ingeniously tapped into is the repressed urge within every post-pubescent male to prove they are capable of sprouting a biscuit duster mightier than their neighbour’s. A challenge if by some strange turn of events their neighbour is Brian Blessed or Santa Claus, but one they are prepared to take nonetheless.

Ever since the first 14 year old boy in Year 9 proudly waggled his hair-adorned lip at his classmates, a ripple of broken voices and middle-of-face hair growth was sent out, eliciting a competition of pure rugged manliness ever since. Movember provides the ultimate occasion for men to regress to their 14 year old counterparts, and even those in corporate environments are given the nod to furnish their faces, because remember – it’s all in the name of charity. 

 

 

Find out more at http://uk.movember.com/

Image

This is the first ever blog post I wrote, dug out from a dormant (oh ok then, dead and buried) blog which was started when I first moved to London. I’ve been here nearly 2 years now, and I recently realised I’ve become the begrudging Londoner I hoped never to be.

Reading this helped to remind me of the joyful/idiotic optimism I once had:

After years of waiting, I am no longer a virgin. Aged 23 and three-quarters. Stop your sniggering. I don’t mean of the ‘sexually-challenged-late-to-achieve-puberty-nervous-wreck-when-I-talk-to-boys’ sort, or even the ‘greater-entity-worshipping-bible-abiding-unsuprisingly-young-to-wed’ type. Rather, a ‘commute-to-work-on-the-tube-with-a-generic-morning-paper-and-a-generic-brand-polystyrene-cup-of-coffee’ virgin, which thankfully justifies the fact that my deflowering occurred fully clothed at 8am in a crowded public place. Yes, as you quite possibly already suspect, I am one of those annoying “Yeah, like, I totally live in Laaaaandan, and I’m just so TRENDY with my Oyster card and….OH EM GEE! There’s Big Ben!” big smoke newbies. I’m sure you all know one. They’re the type of irritating people who say ‘big smoke’.          

If you’re a London native you may be reading this with a smug, eyebrow-raised, Jafar-like (yes, he of Aladdin fame) smirk on your face. Firstly, wipe it off – you look daft. Secondly, you should be incredibly jealous of my (albeit naive) sunny outlook on city life. ‘Why? You incredulous fool!’, I hear you guffaw. Well, it basically boils down to this: I actually ENJOY the commute. I take mildly sadistic pleasure in playing tug’o’war with elderly ladies for the last Metro (FYI, other reading materials are available of an A.M), successfully swiping my Oyster through the barrier (on the fourth attempt. No, I do not want to seek assistance, but thanks for asking so LOUDLY and ANGRILY), legging it towards the incessant chirping of a closing tube door and throwing myself whole-heartedly into the armpit of a middle-aged IT worker with a phobia of Imperial Leather. Ooooh tingles.

After emerging from the depths of the tube station (being sure to keep to the left, to the left, for fear of an excruciating and untimely death) and shielding my eyes from the blazing su….. No no, silly me. Wrong country…shielding my eyes as the wind blows grit horizontally along the pavement, I stop and watch as my fellow tubers scuttle off to work, clouded in a mist of oblivion. I, however, am still SO unashamedly goddamn excited about living and working in London that every sight offers up pure, unadulterated photoreceptor joy.

I got a bit giddy the other day as I walked along the side of the Thames, and took some perspective on It All. Zooming out to the bigger picture every now and again is a pretty healthy thing to do (not clinically proven but I’m going with it). It suddenly makes all the stupid stresses over soggy ballet pumps and weather-induced frizz evaporate. And I’m grateful for the fact that this incredible city still allows me this delight, and I haven’t yet been worn down into a desensitised drone. No offence.

So I implore you, as you navigate your way through underground tunnels with unseeing eyes and weave through the masses with the trained agility of a ninja, take ONE SECOND out of your determined, unblinkered scurry towards the nearest Starbucks and just STOP. 

Please.

And take It All in.

Barcelona; Gaudi;

I was told two things repeatedly when I mentioned I was going on a mini-break to Barcelona: It’s the best city in the world, and you WILL be pickpocketed.

Right.

For a moment I was confused. Is pickpocketing all part of the phenomenal life experience that Barcelona offers, thus helping to boost its ‘totally-most-awesome-city-ever’ reputation? Is it the delight of having someone deftly slide their hand into your pocket/handbag/bumbag which helps the Spanish city supersede all others?
I realised that however enjoyable it may be to come into such close physical contact with a deceptive street artist (although I’ve seen said street artists, and Enrique Iglesias they are not), these two statements are actually mutually exclusive. Thus meaning that Barcelona must be one AWESOME city if it has to deduct the annoyance of losing the €500, the passport, and the iPod you were stupidly carrying around with you all at the same time from its ‘Best City Ever’ score.

And they were right.

Not about the theft thingy, thank goodness (a healthy dose of paranoia helped me keep one hand on my bag at all times) but about what an incredible place Barcelona is. 25 degrees in early October lent itself nicely to bike rides up and down (mainly down) the cycle-friendly streets, strolling along the beach, and sleeping off the worst hangover in history on a patch of grass near a busy roundabout. The city is relaxed yet cosmopolitan, bustling but no sign of the dreaded ‘rat race’, and thanks to a shed-load of money pumped in from the ’92 Olympics it’s in top nick too. Oh and some mad bloke called Gaudi built some stuff there. You ought to take a look.

If you’re a glutten like me (that’s a greedy person, not a wheat-intolerant person) you’ll be thrilled by the array of eateries and drinkeries lining the streets, particularly in the Gothic Quarter. For a special occasion or a touch of the unusual, make a booking at Tintoreria Dontell. That’s all I’m saying on the matter (for fear of death). There’s plenty of little boutiquey shops dotted around too, where you can buy things such as denture-shaped ice cube trays and other such wonderfully quirky tat.

Finally, to cap off my Barcelona lyrical-waxing, if you find yourself with a thirst and fancy getting so obscenely drunk that the roundabout thing happens to you too, then you want to take yourself to the enormity that is ‘Razzmatazz’ – the club with 5 rooms built in an old aeroplane hangar or warehouse or something else really cavernous (but not necessarily a cavern). Muchos fun-times can be had here, as they say in Spanish, but it might be worth indulging in the old-age adage of ‘check yourself before you wreck yourself’ every now and again.

Seriously, the roundabout thing was one of the lowest moments of my life.