Monday, 28 December 2009

Lie #3 - And they all lived happily ever after...

When I was a kid, my biggest fear was that our house would be burgled. That at some point in the night, strangers would break into our house and take the TV and the stereo, before riding off into the sunset in a getaway car, driven by some man with a balaclava and black eyes. It wasn’t so much the stuff being taken that worried me; I came to realise later that it was the shift in power that scared me. This was probably the first sign of being a control freak, and I will forever blame my parents for not shoving me into therapy straight away to nip that in the bud.

Aside from neuroses and a pretty severe case of dramaticus queenicus, growing up has never really frightened me. I have always been a cheerleader for love – right from when I was a little girl I would ask every couple I knew how they met, how he proposed, did they or did they not imagine staying together forever (hey, I was a precocious eight year old). I always imagined I would grow up, meet my future husband at university, get married at 22 and be settled with kids by the time I hit my 24th year.

I am not sure where I factored in a high flying career, but the feminist in me reckons it was in there somewhere. I would then raise my children in a big house with dogs and cats and chickens (yes, chickens) and learn things like ceramics and knitting, while writing my bestselling novel in the evenings while the children were asleep. You can’t say my hopes and dreams weren’t thorough, if a little clich├ęd.

Now that I am in my final year of university, with my 21st birthday being a mere week away, I am starting to worry I may only have 6 months left in which to find the perfect husband in time to marry them, AND have 2.4 children before my time is up. If only it were that clear cut. No one warns you about recessions when you are a kid. No one tells you that you might never meet the perfect man or woman. No one tells you that nearly half of all marriages end in divorce these days. No one tells you that you can marry a girl instead of a boy (though to be fair to my parents, they have been suggesting I get a girlfriend since I was about 13). No one tells you you might have trouble conceiving and thus may never get your 2.4 children with the Volvo to match. Sorry Mum and Dad, but where is my happily ever after? I am still waiting for the fairy tale to start, let alone end with marriage and babies. If Sleeping Beauty could nab a husband in her sleep, why can’t I find mine in the harsh light of day??

My plan has clearly got a major flaw. Possibly something to do with life getting in the way. Like, seriously. Who knew I would have no time at all to go man hunting when I have a dissertation, a newspaper section and a social life to worry about? I will almost definitely continue to plan out every aspect of my life, but I am starting to realise that I am really not in control of most of it, and that scares the hell out of me. But I have started to realise that makes it a little bit more exciting – you never know who you are going to meet, what you are going to find, what opportunities might come your way. Similarly, you don’t know if you are going to crash your car, have a stroke, get your heart broken. If I could just console the control freak with the dreamer, maybe I would be alright.

Still, getting older and freaking out about it does have its perks. I get to stash away my Disney dreams for a few more months of shameless student life before I really have to worry. And if I haven’t gotten something sorted by graduation, there’s always a Masters…

Wish me luck. I have a feeling I'm going to need it.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Lie #2 - Prince Charming

The hiatus is over; the blog has returned.

Picture the scene. You are wearing your new sparkly party dress, heels you need painkillers to walk in and a smile that says, “I am me. I am incredible. I can take on the world.” You are chatting with your friends as you walk through the bar, you toss your hair back and laugh attractively… and just then some absolute scrotum of a man grabs your head and mashes his mouth up against yours. Delightful.

Now I am not one to deny I have had a fair few (insert shameful number here) cheeky snogs in my time, but none of them involved raping the face of an innocent bloke plucked from obscurity by my vastly exaggerated sense of self worth. It seems the right cocktail of testosterone and trebles can convince any man that we are back in the Stone Age – and I don’t know about you, but I don’t fancy being dragged back to some guy’s cesspit by the hair.

Now before the menfolk start wailing, I am not suggesting women are any better. In fact we are just as bad. We totter around in heels and mini skirts, made up to the nines and drinking fruity little drinks, while eyeing up the talent (or lack thereof) on display. A few drinks later and we find ourselves grinding with some guy nicknamed Banana who does architecture and plays cricket on weekends. And you’re lucky if you get that much information.

A drink or two after that and you will be mashed up against Steve/Bob/Fred/your-best-friend-Helen, furiously making out as if your lives depended on it. (NB: this sort of face-rape is acceptable; non-consensual face-rape is NOT) For some people, the night ends here; for others, it goes further. Regardless of your personal taste for casual snogs/sex/fumbles-in-the-taxi-home etc, it has come to my attention (only now, after two years of uni) that romance didn’t die on its own – we killed it.

When we are little boys and girls, we are taught that when we grow up, we will find someone perfect, marry them when we turn 20 and then have a host of kiddiewinks and live happily ever after. How old are we when we realise that it’s really a load of bollocks? 10? 15? 20? Does romance even exist? It seems to me that we signed up for unicorns and ended up with horses – they get the job done but they can’t fly, they can’t heal wounds and they aren’t even remotely sparkly. We still got the horn but it’s not exactly what we were looking for either.

The beauty of fairy tales lies in the fact that they make children hopeful – imagine how disappointed they would be if they knew what we all get up to on a Wednesday night in Tiger Tiger. And there is nothing wrong with it, but in the harsh light of day, it makes me a tad jaded to think of all the strangers I have pulled – kisses which should be passionate end up as carnage of the mouth, chemistry is just a subject you did at GCSE and the stranger you are locking lips with probably has a hairy back. When did we start settling for hormones and stop thinking about love?

Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but it sure would be nice to get to know a boy before I get to know his tonsils. I would be a hypocrite and a liar to say it’s not fun, but I can’t help but wonder, when do we settle down? When do we stop grabbing strangers in bars and start having conversations that end in a polite, gentle lip-lock at your front door? How am I going to find the right man if my mouth is otherwise engaged with some nobody who just happened to be there? If you have the answers, I am willing to hear them. Seriously.

So thanks Mum and Dad, you promised me Prince Charming and all I got was thirty three (unanswered) booty calls and saliva on my chin.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Lie #1 - Camping is Fun (but only when you're 8 and your Dad gets up at 6am to make you pancakes)

So, as mentioned in my previous blog, I was supposed to spend a week in the loving arms of British hippies, shunning technology and learning about compost and such. But alas, the Big Green Gathering was cancelled for political reasons (!?) and thus I was fated to spend the time visiting family in Cornwall with my friend E.

Fortunately for me, the fates had seen fit to give me what turned out to be a lovely three days with my family – grandparents, uncles and various family I rarely get to see. Blessed with a single day of good weather, E and I explored little towns all over Cornwall and even got to spend an evening with my godson and his brother – Louie and Alfie, two of my cousins. I should add here as a sidebar, that following an evening of playing snap (with postman pat cards), Alfie (who is 6) asked me to marry him, thus making my second marriage proposal of the year, and the third from a cousin since I was about 5… (I was once engaged to my cousin Tom when I was about 5 or 6, until my mother explained that our children might be a little retarded so it was probably for the best that we called it off). I am clearly destined to either marry into my own family or have a seriously underage toyboy. Things are not looking good.

Anyway, I digress. Back to Cornwall. So E and I spent three magical days in which the familial harmony renewed my faith in the goodness of mankind etc, and then decided to go camping for three days, up near Bude. I have been camping on several occasions throughout my life, and despite the doubtful looks I get from friends, I have always prided myself on being good at camping. I view myself as having a sort of reckless abandon when out in the elements – a Pocahontas-esque image of myself standing at a waterfall with the wind whipping through my hair and making me look incandescently beautiful, while a chorus of wild birds sing out some Disney style crescendo. I even got cross with the man in Millets who asked if I was a ‘raver’ when I asked him if they sold glowsticks. “No,” I informed him crossly, “I am a serious camper with a wind up head torch and a special little stove and everything.”

Anyway, you can see where this is heading. Not only had E and I picked the most sorry little campsite in Cornwall, we had picked the worst weather you can possibly imagine. We trundled through the gates in my little Ford Ka (which had already done 500+ miles AND accidently gone to Devon when we were lost) and it promptly started to rain. And it only went downhill from there. Our practice run of putting up our six-man-tent-for-two had been in my quiet little back garden in Buckinghamshire – a far cry from the wilderness we now found ourselves in, struggling with a tent that kept trying to take to the skies in a whirl of beige and green nylon.

So we finally sat down, smug in our giant princess tent while the couple next door wriggled in and out of their standard two man tent, and read magazines and played cards and generally felt very cool and earthy and organic. I even bought a book of crosswords to complete the next day while lounging by the outdoor heated pool (which wasn’t open and looked like a hole in the ground as it was). After an hour of playing snap, the weather had become a force to be reckoned with, and E and I began exchanging glances of concern over our supposedly fabulous minimalistic holiday. Combine that with the fact that we forgot cutlery AND mugs (which led to spreading peanut butter with a three day old wooden chip fork and drinking schnapps from a measuring jug) and things were going seriously downhill. Shouting over the wind to one another, we questioned the stability of our tent, which was bending in a worrying angle in on us. Deciding that we were basically in a hurricane, we prayed for our safety and passed out around 11pm (following an eventful trip to the bathroom 250 m away in the howling wind and rain – sidebar: I was wearing cowprint hotpants and wellies with goretex – not a good look).

The next morning, we were puffy and exhausted and swore blind that camping was not for us. Admitting defeat and throwing away £30 worth of camping fees, we climbed back into my little car and spent 7 hours getting back to civilisation, where we had vanilla lattes and caramel hot chocolates. It seems my Pocahontas fantasy will have to wait until camping can be a little more accommodating… call me shallow, but until I can emerge from a tent without full waterproofs and gale force winds, I am sticking to hostels and hotels.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Two Halves Make a Whole..?

I follow a LOT of people on Twitter. And one of those people is my hero, Amanda Palmer. She tweets a lot about what she is up to, organises ninja ukulele beach parties and even posts naked pictures (go on, perv, pics are here). I also follow Amanda’s assistant, Beth, and recently began following Beth’s girlfriend, Kayla. Beth is a photographer as well as an assistant, and she collects keys. Kayla plays the ukulele and paints them for Amanda’s online merch store, Post War Trade (which you can access here).

Anyone who knows me well knows how much I love Amanda. She got me through my later teens, not to mention a lot of crappy days (days where I considered knee high rainbow socks, mary janes and tutus the height of rebellious fashion). But recently, my attention has been directed toward Beth & Kayla, and their own little fanbase – a spin off I imagine, from Amanda.

From the moment they found another, I fell a little bit in love with Beth & Kayla, which is pretty absurd since they live 3335 miles (yes, I checked) away and I have never met either of them. They live in an apartment in Brooklyn, and they occasionally webcast, where Kayla plays & sings. I’ve tried and tried to decide what keeps me so interested in these two strangers, and the only conclusion I can come to (aside from Kayla’s extraordinary baking skills) is that they have the bohemian lifestyle I both idealise and crave.

I don’t pretend to know what their lives are like, I don’t pretend they don’t have real problems, but a part of me sees the ukulele-painting, post-war-trading lifestyle and wants in. Chances are, I will never paint ukes or be a rock star’s go to girl, or have as many tattoos as I want – but I enjoy living my bohemian dreams through this happy & adorable pair.

Which brings me to the actual point of today’s blog (I know it took me a while) – but it brings me back to one of the great paradoxes of my own personality. I seem to be part hippie, part wasp (which I only recently found out was an acronym for white Anglo-Saxon protestant – thank you!). The hippie part of me is the part that used to burn incense, the part that says go forth and tattoo yourself (NB – not actually wielding the needle myself), the part that says yoga is my path to enlightenment. The wasp part of me says think about when you are older, one day you might want to appear respectable, don’t do that it isn’t hygienic etc. And typically, the wasp part of me says PICK ONE, you can’t be both!

You can almost see the inner turmoil (HA!) that rages within – and I genuinely can’t decide if it’s just who I am, or if either side is a reaction to something (e.g. the vague oppression of boarding school or my pretty stable middle class upbringing).

I can bring each (polar opposite) side of me out by changing my environment – put me in certain parts of Covent Garden and I will be buying organic buckwheat and meditation cushions, put me in Bond Street and I’ll be walking home clutching shoes from Marc Jacobs and drooling over the rocks in Bulgari (and when I say rocks, I mean rocks – I tried on a diamond ring there last month that retails at £1.5 million).

But how can two such separate people coexist in one body!? (I’m genuinely looking for an explanation; so if you know anything about multiple personality disorder, give me a bell). The long and short of it is, I am still trying to categorize who I am.

So it is time to take drastic measures. In a couple of weeks I am taking up a week of work experience in the wonderful world of PR, doing a week of work at The Big Green Gathering – a huge green festival in Glastonbury. And judging by the website, it is going to be chock full of hippies and bohemians – perfect company to channel my inner green peace. I think that the hippie version of me is the one I like best, so I’m hoping to return chatting about Gaia and compost and such. I am also hoping to fall in love, get more tattoos & do a naked moon dance, but hey, I’ve only got a week.

So, to conclude this totally self indulgent and long-winded blog, here are some things I have learned lately… 1) You never know what you’re going to learn about yourself through witnessing the lives of other people. 2) Twitter is a far better tool for stalking than Facebook. 3) No matter how many times I play with photo booth, I am never going to look as good naked as Amanda Palmer.

Even when she’s covered in marker pen.

PS - do yourself a favour and go to Kayla's myspace...
(Kayla’s music is AWESOME & she’s trying to bring out an EP, so if you like what you hear, you can donate to her EP fund via the paypal link on her myspace)

Monday, 29 June 2009

Once upon a time in Gateshead Metro

The man stood a few inches away from me is a stranger. He asks me for money, and stands uncomfortably close to me. I consciously shift, putting space between the two of us. His name is Dusty, and from what I can tell, he hasn't washed in a while.

I am in Gateshead Metro Station, which isn't exactly the most savoury place in the North. I have been sitting on the floor here for the past two hours, clicking people in and out of the station, using my immense power of 'data collector' to discern whether or not each person is 'encumbered' or simply a commuter. If you ask me, everyone who walks through this place is encumbered in some way. Deep observation, I know.

This is the fourth job I have taken part in this week. I already work promotions at a music venue in town, putting my happy face on while I pretend to befriend people, then 'subtly' sell the brand I work for. I like promotions, because I get to talk to people and I get paid for being good at that, but I sometimes feel a little jaded. I have never thought myself to be a particularly good liar, but just sometimes I think I've sold my soul to pay the rent. I am everything you want me to be. My boss and I don't have the greatest relationship either; we grate on one another somewhat. We have started getting on a little better these days, and he calls me the "fiesty" one, but the look on his face suggests he thinks 'feisty' is another way of saying I am bitter and alone.

But I am not being an Angel right now. I am being a clicker, counting people in 5 minute windows and forgetting faces as soon as I see them. The cold has spread down my thighs, numbing them into a strange, ambiguous feeling. I shift positions every hour and half enjoy the pins and needles creeping up my legs. Dusty came from downstairs, looking almost as if he crawled out of the tunnel itself. He is dirty and unnerving, but I try not to be repulsed. People have been reacting to me all day. My boss even came over and said I looked homeless (which is probably because I was on the floor, and hopefully not because I wasn't wearing any make up and had accidentally worn an entire outfit in navy blue). But if it wasn't for the clipboard, even I would probably assume I was a tramp.

A couple has appeared on the escalator, making out furiously. I screw my nose up as they walk past me, tongues visibly excavating one another's mouths. I am not much of a fan of the graphic PDA, but it seems worse that these two are classic charvers. They don't call it bumping uglies for nothing.

Four hours of sitting on the floor does funny things to your brain. I have never technically been alone, yet the only company I have had is my boss, who sidles over and shares stories which betray his homophobia. I am not the best audience for these, and I almost prefer the company of Dusty, who has reappeared twice and offered to defend me from any freaks or weirdos. Oh the irony. I have taken to people watching, and I realise how many stares I have endured since my arrival. At about three hours, a man comes and offers me a chair. I am slightly embarrassed since I was humming loudly to myself when he appeared round the corner.

The chair makes a nice change, but I am only now noticing the intense pain in my back from all the cold drafts and the concrete floor. I am becoming thoroughly middle aged. People stare at me like a caged animal - I have perfected a morose stare back. The poster opposite me whispers "It felt like a kiss" and the ballerina in the corner of my eye dances when I am not looking.

A woman walks past me sporting a tattoo which says “The End is Nigh”.

Baby, you ain’t kidding.