Thursday, 6 March 2008

Packing Light

Thursday 6th March - 3 Days till Vogue.

I’m writing this at work because, well just because really. It is my last day here and it feels like the last day of term before the summer holidays. My desk has been cleared of all my stuff and any minute I expect a giant bell to ring and tell me it’s time to go play in the sunshine. (Even though it is only 12.30 and cold outside)

I spent most of last night packing. It turns out that my absolute bare and total minimum fills one huge bag the size of my desk that I can barely drag let alone lift, another large bag half the size and a rucksack. Somehow I now have to get this to the station, onto a train and home at the other end. I have said it before and I will say it again: all of my problems in life could be easily solved by a man with a wheelbarrow. Why oh why will someone not send me one? Just think about it, it’s the perfect answer; someone to carry all of your luggage, shopping, equipment and large bits of MDF around wherever you go. You can even sit in the wheelbarrow when you get tired. And all carbon free. I tell you people it’s the solution for the 21st Century.

I have never been one to pack light. The one time I tried it, it ended in disaster and I never shall again. This was the trip to New York with uni a few years ago. As we were only going for a long weekend I figured I could get away with just a small hand luggage sized bag and packed accordingly with just a couple of t shirts, one extra jumper, and the usual socks and underwear. I remember standing waiting for the coach feeling incredibly smug as I watched my friends heave giant suitcases stuffed to bursting into the luggage compartment, and all of the boys (Most of whom had packed more than me) praising me on my economy.

The joke however was on me. I would have been fine had we not been caught in what the New York newscasters were calling ‘Blizzard 06’. Wading through 4 foot high snow drifts my clothes took about 2 minutes to become soaking and my little trainers even less. With twenty minutes until our coach left on the last day, I had to dash into Macy’s and tried to buy some dry shoes. The lady in the shop must have thought I was mad:

“Which shoes do you have in a size 8?
That’s European size 8. No I don’t know what that is here.
I don’t care which ones. Nice ones. Not those.
How about these trainers? Ok, how about these? Well what do you have in an 8?
Well why not? How about in Brown? Black?
I really don’t care, I just want some shoes. I’m in a hurry.
No I said not those. Oh go on then.
How much?”

Never again… If I have to push the wheelbarrow myself, never again.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008


Wednesday 5th March - 4 Days till Vogue.

Nice to see the spirit of equality alive and well on the streets of Birmingham. Last night I went for an impromptu dinner with two friends. In the taxi on the way home I mentioned this fact to the taxi driver while making small talk. To this he replied “Ah well that’ll be because you young women can’t cook these days”, and proceeded to embark upon a tirade that was to last the entire way home. The subject of this lecture was ‘Women – why they are evil and should get back in the kitchen where they belong.’

He told me that no young women that he knew of could cook properly and actually used the words “If I put you in the kitchen you would make a terrible wife because you can’t cook.” (Bear in mind at this point that all I had said so far was that I had been out for dinner) He continued his discourse with “How can you people expect your poor husbands to go out to work all day and come home to find there is no dinner on the table? It’s disgusting.” He then told me that lots of his friends’ marriages had broken up solely, yes solely because the wife was a terrible cook, and that all women should be taught how to cook in school.

I did try to argue, but in the end I just sat back and let him get on with it until we arrived home. When a person has opinions like that I suspect there is little a silly little girl like me could do to change his mind, what with my head being all filled up with fluff and nail varnish and the like. He did however give me a discount off the taxi fare because I had said somewhat defensively and a little unwisely, that I could in fact cook.

Friday, 29 February 2008


Wednesday 28th February ‘08

10 Days till Vogue – Dare I call this the final countdown?

As anyone who has even momentarily come into contact with me in the past few months will know, I am about to undertake what may well be the most exciting three weeks of my young life.

I first discovered Vogue magazine on holiday when I was 17. Trapped on a small boat with my family, miles from anywhere, let alone dry land, I picked up an old copy of my Step-Mother’s magazine and I have been hooked ever since.

I love Vogue - it’s one of my many naughty little secrets. The funny thing is that I have never met anyone else who did. Whenever my friends idly pick up a copy I have left lying around, most just take one look and go “ugh! It’s all adverts, what a waste of money.” I like the adverts though. It helps that I use them in my art, but I think they are miniature works of art in their own right, and so often overlooked. I like to look at all the lovely things that I might like to buy when I marry my billionaire husband and become a lady of leisure. And I like the fact that when I sit down with the latest Vogue and my Saturday morning coffee in a tasteful beige mug with a quote from Noel Coward on the side, I can believe for a moment that I am the sort of person who can afford the items within it’s thick, scented pages.

I consider myself to be above all things, a visual artist. However if I absolutely have to have a career then I want to work for Vogue. And if I don’t end up running the place, as is my plan, then I want to make the sets for all of their elaborate photo shoots. (I have since found out that they hire in individual artists to do that, but never mind) So in October last year, I wrote and asked for voluntary work experience, thinking that ‘hey, if you don’t ask you don’t get, right?’ And I got. Three weeks to be precise, starting on the 10th of March. To say I’m excited is an understatement so huge that I have sat here for ten minutes and cannot even think of a decent comparison. I know there are probably a hundred different reasons why I should not want to work for Vogue, but right now I can’t think of any of those either. Suffice to say the only thing that comes into my mind when I even try to think about it, is "Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!" Accompanied by metaphorical jumping up and down waving my arms in the air and grinning like a loon.

So I shall be quitting the soul-destroying office job I took in the pit of hell to pay my rent, and once more joining the great unemployed. Trouble is if the best-case scenario happens and the offer me a job, I’m gonna have to move out. I’m terrified actually. The funny thing is I’m not worried about being broke, moving or trying to impress people at Vogue. I’m worried about whether I should eat all the food in the freezer before I go. When should I do my laundry, because I’m leaving on the Friday and I usually do the washing on Sundays? Do I need to take a gift for the people I’m staying with? How am I going to get to the station? What the hell is an Oyster Card anyway? And what, oh what am I going to wear? Funny how the mind works isn’t it?

I will try to post while I am there because it might be quite interesting, but I'm not sure what kind of access to the internet (Or time to write) I will have, but we'll see.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

That Special Time of Year

Thursday 14th February '08

Well folks it’s that time of year again. That’s right – it’s my cat’s birthday! So I would like to dedicate this post to my one true love, who will be nine today. (That’s 52 in kitty years).

From the above statement you may well have guessed that I’m single. Terminally single. In fact, at the grand old age of 22 I have never not been single. I’m not sure why I’m telling you all this. You should know that I am normally pretty ok in my singleness, but I suppose it must be the ominous cloud of February 14th looming ominously over my head that’s making me reflect a bit.

I don’t honestly know why I am so very single. I guess I have just “not found the right man yet”. The interesting thing is, that rather than making me na├»ve and inexperienced when it comes to relationships, being permanently single has given me a unique perspective and considerable knowledge about the whole business.

My parents divorced when I was nine, and since then my Mum has had a succession of both long and short-term boyfriends. Mum and I share everything, and what I don’t now know about the over 40’s dating scene is frankly not worth knowing. I have read the books, the manuals and the magazines. I have seen my friends and family find partners, lose them and then get new ones. And I have been with them every step of the way, as confidante, mediator and shoulder to cry on. In fact, my shoulder has been cried on so often I am thinking of getting it laminated to prevent water damage. As the single one, I get told stuff. Too much stuff sometimes. I also get stuck in the middle more often than I’d like. Seeing things from a permanently detached and informed perspective means that I can often see things others can’t, (More often than not, where people always go wrong in relationships) and what I see is frankly, enough to put anyone off for life.

All of this adds up to give one quite high standards when it comes to potential mates. I also have an uncanny ability to predict precisely where a relationship will go before it has even started - a bad habit to get into I know, but very addictive. (And I am 99% accurate you know). This unfortunately, while being amusing, is not so much fun when it transfers to my own life. I cannot look at a man without identifying all of his faults, categorizing them and mentally calculating his potential relationship lifespan.

And here’s another thing. I don’t like people. I like to study them, but it’s in much the same way as a scientist studies a new and particularly virulent strain of bacteria. Meeting anyone on a random basis (Although I don’t include friends of friends etc in this assessment) that doesn’t automatically set off my moron-ometer is a challenge at the best of times. Finding someone who is not only nice, but attractive too is nigh on impossible. And before you judge me too harshly, just remember what my favourite comedian George Carlin once said; "Just think for a moment how stupid the average person is. And then realize that 50% of the population is even stupider."

Often people’s response to anyone who is perpetually single is that they are being unreasonable and should just lower their standards, but I have always found this a bizarre and particularly unhelpful piece of advice. Yes, certainly if the person in question is being totally unrealistic, and I agree that you should always keep an open mind, but why would anyone want to date someone they found annoying or unattractive? I’m all for compromise, but if you know that the person you are with is just barely tolerable and only a time-filler before Mr or Ms right comes along, it all just strikes me as being particularly unfair and cruel to the other party, and a pointless waste of everyone’s time.

The other day my housemate was reading out the lonely-hearts ads in the newspaper. We were laughing at how fantastically specific some of them are, but then it struck me; that is actually not a bad idea. Just think about it. Ultra-specific lonely-hearts ads sure would cut out a hell of a lot of time normally wasted actually getting to know someone. In fact, wouldn’t it be great to start up some sort of international database of people, each with detailed personal descriptions, photos and essential info displayed on their own page? They could include specific requirements as to their ideal partner and regular updates on their relationship status. They could also be grouped by their geographical region and interests etc. All you would have to do then is search for someone who matched. We could put it online. All we need is a name. Something to do with books perhaps? The People Book? Picture book? Facebook…

So anyway, in the spirit of the day, I present to you my own ultra-specific lonely-hearts ad for the ideal dream-man. (I did warn you I would be posting all of my bizarre and wandering thoughts here from now on. Don’t say you weren’t told). I would also be very interested to hear everyone else’s ads for their dream partners. Feel free to join in. Come on, it’ll be fun, like a scientific experiment almost. Mmm science…

Lonely-hearts ad for the Ideal Man

Perfect man required for a very specific girl. This ideal man should be a stranger. He should not be one of those “such a nice blokes” my friends always set me up with. He should not wear Hawaiian shirts, sensible shoes or corduroy trousers. He should not have short hair or any interest in football whatsoever. So far as looks go, a combination of Johnny Depp, Russell Brand and Viggo Mortensen as he is in Lord of the Rings would do very nicely.

The ideal man is a perfect gentleman, but also a perfect fiend. He could resemble a pirate, a highwayman or a renegade warrior (I’m not fussy) but he must retain a sense of honour and chivalry at all times. I believe the term we are looking for here is ‘lovable rogue.’ (You know, like Han Solo in Star Wars, that sort of thing).

Above all he must by witty. And charming. And able to make me laugh. He must be an absolute individual, but not in any way ‘weird’ on purpose as some sort of statement. He will be intellectually superior to me (But no too much), and able to stand up to me when I get bossy. He will be rather infuriating actually. I will probably hate him at first.

This man must detest authority, but never actually do anything too illegal or anything that might harm others. Criminals and addicts are all very glamorous in a movie but much too inconvenient for real life. He must still project that bad-boy streak though. He will be wild, wicked and spontaneous – rock stars are always a good option.

The ideal man is like an armadillo – soft on the inside, hard on the outside. He must be sensitive and loving, but not a wet blanket. He should take charge when we go out on dates and carry stuff for me, but never try to be patronising or domineering anywhere outside the bedroom.

The ideal man should be strong, in every sense of the word. He should never whine, or expect to be entertained or hang on to my apron strings. He should be well adjusted and know his own mind. He should go to sleep directly after sex and should on no account ever want to discuss our feelings.

But he will love me. He will not be soppy, but he will make sure that I know it. He will not be needy but he will need me. He will never shout, get violent or sulk. He will be patient when I am being irrational and understanding when I am being hyper-rational. He will speak his mind and always let me know where I stand. He will never be rude or coarse or vulgar.

The ideal man should be able to wield a sword, or at least look as though he could. He would share my sense of humour, not mess up my nice tidy bedroom and should feel the same way about all of the usual important beliefs. Non-smokers and vegetarians preferred. 5ft 9”, slim to medium build and must have own house and car.

(Incidentally, if there is anyone out there who feels they match this ridiculous specification, please feel free to apply, I make really nice cakes).

Thursday, 17 January 2008

My twisted anatomy

Thursday 17th January

I have just finished day four of my new health kick. I have been so, so good. I have really made an effort to eat all those yucky vegetables and the smoothies have been a lovely thing indeed. I have been eating on average, nine portions of fruit and veg a day, taking all my vitamins and drinking plenty of water. I even did some yoga. And you know what? I feel terrible. I feel bloated, constipated and sick. I have spots, greasy hair and bloodshot eyes. What went wrong?

The quest continues...

Wednesday 16th January

This is what I ate today.

Special K
Ham, lettuce and wholemeal bread sandwich
Pro-biotic fig yoghurt
Slice of fruit cake
Smoothie – one banana, one apple, lots of strawberries, blueberries and orange juice
Veggie dish – secret family recipe, but one that involves peppers, mushrooms, celery, onions and wholewheat breadcrumbs.
A portion of baked beans
Well over 2 litres of water, 3 herbal teas and 2 normal teas.
Vitmins – cod liver oil, starflower oil, aloe vera

If I am not mistaken that makes for at least 8 or 9 portions of fruit and veg. Yay me.

Purest Green

Friday 11th January ‘08

Last night I watched the last half of Morgan Spurlock’s ‘Supersize Me’ on channel four. I had seen it twice before, but had reached that stage in the evening when the idea of actually getting up off of the sofa to go to bed just seems like so much effort that you will take any excuse to remain seated for another half hour. I watched as he talked about how, on his McDonalds diet, he felt depressed, ill and lethargic all of the time due to the lack of nutrients he was receiving, the only brief respite being found in the sugar rush of his next hamburger.

It occurred to me that the symptoms he described were pretty much how I feel all of the time. Now, I don’t think that I eat that badly at all. I certainly never eat fast food, unless you count the occasional fish and chips. But I will admit to eating hardly any fresh fruit or vegetables in the average day, let alone the recommended five, or even nine portions. Aside from a Satsuma and fruit smoothie for lunch and the inevitable potatoes with dinner, it’s a wonder I haven’t got scurvy. Much as pictures of shiny, glistening vegetables on television and in recipe books look appetising, I can’t say I really enjoy them in real life. (Although this is probably more due to my usual cooking method of boiling the hell out of anything green, then wandering off and forgetting about it until it is nearly cold, than any real dislike) Anyway, my point is, I refuse to go on living my life feeling the way I do – which is tired and cross most of the time – if it could all be cured by something as simple as a few vegetables. So I am resolved to eat more things that are green.

I also recently watched a Jamie Oliver program on what food does to your insides. I had always considered myself as being quite well informed, if not well behaved, on the issue of nutrition, but one thing Mr Oliver showed really stuck in my mind. He told us that bowl cancer is the second most common cancer in the UK, but up to 80% of the cases of bowl cancer could have been avoided altogether by better diet and exercise. He also said that if you eat only one or two portions of fruit and veg per day (As I usually do) you are asking for trouble.

For Christmas my Mother has bought me a smoothie maker. “This smoothie maker” I said, “will change my life. It will change my life because I have decided that it will.”

Even though I eat little or no fruit, I love smoothies and spend a fortune on them. It’s not that I don’t like fruit – I love it, it’s just that I always seem to forget to eat the damn stuff. The fruit I really like is the exotic stuff which is so expensive, and somehow when faced with an apple or a packet of crisps, I always choose the latter. Smoothies, it seems could be the answer to all my problems. I could pack in four or five portions of fruit a day without even noticing.