Category Archives: Travel

Maybe Tomorrow I’ll Wanna Settle Down…

Ah, The Littlest Hobo. A scraggy little dog who couldn’t stay in one town for too long, had to keep on moving, the road just kept a-calling him and he couldn’t stop a-running. Is it weird that The Littlest Hobo is the children’s character I identify with the most?

I have lived much of my life according to theme tune philosophy so why stop now. Yep, sorry London, but it looks like I am on the move again. So what if New York isn’t ready for me yet, work is sending me somewhere potentially more thrilling and dangerous, somewhere steeped in oral history where everybody’s your friend and you’re all in it together. Unless you’re a Sassenach. Yep, Scotland is calling me home and with half of my blood being Scottish it is probably time to see what all the fuss is about. Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner, but I’m about to belong to Glasgow.*

I’m excited for many reasons, predominantly square sausage and Irn Bru, oh sorry – I mean spending more time with family and an exciting career opportunity. It also means I can put off deciding what to do when I grow up for another 6 months. This being one of my first thoughts does make me wonder… Is that all that people who continually travel are doing? Is this the ultimate exploration of my massive talent for procrastination? Why is the concept of ‘growing up’ or ‘settling down’ so alien and terrifying to me? And what does it even mean?

When I think about settling down, I think about a house with wellies by the front door. I think about Cath Kidston, I think about a faceless man who’s always grumpy, weekly shops in Sainsbury’s, gossiping about Marge’s new toyboy, moaning about the caravan site spoiling our view, driving everywhere, getting hooked on Saturday night ‘entertainment’ shows, mountains of ironing…and by that point I am having trouble breathing and need to lie down. I’ll think about it tomorrow.

I know for a fact that these notions are antiquated, I don’t think any of my settled friends actually live the lifestyle I describe but I simply can’t rid myself of this stereotype. I guess settling down just makes me think of standing still and there is so much to see and do in our short lives that I can’t bear the thought of not chasing after time before it disappears. I never want to stop learning. Yet another article on theconversation.tv which I wish I’d written, called On Being a Responsible Hedonist, recently got me thinking about this again. The idea is we should embrace pleasure and not think we need to give it up to settle down, the only way we can pass on who we are is by knowing ourselves, and the best way to do that is to indulge ourselves. Sounds like a plan to me.

So I have decided I am just going to look forward to regular travel again – even if it’s only up and down one country… airports really make me feel alive, even though they are killing the planet (a glaring contradiction that I’m aware I need to work through) anyway, the train to Glasgow is also a joy. Travelling means listening to, indeed even talking to, strangers, being surprised, seeing new sights, learning new things, drinking in the day, napping in the day (possibly related to the previous point) and making new friends. And, insert fingers down throat now, finding yourself.

So, here’s to being selfish for a little bit longer and continuing to explore the world around me, with a view to passing on my knowledge one day. But basically having fun. I guess that’s the point, and deep down the responsible hedonist in me knows that I would still have fun wherever I was – even if I had Cath Kidston curtains I certainly wouldn’t be hiding behind them so maybe it’s time stop being scared of settling down. Maybe.

* for two weeks a month till the end of the year anyway.

 

Bad Decisions

God. There have been so many I don’t even know where to start. I’m not talking about the life altering decisions we make which we spend days mulling over and which then turn out to be bad. Like buying a house just before the crash, or taking a new job and finding out your boss is a bully. I’m talking about the tiny decisions we make every day, the ones we know are bad decisions but we make them anyway out of some misguided wish to be rebellious and not do what we are supposed to do. I’m saying we a lot here because I really hope it’s not just me who does this, but if it is I apologise – you are all better people than I.

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The bad decisions I’m talking about are things like drunk dialling, getting off with a random, having one more beer or getting the night bus home – wait, these are all drink related bad decisions which we can hardly be held accountable for – I’ll start again. Things like wearing uncomfortable shoes when we know we’re going to be standing up all night, having a pizza when we know we’re going to have to run to the loo immediately after, or messing around on Facebook when there is work to be done. I like to think I’m quite sensible, at least I’ve got my head on my shoulders, I know right from wrong, I give out advice all the time, but when it comes to my own life it’s almost like I purposely want to mess things up…all the time.

Luckily my bad decisions don’t have any impact on anyone else. I am single, I don’t have any dependents so if I decide to go to the pub (drink-related again, I know) instead of re-writing my screenplay, I’m not hurting anyone except me but I worry that as I get older and if I do end up having responsibility for people, my desire to rebel and the ease with which I make a bad decision, could impact on other people and have far reaching consequences. With age, life takes on a more routine pattern and our lives are more settled, so the desire to do bad things becomes suppressed. We have finally reached a point of contentedness so why on earth would we want to mess that up – to screw with everything we’ve worked so hard to achieve? The thing is at this point the bad decisions get even worse. We’ve given up smoking, we hardly drink any more so with contentedness I imagine there can be a tendency towards boredom and maybe this is why people have affairs. This is possibly one of the worst bad decisions you can make, to break the bond you made when you committed to someone else and whereas in the past you were open about the bad decisions you made, and found them almost funny, when the possibility of hurting people that you love arises, the world becomes filled with secrets and lies. Surely it would be better to be upfront about your desire to make this bad decision and to talk through that desire with your loved one? I can’t imagine many people do that though. Call me naïve and I am sure there are a gazillion reasons for an affair, not just boredom and rebellion, but I am not sure there can ever be any justification. Anyway, I digress – maybe it’s the 3 margaritas I’ve had this afternoon.

I’m not entirely sure what makes bad decisions so attractive. Sometimes if we vocalise what we are about to do it makes us feel better about it, as if someone might tell us to stop and we would obey, which of course would never happen.

My latest bad decision may be a sleeper hit. Things are going pretty well with my writing and theconversation.tv seem to love what I am giving them. So I have written, and submitted, a fairly controversial piece about being an atheist. I even talk about the poppycock of creationism. Now, in the UK I wouldn’t have a problem with delivering this kind of article, but the US has a different attitude to religion. And I don’t know enough about it to gauge what kind of reaction they are going to have. They have told me that nothing is off limits, and I’m certainly not ashamed of anything I have said, but for some reason I have made the decision to push the boundaries to the limit, to find out how far I can go. So let’s see if they publish it. And if they do, whether I can handle the inevitable backlash. I’m fine with putting myself out there, but I don’t really want any death threats.

Back to the day job tomorrow then, with a determination to run there every day, eat only porridge and salads and not even check my personal emails during the day. So I’ll see you on Facebook at about 12:30, while I’m eating my fish and chips and wishing I’d looked harder for my trainers tonight. That’s just the way I roll so I better get used to it and as long as I continue to be honest about it, it’s really not that bad.

Being Me

I’ve been watching a chrysalis in the garden for the last week, a non-descript lump of cells which will soon open and become a beautiful butterfly, unrecognisable from the caterpillar who built it. Nature is full of transformations, from the ugly duckling to the prickly pear, but it is the human transformation which can be the most subtle and which is, of course, the one we are most obsessed with.

For once I’m not talking about physical transformation which society is becoming more and more obsessed with. Sure, we can get a new hair cut to make us feel better, put on make up, do some exercise or the extreme – get some plastic surgery, but it won’t transform who you fundamentally are and it certainly won’t make you a better person. For me, the spiritual transformation is much more fascinating. We spend our lives searching for meaning, trying to understand who we are, trying to be a better daughter, sister, mother, wife, rarely satisfied with who we are and what we have to offer the world. Once in a while we get it right and we are grateful and grounded for a moment, but most of the time we are haunted by demons; Why did I make that joke at her expense? Why doesn’t he love me? Am I ever going to succeed? Where is my life taking me? Sometimes we can feel frustrated, angry with ourselves for not accepting who we are but unable to do just that, unable to just be.

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I was quite a serious and timid little girl and, like many little girls, I wanted to be an actress. Aside from the fame and the glamour, it was the possibility of becoming someone else which enticed me, to play a role, so that I didn’t have to play the part which life had decided for me. But, sadly for Hollywood, I’ve since learnt that the best role we can ever play is ourselves.

Last year I took a sabbatical, mostly to have an extended holiday but partly to get closer to ‘me’. During that time I learnt to sail in North Carolina. I have always been terrified of water. Not just deep water, i.e. the ocean, but all water. I’m not even very fond of having a shower to be honest. When I wash my face, I screw it up as tight as possible so not a drop enters the eyes or mouth and often hold my nose to prevent water from going in there too. It is such a palaver that it doesn’t happen very often, thank goodness for face wipes! Anyway, one day we were in this tiny training boat and my co-learner had control. I should say, up to this point I had executed every manoeuvre perfectly, not because I am a particularly competent sailor, but because I was so terrified about going overboard that every part of my being insisted that I do things, if not absolutely correctly, then at least safely. My co-learner was slightly more gung-ho than I was and I just knew he hadn’t been listening to all the instructions so when the instructor shouted ‘tack!’ he tried to jibe and for a fleeting moment the boat (did I mention it was tiny?) took on an almost 90 degree angle which required an impulsive reaction from me and my somewhat elderly instructor to leap to the rescue and regain control of the vessel. We all laughed about how close we had come to capsizing, but in that moment something within me had transformed. While I was still scared of the water, I had a respect for the ocean which I had previously not understood, and for a brief moment the fear left me and I was able to just be.

That incident and several others during my sabbatical taught me that I will never change who I am fundamentally, but I can challenge it daily, and in doing so aim to transform into the best possible me. Making almost imperceptible changes in my life, such as saying ‘Good Morning’ to the bus driver (believe me, it’s unusual in London) or making a round of tea at work, are daily reminders that I am capable of being a better me.

Now, when I look in the mirror, I no longer see that frightened little girl, desperate to be anyone but her, she’s still there, but through experiences she is becoming the woman she never thought she could be. I see wrinkles which remind me of the laughter I’ve had in my life, I see freckles which remind me I shouldn’t have stayed so long in the sun, and I see a body which reminds me that I am always the one to have one more bite or beer, but all those things are merely physical representations of the me that I have always been. And I’m starting to be ok with that.

So remember, the ugly duckling, once he became a swan, was still the ugly duckling, Optimus Prime was always just a truck, the butterfly has the same DNA as the caterpillar and leopards can’t change their spots. But you can be the best you you can be. So say ‘Good Morning’ to the bus driver, it might make your day.

The Sound of Silence

I have never been afraid of my own company. I prefer the company of others, and I do really annoy myself from time to time, but I enjoy being on my own and over the last couple of years have actively sought out places which will allow me to experience true solitude. However, after two weeks on my own in scorchio Mexico last year, when I nearly sent myself loopdyloo with my own company and intensive self analysis, I decided that maybe solitude wasn’t for me after all and I should welcome the benefits and company of others. It was a surprise then, that over the last few weeks I have found the noise and bustle of London so overwhelming that when I was offered the chance to spend a week, on my own, in Portugal, I jumped at it.

So it was that last weekend I found myself, with my lovely Portuguese friend, his girlfriend and baby, driving to his parent’s unbelievably beautiful beach house in a tiny fishing village. The plan was to spend the weekend together there, hanging out and enjoying the weather, and for them to leave me there on Sunday, alone, to write. I’m currently going through a rare prolific period so was relishing the chance to have some time alone, just to work on the many thoughts racing through my head. By about 4pm on Sunday though, there was only one thought racing through my head. ‘Please leave, go now, no right now, don’t have another cup of coffee, just go, please!’. This was in no way a reflection on my wonderful hosts, who were just that, but with a baby in the room there is always a lot of chatter and when the pregnant sister arrived with a toddler in tow the general hum, especially in a language I can’t understand, increased to bombastic levels. The mental ‘Ingles’ (me) nearly started beating herself in the head with her fists, and speaking about herself in the third person, see? mental. Finally, the time for them to leave arrived. Phew. But the expected sigh of relief didn’t come…as soon as I heard the car door slam, the only thought suddenly racing through my head was ‘don’t go, come back, I’ll make dinner, have a beer with me, I miss you!’ Short of chasing the car down the street and begging them to stay (so not my style), I was left with one option. Be Alone.

I paced through the house several times, completely at a loss as to what to do with myself. I hate to use an overused phrase but in this case it was true, the silence was deafening – every sound was magnified by the silence; the waves of the Atlantic, the pilot light on the gas boiler, the bees in the jasmine flower outside. After an hour or so though I started to relax and sat in the garden, finally enjoying the sounds of silence, and the solitude until it was cut through by the tuneful whistle of an elderly neighbour. I don’t know why but I love a man who can whistle well, sadly it seems to be a dying art. He popped his head over the fence ‘Bom dia’. I smiled – of course it is very hard to achieve true solitude, but in the end I had a wonderful, and productive, week. And a few hilarious conversations in international sign language.

Ay, there’s the rub. How can I be so desperate to move to New York, the busiest, most bustling city of them all and yet be at my most content by the ocean. This is not just a normal life v. holiday conundrum either, it’s a split personality conundrum which has haunted me, and many of my friends, ever since I can remember. All I want to do is party and rebel and go out with the bad boy…no, wait, the opposite of that…I just want to have a cup of tea and go for a walk with a nice man who understands me. I change my mind about this on a daily basis. I am so desperate to move to New York, but I keep meeting people who live there who say, ‘Oh wait til you’ve been there a couple of years, it’s not that great.’ I want to scream at them and say ‘Do you know how lucky you are?’ But I suppose (in this cliché ridden post I may as well add one more) the grass is always greener on the other side. I just need to chose a side and stick to it, at least for longer than one day.

I am on the verge of accepting a new work contract for 6 months (it is taking slightly longer than I thought to pay off the debts from last year’s sabbatical) so my plans to ‘make it there’ are on hold, but only for a little while. At least the company I am working for have a New York office so will keep pushing for a transfer. I am more determined than ever to make it happen and, hey, Coney Island is only a subway ride away.

She’s Like The Wind

This week, I have mostly been thinking about Patrick Swayze, weird but true. There has been a mantra going round in my head about fear versus love and his character in Donnie Darko (who turned out to be a raging paedo) was obsessed with this idea too – and had this to say about it: ‘You are a fear prisoner’ or something like that.

I’m inclined to disagree and would argue, as Donnie himself did that without fear we would be unable to love, and also to live. I have spent a lot of this week terrified, and I have never felt so alive – not since I went swimming with Whale Sharks in Mexico (I was of course very scared then too). Writing about The Demons last week helped to dampen the fear a bit but they have been alive and well in the middle of most nights due to my idiocy in writing about and GETTING PUBLISHED something unbelievably personal and sharing it with friends (there are still people I won’t let read it, you know who you are).

The strange thing is it doesn’t stop there – I have so many stories to tell, some of them even more embarrassing secrets, that I can hardly justify going to sleep because it will waste valuable writing time. When did this happen? 14 months ago I was on a plane to New York in an absolute flap because I was supposed to be turning up for my screenwriting course, which had been planned for a million years, with at least one idea for a screenplay, preferably three. I couldn’t think of a single thought, let alone an idea for a whole film. I hadn’t written anything, except budgets and schedules for 12 years and I had absolutely no doubt that I was going to be a crappy writer – I had no imagination, I had no originality, I had no confidence in me, let alone sunshine or rain! (another Sound of Music reference, sorry). Anyway, a year later and I can’t write the ideas down fast enough – I am still working on that first script which started as a seed of an idea which I probably chose while drunk in Milady’s but grew into this mental romp of a rom com – and a few other hopefully mildly amusing concepts. I still think they are all crap but at least I have the confidence to finally write them down.

I guess what I am saying is even if you think you will be crap at your dreams, don’t give up, even if you’re the only one getting pleasure from it, that’s still better than not doing it. I am inclined to sympathise with 70’s feminists more than Swayze on my earlier point; Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, is going to be my new mantra, or, basically, suck it and see.

One of the things I have been told this week is how brave I am. It is an amazing compliment but I honestly don’t know what it means, I have never felt less brave (apart from maybe when that bug entered our tent while camping in Amarillo) but there is a definite freedom in doing something which makes you so effing scared.

On the day I got the email telling me my article was going to be published soon, I was just walking into the cinema to see new horror movie Silent House. I was a little bit excited by the news, but tried to calm down and get into the film, it was good but I wasn’t really scared, I’d faced much bigger fears recently. Anyway, about 15 minutes in I could hear this really annoying music coming from somewhere – I was certain the man in front of us was listening to ‘Simply The Best’ by Tina Turner and I kept giving him evils to get him to turn it off. It was only when my friend nudged me that I realised it seemed to be coming from my bag, which indeed it was – I’d left my phone on shuffle after I got the news so with a wry smile I shame-facedly turned it off. Sure I was feeling cocky, I was simply the best! But I was also, and will always be, a bit of a nob.

By the way, I have been in Portugal for 3 hours and have already had 3 beers and 3 Marlboro reds – you’ve gotta love Europe. I’m sure the high will dampen soon, but even when I get those much needed rejection letters, I’ll remember and be glad for what Patch said cos at the moment it’s true on a daily basis ‘I’ve had the time of my life.’

Demon Days

Several years ago my friends and I coined a phrase for a condition which, at the time, we believed was unique to us. We called it The Demons. We were in our late 20’s and we had begun to lose our fear of being judged by others so we were overjoyed to finally talk about this condition openly and honestly.

We were all successful, happy women, blessed with good families and good friends and pretty much without a worry in the world. Why, then, did we constantly get distracted and often lie awake at night unable to stop these demons from zooming around our heads. Demons which generally consisted of;

‘I shouldn’t have had that last glass of wine, I behaved like a dick’-‘I laughed too hard at my own jokes tonight’-‘I shouldn’t have said that mean thing about that girl’-‘my work is gonna find out I can’t really do my job’-‘I forgot to phone my mum again’-‘I should be doing something worthwhile with my life’-‘I’m never gonna find true love’ and the predominant question nicked from Eliza Doolittle – ‘what is to become of me?’

As you can imagine, it was exhausting! At an age where we should have been in our prime we were more lost than ever and couldn’t stop worrying about where life’s journey was going to take us. I have since found out that we were not alone and this is a common phenomenon. In fact The Demons is a well used phrase…. We were simply participating in this zeitgeist of shared first world problems if you will.

When you are having a demon day you don’t listen to Gorillaz of course, you listen to The Carpenters. I’ve seen grown men cry along to The Carpenters on demon days -I don’t think demons are solely a female issue. However, if you are a woman, you might also listen to Joni Mitchell and right now I wish I had a river I could skate away on – this last week has been the first time in a long time that these familiar demons have peeped their cheeky little heads above the parapet. Why can’t we just be grateful and happy with what we’ve got?

Although I never suffered with the demons as much as some of my friends I had thought I’d banished them forever when I changed the direction of my life last year and started to pursue my dream of becoming a writing rather than fantasising that I would one day get round to doing what I felt I should be doing and save some orphans.

But, a couple of weeks ago, I did what I had promised and sent my first piece of writing off to a website. Instead of the longed for rejection letter I got a note of enthusiasm… we love your piece! We want to publish it this week! You can imagine my surprise and fear and utter shock at this turn of events and I spent a lot of the week either just crying, yelping at strangers in the street with excitement or chewing my hand off in anticipation. When the piece

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didn’t get published these feelings were inevitably accompanied by shrouds of self-doubt and reluctance to believe it would ever happen but I have decided to relax and just be happy that they liked it, THEY LIKED IT! But still the demons persist…

I’m starting to realise that the demons only appear when I engage with real life, when I put myself out there, when I risk criticism or hurt and I am reluctantly accepting that the glory of real life might be worth the demons.

Back when we ‘discovered’ this condition, and we were all suffering from varying degrees of demonization, two of my closest friends tried to run away from the demons by going to northern Spain for a few days. I couldn’t go – I think I was working – but something seemed to happen on that trip and they both came back from it having made decisions about their lives and their futures and in many ways having banished those particular demons forever. They now have other demons to face, but at least they have moved forward and dealt with the first round of demons which were holding them back.

I now need to move forward too…I have done a lot of running away in my time, but mostly to have fun, not to navel gaze, so maybe it’s time I started. I have a couple of weeks off work so I am going to see a dear friend in Portugal who has kindly offered to put me up in his parents beach house for the week. I plan to stare at the sea and hope these demons wash away to make space for new ones, the old ones are getting tired. But I know I mustn’t banish the demons forever, I need to understand them and embrace them for what they are – part of the glorious tapestry of living. Without the doubt and fear they encourage we’d all basically be even bigger self obsessed wankers than we are, and the (first) world would be an even shittier place.

Bring it on you demons! See you on the other side!

Lost In Music

I’ll be honest with you. I suck at commitment. Really suck. A mere five weeks into my blogging career and I really don’t feel like writing today. No offence, but I can’t be arsed. Is this the beginning of the end? The classic ‘Janey gets really enthusiastic about something for 0.5 Seconds before being distracted by other things’ syndrome?

Squirrel!

Sorry I’m back. No it’s not. Stop being so negatory Ballantyne, I may be tired but I am here and I am writing.

Ok, I’m tired because I just spent five hours salsa dancing, which was the last thing I got really into before I started writing again. But I haven’t done any dancing for 6 months. See? I suck at commitment. Anyway, it was great to do it again, and it was with a terrific group and a fantastic teacher but I have to say, over five hours we danced to about six tracks and the music for the most part was not good! I actually like salsa music a lot. And after a few years and several Spanish lessons I can now tell the difference between good Latin music and bad, and this didn’t hit the spot, or rather, the soul. Maybe it just wasn’t loud enough but instead of feeling every beat in every inch of my body and letting the music propel me through the tiredness, I found myself too aware of my surroundings, knackered and sweating in a basement club off Tottenham Court Road on a sunny Sunday afternoon, to dance like no-one was watching.

I’ve been thinking a lot about music this week, mainly because music helps me write and I am currently writing my second screenplay, exactly a year after I wrote the first one with a wonderful group of people in New York. Spring seems to be an inspiring time. Anyway, the first screenplay, entitled Come As You Are, relies heavily on a score by Nirvana. I knew before I sat down to write it that Nirvana were one of the hardest bands to license. But I carried on regardless as I never thought in my wildest dreams I would actually finish it, let alone want to send it out to competitions/agents to try and get it made. Idiot. Nirvana’s back catalogue is owned by several people, mainly nutty Courtney Love and poor old Frances Bean and they are very protective over it. At least they are in good company, like The Beatles and Dylan they are one of the most use-restricted artists. Fortunately the new screenplay has a large 1950’s influence so I hope the music will be slightly more usable. One of the best tracks I’ve found so far is called ‘London Is The Place For Me’. Check it out, it’s a classic… But I do hope it’s displaying 50’s irony at it’s best. If you compare this to what was going on musically and culturally in New York at the time, you might get a glimpse of why I am so drawn to that city, over London where ‘the English people are very much sociable’ apparently. As I say, check it out.

The first record I ever bought was Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper. It seems my 8 year old self knew what was important, even then. I clearly remember going into Our Price in Southgate Mall, Bath, with my pocket money in my sweaty palm and going home to play it over and over and over and over again. What’s brilliant about that record (and I know a lot of people will say nothing is brilliant about it) is that I still own it. And it gives me goose bumps every time I hear it because of that memory, and that knowledge. At the risk of sounding like an old fogey, kids ain’t gonna remember the first song they ever bought any more, in future formative memories are going to be very different. This is why I was so excited yesterday, on National Record Store Day when I walked into Rough Trade West and went straight to the counter and asked the owner (now a celebrity in his own right) if I could buy the new Good Cop album, which is beautifully pressed in clear vinyl and comes with a clear CD as well. The staff there were all very excited, a man behind me saw me buying it and got very excited and there was such an amazing buzz about the place, that it made me yearn for the old days.  At least there is still a rebel alliance alive and well and trying to hold on to those memories. People with kids, take them to a record store to buy their first song, and if you no longer have a record player, buy one. They’ll love you for it.

Squirrel!

Help! I Need Some… Support Pants.

Now, I know it appears that summer has been and gone, but I shall relate to you a little cautionary tale in case it decides to return.

A couple of weeks ago, when it became clear that the weather wasn’t a tromp l’oeil and it might indeed stay warm for an entire day, I decided to wear some Spring clothes. Unfortunately most of the clothes I own are still in storage from my 7 months ‘sabbatical’ last year so I was left with a sweet little dress which I picked up in Mexico. As my flatmate will confirm, I am definitely not a morning person so even though I did look in the mirror before I left the house that morning, I cannot guarantee that my eyes were fully open.

Unsurprisingly, by lunchtime that day, when I had seen my reflection a couple of times, I started to have the intense realisation that not only was my dress definitely not appropriate office attire, but that things were bulging and hanging out in the most unacceptable places. Thankfully, my office is close to Shepherd’s Bush Market so despite the heat I threw on my overcoat and 10 minutes later found myself naked behind a rail of velour leisure suits and half a shower curtain, pouring excess inches into an array of support underwear which would have given Buddha a waist line to be proud of. You can imagine how much effort this exerted and soon I was feeling positively peckish so I paid up and, feeling confident that all the lumps and bumps were straightened out, headed to my favourite falafel shop.

It was only when I returned to the office that I realised the support pants I had purchased were rather long on the leg and it looked like I was wearing lycra cycling shorts underneath my very pretty, if slightly indecent dress. I spent an entire meeting with my boss trying to push the pants up/pull the dress down and of course came out of it not having a clue what had just been discussed. Normally I would have just worn my coat for the rest of the day and jumped on the bus home immediately after work but that evening I was going to the theatre. Dahling. Luckily it was only in Hammersmith so on the way there I dived into Primark, grabbed another, shorter, pair of support pants and put them on in the Lyric Hammersmith’s fancy new toilets. Finally, feeling

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positively fabulous I waited at the bar for my friend with a glass of wine. Trying to ignore the fact that I was suddenly having trouble breathing I chatted to my friend as we took our seats. Just minutes before curtain up my breathing became so laboured that I rushed to the toilets yet again to peel off the new support pants – which I then discovered were a (UK) size 6 to 8… I’m sorry, which woman who is a size 6 to 8 EVER needs to wear support pants?! As I sneaked back into the pitch black auditorium, with everything hanging out, I sighed and settled down with my wine resting on the handy shelf which is my belly.

After such an epic day of several underwear changes it occurred to me that in actual fact I wasn’t any thinner when I was in Mexico, I wasn’t any more toned, in truth nothing was different about my body except I was a little bit more tanned. So why was I more than happy to wear this dress almost every day for two months in Mexico and think I looked gorgeous but in London I’d prefer to waste a whole day and a whole lot of energy chasing after the perfect support pants? Come to think of it – and I’m horrified I haven’t yet mentioned these words in this post but ‘when I was in New York’ I never once even thought about support pants and I lived on a diet of pizza and beer. So, pizza and beer in New York, tacos and tequila in Mexico (yes, I am that clichéd)…why then am I wasting my time trying to eat salads, and the odd falafel wrap, here in London when there appears to be no direct correlation between what I eat, how I look and how I think I look?

In celebration of this most simple yet liberating of realisations, I headed home to eat pizza and drink beer. But I did put the little Mexican dress back in the cupboard to give my mind a chance to catch up with my body…or the other way around.

Oh and in case you’re wondering I have done bugger all this week about moving to New York…I have been too busy eating pizza and tacos and cake.

Poems In The Key Of Life

When I was 16 I somehow persuaded my parents to allow (and pay for) me to go to New York for the summer. I would be staying with a friend who had lodged in our B&B years earlier when she was a student at Bath University. She now had an incredible apartment on the Upper East Side and she was at work every day so all I had to do with my time was explore.

I have never felt freer or cooler than I did that summer. I spent days wandering, wearing out my green DM boots, tossing my hair from side to side and chain-smoking Lucky Strikes. It was while smoking one of these Lucky Strikes, on the steps of The Met, that I met Willie, the homeless poet of New York. He offered to read me one of his poems for a dollar and give me a bright pink copy of it too… a pretty good deal for a dollar, I thought. But Willie didn’t just read me his poem on that sunny day outside The Met, he performed it, big and bold and ballsy, just for me, just for a dollar. Sadly I lost my pink copy years ago, though I can still remember how it went;

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Let’s love one another
No matter what we be
Let’s love one another
And we’ll allow each other, to be free

Ok it might not be William Shakespeare but it was Willie, the homeless poet of New York and it epitomised the spirit of the city for me. At that moment, I was hooked. I had to find a way to be there by any means.

A few weeks later and I was back in Bath doing A-levels. It might have been the boys and the booze which distracted me from pursuing my dream, but I suspect it was more likely fear – everything else was just an excuse. The Tisch School of the Arts or an ex-poly in Yorkshire? Yep, I chose the safe and easy option.

I am not one for regrets however – hell, Edith said it best, “Je ne regrette rien” and it’s truly been a wonderful life thus far. Indeed, I suspect only now am I ready to squeeze everything out of this nearly 20 year old dream.

So, to the 5 point plan:

  1. Apply to do a Masters. This may also help with the second part of the dream, to be a writer. In fact, to come full circle, The Tisch School would be the perfect place. The only obstacle is of course cash. Could take another 5 years to save up. Time to look into scholarship options.
  2. Get a job. This week I will be emailing everybody I have ever met who might have any connection to New York to see if they can get me a job in my current field – watch out, it could be you!
  3. Go as a tourist for 3 months and just see what happens. This is an attractive option (mostly because it doesn’t involve working or studying) but of course it also involves cash and there is no guarantee that I will find a way to stay longer.
  4. Find an American husband. If you have read my previous blog A Soiled Romance you will know how utterly rubbish I’d be at doing this.
  5. Get immigration to allow me in on the basis that my Father, who was adopted, is certain that his biological father was an American stationed in Dublin, although we have absolutely no proof of this. (Apart from my Dad discovering through a DNA database he has a 3rd cousin in San Francisco – pretty cool huh?) But somehow I don’t think those friendly immigration officers will go for that.

Damn, 2 out of the 5 point action plan are non-starters but it’s still gonna be a busy week… in the meantime, with Willie’s words still ringing in my ears after 20 years I am going to heed them and get out there and spread some love . Namaste.

Anything You Can Do, I Can Do… too…

Just a few days after I announced to a select few (anyone who would listen) that I was planning to write a blog, a friend who writes a successful blog and is about to have her first novel published gave me some advice.

Her: ‘You have to be prepared to write every week.’
Me: ‘I can do that.’
Her: ‘What’s it about?’
Me: ‘Me. Trying to move to New York and be a writer.’
Her: ‘Great! Good subject, I think there’s already a blog like that on Marie Claire.’
Me: ‘Brilliant!’

But inside I was crushed. Now, I’m well aware that there are very few original ideas in the world and pretty much everything’s been done before. I’m also aware that there are a million women wanting to move to New York, and probably half a million blogging about it, but how can I possibly compete with an established blogger who reaches thousands of people each week? Another word of advice resounded in my head, know your enemy.

In the name of research, I have spent the last five hours of this gloriously sunny day, stalking the entire back catalogue of this blogging competitor and I have to report that there is no competition. She is just like me. IN MY DREAMS! She is everything I’ve always wanted to be, but was never quite cool enough to be. She already lives in New York, making a living from travel writing and taking photos of bands, cool bands. She is attractive, she is funny, she is younger than me. I try to console myself with some of the cool things I’ve done. At least I’ve got my PADI Open Water. I click on the next blog. So has she. And she did it for free by writing a feature on it. I’ve probably seen more of the States than her thanks to my life-changing roadtrip last year. Nope she’s been to pretty much all the same places, and more. What is worse, much worse, is that I don’t hate her, I can’t… she is self-deprecating and sounds normal. So, I have no choice. I must use her as an inspiration – age aside, I’m sure she was in my shoes once, and often has many of the self loathing thoughts that we all have, even though she is perfect. I will take some advice from one of her blogs entitled ‘Life Begins At The End Of Your Comfort Zone’ and find a way to move to New York and stop banging on about it, just do it. Next week I will be setting out my 5 point plan. Genius = 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration from my new idol.

Talking of perspiration, it appears that Spring has well and truly sprung. Aside from the obvious change in the weather, I know this because having spent the winter hibernating and finding the idea of having sex far too much effort for the return, I now want to rip the clothes off any man who crosses my path. It is so bad that I walked past a male colleague the other day who had just been for a lunchtime run and I found myself trying to INHALE his sweat. Something needs to be done about this and soon.
Other reasons I know it is Spring are as follows:

This time last year I was in New York for 2 months studying screenwriting. It was the worst Spring New York had had in years…while London basked in an early summer. I didn’t care though, I was in New York. There’s no guarantee this weather will last in London, but it does make the city so much more enjoyable, so please keep shining, sun, as this may well be my last Spring in London.

So, as dusk approaches I might actually stop stalking and leave the house. In fact, strangely, this exercise has reminded me of how much I have done, and how exciting it is to have a project. So what if someone else has been there, done that…I’m wearing the ‘I ♥ NY’ t-shirt, and, despite looking like a muppet, feeling pretty damn lucky.