Tag Archives: London

100 Miles West – Movin’ Right Along… or not.

So here I am. I have moved. I am in Bristol. I am not in London. Before I got here I was aware of the emotional difficulty involved in moving – in uprooting – your life and making such a significant change. What I wasn’t aware of though, was the physical difficulty involved in moving. I mean actual physical inability to move. Every final step I have taken in the last few weeks has been accompanied by a deep gutteral gravitational pull, which I have been completely unable to control.

I started okay, as the packing of the boxes for the removals men began I did it with a spring in my step, some tunes on the radio and a smile on my face. However, as I neared the end of this packing ritual I could hardly get off the sofa to carefully wrap the remaining plates in the kitchen which then remained unwrapped until the wonderful removal man (and old family friend) arrived and did it for me in the twinkling of an eye while I looked on from the sofa. Frozen.

It didn’t get much better on my final day at work either. I was up to date, had completed solid handover notes and was ready to leave when 6pm rolled around….but for some reason I just couldn’t leave the office. I kept finding more things to pack and more goodbye emails to send and in the end I was dragged to the pub by a colleague. But it didn’t end there. I am an occasional big drinker (ahem), but not generally with work colleagues. On this night though, I didn’t want it to end. Knowing I might never see them again I suggested that old classic ‘Be At One’ for ‘one more drink’ and we were pretty much dancing on the tables until 2am. I could have stayed out with them longer but they dispersed, exhausted and broken and a little bit in shock by their sensible colleague’s transformation..

Then there was the final dinner party with my close friends which started off full of sophistication and ended with me on my knees Sweet-Child-Of-Mine-air-guitaring at 3am before being dragged into a taxi.

The next day I had to pack up the car with my final bits. There were only a few bags but it took me over 2 hours. After every trip to the car I had to sit down. Not because I was especially hungover but because every trip was taking me one step closer to the departure time. The moment of reality. When I finally got in the car and departed (4 hours later than planned) and arrived outside the house which was to be my home for the next couple of months, I sat in the car, paralysed, unable to take the next step which would lead me to my new life. Eventually my new housemate came and knocked on the window having seen me arrive and given up waited patiently for me to come to the door.

A trip to London the following week didn’t help as these steps were repeated over and over again and it is actually a wondrous miracle that I find myself here, in Bristol, sitting in a café and not on my sofa in my studio flat digging my nails into the parquet flooring while being dragged out by the heels by my new tenant.

But here I am, and it feels pretty good. It’s all about putting one foot in front of the other, apparently – that’s all you can do after all and doing that simple thing has got me here and will get me to where I want to be. I am sure of it. One day at a time.

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100 Miles West – Leaving London’s Never Easy

When I told a friend recently that I was leaving London his reaction was one of absolute shock. “But you leaving London is like the Ravens leaving The Tower of London! This is bad news, very bad.”

I mulled this over for a while. Might my departure from London really indicate that the Crown will fall and Britain with it? Or to put a (slightly) less dramatic slant on it – can I thrive in any other city but London? I have a habit of making decisions instinctively and not always recognising the impact of those decisions until they are right on top of me. And right now this move seems to be no different.

I have strong reasons for moving which include family, quality of life and a career gear-change but I am not leaving London because I have fallen out of love with it. I am not tired of London and therefore tired of life (thanks Samuel Johnson, that stupid observation probably kept me here much longer than I should have been). I truly love London. It inspires and challenges me. I am settled here. I have the best friends I could ever wish for here. I have a good job. I have my own place to live. I don’t mind the tube or the buses, the crowds or the bustle, the grumpy, gritty streets or the myriad other reasons most people generally give for leaving this crazy city. It wouldn’t be London without them. The doorstep living – with immediate access to the best theatre, cinemas, restaurants, bars, 24 hour shops which will give you a bottle of overpriced Rosé at 3 o’clock in the morning – is something you struggle to find elsewhere in such abundance.

So if I have the perfect London life on paper I have to wonder why I have spent the last four years trying to leave. For anyone who has followed this blog from day one (god help you) you will know that I spent the first year of it plotting and scheming ways in which I could move to New York. Being unable to get a visa, not having the stamina for student-hood again or the balls to ‘just go and see what happens’ I have had to abandon that dream for now. I then, somewhat reluctantly, took a job in Glasgow, predominantly to be closer to my mother, but found it to be a more brittle and unforgiving city than London. And at least 10 degrees colder. And yet I accepted a second and third contract there. During that time I was still officially living in London and commuting at weekends, but there was clearly something drawing me away. So now I am looking 100 miles west – to Bristol – a city I only previously knew from going aged 8 to the ice-rink and aged 18 clubbing to Lakota, but which I hope will give me what London seems unable to.

The Ravens at The Tower have their wings clipped to prevent them from flying too far away. Superstition surrounding that ancient stupid curse means those poor birds are destined to flit around as a tourist attraction, never able to fully spread their wings and fly. I can relate to that. It seems that despite my affection for London, I have not managed to fly in this city during the past fifteen years, and I just know that there are things I am capable of which I will never achieve here. I don’t know what those things are yet, but I am looking forward to finding out. As long as the Kingdom doesn’t crumble first.

Let’s Write About Sex

In the blog I wrote on 25th March last year I lamented the fact that it might be my last Spring in London. Well, here I am a year and a month on (thanks Endless Winter) and sadly no closer to moving to New York. BUT things have happened, moved on, progressed and it has been a fulfilling year, which is all one can really hope for. I will see New York in the Spring again, I have no doubt.

Unlike last year, instead of making me as horny as a teenage rabbit, this Spring has re-awakened my long-dormant Romantic side. Music, flowers, sentimentality, the works… which is just a little bit ironic as I have spent the last couple of months writing sex. Proper, erotic, sexy sex for a new journal dedicated to erotica. The project is still in its infancy, but it is exciting and original and we are hoping to publish the first issue soon so I will keep you posted when I know more. Maybe then, I am thinking about romance because I am all sexed out? And it’s not just the writing, so far this year I have managed to really hurt someone I care about, royally screwed things up with someone I like and break my cardinal rule by taking someone from work home, for ‘cuddles’. And I think sex, or perhaps my attitude to it, was at least partly to blame for each of these disasters. So, I am taking a vow of celibacy. I am changing the habit of a lifetime. I am finally saying ‘no’ to instant gratification. No sex, just love. And here’s why.

In my opinion, Spinderella needs to cut it up one more time. Despite all of the liberation and sexual equality which western women have enjoyed since the sexual revolution, it seems to me that we are still just as fucked up about sex as we ever have been. As with food, I don’t know one woman who has an entirely healthy attitude towards sex. I’m not even sure I could define what a healthy attitude towards sex might be. I’m not saying that men have a healthy attitude towards sex either, but I’m afraid I can only talk about it from my perspective, as a straight woman, despite the fact I have been accused of having a ‘male attitude’ towards sex in the past… hmmm. The traditional view is that women attach feelings to sex and men don’t, but I find this view patronising and am not convinced that this is true….each encounter is different and every person responds in a different way with different partners, which is one of the things which makes sex so wondrous.

Although my female friends and I talk about sex openly, humorously and often in graphic detail, I don’t think we ever really talk about how it makes us feel which is weird as how it makes us feel, both physically and emotionally, should surely be the only reason we ever do it?

I did not receive, or at least I do not remember receiving any sex education at school which wasn’t purely anatomical and given by a cold and un-engaging teacher. For a young mind, the thought of doing that anatomical act is simply horrifying, and I think I blocked it out of my brain as soon as the lesson was over. Nothing at home either. To not be given any information or advice on the reasons why one might want to have sex and what it might mean to you is at best negligent and at worst incredibly damaging. It was a long time ago now so I don’t blame anyone…to use one of my least favourite phrases du jour ‘things were different back then’ but all we were ever told was to wait until we were in love… which is pretty terrible advice to be honest. Trusting someone is a lot harder than loving someone especially when as a teenager the overwhelming driving force of your hormones dictates that you will most probably confuse lust for love anyway. In fact, scrap the teenage hormones, I often still get the two confused.

In theory I was incredibly lucky in that I lost my virginity at 17 to a boy I both loved and trusted, but in practice I was giving handies to a local hash dealer in my friends attic at 13 because I fancied him and wanted him to like me…oh, and because I didn’t know any better! Just because it wasn’t full intercourse, doesn’t mean it didn’t massively inform my later attitude to sex. I’m not saying that if I had been better informed I wouldn’t have done it, I was pretty wild back then (even at 13 which is somewhat shocking to me now) and my hormones were racing, but at least I would have known what the milky sticky substance which ended up on my Swatch Watch was. The transition from child to teenager is brutal and I’m amazed so many of us survive it.

I would hope that sex education today is better than it was then, but I’m not convinced it is, especially with the apparent re-emergence of conservatism and the prevalence of faith schools. This is worrying because our attitudes to sex are formed at the transition from child to teenager and I suspect my story is actually pretty tame compared to what some young girls are experiencing right now. Once formed we can spend the rest of our lives trying to shake these attitudes off which is why it is so important to instil in girls and boys an understanding of the realities and complexities of sex as soon as they are mature enough to understand.

I am particularly worried when I think about the cold, unromantic and nasty sex which is available at the click of a button today. I have heard too many stories of young men who think not only is it normal to want to do it up the bum, but that a girl is frigid if she won’t. I have even heard a story about a 22 year old man who went to bed for the first time with a woman and on seeing her pubic hair actually said, ‘What’s that?’ These distorted perceptions of sex are becoming more common. Porn has always been available but until fairly recently it has been separated from reality by a certain societal disapproval. Porn mags were rightfully put on the top shelf and only (supposed to be) sold to over 18’s. Because of this, even when younger people got hold of them, they knew they were illicit and from another world. Now the barrier between real sex and pornographic sex is barely noticeable…with young women thinking they have to look and act like porn stars in order to get/keep a man and young men thinking this is acceptable.

Why then, am I about to add to this already over-saturated market of sex? Well, I have decided that if you can’t beat them, join them and beat them at their own game. Laid Bare will be erotic stories, not pornography, and I have written an editorial piece for Issue 2 exploring the difference between the two, and their individual merits. The journal will be real women writing about real sex in a fun, honest, sexy and entertaining way. If a teenager stumbled upon it, I would hope it would at least give them a different perspective on how sex can be, and for the women it is aimed at it will finally give them an erotic publication which they can relate to.

Polemic over. Luckily I have enough ‘experience’ to plunder for a few issues yet so I can maintain my celibacy and explore my own sexuality without the complication of sex. I’m actually looking forward to it.  Only by empowering women to view sex as a collaboration, a celebratory act of attraction and not simply as a way to keep ‘him’ happy will we start to regain control of our own sexuality and young women, not just women in their 30’s + who have spent years figuring it out, will understand and value themselves and their sexuality.

 

I’m Going Home

On the day, I went away (good bye –aye-aye)
Goodbye was all, I had to say (now I-aye-aye)
I want to come again and stay…

There are times in life when there is nothing for it, but to channel your inner Frank ‘n’ Furter, and give in to your deepest desires. Which is a long-winded way of saying I am gong home, to New York. My spiritual home, my Transylvania, my rock. Ok, it may only be for 4 days but that’s enough time to re-fuel, to see how it’s doing, to fall in love again.

I read a statistic the other day that said the USA was the second most popular place for British Ex-pats to emigrate to after Australia, with 29,000 of us moving there every year…Am I missing something here? It’s hard enough to get in for a holiday, let alone move there…Brits are no longer allowed to enter the Green Card lottery because there’s too many of us there, I don’t want to be a student again (and that would only give me access for a limited time), I don’t have any special talents (well not any I can write about here) which would get me an O-1 visa…see I have done my research and I just can’t see a way in permanently…God I am boring myself now. So I accept I may never live there, but as long as I can visit twice a year I think that’ll do me (which means I can’t give up the day job any time soon then).

Anyway, I’m sure you don’t want to read a blog about me going on holiday so instead I’ll tell you the story of when New York changed my life. 18 months ago I made the radical decision to attend a screenwriting course there, and got on the plane 3 days after finishing a very long work contract. I hadn’t written a creative word in at least 12 years and we were asked to turn up for the course the next day with 3 ideas for screenplays. I usually love long plane journeys for catching up on movies but this one was spent in a state of panic staring at my closed laptop which had only ever been used for spreadsheets…not a single idea would form in my head, this fear, coupled with the fact I was convinced everyone on the course would be 21 year old trustafarians made my first day at the New York Film Academy terrifying. I believe I was actually trembling when I arrived for registration. We were herded into a room and the two tutors introduced themselves before going round the room, asking us our thoughts on the best and worst films. At first I couldn’t think of a single film, let alone my favourite so I ended up with obvious choices – Best: It’s a Wonderful Life. Worst: Titanic. I have a habit of accidentally arguing the opposite of what I believe so I may have actually stated that the wrong way round that day, but I don’t think anyone was too interested – they were all trying to think of cool films to quote themselves. Afterwards a British-sounding girl next to me said ‘Who wants to go to the pub?’ I put my hand up first and a joke was made about Brits and drinking and several of us (of many nationalities) trundled off to the nearest sports bar.

There is something strange about the first time you meet people who will become life long friends. It is almost as though time stands still and there are three people who were there that night whose faces I will remember forever as they were that evening, etched on my memory. On my first day at senior school one of my (still) best friends came over to me and said, ‘You look alright, do you want to be friends?’ and I can still see her grinning innocent 11 year old face every time I look at her…Clearly I am attracted to the people with good opening lines.

The next day we were split into groups. Our group consisted of ten of the most diverse, interesting people I have ever encountered – not a 21 year old trustafarian in sight, and a tutor who seemed to care passionately about his subject.

The next two months were very Dead Poets Society if you like (though nobody killed themselves at the end) whoops *spoiler alert with a bit of The Breakfast Club thrown in…  each of us played to our individual stereotypes while re-enforcing them and then breaking them down with every new discussion and twist of the story. There were a lot of stories told over that time, and we got to know each other through our thinly veiled descriptions of ourselves – sorry – our ‘characters’, from the roles we played in each other’s screenplays, from exploring New York City together and from the endless karaoke nights.

There was something so natural about this progression from ‘the fear’ on the airplane to the warm friendships (and actual screenplay) which developed that I hardly noticed the transition until it was gone. We all went back to our corners of the globes, with different lessons learned from the same experience. I’m sad to say it is unlikely that we will ever be in the same room together again, but that moment in time will remain with us forever.

I always loved Richard Dreyfuss’s’s last words at the end of Stand By Me.

“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?”

Well Rich, I have, I met people who have impacted on my life as much as any of my friends did when I was 12 and the fact we were learning together and discovering a new world in the same way we had done when we were when we were 12 made it a unique experience in my life and if I ever lose sight of why I am trying to be a writer I will remind myself of that time and the memory of those faces will propel me on to make it happen for them, for us.

This weekend at least three of us will be together again in New York and we will tear up the town like we did that first time, make new memories, recollect the old ones…and, most likely, drink too much and sing out of tune…so erm….see ya!

The Greatest City On Earth?

I love Paris. Ever since I visited as a nine year old girl I’ve been hooked. Back then I went to a tea party at Shakespeare and Company on the Left Bank, entered Notre Dame during Mass, ate croque-monsieur at a street café at Châtelet les Halles, and collected more sugar lumps in colourful wrappers than I could fit in my suitcase. More recently the city hasn’t been so kind to me; I got my first migraine on the metro and couldn’t move for 3 hours then a few years later I got dumped by not one, but two boyfriends there – city of love, anyone? But still it has a haunting appeal that draws me back there time and again…the language, the style, the energy…

WAIT! This is supposed to be a blog about London, and yet when it comes to great cities, I think about Paris, Rome, Berlin and Barcelona, not grotty old London where I grew up and have spent 20 out of my 35 years. However, in the last few months, I have noticed not subtle but clear changes and I am almost inclined to agree with Time Out’s recent statement that London is, in fact, the greatest city on earth.

Two years ago I decided to leave London for good. I had been here for 12 years and despite the well known observation by Samuel Johnson ‘If a man is tired of London, he is tired of life’ (the quote is from 1777 so I forgive his use of ‘man’) I was ready to go, I had had enough. It had become too much of a struggle for me to live here, all my friends were settling down, I was getting lonely, and I was convinced there must be somewhere better.

Because of this I spent the last couple of years coming up with cunning and incredible plans to run away. I even managed it last year – going travelling for 7 months, during which time I decided the city for me was New York but, unsurprisingly it is extremely hard to get a visa.

So, here I am. Back in London. I was not brought up here, but I lived here until I was 5 and have been here ever since University so I guess I should call it home. I am a city girl at heart and this is where I belong, I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t get a pint of milk easily at 4am.

I’m lucky enough to live just off Portobello Road, where every Saturday locals and tourists gather for the largest antiques market in the UK. I have heard more French voices on the street than anything else in the last few months, and that’s not just because I notice them more due to the fact I know a handful of French words. So what’s the big attraction? It’s cold and rainy, people are quite rude, it’s expensive…hang on, am I describing Paris again? No, London has the same reputation, but the reality is quite different. On Portobello Road, even on the greyest of days, there is a vibe, an attitude, which bring the colour, vibrancy and diversity of the Londoners who run it to life, reminding us of a London which the weather so often tries to snatch away from us. A London which has recently re-claimed its soul, regained its sense of humour – things which have been missing for a long time.

Now is the time to embrace the city of London, to build on the excitement created by the Jubilee, The Olympics, The Paralympics. The tube may have gone back to weekend line closures and the old heads down eyes front attitude, but the people have changed, their sparkle and joie de vivre have returned and I, for one, am nowhere near being tired of what London has to offer.

Top picks around Portobello:

First Floor – Classic British food in a classical setting http://www.firstfloorportobello.co.uk/

La Bodega – Yummy tapas in fab people-watching location http://www.labodegarestaurant.co.uk/

Goode and Wright – a French bistro with a proper British accent http://www.goodeandwright.co.uk/

Crazy Homies – best Margarita in town, and pretty good tacos too http://www.crazyhomies.com/

…For The City.

I am having trouble remembering where I am sleeping. When I am out in London or Glasgow I have to think quite carefully about where I am going home to, once or twice, on rather drunken nights, I have nearly asked the cabbie to take me to 92nd and Lexington in the hope that I was going home to my amazing air mattress in Manhattan, but sadly not. The joy of being a rolling stone, of home being wherever I lay my hat, is that I can get to see these cities in a new light…so here are my best bits.

LONDON

I may or may not have mentioned this once or twice, but I met the Muppets. I’ll repeat that, I met the MUPPETS! It was the best day of my life (so far) and I was 5. They were appearing at the Selfridges Christmas Grotto and our friend had designed it and so I went to the opening night and drank my own body weight in Orange Juice – from a wine glass… And met the Muppets. Anyway, because of this Selfridges became a happy place for me. A perfect day would involve going there to look at all the beautiful things, hang out in the food hall and imagine what it would be like to actually do shopping in there, in the posh bits. Then I would wander through the streets to wander across Hungerford Bridge to the Southbank with its views of St Paul’s, The Gherkin, the NFT and now The Shard. Across the river and past  the skateboard graveyard below. After seeing a film at the BFI, I would head back across the bridge to Gordon’s wine bar for wine and cheese and warm memories.

NEW YORK

Having only visited or studied in New York I suspect I saw it in a somewhat different light from a native New Yorker. However, hanging out in the New York Public Library every morning – giggling while writing scenes of inappropriate sex scenes for such a grand setting and then meeting friends in Milady’s, a classic dive bar on Prince, gave me a pretty good starting point. All restaurants in New York are required to display their Department of Health rating on their front door. Most places display their ‘A’ grade with pride or if they received anything lower than an ‘A’ would display a Grade Pending sign in the hope that next time round they’d get an ‘A’ but not Milady’s – they displayed their ‘B’ with pride. Loaded potato skins, mozzarella sticks, Bud Lights, pool, you could easily waste more than a couple of hours in there. For the first time in my life, while living in New York, I took up, and actively enjoyed, jogging. That’s down to the Jackie Onassis reservoir which has been seen in numerous films but when you’re a local (as I was for half a second) it becomes YOUR running track and you start screaming at the tourists running round the wrong way – ‘Wrong way! Can’t you read the sign, it’s right there! I’m running here!’ Ok, maybe my aspirations to become a real New Yorker were nearly realised.

GLASGOW

This city has surprised me no end since ‘moving’ here several weeks ago. Aside from the numerous independent coffee shops, the bars focused around music, the £5 cab rides, the funny money, the aggressive friendliness and many more similarities with New York there are other reasons I am growing to love this city.  The food here, and the restaurants I have been taken to have been phenomenal. Café Gandolfi is a Glasgow institution serving up Arbroath Smokies and Haggis, neeps and tatties as well as courgette flowers and smoked venison. Despite the fact it has been going since 1979, neither the food nor the décor feel tired and the enthusiastic staff certainly aren’t. Due to the proliferation of birthdays in September (New Year’s shag anyone?) I have spent a large portion of my lunch breaks shopping for presents. Luckily my office is near the wonderful Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum where the have a pipe organist who plays every lunchtime (his standard is New York, New York ironically) and where they also house an amazing collection of art. When I was about 11 my mum took me there and she couldn’t pull me away from one painting in particular. It was Salvador Dali’s Christ and I was mesmerised by it – the only way she could get me to leave was by buying me a print which I still have. I haven’t been back to see this glorious painting yet (am worried I may not return to work and I am terribly busy) but just knowing it is there fills me with faith in the beauty of full circle, of being taken places for a reason, of life coming through for us. In a purely atheistic way of course.

The Olympics and Our Natural State

It’s Friday night and I have turned down two party invitations to stay in and watch sport on TV, the rules of which I hardly understand. Yep, Olympic fever has become unavoidable and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I have lived in London for nearly fifteen years and have been trying to live elsewhere for the past two years but in the last two weeks I have seen potential in this city which I had previously thought was beyond hope. Wait for it – people are smiling at each other, offering their seats to others, engaging in lengthy, friendly discussions. The other day a trader, a tramp, an old women and a schoolgirl chatted for half an hour on the bus with each other, without a cross word – true story.

There is a school of thought which suggests a human being’s natural state is to be selfish and out for oneself, survival of the fittest and all others be damned. There are theories that this is why capitalism ‘works’ and communism doesn’t, that we thrive in small family units but we don’t fare so well when we try to make our neighbours into family too. But I disagree. I think that our natural state is one of kindness and community. In the words of the BBC’s wonderful twentytwelve sustainability minister, Kay Hope, ‘I really think that.’ (if you haven’t seen it, check it out). Even the athletes, despite being probably the most competitive people on the planet, seem to have an inclusive and respectful attitude.

I’ll admit I was extremely sceptical and non-plussed about the whole thing in the lead up. The Queen’s Golden Jubilee earlier this summer had brought some sense of community to the city but celebrating a monarch’s long reign is not exactly inclusive.  In fact right up until I watched the weird and wonderful quintessentially British opening ceremony on my mum’s tiny TV in Glasgow, I didn’t give a monkeys about the Olympics. But suddenly, in the blink of an eye, here was something that I had barely witnessed in this country before, real community spirit. Even the Queen had joined in with her amazing James Bond sketch. The next day I got off the train at Euston station and was handed a free Olympic ice cream. Then someone asked me for directions, which I provided and they helped me down the stairs with my bag. Something had changed. London had become, even if only for 17 days, the greatest city on Earth. My new favourite game is pretending (in my own head) that I can understand what is being said in the 250 languages which are being spoken on the tube every day…of course I am imagining they are saying how wonderful London is, and not how many stops they have and how they need a pee.

Before I get carried away…what next? How can this new found enthusiasm and passion for our city, and the sense of community, ever last? And how can we avoid this national pride turning into hubris? I met a friend in the park for lunch the other day and there were people doing circuit training who had clearly never even run for a bus before. Inspire a generation is the slogan, right now more than one generation or one demographic has been inspired – even me. Confession time: I can’t ride a bike. I had a bike when I was about 8 and I posed for photos with it, but I’m not sure it went further than that. Either way, nowadays when I attempt to get in the saddle I invariably fall off or look like a fool. But I spent 2 hours early on Saturday morning with the lovely FREE council cycling trainer, slowly learning the moves. I don’t think I’m on track to be the next Pendleton quite yet – but I never expected to even bother trying. The power, joy and diversity which these games have brought to London need to inspire us to be humble and make us work towards being better people within ourselves and then we can give back to our community.

I don’t think this is merely a case of long lost patriotism or desperation for some good news in the midst of an extremely depressing era. Some of the stories which have come out of the Olympics – the sacrifices many of the athletes have gone through to be here can’t help but make you come together and wonder at the power of the human spirit and in turn, community spirit. I’m not being naïve, and I fully expect the London to return to the doldrums as soon as the Paralympics end, but the last 2 weeks have proved that with a bit of organisation human beings love being nice to each other, we have a great capacity for kindness and respect – for inspiration and inclusion – we need a little push once in a while and then it’s just like riding a bike, apparently.

 

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.