Wednesday, 17 December 2014

18 things to argue about this Christmas

1. The rules of Articulate

2. Who’s eaten the most communal chocolates

3. Who, out of you and your sibling(s), is going to wash up

4. Who, out of you and your sibling(s), has done the most washing up over the entire festive period

5. Politics

6. Whether to watch Love Actually or Die Hard

7. Whether or not “I’ve seen Love Actually too many times” is a viable excuse for not watching it

8. The benefits system

9. Recording approximately 500 hours of films and Christmas specials that no one will ever get around to watching

10. Whether dad should be allowed to have a nap

11. How much cheese to buy*

12. Who gets the last roast potato

13. Whether to go for a post meal walk or fully immerse oneself in the food-coma-situation

14. Who gets control of the remote

15. Family members asking for receipts so they can exchange the presents you so thoughtfully picked out for them

16. People who cheat in Monopoly

17. Money

18. Next Christmas

*the correct answer is "all the cheese"

Friday, 5 December 2014

Some things that have happened

I didn't blog at all in October or November, which is disappointing. It's the first time in four years I've gone an entire month, let alone two, without tapping some words out and clicking publish. I haven't enjoyed nor been impressed by this lack of writing, but one of my main concerns is what on earth I'm going to feature in my, frankly, enthralling yearly round-up. This year has been busy and full of change, and the unfortunate by-product of having a lot of things to write about is not having the time to write about those things.

Life, you cruel mistress.

I’ve taken a dismally small number of artfully composed shots of burgers, and my stories from the last few months are blurring slightly in a crowd of unreliable memories.

So I wanted to say hello, I’m around, at least somewhere, and here is a fairly concise run-down of some good and bad things that have happened in my life over the last few months. This may or may not be of interest to you (my granddad would certainly question why I feel the need to write about my life on the internet at all), but I guess this is what we do, people who write and blog, and if its consequence isn’t a reader’s enjoyment, then maybe it’s just for our own satisfaction, and that’s okay too.

- My hair is longer than it’s been since I was seven-years-old which is not only exciting for the novelty factor, but also because the split-ends are so damn satisfying to pick in particularly long meetings.

- My two best work-friends left me in October and, although they were replaced by some wonderful people, I still haven’t quite recovered.

- After half a year of some pretty terrible dating experiences (read my future (hopefully publishable) book for more details), I somehow managed to meet someone great. Actually one of the best people I’ve ever met – so that’s nice.

- I moved to London. I think I might have told you that though. I love it so much. I want to marry it.

- Tim (boy from third point) and I have rewatched Friends from the beginning and communicate almost entirely in references. Not always Friends, sometimes School of Rock and The Breakfast Club, too. Anyway, it's been time well spent.

- I have organised numerous book launches and events and feel sickeningly inspired by my job. I also made tea for Rowan Williams.

- I have gained a new appreciation for my family and my home. They are great, and when I was very poorly last month Father came to pick me up from South London, took me home, and Mother made me honey & lemon while I watched TV in front of the fire.

- One of the things I was most looking forward to about living in London is Christmas here, and boy does it not disappoint. I almost cried when I saw Harrods.

- I got a new shelf, a new toilet seat and a new radio alarm clock in one week and could barely handle the excitement of it all.

- Similar theme: when I cleared my cupboard out the other day I realised I owned stock cubes. I'm such a grownup. 

I know I’ve missed out lots of lovely and important things, but as I said, I’ve all but forgotten them. I’ll try harder to write more from now on. I always say that, but this time I really, really will. 

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

10 things that 20-something (women) enjoy.

1. Pop-up shops - We love things they are temporary because we are fickle and apparently the half-finished flat-pack garden shed look screams delicious-burger-joint-that-will-reasonably-charge-7-to-10-pounds-for-a-lunch-wrapped-in-paper-that-you-have-to-eat-perched-on-the-pavement-outside-while-fending-off-rogue-pigeons.

And we don't even bat an eyelid.

2. Avocados - We crush them onto sour-dough toast, make expensive face-masks out of them and call them guacamole because Mexican food is totally cool now and no longer famous for giving people the runs.

3. The House White - We have no money, we want to get drunk, and we regularly tell the man/woman behind the bar: "I will have a glass of your cheapest alcohol kind sir". Needs must, and we have needs.

4. Instagram - There is simply no point in going for a nice meal with friends if you can't get at least 11 likes out of it.

5. The side bar of shame - How else are we going to find out what colour t-shirt Cheryl-Tweedy-Cole-Fernandez-Versini is wearing?!

6. Rooftop bars - If you're not actively seeking out rooftop bars to drink bellinis and have existential conversations atop, frankly, you're not doing life very well.

7. Caffeine addictions - I still don't know whether these are real, but boy do we love to tweet about them.

8. Lipstick - Pair a bold lip with a perfect cat-eye and we pretty much feel like we could conquer the world. Or at least that slightly grimy club we're on our way to.

9. Scatter cushions and candles - Because mood lighting and soft furnishings are important.

10. Lena Dunham - SHE IS OUR VOICE.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Just being horribly self-indulgent.

"I'm going to go home and write a book."

That's what I told my friend last night, anyway, over our two-pound-thirty half pints of cider that we could barely afford but decided were necessary. Tuesdays are hard, after all. 

I guess this is it - this is what Lena Dunham has been talking about. The penniless 20-something's dream; living in the big city, busy and surrounded by people, lonely and exhausted and searching for the next high.

We all think we're the next big thing, we're told we could change the world if we've got enough nerve, we discuss our grand ideas over bottles of wine and packets of cigarettes, and then we go back to our respective homes and make beans-on-toast for dinner, lie down in front of a box-set and think "I'll start writing that book tomorrow". 

It's all part of it. The big romantic dream. The excitement, the arrogance, the struggling and the ever persistent sadness. I reckon we're all feeling it, some of us just write it down.

I moved to central London three weeks ago today. I made my room look pretty with fresh flowers, soft furnishings and the odd candle here and there, bid farewell to my parents, and then took a deep breath and started the “new chapter”.

I get up every morning, reluctantly and often with last night’s makeup on, and walk to work. When I reach Vauxhall bridge and a favourite, particularly empowering song starts playing in my ears, I won’t lie, I kind of feel like I’m in a film. Work happens, wine happens and then the next day arrives. The new chapter seems to involve a lot of soup-for-dinner, ignoring my bank balance, impromptu pub trips, street markets just because I can, 4am casino visits and a lot of wine. Have I mentioned wine? 

I want to write a book even more now. It's that youthful arrogance again, making me think I've got something worth saying. I reckon we all do though. If there was ever a time to be so self-indulgent you, not only, cry alone in your room listening to songs in minor keys, but think your own pathetic life is worth talking about, it's now, in your 20s, when you do stupid things like get your purse stolen in Leicester Square because you're too drunk to notice some guy near-enough groping you to get hold of it. 

This is it then chaps. It's not perfect, not at all, but it's great. It's fucking great. 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Let's talk about books.

My friends make fun of me because I like to take photographs of the books I’m reading, pop attractive filters on them (Valencia, thanks) and upload them to Instagram. But I see it as something of a public service, always aiming to make people aware of the latest literary creations available to them (in all good bookstores). They should be thanking me.

I read, on average, a book a week. Some I don’t enjoy, some are simply entertaining acts of light escapism, and some change the way I see the world and live my life. That is the beauty of a book – there is so much potential for greatness.

I decided to collate some of my latest reads. I would recommend all of them, for different reasons, depending on what you want out of them. All are a beautiful or funny or haunting collection of words.

You Are Not So Smart, by David McRaney – Based on the popular blog of the same name, this book highlights the hidden assumptions of our everyday life. In 48 insightful chapters, McRaney acknowledges the ways in which we compromise our intelligence every day. 

The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion – The message is that love can conquer all, which is sentimental, to say the least, but compelling and touching nonetheless. I adored this book and implore you to read it. It will make you laugh and cry with equal gusto and I for one, am happy with that. 

Why We Broke Up, by Daniel Handler – The author reveals the collapse of Min and Ed's relationship through stories about the “prizes and debris” that Min has kept as mementos and is about to dump on Ed’s doorstep. For me, the highlight of this beautiful little book was the gorgeous illustrations at the beginning of each chapter. Although it was not the most compelling read of my life, it is a sweet and poignant story.

Finding Colin Firth, by Mia March – I loved this book. It’s not particularly imaginative and it’s not going to be talked about for years to come, but it was a perfect commuting read, which elicits genuine concern for March’s carefully crafted characters. Take it on holiday or read it on the train, you’ll like it, I’m sure.

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, by Helen Fielding – The first Bridget Jones book was and remains to be one of my favourite books of all time, and when I heard a new one was coming out, there was no way I was going to wait for the paperback. Although it fails to reach the heights of Bridget Jones’ Diary, that infamous voice of the woman who tries so desperately and fails so endearingly, rings throughout.

A Long Way Down, by Nick Hornby – This is one of only two books I’ve read after seeing the film, which isn’t a way of living life I endorse. It is important, dark and funny, but the writing style started to jar with me after a chapter or so. I preferred the film.

Reconstructing Amelia, by Kimberly McCreight – McCreight uncovers the relationship of a mother and daughter, which, heartbreakingly, is doomed from the first page. Underneath the mystery surrounding the daughter’s untimely death, is an intensely accurate portrait of the flawed but loving relationship between family members.

The State We’re In, by Adele Parks – It’s Bridget Jones meets Nicholas Sparks; terribly sad, quietly funny, and you’ll heartily root for those characters, happily forgiving their misgivings and faults in the process.

Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell – It is the simplicity with which the author tells of this unlikely young love that makes this book so wonderful. And it is wonderful. Unlikely, of course, and sometimes excruciating, but Eleanor and Park make you realise that love is simple, and perhaps it only breaks because we complicate it.

Writing these reviews made me realise how much I read about love. I’m not sure what that says about me, I’m not sure I want to know, but I think the way that literature deals with matters of the heart has and will always be of the upmost importance. 

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Is happy boring?

Does the bad stuff spark creativity? Should we be looking for experience over contentment? Is happy boring?

After binge-watching GIRLS for the last few days and hearing the show’s anti-heroine, Hannah Horvath, explain to a fellow character that she’s “never wanted to be happy”, I started to think about the idea of struggle in a different way.

The bad stuff we go through, while traumatic at the time, leads to lessons learned, a deeper sense of character and stories to tell. For those of us who like to write from experience, the bad stuff sure does offer up an expanse of potential material.

Not only have I learned a lot from the comparatively minimal trials I’ve experienced, but some of my favourite and best stories to tell are tales of woe. The kind of stories I repeat, over and over, to any willing audience I can find, in my always honourable attempt to be both self-deprecating and the centre of attention.

I usually get a big laugh when I recall the day I got dumped and received a formal warning at work for not offering someone a cup of tea, and then almost crashed my car on the way home because I was sobbing so violently whilst simultaneously singing along to the Demi Lavato classic, Skyscraper. It was very dramatic and not at all funny at the time – I was in a deep state of inner turmoil and self-pity and kind of felt like I was in a film – but now, I think it’s fucking hilarious.

Similarly, when I was 17 years old and crippled with OCD, I did some pretty weird stuff, the kind of stuff that only really gets airtime in satirical comedy sketches. And I've used that - I’ve written a lot about OCD and my experiences, my first published article was about the illness, and so, in a way, I’m grateful for the opportunities it provided me with.

Almost all the big comedians have, or have had, some form of mental illness. Stephen Fry suffers from bipolar disorder, Miranda Hart and Spike Milligan from depression, as well as David Walliams, Paul Merton and Robin Williams. A study by Oxford University researchers found that there is a link between mental illness and creativity and that the creative elements needed for humour are similar to traits seen in people with psychosis.

Despite her youthful ignorance, Hannah Horvath, known in real life as Lena Dunham, seems to have hit the nail on the head somewhat. Suffering is authentic and raw, while happiness is more fickle. It is openly and easily expressed, which doesn’t lend itself to character development or creativity.

The idea of not wanting to be happy is an alien one, and it doesn’t sit particularly comfortably. Perhaps though, if only subconsciously, we want the journey more than the end goal. And if not, maybe that's what is best for us. Creatively speaking, anyway.

Of course it's all about balance - everything is about balance. Whether it's how much carbohydrate, protein and vegetables you eat or how much time you spend alone vs social-butterflying. We need the bad to appreciate (or even comprehend) the good, that is undeniable, but to return to my earlier queston, "is happy boring?", my conclusion is yes, but only to the question in its most simplistic form. Negative experiences keep us wanting, discontent and hopefully moving forward. I always want to be moving forward, being inspired and creating. I don't think it is a case of wanting bad things to happen, it is rather a case of wanting to experience as much as possible, and to do that one must enter the world, fully and fearlessly, and get hurt and damaged in the process. You can't be creative without that. It is arguably impossible. 

So Hannah-from-GIRLS, I agree, we should go and experience life, devoid of fear. Let's do that. And then write about it.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Things I think when scrolling through Instagram:

(The best at Instagram)

Ooh, a cat

Burger. HELLO. I've been there. I wish I was there now

I’m hungry

Your pictures look shit when you split them in three. Come on guys, VISUALS

Stop showing me your cat it makes me cry *double taps through regretful tears*

Urgh, I hate your sports-bra-post-run-mirror-selfies because you’re horribly narcissistic and you have such a nice belly

I hate most of the people I follow

Maybe I should unfollow some of them…?

No, don’t be ridiculous, then who would I hate?

I’d find someone

Like this person on holiday while I’m at work. What a horrible bitch




I think I just threw up in my mouth

Your dinner looks shit

I want a cat so bad

I don’t care that you went for a run and I also don’t care how many calories you burnt, but I’m still going to like your picture of your expensive calorie counting watch because I’m such an encouraging friend

I wish I was Joy the Baker


If that picture was of anyone else I’d hate them

I’m going to take a selfie now and I’ll probably go with a Valencia filter because I think that’s the one that makes my skin look good

And then I’ll ask mum if we can get a cat again