Friday, 29 July 2011

We're heading North

Ahhhh bliss!

A man famously once said, if you're tired of London, you're tired of life.

Well, that man (I believe it was Dr Samuel Johnson in 1777) clearly never had the joy of negotiating the District Line at rush hour. Or attempted to buy a property with more than one room, for less than the cost of an arm, leg and vital organ. And he probably never had to learn to walk at a minimum speed of 50mph, a vital requirement for getting around the capital.
Which is why, for all those reasons and several more besides, after 13 years in the capital, Hubby and I are moving north to Manchester.

Being a Yorkshire man, the struggle to find decent beer and a good chippy has gradually worn my hubby down. And we both find ourselves feeling increasingly claustrophobic down here. There seems to be twice as many people down here than when we first arrived, and everywhere we look, swarms of little men in hardhats are frantically building high rise buildings in front of other high rise buildings or wedging a block of flats, a Starbucks and a Gourmet Burger into a space that’s really only big enough for a carton of milk.

As a result, we find ourselves yearning for open spaces, greenery and a home that's got a garden and an 'upstairs’, rather than just being a quarter of a modified semi detached house, with a patch of grass masquerading as a garden that has a line down the middle to signify 'your half'.

I think I realised it was time to exit London when I got more excited about the idea buying pegs and a washing line than I did about a night out in the West End. You see, the outdoor space that came with our flat is actually only big enough for a garden bench (as long as you don't want to stretch your legs out) and two small pot plants. We have to traipse out there in single file cos it’s so narrow. So obviously there's no space to swing your laundry. Currently our washing line is a big clothes horse which either obscures the view of the TV or blocks a doorway. We sort of kick it around the flat with us as we traverse from room to room.

But that’s London living for you. Nothing is ‘normal’. And that’s absolutely fine if you were born and bred down here and know no different. Or if you’re single, in your twenties, work is your life, you rent a room in a shared house with people you don’t like much and you’re happy to stay out til all hours every night disposing of your disposable income. At that point in your life, the last thing you care about is where to hang your washing. Heck, if you haven't got any clean pants, just nip to Primark and buy some.

But there’s a certain age where things start to change. Around the 30 mark, your mates start getting married and popping out babies. It's all about mortgages rather than a room in a shared house near the tube. Those impromptu, care free, I'd-rather-sit-in-the-pub-than-go-back-to-my-shared-shithole binge drinks after work become a dim and distant memory.

And if I do want to catch up with any of my hardcore, childless and loving-London type friends, I have to book a slot three months in advance. It's harder than trying to book a cheap train ticket. Even then they usually cancel at the last minute due to 'other commitments'. As I say, it’s not normal.

I could go on. Don't get me started on the perpetual queue around the M25 to get in and out of London, no matter what time of day or night it is. Rudeness. Boris Johnson. Boris Johnson's bikes. An ever-growing staffie population. Drivers trying to run me over while I'm on my bike. People running for tubes. People running off tubes. People fighting for seats on tubes. And above all, the way simple tasks take an unfeasibly long time. If I want to pop to the shops at the weekend, I can't just hop in the car, go come back and still have the majority of the day to play with - for some reason you have to negotiate at least three separate forms of transport, take a packed lunch and a waterproof, and make sure you are wearing stout walking shoes that will cope with the strain of you walking bloody miles cos a tube line is inexplicably closed. It is exhausting.

Don't get me wrong. I love London. I love the history, the galleries, the endless choice of restaurants and eateries, the creativity, the sheer volume of amazing things to see and do. I've had a blast during my time here. I've met amazing people, had wonderful adventures, enjoyed a career that's allowed me to do what I love doing most (and won a few awards along the way), met my husband and I've even been lucky enough to take that first step onto the property ladder.

I will leave with some incredible memories and I have already shed a few tears. It is the end of a huge chapter for me.

But now it's time to hang my washing outside.

No thanks.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

A night at theatre gets a bit Jeremy Kyle

Pat and Demi never had to put up with this shit

As a treat this week, my darling husband bought me tickets to see Ghost The Musical at the theatre. Bless him, not many blokes would have been happy to sit through a musical rendition of one of the ultimate chick flicks, let alone pay for the privilege. But he did. Either he secretly loves a good weepy theatre production or he was currying favour to stop me whinging every other sunday afternoon when the Grand Prix comes on. Whatever the reason, I wasn't complaining.

I was very excited. I love the theatre and I love this film, I knew this would be a treat. I wasn't wrong. The effects, the cast, the set, the adaptation from screen to stage were all utterly fantastic.

But no-one could have predicted the free, unexpected half-time entertainment.

As we took our seats, we quickly realised we were sitting in front of a pair of excited, slightly drunk Eastend 'ladies'. They were so excited in fact, that they forgot to actually watch the show and proceeded to talk, whoop and jeer non-stop through much of the first half. Mostly about how great it was. How they were able to review the show when they were jabbering through it, I'm not entirely sure.

As they reached a crescendo in volume towards the end of the first half, I started to lose my rag. It was like being in the audience of Jeremy Kyle.

So, like any normal human who has paid good money for a theatre performance, not listen to a pair of wailing pearly queens without the pearls, I turned around and said "shh".

Big mistake. I may as well have poked two tetchy pit bulls with a pointy poo-covered stick. In retaliation to my "shhh" one of the harridons squawed at full volume during a critcal scene, "DON'T YOU TELL ME TO SHUSH, YOU SHUSH, WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? YOU SHUSH" and repeated that inane sentence at least 4 times. Thus inducing a handful of other people to turn around and say "shhhh". This wasn't going to end well.

Luckily, we were just approaching the interval. As the curtain came down, we could hear one of the women chuntering to her sidekick "Who does she think she is? telling me to shush? she should shush, not me. Who does she think she is?"

The constant repetition indicated a solitary brain cell and limited vocabulary, making it obvious there'd be no reasoning, so we tried our best to ignore her. Which was difficult. Because then, inexplicably, one of them started listing what I was wearing.

"Who does she think she is? Look at her with her shoes, her skirt, her wedding ring that was probably £90, her husband, her job, her hair, her shoes...."

For a moment I thought her mate had blindfolded her and they were playing some sort of memory game. Like that one with the objects on a tray you played when you were a kid.

Hubby and I started laughing, (discreetly in case she walloped is with her pearly handbag) then seconds later I heard a theatre manager ask her politely to keep the noise down during the performance, because she'd had 5 complaints about the pair of them.

"We ain't doing nuffink 'cept enjoy the show! We ain't doing nuffin wrong!" they squealed. Like a pair of stuck pigs.

The manager then said that the theatre wouldn't tolerate this behaviour and asked them to step in to the foyer to discuss it further, because if they couldn't be quiet, they'd be asked to leave.

Oh dear. This was like pouring a can of petrol over a semi-lit barbecue. The pair of them exploded into an even louder tirade about how they had every right to be sitting there, enjoying the show at any volume they chose.

As this went on, people started coming back to their seats to watch the half time entertainment. We were all getting a lot more for our money than we'd banked on. The pearly queens gradually became louder and more unpleasant, until the manager uttered the immortal words, "If you don't come with me now, I will call the police."

But alas, a threat of police action was not going to work. They clung onto their seats refusing to move. Like a pair of gin-soaked limpits. With teeth. So the manager scuttled off and the pearly queens thought they'd won.

Their intellectual debate of how events were unfolding continued:
"How dare she!"
"Yeah how dare she! How dare they!"
"How dare they!"

It was hardly Question Time.

Hilariously, moments later, two policeman turned up to astonished gasps from the audience, asking Dumb and Dumber to escort them down to the foyer. Surely by now, they would realise they were in a bit of trouble and would quietly bugger off and let everyone enjoy the show?

But we all underestimated just how stupid these two were. They had all the intelligence of a tin of luncheon meat.

"No I will not move I have paid good money to sit here, I ain't movin'!", they screeched in unison at the rozzer, who sighed and said, "Madam, if you don't come with me now, I WILL call for backup."

Backup?? At this point, everyone in the theatre is watching the impromptu performance of "Two Drunk Chavs - The Musical", and got so carried away with it, they all start chanting 'OUT OUT OUT OUT' as the manager apologises over a tannoy about the delay in starting the second half of the show.

Seconds later, we were all gobsmacked when the promised backup unit did actually arrive. Five big coppers were actually marching down to her seat.

The biggest of these burly cops asked the 'ladies' nicely if they would quietly accompany him out of the theatre to discuss matters further. Their reply?
"No we have the law of the land on our side."

I don't know what this so-called Law of the Land is. To me it sounds like something out of a child's fairy story involving ogres and princesses and kingdoms. And clearly Burly Cop agreed cos he was having none of it and politely repeated his request.

Then it got really good. One of them phoned a friend. Within minutes it had gone from Jeremy Kyle to The Bill to Who wants to be a Millionaire.

"Gary, it's me, I'm with Sheila in the theatre and the police are here. They want to throw us out for being noisy, but they can't can they?? No I thought not. Fanks."

And she actually turned to the policeman and said, "See. I don't have to move."

Who was Gary?? Was he a judge? Was he the chief of police? Was he Simon Cowell? Was he God??? Sadly, dear reader, we will never know.

(And as if Burly Cop was suddenly going to say, "Ah shit yes! I totally forgot about Gary's law, whereby any loud mouth chav can just do exactly as they like, wherever they like. I do apologise luv, please carry on. Can I get you an icecream on my way out?")

Big Burly Cop lost his rag at this point, especially as the audience had resumed their chanting of "OUT OUT OUT".

The next thing we knew it was a case of "you grab her legs, I'll grab her arms" as all the policemen bundled in, grabbed a limb and physically carried her out of the theatre. All the while she was squealing "Put me daaahhhhnn! I'm gonna sue you!"

Someone in the audience shouted "Get yer Tazer out!" prompting a mass cheer from the entire theatre. And we all whooped and jeered a little bit more when, as the coppers hoisted her away, her ill-fitting shirt came loose of her ill-fitting jeans to set free her flabby white belly for the whole theatre to laugh at. It was the final indignity of the whole episode. And it was quite grotesque. But absolutely hilarious at the same time.

And her mate had no choice but to stumble after her. And she fell over while trying to negotiate the tricky staircase, which just topped events off neatly.

Finally, after a very long and very amusing interval, the show continued. It's lucky it was a good show, because after that performance it had rather a lot to live up to.

Even Kyle would have been horrified. I wonder if he knows who Gary is?

Note. I promise I haven't made a word of this up. I couldn't possibly.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Bin bother

Oh wheelie bin, one day you will be mine

I can't wait for the day when I can enjoy the luxury of owning a wheelie bin. Yes you read that correctly. I dream of owning a wheelie bin.

You see I live in a small block of flats which means we have to chuck our rubbish in a communal wheelie bin roughly the size of a skip. Until I was forced to be part of his communal rubbish-flinging, I never thought I'd consider a wheelie bin a luxury. But I do now.

Because what I have discovered is that when people see a very large bin that looks a bit like a skip, they also see a chance to clear out their garage/loft/entire house.

Every single day, a new objects has been flung at the bin. (They never quite manage to put things in the bin, just prop it against the bin. I suppose if it was too much effort to go to the local tip, then how can I expect the dumper to actually lift the object and place it inside the bin out of view? It is, after all, much easier to drive past and hurtle it in the vague direction of it's new home.)

And I'm always amazed at the things that magically appear by the bin overnight. A dining table complete with chairs. A three seater sofa, plus matching armchair. A wardrobe with built in dressing table. Television. Bikes. Stools. Rollerskates. Chests of drawers. Mattresses. I just need a teamaker and I could furnish a house. Or a gameshow conveyor belt.

And much of it is in quite good condition. It often looks like someone is trying to deliberately make a home by the bins. Maybe they are. Bring the indoors out. Hey, why not go the whole hog and dip into the bin for dinner too.

I guess in London it could easily be mistaken for a Tracy Emin-esque art installation. Perhaps I should stick up a sign that says 'A smaller branch of the Tate' and charge people a tenner to look. People would probably come too. If they're prepared to pay the tube fare to go and see some of the tat that's in the Tate Modern, I'm sure they'd trek to south London to see the 'old furniture' exhibition.

But what made me laugh, was the council's view on it when I reported it. To be fair, much of the stuff disappears pretty much as quickly as it arrives. (the wardrobe went within hours) But then other things tend to hang around for days and weeks. (the three seater sofa was very unpopular. Possibly thanks to the rather suspect yellow patches on the upholstery and the way the stuffing appeared to be vomiting itself out of a seat cushion.)

So after growing tired of the eyesore, I called the council who were uncharacteristically helpful and said they'd remove it forthwith. I then went all Meldrew, said this was a continuous problem and regaled the lady I was talking to with the list of items above. I suggested it might be worth putting a warning sign up, you know, threatening a hefty flytipping fine. It might act as a deterrent.

And do you know what she said?

"We can't do that, a sign will lower the tone of the area."

Ah. How silly of me to suggest the erection of such an eyewatering monstrosity. Because this dirty, urine stained mattress doesn't lower the tone whatsoever does it?

And this is my favourite bit of dumped furniture - the mirror means I can check my hair and makeup when I empty my bin! Perfect! Also love the use of stickers.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Overheard hilarity

I love ear-wigging conversations. I know it's naughty but I can't help it. My guilty pleasure began as an exercise from a tutor on a short story writing course I took several moons ago.

The tutor cunningly justified this rather nosey practice by saying it was a great way to learn how to write authentic dialogue. Homework was to discreetly jot down an overheard conversation word for word, and notice the natural ebb and flow, errs and umms of conversation.

As homework goes, it was great fun. Some of the things I heard were hilarious. In fact, the results of my earwigging could possibly create a blog in their own right. It certainly entertained me.

That's why I still love listening in. And occasionally I do write choice quotes down. (for research purposes, obviously. One day I will write that novel. No really I will.)

This week I heard a corker while rummaging and wrestling in the Monsoon sale, hoping against hope that they didn't only have size 18s left in the dresses I'd been drooling over for months.

With my my head wedged firmly in a rail of large skirts, frantically reading every label in the hope that a size 12 had been carelessly flung onto the wrong hanger, I heard the plummy tones of a very posh young girl talking to her mate. Here's what she said, word for word:

“oh my god I hate looking for clothes when I absolutely don’t need anything. It’s just so hard. Sigh!”

I had to laugh. I felt like turning around and saying well no-one's forcing you to be in here! Go home and admire your fully stocked wardrobe and give the rest of us peasants a chance to get a desperately needed outfit for their tired looking collection of last year's rags.

When I did turn around I noticed she was a probably a size 8-10 - so she had no chance of a bargain in here. So the poor little, hard done by lambkin could go home, and relax after the stress of being forced to spend Daddy's bonus on something she won't need or ever wear. Ever. Phew!

More ear-wigging later in the blog I feel.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Separated at birth

Ah look at his furry body. And the dog's cute too eh?

The picture above was taken the other night. My Husband and our Border Terrier Toby had been playing together all evening, then simultaneously flaked out together on the floor. It just confirmed what I’ve long suspected - that my dog and my Husband share the same brain. They play together, fall asleep together, share cups of tea together. They even have the same colour hair and look a bit similar.

I often catch them seemingly locked in their own little world, having conversations, playing funny little games. I’ll come home to find them joyfully engrossed in a very unique game of ball (Hubby has trained Toby to bat the ball back and forth to him with his paw. The aim of the game is to bat it around on the rug without letting it roll under the sofa. Toby has surprisingly good ball control and they’ve worked out a point system and everything.)

And of course my Husband spoils him rotten. Toby gets away with murder mainly because he worked out at a very young age that he can twist Hubby around his little paw by switching into ‘Cute Mode’ – looking up with big sad eyes, chin resting on paws, tail wagging expectantly.

I remember one evening when we both came in from work, it had been a very long day for both of us and neither of us could face trying to assemble a meal, then wash up the detritus and all that palavar. So we ordered a takeaway.

As I slumped into the sofa to wait for my lazy tea to be driven to me by a student on the back of a moped, I noticed Husband standing at the cooker. He was boiling some potatoes.

When I asked what he was doing, he said he was making Toby a mash and gravy dinner.

So. Let me just make that clear. He couldn’t be bothered to make our tea, but was quite happy to cook something for Toby. Even though all Toby’s tea needed was a pork chop/chicken breast/fishcake thrown at it to make it our tea.

I was astounded. And I swear, as I vocalised my disbelief, I saw Toby turn around, grin and give me a wink.

As I say, wrapped around his paw.

A bit of bike rage

Monday morning on the Vauxhall one-way system

Living in London can be stressful and traversing across London to in rush hour is a twice-daily, migraine-inducing, teeth-gnashing battle. In a bid to make it less stressful, I decided to swap my Oyster card for cycling shorts and travel to work by bike instead. The benefits seemed endless - the fresh air, the freedom, the joy of the open road, the toning of the bottom, the saving of money and best of all, 40 minutes without some sweaty man in a cheap suit elbowing me to the ground so he can park his fat arse on the last remaining seat in order to smugly read his bloody kindle. (And don't get me started on those.)

What was I thinking? Open roads? Fresh air? I seem to have swapped the jostling massed underground for the jostling masses overground. If I'm not running the gauntlet with blinkered bus drivers, I'm dodging pedestrians as they wander blindly into the roads like confused sheep in country lane.

And in between all that, I am astounded by how much verbal abuse I get. Usually from people who walk out without looking/cut me up on a roundabout/try and leg it across the pedestrian crossing just as the lights are changing to green.

This morning was a prize example. A young boy of about 12 had decided to walk to school in the road rather than with all his mates on the pavement. Maybe he thought this would increase his credibility. "Look at me walking towards oncoming traffic - aren't I cool?"

All well and good, but my problem was I would have to swerve around him, into the path of two lorries and a bus, to avoid mowing him and his attitude down. I loudly requested that he get out of the way (admittedly, I might have thrown in an eff word for added ferocity), which he ignored, as he continued to walk towards my speeding bike. As I swerved to miss him, he loudly shouted SHUT UP in my left ear.

Lovely. I hope the school bully flushes his head down a dirty toilet later.

But my journey got even better. My final stretch to work is a long road with traffic lights positioned at six feet intervals. It's ridiculous. This morning, as the 100th traffic light turned red at a pedestrian crossing, I slowed to a stop to let the man with the wheelie bag cross.

And astonishingly, as I waited for him to trundle across, he looked at me like you would maybe look at your shoe upon discovering it was caked in a still-warm dog turd, and he said:

"It's not your green light."

I said, "I know, that's why I've stopped."

"Yes but you should have stopped sooner."

Eh?? Oh I'm sorry! Tell you what, here's my phone number, why don't you give me a call when you are about to leave your house, and wherever I am at that moment in time, I will stop, so that you have plenty of time to drag your overweight carcass in your slip-on shoes over the huge, gaping chasm that is six whole feet of pedestrian crossing. Will that do?

That's what I wish I'd said.

Instead, as he inexplicably CONTINUED to rant on at me for obeying the lights, I took influence from the 12 year old I'd encountered earlier.

I said, "Oh will you just SHUT UP" and cycled off.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A small explanation

I love my job as a copywriter. But now and again it's nice to just have the freedom to write whatever the sod I want. No holds barred. No word count. No rules. And without getting told off for starting sentences with the words 'and' 'but' or 'because'. (Because that's something I do a lot. And so does The Guardian. But some clients aren't fans.)

So for me, this big fat blank blog is as the equivalent of breathing the small of freshly cut grass. As refreshing as a lemonade ice lolly on a boiling hot day. As delicious as that first glass of chardonnay on a friday night at approximately 7.30pm.

In other words I might go on a bit. Just because I can. Marvellous.