31 Aug 2015

Awkward encounters at train stations

Picture this:

You're standing by the ticket machine at London Liverpool Street, minding your own business, tapping away at your phone, when a guy comes up to you.

"Excuse me, I don't mean to bother you but..."

Cue brain vomit: *Ugh, he wants my money? Wait, no, he's wearing a smart suit...not exactly your classic tramp. Maybe he wants to know the time? He's lost? What the hell does he want from me?*

"...you look lovely, and your glasses are so cool."

Me (probably blushing at this point): "erm, thank you?"

Before I know it, Mr. Stranger (who is probably in his early twenties) starts talking to me properly. I panic. Is he trying to distract me so that his accomplice can sneak his hand into my bag and pull out my wallet? I watch my bag like a hawk. He probably thinks I'm one of those socially incompetent people that can't hold eye contact.

"So where are you from?"
 he blurts out.


"You're very well spoken for someone from Essex," he continues.

"How original. We don't all sound like we're straight out of TOWIE."

"Did you purposefully match your eyes and jacket?" 

"Yes, yes that was on purpose. I decided to put my khaki green contact lenses in today. You're the first person to notice!"

"Really? That's amazing!"

"Sorry, that was a joke...ya...err...I just like the colour green."

*awkward silence*

"So what's your name?"


"HAHAHAHAHA, what like Hannah Montana?" 

*never heard that one before*

"Or the state."

Conversation continues. I discover he works in food, and that he had a brief stint at the University of Bristol. That's all I caught. Oh, and he wants to work at PWC.

"Oh cool, my best friend works there," 
I chime. 

*most pointless conversation ever*

"So, can I get your number?"

"Uhmm, I er, um, boyfriend, he, I, my...I have a boyfriend," I stumble. 

*classic Pinocchio moment*

"Ah, okay, I get it. Well, you don't by any chance..."

"...have any hot single friends I can set you up with? Nope, really sorry."

"How did you guess I was going to ask?"

*rolls eyes* 

"Oh you know, degree in mind reading."

"But seriously...you don't have any hot single friends?"

"Nope, sorry. I'm not going to just give you their numbers anyway."

"Haha, that's not what I was asking! That would be so creepy."

*And you're not being creepy right now?*

"Anyway, most of them are taken. I also tend to choose friends that are less attractive than me, so that I can feel better about myself."


"Yea, really."

"Oh my God."

*this guy doesn't understand sarcasm*

"That, that was a joke. You know, it was supposed to be funny..." 

*fake laugh*

"Haha, right, yes, of course. I couldn't tell if you were joking or not..."

"Erm, yea, I was. That would be pretty weird."

"I don't know though, you were pretty convincing."

"Anyway, great to meet you, I should probably catch my train. Have a good weekend."


"You have a great handshake."

"Well, you know, nothing worse than a limp handshake."

"My dog just died...do you want to see a picture?"

*takes my phone and goes onto his Facebook page to show me his dead dog*

"Oh gosh, so sorry to hear that."


"Yea. I guess that's worse than a limp handshake."

30 Aug 2015

1000 word rant about the tube

It's a truth universally acknowledged that Londoners have two favourite topics of conversation, particularly when it comes to small talk: the weather and transport. (I can vouch for this too because an Italian once told me his teacher warned him in class.)  But that's not stopping me from writing a blog dedicated to the latter. Yep, I'm going to delve into the beauty (read horror) of taking a tube in the capital.

I read an article last week in the Evening Standard about how tube fares in London are something like 25 per cent more expensive than the next most expensive city, Washington D.C. That, frankly, is outrageous. For that sort of price difference I'd expect TfL to provide leather seats, a real-time cleaning service, a free kindle (actually wait, I've boycotted Amazon), air-con, and at least a few inches of personal space. But I sense I'm hedging my bets slightly. Seriously though, what is with the sky high prices?

While summer has come and almost gone with not so much as a passing "hey, how are you?", I have noticed that the tubes have been marginally quieter. Emphasis on marginally. I suppose that's because in August most Britons bugger off somewhere warm, to escape the notoriously wet month. Yep, you saw those flood warnings for the bank holiday weekend...

But the very slender decline in human presence on the tube this summer hasn't necessarily been a blessing. It just means you're more likely to actually get on a train, rather than sulk impatiently behind the yellow line as a handful of trains pass with zero possibility of plunging yourself into the throng of people already trapped inside. And breathe. That was a long sentence.

And you know it's summer when you start to notice a rise in armpit sweat patches, fringes glued to foreheads with perspiration, and faces dripping with grease. Your copy of Metro is starting to wilt, and you struggle to turn the pages with your moist fingers. You feel sweat trickling down your forehead, and wipe it away with you clammy hands, absentmindedly splashing a greyish black smudge of ink across your face. And no-one tells you, not even your colleagues when you get to work, because that's not a British thing to do. Either way, one would be forgiven for thinking you'd spent the morning in the mines.

A stifling smell of sweat mixed with toxic levels of anti-perspirant suddenly becomes apparent. You begin to sniff out the culprit before realising that everyone around you is clinging onto the handrails above them, armpits galore. Get me out of this hell hole fast, you think. 

Someone coughs. A wave of panic rises up inside you. What diseases am I going to wake up with tomorrow? And now a sneeze. And another one. And another one. Ebola. Wearing a face mask might not be such a bad idea. Someone yawns. A stench of last night's alcohol mixed with bitter coffee wafts your way. Death seems close.

There's space further inside the carriage, but no-one wants to budge to make room. Just a hoard of selfish commuters, too transfixed on their copies of Metro, Stylist or Time Out, or reading the latest scandals on Mail Online in between stations whenever there's WiFi. Then there are the women intent on slapping on a face of make-up and curling their eye lashes (I keep waiting for the tube to come to a sudden halt and for poor Tracy to realise she's pulled out a clump of them.) 

While those starting their commutes in Greater London secure prime standing ground (i.e. the row between the seats), the rest of us squeeze into the remaining nooks and crannies available, struggling to even stand up straight. Reading the news at this point seems farcical as turning the pages of Metro (which at this point I've already folded into quarters to make space for) would only result in the suffocation of the person in front of you. 

This is why I particularly hate the Northern line, because it takes the word "cramped" to unprecedented levels. As men and women of all shapes and sizes propel themselves at full speed into the battery cage, elbowing and shoving like there's no tomorrow, I really do question why I'm even attempting the journey.

In fact, I remember reading an article on Time Out about a year ago, ranking the tube lines from best to worst. The Northern line had one of the worst, if not the worst, rating. Surely it couldn't be THAT bad, I thought, as I signed the contract for a flat in Clapham. How ignorant and disillusioned I was.

But now that I'm living a couple stops further south in Tooting Bec, I'm one of the lucky few that can actually get on the train, without waiting for 10 to go past (yes, that happened to me in Clapham). At Balham, you're just about safe. Clapham South, you have to start being strategic about where you stand on the platform. Clapham Common, well, don't bother if you want to arrive at work on time. Clapham North? You're an idiot. Walk to Stockwell.

In London, we pay a staggering £144.80 a month for zones 1-3, and £123.30 for zones 1-2. In Paris, I paid €60 for use of the entire metro system, which currently works out as £43.58. That makes us £100 worse off a month in London. I'm not very good at maths, but I reckon that's quite a few Gin & Tonics.

7 Mar 2015

A date with a drug-dealer, feminism, and other tales

In my second year at university, I worked behind the bar at a local pub in Exeter, owned by my landlords. I only worked Sundays but it was a good way to earn a little pocket money (i.e. purchase all that expensive cheese I can't get enough of). But first, let me paint a picture for you. The average clientele on a Sunday afternoon was (and still is, I’m sure) over 60, male, and - in want of a better phrase - touchy-feely. They’d pinch my bottom as I walked past them, or peer lasciviously at my chest. My appearance was the hot topic of conversation; as much as I’d love to say it’s because I look like Gisele Bündchen, let’s get real here. I couldn’t work out whether I loved the attention, or despised the leering audacity. I forgave them because they were old, which in my mind made it OK. But was it? And they weren’t the only ones…

Some cricketers came into the pub one evening and descended on the bar like a pack of hungry wolves. Looking at me like I was their prize, they came to an agreement: “she’s an 8 out of 10.” And they told me. They asked to shake my hand, congratulating me on my ‘achievement’. After all, 8 out of 10 was a ‘respectable’ score. "Wow, lucky me", I thought. They vocally measured up my chest size in front of me, and each took it in turns to ask for my phone number. 

I was even asked on a couple dates by some younger, local pub-goers. And when I say younger, I mean “are you even potty trained?” First there was Charlie*. Charlie initially liked me to believe that he was 18. Moreover, Charlie was evidently very much of the opinion that age is only a number, which must be why he kept on changing it. I can only assume this was because he thought I had the memory of a goldfish and wouldn't latch on. After the youngster chatted me up in the pub, he managed to find me on Facebook (the woes of being the only Montana in a billion mile radius), and decided to add me. Of course I rejected his inquiry into my personal life, but that didn’t stop me investigating. It didn’t take long for me to notice that the boy’s Facebook profile clearly stated he was only 17.

The next time Charlie came into the pub, asking for a pint, I stopped him in his tracks. “Can I see some ID please?” I snarled. He paused. When - out of curiosity at his response - I asked him what year he was born, he stammered “errr…well, ummm…err, March..13th..1990?” A year which would have meant he was over a year older than me, and much older than the 18 years he’d claimed to be on our first encounter. All very confusing I know. Rule no. 1 boys: learn how to add and subtract if you want to ask a girl out on a date. 

It also transpired that a couple other local men at the pub, slightly closer to my age, were keen to sweep me off my feet (#desperatetimes). I was warned that one of them was “trouble”, and the other had kids (I know how to attract ‘em). The father-of-two invited me to watch a movie at his (Sleeping Beauty or Bambi?) which I politely declined, while the former invited me to a grotty pub with him for a drink. In a “I knew you were trouble” (courtesy of Tay-Tay aka Taylor Swift) moment, I naively accepted his request. We got there and sat down on a sofa, and probably spoke about something inconsequential. Not long after, a man and woman walked in and 'Mr Trouble' got up and said to me “I’ll be back in a minute”. The couple came to sit opposite me and, assuming they were friends of my newfound buddy, I extended my hand to them and introduced myself. I noticed that the guy held my hand strangely, as if I were trying to pass something to him. I remember thinking it was odd. Then 'Mr Trouble' came back to his seat with a rucksack. In a flash, I noticed that the couple opposite me were getting up to leave and there was a £20 note by my heel which was quickly tucked into a jacket pocket. In a split second, there had been a scandalous operation happening right under my very nose. I demanded immediately, "Did you just deal drugs in front of me?” Defensively he said, “Is that a problem? I respect the fact that you don’t deal drugs, so you should respect the fact that I do.” That was genuinely his response. Dumbfounded, I downed my drink and made an excuse to leave.

I’ve already mentioned in a previous post my experience with a lying gym manager who hid the fact that he was married with kids, harassed me and stole personal data from my gym membership. So it’s probably time I told you about the guy I met at university who lied to me about having cancer. Yep, you read that right. Lied about having cancer. Given that someone is diagnosed with cancer every two minutes in the UK, it’s not something to joke about. Pretending you have cancer to win the affections of a girl - seriously? And it got even worse when I ultimately rejected his advances, so in bitter retaliation he branded me a “whore”. People I hadn’t even met before were labelling me a “bitch” who “liked to sleep around”, because I’d hurt the ego of a guy I didn’t fancy who’d lied about having cancer. Since when was this OK? At the time, he told me he was going to die and that he probably wouldn’t last the year. He told me that he was going for chemotherapy treatment, and that he needed moral support. It wasn’t until a couple years later when talking to a mutual friend that I found out it was all one massive lie, and he’d used the same deception on another unsuspecting victim. 

So why have I written all this? Because countless women are in the habit of degrading themselves, of letting themselves be defined by the wrong things and the wrong people. So many women somehow inadvertently accept that they are inferior to men, and don't question the way they are treated. This must stop.

And finally, women: don't ever think that the greatest praise you can receive is a man telling you that you're "hot", because that's no achievement at all. If looking beautiful on the outside is all you think you can or should achieve in life, then you are truly undervaluing yourself.


*Not his real name

1 Oct 2014

Bangkok, Tuk-tuks and Scams

Arriving in Bangkok was quite extraordinary. My first impression was that their driving "skills" are something to be desired. Apparently there are no rules when it comes to driving there. No rules at all. Overtaking can be done whenever and however. You know those sneaky drivers who weave in and out of cars on the motorway and you just want to throttle them? Welcome to Thailand. Hard shoulders are driven on quite freely, and there is apparently no correct lane to use, whether you're turning left or right - you just sneak in at the last minute. In the UK we'd call that selfish, in Thailand they'd call it efficient. In fact, such a move in the UK would be lethal, and you would rightly endure the wrath and death glares of other drivers. Drivers in Thailand on the other hand will cut each other up like it's no big deal. Sometimes I felt like we were going sideways more than we were actually moving forwards. It was like being inside a video game - helloooo Mario Kart - and a three year old kid was controlling the gears. That's how crazy it was. Yet their ability to whiz in and out in such meticulous fashion without crashing is quite remarkable, and would suggest that my "three year old kid" analogy was quite wrong. Naturally I had to hold on quite tightly to my possessions (you can never trust people driving past on scooters, ready to pluck an iPhone from your hand whilst you take a photo of some temple or other).

This was my first experience in a tuk-tuk, and certainly one I wouldn't forget. I soon learnt that it all begins with a price negotiation (I've got better at this over time). It usually goes something like this: I pretend to look outraged at the initial sum they demand, and immediately halve it. The driver looks incredibly offended and contorts his face into a "are you effin' kidding me?" whilst you threaten to take the next tuk-tuk that comes along instead. Begrudgingly, he concedes to your close-fistedness, hoping to squeeze an extra 20 baht out of you. You look at him, stupefied, repeating 80 baht to him so many times that he finally relents.  Bloody foreigners, he thinks. But he probably hasn't given a ride for the past 3 hours. I can't work out if my haggling makes me an awful person. The price he is offering is cheap by UK standards, but then you're not exactly paying for comfort, (or aircon I might add). And everything in Thailand is cheaper, anyway. Many of them are also sponsored by questionable tailors, jewellers and fake tourist agencies. 

On one journey, my friend Jaz and I were headed to Chatuchak market, but the tuk-tuk driver insisted on taking us to one of his sponsors. We complained, but to no avail. Apparently that was the price for haggling so profoundly. We owed it to him. "Go inside and spend 10, 15 minutes", he told us. We stood outside Emporium Armani, surrounded by derelict buildings and mangy dogs. A classy place for such a classy brand. Something's not quite right. But wait..shouldn't it be Emporio Armani? Click. We stood outside the shop, scared for our lives, and peeked in nervously. Automatically we were shuffled in by owners and shop assistants. Was this all part of a larger plan to kill us? Does that door in the corner lead to a dungeon? These were thoughts going through my head at the time. However, they proceeded to throw fabrics at us left, right and centre. What if they smothered me with them? Must keep my cool. Apparently I had to buy a pashmina. "Today, good price. Cheap, cheap", he motioned to me in broken English. Once the fear that they'd lock us up in some back room and throw a bag over our heads had subsided, I merrily (maybe a slight exaggeration) waved my hand through all the shirts, suits, and scarves on offer, stopping at some shiny ties, before grabbing Jaz's hand and leaving. The tuk-tuk driver seemed somewhat annoyed that we'd spent little more than 2 minutes in his sponsor's shop, and that we'd come away empty handed. His commission wouldn't be good that day.

I was slowly being introduced to the scams, cons, and trickery prevalent in Thailand.

11 Aug 2014

I'm Not A Real Person Yet

So after a 4 month hiatus, I'm back on the blogosphere. Maybe that's because I’ve only recently recovered from writing my dissertation (a harrowing phase of my life which included multiple breakdowns, but also produced the mildly successful hit "Dissy's Done" à la Frozen), spent too much time revising for French exams (pfft as if), or because I ran out of things to say. Or maybe because I only have £4 in my current bank account (or any account for that matter), and I'm contemplating my life as an impoverished, out of work graduate, with as much life direction as a tangled slinky. Oh, and I just got fined £8 by Barclays because my phone bill bounced (too poor to afford it you see). That’s the price for being a pauper.

But enough with the excuses.

It's ironic perhaps that I wrote my dissertation on American independent filmmaker Noah Baumbach, because he's a sucker for this anxious-ridden phase of life. On my year abroad in Gay Pareeee, I saw his film Frances Ha (a B&W film starring the tantalising Greta Gerwig) and Adam Driver (think HBO/Lena Dunham's Girls). It was this film alone which made me decide to write a whole 8,000 words on the filmmaker, despite having never seen his other films. In retrospect however, I probably should have written on Woody Allen, or someone a little more mainstream. It was a Love/Hate relationship, leaning more towards the latter. Turns out the secondary criticism on Baumbach was sparser than the hair on the Duke of Edinburgh's head. Oh well, it turned out all right in the end, despite not being able to eat for a whole week before it was due in. No mean feat given I'm a massive foodie. The burger I treated myself to after dissertation hand-in made every gland in my body salivate. I’m joking. That's disgusting.

Baumbach's "niche" is struggling twenty-somethings (although sometimes older), stuck in that place between youth and adulthood, whilst refusing to grow up and take on responsibility. “How much longer can I act like a child? Am I still allowed to whinge and moan about trivial matters?” ask confused twenty-somethings. Except more commonly, he/she is unaware of his/her lack of maturity, so probably never gets round to asking such pertinent questions. When I broke down at lunch the other day (“My youth is over ” I lamented), my mum criticised me for acting like my life was already over. "Your life hasn't even begun yet" she muttered, shrewdly.

I was told throughout my teens that university would encompass the "best years of my life", and that I should make the most of it. Now that university is over, and the fear of long-term unemployment has kicked in, I can't help but think that it all goes downhill from here. No more mid-afternoon coffees in Exeter's many cafés, nor weekly shopping trips, late nights in mangy clubs, lie-ins, or hitting up the gym whenever I feel like it. My 8 hour week of studying will eventually be replaced with the structure of an 8 hour working day, 5 days a week. My evenings and weekends will suddenly become increasingly valuable. I'll become more conscious about making plans that I actually want to fulfil, rather than just doing stuff to kill time. But until then, it's a state of limbo. Just going for a ride in my #limbozine.

It’s fair to say that applying for jobs is a pain in the hooha (apologies gentlemen readers). My father likes to remind me that when he was my age, he worked his socks off in the summer to earn his "beer money" and afford his social life. But lest we forget, this was the early 1980s, and in the US of A, so making a comparison seems frivolous. There was a time, too, when you could hire someone off the bat, or pull in a favour for a friend's kid. My grandfather received an offer from Cambridge, after a mere phone call between his school tutor and a college master at the university. Now the rigorous Oxbridge process is enough to give anyone a nervous breakdown. The youth of today is competing against a pool of increasingly qualified people. Saying “it’s hard” is an understatement.

What’s more - it’s a Catch-22. You can't get a job without experience, but you can't get experience without previous experience. But unless you plan on pulling this experience out of your arse, where on earth are you supposed to find it? And more often than not we’re forced into work experience and unpaid internships, just for CV bashing purposes, even if that means spending a month making tea and coffee for our colleagues, and doing random bits of admin that no-one else wants to do. But hey, at least you come out of it as a fully qualified hole-puncher. However, not everyone can afford to spend 3 months in London, unpaid. It requires the bank of Mummy and Daddy, or doting relatives to offer up the couch in their London pad. 

Maybe I’m just suffering from the rampant Generation Y disease known as cynicism, which is why I spend most of my precious time online, tweeting irrelevant remarks, complaining about the empty job market, and going overboard on the hashtags, just to spite people. ‘Cos you know, that’s how we value ourselves nowadays - on the number of likes, or followers, or whatnot. It amused me no end when I was babysitting 3 girls the other day and the eldest (at the youthful age of 11) boasted how she already had over 70 followers after a mere week of activating an Instagram account. When she discovered I had fewer followers and I’d been using Instagram for an entire year, I feared I wasn’t cool enough to hang around with someone of her Instaprowess. Meet “Generation Z” (those born mid 1990s-mid 2000s). They were practically born onto tablets. They were probably using wifi from within the womb. “Foetus is connecting to BT Womb-Hub 1234”. Username: Foetus, Password: Fallopian.

I’m bored. I think I’ll just take a #selfie, post it on Facebook, and pretend I lead an exciting life. And when I’m in Paris in a couple weeks, or travelling to SEA in September, I’ll post a daily #instatravel snap so you know how much fun I’m having. And if I end up in hospital with Malaria, I'll probably get the nurse to help me take a selfie, too (#nofilter). Just to prove how much of a badass I am. WAHOO #NDE. Have we become so obsessed with documenting our lives that we've entered a state of paralysis where we spend more time pausing for the camera, than going out and living life to the full? In a world desperately needing the youth to take on an active role, is it true that we'd rather take selfies with burning piers and dead bodies? We've also become painfully self-regarding, with an unruly tendency to splatter our innermost thoughts and feelings across social media. When is this going to stop? When will this no longer be "cool"?

To conclude. “I’m not a real person yet”, said Frances in Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha, after her card got declined in a restaurant. And you know why she's not? Because she loved herself just a little too much. (Oh, and she happened to be virtually unemployed too...)

23 Apr 2014

AHOY SEXY: My Experience On Tinder

So some of you may remember that a few months back, I wrote a pretty scathing review of Tinder. But, alas, I bumped into a friend on the train on my way back to Exeter and he persuaded me to get it. I ummed and aahed for an extended period of time, but finally gave in. I handed over my phone (reluctantly I might add), and he carefully went through my Facebook pictures to choose the "perfect assortment." To the untrained eye, I was the ultimate catch.  Well, that was the plan anyway. He came up with a couple goofy lines for my bio, but I thought I'd best leave it blank. After all, it's not like I was taking any of it seriously...or was I?

My goodness is Tinder addictive. There's something so unforgivably titillating about it that I found myself losing sleep over it. Literally. I could stay up on it for hours, just mindlessly swiping pictures of men. Gosh that makes me sound perverted. But there's no point denying it - it's just so compulsive that you don't even need to flick your brain in gear before you use it. Just one more, you tell yourself, just one more. If you have managed to escape Tinder up until now, I urge you to keep it that way...particularly if you are in the middle of revising for exams or writing essays. It was quickly becoming my number one procrastination method....no more listening to remixes of Let It Go from Frozen...it's Tinder time.

So far the conversations have been pretty PG, well, relatively. I haven't started any conversations (apart from a joke one with my friend on the train), so I've let the men do the talking. There have been a lot of "hey! how are you?" type things - no awkward chat up lines thank goodness. One guy discussed his love of "McBusted" and how excited he was to be going to their concert. One guy took it a little far with the euphemisms. I stopped responding when he insisted on discussing his "wood." I told him I wasn't a very good carpenter, and left it at that. Another one told me he'd drive all the way over to see my "gorgeous ass." Where he got that from, I do not know. (Note to readers: I'm not posting pics of my "ass" on Tinder.)

But after having Tinder for less than 2 days, I decided it was time to hop off the band wagon. I realised that it was the worst waste of my time, ever. I'd racked up 51 matches in approximately 30 hours, but still didn't feel satisfied in any way, partly because I know some guys just "like" everyone for the hell of it, plus...it seems so insincere basing someone's worth on a few pictures. I won't deny however that it was pretty entertaining, and that was my main reason for using it. I was certainly not looking for love, or a quick hook-up. Basically, I wasn't treating it as a "dating app", and any guy that asked for my number received a resounding "no." I was treating it as an "I'm bored, let's do something fun" app, with a "this could be good material for my blog" mentality. Consequently, I spent quite a lot of time staring in disbelief at my iPhone. Most of the men reminded me of really poor quality advertising campaigns. I'm not expecting every guy to be an Orlando Bloom lookalike, but don't post really cringeworthy pictures of yourself looking like a douche. Let me elaborate:

What is it with the iPhone mirror selfies? I mean seriously. They make me want to tear my eyes out of my sockets. I genuinely have an acute aversion to this sort of picture, particularly when guys do it, and particularly when every single Tinder picture is an iPhone mirror selfie. Maybe that sounds sexist, but it really grates on me. And what is with the creepy under the sheets ones of you lying in bed? NO. JUST NO. Stop making love to the camera, it's creeping me out. And stop posting multiple pictures of just a third of your face, or only choosing pictures of you and a bunch of ten other guys. This should be your dating passport, and it gives me a headache trying to work out which one you are. Make it SIMPLE. It's not rocket science. Oh, and it's cute that you like your dog, but does it really have to appear in every single picture? How many angles of the dog's face are there? And why do you insist on hiding behind your dog in every single picture?

OK, so you may have good abs, or biceps, or whatever part of your body. But goodness gracious: put them away. The odd shot of you on the beach with your swimming trunks on is fine, but mirror selfies of you tensing is not a good look. Frankly, it makes you looks arrogant. Like I said earlier, anything involving a phone and a mirror is an immediate me no likey, left swipey.

Men with babies and children: ?!?!?!?!. In EVERY photo. Maybe it's your niece, or godson, or whoever...but when every picture is of you snuggling up to a bunch of kids like they're your own (maybe they are, maybe they aren't), I'm running a mile. Who are you trying to find? Playmates for your kids? Probably best to crop out the kids, or get the hell off Tinder. Moron. Hang on a sec, that was a bit harsh. If you're a single Dad, looking for luurve, please put it in your bio. I'm not ready to be a Step Mother just yet, so I'd like a little pre-warning.

You'd also think that in this age of super technology, offensively blurry photos would be something of the past. Apparently not on Tinder. Look, I'm not expecting microscopic HD quality where every pore on your skin is visible (that would probably be pretty unflattering for anyone), but when all your photos are as blurry as my vision is when I'm not wearing contact lenses...we got a problem. Get yourself a decent camera, or find a better picture. When the entirety of your face is pixellated, what is the point? And don't pretend you're going for the "artsy" look - this is Tinder, not Instagram. Sort it aaht.

When you say you're 22, but look 50....ummm, yea. Maybe you're one of those unlucky souls who is aging prematurely, but unlikely. Go find someone your own age. Perve.

Tinder has apparently become the platform to showcase peoples' extreme sporting capabilities - from skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding, motor racing...As a skier myself it's nice to see someone else that also skies - I feel a connection. But if every pic is of you going down the mountain clad head-to-toe in bulky ski stuff, a balaclava and a helmet, I'm not digging it. Likewise with the scuba diving pictures. I also scuba dive, but if every photo is of you wearing Jupiter sized goggles, a wetsuit, and a massive tank on your back....hey, maybe I'm just being shallow.

One last thing. Dude, don't write in your bio: I like golf swimming climbing music gym biking etc. Ever heard of a comma? Apparently not...It's that little thing located on your keyboard and it looks like this "," <--- do us a favour, and use it. Love from the Grammar Nazi.

So there you have it - my experience with Tinder. It's safe to say that I will never, ever, return.

NB: This article is supposed to be OTT and ridiculous...somewhat, anyway ;)

2 Apr 2014

Am I The Only One Not Getting Engaged?

Engagements seem to be a daily occurrence on my Facebook newsfeed. I can't seem to wake up without being bombarded with sparkly rings, and pictures of smiling couples, kissing couples, "we're so perfect together" couples. Of course I'm happy for them (I truly am), but am I jealous? ERRR, nope. Not that engagements are a bad thing - I just can't see myself tying the knot anytime soon. So that queue of men following me around, ready to drop down on one knee: like, back off. I know you're there in your invisibility cloaks.

In the 1950s I would have been described as the "ripe old age of 22" - my Granny got married at my age, but already considered herself "on the shelf". I'm just hoping that a woman's shelf life in the 2010s is a little longer than in the 1950s, otherwise I'm screwed (any eligible bachelors out there? We have until December!) I might as well sign up to a nunnery now. Wait...would I even qualify? I'd probably be one of those "naughty nuns" people go as to fancy dress parties, with an offensively short habit. I'm kidding, I'm kidding. I've been spending too long in the library...

I can't help but think that I'm way too young to be getting married. It feels like I've only just hit puberty. Nah, I'm joking. But I don't feel like I'm mature enough to think about the future yet - I'm still happy just figuring out life, and making mistakes, and living a little. I don't want to settle down with anyone before I've figured out what really matters to me. Maybe that sounds a little selfish, but isn't that part of the luxury of being in your twenties? That state of drifting, not really knowing the precision of your identity, and not really caring either. Maybe this sounds all rather silly, but that's how I feel sometimes. Responsibilities are there, but you can afford to throw your eggs in multiple baskets.

When you've got a dissertation to write and exams to revise for etc., I don't know how you're supposed to fit a fiancé into the equation anyway. And where the hell am I supposed to find him? Between a stack of library books? The only other place I tend to hang out is the gym, but I don't have a great track record (see post below). And contrary to popular belief, the TP and Arena dance floors don't tend to be ideal hotspots for blossoming love affairs. Just sayin'.

Between the all-nighters in the library eating my bodyweight in Mini Cheddars, and the sweaty gym classes, my life isn't currently cut out for romance, let alone a fiancé. Maybe I'm not the relationship type. A male friend once told me that I don't give off the "relationship vibe". I'm not quite sure what this vibe amounts to, or how I'm supposed to catch it, but I'm curious nonetheless. I have friends who are always in and out of relationships - always. My best friend and I couldn't be more opposite when it comes to dating. She's spent the majority of her tween years (teen and twenties) in long-term relationships. I genuinely don't know how she does it. And then there's me, the ultimate failure. Even Bridget Jones had two men fighting over her. Where are mine? Men: START PUNCHING EACH OTHER (it'll make me feel better).

Fear not dear readers, I am not actually feeling that "man weepy" (a stunning phrase a couple of my friends have used to describe their mental state in the month of February). Contrary to my rants, I'm perfectly content being single. Because nothing feels as good as Beyoncé's Single Ladies playing in a nightclub, and actually being able to throw both hands in the air, hoping that I'll be plucked from a crowd of other desperate hopefuls....I will live in the hope that if he likes me that much, he'll put a ring on it. And then I'LL be the newly engaged gal on the block....

26 Mar 2014

Cheating Husbands: I Was Almost The "Other Woman"

I’m a naturally bubbly and flirtatious person, and I’m happy to admit that. My girlfriends are always picking up on it. They’ve become so used to it that it’s become a running joke. They’ll roll their eyes, but I just laugh. But can I just clarify something? That doesn’t for a moment mean that I want to make out with every guy I “flirt” with, or that I’m attracted to him. It’s just my way of being - my personality, I suppose. 

My flirtatiousness (although often I think it’s just synonymous with talkativeness), has landed me in deep water on several occasions (I’ll enlighten you later on in this post!) Being talkative can be great - it makes “small talk” more bearable because you’ve always got something to say - but sometimes it’s better to just shut up. I’ll speak to almost anyone - in fact anyone. I’m not very good at giving off negative facial expressions either, unlike one of my housemates who seems to be a pro. If I try to ladle out “evils” on the dance floor, I probably look like I’m going for the “sultry, come get me boys” look, which is never, ever my intention. Definitely a reason to practice in the mirror beforehand…

I also have a tendency to smile quite a lot, unless I’m super duper tired and can’t physically move my smile muscles (I’m sure there’s a more technical term). Again, this can be a good thing because it shows you’re a warm, friendly person, but it also has consequences. I find that men often take this as a positive signal - like you’re giving them the go ahead. Errr…dude: I smiled at the pensioner behind you as well, so don’t get too cocky. Sometimes a smile is just a smile, not an indicator that I want your babies. Clear? And if I winked at you, I probably winked at the guy next to you as well. Because, like, I do this thing where I wink at people sometimes, accidentally on purpose (mainly accidentally…) Anyway, now for the anecdote (and this one isn’t from Paris surprisingly!)

So a couple years ago I went to a gym called Clifton Hill Sports Centre. Not gonna lie, the gym was pretty crappy, but it was a 2 minute walk from my student house so there was no excuse not to go. One Saturday in the summer term, there was the Exeter Respect Festival going on in Belmont Park just opposite. I popped down to the gym and it was virtually empty. A youngish man was sitting behind the desk, and he swiped my card. I threw my bag into a locker and went into the empty gym, headphones plugged in. I was using the leg machine when he walked over, clad in his suit. He started talking to me, and I responded in my usual vein: I was chatty. I stupidly gave him the time of day. He seemed nice enough, but before long it was obvious that he had an ulterior motive. It had only been five minutes, and he was already talking about a “secret beach” that he’d like to take me to. I tried to do my tricep dips, but he just sat opposite me, watching. I looked nervous, but he kept staring. After I finished he told me to come by at 9pm when the gym closed to give me a “tour”. I politely declined, but was admittedly flattered. Even with sweat dripping down my face, I held some sort of appeal.

I had never introduced myself to him. He didn’t know my name. Or did he? I arrived home and he’d already added me on Facebook. When he swiped my card, my name must have come up on his screen. For some (stupid) reason, I decided to accept him. I suppose I was intrigued, and was worried that it would be “awkward” if I didn’t. He started sending me messages, but I’ll tell you now that one of my biggest pet peeves is when people can’t spell, or use incomprehensible slang. “Wod” is not a suitable alternative for “would” - and “no” and “know” are not interchangeable. It wasn’t long before he started flirting; he wanted to take me on a date…to go for a walk in the countryside, and grab lunch at a nice pub. I was torn: should I just live a little, or should I avoid the man at all costs? Either way, the unofficial “date” was postponed because his sister was going into labour and he needed to make a trip to the hospital.

Whenever I went into the gym he’d try to subtly poke me in the ribs when no-one was looking. How was I supposed to act? One time he insisted on walking me to my front door. I tried to stop him, but he followed me. It didn’t take long for me to realise that he was trying to solicit sex from me. He was knocking on the wrong door, that’s for sure. I made it clear that I wasn’t interested but he insisted that it would be fun to go on a few dates before I went home for the summer.

He continued being really inappropriate, so I decided to block him on Facebook. I should have done it earlier, but I didn’t know what to do. The only thing I was certain of was that I wanted him out of my life….

A few days ago I was reminiscing about my 2nd year at university, and I started thinking about this awkward turn of events. I had a sudden urge to stalk him on Facebook (forgetting that I’d actually blocked him, which would mean he wouldn’t come up), and I found a profile for a man with the same name, who worked at the same gym. I was intrigued and started clicking through the pictures. There were various baby pictures, and pictures of the same man I’d met two years ago in the gym with a blonde woman. Ah, so he’s a newlywed? Not quite. On the “About” section, I found out that he got married in 2009. My stomach churned. It wasn’t long before I put two and two together and concluded that his “sister” that went into labour was probably his wife. 

But hang on a sec: How hadn’t I realised before that he was married? How had I not seen these pictures? I was having a Sherlock Holmes moment and trying to play detective when it suddenly hit me. He must have two profiles. I looked in my “blocked users” list, and surprise surprise, there was the same man, with the same name, that I’d blocked two years earlier. I unblocked him and began to stalk. In this profile he presented himself as “single”. So this was the profile he used to prey on young women? Apparently so…

So what did I do? Naturally, I added both profiles on Facebook to see what would happen. And this is how the conversation went (I’ve changed his name for privacy reasons…)

Married man
Hi x

Montana Gerry
do you have 2 profiles?

Married man
No why u ask ?

Montana Gerry
just because there's another guy called **** who works at the same place as you and was confused...?

but he got married in 2009 and has a kid...

Married man
So why the add??x
How have u been btw

Montana Gerry
i wanted to tell you that you should stop dicking around, you have a wife and kid, and what you did was disgusting.
i'm fine though, thanks for asking

Married Man
What are u going on about ! U added me to insult me!

Montana Gerry

i think you've insulted your wife more than i'm insulting you now
i'm not thick - you completely deceived me, and i think you owe me an apology

Married man
For what ??

Montana Gerry
are you denying that you're married?

Married man

U tell me u no all the answers so it seems?

Montana Gerry
you added me on Facebook, tried to have sex with me, have two Facebook profiles, at the same time as having a wife and kid

do you think that sounds normal?

Married Man
What wod u like me to say??

Montana Gerry
the truth, for once

Married man
U don't even no me !

Montana Gerry
you tried to force yourself into my house for a “cup of tea”, and then tried to have sex with me...

Married man

Montana Gerry
you're right, i don't know you. because everything you told me before on Facebook and in real life was bullshit

Married Man
So why have u contacted me. !

Montana Gerry
because i felt it was important to stick up for women who are married to unfaithful men.
i wanted you to know that i am not fooled, that your "secret beach" can go rot in hell. i just hope your kid doesn't end up like you

Married man

That everything?

Montana Gerry
think so, have a nice life.

Married man
U to !

And if that wasn’t enough, I soon discovered a third profile. I’m pretty sure it’s the profile he uses as a “single Dad”, to lure in all the single mums out there.

Understandably this man’s actions make me feel sick to the core. I was in two minds as to whether I should report him for stealing data from the gym for his own personal gains (adding me on Facebook), but decided it was in my best interest to just put it behind me. I’m just grateful that I didn’t get stuck in his web of lies for longer than I had to be. He was clearly on a mission to pick up women from the gym - it was no accident. I'm just grateful that I wasn't interested and that I didn't let the sex-hungry animal take advantage of me. But what if I had been? What if I'd been too weak to say no? What if I'd fallen under his spell and been drawn into his web of lies? What if I'd unknowingly been the "other woman"?

NB: Since writing this article, I've been contacted by various students who had very similar experiences with the same man around the same time. It appears I wasn't the only victim.

14 Mar 2014

RockSolid Race: ARGH

So one of my favourite gals and I have decided to embark on a fitness adventure: RockSolid Race. I've been feeling rather nonchalant about it for the past few weeks, until it recently dawned on me that the race is tomorrow. Yes, TOMORROW. Am I RockSolidReady? Well, I guess I'll find out tomorrow when I'm lying in a muddy ditch somewhere...

Ever since I completed a half marathon last year (yea I promise I'm not trying to show off with that comment!), I've become a bit of a sporting enthusiast. Wait, let me rephrase that: Since the half marathon, I've stupidly thought that signing up for things like this is a good idea. Yet despite the fact that the half marathon was a rather painful experience (I got blisters galore), the feeling afterwards was pretty insane. Not only had I raised money for a fantastic charity (International Justice Mission), but I'd proven that with sufficient motivation and training, I could run 21km. And that gave me a pretty positive, healthy outlook on life.

So this year I thought I'd do something a little different. Kelly and I have set ourselves the challenge of doing the RockSolid Race, a 10km obstacle course in Escot Park, raising money for various charities through RAG. We're talking muddy ditches, giant walls, crawling, cargo climbs, hydroslides, ropes, ice...you name it. The more I think about it, the more I want to curl into a ball and die. Nothing could prepare for me for this. I've been going to RockSolid Circuits at the gym on Mondays which has been great training, but they work more on improving my strength than preparing me for the crazy conditions that await me.

I suppose what I'm most looking forward to is that element of teamwork. The half marathon was a personal endeavour, but this race relies heavily on working effectively as a team. Of course you could do it by yourself if you really wanted, but then it would lose part of its charm (OK, maybe charm is the wrong word here). And given that I'm quite short, I think I'd find myself dangling off a few walls without some tall men to help me clamber over them.

What made me sign up? There's something quite exciting about a challenge; to be able to push yourself to the max. It's not just about physical endurance, but it's a lot about your mentality, too. Looking back, I never in a million years would have seen myself completing a half marathon. Never. Not because I'm a lazy sod (well, sorta), but because of the willpower needed to train religiously, every week, for a few months. Not to mention the inevitable pain that would come alongside that. But more often than not, it's a battle with your mind: do I stop now, or do I keep going? So when I proved to myself that it was possible to run a half marathon, why shouldn't I try a different challenge?

I've been training 5-6 times per week, and a big shout out to the guys at the Russell Seal Fitness centre for being so awesome and motivating me to work hard. I may not look like a Victoria's Secret Model (I like food too much, and err...I'm like a foot too small), but whatevs...it's been fun!

Finally, if you would like to sponsor me, then please do! The link is here:


24 Feb 2014

Student Accommodation: Mould, Slugs & Dodgy Flushes

So my days as a student haven't come without their fair share of problems. Let me enlighten you with the daily struggles my comrades and I must face:

1) Mould. As I sit here writing this, all I can see is a nice thick trail of mould going up my wall. My landlady calls it "condensation" - I call it mould. Call it what you will, but it's black and speckled. Not the sort of thing I want to be breathing in on a daily basis.  She's tried painting over it, but I'm not  fooled in the slightest. It's also on the kitchen walls, too. Mmmm.

2) Condensation (real condensation this time). I was having such serious problems with condensation forming on my windows, that I'd sometimes wake up to a small pool of water flowing along the windowsill. Apparently the only way to avoid this was to keep the window open; something which I was loath to do, given the extreme antarctic conditions outside. Thankfully after multiple complaints, they put in double glazing. Only wish that would sort the mould out, too.

3) Whoever installed the radiator in my room is a retard. The radiator is right next to the door, and couldn't be further away from my bed. Plus, it's physically impossible to put my bed nearer the radiator, given the layout of the room. #fail

4) Water bills. So South-West water is notorious for being painfully expensive. Before having a meter installed, we would have been paying £130 per month for water. We were told that with a meter we'd be spending more like £70 per month, which seemed far more reasonable. Recently, however, we received a bill for £3000. Yep, you read that correctly. £3000. My housemates shed a few tears, and our landlady threatened to dig up our kitchen (she was worried we had a leak). Turns out we only owed £30...South West water don't do decimal places very well.

5) Fridge. On multiple occasions we've had to put a chair in front of the fridge because it refused to close. And not because we had too much food in it, but because the hinges were dodgy. Our freezer is also a little too cold. You could make icy snowballs out of the amount of ice that accumulates.

6) Slugs. We haven't seen many recently because it's been too cold, but last term they were arriving practically daily. These grotesque creatures would leave slime trails all over the floor (which we initially mistook for "glitter"). These bad boys have been found in kitchen drawers, inside cereal boxes....you name it. We tend to throw salt on them so that they explode, but I have on more than one occasion stepped on one of these trespassers, and it wasn't a pretty sight.

7) Dishwasher. OK I know I shouldn't be complaining...we have a dishwasher, lucky things! BUT, I tell you...when most of the plates come out half-clean, you have a problem. We've been blamed for "not knowing how to use the dishwasher", but we're not idiots. Even with the best tablets money can buy, our dishwasher needs replacing. It may be the "best brand of dishwasher out there", but not when it's a few decades old.

8) Bathroom. The lock on the bathroom door is broken, until you master the technique. I've walked in on too many people peeing that it's no longer PG 13. Next, we've been told that we simply CANNOT get the bathroom floor wet, otherwise the tiles will loosen and we could risk falling through the ceiling. I also managed to considerably injure myself the other day when trying to turn on the tap, which decided to gorge out a hunk of my skin.

9) Toilet flush. So in one of our bathrooms we have a "modern" toilet flush. I say "modern" because this is what we've been told, but I'd rather go with "temperamental". This involves slamming a couple flush buttons into the wall at the same time, with just the right amount of pressure. There's an art to it, that not even the most skilled amongst us can manage. We've been given toilet flushing lessons from our landlady since day 1, but we're almost positive that this modern piece of technology is a failure.

10) TV. So we decided to fork out just over £100 on a second hand TV, but we needn't have bothered. The colour contrast is rubbish. I was trying to watch "Legally Blonde" the other day, and I couldn't make out anyone's face. It was like watching a horror film set in an underground basement in the pitch black.

11) Washing Machine. The washing machine has a habit of refusing to open after the cycle has finished. This has ended in our clothes being literally "trapped" inside the washing machine for days on end. Recently, however, I mastered the technique. It involves kicking the door aggressively with my foot until it opens. That's what I like to call "taking the initiative".

So there you have it - the trials and tribulations of student living.