25 Jul 2012

Mosquito fever

MosquitoAs I write this, all I can see are mosquitos.  The hot air has brought in a new wave of blood-sucking vermin; the majority of which are now conveniently squished across my computer screen given that my monitor seems to be the only thing in a 100 mile radius emitting light.  I should really make sure I remember to wash my hands in the morning before I tuck into breakfast unless I want to eat dead mosquito particles.  Sounds like something you’d find on a menu in a Michelin star restaurant….or India.  I hope one day they invent laptops with mosquito-electrifying equipment.  So when they land on the screen they’re automatically frazzled at a high-intensity voltage.  What makes me laugh as well is that they just don’t learn. Do they not recognise the remains of their ancestors who have been so brutally murdered right before their eyes by a rather large thumb?  Apparently not. 

OK, so the light is going on.  I’ve had enough mosquitos crowding around me for one night.  My ego was getting a little big for a second.  Damn.  There’s a spider on the ceiling.  I’m starting to think that my room is becoming a social hub for pest activity.  And they say you consume 8 spiders during your lifetime.  Or was it a year?  How they can scientifically prove this, I have no idea.  I do wonder if this spider realises that it’s actually crawling upside down?  Does gravity not affect them? Yes, keep walking little fella, away from my bed.  But you know what’s scarier than seeing a spider on your ceiling?  Looking up and finding that the spider is no longer on your ceiling.  As much as I’d like to fantasise that the spider has been sucked into a vortex or jumped to its death, I’m thinking somewhere along the line he or she has spun a web to continue its journey home.  Let’s just say I won’t be stopping by for tea.

España tomorrow!

Watch this space.


Bomb on a plane

Airplane, airplaneYou know what bugs me?  Airlines like Ryan Air who pride themselves on their £15.99 flights but forget to mention that you’ll also be taxed, charged an administration fee of £12 each way, and you have to pay for baggage.  I even heard recently that they might start charging for hand luggage.  As if anyone travels on holiday with nothing but the clothes on their back and a passport?  Oh, and your hand luggage has to be under 10kg.  I guess they have to make up for the increasing number of morbidly obese people.  I’m going to make a bet that in 10 years’ time they’re gonna start throwing passengers on the scales along with their luggage.

Oh, and the 100ml liquid allowance.  I don’t really see how I’d manage to store explosives within an unopened bottle of factor 50 sun-cream.  Because to be frank, I find it all a little racist against fair skinned people.  If they expect me to make do with a travel-size bottle of sun-cream for 5 days in the baking heat in sunny Spain, they’re deluded.  Also, I think it’s safe to say that if I’m drinking from a water bottle, I probably haven’t shoved a bomb in it.  Plus, I study English Lit and French.  Bomb-making isn’t exactly in my repertoire.  Anyway, if I were really that keen on the idea of “bottle bombing”, I think I’d work out a way of fitting the bomb into a 100ml bottle.

I also think the whole removal of belts, shoes and jackets façade is just an excuse to cheer up the security staff at 5 in the morning as they watch us strip down to our core.  I don’t know about you, but I tend to wear a belt for a reason.  I’ve occasionally been known to wear one for “glamour” purposes, but in general, I wear a belt to hold my trousers up.  So when a 60 year old security guard asks me to take my belt off, I’m gonna start to think that he’s a bit of a perve.

Part of me is tempted to stick a metal rod up my vajay and see how they enjoy that one too.  What are they expecting to find when they frisk you?  The “body skim” is yet another way security staff plague innocent victims with their tactile absurdities.  And so what if I’m wearing metal?  I mean….I suppose there is a possibility that I strapped a knife or gun to myself but I’m hardly going to be strapping it somewhere as obvious as my ankle or arm.  People will stick things in weird places just to conceal their secrets, and I’m pretty sure there’s a rule on touching certain regions of the male/female anatomy.

Costa BravaTomorrow I will be undergoing this incessant lookout for terrorists as I strip down, persuade them that I packed the bag myself and promise that all my liquids are under 100ml.  But the good news?  It means I’m that tiny bit closer to landing in Spain and enjoying 5 days sunning it up with my friend!

Watch this space.


n.b. of course I understand why we have all these security checks and if I've got a government watch on me right now for using the word bomb so many times on one page, I do apologise.  I'm totally anti all that crap.  But what about tweezers?  Sharp object and all that....

24 Jul 2012

"Bikini Bod"

#bikiniNow that the sun has decided to shine I can’t stop obsessing over the phrase “bikini bod”.  Something which sounds so perfect, so simple, yet in reality is so hard to achieve.  Last term I crashed the gym big time, lost a few pounds, toned up the abs and gave the running machine a work out.  Now, a month or so later, I’ve fallen head-first into a cycle of pre-dinner nibbles and post-dinner chocolate.  Situated around endless bowls of strawberries lobotomised by endless lashings of double cream and generous sprinklings of sugar.  It all goes downhill when you start noticing the weight gaining on your hips; when you have a morbid fascination with poking and squeezing the new rolls of fat forming around your bones.  But that cookie just tastes too good.

There’s nothing more iconic than fat Brits by the seaside, burning their pasty white limbs under the summer sun as they smear their face with ice-cream instead of sun-cream.  They lie there, like rows of fettered albino sea-lions, just waiting for their moment of primal glory.  Teenage girls flaunt their boyish figures in string bikinis with nothing but three triangles to cover the necessary districts of their pre-pubescent outlines.  Husbands turn googly eyed as the latest addition to the beach – a topless Bermudan – radiates a talent for beach volleyball.  Bodies of all shapes and sizes combine en masse to lure at one another.  Lollipops were never licked so seductively.  Searching eyes are hidden behind secretive shades.

Problem is, I’m in Spain approximately 48 hours from now and I’m no way near bikini-proud.  The only exercise I seem to be getting recently is late-night mosquito catching.  I really should remember to close the curtains when the lights are on.  So fundamentally my lack of exercise, my freckly skin and my western diet have all contributed to my rather average bikin bod - but I'm just going to blame my genes because it's easier that way.

Watch this space.


23 Jul 2012


I had no idea until a few months ago that people actually wore bamboo.  Bamboo to me = Pandas; not handbags, clothes or accessories.  But in the good ‘ol days, strips of bamboo were commonly used for structuring clothing such as the ribs of corsets and bustles.  FYI, bustles were used around the mid to late 19th century when the fashion of the time was to have a derriere akin to J-Lo (or as the Victorians protested, to keep the backs of their dresses from going “flat”).  These bustles needed a sturdy framework – hence the bamboo.  The Chinese and Japanese on the other hand would use bamboo to weave hats and shoes; a tradition of rural life for the farmers and fishermen.  Now however, bustles (which were known for accentuating the important female curves) are not à la mode because it seems we all got Kate Moss fever and, I will quote: “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”.  However, technology transformed and suddenly people realised that bamboo could be used for more than just Panda food and underwiring.  They realised that bamboo could be their new comfort equivalent to cashmere and silk.

And then, 65 years ago, bamboo met Gucci.  And from this introduction came a girl’s paradise: lots and lots and lots of beautiful handbags.  It was 1947 and with the war-time rationing of materials, the design directors at Gucci came up with an innovative idea.  By importing the bamboo cane from Japan, they were able to heat and bend it into a semi-circle to create the unique handle for the A-list bag; a design which continues to clock up thousands of pounds in high-end fashion.  The original Gucci Bamboo bag was a modest handbag crafted in pigskin but in 2010 Gucci’s creative director Frida Giannini unveiled a revitalised collection called “New Bamboo”, recapturing the classic Gucci style but with a new twist.  Made in Italy, the bags continue to rule the fashion world and the arms of fashion-conscious celebs.

But 2012 brings another year, and another successful Gucci line-up.  The haute-couture designer has recently announced its new plan for this Autumn: the unveiling of its India-exclusive collection.  Yes, Gucci has hit Bollywood, joining leading fashion houses in a global drive to celebrate India’s cultural influences.  “I wanted this collection of handbags and accessories to celebrate India’s time-honoured tradition of gifting, especially for weddings and trousseau” Gianni commented.  Gucci follows the likes of French designer brand Hermes who last year brought out their chic and elegant India-exclusive saris.

Prices for the bags range from the oh-so-affordable $1750 for the original GG canvas model to $15800 (who knew crocs could be so darn expensive?).  The bags come in a variety of exceptional leathers and hues, each with the neatly embossed ‘India Exclusive’ metal plaque inside.  Plus, each handbag has been beautifully crafted with bamboo fringe tassels, a bamboo turn-lock closure and an elegant handle.
And what’s more, earlier this year the Indian city of Tripura announced plans to create India’s first ever bamboo park with a price-tag of 7 million US dollars.  The city which is host to 25 different varieties of bamboo (also known as “green gold”), will be relying on the park’s revenue to help expand bamboo-based industries.  The park which is set to cover 70 acres will facilitate India’s export of the produce, taking advantage of the country’s natural wealth.  Now seems like a more poignant time than ever to bring India’s vast expanse of Bamboo to the fashion stakes.

But that’s only one side of it!  If million dollar handbags aren’t within your price-range but you’re still keen to try out the eco-friendly produce, why not try bamboo clothing?  As I’ve already mentioned, bamboo fibre is super soft.  It’s also better for the environment so it’s hard to see why we aren’t seeing more bamboo-based clothing on the high-street periphery.  Bamboo is a dry material which means it absorbs and evaporates sweat in a matter of seconds.  So you can forget about developing unpleasant yellow rings while sunbathing in your favourite white tee.  Believe it or not, bamboo also has UV protection, cutting out 98% of harmful UV rays (great for red heads – aka me).  Plus, the fabric is highly breathable in hot weather as well as keeping you nice and toasty in the cold.  It’s also antibacterial – keeping you smelling fresh for longer (sorry, this is starting to sound a bit like a commercial for deodorant).  It’s also anti-static which means it sits well on your skin but doesn’t cling = bumps and bulges are less visible.  For the sensitive-skinned among you, bamboo is a great choice and the fabric works well for those prone to skin allergies.  I’m really starting to think that bamboo is the fashion equivalent to acai berries.  

Cotton: you have been warned.

Watch this space.

20 Jul 2012

Life on the other side: Tate-tastic

On Monday I worked as a waitress for “the” catering company in London.  Think Royal Wedding, Simon Cowell’s 50th, Elton John, Diamond Jubilee.   Precisely.  But on Monday night at Tate Modern I wasn’t playing slave to celebrities of that nature.  Yes, there were flashing lights, dubious VIPs, Strawberry Bellinis and canapés galore; but the clientele at this event leaned towards the “I sewed on my own sleeves” sort of people, rather than head-to-toe Valentino.  We’re talking fanboys – the artsy fanboys of three generations.  “Is this Champagne?”  “No sir, it’s cava”.  The sort of people who turn their noses up at cava because either they’re American, or they think they’re entitled to the best sparkling wine around.  Or maybe because they realised that cava doesn’t come with a capital C.  The sort of people who couldn’t taste the difference between cava and Champagne but like to think they have superior taste buds.  The sort of drivers you can’t serve orange squash to because they require their soft-drink to contain Elderflower and real raspberries.  I’m starting to think that these ‘connoisseurs’ of fine art weren’t coming for the free beverages but rather for an excuse to flaunt their artistic license.

PicassoBefore the night had even started I had a spot of beginner’s luck; I smashed a picture frame.  Thank God it wasn’t a Picasso original is all I’m saying.  It was merely a certificate congratulating the gallery on their generous contribution to a hospice.  I had taken an innocent step backwards to let someone walk past and boom; I picked up the picture frame from the floor to find that its latest addition was none other than a mighty diagonal crack down the centre.  As tempting as it was to quickly pick it up and put it back on the wall like nothing had happened, this was actually the second time it had fallen off and people were beginning to stare.  It was definitely a pity stare; the sort of stare people give you when they’re just grateful they’re not in your shoes.  The girl beside me tried to lighten the mood with “don’t worry, it was probably only £5 from IKEA”, but I spent the next 30 seconds concentrating on not turning the colour of a prune.
Tate Modern print
Apart from my faux-pas with the picture frame and the “disappointing” liquor selection (they had cava laced with a strawberry crème de frais for Pete’s sake), the night materialised rather splendidly.  I was expecting ball gowns and top hats but it was certainly an evening of jeans and patchwork.  The evening more importantly marked the opening of the oil tanks at Tate Modern.  Originally I thought they just said “tanks” and I had this vision of dark green army tanks being driven through Tate Modern.  Not quite.  Turns out these are actually former oil tanks and they’re the start of an extension currently happening at the famous art gallery.  The tanks were decommissioned in 1981 and have now been converted by Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron to create a space for “art in action”.  The tanks used to carry over one million tons of oil but will now be host to a variety of art performances, experimental films and giant installations.  The opening of the tanks marks the first exhibition space in a major museum permanently dedicated to these criteria – how exclusive of them!

Apart from standing up for five hours holding ten tons (I exaggerate slightly) worth of cava for the 1000 or so guests whilst letting my feet blister themselves to shreds, almost die of hunger pains and dehydration; I enjoyed myself. Or shall I say I learnt how to pretend I was having the time of my life?  The music being played was the sort of music people get “high” to; eerie and echoic.  The sort of place where you could imagine meeting ladies snorting cocaine in the toilets and every other person you bump into wants to know where the cigarette balcony is located.  I’m not trying to give the gallery a bad name – just alluding to the fact that the music created a certain “ambience”, not helped by the deep blue lighting and overhead spotlights.  Men and women tilted their glasses horizontally when asking for a top up because they thought it was helping you.  Instead, the bottle chinks the glass and you’ve committed waitress felony.  The art of “topping up” is to do so with zilch contact, and I mean nada

But amongst the smashed glasses, floor mops, faux glamour and popsicle sticks were the picturesque pillars belonging to London’s finest gallery.  I almost expected to see a woman’s high heel propped up behind one as she embraced her lover against it, hiding her face behind an oversized wine glass – a Jane Austen contemporary in the making.

http://www.happyhealthylonglife.com/.a/6a00e54fc8012e88330133ee4b30f9970b-piBy the end of the evening, while I secretly gorged on leftover stale bagels and what tasted like luke-warm bath water, I couldn’t help but wonder for a moment what my life would be like on the other end of this glamorous charade.    

Watch this space.


19 Jul 2012

My BBC failure

runner fail...
I couldn’t help but feel like an absolute arse when the BBC in Paris rang me up a couple days ago.  After taking nine months to get back to me, I got an email asking if I was still interested in the BBC Erasmus internship and if so, whether I’d be free for a telephone interview on the 17 July.  I replied saying I would be and on the 16 July I was informed not only that half the interview would be in French (parlez-vous francais?) but also that it would be a conference call.  Yes, I’d be speaking to 4 people from Paris, London and Brussels all at the same time.  Talk about intimidating.

My initial issue was that I was unaware that the internship was news-based.  There was me hoping somehow that I’d be on some fancy French reality TV show, when they actually expected an in-depth knowledge and passion for front-page headlines.  Who would have thought?

They started by asking “why the BBC?”  I always hate this question.  “Why me?” “Why us?”  Well truth be told, I want a career in the media.  And at 20 years old, I don’t really have the qualifications to pick and choose.  So having made dozens of relatively similar applications, it just happened to be that the BBC was one of them that replied.  “But it’s the BBC!” I hear you say.  Granted, it sounds good.  I’ll rephrase: it sounds great.  But right now, whether it’s the BBC or some middle-of-the-street TV broadcaster with only 5 employees, I’ll take what I’m given.  

Questions become more in depth, my point of conversation veers towards fashion, and then I’m suddenly cut short by a man in Brussels who is basically saying “that’s all very well and good, but we don’t give a s*it about fashion”.  Well that’s awkward.  I’m then asked who my favourite BBC journalist is and why.  Truth be told, I don’t read, watch or listen to BBC news.  Not often anyway.  So instead I go on about how much I love celebrity writer (for The Times) Caitlin Moran because I like her sense of humour.  I suppose a sense of humour wouldn’t be fitting for a murder enquiry, but he asked for my opinion and that’s what he got!

Then, I got to practise some French.  The first thing I was told to do was speak about something I’d read in a French newspaper this past week.  Let me get this straight: you actually think I read French newspapers?  I struggled.  “Well maybe something that happened in France that you read in an English newspaper?”  Still, no clue.  This is when they tell me that France was bombed and there’s nothing left but a few frogs who managed to swim the channel.  I then made vague assertions about the euro and the new president whose name I’d momentarily forgotten.  And then a passing comment about Sarkozy.  I was on my laptop, furiously typing into Google incongruous words and phrases in an attempt to string together a few lines about recent French escapades.  Coming to think of it, I probably should have made up a story about a Frenchman named Pierre who abducted an Englishwoman in the Alps and fed her to his pet goat.  Bet they’d like that.

Yves Saint Laurent
The lady in Paris had picked up on my interest in fashion so started asking me about French fashion (because obviously she felt this was a kind thing to do given my non-existent knowledge of anything else happening in France).  In short of listing Yves Saint Laurent and Prada of which I know little if anything about, I thought it fitting to talk for 5 minutes about my love of Italian brand Gucci and their India-exclusive handbags made using bamboo.  It’s times likes this more than ever that you appreciate the English-French online Collins dictionary.  I then went on about how much I loved British designer Stella McCartney’s creations for the GB Olympic team.  I swear I wasn’t trying to avoid talking about France on purpose; I just didn’t have anything meaningful to say.  The woman was encouraging me, noting how it’s difficult to go from one language to another so quickly.  Trust me lady; that was not the problem.  The problem is that I know nowt at all about France.  It was like an English graduate applying for a job in Medicine.  Some things are just never meant to be. 

The man from Brussels then refers to a comment I made on my covering letter about how I’d love to be working in the centre of Paris during this fascinating period of European politics.  He asked what exactly it was that I found so fascinating.  Come on!!  I was just trying to make myself sound intelligent - give me a break!  For those of you who know me, you’ll know that politics isn’t exactly my forte.  In fact, I find it horrendously boring (yea yea, naïve, whatever).  So I went on about how fascinating the current unemployment rates are and how it was fascinating to see how the government would deal with it.  Yep, I pretty much said that I want to go all the way to France just to get a glimpse of unemployment.  It’s like planning a day out to sit and stare at the homeless.  Ironic too, since I’m planning on going to France to steal an internship off a hard-working French student.  

Little Paris Kitchen | Independent fansite for BBC Two's Rachel Khoo, a fresh take on France's finest dishes
I think it’s safe to say, I didn’t get the job.  Let’s just hope they don’t validate their decision with any particularly harsh reasons.  One always hopes that they're their worse critic.  But on the bright side, I already have the International Herald Tribune internship to look forward to, so I really shouldn't complain.

What have I learnt from this experience?  To do some bloody research beforehand otherwise you’ll embarrass the hell out of yourself.

Watch this space.


12 Jul 2012

Interning at The Independent Online

Part One:
The Independent 
Pretty spiral staircaseIt felt like a completely different world peering through the glass revolving doors of Northcliffe House - home of some of the UK's most established newspapers. I was there for my internship at The Independent Online and was greeted on arrival by a bodyguard who asked to check my bag.  The queue to reception was long but I waited patiently, watching the free stacks of newspapers diminish one by one.  The woman at the check-in gave me a name badge next to the words “Work Experience” and phoned up to the Online Editor who would be meeting me upstairs in the atrium.  I was directed towards the escalator and as I began to climb it I could see a wide panorama of businessmen and women, drinking coffee as they spoke intently to their colleagues.  I felt like I was entering a new world of shiny glass walls and grandiose plants which perched in every corner of the illustrious building.  Water ran off the marble walls in fountains and I couldn't help but think I was in some sort of interior rainforest.  The tables glinted as if they were made up of a thousand tiny mirrors and I could smell freshly baked croissants coming from a nearby canteen.  A stately glass elevator on my left was surrounded by journalists discussing the day's agenda.  A spiral staircase lead up to the next floor and all the walls seemed to be made of more glass as I rotated my vision, stunned by the magnificence of it all.  As clichéd as it sounds, I really did feel like I’d momentarily fallen into a Hollywood movie.

Watch this space.


11 Jul 2012


funfetti cupcakes for two- only makes 2 cupcakes so no over-indulging!
I sometimes get scared that my relationship with crappy TV is like some peoples relationship with chocolate.  It tastes so good at the start, but after the tenth mouthful it gets sickly sweet and your mouth starts getting clammy but still you want more because it’s just too easy and biting off another chunk of chocolate isn’t exactly going to make much of a difference when you’ve already consumed more than your daily allowance of sugar.  And then you wonder why you even started eating it in the first place but then suddenly you don’t care because it’s just going into your mouth on autopilot.  It’s almost like gnawing on the same bone for a long time after you’ve stripped it of chicken, or wiping your mouth six times on a cup-cake instead of a napkin.  Is watching TV really as mind-numbing as some people make it out to be?  For the purpose of this argument, I’m going to pretend that Big Brother, The Only Way Is Essex, Made In Chelsea &c. do not exist.

Last night I lost my Desperate Housewives virginity.  In fact, I didn’t stop watching it till 1am.  And today I didn’t budge from my bed apart from to get my daily dosage of vitamins and take the dog on a walk.  The importance of “getting fresh air” has been drilled into me since I could barely crawl.  I obviously didn’t mind too much when I was trapped inside my mother’s womb for 9 months with nothing but some amniotic fluid to stare into.

Old place. Old Books.Parents often complain if their children spend too much time watching TV or browsing the internet.  Is it because they don’t like the idea of their kids being trapped in their rooms all day being antisocial, or is it because they think TV and laptops are having a negative impact?  My response to such complaints revolves around “but we live in the countryside, what else am I supposed to do?”  Of course, going on walks and “playing” in the garden are among the numerous activities which I could be undertaking.  But the last time I checked, making sandcastles in the sandpit wasn’t number one on my list of priorities, or indeed socially acceptable for people my age.  Of course I could go shopping for clothes and handbags, but I’d probably get told off for spending all my money so facetiously.  “You can’t buy things just because you like them”.  Or I suppose I could find a job, but it seems that no-one will employ me in this financial crisis and sadly the local bank doesn’t need a waitress.  I tried, I tried.  Or maybe I could start volunteering at an OAP home?  But I’ve had it drilled into me that I should be earning money to start paying off my student debts so charity work is definitely off the radar.  I could always help my mother out by doing the ironing - that way I’m actually allowed to watch crappy TV.  Why?  Because I’ve proven that I can successfully multitask, thus being the perfect combination of woman and superhero.  Or maybe because no-one in their right mind would want to iron without some form of distraction.  Then again, I do have a bookshelf filled with some pretty powerful literature which I could always delve into if the mood takes my fancy.  But that would involve shutting myself in my room for hours on end as I devour volume after volume of Shakespeare.  Spending the day with a dead man is hardly the tip of the iceberg on my social calendar and doesn’t really resolve the issue of being antisocial.  I think I may have just singlehandedly proven that there’s not much more that I can currently do with my life besides lying in bed, watching TV all day. 

Most recently I used the excuse “I want to be a television producer so I need to watch TV to know what I’m talking about”.  Let’s just say it went down like wildfire.

Watch this space.


9 Jul 2012

Sex and Vibrators

I'm going to bet a lot of money that this article gets the most hits on my blog.  The current leader is “Lingerie low-down” (see a few posts below).  Either all my facebook friends and twitter followers are underwear addicts, or maybe it’s because you couldn’t wait to read about my lingerie collection.  Or maybe, just maybe, the word ‘lingerie’ made you think of sex.  Sex may be a bit of a taboo subject but it’s certainly out there, scribbled across tabloids and neatly working itself into every television show known to man.  And that’s not even mentioning page 3, or sex shops.  Let’s put it this way: people don’t go shopping in Ann Summers just for the panties…in fact, one of my all-time favourite purchases was for a male friend of mine in that very shop.  And it shall forever be known as “the willy whistle”.  On the subject of whistles, a few months ago Flo Rida brought out a hit single entitled “Whistle”.  As much as I’d love to believe that he’s talking about the sort of whistle you’d find attached to your life jacket when your Ryan Air flight to Barcelona miraculously lands head on into the Indian Ocean (satnav issues, ahem), I think it’s safe to say that we’ve hit euphemism city here.  So you see my point.  There’s really no hiding from it.

Now I’m not trying to be obscene.  I’m just trying to work out what draws people to themes of a certain nature.  Apparently sex sells.  Well, that’s what Rihanna seemed to think when she released S&M.  Can I not even exercise at the gym without being plagued by music videos filled with female dancers thrusting their body parts along to the lines “chains and whips excite me”?  Apparently not.  And what’s even worse is when you realise your 12 year old sister knows all the words.  Backwards.  Kids are taught from a young age that there’s clearly a lot more to sex than what you learn in GCSE Biology.  Films certified as 15 are now being watched by 9 year olds.  But covering a child’s eyes with a pillow isn’t going to blank out the noise.

There’s something innately human about clicking on a link which looks a little dirty.  Is it because we feel that little bit guilty and know we shouldn’t, or is it because of an unprecedented urge to know as much as possible about sex?  After all, who wants to read articles about the weather?  Topics like fashion and cars only appeal to a certain palette while sex is a global phenomenon (much like Harry Potter) which you don’t even have to partake in to be aware of.  Ok, that was a bit cheeky comparing sex to Harry Potter when we both know they’re entirely different.  But in the words of Jane Austen, it’s a truth universally acknowledged that sex is great.  *I may have just misquoted.  Well that’s what we’re taught to believe, right?

Cuisines change from country to country, along with fashions, education and religion.  But kids are only made one way.  Maybe the French fornicate differently from the English, but they’re obviously doing something similar if they’re both pumping out litters and making baby showers.  I mean…I haven’t read much around the subject, but I don’t tend to hear stories about English girls ending up in Australia and having the shock of a life-time when they find out that they do it upside down.  It may be nicknamed “the outback” but I think we can safely assume that the Ozzies do it up front too.  Sorry to be crass.

But how is it that sex is such an uncomfortable dinner-table discussion?  People start cringing at the mention of orgasms, vibrators and contraception.  Food turns cold as blushing wives play with their food instead of eating it, unknowingly telling the rest of the table that they’re sexually frustrated.  (I’m not even sure if I believe that theory).  People describe sex as “personal” and “intimate”; so personal that they’re more than happy to read about other people’s private escapades in the news?  Some even sell their sex stories for money.  It seems nowadays that magazines use sex as a marketing tool with the three-letter word always managing to find pride of place on advice columns.  The days of asking about periods and dieting are disappearing.  Today’s generation wants to know about sex.

At lunch yesterday with my grandparents, the book “Fifty Shades of Grey” came up in conversation.  I’ve been told that the book is “highly pornographic” and “badly written”.  I can’t work out whether this makes me want to read it or not.  This new adult genre (known simply as “literotica”) is starting to become the genre of the decade.  People want to read about sex.  They want to compare it, be repulsed by it, be amused by it, and learn from it.  But you want to know the hypocrisy of it all?  They can’t stand the idea of other people knowing they’re reading it.  Literotica’s rise in sales can be linked to two things: Kindles and the basic need to touch what is off-limits.  The feminist writer Marina Warner considers the popularity of erotic fiction to be a signal of the struggle to feel aroused in a time when sex and nudity have become so commonplace.  “There has been a general unveiling of the body in our culture and there is a connection between prohibition and arousal,” she said.  Who wants unlimited amounts of vanilla ice-cream when there’s one last scoop of honeycomb?  Gone are the days of hiding porn mags under your bed and tightly gripping explicit book covers to hide them from your peers.  Download them onto your Kindle and the people around you are none the wiser.  The NY Times even reported that Ann Summers has seen a huge increase in the sale of blindfolds, whips and handcuffs, reflecting the strong sadism and masochism theme running through the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy.  There’s no point denying erotic literature’s escalating fame.  With a 130% increase in sales, the figure says it all.

La marque Ann Summers, sex-shop, joue sur ces sacs de façon détonnante !!I for one will admit hand on heart that I have never watched (or read for that matter) porn.  In fact, I’m exactly the sort of person who you’d hate to play the drinking game “Never have I ever” with.  One of my girlfriends was so unsatisfied with my naivety in this area that she was adamant that we spend the evening watching it on the flat screen.  I politely declined.  I’ll admit however that my much-loved Sex and the City is definitely bordering on pornographic.  Using neck massagers as vibrators?  Who would have thought?

All in all, how much is sex shaped by what we watch on our screens or read in books?  Do we over consume the notion of being sexually complete, sexually compatible or sexually accurate?  It seems nowadays that “sex” has been so overly sexualised that it’s fundamentally become a subgenre of its former self.

Watch this space.


8 Jul 2012

Oh baby, it's raining!

The English are notorious for forming conversations around the weather.  When it rains, we think “typical England”; when we see a ray of sunshine, we think “time to get out the bikini before it starts raining again”; when it snows, we think “yay! Snowman time”, followed by “dammit, I’m about to get hypothermia”; and when it’s “really” hot: “I can’t move, this heat wave is making me really lethargic”…. “Screw this, I didn’t know you could actually sunburn in England”.  Are we really all that fascinated by the weather, or is it our go-to topic of conversation when we don’t have anything else to say?  It’s always the immediate conversation filler after the initial “Hi, my name’s Harry” and it’s almost always a topic of agreement.  Weather, however hard you try, is unlikely to be controversial.  I mean, if it’s raining, you can’t bloody deny it.   And the English and their stiff upper lips are more than happy to engage themselves in sturdy subject matters which require little expert knowledge; only a functional pair of eyes.  

Today’s it raining.  Today Murray is going to get beaten win at Wimbledon.  Talk about pathetic fallacy!

Watch this space.

7 Jul 2012

The Morning After

babies-babies-babiesIsn’t it curious how differently people react to the news that they’re pregnant?  A night of unprotected sex in certain circumstances leads to baby scares and trips to the clinic, while others hope that session of love-making would give them the baby they’ve been waiting for.  A positive result on a pregnancy test can result in tears of happiness, or distress; a happy husband, or an angry boyfriend.  Husbands leave infertile wives, while boyfriends leave the girl they’ve just knocked up.  We live our lives, hoping to some extent that our actions are reversible, relying on medication to absolve us of the mess we brought ourselves into.  Isn’t it sad that it’s quicker and less expensive to have an abortion, than to get IVF treatment?  You can take a pill to destroy your child, yet you can’t take a pill to bring the stalk to your doorstep.  Should having a child be a right, or a privilege?  Especially when you see teen mums wandering the streets with their prams, swearing abusively as they trawl back to their council houses as desperate women all over the world wait expectantly for the pink indicator to glimmer on their 100th pregnancy test.  It’s astonishing how long the adoption process is; the years people wait until they’re finally matched up with a child who can become their own.  The interviews and assessments, the house visits and the mandatory meetings.  When all the while, unprepared girls begin breeding with the flick of a light switch.  Is it really all that fair?  Are we all destined to be mothers? 

Watch this space.


6 Jul 2012

People watching

There’s something beautifully serene about watching people, particularly on trains amidst empty water bottles and leftover copies of the Metro and Evening Standard.  As interesting and well-written as the aforementioned newspapers might be, they don’t quite capture the electrifying essence of people watching.  

watching youTo begin with, my eyes are inevitably drawn to people’s hands as I determine whether they are married or not.  Fashion sense is quietly observed amidst questions like “Is that a real Louis Vuitton handbag or did they buy a cheap copy from a European market?”  And I am reminded once again of how many mothers had to endure painful labours to bring all these fascinating individuals into the world.  And of course, there are the stereotypes who always seem to find themselves on public transport (namely tubes) in one way or another.  For starters, there’s the overly made-up girl who continues to lather more make-up onto her already tangoed face with the help of a pocket-mirror.  Next, there’s the girl with the killer heels and short skirt with all the cellulite who is appropriately stood in front of a slightly larger than life middle-aged man who can’t fit his bum cheeks onto just one seat.  The dude with the overly-loud “Dubstep” pumping out of his iPod is leaning against the window.  There’s the guy with the backpack who bumps into everyone he walks past because he forgot he’s wearing it.  There’s the happy family with the two children who repeatedly ask “How long till we get there?” and the father whose discourse revolves around the cultural relevance of Covent Garden when none but his wife are listening. There’s the man with awful B.O. who is holding onto one of the hand rails above him and another man who seems to stare at peoples bags and phones a lot.  There’s the old woman who is offered a seat by a charming young man dressed head to toe in Calvin Klein.  There’s the person walking around asking for spare change.  There’s the person reading the “look at me I’m so intelligent” book.  There’s also the Spanish couple who divide their time between locking lips and talking in their own language because they don’t think anyone else can understand them.  There’s the person attempting to check their phone, despite being underground.  There’s the creepy man who stares at you continuously, but doesn’t think you’ve noticed.  Next there’s the person who asks whether the train is going via Moorgate when it definitely isn’t.  The mid-morning hen party stragglers who end up swearing every other word take pride of place in the middle of the carriage.  And finally, there’s the person who you’re hoping doesn’t get off at the same stop as you because somewhere in your wildest of thoughts, you think they might kidnap you.

This morning in London I found myself on a District line tube at 8:30 and encountered the oddest bunch of individuals.  Sat in front of me was a striking young woman sewing a vast patchwork quilt; and she was sewing it in such a way that you’d think she was using it as a means of getting over a boy who once broke her heart.  Her hands appeared to shake a little and her eyes seemed particularly self-conscious.  On the opposite side of the aisle, one man was taking up three seats as he lay sleeping, much to the annoyance of the passengers left standing.  He was using his puffa jacket almost as a sleeping bag, bunched tightly around his face so that you could see little more than two eyes and a nose peeping out.  Beside him sat a man eating a pasty who proceeded to open a can of beer.  Perhaps he was living in a different time-zone, or perhaps he got his “am” and “pm” muddled up; or perhaps he just likes a nice warm can of beer for breakfast.  I’m passing no judgement.  Standing up was a business-woman on her way to work who stared angrily at the tube-slummer for occupying the three seats and proceeded to take a picture of the culprit on her phone.  Whether she intended to use the photo to warrant a complaint or share it with some of her high-brow colleagues, I shall never know.  And finally, sat next to me was a handsome (albeit slightly hung-over) gentleman silently reading a copy of the Metro as he balanced an extremely delicate plate between his legs.

And then there’s me, idling my time away as I create ulterior lives for each passenger as they unknowingly pursue their travels.

Watch this space.


5 Jul 2012


I recently asked one of my girlfriends whether she knew how to talk dirty in French.  This may sound like a pretty inappropriate question; but when there’s a hot Dutchman staying in the room next door to you, there’s not much time for whipping out the dictionary.  The only thing you should be whipping is some cream; you better hope he has a sweet tooth.

Maybe it’s just me, but there’s something about posting certain things on social networking sites that makes me tense.  Oops, I swore; I mentioned tampons; I said the word “sex” 3 times in one sentence; I’m tagged, lying in a pool of my own vomit.  

Puppies, man. Puppies.The aforementioned blurb on “dirty talk” seemed hilarious when shared with my friend in the privacy of an inbox message, but consequently seems outrageous now that I’ve posted it on Tumblr.  So why have I shared it with you?  The quick answer? Because it made me laugh and I’ve lost interest in asking “what will people think?”  Not because I don’t care what people think - I honestly do care.  But I’m sick and tired of hearing comments like “Don’t share that on Facebook, people might judge you!”; “Don’t let your future employer see that picture of you”; “People might think you’re a slut”.  Are Facebook, Twitter and personal blogs supposed to be a load of fancy make-belief jargon filled with luke-warm visions of our real selves?  Are we supposed to censor each thought, word and picture?  For whose benefit?  For our benefit, or for society’s?  Is there some invisible line somewhere that you’re not supposed to cross?  But who even dictates that line?  Us? Our parents?  Social decency?  Why should a picture of me swigging from a bottle of wine on my 17th birthday lead to comments about AA meetings and pretentious behaviour? (FYI, this didn’t happen).  Did no-one ever mention that reading (let alone writing) about puppies and green fields all day might become a little dull?  If anyone’s going to be saving the day it’s going to be the “cheeky monkey”, not the “restrained rhino”.  If it’s part of our make-up to be that little bit outrageous or quirky, why keep it to ourselves?  I urge you now: Go ahead and write it (whatever it is) on the Great Wall of China to see if people judge you for having a sense of humour.  

In fact, my “dirty talk” blurb is the sort of thing that when written in a book, seems perfectly acceptable.  Because no-one ever believes it’s really you who is saying it.  But aren’t plenty of authors drawn to writing as a means of projecting how they feel about not only the bigger picture, but also smaller, less consequential things which seem to be a “big deal” when paraded on Facebook?  Why do we feel an urgent need to analyse each word that appears on our Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr feeds?  Is a bit of home-grown “risqué humour” allowed to be just that without a double take? Can a blue frog just be a blue frog?  

Watch this space.