Thursday, June 07, 2007

Food Glorious Food...

Heading out onto the streets of Zagreb, armed with a map from the hotel reception on which the receptionist had kindly highlighted our route towards the Old Town, the first thing that struck me was how quiet it was. This was around 10pm on a Saturday night: I am used to most cities buzzing at that time. I should say that I find most European cities buzzing at that time: our commercial and entertainment districts tend to be all higgledy-piggledy on top of one another, unlike North America where I've noticed it's a bit more segregated. I remember being astounded to discover that Michigan Avenue in Chicago shuts up shop (literally) at close of business hours - I would have expected it to be more like Oxford Street or Charing Cross Road, where, when the shops close, the bars, restaurants, clubs and crackdens open ;)

I was aware again during our spookily quiet walk of the fascinatingly varied architecture. I suppose, geographically, Croatia does rather straddle Western and Eastern Europe (...that would be Central Europe then...), and that is evident in the architecture. We guessed that there has been some sort of clean up campaign going on, as some buildings that were evidently old (going by the intricate carvings and craftsmanship) were quite startlingly clean - and right next to them would be a building that appeared to be of around the same age suffocating under centuries of dirt. Many bore sobering scars of the bombs of the mid 90s. It is hard to describe, exactly, but despite it's somewhat creepy quietness, the city felt very safe. There was lavishings of graffiti and a certain run down air (particularly in the side streets we passed) but yet it felt entirely benign.

After passing some gardens - that's another point, it smelled lovely! Possibly due to the proximity of the botanical gardens, and helped by the fact that with a population of less than a million, there just isn't the pollution to create that heady stink that you come to expect in cities, it was a pleasantly un-whiffy city overall - we came across a large square which the receptionist had circled on the map. When I say large, I really mean huge - it was about the size of a football field, and the couple of small fountains in the middle were dwarfed by the vacuous space around them. Here finally there were some signs of life - groups of kids, a few old people sipping coffee in cafes around the edge, trams trundling by... and no restaurants. Might I remind you that neither of us had eaten since I had a packed of peanuts at Heathrow, so with a touch of panic, we went in to one of the bars and asked if they were serving food. Nope. However, a very kind waitress beckoned for us to follow her. Mournfully gnawing on our hands, we obeyed.

She led us to a large black door next door to her bar - quite ornate, but with absolutely no sign outside to give any hint that it was any kind of commercial entrance. In other circumstances we might have been doubtful, but at this point, we were happy to cling on to the merest hope of food, so we followed her into a dimly lit hallway. The tiles were ceramic and there was a lively pattern in earth tones leading through the hallway to the shadowy stone staircase. We were a bit dubious about the old fashioned lift which creaked a bit ominously when our waitress pressed the call button, but luckily for everyone the door was locked, so our waitress directed us to climb to the third floor, and promised that there we would find sustenance. Well we did... ish. We climbed the two flights of stairs, exchanging looks that might have been of amusement, terror, or just hunger - and there we found to our utter amazement - a bustling restaurant! I don't tend to think that I would be quite so subtle when choosing the location of a restaurant, but it clearly wasn't hurting business at all as it was packed. So packed that they had no room for us. *sigh* No less than three waiters commiserated with us, and discussed excitedly amongst themselves where we might find dinner. Well, we assume that is what they were discussing at least, they said neither "do you speak English" nor "thank you" which is the only Croatian I have a hope of understanding, so they could have been discussing the weather or what sort of hats their mothers like to wear.

When we emerged back out onto the street, already beginning to wonder whether we had imagined that restaurant on the third floor, we found our waitress hovering anxiously by the door, "You don't like?" She enquired, and we assured her we liked very much but they were full. "Okay, please come with me." She took off at a pace back across the square and up a steep hill behind it. We were treated to a sudden close up view of the spectacular cathedral (which looks a little bit like Notre Dame) and then the waitress ushered us (with a helpful note of the name of the restaurant from her order pad) round the corner. We thanked her and entered what looked for all the world like a closed restaurant. By walking through the empty tables in an unlit room (bashing into a couple of the aforementioned empty tables) and into a corridor past the kitchen, we found ourselves on a terrace where there were people! Eating! Well two old men anyway! And a third old man playing eighties easy listening on a keyboard! It was just wonderful.

The starter that our lovely waiter (and fluent English speaker) Emil swiftly brought was possibly one of the most exquisite things I have ever tasted in my life (although let's face it, I was hardly fussy at that point.) It was a sort of savoury croissant, with a dip which seems to be traditional Croatian as we were then served it everywhere we ate - a sort of creamy ricotta with chives and garlic - oh I must stop describing the meal because I will start to eat the keyboard! Suffice to say it was wonderful - Emil chose for us and I must confess that I was pleasantly surprised at how yummy everything was. You don't usually think of Croatia as a gastronomic capital of Europe, but take it from me it should be. We were even more pleasantly surprised to discover that three courses, a couple of glasses of wine each and tea came to £36 between us. Clearly, we were going to eat like Kings in Croatia!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Welcome to Zagreb...

Country number 24 (on the 30 Countries Before 30 challenge with Toby) came in at just under 36 hours in Croatia - unquestionably one of the most fascinating and unusual places I have ever visited.

It all started with some fun and games on Saturday morning: forgetting to pack, losing my passport (and finding it), discovering that the Piccadilly Line wasn't in the mood to take anyone to Heathrow last weekend, finally getting to Heathrow to discover that my mobile phone was happily snuggled under my pillow where it had been shoved after having the audacity to go off at the time I'd set it, having to page Jemma so we could check in together (oddly enough, she'd already guessed that I would forget my phone and was waiting for the page). Once on the plane we pogo-ed across Europe in an alarmingly lively pin-ball-ricocheting-off-clouds manner which meant I had to spend the entire flight with my head between my knees (when faced with any adverse flying conditions, my body usually elects to pretty much check out, in a charmingly Jane Austen heroine kind of way - I really should start carrying smelling salts) prompting the Aussie sitting next to us to enquire whether Jemma was okay because she didn't look great either, and Jemma to indignantly reply that she was perfectly alright thank you, that's just her natural complexion - we finally bounced out of the clouds and onto the tarmac in Zagreb.

I absolutely love exiting planes via a stairway onto the tarmac - it just feels like a proper arrival - and the misty evening and deep pink, hazy sunset lent the visible Croatian countryside a pleasingly other worldly air. Shortly afterwards, thrilled to have received another stamp on my still depressingly new passport, Jemma and I were confronted with the realisation that we had absolutely no idea what the currency was, nor its exchange rate to pounds. Or any idea how to get to our hotel. Or anything of the language (with the exception of the helpful phrases that lovely Mel of the Melbourne girls had emailed me, but I did worry that "eight beers please" and "do you have a girlfriend?" wouldn't do much to covey to a taxi driver our desire to go to our hotel). After a bit of lively wild-guessing at the ATM and vaguely wondering whether or not we'd just cleaned out our bank accounts, we discovered that Croatian taxi drivers speak the universal language of "Sheraton" and we were off.

At speed. Over the course of the stay, we learnt that Zagreb(ian?) taxi drivers are lively to say the least (perhaps that's what the pilot had originally trained as): we came within inches of rear-ending seemingly innocent drivers, had a couple of hair-raising diversions onto the pavement and more than once flew round corners at such startling speed that we were flung across the backseat into positions that platonic friends rarely find themselves in.

The scenery and outskirts that zipped past looked… foreign. Extremely foreign. I think that these days we are so saturated with images of Western Europe, the US, Canada and Australia in various media, that even when we arrive in such places for the first time, everything looks somewhat familiar. At the very least, I tend to have a mental image that may or may not be quite right, but is at least a starting point. Croatia, on the other hand - with the exception of war torn images from the mid nineties, I am ashamed to say that I really didn't have a clue what to expect. The first few buildings that heralded our arrival into the city looked appropriately Eastern European - dark grey concrete blocks of flats, the kind with deeply black windows that look like dead eyes, broken occasionally by a depressing line of washing or faded duvet cover thrown over a balcony. But then there would suddenly be a terracotta structure that conjured images of the Mediterranean, and the text on street signs or advertisements was written in non-European characters, text that to my ignorant eye looked Russian. The other thing I noted was the lack of globalisation - not one MacDonalds, Starbucks, Co-op, Spar. I couldn't guarantee that they don't yet exist in Croatia, but I certainly laid eyes on not one familiar brand name this weekend.

By the time we had chucked our things in our hotel room and freshened up from the flight, it was 10pm and having not been able to catch much in the way of dinner as it gaily flew around the plane, we were both quietly thinking that the other looked surprisingly tasty. So it was off out to hit Zagreb on a Saturday night…

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Ich bin geschwindelt worden

According to, the title of this blog is German for "I've been had" so it most likely means nothing of the sort.

When we last left me - and I am sure everyone reading on the edge of their seats ;) - I was off to Munich for 10 days to photocopy. Well, that lasted a day before - for only the second time in my life - I quit. To put that in context, if I was to put every single job I've had in my life on my CV, it would cover probably 10 pages. I have handed in my notice in order to move on to another job before - I mean "this is out of order - I quit" type quitting. Twice now.
I was offered the booking late on Wednesday afternoon, told that it was a last minute urgent situation, that the client desperately needed people to fly to Munich first thing Thursday morning and work for 10 days straight for possibly up to 12 hours a day. My first though was "ka-ching!" - that many hours of overtime would be a lov-er-ly addition to the concert/travelling fund for the next few months. Plus, it meant a week of free board so I'd make lots without spending anything. Plus there was the adventure of flying out to Munich at a moment's notice, which is always going to appeal to me. The reason I'd told the agencies I was available was that I was a bit stuck on the main writing project I'm working on at the moment, and often a few days' boring work resets my brain a bit. And I can buy some more shoes.

So I agreed, and at an ungodly hour the following morning was at Stanstead airport ready to jump onto a plane. The night before, the agency had emailed us some more details of the booking, included in which were the bombshells that a) night shifts and b) we would have to share rooms - both factors that would have made me pass on the job had I been aware. So I was annoyed that the agency hadn't mentioned them until so late in the game (after my plane ticket had been bought) but figured that it was at least partially my responsibility to have clarified, so I had no one to blame but myself.

When I and the other suckers... I mean temps... arrived at the hotel in Germany, we were met by our team leader for the week - the man that the agency had promised could clarify all the details that they hadn't been able to. Details such as whether meals would be provided or we would have a per diem to cover such expenses. Well he clarified... that there was neither, we were expected to fend for ourselves for all meals other than breakfast (included at the hotel) plus internet access (which involved getting a cab into the centre of Munich and finding an internet cafe) plus get ourselves to and from the office (a short walk, but through snow and at 11pm in a strange city). I felt that this was unacceptable, and when I discovered that the hours we were working were all for one flat rate, so no overtime - and no one was willing or able to discuss this, negotiate, nor shed any light on why this hadn't been made clear to us prior to departure from London... I quit.

I did a bit of research when I got home, and was astounded to learn that none of those conditions are actually illegal - although I still maintain that they are unethical as only the most vulnerable workers would be willing to work 12 hour days for a flat - not great - rate, plus pay for their own meals and contact home for 10 days. And indeed, that's who I left behind - students, recent arrivals to the UK - people who didn't even realise that it is standard practice for the employer to cover expenses incurred by working away from home. It was further irresponsible of the agency to not only accept these conditions for their workers, but to fail to ensure that we were all fully aware of what we were agreeing to.

There isn't much I can do except rant in this blog - and know not to work for that particular agency again! Live and learn and all that I suppose!

Monday, March 26, 2007

My Technicolor Dream Career of Many Day Jobs

When I mentioned, a few blogs ago, that I made my mind up to be a writer, I gave the impression that it was one definitive decision, at which point I downed tools at everything else, took up residence in front of my laptop and never looked back. In fact it was nothing of the sort.

I left drama school with vague notions of knowing I wanted to work in theatre, and most probably direct eventually. I lived up to the adage "take everything and anything you can get" and for two years I was box office assistant, stage crew, wardrobe mistress (including spectacularly stabbing Puck in a sensitive area during a backstage repair at an outdoor production of A Midsummer's Night Dream), script reader, stage manager, dramaturge (a script editor for theatre), casting assistant, literary assistant, and finally assistant director on a couple of productions before starting my own theatre company. Reading and editing other people's play scripts had whetted my appetite for writing my own, but I didn't do much about it until I realized that my brand spanking new theatre company couldn't afford the rather essential element of… scripts.

Part of the ethos I'd created for this company was to explore new and unique ways of storytelling, so I had always imagined that there would be an element of improvisation in our work. We set about devising pieces from scratch: I would come up with a concept, and character bios, and we began to improvise. If you can picture an artist's preparatory work: sketches around the subject, experimenting with perspective, angle, placing - it was a little bit like that. There was masses of trial and error, over 90% of our improvised scenes were never performed in public, and I had stunned actors storming out and threatening never to speak to me again galore. Once we (with however much of the cast was left!) started devising scenes that would form the actual play, I began to write. Initially, this consisted of literally transcribing the improvised scene, but gradually I started to re-draft, to shade and tighten, and then we would improvise some more, and finally we had a working script. I am grateful that this was my first experience of drama writing, because its having always been intrinsically wound into the actors' and director's process means that I skipped over the main beginner's weakness that I often see in scripts I read now: an… entirety that renders it flat by not taking into account the production process. Ideally, the script is the foundation for the finished project - whether it's theatre, film or television - it's the springboard from which everyone else starts their creative process.

Millions of miles from my point as usual. For the first few years after making the decision that writing was what I wanted to do - in some ways directing will always be my first love, and I hope to return to it some day, but writing is the priority for now - I would say that I dabbled in it. I thought about it, I scribbled out ideas and the odd few scenes here and there - in addition to returning to a variety of production work, and experimenting with other writing media - but with the exception of the pieces that I wrote for my course at the Vancouver Film School, I didn't properly complete a full length script for a good three years. I wrote a few (produced) shorts, did the odd bit of re-drafting, script editing, dialogue polishes here and there. All of this just about kept my head above water and let me pretend that I was an aspiring screenwriter, but, even in my own head, I never got anywhere with my own work. Then, just over a couple of years ago now, I got serious. I realized that… I hate the expression "shit or get off the pot" but it's applicable. Finally, that decision was properly made: the commitment to writing in every spare hour rather than going out or vegging in front of the tv, the promise to myself to block distracting thoughts of maybe going back to directing, or casting, or PR… I was, finally, a writer.

Except that unfortunately no one knew that yet but me.

So I devised a plan. I knew that it would take me 3-5 years to have enough projects of professional quality to actually start making a full time living at it. So writing time was my main priority, but I also needed to keep my bank manager from turning a funny colour without distracting myself too much. I decided that I would divide my time between sitting in my pyjamas wailing at a blank computer screen, and a succession of day jobs which would a) keep me just afloat enough to avoid lying awake worrying about bills, b) have enough variety to stop my brain from going on holiday and not telling me, and c) not be so consuming that they turned into careers in themselves or left me too exhausted to be creative in my spare time.

In the last two years I have been a club promoter, a fashion PR assistant, a bartender, an HR administrator, a studio assistant (for radio drama and music), a door picker (the bitch who decides who looks cool enough to get in to clubs), an events manager, a web copy writer, a celebrity babysitter (more or less ;) ), a marketing project manager, a legal PA. I've been a PA and had a PA; I've worked in hospitality, insurance, administrated for the British Columbia Liquor Board, dressed windows at Gap, stuffed more envelopes than I care to remember. I worked for the Refugee Commission in south London, taught drama to troubled kids, and worked in an oil refinery in Ohio complete with fire resistant overalls, safety goggles and steel toed boots. I've answered phones for television companies, insurance firms, investment banks, charities and music moguls (at one I was told off by Simon Cowell for being unable to reach the person he wanted to speak to, over heard a Scottish accent in reception, looked up and said "oh, whereabouts are you from?" before noticing it was Annie Lennox).

And that is how, last week, I agreed to go to Munich for 10 days to photocopy…

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Day Two Days Before The Day Before Tomorrow...

Are we headed for an apocalypse?

I only ask, because this morning when I headed out for a run through Hyde Park (well I say run, I really mean tear hell for leather, arms and legs flailing in directions anatomy would declare impossible for about 50 metres, collapsing in a trembling, nauseous heap on the grass and remaining there until I realize I am lying in a pile of pigeon shite, repeating until home again) it was raining hailstones and I could see my breath in front of me. I had an appointment for a haircut, so I figured I'd go there and straight home again. But in the time it took for the hairdresser to shape my locks into something lively and spectacular, the sun had come out, so off I headed to frighten the tourists peering at Kensington Palace and wondering if Diana is home. Hot sunshine it turned out, take my jumper off and tie it round my waist hot - and even then, when I collapsed, I was a trembling nauseous sweating heap.

Now I am home, despite the bright blue sky and white clouds, I just saw a handful of snow flutter to the ground, and heard a single thunderclap.
In all fairness, I do live directly underneath the Heathrow flight path, so it could have been a noisy jumbo jet - but it definitely sounded like thunder.

I had another blog planned for today, if we are all still here tomorrow I will write it then…

The Great Unknown

After two weeks residing in my pyjamas, when the closest I have been to real life is the Aussie soaps (I've taken to wandering around the house wailing dramatically in my best Madge Bishop voice) I have reached that stage of writing where I am so entrenched in a world of my own invention that my sister coming home in the evening is a traumatic event. She will, perfectly reasonably given that she lives here, wander into the kitchen and I will jump three feet in the air and scream in terror, so bizarre is it to hear a voice that isn't in my own head. It would be fair to say that she finds it somewhat irritating.

This afternoon, I realized that I had run out of an essential ingredient to the elixir of life that keeps me going - milk for my intravenous drip of tea - so rather than doing something intelligent like go to the supermarket and buy milk, I happily wandered up to Café Nero for a cup of tea.

So shocked was I to emerge blinking and trembling a little into the bright lights big city of Earls Court that I'd walked halfway up the road before I noticed that I didn't have my glasses on. I wear contacts most of the time, but when dressing myself in anything other than a sweats over pyjamas (apparently layers are in this year) might as well be black tie, sticking my fingers in my eye to attach spectacles to my eyeball is a surge of activity unlikely to happen.

Eyeing the distance to the coffee shop and the distance back to my flat, I decided that I was slightly more than halfway so - in the interests of returning promptly to work, naturally - I decided that I didn't really need to see in order to procure a cup of tea, so I might as well carry on. Despite tripping over a dog lead, walking into a display of muffins and spilling half the tea down my front (which, to be fair, I often do whether I can see or not) I thought that my mission had been something of a success.

So much of a success in fact, that by the time I had finished, I had forgotten that I wasn't wearing my glasses but had remembered that I wanted to wander to Robert Dyas to look at some blenders - so I decided that there was no time like the present and trotted off down Kensington High Street. Even wondering why I seemed to have trampled more tourists than usual didn't remind me of my sightless state, so it wasn't until I got to Robert Dyas and couldn't find the blenders that I was reminded I was in a pickle. I wandered around for a bit, peering in vain at small white goods and was afraid to ask a staff member where they were in case I was standing right next to them.

Friday, March 09, 2007

All Around...

When Toby first told me about the “30 Countries Before 30” challenge and I decided to muscle in on it, I counted up all the countries I’d been to at the time and came up with something like 24. I just now sat down and wrote a list and seem to currently be on 22 so I am either missing some (a pesky little European one probably), or I counted a couple twice in the first place. The rules (according to Toby, who is the authority because he made up the game) state that the countries that make up the United Kingdom count separately, and stopovers count even if you didn’t leave the airport. So, in no particular order:
Vatican City
The Bahamas
Which I don’t think is too bad in 28 years. It does mean, however, that I have two years (oh all right, a year and a half) to hit 8. Which means I have to start thinking tactically and stop going back to the same countries for a bit.

Having said that, I already have trips planned to Canada and Australia, plus the usual few to my parents’ in Switzerland, this year - so I’ll be mostly thinking tactically then. I do have my new favourite hobby of going to see INXS in foreign countries to help, so you’ll be able to find Jemma and I in Bulgaria on the 1st June, if you are looking for us (I’ve finally persuaded her that JD is edible enough for her to bear someone else singing Mystify) so that’s a start. Fingers crossed they announce some dates in other countries I’ve never been to. France and Holland are no use to me, and annoyingly I’ve just realized that I can’t make the Paris date anyway because it’s smack bang in the middle of the Isle of Wight festival - ooh, the Isle of Wight is definitely England, right? … bugger.

A trip to Iceland or Greenland on the way to Canada may be possible, but I don‘t have masses of time for that trip, it‘s a fly in, see friends, do some work, fall over in shock at how much Giselle and Lily have grown, and fly out again sort of situation.

So I am going to have to make the journey to Australia do a lot of work. Hot on my avoiding flying plans, I am thinking of either taking a boat - incorporating Morocco (we all know I‘ll flounce around growling “here‘s looking at you, kid“, right?), some of South America and New Zealand, or (and this one does rather negate the non flying thingy)taking the Trans-Siberia railway from Moscow to Beijing. That option would involve a few flights, but it would also avoid spending time on a cargo ship (there aren’t passenger ships to cover that whole journey) which, feel free call me a princess, doesn’t terribly appeal. In addition, the Trans-Siberia railway would mean I could a) pretend to be Hercule Poirot on the Orient Express and wander around twiddling my moustache, b) visit Mongolia which is apparently the least visited destination on earth - ever since Nick told me that I’ve had a hankering to go - and c) finally see Jeff and the other half of my brain (hopefully at the vodka restaurant where you go in the fridge to drink it which sounds fabulous - and as I will be starting in Moscow would rather nicely book-end the whole thing) in Hong Kong.

Decisions, decisions. It’s a hard life.

Ahhhh! San Marino! 23! Thank heavens for pointless little European principalities. Seven to go…

In the time it took to write this blog, INXS announced dates in Serbia and Croatia... five to go!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

To Offer or Not to Offer?

During my daily morning bond with the armpits of a resident of West London, I was stunned to notice a woman standing next to me, also communing intimately with a stranger. This being the Central Line at 8.30am , it was not in itself unusual, except that the woman was pregnant. I don't mean a little bit pregnant: I mean it looked as though there was a full grown person in there, never mind a full grown baby. You could not miss this stomach. Except, apparently, if you were one of the people happily sitting down, ignoring the woman who looked ready to drop in more ways than one. I was appalled.

A couple of days later, however, I'd made the heinous mistake of wearing heels to work. That evening I hobbled onto the tube and fell gratefully onto a seat only to be confronted by that horror of horrors... a protruding tummy . A few throbbing toes won't stand in my way of feeling superior; but as I started to jump (with a tiny scream) to my feet... I halted in panic as it occurred to me - was the offending tummy protruding enough? Was the bulge in question caused by the seat-deserving state of growing a person - or was it just a bit of a tummy with an owner who most likely wouldn't appreciate a hobbling stranger pointing out her distant acquaintance with crunches?

I stared, willing the bulge to somehow confirm whether or not it contained a very small person. It did no such thing. With horror, I realized that its owner had noticed my interest. Was she pregnant and judging me for not giving her my seat? Did she realize I thought she was pregnant but wasn't at all and was now planning to start a diet that night? Or was she just wondering why on earth a stranger was staring at her middle region with such a pained expression? What was I doing to this poor woman?

If you were recently disconcerted by a brunette (wearing great, if evil, shoes) staring at you, then please accept my apologies. But might I ask if in future you'd be willing to wear a small but legible badge proclaiming whether or not you would like a seat? That's not unreasonable… is it?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Leaving on a Jet Plane... or Not...

I’ve been feeling a bit awful about the environment. Recently, the news has been saturated with dire predictions of global warming and accusing all of us who fly regularly of killing off Third World crops and murdering polar bears. I’m not too bad, as far as environmental conscience goes: I don’t drive, nor leave my cell phone charger plugged in or TV on standby and I faithfully recycle (I even set an ex up with a friend recently). But the flying thing, I can’t get past. Last year, I went on no less than 16 plane journeys (counting the outbound and return as two), none of them really necessary if we are to be strict about it. Travel is the greatest passion in my life, I sometimes feel overwhelmed by how much of the globe I have yet to see. But if my zipping off with my seatbelt on whenever seated in case of unexpected turbulence is going to destroy parts of the globe I have yet to see, maybe I should just stay at home and sit quietly on my hands? When it comes to long haul travel, it’s not as though there is much choice. The quickest way to get to Australia while remaining in contact with Earth is by cargo ship (which doesn’t sound to me as though it’d have movies or individual chocolates with a cup of tea) and it takes at least 36 days. 36 days! My plans for 2007 do include a trip Down Under, but try as I might, I can’t find a spare couple of months for the journey there and back.

The worst part is, it’s not even as though I enjoy flying - I generally see it as a necessary evil between me and wherever I want to go. I am not a very good air passenger. During my outbound flight to Australia last summer, I got out of my seat in an attempt to alleviate claustrophobia, asked one of the cabin crew for some iced water and promptly fainted in the aisle, spectacularly depositing the iced water over an unfortunate row of people. Which doesn’t even compare to the time I was on my way to Vancouver, happily glugging back litres of water in an attempt to attain peachy perfect skin despite the 9 ½ hours in a pressurised cabin, when we hit some turbulence. Fairly bad turbulence, bad enough to necessitate the seat belt light going on for 40 minutes. Which is a long time by anyone’s standards, but trust me, it’s an eternity when you’ve just gulped no less than 2 litres of water. Finally, having resorted to undoing my jeans to ease the mountainous pressure on my bladder and squirming like never before, the seat belt light flicked off and I dashed out of my seat like, as they say, a bat out of hell. Relief was sweet - but also brief as the seat belt light flicked back on seconds after I’d sat down, and seconds after that, the plane plummeted so sharply that I was catapulted off the toilet and slammed in to the door with such force that I saw stars and my nose started to bleed. Which was bad enough, until I remind you what activity I’d been engaged in before the world fell from under me, and share that blood wasn’t the only bodily fluid lavishly sprayed all over the cubicle and my clothes. When I was about five, I wet myself at school and was sent home with my knickers in a paper bag, but never had I experienced sitting through the remaining four hours of the flight, an inevitable interrogation at Canadian Immigration then a taxi to my apartment in the West End in the same state. As I stared around with an indescribable horror, there was a knock on the door and a member of the cabin crew helpfully informed me that I had to go back to my seat as “we were experiencing some turbulence.” In the end, I got through the flight, the airport, and the taxi home… wearing a pair of pyjamas from First Class. Which is probably the closest I’ll ever get to flying First Class.

So anyway. I’ve decided to give up short-haul flights. The rail system on the continent is fantastic, in fact, I’ve worked out that if you include journey to and from the airport, plus all the checking-in and security rigmarole, it’ll only take me a couple more hours to reach my parents’ in Geneva by Eurostar and TGV from Paris. Whether that will really do enough to reduce my carbon foot print I can’t be sure, but at least I will get to finish the journey wearing my own clothes.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

My Nemesis, He-Man

A few years ago, I made up my mind that I was going to be a screenwriter. The first thing that occurred to me to do - before anything mad like doing some writing - was to ring up Channel 4 and introduce myself. No, I don't know why either. On my lunch break one day, I rang up from my mobile and a very nice person actually took the time to speak to me. Naturally enough, one of her first questions was what I had written. Naturally enough, I pretended I had just seen a car crash and hung up on her. While it might have been a great moment for my non-existent acting career (I understand that people who can fake witnessing car crashes are much in demand) it probably wasn't a fabulous start to my writing one. In fact, it was the most mortifying moment I'd experienced since He-Man ruined my Highland dancing career in 1985. (At the end of term, each of us had dance a presentation piece to the teachers to show what we'd learnt. Displaying a flair for the dramatic that suggested my future talent as a pretend car-crash witness, I borrowed my little brother's He-Man swords to use in my routine in the hope that the teachers would think I had figured out the Sword Dance on my own. Tragically, during the dance, I skidded, kicked the 'on' switch on the sword and had to finish the routine with red flashing skulls at my feet and a tinny voice proclaiming " MASTERS OF THE UUNNIIVVEEEEEERSEEEE" over the hi-diddly Highland dance music. When it became clear that the teachers had noticed - the tears streaming down their faces was probably the first clue - I skipped straight out of the room and as far as Miss MacDonald's Wee Dancers of Kilmacolm are aware, have never been seen again.)

However. I am no longer six, and I am still a screenwriter. I had a reading of my current screenplay at Script tank the other week. Script tank is a fantastic group, consisting primarily of drama writers from various forms of media, who get together once every two weeks to hear a script read by professional actors and then tear it apart. When I say tear it apart, I generally mean tear it apart - we can be brutal. Constructively brutal, but brutal all the same. You'll forgive me then, I hope, if I confess that I was a bit nervous about the reading. I've had my work read, even performed, plenty times now and while it is always a bit disconcerting to hear a story that once existed safely within the four walls of my brain being uttered aloud by actors to a room full of people, you do get used to it. Generally though, scripts don't have readings until fairly late in their development - so by the time the actors have at it, the script, or at least outlines, will already have been read and critiqued by a few people. This time, for the first time, it was a first draft that was read. It isn't easy to describe the sensation of a project being thrust directly, kicking and screaming, from my immagination right into a roomful of people. It was terrifying.

All things considered though, it didn't go over too badly - the consensus seemed to be that it had potential... just needed a lot of work to reach it. Which is about right for a first draft, really. I have a clear idea of what I have to do with it, and feel as though it will be worth it when I do. The problem is, finding the time. I've learned that there are enough waking hours in the day to achieve any two of:
a) earn money
b) have a life
c) write speculatively
But not all three at the same time. At the moment, my life consists of juggling the three, doing my best to manage two-and-a-bit most days, which is just the way it is for the time being - until I manage to invent a time stretching device. If anyone knows of such a time stretching device, do let me know.

Friday, January 12, 2007

New project...

Just dropping off my new project if anyone is interested in checking it out...

I've always been fascinated by the gossips and scandals of early Hollywood. As a good (and very eloquent!) friend commented recently, rock'n'roll may not have yet been invented, but sex and drugs certainly had.

I am just figuring out what I want to do with it yet, so feel free to let me know what you think!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Web 2.0

Well I, for one, am quite chuffed to be named person of the year by Time. Here I thought I was just blethering away personal nonsense for my friends and any randoms who happen by (welcome, by the way), and it turns out that I am part of an information revolution. Through sharing my views, opinions and news regarding the state of me in writing this blog, posting on a couple of messageboards, watching YouTube, commenting on friends' myspaces, I am helping to fundamentally impact the way that information is shared in today's world - and taking my tiny place in history.

No longer do I - or anyone else - have to rely on media moguls' interpretation of world events or embittered critics thoughts on films, books, music; we can all nip online and be immediately connected to a global network of random people like me chatting about our experiences. People who don't need to adhere to any editorial guidelines nor worry about selling papers; people just reporting our world as we see it; pure news unfiltered by the political or commercial agendas that all too often taint information we receive through traditional media.

Or are we?

The ultra democratic-ness (see? It's my blog, I can make up words if I want to) of the information presented on the Internet is a mind-bogglingly (and again) double edged sword. Anyone with internet access - which is a pretty hefty percentage of the world's population - can start up a blog, post on a messageboard, set up their own page. You don't have to be a great (or even good) writer with anything in particular (never mind interesting) to say; you don't have to be in full possession of your marbles; and no one is making you tell the truth.

While most of us have a pretty healthy cynicism with regards to the truth and nothing but the truth in the media, the old adage "don't believe everything you read" is even more applicable to the Internet. Articles bound for newspapers, magazines or television have to adhere to strict editorial standards and are rigorously verified by litigation-minded fact-checkers, but what's to stop me writing an utter load of nonsense here? Would you guess it wasn't true? How do you know that anything I have written here is true? Do you care?

Further, what's to stop me creating a myspace page or blog or messageboard account for somebody entirely fictional? Or, even more dangerously, someone who is perfectly real but isn't me? I realize that most public figures these days keep their (or their staff's) eyes open for such impersonations, but by the time the blog or whatever is pulled - would the damage already be done? I've been amazed before by the speed with which stories which started out fairly true have zipped out of control in a global game of chinese whispers; whats to stop me from starting one entirely of my own invention?

Very little, other than common decency. A few years ago, I produced a project television project which inadvertantly touched on this. We created a fictional tv series (as in, it didn't exist), hired (okay, bribed with beer) actors to play the actors in this series (still with me?) and sent them out on the town in London. The idea was to take a look at how easy it is to create a "celebrity" out of nothing but PR fluff - I would call up top London clubs posing as a PR girl looking after the cast of this non-existent show and arrange for a VIP guest list for them, then call the papparazzi agencies and do the same thing. As part of the project, I created and wrote blogs for a few of the characters (Carma Brandon Crispin) and three years later still receive occasional comments or emails for these non-existent people. Of course this was all perfectly harmless, but it does show how easily it can be done.

As people of the year, it seems that we have great power. If I might quote Spiderman briefly, with that power comes great responsibility; let's not screw it up.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Hanging in the Air

I have a deal with myself. It’s not unlike the deal that millions of mums make with their toddlers regarding the ingestion of green, leafy, yucky things. I give everything I fancy a go, even - in fact, especially - if it frightens me, and if I truly don’t like it, I promise myself that I don‘t have to do it again. I fancied moving to Canada by myself, I fancied paragliding, I fancied directing plays for a living. Along the way, I fell in love with Canada, discovered that floating 800 metres over Switzerland with a Frenchman strapped to your back is really quite enjoyable, and that actors terrify the living daylights out of me. At the moment I am struggling with the fact that I truly don’t like working 9 to 5 for a living but that my bank manager probably won’t understand if I point out that I’ve given it a go for a good six months.

I’ve always fancied rock climbing. We used to hike at Squamish from time to time, and I loved watching people clinging to the rock face near Shannon Falls, twisting their bodies in bizarre contortions to reach the next hand or foothold, metres and metres off the ground. Call me crazy, but it always struck me as a fun way to spend a weekend. Which is odd, because if you asked me out of context, I would probably tell you that I don’t really like heights.

Yesterday in a fit of New Year’s activity, I headed off to the Castle Climbing Centre in Stoke Newington for a taster session. It is, literally, a castle - it’s a Victorian building, and, as our instructor explained to us during the session (at the time I was dangling from a rope about to begin a 100 foot abseil, so I might not have been paying full attention) Victorians were required to make buildings over a certain size look interesting or attractive. So this one - I think he said it was a water tower or something - was built in the shape of a castle. It looks pleasingly bizarre and out of place in the midst of East London council estates.

The centre was surprisingly busy, heaving with people of all ages and abilities and it’s an enjoyably odd sight to walk in to a massive room and see loads of people hanging off the walls. We were a group of four, an English bloke, a Canadian-and-Australian couple and yours truly, plus our instructor who claimed his name was Ed but as he looked like my sister‘s friend Joe was Joe in my head all afternoon. My first climb I found unexpectedly disconcerting. I hadn’t given masses of thought to precisely what was involved and it wasn’t until I’d managed to scrabble up to nearly the top that I looked down, wandering what to do next, noticed that the ground was rather far away and thought “mummy…” However, for the next climb, Ed/Joe gave us a route to follow - the hand and foot holds were different colours, and you could climb, say, all the blue ones or all the red ones. I found this actually made it easier, as the thinking involved to look for the next hold on my route and negotiate myself towards it, somewhat distracted from the weirdness of clinging to a wall a good storey off the ground. Having made up my mind on that first climb that rock climbing wasn’t for me and I was going to grit my teeth to get through the rest of the session then spend Saturday afternoons in the pub like a normal person, I soon found myself exhilarated every time I reached the top and addicted to the increasing challenge of figuring out the next route. Myself and my partner Matt both struck out on our final route - blue and green swirly rocks, damn them - both of us managing just a couple of holds off the ground before skidding off and hanging helplessly in the air in fits of giggles before Ed/Joe came to lower us to the ground. The Canadian/Australian couple both managed their most difficult climb and I did feel that motherland pride was somewhat dented. Particularly so hot on the heels of the Ashes.

I’d signed up for the taster plus session, which included this abseil. Now, if I am to be entirely honest with you, I wasn’t 100% sure what an abseil was, but I figured for an extra tenner it was worth finding out. I’d vaguely pictured it as pretty much what we did at the end of a climb, sit back in the harness and walk down the wall while the rope on the harness to is let out. Which is pretty much what an abseil is, but as it’s not always practical to walk down a cliff wall out in the real world, the abseil offered by this centre involves lowering yourself through midair. Through the centre of a 100 foot turret. Excellent.

We climbed to the platform up a (seemingly) rickety wrought iron spiral staircase, very similar to the one that gave me the heebie-jeebies to climb a mediaeval town clock tower in Tuscany last summer. Reaching the platform at the top, Ed/Joe had us all clip ourselves on to ropes attached to the railing - a thrilling thought that it wasn’t safe to stand unrestrained on the platform, but chucking ourselves through the trapdoor in the middle of it was just fine. I sat there waiting my turn rehearsing my thanks but no thanks speech (it was very similar to the thanks but no thanks speech that I rehearsed right before getting my tattoo, funnily enough) but all too soon it was my turn, and too late to back out. The rope was attached through the figure of eight hook on my harness, and I stepped - literally the most terrifying single step I have ever taken in my life - so that I was straddling the trap door hole below which the ground was a stomach churning drop. Had my wobbly legs given out before I’d taken hold of my rope… well Ed/Joe would have caught me on the safety rope attached to him but it would definitely have been scary.

However, once I put all my weight in the harness and - gingerly - lifted my feet off the sides of the platform, I found - if I didn’t look down - that it was a very enjoyable sensation. Not unlike hanging from a parachute over Geneva, there is something bizarrely relaxing, sort of extreme-yoga-like about hanging in the air with your feet touching absolutely nothing. The nice thing about abseiling (as opposed to para-gliding, when your fate is in the hands of a Frenchman) is that I let the rope out myself, so I could go at exactly the pace I wanted to. As I gained confidence, I started to let the rope slide faster through my fingers until I was fair zipping down the shadowy, dank, turret. What it must be like to dangle yourself like that through stunning mountainous scenery…. I can’t wait to find out.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Creative and Witty or Decidedly Weird?

So it's official. The Central Line actually has delays written into its raison d'etre. I'd long suspected, but finally received confirmation this morning.

Uncharacteristically, a train showed up within a couple of minutes of my arrival on the platform at Notting Hill. Even madder, it wasn't jam packed - let's not get carried away here, obviously there were no free seats, but my head actually occupied only its own space, as opposed to that of a stranger's armpit, for once. So we happily trundle along - wonder of wonders, the train doesn't even sit in a tunnel for interminable minutes and then… at Lancaster Gate… an announcement comes over the loudspeaker "ladies and gentlemen due to a service requirement, this train will be held here for one minute." And again at Queensway. "Due to a service requirement this train will be held here for one minute." A service requirement? A service requirement to delay the train? That explains so much.

As I've mentioned before, I am a bit useless at the whole 'constantly on the pull' part of being single. I am not very good at noticing things in general (it's not uncommon for me to arrive home soaking wet and when someone asks if it's raining outside reply "not that I noticed" - and mean it) and so keeping my eyes habitually peeled for the man of my dreams simply requires altogether more concentration than I am capable of. My sister despairs of me. Whenever we are out and I am happily focusing all my energies into boogying to the wrong rhythm and singing along off key, she will grab me, whirl me around with slightly too much violence and hiss "there is a fit guy checking you out!" By the time I have emerged from my shell-shocked panic of "Who? Where? When? … Why?!?" Whoever he was has usually married someone else.

A couple of weeks ago, I reached a new crap-at-pulling low. I was drinking with a mate of mine, when a guy he works with joined us. This guy, on paper, is 100% my ideal man.
Tall, dark and handsome? Check (so sue me for being unoriginal)
Creative and witty? Check (at least I didn't say good sense of humour!)
Slightly wild, a bit of a loose cannon? Check (yes, this is one of my requirements… and you wonder why I am single!)
Decidedly weird? Check (don't look at me like that)
Canadian? Check!
We're all in the bar, some other people join the table, so we all get up to move to a bigger table. I had stashed my coat and bag under the chair opposite me, so when everyone got up, I hovered by the table waiting for everyone to go so that I can lean over and grab my stuff. Mr Right is also a gentleman (forgot to mention that - also swoon-worthy!) so he gestures and says "after you". I explained about my stuff, and Mr Right grabbed it, handed it to me and held on just a second too long after I took it, smiling a (I believe, patented) "you're the only woman in the world" smile. So what did I do? I thanked him and walked away. Now don’t get me wrong, I understand from my mate who works with him that this particular bloke is capable of monogamy for approximately three and a half minutes (usually in a jammed stop elevator) so it's not as though I gave up a chance of true lurve and hand holding through the park and babies, but I didn't even think that at the time. Here was, theoretically, my dream man, and it didn't even cross my mind to go into turbo-charged flirt mode (although goodness knows what that would have entailed).

However, just because I am useless at all this, doesn't mean my sister is. She is a woman on a mission, a pimping-her-sister-out mission. Her latest project works with her. It seems that she has pitched me, undesirable qualities (as only a sibling can) and all, and apparently he has expressed willingness to climb a rock. (In an effort to dissuade her, I once announced that I would only consider rock-climbers.) Last night she brought home a gift from the Project for me (a good start, it must be said)… an eighties teen girl book entitled "My Dream Man". Intriguing. Could this be a Creative and Witty check or a even Decidedly Weird check?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Michael Kelland Hutchence January 22 1960 - November 22 1997

Where to start?

This time nine years ago, I was working my very first job after finishing school around six months previously. It was a terribly trendy PR firm and I happily pretended to be a character in Absolutely Fabulous while sending new fangled emails to friends and drinking champagne from 10am. That particular morning, I remember having a vague sense of 'something has happened' but for whatever reason had been in a world of my own that morning and hadn't paid much attention to the newspapers that people were reading on the tube. I arrived at work and busied myself with the first order of the day, making a cup of tea, joining the group of PR execs in the kitchen area who were all busy outdoing one another with barbed quips about this scandalous death dominating the headlines. One of the male event organisers caused much hilarity by confidently asserting that this was indeed a well known way to enhance orgasm - prompting everyone else to ask precisely how he knew. I didn't pay masses of attention, until I was headed back to my desk with the cup of tea, when I idly asked someone who they were talking about.

"Michael Hutchence. You know, who's going out with Paula Yates? Singer in that band, err…"

"INXS." I muttered, an indescribable chill sweeping over me.

"Yeah that's it. He's only gone and hung himself. Died yesterday."

I walked slowly back to my desk, telling myself that there was nothing to be upset about. I had thought the hoards crying over Princess Di's death a couple of months before a bit ridiculous - here was a man I had never met, nor was ever likely to, what did his death matter to me? It had nothing to do with me, it wasn't my place to grieve. But seconds later I was sitting at my desk wracked with heaving sobs, feeling acutely the absence of a man so vibrant, so alive, so creative that the world was a palpably duller place without him.

They say that the brightest stars burn out first, and that is the only explanation necessary. In the weeks and months that followed, as tabloid media picked over the gory details and speculated over what caused his death, I could only rage that it didn't matter. A father, son, brother, friend and idol is gone.

Musing for the week

On Monday morning the Central Line was suspended from White City to Leytonstone. So despite its name, it neglected to touch central London whatsoever. Just to add to the fun the Circle Line was taking it easy, clearly easing itself back into work mode after a lazy weekend. We all know the feeling. It was off down to Earls Court, therefore, in the optimistic hope that a District Line train might see fit to take me to work. Clearly, everyone else in West London had had the same thought - who needs a sauna when you've got the District Line? As we all stood on the platform, bravely launching ourselves into the seething mass of humanity on the train, a bloke newly arrived on the platform asked generally of the crowd what was up with the trains. An elderly man, formal in a three piece suit, turned wearily around and replied in a cut glass accent "well they're fucked."
Just Monday morning then.

One of the Sunday supplements carried a feature about women's body image and relationship with food. It seems that we are all verging on annorexic, ridden with guilt and self hatred every time so much as a morsel crosses our lips. Err, who are these women exactly? Presumably they are all hidden away sobbing over lettuce leaves, or have dieted themselves to such teensy proportions that they are invisible to the naked eye, but for goodness sake would everyone please stop tarring us all with the same ridiculous brush? Don't get me wrong, if I were desperately overweight, if my health was at risk, I was hindered from doing things I want to do or people looked nervous when I boarded a plane, then I would worry about it and sort it out. But as a perfectly averaged sized person - neither a bag of bones nor as wide as I am tall - I eat when I am hungry, thoroughly enjoy a good meal, occasionally while away a boring morning at work day dreaming about chocolate but other than that do not give food a moment's thought.

It seems that a particular area of concern is what men think of our percieved wobbly bits. For one thing, I tend to find that most blokes, bless them, are fairly easily pleased and as long as there is a pair of boobs in there somewhere then they are happy enough. And further - I know the male species is regarded as a bit dim from time to time (again, bless them) but surely we should give them credit for already having a vague idea of what to expect? If I have dated a guy a couple of times, and presumably he has looked at me during those times, then why on earth would I worry that he will whip my clothes off and promptly fall over in shock not to discover Kate Moss beneath? Why would I want to date a man who thinks I wear magic clothes?

Thursday, November 02, 2006


After all the pallava of journeying down to the deepest darkest depths of Surrey and paying my 50p to pick up the tickets I am pleased to report that Razorlight were absolutely worth every iota of sleepless deep anxiety.

To be completely honest, I hadn't expected them to be quite so good live. You know those bands that come out with slick, fantastic albums and everyone goes bonkers over them and they win a billion Brits and Q Awards then gradually people realize that they can't cut it live so they rather swiftly swoosh off the face of the planet and no one ever hears of them again until one of them shows up on Celebrity Big Brother? Those bands that, when you hear them live, you are blown away by the talent of of the techs who mixed their album on the studio? Well if I am entirely honest I had a teeny sneaking suspicion that Razorlight might be one of them. The UK is just so saturated with them right now, that cynical me thinks that if someone's promotion team is working that hard, they are trying to squeeze out all the dosh they can from the hype before anyone notices that they can't play for toffee.

However, I stand corrected. Those boys can play - not even in the usual Brit rock/indie girlie boy kind of way - they rock. The show opened with a stunning drum solo - their drummer is phenomenal - then the bass then other guitars kicked in one by one (someone been watching Live Baby Live?!) and we were off to a roller coaster ride of rocking tune after rocking tune. Their instrumentals were spectacular - Johnny's voice one of the strongest I've heard in some time (he held a few notes for a faint-inducing amount of time) they performed overall with an energy and confidence that far outweighs their years.

I am thrilled to finally have a Brit band that I truly love - since James, Blur and Travis (only one of whom are still together and even they've been quiet for some time) I have really struggled to find a home grown band. I think Oasis are the most overrated act since Madonna (who I can't bear) and while I like Franz Ferdinand and Snow Patrol, I am not blown away. Yet, at least - looks like I'll be seeing Snow Patrol in a few weeks so might end up adding them to Claire's hall of fame after all. I am sure that they are thrilled.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Serves Me Right for Cheating on INXS...

There are very few things that truly wind me up. As a general rule, I am of the "meh, it'll figure itself out" school of thought. When I got my passport renewed less than 24 hours before I was due to check in for a flight to Vancouver, my mum was in a deep state of sleepless anxiety, but until the plane actually took off without me on it, I refused to get all that stressed about it. Every time I tell the story of running out of petrol in the middle of bugger all in north Queensland and having no choice but to sleep in the car alone, people gasp and exclaim (okay fine, exclaim might be a bit of an exageration) that I must have been terrified - and looking back, realizing that absolutely no one in the world knew where I was (other than "between Townsville and Brisbane") and my cell phone was with my friend Tony (and therefore a couple of hundred kilometers behind me in McKay) it strikes me that it was a bit worrying. But at the time, I just shrugged and cuddled down on the backseat because what choice did I have?

It's not that I am a terribly mature, evolved, mellow person - I think it comes down to sheer laziness actually. If I can see something to be gained from kicking up a fuss, then I will do so; but if it clearly isn't going to achieve anything then I would rather expend the fuss-energy elsewhere. There are a few exceptions:

1) Truck drivers who signal their preference for going faster by driving three feet behind me and flashing their lights. (Australian truck drivers are the worst - especially those on the Bruce Highway when I am going over the speed limit and there is no where to let them pass.)
2) Doormen at West End clubs (just in general. I unequivocably detest every last one of them - and that's not a generalization, I have pretty much had a run in with every last one of them. The king of those detested by me is currently the pretentious halfwit on the door at Café de Paris who thinks he has the right to comment on other people's appearances - not mine, incidentally - when he thinks it appropriate to gel his hair back in 2006.)
3) South West trains (just in general - I do believe that they slowly suck my soul out every time I have to get on one of their interminably slow/delayed/cancelled excuses for a train service.)

And that is pretty much it.

Having said all of that, I am currently in a deep state of sleepless anxiety (although to be fair, given that it's 11.42am my boss wouldn't be thrilled if I was in a state of sleepful anxiety) due to panicy high jinx over getting hold of tickets for this evening's Razorlight concert at Wembley. I bought them off Ebay (a brilliantly selfish Christmas present for my sister as I get to go with her!) on Saturday. I did not - pay attention, because this is important - sign in to PayPal to pay for them, because I couldn't remember the password. Instead I put in my card number and address and waited patiently for the tickets to arrive. I fully accept that I should have paid more attention to the receipt when it was emailed to me, but you don't usually, do you? I glanced over it, it all looked fine and that was that… except that it turns out that Ebay or PayPal obviously recognised my email address or card number or something - because they added the transaction to my PayPal acount - which has as a postal address my parents' down in Surrey. Which is where the tickets are now. I frantically email mum to get our neighbour who has a key to our post box's number, hoping that she can get the tickets and I will send a courier down to pick them up… except that the neighbour isn't home. Most likely to stop me dancing around the office screeching and tearing my hair out, Emma suggested that I take a half day's holiday and go and get them myself. So that is all fine. Until mum emails to remind me that the sorting office in Horsley shuts at 12.30pm… which is less than an hour away and as it's at least an hour and a half's journey (on buggering bollocksing fuckwit South West trains) I am unlikely to make it. I've phoned the sorting office and the man there promised to take the tickets across the road to the post office in Bishopsmead Parade, which is open until 6 and this is going to cost me 50p. I plan to invoice PayPal.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Soul Mate Train

So I did actually have a point by bringing up my lively love life. I am not entirely sure right now what it was at the time, but upon further musing - assisted by the fact that I am currently re reading Around the World in 80 Dates by Jennifer Cox - I have been thinking about the idea of soul mates. To me, the concept of dating as a fun activity, and the actual search for Mr Claire are two entirely different things. Dating is a) a reason to get dressed up for a midweek evening, b) an excuse to unleash any untried stories or anecdotes on an unsuspecting member of the male species who in return buys me food to shut me up and c) possibly spending time with a potentially interesting, potential (see how I take nothing for granted?!) new friend. So that's that: it's fun, something I miss in London hence the (as yet un-executed) plan.

I've always had this sense (for absolutely no reason whatsoever) though, that dating and flirting and all that nonsense doesn't in fact have all that much to do with Mr Claire - for the past however many years, I have been working on the assumption that he'll just wander into my life somehow, hopefully we'll get on quite well, and that will be that. I do feel as though if I have to go to all sorts of contortions and effort and panic to find him or get him to notice me - surely I will have to keep all those sorts of contortions and effort and panic up throughout our relationship and surely that will be a bit knackering?

However, given my famously varied taste and attention span of an insect, what he will be like, look like… I have absolutely no clue. I don't even know if I will recognise him, to be honest, I am rather hoping he'll be wearing a badge or something. Of course, what he will be like (or presumably already is like even though I don't know him yet - if he hasn't been born yet I might be in trouble) leads me to my next pondering subject: is there only one of him? I don't think so - if I can quite cheerfully have spent 23 years in love with six (at any given time) members of INXS, I can't imagine that there is only one real life man for me.

So what do I do if more than one shows up at a time (hopefully both wearing their badges)? If we all have a number of potential soulmates, are some of them more soul matey than others? Is it a case of there is one or two head soul mates and possibly a few henchmen who will keep you warm until the head bloke is legal/divorced/out of prison or are there different soul mates for different stages of your life?

Ahh - now that, leads me on to tomorrow's subject (please try not to fall over and hurt yourselves as you bounce in anticipation.)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The United Dates of Claire

I am fairly sure that it was a quotation from someone like Tallulah Bankhead or Marylin Monroe, probably not the most ideal romantic role model, but one that seemed perfect for the "I'll be fabulous any minute now" me that I was at around age 19. She said something to the effect of, rather than searching for that one suitable man, you should go out of your way to date as many unsuitable men as possible. Seemed like a clever enough plan to me. I couldn't - indeed, still can't - think of anything worse than reaching old age and sitting around wringing my hands wailing "what if?" and "if only!" - so it made sense that in order to avoid settling down and always wondering what else was out there, I would make sure that by the time I settled down, I would not only knew what else was out there, but would have dated them all just to make sure. Nearly 10 years later, I have indeed worked my way through plenty of unsuitable - though fun - blokes, and a few lovely but not quite ones.

There was Nicholas, the engineer whose firm I temped at, who talked about sausages a lot. I don't mean that in some dodgy metaphorical way - he was French, and literally liked to discuss various types of sausages. I invited him to a party at my flat and, giddy with his acceptance, forgot to plan the party until the night before when my then flatmate and I frantically rang round everyone we had ever met begging them to cancel their plans and come to our 'party' instead. It worked, and Nicholas and I had a somewhat lopsided - due to his full leg cast following a rugby injury - encounter on my front doorstep. After a couple of dates I bored of the sausage talk and soon after met Andy who was born on the same day as Jon Farriss - in fact, it hit me a while ago that in addition to Andy, I've also dated a bloke called Jon, an Aussie bloke (okay, a few Aussie blokes) and a drummer - it seems that I am unconciously Dr Frankenstein-like trying to build myself a Mr Farriss the Youngest. In the continuing absence of the real one showing up on my doorstep to declare undying love, I fear that I might next have to go after a bloke with a penchant for wearing sparkly trousers. Then there were the two actors, best mates, who thought it hilarious to constantly badger my flatmate and I for a foursome - we once called their bluff to see how they'd react and after a few bottles of wine spent a few minutes half heartedly snogging before I and one of the blokes got bored of the whole thing so went to my room to have a chat while the other two got on with it in the living room.

This was all before I left London for the first time. In the next few years, I learned that Canadian men are very flattering - sometimes confusingly so. A bloke I was head over heels with patiently sat me down to tell me how amazing I was rather too many times before I realized that this was his Canadian way of dumping me (poor bloke - can you imagine how his heart must have sank each time I gaily replied "well thanks, you're not so bad yourself. I'll call you later then!") Americans are quite brilliantly - although not always romantically - straightforward: "so I am really not in a place for a relationship right now, but you're pretty hot so I'll take you out a few times before I stop calling - how do you feel about that?" (Answer: "err, okay") Italians predictably romantic yet chauvinist (it seems that my eyes are like stars but, like all women, I can't drive) and Australians not only straightforward but somewhat impatient ("I've been talking to you for 5 minutes now - do you want to root or not?" - direct quote, by the way).