25 November, 2010

Christmas for the Twenty Something: The Best of Both Worlds

The Three Scrooges

The Coca-cola ad is back on our TV’s, the shops are stocked with Chocs, I’ve had my first Mulled wine and Joe McElderry has switched on all the Christmas lights. Yes, it’s officially one month until Christmas and people worldwide are falling at the first grips of festive fever.

So t’is it now the season to be merry? Fa la la la la? La la la la ...? Apparently not. The majority of adults* to whom I’ve excitedly told “it’s nearly Christmas” (since I’ve been old enough to pose as a convincing adult myself) have whimpered at any mention of the festive season, all bah humbug and ‘not agaaaaaain!’ Booo hissss!

The chances are you’ll have come across the ‘Bah Humbug’ reaction yourself. It tends to come in 3 categories:

Flustered Working Parent (FWP): “Oh god I can’t even think about it yet!” – they’re far too busy living in the real world to plan Santa’s visit and make a wish as they stir the Christmas pud’, but you know they’re going straight home to do a mass gift order online and command the decorations out of the attic.

Adolescents: They’re a bit too cool to get excited about anything, not least an event that means you have to suffer an entire week with ‘the fam’. So they arrange to get pissed on Barcadi Breezers wiv der m8s on Xmas Eve, then spend most of Christmas Day in a massive huff.

The Christmas Controversialists: i.e. – the hip couple who have to stay one step ahead of everyone, including Jesus, and do the polar opposite (literally) of a traditional Christmas.  “Oh well we’re ignoring Christmas this year, yah we’re going to a windmill in the middle of the Mediterranean and Mark’s doing a Beef Wellington.” Oh bah facking humbug – we’ve been celebrating Christmas in this style (turkeys, trees, log fires and family feuds) since Mary got on that donkey (oo-er) and it’s not going to change just because the Trendy McCool’s think Christmas is something they can put in the out of fashion pile, along with their vintage gloves.

What the above listed people don’t know is that Christmas is not just for kids. If you know where to look, you can discover some festive gems – and I don’t just mean in the winter sales.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
For me, my mid-twenties are proving to be my Christmas prime; I don’t think I’ve been this overwhelmed by Christmas since I was 3 and refused to go to Bethlehem in the nursery nativity play (true story).  Here is why Christmas for my generation is so damn good**

A Bloomin’ Break
It’s the first time since our cheap, Greek-island sun-break that we’re getting more than a few days off work. An entire week off from deadlines, directors and dodgy colleagues. As we’re still adjusting to the shock of the working world, this is an absolute holy blessing. We can don our University hoodies, ‘stick our heads in the fridge for four days’ and pretend, for a merry moment, that we’re back in second year. Hallelujah!

We get fed. A Lot.
Basically, we’re cooked for because we’re not old enough to host, but we are big enough to cram in obscene amounts of food. "And not just any food. Christmas food. Maybe even Marks and Spencer’s Christmas food." Encouraged to munch as much as we wish, because we can’t afford to eat posh nosh on our own salaries, we ditch the diet ("and get straight back on the poverty diet after New Year.")

The Christmas Spirit(s)
And not dodgy rip offs like VodKat and Rummy. But Baileys, Jack Daniels, Gordon’s Gin…real actual sparkling Christmas spirits that we can never justify buying ourselves, but adorn our parent’s cupboards and put festive joy in our gleeful hearts. (And none of that Eggnog malarkey – wasn’t he a contestant on X Factor 2008?)

We get to see our FABULOUS families
Since finally launching ourselves into the real world and meeting so many weird and awful characters, we’ve realised our families are pretty damn wonderful by comparison. Time with them is precious. They get our jokes, they agree that “Dinner” is “Lunch” and “Tea” is “Dinner”, they feed us (instead of taking food from our cupboards, housemates) and they love us unconditionally. And at Christmas we get them for a whole week.

We make a profit
We still sign out parent’s gift tags, yet cheekily receive our own presents in return. And given that we’re 24 and too old for a hobby horse this will probably be cash. Hey, we don’t get Christmas bonuses, we’re not married and we earn a pittance, so what if we want to use our Christmas money to prevent an extension of the never ending overdraft? (we’re very greatful)!

Daytime TV
“I can’t wait to watch Elf 1,000,000,000 times this Christmas” read one friend’s Facebook status yesterday. One month before the main event. This is because be it Elf or The Grinch, Home Alone or Deal or No Deal, It’s a Wonderful Life or Jeremy Kyle – we don’t care. We’ve missed daytime TV oh so much. And we’re oh so happy with the Christmas selection. PJ’s on. Vodka Spiked hot choc at the ready. Joyeux Noel (Edmonds)!

And to all a good night!
We get to party. Again. Now that we’re all big and grown up and live in different cities to our friends, we spend a good month leading up to the big day travelling around the country, having the annual ‘festive celebrations’ with our various peer groups, stopping just in time for a rest and some food with the family over Christmas before we recharge our batteries and continue the merriment right into the New Year. Cheers!

We’re the kid again
We don’t have children of our own just yet which means we’re technically still the  children of the family. I, for example, still have a stocking, my dad still sends me an advent calendar, my Nanny still hangs golden chocolate coins on the tree for me and I still wake up super early on Christmas day in a fit of excitement. In a world where we have to do everything for ourselves and responsibility increases by the day, where we get up at 6am in the dark to go to work and still don’t have a penny to put in the old man’s hat…we relish the chance to be wrapped in the warm magical blanket of Christmas. Thought I was too old for Santa’s Knee? Nooooo.

We’re merely over-sized children- we’ve just swapped stockings for Chardonnay and nativity plays for Christmas parties (which, lets be honest, often end up being just a real life adaptation of Mary and Joseph, stumbling around at midnight, looking for a place to stay…minus the donkey.)

Bring on the Santa Banter
Real grown-ups can groan at the thought of the stress inducing, purse emptying, stomach fattening season they've to endure. But me and my mates have picked names for the Secret Santa, we’ve planned where to put the tree in our brand spanking dapper pads (yah, right), we’ve propped up our advent calendars and talks of New Year aren’t far away. Best of both worlds anyone?

So when the big giant Santa face joyfully winks at me from the back of the Coca-cola lorry, reminding me that holidays indeed are coming, I will wink right back and remind myself to dig out my stocking, purchase a party dress and stock up on ibuprofen to kick of the merriest season in the whole wide world. Merry Fackin’ Christmas!

*This does not include my own mother
**All quotes are from real-life 20 somethings

13 November, 2010

Guilty Pleasure? X Marks the Spot

It has arrived. The sun is shining, the kids are kidding, the parents are sleeping, the girls are gossiping, the boys are…boy-ing, the runners are running, the players are playing, even the cynics are smiling and only the winos are whining. Yes, there is a buzz in the air and a skip in Simon Cowells step that can only mean one thing – it’s Saturday. And a universal excitement has crept up on the nation and is buzzing its way through hearts and houses far and wide.

Could it be because we don’t have work today? Because today we’re going to finally treat ourselves to that dress we’ve been eyeing up all week? Because tonight we’re going to elatedly down the wine and/or beer that’s been chilling expectantly in the fridge since Monday tea time? Or maybe it’s because it is officially only 6 weeks until Santa fails to appear on our rooftops again (and aged 24 we’re still slightly disappointed) and we get to be festively merry?

Maybe. But tonight is extra (terrestrial) special, because tonight the nation will be joyously united in the singing, dancing, bitching, judging, crying, laughing, opinion splitting, back stabbing, heart stopping, wine requiring extravaganza that is THE X FACTOR.

Now then, I know it’s not cool to admit you’re arranging your Saturday night around a reality TV show, it’s certainly not chic to ask your friend to arrive at 7.48 “because that’s when Dermot O' Leary comes on” and it’s even less a la mode to arrive at your Saturday destination 10 minutes after the final performance, claiming you were “stuck in traffic.”

But come on people! 14.9 million of you tuned in last week to see Katie “weasel” Waissal sing for survival yet again, 14.9 million of you put money in Simon Cowells too high up pocket just so you could see if Cher Lloyds swag was still on, and 14.9 million of you sssh’d your loved ones so that you could fully appreciate Matt Painter/Decorater without his hat on. One of you even fell asleep after the sheer exhaustion of the X factor rollercoaster, thereby missing your entire Saturday night out (not me)! That 14.9 million suggests to me that the X Factor is currently the UK’s biggest collective guilty pleasure and we should not be ashamed.

But quite why has X Factor fever taken hold of level-headed adults, restless students, too young to know what’s happening 2 year olds and unable to follow the ‘plot’ grandparents?

First of all, X Factor gives us license to do the taboo and openly bitch, judge and stereotype like never before. We can’t do it at work, for that would be schoolboy and could lead to our professional and financial demise. We can’t do it at home, because aren’t family dynamics too complex to even go there? We 100% will not do it amongst friends, because we love our friends like we love Dermot O’Leary in a suit. But we can do it behind the safety of a TV screen, unheard and unseen by our targets, securely on our sofas, brazenly shrieking at them over our wine glass.

We can laugh when Katie cries and she won’t see us. We can hiss when Danni does another annoying “you go girlfreyyyyynddd!” gesture and she will never know. We can moan inappropriately when Matt descends the stage in strangely sexy but oddly coloured trouser and he’ll never realise we’re a little bit psycho over him. X Factor is an official license to express judgment we just could not get away with in the real world. And we love it.

Second of all, it warms our hearts. Girls or boys, men or women, drunk or tea-totals, minted or skinted, lonely or with friends, in bed with a bowl of ice cream the size of your face or in a bar with a bottle of champagne on ice, northern or southern, gay or straight, Scrooge or Santa – everyone’s loving it and everyone’s watching it.

You know when you’re secretly enjoying Wagner, someone 300 miles away is surreptitiously loving him too. You know when you’re laughing at Louis Walsh’s shocked cry of “every week you come out here and sing!” and millionth “…you remind me of a young [insert example]” someone is laughing with you. And you KNOW that when you’re looking at Cheryl Cole with a creepy expression on your face, somewhere in the region of 14, 899, 999 others are doing the same thing. And that makes you happy.

Finally, it is just damn entertaining. Who doesn’t love it when Katie sits on the stage and exclaims “OH SOD IT” after trying to prove she deserves to be in the competition and is in fact “like totally just like myself, just like this is me and I’m like totally loveable and genuine honest”? Who actually doesn’t get tingles and tears when Rebecca declares in perfect harmony that she just wants to make us feel her love? And really, who doesn’t enjoy it when every now and then Simon criticises Cheryl and she totally wipes the floor with him? No one. And if you disagree, you’ve either a shoddy heart of stone or a lack of television.

So do not deny, X factor lovers, that you have the forbidden fever and that come the grand finale, there will be a hole in your heart, a void on your sofa and an embarrassing number of views on the Youtube repeats. You are not alone! And if your near and dear try to deny their love for the shameful show, you can throw 14.9 million in their face until they beg for mercy and join you on the sofa tonight.

07 November, 2010

When the World's too Busy for Vowels

I am ashamed to say that a few weeks ago I was the epitome of irritating busy business person in a busy hurry, who busily orders non-fat xtra-hot grande skinny lattes, thx.

There I was, London St. Pancras @ dawn, freezing, perched at a table in a café full of suits, suitcase by foot, Blackberry in hand, tea in other hand, hand bag in other hand, meeting notes in other hand, tickets in other hand, waiting for the train that would earnestly carry me to client meeting folly. I was that person that day, and I almost didn’t realise it. 

UNTIL amidst the stress of my mental (and actual) juggling act and internal monologue of “6 hours until the weekend, 6 hours until the weekend, 6 hours until the weekend”, I received a lovely, supportive text from a sweetheart friend telling me it was indeed nearly the weekend. Ordinarily such a text at such a daunting hour on such a taxing day would steer me into smiling spirits, but on this occasion it was all I could do to groan at the inconvenience that this gave me another task in texting them back. When I found myself frowning, whilst hurriedly checking the time, standing to retrieve tickets from one of my many hands and simultaneously absent-mindedly sending a heart-felt reply, I had to take a look at myself. My ‘heart-felt’ reply that morning had me for the first time in my literal life abbreviating “thanks” to “thx” and ,worse still, to someone I actually care about.

As I pressed send and scurried off through the ticket barriers, tea splattering on my tights, the internal monologue took a breath, and my conscience got a word in edgeways – “when did I become too busy for vowels?”

The above described moment was always a ‘when’ not an ‘if’ of the future I’m in such a hurry to meet. For we live in a society with an ever-accelerating ‘fast-pace’, the need for not 1 but 8 coffees ‘on the go’ (to a very particular description or else we just cannot function), we’ve no time to queue in supermarkets (oh no, we’ll serve ourselves thx), we’re too busy to update both Twitter and Facebook stati of a day so we use an app that synchronises them, we’ve too little time to set a wake up alarm so our iphone sets them a month in advance, we’re too frantic to enter our friend’s BB pin so we have an app to scan a barcode that inputs it for us, too pushed to push so we opt for a c-section that can guarantee what time we’ll be discharged so we can tweet about it at optimum tweet time. Aged 24 and just jumping into my social media career, the busy in business was always going to catch up with me, but at what cost did I clamber aboard that bus?

Over the past 6 months, 2 years since graduation and a year or so into proper jobs, I have noticed myself and an increasing number of my early 20’s friends showing serious signs of “just so busy” syndrome. Other than eliminating vowels, we’ve put time limits on lie ins, planned our one free Sunday of the trimester 7 weeks before it arrives, felt panicked in the first week of November that we haven’t done any Christmas shopping, got up at 5am on a Saturday just to get it all done before we can ‘enjoy’ the remainder of the weekend…the real low point was when I recently agreed with one friend that we were both free for a phone call at 14.30pm on Wednesday lunchtime. In two weeks time. It’s no life when the close uni friend who’s bed you once lay at the foot of for hours on end of a weekday afternoon has become little more than an appointment in your mid-week diary and a reminder in your outlook.
Iphone, iwork, irun, iplay – the irony of the iness in business that leaves us so self-absorbed in our own hectic schedules.

What’s more, it is all so unnecessary. High speed trains to Birmingham from London – what because we absolutely have to be at New Street in 49 minutes and the extra half an hour would just break us? You can send a text 4 ur nxt bus from a bus stop to find out when the next bus will be to the minute…because the electronic display and manual timetable just don’t quite cover it? You can voice-dial people, because speed dial and having to press 1 button just doesn’t cut it anymore (though I have to say voice dial really does not save time when your best friend and your sister are called Abbi and Abi). And now even those time-saving abbreviations have come full circle and started to elongate. I am a self-confessed culprit of this crime, but when we’ve started pronouncing OMG as “oh – em –gee” and thereby omitting no syllables from the original expression (that’s ‘oh my god’ for those who weren’t around in pretextoric times) we’re in trouble world.

Since that fateful day of “Thx” a few weeks ago, I have watched myself intently for signs of “just so busy” syndrome so as to nip this in the bud, because it’s not cool, it’s not likeable and it’s not fun. So when I was on yet another train last weekend and found my finger hovering over the “doors open” button five minutes before my stop, ready for pressing the instant the lights came on, I carefully retreated, stepped back and smiled sheepishly at the old dear who was still rummaging to find her seat reservation 1 mile from the final stop. We could all take a leaf out of her dithering book (except on market days, that’s just annoying).

Not only will nipping this syndrome in the bud save me time in the long run (you know, when mid-30’s they tell you you’re going to have heart attack if you don’t slow down and work extra hard at relaxing and you wind up putting in a good few hours of mediation every day) but also mainly I don’t want to see the demise of Countdown. “Another consonant please Carol…another consonant please Carol…another consonant please Carol…anthr cnsnnt pls crl…” doesn’t have the same ring really does it?

20 October, 2010

Bus w*nkers? Car w*nkers!: We CAN see you!

The other day I was waiting at a pedestrian crossing and it was one of those occasions where you press the button, go back into your world of texting, planning dinner and in my case wondering if my hood’s inside out/tights are laddered/hair is birds nest, when after a few minutes you realise you have been waiting for a few minutes. I realise this does not sound very long, but in the world of pedestrian crossings (and what a world that is) it’s a looooooong time. And every time you think ‘okay NOW the omnipotent Green man is going to appear and permit me to cross’, he bloody doesn’t.  

Anyway, during my marathon crossing-stand, there were several occasions in which I noticed people in their cars doing things that they just would not do if they weren’t behind the safety of their Renault Clio and were in fact out on the social minefield of the pavements. These were things I have seen car-people do many times before, but just always assumed it was okay because they’re in a car. Yet so long was I waiting the other day that my thinking progressed from it’s okay because they’re in a car’ to why the hell is it okay to do that?! EVER?!

When I am walking along listening to my recently played list absolutely loving it, sometimes it is all I can do not to join in the chorus and start shaking it like a keeno on Slim Fast right there on the curb. But I don’t. Ever. I just can’t get away with it. Some people can. But only about two people in the whole world, one being Pants on the Ground Man from American Idol. Which leaves one other person. Who is not me. So I don’t. Along with all the other pedestrians, I walk in an orderly manner and simultaneously reign in my inner Justin Timberlake.
And to be honest how ridiculous would I look stood waiting at the crossing having a good croon to myself, jutting my bum out in an alarmingly erratic manner (I recently realised that this is what my dancing consists of, when according to Nicole Scherzinger of X Factor 2010 ‘a good dancer dances with their arms and hips.’ oh well...). Basically if you’re on the pavement, you walk in a reserved fashion and you do not do anything that could draw any further attention to yourself than your inside out umbrella already does. 

So WHY it is okay for traffic jam-ees, alone in their cars, to sing at the top of their voices, laugh uproariously to themselves as though an invisible passenger has got some hilarious invisible banter and, sometimes, do creepy elbow bops whilst gripping the steering wheel and signalling right? What makes drivers so immune to public humiliation? The cars have windows you know.  We CAN see you. But they don’t bat an eyelid when we pedestrians look on in trepidation. Maybe the just think they’re that jamm-ee?

The only difference between them in the cars and me on the pavements is that no one else can hear them (probably).  But does this really give them license to freewill and to causing a spectacle of themselves? No, basically, because we can still see you! And surely it’s the seeing that’s the more embarrassing aspect of causing an exhibition of yourself?

I mean, if I were an invisible person stood at the crossing, I would be more than happy to burst into Fighter by Christina Aguilera (ahem) whilst stomping my foot emphatically, because no one would be able to see me and therefore judge me. Just hearing an embarrassing situation, absolutely takes the embarrassing out of it.

No need to point, just inidcate...
It’s not just singing and dancing. It’s worse things too. Like mocking.

On this particular occasion (when the green man took so long I had time to think of this entire blog post – seriously what does he do that Green Man? Come from another crossing?), a van full of hecklers (oh great) pulled up neatly in the middle of the crossing by which I was eagerly still waiting. And when it emerged they were comfortable being twats (obviously) it was very difficult to know where to look when straight ahead involved meeting the eyes of the 3 fluorescent-jacketed men waving their take away cups in my direction and laughing and pointing at god knows what (this is a situation where hearing could have made things more awkward).  Did I have something in my hair? Was my skirt tucked in at the back? Was that duck that had followed me in a flap around the park now trotting behind me towards work? A myriad of paranoid scenarios swirled around my head. Though I defiantly ignored their chortles, the paranoia indeed stayed with me until I reached work, found a mirror and discovered that nay, there was nothing amiss, and the men were just MEAN.

Point is, imagine if I was stood road-side laughing and drawing attention to an innocent driver, yelling for pedestrians from far and wide to come and join in, stopping cyclists in their midsts to get them involved, while the driver sat imprisoned at his wheel, blamelessly waiting for the Green Go like a penguin at the Zoo peckishly awaiting feeding time. You just don’t see this happening, because it would be a sinful and childish travesty for a pedestrian to mock a driver!
So I beg of you, what is it that so ruthlessly permits drivers to pick their noses, check their teeth in the rear-view mirror, raise two fingers at cyclists and even grrr their engines at school kids who get in their way (if I growled at a school kid every time they got in my way mid-stroll, I would surely have been sent down by now)?

I think it all comes down to the same “my toys bigger than yours” scenario that earned you social credit and a license to eat everyone else’s break time snacks at school. "I am in a car. I am big and I am powerful and therefore I will do what I want and you can’t stop me because you’re just a muggle on foot and  I can mow you down if you dare cross me (and/or the road)."
And to be honest, can I argue with that?

09 September, 2010

Why we love shoes: The Key to happiness is balance - Heart, Body and Sole

The above statement is true. It has to be. Because I have recently found that in life I am supremely happy when my body is healthy, my heart is light and my feet are well shod* If I’m ticking 2 out of 3 of these boxes I’m on my way, but when it’s a full house I am skipping – clicking my shoes mid hop – along the rooftops to work, singing U2’s Beautiful Day in a flawless soprano and smiling at people who aren’t even there. That’s the dream.

This fine September 2010 I am just one clickety-step away from fulfilling my dreams– as soon as I get hold of my next item of footwear to compliment my (currently existing only in my mind) Autumn wardrobe. Then it will be tick, tick, tick and I will be off to join the huddle of squealing girls excitedly clutching their latest Shoe purchase and envisaging its place in their (existing currently only in their minds) 5th avenue walk in wardrobe. With a different shelf for each brand and a shoe shine boy per pair. Built for them by SATC’s Big...

If anyone ever asks what makes a girl happy...SHOES.

We .Love. Shoes. Killer heels, pretty ballet pumps, gladiator sandals, trendy brogues, comfy slippers, cool shoe boots, sexy cowboy boots, cutey ankle boots…and not forgetting my all time favourite ever piece of footwear – The Flip Flop. Throw out all my clothes (except my dresses) and fill my wardrobe with Havainas and I would be one contented young lady.

I haven’t actually always been this way. It is a very recent thing. For example, when I was little I was adamant that we buy the same pair of red shoes with butterflies on them for me whenever the annual trip to Clarks came upon us. I clearly wasn’t bothered about variety. I knew what I wanted and it was red butterfly shoes thank you** Anyway, I have had friends who love shoes, colleagues who worship shoes and even men who are more devoted to shoes than I ever thought I would be, but I was never that concerned. Until I caught myself daydreaming earlier today about what my next footly garment would be (I’m lusting after tan brogues with a slightly pointy toe and maybe even brown laces – the very sole of Autumn) I realised I had quite without warning joined the shoe loving parade, with bells on.

When had this happened? I wondered. And why?
What causes one to so suddenly and passionately take pleasure in something that goes on our feet (the least visible part of our body unless being greeted by an ant), steps in all sorts of grim things and to be honest doesn’t stay all that that fresh?
After much consideration (as much as one can fit in to a hummus and pitta break) I came up with several answers to my own question. Vis-à-vis:

1. Women can control their shoes
We can choose any shoe we like and they will bloody well go on our feet. They will go wherever we want them to go. They will dance if we feel like dancing. They will come out to play as and when we want them to. If we feel like kicking someone, they have our back. And if they bore us to death we will shove them at the back of the (massive walk-in) wardrobe with a strong warning not to come back out until fashion repeats itself and our daughter might want them. And they don’t say a word. They just do their daily shoey duty and look pretty and honour and obey us until the winter range do us part. You and you’re two shiny shoes. A match made in heaven, whoever said three is a crowd?

2. They fit. Forever.
100% of the time, every time. Fair enough, sometimes you see a handsome shoe and it doesn’t quite wiggle on like you want it to, especially if you have weird shaped feet and every time you see a pointy ballet pump you know you’re going to have to go a size up just to get your little toe in. But that’s okay. Because going up a shoe size is something our vanity can cope with, as we don’t have to take any responsibility for it. Tight jeans, chafing bras and straining waist belts we have to take the blame for and then eat loads of lettuce until we have repented of our chocolaty sins and can fit back into the drainpipes, but shoes don’t work this way. They fit all year round. Even just after Christmas when we are the shape and sometimes even colour of Mr Blobby. And given that most girls weights tend to fluctuate with the seasons, it is a small blessing that when we’re up a dress size and don’t quite feel like shopping for crop tops (spare me!) there is always that charming little foot garment that we can still fit into and will still make us beautiful and help us ignore the fact we ate an entire pizza last night. All week. The beautiful invention of the Shoe. The most loyal friend on earth.

3. They make us who we are
Now that everyone is a working mum of 6 who is best friends with Davina and married to a Millionaire and does charity work in their ‘spare time’ in Africa and looks 15 years younger and runs 11 miles every morning before they get the kids up and still has time to look damn sexy every night for Mr Millionaire, there is very little else women can do to get noticed anymore. Hair is overdone, make-up is overdone, clothes are overdone, the whole Oh –what-me?-Yeah-I-just-have-fifteen-different-roles-to-fulfil-and-still-have-time-for-Yoga look has been over.done. And we all gave up after Cheryl Cole anyway.
So now we lasses have to find a subtle way of staying ahead of the rat race. Best foot forward. So we oh so subtly use our shoes to prove just how good we are. Kurt Geigers, Manolo Blahniks, Jimmy Choo, Primark (ahem)…whatever we choose our shoes say something about us, they reveal our personalities and strip us of all other masks. And if they don’t? Then you’ve missed a trick love.

So of course women love shoes. The better the shoe, the better the wearer of the shoe, the better the chance we have of being somebody.

All this said, I am currently gazing at a collection of battered Primark pumps, worn down River Island heels, scuffed ankle boots and battered flip flops. Not sure what this says about me other than someone’s shoe fetish didn’t start early enough. Where’s my credit card...

*wine, dresses and men are a predetermined right so are not included in this formula

** I can’t say my taste has changed much.

07 September, 2010

Will Power Vs Chill Power and the gift of man-flu

The other day, when I looked up happily from my horizontal position on the sofa, peered over the top of my pizza and announced to my friend – with a contented/smug smile – that I was “just the perfect amount of hung-over”, I expected him to nod in understanding. Instead he looked at me like I was a bit extraordinary, wrote me off as a crazy and asked “isn’t that an oxymoron??” No. No dear friend it’s not an oxymoron. And this is why.
If, like me, you’re one of those who struggles to sit down in front of the TV for more than 3 minutes without your mind thinking about what you’re going to do when you get back up, you’re hands fidgeting for the nearest rubix cube and your body twitching to at least be hanging off the sofa upside down backwards if it’s going to be forced to be in such a seated position, then you may just understand this concept already. For this inability to be tranquil, though sometimes useful, is a disease. And a real pain in the A for some of us.

Yes, we fidgety types like to be busy and yes we can channel the everlasting surplus energy into all sorts of prolific and unnecessary activities, (like just the other day, I couldn’t bear to sit down after my tea, so I decided to see how many walks I could do on my hands. Turns out not many), but sometimes when you’re knackered from the effort of walking on your hands, it would be nice to be able to take a pew, watch the Xtra factor and shut the hell up for a few hours. I find it nearly impossible. Nearly.

This is something my poor mum had to deal with while I was growing up – if I wasn’t bouncing a ball repetitively outside her window, I was somersaulting on the sofa in my plimsolls and drawing my name all over my grandmother’s book collection (and then blaming my grandmother). My dad too tried in vein to quash it, intermittently playing a game with me called “Let’s See How long We- And By We I Mean Hannah- Can Be Quiet For” when I was aged about 4. I certainly don’t have any trophies from that particular tournament. It was the same with the blinking, laughing, statue and breathing games. And alas, I did not change. Instead emerged a Fidgeter, with a beeline for the next activity before she’s even finished the last.

For the Fidgeters of this world, the only time we can ever actually chill the hell out and have a breather is when we are quite literally struck down. For me this is occasionally by illness, fairly regularly from hangover and potentially at some point in the future by lightning.

Therefore it is a blessed relief when something like a cold saps of us of our excess energy and forces us to lie motionless for hours, sometimes even days on end, with nothing on our minds but the next episode of Friends. Bliss. Though it’s initially frustrating for Fidgeters to be inhibited in this way, once you know there’s nothing you can do it is a secret sweet reprieve. “I can’t be bothered to do my run, but that’s fine because I am ill” and “when I get in from work, if I just want to watch Friends for 7 hours that’s okay, because I NEED TO.” It’s basically a get out of jail free card for any activity or responsibility you don’t really want to contend with, but without the sheer guilt that comes with just sacking it off when you’re in full health.

It is a blissful experience when we can occasionally just STOP and feel nothing other than the snug respite of the divan. Some are born without the burden of the Fidget factor, and they are blessed and they can lie down for days and they can do/think/talk absolutely nothing whenever they fancy it. I envy you. All of you. Because when I’m cleaning the inside of the fridge for the 8th time, you’re chilling out and generally having a wale of a time. Guilt free, because you can’t help it if you’re born like it.

Therefore, sometimes, after a particularly busy few months, if I feel a sniffle coming, it’s all I can do not to stand in the rain, in wet clothes, next to a group of influenza patients, wielding a hand held fan to really break the ice of the group and get the germs flowing. Because catching said influenza is the only way I am going to force myself to have a freaking seat.

But of course there is a fine line between the heavenly, much sought after, low immunity and the unwanted pain of full-scale illness. In my uni days I was frequently knocked off my treadmill by bouts of tonsillitis that left me bed-ridden for days, unable to earn money, unable to finish essays and, worst of all, unable to GO OUT. Horrors. The excruciating pain of 15 knives in my throat and small planets for glands was not worth it for a guilt free week in bed and a V.I.P. pass to temporarily hop off life’s roundabout. Far too high a price to pay for down time and I would rather have just kept going with the Fidgteyness thanks.

The same can be applied to hangovers. Sometimes we spend hours on the bathroom floor while enduring agonising headaches and the occasional feeling we might just die today, awaiting the days end as the excruciating tick of the clock reminds us time is actually going backwards and we have just wasted our one day off teetering on the outskirts of hell. Those days I would rather leave. On other occasions, after a good old fashioned game of VODKA, we’re very pleasantly surprised to find that apart from an overwhelming lethargy and instinct to lie down and eat without a care in the world, we feel pretty fine! And on days like this we happily take to our sofas, grab the nearest blanket, stock up on potato cakes and hope the day never dies. Sigh. It was one of these days I was experiencing when I made the “perfect hangover” comment to my friend. And I still agree with myself.

Currently, I am hovering on the edge of man-flu, and though part of me is stocking up on vitamin C, making soup and getting an early night tonight, there’s a devil inside me that wonders if it just…gets…a…little…worse….I might be able to sack off everything productive this week, hibernate in my room, get the Sex and the City box-set going and gather up all the take away menus ready for action… we can only dream. But until that glorious day arrives, I will write this blog, haul myself to work, run like a crazy woman at the crack of dawn and wonder just what it must be like to be a lazy little sod with all the time, the highest bed-attendance rating and the strongest chill-power in the world.

02 September, 2010

Mobile marathons with your mates. Priceless?

“I’ve got to go, I have just looked at the clock and realised it’s July...”

For me it’s an undoubted fact that girls generally love to spend as much time as possible on the phone. And men don’t. For them, the shorter the call the better. Whether it’s their mum, their girlfriend, their mate or the Chinese, the quicker they can get things wrapped up and say their various ‘I Love Yous’ (in the appropriate places) the sooner they can get on with putting pasta inside massive bread and overfilling the washing machine. And to be honest, I think they’re on to something. Here's why...

I was recently startled and bankrupt in equal measure by the size of my phone bill when it flew happily into my hotmail last week. The sum in front of me was not one for poor eyes. How could this be? I begged of myself, staring accusingly at my phone. ‘You had better not have been calling Australia unknowingly again’ I scolded myself guiltily (it’s been done). I knew I hadn’t actually been holding daily international conference calls with the Southern Hemisphere, but I was traumatized by the figure next to the Payment Due tab on the email in front of me and was sure I couldn’t possibly be responsible. What could I have possibly been doing?!

'A mad dash away from my desk and some well placed hold music (Hey Big Spender) later and I was unceremoniously told by Jane on the o2 switchboard that I had casually gone mightily over my 2,000 free minutes (plus free calls Saturday to Monday. ahem.). Plus then of course there’s the tax, love.'

So basically what I had ‘possibly been doing’ was exceeding my 2,000 mins/m over the course of what is actually only 16 days when you take away the 3 free call days each week. I actually don’t want to do the maths.

The main culprit of my mobile bill quandary is my best friend from school. A cliché I know, but she and I are a perfect example of the scary amount girls can prattle on about twaddle for several hours and be quite happy to keep doing so until a prior engagement rudely beckons us and makes us resentfully say ‘we’d better go... sigh’, pulled unceremoniously from the colourful envelop of a BFF phone call. And that colourful envelope of joy is exactly why we do it. Some are addicted to Mars bars, some to wine, some to the buzz you get when someone famous tweets you back, and we, the womenfolk, are addicted to the elation of a good old fashioned mega-call with your girls.

The point is, just how do girls manage to rack up so much conversation? I mean I’ve always known I can outtalk Frank, but what do we talk about? If you, the men, are under the impression we discuss proper things and reach genius epiphanies whilst solving worldly dilemmas, you are mistaken. For though we do this sometimes, it’s not what has my phone bill nearing triple figures.

Only recently me and culprit school friend spent a good half an hour (of a 2.5 hour ‘catch up’) coming up with outlandish states of affairs, such as the idea of me loitering near my house with a bandage on my head and claiming to be Humpty Dumpty. Something we found absolutely uproarious for much longer than necessary. I am not going to bore you with the details of how we came to that particular picture, but it was half an hour of my life I will never get back. On the other hand, I wouldn't want to.

For despite the fact that period of time produced nothing but an extra 0 on my o2 invoice, it was 30 minutes spent ecstatically hanging upside down off my bed in a fit of laughter and eventually toppling on to the floor to continue the hilarity laying flat on my carpet, unable to stand for the fact the wheezing and spluttering had drained me of all strength. What’s more, it wouldn’t have been so funny if it was a face to face conversation. Something about the safety of distance means you can conjure up more ridiculous scenarios than you would ever dare in person.

In contrast, when I speak to my male best friend – as enjoyable as those conversations still are! – it’s very different. It’s a case of ticking off an itinerary of points we need to cover this week, progressing through them as quickly as possible, summarising that we’re content we know enough about each other’s lives to tide us over for another week, and then ringing off in time for Big Brother. It is just a completely different kettle of conversation. If I attempt to start a completely unrealistic imaginative wondering and deviate from Real Life, he has a charming habit of  putting his phone down on his bed/desk/nearest cliff edge, goes off to read a chapter and comes back 15 minutes later to find me still talking, unaware I’d ever lost his interest and indeed his ear. It's win-win. He's just not quite so up for the lengthy musings in the fanstasical forum of a phone call that me and my female friends so obsessively indulge in. Well of course, it’s a waste of time...or is it?

It’s not just phone calls. It's not rare for me to hole up in my room for 3 hours on a Sunday afternoon having a Skype date with my my long lost ‘Wife’ friend who's currently residing in Taiwan. Gossiping with my laptop. Telling it stories. Laughing at its jokes. Detailing exactly what I did from last Thursday to now. It’s a good job Wife is on the other end of said laptop at her desk in Taiwan, and what’s more is quite happy to listen to me recite my recent life events in painful detail. In chronological order. Names, times and toppings not omitted.

I suppose it’s not so astonishing then that our phone bills continue to be higher than the average persons IQ every month. Given that we lasses are capable of talking about everything under the moon and spinning downright drivel for hours on end, twice over, every day, I wonder why service providers haven’t developed their own girl-centric tarrifs offering 10,000 minutes for every 50,000 you use, throwing in a free R-Patz screen saver and a box of chocolates for good measure.

"Kerry was cross that Jane had not called her once during thier shopping trip"
When put like this, cost issues aside, I think the population of people with phonebias (male or female) are in fact missing out. Nothing makes us happier than laughing with our best friend about something only we find funny. That is actually not funny. At all. Ever. In any stratosphere.
Even when it's unrequited phone-love, if he does put the phone down on his bed and go off to make some dinner while I prattle on regardless, I still feel radiantly happy when I bounce accidental thoughts off of his uninterested self. So even if my next bill tells me Imust never communicate via mobile again or will be fined £3 million and thrown into isolation until I learn the value of silence (yeah okay then), the chances are I will just pick up the phone and tell someone about it. Speaking to your best mates? Definitely priceless. (Until it reaches the cost of a flight to Taiwan….)

30 August, 2010

Men and make-up: Gillette really is the best you can get, just leave it at that okay lads?

I know we’re meant to be pro equality of the sexes, anti gender-discrimination, in favour of a bit of the metrosexual in a man and all the rest of it, and I am…for the most part. Most of me is thrilled that I can wear Boyfriend style jeans and not have the world immediately assume I got dressed in a mans room in the dark and/or bat for the other team. I am quite happy for the unfairer sex to get in the kitchen and concoct some gourmet Jamie Oliver creation while we get on with painting the bathroom. I’ll even lend my apron (like I have an apron) when my male housemates want to cook me cheese fondue. From scratch. (No really). And obviously 99% of me is pleased that women can work pretty much equally to men now. And the 1% of me that isn’t pleased is a just a lazy cow who’s in a mood because she needs another tub of ice cream. All hail equality, basically, if it hasn’t been said already…

My qualm is that these days it’s less ‘what can women do to become more equal to men’ and more ‘how many more eyeliners does this guy need before he’s got more than his girlfriend’? Wrong, off beam, a sorry mistake, one to tell the grandkids maybe but still just plain wrong! For there is a big difference between gaining equality and just down-right thieving the essence of the opposite gender.

This struck me most recently when reading September Glamour’s interview with Tinie Tempah, who admitted he’d decided to launch a fashion range because he didn’t like the fact his sisters ‘could literally fix your car whilst cooking you a full English.’ That’s great for the ‘Tempah’ sisters. Really great. I mean they probably aren’t going to endure Spidergate any time soon and the chances are their garage bill is going to be a lot less per annum, but why Tinie then needed to go and launch a fashion range to balance things out is beyond me. Don’t get me wrong, I am in support of men being fashionable, stylish even, in fact it’s a bit of a deal breaker for me that they are, but to design your own line just to match the multitasking abilities of your automobile fixing sisters? A Tinie bit extreme.

And again when watching Big Brother this summer it came to my attention that the more John James liked Josie, the more eyeliner he put on. John James, just because we look better with dark eye make-up and find it to be an effective form of seduction, that doesn’t mean you do or indeed will. If anything, I imagine Josie became increasingly alarmed and wondered what the hell she’d got herself into. ‘Is he going to be borrowing my best Mac lipstick when I’m not looking? Will he look better in it than me? Will he be pilfering my advantage card points when my back’s turner?’ No no no, guyliner wearers! Now here’s some facial wipes, be a good lad and take the eyeliner off while you make us another cup of tea.

I’m more than happy for a man to take care of himself, in fact there’s nothing hotter than a guy who knows his style and rocks it, just as long as he doesn’t frock it. I draw the line where I open Heat magazine to see Alex Reid 10,000 Oranginas more tanned than he ever was before, purely so that Jordan doesn’t out-bronze him. Really, Alex, choose your competitors wisely in future – anything you can do, she will put more fake tan on better.

***This does seem to be what celebrity couples do when they split up. They set out to become as orange as possible. Is this some weird concept us muggles aren’t in on? Is it that they get so used to having someone apply their fake tan for them, that when the other half’s no longer there to do it they get the quantities just all wrong? Or is there some bizarre clause in celebrity divorce contracts that states ‘he who resembles an oompa loompa first, laughs the longest’?***

Anyway, the beauty battle is something that should never have become a cross-gender sport. We don’t see Kelly Holmes running up against Darren Campbell in the Olympic Games; we should not see Peter Andre coming in a close second to Katie Prices amber traffic light impression.

First of all this is not hypocritical because, equal opportunities aside, there are still no signs of us girls getting the big guns out, invading your masculine territory and leaving a big red cross of lipstick where we conquer. Just because we the women folk now work, vote and, beggar’s belief, wear jeans, does not make us essentially any less feminine. I can do 12 hour days in a pretty frock no problem. I can do sit-ups in a full face of make-up. And I’m fairly sure the fact I earn my own salary doesn’t make my boobs any smaller. The equality women have gained does not see us happily displaying a nice frame of chin stubble, wearing afore mentioned jeans half way down our French Knickers* (no pants-on-the-ground boys, that still doesn’t look cool) and playing burp the alphabet with our mates over sushi.

So why, men, do you insist on going one better than just re-tipping the balance of equality, but go to the lengths of categorically stealing our femininity. Not only are you well and truly erasing the lines of sexuality, you’re also making it nigh on impossible for us to be sexy. Soon all it will come down to between a boy and a girl is what’s under your G-string. As interesting as that may be, there’s something very wrong with this notion and, worse still, something very unsexy.

I am not conservative in any light and I would rather be sharing a bloke’s wardrobe than forced into bloomers and a bustle while I scrub the billiard room from noon ‘til night, but at the end of the day, when all is said and done, all things considered, ultimately and basically, joking apart, there needs to be mystery between a man and a woman. And so when he’s got a ‘widger’ (thank you Josie BB 10) and you have not, there are just some things (other than the obvious) that should be done differently.

There needs to be secrets, boys, you’ve got to leave us something. Soon you won’t be wondering how the hell we look so good in a bikini, but you’ll be filching our cellulite busting cream so that you can look that good next year. Soon you won’t be amazed at how well we throw our outfits together to look effortlessly chic, but you’ll be tutting to your mates that you know we’ve copied Cheryl’s look from this month’s vogue. Soon, my dear men, we will resentfully be vowing to love, honour and share beauty secrets until death do us part.

So please lads, I beg of you, put down the guyliner, the man tan, the sarongs and the GHDs, step away from the walk in wardrobe and wegde you’re ass back out of our skinny jeans. We already have a tough enough time staying chic and pretty enough to compete with the rest of the female population, without you getting involved and nipping at our heels. Literally.

*I note there is the occasional exception to this rule. JODIE MARSH.