23 January, 2011

January jet-setting: When England has the libido of a sloth…

When I browsed my Facebook news feed this morning, more than a handful of my friends recent statuses were to do with holidays, sunshine and getting-the-faux-fur-away from January’s bleak outlook. “Thirty degrees in Sydney today…ahhh I love sunshine!” read one. “PACKING!!” boasted another. Followed by seventeen smiley faces. It seems that when the going gets tough, the bright people get economy class to destination sunshine. And are pretty happy about it.

By comparison, for those who are staying in England to bitterly yet stoically see out the winter, their ‘stoic’ updates read “SAMBUCA! TEQUILA! SCHNAPPS! I’m calling the shots now!”, “Excuse me, liver, but why do I have a hangover after 2 glasses of wine?” and “By all accounts, I threw up in a flower bed.” Oh dear, people! It seems that when we’re not getting any sunshine induced sweet relief from the torture of dark mornings, icy pavements and another week until payday, we turn to our good friend Sailor Jerry to ship us away from it all – first stop Rum.

What a sorry state we’re in, I thought. On the one hand you’ve the people gleefully packing, throwing sale-price bikinis into a holdall, digging out their passports from wherever they threw it last August and hop-skip-jumping into a taxi whilst manically yelling “Vamos!” to the driver, in preparation for life on the other side. On the other hand, the rest of us stand on the doorstep waving them off forlornly, wrapping our coats tighter around us and wondering if 8am is too soon for a beer. Just to take the edge off.

When you’re feeling down…down it. Apparently.
It’s plane to me that the January jet-off pandemic is more about avoidance of painful post-Christmas reality, than a serious need for sunshine. Mainly because if we look at today’s Facebook status comparisons, if we are not joyfully booking flights, packing or already on holiday weeping with relief into our sangria, we are drunk, hungover or throwing up in flower beds.

Alcohol is not a substitute for sunshine. Clearly. We don’t down a bottle of vodka and instantly transform into tanned, relaxed individuals with a golden glow. No. Alcohol is an alternative means to getting away from it all. If it was really the oftimes absent  sun people were seeking, their comments this morning would have read “crazy night in the salon, all over those sunbeds, can’t wait to go again” or “Ouch, I’m in pain. Think I over did it on the St Tropez.” You get my point.

Wanting what we can’t have…
Everything feels so desolate after Christmas and New Year, and Pancake Day is still a good few flipping weeks away, so what have we to look forward to if not a sunny get away? Food? No, the whole world is on a diet. Obviously. Shopping? No, the whole world is fat and has no money because we spent it all on Mince Pies. Sex? Excuse me, we’re fat, poor, depressed and probably hungover – we have the libido of a sloth. So we crave crave crave until we cave.

Suddenly every thing we can’t buy in River Island looks simply stunning, we find ourselves crying “WOW. Have you seen that pistachio gilet made from recycled hair!? I want it! Oh damn you tardy January pay cheque!” Every cake in the window looks like it IS what we were put on earth to do, our chocolaty fate, right there in front of us – “If we don’t eat it, will God be pissed off? What’s more important, losing the Christmas weight or getting into heaven…?” And every country in the world other than ours looks like the very best place to be, the more unaffordable the better. (Apart from the North Pole. That would definitely be worse.)

Thus January is generally a month for wanting that which we cannot or should not or will not have – sunshine included. If January was traditionally tropical, we would probably be craving blizzards as if snowflakes were money. To sum up, we don’t need to go to Mexico; the longing to do so is just another by-product of our January coveting disorder and a means to postponing reality that little bit longer.

Sun, sea and…Santa?
Furthermore, how come we suddenly need sunshine now, I beg of you? We managed fine without it in December. The Sun barely even got a mention last month, except for the Son of God, whose birthday it was. Sure people were craving sleep and a holiday and ‘I really wish this snow would disappear’ was a frequent festive phrase, but no one complained that things just weren’t hot enough. Except for maybe the turkey, if it wasn’t cooked through. Come Christmas time no one woke up on Christmas Day, excitedly opened their presents, heartily ate their pudding and snuggled up happily to watch Wallace & Gromit, only to suddenly see the cold white blanket covering their garden and cry “Ohhhh! I’m just so fed up that I can’t sunbathe today!” Or if you did, get a grip.

We went sledging, we had snowball fights, and we built snowmen and igloos and large icy phallic symbols. We got cosy in our slankets and santa-themed onesies, and sunshine was the furthest thing from our minds. We didn’t need sun, sea or sand when we had snow, santa and snoods. But January comes around, we have to go back to work, life is mean and suddenly everybody ‘neeeeeeeds sunnnnnnn’. Really, public? Are you really so desperate for a January tan that you won’t be able to show off until June and photos of you in a bikini before you’ve worked off the turkey? Because it seems more like we just don’t want the party to end.

Deal with it
Basically for UK citizens, January is our thing. Some countries have to contend with life-shattering earthquakes, some endure waves of fatal floods and fires, some have Sarah Palin and a cholesterol problem – here we have January and all that it implies. Lack of sunshine included. But I couldn’t help wondering this morning; do we really need those golden beams of joy in our lives all year round to be happy and/or soba? Is it a basic human right? Should there be a Vitamin D act of 2011? Or is this national disarray I’m seeing merely a case of going great easy-jet deal distances to avoid reality?

Either way, getting down under is probably a sure-fire way to avoid getting down and I’m not going to pretend I’m not monitoring the fact it’s finally getting lighter in the mornings, squealing with delight with every day that I wake up and it’s not snowing and feeling completely smug whenever it’s too warm for my winter coat. Don’t worry, people. British Summer is coming. And for the whole 2 weeks that it’s here, we won’t need to drink a drop…

18 January, 2011

My Massive Magazine Melodrama Meltdown…

First, a little disclaimer. I confess that I do regularly have a cheeky sideways browse at the tacky gossip magazines (without buying) and the objects of my crime are usually Heat, Star and occasionally even…Reveal. If I’m waiting for a friend to pay in a shop, to me the obvious thing to do is sidle over to the glossy weeklies and flip straight to page 6, where there’s probably pictures of the Beckham’s “looking tense after a meal at the Ivy”. When I’m buying a diet coke (and ten snacks) for the train, it’s natural for me to stand in line flicking to where the Katie Price’s are announcing “I never loved Pete!” next to an image of her gazing longingly at him behind a haze of pink tutu’s and vodka. And at work, of a morning, it is common for me to deliberately select the tabloid’s to read, because although they won’t tell me UK inflation rates or what Tunisia’s PM is up to,they will keep tabs on Cher Lloyd for me – she may no longer be on our X Factor stage, but I still want to know what outrageous harem trouser she’s wearing. So I am consciously branding myself with a large “hypocrite” label with this rant at celebrity gossip magazines, BUT it really annoys me when...

...Celebrities have a “Meltdown!”
So how many of us can admit (no matter how flawless and tough we may be) that every once in a while, when the chips are down, when it’s raining outside and when we left our tamagotchi I mean phone at home, when our umbrella breaks and we feel broken, when our car won’t start and for once we actually want to screw the diet but there’s no chocolate in sight...sometimes, you just have a bad day? You know the kind of day I mean, nothing terrible happens, but your hair looks ridiculous no matter what you do with it, everyone you speak to seems to be out to sabotage your mood further and no matter how hard you try to pecker up, you know you will unquestionably burst into tears at the next person who offers you a tic-tac (“WHY are they suggesting I need a low-calorie mint?!”)

We have all been there, but all we do on these bad days is heroically cling on until home-time, get ready to dart out the door at 17.29pm (or in my case, occasionally, an hour before that in case a colleague is sadly assassinated), race home with our heads down and crash through the front door, into the shower, into our comfiest clothes and out to the shops in search of the chocolate we’ve been seeking since 8am .And we allow ourselves an extra 100 calories for each hour we’ve had to endure without it.

And if – charging along en route to calorific relief –  we bump into a friend, neighbour or (god assist us) ex-love-interest, who looks upon our greasy tied-up hair and mismatched apparel with wary concern asking “are you...alright!?”, we simply acknowledge that we’re definitely not on top form and admit to “just having a bad/busy/tragic day.” And they smile with relief, amble on with reprieve and assume to see you spring back to your perfectly glossy, ‘Gucci’ dressed, Maybelline-smiled self the next day.

The rich and famous however, when caught out in this greasy-haired, haggard-faced fix, aren’t just “having a stressful day” or “feeling a bit down”, oh no! Celebrities are having a full-scale, life-shattering, country-fleeing, bank-breaking, relationship-ending, surgery-seeking, weight-losing, ball-dropping, family-tearing-aparting, head-shaving, cricket-bat wielding, suicide-watching MELTDOWN! There whole world is over, and they’re ordered without delay to prison, rehab or Buddhism before they can Tweet “media-hype”.
Christ. Is it any wonder so many of them end up throwing baked beans at the Paparazzi? If I was “having a life meltdown” and my family were “rushing to be with me, taking it in turns to be on suicide watch” every time I had a testing Wednesday, my Mum would be seriously unperturbed and my dad’s petrol bill would be phenomenal. I know it is the job of the media to sell stories and to keep people (like me) happy with gossip from the sinful fountain of celeb’ – ooh yes get me a glass of that naughty water – but there is a line people! To call “tragedy” every time Cheryl slips up and eats a burger might be good for Steps re-sales, but it’s really not great for our faith in humanity.

...when celebrity couples are in “Crisis Talks”
Now I am aware it can feel like a crisis when the boat of ones relationship capsizes. When the Honeymoon period is over and it’s not a happy landing, it can feel like life will never be the same again and everything is one big CATASTROPHIC FAILURE.  But in the real world, real people don’t encourage you to believe that to be the case (unless your mates a bitch, in which case, get rid.) Instead they say things like “it’s not as bad as it feels”, “you’ll be over it by tomorrow” (although c’mon ladies, blatant lie) and “he didn’t match your colour palate anyway”.

If a friend rings me up and says she’s having problems with her man, she will say “we had a barney” or “we met up to talk about things”. Never does she come suicidal to my door yelping “Me and Mr Right have had a life-altering row! We might be separating in the messiest split of 2011 so far! We’re going to meet at a hotel in Central London to have Crisis Talks over a bottle of Red!”

Yet for some reason, when a singer, supermodel, actress or it-person has a romantic hurdle, it is reinforced to them that yes it’s Armageddon and yes there life is basically over. Heat announces Kerry Katona is headed for disaster after yet another relationship failure, Star confirm Eoghan can’t go on after seeing Diana Vickers shoot to stardom and Closer declare Chanelle’s life is in Ruins after Ziggy blanked her in Mc Donald’s. Crisis central. Better call a meeting.

What does “crisis talks” even mean? To me it conjures up visions of a board of clip-boarded people listening intently to the couple’s dispute, scrawling notes, looking at each other in a deeply concerned manner over the top of their glasses, sending the couple away to await the verdict, before ushering them solemnly back into the conference room where a host of flip-charts, graphs and bullet points demonstrates to all just how said couple should progress with their relationship. If at all. At the end of the long, hard day a conclusion is met, there is a round of applause, champagne is opened, Obama loosens his tie with a relieved smile and Alex Reid steps outside to cheerfully tell everyone “CRISIS OVER!” while Jordan logs in to Twitter. As you were everyone.

Crisis talks is what entire countries have with world leaders if there is a risk of war. Crisis talks is when a large meteor is heading for Texas and Ben Affleck only has 12 seconds to stop it. Crisis talks is not when an Essex girl has a chat with her semi-famous boxer boyfriend because he stayed out too late with the lads. Know what I mean?

...when celebrities are “Very Much In Love”

On the flip side, when the goings good and Brangelina are in the first throes of deceitful passion, when the two Taylor’s bond over an Italian meal and the fact they share a name, when Russell Brand tells Katy Perry “baby, you’re a firework”, then you can guarantee the magazine shelves will be stacked with the words “Very Much in Love”. They’re never just ‘dating’ or ‘seeing how it goes’ or ‘having a nice steady marriage thank you”. No – a “source” always “tells us” that they are VERY.MUCH.IN.LOVE. And whenever I see those four offensive words, it is all I can do not to hiss at the headline before me and yell down the train carriage “but how do you know that is how they feeeeeeeel?!?”

When my friend calls me up (same one who’s just had a bit of a barney with the boyf) to tell me they’re back on, she probably pretty much says just that. Or at most “we’re going to give it another go”. Quite frankly I would cut her off, block her number and change my name if she ever uttered the words “we’re hotter than ever and very much in love!” Who says that?! No-one. No source has interrupted Perez Hilton’s Frapuccino to Chinese whisper “Oh yeah, what David? Oh he’s loving the break from football, he has never been happier and we’re still very much in love. We’re having more sex than ever and can’t keep our hands off each other”. No. They do not.

Hannah pleads with Heat magazine to end twisted scandal of drama and deceit in Tuesday torment!

So please magazines, as much as I love you (and I do, especially when you show me pictures of Martine McCutcheon looking fatter than me) and find you far more affordable than Cosmo at the end of the month, I beg of you not to lie to me. Yes show me pictures of Derek Hough kissing Cheryl’s tummy and I’ll happily heave like a good reader and I will gleefully receive previews of Britney Spears latest TV appearance. But please don’t tell me Mischa Barton has told friends she’s “piled on the pounds” just because there is a photo of her eating a sandwich while on the phone. Keep it real and we’ll keep reading-without-buying-because-we’re-saving-money-for-the-classier-mags. Honest.