Tuesday 30 October 2012

We'll meet again...

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls.  Today is the end of an era.  Three years have passed since I started to write this blog – but today, my friends, I shall be loving to hate London for the last time. 
Actually, that isn’t strictly true.  My home town for the last eleven and a half years will no doubt continue to do my head in at times and its quirky charm has yet to be lost on me.  But I will no longer be writing about the trials and tribulations of life in the Big Smoke here.
Alas – fear not!  I shall still be around, and London life will still be a big part of what I have to say on t’internet.  My monthly musings on the city can still be found in my Underground Overground blog http://blogs.angloinfo.com/underground-overground/ and you will be able to find my capital news and reviews on the soon to be re-launched website Capital Life www.capital-life.co.uk.  
But, the best news of all?  I have started a new blog – on my BRAND SPANKING NEW WEBSITE!  Woo hoo!  Not only will I be telling you what I have been up to and reporting on what is hot and what is not, I will also be keeping you all up to date on my creative pursuits – from blogging and writing fiction to painting and crafting!  In fact, at www.shellyberryoriginal.co.uk I reckon you’ll find out something about your little friend here that you didn’t already know.  Take it as a challenge...
Of course, I am still on twitter http://twitter.com/lovehatelondon and personal friends will find updates on Facebook, but if you don’t do social media, you can still sign up for my newsletter using the simple form to the left of this page.  Okay, so they aren’t very frequent, but hopefully when my email pops into your inbox it will be worth the wait!
So there you have it.  It’s been sweet.  But, my lovelies, it’s time to move on.  I’ll see you soon on the other side...

Monday 22 October 2012

Here's (not) looking at you...

The observational among you will have noticed I haven’t Loved to Hate London for a while. Those who read my Underground Overground blog will know it’s because I’ve been ill.  And folk unlucky enough to know me personally will have heard all the gory details – and are probably as sick of my moaning as I am  of, well, being sick.
Not only do I, like everyone, hate feeling lousy, but I’m also atrocious at doing nothing – especially when you feel so crap that all you can manage is dozing in front of daytime telly.  And daytime telly invariably means that at some point you will find yourself flicking over the channel and coming face to face with Jeremy Kyle.
I try to avoid Mr Kyle at all costs but, after day three in front of the box, he found his way into my living room.  Not only do I find him irritating, obnoxious and a lot of other things that I really shouldn’t say in public, but I find his show quite boring.  Whilst my recently retired dad finds it fascinating, sadly my work in the public sector has made the folk televised as they demand their partners take lie detection tests nothing out of the ordinary.  And yes, that probably makes me sound like a terrible snob, but sadly, where I work, airing your dirty laundry in public is not unusual – and, trust me, I’ve seen some cases badly in need of a large dose of Persil.
And whilst I admit I am a snob about Jerry Springer cases, I really can’t stand people at the other end of the spectrum either.  People who love attention as much as the chat show freaks – but seek it in a very different setting.  A couple of weeks ago (in fact the night I got ill) I went to a private viewing at a gallery in Mayfair.  Whilst I found the artwork quite interesting, I got the distinct impression that most of the people there were more interested in being seen than looking at a few pictures and a couple of sculptures – and decidedly ungracious when those of us who wanted to see the wares on show tried to squeeze between them and the cameras.
I think my problem is with people who just want to be seen no matter what the cost.  Wherever they fit on the spectrum of society, they just want to get noticed, for good or bad.  I mean, take fashion.  On Saturday I fought through my fever and went to the V&A Ballgowns exhibition.  I admit, I loved it, and my friend and I had a hoot offering our criticism of the frocks on show to anyone who cared to listen.  But, some of the dresses were just plain hideous – and I honestly think that it wasn’t only in my humble opinion.  Some designers seem to forget aesthetics in the rush to do something different and, whilst some of the more outlandish creations were beautiful too, others had got lost in their need for attention.
So, Londoners, take note.  Whoever you are and wherever you are from, if you want to get noticed, go ahead and get yourself out there.  But, if in doing so you sacrifice your taste, integrity or general decency as a human being, don’t expect me to keep watching whilst you make a spectacle of yourself.  

Tuesday 9 October 2012

Nowt as queer as folk

Readers... I have a confession to make. It is now three years since I started to write this blog and I have to admit that these days I find it hard to find something to say about loving to hate London that I haven’t said before. I often ask my friends to help me find my inspiration. Recently I went to a leaving do for some folks I worked with years ago. I ran into an old chum who told me he keeps tabs on me via my blog. I shared with him my predicament. He looked at me and shrugged. “Why don’t you write about the people around you?” He suggested. “Not a bad idea,” I agreed. And, through by beer-induced haze, I started taking mental notes.

Looking back, I now fully appreciate what a fantastic group of people I worked all those years ago and, sadly, how under-appreciated some of them are. Let me start with “Marie” (names changed, naturally). Marie is excellent at her job and has a quiet thoughtfulness about her that means she is probably overlooked in a world where those who shout the loudest get the furthest. Last week she was made redundant when, in reality, she should have been promoted into the jobs “Ann” and “Joan” had secured, not through hard graft and skill, but by knowing who to get pally with to get ahead of the game.

Then take my good friend “Vivian”. Vivian is a smart cookie. She has been through the mill since I’ve known her but has come out the other end stronger, sharper and wittier than ever before. She should be running her own business by now but admits that, by the time she returns home at the end of the day and finally makes it to the weekend, her energy has been zapped in a soulless job she took in the hope it would help her move into something more rewarding. Needless to say, I am working on her.

But what of those at the top of the pile? You may ask. Well, one manager has had their comeuppance and shown the door. Another, Ben, has left now, but still hangs around, no doubt in the hope that he will sniff out an even better position – and failing that, a bit of stuff to keep him entertained.

As for me? Well, I’m glad I escaped – even more so now I can see how much I was held back in such an oppressive workplace. It was only when Vivian pointed out that Ben had got in the way of my attempts to progress my career on more than one occasion that I realised that, perhaps if I had returned one of his looks with something other than disgust, the might have been a little bit less obstructive. The thought makes by blood boil - and my stomach turn.

But, you know what? I have moved on with my life and my career. Yes, I might not have missed out on certain opportunities if I hadn’t worked there for as long as I did but, you know what? I don’t think I have done too badly. As for Marie? And my good friend Viv? Well, call me an old hippie, but I believe in Karma and know that, one day, they will find their niche and be content there. As for those who have made life so difficult for the rest of us? Well, Karma works both ways…

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Turn on, tune in and cop out...

Something very irritating happened to me on Friday morning. After crawling out of bed I made myself pull on my joggers and head out with my iPod and water bottle.  Yes, I was going for a run.  I started off with a fast walk to warm up before putting in my headphones and pressing play.
The battery was dead.
I almost groaned out loud.  For a moment I contemplated turning back to grab my phone for entertainment instead, but knew that if I went back into my flat, the lure of my duvet might just win over my good intentions.  I made the decision to run sans music and kept going.
It turned out to be quite an enjoyable experience.  I headed to the park where autumn was in full swing.  The wind was rustling crisp leaves, birds were chattering away about their imminent departure to warmer climes (well, that’s what I like to think anyway) and children were laughing as they played in the last of the summer sun.  And, although it was not my longest run, being able to hear my own breathing was actually very helpful – and the order to “speed up” by a passing OAP mildly motivating.  So, as I headed home, I made a decision: for the next four days, I was going to go about my London life headphone-free. 
It was a revelation.
I shall start with the tube.  Notoriously overcrowded and renowned for moving millions of people from A to B every year, you would think it would be a good place to eaves drop.  Sadly not.  There’s something about the tube that makes everyone shut up.  I think this is down to two things.  One, the absence of mobile signal (it would appear Londoners are better at talking to people over the phone than in person), and two, the noise of the train roaring through tunnels being too much competition for even the gobbiest gossip.
The buses, however, were a completely different ballgame.  When on our mobiles, we Londoners don’t half talk shit – and we don’t mind who hears us either.  I spent a (mercilessly) short bus ride from Holloway to Highgate being subjected to one woman’s story about an argument she had just had with a neighbour over and over again as she called every number stored on her sim card.  And , later that day, I caught another bus at about 3.15 – just in time for the school kid rush.  This was not pleasant, and, without the anaesthetic powers of my music, reading became an impossible task.  By the time I got to Moorgate I was sorely missing my tunes.
So, do I recommend foregoing your iPod when you head out into the big bad world?  No.  But then, don’t plug in by default.  Listen to the world around you.  Who knows, you might hear something you like, something that makes you laugh, even think.  And, if you don’t?  Well, turn on, tune in and cop out...  

Monday 24 September 2012


Today, folks, I am not feeling the love.  Work is driving me insane, it’s been grey and drizzly all day and, quite honestly, I’m fed up.  It’s enough to make me run to the hills, literally – preferably one with a nice cottage with a roaring fire, a goofy mutt at my heels and a nice bit of self-employment which, preferably, I can practise from the comfort of my sofa.
But, let’s face it, it isn’t gonna happen.  It’s pure fantasy.  Right? 
Well, maybe not.  Maybe my pie-in-the-sky dream of opening a creative café somewhere on the coast isn’t really that unachievable?  I think it’s easy to forget the opportunities that there are outside of the big city.  Take tourism for example – in the current financial climate, “staycations” are all the rage.  Plus, more and more people seem to be quitting the rat race for a more simple life – and not just the over sixties either.  Mothers are looking for a better start for their kids, fathers are searching for a healthier lifestyle, and everyone else is just looking for a bit of meaning to their lives, especially now that the pursuit of material wealth has become so untenable.
And people do it – and do quite well out of it, too.  Only ten days ago I was sat in a pot painting shop in the middle of North Yorkshire chatting to the owner as my other half painstakingly finished decorating his mug (NB:  it’s a great way to keep your man quiet for a couple of hours).  I asked her how things were going and, although she admitted that there were peaks and troughs, she had kept her business afloat for five years – and had been able to create her own artwork at the same time.  Okay, so it might not have the same footfall as similar places in a city, but with locals and tourists looking for something to do on a rainy day, things were going quite nicely for her.
And that isn’t all.  Whilst up in’t moors, I listened with interest to a conversation between two locals about an on-going case of anti-social behaviour.  My ears pricked up.   What was it?  Drug dealers?  A crime wave?  Prostitutes infiltrating the countryside?  No.  It was someone using an electric saw early in the morning.  Yes, I know what you’re thinking; time to call in the army.  In the five days I was there, I only heard one siren – and, as the offending ambulance zoomed through the village, it struck me how noticeable the sound was after three days of hearing nothing louder and a dog bark.
So, maybe life in the country is achievable.  Maybe it is better for us.  And maybe we would all be a lot healthier and happier if we jacked in our jobs in the city and put down roots in the sticks.  And maybe, just maybe, life would be so good we’d have nothing to complain about.
And maybe all that peace and quiet might send us all a bit crazy too…

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Capital Comparisons

The observant of you will have noticed that I haven’t been around for a little while.  Those of you who know me will know why - and will no doubt be rolling your eyes once more as I announce, not that I am going to New York, but I have now well and truly conquered it.  Yes, in five days I think I cracked it and in turn it has massacred two pairs of my shoes (and my feet) as I pounded its pavements.  Of course, I haven’t seen it all, but hope that when I return (which I will) I'll be able to kick back and relax whilst fitting in an exploration of Harlem, the Bronx and Queens – plus a trip out to the Giant’s football stadium for some foam fingered fun.
As I wandered around taking in the sights, smells and shops New York offers, I couldn’t help but compare it to London.  MOMA?  Not unlike Tate Modern at all.  Fifth Avenue?  Bond Street, eat your heart out.  Lower East Side?  A little bit of Camden Town with its indie shops stocked with bongs, crystal Buddhas and boho dresses. 
I could go on.  But, as I headed back to London, I started to think about how my home city compared to the other heavyweights around the globe that I have visited and loved.  Unlike Vancouver and Barcelona, it doesn’t boast a beach... but then the Southbank is almost as tranquil as any seafront.  It may not have the fairytale skyline of Budapest and Prague, but the beauty of St Pauls and the majesty of the Tower and Albert Bridges can’t help but take your breath away.  And it may not have the romance and food of Paris, but it does have the excitement of Borough Market and the culinary delights from around the world found in China Town, Tooting and Wood Green to name a few.
So yes, I was sad to leave New York a week ago – but I was also looking forward to getting home.  Okay, so seeing Silence! (a parody of Silence of the Lambs) nearly made me pee my pants, but I am looking forward to catching a new play at the Arts Theatre with a friend for £3 on Saturday.  And yes, there is nothing quite like a blueberry bagel or a giant pretzel to set you up for the day, but then there is nothing as satisfying as a big box of noodles at the Stables Market in Camden to tie up a day of shopping.   And although the Jazz at the Lincoln Centre was pretty awesome, it wasn’t as bargainous as Daylight Music at the Union Chapel.
And that isn’t all.  Okay, so New Yorkers are a fascinating bunch – from the mad taxi driver who told me how much he loved Henry VIII, the American-Albanian who was pro-Romney and the old guy who took it upon himself to be my personal tour guide of Central Park – but they don’t beat Londoners.  And, quite honestly, I can’t wait to immerse myself in their self-centred moodiness once more.  Because that, my friends, is where I belong. 

Monday 3 September 2012

Running scarred

It’s Monday morning and I’m sat on my sofa in my pyjamas.  Yes, you’re right, I should count myself jolly fortunate not to be chained to my desk, but in all honesty I’m feeling a bit sorry for myself.  And I blame sport.
As I’m sure most of you will have picked up from previous blogs, I have been less than enthusiastic about the Olympics but, subconsciously or not, I think I too have been inspired by the achievements of our athletes.  On Saturday I decided to diversify from my usual exercise regime and went for a swim.  I quite enjoyed it and, although speed is not my strength, I did a good 60 lengths at not a bad pace. 
I should have left happy – but sadly my mood was dampened (no pun intended) by the attitude of another swimmer sharing the medium lane with me.  Yes, I wasn’t the fastest swimmer in the lane (but certainly not the slowest) and I do expect the odd speedygonzalez to whizz past me on occasion – especially when there isn’t a fast lane for them to occupy.  But what I don’t expect is for them to cut me up when they overtake.  Or to dive under other swimmers to get past.  And certainly not to swim on top of me.
Yes, this happened.  I looked around to see the said water-baby actually on my legs.  She looked up at me.  I looked back, waiting for her to, well, stop, and at least smile an apology.
“If you don’t like people overtaking you, you should swim in the slow lane.”
I was dumbfounded at this response. 
“You might be better suited there.”  She continued.
I gave her my most withering look, shook my head in disbelief and carried on swimming.  There was absolutely no point arguing with this woman who was further up her own arse than her grannyfied swimming costume.  But I couldn’t help but feel outraged at her lack of manners – and sheer cheek.  A prime example of how having a plummy accent doesn't always mean you’ve been brought up well.
However, I will not be defeated by fitness freaks who like to belittle people who aren’t quite as good as they are.  So, on Sunday, I went for a jog.  The start was hard-going - a steep hill followed by a slight but relentless incline before flattening out and gradually going downhill.  Which it did in more ways than one.
I was going at a respectable pace and feeling good.  After the hard slog up to Highgate Woods, I was debating jogging all the way to Finsbury Park – and keeping going until I got home.  However, a small and unseen rock poking up in my path put an end to this, and within an instant I had added diving to my repertoire.  As I glided onto the floor my water bottle rolled to the feet of a couple walking by who, either down to common decency or a lack of choice, checked that I was okay.
“At least you missed the dog poo.”  The woman offered and I managed a little joke in return.  As they walked on I assessed the damage.  My elbow was scarlet and my hand pretty grazed too, plus my knee was throbbing.  I hobbled home to lick my wounds. 
After a shower and a liberal application of Savlon to my affected bits, I decided to relax in front of the telly with a plate of beans on toast.  I flicked it on, hoping to find an episode of Come Dine with Me or Deal or No Deal.  What did I find?  Bloody Paralympics. 
Don’t get me wrong; I think the Paralympics is fantastic and much more inspiring that it’s big brother.  But after my recent experience, I really didn’t want to see people much less able bodied than me whooping my ass in the disciplines I had just failed so spectacularly at.  I mean, you don’t see any of them being belittled in the swimming pool or sprawling head-first across the athletics track, do you?  Whereas I, all limbs intact and with a body that is supposed to function as it should, can’t even manage that.  NOT good for the old ego.
And, let’s face it, when you’re feeling a bit beaten by the world, you want comfort telly.  For me, that is Channel 4 with its lifestyle programmes and silly quizzes.  With dismay I realised that the sports coverage was on until late at night and, mildly disgusted, turned off the telly and tuned into Radio 6.
So, the moral of the story?  Sport is not always good for you.  Physically and emotionally.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to reapply my Ibuprofen...