Sunday, 27 February 2011

Living the Dream

So, here I am again. It’s Sunday evening, 9.30pm. That means one thing and one thing only. Work tomorrow. The weekend is over. Oh, Lord. It’s enough to get you reaching for another glass of wine and a giant bag of Maltesers. Or two.
Unfortunately for me, like most people, work is a necessary evil. In this world that we live in, we need money to survive. And, unless you fancy spending a little bit of time at Her Majesty’s Pleasure, the only way most of us will ever make it is by doing the nine til five grind.
Or, is it?
It is ten years since I graduated and moved to London. A fact that I find quite terrifying. A decade ago I had plan, real plans. I was going to do something with my life. Make a difference. And I was going to enjoy doing it too.
Then, something got in the way. I call it life. Rent. Bills. Other people’s expectations of me. Dare I say it, relationships. My ideas of grandeur got swept under the carpet as the whirlwind took hold, blowing all those fantastical ideas to a place far, far away at the back of my mind.
During the last year or so, these dreams have begun to resurface. More than that, actually. I have started making baby steps to realising them, or at least attempting to, anyway. Nothing terribly impressive has yet to materialise from my small endeavours, but those fanciful whims have started to crawl back into my consciousness and beg for a little a bit more attention. And it’s getting harder to ignore them.
Last weekend I went to see a couple of my girlfriends. On Sunday morning I watched the Sex and the City movie as I nursed a Cava and Sangria-induced hangover. As I sipped my coffee I watched the recently jilted Carrie listen to her new PA’s reasoning for moving to New York from St Louis. For love. To pursue her dreams. Somewhere in my dehydrated brain, bells of recognition began to ring. Hmm, it sounded so familiar.
Then, on Thursday, I spent a couple of hours in a shop in Covent Garden for a job interview. In between serving customers and cleaning up, I got chatting to a young Italian guy who had just started there that week. He was working there to support his fledgling musical acting career, doing shifts in between auditions at London’s opera companies and various West End theatres. He was in London to pursue his dream; to become a star of the stage.
I admired him. And was a little bit jealous, too.
Last night, in a bid to clear a bit of space on Sky +, I watched the movie P.S. I Love You. It’s the one where Hilary Swank receives letters from her dead husband in an effort to help her get over him. A sweet movie, but nothing to write home about, on the surface anyway. However, the underlying message was quite strong. Life your life for today. Do what you want to do. Worrying about buying a flat and earning a big fat salary is all well and good, but will it really make you happy? Will it let you fill your potential and do whatever it is that you really want to do, what you know will fulfil you more than a penthouse and the latest Gucci handbag?
Yes, I know, I can talk. Like so many people out there, I’m not doing what I really want to do with my life. In fact, the longer I stay in my current line of work, the more I resent it. Not because I have a terrible job, but because it isn’t what is in my heart. Not anymore, anyway. And, as I get that little bit older and see the world changing under my feet, I start to see that the time when I finally take the plunge and actually start doing something about it is getting closer and closer.
My mum bought me a little sign when I was a student which I still have stuck on my bathroom door today. “Reach for the moon. If you don’t make it, you’ll still be among the stars” it suggests. I don’t think wiser words have ever been said.
Maybe it’s time to start learning to fly.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Making Your Mind Up?

Ah, decisions decisions. Something that I am not very good at making, according to Him Indoors. I disagree. Okay, so if he asks me if I want potatoes or rice with my chicken, I will probably tell him to choose. Not because I can’t decide, but because I really don’t mind. Same with a lot of things. Bounty or Crunchie? Hell, they are both chocolate. Thai or Indian? Either or will do me nicely, thank you.
In London, I am often faced with decision overload. Take your average weekend. So, what shall I do, I wonder? Shopping? Museum? Theatre? Park? To name a few options. Then you have to narrow it down even further. Okay, so what kind of shopping? Market or High Street? Greenwich or Spitalfields? Brent Cross or Oxford Street? You get the picture. However, the beauty of living in London is that if you don’t fancy catching the new exhibition at the Tate on Saturday morning, you can always pop in after work on Thursday. If there aren’t any cheap tickets for the Saturday matinee of that play you want to see, you might be able to get them last minute in your lunch hour on Tuesday.
When it comes to where to go on holiday, however, I am a lot more vocal about my preferences. If I am going to spend hundreds of pounds and several days of annual leave on a trip overseas, I want it to be somewhere I really want to go. Okay, I will compromise, but equally I want my R&R needs to be catered for. Which means a week in Vegas ain’t gonna happen. A couple of nights en route elsewhere? That I can do.
Yesterday evening I went to my More To Life Than Shoes meeting. We talked at length about making decisions. What kind of decision maker are we? How do we make decisions? What do we take into consideration whilst making them? I thought about my own processes and it struck me that, so far in my life, I haven’t had to make any really tough ones. They all seemed like organic progressions rather than nail biting conundrums. Someone pointed out that maybe they felt like that because, like a river, my life was meandering along quite nicely, simply twisting and turning around boulders and obstructions with ease. However, as I come to a crossroads in my career, that river has become blocked, dammed. Corny as it sounded, it rang true. Things are not quite as clear cut. Do I go for more money in a job I don’t really want? Or a potential pay cut in a new sector that might help me achieve my future dreams? Typing it now, it seems quite obvious. But then I have to consider Him Indoors. The new job would tie me to London for at least another year, whilst he is keen to move further out. Then, of course, I have Little Miss Sensible tapping on my shoulder. A pay cut? And a gamble on something completely different? Are you crazy?
Someone at the meeting said that she made important decisions by writing a list of pros and cons. This slightly more organised approach sounded really attractive; weighing up what my heart says against my mind’s misgivings. Hmm. This could be a tricky one. Whichever path I take, it could be a potential disaster. But, as another wise woman pointed out, you can’t live in the present if you are still dwelling on the past. Forgive yourself for your mistakes and get on with it.
Of course, by the end of this week, this decision might be made for me. One of the potential jobs on the table might be taken away. That would make my life a lot easier in many ways, especially if it allows me to trundle down the road that I know I really want to take. Of course, I might not be so lucky, or both opportunities might come to nothing. Who knows? I guess the silver lining is, if that does happen, I have a bit more time to figure out what to do next.
So, as I conclude, I think I know what I am going to do. In the meantime, I am going to put the kettle on and start thinking about those pros and cons, to make sure. I just need to figure out if I want a cup of tea or a Hot Chocolate first. Tricky...

Sunday, 13 February 2011

You Have Been Watching...

So. Valentine’s Day tomorrow. Not that you need reminding – let’s face it, there’s no escape. I admit, as usual I have been sucked into the consumer-culture hype and have a card and present squirreled away for Him Indoors come the morning. Nothing flashy, mind, but nothing that he really needs either. Just another bit of tut to say “I love you”.
Like most couples, we have conformed and made plans for the day of lurve. Rather than opting for a romantic candlelight dinner (although we indulged in M&S’s special Valentine’s “Dine In” deal this evening) we have decided to go out for a bit of pub grub and to go and see Paul at the cinema. Nothing cements a relationship like a burger and chips followed by a sci-fi spoof, and after eight years I think we have gone beyond schmaltz and are quite content with spending a bit of quality time together.
I am really looking forward to seeing Paul. I am a big fan of the Pegg/Frost partnership, and quite honestly just love going to the cinema whatever the film. The sheer indulgence of sitting in a dark room with a bucket of popcorn with no distractions, just me and the movie, do it for me every time. This year has seen some real treats too – The Kings Speech and Black Swan were both cinematic delights for very different reasons and I thoroughly recommend them to anyone. There is one problem when it comes to going to the cinema, especially in London: The price. It is almost as expensive as going to the theatre these days. Then there are the added extras. One pack of popcorn and a drink? Don’t expect much change from a tenner. And if you want a comfy “premier” seat, well, I suggest you make efficiency savings elsewhere and smuggle in a couple of jam sandwiches and a flask of coffee for refreshment.
However, in London, there are a few cinematic experiences that you have to try out. First of all, there is the BFI. The other week I went to see Breakfast at Tiffany’s on the big screen, and last year indulged in seeing Jonny Depp during his very own season in Dead Man - what more could a girl ask for? Then there are the little independents which ooze movie cool. I am a big fan of the Brixton Ritzy and, even though I now live in north London, if I ever find myself south of the river will suggest it as a meeting point without hesitation. You see, not only does it show a selection of the best of Hollywood, Brit and Indie films, but it also has a fabulous cafe and bar with live music to boot. So, you can eat, drink, groove and critique the latest releases all in one place.
One thing I have yet to indulge in though is premier night at Leicester Square. Okay, so I have been in the vicinity when a film is due to be premiered, but have yet to feel the urge to stand in the rain surrounded by a gaggle of screaming teenagers/movie buffs just to catch a glimpse of my favourite stars. No, not even Jonny.
The best thing about the cinema though, especially in London, is the sheer escapism. When the lights go down and the reel starts rolling, you have no choice but to immerse yourself in the wonders that follow. And, quite often, that is just what the doctor ordered in this crazy place; pure unadulterated distraction from the world outside and its baggage.
Just make sure you remember to switch off your mobile.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Let's Dance

Like most women, I try to exercise once in a while. Yoga, swimming, jogging, working out in the gym; you name it, I’ve probably done it. I’ve even tried dancing with various levels of success. Argentine Tango did not suit the Feminist in me (What? Follow a man’s lead? Never!), or at least that is what I try to tell my two rather bruised left feet. Belly Dancing was my second attempt at trying to keep trim in a relatively co-ordinated way. This venture was much more successful. Until my gym stopped doing classes at a time that slotted into my busy schedule.
Then, last year, I heard about Zumba. My friend from Glasgow told me about it first - apparently it is big business up there. Her description of Latin moves in the form of an aerobics class caught my attention. The fact that you didn’t have to dance with a partner was particularly appetising – one thing Tango taught me is that being a taller than average woman has the disadvantage that most men’s eye level usually hovers around your chest. Not a good way to meet people. Then I found out that my gym had a Zumba class on a Thursday at 8pm.
So when I attended my last local More To Life Than Shoes (well, apparently there is) meeting, I made trotting along to a Zumba class my goal for the next month. Two colds, Christmas and several more excuses later (8pm does not see me at my most motivated to go out and get sweaty), last week I finally made it.
I tried not to be intimidated by our instructor AJ as he strapped on his hands-free mike and selected a particularly energetic tune to get us started. But as I watched him lead the warm-up, my anxiety of falling flat on my face melted away. That’s not to say that Zumba isn’t fast, because, well it is. I tried my best to keep up with AJ’s cunningly choreographed routine, and I like to think I did okay. But as I tried to mirror his carefully crafted moves, I couldn’t help but smile. As I attempted my own version of his wondrous wiggles, I caught the eye of another newcomer. We giggled. Occasionally I got lost in the routine and nearly fell into the realms of interpretive dance. But I didn’t care. I was exercising, and having a lot of fun whilst I was burning off several mince pies too many.
The fact that AJ did not seem too concerned that we weren’t all quite ready to appear on Strictly Come Dancing added to my enjoyment. Okay, so it’s good to know that you are getting your steps right, but it was refreshing not to have your every move scrutinised and corrected, which I for one can find a little disheartening and detracting from the fun. Trust me, I know I’m no Latino Lovely, and I certainly don’t need some washboard-stomached graduate from Pineapple Studios to remind me. But what I do need is to burn off the occasional bag of Kettle Chips, forget about my workplace worries and have a laugh once in a while. And Zumba ticked all my boxes.