Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Monday, 22 October 2012
Tuesday, 9 October 2012
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
Monday, 24 September 2012
Tuesday, 18 September 2012
Monday, 3 September 2012
Saturday, 25 August 2012
Monday, 20 August 2012
Friday, 10 August 2012
But, you know what? I think the last two weeks have been more than bearable. The bus journey into work has if anything been quicker and, although there have been an increase in cameras, maps and rucksacks worn back to front, Kings Cross hasn’t felt much busier than normal. And, what’s more, I think it has put everyone in a good mood. The news has been dominated by gold medals won rather than jobs, businesses and, essentially, money lost. People are proud of their country again – Britain is great once more. Even I was moved to see little Jess Ennis win her gold (it was on in the pub) and felt a shiver run down my spine as I walked through the streets of South London last Saturday night to the sound of elated cheering coming from every direction. And, despite a little bit of a slip up with security, I don't think our mates Seb and Boris have done a bad job. In fact, if TFL functioned without line closures and the rest of London ran this smoothly all of the time... okay, so that might be a taking it too far. Let's just leave it that I am quietly impressed.
So, as the closing ceremony approaches, maybe I feel a little bit of regret for not getting a bit more behind Team GB. Okay, so I’ve kept an eye on the results table and put it on for a bit of background telly once in a while, but I’ve not exactly got Olympic fever. But I think it is fair to say that the rest of the country has got into the swing of it and, for the first time in ages, there’s a whiff of optimism in the air. And, as far as I am concerned, is a result worth waiting for.
Friday, 3 August 2012
Wednesday, 25 July 2012
Wednesday, 11 July 2012
Tuesday, 3 July 2012
Wednesday, 27 June 2012
Monday, 18 June 2012
Sunday, 10 June 2012
Sunday, 3 June 2012
Saturday, 19 May 2012
Thursday, 10 May 2012
Thursday, 3 May 2012
Wednesday, 25 April 2012
Wednesday, 18 April 2012
I have a confession to make. I’m not sure how people will take it, but I feel like I have to come clean. Okay, here goes...
I love Ikea.
I’m sorry, but I do. I went there the other weekend, and, although I only came back with a new picture frame and a furry rug, I could have spent a small fortune. I’ve been craving one of those wooden framed rocking chairs for ages and, if I had the room, I’d have one in every colour. Coupled with their current special offer of a cinnamon bun and coffee for 50p and their range of weird and wonderful food (reindeer salami anyone?), it is, for me, a shopper’s paradise.
I know people who pride themselves for having never set foot in the place. Others who refuse to enter their local Tesco Metro and look down their noses at anyone who has ever indulged in a KFC. Guess what? I am guilty of both of those offences too.
And yes, guilty is the right word. With my left-leaning morals I should know better. And, living in London where there is such an abundance of independent retailers, I have no excuse. But the truth of the matter is that although I love local, sometimes I just want the convenience of walking into a shop and walking out five minutes later without having spent half the afternoon rummaging around for that unique/organic/vintage something special.
Don’t get me wrong. When the mood hits me, I can quite easily spend an entire weekend mooching around London’s markets. Whether it’s brownies and bratwurst at Borough Market, art and fashion from Spitalfields or fun fifties furniture down Brick Lane, when the time is right, I can’t get enough of it. But when I’m on my way home from work, pay day is a million light years away and I just can’t be arsed? Sorry but there’s no competition. And every little really does help.
So there you have it. Now, if you’ll excuse me I have a locally purchased bottle of wine to devour and two Birthday presents to get in the post. Yes, one of them was purchased last night in Grotesqucoes. The other? My favourite independent retailer in Kings Cross. Now where did I put that re-cycled wrapping paper?
Wednesday, 11 April 2012
Tonight is the fourth night in a row I have been at home left to my own devices. It’s been all very pleasant, but, needless to say, I am getting rather bouncy and looking forward to a night at the National Portrait Gallery tomorrow, pay day drinks on Friday and a weekend with my folks. Happy days.
Yet, despite my interest in the work of Lucien Freud, there is part of me that really doesn’t want to head into central London tomorrow. You see, I really need to do a little bit of shopping and, without making a major de-tour, that means one thing: Oxford Street. Yes, okay, so I could go on a different occasion but I really want to get to H&M whilst the bath mat I so desire is still in stock and to visit Paperchase whilst they have their sale on – and I really don’t want to have to dedicate an entire afternoon to High Street Hell.
That’s the problem with London – so much of it is so big, so overwhelming and so rammed with tourists that I can understand why it puts a lot of people off. I admit, when I first moved here I quite liked its brazen boldness, but as our relationship has developed it is a side of London that I have realised I don’t really care for.
Luckily, over the years, I have been able to take a peek at the capital’s alternative underbelly – and I like what I see. It is the hidden gems, the little nooks and crannies that make London so great – and constantly full of surprises.
Let’s start with museums. An Australian friend of mine was looking for something new to do the other weekend. She fancied a museum but had done all the big players to death, so I suggested the Old Operating Theatre. Tucked away at the back of London Bridge, it is crammed with old medical apparatus, bits of preserved bodies and the theatre itself – viewing gallery, blood stains and all. To me it is a proper museum – dusty, dark and more than a little bit macabre. What more could a London girl ask for? I know there are other like-minded places I have yet to have a poke around in – one of them being the better known Horniman Museum, which I shall definitely get around to visiting this year in order to catch its The Body Adorned exhibition (think tattoos, piercings and the like).
It’s also a relief to know that there is a wealth of other things I can get up to in the evening that are a little bit off the beaten track. I’m not a huge fan of musical theatre, but had a magical experience at the Soho Theatre a couple of months ago, listening to stories told by the Crick Crack Club. When I fancy a night on the dance floor, rather than your run of the mill superclubs, there are nights arranged by the likes of B&H events where I can step back in time, dress up and lose myself in another era.
And, if you have a big party to arrange and don’t fancy a bar crawl around Leicester Square – fear not. As well as speedboat rides on the Thames (as raved about in a previous blog), there are also places like my favourite, Drink, Shop, Do, in Kings Cross. For my friend’s Pre-Wedding Girly Get-Together (I wasn’t allowed to call it a Hen Do) we tucked into afternoon teas “with a kick” – whilst attempting to make garters. It was great fun and I have to say, I don’t think I’ve ever seen my girlfriends so engrossed in all our years. And we are talking a lot of years...
So, there you go – my whistle-stop tour of London’s less flashy leisure activities. It just goes to show, first impressions can be misleading, and big doesn’t always mean better. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to book tickets for the opera – as performed in a gay bar...
Friday, 30 March 2012
The last two weekends I have been out of London. As well as being pleasurable in their own right, they also reminded me how much more you get for your money outside of the capital. A pint of scrumpy in Somerset? Just over two pounds. A beer in Budapest? Even less.
But, one has to remind oneself that cheaper does not always mean better. And, nine times out of ten, when something is free... there is a reason for it. It could be because it is a new product or service trying to gain new custom. It might be to lure back old customers. Or... it is sometimes just because the very thing they are giving away is, pure and simply, shite.
Take my recent trip down to South London. I ended up in an old man’s pub called The Trafalgar. So far, not a problem. I partook in another pint (or two) of real ale and listened politely as my friends continued to wean me onto lager’s decidedly flatter cousin. I was quite content.
Then the evening’s entertainment started. Needless to say, it was free. Some of you may know Steve Whalley as the lead singer of Slade before Noddy took the reins. Anyway, he and his side-kick treated us to a taste of the blues. Okay, so the man could sing, and the strumming was more than passable. Then I started to listen to the lyrics.
So, what was he singing about? 6’3’’ blondes. Prostitutes and how they love selling their bodies to their pimps and punters. Naked robbers and women riding horses in tight jodhpurs. The feminist within me was not amused, and it became clear that even some of the men in our party were less than impressed too. So... we left. And I don’t think we’ll be back.
But, fear not, freebies can be fabulous too. Last week I met one of the girls (I had been with on that frightful night) for a curry and a bit of comedy at Ruby Tuesday’s, The Queen’s Head. The curry, although not free, was pleasant and reasonably priced; the comedy; gratis. I knew that, especially as it was in the heart of Soho, it might be a bit rough around the edges, but my mate had been before and assured me that it was okay.
I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. Okay, so a couple of the stand-ups were a bit leftfield for me and there were one too many poo jokes (although one of them was particularly funny), but some of the acts were really very amusing. I particularly liked the Swedish stand-up’s take on public transport here and there, and the lovely Blossom’s musings on what it means to be beautiful on the inside.
So, when you end up going out for a freebie in London, be prepared to make a swift exit. But, on the other hand, keep your mind open and you might just have a top night. And, if you do? Please let me know. The northerner in me loves a cheap date...
Thursday, 22 March 2012
Today I realised that spring is well and truly here. Why? Well, it was the first day this year that I looked at my coat pegs heaving with woollies and thought, mmm, time to put them away and replace them with my light-weight jackets and silky scarves.
Yet, despite the optimism that the warmer months usually inspire, I noticed a cloud hanging over London today. I went on Twitter, where people were bemoaning feeling out of control of their lives, groaning about having to deal with difficult people and apparently feeling pretty shitty about life in general. Why is everybody so blue? I wondered. But then I thought back over my day. It had been long and hard, yes. But the real killer? The bus journey home.
Yes, I know, I often sing the praises of buses and prefer them over the tube any day (and not just because they are cheaper, although, being a tight arse, that is a real plus). But, let’s face it, at the end of the day they are the lesser of two evils. And, when they want to be, they can be pretty darn devilish.
Take last week, if you will. On Tuesday, after a swift pint, I attempted to catch the bus home. It was seven o’clock, so the worst of the evening’s rush hour had been and gone. The only problem was that at the exact moment I decided to mount the 91, a group of protesting cyclists decided to over-take us – and proceeded to pedal up York Way at a snail’s pace. Yes, okay, so they wanted to assert their rights as road users and celebrate the life of those cyclists who have picked fights with bigger vehicles and come off decidedly worse, but - seriously? At the end of the day, I wanted to go home. And by getting in my way, they weren’t warming me to their cause.
Cyclists, don’t curse me yet. You aren’t the only ones who make my journey on the average double-decker more than a little tedious. There are the bus drivers who watch you as you run towards their gigantic red beast, handbag flapping at your hip and Tesco carrier bag tangling around your legs – only to pull off when you get within five metres of them. Or those who, despite traffic grinding to a standstill, refuse to open the doors until you are at the next bus-stop – even though nothing is moving within a mile radius. And yes, both these scenarios happened to me last week, too.
Okay, so you could argue that these bus drivers are just doing their job. They are playing by the rules, and there is no room for manoeuvre (quite literally). But then you have the bus drivers who blatantly lie to you.
“There’s an empty bus just behind me,” I was advised as I, along with a gaggle of commuters desperate to get to their desks and first coffee of the day, tried to squeeze through the door on Wednesday. I made a fatal mistake. I paused, and looked up the road to see if he was telling the truth. Needless to say, he wasn’t – but the doors had already slammed in my face as the driver hurriedly thrust into first gear and pulled away. Apparently, in his world, “just behind me” means “about ten minutes away – if you’re lucky.” Thanks, mate, just what a girl needs at eight in the morning.
I guess the moral of the story is, that no matter how sunny it is, how well paid you are or how yummy your lunch was, there is always something in this city to put a dampener on your mood. But, you know what? I will not be beaten. Despite the trials and tribulation of TFL, I will be unbreakable. Or rather, if I am broken, it will not be my something as trivial as London’s arthritic public transport.
So, my advice to those travelling by bus? Pack light, take a good (paperback) book with you, and grin and bear it. And, no matter how painful it gets, don’t let the bastards grind you down...
Sunday, 11 March 2012
Dare I say it, but... I think spring is peeking around the corner. This morning for the first time this year (when I have been at home anyway), it was warm and dry enough for me to get out on the terrace and prepare for the change of season. I spent a very pleasant hour pulling dead leaves off plants, weeding and sweeping up the winter debris before sitting outside with my book and a cup of coffee. A perfect way to spend a Sunday morning.
It is a pleasure to be able to spend a decent amount of time outdoors – that doesn’t only involve hopping between shops or walking to the office. Last week I got some proper fresh air when I was back up north visiting friends and family. I spent an afternoon with my folks at a wildlife reserve and went for a quick three-mile trek around the lake with my dad before enjoying a cuppa in the cafe. I was just what the doctor ordered.
However, last Saturday I discovered a little gem just at the southern end of the Northern Line. I headed down to Colliers Wood to meet a couple of friends to plan a holiday. We decided to have a bit of fun before settling down to the internet and went to Merton Abbey and Watermill. A centre for the Arts and Crafts Movement in the 18th Century, my chum has been raving about it for ages – and I can see why. With a working water mill, crafts shops, a market and a good range of eateries and watering holes, it’s the perfect place to while away a few hours. Whilst there I picked up a birthday present for my mum and managed to track down the crystal Buddha I have been after for ages – for the reasonable price of four quid.
But our wander didn’t stop there. 5 minutes away was the Merton City Farm. Well, I was as happy as a pig in mud! There were sheep, llamas, goats, chickens, Edna the barn owl, and – most excitingly – a plethora of rabbits and guinea pigs.
My human pals pulled me away from my new furry friends with the promise that our day out in the urban countryside was not over yet. We walked further out to Morden Hall Park. With a wetland nature reserve, gardens, a beautiful hall framed by bridges across a small stream and the obligatory National Trust shop and cafe, we could have easily spent the entire afternoon exploring. We rounded off the day window shopping in the garden centre and aquarium before heading home. I have made my friend promise to take me back when the weather is warm enough for a picnic, when we have more time to talk to the animals and my bank balance will allow me to fully appreciate the old abbey’s delights.
So, as night falls over London on one of the warmest days of the year so far, I am really looking forward to spring and summer, and future visits to my friends south of the river – and hopefully further discoveries of countryside escapes in the capital.
Maybe we should have just planned a staycation...
Thursday, 1 March 2012
Sunday was nothing unusual really – a date with friends at the Hayward to see David Shrigley’s first major exhibition (Note: VERY amusing) followed by a cup of tea and a slice of cake from the Southbank Sunday market. My chocolate and peanut butter concoction gave me a good weeks’ worth of cocoa-fix and the masala chai was much kinder to my hangover than the alternative beverages of Polish lager, stout or scrumpy. After a quick mooch around the Southbank Centre Shop, I returned home a happy bunny.
Saturday, however, was something quite different. It was my friend’s Hen Do – and a boat trip on the Thames had been arranged. Now, let me explain – this was not any boat trip. This was the Thames RIB Experience. A.K.A a ride in a speedboat. Pretty cool, I figured when I agreed to come along. Well, I’ve always liked boats and had never been on one with a bit of speed to it.
Little did I know what I was getting myself into.
It started off tame enough. Yes, we were moving faster than most the traffic on the river, but it was nothing extraordinary.
Then they treated us to a little swerve. Nothing major, not even a 45 degree tilt to the boat – but enough to make us scream all the same. As our nervous laughter faded we were lulled into a false sense of security. The skipper gave us a bit of a commentary on the sites of interest that we passed, and we all got snap happy as we floated by the Tate Modern, the Tower, and St Paul's.
Then we got to Canary Wharf. And all hell broke loose.
It started with a marked increase in speed. Then the James Bond theme started to pump through the air.
It was fiercer than any roller coaster. We swerved from side to side, our vessel at a right-angle to the water. We screamed. We laughed. Our faces streamed with tears, spray and mascara. Every now and then we had to grip on for dear life.
It was bloody brilliant.
Grinning manically and hoarse from our screaming, we tottered off the boat - and headed to another one. Sadly this one was static – but it served booze, and after our adrenaline rush, we were all ready for a glass of vino or three.
The rest of the evening was really rather pleasant. We wandered over the Wobbly Bridge to the Wharf on the Southbank for dinner (I can confirm that the house burger was very acceptable to my taste buds) before staggering (well, it was getting late when we left) to the BFI bar – okay, so rather pricey, but with its comfy seats, laid back music and a good selection of all things alcoholic, it was worth it. Luckily, the blushing bride managed to avoid getting into a fight with someone over who got to a free table first (it would appear she gets feisty after wine) and we wandered back to Charing Cross more than a little well-oiled.
So, yes – last weekend, the Thames out-did itself. And yes – if I get invited to another do on a speed boat I shall be there. With bells on.
Monday, 20 February 2012
So, we have established that London and I are getting on quite well at the moment. It hasn’t always been like this – and I’m not just talking about my rants on this blog about rude people, crappy public transport and a general lack of space. When I was a kid I visited London a few times with my family. I remember walking over one of the many bridges crossing the Thames and thinking that I would never get to the other side, and trudging for what felt like miles to see Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guards – and being less that convinced that it was worth the exertion. Later visits involved museums – and lots of them. My sister was thinking about studying archaeology so a trip to the British Museum was inevitable. We walked around for hours looking at old coins, bits of broken pot and grisly mummies. I’m afraid to say, it didn’t float my boat – and, quite honestly, it still doesn’t.
I’m sorry, but I just don’t get looking at old things. Okay, so I understand that they tell us a lot about our ancestors and how human society has developed, but I’d much rather spend an afternoon in a gallery looking at things that teach me about the world around me through the means of artistic expression.
Last weekend I found myself at the British Museum once more. Greyson Perry’s The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsmen was showing, so I invited my mum down to the Big Smoke have a gander with me. I really enjoyed it. Not only was Greyson’s work thought provoking (he had plenty to say about contemporary culture, from gender issues, social media and the rise of surveillance) but his use and appreciation of ancient crafts bridged the gap between art and history seamlessly. It is on until the 26th February, so it you can, go and take a look – you won’t be disappointed.
After a spot of afternoon tea in the Great Court, we decided to wander over to the Foundling Museum. My primary reason for suggesting it was to see the exhibition by Quentin Blake. As a life-long fan of Roald Dahl, I have grown up with Blake’s quirky illustrations and was keen to see some of his more recent work. The images on show were copies of paintings commissioned by a range of institutions, ranging from clinics for those suffering from eating disorders to care homes for the elderly. The paintings of mothers swimming underwater with their new-born babies created for a maternity ward were particularly beautiful – and quite moving.
Whilst we were there we checked out the rest of the museum, dedicated to the Foundling Hospital opened on the site at the end of the 19th Century. It briefly told the story of how the charity now known as Coram was set up – and what it was like to be a child growing up in the institution. My work in Social Care has exposed me to the organisation before – and the important work they still do with disadvantaged young people. I firmly believe that by the time a child gets to their teenage years, damage done is almost irreversible – and charities like Coram are essential to steering them in the right direction.
Okay, so I admit it – museums are okay – as long as their subject matter is something that grabs my attention. Random bones and old cooking utensils? No thanks. The story of an interesting person, organisation or industry? Okay then. But, throw in a bit of social-commentating art, and I’ll definitely be there.