Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Water Washout

At the end of last year I started to see a life coach.  I only saw him about half a dozen times, just to iron out a few chinks in my armour, but it was certainly a valuable experience.  One thing he helped me with was my guilt.  After explaining how it gnawed away at me like a hyperactive rodent, he enquired,
“Are you by any chance a Catholic?”
If I was, it would explain a thing or two.  But I’m not.  And, whenever there is an opportunity to feel bad about something, I grab it with both hands.  Take “green guilt” for example.  I feel shamed if I have to take a carrier bag at the local supermarket and lose sleep if I discard an empty Coke can or exhausted newspaper in a general waste bin.  And despite my coach’s attempts to put my feelings of guilt into perspective, it has recently got worse.  You see, I now have “drought guilt.”  I kid you not, but after my Saturday morning ritual in the bath, cleaning, laundry, hand washing and mopping, I don’t think I could have felt much worse that if I’d just kicked a malnourished puppy.
So, on Monday I sought redemption.  A week after moving to a new office at work, I walked into the ladies to see one of the taps running freely once more.  With a tut I twisted it off and marched back to my desk to call building maintenance and demanded that it be fixed at once.  Two days later, the problem has not gone away.  I think back to the total number of minutes that I had water running over the weekend and calculate for how many hours that tap has been spurting out London’s most valuable commodity du jour, and – you know what?  I get bloody angry. 
Let’s face it, big businesses and corporations waste gallons of H20 every nano-second – probably because they can afford our steep water rates, which I am sure will go up if we get to the point of actually buying water from our better-stocked neighbours.  Which reminds me – what on earth has happened to the world when a natural and necessary substance such as water is traded this way?  I’m sorry, but it just seems, well, wrong.  I mean, are we going to start tanking it over to sub-Saharan Africa and sell it to them too?  My mind boggles.
Of course, this would bother me less if the sun was shining and it hadn’t been absolutely chucking it down for what feels like an eternity.  And now, of course, we see that some parts of the country are at risk of flooding.  Yes, I know that this extreme weather is down to global warming etc etc (and yes I do feel like my recent flight to Budapest is single-handedly to blame for these recent conditions) and that when rain falls so quickly it is less easy for us to harvest, but surely, in this day and age, we have the engineering and technical know-how to do so – and pipe it from one end of the country to another?  Come on people, the UK isn’t that big.  Surely this is possible – and a worthwhile investment? 
Sadly, as much as I rant, I know that I shall still feel guilty if I linger under the shower for too long in the morning.  But, as I arrive at my bus stop, already sodden from a misjudged puddle or inconsiderate driver, I shall remain more than a little pissed off that, for some inconceivable reason, we still have a water shortage – and the powers that be have yet to figure out how to balance this contradiction.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Mix 'n' Match

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

City Secrets

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...