Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Giving it a go...

Last night I found myself in a familiar situation.  It was 10.22pm and, as I slipped on my PJs, music began to pump from a neighbouring flat.  Surveying their open window, I considered my options; either screaming up at them or calling the police.  Luckily for all involved the noise subsided before I felt the need to do either - only to wake me up 90 minutes later.  Needless to say I was NOT amused.
But today, I am happy.  I have the perfect excuse to get my revenge.  You see, I am in my workplace’s “Staff Choir” and we have a concert with a local school on Sunday.  Which means I need to practice.  And I sing first soprano.  Shame...
Getting my own back for years of bad music, stomping and a general lack of consideration for others aren’t the only reasons why I’m in the choir.  I really enjoy singing and, although it may be considered a bit geeky, I jump at the opportunity to warble along with a large group of people who (thankfully) drown me out.  For me, it is a perk in a job that I bemoan rather than brag about.
You see, this year I’ve decided make the most of a mediocre nine til five situation by having a go at new things.  As well as singing (which is not a skill I expect will help me gain future employment) I have taken on the role of project managing and organising an educational community event.  It was a real headache and I admit I had to rely upon the knowledge and experience of a lot of my colleagues, but I pulled it off – and even got a thank you from the head of my service.  Last week I boosted this experience with a day’s workshop in project management - so, next time I see a job advertised which asks for this skill, I can tick that proverbial box with confidence.
Last week I also volunteered to talk to some school children at an event near Holborn.  I was absolutely dreading it – I’m not great with kids at the best of times and the thought of talking to a load of ten year olds is not my idea of fun.  But I decided to give it a go.  And, you know what?  It wasn’t too bad.  They actually took some interest in what I had to say and even the little darlings labelled as “difficult” engaged with me.  In fact – dare I say it? – I quite enjoyed myself.  And not just because I got a free lunch out of it.
So, although I’ve spent most of today ploughing my way through an avalanche of emails, I took the time to contact a colleague to start putting together another project.  And I’m actually quite looking forward to it.  Okay, so it’s not the same as signing a book deal or selling a painting, but it’s something different, something new and, essentially something that will benefit my work, the local community – and myself.  And, until I can retire on the royalties of that bestseller, that will do for me.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Changing Places

Okay, I admit it – I don’t really know London like the back of my hand.  For a start, London is quite a bit bigger than my paws and eleven years is nowhere near long enough to explore every nook and cranny.  However, I do like to think that I know certain corners of the city pretty well.
I lived near Oval for about four years before moving to Islington and l used to think that I had nearby Brixton pretty much sussed – where to eat (the noodle bar on Coldharbour Lane), where to dance (Living Room), best place for a tipple (Ritzy Cinema bar) where to find something to read (the second hand book shop on Coldharbour), high street clothes (Selbys), quirky accessories (Joy) and gifts (the tiny shop on Station Road).  Whatever your want or need, I could point you in the right direction.
Or so I thought. 
On Friday I arranged to meet a friend at Brixton Village Market.  My first surprise as I turned down Coldharbour Lane was that my old Saturday night haunt Living Room was no more.  Bummer.  My second surprise was less of a disappointment – in fact, it was something of a revelation.  When I lived down south, I dismissed the Village Market as somewhere that offered nothing more than a few fruit and veg stalls and couple of dodgy take-away units.  How wrong could I be?  Crammed with shops full of quirky clothes and accessories for yourself and your home, bars, cafes and restaurants, I was seriously impressed – and slightly sore that I had not discovered it sooner.  I met my friend Laura who had just popped into Brixi where she sells her funky greetings cards (and where fellow crafty-chick Pippa sells her fabulous flying women) and wandered around for a bit before heading to Franco Manca for arguably the best pizza in London – and an alternative to the usual Udon soup.
So, even if I do manage to turn over every proverbial stone in every street of all 32 boroughs, I still won’t really know London.  It’s constantly changing, a chameleon of a city that always keeps its inhabitants guessing.  There’s no space to get bored when the view from your office transforms before your very eyes.  And I guess that’s why, even though it drives me mad with its extortionate rent, flagging public transport system and general disdain for anyone and anything, I’m still here.  

Sunday, 10 June 2012

One Hour Away

It’s 1:52pm on Sunday afternoon and, after promising myself to dedicate my day of rest to writing, sewing and other craftiness, I have only just sat down to my computer.  My resolution to also go for a jog is partly to blame, as is run of the mill housework and a rather shoddy 10am start - particularly poor as I was in bed before midnight. 
I would of course have got some of these tasks out of the way yesterday, but I was in Cambridge.  My friend and I decided that we were overdue a girly get-together and, as she lives near Peterborough, we decided that it would make a good meeting point.  Not only is it a mere 45 minutes away from London (and 50 from Peterborough), it offers everything a couple of girls could need on a day out - restaurants, shops and, for when shopping gets too much, the good old pub.
Of course, it offers much more.  There’s punting – and having eyed up some of the, er, punters, we were both quite tempted.  Then there are all the lovely old college buildings, where my chum informed me you can go inside and see original textbooks that are hundreds of years old by the likes of Charles Darwin.  Pretty cool.  Along with the walking tours, bike hire and a smattering of high calibre buskers, we could have kept ourselves busy for an entire weekend – which we vowed (over our second beer) to do with our men this summer.
You see, another thing I love about London is, when I start to hate it – or just need a break from concrete – it is easy to escape.  A few weeks ago I met a group of friends in Peterborough.  Okay, I agree, not an obvious mini-break destination, but I actually had a lovely time.  Saturday evening was spent at the dogs, and despite a marked lack of profit at the end of the night, it was hard not to get caught up in the excitable atmosphere and fun was had by all.  On the Sunday we wandered around the cathedral which, with its unusual wooden panelled ceiling and the workings of the original clock on display, was certainly worth a look.  Then, of course, there was shopping, where I was successful in finding a stone-coloured shrug for my hols and a birthday present for another of my friends.  In true Shelly style, the day ended in the Beehive pub where I sampled a couple of beers from an extensive collection and munched a bowl of chunky chips before heading back to the station.
There are loads of other places you can get to within an hour of Kings Cross.  When a friend lived in Hertford I often enjoyed pottering out to see her – and a rather chilled weekend of country walks, pubs and amateur dramatics at the tiny theatre.  And there is always Brighton.  Most excitingly though, whilst walking through St Pancras station this week, I noticed that they have a strain service that goes directly to Margate – via Broadstairs.  Me thinks I shall be heading out that way again soon for some quality vintage shopping and further exploration of Margate’s up and coming arts scene.  Hell, after spending four nights in a self catering apartment several times the size of my own (with the added bonus of a sea view), I think I shall be investigating house prices too. 
But, in the meantime, I think a few more day trips are in order.  I just need to decide where to go next...

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Re-balancing the rat-race

Happy Jubilee everyone!  Whether you love or loathe HRH, having an extra bank holiday is enough to make most of us hum along to “God Save The Queen” – and not The Sex Pistols version either.  For me, it conveniently tags a couple of days to my two week holiday allowing me to to unwind, unpack and re-acclimatize to London life.  Today has been a rather chilled affair, lying in, making Jamie Oliver’s Breakfast Bread (highly recommended) and pottering around Greenwich Market.  Sweet.
Sadly, there is a niggling worry at the back of my mind.  Work.  In 60 hours I will be sat at my desk, trawling through what I estimate to be around four hundred emails and slowly losing my cool as my “to do” list grows to astronomical proportions.  My fear is fed by the memory of my last week at work before I went on leave.  Without a doubt it was one of the most challenging weeks of my career, with numerous unresolved cases to get to the bottom of – and a handful of incredibly difficult situations to deal with.  By the time I managed to escape the office on the Friday at 6pm I was exhausted – and just thankful I had at least managed to work through my “URGENT” list.
Needless to say, Saturday was a manic affair, packing, cleaning and shooting into central London to catch a must-see exhibition, suitcase in tow, before catching the train to Gatwick.  It took me a good 48 hours of sun, sea and sangria to slow down, relax and get into the swing of holiday life and it was day five by the time I was able to embrace the Spanish siesta. 
I’ve been back in Blighty a week now, but rather than being back in the big smoke I’ve been taking it easy in Kent, kicking back with a couple of girlfriends in an apartment in Broadstairs.  Within seconds of walking into our home for four nights I was wondering how much the beautiful two-bed flat with a sea view would set me back in today’s market.  24 hours in I had visited the up and coming Old Town in Margate (yes, really) and was fantasising about setting up my creative cafe among the galleries, craft shops and vintage boutiques already thriving in the quarter. 
So, here I am, back in my one bed flat, having spent most of this afternoon stuck on public transport, wondering if it is really worth it.  Would life be simpler out in the sticks?  Could I find my niche in a less pressurised job?  Maybe I could.  Or maybe I just need to rebalance those scales once more.  Either way, two weeks away from the rat race has got me thinking.
I guess I just need to put some of those thoughts into action.