Saturday, 25 August 2012

And Now for Someone Completely Different...

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  London is chocker-block with interesting folk. No-where else I have lived has such a diverse population.  And I’m not just talking race, sexuality, etc etc – I am talking people from different backgrounds with different beliefs (political, religious or otherwise), different lifestyles, and, even though we live in such close proximity to each other, completely different views.
Let’s face it though, we very rarely meet and mix with people from different “sets”.  Don’t get me wrong, I like to think my buddies are a diverse lot, but we’re all pretty much the same – middle class, university educated young professionals trying to find our way in life and having a bit of fun in the process.  Okay, so there are some deviations and some of us are faring a little better than others, but you get my drift.  Even at work where my colleagues probably come from a much broader catchment of society, we all have a very similar outlook on life – working in the public sector can guarantee that you are probably more interested in doing something beneficial for others than going home with a fat pay-check at the end of the month.
Every now and then, though, I get to meet someone whose lifestyle feels completely different from my own.  Take this week for example.  Although under less than happy circumstances, I met a 59 year old man who was a self-confessed “old hippy”.  He reminded me of a nicer version of Bill Nighy’s character in Love Actually - he’d lived the high life in the seventies and was now having to face the consequences.  However, despite his sorry state of affairs, he fascinated me.  His flat was full of books about spirituality, his walls were covered in photos of rockers from years gone by and his sofa was strewn with cushion covers and throws that wouldn’t have looked out of place at Woodstock.  All in all, I thought he was pretty cool, and if I had met him under different circumstances, I would have loved to listen to him tell me stories about his life over a pot of tea – or something stronger.
Then, last night, I met the creator of a lifestyle magazine who was looking for new bloggers (watch this space!).  We met in an Indian restaurant in the City where he was filming a promotional video.  Not only did I end up being an extra in the film (sans make-up bag – eek!) but I also got a couple of free vodka-tonics – and a scrumptious Indian meal to boot.  But what was fascinating was meeting a group of people who lived in a world of PR, marketing and Mayfair – not a world I am particularly familiar with.  The guy I met had created the magazine on his own from scratch – and everyone who was launching a new luxury item wanted him to cover it.  Yes, he has worked his butt off to get where he is today, but as he arranged to meet his friends at China White later that evening – and get them all on the guest list – I admit my eyes widened in awe.  I felt like Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada, the only difference being that this chap was not only successful but absolutely lovely too.
So, after a lovely weekend with my nearest and dearest up in Peterborough, I hope to hear from my new media muse – and get another glimpse into his life.  And, in a week or too, I might just arrange a visit to my old hippie – on purely professional grounds, of course.

Monday, 20 August 2012


I ain’t happy.  Tomorrow I have to go back to work.  This is bad for two reasons.  Firstly; I will need to tackle a four-day weekend worth of emails as well as an already groaning to-do list.  Secondly; I will be forced to use the office toilets. 
I don’t understand it.  I work in a seven-storey building and share the third floor with a handful of teams including HR.  However, some of the women I have to share WCs with have some shocking habits. I’m not just talking toilet roll and hand towels strewn over the floor, the occasional un-flushed toilet and taps left running either.  I am talking urine on the floor – and, once a month, worse.  They stink all the time, and the cubicles have warped to the point that the doors won’t lock.  To summarise, they make your average portaloo at Glastonbury look luxurious.
Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not exactly anal when it comes to housekeeping, but I have standards and appreciate a nicely kept bathroom.  That does not make it okay to expect people to pay for the convenience of, well, using your conveniences.  In London, this is a bit of a problem.  Public loos are few and far between and quite often when you do find one, you have to pay.  And then there are those pubs and clubs who employ someone to sit in the bogs with a face like a slapped arse who expect you to tip them for squeezing the soap. 
It goes without saying that the nicest restrooms I’ve sampled are ones that I haven’t had to pay to use either.  It is a well kept secret that there are some clean, well stocked and – wait for it – FREE toilets in St Pancras station – putting the ones next door in Kings Cross to shame.  And then there are the pubs that not only trust you to wash your own hands and keep their loos smelling sweet, but equip their rest rooms with comfortable seating, provide hand cream as well as posh soap and decorate their facilities to a standard Phil and Kirstie would be proud of.
So, come about ten-o’clock tomorrow when my first coffee of the day has hit my bladder, please think of me as I attempt to hold my nose whilst keeping the broken cubicle door closed in the ladies.  Or, if they are particularly nasty, you might just see me hopping across the road to St Pancras station.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Going for Gold

Okay, so I admit it. I’ve been ever so slightly cynical about the Olympics. Call me a pessimist, but I just had visions of an unbearable underground, bursting buses and trains full of tiresome tourists. With the economy on its knees after years of living beyond our means, a massive overspend seemed inevitable – and so did a humongous Council Tax bill to match. With the events of 7/7 occurring just the day after our bid was won, London began to feel very vulnerable – and the Olympics started to look like a missile-magnet long before the first diggers descended on the East End.  In short, I wasn't looking forward to it.

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

I'm loving Angel instead...

It’s Friday afternoon and I’m watching the clock.  Not because I’m at work - a lovely flexi-day has seen to that – but because I’m off to Angel in a little over an hour to meet my favourite, if a little mad, American.
I imagine some of you will be rolling your eyes at this point.  Angel, on a Friday evening?  Such a cliché.  Okay, so it might not be as trendy as Hoxton and Shoreditch or as la-di-da as Kensington and Chelsea, but it has a hell of a lot going for it.
Last Saturday I found myself at everyone’s favourite blue square on the Monopoly board once again.  I met a couple of friends at the Union Chapel at two, and, having caught the last twenty minutes or so of the Saturday lunchtime session have vowed to return in the autumn for some very reasonably priced – and really rather good – live music. 
We then pottered over to the Business and Design Centre to have a look around the Czech House. Being frugal types, we weren’t prepared to pay the fiver to get in – but were in awe of the art installation outside.  The almost life-sized double-decker in front of us showed off its stamina with a series of press-ups from its muscular arms – and, ladies, it’s bottom was pretty peachy too.  No, haven’t been smoking anything I shouldn’t have.  Go on, head to Upper Street – you have to see David Cerny’s giant sculpture to believe it.
After a spot of lunch on the green (or a blueberry flavoured Samba Swirl iced yoghurt in my case – yum!) we walked down to the Victoria Miro gallery near Old Street to see Grayson Perry’s tapestries.  They beautifully illustrated his study into class and taste as documented on his recent TV show for Channel 4, In the Best Possible Taste.  They were magnificent – and thought provoking.  No matter which “class” you consider yourself to be, I can guarantee you will see a bit of yourself in at least one of the pieces – even if you’d rather that you didn’t.
After a swift pint of two in The Narrowboat, I headed home with my friend to get ready for a spot (or rather a lot as it turned out) of dancing.  After a rather tasty curry and a couple of beers in front of the telly, we got changed and headed back to the capital of Islington.  A couple of drinks later (including an espresso) we went to the O2 Academy for Club de Fromage – and were delighted to find out that, for an extra three quid, we could have entry into Feeling Gloomy too if the cheesy pop got all a bit much for us.  We had a great time – the music was a palatable cheddar (with a few tasty chunks of stilton thrown in for good measure), made all the more digestible by our ability to interchange with the sedentary indie next door.  Okay, so there were the usual pissed, rude and annoying people in the crowd, but generally the atmosphere was quite chilled, and even the men who tried to woo us with their moves were cool when we politely turned them away.
So, yes, Angel isn’t the coolest corner of the capital, but I can’t help but love it.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to put my face on and decide what to wear...