Monday, 24 September 2012


Today, folks, I am not feeling the love.  Work is driving me insane, it’s been grey and drizzly all day and, quite honestly, I’m fed up.  It’s enough to make me run to the hills, literally – preferably one with a nice cottage with a roaring fire, a goofy mutt at my heels and a nice bit of self-employment which, preferably, I can practise from the comfort of my sofa.
But, let’s face it, it isn’t gonna happen.  It’s pure fantasy.  Right? 
Well, maybe not.  Maybe my pie-in-the-sky dream of opening a creative café somewhere on the coast isn’t really that unachievable?  I think it’s easy to forget the opportunities that there are outside of the big city.  Take tourism for example – in the current financial climate, “staycations” are all the rage.  Plus, more and more people seem to be quitting the rat race for a more simple life – and not just the over sixties either.  Mothers are looking for a better start for their kids, fathers are searching for a healthier lifestyle, and everyone else is just looking for a bit of meaning to their lives, especially now that the pursuit of material wealth has become so untenable.
And people do it – and do quite well out of it, too.  Only ten days ago I was sat in a pot painting shop in the middle of North Yorkshire chatting to the owner as my other half painstakingly finished decorating his mug (NB:  it’s a great way to keep your man quiet for a couple of hours).  I asked her how things were going and, although she admitted that there were peaks and troughs, she had kept her business afloat for five years – and had been able to create her own artwork at the same time.  Okay, so it might not have the same footfall as similar places in a city, but with locals and tourists looking for something to do on a rainy day, things were going quite nicely for her.
And that isn’t all.  Whilst up in’t moors, I listened with interest to a conversation between two locals about an on-going case of anti-social behaviour.  My ears pricked up.   What was it?  Drug dealers?  A crime wave?  Prostitutes infiltrating the countryside?  No.  It was someone using an electric saw early in the morning.  Yes, I know what you’re thinking; time to call in the army.  In the five days I was there, I only heard one siren – and, as the offending ambulance zoomed through the village, it struck me how noticeable the sound was after three days of hearing nothing louder and a dog bark.
So, maybe life in the country is achievable.  Maybe it is better for us.  And maybe we would all be a lot healthier and happier if we jacked in our jobs in the city and put down roots in the sticks.  And maybe, just maybe, life would be so good we’d have nothing to complain about.
And maybe all that peace and quiet might send us all a bit crazy too…

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Capital Comparisons

The observant of you will have noticed that I haven’t been around for a little while.  Those of you who know me will know why - and will no doubt be rolling your eyes once more as I announce, not that I am going to New York, but I have now well and truly conquered it.  Yes, in five days I think I cracked it and in turn it has massacred two pairs of my shoes (and my feet) as I pounded its pavements.  Of course, I haven’t seen it all, but hope that when I return (which I will) I'll be able to kick back and relax whilst fitting in an exploration of Harlem, the Bronx and Queens – plus a trip out to the Giant’s football stadium for some foam fingered fun.
As I wandered around taking in the sights, smells and shops New York offers, I couldn’t help but compare it to London.  MOMA?  Not unlike Tate Modern at all.  Fifth Avenue?  Bond Street, eat your heart out.  Lower East Side?  A little bit of Camden Town with its indie shops stocked with bongs, crystal Buddhas and boho dresses. 
I could go on.  But, as I headed back to London, I started to think about how my home city compared to the other heavyweights around the globe that I have visited and loved.  Unlike Vancouver and Barcelona, it doesn’t boast a beach... but then the Southbank is almost as tranquil as any seafront.  It may not have the fairytale skyline of Budapest and Prague, but the beauty of St Pauls and the majesty of the Tower and Albert Bridges can’t help but take your breath away.  And it may not have the romance and food of Paris, but it does have the excitement of Borough Market and the culinary delights from around the world found in China Town, Tooting and Wood Green to name a few.
So yes, I was sad to leave New York a week ago – but I was also looking forward to getting home.  Okay, so seeing Silence! (a parody of Silence of the Lambs) nearly made me pee my pants, but I am looking forward to catching a new play at the Arts Theatre with a friend for £3 on Saturday.  And yes, there is nothing quite like a blueberry bagel or a giant pretzel to set you up for the day, but then there is nothing as satisfying as a big box of noodles at the Stables Market in Camden to tie up a day of shopping.   And although the Jazz at the Lincoln Centre was pretty awesome, it wasn’t as bargainous as Daylight Music at the Union Chapel.
And that isn’t all.  Okay, so New Yorkers are a fascinating bunch – from the mad taxi driver who told me how much he loved Henry VIII, the American-Albanian who was pro-Romney and the old guy who took it upon himself to be my personal tour guide of Central Park – but they don’t beat Londoners.  And, quite honestly, I can’t wait to immerse myself in their self-centred moodiness once more.  Because that, my friends, is where I belong. 

Monday, 3 September 2012

Running scarred

It’s Monday morning and I’m sat on my sofa in my pyjamas.  Yes, you’re right, I should count myself jolly fortunate not to be chained to my desk, but in all honesty I’m feeling a bit sorry for myself.  And I blame sport.
As I’m sure most of you will have picked up from previous blogs, I have been less than enthusiastic about the Olympics but, subconsciously or not, I think I too have been inspired by the achievements of our athletes.  On Saturday I decided to diversify from my usual exercise regime and went for a swim.  I quite enjoyed it and, although speed is not my strength, I did a good 60 lengths at not a bad pace. 
I should have left happy – but sadly my mood was dampened (no pun intended) by the attitude of another swimmer sharing the medium lane with me.  Yes, I wasn’t the fastest swimmer in the lane (but certainly not the slowest) and I do expect the odd speedygonzalez to whizz past me on occasion – especially when there isn’t a fast lane for them to occupy.  But what I don’t expect is for them to cut me up when they overtake.  Or to dive under other swimmers to get past.  And certainly not to swim on top of me.
Yes, this happened.  I looked around to see the said water-baby actually on my legs.  She looked up at me.  I looked back, waiting for her to, well, stop, and at least smile an apology.
“If you don’t like people overtaking you, you should swim in the slow lane.”
I was dumbfounded at this response. 
“You might be better suited there.”  She continued.
I gave her my most withering look, shook my head in disbelief and carried on swimming.  There was absolutely no point arguing with this woman who was further up her own arse than her grannyfied swimming costume.  But I couldn’t help but feel outraged at her lack of manners – and sheer cheek.  A prime example of how having a plummy accent doesn't always mean you’ve been brought up well.
However, I will not be defeated by fitness freaks who like to belittle people who aren’t quite as good as they are.  So, on Sunday, I went for a jog.  The start was hard-going - a steep hill followed by a slight but relentless incline before flattening out and gradually going downhill.  Which it did in more ways than one.
I was going at a respectable pace and feeling good.  After the hard slog up to Highgate Woods, I was debating jogging all the way to Finsbury Park – and keeping going until I got home.  However, a small and unseen rock poking up in my path put an end to this, and within an instant I had added diving to my repertoire.  As I glided onto the floor my water bottle rolled to the feet of a couple walking by who, either down to common decency or a lack of choice, checked that I was okay.
“At least you missed the dog poo.”  The woman offered and I managed a little joke in return.  As they walked on I assessed the damage.  My elbow was scarlet and my hand pretty grazed too, plus my knee was throbbing.  I hobbled home to lick my wounds. 
After a shower and a liberal application of Savlon to my affected bits, I decided to relax in front of the telly with a plate of beans on toast.  I flicked it on, hoping to find an episode of Come Dine with Me or Deal or No Deal.  What did I find?  Bloody Paralympics. 
Don’t get me wrong; I think the Paralympics is fantastic and much more inspiring that it’s big brother.  But after my recent experience, I really didn’t want to see people much less able bodied than me whooping my ass in the disciplines I had just failed so spectacularly at.  I mean, you don’t see any of them being belittled in the swimming pool or sprawling head-first across the athletics track, do you?  Whereas I, all limbs intact and with a body that is supposed to function as it should, can’t even manage that.  NOT good for the old ego.
And, let’s face it, when you’re feeling a bit beaten by the world, you want comfort telly.  For me, that is Channel 4 with its lifestyle programmes and silly quizzes.  With dismay I realised that the sports coverage was on until late at night and, mildly disgusted, turned off the telly and tuned into Radio 6.
So, the moral of the story?  Sport is not always good for you.  Physically and emotionally.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to reapply my Ibuprofen...