Sunday, November 12, 2006


I went to an arty party last night. When I got there, everyone was introduced to me by way of a one-word description of what they "did". Some people were artists, some people were musicians, some people were film-makers. So far so arty.

And then people started to ask me what I did.

This caused me some problems. I'm allegedly writing a novel, but in honesty I've not written a word of it since about May - so saying that I was a "writer" would have been a bit twatty. And I don't really have a job title, because I have too many jobs for that. So I had a think about it - what do I do? A bit of cooking, a bit of knitting, quite a lot of fretting about whether or not I'm wearing suitable accessories, and I read quite a few books. On reflection, I'm very disappointed that I didn't say "I'm an accessoriser".

Friday, October 20, 2006

I Beat an Old Lady at Swimming Today, or, I'm Not Competitive - No, Honestly

I went swimming today. When I got in the pool, I was the only person in there. So I popped into the slow lane to practice my newly acquired Underwater Swimming Technique.

After a while my head bobbed above the water, and what should I see but an old lady, who was wearing glasses.

So far, so unusual.

But - to my considerable chagrin - she was limbering up to get into the middle lane.

Yes, the middle lane. Not, thankfully, the butterfly-only fast lane. But still, the middle lane.

And in she gets, swimming with her head above water, so that she's able to see my slightly red, goggly-eyed face as it occasionally rises above the surface. And because my goggles are getting a bit misty (I can't even see as well as the old lady - aren't I cool?), I start to entertain a fantasy that she's not really old at all. Maybe she's just a slightly saggy 30 year old with a retro haircut. But then I rinse my goggles and see that she is - conservatively - twice my age. And while I'm obviously thrilled that this old lady is so fit and healthy (sorry - were you able to hear me say that above the clenching of my teeth? ah, no, I thought not), I am feeling a little self-conscious to be so obviously swimming in the joey lane - and, even worse, to have been doing it with something approaching smugness.

It finally dawns that I can't really tell whether the old lady is swimming faster than me, because I was in the middle of the pool when she got in. It seems like she might be - but, really, that's not conclusive evidence, is it? Luckily, she takes a breather (pah! no stamina), and we start our next length at the same time. As I push away from the side, I try to convince myself that I'm not swimming as fast as I possibly can. Oh no, this is just a leisurely paddle. You should see me when I'm really going for it. Like a fish, me, normally. So, when I reach the end of the pool to turn around, I am obviously extremely gratified to see the old lady is only approaching the halfway point in the pool. By almost killing myself, I have beaten her.

What a brilliant person I am.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Love the Internet, Hate the Internet

For some reason, I woke up today and wanted to listen Haircut 100. I'm not sure why. Possibly it's because the arrival of Autumn has made me want to lie in some leaves wearing an Aran jumper. Or possibly it's because I'm in love with Nick Heyward. (What's 25 years to an unrequited pop star crush?) Or possibly it's because I want to jump around my bedroom to Fantastic Day like I did when I was 8.

So imagine my unmitigated joy when I found this:

And imagine what happened when I saw this:

Why, Nick? Why? What are you doing? You might think you're sniffing a flower, but no! You're crushing my childhood dreams.


Saturday, August 26, 2006

More Hair, More Holidays

Although I know that almost no one reads this (including, erm, me), I managed to pick up a leaflet from my gym that itemises the waxing services they offer and - because I still don't want to do any work - I thought I might just recap on what WTTM reallly means.

Upon further scrutiny, it appears that the Full Year's Waxing for £450 only, yes - ONLY entitles you to "off-peak" waxing. For those who aren't familiar with gym terminology, I should point out that off-peak doesn't refer to a particularly painful-to-wax body part, but to the time of day. So, basically, when everyone's at work. And I'm thinking it's unlikely to be a benefit for the unemployed - ah, you over there, with your handsome Job Seekers' Allowance, why don't you save up about 6 months' money and then you won't have to worry about unattractive hairgrowth ever again. But anyway, there I was, boggling about how extraordinary it was that such a princely sum wouldn't let you get a wax at, say, 7.30am but only between 10.30 and 3.30, when - BAM - I started to read the itemised price list.

Now I'm guessing that I've been living in a sheltered hair-removal environment. As someone who favours only hair removal of the minimal and discreet kind, I'm only looking at, oooh, £15 every couple of months. And that's if I remember to go more than once or twice a year. So that's about £30, really. I'm quite low maintence. But I'm hesitant to go into too much detail here; I'm sure there's a big internet market for specified details of hair-removal techniques (that'll be £14.99 please for seven days' continuous access, all major credit cards accepted), so I'm just going to change the subject and get back to the things on the list. A half-leg (ankle to knee) costs £22, going up to £26 for a three-quarter leg (a slightly mystifying piece of terminology, I think you'll agree, but I imagine it means all-the-way-up-to-somewhere-between-the-knee-and-upper-thigh. Mini-skirt length, but not hot-pant length.), and a full leg is £29. While I'm not exactly leaping on the hair-removal express with enthusiasm here, these prices sound quite reasonable. When it gets "in the pants" though, it's all a bit more bizarre.

A standard bikini wax is a mere £13. In case you're the type to let your pubic hair overflow, I should explain that this entails taking off no more than an inch round the "bikini perimeter". It's a trim. But a Brazilian - which takes your pubic hair into the Adolf Hitler moustache territory - is a whopping £25. Now already I can see that if you're having a full leg and Brazilian every 6 weeks you're looking at a commitment of £54 - or £486 a year. So you immediately become the kind of person who'd save a little bit of money (but not a whole load of convenience) by succumbing to the charms of off-peak Wax to the Max'ing. You might even, under the circumstances, consider going in for a touch of lip or chin (£10) or under arm (£12). Clearly you're the kind of person who adheres to a pretty stringent hair-removal routine, so maybe six-week intervals is even pushing it, and perhaps to keep the Hitler moustache in peak condition you're taking the maintenance time right down to once a month.

Now I can understand this in the same way I can understand having a minibar in your living room; not the sort of thing I'd fancy, but I can see - in the right circumstances - that there's something of an appeal.

But as I continued down the list I was alerted to the fact that there was another kind of wax you could have. A more expensive wax. The sort of wax that makes you look like a porn star or a 9 year old. And for the frankly mortifying experience of revealing your cherubic assets by having every single strand of pubic hair in the, er, pants bit of your body removed, it costs £44 a go. If you're the sort of person who likes to cross their legs on most available days (because I imagine the regrowth must be a little bit painful) then really it must be once a month at a minimum - perhaps even every three weeks. And once every three weeks would cost a totally unimaginable £765.60. Yes, that's right - £765.50. To look like a 9-year-old lap dancer.

I could now take the Naomi Wolf high-ground (although that sounds a bit too much like something related to peaks, so I'm not sure), but instead I'm just feeling a bit shocked, and in the kind of mood to encourage other women to grow their pubic hair - even if it does mean that they will have to slightly adjust their swimming costumes when you get out of the pool. Go on, be free - be a bit hairy, it's not a crime. And if you're partner's been encouraging you, then - really - why are you going out with someone who wants your bits to look like a small child's? It sounds to me like you should take your £765.60 and pop over to New York for a long weekend, or go to Finland for one of those cool holidays where you get pulled around by huskies. Go on, go on. Just remember to keep your knees together if you're wearing a mini skirt.

The Deranging Effects of Barbara Pym

Because I quite often work at home (no longer in my own office, but - rather less glamorously - in my bedroom) I find myself quite regularly in the position of having to tidy my bedroom before I can happily settle down to work. And because I attract clutter in the same way a little old lady with a bag of breadcrumbs attracts pigeons, I have to tidy my room before I can settle down to work pretty much, er, every day. But I don't actually really tidy every day. I just rearrange the mess, and put things into ineffectual and ever-collapsing piles. So the chaos invariably expands until I'm pretty much in the centre of a vortex of receipts and empty water bottles and one-pence pieces and clothes that I can't really bring myself to hang up. In short, ladies and gents, it's a shit hole in here. And because the vortex is pretty much on the point of swallowing my whole being, and because I've got bucketloads of work to do before I go back off on holiday (hurrah! my second holiday in two weeks. woo hoo. check out how fancy i am) I am obviously mucking around with my hitherto neglected blog. I'm sure the fantabulous energy rush will enhance my room-tidying/work-doing performance in much the same way as the illegal testosterone levels enhanced the Tour de France blokey's cycling power... and if I'm really lucky I might also get permanently disqualified from both room tidying and working. Hurrah! But that might reduce me to being Stig of the Dump so perhaps that's less good. (Although my friend Hayley might fancy me then ... but less said the better about that. And I don't wish to imply that she's One for the Ladies - not of course that there'd be anything wrong if she were. But ... but ... )

Anyway, I digress, what I was going to write about when I sat down was NOT my fabulous powers of procrastination, but a novel that I've just read, which has quite disturbed me. As the tell-tale picture of the mug featuring a curled-up cat will have warned you, this is not a novel of murder, sexual violence, and witchcraft but one about some people who live in a 'parish' in North London and about the dilemmas faced by an unmarried woman of a certain age.

It's a book about how women need men more than men need women and how going to Rome is like being A Room with a View (perhaps it was in 1963, I'm not sure - or perhaps it always has been if you're the type to hang out with vicars and unmarried sisters) and about how men are sooo much cleverer than women. So it made me feel a bit sick - but it was also oddly irresistable, and briefly seemed to change everything I had assumed was a constant of my personality.

For instance, I went to Westbourne Park on the underground yesterday, and while sitting in the train carriage I noticed that the young man sitting next to me kept angling his book in such a way that made it look, for all the world, like he was staring at me. Now, this isn't the sort of thing I'd usually notice, and if I did my instinctive reaction would be "euwwww stop being such a perv". But because I was absorbed in Barbara Pym World it seemed very affecting and I was half-expecting him to offer to take me to tea at a Lyon's Corner House. (So you see it also transported me back to some several years before my birth, but - as you may have gathered - I was feeling a little deranged.) And even though the novel ends with a very unappealing wedding, I felt - as I turned the last page - that it truly was my destiny to get married. Not, of course, to any one in particular, but just to Be A Bride and wear a frock and everything.

And all morning, I've been feeling quite unhappy about the transformative powers of what seems to be such a middle of the road novel, but then I was reminded of the way that going to see a gangster film at the cinema makes me want to walk down the road like I've got a gun stuffed in the waist of my trousers, and how going on holiday to Paris made me want to be French, and how - yes, I may as well mention it - A Room with a View made me want to fall in love (although I was 13 at the time) and The Great Gatsby made me want to be a dissolute-but-glamorous waster, and I realised that it's probably not really Barbara's fault at all. It's just that I'm a spongey sponge and I take everything a bit too seriously. So I suppose it's just as well I don't play Grand Theft Auto or World of Warcraft, because then, I expect, there really would be trouble...

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Apex Corner, So Much To Answer For

Apex Corner isn't a corner. It's one of those big roundabouts on the edge of London, where lots of big roads meet - the kind of big roads that have been carved from residential areas, where double-fronted houses look down from man-made embankments at the relentless hum of traffic. It's the kind of place where pedestrians have to walk on one side of the road; everyone streamlined in the appropriate direction until they reach their road-signed destination.

I used to go to Apex Corner every other week, to sit in an upstairs room and practice talking. I'd take the Thameslink to Mill Hill Broadway then walk up what I guess must be Mill Hill, past the bagel bakeries and polite North London boutiques that lead to the huge dual-carriage-wayed road, and I'd plod my way to Apex Corner (which is hardly an apex either, but more of that shortly), before turning right into the warren of semi-detached, garden-fronted houses where my speech therapist lived.

Lately, because of work, I quite often get driven round Apex Corner in a car. It's a lot faster and a lot more "appropriate" - the approved way of getting around, I suppose. And pretty much every night I notice that Apex Corner is full of anomalies. If you're a person of restricted movement, it's a pretty difficult place to get to: the walk from Mill Hill station must be at least a mile, and the bus whistles past very rarely. Yet Apex Corner (which isn't an apex or a corner) is home to not one, but two veritable superstores for restricted-movement accoutrements: there's a shop that sells clothes for really fat people, and another that specialises in mobility aids. It might be handy if you're an overweight person in need of a home-hoist, but imagine pitching it to the bank: "in locating our shop on the edge of a dual carriageway, near to no available parking or public transport, we will be uniquely placed to service our customer base of people who find it difficult to get around on their own." Madness.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Wax to the Max

If I'd been braver, I'd have taken a photo of this particular phenomenon, but some places should be free from the tyranny of camera phones - and I think the women's changing room at my gym is one of them. Anyway, yesterday I noticed a poster advertising "Wax to the Max! As much waxing as you like for ONE WHOLE YEAR!" from a sum that figured somewhere in the hundreds of pounds.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't there a natural limit to the amount of hair removal one person needs? Waxed hair takes, what - six or eight weeks to grow back? Let's say you've got very stimulated follicles and you're looking at 6 weeks. Plus you have a zero-tolerance approach to hair regrowth that runs throughout the whole year. By my calculation, the maximum number of waxes per body part that a person could reasonably have in one year is 8.5. Let's round it up to 9, because no one wants a half wax. So you could get bikini and full leg 9 times a year. Let's throw in an underarm (at the merest mention of which I shudder to my very core. And of course, what I mean is, two under arms, because that's some kinda left-field chic to just be epilating one arm pit), and maybe, just maybe some kind of arm waxing (strictly unnecessary unless you're a yeti, a professional cyclist, or a beauty therapist). Pricewise, I guess you're looking at £15 for a bikini, £25 for a full leg. Arm-pit and arm waxing are both for crazy people, so perhaps they're extra expensive, but let's give 'em a £9 and a £12 (I'm sort of making this up. I'll do some research later). So, wow, you could you be looking at paying £61 every six weeks for waxing. Or £480 a year. But even with this sort of severe waxing regime, you're only looking at a minimal saving on the offer in my gym.

The point that I'm really grasping for here is: what if you get really into waxing? What if the crazy money-saving light goes off in your head and you decide, yes! I'm going to really take these suckers and show 'em how much waxing one person can have in a single year! (i'm brushing over the fact that you're unlikely to be a friend of parsimony if you're the sort that splashes out multiple hundreds on waxing). But what extremes of hair removal could we be faced with? The only other place I have hair (and I don't think I'm being inappropriately intimate by disclosing this) is my face - and that's mostly in the shape of my eyebrows. Oh, and my head. (But you don't wax your head. Do you? .... Do you?!)

So I guess what I'm saying is that I'm kind of flummoxed. Either this offer is aimed entirely at people who can't add up, or at a yet-to-become-prevalent group of people in central London who voluntarily remove all their bodily hair on a monthly basis. If you see any eyebrowless people with unnaturally smooth arms in the Old Street area, you can be pretty certain they're Wax to the Max habituees. And if it can take off anywhere, I'm guessing it can take off there...

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Killer Art