Monday, November 28, 2005

Hola!

I just got back from a whirlwind four-and-a-bit days in Barcelona, thanks to a birthday prez from my housemate G and the joys of budget airlines.

Highlights were many, including: food, food, FOOD; good friends; amazing architecture; a vegetarian luncheon with a fabulous lady in rock; misspent evenings that stretched out to 15 hours on and on and on the town; pit-stops in bars, each one cooler than the previous; chorizo and pink cava (champagne) before noon; ambling around the dreamy paved streets; flamenco hip-hop at the Apolo Bar; hot chocolate that amounted to hot liquid heaven; more good-looking people than you can poke a stick (let alone an entire forest) at; the Gaudi park; an awesome video art exhibition at the CaixaForum, Video Times 1965-2005; and a homeless man silently sidling up to light my cigarette in the street before settling down in a doorway to sing I Just Called to Say I Love You in Spanish.

I love Barcelona.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

There goes the neighbourhood

Late this afternoon, I was kicking around the deserted precinct of Petticoat Lane in my beloved hoodie with the big B on it when a group of young hoodlums (also in hoodies, being hoodlums and all) sauntered right up to me in the middle of the road. Stopping before me, one of them sneered: "The 'B' stands for Bitch ..."

Thankful for his erudite observation, I retorted: "Uh-uh, dear chap. I do believe you'll find that the 'B' stands for 'Bite my arse, ____ face.'"

And then I headbutted, glassed and stabbed the li'l scamp 15 times for such an intrusion.

Except, as I didn't really want that treatment in return (quite the norm in these parts, depicted like so in this particular favourite track of mine), the only thing that got bitten was my tongue as I averted my gaze immediately forward and walked on like nothing had happened, taking refuge amongst the damask and broderie anglaise of yet another textiles shop.

I can't lie. London can be a very scary place, particularly in the east, and very often in broad daylight. The fact that the other week I considered a man chasing another man down the road while furiously whirling an iron bar above his head to be not all that abnormal is testimony to this*.

On Wednesday, I'm starting kickboxing with my friend Barb. And I'm going to invest in a personal alarm. Either that or the 'Mr T in your pocket' keyring I spotted in the shops today. I pity the fool who comes up against that.

*And, as I'm typing this, a loon on crack or some other joyous substance has leapt onto the grass in front of my flat (aka "The Ghetto Green") screaming, with two policemen in hot pursuit. There was a tussel and he's now run off again, deeper into the estate. Great.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Some play on words about being bitten by the Big Apple

Well, New York totally won me over. Even after walking 2.5 hours from W51st street to the Lower East Side, without a map, getting completely lost, without a map, winding up under the Williamsburg Bridge, without a map, down by an express way, without a map, down by some river, without a map, and having to run like a motherfucker, without a map, all once I realised I was some kid in lurid tights wandering luridly on the wrong side of the tracks, without a map.

Eventually, I got back to where I wanted to go, and, still mapless, purchased more NY threads in three hours than is humanly decent.

Catching up with Kdunk and Eliot and their friends Keith and Julie was a joy, joy, joy. We ate congee, over which Eliot observed:

“Your accent must be all over the place right now.”

And, with a Cockney chimneysweep's lilt, my native Mildurian twang coo-ing out from the billabong, and a Tokyo-ite's tentative grasp on the English language, I responded:

“No, not at all.”

Sitting on a train and having Kdunk step onto the carriage and walk straight up to me - entirely unplanned, well, save for the fact we were meeting on the other side of town 20 minutes later - was Matrix bizarro incorporated. And a joy.

Anyway, since I can't possibly fall in love with a place without deciding I must live there, seemingly, I am planning how to move there next September, once I'm done with this UK thing. Even for a couple of months. Visas are slippery slopes to negotiate, but there are internships and things, and I don't mind being a 30-year-old intern in some vaguely publishing-related field, like loan-sharking or pizza delivery. Still, 'The 30-year-old Intern' does seem like an unfortunate comedy script starring that Deuce Bigalow guy.

Friday, November 11, 2005

O! My glamorous life. NYC edition.

Unexpectedly, for you more than me, I am presently in New York City. Last Thursday morning my company decided they'd like nothing more than to send me and a designer and a photographer on a top secret mission to Grand Central Terminal. In my seedy post-birthday state I grumbled on the timing, "But I'm meant to see the White Stripes next week, " I grumbled.

Helpfully, a colleague gave me a jaunty slap across the face and barked, "PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER, DEAR GIRL, THIS IS NEW YORK CITY WE'RE TALKING ABOUT!"

And so I've been here since Monday. A friend took my ticket to the Stripes.

Aside from vagrants and terminal-bound railroad employees, I may be the only person (aside from my colleagues) in the history of the universe to spend three days in Grand Central without actually taking a train anywhere. Though I did get to do all sorts of wonderful things, such as enter the information booth, go down secret stairways, walk through the arched windows, and drive a locomotive simulator used to test engineers. Alas, I didn't succeed in de-railing it into the virtual Hudson River, no matter how hard I tried.

I interviewed about 10,000 people, including staff and commuters. Or at least 30. I was berated by an English Professor from the University of Michigan for not knowing where Ann Arbor was, and, still, not even knowing if I've now spelt it correctly. And, in a news stand, I thrust my dictaphone at Tolga Safer and Oliver Phelps, two young actors who were in the most recent Harry Potter film. They were very amiable, answered all my questions, and, at the end of it all, I helpfully directed them toward a cup of tea.

But now, it's my one and only day off and I'm a loon for nerding it up on the internet. I'm going to Williamsburg and the Lower East Side, because, from what I can tell from Superfuture and assorted sources such as my housemate, that's where hipsters like me go. And tonight I am most fortunate to once again meet my esteemed Brooklyn cobbers KDunk and Eliot.

HOORAY!

A big non-hooray on the fact I need to get up at 4.30am to fly out tomorrow, but hey.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Stashin' (unsuccessful pun on 'dashing') at 30

So, at work on my birthday last Wednesday, I was there standing in front of everyone, unwrapping a succession of teensily wrapped gifties and making appropriate gestures of thanks with a little ingratiating observation on each. So, after the chocolates, lip gloss and eyeshadow, indicating that everyone has been watching me shamelessly:

a) Scoff my head with Mars Bars around 4 pm each day, and

b) Apply make-up at my workstation every twenty-two seconds (nothing at all to do with the passably hot, well-dressed designer that sits six workstations away or anything)

I got to the coin purse, which was essentially a decapitated teddy bear, dangling on a chain:

"Oh!" I exclaimed, flourishing the head to the assembly, like Delvene Delaney in the Sale of the Century giftshop.

"This is just perfect for keeping my stash ..."

And that, unfortunately, was where my throat choked up.

With 'stash' hanging in the air and twenty new workmates looking at me in various states of freeze-frame mortification, three seconds too late, I valiantly spurted out:

"OF!"

And then, turning shades of red, blue and tangerine, I spluttered:

"COINS!"

Thankfully, one of the nice guys in the department drew attention away from me while I quietly choked in cardiac arrest by saying:

"Good call, people! For my birthday I want a purse for my stash ...

OF ...

COINS ...

too!"

So that's me turning 30*.

*Disclaimer: I don't look it.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

National Lampoon's UK Vacation

So, in a premature celebration of my birthday, I headed out on a three-day road trip with my chum Andy last Friday. We hired an automobile and drove cross-country (well, on the M40 motorway, not through fields and rambling brooks as 'cross-country' might deceptively suggest. It was, in fact, 'across the country'). Onward ho we went to Bristol via Oxford and Bath, the home of ancient Roman baths (with some statues rather tackily tacked on in the 1880s, I was disappointed to discover, especially after keying up so many artfully framed photographs of the baths 'tween Julius Caesar's decidedly stocky legs). Bath is also the setting of Jane Austen's post-humously published Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. Me, I thought the Jane Austen museum looked like a cheap and tawdry Georgian money-spinner. So, in lieu of looking inside, I photographed myself chatting to the rather ramshackle “Jane” mannequin perched out the front, which is my kind of tourism, really.

After steaming along backroads through glorious All Creatures Great and Small-style hedgerows and counting only two road kills - a mouse and a swallow - we happily found ourselves in the biggest shit-hole on earth, a seaside resort called Weston-Super-Mare (best said in a booming WWF-style voice). I was entirely bursting with glee to find that it was grey, drizzly and downright squally as the Brits stoically ate their ice cream on the pier, determined to have a bloody good time.

Later, after going to a pub in Bristol and being asked, “Do ye fancy a chip butty do ye?” and having me say “Pardon? Excuse me?” about five times, only to have the publican's missus cheerily bellow: “A CHIP SANDWICH! WITH CHIPS IN IT. DO YE WANT ONE?! WE ALWAYS EAT EM AFTER THE FOOTBALL!” as she pointed at the telly and the football, in its closing footbally throes.

Nah, I didn't want one, thanks.

Later, the pub dog, a mangy little Jack Russell terrier deceptively snuggled up to a little ginger kitten, bared its teeth at me when I tried to take its photograph.

“DON'T TAKE HIS PHOTO!!!” The Publican himself shouted.

“WHY NOT? RELIGIOUS REASONS?!” I shouted back.

“NO! HE DON'T LIKE PEOPLE. HE'LL BITE YE FINGER OFF!”

Then he pointed his own (perfectly intact) finger at the wall with an A4 print-out of someone posing in with a bloody dog-mauled hand, emblazoned with a cute little caption saying “Careful, he'll bite!”

I never quite determined whether or not the snuggled-up ginger kitty was alive or a carcass.

Later, we got hopelessly drunk at another pub on apple cider dubbed 'Exhibitionist', two of which Andy skolled on a dare by some Welsh rugby players from Cardiff.

“NEVILLE! NEVILLE! NEVILLE!” they chanted as he threw it back.

“No, no. My name's Andy!” Andy replied plaintively between skols.

“NEVILLE! NEVILLE! NEVILLE!” they continued.

Then, we all sang the Rolf Harris hit parade and, when we got back to our lodgings, I gracefully vomited.

End.