Thursday, August 31, 2006

Back To The Here And Now

London is very big and with fewer mountains than I have become used to. More people get my name right on a day to day basis. I have been told that I have lost weight and that my hair has changed colour. I do not believe either of these statements.

(An aside: I coloured my hair in April. I bought a packet of hair dye from Superdrug for a fiver, which claimed to be 'Chocolate Brown'. I have brown hair anyway, so I was more doing it for fun than to make any dramatic changes. Anyway, to cut a boring story shorter but not to actually cut any of the boringness out of it, my hair is now a (glowy) (I like to imagine) auburn colour. Some people say ginger, but only because they are jealous, although I have yet to find out precisely what of. Now at least one person a day claims that my hair has changed colour, and I have reached the conclusion that it reacts to things like sunlight and oxygen, and is sensitive to mood, carb intake and the ever changing tides.)

The jet lag is manifesting itself in extreme forgetfulness and doing things in the wrong order, which explains why I very nearly put my shoes on before my underwear this morning and couldn't remember why that was a bad thing. All in all, though, I feel pretty good.

I have perfected my response to the 'how was your holiday?' question. It is very important to perfect this quickly, particularly for the workplace, as if you overshare people start to twitch uncomfortably and their appreciative nods become unconvincing, and if you are too reticent people don't have anything to nod appreciatively at and the 'so do you feel rested?' question comes too soon. Both situations are embarrassing, so I was pleased to have honed my response within the first couple of goes.

(I am a horrible, cynical person. I do not deserve to be asked about my holiday.)

I sent a copy of my demo to a producer I have been talking to. My songs that I wrote. I spoke to him today and he said they were, and I quote, "stunning". Which I think means that there is some potential, but that is absolutely good enough.

I am going to the studio at the weekend, and we are starting to get going on making the album. The only annoying thing is that the studio is in Eastbourne, so I have to get there on the train, which is a bit of a hassle. Except that I don't care, I just want to record my album, and if Eastbourne is where I must go to make that happen then so bloody be it.

I can't really believe that I'm actually going to be working on, recording and performing material that came solely from my head. The very same head that wakes up in the middle of the night last week desperate to tell someone a joke about a toucan (poor Tom), and that genuinely believes that Charmed is good television. It seems improbable that I might be beginning to get something I have wanted for so long.

There is so much more to say about New Zealand. I had such a wonderful time. I managed to get through forty eight hours of flights without once having to watch anything with Tom Cruise in it, although I did experience some flying delirium which induced me to watch Ice Age 2: The Meltdown. Luckily I recovered and switched it off after twenty minutes of an experience that might be more accurately titled Your Brain: The Meltdown.

Tom and I travelled about six million kilometres in a small white car with a unassuming tow bar. He was the driver and I was the navigatrix. We only had one directions-related argument, and it has since been agreed that neither of us were at fault, but instead the directions themselves were dodgy, comprised as they were of things like "count six lamposts on your right, then after the second hairpin bend follow the lane and then stop at the sea" and not of handy things like visible landmarks and road names.

We took a similarly enormous number of photographs, some of which I might post up here at some point. We did plenty of outdoorsy things and plenty of indoorsy things. I met hundreds of family and family friends, and had to be on best behaviour for literally minutes on end, which was exhausting but best for everybody. We went skiing, at which I am good for an amateur person who has skiied a bit but not loads and Tom is good for a REALLY REALLY good person who can do jumpy turny things and ski backwards on purpose. I fell over once, and Tom wisely waited until he could see that I was laughing before laughing himself.

I really am not sure which bit of the holiday was my favourite. I loved the couple of days in Abel Tasman National Park. Sea kayaking, staying in a hut on the beach that night and then hiking the next day. We stood together on the beach just after the sun had gone down, holding hands and drinking Red Label whiskey from plastic camping cups, and in the shallows just in front of us we saw a small seal frolicking, splashing and diving in the water. After watching him until he playfully swam away, we sat and huddled together against the cold, and it was perfect. It was all so wonderful, the whole time.

Now it is back to life. The thing is, though, that life and reality seem like they might be about to get fairly exciting, and I am not sure I mind the here and now so much.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Week Two, But Only Just.

It seems so long since I have written anything on my blog. I think I have completely forgotten how, and now must start afresh, as a new blogger writing about what I had for lunch and how I'm not even sure what this blogging thing is about anyway and OMG should I tell my friends I have one this is stupid nobody's reading it anyway are they shit I need to think of something funny to write please comment please please.

We are in Wanaka. Tom is sitting on the other side of the table from me in an Internet cafe pretending he's checking his Internet banking but secretly looking at porn. Tom has taken to calling me 'Higgsy', which works a treat for sentences such as "Higgsy! Not in there! That's the men's toilets!" and "Higgsy? Are you looking at the map? Why is it upside down and why have we just passed a sign saying Welcome To Gibraltar?", but in other contexts it doesn't work so well and we are trying to steer him off it. Wanaka is the place where we will ski, starting tomorrow.

We have sea-kayaked (there were seals!) (frolicking ones!) and tramped (hiked) and stayed in a beach hut in the Abel Tasman National Park. We have stayed with wonderful people who have cooked us lovely meals. In Nelson we had a bit of an awkward moment when the very, very lovely lady we were staying with offered us a spa and then seemed to suggest that we get naked and then jump in (she wasn't joining us) at which point we both pretended it was fine, went into the other room and both completely freaked out because we're English and are meant to pretend we all wear high necked, starched, turn of the century undergarments beneath our clothes and don't admit to each other that we sometimes are naked and things. You know. After giggling to the point of hysteria (and that was only Tom), we sucked it up (as it were) and got in.

Anyway, we're having a lovely time. It's all beautiful, and I am looking forward to skiing. I am slightly nervous as I haven't been skiing for a few years and Tom is way better than I am, but it'll be good and I am just being a scaredy cat. I will drink some red wine soon and it will be less intimidating.

I can't quite believe that we have another whole week here.

Again, Tom is waiting for me to blog on holiday, something that, despite what he might have said in the comments section of the last post, he is surprisingly patient with. He is lovely. I am so happy to be here with him.

I imagine that London is weeping in my absence, so I will be back soon.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Day, um, three. Or two. Day... Wednesday.

It is nine thirty in the morning in New Zealand. I am sitting in the kitchen/living room/dining room of a hostel in a place called Hamner Springs, and it is cold. The sun is striking through the French windows onto the large wooden table and the warm yellow walls are friendly. Tom and I have been awake since six, due to the fact that the jet lag has shifted our body clocks to turn us seemingly miraculously into people who rise early and go to bed early. We have eaten breakfast, read the paper, showered and packed. Tom is packing our rucksacks into the car outside and I am blogging. Such is the modern male/female distribution of work in 2006.

Yesterday we drove from Christchurch to Hamner Springs. Christchurch is a city in New Zeland terms, but to us it is a small and beautiful town. The previous night we had gone out for dinner and stayed in one of the posh hotels, so as to sweeten the bitterness of the hangover from thirty-two hours of travel. It was, I was told, not the poshest one in the city, but as Tom said sweetly to me: "Nothing but the very second best for you, baby."

We drove out of the city and into Hamner Springs, which took perhaps three hours. It was a strikingly beautiful day, cold and sparkling, and as we caught our first glimpse of the Southern Alps I just couldn't stop taking photos. I knew that there would be better views, but these were the first and they took my breath away.

Tom is outside and waiting for me.

We wandered into the information centre in Hamner, looking for insights into what to do now we had arrived. I, in my panic-ridden packing frenzy, have left the Lonely Planet Guide at home. I know exactly where it is, beside my bed, just next to my computer. Face down, and not a great deal of help to us now. Luckily for us Hamner is a tiny town, and the hot springs are the central focus, so there was very little wandering around looking gormless trying to speak the language. We found a hostel, called Le Gite (which, as we were kindly informed by the flyer, is French for 'The Resting Place', which is lucky as we might have assumed it was French for 'Lumpy Beds And Watch Out For The Rats' otherwise) which had double rooms for forty-five dollars (fifteen pounds) a night. Leaving our stuff in the room, we made our way back to the Hot Springs.

Upon entering the changing room I looked around incredulously. It was, to understate somewhat, a bit on the chilly side. And yet here were people in their smallest of small lycra get-ups, not seeming to notice that it was the middle of winter. I began to feel a bit spooked out by it. Like it was one of those SEPs (Somebody Else's Problem) in the Douglas Adams books, where nobody acknowledges something because they think it's somebody else's problem, but as soon as somebody points it out mass panic will ensue. Not wanting to be the one responsible for the destruction of a SEP field, I said nothing, and gingerly changed into my own bikini, wondering whether perhaps I could get away with scarf and gloves, as well.

Tom and I got in the water and immediately boiled to within an inch of our lives. We had a private pool for half and hour, and then went out to wander around the other, public pools. Steam rose from the water and there was a smell of sulphur permeating through everything. Lying in the pools we looked up, and the sky was ice blue. Azure and clear, sharply picking out the snow-topped mountains that loomed on the horizon.

It was so beautiful. My silver ring turned a burnished gold. We took photos and relaxed, before coming back to hostel to eat and then sleep.

Tom is waiting for me, I must go, but I am having a wonderful time. We are having a wonderful time.

Today we are driving to Nelson, where we will go tramping I think (New Zealandish for hiking) and then stay at Tom's family friends' house, and then tomorrow we are going to go sea-kayaking, which is one of the first things I read about when thinking about this trip.

It is so beautiful here. So quiet and peaceful and shockingly and agressively beautiful.

I am not even thinking about the Northern Line.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Changi: Part Three

So, yeah, I think you know which one I went for. I sat and ate two slices of pepperoni pizza, read my book and drank a glass of nice red wine, and felt all the tension slip out of my shoulders. All that nervousness and anxiety that had been building up since a good few days before I actually tucked my passport into the waistband of my jeans and, taking as deep a breath as I could with my massive rucksack on my back and another bag around my neck, entered Heathrow airport.

I was just finishing my meal and looking forward to the last long sips of wine, when I heard a piano begin in the distance somewhere. Somehow you can always tell the difference between someone actually playing the piano live and a CD, so I necked the wine and took myself off to have a look.

There was a grand piano. At the grand piano was a middle-aged Singaporean (I assume) man in a white tuxedo and black horn-rimmed glasses, fingers flying, going crazy with the jazz piano. I walked past him and thought, oh. Huh. Interesting. I have another two hours to kill, I could go and... no. Please, I wanted to say, let me sing with you. I so wanted to. I walked past and stood, gazing at a departures screen, thinking about it. No, I thought. He probably isn't allowed. Or wouldn't want to. Or hates me. I turned, and started to go off to find another cafe to sit in.

The word 'although' suddenly popped into my mind, and I stopped. Turned around. Worst that could happen, I considered, was that he said fuck off and then I would have to, well, fuck off I suppose. That's not so bad.

So, to cut a medium to short story even shorter. I have just sung 'Summertime' and 'My Funny Valentine' on a little stage, with a pianist, in the middle of the best (apparently) airport in the world. I even got applause, but then I felt I wanted to leave, because actually my flight leaves quite soon and I wanted to get some water and possibly a small chocolate-based treat.

I am going now, then, to the gate, where I will get on a plane to Christchurch. At Christchurch airport Tom will be waiting for me, I hope, because my bags are really heavy. That is secretly not really why I hope he'll be there, but don't tell anyone.

I am planning to update from NZ, but I have no idea whether we'll have any good Internet access. I am not going to pretend that doesn't scare me.

A tout alors, Singapore.

Changi: Part Two

I am impossibly more relaxed now. It is now six o'clock, and I have been hanging around the swimming pool all day. Sunbathing, reading, swimming. I was there before anyone else so I had a distinct feeling of ownership towards the pool when it started getting populated. For a while I was just there on my own, doing some lengths. Hanging out at one end, then making my leisurely way to hang out at the other. I even tentatively played mermaids for a little while.

I drank a few cups of coffee and dozed off a few times, but never for more than twenty minutes as I want my body to adjust to the new time regime. I like calling it a regime, it makes me feel like maybe I'm in the army. No, I'm not really sure why that would be a good thing, either, but I am considering having a look for somewhere to get a buzz cut.

So now I still have about three hours left. I bought shampoo, conditioner, moisturiser, a comb, some lipbalm, some deoderant. Notice the way I casually mention that I bought lipbalm, as if I didn't weep with joy at the first application. Also factor thirty suncream, of course, because otherwise I would be typing this from inside a crispily burnt shell, which is no fun for anyone and really slows me down. I have managed to tan a little, though, which I am heartily pleased with.

Now I am hungry, as I haven't eaten since breakfast on the plane this morning. I have a dilemma. I am in Singapore, and there are obviously a few noodle-type restaurants to choose from, and the food looks very nice. However, there is a slight problem in that they are all playing this piped muzak, which gave me a headache from hearing it for two seconds. On the other hand, there is a nice looking pizza place near a huge window, with no music to speak of. What do I do? I will feel guilty if I eat Italian in South East Asia, but I will have a headache if I do not.

People have died making decisions like these.

I secretly know which one I'm going to choose. I cannot risk ruining this feeling of composure before making another billion hour flight. The last flight I was stressed and oh, holy crap, I hated all twelve hours of it.

I will update.

Changi: Part One

I am standing up. My hair is looking very similiar to the way it turned out when they backcombed it for the music video. I am pretending it is some kind of 'style', but really it just hasn't been brushed for about twelve hours, and has developed a sort of eighties tribute thing of it's very own devising. I am leaving it to it.

I actually can't quite believe I made it this far. Heathrow was just mind-blowing, I have never felt so at sea when travellling anywhere in my whole life. At one point I was standing at the back of a thousands-strong queue, waiting to be security checked, five minutes before my flight was due to leave and I just thought, oh, fuck. I knew, and we were all telling each other, that of course they weren't going to leave without us. Of course not, but when you've been standing in a car park for an hour already having checked in, and having walked for fifteen minutes to get the the back of the line, logic is not on your side.

I could go on for ages about that five hour check in, but I have six minutes left to write on this post. When I finally sat down on the plane I had such heightened anxiety that I had a rash all over my arms and had licked my lips so much that they hurt, and I had no lip balm. It was not allowed. I have mild OCD about lip balm, and, after crying to myself quietly for a bit, I eventually asked the stewardess for some antiseptic cream, ostensibly for the rash but actually just for my lips that were getting more and more red.

Now I am at Changi airport in Singapore, with about eleven hours to kill.

I will no doubt do updates, but right at the moment I have no idea whether it's ten in the morning or two in the morning and I need some coffee and some time to reflect on what I am even doing in this huge air-conditioned place.

Coffee. Lipbalm. Hairbrush.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Leaving, On A Boeing 747

I suppose this is goodbye, then.

I am writing this through the haze of a rather terrifying hangover. Last night my Biarritz friends and I went to a Greek restaurant near Tottenham Court Road, and drank our collective bodyweight in wine and gin, before moving on to the sambuca. It was an awesome place. Unassuming, and kind of like any Greek restaurant in that it had murals on the walls depicting windows looking out to sea, elaborate floral paintings of, well, mainly flowers, and flirty waiters. We ate, and drank, and then there was a belly dancer whose real name was Natalie but who we christened 'Lola'. The we told the waiters that my friend Nick and I were twins - Paul and Paulina - and that it was our birthday. Upon receiving this information we given a shot of sambuca each and forced to sing the Copacabana over the PA system, despite the fact that we were just shouting over the CD player and neither of us knew any of the words besides "Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl... la la in her hair... doo dum dum... dress cut down to there...". After this display of karaoke prowess, we all danced in the middle of the restaurant to a thoughtfully-provided Wham! CD, before progressing to Love Shack and Greased Lightning a little later on. Lola (Natalie) the belly dancer came out at that point and kindly obliged the boys by putting up with their own, very special, brand of belly dancing, which involved wiggling and throwing themselves at various points of the 'dancefloor' (can it be a dancefloor if it's carpeted and just the space between two tables?) whilst pretending not to stare at Lola's (Natalie's) tanned and toned body.

After a few hours of this, and also a possibly ill-advised game of limbo played with a man's walking stick, someone mentioned going to a karaoke bar. At this point I cheered, and most people went home. Sharpish. It was midnight, the time when everyone on a night out in London must consider the options that lie before them: last tube now, or nightbus later?

Four of us chose the latter option. I was conned, because I only wanted to stay out for the karaoke, and the place was shut, so I had to go and dance in a club called Pop instead and throw some very ill-advised shapes on the (non-carpeted) dancefloor.
Then the nightbus home.

I feel tired and wan, but uplifted somehow.

Tomorrow I shall be perky, ready to face the thousands of people at Heathrow airport and board a shiny aeroplane to Singapore, where I will pass the time by blogging at the airport. You may all look forward to that with bated breath.

Now, though, you must wish me luck. Luck for getting through the rest of the day without dying of hangover-related diseases, luck with packing at the rate of a million clothes in a suitcase per hour and luck flying on a plane all the way across the world, despite the very real possibilty that they will be showing Tom Cruise films.

Goodbye for now, my friends.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Pop and Panic

Last night I went to Wembley Arena to see Madonna in concert. For free, through work. I was four rows from the front, so close that, if I had reached, I could have brushed the tips of my fingers against a lycra-encased Madonna-calf. I didn't reach, but I was so close to the runway-bit, and I could see all the dancers up close. Dancers, it turns out, sweat. A lot. This is alright, though, because they are really good at dancing and often have breath-taking muscular definition, and this is exhilirating to watch from two metres away.

Despite not usually being a fan of huge shows in huge venues, I really enjoyed the show. As a spectacle it was very impressive, and Madonna herself just exudes strength. Physically she is a strange mix of delicate and muscular. One the one hand she is petite, compact and feminine, and on the other her thighs look like they could break a man's arm. Also the way she is on stage, she just comes across as being so powerful, like nothing would faze her, which is quite an inspiring thing to be up close to. There were, at one point, a pair of awesome sparkly purple shoes with a matching jacket, of which I was a big fan. She was great. With the most amazing arse I have ever seen. As my friend said, wistfully: "She makes you really think about going to the gym".

Also it was free. Not sure I'd've paid £160 for it, as good as it was. That's the best sort of free thing, though, something you wouldn't consider paying for but which you really enjoy anyway.

My back is feeling much better. Perhaps standing in a sweaty stadium squashed against thousands of buff gay men is the cure for back problems. I shall have to do some research.

So, it turns out that there have been some problems at the airports. Namely some bomb plots have been foiled. Without pausing to actually consider how fucking scary this is all getting, I will move directly onto considering how this will affect me on my upcoming flight across the whole world.

(The below was taken from an email someone sent to me)

"Heightened security has been imposed at UK airports after a plot to blow up flights to the US was foiled by anti-terrorist police last night.

Passengers have been banned from taking any hand luggage on flights as a precautionary measure, creating long queues at check in.

Hand baggage will not be allowed on board, unless it is carried in a single (ideally transparent) plastic carrier bag, and must only contain the following items;

* pocket size wallets and pocket size purses plus contents (for example money, credit cards, identity cards etc
(not handbags))
* travel documents essential for the journey (for example passports and travel tickets)
* prescription medicines and medical items sufficient and essential for the flight (e.g. diabetic kit), except
in liquid form unless verified as authentic
* spectacles and sunglasses, without cases
* contact lens holders, without bottles of solution

* female sanitary items sufficient and essential for the flight, if unboxed (eg tampons, pads, towels and
wipes)* tissues (unboxed) and/or handkerchiefs
* keys (but no electrical key fobs)

All passengers must be hand searched, and their footwear and all the items they are carrying must be x-ray
screened. Nothing may be carried in pockets."

This is all good. I am relieved that they are not letting anything or anyone potentially dangerous onto flights. The heightened security measures are necessary and it is a good thing that they foiled the plots yesterday and that they are being extra vigilant as a result. Short of there being no need for security measures and the world being a totally different place, this is the short-term course of action preferable at the moment, no doubt about it.

There is a tiny part of me, though, that is a bit pissed off that I can't bring a book on a twelve hour flight. Oh well. There will be films with Tom Cruise in them, so that's something. I will be able to feel intense dislike and annoyance for someone for twelve hours, which will be a positive and happy use of my time.

I am, to tell you the truth, a little nervous about the flight. Heathrow is going to be unbelievably slow and arduous, not to mention the combined tension of all the hundreds and hundreds of people scheduled to fly on a Saturday in the middle of the school holidays will be palpable. I wish I wasn't going to be on my own.

I have so much to get done before I go. I'm not even sure I have everything that I need, for all the skiing and all the walking and stuff. Also I have less time to do it than I thought, because I must now leave a good few hours extra for delays checking in.

It is at moments like these that I am glad for the words 'Don't Panic' written in large, friendly letters on the front of my diary.
I am not panicking, but there is some part of me panicking slightly at the lack of panic, because usually panic means things get done. I am going to demonstrate how one can remain calm and collected, and get things done without actually running around in circles tearing out their hair and screaming wordlessly.


Not panicking.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Diary Entry, August 9th 2006

Dear Diary,

Today my back hurts and I have an inexplicably itchy nose.

My back hurts because when I was nineteen years old and in Australia I took it upon myself to jump off a fifty foot waterfall and I landed funny, crushing the three vertebrae at the base of my spine. I passed out in the water and was rescued by a man with blue eyes and a wooden necklace, and was driven to the hospital by some hippy blokes with an elaborately painted camper van and strange hair.

I lay in a bunk bed for two weeks taking Nurofen by the fistful and being forced to smoke very strong weed by the aforementioned hippies who had kindly taken it upon themselves to look after me. After those two weeks I could stand up for small lengths of time, and so deemed myself fit for making a twelve hour bus journey down the coast, where my friend Jenny was waiting for me. I survived the bus journey by taking painkillers until I passed out, then waking up and taking more painkillers until consciousness buggered off again. I have one memory of that trip, and that is finding a payphone at one of the petrol stations, calling Jenny and just crying and crying.

I had a bruise that went from my shoulder blades down to the backs of my knees, and one covering my whole chest as well. Once during that time I was standing on a beach somewhere in a white string bikini, which is an item of clothing one generally feels fairly self-conscious in anyway, and realising that there was a crowd of people standing behind me whispering. This is a less than comforting thing to suddenly become aware of whilst wearing nothing much at all, but I was relieved to turn around and discover that they were in fact all trying to work out what the hell could have happened to me to create such psychedelic bruising. It is probably wrong in some way that I would prefer people to be staring in horror at my arse because it looks like I have been beaten relentlessly with a metal crowbar than have them staring in amusement because it looks like I have been beaten relentlessly with the ugly stick, but such is the curse of our age.

Since then, though, it has steadily become better and better. There have been couple of moments of back-related agony, like the time I slipped on some stairs and bumped down them on my arse (I went white and nearly threw up) and the time I was in a show at the Edinburgh Festival and woke up one day and couldn't walk, and we had about eight more nights of the show to go (I crawled into a taxi - actually crawled - and went to a physio and then to a chemist), but for the most part it is very well behaved. The doctor said I am 'of good flexibility for a girl my age', which I took to mean 'bendy as hell and probably shit hot in bed' (note the 'probably', I am not having nor have I ever had sex with my doctor), and it doesn't plague me too much.

Sometimes it gets all sore though, Diary. Dagger-stabbing pain. Like on CSI, where you can see the pointy pointy knife ripping through the pink squishing organs, it hurts like I imagine that might. Except without the death, and also without Gil Grissom saying poignant things about The Nature Of The Universe just before the credits. Today it is painful, and I am attributing it to the fact that I wore very high heels twice last week and I usually wear flip-flops. I am also attributing it to the fact that I am all excited about my holiday and the universe is trying to even things up a bit. I hope so much it stops with the stabbing pain before the twenty million brazillion hour flight this weekend.

I have no idea why my nose is itching.

Lots of love

Monday, August 07, 2006

Technology You Are My Bitch

On Saturday night I got drunk and discovered that I can do technology. I have discovered a new mathematical theroem:

Gin + Me = technological wizardry the likes of which has never been seen.

In other words I managed to post some pictures onto my blog. Other people have been doing this since the mid-1800s, but I have long since learned that just because other people can do things it does not necessarily mean that I will be able to do them. (See: long division. Also: eating parsley.)

I went out with the group of people I went to Biarritz with, and we decided that it was only fitting to continue the tradition we lovingly initiated on holiday of drinking gin and tonic at an alarming pace until our heads fell off/they ran out of gin at the bar, whichever came first. It was brilliant fun, and I think that despite some hazy memories of other people podium dancing, thankfully nobody thought to give me a leg up because I would have joined them, no question, had I thought about it.

At one point I took my drink back to the bar, claiming wildly that I could not taste the gin, and that it must only be tonic. The bar lady looked at me for a moment, and then after a pause she shrugged, took my glass from me and poured about another two shots in. I gratefully took it back off her, tasted it, and lo and behold, it was about ten million percent proof. Excellent, I thought, and proceeded to boast about it to all my friends, who were either silently impressed or didn't care at all. It was a real highlight for me, though.

With that being the general feeling of the entire evening, I rolled home to my flat at about three, and decided that it was the perfect moment to upload photos onto my blog. I am pleased that, despite my gin-soaked state, I didn't accidentally post the shots that I usually reserve for my other site. The naked one. You would have been horrified. I cannot quite believe I managed to do it, I even cropped and things. Gin is clearly a catalyst for inspired and unbounded genius.

Tom went to New Zealand on Saturday, so he can get things all neat and tidy for me next week, get the snow all perfect and the sky all crispy. My flight leaves on Saturday, and so far my preparations have consisted of feelings of guilt that I haven't tidied my room in two weeks and therefore have no idea where anything is, and feelings of dread, because Tom emailed me to say that they are showing Mission Impossible 3 on the flight over there, and Tom Cruise makes my skin fall off in horror and revulsion.

Anyway, thanks for saying nice things about the photos. I am very, very proud of myself for my technological prowess, some might say disproportionately so, but to those people I gesture rudely and ill-befitting a lady such as myself.

I am going to go and recreate the exact conditions of my victory and then do something else I have never really been able to do, like maths without crying, or sewing without resorting to the familiar comforts of the stapler.

(Oh, see below for photos, if you haven't already printed them out and stuck them on your wall.)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Don't judge me for posing

See below for my normal self, just for reference.

This is me normally:

Friday, August 04, 2006

China Town Celebrity

By about five o'clock yesterday I was perched on the edge of my chair, hands clasped together, staring at the clock and waiting for the postman. My desk was clear, computer ready to shut down at the click of the mouse, my bags were placed by my wriggling feet neatly, having been checked and double checked.

As the postman walked in I breathed out, taking my cue. I stood up, slung my bags over my shoulder and left. I had it all planned carefully. Walk to Liverpool Street (five minutes), Central line to Oxford Circus (ten minutes) Victoria line to Victoria (four minutes) Circle line to St. James's Park (three minutes). In twenty-two minutes or thereabouts, I emerged from the tube at St James's Park, and called to find out how to get to Jimmy's. Jimmy was the stylist, and we were meeting at his flat first to make the all important costume/accessories/footwear/make-up decisions.

Upon entering Jimmy's I said hello to Jimmy and Tom (Tom is the guy whose track it is), and was introduced to a petite, smiling, dark-haired girl with an American accent called Giada, who kissed me on both cheeks. I was shown into a room and handed four dresses to try on, all European size 38. The one that instantly caught my eye was black and white silk, but to my dismay it looked absolutely tiny. I held it up against me, and it seemed to recoil in disgust. I, it appeared to say, and designed for those built like Audrey Hepburn. Skinny girls with bones. Curves are not welcome here, get those breasts away from me. It was a snooty dress, and I shouldn't have bothered, but just to annoy it I stepped carefully into it, delighting in the shivery silk against my skin. I pulled it up, over my hips, slid the delicate straps over my shoulders and tried the zip. Up it zipped, until it met the breast area. Then it stopped. Shrugging the shrug of one who knows that, in the dress department, only the strong survive and the majority fall by the wayside, I took it off. The next one was a black dress, quite heavy and overlaid with lace. I tried to zip it up, and was just about to give up when Giada came in the room.

"Bend over." she told me. "Forwards."
After checking her for rubber gloves or a large syringe and finding neither, I did as I was told.
"Now, squeeze your boobs up."
Suffocation be-damned, I thought, as I stood there, bent at the waist, pushing my boobs up to my chin. I want to get into this dress.
Jimmy the stylist came in at that point, and held the dress closed whilst Giada inched the zip up.
"There!" she announced, slightly out of breath but triumphant. "It's done. Now stand up."
Reflecting that it usually takes slightly longer than ten minutes and perhaps a cocktail or two for me to obediently bend over and do things with my boobs for someone, I felt slightly in awe of her and straightened up. It fitted. Perfectly.

This, I thought, is good. A dress fits, so I will wear this one.

"Great" said Jimmy, standing back and surveying me with a critical eye. "That's a good one. Now the others."

I was slightly dismayed at this, because I had managed to get into the dress and felt like it was a victory in some way. Perhaps, I thought, we should quit while we're ahead. Despite that, I unzipped and climbed gingerly out of the lace.

The next dress was a teal (sort of greeny-blue), muslin-type material. Two layers. Low cut, with a black ribbon that tied just underneath the bust. Knee-length.

I slipped it on easily, and walked in to show.

"Amazing" announced Jimmy. "Perfect."

"That colour brings out your eyes so much. It's lovely. I think this one, what do you think, Jimmy? This one?"
Giada looked over to Jimmy, where he stood, head to one side, smiling slightly. "Yes. This is the one."

Shoes. Alexander McQueen, with multi-coloured ties around the ankle and four-inch heels. A belt, about six inches wide, battered leather, tied like a corset at the back. A hat made from feathers -"very Vivienne Westwood" - with the colour on the rim matching the exact reddish-brown colour of my hair. An Alexander McQueen jacket, grey-ish layered muslin with elbow-length sleeves, cut away at the front and long at the back. A beautiful pearl and cut glass necklace, that sparkled and shimmered tantalisingly, radiant and scintillating.

Make-up. Dramatic black eye shadow, highlighted cheekbones, pale lips. Hair back-combed.

The look, I am told, was new-Romantic.

I didn't look like me. I felt a million miles away from the me of the battered jeans, flip-flops and old tops, although the messy hair didn't feel too far off.

I sat in a chair whilst Giada did my make up and Jimmy pressed my dress with an iron filled with Evian. I chatted to Giada about where she was from, and about her band*. She isn't, it turns out, American, she's Canadian. Star of a German soap opera for seven years, film-maker and performer. An interesting lady, and lovely to boot. I sat, we all chatted. Tom was on the sofa, having done his costume procedures earlier. For me, just sitting still, being gently fussed over, being studied and contemplated, was lovely. I found it immensely relaxing.

Eventually, though, we were finished, and we had to get into a taxi and go over to Soho.

Out onto the street, bags of shoes and hats and dresses and suits in tow. I had changed back into my jeans for the journey, but I still had the crazy hair and the crazy make-up. Tom strolled down the street, and as we passed some kids on skateboards they watched us and one of them whispered loudly "That looks like Justin Timberlake!", and I hurried to catch Tom up to impart the good news. "He's ugly from some angles" he responded. "So I suppose I can see what they mean." I laughed and told him to shut up.

Into a black cab, launched into the thick foray of traffic in the narrow Soho streets. We staggered out of the car, laden with our bags, and walked to Gerrard Street. Gerrard Street is China Town, an exclusively pedestrian street, and we saw the cameras and the crew as soon as we turned onto it. Hurryingly hello-ed and how-are-you-ed, we made our way to the restaurant we had been promised to be able to use for dressing. They led us down the stairs and past the toilets. Into a damp corridor that smelled like all the worst bits of a China Town resturant. Odours emanating from various bins and bags were heartily ignored, and I was very careful not to step on the floor as I changed from flip flops to fancy shoes, and from jeans to dress. Giada re-did my hair, pulling it and pushing it until it stood out from under the brim of my hat, and handed me the lip gloss to sort out myself.

I stared at my reflection in the mirror and resisted the itch to pull my fingers through my hair and wipe under my eyes, thinking that I looked very, very strange. Glossing my lips, I stood back and thought, well. If this is what they want.

Walking through the restaurant and onto the street people stared. For a moment I felt self-conscious, but only for a moment. Tits, I thought, and teeth. Tits and teeth. Chest out, shoulders back. I very quickly relaxed, enjoying the heads turning and the confused looks, thrilled to escape mundanity.

We started at once. Tom, clad exquisitely in a black tail suit, boots laced up to his knees and a satin top hat, strutted to our position, and I joined him. We stood about a foot apart, and nobody else stood within two metres of us. As Mike the director hurried about, positioning the cameras and contemplating the angles, we waited. People stopped walking, attracted by the dark shapes of the cameras and the people behind them looking seriously in the direction of two people dressed in unusual and glamourous clothes. Tom and I stood silently, surveying the gathering crowd. Silently, standing as tall as we could, feeling every pair of eyes looking, trying to unravel us; to find out who we were and what we were doing.

The idea behind the shoot was that we were celebrities being photographed. Simple, and it works for the song.

They had a big stereo with the track on it, and the cameras started rolling as the music came on. We were to sing our parts, but focus on the roles we were playing.

As soon as the track began, we started. Both of us, instantly transformed. I felt seductive: moving slowly to stare down lenses and capture eyes. Shoulder up, chin down, arms by side; slowly raise arm to slide a finger around the rim of the hat then pull the jacket across my chest; right leg crossing left leg, right hand under jacket to rest on my waist; serious expression, gazing into the lens then into a pair of eyes; slight smile to someone else. Everything slow and measured, careful and deliberate. Tom offered me his hand and turned me slowly, four paces around to face a different camera. When my bit came in the song I sang softly over the track and lifted my chin a bit, fixing my eyes on the main camera. By the time we cut there were about fifty people gathered around watching and taking photographs.

I'm not sure whether it will look like that, it might have all been in my head and actually what I was doing was pouting crazily whilst jerkily staggering about. I don't really care. I absolutely loved it. There is a part of me that wishes I didn't love it. I try to convince myself that my desire to perform derives solely from the fact that I love the music. Of course that is the primary motivation, but I am forced to admit that I cannot think of anything better than being on stage, than being admired by fifty pairs of eyes. I admit that with difficulty, because I feel it means I am narcissistic or attention-grabbing, but it remains a fact, nevertheless.

We did more shooting, more angles, more posing. Some freestyle dancing. Actually I didn't enjoy that bit. "Just, you know, like, move around. To the music, you know." said Mike the director. "Sure" said Tom, safe in the knowledge that he had a perfomance degree and was an ace dancer. "Sure" I mumbled, rather precarious in the knowledge that my dancing is always firmly lodged in the 'comedic' category, and there were still a group of people watching. Come on now, I told myself in a stern voice, you can do this, you've done worse. Yes, I have, and that is something I could be completely safe in the knowledge of. We stood there and danced, which involved Tom body popping and me desperately resisting the urge to do any rolling motions with my hands or exaggerated shimmying of any kind.

The whole thing went on until about midnight. My boyfriend Tom (not to be confused with singing, body popping, tophatandtails Tom) came along to watch, and despite the fact that I nearly executed him for videoing the freestyle dancing bit (no, that is not going up here) he seemed to enjoy watching it all. I was so pleased he was there.

I couldn't quite get over the fact that the mere spectacle of two unknown people being filmed attracted so very many people. A japanese lady came up to me and asked to have her picture taken with me. "So beautiful" she said. "Oh! So beautiful!"
I mentally reviewed my backcombed hair and thought, well, horses for courses. Whatever floats your boat, lady, let's do it.
More people wanted pictures with the two of us, and loads were just taking photos from afar. As we were standing there, I thought, fucking hell. I know we're all dolled up, but I'm a receptionist and he files medical records. I mean, sure, I call myself a singersongwriter and he calls himself a composerperformer, and we are those things more than what we both currently do to earn our rent, but that's not why they're interested. They were taking pictures because other people were. I wanted to tell them not to waste their film.

Anyway, despite all that incredulity sloshing around, it was great fun. Having Giada running up to me to reapply my lipgloss and make my hair bigger, all the fuss, it helped me to get into character, and playing that part was brilliant.

It was with much reluctance that I handed back the dress, shoes, belt, hat, jacket. As I took the necklace off I looked at it just for a moment, glimmering in my hand, and then gave it back to Giada.
"Thanks" I told her. "For making me up and being so lovely."
"Don't thank me" she replied. "Thank your mother for those wonderful cheekbones."
I did like her.

I thanked Jimmy as well, and as he told me well done and hugged me, he put something in my hand. A bag. I looked at him, and he said
"Something to remember the evening by" and smiled. I opened the bag and saw the necklace. "Wow, thank you. So much."

I felt exhausted going back to (boyfriend) Tom's on the tube. I still had full make up on, and I kept catching my reflection in the window and being vaguely shocked. Today I am dizzy with tiredness.

It was worth it, though, I had an amazing time. I recommend it.
I will post pictures as soon as someone does it for me, and I will certainly link to the finished product.

I am going to go and mainline more coffee and have another look at my photos.


Thursday, August 03, 2006

A List: Because OCD Is Fun!

I have some things to say, and I have numbered them for no reason whatsoever.

1. I am, despite all my big talk about ponies, a bit scared of horses. I have ridden them lots of times but always feel nervous when I'm on one. I was last on a horse in New Zealand. I felt more comfortable on an elephant.

2. I respond to being tired or hungry by feeling depressed and angry. This morning I was tired, and I tried to whack Tom on the shoulder, but accidentally got the strap of his rucksack. I now have two scraped knuckles on my left hand. Some might think that would teach me to be violent. I think it will teach me not to try and hit someone with my left hand, as I clearly aim better with my right.

3. Someone the other day told me I looked like Kate Beckinsale. This is not the case, although I do have brown hair so I can see where they started to get confused.

4. My diet has gone alrightish. Well, I haven't really changed much, because I eat well anyway. Nor have I denied myself the odd small treat. For example, I had a chocolate brownie on Sunday, but nothing like that since. I think that the weight I am is probably my natural and healthy state of being, although if I went to the gym I would be muscular and stuff. 'Toned', maybe. To be honest, body building has never much appealed to me, although if the singing doesn't work out I might just give it a crack.

5. I have just agreed to do the Run London thing ( Which is 10km, in October. I think it's meant to be some kind of North London vs South London thing, where we all get competitive. I will represent the South, of course. It seems that all the other people I'll be running with will be representing the North. I am planning to be extra-competitive with Sarah. I will taunt her by calling her a Northern Monkey, and with any luck she will retort by calling me a Southern Fairy, and we will have lots of fun. I will not tell her that secretly I would much rather live in Camden than in Clapham, and she will not tell me that she is secretly in love with me and stalks me on Tuesday nights.

6. It's the music video thing tonight! (Exclamation mark denoting excitement, possibly bordering on glee.) I spoke to the stylist last night (please take note: when I use the word 'stylist' I am being nonchalant and cool, also when I use the words 'shoot', 'shooting', 'filming' and 'shoes') and he said he has many things for me, and I am to try them all on, and then someone will do my hair and make up. I will have fabulous shoes, and we will shoot on Gerrard Street in Soho. Just in case anyone fancies popping down to see me trying not to look too excited/touch anything/breathe out. We are shooting from seven until approximately midnight.
I had a meeting with my producer last night (unrelated to the video thing), which went on quite late, and then met Tom for last orders in the pub round the corner from my house. We managed to drink a bottle of wine in that time, which is fine work, I think. I anticipate tiredness to the extreme tomorrow (cue lots of coffee and some light to middling violence towards colleagues.)

7. My flat backs onto a railway line. With noisy trains on it. The Eurostar goes right past my window, as do many other varieties of train. So far nobody has bothered to look into my window, which is a shame for them because I often walk around my room topless, and sometimes completely clothesless.
Anyway. Last night at about three in the morning, a very, very loud machine took it upon itself to start to clean the train tracks. One by one. It would clean one, move to the next one, clean that, move to the next one and so on. Each track took about ten painstaking seconds to clean. The noise that this machine (which is now my sworn nemesis) made upon cleaning each track was loud enough to make Tom and I both sit up with our hands clamped over our ears and look at each other in the way that people reserve for when they've been woken from a deep sleep by a very loud and confusing noise (Tom likes to use it when I dry my hair in the mornings). When we worked out what it was we just lay there, eyes squeezed shut, emanating hatred for the machine of death from every pore. It went on for ages and ages. Time stopped and was replaced by the sound of a thousand cows trying to hit a top C whilst having their legs chopped off by a five year old with a hacksaw.
This machine has made me tired. If I have dark circles under my eyes for the music video, or if I go on a killing spree from lack of sleep, I will sue the machine. I will sue it, and I will win.

8. I have a slightly sore shoulder. I'm not sure why, so I am blaming the machine.

9. It is Thursday today, and as we have all agreed that a Thursday is infinitely preferable to a Tuesday, I think we should all have treats in celebration. Mine will be some water, because I must not have anything that might make me pop out of my dress in a manner that I reserve only for the people on the 7.48 from Clapham Junction. I am scared that the fifteen hundred pound dress will not fit me, even though I gave him my measurements. When I handed him the bit of paper he looked at it with fear in his eyes, because I imagine that they don't make many couture dresses in 38, 28, 37. With a size five shoe and a penchant for the sparkly. Oh well, it isn't my problem, they must find something for me, I am simply the unfortunately busty mannequin.

10. Ten. What a nice number to end a post on. Let's all have treats.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A Rare Treat of a Tuesday

Tuesdays are notoriously the worst day of the week. They haven't got the novelty factor of a Monday, Wednesday is halfway through, Thursdays are nearly Friday and on Fridays you're allowed to eat Crunchies. Abundantly.

I think of Tuesday as the antithesis of the weekend. Arthur Dent famously "never could get the hang of Thursdays", but I am actually rather partial to a Thursday, if it's done right. It has all the joyous anticipation of the Friday shimmering softly on the horizon, without the blunt realisation that, yes, it may be the end of the week, but you're still festering at your desk and all those Crunchies will still make you fat.

Tuesdays can be anything or nothing. I know someone who maintains that he can tell how his whole week is going to pan out by how his Tuesday goes. If nothing is achieved by the end of this, the second day, he might as well give it up for a lost cause. If, on the other hand, he has really made progress by tea time on a Tuesday, he can look forward to three more days of grand slams and snowballing successes. I'm not so sure of this, it seems a shame to write off three whole days just because Monday and Tuesday were duds, but I can sort of see his point. If by Tuesday things are going smoothly, then weekwise (assuming no large scale and unforeseeable disasters befall you) you might be onto a bit of a winner. I think that even if they've gone anti-smoothly (or 'roughly' as the professionals say) (I don't know which professionals) (perhaps professional maker-uppers of words) you can still turn it around by Friday, in which case you really do deserve that Crunchie.

Let us review my week so far.
(Note: When I say 'let us' I mean 'I am going to', and I also mean 'and I don't care if you don't want to', and I also mean 'oh sorry that was rude' and I also mean 'oh please don't go and leave me with no readers' and I also mean 'I am needy' and I also mean 'please make me stop doing this'.)

Monday: Bit rubbish. The word 'hormones' took on a new meaning for Tom as I launched merrily into my fifth day of being a 'whore' who did not stop 'moaning'*. Wrote a post on my blog about how I felt rubbish. Contemplated crawling into a hole and dying. Concluded that unless there was a TV in there with episodes of either Charmed or CSI (but not Miami) on it I would get bored of dying pretty quickly and have to crawl out and that just sounded like effort.
Was in a daze. Not a great day.
*Tom would never, ever say this to me. He is far too lovely and also wants to live to see his next birthday.

Tuesday (today): Woke up feeling a million and one times better. In the time it took to fall asleep, have various dreams about magical ponies and how life would be so much better if I looked like Alyssa Milano and then wake up again, I felt like a whole different person. A whole different human being. I raced to the mirror, was slightly disappointed that I hadn't actually been changed into a whole different person (namely Ms Milano), but nevertheless relieved to be feeling like I no longer had the weight of the world on my shoulders. Today I have arranged a couple of meetings, I have re-structured a song (in my head, whilst working) and generally managed to feel on top of things. The list of things I was worrying about yesterday is not so daunting. I am in the middle of reading three books, not because I am trying to be all clever and multi-task the shit out of my reading habits, but because I keep losing the book I am reading, starting a new one and then finding the original book, but only once I have become a bit hooked on the second book. This, obviously, has happened twice, but the second time I lost the first two books simultaneously, started a third, and then found the first two. I am a very quick reader (I'm boasting now) (and while I'm at it I might as well tell you that I can draw a really good pony and have very slim wrists) so it'll be alright, I'll cope.

To sum up: This has been a very, very long-winded way of telling you that, yes, I am fine now, thank you.

Bring on the next three days (complete with music video filming on Thursday evening). I am feeling good.

Also I am wearing these shoes:

which are making me feel special, despite the fact that they are blue jelly shoes. Don't judge me.