Thursday, June 26, 2008

Girl Talk (And A New Game!)

A recent email exchange between myself and my friend Lucy:

Lucy: I just bought some yogurt-covered coconut clusters, thinking they sound fairly healthy... only to find the main ingredient is chocolate... and they're amazing. Damn you, diet! No wheat in them, though. I win!

Léonie: My "diet" is also going badly. Food-wise I'm doing...ok... but I think drinking 5 glasses of wine (last night) and three pints of beer (night before) is not strictly ideal. I am thinking I am going to stop drinking anything but gin/vodka and tonic for a bit, because it's all very well cutting down calories food-wise, but if you basically double your intake via alcohol it kind of negates the whole damn thing.

Lucy: Yet not skinny... at least not legs?! It's confusing being a girl - I was talking about my diet earlier, and got a bit offended when the woman next to me gave me some advice - as though she was agreeing with me that it was for the best that I diet...

Léonie: Ha! Last night my friend said something like, yeah, well we're just normal sized people, right? And I of course agreed but in my head I was going what? Normal? Normal like fat? Fat normal? I can't believe you just called me fat! Aaaaah!

Which perhaps is not terribly rational. Because it's really not 'cool' to talk about oneself as fat (third wave feminism tells us not to) so we all deny we're on diets (at least I do). I deny it, but then get home and stare woefully at my (really quite normal) self and impose a One Love Bar A Week And No Chocolate And If You So Much As Look At A Bit Of Toast You're A Horrible Weak Person injunction to try and become skinnier. I hate the word skinny but if someone used it to describe me (not just my legs - as the implication to me is pig on sticks) I would be secretly absolutely bloody delighted.

Anyway Lucy you don't need to diet, you're tiny.

Love Bars all round, I say. We can always puke them up afterwards. (Too far?)

Lucy: Haha! God, I hate being a girl. We're ridiculous creatures, all of us. There's actually no way to win. All straight men must be bonkers!

And you don't need to diet either. Go buy yourself some yogurt coconut clusters.

Riots, not diets!

I think this sums up perfectly the relationship that most women my age have with their bodies. We tell ourselves and each other that We Don't Care, and Down With Size Zero etc, but secretly we all want to be a bit thinner. Peculiar creatures, aren't we?

Also, on a side note, I drink too much.


I have developed a new game to entertain myself on the tube. It's called Imaginary Counting, and basically involves pretending to count stuff in your head. For example perhaps you're trying to remember which cats you put in that saucepan or how many ponies it take to change a lightbulb. If you use your fingers to count on, and do some pausing/squinting between each number, it can be really fun. There is, of course, no reason for it, but therein lies the joy. Only somebody with a penchant for the ridiculous would sit on public transport and pretend to count stuff for no reason, and that, my friends, is exactly why we should all do it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


I have been tagged! But, first: I have been neglectful.

I'm sure that most people who are familiar with the bloggings of bloggers around these parts (I refuse to say the word blogosphere) (damn) will be aware of the wonderful new book that has just come out, compiled by Peach, packed full of stories and excitement from the blogging community. (I like the phrase 'blogging community'. To me it conjures images of pasty-looking people sitting in circle in a draughty church hall, blinking at their laptops and reaching over occasionally to take a small bite of a curling cheese sandwich or a sip of tea, as a scrawled sign, flapping on the front doors, reads "Community Bloggers' Meeting: Tonight".)

I was very excited to find out that I am in the book, but in my excitement completely forgot to post about it. Oh, sure, I put a link on my sidebar, but that's not enough, is it? (No.)

So, if you haven't already, maybe you should buy it. It's all terribly worthwhile, what with it being for charity and everything.

Here it is!

Now. I have been tagged by the lovely Just Me. So here I go.


This time ten years ago I was sixteen. I would have just finished my GCSE exams and be looking forward to going to Newquay to stay with nine of my school friends in a caravan for a week. My memories of that week are of a bizarre sense of freedom, of sunny days and seagulls looping overhead, vying for scattered chips and ice creams. Of boys in the adjoining caravan, one of whom wrote me a love poem. I pretended to find it hilarious and passed it around to my friends (O, cruelty thy name is teenage girls), but secretly I was very, very pleased. We ate many Pot Noodles and devised cocktails in our caravan before heading out to the bars, where we would dance and tease the poor boys foolish enough to think they were in with a chance. They might have had chances with the other girls but not with me, for I had a Boyfriend, whose name was George and who was (shock! horror!) twenty-two years old. I thought he was dreamy, but in retrospect he did wear cycling shorts.


- Listen to the track for tonight's recording and write an extra verse.

- Send my address to Jo Divine.

- Work out whether and how to go to this festival in Brittany with my sister Impish Sophie.

- Plan weekend recording and things around them.

- Work out a plan for my Dad's birthday on Thursday.


I would buy a recording studio. I would pay for musicians to work with and gig with. I would buy stuff for my family. I would go on a holiday. Buy a flat. Buy a big warehouse and turn it into cooperative housing. Pay somebody to run that. I would paint a mural on the side of the warehouse. Buy a music venue! Pay somebody to run that, as well. Clothes! Shoes! A pony!

Oh, yeah, and give money to charity. Ahem.

Leamington Spa
Dream Land (mainly)

Inability to say no to stuff
Lack of organisation

Children's entertainer
Banana packer
Outdoor events instructor
Office drone

I use humour as a defence mechanism and a way to keep people at a dista... No, I stole it from Friends. It is quite accurate, though. If I am nervous I make jokes. Nervous or worried. Actually it's more like if I am nervous, worried, hot, cold, depressed, happy, hungry or just awake.

Um. Jaywalker. Curly. Badass Geek. My sister.

Yeah, that's four. I am clearly a rebel.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Single Greatest Achievement To Date

Who wants to come on a coffee date with me?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Skinny Pins

On Friday evening I went out for a drink with people from work. Suddenly, from nowhere, a colleague poked me in the knee and said "Ha, you've got skinny legs, haven't you?".

I paused. "Yeah, I suppose I do" I muttered, eventually.

He laughed, and then seeing that I wasn't laughing quite so heartily, proceeded to roll up his the leg of his pinstripe suit and gesture towards his own knee. "Look at my legs though!" he guffawed in what I could only assume was supposed to be a tone of reassuring solidarity. "They're skinny too!"

This information, despite being true, did not make me feel an awful lot better. He continued, much to my dismay.

"It's so funny to see you walking around! Such skinny legs and such big... hair!"

Later on I relayed this conversation to Ben. He shook his head sadly. "You know he didn't mean hair, don't you?"

I knew. I was not then, nor am I now, impressed.

Cut to two days later. I had been out for a Sunday afternoon stroll to try to cheer myself up. The previous day I had exhausted myself by doing a cheerleader party in the morning, then a wedding gig in the evening, and I had woken up feeling low and a bit lonely. Dreading the temp job the next day, tired and flat and upset. I had moped forlornly about for a bit, staring out of windows, pressing the back of my hand to my forehead and the like. Then I was struck by the realization that I was wasting the only day off I was going to have in twelve days and promptly decided to Pull Myself Together.

I bravely ventured out into the sunshine to wander around Brixton. I perused the endless musty rails of the charity shop at the end of my street, sat in a café for a bit with a book and watched other people wind their way through their Sundays. On my way home to get ready for the jam session I had decided to go to that evening, I was standing ready to cross the road. Still in a dream world, but relaxed by my afternoon of lazy solipsism.

Just then a man started shouting and laughing to himself. This, of course, is normal in Brixton. If I walked down the high street without encountering someone talking to themselves (whilst gesticulating wildly, of course) I would begin to suspect that I had slipped into a parallel universe and would call MI6 at once. So I thought nothing of it and continued in my reverie.

Then I realized he was talking to me.

"Hey lady! You wanna get yourself some sunshine on them skinny legs! Ha ha ha ha!"

He laughed the laugh of someone who laughs at the sky, and then continued.

"And a pedicure! Ha ha ha ha!"

My jaw dropped. My reverie flitted away and I was left with only incomprehension.

I crossed the road, mouth still hanging open as if someone had deactivated the springs in my face.

Twice in one weekend have people taken it upon themselves to criticize my (albeit quite skinny) pins. I do not like the word skinny. I am surely not skinny! They are maybe slim, and certainly pale. I cannot help either thing. I am an English Rose, and refuse to succumb to the siren song of the evil tan boxes of death. Or, as Ben put it, "don't go gathering melanomas in UV caskets". I have no time to smear myself in browning paint, either. I should be able to walk down the street without being mocked for my fair skin and lack of leg fat.

It goes without saying that the worst bit was being told to get a pedicure by a homeless man whose own sense of hygiene was, to push the concept of understatement to the extreme, somewhat dubious. My feet, I thought as I stamped home in my flip-flops, are fine! They have nail polish on and are not at all horrible! They are nice feet, they take me places even when they hurt and they look lovely in pretty shoes.

My poor legs and feet. They do not deserve to bear the brunt of such jokes. They run around uncomplainingly as I force them to take me on adventures, as I dash from gig to rehearsal to jam, from jobs one to two to three to four, to see friends and family, jaunt to Manchester, dance to empowering anthems in gay bars across the capital and run run run trying to catch up with the clock whose endless ticktockticks always seems to be running slightly in front.

As the rest of me shuts down in panic, stops being able to think and breathe and understand, my legs and feet maintain my life, taking me from place to place even when the rest of me just wants to stop, rest and sleep.

I hate the people who laughed at my legs. I pity them, really, for I know that my skinny pins will take me further that theirs could ever hope to.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A New Direction

I have been asked, by the delicious and delightful company Jo Divine, to make for them a review.

Of a sex toy.

I have thought about it. I do not want to end up like Emily Gould or Zoe Margolis, whose frankness left them clutching at their laptops in horror as people suddenly started using their words against them. If my name is ever splashed across The Daily Mail I would infinitely prefer it be in a headline like "Woman Sets Fire To Office And Rides Away On Pony!" than anything to do with sex blogging. I am under no illusions that people in general can be relied upon to respect anyone else's notion of an entitlement to privacy, and you would never catch me being surprised if, after I had willingly dissected the intimate details of my life in the public domain, some people did not react to it exactly the way I had hoped.

I write under my own name. Anyone can read this! My employer! My parents! Ex-boyfriends and current ones (I mean one, of course) and all sorts of shifty-eyed people like yourself. Although I am not likely to have a Corporate Job any time soon, there are many ways in which the decision to discuss my, ahem, private life online could come back and kick me in the shins. Of course.

The thing is, though, that I'm not really convinced that anyone will really care. Ever. I certainly don't. It's not like I'm going to put up pictures. To be honest I think I would be more embarrassed to admit that I went to Blockbuster the other day, rented season seven of Charmed and watched the whole lot in three days. Or that last night I got involved in a competition with two drag queens to see who could eat a bag of Doritos the fastest (I totally won, without actually swallowing any of the crisps - I just stood deadpan on the stage and crushed the Doritos on my mouth until the bag was empty. I felt like Britney). Or that when I was in Blockbuster renting the Charmed DVD I lied to the girl behind the till and told her it was for my niece (she remained suitably unconvinced). I could go on. And on. The point is, though, that I have admitted many a thing here and nobody really cares.

So I agreed. Yes! Send me your finest toy and I will write about it. I am considering writing the whole post as a series of antiquated euphemisms and Carry On-style jokes, and then, if it is a success, starting a mock sex blog in the same vein.

I chose the one I wanted and they are going to send it to me in the post. I wonder whether it comes with batteries? I know I will! Wahey!

Oh God.

Friday, June 06, 2008

I Nearly Win A Victory For Snack Consumers Everywhere!

I went to Pret-a-Manger on Tuesday lunchtime to purchase myself a cheering treat. My favourite thing from there is the Love Bar (which, I have been assured, is not even at all a euphemism). It is delicious. It has a layer of flapjack, then a thick, squishy layer of caramel with pistachios and seeds embedded in it. The best bit of all, though, are the big chunky blocks of dark chocolate pushed into the caramel like individual nuggets of pure joy. I love them. On Tuesday I had just written a maudlin blog post and was really, really in need of a joy nugget or two.

On return to the office I sat down at my desk, already buoyed by the very idea of my treat. I took the Love Bar from my bag and removed the wrapper.

I gasped, in shock and horror.

(Please note: This tale is about to take a dark turn. If you are easily shocked or have a weak heart you may want to avert your eyes.)

There were no chocolate chunks to be seen. Not a single one.

Oh, the pistachios were there. Yes, those and the seeds were all present and correct, but their proliferation only served to highlight the gaping chasms where there should have been nestled some chunky chocolate delights.

I honestly nearly cried.

I mean, I ate it anyway, but felt sadder and sadder with every bite. Then, as I woefully masticated, I suddenly felt a surge of anger. I had been misled. I had been promised buoyancy and had received only a snack-based blow to the heart. I am not, I thought to myself, going to be one of those people who witnesses injustice and does nothing. I must speak up for my rights as a flapjack consumer - as a citizen of the world, damn it - and challenge the authorities. I must battle against the corporations as they wilfully attempt to ruin the very cornerstone of freedom and truth and justice: satisfactory flapjackery.

So I wrote an email:

To Whom It May Concern.

Today I bought a Love Bar. I love Love Bars usually, but this time was sorely disappointed to find that it was completely devoid of chocolate chunks (usually my most loved part of the Love Bar).

Please tell me, have you changed the recipe? If so I strongly recommend that you change it back, as a Love Bar with no chocolate contains considerably less love.

Yours sadly,


Then I played the waiting game. (Which, it turns out, isn't so much a game as just a period of time sitting around. Not a game like, say Prod The Granny or Hungry Hippos.)

Suddenly an email flashed up! They had responded! Pret cared about my plight!

It was from an oddly-named chap called Thuy.

Hi Leonie,

Thanks for your email.

I can confirm that the recipe for the Love bars has not been changed.
It may vary from bar to bar, however I have brought this matter to the
attention of our Food Team who shall be looking into this matter with
the suppliers.

Thanks for contacting us once again - we really do appreciate it.

Kind Regards,


I must say I was relieved. I was pleased that Love Bars had not changed irrevocably, a turn of events which would have left me with very little pleasure in life other than that of watching Charmed and talking about ponies, but I was also reassured to hear that the Food Team were going to get cracking on the situation.

After taking a moment to wonder whether the Food Team all dress as different Pret products (sandwiches, coffees, over-priced salads etc) I realized to my dismay that my current situation had not been remedied. Sure, my future treats might be satisfactory, but this experience had still been really rather disappointing.

I plucked the wrapper from the bin into which I had tearfully flung it earlier and placed it thoughtfully on my desk.

It sat there for a few days as I considered my plan of attack. At 12.54 today I stood up, put the wrapper in my bag and left the building to meet my friend Pippa for lunchtime coffee. We sat outside the café, chatting. It was lovely. It was near Goodge Street station in the courtyard with the tall, leafy trees and the huge, brightly coloured mural on one of the walls. Someone had an iPod dock and was playing Paul Simon's Graceland album, which is one of my favourites. Feeling relaxed by the environment whilst also being a bit hyper from a double espresso and a hangover, I felt able to share with Pippa the details of my tragic, flapjack-based plight.

We decided I should go back in and complain to the manager about the outrageous lack of chocolate chunks on my Love Bar. We finished our coffees and headed down the road until we reached Pret, and found therein a tall, Italian-looking man who was clearly the manager of the shop.

"Um." I began, eloquently.

He turned around to us. Pippa nudged me to go on.

"Um, yes, hello. Are you the manager?"

"Yes. How can I help you ladies?"

"Well, on Tuesday I bought a Love Bar..."

I held out the wrapper by way of clarification.

"...and it didn't have any chocolate chunks on it!"

He looked down at the small, slightly greasy wrapper and started to smile a little.

"No...chocolate chunks?"

"Yes! I mean, no, no chunks! None. I was very disappointed."

"They're her favourite bit!" chimed in Pippa, helpfully.

"Your favourite bit?"

"Yes! My favourite bit."

"They're the best bit, really." added Pippa, seemingly spurred on by her own helpfulness.

He looked at the wrapper and continued to smile with the wry air of one who has never experienced the crushing disappointment of a below-par snack treat.

"But you ate it anyway?"

I had anticipated this very question and had my answer prepared.

"Yes, well, you see I had to test out whether the chocolate really was the best bit, or whether it's as good without. And, well. It's not. The chocolate really is the best bit."

Pippa nodded.

I looked at him in was I hoped was a winsome, not-angry-just-disappointed manner.

His smile broadened.

"Also, she went back to the office! And you can't just leave the office again once you've...gone back..." said Pippa, and I started to feel that perhaps her helpful comments had begun to dry up.

He looked at us, from one to the other. We were practically holding hands with the sheer excitement of our own daring.

He picked two Choc Bars from the shelf and handed one to each of us.

"Here you go ladies. These are on me."

"But...they're... this is a Choc Bar. It was a Love Bar!"

"These are good. You'll like these."

"But...I think we'd prefer..."

"You'll love these ones. They're the best ones."


"Go on. Take these, they're on me."

"Um. OK. Thanks."

I had run out of fight. There is only so much corporation battling one can do in a single lunch hour, particularly when hungover.

Joyous in our victory, Pippa and I parted ways.

As I walked back to my office, I felt that, while of course I was pleased with myself for standing up for my rights, I was slightly disappointed that I had not actually managed to obtain a replacement Love Bar.

The Choc Bar sits, unopened, on my desk. A symbol of an almost-victory.

I almost stuck it to The Man. I almost won!

But not quite.

Tomorrow I am going to almost shut down Starbucks, and then almost reverse global warming. It's going to be great.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Worry, Why Do I Let Myself Worry?

Late on Monday night I found myself on a stage in South London. Stepping into the Brockley Social Club is like slipping back in time, to an age where people wore tinted glasses and sparkly, shoulder-padded jackets. When a prawn-cocktail was considered the height of sophistication and a white wine spritzer would set you back less than a pound. At the end of the bar a group of locals stood clustered, and a bar maid eyed us cautiously from behind the sticky beer taps. Glittering above the bottles of spirits there proudly stood some large silver cups, proclaiming local sporting prowess.

That evening I had been doing some writing and recording with Martin, who has been working with me on some of the songs I have written. I love the way things are going with those songs. We're working on a reggae/dubstep sound, mixing it in with the jazz feel towards which I tend to gravitate. As the songs are all written and recorded on my computer at home they tend to be fairly heavy on the backing vocals, so we are working on incorporating these in the music without making it sound like there is a big choir hovering in the background somewhere, chipping in with harmonies and clapping at random. I want some of the vocals to sound like samples and some to sound like the radio happened to be playing in the background while the song was being recorded. My voice tends to have a quite a clear and girlish quality (see my MySpace for confirmation) (ignore the production on those songs, I hate it and am going to re-record them soon) so I want to dirty it up. "Dirty It Up" being, of course, a technical term, (and possibly a good name for the next Girls Aloud album). Martin is great to work with. Not only does he seem to have similar ideas to me, but he also seems to be genuinely able to leave his ego at the door when he works. It definitely isn't always like this, so it's good to feel relaxed and confident, and not afraid to criticize for fear of provoking sullenness or full-blown anger.

We had a good session and arranged the next one, giving us both some work to do in the meantime. We're working on a track called "Thursday Rain" at the moment, and have a bit of a plan for how we're going to start on the next few as well.

It was about ten o'clock. Martin had a gig to play at and he invited me along. I looked outside at the drenched and blackened June skies. I was exhausted from a heady weekend, seeing friends in Brixton, Soho and then Oxford and back, and had been staring at walls at my temp job all day. The prospect of dragging myself from my bed the following morning had already started to nag at my brain, and I knew that travelling home on night buses after the gig would be intimidating and stressful. All of this duly taken into account, I shrugged, affirmative.

"Yeah, alright. I could use a drink."

I helped him with his amp and keyboard stand and we made our way to the venue. He was playing as part of the Brockley Max Festival, more specifically for their jazz and blues night. The Brockley Social Club is small and, as I mentioned, seems to hark back to a simpler time, when local people all gathered in one place to knock back a few gins and maybe have a game of pool (and perhaps a bit of a dance on a Friday night). A scrolling LED sign balefully informed us that bingo took place every Sunday at nine, and that the dates for the karaoke were yet to be confirmed.

We sat down at a wooden table in the corner and gazed at the stage, upon which a group of middle-aged men dressed in black were blasting out covers of The Clash. "Not quite jazz and blues!" joked the front man in a thick Welsh accent, adjusting his leather trilby hat and greying, tapered jeans. They played their instruments enthusiastically, each dramatic strum of a guitar or blast of a trumpet recalling a boyhood dream of life in a ska-punk band. I enjoyed watching them, enjoyed the fact that they all looked a bit like over-the-hill sound engineers (bar the drummer, who was fourteen and the son of one of the be-ponytailed rockers), I enjoyed the fun they were having. The best part, though, was the familial support of the audience, who cheered every bum note and heckled good-naturedly in the spaces between songs.

To applause and friendly jibes they finished their set, and at that moment the other two members of Martin's band turned up. We were all introduced and shook each other by the hand, and I glanced at the clock. It was just gone eleven and I was tired. I opened my mouth to announce my departure just at the same moment that Martin, by way of explanation, told the other two that I was a singer he was working with.

"Oh" said one of them. "Cool. Are you singing tonight with us, then?"

I laughed, but they shrugged. "Do you want to?" asked Martin. "It would be cool if you did."

Once more I contemplated, although this time I knew what the answer would be. I know myself well enough to know that, no matter the time, no matter the venue, no matter the situation, I can't turn down the opportunity to sing. This explains how I ended up singing once in the middle of Singapore airport, another time with a member of Iron Maiden at the London Marathon and numerous other eclectic places from canoes to cabaret bars. It's like a disease, only with more showing-off.

I picked out a few tunes and wrote down the keys in which I sing them. They set up the stage with drums, keyboard and bass and I clambered up to the mic, wishing I had bothered to brush my hair in the last twenty-four hours. Summertime. Georgia On My Mind. I had no energy for chatting with the audience, so I just smiled and, after glancing down at the piece of paper on which I had hastily scribbled the names of the bassist and drummer, introduced the band. We carried on.

I watched the friendly faces of the locals watching and all of a sudden felt like an intruder. Horrified, I started to think that they probably preferred to watch the musical stylings of their own family and friends to that of some jumped up self-professed jazz singer with a crumpled dress and messy hair. These thoughts crashed upon me in the middle of Fly Me To The Moon, so after that I decided to leave the boys to an instrumental for a bit. Sitting back down on a fake leather seat and clutching a half-drunk pint of Guinness, I decided now was the time to go home. After another two instrumental numbers I stood up and walked over to the stage to say goodbye.

Moments later I was up holding the mic again, listening to the introduction of Night and Day. After this one, I thought, I will definitely go home.


"One more?" asked the host.

Just over half an hour later I sat on the night bus as it trundled through the dark crevices of South London. Alone in the fluorescence of the lights, I felt all my anxiety about getting up and working in not very many hours slam back into my brain. We had been asked to play somewhere else the following night. The drummer had shaken my hand at the end and said "it's nice to play with a singer who can actually sing!", which I took as a compliment whilst trying to ignore the implied comment about singers in general. It was a nice little gig, or at least would have been if I hadn't allowed my anxiety to creep in with its insidious little claws and ruin it for me. I, of course, got home fine and, of course, got up the next morning without too much trouble. I am twenty-six years old, not eighty. I don't need that much sleep.

Anxiety troubles me, and always has, but I must learn to overcome it and enjoy my youth, enjoy my life and take advantage of my freedom. I don't think I will ever be able to stop saying yes to things, so I might as well accept that and start to enjoy the mentalness. I know that's the answer, I just need to work out how to implement it.