Monday, October 27, 2008

In Manchester

It is strange to be here. Every so often it swings from 'strange' to 'strange-but-good', but then I catch a glimpse of my now-useless Oyster card in my wallet and veers back to 'strange'. Today a surly youth knocked me as he walked past and turned and said "sorry, love", in thick Northern tones. It is strange to be called "love" by everyone. I'm not sure whether I like it yet.

It's cold and rainy, but then it's cold and rainy in London, too. Here, though, I feel that escape is at my fingertips. Last Sunday Ben and I got a little train out to the Peak District and walked up a peak (I'm not sure of the name, but it was that one, you know, with all the heather, gorse and sheep). When we reached the top we leant on the wind and gazed at the hills overlapping each other, creating horizon upon horizon. The sky floated past on its own dusty mountain ranges and I smiled as I thought about the clean air I was breathing. After a while we headed back down, running down the side of the peak to get to the pub. Faces cold and pink, we ordered two pints of Fox's Nob beer and an array of crisps and nuts and settled down in the part of the pub that allowed muddy walking boots. Hours earlier, as we had walked past the field at the back of the pub, we had spotted two tiny little ponies, chewing impishly on the grass. A man came out from the kitchen with some vegetables for them, and they came up no further than his burly knees. I watched them for a while, feeling that my heart was going to burst with glee. I turned back to Ben, grinning uncontrollably. "Aah" he said, in a worryingly-familiar tone that I like to think of as 'fond', "you look like a right mental." After our first pint and packet of Marmite crisps, Ben went to the bar to fetch more. He came back and shook his head, sadly. "We can't go and feed the ponies" he said. "Apparently, when miniature Shetland ponies are grazing they bite." If allowed, I would have done it anyway just so I could have told people that the injury on my hand had been sustained by a tousle with an errant pony.

Since PonyDay I've been back to London for a few nights, to sort out some remaining details of the Brixton house. Back in Manchester I have been following Ben about, annoying him by asking every five minutes whether he would like me to leave, and apologising for distracting him from like, work and stuff even though I am just hanging about reading books. I know that it will just take a bit of time for me to find my feet here, and that in the meantime I am bound to feel a little disorientated and over-sensitive. However, in spite of such sensibly-intentioned mental preparation, I appear not to be very good at talking myself out of the sudden rushes of fear I keep feeling.

I now am sitting in "my" room in my Grandma's house (the inverted commas are meant to denote that I do not quite feel like it is mine, even though I have attempted to make it so by sprinkling clothes and jewellery about the place with careful abandon). We have had tea (this is Northern for dinner). Today I walked from Ben's house into town, where I got on a bus to come back here. The bus wound through the wet streets of Greater Manchester, which are peppered with shops called things like "Fone X-change" and "The Thrill of the Grill!", and about eight million Morrison's supermarkets. I watched the unfamiliar roads unfurl and listened to the other passengers discuss their lives.

Tomorrow I suppose I shall go into town and wander around, with the intention of working out where to get some kind of job that will keep me in loose women and fast cars while I live the dream here up North. Although, actually, I don't want to do that just yet. I have spent the last four years lurching from shit job to worse one while I attempt to wrap my head around the fact that I am trying to live some kind of artistic dream. My CV is a graveyard of horrific former miseries. Looking at it is like staring at a list of equally-horrific ex-boyfriends, and I can't face adding to it yet.

However, I know that getting a job is the best way of making friends. Given how abjectly terrified I am that I will end up becoming too reliant on Ben (who is leaving in two weeks to hang around Nepal for a month, where he will be of less use to me) I feel that I should go and make some friends by means of shared humour about terrible hours/customers/managers.

I will see how I feel when I wake up tomorrow, and hope that I can bring myself to get out of bed and face the terrifying prospect of my new (improved) life.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Snowdrops on Ponies and Kittens as Mittens

I am grateful that Justme has tagged me for a meme, for otherwise I would have to write about this life-changing move I am about to make, and I can’t be bothered. It’s sunny outside, and I have yet to decide what to have for lunch.


Clothes shop:

At the end of my Brixton street there is a large, dubious-smelling Barnardo’s charity shop. It has a big clothes section, packed with shiny tops from the mid-nineties, inexplicably horrible jeans and jumpers that look as though they have been knitted out of sick. However, following much perseverance and muffled sniggering I have been recently been able to unearth some gems that have become my wardrobe stalwarts. Why, the dress I am wearing today is a prime example! Black with cream art deco-esque designs, with little sleeves and tiny buttons, and every time I wear it people ask me whether I have lost weight (answer: no). I wait with barely contained glee for someone to tell me they like it before leaping on them and shrieking “IT ONLY COST THREE POUNDS!” over and over until they run away wildly, clutching their faces in agony. A selection of other items I have bought from this shop are: polka dot play suit (1); pink silk top (1); cardigans/jumpers (4); terrible crime thriller books written circa 1984 (767).

Charity shops are my favourite shops. I hate Next and Gap, and would rather eat my own face than set foot in a Primark. Normal shops-wise I love Joy although I slightly hate it now that I have looked at their website.

Furniture shop:

I don’t have a favourite furniture shop. I hate walking around those shops and soaking up the sinister you-must-own-this-or-your-life-will-be-shit thought rays that they pump through the air-conditioning vents. They are trying to control us with their consumerism! Kill!

Now excuse me while I go and polish my tin foil hat.


I love Green and Black’s Maya Gold chocolate, but I love it even more when eaten in tiny pieces combined with a cup of Twinning’s Lemon & Ginger tea. (Do I win the prize for the most middle-class sentence ever written? I hope so.)

I like sweet things in small doses, so that I can taste them properly. Chocolate with red wine, spicy tea or strong espresso – these things appeal to me more than just falling head first into a vat of melted Dairy Milk.


I feel it would be cruel to whip London from the top spot just as I am about to turn my back on it. I love London, it has been my home for years and has mostly been good to me (crime and heartbreak aside). I do love others, too, though. Paris is beautiful, and New York is awe-inspiring. I loved Lisbon when I went there last summer, with its steep cobbled streets and bleached-white buildings. The Barrio Alto district was my favourite part, with its seediness and ever-proliferating street art. Brighton is also amazing for street art and murals, and I love its glorious kitsch-ness and proximity to the sea. I have only been to Edinburgh at festival time, which means that I probably have a biased view of it, but I consider it to be close to my heart. A lot of things have happened to me and for me in Edinburgh. Prague I loved, cold and mistily mysterious as it was. Other cities: Sydney; Salzburg; Bangkok; Kuala Lumpur; Singapore; Christchurch; Chicago; Milan; Athens; Cardiff. I loved Cardiff, but I suppose it is about the people you are with rather than the city itself.

Manchester is a great place and I cannot wait to live there, but I suspect I will always have I HEART LONDON etched somewhere on my heart, alongside little pictures of a red telephone box and a London bus.


If I am not drinking-drinking then I will have a sparkling water, please. Or just tap, whatever. On the rare occasions when I do drink (ahem) I am blessed with a taste for many and varied things. I love good wine (red, white or rosé), but sometimes would prefer gin and tonic. There are moments when a pint of cold lager is delicious, and others when real, proper beer makes everything seem better. Guinness makes me feel warm and, oddly, a bit stoned. I would drink Champagne for breakfast everyday if I thought I could get away with it.

Sambucca causes massive memory loss, and should be avoided unless someone else is paying.


I was almost tempted to leave this one out, because really. It’s too hard!
I don’t like most guitar band, indie rock-type music. I don’t hate it, and if it comes on I won’t cover my ears and start banging saucepans together (difficult to do both at the same time), but it never really moves me. It doesn’t make me cross my arms around my waist and say “oh”, or want to dance insanely, or throw up (in a good way). It’s more like, well, that’s alright.

I love singing and listening to jazz. Georgia on My Mind is my favourite song to sing, along with Summertime (obv.), Black Coffee and Bad, Bad Leroy Brown. Actually, along with about forty other jazz standards.

I love words in music. Paul Simon is one of the best songwriters of all time, along with Leonard Cohen (Famous Blue Raincoat makes me want to throw up and die) (in a great, incredible, amazing way). Jill Scott is a poet and a singer, and the harmony and lyrics in her music is adjective-defying. I saw her live once, and my God. That woman should be king. I also love Joan As Police Woman, to such an extent that I wanted to punch people at her gigs for pretending to love her more than I did. I really like mash-up albums, and always listen to my recently-acquired Kleptones album before I go out.

I don’t know. I love music that means something, lyrically and melodically. Guitar bands with their 1-2-3-4 rhythms just leave me a little cold.

My single favourite piece of music ever, though, is the Elgar Cello Concerto (particularly when played by Jacqueline Du Pré). I used to play it, and when I did I would feel like it had taken over my whole body.

TV series:

Well, this one is potentially a bit embarrassing. There I was, making myself seem dashingly refined and cultured by claiming that I loved classical music, and now I have to go and admit that my favourite TV series is Charmed.



The first one I can think of is Priscilla Queen of the Desert. I also like Kill Bill (both volumes). I like crime thriller type films and heist movies. I can’t watch anything with Tom Cruise in it, and if it starred Renée Zellwegger I would definitely think twice.


I do this most mornings. I used to go to the gym, but discovered a great alternative that was much more fun and life-affirming: not going.


Those little Portuguese custard tart things, O, they are delicious. The Brixton/Stockwell area is otherwise known as Little Portugal, so these delicious treats are scattered along the pavements with joyful abundance.


I am a slave to a good cup of coffee, but it must be strong, and either black or with a splash of milk. To me, latte tastes like baby vomit. Good coffee is delicious, but starting the day with a cup of watery coffee makes me spontaneously fall over with disappointment. I like my coffee like I like my men: in a pretty cup with a small biscuit on the side.

This has been a fun meme, thank you Justme for tagging me. In turn, I will tag the following people: Ben, Fishwife and Clarissa.

Friday, October 03, 2008


“Are you ready for a downhill?”

I gripped tightly onto the sides of his jumper, leaned around into the wind and shouted a muffled but delighted yes.

We sped up. My hair whipped out behind me and he begun to whistle that Peter, Bjorn and John tune. The road hurtled by as I grinned into the faces of people stuck in cars in the jam-traffic. Schools and bus stops stood and silently watched I raised my knees further up over the back wheel and started to whistle as well.

About half an hour previously we had been sitting outside a pub in Chorlton, sipping beer in the golden, late afternoon sun.

“Um, I could get the bus and you could cycle?”

He scrunched his nose.

“Not the bus. We could both just walk?”

My turn to scrunch.

“Yeah, but it’s so nice now, and we’re both in such good moods. If we spend an hour walking along roads with you wheeling your bike we’ll be all tired and cross by the time we get home.”

He took a sip of his beer and turned to look at his bike, peering at the writing on the side.

“How much do you weigh?”

I took a sip of mine and shrugged.

“Don’t know in kilograms. Last time I weighed myself I was 8 stone 12.”

I looked at my beer, feeling its familiarity in my hand and thinking back over the last few weeks.

“Might have gone up since then, though.”

Some elaborate calculations later and we were attaching my scarf to the rack, to pad it out and minimize bike-bruising. I swung my leg over the wheel and sat down precariously, feeling the back of the seat press into my ribs and the bars of the rack digging into the soft flesh of my upper thighs. I was wearing his rucksack which, heavy with food, was pulling me backwards. Ben got on the bike and I took hold of the sides of his jumper and lifted my feet off the floor. He turned around.

“You’re not wearing a skirt, are you? Want to go side saddle?”

“No, I’m fine. Anyway, I’m wearing shorts. I’m fine. Go on! Let’s not fall off and die!”

He pushed off and we started down the road. Weaving at first, past a village green, its grass gilded by the dying ember sun, but then faster and stronger. Past little houses and quaint pub, outside of which a man inexplicably told us to fuck off. We did, increasingly steadily. Before long Ben was pedalling confidently and I felt comfortable enough to chat inanely.

“You know” I shouted, leaning round. “You could fit more lady friends on here! Loads! As many as you like!”

“Yeah! Let’s get loads! I want loads!”

I dug him lightly in the ribs, so as not to throw his balance and send us careering into any traffic.

“No, you don’t. You don’t want loads!”

“Oh, yeah, right, no. I don’t want any! No lady friends for me!”

I dug him again, a bit harder.

“No! You want one! Me, remember?”

“Oh yeah. Just one. Just you.”

Satisfied, I leaned back around pressed my cheek against his woollen back.

We whizzed and whooped through busy streets, across lanes of cars and alongside buses that were so close I could have stuck my tongue out and licked them (I didn’t).

Ben swerved past a police van, next to which a couple of policemen were loitering.

“Oi, that bike’s only made for one, mate!” one of them called out, sounding a little bored.

He doesn’t know that, I thought. We could have had it re-vamped.

We sped on, feeling like anarchists.

We wove through streets that were teetering on the brink of Saturday evening. Gin and tonic and the delicious meal Ben was about to cook shimmered on our horizon, and then a Saturday night of dancing that would go on until the sun poked spindly fingers into the sky once again.

“Here we are!”

Ben stood up on the pedals as we swooped into his street and braked by the curb.

“We’ll have to get you a bike when you get here” he said, as we both dismounted.

“Yeah, definitely” I agreed. “Shall we do this anyway, though? Every so often?”

“Yeah” he said, and gave me a kiss. “Let’s.”

He wheeled his bike into the house and I followed, smiling as I closed the door behind me.