mardi 4 décembre 2018

Paris Match

I spent the weekend in Paris with my dear friend Katherine. Incidentally, we first became friends a few years ago at a birthday party, when I told her I thought she looked French and we then talked for about 100 hours about how much we both love Paris.

We stayed in Montmartre, in a beautiful apartment belonging to a handsome violinist (even the bathroom door had a stained glass window incorporating musical notes!), where I lived out all my basic Breton bitch Amelie fantasies. It was perfect.

We walked in the rain to go to Serge Gainsbourg’s house. Well, stood outside and looked at the graffiti and imagined all the times he must have stumbled down that little street. Still, I like to think he’d have invited us in, if he’d still been around – me with my leopard-print coat and Katherine with her 60s hair.

A few months ago, I read that it was bad feng-shui to have too many pictures of single figures around the house, particularly in the bedroom. Particularly if you are living alone and kind of like the idea of, well, not doing so forever. It stuck in my brain and so I ordered a whole stack of postcards picturing Jane and Serge being all madly in love and sexy. I’ve still got them all around my bedroom.

We had our Saturday night dinner at Chartier, a veritable Parisian institution that my mum first took me to when I was seven. In the thirty years since, I have been back at least a dozen times, keeping the day’s date-printed menu every time. I have taken friends and ex-boyfriends, and eaten there with nearly every single member of my very large and complicated family, at one time or another.

For a more modern experience, the hot hipster tip these days is to go to the 11th, where the back streets are full of cool bars selling natural wines and small plates. Go. You won’t regret it. We had a time.

I also highly recommend avoiding the interminable queues for the Catacombs (still never been, still not all that sorry) and instead sitting nearby and drinking red wine outdoors, by the carafe.

We drank quite a lot of red wine (and the occasional pint of Long Island Iced Tea), and would stop every evening on our way home to the Rue de Trois Freres, for a late-night digestif. A calvados, perhaps.

These are all excesses that I’m sure can be entirely erased by the sheer volume of French beauty products that we bought in Monoprix on the way home. I also bought some underwear while we were there, so I’m pretty sure my metamorphosis to sexy French woman will soon be complete.

In short, Paris is always a good idea.

jeudi 29 novembre 2018

The Dust

Sometimes the feeling that all is right with the world comes from the most unexpected places. Sometimes the universe works in strange, marvellous, fucking baffling ways.

I have grown infinitely more as a person in the past four years than in the entire decade before that. At the time, when I was in the midst of it, I didn’t really want to. I resented it. Doing the work was hard and I didn’t want to do it.

Conversely, during the decade before that, I thought I was happy. I thought I was a real human. I thought I had it all figured out. What an idiot I was. What a ridiculous, sweet little idiot.

I had a boyfriend and a job and a flat. I looked like such a grown-up.

I thought we were happy. I thought we were growing together. It didn’t occur to me that we might be holding each other back. We were both artists. We were so supportive of each other… weren’t we?

I was one of those stupid people who always claimed loudly that I knew I'd be fine on my own. That my relationship worked because I didn't actually 'need' the other person. I was with that other person from the age of 22 until 33. Of course I didn't have a fucking clue what 'being on my own' even meant. I didn't have a fucking clue about anything.

After we broke up, in an ugly battle of recriminations, false accusations, and secrets that we’ve never even spoken about, the spectre of our relationship haunted me for a long time. Longer than I ever realised. Until quite recently, in fact. For a long time, I was not remotely fine.

A subtle but insidious whiff of what-ifs, might-have-beens and the sick sort-of feeling that maybe we made a mistake. I wasn’t aware of it all the time, but it never went away.

Until earlier this year.

I saw my ex and I knew it would be the last time we ever crossed paths. I let myself get angry for the first time. I felt the universe shift and I realised it was because a massive, heavy fucking door had slammed. I was on the other side of it.

I cried like I had never cried before. Then I sent him an angry text message in which I told him so, after which I took four Valium and slept the best sleep of my life.

The next day I was fine.

Since then, life has got better in literal leaps and bounds. A month later I went on a holiday that set me on a new course. The day I got back, I sold a book, which is both terrifyingly personal and, by far, the best thing I have ever written.

I’ve got a new phone and changed my number.

I think of my ex today because, since then, everything has got better for him too. My social media feed has been flooded recently with news of how well his new band are doing – he is doing the thing he should always have been doing.

His new single, which incidentally and fucking coolly is currently charting in Japan and Spain, was described thus, in an article I happened to read this morning:
“It’s the sound of broken relationships that linger in the dust once the decision to break up becomes reality. It’s the emptiness of making that tough decision, the upside-down, gut-wrenching feeling of walking away from something that clearly doesn’t work anymore. Those urges that still pull heart strings when you see your ex-partner… and you realise they are still thinking about you even though they broke your heart.”

I don’t need to listen to the song. I’m sure it’s nothing to do with me and I couldn’t care less if it is or not. I won’t be listening to it or reading any more about it.

I couldn’t be happier for him. I feel lately, for the first time in a long time, that everything is as it should be. I wish him everything good in the world, that talented man who I spent a significant chunk of my life with, the first person I ever loved who loved me back, and who I never want to see again.

Thank you, universe.

mardi 27 novembre 2018

In Bruges, and also in my head.

Yesterday I came back from the loveliest long weekend in Bruges. I ate waffles, drank hot wine, walked around all day, slept with a person I really like at night, and generally had a great time.

I’m terrible at taking photographs (I like to be so totally authentic and in the moment and shit, you see) but I like having them to look at when I get back. Fortunately, my boyfriend likes to take a lot of holiday photos.

As I sat at work yesterday, laughing delightedly as I watched the edited highlights come up on my screen as he sent them to me via Whatsapp, it struck me that my younger self would have deleted all of the photos that had me in them. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee I would have cried and also asked him to destroy all evidence.

I don’t look skinny or sexy in a single photo. I’m not doing any poses to make my arms look thinner or to make sure I don’t have a double chin. I look very, very happy in all of them. Especially the one where I am pretending that the guide rope going up the bell tower is a penis. Long story.

Conversely, there are a lot of very old holiday photographs in which I look pretty ‘ideal’. Not that I realised it at the time. I was young and skinny. I was all angles and eyes. I was also fucking miserable. There was the holiday in Spain where I refused to drink even a glass of wine because it was ‘empty calories’. The incredible opportunity of working in Hong Kong for the summer, where I painstakingly wrote my weight in my diary every single morning and it set the tone for my whole day. All the beautiful meals I said ‘no’ to. The days at the beach when I could have been swimming in the sea, drinking a beer and eating crisps, that instead I spent worrying about what I looked like.

I feel so sad for that girl. I felt a bit sad for all the girls I saw over the weekend, standing with one leg cocked and their head poised at an unnatural angle, Instagraming pictures of themselves with waffles on sticks that they looked a bit frightened of. I don’t blame them. I don’t want to be judgemental. I understand the feeling; I have been those girls. I’m not implying that I’m less vain than them and as such somehow morally superior. I’m not. I haven’t had some kind of transcendental spiritual epiphany.

I am also very aware that I am a pretty average-sized white woman and that posting ‘normal’ photos of myself on Instagram is hardly the most fucking radical move.

However, I do think that ‘normal’ is something we don’t see enough of any more. It does feel just a tiny bit radical. I believe that only seeing images in which we all do the same ‘flattering’ poses and fake faces and filter the shit out of everything is damaging. It does us all a disservice. Not only that, but it’s fucking boring. I am bored of it.

I don’t want to look like a model in my holiday photographs. Thankfully, that’s not my job. When I look at photos of myself now, I am delighted when I look a bit like myself as a tiny child – same face, same fringe, same joy, before all the bullshit. I am funny and nice, and I have a face that suits me.

I’d like to say my younger self would be impressed with how cool I am now. Sadly, she was so fucked up and so conditioned to care about things that don’t matter, I think she’d just be appalled by how old and fat I am. In the past year, I have gained weight. I have also written a book, had another published, started a relationship I could never previously have imagined, given up smoking, spent time with people I love, worked on myself in therapy, let go of some shit, been on some great holidays and had a fuck-ton of fun. I think I’m the happiest I have ever been. I genuinely give very few fucks at this point in my life.

However, I’m aware I might be adding to the pressure. I worry I’m neurotic about not being neurotic. Sometimes trying so hard not to care all the time is fucking exhausting. We are constantly told to be mutually exclusive things: to embrace ‘body positivity’ while also looking flawless. As so often, still – fucking still – the ‘cool girl’ monologue from Gone Girl springs to mind.

So I guess all I can say is, just do the things that make you as happy as me when I’m in a beautiful, historic landmark on a romantic weekend away with my hot boyfriend, slightly drunk and pretending that a rope is a giant penis.

vendredi 9 novembre 2018

This week.

  • I went to Harrogate.
  • I went to see wrestling. Really. I had a great time.
  • I also saw some fireworks.
  • I fell over and ripped the knee of my jeans. It's annoying as they were the perfect black jeans and I can't even buy a new pair as I am currently boycotting Topshop. I usually fall over once a year. I'm a moron.
  • The wonderful Nina LaCour has started a writing podcast and you should definitely listen to it.
  • I've booked a trip to Paris and a holiday to Italy. I very much like having things to look forward to.
  • I'm planning to buy firewood and make soup this weekend.
  • I like winter. I like boots and tights and boys in coats.
  • I got so tired I ordered a Thai takeaway and didn't even have the energy to eat it.
  • I'm a bit emotional.
  • A scary lady in Pret made me want to cry this morning.
  • I remembered that time when I met Boy George and he sang 'Lady Eleanor' to me. Twice.
  • I once watched all of Match of the Day and did not fall asleep.
  • I need some good books to read.
  • I was reminded of how much I truly love Bright Eyes.

jeudi 25 octobre 2018

Some disparate thoughts.

I just heard the most brilliantly illuminating phrase for the first time: STRAIGHT MEN UNDERSTAND CONSENT WHEN THEY GO TO A GAY BAR.

Fuck, man. That has just blown my mind, Seriously.

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, and I almost exclusively associated with gay men, I had a few shit boyfriends who had slightly problematic attitudes towards my social circle.

'I don't mind hanging out with them as long as nobody tries to touch me,' said my most basic bitch boyfriend, who I feel slightly ashamed to have gone out with in retrospect.

As if anybody would have tried. Did I mention he was fucking gross?

This all comes back to the theory that *some* men are automatically frightened of gay men, because they assume gay men will view them in the way that they themselves view women.

Something to think about.

In other news, Halloween is coming up. I am having a little early Halloween party tomorrow night, which I am very excited about. An excuse to dress up, listen to stupid music, eat ridiculous themed snacks, and celebrate how much life has moved on since last Halloween. Full disclosure: last Halloween I was tying myself into knots over a man who couldn't care less, I couldn't sleep at night due to my collapsing rotten kitchen floor, and I had no idea if I would be able to write another book again. So... Thanks, universe. Expect pictures of me and my ludicrously costumed friends on Instagram soon.

I've also just read WHY I'M NO LONGER TALKING TO WHITE PEOPLE ABOUT RACE by Reni Eddo-Lodge. Obviously I already like to think I'm on the woke side, but I was still surprised by how much there is to learn. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to all.

After that, I read Lily Allen's memoir, MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY. I've always liked her. I didn't think it was a perfect book, but it was compelling and I liked it and I still like her.

I went to see A Star Is Born. I was expecting to love it. I was expecting a jolly Sunday date afternoon. I was wrong. The less said about this the better, probably, as I know I'm in the minority. Sometimes I'm forced to wonder if the problem is me, quite frankly. Fortunately - and it was a small saving grace - my viewing companion felt the same. Statistically unlikely and all the more pleasing for it...

As a Halloween treat for all, I will also mention here that my cinema date has written a song to commemorate possibly the best death in horror movie history (side note: he should know as we have been watching the Friday the 13th series in its entirety - currently up to Part VII, which is quite the undertaking). It is marvellously funny.

mercredi 17 octobre 2018

Reasons why it's OK to change your mind

  • I used to be a basic feminist who thought Caitlin Moran and Lena Dunham were great. I didn't understand what intersectionality meant.
  • I had a teenage boyfriend who used to play 'Under The Bridge' on an acoustic guitar and for that reason alone I thought the Red Hot Chilli Peppers were not awful.
  • Until relatively recently I had terrible taste in men and no boundaries.
  • I was scared to speak up.
  • Therapy helps.
  • I have been to see the Foo Fighters live on more than one occasion.
  • I pretended to like things I didn't so as not to offend people.
  • I found it hard to get through 'The Golden Notebook' the first time I read it because at that time I didn't really understand it.
  • I spent nearly two decades being embarrassed by my former love of Alanis Morissette before I realised that 'Jagged Little Pill' is genuinely a sublime album.
  • I forgive people too easily.
  • I still love PJ Harvey but she peaked for me with 'Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea' (and to a lesser extent 'Uh Huh Her') and her refusal to identify as a feminist is fucking annoying.
  • I didn't like my friend Neil when I first met him.
  • In fact, my first instincts about people are not always to be trusted.
  • I can see now that Vincent Gallo is problematic and my poor taste in men was linked to my low self-worth. But still...
  • I might try watching 'Fleabag' again. I didn't take to it on the first episode and didn't persevere.
  • When I was a tiny child I genuinely thought I was going to marry either Dogtanian or Boy George.
  • The idea of marriage used to fill me with horror.
  • I once thought very short hair might turn me into Winona Ryder.
  • I used to want to take up less space.
  • I was snobby about 'Love Island' until I watched it.
  • Because we're always learning and that's as it should be.

vendredi 12 octobre 2018

I see you.

Most days, I take the train from Brighton to London. I don’t get on at Brighton mainline station, but a small satellite station a stop away. On a good day, it reminds me of the charming Paris suburbs. On a bad day, La Haine.

It’s not a big enough station to have a café. There’s a man with a coffee cart who sets up on the pavement outside on weekday mornings. Sometimes I buy a latte from him. Usually I don’t have the time, or the cash on me, or I forget. So I don’t talk to him that often.

He’s nice. He’s called Gary. His coffee cart is strung with fairy lights and he is usually playing jazz on a little radio.

This morning, I got up early and decided to treat myself.

‘It’s a latte, isn’t it?’ he says.

He recognised me. He remembered. It has made my morning.

We all want to be seen. We all want to be recognised.

In a text exchange with my boyfriend yesterday, I made a slightly lame throwaway joke without even thinking about it.

He replied instantly: ‘Haha. That’s such a you thing to say.

This was also a throwaway comment, but I don’t think any thought-through extravagant compliment could have made me happier. I found myself thinking about it all day, feeling a little surge of joy every time. It made me feel special, and unique.

I say things that are just ‘so me’! Not only that, but another human sees those things that make me ‘so me’ and actually still wants to spend time with me and go to bed with me at night. That’s quite magical, when you really think about it.

When I finished sixth form, they did an awards ceremony with comedy categories. I won the ‘Clairol Award for Most Hair Colours In Two Years’. It had been long and short and in-between; it had been brown, black, red, blonde, purple, blue and for a while I had an undercut with green stripes at the front. I had also had several piercings and a tattoo. I wore band T-shirts and a charity shop fur coat and baggy skater jeans.

I was trying so hard to find my Signature Look. I thought it would give me a purpose. A defined personality, I suppose. Something to hang on to, anyway. A way to be seen and recognised.

I wanted to be a writer and I had no idea how. I wanted a nice boyfriend but I didn’t know how to make somebody like me. I assumed I would have to try quite hard to make someone like me.

My personality was Nirvana and Placebo and PJ Harvey, Sylvia Plath and JD Salinger. Going to G-A-Y every Saturday night with my friend Neil, and Popstarz every Friday with Russell. Piling on eyeliner to hide my hangover in my waitress job on Saturdays, where I gave my friends free hot chocolate.

I would borrow my cool friend Sheryl’s clothes and hope that not only would they make me look like her, but they would also make me be good at art and have a nice boyfriend like hers. I hoarded other people’s things. I was over 30 before I began to just leave my hair alone.

I’m 37 now. I have a fringe. I have good friends. I have seven tattoos. I like stupid puns. I like singing in the kitchen when I’m cooking. I cry easily. I’m neurotic, and when I let myself, I get into a terrible feedback loop of being neurotic about being neurotic. I’m funny and nice.

I got on the train this morning with my latte, with my sunglasses on and my headphones and my Yoga With Adriene T-shirt with the sleeves cut off. And then I spilled my coffee all over myself.