Sunday, 29 April 2012

Be careful what you wish for...

I wanted nothing but peace.

To be able to spend a weekend without the fear of an argument, bitterness and spite. And I got it. Finally, after an enormous breakthrough last weekend, I have got peace.

Which will be why I've crawled under my rock and am sitting in my room in floods of tears. Excellent. The one thing I didn't allow for is that by removing the fear of impending something, I suddenly exposed just how bitterly lonely I feel. And, ultimately, how empty.

It's a really scary feeling. Chilling.

The temptation to just lurk in here and only come out to work is insanely compelling. And I don't actually know what else to do. There isn't anything. I crave affection now like some crack addled addict and know, given experience, it's the one thing I can't have.

And yet was managing to at least use a substitute in the form of turmoil to fill the chasm.

I know there might be occasions when affection will creep in and light up my insides, but it will be, by definition, a temporary fix, a moment. Leaving the wound open once more to fester and grow.

I really should be more careful what I wish for.

No escape

Dark brooding clouds
Over streaking lines
Crowding out thoughts
Of a heart that pines

A tired bush
With careworn leaves
Ignores the warmth
Of light reprieve

And through a  glimpse
Of azure sky
The rush of memory
Of those perfect eyes

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Dinner at... Joe Allen

I was asked on Yesterday whether I'd like to go out tonight. For dinner. Oh yes. Actually, the idea had been floated at the weekend, but was going to include a friend of my friend that I was yet to meet, but had been looking forward to. If that makes sense. Still, Wednesday is a quiet night in Contrary Towers when my flatmate is doing her songbird thing, so who was I to object.

Of course then I was asked the most ridiculous question ever "where would you like to go?". Well I don't know, I never do, unless I'm eating alone, or, on odd occasions have a sudden desire for something. What I really like when being asked is having a place suggested I've never been, I really and honestly don't mind where, I like trying new things.

Anyway. We agreed to meet at 8 in Covent Garden and take it from there. At the very moment that decision was made the gods sniggered and pressed the sod-you-Victoria button. Nasty bits of work. First issue... The Hammersmith and City Line had issues... Not a problem, so I trotted down to Holland Park. And just missed the lift because some cretin decided the sole entry barrier was the best place to chat with his mate. Which meant I missed the train. Which meant I waited.

Now waiting in London I've found is relative. Three minutes is roughly equivalent to a millennia, and not a good one either, it's the kind of millennia where all the bad stuff happens and you wonder what feast of punishment drew you to exist at this point. 4 minutes is beyond impossible.

So I waited three minutes, got on the train and relaxed, shutting down my mind and entering a calm place. Until the next station.

"Sorry ladies and gents but we're held up by a problem with the train ahead"

Of course we are. I've arranged something and need to be in Contrary Towers by a specific time so I can change and get back out to Covent Garden. And I'm already late. Okay. Breath... Waits. Breath... Waits. Breath... Beep-beep-beep-beep-beep. Thank goodness for that. Off we went again with hold ups (not those sort) and further station stops. The 8pm meet looking about as likely as me being the next Pope.

Finally... I reached Mile End, wandered out and... Oh you cheeky gods you, a 277, D7 and... a 323! OMG, I was considering buying a lottery ticket at that point, I mean, it was almost too good to be true. You see the 323, as well as being quite mythical, also stops really close to Contrary Towers. Which saves an awful lot of time. But it wasn't really enough. Best I warn him...

...and then get showered. Ugg. Wet weather. Warmish. High moisture content. Horrible. And it takes me an age to cool down. Little delays but they were starting to add up. I really was going to be horribly late. We had a revised meeting time of 8:15. Which I felt might be slightly unrealistic as I sent a text at 8:12 to say I was leaving. Oops.

And then missed a bus. Gah! At 8:25 I could finally say I was on my way properly and from then on it went smoothly, predictable, not too awful. How good is that! So nearly an hour late I turned the corner of Bow Street to walk down to the Opera House where we'd decided to actually meet, a place I knew well *and*, at that time of the evening, almost devoid of people as they would be in the Opera House.

It's always lovely to see a friendly face, and when you get a really nice smile of greeting it's all the better! I was given a choice of where to eat, but settled on Joe Allen as the way it was described was fabulous. And I'd much rather go to somewhere a little quirky! It's a fabulous place, hidden away on Exeter Street, very subtle, I'd been told it was originally famous for its burgers, but had gradually changed it's menu to match changing tastes.

The obvious thing, apart from it having the right level of quirky, was how busy it was. Now this was definitely not pre-theatre crowd, I was already horribly late, so it was a genuinely popular place. Plus, the majority of people didn't look like they were the tourist crowd, which didn't entirely surprise me given how hidden it was. This had to be a good thing!

The greeting was very warm, even given we'd not booked, a really nice young man took my coat and we were shown to a nice spot, near the bar, but able to easily see into the larger room beyond. Fabulous for people watching. As we sat and chatted, it did occur to me that there were an awful lot of suits, and my companion did explain this he used to often visit here with American bankers. I'm sure that's not a euphemism.

The waitress was lovely, genuinely smiley and really friendly. And agreed with me that the addition of a TV screen, showing the football, was perhaps not the best idea. Not that it stopped my companion from watching, I really am losing my touch. That's unfair, he was fine, and meant he could at least keep an eye on whoever it was playing *uninterested face*.

Some time later, we realised there may be an issue, still no starter. Now this only mattered to me as I was going for the black pudding because, frankly, I'm disgusting and Northern and if I had to choose between that and dress size... Well, no contest, black pudding every time. The order seemed to have been mislaid in the kitchen, it happens. But... The calf liver was off the menu. Grr. Oh well, a rare fillet then. *sighs*

On the plus side, the waitress did say they would only charge for the calf and... The black pudding (with egg and what have you on top) was simply astounding. I. Was. In. Heaven. Really, that good, sublime taste and texture. I was a happy bunny. And the steak was good too, so really, a little mix up wasn't going to be a problem. I skipped the desert, I'm more savoury and spice than sweet, unlike my companion, who whilst is quite sweet I have a sneaking suspicion he's really a dirty old man, but lovely with it. And, by way of apology, the sweet was on the house too. Better and better!

All in all, I really liked the place, and even with the hiccup would happily go again. At the end of the evening, now way past 11, the waitress went as far as saying how lovely it had been to meet us, and it did sound totally genuine. Fabulous.

By now the persistent rain had eased off, so it was a pleasant, arm in arm stroll down to Temple tube and the District Line home, the conversation never really stopped, at least until Tower Hill when my companion had to get off and then, sadly I was all alone...

...Except for some dirty, nasty looking bloke who kept eyeing me up. Oh great. Fortunately the carriage wasn't empty and I studiously avoided looking his way, but could see out of the corner of my eye. Okay, I was a little more than nervous and apprehensive. And for stop after stop he was still there and we were getting closer to Mile End. By Stepney Green I was ready to leave, I knew which side of the train the doors would open, so, as we pulled in I waited a moment and... Dashed off the train without a single look. Until the stairs. Phew, not there!

I know that plan B would have been to find one of the many police people that hover around Mile End. Just glad it wasn't needed. I was definitely spooked though. And, to add to my woes, no bus! At least not for ten minutes. And no taxi. I really didn't want to hang around Mile End at midnight... I walked, really, really quickly. As I marched in to Bow Common Lane I heard a throat being cleared somewhere behind me, oh great. Walks really, really, really, really quickly. At least it's so well lit down there I could see any shadows getting close. And, not to put too fine a point on it, I would probably be okay if anything was to happen, somebody would get a very nasty surprise, but really, I didn't want to be in that scenario.

And then I was home. Electronic door releases are wonderful things, no worry of fumbling with keys in locks when nervous. Phew. I also managed to get in without my usual the whirlwind-has-landed exuberance as I really didn't think my flatmate would appreciate the joke, even though I'd only see her light go off pretty much as I arrived.

As I lay in bed pondering the days events of the day, I realised, discomfort of the last part of the journey aside, it had been really quite successful. Adapting to a revised lifestyle, way of life even, is always going to be full of little steps. Things that I'd done for many years without too much thought or concern and, indeed, things that others do everyday with the same level of consideration, but a change in life is like watching a performance in the theatre twice from different sides of the auditorium, the same thing, but an altered view.

That takes some getting used to.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Ethical Jezebel

In a twist of karmic fate, my flatmate and I actually left home at the same time this morning, which meant that we could could talk all the way to Mile End instead of, well, getting distracted by any passing blossom, flowers, interesting shapes or carefully left puddles. So a bit different then. In fact, since I've been spending most of my time trapped in the scourge of society that is Notting Hill, we've hardly ever done the go-to-work-together thing. And I really miss that.

But I digress.

As ever the discussion covered subjects as varied as men and sausages. Though on reflection this might have been the same thing. One (man not sausage) in particular came up for a walking dissection, a few days ago he sent her a message saying he was distancing himself from her because she was too much of a temptress. Sorry? My friend may be many things, but from what I know all she was doing was engaging in witty conversation and being, well, herself. Certainly not some vision of a latter day Jezebel.

But there's the problem. It's perfectly okay for a man to have a positively hypocritical moral code, and yet a woman that displays consistent and well thought out opinion, ethics and morals is suddenly the cause of all the problem. It was her fault. Not his. And that reminded me of an incident on Saturday evening.

I was staying at a friends over by St Katherine's Dock (more of that later in another blog) and he had friends over for drinks and nibbles. All okay so far. At some point, glass of champagne in hand, I showed a male guests to the the roof terrace so he could see the (fabulous) view and I could cool down a little. Within seconds of standing there, idly chatting, he launched himself at me. FFS. I'd not been flirting, or made any indication that an approach may be acceptable, far from it, but, apparently, I was suddenly fair game.

Because I was in a pretty frock. Didn't make him want to be physically sick. And had a cleavage. My fault then. Obvs.

I didn't make a scene.

The thing is, this rather acted as the icing on the cake for me. It's something that's been rattling around in my head for some time. So much so that earlier today I found myself getting quite irate when writing to a new correspondent, poor chap...

I've had a bit of a epiphany with respect to men, I still like them and I still keep hoping that I'll meet one (or more!) that is seriously interested in chatting and getting to know me rather than simply trying to get their hands in my knickers (which is still okay, in the right circumstance). 
Sadly though I've come to the realisation that they lose interest after...
a) Me insisting on not meeting straight away, or
b) Meeting and not putting out or
c) Meeting and putting out
I mean, really. Damned if I do, damned if I don't. So, I'd like to get to know you better, as I would anyone else that writes, just with one foot on the floor and my virtue staying there until somebody talks me out of it ;-)
I think that's what one might call a challenge!

I did write that I wasn't accusing him, but simply making him aware that I was making changes. The above is exactly what I wrote, though I confess I've been tempted to edit it down.

In for a penny, in for a pound.

I know that I can, and have been, slightly loose with my favours, and maybe I do have the most abysmal ability to judge character. But ultimately I know that I will at least by consistent in what I do. I have a moral baseline that I find it difficult to move away from. I don't want to be hypocritical. And, most importantly, I can at least look back and say I would do the same things again. Even some of the stupid ones.

So with that, for the time being, it's going to be mildly flirty (which means I will be hit by (a) above), making it very clear why I'm like this and only go any further if somebody actually makes a serious effort. In short, I have laid out a rough set of guiding personal ethics, and I will use them to at least prevent feeling used.

My dear friend coined a phrase for it this morning, and I want this carved on my gravestone...

Here lies the Ethical Jezebel.

Monday, 16 April 2012


Sometimes, unexpectedly, you get a flashback to how your life used to be. A long time ago. In my last post I mentioned my social butterfly days, how was I to know that the very next day they would briefly resurface and give me a gentle, but entertaining, reminder of a forgotten time.

For reasons best known to my flatmate and I, I was vacating Contrary Towers for the weekend, or at least Saturday night, and was going to stay with one of my oldest friends over by St Katherine's Dock. I expected there would be good food, fizz and wonderful conversation in the company of one of the few people I really trust. What I didn't realise, and found out as I was heading towards the DLR, was that he had invited some friends over for the evening. And would I, effectively, be hostess. Oh. Seriously, I know it's a cliché but...

I had nothing to wear.

At least nothing really suitable. Really, I was in a Chambray button down dress with a comfy cardie and flats, with an equally comfy, but slightly nicer, dress for the next day in my bag. Not hostess material. Gah. Which I said. Or words to that effect. "Not a problem" came back the reply " we'll pop up West and I'll get you something". Ooh.

Sadly, I had to delay the Ooh as first I needed to pop in to the Tesco at Canary Wharf to get a pair of tights, which was fine, but when I came out I realised I was going to be on a magical mystery tour by virtue of the DLR rail replacement to Tower Hill. Pfft and pfft again. Actually. I quite like the RR, especially when I'm not in a tearing hurry, as it gives me a chance to have a look around at things I don't normally see. Which has to be a bonus.

Ten minutes after arriving at his I'd changed in to the Sunday dress, made my hair look respectable and off we marched. I really didn't want to look like I'd just come in on the first train from the country with a piece of straw hanging from my lips! What I wasn't looking forward to was the underground. Especially as I'd noticed that it was likely we'd need to walk to Bank to catch the Central Line.

I needn't have worried...


And one of those shiny new Mercedes black cabs. Crikey, they are big inside. And air conditioned. Shame the STFU device wasn't working on the driver who insisted on telling us all about it. I tried not to glare and instead entertained myself by texting my flatmate, as you do. As ever the city was horrible, something or other was going on, which was mentioned, but I wasn't at all listening, but improved once we got to City Wall and the next bit was swishy quick and less wittering from the driver. Thank goodness.

We were heading for John Lewis as they had a couple of things I'd seen the previous Wednesday that I really liked. How exciting. It was at about this time I started getting the sense of déjà vu.

In a taxi.

Ignoring the underground.

Stopping right outside the store.

Marching in, oblivious to all around.

And I had somebody to carry my bags. Which has to be a bonus. At that point I didn't know I was going to have a bag carrier, obvs, but the rest was lovely. Straight to frock central we headed. And I wandered, seeking inspiration... My companion disappeared, sensible chap, nothing worse than seeing a dejected man in tow as the important task of finding the perfect dress was carried out... Amazingly, I was quick, really quick. Within 5 minutes I saw, and fell in love with the most gorgeous design.

And then, minutes later another, slightly more exuberant, but all the same lovely. This was utter hell. I was going to have to make a decision... Scary.

How on earth was I supposed to choose? Hmm?


So I said. Help me decide. This really was too difficult. "Easy", he said, "we'll get both". I was hardly going to say no. Which I probably should have done, but, really, in for a penny...

Next up was something for the legs. So it was fortunate that John Lewis do a fabulous range of their own brand hosiery as well as stocking Wolfords... Ten minutes later two pairs of Twenties and some JL 7 deniers and we were off.

In search of undies. Which, because of my peculiar sizing, meant it had to be Marks and Spencer. I'd never noticed, possibly because I avoid Oxford Street like the plague, but there is a reasonable size M&S to the East of the John Lewis. Which you can get to through the back streets. Fabulous! We marched out of JL and then across the street, my now bag carrier in tow (what a sweetie) and went in search of something small and interesting ;-)

That's what I like about M&S, sizes that fit me *and* are nice. And in this case... Push up. Crikey. Where did *they* come from! By this time I fatigue was starting to show on my poor companion. Also, keep in mind that it was Grand National day and he's Irish, you can imagine the strain of not knowing what was going on at Aintree as we stalked the knickers section of M&S. So, with sympathy, and him clutching yet more bags, we ignored the shoes (I know!) and headed in to Soho in search of somewhere to eat.

And find it we did. Cote, a chain I'd not heard of with a branch on Wardour Street. My companion had though and had been meaning to try them. So here's a mini-review...

I was really quite impressed with the welcome, friendly, warm and they seated us in the perfect people watching spot by the window. Fortunately, it was too late for lunch and the pre-theatre crowd hadn't turned up. The slightly camp but seriously gorgeous waiter was attentive and just the right level of flirty. The fillet steak beautifully cooked rare, which can be tricky with fillet, and the attention was suitably muted. Not the usual in-your-face is everything okay. I normally don't have pudding, but did this time, which I rather enjoyed. My companion wasn't so convinced with the pudding, he felt the crepe was too well done round the edges. I think he's probably more of the expert having lived in Paris for a number of years. Whatever. I liked it. And I liked the single glass of wine. And the general ambience. By this time the theatre crowd was well and truly in place so we made our excuses and left. I had a serious nap to have!

Fortunately, being in flashback mode we walked out, hailed a cab and set sail back to one of the prettier parts of Tower Hamlets. And napped.

I'll now fast forward to the next morning. Two reasons, one is that the evening was mostly lovely, but there was one incident that rather marred things. Nothing to do with my companion and host, but more to do with one of his guests. I'm still trying to decide quite how annoyed I was about this, but somewhere between very and apoplectic should just about place it. So, the next morning.

I do love staying with my friend. He does know how to entertain a guest. I mean, Bucks Fizz in bed, one of your five-a-day, yes? Well, never mind, I asked my flatmate and dietry advisor by text and she confirmed it was. Next up was breakfast. With baconz. And sausage. And toast. And tea. Bliss.

We chatted over breakfast and the only sad point was as he described the latter months of his wife's life. It was incredibly touching, it was a huge loss, she'd been diagnosed at in incredibly young age with Alzheimer's and the impact was dramatic. And heart breaking. I did (and do) though feel quite honoured that he feels able to talk to me about this and I just want him to know that I am there to listen any time, day or night.

To break the maudlin moment and get the tears from my eyes, I suggested we go for a walk once properly dressed. We walk a lot at Contrary Towers. And like exploring different places, but in this case it was just to stretch the legs and get a breath of (very) fresh air. Without discussing it though, my friend took my a different way. Something of a magical mystery tour around Wapping.

I thought I knew the area well. Bzzzt. Wrong. For instance, I didn't know that Quay 430, home to a gated community and News International, was a dock, specifically the Western Dock, that would hold 430 vessels. That's a lot of ships. I've not checked the accuracy of this, so don't shoot me! Anyway, to maintain the link with the past a number of faux canals had been built to maintain the feel, one of which was used for filming a Bond film, the one where the boat thing came out of the MI6 building. Apparently. It was all, very interesting.

On the riverside it was no less interesting, snippets of info about restaurants, failed ventures and slightly dubious planning decisions abounded. And a monument, the dove was erected to commemorate the East End people that died in the blitz, it used to be white and, I believe, open, but idiots had taken to vandalising it and hence it's now black and fenced off. But as a monument, the Dove is beautifully simple.

I had a few more tears.

Next up we wandered down the river, parallel with Wapping High Street, as I tried to find the warehouse conversion I nearly bought an apartment at during the late eighties. When the area was, well, not quite as nice as it is now. One of my poorer financial decisions! That said, I still don't like Wapping High Street, even if the conversions were stunning. And the views more so. I'm not sure, even now, whether I would choose to live there, unless it was one of the river frontages, which I'd originally looked at.

Finally, we got the Sunday papers and headed back for tea and a read. It really had been a very civilised way to spend a morning. But I knew at some point I would have to return to Contrary Towers and get some actual work done!

What a scary thought.

My bus journey back would have been without drama... Except that I was chatting by text and not watching where I was. So I missed my stop. Oops. Oh well. Still, it was a lovely, if breezy morning for a walk, and it was wonderful to be back in Contrary Towers *and* to see that my lovely flatmate had survived the 10km run she'd done that morning.

Also waiting was an olive branch.

The olive branch was from somebody that had been a very good friend, but, for reasons I won't go in to, we fell out big time, at least I did. I was glad of the olive branch, not just because it was a bottle of Veuve Clicquot (some people just know which buttons to push) but because it was time to bury the hatchet and, not to put too fine a point on it, I really missed him as a friend. And I had no idea how to break the circle. Anyway. Branch accepted. Time to move on.

The intention had been to work, but, you'll be surprised to learn, we didn't, we talked and relaxed and, well, generally did what we manage to do when in Contrary Towers. It really doesn't get much better than that.

It was odd the number of flashbacks I had to my past this weekend, most of which I've not mentioned here, strange to see myself from a quarter century on, one thing is clear though, I'm not totally sure I would want to go back there. It may have been slightly too glamorous, and intense.

But it was also quite artificial and, as uncomfortable the reality of now can be, maybe this is a better place.

Or I'm a better person.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Social butterfly

A long time ago, in a world long since forgotten, I was a bit of a social butterfly. When I say a bit, I mean a lot. At the time I spent an enormous amount of time in London, dashing from place to place, but, actually, had no idea that London extended beyond Knightsbridge and (via taxi) Mayfair. I'd heard of the underground, there's a station by Harrods, and the buses looked ever so pretty. But really, not for me.

A quarter of a century later I'm back, no longer shamefully slumping in to Harrods food hall first thing, slingbacks in hand, in search of baconz. A more responsible, grown up and having-to-actually-work-for-a-living approach that I'm sure is better for the soul. But not everything has changed, I've been re-learning the gentle art of being a social butterfly. And how I've missed it.

The weekend started on Friday. As it should. About 3pm on Friday in my case. I'd arranged to meet a writer friend at the Hampshire Hotel on Leicester Square. But it would be quite early, 5pm! That's astonishingly early. It's not a place I could think I'd been before, so was a little nervous, that and having the whole "eek, tourist central" concern that it would be packed and awful. But, he's a writer/editor of film scripts and spends a great deal of time in the area catching up, as he puts it "on the trade" which I think is a euphemism for spending the afternoon sitting in cinemas catching up on the latest flicks. Quite civilised if you think about it.

As it was going to be an okay place. And it wasn't raining, I actually wore heels. Nominally sensible ones. The same ones I wore on Wednesday that had rubbed a bit. I am, if anything perpetually stupid. I knew how monumentally stupid by the time I reached the bus stop. The plaster had moved and I was bleeding a little.

And I was late.

So I did what any sensible girl would do, got on the bus and planned to change the plaster on the underground. So, picture the scene, central line, hurtling in to London and me, trying to hide the fact that I'm removing one hold up fixing the plaster and then attempting to pull it back up. Ha! Easy off, tricky on. Sitting down. On a train. Trying not to be too obvious.

The funny thing was, the guy I was sitting next to, playing with with his iKnob, was so blissfully aware that he missed this semi-striptease show. Anyway, fixed. Sort of. So on I pushed and after fighting my way through the slow movers (and maybe changing trains at Holborn) emerged blinking in to the harsh tourist hell outside Leicester Square station. I wasn't going to suffer the full experience so walked down towards the National Gallery to avoid the hell of the square. When I say walked... Hobbled. This was not good. Really not good. Really stupid.


On the bright side I knew I would be fed champagne for medicinal pain relief purposes, so I bravely marched on. Even hobbling I was still quicker than most tourists. It must be said though, I've never been so grateful to reach a place as I was that day!

The only fly in the ointment (other than the crippling pain) was that I was greeted by a 6' 1" insanely slim and disgustingly good cheek bones Russian girl, I was instantly the short dumpy one again, pfft. Not at all intimidating. But she was very sweet, and as a maître d' was very efficient, making sure that my friend kept me well and truly fizzed up.

The conversation flowed beautifully and, being in the window, the people watching was epic. Though the best was definitely to be seen inside the hotel. I'd almost forgotten how interesting it was to try and work out the stories behind couples or groups sitting quaffing champagne at 5 in the afternoon. Oh.

Anyway, it wasn't like that in my case. Before I knew it, it was, sadly, 8pm and my companion had to go off to something else. Originally I was going to spend the rest of the evening in the National Gallery and then maybe wander on to Dukes Bar for a martini (one of the few places I would consider doing this alone in), but with my now dodgy heel the most I could manage was to walk, arms linked, on to the tube station and, eventually, home.

Problem was... I was now in serious trouble, the pain was excruciating, blood covering my heel and tights, there was nothing else for it... Shoes off. So there I was, a quarter of a century on, padding through the tunnels, holding shoes. The difference being back then it was from late night dancing, now it was simply about pain avoidance.

How middle-aged am I?!

My only concern was how on earth I would get from Mile End station to Limehouse Cut. Bus, obviously, but I then had to walk. And as much as I didn't mind walking the tunnels, I wasn't keen on walking on the pavements near our home with no shoes. Err. Oh!


My saviour arrived, in the shape of a black cab. Best fiver I ever spent as he dropped me as close to the door as he could, bless him. It was incredibly good to be home. And near lashings of Sudocrem ;-)

And the fridge.

Which was where my epic vomlette came from. I do love throwing things together... So I ate, and read and, finally, drifted off in to a food induced sleep, happily ignoring the text messages that related to the next day and yet more butterflying.

The funny thing is, 25 years on I may be older, and fatter, and more cynical. But, as I sit in our lovely little apartment, I realise I know one thing for sure...

I have never been happier.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Another week in Contrary Towers

It's been a quite week in Contrary Towers so far. Sort of. The extended bank holiday provided opportunities to do different things, I concentrated on having a fairly miserable time whilst my flatmate made use of all that London had to offer as I looked on to the bare, bleak landscape of Norfolk.

Needless to say, I was really quite pleased to come out of Mile End station in to the omnipresent chaos and bustle that congregates there. But with only a single date in my calendar for the week I knew I could spend the evenings quietly contemplating as I watched the twinkling lights of Canary Wharf. Bliss.

The TFL gods were smiling on me as the mythical 323 was the first bus to arrive! Brilliant. I'm not normally that lazy (okay, so I am), but I'd brought back two heavy bags of clothes and really didn't fancy the 15 minute walk with my shoulders being shredded by the bag straps. Especially as with that weight it was not going to be 15 minutes! Whilst I digress, I did at least manage to get home really quickly.

Got in. Dropped bags. Went to make emergency toast and... Got the bread out of the freezer ;-) But the impish sprite had been at the milk too so it was a quick trudge to the Poplar's answer to Fortnum and Mason for essential supplies. Not that I was going to get any toast as I realised, after trudging back that I might have needed butter...

Anyway. Later that evening, after another run to Lidl to get said butter and a drop of Bardolino, my flatmate gave me a run down of the weekend antics. Which was fab as I was fairly sure we were going to be like ships that passed in the night this week.

It was really, really good to be home.

Tuesday. As expected. Quiet. Though I did hear from The Professor, which was nice as I had the horrible feeling I might not again. Which would have been a crying shame after getting on so well last week. But also I heard from Rugby. Who I've not mentioned before. Rugby could have been called Trader, but as my flatmate also had a trader on her roster of people-that-might-come-up-in-conversation it made sense to pick on another aspect. With me so far? So, yes, I heard from Rugby, he was back in the country and it was pretty likely we'd get to meet up on Wednesday night.

Actually, that's an end summary. What really happened was... The earlier emails seemed to say that he was expecting to come around to Contrary Towers armed with my choice of drink. Err, no. Fortunately he didn't take offence and didn't take up my flatmate's offer to be a chaperone for the evening. Which would have been, ooh, a bit like letting a fox look after the chickens. So, after a number of emails, it was settled that we'd meet at Canary Wharf underground station and take it from there. Simple.

Yeah, right.

The plan was to meet at 6pm at Canary Wharf tube station. Easy. Except that by the time I got changed, actually early, I received a text saying...

"Running late hun more like 7 gonna get in the bath x"

Oh. Okay, whatever. This meant I had loads of time to faff about and actually, for once, turn up in less than a whirlwind. I am notorious for being late. The intended our drew closer so, once more, I tottered off to Canary Wharf via the legendary 277, sauntered out, and stood by the Boris Bike stand outside the station. I chose there as there were *loads* of people waiting by the station entrance. Still a few minutes to go, I thought I'd best send a text describing where I was... bzzt, bzzt

"Running late sorry fell asleep just setting off now 45 min x"

*sighs* Okay, I said, looking on the bright side, I would go and amuse myself under Canada Square. Where there is shopping. Yay! Except I was broke. Boo. Oh well, I don't mind window shopping. I had a lovely time, eventually ending wandering around the John Lewis part of the Waitrose, if I must wait at least it was a nice place to wait.

The only problem was my shoes were starting to rub. I'd gone for some sensible medium heel shoes I'd had for some time, but had not worn in a while. Silly girl. You would have thought at my age I would know better. Nope. Not a bit of it. How bad can this be.

At 8pm (I'd allowed a bit longer) I sent another text saying where I was waiting. No reply. At least I was inside the tunnel leading to Canada Square thus avoiding the rain. Hey ho. I read the paper. Tapped my foot. Tried not to appear conspicuous and... The phone rang.

"I'm at London Bridge and will be there soon"

*sighs* This is starting to get silly. I gave it another ten minutes or so and wandered back out. By this point I'm starting to get bored of wandering back out. I really have a low tolerance to doing the same things over and over again. Waited. Tapped foot. Did that bemused thing with my face and... The phone rang. But not a number I recognised. Oh.

It turned out I could see him, he was on the phone and had used the second phone to get my attention. At least he'd turned up. And I couldn't miss him, the size of a house, mostly in a good way, and I could see that when he'd been a rugby player he might have been a scary sight.

He did at least have the decency to apologise for the lateness and for being on the phone (repeat after me: never meet a trader) and that he had to make another call to LA (repeat after me: never meet a trader) but he would get me a drink whilst I waited. Okay then. It was actually quite interesting to listen to the conversation going on, I know a bit about paper trading and it did sound genuine and consistent, so I was at least reasonably satisfied that he was what he said to be.

When the calls eventually stopped we had a good chat, and another glass, I actually started to relax, which was good and there was plenty to talk about. Which was also good. But I really wasn't sure which way things were going, in itself unusual, so I continued to wing it. Eventually though, the cold started to get to him (bless) and, after grabbing a bottle of whatever wine we were drinking from the bar, we jumped in a cab and headed back to Contrary Towers and warmer surroundings.

Fortunately, my flatmate was still awake so talking could continue apace, which is always a good thing. Also fortunately, being a trader he had to be up *very* early in the morning, having been up since 3am that day, so I knew the evening would naturally draw to a close soon, as it did. My years were definitely starting to show and I was really starting to flag.

It was much easier to party when I was young(er).

The worry was... The week was getting busier. Eeek.

Monday, 9 April 2012

What a difference a day makes

What A Difference A day makes
24 Little hours
From the sun and the flowers
Where there used to be rain.

Just over a year ago a simple event acted as the trigger to series of events that have, quite simply, changed my life. The event in itself was quite traumatic at the time. It was a Tuesday. I know this because on a Tuesday I would pay my landlady. So I tripped merrily down to the nearest ATM on High Holborn to draw out the pennies before heading for the mire of the Piccadilly Line.

But there was a problem.

My card didn't come out, the machine locked. Oh. Now I had two cards, but could only recall the number for one, which is a bit of an issue. So whilst I considered what I needed to do I popped in to the dirty fried chicken place next door to take on comfort food.

As you do.

Time passed and I left, my mind having moved on to other things. But something stopped me in my tracks. A simple thing, somebody was using the cash machine. The broken one. The one that was dead and locked 20 minutes earlier. Oh feck... I'd noticed one tiny oddity, I really didn't think much of it at the time, the slot was black plastic looking. Now it was grubby metal. I ran.

I almost never run.

I needed to block my card, which meant I needed internet access to get the number. So back to the office, mildly panic stricken, finally the machine booted, got the bank number called and... There had been a withdrawal from the Barclays ATM I could see from my office window over yonder. By the time the call had gone through I'd already transferred every penny from my account out, just less the £300 already lifted.

The good news was the block was instant and the amount would be refunded. Which was good. Apparently it was something called a Lebanese Loop. I'd never heard of such a thing. I felt sick to the core. What really wasn't helping was that I had maybe £1.50 to my name, couldn't use my other card as I'm an idiot and can't remember numbers.


Broke. In London.

I'd been told that I could get cash out over the counter, but that was a problem for tomorrow. By the time I got to Hammersmith I was a gibbering, tearful angry wreck. I received a text from an old friend (the one of the champagne incident last Sunday) explained my predicament and he called with words of comfort. Really I should have gone there instead, but now now I'd had more than enough. I wanted to crawl under my duvet, shut off the world and never come back. I hated everything.

I was at rock bottom.

The next day was glorious. I spoke with my bank, ordered new cards and popped along to the High Holborn branch to hand over my passport and other ID to draw out some cash the old fashioned way. I'd again had a “you won't break me” moment, you hit the bottom and bounce. This was a good thing. Meanwhile on Twitter I was the wrong side of bonkers. I only drew out a small amount to tide me over to the weekend, but goodness having the cash made things seem better, I could interact with the world.

Sometime during that day I actually started chatting with a relatively new follower. We'd exchanged tweets before, but nothing much. But today was different. A time for change. A time to meet somebody new. Which will be why at 6PM I waited in Bloomsbury Square with two bottles of chilled pink wine to spend a reckless couple of hours chatting with said follower.

Nobody told me I would also be meeting my best friend, confidante, soul mate and, eventually, flatmate. That wasn't the plan. I never did like plans!

As the lyrics of the song extol, what a difference a day makes. In truth I had no idea then the significance of the evening, but I do remember boarding the train at Waterloo thinking I'd met somebody that would be a firm friend. In that single 24 hours I'd gone from a rolling existence, hit rock bottom, bounced and ended up meeting somebody that would be so important in my life.

Fortunately not every 24 hours are like that. But when things are difficult I reflect on the fact that life can change dramatically in a very short period of time.

And sometimes, with a dash of perfection, things change for the better.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

As everything changes, I stay the same.

Friday morning.

The thing is, I knew it was a preamble for, well, the rest of the weekend. Which given the monumental changes going on in my life, was probably not going to be for the best. That'll be why I wasn't skipping out of Contrary Towers at 8am to catch an early train out of Kings Cross. My heart, frankly, was not in it.

My prevarication did of course mean I could nip to Messrs Tesco and pick up a couple of things I realised I'd missed the evening before, and I had promised my flatmate a bacon sarnie for when she returned from her run.

As you do.

Honestly, bacon fried in olive oil with a the sandwich made with a slice of fried bread is utterly epic. I realise this marks me out as being distinctly northern and, equally, unlikely to actually lose the dress size or two I'd like to lose. But I digress.

The oracle that is National Rail Enquiries reckoned if I could get to Liverpool Street by 10:49 then I could get the slow train to Cambridge. Excellent! Having discovered three weeks back that the slow train has power and wi-fi I was converted. But, there was a problem. My innate inability to leave meant it so wasn't going to happen. Especially as I was going to have to get a ticket with a strange form of payment known as cash. Don't ask.

So I knew it would be impossible and, equally, that I would be skipping in to Kings Cross and catching the Cambridge Cruiser with a... Well not a song in my heart. It was hard, really, really tough, but I left and, astonishingly, caught the mythical 323 to Mile End.

Now, the thing with this bus is we know it exists, and we've seen tribes of the faithful congregating around the places of worship (aka bus stops) waiting for the second coming (that day). But, actually, other than on one miraculous evening a week or two back, neither of us have seen this miracle of modern science. But my magic gizmo reckoned one was due. Oh. It was, after all, a bank holiday, maybe the TFL thingie would actually work!

And lo... The 323 hove in to sight. Astonishing. With trepidation I sat, my hands shaking as I sent the magical words to my flatmate... *323 face*. I had achieved the impossible, I was riding in the mythical bus. This had to be a good sign. Right?

Was that the sound of my clutching at straws?

It must be said. It wasn't quite as exciting as I imagined. No playing of harps, or angels on clouds. A bit like, well, every other bus. Like the 209 even, but with a different number. And route. And passenger mix for that matter. Definitely no harps though.

It did mean I was at Mile End quicker than a very quick thing and it was looking good for Liverpool Street...

Well, it would have done. If it hadn't been for ye olde waiting for a red light. *Sighs*. As I rolled in to Liverpool Street I reckoned I had 6 minutes to get to the ticket machine, purchase and find a train. So not going to happen. Kings Cross then. Via, err, Bank. I was feeling brave.

Now this meant I had 25 minutes to reach platform 9. And get a ticket. How hard could it be? Oh...

The thing is, since I was last in Kings Cross, an eternity ago it transpires, they'd opened the new bit. And moved the ticket machines. Which I went straight to. Gnnnnnnnn. I'm bloody hormonal, stop moving things around! I could handle this. I found the new ticket office, I found a machine that took cash. I waited I pressed the screen, I went to feed said cash and...


Eh? Tried again. Nothing. Oh. The clock is ticking like mad now. I ran to the next cash/card machine, huzzah... Oh. A sticker, cards only. WTAF?! Next section. Same thing. Gahhhhhhhhhh. This meant the queue, the really long one, full of tourists and the unsure. This. Could. Only. End. Badly.

I mean seriously. It was never going to be a good weekend visiting the nearly-ex. But I had kind of hoped with not annoying in advance by rolling in mid-afternoon. Fortunately. With 5 minutes to spare, I reached window 6, asked politely for a ticket, gave the three letter code for the destination to save time and was told, by the really lovely man that I could just about make it.

I actually ran.

Well, sort of. More of a faster than normal walk, dodging in and out of the unsure and indeterminate. By a miracle I had actually made the 11:15 out of Dodge. Quite astonishing.  I mean seriously astonishing.

As I sat, as close to the front of the train as I could, I reflected on a thought that struck me. I'd missed the chance to admire the new station. I'd seen hints of it, in fact the change in the station over the last couple of years was hand-in-hand with the changes going on in my life. But in my first visit since the grand unveiling, I'd seen nothing.

Something else struck me.

I was the same. Same me, same irrational fears. Same worries. Same concerns. But the station represented the world around me. It was also fundamentally the same, but it had changed. The layout felt wrong, the tickets wrong, the old building work awkwardness was gone, but with it a new feeling of disconnect between me and a place I thought I knew.

Kings Cross had become a metaphor for my life changes.

As I unveil myself, slowly, surely, to those around me, I find they change. I know it's inevitable and I realise that it's happened to every other person in my position. But oh goodness how it frightens me. As ever I find myself in the position of saying nothing, continuing the deception and maintaining the status quo. Or being honest. And risking isolation.

Because I have not changed. I'm the same person. But other's perception of me changes. Whether imperceptibly or dramatically matters not. The reality is that the truth is actually pretty uncomfortable.

And this leaves me with the inevitable problem. Do I keep moving forward, losing contact with those I care about as they perceptibly move away, or do I stop. I know I can never close my personal Pandora's box now it's open. But oh goodness the temptation is immense. I became quite good at playing a role, I've been doing it long enough. The problem is, as with an actor in a soap opera, I've become type cast.

And the type is just not me.

Now, none of this is new to me. I've been here before. My life is littered with memories of people I was close to, right up the point of when I actually confided in them and said “okay, this is me”. And then, it all changed. Usually for the worse.

I pondered this over night. And was coming to think that maybe I needed to crawl back under my rock and, well, return to the status quo. It was easier then. I hated it. I was eternally unhappy. But it would mean I would be able to pick up where I left off. Well, once my best friend had stopped being disappointed in my cowardice.

And then, this morning, I read an article in the Grauniad that struck more than just a chord. It was about the top five regrets of the dying, each of which seemed relevant. But it was the first that made me burst in to tears and know that I was being foolish.

“I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expect of me”

Yes. That about sums it up.

So here I am, scared and alone. Fearful. Frightened. Fraught. I know that as I become more open I will lose friends, maybe not completely, but the closeness will disappear as the morning mist in the glare of the sun.

And I know it will hurt.

Whilst I know, understand even, the situation, if you listen closely you will hear me screaming “but I've not changed”. That's the trouble with honesty. The truth often hurts. In this case the person giving. In this case...


Friday, 6 April 2012


I sent a text today referring to being in the place formerly known as home.

And then this evening I was caught by the sudden draw back to what has become home. I'm in a strange place. I am a stranger. So I did what have to do to make sense of this.

I wrote a poem.

But in a very different style to how I normally write.

The bitter tang of wood smoke
Envelops and fills the sodden air
The night, encroaching without relent
As frantic birds call their last calls.
The gentle rush of a distant train
Push thoughts to that place now home,
Beyond the grey clouds of a distant horizon
Yet never further, than the closing of eyes

Wednesday, 4 April 2012


To paraphrase Aretha Franklin, all I ever wanted was a little respect. The really surprising thing is when you actually get it. And I can tell you... It's nice.

Really nice.

So the scene was set, I had to be out of my client's office by 5:30, head for Flirt Towers, change in a whirl of whirly changeyness and then skip off to Canary Wharf to meet in the concourse below the DLR station. How hard can this be?


It didn't help that I was nervous as hell, which I said to my flatmate earlier in the day. And butterflies, so many butterflies I was going to arrange for a brown tourist information sign to point straight at me saying "human butterfly farm". I was way outside my comfort zone and more than a little nervous about what somebody of such obvious intelligence would actually be like. None of this was helped by my being very much still in the client's office at the anointed hour. And then again 15 minutes later. I didn't escape until a minute to six. Excellent. Late. Again.

But... He didn't cancel. Okay, this is good.

And still hadn't cancelled by the time I got home and the welcome sight of the kettle being put on for me (makes note to be nicer to flatmate from now on). I'd like to say I changed in double quick time. I didn't. Goodness knows what I was doing. But eventually I managed to batter myself in to shape, squeezed into a simple black crossover dress, grabbed coat, shoes and a bag for the evening and dived downstairs. A really quick chat with flatmate and her gentleman friend and then I was gone, hoping I'd not forgotten a thing.

I guess this is the upside of being late, I was more concerned with that than my earlier concerns. Hurrah!

Fast forwarding a little, we met and he was actually very nice. We ended in an All Bar One, a place I normally only go with my bezzie, so a new experience and once the champagne and tapas were ordered it was time to get to the serious business of getting to know each other.

The next thing I knew it was 9:30 and my flatmate was texting to make sure I was still alive. Gah, I'd not said things were going okay. I am rubbish. And before I knew it... The evening was, sadly, over. How did that happen? Walking back with him to the Jubilee Line station I decided that I really had enjoyed the evening and would like to see him again. Which, I realised, is a nice thought to have. And with that we made a loose arrangement to meet again soon, had the peckiest of pecks and then I turned and headed for the bus.

What really made the evening wasn't the champagne, or conversation, or location. It was the respect. No lunging, or suggestive comments. It could be that I'm just loosing my touch, but I prefer to think that it was genuine and that gentlemen really do still exist.

Now there's a shocking thought.

More importantly I was left with a feeling of self confidence. Now that really is a wonderful way to end a lovely evening.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Unintended intentions

We have a calendar here in Flirt Towers. The theory is we write on when one of us is out so we know whether to cook for two or at least do something that it's a natural leftover.

Not that there's anything wrong with late night eggy bread or cheese on toast. Obvs.

The trouble is, we are both a little capricious. Maybe more than a little. Which means said calendar is more a guide to intentions rather than the oracle of truth. Life would be dull otherwise.

Besides, I'm yet to write in it...

I had vague evenings pencilled in (mentally) where I may possibly meet a current flirt, whilst my flatmate had, amazingly, only one possible social event. A quiet week compared to last!

It was never going to last.

In my case, after many emails, I arranged to meet an opera loving, PhD holding, romantic gentleman that's travelled the world. In hers... Well let's just say she finally plucked up the nerve to give her number to a guy she has had a monumental flirty crush on for months. A really silly, reduces-an-intelligent-woman-to-teenage-giggling crush. I'm so glad, I really didn't want to have to do the "my mate really fancies you" routine. I'm 44 not 14, I can't really do that any more. Honest.

Which did mean we had a lovely dynamic last night, she swooning with a gooey far away look in her eyes as texts from The Crush arrived, me alternating between panicking over what to wear and then checking emails. And we giggled. A lot.

Sharing really is fab.

Anyway. None of this was intentional. None of it planned.

Merely leaves of whimsy twisting in the winds of serendipity.

And I still don't know what to wear.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Lazy Sunday

Our ability to utterly get distracted never ceases to amaze me. And when I say our, I mean my lovely flatmate and I. Sunday started with all sorts of good intentions, I was going to catch up on some work (meh) and maybe pop over to Canary Wharf to pick up some bits and pieces later. She on the other hand was going to run, then spend the rest of the day with a gentleman friend.

We couldn't possibly fail.

Which will be why we were still sitting in our dressing gowns chatting at whatever o'clock. The decision made being to have another cup of tea and then she would go running whilst I finally got my proverbial in to gear. After all, it would be easier after another cup of tea. And I was promising bacon after the run. Who can resist that?

Incredibly, it worked, flatmate went running, I jumped in the shower, re-did my toes, put a face on to be half respectable and even sorted my knicker drawer before eventually scurrying off to Messrs Tesco for tea and apple juice. How organised am I?

Well, obviously, not very as (a) I should have had tea in as we were down to one bag and (b) flatmate had returned from her hour run by now. So I left her stretching on the balcony whilst I finally scuttled off to get the essentials.

Generally, apart from the later start, all going to plan.

Next step, bacon, fried, naturally as was a lonely tomato and a slice of bread for me (I'm from the North, what can I say). Apparently, according to my dietician (and flatmate) the fat helps slow down the conversion of somethings to somethings in the bread (I wasn't paying much attention in science) and therefore makes it healthy. I like this science stuff.

So with lashings of bacon, tea and apple juice we sat on the balcony and... Sat on the balcony and... Sat on the balcony. Occasionally breaking for such things as sunglasses (naturally), cellphones (so we could tweet about being on the balcony) and little else. It was glorious. And I was at least dressed, though with my skirt hitched up and straps over my arms, but my floozy flatmate was still in her dressing gown. Terrible.

Well, not so terrible.In the distance we could see fit footballers running around kicking their balls and occasionally a cyclist would roll by, see us partially clothed and then nearly end in the canal from distraction. Ha. We even got a toot and a wave from a delivery driver. Trouble was I waved back and was then falsely accused of being a floozy! I was quite shocked. Something about pots and kettles.

Henceforth we shall be known as Flirt Towers.

It really was idyllic. Trouble was, flatmate was also really supposed to be meeting gentleman friend at noon. And it so wasn't going to happen. Which brought us to sometime after noon. In a fit of industry I cleared away whilst flatmate rushed off and returned 4.8 seconds later having dressed and made herself look that level of nonchalant cool that I can only aspire to. I never did like her.

And with that she kissed and ran, leaving me to, pfft, work.

And work I did, with the occasional distraction from flirty texts and emails to stop me from pining for the outside. Which lasted all the way until around 2:30 when I was offered something a girl finds hard to refuse... Champagne in the sun. Cue the sound of me reapplying lippy and scurrying for the door to go and meet an old friend.

Later, courtesy of the champagne fridge in Waitrose, we had a lovely bottle of Perrier-Jouët, just right to stand and chat on the balcony without thinking about profligate expense, not that I paid, obvs.

And it was pleasant.

Better than pleasant. Watching the world gently roll by below as the bubbles rose and the sun beat down. It really had become a divine day. And I managed not to think at all about my machine whirring away awaiting my attention.

Later in the afternoon, for a change of scene, and maybe one other reason that I won't mention, we scuttled off giggling, well, I giggled, and wandered into Limehouse in search of a pub. As you do. We ended up in The Grapes, which definitely had the Sunday crowd in, found a nice quiet spot and chatted for a good while. Which would have been good, except I also had another couple of small glasses of vin de dodgy and was now definitely, unreservedly, slightly squiffy. Oh dear.

It could have got worse. But Monday is a school day so my friend had to wander back in the direction of St Katherine's Dock whilst I was left to meander back home. Via Tesco. Again.

This time though I was in search of something to mix with pasta as my alcohol fuelled brain felt pasta was the only thing worth eating, plus I'd had vague recollection of saying I would cook for flatmate and gentleman friend. Fortunately, he decided that he wasn't brave enough to taste my fare, though his excuse was that he had stuff in the fridge that needed eating. A likely story.

It wasn't until I got home that I realised quite how squiffy I was, I banged and clattered. A lot. Opened doors too forcefully. Nearly fell over as I took my tights off. Generally showing just how reeely soffisticated I am. It wasn't helped by my ex-favourite-flatmate laughing at how funny I was when squiffy. I'm sure I shall have my vengeance.

Another day that didn't quite follow the plan.

But oh, what a fabulous diversion.