Sunday, 6 May 2012

Cinderella is a dirty stop-out

DLR ride of shame
Friday morning. And I wasn't in Contrary Towers. In fact I was doing the walk of shame. Well. The DLR ride of shame. I didn't feel at all self-concious walking through St Katherine's Dock in a scarlet evening dress when everyone else was in something more sober.

What can I say... Champagne.

Anyway, I was working from home that day so it wasn't the end of the world. And my lovely flatmate had the kettle on. What a star. We did have a vague plan to wander over to Stratford in search of stuff for the ball.

Which will be why we sat, drinking tea and doing anything but. We really aren't very good at this getting going lark. Some time later, after a full debrief of both our yesterday movements, and a change of dress for me, we wandered off to Langdon Park DLR and the brief trip to zone 3 and retail hell. I was utterly unimpressed with my first view of the place. On the rare occasion I've been on a Liverpool Street train I've passed through and feigned interest in what was going on. But seeing the place up close did nothing for me. Horrible.

So, the plan. Something sparkly to stick on our faces, shoes for my flatmate as she was struggling to decide and some suitable costume jewellery. Which would have been easy. Except we are rubbish at shopping. I was glad I went with her, I would never have even found the way in, the place confused me. Our first port of call was to be the accessory shops. But we couldn't find them. So we wandered aimlessly looking at other things.

Eventually we came across some of those little printed mall guides! Hurrah. Except, err, we couldn't quite work out what floor we were on. And. And. And. Look, we're just not good at this stuff and we're not usually allowed out without adults. It took a while, but we did find the accessory shops, but first we lusted over the most amazing patterned courts that were utterly impractical and had eccentric screaming all over, but I digress. Trouble was... Other than the shoes, no inspiration. It was, frankly, all so insipid. The problem was we were trying to find something that would go with the theme, other than some long laced lace fingerless gloves and a set of black flowers for my flatmate. But... We had issues with our good taste, we couldn't switch it off.

This was tricky, really tricky.

So we followed rule #1 in the Contrary Towers handbook.

If in doubt, drink champagne...

There is little empirical evidence to show whether rule is actually good advice and leads to solving problems. But it made us feel better. And giggly. And meant that we could suspend good taste and complete our goal.

And we ate a rather yummy salmon open sandwich.

And then had another glass of champagne to make sure the first didn't feel lonely. Then we planned our next move. It was beautiful in its simplicity... We'd go to John Lewis and look at shoes. It took us a while to find the shoe section, they weren't keen on us tracking it down! And then, within moments of arriving the jam-meister (as in very jammy) found the most gorgeous patents courts. Which were reduced. In her size.

Can you hear me clenching my teeth?

We wandered a little more and... OM actual G. The most gorgeous pair of suede courts, with a buckle strap (sort of like a Mary Jane) which would be good for dancing and decent strength heels that would survive the floor at the Old Vic Tunnels. Oh yes. And I saw them first.

This was going to get nasty. Because my flatmate loved them too.

Eventually we found an assistant and asked for two pairs to check in six and seven. In the meantime my flatmate was trying other shoes, except she had thick tights on, so she ended up walking around with on leg off and being held in her hand. We might have giggled. Eventually, the assistant returned from the depths of the storeroom. And... Perfect. For both of us. Comfortable, good fit, the right side of elegant, would work with so many things, very flattering and... matched the evening. Hurrah!

She, quite sensibly, went for both pairs. The first shoes she found were quite beautiful and made her feet look really dainty. Divine. And this also meant we had solved one problem. Shoes for my flatmate. And a problem we didn't have, shoes for me. So we gave the boxes to the assistant to take to the cash desk and we went off to look at tights because sensible wouldn't do. We looked for ages, fortunately John Lewis do carry a good range including some of the more interesting brands. I really couldn't decide, but then I knew I did have an unopened packet of Wolford Twenties that would be perfectly okay. My flatmate though found these fab faux suspender tights which were lovely. We were definitely going to head towards the mildly outrageous.

We still had a problem, sparklys. And still tights. I've just realised, I'd not mentioned these earlier. Westfield has a Wolford's shop. And we saw these amazing tights that my flatmate adored, I could see her point, but no couldn't see them working with my dress. Anyway, we popped in to the Wolford's shop a second time to go and get a pair...

Until she saw the price.

Now I know that we can be a teensy bit profligate at times, but £120 for a pair of tights? Err. Yes. Exactly. Back to the cheap accessory shops then. All we really needed were, by now some earrings and face sparklys. Having looked earlier I knew I liked the little mushrooms and my flatmate liked the flowers, easy, until we saw it was 3 for 2... Pfft. Eventually a suitable pair of hoops were found and on we went to sparklys. Essentially nail ornaments that we'd apply to our faces. We found some, we paid and we were out of there.

I happen to like shopping and was hating the place. Quite how she hadn't summarily executed somebody was beyond me.

On a serious note, I was concerned, the place was getting busy and it was a bit awkward to get around. But this was just 4:15 on a Friday. What the hell was it going to be like during the Olympics? I'll never know as I won't be going. And, honestly, I would need a really good reason to go back there any time soon.

If I do, could somebody please contact my GP and say you believe I may have dementia.

At least it was a short journey home. We got in, collapsed, made tea, had two sips and then decided a nap was a better idea. The alarm was set for an hours time... at 6pm I woke. Went to check my flatmate had also woken, made tea and... We sat and chatted. Of course we did. It's amazing we get anything done. And made cheese on toast.

Eventually we started to get changed. The problem was now that neither of us have a clue about how to do heavy make-up. Which is what we thought we needed. Oh good, the sense-of-good-taste was back. And causing a hindrance. Faces reapplied, dresses on, tights chosen, fingerless gloves tied, sparklys applied. Hair beaten in to submission. Flower tiaras on. We. Were. Ready.

All we had to do was get to Waterloo and the Old Vic Tunnels. Wearing heels, scarlet dresses and living on the edge of a deeply conservative Bangladeshi community.

We'd not really thought this through.

So, flatmate got her gorgeous velvet coat and I dug out my long wool coat. Not ideal, but would cover the scarlet and maybe slightly reduce attention.

Except that my flatmates gorgeous coat didn't button very low, so opened revealing a short dress and suspender tights. Oops. We marched as quickly as we could to the bus stop, jumped on the 277 and headed for Canary Wharf and the Jubilee Line...

...We had hardly anyone staring at us on the bus, might have been the floral tiaras. And walking through Canary Wharf on a Friday evening generated no more than a few hundred double takes. One guy did have the decency to give us an really amazing smile. But we ignored them all. No eye contact and talked as we walked. The Jubilee line was, thankfully, quiet and we trundled round to Waterloo with just a few sideways glances from other tube passengers.

Finally, at Waterloo... We didn't feel odd. People with wings, people in shocking blue. A man in a red frock coat. We were starting to look quite conservative. Yay! The surprising thing was that whilst we were, nominally late, the place was quite quiet. Oh. The upside to this was that we found a nice comfy place to sit, bought a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and proceeded to people watch. We weren't actually allowed the bottle, they kept it behind the bar in an ice cooler and we could get the glasses refilled at any time. Handy.

Early in the evening...
We chatted to a couple. We saw a magician. And a strange puppet thing. We wowed at some of the costumes. Swooned at a beautiful man in a mask and generally people watched whilst chatting. We did have to explain that whilst we were flower fairies, we were so bad our wings had been removed. Not that we cared, we had fizz. We also tried to work out who different groups of people were. After a while we thought we best go and look at some of the entertainment... I know that there was meant to be some immersive theatre going on, but, well, it wasn't really reaching us. It may have been our location by the bar, so off we wandered.

Bad fairy when she was good.
We found a stage area with a compère rattling on about something or other. Excellent. Or not, as the case was. Having heard a genuinely good one the night before I realised how awful this one was. And the acts... Didn't make sense. One was sort of okay (good fairy accidentally eats/drinks something they shouldn't and becomes a naughty fairy, we understood this concept well) and the other was...

...Well, like a project for a school drama class. Done by people who thought they'd do anything and didn't care what it was about. Maybe it was just us. But we weren't impressed.

In fact, we were starting to feeling increasingly unimpressed. This wasn't good. Not even a little bit. And we wanted to dance, enjoy an experience. Live a little.

Not watch mediocrity get a bad name.

In the end we decided to finish our second bottle of VC and head for Leicester Square and then Soho. There must be something more entertaining out there. And with that, we were off. A taxi hailed and Leicester Square bound.

The trouble was, we didn't really have a plan. And after being slightly disheartened by the ball, found the tedium of being hassled to go in to clubs that looked tedious *and* would probably mean us having to queue didn't seem a good idea. We could have gone elsewhere, one place in particular was mentioned, but we would have had to beat the men off with a stick when they saw my flatmate. I was at least safe, the advantage of being the fat and ugly sister. And so, we came to a simple decision. Taxi. Home. Champagne.

The bright lights of the West End were dull to us. It was superficial and pointless. Limp and unimpressive. Superficial and devoid of real attitude. In a word... It sucked.

It's easy to find a black cab when you're both in scarlet dresses.

It was comforting to be heading east. The attraction of watching the lights of Canary Wharf through the rising bubbles of fizz seemed utterly attractive. And, thankfully, the driver kept his mouth shut. All was going swimmingly well until disaster struck as we arrived at Contrary Towers. I got out to pay and my flatmate... Fell. Really quite badly. Before you jump to conclusions, neither of us were drunk. If we had been we would have still been up west dancing on tables and losing a £10 bet that we would cause trouble (which we didn't, so pay up!). She fell very heavily on her knee as she got out. It was horrible.

It wasn't what you could call the best end to an evening. We hadn't been able to dance. My friend was in pain. She'd ruined her new tights and we were actually disappointed with London. But then, as we talked back in Contrary Towers we took the view that, actually, there had been such a good run that it wasn't necessarily a bad thing. As an experience it was valid and we'd know what to watch for and avoid.

Importantly, we did get to have 1am snacks, in the form of the emergency supply of potato croquettes, scrambled egg and mushrooms. She makes epic scrambled egg. It was truly a feast. It wasn't nice to see her dealing with the throbbing pain of a now swelling knee by the time honoured technique of frozen peas with a tea towel. But we did at least resolve that we needed to go dancing soon and not depend on a particular event to come up with the goods.

But there was one other thing that we talked about, a truism, a philosophical rule. Even though, in the end the ball itself had been not what we hoped. And then Soho felt less than lukewarm, we had managed to gain an enormous amount of giggles and entertainment from this night, just spread over the previous days. We'd had some insane giggly moments where we could barely speak for laughing and literally had tears of helpless amusement. So in the great summing up it had actually been a good thing, but the real pleasure wasn't where we expected it...

In life, it's not the destination but the journey that truly matters.

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