Lost in London

A look at London and life in general through the eyes of someone who sometimes can't bear to watch.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Licensed to ill

I ended up being off work for 4 days, with today being my first day back.

It’s weird being home ill for an extended period. I realise some people spend months, years even at home sick but for me 4 days is an unprecedented spell under the cosh of illness. My other half was home for 2 of the days, but for the other 2 I was alone. You’d think that time would drag with nobody to talk to, no human interaction to enjoy, but in fact it raced away from me. My eyes started to crinkle from internet fatigue (there’s only so much F5-ing on Facebook and posting crap on messageboards you can do) and the TV is so shockingly bad that you start dreaming up ways of murdering your neighbours just for something to do. The house starts to take on an odd smell too. Recycled breath and unwashed cups and bed socks mixed in with germs, unbrushed hair and boredom.

My first steps out of the house yesterday afternoon to nip to my local Sainsbury’s were momentous. Such was their significance, I half-expected to see bollards erected and buoyant crowds lining my three-minute walk to the shop, cheering me on and waving old blankets with my face or messages of support scrawled upon them.

On starting my shopping, I saw a great magazine cover, featuring Jordan aka Katie Price. The pull quote headline was “I think rapists should be raped, the death penalty’s great and Obama’s not fit!”. Pictured was La Price draped in an American flag. What a wonderful headline. It was a bit like reading a toilet wall. I’m not particularly surprised that Jordan has these opinions (although, “the death penalty’s great”? Really? How? On toast? As a draught excluder?), more that she gets asked about them. What with messageboards, communities, forums, blogs, feedback forms, feeds, status updates etc, we’re being asked our opinion on a continual basis. Rather worryingly, I think I’m running out of opinions. I need new ones. Do I think Obama is fit?

Being outside again had a profound effect on me. Having brought no list, I wandered around the supermarket’s three aisles like a Stepford wife for about half an hour, oohing and aahing at products I’ve seen a thousand times before. Naturally, I left spending more than I had intended and forgetting half of what I went in for.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Do I know you?

It is interesting to watch Facebook begin to be usurped by Twitter. Just as Facebook crushed Friendster, Ringo and (to a certain extent) MySpace, now it too is having its ‘All About Eve’ moment. I’ve been a member of Twitter for a while, but have thus far failed to see much point in it. The status update function isn’t one I use on Facebook often (it all just seems like blatant attention-seeking to me) so this reduced functionality doesn’t work for me personally, but Twitter is a useful tool for getting a snapshot of what people are saying or thinking about big issues.

I have set myself a few rules when it comes to using Facebook. It’s easy to see how it can all get out of hand, especially when someone pops up in your news feed every 10 minutes with zinging statements like A N Other is… as a status update (do any of the people who type that think they’re being truly original? Or mysterious? Or Zen?) or you arrive home from an evening out to discover photos capturing the event or already on display. Firstly, profile pictures aside, I don’t add photos of myself or events I’ve been to. If other people want to do this, that’s fine, but I’m much too faux-modest to expose myself to the public in this way. Secondly, I try and keep status updates to a minimum. True, I demi-bragged about going to New York and Paris in my status updates, but fucking hell, I never go anywhere, and it can’t really be compared to ‘XXXX is guna hav a bath n go to bed’ (sic), can it?

Also, I don’t accept friend requests from or contact people I have never met (with one notable exception- hello Caress!). I can’t understand why some random in Dunstable wants to be your friend because they ‘like the look of you’.

Additionally, I try not to accept invitations to ‘events’, especially when I have told the inviter face-to-face that I will be there. I find the diarising of our lives and the ease in which we can be followed on Facebook a bit disturbing. When I first joined Facebook, I never write on people’s walls and discouraged it on my own and I wonder if I should go back to this. Perhaps I should delete the whole thing anyway. It’s really handy for keeping in touch with people but there’s something so odd about it, at times distant and yet at others a too-much-information overload.

Once cause for concern is that I am being ‘collected’ by former schoolmates. I say schoolmates in the loosest sense of the word: I hated practically everybody at school. Now, however, I’ve attained that level of popularity that I’d foolishly assumed would be the answer to all my problems at 13. People who I spent many years alongside in the school room, yet barely spoke a word to, are seeking me out and asking to be my friend. Occasionally a genuine pleasant surprise will spring forth but usually they’ll be the kind of person I would rather leave in my past. Some kind of ‘good manners’ switch that I have no control over kicks in and I gracefully accept their friend request and exchange a couple of polite messages with them. I’m cautious not to mention very much about my life unless they ask and even then I answer in a very vague, off-hand way.

I have always believed that for the most part the past should stay where it is. Although I have resolved to eventually ‘defriend’ (which sounds very futuristic and sci-fi horror or high school movie-like) the bulk of these people once I think they won’t notice, the constant updates, comments and photos from these newly-acquired ‘friends’ allows me the glimpse into what life is like when you don’t have the chance to get out of a shithole like my hometown. I’m in turn grateful and horrified.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sick boy

I have been off work ill all day today, something I very rarely do. I hate being off work sick: I get racked with guilt about not being there. I especially hate calling in sick on Mondays; it always seems so fake and I am paranoid that workmates will think I’ve been out getting drunk or doing class A drugs all weekend. However, ill I am and I was in no fit state to go to work this morning.

I look and feel like shit. I have a colossal coldsore that reaches out from the left corner of my mouth into the wilderness of my pallid, crumpled face and my blue eyes have faded to cloudy pondwater grey. The few wrinkles and- as the cream adverts say- fine lines have been accentuated by my health malady and I look like I’ve had the tube map engraved across my face.

The coldsore is being pathetically covered and supposedly cured by a Compeed patch. They usually work well but the progress of this set of patches has been hampered by my 2 hour search for a new one yesterday. Sunday is, by all accounts, the day when chemists and pharmacies disappear into thin air, my central London location offering me nowhere to go to buy my medication. And so it was I trudged about searching for new patches. In my desperation (I start to get a bit wild-eyed and panicked when I can’t find exactly what I’m looking for), I went into Guy’s Hospital to see if they knew of the nearest chemist. They did not. The man on reception helpfully said “I’ll look on the internet”, which he then did. I don’t think he’d ever seen a computer before. He made small gasps of excitement as each page loaded. He then told me he’d found 3 pharmacies, all closed. I thanked him and decided to see if there was one onsite. There was, but it was closed. As I walked around Guy’s Hospital, I was quite surprised at how clean it was. There seems to be a TV programme on every 10 minutes telling you how hospitals are bug-ridden death pits but Guy’s was quite nice. I couldn’t buy medication, but I could’ve bought a latte or a croissant at the coffee bar. That’s progress. In the end, it was big nasty corporation Tesco who finally provided coldsore patch relief. Capitalism, sometimes I adore thee.

I have achieved precisely nothing today. When you’re ill there isn’t anything to do. I have had a Skype conversation with my father (I am a recent convert to Skype and feel compelled to blog about it at some point) and watched lots of TV online but apart from that and stumble to the kitchen to forage for vitamins in any form, I have done zero of any import. I have also plumbed new depths: I’ve wiped my nose on my T-shirt at least twice today. My mother would never forgive me.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The French resolution

I was lucky enough to spend New Year in Paris. It was my first time there since I went with my very last girlfriend in 1999. Nine and half years later, I finally felt ready to enjoy Paris. My last visit had seen me fractious and tense and so I was glad to return feeling a lot more comfortable with myself.

I was feeling in an outlandish holiday mood as we were leaving. Despite re-popping my flying cherry on my trip to New York I took the Eurostar to Paris. I hadn't been on it for years and remembered it as being relatively hassle-free. We stopped for a drink in the 'longest Champagne bar in Europe' in St Pancras, which is really just a load of tables joined together in a long line. As it is practically outside, it is freezing, but we were thrilled to find heated seats and thick tartan rugs available to cover our knees. It is never too cold for champagne.

The train journey was uneventful. My carriage smelled like unwashed people and someone blatantly had a fag in the toilets on the way over. The whole carriage was craning their necks and sniffing the air accusingly to find the culprit. Isn't it funny how odd it is to smell cigarette smoke indoors these days?

Paris was cold and beautiful and smelled at times wonderful. I ate loads of Frenchness like foie gras, coq au vin, ratatouille, crepes and that kind of thing. The butter was heavenly and the wine cheap and sloshed silkily down my throat like nectar. I couldn't stop taking photos. Churches, street corners, Métro signs, shops; you name it, I photographed it. I like to be in photos but never know what to do. There’s something so funereal about standing next to a famous monument, so I attempted to liven things up by doing high kicks and jazz hands instead.

For New Year’s Eve itself, I got into my head that a perfect thing to do would be to go to the top of Montmartre by the Sacré Coeur and watch the fireworks over Paris. When we arrived it was quite busy, but not uncomfortably so. For some bizarre reason, we’d opted not to bring any alcohol with us and so watched sober and jealous as ‘revellers’ stood with champagne bottles poised. In the event, there was no big countdown, no gongs, flashes of light or searing lasers to signify the dawn of 2009, just a group of German tourists counting down in their mother tongue. We stood trembling with anticipation (and cold: it was -4 or something) and as the midnight hour arrived… nothing. A complete dearth of fireworks or indeed any sign that a New Year was occurring left me puzzled. Slowly the crowd seemed to realise that 2009 had arrived and faint, polite ripples of noise spread like a Mexican wave. Through the freezing fog the Eiffel Tower glimmered a bit. Then people started letting off fireworks in the crowd and waving sparklers in each other’s faces and I felt old and boring and kept 'tsk'ing so we made a sharp exit.

It actually made me realise that it’s only really since the millennium celebrations that London has started going OTT on the firework front. Although I went to Paris expecting an explosion in the sky, I guess to Parisians it’s no big deal. I think I prefer it the Parisian way.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The object of my affection

Purely by mistake, I am watching a TV programme (on further investigation it's an oft-shown repeat) about various women who are in love with buildings or other inanimate objects. One of the subjects of the documentary, a champion archer, is married to the Eiffel Tower and has in the past had an affair with her bow. She also has her own piece of the Golden Gate Bridge, which she plans to have sex with in the hope that the bridge can feel the, er, passion.

Another woman is in love with a guillotine and a bit of banister, while another claims to be infatuated with a fairground ride.

I will probably need Botox or fillers when the show is over, as my brow has been furrowed in confusion throughout, especially when one of the ladies started 'making out' with the Empire State Building.

I have been watching and wondering what it is about buildings or, um, guillotines you can fall in love with. I've seen the shows about the mega loners who buy weird dolls and dress them up, pretend they're on dinner dates with them and then fuck them in their nostril, but even after all my years on the planet, I am struggling to comprehend why someone would want to fuck a building. A building! Is it like when a man buys a car and talks to it like it his ideal woman, stroking it and kissing it goodnight? Is it the next step from a bored, tranked-up '70s housewife clambering on the washing machine during a spin cycle?

I've been flitting between feeling weirded out that someone might want to shag the dodgems as well as a touch vanilla because I find it alien. I also feel quite sad for whatever horrors in their past has led these women down a road which takes them further from human affection.

As I type, the Eiffel Tower's wife is getting it on with a red fence. I must check my tea: I think someone may have put acid in it.