Lost in London

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Oh Christmas tree

My Christmas tree is up. News of this has been met with mixtures of amazement, derision and gentle ribbing by my friends, but this is actually quite late by my standards: I once put the tree up on Hallowe'en. It looks great. Lots of red and gold and a bit of ribbon and new lights.

I am quietly looking forward to Christmas. I have no idea why: it'll be my poorest one since I was a student and, being a freelancer, any time off is not only a break from work but also a break from earning. My Christmas shopping plans have been scaled back to a level of extravagance that would have a battery chicken rolling its eyes and the train journey back to Yorkshire is costing me an arm or a leg. And yet... I can't wait.
Perhaps it's something to do with having a bit of a weird year.

I've surprised myself at how much I've been enthusiastic about the festive season. Usually I spend the preceding weeks pacing up and down shopping areas all over London, whingeing and cursing at the crowds of people and sneering shop assistants. I also be,oan the fact that my birthday is at Christmas, therefore stealing from me the feeling of having a birthday that people actually care about. But now, I think I'm finally over it.

This year, I actually went to watch the Christmas lights in the West End being turned on. And I made an 'ooh' noise when they were! I grinned like a fat bloke who's just bought a Mars bar when the seasonal red cups came out at Starbucks and have indulged in more dark cherry mochas than my purse strings would usually allow. What a capitalist pig I am!

Call it going soft in my old age, or desperately trying to find something positive, but I'm 'up for' Christmas in a way that I'm finding strange yet exciting.

This Christmas might just be the merriest yet.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The future's so bright, I've got to wear shades

I have never wanted to be famous. I can't understand what the attraction is. Loads of people you don't know loving or hating you, or even worse being aware of you and totally indifferent to you. While I don't want to *be* famous, I quite like *feeling* famous. Now, short of going on Big Brother or murdering someone, I'm not likely to be catapulted into public consciousness, but there is a really easy way to get that 'celeb feeling': wear sunglasses when you don't need to.

Yeah, I know. You run the risk of people mocking you or thinking you love yourself but so what? At least they're noticing you, right? Lots of people think celebrities are up themselves for wearing shades whatever the weather, but there are actually three very good reasons for doing so. First of all, a picture is worth less if you can't see the eyes. Secondly, your eyes can let you down on a photo. If you blink or roll your eyes, you look drunk or stupid or both. Finally, it's practical: with all those flashbulbs going off in your face, your little peepers need all the protection they can.

Another extra little bonus is that it's a scientific fact that everybody looks around 45% hotter in sunglasses. If your eyes are a bit wonky or too small, just bang your shades on and voilĂ ! You're a sex bomb.

Of course it's important to get it right. I don't care how fashionable they are, but wayfarers only work in summer. I also happen to think wayfarers are a load of shit and make the wearer look like an ugly fashion victim but hey, each to their own, right? Bright colours are also out unless you want to look like a fat American fresh off a flight from Florida. Keep it understated and effortlessly cool. Aviators are timeless and a celebrity favourite. They look good on almost everybody (if your face is too thin, avoid them or you'll look like a fly) and work in any weather system. For extra celebrity sparkle, a gold-rimmed pair are just the ticket. People will ask for your autograph.

As for the lenses, mirrored are not a good look. Think of it from the celebrity angle: flashbulbs would reflect in them and make your eyes look like torches. Not great. Your lenses need to be tinted just enough so that you can almost but not quite see the eyes. This allows you to check out the hotties without being discovered.

The only time the shades need to come off are:

- indoors
- at night
- when it's raining

Wearing them in a bar is OK during the day as long as there are big windows letting in light. At night, you just look like a twat. Or Stevie Wonder. Wearing them on the tube is OK. Why not? At least then you don't have to pretend not to make eye contact. Stare as much as you like! Sporting sunnies when it's raining is social death: you don't want to spend the entire day wiping off speckles of drizzle with a tissue like a nerd. Oh and don't wear them in the house. Even Victoria Beckham doesn't do that.

Let them laugh, let them stare. You look fantastic. Like a superstar.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ribbed for my pleasure

Corduroy. A band. A material. Something I hadn't considered for years.

I've been getting a little sick of the monopoly jeans have over my lower half. Sure they come in different colours and go with pretty much anything, but as anyone caught in the pouring rain on Saturday will tell you, the feel of wet denim clinging to your nether regions is neither pleasurable nor practical.

Although I've avoided corduroy for quite a while now, being told that for a new job I couldn't wear blue jeans in the office posed a bit of a problem. Sure I could wear my aubergine or grey skinnies, but they're a little bit 'nightclub' and not so much 'I am a responsible person and you were right to give me this contract'. I went into central London yesterday with the idea of buying black jeans to solve my problem, but only encountered more difficulties.

Black jeans only seem to exist in two distinct types. First of all you have your superdark, never-washed black jeans. They're not unfashionable, but look ever so slightly like formal trousers hanging loose at the weekend. You know the type, the 'cool, up-for-it dad' who wears a suit at work all week but really likes to chill out in his immaculately ironed ebony denim. Then you've got your distressed/ faded side of the family. Unless you're buying them from quite an expensive retailer, they just never look right. Either they've been so distressed that they look like you accidentally spilled bleach on them or they are so ridiculously faded they appear to have been hanging in a shop window since Prince William's christening. What can look so good on blue jeans can look so bad on their darker cousins.

So the avenue of black jeans was a cul de sac. I wandered around the shops dolefully, bemoaning not only my lack of imagination when it comes to buying trousers but also the stupidity of clothing manufacturers unable to read my mind and run me up a little something that would be ready by the time I stepped off the tube. Just as I was about to admit defeat, I spotted out of the corner of my eye some cords. Cords to me always conjure up memories of a particularly unlovely pair I had when I was eight. They were aubergine-coloured and were made out of really jumbo corduroy material. I had a growth spurt soon after their purchase but was forced by my mother to wear them anyway: a look that now graces almost every street corner in London, yes, but half-mast trousers was social death when I was growing up.

I picked the cords up and looked at them. They were a very nice grey colour. A kind of mid-grey with a touch of silver. Could I? Should I? I resolved to try them on. I then spotted their neighbour, another pair of cords but this time blue. Navy blue. Slim fitting. Navy blue cords? Really? I picked them up and then picked the next size up as well, just in case I had put on weight thanks to that dark cherry mocha I'd had earlier.

I tried on the grey pair first. You have to be careful with cords at my age. Jeans, for most people, have an air of cool. They're the rebel's uniform, look better ripped and tugged and beaten. They're wild nights out in scuzzy bars, crumpled fivers and triple vodkas. Cords to me evoke buzzwords like 'geography teacher', 'reformed sex offender', 'just one more cup of Ovaltine' and 'comfy'. I looked at myself in the mirror. I looked good. Next came the navy pair. Also good. I turned round. Ass looked good. All seemed to be in order. Reader, I bought both pairs.

Today was my first day in corduroy for about seven years, when I finally threw away two pairs of bootcut monstrosities (one black, one brown) that I'd worn for work, an act which came two years after throwing out more brown and black pairs (skinny fit this time) for being too vile for words. Teaming them with a pair of desert boots and a polo shirt in a fetching shade of aubergine I made my way to work and I have to say, I kinda liked it. For the first time in a long time, maybe ever, I felt very much my age but, even if I do say so myself, still looked OK. Pretty good in fact. I'm fine with that.

The pipe and slippers, though, will have to wait.