Sunday, July 30, 2006

It takes a lot of work to look this mediocre

For many years, I was a tomboy and proud of it. I was a skinny child, then a plump adolescent, and was always pretty homely-looking, with dodgy teeth and wiry hair which failed to be either straight or curly, and instead hovered in some kind of cowlicked no man's land, all bushy and wiry.

If this was a celebrity interview, I would now be able to tell you that "suddenly, something changed" and as I filled out in all the right places boys began to look at me anew as I blossomed into an attractive young lady.

Yeah, that didn't happen. Instead, I changed from being an ugly duckling into a high-maintenance duckling. At the hairdresser's last week, I began to consider just how much time I spend holding back the inexorable tide of body meltdown. It was quite a shock - as a hangover from the tomboyish days, I'd always considered myself quite low maintenance. But now I think I'm more like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, a high maintenance woman who just thinks she's low maintenance.

This really hit home when I was having my eyebrows threaded and I thought, "Ooh, while I'm here, I should definitely have a pedicure. It would be an investment, really." An investment how, exactly, the rebellious part of me screamed internally. Will it yield some kind of return? Will it keep you solvent in your old age? No, of course not. It's painting about approximately one and a half square inches of toenail, when all's said and done. And they'll be at least five and a half foot away from my eyes most of the time, and with my myopia that means they might as well be on the moon. And no one likes feet anyway - it would be like window-dressing a laundrette, or shaving Noel Edmonds. Better, yes. Attractive? Still no. And proportionate to my lame salary, the cost is huuuuge.

I was getting all Germaine by this time, fulminating against society, man, and how it makes me feel I should have groomed feet and it's all because patriarchy tells us women's bodies are disgusting and must be waxed, tweezed and exercised into submission. (I've never really got over reading The Beauty Myth a few years ago.) At this point, I had to have a cup of tea and a sit down.

Unfortunately, this gave me the chance to calculate just how much time goes into ensuring that I'm not a venomous hirsute harridan - and how much more time I'd have if I were a man, and my 'grooming' involved nothing more than a daily face-shave (optional), half an hour at the barbers every so often (optional, if you're an indy Razorlight type), and a few minutes of rubbing some sort of goo into my hair in the morning (also optional).

Obviously I'll exclude things like washing and teeth-brushing which are functional rather than cosmetic... OK, so - three hours at the hairdressers every month (half a day a year); twenty minutes washing, drying and straightening my hair every day, more if I want it not to look like a shrub (five whole days a year!). Make-up ten minutes (60 hours a year), depilatory maintenance half an hour a week, maybe more (26 hours a year). What have I forgotten? Well, if you chuck in nails and eyebrows, I reckon I spend more than one week a year trying not to frighten small children with my appearance. And I haven't even included clothes shopping...

Blimey. I want to make a deep and insightful feminist point about all this, but I'm in shock. A week! That's more than two per cent of my life! If I live until my fifties, I'll have spent a whole year of my life doing all that rubbish!

What could relax me? Ooh, how about a nice pedicure?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Stuck in the middle (class) with you

Earlier this week, Fel and I went to "Take A Break Tales", a comedy show based on stories from Take A Break magazine. It was indeed very funny, featuring such stories as a woman's incest with her teenage son, and a widow convinced her son was communicating with her dead husband through the medium (ha) of a horse. But suddenly, I was reminded of the closing words of the first series of Peep Show, which are along the lines of "When this is over, I'm going to feel empty inside."

You see, I spend a good proportion (scientists have estimated it at 9 per cent) of my life snickering at chavs such as these. Oh look - they've had 13 children and want a bigger council house! Ha ha, they're dressed in top to toe Lacoste! How I chuckle, and sip more blue mountain coffee, before leaning back and lighting a Sobranie with a twenty pound note.

The flip side of this, of course, is paralysing middle class guilt. At university, we used to have a cleaner who came in every morning and emptied the bins, cleaned the loo, etc. I could never get used to this. The standard procedure was to leave your bin outside the door if you didn't want to be disturbed, but I hated doing this. Instead, I used to lie in bed, dozing peacefully, until I heard the knock on the door, regular as clockwork, at ten to eight.

Then I'd leap out of bed, pull on my dressing gown and run for the chair, where I could rest my head on my hand and chew a pencil thoughtfully, while poring over some notes I'd spread out the night before for just this eventuality.

Then Ray would come in, empty the bin, give me the update on his prostate problems ("oh yes, blood in the old urine again") and retire, at which point I would go back to bed for three hours.

The reason for this ridiculous daily charade was that I had convinced myself that Ray would despise me as a Brideshead Revisited-style toff if I left my bin outside the door, or (worse) received him in bed like some kind of Eastern potentate. Of course, he never gave any indication this was the case, and probably wondered why I always looked so rough and was reading my notes upside-down.

Of course it was all in my head, all about me. And, if I'd avoided being snobby, I was certainly running the risk of being patronising. I'm not sure he appreciated my grunting attempts at conversation. I just couldn't escape the feeling of condescension, whatever I did. So I kept bolting out of bed at ten to eight.

But tell me, oh my middle class readers, do you not do the same when you go to, say, have your hair cut? The hairdresser has no interest in your life, your holidays - and you have no interest in theirs. Why then do you feel compelled to make conversation?

I've decided this must stop. My hairdresser probably hates hearing my dull anecdotes just as much as I hate telling them. Instead, I'm going to use the time far more productively - by catching up on my Grazia reading.

(In case you are wondering how I can read a magazine while having my nails done, well, I can't. But I use the nail bar at the end of my street. It is staffed entirely by Chinese women who speak no English. A coward's solution, but effective.)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A Bea in my bonnet.

Had my roots done this morning, dahling, before going shopping. (And had my eyebrows threaded, something which is going on my 'Most Painful Beauty Procedures' list, for definite). Tired out from all that, I had lunch with Emma, but after she left I hung round, drinking mineral water and eating sorbet and trying to look organic. So there I was, on my own, when one of the waitresses came over.

Oh look, I thought, she's got a labret piercing. Smile. So I did, and she came over. "Can I... er... can I ask you something?"
Aw, I thought, she's going to ask me about my ears. I mentally prepared the stock answer: "Yes, they are stretched... ooh, about a centimetre... no, they'd shrink back again - it's only if you go over half an inch you get the dog's arse effect."
She hadn't spoken by this point, and was hopping slightly from foot to foot. "Are you... are you -"
She looked pained, before continuing. "Are you Princess Fergie's daughter?"

This is just getting ridiculous.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

My week; in the style of Taki.

You may notice that I haven't been blogging this week. That would be because I have been piloting a revolutionary new technique I like to call "holidaying at home". It's the same as a normal holiday, only without the travelling, spending time with one's parents, crowds, foreigners, funny foreign food and enforced swimwear that blight the experience. I wish it had been without the heat of a foreign holiday, but as we all know Britain melted this week to a large puddle and all anyone did was stand around in fountains (girls) or take their shirts off in inappropriate places (boys).

So what did I do? Well, I conquered my fear of cricket by going to the Test match last Friday with NB. (He took it very well when I made us spend three hours in the oyster tent, watching the big screen instead of the actual cricket happening not two hundred yards away.) I had dinner with Matt at the Blue Elephant in Fulham on Monday (is Thai food not the best in the world?) and spent an obscene amount of money on buying him a shot of Johnny Walker blue (or should that be black?) whisky.

I immersed myself in leftiness on Tuesday, and felt a whisper of smug satisfaction wash over me. I spent Wednesday (the hottest day of the year, TM) on trains to and from Oxford, where I had lunch with Paul and once again talked too much about my love of the Game.

Thursday was the Pen Pusher party, where I got the chance to introduce Leon to some of my friends from university. Amazingly, he survived. Then on Friday, I scampered off to Guildford to see Bill and Sharon, and to go to a signing of the Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde. I am now trying to restrain myself from buying a "Sommeworld" or "Toast Marketing Board" t-shirt.

But, I hear you cry: what plans for the week ahead? Well, on Monday Fel and I are going to 'Take a Break tales', a comedy show based on coverlines from Take A Break magazine. How awesome does that sound?

Yeah, that was pretty much just a list of all the exciting things I did this week. Sorry. But humour me: I don't get to do this much; go out and pretend I am a cool young socialite, rather than a grey cardigan-wearing night worker.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Pleasure you, er, can measure

First off, shamelessly recycled from my inbox, is the news that Channel 4 are to broadcast a 'masturbate-a-thon' involving hundreds of people pleasuring themselves in Clerkenwell. I so much want to make a terrible pun - will they be able to pull it off, etc etc - but I think it more dignified to let this piece of seminal (shit!) and thoughtful television speak for itself.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The best put-down in the world....

My boss on his boss, last night.

"Oh, he just gets on my nerves so bloody much. The only thing I want to say to him before I die is: 'Two fries and a coke, please'."


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

No Texts Please... I've got a new phone

The new mobile is swanky (for me) Nokia N-70. Yeah, it can make videos, and, er, connect to the Internet, and stuff. Or at least it will do when I work out whether I need a new 3G sim card, and get round to buying a charger for it.

Anyway, the demise ofmy previous phone also brings with it the inevitable deletion of all my saved text messages (don't tell me I can just transfer them to my new phone using infrared, or bluetooth, or voodoo - can't you see I'm building up the tension?).

I'm a compulsive hoarder of many things, and so I usually have about 100 saved text messages. I've trawled through for twenty of the best, and presented them here to give you a charming aper├žu into my life. Ooh, this makes me like a real newspaper columnist - I'm shamelessly shoehorning other people's humour in under the pretext of making a valid social point.

(Prizes for guessing what any of them refer to. Clue: one is about newspaper spelling, another about mumps, one is a reference to TV show Scrubs, one is about my housemate's sinuses, and one is about Richard Littlejohn.)


  • "Yeah you get the cock exposure as a hors d'oeuvre to the main course."

  • "Story here with your name written all over it - Andy Roddick attacks manbags."

  • "God almighty was pissed last night. May have pulled blonde. Several times. Damn these women and their grammatical errors, will I ever find true love? May still be drunk."

  • "In hospital again disguising the face iv bin going out for a smoke every day since i got here i just crashed into the nurses station in my wheelchair and took out 3 nurses then burst out laughing."

  • "Excellent. Sex him."

  • "Right, then. Who do I talk to for a yummy taste of devil's cock?"

  • "Baby, if I could do it all over again I'd still do it the same. Why? Because I love the steak. Yes.xx"

  • "My career has peaked: I'm subbing a page three story about Prince Philip farting."

  • "Johann explains today how he hated PE at school, and used to get sent off so he could read in the changing rooms. 'Today I still can't pick up "crime and punishment" without smellings sweaty socks.' i kid you not."

  • "Syrup-coated lard? Treacle coated dripping? The possibilities are endless"

  • "Yes, and I'm sorry but that's really the nail in the coffin for the 'i don't use the toilet paper' argument." Hrumph! x"

  • "'The problem of unplanned pregnancies among the over-40s' - you've got to love Woman's Hour."

  • "In an hour or so the joint I had will have dried out. It's on my bedside table."

  • "They are so annoying! The twots."

  • "I enjoyed it in bed while scoffing cheap chocolate like a latter day Marie Ant. Am shocked to see Howard is now a bit of a fitty. I who spurned TT at 11 as 'sad'."

  • "I was right! My left testis! Noooooooooo!"

  • "Don't wash until I can get to you. He managed to write: 'I like that in a man' the other day."

  • "Oh, and you would like Prague. It has a museum of sex machines and one of torture weapons. Turns out they're not the same thing!"

  • "Just met Robbie Coltrane. The man's got bigger!"

  • "That's quite amusing! Good for you sir. Do you want to join me for a cigar? And then we could pick up some whores. Or something. Suits you!"

  • Sunday, July 09, 2006

    Back to work... A-G-A-I-N

    I started my holiday, really, in an Irish theme pub in Stansted airport. I had predictably arrived fourteen million hours too early for my early afternoon flight, and so decided to while away the time waiting for the 'Family of Death' (my brother and his wife, plus their two small and extremely boisterous children) in O'Neills. I had eschewed the other refreshment option, refusing to be associated with the juice bar on account of its name: lovejuice. Yuk.

    Eventually, the FoD arrived, trailing car seats and travel cots and all the other paraphenalia of child-rearing. Their two children, Dominic (3) and Oliver (ten months) seem to have developed a finely tuned system of alternating tantrums for maximum effect. At the check-in desk it was Dominic's turn, as his clamouring for a ham sandwich was roundly ignored.

    After that episode, it was with no little relief I left the FoD, who were sharing a house with my parents, at the airport to catch a lift with my sister and her fiance to our gite. Ah, tranquillity, I thought. How wonderful it'll be to wave goodbye to the kids if they get on my nerves, and come back to read in peace and quiet. Perhaps I'll take up doing watercolours.

    Watercolour plans, like pride, always come before a fall. The next morning I was woken up at nine in the morning by what sounded suspiciously like a hymn. That's annoying, I thought, and rolled over and back to sleep.

    Eleven AM came, and I drifted back to consciousness and the unwelcome realisation that I could still hear hymns. Jesus, I thought, I've been conscripted into some kind of cult. I went downstairs, where my sister was not, it's fair to say, in a good mood.

    "Can you hear that fucking racket?" she enquired.
    "It's been going on since NINE IN THE MORNING," she continued, her voice rising dangerously and nostrils flaring. "Right underneath our room. There was even.... a loudspeaker!"

    I looked outside. There were... oh god... there were quite literally hordes of children playing outside. In matching tee shirts. Now, I've been involved in some pretty hairy school trips, but at least I was never made to wear a uniform tee shirt. That bespeaks a dangerous level of determination.

    I hailed the nearest adult with more irritation than regard for the French language. "Pourquoi le bruit, monsieur? Nous sommes en vacances, et j'espere d'avoir le paix!" He looked unmoved, and addressed me in English, framing the worst three words the holidaymaker can hear. "I am sorry, but we are a Belgian children's choir."
    Not seeing my rictus of horror, he added nonchantly,"We come here every year."

    Presently my father (who it's only fair to say is not noted for his tact and diplomacy) arrived and heard our tale of woe. He went off to 'bandy words' with the group leaders, but returned only with the information that the children were giving a concert on Friday, to which we were cordially invited.
    "The only way I'm going to that concert is with a shotgun," I muttered bitterly, pondering the sentence I'd receive for multiple Belgicide.

    Needless to say, my creaking French was enlisted to lodge a complaint with the proprietor. Funnily enough, modern language A-level doesn't teach you the vocabulary needed for a really good rant about the unacceptability of being forced to stay in a confined space with forty singing Belgians. "Ils chantent toute la journee!" I repeated pleadingly, but there was rien a faire. "Oh well," said my sister resignedly, "at least you'll have something for your blog." I perked up immensely: my family had been actually unusually normally and I had feared the whole holiday was going to be a bit of a blog washout.

    So, we put up with the Belgians by the simple expedient of not spending any time at the gite. Although my sister did lose it a bit when we returned from dinner on Thursday night, full of foie gras and a cheeky local red, to find les Belges indulging in some delightful cabaret right underneath the gite. I could just about hack the Pussycat Dolls singalong, but then I heard a brass instrument of some kind start up a recognisable tune. Then I realised: I was listening to a Belgian 11-year-old murder 'The Winner Takes It All' on the trombone. "You suck!" I yelled half-heartedly as the unfortunate child finished. My sister, somewhat the worse for wear, added simply yet deafeningly: "SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!"

    You couldn't make it up. (And frankly, why would you want to?)

    PS. For anyone wondering how the swimming costume went down, the answer it that it was completely overshadowed by some Speedos. Yes, French pools still have a rule which insists that gentleman not wear shorts in the pool, only, er, posing pouches. This went down like un sac de merde with my sister's fiance.