It’s raining. Men.

The weather has turned. And my sunny Australian optimism is slowly turning a little grey, too.

I’d been warned about the London winter. Former Londoners had gleefully described it as ‘hell on earth’, ‘soul destroying’ and ‘the single most awful thing you will ever experience’. I laughed. I had my heart broken last year, remember? A little cold weather is hardly likely to get me down!

But you know what? Those smug ex-Londoners were right. IT’S BLOODY COLD. The sky is actually grey. There’s so much water in the air, my hair tuns to frizz the second I walk out the door. The other day it was so face-freezingly cold, I wore two coats, and a scarf wrapped around my nose. It never, never stops raining. And you know what the worst thing is? It’s October. IT’S NOT EVEN WINTER YET.

It’s a source of constant amusement to my cocky, acclimatised housemates. They sit in t-shirts and shorts, laughing at me as I wrap myself from head to toe in a cocoon of blankets just to watch the telly. Forget the Heathrow Injection (that layer of fat all Aussies get when they move to curry-loving London), I’m looking bulky enough thanks to the three or four jumpers I’m wearing at any given time!

Which is surely not going to be a great look when it comes to meeting my Mr Right. Unless he has a thing for thermal-wear?

So far, I still haven’t found him. But I have encountered a WHOLE HOST of Mr Wrongs. I don’t know if it’s an English thing, but I have met some hilariously rude and inappropriate men since I landed in this wonderful city. Some highlights:

Mr Racist: A very proper British chap who I met at a volunteering gig. He was the epitome of politeness, until he gave me the hot tip, “If you ever date a black person, don’t worry about being on time. They never turn up to anything when they’re supposed to.” Charming.

Mr Aggressive: A man I sat next to at a dinner, who didn’t talk to me ALL night. Until very late, when he turned around and barked, “Are you single?” When I said yes, he told me it was probably because I was a terrible girlfriend. He then told me, “well, I would give you my number, but my phone is broken”. What. A. Shame.

Mr Literal: A guy who wore a t-shirt with ‘C*NT’ stamped across it. A bit too honest with the advertising, perhaps?

Mr Snob: A young, rich, unemployed toff. When I told him I was keeping myself really busy with lots of social events, he confidently replied, “Well, they will definitely dry up”. Cheers.

Mr Druggie: A man who, when listing his attributes, included, “do you like coke? Because my brother is the biggest coke dealer in Essex”. No. No, I don’t.

Mr Offensive: A man, who over the course of one evening, told me my accent was “terrible”, that he had two girlfriends, and I that I looked about 36. I am appalled and embarrassed to say this guy’s charms kind of worked on me. I blame Bridget Jones. And tequila.

Or maybe it’s just the cold? Could the freezing temperatures be messing with my head, as well as my hair? Yes. I’ll blame that.

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The Chick List

One of the best things about writing this blog is the fact that I can read as much chick lit as I like.

Once upon a time, chick lit was my guilty pleasure. When book shopping, I’d always force myself to buy a ‘serious’ book. It was usually award-winning, and usually excellent, but guys, reading it was HARD WORK. The prose was always beautiful, but vague and convoluted. The characters were usually terrible people. The ending never satisfied. I was culturally enriched, but secretly more excited about the OTHER book I’d bought myself – the one with the beautiful pastel cover, featuring a picture of a shoe, or a handbag, or a dress. My reward read. Where the main character is flawed but lovely, the dialogue is current and witty, and while they’ll face some obstacles along the way, the main characters will always get a happy ending.

Now though, chick lit counts as research. If it’s not pink, I won’t even buy it. On the tube, I proudly hold my chick lit novels up for all to see (even though they have the most ATROCIOUS names – ‘Where Rainbows End‘? ‘The Brightest Star in the Sky‘? Come on, Marian Keyes!). If anyone asks, I can tell them I’m working!

And now, all the reading’s paid off. I’ve found some book-to-life-life inspiration!

Even from the title, I knew this book would be a good one – Lindsey Kelk’s ‘The Single Girl’s To-Do List‘. It’s a great read. Charming characters, gorgeous, muscly men, a painfully realistic break-up, and a journey of self-discovery. As the title suggests, the main character, Rachel, and her friends put together a ‘to-do’ list to help guide her through her newly single life. Scrawled on a napkin, Rachel’s list includes:

  • Get a makeover
  • Start an exercise regime
  • Bungee jump (or similar)
  • Find a date for Dad’s wedding
  • Get a tattoo
  • Write a letter to the ex
  • Buy something expensive and selfish
  • Travel somewhere new
  • Contact your first crush
  • Break the law

Frankly, I think a couple of these ideas are terrible. A tattoo? No way. Write a letter to your ex? Just move on! But the book did make me wonder if it might be that simple. Write a list of things to do, check them off, and find true love.

Strangely enough, before I left home, I did start a list of my own. I hadn’t looked at it in months, but inspired by the novel, I took a look at the quick list jotted down on my iPhone under, ‘London life list’. Here’s what it said:

  • Dye my hair red
  • Buy Doc Martens
  • Wear scarves
  • Learn to use my camera

Yes, it appears that three months ago, I had a secret longing to turn myself into some sort of moody, gothic artist. Where did that come from? I’m not even sure I like Doc Martens!

But you know what? I’m inspired. I’m putting the lists together. And I’m going to see them through. Here’s my very own Single Girl’s To-Do List. My Chick List.

  • Dye my hair red
  • Try a new (and preferably strange) type of exercise. Tai Chi, capoeira, handball, something like that
  • Take a photography course (and put some pictures on the blog)
  • Buy some Doc Martens. And wear them
  • Go speed dating
  • Buy something expensive and selfish
  • Take a trip on my own
  • Make pastry
  • Try tuna
  • Break the law

Some of these make me nervous. The thought of eating smelly fish is downright terrifying. Will the list make me a better person? Will it help me find true love? Or am I just setting myself up for a terrible new look?

…I’m calling the hairdresser right now.

Seeing double

As you get older, it’s a fact that more and more people around you get coupled up. Scrolling through Facebook, you find that one of your few remaining single pals is now ‘in a relationship’. Your ‘in a relationship’ friends have suddenly changed their status to ‘engaged’. Just today, I saw a that a boy I went to primary school with, who I once asked to marry me (he said no, because he wanted to marry his cousin. The rejection!) is HAVING A BABY. Not with his cousin mind you, but shocking all the same. I knew him when he was five years old, and now he’s having a child!

It’s a good thing. I am really happy that everyone is finding happiness, blah blah blah. But sometimes, all this ‘coupleness’ can make you feel very, very single.

When I moved to London, part of my decision was to get away from Couple Land. Don’t get me wrong – I really, really love my married friends. But I know I’m not going to meet MY Mr Right, playing Scrabble and drinking wine with my grown-up buddies as they stay in on a Friday night. I thought London might be an escape from that – a chance to meet up with a different crowd, hang out with some fun single people, flirt, hook up, and all that jazz.

But as I put together my guest list for my birthday celebrations on Saturday night, I realised the location may have changed, but the situation is much the same. Just about EVERYONE I know here is in a serious relationship. Of a group of ten people invited to drink margaritas with me for my birthday, just two other guests were single.

Depressing, but I’m not alone, right? There were two others sharing my plight! Three out of ten – that’s almost a third! Safe in that statistical justification I put on my prettiest dress, threw on some hot pink lipstick and prepared to have a wonderful night, reveling in my single (and totally normal) fabulousness.

Yep, those other two singles? They totally hooked up.

Almost 30

Tomorrow I turn 29.

Firstly, I have no idea how this happened. I swear to you, it was just yesterday I was drinking champagne at my 21st, celebrating my youth and fabulousness, with my whole exciting life ahead of me. Now, suddenly and seemingly without any warning, I’m staring straight down the barrel of my thirties. MY THIRTIES. Guys, I remember my Mum’s 30th. Mums are 30. Not me.

And let’s face it, my life on paper at 29 isn’t looking that great. If you’d asked 21 year old Claire what she thought her life would be like as she neared 30, she probably wouldn’t have gone for single. Or unemployed. Or prone to blogging on a Monday afternoon in her pyjama pants.

But this is how it is. It’s not perfect, it’s not the dream scenario. But you know what? Things really are OK. So in honour of my 29th birthday, here’s a list of five things I’m really happy about after almost 30 years on the planet.

1. I’m looking good.

No, not just good – the best I’ve ever looked. Sure, I’ve found a couple of sneaky grey hairs, and all the London cake-eating is making my pants a little tight. But after 29 years, I’ve finally found my style. I know what clothes look good on me – I’m not trying to be anyone else. I am more confident in my skin than I’ve ever been before. And you know what? People notice that. I’ve got more compliments about my looks in the last year than I’ve ever had before. And it’s nice.

2. I can cook.

I really, really enjoy cooking. And after almost three decades in the kitchen, I’m getting pretty good at it. I love feeding other people food that I have made. Or myself a whole batch of brownies just because I feel like it. When I’m in the kitchen, I’m really happy.

3. I’m getting better at navigation.

I’ve always been hopeless at finding my way around. On one tragic day, when I was in my early twenties, I couldn’t find my way home from the shops after buying some ingredients for lunch. The combination of extreme hunger and total and utter displacement resulted in some truly pathetic public crying. But these days I’m getting better. Sure, the GPS is helping. But I finally have faith in the fact that I really might know where I’m going.

4. I am unapologetic about my love of musical theatre.

It used to be a guilty secret. When someone asked me who my favourite singer was, I’d defect and ask them who they liked. “Madonna? Oh yeah, me too.” But now, I am past the age of apologising for my camp and questionable taste. If someone wants to get to know me, they will also have to get to know obscure facts about little-known Broadway shows. I am a musical theatre nerd. And I am proud.

5. I am braver than I’ve ever been before.

In the last five years, the number of new foods I’ve tried has gone through the roof. I now eat prawns. And mushrooms. And falafel. Just this week I ate a mussel. And I didn’t die. Two months ago I resigned from my awesome, stable, secure job because I knew I needed a change. And ever braver than that, I got on a plane to a city where I’d never lived before, thousands of kilometres away from the family and friends that I love, and the safe and secure life that I knew. For me, that was pretty bloody brave.

Yes, I’m unemployed. Yes, I’m single. Yes, I’m almost 30.

But I think I’m going to be OK.

This should come with a health warning

I awoke from the kind of deep sleep that only seven margaritas can ensure. Head pounding and mouth dry, I forced one eye open as I reached out desperately for a glass of water. Suddenly, I jumped. Was that a spider on the pillow beside me? No, just the set of false eyelashes I had carefully glued on just twelve hours earlier, but evidently decided were too hard to remove when I staggered in to bed at 4am. As the memories of the night before came flooding back (did I really slow dance with a guy who looked like first-year Ron Weasley? Did I really just laugh and dance on when someone vomited on my foot?) and the hangover well and truly kicked in, I was struck by a worrying thought – this chick lit experiment might not be so good for my health.

To be honest. it’s a thought that’s been growing for a while. When faced with any decision, I find myself asking, ‘What would Bridget Jones do?’. Should I have that extra drink? Of course. Should I eat that entire cake? Absolutely! Should I flirt with that rude, arrogant man? For sure! It’s the only way to get Mr Darcy in the end!

The problem is, I can justify just about anything if I think it’ll make good material for the blog. Which is why my weekend was lost to several bottles of wine, a generous helping of tequila, a bag of lollies and the drunken abuse of a taxi driver who let another girl into his cab, AFTER I HAILED IT.

Bridget made it seem glamorous. But can this much eating, drinking and flirting really end in anything but obesity, alcoholism and cold sores?

Only one way to find out…