A new chapter

The sun is out. I repeat, THE SUN IS OUT.

I just sat outside for an hour. I’ve used the washing line for the first time in months. This morning, I put sunscreen on my shoulders. Trivial, boring things that I never realised meant so much to me.

It’s been six months since I’ve seen the sun in London. Turns out, I missed it.

And with the sun shining, everything here seems a bit more magical. Flowers are blooming. Kids are playing on the grass outside the little brown brick house. The ice cream truck just did a lap of the street. And as I soak in as much Vitamin D as I can, I can’t help but think that I’m about to embark on a new chapter of this chick lit adventure.

The new job starts on Tuesday. I am beyond excited.

And I don’t know if it’s the sun, on the prospect of meeting new people, or just the simple fact that I’ll be earning money again, but I suddenly feel like anything’s possible. That I can make this story whatever I want it be.

On Saturday morning, I was struck by an urge to be spontaneous, adventurous. Two hours later I was on a train to Stratford-upon-Avon to celebrate William Shakespeare’s 449th birthday.

It was brilliant.

I took hundreds of photos of beautiful Tudor buildings. I got strangely emotional about marching bands and Morris dancers. I ate scones in the sunshine. I got a bit tipsy and watched the best Shakespeare I’ve ever seen on the banks of the Avon.

And, at the conclusion of ‘As You Like It’, when Rosalind, Orlando and company celebrated the changing of the season, I did too.

I’ve survived my first London winter.

It wasn’t easy. I’ve experienced cold I’d never imagined. I’ve set a world record for the number of pairs of socks worn by one person at any time. I’ve successfully navigated icy pavements without falling on my bum. And I’ve learned that hot chocolate with a sneaky shot of Bailey’s in it can be the secret to surviving any sort of outdoor event.

The winter is finally over. And from here on, things for this chick are going to be pretty different.

Bring on Part Two!

Rolling with the oldies, Stratford-style.

Rolling with the oldies, Stratford-style.

Chick Tick Three: Pulling focus

The year was 2011. My mental state was fragile. I was fresh in the throes of a break up, and while I’d never been skinnier, I was also prone to unexpected crying, incessant oversharing and occasional sleepwalking. It was rough.

There was a ball coming up. A ball I went to every year. And, in a decision which I’m sure was made just to TORTURE ME, The Ex decided he would go, too.

So.

I needed a dress. A dress that made me look HOT. That showed The Ex just what he was missing out on. A dress that took advantage of my food and sleep-deprived body. An, “eat that, bastard!” kinda dress.

In other words, probably NOT a dress I bought while drunk shopping.

I’ve told you a bit about drunk shopping before. Basically, you go out for breakfast with your best girlfriend, and have a couple of sneaky champagnes. THEN you go to your favourite store, and try on all the pretty dresses. You dance around a bit in said dresses. You might even pretend to be a fairy. And if you’re just tipsy enough, you put on a black, sparkly frock, decide you look amazing, slap down $300 on the counter, and stumble out of the store, boasting about your fashion genius, and sudden desire for hot chips.

Needless to say, I awoke the next morning in a cold sweat. Sober, and terrified. The shopping bag sat in the corner of my room, seeming to shine like a beacon. WHAT THE HELL had I bought?

I gingerly pulled the dress out.

And it was beautiful.

Well, thank God for that. “Good work, drunk Claire,” I thought to myself as I felt the tulle skirt, and admired the splash of silver and gold sequins. It was undoubtedly fun, but classy and a bit sexy at the same time. It showed off my legs and my collarbone, and my new, super skinny waist. It was truly gorgeous. I was beyond relieved. And a little bit excited. This dress was the one!

The next day I picked up a magazine. And saw this.

Bindi Irwin

Yep. Bindi Irwin. The daughter of the Crocodile Hunter. The then, 13 YEAR-OLD daughter of the late Steve Irwin. A girl named after a prickle. IN MY DRESS.

Now, if a celebrity has the same dress as you, you ideally want it to be someone classy, elegant, awesome. Someone you aspire to. Cate Blanchett perhaps. Gwyneth. Megan Gale. NOT A 13-YEAR-OLD ZOOKEEPER WHO HAS HER OWN KHAKI LINE.

I’m not going to lie. Come the night of the ball, “Claire vs Bindi, who wore it better” became a trending topic on Twitter.

So there I was.  Being compared to a C-grade celebrity teenager. Avoiding The Ex from the other side of the ballroom. Bemoaning the shortage of champagne (SERIOUSLY, IT HAPPENS EVERY YEAR). Feeling generally miserable.

When I heard my name being called from the stage.

Looking back, I think the Universe was feeling sorry for me.

I’d won the raffle. And first prize was a camera. An awesome, expensive camera with a twisty lens, lots of buttons and serious hipster credential.

And you know what? If you’re having a super crappy night in an unfortunate dress, carrying a giant, free camera home does make you feel somewhat better.

WHICH IS A HELL OF A LOT OF BACKSTORY.

Here’s the point to all of this: I’ve ticked another task off The Chick List. This week, I learned to use that very camera.

I went on a photography course in East London. I learned words like ‘aperture’ and ‘depth of field’. I took photos of bread and boats.

And books.

London books

Most importantly, I learned something I have long suspected: I do not possess an artistic bone in my body.

But I can tell a hell of a story, right?

Work it.

The daffodils are blooming. There are buds of green on the trees. And while everyone in London is STILL bundled up like an Eskimo, you can tell a change is just around the corner. Spring might not have sprung just yet, but it’s tantalisingly close.

And with the change of season, there’s a sense of anticipation in the air. Of barbecues, fairy lights, picnics and sandals. Of sunlight, flower baskets, outdoor movies and street drinking. Of wearing just one pair of socks. Of saving some money on the gas bill. Of NOT WEARING THE SAME FRIGGIN’ COAT EVERY DAY.

Spring. It’s going to be great.

But for my London spring to reach its true potential, this chick needs some cash. Yep, that old job thing. Seriously, in the last couple of weeks I’ve started to worry that I may not be the heroine in a chick lit novel after all, but instead a sobering case study in an academic article on the UK’s difficult job market.

Which is why I decided to drop the last remnants of my ego, and start applying for EVERYTHING. Cleaning? Yes! Handing out fliers? Sure! So what if I once interviewed political leaders, artists and authors – that was the old Claire! This is an adventure. I can do anything! This is my chick lit life!

Which is how I found myself being interviewed for a restaurant job.

First thing – I have NEVER worked in a restaurant. I am a 29-year-old with no hospitality experience. Not really someone a restaurant would want to hire, right? If I had any chance of getting this job, I would need to rely on my smiley face and sparkly personality to get me through. Of course, according to the laws of the chick lit universe, come the day of the interview, the world was against me. Not only was I deathly ill, but I’d also, through some miraculous feat of uncoordination, managed to stab myself in the face with my own fingernails. So I walked in with no voice, no energy and concealer smeared all over my bloody face. Perfect start.

Second thing – Upon arrival, I wasn’t really sure how I felt about the job. Until they gave me a free hot dog. From that moment on, I WANTED IT. Also, maybe, another hot dog.

Third thing – Despite having a somewhat impressive career behind me, I’m not really very experienced when it comes to job interviews. In fact, this would be the second-ever official job interview of my life.

SO. Hipster Waiter calls me in. And hits me straight off with the classic.

“What is your worst characteristic?”

“Ummmm,” I mumble… while my head runs through the options.

I’m pretty bad at navigation. Should I tell them that? No, they’ll probably think I won’t be able to find my way to work. OK… worst characteristic, worst characteristic. I’m bad at times tables? No, not that. Shit, what else? Oh God, think of something! SAY SOMETHING.

“Well, I don’t want to sound like a wanker but,”

Shit, did I just say wanker?

“I’m a total perfectionist.”

Oh Claire. Wankiest answer ever. I HATE ME. Now Hipster Waiter knows you’re a wanker, AND you’re a little OCD. Cover with a laugh maybe? Yeah, good one. Laugh again!

“Oh, and I have an opinion on everything.”

Oh God, why did you give him ANOTHER answer? Idiot. Hipster Waiter doesn’t need a list of everything that’s wrong with you. Are you going to tell him about your fear of animals next?

Hipster Waiter smiles cautiously, and hits me with the next one.

“How would your friends describe you?”

Oh man. These are textbook questions. WHY DIDN’T I PRACTISE THESE? How would my friends describe me? Would they say, ‘crazy bitch’? NO CLAIRE, don’t say that.

“Well, they’d say I’m a good person.”

Yeah! Good one! Now don’t say anything else.

“They’d say I talk A LOT. ”

Stop talking, Claire.

“And they’d say I’m always bothering them. I always just want to DO STUFF, you know?”

No, he doesn’t know Claire. Nor does he want to. Shut up.

“They’d say I’m very energetic.”

Yeah, HE CAN SEE THAT. Slow down!

“Oh, and they’d say I’m a clean freak. I just can’t stop cleaning things!”

Yep. You just described yourself as a freak. Laugh again. Good. Maybe laugh some more? No, too crazy. OK. Calm down. Take a sip of your water. Good. Cool. Take another sip. Smile at Hipster Waiter. Cool. Wait? Are you FLIRTING WITH HIM? STOP IT.

After another ten minutes of wild ranting, talking WAY too much about how good the hot dog was, some more shameful flirting, and yes, I’ll admit it – a little bit of singing, I left in a haze of adrenalin and confusion. The sickness fog had cleared. So, sadly, had some of the concealer.

But you know what?

I GOT THE JOB.

Chick clicks

One of my favourite things about this blog is finding out what people ask Google in order to end up here. For those of you who are actually looking for my blog, THANK YOU. I really, really appreciate it.

For the rest of you, I am sorry that my website does not help you IN ANY WAY.

But you know what? I’m going to try to help you, too. Below are my answers to some of the most Googled questions that (wrongly) lead people to My Chick Lit Life.

How do I dress up a brown brick house?

I am so surprised by how many people type this one, and end up clicking here. Do the previews of my rants about shoes and booze REALLY make you believe I’m going to be a renovation expert? Anyway, here’s my tip:

Paint it pink!

The walls, the doors, the windows, everything. Pink is the best! It makes you happy and crave sugar all at the same time. Imagine, the whole of London, pink-ified. It would look like Barbie-land!

A cat bit my chick

Oh my God. Chick, like your girlfriend? Or chick, like you have baby chickens in your house? Either way, I AM CONCERNED.

We’ve already discussed the danger of cat rabies in much detail on this site. It’s a real thing, apparently! So get that thing CHECKED OUT. NOW.

Cake with pink slippers and lipstick

You are a genius. MAKE THAT CAKE.

Australian girls and the consumption of champagne

Please, PLEASE do not use me as an example. I would hate for my obscene love of bubbles to reflect poorly on my home nation. My relationship with champagne is so skewed, I ACTUALLY believe a glass of prosecco can cure an oncoming cold. And I actively rage against the concept of a Bucks Fizz. Why dilute the champagne happiness with orange juice? I don’t care if it’s 10am, that is WASTEFUL.

Fear of moustaches

We should all fear moustaches. They are hairy and scary. Thank you for Googling this. I now know I am not alone.

Why is Ireland so obsessed with potatoes?

Because potatoes are the BEST. Duh.

My Doc Martens are making my pants bunch

Oh, that sounds unfortunate. Did you know, in England, ‘pants’ means knickers? It’s been a problem for me, as someone averse to wearing pants. And by pants, I mean trousers, slacks, jeans etc. I find them restrictive, uncomfortable, and not nearly as pretty as dresses. But when I tell someone here I don’t like wearing pants, they get all gross and leery. Where are YOU from? ‘Cos if your shoes are somehow making your knickers bunch, you have a real problem.

Pink shoes with butterflies on them

Don’t buy them. They sound terrible.

Spice Girls themed dinner menu

May I PLEASE come to dinner?

Who is the girl in the pink pants story so far

I really have no idea what you’re talking about. And why not dabble in question marks? Punctuation is FUN!

How do I get my chick to experiment with other girls?

Despite your appropriate use of question marks, YOU ARE A TERRIBLE PERSON. If my blog could punch you, it would.

A whole street that is naked

You are similarly terrible.

Single bed sex

Seriously?! This comes up EVERY DAY. There are thousands of people typing this into Google, and ending up here. It’s the biggest driver of traffic to my blog.

Guys. I am going to tell you once and once only, if you think there are special rules for sex in a single bed, YOU ARE DOING SOMETHING WRONG. IT IS STILL A BED. THERE’S JUST A LITTLE BIT LESS SPACE. If you were looking for instructions for shower sex, or I dunno, SEX IN OUTER SPACE, I understand the need for a little bit of Google help. But sex in a bed a little smaller than a normal bed? COME ON.

Googling My Chick Lit Life

This post is just going to drive more crazies to the site, isn’t it?