A year in sensible shoes

I can’t believe it. I’ve been in London A WHOLE YEAR.

Well, aside from the month back home. And all the little travel adventures. But much like an anniversary in a relationship, you pick a date AND STICK WITH IT. And for me, it was a year ago this week that I stepped off that plane at Heathrow, my body clock in limbo and my emotions high. I had no job, no clue, and a very inappropriate selection of shoes. In fact, at that point, the only thing I was sure of was that I needed a taxi, STAT – the Spice Girls were due on stage at the Olympic Closing Ceremony – and I NEEDED to be in front of a telly.

And for a girl whose entire life-plan at that point was based around watching five girls look slightly awkward on double-decker buses, the year that’s passed doesn’t seem that surprising.

It’s taken me A YEAR just to be gainfully employed. I live in a laughably tiny cupboard-above-the-stairs. I walk an obscene distance to the tube every day. London has given me a weird rash. I spend a lot of my working day covered in mayonnaise (which you THINK might help the rash, but no). And I STILL haven’t met Mr Right.

In the books, they all live in fab apartments in Notting Hill and Stoke Newington. They have glam jobs in fashion and marketing (which, for the record, DO NOT PAY ENOUGH FOR SAID APARTMENTS). They stumble across the good-looking, aloof Darcy-type in a supermarket, or at a trendy party, or (SHOCKER!) he was there for her the whole time. They all have enviable hair. And no contact with mayonnaise of any kind.

Yep. So far, life is not quite the chick lit dream I envisioned.

BUT.

Stuff is happening.

Just this week, I got another new job. Yes! Finally, I have that job fannying about with press releases I always dreamed of. Just like those chick lit girls!

(Don’t worry, I’m keeping the hot dog job too. I would never want to deprive you of hot dog stories, and all my condiment-related gags. Prepare for more SAUCY material!)

My social diary is looking impressive. Yes, I know that in the books, when our heroine arrives in a new town, she is quickly adopted by a host of zany characters. But in real life, where people are busy, and have no money, and have to spend half an hour on the tube to get anywhere, making real, new friends takes AGES. Lame, but true.

I’ve been shopping. After a year of scrimping and saving (oh, OK – spending my money on wine), I decided, finally to treat myself. I bought The Prettiest Dress In The World. And as pathetic and stereotypically female as it may be, buying a new dress really DOES make life better. I’ve been sleeping with the shopping bag beside my bed for a fortnight.

And while a job, some friends, and a dress doesn’t seem like a whole lot of achievements for a year (in the book she would have done this by page four) – in real life, in a brand new city, it’s something to be bloody proud of. Life moves a little slower in the third dimension.

To summarise my year, á la Bridget Jones:

Weight gained considerable (mainly cake and wine), weight lost considerable (walking an obscene distance to the tube), countries visited 6 (v.g), trips to the gym 0 (but surely the walking counts?), blog entries 39 (not bad),dresses bought 1 (v.g), hangovers 15+ (ugh), haircuts 3 (too poor), jobs 3, boyfriends 0, breakdowns 2, shoes bought 3 pairs (but all very practical).

Not the dream shoes, but the ones that've got me through.

Not the dream shoes, but the ones that’ve got me through.

Advertisements

Seesaw summer

You guys. It’s been a ROLLER COASTER.

In the last few weeks:

I worked so many consecutive double shifts at the restaurant that I set a new world record. There were celebrations, and free cake.

I replaced ‘regular’ exercise with ‘secret pelvic floor workouts while standing in a restaurant for a record-breaking amount of time’ exercise.

…In unrelated news, I seem to have gotten fatter.

I decided it was all too much and I should move back to Perth.

I decided I was being ridiculous and decided to stay in London forever.

I applied for a job in Perth, decided I was definitely going to get it, and starting packing.

I missed out on the job, cried a lot, and decided to stay in London forever.

My family came to visit and I lived a London summer dream – Boris biking on the Thames, afternoon tea on a rooftop, a Harrods picnic in Hampstead Heath and endless Pimms in the sunshine. I fell in love with London.

…In unrelated news, I seem to have gotten fatter.

I went to Spain and lived a Spanish summer dream – jamon in a cone, swimming in the Mediterranean, paella, jamon on a plate, sangria, Gaudi genius and jamon in a roll. I fell in love with Spain.

…In unrelated news, I seem to have gotten fatter.

My family left and I descended into a tragic, fat, PMS-enhanced depression. I consoled myself by eating all my Aussie chocolate. And all the Shapes.

…In unrelated news, I seem to have gotten fatter.

I asked myself the tough questions. Why am I in London? Do I WANT to be here? Is the pollution, the public transport, the pitiful wage and the long hours worth it? Do I need to be this painfully long distance away from my family and friends?

And I decided. For now, I do.

So. I got myself together. I did some exercise. I applied for some new jobs. I organised some new adventures. I sat in the sunshine. I wrote to you guys.

London, you confusing, terrifying, wonderful city, I’m still here.

Let the chick lit life continue.

Girl talk

Another week goes by, and Facebook informs me that ANOTHER friend is engaged. ANOTHER friend is pregnant.

Me? I’m still single. I’m still working on the job thing. I DID eat some pretty life-changing gelato last week… but still, it feels like I might be falling behind.

Fortunately, one of my new London friends has diagnosed my problem:

Apparently, I’m too girly.

Now, for those who don’t know me, here’s a brief rundown: I wear a dress every day. I wear pink shoes every day. My tights are covered in love hearts. I sleep under a floral doona. And the following items in my life are pink: my toothbrush, my hairbrush, my mobile phone, my iPad, my hair straightener, my drinking cup, my cutlery and my handbag.

Now I don’t want to brag, but having a signature colour is actually a GENIUS idea. People just buy you things all the time! In my life, I have been gifted countless pink things just because someone saw them and thought of me: bottles of pink nail polish, cute pink bags, pink measuring cups, a pink computer keyboard, a pink bin… my ex-boyfriend even gave me a pink car cleaning kit!

I know. I really should have dumped him.

ANYWAY, I’m a girly girl. And there shouldn’t be a problem with that, right? Doesn’t every man want a woman who will bake him a cake, while wearing a full circle skirt and pretty pink shoes? A woman who will keep the house full of pink flowers and her glass full of pink champagne? A woman who dresses, well, like a woman?

So the last time I went out with this new London friend, I dressed as I normally do. Vintage floral dress, patterned tights, pink lipstick, bag and sparkly pink shoes.

Thing is, Londoners aren’t so into dressing up.

For London girls out on a Friday night, it’s Casual City. They wear jeans. And flat shoes. And minimal makeup. They’re effortlessly cool.

In comparison, I look like some sort of Drag Queen Butterfly.

Or, according to my new friend, whispered in scandalous tones:

“You’re confusing the men. You look like you’re trying way too hard to prove you’re a girl. They all think you’re a LESBIAN.”

Ah. You win some, you lose some. Any ladies out there looking for a woman who can bake?

Really happy. New year.

I haven’t written in 13 days. And I don’t have a great story to make up for it.

I DIDN’T drink so much champagne at New Year, I had to be hospitalised, and have now emerged from rehab, sober, skinny and preachy.

I DIDN’T kiss a mystery man at midnight, fall in love, and run away to Greece for a two-week fling.

I didn’t even resolve to stop writing such self-indulgent rubbish, and spend a fortnight writing a worthy, world-changing novel.

Nope.

I’ve had my family in town.

It’s been really, really great. I am beyond happy to see them again. I am eating three square meals a day. I’ve done the Harry Potter studio tour, taken mini-breaks to Suffolk and Nottingham, and tried just about every cupcake in London. It’s awesome.

But it’s not very blog-worthy.

I am not getting drunk. I am not flirting with boys. I am not making questionable life choices. I am not sitting on the tube, wondering what the point of it all is. Or just watching people lick each other’s faces.

I’m just really happy. And it’s great.

Chick Tick Two: Rolling with the oldies

Remember when I dyed my hair red? Turns out I should have dyed it grey.

Because I’m starting to think I might actually be an old lady.

I’m slowly working my way through my Chick List. For those who need a recap, my list of challenges included:

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

Well, my hair is definitely red. And this week, instead of starting an exercise regime (because, frankly, that doesn’t sound that fun) I skipped ahead to number seven. I went on a holiday. ON MY OWN.

And where did I go on this brave, exciting trip? Somewhere exotic? Somewhere warm? Somewhere packed with young, hot, eligible bachelors?

No. I went to Bath.

Bath is a beautiful, clean, English city. It has rolling green fields and beautiful architecture. It’s freezing cold. And IT’S FULL OF OLD PEOPLE.

And I fit right in.

The oldies and I had a fabulous time rejuvenating in the thermal waters of the Bath Spa. We all rushed the Jane Austen Centre, for a lecture on the town’s most famous resident. We discussed the merits of afternoon tea, as we indulged in Bath’s renowned Sally Lunn bun (I went for lemon butter topping, while the old gent next to me chose scrambled egg). And we all made sure we were tucked up in our hotel beds by 7pm, after a sneaky Bailey’s in the lobby.

I swear, I didn’t see anyone under the age of 50 the entire time I was there.

And you know what? I bloody loved it.

The famous Sally Lunn bun: afternoon tea choice of oldies (and awesome 29-year-olds) everywhere.

The famous Sally Lunn bun: afternoon tea choice of oldies (and awesome 29-year-olds) everywhere.

It’s not the first time this has happened. A few weeks ago I decided to take myself out for the day. And like most normal, cool 20-somethings, I chose to see the West End musical ‘Top Hat’. It’s a staged version of the old Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movie, and features a lot of tuxedos, tap dancing, and Irving Berlin standards. It was me and a bunch of pensioners in the audience. And we ALL smiled, sighed and sang along as each new classic began. I mean, who DOESN’T love ‘Cheek to Cheek’? It’s a wonderful song!

So, what’s going on? Am I an old lady in a 29-year-old’s body? Am I two steps away from playing Mahjong and wearing socks with sandals? And am I ever going to find a pastime that puts me in the path of age-appropriate, single men?

Oops, got to go. It’s time for bingo!

Here comes the bridesmaid

I’ve received two proposals since I arrived in London.

My first happened on a perfect summer’s day in Stoke Newington. The sun was shining. I had a bag full of new books and a belly full of cake. I was truly, deliriously happy. Unfortunately, the proposal came from a complete stranger.

“Can you spare some change?”, he asked, from his blanket on the side of the street. I gripped my bag tightly, smiled and politely declined. My beau peered keenly through his matted hair, looked me up and down and asked me the next, obvious question – “Will you marry me?”. Well, of course I was swept off my feet. We got married there and then, have bought a beautiful new box to live in, and are raising a litter of stray dogs.

Not really.

My second proposal arrived in the mail this week:

I received this beautiful gift from one of my very best friends, along with a card and message that made me cry. It’s the second time I’ve been asked to be a bridesmaid for one of my girlfriends and it’s a job that I love – not the least because I get my makeup professionally done, get to hold a bunch of pink flowers and am contractually obliged to pose for many, many photos.

Of course, I accepted the proposal with happiness. During a long text exchange with my girlfriend, where we discussed colour schemes, dress cuts and cocktail arrangements, I asked her about her plans for the weekend. Here’s what she texted back:

Having breakfast at the markets with another couple, then going to a native plant sale.

Here were my plans for the same weekend:

Friday night: Wear a really short skirt, get drunk and flirt with boys. Saturday: Stumble out of bed by midday, eat some bacon. Sunday: Play drunk Monopoly.

I was struck by a startling, worrying epiphany: my friends are growing up. And I seem to be growing down. In the three months since I left home, my friend has got engaged, AND bought a house. I have moved into a share home, stocked my cupboard with Berocca, and have decided I can legitimately wear Converse to a bar.

What’s going to happen when I get back home? I’m scared I’ll call my friend for a spot of ‘drunk shopping’ (an awesome game we invented where you go out for a champagne breakfast and then try on all the dresses in a store. It’s fun. You end up with a lot of dodgy purchases) and she’ll tell me she’s too busy darning her husband’s socks. Or renovating the kitchen. Or, GOD HELP ME, looking after the babies. Twins, because that’s where my nightmare-ish imagination is taking me.

It’s not that I don’t want good things for my friends. I do. But am I in danger of being left behind?

I’m on my way back to Stoke Newington. Maybe I should accept that proposal after all.

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.