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.

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.

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?

Forward, backward

So, things aren’t really going to plan in this chick lit life right now.

A fortnight ago, things were barreling ahead. The warmth from home was still in my bones. I was optimistic, excited, refreshed. And I finally, FINALLY had some work.

When I started this chick lit adventure, getting a job was the least of my concerns. I just imagined it would fall in to place. I’d wear fabulous outfits, write some press releases, make fun, interesting friends, and head out for post-work drinks every Friday night. The job would be the background to my new, exciting London life. Just like in the books.

But getting a job has been harder than I ever imagined. I’ve spent six months applying for jobs that I can do with my eyes shut, jobs that pay half of what I made at home, and NOT EVEN GETTING A REPLY. It’s been a massive dent to my ego. And without a job, it’s been hard to settle in. It’s been hard to meet new people. And it’s been REALLY hard to afford to buy wine.

But a fortnight ago, it all started to happen. I went back to work in a newsroom. I got to pull out my favourite frilly pink work heels. I was carrying a notepad and pen again. I got to wear a lanyard around my neck, and say smug things like, “Sorry, got to get to bed, I have WORK TOMORROW”. And for two, glorious weeks. I EARNED SOME MONEY. It was awesome. Suddenly, I was thinking about shopping for new clothes. I started planning my next mini-break. And I started to make some new friends.

BUT.

After two weeks as a freelancer, turns out the company I was working for doesn’t want to hire freelancers any more. It was a total, unexpected kick in the guts. And now, I find myself back to square one. Jobless. Job-hunting. Filling out endless applications forms. And watching my savings dwindle away.

Of course, just as unemployment has hit again, I’ve been struck by my latest London cold. I swear, sometimes I think I’m actually allergic to this city. So I’ve been lying in bed. Wallowing. Feeling totally, pathetically, sorry for myself.

“WHAT HAVE I DONE?” I wailed to myself yesterday. “Don’t I deserve to be happy?”

And then, I had an epiphany.

You know those chain emails you used to get? Those ones that talked about how important friends are, blah, blah, blah, and then warned that if you didn’t forward to seven, eleven, whatever number of people, you would be CURSED FOR LIFE?

Well, I never forwarded them. The over-confident, cocky 20-something that I was, I thought that I was immune to computer curses. I didn’t think that a bullshit email could really have any impact on my life.

HOW WRONG I WAS.

You know what, I never ‘like’ those cause pages on Facebook either. Heartless person that I am, I never click to show that I hate cancer, or love the armed services, or support gay marriage, or want someone to name their child ‘iPod’. What a fool I’ve been!

Well, the lesson has been learned. Maybe, just maybe, if I start being a better online citizen, some good luck will come my way. I’m gonna click everything, forward everything, like everything. And when stuff starts to go right, I’ll know who to thank.

‘Like’ this, just in case. You can never be too careful.

Return to Aus

I’m back. Frecklier, and happier.

It was a month in the sun. With family, friends, dancing on the grass, cheese-filled picnics, sunsets at the beach and ginger beer. A cardigan-free month where I didn’t have to say ‘courgette’ instead of ‘zucchini’, ‘flip-flops’ instead of ‘thongs’, and ‘trousers’ instead of ‘pants’. A month of driving a car, wearing heels and eating icy-poles. A month of happiness.

Perth, my home city, is everything that London isn’t. It’s clean. It’s spacious. It’s warm. The people are friendlier. The houses don’t match. No one takes the train. The moment I stepped off the plane, the first thing I noticed was how GOOD Perth smells. Like salt, and eucalyptus. London, on the other hand, smells like car fumes and fart.

Yep, I was pretty taken with Perth and its awesomeness.

UNTIL.

I’d been home half an hour. Thirty minutes. I thought I’d read the paper, and catch up on the local news.

And there he was.

My ex.

Smiling up from the social pages, sporting a checked shirt, his arm around some girl. Looking older, but happy. And real.

I nearly spat out my cornflakes.

The thing is, in London, it’s been very easy for me to pretend that people like my ex-boyfriend don’t exist. No one here knows him. No one cares. In London, I am my own woman. A woman unburdened by a backstory and a broken heart. It’s very easy to move on with my life in this brand new city, without any restaurants that remind me of those first, exciting dates, mutual friends that have to avoid mentioning that they still see us both, or GLOATING PICTURES IN THE BLOODY SOCIAL PAGES.

I urgently texted my friends, who checked the paper and were quick to inform me that my ex-boyfriend now looks like a prematurely-aged lumberjack.

Girlfriends are the best.

So here I am. Back in London for the next phase of my chick lit adventure. I’m wearing flat shoes again. The jumper is back on. And the weather man is predicting snow.

But you know what? This huge, smelly city still fills me with absolute excitement. Here, the possibilities are endless. I can do anything I want to do.

And I can look at the social pages without a care in the world.

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?