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.

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Bridget burnout

So, last week I re-read Bridget Jones’s Diary. And then proceeded to have the stupidest weekend of my life.

I felt a sudden urge to diet, and immediately cut breakfast and dinner from my daily meal plan. I didn’t alter my wine intake to suit. I got horrendously, terrifyingly drunk. I got lost in central London at one-thirty in the morning. I got in a fight with a taxi driver. Yep, another one. I went on a mini-break where I packed three pairs of tights and a tube of toothpaste, but no toothbrush, deodorant or spare knickers. I went to a party as someone’s fake date. I tried to awkwardly flirt with a man who wasn’t said fake date. I offended both guys and then had to act like I didn’t mind dancing both parts of ‘Summer Nights’ on my own. And I ended the weekend alone, in my track pants, eating a whole block of fudge and weakly singing along to Christmas songs on the telly.

When Bridget does it, it’s funny.

But you know what I figured out this weekend?

BRIDGET JONES ISN’T REAL.

Bridget Jones is awesome. And hilarious. And very possibly my spirit animal. But she’s also fictional. She doesn’t really have to deal with the hunger, or the hangovers. She doesn’t have to deal with the shame, the confusion, or the embarrassment.

And I do.

So, Bridget. You and I are having some time apart. You are no longer going to be my inspiration. The New Year is coming. And I am going to be a brand new, healthier, happier person. I am going to be responsible. I am going to drink less. I am going to flirt with appropriate men. And not fall for any of the following: alcoholics, workaholics, commitment phobics, people with girlfriends or wives, misogynists, megalomaniacs, chauvinists, emotional fuckwits or freeloaders, perverts…

Ah crap.

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.

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…