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

Keen as mustard. And other relishes.

Three days in a full-time job. I am a wreck.

I write to you in my comfiest pink track pants, nursing an emergency wine and full of my last, hidden Easter egg. I plan to be asleep by nine. I am absolutely shattered.

But stoked.

Finally, this chick has a job!

And with it, our story has a new setting. A totally cool, totally trendy new restaurant. One with a charming, enthusiastic chef, a sweet, shy manager, and an army of beautiful waiters in designer sneakers.

And how do I fit in?

Firstly, I am OLD. Some of these kids were born in 1994. 1994! Guys, I remember 1994 like it was yesterday! I bought ‘The Sign’ by Ace of Base! I went and saw ‘The Lion King’ and cried about Mufasa! And some of my coworkers WEREN’T EVEN ALIVE! It’s terrifying stuff.

And, I don’t know if it’s because I’m old or what, but it turns out I am keen. SUPER keen. Embarrassingly, enthusiastically, but unstoppably keen.

It seems like this chick is always the one with her hand up to answer a question. Offering facts that no one asked for. Jumping up to lend a hand. And yes, leading the role play with an overly enthusiastic and pretty awesome Tyrannosaurus Rex impersonation, if I do say so myself.

Yep. I am a total dork.

But I’m happy.

For the foreseeable future, I’m going to be super busy. I’m going to make money for the wine fund. I’m going to flirt shamelessly with young, gorgeous boys.

And I’m going to eat a criminal amount of free hot dogs.

It’s all pretty delicious.

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.

Here comes the sun

I’ve got a problem. And it’s pretty serious.

I guiltily confessed it to my housemate on the tube this week, glancing around so that no one could hear.

“I think I’ve lost my mojo.”

“Your mojo?”

“Yeah, my mojo. My sparkle. My shiny….ness. Basically, I feel like a big dork.”

And I do.

It’s been a gradual thing. But the confident, flirty, interesting girl who got off the plane in London all those months ago seems to have lost her touch.

None of my clothes seem to look as good. My makeup seems wonky. My stories aren’t as interesting. On Saturday night, it took me an hour to get served at a bar. AN HOUR. NO WOMAN SHOULD BE FORCED TO WAIT AN HOUR FOR A MARGARITA. And as soon as I’d drunk it, I decided I’d rather be reading a book instead, and went home.

Walking back to the little brown brick house, I pondered my situation with increasing anxiety.

What is wrong with me? Is this what happens when you get old? Is my face starting to LOOK old? Is it wrinkly? Oh God, is all this thinking GIVING ME WRINKLES? OK, hold your eyebrows still. Maybe it’s that I’ve been single too long. Have I lost confidence? Have I forgotten how to talk to people? Have I lost the power to charm men? That’s it, I have! Oh, why did I WASTE the power when I had it? Think of the THINGS I could I have got if I’d used it wisely! I could have DIAMONDS! And they would DEFINITELY distract from the wrinkles. I AM A HIDEOUS, WRINKLED, DIAMOND-LESS MONSTER THAT NO ONE WILL EVER LOVE!

Fortunately, back on the tube, my ever-wonderful housemate was there to stop my pity spiral.

“You haven’t lost your mojo. You’re just dealing with your first London winter. You haven’t seen the sun in four months. You’ve been shivering since August. It rains every day. We’re all used to feeling like crap for half the year, but we have the good sense to stay inside and drink wine. It’s just you, trying to pretend everything’s good when the winter is trying to beat all the joy out of you. Just hide under your doona, and everything will get better in April. Or May. By June, definitely. We will definitely see some sun in June.”

JUNE?

It’s too much to bear.

Which is why I write to you from Changi Airport, Singapore, halfway home to Australia.

I AM going back to London. But I’m just taking a little break in the sun. A few weeks to hug my cousins, drive a car, eat potato salad and not have to deal with black snot (one of the more disturbing aspects of London living).

Who knows, I might even find my mojo.

Irish, to be sure

I write to you healthier, happier, a bit madder, and a lot fatter. Yes, Christmas has been and gone. I’ve eaten four turkey dinners in three days, drunk a very merry helping of wine, worn a fabulous Christmas jumper and binged on Bing Crosby and Wham.

Pretty normal, right?

I’ve also been to two church services within 24 hours, witnessed a sick woman be ‘cured’ by Guinness and seen my 75-year-old great aunt mime Boney M songs in a wig.

Why?

Because I celebrated Christmas in Ireland.

Ah, Ireland. The home of rolling green fields, stone fences, and men in funny little hats. The home of potatoes, Michael Flatley and alcoholism. The home of Marian Keyes. And the home of my wonderful, slightly mental, extended family.

Now technically, I’m half-Irish. My mother was born in Dublin. I am the grateful holder of an Irish passport, which was key to this whole crazy adventure. But apart from my unnaturally pale skin and bizarre obsession with potatoes, I’m about as Irish as Vegemite. I’ve never lived in Ireland. I know nothing about its history. I don’t like beer. Or tea. Or Riverdance.

But I tell you what: I long to be Irish with every fibre of my being. To me the Irish are the loveliest, friendliest, merriest people in the world. So it’s probably no surprise that within two hours of my arrival, I started to talk like an Irishman.

I was suddenly telling stories that went,

“Ah, your man, God bless him, he was down at the pub, and I tell you what, he had a grand time. A GRAND time. He was GAS!”

A couple of hours later, I was no longer bothered with pronouncing the ‘h’ in ‘thirty’. Later still, my stories were littered with a liberal use of the word, ‘feck’. I suddenly became prone to blessing myself for emphasis. And every offer of a wine refill was welcomed with another exclamation of, “GRAND!”

By the time my great aunt donned her wig and started lip-syncing to ‘Rivers of Babylon’, I was ready to dance by her side (without moving my arms, of course).

So Ireland, God bless you. I leave with a belly full of potato and sore cheeks from all the laughter. You’re grand, I tell you. GRAND.

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.

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.