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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Full of regret. Also, hot dogs.

Guys, I am SO SORRY.

This whole ‘job thing’ is totally getting in the way of my blog time.

It’s a strange thing. Brain-wise, the job is super simple. But standing on my feet all day, being super nice to everyone, trying to figure out how many of the cute young boys are gay – IT’S COMPLETELY EXHAUSTING.

Two nights ago, I only had the energy to half-remove my bra before falling asleep. And then wondered why all my dreams were about my arms being trapped.

Just now, I tried to use my Oyster Card to unlock the front door.

I am tired. But I have STUFF TO TELL YOU.

Stay tuned, my friends. A regular post will be with you in a couple of days.

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.

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.