Thursday, 30 September 2010

I'm knock-out drop-dead gorgeous!

Well, the first two at least... sporting as I am a rather smarting (if not smart) black eye this morning, as a result of walking into my bedroom door last night (obviously I thought it was open). Unfortunately no one was on hand to film it. It would have made a hell of a youtube video and turned me into an overnight star - which only adds insult to injury.

I can however confirm the following:
1. my bedroom door, unlike King Cross Station's platform 9 1/2 is not a portal to the wizard world (either that or Dobby's up to his old tricks again)
2. Evolutionary speaking, eyebrow ridges are vital. Right now, I wish I had a more Neanderthal prominence but mine seems to have done the trick, protecting my eye socket and not caving in...
3. Arnica and ice and ibuprofen work a treat.
4. Purple is still my favourite colour but not all over my (left) eye.
5. I should not be left alone overnight - ever.
6. An unexpected bang to the head can really help put life in perspective and make one more appreciative for small mercies ie no broken nose, no broken teeth, no stitches, no blood
7. and more grateful all around: Hey! I can - afterall - sleep on my back for an entire night. Who knew?

Of course, the timing of this self-inflicted injury (which the French mysteriously refer to as "black butter eye") is dreadful: I am due to see my parents this weekend. But as I keep telling myself, you can't really notice it, unless you look closely... I mean unless you look at my left eye. It's more swollen than bruised - from the thick layer of cream that I buried it under overnight. And it barely hurts when I touch it. So I'm in a good place.

Apparently, none of this is my fault. Many studies show that hormonal variations during a woman's cycle can lead to poor coordination and fuzzy thinking. I have quite a history in that department: various bruising, gouging and burns. Walking into doors however is a new one on me. So I must admit it rather took me by surprise. Let's just say I didn't see it coming. It's ok, you can laugh. I am!

I think it was the Universe punctuating my life and announcing that a phase was coming to an end and that today, on the last day of September, on this beautifully promising sunny autumn morning, a new journey is beginning.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Frothing at the mouth

My toothpaste project has come to an end which means a well deserved rest and the prospect of renewed vigour on the creative front - and no more pangs of guilt at the bathroom mirror for using a competitive brand of toothpaste. Life can be so simple when you let it be!

I embraced my newly found freedom this morning by setting out early to run some errands: groceries, drop-off at Oxfam, exchanging hair dyes at Boots (my rule is if you find more than 4 white hairs in one go, don't yank, dye. But I'm still quite new at this and I wanted the nice smelling 10 minute version with a comb, not the nasty amonia one that you have to leave on for 45 minutes which I picked up last Wednesday). I did them all. And then some. All the way into Covent Garden and back. On foot. In the driving rain. Wearing make-up and my new Tom Ford thick rimmed glasses. If you're going to do something, do it well and do it in style...

So now what? This is the deliciously uncomfortable bit: all options are open, nothing is certain, the road ahead is virgin territory. Where am I going? What will I encounter on my way? Will it work out? (Obviously, things have a way of working themselves out, and the day that they don't is the day you die and then none of it matters anyway.) Will I be successful? (This is a dangerous one: focussing on the outcome. And anyway, success is relative.) Will I be happy? (I am happy! Long may it continue.)

So watch this space...

Thursday, 9 September 2010

I’ve been touched by Midas

This week, it’s certainly starting to feel as though I have been turned – quite literally – into gold by old King Midas when you consider the small fortune I’ve managed to spend on my eyes and teeth.

It all started with an impulse buy on Monday night: “I’m going to pop into Optix for some new glasses.” To be honest, the getting new glasses wasn’t the impulsive bit – it was kind of overdue; my sunnies are 15 years old and my regular glasses 11 - but the bit about shopping at Optix was.

Optix are on Broadgate in the City (London) and they consistently have some very appealing window dressing and an attractively understated and stylish exclusive look about them. And the week before last they were advertising a storewide sale.

But the week before last I was in Paris and last week I sat in a workshop in the countryside. Of course, this week the storewide sale is over but the sunglasses sale is still on. So I went.

Let me rewind a bit. Remember the pencil skirt I brought at Primark? (Yes, the size 8 number that I wore in my last play.) I thought it would be a good idea to get a second one and about a month ago popped into Primark again and bought another one, without trying it on until I got home. It was too big! After a few surreal seconds during which it flashed through my mind that I had quite possibly dropped another dress size… it dawned on me that the wrong label had been sewn into the garment (!!!) and that it was most likely a size 10 in disguise.

I made a note to return it. But then I got busy (NY, Paris) and didn’t get back to Primark until Monday afternoon, by which time the 28 days grace period had expired as the good lady at the consumer service desk kindly explained. So I couldn’t get my money back but I could get the equivalent value in other store merchandise. All 5 pounds of it.

I looked and I looked… of course those pencil skirts are no longer in stock… and I could not find a single item – not a single item people! – that I wanted. Long story short I spotted a young woman with a friendly attitude who looked like she might be a size 10, gave her the skirt (and receipt so she wouldn’t get in trouble) and refused her offer to pay the 5 pounds for it. A bit of good karma - I thought - never hurts.

So now let’s jump forward to me in the Optix shop gagging to spend a small fortune and being guided though my shopping experience by Chris. What a talent! He was in turn funny and knowledgeable and made me feel like we were on the same level… He sold me a pair of Tom Ford black rimmed retro glasses and gave me a pair of gold rimmed 70’s glam style glasses - that look surprisingly attractive on me - FREE OF CHARGE (it had been part of the now finished sale – my good deed in Primark was paying dividends sooner than I expected) before we moved on to a pair of big Paul Smith sunglasses.

Shall I let you in on a secret? When it comes to glasses, big frames are IN, logo-less glasses by top designer are IN. And statement glasses are IN... if you’re big enough.

Then - and here is the best part people! - I had my eye test. It turns out my eyesight has actually improved since my last prescription: all astigmatism has disappeared and my short sightedness has lessened. Feeling rejuvenated, I chose the lenses for my new frames - half tinted, ultra thin, laser cut… (it means ultra expensive in Chris talk) and then went to pay the bill with my bank card.

Of course the bank put a hold on the transaction, demanding confirmation that I was indeed the one making such an outrageous and out of character purchase (I rarely spend money on anything other than topping up my Oyster card or grocery shopping… oh and the occasional 90 minute massage in NYC.) We duly obliged the bank and after revealing my age, the name of my first pet, and my astrological sign to a disembodied voice at the other end of the phone, they gracefully waved the transaction through.

Skip to a few days later. I am sitting in the dentist chair… everything’s fine but some remedial work could be required. (My dentist is the equivalent of Chris the glasses salesman for the tooth business but he’s the best so I oblige him by showering him with money in exchange for him brutalizing my pearly whites but ultimately making them look gorgeous so that even strangers comment on them.)

By remedial he meant: have the work done and you should be set for the next 10 years and those ugly black fillings on your molars will be a thing of the past… of course you could chose to do nothing but if and when things do deteriorate you could be looking at root canal surgery and jaw bone infection and other nasties. So which is it going to be? Shall we do all three molars at once? You won’t be able to talk for a week and it’s going to cost you the earth but then you will look so pretty and your teeth will be safe for another decade.

So I said yes to the remedial. Yes to handing over the money. Yes to letting him molest my molars. (Not least because it turns out that those ugly fillings we are getting rid off are OLDER than the dental assistant who sat prettily blushing in the corner. And no amount of rejuvenated eyesight can make up for that kind of devastating information.)

To offset the rather vertiginous collapse in my savings I acquired another bit of good karma. As I sat in the dentist reception waiting for my appointment with the Sally the good humoured hygienist (I love that bit. I floss daily and use an electric toothbrush. I am the hygienist's poster girl.) a call came through. Some poor woman had obviously come to her senses and got cold feet and was desperately trying to cancel her two hour dentist appointment for this Friday and it sounded like unless they could fill it she would be charged some outrageous late cancellation fee. So I offered to take up the appointment for my three molar extravaganza. I mean, why wait?

Why wait indeed. At least I’ll be doing it in style. A call just came through to say my new frames are ready for collection.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The Cleopatra Complex

I've been feeling rather smashing lately, what with my recent all expenses paid trip to NY, my current assignment, the discovery of Scoop Gelato on my doorstep, and the amazing results of the Dukan diet (American size 2, people! size 2! Mini kilts! Skinny jeans! Madonna arms 'but nice' as a friend recently put it...and I still eat as much as I want - eat your heart out or better eat the Dukan way). And yet - or because of it - I am about to revisit some well trodden ground so if you're male, fit, and under 30, look away now.


Because you're not going to like what you see.


Apparently, you're not in my fan base.


According to my research, young attractive men under 30 do not like me, do not get me, do not want any part of me. (I didn't mean that to come out quite so literally, let me rephrase that last bit: just don't get me.) Now, if you're a woman, or a man over the age of 50, or a small child, or a cat, then I'm your poster child.

Go figure.

But it's a good thing. Isn't it? At least as far as fan bases are concerned, mine is pretty broad, and let's face it, at least I won't have to worry about ageing and losing relevance among young men (a fickle group if there ever was one) and having everything lifted back up to there and botoxed within an inch of my life.

Well isn't that's a relief.

But why is it that this particular group is at such odds with me? And more importantly why do I care (enough to write about it)?

Because it makes me feel all over again like the awkward teenager: unattractive and definitely not part of the cool crowd. Because part of me secretly wants to be Pamela Anderson in Bay Watch or in that interview with Ruby Wax. There I said it. I want to be the blond straight haired long legged big boobed teenager that all the boys liked in High School (and I didn't even go to High School; I went to a Lycee with intelligent kids with a highly developed individual sense of style and identity: think GaGa rather than Britney Spears). Well I'm not Pamela but I don't really mind.

Not really.

Well, I do mind, a bit! No one likes being ignored by Cleopatra's brother (if you're not getting the reference, read the serendipity entry from last month and catch up!) But then even when she was with Anthony (the original young fit male) Cleopatra still held Julius Caesar as the true original. Not sure Anthony would have appreciate the naked and rolled up in a carpet bit, or bathing in asses milk. But anyway it all went horribly wrong and she ended up ordering an asp in her fruit basket. As any actuary worth his salt will tell you, young men can be such a health hazard.

Where was I?

Oh yes. So I'm not flavour of the month with the young turks. I'm the coffee to their vanilla, the rabbit terrine to their Big Mac, Orangina to their Bud. I'm the nougatine to their roll-ups, and Casablanca to their Mafia 3...

... and that's a pretty good thing!

Isn't it?

Monday, 6 September 2010

I'm a 4 Scoop Kind of Girl

Forget everything you have ever come to associate with ice cream. The vans, the music, Magnums (full size and mini), Cornettos, Haagen Dazs, vanilla tubs, 99 Flakes, even Ben & Jerry's (even the chunky monkey variant), forget Baskin Robbins, Rocky Road.

Now, go to Brewer Street in London's Soho, walk into Scoop, ask the smiling young Italian lady to give you a taster of all of their gelato flavours (one after the other obviously), then order a large cone (dipped in chocolate and rolled in toasted nuts) and 4 scoops to fill it up. I had chocolate (so dark it was almost black), pistachio, hazelnut/praline and coffee.

It took me 20 minutes to lick it and eat it. It was divine. It was my dessert for this week's celebration meal on the Dukan Diet. Multiple yums.

But don't take my word for it. Go there. They do take away in tubs. They have another outlet in Covent Garden. If you live abroad, sell your house and move to London.

It's that good.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

When Cardboard Boxes Make You Cry

My youngest sister has been tasked with removing all our childhood things from my parents' flat. (For those among you of a more sensitive disposition please rest assured that my parents are alive and well - they just want more room for their own stuff.)

Which is how I found myself last weekend rummaging through cardboard boxes in my sister's Paris living room, coming face to face with my early childhood and feeling rather choked up. They weren't just memories you understand, but actual objects that had populated my early life. Like the 4 jigsaw puzzles of stylised scenes from Les Fables de La Fontaine (aka Aesop's Fables) and a miniature china tea set (which shattered when my sister's 2 year old dropped it - but that's another story).

I selected a few mementos to take away with me back to London: a small brass bell with an Alpine landscape painted on one side, a pair of tiny white gloves with a big red heart sewn over each hand passed down from one sister to the next over on our successive first skiing holiday, and my (small) collection of skiing medals.

The mere act of holding them unlocked long forgotten feelings of longing for the first flat we ever lived in, for my life as a 5 year old, for the way things were before they became complicated. I distinctly felt the remnants of the proverbial umbilical cord snapping, like old rubber bands, and a sharp pain like ripping off that last bit of a band-aid. I dealt with it by resorting to an old family favourite: when it doubt, tidy up. I sorted out the junk (old biros with dried out ink and inch tall chewed up pencils) from the treasures, knowing some would go to the next generation, and others would find a good home, eventually, via Emahus and Oxfam.

The pain that had come out of these boxes stayed with me over the next few days as a dull ache that ebbed and flowed. But I felt strangely elated, light, and liberated from the bind of personal history and tradition. Somewhere between the lego sets and Jacques Cousteau hardbacks, I had cut loose from my moorings, from keeping a foot in the past, from subconsciously resisting a full commitment to the future, to growing up, to becoming - well - me.

And this is how it came to be that one afternoon, in Paris, late August, a bunch of cardboard boxes set me free.