Connection

It’s easy to be anonymous in London. It’s one of the things I like about large cities. I gravitate towards places where I can hide in plain sight. It creates the illusion of belonging without actually having to interact. The tube is an extension of this anonymity.

People cram into carriages, eyes straight ahead, glued onto the paper or their phone. The only goal is to make it to the final destination without hearing the words, incident on the tracks or signal failure. Commuters don’t really pay much attention to each other, unless it’s to deliver a withering look to someone who stole the seat they had their eye on.

So it shouldn’t have been surprising to me that no one had noticed the woman in front of me was crying. I’d had to double-take to be sure. Her mascara was running, she sniffed and shook emotionally. I felt a twinge in my chest and it grew when I realised the rest of the carriage was oblivious to her.

Most people are generally too busy with their own drama to notice anyone else’s. I don’t think it’s a London thing, just a human thing. I guess getting involved in someone’s sadness is messier than jumping onto the happy bandwagon. Sadness is awkward.

I’ve been on anti-depressants for nine months and am currently weaning myself off them. Having suffered from chronic depression as long as I can remember, I’ve always been strangely proud of the fact I’ve avoided medication for decades. But there comes a point when you can’t get out of bed, or get a job and you decide to take the help. It’s an act of kindness. Maybe that’s why I offered the woman the tissues.

I didn’t want to pry or give her a pep talk. I just wanted to be nice to her. To empathise. I’d been in tears on the tube days before and managed to pass under everyone’s radar, much to my own relief. We’re not meant to be unhappy in public. It’s something kept behind closed doors and smiling faces.

There’s a shame in being sad for some reason. I saw it when she took the tissues and tried to compose herself. I felt it every time I turned down medication. It’s like an admission of failure: I just couldn’t stay happy.

People distance themselves from sadness like it’s contagious. I’ve noticed it with my own depression. It feels like I have a shitty superpower that makes me invisible when I’m down. People want to laugh and get their endorphin high. So I spent years hiding it and trying to fit in with the rest of the tube.

I told the woman to keep the tissues. This led to a random stranger offering me several packs of Kleenex. It felt like a thank you for my intervention, and a little like handing over a joint to the nearest person in the circle when you can see the 4 0 coming. He didn’t want to be caught holding in the face of a crying woman.

Yeah, sadness is awkward.

 

Situationships

‘Hey. Remember me?’

Every now and then a guy I’d completely forgotten about will resurface on my WhatsApp or chat.

You know the type. The ones who send a mandatory maintenance text that outwardly says ‘sup’,  but really means ‘I haven’t forgot you, we could still hook up. These never ending situationships that went nowhere have started boomeranging back in the form of monosyllabic text reminders of the fuck ton of bad choices I once made which now baffle me.

I appear to have dated an array of sexual opportunists and emotional parasites who have hoped the relationship door will be left ajar on the off chance they get locked out of a opportunity with a girl they actually like. Luckily, I can now identify a waste of time in under 10 characters. A tragic but necessary life skill. Like being able to find your way home drunk.

It took me years to realise I had to stop responding. Screw being polite. I wasn’t bitter, or in my feelings, I just didn’t want to massage the ego of some guy who was clearly getting some relationship karma coming back his way.

These men had gotten all the time out of me that they were going to. If I was going to spend anymore of my time frivolously, I’d rather waste 20 pokeballs trying to catch an angry Seadra than maintain intermittent contact with someone who lacks both common courtesy and the ability to send a witty text.

Despite this move in the right direction, I did not live happily ever after.

Much like the elusive bus that only appears when you light a cigarette, the minute you stop bothering with some guys they rematerialise with added emojis.sex-love-life-2014-10-text-from-ex-main

Really? You were thinking of me? If you want to get all nostalgic, try having a wank over your mum’s Mary Kay catalogue or watch The Goonies. Don’t assume some type of emotional vigil is being held for you by an old flame. You’re getting in touch with a practical stranger who (if they’re me) will ask you to lose their number.

I refuse to assist any more guys in any delusion that I may be the one that got away, or that I’d spent years at a window, Jane Eyre style, before wandering the moors to find them. I am not that girl. The only time I patiently wait by the window is when I have an ASOS delivery coming.

Why am I ranting about this? The Colombian. A fuckboi who didn’t want to date me then  ghosted me before disappearing completely. Until one afternoon when I got that ‘Hey’. Here’s some free advice: if you plan to resurrect a relationship via text, get a thesaurus. Only Jesus can get away with a casual ‘Hey’ and that was after just three days. I hadn’t heard from this guy in 2 years.

What followed was more monosyllabic inane small talk and thinly veiled enquiries about my relationship status which culminated in him asking me to fly out to see him in Colombia. The only response I could think of that fit was LOL. He did not take this well.He ranted on about how I obviously didn’t care and to forget he’d said anything.

Guess what? I didn’t care. He had texted me while I was happily eating Jaffa cakes in a dick free zone. His irritating wounded act ruined a perfectly lovely afternoon.

A month later I got another ‘Hey’ and a life update. Now he’d moved to Mexico and wanted to know whether there was a chance I’d be moving there, or was I still mad at him (because clearly it was my irrational female anger stopping me from uprooting my life to Mexico for a guy who was a dick). I’ve never found block and delete quicker in my life.

To the horrified male friends who have messaged to ask what the ‘poor guy’ had done wrong, allow me to clarify my position: I’ve got nothing against exes getting in touch. Just don’t do it if you were a douche who is now feeling sorry for himself. Definitely don’t interrupt a woman during biscuit time.

It’s a mobile phone, not a time machine. Move on.

Haters Gonna Hate

Why have some people got their panties in a bunch about loving Pokemon Go?

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Shout out to my fellow trainers. “When Pokemon hunting is lit”

As a Pokemon fan from way back, nothing has made me happier than the chance to update my pokedex, get out there and meet other like minded nerds.

We’re adorable.

Think of us like asexual doggers, wandering around parks and scenic routes, looking for invisible creatures, which we then get mad excited about and try to catch using our smart phones.

It’s great fun.

I’ve met people in my community, had lovely conversations and laughed with people in the sun. It’s been really interactive and in a healthy, positive way.

So why is it when a group of people look like they are having completely harmless fun, someone will come along and either a) try to ruin it b) try to take advantage of it or c) criticise it?

Yesterday a group of hackers took down the  game making it impossible to get online. Why? I don’t know, why does someone step on your transformer when you’re about to launch a stealth attack? Fuckery.

Then there have been the stories of a few opportunists who have seized on the whole excitement to mug people. Yes. Mug people.

“There’s a rare pokemon down this alleyway….Now give me your wallet.”

Ok, some users need to be more grounded in reality. But what a bummer to be reminded when you’re trying to have fun, that some jackass will do anything to spoil it.

Which brings me to kill joys.

Why does Judgy McJudgerson care how old I am and if I know what I look like?

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See? Hawt

  I look like a hot pokemon trainer. If I choose to run around my local park, smile on me like a Cheshire cat, and I’m having fun, why does it bother you? If you don’t want to play, fine. But please don’t project your misery onto me under the guise that you’re worried I’m making a fool of myself.

Guess what? I give zero fucks how I look.

I may take it a step further and go Poké hunting in my Wonder Woman costume. If this makes you uncomfortable, guess what? That’s you not me.

People need to lighten up. There are far worse things happening in the world today.

Now if you don’t mind, A Snorlax has been spotted by the duck pond.

Gotta Catch’em all!

Pokemon trainer humour at Cosmo for the Go lovers! 

http://www.cosmopolitan.com/entertainment/news/a61383/hilarious-pokemon-go-pictures/

My So Called Life

Life, or something a lot like it

Last month on My Life: I got a job. I started a course. I downloaded Tinder. Again. I quit the job. I finished the course. I deleted Tinder. Again.

Despite the boring summary, I feel like things have changed. Albeit microscopically.

Instead of putting the same effort into a CV as I did into making pencil cases out of Pocky boxes, I chose to play narcissistic date roulette again and hone my use of the ‘How you doin?’ GIF.

Normally, this would distract me for at least a month before I got fed up of the superficiality of it all, and returned to binge drinking for entertainment.

Not this time: It lasted 16 days. And I’m not drunk right now.

It’s not because the internet is rife with sexual deviants who have decided to use their opposable thumbs to tug themselves off and video it simultaneously. Nor is it because it has become acceptable to ask a stranger for a blowjob based on the fact they liked your picture. Although, let’s face it, neither of those guys are doing men a favour in the dating stakes.

The reason is that for months my entire life has been conducted through screens.

I say it like it isn’t the norm. Update status, Snapchat your day, IG your food, Whatsapp your genitals. It’s modern life for many.

Much more of my time has been invested in a virtual reality. I work remotely and rarely have to speak to colleagues beyond emails and online chat. I date remotely and have ‘conversations’ via text. I don’t have to spend any ‘real time’ with people at all.

I miss real people.

I think a lot of pressure was taken off my awkward social skills in the advent of growing social media. I didn’t realise how distant it had made me. I’ve favoured Whatsapp chats over phone calls. My phone is always on silent. I express myself through sarcastic updates  and my last two relationships have been mainly conducted remotely over Skype.

This year has changed me though.

In the spirit of personal development, I told a guy I was texting that we should have a chat, get to know each other properly.

His response was to text me diary entries of his day until I asked him to kindly stop.

Maybe switching my phone off and going outside more is a better start.

Happy Endings

Things work always work out in the end. Even gastroenteritis.

All it took was one bite of the egg.

I heaved up the banana milkshake quicker than I’d drunk it. Then whatever else was left of the Tonsai devil burger I had at the start of my journey.

That’s what I get for eating a burger at the beach.

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I should have known…

I was climbed out. Tired. And I had been eating pretty healthy for about a week. One burger couldn’t hurt. Plus I thought it would see me well on my epic  boat, bus, plane and train journey to Ayutthaya.

But now it had me hunched over the toilet bowl of a tiny restaurant at 7 am.

My first instinct was to head back to bed. Or even better: Bangkok. But when would I get to come this close to Rama’s city of Ayodhya? That’s what Ayutthaya was meant to be, the city of temples, old capital of Siam. A slice of history, mythology and my childhood.

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Ayutthaya

The Ramayana was one of my favourite stories as a child, stories of princesses, demons, flying monkeys and a city all lit up to welcome home an exiled prince.

I couldn’t just leave.

So I pushed myself to do a five hour walking tour of the temples. A tour which ended with me hailing a tuktuk to help me round the last leg.
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I even went on a riverboat tour of the waterside temples. Each one filled with ornate Buddhas and crumbling buildings. There was a calm beauty to it all. But I was feeling out of sorts.

It could have been too much in a short span. I had temple overload and zero perspective to appreciate what I’d seen. More likely the food poisoning had muted the experience.

It wasn’t how I’d wanted my trip to end, but it was how I returned to Bangkok.

Funnily enough though, Bangkok was the real surprise. I didn’t expect to enjoy the tail boats and temples as much as I did. Nor that I would feel as peaceful and calm in the city as I had at The Sanctuary wandering around the temples and palaces that Ayutthaya had inspired.

Maybe I’m just a city girl at heart. Maybe I’d found some inner peace.

Or the parasites had changed me irrevocably.

The temple at Wat Pho fast became my favourite place for peaceful meditation and a massage. I’m addicted to Thai massage now. There is something strangely relaxing about being forced into yoga positions and cradled by a stranger who will then crack your entire spine.

It put a smile on my face.

Though I’m pretty sure it shouldn’t have.

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I visited the reclining Buddha one more time before I left.

The immensity of it, filling a whole temple had me in awe when I first saw it. Looking upon it again I felt content and at peace before I left and ready for whatever might happen next in life.

Leaving countries is always so bittersweet for me. It’s like cutting a conversation short when you’re really getting to know someone.

I’ll be back Thailand.

If for nothing more than another massage.

Year of the Monkey

It’s good to be impulsive. And occasionally life threatening.

It’s the year of the monkey. Naturally, I was born in the year of the monkey. Witty, sociable, easily bored, stubborn.

Sums me up perfectly I think.

No better time to get harnessed up and back on the face of a mountain.

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Coconut thief

It’s been a few years since I went boulder climbing. It used to be  a regular thing, but after my hand injury I didn’t trust my wrist to support my weight.

I didn’t know what to expect on the half day climb with The Rock Shop. I’d signed up for a beginners course because I was worried.

Climbing had been my way of dealing with my fear of heights. I don’t like to be scared, or limited. My way of handling fears is to throw myself into them. More than often the return is something beautiful. The views from the top. The reward of an isolated spot. It’s a risk, but one worth taking.

When I floundered on the first climb our guide grinned at me

“You can be good or bad, but you must have fun!”

He was right. Once the pressure was off, it was more fun.

After the day’s climb, the rest of the group wanted to grab food and see some of Railay. We were all keen to find the lagoon for a relaxing swim to end the day. We deserved a break.

Little did we know.

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Only 10 more metres…

We had assumed that it would be a calm walk, a couple of dips and then back to Tonsai.

The warning signpost and the exhausted faces of people scaling down from a point up into the mountain, should have been our first indicator this wasn’t going to be easy.

The route had ropes set up along the way. All you had to do was find your feet and hoist yourself up. Easy enough. I decided to pop my flip flops into my bag and go barefoot.

My feet still haven’t forgiven me.

When we finally reached the clearing at the top it dawned on us that we’d have to climb deeper down into the mountain to reach the lagoon. Unless there was an off chance this was a magical lagoon at the top of a mountain that defied gravity.

The downward descent to the lagoon was a little more than “strenuous” as the warning at the start of the ‘hike’ suggested.

We were lowering ourselves through slippery sharp rocks, climbing through narrow holes with back packs on and at times reaching around for a foothold, or handhold when we couldn’t see behind us. After my first slip and near fall onto craggy rocks, my faith in my wrist was completely restored.

It was a precarious climb to the bottom. But it was completely worth it. Photos don’t do it justice.

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Take the risk, reap the rewards

It’s the things we really work to get that bring us the greatest satisfaction.

I’m quite impulsive in the risks that I take. God knows how far this ‘All or nothing’ attitude will get me in Vegas in a few weeks.

Maybe it will get me out of student debt.

Asian in Asia

Have passport, will travel.

It’s 7am and I have a yoga class in an hour. I woke up because of the sea. Living in London, I’ve never had the luxury of waking up to anything other than the sound of urban foxes shagging. Mexico City wasn’t much better. Although sirens were often interspliced with drunken arguments, or thumping music. I didn’t realise how much I love to wake up to the sound of the sea.

The journey to get to Koh Phangan was not as tranquil.

The first night in Bangkok was spent wandering around the Khao San road shopping and avoiding teams of men in matching wife beaters, trying to drunkenly chat up anyone in grabbing reach. People like to touch here, not just drunken Brits out on a stag. I got poked in the boob, had my tattoo stroked and was awkwardly patted by a couple of giggly vendors, who may have been at the laughing gas balloons.

The night in Bangkok was a sensory overload. Lights. Vendors. Food. Massages. Rats. One of which I had an unsettling run in with that left me contemplating how much I really needed my right foot.

It was loud and bright and dirty and seedy. I liked it.

At 5am we were abruptly woken by our panicky Thai host who thought we were going to miss our flight. She had taken the liberty of booking us a taxi that was waiting as we spoke. I don’t think I’ve got packed and ready so quickly. I silently cursed her all the way to the airport.

The journey to get to Koh Phangan was a two fold nightmare. Unlike Alex Garland’s romanticised journey through jungle, jumping off waterfalls and swimming across the island, ours was more pedestrian and disgusting. The waves were dangerously high, so our speedboat jumped along the ocean for nearly two hours. The nausea it provoked was understandable. I regretted inhaling a pork bun and chilli chicken curry on the dock before we boarded. But the real kicker was the synchronised vomiting that began to take place about 20 minutes into the journey. Smiling faces handed out pink plastic bags and tissues, then the pukefest began. It was like the story Chunk describes in The Goonies: one person barfed and everyone else just joined in. It surrounded us and we sunk into our seats hoping we wouldn’t be hit by the spray.

My body’s natural defense mechanism in situations of high stress is to shut down. Much like a possum. Only more like a narcoleptic. I pass out.

When I awoke and drowsily got off the boat there was still another journey left to make. Kerry, had warned me that transport to The Sanctuary was a mafia. It’s lucky I had her and her amazing litigation skills to get me this far.

You couldn’t get a cheaper price no matter how good you were at haggling. What was worse they had decided to hike the prices up, to make the best of all the business that was anxiously waiting. We held out for as long as we could as the surliest driver in the world bitched at our attempts to bring the price down.

It didn’t feel great having to concede and get in the back of his shitty truck. It felt less great as we were hurled about along bumpy back streets out into the middle of nowhere.

Luckily we were headed towards Sanctuary.

Know your role

Everyone is good at something…right?

As I stood there watching the young man writhing on the floor, lip locked with a rubber IKEA oven mitt, I wondered what the hell I was doing here.

My friend Abner has been encouraging me to go to auditions, to network, make contacts with script writers. “You’ve got to get out there and follow your dream!” He was right.

Consequently, I’ve been signing up for auditions and taster classes. It’s been something to get me out of the house at weekends. Plus it’s free, which sums up my criteria for entertainment these days.

It’s definitely been entertaining.

At the writer’s workshop, I felt like a moody teenager. I was sat at the back, all dressed in black, screwing up my face every time someone bleated at the opportunity to read their work out.

I was grateful for the pair work. At least then the other person could strain their arm enthusiastically in the air, while I continued to slouch apathetically in my chair and text.

The activity was a silent dialogue, set at a party. Pradeep and I commenced our silent conversation. Needless to say, in real life Pradeep and I would a) Never be found at the same party b) Would never have commenced to converse because I would have been able to see his conversation coming a mile off and hot-tailed it to the bathroom.

Writing classes and workshops are a great place to meet a writing partner; your lobster.

Pradeep was not my lobster.

There weren’t any lobsters. Just people trying to figure out what their ‘love’ was. But maybe loving something wasn’t enough. Nor was Marcela. She gleefully shared her comedy creation, Paul: an extremely fat man good at his job. “Fat isn’t a character flaw. What’s his flaw?”

“He works too hard? But sometimes it’s difficult because… he’s fat!”

“So it’s funny because he’s fat?”

“Yes!”

This went on for a while before we all just gave up.

This would never happen at TGS

The following weekend I was amidst a group of actors. Some of whom found it hard to mask their disdain at the fact I was a tourist. ‘It seemed like fun’ is not what the competition want to hear at an audition.

They want the part.

They will even use a five minute break to try and get it, as I found when I was faced with the ridiculously energetic Eva. Her heart-rendering performance of the day she fell over in the rain went sadly unnoticed by the director. I think I’d asked her if there was a Tesco nearby.

I couldn’t bring myself to participate in the improv. The group of people on the floor fighting over a toilet brush, while one waggled his tongue in and out his heat protected hand, left me speechless.

I have no problems looking like a fool. I just won’t fight other fools to do it.

They really wanted this. I needed to have that ‘willing to pretend to make it with a glove’ type of desperation. But I couldn’t even make eye contact with anyone. Every line I delivered was aimed at someone’s crotch or my own cleavage.

I was their Pradeep. Their Marcela.

My friend got a part in the play, without having to romance homeware. I signed up for the comedy writing class.

I think my first piece will be a drama about a woman trying to write a play about an overweight man trying to make it as an actor.

Maybe IKEA guy could play him. He seems like he would commit to putting on 20 kilos.

Imperfections

We all deserve a clean slate.

The new year is a big deal for some reason. Successfully orbiting our sun matters to us.  I can’t say I know how difficult, or dangerous it was, but I’m sure it warranted a drink.

Manchester is currently the shining example of how ham we go on a NYE celebration. I have little recollection of my own NYE, but from the accounts of complete strangers who I ran into at the Guinness factory, I was absolutely destroyed.

For those of you that didn’t go full pagan, here’s what you missed out on:

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My own mayhem was not quite the renaissance masterpiece above, but I did my best to try and drown the old year in alcohol.

Maybe it’s the promise of a clean slate with our hangover that pushes some of us over the edge. The need to obliterate the memory cells of whatever it was that made the last year so horrendous. The joy at being surrounded by the people you love the most.

We go out how we have to: Civilised drinks with family and friends, or pinned to the ground by feds.

Either way, we all deserve a fresh start.

With that fresh start come expectations. I mean it has to go better than the last. There has to be progress. I have to be better than I was.

I think I stopped making resolutions in 2003. There were only so many times I could tell myself I was going to be a teetotaling, non-smoking, gym fanatic who read 40 books a year.

I do alright as I am.

I will still get wasted on occasion. I will still have a drunken fag. I will read, but never as much as I could. I will work out, only as much as I need to in order to be able to eat two whole Nando’s chickens on my own.

Obviously there will be change. But it will come at its own pace.

My New Year is all about acceptance.

My resolutions were always about being a better person. Kinder, more tolerant, more forgiving. Or it was about how I could improve my life to fulfil some imaginary standard others would appreciate.

Showing the same kindness, tolerance and understanding for myself never occurred to me.

Moving past my short comings, be it  getting so drunk I fall off a pier, or ignoring my intuition, is something I find hard. My failings are the sun which I have been stuck in orbit around for years.

Rather than trying to evolve into someone perfect, this year will be the year I embrace my dumb ass self for who I am. An alcohol imbibing, wise cracking loud mouth, with an occasionally impressive rack, and a life that often looks a bit like a Manchester high street on New Year’s morning.

Here’s to happiness  and shenanigans in the New Year.