Monthly Archives: September 2012

Sugar makes me weird.

As I walked home across Blackfriars Bridge the other day, wondering if the woman in front of me was a human being, I realised that sugar makes me weird.

To be more accurate, it was actually as I was sat at my desk afterwards vaguely considering putting the tweezers I was holding into the plug in front of me that I snapped back to reality, but I was vaguely aware it was weird at the time.

When I was in primary school I was obsessed with a series of books called The Mennyms. They were books about human sized dolls trying to go about their existence like normal people and not get discovered and they were blooming brilliant. Just thinking about them now, I want to rush home and dig them out of the garage and read them all over again. My absolute favourite Mennym was Soobie, who struggled to fit in most of all because his fabric was blue. It is because of Soobie that I am still the proud owner of a blue doll from Year 6 needlework. I had to pretend to really want a blue cushion to pull that one off – we were only allowed one piece of fabric for the year so most people went for peachy/pinky flesh tones, but this was the height of my mania so I planned ahead.

(Writing that paragraph I have been struck by two further asides:

  1. I was taking said needlework class at the turn of the century. From this sentence alone, it’s not actually possible to tell which century I mean – this is true of so much of my convent school primary education.
  2. It’s probably a bit racist that we were meant to choose pink for our cushions so we could make flesh coloured dolls. This didn’t occur to any of us at the time – I think two Chinese kids were the extent of our ethnic diversity – but I am proud of ten year old me for being weird enough to not stumble into casual racism.)

Cut back to 2012, and evidently my Mennym-love has been lurking in my subconscious because here I am, staring at a woman in front of me, seriously considering if she could be a doll. My sugar-addled mind thinks the evidence is good – her skin seems impossibly soft and even, her hair could conceivably be knitted delicately from fine wool. “If only I could see her face,”I tell myself, “the eyes will give her away.” Sadly, or perhaps fortunately, we quickly reach the point where I need to either turn off to head home or actually begin following this stranger. Thankfully for all involved I make the right choice, but I do catch a glance of suspiciously glassy black eyes over my shoulder as I walk away, and my inner-child’s heart soars.

After nearly electrocuting myself with my tweezers I traced my sugar high back to a particularly sickly Starbucks I had treated myself to after the second pensioner hair encounter. As I entered sugar sobriety, I had a similar realisation to the one readers of this post have enjoyed – sugar makes me really weird.

I don’t usually have much sugar, a fact which at this stage is probably both relieving and telling (Yesterday I had a mocktail at a bar mid-afternoon and had to have a sit down when I got home because the sugar had given me a headache.). However, my edgy new London lifestyle is clearly exposing me to such hardcore substance abuse. Next thing you know, my frappuccino won’t even be a skinny.

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Pensioners pull my hair.

I think I must have missed a memo. Twice this week old ladies who I do not know have grabbed my hair in public. Is this a thing that we’re doing now? Because I’m not really okay with it.

The second incident happened today as I was walking past St. Paul’s Cathedral. I became aware of someone walking awkwardly close to me so I upped my pace in a bid to regain my personal space and avoid being mugged. That was when she struck. It wasn’t some menacing would-be mugger following me, it was a little old lady with a twinset and a blue rinse. To be fair to her she was being complimentary, but the effect of her “Ooh, your hair is lovely!” was destroyed by the vice like grip on the end of it as I tried to move away. It’s nice that she liked my hair, it’s just a shame she liked it so much she wanted to keep it and give me whiplash in the process.

Ordinarily I would have added her to my list of London weirdos (see Things I have learned about London.), but this was the second pensioner hair-pull of the week, and the first one happened in Liverpool the day before I moved here. Clearly the conspiracy is national.

The first incident was actually more traumatic, because I was trapped with the offending old lady. My day wasn’t going very well already – I’d popped to the bank to pay in an American cheque and been bullied into seeing an advisor to ‘upgrade’ my account.* As I sat in the waiting area with another victim, an elderly couple came into the bank. He pottered off to queue for a teller and she took the seat between me and the other girl “for a little sit down”. I had my back to her, not because I was being rude but because I was watching the officious meeter and greeter who was holding my card hostage in case I saw an opportunity to get it back and get on with my life. Out of nowhere, the little old lady grabbed a bunch of my hair, yanked it and announced to nobody in particular, “I bet this keeps her warm when it’s chilly!”. As if that were not socially unacceptable enough, she then kept hold of my hair as we sat in awkward silence. I have never been so glad to see a  meeter and greeter as I was a few minutes later.

So, my message to the female pensioners of Great Britain is a simple one: stop it. Seriously. It’s not socially acceptable behaviour and it’s making me feel really paranoid.

 

*Side note: I use the term ‘upgrade’ in the loosest possible sense. The consequence of my hour in the bank has left me with absolutely no difference to my service other than the fact that I am now unable to use my account until they send me a new card.

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Things I have learned about London.

Five days ago, I moved to London. In five days, I have learned five things:

1. London is full of weirdos.

Genuinely, I have never encountered so many strange human beings before in my life. In these five days alone I have watched a guy in waders stand in the Thames and play electric guitar, been barked at by a jogger and been kissed by a homeless Italian man in Leicester Square. I’m actually quite concerned about what I might have to encounter tomorrow. On the plus side, the sheer volume of people behaving bizarrely meant that nobody batted an eyelid when I laughed out loud to myself so hard that I fell on my backside yesterday afternoon. Pros and cons…

2. I am terrible at being British under pressure.

As a post-grad living in student halls, most of my new contemporaries so far are from abroad. I decided that a good way to make some new friends was to be the useful local who knows things. Spending time with them has taught me quite how little I know of exportable British culture when I’m put on the spot. It turns out that I am not your go-to girl if you are an American looking for good British TV, a German looking for a good British shop to work in, a French girl wanting to know which mobile network to join, or a group of Austrian teenagers in the street who wants to know where the nearest branch of a clothing shop is.* Right now, sat alone in my room, I am full of recommendations and suggestions, but I’m just not used to thinking about these things, let alone having to explain them in casual conversation.

*I have no remorse about the last one. If you honestly think I look like the sort of person who shops at Hollister, let alone knows where the nearest branch is, then you deserve my vague directions towards what I think was probably more likely to be the Old Bailey.

3. The problem with Londoners is London.

As a northerner, I’ve always been baffled by the lack of cheer amongst Londoners; if you talk to anyone you don’t know here people look at you as if you have three heads, which, frankly, is a bit rich from the city which introduced barking joggers and Boris Johnson to my life. But as I sat scowling in city traffic the other day, being humiliatingly overtaken by ambling pensioners, I realised the problem – London. All of the constant busyness, and the traffic, and the tourists and the fumes, and the overly-amorous homeless people must wear them all down; I’d only been there five minutes and I looked like I was chewing a wasp. My London born and bred friend is the only person who has ever visited me at home in Liverpool and felt compelled to sing along with Gerry Marsden as we ferried across the Mersey. At the time I wondered what the hell was wrong with her – now I understand that all Londoners are probably like that away from London.

4. Fumes are an actual, real thing.

I have lived in a city my whole life. For the first 11 years of said existence I lived on a main road. I should not be surprised by fumes, but I have never noticed fumes like London fumes. I cannot go outside without my eyes streaming like they are attempting to compete with the Thames, I am coughing like a chain smoker, and just now I blew my nose and it was a bit black.* I am also really warm all of the time because the smog seems to work like a permanent blanket – a really, really gross blanket. I have spent most of the last five days wandering around looking like a hungover panda, wearing sunglasses to shield my poor, bloodshot eyes and to cover my tear-spread eye makeup.

*I am aware this is disgusting; that’s sort of my point.

5. London is pretty cool.

I didn’t want to move to London. It is big and faceless and people on the tube don’t talk to one another (it’s not that I have a particular penchant for talking to strangers on public transport, it’s more about what the determined silence represents). I might be changing my mind. Everywhere I go there are interesting things to see and do, and I’ve discovered that, if you’re prepared to risk a few funny looks in the process, most people actually quite like it if you smile at them and say a quick hello. And even though two days after I got here they took away the giant astroturf sofas from the South Bank, I’m willing to overlook that massive error in judgement for now. I think the Olympics might have changed London a little bit forever, and I’ve been taken in by the new spirit of optimism that has stuck around in the creases and crevices even though the greatest show on earth has left town. In spite of everything else, I’m beginning to think I’m going to like it here.

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