Sunday, 29 April 2012

Central london after Midnight

What I Did.

Central London 12:30 am. My two friends and I had just spent a lovely afternoon in Soho, having brunch at an amazing Aussie cafe called Lantana, then a walk through the streets, a few glasses of prosecco and then a French movie. Couldn't ask for a better afternoon. After the movie we had more prosecco and then dinner in soho. Again, just lovely. At 12:30am we emerged from the soho restaurant into crowds of Saturday night revellers and heavy rain. Wind blew umbrellas inside out and buses swept passed, spraying up great waves of water on to well heeled passersby. Drenched in seconds, we walked to the tube to get the last one home and realised the gates were shut. We'd missed it. No problem we thought, we'll just get a night bus. For my friends, this wasnt a problem. A bus could take them almost all the way home. For me, however, it would entail three separate buses to get back to balsam.

We said our goodbyes and off we went in separate directions. I walked for 5 minutes and got to the bus stop. Possibly about 60 people were waiting for the same night bus. So I has to wait for the third bus to get on. Once on, I realised I had left my oyster card in my other coat pocket. An oyster card, for those that don't know, is a prepaid credit type card that can be use on buses, tubes and some overground trains. If you don't have an oyster card, you can either buy a ticket at the bus stop or some will allow you on with correct change. So as I rootled around in my bag for small change, wet people tutting behind me, I realised I didn't have enough and pulled out a £20 pound note. The bus driver gave me a look that said "come on love, you should know better than that!" I was drenched and windswept, had waited 25 minutes for a bus and he wouldn't let me on or change my money. I asked a few people behind me if they could change a £20 pound note and they gave me this look like "if you have a £20 pound note, get off the bloody bus and get a taxi!" So cast off the bus, I began walking up Piccadilly towards the Ritz. Every bus that passed me, covered me in another dirty gallon of water. I was not a pretty sight! I walked passed a lovely smart restaurant called the Wolseley and got a very sympathetic look from the smart doorman. I had had a few glasses of wine and was in the mood for talking to strangers so I stopped on his step and had a lovely if slightly heated conversation about how rubbish public transport was in central London. The lovely man even tried to hail a black cab for me. But alas, no luck! A thousand wet people all trying to get a cab at the same time, in the pouring rain at 1am, my odds weren't good! I then remembered an app I had installed on my iPhone called HAIL, which is supposed to locate your exact position using GPS, and sends a black cab to you, sending you no only approximate time of arrival but the name and photo of the driver. Genius. So I huddled over my phone in a dry doorway and sent a message. 12 minutes later it had located almost 80 taxis in my vicinity but "unfortunately none are available at this time!" Well thanks for that.

I carried on walking, wool coat now heavy and wiffing of damp dog, and stopped inside the dry walkway of the ritz hotel. The beautifully dressed doormen, in dark green livery, looked at me with disdain. It's a bad day when doorman step away from you! I smiled and chatted to them and realising I wasn't a homeless bum with inside out umbrella, they also tried to help me hail a taxi. Again, no luck. I fleetingly looked into the beautiful lobby and wondered if I could justify booking a room for the night at a cost of £300, just because I was tired and wet! I couldn't, so thanked the kind men and carried on. I got to Hyde park corner 20 minutes later and saw a taxi with its light on, hurrah, praise the lord. But before I could raise my arm and shout, four people came out of nowhere and got to it before me. They must have been hiding under the nearest bush, in wait for the attack of the black cab! Bastards got it. So then I saw another and ran at full sprint to the roadside screaming "taxi!!!" He pulled over, window went down and he said "where to love?" I told him Balham and he drove off saying he was sorry but it was the wrong direction and he wanted to go home. Unbelievable! The same thing happened with the second taxi. I nearly cried. I carried on walking, the only thing keeping me going was the alcohol in my blood stream and the thought of burning off the calories of the alcohol and lovely steak I'd had for dinner. By now it was 1:30am. I honestly had given up and thought, god, I actually might have to walk home, when out of the gloom came another beacon of joy, yellow light glowing. I put my arm up and it stopped. Amazing. The window went down, I was asked for my address and he said "hop in, you look bloody awful, drowned rat springs to mind!" and he laughed. I laughed too, slightly manically I think but my overwhelming thought was... I love you Mr taxi man. He was my knight in shining armour although he was called Trevor and he was from Essex. At that moment in time I would have gladly married him and had 12 children. I got home at almost 2am and had been wandering the streets of London for 1.5 hours, trying to get home.

My only thought now is how on earth London is going to deal with an extra 5 million visitors during the Olympics! A new Olympic sport might just be created... The gold medal winner being the first poor sod that can get home in one piece.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

New Writing Group

Who I Met.

I have signed up for another creative writing class on Wednesday nights. It is different in quite a few ways from the class I have on Mondays.

Mondays is all girls... single, independent, bright, funny girls.
Wednesdays is all boys... married (except for John), independent, bright, funny (apart from John) boys. The class is more advanced, in so much as the boys have all been writing for years and have also been in writing classes with my teacher, for years. They all know each other and have quite a few "in" jokes, which is already annoying. They seem to be very good writers as far as I can tell. All of them except John.

Channa, Jason and Tom are in their early 40's. They are middle class (even though it's very hard to tell these days), seem well educated and are genuinely very interesting. Tom is a little smug. I think he knows he's the best writer in the group. Before each writing exercise, he looks around at each of us, clears his throat to make sure we are all alert and begins to read. He makes eye contact often, probably looking for admiring glances. My teacher flirts with him so I know he's good. John, however, is older. He is about 75 and Irish. He was in the Met police for 35 years and is bitter and twisted and hates the world. He looked at my breasts for the whole 3 hours of class and constantly clears his throat in a disgusting guttural way. He coughs frequently, sucks his teeth and mumbles. When he's writing, he suddenly starts talking out loud which is very off-putting when you are trying to write yourself. He is a misogynist, is tedious and is not a good writer. He interrupts constantly and asks inane questions. It's fair to say... I dislike him. I don't dislike many people but everything about this man rubs me the wrong way.

My teacher, it is clear, dislikes him too but she is professional and rises above it. A few times last night, I caught her doing an internal eye roll. Without any encouragement or comment from me, she sent me an email this morning that simply said, "Underneath it all, John is rather sweet." She knows. She sees. The other boys don't see it. They are boys. They do not get irritated by the same things (apart from my Father, who is irritated by pretty much everyone and everything... ha, ha, sorry Pops). I have inherited the "being annoyed by people" gene but try, on a daily basis, to ignore it. If someone yawns with their mouth open or coughs in my face on the tube, I simply tut loudly and turn the other cheek... or move! Yet I cannot move in my writing class. I'm stuck. He is there.. ever present, making noises and ogling. It might just be a problem.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012


What I Did.

My very expensive mattress arrived today. I haven't been so excited in years but as I looked longingly at it on my bed, thinking of my night ahead, sheets in hand, I realised that for such a glamorous mattress, it wouldn't be seen dead in last years sheets, actually sheets circa 1996. I decided she needed some new ones that would flatter her ( for my mattress is a 'she'... Something with those curves and padding has to be a 'she') and make her feel special. After lying on her for twenty minutes, I felt she only deserved the best. Egyptian cotton with a very high thread count. What I didn't realise, which is becoming a habit of mine, is that those kind of sheets cost a fortune.

I am sitting in a cafe, yards away from the bed department in shock. I had to come and have a cup of tea and check my bank balance before I went any further!

A few minutes later...

Well, I have decided that my beautiful mattress only deserves the best and she will be wearing vintage! It's so 2012.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Laptop vs Mattress

What I bought... Or didn't. Part Two.

My last blog was about me going to buy a washing machine and coming out with an iPhone. This time, it's slightly more abstract. I went to buy a laptop and came out with a mattress!

My intentions were again, very clear. I needed a laptop, or rather, I have wanted a laptop for a long time now. I have a 12 year old Mac tower at home. It may be ancient but it does what it needs to do. Most of the time I work in other people's studios anyway so I don't actually sit at home on a daily basis, designing things. My old computer works and thats fine... but when I saw the new Mac Powerbook laptops in the Apple store, I sort of swooned. They are powerful and sleek and silver and beautiful and it would mean I could type my blog in bed. That's what's important after all... reading emails, browsing the internet and writing, in bed. You all do it I'm sure, and I can hardly drag my 4-stone Mac tower into bed with me!

So, last Sunday I drove to an area of South London that is not usually in my 'most visited' zones. It's where all the bed and furniture shops live, there's a massive Ikea, a giant Sainsbury's and loads of computer warehouses. It's congested and ugly and I usually avoid it like the plague but needs must and I needed a laptop. I had just got to the computer area when I took a wrong turn and ended up in the car park of a bed shop. Instead of leaving, I parked and had a think.

My osteopath told me recently that part of my back pain could be down to a bad mattress. He also thinks my old mattress might be why I'm only sleeping six hours a night and therefore tired all the time. I realised my mattress was almost ten years old and to be honest, was not an expensive investment. Only that morning I had rolled over in bed and heard a suspicious 'twang' and a 'boink' noise. I pushed down on the mattress and could feel several coiled springs poking up at me. Not good at all. So as I sat in the bed shop car park, I thought, well what's the harm in just having a look? Do I never learn?

The shop was a simple corrugated metal warehouse full of beds, bare light bulbs and a few ceiling fans. Glamorous is not the look they were after. This was functional... here are the beds, hop on, have a roll around and buy one. I personally thought it could have done with a bit of mood lighting and some soft music, and suggested that to the salesman. He said, completely straight faced, that he would take my comments on board. He then asked me my budget, size and desired firmness and showed me a few mattresses which I dutifully rolled on and said things like: "oh no, it's too hard"or "this ones nice but maybe it's not firm enough", or "no, no, no, too soft, that won't do at all". You suddenly realise you sound like goldilocks in a porn film! The salesmen don't add to the uncomfortable experience either. They stand there, about two feet from the bed, watching you do your best 'pretend to be asleep' act whilst trying not to stare and put you off. It reminded me of the time I woke up with the dreadful feeling that someone was watching me and found my neighbour standing at the bottom of my bed staring at me. At first I thought it was a burglar and very calmly said "what do you want?". When the burglar replied, with very slurred speech "oh hi jules, I just wondered if I could borrow a bottle of wine", I realised it was James. He had my spare key and thinking I was away, though it ok, in his drunken state, to let himself in and steal a bottle of wine. As you can imagine, I was not at all amused and shouted at least ten swear words in one sentence. He never did that again.

So there I was, on a bed in a warehouse in croydon and I'm desperately trying to imagine sleeping on it properly when I suddenly remembered a bed I had once slept on... an amazing bed in a B&B in the lake district. I was sure I has written down the name of the mattress because it had been one of the best nights sleep I had ever had. I quickly got out my phone, sorry... my iPhone 4s, cough cough, and looked up an old email. There it was:

A Sealy Posturepedic ultra lux latex supreme non turn

I turned to the salesman and showed him my phone and he did a sharp intake of breath, put his hands on his hips, shook his head and with a knowing smile said "oh yes, ooooh yes, well I'm not surprised you slept well on that mattress. That mattress is the king of mattresses. It is the top of the range, hand made, osteopath approved, king of mattresses. I would buy that mattress." Yes well thanks for all that but have you got one and how much is it? He pursed his lips and showed me to the back of the warehouse. There, standing alone, was another bed. It looked like all the others but the mattress was deeper and it looked cleaner and unrolled on. I realised why, when I lay down on it and was momentarily transported to bed heaven. It felt like I was being carried by a giant fluffy marshmallow with twinkling blue eyes and I'm sure a summer breeze wafted over me. When I came to, I raised an eyebrow at the salesman who raised one back and said "you can't afford it luv". Ooh, not a good move young man. Firstly, no one tells me I can't afford it, it is like a red rag to a bull, it just makes me want it more. And hello, I'm a customer, don't call me luv!

I raised my other eyebrow (which is never as good as the first one) and he sighed and said "two and a half grand". When I came to, I slipped off the bed and nonchalantly looked at the ceiling, pretending to seriously think about buying it. He was having none of it. "I can show you another one, still made by Sealy, still orthapedic, but it's only £800." Oh great, my acting was obviously so convincing that he thinks although I can't afford a few thousand pounds, I can surely afford one that's £800. It is quite clever because you immediately think, ooh what a bargain. Almost the same but it's a quarter of the price! Now don't worry, I didn't spend that much on a mattress. I also didn't just visit one bed shop. Three more shops and six hours of my life later, I bought my mattress. It is dreamy and I hope it will last me at least 15 years. It's an investment... I will sleep better, I will therefore have more energy, spend less money on my osteopath and wake up as if angels have massaged me in my sleep. My mattress is:

A Sealy Brooklyn Posturpedic silver series, 1200 pocket sprung, non turn, latex topped, all natural filling, wool toggled, osteopath approved, and hand made in the Lake District.

It was the price of half a laptop. I know it's not a laptop but I can't sleep on a laptop can I? But as far as typing in bed goes, I have found a temporary solution. I have just written this whole blog on my, cough cough, iPhone.