New Endings

Today I am tired: dog-tired. Lately I’ve been burning the candle at both ends and the outcome is not pretty – bad skin, concentration span of a gnat (not intimately knowing their cognitive capabilities, I acknowledge this may be unfair to gnats) and the general feeling that I am clinging to my raft on the fast-flowing river of life by the tips of my fingers, with only moments to spare before I fall off and am pulled beneath the murky depths (that last bit was the hungover melodrama speaking, best to ignore it).

But today four things happened that snapped me out of the downward-spiralling torrrent of my own selfish emotions:

  1. I read the news from Calais, where fire is ravaging through the Jungle camp as I type this, and, at the very same time, unaccompanied minors are being sent back there to wait until they can be processed.
  2. I heard a piece of  news from England, which nearly made my heart burst with happiness and joy.
  3. I received my fourth book through the Facebook book exchange I signed up to a couple of weeks ago, which has gone some way towards restoring my faith in humanity.
  4. I watched this video by Prince Ea, which made me realise that those of us who are lucky enough to live in relative freedom are the masters of our own destiny. We can make as many excuses as we like for why we don’t put ourselves out there, but in the end all that will come of our procrastination is regret.

Too often we let our minds wander, thinking of all the paths we could go down but failing to take even the first step along one of them. Fear is a paralysing force, and a toxic one. So many of us stay in the trap our fearful minds have set for us, instead of facing our fear head on and saying, you know what? I’m not falling for this. Not again.

Collectively, as Sapiens (I urge you to read that, by the way, it will change your perspective on everything), we’re not doing that great a job of things: segregating ourselves by our countries of origin and religious beliefs, killing our planet, killing one another. But individually we can still make a difference. For all our faults, we humans have such capacity for kindness, for love, for hope. Even in the Jungle, where those awful fires are burning and people’s future is so uncertain, people are dancing. I’m sure those very people could teach the rest of us a lot about what it means to be happy, and how little we really need to find happiness, and peace in our hearts.

As Prince Ea says in his video, you cannot go back and make a new beginning. But you can start now, and make a brand new ending. It’s not too late to change ourselves, or to change the world. All it takes is courage: to feel our fear and do it anyway. I don’t know about you, but I plan to do exactly that.

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Old Friends

There’s nothing so wonderful as a wedding that also doubles up as a mass reunion of old friends. Last night was one such occasion, bringing all the friends from my Birmingham Uni days together under one roof for a good old fashioned knees up. And what a night it was. It’s been years since we were last all in the same place at the same time and we made the most of every second, reliving the silly dances of our youth and reminiscing about the fun times we all shared.

Life moves so fast and is so busy that it’s not always possible to see old friends as much as we might like. But, in my case at least, on those increasingly rare occasions when we do all get together the old magic is still there, and that’s such a lovely thing to behold and to experience.

I realised last night what an integral part of my life all those people have been and how much I love and value them. It was also heartwarming to see how happy and comfortable in their own skin everyone is now; Lord knows we’ve all been through our fair share of ups and downs over the thirteen years we’ve known one another but now it really feels we’ve come out of the other side and are all relatively settled.

But the biggest accolade of all must go to the stunning bride, Rebecca (whose Temperley wedding gown was the very definition of elegance) and her handsome groom, Paul, without whose hospitality we would not all have had the opportunity to come together in the first place. Great night guys, a thousand thank yous and enjoy married life xxxx
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Silent Disco at the Shard

Last night I went with three girl friends to a special silent disco event at the top of the Shard, organised by Time Out. I first discovered the silent disco concept several years ago in a south London club. The idea of everyone wearing headphones with the option of flicking between several different music channels seemed utterly ridiculous – and I loved it from the outset. Since then I’ve attended only a handful of similar events, most recently at London Zoo as part of its series of ‘Lates’ evening events. But whilst silent disco dancing near wild animals was fun, it was nowhere near comparable to doing it on the top three floors of the tallest building in Western Europe.

With its unobstructed 360 degree views across London, the View from the Shard is really something else. Not being a big fan of heights I wasn’t quite so taken with the outside viewing platform on the top floor, but in the two enclosed floors beneath I was in my element, switching between the three available music channels as I bopped away with the rest of the lucky few who had purchased tickets to the event. It really was a phenomenal experience, and one I doubt I will ever be fortunate enough to repeat. It’s nights like that which make seasoned Londoners like myself appreciate this magnificent city all over again – God bless London, and God bless the creators of the silent disco (the crazy bastards).

The Club

She stands in the shadows, eyes narrowed like a cat, watching, waiting. Blood pumps deafeningly in her ears, drowning out the music that is blasting from the speaker beside her. She scans the room, searching the faces of the crowd, looking for him. There. She sees him, standing tall and proud on the dance floor – with her. She quells the surge of emotion that rises up inside her, inhales deeply and steps out of the shadows. She picks her way through the throng of inebriated clubbers towards them. They dance on, oblivious to her presence and drunk on one another’s. Somewhere someone blows a whistle, shrill and loud. As she approaches they start to kiss. His hands reach down and grope her behind. This time the rage explodes like a firework inside her head. She reaches out and pulls them roughly apart. The shock on their faces is satisfying and spurs her on. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” she demands, furious now. She grabs him by the arm and starts to pull. He doesn’t resist, he knows his time is up. When they emerge into the cool night air she gestures to the car and he gets in. “Well? Do you have anything you want to say to me?” she asks, keeping her eyes on the road. “Sorry Mum.”

Let wedding season commence

Today is my good friend and ex-colleague’s wedding in Shropshire, and as I shall shortly be embarking on the three hour journey with no wiggle room on timing this post will be brief. 

Whether it’s the occasion, the dresses, the speeches or the food, weddings have something for everyone. Even the most unromantic of souls can derive pleasure from a disco and a free bar. Weddings are also a great excuse for an overnight getaway, and a chance to let our hair down with a different crowd – scoffing cheese and nattering to Great Auntie Gladys before hitting the dance floor with Uncle Bert; what’s not to love?

But for those of us with a little more heart, being invited to watch our nearest and dearest exchanging vows is both a privilege and an honour. I never fail to have a tear in my eye at that moment when the deal is sealed and the bride and groom look at one another, dewy eyed and ecstatic, knowing from this point on they’ll be taking on the world together – as a team. I for one can’t think of anything more romantic than that.

So I’ve packed my dancing shoes and the little cream number from the Calvin Klein sample sale in New York that I’ve been dying to wear, and I am ready to P-A-R-T-Y. Like it’s 25th May 2013 – which, of course, it is. I’ll get my coat.

I captured this moment whilst walking around Central Park in New York on my visit in April.

 

Bar Review: Barrio East

Last night I had my work leaving drinks at Barrio East on Shoreditch High Street. Having never been there before I wasn’t sure what to expect of my reserved area, ‘The Caravan,’ but it was everything I’d dreamed of and more.

What strikes you as you walk in the door of this South American-inspired bar is the brightly coloured lego-esque furniture in the front room. And from there onwards things keep getting quirkier, with splashes of colour just about everywhere you look. The friendly bartenders serve up an array of delicious cocktails (Top tip: Get there between 4pm and 8pm for bargain price cocktails and £5 discount on wine) as the music gets you in a dancing mood.

There are three different rooms or areas at Barrio East, each with its own distinctive style. But the one I liked best (and had, by happy coincidence, reserved for my gathering) was The Caravan. Located directly beside the dance floor, it is exactly what it says on the tin: A caravan. In a bar. Amazing. Seating up to 15 people (allegedly – though I’d say 13 tops if you want to be comfortable rather than elbowing each other in the face) it’s comfortable, wonderfully kitsch and also has the added bonus of feeling like an elevated throne from where you can look down at the drunken antics on the dance floor below with a self-satisfied smile.

An hour or so after we arrived, when we were happily ensconced in our self-styled ‘caravan of love,’ with bottles of wine and plate of nachos a plenty, the band arrived. It’s always a bit nerve wracking when a band turns up on a night out; it has the potential to either make or break the evening. But fortunately in our case it made the evening. Freddie and the Freeloaders (great name!) were just the ticket, and soon had us dancing away to their soulful tunes.

Weird as it sounds even the toilets deserve a mention in this place; when you walk in you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve been transported to Brighton seafront at the height of summer, with rows of painted beach huts (the toilet cubicles).

In short, this place is great – a little gem that’s a big break from the norm. If you like your bars to be crazy, quirky and kitsch then this is the place for you. Once you’ve tried it no local boozer will ever seem the same again. You have been warned…

A caravan. In a bar. AMAZING.

Hot Tub Cinema – a review

The fact it’s 5pm and I can only just bring myself to write about Hot Tub Cinema last night is surely testament to how much fun was had (hint: Too much fun for a Tuesday night). What made the whole experience even more surreal was the fact the venue was located in a warehouse just a stone’s throw from my office. At 6.25pm I left work and by 6.27pm I was standing by a giant glittery Oscar statue being registered by a woman in an animal onesie.

Once inside it got even more surreal, with all the staff dressed as animals (bar one man in a tutu and wig) and most of the guests in some form of elaborate fancy dress. I’d felt embarrassed turning up with just a pair of flippers and a float as my contribution, but as it turned out they went down a treat (however, fishing a flipper out of a dirty, tepid hot tub at the end of the night was a definite low point).

Now, moving on to the facilities…There was a licensed bar serving a variety of alcoholic beverages – which you could purchase with pre-bought tokens stored in a handy wallet around your wrist – as well as traditional cinema snacks like popcorn and hot dogs. Much to our relief there was also ‘table’ service during the film, meaning you didn’t have to get out of the hot water and traipse – tipsy and sodden – over to the bar.

The only downside was the size of the hot tubs. Billed as being big enough to fit eight (though to be fair to the organisers they did say six would be more comfortable), I can only assume they were talking about eight toddlers. With six of us in it the water levels were treacherously high, and by the time eight had clambered in…well, let’s just say it was a good job we all knew one another, and that nobody was claustrophobic. Fortunately the lovely organisers allowed us to spill over into the adjacent free tub shortly after the film commenced, which made for a much more enjoyable viewing experience.

Much as I love Ferris Bueller’s Day Off it was somewhat hard to concentrate on the film given the novelty of the surroundings. At certain points in the film the staff encouraged everyone to stand up and dance around in their tubs; cue much hilarity and more than a bit of hot-tub-hopping.

With the film finished and the music cranked up to ear-splitting levels the event descended into full-scale, drink-fuelled chaos, with people leaping from one tub to the next with wild abandon. When I turned around and found myself face-to-crotch with a tub of naked men I knew it was time to take my leave and stumble back out into the real world.

To conclude with the words of Ferris Bueller himself: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” I urge you, dear reader, not to miss out on Hot Tub Cinema. It’s ridiculous, but it’s an experience you won’t forget.

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My friends won’t thank me for putting this on the world wide web, but hey, all in the name of research…