Grinning through the gloom

Whether on a micro or a macro level, it’s an undeniable fact that life doesn’t always work out the way we want it to. No matter how well we lay our plans, the boiler will always break just as we want a shower, the supper will always spoil when we have guests for supper, and giving the customer services team of our bank/mobile phone supplier/energy provider a ‘quick’ ring in our lunch hour will rarely, if ever, be either quick or satisfactorily resolved. It will always rain when we have no umbrella, our bosses will always walk up to our desk at just the moment we flick onto Facebook, and the chain on our bike will always come off when we’re at our most red-faced and unattractive (not to mention in the busiest part of town).

But whilst it sometimes feels like things are sent to thwart us, in reality they are just part of the rich tapestry of life. In some ways it can even be such unexpected occurrences that change the metaphorical direction in which we’re travelling, forcing us to take stock of a situation and re-evaluate it, then change the way we choose to deal with it.

Whatever the reason (or lack thereof) for things going wrong, dwelling on them isn’t going to solve anything. Provided those things aren’t matters of life and death, it’s probably safe to say that they will pass and we will emerge from whatever storm that descended upon us relatively unscathed. It is, of course, easier said than done that we can slap a smile on our faces and grin through the gloom in every circumstance, but if we can remember that this too shall pass we’re half way towards winning the battle.

People should smile more

As I write this I’m listening to a song by one of my favourite flame-haired gentlemen (besides my boyfriend, obviously): Newton Faulkner. It is entitled “People should smile more.” And as I listen I recall a slightly bizarre incident on the tube yesterday as I travelled home from work, in which I sat down opposite a strange-looking girl with a wide-eyed expression and wild frizzy hair. She was wearing an outfit that can only accurately be described as looking like an eighties wardrobe had thrown up on itself; a multi-coloured neon array of leggings, leg warmers, cable knits and a plethora of other materials whose name I couldn’t even hazard a guess at. But by far the strangest thing about her was her smile. It wasn’t any old smile – oh no. This was the smile of a crazy person; an unselfconscious, maniacal nod to every poor incarcerated loon across the land. And, most disconcertingly of all, this smile was aimed directly at me.

At first I thought perhaps I had some loo roll dangling from my shoe. Or, worse still, perhaps my skirt was tucked into my knickers and I’d walked the whole way from the office to the tube baring my bum to the world. But no, a quick scan of my outfit told me neither of these was a possibility. My eyes darted left to right, engaging in a weird tango with hers as I desperately tried to avoid her terrifying gaze. But the more I tried to look away the more I was drawn into the bizarre interaction. Suddenly our eyes locked, and I was at once both trapped and powerless. Her pupils dilated and her grin widened into the Joker’s from Batman (or at least that’s how it seemed to me as I cowered in my seat). Then, to my horror, she rose up from her seat like some kind of ghoul and leaned in towards me. Just as I thought I might pass out with fear she said four words to me. And then, just like that (and not unlike the devil in The Usual Suspects), she was gone.

What were those four sinister words? “I like your bag.”

Maybe people should smile more after all.

What better accompanying image could there be for this post than a recent snap of me and my two gorgeous best friends? Check out those megawatt smiles – cheese!

Rave face

Stumbling wildly through the crowd, he searches without seeing for a familiar face. His heart is pounding in his chest due to a combination of the drugs he has ingested and the heavy bass line of the music booming out of the vastly oversized but nonetheless inadequate speakers.

Acutely aware of the sweat pouring down his face he pushes past girls with pink hair and dark eyeliner, boys in high tops and damp motif tee shirts. All of them are smiling, beaming even, almost unnaturally so. Fleetingly he catches himself thinking the world’s problems could be solved if everyone just popped an ecstasy pill once in a while.

His mouth is dry. This needs addressing instantly. He stops in his tracks and fishes deep inside his pocket, from which he retrieves a soggy packet of chewing gum. As soon as the gum hits his tongue his taste buds come alive, like a thousand nerve endings hooked up to ten thousand volts. Satisfied with this sensation he continues on his path across the dance floor, heading for the exit that will take him to fresh air.

Once outside he bums a cigarette from a sweaty wide-eyed boy in a wife beater vest with a whistle around his neck and neon paint daubed on his cheeks. He takes two drags, inhaling deeply each time, then coughs and throws the cigarette to the ground. It wasn’t what he wanted. And now the sweat is cooling on his skin and he is cold. Maybe he doesn’t want to be outside after all. But inside was so hectic, what should he do?

Then suddenly, she is there; real and solid and perfect in every way. His mouth hurts for smiling; such is his relief at finally having been found. This is what he wants, he’s never been more sure of anything as he is in this very moment.

She takes his hand.

And he is free.

Writing this made me think conversely of the best experience I’ve ever had at a club, and it hands down has to go to this night in Pacha, Ibiza, in 2009 – I’ve no idea what was happening with the beams of light and the dancer’s dress, but it created the most incredible effect for the pic! A great memento of a fabulous night 🙂

Moment in time

It is half past eleven on the London underground; Oxford Circus, Victoria Line southbound.

A girl stands on the platform, her head swaying in unselfconscious appreciation of the rock music being delivered into her ears by her oversized headphones. She stoops to tie a lace in her steel toe-capped boots, pulls her multi-coloured knee socks up, yawns and wipes a heavily charcoaled eye with the back of a fingerless glove-clad hand, oblivious to those around her.

The train pulls into the platform. Unusually there’s no scrum as the doors open, most of the seats being already taken by tipsy revellers reluctant to miss the last easy way home. The girl walks down the carriage and stops in the middle. She grasps the hand rail and blows a bubble with her gum, thinking of her thesis and wondering if smoking a joint when she gets home will make tomorrow a literal write off.

To the girl’s right are a couple so deeply entrenched in one another’s oral cavities it’s hard to see where one ends and the other begins. When they finally come up for air they entwine fingers and stare at one another with the intense longing of first love. The man mouths the three words his partner is aching to hear. She flushes scarlet and smiles a smile so dazzling her soul seems to shine right out of her cherubic face. She lays her blonde head on the man’s shoulder and they stare contentedly into the middle distance.

Beside the couple a boy is slumped in his seat, his head lolling forward in a comical fashion. He is wearing a baseball cap with NYC emblazoned across it, and his baggy jeans are so low slung the crotch almost drags on the floor. In his hand he clasps a takeaway box, the prize at the end of a long night. Though some are eyeing him with suspicion, no doubt mistaking him for a drunk, he’s just come off a double shift at work and is exhausted.

The doors beep and start to close, but not before the dreadlocked man who has been busking in the station for the past three hours manages to leap through them, guitar case in hand, prompting a mixture of tuts and nods of appreciation from his fellow passengers. He props the guitar case against the rail and starts to hum a melody, not for money but for his own unbridled pleasure.

Further along the carriage an elderly man is engaged in conversation with two bespectacled students, imparting his worldliness over the course of three tube stops. They watch him intently, rapt in his presence as their own worlds pale into insignificance in the shadow of the one he has seen. There is not, they all know, enough time to hear it all.

Opposite the students sits a girl, pale and drawn with tell-tale streaks of mascara running in rivulets down her cheeks. She knows she is a cliché, the archetypal jilted lover, but her heart feels close to breaking and she doesn’t care who sees the emotion etched across her face.

By the door in the middle of the carriage a drunk, middle-aged couple giggle like school children. The woman flicks her chestnut curls and pivots around the rail, prompting the man to grab her by the waist and prevent her from toppling over. She laughs, at once both wild and tamed.

At length the train pulls into the platform at Victoria. The girl with the headphones leaves first, confident now that she will smoke a joint when she reaches home. She is closely followed by the kissing couple, still smiling as if, in each other, they’ve discovered Utopia. Next the busker lifts his guitar case and exits the carriage with an easy hop. The students sigh and bid goodbye to their mentor who is, he tells them, will be staying to the end of the line. The jilted girl drifts through the doors ahead of the laughing couple, who stumble down the platform arm in arm, singing something unintelligible. As the doors begin to beep the boy with the takeaway box awakes. He leaps up and hurls himself through the closing gap in the nick of time, his takeaway box left behind like a casualty of war.

Off they go, into the night. Never will they meet again, but will forever be indelibly joined by that one moment in time.

Image

This is possibly my favourite picture from my travels. I took it from the rooftop of a hotel in Jaipur, India, and didn’t for a single moment think it would come out as well as it did. I think it perfectly signifies the frenetic rush of city living and, as such, is a suitable accompaniment to this post.