Tag Archives: london

Reasons To Be Cheerful #65: When Friends Come To Stay

8 Apr

Now that I am at least 65% real grown-up (ie: co-habiting and cleaning the house regularly) I take a different sort of pride in having people come to stay. No longer will they arrive to a dirty flat and half of my rumpled bed. These days, guests get a hoovered landing and a blow-up bed*. And while I wouldn’t – strictly speaking – compare myself to Tony Blair, Middle East peace envoy – it is clear that I’m playing my part in bridging the north-south gap.

*Those of you looking for hosting tips, please feel free to read this post in the educational manner of one reading Pippa Middleton’s party planning guide.

1. Being a Proper Person

Not that long ago, I thought that house pride was something reserved only for clean freaks and desperate housewives of telly fiction. But now, having reached the grand old age of 27, I see the error of my ways. I now know that the only acceptable way to treat a house guest is to leave a chocolate mint under their pillow. Well, that or to provide them with a clean towel and an inflatable mattress to blow up.

Call me Susan

Just call me Susan

2. Showing Off The Sights

If you read my Salford blog, you’ll know that I live in a place of wonder. A city cleverly disguised as a Manchester offshoot with a dubious cathedral and a ‘vibrant’ community. Showing off the Mocha shopping parade (home to a KwikSave) and the beautiful old cinema (now a church for Christian fanatics) are activities that are bound up with great pride. And that’s before you’ve even reached Manchester proper. London might have its fair share of crazies, but the wannabe Bez dancer with the plasticine face and killer dance moves belongs to the north.

3. Facing Domestic Challenges

The main reason that we are all so fat these days (apart from the saturated fat, kebabs and increased portion sizes) is that convenience and technology have replaced good old fashioned elbow grease. No more scrubbing wet clothes on the drying rack or burning off those kcals in the pantry. Modern kitchens will kill us all. The point is, that that amazing blow-up bed that I so proudly offered to my friends, well it was impossible to bring down. A good hour of rolling and folding and putting a teaspoon in the valve/nozzle/thingy were what it took. But I took it all in my stride.

A battle of valves

A battle of valves

4. Acting the Tourist

Even though I’m already a demi-tourist in Manchester, it’s much more fun being a ‘visitor’ when you’re with real bonafide visitors. It suddenly becomes acceptable to buy a keyring with your photo on it, from a gay club. For £3. It also provides you with a debating team for reasoned kebab shop disputes on the economic disparities between North and South.

(REASONS TO BE PISSED OFF: You can’t keep your friends in a Hole. They tend to go home)

 

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Reasons to be Cheerful #64: Salford

11 Mar

city of salford sign(2)

Today the universe sent me a sign. Rainy Manchester – which I swapped for reliably smoggy London – is warm and sunny, while the south? The south is COLD. Aha! Somewhere in the midsts of my – let’s be honest – short-lived smugness, I realised that I hadn’t done any kind of northern blog since I moved up here. It’s time to pay homage to my new home, Salford. Or – in my favourite pun of the year so far – Costa del Salford. So, reasons to be cheerful…

1. A Different Kind of Gentrification

Last time I was in Hackney central, the gentrification process was ramping up along Lower Clapton Road, where every other shopspace is now a trendy bar/cafe/beardy grooming salon. In grittier Salford, the introduction of BBC and the rest of the glitzy MediaCity development signalled new beginnings of a sort. But the pace is somewhat… slower. For example, I live in a place which has added the suffix ‘village’ in a fairly transparent attempt to belie the surrounding council estates and their Jeremy Kyle residents (I genuinely heard someone outside my window calling his girlfriend a ‘fat slag’). The naturally-occurring upscaling that comes with this new class of resident is self-evident in Broughton Village. We’ve got Matchsticks, a bar  decorated like a Groupon-featured salon; and a present shop selling bunches of sweets poorly disguised as flowers.

Hackney

Hackney

 

2. It Breeds Genius 

Salford is to culture like Wales is to just music. I didn’t even realise it was a city in its own right until about three weeks ago and now I find that it also gave us The Ting Tings. Here are some more famous Salfordians:

painter, L S Lowry;

wreckhead, Shaun Ryder;

wreckheads, Joy Division;

Keith Richards lookalike, John Cooper Clarke;

intense thespian, Christopher Eccleston  and

Gandhi impersonator, Ben Kingsley

Yes, even Gandhi came from Salford

Yes, even Gandhi came from Salford

3. The Culture

Seeing how Salford produced so many cultural behemoths, it’s only right that it should boast awe-inspiring museums and galleries. The Lowry gallery on Salford Quays is pretty impressive and stuffed full of Lowrys, but a brief visit to what you’d expect to be the city’s main cultural hub – Salford Museum and Art Gallery – makes it abundantly clear that the Lowry’s success is based on thievery. The poor old museum – right next to the university at which Lowry studied, has a handful of Lowry paintings and a lot of what artists call ‘negative space’ (bare walls). It is a bit depressing. But then, so was the music of Joy Division. So maybe it’s all on purpose..

4. The Scenery

L. S Lowry’s paintings are famous for their depictions of grim Manchester and Salford life. And there’s no getting around it. The setting is a gritty one. But at night it looks just marvellous, especially down on Salford Quays.

Rose-tinted nightvision

Night vision

 

 

(REASONS TO BE PISSED OFF: The weird canvas at Matchsticks that merges the faces of Elizabeth II and Winston Churchill)

 

 

Reasons To Be Cheerful #52: The Week Before Payday

26 Sep

main

Living paycheck to paycheck is often denigrated as a mean existence. But come on, without going into the whole ‘starving children in Africa’ thing, we don’t know how good we’ve got it. Can millionaires take the week before their paycheck to become reacquainted with their basic cooking skills? Hardly. And I bet their lunches are way more calorific than the Marks & Spencer soup (£2.09 for two portions) that has been my bargain bin meal. So let’s all hail the week before payday as something not so different from lent. Here are my reasons why:

1. You Can Test Out Your Cooking Skills

With a meagre amount of money in the bank and an even more meagre amount of food in the fridge, the week before payday is not the time for Tesco’s finest salmon fillets with a fancy salad featuring feta cheese. No, no, this is the time of making your money stretch. And if you don’t want to go down the pasta pesto route, you need to get inventive. This isn’t a Jamie Oliver blog, so I shan’t be handing out recipe ideas, but just as an fyi: I’ve been eating chilli all week and it’s been damn good.

You don't get this chub budget cooking

You don’t get this chubby budget cooking, Jamie

2. Involuntary Detoxing

£10 til payday doesn’t really cover a couple of nights in the pub, so unless you’re desperate enough to drink the dregs of that miniature whisky bottle bought at 3am on Sunday morning, it looks like you’re going booze-free for the week. This might not seem ideal at first, when friends ask you out for a drink or you walk past the city suits living it up in All Bar One (actually, hang on..); but just think of your liver. It’s a fairly important organ and one day all these monthly skint weeks could really pay off.

No thanks, I choose my liver (til the last Friday of the month)

No thanks, I choose my liver (til the last Friday of the month anyway)

3. Getting Stuff Done

It can be hard to fill in that tax form, call the bank, apply for that job, study for that online course ETC when your social schedule dictates that you have to go out and spend money.  So when the social calendar is temporarily emptied due to ongoing fiscal concerns, that’s the time to take action on your tick list. It is emphatically NOT the time to revisit the first series of Game of Thrones.

Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs...

Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs…

..or NED STARK

..or NED STARK

 

4. A Tenner Becomes Like Gold Dust

During payday weekend you could be forgiven for treating a ten pound note about as preciously as you would a Jehovah’s Witness pamphlet. You might not even recall what you spent it on (giant jars of pickles, aloe vera juice and Arabic peanut butter from the local corner shop), after all what’s a tenner when you’re ‘rich’? Skip forward three weeks and it’s a slightly different story. You may be considering selling your back-up phone for £20; you might even be collecting coppers from various surfaces around your house to put towards a roll of bread to dip in your M&S soup. But find a tenner in a back pocket and you’ll feel like Charlie Bucket.

That's at least two pints!

That’s at least two pints!

(REASONS TO BE PISSED OFF: Doesn’t look like the millions are rolling in anytime soon)

 

 

Reasons To Be Cheerful #37: Summer Fashion Types

18 Jul

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Causing much consternation for Australians that came here to escape the sun (and culture void), the long-awaited heatwave is making many a ripple across the fabric of the country. As always, fashion is at the forefront of all cultural and social change and it is up and down the nation’s urban catwalks (read: route to your office) that we begin to see the changes take place. Feet are out, moods are lighter and people are daring to bare; or not, as the case may be. Here are my reasons to be cheerful:

1. The All-Outs

Undoubtedly my personal favourite, the all-outs weigh in heavily on the side of dare to bare. These are the people that are actually in possession of the magazine mythical summer wardrobe. I’m talking about the colleague that spent the last eight months in a variation on low ponytail/peplum dress/ killer heels, who now swans in with summery Beyonce hair extensions, sheer, floaty dresses and jewelled sandals. You know, the one that opts for a ‘demure’ maxi with a thigh high slit and keeps her sunnies on until she hits her desk. This is your All-Out summer fashion type.

Casual Tuesday

Casual Tuesday

2. The DGAFs (Don’t give a fucks)

The polar opposite of the all-out, your standard DGAF doesn’t necessarily dislike the hot weather, he’s just indifferent to it and absolutely not willing to adapt. DGAF eschews ventilated footwear for heavy boots and thinks nothing of wearing head-to-toe black in the searing heat. Don’t be surprised to see a DGAF casually eating a hot and spicy dansak in the full glare of the sun.

Cool as a hot cucumber

Cool as a hot cucumber

3. The Reluctants

Your average reluctant is the kind of person that likes to be able to wear the same outfit fairly regularly. So, when there’s a dramatic temperature change, this type is stumped. What do you do? You’ll see the reluctant uncomfortably carrying on in winter clothes for a good couple of weeks before they accept that their wear is inappropriate. The reaction, when it happens, will inevitably be exceedingly practical and exceedingly ugly. For men, expect vests in primary colours and over-the-knee khaki shorts. For women, lightwear floral dresses that would probably flatter someone either 15 years older or 15 years ago.

Just no.

Just no.

4. The Unfortunates

These are the lepers of this post – the people that, because of work, are forced to wear highly impractical clothing and tightly-fastened ties; whose sweat glands are too responsive for even a pretence at being cool. So next time you have to stand under one of these people’s armpits on a bus or train, put yourself in their shoes. Then move away as quickly as possible.

This guy. On a train near you coming soon

This guy. Getting on a train near you soon.

(REASONS TO BE PISSED OFF: It’s hard to be compassionate when someone else’s sweat is dripping on you on the Northern Line)

Living the dream

Living the dream

Reasons To Be Cheerful 26: Parklife

6 May

park

The sun is out in Hackney and it’s to the park we head. It’s a beautiful day for inhaling hummus and crisps in the sunshine, and it’s a gorgeous day for people watching. And the people? Well, they’re certainly interesting, which as we all know, is a polite way of saying either a) fucking annoying; b) god awful; or c) encouraging their dogs to mount each other. Here’s why I’m cheerful about the park/sun combination:

1. Opportunities For Acceptable and Civilised Daytime Drinking

A classy beverage

A classy beverage

I should first point out that I have been known to enjoy a day drink on more than several occasions, and it would be mainly an untruth to say that these occasions have all been sunny. However, this does not mean that I am unable to appreciate the greater refinement that comes with enjoying a can of Pina Colada whilst sitting on a blanket in close proximity to cricket players. The Pina Colada may be 11% and taste like burnt sugar, but with the sun on its side, it has the high class aura of a vodka Martini sipped on a super yacht.

2. The Picnic

Not this one

Not this one

There really is nothing quite like a picnic. A John Lewis basket spilling over with strawberries and cream, Champagne and pimiento-stuffed olives; fresh anchovies, cold meats and salads involving quinoa. Or, if you choose to err on the economic side, a blue plastic bag filled with one large bag of crisps and the corner shop’s own hummus.

3. The People

On sunny days, I sometimes experience as many as four people that i don’t know, saying hello to me. And that’s not including the old letches (then you’re looking at at least seven). The sun just brings out the best in people. You also get to enjoy the families that have taken advantage of the good weather by bringing toddler Jimmy and doggie Bruno out to the park. A personal favourite for me, was the family who today brought their adorable toddler and two massive rottweilers out. Who doesn’t like to see dogs rutting in front of a three-year-old?

4. The Wildlife

Butterflies, twittering birds, dragonflies. Aah the lovely creatures of summer. So where were you today? All I saw was midges and I’m itching even now.

Beautiful, or just a big fly?

Beautiful, or just a big fly?

(REASONS TO BE PISSED OFF: The fat man apparently burning himself on purpose whilst lying topless on the grass. Absolutely no need for that really).

Reasons To Be Cheerful #21: Justin Bieber

26 Apr

At first I tried to ignore the rise and rise of the Biebs, but somewhere along the way the cheeky pop poppet caught my attention. Whether it was his increasingly-mediocre chart offerings or simply the new haircut, by the time of his recent ill-fated visit to London, he was squarely in my sights. Here’s a look at how Bieber has brightened my days:

1. His Trousers

Drop it like it's hot?

Drop it like it’s hot?

One blog post just does not provide enough space to go through the entire bizarreness and inanity of Biebs’ wardrobe (gas mask anyone?), so we’ll focus on one particular garment: the trouser. Always a dropped crotch, normally teamed with high tops: he’s an apparel ambassador. This style of pantaloon is also a brave choice for one not especially blessed in the height department.

2. His Route to Maturity

Some people like to defend Justin with cries of ‘he’s just a teenager!’ or ‘what would happen if your every 18-year-old action was caught on camera?’. To that I say pah! Let him have his rebellion. If he wants to trot around freezing London topless then that’s his business. And who hasn’t been late to their own party? (or gig. At the O2).

3. His Cultural Awareness

A recent trip to the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam revealed Bieber’s uncanny ability to connect to teenage girls of all eras, after he wrote in the visitors’ book:

“Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber”

And let’s not forget his refusal to be bullied into divisive Euro – American semantics  when he explained his bafflement at the question, ‘Bieber is German for basketball: true or false?’ with the response:

“We don’t say that [German] in America”

 

4. The Way He Stormed the UK Leg of His Tour

On the Brit leg of his Believe tour, Justin managed to piss off his fans, the press and various nightclubs. He spent approximately 80% of his time topless, despite it being England’s coldest weather in about 2000 years AND he told a journalist that he would fuck him up. Way to tour JB. Way. To. Tour.

Casual hotel entrance

Casual hotel entrance

If you find these pictures attractive, this blog is not for you

If you find these pictures attractive, this blog is probably not for you

(REASONS TO BE PISSED OFF: If you beliebed your hype that much maybe you too would have 38million Twitter followers).

 

Reasons To Be Cheerful #20: The Recession

25 Apr

Today cheers could be heard across the width and breadth of the land as it was announced that we had not in fact, entered a ‘triple dip’ recession. Phewee. I know that for me, at least, it makes all the difference. Since the news, I have been almost literally flooded with job offers. So, before gloomy finance becomes a relic of the past let’s celebrate the best of our recession:

1. A Valid Reason To Use the Phrase ‘Double Dip’

So many jokes, so many connotations and yet, it is linked to something whose actual definition is really just too boring to explain (see: definition of recession). Try inserting a double dip into as many conversations or situations as you can. Just for laughs.

See for 'annoying double dip;

See for ‘annoying double dip’

2. A Valid Excuse For Ambling On

Been vaguely looking for a job for the last couple of years whilst living it up in a fun bar job where weekly pay and no real responsibility means you can go out every night? This is not feckless behaviour. This is a symptom of our broken country. I bet you have an MA too.

3. We’re All In This Together

When George Osborne told the country that we’re all in this (mess) together he missed a trick or two. Namely the fact that losing a third home does not equate to losing your only home. But let’s not get too political/judgemental here. After all, we were all brought together by hatred of bankers and lots of us were brought together by rioting. It’s just like the Blitz really.

United front

United front

Looters united

United at a shopfront

4. At Least We’re Not Greece, Spain, or Italy

Remember the old adage, there’s always someone who’s more in the shit than you are? If not, read and internalise it now for future use. Bring it out next time someone moans about the lack of jobs/credit crunch/welfare scroungers.

If we were Italy, we'd be about to let this man back in Government

If we were Italy, we’d be about to let this man back in Government

(REASONS TO BE PISSED OFF: Noone says ‘credit crunch’ anymore) 

Reasons To Be Cheerful #8: New Neighbours

5 Apr
That's when good neighbours become good friends

That’s when good neighbours become good friends

Even though our deteriorating society knows nothing of community or social unpstandingness, I am willing to go out on a limb and say that neighbours still have a place in our world. And I don’t just mean next door. 

We’ve recently acquired new ones downstairs and though I’ve yet to meet them, there are a number of things that make me feel assured of their essential goodness. Here goes:

1. Plant Pots = Good People

My first sighting of the new neighbours, well, one of the top of their heads at least, occurred when he was putting out plant pots on the inside window ledge. This must be a good thing. We buy plants very occasionally  but at the times that we do have them I certainly feel better about both myself and my abode.

2. Prior Knowledge

As luck would have it, the male half of the newly-moved in couple just so happens to have once shared some goodtimes with my housemate. What a piece of serendipity. Surely this will mean shared interests…

3. They May Have a Cat

According to the afore-mentioned housemate, they may have a cat. The ‘may’ here could make this point look a little tenuous, but I would strenuously refute such a suggestion.

4. Finally, a Civilised Existence

Much unlike our refined selves, the previous neighbours were of a shady character and I strongly suspect that they were running a marijuana factory or a people traffiking one. Possibly both. Now that we have nice neighbours like ourselves I foresee a time filled with dinner parties, mutual milk buying and, of course, cat sitting.

(REASONS TO BE PISSED OFF: The housemate link could, possibly, backfire)

Reasons To Be Cheerful #5: The North South Divide

2 Apr

north south divide

Based on a life spent in the south and a fair few trips to Manchester (plus several singular trips to Edinburgh, Newcastle, Glasgow, Yorkshire), I have formed an entirely qualitative understanding of what is generally termed the north-south divide. And I like it. Here is why:

1. Both sides get to win

While we southern fairies are smug about our better job prospects and less abrasive accents, those hailing from up north are content in the knowledge that southerners don’t even know the meaning of hardship, not to mention the fact that you can actually get a cheap pint.

2. We can all learn something from each other

Who knew that less than three hours on the train could be tantamount to a social awakening!? Yes southerners, you can talk to strangers without being a rapist/paedophile. And northerners, if you’re in a bad mood and not feeling inclined to respond to the smiles of strangers, simply do as Londoners do and put your head down, moody face on and walk like you’re the only one on the pavement.

3. It helps us to feel like a bigger country

We are all feeling the strain of post-Empire blues, though most of us don’t know it. Why else do we like to lord it over ‘young’ America so much? (but it is true, they have NO HISTORY). The north-south divide means we can show the geographically larger nations that size is not all. There are plenty of cultural and regional divisions here, thankyou very much!

4. It shows us two ways to do glamour

Now I’m not saying that everyone north of Birmingham is a WAG, but there is no denying that the make-up gets denser as you move up the the compass. When in Manchester I often feel like my barely painted face is looked upon with pity by girls adept in the Kardashian school of cosmetics. It’s not better, just… different.

(REASONS TO BE PISSED OFF: Everyone loses on weather. Despite oft-heard protestations that the south is sunnier, let’s just be honest and acknowledge that all of the weather in Britain is shit).