Tag Archives: uk

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)



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.




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 #62: Moving House

15 Jan


A regular high achiever on top 10 lists of most stressful things to do, moving house does not have the best of reputations. I would like to redress the balance because in amongst the arguments, broken valuables and unreliable packing tape that are so readily associated with a change of residence, there are some silver linings. Whether it’s the man that comes with your van, or the sturdy (if bottomless) banana boxes kindly donated to you by your local cornershop, there are always some reasons to be cheerful. Here are mine:

1. Lost Treasure

When sifting through the material signs of your life, you will inevitably come across some forgotten, but intrinsically valuable possessions. Naturally, when I say ‘valuable’ I don’t mean it in the cold, hard monetary sense, but in the sense that is measured by smiles and rainbows. I’m talking about that ripped tshirt from that amazing night in second year and other ‘hilarious’ mementoes such as stolen hats, Christmas elf costumes and significant shoelaces. ‘Invaluable’ if you will..


Buried treasure

2. Packing

The organiser’s dream, packing is a chance for you to test your mettle in the world of practicality and sensibleness. Marker pens and sticky labels may be at the ready. You may ‘pre-pack’ by organising things into bundles before they even reach the boxes. Alternatively you may get drunk the night before moving and pack in a hungover haze of blurry vision and sentimentality expressed at items that were yesterday too trivial to be considered.

This is (not) me

This was (not) me

3. Shredding

A surprising entry perhaps, but in my most recent move I discovered the joys of paper-shredding. Two drawers full of unopened bank statements ignored for the past three years finally made it onto my must-do list (a step up from the to-do list). You might think that the publishing company I was interning at would be in possession of a shredder, but you would be woefully wrong. Fortunately a hand-operated shredder did make its way into my possession. Queue an hour’s worth of joyful manual labour in a pre-industry fashion that gave one the same simple pleasure as would knitting a pair of striped toe socks.

Shredding: the new yoga

Shredding: the new yoga

4. Bubble Wrap

Show me a person who does not appreciate the joys of bubblewrap and I’ll show you Donald Trump.


Living the dream

(REASONS TO BE PISSED OFF: The two pairs of never-opened goggles that were packed because ‘otherwise you might have to buy them again’)

Reasons To Be Cheerful #56: Acronyms and Abbrevs

24 Oct

main pic

This week’s post is more appropriately titled r2bc. It’s a celebration of a boom in language once described as text speak and the scourge of many a linguistic purist. It’s part of a dawning realisation that the youth of today  don’t even know how to speak anymore and that the vernacular of laziness has become the order of the day. One school has banned slang and anyone who engages with teenagers will know that it’s just absolutely no use saying ‘go away’ or ‘at the moment’ to one. Obvs they’ll have no idea what you’re talking about. If you didn’t already know this, then all the more reason for you to continue reading. tbc..

What today's teens look like

What today’s teens look like

1. The Fun Ones

Yes it’s been rinsed, over-used and even maybe exceeded its allowed time as a knowing ironic statement, but for me ‘lol’ will just never get old. I especially like it as a verb, ie: how we lolled or im lolling. And that’s not to mention the many offshoots, from lol o’ clock to lolocaust to lol centrale. I could go on. A friend’s favourite is imho (in my humble opinion), not because it’s fun to have an humble option, but because it reads like I’m a ho. What’s not to love?

2. The Aggy Ones

Fml (fuck my life), gtfo (get the fuck out), ttyn (talk to you never),wtf (come on). These all have a nice, slightly aggressive tone to them which I find suits my lifestyle. They’re dismissive but not abusive, and angry but not raging.  They’re also pleasingly opaque when used in the presence of older relatives who have annoyed you.



3. The Easy Ones

You don’t have to work in acronyms to achieve lazy speak, you can simply shorten your words. I like obvs, natch (naturally), stands (standard), unbeliebs, abso (lutely), potensh (potential/ly). Just think of the time that you’ve saved with all this cutting off of spare syllables. Those collective minutes and hours equate to your novel/new language/grade four piano, or even just a clutch of new time-saving words.

4. The Z’s

Even though it fucks me off to high heavens when companies put unnecessary ‘z’s and ‘k’s in words (think skool, kidz, daze for days), it is of course, ok when I do it –  just between friends, natch. I’m having lolz, messaging galz and calling my friends Lozza, Cozza and Jozza. I’m also being quite annoying. Soz.

Abso not kewl

Abso not kewl

(REASONS TO BE PISSED OFF: YOLO. I’m sorry and I know I’m in no position to judge, but I just feel it’s had its day)

Reasons To Be Cheerful #53: Recruitment People

2 Oct


In my lengthy dealings with the people who call themselves ‘recruitment consultants’, it has become increasingly apparent that the potential bridge between me and my dream job is – to be quite frank – formed from a barage of idiots and liars.

They join the salespeople, the taxmen and the estate agents in that special low place at the bottom of the general (self-respecting) public’s esteem. They speak in jargon, perpetuate bullshit and are generally bad for the soul, but as I’ve always said, noone’s all rotten. Even Mussolini had his good points I’m sure. So let’s dig deep for the reccies…

'Please don't expect to hear from me again'

‘Please don’t expect to hear from me again’

1. They’re Good at Getting Back To You

Say what you want about recruitment people, but if they like your CV they will call you as soon as they’ve seen it. I like to see the subsequent interrogations – in the disabled loo, always during work hours – as a good 20 minutes of interview practice. I mean, there’s no use getting annoyed just cos they asked you questions instead of actually reading your CV, before failing to ever contact you again.

2. They Know Their Shit

Being told that I ‘sound like a social media whizz’ by a recruitment person who’s not even on Twitter, but who is calling me about a marketing job, well there’s no compliment quite like it. And when she follows her informed comments with an emailed person specification that fails to match me on a multitude of levels, well that’s even better.

3. They Say What They Mean and They Mean What They Say

When a recruitment worker says, under no duress, ‘I’ll send you an email this afternoon’ you just need to know that ‘this afternoon’ roughly translates to ‘the 12th of Never‘. And when they say ‘you’re a perfect fit for this role’ you just need to know that what that means is ‘you’ll never hear from me again‘. It really is that simple.

4. If They Can’t Help You They Know Someone Who Can

Sometimes – admittedly occasionally – recruiters admit on the phone that X or Y job isn’t right for you. Clearly this is a questionable strategy as compared to the usual strategy of straight lies, but us jobhunters can take it. Anyway, when this unusual turn of events does occur, it often turns out that recruiter’s colleague has many more roles that are right up your street. They’ll be passing your details on. Expect a call soon (see point 3).

(REASONS TO BE PISSED OFF: How can there always be recruitment positions when there are no other jobs?)

Reasons To Be Cheerful #52: The Week Before Payday

26 Sep


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…




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 #50: Men On The Prowl

10 Sep

In my fairly extensive experience of being a member of the fairer sex, I have had the great pleasure (irritation) of being approached by a series of invariably ineligible men on the street, on public transport and in the office. But that’s just a lady’s life and god knows that we love the attention. After all, what says flattery more than a poorly thought out chat-up line? Here are my reasons to be cheerful.

1. Tactics

"Whistle and you'll get her attention!"

“Whistle and you’ll get her attention!”

I appreciate a bit of effort as much as the next, and I know that when a man goes that extra mile to try and impress me, he’s doing it because he really really respects me. Take last week when my friend and I were approached at our pub table by a man asking if he could sit with us. I rudely told him he could do what he wanted as we were going outside anyway, so imagine my embarrassment when I realised that he was in fact with his boyfriend. This led to some overcompensating on my part and the result that my friend and I found ourselves being chatted up by two apparently gay men. Never before have I felt so desirable as when this straight man (drunk and old) faked homosexuality to try and get into my pants.

2. Chat Up Lines

Yes please

Yes please

As a general rule chat-up lines don’t get much love. They’ve been designated to the bin of cheese, the one that contains lines like ‘did it hurt when you fell…. from heaven?’ and that one about your dad being a thief cos your eyes are diamonds or some such trifle. But at least they give us a laugh, right? Like when a man in a car asked for directions:

Me: “where to?”

Him: “your pants”

Sheer brilliance, no?

3. They Show You That Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number

age quote

(That may or may not denote a perversion)

The Clarks advertising team said you should act your shoe size, not your age and although – going by the ads – this seemed like a lot of fun, it was also fraught with impracticalities. How is a six-year-old to manage a job and a mortgage? It was boring considerations like these that prevented many people from heeding Clark’s life-affirming words. But there was a small, yet significant segment of the population that did choose to dumb it down. I’m talking about the men who apparently don’t see age; the ones that feel it’s absolutely fine to leer, lech, heckle and ask for your number, even though they’re clearly older than your dad. That confidence is H.O.T.

4. The Determination

In films, if someone is really determined to ‘make you his’ and acts in a way that is tantamount to harassment, it is seen as romantic dedication to the cause of love. So if someone follows you up the street despite your protestations that you are not interested, you should feel flattered. Similarly, if a man mutters creepy complimentary remarks about you to your boyfriend while standing behind the two of you, well it’s probably time to say out with the old and in with the new… Gretna Green here we come.

(REASONS TO BE PISSED OFF: Always thinking of a good putdown after it’s too late)



Reasons To Be Cheerful #49: Jobs I Didn’t Get

3 Sep

Avid readers of this blog will know a little something of my career woes, which have previously been compared to waterboarding. Well this week, after another patronising and meaningless addition to the inbox folder marked ‘career’ I got to thinking about the narrow escapes I have made during my relatively short working life. The ones that got away, if you will. Here’s a choice selection.

1. The Racist One

I’m naturally wary about using this volatile term as noone wants to be a parody of Ali G, but at least three white people I know thought this particular incident was racist, so I’m gonna go ahead and type it. After being successful in the first phase of an application (you know, the bit which normally leads to an actual real life interview) with a fitness fashion company, I was required to do no less than three writing tasks. One of these was to be in the style of ‘our founder, Tara*’ (*not her real name). Tara Double-Barrel it turned out, was looked up to as some kind of deity in the fashion of dear leader Kim Jong Il (RIP). I’m unsure why, as what I read of hers was tantamount to Sloane piss shaped into legible letters, but there you go. Anyway, after at least four hours spent on said tasks, I was rewarded with the following response:

“We enjoyed reading your task, unfortunately however you have been unsuccessful on this occasion. We are looking for something incredibly specific, a tone of voice that is ultimately of our founder, Tara*, and brings out her British personality.”

Even discounting the general grammatical errors in this response, I had to say that I was flummoxed. If Tara was the benchmark of the ‘British personality’ then I  had clearly been living in some kind of dreamworld for the past 26 years. I suppose I just don’t ‘get’ the ‘British personality’. More fool me eh.

Our founder, Tara

‘Our founder, Tara’

2. The Green One

After my obligatory post-uni travels I returned home jobless, penniless and on the hunt for an internship. After a few months I did the whole ‘bus thing’ and a few offers came along at once. One of these offers was from a small environmental publishing company. I’d got through the interview by falsifying green credentials and talking about how much I loved the Guardian (actually true). In the end, I had to renege on my acceptance of this three-month part-time unpaid (that’s THREE negatives) position as I had been offered a full-time paid position. The bosses were less than happy and I got a stroppy email. Looking back, I’m pretty sure it was a lucky escape from three months of contrived do-gooding.

Missed opportunities?

Missed opportunities?

3. The Token One

One of the other ‘buses’ that came along around the time of the green publishing company, was a communications internship with the Portishead police force. Despite being nearly half an hour late for the interview, I seemed to be something of a hit with the detective superintendent that interviewed me. He made constant references to Raj, his previous intern and also let me know that he had a very clever daughter-in-law – black – who was a lawyer. He seemed a nice sort, but I think he saw me as the new Raj. Tokenism isn’t generally for me, but when push came to shove I had to turn it down because nice detective wasn’t entirely sure if the whole scheme might not get pulled. Cheers.

I, Token

I, Token

4. The Soul Destroying One

Strictly speaking, this one is a job I didn’t keep. In a standard post-uni left turn, I somehow landed myself a sales job the first summer after graduating. This was all out, balls deep, bell-ringing, lunchtime coke-snorting, tacky-suited, sweaty, hideous sales. It was not for me. But somehow, during a recruitment process that was actually described to me as being ‘like The Apprentice’, I was flattered and fooled into believing that I could be one of those people. A sales person. Eurgh. The office’s central walkway was proudly called ‘pitching alley’, I was selling a ‘summit’ that cost around £20,000 and specialising in ‘Business Intelligence’. To this day, I do not know what that term means and I’m even less sure of what justified the use of the term ‘summit’ over conference. What’s more, I was encouraged to lie to scary, snooty PAs in order to get through to their bosses: the much vaunted ‘C level execs’. Never take no for an answer, never put down the phone. It was horrendous. I lasted five weeks and noone was surprised to see me go. A particular low point was one of the bosses telling a racist joke when he took my team out for lunch. There was also the time that he strode towards me, saying loudly ‘Lucie, you’re doing GREAT and I KNOW that you’re going to make a sale this week’. He had clearly learnt my name just to deliver this confidence-building line. Shame he couldn’t see me at lunch the next day.

Since when is this a positive prospect?

Since when is this a positive prospect?

(REASONS TO BE PISSED OFF: If I wasn’t so precious about my soul I’d surely be a lot richer)

Reasons To Be Cheerful #48: Mid-Week Drinking

29 Aug


As I write this post, slumped in my chair, I can’t help but wonder if it was all worth it just for the sake of my blog, but then of course I rally: my art is all. Dedication to the cause has seen me drinking white wine at the rate of a thirsty elephant. And on a Wednesday too. Unnecessary? Probably (definitely). But there are, as always, a few reasons to be cheerful…

1. Mornings Are Fun

Singing in the shower, laughing when you bump into the door and casually talking to yourself in the morning are all signs that you are in the pre-hangover stage of the hangover. AKA, you’re still a bit drunk. It might sound good, but it’s all downhill from here. And at the bottom of the hill lies work. Because it’s a Thursday.

Today will be a GREAT day

Today will be a GREAT day

2. Learning to Appreciate The Office Bathroom

Spending inordinate amounts of time in the loo when at work is normally the result of one of three things: excessive tiredness, excessive drinking or troubles of the heart. During times like these you can really learn to appreciate a decent, nice smelling toilet. It also helps you to let go of your long-standing annoyance at the broken lights in two of the four toilet cubicles. It’s easier in the dark.

Fantastic tiling

Fantastic tiling

3. An Excuse To Be Grumpy

As you struggle to muster up a non-threatening ‘Morning’ to your colleagues you don’t have to feel bad about not being the ray  of light that they would normally encounter. Moodiness as a result of hangover is fully accepted. You simply need to communicate the state of affairs to a couple of key people and you should be left to stew for the rest of the godforsaken day.

Oh fuck off!

Oh fuck off!

4. Learning Your Lesson

‘I’m never drinking again’ is something that I never say. I’m a realist. Not getting smashed on a Wednesday night again? Much more achievable. Lesson learned.

(REASONS TO BE PISSED OFF: The head/stomach pain and the burger consumed at midnight)

Was this ever really necessary?

Was this ever really necessary?

Reasons To Be Cheerful #44: Job Hunting

20 Aug

These are hard times and where ten years ago job hunting might have seemed a tiresome task, these days it’s more akin to waterboarding.



What with being told that it’s perfectly acceptable to engage in internships at the age of 35 and finding that even a basic job will likely include at least three recruitment stages, it can be hard to maintain a coolly imperturbable attitude towards the procedure. So this post is written with an eye to putting a more positive spin on the task at hand. Here goes nothing.

1. You Are Not Alone

When you get that email that says ‘We had over 5,000 applicants and unfortunately there were candidates that we felt more closely matched our requirements’ you can at least feel more reasonably rejected. After all, you’re probably not in possession of credentials superior to 4,999 other jobseekers.

That personal touch makes all the difference

That personal touch makes all the difference…

2. No News is Good News

You might open up your email everyday with fresh new hopes, but if that is your attitude, I would suggest you change it. For while all publicity is good publicity, no news is good news. React to each inbox filled with emptiness and/or spam, as a sign that you may yet get an interview for that dream job. You know, the one you applied for three months ago.

3. Improved Productivity

If there is one thing – beyond the achievement of actually getting a job – that job hunting is good for, it is an increase in getting stuff done. I am of course, referring to tasks like dusting the shelves, getting up to date on Breaking Bad and powering through Tolstoy’s War and Peace. All important tasks that, while not specifically job-related, are at least quite likely to enhance your employability.

One application = one episode?

One application = one episode?

4. Widened Horizons

You may never have considered that going into the jungle to work with the hill tribes was your calling before you read an article about it whilst googling ‘career change’. But now you have, it all seems so clear. Just sort things with your spouse, obtain the flight money, let your room/house/flat, have the necessary injections, plan a going-away party and do a bit of research; and you’re there. Easy.

This could be you

This could be you

(REASONS TO BE PISSED OFF: It turns out that watching Breaking Bad and applying for jobs are actually pretty incompatible)