Friday, 30 August 2013

What I Want

Here I am, in Any Northern Mill Town, feeling restless and sick and looking at cows. A woman in a cowboy hat is going past on a mobility scooter. A crow is picking at an apple on a tree.

What am I doing?

Last night I went to Amy's for Hot Dog Night (how to feed three people on £1.30) and decided to leave early instead of staying over, because I felt snide leaving my mum alone for another night. I marched to Piccadilly through the dark tunnels and quiet warehouses of the red light district (sadly didn't have time to pick up any jobs) and only just made my train... After about twenty minutes, I realised I was on the wrong train and had to get off somewhere called Newton for Hyde- an empty, dark platform made out of quarry stones, definitely a Northern Mill Town but unfortunately, not the one I was trying to get to.

I've always hated this part of Manchester and now I find myself living in it. I used to think the suburbs were depressing but Northern Mill Town Country is something worse- neither urban cool nor rural loveliness, it's just shitty nothingness.

The next train back into Manchester wasn't for forty minutes, so I called my mum to say I wouldn't be home for hours, maybe I'd even have to stay at Amy's. (If only I'd done that in the first place.) My mum was in the pub with some new single friends who'd invited her out, but she looked at a map and said she could pick me up in the car.

I sat in the little seating area under a buzzing strip light, squatting midgies away and I thought: "This can't be my life."

My mum showed up and took me back to the pub so she could finish her white wine spritzer. We ended up staying for about an hour and a half. I spent most of the time sat right in front of the band, awkwardly perched on a stool and not knowing where to look, while my mum and her friend chatted away somewhere behind me.

In the end I asked her friend for a cigarette and sat outside smoking sulkily, while they discussed cheating husbands and ex-boyfriends. I wondered what my mum would say, seeing me smoke for the first time. She looked at me for a minute and said:

"Don't you smoke funny?"

It is definitely time to go. Tonight we're both 'staying out', then tomorrow we're having a big family thing for my uncle's birthday, then Sunday I'm going to a christening in Liverpool... and on Monday I'm getting the coach back to London. If I spend any more time on the Megabus I'll turn into one, but as soon as I got back from London on Wednesday night, I got a message from Megan (G.Shore's lady friend who me and Kayt chummed when she came to Paris and G.Shore was at work). Megan said that she'd read my last blog post  and was sad that I hadn't found a job yet, so she texted her mate who runs a restaurant in London and I have an interview on Monday.

I've decided I'd rather be in London waitressing than not be in London at all. It's definitely what I want.

By the way I do have some vaguely more interesting things to blog about... But I just wanted to get a few things off my chest first.

Monday, 19 August 2013

England- what a crock of shit.

What the fuck am I doing?

People keep asking me, "What are you doing now? Where are you living? When are you moving to London?

I don't know, I don't know, I don't know.

When I first came back to Manchester, I stayed at my mum's house for three days, then I had to get out. It's not that I don't like my mum, but I was sleeping on a mattress, wedged in between her wardrobe and her desk and my stuff was everywhere and she kept asking me when I was going to unpack my bags and put my things away and I wanted to scream:


I couldn't look for jobs because I left my laptop in London. My mind felt all messy and there was always my stepdad's electric guitar screaming out around the house, because he likes to practice in the hallway outside the little office where I sleep, not in the garage where I wouldn't be able to hear him.

Then there was the dog.

When we got home from Cambridge, my mum pulled up outside the house and gave me a manic smile.

"Right! Here we are!"

She was talking in a shrill, sing-song voice and looking excited, or anxious, or both.

Then I realised... The Dog. I was about to meet The Dog and my mum wanted it to go well.

My stepdad's cat was sitting on the wall outside the house, simultaneously sulking and relaxing in the way that cats do. As I passed him, the cat looked me in the eyes and we exchanged a look, a look that said, "Fucking dogs eh?"

I walked into the house with trepidation and was running out again, screaming, in ten seconds flat, after feeling two huge paws on my shoulders. I didn't even see the dog until I was safely outside, glaring through the window with disgust as it stood up on its hind legs and nuzzled mum's hair, probably trying to find a vein it could rip out.

It was huge and it was only three months old.

Dogs are a lot of hard work, aren't they? I couldn't go one cup of tea without somebody yelling GET DOWN, GET DOWN or telling the dog it was a BAD NAUGHTY DOG. It wasn't even allowed in some of the rooms. When I woke up in the mornings my mum told me that I had to completely ignore the dog- that's what they'd told her at Puppy Training.

Hum. Seemed to me that instead of having a huge monster galloping about the house and having everybody ignore it... They could have saved all that cash, not bought the dog and visited me in Paris instead. (Or bought me a birthday present. I can't bring it up or I'll sound like a spoilt brat... but I didn't get any presents from anyone in my family this year, have I done something wrong? Is it because I always forget to send Thank You notes? Is it because I got horrendously drunk at my cousin's wedding? Forget it, I'm not even arsed. I'm going to take all the money I would have spent on Christmas presents for everybody... and buy a bag of crack with it. "No more turkey for me, mum, I'm fucked. I mean stuffed. I mean on crack.")

Those first three days at my mum's house were spent sulking under a dark grey cloud of my own making- I had no phone grumble grumble no job grumble and my stuff was all over England grumble grumble.

Then one night, my mum passed me the home phone.

"Hi darling, it's Clare. I hope you're enjoying doing nothing," came clipped tones, marching along the telephone wires all the way from London, "Because it ends tomorrow. I'm coming to Manchester this weekend to sort your life out."

I was terrified, but relieved. The next day I met Clare and Amy in town and we took the metro (the tram in Manchester is now called the metro!) to Amy's new flat, five minutes from Piccadilly. It's lovely AND Amy and her boyfriend pay the same rent for a two bedroom flat that Clare pays for her little room in London.

That night Amy had to work, but Kayt came over (so strange how both her and Amy have ended up living in my home city) for 'supper' as Clare calls it. Kayt and Clare decided to 'wake me up' to my situation by telling me how worried I should be as I have no job, no money and no prospects. By the time Amy came home from work I was just about ready to jump off her balcony, but she had good news- they needed bar staff at the restaurant where she works, so she'd told the manager about me and he'd said I could come in for 'a chat'.

Excellent- I could stay in Amy's spare room, work in the restaurant until September, then move to London with a bit of cash in my pocket.

Amy told me that Fernando (he's Spanish) was really nice but quite pervy. She said I'd be sound if I wore a skirt and a bit of lipstick- BAHAHA! I'm a feminist and I would never do that.

I did it though.

I borrowed a tapestry-style pencil skirt from Clare, which I wore with a silky blouse and embellished sandals. On Saturday evening we accompanied Amy to her evening shift, as instructed by Fernando.

We got to the restaurant and a serious-looking man called Clive was the manager. Amy told him that I was applying for the bar tender job, so Clive sat me down for 'an interview'. He looked like he meant business. He asked me for my CV.

"Fernando told me I didn't need to bring a CV..." I said, looking over Clive's shoulder in the hope that Fernando would suddenly walk through the door, clacking marraccas and singing, "Nice skirt! Can you make Sangria? You're hired!"

Sadly Fernando didn't come to my rescue. Clive asked me lots of questions which I think I answered very well, considering I wasn't expecting a formal interview, then he told me to go home and email him my CV. He mentioned they were interviewing other people. I emailed my CV the next day but didn't hear back from him. Pfft.

On Sunday, me and Amy went to the Asda and bought lots and lots of food. Me and Amy planned what meals we'd cooked over the next week and I got all excited, thinking about food I hadn't eaten for months and months. We also bought everything we needed for a roast dinner- Kayt was coming round and so was Beth, my only Manchester friend still living in Manchester (she's moving to London too next month). Clare was shopping in town and she said she'd brought me a little present for 'being a good girl and sending my CV off to places'.

We got back to Amy's with all the shopping and I asked if I could check my Facebook on Amy's laptop. There was a message from my mum, sent thirty minutes ago. It said:

Call me ASAP.

My first thought was, shit, what have I done wrong. Has mum found something incriminating among my open suitcases? I called her from Amy's phone.

She said my stepdad had left her, as in she'd gone out for a few hours and returned home to a note- he'd left her for somebody else, a woman he has known for two weeks. (I know what you're thinking, but we know for a fact that he really had known her for just two weeks.)

My mum told me not to write about it on my blog, but how can I not mention it? It was a pretty cataclysmic moment. Amy mixed some whisky with brown sugar for me and I sat on the balcony with my drink in one hand and a rare daylight cigarette in the other, in shock. Fucking hell, how must my mum feel?

I got the next train back to Northern Mill Town and I've only left twice- once for a night out with Amy and Kayt and then last week I went to London for three days, for two job interviews.

Both interviews were for 'hospitality temp agencies' i.e. odd-job waitressing gigs. I sacked off the first job interview for No Reason. I went for a drink with Olivia instead and the whole time I felt sick with guilt, I have no idea why I did it. People tell me I'm being stupid when I voice my worries about being a Fuck Up, but they are real concerns. I feel like I have no control over my actions. One minute I'm going to an interview, the next minute I'm having a pint instead and I don't know why.

The second job interview went well- although the guy was thirty minutes late and I first I thought my whole trip had been a massive waste of time and money- and I can now sign up online with the agency to start getting work. Except... I haven't signed up yet. I don't know what I'm doing. Do I want to move to London straight away, just to do odd waitressing jobs? Clare is going away for two weeks and has said she will give me her keys, but I don't know what to do.

I just don't know.


I really don't know what to do. I don't want to do anything.

Me and my mum have been watching cheesy rom coms, drinking wine and eating crisps. My belly has now become a sort of pet to me, I know it's chubby and annoying and it follows me everywhere I go... but I've grown fond of it. I picture it like this:

How can I get rid of that little cutie?

In all seriousness though, I feel like a sad little pudding and I don't know what to do with myself.

Obviously I want to move to London, but should I wait it out up North for a bit? Should I get a shit job round here, so I can save up some money and stay with my mum for a bit longer? Part of me thinks there's no point wasting time in Manchester, because we all know I won't save money anyway and if I want to be in London, I should just go, right?

But should I go, like, tomorrow? Am I just getting cold feet?

Am I wasting time going up and down the country? On Friday my Megabus took almost NINE HOURS from London and in the end our driver ABANDONED us at a service station. He said he needed to take a forty five minute break 'by law'. One and a half hours later, he still wasn't back.

England- what a crock of shit.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Secret Garden Party 2013: Saturday and Sunday

The rain came on Saturday and I was secretly pleased- the hot, humid air hanging over the festival needed washing away. Also, I'd carried my new wellies all the way from France and I wanted to wear them. (In the end I went to New Look at Chatelet, the only shop in Paris with a 'festival section'.)

Although people dress up every day at SGP, Saturday is the official fancy dress day, the day that everyone saves their best costume for. In honour of TC and OJ's recent wedding, all the boys dressed as brides and the girls dressed as grooms. The boys kept their wedding dresses Top Secret until the day, guarding the secrecy surrounding their dresses much like a real bride on her wedding day. There were even rumours flying around about the dresses... I heard he had to carry it in three bin bags... He got it from a woman at work, it's her actual wedding dress and now she's divorced...

The boys changed into their fabled wedding dress and then the girls spent twice as long getting ready, helping the boys with their make-up as well as doing our own. Even though I think us girls looked sharp and groomsman-like in our top hats, sequined shorts and tailcoats, the boys did pull focus just a little. I underestimated just how striking ten men in wedding dresses- two of them pregnant- would be, even at Secret Garden Party. They were even picked out of the crowd to take part in the Dance Off:

Oh and just after the brides had their dance off, a girl got on stage and proposed to her boyfriend. At first she pretended to do Spoken Word and she was so bad that people started booing her, but it was all a ruse to get her boyfriend on stage... and she asked him to marry her! He said yes and everybody in the crowd jumped under the ropes onto the stage and had a Mass Hug. 

I know it looks sunny in the video, but by the end of the night, the boys were trailing brown, muddy lumps of wedding dress. 

On Saturday the festival was a lot busier. There were suddenly long queues for the toilets and the swimming lake was fenced off, security guards letting just forty people in at a time, apparently due to the fact that people had started diving in and hurting themselves. (Personally I blame those two girls with the shampoo I mentioned in the previous blog post.) After keeping it together so well for two days, bigger crowds meant that the group finally got separated.

Our group got smaller and smaller, until I found myself with just Shaz* and her boyfriend. We sheltered from the rain in a bar-tent filled with silky cushions and they bought me a cup of tea. They told me the next day that they'd felt really bad for me, because at that point their brains were melting into the space time continuum, but I honestly didn't notice, I just sipped my tea and people-watched, happy as a clam on mild hallucinogenics.

Shaz and her boyfriend wanted to go back to the tent so they could put dry clothes and wellies on, but I had already been back to the tents and changed into my wellies... I wanted to dance. I told Shaz and her boyfriend I'd go to The Drop, because that was where we'd all agreed to meet if we got lost. I told them not to worry, if I couldn't find everybody else then I'd climb up to the highest haystack so they could find me when they got back from the tent.

Sometimes, when I'm less than sober, I like having a sneaky mission that I can carry out on my own. Often I will envision fighting off rapists and muggers with my untapped super-human strength. Thank god I was wondering round Secret Garden Party and not the streets of Manchester, because I definitely don't have super-human strength and I am definitely the opposite of 'untapped'.

I got to The Drop and all my wild optimism dropped out of me. There were a lot of people and I couldn't see anyone I knew anywhere. I climbed up the haystacks until I had a good view of the arena-like space. Still, there was nobody I knew. I started dancing and resigned myself to spending the rest of the night alone. Shaz and her boyfriend would never find me. I turned to the girl next to me, who looked quite sober.

"Excuse me, have you see ten men dressed as brides?"

She frowned as if I was talking nonsense and said sorry, she hadn't. Then, ten seconds later, she nudged me and said, "Is that them, there?"

She'd spotted them! She pointed to a mass of white in the middle of the arena so I thanked her (a bit too much, perhaps) and made my way to the ten brides, although by now there was about six brides, and seven grooms. 

I'm not sure how, but by and by the rest of the group came back to us. We watched Chase and Status in the rain and they were actually really good. After that, it all gets a bit hazy. I can't remember if that was the night me and TC stayed up, creeping around the tents giggling, until two people we didn't know came into the tepee and said it was their tepee and we realised people must have been squatting in The Tepee and we knew it was time for bed... or if that was the night we decided not to go to bed and instead went to the lake for an early-morning swim, then we got food.

I think it was that night. As I was eating my chilli burrito on a haystack, I noticed that everybody around me looked really weird and a bit deformed. I felt quite sinister so I went to bed...

When I woke up a few hours later, I didn't know what to do. I felt like I was walking through a dark cloud and everybody was suspicious. I went to the toilet and gave everyone shifty, sideways glances as I walked past. When I got back to my tent, I just lay face-down in my sleeping bag, crying my heart out.

In hindsight, I think a lack of sleep and food was to blame. Also the alcohol. Also, I had just moved back to England after living in Paris for three years and I didn't know how I felt about it or what I was going to do next. 

(No, seriously- I didn't even know how I was going to get home. My mum was staying in Cambridge for the Folk Festival and her friend's sixteen year old daughter Edie was also at SGP with her friends. Her dad had said he could pick us both up and take us to their house in Cambridge, where my mum was staying. Perfect... except my phone was out of battery and I couldn't get hold of Edie on TC's phone. Edie's was the only number I'd saved on her phone so I couldn't call anyone else.)

After some crying- which made me feel a lot better, there's nothing I enjoy more than weeping hysterically for No Reason, it feels so cathartic- I emerged sheepishly from my tent. Candy* was awake and sitting in the mouth of her tent putting make-up on, chatting to a small group, so I sidled over and soon we were playing the Word Association Game and it pulled me back from the brink.

Later on, when I was dancing and everything was funny and the music was great... I couldn't believe how sinister I'd felt earlier on. 

It's not normal, is it?

But it's ok, because I always pull it back. I think Sunday was my favourite day. We danced in The Drop for hours and hours and hours, we saw 2ManyDJs, TEED and Disclosure, then I bumped into Harriet- as in my first Paris au pair friend! 

On Sunday, SGP always finishes early, as they don't have a late license, something to do with noise I think. We headed back to The Tepee for a rave, but I didn't think we'd actually rave, I thought we'd sit off, chatting for a bit and being chilled out.

I've got an image of everyone's faces around the tent pole in the middle and The Tepee is warping and growing behind them and we're all smiling and dancing and it went on for hours and hours and hours. At one point I needed a wee and decided to go on my own. I thought it would be an adventure, one of my secret missions and it was... because I got lost for what seemed like hours, wandering around quiet tents in the dark. I kept hearing footsteps behind me and there was nobody there. I didn't even go to the toilets I normally went to, they were completely different loos. It was so weird.

Eventually I saw a tepee lit up in the distance, but when I got there I heard posh voices inside, chatting. There was no music. Heartbroken, I turned away and walked back into the darkness. Eventually, I found The Tepee. Everybody was waiting outside, about to embark on a Rescue Mission. Either that, or they were just having a fag and hadn't noticed I'd gone missing.

Argh it was so much fun. When I finally went to bed, I'd decided with TC and OJ that I'd leave the festival with them, then contact my mum from their house to let her know where I was, but in the morning, TC came into my tent with her phone- Edie was calling and she said her dad was picking her up from the East Entrance in forty minutes.

I packed up my things and said a hasty goodbye to the few people who were up. As I dragged my case across the campsite, people kept looking at me and I thought it was because I must look really good in a bedraggled, edgy kind of way... When I finally got to a mirror I realised it was because my face was bright red with sunburn and I had a coldsore. Ignorance is bliss.

I can't believe I almost didn't go to the Secret Garden Party this year, I know it sounds like I went a bit sinister but that was only for a couple of hours. It was four days of intense fun, it really is a party like no other. 

Oh I've just remembered! The fireworks on Saturday night were amazing, when they set fire to the ship in the middle of the lake:

Photo from the Secret Garden Party Facebook page.

*Remember, I've given everyone made-up names, just because I can.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Secret Garden Party 2013: Thursday and Friday

It's time to blog about the Secret Garden Party, before I forget the festival completely. Already it's hard to remember specifics, the weekend has become a beautiful blur of sparkly things, sunlight, wedding dresses, cider, feathers, mud, dancing on haystacks and moving through a crowd of deformed goblins.

I think I lost my head a little bit, but not in a worrying way, I knew I'd get it back once the festival was over. Anyway, you don't need your head for SGP- you just need glitter and a tent.

I can't even remember what we did on the first day of the festival... TC and I were dreading getting a tube, a train and then a taxi with all our bags, but it turned out to be a very smooth journey, not just because we cracked open the lager at 11am, but because we were slightly ahead of the masses. Our train wasn't full, we didn't have to wait for a taxi and when we arrived at the festival, there was hardly a queue to get in.

Once everybody else arrived, we put our tents up in a circle, erecting a huge tepee in the middle that would be our 'communal space'. 'The Tepee' sounds like a real SGP stage name- like The Drop, The Pagoda or The Crossroads- and actually, on Sunday night, The Tepee turned out to be the best stage in the whole festival, staying up and raving long after The Great Stage had finished...

But that was the last night of the festival. On the first night of the festival we, erm. Hold on.

No, I can't remember.

All I know is, I wore my hair in a fishtail plait, because Candy*- one of TC and OJ's friends who I've met a few times now and who likes my blog (SMUG FACE)- said that she'd read on here how I'd spent my last, lonely days in Paris practicing fishtail plaits in the mirror.

It paid off by the way- I wore that plait for two days and when I finally took it out, my hair didn't need washing and it was all big and crimped. Anyone who thought that my last few days in Paris would have been better spent out and about, visiting things and enjoying the city, has been proved wrong, very wrong. Who needs the Louvre when you can do a fishtail plait? That is a skill for life and I am not being sarcastic.

I sense that you're getting bored with the whole fishtail plait thing, so I'll move on...

There was definitely hoola-hooping on Thursday night, other than that I have no idea what happened. We spent a lot of time dancing in The Drop, which was a DJ booth and dancing space hemmed in by tall haystacks. We didn't have a mad night, as there were still three days of raving to come.

What I love about festivals is, no matter what time you go to bed, you wake up quite early and are forced to get outdoors and socialise: no time is wasted lying in bed feeling like death.

I did however, upon waking, have a small paranoid panic and had to hide in my tent for a while, looking at the entrance but not knowing how I could ever unzip it, because I wasn't sure what was awaiting me on the other side...

What if nobody was there and I had to go back into my tent, but somebody was awake and heard the whole embarrassing thing? What if it was someone who I hadn't really spoken to before? But what if they didn't want to speak to me for Some Reason? What if they didn't realise I was in the same group?

In the end I needed a wee and so was forced out of the tent.

There were a couple of people up who I'd spoken to at length and so like the new girl at school who's mother has told her to make an effort- "Get involved! Join a team or something! Start taking some bloody initiative!"- I joined them on a mission to get tea and sausage sandwiches.

In the end we didn't get sausage sandwiches, because the girl serving them had clearly been up all night ingesting all kinds of chemical fun, meaning she couldn't take orders or make drinks properly, so we had to find somewhere else to eat and they didn't do sausage sandwiches. We found somewhere else, where the staff were bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and serving organic bacon and eggs on focaccia rolls. (The food stalls at SGP are a world away from the bog-standard burger vans you get at some festivals.)

The weather was gorgeous and after breakfast we went for a swim in the lake. For anyone who's never been to SGP, the site is built around a lake. There's a bridge going across it, but you can also hire a rowing boat or be punted across (the festival is close to Cambridge, famous for its 'punting') to the stage  in the middle, which this year was a pirate ship being devoured by a sea monster. (The last time I went three years ago, it was a giant flying machine.)

We didn't however, swim in this lake, because this year they'd built a brand new swimming lake. The water was freezing but it soon warmed up, once we dunked our shoulders in. People were sunbathing around the edge of the lake and it felt so quaint, like an old man looking back with rose-tinted glasses on the jolly English countryside of his youth, except in his visions I doubt everyone was drunk and covered in glitter.

I've just remembered, me and Shaz** saw two girls washing their hair in the lake with shampoo. How disgusting. We definitely took the moral high ground and even debated marching (very slowly and with a lot of effort, as we were chest-deep in water) over and telling them off. If people put shampoo in the water, the swimming lake would soon get all scuzzy and scummed-up...

On our way back to the tent we nipped into the 'natural showers' which were basically hose pipes trickling cold water. There was no queue for them and as it was such a hot day, the coldness wasn't unpleasant. Secret Garden Party is definitely the most luxurious festival I've ever been to. (If you think a cold hose pipe doesn't sound very luxurious, you should try going to Leeds festival, where people leave little poos outside your tent and the toilets drop down into an open cesspit.)

After my surprise shower (I'd planned on staying dirty and unwashed all weekend) I got ready for the day's festivities. I wore a sequined butterfly top that I bought from a vintage shop in Paris a couple of years ago and was really in love with until I saw the exact same top hanging in Clare's wardrobe... Vintage mon cul.

Throughout the day, I saw five or six girls wearing the exact same top as me- no exaggeration. I went up to most of them, complimenting them on their choice of top and then asking them if they got it from a vintage shop and then pointing out how we'd both had the wool pulled over our eyes. Actually... I was so fucked, there's a strong possibility that there was just one girl in the same top as me, who I saw and harassed six times.

Friday night was the night things got a little magical. At one point we were stood on a hill, looking down at The Great Stage and everything in my vision was multicoloured and sparkly and I felt like I was in some old, faded footage of Woodstock Festival, in a documentary about The Summer of Love.

It's really bad, but I can't remember who we were watching. Somehow at SGP, all thoughts of DJs and bands dance away out of the back of my head and I find myself drifting around, drawn to any beat I can dance to.

The only person I really wanted to see was LV, who wasn't in the programme. At one point they announced on stage that LV would be performing there the following day, but the following day I couldn't remember what stage they'd announced it at.

Anyway, on Friday night we all went a little crazy. We danced on The Pagoda, a dance music stage built out into the lake, for hours and only left because there are no toilets there and once you leave, you have to queue to get back in. One of OJ's best men, who was wearing a huge Native American headdress, climbed into somebody's rowing boat that was moving past The Pagoda. I remember seeing him on the other side of the lake, sat at the stern of the boat like an Indian Chief.

Later on his girlfriend arrived, also wearing a huge feathery headdress. I suddenly noticed that everybody in our group was either chatting nonsense to each other and giggling, or else they were dancing in a little space of their own and I had the vague notion that we should be meeting someone somewhere, but we were all too mashed to do anything. I looked to the girl in the white, feathery headdress and asked her to take charge... so we all stomped around following the big white headdress.

We were pretty good at sticking together over the weekend, but there was always somebody who wandered off and got lost. Also, we needed one person to step up and be the leader at ALL TIMES, to stop us from wandering around, laughing and talking to people in strange costumes.

Friday night is coming back to me in flashes.

The Pagoda, photo taken from the Secret Garden Party Facebook page
We were on The Pagoda as the sun was setting, I made friends with a really nice couple who reminded me of TC and OJ. I made them come over and dance with us. I only remembered that couple earlier on today and burst out laughing, because they were nothing like TC and OJ at all, I was just really, really fucked and wanted EVERYBODY TO BE MY FRIEND.

After dancing on the lake at dusk, we left the safety of The Pagoda and went out into the darkness. There were goblins and people with deformed limbs and crazy out of proportion shoulders. (I kept seeing them throughout the rest of the festival and freaking out and in fact, when I was in Stockport with my gran last week I saw them again, walking through the bus station, but that could just be Stockport.)

I can't believe I've written so much and I've only covered Thursday and Friday... I'll leave it there for now, with an LV track thrown in for good measure:

*Are my nicknames for people becoming more and more ridiculous? One day 'Candy' was putting on a bright pink lipstick called Candy Yum Yum and we said that it should be her Left Bank Manc nickname... I can't just go around calling people by their actual names because, unlike me, they have Real Jobs and Reputations to maintain. I'm not just being paranoid either- both B and Kayt have had people ask them if they are in my blog, so it's time I started using more inventive nicknames. Also, if I start giving everyone names like Candy Yum Yum, my blog will read like a magical children's story, which is how I secretly see my life, apart from the binge drinking and slagging about.

**Another code name for one of TC and OJ's friends who I've met a few times before. I'm going to stop mentioning people by name, because I'm beginning to sound like a fantasist making up stories about her ridiculously-named imaginary friends.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Last Night in Paris

A lot has happened since I sat down in my furnace of a bedroom and wrote about la petite ceinture*. I've been blogging in my head again, so I thought it was time I got some words down.

My New Life in England- not even two weeks old- has been simultaneously better than I thought it would be... and so much worse.


I want to write chronologically, so more on my New Life in England later. Right now we're going back to Paris, to the day after I wrote my last blog post...

It was my last day working for the au pair family. The mum and dad wanted 'to do' a dinner with me and the kids. They bought sushi and champagne. They gave me some random leaving presents (a dark grey t-shirt from the mum's favourite understated, over-priced Parisian boutique, some stationary in fluorescent yellow to remind me of the ten year old girl because that's 'her colour' and some stuff from the spa that the dad owns) and we talked about what I was going to with myself once I got back to England. It was almost like I was a real person, with thoughts and feelings and a life of my own.

When I got in from work, I looked around my little Cinderella Room, trying to size up the immense Packing and Cleaning job that lay ahead. Not only had my cousin driven through Paris on her way back from Geneva** and taken a huge bag of stuff back to England for me, but Clare and Kayt's boyfriend had each taken a big bag of mine back to the UK... And yet my room still looked full. How would I carry all this stuff back to England? I also needed to clean the room thoroughly, so that it would be nice for the next au pair Emily, who would be moving in as soon as I left.

The first waves of panic washed in, my thoughts like tiny stones underneath, being turned over and over.... (By the wave of water... which represents my panic... DO yOU LikE My mETaPHOR?? :D)

I had all night though, I'd be fine. Fine. Packing always takes less time than you think. I had all night.

As I was trying to decide where to start, Julia called me and asked me where I wanted to go for my last night in Paris. There was a free hip hop night on at Wanderlust... 

My train wasn't until 7pm the next day, I could go out and leave all my packing for tomorrow...

Great plan, kiddo.

Before I went out, Emily came round with some of her stuff and we drank the dregs of three gin bottles I had knocking around. It's a shame that me and Emily were passing ships in Paris- I think we would have been friends if we'd lived there at the same time. We did go out once in Paris- we got really drunk and chatted for hours and hours... just like the first time I met Chloe, the family's old au pair who found me through my blog. I wonder how the family would feel if they knew that all their au pairs met through my secret blog...

Emily had to go home around 11pm because she had her flatmate's key, so we went our separate ways at the metro station. Julia picked me up at Gare de Lyon- I waited outside that big clock that we always say is Big Ben on his holidays- and by the time we got to Wanderlust there was a huuuuge queue outside.

We decided to give it a go anyway and the line went down pretty quickly. The place was packed, but in a good way- sometimes Paris can feel like a ghost town on Tuesday nights so it was nice to be somewhere buzzing and/or banging. The outside terrace was heaving but inside was unbelievable- there was actually sweat dripping from the ceiling.

I'm glad I spent my last night in Paris at a hip hop night, it was fitting because everybody in Paris kiffes hip hop, but I've never found any good nights. It reminded me of niche nights (bassline for any Southerners reading) back in Liverpool, because all the boys were good dancers. Sometimes you go to electro nights in Paris and the boys either bop about like a fish dropped on the river bank, or they stand still with their hands in their pockets, waiting for the drugs to kick in and their inhibitions to lower so they can thrash about like the aforementioned fish...

The music was good but we couldn't stay and dance for long, because it was too hot and sweaty. It's getting hot in here. We alternated between sitting on the terrace and working up a sweat until they closed part of the terrace and we decided to move on...

I didn't want to go home and pack. Julia suggested we drive round the périphérique so I could say goodbye to Paris. It was pouring down with rain, which I loved. Industrial grey towers, the dark river and sheets of rain... That's how I always think of my Paris- Amélie meets Blade Runner.

After our drive, we went to Au Pied de Cochon- the famous restaurant that serves food all night and where everything is made from pig trotters, even the onion soup. Julia told me about the place a while ago and I really fancied the idea of rocking up at 5am for onion soup and white wine, so that's what we did. They acted like we were the shadiest people in the place, but I ask you... how many normal people do they expect to eat pig trotters at 5 in the morning? 

The onion soup was really good- largely due to the disgusting but delicious meaty stock used. Suddenly it was approaching 7am and I realised there were twelve hours left to pack and get on the Eurostar; at least two of which I knew would have to be spent at the au pair family's house, because I needed to wash the bedding for Emily.

As we waited for the bill, we counted out how much money we thought it would be. We piled some coins up on top of a ten euro note and Julia had the idea that we could whip the note away, leaving the pile of coins intact. We both had a go and failed, spreading coins all over the table and earning furious looks from the waiter. But then, just as we were about to leave, Julia whipped away the note and the pile of coins didn't move!!

About a minute later... the coins fell over. Julia said I grossly exaggerated- she claims that the coins actually fell over about two seconds after she pulled the note away. But what actually happened is: time lost all meaning. Time slowed down. I believe that's what happened and it's my blog, so that's what happened. Strange magic.

Under the disapproving glare of the waiting staff, we finally left Au Pied de Cochon and went home. It wasn't a sad goodbye because we'd been discussing what will happen when I move to London- we'll flit back and forth between the two cities all the time and the magazines will have to resurrect that little-used term Par-don (I read it once, in Glamour) used to describe young ladies who split their time between Paris and London.

So. No need to be sad, but it was a bit weird. I looked at my street- Rue de Ponthieu, no harm in telling you now I suppose- and I didn't really believe that I was returning home for the last time ever.

I slept for about three hours, then took my bedding to the au pair family's house. I played with the toddler and the ten year old while I waited for the machine to finish, then the tumble dryer... then it was really time to leave. The ten year old was crying. I guess I've been there nearly every day for two years and now she's not sure if she'll ever see me again.

I got back to my room and panic set in. I didn't know where to start. It was 2pm and my train wasn't until 7pm... No, no. Calm, calm. I had all afternoon, I'd be fine. Fine. Packing always takes less time than you think. I had all afternoon...

Sound familiar?

In the end, Emily came round with some stuff and ended up helping me, a lot. She did more cleaning than me, but I think it's for the best- I took charge of cleaning the shower and after going at it with an old toothbrush for thirty minutes, it looked more or less the same. We threw loads of stuff away, even a set of little mirrors that were stuck to the wall.

Emily had a lesson to teach at 6pm so I had half an hour on my own before I left for the Eurostar. Just me and my Cinderella Room. That little room that I've spent two years in... I've showered while Kayt and Amy cooked at the hob next to me and it didn't feel weird at all... I've cleared the floor and practiced my twerking with B... I've shared that tiny bed with so many friends and ahem, a couple of acquaintances... I've spent hours at the little fold-down table, blogging away... I've sat in that room crying my eyes out at 4 in the morning, still in my high heels and eating pasta out of the pan...

It was teeny tiny but it was my room and all my stuff was there.  I really miss it.

I took my name off the door and put Emily's name there instead. Then I shut the door behind me.

As I left the building, I put a bag of rubbish in the bins by the courtyard. The bag had split open and as I struggled to lift the lid off the bin... a mirror slipped out and smashed into a million pieces. If you've read my blog before you'll know I'm superstitious.


I was running late so didn't even have time to tell the gardienne, I just legged it out of the building in case anybody walked by and tried to make me clean up all the broken glass. As always, the Eurostar was a dream- I love, love, love the Eurostar.

I can't remember much of the journey, only that they announced the name of Kate and William's baby and anybody on the train called George was allowed to get a free drink from the buffet cart. As the train pulled into London, I put Skyfall by Adele on, so I could feel like I was in a film. It was a dramatic moment. Urban cityscape, dusk falling over London, as I arrive to my new life.

This is the end... Hold your breath and count to ten. Feel the earth move and then...

Hey! I've always said that I'm a dickhead.

TC and OJ met me at St Pancras, so I didn't have to slope off at Arrivals like a lonesome cowboy. The next day was... Secret Garden Party!! But that's another story. I don't know if I want to share it actually,  it was so fun but I don't know how I could write about it.

I probably will write about it later, right now I should go and get dressed, seeing as it's nearly 5pm. Do you know what, forget Skyfall, this song is my Travelling and Moving On song:

*By the way, I realised a few days ago that I never explained what la petite ceinture actually is- it's an abandoned railway that runs around the outside of Paris, like the périphérique. It's been abandoned for years and a lot of the railway is now inaccessible, but there's still a good bit of railway between Gambetta and the 12th arrondissement. It's used by graffiti artists, who practice their tags on the ruins of railway stations that remain. Some people use it as a green space- it's like a secret stretch of land to use, hidden between buildings and busy streets. 

There are a few entrances but the easiest is the squatted garden near Fleche d'Or, opposite Mama Shelter, in Gambetta. You need to walk down a cobbled street and look for a gap in the wall. Squeeze through the gap into a garden filled with rubbish where a Romany Traveller family are living in tents. Walk through their encampment (if they're about, it's nice to ask if you can walk through their space but they don't own it or anything) and you can climb up on to the railway. We walked all the way to the 12th and then escaped over a fence because we got a bit edgy about two guys that were walking behind us... As it happens they were really nice and had to help Shayna over the fence because she got stuck but... DON'T go on la petite ceinture alone.

**Did I mention that? She and two friends drove through Europe, along the way they got amazing tans and into trouble. I wish I could have jumped in the van with them when they were in Paris.