Thursday, 28 November 2013

The Life Of

This is what I feared- coming back to England and finding it is full of idiots. Benefit tourism? I can't even be arsed arguing. I could go on and on and on explaining why 'benefit tourism' is a made-up thing but I literally don't have the energy. Even if people did want to come to the UK to claim benefits, which they don't, they wouldn't be able to. (It was a hard slog for me to get Job Seekers Allowance for three weeks this summer and I speak fluent English and have a British passport.)

If people really want to believe that 'foreigners' are coming over here to steal jobs and benefits then let them believe it, I don't care. I'm not going to go on a rant...

I would like to point out however, that there are over 5.5 million Brits living abroad, 'stealing jobs' in Spain, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Thailand, France, Dubai... The horrible truth of it is that the bigoted Brits panicking about 'benefit tourism' draw distinctions between British emigrants and foreign immigrants because they think British people are better than anyone else. They should just admit it- instead of saying 'I'm worried Polish people will come over to do the low-paid jobs that I don't want to do', they should just say:

'I'm a racist and I just want England to be full of English people, for no reason actually, haven't really given it much thought, I'm just painfully thick and shockingly racist.'

I'm so fed up, I hate England. I've got nothing to blog about. England is just a big sinking, dark hole full of shit. I hate it. I hate everything about it.  Why is the tube so expensive? Why is the minimum wage so low? Why are shallots spherical?

The only thing I'm enjoying at the moment is reading my book- 'The Life of Charlotte Brontë' by Elizabeth Gaskell- but I've just go to the point where everyone, literally everyone, is dying. I suppose I should be grateful, at least I don't have to walk for miles across cold moors every day, to sit in a cold chapel and hear a very long sermon, then walk home again for a couple of cold potatoes and an early night.

Charlotte Brontë keeps telling people in her letters that she would be very distressed and heart-broken by the whole thing, if it wasn't for the existence of God...

Oh, Charlotte.

Did you know that the Brontë sisters had a servant called Tabitha? And she told them how there used to be fairies in the valley, but they disappeared when the factories were built.

I've got my cloak with me in London now. It was actually here all the time, in a bag in Lauren's office. I might take it home at Christmas and wander the moors in it, thinking about croissants and crying. Look what I just found on YouTube:

Friday, 22 November 2013

British


 I'm not sure about this country I've moved to. Yesterday I went to the Post Office, walked up to the till and was told to go to the back of the queue. I looked behind me and there was an old lady stood about three miles behind me, who apparently was waiting in line.

I'd actually said to her 'Excuse me' because I thought she was just looking at the magazines and in a very British, idiotic way she had just moved out of the way for me and watched as I bounded up to the free window.

When I apologised and tried to laugh it off, she looked outraged and said something about being in the queue. Why bother being so British about me pushing in, to then be so very un-British?? I don't mind her kicking off, but why bother being such a doormat in the first place if you're then going to chastise people for pushing in? The British way is to shake your head violently and say, "No no it's all right, it's my fault, it's fine, please, I should be saying sorry to you," even if someone has suck up behind you in a field and kicked you up the bum, really hard, for no reason.

Why was the start of the queue so far back anyway? What confidential things to they think go on in the post office?

"So you're sending this to Zimbabwe?"
"Shhh! Her from down the road's over there looking at envelopes! Please keep your voice down. I'm sending a Christmas card to Robert Mugabe. I know what you're thinking but he sends me one every year, without fail."

I might have been feeling a bit 'hormonal' but I suddenly felt my throat go all tight, like I was going to cry. There were two lovely old German ladies now behind me in the queue wearing headscarves and boots and looking like they'd stepped out of a wooden etching. (Or do I mean wood etching? Discuss.)

"Don't worry," the one nearest to me said, "Queing is a 'holy cow' in England!"
"I know!" I said, "Why is the queue so far away?"
"You will get used to it." she smiled.

Ha! Living in France has turned me into a European!*

I felt smug and changed and sophisticated. No more would I be an awkward, British type of FOOL who queues up for no reason and who is too scared to tell the man at the next table that his chair leg is on the end of the coat.

"No, no. Don't want to bother him. We'll just stay 'til he goes. We'll probably miss the film, but... can't be helped. Oh, he's moving it... Ow. Now it's on my foot. Never mind. Don't want to cause a fuss."

When I got to the till, I asked her if I could buy a book of stamps with my card, as I hadn't walked past a cash machine. Really I only needed one stamp, to post a letter to my gran, but I felt cheeky asking to pay for one stamp with my card.

"Yes of course, how many do you want? Twelve?"

"Yes," I said.

In my head I was panicking, I didn't want twelve! I wanted six.

The stamps came to £7.20 and instead of running away, I put my card in the machine and bought them. That's £7.20 that was supposed to be going towards my tube fare next week. And I just spent it on stamps that I didn't want, like a bad idiot.

Yep. Not sure about this country AT ALL.

*I know American thinks English people are European but that is ridiculous- we may be on the same continent but we Europeans drink espressos outside cafes after 5pm and they don't crawl along the streets with their arses hanging out, being sick and crying.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Sci Fi

It's been a while. Don't have anything to say really. On Friday Olivia came down to London for her birthday and she said my eyebrows have never looked better. I glanced in the mirror so my eyebrows could see my proud face and I saw them give each other a little high five. I know you don't believe me and I don't care. To be honest, my current eyebrows are a result of two years hard graft. I stopped having them threaded and started plucking and trimming instead, organic eyebrows if you will.

While we're on the subject, a quick word for all my fellow eyebrow enthusiasts reading- I'd like to retract my earlier sentence about Rimmel's eyebrow pencil. Not because they are paying me to (sadly I don't think I will ever make any money from this blog, unless I stop swearing and start taking photos sipping bubble tea lattes or posting pictures of what I'm wearing every day* which I will never do because I have don't have a big enough vocabulary or good enough camera to do either) but because I have since grown to like it.

The secret is just a smudge on the inner eyebrows, then blending it through the rest of the brow. I've decided against the Benefit Brow Zings because, if I had a wax and a powder at my disposal, I know I'd  slowly go further and further away from the hairy, arched line that lies between Strong Brow and Insane Sci-Fi Villain.

"Have I overdone them a bit?"
In other news, I can't walk in heels anymore. Gutted for me. Apart from one pair of really comfy H&M platforms that I can run for a bus in, I only really wear wedge boots, so I treated myself to a pair of basic black heels from New Look last week. 'They are huge, but I'm very good at walking in heels,' I thought, like an idiot.


Cut to Friday night and I'm walking to the tube station at one mile per hour, gritting my teeth as I hobble over cobbles. A couple of hours later and I'm falling down Olivia's friend's stairs, thinking I can regain my balance right up to the last second, when I realise I'm actually going down. I untangled my legs from underneath myself as I fell, landing miraculously in a side-sitting position, as if I was in a family photo.

I can't believe I didn't hurt myself, I fell from the middle of the stairs all the way to the bottom.

The next day I was dreading work, because I was working a double shift, 11.30am until midnight, but it was actually fine. The shift manager bought me a croissant and a coffee from Pret a Manger and at 3 o'clock I had a two hour break, so I ordered a burger and then fell asleep in the cellar, stretched out between two broken chairs with my coat over me.

When I woke up I had a coldsore.

The beast that never sleeps.

Unfortunately, after Olivia's birthday night, I seemed to have lost my oyster card, which had a weekly pass loaded on to it. I held off cancelling it because I knew I'd find it somewhere, but on Sunday afternoon I finally called up Oyster and cancelled it. Then I found it in my coat pocket and cried hysterically into my pillow for about ten minutes.

I can't believe it. I even had a dream on Saturday night that I found it... I KNEW I'd find it! It was in my fucking coat pocket, where I keep it all the time. I just didn't look properly.

Hmm.

Anyway. Anyway. I've just remembered I've got the end of my book to finish- 'The Algebraist' by Iain M.Banks. I've read Iain Bank's books before- 'The Wasp Factory' and 'Espedair Street'- but I've never read any of his sci-fi novels, which he publishes under Iain M.Banks. I picked it up in my brother's bedroom over the summer and started reading it. It's a pretty old book, I wondered where it had come from but the other day I noticed a sinister note written on the inside cover about 'modified swarms' and 'group minds' which has got to be my dad.

At first I found it The Algerbraist hard to get into, I couldn't get my head around the descriptions of things. The vast hub curved over the floating scape of wheels, widening into a ridge a thousand klicks high... That sort of thing. I had no idea what was going on but as I got into it I found myself actually looking up from the book and thinking: WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT?

I'm very, very nearly at the end.

I'm seeing my dad this weekend, I can return it to him. I'm going to Liverpool to see a play that someone in our year at uni wrote, there'll be a few of us going so it will be like a big uni reunion. I planned on saving up and having a blow out but instead spent all my money and now have a fiver for the entire weekend.

I can hear something, a muffled sound. It's coming from within my wardrobe...

Hold on...

It was my new shoes that I can't walk in, having a massive fucking laugh at my expense.

*I did think about doing this for a joke, putting up photos of my day to day wear which normally consists of holey leggings and an inside-out vest top with my kimono over the top, above the caption: 'Today I'm feeling welfare luxe, this look will take me from the dole office straight to the cocktail bar' but I fear the irony would be lost on some people and I'd just end up looking like a class A dickhead.

Friday, 1 November 2013

East African Food

Last night I took That Person I Sometimes Go For Drinks With to an Eritrean restaurant. I say 'took', I wanted to pay this time because I thought I was going to FINALLY get paid from the pub (after five weeks) and he's paid the last few times we've eaten out. I felt like a suave old-fashioned gentleman who is very good at dates- I chose the restaurant and booked a table and everything.

Then I didn't get paid on time... But that's another story.

I wanted to go for Ethiopian food because we've had a conversation about the Ethiopian restaurants I went to in Paris. Well, I thought we had. When we sat down he said, "So why did you choose an Ethiopian restaurant then?" which makes me think that it wasn't him I had the conversation with... it was no one.

(That's the only reason I'm talking about him in my blog- because every time I see him and the conversation swings round to people we both know, he always asks: "So how did you meet TC and OJ then?"
And every time I say: "I met them through my blog when I was living in Paris."
And every time he says, "Oh, you have a blog yeah?"
And then he forgets again.
Unless it's all an elaborate ruse to throw me off the scent and he's actually reading my blog right now?
Hmm.)

Anyway, I really wanted to have Ethiopian food again. The first time I ate it was about two years ago, at Restaurant Menelik in Paris. Menelik is at Brochant, across the road from a bar called Le Soleil, which is always filled with aged rock musicians and archetypal Parisians: men and women with long grey hair and velvet jackets, leaning into you to say something outrageous, then cackling away to themselves, showing their claret-coloured teeth and lips.

One night we walked a few steps away from the accordion music and raucous Parisians crowding the pavement- a dog-eared postcard of Paris- and into the unassuming restaurant across the road, where the smiley owner shook our hands and gave us all a glass of kir.

The walls were crammed with paintings of Africa and photos of famous Ethiopians. The music wasn't a subdued restaurant CD, made to play in the background, it was loud, traditional African music. I wish they'd had a dance floor. As it was my first time eating Ethiopian food, everything was novel. The food arrived on a large, spongy pancake, with rolled up pancakes for us to tear and pick up the food with. We chose a selection of hot meat dishes- finally some real spiciness in a city where mustard is the epitome of 'hot food'.

The next time I had Ethiopian food in Paris was at Sheger, a tiny restaurant in the centre of the city. There was a mix up with our table, so we waited outside on cobbled steps and the staff brought out Ethiopian cocktails for us to try- a minty, sugary drink with chunks of ginger in it, like a throat-tickling mojito. The dishes at Sheger were similar to the ones I had at Menelik, but they were fresher somehow, maybe because it's a smaller restaurant and they make the food to order. There were just two chefs- we could see them cooking- two women working away in the open kitchen next to our table. At the end of our meal the staff narrated us through the Ethiopian coffee ceremony.  The coffee pot was brought out on a tray that smoked with scented wood, burnt to ward off evil spirits.

I asked Twitter for Ethiopian restaurant recommendations and a couple of people said Adulis at Oval, even though it's technically Eritean. The two cuisines are really similar, but the two countries are not. While Ethiopia is still accessible to backpackers (I'd love to go but think it's more for experienced travellers), Eritrea is currently advised not to go there by the UK government. Llike lots of East African countries, people who actually venture there say it's an amazing country; that there are ruins and deserts and islands to see; that the people are warm and friendly.

Adulis was lovely, the staff were really friendly and we had so much food, we got the Mini Kirchat platter for two which would have easily fed four. It was a mix of meat and vegetarian dishes, spicy stews, curries and salads, everything cooked in niter kebbeh- a spiced, clarified butter, kind of like an East African ghee. We mistakenly went in hard on the pancakes, when what we should have done was pick up bigger amounts of meat using tiny pieces of pancake so that we didn't fill up so quickly. Strategy, people! With one alcoholic drink each the bill came to £33, which was good value considering I could barely walk when we left the restaurant.

We went to Jamboree  afterwards, it was jazz night. Neither of us could dance because we were so full, but I loved the music. It sounded so authentic, three of the musicians in the band sang and they had old-fashioned, vaudeville-style voices. As it was Halloween, there were ghostly flapper girls floating around and the owner carried round a tray ice cube fangs, swimming in Bloody Mary, a black veil draped over her face. I felt like I was in a scene from a film, or Boardwalk Empire.

Oh Lord, on our way from Adulis to Jamboree, I realised I needed to buy tampons. I ducked into a corner shop and told the Person I'd Been Out For A Meal With to wait outside. They only had massive boxes of Tampax and I had a tiny little clutch bag with me, so I bought a box then quietly told the man behind the counter that I was going to leave him most of the tampons.

He didn't say anything, but looked at the ceiling like he was being robbed at gunpoint and wanted to pretend it wasn't happening. I opened up the box and started putting tampons in my bag.

"I'm trying to be discreet." I explained, but he didn't reply.

In the end I left most of the tampons on the counter. When I got outside the Person Who Had Been Waiting For Me said: "Shall I go back and get the rest of them for you? I could put them in my pockets."

I said thanks, but no thanks. I didn't like to think of him strolling into Jazz Night, pockets bursting with tampons.