Wednesday, 4 January 2012

So good they named it twice

The shiny glam of NYC isn't all this city is about

I have never been a Sex and the City fan, but I can picture the scene; sexy, young fashionistas darting between yellow cabs, Bloomingdales carrier bag in one hand and Starbuck’s chai tea latte in the other. Or girls in sequins dresses stumbling out of cocktail bars into an off-white Lexis and being whisked away through the city while the Empire State building and Statue of Liberty tower over head in a beam of showbiz light.

Those were the images I had attached to New York, but when I travelled there last month I didn’t find the glitzy film set I imagined. The Big Apple, as it turns out, is actually really normal.

I’m not saying my weekend in one of the world’s most infamous cities was bad one – there was no disappointment or let down. New York promises to leave an impression, and for me it certainly did – just not the one I was expecting.

I remember the night I arrived: standing in the middle of Times Square with flashing lights and illuminated billboards standing 50 storeys high on all sides. The whole street was buzzing even though it was two in the morning, with traffic still heaving and shoppers darting from store to store, to Starbucks and back again.

Yet for some reason I didn’t feel the hype you would expect. There were no Gossip Girl cast lookalikes strutting in slow motion down the street and no Jay-Z blaring behind me for background music. I had to constantly remind myself I was actually in New York because I just wasn’t dazzled.

One of the most sobering moments had to be when I was sat in an unusually quiet subway station. While waiting for my train I watched two men that worked there as they brushed the stairways and emptied the trash cans. No shiny black car, no Armanii business suit – but it was real. Real people doing real jobs.

That’s what I came to love about New York. The media has this power to make us believe it’s some shiny Hollywood film set comprised of yellow cabs and Starbucks cups. But in reality, the big ‘NYC’ scene is just like any other. Yes, there is glamour, but that only exists where you look for it. What it gives you for free ollyHDHFOis just a normal city filled with normal lives.

In that way, it’s like New York has a spilt personality – the glamorous culture capital and the slightly more exciting version of reality. I guess that’s why they named it twice.

Friday, 23 December 2011

How to accidently hate Christmas

December so far had been festive bliss. I had that Christmassy feeling. I had spirit.

That was until today.

Taking a trip to Tesco two days before Christmas was what changed it all.

With a stressed out mother who had yet to buy a single sprout, I thought I would do an act of goodwill (‘tis the season), and help her with the dreaded Christmas food shop.

But as nothing but carnage descended on the aisles of the supermarkets today, that turned out to be a big mistake. In what can only be described as a domestic battlefield, this is how I accidently came to hate Christmas…

Rounding aisle number one I meet with the grocer shopper everyone hates – the ‘yum mum and Nigella Lawson wannabe’. Clad in this season’s finest from John Lewis and wearing enough makeup to try and knock off a few years, she manages to dart her way through the crowd and knock me out of the way to get the last bag of fresh cranberries. That’s OK, Nigella; I wasn’t going for the cranberries anyway!

Aisle number two is worse. Here, we meet the ‘clan family’ which consists of two parents and what can only be described as a flock of young children. They’re running all over the aisle, lifting food, and then throwing tantrums when they can’t get it. They run behind me, in front of me and then just stop and sit on the ground in front of my trolley. No, young child – get up and get out of my way before I tell you the truth about Santa.

Aisle three and things get worse. The number of people increases and I’m caught in some sort of trolley jam between an old man and a woman examining gravy prices. Then - just as I’m sussing out the spice rack for some cinnamon sticks - along comes ‘Nigella-Lawson-yum-mum’ again. She skulks up to the shelf beside me and scans along the rows. We know we’re both looking for the same thing and whoever finds it and grabs it first will be the ultimate winner of domesticity.

Suddenly she lunges for a jar on the bottom shelf, like an eagle swooping in for its prey. And with a quick glance and fake smile in my direction as if to say, ‘my mulled wine will be better than yours,’ she darts off again, shoulder-bumping me on the way for good measure.

So by the time I reach the final aisle, having incurred several trolley bumps and a pounding headache, I’m in no mood for the dithering granny I meet there who’s asking me where the sweet mince is. I’m sorry old lady, any other day I would help you out but this isn’t a typical super market on a typical day. This is an every-man-for-himself warzone.

Forget good will to all men. I used to believe in that.

But when it comes to the festive Tesco trip there’s no such thing as peace and love. It’s a dash for the cinnamon sticks and fresh cranberries and if you get injured on the way, tough. Better luck next year and merry bloody Christmas!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

My Cultured Day Out

Living in the centre of Southampton without a car and without much of a reason to leave, I barely get out of the city.
So when I got the chance to go to Winchester for the day I jumped at it. It felt like I was a child on a school trip - a little bit bored by educative walking tours but just being excited to get out of the classroom.
With all its quaint streets, small tutor buildings and stunning Cathedral, Winchester makes for one very photo-genic city.
So this is my cultured day out in photos…

Winchester Cathedral in some lovely autumn sunshine.

 Somewhere in the middle of the busy high street there's a little door which leads into this beautiful, hidden church.
It was such an unexpected find, but with its big stained glass windows and wooden archways it was a good one
for a few pictures. Even one of the younger sister posing by the pews thrown in there too.

River Itchen running between the city's quaint and old buildings.

You can't go to Winchester and not see the very thing that makes it famous: King Arthur's
Round Table in The Great Hall.
With more of those stained glass windows and arches, it has a really medieval feel. You have expect some knights
to walk into the room and join you.

And saving the best to last; Winchester's ducks! They were easily the healthiest and happiest looking
ducks I've ever seen. And they were hilarious to watch, they would paddle upstream, then stop and let
themselves flow back down again just for fun. Amazing!

And So the End Begins...

I’m writing this at 10 o’clock at night. I’m wearing a onesie, I’m drinking a mug of tea and I’m very happily tucked up in bed for the night.

Being a student, other people my age are just getting ready to go out. For other people, 10 o’clock is the beginning of another typical night - complete with funny drunken conversations and spontaneous trips to McDonalds at two in the morning.

Yet here I am, in the onesie with the tea.

It’s sad really, and I realise that. But honestly, since turning 20 this weekend past, I have physically felt myself get older. It’s as if leaving the teenage years and hitting the brink of a new decade has suddenly thrown me into a new spiral of early nights and no social life.

Now I know that sounds massively dramatic. It’s not as if I’m nearing any form of retirement or signing up to the local bingo yet, but I’ve seriously felt sudden changes in myself since the weekend.

Like my back for example. I kid you not, I have had back pain over the last week. Back pain! I might as well get a zimmer and call it a day.

But with the sudden stiffing of joints, I worry that this aging process has actually been happening for a while now.

I’ve always loved a quiet night in, I think Countdown is actually pretty good and I’ve been considering the benefits of those tartan shopping trolleys grannies use. I seriously think they would be handy for bringing the Asda shop home! That’s bad, isn’t it?

The worst thing about 20 though, is that it’s half way to 40. That seems big. That’s half way to having a house and a mortgage and doing school runs in a Renault Scenic.

And so here in my pyjamas at this painfully early hour it’s as if I feel my youth slipping away. It really feels like a significant downward turn in my life. The beginning of the end.

But still, I’m tempted to just boil the kettle again, stick Countdown on and accept it.