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In our family, my Father’s word is final. When he voices an opinion we don’t dare disagree with it.

Dad’s not one of those clots who shoves an opinion down you throat, but his quiet authority has a massive influence on us all.

Take capers: Dad refuses to eat them – so none of us will touch them.

Take golf: Dad thinks it’s a pointless and smug leisure activity – so none of us ever play.

Take Milan: Dad calls it an ‘industrial city’ – so none of us have ever been… until now…

A couple of weeks ago my Dutch friend Margriet gave me a call.

KKI haven’t seen you for ages… let’s go on an adventure.

Not one to waste time, Margriet suggested we went to Milan.  Now a weekend in Milan sounds rather glamorous to any normal person, but as soon as I heard that name, the alarm bells started ringing. In my strange little mind, Milan did not paint a pretty picture. Images of smoky chimneys, ugly warehouses and snarling Italians sprung to mind. The flights were dirt cheap, so after a moment’s hesitation I sheepishly accepted.

It’s always good to go in to something with low expectations, that way you’re rarely disappointed. Well to set records straight, Milan was better than I could have ever anticipated – in fact, it was bloomin’ marvellous.

Dad’s not wrong when he say’s it’s an industrial place, but that’s the best thing about it. Milan is energetic, buzzing and unbelievably chic. The design is cutting edge, the food is forward-thinking and the fashion is about as good as you can get. But for all you antiquity junkies out there, fear not. Amidst this hive of modern activity, Milan offers a veritable catalogue of ancient sights and monuments. The central Duomo is about the most beautiful cathedral I’ve ever seen.

Everything is so god dam sexy in Italy. The climate means that you walk around in skimpy clothing, the mouthwatering food arouses your senses and the antique art leaves little to the imagination… When you have smouldering men and vampish Armani- clad women, it’s no surprise that everyone is so sexed up. I hate to admit it, but the Italians make us Brits look like a bunch of tight-laced bores.

Sadly we didn’t meet our very own Italian Stallions and even more regrettably we didn’t get to ride on the back of a vintage vespa. But Margriet and I have returned to our respective countries with an all new understanding of the dolche vita!

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I headed to Suffolk last weekend. Not to visit friends, not to swim in the sea and not even to hang out in a beach hut. No, I went to attend a Theatre Festival of all things – The High Tide Festival, if you will.

We’ve all heard of the Edinburgh Festival, but Suffolk? It hardly seems to be the theatrical epicentre of the UK. But hang on a minute, let’s not dismiss Suffolk too quickly – because its annual High Tide festival has got everyone talking.

Upon arrival at the festival – in the abyss of East Anglia, I met up with my parents. My mother was buoyant with enthusiasm, my father a little sceptical, (he’s not much of a thesp.) Without even a moment to gather ourselves, we were whisked into an auditorium to watch the preview of a new play by Beth Steel: ‘Ditch.’

It was midday, the sunshine was blazing outside, and I was sitting with my parents watching an apocalyptic play in Suffolk. It’s not the most normal way to spend your Saturday.

When the drama concluded, we left the theatre a little shakily, and gathered in the main foyer. Just at that moment, my eyes fell upon a very sweet, cheeky looking Jack Russell. I bounded up to the mutt and gave it a good scratch. I then noticed the dog owner’s eccentric shoes.

My eyes ran past the dandy-esque brogues, up a pair of emerald green courdoroy trousers, up a flamboyantly striped chemise until they settled upon the face of none other than Kevin Spacey. Yes, the Hollywood filmstar of American Beauty acclaim was staring down at me as I was scratching his dog’s belly.

I know it’s desperately uncool to be star-strck , but I could not help but be blown away by the fact that in this tiny insignificant village I was patting Kevin Spacey’s dog. Un-bloody-belieavable!

As the day continued, and we watched more performances, I bumped into Kevin at every turn. Every play I went to see, he was there;  every time I sat in the cafe, he was there; every time I went outside – he was there.

Kevin and I are definitely friends now.

Moral of the story: Don’t underestimate Suffolk, you never know who’s dog you might bump into.

The following week, I went on a lunch date with the Cafe Nero boy.

We met in the same place at the same time, on an equally sunny day.

Last week, I remembered ‘Elio’ as a cool arty type. I remembered a pleasantly foreign face and an insouciant charm.

This week – he seemed quite different.

This week he was still arty (a little too arty it seems), he was still foreign looking (perhaps a little too foreign) and he still had a certain sort of charm, but he certainly was not the stud I’d built him up to be.

Two minutes into my frothy cappuccino and the boy lanced into a full blown soliloquy. I mean it’s all very well to discuss inner feelings and cultural beliefs with someone, but this was only our second encounter after all.

It was all a little too much too soon, and quite frankly I wasn’t ready for it.

When ‘Elio’ asked me to talk to him in French, I became a little wary. When he said that my eyes were the colour of oak, I bolted. I’ve heard of eyes being described as windows to the soul, but  NEVER compared to a bog-standard English tree.

Shame, this meeting could have been a nice little histoire d’amour. Alas, I will just have to roll my oak coloured eyes and continue to search for Mr Right, (not at Cafe Nero mind you.)

Keen to catch a few rays at lunchtime today, I nipped out of the office and made a B-line for the sunny terrace at Cafe Nero. I sported my sunnies, positioned myself in full view of the sun and made a start on my new book. My latest read is a curious find that I  picked up in a dusty corner at my parents house.

The book’s unusual title and its dog eared appearance made it an oddly appealing choice. Little did I know that this haphazard decision, would have such a profound effect on my day’s lunch hour… The book is called ‘The Leopard‘ and is written by the Italian author Giueseppe di Lampedusa.

Just as I was turning to page 2, a big haired youth came bounding towards me:

I can’t believe you’re reading that book. Oh my God! It’s the best thing I’ve ever read in my life. Oh my God! You are so lucky!

Lucky? Huh! didn’t feel it. Not with this unwelcome guest grinning down at me and my book. Much to my dismay there was no way to escape. All the other tables were taken and I was only half way through my lunch. I simply couldn’t leave.

It turns out that this ‘life changing book’ which is set in Sicily – also happens to be the birthplace of my new big-haired friend. No wonder he was excitable.

As he sidled up closer and closer, I decided to give this foreign stranger a chance. On closer inspection he was quite good looking and I’d simply couldn’t burst his bubble of enthusiasm.

We discussed the book at great length – which was quite tricky for me (as I was still only on page 2) and then we went on to chat about art. Yep, no jokes, I talked to a boy I’d known for five minutes about art. How pretentious is that? It’s all the more embarrassing because everyone in the cafe was listening to every word we said.

In spite of my original suspicions, I began to enjoy myself. So when the stranger asked me for my name, I didn’t make one up. And when he asked for my number, I didn’t make that up either.

A few text messages have been exchanged and a rendez vous is set for tomorrow lunchtime.

Watch this space…


In recent months I have developed an unhealthy obsession with author Tom Rob Smith.

I never thought it possible to fall in love with someone without actually knowing what they look like, but after reading Smith’s first two novels I was frankly, smitten.

Child 44 and The Secret Speech are set in the fearful heights of Cold War Russia. Smith makes this sinister, fearful period electrifying, as he transports the reader into to the secret world of spying. This is a world where the police are the criminals and the criminals are the good guys.

Nothing could have prepared me for the combination of terror and exhilaration that I felt on reading these novels, nor for  my new found obsession with military tanks and machine guns. The person that has the ability to convert a Jane Austen fan (me) to a lover of post-war thrillers must have great talent.

Without further ado, I decided that this Tom Rob Smith needed some investigation. After scouring his biography at the back of the book, I just knew that this author was the man for me.

Born in 1979 (Ideal that means he’s eight years older. Nice to have a mature kinda guy)

Half Swedish (Even better, he’s obviously got Aryan good looks from his Goddess of a mother)

Cambridge graduate (It’s always a bonus to have a good brain)

Lives in London (Perfect! When can we meet?)

The penny dropped, and just like that, I  came up with a foolproof plan. I was going to contact this Swedish, bookish hunk and in the name of ‘journalism’ interview him. In my whimsical dream world, Tom and I would discuss his literary inspiration and then we would fall helplessly in love with each other. Easy.

Not one to waste time, I set to work tracking down my future husband. As I scanned through a Wikepedia article my eyes fell on an unsavoury sentence:

Tom Rob Smith is gay

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! My plan is foiled. My heart is broken. This is tragic.

This really IS lamentable news, but I will just have to be grown up about this. If I can’t have Tom, I spose I’ll just have to make do with his fictional hero – Leo Demidov.

Hang on a minute, something’s just struck me, Tom Rob Smith’s sexuality should have been blatantly obvious from the word go. Anyone that can create such a masculine, handsome yet tough hero as Leo Demidov simply has to be gay.

My latest marketing venture has not been the most orthodox.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been spreading positive vibes about the latest and greatest event to hit London: ‘Porn – The Musical.’

It’s no easy feat targeting an audience that loves musicals but also happens to have a penchant for pornography – but I have tried my very best. The efforts obviously paid off, for when I finally saw the show at the tiny ‘Theatre 503‘ (situated above a grimy pub in Battersea), I had to fight for my seat.

The story starts on the island of Malta, where a heartbroken Stefan emigrates to LA, with hopes of making it big “like Harrison Ford or Jesus”. Mugged on arrival, Stefan is rescued by a porn princess who, looking and sounding like Dolly Parton, announces: “My name is Sanddy with a double D.”

The seemingly wholesome Sanddy initiates Stefan into the adult-movie business, where, under the direction of one Martin Scoresleazy he proves an unexpected  success.

The depiction of the sordid world of pornography is perhaps a little predictable, but with appearances from the likes of Dr Johnny Long, with his PHD (Particularly Huge Dick) it’s hard to complain.

After such a promising start for the young lothario, events take a turn for the worse. Sanddy and Stefan’s blossoming romance is put on hold as Martin’s studio faces bankruptcy and a potent STD spreads amongst the actors…

Prudes need not be scared, this performance is warm rather than racing hot.

Offensive? No. Faintly ridiculous? Yes. Belly achingly funny? Definitely! Whatever the critics say, this is a musical not to be missed.

One of my office’s accounts is with the Arts Theatre in Leicester Square. This small, musty venue has none of the sparkling glamour of other West End theatres, but in my humble opinion, it’s a hidden gem.

For the past few months, the Arts Theatre has been running a wildly successful ‘Late Night’ programme. When the innocent performances finish at ten, the raunchier acts hit the stage. In the second week of my internship I naively agreed to see one of these late night shows. Nothing could have prepared me for the evening that lay ahead.

I suppose the show’s title should have given it all away. “Naked Boys Singing” does not need much explanation. The musical takes the form of 16 songs performed by a troupe of jobless actors auditiong for the ‘naked’ event we’re about to see. The lyrics are crude, the language is blue, and the nakedness leaves little to the imagination. The (very) gay humour never lets up with songs entitled “The bliss of a Bris” and “Perky Little Porn Star.”

The audience was a bizarre combination of aging gays, Japanese tourists and glamorous Russians. The night was quite literally hysterical. It may be outrageous, but if the spectator cares to look beyond the blatant nakedness, then they are sure to enjoy a handful of catchy songs and some genuine acting talent.

In direct contradiction to the self-deprecating, opening song title, this really isn’t all about ‘Gratuitous Nudity’.

For the past three months I’ve been filling my days with yet another internship.  I’m happy to say that this latest stint of unpaid labour, has been anything but dull. In previous offices, I’ve worked in silence and always kept my head down, but in my current place of work, voices are raised, phones are slammed and coarse language prevails!

I’ve witnessed hysterical laughter, hysterical tears, fierce bitching and silent treatment. From what I’ve gathered, every stereotype about working in “The Arts” is true. It really is a world of airy kisses, boozy lunches, hot tempers and shameless self promotion. But for every dollop of high pitched emotion, there is an equal portion of love and respect. I think it’s just the nature of working in theatre – these thespian type don’t like to hold back.

One bonus of the whole experience has been all the freebie trips to the theatre. I’ve been lucky enough to see a handful of shows, some funny, some sad and some plain awful, but it certainly is intriguing to see what appeals to the British public. People may claim that there is nothing that they want to see at the theatre, but I can confindently say there is something for everyone!

A dinner party is something I’ve always associated with grown ups. The idea of having a select group of people sitting around a table just seems so sophisticated and dare I say it – stiff. But over recent months, my entire impression of dinner parties has changed.

One party that really helped to change my mind was ‘The Fast Candlelight Dinner.’ This wasn’t just a casual get-together, this was a formal event with a formal invite. Ladies were informed to wear: “Fast Cocktail Dress,” Gentlemen: “Racing Blazer.” It all sounded slightly ominous.

The date of the party loomed and as I headed to Knightsbridge, donning my ‘Fast Cocktail Dress,’ I was ever  curious to discover what the whole thing was all about.

The night kicked off in serious style with oysters and champagne. But things took a surprise turn when the host marched us down the Brompton Road to the local McDonald’s. This is where the ‘fast’ dinner party continued… Our creative host had hired out the bottom room of the fast-food chain, pushed all the tables together, and thrown a long white table cloth across to form an impressive trestle table. He then decorated it with antique candelabras,beautiful porcelain plates and heir-loom cutlery.

The fourteen of us then proceeded to eat Big Macs and drink milkshakes whilst the rest of the McDonald’s clientele looked on at us in pure astonishment. We may have looked hidiously pretentious, but the idea was uniquely genius. Minimum effort, but maximum effect. Who say’s you have to follow the rules to have a good party?

I’m a true believer that if a fun opportunity raises its head, you should always take it.

2 months ago, a great mate of mine – who is particularly mischievous – set about improving my love life. Whilst at a dinner party with some of her university friends, she sat next to a boy who she thought would be a perfect match for me.

The following morning I received a somewhat hyper, giggly phone call. After a glass of vino too many, my dear friend had set me up on a blind date. As I mentioned before, I’m always game for trying something new, so after a slight waver, I decided to go for it.

That very evening, I received another phone call, but this time from a mysterious number. On answering, I was greeted by a distinctly foreign voice. This was the boy I’d been set up with.

The first few minutes of our conversation were about the most awkward I’ve ever had on the telephone. What do you say to someone you’ve never met – but you are supposed to go on a date with? It was toe-curlingly embarrassing. Luckily however, we got passed the awkwardness  and started to have a fairly decent chin wag.

I decided that the disembodied voice belonged to an interesting, fun and excitingly foreign person. This was someone that I would be keen to meet. So after a series of further conversations, our date was arranged for the following Friday.

Friday night arrived and I tottered out of my flat in impossibly high heels. I had no idea if the blind date was going to be deliciously tall or vertically challenged? If he was the former, then I would happily bare the agony of the shoes. If he was the latter, then I’d readily welcome reclining on a chair all evening.

As I approached our rendez-vous, I received the following text message:

Seeing as you won’t recognise me, I’m the one with the white wooly hat.

This was almost a little too blind for comfort. Nevertheless, I located the white wooly hat to find a smiling new face and our evening took off.

When I think of all the dire things that could have gone wrong, I don’t thing that it went too disastrously. It can’t have been that bad, as a brief romance followed.

Whilst briefly dating the foreigner, I ate Mc Donald’s in a cocktail dress, I drank Gin and Tonic from a cup and saucer, I took photographs of swans and I got an insight into the crazy world of banking.

So although it ended somewhat abruptly, it certainly was an eye-opener. It also injected a bit of fun into the grey, grim depths of January and February.

(Turns out, that kitten heels would have been the better option.)