29 September 2011

Being Twenty-six

London has suddenly exploded with sunshine. Walking to the station yesterday to catch my train for work, there was something special in the air as I passed through the park near my flats. The sun was low in the sky, and just brushing the tree tops in the distance, so bright beams shot across the grass and played havoc with the mist that had settled quietly across the field. The air was crisp, and tickled my nose, but it wasn't cold enough to steam up my breath. I stopped to take a picture by the railings. It looked like something paranormal. Just beautiful. It was a fresh morning, the kind that wakes you right up and starts to make you think. Even at seven O'clock in the morning.

I will be twenty-six on Saturday. Twenty-six.  

I continued up the path, and watched as a grey figure walked through the mist just a couple of hundred yards in front of me. I could hear the footsteps and heavy breathing getting louder as they strode towards me, but the mist distorted his face. He passed quickly and smiled as he went. I beamed back. A little exchange of how beautiful it was. My thoughts flipped back to my birthday.

Was twenty-six really so different from being twenty-five? 

I walked briskly along the path, carefully avoiding squishing all the tiny red berries that had dropped to the ground from the tree overhead.

It's taken me a year, but I think I'm in a good place. At twenty-six, I've got a nice flat, a job that pays for it, good friends and a lovely man.  I might even go as far to say I'm beginning to love London.

I left the park, noticing the way the fog just slipped by and out of sight as I walked across the cast iron bridge and turned left through the estate. Feeling settled, or rather, feeling safe has always been rather important to me. Change was never something I was very good at. I'd try and do everything possible to keep things the way they were. I loved photographs that captured beautiful moments with natural real-life poses, videos I could play over and over again watching every movement and reliving a tiny snippet of who I was at one tiny point in time. And then there were the diaries. I might not have been good at change, but recording change; I was brilliant.


A fabulous day in London - 14th April 2006

(Aged 20)

We set off at Amersham to get the cheap tickets. Ahead of us was just the most romantic day. It was cool - not too cold but lovely and bright. We arrived in London and started with Covent Garden - my favourite place. We were really hungry so I'd made a picnic and done some cute sandwiches. It was lovely... We arrived and he held me close and we kissed and as we did the sun came out. 
I felt so happy... I held his hand and loved looking around the ring stalls and there was a carousel where we sat by and ate our sandwiches in the sun. Then we made our way to St James' Park (while the sun was still out). Walked through the park and even saw Buckingham Palace. Squirrels and blossom were everywhere. We sat on a little bench by the lake and I lay on Leam's lap. I loved just being together away from the usual setting in Manchester. Decided Leam would love Camden and so off we went to the market. He bought me a nose stud from a stall by the lochs. Everyone was having a pint in the sun, so we thought we'd go for a drink. We went to Embankment, and went aboard a river boat on the Thames. Such a beautiful setting. We talked about summer and the future. Felt so good, but got a little cold as evening set in, so we decided to go to china town for an evening meal. I did my usual on the restaurants; changed my mind, couldn't decide on a table, before finally asking to leave and find another one. Then we found a lovely cosy place, nice - but quite expensive. We had London fever, and I just so wanted to stay. If only we could afford a hotel! We made our way back- I felt happy. The day had really summed up for me how good the last six months together have been. We have the 'at one'ishness. There's no need to speak. No silences. He's just so cute and I'm so in love. Still.

19 September 2011


Sitting on my wide wooden reception desk, I'd say, about 150 different people pass me each day. I have three lifts and six doors around my reception where the people I work with pass through. Some glance up, their eyes flicking only slightly so as not to be rude, some stop and lean over the glass panel at the front, and stay for a few minutes to chat, and others just plain walk on by, perhaps pretending im not here, or maybe just too busy to notice.
I'm not hard to miss. I'm slap bang in the middle of the reception area - my desk wider than my arms can stretch, and I'm lit up with hundreds of different kinds of lights, large beamers, little spotlights, and wall mounted atmospherics - all artificial.

Literally, you couldn't miss me.

I've been here in this job now nearly a year. I know the people who I should smile at, or say 'good morning!' to, those who always have the latest bit of office gossip, and I can spot the few who love to stand a little longer over my desk than they should do- for one reason or another.
Sometimes I play little games, which is probably a little bit mean, because I smile like a maniac to the ones who look grumpy, and announce 'good morning' with a little too much enthusiasm and always in a slightly operatic manner, to those who ignore me - just so they have to notice I'm there. It's just good manners, afterall.

But if you haven't got nearly a year to get to know someone's weird and wonderful ways, then it's often really hard to know how interact with them. I sit at my reception desk and out of the corner of my eye, I see the lift doors open - sliding slowly - and I can see a peek of a suit, a shoe, or hear a tinkling laugh before that person steps forward into the lights, and I realise that I've never seen them before. Their face is new to me, their expression (mostly fixed into an expectant look towards me and my reception desk) is often unreadable except to say that they might be needing my attention in a couple of seconds. I've found that people just don't walk around with their thoughts and personalities written all across their faces. Instead, they can be hidden behind smiles, wrapped around words, or lost under glazed, work-tired eyes.

There's this thing I've been able to do, ever since I was young. It's a useful ability, and in my people-watching reception, has proved monumentally helpful. I can honestly, no kidding, sense people. That's not using my sight, my hearing, or even (thank goodness) my sense of smell. To put it more specifically - whilst risking sounding like the gigantic hippy I am and nearly always try to avoid to be - I sense their energy; their aura.  

When I was younger, I didn't know what an aura was. I thought it was pretty normal to just know how people were feeling as I clapped my eyes upon them. I got this niggling instinct in the pit of my stomach, that wiggled it's way up until I paid it some attention. Almost always I was right.
There are hundreds of books out there on auras. There are the airy-fairy ones, the rather technical ones and the ones with the photographs to prove them (Kirlian photography - if you're interested). But to put it very simply; an aura is an energy field which radiates all around you. It's your personal energy, made up of essentially you. Even, I guess, right down to whether you liked that expensive dinner last night, how you hated peas when you were six-years-old and those high flying dreams of what you want to be 'when you grow up'. I have come to realise, that these auras are made up of all the things you just don't go around shouting about in everyday life - especially at work - but are extremely important in making up exactly who you are, nonetheless.

I think I got this extra-sensory ability from my Mum. She can suss out a person with one small glance. I remember how I'd bring around my shiny new best friend after school. We'd sit and chat, eating our sausages, chips and baked beans in the kitchen, before racing up to my bedroom and talking about the latest boy we fancied in our class. Later on, after she'd gone home, I'd come down to the kitchen in my pyjamas and ask Mum proudly what she thought of my 'new best friend'.
She'd narrow her eyes and tilt her head to the side, as if working out the best way to put it across.
"A nice girl." She'd say, squinting a bit. "'Though, if I was you, I'd be careful she doesn't pinch your boyfriend." Well, I'd stand there arguing with her until my face went blue, thinking of a hundred different reasons why my new best friend could never, ever stab me in the back or run off with the boy I fancied. And without fail, within a couple of weeks, she would.

Relating to people in everyday life seems make a lot more sense when you know about auras. You begin to understand those people who after just five minutes of talking with them, are able to make you feel as if you need a seriously stiff drink and a lie down. You then begin to really appreciate those people who have a warmth around them - an inner beauty that radiates out when they communicate; so much so that you could sit and talk to them all evening, because you just connect.

I'm sure it's why I get so claustrophobic on the underground in London. All those bodies, and their individual auras crammed into that tiny carriage on the District Line into Wimbledon. Just living in London in general, I find myself searching out open areas, standing in the middle of parks, desperately finding my own space to be me whilst living among eight million people. And then, amongst all those millions, you might find one aura you connect with more than any other.

And for me, that aura belongs to Liam. I dont tell him this fact very often. Mainly because he's incredibly skeptical about anything he can't actually, physically see, but also because it's hardly what a guy wants to hear; 'Oooh your aura's lovely...'
But it's true.
He's got this energy about him that I could sit and connect with forever. It's warm, open and safe. When he's scooting across the world on his business trips and I'm left at home with the cat; well, we miss him. I can always talk with him on the phone about my day, so it's probably not our conversation that I miss most. As a self-confessed hermit, I definitely don't miss sharing our tiny little flat; fighting over the remote control, squished up on one half of the bed and getting cross because he's nicked the last of the sour cream dip. No, it isn't one thing in particular. It's his aura I miss. That buzz of energy around him that makes up every single part of him. The bits I dont know, the bits I do - the everything that is essentially him.


14 September 2011

100 Word Post : Work Do

Phone rings.
It’s something like metal spoons thrashing against a tin can. I wince. 
Phone rings.
A hot cup of tea sits happily on my desk. Ah, my ally. I stir in two sugars and my hand start to shake. 
Phone rings.
I’m sure the document I’m working on has doubled in size since yesterday. Little typed letters jump about on the page. I blink. 
Lift doors open. Lift doors close. 
Nope, they’re still blurring into fuzzy black lines...
Such itchy eyes.
“Enjoy last night?” They say as they pass reception. Smug little smiles, so pleased I’m being punished.

9 September 2011

Lipstick Lesbians

It's one of those dutiful nights. Where, despite being absolutely exhausted, I've given in, pulled on the black jeans, curled a few strands of hair and slicked on some baby pink lipstick and dragged myself to a pub half way across London - all for love. Alright, for Liam. So I agree to a cheap house white - as long as it comes with a 'tap water and ice'- and I sit back at the table which is surrounded with all his friends, and I try to laugh at the right moments, and not shudder at how acidic my wine is.

It's late. The pub's noisy. A girl in a heavy knitted cardigan has started swaying on her own to '99 Red Balloons' and waving at herself in the mirrors. There's talk of another round of drinks. Someone's smoking off the balcony. No one seems to mind.

"Just nipping to the loo." I say, squeezing Liam on the arm. I slope in and out the obstacle course of wooden pub chairs, avoiding people and pints alike. I've not been here before. I squint, looking for a sign, wishing I'd put my glasses on. I hope I won't walk into the men's toilet, which often tends to happen. In a dark corner painted a grubby green, I spy the door. Then a pointy hand with toilets written on it politely. I push it and enter.

Suddenly I'm faced with two whitewashed doors with absolutely no signs. It's like Alice In Wonderland- I just need a white rabbit. I stop for a moment, wondering which one I should push before a voice pipes up from behind me.

"Well that's not very helpful, is it?" A girl says in a soft Irish accent. "Chance it for the one on the left."

I push the door, and by the smell alone, we realise we've hit the wrong one.
"Whoops!" I shriek, and laugh, bursting quickly through the door on the right.

What a state. Tissues all over the floor, water on the basins and soap smeared up the mirrors. It was definitely the ladies toilet. If it wasn't obvious from the mess, both cubicles are locked. She makes a point of hammering on each door and telling the occupants to "bloody hurry up".

I stand opposite the large mirror. My reflection stares back at me and my curls have gone flat. I sigh, open my handbag and reach for my hairbrush. As I'm fumbling about I notice that the girl is staring at me.

"English girls are so pretty." She says casually, turning to apply her lipstick.

"Oh, really?" I laugh off the compliment.

"Absolutely. You're really pretty." She says, turning to look at me and half smiled.

Not quite sure what to say, I laugh. "I'm sure I look tired." I say, embarrassed. There was a flicker of something else in that smile.

"Are you from 'round here?" And without waiting for the answer she says, "I'm staying with my friend near Clapham."

She definitely wasn't a Londoner. She was far too friendly. I stole a quick glance at her face as she was busy fluffing her hair and talking about her friend's flat. She was quirky. Dark haired and pale with big blue eyes- typically Irish.

As I start a polite but distant response, the toilet flushes from behind one of the cubicles. She stops fluffing to glare at a sheepish looking girl who walks out alone, who decides against washing her hands to just exit as swiftly as possible.

"After you." I say.

There's an awkward quiet in the toilet. God knows what going on in the other cubicle. The Irish girl grins and clacks her cute black boots across the lino into the cubicle. I busy myself fiddling with a loose curl up close in the mirror. She pauses as she pushes the door. I notice that there are loads of odes to love and hate written across the back wall in different lipsticks and eye liners. What's she pausing for? She suddenly spins on her heel to face me and I half expect her to ask me to join her.

"D'you have a boyfriend then?" She tilts her head and wrinkles her nose as I nod. "Shame. Course y'do. You're dead pretty. I'd be surprised if yer didn't." Then she strides into the toilet cubicle and closes the door.


Afraid of the silence and not wanting to hear her pee, I turn the taps on full and pretend to wash my hands. Yelling over the water splashing across the sinks and onto the floor, I shout, "Yep. He's quite a nice one too. Been together ages." Then I add (because I now have a feeling that I need to make myself appear less available), "We have a cat."

She might just be a non-Londoner who hadn't yet realised that in London you just don't talk to strangers. But no denying it, there was definite flirting. I didn't know what to do... Run? Or stand there red-faced when she came out the loo?

Thing was, I couldn't run. I still really needed to pee.

So I stayed. I'll admit, part of me was pretty chuffed. Having never been hit on by a girl, I found it all rather exciting. There was no sleaze. No ass-checking, boob-staring or cheesy chat up lines falling from slurring lips. A definite improvement on the usual. For a moment, it was pretty scary when she leant forward to kiss me goodbye. Just a friendly two-cheeker - though I swear to God she sniffed me. I left the ladies toilet in air of smugness and made my way back to the rickety wooden table where Liam was playing around with beer mats, and his friends were singing along to Chumbawamba's 'Tubthumping'.

Later on, when a few of his mates had been asked politely - then less politely - to stop dancing on the tables, we made our way out of the pub and into the fresh air to queue up by the hundreds of late night drinkers looking to making their way home at the bus stop.

I leant on Liam and put my arm around his waist. "Guess what?" I asked, teasing. "I got asked out tonight by a girl."

"You didn't...!"

"I did." I said, looking all smug. He smelt of fags, lager and possibly something vaguely cheese and oniony. I sniffed him. "You stink." I said, poking him.

"You love it." He grabbed me tight.

"Only a little bit." I said wrinkling my nose. No, he was right. Such an appealing smell. I wasn't ready to become a lesbian just yet.