Howdy folks.  I swear I’m my own worst enemy, a few weeks back I kept saying how I needed to slow down a bit, then ever since I got back from Malaysia I’ve been living London life at whirlwind speed. Idiot, much?

It’s been an utter blast though – it’s been nonsensical, hectic, hilarious and a great way to end the English summer (that’s an oxymoron, right there – summer my ass!!!). Here’s an overview of the last few weeks of hilarity. Here’s to The End Of The Summer.

  • The Kiwiana BBQ singalong night: we didn’t feel like true Kiwis because we hadn’t had a BBQ all summer. So Claire bought a massive sack of coal, some beer and some delicious gigantic tomatoes. Shelley and Rory bought sausages. I bought big mushrooms and salmon fillets. Sarah and Jono brought their lovely selves (they’d already eaten, the bastards). And between us we made beautiful food and beautiful music with Claire and Rory alternating on guitar and keyboard and the rest of us screeching along until the wee hours on the morning. It was bliss. I hadn’t laughed so hard in ages, or eaten such a delicious feast.
  • The surrealist theatre experience: My cousin’s friend Alicia was acting in a play called A Watch In The Tunnel, as part of the Camden Fringe Festival. I hadn’t been to any live theatre in London yet (appalling!) so happily tagged along with everyone to see the play. I had a blast! Without any bias, Alicia’s character made the play, too. It was quirky but accessible; I had a genuinely great night and felt all inspired to go see live theatre on a more regular basis.
  • Snogging a bus shelter: Well I can honestly say I’ve never done that before, and hopefully won’t do it ever again. One night I was waiting at a bus stop (stone cold sober I might add) when a Rather Hot Man gestured to me through the glass of the bus shelter. He mimed that I should kiss him through the glass. I was bored, he was hot, so I obliged. Then he did it again. Which resulted in both of us cracking up laughing and planting enthusiastic smoooooooches on each other/the bus shelter for a few seconds. At which point the bus arrived and I realised I was making out with a piece of glass. Straaaaange. I hopped on the bus very swiftly and spent the next morning being violently ill. I’m not sure if the two are linked. London bus shelters are Not Clean.
  • Grimey Hackney clubnights: It was the Bank Holiday weekend. The Irish flattie and I were watching X Factor on a Saturday night and decided that perhaps we should go be social. A quick text was sent to Claire, a bottle of Bacardi was opened and before we knew it we were en route to the Hackney Dolphin, a grotty fine East London establishment. We were gettin’ our grooves on to some cheesy tunes when all hell broke loose. Somehow, it had skipped my observation just how very drunk Claire was. Until she picked up a BAR STOOL and waved it above her head, in the middle of a very busy dancefloor. My jaw dropped in disbelief. The bouncer appeared out of nowhere and threatened to kick us out (I’m surprised he just didn’t). A few seconds later Claire’s waving an UMBRELLA above her head (assume it came from her handbag?!), practically taking people’s eyes out in the process. Somehow I snatched the brolly out of her hands before the bouncer noticed. I was equally terrified/doubling over in hysterical laughter. Claire had a manaical glint in her eyes that I hadn’t seen since the now-infamous 2009 Girls Weekend In Taupo.
    And then! And then the ‘cradlesnatching’ happened. I’m totally breaking another rule here. I decided some time ago to stop mentioning any stories relating to guys/dates on here. But this is just too fun not to share. A Rather Young Guy had been hitting on me when we first got to the Dolphin. He was a good looking fella. I have a weakness for tall guys with glasses – or guys with facial hair – or in this case, the best combo – a tall guy with glasses and facial hair! He was an absolute sweetheart but when he told me his age I gasped and said, “I’ll ruin you!”. Attempting to take the moral highground, I advised him to go hit on many of the (plentiful) young pretty girls in the club. Except he wouldn’t. My insistent resistance apparently had the opposite effect… Which is how I’ve ended up going on a couple of ridiculously fun dates with a guy who’s younger than my younger brother. Go on, judge away…
  • The Amanda Palmer gig: Simply one of the funnest concerts of my life. Amanda Palmer is hysterical! Her songs are equally catchy/filthy/disturbing and damn she’s one cool chick. Favourite moments: the sparkly costumes, the Bitter Ruin opening set, Tim Minchin’s cameo appearance in the encore, Neil Gaiman (Amanda’s hubby) coming on stage and singing for a bit, and the impromptu ‘audience workout’ with SuperKate. Legend.

A sort-of-farewell
Also. I realise now that its been 18 months of Living Randomly. I think I’m just going to be honest here and admit defeat – if I haven’t found time/headspace to do a ‘grand finale of randomness’ in that space of time, I don’t think it’s gonna happen. Sorry. In some respects I feel like I’ve failed a bit – in terms of what I promised to readers when I set up this blog back in March 2010. While I delivered on the random tasks I didn’t exactly finish in the course of a year, and I didn’t exactly end on a high. More of a ‘fizzle out’. But I’m not too fussed about that either. I suspect this blog’s gotten stale and that most people have stopped reading it. I’ve lost the enthusiasm a bit, not for the writing, but because I’ve stopped finding so-called ‘random’ activities as noteworthy or interesting as they used to be, now that I’m more comfortable in new situations. I mean, I’m booked in for bellydancing lessons next week and I’m going to the London Comic Con for the hell of it in October – things that used to be ‘outside of Clea’s comfort zone’ but are now just not that entertaining to write about, really. They barely even register on my radar of unusualness until someone asks if I’m doing it for my blog… now I just say I’m doing it for the hell of it, because I want to. Which is how life should be really.

But the end isn’t nigh. I’m not quitting blogging (phew!), I’ve registered a domain name and am setting up my shiny new blog sometime in the next month or so. Because I really, truly enjoy blogging. And I enjoy doing weird things and meeting new people – so that’s going to continue in my life fo sho! I just needed to bite the bullet and announce the conclusion of TYOLR in its current form, so I can get on and move on.

Thanks for reading. It’s been a blast. I mean it. I’ll come back on here at some point and post a link to the new blog once I’ve perfected created it.

If you feel like asking any questions or keeping in touch just submit a comment on this blog, I’ll still keep screening them while I’m creating the new interwebs project.

So long, farewell, I hope we meet again!

xx Clea

Very short update on things-that-have-been-out-of-my-comfort-zone. Proper blogs to follow soon (things are mental again, mental – Must Slow Down)

In Malaysia I touched a snake. A real, live snake. A big, fuck-off one too, not a wimpy little grass snake. It was in a snake temple in Penang and tears were shed to even get to that point. 

Here’s photo proof:

Honestly, this is a Big Deal for me. Minor progress made on the 'snake phobia' front

For those of you falling over laughing at my ‘bravery’ with this random task – please note that this is out of my comfort zone BIG TIME. If I was a real hard-ass I would have held the thing, or maybe draped it all over myself like an alluring Britney wannabe. But I cried enough before I even just touched the snake. It was some form of progress that I even managed to do that.

When we walked into the snake temple the first ones we saw were really small. I was convulsing and shuddering in repulsion but managed to stay calm. When we walked into the room with these big daddies on the table, I ran straight back out the door – much to my parent’s amusement.

Any other randomness> Well, a strange man attempted to hug me on the street today. He chased after me yelling ‘cuddle?!’ quizzically. It occured to me afterwards that if he had been hot I would have been totally up for it and then some. Heh.

Bethnal Green Money Shop, Tues morning. Guess there's no money left.

It’s hard to know where to begin. When I got back from Malaysia I thought I’d spend a day or so recovering from jet lag and write a nice little blog post about my Malaysia trip.

Instead I came home to the London riots.
At first they seemed quite distant: the Tottenham Hale and Croydon riots weren’t exactly close to where I live: Bethnal Green. It’s in East London. Adjacent to Hackney.
The first lot of weekend riots were scary and close enough to make me think ‘oooh that sucks’ but enough to be of toooo much concern. When Mum & Dad emailed to check I was OK I gave them a fairly blase response.
Then Monday rolled around and shit got a little crazy. I was battling a serious dose of 4pm-jetlag in the Council press office, when someone cranked the volume on the  TV and said “anyone live near Hackney?”
We watched, open-mouthed, as helicopters swarmed overhead the growing crowds.
“That’s Mare Street!” I said to my colleagues. “That’s only a fifteen minute walk from my house…” It was also reasonably near to the Vietnamese restaurant that I was due to meet Claire and Kurt that evening for a catchup.  My coworkers seemed quite concerned about my ability to get home safely. I was concerned about missing dinner.  Hell, I’ll be honest, it was all quite exciting and I couldn’t wait to get home and watch it all unfold on TV.
Being total idiots/suckers for a cheap Vietnamese meal, us three still went for dinner (it was good). Our outing was tense, but uneventful.  We decided to get taxis home rather than brave public transport/run the risk of going near Hackney. One taxi wouldn’t even take us in that direction. By the time I got back to  the flat, the riots had spread from Hackney down onto Bethnal Green Road. I hopped on Twitter and watched, dumbstruck, at the scenes that were unfolding just a few blocks from my house.
My local Tesco supermarket got trashed after this photo was taken.
This scene took place about 200m from my flat. 
Apparently there were petrol bombs. There are scorch marks on the tarmac at any rate.
Needless to say, last night was fairly strange/didn’t sleep that well. This morning I walked more slowly than usual towards the Bethnal Green station, taking everything in. 
At first glance you’d never know it happened. The sun was shining; there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Pedestrians in office attire trudged in the same direction towards the tube station. But take a closer look. That car over there? Its roof is caved in. That small pile of bricks, shaped like a wonky pyramid? Think twice about what those bricks were used for. Those burn marks on the tarmac? They weren’t there yesterday.
Then you begin to see the stores. That one has its windows kicked in. That one has security guards standing vigil outside. This one has two people tearfully clinging to each other as they stare dazedly into the distance.
Then you notice the street sweepers. They’ve done such a great job. It occurs to you that there’s not nearly as much broken glass/litter on the road as you saw in the police footage. It’s only 7.45am so they must have been up since dawn to get Bethnal Green Road looking as good as it does. 
But no matter how clean the streets are, the evidence remains. You see, parts of Bethnal Green Road have a lot of cobblestones. And it’s such a sunny morning that you can see the glass dust that’s fallen into the cracks between the cobbles. The glass chunks and other hazards may have been swept away but this tainted fairy dust remains. It creates a sparkly little picture frame around each of the bricks on the road and it’s hard to look at without squinting. 
What an utter waste. These riots are more about burglary, greed and spite rather than any particular cause. The perpetrators are opportunistic  little shitheads who need a good kick up the butt.   I can’t say it any better than this feisty old pensioner who gave looters a piece of her mind (scroll down to the Youtube link to see her extraordinary speech)
Massive kudos to those who took straight to the streets this morning to begin the cleanup misson. People like you put the rest to shame.
London: sleep well tonight.
Be safe, everyone.
*Useful link: with so many lies/scaremongers on Twitter, make sure you don’t fall for the hoaxes! Here’s an interactive map of verified incidents: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/interactive/2011/aug/09/uk-riots-incident-map 

So cool right now... yeah right...

So I’ve been in Malaysia for a few days now. It’s amazing. I’ve seen such a range of things: huge modern cities. Rice paddies. Beachside resorts. Motorways. Crazy ramshackle cities full of motorbikes where you take your life into your hands just by crossing the road. I am here for another week still and am enchanted with the place. 

I’m in Penang right now. Today is the first day I’ve been able to check my phone/hop online. I almost didn’t want to spoil the trip by returning to the online world but then I don’t want to forget anything either; hence this blogpost.

So here are the most memorable things that have happened to date. I don’t think I’ll ever forget them but just in case… 

  • Arriving jetlagged at Kuala Lumpur International Airport to discover my bag hadn’t left London yet. Thanks, Malaysia Airlines.
  • Seeing my parents for the first time in over a year and very nearly crying
  • Spending an entire day wearing Mum’s clothes until my bag arrived the following day. So hot right now!
  • Walking the streets of KL at night in just a singlet and shorts – beat that, London
  • Eating Malaysian street food and drinking Tiger beer under the stars
  • Discovering the GIGANTIC, opulent shopping malls that spread across central KL
  • Meeting my cousin, her fiance, and our other family members at the airport and realising the wedding party took up most of the small flight

    Love the frangipani flowers...

     to Langkawi

  • Flying into Langkawi itself – as we descended through the clouds my jaw dropped to see the electric blue ocean, the pure white sands, the rolling mountains and islands dotted everywhere
  • Seeing my first water buffalos, chillin’ in the rice paddies
  • Family reunion!! Massive dinner at Rasa restaurant in Langkawi the night before the wedding. Our party of 30+ guests taking over the restaurant. Six beers for the equivalent of  a fiver and a feast of a dinner for about the same price. Late-night yarns with aunts, uncles and cousins I hadn’t seen in I-don’t-know-how-long.
  • Lounging on the sunbathers at the Meritus Pelangi reading Shantaram for hours on end and gettin’ a tan at the same time. Bliss.
  • Spending a leisurely hour getting dolled up for my cousin’s wedding. Then walking outside to experience my makeup melting off my face and my hair turning into a frizzball. Makeup comes off; hair gets tied up. Irony not escaped.
  • Bon Ton Resort – what an amazing wedding venue, what an amazing couple *Sniffle*
  • Meeting new people and partying the night away with them on a tiny island! A lot of my cousin’s husband’s family had come over from England and France. These guys were a) hilarious, and b) dead-set on partying after the older family members/guests went to bed. Me and two of my younger cousins naturally joined them, and while my memory gets hazy; I do know that after the beach bar closed at around 3am we all stripped to our underwear (some to nothing at all) and went for a potentially quite dangerous but hugely fun night swim off the coast of Langkawi. I have a distinct memory of noticing some furry creatures in the breakwater while we were raging about the beach in our undies, and I know I tried to tell everyone about them, but given that I could only say “There’s aminals over there. Aminals in the water”, nobody really believed me. I reckon it was otters. Then we all hauled our sodden asses down the road to the next nightclub – a tacky behemoth called Sunba, where we got our groove on to Usher and other cheesy music. Shedding sand and dripping seawater all over the dancefloor.
  • Waking up the next day to discover that hangovers in tropical heat are Not Fun At All
  • Going up the spectacular cable cars to the highest mountain peaks on Langkawi and nearly barfing my guts out on the way. I am not good with heights at the best of times, and I was not at my best. My hands shook the entire way up.  
  • Here’s to the week ahead!

    Sun setting at the Bon Ton Resort


Whee! Rides at Lovebox Festival

Life’s a funny wee thing. A lot of interesting things have happened since the slightly emo post where I realised I needed to slow down a bit. Firstly, well, I Slowed Down A Bit. It was nice. It made a difference. And then there was that weird dream with Lord Sugar giving me Life Advice, which funnily enough seemed to act as some magical catalyst/prophecy and things are lookin’ good now, baby. Things have changed a whole lot in the past couple weeks and I am all fizzy and excited about life again.

Excuse the absence. Normally I veer away from blogging because I’m teetering on burnout. The past couple weeks have been the opposite of that really. I’ve been strangely serene and super-duper creative (and saying things like super duper, shizzle my rizzle – yep I’m trash talkin’ like an American teenager again, it happens). It’s been lovely. The slowing down thing was a major win – it also made me realise that perhaps I don’t necessarily need to revert to the ‘typical Cancerian behaviour’ of withdrawing into myself when I’m not coping, I just need to spend time with wonderful people but doing nice, chilled out things. Like making pancakes and going for a walk along the Thames instead of raging about town. Bliss.

In amongst all this serenity I also kept up the randomness, but I’ve reached a kind of weird level where randomness is the norm now and serenity/peacefulness are more ‘out of the norm’.

To brush over some of the randomness that I was going to/might blog about in more depth, here’s what I’ve gotten up to lately:

  • I’ve started going to Caribbean Soca Aerobics classes with a workmate and it is my new FAVOURITE thing. It is the funnest form of exercise I have ever done in my life, oh and it also incorporated a krumping lesson at the end of class!! Which is an accidental ‘tick’ on the List of Randomness. Howard would be proud. Krumping, done.
  • I joined Twitter, after purposely avoiding it for like, forever. And am currently trying to master it so that in future I can add ‘social media experience’ to my CV
  • Arriving at Lovebox with the gals. Can you tell which feet are mine? I’ll give you a hint. They’re the feet in the Stupidest Shoes

    Went to my first ever English music festival and in typical fashion, Lovebox was a mud pit! Blondie rocked my socks but Robyn was the highlight of the night. Amaaaaazing times and well worth the headache at work on Monday.

  • Went to the Orange Rockcorps concert at Wembley (my reward for volunteering) – somehow got quite drunk, on my own, fell head over heels in love with P-Diddy and thought it was an awesome idea to Facebook everyone about it at the time. Tee hee.
  • Have completed training to begin volunteering with a children’s literacy charity from September onwards. At this point it’s all so new I’m not going to name it, I mightn’t be able to anyway. But Oh My God. This place is the bees knees. It’s a combination of two of my favourite things ever – writing, and working with children. Ever since I left camp I’ve been pining for the conversations I used to have with the kids. The chats that could veer unexpectedly from childlike nattering to unnerving wisdom to poo jokes and back again. Whenever I have an ‘off’ day at work I daydream about some sort of job where I could combine creative writing and working with kids (hence why teaching keeps cropping up as an option) and when I found this place, I couldn’t even believe it existed. My hands were practically shaking when I filled out my application to start working there and I squeed when they accepted me into the training course. I don’t even care that it’s unpaid; I just needed to find and do something that I love. I can’t wait to meet the kids in a few weeks. I love this place so much that if it was a person, I would hug it.
  • Following this I made a quiet pact with a friend in terms of life/career/general aims and what I’d like my life to look like by end of 2012. She’s gonna hold me to it and so will I. It’s somewhat of a relief to admit that perhaps what I thought I wanted to do when I was 18 and starting Uni was completely and utterly wrong.  I’ve been mulling over this idea for nearly 2 years now (!) and finally reached a decision. On a lighter note, in this same conversation this friend and I both agreed to start our masterplan towards World Domination. We’re a tad weird.
  • I’m also about to fly out to Malaysia for my cousin’s wedding! Can’t wait to see her get married, and to make it even better, I get to see my parents and other cousins and aunts and uncles. And then! And then! A matter of days after Malaysia my brother and his girlfriend are coming to London! Ain’t seen my parents or brother in over a year so this = Happyhappyhappy 😀

Aaaand -here’s to 27

Oh yeah. It was my birthday yesterday, too. I had a lovely day – work was work, but I heard from all sortsa people during the day and then the usual gang of us had an awsome chilled-out dinner party at Kurt’s. Which got a bit silly (who’da thought!). Kurt decided to smear a piece of choccie cake on my face. And then we played Chubby Bunnies with a packet of marshmallows. I’d never heard of this game until yesterday. And I LOVED it so much that I cried from my eyes with laughter.

Dear 27: I am glad you are here. 26 was strange. 25 was a blast but 26 was very very strange. I’m glad I made it out in one piece. I feel like 26 was the year of swinging between all spectrums and back again to some sort of messy midground. From shy to friendly, weak to strong, scared to brave, insecure to quietly confident, fattish to thin(ner), arrogant to humble, doormat to assertive, unmotivated to inspired, sensible to unpredictable etc etc. On any given day I can be at either extreme or somewhere in the middle of any of those but it’s OK, it’s how your 20s are meant to be. 

Things just feel simpler now. I’m gonna go where the love flows, to quote some cheesy hippy thing I read somewhere once. Let’s just say I’m glad you’re here, 27, and I think we’re going to be just fine.

So last night I dreamed that I applied to go on The Apprentice. And that I aced the pitch and made it into a shortlist to be a contestant. But then Lord Sugar took me aside, and said, “You are very very good at what you do, but it makes you unhappy. I don’t want that and neither do you. Come back and see me when you’re good at something you love to do. P.S you’re fired.”

So off I teetered in my power suit and heels, feeling somewhat relieved. And then I woke up.

And now I am sitting in a park on my lunchbreak wondering what the shit THAT was all about. Has anyone else been given Spookily Accurate dream advice by a famous person?

For the record. I hope to never ever appear in reality TV of any form. Ever.

I think my dream was trying to tell me something important. Or maybe it was just a dream.

God I’m weird.

A couple of weeks back I was hit with this sudden, thrilling burst of creativity. I was lying in the park under a tree and I had this overwhelming sense that everything was going to be OK, that everything was falling into place and was surrounded by this lovely sense of calm. I got the twitchy-writing-bug so I started doodling and musing in my notebook, then got so caught up in the creativity of it all that I accidentally wrote a poem, as well as a whole list of reasons why I was so happy that day. I thought to myself  ‘sweet, I’ve written the poem finally, now I can book myself in for some major randomness’. And  I slept like a baby that night.

Sounds pretty good, right? It was, at the time. And then London happened.

By that, I mean the greyness set in. I feel like London living is a general layer of greyness interspersed by moments of light and fun and clarity. That’s probably just me though. Plenty of people seem to really love London but I’m still struggling with it a bit, even though I feel at home here now. Ironically, the-thing-that-I-started-writing-that-accidentally-turned-into-the-poem-I’ve-been-trying-to-write-for-several-months was about exactly that. London. And how it both energises and destroys you. How it’s always an ongoing struggle. You have to fight – for your sanity, for your health, for your sleep. It’s exhausting, and for me, sometimes it just gets to be too much. I regularly reach a point where I feel like I’m about to implode then completely withdraw from everyone for a few days like a cranky little hermit crab (hi friends, sorry, I’ve become a bit antisocial since I live here, trying trying trying to find a balance so can be better at this). In some respects I’ve become increasingly introverted since moving here – I’ve always been someone that needs a healthy dose of recuperative ‘alone time’ but I feel like the quantity of alone time I need to just get by here in London has increased exponentially. I get really really moody without it. In fact I just am really really moody here, especially the past 6 months or so. But I hate being moody so am always trying not to be – hence ongoing exhaustion.

For these reasons I’m still undecided if I’m really cut out for London living. But I’m not sure where else I’d go if I left?! When I reflect back on the past year and a bit, the months where I was at my happiest, most creative and most content were when I was in America. Not here. London’s fine and the fun moments have been ridiculously fun and I wouldn’t change them, or the lessons I’ve learned the hard way. But I still feel like something’s missing. Despite the fact that I have amazing friends and family here (who are ridiculously supportive and that I love to bits) – and that this is a city you can never, ever get bored in – I feel like I’m existing rather than living. The other thing that worries me is that I have yet to ‘fall in love’ with London like I did with Chicago and Berlin. It’s not that I don’t like it. I do. And these are more observations than complaints. I know that I’m lucky to be here and that I have choices. But the reality is – I don’t entirely feel like myself here, in London.

Mostly I think I need a holiday and some time away from all of this. Counting down the days til I go to Malaysia for my cousin’s wedding/spending time with almost my entire family (28 sleeps)

Which now leads me into today’s non-random project. I’ve had a lot on my plate the past few weeks and decided to take a Me Day today. A lot of the things I’m anxious about are out of my control at this point so it felt important to spend a day not thinking about stuff so much. I thought back to the way I felt and what I was doing when I was last at my happiest (America) and decided to try and replicate some of that.

In Eat Pray Love, one of my favourite books, the author talks about the Italian concept of Bel far niente, the art of doing nothing. Rather than race around trying to do random stuff, or tick off any of the zillions of chores I need to do, today I have decided to do absolutely nothing – and have decided that everything I will do, I will do slowly. I remember at summer camp we used to talk all the time about how important it was to live more slowly in such a busy modern world. It was so easy to follow that principle at camp – when you’re living in a bare wooden cabin and with no electricity or distractions, you can take the time to watch the woodpeckers. To listen to the wood crackling on an open fire. To sit on the docks and spend time just talking to people. To spend an entire evening  just stargazing. To silently paddle down a river in a canoe and watch the deer nibbling on the reeds nearby, because they haven’t noticed you yet. When all you needed to do that day was to make sure the kids had fun, and to have a picnic lunch together. I miss the simple beauty of all of that. I found it really easy to be creative in that environment and feel like London is sucking my creativity nearly dry.

So I went on a slow wander this morning to try and find small simple beauties in East London (not always easy) Here are some photos of my day so far plus a couple of other pics of little things that have made me happy lately. I’m not sure what I’ll do after I finish writing this either but whatever I do for the rest of this Me Day, I’ll do it slowly…

Photo slide – happiness in the small things

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Smiling-enthusiastically-at-the-handsome-photographer (images copyright of Orange RockCorps - I don't own these)

Finally ticked something else off The List this weekend: number 44, volunteering for a worthy cause.

I’ve been kinda lacking motivation for a few months now so it felt pretty good to actually do something off the List, even though I’m well on the way to The Year Of Living Randomly becoming The Year-And-A-Half Of Living Randomly due to my ongoing procrastination, sigh. I spose its better late than never.

So what did I volunteer for? Thanks to the very-cool-initiative-that-is Orange RockCorps, I was part of a team that spent an afternoon preparing a local Adventure Playground ahead of a complete renovation. We were meant to be painting the brick walls of the playground in a sort of Doctor-Who themed mural (nerdy chic, I LOVE it) but it was pissing down with rain right up until we got there, so they had to cancel the painting session and find us a new project  😦

The amazing spiderweb thing (image copyright of Orange Rockcorps - I don't own these pics)

I was highly disappointed that we wouldn’t be painting a mural for the afternoon, but got over it pretty quickly as I always enjoy chatting to new people and liked the idea of doing something good for the local community, y’all. Except. Except I had somehow overlooked one vital piece of information. Orange RockCorps is kinda aimed at teenagers. And I am very much Not A Teenager anymore. Not entirely sure how I missed that part, when I hop on the website now it’s full of photos of young’uns. Doh, musta been blind. Anyway, so when I first got to the playground, I had this moment of panic where I looked around at all the East London kids and their mates in their trendy outfits and facial piercings, and thought ‘ohjesuschrist  I’m going to be that weird loser adult that everyone looks sideways at and wonders about’. Thankfully a bunch of other people in their 20s also turned up on their own, and we naturally gravitated towards each other and stuck together for the day’s activities. Phew.

Stripping paint, instead of painting - not as creative but VERY therapeutic (image copyright of Orange Rockcorps - I don't own these pics)

While the organisers were figuring out non-painting jobs for us to do, they gave us gloves and rubbish sacks and suggested we spent 30 minutes or so picking up litter from around the playground, until they could sort us into our real teams.  Since there were so many of us we picked up the litter really quickly, which meant our 30 minutes of pre-work suddenly turned into 10-minutes of litter picking then 20 minutes of PLAYING ON THE ADVENTURE PLAYGROUND !!!

Words cannot express just how awesome this playground was. I would have killed for this shit when I was small. It was gigantic. There were dainty little houses for the girly girls to host ‘tea parties’ and appreciate the colourful flowerpots. There were epic tyre swings for the boys. There were gigantic life-sized xylophones that made a whole lotta noise. There was a weird tall pipe that was full of water, and inside it you could create a  fairly decent sized waterspout by cranking a handle. There were rope swings, and an obstacle course, and flying foxes, and huge slide tunnels (you better believe I went down the tallest one). And the mother of all ‘spiderwebs’. I’m not even sure if spiderweb is the right name for this thing but it was Utterly Amazing. It was this enormous, two-storeyed ‘cube’ made of stretchy rope netting. You could climb up and down and around the edges of it the cube (of which there were two stories, so you could rage around underneath the people who were running around in the top bit).  OR- you could take a flying leap from the middle of the cube, and land in the bouncy netting below you, which was so stuidly terrifying that I had to shut my eyes to do it. And I screamed like a little girl on the way down. I really hope I am conveying Just How Much Fun this was. I’m grinning just thinking about it. And no, it wasn’t even the teenagers that were doing this. They were WAY too cool to be playing. It was me and the ‘older’ people (as in, folks in their 20s). Leaping around an adventure playground and whooping the whole time. Yeehar. The photographer was cracking up at us – can’t wait to see the photos when they put them online! Will post them to the blog if I can.

Anyway I’m totally missing the point here. As well as being fun, Orange RockCorps is about actually getting some work done/giving back to the community. If you participate you also get rewarded with free tickets to rock concerts in your hometown (choice idea, huh?). So we did actually get some work done after our afternoon playtime, and it was Hard Work. We stripped the existing layers of paint off the brick walls of the playground. It took several hours of elbow grease but we really made a difference and hopefully the next team can now paint the mural.

All in all – a really fun day out. I’m so glad I went – I met so many cool people and can’t wait for the gig on 12 July at Wembley! Very impressed by the Orange RockCorps team; it’s a really well-run initiative and pretty inspiring stuff. Kudos.

Wine and chocolate. Two things that are dear to any girl’s heart. But I didn’t really think that they went together. Until this week, that is. Until I decided to see if my palate was in any way refined, by signing up for a ‘wine and chocolate’ matching event with one of my coworkers.

This wasn’t spectacularly random (yep I’ve reached the point where I’m unashamedly admitting my slackness of late with the wee randomness project, I’ll get better at some point I promise), but I’ve been meaning to do a proper, fancy wine tasting workshoppy thing for some time now.  Something of a culinary nature, y’know?

It’s not that I haven’t tasted wine before. I’ve tasted it plenty. I like how it tastes. And when I taste it, I usually drink it, which leads me to the conclusion that I have, in fact, already wine tasted many a time before. I hardly think you can argue with that.

But what I haven’t done before is pay attention to how the wine looks, smells, feels, and whether its acidic, dry, or whatever-the-other-things-the-lovely-lady-said-before-we-drank-all-the-wine. And I’ve never properly tried to make sure that the wine actually matched what I was eating, other than following the usual beginner’s rules of ‘white wine goes with fish’ and ‘red wine goes with steak’. And that old pearl of wisdom: to never, ever again sample the  ‘Lindauer with a shot of vodka, topped up with butterscotch schnapps’ specialty that someone made me once. It didn’t taste half as nice the second time around.

So. The wine & chocolate matching event I went to was at The Melange, a gorgeous wee boutique chocolate store in Peckham, South London. They have all sorts of droolworthy workshops like chocolate making, edible art – and of course the monthly wine/choc matching evening.  How it works is that you bring along a few varieties of wine, and the woman who runs the workshop teaches you how to develop your own tastes so that you can find a chocolate to ‘go with’ your favourite wine. I was a bit dubious that such a thing existed, but boy was I proven wrong.

Five of us went along and we each rocked up with a bottle of wine (dangerous, I know). We had a lovely Argentinian white, a syrupy dessert wine, a fabulous pinot noir, a syrah and a superb Cab Sav that Claire helped me pick out for the occasion. The Melange store then provides all the chocolate (we each got a whopping 10 bars of chocolate for our moneys worth) and a couple of hours of advice, entertainment and general awesomeness. We probably should have eaten dinner beforehand but hey, you live, you learn.

We started by learning about how chocolate is sourced, and made – which involved biting into cacao beans and eating them raw (they taste, unsurprisingly, like chocolate – just really bitter and a bit crunchier). We also learned a bit about the ethics of chocolate making and how the chocolates were made by hand on site. After that neat little history lesson, delivered with passion and enthusiasm from our host, we then got onto the serious task at hand. Drinking 6 glasses of wine each and figuring out which flavours went with each wine. We did this first by smell: inhaling the aromas of the wines, then the chocolates. Then by taste: trying the wine, then the chocolate, then together. It was quite interesting to go slowly and really notice every step of the taste process, I’d never really noticed how some wines feel a bit oilier than others, how some wines are so acidic they make you wince, and how some just warm you from the inside out.

I’m a total sucker for pinot noir, so I had to repeatedly ‘quality check’ that one against all the types of chocolate available. And eventually decided that the ‘coffee and aniseed’ flavoured choc was the best match for the smokiness of the pinot. Of course by then my tastebuds were a bit worse for wear, and were in dire need of the late-night snacks we had prepared earlier (hummus & tomato on crusty bread had never tasted so good!) but it was well worth feeling a bit seedy at work the next day.

Even without the wine, The Melange store is an experience. We all bought far too much chocolate before leaving that evening, but with flavour combos like grapefruit, raspberry, ginger & lime, or coconut-with-vanilla, who could regret such a purchase? Ahh, London nights out…

I held a duckling today. On the bus. It was warm and fluffy and yellow and he cheeped at me for several minutes. His name was Jim. That in itself is so bloody random I thought I had to share it before I get onto anything else. I’ll explain how and why this happened in just a moment.

If you’re at all observant you’ll have noticed a distinct lack of blog posts lately. I got not one but two emails from wonderful friends who wondered if everything was OK after my last blog post, and if I was being quiet because I was upset about the indecent assault on Easter Weekend. Oops. I hadn’t thought about my silence being interpreted like that. Didn’t mean to cause concern. I’m fine. I reported it and have an official case file and all that jazz; turns out a guy fitting his description assaulted a couple of other people in Victoria Park on the same day so I may have to go to court at some point and give a victim statement. But I’m honestly fine. I still go running, I’m just a wee bit more alert to my surroundings than before. And I avoid the canals now.

The reason for my absence was a mere matter of motivation. As in, I suddenly didn’t have any. I really detest it when bloggers whine and moan like their lives are SO hard, so I’m going to try and explain the lack-of-motivation as succinctly as possible. Actually I’m not very good at being succinct, so screw that idea.

It’s all to do with the goddamn poem. A couple months back I got this great idea that I would perform an original poem at an open mic night as my end to TYOLR. I was really excited about it; then I went to Amsterdam, got mashfaced, got sick, missed the open mic night and then spent a couple weeks recovering and feeling really ‘blah’ about life in general. All totally my own fault and I’m not looking for sympathy, just sayin’ how it panned out. I kept on trucking and decided I would just go to the next open mic night in April. Easy right? But during April I decided that I wasn’t overly happy with the original poem so I wrote another one. A funny one. But then the next open mic night came around and I still hated the poem. It rhymed. Good poems don’t rhyme.  So I completely freaked out and didn’t go.

Then I realised that I don’t overly like spoken poetry. I quite enjoyed the process of writing poems and I like reading good ones, but every time I read them aloud and imagined doing that in front of a crowd I felt like a twat. Even when they were silly. Spoken poetry itself is quite wanky (so’s blogging, I know, I know). But this is all just getting stupid now. I’m almost tempted to just try and find something more enjoyable to do as a ‘final act of randomness’ but then I’m going to feel like a quitter coz I said I would do it. And the only reason I said I would do it was because I thought that if I committed to it in the blog, I wouldn’t procrastinate and/or chicken out.

And I’ve well and truly disproved that theory now haven’t I? God save me. I know what the real issue is of course. It’s not even the public speaking part thats freaking me out. It’s that I’m such a control freak perfectionist that I can’t Let Myself Go On Stage Without The Poem Being Any Good. AAAAAAAAAAARGH. I’m more terrified of people going ‘god that was shit’ than I am about actually putting myself out in public. For some reason if it was a forum where the point of it was to make a total dick of yourself (ie karaoke) I’d be less concerned.  Case and point: on Saturday night I quite happily performed the haka on the side of the road, in Shoreditch, to a bunch of complete strangers. I’m woosing out about being the total dickhead amongst a bunch of talented people.

What pisses me off is that one of the main reasons I did TYOLR (apart from trying to find myself/make the most of being young and single after the breakdown of a very long intense relationship) was to try and relax a bit more… be less of a control freak… try new things… which has been all well and good up until the 11th hour and I Just Can’t Let Go. I’ve spent so much time thinking about this that I could have just fucking done it already like ten times over.

The fuzzy duckling story: Now that I’ve got the whingefest off my chest, here’s a bit of cuteness overload. I had an offsite meeting today in semi-rural Essex, which involved getting a bus from the bustling town centre of Romford (!) to somewhere in the wops. I work for a small PR firm based in central London but I mostly work on site as an internal comms consultant at our client’s offices in Essex. While on the bus I was enjoying the scenery (parts of Romford looked surprisingly so much like Glendowie that I nearly cried with homesickness) when on hopped a girl carrying a shoebox with holes in it. She sat beside me and I couldn’t help but notice that the box was cheeping. Quite loudly. I did the whole ‘rude Londoner’ thing and avoided eye contact (it’s what you DO here), but curiosity eventually got the better of me and I eyeballed the box. The girl grinned at me and opened it to display an ADORABLE FUZZY YELLOW DUCKLING! She let me hold and cuddle it for the next few minutes while she chatted about how she raised them as a hobby, and how they would be fullgrown ducks in only 8 weeks. The other passengers were staring at me enviously but I was the only one she let hold it 🙂 I was quite sad when we got to my stop and I had to give Jim the duckling back to his owner. He was so very soft and his heart fluttered like a butterfly’s wings. How completely and utterly random. It totally made my day too. Thank you, strange farmer girl. Stuff like that sure don’t happen in central London… 

General life update:
Oh yeah, I have done other things over the past month, other than obsess about my inability to commit to a stupid poem! I went to the Royal Wedding, along with half of London, and it was utterly amazing! One of those moments you know you’ll tell your grandkids about. There was something really energising about being in such a big crowd – hearing the collective ‘oooooh’ when we saw Kate’s dress for the first time was just so much fun. London had such a great vibe all that day; it carried on well into the evening and my festivities took me all the way out West to dance the night away at Vesbar with the usual Shepherd’s Bush gang. On the bank holiday Monday I went to Brighton for an irreverant Girls Trip with my flatties (the Welsh and the Irish) and two lovely Irish lasses they know. It was almost incomparable to my first trip to Brighton in grim January. The sun was out, we were in ridiculously high spirits, we ate copious amounts of seafood, drank copious amounts of wine, danced til the early morning and spent hours oohing and aahing at pretty things in the boutique stores and market stalls. Fabulous. I heart Brighton forever now.

Parting words:  Any advice on motivation re the poem issue (and perhaps tips on how to stop being childish in general), and I will repay in alcohol or chocolate or sushi or whatever takes your fancy. I know I’m being a big ole scaredy cat but I need help and I’m not averse to bribery 🙂 In the wise words of Good Charlotte: motivate meeeeeee. Coz something’s gotta give!