Your Music Defines YOU!

Today’s Stylist magazine features the headline “Playlist stuck in a Timewarp?”. Then goes onto suggest 50 new tracks “every woman” should own.

As you know here on 33andlostinlife, I have a fervour for discovering, or rather rediscovering my old favourites. Gloria Estefan, Matchbox Twenty, Michael Jackson as recent examples. Right now my iPhone is playing non-stop INXS. And you know what? I love it.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I fall in love with a song from the Top 40 (today’s Top 40, that is). But on the whole I like the old stuff.

When I was at school, my favourite band was Mr. Big, long-haired rockers from the San Francisco Bay Area, and owners of 90s ballad, To Be With You. I was always ashamed to say this at school for fear of being bullied even more.

You know what my favourite band is now? Mr. Big.

DID YOU HEAR ME UNIVERSE? I SAID MR. BIG!!!!

By all means discover new artists and songs. But don’t forget the old stuff. When you find out what you like music-wise, it’s only a matter of time before you discover who YOU ARE, and can shout that from the rooftops.

Get Your Legs Out For Yourself!

So according to an article in today’s Metro, the miniskirt is 50 years old. It must be pure coincidence that in my mid- (and soon to be mid-late) thirties, my skirts seem to be getting shorter.

The one I have on today is by no means a miniskirt and was in fact a gift from my mum a few months ago, however, it appears to have shrunk in the wash. Either that or it’s enjoying creeping above my knee.

I’m sure there are those who would argue that short skirts shouldn’t be worn by anyone over the age of 21, but I disagree. What’s wrong with showing a bit of leg? I mean, nobody wants to see any more than that, especially not in a work environment. But if you have the legs to do it, then why not?

I remember when I was 15, I went for my first job interview at Stapleton & Co Estate Agents in Lincoln. At the end of the interview, my future boss, who would probably have been in his 40s, told me (rather reluctantly I’m sure) that my skirt was too short. Which was a shame because it was a lovely pink one…

Anyway, that was my first lesson in office etiquette. Don’t wear short skirts to work, especially if you’re going to be doing a lot of bending down.

That was 20 years ago, and I’m not sure I’ve really learnt anything from that. I am lucky where I work that the dress code is not too strict, and on Friday we are allowed to wear jeans to work. Well blue jeans – since most people wear black jeans in the week.

I mentioned in Does My Belly Look Big in this Changing Room? that during my twenties, my legs had remained behind the denim wall of my jeans, escaping only on a rare occasion or on a beach holiday in Tenerife. But, with the possible exception of my nose (and my eyes), I think my legs are my best asset.

So, at the age of 35, I plan on getting my legs out a lot more. Maybe I will be too old to wear short skirts one day, but not yet. Hallelujah to Mary Quant and the other designers of the 60s, who encouraged girls to get their legs out. We salute you.

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The World is Your Oyster (Card)

What a difference a week makes. During last weekend’s long Easter break, I wrote a couple of times about the tough week I’d had, and how I was going to have to get used to the fact that I wouldn’t be moving any time soon. On Tuesday, something happened which changed things, and now I have around five weeks to find somewhere new to live.

In Deja View: History Repeats Itself, I wrote about how I was facing my one-year anniversary of living in London. Back in 1998, I had approached the same anniversary and with house and job issues rife, had taken the decision to leave London. In Deja View, I made a stand; I would not be going anywhere. I was going to hold a stake out until London gave me what I wanted.

Last week I was forced to do something that I often find myself unable to do. I had to find faith. Faith that life would make things right for me. That if I just believed, the universe would work things out. That no matter what, I just had to hold on. The film Bridesmaids revived that great song by Wilson Phillips, Hold On. I had that song on a compilation CD since my teens and every couple of months it would find its way into my CD player. When I was feeling down, it was a go-to song, because its message is clear; no matter how tough things get, you hold on. The lyrics of the first verse:

I know this pain

Why do lock yourself up in these chains?

No one can change your life except for you

Don’t ever let anyone step all over you

Just open your heart and your mind

Is it really fair to feel this way inside?

always seemed to apt to me, and the song comforted me. The second verse was a bit more tough love:

You could sustain

Or are you comfortable with the pain?

You’ve got no one to blame for your unhappiness

You got yourself into your own mess

Lettin’ your worries pass you by

Don’t you think it’s worth your time

To change your mind?

Sometimes tough love is what is needed. Sometimes we can’t have everything we want. Sometimes we have to face the consequences of our actions. Sometimes we have to pay for our mistakes.

But if we have faith, and learn to accept that which is to be, then we may just be rewarded with what we wanted in the first place.

Now I am the most un-religious person I know. Politics and religion are prone to drive me to sleep, proven by the fact that after drinking copious amounts of wine with a friend, I fell asleep sitting up when she started talking about politics. No, I am not politically or religiously minded at all (and if you need more proof of that, read No-Ah Just Don’t Believe It).

I am not telling you to go to church or to start praying before bedtime, but just to find that faith inside you. Faith that it will all be ok. Despite the fact that at times over the years, I have felt like a weak person, I have always been aware that I have a strength running through me. Many other people I know have faced tougher times than I have, but I’ve had my share of hurt. While many times I have felt like giving up, I have always refused. Because I am determined to get what I want out of life.

At the end of last year, I almost did give up. Not on life, just on my dreams. I saw a video of myself reading the fairy tale that was my first short story, and I actually called it a crock of shit. I had always been so proud of that story and I actually shocked myself at how I felt towards it only two and a half years later. It was that story that had given me the belief that I could be a writer; here I was dismissing it and its message as rubbish.

Luckily I came to my senses, and as you can see 2014 has seen me blogging more than ever. I do feel proud to have written The Princess and the Epiphany and I know that it is only a matter of time before I expand out of the blogging sphere and have a go at more creative writing again. For now, I have to focus on finding myself and The Bish a new home. While I do that, you can enjoy The Princess and the Epiphany. When you’ve finished that, you can enjoy a bit of George Michael having Faith

George Michael – Faith (1987)

First Time, First Love…

…Oh what feeling is this, electricity flows, with the very first kiss…

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Yes I’m sure everyone remembers the first time they heard that Coca-Cola commercial back in 1988. But I’m talking about the first time. Do you remember that?

That first glance, you know, the one that made your heart skip a beat. The first touch, the one where you just knew that something special was about to start. Those engaging first few minutes of conversation, so intriguing yet familiar. And the more you get to know, the more you like. You begin to feel like you have known each other your whole life. Then all of a sudden, things begin to get really serious, and eventually you come together for the most amazing climax you have ever experienced.

You never forget your first time.

You put the book back on your shelf, and you make a start on the author’s back catalogue.

Fast-forward a couple of years, and you have most of the author’s books on your shelf. You maybe decide that it’s necessary to clear out your bookshelves, and you reluctantly give away your collection of their books. But you just can’t bring yourself to get rid of the first one. The first book will always have a special place in your heart.

Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie. Body of Evidence, Patricia Cornwell. A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway. The Sleeping Doll, Jeffrey Deaver. The Scarecrow, Michael Connelly. Dark Winter, David Mark. (The last three are personalised, signed editions. You think it’s hard to get rid of a first book? Try getting rid of one that has your name and its author’s on the the same page).

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I recently made a start on a new author (at least for me). British author Jim Grant, writing under the pen name of Lee Child, whose six-foot five protagonist Jack Reacher was recently played by pint-sized actor Tom Cruise in the film adaption of One Shot. Last year I went through a phase last year of buying new books in Waterstones, and Child’s One Shot, with Cruise’s picture on the cover was one of the ones I purchased. Since I have an addiction to acquiring second-hand books, I picked up a couple of his other books at my favourite free bookstore in Chiswick, before even having read the one I paid for from Waterstones. Make of that what you will.

Last week, on the tube home, I spied a fellow commuter reading one of Child’s books. And suddenly I wanted to make a start on one of those three paperbacks I had at home. So last weekend, I devoured the one with the golden cover, The Affair, in one sitting. Today I finished The Hard Way, and later I will start on that still brand-new and untouched copy of One Shot.

I know I cannot keep these three books. I already have far too many, and so after I read books I’m now trying to put them directly into the pile to go to the charity shops. But the one with the golden cover, The Affair, I feel it tugging on my heartstrings. Because it was the first.

I probably need to stop being so sentimental about books. The same with a lot of stuff that I hoard. But I proved that I could give up Coca-Cola, so I’m sure I can give up books too.

First time, first love…

First Time – Robin Beck (1988)

A Quiet Sanctuary

Away from the world, the spot in the garden just in front of the shed, is where I go for quiet contemplation. In the morning, the sun is bright here, and I feel its warm rays radiating through me. I hear the buzzing of a bumble bee, and some traffic on the main road. But this does not bother me.

I hear the birds cheeping, especially the green parakeets, rumoured to have escaped from a film set years ago, and have now made West London their home. They squawk as if to say “We’re free! And we love every minute of this freedom we’ve taken back! That which was rightfully ours in the first place.” Yes, the green parakeets are the loudest.

Every fifteen minutes a plane flies overhead, for my little sanctuary is on the Heathrow flight path. But this does not bother me; more it reminds me that there is a world outside this sanctuary, one that in time I will get to explore yet again. One day I will be on one of those planes.

In this safe haven, I am not alone, for the Bish sits with me. While I am here, his protector, he is safe from the bullying neighbouring cat that last week covered this lawn in tufts of his black fur. He is ageing, like me, though his time on earth will end sooner than mine. I want to give him as many days like today as I can, where we can sit in the sunshine, be a part of nature here in the wilderness, and not worry about a thing.

A squirrel just climbed the fence, nut in his mouth, wondering if he can join the solace. But his fear of theft of his prized possession is greater, and he rushes off to his own safe place.

I feel the sun’s rays cooling as the clouds begin to take over. My coffee is almost gone, and a retreat back to civilisation is necessary. I know that Bish will follow me, for this nature is not kind to him at times. He is an old boy, and just wishes for a quiet life to enjoy his last few years. He will find a comforting spot inside, maybe the sofa, perhaps my bed. And he will sleep.

The day begs of me necessary chores, and I will do my best to adhere to them. And I wait for more days like this, where I can rise and shine in peace and quiet.

The sun’s ray’s beam down warm once more, and I allow myself another five minutes, before I let the day infiltrate on my time.

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Deja View: History Repeats Itself

In 16 days, I will be celebrating my one-year anniversary of my move to London. In an attempt to be positive, note my use of the word “celebrating” rather than commiserating. If you read yesterday’s post, I Should Have Been A Cowboy http://wp.me/p2ayN0-wd, then you will know how things have been going just this last week. In it, I spoke of the toughness of London and what a difficult and lonely place it can be to survive. Sometimes I ask myself why I’m putting myself through this when I could be living back up North, nearer to my family and friends. But as much as I love them, I don’t see myself living up there. London is the only place I have ever lived outside of my home city of Lincoln (not counting the six months I spent studying in the States), and at this point in time I cannot see myself living anywhere else in the UK. Anywhere further North the weather is too bad; anywhere further South just doesn’t have the opportunities that London does.

So, back to my one-year anniversary. Why is it important to mention this? Well, 16 years ago I was faced with another one-year anniversary. In this very same city. Back then I made a decision which would change the course of my life. Funnily enough, I’m experiencing rather a case of deja vu. So children, if you’re sitting comfortably, let’s begin.

Imagine the summer of 1997. I had just turned 19; a few weeks earlier I had lost my virginity to a one-night stand and was desperate to experience more of the world outside of Lincoln. A friend had recently moved to London and started working as a receptionist in a hotel, so I went to visit her for the weekend. Long story short, this shy 19 year-old made the move to the capital. I still remember the first night I moved here. After my parents had left, I was alone in my room in the basement of one of the hotels my employers owned. It was a small, dark room, with a view of nothing but concrete outside. I cried and cried and asked myself what I had done. As time went on, I made friends and started to explore. I worked as a hotel receptionist for nine months, but it was clear that I wasn’t cut out for that kind of job. I don’t deal well with conflict and being a receptionist in a busy, touristy hotel was like being on the front line of a war zone. Everyone wanted to complain about something, and there was only so many times I could tell a honeymoon couple that they would have to sleep in separate beds because the hotel had no doubles left.  I then got a good job in a city law firm. While I was a glorified messenger, I got paid well and was able to move to a double room rented by a woman just off Brick Lane. While she was initially quite friendly, soon she just stopped talking to me, and we avoided each other in the communal parts of the flat, which were the kitchen and bathroom. At work I really didn’t like my job. While it was fairly easy, taking documents to investment banks for signature, I felt out of place among all those professionals. I worked in the Banking and Capital Markets department, and didn’t really understand what I was doing or why I was doing it. The stress of the job and of the flat took its toll. I had been in the job for two months, on a three-month probationary period, and had signed a six-month contract for my flat. I had promised myself that I would stay in London for a year. I began to think that I would never be happy here, and with my one-year anniversary approaching, I took the decision to leave.

Two things happened after I did this. My landlady agreed to let me out of my rental agreement four months early, and I had a meeting with my HR manager who told me that she could have found me a job in the typing pool had I told her that I wasn’t happy in my job as a paralegal. What I should have done was found a new place to live, and a new job as a typist, and given myself a chance to prove myself here. But I didn’t. I had already told my family I would come home, and didn’t want to disappoint them. So I went home with my tail between my legs. I temped for a while, and after a couple of months I started working for the NHS, the organisation that would become my employer for the next twelve and a half-years.  Two years later, I met the man who would become my other half for the next ten years.

Then the next Great Escape began. I don’t need to go into all that here, because if you’ve read my previous blogs then you already know that story, and if you haven’t, why not take a look at my previous blogs 😉

So here I am. 2014. 1998. Work issues. House issues. Deja vu. This time I will not go home. I am determined to stay here until London gives  me what I want. A career. A relationship. A home. A social network.  I’ve had 16 years of experience since I left the last time. I know that if something isn’t working, then you work to change it. If a bad situation isn’t getting any better, then you have to get out of it. I can look for a new job, one which suits my skills better; one where I won’t be criticized for my writing skills (of all things. Really??!!). I’m not sure about the house situation, because there are a lot of factors out of my control. I cannot just up and leave. But I will not be beaten by this beast. I let it beat me 16 years ago, and I won’t do it again. There is always a way out. No situation can stay that way forever. Things must change. If I can make the effort to change, maybe London will work with me, rather than against me.

This didn’t start out as a musical blog.  But I’m feeling the vibe now.  And who better to underline my point than the King of Pop himself, Mr Michael Jackson.

I Should Have Been A Cowboy

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I want you to take a very close look at this photograph.

It appears to be a brown paper bag.

With the words “I SHOULD HAVE BEEN A COWBOY” emblazoned across the front.

In smaller print are the words “Zadig & Voltaire”.

At the top, is a small, transparent sticker with silver-holographic letters Z and V, and a crown, underlined by a pretty swirling pattern.

Through the bag you can just about make out more wording, which appears to be similar to that which is on the bag itself.

The bag is on a black and white marble-effect table.

From all of this, can you establish what this picture represents?

Freedom.

Escape.

Peace.

A reason to leave the house.

Probably not what you expected me to say, but this picture, and the contents, represent for me the opportunity to have a place to go to. A reason to go out into this big city in which I live. An excuse not to stay at home and mope about my life.

Yesterday I won a t-shirt in Zadig & Voltaire’s I Should Have Been A Cowboy promotion. I had seen it advertised in a magazine, and when I went onto their website and entered the competition, was happy to be an instant winner of one of their special tees. I had requested to collect my prize from their Notting Hill store, and so today that is what I did.

I have mentioned before that London is a tough place. This week has seen me be rejected romantically, given a grilling by my boss and other managers at my place of employment, get involved in an e-barney and telephone argument with my landlord over the gas being cutting off and various other unfinished works within the flat, as well as the realisation that I am unlikely to be able to move out of my flat and into somewhere cheaper anytime soon. Top this off with the fact that I had no money to go home for the Easter weekend, and that there is another two weeks until payday; that I faced a lonely Easter weekend, because my housemate is studying, and quite frankly, the only other two people that I socialise with regularly in London are both going away for the weekend.

I did mention above that I wasn’t going to sit at home and mope about my life, so I shouldn’t really go out and do it either. But I want to paint to you the picture of how I have been feeling after such a week. As someone who has suffered with depression “officially” for 14 years, and unofficially for probably another ten, it was never really questionable that all of the above would cause me to retreat into my Cancerian shell and hide until the storm has passed.

Slowly, I am fighting back against the harsh battle of London. I now have a subsidised travel card through work, which makes travel anywhere in the capital free, meaning that I can explore without the added burden of it costing me money I don’t have. A free frappe latte, courtesy of Caffe Nero’s loyalty card system, and my trip out today hasn’t cost me a penny. Getting out into the fresh air, even just getting out, and I feel calmer.

Having done a degree in American Studies, I spent many classes examining the myth of the cowboy. A lonely figure, who lives in the wilderness, but fights for the rights of those within civilisation who cannot fight for themselves. He must choose his battles wisely, and show the confidence to defeat his foe. When all is done, he retreats back into the wilderness; into his lonesome life. Like the cowboy, there are times when I will be a lone figure in the world.

There was a time, during my marriage, when I was 100% comfortable with my own company. Now, there are times when it scares me to be alone. I have to get back to being happy with my own company. Right now, in my life, my shadow is sometimes the only company I will have.

I am a cowboy.

So take another look at that photograph.

And know that it represents so much more than just another competition win for me.

I should have been a cowboy. And I have the t-shirt to prove it.

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Number Two-Hundred and One…

Wow. WordPress just informed me that I just posted my 200th blog. Well done me.

Little Things

At the end of what can only be described as one of the shittiest weeks of the year, I arrived home to find something that usually gives me such joy. I got two letters from my Mum.

Bearing in mind what a shitty week it’s been, anything with my favourite cartoon cat Garfield on it would be most welcome. Except it arrived like this:

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Luckily I could still read most of the hand-written message inside, and the back of the card displayed the message that was gone from the front:

Take life one cup at a time.

As I prepare to pull the covers over my head to escape the world that has gone out of its way to make my life unhappy this week, I feel grateful for one thing. That my Mum knows me so well. Even half a Garfield makes me smile through the tears, and you always know what to say to make everything seem better.

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