Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Drop some zs

At 6am I was still trying to convince myself that sleep was seconds away. But it wasn't and I didn't. The gentle sound of bird song made me want to reach for a slingshot.

Before London, I had no problems falling asleep. I had slept through all the Harry Potter films. The wobble and hum of trains and cars could not put me off a good nap. No mattress was too springy, no duvet too small. I went through a minor sleep-walking phase when I was 15, when I would shuffle into my parents' bedroom and try to sell them cheese and onion pasties. I rarely snored, but would often wake laughing or with a loud snort. Good nights.

But now, once or twice a week, I join a nightmarish wide-awake club. Nothing works. Watching, reading, cleaning, counting, sighing, crying. Wiggling my toes in bed is the latest thing I've tried. My toes hurt.

To be honest, you can get by on next to no sleep. Yes, I was not feeling too clever today. But my reserve battery kicked in and I ploughed on, albeit hidden behind a pillar in the office. And I'm still standing. Well that's not quite true. I am slumped in my dressing gown, drinking a glass of rioja. And trying not to think about the complicated sleeping process. And why is it called 40 winks, anyway?

Walk of the vile side

My stroll from station to desk takes me down a street lined with shops aimed, I presume, at the Sunday Times Rich List. Antiques, art, designer clothes, pointless ointments, silly chairs - and nothing bears a price sticker. A dangerous sign.

If it wasn't for a couple of charity shops on this road, the cheapest thing on offer would be a £20 lip balm. And these shops are wonderful - one is called Octavia and is filled with designer labels I would never have considered being able to afford. Thing is, I believe the Tories are all moving to this neck of the woods and it worries me slightly to think I might be striding about in SamCam's Nicole Farhi trousers. Although I would probably only fit into her maternity wear.

Sadly, my walk back from the office (at 11pm) was not so enjoyable today. I fell up a set of slippy steps and I am now nursing a hand full of ground-in gravel and a grazed knee, the likes of which I've not seen since my rollerbooting days.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Teenage kicks

On my second black coffee of the morning and slowly coming to terms with the fact that it is Monday morning. I used my three days off wisely - discovering the Cork and Bottle wine bar off Leicester Square with my Cumbrian friend and Oliver, who used to live outside my flat on the Isle of Dogs (on a boat, not in a cardboard box). Had to translate for the drunken southern-types we met - my Cumbrian friend is very Cumbrian... all 'Yareet marra? Yan tan tethera' and all that.

Went to the Teenage Cancer Trust gig at the Royal Albert Hall and saw the Arctic Monkeys and an assortment of inspirational teens on stage. 12-year-old girls bounced up and down in front of us, punching the air, while we sat and discussed the dimension of the ceiling. Maybe we should have gone to a pensioner cancer gig instead?

Friday, 26 March 2010

Good v Bad

What a treat - I have three whole days ahead of me, with no work getting in the way of any of them. Although I was given some good advice from a colleague yesterday: If you are feeling cheesed off with your current situation, write down five good things that happened to you each day. That could be a stretch. Let's see, yesterday's...

Good things
Daisies have mysteriously popped up across the Common. I initially tutted at the sight of them, presuming they were bits of polystyrene that had blown out of a skip. Reminder: must try out contact lenses.

Had lunch with co-worker/mentor at posh Kensington restaurant. Restaurant has flamingos in the garden and fish in the toilets. Did not have to pay.

Pointed out a potentially embarrassing error and was told by a frosty boss, some would say my biggest critic: 'Good spot'. I beam, quietly.

And to even things out, yesterday's...

Bad things
Receive letter from job in the north telling me I did not get job in north. And despite eight-hour round-trip and £70 spent on trains: 'there were too many applicants to give individual feedback'. How rude!

Shuffling about due to post-jog leg ache.

Have large spot on chin. Could this be spot boss was talking about?

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Jog on

I shared a table with a group of women at the Ealing Tavern last weekend. They had cheerful, glowing faces and gabbled on about their dogs, gardens and blossoming careers while sipping on diet cokes. It transpired they all belonged to a running club and actually seemed to enjoy pounding the city pavements. As I set aside my third lunchtime cider, I wondered if this was what was missing from my life. Would exercise put a smile on my moody gob and open my eyes to the beauty of London? After all, I sit on my ever-increasing bottom for 40 hours a week at work... then come home and sit on it for another 40 for fun.

The last time I had run anywhere was some time in the Nineties, but I thought I'd give it a go this morning. I pulled on my too-short-in-the-leg tracksuit bottoms and bursting-at-the-chest pink vest before I could talk myself out of it. It then dawned on me that I could combine my new, dedicated exercise regime with a trip to Tesco Metro. But how would I carry my purse and keys? Just clutch them as I ran? I tried to picture the joggers who slink around West London. Were their keys and Clubcards in their socks? Or did their au pairs let them in? My only option was to strap a handbag on (a yellow, dangly one from the Cancer Research shop, £1).

And so I found myself running along the back streets of Ealing, listening to Paul McKenna on my iPod (his hynosis CD is on there for my sleepless nights, so his suggestive tones will pop up between Beck and Eskimo One songs). In the prime of my mid-20s, I used to attract the odd, furtive glance from young men passing on the street. Now, if men look at me it's normally because I have spilled gravy down my front, I'm wearing my top back-to-front, or I'm staggering down the street, wearing too-tight gym wear and a bright yellow handbag.

And now, 25 minutes later, I'm having a sit down back home with my Tesco cheese, crackers and hot chocolate.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Samuel Johnson once said when a man is tired of London he is tired of life. Not so. When a man is tired of London, he’s tired of having no life.

But I suppose back in 1750-whatever, a pint would not have set him back £3.80. Rent on a tiny two-bed flat would not have been £1,100. I doubt foxes would have nibbled through his bin bags and left trails of tellingly grey pants, leftover rice and rotten mackerel tails across the road for him to clean up, shame-faced, in front of the neighbours. He’d not had the pleasure of whiling away hours on the underground, sometimes moving, often not, packed in and pressed up against miserable strangers in order to reach a grim 3rd floor office to work such long hours he forgot what friends looked like and they forgot to invite him to parties. No, all he had to contend with was TB and the pox. And he only had half a million Londoners to be jossled by. Pah!

I’ve been in London for five years - starting off at Elephant and Castle (time from moving in until being mugged: 5 days), then the Isle of Dogs, Limehouse and now Ealing. And I'm tired. I want to get back to the north west. I’m talking about Manchester, not Golders Green. Except it's proving quite difficult...