Friday, 20 December 2013

A Book to Read When You've Got Your Mojo Back

Posted By Daisy

LAST WEEKEND, I put on a red dress, stuffed a Santa suit into my bag and headed into town to meet my friends for Santacon. Initially, I couldn’t understand what it was all about. I asked them if we needed tickets, or was there an official start time? 'All in good time, my friend, all in good time,' they said.
We fought the Oxford St crowds and found Santacon in full flow near the tube station. Where I discovered that Santacon is a few thousand people dressed up as Santa all gathering to drink and smoke on the street.

Everyone on this wall was singing a call-and-response -  ‘What do we want?’ ‘CHRISTMAS!’
‘When do we want it?’ ‘NOW!’

We weren't ready to join the melee. So we decided to have a quick drink across the street in the Langham Hotel. But the doorman spotted us as we walked fast past him, and told us (with the slightest twinkle) about his ‘No Santa Suits’ dress code.

If you can’t beat them, join them, we said. And promptly bought drinks and mixers in a nearby shop.

It was so much fun. We were hugged by random Santa’s as they ran past. If a lone elf passed, everyone shouted ‘Elf, Elf, Elf’ and threw Brussels sprouts at them. The ground was littered with them.

And later on, lots of non-Santas wanted to take their picture with us.  And I may have kissed an Asian Santa in a Soho pub.

On the last tube home, people sang and made eye contact, and the station master put on a funny voice for his announcements in Leicester Square.

London is great at Christmas, but I can’t wait to go home to Cork tomorrow for the first time in four months.
Elevator Pitch: A middle-aged man with high aspirations, a long-suffering wife and some strange friends, writes every mundane and hilarious detail of his life in his diary.  His n'er-do-well son returns to live at home for a while and turns their quiet life upside down.
Definitely not a book that attracts with it's dull, brown cover, it's actually very funny and I found myself stifling a fair few smiles on the early-morning tube.


Thursday, 12 December 2013

Lovely London Things #4

ISN’T it lovely when someone has the imagination to preserve an old shop sign?

Anglo Persian Carpet Co, South Kensington tube station

Especially when the current function of the shop is completely at odds with the old sign.

Palmers exotic pet shop, which sold Talking Parrots and Monkeys; Parkway, Camden
In operation since 1918, they once sold a cat to Winston Churchill, and two Abyssinian kittens to Charlie Chaplin.
It's now a coffee shop.

Schram and Scheddle, Upper St, Islington
I OFTEN pass these two vintage shops during my working week in Islington, and always admired the old ‘Schram and Scheddle’ sign.

Gift shop owner, Stan Westwood, unearthed the painted-over shop sign in 1978 when he established his shop, Preposterous Presents, which remained at the 262 Upper Street location for over 30 years.
It took Westwood, some time to think of the name ‘Preposterous Presents’, an homage to the fact that the first 3 letters of ‘Schram’ were the same as the first 3 letters of ‘Scheddle’.
Intriguingly, Westwood also found a strange package hidden in a loft at the rear of the shop. Addressed to the man of the house, the package contained a letter from Middlesex Lunatic Asylum, informing him that his wife was being detained in the asylum, along with a card with visiting times written on it. And hidden in another bag was a cut throat razor.

He reveals the rest of the story here, if you'd like to read it.
I was delighted to discover that Michael Rosen has recorded a short poem called ‘Schram and Scheddle' - how utterly random!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

A Book To Read When You've Become A Nun

Posted By Daisy
He looked just like this guy.
LAST WEEKEND, I was chatted up. For the first time in four months. It’s been so long, I didn’t even realise it had happened. To my bemusement, my work colleagues got very excited for me, telling me he was lovely.
Go for it. That never happens here,’ said a girl, from Northern Ireland, urging me to go back for further conversation. But it was 11pm and I had to leave the Upper St bar to get two tubes and a taxi home.
And therein lies the rub. In London life, there are two barriers to meeting potential suitors.
1.       Not being able to stay out long enough to actually chat to anyone other than the people I’m out with because I’m usually too far away from home to get a taxi (£50 is too much).
2.       English men don’t do idle chit-chat and banter like Irish men.
Case in point: Standing by the bar with my friends in the (shockingly cheesy) Bunga Bunga bar in Battersea (where everything is Berlusconi-themed – there are mugs with his face on them, portraits of him on the wall, and cocktails named after him), I made some neutral conversational opening gambit to two men standing beside me. Without even reacting, they formed a protective V shape with their bodies, and closed ranks by turning in towards the bar.
The only other male interaction I’ve had is in a Shoreditch hotel when my friends came to stay for the weekend. Drinking wine and eating burgers in the hotel lobby at 2 a.m., three drunk men came and sat beside us. Being Irish, we chatted to them happily, until each of them picked up our wine glasses and started to drink out of them. On the way upstairs in the lift, two Americans on holiday invited us up to their room for drinks. At 3a.m. We declined.
There have been a few offers of blind dates, but none have come to fruition. And I’m not ready for London internet-dating yet, after being freaked out by this story. Although two people I’ve met recently met their boyfriend and husband online.
Probably the longest single-state of my life, it’s been surprisingly refreshing not to have even thought about it since I arrived in August. 
Although I now have a fresh worry – what if I’ve forgotten how to chat to men in general? Looking forward to testing this theory at home in Ireland over the Christmas holidays.
'Londoners' by Craig Taylor
I've decided that short stories are just the thing for the tube.

From the artist who collects hair from train station floors (horror) to create an art piece, to the female nightclub bouncer who watches people vomiting outside the club before trying to get in, to the Voice of the Tube, who says her ex-boyfriend is haunted by her every time he gets the tube and hears her saying ‘Mind the Gap’, this is a brilliant collection of features about London living.

And speaking of London, below are my two other most useful London apps:
Citimapper: It tells you how to get anywhere (including how to get to the bus stop, and when to get off the bus), has a handy pre-programmed 'Get Me Home' button for when you can't remember your own postcode, and even tells you how many calories you'll burn getting home. I couldn't live without it.
O2 Tracks: If I never hear Ed Sheeran +, Now That's What I Call Running, or the Amelie soundtrack again, it'll be too soon. With no internet access underground, that's all I've been listening to for the last few months. Until I discovered O2 Tracks. For £4.99 per month, I can download the weekly Top 40 and listen to them wifi free. I can't wait for tomorrow morning.