June This and That: Eyes Wide Shut, I’ve Got London on My Mind and The Truman Show

June’s felt like the longest month this year.

What must have been forever ago, I turned 30 and V took me to Portugal for a couple of days in the sun. I’ve only been 30 for a couple of weeks now, and our Portugal holiday photos are only just making their way into people’s Facebook feeds, but a million different, scary, crazy things have happened since and in between, and though there’s little photographic, Facebook-worthy proof of them all, they’ve been weighing on me like you wouldn’t believe it.

*

I’ve been sleeping very little these days, what with all the walking around, looking at horrible, crumbling houses on sale for hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of pounds, only to lose each and every offer I’ve put in, to mysterious cash investors willing to pay double the asking price.

I lie in bed into the morning hours, eyes closed but my thoughts relentlessly tangling around memories of the day and fears for the future.

It doesn’t help that I spend all my waking hours unwillingly listening to strangers’ speeches about how ridiculous every hope and dream of mine are, about how this city really isn’t one for raising children/falling in love/acting normal/not being a complete bastard in, not that I could ever carry a pregnancy to term anyway, have I looked at myself in the mirror recently?, I’m way too skinny and narrow-hipped to be mother material.

I put up with these people for some reason, these dutiful scrutinizers of each and every decision I ever make, when really I could be doing countless more valuable things instead, like watching another European team get slaughtered in the World Cup, or spoon-digging tunnels through half a dozen buckets of Ben & Jerry’s, or plucking my eyebrows into a sexy Kim Kardashian frown, or who knows, simply not giving a flying f about how random idiots strangers think I should be living my life.

*

Surprisingly, it hasn’t all been bad.

With all the flat hunting, the lovely, who-knew-London-could-feel-like-summer weather, and a group of friends visiting from Romania, we’ve been walking around the city a lot more these days.

It’s helped me realize that I’ve been unknowingly falling for London. I don’t know when, how it’s happened or whether it’s really nothing but a tragedy in disguise, but I’ve developed feelings for this place and the me I am in it.

It could be that, with less and less things to rely on these days, I find comfort in this city and its more or less constant landmarks. Or maybe that’s just how I’m built. I have, after all, developed long lasting, consuming relationships with all the other places I’ve lived in. People, feelings have come and gone, but I always had my city streets to turn to for comfort. At times it’s been hard, what with every other street corner a reminder of something I’d have rather forgotten, but I guess I’ve always been lucky enough to carry around more happy memories than sad ones, and my London today is really a happy beautiful place.

*

I was walking around Soho with a friend the other day, badmouthing our fellow window shoppers’ fashion choices, when she suddenly blurted out:

– What’s up with your hair, by the way?

– You mean the Bride of Frankenstein look?

She laughed. For more than half a year now I’ve been trying to grow my blonde hair dye out, and I’ve finally reached the stage where my ponytail is one color, and the rest of my hair is another, darker shade. Add the fact that I’ve recently tanned the tip of my nose and my arms crispy brown while the rest of me is ghostly pale, and I look like I’ve been hastily put together from bits and bobs taken from other unfortunate subjects, and I’ll start breaking at the seams soon enough, spilling guts everywhere.

But that’s not even the worst bit.

– You know you’ll have to dye it again soon enough, right?

– What? Why? Like I’ve been voluntarily sporting this crazy look for so long, only to dye it again on a whim. From now on, I’ll be all natural baby!

– Honey, your natural hair is turning white.

SAY WHAT?!

Several panicky shrieks and almost-setting-off-a-car-alarm-as-I-inspected-the-top-of-my-head-in-its-side-mirror later, the reality of how each and every one of my body cells have made it their mission to drive me crazy recently, made me burst into laughter. I can’t win, I’ve been telling myself every morning since, as I assess and reassess the damage in my bathroom mirror, and finally realizing, 30 years into this living thing, that I really, there’s-no-doubt-about-it can’t win, is surprisingly comforting.

I few months ago I’d read about Hogewey, this Netherlands based facility for people suffering from dementia. What’s extraordinary about it is that it’s been set out like a village, with supermarket, restaurants, a theatre, as well as the houses in which the patients live, each built and decorated in a style familiar to their residents. The personnel wear daytime rather than clinical clothing, and aim to maintain the “fake reality” of the place.

And I’ve been thinking. I’ve got days when I wouldn’t say no to waking up in a world like that. Looking into a mirror blotched to reflect a perfect head of hair. Walking up and down flights of stairs of a place I know, and even when I’m not sure I know it, I’m told again and again is my home, MY home, not something imagined and wished for so many times that it’s lost its substance entirely by now. Running into people in the street, people I’ve never seen in my life but whom I see myself becoming friends with, because they don’t care how narrow, pregnancy unfriendly my hips are, or how I’ll never be successful in the crazy, unladylike industry I’ve chosen for myself.

I imagine myself living my days in that make believe world, no reasons to be unhappy or confused or sleepless, but forever whispering to myself, perfectly satisfied: I am winning, I am winning.

Days, Dissected

Thursday. Michelle comes over with this brown Marks & Spencer box large enough to fit a microwave oven. Open it, she giggles, and sets it smack in the middle of my desk, completely messing up the delicate Feng-Shui of my keyboard, hand cream and half eaten salad. Several Look, no water! slogans printed in green curly writing all over the box and I think, these people must be crazy, who’s ever heard of kitchen appliances being delivered with water on the side anyway.

It’s flowers. A bouquet half my size as thanks for helping her out with a project I’ve already forgotten about. You’re crazy, I say, and she smiles. People come over to smell the roses. Some comment on how far science has come. Waterless, can you imagine, soon we’ll be using time machines to go back fifty years and hit on Marilyn Monroe. All I can think about is that I’ll have to carry that tree of flowers home somehow, and strangers on the street will think it’s my birthday or something, and I’ll feel like I have to smile and look super duper happy, so that everyone can then look forward to their own birthdays, and perfect happinesses just like mine.

I leave the flowers under my desk in a Guinness pint filled with tap water, hardly trusting this waterless business. I’ll have to take them home tomorrow, V. and I have plans for the evening. We’re traveling to Sutton to walk the streets of what might or might not be the place where we’ll be buying a flat soon, and I don’t want to be doing it arms full of roses and a dumb, fake birthday-girl grin on my face.

On Thursday afternoons, Sutton looks deserted. V is late. I walk along the streets, past closed shops and packs of shrieking teenagers killing time. I go inside the local Morrisons, and slowly make my way along every aisle, looking at canned beans and fresh pastries. I buy a strawberry scented candle in a large lidded jar, and an Ideal Home magazine. I know I shouldn’t, I mean, I’ve already got a stack of them at home, hopelessly losing their shine and gathering dust on my nightstand. But one of the few things I find comforting these days is to spend my evenings scribbling little hearts next to pieces of furniture I like in the pages of interior design magazines. It’s the closest I get to feeling like I’m working on a home of our own.

V finally gets here and together we head towards the flat development, to have another look at the walls and the windows from the outside. It’s getting dark. He’s tired and doesn’t want to look at a million horrible-in-every-possible-way homes anymore, so he’s decided this is the one, and unless the ever advertised end of the world hits us in the next couple of weeks, we’ll just sign the papers and be done with this craziness already. I’m not convinced, and I say it often. Whenever I do, he looks at me with this heartbroken look and all I can think about is that I actually found myself a man to love, to really love, and somehow I can’t help making him unhappy.

*

Friday. If my mother knew this she’d pretty much disown me, but I don’t own a vase in this country. I have to improvise one out of a tall glass, and set the unstable flower contraption straight on the living room floor, leaning against one of my book shelves. They do brighten up the room, I realise, and vow to get a vase soon and who knows, maybe a bunch of freshly cut daffodils every once in a while from now on.

Once I’m done taking a couple dozen phone photos of the off-handed flower arrangement, I change out of my t-shirt and jeans work combo and into something slightly more dinner date appropriate, and run to meet V for a bite to eat at a nearby Persian restaurant. We’ve been eating out a lot lately which has put my grandiose diet plans on hold, but we’ve been way too tired to even consider opening the fridge in the evenings, never mind turning the hob on and actually attempting any semblance of dinner making normalcy.

The place is packed and we’re sat next to a bunch of heavily made up girls on a hen night out. I’m hardly hungry but V insists on ordering this huge, mixed grill platter for two we’ve never been brave enough to get before, as it looks like it could easily feed a family of four for a couple of weeks at least. We eat slowly, intimidated by the sheer quantity of grilled meats and rice, talking anything but money, houses and baby making, which leaves crazy silly things to chat about, like The Walking Dead, our friends’ innumerable flaws, and the shade of my nail polish.

We barely manage to make a dent in the food mountain, so we ask for a doggy bag. (Nope, we’re not embarrassed to do that, are you kidding me? We’re talking about enough food to last us for the rest of the month here!) The waiter comes back with a couple of empty plastic containers which he leaves in the middle of the table for the two of us to pour our leftovers in. I look at V, he looks back, and we both burst into laughter. Yet another thing we’ll be relieved to talk about from now on, when we don’t feel like discussing our scary future: super duper, do it yourself doggy bag etiquette.

*

Saturday. I’m off to meet M for lunch in Oxford Circus. We got in touch through my blog and it’s the first time we see each other, so as I tread along Oxford Street, silently cursing my way through the endless outpour of weekend shoppers, I wish I had the time to straighten my hair properly and retouch my nail polish. This matters to me for some reason, that I appear somewhat normal on the outside though my inside life is an utter mess these days.

I doubt I’ve ever talked about myself for so long. It scares me, really, that there are people out there who share my anxieties. It makes them feel more real somehow, my fears, more difficult to push to the back of my mind. Leaning over our plates, we talk things over. Unpleasant things, the likes of which V and I try so hard to avoid touching upon, out of a silly sense of relationship preservation. But this particular relationship is only just beginning, it’s good to get the nasty stuff out of the way first. And then we’ll go ahead and build a friendship on top of lipstick brands and celebrity gossip centered conversations. Hard work, this making friends business.

Three hours and a fair amount of giggling later (we’re the kind who laugh in the face of scary stuff, who would have thought), we part in front of Bond Street station. A million disoriented people and all their friends and relatives are still dragging their carrier bags from shop to shop, bumping into each other at every step, as though walking down Oxford Street functions by a totally different set of rules than walking down any other street, and it’s really my fault for not knowing that, and insisting not to disrupt the normal flow of pedestrian traffic. Normally I find it impossible not to absolutely loathe humanity when stuck for ages on a cramped sidewalk, but today is different. I’m actually feeling hopeful for some reason, and when the one inch a minute crowd pushes me past the doors of a Waterstones bookshop, I break free. Just one book, I promise myself, something to remember this day by.

I buy a collection of poetry by Billy Collins, something to keep on my nightstand for months and turn to at times of no new Ideal Home magazines in sight.

*

Sunday. 

Carry

I want to carry you
and for you to carry me
the way voices are said to carry over water.

Just this morning on the shore,
I could hear two people talking quietly in a row
boat on the far side of the lake.

They were talking about fishing,
then one changed the subject,
and, I swear, they began talking about you.

Billy Collins

March This and That: Other People’s Roofs and I Am Not Alone

I didn’t even want tot do a This and That post this month, it having been this horrible I’m-the-ultimate-house-hunting-robot-so-I-barely-have-time-to-pluck-my-eyebrows-nevermind-doing-super-duper-blog-worthy-things month from hell and all.

I’ve written about this soul draining house hunting business way more than any sane person would care to read about, and I’d promised myself I wouldn’t force it upon you again. But this is what I do these days. Looking for a place of our own and pretty much nothing else. This is what’s on my mind. This is what’s been defining this month, the ones before it, and surely the coming ones, so it’s difficult to avoid not only thinking about it, but also yapping about it all day long, however annoying it may be for everybody else.

Long long story short, we are still looking and it’s still the kind of thing I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemies. It’s become the most difficult trial our relationship has had to face so far and there’s been a lot of endless, property centered bickering throughout the process in our previously bickering free, loving household. I don’t think we’re parting ways just yet though, as house hunting in London may just be one of those things which suck the love and joy out of your relationship, but surprisingly also tie you to one another in a million painful, unbreakable knots. And what else could a gal like me wish for?

My relationship-killing-house-hunting adventure aside, March has had its good moments as well. Because guess what, humanity? This blog thing is turning out to be kind of wonderful, and I am actually making friends through it.

Yes, you read me right. I was as surprised as you are. And yes, they are real people. I’m not imagining them and they’re definitely not some spamming robots attempting to steal a bit of interwebs stardom from my obviously super relevant online corner. They’re living and breathing human beings, I swear. We’ve exchanged Skype IDs. We’ve been stalking each other on Facebook. I’m even going on a blind date with one lovely lady this weekend, which is a bit intimidating, because I’ve never been on any kind of blind date before (Yup, and I’m almost 30. Talk about lame.). Plus, I’ve painted this I’m-the-image-of-perfection portrait of myself on this blog, and she’ll surely be disappointed by the real life always-on-a-bad-hair-day version. But hey, at least I’ll have a blind date to brag about for a month or two!

This meeting people online thing is tricky business.

First of all, I thought I was way too old and bitter to keep making friends into my thirties. I mean, I’ve already got friends. Sure, you can easily fit them all inside a Mini Cooper, and they’re all thousands of miles away in lovely Romania, but who cares. They’re mine. We’ve got a history. Everything’s easy, comfortable when we’re together.

And making new friends, that’s never easy, right? I mean, you don’t just bump into someone in the middle of the street, have one look at each other and decide, hey, we’re BFFs now! Or at least that’s never happened to me. Instead, there’s that embarrassing, incipient exploration phase, when you talk about your star signs and your favourite colours, and you worry they won’t get your jokes, so you don’t make any jokes, and then you’re sure they’ll think you’re boring, and you start blurting out stupid random things or you just sink into uncomfortable endless silences, all the while desperately wondering what you’d been thinking, as it’s oh so clear you’ve lost all your friend making abilities somewhere along the way. Now imagine all that happening on Skype (perhaps while you’re clicking through the other person’s Facebook photos, and they’re obviously so much cooler than you!), maybe in a foreign language, and to a hopeless antisocial phenomenon like me. No piece of cake, I tell you.

As frightening as this making-friends-or-something-like-it is turning out to be, it’s actually absolutely amazing, and I’m determined to be the friendliest I can possibly be and not scare any of you away anytime soon. It may take a lot of self control work (Do not talk about houses. Do not talk about houses. Do not stalk people on Facebook. Do not swear. Stop talking about the darn houses!), but hey, you’re worth it!

That’s it for now, I hope April is turning out great for everybody!

Specimen Days

I haven’t been writing lately.

There’s little on my mind these days besides floor plans, viewing appointments and mortgage interest rates, so you can imagine I’m no fun to be around. And I figured I’d spare you from what would certainly have become this embarrassing affair where I feel sorry for myself for sixteen posts in a row, and you force yourselves to read on because, oh well, because you’re nice people and you want to fell sorry for me too. But then you inevitably end up utterly sick of me and my endless moaning, and a painful, final virtual breakup ensues.

I can almost hear you, you know. So what if I can’t find/afford a home? Is it really the end of the world? I mean, I can afford rent, can’t I? I can afford soap. Socks. Barbeque flavoured Pringles. It’s high time I put a stop to all the whining and get back to living, even if it looks like I’ll be forever doing it in this tiny dollhouse flat with its tiny dollhouse windows and its tiny dollhouse fridge, and its horrendous, dollhouse zebra patterned rug the previous tenant left behind that I’ve yet to throw out, three years later, because I’m crazy cheap and my feet are always cold.

Anyway. This is about as much as I’ll be writing on the matter of house hunting apocalypse and how I’m really not built for dollhouses (still haven’t lost those darn five pounds!) for now. Instead, I’ll be trying my best to get myself back into a property fever free, functional shape.

What this means these days is that I’m doing a lot of things you normally wouldn’t have caught me dead doing before. I might just be going through a two-months-til-thirty life crisis, so don’t be surprised if you soon hear I’ve spent my house budget on a strawberry pink boat called The Blushing Mermaid. Or a couple of boob jobs.

Until then, I tackle my existential complications by ditching the company bus in the evenings and walking the streets home until I’m half frozen and on the verge of collapse, drowning myself in brain numbing housework, attempting to make friends (Something is definitely wrong with me, I tell you!), and baking.

I know, baking? Me? The world must really be coming to an end.

I mean, take yesterday for instance. With V. out for the evening playing tennis into the night, the plan was to cover my face in a muddy goo meant to restore my former radiating beauty, down half a bottle of wine (I refuse to believe wine and dieting exclude each other; may be why I haven’t lost the infamous five pounds yet but who cares! ), and lie in the tub for an hour, waiting for my skin to wrinkle the worries away. But then I figured that, despite my best intentions and significant amounts of alcohol, all I’d be doing in that tub would be to think about houses and feel miserable again. So instead of pampering/drinking myself deeper into depression, I did the laundry, the vacuuming, the dusting, the ever exciting checking-the-expiration-dates-on-all-our-cans-medicines-and-beauty-products, and, humanity, I baked (BAKED!) two (TWO!) surprisingly edible (!!!) batches of my mother’s Dutch Biscuits, without burning the flat down or losing a limb in the process.

Of course, since there’s really no justice in the world, this super duper housewife phase I’m going through is turning out to work best for V., who actually really liked my biscuits (Is an official marriage proposal finally in order now that I’ve managed to cook something he didn’t absolutely despise? Finger crossed!) and decided it’s all he’ll be having for breakfast from now until the end of days. My arms up to my elbows in dough every other night, I guess I’ll have less opportunities to fall back into my old habits of elaborately planning the demise of all estate agents on the planet, which can only be a good thing.

But until my long term baking therapy effects kick in, I’m looking forward to a couple of days of tech conferences, reconnecting with old friends (Over what I hope will be indecent amounts of diet friendly booze!), and weekend birthday celebrations (It’s always comforting to know I’m not the only one growing old, though it’s obvious I’m experiencing the process in an infinitely more deranged way than everybody else).

Getting back to work now (That baking flour doesn’t pay for itself!), but not before I wish you all a lovely, existential crisis free end of the week!

January This and That: Hom/pelessness, Death of Girly and Orgies, Orgies Everywhere!!!

OK, so January started off kind of yucky (food poisoning on New Year’s may sound like fun and games, but it’s really not), then it also turned out to be one of the more depressing months (spent most of it glued to my laptop, choosing Domino’s pizza toppings, Tori Amos heartbreaking tunes on repeat in the background), and it definitely had its “wait…what?” moments which make (my) life so ridiculously thrilling.

*

To begin with, for reasons we have absolutely no control over (and which I won’t go into for now, as I’d have to order half a dozen pizzas just to cheer myself up), it doesn’t look like we’ll be buying a home any time in the near future.

Of course, after having pretty much turned our life into this non stop, soul destroying house hunting madness, the realization that we’re not actually getting a new place hit us like Miley’s damn wrecking ball. (See? I know Miley! I’m hip and cool and not at all old.) The thing is though, after about half an hour of pure, hysterical madness at the futility of it all, I was suddenly zen. And for some reason, I still am. There’s no pressure. I am no longer counting every pound.  I am no longer wasting away what’s left of my, well, let’s say youth, blindly digging for the best averagely-shitty-house/indecently-humongous-price combo. I am not worried, frustrated, hopeless every single waking moment of every single waking hour and even in my sleep. I am free.

It’s true, there may come a time when I’m back to my maniac house hunting self, but that time, my friends, is not today. Today, I am a homeless gal at rest.

*

I was getting ready for work a couple of days back, and as I was running back and forth around the flat like a headless chicken, I caught my mirrored reflection out of the corner of my eye and realized I looked very much like a certain type of girl. I stopped and checked again, just to make sure. And there it was, this strange girl staring back. You know her kind, I’m sure. The kind who brushes her hair. And properly, with a brush, not just her fingers. The kind who wears a skirt every once in a while. Who carries a handbag, a wondrous, bottomless handbag stuffed with a million incredible things without which the world would be a much sadder, uglier place. Lip balm. Hand cream. Eyelash curler. Even just saying the words is miraculous to this kind of girl. Eyelash curler… Magic.

I used to be that girl and completely forgot about it. It took seeing myself in a dress, for the first time in months, to remind me of this eyelash-curling-nail-polishing-lip-glossing version of myself I’ve so suddenly parted with. Because these days, things are different.

I have to walk to the bus for almost a mile in the morning, and it’s pretty much always raining. Bye bye dresses, high heels and any attempts at hairstyling. Hello jeans, snickers and ponytail. I’ve also got to carry around a laptop all the time, so a backpack really does make more sense than a super duper magical handbag. And then, I’d much rather sleep than curl my eyelashes into perfection every morning.

I haven’t completely given up on my femininity though. I still wear mascara. I still put sunscreen on. The inner, fashion aware girl is not completely gone. In fact, out of what I guess can be called a slightly deranged sense of guilt, I’ve just ordered some face creams online, enough to last me for a couple of lifetimes at least. That should count for something, right? I’m still trying, right? Right?

*

So. Remember this guy? He’s the Romanian dude at my office who thinks we should be spending each and every second of our time at work together, out of some strange form of Romanian solidarity. In light of recent events, I feel I really haven’t given you enough details about him, as it seems he’s really a character worth developing in this super duper soap opera style story my life seems to be turning into these days. So here it goes, meet meet my wonderful, ever surprising new colleague, Bogdan:

  • Bogdan is a web developer.
  • Apart from that, and the fact that we are both Romanian expats living in London, we have absolutely nothing in common.
  • He is married.
  • Both him and his wife are very religious, which is something I wouldn’t really mention or care too much about, but I think it gives this wonderful story an extra kick. Patience, my friends.
  • After we became Facebook buddies, he told me that his wife had looked at “all my photos”, and said I was very attractive.
  • That was a bit strange. Not to mention that I’ve got about fourteen hundred photos, because since I’ve moved to London I need to photographically document absolutely everything, every second, or else my mother thinks I’ve died a horrible death and starts calling me six times a minute. But I digress.
  • Also following our Facebook befriending, he said he’d seen a couple of photos of my boyfriend V, and that he was a very muscular, handsome man.
  • This made me laugh. Muscular? Muscular??? My V.? (still makes me giggle) Of course I told V. about it and he took it very seriously, his super duper self esteem reaching infinite heights. As for myself, I concluded Bogdan was a bit weird, and that definitely muscles were in the eye of the beholder. Then I pretty much forgot about it.
  • Bogdan and I sometimes have lunch together in the office canteen.
  • On one such occasions we were having noodles. They were quite tasty.
  • It’s then when he told me that I was oh so sexy, that V. sounded absolutely amazing, and that his wife and himself would really like it if the four of us would get involved in a wonderful lustful adventure.
  • I choked on the noodles.
  • I decided I’d be wearing the pants in my relationship that day, and so I didn’t call V. to ask him whether he thought we should take our relationship further, into a bright future of all Romanian orgies. Instead I took it upon myself to break Bogdan’s heart, and the only way I knew how was to lie.
  • So I told him that, however flattered I was (Me? Sexy? Sure, I’ll take that!), my religion pretty much frowned upon such exciting things. Surely he could relate to that, he was a religious person himself, right?
  • Yes, he said, but his religion was not that strict. ( Note to self: really need to Google up this religion of his, it sounds like fun and games. )
  • It’s not you, it’s me, bla bla. How does just being friends sound? ( I’m apparently quite good at this breaking up with your orgyfriend thing.)
  • So now we are. Friends.
  • It’s a strange friendship, I must admit.
  • We haven’t gone for noodles since.
  • V. was, of course, flattered by the proposal, but hasn’t yet dared to complain that I didn’t ask for his opinion before turning it down.
  • We’re still not religious, not even a bit.

*

That’s it for January! Sorry about the humongous post, I just felt like writing, actually writing today, which I guess means I’ve overcome my depressive January episode. A surprise orgy proposal can do wonders for your perspective on life!

I’m posting this a bit early this month, as I’ve got a couple of full days ahead and I probably won’t have a chance to write anything else before the weekend. So I wish you all a happy end of January and an exciting February ahead!