Tag Archives: london

Happy Christmas and New Year y’all

In keeping with the American tradition engrained on this blog, I should really say ‘Happy Holidays!’ but that’s not something even Crazy Yank, Wonder Boy or Slish would say. (Anyway, I said ‘y’all’ above so hopefully that’s suffice.)

I just wanted to say Happy Christmas and New Year to everyone. A bit belated for the former but I hope you all had a lovely Christmas anyhow. Thanks so much for reading the blog and for anyone who commented too – hope you continue to stay tuned in 2011. The blog has some exciting developments coming up in January. All shall become clear very soon…

In the meantime, my blog highlight in 2010 has to be getting a mention on Dave Hill’s London Blog on The Guardian‘s website. Thanks to Dave, I got 294 views on March 23. My busiest day yet. Here’s hoping I can build on this in 2011. New year and all that.

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It’s that time of year…

It’s a Sunday. I’ve just come out of a Sainsbury’s Local with a Taste the Difference pizza (and I have Carte D’Or ice-cream in a Tesco bag.) My phone rings. It’s a London number but I don’t recognise it.

‘Hello?’

‘Hey you.’ (It’s Crazy Yank. I think.)

‘Is that you?’

‘Yeah.’

‘For some reason my phone doesn’t seem to recognise your number. Maybe because I changed my phone recently…’

‘Or maybe because you deleted it.’

‘No,’ I say, laughing. ‘I didn’t. Weird.’

‘So what you doing? Are you travelling?’

‘No I’m just on my way to my boyfriend’s.’

‘Oh, you’re still with him?’

‘Yes.’

‘Oh man. How long has it been now? Three years?’

‘No, just a year.’

‘Well do you know why I’m calling?’

‘I have an idea.’

‘Do you know what time of year it is?’

‘Thanksgiving?’

‘Yeah, are you gonna come? I’m hiring out a place this year, Sas. Going to be about 60 people.’

‘Wow, that’s great. Well I’ll definitely try to come.’

‘Yeah, just let me know you know in a week or so as I’m working on my numbers. He can come too like he did last year if you like. Your guy. Just let me know.’

‘Thanks. Well it sounds like a lot of fun.’

‘How are you all? How’s Wonder Boy getting on at uni?’

‘Well, I haven’t heard from him much. He hasn’t come home once so I guess he’s having a great time.’

‘Is he coming back for Thanksgiving though?’

‘Yeah, he’ll be home for that.’

‘That’s good.’

‘Yeah, and work is so busy. Work’s really great.’

‘That’s great news.’

‘How’s your work going?’

‘Yeah, good thanks. Still writing for magazines, newspapers and doing shifts. Got some more travel writing jobs lined up too.’

‘Good for you. What happened to that New England trip?’

‘Oh that’s been postponed to spring but should be going hopefully.’

‘Great. OK you, well, I hope you’ll be able to come.’

‘Yes, thanks so much for inviting me.’

‘No problem. Speak soon.’

‘Yep, bye.’

‘Bye, bye.’

So my third Thanksgiving party, which is set to be the biggest and perhaps even the best to date, is in T-minus three days. There’s nothing left to say except: God Bless Crazy Yank.

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I’m not dead… yet

Hello. I’m so sorry for my silence. Been all sorts of busy with real writing (of course this is real writing but you know what I mean. Job writing. Sadly.) I’m also in the process of moving (again) but let’s not talk about that…

Anyway, it’s great to be back. I have been embarrassed by my barren blog and I’m getting back on that abandoned horse. Etc.

I’m going to continue with my A-Z guide but it would be really great to get some feedback from readers – to see if there’s anything else apart from the said A-Z guide and selected memories that you’d like me to write about on here. Perhaps you’re a reluctant lodger and you’d like some advice? I hope you’d like some advice. I like getting my agony aunt hat on.

So please. Shoot. And then at least I’ll know you’re not dead… yet, too.

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Sex, drugs and frock ‘n’ roll with Slish (Part one)

It started with a private Facebook message sent at 20:09 on March 22. Although we’ve regularly messaged since we stopped living together, this particular message from Slish included the following lines:

‘i would like to see you soon my dear, are you free ths Sunday perhaps? i have some boy trouble thats troubling me.
xxxxxxx’

So today,  we went to Frock Me! at Chelsea Old Town Hall. On the bus there, I get a text. Turns out I have a new answerphone message and a missed call from Slish. I ring her and she says where she is waiting and that her dad is also there, which I was not expecting. Arriving at the coffee shop, I feel like Michael Aspel considering the surprise on Crazy Yank’s face (he was expecting Slish’s other friend with the same name.) He gets up, gives me a kiss on the cheek and a hug and tells me I look thin.* Slish gets up and gives me a hug. I sit down. We chat, catching up on each other’s lives for the next 10 minutes or so although we know most of each other’s news as Crazy Yank had also recently e-mailed me and I’d of course replied.

Afterwards, we walk a little down the King’s Road, another kiss on the cheek and hug goodbye and a (slightly) bemused Crazy Yank departs. Soon after, as we walk to a nearby cash point, I ask Slish if she wants to spill her guts to me then, during the vintage clothes fair or afterwards. She starts to offload and thankfully, it’s the usual early teen awkward-boy-situation-where-friends-get-too-involved-scenario. I advise as much as I can not once but several times during the afternoon.

Once inside Chelsea Old Town Hall, we walk from stall to stall, mesmerised by the seemingly endless trinkets, array of patterned clothes and striking characters with every step. She buys two necklaces and I grow balls the size of raisins to “haggle” by asking: ‘Would you consider taking anything less than £18?’ for an oversized sky blue Burberry tartan shirt. (I pay £15).

We creep up the King’s Road, buying semi-identical lunches at Marks and Spencer before sitting among the stub-legged pigeons opposite the Saatchi Gallery.  She fills me in on further teen angst although thankfully it is that of her friends. A lot of it is shocking although sadly not unexpected for a group of well-educated girls and boys growing up in London. She then asks me if I still eat toast out of a bowl. ‘Why didn’t you just use a plate?’ she asks. ‘ ‘Because I liked the bowls,’ I reply. It seems the memory still annoys her as much as the action did itself.

*I’ve always been lean but turns out I’m a little underweight. I also recently learnt at the doctors after having blood tests that I am low on Vitamin D. The doctor advised I take supplements and said how it’s not uncommon considering the long winter we’ve just had. Although, of course, it could be a delayed reaction to having inhabited a bedroom with no windows for such a long time. I did not mention this to the doctor or to Crazy Yank and Slish today. I just hope it doesn’t turn into full-blown Rickets.

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A-Z lodger survival guide: B is for Bonding

As a lodger, you must resist trying to speed up the bonding process (although in hindsight, biscuits could’ve really helped with this family as you will find out in a later survival guide post.) Anyway, bonding will happen at its own, natural pace.

Crazy Yank initiated bonding pronto. The man speaks, bleeds and urinates bonding with whoever he meets. The way in which he reached out to bond with me varied from his ‘Please act like this is your home,’ to his ‘I told you it would be fun living here,’ which he said repeatedly for the first six months whether I showed any signs of enjoyment or not. But with Wonder Boy and Slish, things weren’t so straightforward. And I’m not really talking about the usual monosyllabic, moronic teenage syndrome when I tried to talk to them. Often,
in the beginning, they look terrified when I was around. (Again, maybe it was the short hair?) I got used to saying goodbye and not really hearing one back. Conversation was as exhausting as walking in sand with dumbbells tied
to my feet.

And then? There was some sort of turning point. It was initially very subtle; they looked less scared of me and would initiate conversation with me a bit. Started saying goodbye. That sort of thing. I guess they got used to seeing Sandy Shaw – I mean, me – hanging around their pad.* Soon it was Wonder Boy’s sixteenth birthday. His main present was a XBox 360. This eased the bonding process. Wonder Boy and Slish actually wanted me to play on the XBox with them.

But what really sticks out in my head is at about the same time as that, the four of us went out for dinner for the first time together. This one balmy summer’s evening, we went to Nandos on the Chiswick High Road. And then we went for ice-cream at Foubert’s. And then we came home and, because no-one wanted to go to bed quite yet, we played Scrabble, mocking each other’s attempt to outdo each other, until about 1am. That, for me, was the real turning point in our relationship as a more comfortable, natural household. And I think we all
knew it.

*(Months later, Slish said she thought I seemed sad in the beginning. Well, I was finding it hard to deal with a break-up, London and the new job at the time… and of course was also saying goodbye to people who weren’t saying goodbye back.)

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Ahoy deck season…

‘If you come on my deck, those Mickey Mouse socks will have to go. You will have to be naked,’ are among the first words Crazy Yank say to me when I go upstairs on a particularly warm day last April.

That morning I had stepped out of my bedroom to see the sun shining brightly through the glass panel above the front door. I felt warm in its reflected rays. So with a reinforced optimism, I went back into my room to dress accordingly: a mini denim skirt, a tankini top, cardigan and Mickey Mouse socks.

‘Everything down to here is sexy until you get to those Mickey Mouse socks,’ Crazy Yank begins.

I tell him I don’t care because my feet are cold and no one’s going to see but I know I will have to negotiate to gain access to the deck this season.

‘It’s my sanctuary. I don’t let the kids go up there… Where are you going?’

‘I’m going to go up to the deck,’ I say, clutching my socks.

He follows me up the first stair case and then the next: a private stair case that leads to the master bedroom with en-suite bathroom, MTV Cribs-style walk-in wardrobe and the deck. We step outside among the replenished Buddha heads and plant pots after his recent trip to Homebase and TK Maxx. Two loungers are next to each other. One is barely in the sun and the other is entirely in the shade.

‘It’s too early for the sun,’ he says.

‘Who’s going to sit there?’ I ask, pointing to the sun-lit lounger.

‘Me,’ he says, lying down, grinning.

‘I’ll come back later,’ I say.

I go down the two flights of stairs and put my socks back on. Lily rings to say she’s five minutes away in the car. She arrives and we set up camp in the back garden. Crazy Yank appears.

‘I’m renaming the cat Govinder. I’m in my transcendent zone,’ he says balancing on one leg as Demon Cat rushes into the house. Govinder, Govinder, come on. Come here,’ he says, wandering back inside. Continue reading

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A touch of Lilac

Crazy Yank was just one of many of Lilac’s male suitors dressed up in a platonic façade. Another was called Howard who I never met but heard inevitably disagreeable things about; he seemed to boss Lilac about, telling her she was late when he knew she was working long hours and certainly didn’t seem to tickle her funny bone either. Of course, there was Henry’s younger drum teacher (Lilac remains 49 years old all her life) but that was all hush-hush drinks at the pub and a reckless option in her mind. There was Big James, younger in his early forties and good friends with Crazy Yank, who’d inevitably ‘just be passing’ on his motorbike from Ealing.

At the time, my joint favourite contender with Crazy Yank was his antithesis: Tennis Mike. Despite Crazy Yank playing a great deal of tennis, Tennis Mike had good contacts within the Lawn Tennis Association. He’d spoil Lilac with the best Wimbledon tickets you could get your hands on and steak au poivre and champagne dinners. Meanwhile, Crazy Yank would whisk Lilac away for daytime and late-night drinking along the Chiswick High Road.

Lilac would typically go with the flow, enjoying herself and maintaining that both Crazy Yank and Mike were ‘just friends’ and that they wanted to be just friends with her. This was just the start of getting to know a woman who, to this day, never fails to amuse me. A woman who one day, felt hungry and burnt croissants so they looked like charcoaled elephant turds on a baking tray. Another day, she got home telling me how famished she was and I went out to the kitchen to find her eating quail eggs knocked back with a couple shots of vodka.

But Lilac isn’t always so chilled out. Unlike Henry. And that became a problem when I was living there. One night in particular, 10 GCSEs meant watching Skins and crafting me a Best of Zero 7 for Henry. And for Lilac? It meant shouting.

‘Henry, what are you doing? This has to stop. You’ve got your GCSEs, Henry. Do you know what this means? Do you know how hard I work for you to go to this school?’

Henry, as usual at his mother’s outbursts, would say nothing. I sat there, looking at the carpet, shouting inside for him to say something.

‘Saskia, please don’t encourage this behaviour. He’s got his exams soon. They’re very important.’

I looked at Lilac to say something but nothing came out. Lilac was staring at Henry who was still watching Skins.

‘Henry! Are you bloody listening to me?’

Henry got up from his armchair, slung his satchel over his shoulders and stomped up the stairs. She followed him up two flights of stairs to his attic room, shouting on the verge of tears.

I switched off the TV, turned off both lights and crept up the stairs to my room.

Soon after that, it was time for Lilac and I to have ‘a chat’.

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