Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Clerkenwell is the place to be

This week has been Clerkenwell Design Week, three days of open studios, events, lectures, and even live music in Clerkenwell Green! For those of you who missed last weekend's Craft Central Open House, the designers and crafters have set up tents in St John's Square selling some of their fabulous wares.

I work in Clerkenwell and consider it my home away from home. I highly recommend everyone wander its hidden alleyways and enjoy its pubs and cafes. Definitely check out the Three Kings for a really good pint, and J+A Cafe for some amazing food. And as, literally, the creative heart of London, you'll see tons of fabulous fashions and cool kids loping around.

Clerkenwell Design Week is on through tomorrow, Thursday 27 May 2010.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Global what?

There was an article published yesterday in the New York Times claiming that the UK has become a nation of non-believers when it comes to climate change. It cites some statistics regarding how critical Britons believe the global warming crisis is, and how David Cameron was strangely silent on the issue during the election. But I offer you, dear readers, another theory: the UK is having a life crisis, and the environment is only one part of it.

We've got Europe dissolving into chaos over both economic and political instability, a volcano we can't control, a flag carrier at war with its cabin crew, and one of the country's biggest company is blamed for the US's biggest environmental catastrophe. To make matters worse, the British youth are lonely. And you want the country to keep worrying about global warming?!

I'm not a global climate change doubter; I think it does exist and I think we're all just putting our heads in the collective sand, trying not to deal with it, and I think that the global economic crisis has given us all a good reason to ignore it. Singling out the British public as having changed their minds about climate change is shortsighted - they haven't changed their minds, just their priorities. Unfortunately for the Earth, there is always another calamity that strikes when we least expect it, and unless the environment is made the priority issue by a group of politicians in charge, nothing will ever change.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


People, it is edging to 80°F today and its amazing. I'm about to head out for the first mani-pedi of the year and I can't wait. British women seem to think it's okay to wander about the streets of London in flipflops and sandals sans painted toenails, and frankly it's been weirding me out. I'm by no means disgusted by feet - actually, I think they are really interesting as shapes and I used to draw my own feet a lot in art school - but in the summer, when you've got rad new sandals on, you need to paint your toenails. At least file them, and get rid of the nasty bits around them.

This is symptomatic of a great English/American divide in beauty treatments and maintenance. I'm probably going to get a lot of comments about this, probably of the not so pleasant kind, but it's been my observation that women in the UK tend to not be as fastidious about general beauty maintenance. Which is not really a bad thing - and it's much more suited to my style and wallet. But definitely there isn't as much regular waxing, nail painting, facialing, etc. Girls here do a lot more DIY (leg waxing in particular, which stymies me), and definitely finger nail polishing, and trendy girls will always be on top of the style and beauty treatments. But older women especially just sort of go au naturel.

I can't decide how I feel about this, whether I think good for them that they don't buy into the whole "must spend a lot to look good to feel good" routine - the beauty-industrial complex - or whether these ladies are just a bit more relaxed when it comes to standards of beauty. English women are seen sometimes as the frumpier amongst Europeans, lacking the style and poise and general elegance of their Continental sisters. But there is a bit of the salt-of-the-earth, Blitz-spirit, stubborn grace about British women that is beautiful in its own right. British women aren't manufactured or plastic like the way American women can sometimes look, and it's actually sort of nice to see errant eyebrows every so often.

While I admire the way British beauty is often fresh and natural, I am still American and frankly resistant to change. I might go a bit longer between waxings here than I did in NYC, but I still moisturize everything every day and I cannot abide by summer toes showing unpolished. So excuse me, but there is an Asian nail parlor waiting for me.

PS: NSFM = Not Safe For Men.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Solo Date

I took myself out to dinner tonight. Actually, I'm that person who is sitting in Wagamama, alone, absorbed in her iPhone. And I enjoyed it.

Actually, it was really necessary. Back in the NYC days, I used to go to dinner by myself all the time and I really enjoyed it. It was an opportunity to sit and relax and reflect in my own little world - and not have to do the dishes. So I decided to treat myself to that luxury tonight, because man do I have a lot of thinking to do.

I've blogged a lot in the past about work and my frustrations, and how I just don't know what my goals are anymore. I have spoken to so many people about it, about what I think I want and where I want to be metaphorically and how to get there. Friends of mine who are all much further along the "career validation high self esteem and net worth" track than myself have said that I really need to think about where I want to be in 5 years, so I can put the necessary pieces in place to achieve that goal. Uhh... I hope I have a dog by then. I hope I live in a bigger place by then. Might be nice to even own said place!

I hope I've been to India, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam (hell, just ASIA), Syria, and Cuba by then. I hope I've run a marathon by then. I hope The Irishman is still around then. Oh, and I hope I have a Chanel 2.55 bag by then.

Ok so most of the things I want to achieve involve buying stuff. Hopefully that doesn't mean I'm superficial. But I am worried that nothing I e listed involves personal achievement. Maybe running the marathon, but I consider that just masochism. Seriously though, I'm worried about myself. I used to be so goal oriented; I used to have so many things I wanted to achieve, personally, scholarly, professionally, and now I'm just going with the flow and undirected. I need to find a raison d'etre, something that thrills and excites me and makes me get out of bed in the morning.

I'm thinking about writing, but not really sure how to start. I have a few ideas, but I have no motivation. It's hard enough keeping up the blog, and wrestling with the reality of recording my seeming insignificant life. While at Wagamama, I caught up on the blogs in Byline and man some people are so creative, so witty. Can I hack it with them? Can I be a professional writer? I can barely be a professional.

I hadn't solved it by the time I'd drained the end of my Tiger beer, and I probably never will. But as I walked out of the restaurant, I felt, if nothing else, that my quality time with myself was well spent.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Whoa nelly!

As my roommate said yesterday, the country is going to pot! We don't have a government, Gordon Brown has resigned, and to top it off BA's cabin crews are going on strike again! FFS PEOPLE. You'd think this country was a backwards nation of eccentrics. Oh, wait a minute.

Anyway. I find all of the election shakedown to be extremely interesting. The fact that this nation hasn't had a clear winner of an election for over 35 years is causing a total uproar, and the best part of the whole mess is that politicians are now blaming the voters: "The reality is that the voters chose not to give any party a majority so it's our moral duty to form a government based on their mandate". Excuuuuuse me! Well well well!

As negotiations for both the government and the flag carrier progress, I'm struck again by the fact that frankly, day-to-day life carries on just the same as usual. Politicians love to pretend they're integral to the process of living, but frankly, they're only really good for moderately funny entertainment. If that's all they're worth, then I'd vote David Dimbleby for Prime Minister over any of them any day.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Spotted: Elephants on Parade!

Elephant Parade London
This elephant is outside of Liberty, and the workshop is on Carnaby Street.
May 8, 2010

Two years!

I have been called flaky in my time and it is pretty true, but I think this takes the cake: I forgot my own 2 year anniversary in London. Sheesh! Maybe that's because it took place whileI was running across the Stonehenge Downs, cursing every incline. But the fact that it did slip my mind is a pretty big sign that I'm so comfortable here in London, and in the UK, and that I'm quite happy in my skin here. It's funny - ever since I graduated from college, I've spent exactly two years in a city - just enough time to decide it wasn't for me - and then upped sticks and moved on. From New York to Philly back to New York and then on to London, surely it should be time for me to consider another change? But far from it - I'm more at home here, and looking to get more cosy, than I have ever felt in any other city. Le sigh.

The last year since I celebrated year 1 has been pretty intense. I've learned a lot about myself, my place in the world, and how I look at my future. Notice I say learned: learned doesn't mean changed, and it's been such an amazing process of identifying things about myself that I didn't realize or understand until now, when removed from my natural habitat, that I'm only starting to figure out how to use these learnings to change for the better. It is funny, though, to think that the types of things I'm discovering are only becoming apparent because I'm living in another culture. I wonder how many years (and hours of therapy!) it would have taken for me to understand myself had I stayed in New York (or the US).

But despite all of this personal growth and understanding, there is still so much for me to do for myself to make sure that I'm taking advantage of my opportunity to live here. It is so easy for me to slip back into old patterns and habits, so I'm really trying hard not to beat myself up about them and confront them head-on instead. It's a really big step for me to acknowledge my weaknesses, and address them accordingly, but it's so necessary so that I can reach the next level in my life - so to speak. For a while I've been unhappy about so many things, and it's only up to me to change them - which means it's only up to me to gather the strength to do it.

Despite all of the me-me-me talk, The Irishman has been a big part of all this growth I've achieved over the last two years (including that of my waistline as he makes me homemade ice cream and roasts...). But I am so grateful to him every day for helping me assimilate to this crazy culture and country; I really don't know where I'd be today if I hadn't met him. It will also be our two year anniversary soon, and I have a special surprise in store for him. I can't say anything more because a) he reads this blog, and b) I'm really really rubbish at keeping surprises a secret (especially when I'm really excited about, and this one is super-awesome) so the more I say, the more of a chance he'll guess it. He probably has anyway, but let's all just help him keep the pretense up, shall we?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Spotted share

I just wanted to share something super beautiful with you guys. Photographer Brian has captured the lovely seaside of southern England here, besides other gorgeous shots of England in general and London specifically. If you love the UK, you'll love his photos.

I found him through Tea for Joy which is pretty much one the most beautiful blogs around.

The UK election and immigration

So the UK election is tomorrow, and not a moment too soon. I'm sick of the campaign coverage, and the fact that the BBC chose The xx song "Intro" as the theme song of all their Election 2010 commercials - I love that song and now I'll never think of anything besides Gordon Brown, David Cameron, and Nick Clegg whenever I hear it.

I think one of the reasons I am "over" the campaign is because I can't vote. Last week The Irishman asked me who I'd vote for if I could, and I truthfully answered that I didn't know because I hadn't been paying attention. It's so different from during the last American election, when I was glued to the news coverage, soaking up every last detail and freaking out about whether I'd get my absentee ballot in time (even though I knew it really wouldn't count). Here, I know vaguely what each of them are saying: I feel bad for Gordon Brown every time he opens his mouth and makes a horrible gaff; I don't trust David Cameron, and his snake-oil charm; and Nick Clegg just has a really annoying way of delivering a speech.

It dawned on me though that this election has actually revealed a strange truth for me: I am an immigrant. I am a disenfranchised immigrant who threatens British people. Amongst all of the talk about British jobs for British workers, each of the parties has a proposal for lowering the numbers of people who enter the UK to work - people like me. It feels really strange that rather than being an oft-courted demographic (young, single, female mid-range earner), here my views and concerns aren't even registered. It's funny - it's like shut up, pay your taxes and your exorbitant visa fees, and we'll let you stay here with limited freedoms. Wow. What a change.

For that reason alone, I should be paying attention to the candidates to understand what they have in store for people like me. Somewhat ironically, educated skilled workers would suffer the most under the Tories: they propose a cap on immigration and making it even more difficult for companies who want to bring non-EU nationals over to the UK to work. Those of us already here would be okay, but who knows what they would do with the Points-Based System that gave me the freedom to own my visa and right-to-work. LibDems want to send migrants only to cities that need workers (ie, Manchester rather than London), and to be honest I have no idea what Labour is going to do.

So I will participate in the election tomorrow the best way I know how - by watching the election returns and eating takeaway, but it will definitely be sad to know I didn't get to vote and be "part" of the action.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Spotted: Cherrybomb!

Upper Street, Angel, Islington
May 2, 2010

Candy Candy CANDY!!!!

A new shop called Cyber Candy just opened on Upper Street in Angel, and it is already doing a brisk trade. It sells import candy and junk food from the US and Japan, stocking such delicacies as Lucky Charms, PopTarts, and Mountain Dew at exorbitant prices - a 12 pack of Mountain Dew is £28 and a box of Lucky Charms is £6.50! PopTarts are a staggering £4.40! But beyond wildly expensive American candy, they also stock a wide selection of the amazing Japanese Kit-Kat variations and my personal favorite, Men's Pocky!

If you go, the shop is pretty much always mobbed with preteens (as all candy shops are), and be expected to freak out over how many old favorites they stock - DoubleBubble, Airheads, Lifesavers, Jolly Ranchers... I got particularly excited about Dark Chocolate Milky Ways. Warning: don't cause a scene like I did!

The shop is located on the west side of Upper Street just past the N1 Centre.

Oh it rained all weekend? It must have been a Bank Holiday.

Another Bank Holiday come and gone, spent mostly inside looking out the window wondering if the sun would hold long enough for one to pop round the shop and pick up some milk. Except for one notable exception - my first half marathon! Despite Bank Holiday weekends being notorious for having fickle, rainy, and cold weather, The Irishman and I decided it would be the perfect time for me to run my first 13 mile race. Eeps. I survived, obviously, but more importantly I enjoyed it! The course was what Americans term "cross-country" and a Scottish man described as "undulating" - aka, up and down hills that curved through National Trust land full of blooming fields of rapeseed, herds of cows and sheep, and the occasional military testing ground. We ran together and finished in 2 hr 8 min, which is pretty respectable given the terrain. I was a bit disappointed that Stonehenge was actually across the road from the finish line, and that I didn't get to run around it for the final mile, but at that point it didn't really matter as I just wanted to stop.running.immediately.

The race was on Sunday down in Wiltshire, so we headed down to Salisbury on Saturday in some lovely sunny weather to stay with friends who obligingly drove us to the race and back. On the way to Waterloo Station, we stopped in to Somerset House for the Pick Me UP print show and ended up picking up two lovely pieces for a grand total of £24! But post run, we headed back to London and pretty much vegged for the rest of the weekend with a few exceptions for rosé (on my part) with some mates while dodging intermittant rain and an errant hail storms.

And now, it's back to work...