I do, I do, I do

    It has been The Year Of Many Weddings. (Eight of them, all in all). It’s occurred to me repeatedly that I should write about them, but when it comes down to it, I have eight identical things to say:

    It was exactly right for them. They seem so very happy. Their love is infectious and delightful. We laughed, we cried, we ate, we drank, we danced – and sometimes, we did all of that twice over. 

    I ruddy love a wedding.

    Those who wish to should feel free to hit me up for advice on how to be a semi-professional wedding guest. In another life, perhaps I will start a brand new blog full of top tips and advice including:

    • How to style all of your outfits around the one pair of fancy shoes that don’t destroy your feet
    • What to do when you turn up wearing the same thing as another guest (and she is clearly in her 70s)
    • Photo booth etiquette 101
    • Wedding cards: remember to save something for the guest book!

    For now, though, none of the above. Instead, some of my very favourite weddings from pop culture (none of which, of course, are quite as lovely as the real thing).

    Phoebe and Mike

    Who are they? Your favourite Friends couple. (Yes. Don’t argue with me).

    What’s their deal? They meet by chance on a badly set up blind date, and quickly fall into a happy and emotionally healthy relationship. This is confusing for them and everyone around them, as nobody they know has ever been in one before. They overcome some inevitable narrative driven perils (His snobby parents and painful divorce! Her exboyfriend coming back from Minsk!) to make it to their wedding day.

    What’s so great about their wedding? Oh, I don’t know, only everything. The snow. The dog. The fact that all their friends were falling over themselves to be part of the wedding party because they knew it was the only truly perfect coupling of their social circle. Music provided by a steel pan. Monica in a radio headset (the power is real). And, oh! Mike’s vows!

    And, well: beautiful ageless vampire Paul Rudd. You know?

    Stephen Irving and Miss Lavendar

    Who are they? Childhood sweethearts who quarrel and separate. He: mysterious and handsome in the way that only a long-lost-love can be. She: sweet and girlish and whimsical but tragically unwed. 

    Yes, you guys, it’s Anne of Green Gables time! (Anne of Avonlea, for the sticklers among us). 


    What’s their deal? Miss Lavendar’s been living mostly happily in Echo Lodge with her servant-pal Charlotta The Fourth. That imp Anne Shirley brings dreamy pupil Paul Irving for a visit. Paul’s mother is dead, and he’s been left in the care of his grandmother while his father tries to gallivant away a broken heart caused by becoming a widower. But of course, there is no salve for bereavement quite as powerful as reuniting with the one who got away. Paul writes to his father about the lovely and loving Miss Lavendar. Stephen Irving returns; they embrace; they are married within the month. 

    What’s so great about their wedding? It takes place in the garden of Echo Lodge: a setting that’s always been charming, but had been missing that extra dazzle of romance that a wedding can bring. The couple are happy and Paul perhaps even happier still. And, as they head off on honeymoon, so comes possibly my favourite moment in the whole series:

    “What are you thinking of, Anne?” asked Gilbert, coming down the walk…

    “Of Miss Lavendar and Mr. Irving,” answered Anne dreamily. “Isn’t it beautiful to think how everything has turned out… how they have come together again after all the years of separation and misunderstanding?”

    “Yes, it’s beautiful,” said Gilbert, looking steadily down into Anne’s uplifted face, “but wouldn’t it have been more beautiful still, Anne, if there had been NO separation or misunderstanding… if they had come hand in hand all the way through life, with no memories behind them but those which belonged to each other?”

    For a moment Anne’s heart fluttered queerly and for the first time her eyes faltered under Gilbert’s gaze and a rosy flush stained the paleness of her face. It was as if a veil that had hung before her inner consciousness had been lifted, giving to her view a revelation of unsuspected feelings and realities. Perhaps, after all, romance did not come in to one’s life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one’s side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it released itself in seeming prose, until some shaft of illumination flung athwart its pages betrayed the rhythm and the music, perhaps… perhaps… love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose falling from its sheath.


    This passage is everything I adore about L.M. Montgomery. A tiny bit over florid but sincere and solid and true. 

    Gilbert Blythe, my ultimate literary crush forever. 

    [Totally recommend falling in love with one of your best friends, by the way. It’s the shiz.] 

    Leslie and Ben

    Who are they? A sparky overachiever with an outlandish love of breakfast food, and a delightful nerd who’s the new boy in town. The great love story of Parks & Rec, despite stiff competition from April and Andy (and Jerry and Gayle, come to think of it).

    What’s their deal? They fall in love without quite meaning to or realising it. They date (and break up) in secret, because the rules of their jobs don’t allow them to be together, until they throw caution to he wind and decide that their love is more important than their careers even though their careers are the most important things in the world. They support each other’s dreams and ambitions even when they’re in direct opposition to their own. They make it work, somehow. They fit.

    What’s so great about their wedding? The writers of Parks & Rec are poetic, noble land-mermaids, each and all. They have moved me tears so many times, whether through silliness…

    …or sincerity…

    …or sorrow.

    But nothing makes me weep like a baby quite as much as Leslie and Ben’s wedding vows:

    Ben: In my time working for the state government, my job sent me to 46 cities in 11 years. I lived in villages with eight people, rural farming communities, college towns. I was sent to every corner of Indiana. And then I came here, and I realized that this whole time I was just wandering around everywhere, just looking for you.

    Leslie: The things that you have done for me, to help me, support me, surprise me, to make me happy, go above and beyond what any person deserves. You’re all I need. I love you and I like you.

    Ben: I love you and I like you.

    Is there anything more you can ask from a love story?

    Bernard and Lydia



    Breaking the fourth wall

    The thing is, I’m on my period. So I’m more than usually emotional (and that starting point is pretty high). Yesterday, I cried a single, fat, heartfelt tear because I called Saz “little one” in a text and it made me think about just how tiny she is and marvel at what a big presence she manages to be nonetheless. Today, I welled up because I learned that I’d eaten some bread made with a 120 year old sourdough starter, and again because of these pictures of a kitten in Hallowe’en fancy dress:

    What I’m saying is, perhaps I should take my own sadness with a pinch of salt. And sadness is the most pointless emotion, really. I think what I need to muster is anger – and perhaps that will come – but for now I am awash in a sea of sorrow, ready to add to the flood with my own helpless tears.

    But goodness. I think I am drowning.

    I took A Level Theatre Studies, because I clearly had an inner will to study the least vocational subjects in the world. 

    We must have covered a lot in that time. Six hours of lessons over sixtyish weeks? There must have been plenty to explore. Somehow, though, most of it has leaked away from my memory bank (along with anything I ever knew about Bach chorales; literally all psychological information bar the concept of pluralistic ignorance; and the plot of Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong. Told you my A Levels weren’t helpful). 

    My brain has retconned me into believing that I spent two solid years studying the German playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht. 

    You know Brecht, even if you don’t know that you know Brecht. You know him because you can hum along to Mack the Knife. You know him because you’ve been addressed directly by Kevin Spacey in House of Cards or Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag. You know him because you once went to see your friend’s student drama production and the stagehands wandered leisurely across the stage to redress the set midway through a scene. You know him, I promise.

    Brecht was committed to Verfremdungseffekt: the effect of making things strange. Reminding the audience of the artificiality of what they are watching, and actively discouraging them from losing themselves in the emotion of a piece. He wanted his audiences to engage rationally with what was being presented to them, considering it intellectually. So he’d build things in to shout THIS IS A PLAY. Songs. Actors speaking direct to the audience. Placards making explanatory declarations. Stage directions spoken aloud.

    (Once, we went as a class to see an amateur production of Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children. We were not 90 seconds in before an actor stumbled, paused, asked for a prompt. 


    Aha! We thought. Of course. How Brechtian. How wry.

    The second time, it got a little wearing. 

    By the fifth time, it became clear that the cast genuinely did not know their lines.)

    For our performance assessment in Upper 6th we staged a production of Brecht’s Fear and Misery of the Third Reich. It’s a series of vignettes about life in Nazi Germany in the 1930s: a land of poverty and terror and prejudice and violence. 

    We were clever girls. We understood that the assessor would want us to demonstrate that we totally got this whole Verfremdungseffekt thing. We used stark, uncomfortably bright stage lighting. We broke the fourth wall with abandon. 

    While we were rehearsing, we came up with a particularly brilliant idea. We’d riff off the famous “I’m Spartacus” scene. One by one, midway through the play, we turned to the audience and declared: “I voted for Hitler.”




    We were so pleased with ourselves. 

    I am so sad today. So sad, and so sorry. Sorry to the decent, despairing, desperate people who lived in 1930s Germany, who I condemned with a laugh for the sake of a flip bit of drama.

    How are these the headlines of the newspapers in the country I live in? 

    How is this the Labour party’s official response to Teresa May’s rhetoric of hate?

    My sadness is hopeless and helpless. 

    What can we do?

    Things I am worried about: September 2016

    The tectonic plates of the Pacific Northwest

    The wonderful Bim Adewunmi tweeted a link to this article the other day: 


    It is compellingly written and utterly terrifying. I am glad that I’ve already been to Seattle because it is very clearly going to COLLAPSE INTO THE SEA or be CONSUMED BY A TSUNAMI or BOTH. In our lifetime! Probably! And there will be nothing anyone can do to protect themselves, because all the settlements and skyscrapers and Starbuckses were built by people who felt invincible, and put no disaster readiness steps in place.


    I am not joking.

    Move inland. And high up. Or maybe to Japan. 



    Drunk, fighty wasps

    We have been locked in a battle of wills with a nestful of wasps this summer. We don’t know where the nest is, exactly, but it’s close enough to our bedroom that they all want to come in on their scavenging expeditions.

    They come through the window, through the air vent, and seemingly through the walls. Every day for the last four months, there has been at least one wasp somewhere in our flat. Sometimes dead, sometimes alive. 

    I’ve found them caught in the collars of cardigans, nestled in my makeup bag. They’ve drowned in the toilet or parched themselves out on the windowsill. One day, I came home to find seven of them dead on the bedroom carpet. 


    They cannot say.

    Our letting agent has stopped pretending they are going to do anything to tackle the problem, and have instead helpfully told us that it’s ok because they’ll all die soon.

    In the meantime, though, they’ll be getting drunk on overripe fruit and buzzing around in hedonistic abandon. Which would be fine if they weren’t doing it in my bedroom – but they are. 

    Go away, wasps.

    My Big Nephew is too big

    I am sure that your life is rich and full, but if you have never been hugged by my nephew Jack then you are missing out on one of the world’s great joys. He understands that a hug is something you really need to commit to, you know? 

    He is a total clotheshorse, and has at times looked like he was fifteen since he was about five and a half.

    But now he’s actually eleven which might as well be sixteen and he is going to get too cool to hug me for at least a decade and this is an enormous tragedy. 

    (He is so great and sweet and funny and smart and I love him).

    My Little Nephew is also too big

    He is 10 weeks old now and seems to have notions of continuing to get bigger for the next 20 years or so. Selfish.

    I can’t read all the books

    I’ve been rereading all 8 books in the Anne of Green Gables series because it is important to revisit your kindred spirits from time to time. But rereading is time that isn’t being spent reading something for the first time; and reading something newly published is time that isn’t being spent discovering a neglected classic; and reading a famous book is time that isn’t being spent reading a personal gem; AND HAVE YOU SEEN HOW BIG THE WATERSTONES ON PICADILLY IS? 


    No matter how much cleaning we do, new dust will always arrive. 



    Why is turkey mince A Thing but chicken mince not really A Thing?

    Is there a poultry cabal we should be concerned about?

    I have an appointment at the dentist in a month

    I hate the dentist. (Not mine specifically; she is perfectly nice, but what on earth drove her to want to spend her time dealing with people’s teeth? Teeth are HORRIBLE).

    There’s a lot of fruit in the house and I’m not sure of the optimum order to eat it


    I have two big angry spots on the front of my left shoulder, and what if that’s a place I get spots now, and people start calling me Spotty Spotty Leftshoulder and avoiding me at the swimming pool? 

    What if, though?

    I just remembered about these dogs with human hands from Sesame Street

    Surprisingly specific men in the mirror

    I’ve never been starved of images of myself in pop culture. (In fact, I even get to see myself where I shouldn’t. I heart JLaw, but she ain’t no olive-skinned Katniss Everdeen).

    That said, in the last few weeks I’ve encountered several weirdly specific mirrors. I feel deeply understood and a little bit put-out; I thought I was such a special snowflake.


    Eleven (Stranger Things)

    My nose has been bleeding of its own accord for as long as I can remember. I have memories of standing over a rectangular sink in the corner of my Year 4 classroom, scrunching a rough blue paper towel over my face and dripping blood clots over the white porcelain and dirty paintbrushes. For my 13th birthday, my brother took me on a surprise trip to London. I started bleeding over the keyrings in the Oxford Street Disney Store. The nominated first-aider looked at me warily, asked me to sit on a chair outside the staffroom, and told me he was going to get a plaster. We made a run for it.

    At fourteen, I had a nosebleed that wouldn’t stop.

    After hours in A&E and an improbable number of tissues, it finally calmed itself down. To prevent the same thing happening again, I was referred to the Ear, Nose and Throat clinic to have my nose cauterised. It is brutal. A blob of chemicals is put on the end of a pointy stick, which is then poked up your nose and scratched around viciously until all the capillaries are burned away. There is no anaesthetic and you are told off very sternly when you inevitably sneeze, as if sneezing had suddenly become a voluntary action which you were choosing to do for fun. If you are super duper lucky, some of the chemicals will leave a nice black stain under your nose for the next week or so, so that your kinder classmates can demand to know what’s wrong with your face.

    And, as far as I can tell, it will make no difference whatsoever to the number of nosebleeds you will have.

    I’ve had it done twice, with the same level of success each time (i.e. none whatsoever).

    From time to time, when I am bleeding on the tube/in the shower/at my desk/in the back of a safari vehicle, someone will ask: don’t you think you should go and see someone about your nose again? Usually, I say: yes, probably, maybe, you’re right.

    Now I can say: Don’t you know it means I’m a total badass?

    Ways in which Eleven is not a perfectly perfect representation of me:

    • I haven’t been brought up in a terrifying lab environment and forced to do horrifying things by a sinister man.
    • I don’t actually have psychokinetic superpowers.
    • I’m not bald.



    Fleabag (Fleabag)

    My very own Great Tragedy is so common, so banal, so unremarkable.

    I have a dead mother.

    Yeah, you and literally millions upon billions of other people, since the very dawn of humanity.

    I am sometimes embarrassed by how completely formative an event her death was in the making-of-current-me. The sting of immediate grief has ebbed away to leave the low-level ache of loss in its place – often imperceptible, but always there. The gentle ground bass underpinning everything. The decisions I make, the job I do, the blog I write, the food I cook, the books I read, the friendships I nurture (and those that I don’t): they’re different because she’s dead. I can’t quite explain how I know this to be true, but I do and it is and there we are. And I think it’s OK. I’m happy, you know? Really, honestly, bone-deep happy.

    Occasionally, I remember that there were added stresses in the midst of the bereavement.

    Like: my dad wrote us a letter within three months of my mum’s funeral to tell us that he was marrying someone else.
    Like: the someone else was my sister’s godmother.
    Like: the wedding took place in the same hotel that we went to for food and drinks after the funeral.
    Like: he’s so much happier than I’ve ever known him.
    Like: their house is at once full of my mum and devoid of my mum.
    Like: my relationship with him – never brilliant – shattered into thousands of tiny, sharp pieces. Trying to reassemble them hurts. It’s easier, less painful, to leave them lying in shards around my feet; a broken hall of mirrors that reflects what’s worst of us both.

    Mostly, I try to pass it off as a funny anecdote. My dad got married to my sister’s godmother! What larks!

    Fleabag’s dad lives with her godmother, in the house where her mum lived and died. It is grimly humorous but starkly awful, for all of them in different ways. I watch through the gaps in my fingers. I want her to skip ahead, to show me what the future holds – to give me a glimpse of a frame full of mirror fragments glued back together in a semblance of their original form. I want it to run for 20 years. I want; I want; I want.

    Ways in which Fleabag is not a perfectly perfect representation of me:

    • My sadness has not been compounded by the death of my mad-but-brilliant best friend.
    • I have no time for guinea pigs.
    • My sister is a delight.



    Rebecca (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend)

    I’ve mentioned before that I spent my teenage years endlessly crushing on basically every boy who crossed my eyeline. I have my own private, retrospective, introspective theories about just what gap I was trying to fill for myself – but it’s possible that the actual explanation is no more deep than hormones.

    There are a few that stand out for their particular intensity, and they all have one thing in common.

    PERFORMING ARTS, you guys! The highs are so giddyingly high. Sleep deprivation and adrenaline and costume changes in confined spaces and bucketloads of talent spilling out all over the shop. Sometimes you’re play-acting at adulthood. Sometimes you’re pouring your heart and soul into music. It is all very, very serious and important.

    My first love was forged over a set of timpani. I dedicated dozens of diary entries to the complex tapestry of relationships that was woven through every rehearsal at the Jersey Youth Wind Band. (It’s for good reasons that Sexually Active Band Geeks formed one of the core cliques in the Mean Girls cafeteria). One of my deepest and most overwhelming crushes was on the Romeo to someone else’s Juliet.

    (I played Peter, the Clown).

    Rebecca’s almost-revelation at the end of Series 1 that the formative emotional moments in her life have all been linked to performing arts comes as no surprise to me. Of course they did. Of course.

    It’s not only that in which I see myself in her, though. Rebecca is, of course, utterly mad. But the situation’s actually a lot more nuanced than that. Her mental health is Not Great, Bob, but she’s still really good at her job (when she manages to turn up for work). It is such a joy to see the two things represented in tandem; I wish it were not so rare.

    Ways in which Rebecca is not a perfectly perfect representation of me:

    • I could never, not even for big-old-lols, bring myself to wear a skintight bodysuit.
    • There is no way on this earth I would choose Josh Chan over Greg Serrano. IT IS OBVIOUSLY THE WRONG CHOICE.
    • Rocks With Words On are not for me.



    All flippancy aside: representation matters.

    May this world give you mirrors, whoever you may be.



    Caliban’s dream

    I have never felt as uncomplicatedly patriotic as I did at the moment the letters N H S were spelled out in lights during the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony. 

    I had been such an Olympic sceptic. I would tell anyone who would listen that it was an outrageous waste of money; that London’s transport infrastructure could not cope and would inevitably collapse; that I had no interest in sport, anyway.

    The handover at the end of Beijing 2008 had prepared me to anticipate the worst. Into China’s glitz and splendour shuffled shabby, shambolic Boris Johnson, signalling: we will do this so much worse. Then the logo was so ugly, the mascots so bizarre. I was convinced it would be a disaster. 

    I’d set myself up for an evening of snark, imagining that Twitter would be playing host to puns and wit and moments of collective WTFery – like Eurovision with more PE kits. 

    I’d even purchased ironic snacks from Sainsbury’s, The Official Olympic Supermarket. Chocolate caramel shortbreads printed with that ugly logo, and fairy cakes topped with “a white chocolate flavoured compound”. Mmm… legally edible.

    Lest you think I’m making this stuff up.

    Then Danny Boyle, that beautiful sneaky genius of a man, presented this Opening Ceremony of such brilliance that I wept with delight until I was more drained of electrolytes than the athletes themselves would be over the course of the next three weeks. 

    It is testament to the sheer irresistible loveliness of Mark and his family that I am able to maintain functional relationships with them without being overcome by all-consuming, debilitating envy knowing that they were there in person. (For realsies! I know!)

    Then the whole shebang was just a delight, wasn’t it? I fell in love with each and every sportsperson, rooting for them all: superhuman and underdog alike. 

    I’ve never been sporty. 

    That’s an understatement. I’m improbably uncoordinated, aggressively inflexible, and lacking in both stamina and drive. 

    During on PE lesson when I was 14 or so, we were supposed to be practicing the high jump. I could not even begin to understand how to make my body move in the way necessary to propel it over the bar. The whole class lined up, taking it in turns to leap onto the crash mat. In theory, each of us kept going for as long as we were clearing the bar, and it moved up a little on each rotation. I, of course, could not even make it over the lowest setting. My PE teacher insisted that I try again – to no avail. While others dropped out, she made me keep trying. The bar got higher, higher, higher and I ploughed straight into it over and over and over again. I think she genuinely believed that if I tried enough times it would eventually click. 

    She was wrong, of course.

    This week, for possibly the only time in my life, I have undertaken my NHS-recommended 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity. I can only attribute this out-of-character occurrence to some kind of latent Olympic neural programming, reawakened by the sporting heroics currently taking place in Rio.

    On Monday, I went to my currently-beloved swing dancing class. It’s run by a jovial Italian man called Riccardo and a sparky, redheaded Canadian woman called Nancy. I’ve been going for six weeks or so, with a couple of my colleague-friends, and it’s really an enormous amount of fun. 

    You spend an hour or so prancing around a sticky-floored bar, dancing for 90 seconds at a time with a succession of friendly strangers. There are some recurring characters we’ve come to know and love: the man whose parents wanted him to learn salsa “because grandchildren”; the woman with an endless array of novelty earrings; the man who is so floppy I am convinced that he may not have a single bone in his body. 

    I am not particularly good, but as I bounce around I can convince myself that I am basically dancing this Charleston:

    (Remember Strictly Dance Fever? I loved it so much more than I could ever love Strictly Come Dancing. It’s right up there in my heart with How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria/Joseph/Dorothy/Jesus).

    From swing to spin.

    A little while ago, someone I follow on Twitter posted super enthusiastically about her experience at BOOM Cycle. She – not terribly fit, lacking body confidence – had been to a session and had been surprised to find herself loving it. The instructor had been peppy without being patronising, encouraging the class to focus on themselves: their inner strength, their personal motivation for being there.

    I created an account for myself on their website, and spent weeks receiving regular marketing emails to remind me: you have totally not been to one of these classes yet. 

    I read dozens of blogs and reviews, all of which were tremendously positive. Finally, in a glow of post-swing endorphins, I stopped reading and actually booked a session.

    You guys: spin is not for everyone. Specifically: spin is very much not for me.

    I haven’t written about it much, but 4 years ago or so, my brain decided to make some room for a generalised anxiety disorder to move in. At its worst, I was struggling to get on public transport or make my way around a supermarket. Mostly, now, it’s less intense and I’ve learned how to cope when it does intensify. But there are still moments when I am gripped by complete terror in the most innocuous of situations. Its irrationality is the thing I hate about it most: a situation that I am in every single day – like getting on the tube – can become suddenly impossible.

    When anxiety strikes, it feels like:

    • Things are in the wrong place; there are too many things moving in my peripheral vision.
    • Colours are too saturated.
    • Noises are incomprehensible, and too loud – an overwhelming wash of sound in which individual elements are indistinguishable, getting louder and louder.
    • My heart is beating too fast.
    • I am hot; getting hotter.
    • I can’t breathe.
    • I am trapped.

    Going to spin class was like voluntarily inviting myself into a deliberately created anxiety attack.

    The room is dark and made of mirrors and steps. You can’t tell where the studio ends and the reflections begin. Every movement that you or anyone else makes is duplicated in every corner of your vision.

    The dim lighting makes the neon of the other riders’ workout lycra garish and surreal.

    The music starts loud and gets louder. The instructor encourages you to ride to the beat; it is all you can do not to clamp your hands over your ears.

    You cycle as hard as you can – you’ve paid money to be here, after all, and might as well get some value out of it – and your temperature and heart rate rise. You know, rationally, that everything is fine: that your heart is racing because you’re exercising, and that you’re in a safe space. But anxiety isn’t rational, and suddenly the positive energy of voluntary exercise is replaced by the similar but terrifying adrenaline rush of panic. 

    And your feet are clamped into the bike, and nobody’s explained how to release them. You are literally, physically trapped. 


    I wanted to love it, I really did. The rest of the class seemed to be having a great time. 

    Let me channel Amy Poehler:

    Spin if you wish. Spin if you must. But rest assured that I will not be joining you.

    You know what creates the absolute opposite feelings to spinning, though? Swimming.

    Yesterday I wandered happily through the streets of Belsize Park, making my way to Parliament Hill Lido. It’s a thing I’ve been meaning to do for years and years, since I was living in Archway and walking to Gospel Oak each morning to get on the Overground. I wish I hadn’t waited so long.

    It’s a perfect piece of 1930s architecture – all neat curves and angles. The pool is lined with stainless steel, catching the sunlight and radiating sparkles. And the people! What a microcosm of loveliness. 

    The three friends – one heavily pregnant – in goggles and Outdoor Swimming Society caps, putting in efficient, determined laps.

    The bearded man who wasn’t Jeremy Corbyn but might as well have been, swimming a leisurely backcrawl.

    The gorgeous black girl in a white cutout swimsuit, looking like she’d fallen straight from the pages of a fashion magazine, repeatedly dipping her toes in the water and recoiling in horror at the temperature.

    The tweenagers on an awkward date.

    The four little girls playing an elaborate, acrobatic diving game.

    The succession of beautiful, bored teenage lifeguards. 

    The woman, defiantly nude, luxuriating in the hot water in the communal showers. 

    And me.

    Plodding happily up and down the pool. Breathing deeply. Looking around; looking around.

    How lucky I am to be alive right now. 

    If Tanzanian safari animals were Londoners

    Wildebeest are third wave hipsters – paranoid that the next cool thing is on the other side of town; running after each other but never quite knowing where they are heading; stupid hairstyle and scraggly beards.

    Zebras are the new colleague who joins your office who you instantly know you will like. They have sturdy hips and quirky shoes and rocking haircuts. They fill their spare time with interesting hobbies: maybe roller derby, or folk singing, or crochet.
    Baboons are the hoodies who hang around aimlessly outside Swiss Cottage station. It’s not that they’re doing anything specifically menacing, per se, but they are low-level sinister nonetheless.
    Leopards are effortlessly glossy and needlessly haughty women. They might be Italian.
    Cheetahs are scruffy and a bit chaotic. They carry too many tote bags and do their makeup on the train. Their highlights are growing out and they hope that people think it’s balayage. (People don’t). They drink fruit cider and are enormously good fun.
    Lions eat organic food and live in Stoke Newington. They don’t need your validation.
    Vultures are polite, smart men in their mid fifties. They carry briefcases and rolled newspapers and proper big black umbrellas. They always step aside for women on the tube. At lunchtime, though, they lurk menacingly in internet comment sections. “THIS ISN’T NEWS” they rage, incensed, having deliberately navigated to the TV and radio blogs section of the Guardian website.
    Flamingoes are a big deal on Instagram.
    Hippos work as customer service agents for TfL. They’re pleasant and helpful – but gruff, too, having been worn down by years of tourist confusion and commuter abuse.
    Impala are on grad schemes. They’re wide eyed and neat in their over-shiny brand new business wear. You never see that many of them in one place, but somehow they are everywhere you look.
    Bush babies get on the 390 bus at 4.30am outside Egg in King’s Cross. They are wide eyed, jittery, probably harmless but deeply unsettling.
    Elephants go on protest marches, carrying resplendent banners. They are union members. They believe in solidarity. They identify with Jeremy Corbyn politically, but have significant doubts about his capability as party leader.
    Rhinos are the good men on dating sites: real, apparently, but elusive.
    Pelicans are the jolly, pleasantly drunk people who start singalongs on the night bus. At first you resist them, but you are a bit drunk too and – let’s face it – you wish your life was a musical so spontaneous collective singing experiences are kind of your jam. 

    Lilac breasted rollers [are totally a real thing, even though they sound made up, and] are the girls you see on the tube with ombre pastel My Little Pony Hair and denim jackets covered in enamel pin badges. You hope they know you share the same heart, even though you are wearing a grey dress and have your hair in an unflattering ponytail.
    Rock hyraxes are your unassuming, down-to-earth mate who’s secretly a massive corporate high flyer.
    Buffalo are aggro commuters. “MOVE THE FUCK DOWN THE CARRIAGE,” they shout, at children and pregnant ladies alike.
    Gazelles are singers/dancers/actors who just-for-now are working as waiters/baristas/Zumba instructors.
    Giraffes are impossibly beautiful teenagers. They have willowy limbs and improbably long eyelashes; their skin is perfect, porcelain, poreless. Their boxy, jewel-toned blazers are ill-fitting; their sports bags are too big; their laughs are self-conscious and showy. They are heart-breakingly gorgeous.
    Tsetse flies work for Foxtons, the utter utter bastards.

    Half-written posts about Brexit

    I’ve tried to write about Brexit. My brain, my heart, my fingers lock. To write is to process and make sense of things, and I don’t think I yet believe that there’s sense to be made. All conversational roads lead back to the EU. Context has become irrelevant. Work, pub, Twitter, wedding, birthday party, dinner party, work, pub, work. Brexit, Brexit, Tories and Brexit. Labour implosion. Misery. Doom.

    I have resigned myself to the fact that I’m not going to get a coherent post together anytime soon. But I also fear that I will remain blog-blocked and bloated for as long as I fail to get a post out. So here, for your reading pleasure, a brief overview of some of the posts I have not managed to write properly:

    The love letter to Europe

    In which I write dreamy, romantic odes to some of the Europeans who have enriched my life. The well-spoken, beautiful Austrian with whom I nursed a broken heart at 19. The sweet-hearted Spaniard who once sent me a framed photograph of a lamp. The strong-fingered Italian who has become an Instagram star. All true; a bit mushy; really intense.

    Ponderings on our voting system (I)

    In which I am saddened that our political system means that people genuinely feel disenfranchised and that their vote cannot possibly make a difference.

    Ponderings on our voting system (II)

    In which I am filled with righteous anger that people are too stupid to realise that a 2-option referendum is obviously a completely different kettle of fish to a general election, and obviously their vote matters, idiots. 

    Ponderings on our voting system (III)

    In which I am filled with an even more righteous anger that it is legal for sixteen year olds in the UK to get married. Sixteen year olds! In the UK! Child marriage is not ok, you guys! And tie myself in knots trying to decide if I think that that means that they definitely should also be able to vote and trying to reconcile how completely nonsense I was at 16 with how brilliant all the 16 year olds are who I now meet.


    In which I am filled with the most righteous anger of all at how ugly a word “Brexit” is.


    In which I riff off this tweet and try to link Brexit to my recent (also distressingly as-yet unblogged) holiday in Tanzania. A spectacularly unsuccessful format.

    My Friends Have Opinions!

    In which I challenge myself to explore my friends’ pub claims, including but not limited to:

    • Anybody who is not a registered member of a political party is an irresponsible citizen whose opinion should be disregarded.
    • Brexit is actually a good thing that will lead to a resurgence of the radical left.
    • Referendums are fundamentally undemocratic and are tools of fascism.

    Hey, come to the pub with me you guys. It’s totally fun and chill.


    This one

    In which I desperately try to get to 500 words so I can let myself off the hook.

    OK, BYE.