Friday, 31 October 2008

Last night, I went to the most phenomenal concert. I went to see Antony and the Johnsons at the Barbican Centre. Antony was performing with the London Symphony Orchestra and it was without a doubt one of the best events I have ever been to (and that's saying something). Allow me to wax lyrical for a moment. Antony's music is hard to describe. He has one of the most unusual, beautiful and arresting voices I have ever heard. He is 37, yet dresses and looks like a middle-aged woman - all diaphanous silks and draping fabrics. His songs are unashamedly poetic and free from cynicism, and he spends much of his time singing about love, the tragedies of life or dead people (his best songs include all three). Now, I know. You're thinking - dearest, that doesn't sound very cool. A man who dresses as if he shops at Hampstead Bazaar, singing about clichés, supported by an orchestra? Doesn't sound like the usual Sex Pistols and new indie bands soundtrack to your life...

But there was something which glued me to it, somehow. He stood there and sang about dead boys and starfish and rivers of sorrow and the violins swooped and I felt like the bottom had dropped out of the world for a while.

And today, for the first time ever (and I've been to hundreds of concerts in my time and consider myself a bona fide cynic generally) I have been unable to get this concert out of my mind. It feels a bit like when you've been out for your third date with someone and suddenly you've realised that you're falling love; you have mentionitis, you think of that person all the time, you start daydreaming all over the place. So - I've (horrific cliché alert!) officially fallen in love with an event which can never be repeated.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

This afternoon, for the first time, I tried to arrange a visit to Santa's Grotto. This is what having a small child does to you. I got a helpful email from Selfridges, telling me that 'booking was now open' for this special event. I laughed and almost deleted it (it's October) and in many ways I wish I had, because I could have avoided much of the heartache which followed. But I didn't. i thought - hey, I have a lull in my day, I can book tickets for this now! So I went online. Every single ticket for a Saturday and Sunday had been sold, already, ten minutes after the email came out. OK, I thought, I'll check out Harrods, they must have a grotto too, right? They do. It sold out months ago apparently. All the slots sold out months ago. Is this madness or what? So in a panic I clicked back on to the Selfridges website, only to see that by now, about 75% of the slots had gone .... a whole 15 minutes after the email came out... So in a panic, I booked a random weekday slot.

Is this just London? And I know this is a treadmill I can't get off. It's called Having a Child in London. Welcome to my new life.

It's been a very busy few days, not without its share of first times though. Last night, I trooped off (wearing all my clothes at once - what is this 'first time there's been snow in London since 1934' phenomenon?) to watch Arsenal v Spurs at the Emirates Stadium. For those of you who are less than familiar with the implications of this, let me give you a heads-up:

  • Arsenal and Spurs play football (soccer for Americans). You know, the type David Beckham plays (or used to, before he got all into developing his own perfume, wearing Calvin Klein underpants, living in LA and being a squeaky-voiced bona fide celebrity).
  • I support Arsenal. I have a season ticket. They dress in red and white.
  • Arsenal and Spurs fans HATE each other. The whole night consists of singing songs such as "Stand up if you hate Tottenham" and "Maybe next year, maybe next year, Tottenham in the top four [places in the league] maybe next year" (and these were just the polite ones). I love Arsenal songs. They've always got a funny new one. Arsenal have a striker called Adebayor. He's African - and hence black. When Steven Gerrard (Liverpool player) was having paternity issues about his latest offspring, the song went: "Adebayor's. Adebayor's. Gerrard's baby - it's Adebayor's." Genius. I digress.
  • Arsenal v Spurs is always a fabulous occasion. The fans sing very loudly and when 60,000+ fans are singing, it makes for a good night.

Anyway. So Arsenal were winning 4 goals to 2 in the last minute of the game. Spurs had played terribly. Half the Spurs fans had left the ground. I was packing up to go home. Three points (for a win) were in the bag. The Spurs side then scored in the last minute and the score was 4 goals to 3. The Arsenal team literally fell apart and in injury time (time added on), Spurs scored again. For the first time ever - and this is not in my nature - I swore profusely and actually walked out of the ground before the final whistle in a strop. I stood outside muttering technical terms such as 'totally lost their shape'; 'totally inappropriate substitutions' until DH came to collect me. I almost cried on the way home and had to be consoled by the purchase of a warm pie. Who says it's just a game? I shall lamp anyone who says that to me today.

And the other first time? Well, got home to find a package addressed to me. Opened it to find a present from my lovely friend A. Opened it up and what is it? A tube of Estée Lauder Marzipan lipgloss. This will make sense if you have been reading the blog. For the first time, I shed a tear in the name of friendship. Who needs Arsenal when you have friends?

Monday, 27 October 2008

DH and I are about to start major building works on our house. Whilst the major works are being done, which will take a year or so, we want to rent a house in the area. Amazingly enough, a house for rent has come up on our street, three doors down from us. So I had to go to see it, living there would be too good to be true. So off I went. It was only when I headed out to the garden that I realised what my first time would be - seeing my home, which I've lived in for a few years but hopefully many more, from a completely new angle. From this garden, it looked like a giant brick monstrosity (which it is). It dominates its neighbours. It's unneighbourly. It's given me real food for thought.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Lots of first times this weekend to report, including a look at the £1.5million gold statue of Kate Moss in the British Museum (at the entrance to the gallery where the Elgin Marbles are displayed - can you think of anything more strange?). Oh and while we're on the Elgin Marbles, my view is that the Marbles should be returned to Greece - I know that they say that they wouldn't exist if it weren't for the UK but isn't keeping them is a bit like saying that a foster family shouldn't return a foster child when her mother has shaped up? Anyway.

As usual, I digress. That wasn't the first time I wanted to tell you about for Saturday. On Saturday afternoon, as one does, I went to the supermarket. Big mistake of course, the worst day to go. As I stood in the queue for an age, I decided that my first time for the day would be a very non-London thing - I would actually attempt a conversation with someone in the queue. So picked the lady in front of me, on the basis that she was the least likely person I would usually pick (there was quite a good-looking man behind me, for example) and I am so glad that I did. She was 80 years old. She had a fantastic Italian accent, so I asked where she was from - she said that she was born in Italy but had married a Scottish man and moved to the UK. He was a coal miner, she explained, who died after he got coal dust on his lungs for many years. She was full of praise for him and said that he was the best husband a woman could have. She was delighted to hear that I also had a lovely Scottish husband. I asked if she had any children, and she said 'no - the bambinos never came' with a wistful look in her eyes. I loved her. She said she was quite alone, but had her friends at the Italian Church. I've given her my number, so hopefully she will call me next time she goes shopping.

On Sunday, George and I headed off, for the first time, to the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. This will mean nothing to those who have no children, but is a space of utter genius for small (and big) children. George, who has decided this weekend to walk for the first time, scooted around it, playing in sandpits, looking at light displays and dressing up in bunny ears. Total result for his endless-photo-opportunity Mummy.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Today, I decided to challenge myself in respect of that most important of daily choices: lunch venue. It's all too easy in the job that I do to grab a sandwich and to eat it at your desk. Today, as I was lunching with a friend who has recently been appointed a High Court judge, I decided to try somewhere new.

We went to Edokko, an authentically rickety Japanese restaurant on Red Lion Street. It was like stepping into Japan; shoes off, tables positioned so that you sat cross-legged on the floor and waiters who generally had no idea what you were saying. An exceptional find, as the sushi and salmon teriyaki I had were just fantastic. If I'd been in Japan, not that I ever have been, so here follows a really useless comparison, I'd have been delighted.

Lunching with a High Court judge is an eye opener. I asked him how he had found the transition between being a barrister and now being a judge. The bank balance is different, he said. True enough. But apparently all judges meet once a week for a 'judge's tea' - how wonderful to imagine them all sitting round in their wigs, drinking tea out of patterned china cups, discussing the laws of England. It's undoubtedly not like that but it's made me think that maybe a judge's life isn't so lonely after all...

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Ooh, I have two first times to catch up! Yesterday, my first time was hearing my son, George, saying his first distinct words. Yeah, you say, he has been saying mama and dada for months, get over it. But this is the first time I have heard him say something distinct. So here it is. Itsy. Yes, you read that correctly. And before you say 'that's not a word' - it so is. Itsy Bitsy Spider? I was reciting said Spider tale to him as he came out of his bath and then there it was - a perfectly formed Itsy. He then said it 17 times in a row and this morning, as I lifted him out of his cot, he beamed at me and said it again. It-sy. Does this mean he will grow up to be a spider-collector? I am so impressed by this first time (which admittedly is someone else's first time, but I'm his Mum so whatever) that I went online and had him printed a tee shirt which says Itsy. I'll have it framed when he's bigger...

And that online voyage made me think of my first time for today. A sad story, this one. OK, I know that in the light of credit crunches, wars and famine it's not that sad at all, but I think you'll sympathise.

On my wedding day, 2 and half years ago (don't get me started on how perfect that day was, you'll never stop me) I wore a lip gloss which I loved. It is called Marzipan by Estée Lauder and is just perfect - a sparkly yet neutral shade which looks good with everything. I'm not usually a lip gloss girl but when I put this on, it makes me feel happy and reminds me of that day. Anyway. A few weeks ago, I ran out of said gloss. I put the empty tube in the bin and felt quite sad. So off I went to a make up counter to buy another one, so that I could again relive that happy day next time I put it on. But horrors of horrors the Estée Lauder Lady (and why do make up ladies always wear so much foundation? I digress.) told me that it had been discontinued. WHAT? - I cried. And not just discontinued in that store, but discontinued worldwide. Oh yes. I have to say that I almost shed a tear.

But anyway. Today, as I indulged the ridiculous urge which entailed buying a tee shirt printed with my son's first word, I decided to look online for the gloss. Not available anywhere in the UK. Not on ebay. And then I thought - why don't I - for the first time, throw caution to the wind disbelieve the expert and try calling a store in the US? So I did. I rather disproportionately called a store in New York and it has NOT been discontinued there and they have posted me a tube of it! Genius. All is well with the world.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Over the course of yesterday and today (so you'll forgive me if this first time is shared over two days) I organised my first romantic trip away with my DH since George was born. I know that this is outrageous and that it's very important for couples to retain a sense of identity, fun and independence when they have a baby, blah-de-blah-de-blah, but just you try combining motherhood, full time work and, er, serious TV watching! Oh and it is so romantic and wonderful and special. We're getting the Eurostar, first class (credit crunch, what credit crunch?), to Paris. I've take a day off work. We're spending the day there. Together. Alone. No buggy. Just before Christmas. I have teed up a romantic lunch, some romantic ice-skating and of course some romantic shopping - what could be more romantic than seeing your loved one's face light up as she finds the perfect pair of shoes, huh? See the Galeries Lafayette's Christmas make-over and die, as they say.

And it's all thanks to this blog. I'd never have done it otherwise.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

So can you wear teenage fashion when you're over 21?

Today, for the first time, I wore footless tights. Out of the house. And I'm 35 years old (get over it). I even went out and wandered around for 3 whole hours in them. And I had a ball. I managed to ignore my inner voice, telling me that Lindsay Lohan wears them and certainly no one over the age of 21 looks good in them. DH looked at me questioningly as I came down the stairs, but that was it. No hordes proclaiming 'hey - are you a Ting Tings reject?'

I have chosen this photo because my outfit looked remarkably like this one, and there is no way that my photo of my actual outfit is making it onto the web (until I've got braver).

I have now embraced the whole teenage fashion thing. Peaches Geldof, eat your heart out. I'm going out tomorrow to buy some blue tights and pink tights for winter. I'm going to buy more footless tights. I'm going to buy some shoe boots. If I can't dress teenage now, then when?

Saturday, 18 October 2008

London is full of wonderful gallery spaces, so today, I decided that my first time should involve seeking a new one out. George loves galleries, as they are usually large enough to walk around in, he loves looking at new things and he always seems fascinated by new spaces. So this morning we perused the listings and realised that there was an exhibition of Richard Serra's sculptures at the Gagosian Gallery near Kings Cross. As arty-silly-interesting-specs as this may sound, pre-George, DH and I saw his sculptures exhibited at the Guggenheim in Bilbao and had been really blown away by them.
So off we went, in the autumn sun, and found this gallery, a mere 5-minute bus ride from our house. As we arrived we realised that lots of people were also heading for this tiny gallery; people arriving in taxis, people generally wearing black polo necks and interesting glasses (I know it's a cliché but it's true). Thank goodness George was wearing one of his coolest outfits, I thought.
Richard Serra's sculptures are very hard to describe. They are giant steel sculptures, 12 or 15 feet tall. They are large enough to walk in and for the most part, evoke feelings of discomfort and even panic as one walks inside them. One man emerging from one caught my eye and took a deep breath: "thank goodness for that", he said.
George of course took everything in his stride, walking around and inside the sculptures, staring at them occasionally. Some people smiled at him and others looked at me as if to say "Hey! A baby? Shouldn't he be at the park or something?" - but there's no accounting for people's prejudices...
Very highly recommended. Richard Serra, Gagosian Gallery at 6 Britannia Street, WC1X until December 20th.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Some of you may know that I work in the law. I'm in the middle of a big case at the moment, which involves the Oval Cricket ground (as my last post might have indicated....). This makes it supremely difficult to fit in any really exciting first times - although I do have some crackers lined up. As I came home tonight, I thought long and hard about whether I had done anything for the first time today. I bought a pasteis de nata from the local Portugese café, but I've bought them before (although I envy people who've never had one before. What a treat they have in store). I got the tube to work, which I never do, but I've clearly been on the tube before. And then I realised - I learnt a fascinating new fact today, for the first time, which I'm going to share with you.

  • On the pitch at the Oval, there are two small darker patches of grass. One is just in front of the Pavilion and the other close to the wicket. The first (larger) patch is where people who wish to have their ashes scattered at the ground come to rest. The groudndsmen are under strict instructions never to dig up the turf there. And the second (small) patch is where each and every one of the Oval's eleven cats have been buried. Again, they never dig that area up...

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

There's something a bit manly about my first times so far, and I'm beginning to worry if in my heart of hearts, this whole endeavour is about becoming a bit more brave? But anyway...

Today I went on a guided tour of the Brit Oval cricket ground. For those of you who've not had the privilege of going to the Oval (or indeed who have no idea what on earth I'm talking about), the Brit Oval is the second largest cricket venue in the country. Cricket? That very English obsession with wearing white clothes and hitting a small ball with a large bat in a very dignified manner? The current England captain is actually South African? Anyway. Quaint English thing. To cricket fans, this is a bit of a Mecca, with test cricket having been played there for the last 120 years.

A guided tour is a rare event. I love cricket and was delighted as wewent all around the ground, looked at the stands, went in the executive boxes and marvelled at the proximity of the iconic gas holders immediately next door. I was really disproportionately excited and as my excitement grew, so did the pitch of my voice. It's funny how an inside look at a public place can do that to you.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Today's first time makes me sound like a country bumpkin. I'm not. Just for the record, I've had sushi and sashimi in all forms, soft shell crabs eaten whole, papaya and mangosteens; I've eaten fried bugs in Thailand, snails in France, random lard crisps in Brazil and I'm usually up for trying every foodstuff at least once.

But today for the first time, I ate a fresh fig. I realised that for some reason, my palate had been denied this pleasure. I hate fig rolls and with my blinkered creature-of-habit ways, had always resisted the fresh fig. Well, no more. I ate one. It tasted very subtle and sweet. And that's all for today, folks.

Monday, 13 October 2008

So this weekend, DH, DS and I went off to Brighton for the weekend. The weather was wonderful; we spent a lot of time on the beach, lazily trying to persuade George not to eat stones (but Mummy they look like sweets). You might think that going to a new place is fertile ground for first times, but Brighton is my comfort blanket - I love it, I have been there many times, and each time I go I want to do my old favourite things. But the aim of this blog is to challenge me, so I did two new things for the first time.

Firstly, I persuaded DH that we needed to visit the Brighton Museum, which contains lots of things about Brighton in it. Tucked behind the Pavilion, this is a museum which I've never had the urge to visit because it just sounds dull to be honest. But the urge was upon me: we need to do something new today, I cried. So off we went. The first thing to note is that it's free and secondly that it has the most amazing collection of Louis Poulsen artichoke lights I've ever seen. Six. In a row. Genius. I decided that lying on the ground to see them better was a good move, which made George laugh and try to lie on top of me. Not sure the museum staff were impressed.

On Sunday, I decided that Saturday's first time was not nearly challenging enough. So I took a big leap of faith and went on the rollercoaster at the end of Brighton Pier. This is the first (and only) time that I have been on a rollercoaster. As those who love me best will testify, I'm the person who holds everyone's loose change when they go. As a teenager I would rather have asked a boy out that go on one. It was awful. I waited in line with a group of Spanish teenagers wearing emo tees. One of them tried to blow bubble gum in my hair (although I was later rewarded by seeing her crying as she came off the ride - ha!). WHY do people do on these things? Oooh how great it is to feel like I'm going to crash into the ground? I don't think so. First and last for sure.

So today my first time is making a list (for the first time) of the first times I actually want to achieve over the next year. Ones I think will challenge me rather than terrify me. Ones which will become small achievements in themselves. So here they are:

(1) Learn some Japanese (secretly) so that when I go to Japan with DH, he will be exceptionally impressed

(2) Sign up for some charity work of some description and actually commit the time to do it properly

(3) Actually figure out how to use an iPod and downloading etc.

(4) Go to see something I wouldn't actually ever do, like an opera (maybe not) or flamenco dance (I'd rather give birth).

(5) Go to see lots of galleries, and parks etc which I have never been to in London

(6) Discover lots of new yum foodie shops.

Anyway, that's just for starters.

Friday, 10 October 2008

I stayed up late last night reading Mapp and Lucia and finished it. It's fab. Dickens next (maybe not).

Today, for the first time, I am wearing my new eternity ring. It's called a Marguerita, it's the size of one of my fingernails and it sparkles like there is no tomorrow. No, it's not a diamond, it's an aquamarine.

This is a special first time, because I will be wearing it every day for the rest of my life. This ring was a present from my husband for having our son and is engraved with my son's name. I'm unofficially calling it The George Ring as a result. It got me thinking - how many material things in life do you really hang on to for life? Your home is likely to change, your clothes change, even once treasured items seem to fade in importance somehow.Even shoes fall apart (well, apart from my small collection of Pradas which will be with me for eternity - except that they're still in a box from the last move 2 years ago and still I can't find them).

Points for making me stare at my finger all day instead of concentrating on difficult technical evidence I was meant to be staring at today: 3.
Points for making me feel very lucky: 6.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

I live in London. Fertile ground for a first time blogger. So today I decided that I'd better get a new look at my city.

Today was the perfect day for this excursion. A bright, sunny autumn day with perfect skies. I got the train to Woolwich Arsenal (fell asleep on the train, and almost missed my stop, which almost usurped the subject of today's post by almost being the first time I did this, in general terms I'm just too organised to miss my stop).

Anyway. Reached Woolwich and got the lift to the top of the Greenwich Council Offices on the river, in advance of a meeting I had there. The view from the top is breath-taking: right down across the river, with a stunning view of the Dome, Canary Wharf, City Airport and most beautifully the Thames Barrier, which controls London from flooding. Actually I have no idea what it does so, mental note to self, I must check out its visitor centre sometime. It looks a bit like lots of tiny Sydney Opera Houses, floating on the water. Check it out for yourselves.

I spent about 20 minutes watching the planes take off and land from City Airport, just across the river from where I was. In order to avoid hitting tall buildings, they take off steeply and serve in a most unnerving manner. Stunning.

So: points for thinking 'London really is gorgeous' for once, instead of my usual 'Jeez! Why is London so busy? Why are people so rude? Why do the National Slow Walking Championships always take place when I am trying to get down a street quickly?' etc. : 8.

Points for being able to watch planes for a while without actually having to get in one (hurrah!): 7.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Right. Day 3. Today, I decided that my 'first time' should actually involve some change in the way I usually do things. In my humble opinion, there's nothing more 'first-time-ish' than doing something old in a new way. I'm not saying that I'm a creature of habit (although clearly I am) but even people whose views of things are just plain right sometimes need to try something new, right?

OK, so today I needed a new book to read. This is a very regular occurrence. There's something about having a small child who needs to go to bed every night at 7pm and therefore being confined to the house, which is very conducive to reading. And eating chocolate - but that's another story. So, I went to the bookshop and decided that I wouldn't go with my usual comfort zone books. I only ever read foreign, modern novels. The more obscure the better. Mainstream is fine too. But I don't do British and I certainly don't do historical. I am proud of never having read Dickens. So today for the first time I decided to try something completely new.

I've just spent my lunch hour with the results. Oh and what results they are. I considered Dickens, but I bought 'Mapp and Lucia' by EF Benson. It's British and it was written in the 1920s. Now, this blog is not about book reviews, so I'll spare you. It's enough to say that it's about two old ladies who compete for supremacy in a small English town and that the character of Lucia has given new joy to my life. She is funny, mean, scheming, and so well-written that I can't believe that EF Benson was (a) very much British and (b) not alive in my lifetime (you see - this first time hasn't changed me or anything).

The best thing about this first time was that I had that rush you get when you discover a new author you love and then you realise that the back cover says "this author has published over 80 books". Hurrah! New reading for months and months.

So yes - a great first time. I recommend Lucia very highly.


Points for making me fall in love with a character: 8 (this hasn't happened in a long time either)

Points for embarassment when asking the man in the bookshop what the 'most traditional British historical novel' was: 7

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Today's first time is far more exciting than I had thought possible for the early days of this blog, I have to say. In fact, I'm sure that I'll be accused of making this up. Today, for the first time, I went off-roading in a 4x4 with no less than three Colonels in the British Army. Yes, I actually climbed into a jeep, wearing the most impractical skyscraper heels and the thinnest denier tights, and was bounced around at high speed around Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, surrounded by men in camouflage uniforms. And to think that I'd promised no salacious first times... Salisbury Plain is a beautiful but eerie place; a large area of wilderness with huge craters and a tank graveyard. It's a bit like the moon really.

Thoroughly recommend it. Especially the men in uniforms.

I think it's time to create a rating system (out of ten, naturally). So:

Points for this 'first time' making me feel like a small child again: 9.
Points for this 'first time' being lots of other people's fantasy: 9

Monday, 6 October 2008

Well, here it is. My blog.

The concept is very simple - over the next year, I'm going to attempt to do, or try, something new every single day. I'll try to include photos when I can. Hopefully this will culminate in my husband making good his promise that our small family can go to live somewhere new for 3 to 6 months (all suggestions welcome) so that we can try something completely new every single day.

I'm not trying to life-defining or inspiring, I'm doing this just for me. Let me try to explain my own inspirations. First, there's that advert, you know, the one with the elderly lady who takes a helicopter ride for the first time? The tagline is "When was the last time you did something for the first time?" - it gets me everytime. Secondly, I'm inspired by one of oldest friends, Mel, who recently started a sassy and fabulous 'single gal in NY' blog which makes me laugh every morning. And finally - but most importantly, becoming a Mum. I promise that this isn't going to turn into one of these slushy blogs about how wonderful motherhood is. Becoming a Mum has made me somewhat sad about the things that I miss and I am determined to life to the full.

So here it is. I'm sure there will be occasions where my 'first times' will be very minor (new type of sandwich at lunch) but hopefully there will be all sorts of exciting ones too. No salacious first times either, I'm afraid.

And so for today - my first 'first time'. I've started and written my first blog. Here's to all the first times. And thanks to Jarvis Cocker for the name.