Friday, 4 September 2009

Two first times for me last night. I went to see Alan Cumming's one man show at the Vaudeville Theatre, which is (a) the first time I've ever seen this hero of mine and (b) the first time I'd ever been to the theatre on my own.

Heads up: Alan Cumming is a Scottish actor who grew up in the same part of Glasgow as I did. He used to be in a comedy duo called Victor and Barry, who were very well known in Scotland, and in my opinion, they produced the funniest songs and sketches I have ever heard. Ask me about their version of 'West Side Story' set in the West End of Glasgow, and see me cry with laughter. I would give my right arm for recordings of their work - which is now unobtainable.

Anyway. Little Alan left Scotland and became a real well respected Broadway star (mostly famously in Cabaret) and then started to act too - he's been in movies such as Goldeneye, Eyes Wide Shut and the Flintstones (although I haven't forgiven him for that one - his character was painted green). He's lived in the US for years now and is married to an American man.

So imagine my joy when I realised that he was performing in London for a week. I bought a very expensive seat and decided that I was not bringing anyone with me, safe in the knowledge that I would have smacked anyone who had not professed that it was a work of genius afterwards.

And it was fabulous. It was the theatre equivalent of lying on your couch on a Sunday afternoon, wrapped in your favourite duvet and drinking hot chocolate whilst listening to favourite old songs. The reviews of his show have all strangely missed the point: they say that Alan is basically a name-dropper who constantly refers in the show to famous people he has met and famous places he has been. But in fact:

  • If Alan's show (or indeed his life) was about the joy of DIY or watching soaps on TV, it would have the same interest, would it?

  • This also totally misses the point - Alan tells us his stories with an almost child-like wonderment about how excited he is to have done these things - he reminded me of a child returning from Disneyworld who tells you about meeting Cinderella. No one could possibly deny him his happiness.

Alan also has a fabulous voice and the songs are without fail either poignant or funny. All in all, a marvellous evening and I envy each and every person who has the pleasure of knowing this man.

Alan Cumming's show, I Bought a Blue Car Today, is at the Vaudeville Theatre on the Strand until Saturday.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Hello first-timers, and yes, I am really back. For good.

So many first times to tell you about, but the most pressing one is that DH, George and I have now finally moved back into our house, after months of renovation - so finally, and for the first time, I am living in my forever home. Now the cynics amongst you would undoubtedly say "How do you know it is your forever home - things might change?" but trust me, you would be wrong even to think that. Not only do I love it, but this home is not only a mansion (and I should point out that the photo is not one of our home, just how it appears in my mind's eye) but the stress of unpacking nightmares means that I am never again going to move. Ever.

So, has it all been worth it? It has. We have chosen every last detail and that means that we love it and it is our dream home. Well, it will be when I persuade DH that the basement could usefully be a swimming pool instead. It is light and airy and massive for central London and it feels calm. So, my top tips for a renovation project are as follows:

  • Trying to decide on a wallpaper which both you and your other half will like is impossible. This year's trend for delicate, hummingbird design or other floral type paper is not going to go down well with your DH, no matter how many colours you show him. He will shout and say things like 'tart's boudoir' a lot. You may cry, and say 'But look at this month's House Beautiful magazine' a lot. You won't win. The wallpaper which you will end up with will be slightly masculine.

  • You can make up for this by nabbing most of the space in the walk in wardrobe before he has a chance to unpack any of his things. And yes, you can get away with this by pointing out that his rare coin collection/football programme collection/collection of airline sick bags takes up most of the other available storage space in the house.

  • You will find holes at the bottom of walls and missing light fixtures and yes, the loo on the ground floor won't flush properly. But this is called snagging and is all part of the process to make you even more stressed than the unpacking made you.

  • Yes, it will rain on the day you move in, thus ensuring that you can't use your first ever garden and your box full of shoes gets all soggy. This is also part of the process (see above).

  • On the first night, you will feel a bit teary. This is not just 'women's hormones' (as your DH will allege) but in fact is entirely due to the raining on the first day/snagging/unpacking traumas you have just faced.

  • You will accidentally walk back to your old house at the end of your first day back at work. This is not 'women's hormones' (DH did this and not me actually!).

  • Appreciate how lucky you are once it's all done, because you really are, and having a home, let alone such a stunning one, is a real blessing.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Hello and major apologies for being away for so long. I am currently on holiday, first I was at my Mum's wedding and now I am in the middle of absolutely nowhere in Denmark - I mean it, I am over 3 hours drive from Copenhagen and am sitting right now overlooking a fjord (and of course I am sitting on an Arne Jacobsen chair). Denmark is, in my humble opinion, a work of true genius. I can't even begin to tell you all my first times this week, so I'll save them for when I am back in London and the grey days are back. Instead, let me regale you with my new knowledge of this special place:

  • There are about 5 million Danes living in Denmark.

  • Taxes are incredibly high. As an example, a new car has 300% tax on it - apparently this is to ensure that people don't pollute the planet too much

  • If you are from the UK, the exchange rate is crippling. Still, shoes and beer are cheap.

  • Design is king in Denmark. There is no tat. Everything is beautifully designed, from chairs to housing estates to cakes. Have spent the whole week salivating at chairs and have promised myself a ridiculously expensive sugar bowl at the end of the week if my cash has not run out

  • Lego is from Denmark. As I have a small child, I shall tomorrow be going to Legoland Denmark. It had better be good, at 30 British pounds for entry.

  • Traditional food includes pickled herring and curried herring. Sounds awful, is wonderful, especially with rye bread

  • There are more tanning shops per head of population than anywhere in the world (OK, this is not a scientific statistic, but one which comes from my own observations). I think this must be because it is dark here for so much of the year and people must get that SAD disorder thingy. And yes people do look strangely tanned and healthy.

Lovely place. Must dash - see you soon!

Friday, 31 July 2009

Last night, for the first time, I saw Jude Law in the flesh, playing Hamlet in the Donmar Warehouse production of the play. My savvy friend S had managed to get seats in the front row of the stalls, and so we were within spitting (and definitely ogling) distance of the great man himself. Before the play started, we made a pact that if it were truly terrible, we would leave in the interval and go for dinner round the corner at Sheekey's - my favourite restaurant in the universe (well, OK, maybe it's in the top 5). However, within 5 minutes of the play starting, it was clear that we weren't going to be filling up on any of Sheekey's signature seafood dishes anytime soon. And this isn't just because of the general attractiveness of Mr. Law (who despite the gasps of the female audience members, is actually is a bit short, and is definitely balding) but because the production was just so excellent.

Afterwards, we sat dissecting it, and it's times like this that I am grateful for cultured friends. I managed "Hey, that was good wasn't it", whilst S said "I thought they could have thought a a bit harder about the Polonius-Ophelia family dynamic. Are they meant to be happy? Distant? Mad?" - she's fabulous, that girl.

The run is totally sold out, but beg, borrow or steal tickets. It's on at the Wyndhams Theatre and returns are available every day.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Last weekend for the first time, DH, George and I went to see the new temporary pavilion at the Serpentine Gallery. For those of you who aren't au fait with this (and who are thinking great, how middle class and boring does that sound), each year the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park arranges for a (usually famous) architect to design and build a temporary summer pavilion. Come the end of the summer, it is all taken down and therefore it only exists for a limited amount of time. There's something really quite poignant (and remember, you are speaking to the Queen of Cynics here) about seeing a building you know for a fact you will never see again.

Last year's was designed by Frank Gehry and was simply stunning, so we headed out to see the new one, deisgned this year by SANAA, the Japanese architect firm. This one looks like a floating pool of water, and is filled with brightly coloured 'bunny chairs' as George christened them, as their backs look like two rabbit ears. I can't recommend a visit highly enough, especially as the Serpentine Gallery itself (next door) has a fab Jeff Koons exhibition on: all inflatable lobsters, pictures of glamour models and Popeye - yes, you couldn't make it up (but he obviously can). Mind you, walking around a gallery with a toddler, when the gallery is filled with inflatable toys which you can't touch isn't the easiest of tasks. The gallery attendants fixed George with a steely glare as we walked round, and I was most proud when he said as we left "Mummy, toys not for touching" within earshot of the particularly evil looking one.

Well worth a visit. The pavilion is there until 18 October.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Last week, I went shopping with my Mum for her wedding dress. I don't think I need to tell you that this is the first time I've ever done this: my Mum has been married before, but I certainly wasn't capable of accompanying her on a wedding outfit expedition on that occasion...

My beloved Mum gets married in the south of France on August 7th, to a very lovely and kind man called Geoff. It fills me with happiness just to anticipate this occasion: weddings are always full of joy and hope and good feelings, but when one your favourite people is doing it, the happiness really is special. So shopping for the wedding outfit was particularly poignant. In the middle of the first shop my sister and I soon realised that my lovely Mum doesn't realise how lovely she is - the first few dresses were treated to reactions such as "Oh no, that definitely won't suit me" and my personal favourite, "Oh, no, that's much too glamorous for me"... But needless to say that the outfit she chose (which I can't describe for obvious reasons) is wonderful, and what makes it glamorous, of course, is her.

There's something very odd about preparing for your own mother's wedding though. In many ways, it's probably a bit like your child getting married - I shall certainly breathe a secret sigh of relief that I now know she will be well looked after and loved in my absence. And I can't wait to stand next to her as she makes her vows. I'm so proud of her.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Last week for the first time, I went Dragon Boat racing. As I have the puniest arms in history, and zero stamina (I'm proud of these facts, don't feel sorry for me) I decided in advance that I should be the drummer, rather than being one of the paddlers. This decision, sadly, was taken without having actually seen the boat. In fact, the drummer sits high up on a chair at the front and beats out time - er, multiple falling off opportunities. So here's your summary:

  • There are ten paddlers and one drummer. The aim is to speed across the lake, the drummer beating time so that everyone in the team rows at the same time

  • There were 12 teams - all lawyers - so winning was clearly the name of the game

  • There were at least two lawyers in other teams that I wouldn't spit on if they were on fire, so my determination to win was ferocious.

We qualified fastest out of the heats and then it was down to 4 teams for the grand final. We were hilarious. As we waited on the start line, the umpire t0ld us we had a few minutes to go before the race started, so we could all practice our starts. No, we said. We are ready. And then we were off - me screaming 'Focus, focus!' and the others rowing like crazy. And you know what - we won. By 3 tenths of second. Fastest time of the day. This is us, sporting our gold medals. And I even made it back into central London in time to see Grace Jones in concert again. Lovely.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

I've just returned from a really brilliant three days on the lovely island of Mallorca with my DH, sans child. There is simply no way that I am disclosing the name of the place where we stayed, because it is a small slice of heaven, and it is hard enough to get a room there at the best of times, and anywhere where they anticipate your need for a frozen strawberry daiquiri even when you didn't realise you actually needed one yet is a place worth keeping under wraps. Having been to Mallorca an unnatural amount of times already, my first times were few. But we did go, for the first time, to a really stunning new restaurant called Simply Fosh.

Simply Fosh is run by a chef called Marc Fosh, who is actually British but lives on Mallorca and cooks the most simple gorgeous food in extremely trendy surroundings - art installation? - got it. Located in an old convent - you got it. Posh ex pats fawning around - indeed. Marc Fosh himself welcoming you as you arrive - you guessed it. But despite all these attempts at uber-coolness, none of this can disguise the fact that it is a truly wonderful restaurant. My lemon cream dukka with rosewater sorbet sounded like a show-off-piece-de-2 star Michelin-resistance tat. It was in fact the best dessert I've ever had. And we got the last bus home, just to prove that we're not too posh after all.
Simply Fosh, at Hotel Convent de la Missio, Palma.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Hello my all-too-hot lovelies. For the first time ever, I have decided that I hate hot weather in London. Now, I know this means I am officially getting old. I have no desire to run off to the park and strip down to my underwear and sit in the sun (and I'll have you know that for someone who's 36 and has had a kid I look mighty fine in my underwear, so that's not why), and the truth is that there's nothing about central London and sun together, in the same place, which really works. This hatred also has nothing to do with the fact that I have to work in it, as I work in a fully air-conditioned office. it has everything to do with the fact that it is (don't check that, it is fully made up and may link you to a dodgy site). I also have a real issue with women who wear flip flops in central London. What? This isn't Ibiza, love. It's the mean streets. And your pasty feet look fat and swollen. And men who sport sunburn (and I don't care if you have been playing Wimbledon all week, mate) - what is that about? Attractive.

Anyway, I am off to Mallorca this weekend and the sunshine there will of course be excellent. But that is because there is (a) a beach (b) lots of outside cafes and (c) lots of outdoor pools, oh and also the fact that holidays + sun = good old time. London + sun = horrid sweaty mess. Urgh.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

This weekend, for the first time, I attended a World Cup Final! It was the final of the Cricket Twenty-Twenty World Cup at Lord's Cricket Ground. Now (stop sniggering at the back) this was a truly great occasion. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, here's the lowdown.

  • Cricket is a game invented by the English. The players usually wear white and traditionally games take days and spectators sit around drinking Pimms and eating sandwiches.

  • It's played with a bat and a ball and it's all about scoring runs (and not getting out).

  • The English used to be the best in the world at cricket (when they were the only ones that played). As soon as they shared it with the world, lots of other teams became better than us. Teams who are better than us include Australia, Pakistan, the West Indies, India, and lots of others. Teams who are worse than us generally have no history of playing cricket, see the Netherlands, Outer Mongolia and so on.

  • Recently, cricket officials started to realise that not that many people have time to come and watch a game which takes an average of five days to complete. So they invented 20-20 cricket, which involved each side having only 20 "overs" to bowl (each over has six balls. Are you keeping up? Quiz later). This means that the whole game is only 3 hours long approx. and can be very exciting as there is real pressure to score high quickly.

  • Very recently for the first time, they decided to have a 20-20 World Cup every 2 years. This year it was hosted by the UK.

  • The two finalists were Pakistan and Sri Lanka. England went out miserably at the 'Super 8' stage, despite a 'brave' (rubbish) performance.

  • The key player for Pakistan is a man called Shahid Afridi, who in Pakistan is bigger than David Beckham. The man next to me almost fainted when he came out onto the field, and held up a banner which said "Be Afridi, Be Very Afridi", which was a clear work of genius.

To cut a long story short, it was wonderful. We sat in the Pakistan end and the atmosphere was electric. Even I was waving a Pakistan flag at the end (and yes, they did win, and Afridi scored the winning runs). All around us, whole families, grannies, toddlers, you name it had come out to support their team. It was like being at a game in downtown Karachi.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Apologies for the delay in blogging, it's just been really busy out there in the real world, DH has been away in the States so spare time didn't really exist... but here I am. And today my first time report is really close to my heart. For the first time, I am really conversing with my first born.

Before I actually had a child, the image I had in my mind was of a small child, walking along, holding my hand, pointings things out and having a conversation with me. I think I'd blanked out in my head all the really difficult bits before that: giving birth, having a small baby to look after when you have no idea what to do and so on. But yesterday I realised that the dream has finally come true, after George (who obviously is terribly advanced) started speaking in real sentences. Yesterday, I went to get him up out of his cot and he said: "Mummy, I come out and Mummy change nappy please, it's dirty" - I was really floored, certainly no room for misunderstandings there. And yesterday we spent a good hour in the garden while he pointed out to me a garden fork ("Garden, Mummy, not eating"), asked me all about the tap and hosepipe and pointed out a whole series of raindrops on the leaves. And then last night: "Mummy, play Yeah Yeah Yeahs" (I know, perfect musical taste as well).

I know that it's not de rigeur to post about your children, as I'm sure it's terribly boring for everyone else. But let me indulge in this. For the first time, the Mummy-dream has come true.

Monday, 8 June 2009

On Friday night, two first times - first time to the Electric Ballroom, to see The Horrors for the first time. Quite a novelty this one, as I have no idea how I could have missed going to the Electric Ballroom before - I go to so many gigs and it just so happens that I've never been there. And what a fabulous venue it is too - small but perfectly formed.

Oh... and that's not even taking into account the wonder of The Horrors. Now, for those of you who have no idea who these boys are, they are an indie goth band who have an enigmatic lead singer called Faris Rotter, who had suffered the ignomy of being Peaches Geldof's other half when she announced that she had gotten married (to someone else). Anyway their music is an acquired taste (I described it to someone as music where the tune and lead vocal appears to be being drowned out by someone doing some loud vacuuming in the background) but in my view, this makes them God-like - a limited fan base means no chance of appearing on an arena tour any time soon.

We rocked up and found ourselves in a crowd of small teenage goths, but we were much admired (me for my T-shirt - 80s B Line Matchbox Disaster) and DH for just being gorgeous, I presume - the girls were very private-school-from-Skins.

Anyway, they came on stage and cue lots of high-pitched girly screaming: "Faris! Faris!" while Faris (who appears to have gotten over Peaches) stood in his beanpole way and waved his arms around and lit his face from underneath to look super-scary. They were all dressed in black (save for someone who looked spookily like Jade Goody's husband on bass guitar and was wearing a Hawaian shirt) and they were sell-your-granny fabulous. 'Who Can Say' is a song which makes me and DH argue a lot (are the lyrics teenage or not? - They are, and I am clearly right) but makes me want to give up life, as if a 20 year old can write this stuff then what hope is there for the rest of us? And when it started up, the crowd almost fell silent in anticipation. Genius.

Overall, not the violent gig the press had predicted, but worth every not-being-like-a-lawyer-for-a-whole-night moment. I am a Horror.
Horrors new album (Primary Colours) out now.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

So, on Thursday for the first time, I attended a ballet class. Now, this is not actually true. I took ballet classes from the age of 5 to about 10. However, that still means that I haven't been to ballet class for 25 years and given the fear I felt as I walked in, it counts as a first time (my blog, my rules, my friend). I thought I had chosen well - an adult evening ballet class for beginners. Note that word, it will become important. OK, so fair enough it was at a well-known ballet school near my home, but nevertheless, an adult beginners ballet class. Does that scream tiny girls in white tights and pointe shoes to you? No, exactly. So imagine my horror as I turned up, in a pair of sweat pants and a rather ugly t-shirt (printed with 'Royal Mail Letters' for some reason), to find the class absolutely full of those young women, plus a token few young men, all attired with tights, leotards and ballet slippers, all limbering up at the barre, looking like they were about to audition for Bambi or Swan Lake or something. I immediately walked out, backwards, and walked into Helen, my new friend and the only other person who was in socks and not wearing tights. She assured me that we were in the right class - she'd been once before - and we stood skulking at the back watching all the Margot Fonteyns showing off (well, just stretching at that stage, but you know what I mean).

Eventually, I plucked up the courage to speak to the rather formidable guy beside me and said (accusingly, you bet) "You don't look like a beginner to me!" to which he replied - "oh, we're not, we just love the teacher." Hm. Anyway, you're probably expecting me to say that I'm never going back, but you'd be wrong. I loved every moment (well, except one, which I'll explain in a moment) and I can't wait to go back.

So the teacher then arrived, and all I can say is that he is the weirdest yet most inspiring teacher in the world. I felt like I'd stepped into a parallel universe. Earlier in the day I had been at my desk being a lawyer and then here I was, practicising demi-pliées in fifth position, whilst having my rib cage position corrected by an Italian man who spent the class coming out with phrases like: "Close your ribcage until you feel like you will suffocate! You won't suffocate, you won't die. Remember when your husband left you and you felt like you would die? Well, you didn't did you?" I was enchanted.

Helen and I lumbered about at the back for two hours whilst watching the stars (pretty much everyone except us) until towards the end of the class, he shouted "Beginners, at the front!" and made us stand in front of the mirrors. I thought he hadn't noticed us, and I genuinely almost walked out. But instead I lumbered about while he watched us, until he dismissed us with a mysterious: "Not bad, you know more than you think you do". I can't wait for next Thursday.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Well, quite an eye-opener today, first timers. Today for the first time, I sat the Life in the UK Test. For those of you who are (rather fortunately) blissfully unaware of what this experience is all about, quite recently the UK decided to introduce a new test which must be taken by anyone who wishes to become a British national, which is, as its name suggests, all about Life in the UK. This is merely a pre-requisite, you also have to put in a lengthy application and (if successful) you attend a citizenship ceremony, where you swear allegiance to the Queen* (*coughs into hand).

Now rather foolishly, despite having been in the UK for over 30 years, I have never applied for British nationality at a time when it was rather easier, cheaper and had no requirement to sit any test, but recently I decided that if I was good enough to pay tax in this country and represent the Government regularly in court then frankly I'm good enough to have a British passport. So I booked my test and bought my book to swot up for the exam.

And so the fun started. Now, unfortunately I have signed an agreement with the Home Office which forbids me to discuss the content of the test. But what I can say is: oh my goodness me. Despite the fact that ultimately I completed the test in 6 minutes, I had to learn a massive amount of things I did not know. So, avoiding any questions I actually had during the test, or how they are phrased - do you know what percentage of the population described themselves as Buddhist duirng the 2001 census? Did you know the year in which the voting age became 18? Or the number of countries in the Commonwealth? Or why the Huguemots came to the UK and when? Exactly. Last night when I realised how hard it was (having left myself one night to revise) I sweated. A lot.

But hey, the good news is that I passed! Hurray, one step closer to swearing allegiance. And I met a charming Jamaican lady who was taking the test at the same time as me (she failed, sadly). But the bad news I actually have to make the application, pay £700, send in my passport and wait 6 months to know if I've been successful. Er, yes, this does mean not being able to travel for 6 months anywhere ... and they might lose it! Maybe post-summer holidays...

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

This weekend I found myself in Brighton and I had the pleasure of meeting my friend Russell's adorable new puppy (Chester) for the first time. I don't usually have any time for dogs (probably because my life doesn't leave time for anything really) but he is really the most beautiful puppy I have ever seen. I obviously forgot to ask what breed of dog he is, but he's elegant and has beautiful eyes and I bet he commands lots of attention...

However, quite apart from Chester, I had the opportunity to have a nose around Russell and his partner Claas's new hotel in Brighton, which opened recently. Russell took great pride in telling me that it is the only 5 star accommodation in Brighton and it's not hard to see why. The hotel is decorated in black, silver and blue and is elegant and luxurious in all the right ways - and with the sea at the end of the road, who could ask for more? It really is a luxurious boutique hotel and yes, this is a shameless plug for the hotel - all at very reasonable prices. Check them out at and enjoy.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

This weekend I went to an exhibition at the Barbican for the first time. If I could summarise it in one sentence I'd say that I feel robbed of an hour of my time. Now, I'm all for a bit of enlightenment and cultural insight (see previous Jarvis post). But not in this case: it was an hour of my life which I'll never have back .

The exhibition in question was the Le Corbusier exhibition. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't blame the Barbican for the set-up or anything. My issue was with Le Corbusier himself. Now for those of you who don't know, this man (and prepare yourself for quite a lengthy speaking-ill-of-the-dead session) is claimed to be the father of modernist architecture. Now, I'm sure he is. What no one mentioned to me before I had paid my £8 entrance fee was that this accolade doesn't mean that anything he designed was actually any good. Let's set the scene here: we're talking about a man who was actually called Jean-Paul-Sartre-de-Genet-de-French-OhLaLa but preferred to be known as 'Le Corbusier' - how pretentious. He also thought that Paris should basically be demolished and then rebuilt with rows and rows of tower blocks in grids. In my view, he also designed the most horrific modernist villas (for the rich) and the most nasty tower blocks for the poor. His 'iconic' recliner screams bachelor pad and has none of the sublety and elegance of, for example, something by Eames or Jacobsen. He appeared to collect stones. Not fossils, stones. I tell you. No. Redeeming. Features.

I'm pleased to report that George was equally unmoved, save for the stone collection (he is obssessed with stones at the moment). I think this sums it up really.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Look left on this page, and you will see the lovely Jarvis Cocker, the man who inspired this blog and who remains my (only) idol after scores of other idols have fallen by the wayside (usually because I've grown up a bit and seen their true faces - like Madonna for example. I worshipped her when I was 13. Now - this adoption business? The power muscles? That scrunchie? The Jesus effect? Whatever). Anyway, I digress.

So this weekend for the first time, I attended a small impromptu gig at Rough Trade off Brick Lane - yes, merely 100 other people and me and Jarvis. It's actually impossible to describe in words how wonderful this actually was. Being so close to your idol that you can touch them. Realising that yes, they are as cool as you think they are. And best of all - although he still sings songs (as he always has) about the kookiness of love (songs on the new album include a song about meeting a girl in the paleontology section of a museum) now that's he's a Dad he also sings about having a toddler ('Hold Still') and my favourite topic, the art of being deeply shallow ('I Never Said I was Deep'). I leave you with a few of the lines from that song:

"Some girls want to play it dirty, some girls just want to be your Mum. Me, I just disrespected you while we waited for the taxi to come". Work.Of. Genius.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Even at the ripe old age of 30-something, there are lots of occasions when I can't quite believe that I am an adult and I think: 'Hey, what on earth happened? How come I have to be the responsible person here? Who made me the adult?' And today was one of these days.

For the first time today, I had to take George for a measles jab. Now I won't bore the non-Britons with the details but basically in the UK, the national health service insist on children having a combined vaccine called MMR (measles, mumps, rubella). A few years ago, a doctor did some research and informed the world that this vaccine was linked to autism. He has been discredited since then, but being a fully-paid-up-got-the-T-Shirt member of the middle class, I decided to pay privately for single jabs instead just in case, you know. So we turned up at a terribly posh Harley Street address along with other similarly-intentioned parents. George sat on a mini-Verner Panton chair and was offered cartoons, giant chocolate buttons and some jelly babies (see, I told you it wasn't the NHS). The doctor giving him the injection was young and blonde, so George was in 7th heaven - he is obsessed with blondes -yes, he's 18 months old and a player.

As I held him and she administered the injection I suddenly had a flash of: 'What? Isn't someone else going to hold his hand? Isn't someone else going to think of all the clever questions to ask the doctor?' but no, there was just me and DH, rolling our eyes at each other at the madness of it all. Welcome to parenthood.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

This weekend, for the first time, I attended the Brighton Festival's Children's Parade, and what a riot of colour and fun (and snot) it was. It was a stunning sunny day and what felt like millions of children paraded through the streets of Brighton, all dressed in various costumes which represented one of four themes: earth, wind, fire and air. George loved it - I love how toddlers find the smallest things fascinating - days later he still refers to the 'taps', 'fire' and 'water' that he saw. There's something very special about Brighton, and it made me want to move there (and yes, I do decide this once every six months or so). There's always something happening and you can wake up in the morning and walk down to the sea. What's not to love?

I do however have a major bone of contention today. The news is full of this man who won the 'Best Job in the World' competition. For those of you who have no idea what I mean:

What utter nonsense! I am so tired of the hippy surfer-come-toothy-smiled-blond Briton who won this competition already. Best job in the world? For hippies maybe. I grant you, living somewhere new for a year: exciting. Blogging: not too bad a passtime also. But the best job in the world? No way. My best job in the world would entail:

  • Being near my family and being actually able to spend some time with them

  • Lots of cocktails, and shoes with very high heels which don't hurt my knees

  • Using my brain

  • Sunshine on tap

  • Meeting lots of new people all the time

  • Excitement at the sense of achievement

  • No spiders

  • Being close to my friends

Oh, so that's the job I currently have.... save for the sun and spare time! Eat your heart out, best job in the world...

Monday, 27 April 2009

My favourite first time of the weekend has to have been my first visit to the National Film Theatre to watch a film. The Londoners amongst you will be saying "Sweetpea. How could you never have been to the NFT? It is a classic movie theatre, showing all manner of cool films. Where have you been hiding, Planet Odeon?" but the truth is that although I've been to the building a great number of times to meet friends for coffee or just to hang out, I'd never been to see a film.

But when I realised that they had a James Bond season on, I practically manhandled by DH out of the door, such was my excitement. Now, I have come to James Bond late in life. My Dad used to watch them and the blend of violence and the fact that the feminist movement never happened in the world of 007 used to put me right off. But now I think: what's not to love? Especially with the old ones? Sean Connery, rocket launches which look like an episode of the Clangers because the special effects are so bad, and a girl formula which goes something like this: There must be 3 girls. One at the start, who is in bed with James. She must die in the third frame. One who is vehemently anti-Bond. She must hate him, but then be overcome by him and his potent sexual attractiveness. And one who loves Bond and must end up with him in the final frame. And all on the big screen!

DH and I had a lovely evening, curled up on the comfy seats, watching Live and Let Die. Bet you didn't know that Roald Dahl wrote the screenplay for Live and Let Die. 007-tastic.

Friday, 24 April 2009

The most loyal of my readers will not have failed to notice that I am deeply cynical. I think it's a combination of (a) having parents who were active CND campaigners (that's anti-nuclear for those of you who have been living on another planet - or continent) who taught me to fundamentally distrust things said by people in power and (b) living in a big city like London where cynicism is the personality trait du jour. I love being cynical. It's part of me and trust me, I'll never be taken in by a scam... but anyway.

My reason for mentioning my favourite personality trait today is to tell you about my recent conversion to the benefits of physiotherapy. Now until recently I had physio on a par with Chinese medicine, fortune telling and osteopathy - that is, I had decided that as I had no idea what they entail, they were clearly just clap-trap, with no scientific basis whatsoever and moreover that they might even entail asking people to part with their cash when they were feeling a bit low in order to make them feel better about themselves rather than being a proper scientific thing. Maybe with physio it's because it involves massage and I thought it was just about relaxation or something.

However, I have well and truly been proven wrong here. Since I had George my right knee has decided that it no longer wishes to play ball and instead is painful and useless. So I was recommended physio and for the first time ever, I agreed to go. I was deeply cynical. In fact deeply doesn't really do it justice, I almost turned and left when I arrived at the physio place and saw a giant gym ball in the reception area, not to mention the natty football shorts they lay out for clients' use. However, apart from the fact that my physio is a most stunning Australian gent who knows all about football, what he does and recommends actually makes me feel better. My knee feels stronger. I've no longer 'lost control of it' (yes, that is actually the medical term for it). So apologies to all the physios of the world. You're clearly doing a sterling job.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Back in London, where the sun continues to shine. I have a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, but this is because my beloved Arsenal are playing in the semi-final of the FA Cup today and I have a feeling that I am going to go and watch them and they are going to lose. Anyway, this isn't my first time at a semi final or my first time at the new Wembley, so I need to move on.
Instead let me tell you about yesterday. Yesterday, DH and I had the immense joy of going posh furniture shopping. The avid readers of this blog will know that DH are currently, rather rashly you might think, doing up an old Salvation Army hall and turning it into a house. A rather massive house. And we came to the realisation that we move back into it in 3 months time and our tiny furniture just isn't going to cut it. So off we headed to lots of posh furniture shops. It was like being in a parallel universe.
Let me explain: a typical Friday for me goes something like this: get George up, have battle over what George wants to wear today, apply make up with one hand whilst stopping George from diving out of the window, go to work, work hard, come home, go to the park with George, clean up Play-Doh mess in the kitchen, glass of wine, bed.
Yesterday was: Get dressed in designer frock. Attend expensive Italian designer furniture store. Spend two hours discussing sofas and beds and ottomans (yes, exactly), lights, fabrics, you name it with someone called Tristan and another Italian man who waved his hands a lot. Spend indecent sum of money. Go to Bibendum (for the first time, natch!) and eat fabulous steak au poivre. Go to Harrods and spend almost two hours discussing hideously expensive dressing table, love seat etc. Fall into taxi. Very big glass of wine. Bed. Lovely.
But weird as this day was, I am now the proud owner of the loveliest sofa in the world. Well, I will be, three months down the line when Tristan has managed to persuade the Italian man to place the order and get it sent here. The Charles, it's called. Couldn't have thought of a better Italian name myself.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Hello from sunny Cornwall, first timers! I've spent the last week in this beautiful region, doing lots of first time things: I've been to Mousehole (pronounced Mouzel apparently), Trereife Park (pronounced Treef) and St Michael's Mount (pronounced St. Michael's Mount)... But my favourite first time this week has been the discovery of Ken Eardley. Now I know that it's horribly naff for lawyers to pretend they know anything about art, or anything even vaguely creative. Don't even get me started on all those lawyers who claim that they 'love' and have a 'vast knowledge of' opera and spend vast sums on tickets to Royal Covent Garden tickets. Get with the programme: you're a lawyer. But anyway. I won't say I know anything about this man, or his work, but I loved him. Ken Eardley is a potter. He makes ceramics. And wandering around a little village one day I found some of his work in a gallery. A new lifelong love has begun, I feel it.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Hello from sunny Cornwall! Yes, I mean that ... it has been so sunny that I swam outside today and my face is a little browner. In the UK. In April. I know. Apparently the weather here is better than it is in Mallorca at the moment.

I am delighted to say that for the first time I am living the middle-class family holiday dream this week and there's nothing wrong with that, so get over it. Don't believe me? Get this: we are staying in a luxury self-catering apartment, in Cornwall, which clearly caters to middle class families just like me: pool, restaurant, babysitters on tap, cocktails brought to your apartment, DVD collection in your apartment, great views, five minutes walk to the sea, designer jewellery gift shop in the lobby. See? I told you. Middle class heaven. Only if I had a 4x4, a child called Jasper and a carbon footprint guilt-complex would I fit in more.

None of this is to knock the place, it's called The Cove at Lamorna and is genuinely wonderful; the staff are so friendly you can be sure it's not London, and swimming outside in April really does it for me. The caipirinhas also hit the spot...

Friday, 3 April 2009

So, on Monday this week for the first time ever, I went to a new QC ceremony. For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, my husband was recently appointed Queen's Counsel (hence QC). It's an appointment which is made when you are pretty senior at the Bar and it means that you (a) are really quite clever (b) can command higher fees (c) are really showing off. You simply add the letters to the end of your name - so DH is now Darling Husband QC. If the Queen ever died or she simply handed over to Charles or William - please save us from this day - all QCs would automatically become KCs (Kings Counsel). Make sense?

The day itself is a veritable extravaganza. The outfit DH had to put on was really quite splendid (see photo, and yes that is my fabulous dress) - what you can't see from the photo are DH's black tights and patent leather shoes with buckles - pretty special. Ladies get to wear their own shoes apparently, so I am already starting to save up for some black Louboutins in case my time ever comes.

After an obligatory photo-session, we headed off the Westminster Hall in a massive Daimler, where I practised my royal wave at all the tourists leaning in the windows and trying to take photos of DH (who hates this sort of thing...). At Westminster, Jack Straw gave a speech about how wonderful the new QCs are but how they could not have done it without the love and support of their families (I'm warming to this man no end at the moment). They all had to 'solemnly declare' that they would do something (what this is appears to be lost in the mists of time) and DH was the only one who got it wrong... he solemnly 'swore' instead. Maybe this means he can be stripped of the status?

Then it was off to the Royal Courts of Justice for the main shebang. I think people would pay good money to watch this. We all sat in Court 4, and four judges presided, in all their gold finery and the-least-flattering-wigs-ever-made. Each new QC had to come up in turn and bow to them, then to the left and right, then to the back and then finally they are asked by the judges 'Do you move?' - to which they answer nothing, but simply bow again and leave the court. Was fascinated by this. Surely the answer was 'Yes, if the music's right' or even 'when?' but no. I had Mr. Bombastic's 'I like to move it, move it' in my head and it was almost painful trying to contain laughter as I watched all 104 new QCs being asked the question. Must do some research on what this actually means.

Wouldn't have missed it for the world though. Although the Gods did try. The Court of Appeal office had listed one of my cases at short notice on the same day, but with some skilful negotiating, this was moved to Tuesday. Just as well. It's not often you see your DH in a wig and tights (or at least, not in public.)

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Oh, I have so many first times this week that it's going to be hard to recount them all.. I think I'll do them one by one over the next few days. I'll start with my first ever trip to the Chancery Court Hotel spa this weekend. Now, until I had little George I was a bit of a spa afficionado. Now that I'm a Mum, spare time is as rare as the holding-of-the-Winter-Olympics-in -hell, and I never ever go to spas. My idea of spare time involves getting to sit on the sofa for more than five minutes. However, last week it was my birthday and my lovely DH (probably on the basis that he's fed up of my hairy legs and pasty complexion) decided that three hours, yes, three hours of pampering was what I needed. So off I trotted.

Now for those of you who don't know London or the spa, the Chancery Court is a fairly posh but fairly boring five star in central London; I can tell you, the whole 'boutique' thing really passed them by. Rock stars do not smash up suites there. I was also a bit sceptical when I heard that the treatments I was having were 'inspired by' Pearl Lowe, whose main claim to fame appears to be that she managed to have a baby (the very glam Daisy Lowe) with someone whilst married to someone else. But the 'Black Pearl' massage and 'Crazy for Daisy' pedicure (actually, who cares who her Dad is?) sounded good, so I reigned in my scepticism (I know. Can you believe it?).

I tell you - fabulous. The spa is utterly wonderful. The relaxation room (pictured) was in itself a work of genius. Beds that reclined with the push of a button, headphones for listening to tunes of your choice, a good selection of fruit and drinks, perfect-a-gorgeous. The Crazy for Daisy was a bit ruined by the French lady who was administering said foot-treatment ranting on about how London was so dir-tee and cray-zee! Oh, le qualité of life, she is Oh-FULL! (and I am French, so I can get away with this comment) but the Black Pearl massage (which included massage with hot and cold stones, which sounds awful is strangely brilliant and invigorating, much like jumping into a cold lake after a sauna) was an incomparable delight. In total, three hours of total self-indulgence. Mums of the world take note. Pampering = sanity. I came home happy, full of the joys of life and in the best ever mood with my lovely DH. And the quality of life in London is just fine, French lady.

Comigng up... DH's silk ceremony, roll on the Daimlers, bowing, 'do you move'?, first ever meeting with Jack Straw etc...

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Just as I was starting to panic that I was not going to achieve anything for the first time today, my friend Sam came in with a stick of Blackpool Rock for me, from her recent trip north. So as I type I am polishing it off - oh yes, an entire stick in one sitting for me - I'm not Scottish for nothing.

Only 6.5 working days to go until my holidays now - 2 whole weeks of first times which I shall faithfully report on. But for now, this pick of this week's first times:

  • For the first time, I know someone called Spike (great name), courtesy of my lovely friends A and B, who have disappointed me somewhat by not having a baby whose name starts with 'C', so that I could have referred to them as A, B and C (but hey-ho)

  • I had my first ever 'grown up' birthday, with lunch, dinner and friends (actually strike that, it was not grown up at all, watching Match of Day at midnight whilst having had fourteen glasses of wine too many and rewinding the bit where Rooney gets sent off too many times just because it was so funny) probably isn't very grown up at all

  • Learning for the first time that there might just be different lyrics to Itsy Bitsy Spider (Incey Wincey apparently) despite betting the mortgage that I was right, and losing face quite badly over the whole incident

  • Eating 'dappled dandies' for the first time - yes, apparently they are plums, I'd never even heard of them before, but they're yum.

Until the next time, first-timers!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Last night, DH and I went to the Arsenal v Hull City game at the Emirates stadium. Although we won (on the basis of a dodgy offside goal) I thought Hull played well - although the amount of moaning they are doing this morning in the media has put me right off them. Spitting? Whatever. Dodgy refereeing? Get over it.

However, I was distracted throughout most of the game by the boy next to me asking me questions: "Hey, do you think we're going to score?" and "Hey, who was that who was fouled just then?" and "Do you think that was offside?" - and I was trying desperately to contain my language in front of him as well. For some reason, I swear like a trouper at these events. Then at the end of the game, his wee friend came up to me and said "My mate thinks you're gorgeous. Are you single?" Now, I tell you, this is the first time this has ever happened. Asked if I'm single by a 12 year old? And clearly one who has trouble in the eye department as well - not only was I wearing a wedding ring, but I was with DH, who I hugged and kissed after each of the two Arsenal goals (and we held hands at half time). Genius. Bless. I told him that I was not and was old enough to be his granny, which was met with a grin.

Anyway, I enclose a photo of our new player Ashavin next to our striker Adebayor. Apparently he's as tall as Pele...

Monday, 16 March 2009

It's been a very slow week for first times. Just feast your eyes on my achievements to see what I mean:

  • I bought a dark green crochet-ed (spelling?) frog pouch to hold my camera in (and I know this says nothing good about me at all).

  • I have become obsessed, for the first time, with 'statement belts'. I bought my first one yesterday at Spitalfields. It's blue and sparkly and has a gold clasp. It's the kind of thing you'd find in your mother's closet and weep (and not in a good way) but I love it.

  • I went to Hounslow for the first time. For fear of offending anyone, I'd better not report on this.

  • I started reading a new author for the first time (Stieg Larsson) but given that he's from Scandinavia and definitely modern, this has done nothing whatsoever to challenge my prejudices in favour of novels which are both modern and European (see one of my very first posts).

So in desperation today for the first time I made a list about things I am deeply cynical about but would like to be less cynical about. Now I know what you're thinking: I am deeply cynical about most things, so how could I choose? But here's the best I could do:

  • Modern indie music. Are you having a laugh? 'Indie'? It's about as independent (which is what indie stands for, but this has been lost in the mists of time) as David Cameron and Michael Winner's love child. Or turkeys voting for Christmas to be cancelled, take your pick of the analogies. Er, a big A+R outfit discovering you playing in your local pub and then three months later you're playing Wembley (and it sold out in three minutes) is not independent, it's slick marketing rubbish and you've sold out and no-one thinks you're cool. Not even your mates.

  • People who write articles in newspapers taking some outlandish stance on something: you know, "Pregnant women are killing their children if they have one glass of wine in 9 months" type efforts. You're just doing it to sell newspapers and anyway who cares about your opinion anyway.

  • People who read and get upset by the articles (set out above). Who cares? Just do what's right for you. Stop writing in to the paper, getting upset. It's bad for the blood pressure and gives more publicity to a subject that everyone else finds dull anyway.

  • SuperMums. Don't even get me started. The truth must be that you silently weep into your hot drink at night and you haven't had sex since the birth of your fifth baby.

  • Rugby. Do I need to say anything more?

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Yesterday, I decided that for the first time since I moved to London some light-years ago, that I would speak to my neighbour. Now, for those of you who don't live in London, I can hear you say - what? You don't speak to your neighbours? My neighbours are my best friends! - but trust me, in London it's one of The Rules. You do not ever speak to your neighbours. Speak to someone on public transport and you're clearly a lunatic. Give someone eye contact on the street and you're a serial killer. You get my drift. But as I arrived home last night, I saw my neighbour come out of his house and I thought: shall I do my usual thing (i.e. run into my house, pretending I haven't seen him) or shall I let someone new into my life and actually engage in converation? Well, I wish this story had a happy ending. In the film of my life, my next door neighbour would turn out to be Jarvis Cocker's best mate and as a result of talking to him, DH and I would be invited to lots of intimate soirees at his house, not to mention tiny unannounced gigs, international festivals and the like. Jarvis would become my new best friend. But sadly, no. My next door neighbour is one of the most boring men in the world. He drives a BMW and said 'goody' a lot during the course of conversation (and not Jade Goody, that would definitely have been a conversation-starter). I found out that he likes red wine and owns a timeshare. I tell you this for free: knowing your neighbours is fundamentally over-rated.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

It's been a horribly long time since I wrote, apologies. There's too much to tell and I won't even try. I have become obsessed with making lists and with the whole Julie Myerson debate. For those of you who don't know, Julie is an author who has recently decided to publish a book based on her and her husband's real-life decision to throw their 20-year old son out of the house on the basis of his problems with drugs. Skunk, mind, not heroin. She has been absolutely vilified in the press, accused of everything from being middle-class about drugs to 'letting down the concept of motherhood'. Her husband Jonathan wrote an article in the Guardian about it today which prompted me to do something else for the first time: write to someone I've never met about a subject I know nothing about. His article was, in my view, exceptional. 'Exceptional' is an over-used word but it's a useful one in this context. His article was full of pain and love and hard facts. I know nothing about having a teenage son or the effect of drugs and to be honest neither are things I worried about, but I was compelled to write to say how exceptional his article was. It will be etched on my mind for a long time, for sure.
Anyway, on to lists. Yesterday for the first time I made a list of things I like which are deeply uncool but which make me who I am:

  • Francis Cabrel (see photo): wrinkly old French folk-rocker who sings songs about women's eyes, the beauty of children, ladies who live in wooden chalets in the Alps and always appreciating what you have. Subjects so uncool that they're almost cool again. Desperately uncool, but strangely brilliant.

  • Cheryl Cole. Now I know that this one divides the nation. How can any woman like someone who was once convicted of assault on a nightclub attendant (although cleared of racist charges), is a UK size 4 (size zero, US-dwellers) and is married to Ashley Cole, the most stupid footballer of all time? But there's something about her, isn't there?

  • Eating peanut butter out of the jar with a teaspoon. Preferably whilst watching 'Coleen's Real Women'. And only the crunchy variety works here.

  • 'Coleen's Real Women'. For those of you who have not sampled this work of genius, the premise for this TV show is that Coleen (married to Wayne Rooney, a footballer of uncertain physical attractiveness) finds 'real women' to star in ad campaigns, often 'beating real models' to the job. I love it for the simple fact that models around the UK probably detest her - "Hey Coleen, rack off! How are we going to get jobs if real women are taking them over!" (see also American's Next Top Model, Stylista and so on).

  • Bed socks. Cashmere. But I never wear them in bed, as surely this is the end of marriage?

Anyway, see you soon. x

Friday, 27 February 2009

Last night, I went to the NME Big Gig show at the O2, featuring (amongst others) Franz Ferdinand and the Cure. Franz Ferdinand were very slick as usual - and I loved their set, probably mostly due to two facts: (1) I have forever had a little tiny crush on their lead singer, Alex Kapranos. Very tall, very Scottish. Don't ask. and (2) I think their new single, Ulysses, is a work of incomparable genius. And they played a really heavy version of it. But The Cure were truly underwhelming and I left early. I love the Cure, but er, guys? Note to you all: people have come to see your hits. I don't care if you think a funk jazz odyssey is the way forward, it isn't. But sitting through their (dismal) set did have one major advantage, I was able to think back to all the truly wonderful gig experiences I have had in my life and for the first time, I narrowed them down to five - I know! A totally male 'list'! Here they are and they are so in order.

(1) Placebo at Brighton Concorde II - about five years ago. Now this really was a gig the truly magnificence of is unlikely to ever be repeated. As you may know from previous posts, I love Brian Molko and they performed at the tiniest venue. He dedicated a song to Britney Spears. I can't really explain the irrational, but this was the best gig ever.

(2) Prince at the O2. Now I don't do big gigs, but this one involved the front row, being nine months pregnant, dancing, being six feet away from Prince and then being given his plectrum by the roadies afterwards with a message from the small man himself.

(3) Pulp at T in the Park. OK, picture this. France are playing Brazil in the final of the world cup. Yes, my team. I have tickets for T in the Park for the same day. My favourite band in the world (Pulp) are playing that day. The dilemma... I decided to attend the festival and watch the match on a big screen. Disaster. The game clashes with Pulp being on stage! I watched the first half, bombed it down to the stage only to have Jarvis announce that France has won the world cup....Does life get any better?

(4) Grace Jones at the Roundhouse a few weeks ago. See blog entry. Just for the jaw-dropping hula-hooping.

(5) James at the Queen Margaret Union, sometime in the 1980s. Oh, just a fabulous occasion. All of us sitting down during 'Sit Down'. Being out later than allowed. Having a crush on someone who later turned out to be gay (you know who you are!).

Oh and I've posted a random photo of my new Dries van Noten dress (it's the one in the middle).

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Well, I wasn't expecting this one. Today for the first time, I appeared in the High Court with no wig and no gown and no bands. I have attached to this post a handy little before and after illustration which shows what I mean, although can I say that I clearly wasn't wearing a horrid shapeless nasty-looking grey suit. The judge I am appearing in front of decided that he hates these things and asked us all to unrobe (no, not that sort of unrobe). I hate it! I paid good money for my wig and gown! They make me look more senior. And it means that tomorrow the pressure is on - what on earth am I going to wear? Not that it matters, as when the judge left the court tonight he said 'good evening, gentlemen' (I was the only woman in court). Great to see that the good old days aren't over, hey?

On a more serious note, I need your help. Please write in with your offers of first times I can experience. Seriously, does anyone work at a magazine where I can spend a day? Does anyone have an interesting hobby I can try just the once? Please add a comment (or email me at, and if it's offensive, I'll sue. Ha!

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Now, I've always considered myself a bit too cool for school (on the inside!). To you can imagine my surprise myself when I found myself this week, for the first time, not only enjoying a musical I attended, but (look away, all those who don't want to see my cool-tag ripped away for all eternity) actually shedding tears and then giving a standing ovation at a West End Musical. I don't do musicals. I hate the false-cheeriness, unless it's a really old-fashioned one, like The Boyfriend, which is a true great. Don't get me wrong. I love cheese. But not tug-at-my-heartstrings, oh-look-he's-flying-over-the-audience, Lloyd-Webber-laughing-all-the-way-to-the-bank kind of cheese. But this one, I (whisper) ... loved it. I'm not sure I can mention what it was (Billy Elliott). I would try to explain why I loved it but none of my reasons make rational sense to me and some things are just inexplainable and we need to move on ...

I've had such a wonderful week for first times as well. On Sunday I went for the first time to Sunday UpMarket off Brick Lane, which immediately got promoted to my favourite market in London. It's like Spitalfields used to be; edgy, full of great food and quirky fashions. Sad lawyer that I am, with very little creative flair, it was brilliant to meet young designers. I bought a toy frog for George, who was holding this messgae: "Not many people do, but I like a rainy day". Bless. I also bought a cool fascinator (and learned what that actually means!) for the impending QC ceremony I have to attend.

But my best first time this week was going to Manchester for the first time. The new civil justice centre there is a feat of architecture and the modern architecture nerd in me could wax lyrical for hours, but I won't bore you. But what's not to love about a city where Harvey Nichols and Selfridges are literally across the road from each other? I stood outside and hummed and hawed and eventually chose Selfridges (not being a west London girl at heart). And there I had one of my best ever first time experiences. Two words: personal shopping. Oh my word. I explained that I needed a fabulous dress for an important ceremony I was attending. The wonderful lady misheard my budget requirements and soon I was trying on D&G, Victoria Beckham, Roland Mouret, you name it, the full Cheryl Cole experience. Oh how fabulous. I tried on all the outfits pictured and it was too fabulous for words. I eventually chose an understated (not) Dries van Noten creation, spending more that it is appropriate to disclose. But what an experience...

Thursday, 19 February 2009

I've had the busiest week, doing all sorts of first things and lots of old things too (and sometimes the old things are definitely the best). Now, first of all, I have decided that Valentine's Day is definitely the most retro cool event of the year. Those old fusspots who proclaim that it is too commercialised, or (and they think this one is a killer) that couples should be romantic every day are missing the point completely. What's the problem with a day of celebrating love? Or the fact that you've found someone you love having sex with? Or the fact that someone has accepted all your flaws and still wants to be with you? Or with celebrating a day whose primary colour is pink? I had a truly excellent Valentine's Day which involved lots of first times - no, not those sorts of first times, you salubrious lot. I went to the new Mark Hix restaurant (very meaty), stayed in a rooftop room at the Zetter (funky) and had a cocktail called Make Me Happy (I lie. I had several. And then was almost sick. Whilst shouting "come on, let's have another one, you girl!" at my lovely DH who still manages to love me and put up with me).

Oh and speaking of my lovely DH, he found out yesterday that he has been appointed a QC. This means, for those of you who don't know, that he has reached the top of his profession as well as being very good-looking and nice and good at knowing when I've had enough cocktails. He's also now entitled to wear this lovely wig (as opposed to the smaller ones we barristers usually wear). So for the first time, I am married to a QC!

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Hello blog fans! I've been so overwhelmed at work over the last week that it's been hard to blog... but here I am, thanks for bearing with me. Actually, today I had what I think was my best every victory in court - but that would involve me blowing my own trumpet and I'm not going to do that (too obviously)... it's probably enough to say that it involved the Court of Appeal and my miracle turn-around arguments. Days like this, hey, shucks, it's cool being a barrister.

Two particularly notable first times this week. The first was a visit to the Design Museum to be acquainted with a fashion designer I had never heard of - Hussein Chalayan. He's Cypriot and designs clothes which are cutting edge in terms of their futuristic design and, in my view, their sheer ability not to pander in any way to the desire of the wearer. Comfort? Whatever. Flattering cut? Whatever. Suffice it to say that it's not going to surpass Prada on my coolest designer ever list. The coolest design on display was however this laser outfit. I think George would have paid serious money to take this away - what is is with babies and light?

Also this week I went for the first time to a baby shower. Now, this does not mean that I have no friends (or no friends with babies). It's just not really done much in the UK but my friend A was holding one and so I attended. Fabulous and horribly under-rated. The cakes! The hand-knitted toys! My competitive streak revealed (during party games)! Loved every moment and I can't believe how small A's bump is. Will be thinking of you, A and can't wait to meet the new arrival...

Oooh and one more thing - my Phaidon Atlas of 21st century architecture arrived, so prepare not to hear from me again for weeks while I swoon over the best modern buildings in the world... I love the architectural nerd in me!

Thursday, 5 February 2009

For the first time ever today, I attended the RTPI awards ceremony - held this year at the Park Lane Hilton. Yes, 600 planners in the same room. The Oscars of the planning and regeneration profession. Now, the cynics amongst you will undoubtedly assume that this was the most boring event ever invented, and that awards must have included 'award for the most innovative water feature in Bradford 2008', and you'd be partly right (there was an award for a golf course) but actually mostly you'd be wrong. Normally, I wouldn't be seen dead at this sort of event and I'm a Grade A cynic about such things. I loathe marketing and networking with a passion, mainly because last time I went to such an event two separate sweaty fifty somethings cornered me for the best part of two hours, trying to talk to me about a new document they loved, called Manual for Streets (which actually won an award today, but that's a separate story).
Today I was involved in presenting the 'Infratructure Project of the Year award' (yes, I'm that cool) which was won by the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and as I mocked (internally of course) I suddenly realised what a difference the Channel Tunnel - which runs between France and England and has obviated the need for ferries between the UK and the rest of Europe - has made to my life and those of countless others. The romantic trips to Paris which now take 2 hours! The visits to the Lille Christmas market which took less time than a trip to Birmingham... And I also realised how hard everyone who worked on the project must have worked. And how infrastructure and regeneration schemes totally transform the way we and others see the UK. And suddenly I was up there clapping with the rest of them.

And anyway, what's the problem with celebrating the area you work in? Not everyone can win an Oscar (and anyway don't get me started on my usual rant of WHY it is that actors are revered as they are anyway. Especially as most of them have zero talent) and it's lovely to see your work rewarded. OK, rant over...

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Hello and Happy February! So many of my first times are snow-related this week. It's definitely the first time I have seen so much snow in London ever - and this is true, as they say that London hasn't seen this much snow for 18 years. So I took full advantage (all in the name of this blog, of course).

Thanks to encouragement from my friend Ben, I decided to do a snow angel for the first time; you know, lying in the snow with your arms and legs out to make an angel shape in the snow? This was a brilliant feeling and would have been more brilliant if I had not (a) been wearing glittery open-toed shoes which soaked my feet - but hey, a girl's got to look good no matter what the weather, right? and (b) forgotten that I was wearing my fur hat (see Paris posts) and thereby created a very un-angel like head shape; and (c) done this in front of the middle class Islington intelligentsia who frequent the garden square I chose to undertake this activity in. I swear, London is so prudish - they all thought I was insane and didn't get into the spirit of it at all. One man actually said 'at her age, as well!' ...
Oh and I bought cashmere socks for the first time. Never let it be said that I'm middle aged and middle class!

I also said hello to lots of people on the way into work on the first day of the snow. This never happens in London. No one says hello - it's a criminal offence. There were no cars on the road and everyone was sliding on icy pavements and saying hello and for once there was solidarity. I think they call it Blitz spirit.

Also for the first time, I had to deal with chickenpox. No, not mine, but George's, who came out in the most ridiculous number of spots and currently looking like he is going through an EMO teenager phase (complete with bad hair, but that's a different story). I tell you, men and illness just do not work. Ever. 16 months old or not.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Hello, first time lovers! Well, the astute amongst you will have noted that DH, tiny George and I moved last weekend, so there have been lots of new-house-related first times in the last week. But best of all, the beauty of (a) London and (b) a new house is the great opportunity to discover new shops. Now, I know what you're thinking - there's a recession on, love. Haven't your heard that the UK is going to be the worst affected place in the world? But hell, yes, I have. And little local shops are probably scared stupid by the idea of not having any customers. So it is my duty to keep shopping while I can. So anyway. Our house is near Amwell Street which (in shop terms) is like stepping back in time. It has a sweet deli, florist, chemist, grocer's, shoe shop (Emma Hope for you fashionistas but frankly they're a bit granny-does-hip for me) and best of all, on another road, my new fabulous discovery - a shop called Covet. When I first saw it, I thought 'Hey, right people - you are so trying too hard with that name' but then I parked outside the window (not literally you understand, I'm in the congestion charge zone and anyone who drives here is insane) and saw the most amazing 'alphabet bags' - hand made bags with letters of the alphabet printed on - and I knew I had found my home. I'm going to covet away, knowing that Valentine's Day is just around the corner...

Covet, 21 Arlington Street, London EC1.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Well, I've done something for the first time every day this week, but frankly they all pale into insignificance when compared to last night's first time, so I'll spare you the details. Last night definitely goes to the top of my first time experiences since I started writing this blog. So, last night, for the first time, I saw Grace Jones in concert. DH and I chose Grace's cover of 'La Vie en Rose' as our first dance at our wedding, so we were in a state of some excitement as we headed off to the venue.

I was speechless as I left. It is hard to describe in words just how phenomenal this woman is. She is 60 years old. And yet - she comes onto stage, wearing practically nothing save a hat (which changes for every song), looking like she could snap you in two, no problem. Her legs are the longest legs I have ever seen - if she were a machine, she'd be described as a feat of modern engineering. To my surprise, she can also sing. I stared open-mouthed throughout the show. For her final song, she chose 'Slave to the Rythmn' (of course) and stood, wearing basically a corset and a red net hat with horns, and 8 inch heels, hoola-hooping as she sang. Yes, hoola-hooping. And not in a child-like way, but in a tall, step-over-your-dead-body-in-heels, man-eating machine, sexy and undulating sort of way. Definitely the first time I've seen that ... and I'm ordering my hoola hoop on ebay right now.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

I know it's been ages since I last posted, but sometimes living life just gets in the way... but I have not cheated. I have done something for the first time every single day. Some highlights from the past week:

  • I went to Clissold Park (and associated café, pirates castle and so on) for the first time, with George. George loved it all. Continuing on my theme of 'I hate everywhere in London except my own area' (I call it reverse NIMBYism, or OIMBYism - Only in my back yard) I decided that Stoke Newington is far too nappy valley for me. Having said that, Clissold Park is lovely and there are even deer.

  • I went on a secret mission to a Japanese restaurant. Details too top secret to disclose but it was seriously spy mission extraordinaire.

  • I got assaulted by a crazy lady at the council offices who thought I worked for the council. She hit me over the head with her umbrella (first time this has ever happened, I have to say) but when she realised that I did not in fact work for the Council, she told me that I would be rewarded in heaven. I guess I'll have to wait and see.

  • I read a Henning Mankell book for the first time. Thanks to my friends Alex and Sarah. I love Wallander and yes I am aware that reading crime novels is desperately sad, and that by reading books which are (a) European (Swedish) and (b) modern-day, I have wholly failed to expand my literary horizons. But I don't care. Last night I stayed up until 2.30am reading the end of The White Lioness because frankly I wouldn't have been able to sleep without knowing what happened.

  • I heard the new Franz Ferdinand single and so far am distinctly underwhelmed.

  • I went to see Slumdog Millionaire and was distinctly overwhelmed. [What? This isn't a movie and music review blog, you know].

But I've got to tell you about my best first time this week. Those of you who read this blog avidly (probably only my Mum) will remember that when I went to see Glasvegas a few months ago, I also saw a band called White Lies. They played a fabulous acoustic set and I thought they were brilliant. Anyway. They have just released their new album this week and already the hype is horrific and already part of my love for them has died on that basis alone. But for the first time since I was a teenager (and as this is my blog, this so counts) I have been desperately impressed by a set of lyrics. Remember those days when you used to copy lyrics off the back of Smash Hits magazine and wish you could have written them? Nope - only me then. Well, White Lies are obsessed with death. Properly obsessed. Their first EP was called Death and their first single is called To Lose My Life. Anyway, one of their songs on the Death EP is about fear of flying - a theme dear to my heart. Every time I get on a flight, not only am I terrified but the fear is also made worse by the fact that my lovely DH hates that I hate flying and gets terribly tense too. So the lyric:

"I'm frightened of dying; relax? yes I'm trying". A work of genius.

Monday, 12 January 2009

A very lovely and special first time today. For the first time ever, I attended a judge's 'swearing in' ceremony. This is the occasion on which a judge is formally sworn in, and swears allegiance to the Queen and officially takes up their position.
The judge in question was my favourite judge in the world, Jeremy Sullivan. Mr. Justice Sullivan has been a judge of the High Court for eleven years and was today being elevated to the Court of Appeal, so as of today he is Lord Justice Sullivan. It's hard to describe this man. If I had heroes, he would undoubtedly be my judge hero. Jarvis would be my music hero and Sullivan is my law hero. I must explain that this is not (unlike the case of Jarvis) because I have any kind of a crush on him. It's because he manages to be a rare combination of things: very clever (obviously goes without saying), courteous to all advocates who appear in front of him (some judges could really learn from him, I have to say, you know who you are) and brilliant at spotting the heart of the issue. Everyone agrees that you could tell within the first five minutes whether you had won with him.
Anyway, so the ceremony was brilliant. It was in court 4 at the Royal Courts of Justice, one of the biggest courts, so that it could fit all the judges and barristers who wanted to wish him well. He came in dressed in the world's fanciest outfit: all wig and gold embroidery and silk and you really had to be there to believe it. He swore allegiance to the Queen, and, rather touchingly, to 'do good for all manner of people'. Congrats, Lord Justice Sullivan. And every best wish for the future.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Well, lots of first times to catch up on. This weekend, I was in Edinburgh (actually, that's a bit of a misnomer as I actually spent more time on the train than in Edinburgh) for my supremely wonderful friend Elpseth's 30th birthday dinner. For the first time, I went to Bruntsfield (never did see it other than in the dark though), had dinner at The Olive Branch and drank peaty Bunnahabhain whisky - yum. Elspeth looked gorgeous and I realised how much I miss her!

On Friday night for the first time I went to a party in the Bear Garden, which is part of the Royal Courts of Justice in London. Rumours that it was named after the experience of appearing before judges there are, I am sure, unfounded. It was a colleague's 40th birthday, and his wife gave a really moving speech about him. I really hope that I inspire that much love and confidence in the ones I love.

On the train on the way home from Edinburgh, on a Sunday morning, I realised for the first time that the country is absolutely full of Sunday football teams. Complete with cheering parents on the sidelines, in most cases. It was beautiful. Just south of Berwick, I saw (somewhat improbably) one team playing on a narrow strip of land between the railway line and the sea. One bad kick either way and the ball is lost surely... Just outside Newcastle I saw a team of really quite tiny boys playing in hats and scarves and woollies. As the train passed, the ones on the subs bench stood up and waved at the train! Lovely. I waved back. I think I saw at least 15 teams in all. Please God let George want to play football one day.