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-pliƩes 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...