Wednesday, 4 April 2012

My neighbourhood's so hip it needs replacing

That's according to the NY times anyway...

Up until yesterday, that sort of thing made me laugh. A form of reverse snobbery. My hood's not hip! It's just where I live, you know? My slightly grotty non-descript bit of London that's mostly office buildings and cafs.

As I said, that was until yesterday when I discovered that I'd been living with a Rock Star. Not exactly living with, more like him living in the flat upstairs. It turns out that we've been living cheek by jowl with Ricky Wilson, lead singer the Kaiser Chiefs, et femme for the past year. I had no idea. I just thought she had nice shoes.

What can I tell you. It's London, y'know? Neighbours don't talk. Besides, a rock star? Why would he rent the flat upstairs? In Hackney? Hey, it's London. People do crazy stuff.

Before you get all carried away and show up on the doorstep, they've moved out. We could apply for a Blue Plaque to immortalise their stay but that would risk cooling our HF (Hip Factpor) by several degrees.

You see, genuine hipness is all about understatements and playing things down. Which is why utter cluelessness can sometime pass for hipness (like that time when I completely blanked Sienna Miller in the bathroom at The Ivy because I wasn't wearing my glasses. Shhh.. namedropping is seriously not hip.)

Now we have a duty to nurture our its reputation, who wants to stand accused of bringing down the hood?

Not me.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Spinning the Butterball

What's the solution when the motivation to exercise fails you? (Turns out eating is not a solution, it's a deep seated emotional response that only compounds the problem. Who knew?)  In my ultimate fantasy (the one where I live in the Hollywood Hills and have a private trainer named Jez, a Japanese microbiotic chef, a stylist and a Swedish masseuse) it's pretty straight forward... but in real life I root around the timetable at my local gym to see what activity is most likely to bully me into a state of frothy cardio.

Today's answer was spinning. (It's where they tie you to a stationary bike and make you pedal to some hardcore dance beat for an hour. Doesn't that sounds like fun?) For the record, I don't like spinning. I used to, but it brings out in me the most brutal sense of competitiveness that would make a harden ex-Soviet Union gymnast weep. And I don't like the barking, or pedalling dementedly going nowhere. Of course that's a lie. The truth is, I'd happily put up with any amount of barking and acute discomfort if it would afford me a Photshop style flawless physique. But for all the sweat and destruction of some perfectly good running shoes, and for all the skinny people in the classes, I've never figured out how to make spinning work for me: I don't get any fitter and my thighs just get bigger. All pain and no gain.

So, against my better judgement, I took myself (all 5 blocks) to the gym.

I thought I was late even though the class wasn't due to start for another 15 minutes (the spinners amongst you will smile at this and nod): half the bikes were already occupied. And by that I don't mean that people had used the old German towel trick of reserving a bike, I mean people were on their bikes, pedalling, that's right you heard me, and pedalling pretty fast. I spotted an empty bike in the front row (I may not like spinning but if I'm going to do a class I'm going to do it properly: push as hard as they tell me to and then some and get a front row seat so I don't miss out on the yelling.)

I put down my back pack (didn't want to risk missing out on a space by dropping by the changing rooms first) and proceeded to adjust (read fiddle with the nobs and pedals) the seat and handle bars. "Stop! It's TAKEN." I looked up at the rather imperious looking middle-aged American perched on her bike, dressed in full spinning regalia, as she stared down her nose at me. Me: "O-kay..." I picked  up my bag and, spotting an empty bike on the other side of her, moved over to it. Me, pointing to the new bike: "Is this one also taken?" "No." "Oh good!" I started fiddling with the new bike.

Her: "I don't know where she is. She was here a moment ago. She said can you look after my bike I'll only be gone a minute. It's definitely been longer than that. I wonder what's holding her up."
Me,with a smile: "Are you sure she wasn't a figment of your imagination?"

Now, I thought that was pretty funny, and pretty clever too - defusing the social tension as it were - with a bit of humour. Unfortunately she was both humourless and devoid of a sense of irony and she got mad: all flared nostrils and a cold look in her eye. So I beat a hasty retreat to the changing rooms. The atmosphere there wasn't any better, filled as it was with stressed out skinny professionals getting into their spinning gear and fretting about whether or not they'd find a free bike.

Having stashed my things away, I walked back to the spinning studio. The "reserved" bike still lay unclaimed but had a sweat towel prominently displayed across the handlebars. The keeper of the bikes was still mounted on her bike and I proceeded to blank her as I climbed onto mine and started to pedal. To my right were two very large - as in Thor-like Norse God large - Swedish types (or maybe Danish, they did sound an awful lot like the people in The Killing 1 and 2) talking very loudly the way some men do in crowded spaces as if to get more elbow room. I decided that come what may, over the next 45 minutes of class I would pedal faster AND harder than the two of them. Because that's how you negotiate elbow room in my world (and this is what spinning does to me).

"Where is she? She said she'd be back. Honestly! I hope she hasn't changed her mind and gone to another class. You can't ask someone to hold a space for you and then not show up." On the surface of it it sounded like she was talking to herself out loud but as it was for my benefit I carried on blanking and pedalled faster.
Then the instructor came in, wearing cycling gear and sponsorship signage - never a good sign for those taking the class hoping for mercy- and he announced with good cheer that we were in for 45 minutes of pure pain and strength work especially for the last 20 minutes. Then he put on his mike, turned up the bass and shouted: "I will show no mercy but if you have to slow down please do so."

Her, in a loud hiss to the mousy rather put upon woman who finally claimed the reserved bike: "Where have you been?You've been gone ages!"

The two Thors carried on talking through most of the class and didn't really break a sweat. I broke into a bit of a sweat but didn't really get out of breath which is more than I can say about her.  She sounded like a steam engine going up hill, an unsightly crimson against her pastel Stella McCartney's, dressed the part but way out of her league...

And afterwards? I went home and had a bowl of pasta.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Fast Forward to Spring

So it's been a while. A long while. Something like 9 or 10 months which is not quite long enough to gestate a baby elephant but long enough for people to think I'd dropped off the face of the earth.  Just in case one of you is still out there, here's the 1 minute low-down-catch-up:

- Acting: Nil

- Writing: I appear to have sublimated my acting creativity into writing stories. I've got 3 screenplays  and 1 novels in progress. Oh yes! What about?  In no specific order crime, ghosts, hearing problems, models, global conspiracy theories, murderous siblings and coma...

- Old Work: finished last Friday. I'm now on gardening leave (which for those of you who don't know means you don't go into the office but they still pay your salary!)

- New Work: starting in a few weeks' time. Another large UK broadcaster (hence the gardening leave), much closer to home. VERY exciting (the job itself, not just the absence of a commute). Let me put it this way: there's an outside chance that I could possibly become the next Simon Cowell and excert dominance over the world's (and your) TV screens and mobiles and tablets for the next decade.

- Physical appearance: a pound or two heavier due to lack of exercise (see long commute) and general winter weariness (can't blame it all on the commute) - but I still fit in my clothes. (A girl's gotta eat but maybe not quite so much...)

- Hair: short. My four pet strands of grey hair are gone since this morning as I dyed them with Feria. Feria is lovely, it doesn't give you the one block of colour look of regular home dyes, it looks natural (except to those who know me well obviously who will note that my hair is now a shade redder even though the box said "chocolate brown".)

- Nails: tidy since this morning thanks to a home mani/pedi(cure) which kept me occupied during the half-hour it took for the hair dye to activate. Toe nails are now sporting gold nail varnish.

- Mood: it's Spring! The days are longer, I've got time off, the temperature is warming up.

- General outlook: full of promise like those new shoots just waiting to burst out of their buds on all the trees around London.

So, here I am, back with the Swallows and raring to make the most of my time off before I start on my Simon Cowell metamorphosis!