Saturday, September 11, 2010

Summer of 2010

Exams came sooner than expected. Endlessly cramming, quick break, more cramming. And then, it was over. Freedom. I don't know what to do with my days. Birthdays, barbecues, sunshine and prom. Empire Film Guide. I'm gonna watch every film in this book. It's brief but it's promising. But no more time-wasting, it's a competitive world out there. It's time for work experience. Brides magazine, 2 weeks. I should have stuck to 1. Don't make me go back. A 'Devil Wears Prada' moment. Deliver this dress. It's urgent, run. A lonely patch of green in the middle of Oxford Circus, in the middle of the suits and the dresses and the heels. Sushi, Ipod and a little lunch hour to relax every day. And then, it was over. No more time-wasting, it's an exciting world out there. Travelling on a mini-euro-trip. Paris. Let's go crazy at the fun fair. I want a slush-puppy. The sun is shining, it is the start of an epic trip, and we don't waste a second. Nadia has a touche and I have a touche. The others are minging, they don't have anything. Every place we went: 'Il t'aime bien toi'. I visited the city, in all its glory. Tour de Paris on a Vespa, beautiful. Shut up Toma. Don't worry, we can be arab together. Hello Eric, let's rewind this past year. Peace and Love Hostel, Jaures. The crack den and ghetto are our home. Baby miracle: Adel the stranger was deaf one day, had perfect hearing the next. 'Passe moi soulaima'. Sou what? Four floors during a rainstorm. Seven deadly flights of stairs to reach our cosy, clean room. Roaming charges on the phones. Where's the internet cafe? I need to call my Mum again. 'I'm so happy your parents let you come.' My parents are not extremists. Glad I'm sharing with my belle, though. Should we spoon now? Let me tell you about an episode of Grey's Anatomy. Mais j'm'en fou... Harry races an Aston. There are races that last 24 hours. Learning something new every day. Strangers' philosophies expressed: 'Ai laike beeg gerlz. Zey argh gud for sex and laife'. Pictures on the toilet. Bal des pompiers. Let's go check out the firefighters. No firefighters, but too many people. American Sean. Speaks too slowly. Stupidly, 'I DROPPED MY PHONE IN THE CANAL!'. Bane of my life. Guys, I'm spending too much. Make me stop. Let's live off Mcdonald's and pasta. What should I wear?. You look so sexy, let's go now, PLEASE. Matching vintage army jackets? Check. Cafe des 2 moulins: 4 hours of pure bliss. Lara, why you sleeping in my suitcase? Berlin. Brilliant idea: let's go to the wrong airport! 5-hour fight-delay. Phew. It was a Wilkinson close shave. Berlin. Afternoon. Wake up. Shower. Dress. Eat. Party. Sleep. Repeat. I'm going for alone time, guys. I'll end up killing you all and myself. No questions, no interruptions. Perfectly balanced group dynamics. It went on. We cooked, and cleaned, and dressed, and ate, and peed, and showered together. Anyone for a rap battle? Amzilla's an observant one. Germs and Germans sound the same! It's like we're groupies, mate. 'It's finally the time. To walk back past ten thousand eyes in the line'. Rob. Can I call you knob instead? 'So you're the arsehole of the group'. A deal made. A promise broken. On to the next one. 'Yes. This is Trezor'. Huge, white sign. Empty warehouse on the highway. Or so we thought. I found one. Taller than the world. Subtle, yet effective. Too late to chat. Sleepy time. Patches of sand outside clubs in Berlin. Harmless boys who stalk. Ironically creepy men who respect a 'no'. KitKat. Sounds like the Berlin I expected. Dominatrix style. Casually moving on. No stopping. Berlin slows down for no one. Allows no down-time. Time for Suicide Circus. Buzzing dancer. Same move. Round and round, hands flapping. Eyes fixed. Fixed. Fixed. Buzzing. The image of this woman: fixed in my memory. 'They look English'. Off we go. They are English. Londoners, no less. 'No way. Do you live near the riverside, by the queue?'. Time for a little sit-down. They are there, and they are like mothers. Unconditionally helpful. J'suis pas ton amie, je suis ta mere. Back to the hotel. Breakfast. Taxi. Airport. Home. Sunshine, games, guitars and giggles. Journey. Working out well, but should be a solitary stroll, not a 2-man show. Strangers can be kind. On my feet now, ready to take over the world. Nothing can stop me, and nothing does. Some new situations. Play along and see what happens. Drama, drama, drama. And then I'm over it. Time for my re-focus. Up in those mountains, you rely on your mind to keep you entertained. It's beautiful. And so the journey continues. Frying under the sun, by that pool in the woods. It's like my personal Swan patch. Family, kids, chats and swings. Beautiful and relaxed. 2 weeks and I feel empowered. Let's do this. Home, and off to a new beginning.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Notting Hill Carnival '09

Last summer, I went to the Notting Hill Carnival for the first time. It was everything you would expect... Loud. Busy. Beautiful. 1 million people turn to the streets of Notting Hill every year over these 2 days of August. Just imagine the Rio Carnival, mix it up with the narrow streets of London, and this is what you end up with.

One or two Notting Hill Carnival facts:

-The Caribbean community leads the event
-It's the largest carnival in Europe and the second largest in the World
-Bangin' tunes fill the air from stands set up on different streets in the area (the sound systems are insane - each individual speaker is pretty much the size of a fully grown man. Each stand has about 8 of these speakers... I was pretty much deaf for a week).
-food stands provide the Carribean flavours
-the atmosphere is electric. There is a definite buzz...(although that may just be the drugs everyone is on).

We danced and we laughed and we ate and we sang. We were young and alive and invincible.

At least, that's what we thought.

Our massive group of 20 friends broke up into smaller and smaller groups. We wanted to go in 17 different directions, so instead of arguing about it in the heat and getting nowhere, we chose to separate. It was 2 o'clock. By this time, the streets were full of people from all walks of life, from 4 corners of the world. Black. White. Brown. Grey. Purple. I had ended up with 3friends, Izzie, Lara and Marianne, and we were standing in a huddle, deciding which street to explore, which adventure to go on next.
Over the general buzz of people dancing and singing and drinking and shouting, we heard someone ahead suddenly scream out oh my God, RUN!

Things started moving very quickly from this moment on. Without words, a decision had been made, to run down the road as fast as we possibly could. What exactly we were running from, nobody knew.

The bottles started crashing then.

Little yelps of fear could be heard, in the flurry of fear, as this herd of people, pumped with adrenaline, ran as one, down Portobello Road. Glass bottles were crashing. Ahead of you, behind you, to your left, to your right. You couldn't see them, but you could hear them. Front, side and center. They were being thrown at us, one after the other, one after the other.

Our safe and intimate group of 4 split up again. Marianne grabbed my arm. Lara grabbed Izzie's arm. We were all running in the same and only direction: straight down this narrowing road. None of us knew what we were running from. In the time taken for us to figure out what it was, we were each running from our own, personal, worst nightmare. We ran and ran and ran for what seemed like an eternity or two. We stopped only once. When the fear of the unknown was too much to take, we stopped and looked and acknowledged. Surely knowing what we were running from, was better than not knowing at all? Better than running for sheer life? The blind, leading the blind. That is what we were, until that split-second of understanding of this reality you've been thrust into.

We were being chased by a group of 60 young men. All black. All screaming angrily and passionately. All throwing glass bottles at us. Us, the emotionally outnumbered group, physically outnumbering them by far. The mind does funny things when panic strikes. Logic seems to hurl itself out the window, leaving you with this gut instinct. To protect. Yourself and those around you. It is overwhelming, and it leaves no room for pride or dignity. In my case, anyway. It all happened so quickly. We were running. I was running, and then I stopped. I was like a deer caught in headlights. A fish flapping on dry land. I had dropped my phone.

This wasn't just any drop. The back cover had fallen off, and the battery had fallen out. My phone was now in 3 parts. Bending down and retrieving it would take me 3 times as long.

Marianne had to stop too. Her hand was still clenched in mine. She acknowledged the dilemna I was in, and thankfully, made the decision for me. Life or Phone. She yanked at my arm and we carried on running, leaving the phone behind, on the stampede-ridden ground below.

Eventually, another decision was made by the masses. It was time to stop. The crowd systematically separated in 2. One half stood along the walls of the right hand side of the road. The other half stood along the left hand side, leaving the middle of the road empty. For the gang to pass through with no obstruction, for a brave soldier to step onto no man's land. We formed a human shield along the road, one row of people after the next. We didn't attempt to put up a fight, or to demand a justification.

And then we had to wait. Nobody knew what this gang wanted, or who they were looking for, or if they were looking to fight, kill, cry or laugh. Nobody knew how they would react when they reached the end of the road, to us, pressed up against each other, fearing the worst.

I was pushed, and pushing against a woman who's tears needed an escape. She was in hysterics, tears rolling down her cheeks, repeating "I don't want to die". A man whose face I can't remember, who was pushed against me, was a comfort to have there. As selfish as it may sound, I was glad somebody stood between myself and No Man's Land. He quietly comforted the lady behind me, who was going to get us all killed. I remember uttering a completely insincere and weak "It's going to be alright" before giving up entirely and listening to the silence of the street.

The biggest anti-climax in the history of anti-climii/anti-climaxes (take your pick)followed. The big gang, in all its glory, came running, jogging, and skipping its way down our road, passing the fearful eyes of us all with every step it took, screaming out some weak form of territorial threats to the silence. My heart was beating as fast as ever, and things slowed down an extra notch as they were making their big exit. My eyes never strayed far from the ground. I would get picked from the crowd and beaten if I looked any of them in the eye. My heart skipped an extra beat the moment they passed me by. And then it was over.

They did not attempt to put up a fight, or to make any demands. Just to make themselves known. This was their land, and a carnival wasn't going to change that. (I expect the thrown glass bottles were more for dramatic effect than an actual intent to do harm.)

My phone was no where to be found. I went home, and told my parents it had fallen out of my pocket while I was dancing.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Ain't No Time Like The Present

He talked about being young. About the beauty of youth. About the hope of the young.
I don't fit the image of youth. Youth represents freedom, innocence, love, creativity and health.

My freedom is weighed down by the city. By the times we live in. By this society that judges. By its interference. By its importance.

My innocence is gone with this social urgency, to be aware of everything. Gone with the comfort we impose on ourselves and others, of expressing and explaining and expecting. There is no intimacy. It has been sucked dry and replaced by this mass generalisation, that we are continuously reminded of.

My love and heart have yet to be earned. Yet to be broken, and mended. Yet to be appreciated.

My creativity is limited. Because of technology. Because we can't escape it. Because it improves communication, while it destroys humanity. Because creativity involves physicality, where technology involves singularity.

My health is intact, but not as strong as it could be. Not as fit as it should be. Not as active as it would be.

They say the young live for the future, while the old live for the past. And the present? My present isn't what I would like it to be.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Yearbook Page!

I was a wee baby when they first threw me in here. From my very first year, in 12eme, they took me on a classe verte. Why they thought taking 4 year-olds on a classe verte was a good idea is beyond me. From then on, I knew I would be in a for a ride. This wasn’t just any school. They did things differently here. And so the years went on, and I gradually became acquainted with all of you, blessing your lives in some way or other. There are a few things that I know will remain floating around in the genius that is my mind, for a very long time. I would like to thank my homies for making these years the best so far (that’s not saying much seeing as I’m only 18, but whatever, it’s been good). We’ve often complained about this place. But I know that, not a single one of you liars would have swapped it for the world. This is where the party was at. Where else would we have met and fallen in love with Mr Simon? Enjoyed the top nosh at the cantine? Had a strike day in the teachers’ garden? Lived through a bloody school bomb threat? Yeah, that’s what I thought, you badmans. You’re all just pretending. On that note, I would like you all to pause and think back on the things that have made these years immense. I believe there are some things that deserve their own page-space. These past few years have seen the birth of Human Deal or No Deal. They saw Remi flipping some burgers, Hickey dealing fish behind a counter, and Camilla selling some shit for a kitchen. And, obviously, there was a hell of a lot of babysitting. There were blogs, and even an attempted novel. There was Isabelle’s beautiful drumming sound, and of course there were Mitch’s brill cups of tea. There was bird flu, and then came the swine. There was a fruitshop boy, a costa girl, and there might even have been a few teachers in there as well. There was one fateful fight with my Mary about a little island called Japan, and then there was Miley’s tank top. Elly screamed across the art room floor for some paint or other shit on a daily basis, and there was Goodman’s confusion as to WTF Was Going On Here. There were drums, there were ukuleles and there were guitars; the stench of failure soon followed. There was Scott on Friendorama and then there was the return of Clemmie 2. My French/American gangster drug dealer soon started providing the goods from German Switzerland. There was Momo’s arrival into the BS (Better Section). There was a Snow Patrol concert that blessed me with a conversation. And then came the noise of dubstep. There was and still is an entry pass application that hasn’t been sent off. (I didn’t get a chance to see what Fatima bloody did next. Damn you Remus.) There were Diams’ stupid confessions, and Yelle’s porno request. There was a lion, a dragon and an Easter egg hunt. We dressed up as bacteria for a bio presentation, for God’s sake! There were mistakes made, and lessons learned. (Rarely in a classroom, though). There were some inspirational teachers (woah, there, let’s not get ahead of ourselves – there were only one or two of those). There were wailing tears. There were hysterical laughs. There were hopes. There were fears. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love you all, kids.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Lara, I Love You

I woke up at 6 oclock in the morning, and I could remember my dream perfectly. It was more of a nightmare, actually. And truth be told, as childish as it may sound, it was the most traumatic thing i've ever "lived" through. As dreams go, it doesn't stick to reality, and jumps from scene to scene, not making much sense along the way.

I step onto a huge coach, except it's not a normal coach. It's about 3 times as wide, and full of students. I manage to find myself a seat next to a girl called Lauren.

We get up to go to the bathroom. We walk to the back of the bus, and end up on a street, even though we're still technically on the bus. This is the first of two images that I remember very clearly. Almost too clearly. Lara, a very dear friend, is standing there, in the middle of a dark street, looking as pale as a sheet, and as weak as physically possible before death. Blood is running down both her legs, but there's no wound. She's dying. She struggles to get one foot ahead of the other to take a step forward. It still seems so real. Lauren runs to get some help. I carry Lara in my arms and walk to the front of the bus. For some reason, my cousin Aly is the driver, and I tell him to go get his car, we need to get her to the hospital. He takes a look at Lara and rushes off the coach to get his parked car. I follow, still carrying my dying friend.

I spend the entire dream trying to find my cousin Aly, while Lara dies in my arms. As the dream develops, the journey becomes more and more difficult. i suddenly find myself having to cross a stone bridge, over dangerous water. There are waves crashing onto the bridge, while I attempt to get across. I'm scared. We're going to get washed away off the bridge. I hold Lara even tighter, and eventually, we make it over to the other side.

I'm suddenly sitting in the backseat of a car, but it's not Aly's, and we're not going to the hospital. Instead, I forget that Lara is dying in my lap, and get caught up in some kind of mindless conversation with someone sitting next to me.

I look down, and realise Lara is dead. That split-second moment of realisation is the second moment from the dream that I remember all too clearly. It's as if a big black heavy weight has come to rest in the pit of my stomach. I've never experienced anything like it. It's like a mixture of complete desperation, shock, regret and realisation all at once. And then the crying begins. It's uncontrollable and never-ending.

I wake up.

I spoke to Lara and Aly immediately after waking up. Simply re-telling this nightmare had me in floods of tears.

Lara, I'm so sorry I couldn't save you. I love you.

Monday, April 05, 2010


I once spent a week doing my dream job.

It all began this past summer. I wanted to go into journalism, and I needed work experience. I emailed each and every single newspaper, magazine, tabloid and broadsheet I could think of, and surely enough, the Financial Times were the only ones to bother with an answer: no. They only took people with actual degrees. I huffed and puffed, and begged and promised enough for them to reconsider and finally say yes. I still, to this day, do not understand how I managed to change their minds.

Flash forward 2 months, and there I was, strutting my way across Southwark Bridge, with an air of self-importance, on my way to the big shiny FT building. Donning that day's unread issue of the FT in one hand and the most expensive-looking handbag I owned in the other, I made my way into the massive building. I thought I'd stumbled onto the set of The Devil Wears Prada. There were people buzzing around everywhere, marching along as if on a mission to save the world. Take-away coffee cups, photocopies and past issues of the salmon-coloured newspaper were all over the place. I never wanted to leave: it was exactly what I had hoped it would be, and so much more.

On my first day, I was allowed to sit in on the editorial meeting. All the chief editors for all the different departments and the editor of the entire newspaper were there. The Bigshot Editor of the whole thing used this time to quietly and calmly pull out the big guns to either rip people to pieces for their shit work or praise them for their genius. I sat in the corner, giggling away on the inside, as they all sat there, waiting for their turn. It felt a bit like judgement day!

I spent the rest of the day going on a tour of the various identical-looking floors, visiting all the different departments. I was given a 2-hour IT training session which taught me about the production line of an article. Let me tell you this, it's not easy. From putting in bloody hyperlinks for the website edition of an article, to making sure you keep in line with the word-limit, it was a trek and a half.

I spent that afternoon shadowing the editor of one of the departments. Now, this bit here was the most interesting of all. Although I didn't have any tasks to undertake, I was still given a desk right by the editor, with my two personal computers to go with it. Because, you know, it would be ridiculous to have one computer only... The editor was quite a character, maybe even my favourite... She was a fidgety woman, constantly chewing on a new piece of gum, and always smiling. She sat, comfortable in her swivel chair, with her five empty cups of tea. That day though, she and her right-hand man were in a bit of a pickle: they were short of stories to write about. She explained to me that the day usually started off slowly, and gradually the pace sped up, as time neared to the printing hour. She apologised profusely for my having to be there at "such a quiet time"; they usually had more stories than they could manage. I was just happy to be there, watching them struggle to get their reporters to find something of greater substance to write about. When I left the office that day, she gave me a photocopy of what the issue would look like once it was finished. It still had some major blanks in it, but I pretty much got a preview of the next day's paper. Key word there: pre. I was that important.

In the days that followed, I sat in on the recording and editing of the newspaper's weekly podcast. The man who showed me the ropes was called Rob and he was lovely. We had some good banter about the journalism industry, Rupert Murdoch, my A-Levels, his daughters, and how great the FT really was. Turns out, the FT is the greatest newspaper in the world. Its standards are virtually incomparable to any other newspaper around. Reporters get a massive bollocking if they can't back up what they write with at least 3 reliable sources. Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is a newspaper I hope to one day work for.

On my last day, I was finally allowed to write. I was quite surprised that they had bestowed upon me such responsibility. Obviously, they would edit and probably completely change whatever I came up with, to adjust to FT standards, but I mean still: writing for the FT while on my week-long work experience?! That's got to get me some brownie points! They provided me with the material I had to write about and the number for a man I needed to contact to get a quote I could use. So I sat at my desk, furiously writing away about new banking regulations, almost believing I actually knew all about it.

The biggest achievement of my life so far ensued: I opened up the FT the next day, and there, on page 3, was my tiny little article (having survived a few tweaks), with my name printed in block letters at the bottom.

I left the FT sad it was over, but over the moon that it had even happened.

Thank you Financial Times, I hope to be able to do it again some time.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


You know that special buzz you get when your Ipod is on shuffle and it randomly selects the most perfect song to fit your mood? It's like a tiny miracle. Last night, in the darkness of my room and in the comfort of my bed, the holy Ipod took me back to a specific moment in my life 4 years ago.

Nothing spectacular happened. In fact, nothing happened at all. I didn't speak to anyone, or do anything remarkable. It was just one of those moments that still float around in your memory for no apparent reason. I am 14 years old and I am about to leave the house to get some milk. I'm wearing my jacket and scarf and I'm ready to go. I remember taking a quick look at the mirror and spending a minute longer there than expected. I examine myself. For the first time in my life, I am completely satisfied with the way I look. More than that, I am happy with the way I look. I feel pretty. Not beautiful, not striking, not mesmerising. Just pretty. Such a shallow thought, yet such a powerful feeling. I remember realising I had never felt anything like it before, and jumping around my room with happiness!

It's a strange thing, this concept of beauty. Even at the age of 14, when you should be running around having water fights and reading comic books, you are all too aware of it.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

It Was Nothing

I saw two people share a look and it made me uncomfortable.

It was just two friends catching up - right? They hadn't seen each other in years. That's all it was. Of course it was - but dammit, I saw that look. It was full of admiration. Appreciation. Regret?

I wonder what she's thinking.

She would never cross that line. But the line doesn't lie between her actions and her self-control. The line is blurred somewhere between her feelings of happiness and regret.

I wasn't the only one who saw it.

If nobody else had noticed, I would have shrugged it off as a slip of my imagination. But somebody did notice - and somebody did feel uncomfortable. What does that mean?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

We're All Just Ridiculously Intelligent

It's a selfish world we live in. We spend most of our lives trying to "find ourselves" - all the while, too busy to notice what others have found in themselves.

We may manage to convince ourselves that we are good people. We look out for each other. We take the time of day to listen to each other's problems. But it's false. We're good people only when there's something in it for us. We look out for each other only because we want to be seen as kind and caring people. We take the time of day to listen to each other's problems only to make ourselves feel better. We listen. We learn. And we apply. It's all, so we can make ourselves feel like more rounded and knowledgeable human beings.

We're so consumed by the idea that we're the world's most interesting people. We believe we have such passion, excitement and point of view to offer. It never even crosses our minds that we are insignificant. Sure, we all have our bad days, when we feel unworthy. But, as always, when that day is over, we hop back onto the bandwagon of self-appointed importance.

We recognise intelligence in others. It inspires us. But ultimately, it only instills in us an arrogance. We believe that we are the intelligent ones, for being able to entertain their intellectuality. It's almost as if we're on the verge of slipping in a sly comment upon coming across somebody of substantial intelligence: it takes one to know one. Wink Wink.

We become less and less tolerant of the banalities that consume our daily conversations. We look down on those whose main cause for excitement comes from the weekly updates on the neighbour's affair with the milkman.

So what do we do? We surround ourselves by people we believe share our infinite intellectual capacity. We read books that have become "absolute classics" by people from a different time, who also believed they were their generation's free thinkers. We refuse to watch romantic comedies for their lack of substance. We pride ourselves on not having been to McDonalds since the 80s. It's all beneath us.

No, what it is though, is bullshit.