Jobless in London

Unemployment, my old friend…

I think that my job search has managed to go from bad to worse, today being the biggest disappointment since finding out Ben Kingsley wasn’t (and then was) Indian. It was a confusing childhood rife with misinformation. I blame Gandhi myself.

I went for a job today, expecting to sell myself for an advertising post. What I almost ended up doing was going to Worthing to watch someone handing out Beauty Salon promos for no basic wage. I probably would have got on a train had it not been for another girl piping up to say it wasn’t for her, giving me the opportunity to say “Ditto” and run off.

I should have twigged something was off when I caught a glimpse of their morning mantra/pep talk. Screaming and shouting in order to prepare for “sales battle”, and ruining Ali’s immortal ” I’m gonna float like a butterfly, and sting like a bee,” were definite red flags.

This wasn’t my sales approach. I’m more of a sarcasm over wine kind of girl.

I hope this spate of bad job interviews ends soon; it’s costing me a fortune in comfort shopping. Today I bought a DKNY purse. It’s blue. To match my mood.

I give up.

I mean who do you have to stalk to get a job in this town? it’s not like I haven’t put myself out there. There has been a lot of putting out, and none of it fun. IMG_5735

I blew my last job interview on the grounds that my interviewer didn’t think I would be a good fit.  I may have gone a bit overboard on the professional look, and was way more serious than I normally am. In my own defence, I’ve been unemployed for a month now and if I was emanating a serious, or even desperate vibe it was probably because I was sweating out the last of my deodorant stick, at the end of a travel card, in a suit that was about to fall apart at the seams.

With that image in mind, I actually respect them for not giving me the job; I must have looked constipated and severe. Who wants that in the office?

They tell you not to lie in interviews, and they’re right. When they asked me what I did for fun, tequila sprang to my mind. But reading sounded more professional. I didn’t know tequila was the right answer. I would have come to the interview in the Hooter’s outfit I bought off Ebay, and got them to do jelly shots off me if I had.

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Bet you’re glad you did all that

What did I know about the method to their madness? Did Mr Miyagi make any sense when he asked Daniel San to wax his car instead of teaching him to roundhouse Johnny to the face?

Maybe I’m just not the kind of person who can be measured by other people’s standards.

This is the moment when I realise that I can’t work for anyone else, and try to set up my own business, which then goes from strength to strength, ending with me admiring the cityscape from my penthouse, side by side with my gorgeous husband and a Martini.

Only I still haven’t figured out what I  can do that gets me a penthouse flat in London and a hot guy.

Call girl? Lottery winner?

I don’t think I’m ready to work for myself. I’d watch reruns of Fraiser and eat French Fancies until I felt like doing something more productive, like eating mini Battenbergs and watching Only Fools and Horses.

Unless an opening for French Fancy tester opens up, I will just have to suck it up and keep trying.

Asian in Asia

It’s 7am and I have a yoga class in an hour. I woke up because of the sea. Living in London, I’ve never had the luxury of waking up to anything other than the sound of urban foxes shagging. Mexico City wasn’t much better. Although sirens were often interspliced with drunken arguments, or thumping music. I didn’t realise how much I love to wake up to the sound of the sea.

The journey to get to Koh Phangan was not as tranquil.

The first night in Bangkok was spent wandering around the Khao San road shopping and avoiding teams of men in matching wife beaters, trying to drunkenly chat up anyone in grabbing reach. People like to touch here, not just drunken Brits out on a stag. I got poked in the boob, had my tattoo stroked and was awkwardly patted by a couple of giggly vendors, who may have been at the laughing gas balloons.

The night in Bangkok was a sensory overload. Lights. Vendors. Food. Massages. Rats. One of which I had an unsettling run in with that left me contemplating how much I really needed my right foot.

It was loud and bright and dirty and seedy. I liked it.

At 5am we were abruptly woken by our panicky Thai host who thought we were going to miss our flight. She had taken the liberty of booking us a taxi that was waiting as we spoke. I don’t think I’ve got packed and ready so quickly. I silently cursed her all the way to the airport.

The journey to get to Koh Phangan was a two fold nightmare. Unlike Alex Garland’s romanticised journey through jungle, jumping off waterfalls and swimming across the island, ours was more pedestrian and disgusting. The waves were dangerously high, so our speedboat jumped along the ocean for nearly two hours. The nausea it provoked was understandable. I regretted inhaling a pork bun and chilli chicken curry on the dock before we boarded. But the real kicker was the synchronised vomiting that began to take place about 20 minutes into the journey. Smiling faces handed out pink plastic bags and tissues, then the pukefest began. It was like the story Chunk describes in The Goonies: one person barfed and everyone else just joined in. It surrounded us and we sunk into our seats hoping we wouldn’t be hit by the spray.

My body’s natural defense mechanism in situations of high stress is to shut down. Much like a possum. Only more like a narcoleptic. I pass out.

When I awoke and drowsily got off the boat there was still another journey left to make. Kerry, had warned me that transport to The Sanctuary was a mafia. It’s lucky I had her and her amazing litigation skills to get me this far.

You couldn’t get a cheaper price no matter how good you were at haggling. What was worse they had decided to hike the prices up, to make the best of all the business that was anxiously waiting. We held out for as long as we could as the surliest driver in the world bitched at our attempts to bring the price down.

It didn’t feel great having to concede and get in the back of his shitty truck. It felt less great as we were hurled about along bumpy back streets out into the middle of nowhere.

Luckily we were headed towards Sanctuary.

That Joke isn’t Funny Anymore

My expectations of the YMCA have been built up over the years by popular lore.  These expectations were only magnified by the fact that this was where my stand up comedy class was meant to be. There were ‘many ways to have a good time.’

I liked those odds.

Imagine my joy when I was met by a group of smiling people who then immediately started speaking to me in Spanish and offering me a seat. It was short lived when I discovered it was in fact the Alcoholics Anonymous group for Spanish speakers.

They were disappointed to see me go, and not altogether convinced I didn’t need their help.

The comedy class was in full swing when I arrived, staring at the course leader holding up a gap fill and desperately trying to elicit the ingredients for good stand up.

Hmm. Gap fill may not have been the way to go for that.

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‘Burn the seat’

It reminded me a little of when Homer goes to Clown school. They run through things that are funny. Oversized man on a tiny bicycle, kill wealthy dowager etc.

And so it began:

“Is a dog funny?”

“Yes.”

“Well, what I mean is, is it normally funny on its own?”

“Depends on the dog.”

“Really?”

“No?” I was starting to think maybe dogs aren’t funny…

“No! But a dog driving a car,” finds picture in worn portfolio “is ALWAYS funny.”

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Err, hell yeah. There’s no denying the humour behind a driving dog. What would be next? A list of funny sounding places? Maybe a dog who drove all the way from Cucamunga would be twice as funny?

I was learning a fine art.

The next thing we were asked to do was to think of someone we looked like and try to give it a twist to make it funny. One stunning integrant told us she was often taken for Penelope Cruz or Amal Clooney. After a lot of awkward staring and nodding in admiration the course leader realised there wasn’t a punchline and we moved on.

According to an online “Which celebrity do you look like?” test, I look 10% like Morgan Freeman.

Some people’s lives are made for comedy I suppose.

My friend Deepa said that she thinks of me every time she hears Smokey Robinson’s ‘Tracks of my Tears’. Maybe I look a bit like Smokey Robinson too. No one’s life is perfect. My little tragedies have been running gags for most of my life.

Well, you’ve got to keep it true to yourself and what you know.

Something that was actually on the gap fill that he was holding up at the start of the class:

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He got a bit carried away with the ‘make it a challenge’ aspect of a gap fill.

The class culminated with one of the students putting on a pair of underwear over his trousers, and duct taping his routine to his arms, before gurning out a few awkward sex jokes and pretending to have tourettes.

It wasn’t Dave Chappelle, but well done that man.

At the end of it all I decided to find my own dog free comedy stylings and wished the group the best with their showcase. Making a swift exit to avoid the AA group on my way to the pub…

 

 

So this is Christmas

 

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Not this year it isn’t…

John Lewis and shiny stuff would lead most of us to believe that this is the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas can be pretty wonderful: friends you haven’t seen in years, time with family, spreading joy, giving and receiving, great food, the list goes on. This year my attitude, normally on a par with Buddy the Elf, is a bit more like the weather: lukewarm.

Christmas comes but once a year. At least that was my mantra in past years when I forced a smile when being nagged by my parents about when I was going to meet a nice boy. Or when I was being nagged about when I was going to move closer to home. Or when I was wincing at drunken shouting and trivial arguments. Or when I was joining in on the shouting. I still managed a smile because a week down the line I would be back on a plane and far away. Future conversations could be tolerated. Or at least muted.

This year Christmas feels like it is building up to be Wrestlemania. All the previously small bouts that have taken place lover the last four months will now culminate in this one off spectacular event.

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All things festive

There is no tapping out.

A chair may be employed as a last minute act of desperation.

My plan to hide in the gym was thwarted. I may no longer have any idea what day of the week it is, but most of the normal working world have been counting the sleeps until they could go out, get battered, safe in the knowledge there was no getting up at 7 am the next morning.

This is my life.

Maybe that’s why my cheer isn’t as cheery. The biggest factor in my love of Christmas was desperate relief. The winter term was the longest one at school. After seven weeks of crowd control, marking, observations and prising kids off windows and walls, I wanted to sleep for two weeks. It’s like the Eddie Murphy joke about the cracker you get offered after weeks in the desert.

Christmas was the best cracker I had ever eaten.

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Christmas Hip Hop Carousel

Every day is like Christmas now. In the sense I get to stay at home watching bad television, balancing my finances and drinking anything mulled. All I’ve been missing over the last four months was a festive hat at a jaunty angle.

The traditional Christmas dinner is also a festive selling point.

Roast potatoes, Turkey, Christmas pudding, even sprouts, there’s something about that Christmas spread. It warms the heart.

As I sit staring at the swede that will be the crowning joy in vegan Christmas, I find it hard to get excited.

My brother is an excellent cook. It will be a Vegetarian/Vegan delight. But it’s not quite Christmas this year.

I nearly went full Scrooge when Facebook asked if I wanted to see what 2015 looked like. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

The Ghosts of Facebook Statuses past have helped me to gain some perspective this Christmas Eve.

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Still smiling. Kind of

This hasn’t been my worst Christmas. Not by a long shot.

There was the Christmas Air France lost all my luggage. The Christmas I lost my phone in a taxi on the way to the airport. The Christmas I nearly lost my hand and had to have surgery. Last Christmas, when  I was sent blow by blow details of how my then boyfriend liked to get down in the bedroom, and then had to spend the day comforting him.

This has been quite an uneventful festive season in retrospect.

Christmas has it’s good points. I get to make it magical for my nephew.  I stay up watching cheesy movies and playing board games with my siblings. It’s the only time of the year when I can hit reset with my parents and start afresh. I also get to see friends I love and laugh. Drunkenly.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. If I let it be.

So I’m going to get me some wine and listen to Jingle Bell Rock until the spirit of Christmas, or Christmas spirits restore me to my normally hyperactive Christmas state.
Happy holidays. Get merry. ’tis the season.

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The Great Escape

In the last month I have been making a more concerted effort to find a job. A friend of mine pointed out to me that if I actually made an effort and a plan, rather than planning to escape as I always did, maybe I would get where I wanted to.

Fair point.

I am not the most patient person when it comes to my goals. If I haven’t made it work in a month it starts feeling like failure. The panic sets in and I start looking at the international teacher posts on TES, or escort work.

I get desperate.

In comparison, I am far more functional in a foreign country alone, with limited funding and only the clothes in my back pack. After 10 years of travel and living abroad I have grown to have more faith in that version of myself.

The woman stuck in her parent’s house isn’t to be trusted and is a proven flight risk.

After the last four months I needed to get away. Recharge. Try again. I needed Brazil.

My days would start with the view of Mount Corcovado and coffee. I visited The Selaron Stairs, Christ the redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain, and relaxed on Ipanema and Copacabana. In the evenings I would have conversations with friends, grab a drink, have a laugh and make the best of my time in town.

I was pretty proud of how well I had managed on my own, a feeling that I’d forgotten after months of rejection emails and depressing bank statements.

In my short time in Rio I visited Paraty and Ilha Grande. My Portañol (Spanish/Portuguese mash up)  was getting me through the day and I was able to have conversations where I would normally be taught how to pronounce things, (that r is a killer) or how to swear.

Add to this the fact everyone in Rio seems to be a walking gym advert, and that they advocate for teeny bikinis and no tan lines, then you’ve got a city I can get on board with.

After talking to a few people, I found out that it might be possible to get a teaching job for the new year. So why not move there?

I’ve never had more reason to leave London. Everyone would understand if I gave up. If I went back to Mexico. If I went back to teaching. But things had changed and an escape plan, though great for the short term, would not get me where I needed to be.

On the way to the airport Nelson, my taxi driver, explained the meaning of the word saudade, a word unique to portuguese. He said it was the feeling of missing something you hadn’t felt or experienced in a long time. Like sadness and nostalgia, a longing for something that you didn’t have anymore. Though bittersweet it didn’t always have to be sad.

He then serenaded me with Girl from Ipanema before telling me all the beautiful girls lived in Rio, and I should come back.

I promised that I would when I had a job.

 

 

 

Dem Gains

As I sat watching Kickboxer, I could feel my brother staring and stifling his laughter.

It wasn’t the questionable plot, Van Damme’s excuse for having a Belgian accent, or his badass dance moves. No.

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Visual reenactment. Thanks to Piers for the use of his pale, but effective forearm.

“Your arm…”

Yes, it was a bit big.

I had been feeling like a new arm would burst out of it any day now, and wrestle the old one to its death. But you know what some girls are like when they lift a 1kg dumbbell.

I’m always saying “I’m getting huge,” forcing some poor fella to search bemusedly for a bicep muscle, and then being reminded of how diminutive I am when they show me what a real bicep muscle looks like.

My brother put his forearm next to mine, and fell off the sofa laughing.

Hmm.

This time it was no exaggeration. My forearm belonged to another person.

I’d been ‘working out’, since I came back to London five months ago. Fat burning, cross training, running 5k a day. I had been taking a 30 minute train journey to run inside on a treadmill, when I lived next door to a park. Why? Love.

It was idiotic.

I would meet my ex at the gym and run, when I could have easily have done laps around the park for free. I guess it was an easy routine to slip into. I didn’t have a job. He finished work and headed straight to the gym. If I wanted to see him, that’s where I had to go.

The one time I suggested doing something different, he had a perfectly timed foul mood. The evening was a disaster.  It ended with his wise observation that “We should have just gone to the gym.”

His gym was like Cheers, where he could walk through the door, everybody knew his name and he could start a bit of banter with the trainers, other members. I would be constantly told how nice it was to meet the girlfriend that they had heard so much about, and proudly shown around.

It took me a while to realise I was effectively walking him to the gym and home again with 30 minutes cardio inbetween. This wasn’t quality time. It was me slotting myself into his life.

When I told him I wouldn’t go with him to the gym in the afternoons, it was the beginning of the end really. He wasn’t going to change his schedule. We saw each other once a week. If that.

After our breakup, if ever there was a place where I felt like I would be judged and unhappy it was his gym. But he’d already convinced me to sign up for the year. So as part of my whole make-yourself-happy face-your-demons style of life, I decided to go there.

Everyday.

For 3 hours.

It made perfect sense to an insecure masochist.

I think everyone has their own body issues. I have always struggled to be happy with the way I look. When I had been going out with my ex, I had felt somewhat unattractive in comparison, through no fault of his own. He was someone who was in great shape, took care of his appearance, wore the right clothes and groomed himself carefully.

I was someone who often had crumbs in my hair, wanted to eat my body weight in cheese and then blog about it.

There was nothing wrong with either. But I guess when you’re not happy with who you are, you lose yourself in what other people want for you. Every suggestion starts feeling like a put down.

Growing up, I was quite underweight as a child. My mother would pinch my nose shut and make me swallow raw eggs to fatten me up. Edwina Curry saved me with Salmonella. I could have been a far rounder child.

Raw eggs were replaced with using me as a human garbage disposal, and the Indian ‘just one more’ sneak attack, in which food is shoved into your mouth when you open it to refuse.

This typically asian way of showing love, was then confused by calling me ‘moti’. ‘Moti’ meaning fatty in an endearing way. Only the latinos and south asians could possible think calling someone fat was endearing. After being plumped up like a French goose, moti was my reward.

It’s easy to see why I might take extra time to be healthy and active. Also why I have always given too much time to mindless comments about my body. Helpful observations on how the right diet and a couple of hundred crunches could boost my sexual capital from an 8 to even a 9 or a 10 have always increased my self esteem.

It’s nice to know you’re a fixer upper.

Regularly going to the gym always helped me to get out of my head more and into my body. This time though, I wanted to get into the body I had, not some supermodel’s body that I would never have.

When I came home with the 4 page training program, I asked for my brother’s help in figuring it out. He took one look at it and burst out laughing.

“He wants to destroy you.”

I had made it pretty clear to Paulo that I wanted to tone up. Be stronger. I didn’t want to body build or get ‘swole.’ Paulo had other ideas though. In his mind I wanted to build my body. I wanted to build up muscle. That was the definition of body building.

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Gold’s Gym was Arnie’s gym. Now it’s mine.

When you say “Body builder” the mind will go to the magnificent photo of Arnold Schwarzenegger, striking a pose and showing off his hulk like muscle definition. He is the archetypal Mr Universe. Now type Miss Universe into google and you may happen to see the most beautiful girl in the world…

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Miss Universe

I have spent my life, like many other women, being convinced that my body will look like Rihanna’s or Eva Mendes’ body when I work out. Or that I will develop a generic Barbie like body, because that’s what we can all look like. What we should aspire to.

Wrong.

I remember Jennifer Lawrence saying that she trained hard for Hunger Games because her character was meant to be someone young girls would look up to, without wanting to skip dinner. Not sexy, marriageable, or someone a man would be happy to wake up naked next to. Someone healthy and strong.

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My fears about being laughed at for my light weights, or using the weights incorrectly were ignored by Paulo. He would help. If he wasn’t there someone else would. I had to use the weights area. I paid for the gym, I used the gym.

If I was worried about being judged on appearance, I may not have been the only one. But there is no time for it. Thinking about other people messes up my reps. The less I think about anything other than what my body is doing, the better I get. The better my time gets. The happier I feel.

I judge too quickly. After a few weeks of pushing the ‘What will people think?’ anxiety out of my head, I can see that now. It’s why I think I’m always being judged. It is something I am working on.

My worries about being in my ex’s gym, surrounded by his peers were quickly dismissed. Once again, there were more lovely supportive people in the world than those that were out to hurt and judge me.

I now know all the trainers and have a chat when I see them. I can’t say everybody knows my name, but they recognise my face, say hi and help out if I ask. I am able to laugh at my mistakes with them. I will forever be known as the girl that was doing three times her work out because she can’t do maths.

I may be an idiot, but I’m one that can do 72 barbell squats in under five minutes.

Who knows what I will look like at the end.

Someone happier I hope.

Rewiring my Radar

“He fucked her.”

The one thing you have to love about London is that if you dare to converse openly in the street every Tom, Dick and Harry will give you their two pence worth. As Galia and I made our way to Rebel Bingo, I started rehashing the whole did he/didn’t he of my ex’s supposed infidelity, and secret friendship with a girl whom I’d never heard of until last Christmas.

This was random man’s opinion on the debate:

“Who describes his bedroom to a girl via a text message? Take a picture, yeah, send it to her, but who describes it?”

He made a very good point.

“It’s easy love, the simplest answer is most probable.”

Was it more probable a psychopath became obsessed with my ex after staring at him too long?  Did she then lie to her husband (yes husband) about an affair? Did they then conspire to ruin an innocent man’s life?

Or was it more likely he just shagged her, got caught and now regretted it?

“Simplest answer love.”

Camden’s answer to Confucius turned to a cash machine and started to get money out, leaving me and Galia nodding our heads. Why we were nodding I don’t know. I’d never know which story was true.

Why do I keep bothering with dating when my instinct on men is so off?

I once had dinner at a Mexican friend’s house and was discussing yet another failed relationship when her Nana came in. She joined in the conversation with the promise of bestowing her years of experience and wisdom. At the end of my tale of unreturned texts, a terminally ill relative that never died, and crucial gym commitments, I looked to her for her wisdom.  She delicately placed a hand on my shoulder, looked at me consolingly, and said “Mija, pero tienes radar de pendejos.”

When I turned to my friend to ask what she had said, she replied “Nana says you have asshole radar.”

Thanks, Nana.

My life reads a lot like a Jane Austen novel (with a Mills & Boon cover) that had a massive chunk of the middle pages ripped out. Bits of Bridget Jones, Stephen King and Sylvia Plath have been glued in and interspliced with the occasional nudie pic.

It reads like a serial killer’s scrap book.

There have been many lovely men in my life, and others available. As a good friend of mine will remind me, “You never go for the ones I try to set you up with, you always like their fit/dodgy mate!”

I have been on a one woman mission to perfect the art of reverse man alchemy, where I take a guy that looks golden and turn him into a shit. Complete success has been achieved on more than one occasion. That doesn’t bug me as much as the fact my life has become one big dating anecdote.

The things that I have done, places I have seen and people I have met are the backstory to a failed love life. This realisation has lead me to my new plan: rewiring my radar.

As dumb as I may already sound, I am not so stupid that I am going to sit crying into a tub of ice cream about how unlucky I am. Well, not anymore. I don’t really believe in luck, or karma. Up until now I used to think that I believed in myself, but it was clear to see after months of flailing around struggling to come to terms with a whole new life in London, and a lot of disappointment, I didn’t believe I could make any of it work alone. Me. Who moved to a Mexico alone at 24 with no friends and 100 pairs of knickers because a) why not? and  b) you always need clean underwear.

Those of you that know me, know me as a fearless, loveable idiot who won’t shut up. Those that have known me longer know  might think I’m quite tough and cynical. No one knows you better than yourself though, and after the last dating anecdote I’ve decided to take time off life as I’ve known it.

I have a pathetic amount of money saved and will be funding the ‘having-a-life-and- being-happy-project.’ During this time, I will be going out and about in London. Travelling to a city near you, perhaps. Writing about what I see along the way, the people I meet, and setting my radar to ‘no pendejos’.

If you need a partner in crime, call me. If you want to go somewhere you haven’t been to before, I’m your girl.

It’s been two weeks now, and it’s absolutely terrifying. I have only just stopped waking up with the kind of pain in my chest that makes me have to pat myself down to see if I slept with my bra on.

Still totally worth it.

Wish me luck.