“If you’re bored, you’re probably being boring”

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A couple of weeks ago I went to Secret Cinema in London. It was a pretty incredible experience and we all came away safe in the knowledge that it was £50 well spent as we got to sit in an igloo made out of books and attend a lecture on seasonal novelty vaginas.

We were each given a different fancy dress theme – mine being some sort of high society aristocratic penthouse cocktail party attire. I go to parties, but they’re usually in draughty flats and grubby share houses rather than penthouses. I am also not, alarmingly, a member of the genteel aristocracy. High society ladies do not tend to hail from a three bedroom semi in Essex.

I think I pulled off an admirable interpretation of what a high society aristocratic person might look like, focusing on sparkly things and dead animals.

Secret Cinema was on a Friday, and rather than stumbling around trying to get changed in a toilet cubicle; bare foot accidentally landing on a suspicious wet patch on the floor, I went to work dressed in my cocktail party finery. The reaction at the office was quite astonishing. There were compliments, shocked faces, hushed whispers and the IT guy fell over a bin. For about 30 seconds I was convinced that I had done an amazing job and looked awesome, but then realised after the 18th person told me that I looked “Soooo different!!” that it was actually because I usually come to work looking like complete shit. I think the fact that I had actually brushed my hair had blown everyone away.

It got me thinking that maybe I should make more of an effort for work. I know the day will come when I’ll be on the tube in my worn jeans that are baggy around the bum, muddy Converse and T shirt with a coffee stain down the front; hair straggly and un-brushed; make up smudged after a 12 hour day of commuting and hunter gathering…and will run into either; a) an ex boyfriend that I haven’t seen in years, b) an old school friend that I haven’t seen in years, or c) Sean Bean. Who I have never seen but am hopelessly in love with.

The train home out to Essex is packed full of immaculate looking girls in outfits that do not consist of Converse with grass clods in the laces; who have obviously tended to their general upkeep throughout the day. They do not have panda eyes, a reflective forehead, an ink mustache or Dr Emmet Brown hair. I’m starting to feel like the bird feeding woman from Home Alone 2 in their presence.

The thing is, I really like jeans. I also am a big advocate of Converse, grass clod or no. And to top it all off, I love T shirts. Whilst people around me at work lurk on Facebook or gaze at secretescapes.com, I trawl happily through Threadless.com. I could look at T shirts all day.

 

Anyone can submit a T shirt design to Threadless, and they’re voted for by the customers and you end up with an awesome T shirt depicting Abraham Lincoln punching a T Rex.

I would much rather wear my Middle Earth tube map T shirt than a smart dress. I fear the day that the print starts to flake from my Zombies in Wonderland T shirt, the colour slowly fading from Alice’s cheeks as she swings her samurai sword towards a peeling zombified Cheshire Cat. I feel very smug slipping into my “I Am Alt of Ctrl” T shirt knowing that some commuters somewhere in that vast green commuter belt are currently shoehorning themselves into a suit.

It makes for a more interesting coffee break too (which for me stretches from 8.45am to ohhhh….hmmm….lets say about…lunch), than sifting through the inane drivel on my Facebook news feed. My spontaneous culls are reaching a critical stage. Looking at the same photo of the same person in the same dress in a mildly altered selfie position is not fun. Looking at a Threadless T shirt entitled The Communist Party is fun. Look, Stalin has a beer! Karl Marx has a lampshade on his head!! They’re Communists at a party!!!!!

 

This week in London is going to involve this thing which we have all forgotten about and need to reacquaint ourselves with…The Sun. There will be a transition period. Once we have all reassured ourselves that this burning ball of flame in the sky is not the coming of the apocalypse, and I have recovered from my chronic sunburn and Vitamin D overdose, we can move on to more pressing matters.

Flip flops. Bare skin. Ray Bans. My Ray Bans have been prepped and ready to go in my handbag since March. Every so often I feel optimistic and bring them out, but then I can’t see where I’m going and end up posting letters into a rubbish bin.

My flip flops have been sitting eagerly by my desk, waggling excitedly at the prospect of a day out. Today I jolted down the street like an out of practice Tony Manero, before eventually easing back into the rhythm of fast paced London flip-flop walking.

I might even have to cut the sleeves off some of my favourite T shirts.

 

The Death of the Hard Back Book?

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Trying to succeed as a writer is difficult. It is even more difficult if you can never be bothered to write. I am my own worst enemy. I will clear an entire weekend to sit in front my laptop and pitter patter on the keys until some kind of literary genius comes pouring out.

Then I will make a coffee. Then I will make bizarre cooing sounds to my aging springer spaniel and rub her belly. Then I will remember that she smells like a stagnant fish pond and spend five minutes scrubbing my hands with Moroccan Rose hand wash, moaning about my ill-advised decision to rub the dog’s belly. Then my coffee will have gone cold. I will make another one. Then I will watch two episodes of Game of Thrones to relax. Clashing swords, ferocious deaths and token full frontal nudity is incredibly relaxing.

After this I will spend perhaps two hours perusing things other people have written on the Internet to ‘get in the right frame of mind’. Then I will sulk either because they are better writers than I am, or because they’re not but they still manage to have been published.

I will eat something, distract myself by chatting to whoever is in my direct line of vision, wander around loudly expounding about how bored I am, sit down in front of my laptop again, stare at a blank page for five minutes, then stoically give up, close the laptop and go to the pub.

Occasionally I will have a stroke of inspiration, tap manically on my keyboard for four hours straight and sit back, mentally exhausted and elated all at the same time. This usually happens when I am at work. Thus, I am slipping further and further behind and have a poker tournament, a white label launch, a summer party and a company holiday for 100 people to organise – none of which I have made any in roads into. I look incredibly busy as I studiously type away, but I am writing blog posts about incessant wanderlust instead of booking beach volleyball venues; and plodding away at a novel about subterranean London, as opposed to finding a Scottish castle to house 99 Scandinavians and me for 4 nights.

The truth is, it seems easier than ever to publish something. Literary magazines are everywhere, agents are popping up all over the place, Amazon are rolling out Kindles like hot cakes…and if no-one else wants to publish you, you can go ahead and publish yourself.

Literary agents are more accessible than ever – the London Book Fair housed The Pitch this year – where you can go and pitch your book proposal to a real life agent. The North London Literary Festival put on a ‘speed pitch’ event, and Faber and Faber held a talk on how to get published.

The website Authonomy, the Harper Collins created and backed literature-sharing forum, offers writers the chance to upload their work and have it either picked apart or lauded with praise from their peers – the material with the most votes winging its way to the Editor’s Desk at Harper Collins itself.

Open Pen publish scribblers of any ilk – pulling together a quarterly magazine that shows off a cross section of phenomenal talent. Their association with Berg’s Little Printer means that you can jot down a mere 50 words and still potentially have it published as their weekly short story for the Little Printer publication.

But is it really as easy as all of that? London is full of small, independent bookshops, but how long will they last? They only have so much shelf space, so is there room for new writers? I met a guy who had written a book called Beach Dogs, about his experiences as a middle aged waster in Goa. He had been offered a publishing deal, which in today’s barren void of publishing contract offers is a pretty laudable achievement. The contract is e-book only, however.

I’m not sure how I feel about that. Obviously times change, things move on, and we’re not reading from papyrus scrolls anymore. But I know that if I had my book published, and saw all of those tens of hundreds of thousands of hours of work condensed into digital form and perched as a thumbnail on an imaginary shelf, whilst bored housewife drivel such as 50 shades and its ilk still took up half of W H Smith, I’d be pretty bloody pissed off.

There’s nothing like holding a real book in your hands. I’m not one to donate a box of old books to the charity shop, instead keeping them, re-reading the ones I like and underlining sentences that made me remember why I love reading so much.

I still dream of having a whole wall made up of bookshelves, with everything I’ve ever read and loved neatly stacked, and a rolling library ladder propped up against the whole shebang so I can fly around the room like a crazed Julie Andrews.

Thumbing your way across an iPhone screen just doesn’t cut it.

Itchy Feet Syndrome

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I suffer from a serious condition. It is relatively common, although the effects can be devastating to your close friends and family, bank balance, and career prospects. It can strike you down at any time, and despite its debilitating symptoms, there is no known cure, and you will find no allowances for company sick pay or government disability benefits. I have a chronic case of Itchy Feet Syndrome.

When I was 18 and friends were eagerly filling in UCAS forms and heading off to university open days, I planned instead to head off to Europe – with no known destination or outcome in sight, my plan of action stretching little further than my childhood dream of moving to Spain, dying my hair jet black and becoming a flamenco dancer.

University beckoned however, as I became jealous of friends wittering on about all night drinking sessions, curling up in the library with a flask of coffee and taking up lacrosse. As it happens, I only ever achieved one of these things. Whilst at university I filled the hours spent in lecture halls (probably an average of 1.5 a week) daydreaming about hitting the road in the Australian outback and swimming with sharks in South Africa.

My first boyfriend was a stony faced sentinel on holidays as I skipped around booking paraglides with unlicenced instructors that launched from illegal spots towering on the mountainside; had my nipple pierced in a shady tattoo studio and hatched covert escape plans from our tour guide of less salubrious spots in Marrakech. I was successful, dragging my ex through twisting alleyways and little visited souks and poking my head into every nook, whilst he clung to my arm hissing about potential abduction.

This boyfriend had a possible opportunity to work in Mumbai, and would be relocated with his girlfriend. I was thrilled at the prospect and spent every passing minute scouring the Internet looking at apartments, bars, yoga studios and Marathi language classes. I bought Shantaram and had my nose stuck in it for the next week, skimming endless pages of analogies on life to get to anything remotely related to living in the sprawling, heaving city.

The move to Mumbai never transpired, and the relationship fizzled shortly afterwards. My next boyfriend was offered the opportunity to work in Australia, and the process started up again. I called Sydney job agencies on Skype, trawled through the Melbourne Gumtree branch and zoomed in on sunny Perth through my Google Earth telescope. When the Australia move began to look unlikely, I told my Mum that if he didn’t go, I’d go by myself. We had just moved in together, and I was off on a three week trip to South Africa to fulfil my lifelong dream of staring a Great White shark in the eye.

The three week trip turned into over a year, after I stroked the Great Whites, partied in the townships, rode an ostrich and decided that I was never going home. I called him to break up with him over the phone and tell him that my parents would be coming to move my stuff out of our flat. I quit my job by email, and spent hours on payphones and Facebook convincing friends and family that I was not being held hostage by an amaZulu tribe and was doing the right thing.

Aside from worrying my parents, breaking someone’s heart, detaching my retina and being mugged at gunpoint – I had the time of my life. I came home in August 2010 to a London where I struggled with directions, traffic that did not include livestock, being able to use an iPod in public and wearing shoes for the next five months, before packing my bag and moving to Australia.

In Australia itchy feet continued to plague me. I spent four months in rural South Western Australia: heading to the beach after work; appearing in the local newspaper three times and the TV news once as anything can count as news in remote WA; spending my weekends crabbing on a run-down boat and camping in the karri forests where possums act nice and then steal your food and bush pigs snuffle the ground outside your tent – sounding like Babe and looking like a Triceratops.

South Western Australia is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, but after four months of living in a tropical Truman Show, I moved to Perth. I lasted a surprisingly long time in Perth. Perth is the kind of place where trying to make friends takes the kind of mental investment usually reserved for Olympic training or joining Opus Dei. After several nights out by myself where I danced hopefully around groups of people, smiling like a maniac and trying to ooze into their sphere of conversation, I rather luckily met Sam.

Our meeting could have spelled disaster. I was sitting in front of him at my new job in a sports events company, as a glorified debt enforcing racketeer. Within approximately 5 seconds of introducing myself, I had spilled my coffee all over my computer. Within 5 seconds of exclaiming “Fuck, I spilled my coffee” and dramatically sweeping kitchen roll around my desk, I had done it again. I think he was only friends with me because he thought I was mentally challenged and might throw hot coffee over him otherwise.

Perth lasted a mammoth eight months before I wanted to move back to South Western Australia. I immediately informed my manager at my new job that I would shortly be leaving, and set about finding yet another new job. I scooped up an Event Manager role for a celebrity cricket tournament, and started with nowhere to live, residing between my boyfriend at the times parent’s house; a friend and her Labrador and my car. Eventually my manager gave me a house to live in on his vineyard estate, and I spent a month chasing Huntsman spiders around with a broom and wandering with seven foot tall red kangaroos in the garden.

After a few moments where I’d start cooking, realise I’d forgotten a vital ingredient, and have to drive for half an hour to get to the nearest supermarket, I decided South Western Australia wasn’t for me, and moved to Port Hedland in North Western Australia. This lasted for two weeks, as it is a hell hole. I walked into the tavern I would be working in (called The Last Chance – apt) and was met by dank darkness; Chop Suey blaring over speakers with a lone, deafened gecko trundling over them; men with no teeth and rumbling welcomes such as “Welcome to the Jungle”, and “New Meat”. It took two weeks of breaking up fights between burly miners, being spat at by alcoholic customers and coming home to find local crack dealers making themselves at home on my couch before I surrendered and flew back to Perth.

This was followed by London, which was followed by Perth again (chasing an ill advised relationship), which was followed by Sydney. Sydney was eight months of being convinced that I found the place I could live in forever, before I missed my Mum and came home. I have been home for four and a half months now. The sun has decided to come out, I have a brilliant job, my calendar is full of trips to Amsterdam, birthday parties and weddings. But with the sun has come my old nemesis: Itchy Feet.

In the past 48 hours I have searched for jobs in Cape Town, apartments in Northern Spain, and considered a career in the Honduran hinterland. I had an hour long chat to a friend in Australia over Skype and am pining for a trip to the beach to drink a cold Little Creatures and watch the sun set and dolphins ride the waves.

I love London. Really I do. I love the bars, the markets, the museums, the multi culturalism and the raw, urban grittiness of it all. But it is very rare that you see a dolphin. Or a beach. Or the sun.

I spoke to friends and family a couple of weeks ago about how much I love my job, and that I can see myself sticking with it and staying for a while. I take it back. I take it all back. I can see myself throwing my woolly scarf away, reaching for my flip flops, waving London goodbye and going to find the dolphins.

Place Hacking

This week I went to a talk on adventure and modern exploration, featuring a whole bunch of intrepid globe wanderers that had rowed the Atlantic, circumnavigated the planet on two wheels and driven a 20 year old black cab around the world.

There was also Bradley Garrett, an Oxford University researcher who quite by accident unearthed a love of place hacking. The fact that his new found passion had led to the confiscation of his passport and indefinite stay in the UK is one downside, however there are myriad pros.

Bradley and his friends made their first traverse from urban bystander to urban explorer whilst admiring the Battersea Power Station. I echo his sentiments – how can such a striking building stand empty? Of course I’m not so desperate for this void to be populated that I would settle for this iconic monolith to be filled with carbon copy apartments or that ever encroaching beast, Westfield.

Plus I have enjoyed its various uses over the years – a static menace on the cover of the Pink Floyd album Animals, dirt bikes arcing against the stark backdrop of imposing chimney stacks for Red Bull X Fighters and as a filming location for The Dark Knight.

Bradley and his friends had conceded that the building was impressive, and instead of taking a snap in the twilight and carrying on their way, they decided that the obvious thing to do was to break in and have a poke around. Exploring the control rooms and abandoned, echoing spaces seemed to have an inspiring effect.

The group went from sneaking onto construction sites to delving down to disused tube stations, Churchill’s war bunkers and London’s sewer network, before climbing to lofty heights again to scale the Shard when it was in its finishing stages.

Becoming a ‘traveller’ in your own environment and navigating your own concrete jungle seems to me to be one of the most rewarding things you could do in your own town or city. I love getting lost in London, wandering back streets, reading obscure blue plaques and treading forgotten alleys. It’s obviously not quite as great when you’re late for an interview, and wandering is a distant memory as you crash through crowds and throw ambling tourists over Waterloo Bridge in order to get to your destination.

Perth, Western Australia was inundated with place hackers after an online events guide recommended breaking into the soon to be demolished Perth Entertainment Centre for a sundowner as its activity of the weekend. Perthites streamed past the hoarding to stroll around the shell of a trusty old eyesore before it was consigned to the wrecking ball.

I met a guy on a night out in Sydney and we ended our night by scaling a seven foot wrought iron fence into the private gardens of Juniper Hall, an eerie overgrown tribute to Miss Havisham with stone lions peeking through the undergrowth and chipped statues gesturing to crumbling walls. No alarms went off, no security guards came running, and when Juniper Hall opened to the public as an art school some weeks later, I had no desire to go, having had my own self guided bespoke tour.

 

The British Transport Police broke into Bradley Garrett’s home and took his laptop, hard drive, notebooks and passport. He has been stuck in the UK, waiting to get it back for months now, whilst the authorities decide if his passion for our urban plains is a sinister threat. Of course it isn’t. A drive to explore is an intrepid trait, not a danger to society.

To find out more about Bradley Garrett, visit http://www.bradleygarrett.com

To find out more about urban exploration, grab a camera and shoes that don’t skid at the merest suggestion of a puddle, and have a peek at http://www.placehacking.co.uk

Becoming an Upstanding Member of Society

After flying back to London before Christmas, I have finally gone and gotten myself a job. Sure, it might have taken me a couple of months, but things like Christmas, darting about visiting friends and the Harry Potter studio tour kept getting in the way.

I am perpetually job hunting, even when I have a job, as I’m usually bored 25 minutes after setting foot in the door and wondering what else I could be doing besides yawning at my desk and seeing how many times I can spin round on my swivel chair in one go.

I think the problem is that I’m not a massively successful writer with pots of money yet. I’m sure I wouldn’t be bored then.

It’s Monday morning in London, and I’m sitting with a coffee in a cafe waiting to go and be the new girl all over again. This doesn’t really bother me that much, as long as no one says “Welcome to the Madhouse!!” and gestures to the photocopier like its about to transfigure into a hot tub full of naked office workers.

I’ve gone through the endless conversations with recruitment agents who are seemingly bi polar and tell you that they’ll definitely be able to get you work, you’re their best candidate, you’re overqualified, you’re under qualified and your CV is unstable all in one sentence. They call about a job paying sweatshop wages that couldn’t be further removed from what you’re looking for, and tell you that it’s so good they want to go and work there. Go and bloody work there then, and I’ll have your job.

I’ve spent hours painstakingly embellishing my CV and making my total lack of hobbies sound interesting. “Swimming, live music and socialising with friends”, as “bombing into a pool for two weeks a year on holiday, moshing around spilling beer, and speaking coherently to friends for 2 minutes before guzzling tequila and throwing up on my own feet” doesn’t sound as good.

I’ve sat through the interview smiling unctiously and laughing at their rubbish jokes, met them for lunch to munch on steak and red wine and be careful not to talk about how wasted I got at the weekend, and responded to emails remembering not to sign off with a kiss.

I’ve accepted the job offer with meagre salary graciously, got up this morning and made myself clean and presentable and even put blusher on. I’ve just noticed a weird stain on my jeans but I think I can style it out.

I’m off to become an upstanding member of society that pays taxes and taps on keyboards and does what they’re told. It makes it easier that the job is for a Swedish online gaming company, there’s a ping pong table in the office, and many hot Swedes wandering around.

I’ll remember this if anyone should start talking about madhouses. Hot Swedes, hot Swedes, hot Swedes.

The Perils and Pitfalls of Online Dating

It seems half the world is online dating these days in some form or another – my friends don’t know what an oven is after being taken out six nights a week by cyber daters from Plenty of Fish; my Mum’s friends are marrying people they met on Match.com; my gay friends are shagging half the world through Grindr and even half of Parliament are apparently browsing for extra marital relations.

You can buy a kettle online, book a trek through the Himalayas, find your long lost uncle or bore the whole world with the fact that it’s Friday and the weekend is upon us. I know its Friday. I have a calendar. And a brain.

So why not shop for a boyfriend online? Where else would you find one? I don’t go clubbing, and if I’m out with my friends I want to talk to them, and they would probably disown me anyway if I abandoned them as soon as we walked through the door and prowled around in the shadows like a ravenous hyena. When I go to the supermarket it’s with my Mum and we’re more interested in the Waitrose wine offers than the assembled menfolk. Plus I’m not entirely sure who these people are that meet their husbands at the supermarket. Whenever I go, it’s full of angry looking women brandishing packs of braising steak, 87 year old men and boys stacking shelves and discussing their impending GCSEs.

Meeting someone at the gym would be unlikely as I’m usually dripping with sweat and end up being mistaken for the water fountain. Plus I hear you actually have to go to the gym to meet someone at the gym.

I could try meeting someone at a gig, but then they would probably be wearing SKINNY JEANS. There are two kinds of ‘skinny jean’ guys, in my experience. A) Those that are too fat for skinny jeans. They’re not actually fat, but they’re not rail thin either and so oozing into skinny jeans just makes them look like a sausage going down a hoover attachment. B) Those that are skinny enough for skinny jeans. In which case they are probably a smack addict.

Browsing through guys on a dating website from the comfort of your armchair, in your flannel reindeer pyjama bottoms with a glass of wine in your hand, sounds a lot more appealing than actually having to put on make up and make conversation with people. Plus you can filter through and weed out all of those things that you don’t like in a guy, but usually don’t find out about them until you’re married and pregnant.

He can’t spell! He says ‘da’ instead of ‘the’! He takes pictures of himself in the mirror looking brooding with no top on!  Delete delete delete.  Obviously I’m not everyone’s cup of tea either. I drink pints of ale, snore like a freight train and have an unhealthy obsession with zombies. I definitely wouldn’t go out with me.

I have actually tried online dating before. It was at the tender age of 22, after I’d broken up with my first serious boyfriend. A few friends were on My Single Friend, and had been on dates with people that had teeth and were not serial killers. If you’re not familiar with My Single Friend (which you probably are and I’m just being incredibly condescending), it’s the brainchild of Sarah Beeny, who is more commonly sighted on Discovery: Home frowning disdainfully at people’s whimsical novelty toilet seats. The concept is that your friend writes your profile, so you feel less lonely and desperate.

I thought the whole thing seemed a bit bleak and wasn’t that keen, until my friend wrote my profile for me, made me sound way more interesting than I actually am, and I had received my first message. All thoughts of being stung by the £20 joining fee were forgotten as I rushed to hand over my credit card details and fumbled excitedly for the inbox. It was a message from Sarah Beeny welcoming me to My Single Friend. Fucking Sarah Beeny.

I went on my first blind date with a guy called Ben who wanted to be a stand up comic and looked like Harry Potter. I like guys that are funny, and I like guys that can play Quidditch, so this seemed like a win win. We arranged to meet at Tottenham Court Road tube station at 6pm. Tottenham Court Road has about 87 exits, and is not dissimilar to a being caught in a buffalo stampede at 6pm on a Friday.

I had tried incredibly hard to be late, but for once in my life seemed to be early. As the first one there this meant that I had to stand underneath the We Will Rock You sign and try to look attractive, friendly, interesting, witty and good at cooking for ten minutes. I didn’t want to look miserable so had a manic grin plastered over my face. Everywhere I looked were Harry Potter lookalikes, so I kept jumping, starting to walk toward people with my arms outstretched, getting closer and realising it was just another Chinese man with glasses on, veering away at the last minute and crashing into five rogue commuters.

Eventually he turned up, ten minutes late, out of nowhere as if he’d been hiding in the crotch of the We Will Rock You sign the entire time. By this point I’d given up on trying to look attractive, friendly, etc etc, and was slumped against the wall reading the paper, with a face like thunder and an ink moustache.

We bellowed “Hello!” in each others general direction, made our awkward introductions, gamely discussed how nice the weather was, guffawed heartily at each others shit jokes and generally tried not to ruin it all by falling over. We couldn’t go anywhere for a couple of minutes as my newspaper had done that funny thing where the sides bend out and you can’t fold it up and feel like you’re erecting a tent, so then I gave up and in my panic threw it on the floor, then realised I’d littered, snatched it up again and just waved it around like it had been a cool dance routine all along.

We went on a few dates, but the whole thing fizzled out after he’d taken me to a jazz bar and I’d fallen asleep on the sofa.

I hadn’t considered online dating again until I came back to London from Australia this year.  This time I was not getting my hopes up, and definitely not forking out twenty quid to get a message from Sarah bloody Beeny. I set up a profile on Plenty of Fish, sifted through the messages cynically, and turned into the most snobbish, judgmental version of myself. I deleted anyone that hadn’t been to university, anyone that worked as a manual labourer and anyone from Essex. Seeing as I am from Essex myself, this was very hypocritical, but I had visions of spending two hours sitting opposite a hairdo in a pink shirt, and didn’t much fancy it.

I set up a date with a guy called Chris, who had charmed me with tales of how he was from Liverpool but wouldn’t steal my hubcaps. Unsure if this was some sort of saucy euphemism, I decided to meet him anyway. Maybe my hubcaps could do with stealing.

He wasn’t late, we had a great time, had way too much to drink, and ended up in a bar in Bethnal Green both significantly worse for wear. I’d agreed to meet my Dad for a lift home – which is a double edged sword. It’s great to have a lift home in the back of a comfy black cab, but he has a habit of calling me to say he’s five minutes away when I’m nowhere near ready. He also has a habit of driving off and leaving you if you’re not standing there when he pulls up. Many a night has ended with me sprinting through the streets of London like a maniac, shoving bystanders out of my way and vaulting over railings so that he doesn’t drive off without me.

In order to hide my drunkenness from my Dad, I downed a glass of water, which of course did not have the instantaneous sobering effect I’d envisaged. As Chris and I left the bar, I felt a slight hiccup brewing, and was quite shocked to discover that it was not a hiccup, but the water travelling back up. The water rocketed out in a projectile stream, all over the back of Chris’ Barbour jacket. At least it was sort of wipe clean.

The patrons of the bar looked on in horror as I carried on walking nonchalantly, with Chris strolling along in front with no idea that I’d just projectile vomited on his back. Outside, I thanked him for a great night, kissed him on the cheek, and ran hell for leather to my Dad’s cab.

Needless to say, I’ve given online dating a break for the time being. I worry that I shouldn’t be let out in social situations and perhaps my parents should lock me in a cupboard and feed me through a hatch. For now I’ll stick to Waitrose. Who knows, one of those 87 year old men might be a lonely billionaire not long for this world.

A Socially Inept Guide to London: Cross Bones Graveyard

I’m mildly obsessed with weird and wonderful stories about London and its past – especially anything to do with the underbelly – opium dens, brothels, gin shops, bear baiting rings and any other general debauchery.

Even my sister has been known to exclaim that if she lived in the 1800s she would have been a prostitute, as it “seemed like they had a real laugh”. Drunken sailors, Syphilis, Jack the Ripper.. What a blast.

I’m the kind of person that gets in the way of the football and stands for 10 minutes reading the plaque on the wall of the pub with my hand under my chin. Then I usually smash any illusion of being socially capable by telling someone all about what happened on this spot 200 years ago. Smuggling! Cock fighting! Gonorrhoea! I really do know how to have a good time.

To share this penchant, I’m going to write about the Bishop of Winchester’s geese. It’s not quite a religious themed farmyard fairy tale.

The Bishop of Winchester, from 1171, had the very sacred and holy job of running prostitutes to make money for the church. All of those fancy pulpits and stained glass windows cost money you know. The prostitutes would give a cut of their earnings to him for the privilege of being able to flog their wares within his diocese, and became known as The Bishop of Winchester’s Geese.

When they died however, the Bishop had decided that they couldn’t be buried within the churchyard, as it was consecrated ground and they were hookers! The hypocrisy is of course rife, but the Bishop obviously felt that it was one thing taking money from a prossie, and quite another being buried next to one for all eternity.

So a “single woman’s burial ground” was set aside in Southwark, and the Bishop’s flock was buried there. I’m not a huge fan of the association: single woman = whore. I might have to work on getting a boyfriend so I’m not mistakenly thrown into a mass grave with 50 London escorts.

Prostitutes continued to be buried there on and off until 1853. As you can imagine, it was getting a little snug down there. The burial ground had since been renamed Cross Bones Graveyard, and eventually the point came where decaying prostitute extremities – hands, feet, noses, the odd boob – were poking out of the soil as the ground was so jam packed. The government decided that walking down the street and having a dead prostitute waving her foot at you from below ground was not acceptable, and closed the graveyard down.

Cross Bones Graveyard still sits tucked away down Red Cross Way (running alongside Borough High St) behind an old iron gate today, and after several applications for planning permission, companies seem to have accepted that the locals will not stand for a block of flats to be plonked on top of their beloved dead courtesans club.

So now you know. What a great day out for all the family! Or take a first date! Who wouldn’t want to stare at a patch of earth that conceals hundreds of prostitute skeletons?! I should be writing for Time Out.