Thursday, November 29, 2012

I may or may not have joined a cult

On Monday night I met Jessie in Camden to accompany her while she got her conch (part of the ear cartilage) pierced and have a few beers before she left for India the next morning. As we shared a burger at The Loch Tavern, Jessie mentioned she had picked up a flyer for some kind of creative network and thought it would might interest me. I helped her write a list of what to pack in exchange to stay for a few more pints. It was a lovely evening.

By the time I got home, Jessie had sent me photos of the flyer. 

"Are you just out of university clutching your degree?" The flyer asks. "Are you a creative freelancer just taking the jobs as they come? Are you feeling adrift in a sinking economy? If this is you, WE ARE CAN."

I went on the website to investigate more. Its a sleek website with videos and a simple clean interface. I still didn't really understand what CAN is. I decided to watch an episode of Freaks and Geeks and discover more in the morning, thinking the website would make more sense to me when I was less drunk.

It did not. I had the sense to go to the "about" link but was greeted with a children's story about four animals who learn to share a tree, rather than any concrete information about what CAN is. There's nothing more suss than a vague website with the option to be a Plus Member for £20 a year. As far as I could gather it was a Creative Artists Network, big on #collaboration. I texted Jessie and told her I think she had given me a flyer for a cult. Such flyers do exist in East London, anyway. "Brill," she replied. I made a profile, maybe it would make sense once I was a member (don't worry I didn't pay). 

The profile is somewhere between a Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin account. It allows you to promote whatever genre of the creative world you are versed in, promote your work and experiences and connect with other members. Within a few hours I was added by a few of the site coordinators who started complimenting this blog. 


I was really taken aback by complete strangers enjoying my writing. Not that I don't appreciate my friends and family who enjoy reading this too, but you guys kind of have to say I'm amazing and talented. 

I don't know what happened to make me so cynical and negative and quick to judge. It's not like my parents forced me to take heroin and sold me to a brothel so I lost all trust in fellow human beings. Although, once Mum said she would let me have plastic surgery on my nose if I still didn't like it by the time I was sixteen, then when I brought it up later she totally denied it. How unfair is that? Actually, I think it might have something to do with the unhealthy amount of Daria I watched growing up. Somewhere along the way I just figured it was okay to be like her when it really isn't, you know, because she's a fictional character.

So, um. CAN. I went to one of their welcome/induction nights at a pub in Dalston because I had nothing else to do, was curious to know what the fuck CAN actually is and secretly liked the idea of it being a cult #DoItForTheStory. Thinking about Martha Marcy May Marlene as I got dressed, I wondered if I was going to have sleep with the leader or something. Well if he compliments my writing enough, I could live with it.

I walked into the relatively private function room and was greeted with "Oh, Sian, hi, your blog has been the talk of the office today."

Oh, wow. That's um. Thanks. I...What. Is. This. 

I chatted to the two members, Tora and Damiano who had complimented me online and they introduced me to Paul, another member. Paul and I sat on a couch and chatted while we waited for more people to turn up and the presentation to start.

Damiano got up and asked if anyone had any questions. Paul couldn't think of anything so he asked me. I straight up said "I don't know what this is." So now, thanks to Damiano, I can tell you that CAN is a creative agency for freelancers. They will advertise projects that need photographers or designers or self absorbed bloggers and in the meantime the members are encouraged to interact and work on projects together to keep themselves busy and get their work out there. Pretty cool, huh?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Apology Post

I'd like to apologise for the last post I made. I definitely think I overreacted with how appropriate I think the word faggot is.

I have since realised that if my friends say it, it doesn't bother me, because I know they don't mean it the way I assumed she did. But that it is definitely interesting that because I don't know her I just assumed it was incredibly rude. Maybe it was the tone she used that caught my attention. She said it suddenly and seemingly with vitriol so I jumped to conclusions. Maybe the most surprising thing is that she said in front of someone who, let's be honest, definitely looks like they could be gay and without thinking how it would affect me. Oh well. Whatever.

Tonight she said she would never try a meal if she knew someone had put something weird in it "like sugar or jam". Which I think is far more controversial. She would be fine if she didn't know and would "even ask for seconds, no problem" but knowing what's in the dish would immediately have her turning up her nose.

First of all, she said this as we were watching Come Dine With Me and someone made a main course dish of black pudding wrapped in chicken breast. While black pudding is definitely disgusting and I would forgive anyone who said "no thanks" (I would) it is by no means a weird dish BECAUSE YOU LIVE IN THE UK AND EVERY RESTAURANT AND CAFE SELLS IT.

Secondly, sugar and jam? How are they weird additions to meals? So if I made caramalised onions and told her I used sugar to make them a little bit sweeter she wouldn't want any? What? I can't think of a savoury dish where jam would be used but I'm sure Jamie Oliver would have made something with it. Something along the lines of turkey and cranberry sauce is not going to blow your conservative taste buds apart. Fair enough if you made tomato soup and added marmalade jam because you think you're the next wild and inventive Iron Chef, but there are plenty of dishes that go with sweet, maybe a little unpopular, additions.

I just googled "savoury dishes with jam" and some of the suggestions sound pretty delicious. Maybe tomorrow I'll cook some chicken or spare ribs and ask if I can use the jam in the fridge for a glaze. And then offer it to her. Actually now that I think about it, the other night when I had Mi Goreng, I asked if I could use one of her eggs and just cracked it into the bowl of cooked noodles, mixed it in and started eating it. This seemed to blow her mind. I casually replied "this is what they do in Korea. Its yum." She said "oh, maybe I'll have to try it some day" in an entirely unconvincing I'm-never-eating-that-you-freakin'-weirdo kind of way.

I felt like responding to her tonight and saying "as long as its edible and not banana (or black pudding, I guess) I will try and probably eat all of anything you put in front of me" but I didn't feel it would get me anywhere. So I smiled meekly and said "really?" instead. I should probably try some more engaging responses with her. That would probably be the best way to to get to know her. You know, instead of massively judging her on one statement.

Baz has brought home a whole lot of Pret A Manger (chain store) salads and sandwiches because he often delivers them during his truck driving job, so at least I get to eat free food while I'm trying to get my head around this girl. This evening's comments have made me realise that she's just incredibly sheltered and close minded. While she may have said faggot quite rudely, I don't think she knows that its not cool to say that any more. And sometimes adding strange ingredients to dishes is fucking fantastic. I guess she's never been a poor, lazy student and had to make a meal with whatever is left over in the fridge.

I should probably also try black pudding. Euugghhh.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Flatmate With No Name

I groggily walked downstairs to make some dinner. I'd just woken up from a nap and kind of just wanted to go back to bed. My flatmate was watching X Factor as I took the 95p can of vegetable soup and a packet of Mi Goreng-like noodles out of the cupboard. Trying to work out what I wanted, thinking I had a bit of a craving for real pasta with tinned tomatoes, garlic, basil and mozarella but that sounds like too much effort and I don't have basil or mozarella or even tinned tomatoes, I decided I would sit in the lounge room and watch TV with her even though I can feel my brain cells committing suicide when I watch reality TV shows. Considering I'm responsible for more than enough of my brain cells' deaths it's something I tend to avoid, but in the name of getting to know my flatmates I can sacrifice a few more. And I wanted to sit on the unbelievably comfortable couch.

By the way, Baz calls her Dada and I'm fairly sure that is her name but I'm also scared that it might be an affectionate nick name and I don't want to say it in case its the equivalent of "baby" or "honey". Erin suggested I ask for her phone number (I really should have it because I supposed to tell her if I bring male friends over, which is totally fine, but she needs to know so she can put her hijab on) and get her to put it in my phone, hoping she will fill in her name too. If not I guess I can just put her number under "Baz's wife" or "female flatmate".

I turned the stove on, waited for the water to boil and put the soup back in the cupboard. She was singing along to the catch up scenes from last week when she came into the kitchen, lit a cigarette and sat on the bench next to the sink. One particularly plain-looking competitor had his promo slot and she exclaimed, "that's my boy! He's going to win."

"Oh yeah?" I said smiling. "Do you vote?"

"Yeah, of course." Of course, Sian, of course.

I stirred my noodles, occasionally turning around to see what was happening on the TV.

"Faggot!" She suddenly announced.

I froze. Not in a holy-fuck-there's-a-bear-coming-towards-me-and-I'm-pretending-I-don't-exist but in a subtle-I-don't-want-to-make-it-obvious-but-what-the-shitting-hell-did-you-just-say?! kind of way. The TV was flashing with the bright, multicoloured stage lights as a big dance troupe finished their act and posed. They appeared to be in drag.

"He's not your favourite then?" I enquired gently.

"No. He has a bad attitude." Oh, boy.

"What do you mean? To performing?"

"Yeah. I don't know what the word for it is, but I don't care if he's gay or what he does in his personal life, it really doesn't bother me, but he's too much. He's over the top and very camp."

The word is homophobe. And you are one. It's like saying "I'm not sexist but...." or possibly even worse "No offence but..." and then finishing it up with some hard-hitting truths that are actually just massive insults disguised as constructive criticism because you said "HEY BARLEYS* DON'T GET MAD WITH ME BUT I THINK YOU AND YOUR ENTIRE FAMILY ARE SMELLY TWO FACED WHORES". You can't preface a statement with something like that and then just say what you want. Your listener will be able to work out if you're a dick or not based on the rest of the sentence. Okay, so maybe she's not bothered by homosexuality and she really is okay with whatever people do in their personal lives but if that was true I don't think she would have said faggot. I realise the language barrier could definitely be at fault here but, I dunno, I guess that's just not a good enough reason for me. Because I think she knows that that word is quite offensive and she said it because he's her least favourite character. I mean she could have called him a "drama queen" or "diva", which if we're going to be super PC about this, that's not great either, but it's better. And more appropriate for someone who is too over the top, if that is actually what she doesn't like about him. But also, let's not be super PC because that's annoying.

Maybe I'm over analysing this way too much now, but I sometimes I feel the way she says "I don't care what you do in your personal life, that's completely up to you" is a patronising way of saying "I don't approve of what you do with your personal life, but as long as you keep it away from my personal life it will be okay." Considering she has said this to me a few times regarding drinking alcohol even though she thinks alcohol is so abhorrent she doesn't physically touch sealed containers, I find this to be an odd statement.

I sat and ate my shitty noodles with cheese and an egg and tried to pretend she hadn't just said that.  Rihanna sang about diamonds and got rained on on stage (I guess she should have brought her umbrella-ella-ella-eh-eh-eh) and I wondered if I really wanted to try and be friends with the girl on the couch next to me. As the host announced that the voting lines were open, she lunged for the phone and voted for her favourite. I'm glad I didn't stay in bed, or take my food back to my room because this woman just fucking fascinates me, but this is not a particularly good development.

Also I just spent fifteen minutes researching this guy to find out what he's actually like to understand where she's coming from (his name is Rylan - what kind of fucking name is that?! Are you Ryan or Dylan? Pick one name). And then I realised it doesn't matter what if he is too camp and over the top (how is that a bad thing show business?!), she shouldn't have called him a faggot.

*Is barleys a thing? Is it what you have to say when you play backyard cricket or keepy-off or whatever? Like a reverse "shotgun" to announce you're safe? It's possible I just made it up, I'm so tired (I went out Friday night, worked, went out Saturday night, worked the heinous Sunday shift) I just had to google how to spell umbrella. It doesn't start with an 'e' as I initially thought. I apologise for any other mistakes I've probably made. I also apologise for the Rihanna joke, the Queen just tweeted it and I couldn't resist. In my defence I was just watching X Factor so my brain cell count is probably even lower that it was that time I gave myself alcohol poisoning by trying to keep up with Lloyd.

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The "Exciting" Life of Sian

I promised I'd blog again when I found somewhere to live. Seeing as I am currently so poor my friend offers me free dinner at her work, after paying the bond and first month's rent here, I should get everyone up to speed on the Exciting Life of Sian.

Living Arrangements
First I was in a hostel in Paddington. Really good hostel with included breakfast and ensuite bathrooms. Unfortunately the snoring from one of my room mates was so unbelievable that I ended up (unknowingly) bitching about it in front of the culprit. Felt bad and left.

Then I stayed at my friend Yana's place in south London. Yana is an amazing, generous and kind friend but her room was tiny; my suitcase didn't even fit in her room. She said I could stay as long as I needed, and I think she genuinely meant it but I needed a little more space and independence.

So then I was in a short term rent place in Finsbury Park. I shared a room with Jessie, my Australian friend who used to work at Sacred. Then Jessie found a proper flat and Jess, a South African friend who also worked at Sacred (and now they both work at Look Mum No Hands and all three of us work on Old Street), was my room mate for a few weeks. This was kind of okay, even though I bitched about it a lot, but I did enjoy sharing with friends rather than a fat, smelly, snoring American or someone who lets their alarm ring out a la my three months in Berlin, but I was ready to have my own room again. Although, Jessie brought home a whole lot of food from work and Jess gave me a bunch of her old clothes.

Jessie and me enjoying the sun on our window sill.

Me, Jess and Jessie at the Crawley Arms in Camden

Jessie's last night in our shared room.

Now I live in Clapton (East London, not to be confused with Clapham in South London) in a war veterans' cottage with a Muslim couple. I have my own room which is huge and cosy and the best, and Baz and his wife (I don't know her name. Can someone please come over and ask her so I don't have to - it's been too long) are a really friendly and generous, if they are a bit weird sometimes. They mentioned that we all help clean the flat which is totally fine with me, but it's always spotless, so I have no idea what/when I'm supposed to clean. For example, last night Mrs Baz wiped the crumbs off the top of the toaster after I used it. Baz said he wasn't interested in the money so much but just wanted someone else in the house because he often works nights. So I've effectively been brought in as a friend for...her. I'm not entirely sure how I'm supposed to be friends with a Muslim woman my age with two kids who doesn't touch alcohol (as in she asks Baz to move the beer in the fridge) and has watched Celine Dione's life movie more than once. Jess thinks it's funny that a hardcore feminist lives with a Muslim woman and that I should try and convert her. I pointed out that having short hair, believing in equal rights and comfortably throwing around the C bomb doesn't make me a hardcore feminist, but I liked her point all the same. At least they have super fast internet, Sky TV and Netflix. More to come on my new flatmates as it develops. I feel like it could be something I'll reflect on and be all "hey remember when I used to live with that Muslim couple and they said I didn't have to pay rent as long as I vacuumed the ceiling and watched awful TV with the wife. I never did learn her name. My room was fucking sweet though."

Its even cuter now that I've put up photos and posters.

I work at Shoreditch Grind which is busy and stressful sometimes but everyone's really friendly and cool. I'd really, really, really like to not work in hospitality but there's not much else I can do.

Whenever I see something worth it I apply to copy writing/content producing/journalism internships. Mostly this consists of me reading the website with a vacancies, thinking I'm way better than their current writers then never hearing from them again. I'm not going to get my hopes up (or that down really), I think it's highly unlikely that I will get paid writing work in London but I figure I may as well try. As long as I don't let my happiness depend on the fact that I'm not writing for Vice, it's not going to hurt to apply for things here and there.

In case you missed it on facebook, I finished my Berlin blog. I motivated myself to finish and post it after a particularly shit day at work, more or less so I could get some positive feedback and validation in my life. It worked. And motivated me to keep looking for writing work, write this post and stop hating life so much.

Yes, it is Jessie in the photos on that blog. She came and visited me and I decided to make her a character because she is such a filthy hipster and loves when I take photos of her doing anything.

That's where I went wrong last year, I just wish I had the balls to stick it out. Everyone has been through what I went through last year, numerous times, in fact. It's just part of the "joy" of living in London. Jessie said she can tell how she feels about London based on whether the song "I'm in London Still" by The Waifs makes her happy or want to cry.

London is a shit. It's almost constant hard work and you could most likely be having a better, easier time somewhere else. But for some reason we all stick at it. Jess and I were talking about it and basically agreed that it's like being addicted to a drug. It chews you up and spits you out and still go crawling back for more without being able to explain why. When we were in Edinburgh, we ordered some drinks from an Australian guy at a bar. Noticing that there seemed to be a lot of us in Scotland, I asked him why he chose Edinburgh. He started talking about working visas and how easy it is to come over here. I stopped him and said I know about all that, I live in London blah blah blah but why did he choose Scotland and not anywhere else, London, for example. He screwed up his nose and said "well...London's a bit shit..." Jess and I were just discussing this but suddenly got all defensive as if he'd just called our mothers sluts - "How dare he say that!? What would he know about London! It's amazing and awesome and the best place ever and London doesn't want him anyway!" We're shamelessly addicted.

On the first weekend of November Jess and I decided to go to Scotland because we'd never been and because we can. I wish I had got my shit together and blogged about it then because it was so much fun and getting to know Jess was pretty great too. She's a beautifully caring, generous and intelligent girl. She makes me feel about eight years old with all the life experience she's had (she's only 21) and I'm going to be really sad when she goes back to South Africa in two weeks. Like, I'm actually going to have 50% less friends*.

Yeah, it was cold.

The highlights of our weekend consisted of increasing the hipster population by 75%, eating amazing vegan food in Glasgow, teaching Jess the ways of cynicism and judging people less cool than us, finding adorable book stores and a frosty, overgrown cemetery in Edinburgh, being asked to put music on the juke box because we "look like [we] have a cool taste in music" and partying with a band (Reptile Youth) in their hotel room. The latter sounds a lot wilder than it probably was. In reality I talked Jess out of letting the lead singer give her a home made tattoo, tried to work out what the Germans were saying even though I was so drunk sitting up was taking up most of my concentration and then realising what complete douchebags they were in the morning. Cool story, though, right? Maybe I should talk it up a bit.

Graffiti in the toilets of The Elephant House, where JK Rowling started writing Harry Potter.

Standing on top of Arthur's Seat.

The cemetery.

Other Things
I got my nosed pierced. I was really against it for ages (Steph has one, I hate my nose etc) but it looks fucking rad and I can't believe I was against it for so long.

Talking selfies while I "help" Jessie shop. Something I seem to spend a lot of my spare time doing because we're basically a couple, which we realised when I asked where the husband chair was last time we shopped together.

I got a stupid hair cut for free as a trainee hairdresser's model. In case you missed my documentation on face book (although it seems like everyone took part in the ridicule), here it is:

I cut the really long bit off, and I don't wear the fringe like that so its not too bad. I still don't really like it though.

Jessie's building me a bike. I always wanted to get a bike but my financial priorities were always on finding somewhere to live first. Jessie offered to build me a bike with whatever parts she could find and then I would just pay for the parts she had to buy, on the condition that I give it to her sister when she's here for two months from late December. I get a cheap bike that I can't ride in the coldest, shittiest months, her sister gets a bike and Jessie had a project to keep her busy while she needed to save money. It worked for everyone. She's pretty rad like that. I haven't got it yet but I think it's not far off completion. Photos to come.

I think that brings you pretty much up to speed. I've caught up with a few friends (from Berlin and Australia and even my cousin, Dave on his way back home) including Erin, a friend of Sam's who also lives in Melbourne but is also originally from Perth. Erin was super understanding of my current monetary situation and bought me wine and nibbles and sickness inducing breakfast. I will forever be thankful and hope I can return the favour one day.

Epic breakfast at The Breakfast Club in Hoxton.

I will endeavour to blog regularly from now on. I realise I made this all sound pretty exciting and the quotation marks probably aren't needed, but I also spend a fuck load of time sitting in my (awesome) room watching crap (I watched an entire season of Vampire Diaries last week, even though its possibly on par with The Big Bang Theory) and not going out because I don't want to be hungover at work because I'm too lazy to deal with that crap. In the words of Karley Sciortino of Slutever, I guess I'm trying to trick you into thinking my life is more exciting than it actually is.

Oh yeah, I also saw Radiohead. That was pretty rad. And Jessie and I were in the audience while they filmed Never Mind the Buzzcocks. Also rad.

Me, Chris (the guy I bought the tickets from) and Vanessa (we both work at the Grind) before Radiohead.

*Okay so I have more than two friends here but I see Jess and Jessie the most.