Monday, 22 February 2010

I which I wake up and smell the coffee.

To be printed 25/02/10.

Sometimes living in London is a bit like living inside a Monet painting. Not that it’s a beautiful work of art, or anything (instead of waterlillies we have damp copies of the Metro trodden into the pavement). But it is like a Monet painting in that up close it is blurry, and only people standing at a distance have any real idea what’s going on.

A few weeks ago, my mother phoned me. “Have you had a flat white?” she demanded. “Pardon? A what?” “A flat white. Apparently they’re all the rage.”

I mentally scan through a few speculative options. Have I had a flat white? It sounds like a shark. Is it a shark? Are we all meant to be eating shark burgers in gastropubs now? Have Wild Boar sausages finally had their day? Or maybe it’s an activity, flat whiting. Like free running or pilates or something, that involves lying still on the floor under a silk sheet as a cure for cellulite? Maybe it’s a flat, white person? Surely she can’t mean a flat white PERSON?

“It’s a coffee,” she says, when it becomes clear that I am not the Suzy Society I profess to be. “Everyone in London’s supposed to be drinking them. It said so on Radio 2.”

“Oh. Really?”

“In London, where you live.”

“Yes Mum.”

“Well? Have you had one?”

“Ummmmm. No. Not to my knowledge. I thought we were still excited over the Macchiato.”

So this got me slightly worried. Am I losing my grasp on the fleeting world of popular culture in the capital? When did I miss this sudden development? Was it those two days I spent watching Crystal Maze on Challenge? While I was with Richard O’Brien in the sunken ship, was everybody else out in coffee houses, comparing foaming techniques and laughing gaily as they tipped lattes in the Thames? WHY WASN’T IT ON THE NEWS?

After a little further research, however, it transpires that nobody I ask has heard of a flat white. I conclude that it must be one of those provincial myths about London-dwellers, like “we get mugged on average once a week” or “Boris Johnson makes us lol”, or  “you’re never more than three feet away from a heroin addict”. The thing is, though, I would quite like a new coffee order. After several years of being the idiot who asks for a grande decaf soy hazlenut latte, it would be nice to go minimalist. I like the idea of rolling into Starbucks and just growling “flat white, ma’am”, like a cowboy in a western, then the barista can whiz it down the counter to me and I’ll stroll off into the sunset, no biscotti complications. The legend of the flat white has me possessed. Some might say it is my (flat) white whale.

Then, finally, I find it. Or rather, it finds me. I am walking past Costa one day and BAM, there it is on a board outside. It claims to be ‘velvety smooth’ for ‘coffee lovers’. It even has a heart whooshed into the foam, as though it loves me before we’ve even met. It looks promising. Mum will be so proud.

Reader, I drank him. And I am here to tell you today, as your London-living correspondent, that it just tastes like normal white coffee. But then, you have a Costa in Worthing so I guess you’re capable of finding that out for yourself.

In which I see red.

ShinyStyle Column - Why Ginger is the New Black

Sunday, 14 February 2010

In which, by George, I think I've got it...

To be printed 18/02/10.

Isn’t it odd how the card companies choose some holidays to milk dry of sentiment through the ruthless exploitation of every commercial opportunity, and not others? I am writing this in Starbucks, on February 14. It’s part of my Single Person’s Outdoors Reclamation Exercise (or SPORE), in which singletons across the nation throw off the shackles of our coupling-obsessed culture, and their duvets, to proudly march the streets alone among the hoards of romancing twosomes. 

It is admittedly a change of tack from this morning, when I was participating in the Single Person’s Agoraphobia-Faking Federation (or SPAFF), in which we avoid all potential human contact by sitting in our wardrobes with and coat over our heads, playing the game of “if I died now, how long would it take for anyone to wonder where I was?”

But enough of that! For by the time you read this, it will be February 18, your dozen red roses will all have died and a WHOLE OTHER HOLIDAY will have come and gone. And not just any other holiday, but one of the best there is. Why is it, I wonder, that Hallmark et al haven’t tried to capitalise on pancake day a little more?

It is clearly a superior festival to Valentine’s Day, being as it discriminates nobody (other than the gluten-and-dairy-intolerant, but then they’re used to being awkward). There is a nice, meaningful message for those who want it, in the preparation for remembering Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness and the counting down of the days until Easter celebration. And for those who don’t, there is the excuse to eat oneself into a golden syrup coma. Not to mention endless opportunities for punning on the word ‘toss’. It has everything.

So in the spirit of bigging up the smaller events on our calendar, I’d like to nominate a few more for recognition and potential commercial gain. How about the Queen’s official birthday? As our figurehead, I can’t help but feel we should be allowed to share in her special day – like when your sibling has a birthday but you get a free dinner out of it. We could all have the day off work and wear little plastic crowns, and there could be a special raffle of all her rubbish unwanted birthday presents. Ruby encrusted sandwich toaster from the Earl of Bratislava? Me please! For the republicans among us, there would be the alternative option of celebrating Freddie Mercury, or Queen Latifah. It would have something for everyone.

Or how about All Saints’ Day? Largely ignored in the aftermath of Halloween, as you pick silly string out of your hair and try to work out if the blood on the floor is fake, the day is a missed opportunity for fun. It should clearly be used to celebrate the back catalogue of the eponymous 90s girl band, themselves so often ignored in the aftermath of the Spice Girls. We could all wear camouflage combats and see who still knows the words to the spoken bit in Never Ever. 

And finally, St George’s Day – instead of beery racists painting flags on their faces while the rest of us look away, it should be expanded to include not just the dragon-slayer, but all Georges of any merit. George Formby. George Wendt. George from Rainbow. George of ‘Gilbert and…’. Not George Bush, though. That would be the only rule of Georgeday. 

So, there are a few things for Hallmark to think about. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to lick some lemon and sugar off the ceiling.

In which I'm with the band.

Shiny Style column, on one of fashion's favourite myths:

What Maketh the Rock Chick?


Wednesday, 3 February 2010

In which would like to thank everyone who has ever believed in me. And gin.

To be printed 04/02/10.

Hurrah huroo, awards season is upon us! Celebland has spun into its usual red carpeted frenzy, with listers A to Z dusting off their black tie and practicing their gracious loser faces. Of course, what this means for the other 99.3 per cent of the population is either a) nothing, or b) entire mornings spent at work loading up galleries on gossip websites and wondering if Taylor Swift is really human.

As my own attendance at the ceremonies is going to be sadly lacking (I have some serious foot filing to do those nights), I’ve decided to host my own instead. So hello, and welcome to the 2010 Bravos, coming live to you from my North London kitchen*. Tonight, we’re celebrating the good, the bad and the creepy of the past year in entertainment. Under your seats you will find a goodie bag from our sponsors, including a half eaten Special K bar, an N-power gas bill and a sock. Without further ado, let the awarding begin!

Best Male: David Tennant. For making sci-fi sexy and Catherine Tate likeable. And for being on two ‘live’ programmes at once this Christmas, proving he really is a timelord. LA had better appreciate this export.
Best Female: Sarah Brown. One part superwoman, one part headteacher and one part my Mum, she has overtaken Fern Britton and Marge Simpson as the thinking woman’s role model of choice. A feminist and philanthropist with a nice line in tailored dresses, Mrs Brown doesn’t even mind being photographed next to Naomi Campbell. Nice try, Sam Cam, but 1,120,760 Twitter followers can’t be wrong…

Best New Word: “Gleek”. Runners-up include “jeggings” and “tweeple”.

The Jedward Award, for Hair Experimentation: Dannii Minogue. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a detailed small-scale replica of the battle of Agincourt? Trouncing Cheryl’s wardrobe hands-down, Danii’s hair became the most compelling reason for watching X-factor, as her stylist slaved tirelessly each week to bring us something bigger, better and more hurricane resilient than everything that had gone before. We can only hope baby Minogue is born with a full-size frohawk.

Least Shocking Celebrity Conversion of the Year: Peaches Geldof. She is now, like, totally a scientologist. Congratulations, L. Ron. She’s all yours.

Most Disturbing Advert: Evian. Is there anything creepier than those rollerskating babies? Also a notable failure as an advert, as the sight of the hip-hop-dancing infants does not prompt one to reach for a mineral water, but for the nearest dry gin.

Scariest Celebrity Transformation: Hannah Waterman. Who has not only shed half her body weight and an entire husband, but also basted herself in gravy browning and brought back cycling shorts. Heat magazine should feel very bad about this one.

Worst Thought-Out Brand Name Decision: The iPad. Whether Apple’s focus group was entirely made up of bachelors, monks and seven year old boys, we are yet to confirm. But the conclusion can safely be made that no woman was consulted in the naming process, because no woman would have heard the name without immediately picturing a sanitary towel with a plug. Experts are advising that we wait a year, until the updated iPad Maxi Flow Fresh goes on the market.

*The Bravo Awards would like to state that it has no affiliation with the television network of the same name. Or the cartoon character. Or indeed the bestselling Andy McNab novel Bravo Two Zero. Thank you.

In which 8 out of 10 women prefer whiskers.

Shiny Style column on fashionable facial hair