Thursday, 26 April 2012

In which another one bites the dust

A mere three and a half months after I declared it one of my new year's resolution, I made a dentist's appointment. And it was painless! I didn't feel a thing - I just picked up the phone, dialled, talked to a receptionist and, y’know, asked them in my politest voice to fix my mouth quite soon please. Job done.

Except it isn't, obviously, because now I have to go to the ruddy thing. I'll admit though, that right now it isn't the thought of the pain that's terrifying me - "they drug you, don't they?” “Yes Lauren” – it’s the lecture I will inevitably get. They’ll ask me when I last went to a dentist, and I’ll cough and mumble something and possibly fabricate a story about living in a remote jungle for half a decade. It will be like the hairdressers, except worse because no matter how straggly and ill-conditioned you allow your ends to get, your hair can never actually hurt you.

They'll ask me if I floss, and I'll have to admit that until very recently I thought flossing was something only Americans did. Like having fridges that make ice and thinking 'gotten' is a proper word. It was a level of dental detail that I just didn't think was expected of us, in real life. I brush twice a day, I don't gargle with Fanta; what more do they want? Do you floss, reader? DO YOU? Oh. Fine. I bet you back up your hardrive too, don't you, Captain Perfecto?

That's how much I know. As a person whose last visit to the dentist was quite possibly undertaken in school uniform (don't judge), I've been out of the oral loop for some time. In a way I've never been in it, because up till now I've never had to have a single thing done to my teeth - no braces, no fillings, no administering of anything other than a sticker and a three-year-old copy of the Reader's Digest to leaf through while my siblings got drilled.
Having reached my early twenties with an entirely organically-grown mouth, I'd begun to think, indulgently, that perfect teeth might be my 'thing'. My gimmick. While all the other bits of my body inevitably began to sag and break and disintegrate, perhaps my teeth would stay freakishly strong and healthy. "Phwoar, look at the teeth on that!" passers-by would exclaim when I shuffle past in my twilight years*. My obituary would have a quote: "Lauren's teeth put mine to shame" - Donny Osmond.

But it wasn't to be. In the space of a year I've gone from SuperChops to a person who has to grip down something hard every time she has a mouthful of hot soup. I have a seriously gammy tooth. In the middle of a gammy-tooth-twinge I look like the Psammead from Five Children and It granting a wish, only less hopeful. With more swearing.

So I’m now facing the possibility that every dental problem I didn’t have for the last 24 years might suddenly have appeared en masse now. Still – I’ve got three days till my appointment, during which I intend to floss as if my life depended on it.

*Not to be confused, of course, with my Twilight years, which would be when I grew fangs and started mooning about with angsty werewolves.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

In which my panic purchasing goes swimmingly

I have bought a bikini!

As useful purchases go, it's about on a par with me buying a Bunsen burner, a car or a copy of Crime and Punishment in the original Russian. Indeed, a Bunsen burner would bring me infinitely more pleasure, because on a slow evening I could poke things in it and watch them melt.

But nonetheless, I've bought a bikini. It doesn't get an exclamation mark this time; my enthusiasm is already waning and I haven't even tried it on yet. I might not try it on at all, just close my eyes and picture some dental floss wound tightly round a panna cotta. After all, let us remember that a bikini is merely underwear in a trickier fabric. You're just in your scanties in public, there's no getting past it.

You can relax, though - this isn't a body confidence column. I'm not doing a Gok. We don't have to truss my swimwear issues up in a pencil skirt and march it down the middle of the Trafford Centre.

No, instead, I'd like to poke my pen-sword into the wobbly flesh of summer panic purchasing, and watch it slowly deflate. It is only mid-April, and already the sum of my summer panic purchasing is: two pairs of sunglasses, two dresses (one with flamingos on it), one pair of shoes, one swimsuit, one bikini and a detachable sequin collar. For a person, not a cat.

I used to take the opposite approach, of holding out in black opaques and high-necked nun frocks until the last possible moment (August). Then I'd decide that the missing ingredient to transform my summer from a parade of sweaty misery into a Hollister advert is a cheesecloth blouse with apples on it or something, which the shops no longer stock because they've long since moved onto chunky cardigans and mittens.

Now though, I prefer to do a pre-emptive strike. "You want summer, eh, society? Well then SUMMER YOU'LL GET." Then I storm through Primark in a fit of pre-Easter optimism, working to a colour palette of ‘Calippos and crabsticks’, and buy everything that will do up. Then in the following months I work on a basis of incremental upgrade, replacing each item with a similarly disposable one as they break or shrink or get accidentally left on a bus, or as I realise through photographic revelation that they make me look like Miss Piggy doing a Carmen Miranda impression.

Admittedly this year the plan has worked surprisingly well, though mainly because the temperature hasn't gone over 13 degrees for weeks and I've broken out my trusty office hot water bottle. But the bikini is a new frontier. It’s mocking me, silently, from my tights drawer. It knows that my buying a bikini is a new level of kowtowing to summer, like politicians pretending to eat railway station pasties. We both know that I’d rather it was a pair of ankle-length Edwardian knickerbockers, and it would rather I was Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, but we have been thrown together by summer panic purchasing and now must make the best of it.

If worst comes to worst and the weather never improves, I will start a bikini bonfire with my new Bunsen burner and use it to keep warm.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

In which Instagrandma won't be quite as cool

Image from

Facebook has bought Instagram, for $1bn. Your reaction to this statement will be anywhere on a gamut from vein-popping rage to "What's bought what? I was only looking for Parish Pump", but the important thing to know is that lots of people are worried.

Lots of people are worried, of course, because this could just be another step on the path to Facebook owning our actual faces. And with them, every smudge of detail associated with us, from bank details to bra sizes to internet browsing habits. The fear, as far as I can discern from the ragey blogs, is that soon Facebook will be a flashier version of the marauder's map from Harry Potter, telling the world precisely where we are and what we're doing at every possible point in time. Lauren's at work. Lauren's on the bus. Lauren's lingering for free samples in the Selfridges Food Hall. Again.

It also means that those without a Facebook account will likely be forced to get one if they wish to use Instagram. Which I can agree, on principal, is wrong. If I had to sign up to something hateful, like the Daily Mail online, in order to use something wonderful, like the Daily Mail online celeb gossip sidebar, I wouldn't like it either.

But there's also a little part of me that feels it's fair punishment for seasoned Instagrammers to have to mix with us Facebook plebs. Think you're too cool for Facebook? Arrange your social life via traditional, rustic 'phone calls'? Got better things to do than spend an hour stalking the latest addition to People I Went To School With Who Are Now Pregnant? Tough - Mark Zuckerberg has you under his big blue thumb and he's squishing you like a hipster moth.

Frankly, I've always thought Instagram is cheating. The iPhone/Android app, which takes photos and uses fancy filters to make them look instantly retro, arty and cool, has become tool no.1 for convincing others you lead lovely whimsical life. (Of course by using the words 'retro, arty and cool' I've instantly become less so, but one snap with Instagram could turn that around).

Everyone's hot via Instagram. Everyone's bohemian and interesting. Everyone’s on a picnic in the late 60s, with Jane Birkin sparking up Gauloises just out of the frame. It isn't fair. Normal people with normal, un-tinted, un-processed faces just can't expect to compete.

Of course, I only think all this because I don't have Instagram. I don't have it because there is no Instagram for Blackberry, and there is no Instagram for Blackberry, because a Blackberry camera is about as technically proficient as the pinhole cameras one used to make in science lessons. And also, I have food smears on the lens.

So I’m not saying that forcing the app’s 30 million-odd users to upload their lovely whimsically retro pictures through Facebook is a good thing. I’m really not. But just think: no matter how artistically tinted and bohemian and interesting the photo, there will still be a good chance that their Auntie Marge will write something embarrassing underneath it.  And until I get a better phone, this pleases me.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

In which I am hungunder

Hands up who gave up drinking for Lent? Right, now keep them up if you managed to stick to it. You at the back - yes, 'medicinal' sherry does count. No, Benylin doesn't.

Well done, all four of you! Just three more days and you can go swimming in a lovely gin jacuzzi. And to the rest of you, well done for trying. It's ok, I managed 12 hours of chocolate abstinence before mainlining a tub of Nutella and going "oh crap".

But the reason I ask is that, for me, your 40-day booze-free experiment is a perpetual state of being. It's been over two years now since my body slammed down its final Stone’s ginger wine and said, "No more! From now on nothing stronger than Horlicks shall pass these lips, or ye shall suffer maladies beyond all proportion and feel pukey on the tube." I won't go into it further, because it is boring and usually ends in me weeping over a box of cherry liqueur chocolates. But the gist of it is: me + alcohol = sadface.

Still, I thought that by this point I was comfy with my non-drinking status. For the most part all my friends have stopped looking at me like a war deserter, and I can recite details of Fentiman's entire fizzy pop range to anyone who cares to listen. I save money on drinks, which I then spend on taxis and late night newsagent flapjacks. I feel smug about being healthier, then fill the void left by G&Ts with refined carbohydrates. I get to keep my head when all about me are losing theirs, only possibly not quite in the way Kipling meant.

And as the months have passed I've been surrounded by fewer lost heads, because one by one my friends all seem to be losing their tolerance too. "Yes!" I cry, as another one staggers in with chronic shakes after a glass and a half of Pinot. "Let's all be non-drinkers together! Not drinking is the new drinking! We’ll be tee-TOTALLY COOL."

But then the other day, I realised something: I miss hangovers. I genuinely, sort of, do. Not the pounding head or the dry mouth or the sloshing into a work meeting with a stomach full of Berocca bit, but the camaraderie. The camaraderie and the breakfasts. Oh, the breakfasts.

During the three years I lived in the Highgate House, North London’s premier rodent/student/ugly 70s furniture refuge, we made a tradition of hangover breakfasts. After house parties we would round up all the bodies on the stairs and landings, check their pulses, and march them down to the local brunch spot for eggs Benedict and regret. Photos would be groaned over, salacious gossip dissected, and there was always somebody face down on the table who had to have their food boxed up ‘for later’.

A good hangover was something to be revelled in and crafted. A sofa-duvet here, a well-timed nap there. The license to put anything in a three mile vicinity into your mouth because it just might be what your stomach wants (oh whoops, it wasn’t). There is a certain togetherness in a hangover that you just don’t get from being a bit tired, or, say, having a spot of acid heartburn.

So while I get to be smug with all my saved calories and extra money and sensible nighttime decisions, please rest assured that I am also quite jealous. And will be eating the giant breakfasts anyway.