Tag Archives: river

Pooh Sticks and Perfect Intentions

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Happy 2015, dear reader.  How are you?  I hope your festive season was joyful, relaxing and as sparkly as possible.

I’m sure that everyone’s Christmas experience is unique, but there are a couple of thoughts that most (if not all) of us have towards the end of the holiday season:

1) I love my family, but I could probably go a few weeks/months/decades without seeing them now.
2) I have GOT to eat a salad.

Ending the year with good intentions for the future leads me neatly onto my main topic for today, which is new year’s resolutions.  Of course, many people don’t want or need the excuse of January 1st to try new things or give stuff up.  In some ways it seems bizarre to block out twelve months of our lives and classify them as having been collectively “good” or “bad”, and to make decisions about our future based on the events that took place during that time.  Is that why the tradition of making resolutions prevails in our culture?  Because we need to believe that we can divide our lives into units of what we have done and what we are going to do?

There is nothing wrong with doing this, of course, or with most traditions in general.  Tradition – as the characters of Fiddler on the Roof know very well – is extremely important.  Traditions can be religious, cultural or local.  They can even be something that only you and one other person abide by, such as the annual game of pooh sticks that I play on Hungerford Bridge with my friend Paul.  We do it on New Year’s Day, and each stick represents a resolution for the year ahead.  The original idea was that the person whose stick came out first was most likely to keep their resolution.  This year it was so windy that our sticks kept flying back to hit us in the knees, so we had to improvise slightly.  (“Shall we just go to the other side of the bridge and chuck them downriver?”  “Er…yeah.”)

I don’t know about you, but Paul and I usually find that our resolutions stay fairly similar year on year: there’s always a resolution about learning to manage our money, and another about improving ourselves in general.  There also tends to be something project-based (Paul: “Build a PC!”) and an optimistic love life goal (Me: “Sort it out”).  In some ways it is disheartening to think that our aims are inching rather than leaping forward, but then who can be expected to completely change their lives in just one year?  Or two?  Or three?  Or…oh…I’m spotting a problem here…

People’s resolutions stay similar because we are only human.  No matter how many years we are given or how good our intentions are at the time of resolve, we will probably never achieve complete perfection.  Paul, God bless him, never criticises me for the fact that “clear my overdraft” has been on my resolutions list for the last three years in a row, and I appreciate that.  He does remind me of my successes, e.g. last year I resolved to take a show to the Edinburgh Fringe, which I did.

This time of year can be very tricky, because we are caught in a limbo world of recovering from the previous year and trying to plan the next.  If we think that we have made little progress over the past year, we can become pessimistic about what we are capable of in the next one.  The important thing is to keep going, keep trying, and to make sure that you have people around you who will remind you of how far you’ve come.

Have a glorious Friday, and a wonderful 2015.  You have achieved a lot more than you think.

Here Comes the Sun

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Good morning and a very merry Monday to you, dear reader.  How was your weekend?

In the grand tradition of Brits overdoing it on the first day of sunshine, I have some very fetching sunburn on my back.  In the equally grand tradition of Brits just after the first day of sunshine, I crossly insisted that I hadn’t been in the sun for very long, and that I “shouldn’t” be this red.  That’s right.  I am so British that I subconsciously imagine a system of justice behind the weather.

Tomato-complexion aside, the sunshine has a lovely effect on lots of things.  I think that there are a few which deserve a bit more attention:

  • The most average-looking places look like movie set locations.  For example, I am not a huge fan of South London, but Kennington yesterday was a delightful sight.  After the new writing night I skidaddled down to a pub by the river for a friend’s birthday, and found my lot on a rooftop terrace.  This would have been fairly glitzy for us on a normal day, but in the sunshine it felt like an industry party in LA, darling.   (Except that we had wine and cupcakes, not champagne and cigars.  Close enough, right?)
  • You feel so much more zen.  It’s probably a combination of things: cloudless skies remind us of infinity, lying on the grass makes us feel more at one with nature and being warm in general makes us a bit sleepy.  I mean, philosophical.
  • Life becomes a window shopping trip.  This might be more for girls than guys, but I love seeing what kind of sandals, sunglasses and pretty summer dresses people turn out in when the temperature gets above 22 degrees.  Also, people are happier and more confident in their nice summer clothes, so if you really like someone’s outfit you can actually ask them where it’s from, and not get a standard “stranger danger” glare.
  • Sunglasses make everyone look amazing.  I really don’t know what it is about sunglasses, but everyone looks really, really good in them.  I have no idea of the psychology behind this (especially given that eyes are meant to be the windows to the soul and therefore pretty important in attraction, surely), but sunglasses make everyone look like rock stars.
  • Sunglasses make everyone feel better.  This one is fairly obvious given the last point: when we know we look good, we feel good.  Instant confidence from something as simple as a pair of glasses is one of the weirdest and loveliest side-effects of weather like this.  Also, sunglasses of different tints and hues give people unique perspectives: for instance, my friend Rob’s sunglasses are a brown-ish colour.  More than once yesterday we were treated to the exclamation “Everything looks like a photograph from the seventies!” I don’t know why that made Rob so happy, but it did, and who are we to judge?
  • Ice cream trucks are everywhere.  Creepy and perturbing music aside, ice cream trucks are essentially vehicles of joy, and their purpose is to deliver deliciousness to all and sundry in a given postcode area.

Have a sensational Monday.

Top Tips for the Thames

Good morning!  How’s your Thursday going so far?

I live in London, and although I am fairly far north I tend to gravitate towards the banks and bridges of the Thames whenever I can.  I love the river in this city, and it has a lot to offer that all Londoners know about: the BFI, the National Theatre and so on.  However, today I would like to recommend some less established entertainment and activities that the Thames offers.  Some of them are ridiculous, but I think they’re all definitely worth doing.  If you’re a proper grown up you might not agree with me, but then I’d rather be silly than sensible.  Being silly is how you have fun.  Speaking of which:

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1) Play pooh sticks on a bridge

My friend Paul and I did this on New Year’s Eve (daytime) a couple of years ago, and we loved it.  It was a snap decision made in a coffee shop somewhere off Wardour Street.  Finding sticks between Soho and Embankment was a bit of a challenge, so if you do this I’d recommend raiding a park beforehand.  The added challenge with Embankment Bridge is that people are crossing it all the time, so you have a game-within-a-game situation whereby you’re playing Dodge the Tourist as you dash across the bridge.  If you don’t know what pooh sticks is (and you’d be surprised how many people don’t), then you need help.  Here is help.

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2) Go on the merry go round next to the Southbank Centre

I know you’re a grown up.  I know you feel silly.  But it’s a wonderful feeling to be soaring through the air on a noble steed, laughing your head off with your friends and watching the river swing around.  I’m sure we looked like eejits, but it felt brilliant.  And what is the point in looking normal/sensible/good when you could be having a good time?

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3) Re-enact the end of Sliding Doors where Gwyneth Paltrow is yelling at John Hannah and then they make up

This one is particularly good for Londoners, because it rains often enough to give you plenty of opportunities.  For a bit of variation, you could try Miranda and Steve’s reunion in the Sex and the City Movie or Anastasia; pick a film with a bridge in it and go for your life.  Maybe stay away from The Bridge on the River Kwai, though.

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4) Stop and have a boogie to one of the buskers

One of my favourite things about the summer months in London is the buskers who play steel drums along the bridges.  Next time I see one, I’m going to stop and have a little dance.  No big deal, just a few minutes of boogie.  I’m a terrible dancer, but whatever.  I hope that whoever accompanies me on this occasion will be prepared to cut a rug (knowing my friends, they probably will be.  Hell, they’ll probably bring tap shoes).

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5) Just look at it

The Thames is amazing.  Especially on days like yesterday, when that photo was taken.  When I’m upset or confused or just feeling a bit weird, I love going and looking at the river.  Sometimes I go with someone and talk, but I’ve also been known to have a wander and ponder by myself.  Londoners sometimes look at the river as a barrier: something to traverse, something that could flood, something that makes the air colder.  But it’s actually a very beautiful thing that unites loads of parts of the city, and personally I think it’s London’s best feature.

Have a brilliant day – I hope your lunch break is the perfect length of time.