Time Out?

Posted by Judy Johnson On Monday, 24 January 2011 00:11 4 comments
So. I am freaking out a little that I am 25. Twenty five. Twenty. Five. I have no idea where the last five years went, and I would quite like to have them back so I can do things differently. I know that's not productive, but if I'm already regretting the past half decade, what on earth will I be feeling in five measly years' time when I am thirty and looking back at my twenties? That is what is keeping me awake at night... literally, since I am starting to write this at 2:21am. I'm so worried that in five years I will be saying the same thing, that now the pressure is well and truly on for me to do something about it.

Last weekend I watched three films - ah, the benefits of being single - Step Up 3, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, and Sex and the City 2. Random choices, simply because they all showed up from Amazon and I can never wait to play with something new for long. Firstly, I did them in the wrong order, since SATC2 with all its heartbreak and crying and borderline racism depressed me just in time for bed (and blogging). Secondly, they all got me thinking, which is both good and bad.

Step Up 3 started me off on a good motivational foot, reminding me (apparently I need reminding) that I love dancing, exercise can make you feel good and I need to stop sitting on the sofa watching films and get up and move. Seeing as this is part of my new year get-me-healthy plan too, I looked into some dance classes, found a gem of a dance deal on Wahanda (where else?) and managed to rope in a couple of brilliant friends to come with me. It may not be booked yet, but it will happen. Streetdance here I come. The only bad thing about this is that I reckon in another life somewhere I am someone who has been dancing since they could walk, knew how happy it made them and chose it for life (and probably has a better figure too). I kind of wish I had done that - it would have made a good hobby, also a new year's resolution. But this will have to do, because it's a bit late for that...

Romy and Michele's High School Reunion is a brilliantly, hilariously perfect film, and if you haven't seen it then I suggest you get the girls around and watch it pronto. It is, obviously, about their ten year high school reunion and how they haven't achieved all that much since school, so they make it all up and go to try and show off. The problem with this, despite the tear-inducing comedy, is that it got me thinking about the past ten years of my life.  Uhoh.

Next year it will be ten years since I left school, which, along with the big two five and the fact that it's flown by, is absolutely terrifying. When I was younger, 25 seemed far far away; it was a year by which I would have got the job I always dreamed of, settled down with someone, bought a flat, maybe even got a ring on my finger or at least the potential for one. Probably a couple of cats in there too. As you grow up, 'that age' at which you think milestones might happen gets a little older as you realise how time has a habit of speeding up, but I didn't think I would get here and have absolutely none of the above.

It's quite earth-shattering to think that even if I move that age to 30, that only gives me five teeny tiny years to get there, and I wouldn't even know where to start. I'm not saying you have to have these things by this age or else you're a failure - we all know that people are getting married, having children later in life these days and the housing ladder is near impossible to find let alone get on; but I can't help remembering 12-year-old-me and her grand ideas of having her life sorted by the age of 26 - and I feel a little guilty that I didn't make it happen. It doesn't help that most of the people around me have managed it, sisters included (not all of the above but the ring-on-finger at least).

Which leads on to the Sex and the City 2 effect. Apart from thinking 'who the hell wrote this script?', Carrie's marriage problems combined with the slightly sickening but wonderful love between her and Big gave me the blues, just what you want before you slip off into your dreams. But I didn't know whether this was the blues because I am single and nowhere near that marriage ideal, despite many of my friends being well and truly at that stop; or whether it was because I really don't want all that messy relationship stuff (they are quite hostile and argumentative in the sequel... and in the original, come to think about it). Being single is great because I don't have to have those horrid arguments, the ones that turn your stomach and make you want to throw your phone across the room... but it's also rubbish because you don't get that 'I got you a black diamond because I know you so well' feeling, ever. Sigh. There is of course a happy ending, but that just left me wondering whether I would get one of those or whether I was going to be a Samantha (with less naughtiness, ahem) forever.

Never before has 'so much to do, so little time' been such a problem, and I'm not sure how to deal with it. Is it good to have plans, or do they just make us feel inadequate when they don't work out?

Rantometer: Train Etiquette

Posted by Judy Johnson On Wednesday, 19 January 2011 00:22 8 comments
I like to rant. Here's my first proper blog rant.

I am on a train for around 90 minutes in total each day. God that's depressing. It's not the best part of my day. It's a space in which getting a seat is a highlight, and something you feel a bit smug about even if it's only for five minutes - so hardly something to shout about. 

But, after yet another journey of suffering people who either have no manners, no sense or just no awareness of anything around them other than their nose, I thought it was worth blogging about. And so, without further ado: the Train Commandments. Please try and remember at least one of the points when you next board a train. Or, indeed, any form of transport where other human beings are present.

The Train Commandments

1. Thou shalt allow air into the train
I like air. Don't you? Nice fresh air that wakes you up a little, helps you breathe, you know the stuff. So why, oh dear commuter, must you sit there idly, in your privileged window seat, as we all roast in this cabin of heated hell? If the windows are steamy, it's not for drawing in - it's sweat and breath and goodness knows what else, so open a window. It won't bite. If there is not a single window open on your carriage, despite it being full of people sitting and standing in every space available, open a window. I don't care if it's raining. I don't care if it's snowing. You're probably wearing a coat. Man up and open it so that we don't all have to sweat and smell each other's breath - there's just no need to do that with strangers.

2. Thou shalt not sit next to your invisible friend
Are you sitting on the aisle side? Look at the seat next to you. Is it empty? Now look around the carriage. Is the train getting full? Are people standing? Are you approaching a station with a platform full of people? Here's a thought - don't keep an empty seat next to you for no reason. Someone will see it and they will climb over you to get to it. That will be awkward, they might even touch you a bit with their boot, and given that you like sitting next to empty seats that can't be good. Shuffle over to the window side (or the middle if you're in a row of three, there you go) and let someone sit down without having to negotiate the space between your feet and bags. Oh, and bags on a seat? Don't you dare. 

3. Thou shalt remember your table manners. Or find some
There's a reason kids are told to chew with their mouths closed. It's in the hope that they will remember it as they grow older and learn to eat like civilised human beings. None of us want to see that mashed up Maccy Ds in your mouth. More importantly, none of us want to hear you as you munch it, followed by a slurp of your drink, followed by more munching and loud exhaling through your nose. We don't want to see crumbs falling all over the seat. If you must eat food while travelling (we've all been there), at least get something that doesn't stink, doesn't make too much noise and that isn't messy. A Twitter friend had to sit on a train with a woman standing up, eating a Wasabi noodle soup. One can only imagine how sickening that carriage was, with its lack of windows open, full of people standing because the seats were filled by imaginary friends while she slurped on soup.

4. Thou shalt bend with thy knees
When you're standing on a train and need to pick up your suitcase/briefcase/Maccy Ds wrapper, remember: trains are quite small. People sitting down are at about waist height. If you then bend over, from your waist, to pick up said item, you are quite possibly going to thrust your backside into someone's face a little. This is bad etiquette. It is unnecessary. Simply bend at the knees and away you go, with no awkward encounters and probably no back problems because you really should lift with your knees, not your back. Those wrappers can be heavy. 

5. Thou shalt not infect the Metro
We all hate having coughs and colds and flu because we're British and we still have to go to work and make sure we infect everyone else. But when you're on a train, on your not so merry way to work, and that little tickle comes along - don't sneeze into your Metro. Don't cough into it. That is not a substitute for being polite. Use your elbow or hands to catch your grimey germs, or even better use a tissue. Or even better than that, stay at home. No one wants to touch your germy dribble while reading about the royal wedding. 

6. Thou shalt limit yourself to your assigned amount of space
Train seats aren't luxurious, or wide, or particularly comfy, but they are a certain size. They are all the same size. Which means even if you are reading a newspaper next to someone who isn't, that does not give you the right to elbow them in the ribs as you do so. Nor does it give you the right to spread your paper across into their space. And if you do, you cannot then get mad that they begin to read it. In fact, they should probably be allowed to turn the page. 

7. Thou shalt not try to get on the train before everyone is off it
Remember Funhouse? Well, in the final part of the game they had to wait for their team mate to come out of the funhouse before they could go in. Like a relay. Apply this logic to trains. Not only do you look like an impatient child when you shove your way past an old lady who is being slow at stepping off the train, but you are actually being stupid. The more people who get off the train, the more space there will be on the train. Let them get off, considering it's their stop after all, and when you step on there will be more seats to choose from. See? 

8. Thou shalt at least pretend to understand how annoying your voice is
It's fine to have a phone conversation on a train. Really it is. But do you have to be so LOUD? We don't actually need to know that your best friend has annoyed you, or that you didn't get a pay rise. We're not going to sympathise as we are busy trying to breathe in this airless carriage while not slapping the guy digging his elbows into our ribs. At least try to talk a little quieter or keep it short - we'll know you tried, and we'll hate you less. 

9. Thou shalt not suffocate those who are seated
It is unfair that you have to stand for part or all of your journey. We get that, we have been there. But We, the Seated, do not deserve to be suffocated by your coat. Or your bag. Or your scarf. Or your dreadlocks (seriously, this happened this morning, I felt quite pukey.) Remember that the aisle, like the seats, is a certain size, and while those people sitting down may look comfy, it doesn't mean they can handle having all the air, even the recycled air, taken away because you need to lean. This is no place for leaning. 

10. Thou shalt offer your seat to those who need it
A slightly more serious one to finish, but one that shouldn't even need to be said. No seats left and a pregnant woman gets on? Get up. No seats and some elderly people get on? Get up. No seats and a disabled person gets on? Get up. Just be nice - it's not hard. No one will think less of you, even in London. You might even get a smile out of someone - and that is something to shout about...

OK, my rant is over. That felt quite good. Did I miss anything? Train users, unite!

Review: Sanctuary Therapist's Secret Facial Oil

Posted by Judy Johnson On Monday, 17 January 2011 23:59 1 comments
Sorry Sanctuary, the secret's out. After attending a very well planned blogger event at The Sanctuary Spa last summer, I finally got around to trying out the wonder product that all the therapists and PRs were raving about - the Therapist's Secret Facial Oil

Now, as we know, I have the most sensitive skin in the world (fact, I don't need a survey) and we also all know that faces are possibly the most sensitive area of sensitive skins - and the last place you would want to cause problems since your colleagues and, well, people have to look at it every day. They don't have a choice. 

So I was very hesitant about giving this a go. First, I tried it on my wrist. All good. Then on the inside of my elbow. Still all good. Then behind my ear (which was worryingly close to the face, but Twitter assured me it's the best test. And you have to trust Twitter.) All good. Then: the face.

Hallelujah! No allergic reaction, no redness, no nothing. And the best part? This beauty product actually does what it claims to do. 

The oil looks a lot like olive oil but has a gorgeous light sunflower scent to assure me it's not. In a slick glass bottle (I like to see what's going on my face, so this gets a tick), the lid has a dropper so there is no risk of wasting any of it - just drop what you need into your hand and enjoy the fact that this bottle (30ml) will last a long, long time. It claims to be a 'super charged plumping treatment for younger-looking skin'. It's made with pure oils of sunflower, jojoba, wheatgerm, rosehip seed oil, rose, and frankincense. And it's paraben free.

The lovely Lipgloss86 advised me to use it a few times a week, at night - that way, it has time to sink in and you don't have to worry about keeping your makeup on after. It also means you can rinse off in the morning to get rid of any that hasn't sunk in. This was a great tip since I'd already tried it in the mornings and didn't love it as a base (though this is one way of using it). Plus, once you've got it on, you won't want to cover it up with anything else - it's too luxurious. 

The only word that works to really explain how this oil makes my skin feel is 'nourished' - sorry to sound like Davina. The winter has brought back a bout of awful dry skin for me that E45 cream was barely managing to keep up with - until now. I've been using the oil every other evening plus always on the night before a night out, and it's given me the softest skin I have had in a long time. It isn't greasy, it smells good, and it definitely does plump the skin to make it more radiant. I'm not sure about the 'younger' bit yet, since I am having age issues (see other blog posts) and don't want to think about whether my skin looks old or not. But I will still be using this product when I'm 30, that's for sure.

A skin-saver that I'm not allergic to? That is a beauty regime I can get along with... 

Have you tried it, or any other Sanctuary products that are worth mentioning?

Disclosure: I received this oil as part of a goody bag at a bloggers event at The Sanctuary

Hed Kandi Bar, Clapham

Posted by Judy Johnson On 23:25 0 comments
I was recently very lucky to review the brand new, first-of-its-kind Hed Kandi Bar in Clapham for View London and I just wanted to share it over here. Putting Clapham on the map as a pretty decent destination for a night out (and on my map for potential places to move to!), the Hed Kandi Bar is, for any Hed Kandi fans out there, a bit of disco heaven. 

Slick booths, friendly staff, feel-good music, obviously, and cocktails that would put some of the best cocktail bars in London to shame; it's ticking all the boxes. It's also covered in the amazing Jason Brooks' infamous illustrations - one day, I want my house to have a room like that (with David Downton too, of course).

Yes, I say this as a huge Hed Kandi lover but also as a reviewer who has tried, ahem, quite a few cocktails in quite a few places. Plus, they gave me chocolate and fake eyelashes - what more does a girl need? Just a tip if you're at a loss for somewhere to go - get thee to Hed Kandi and be sure to try the Kandi shots... you won't be disappointed.

New Year, New Me, New Blog Post

Posted by Judy Johnson On Wednesday, 12 January 2011 00:06 6 comments
I've never been very good at (or very fond of) change, which makes fresh starts rather tricky. If it ain't broke don't fix it, that's what I think - but do not say out loud, because everyone hates a person with a motto. Problem is, I have been a bit broke, in many ways, for some time so I do need a bit of fixing and as it's a new year, now seems as good a time as any. 

Weirdly, I am actually beginning to crave change. This is new. Perhaps it's because I just turned 25 (a whole quarter of a century, do you know how WISE that must make me?), but I feel like I have very itchy feet and want to keep moving, keep doing, planning, working towards something so that this year is better than the last. But, what?

Resolution #1: Get me healthy
Health is the first priority. Last year was probably my least healthy, with panic attacks, skin problems and goodness knows what else making me feel even worse than I already did (from yet another dodgy year in 2009 - they're common). My doctor is finally listening to me, so fingers crossed I get some answers there, and now that the heartbreak diet has worn off (I think it wore off some time ago, it's just that I hadn't noticed) I need to get myself back into shape and practice what I preach in the fitness department. I might even take up running, despite absolutely hating running. That's how much I want to feel good again...

Resolution #2: Get me outta here (for a bit)
All I daydream about, when I daydream, is travelling. I am desperate to travel. I haven't been to that many places, but have thankfully loved everywhere that I have visited (Barcelona, Paris, Dominican Republic, Ibiza, Majorca, Croatia, Stockholm, Venice, Verona, Florence) and so badly want to discover more favourites. My main problem with this is that I wait for others to plan trips, or feel I can't go somewhere unless I am going with somebody. It's high time I realised it's never going to happen unless I do it myself so this year, it's time to plan - even if it's a weekend stay in another European city, since I am still penniless. 

Resolution #3: Get me writing again, properly
The first resolution I actually thought of (but health is always more important) was this: I want to write something I am proud of. Whether it's a blog post, a freelance piece, a short story, the start of the novel I have bouncing around in my thoughts - I need to write more, enjoy it more, and write something where I re-read it and think, Yes. This is why I did it. Recently I've had that horrid self-doubt phase that we creative types have to go through every so often and convinced myself that I had made a huge mistake in working so hard to get here because actually, everyone else is better and I shouldn't even bother as my words are useless and empty. Hopefully, that was just a low moment; and even if it turns out I did do the wrong thing, at least I enjoy writing and have a passion for it. Even if I am the only one reading, that will do for me. 

Resolution #4: Get me a life
When talking to a guy in a bar the other night, he asked me what my hidden talents were and what I liked to do in my spare time. I could think of nothing other than writing. Admittedly I had had a few too many glasses of wine and am absolutely useless on the spot (if someone asks me my name out of the blue I hesitate, why is that?), but it saddened me that I don't have any other real talents or hobbies. I am passionate about film, but what does that really mean? What I'd love to say is that I learn Spanish, play the piano and am almost at Grade 8 and I am a pretty good photographer. So, I'd better get started...

Resolution #5: Get me happy
I have an awful habit of comparing myself to others who are clearly in a completely different stage of life to me, but who have what I would like. Whether it's the perfect boyfriend and a baby on the way, a ring on their finger, a novel on the shelves of WHSmiths, a fantastic career where they can pick and choose their work, anything - I envy it, and I compare it to my little life and wonder where it all went wrong. OK so I have turned 25 which is getting to the stage where I should have something to shout about but I need to remember to look at what I do have, not what I don't have. Easier said than done, eh?

Feel free to yell encouragement at me from the sidelines. I could actually do with a cheerleading squad - perhaps Glee could get involved?

A Very Late X Factor Final Post...

Posted by Judy Johnson On Tuesday, 11 January 2011 23:36 0 comments
Image from X Factor.com
OK I know it's now the following year and we're all talking about...er... Eastenders? But I did rather enjoy the X Factor blog posts and actually felt quite terrible for not doing a final one. It's not fair on Matt, really. He deserves a send off. I do have lots of valid excuses for not having done it before now but nobody wants to hear those, so here it is. 

I spent the entire final on Twitter, with some frickin' fantastic fellow Twits who had me giggling away throughout (when I wasn't already laughing at the awful judges' comments). So, as an ode to Twitter and its utter brilliance, my final post will be based on my tweets during the show...

 Tweet tweet: Since when can That One sing? #xfactor #takethat

Ahh yes, remember Take That? 'Course you do, they've been on every channel and every programme possible, sometimes at the same time, since Robbie rejoined the slightly-too-old-to-be-called-a-boyband boyband. They cropped up again on X Factor to promote their new single (again), and weirdly, one of them which isn't Gary or Robbie or Mark actually sang a little on his own. I think it was Howard. I think he's the new favourite. Howard to win! Oh...

 Tweet tweet: Matt probably wants to kill himself at this point. Boyband-a-rama #xfactor

Matt, One Direction and Rebecca started off Never Forget (badly) only to be then joined by Take That, and poor Matt looked like he was meant to be on Top of the Pops but had wandered onto the wrong stage. Bless him. 

Tweet tweet: HA! Rebecca can't even clap #stillcantmoveproperly #xfactor

Brian obviously didn't train Rebecca up in the art of clapping for the last chorus of Never Forget... she even stood still when they brought in the sidestep, looking at Matt in desperation. 

Tweet tweet: Cringe - Matt and Rihanna #xfactor

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy Matt. I just don't enjoy him being eaten alive (or as good as) by another woman. I adore Rihanna, but I got the impression she really couldn't give a damn about Matt. This was not rehearsed enough, if at all. The song didn't suit him at all and the touching... well. It was awkward.

Tweet tweet: Bet they struggled to find a clip where Rebecca actually sang with Xtina #xfactor

From one bad duet to another - what was the point in putting shy, quiet Rebecca with loud, stage-owning Christina Aguilera? Who knows. It didn't work. 

Tweet tweet: Wow. Louis is so clueless he is now just quoting lyrics #xfactor 

I'm sad to say I don't remember exactly what Louis said, but it was something like 'I will always love you' and made me giggle. Dear Louis. I wonder if he will be there next year...

Tweet tweet: It's the final, and the HAT IS STILL MISSING *sulks* #xfactor

Matt didn't wear the hat. Frankly, I am surprised he managed to win without it. I haven't forgiven him yet. 

Tweet tweet: Stacey to win! Oh... #xfactor

The lovely Stacey Solomon was talking to Essex boy Matt's neighbours. Well, I say talking, more shrilling. Still, I miss her gorgeous singing voice, ballads while wearing long dresses that I want and her down to earth nature. There hasn't really been any of that this year - Rebecca doesn't count for me, she hasn't got the wow factor.

Tweet tweet: Love that they are so small they need a platform. They are probably only two foot tall #xfactor

Obviously, One Direction. Nuff said. 

Tweet tweet: One of them is struggling with the clap and microphone combo *giggles*

Thank the lord Rebecca isn't in the band... can you imagine the choreography issues?

Tweet tweet: Louis is just there for the drinks really isn't he #xfactor

I guess they had to ask Louis what he thought every so often just to get an impartial view... but then, he's pretty much always impartial isn't he, since he loves everybody. Here he says they have 'five new pop stars'. Insightful. 

Tweet tweet: You just know One Direction will be advertising Nintendo DS soon. Or Toys R Us #xfactor

I tweeted about the little twerps a lot... What can I say, they just invite these kind of jokes. Would put money on this, too. 

Tweet tweet: They should have put Wagner in with this lot, he'd sound good #xfactor

Reject time! The most awkward part of the show. Oh hang on, that was when Rihanna had her hands on Matt. Never mind. The worst to watch was definitely little miss punchy, who we've all seen far too much of already...

Tweet tweet: This is the B-side, yes? #xfactor

I wasn't all that impressed with Matt's song to start with. Perhaps it's a grower. 

Tweet tweet: SEE! Hat = good vocals. Suit = not so much. The hat should have been here for the final #xfactor

After they did the 'here's what he sang earlier' tape, the power of the hat was revealed. 

Tweet tweet: Wow. This is underwhelming #xfactor

Seriously, Rebecca could have tried a little bit harder on this one. A finger-wiggle, or something...

Tweet tweet: Bet One Direction's song was Reach by S Club or something. Rebecca voters, BE SORRY #xfactor

And the award for the song to die to, slowly,and painfully, goes to... this performance. Really wishing the toddlers had got through at this point. 

Tweet tweet: If I was on X Factor, they'd have to go to little Lindfield and raid the old people's homes since locals are all over 90 #xfactor

Don't you just love it when they send some unknown celebrity to get mobbed by the contestant's local neighbourhood? Given that Wagner did OK, I figure I could get to the final. Residents of little Lindfield village, watch out. They'd have to interview the swans, too.

Tweet tweet: Robbie might as well be a judge, he's on screen more than Louis #xfactor

Robbie was back again. I think he'd make a great judge, he'd get up and sing with them. 


Still, even as Dermot is about to announce the winner, Rebecca could not look up. Sack Brian Friedman, someone...

Tweet tweet: I think he should have ripped the jacket off to reveal a vest when it was announced #xfactor 

Yes, this refers to Matt's infamous vest moment. Admit it, you enjoyed it too. 

And so another series of the X Factor is over. Not too sure how I feel about the 2010 show... since it finished, the only contestant I've really remembered is Cher because she really impressed on her final performances and she did so many catchy, recent songs that I keep seeing her in my head when I hear singles like Love the Way You Lie. Still, it's better than picturing Katie Weasel's gran, who was on Daybreak last week discussing her 'escort' services. See you next series...

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