Posts Tagged ‘Toby’

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what it feels like for a quitter.

May 14, 2013

2013 seems to be a year of me leaving things behind in search of establishing my independence, and although this can be called “quitting”, I guess that quitting isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’ve left one job for another, which has turned out to be at times a disorienting move, but ultimately one that has improved my sanity and quality of life, as well as my prospects for moving up the career ladder (I desperately need to get into a managerial position and gain experience of leading a team). My new job isn’t perfect, and it is a slight departure from what I thought it would entail, but at the end of the day, I am happy for now and I hope that it will be a stepping stone to greater things.

One of the loves of my life, Starbucks, has been another thing I’ve drastically cut down on. As money became tighter during the first few months (note to self and anyone reading: always budget for food!), Starbucks was something I didn’t really need and so I didn’t spend on it. Occasionally I will still have one, but work provides free instant coffee so that is sufficient to wake me up once I get into the office; Starbucks is much more of a social thing nowadays. Also, they do wonderful specialty coffees (read: sweet, sticky treats of drinks) and I still adore a white chocolate mocha or a strawberries and cream frappuccino; but it’s not great for the waistline! Especially when I now live full-time with a fabulous chef who always makes seconds.

And nor is quitting smoking. I started off the year well enough, but soon I started to make exceptions; one in my break during Italian class; one when I was feeling stressed at lunchtime; one nearly every lunchtime… Although going up to 4 cigarettes a week is hardly anything to write home about when I was smoking 8 a day only 6 or so months ago, it represented a breakdown in my willpower. So after a discussion with Toby where he found out about my secret smoking and was shocked, I ended up handing over my cigarettes and lighter to him because I knew that this was a way to completely stop myself from cheating. And it’s worked – I’ve gone nearly 4 weeks without a single cigarette.

Quitting smoking isn’t too difficult in terms of the practical sense; don’t bring your cigarettes with you, and you don’t smoke. Don’t bring your lighter with you, and you can’t smoke even if you buy cigarettes. But it’s the mental games that you play with yourself – on one of the rare warm, summery days, having a cigarette is so carefree and relaxing. It is de-stressing, and it is a way of killing time. Watching other people smoking makes me feel envious of the moment they are enjoying. I gave up smoking – surely one every now and then can’t hurt? (That’s the kind of thinking that leads to making exceptions for yourself, and that’s how I started back on them a couple of months ago.) Why should I have to sacrifice everything?

Everyone has vices – this is true. Do I honestly, truly think that I have smoked my last cigarette? I doubt it. I enjoyed smoking so much,  and I think about smoking quite often because I am still conscious, after this amount of time, that I am depriving myself. But when Toby found out that I had been smoking in secret, he was really upset because he hadn’t known about it (I was ashamed to say anything, and I also felt – quite defiantly – that I didn’t have to report to him. Even though it may have helped, in this case) and he wanted to help me help myself to give up. So I gave him my smoking paraphernalia and that has been the practical part solved. Even now, I often feel tempted to give up on giving up – denial is exhausting, rebellion is satisfying and makes me feel free. But I also know that it’s an illusion – smoking ties down my money and my health (even though you can’t feel it short-term). Toby said to me that he wants to help me give up to support our future together, and to help us ensure that we can grow old together.

Thinking about these words, and about the fact that he was disappointed that I was creeping down the slippery smoky slope, give me the inspiration to try as hard as I can to remain smoke-free. I want my partner to be proud of me, I want us to live long lives together as much as is possible, and more than anything I want to demonstrate that I can triumph over temptation and maintain my willpower. I found out that not long after I quit smoking, Mike also did – now, if he can quit smoking, I guess anyone can! He had a throat infection over the winter (and various chest and lung problems in the run-up to that), and this finally spurred him to quit smoking because he couldn’t smoke during his infection, and once he stopped he thought he might as well stay stopped.

The life of a quitter is hard. The argument in my head that I have already deprived myself of plenty (see above) and why should I enforce this suffering on myself – everyone has vices and their own personal addictions, and I don’t get any reward or gold star for behaving so abstemiously – is a strong one. I had a dream last night that I was in Italy – glamour central! – and I had met up with some man who was supposed to be my father (although he didn’t resemble my actual dad in any way) and his new girlfriend. Everyone around me was smoking, and I was so tempted to have a cigarette, but what convinced me to resist was that even in my dream, I knew that Toby would be upset with me. If I feel a little bit like I am being controlled, I can tolerate it only because I know that Toby is trying to help me and ultimately liberate me, and I’ve given him permission to do that. So I don’t know if I will make it as a non-smoker all the way to the end of my days, but I hope that by taking each day at a time, I could maybe do it? The life of a quitter is uncertain. But it’s also hopeful.

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maturity.

February 24, 2013

This week has been a thought-provoking one. First of all, I attempted to get Beyoncé tickets to her show at the London O2 Arena but failed miserably at both of the pre-sale events I tried. Upon receiving my payslip on Friday, I had to make a difficult decision – due to having to catch up on tax I was owing from changing jobs in the middle of January, I didn’t get as much money as I had anticipated. Some budget readjustments on top of this showed me the unfortunate truth, that I had to give up trying for Beyoncé tickets. As much as she puts on a fantastic show, and as much as it would be a major life event to see her live (just as it was to see Jennifer Lopez for my birthday last year), money is more important. And I think the money would be better spent on clearing my overdraft, and then saving up for a holiday for Toby and myself later on in the year – something that we’d both enjoy. Although I would love for Toby to be present at the Beyoncé gig, I guess the mature decision is to put the money towards something we would both equally enjoy – Toby would have been there at least partly for my benefit.

This weekend we’ve had Claire and Ian staying with us, and the past two weekends we’ve had Karina and Hannah too. I like the feeling that people enjoy visiting us and I hope that they will have a good time and want to return. Yesterday we visited the Saatchi Gallery and its current exhibition of Soviet art really captured my interest. At times it was revolting, but it was consistently engaging and I enjoyed it a lot. This made me think that in a way, it’s a shame that studying as an adult is so much more expensive and has to be balanced with adult responsibilities, holding down a full time job, budgeting and so on. Because in my opinion, when I was an undergraduate student in my late teens, I didn’t have the maturity (not necessarily emotionally, but in terms of the fullness and sharpness of intellect) to fully appreciate everything I studied. Although I was by no means stupid, and I definitely put the effort in, I know that if I were to my degree again, I would be able to turn my 2:1 into a 1st with the brain I have now. I love my Italian class because I love studying; I loved my postgrad because not only was it a pivotal time in my personal and emotional life, but I was truly studying with freedom and with my eyes open. That time, there had been no element of following the pack to university hoping that everyone else’s instincts that it was the right thing to do were right on (as it happened, they were); I knew that doing my postgrad was me grasping my future and changing my professional direction. Study is important because it can be life changing, but I certainly also love it because I am addicted to the feeling of learning and enriching myself, in the belief that it makes me a better person.

After the Saatchi Gallery, we went to visit Pete’s new flat in Kennington:

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It’s amazing that someone our age has been able to purchase a flat in London and get on the property ladder – it’s so bloody difficult, and at the moment making ends meet while we’re just paying the monthly rent is proving challenge enough! We headed on to Clapham for a meal and drinks, and I saw Clapham with the same eyes I saw West Kensington earlier that day as we headed up to meet Christina at her flat in Fulham. I saw these places with the eyes of someone who now lives in Chiswick and has unwittingly grown accustomed to its middle-class pleasantness. All of a sudden, the assault of newsagent windows chock full of posters, cheap eateries emboldened by harsh lighting and residences with missing corners and unkempt windows was distasteful. I couldn’t reconcile my sudden, definite prejudice with the facts that I don’t come from a particularly glamorous part of Bristol, that at school I was surrounded by people who were from more affluent families than me and I was thus proud of my brain and my achievements all the more, that for my first year of living in London my flat in Earls Court was conveniently located and all that I needed, but it wasn’t particularly luxurious. How quickly I’ve learned to see things differently! I hope, while we have achieved a lot in terms of where we live and I appreciate the comfortable home Toby and I have created for ourselves, that I haven’t become a snob or lost touch with the essential things in life which are more important than symbols of rich or poor.

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As Toby and I have settled into life together in Chiswick, we joke that we are becoming middle-aged – drinks out with friends are a treat, and we’re often so tired that we are grateful to stay in (as much as we enjoy socialising!). In Clapham last night, after a meal at Strada that took too long to arrive, we went to a bar that was crammed full of people 5 years younger than us shouting at one another over music that was decent but far too loud, and yet: there was no dancefloor! After a cocktail, we threw in the towel – either I want to dance, or I want to talk, but not being able to either was frustrating! Is all of this this another sign of old age, and of shifting out of the up and coming generation into the hasbeens? Or (I prefer this option) have I just grown up and now I see the world through the eyes of an adult who is fortunate, wise and no longer has to suffer (as many) fools?

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Tube update: Ravenscourt Park & Stamford Brook

February 17, 2013

Despite the fact that we’ve been living in Chiswick for 4 months now, and I go through these tube stations pretty much daily, I have never actually walked past Stamford Brook and Ravenscourt Park. Toby and I finally did this after dropping Hannah off at Hammersmith so that she could make her way back to York – I am so glad that she enjoyed her weekend with us 🙂 It’s important to me that our home is welcoming to all of our guests so that people think of us fondly and return to visit us again in the future! We had a fabulous time with her, and it was so good to have catch-up time.

Once we’d put her on the Piccadilly line train, we wandered back through the King’s Mall arcade at Hammersmith (which reminded me of the Broadwalk near my nan’s in Bristol in terms of the sadness of a lot of the shops there – although we discovered Tiger which was excellently quirky, and I even dared to go into Primark), and then along the Chiswick High Road. We stopped for a lovely coffee and toasted sandwich at Artisan café, which was a light and airy space which rejuvenated us before continuing on our way. I also got some more book ideas at Waterstone’s – as well as Wuthering Heights, I have made a start on an ebook gay fiction series by Nick Alexander (50 Reasons) which I’m enjoying so far. I’m also spending time with albums by A$AP Rocky and The Weeknd. Here’s to the week ahead, and perhaps some more musical and literary discoveries! 🙂

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Tube update: Shoreditch High Street, Bank and St. Paul’s

February 16, 2013

This weekend, Hannah is staying with us and it’s great because I haven’t seen her for two months, which is too long! We’ve had an epic day out, which started with a haircut from my stylist Reza, who has moved to Base Cuts on Portobello Road (typically, he moves to Portobello Road just as I move away from it to a new job). This time, I took inspiration from Andrew Rannells, who plays “me in 5 years’ time” on The New Normal. Needless to say, Toby and I are fans.

After my haircut, Hannah and I walked over to Westfield in Shepherd’s Bush, and had a brief shopping trip before meeting Toby at Caffe Nero and getting the tube over to Brick Lane, as Hannah wanted to see what the fuss was all about. After dodging in and out of hordes of hipsters lurking by faux-vintage clothes shops trying hard to look aggressively edgy, we noted some intriguing cafés, a row of cute boutiques along Shoreditch High Street, and eventually the station too:

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We had actually done a lot of walking by this point, so we decided to visit a couple of London’s landmarks that surprisingly, I hadn’t seen up close until today. The Gherkin for one:

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The Bank of England, which is apparently where the station Bank takes its name from:

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and St. Paul’s Cathedral, which looked surprisingly beautiful through the wintry trees, and is situated near a decent shopping centre!

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We finally made our way back home to Kew Bridge (via the Waterloo and City line, which I have never used before and may never use again, but I am glad I got to experience this shuttle train at least once!) to chill in front of the television. The Girl Who Played With Fire is coming up on dvd tonight! Although it was challenging to get myself up at 8am this morning, it was worth it as it’s only just gone 6pm and we’ve accomplished so much with the day! I think at some point I would like to revisit Columbia Road (Toby and I visited the flower market there a couple of years ago on a photowalk), explore Hoxton, and gain a little more insight into the trendy parts of East London and what makes them appealing.

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the importance of being artistic.

February 10, 2013

Something I didn’t list in my aims for 2013, but that has become a focus for me early on in the year, is to reintroduce art back into my life. This stems initially from a throwaway comment Toby’s father made, asking me what hobbies I had. Generally, I don’t talk about my musical pursuits or my blogging with my family, because I would find it embarrassing to explain exactly what I do, or even worse, give examples of them to people who feel they have the right to judge and criticise you simply because they are related to you (which is not the same as having a close connection with someone. Some relatives we also enjoy a feeling of closeness and confidence with – for me, my mum, dad and grandmother; otherwise I tend to feel that my partner and my friends constitute the bulk of my “family”. If that makes sense.). It’s a similar thing about maintaining a boundary between your professional and personal life when you’re getting to know colleagues. Some colleagues may become friends, but I tend to be very careful and cautious about how much I let people know about me.

So through no fault of his own, Toby’s father has been shielded from the majority of my hobbies and personal pursuits, and is not aware of what I do outside of cleaning and maintaining the house. I dropped the word “blogging” with no further elaboration, and swiftly moved on to focus on my Italian classes. Unlike me, Toby is admirably open about his creative skills: he’s actually created a new blog dedicated to his knitting and culinary creations, which you should all check out. And so, in kind, I have decided to reactivate my drawing skills. I used to love Art at school, but I wanted to study languages and so I had to make the choice not to continue with Art after Year 9. I also was fairly decent at it, but after so long I wasn’t confident that I would be able to draw or sketch anything. I had made a few attempts during the less interesting lectures of my postgrad, but nothing more serious than preliminary tattoo designs (and we all know those turned out well enough anyway!). So after Toby gave me a pristine sketchbook he had never used, I decided to jump-start the year by buying a nice set of sketching pencils, one of those lovely tablet rubbers, and get drawing. My first attempt (sketching a white rose I found online) turned out like this:

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It would appear that I still know how to draw! Since then I’ve done a couple of other things which I am really pleased with, and perhaps I’ll share some of them on here in time.

For my leaving present from Southbank, my colleagues bought my a Kindle, which was extremely touching. I am already a huge fan of it, because I do most of my reading when I’m on the tube or the bus, and my bag is now both less heavy and more roomy. I’ve also enjoyed browsing the online books in both the Amazon Kindle store and on Project Gutenberg. I’ve now read The Life of Pi (which I think is still available for a bargainous 20p), The Turn of the Screw and am currently starting Wuthering Heights. It’s wonderful that books published 100+ years ago are free to download, and I am taking the opportunity to enrich myself with classics I otherwise probably wouldn’t bother to read. Hannah sent me a great link to Stylist’s page on the best free books, which is a wonderful list to help get started on the Kindle (especially if you don’t want to spend too much money on brand new books at first).

Finally, another way I am seeking to enrich my life is through perhaps Toby and I attending some evening lectures. Over the past couple of years, we’ve been to the occasional talk, but as we are getting older, we haven’t got the energy to be out drinking every night (actually, I’m not certain we ever did!) but neither do we want to spend all of our evenings in. So in order to enrich ourselves, we could either do some exercise (I don’t know how successful that would be), or visit some exhibits, attend some lectures and listen to some interesting people. I have found a London Lecture List and already I’ve got some ideas for things that might be interesting. There’s also the second Vogue Festival in April, and I am certain that this year I’ll budget for it in advance and try to attend 🙂 If I indeed make it, I’m sure that I’ll cover the event on HOMME FATAL. It seems silly to stick to the TED app (which is an amazing resource) when we’re living in London and could go and see inspiring speakers in the flesh. This whole post is about jump-starting the year and seeking out new sources of inspiration in order to enrich and culture myself.

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my gay online adolescence.

January 28, 2013

Just the other week, Harry Hitchens (from BBC’s Young Apprentice) posted a video on Youtube coming out to the world.

He states that his main motivation for doing this was so that other young people who were learning to accept themselves and their sexuality did not feel so alone. I wish that there had been more of these videos when I’d been growing up, because my gay adolescence was quite lonely; and although I knew I wasn’t the only one, it was a long time before any of my peers were willing to expose themselves so publically and so deeply.

In my youth, we had no Youtube or Twitter. Facebook didn’t arrive until the end of my first year of university. As a teenager, all I had was Faceparty and MSN (and AIM for a brief period, but few in the UK used it), and Myspace (which I used primarily for my music, but I was fortunate enough to meet a couple of people via that medium who have ultimately become good friends). Otherwise, to talk to other people, there were online forums and bulletin boards; awkwardly enough, for a year and a half I navigated my adolescence writing cathartic and experimental poetry on a largely Christian bulletin board. Eventually, for a range of reasons, we drifted apart (although amicably so).

My father took a long time to cave in to broadband; over dialup, I used WinMX to download music one song at a time; occasionally I would download brief gay porn videos that would take HOURS for just a couple of minutes’ worth of footage, that I would then delete upon logging off the net for fear of my dad seeing them. A couple of times late at night once my parents were long asleep, I also cybered with randoms I found in chatrooms on WinMX. The screens of these chatrooms were black, and the writing for different people would be in different colours; it looked much more aggressive and raw than the internet looks now, but there was no permanence to the interactions; the words spiralled into an abyss, into nothing. In the present, every single thing you do online has ramifications; thankfully, I didn’t have to navigate my sexuality and my youth online with the fear of my words being screenshot, paraphrased, used against me at any opportunity being a realistic one. (I know it could still have been done, especially with my father’s IT expertise, but it wasn’t prevalent the way that it seems to be today.)

During the year I spent living in Spain, I used to spend a hell of a lot of time chatting to Hannah on MSN, and a site we explored for a little while was called MeetYourMessenger, which was a combination of Faceparty and MSN. It was not very fruitful however; I remember having one conversation where a guy spoke to me exclusively through ostentatious, glittering animations and smileys. He was blocked after that conversation. I also used to read gay fanfic on Nifty, and I actually got talking to a guy on there; we even met up a couple of times! We also used to cam, and all of these memories remind me of how when flirting on all of these different sites, people were desperate for pictures, for videoed conversations. Separate USB webcams are now a thing of the past, but back then they were an indispensable part of the online experience for some, threatening symbols of sexual predators for others, and a laugh for the lucky rest of us in between.

A lot of people don’t know this, but I originally found Toby through Fitlads, a gay dating site that intimidated me far less than Gaydar. I didn’t have an iPhone at that point so I have never used Grindr, and I think I’d probably find that too intimidating too. Anyways, after a couple of successful conversations on MSN where we both proved to one another that we actually had thoughts in our brains, once we found out that we both were attending UWE for our postgrads, we decided to cut the online stuff and just meet in person. And the rest, as they say, is history.

I had forgotten a lot of these things until I started looking back over my teenage years in detail, and thinking about all of the websites I used to visit. They sound almost quaint compared to what sites are around now, and at the same time as the internet became faster, sleeker and more commonplace, I thankfully became older, wiser and more prudent with my actions. At the age of 11, 12 or 13, I don’t know if I would have been savvy enough to evade every pitfall Facebook (let alone more adult sites) has to offer. From my time at Cirencester College, teaching young people about how to be intelligent about what they share on the internet is important – especially in a culture of digital natives where there is a lot of pressure to share everything (from peers and otherwise). In this same way, just as I discovered the internet as I grew older, is the right to privacy something young people of today will only really discover and understand in their twenties – once it’s, perhaps, a little too late?

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exploring Little Venice + Kilburn. (multiple tube update!)

January 27, 2013

Today, Toby and I had originally planned to go to see the Royal Ballet photographic exhibition at The Hospital Club near Covent Garden. However, because we couldn’t work out if the exhibition was open today (the page with the exhibition said it was on today, but the opening times for the venue states that they are closed on Sundays), we decided to go elsewhere. After a think, I remembered that one place I had always been curious to visit was Little Venice. Cue much singing of Duffy’s “Warwick Avenue”.

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Warwick Avenue and Maida Vale is another beautiful area of London, with lots of grand white terraced houses with the columned steps up to the front doors (one of my ambitions is to one day live in a house with white columns flanking the front door. Dream big.) and big leafy trees. We had a walk around Little Venice and its triangle of water – it was smaller than I expected, but there was still a pretty riverside mini-park: The Rembrandt Gardens:

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and then we ended up on the other side of the canal in somewhere called Sheldon Square, which reminds me of Big Bang Theory.

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After this, we moseyed on up through Maida Vale and onto Kilburn High Road. It’s not a glamorous location by any means, but the mish-mash of cultures (Muslim here, Jewish there, pan-European further up the road) and the busy hum of people gave the area a buzz that was nice to experience – once, at least. Toby and I were amused by some of the shops which looked like they had been imported from 20 years ago. If HMV and Blockbuster are now out of business, how shops such as “Computer and Mobile Land” and “Half Price Games” are still surviving is beyond me. The proliferation of Poundlands and Shoe Zones gave me the impression that my grandmother had had a hand in designing the street. Anyway, to complete the post, here are the tube stations that we managed to cross off the list on our walk from Maida Vale to Kilburn. Now we’re back home, I’m taking refuge on the sofa for the rest of the evening – and it’s well earned!

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