It’s a Grace Van Cutsem sort of day…

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Grace Van Cutsem, the tiny frowning bridesmaid at The ol’ shindig Kate and Wills had back in April 2011.

She is one of my biggest heroes  and the archetypal poster girl for days when really, you just want to have a whine and a moan and really C.B.A to be nice.

As today is officially Grace Van Cutsem day, I present, my top five list of annoyances:

  1. The smell of fake tan- On a crowded train, at bitchy o’clock in the morning, there is nothing more gag-inducing than the wonderful smell of fake tan. A truly grotesque combination of smelly socks, month-old biscuits and rusty copper, why anybody would ever subject themselves and others to this wonderful scent is beyond me. People spend millions on this stuff, just look around at the pasty/orange faces around you. Why oh why have the cosmetic companies not found a way to make this vile stuff smell like blueberries yet?
  2. People who live their dramas through Facebook/Twitter- Social Media is a precarious platform that seems to invite the most self-indulgent members of society to air their dirty linens in public while hunched behind a computer screen in a dark room. It buggers my mind beyond belief when I log on and read statuses like “OMG Can’t believe some people in the world…whatevs im over it, lets go out and party girls” or tweets like “People are so hurtful sometimes wow today has been eye opening”. If I poked my eyeballs out with a fork (as I am often inclined to do) upon reading this garbage, I would be on my seventy fifth set of fake eyes by now. Firstly, buddy, the thinly veiled attempts at being “subtle” are not fooling anyone, we all know your scumbag boyfriend was a scumbag once again or that your love/hate relationship with your sister is more hate than love; who are you kidding, really? Also, and more importantly, WHO in the name of all that is noble and not full of shit GIVES a Fudge.Under.Cool.Knife? Keep your drama to yourself and post happy Instagram’d pictures of your cute puppy instead.
  3. Cheapskates- Right, this is probably my biggest gripe ever and a guaranteed sure-fire way to earn my utter disdain. I am by no means Miss Moneybags, and never have been, but miserly cheapskates turn me into a right mardy bum. I can’t stand people who drive Italian Supercars, wear snazzy custom-made suits and yet cough and guffaw when they have to fork out a fiver to contribute to the Office Cake Fund and yet scoff down the Krispy Kremes like the best of us. I know we’re in a recession, people should all be watching their pennies, but really, I hate people who are cheap. There I said it.
  4. Little bits of crap in between my keyboard- It is gross enough I have about four weeks of desk-chained lunch crumbs hiding and practically cackling with evil bacteria-filled laughter, what’s worse is no amount of scraping, squishing, squeezing, poking dislodges any of the tenacious buggers. Answers on a postcard on how to have a clean (and hygienic) workspace please, I’m convinced my keyboard is breaking me out in hives.
  5. Geographically superior Nonces- You know, I get it really. Dubai vs. Abu Dhabi, London vs. Up Norff, NYC vs. LA, Mumbai vs. Delhi, Yorkshire vs. Lancashire, , Jo’burg vs. Cape Town…geographical rivalries have existed since time immemorial. As a citizen of the world, and a proud resident of more places than fit on a small piece of paper, it truly disturbs me when people get all  superior  about where they live. I understand pride and joy in your home town or where you live, but I don’t get this new wave idea that to justify you live in the greatest city/country/town/village on Planet E, it must mean everywhere else is a shit hole. This jaunty put-others-down attitude pisses me right off.

The above list is by no means exhaustive, but really the main things that are making me want to go renegade, Grace Van Cutsem style and just cover my chubby hands over my little ears and put on a proper moany face.

A quote that pretty much sums up life:

“Some people deserve a high five…in the face…with a chair.”- Anonymous

May stamping feet, smoke out of ears and wrinkly frowns always be with you,

If I had six minutes to live, I’d write a little faster xxx

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The good, the bad and the rainy

So September 29th 2004 marked the day I landed at Heathrow Airport after a six-and-a-half hour flight to a country I had never before visited and which was to be, for all accounts and purposes, my home for the next 3 years at least.

Welcome to England!

Today marks my 6 year and 9 month anniversary on what has been an absolutely mad journey. I know it is the biggest super cliché that ever existed, but stating that I arrived as a girl and stand before you today as a woman, wouldn’t quite even begin to cover it.

I’ve learnt a lot of things. I am a fast learner; that was the first thing I learnt.

I also learnt that I was a crazy product of similarly somewhat crazy but well-meaning parents. That can be the only explanation for agreeing and actively encouraging their youngest-born to travel over three thousand miles to a country that hadn’t been part of family-fun summer holidays, and specifically to a town nobody in the family could place on a map, to a University attended by students who might as well have been aliens.

So this journey was doomed to be perilously difficult, exciting, risky, problematic, fantastic, liberating, compromising, joyful, mirthful…even Webster’s has run out of synonyms now. Through this journey I have often felt like an alien myself, with my weird accent (that changes every year and is a touch moody) and my weird half-Dubai, half-not self riding the tides as they presented themselves to me. Now on the eve of becoming well and truly British* better now than ever to muse on the journey and the little things I have picked up along the way.

I have lived in Lancaster, London, Blackburn/Manchester and travelled all over the country, so I feel I have some authority when I muse on the mad things I have learnt about being British. This list is by no means exhaustive.

The Good

-Now, it is largely a myth that British people are unfriendly or stuck up. Brits are actually very friendly, just in a rather stoic, hardly expressive way. One thing I have observed without a doubt is the further up North you go, the nicer and friendlier people become.

-My rose-coloured glasses may be a bright fuschia, but as a lover of Shakespeare, History and Kings and Queens, the history that seeps through every inch of life and co-exists beautifully with modern Britain just lights me up inside. I love that the house I live in has been around for centuries. It makes me very excited that the library I study in is a Victorian Gothic building that looks like a Harry Potter set. I absolutely love that every cobble stone you walk on has been tread on by millions before with their millions of stories. I was born in a city that was perhaps just a little bit older than me, so I love being a very tiny couplet in this long saga that is Britain.

-Most people think I have a few screws loose in this sense but I adore the Royal Family and always have. I am a tad obsessive, and with The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge making royalty chic again, I’m very glad my madness for all things pomp and circumstance related is somewhat acceptable in normal society once again.

-People tend to take for granted things they never had to fight for. I love the fact that I have freedom to choose to be and do whatever my heart desires and I am not held back because of the colour of my skin or the fact that I am a female. They may have an atrocious habit of meddling in other countries matters but when it comes to giving me rights and opportunities and freedom, I am a satisfied citizen. I also really like that I can walk around most places without men rudely staring at me and infuriatingly undressing me with their lecherous eyes. Women in England, you take this for granted, trust me.

-As a former fashion student in one of the world’s most exciting and creatively stimulating fashion capitals I truly believe in the power of British fashion. A frankly incredible high street and some of the most inspiring talent that all starts out in the handy cutting rooms of Central Saint Martin’s and goes on to Couture in Milan and Paris, nobody does fashion like the Brits. Unafraid to push the boundaries and constantly evolving, Britain shows the fashion world the vital importance of those trailblazing newbies who go on to write history. God Save McQueen!

-I know people whinge and complain about it, but the National Health Service freakin’ rocks, in my humble opinion. I am very grateful for the NHS and I hope we never lose the equal opportunities and fair treatment to all that it works so hard to provide.

-The mentalist accents, that vary not just from city to city, but sometimes from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. I love the sheer number of them and am absolutely bemused by just how this tiny little island can house so many different and absolutely unique accents. My personal favourite? Scousers rule!

The Bad

-So the Brits like their drink, big surprise. I’ve come to find the Brits don’t like their drink, they actually probably hate alcohol, and themselves. There is no other reason for the sheer abuse of alcohol and the disturbing binge drinking that is far too commonplace. Not just confined to racy teenagers or lazy students, binge drinking has swept the nation and is causing numerous social problems. It is intimidating, frustrating and frankly, a gross discredit and the inevitable downfall of an otherwise great nation.

-Jamie Oliver and Gordan Ramsay look away now. British food is diabolical. Firstly, I find it hard to find a specific national dish which is both palatable and good for you. Secondly, Heinz baked beans are a national favourite and they make me want to cry a little. People eat far too much pork (as a non-pork eater, trust me this is very true) and generally eating out is hard work. Now I know I was very spoilt living in a Muslim country where everything is Halal and plentiful, but I don’t just find being a pseudo-vegetarian/pescetarian difficult…I think eating out is too expensive and often a shoddy experience. Brits just don’t do good food. Sad but true. The only exception to this rule are my wonderful sister in laws, who are all absolutely gobsmackingly brilliant cooks.

-It is very hard work being a moderate British Muslim in today’s Britain. Hard work on two counts, as on one side you’ve got hate-spewing neo-nazi renegade EDL and BNP supporters and on the other side you’ve got the equally hateful extreme-to-the-max Jihadi mad so-called Muslims. Both parties infuriate the living daylights out of me and hundreds of thousands of peace-loving, moderate, integrated British Muslims like my family and myself.

– Whether the kind you get by baking to a virtual crisp inside an oven, or the bright orange biscuit-smelling kind out a bottle, for as long as I shall live I shall never understand the allure and chase of the fake tan. Women, you look utterly ridiculous and browner than me. Stop it you’re scaring me!

The Rainy

-It rains a lot. I will stand by the fact that it doesn’t rain as much as I expected, but this is mainly because I thought rain meant a monsoon-type deluge rather than the misty pitter-patter and general cloudiness that hangs over the great Island. Umbrellas are useless, especially in Scotland where the wind just laughs at your shiny new £8 umbrella with pink polka dots, rendering it useless in 3.4 seconds.

-It snows occasionally. None of the country seems able to cope when this happens.

-The sun shines quite often. Once temperatures creep over 25 degrees, the country doesn’t seem very able to cope with this either.

-British Summer Time means the day starts at 4am and ends at 10pm. This is exhilarating and bloody confusing for a near-equator living foreigner for whom evening is around about 6pm all year round, and it is officially dark by 10pm. In the summer, the days stretch so long, you often sleep when it is as light as it was when you woke up.

-British Winter Time means the day starts, officially at about 9am (though with the perma-cloud, there are weeks there never seems to be a start) and ends around 3:30pm. This is hands down the most depressing and disconcerting time of the year. You wake for work in the dark; you get home in the dark too. For office-9-5 desk jobs, this is positively soul crushing. If it weren’t for the general joie de vivre and Christmas Markets, I reckon I would get pretty suicidal every December.

-British Spring Time is hands down the most beautiful and green season in the whole world. The colour green in all its tones and shades seems to have been born of British countryside. The North-West and Scotland are particularly stunning. When the sun shines, the trees are green, there is a crisp breeze and squirrels bandy about, you do often feel like you’re in the middle of a Harlequin Romance novel.

-The weather turns very quickly, so British people need to be dressed and prepared for the random heat wave/glorious spring/misty rain shower/chilling winter/powerful rain deluge/aching sunshine/painful hail storm/a lightning strike at all times. I often have squidgy shoes and feel far too hot in my coat.

I am a sucker for quotable quotes, and every blog post shall be concluded with a particularly significant one, so to sum it all up:

“A family with the wrong members in control; that, perhaps, is as near as one can come to describing England in a phrase.” -George Orwell

May pomp, chips and rain be with you,

If I had six minutes to live…I’d write a little faster x

*3 Bank accounts with some British moolah, check; 2 British degrees and half of a professional qualification, check; A British love story and lovely properly British husband J, check; A whole host of British in-laws/family, check; A Properly British job, check; British passport and my very own little British babies, soon to be check TBC…the list goes on.

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