Headline: A sweet little read with useful tips and methods to bring out your inner calm
14 Lessons in Happiness by Gina Ross is a simple self-help guide which aims to give the reader quick, nugget-sized, doses of advice to improve internal positivity and outlook on life. Each of the fourteen chapters is introduced by an inspirational quote, a summary of the topic (sometimes bringing in the author’s personal experiences) and then several step-by-step meditation activities. These activities are, like the rest of the content, intended to be straightforward and quick to apply, the kind of activity that can be sandwiched between daily activities, without the need to carve out hours of time or invest in a back catalogue of whale music and their weight in incense.
There is a lot to admire in this self-help guide by Ross. It neatly draws on the author’s personal experiences without becoming a sob story, the writing style is light and the right side of informal and the activities are numerous (there is plenty of option to pick and choose between different mediative exercises). Ross also clearly notes at the start that this guide is not intended to replace that of a professional practitioner, a nice touch that goes a long way to showing Ross’ intentions with this book is to support, not cure.
What I would note here is that the contents of this book are by no means detailed and exhaustive. The fourteen chapters are each quite brief and the content fairly generic with an intention to be as inclusive as possible to all readers from all walks of life. Those wanting something better tailored to a particular challenge (for instance grief) will most likely not get all the answers they need from the ten or so pages dedicated to this topic. Also, and one that is more of an admin point, the references in the footer are not correctly formatted (it needs to be more than a website link, instead it should also feature article titles, authors etc).
14 Lessons in Happiness is a handy little guide when it comes to self-help and succeeds in being a book which can introduce new readers to the art of meditation. Something for your coffee table, this guide would serve as a great pick-me-up alongside a fresh hit of morning caffeine to start the day off right.
I was flicking through the main streaming services, when I came across a television Christmas movie (the typically low-budget, “Hallmark” type). This one was called “A Christmas in London”.
(Although for reasons unexplained, the internet / outside the UK it’s called “A Christmas Exchange”, so let’s refer to it as that, or a “rip-off of The Holiday”.)
I went to watch the trailer online and was semi-instantly hooked.
This festive season, I’m going to share with you the tangled web of voice notes I bombarded my poor boyfriend with as I watched it in real time.
Couple of quick points: 1) editing this video took a stupid number of hours and 2) in trying to make this as accessible as possible, the closed caption tool I used…well it’s pants.
On that upbeat note, here you go!
I stand by all the comments made, other than the annoyance I forgot to verbally call out the shoddy scene setting and backdrops, including the montage that features this shot from “within the London Eye”.
And this other shot, within a phone booth:
There’s not even a phone in it! Good lord.
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Headline: If you enjoy Christmas movies as much as candy canes and baked cookies, you’ll love this
I love television Christmas movies, cheery 90-minute productions where cookies are always in the oven, mugs of hot chocolate plentiful on the counter, small town celebrations every other day. More festive than tinsel itself, I cannot get enough of them. When Fred Olen Ray’s book, Writing the Perfect Christmas Movie, appeared in my inbox I could not resist, jumped at the first chance I got.
Ray is no stranger to the industry of televising Christmas charm, in the space of ten years he has written fifteen Christmas films for television and directed several more. Having spent time with aspirational hopefuls wishing to break into the industry, Ray’s guide pitches itself as a one-stop shop for any budding scriptwriters of the genre with chapters that are intended to be all inclusive of the various considerations that need to be made when putting pen to paper. From story and act structure to considerations around budgets and casting and, the all important question, how Christmassy is too Christmassy? (In the world of festive films? It transpires there is no such thing.) In a short space of time Ray does an excellent job and condensing a genre and getting the main points across professionally and informally. You get a real sense of this being an author who genuinely wants to help others break into the industry.
Ray’s approach to producing this guide is consistent with an experienced professional; recounting past projects and how to avoid potential pitfalls with each approach. It is almost semi-autobiographic, from a place of passing on experience as opposed to providing a line-by-line tutorial of scriptwriting. There is a general expectation here that you can already write screenplays. To this end, Writing the Perfect Christmas Movie could be more likened to the Masterclass brand of video tutorials and may therefore cause disappointment to those hoping to see annotated case studies of previous scripts.
A choice purchase for those who are actively trying to pursue a career in scriptwriting whilst also sitting comfortably as my recommendation to any festive film-fans, Writing the Perfect Christmas Movie offers a rare peak under the covers of what makes the seasonal film genre tick.
Headline: Three simple mantras to change mindset and create lifelong opportunities? Sign me up!
Think in Color by Sophia Santiago is a self-betterment guide which puts forth a proposition for a new way of thinking, branded “ColorThinking”.
This approach is broken down into three mantras, also referred to as mental cones:
Think “and” before “or”
Think “how” before “no”
Think “can be” before “is”
In all three scenarios theory and approach is backed-up by some interesting real-life and fictious scenarios, coupled with a step-by-step walkthrough of how things could have been better handled. A fourth section focuses on how to break away from external negative influences which may be impacting on your ability to implement a new way of thinking, and finally there is an advisory on the dangers of overuse; applying ColorThink to every scenario.
Santiago’s style of writing may not suit every reader, author jovialness bubbles to the service with the use of phrases including “just kidding!” and “a nice twist, ha?” In a self-help guide I prefer the tone of author voice to be informed and neutral; in places the over-informality of the writing distracts from the otherwise invaluable information and action items which the book is trying to impart.
As someone who works in Project Management, I really like what Think in Color is trying to do. Whether Santiago was aware when devising the concept of ColorThinking or not, the three mental cones have striking resemblance to Agile methodology, with its four simplistic principles for transforming and embedding efficient delivery. While the subject matter differs, the theory of ColorThink is similar in that respect and, at just over eighty pages in length, it is as equally digestible as another ground-breaking manifesto adopted by millions worldwide.
Think in Color convinces readers to reconsider the traditional black and white principles of thinking, offering a fresh perspective in a way that does not seem that different at all. I like it.
Headline: For those who want to stay ahead of the increasingly steep and bloody curve of customer satisfaction, this book is a must
Once upon a time, loyalty was decided by large armies and costly landgrabs. A knight (or similar) would swear their loyalty and in turn all the sprawling hordes of peasants (or similar) underneath would also find themselves also pledged to that cause. But we are no longer in that period. In Westernised countries, gone are the knights, swept away the uneducated masses and in its place born is the freely accessible internet.
Joss Gillet’s guide to business, The Customer Affinity Manifesto: How AI can Help Businesses Connect with Customer Emotions, brings into conversation the need to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) into brand building. Before all else, Gillet details two home truths, 1) AI is not going anywhere and 2) your business is not going anywhere without it. (The phrase “suck it up and move on” springs to mind.)
That said, Gillet is equally keen to not let AI become seen as a digital enemy, if anything in many cases throughout recent history he cites many examples of where AI systems have benefited improvements in marketing and how, before then, psychology experimentation was mimicking a lot of what we see today, be it on a much more labour-intensive scale. From telephone response times to the words and colours on a digital app, a better understanding of customer frustrations can lead to better targeted improvements. Happy customers equals happy economic growth.
Using his previous experience in the Telecommuncations sector to build a case study, Gillet identifies sixteen specific pain points (or ‘topics’) where customers feel particular disillusionment with their provider’s service. Gillet then presents the case that anyone can use deep learning to build a simple AI model to utilise freely accessible data on social media platforms, such as Twitter, to produce highly effective data charts and sentiment scores. Later on, there contains more detail about how business can implement effective AI, without needing to rely on the brand popularity of 10,000+ Tweet mentions a day.
Gillet’s book is well researched, well put together and visually is very engaging (the use of clearly explained graphs being welcomed sight). Granted, this would perhaps not be the best birthday present for someone selling the occasional bead necklace on Etsy, but for the truly aspirational, those who want to grow their business and stay ahead of the increasingly steep and bloody curve of customer satisfaction, this book is a must.
Headline: The only place where you can complete sudokus and hug trees: a little book of fun
The Ultimate Workbook to Train Your Brain, Body and Spirit by Steven Clinch is a neat little publication, at 129 pages there is by far more visual content in here than words (for context, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is around 77 thousand words in length, The Ultimate Workbook nears a modest 1000). It is a welcome relief from a lot of the denser material that exists in the market.
This publication provides the reader with 150 different exercises to conduct at their own pace. Activities include colouring in, wordsearches and short exercise routines, all of which are intended to trigger feelings of relaxation or deep thought as the reader is given the opportunity to pick (and subsequently tick off) the activities they’ve completed. For those needing a bit more guidance, answers to the puzzle activities are provided towards the back.
Be it sudoku or crosswords or even wordsearches, for a indecisive person like me I like the variation in activity and puzzle. I could pick and choose an activity based on how much time I had or how I was feeling on a particular day. I tended to reserve the ethical dilemma questions for when I had the most time and use the brain teasers as a bit of fun when spending time with friends and family. In this sense the book is perfect across a broad range of age groups.
The cover’s intense and dark imagery is easy to misconstrue, I had to take a second glance before recognising this as being aimed toward mental stimulation rather than physical. The solutions on the final pages have not taken into consideration accessibility – my eyesight is perfectly fine but I still found myself struggling to read some of the answers and I am not convinced the author should be making bold statements. Claiming the completion of the activities will create more brain neurons and therefore result in to a longer and happier life? The colouring lead to a happier half hour, let’s start there.
Book review on Katherine Chidiac’s self-help guide for young people, NOW IS NEW: Stop Struggling. Start Living.
Rating: 3 Stars
Headline: Self-help that doesn’t preach: A nifty guide for adolescent audiences seeking an introduction to the genre
NOW IS NEW Stop Struggling. Start Living. is a self-help guide that provides a reset point; asking its intended audience to take the time out to place themselves on pause, reflect on problem areas and gradually move to a place where they can change their attitudes and ultimately overcome them. The book is aimed towards the young person market, an age demographic that can be challenging to tackle.
Chidiac’s publication is filled with metaphors and anecdotes, which is incredibly useful when translating some of the more challenging concepts into easy-to-understand situations and scenarios. It was great to see the author making efforts to remove the stigma of there being a right or wrong way to process emotions, and the addition of simple line drawings help with making the content informal and visual so as to keep it engaging throughout.
The book is easily digestible and as you move through the chapters you feel a sense of progress acclimating in the final chapter “creating our next steps” where the author neatly summarises the content, reminding the reader that the pace of self-improvement is gradual and anything but quick. “The first step is not to become a YouTube star,” Chidiac says, “…[but] opening the app. Then, maybe we could create an account.”
This publication could have been improved in its placement of reflection exercises. Often the reader is recommended to undertake a mini-exercise in the middle of a chapter, such as completing part-started sentences or pausing to reflect or mediate. They are contained in the body of the text, often sandwiched between two analogies and an inspirational quote. There was times I became so engaged with the exercise that afterwards I lost my engagement of the content contained in that section. Reflection exercises would have sat better at the end of each chapter or at a clear break-point.
The book would have benefitted from consumer or editorial feedback on tone of voice. While agreeable on the whole, at points copy dipped into the overly familiar and I wasn’t too convinced by the use of curse words for something aimed at young adults, even if they were concealed by use of asterisks. I would also have liked to have seen a clear statement of this book’s intended readership age range in the introduction.
A nifty book that provides young people with a gentle introduction to self-betterment.
Here’s a quick run-through of what happened when I went on London Underground’s newest service, the Elizabeth line.
The first thing I was aware of when I descended the escalators at Paddington was the whizzy LED signs.
I don’t know why, but I found them mesmerising, like a lava lamp. It was also 7:30am and I hadn’t had coffee, which I acknowledge may have been a contributing factor. Nudged by another commuter in that classic “get-on-or-move-on” fashion, I hopped onto the next Eastbound train.
Now the thing is…well, I wanted to illustrate that even though it was very busy at Paddington station the train was pretty quiet. But, equally, I didn’t want it to be obvious I was taking random photos of the train. You can see my predicament. So what do you get?
A slightly burred picture of a door.
It really was a classically Alice dilemma.
Oh, thumbs up for the seat coverings by the way.
And the floor? I mean, I wouldn’t say I’d be eating off it, but by London standards it was fairly squeaky.
I just wish I could say it was seam-LESS! (Get it? Because there’s a joining line? Well, I thought it was witty).
And here’s a photo of Custom House, before a-la-mosh pit I got scooped up by corporate commuters and funnelled toward the ticket gates.
*Then Alice did actual work stuff at the ExCel conference centre*
On leaving the ExCel I was running back what felt like the thickest black jacket in the hottest day. To say I was a bit toasty was an understatement, I was effectively drowning in a pool of sweat and free pencils.
Honestly I was so relieved to be somewhere with air conditioning and seating I forgot to take any photos. Minor detail.
It was probably owing to this (realising at Bond Street I hadn’t taken any photos and unable to, thanks to the copious amounts of free pencils filling my hands) that I became very obsessed with scoring a selfie with the Underground sign at Paddington. That, and in part because of the very strong coffee I knocked back before leaving the ExCel.
Ten attempts later (not kidding), I settled with what I got and shambled upstairs to find out the outbound train I’d been racing to get was actually a very slow train so ended up loitering around Paddington for 40 minutes for the train which, it turns out, all my colleagues were on as well. None of them were interested in my pencils, only moaning about the cleanliness of the toilets at Paddington. For a whole hour.
The Elizabeth line! Clean (enough), mesmerising signs (if you’re suffering from caffeine withdrawal) and just enough air con to stop you gagging on the stench of someone else’s body odour. What more could you want?!
Oh, and it’s actually super quick to get places. Minor detail.
I’m sat up in bed, feeling incredibly rough with a head full of cold and a nose full of…stuff. Hot water bottle, chocolate bar wrappers scattered all around (not that I can taste anything) and badly wanting to curl up into a ball and sleep (prevented by a sharp pain in my throat – I might be coming down with tonsillitis again). Oh, and my left calf is covered in bruises, but at least not so swollen.
So how have I got to be in this state? And how come, in a strange turn of events, I don’t mind it quite so much as I would normally?
Part One – Straight Lesbians, Like Us
I rock up to Paddington early on Saturday morning. I am sans coffee and already reminding myself what it was like only a few months ago when dragging an over weighted cabin case was the norm.
‘Where are you?’ I text my friend, although the delivered but not received tick says it all. Still hacking across London on the Underground. When we eventually catch up it’s as if only a week has passed since we saw each other. Two long-time friends who, as luck would have it, met in Swindon in different industries but bonded strongly in London working for rival banks. We hop on the Bakerloo line and speed away towards China Town.
‘You know what you’re having?’ Cherice asks me over the top of the menu, a quirky place tucked away behind theatres staging Thriller and Les Miserables.
‘Not sure. Maybe the eggs?’
‘Oh, okay. Because I was thinking the full English…’
‘Thank God you were thinking that as well!’ I exclaim in a garble, just as the waiter comes by.
‘Know what you’re having?’
‘You go first.’ I say to Cherice.
‘Well, one of us has to go first.’
‘Fine,’ I put the menu down. ‘The full English, please.’
‘I’ll have the same,’ Cherice adds, handing the menu over. They’ve put us in the window seat, the best seat in the West-End restaurant, the table where they put the cute couples.
I watch group of tourists in protective face masks walk by. ‘Why is it every meal with you turns into a flirtatious date?’
Cherice laughs her signature laugh, causing everyone to stop for a second to study the source. One of the things I love about her. The waiter agrees with my judgement, rushing forward with my very much needed Americano.
‘You laugh has just brightened my day!’ He chirps, leaving Cherice to squirm under the attention. I roll my eyes.
‘Every time I take you out. Just like the time in Dalston,’ I sigh. ‘When the waitress thought we were on our anniversary. Remember? When you gave me the chocolates for my birthday and she said it was cute of you to treat me to Hotel Chocolat?’
We’ve often spoken at length about how life would be so much easier if we could date. Cherice, with her 100 egg diet and cross-fit, in the old days it was enough to convince me I was the more effeminate one in our pairing. Then London happened and I decided the only thing separating us in that regard was that I was the more decisive one, the one more likely to be more assertive, less caring what others thought. Now, as Cherice literally held my hand on every Tube change my thoughts were scattered again.
‘I know how to board the Tube, Cherice!’
‘You’d have left your case in the restaurant if it wasn’t for me! Do you even know where we are?’
‘You trust me that much? I could have taken you anywhere!’
‘Cherice, a stranger in bookshop could have promised to take me to the British Museum and I would have followed. You said we were going to the Wellcome Collection and here I am.’
I was at this point I directed Cherice to our mutual favourite series, You (FYI – I still can’t bring myself to watch season two, because…well…I am far too drawn to Joe and discovered my online life is far too relatable to Beck’s. Also, I get bad bookshop envy.)
We walked around the collection, idly laughing about the medicinal equipment (knew the GCSE would eventually come in use) and watched children playing around some of the kid-friendly exhibits.
‘Kids don’t have the space to roam like they used to,’ Cherice pointed to a diagram. ‘Me and my brother were allowed to wonder around massive areas growing up.’
‘Yes,’ she says flatly. Our extremes of surroundings growing up has always been a topic of immense bewilderment to the other.
‘I guess it was similar for me,’ I say, looking again at the satellite image. ‘Not the urban environment, but the space to be able to be me. I lived in the middle of nowhere, nothing but fields as far as the eye can see.’
‘Didn’t it ever drive you mad? Having nothing to do?’
‘Not at all!’ I counter. ‘Some people create imaginary friends, I created imaginary worlds to escape into.’
‘Ah, so that’s why you’re like you are?’
‘Maybe. Depends if it’s a good thing or not!’
We pop our heads into an exhibit on the power of water, splitting up briefly before Cherice returns to find me watching a surreal video of a McDonalds slowly flooding.
‘Water is bloody scary, man.’
‘Cherice, pigeons scare you and you’ve lived in London your whole life.’
‘Yeah, but it’s the destruction water can do. Why are you still watching it? It’s depressing.’
‘It’s strangely fascinating though, don’t you think? Slow TV, but with undertones of climate awareness. Makes you wonder, where are the humans? Where is the water coming from? It’s only depressing to you because of the conclusions your own head is reaching. See, it says right here that it was all set up, it’s not even a real restaurant. Wow, the effort that people put into art, eh?’
‘Suit yourself,’ Cherice shrugs as she says this. Like anyone who has ever visited an art gallery with me, you give me an inch…
‘…Then again I used to stare at pieces in the Tate Modern for ages until I was able to force myself into finding some deeper meaning,’ I ponder aloud. ‘Anyway, shall we go somewhere else?’
‘Sure,’ Cherice says gladly as we walk away together.
‘There is one thing though that bothers me about that video…’
‘Well, the description says the only audio is the sound of water. When did water sound like that?’
We next went to a couple of Riverside bars near King’s Cross.
‘There’s more to King’s Cross than the station?’ I exclaim.
‘How the hell did you survive here for a year?’
‘I live off £7.50 a week, maybe £9 at a push.’
‘How are you still alive?’
I ignored the question. ‘This mocktail is almost double my weekly food budget when I was living here full time. You really think I was hanging out at places like this? You think I ever travelled as far out as this for what is effectively a lemon juice?’
‘Besides, I always got the guys to take me to Shoreditch.’
‘Alice Elizabeth Bennett!’
‘What? One of them was a Programme Manager on Crossrail! Not like those guys ever seemed short of money…’
Cherice paid for our drinks, including the service charge, before we both scampered out.
‘Jesus, how much did you just pay on service charge?’ I scoffed. ‘You didn’t even like that drink! The waitress gave us evils the whole time!’
Cherice laughed. ‘I know, what am I like?’
‘No wonder you London lot are all skint, you keep paying for crappy service because you’re too embarrassed to say no.’
‘Remember the time in the Korean chicken place where I told the waitress I wasn’t paying the 12.5%?’
‘Yeah, I admired you so much.’
‘But I also couldn’t go back there again for a few months.’
I sighed. ‘Oh, look, book barge!’
Cherice could see me jumping from foot to foot, like a child desperate for the toilet. ‘Go on…’
‘I know you, you want to photo it for your blog.’
‘No I don’t…I just want it for…personal reasons. It’s a pretty boat.’
I was lying, but we both knew this.
‘Just take the photo and we can move on.’
We ambled over to another cocktail bar, one with an amazing 70s theme and a DJ playing retro tracks to match.
‘I want to be this bar when I grow up,’ I thought, looking around at the interior decorations.
Cherice meanwhile was having a moment with her Old Fashioned.
‘You okay, there?’ I smirked.
‘Question,’ I start. ‘Would you take a date here?’
‘Of course! The drinks are so good!’
‘Agreed, but doesn’t that make it a negative?’ I take a sip on my gin cocktail, the taste swarms around my mouth. I blow out a short stream of air. ‘Like that, right there. I’m having a better time with my drink right now then anything else.’
‘Yeah, but don’t you think it’s a bit of a distraction? Aren’t you meant to talk to people on dates?’
Cherice shrugged. ‘You tell me.’
‘I haven’t dated anyone since I left London in May, youtell me.’
‘The men haven’t changed, Alice! There’s still none!’ She thumped her glass on the table.
‘Woah! That alcohol is really going to your head, huh?’
‘…It is. I think I’m going to go freshen up.’
‘Okay b…’ I stop myself mid-word.
‘You can call me bae if you want.’
‘Really? We’ve reached that level of our relationship?’ I shout across the room in joy. Seeing the general reaction from other consumers I quickly turn around. Maybe I was a little tipsy too.
‘You okay there?’
‘Jesus Christ!’ I shout in surprise at the most retro looking server to have ever existed.
‘Sorry!’ I quickly add. ‘Didn’t see you.’
Ironic, given his orange floral top and beautifully styled beard, he was the most obvious man in the whole bar. He smiled, clearly finding the comment amusing as well.
‘Did you and your friend want anything else?’
‘I think we’re good, thanks.’
I quickly followed suit after Cherice returned, admiring the record covered walls in awe when the retro waiter appeared out of a cubicle.
‘Here,’ he held the door open for me. ‘This one is free.’
‘Oh, thanks,’ I duck under his arm and close the door. I stared at the back of the door and pondered some of the big questions for any woman to consider in her life.
‘Do I like beards now? I wonder what they feel like? Come to think about it, does this count as flirting in the modern age? Did 70s Henry Cavill just flirt with me? And why am I standing here when I need to pee?’
‘Sorry, there was good music playing in the toilet. Was too busy Shazaming the hell out of the space,’ I say as I grab my coat from the back of the seat.
‘Wow,’ my friend replies as she lifts herself from the padded seat.
I do a half-second rain check. ‘I’m both sorry to myself and our entire generation that my statement isn’t nearly what it would have meant ten years ago.’
After that we agreed that there was still time for another coffee, but Cherice couldn’t decide whether to take me to Paddington in West London or Angel in Islington.
‘I think I once got stood up by a guy who lived in Angel…’
‘Angel it is!’
We searched around for a coffee shop, most filling up quickly down the expensive boutique shop-lined streets. I paused outside a wedding dress shop.
‘What are you looking at?’ Cherice asked.
‘That’s an ugly dress,’ I observed. ‘It’s see-through all the way to her crotch! And the bit in the middle, see through again!’
‘Someone will buy it,’ Cherice commented. ‘Take it that’s not you?’
‘Jesus no! Weddings are so expensive. Why not use the money on something like a holiday or a house?’
‘…You already own a house.’
‘You know what I mean. It’s just like Valentine’s day with the overpriced roses that wilt. What’s wrong with other flowers anyway? Or just going out another night? Or even better, nothing at all. I’d rather have a toasted sandwich.’
‘Has anyone ever told you you’d be the perfect girlfriend?’
‘Hah! Bless you. No, I’m not perfect, I’m like bloody Sea Monkeys.’
‘Yeah, you have to keep feeding me or else I will float around. That or literally start burning rice and then end up contracting rickets. It’s not a great look.’
‘Wait, how do you even burn…’
‘I’d really rather not relive the trauma, Cherice. Now bear with me, I need to stick one of my business cards on this noticeboard.’
We eventually found somewhere with enough space to fit us in. Cherice had a tea, I was on yet more coffee. We hung out there for a bit longer, and chatted through my friend’s plans to move to Canada. I suppose for her, having grown up and worked in London nearly her entire life, moving to another continent is just a big a step as it was for me choosing to move to London all that time ago. Still didn’t make it any easier to accept though.
‘How long are you staying in Swindon?’ She asked, putting the focus of conversation once again back on me. I’d rather she didn’t, I much preferred her telling me all the amazing reasons why I should move to Canada myself.
‘What do you mean?’
‘I mean, really, what’s keeping you there, in Swindon?’
‘There are no men, your family aren’t there, your friends…’
‘My friends are all over the world! Some can’t seem to keep still…’
Cherice chuckles. ‘My bad. But really, would you consider moving elsewhere?’
‘I do miss London…’
‘No!’ Cherice cries suddenly, almost knocking her soy milk over. ‘You romanticised this place, that’s your problem! Thinking London is just one big culture trip with nice dresses and fancy men in bars.’
‘Remember how miserable that flat made you? With the black mould? Do I need to make the same sounds as your flatmate?’
‘Please, God, no!’ I jump in, almost grabbing her arm. ‘The only way to make her and her boyfriend stop was to play Baby Shark against the wall on full blast FIVE…TIMES..A…NIGHT. Do you have any idea how much that screws a woman up?’
‘Exactly! No, you don’t want to come here. You’d be better off in Bristol.’
‘Didn’t expect you to say that.’
‘Well, aside from the lack of jobs, everyone is really snooty. I was on a night out there once when, outside a kebab shop, this guy started slating off Swindon. Not a gentle poking fun, but on his high horse level. Asking me why I hadn’t married my brother already or whether I could count to ten.’
‘Anyway, so you know me, when I’ve had a bit to drink I get super friendly or super verbal-sarcastic-aggressive. There was only so much I could take.’
‘Where is this going?’
‘Well, eventually I snapped and said “fine, you tell me all about your three-bed townhouse in the centre of Bath then!”‘
‘My friend had a mouthful of food and from the surprise at my sudden bluntness she covered this smartly dressed toff in half-chewed wrap, complete with halloumi and lettuce. It was beautiful.’
‘We then made a quick getaway. I got to the rank, hailed a taxi and yelled at my friend to get in the car. She followed me in, not realising that it was me until the last second. My own friend swooned with my dominance.’
I raised a hand in mock charm, although Cherice by this stage had become less engaged in the story, trying to pour out the last dregs of loose leaf tea into her cup.
‘…Sorry, what were we talking about?’ She asks.
‘You know what, I can’t remember.’ I paused for a second while my friend kindly paid for yet another round of drinks.