The awkward turtle

Celebrating the failings of a successful person

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Up shit’s creek with just a paddle

I was on a four-day trek en route to Machu Pichu during which I survived climbing through dense jungle foliage in the rain, mountain-biking down dirt roads (also in the rain), and using my bum to shift along mountain edges following the Inca trail – I am terrified of heights and the path was about 2 feet wide, on one side I had the mountain face, on the other, a long fall down to the Urubamba river, singing Lion King’s ‘Just can’t wait to be King’ was the only way I could go on. Also it was raining.

Me looking pretty casual way up high above the Urubamba river. The path only got narrower from here

So there I was having survived all the forseeable challenges of my trek only to be tricked by fate to go on a spontaneous rafting trip down the Urubamba river and almost drown. We had just parked up in one of our stopover hostels, I was already wet, you know from all that rain, and so when the rafting guy came to gather a group together I figured I’d go along. You only live once right? Or at least die trying. We were in the raft being instructed by the instructor. I was sat in the middle – I’d heard this was the safest place – opposite a German man. By the end of our introduction to rivers and rafting I had learnt that we were in a Level 3 river (the danger scale goes to 5), the signals for the crew to jump inside, what to do if you fall overboard etc. I was having an amazing time, I was literally smiling to myself with that conscious thought; the sun was shining, I was – in my own opinion – a natural at this rafting jig, and I was in my element (I’m a water sign I take this stuff seriously). I was so euphoric at this spontaneous gamble that upon seeing some fisherman at the river bank I couldn’t resist a wave.

Moments later the instructor warns us of a rip that was coming up, we had already cruised through one earlier so I was confident that this one would be the same procedure. Yet as the raft lulled into the rip I could feel the difference this time around. The force of the water running in multiple directions was turning us around at a faster rate than we could compete with. The instructor gave the signal for all in-board and as we obeyed a scene unfolded of which I can still picture in slow motion. The raft flipped over and all I can remember is the flash of yellow of the raft, and the cold rush of water that swallowed my body. All I could think of was surely I would die because we were told what to do if one person fell out, not everyone! As chance would have it, the raft recovered itself to an upright position with the other five passengers still intact, it was the passengers in the supposed safest seats who were catapulted completely free of the raft. I found myself barely afloat in Peruvian river, the contrast from being totally content moments before to fighting to keep water from filling my lungs was overwhelming. I realised I hadn’t planned for death.

In the moments – and I say moments because my whole concept of time as I knew it was lost to me – that passed I went from sheer panic, to despair, to survival. Initially I tried to swim my way across the river’s current to the bank. It didn’t seem too far but I was soon to learn I had no control in this element. Although I was wearing a life jacket rapid waves threatened to drown me as I gasped for air. I thought how this couldn’t possibly be happening because I hadn’t told my parents I was here, it was impromptu, no one would know what happened to me I had only know my fellow trekkers for a day or so. As I skipped through the irrational thoughts I remembered our earlier instructions: in the event of falling into the river lie flat on your back FEET first. I ran out of patience with this tactic as I saw the distance between myself and the raft increasing. I took a risk, stupid one but one I’m not want to regret; I turned around to be propelled head first and swept down the river pass the abandoned German. At the sight of him my panic returned as I realised how desperately I wanted to survive and how alone I had felt for those seconds, minutes, lifetime? I grabbed him, a human rock in the midst of this motion. I latched on to be rescued by a man just as helpless as myself. I could have drowned him. Shocked by own actions I released him from my death grip back to the river.
I had managed to keep hold of my wooden paddle the entire time that I had spent flailing (drowning), as if it would save me from the monstrous river. It was my last defence. But the instant I touched the raft and felt an infinite number of hands grab hold of me, I no longer needed the paddle. I practically pushed it away with disgust; in my mind I must have imagined there was only room enough for one of us. I was determined it would be me. The look on the instructor’s face as he saw me cast out the stiff competition was painful. I have the rest of my life to be sorry I chucked away his livelihood, but that’s the point: I have the rest of my life.

The rest of the ride was spent chasing down the missing paddles. The sun was shining once more. My shock of a near-death experience manifested itself in the form of a manic smile and the distinct feeling that electricity was charging through my body. I had no time to process the experience, I was too busy apologising profusely to the German guy who I almost killed whilst simultaneously straining to avoid eye contact. He reminded me too much of my ugly survival instinct and I was ashamed.

We can never tell what will be just around the bend but to continue walking is to live, to stop still is no life.



Thursday Philosophy

A good friend sent me this snap to start my day…

I’ve always been a firm believer in what is meant to be will be, and this thought echoes the same sentiment. This reminds me to stop looking at all those imagined alternative paths in life, the what ifs and feeling like I’ve missed out on opportunitites, because ultimately everything that we decide is right in that exact moment of deciding it, whether we like the outcomes or not there is always some reason to the chaos.

**My friend’s amateur photography cut it out but the quote is by Edith Bowman

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‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ – an awkward turtle movie

On Saturday I had a hot date with my friend Becky. I persuaded her that we didn’t want to see the Anna Karenina movie because the thought of enduring a Tolstoy classic being ruined by Keira Knightley’s gasping-for-air thatpasses as acting, was unbearable. I had wanted to see The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which I affectionately named the perky wallflower film, as it is in the long line of tradition of coming-of-age dramas that I am very fond of. The film is based on a book set in the early 90’s (hence the beautiful cinematography of low quality pixels and muted hues), and follows a highschool freshmen’s (Charlie) introduction into the real world, led by his colourful wallflower friends (Sam and Patrick). The high school divide – the cool kids, the losers – is reminiscent of iconic 80’s films like Pretty in Pink, and The Breakfast Club, and successfully made me grateful that I never experienced an American education system. Ezra Miller’s Patrick brings all the comic relief and flamboyance of Duckie, but with an added persona of confidence coupled with not overplaying the camp card. However it was really the protagonist Charlie, played by Logan Lerman, who I fell in love with. He executed social awkwardness to perfection; he wasn’t comical, he didn’t make it uncomfortable,  he played it with such sincerity that awkwardness was retained in its little awkward box where it belongs: a social limbo.
He was indeed the perfect wallflower.

It took a total of 10 minutes from the moment Emma Watson appeared on screen to realise that I was not watching the latest installment of Harry Potter. The parallels were glaring: the two guys and a girl dynamic, the one guy hopelessly pining after the girl, everything screamed Harry, Ron, and Hermione. The minor difference being that this time Harry was actually gay (Patrick), Ron was not ginger (Charlie), and Hermione was quite the slut (Sam). Charlie is a kid with a lot not right inside but the film does not fixate on him as being the subject of a mental disorder. Instead the pill popping is blurred out into the background as the real story is about human connections, being yourself (no matter what your experiences), and not feeling like everyone will turn you away.

“Do you ever feel like if you told someone everything in your head they’d think you were crazy?” (Charlie)
– How about all the time

The film’s tagline can be listed as “We accept the love we think we deserve”  as the theme of choosing partners who are unsuitable and unworthy of our love, is played out in variations through the primary and background characters. In the middle of all this we find Charlie; a witness to what seems a universal mistake, and one which oppresses him to the point of psychosis.

I was floating along easily with the film; laughing when the gags were delivered, cringing when someone got caught out, and sympathising when there was a profound moment. But I felt as though I’d been cheated out of a catharsis of emotion. I was waiting for a tragic moment that would make this story feature-length worthy and not mini-series. I was beginning to think the director had seriously missed out on a dramatic opportunity, when suddenly the dramatic crescendo stole upon me. That moment when all those emotions poked at through the first 60 or so minutes came to a crashing climax, where before I had just been teased to no completion. I don’t want to ruin the ending but this happened whilst watching Charlie ask the psychiatrist “How do I make it stop? All the suffering, everyone I love is suffering. How do I stop it?”. The tears began with a modest trickle down my face and soon enough my flood gates were burst wide open. I suddenly went from leaning on the arm-rest I was sharing with Becky, to trying to disguise my torrential tears practically sitting on the empty seat next to me. I was crying so hard that I shocked myself . At some point I heard my phone drop to the cinema floor but my wet hot tears had me frozen to my seat. An old chap a few seats away took pity on me and returned my phone but I was so choked up I could barely mutter a thank you in reply. I think Becky was secretly appalled by the excess of emotional display in public.

Some memorable one liners just to let you know this is not a completely wet movie, include “I met a tree but it was a dragon”; “$20? What do you want with $10?”; “Our relationship is so awful that sometimes I imagine one of us has cancer so that we don’t have to go on”.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is pretty perky, sad, funny, and surprisingly intense. And not forgetting, most certainly awkward. View it with an open mind and not too harsh criticism on the pretentious over-emphasis on musical taste.

The old Potter trio: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson

Left to right: Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, & Ezra Miller

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Directed by Stephen Chobsky


Why I should not approach guys…

In my last year of uni I had a crush on this guy I saw everyday for what seemed to be the longest period of my life spent in the library. I would see him in the mornings, afternoon, and even whilst pulling a late night . I had no idea who he was and he never associated with anybody remotely familiar. It seemed that not even the reliable Six degrees of separation theory was applicable here. The intrigue turned into one of our many library obsessions as I shared the victim amongst my friends. Anything to distract from the misery of our academic holes was a plus. I dubbed him Seth Rogen, not least because the poor guy was nameless, but also because he looked uncannily like the actor Seth Rogen. He was my guilty pleasure.

Sure enough our frequent breaks on the library sofas were spent having intellectual discussions over Sophocles’ stance on state versus divine authority in the Antigone, which were promptly interrupted by a Seth sighting. “Seth’s gone out for a smoke, shall we go?”, or “Seth Rogen’s walking up the stairs….Don’t look…He’s coming towards us…No! Don’t turn around…Yeah he’s looking over…Dammit I told you not to look!”. I saw him so often that although we were mere strangers, we became strangers that knew each other precisely because we so obviously were not acquainted. In short; he kept staring at me because I kept staring at him. Awkward.

Fast forward to the end of the year at our pre-graduation party at a club. Everyone made it out: all those people I saw but never knew in the library, all those people I knew but wished I never saw in the library. Seth Rogen. I didn’t think I would see him there, if I had I wouldn’t have been so brazen just hours earlier when I declared I would speak to him if I saw him. It was too late. I couldn’t unmake my promise even if I wanted to because within seconds of spotting Seth at the bar my best friend Nate practically pushed me through the crowd and positioned me right to the left of Seth. The air took on a new heat around me as I contemplated striking up a conversation with a guy I literally did not know. Of all the possible ways to start a conversation I started like this, “Oh sorry, I think I pushed in front of you”. He looked at me, uncomfortably I might add, and replied “No its okay, I’m with them anyway”, indicating to the guy and girl actaully being served. I was sweating, my hair frizzed and I just wanted to bolt but I wasn’t quite ready to admit defeat. I groped for some support and found Nate’s arm within good reach. I pinched her, I figured she deserved to share in the pain that was passing through me every time I opened my mouth to speak to Seth. Then I said something really incredible. Incredibly because for 0.1 second I thought it was witty, than I was prepared to settle with funny, but as my lips breathed the words to life I realised it was just god damn ridiculous: “Oh well” I began, “You know it’s a dog-eat-dog world when it comes to the bar”. Inside I died. And as if that wasn’t humiliating enough, Seth singalled he had missedthe punch line. I had a second chance to pretend I never said the lame dog-eat-dog line and say something actually witty this time around, but alas I flopped again. Perhaps the line was so excruciatingly cringe-worthy that he had actually heard it and wanted to give me the benefit of the doubt. Who cares. I surrendered to my failure and delivered the same line again looking on to see the realisation of what I had said settle onto his face. He managed a terse laugh “Uh hah hah…”, and then walked away. Luckily I was already at the bar and it was a no-brainer what I needed then and there. Shot please!

The only thing that made this episode bearable was sharing it. I was the source of much laughing and gasping for air with a stray finger pointed in my direction. My sisters said I must have been adopted because this was no family trait. And I at least learnt that feminism can prevail onwards, women can grow penises for all I care but I will not be hitting on a guy again. Let chivalry work its charm.

Katherine Heigl & Seth Rogen in ‘Knocked Up’. It might be the Jew-fro, or the huggable body, but there is something about the Rogen

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The turtle adventure, awkwardly

tiny turtle hatching

An awkward turtle journey begins

Those moments when you feel like you are flailing around on your back on the floor of life whilst people look on not knowing whether to help you up or not. Inevitably you will always get back onto your feet, but more often than not you will fall down, and boy oh boy can that be awkward…
Cue the awkward turtle.

Falling along the highway to happiness

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“What’s that you say? You have a blog? Well join the line…”

Anyone can blog, even my mum, but some are convinced that it gives them some sort of special status. I tried to exploit this belief recently when I organised a day out to London Fashion Week dragging some friends in tow. The emphasis on my planned day was for free events, perhaps a glimpse of a few collections via a big outdoor screen designed to keep the riff-raff from muddying designer garments with our mediocrity. However even this, it seemed, was a big ask and inevitably we needed a pass to see anything of worth. One of my lovely friends, who has a penchant for blagging – one that I do not share – found out that if you were a blogger you could get a coveted pass. Her eyes lit up with the realisation that My friend has a blog, and sure enough she shoved me up to the Blogger’s desk to get us in. I knew I had no right being there but the cringe-worthy exchange had commenced:

“Erm, I’m a blogger and I was told to come here for a pass…”
“Right, do you have a business card?”
“Do you have your site stats?”
(I was not aware at that point what that was) “No.”
“Well if you give me your site address I can have a look for you.”
“What’s your blog about?”
“Er, food? writing mainly”
“Hmm. Well it should really be about fashion (duh). And you have to have had it for a year minimum (mine was 2 months old), or an average of 5,000 hits a month.”

Silence. We stared at eachother. I wanted the ordeal to be over but I knew there was no backing out now, all I could do to express my discomfort was grip my friend’s thigh behind me. She took a glance over my shoulder to judge my companions, they do say that a person should be judged by the company they keep. No doubt she found the sight of my poor friend Alex offensive; he had been an unsuspecting tag-a-long to the day’s events, and his idea of fashion consists of flip-flops (thongs) and shorts. Her verdict:

“Sorry. You can come back on the weekend when its open to the public.”

I saw a similar episode not too long after whilst queueing for London’s trendiest new restaurant of the week – going on month. We were one party away from the seating list and the woman in front was trying with everything at her disposal to get a table for dinner. Her desperation to enter was clear; at some point the line, “I’m a blogger, I’ll write you up if you let me in”, was dropped in at which point everyone within earshot held their breath to see what favours such a promise would elicit. The answer, nothing.

I felt suitably awkward on her behalf, only enhanced when moments later we found ourselves snaking back down the queue as there was no room in that inn.

A couple of weeks later I tried this same restaurant again. It involved an hour of queueing in the rain to no avail. During our hard time we got asked if anyone had given us an estimated waiting time, and as we looked into the face of our inquirers I realised we were staring at the face of the mum from Home Alone, Catherine O’Hara, and the fabulous wedding planning in Father of the Bride, Martin Short.

And the moral of the story: leave the blagging to your friends who know what they’re doing, don’t turn up at the hottest new restaurant on a Friday night, even celebrities from our childhood films can get turned away, and lastly, always carry a business card. That’s all folks!

London Fashion Week, fashionistas,

The ‘In’ crowd at London Fasion Week, Somerset House. Another reason why we didn’t get in was probably that we did NOT look like this

Bubbledogs, champagne, hot gods

Bubbledogs: the champagne & hotdogs restaurant that is permanently full