Sex, Vampires and a million books sold

Meandering through the high streets of London, I keep seeing advertisements for new raunchy books that are ‘even steamier than 50 Shades of Grey’. Having (shamefully) read 50 Shades of Grey, more out of curiosity than anything, I don’t think my heart could take something that claims to make that look like a Victorian parlour novel. I mean, I may be lacking imagination here, but really how much more sex could one fit into a book short of the characters literally never leaving the sack?

I’m also – and I mean this with all due respect – intrigued as to how the author became inspired to write such a story off the back of Twilight and the rest of that series. Its such a leap – glittery, golden eyed and slightly camp vampires to an S&M fiend. Although I have to say, I do prefer the female lead of this to Bella. She has some gumption at least, a bit of spark. Bella always struck me as a bit of a wet flannel, even back in my teen years when I did actually enjoy the books.

My point here is not to have a go at people for reading these books or at the authors – they have every right to write what they want, and if the public like it then who are we to say they shouldn’t? I’m not a literature purist, even though I don’t think that either of the aforementioned series will be joining the ranks of the classics I think they have their own merit, even in providing entertainment for millions of people.

I’m just…confused. Bamboozled. Puzzled, one might say. I don’t understand where this influx of fascination with vampires and werewolves has come from. There’s always been stories, we’ve had myths for hundreds of years that have filtered into our novels…Dracula, anyone? Frankenstein? The Woman in Black? We’ve always been in love with the idea of the paranormal…to explain things we can’t understand, sometimes to scare our kids into behaving themselves! And to make life more exciting…but does life need to be made more exciting?

Is that why these romances all involve some kind of blood sucking element? Is love not exciting enough in itself any more? Maybe not, maybe everything has become so clicheed we have to add more to it, to force regular romance into garnering some interest. And that’s kind of sad, I think. Or maybe we just want more excitement, passion, fury than our own lives can currently give us.

Although, if we watch the news, we see all of these things every day. Excitement in people doing extraordinary, crazy things, like Felix Baumgartner breaking the sound barrier…passion in the charities, the communities, passion displayed by regular people that forces them to fight so hard and so long for the things that are most important to them. These may not be the most adrenaline pumping things to hear of, but I think they are awe inspiring in their own way. Inspiring. And fury in the endless wars, crimes, assaults and sadness that batter our little world.

So perhaps its just the escape. To disappear for a while into a world where things like vampires and werewolves can exist, a world where romance isn’t torn painfully apart by the obstacles it faces. A more romantic, magical, crazy world, just for a little while. That’s why – despite the occasionally low brow genre – I think these books still deserve to be printed. I am by far not the biggest fan, but I think its better for people to have a little window of escape – to pretend, for a little while, that they are the heroine (or hero) of some fantastic love story. I don’t have the same problem with that that so many people do.

And the sex? Well, that’s just a bonus I guess.

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Cocktails Shmocktails

So today I had an adventure down Streatham High Road. We visited a cocktail and Mexican bar called El Chicos, for the Ladies night they have every Tuesday. Least we thought it was every Tuesday. Thinking every cocktail was half price we were getting ready for a night of boozy fruity liquor filled fun, but unfortunately they don’t run this deal through December?

WHY NOT? When better to run half price deals than the month of Christmas, when everyone wants to be drunk and merry? Frankly after hearing the same Christmassy hits year in and year out being drunk is about the only way to enjoy them any more.

Despite this monetary set back we had a drink or two, but being stingy students we didn’t stay for very long. In all fairness, having visited this establishment before, the cocktails are delicious. Fantastically presented, if you like the little umbrella and the fruit and sugary garnish then you won’t be disappointed, ladies and…well mainly ladies. They do have beer or regular shizz for the gents who feel a Cosmo is not quite to their taste. 

Best thing is there’s a choice of 200 – yes 200 cocktails to choose from. And Mexican food. I LOVE Mexican food. I’d happily wallow in a tub of guacamole dip for a good hour or two, don’t get me started on fajitas and enchiladas…and TACOS…

Ahem. Excuse me. Don’t know what came over me. The food’s good, basically.

To add to the awesomeness there’s a Jazz cafe nearby along with several other pubs if you’re up for a bar hopping night. Or you can always head onto Brixton to a club there…possibilities are endless.

However unfortunately, they weren’t endless for us tonight. We both wound up at home with some wine for company and stir fry for tea, not quite what we envisaged but hey – we gotta roll with the punches. 

Hibernation, hibernation, hibernation

So I haven’t been on an adventure this weekend. I haven’t done anything educational or eye opening. Honestly with the kind of freezing weather we’re having now its winter, I haven’t really felt the need to expand my mind. Its too cold. My mind wants to curl up in fetal position like the rest of me and hibernate.

Speaking of which, I have a theory that humans were always meant to hibernate. Stockpile on DVDs, fattening foods – we all need the extra insulation in winter, that’s what I say – and cups of tea. The English way. And then don’t leave the house from November through January. The economy would plunge, but its already plunging. Public transport would grind to a halt – but frankly it grinds to a halt with every speck of drizzle that we see, and on a bloody British rail network we see a lot of drizzle, so I don’t think that it’d really make that much difference to the current situation at the end of the day.

There wouldn’t be this influx of broken hips and ankles from people slipping on ice. We would have finally learnt a lesson, just don’t leave the house in frosty weather. Clothes wouldn’t constantly have that slight damp feel to them from when you went out in the pissing rain or the hail or the snow the night before. And you could live in slippers. We all love a good pair of slippers, lets face it. They aren’t just for grannies, not any more. 

Last night, instead of painting the town red, I drank lots of champagne and beer, ate lots of Mexican food, and hung out with a group of friends in a warm flat. And it made me think that sometimes, its not about having some crazy, new experience. You don’t have to have some kind of mad adventure every single day. Even if you did, the fun would wear off…they would all blur into one and they wouldn’t mean the same thing any more. Sometimes its about having a laugh and a giggle with people you love, stuffing your face with guacamole and getting a bit pissed.

But most importantly, in the winter months, keeping warm.

Any ways I have a few new things planned for this coming week…so hopefully my next post won’t be another set of musings on cold weather and sleep. Although I do love to sleep. All students do. We’d all sleep 24/7 if we could. In fact I might go have a nap now…

Richmond Park

I’ve had some wonderful times in Richmond Park. From walks through the woods to the lakes as a fairly effective hangover cure, to long luxurious picnics under the trees, overlooking the water – walking up to King Henry’s Mount to see the view for 10 miles, all the way to St Paul’s cathedral. Its the largest of all of London’s parks, and in my opinion one of the wildest.

Deer roam free, and are quite tame – making for fantastic photo opportunities, and amazing to watch for the wildlife nerds. You can rent bikes, there’s cafes and toilets, woods, ponds and gardens to explore. It really is stunning and easy to pass a whole day in. 

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Its free, its breezy, but make sure to wear actual shoes. I made the mistake of wearing flip flops and came out with feet that closely – and rather painfully – resembled porcupines from all the pointy things on the woodland floor. My bad. 

The Top Secret Comedy Club

I’ve ventured into this basement comedy club a few times, and despite fearing slightly for my life when we were first directed down some dingy stairs into a cellar beneath a cafe in Covent Garden, was very pleasantly surprised. Gotta say, its the best comedy club I’ve been to – and by far the cheapest with student tickets at less than a fiver, or completely free some nights!
The first time was completely by accident, when one of those leaflet people thrust a flyer into my hands – much to my annoyance, and later much to my benefit as having the slip got us a discount when buying tickets on the door. So there’s a tip, if you get given a Top Secret Comedy Club flyer, keep it for later and they’ll usually knock a quid or two off the ticket, or off the price of a drink.
Drinks are unusually cheap for London, and people usually get pretty plastered. I’ve seen people literally stick a straw into a litre jug of beer or suchlike. But that’s the British way, and frankly it only adds to the entertainment with a great back and forth between the comedians and audience (bear in mind, if you sit near the front you will be mercilessly picked on by the comedians. You have been warned.) The staff are up for a giggle, and a lot of the acts are circuit regulars or may be familiar off the old TV box. I got my ticket signed by them last time, which for a geek like me was the absolute height of excitement.
Its also very easy to get there and away from there and such with it being in such an accessible location. Although the first time we went, 6 inches of snow plunged London into a standstill. We were trapped in central for 3 hours waiting for a cab. As a geordie I was a bit disappointed in the lack of British will power or the ‘keep calm and carry on’ sentiment. It was more like ‘SHIT, SNOW, I’M GONNA MELLLLLT’. I was going for irony there, but I’m not sure how well it worked.
Any way I feel that was a standalone time. Be all and end all is its definitely worth a punt. Funny, lots of drinks flowing, and very, very cheap. Go give it a shot, take a shot, and have a giggle. You won’t regret it!

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Lost in London

I’m not from London, as you probably guessed. I’m a bit of an imposter. A northerner, a geordie trying to fit into what sometimes feels like an alien planet. And for the last year I’ve felt a bit lost at times. I navigate the tube with ease, I don’t ever make eye contact with strangers and I’ve learned to court death if I ever want to get across a London road. But I still feel like I’m a small child, still grasping at unspoken rules that born and bred Londoners just know by rote.
People tell me London is the most vibrant, friendly (believe it or not), eclectic, mad city in the world – and so far I feel I haven’t taken nearly as much advantage of this as I should. So that’s where this blog comes in. I’m going to go out, visit all the places not necessarily on a tourist map (and maybe a couple of those that are!). I’ll make trips to the early morning markets, tucked away museums, local restaurants. The hidden gems London has to offer. And I’ll write about them. 
London is an amazing place. I’ve barely scratched theImage surface of it. From the council estates of Vauxhall to the mansions in Hampstead, from the terraced East end houses to the cottages in Barnes, I’ve never known anywhere fit so many odds and ends together in such a fantastic way. Its like the biggest patchwork quilt you could ever wish to find. A buffet, an all you can eat meal…well, that’s enough of the metaphors and similes. I may be getting a tad carried away. But regardless, it is a stunning, crazy, scary, beautiful place – pulsing with the sheer bulk of life and humanity it contains. And in all honesty, I can’t wait to get stuck in.
If there are any suggestions for places to visit, leave me a comment. Otherwise, I look forward to exploring the big smoke a little more, and sharing it all with you. 

London's hidden gems, on a student budget