(in)elegant Jenny

I’m not sure if its because there are so many elegant, well-dressed, lovely women around London with which to compare myself, or if I have just become extra pathetic since moving here, but I do seem to be getting myself into a ridiculous number of the sort of scrapes that typically form the ‘before’ montage of the sad, mousy heroine in a 90’s rom-com before our hero’s love sets her inner-beauty, self-confidence and natural poise free. Examples:

1) Clapham Common tube station doesn’t seem to like my short, flirty skirts. Or, conversely, Clapham Common LOVES my short, flirty skirts. Loves them so much, in fact, that it can’t help shooting strong, continuous gusts of air towards me as I walk down the stairs, sending my skirts flying sky-high and making me look like an umbrella turned inside out in a small snow-storm. Of course, there is something quite sexy about a long skirt floating prettily upwards and allowing teasing glances of the legs underneath, as we all know from that picture of Marilyn. Let me assure you there is nothing at all sexy about your entire skirt flying straight up revealing the top of your stockings, your flabby belly and granny underpants from all sides, all at once. Too much information, as they would say. Furthermore, there is nothing sexy about the girl in that dress who, instead of giggling coquettishly a la Marilyn and delicately pressing down the front of her skirt, starts emitting short, painful panicked shrieks and begins some sort of manic dance, attempting to push down all the sides of the skirt at once, flailing about and hitting innocent passerbys in the process.

2) Dust and/or Pollen and/or Pollution. There’s something in the air in London. Well, presumably there’s a lot in the air in London and it seems to be constantly shooting up my nose, tickling it, making it itch and generally making a nuisance of itself. If I’m not about to sneeze, mid-sneeze or recovering from a sneeze, I’m attempting to scratch my nose without touching it with my fingers (because then people might think I’m picking it) by moving my lips in a circular motion and creating all sorts of fabulous faces in the process. Eventually, I’ll give up and think that scratching the itch and getting some relief is worth the strangers on the tube thinking I’m picking my nose. This will result in approximately 45 secs of relief before the whole process starts again.

3) Walking. I do love a good walk. But, apparently I’ve lost the ability to walk since moving to London. Well, actually, somewhere along the way, I lost the ability to walk except in completely flat shoes. It doesn’t matter what speed I’m going at, or the relative bumpiness or flatness of the ground I am walking along, at some point during my walk, one or other of my ankles (or sometimes both at the same time!!) will suddenly collapse in on themselves. To begin with, this kind of hurt. Over time, my ankles seem to have gotten used to the violent movement and it no longer bothers them. It no longer bothers me, either, except for a slight gritting of the teeth and a rueful shake of the head. The only people it seems to worry are the poor passerbys who have to witness my strange jerking and bopping walk, or, in some cases, the person I’m walking with who will be shocked to find me momentarily 5 cm shorter than I was previously and then suddenly restored to my old height.

4) Bags. When I left Dublin I spontaneously decided that handbags were a completely unnecessary frivolity that I did not have the space in my suitcase for. I threw out my handbags with gay abandon (and, when I say, ‘threw out’, I mean, give to a charity shop)! I had backpacks! Many backpacks! I had so many things for carrying things! I needed not these so-called ‘handbags’! Of course, now that I’m in London I’m extremely self-conscious about my lack of handbag (all the elegant London ladies have handbags!) and am constantly using a single weak little canvas bag because it is the closest thing I have to a handbag. For some unfathomable reason, however, this canvas bag seems unable to rub up against my clothes without pulling them up. Last week, walking through Waterloo Station, a British woman came up to me and said, ‘I think your bag has caught your skirt a little.’ She was displaying the Brits’ excellent ability for understatement, for when I looked down, I saw that one entire butt cheek was hanging out of my dress, which had somehow managed to loop itself up and over the canvas bag. I know not how. But, I also do not know how to solve the canvas bag/handbag dilemma. Except for, of course, buying a handbag… which I am oddly reluctant to do.

5) Complete and Utter Clumsiness about the House. My poor housemate, Dan, is constantly coming out his room and sighing, ‘Are you ok?’ in response to little yelps or screams on my behalf. My comments are always along the lines of, ‘Oh, yes, I just… got caught in the door,’ or ‘Oh, yes, its just I kicked that bit of wood in with my toe and then my toe got caught between the two bits of wood and…they pinched me.’ I think he’s just worried now because the second week I was here, before he knew me very well, I was attempting to fill up a hot water bottle and I managed to drop the boiling water all over my hand, the kitchen bench, the floor and my toes. He had to set me up on the couch with a bucket of ice water for my hand, a tray of ice water for my toe, clean up the kitchen and then get me my hot water bottle and Nurofen Plus. I mean, really. Could I have been more pathetic? I think he believes I’m simply incapable of existing in the modern world without assistance now.

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