Monthly Archives: June 2013

#auspol

Because I don’t have a smartphone, I’ve never really been on Twitter when ‘things are happening’. My computer limits my tweeting to my room and the TV room, which kind of defeats the point of Twitter. I mean, the people in the Arab Revolutions weren’t running around with their laptops tweeting about atrocities. They had smartphones. They took photos and videos and immediately put them on Twitter. I don’t have that technology (and frankly, I don’t think I want it. I do want the opportunity to be, for at least some of my life, disconnected from the internet and sloth videos).

Yesterday morning UK time, however, I woke to the news that there had been spill in the Australian Labor Party and there would be yet another leadership ballot.

For those of you out of the loop (though, I think most people are in the loop after all the fuss the Australians made on Twitter yesterday), The Australian Labor Party swept to victory in 2007 with a leader named Kevin Rudd (his battlecry was ‘Kevin 07’, which was rather nifty and convenient). This was after 9 years of national leadership by a conservative party headed by Mr. Sheen. I mean, John Howard.

For us Gen Y-ers of the bleeding heart, left-leaning variety, 2007 was the first time a ‘left’ party, a traditionally ‘unionist’ party had been elected in our adult lifetimes. There may have been dancing in the street when it came to my friendship circle.

As we inched towards the 2010 election, however, Rudd’s popularity was dwindling. More importantly (at least from the Labor party’s perspective), he was a changeable, irritable, impossible-to-work with meglomaniac. Eventually there was a spill and the party had a leadership vote. Julia Gillard won and became our first female prime minister. There was a lot of outcry from people who don’t really know what they’re talking about (when is there not?) mainly along the lines of, ‘But we didn’t vote for her!’ (For those outside of Australia, and for those within who don’t understand their political system: you didn’t vote for her. But you didn’t vote for Kevin Rudd either. You do not have a directly-elected leader like the USA. You vote for a representative in your electorate. When all the seats in parliament are divided amongst the parties, a majority is determined and whoever is the leader of the majority party is the Prime Minister. Its up to the majority party, not the country. #AusPol101)

Anyway, Gillard announced an election pretty soon after she was elected, so that the Australian people would have a chance to say what they thought about the leadership change (if not giving them the chance to directly vote for or against Gillard as prime minister). And the Australian public’s verdict was….

‘WE DON’T REALLY KNOW! WE’RE KIND OF ANGRY! AND WE DON’T LIKE THAT RED-HAIRED LADY! BUT WE KIND OF DON’T LIKE THAT OTHER GUY EITHER! Uhhhh… Can we just draw donkeys on our ballots and call it a draw?’

It was a hung parliament (oh and there were so many jokes made). Gillard eventually convinced the independent ministers and the one Greens minister to form a coalition government with the Labor Party (which, by the way the other side has been doing for years – the Liberal-National Party is not one party, but a COALITION of two parties. Lucky for them though, not many Australians know this, so the LNP was able to exploit the fact that this Labor-Greens-Independent coalition government was somehow ‘less stable’ than all the Liberal-National coalition governments over the years).

But, still, the Labor Party was the majority party and Gillard was the Prime Minister and had been ‘elected’ so by the Australian Public (though not really – see point above – but everyone somehow felt a bit better now). Then followed 3 of the most shameful years I have ever seen in Australian politics. And I don’t mean Gillard herself (though some of her policies I did think were shameful – refugees and   gay marriage in particular, which were all the more shameful because I don’t believe these policies represented her true views, but were crafted to pander to a racist and conservative public). I mean, the treatment of Gillard.

What other politician has had to endure public personalities making serious speeches in which it is claimed their father ‘died of shame’ over her policies? What other (male) politician has had to endure shock jocks asking about the sexuality of their partner, just because he is a hairdresser and you are prime minister of the country? What other (male) politician has had to endure endless scrutiny and censure because they don’t have children? What other male politician has had to endure constant remarks about their weight, appearance and clothing when all they were trying to do was run the bloody country?

Yeah. That’s right. I’m pulling out the big guns. The reason Gillard had it so hard over the past three years was because of consistent and deep-seated misogyny – amongst the Labor Party, from the Coalition, from the mainstream media and definitely from the Australian public.

I’m not saying that Gillard did everything right. I’m also not saying there weren’t other factors at play (a vengeful and angry Rudd on the back-benches constantly spreading rumours and demanding leadership ballots would be hard for anyone to deal with – Gillard herself has said that she was essentially fighting two opposition leaders). But I am also saying the level of disrespect, the mud-slinging and the hatred aimed at Gillard surpasses anything I have ever seen before in Australian politics. And the majority of it came from white, middle-class men. Men who clearly felt threatened. Men not used to dealing with a woman wielding so much power. Men who wanted only to ridicule and demean, rather than engage with her policies on a serious level. Gillard was constantly accused of having no policy. Gillard had plenty of policy. No-one wanted to talk to her about her policy. They wanted to talk about the fact that she lost her shoe when a security guard pulled her from a ‘dangerous situation’. Here:

They wanted to talk about Kevin Rudd. They demanded ‘the real Julia please stand up’. When she did, delivering this amazing speech, heard by women all around the world, she was accused of political opportunism, cynically hijacking the issue of feminism and ‘playing the gender card’ (whatever the hell that means. As Gillard herself said in her departing speech yesterday, ‘Heaven knows no-one realised I was a woman until I raised it.’) 

What’s my point? Well, I think you can tell I’m pretty hacked off. If you follow me on Twitter and were reading my tweets yesterday, I’m sure you could tell I was pretty hacked off. It’s not that I think Julia Gillard was the best politician in the world – as I said before I didn’t agree with a lot of what she did. It’s not even that I think she would have won the election in September (I know she wouldn’t have. But, incidentally, I don’t really think Rudd is going to win either). It’s simply that people have treated Gillard appallingly throughout the past 3 years – they have belittled her, they have demeaned her, they have insulted her, they have humiliated her, they have refused to listen to her and it is, as far as I can tell, mainly because she is a woman. They have done it because she is a woman and they have been able to get away with it because she is a woman.

And I think that is shit.

(At this point, I think you should watch this video. Which is from the other side of the world in terms of politics, but it seems appropriate at this time).

So, what was the new thing I did on Wednesday? I watched all this shit go down via Twitter and ABC News 24. I’ve not done that before. I spent a good 6 hours on the computer bitching and commenting and viewing and re-tweeting. I can’t say I enjoyed it. I don’t feel like I did anything useful. It’s not like my tweeting was changing anyone’s minds. It’s not like the ALP caved in under pressure from Twitter. As much as Twitter would like us to think their app is the new democracy in action, they’re not quite there yet. Venting on Twitter, however, did somehow seem more important, consoling, useful and sane than ranting at my wall. In hindsight, it probably isn’t. It’s probably like being one of those people who stands around with a sign around their neck saying, ‘The End of the World is Nigh.’ But I couldn’t help it. Even though it was the internet equivalent of screaming into the wind, being on Twitter felt like I was part of *something*, that I was doing *something*. Today is my Twitter hang-over day and I’ve kind of realised how silly that is. But I don’t really know what else to do. The world is shit and I can’t fix it. All I can offer are tweets, Facebook status updates, blog posts and the occasional play.  That ain’t gonna change anything.

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Filed under 29, Politics

Duskwalking

Tuesday, I walked all the way around Clapham Common. Can you believe I haven’t done that yet? I live 10 minutes from the common and have done so for 11 months and yet it has taken me this long to walk all around the common.

Map of Clapham Common. Found at: http://www.ideal-homes.org.uk/lambeth/lambeth-assets/maps/clapham/1877

Map of Clapham Common – its the green bit. Found at: http://www.ideal-homes.org.uk/lambeth/lambeth-assets/maps/clapham/1877

It’s not to say that I haven’t walked on the common. It’s not to say that I haven’t walked PART WAY around the common. But I haven’t done a full circle. The west side of Clapham Common? Pretty. Much more artistically overgrown than the east side. Jenny approves. When it comes to landscape design, I am a romantic, not a classicist (when it comes to poetry, however, those romantics tend to really piss me off).

I had been working all day in front of a screen and then I headed home and found myself in front of a screen again, finishing off press releases, replying to emails etc. etc. When I finally had everything done (dinner, press releases, social media for this theatre company I used to be involved with), it was about 8:45pm. ‘Ok,’ I thought to myself, ‘Time to sit yourself down and write some more of the racist play.’ My heart sank (not just because I’m worried the play is racist). I realised I could not physically force myself to sit in front of a screen for another two hours. So I didn’t. I checked what time the sun set that night and I charged up my iPod and I headed out to Clapham Common.

There is nothing more wonderful than going for a walk at dusk. The day has cooled down, the colours of the sky are all soft and creamy, the traffic (both car and pedestrian) has eased and the people out and about on the common always seem to be a lot more charming. I don’t know why that is. Because there are less of them? Because all the kiddies are tucked away in bed? Because we’re all in this together at 9pm and the smaller amount of people out and about make it seem more community-like? Who knows. But its nice. Its calming.

I walked for 45 mins or so listening to this. And only that. I tried to listen to other songs, but none had the same deep, calming effect on me. Its something about those way-down low drum beats that seem to grab me somewhere around my middle (just above my stomach, but not quite my heart. What would you call that?) and hold me still and content. I think I over-identify a little too much with the lyrics. Which is understandable on some levels (I jumped the first train I saw, it’ll surely take me home; If I had a mama, at least I’d have a place to go) and not so understandable on others (I steal my meals when all else fails – can’t say I have ever done that).

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Filed under 29, Introspection

More (boring) New Things

I’m must really be pissing off you guys who get these posts delivered straight to your email. ‘Oh, yay!’ You’ll think as you log in. ‘I’ve got 10 emails!’ Then your heart will sink. ‘Oh, no. Its just 10 more posts from that girl on oh!theplacesyou’llgouk.wordpress.com. Goddamn it, for a second there I thought people loved me.’

To which I have nothing to say except, I’m sorry to be spamming you. Or, I’m sorry that you spammed yourselves by signing up to this blog. Or, I’m sorry that you signed up to this website just as I decided on my INSANE 29 plan.

Don’t worry, you can ignore this one. Alright? This one is just for my own benefit. I’ll let you know by some secret signal which ones you can ignore and which ones you should read. Ummm… Ok! I have it. Any post that has days of the week in the title? That’s a BORING post. Also, any post that as ‘New Things’ in the title? Also, boring. IGNORE. Anything with a title that sounds in anyway interesting – IGNORE AT YOUR OWN PERIL. Well. Not that I’m actually going to do anything to you. But… you might miss out on something that you would like to read. And that would be sad. For you, I mean. I’m always thinking of you. Really, I am.

If you’re still here (why are you still here?) here are my ‘new’ things for yesterday and today:

SUNDAY 

I went to this bar:

I went with a friend to hear her friend sing. It was good fun, despite the fact that I arrived 45 minutes late because of the NIGHTMARE that was public transport yesterday afternoon (No Northern line! Traffic backed up from Knightsbridge to Hyde Park!)

MONDAY

I manage to work all day from my bed! I worked really hard too. I made video blogs, I updated my website, I wrote hundreds of press releases (that may be an exaggeration). I rewrote some of my (slightly racist) play, I read some things online for the same play (in order to make it less racist), I ordered books that I can read for my play (so I definitely won’t be racist). On a personal level, I dyed my hair, made all of my meals, did the dishes and also re-glued several pairs of shoes. It was a HIGHLY productive day. I have this idea that I’m less productive at home than I am somewhere else, but I don’t think that’s true. What is true is that I am less productive IN FRONT OF THE TV than I am anywhere else. And this is something that is very easily fixed by simply NOT going into the TV room. I still managed to watch Mary and Max in my moments off (it’s BEAUTIFUL. It’s SAD. It’s PROFOUND. YOU SHOULD WATCH IT IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY. IT SHOULD PROBABLY HAVE BEEN MY ‘NEW THING’ FOR THE DAY. OOPS).

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Filed under 29, London

The Amaze-Ball Part 2 (or, Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother Probably Knew What She Was Talking About)

So, I told you all the good stuff about the ball. And, it was mostly good. But, do you remember how I said it went ALL NIGHT LONG? Remember? Well, it did actually go ALL NIGHT LONG. The sun started to come up again and everything looked a little less charming in the daylight. People’s faces had started to melt (ok, their make-up had started to melt, but I think ‘people’s faces had started to melt’ sounded much more excellent). Their hair was falling out. Bits of their outfits were falling off. Bodies were folded-in on themselves and slumped over each other in strange origami type piles on the grass. Their were cups and rubbish everywhere. Everyone’s energy was flagging. The music was going and people valiantly attempted to bop, but their movements were slower, tireder, didn’t seem to stretch as far and looked far more ridiculous and far less sexy in the early morning light than they had in the darkness.

My mood was going downhill fast. I decided all I wanted to do was sit down and people watch. Actually, I was very happy about the idea of lying down on a comfy piece of grass and staring at the ever-lightening sky. It had gotten to the part of the night when all I wanted to do was listen to mournful music, stare into the distance mournfully and consider how mournful life was. I would start composing mournful poetry in my head (that I would never write down) and mournfully acknowledge that I was the only person at this party who truly approached the mournfully deep nature of life and existence. If only someone could see straight into my mournful soul right now they would understand the true meaning of life.

Basically, I was too exhausted to do anything anymore and really needed to go home to bed. But all the flashing lights and activity and noise and sugar and alcohol and morning sun was confusing me to the point that I thought I was wide awake and didn’t need to sleep. FALSE. I needed to sleep. There is no better mood enhancer than a proper night’s sleep. But, I spent a good half hour still wandering about the ball aimlessly and mournfully attempting to convey the sadness of my soul to drunken people who were clearly to drunk to understand

(Example conversation with Drunk Man –

Drunk Man: Are you tired? (Jenny shakes head mournfully) Drunk Man: Are you depressed? (Jenny shakes head mournfully) Are you hungry? (Jenny shakes head mournfully) Drunk: All this can be resolved very easily if you come this way (Jenny shakes head mournfully) Drunk Man: Ok then. Byeeeeeee!!!! BIIIIIITTTTTCCCCCHHHHHHHH!)

Luckily for me, other friends realised what was needed, even if I didn’t and took me home. Sometimes it takes an outside observer to know when enough is enough. Which is why I think that the reason Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother put the midnight time limit on her was not because her magic couldn’t last past midnight, it wasn’t so Cindy could make a dramatic (and memorable) dash from the Prince. No, its just that Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother was well-aware of the end-of-party-blues and she wanted to make sure Cindy didn’t go through it. Cindy’s Fairy Godmother knew when enough was enough. Because, no matter how amazing dodgem cars and cheese rooms and Ballerina Petting Zoos are, there comes a point when even they are no longer exciting.  

My new thing for Thursday was still part of the ball (because it was a new day, ok?) I smoked a shisha. I’ve recently decided I’m allergic/highly-sensitive to cigarettes because every time I have one I inevitably end up with a cold to end all colds. But, the shisha was actually divine. Incredibly smooth. We smoked a mint and grape flavour, I think? The effect of the tobacco was pretty heavy-going after so many drinks and so little sleep and after a few rounds (and me and Michelle taking it in turns of doing impressions of the caterpillar in ‘Alice in Wonderland’) I fell back on the pillows and decided I’d had enough. I couldn’t even get enthusiastic about a Nutella crepe. The shisha broke me. But, I didn’t have a cold in the morning, so you gotta take the breaks when they come.

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Filed under 29, UK

New Things, Friday and Saturday

I’ve decided I quite like the process of just blogging images of the new things I’ve done (as demonstrated in the ‘I Can’t be Bothered’ post). I mean, I’ve got a life, you’ve got a life, no-one really wants to hear me dissect the experience of eating a hard-boiled egg salad for breakfast. I mean, maybe if I were a much better writer than I am (Salman Rushdie, say, or Virginia Woolf, the description of eating a hard-boiled egg salad for breakfast might be spell-binding. But, as it is, I am not Rushdie or Woolf (not yet, anyway!) so I will not continue to bore you. That said, I would like to blog more regularly and I am attached to this recording of new things for every day of the last year of my twenties, so the image posts are a neat compromise.

FRIDAY 

I went here for dinner –

It was excellent. I find that the Indian in London is, on the whole, much better than that in Australia. Don’t worry, Australians, the Thai is much better back home, as is the Chinese, and the beer is still colder and the beaches still nicer (I’ve noticed how amazingly country-proud Australians are since starting working in the hotel – they usually don’t even recognise I’m Australian, but they’re always bragging in some subtle way about Australia or being Australian. It’s weird). But, the Indian… well, its just better over here. 

SATURDAY 

I used a large amount of my Moroccan toiletries altogether during and after a long and luxurious bath.

Moroccan cosmetics

Moroccan cosmetics and spices.

It was my attempt at recreating my sensual Moroccan hammam experience in my shared, slightly falling apart bathroom in Clapham Common. It kind of worked. Bits of me feel very soft and I smell of all sorts of lovely fragrant things like jasmine and tangerine and argan trees and not like dirt and sweat and oil anymore. I used a face mask. It was all very self-indulgent and I enjoyed it immensely.

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Email from Facebook

I received the following bizarre email from Facebook the other day –
Dear Jennifer,
Your privacy is incredibly important to everyone who works at Facebook, and we’re dedicated to protecting your information. While many of us focus our full-time jobs on preventing or fixing issues before they affect anyone, we recently fell short of our goal and a technical bug caused your telephone number or email address to be accessible by another person.
The bug was limited in scope and likely only allowed someone you already know outside of Facebook to see your email address or telephone number. That said, we let you down and we are taking this error very seriously.
Describing what caused the bug can get pretty technical, but we want to explain how it happened. When people upload their contact lists or address books to Facebook, we try to match that data with the contact information of other people on Facebook in order to generate friend recommendations. Because of the bug, the email addresses and phone numbers used to make friend recommendations and reduce the number of invitations we send were inadvertently stored in their account on Facebook, along with their uploaded contacts. As a result, if a person went to download an archive of their Facebook account through our Download Your Information (DYI) tool, which included their uploaded contacts, they may have been provided with additional email addresses or telephone numbers.
Here is your contact Information (inadvertently accessible by at most 1 Facebook user):
j*******************s@gmail.com
We estimate that 1 Facebook user saw this additional contact info displayed next to your name in their downloaded copy of their account information. No other info about you was shown and it’s likely that anyone who saw this is not a stranger to you, even if you’re not friends on Facebook.
We recognize that mistakenly sharing contact info is unacceptable, even if you are acquainted with people who saw these details, and we’ve taken measures to prevent this from happening again. For more information on the bug, please read our blog post.
All of us at Facebook take this issue very personally. We appreciate your ongoing use of Facebook, and are working every day to deliver the level of service you expect and deserve.
Thank you,
The Facebook Team
Can’t help thinking this is all a little strange when considering the whole PRISM debacle. I mean, they write to tell me that approximately one person (a person I possibly already know) has accidentally viewed my email address. They apologise. But they are possibly sharing all sorts of information with the NSA and GCHQ (I know they’ve denied it – if that’s true why is the US government prosecuting Snowden)? Way to have skewed priorities, Facebook.

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The Amaze-Ball Part 1 (or Hanging Out with the Smart and Pretty Kids of Cambridge)

I have a friend who studies at Cambridge. Actually, I have had a few friends who study at Cambridge. Also, my brother studies at Oxford. A few other friends have or do study at Oxford. This makes me smart by association. It unfortunately doesn’t actually MAKE me smart, as I learnt when I hung out with a bunch of Rhodes scholars and my bro on Christmas Day a couple of years ago, but I still like to brag about them. I like to drop it casually into conversation as if it ain’t no thang (some people actually act like it ain’t no thang, to which I say, ‘what do you mean you aren’t impressed? It’s mother flippin’ Cambridge and I KNOW people who STUDY there. I know people who are PAID to study there they are so smart.’ I mean, I also like them as people, but I also like them because they are very very smart and I like to hang around in the same air space as them, hoping that some of their smarts will waft out of their mouths and I’ll breathe it straight through my nostrils into my BRAIN. Yeah. That’s How Brain Smarts Work. I know. I did my Bachelor of Arts at the University of Sydney, which is… not an un-reputable place and highly relevant to the study of brain smarts.)

I feel like I’m getting off track. Perhaps its because I’ve drunk approximately 3/4 of a Stella Artois Cidre.

The point of this post is I have smart friends in high places. And, more importantly, one of them invited me to their oh-so-special-and-pretty-May-Ball. You can only go to these extravaganzas if you know someone in the college (I think. And that is what I will continue to think because it makes me feel oh-so-special) and my friend invited me, because she thought I might enjoy it and because she is oh-so-lovely-and-pretty herself. The May Balls, held at various Cambridge colleges, are quite the ‘thing’. They have themes, they have fairground attractions, they have alcohol, they have food and they go ALL NIGHT LONG (which I didn’t quite appreciate until I got to Cambridge on Wednesday night and I was given my ticket and it said that carriages would arrive to take us home at 6am. 6am! As in, on AN ENTIRELY different day to when the ball started!)

The day started with a horrific bus trip on the National Express. I had never taken the bus to Cambridge before, but when I checked the  prices and found out it was a good half the price of the train ticket I thought I couldn’t really justify the extra expense. All those bloody toiletries in Morocco were essentially the difference between my bus ticket to Cambridge and the train tickets. I thought, how much worse can it be? I take the bus to Oxford all the time. Well, it can be much much worse. The Oxford tube (the bus service to Oxford) is a lovely double-decker thing, reasonably new, comfortable and properly ventilated. The National Express is none of these things. It is a regular ol’ single storey bus (boo) and seemed to have it’s heaters on (it was 22 degrees outside, if not more) working in some sort of duel to the death with it’s completely ineffective air vents. The air vents weren’t cooling in anyway, they were just re-circulating the overly warm and humid air already stifling the bus. I ended up taking off my shoes, socks and wrap, pulling up my pants to thigh height, rolling up my sleeves to my shoulders and then collapsing in a dehydrated and sweaty heap across two seats, glaring at anyone who hovered near my extra seat in an attempt to suggest that perhaps I should move and let them sit down (MOVE ALONG, THERE ARE PLENTY OF SEATS FUTHER DOWN THE BACK). A mother sat herself and her screaming baby down in the seat in front of me (WHY WHY) and it then took us an hour and a half to get out of London (it was meant to take us 2 hours and 15 minutes to get to Cambridge). When we finally got to Cambridge we hit more traffic, the bus slowed to a crawl and crept into the centre of the city after the longest half hour of my life. WHY, NATIONAL EXPRESS, WHY?

My friend met me at the bus stop and as soon as I was off the sweaty steam bath that was the National Express bus I immediately started to cheer up. It’s hard not to cheer up in Cambridge. It’s too darn pretty. Pretty people in pretty clothes ride pretty bicycles with pretty baskets everywhere. I mean, its all very self-consciously pretty, but, hey, if you were that pretty you’d be pretty aware of it too, wouldn’t you?

I had been worried about arriving too late at my friend’s house and be rushing around to get ready, but apparently the ball didn’t get going til around 9pm, so I actually had heaps of time. In fact, I had so much time I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. So, I just wandered around in full make-up and dressing gown, read the London Review of Books (and its hilariously and previously unknown singles section!) talking to my friend’s housemates, her friends and just generally making a nuisance of myself as they did useful things like did their hair and ironed their clothes and cooked dinner. I did enjoy swanning around in a dressing gown and make-up though. It made me feel like I was an actress waiting on set for her close-up. Ah, the simple things.

After dinner, we all put on our costumes/black-tie ball gowns and suits, which made me painfully aware of the fact that going to the USA and eating omelettes the size of hub-caps and smothered in cheese sauce; or going to Morocco and eating pastries for three meals a day actually DOES have an effect on your waistline. Never mind – with some ingenious squishing down of my boobs, some deep breaths and my friend’s determination, we got the zip up.

And, we brushed up pretty nice, all things considered:

Me and Michelle, ready for the Pembroke May Ball

Me and Michelle, ready for the Pembroke May Ball

On a side note, how AWESOME is my dress? The theme of the ball was The Tempest, so I had originally wanted something blue and floaty, something Miranda-like or Ariel-like or fairy-sea-like. But, then I walked into a charity store and saw that thing and I was like, ‘Shiny tartan with a demi-train? Well, I have to try that on.’ And then when I did try it on and I realised it matched my hair colour and was a 1980s dress trying to do the 1930s and it was from New York and it had boning and also beading on the back (which you can’t see in this photo), I was like, ‘There are so many good things about this dress I CAN’T EVEN HANDLE IT.’ You’d think that with so many amazing good things the dress would explode in a ball of ugly, like when two beautiful people have a kid and it turns out to have a mono-brow and a really prominent chin, but, no, no, this was actually the most awesome dress of awesome and to top it all off the charity store lady gave me some earrings that matched for free because they didn’t have backs and because I didn’t haggle over the dress’ price (seriously, dudes, who haggles in a charity store. Really.)

The one annoying thing about the ball is that there is a big long queue to get in. So, though the thing started at 9pm, we got in a taxi around 7:30pm and headed off to Pembroke College. The line was already forming, but we had luckily got there just in time – a large group of people arrived just after us and the line continued to grow at an alarming rate. The main entertainment of waiting in line was watching the other people arrive (and judging them harshly on their sartorial choices), taking photos of each other and attempting to remember lines from The Tempest (despite being in the bloody play at acting school I couldn’t remember anything. We ended up quoting Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo And Juliet instead. And then we moved on to ‘Ten Things I Hate About You’ and ‘Clueless’. Because Cambridge kids are smart, but they’re not above a good film adaptation of a classic text, as long as its amusingly and wittily done). We also spent a lot of time talking excitedly about all the things we expected to find inside. Oysters! Champagne! Dodgem Cars! (YES! DODGEM CARS!) We discussed our plan of attack in detail, which mainly involved who should go to the coat check at what time to ensure that we all managed to get as much of the good food and alcohol as possible before going on the dodgem cars.

When we finally made it inside, the first table we encountered was the champagne. It wasn’t our fault, it was right there as we walked past. We downed a glass each. Then grabbed another (please understand – the tickets were very expensive. We were trying to get our money’s worth). Off we went to explore. A jazz band was playing covers of everything from The White Stripes to Emelie Sande. Paper cranes hung in the trees (I later found out they were made out of pages from The Tempest – excellent attention to detail, Pembroke College, excellent). There was a fountain surrounded by a fake grass lawn and white picket fence. Ballet dancers frolicked on the lawn, tapping a tambourine and doing pirouettes (one of my companions affectionately nick-named it the ‘Ballerina Petting Zoo’ – I told him he’d probably get in trouble if he partook in non-consensual petting or if he offered the ballet dancers money in exchange for petting them. He continued to use the phrase). We got vegetarian paella and admired the chocolate covered fruit (but decided, in the end, we couldn’t get that straight away).

There was so much going on it as hard to take it all in. There were drinks tents everywhere. Jaegermeister, Absolut, beer, cocktails, VKD (oh boy did those pre-mixed drinks ever take me back to my days at college…). Food of all types – 6 or 7 different types of burgers. Hog Roast. Popcorn, fairy floss, ice-cream and doughnuts. Things kept changing at different hours, new rooms would open up, new activities. A casino with a grand piano and whiskey tasting, which was then following by gin and tonic tastings. A circus arts class. A laughing class (seriously, kids, is is that depressing at Cambridge?) Giant puppeteers on sticks dressed as alien-type beings. More dancers with fans and scarves. A photobooth. A silent disco. A room of cheese. A ROOM OF CHEESE (oh and did it ever smell in there – did it ever smell DELICIOUS in there). It kind of felt like being a kid on their first visit to Disneyland – ‘ooh, Mum, can we go there? Ooh, now can we go there? Ooh, now can we go there? Can I eat that? Can I drink that? I want to do that! No, I want to do that! Now lets go here! No, there! Now here! Now over there! Now I’m tired and have to lie down on the grass for a little bit. OOH, let’s go see what that is over there now!’ I hardly feel that I got a chance to take anything in properly, we were always looking for the next thrill, the new fun thing to be doing, the new person to talk to, the new place to be. It was completely hedonistic and over-the-top and utterly ridiculous and, yes, ok, just lots and lots of fun.

There were plenty of ‘new’ things to nominate as my ‘new’ thing for the day and really the whole experience could just count as one new thing, but I feel the top experience was going on the dodgem cars in a ball gown. I mean, who gets to do that (except for all the pretty and smart kids of Cambridge)? My pastry belly didn’t even stop me. I was going to sit down in those dodgem cars even if it resulted in serious bruising of my internal organs from the boning in my dress or a split zipper (it resulted in neither – thank God). As we were in the dodgem cars as duos, we divided up duties – I used the pedal and my friend used the wheel. My job was pretty easy. Just keep my foot to the floor. I was highly impressed with my friends’ bumping skills (both friends – I went twice. It was important to make the most of the dodgem cars) and oh my how I giggled. It was pretty ridiculous. I mean, it’s actually a pretty uncomfortable experience (like I have subsequently realised about many things I loved in my childhood – jumping castles, climbing trees, somersaults, cartwheels, trampolines…). Even when you bump into other people, you also get bumped. It can hurt! It seems like a particularly inefficient way of wreaking a terrible revenge on a person (unless it’s a metaphor manifested in physical form about the damage you do to yourself when wreaking a terrible revenge on someone else? OH, MAN, DODGEM CARS ARE DEEP). But I think it you go into it thinking its going to be fun, the fact that you’re getting a little beat up in your highly uncomfortable metal car is just a bit of a joke. And it perhaps it serves as a valuable service for adults – a good venting of all your pent-up road rage in a safe environment.

So, that was the ball. Well, that was half of the ball. More to come.

 

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