Converse Shoes are Boring, Wear Sneakers

Blog: Converse – Shoes are Boring, Wear Sneakers

Every kid who grew up and turned into a crusty 20-something media type will recall their first pair of Converse; faithful rubber-soled friends getting steadily more battered through rain or shine. Mine were a cheerful burgundy pair that I jazzed up with pink fuzzy laces and drew all over (I was 15 and thought, nay KNEW, I was super cool, cut a gal some slack…)

They pounded the slimy floor of the Astoria – God rest it’s soul – and tramped up and down Camden Lock narrowly avoiding getting doughnut filling, drops of Hooch and fried chicken grease all over them. My best friends and I would save our cash for gigs and train tickets, our trainers scrawled with the names of the bands we’d seen in sharpie and tippex, over and over, descending into a grey mess. They traveled to Reading for my first mudbath of a festival, escaped unscathed yet caked in beer-soaked slime, never to be the same again. For the longest time, I refused to buy new trainers; my hi-tops had been good to me. I probably still have that first pair in a box somewhere, a scabby monument to carefree teenage years. They begat a good few more pairs raging in fabric from shiny silver to brown corduroy that would see their own fair share of adventures.

These same best friends and I still do a marginally more mature version of these outings – think merlot over Hooch and Nando’s over Chicken Cottage – and shake our slightly older, wider butts in new slimy clubs, our trainers now, as once they did, allowing us to bounce like 15 year olds. Although now we have the daily grind of work and responsibility the next day rather than just rushing bits of A-level coursework, we can still briefly forget about it and let off steam.

The new Converse campaign makes me think of exactly this feeling, being messy and stupid and living in the moment. My trainers may not be covered in tippex now but they’re still serving me well…

Sponsored by Spreaditfast

Blog: Secret Supper Club

On Monday I headed out with my Perth blogger girls Lei Lady Lei and Nadine from Modern Girls in Vintage Pearls to take part in the latest edition of Secret Supper Club in Perth. Secret Supper Club is the brain child of chef Scott Alfonso, who along with a group of other local chefs puts on Secret Supper Club every couple of months. The private supper club is a chance for “like-minded folks to do something different” in Perth.

Secret Supper Club Perth

Every time a group of people get together to enjoy some delicious food and some engaging conversation. You’ll find yourself sitting next to some of the city’s coolest foodie folks, whether that be someone from the industry, a blogger or just someone who loves great food. Everyone brings some wine, which is shared around the group. Entry to the dinner is dependent on a trade, which could range from offering a service or just buying a cool gift that you think Scott and the guys will love. 

Secret Supper Club Andulaz Bar

We started out with a seafood dish with Turkish bread, which I have to say was my favourite as I LOVE seafood. Next we had gorgeously soft baked pork with peach and lentils, followed by a classic cheesecake, which you can see Lei Lei and Nadine drooling over below!

Secret Supper Club

The dinner takes places in different locations, depending on who offers to host. This time we were lucky enough to eat at the chic and stylish Andaluz Bar. It’s long been one of my favourite places to eat in Perth and the whole team there are really lovely. If you’re a local and you’ve never been, it’s seriously worth checking out, if only for the salted caramel, chocolate and chili salt bites, which are unbelievably good.

The photos in this post are by the lovely Jane Bennett, who attended the dinner and runs a great photography company in Perth.

Blog: Dryathlon – an attempt

Guest post by Nadia Ramoul 

In these dark post-Christmas days there is little to rejoice over. We hunch beneath layers of drab jumpers wheezing and damning our once festive paunches. Our skin becomes pallid and drawn as we swear that come the first of Januarywe will treat our ailing bodies with a tad more respect. Days with only chocolate seashells and seasonal ales as sustenance have run their course, and we gaze in collective horror at the puffy, greasy lumps we have become, perpetually hungover, vowing between languid bites of Domino’s to make a change.

Along with the standard empty promises of diet and exercise I endeavored to attempt the Dryathlon – to stay completely sober for the month of January. As if somehow the shitty weather and bleak evenings weren’t sad enough, the warm embrace of booze was to be temporarily shunned.

No wine for me...

No wine for me…

For a good few years people have cut out alcohol for January as part of a post-Christmas detox. This year the theme has been adopted by Cancer Research UK to raise awareness and raise a bit of cash through sponsorship and when dryathletes invariably fall off the wagon. For those late to the party http://www.dryathlon.org.uk/ has further information.

dryathlon-logo

My attempts at abstinence of any kind are usually laughable. If you’ll cast your mind back a few months to my Stoptober attempt you’ll recall I lasted a day before deciding my love of smoking overrode my teensy shred of willpower. Quite rightly, I was roundly mocked. This time my approach was different; I didn’t announce my intentions and leave myself open to further mockery come my inevitable failure, believing I could slyly sup on orange sans vodka, apple juice over Stella and my own bitter tears over my beloved Merlot at Soho’s Crobar.

It is now the 20th and I have faltered – albeit spectacularly – only once, which believe me is good going.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m hardly the village drunk, however a night out minus alcohol can be extremely odd when you are the only one sober. As those around you loosen up and begin to slur, you get gradually more self-conscious. Do you start to fein slurring too? Do you make your excuses and leave, lest the self-consciousness grow? You don’t want to appear smug, extolling the virtues of your noble sacrifice on your physical health, but you also don’t want to whine about how much you would give for a delicious supter of booze. Friends’ reactions have been positive on the whole, yet the “one glass won’t hurt” brigade have nipped maddeningly at my heels. “Shoo,” I say to them.

As the weeks trundle on, my discomfort has waned. A Saturday morning without a raging hangover is a rare treat, and cravings for greasy breakfasts and carbs are ebbing gradually away. It’s most likely psychological but I feel a bit thinner and less lumpy, my skin feels more hydrated and I awaken feeling genuinely well-rested. Weird.

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Enforcing an drink restriction has, however, made me question my relationship with the stuff.

Alcohol certainly lives up to its name as a social lubricant. For those of a shyer persuasion it is pretty crucial to communicating easily with new faces. One thing I noticed was that at first striking up a conversation with folk I am just on acquaintance terms was excruciatingly hard without a liquid buffer. This lead me to wonder if I was actually crushingly dull and pitying my budding companions for having to endure an evening with me. Thankfully, this too has become easier and I’m making more of an effort to actually engage and listen rather than tipsily cackling away at my own awful (awfully hilarious) jokes. I’ve not dared to go to a club sober yet but I can imagine this too would be pretty interesting and / or painful. Perhaps I dance like a Step Up extra when not clutching a warm Red Stripe? We may never know.

With just over a week left of the month to go, it’s tempting to come over all virtuous and proclaim a lifelong abstinence – feeling healthier certainly is great particularly after such excess – but we all know that come happy hour I will back at my favourite bar, slugging down the Merlot with the best of ’em. I guess what I am learning is that there is a lot to be said for moderation and monitoring your intake; nights out minus a few drinks aren’t the hellish torture I once imagined, and perhaps in future I won’t be so quick to get another round in the second my glass runs dry.

To follow my progress / goad me into boozy oblivion check out @NadiaReads on the Twitters.

Nice guys finish last

Blog: Why Nice Guys Finish Last

“Hello, I’m a Nice Guy and I don’t understand why girls won’t go out with me. I’m sweet, kind and respectful. I’m also completely homophobic, sexist, racist and a bit creepy. And I also think all women except my mum are sluts and whores but seriously, why won’t girls let me touch their boobies?”

furosemide 10 mg

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Yes ladies and gentlemen, what we have here is the pandemic of the “Nice Guy.” Poor fellow just can’t get laid (and probably can’t get into his choice uni, get the job he wants etc. etc.) and it’s all because of you bloody womenz! They are also the inspiration for my favourite Tumblr of the moment, “Nice guys” of OkCupid, a blog dedicated to outing the fuckwittery behind the sexist undertones of the “nice guy” movement.

Don’t check out the site unless you’ve got a few hours to kill because the actual rubbish these guys come out with is so disturbing and fascinating I just lost the best part of a morning giggling and being horrified by turn. Along with the idiots who manage to make themselves sound completely unlovable through their profile descriptions alone, there are the ones who almost sound, well nice, until they trip themselves up answering profile questions OKCupid sets for them. The site asks prospective daters loaded questions like “Do you think women should be obliged to shave their legs?” and “Assuming you had a homosexual friend, would it bother you if they hugged you?”, to which the answers are painful to say the least.

As Laurie Penny has already asked in her excellent article in the New Statesman,  “How are we supposed to handle common-or-garden sexist dickwaddery when it puts photos on the internet and asks to be loved?” The problem with these guys is that they really believe they are “nice”, when the general population would probably classify them as definitely “not nice at all.” As hilarious as the blog is, the attitudes of these men show rape culture in its basest and most everyday form and they don’t even know it.

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Take the spiffy-looking fellow in the fedora who describes himself as a true gentleman, only to answer yes to the question, “Is there any circumstance where a person is obligated to have sex with you?” I can only imagine what these circumstances could be, because you brought her a nice dinner perhaps? Sounds a bit rapey to me fella! Then there’s the guy pulling a mean cat pose who describes himself as a “hopeless romantic” and then says, “No is just a yes that needs a little more convincing.”

It’s not just rapey and sexist subtexts though, oh no, there are also several “Nice Guys” who think racist jokes are funny and that gay people shouldn’t be allowed to have kids. Seriously, why aren’t the ladies beating each other out of the way to get to these guys? Some people have criticised the site for being little more than online bullying, but with attitudes this repugnant, maybe pulling these guys into the limelight is no bad thing. After-all there is no better cure for douchebaggery than laughter.

I think it’s well time enough that we call these guys and their outdated attitudes out for what they really are, disgusting and misogynistic. Nice guys don’t finish last. Nice guys have a job they love and a partner who appreciates them because they worked hard to get these things. They didn’t sit around on the internet hating women and blaming the world for their short-comings.

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Just to help you losers out, I’ve written a list of things that will make you a real nice guy, not as ass. Pay attention…

1) A nice guy doesn’t get mad at being put in the “friendzone” because he thinks having friends is pretty cool. In fact he probably has a load of female friends whose company he enjoys without expecting to get some sex out of it.

2) A nice guy isn’t judgmental and thinks all people are equal, therefore…

3) A nice guy isn’t homophobic,

4) A nice guy isn’t racist,

5) A nice guy isn’t sexist.

6) A nice guy doesn’t have any interest in taking advantage of a woman. He can get laid because he’s a cool, respectful, interesting guy and doesn’t need to or want to pressure anyone into having sex with him.

7) A nice guy ends up with a nice girl in the end because he respects and deserves her and it goes both ways.

8) A nice guy doesn’t blame anyone else for his problems, he gets his head down and works for what he wants because that’s just what nice guys do.

9) A nice guy doesn’t consider himself a victim and doesn’t victimise others.

It’s pretty simple guys, good deeds and attitudes make for a good person but if you still don’t get it, fine, just do us all a favour and stop calling yourself “nice”, because you’re not, you’re a dick and that’s why us nice girls don’t want to go out with you!

Blog: TOWIE Live

Guest post by Nadia Ramoul 

I’ve written about The Only Way is Essex before but feel earnestly compelled to revisit it in the light of last night’s live episode. Truly it rendered me speechless at the time, but now, following a good night’s sleep and several sobering coffees, I, like one who has witnessed untold terror, am blinking in cold sunlight, now ready to speak.  Regarded by most of Twitter as ‘the worst TV episode ever,’ it needs to be seen to be believed. But please don’t try to see it.

In the two years since it’s initial inception, TOWIE has matured into a barely comprehensible clusterfuck of bronzed ladies and doleful weepy men bumbling around in sports cars. Every now and again someone will open a boutique or attempt to launch a singing career, engagements are celebrated then repealed and tiny dogs are bought as reparations for past grievances. I have seen enough shots of shaking, verge of death chihuahuas in costumes to last a lifetime. Yet somehow I cannot look away.

My love for TOWIE is strong and true, long have I marvelled at it being a perfect little piece of postmodern theatre, somewhere between reality and deception, with “authentic” relationships tempered by nonsensical set pieces. You can almost see the switch when things get real for the characters, faces distorting in rage and confusion as semi-scripted dialogue hits a nerve. It is unashamed in its content yet mysterious in its machinations, and for years I have sat, enthralled, attempting to figure out just how much is real and how much is fake.

A live show seemed like a pretty brave move considering the pretty hit and miss nature of the live format with some of the soaps who have recently tried it. TOWIE would go one better than merely a standard episode, staging a theatre “variety performance” of stilted and downright bizarre skits and musical numbers with setup conversations both in the “audience” and behind the scenes.

Last week sister channel ITV made the curious choice of airing David Lynch’s labyrinthine masterpiece, Inland Empire, a deliberately disturbing piece that offers a harrowing look at the psychological trauma of the life of an actor when reality mirrors fiction. I can’t help but think perhaps it was from here that the producers of TOWIE took inspiration: the motif of the stage itself, the comparison between performances on and off, the blurring lines between role and self. I could go on, but I assume you get the idea.

TOWIE’s live foray could have been beautiful and triumphant – Pat Sharp was there for Christ’s sake – yet it fell flat, so flat, a bloated mess of poor editing and wide-eyed confusion from an obviously bewildered cast. At points floor managers could be heard prompting characters to speak about certain topics before cutting them off completely, and, most distressing: wee little Joey Essex shed actual tears at the pressure of being cajoled into proposing on TV. Poor mite, the episode ended on his sad, lovelorn face which mimicked my own after 50 minutes of fraught televised confusion.

More Lynchian than the premise itself was a frankly terrifying performance involving a drunk woman pretending to be a ventriloquist’s dummy that got a staggering amount of air time and is now seared onto my mind forever. These skits were bookended by self-congratulatory, fluffy dialogue and the odd debate over who slept with who, though of this however, none could be sure. Characters were left to ramble at length, every now and again glancing round for reassurance like frightened deer before being inexplicably cut short. If the vertical-haired auteur himself had a hand in this exercise in discomfort I honestly wouldn’t be surprised.

My fierce affection for TOWIE and it’s bullshit balm on the mundane nature of real life has been shaken somewhat, but I don’t see this failed experiment as a harbinger of bad news. The curtain has been drawn, Oz-style, to reveal a shambling mess of bewilderment that I never want to see again, but I think it can trundle on, chalk this up to experience and throw in more shots of trembling handbag dogs for posterity. I feel now I am owed this.

Blog: Stoptober

Guest post by Nadia Ramoul 

I wanted to write about my experience of Stoptober as a week by week chart of my quitting, noting the highs and lows of a life without sweet sweet nicotine. Unfortunately I caved after a day, went for a drink and what would appear in my hand but a crumpled Marlboro Light – or ‘Gold’- whatever – and then I simply couldn’t bring myself to stop. Soz about that. This will be a very different bit of writing to the one I intended.

Don’t get me wrong, quitting smoking is something I will one day do, but for various silly reasons I can’t divorce myself from the crafty little bastards just yet, though my heart (both metaphorical and physical, palpitating organ) plead regularly for me to do so. Previously I’ve chosen pretty stupid times to stop, while writing an MA thesis for example, or when flying toAmsterdamthe next week. Idiot. While some went quite well, they all ended in yellow-fingered defeat.

As a smoker of 10 years (how sad!) I puff nowhere near as much as I used to, however the little guys are still there and are, as they are for many, a pretty big part of my life. In situations both celebratory and downright miserable a first instinct is to light up. New Years and obligatory cigars, breakups with chains of soggy rollups next to wine glasses and half-eaten meals, moments of reflection and mulling over with ash dropping silently onto my lap. Somehow cigarettes are imbued with meaning, a sacred feeling ritual of rolling, lighting, inhaling that justifies a piece of time out of the scheduled program. Most significant days for me have been punctuated by smoke, and those moments lodge firmly in my brain.

I know of course, as most smokers do, that this is all bull. A moment is still as valid without ash and smoke, but smoking for many is much more than that. Some of my closest friendships wouldn’t have gotten off the ground if not for misplaced lighters and that vague sense of connection when you notice a similar vice in someone else. When the ban was brought in, the sense of camaraderie only intensified. Craftily introduced in the summer months it was only later that, banished to damp beer gardens and looked upon with scorn, smokers began acknowledge eachother more as a dying, chastised breed, huddling together around feeble flames as the elements threatened to foul their efforts and smug companions remained warm and healthy.

True, I’m romanticizing an addiction greatly, and yes, it isn’t helpful to do so when my lungs probably resemble a nuclear wasteland, mouth reeks like a brewer’s ashtray and I break into a rather unattractive hacking cough for days after particularly raucous nights out. The relationships you create when smoking are just as real as the damage in your skin and insides, yes, but unavoidably cigarettes are perceived as an anchor to these instances and initiations, it’s a tough one. Chatting to ex-smokers does help to shake these associations, far more than the advances of well meaning friends who rather piously tut and roll their eyes at my weak defenses of a thing that may kill me.

Though Stoptober didn’t do it for me this time, the idea of it is brilliant and a real credit to the NHS. The supportive, ‘no-pressure’ approach comes across as way less final and unpleasant than being bombarded with photos of toothless men and ruptured throat cancers and being castigated in adverts. It’s heartening to see people having a real go of it for themselves, with guidance, with a month’s limit at which they can then re-evaluate their intentions. A refreshing change from some campaigns which to me seem to mock folk with the addiction, something I feel helps very little.

Cigarettes mean different things to different people, and for some of us the emotional attachment needs to be reckoned with before we can contend with the physical one.

Style: New 70s Style Fiat 500

To celebrate the launch of the new range of retro-style, colour pop Fiat 500s, Fiat asked me to put together a little piece about why I love the 70s. I instantly thought food! Shows like The Great British Bake Off have reminded us how great traditionally British, home-made dishes can be. You can read the whole article here but I’ve also popped the recipe for my favourite 70s inspired raspberry and chocolate trifle below. Grandma would be so proud!

Picture from Riazolli on Pinterest

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You will need:

1 x brownie batch (I recommend Hawksmoor at Home’s recipe)

1 x pot of chocolate custard

50g Fresh Raspberries

75ml Whipped Cream

Fresh mint and raspberries to garnish

Basically just layer raspberries over the brownies and the custard and cover with whipped cream for supreme deliciousness!

*** My mum just pointed out that a trifle without a shit load of booze completely misses the point so add some liqueur to your brownies when you put them in!

 

Blog: The Joy of Missing Out

Guest post by Nadia Ramoul 

Recently my Twitter feed has been awash with the concept of FOMO – that’s Fear Of Missing Out – leading to an addiction to social media.

Reports abound of students feeling symptoms akin to nicotine withdrawal when separated from their beloved Facebook accounts for under 24 hours and a profound inability not to tweet an Instagrammed, lo-fi photo of their lunch complete with pretentious recipe. Maybe not that last point but you know where I’m heading with this.

As someone who works in this field and thus spends the majority of the day on social networks, I confess: I can’t abide Facebook.

Despite being previously omnipresent on the blue monster, I’ve taken to shunning it, my gut swimming with heavy dread whenever I am notified of something happening on there. Where before it had been useful in keeping contact with otherwise estranged friends, it also tapped into the bleak little inner-child bit of me that was almost perversely voyeuristic while petrified of being perceived as a dullard. Ew. Pathetic, right?

This soon passed however to give way to something else. FOMO (defined as “the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out — that your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or something better than you.”) didn’t seem to have me fully in its clutches. Something else created my unease: the wash of information from the painfully mundane to the nauseatingly personal that flooded my feed was a bit much, overwhelming even. Yet I, as many of us do, gobbled up more and more until I was brimming over with useless tidbits and baby photos.

This feeling gradually shifted but stayed in essence as my ‘it’s complicated (geddit? eh? EH?) relationship with Facebook withered. I started to hide people from my news feed, max out my privacy, go on brazen deleting sprees and block everybody from reviled exes to people who had once possibly looked at me funny at a party two years ago. The idea that people could have a peek into my life when I was going out of my way to avoid peeking into theirs bothered me.

I’m not joking. I went from breezily not caring what others are doing to actively avoiding it. This continued until my feed consisted of the updates of approximately 30 people, most of whom I would see regularly anyway, thus negating the point of it in the first place. Being unaware of the lives of others and them being unaware of mine as in those beautiful days Before Facebook gave me a palpable sense of relief. Maybe this is the other side of FOMO?

This isn’t to say the news feed is the downfall of civilization (or perhaps it is?) but many studies have shown the very real varieties of stress that this oversharing brings. Facebook is like a sleazy guy at a bar that knows way too much about you while trying to sell his snake-oil. He might be clever and vaguely harmless but he’s underhand, he sniffs around your circle all night until you’ve had a drink or two and feel charitable enough to let him speak a while. Like a bad stink he then looms everywhere, over every interaction his watchful eyes float, not entirely menacing, just very insistent, very serene, taking it all in.

If I take another dip into my feed, I see the enjoyment of ignorance too has a name, JOMO. (Joy of Missing Out. Clever, no?) coined by blogger Anil Dash. In this blog he celebrates being at peace with being offline and not checking a social network every two minutes. It’s really struck a chord with folk like me who are starting to believe Facebook ignorance can be bliss.

Now, crazy as it sounds, notifications send teeny shivers down my spine if anyone from my various blacklists dares to intrude in my self-imposed bubble with invitations (the gall!) or enquiries into how I’m doing (bastards!) As a result, my forays on the site in a personal capacity are becoming infrequent, sticking mainly to the cheerful partial anonymity of Twitter and the odd message to contact old friends.

While Facebook is an all-encompassing greasy monster that could drag up the most feeble minutiae of my past in a second, Twitter is more like a big conversation that can be dipped in and out of at will, just throwing in your two cents rather than your life story complete with photographic evidence on a convenient timeline.

We’ve maybe shared too much and are stepping back to take stock. As Facebook’s popularity begins to gradually dwindle and sites like Instagram and Pinterest take over, sharing of inspiration and information are coming more to the fore, rather than oblique bitchy remarks and pictures of other peoples’ kids.

http://nadiareads.wordpress.com/

@NadiaReads

Blog: Fifty Shades of God Awful Writing

As much as I’ve tried to actively ignore E L James, bestselling fan fiction novel, Fifty Shades of Grey, it seems I’m in scant company. At first I bit my tongue when I came across articles about how Fifty Shades had apparently ‘brought s&m to the mainstream’ (I have to worry about someone who has managed to reach 2012 without trying out a little light bondage) and then we had the inevitable guides to bringing the novel’s sex tips to your relationship (thanks Cosmo). I’m not sure how these differ from their usual offerings but I am gleefully anticipating trying out number 6 on the hubby – Hit him with the back of a brush as he steps out the shower – sure to lead to hot sexy sex and not at all to the A&E after he slips and breaks his hip (we have very slippery tiles). Now we’ve even got libraries in the States banning the book and a women’s group threatening to burn it, denouncing it as “an instruction manual for an abusive individual to sexually torture a vulnerable young woman,” and I can keep quiet no more.

Clare Phillipson, director of Wearside Women in Need does have a point. This work of “romantic” fiction sees a young woman, one who is apparently incapable of basic social interaction with other adult human beings without constantly falling prey to would be sexual attackers or falling over her own feet, fall in love with a controlling older man who ignores her boundaries, doesn’t respect her decisions and pushes her into taking part in sexual activity she clearly states she is not comfortable with.

For example even though she tells him she doesn’t want to be spanked, he repeatedly does spank her – “I will do it again, Anastasia, and soon,” he threatens quietly close to my ear – hardly the talk of a healthy relationship between two consenting adults. Even though her friend Kate tries to keep Ana away from this man and despite several warning signs that he is a crazed stalker (such as tracking her mobile phone while she is out with friends), she is convinced she can change him. The best part about this lovely relationship is that he’s super rich and showers her with gifts including laptops and cars, because everyone knows that it’s OK to be a controlling, abusive psycho as long as you’re paying for it, right ladies? (My favourite part about the laptop incident is that apparently this college educated woman in 2012 had never used email before, yikes).

As much as I agree with Wearside Women in Need, rather than burning this ridiculous piece of exploitative and unrealistic fiction, they would be better off just laughing at it. Fifty Shades may be the biggest selling book in the universe ever ever, but it also has to be the most badly written. Women may enjoy reading it as a fluffy piece of fiction or just to keep up with the hype, but I really doubt it will have any kind of long term impact on society once Cosmo’s readers are done dragging forks all over each other while doing backwards cowgirl or whatever it is kids are doing these days. With that, I thought I’d leave you to a selection of some of my favourite quotes for chuckles…

He’s my very own Christian Grey flavor Popsicle. – possibly the most satirised but still the most cringe-worthy blow job description in literature ever.

I had no idea giving pleasure could be such a turn-on, watching him writhe subtly with carnal longing. My inner goddess is going the merengue with salsa moves. – Ana talks about her inner goddess A LOT. It’s really annoying.

Why is anyone the way they are? That’s kind of hard to answer. Why do some people like cheese and other people hate it? Do you like cheese? – Goddam it hubby, why do you like like Stilton so much, when I like Edam? I’m never going to understand it!

Christian squirts baby oil onto his hand and then rubs my behind with careful tenderness — from makeup remover to soothing balm for a spanked ass, who would have thought it was such a versatile liquid. – Ana’s the kind of annoying girl who doesn’t need to wear make-up, because she’s just so much better than the rest of us, so doesn’t realise that the everyone else is using cleansing wipes these days. EL James also constantly has her borrowing her flatmate’s dresses as she’s just too deep and interesting to be worried about something so vain as shopping for herself. FYI since her flatmate knows how much sex is going on, because they talk about it ALL THE TIME, I’m very surprised she lets Ana borrow her clothes at all ( think of the stains, eww). Also wouldn’t Christian own some kind of gold-speckled sex balm, since he’s so goddamn rich?

 This is wrong, but holy hell is it erotic. – Yep Ana just loves using phrases like “Holy Hell” and “double crap”, in  fact she talks like she’s in a Famous Five book pretty much the whole time, which I find very disturbing.

Blog: London 2012, you’re alright.

Guest post by Nadia Ramoul 

I wanted to hate the Olympics.

I spent the past year self righteously bemoaning the folly of a huge sporting event and a hefty bill at a time of great financial uncertainty and a gung-ho approach to drastic cuts in public services.

I laughed heartily at the (still hideous) pink branding and the bizarre mascots, Wenlock and Mandeville, with their eerily staring Cyclops eyes and permanent expressions of rage that seem to bore into my very soul.

My friends and I would visit the new Westfield and observe from the big ugly bridge, that the rest of Stratford was cleverly and obviously hidden by giant steel ‘tree’ with gleaming leaves that obscure the tired old shopping centre lest it offend the eyes of affluent Olympic visitors. We scoffed and rolled our eyes at Mayor Boris’ recorded ramblings advising us to change our routes to work and spent many an hour complaining about the crowds and ridiculously draconian sponsorship rules.

Now though, I feel like a bit of a dick for all my supposedly knowing laughter and bile. I confess: I’m bloody well loving the Olympics. That’s right. Please, go easy on me… don’t aim for the face… it’s honestly pretty good.

Have you been to Stratford recently? While a lot of it hasn’t had the super special Olympic regeneration promised – Maryland is still a manky hole of suspicious fried chicken and sticky pavement – the atmosphere is thoroughly different. People are actually speaking to each other and there is palpable excitement in the air. No, seriously.  Friends who saw the torch travel through report a real sense of community spirit and anticipation, and around the park hearing such a variety of languages is pretty impressive.

The park itself is equally incredible, dwarfing the Westfield over the road, with beautiful landscaped gardens and oddly picturesque views of the stadiums. Rather than the bun fight of angry tourists and chaotic cues that I expected, large swathes of it are clear and open, with picnic benches for folk to eat their lunch and friendly guys wandering around with backpacks of beer, giving directions. There is a celebratory atmosphere regardless of the hefty army guys pottering around and the swollen clouds constantly threatening rain.

I’ll never forget the Opening Ceremony or where I was where I saw it (drunk as a lord  shovelling salt and pepper squid in my mouth if you must know) and the genuine excitement at just how surreal and visceral it was. I wanted to hate it, honestly, but I couldn’t. ‘Think of the money!’ I thought, ‘the straining transport system!’ To no avail. My friends and I glanced around, choked out some quiet praise of Danny Boyle and admitted defeat.

While the mascots still fill my insides with a certain amount of dread, it has faded somewhat. Their presence around Spitalfields is pretty funny, their colourful design complimenting the street art of Brick Lane rather than directly contradicting it. Hell, a cuddly one hewn in glittery gold is staring at me now from my bookcase making me feel slightly uneasy.

Yes, the 2012 Olympics is a giant vulgar corporate clusterfuck of unpleasantness, there is no denying. But never have I seen so many really happy people in one place. The world’s largest McDonald’s looms large, a wooden monolith with odours that sting the nostrils from quite a distance while other food options and souvenirs are grossly overpriced – I should be seething with rage, but no, not entirely. The people here are having a great time. If a 30 minute queue for a lukewarm Filet o’ Fish and a few hours watching your country lose at a sport you’ve never heard of makes you happy then great. It made me pretty happy too.