Outdoor gladrags

Last Sunday was the hottest of a run of hot days in London. It was also the day the England football team lost to Germany in a 4-1 thriller in the second round of the World Cup, Kevin Pietersen’s 30th birthday, and the third and final day of Hard Rock Calling, the misleadingly-named music festival which this year featured, among other hard rockers, Stevie Wonder, James Morrison, Crowded House, Elvis Costello and Crosby, Stills and Nash.

But it was the promise of Paul McCartney which had me eagerly pressing the “refresh” button on my browser the morning tickets went on sale. I tried to get tickets to see him at the Dome back in December, but the good seats were insanely expensive and anyway, it sold out before I could buy any. Day tickets to Hard Rock Calling are £60 and you get to sit anywhere you like and see lots of other acts, so this was a much better choice.

Well, it was great and the photos are here, but in the long minutes between acts I found myself fascinated by what people choose to wear when it’s hot and they’re going to be outside all day, because if you live in or near London (or any British city), neither of those things is very often true. It’s hot today, but I am spending eight hours of it inside an air-conditioned office, so I am wearing a dress with sleeves. On Sunday, we were all exposed to bright sun and 30C temperatures for about the same amount of time. In those circumstances, deciding what to wear can be quite tricky. So I inspected the choices of some of my fellow revellers, and have come up with some guidelines, which I now present to you for free, with nothing in mind but your welfare and happiness:

1. As in so many areas of life, I agree with Baz Luhrmann. Rule number one is wear sunscreen.

2. With no shade and barely a cloud in the sky, hats are the order of the day:

people in hats
3. Be careful with straps. Straps are good, but ill-fitting or competing straps are bad. However, if you have no choice but to show off your bra straps, do it with chutzpah, so it looks like you meant it:

lady with straps

4. It’s better to wear too many clothes than too few. You recover faster from being hot than you do from being burnt (I have tried both, so I can say this with certainty). And if you wear light, loose clothes you probably won’t be much hotter than you would have been in a bikini. I liked this outfit very much:

5. Do not, under any circumstances, wear a bikini. Bikinis are strictly for the beach.

I should come clean at this point and tell you that I was wearing a jumpsuit.

In many ways they are ideal hot-weather outdoor wear: they are durable, you can sit cross-legged without risking your modesty, and they keep all the ungainly bits covered while allowing arms and legs unfettered access to the air. However, they can be tricky to go to the toilet in. I think the answer to this is to wear a baggy-ish one with no complicated fastenings, and to stay on the fuzzy side of sober. You’ll be pleased to know that I more or less managed both.

However, based on extensive research I have decided that the IDEAL festival-going hot-weather outfit is a strapless top, elasticated shorts, a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and a wrap which you can sit on when your legs get tired and put around your shoulders after the sun goes down.

Shoes are more problematic: you need something sturdy and comfortable which you won’t get sweaty in. I wore Crocs, but I am the only person I know who looks good in Crocs, and the only reason I think I look good in them is that I never on any account look at them once they’re on. I just revel in the squish of the tread and the swish of the air as it cools my toes. The real answer is probably flip-flops on soft grass and light plimsolls on rough grass. But I will leave that to your discretion.

Sorry for only talking about girls’ clothes. I have no advice for boys, although the hat and sunscreen rules are unisex. If you are a boy, I suggest you dress like this:

dancing man in bandana

I have left the most important rule, not including the sunscreen one, until last. The most important rule, not including the sunscreen one, is:

6. Wear whatever you like. It’s a festival! Go wild.

Days off

I work a nine-day fortnight, with every other Friday off. When I came to this arrangement I thought that I would use the free day for chores and writing, and waiting in for people to come and fix things. I do use it for all of those things, but I also use it to get my hair cut, because I have to get Koto the genius hairdresser to cut my hair. I have crap hair: it is not straight or curly, it’s quite thin, and it’s going grey. Only Koto can give me a haircut that doesn’t look awful within a week. So every few free Fridays, I take myself off on the train and go and visit her in Bromley.

I never used to like Bromley. If you lived in Beckenham, Bromley was the place you went to at weekends because it had a slightly better range of shops, and a McDonald’s, and pubs where you wouldn’t bump into your parents’ friends who knew you were fourteen. Tell someone you’re from Bromley, and they look at you sympathetically. The beloved and I had a drink recently with a friend who introduced us to her new-ish boyfriend, who lives in Bromley, and we spent most of the evening commiserating with one another. Bromley isn’t a place, it’s the punchline to a joke.

But, you know what? Bromley’s kind of OK. The high street is mainly pedestrianised, so market stalls have sprung up, and in the sunshine today it looked like somewhere you might want to go and have a look at:

Bromley High Street

The introduction of PAYG to South Eastern trains didn’t make my journey as easy as it should have done. I forgot to touch in at Herne Hill, so when I got to Bromley South, where there are barriers, I asked the guard if I could buy a paper return ticket to Herne Hill, which would both retrospectively cover the journey I’d just made and allow me to get back again later. Although it wasn’t strictly within the rules, she could see that it was the simplest solution, and fortunately was not of the breed of train guard who lives for being able to charge people a fine for being idiots. So I queued up and bought my return ticket, forgetting that I’d already arranged to go and see my parents after visiting Koto, so I wouldn’t be making the return journey by train. So I queued up and paid for a journey I’d already made, and a journey I was never going to make. These are the ways I fill my time.

I have a hen weekend to go to tomorrow. There will be games. I will post photos next week, if I survive the experience.

Hello, goodbye

Just a quick post to reassure you if you thought I might have eloped, gone to jail or been hospitalised. Work is very busy just now, and I’ve got various non-gladallover writing things happening (but none worth mentioning just yet), and between it all I haven’t had a chance to blog very much over the last couple of weeks. I’ll be back. In the meantime, here’s this (click on it if you can’t read the text):

Twit and wisdom

On Twitter, Friday is the day when you recommend some of the people you follow to the people who follow you, in the hope that they will start to follow them too, and the tweeting goodness will be spread still wider.

The problem with this is the 140 character limit. In the day-to-day run of things it’s fun and interesting to compose whichever thought you want to convey in such a way that it will fit into a single tweet, but it’s almost impossible to persuade someone to follow someone they’ve never heard of in the same amount of space.

So here, extended for as many characters as I need to explain them, are my Follow Friday recommendations for today. The only thing they have in common is that they’re all prolific tweeters: it’s no good being hilarious and insighful if you only do it once a month.

If you’re on Twitter, follow these people immediately, and if you’re not you can sign up here.

Richard Madely has only been on Twitter for a couple of months, but has already posted more times than I have. And every post is so boundlessly, enthusiastically, Tiggerishly Richard that it’s a constant charm. He is genuinely interested in everything!

Sample tweet:

Newsflash (now THAT takes some of us back) – Soy Sauce in gravy works! Big time! Makes it more savoury with nice backtaste. Just a teaspoon.

I don’t really know who Sali Hughes is, except that she’s a writer, and I can’t remember how I found her, but she’s witty and self-deprecating, and was very funny about her family Christmas. She also chats a lot, so she’s a good way of finding even more people to follow.

Sample tweet:

I’ve just noticed someone’s put me on a twitter list entitled CARBS. I didn’t come here to be insulted. *puts down baked potato sandwich*

Richard Wiseman is a psychologist and magician who uses Twitter more creatively and ingeniously than anyone else I’ve come across. He uses his audience as a giant research panel, constantly asking questions and setting challenges and suggesting things for people to try and report back to him on. He also sets a weekly logic puzzle, and for that alone he makes the list.

Sample tweet:

Starting new book today. Will open with the best sentence submitted on Twitter.

Julia Irving is a Geordie mother of two who enjoys food, reality TV and travel. She also has a terminal cancer diagnosis, but you’d rarely know that from her tweets. She is relentlessly upbeat, has a good word for everyone (even Heather Mills!) and finds joy in the smallest of things. If I ever start to feel weedy and sorry for myself, a healthy dose of Jools brings me back to my senses.

Sample tweet:

OMG this new dessert I have made for tonight is just WOW FABBY DELISH :o) Its honeycomb and chocolate mouse pots YUMMMMYYYYYYY

Finally, I am giving a joint spot to Adam Kay and Suman Biswas, the singing doctors of London Underground fame, because their funniest tweets are often to each other. Pleasingly, the element of “he didn’t really just say that, did he?” which is so prevalent in their songs is also present in their tweets, though I’ve deliberately chosen mild examples here to put you off your guard.

Sample tweet (Adam):

Ever since Alistair Cooke stopped presenting Letter from America and died I’m nervous when he’s mooted to captain England.

Sample tweet (Suman):

Am teaching my cat about Communism. (I assume he wants to learn, he’s always asking about Mao).

And really truly finally, I wouldn’t give them a Follow Friday mention because there can’t be anyone left on Twitter who doesn’t already, but if you’re new to it then you must make sure to follow David Schneider, Mrs Stephen Fry, Samuel Johnson, Derren Brown, Phillip Schofield and shitmydadsays; especially that last one.

“I didn’t get where I am today…”

I have just had the following exchange with my boss:

Him: Can I borrow a pen?

Me: What kind?

Him: A biro

I hand him a biro. Pause.

Him: Thanks. Can I keep it for…an hour?”

Me: You can keep it forever. There’s a whole stationery cupboard full of them just there. (I indicate the stationery cupboard.)

Him: Wow, really? Great!

I don’t know whether he’s never had to use a pen before, or has always used the same one which has just run out, or if he brings them from home, but I’m glad to have been the source of new and useful information.

All of which is a perfect way to introduce you, if you don’t know it already, to Good After-Morning!, as witty and terrifying a testament to the experience of working for someone very stupid as you’re ever likely to read. Since I’ve had a proper job I’ve been lucky enough to have uniformly kind and competent bosses, but in the dim and dark days of my early twenties I worked for someone who, whilst nothing like as awful as The Boss described therein, bore some striking similarities to her, so my sympathy is fully extented to the Silent Koala (but I do hope he keeps working for her and blogging about it).

2009 advent calendar

I have pondered long and hard over whether to give this year’s advent calendar a theme or a twist to distinguish it from last year’s. I wondered about clips from my favourite musicals, or country and western Christmas songs, or just 24 Christmas songs by Ella Fitzgerald. But then I remembered how many favourites I had to leave out last year, and how agonizing it was choosing which ones to ditch, and I realised I would have more fun doing the same thing again than I would having to stick to a theme, or a meme, or any kind of scheme.

I promise not to include Mistletoe and Wine again. Not in the actual, official advent calendar, anyway. It’s still November, right?


Why has nobody told me about Lamebook? It involves pointing and laughing at real people so at best could be described as a guilty pleasure, but I’ve been giggling helplessly for an hour looking through its archive. I think this is my favourite so far (click to embiggen):

twilight1If you need cheering up, which I didn’t, I can’t recommend it highly enough.


This is the simplest little thing, but I love it. Someone sent me the link in 2002 and every November 5 I dig it out again and enjoy it just as much as the first time. Except for last year, when for some reason I couldn’t find it and posted a Cliff Richard video instead. Sorry about that.