Does travel really broaden the mind?

Find out what I have to say in this months edition of Running in Heels


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Gossip Girl: ‘The Freshmen’

GG have started college.  Of course, for them freshers week doesn’t involve dressing up in jungle theme, having endless ‘how I spent my gap year conversations’ and eating honey cake while smoking nargila after a night out (just Ancaster freshers 2006 then?).  What it does involve is oodles more of the bitching and backstabbing that makes GG girl the show we all know and love.

Gossip Girl: The Freshmen

Gossip Girl: The Freshmen

Actually, not all of them have started college.  In a twist so predictable I’m surprised the writers could bring themselves to pen it, Serena has been having doubts about going to Brown.  I’m sure that the show being set in Manhattan had nothing to do with that decision. 

At the beginning it looked as if everyone was settling in to college life just fine.  Dan found a group of writers to existentially angst with.  Vanessa and Georgina (yes she’s back) formed an inevitable ‘what to do when the writers need a reason to add random characters into a scene’ friendship.  Blair still has her power headbands armed and ready (loved the bit where Dorota placed it on Blair’s head, as if it were a coronation, which I guess in context of Blair’s ambitions to rule the roost at NYU, it kind of was).

But shock horror.  Blair isn’t popular at college.  Her stylish sushi parties are just so not on trend, because of course everyone in college goes to edgy roof top parties (I mean, it was definitely like that in Nottingham), and watches wierd documentaries about gardening.  So Blair being Blair, she pouts a bit and stages a coup d’Georgina.

This was definitely a return to form.  For one, they managed to be mildly offensive (to Christians and Malawi babies).  Nate said the word circumstantial, and looked, almost, like he knew what it meant.  We know now, that as we might have expected, Dan’s entire knowledge of the opposite sex comes from Judy Blume.  Serena wore a really nice outfit (denim hotpants, waistcoat) that made her look practically modest.  And of course, with Georgina back in the picture, Blair finally has to a rival worthy of her headband.

Best of all, whats not to love about a show that features this piece of chit chat:

Georgina “Jesus and I have redefined our relationship”

Blair: ‘You mean he dumped you because he found out you were Satan”.

Does Labour’s pain really mean Tory gain?

So I survived another Yom Kippur without any dramatic fainting! of course, this might have had something to do with staying in bed for the whole of the morning services – made getting through the afternoon and evening all that bit easier.

Also gave me time to read the newspapers pretty thoroughly.  Summary from The Times; people are mad that M&S are only allowing a 35 day return window (because really, with all the many things wrong in the world, only having 35 days to return that shapeless and misguided Marks & Sparks version of catwalk, is the real travesty).  Oh, and Gordon Brown and Labour are doing really, really badly at the polls, worse than the Tories were doing before they lost power in 97.

So its all doom and gloom for the Labour Party, unless one of the young heirs to the throne stages some kind of coup and gets rid of the not-so-dear leader.  Which would be news, except that we’ve been hearing the story of Labour about to collapse for a good few party conference seasons.

It’s no secret that Labour are having all sorts of problems, internal squabbles, lack of direction, low voter confidence, blah blah blah.  What is being kept a secret, apparently, is why we’d be so much better of with anyone else other than Brown in power.  Maybe I’m the only person left in Britain with an ounce of sympathy for Gordon Brown, but does anyone seriously think the Conservatives make for a credible alternative?

Under Cameron, they’ve been better at presenting a united front, sure, and much more media savvy.  But in terms of new ideas, or real solutions, they are curiously quiet.  We hear them say how bad the government are all the time, there’s an awful lot of criticism going on, but very few new and feasible ideas being put about.  Rather than saying how bad Labour’s plans for the economy, public services, education or whatever it is, are, why don’t they construct a better alternative?  They are tipped to win the next election, but it says less about them having a viable manifesto than it does about a media-fuelled anti-Labour bandwagon. 

Perhaps we’ll hear something from the Conservatives at their conference.  In the meantime, lets give Labour and Brown the benefit of the doubt, because as Harold Wilson said, ‘a year is a long time in politics’.  The election hasn’t happened yet. 

Lets stop talking about the result and start listening to what the candidates have to say. 

Guards and Goats – the glamour of London Clubbing

Out clubbing last night, at that hub of North West London social interaction, the Electric Ballroom in Camden. Most remarkable thing about the night? There was more security there than guarding the top secret headquarters of MI5, the CIA and the FBI put together (probably – I’ve never actually been to the top secret headquarters of these places. I did go to the FBI building in Washington DC, but surprisingly enough, they no longer let tourists in).

Anyway, while I exaggerate just a smidgen, the security was pretty tight. For starters, the queue stretched over an hours wait down the street, so that would have been enough to deter even the most enthusiastic of criminals, drug dealers, general low lifes or whoever it is who is persona non grata at the club. Thankfully, I left my British side at home yesterday, and pushed in fairly near the front, so at least that obstacle was cleared.

At the door, a menacing bouncer shot me the omnipresent menacing bouncer grimace (always wondered if there is some special bouncer academy where they train that?!) and gave my driving license a cursory glance, So far, so standard. But this was merely the start of the process. Because inside, my license got shoved on to some swanky card-reading machine, subsequently making my license mug shot appear on screen. Once they’d determined I wasn’t on any most wanted lists, I was sent over to the next stage: the bag search.

So, OK, I get that chewing gum is a problem for clubs. It gets stuck on walls, toilet doors and then some poor shmuck has the task of cleaning it off. But still, it really pisses me off that they confiscate it at the door, because after all, everyone wants minty fresh breath when they go on a night out. A packet of cool breeze Extra (the Turquoise one) inevitably makes it in to the hand bag, and its just heartbreaking when it is cruelly seized and tossed into a bin. A tragedy of Shakespearean proportions really.

Mind you, at least my Kit Kat Chunky made it out alive (enterprising as we were, the cash back queue was shorter than the cash machine one).

The icing on the cake, the eliminator round, if you will, was a body search. Lovely. All this for the joy of paying £8 to go into a dark room, drink cheap vodka and dance to cheesy music. If only that wasn’t quite so much fun…

You’d think I was Colonel Gadaffi, trying to gain entry to a camp site, the amount of screening there was. I waited less time, and underwent less complicated scrutiny when I visited the Houses of Parliament last month.

Maybe for Gordon’s next series of Goats, he should call up the manager of a night club?  I’m sure they could handle National Security issues just fine. 

I’m in print

Review of the documentary Am I Black Enough for you? (yes that is the real title) in this week’s Time Out London.  Unfortunately can’t see a link for it online, so you’ll just have to buy the mag to see my unbelievably exciting 60-odd words on the DVD!

Gossip Girl: Season 3 Premiere ‘Reversals of Fortune’

In the Upper East Side, little has changed over the summer. Blair is still playing games, only this time with Chuck rather than against him. Dan is still self-obsessed and whiny, Jenny and Vanessa continue to veer dangerously close to ‘drag Queen after a heavy night out’ territory, and Serena still hasn’t grasped the concept of the bra .

Story was pretty standard – a fancy Polo match and the inevitable Serena going off the rails again plot. Given that in season 1 they had her confessing to murder, and last year there was the pyramid scheme, I’m not sure that Daddy issues are really much of a draw. Likewise, the scary ‘long lost brother lurking in the shadows’ storyline is a bit too 90210; not enough juice.

Some high points though. Eric’s presence for one, and giving Nate a love interest with whom his family are sworn political enemies looks promising. Vanessa’s quit her coffee shop job (maybe the show, dare we dream) probably because having a hairstyle that rivals Medusa’s takes maintenance.

All in all, not a great opener, but things should heat up. I can’t imagine the writers will wait more than a week for the inevitable Blair / Chuck fairytale to spontaneously combust, and post break up Blair is always at her sharpest and meanest. Plus, looks like the gang start college next week. What will happen now that the GG lot are out of private school?

Revolutionary expectations

Article in TIME mag on Chinese politics looking at the country 60 years after the communist victory. The author, an academic named David Shambaugh, gave a wonderful phrase ‘the revolution of rising expectations’ to describe China’s progression towards economic liberalisation and modernity.

That China transformed itself when its people decided they wanted more is hardly a radical contention, but I’d argue that today expectation, rather than ideology, is what most revolutions are about.

Because especially in the UK, twenty first century political life, is rarely about major transition. The most left wing of Labour, the furthest to the right of the Conservatives, everyone is fighting for the same thing, more or less. Today in British politics, it’s not what one MP plans to do, but how much more he plans to do than his rival. Less Yes We Can, more Yes We Can Do Better.

China’s rising expectation of course led to some very real and very crucial change. But today in British politics, I wonder how beneficial our rising expectation really is and whether we expect to much.

We expect our public figures to be everything; celebrity, intellectual, adversarial power broker and consensus maker. They have to do everything for everyone, be all things to all people. The problem is that meeting all these expectations is time-consuming work and often a distraction from the real business of running the country.

Our government is castigated for making promises they cannot keep, but they make them because their electorate demands a solution ‘now’, even when ‘now’ isn’t really possible.

Meanwhile, to cater to rising expectations the opposition makes promises all across the board, never mind how patently contradictory they are, as the Lib Dems have demonstrated fabulously this week by calling for both spending cuts and the so-called ‘mansion tax’.

Wanting more materially has to be seen as one root of the credit crunch; likewise, wanting a quick fix cure to it has just created mass dissatisfaction. Everyone expects more of Brown and his government.

Our politicians should aim high and raise their own expectations. The electorate must be there to push them, to challenge them to better serve. But, especially when compared with China’s recent history, we have it pretty good with British politics. Things can be better, but they could also be a whole lot worse; Cameron could be in charge. Maybe we need to level our high expectations a tad.

After all, as my Nana would always point out, we can’t always get what we want.