Friday, 29 January 2010

Specifically named tea news

You join me in one of the kitchens of a fashion-magazine publisher. Would you like some tea? Look, here it is:

Notice how it is described as 'African black tea'. Left to most of us to label this jar – and not the building's brilliantly conscientious facilities department – it would read 'Normal tea', 'Ordinary tea', 'Builder's tea' (question: Some people use the term 'builder's tea' to specify variety, others to describe strength and colour. Who is right?) or simply 'Tea tea'.

[I know there is no such thing as 'Ordinary tea'. Tea is, by its very nature, extraordinary. But if there was such a thing, this would be it.]

But no. It is Black Tea and it is from Africa. It is African Black Tea.

I'm not sure what inspired this small act of full disclosure, but I can't help thinking it's a reflection of the various individuals who live out their nutritional eccentricities here – their adherence to diets and detoxes, to food intolerances and infatuations, to ethical eating as long it's fashionable. Not everyone who uses this kitchen is like that – some of my most normal friends work on style magazines – but I would not be in any way surprised to walk into the room and hear someone in eight-inch wedge sandals and a silk jumpsuit saying, 'What sort of tea is that? Oh good. As long as it's not African white tea. I just can't drink that after 11. God, I am so bloated today.'

With maddening inconsistency, the other beverages are not labelled anywhere near as comprehensively. Where are the stickers that say, 'Cheap instant coffee of indeterminately foreign origin', 'Posh ground coffee that smells like the best thing ever but good luck with finding a cafetiere in this place', 'Disappointing hot chocolate. Will let you down every time', 'Box of teas too weird even for anyone here, sent in by an optimistic PR company and dumped in the kitchen because "someone will have them" but guess what, they won't' and 'Milk. Warning: contains lactose. Also: sniff before you pour'?

The safe completion of the April issue may depend on this information.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

A little light world domination

I had an email on Friday from someone who works in PR (I think) asking if I was the same Hannah Jones who was the subject of the TV documentary Fix My Fat Head. In it, the other Hannah Jones (or HJ II as I have designated her) attempted to explore the psychological root of her inability to follow a diet and tackle her obesity. The PR (I think) worked for some manner of expert who thought she could help HJ II with her struggle to successfully, and permanently, lose weight. While it is true that at the moment I could quite effectively, if fraudulently, pass for four months pregnant, I do not have a significant weight problem. I am not HJ II. I am, OF COURSE, HJ I. But I cannot deny that part of me was keen to respond to the email in the positive, just to see how far I could get before they I realised I was not the same person.

'Yes, you're right, I've really got the diet thing licked now. Licked! Ahahaha! Yes, just a bit of uneven distribution round the bum and hips, but that's mostly genetic really. Oh, and a little pot belly, but I quite like that...'

'What do you mean, I don't look anything like the girl in the programme? ARE YOU CALLING ME A LIAR?'

I am fascinated by people who have the same name, yet live wildly different lives. When you are privileged enough to be born into the Jones dynasty, your innate superiority is delineated by the high number of namesakes you have. They are mortal units of strength and power. As well as a blogger – young 36, non-smoker, GSOH, Capricorn – I am also:

* The teenager who finally agreed to a heart transplant after previously winning a legal injunction to prevent a hospital performing the surgery against her will.

* The Nike vice-president.

* The dance-music diva who had a hit in the 90s with a revved up cover of Bridge Over Troubled Water.

* A columnist on the Western Mail newspaper.

* An artist whose work 'explores interactions, especially those interactions occurring on a subvisible level'.

* Someone who worked at the BBC at the same time as I did in the late 90s, who caused me the indignity of having as my email address, and who would regularly have to forward ludicrous/lewd emails to me that had been mis-addressed by my friends with the perky words 'Yours, I think!'

I am all those people, and they are me.

I like that we are all connected in this way. I like the idea that we may be of one mind, that we could swap our flesh-and-blood hosts with each other and still somehow be the same person; that we are greater than the sum of our parts. That that one mind, with its corporeal foot-soldiers, could conquer the world. I am concerned that this is how many of the great dictators may have started out. [I feel like I may have used that line before. Apologies. I am still human. Albeit omnipotent.]

We are not the only ones/one though. Long ago in the short lifetime of these screens, I reflected on the many David Battys/Batties. And you would not believe the number of people who land on this blog while searching for one of them. Maybe you would. It is not that many. But still. Together they are mighty.

I am currently watching a 7-year-old child on the regional news who has raised thousands of pounds for victims of the Haitian earthquake. He is called Charlie Simpson, as is the lavishly-eyebrowed, former lead guitarist of the band Busted, who currently plays with the band Fightstar.

That's who I am. That's who they are.

Who are you?

Sunday, 17 January 2010


I was on the bus home on Thursday night when I noticed something about the man in front of me. The top of his head was bleeding. Not pouring – he would probably have realised if channels of blood were trickling down his neck and as it was he seemed oblivious. Instead, caught in a wispy cloud of hair that was no longer doing a very good job of warming his head, suspended above a bald patch the size of a saucer, were several bright red drops which still had some way to go in their leisurely congealing process. It looked unlikely that he had come any kind of a cropper during his evening out. It seemed more like he had been absent-mindedly scratching away at some old abrasion with slightly too much power and was completely unaware of the consequences which were now making me feel a little bit sick.

I felt very strongly that I should probably think about doing something.

I wasn't sure what.

If you see someone in physical distress, I do believe your natural human inclination is to try to help them, even though by the time you've wrestled with indecision, and had a quick grapple with your inhibitions, they may well have made a full recovery and wandered off.

The first option seemed to be to tap him on the shoulder and say, 'Erm, excuse me. Do you know your head's bleeding? Because it, like, is.' Then I was worried that this might embarrass him, and he would touch his scalp gingerly and realise there was blood on his hand and then not know what to do with it, and I would offer him a tissue from my bag and he would feel awkward and uncomfortable at being mothered by someone roughly 30 years his junior.

The next potential path was simply to lunge at him with the same tissue and start dabbing away uninvited which, at best, may have caused him some considerable surprise, and at worst could have seen him standing up and shouting abuse at me, batting my ministrations away with wildly flailing arms while the bus driver called the police.

The final option was to get out of my seat, go and stand in his eyeline, cough obtrusively and attempt to spell out his plight with an elaborate sequence of head jerking, eyebrow raising and eye rolling, and the high risk of marking myself out as a bus lunatic.

I did none of these. I lifted up the four-day-old Sunday supplement I was reading so it was right in front of my face, and I could no longer see him. Before I got off at my stop, I had lowered my magazine several times to make sure I hadn't imagined it, and the blood was still there. Each time it was.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Back-to-work black-and-blues

1) There's nothing like falling over really hard to remind you that snow is essentially a novelty weather condition, with a limited window of interest. It is particularly galling when you are wearing an eminently sensible pair of shoes. In a metallic, grip-free Converse, in which you routinely pretend - via your internal monologue - that you are Missy Elliott; in a flimsy ballet pump; in any kind of a heel; you must expect your coccyx to be crushed to dust beneath the combined might of gravity and your own post-Christmas bulk. But in a sturdy, ridge-soled wellington boot? Well, it is extremely hard to endure.

When I got on the tube, half an hour post-tumble, there was a man in my carriage playing with a Rubik's Cube. It made me wonder if I had hit my head when I fell and was now existing in some Ashes To Ashes-style alternate, 80s-set reality. Inevitably, I had my iPod set to Rio, which made it even harder to tell. Although obviously I was listening to an iPod, which was kind of a clue.

2) There's nothing like returning to work after a two-week break to remind you of the inhumanity of commuting.

One morning last week, when I was being Tested by the Tube, I saw a single man's shoe lying on a platform (I mean it was just one shoe, I don't know if he was married). It was a smart and shipshape kind of a shoe. Not like the fallout from someone who might be carrying all their belongings around with them at any one time. If you ask me, it had been left there, Cinders-style, when, at the stroke of 8.30am, someone stepped onto an underground train for the first time this year, leaving behind their smiling, relaxed, relational, casually dressed, Christmas holiday kind of self and turning back into their everyday, anxious, over-adrenalised working self, all dowdy suit and depressing packed lunch.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Ou est Docteur Qui?

(originally intended date of posting: January 1, 2010)

New Year in Paris.

While the Doctor is left weak and disorientated post-regeneration, the Daleks see an opportunity to seize the French capital.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

In which a man named Joe Cooper does not move into the flat downstairs and, as a result, I do not end up marrying him

(Originally intended date of posting: early October 2009)

In the autumn of 2009, a man whom I had never met before did not move into the ground floor flat downstairs. His name was, and may still be, Joe Cooper.

Although Joe Cooper did not move in, he had most definitely planned to and I was excited by this news. The outgoing neighbour, Reuben, had spoken of Joe Cooper's tallness and excellent manners when he came to look around. Also, let us consider the name Joe Cooper, and how it suggests dashing youth and handsome old age, rolled up shirt sleeves and distracting forearms, thick hair and good manners and an aura of Sporty but Not In A Weird Way.

I don't know why Joe Cooper did not move in, but I know we were kept apart by a matter of a cruel few days. The evidence? A card I found on our shared doormat that said 'Dear Mr Cooper, we tried to install your Sky+ today, but you weren't in.' Even now, months later, post still drops optimistically through the communal letterbox for him.

Here are the things I do know for sure about Joe Cooper:

1) From the envelopes addressed to him, stamped with the names of wealth asset management companies, he has a certain amount of disposable income.

2) He has Sky TV.

From my perspective at least, our prospects looked excellent. But my potential future with Joe Cooper now exists entirely in the negative, thanks to some caprice of bounced deposit cheques or eccentric letting agents.

In the autumn of 2009, I did not watch furtively from behind my bedroom curtains as Joe Cooper unpacked his life from the boot of a mid-range small car and carried it into the flat below. I did not mentally judge him a little bit with every emerging possession, which included an enormous television (tick), an ugly heirloom-style coffee table (endearing), several items to indicate an enthusiasm for Manchester United (fail, crashing fail) and an enormous rucksack suggesting he'd Been Travelling (undecided). At around this time, I realised my bedroom curtains could use a wash.

Three weeks later, I did not meet him for the first time in our communal corridor, having been meaning to knock and say hello like a grown-up ever since he moved in, but always finding an excuse not to. We did not have a flustered but well-meaning conversation where we occasionally talked over each other in our attempts to be welcoming (my side) and Not Totally Odd (both sides).

At some point after this, Joe Cooper did not knock on my door and ask if he could borrow some pliers, and then, while I was foraging for them in the Cupboard Of Things Which Have No Other Home, he did not browse my DVD collection, remarking in gently disparaging terms on my fondness for fey indie romcoms and recommending instead some Acclaimed US Drama with Courtroom Slash Police Slash Military Action.

At Christmas 2009, I did not receive a courtesy invitation to a drinks party at Joe Cooper's flat, at which I decided, after considerable deliberation, that none of Joe Cooper's friends were as attractive as Joe Cooper.

In the early spring 0f 2010, after a string of increasingly less coincidental meetings in the hallway, we did not end up watching some significant occasion of football together, thanks to his Sky Sports subscription. This, in turn, did not lead to us attending a local pub quiz together, which I would subsequently refer to as our first date, although Joe Cooper would never agree (we would later participate in nauseating play-arguments about this point of conjecture at friends' dinner parties). During the evening, Joe Cooper did not talk at length about the months he'd spent travelling (I bloody knew it), the exact period of time that seemed lost from my life expectancy after listening to him go on about it. Yet by the end of this evening, he had won a consolation-prize brewery-branded tankard, as well as the return of my previously diminishing affections, with his knowledge of historical battles and heavyweight champions of the world.

By late spring, there had not become officially a Thing.

By early summer, I had not told my friends that there was not a Thing, to which they did not respond with the following: 'I knew this would happen.' 'The one with the arms?' 'So now you can use the garden whenever you like?'

By August, I had not met his parents, thawing the initial froideur of his father with a homemade fruitcake, and successfully engaging his Dad Skills in fixing one of my lamps.

Over the next 12 months, Joe Cooper did not take me to task about my hostility to social events and general remoteness, gradually eroding them, while I attempted to do the same with his Manchester United memorabilia, to moderate success.

After some time, Joe Cooper and I did not begin attending friends' weddings together, studiously avoiding eye contact during the ceremony and performing tag-team interminable talking at anyone we met there to prevent any lull in the conversation in which they might ask us whether we 'would be next'.

Throughout these months, I was not constantly suppressing the urge to ask Joe Cooper wild-eyed, pseudo-peri-menopausal questions about whether he wanted children and how soon, how soon exactly, at some point in the next year, at some point in his 40s, when, when, when, I mean there's plenty of time and everything but WHEN.

I did not then embark on a campaign of inviting only my friends who had the most adorable and immaculately behaved children over for long Sunday lunches. I absolutely did not do this.

During this time, Joe Cooper and I did not spend interminable evenings talking about whether to move out of our upstairs-downstairs flat arrangement, in favour of one bigger flat, or whether to call in a lifestyle-magazine-style architect to create a ladder-and-hatch arrangement through the middle of both flats, before, inevitably, failing to do either and living in his (for the garden), while mine became a refuge for our joint collection of VHS tapes, unwanted family-heirloom coffee tables and only partially loved sporting memorabilia.

Eventually, Joe Cooper did not mumble a proposal during a European city break, an evening I subsequently marred by ordering a ridiculous dessert and then feeling sick. There did not follow a city wedding in which our families were polite to each other, our friends were well behaved, their children less so, and everyone toasted our long and happy future.

Joe Cooper did not move in, so we never met, so we will never know.