Goodbye Northwood Dairy

Today, Saturday 28th of May 2016 will be a sad day for the community living around Northwood road, a little enclave of Victorian houses off the Archway road, close to Highgate but not enough to be posh and inaccessible for regular human beings. Today Northwood Dairy will close after 30 years. 

Northwood Dairy wasn’t just a convenience store; it was a magic bazaar where you could find anything: from fresh fruit to light bulbs, from curtain whiteness to Thai curry, from baby food to tennis balls. No matter what I was looking for, chances were I could find it in that tiny shop across the street. And if they didn’t have it, you could be sure Jay would provide it for you. And that wasn’t all. Northwood Dairy for 30 years has provided not only a service but a sense of community. Because the family who ran it, the Patel, made everyone feel welcome. They had a word for everyone, a smile, a joke. They knew the names of everyone in the neighborhood. They knew their stories. Something totally forgotten in big cities. Northwood Dairy was a success story, the proof multi-culturalism not only works but can bring people together. Because this Indian family, with their thick accents and their TVs broadcasting cricket and Bollywood movie so, was a point of reference for everyone, old English pensioners, trendy international professionals, Polish builders. They represented London at its best. If you walked into the shop at around 7pm an amazing flavour of curry and spices would come from their  flat upstairs. But you also had the clear sense of being in an English village, a place where people were polite, welcoming, and smiling. Kay, Jay, Sandy, Hary (their anglicised names, nobody know their real ones) were always ready for a chat, a joke, a laugh. When I locked myself out, they came and helped me out. When I had neighbours from hell they were supportive. If I had spent a whole day working at home, alone, a trip to the shop meant the chance to be greeted me with a booming “hello Lara!” It made me feel better. 

I never felt alone in my little flat because I knew that if I needed anything – whether food, gossips or an whether you phone call – I knew there was that little place across the street that I could see from my window, and the lovely people working there.

They got to know my boyfriend, my sister, my best friends. And I wasn’t unique. They treated all their customers as friends. They have seen children growing up, people getting married… Their own children have gone from babies to young professionals in front of us. Northwood Dairy was surely destined not to last forever because the young generation wouldn’t be working there, but the Patels could have gone on until retirement age… But gentrification hit. In the form of supermarkets. Sainsburys opened about three years ago. And another chain is opening up on the premises occupied for decades by the antique shop Richardson of Highgate. The wealthy people who are now the only ones buying properties in my part of London don’t care about a community they don’t know, use the supermarkets and bypass the convenience stores. Northwood Dairy lost out and eventually was forced to close. It will be turned into flats. Like the pub next door, like every single piece of land in this city. Flats none of us can afford buying. 

The whole neighbourhood got together and threw the Patels a street party. 

They arrived elegantly dressed, quite embarrassed at first by the idea of being at the centre of the attention.  People brought food, drinks, music. Hary made a speech, his voice broken, and even the local paper came out to take pictures:
I felt tears in my eyes as I was going to lose some loyal friends, some amazing neighbours and a piece of London that we’ll never get back. 

Goodbye little store, goodbye my friends. You will be missed

Ode to my London – dedicated to young Italian migrants

Shhh, don’t tell the Brexiters (they are obsessed with Eastern Europeans)but there are now over half a million Italians living  in London. It’s quite a shock for me, to suddenly hear my native language on buses, tube, restaurants, shops, hospitals, in the gym, even at the Actors Centre…

Yes, “hoards” of Italians even at the Actors Centre, where – for almost two decades – every time I attended a workshop I was the only foreigner in the room.

Most young Italians who’ve moved here in the past couple of years probably can’t conceive of a London where you were only surrounded by English (or sometimes Punjabi or Hindi or Chinese or occasionally French); where the only Italian restaurants were either horrid tourist traps like Bella Italia or celebrity places like Locanda Locatelli. Where if you went to a party and by some strange reason another Italian was there the host would immediately point at you as if you were exotic animals and then assume you’d become best friends, “there, you can talk your language!” as if shared nationality was enough to make people like each other, never mind if they had zero else in common.

Now London sports zillions of pizza places, mozzarella bars, piadina joints, cioccolato venues, espresso cafes and Venetian polenta delis. Websites and associations have sprung up to help Italians find work and accomodation, learn about taxes and Oyster cards, socialise and have parties. There are Italian doctors, dentists and solicitors. My postman is from Naples, my chemist from Pisa and I have Italian neighbours living both opposite and above me.


2 1

I’m discombobulated.

I can’t escape my countrymen.

And they want me to be one of them.

An Italian in London.

But I can’t.

And my isn’t some sort of snobbery.

I can’t share the recent Italian immigrants’ moans about how harsh and difficult London is. How much better Italian food is. How much nicer Italian flats are. And of course, the never-dying cliché: how cold the British are… Not only I’m not interested, I feel a certain fastidiousness as I don’t think they really know London, the real London, the place that embraced me when I first arrived.

The truth is…

…I’m not one of them anymore. I’m a Londoner. Not English, not British. Just a citizen of this very special, specific, maddening, controversial, tough but beautiful place where I’ve been living for almost 20 years. And I feel I have more in common with fellow Londoners – whatever their nationality – who like me “know” this place and have seen it change over two decades for the better and the worse, than with people who hold my same passport.

Of course I’ll always be ALSO Italian, but not just. People want me to identify with Italy but after twenty years abroad I don’t. After all this time I’ve joined that very specific group of individuals who always feel slightly “other” and don’t belong anywhere. However I do belong to the community of those who have embraced this city. And who are defined by our experience here.

The peculiar thing is that most people who, like me, arrived in the UK in the mid 90s, LOVE London. We came here not because our home towns didn’t offer jobs or opportunities but because we were looking for something “else”, because somehow we didn’t fit in. We CHOSE to come, were not forced to by circumstances. We embraced London and London – a city at the time in full blossom, pre-Ukip, in love with multiculturalism – embraced us back, opening up all sorts of opportunities. We migrants from the 90s are enthusiastic about London, and would never live anywhere else. Because we came for an adventure and found a home, we arrived with no expectations, no prejudices, just to see what it was like… And we got everything.

In 1996 London looked more “English” than it does now. No al fresco dining, no cafes with exposed bricks and ten different types if espresso, no food markets. Dalston was a cesspit, Hackney was a dangerous no go area and Peckham ridden with gangs. Crouch End and Muswell Hill were almost considered countryside.

Yes England was greyer, poorer, and harsher. But the postman came twice a day, the milkman left you a glass bottle outside your door every morning, and people kept asking “where’s your accent from?” because they were far less well travelled, more provincial. The country was open and enthusiastic. The Tory years were about to end, and everyone was in love with Tony Blair, yes that devil we all hate now. Unpolluted by right wing ideologies depicting foreigners like a threat to “our way of life” and Europe as a vampire sucking resources in return for hoards of Poles, London was a place singing “Things could only get better”. People believed it and I believed it too. How exciting to be part of it!

Londoners were proud of their multi cultural city where yes, there were class ghettos but not racial ghettos. Where mix raced couples were as normal as gay presenters on tv.

In 1997 London I met Indians, Americans, French, Slovaks, Spaniards, Belgians, Swedes, Australians, you name it. They were all Londoners, no matter where they came from. The very few times I bumped into an Italian there was a strange feeling of recognition, that above mentioned assumption we had to become friends… Most times we didn’t, and, I was quite happy that way.

When I arrived in the UK, I got to know London profoundly because I befriended the British, yes that strange mysterious breed that according to Ukip is succumbing to the hoards of invading foreigners; that secluded tribe that in the perception of recent migrants is cold, reserved and impossible to get to know. And guess what, I actually liked them. Because they are people, like everyone else. They might be reserved at time, but I loved  the politeness, the respect for my privacy. I never thought it was coldness. I knew it wasn’t, because the British people I met showed me over and over again their warmth, kindness and friendship.

There was my old Scottish landlord, Tucker, who basically adopted me and helped me open a bank account after only one month of knowing me giving his name as a reference. There was my acting teacher Susan, who gave me extra RP lessons at home and turned into my confident and advisor. There were the fabulous Billy, Sam and Laura, met at a singing class, who immediately involved me into their lives of late nights and gay clubs. There was Tanya, who would become the best friend I’ve ever had, who invited me to her birthday after knowing me less than 24 hours and with whom I shared years of wanderings around Central London, standing in queues outside theatres for returns, browsing in charity shops, pic-nicking in the rain… I got to know every single corner and back street in the West End, every bus route, and every single little fringe theatre. I went for auditions and met directors who gave me a chance. I also had my heart broken, I saw my bank account go red, I met horrible flatmates and dodgy landlords but I never once blamed negative experiences on London. There are bad people everywhere. Cities are cities. They’re just places we either feel home in or not.

Now please, before starting accusing me of inverted snobism, let me say this: I was very privileged when I moved here. I wasn’t aware of it back then, I was the classic neurotic, unsatisfied twenty-something feeling misunderstood and looking for something different. But I was privileged because leaving Italy was my choice. I didn’t HAVE to do it. I wanted to. I could have stayed in Milan and continue with my voice over career. I could have bought a flat there and taken two holidays a year to the Maldives. But I wanted more. I wanted to be an actress in the country that produced all the actors I admired. I wanted to be in musicals… I wanted to experience a different life, in a different culture, with different people. Therefore I was happy to turn my back to a regular source of money and a very comfortable Italian life to share flats in Archway, live on pita bread and humous, buy second hand clothes, and hang out with actors, as cliched as it sounds.  Call me Boheme.

Yes the Italians living in London in the 90s were migrants by choice and proud. They felt suffocated by a country that was certainly beautiful but too conservative. We didn’t complain about the lack of decent pizza because we were freaking fed up with pizza and pasta, and more than happy to eat Pot Noodles and humous for the rest of our lives. We wanted to feel free from expectations, strict social rules and that quintessentially Italian obsession with fashion and looking, dressing and behaving like everyone else. We wanted to be in a place where artists could express themselves in little shitty venues above a pub and get people to actually come see it. A place where we could go out dressed in our pyjamas with a bird on the head and green hair and nobody would bat an eye.

London gave me exactly that freedom. And so much more. I still feel exhilarated when I walk across Charing Cross bridge on a (rare) sunny day, looking at the National Theatre on one side, The Big Ben on the other and the Shard at the back. I just adore it. I’ll always be grateful to this city, I’ll always deeply love it, despite all its downsides, despite the weather that after 20 years still drives me BONKERS. I embraced London, I embraced the Brits, the English language., I read British newspapers, watched British TV, listened to LBC radio…

And I progressively let Italy go.

Not my “people”, my family, my friends, no, of course not them. But Italy. For a while I really tried to be both, to live in both places, to keep up with both popular cultures, feeling trapped in a limbo where I there was nothing I could completely identify myself with. Then I began to realise that the idea of nation is really odd. Being “proud” for being born somewhere… As if it was something we could choose. Proud of a “culture”… as if I was somehow related to Leonardo Da Vinci, or Dante Alighieri or Manzoni. It’s ridiculous. So eventually I made my choice. I chose London. Not necessarily Britain, but certainly London, And I chose English. As the language in which to write and read and think and dream. Because nobody can live in two places at the same time. It’s impossible.  You’ll never be happy in a place if instead of looking at it you keep looking somewhere else. Pretending to be living “back home” when you’ve left that home for good.

After almost 20 years I have come to the conclusion that the unhappiness of many migrants comes from their inability to choose the present. To let go. They keep reading their papers, watching their Tv programs and hanging out with people speaking their language and in doing so they choose to stay foreign. To always belong somewhere else.

Mine was a deliberate choice. Disputable, controversial, somebody might have seen it as a “betrayal” but it worked for me, for who I am. I didn’t come to London to surround myself with Italians and Italian things, or I would have stayed in Italy where the selection is actually much wider.

But things have changed. Young Italian people are now forced to leave. because there’s simply no work there. They don’t come here for an adventure, they come looking for work, for hope, like our great grand-fathers migrating to the US a hundred years ago. They arrive after years spent desperately searching for a job. They arrive because some of their friends are here, and their friend’s friends are here and have heard London is hard but there’s work…. Unlike me they arrive here after spending months on italiansoflondon, or italiansalreadyinlondon, or italiansabouttogotolondon, or some other similar website dedicated to Italians who want to move here. They are full of tips, from how to find a room to how to get a NI number, to how to contact an Italian doctor, an Italian lawyer, an Italian dentist…

They arrive, full of information, social networks “friends”, flats booked online in neighborhood explored via google earth… They arrive sure they know what they’ll find because thanks to Ryanair they have already spent countless weekends in London. They arrive convinced a great job is waiting for them because their friends found one, because they studied English at school twice a week and everyone knows it’s a language with no grammar so everyone can speak it. They arrive full of expectations and certainties and find… A city that isn’t waiting for them, because no city is. Nowhere in the world there’s a sign saying “we’re desperately looking for young Italians please move here”. Cities are cities. You adapt to them they don’t adapt to you. So young Italians find themselves in a humongous place far more complicated than they’d ever expected, that moves fast and doesn’t wait for anyone. They find a language they don’t speak well enough, and that they often struggle to understand (“I think it’s because I’m used to American”, being the main excuse. But it’s not true. They truth is we have a school that doesn’t teach English properly). And on top of all that, they find a country where all of a sudden there are politicians who have decided to blame it all on immigrants. A country where people don’t ask anymore where your accent is from, they just eye you thinking “another foreigner”.
Result, these young Italians, feeling overwhelmed, disappointed, scared, join other young Italians, end up working in Italian cafes, going to the Italian Institute (those culturally inclined) or to Bar Italia (the football lovers).  They hang out together because there’s a sense of safety in numbers and after six weeks their idea of the English as a population of cold drunks impossible to be friends with is so radicated it’s hard to convince them otherwise. Since they don’t know any native Londoner, they end up in all the wrong places and eat terribly for months before realising there’s a life beyond Camden Town.
The truth is, if you create a ghetto for yourself, no matter how pleasant, educated, fun, it might be, people around you will perceive you as different and as somebody who doesn’t want to join in. And they will be shunning you because you shun them. “I don’t understand the English”, I hear people say. And I always asked “Have you really tried? You have come here to England. They haven’t come to you. You must make the first step because they don’t owe you anything.”

I have no solutions for my young compatriots. Only one piece of advice. Don’t judge a place on the basis of your own, short, personal experience. Try to look beyond. Don’t listen to stereotypes and cliches. This can still be an amazing city. It is an amazing city.

Private and public 

Have you ever looked at a photo or footage from the ’40s and ’50s? When I do I’m always amazed at how nicely dressed everyone looked. Even low class people – butchers, tanners, seamstresses – wore jackets, hats and gloves. Women had immaculate hair. There is a sense that for our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents anything happening outside their houses was “public” and none of the rules of the “private” applied.

Cut to this morning on the Tube at Archway: a guy, legs stretched out and shoes off, is playing a game whilst listening to ridiculously loud music. A man next to him has a laptop open and is writing a presentation. Next, a woman is applying make up and brushing a hair whilst her companion is doing her nails. Go on a bus and people sharing private phone conversations talking at the top of their voices are the norm. As are people eating curry or chips or – not joking  – gerkins straight from a jar. And it’s not just public transport to have turned into people’s front rooms. Every cafe in London sports babies  crawling along the floor, children running around and students occupying two tables with their later project. Last time I went to a gallery, in the foyer there was a man with his daughter sitting on a chair. The daughter proceeded to take his shoes and socks off and when I looked at the man disapprovingly he sighed as if accusing me of being a child hater. 

Let’s face it, we’ve all been late for work and forced to eat, write or apply mascara on the go. We’ve all had to manage unruly children in restaurants. But for the people I’m talking about – which is the great majority of people I see every day – such actions aren’t an exception. They’re just part of their daily routine, something utterly normal.

So when have the bounderies between public and private become so blurred? How can so many of us aren’t bothered if their music, their food, their children, their smelly feet, their spreadsheets annoy other people, interfere with their space? When did we not just stop caring about what our public image is or what the others think of us (that might actually be good) but selfishly began to treat public spaces as our own, as if they were merely an extension of our houses? 

Technology is obviously to blame, partially. We can have our music with us, our tv, our office, so we go around immersed in the private world of our devices even when we are in fact in the public world. Real human interaction doesn’t interest us provided we have our smartphones to access interaction virtually on social media.

The deification of children is also a phonomenon that has turned most parents in providers of entertainment for their progenie wherever they are, because God forbid you should ask them to sit down and read a book for five minutes. Our frantic rhythm of life also doesn’t help, especially in big metropolis like London where the Tube can always be delayed, traffic on diversion, buses on strike, so every journey to work could potentially last over an hour, so let’s leave early and use the time to do all those things – make up, hair, breakfast, phone mum –   that we would have normally done before setting off to work.

Okay, these changes in society can be the reason. But are we really 100% sure that as human beings, at least in Western societies, all our fabulous conquests – freedom of expression, sexual freedom, digital freedom, social freedom – haven’t actually made us much ruder and selfish than we used to be? Isn’t the speed at which we live turned us into selfish creatures who don’t queue, don’t say sorry, don’t show consideration for each other because we don’t have the time?

Is rudeness the price we pay for “progress”? Are we living such easy life we’re just lazy and selfish and in a hurry and convinced by the day we were born we’re the most special thing on earth and nobody can ever suggest otherwise?

I don’t know. I just know that sometimes when looking at the footage of those men and women in hats and gloves, who used to work stupid hours, have no social life and often no childhood either, I wonder whether we’ve gone too far. 

Carry your own office with you! (or not)

Carry your recording studio with you and do voice over while on holiday! The latest spam email in my inbox says. Access files on the go! Your office always with you! says another. Never fail to e connected! Check the latest castings… Send big files 24/7. Stay in touch with clients at home and on the go!

Yes, I’ll admit it, I’m one of those who’s totally dependent on phones and computers. As a free lance work can come in anytime and from anywhere so the ability of booking jobs on the go is certainly an advantage. As it’s the ability to record auditions on my phone. We can now all work on the go, from home, on a plane, while sipping a cocktail on a pool. With  technology getting easier and more affordable by the day, I could easily carry my own recording studio with me and never stop making money even on holiday or during the weekend. How lovely.

Or, is it, really?

I don’t think so.


Yes, working from wherever you are can be handy. But not if it means we can now work ALL the time, no matter where we are. Because we can, it doesn’t mean we HAVE to. But it’s increasingly getting that way. People expect us to be working 24/7 simply because technology enables us, because they can reach us even in our most private moments.

I do believe holidays and weekends exist for a reason: to rest and switch off.  We all need them, so that we can return to work with energy and positivity. But if the moments of rest are actually only moment of provisional standby, that can be broken anytime by an email, we are turned into creatures who are always always “on” and never stop. And this is mentally and physically exhausting.


Especially as artists, we need to learn to say no. To set up our working hours. But because we are part of such an ephemeral business, because there’s very little solidarity, very little “class conscience” to use a sentence from my childhood in the 70s, we are terrified that the moment we say no, somebody else will jump in and take our job. Technology has helped our lives, true, but has also set us back decades, to a world pre-workers’ rights, in which we’re supposed to work until we drop, quite literally.

So we go on holiday with tablets, microphones, softwares and cameras, just in case a job comes in. We get frustrated if the internet in the Sicilian village where we’re staying doesn’t work. We send emails on trains, planes and boats. Globalisation means potential clients think nothing of calling you at three a.m. (it’s midday in Asia!) and ask for a quote (it’s happened to me twice. Now I switch off all my phones before going to bed). Studios in L.A. expect answers to their emails at midnight on a Friday, because it’s early afternoon there. One of the agencies I work for in Holland, send me a job request on a Saturday morning and closed the email with “for any clarification please get in touch we work 24/7!” I replied “I don’t, speak to you on Monday.”

We forgot that at some point in history, about 100 years go or just before, workers gained the right to rest. Before, there was no such thing as a holiday. Resting on a beach was for aristocrats who didn’t seem to do much all year round anyway. The only allowed time off for the non-affluent was church time on Sunday and probably Christmas. But thanks to unions, workers’ strikes, and people who actually put their head on the line to protest against lives lived exclusively to work, we came up with the concept of days of REST. Everyone is entitled to at least a couple of weeks off each year. Not entitled to “weeks off in which they can be on if necessary”. Just OFF. As in NOT WORKING.

Yes, as a free lance, such rules have never applied as strictly because nobody pays you for your time off, but until ten or fifteen years ago we all took holidays knowing that chances were your agent would call a minute before your left for the airport with a job for the following day. Tough luck. You politely refused, swore loudly then took your suitcase and left for the seaside, where nobody could reach you because there was no such thing as WIFI or even mobile phones for the matter.

But not now. Now people know they can reach you anywhere anytime. They know that if you really want you can stand up your friend on a Saturday evening and stay home instead to record that audio guide they so urgently need. They know if you really cared you’d have a USB microphone with you on holiday, you lazy cow. You CAN work, so why don’t you, you silly actor with no business sense?

Because I have a life. Because I’m lucky to be doing something I like, but that doesn’t mean I’m prepared to do it nonstop. Because I don’t think anything is THAT urgent.  Because you send me scripts at 7pm on a Friday expecting them before Monday, it’s not my problem, it’s your problem that you haven’t managed to get them ready earlier, despite having a  whole week to do so. So you’ll have to wait until Monday. Because what I know from experience is that in 90% cases your delay isn’t due to some emergency. You just didn’t BOTHER to meet your deadline, you couldn’t plan properly, you tried to save money by underpaying people so you had to re-translate the script because the first version sucked. Or you couldn’t make your mind about which word sounded better because your 10 people team of “creatives” who have beds in the office together with a pool table and endless provision of sushi, couldn’t come up with a claim that satisfied them all. And you allowed it because you know there will always be an idiot happy to work on a Sunday. Sorry, I won’t be that idiot. Of course I’m always happy to help, and if I’m working on a project with somebody who does come across a REAL problem and needs urgent help, I’ll do my best. But generally speaking, I switch my computer off at 6pm on a Friday and it’ll stay off until Monday morning. Like any office. And in summer, I’ll take two weeks off and go on holiday. Possibly somewhere with no WIFI.

Let’s go back to a human way of living.  Let’s go on holiday, vacation, whatever you want to call it. Even if we’re not going anywhere, let’s switch off for a week. Work will be much better when we switch on again.


New Year’s nosolutions

I’ve never understood the concept of “new year’s resolutions”.

Every single year, come the 28th of December, every single paper, TV show, magazine, Facebook post, and general dull conversation are full of the idea: “What are your resolutions for next year?” “My new year’s resolution is to quit smoking!” “Go vegetarian in the new year.” “Top 10 new year’s resolutions.”

From dieting, to volunteering, to spending time with relatives, to understanding the meaning of spending review, it seems to be taken for granted that every single one of us MUST have an itemised list of things we’re planning to change/do/achieve come the first of January.

Frankly, the idea puzzles me. I’ve never in my life made a new year’s resolution, the very thought had never even crossed my mind. Of course I’ve made several resolutions in my life, but they’ve never coincided with the 1st of January, when I’m usually slightlly deflated after the Christmas celebrations, fed up with winter and only concerned about the Tax Return form the UK government expects from me by the end of the month. 

Yes, I find January pretty dull, and unremarkable, anticlimatic by default, work is slow to pick up, and there’s lots of flu around… Yes in theory changing the date on the calendar should be a big deal, but it isn’t. It doesn’t mean anything, it’s a convention. We don’t age overnight, we aren’t in any shape or form different… I can’t stand New Year’s parties, and that forcly induced enthusiasm everyone is supposed to show at midnight. What for? It’s simply another day. In Alaska it’s still yesterday and in Australia it’s been tomorrow for hours.  

Also, I can’t even stand wearing the same kind of clothes as other people, the very idea of a time where collectively everyone decides to change their life at once makes me shake with horror. Perhaps a day will come when we’ll all be remotely programmed but for now, let’s each of us live our lives at our own pace. Valentine ‘s Day, Mother’s Day and all those made up days in which you’re supposed to show “love” are bad enough. Please, let us hang on to free thought.

Of course I know I belong to a minority. Gyms hit record attendances in January. Dieticians  are fully booked. Same for writing courses, language courses, salsa classes, volunteering associations, running clubs, poetry cafes, estate agents appointments, and self-esteem seminars.

Things people seem to have put off doing for eleven months, come January are up for grabs.


Everyone knows it’s an illusion bound to fail. That we can’t artificially create life changing moments, they are the spontaneous, often dramatic, sometimes relieving result of a particular experience, of a totally special moment in our life. They can’t be calendarised nor summoned at our pleasure.

Perhaps we all still crave a rite of passage.  A yearly ablution, a non religious purification of the spirit and of the body, a a-confessional Lent or Ramadan. It’s as if most of us truly need to believe we could leave behind their old selves together with our old wall calendar and start afresh, like a baby.

So good luck with your resolutions folks. I won’t even try to make one.

Happy new year!


Yes, I’m a sucker for Christmas

Oh yes, I’m a sucker for Christmas. Big time. I just LOVE it. I know it’s quite unfashionable, and I know that considered my political and intellectual views I should just join the (totally rightful) chorus of people saying it’s just a commercial entity devised to push us to spend as much as possible, totally monopolised by advertising, utterly consumerist and very far from its religious roots.

That is TRUE.

I know it makes people with no family and friends depressed, and if it was for me, I’d invite them all over for lunch.

HOWEVER, Christmas appeals to the six years old that’s still in me, I literally get excited like a child. I love the preparations, the decorations, making cards, decorating trees, baking, getting together with friends for a meal. I love advent calendars, mince pies, panettone, and fairy lights. I love it that my flat becomes bright and sparkling, and that every passing day there’s a new card or a new present under the tree. I love the excitement of buying a present for someone I love and then of seeing their faces when opening it. There have been years when I had very little money to spend but I’d still like to buy something, however small, that could make them smile.

This gives me immense pleasure. Spending a whole evening making cards for everyone in my family makes me smile. Finding new bubbles for my tree makes me happy. And I’m not ashamed of it.

I love carols. Especially the religious one I must say, because they are old and musically beautiful. I love nativities.

I love seeing children’s excitement, my “new” nephew (he’s not mine, it’s m boyfriend’s but he’s totally adopted me as auntie) counting the days, my little friend Camilla still compiling letters to Santa… I wish I could do the same!!!

There’s something very deep and totally irrational about my personal connection to Christmas that yes, dates back to my childhood and the way my mother has always made it special for us. She still does, because she also has a six years old in her who gets excited about Christmas. And I realise that the older I get the more I’m like her in wanting to fill my house with little sparkling packets, food and decorations. I’m not often sentimental but perhaps this is my little tribute to her.

So go on and be cynical and keep reminding me how boring, capitalistic and fake Christmas is. It’s not all those things for me.

So Merry Christmas to you all, and have a good one.


Random thoughts on a very slow bus

Well, in a delirium of totally unjustified self importance (and boredom) I’m sharing my thoughts whilst sitting on a painfully slow bus on my way to a BBC voice over session:

Why does everyone assume women love chocolate? I don’t care about chocolate. It’s all right, but a box of chocolates in my house can last for months and ends up in the bin. I particularly don’t like Nutella or anything too sweet. But give me cheese any time! Who cares about dessert when I can have a pizza?

Full fat milk?? Seriously, lovely coffee shop with New York decor, nice pastries and yummy mummies you’ve got this one wrong! Full fat disappeared from London cafs circa 2003. But hey, the owners are French! (ALERT!!! THIS IS A JOKE. I DONT THINK ALL FRENCH DRINK FULL FAT! gosh it’s hard to deal with people taking the Internet so seriously!)

Remind to self: don’t even consider buying a flat that hasn’t a tube station nearby. Buses are only great if you’re a tourist or a pensioner.

I just saw a shop called Society for the protection of unwanted objects. I love it. I suspect it’s just a charity shop but what a name!

I wonder how much the voice over lady who read all the bus stops was paid.

Despite everything London’s great. People saying the opposite can’t get its spirit. Only London (and New York) offer you such an amazing selection of diversity in food, art, culture, architecture, theatre, nationalities, nature and social strata. London is a metonym for the world. You might not like aspects of it – weather, transport, frenzy – but you can’t hate it without somehow hating a part of yourself.

Tattoos and nail painting is soo noughties!

I downgraded half of my Facebook contacts to aquientences so now I don’t see their posts anymore. It’s so much better. And the proof they were never friends in the first place. Yes yes, I’m sure it’s mutual and they’re happy not to read mine. Remind to self: never add people you don’t really like to your Fb contacts.

The next bus stop is not in use… F…!%?!

Go complain!!

There used to be a very funny (until it became annoying) tv campaign on British TV where an opera singer would jump out from a bush, or an Egyptian pyramid, or a sand dune, bellowing “Go compaaaaare!!!”

Well, today I want to sing the praises of the British customer complaint system: go complain!!!!

We’ve all been incredibly annoyed if not freaking furious with a train company for its delays, a gas company for its over estimated bills, an Internet provider for its random service… Well, in many countries, you ring them up to complain, if you’re lucky you get a fairly bored person saying sorry and promising it won’t happen again, more often you won’t even get that apology but rather something like “this is the way it is, s*** happens, goodbye!”

Not in Britain.
Americans can laugh at the British obsession with being polite and apologetic, but what you learn here is that if we foreigners also start being polite, managing our very unbritish desire to insult people for their incompetence, we can get everything we wish for and more.

In Britain instead of shouting on the phone to some 21 year old call centre agent, I can easily find the address of the company’s head office on their website (which will be clear and up to date) and write a letter (not an email! A letter! One of those things that come in an envelope) of complaints.
Of course I won’t be rude, but I’ll be firm – clearly summarising the events – politely outraged – explaining what a loyal customer I’ve been, how I loved their services and how disapponted and distressed I feel at their misconduct.
Of course I’ll close the missive by adding that with regrets I’ve decided never to use their services again.
I’ll sign “yours sincerely”, give them my best regards and post it.

And, voila, within a week, I’ll have somebody from the CEO’s office ringing me on the phone.
They not only will apologise but will offer a compensation, begging me not to leave them…

Yes yes it’s a game, and they will win, because by effectively “bribing” me with their gifts and politeness they will keep me as a customer.
But at least I’m given the illusion that what I say actually counts.

When the managing executive of a famous airline actually calls me on my mobile to offer me a full refund to compensate me for the horrible experience I had on their planes, there’s a sense of satisfaction in knowing my voice has been heard.

When I get a voicemail from a phone company’s CEO office saying they’re going to wave my bill and offer me a ten pound discount for next month, the world for a second is a better place.

So go complain! Don’t give up before trying!
It’ll only cost you a stamp…

Self satisfied expression please?


Copy and paste – no thanks

Not a day goes by when one of my Facebook contacts doesn’t post a chinese-cookie style status claiming they love the world, they’re grateful for people in their lives, they care for cuddly animals, they want to protect children, save the panda, hug their neighbours or build a house for all their acquaintances to live in, challenging everyone to copy and paste said status in order to prove they’re equally involved with the energy of the universe and that they’re “real” friends. They should copy and paste and of course challenge their friends to do the same hence producing a chain as toxic as the St Antony’s we used to get in the post on the 80s (copy and send this to ten people and you’ll get rich. Stop the chain and something awful will happen!)
Some even go further by not only asking to copy and paste but also mention something, like where you met, their favourite colour, what you love about them and other useless detail somebody with a lot of time to waste came up with.

I usually ignore such posts and often hide them. I NEVER, ever, do the copy and paste.


Copy and paste of totally unoriginal sentimental stuff makes me cringe.

Quotes about love and the universe make me want to read Schopenauer.

Public declarations of overwhelming joy and devotion provoke in me an equally overwhelming desire to run somewhere far and isolated.

Call me cynical.

When I feel something for a person, I tell them (them, not Facebook) and if I believe in a cause, I act for that cause. I don’t copy and paste some random person’s soapy thought. Because it doesn’t MEAN anything. Come on, you want to be sentimental in public, at least come up with your own words for goodness’ sake! I stopped copying quotes in my diary when I was 16.

And why demanding such public declarations of loyalty on Facebook when in life you don’t bother? What’s about Facebook that makes everyone sentimental? Or is it that as usual, people are broadcasting their lives on social networks, creating an image for themselves and that image is the perfect friend, brother, husband and citizen who “cares” about stuff and get indignant if everyone else doesn’t.

Sorry but I don’t buy it.

I don’t need to publicly announce I’m honoured and mived to have my friends, because my friends, the real ones, would think I’d gone mad and call an ambulance. We don’t do cheap sentimentality because we dont need it, we “know”. It’s so much more fun to take the p… at each other!

My friends, the real ones, won’t judge my loyalty on the basis of what I copy and paste on my wall. This because my friends tend to be over the age of 15. Teenagers break friendships because one doesn’t like their music or those amazingly deep lyrics they composed. Adults tend to take other qualities into consideration.

But Facebook make us all act like self centered, ipersensitive adolescents.

I hate conformism. I hate being told what to do. I don’t need to prove anything.


You can keep your copying and pasting. It’s probably fun I’ll continue cutting and binning them with gusto.

Peace and love

Please leave us our home made pesto!

Another trip, another airport post…

Seriously, do we still need to strip naked and surrender all our Lucozade and organic pesto at security?

I arrived at Luton airport to catch my flight to Italy with plenty of time the other day. I thought I could browse the shops, buy myself something nice to eat, relax. After all I was travelling in the afternoon, in the middle of a working week, with schools just started. Not exactly peak time holiday season.

But of course the moment I get to security the most humongous queue materialises in front of me.

Where are all those people going?

Thing is, it’s not that there’s a LOT of people, it’s that everyone is taking a LOT of time. Why? Because, in the UK, airport control people are seriously nazi. They still insist on everyone to take off all by basic clothing, surrender any liquid container bigger than a nutshell, switch on your laptops, get rid of all your jewlellery etc.

Not only that, at Luton, unlike any other airport, your mini-containers MUST be put in the CORRECT plastic bag, no matter if you own a perfectly see-through make up bag that shows every single item inside. No, it has to be what they want, ie, what I’d call a resealable sandwich bag. They actually have vending machines selling such special sandwich bags in some kinder egg container for £1! £1 for 2 plastic bags you can normally purchase in batches of 500 for the same price.

Are you saying this is to protect our security?

Moreover, you can’t pay by credit card, or even by using several coins like two 50p coins, or five 20p coins. No, you must have a £1 coin or you can’t get your kinder egged bag.

Since I was travelling with virtually no cash on me, I had to persuade a random Spanish guy to put together my 55p and his 45p and beg another random woman in a burka to exachange them for a one pound coin so we could collectively purchase the kinder egged bags.


Bag purchased, you’re now wasting more precious time trying to convince the security people to let you through with your sandals on instead of walking barefoot on their filthy floor. In order to do that you make a joke about how many bombs could a pair of flip flops contain… MISTAKE! The main requirement to get a job at airports’ security points is the total lack of sense of humour. I suspect part of the job interview process consists in sitting candidates in front of an episode of Seinfeld. If they get to the end without as much as smiling once, they’re hired.

Yes, I know, by now we should all know we can’t bring a pint of shampoo in our handluggage, or a half a kilo pot of organic chutney, or laptops tucked at the bottom of our suitcase, or coins in our pockets. But let’s ask seriously, are these procedures REALLY making us safer? Or are they mainly satisfying the sadistic instintcs of bored security people who at the end of the day can also go home with my auntie’s pesto, your £30 Chanel body cream, and endless bottles of unopened Pepsi?

Do we REALLY think terrorists are still trying to blow us up using fake sparkling water, explosive mosturizer and banging shoes? They must be truly dumb. Unfortunately I suspect liquid explosive on planes is so 2007… Bad people must have moved on. Not that I personally know any of them, but I know that if I was a twisted horrible person planning to kill on a massive scale, I would have spent the last six years finding alternatives.

For instance I’m amazed that whilst endless checks are made before boarding a plane, anyone can board a train carrying three machine guns and all sorts of explosive and nobody would ever notice…

I’m not advocating a total lack of control, but I do believe 80% of the current checks’ only achievement is to exasperate people, subtly insulting their dignity whilst they parade barefoot, belt-less, and with raised arms through metal detectors.

Please, airports, let us keep our organic pesto. It won’t kill anyone, unless it’s badly sealed in which case it can give you botulism but not whilst in your luggage. Let us keep our shoes on and leave us our bottle of water, which we can easily taste for you if you really want. It’d make everyone’s experience so much nicer. And please, please, allow some sense of humour. It’d only do you good