Miami to Ibiza (SHM)

It’s 4pm on a bank holiday Sunday as I begin to write this and I’ve just woken up from one of the best nights of my life; watching Swedish House Mafia (SHM) at Alexandra Palace.

I like to think of myself as a party animal but when I arrived at the venue and looked at the queue of fans, that self-evaluation went out the window. I felt like I was at the circus. Within minutes I’d seen a man dressed as a panda, a girl wearing nothing but plastic hooker heels and a bikini and a woman in a leopard print PVC catsuit. One girl had even turned up on crutches with a broken leg. To put myself in comparison, I had arrived in what I would call sensible ‘raving attire’. Flat shoes, tight demin shorts and a crop top, complete with fanny pack. (I would say bum bag but I’m childish and fanny pack just sounds funny) I’d even taken the liberty to bring some deodorant and hydrating face spray; anal maybe but that’s how I roll.  Feeling somewhat inferior, I took a swig of our homemade alcoholic concoction and offered it to my friend.

As we reached the front of the queue and passed security we were told to get rid of our drink and hold our hands up to be searched, most likely for drugs.
The security guard asked: “What’s in the bag?”
I looked at him with a drunken smile and said “What…you mean my fanny pack?” for laughs.
He didn't find it so funny. “What’s in your fanny pack ma’am?”
I looked at him blankly “My fanny. Why don’t you take a look inside while I finish my drink?” and thrust my crotch forward giving him a wink while taking a sip from my bottle. My friend was cackling behind. He didn’t even bother searching me.

Once inside, we put our coats in the cloakroom, had a gander at the SHM merchandise and made our way to the concert hall to watch the warm up acts. I gazed down at the floor and saw what looked like two empty drug packets; it was 9:30pm and half the people were already off their face.The crowd shuffled in front of me and a huge black man who looked like John Coffey from The Green Mile aimlessly waded toward me mumbling “Mandy, mandy, mandy?” I moved to one side to let him through and watched a group of young girls pounce on him, flaunting £20 notes in his face; business was booming. Within minutes I’d been asked if I wanted coke, ket or pills- all of which I declined. This was a drug addicts dream, but I was here for the music. Meanwhile, my friend and I looked around and smirked at all the fake tan on display. Every time the strobe lights flashed, girls’ faces would go lime coloured; they looked like the green goblin on crack. “Bet you’re lucky you’re mixed race” she said with a laugh as we made our way to the foul smelling portaloo’s. They reeked so badly it was almost offensive.

My other friends arrived towards the end of the warm up set, ready to rave and we went to the back of the hall to buy a round of drinks, which actually weren’t too expensive. That only meant one thing: double vodka’s were now triples and after making friends with the bar staff, those triples turned into free quadruples. And then, out of nowhere, I heard the lights flash, the music stop and the crowd scream; SHM had made their entrance. Instinctively, my friend grabbed me and propelled me forward telling us to get to the front quickly. My friends followed behind as I politely squeezed past the crowd apologizing for stepping on people’s feet, but we were getting nowhere. I was too much of a pansy to barge my way through. But that soon changed when my friend stepped up to the plate, shoved past me and bulldozed her way through the crowd like a bull to a matador. The crowd parted before her like Moses before the Red Sea and I followed her straight to the front row. Once up against the front railings I turned and realised we had lost our other friends and in a drunken stupor, I made a feeble attempt to rummage for my phone to call them. Of course in a room full of 8,000 people who were off their face it was highly unlikely that we’d find them again.

I was busy worrying about my other friends when I heard it. It was game over. Above the noise of the crowd, I looked up on stage and saw Axwell, Sebastian and Steve put their hands up, one finger in the air. One: Your Name. The keyboard intro was foreplay to a climax. I was about to reach eargasm as I anticipated the drop and lifted myself up on the front railing screaming “I WANNA KNOW YOUR NAME!” I was buzzing, jumped off the railing and started dancing until I looked up and realized that I was emblazoned on two massive projector screens either side of the stage. I smiled, blew a kiss to the camera and carried on dancing, wanting to appreciate every single, note, drop and break in the song.

An hour later and I was still off my face dancing and jumping, momentarily recognising it was doing wonders for my cardio workout. I was surprised at the amount of energy I had left considering I was one of the only people there who wasn’t on drugs. One by one, girls were being lifted over the front barriers and carried out of the VIP evidently unable to sustain their high; they looked sedated. Truthfully though, I remained unconcerned. I was too busy eyeing up Axwell on stage, trying in vain to get his attention. While everyone, including SHM, had their hands up in the air bobbing up and down I remained completely still, put my arms high up in the air and cupped my hands together in the shape of a hollow heart; the SHM symbol. Almost immediately Axwell turned to face me in acknowledgement, waved directly at me and cupped his hands together in the shape of a heart. I could have died and gone to heaven, but I was too busy waving like a manic groupie at the stage. In my catatonic state I even contemplated jumping the gate and running up on stage. Fail. Minutes later I got a second helping of the coveted attention I’d been seeking when Steve spotted my heart symbol amongst the crowd and in acknowledgement sent me another direct wave. I jumped up on the barrier, blew him a kiss and hovered there for as long as my triceps would let me (which wasn’t very long at all considering the state I was in). But we had the best spot in the house, and it didn’t matter if I was up on the rails or bumping shoulders with the crowd. The atmosphere and the music was more than enough, I just didn’t want the night to end.

It was all over in a flash. SHM signed off, said their goodbyes and ended the show. I was left feeling emotionally euphoric. I can’t possibly tell you what happened after that, but let’s just say I wound up in my bed at 6am, with a huge grin on my face. I would do it all again.

Dear Customer Services

It is an unequivocal truth that people love to complain, an observation I've acknowledged time and time again. From unsavoury food to untimely parcel delivery, or even a ludicrously long queue at the bank, I’m sure even the most patient of us has, at some stage, succumbed to grumbling. I for one am not averse to making a complaint. Take for instance my mobile network provider, 02; I have their 202 number on speed dial. If anyone looked at my monthly phone bill they’d think 202 was my boyfriend’s number, the amount of times I end up calling them with some problem or another.

But for some people nothing’s ever good enough. Some people complain for the fun of it (although how complaining constitutes as fun I do not know), some complain because they’re offloading their anger toward someone else, some because they feel it’s entirely (and rightly) justifiable, and most, like me, complain to see how much they can get out of it. Think along the lines of Mahatma Ghandi: “if you don’t ask, you don’t get,” and conveniently adjust it to: “if you don’t complain, you don’t get the freebies.” And freebies are what I want.

One time immediately after coming home from my weekly food shop, I zealously peeled the lid off a tub of Ben and Jerry’s ‘Phish Food’ and began stuffing my face.

Everything tasted right: the texture, the flavour, the consistency…that is until I was a quarter way through the tub with no sign of a chocolate ‘phish’. I carried on eating, suitably convincing myself that it was OK to devour a whole tub of frozen yoghurt just to see if there were any phish inside. Reaching the bottom, I came across two measly phish drowning in the melted sugary remains and I was utterly disheartened.  Lord knows it must have been ‘that time of the month’ because I expressed an unhealthy amount of anger over such a trite matter. I began writing a venomous letter of complaint accordingly. I recall it went something like this:

Dear Ben and Jerry,

Being a fond lover and frequent buyer of your products, I feel compelled to write to you on this matter.

I recently purchased a tub of your frozen yoghurt with the assumption that it would be a healthier alternative to your ice cream, as I am trying to cut down on my fatty foods and sugary snacks. It was for this reason that I eagerly anticipated the chocolate phish as a naughty treat. But the amount of chocolate phish inside your ‘tub of love’ was fiendish. There were more fish displayed on the outer packaging than in the tub and I find this thoroughly misleading. It left me with more sugary cravings than I anticipated and forced me to break my diet to fill the void. Consequently, I feel fat, hapless and cheated.

This occurrence has placed serious doubt and chronic concern about the value of your products which I don’t think I will be purchasing in the near future, that is unless you offer me some form of reimbursement.

Yours Sincerely,

Stephanie Shepherd  

To cut a long story short. I swiftly received an apologetic letter in response to my complaint, along with a booklet of free Ben and Jerry’s vouchers. They even wished me well with my (fabricated) diet would you believe! And so it was a success; I got my freebies.

In this instance my complaint was by letter, but more often than not this is not the case. Online forms and telephone calls are a quicker, more efficient way of alleviating ones grievances; grievances which every individual feels are a matter of utmost importance. Telephone calls usually result in a barrage of abuse being directed at the poor unfortunate soul on the end of the line who, let’s be honest, probably doesn’t really give a shit about your bad network coverage, your late parcel, or your dodgy can of baked beans. Have you ever noticed the angrier you get the calmer they respond? Their carefully conducted, professional response comes across apathetic which in turn winds you up even more. It’s an exasperating cycle which results one of two things: you slamming down the phone after realizing your protestations are getting you nowhere, or you receiving an apology along with an adequate explanation (and possibly some freebies.)  I know which result I’d prefer and it's often for this reason that the temptation to complain can be irresistable. Go and try your luck!


I broke a personal record last week. 6 Nando’s in 7 days. 2 visits of which were in one day. Excessive? Well yes probably…but it seems peri-peri fever has hit me hard and I currently have an insatiable appetite for their mouth watering chicken.

Like many, I have always been partial to a bit of Nando’s, but it wasn’t until an old friend introduced me to their chicken wings that my taste buds hit new levels, and since then him and chicken wings have become synonymous. I’m not usually one of those people who insists on ordering the same dish from the menu – if I go to Wagamama’s, I wouldn’t stick with 71- Chicken Katsu curry- at Nando’s however, I’m afraid 5 chicken wings + 2 regular sides is now the norm. Before then, upon each visit, I would happily play taste bud tennis, switching from a chicken pitta to a half chicken or even a chicken salad, but since having my first taste of ‘the Nando’s wing’ I’ve become addicted, and my taste buds simply refuse to go back to mediocrity. I often think of choosing food as you would choose a girlfriend/boyfriend. Taste the different dishes on offer, and if you find one you like stick with it, because 9 times out of 10 the dish you keep going back for will leave you feeling comfortably satisfied.

Nando’s is easy. Easy meaning laidback; laidback enough for you to pop in for an impromptu visit with a male friend and for it not to be considered a ‘date’.  But Nando’s is messy and this causes a predicament. What’s a girl to do when she’s sitting opposite a guy and is compelled to viciously tear apart some wings with her hands, ferociously chomp on a corn on the cob and stab aggressively at some macho peas? Every time I go to Nando’s that’s precisely what I want to do, but depending on my company I realise I have to tone things down a bit. If I’m with one of my girlfriends I can happily sit with chicken strings in my teeth, hands covered in garlic sauce, and have sprays of corn flying in all directions; cannibalistic, but nothing that a toothpick and some napkins won’t fix. If I’m in the company of a guy, be it friend, date or boyfriend I attempt to be as ladylike as possible, and more often than not the corn has to go, the knife and fork comes out and the wings are eaten delicately. But on one of my recent visits with a male friend they had run out of chips, forcing me to opt for a cob. Oh dear. He sat opposite, buoyantly telling me about his day as I prayed he’d overt his eyes each time I clamped on my corn. Shame he didn’t, because instantaneously a piece of corn flew out my mouth and perched itself on his shoulder. Miraculously, I don’t think he noticed but that didn’t stop me from the embarrassment of having to sit there watching and willing the yellow debris to drop off like a dead fly.

The great thing about Nando’s were their refillable drinks. I’m sure you all know the drill. Order some tap water, get a glass and pop over to the drinks fountain for your complimentary soft drink. But irritatingly, times are changing.  The other day I went to place my usual order, along with a tap water and was confronted with a wine glass. Eh? My scheming had been exposed. She refused to give me a standard glass with which to get my diet coke *ahem* tap water, declaring it was standard protocol. I grew increasingly agitated with her and professed that it was malapropos to suspect someone as innocent as me to do such a thing, but she wouldn’t budge and simply slammed the wine glass down, almost shattering it. To top it all off, as consequence of our altercation, she wouldn’t even give me my loyalty stamp! So I found myself both accused and denied. Talk about customer service. That’ll be the last time I go to Nando’s for a while, and by a while I mean a day or two…when I can no longer bear to neglect that rapacious appetite of mine. 


One of life’s most puzzling questions: why do (most) people go silent when they get in a lift? I honestly can’t think of any rational explanation for it. There’s no sign saying “DO NOT TALK” and it’s certainly not against the law, but it seems there is this rigid, unfailing code of conduct which people abide by when getting into a lift and it utterly baffles me. Think of all the times you’ve stood in a lobby, waiting for a lift alongside others. People are happily nattering away (yourself included), the lift comes, you all bundle in, and all off a sudden everyone synchronously looses their voice. It’s like box of silence, stifling silence which breeds unnecessary awkwardness between yourself and others, for no apparent reason. What do you care if others listen in on an innocent conversation between you and a friend? They’re not going to have the balls to muscle in your conversation anyway. You wouldn’t care if people were listening on train, bus or aeroplane, so why in a lift?

I have to admit I am the silent type, the conformist, the one who would rather shuffle between the cattle to press my floor number then ask someone to do it for me. But it’s not because I’m scared to open my mouth, it’s because I am inherently claustrophobic. I’m too busy praying that the lift won’t break down, that I won’t have a panic attack or that someone won’t fart; the smell of violence frying my eyes, like I’m in a silent gas chamber. Talking of farting in lifts, seriously, why can’t people just hold it in? Why do they have to pick the most inappropriate time to let off, it is the epitome of inconsiderateness. Are they that deluded to think they’ll get away with it?

The awkwardness doesn’t stop here though. Maximum lift weight is something that even the fat person thinks he/she can defy. But you can’t defy gravity if you’re weighing in at 300lbs. I’m not being ‘fattist’ here, but if you’ve got a belly on you and there are already 12 people crammed into a lift which says 1200kg max. DON’T GET IN. unless you want an embarrassing situation where the lift doors refuse to close. I once came across a man who tried to defy these odds. There I was standing with a dozen others like a pack of sardines ready to head upstairs when a man (obviously running late) ran to catch the lift before the doors closed. Unceremoniously he tried to squeeze himself in, but there was simply no room at the inn. His protruding belly got wedged between the doors which continued to open and close. And open and close. And open and close like they were jammed. Everyone cursed under their breath. Cringe didn’t even cover it. “Oops! One too many pies methinks” he chuckled animatedly as he hopped out the lift and rubbed his belly. His words were received by blank stares from inside the lift as the doors finally slammed shut in his face. I hope he learnt his lesson for his own sake as well as others.

Considering how much I hate lifts I don’t know how I managed to work at 1 Canada Square (the tallest building in the UK up until last year). Everyday was a struggle getting up to my office, but at least I didn’t work on the top floor, it could’ve been worse. It was the same scenario day in day out. Walk to lift. Press ‘up’. Talk to fellow colleagues. Get in lift. Stop talking. Get out. Start talking. I steadily grew used to the pre-empted silence. On one particular day, I was running extremely late for work. I repeatedly jabbed the ‘up’ button willing the lift to come sooner and dashed inside to press floor 22. The doors were about to close when a blonde bombshell wearing nothing but a half buttoned mac and hooker heels ran (with jiggling boobs) to catch my lift. I lunged to press ‘> <’ (close doors). I had no time for passengers, especially ones who looked like that. But it was too late and I was too obvious. She outstretched her bare leg and prevented the doors from closing, glaring at me for being so inconsiderate as she stepped inside. I sheepishly shuffled to one side hoping that she wouldn’t press any floor before floor 22. I couldn’t afford hold ups. (As a side issue, nothing bothers me more than getting in a lift which stops at every floor before mine. Or people who use the lift to go up one floor. Just take the stairs and stop holding me up you lazy git.) Luckily she didn’t press any floor number; she was heading to floor 22.  I came to the conclusion that she was probably doing a photo shoot for the Daily Mirror sports desk. But even so, put some clothes on on your way up love this is Canary Wharf not Stringfellows. Are you lost? I shouldn’t have had to be exposed to such blatant nudity first thing in the morning; but it didn’t stop me from looking. I was bewildered as to how someone could be so comfortable swaning about in such a corporate environment. As the lift went up, I stood there ogling at her one nipple on show as she followed my gaze. I quickly averted my eyes but it was too late. I’d been caught red-handed in my lesbian antics; the silence was unbearable, the tension you could cut with a knife. I can honestly say it was the longest lift ride of my life, of which there was no escape. It taught me one more lesson about lifts: don’t look at anyone either.

Shaadi (My Big Fat Hindu Wedding)

I’ve had enough of weddings for one week, and I’m not talking about the royal one. Last weekend I ended up going to my first Indian wedding. My friend had invited me as a +1 to a wedding reception and I was delighted. Sorry to be platitudinous but I do love a good wedding, as I’m sure most women do; the romance, the speeches but if I’m honest- mostly the food. My fleeting excitement was quickly replaced with grave concern when my friend told me that it was an Asian wedding. And by Asian, I mean Indian, and by Indian I mean ‘sari time’. I never thought I’d see the day when I wore a sari; I’ve never wanted to and I’ve never needed to. I guess my time had finally come.

My friend planned to pick me up at 5:30pm. I pushed that back to 5:45pm when I realized that I didn’t have a bindi and attempted (unsuccessfully) to paint one on with red lipstick…and wipe the dot straight off. Don’t try this at home. My aim was to look as authentically Indian as possible, but even after ironing out my ‘fro, kholing my eyes and arranging my bangles I looked like a fraudster taking the piss. By the time my friend arrived I still hadn’t pleated my sari and was frenziedly chonging on my beloved shisha pipe like a crack fiend. I was stressed out. After five attempts with four metres of fabric and three safety pins I though it best to leave it until my friend came. I figured two pairs of hands were better than one. I figured wrong. 20 minutes and another 5 failed attempts we called his sister for help to no avail. Getting desperate I shuffled to my laptop and Googled ‘how to wear a sari,’ but I couldn’t even follow the instructions without pricking myself with a safety pin. I was getting cranky and my friend was fretting about how late we were going to be. As a last resort he called his mother and told her we were driving round so she could fix my sari. Problem solved.

In my dithering I didn’t even realize the car parked in my drive. My friend had turned up in an Aston Martin Vantage. Swanky. The car was so low I opened the door but could barely bend down to get in. The fabric was so stiff, I felt arthritic; like I’d been wrapped in paper mache and left to dry.  Squat > sit > swivel > shuffle and I’d managed to get myself in the passenger seat; ungraceful but successful. Inside the car was pokey, much like a cockpit in a rocket, and the moulded seats lovingly cupped my ample behind. I don’t want to go all Jeremy Clarkson on you, but for the price (at first glance) the car seemed simplistic. Where were the 007 gadgets I thought as we sped off.  I clicked and poked every button like a kid and within minutes I’d found a Lamy pen, a hidden inbuilt sat nav and an ipod dock. Touch. I took the liberty to scroll through my ipod and search for Rick Ross ft Drake- Aston Martin music. Cliché I know but I was now revelling in the Aston Martin experience…and I love Drake.

On our way to his mum’s house we passed a broken down vehicle on the side of the road. Coincidently, the lady who had stepped out the car was wearing a sari. I wanted to pull over, jump out, ask her to fix my sari, give thanks and speed off. But on second thought that may have been a bit of a piss take. We continued on to his mum’s house where it took all of two minutes for her to pleat, pin and tuck my sari. I stood there like a manikin while she dressed me like a merchandiser. My friend was panicking (for no reason) about being late so as soon as I was ‘fixed’ we hopped back in the car and sped off to the wedding. I felt like I was in a simulator. I think it had more to do with my friend’s crap driving than the actual gearbox but every time he shifted gears it felt like I was being propelled forward, my face looking like it had gone through a wind tunnel. I should’ve driven- we would have been there a lot quicker put it that way.

I was right, I should’ve driven. We were an hour late for the reception and hurriedly made our way inside. I say ‘hurried’ but for me it was more of a frantic waddle. The hall was ornately decked out in white, black and blue. Unsurprisingly everyone was Asian but me; I’ve never felt so out of place in my life. Bursting through the door after everyone had been seated didn’t help either, it only drew more attention. Everyone turned and looked at us as we edged between the tables finding our seats. The next thing I had to worry about was the food. I have to say I’m partial to a bit of chicken korma or even at a stretch some tikka masala, but if you’re going to get spicier than that- warn me. The trouble was I couldn’t even read the set menu, it was in Indian. It was going to be a case of trial and error. I made sure I had my water ready, but that wasn’t enough. I needed alcohol; my next problem. Evidently, it being an Asian wedding there wasn’t much on offer. If you wanted alcohol you had to make your way to the bar area. It felt like I was walking to the naughty corner as I stood up to go and get my fill. As I discreetly made my way over to the bar, I felt a tug on my sari and turned around...and wanted the ground to swallow me whole. My sari had snagged the side of a chair and had come undone. It was trailing 5 metres behind me along the floor, showcasing my podgy love handles. If it was an Arab wedding I could’ve styled it out and started belly dancing. Instead I quickly scooped up the fabric, scooted to the bar, ordered a double rum and coke and cowered for a good 10 minutes watching the wedding couples first dance from afar. I ordered two more doubles, tucked my sari in my skirt and made my way sheepishly back to my seat.

Copious amounts of food covered the table in a buffet format. Even by my greedy standards this was too much and I didn’t even know where to start. As everyone helped themselves to different dishes I played it safe and grabbed a samosa and some naan bread. One bite of my samosa and I’d made a terrible mistake. My mouth burned fire and I grabbed my rum and coke. I started to splutter and yet again had gained more unwanted attention. The lady next to me stared with a blank expression and offered me a fresh napkin. Round two and I went for a meat dish. Jackpot! Mild buttered chicken. I stuck with that. As I carried on eating with caution, the bhangra music grew louder and louder reaching an earth shattering crescendo. Within minutes guests had flocked the dancefloor and were shimmying from side to side. I didn’t get it. I couldn’t even walk properly in my gear, let alone dance. If this was a Jamaican wedding it would’ve been a different story I thought. I’d be eating jerk chicken, wearing hotpants and doing the dutty wine. Instead my mouth was on fire, my sari was itching and I was patting the dog and screwing the lightbulb.

My issues aside, the wedding was a success. A celebration of two people genuinely being in love can never really be bad. The atmosphere was good, the speeches were heartfelt and the cake was delicious.

I haven’t planned my wedding, but after Kate and Will’s shindig I’ll have to step my game up. Not that I’d ever have the money, the fame or the public interest to compete. But I’d sure love a gesture like this:

Wrapping your building as a wedding present? What a novel idea! Maybe I could get myself one of those.