31st October

I've been trying to ignore the tell-tale signs for weeks; the advertisements, the merchandising, the propaganda, but as the days creep forward and the foreboding date looms, it's getting increasingly difficult to avoid the pumpkins, witches hats and synthetic spider webs on display everywhere I go. Halloween is just another excuse for the retail industry to capitalise on selling needless products at ridiculous prices, forcing parents to succumb to their children’s spoilt shrills.

Tell me, what am I going to do with a 12ft inflatable, tacky ghost? Scare people off my front door? Really?

The 31st October is reasonably high up on my list of dislikes. I'm moderately religious, love sweets and hate children, so understandably why I would look forward to a day which trivialises the occult and where I'm obliged to hand out sweets to bratty kids who incessantly bang at my door? I mean it’s basically a mild form of blackmail isn't it; "Trick or Treat?" In theory I could ignore my ringing door bell or else answer and decline to hand out any sweets, but based on past experience that hasn't gone down very well. Customarily you have to partake in the good will of handing out sweets or else receive various forms of abuse.

A few years ago, one Halloween, I opened my door to find 8 screaming kids dressed in ludicrous outfits accompanied by an adult. In the midst of my irritation, I tried to cover up my callous expression and apologetically explained that I didn't have anything left to give. These children seemed astonished that I wasn’t prepared to give them any sweets and wouldn't get off my doorstep. I found myself in an increasingly awkward situation; all I wanted to do was slam the door and go back inside, but their adult supervision prevented me from doing so. Within seconds one of the little boys whose feeble attempt to dress-up as Frankenstein resulted in him looking more like Jack Sparrow, burst out crying. My ears were violated, I could feel my temper rising and as I politely made an excuse to go inside the adult stepped forward and reprimanded me for being so unorganised. "It’s Halloween for Christ’s sake! You should have been more prepared! Look what you've done? The poor children!" she barked vociferously. Poor children...POOR children?! I wanted to snap her witches’ nose off her face and put her on a plane to Sudan. That'll teach her about 'poor' children. Fool.

On another occasion, whilst at university, I'd answered the door to find a small group of slutty students with sullen expressions sucking on some Chupa Chups they'd been given (most probably by my next door neighbour). They'd declined to use the usual catchphrase "trick or treat?" Instead one of them said "'appy 'alloween, so you gonna give us some sweets or what?" I found it difficult to muster an adequate response because I was so much in shock. With a vacant expression I blankly responded "Sorry, I don't have any," and closed the door swiftly not wanting to antagonise the uninvited guests. Less than a minute later after sitting back down in front of the TV and reeling over what had just happened, I heard a faint crack against the living room window and opened the curtains to find an egg splattered across the glass. Easily wound up, I was seething with anger. Surely there comes an age when you have to stop ‘trick or treating’ and find other ways of celebrating Halloween; like partying.

This leads me on to other issues I have connected with Halloween. Can someone please tell me why women feel it’s acceptable to go clubbing dressed up in next to nothing and pretend to be a ‘sexy devil’ all in the name of Halloween? They look more like morbid hookers. When have you ever seen a real witch in fishnet tights and PVC leather? I have no problem with women dressing up provocatively, it’s their choice, but don’t try and excuse yourself from looking like a tramp because it’s Halloween. I suppose at least with men you get a bit more variety, but maybe that’s not necessarily a good thing. Over the years I’ve seen Batman outfits made of bin liners, men shrouded in white bed sheets trying to pass themselves off as Casper but ending up looking like the KKK, Hitler look-a-likes and men dressed in nothing but black leather speedos. Put your budging ball sack away, I don’t need to see that shit. Can people think of anything more inventive and less offensive? Call me a prude but on certain occasions the outfits really do jar me.

I understand that many people (children especially) look forward to Halloween and may have a completely different outlook on it which I respect within reason, but it doesn’t mean that they have the right to demand sweets, dress inappropriately and get off their face all in the name of tradition.

New York, New York

It’s dubbed ‘The Big Apple’, ‘Concrete Jungle’, ‘The Capital of the World’. Call it what you will, I've never fully understood New York’s appeal, and I seem to be part of a minority. Talk to most people and New York City will be up there on their top 10 places to visit; a vibrant metropolis, a place to relocate (36% of New Yorkers are foreign born), a city that succeeds in making people succeed and a place where people go to fulfil their dreams; a place to be discovered. On the surface New York (NYC) offers a chic lifestyle; fancy bars, plush apartments and great shopping when in reality these benefits are only a fraction of what makes up this vastly cosmopolitan city. When people envisage NYC they dwell on the highlights of Manhattan as a synecdochic representation whole of the city, and it’s through no fault of their own. Over the decades the media and film industries have sensationalised its urbanity through picturesque depictions of central park, episodes of friends, and films like SATC, yet they neglect to emphasise the drug dealing, the crime and the poverty that is so rife in areas like Harlem, Queens or the Far Rockaways. This attitude is reflected in many of the stereotypical tourists who refuse to wonder outside the plush confinements of Macy's, Soho and 5th Avenue.

I've never once felt like a tourist in NYC. That is not to say I haven't visited Macy's, The Statue of Liberty or Times Square, but the usual purpose of my visit is to see friends and family; I'm not so much concerned with the shopping or celeb spotting. Having revisited NYC on multiple occasions over the years, I've developed somewhat of a familiarity towards it. In fact, on my most recent visit last week, I hardly did anything at all except for mundane things like food shopping, a trip to the cinema and a quick browse in the mall. I loved the fact I didn't feel compelled to walk down to the Rockafella centre, get smothered by over-eager tourists and be charged astronomical prices for a standard black coffee. The only time I spent in Manhattan was a visit to Miss Lily's (click here to see the link), my new favourite kooky Caribbean restaurant.

Talking of restaurants, I have to give NYC credit for its broad variety of cuisines. No other city in the world could possibly compete; its wide-ranging cuisine is a result of its immigrant history. You name it, they've got it, and you don't even have to look far. I have to say this suits me well, for I have been cursed with an avaricious appetite. Every time I go to NYC I come back 5lbs heavier having stuffed my face with my grandma's home cooking and copious amounts of frozen yoghurt. But for all the food, shopping and entertainment NYC has to offer there is one thing that it lacks substantially (especially in comparison to London); live music shows. You would think given the fact that this city breeds countless singers, musicians and producers you'd be able to find a cosy jazz bar or a live music session where you can chill out with friends. But surprisingly there are only a small handful venues and you have to look hard. Thankfully this time I didn't have to look hard at all. On my last night in NYC I was invited to go and watch my friend perform at a live session just out of town. In the car on the way to the venue, my ‘New Yorker’ friends explained to me about the lack of live performances and how frustrating it was for underground, up and coming musicians to showcase their skills and even when such people are lucky enough to find a venue and be able to perform, they rarely get paid for it. I explained that in London these sorts of events were ubiquitous, an integral part of London's music culture and in areas such as Camden (Roundhouse), Covent Garden (Ronnie Scott's), Soho and Notting Hill you are easily able to find live shows. I personally think it’s something Londoners take it for granted, I know I do.

Reaching the venue, we took a seat and waited for our friend to perform. I was excited. Only then did it dawn on me that I'd never heard him sing properly. What a voice, Kellye Hawkins, who knew? By the time he’d sung his first line my excitement was swiftly replaced with adoration and shock. I have never been so instantly mesmerised by someone's ability to sing with such sincerity; I had goose pimples. As delighted as I was to hear him sing, it re-enforced my annoyance at the fact NYC's live music culture denies people like St.Kellye (stage name) the ability to be discovered. It’s a sin for talent like that to go unnoticed. This situation represents the fundamental irony in the romanticised idea that NYC is the "concrete jungle where dreams are made of."  The fact that NYC is widely accepted as ‘the city of discovery’ has resulted in too many hopefuls with similar dreams relocating there and as a consequence, the increased competition make their goals harder to achieve. The supply of musicians far outweighs the local demand, and standing apart from the rest takes ingenuity, talent and a colossal helping of self-belief. The city has now become so saturated with mediocre "big time" musicians it no longer bothers to seek out, create opportunities or offer budding musicians such as magnificent St Kellye a platform to advertise their extraordinary talent and accomplish their dreams. You'd be more likely to get noticed in a city like London than New York. At least there your dreams won't be trampled on by the clambering chaos of the need to succeed.

Check out St Kellye on his website here and pass the link on:  http://www.reverbnation.com/stkellye 
Remember! You heard him here first!

Faking It

Over the years I have perfected my usual routine in preparation for a night out, and in doing so I've made every effort to minimalize the time it takes me to get ready. I'm not the average 'girly girl', the kind who takes pleasure in the whole process of getting dolled up. That being said, it is probable that my pre-night preening takes more time than it does most men. My usual routine takes me from prim to pretty in just under an hour. First comes a 15 minute shower followed by a mixture of procrastination and a glass of red wine while I dry of. Then it’s a dive into my closet, and a swift outfit co-ordination. Next the make-up; a healthy flick of eyeliner and some red lipstick, or else heavy eye shadow and nude lips. Finally the hair, which if I'm feeling lazy (usually the case), ends up au natural. After a quick spritz of perfume, comes a sigh of relief as I congratulate myself for making somewhat of an effort. That is until I reach the club and it abruptly dawns on me that my finished appearance substantially falls short in comparison. The Barbie dolls put my efforts to shame; visible weaves matched with false eyelashes, fake nails, spray on tans and market jewellery. This look is commonly accompanied with some unsightly facial artwork, namely a pair of pencilled on, arched eyebrows, which ergo makes them look perpetually surprised. Saying that, I'm not sure they could even exhibit a genuine look of surprise due to their (probable) Botox injections preventing any natural expression. I often wonder how long it actually takes these kinds of women to get ready. The most puzzling thing about all this is they think they look good and incredulously some men do too.

Take my friend for example, who is one of many; an attractive, promiscuous, borderline-arrogant male, who admittedly can't get enough of the fake look. Well...that used to be the case until one day he lured a Barbie doll into his bed and she turned out to be a critter. He called me one weekend morning in a panic telling he'd found a stranger sleeping in his bed. With disbelief he quickly realised that she wasn't a stranger, but the girl he'd bedded the night before but stripped bare of any artificial enhancements, including her dentures which he spotted in a crusty heap on his bedside table. He'd looked down at the floor to find two silicone chicken fillets but was distracted by the bright orange stains on his bed sheet; her fake tan. As he was about to wake her up and tell her to go home, he glanced at her face and recoiled. Her make-up was smeared and her foundation had cracked off making her skin look ‘two-tone’ as if she had vitiligo. As he silently shuffled backwards in horror, not wanting to wake her just yet, something pricked his thigh. He peered under the covers only to find a clump of stray eyelashes now glued to his leg.  Once he’d finally got her out the house he’d taken a shower and scrubbed his penis to within an inch of its life, (he’d overreacted in thinking that she’d had plastic surgery on her labia) he sat dumbfounded, feeling ashamed and embarrassed that he’d been so easily deceived. Seeing her in her natural state had him off the fake look for life.

This unfortunate scenario is one of many examples by which men idiotically fall for smoke and mirrors.  Yes, they are partly to blame for being shallow, but they don’t deserve such levels of deception.  The whole fake look is a con. Imagine going to sleep with a beauty and waking up with a beast in all her morning glory; last night she was way out of your league, this morning you’re way out of hers.  Girls, imagine if men used all the tactics we do to bag themselves a girl; think Tom Cruise ‘elevator shoes’, sprayed on abs and padded boxers. We’d be forgiven for thinking they were a hunk when in reality they’re a midget with a flabby belly and a small penis. I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t be happy ending up with that, especially after thinking I was going home with a beefcake.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely against any form of aesthetic enhancement as I’m sure some of you may know, it’s just that some girls take the fake look too far; fake hair, nails, teeth, boobs, lips, eyelashes, they may as well be ‘made in china’. It’s simply too much.  It’s all well and good to want to make the effort and look nice, after all it’s known to boost self-esteem, but don’t alter your appearance so much that the poor guy you’ve taken home won’t recognise you in the morning; that’s just false advertising.

The Walk of Shame

It’s easy to spot them. They effortlessly stick out like a sore thumb. Frequently sporting dishevelled hair, smeared make-up, wrinkled clothes and scabby feet, and are usually sited on early weekend mornings aimlessly wondering down the street in their unfamiliar environment, high heels in hand. This occurrence can succinctly be subscribed as ‘The Walk of Shame’.

The walk of shame (wikipedia definition: where a person must walk past peers or strangers alone for an embarrassing reason before reaching a place of privacy) is rife in modern day society; of course it’s always easier to identify the culprit by their dishevelled appearance when they're a woman. Men are more likely to go about unnoticed given the fact their clothes don’t vastly fluctuate according to the occasion; jeans in the day, jeans to the club. For most women it’s usually conservative during the day and provocative at night, which leaves them in a bit of a pickle when it comes to the morning after the spontaneous night before. What woman wants to wake up feeling like shit, with a gruelling hangover in a munters bed, and with the steady realisation (and embarrassment) of last nights antics? Well…last nights antics obviously seemed like a good idea at the time. Now, the last thing we want to do is stroll round looking like a prostitute in broad daylight, unable to catch a cab home with the £3.97 that we have left in our purse while onlookers smirk at us with judgemental glares.

I was in a dreadful pickle once. As I recall it was the morning after my school leaver’s ball. I’d like to point out that on this particular occasion, my walk of shame wasn’t the result of an impetuous, burning night of passion (although part of me wishes it had been because it would have made the walk more bearable). After staggering around scraping the linings of my handbag, searching in hope for some coins to get a taxi home, my girlfriends and I drunkenly (and stupidly) thought it a marvellous idea to catch a cab with the boys and continue the fun and games back at their house. And it was fun…until I woke up the next morning and realised I had to make my way home in a skin-tight mini-dress with no make up and no money. Not wanting to walk the streets looking like a daytime hooker, I had no choice but to borrow whatever suitable clothes were available. I ended up looking like a tramp for want of a better word. As I stumbled out the house in the early hours of Sunday morning, I received looks of distain left, right and centre. The only thing that made the whole incidence more tolerable was that I was with friends, although prancing about next to them, I looked wholly inadequate. They’d neglected to tell me they’d stuffed a spare pair of clothes in their bag the night before. While they wore trainer’s, hoodies and jeans, I had no choice but to wear an ensemble of high heels matched with ankle swinging pyjama bottoms and an unsightly, vomit-stained hoodie. To top it all off I had taken the liberty of borrowing some ‘poundstretcher’ sunglasses to shield my bloodshot eyes from the light. Unfortunately for me I was still so drunk I didn’t even realise that one of the lenses had fallen out. I looked like a pirate, but nonetheless strut with panache.

After seeing me leave their house in such a state, I decided the boys wouldn’t be getting their clothes back any time soon. The embarrassment of having to return and deliver the hoodie and broken sunglasses overrode my good will. (This is usually the case when women borrow a man’s clothes the next morning to make their way home). Men, let me tell you now, if you give your clothes to her 9 times out of 10 you will not be getting them back. Ever.  If you’re a one night stand she’ll probably never want to see you again. If you’re a friend she’d be reluctant to return them for fear of reminding you of the state she was in when she left your house, preferring instead to forget that night and her ‘mish-mash’ fashion disaster/walk of shame ever happened. So a little word of advice to you; one night stand or a friend, if you ever want to see your hoodie again, don’t give it to her. There’s no need to be a gentleman and you’re not a charity shop. At any rate, if you make a frequent habit of inviting girls round to stay and let them borrow your clothes, your wardrobe will eventually be left bare.

But the plus side for men is that they aren’t forced to borrow clothes for their walk of shame. They’re not going to need a fresh pair of pants or a hoodie to cover their modesty the next morning. They know that whatever person’s house they end up in the night before, they can roll out of bed and walk home in appropriate, albeit matted, clothing. It’s no wonder they stay at people’s houses on a whim after a good night out. They can wake up and go home without the grievance of having to endure sniggers and stares from members of the public. If they get lucky and go back to a girls house the only (potential) item they’ll be needing is a condom. Women on the other hand need to predetermine the situation and stuff items in their handbag accordingly. Face wipes, make-up, trousers, spare pair of knickers and even possibly some flat shoes if there’s any room left in our bag…which ends up looking like a rucksack. I can’t speak for all women out there, but if I end up at someone’s house on a Saturday night without all of the above equipment, I will be making my way home before daylight to ensure I avoid the walk of shame at all costs. So guys, next time you’re out wooing a girl who’s reluctant to come back to yours, it may not be because she doesn’t want to stay over, it’s more likely she doesn’t want to deal with tomorrow mornings inconvenience; the walk of shame. So go back to hers.