Visual Overload

(Originally Published 17/3/2013

DISCLAIMER: When I wrote my original New York blog it was for my friends and family and my photo skills were horrible. They still are, but the difference is that now I just don’t include them.)

 

So, my threat of adding loads of pictures to my last post was hampered by the free wifi wherever I was at the time being unable to cope. So guess what? This post is going to take ages to load up and probably not be that interesting. But I think I can live with myself.

This is the man who nicely made us guacamole:

How fast do you think he got sick of me?

How fast do you think he got sick of me?

This is the end result of the guacamole-making:

How I am not yet a food photographer is beyond me.

How I am not yet a food photographer is beyond me.

This is a fairly average portion of Mexican food. Mexican food being just about the only thing we’ve eaten since we got here. There is a prize for spotting a decent portion of veggies in there. The teeny salad doesn’t count. There is a prize because I know I won’t have to put my money where my (scurvy-ridden) mouth is:

Seriously. Food Photography SKILLZ.

Seriously. Food Photography SKILLZ.

Just something I casually saw on the walk home from the Mexican. Because it was a block away from the hotel:

And it never got old.

And it never got old.

What I see on my train journey to the-company-that-must-not-be-named:

Leaving Manhattan

Looking back to NY

Some trees
The Sound

Grand Central. I get the train from here every day. That makes me super cool:

Grand Central Station

A midnight escapade to Times Square:

Only bearable between 00:00 and 06:00.

Only bearable between 00:00 and 06:00.

'Murca.

‘Murca.

Americans do not have my name, so I’m half tempted to document the interesting spellings:

We laughed then. I'm totally deedpolling that now.

We laughed then. I’m totally deedpolling that now.

Yesterday (Saturday) we went to the St. Patty’s day parade. These very cold people were waiting to begin:

13

While they do have bagpipe players in Ireland, these ones were very definitely playing the Highland fling:

Bagpipes
I know I’m old because it had started to snow at this point, and I was quite worried about these girls because they were clearly going to get cold kidneys:

Patty's Day

This was my brief moment of being in the parade, because it was snowing and we were cold, and we were crossing to find a diner:

Nicola Masters: Parade Star. Obvs.

Nicola Masters: Parade Star. Obvs.

Everyone was wearing insane outfits. This dog was spiffy and I love him.

Still better dressed than me.

Still better dressed than me.

My giant inner 30 Rock nerd was very excited to see this. And by ‘giant’ and ‘inner’, I mean ‘giant’ and ‘way too loud and willing to tell everybody’:

Wahey!

Wahey!

This is a picture. I dunno. I was in ‘tourist’ mode:

Buildings, yo.

Buildings, yo.

Ellen’s Stardust Diner was amazing. It’s staffed by aspiring Broadway stars who stand on the tables and sing. I got a little bit serenaded by our waiter, who sang part of ‘Ain’t no mountain high enough’ into my burger-filled face, and as embarrassed as I was, he was easily the best white guy ever to sing a Marvin Gaye song:

Shortly after this I got serenaded and it was horrible.

Shortly after this I got serenaded and it was horrible.

For reals. Bloody skills.

For reals. Bloody skills.

Everyone is going to hate ‘tourist mode’ Nicola. ‘Tourist mode’ Nicola doesn’t worry about such things:

Grand Central and The Chrysler Building

They even dressed the Empire State building up for St. Patty’s day:

I soon realised dressing the Empire State Building up was not unusual, so that's all good.

I soon realised dressing the Empire State Building up was not unusual, so that’s all good.

I moved into my apartment today, but that’s a whole other post because we’re waiting for dinner to arrive, and right now that feels much more important. I apologise for the amount of boring pictures but, well, I really secretly don’t.

The Selfie Saga, Part Three: Selfie Ever After

This is part two in a three-part series that is so self-obsessed I’m wondering if it’s actually almost Meta? Maybe not. Anyway, part one can be found here. Part Two can be found here. My dignity can be found nowhere.

After I printed off my selfie (It’s probably to late to start calling it a headshot, but I sure wish I’d done that)  I was still fretting about the photo I’d chosen for my exciting thing. The problem is, I was sure I knew how they’re going to use them – there was a whole load of us invited to multiple events, and they were going to lay out our pictures on a table and then move them around like they do in Britain’s Got Talent, and decide who they want to see again.

So my problem (aside from the fact that I have the capacity to overthink one tiny thing this much) was that I wasn’t happy with my face. I think I mentioned it was the one I posted on Facebook to show off my new haircut. Since it was quite drastic, the appropriate facial expression seemed to be one of modest, wide-eyed, almost innocence – as if to say ‘this really isn’t a big deal’. Because then it’s not too showy-off-y when you’re, you know, showing off. But in a ‘picking people out of a talent pool line-up’ context, it was going to look like a picture of an unsure person.

So, I spent Sunday afternoon occasionally taking photos again in the hopes of surprising myself into looking quietly confident, and definitely not like somebody who had already made three attempts to take one decent photo. Miraculously, it worked.

So, armed with new photo (also new Facebook picture because when you have one nice photograph of yourself you cling to it with all your might and they can pry it from your cold, dead fingers – whoever ‘they’ are.) I made a quick stop in the Boots closest to my work, which has five shiny photo machines, and very few idiots at not-even-8 am. Every single one was out of order.

So at lunch time I had to bus it (because it was raining and my new hair doesn’t enjoy that. Or rather, I don’t enjoy the new flicky bits it has started to form) over to the seventh circle of hell Piccadilly Circus to try for the third time.

Finally, there was success. At least, once I’d navigated past the creepy man who was standing at a machine, not printing any photos, just looking at everybody else’s. I took my three copies of my own face with a slightly different expression to the counter. The nice till man could still see what I was buying, he just didn’t know there were three of them.

Even so, he looked down at the picture, and then looked back up at me.

“Is this you?” He asked.

“That’s me.” I told him, probably quite loudly because all of my blood had rushed to my face and was pounding somewhere in my ears. It’s a massive cliché, but I definitely wanted the floor to swallow me up.

“Wow.” Was all he said.

Which I am choosing to believe was ‘wow, you look nice, and I would totally accept you if I worked on the exciting thing you need this photo for’, and not ‘Wow. You’re kind of into yourself’.

In case you’re wondering, my answer to him was somewhere along the lines of ‘flurble’. I think I had selfie exhaustion.

And so ended The Selfie Saga. I had achieved a reasonable hard copy of a photo. When I went to my exciting thing this week I did, of course, hand that picture over (and offer them unnecessary copies just to show how prepared I was) with a nonchalance that totally belied all of the bloody palaver surrounding it. But I knew, And the internet will know, the inspirational and life-altering story behind it.

Does anybody know any children in need at all? I should probably become a role model to somebody ASAP.

The Selfie Saga, Part Two: The Selfening

This is part two in a three-part series that just goes to show exactly how self-obsessed people who write blogs can be. Part one can be found here.

When I finally gave up on taking the right picture I decided to just use one I’d taken to show people my new hair, and planned to get it printed out that weekend, because I’d been putting it off for the entire previous week and had run out of time. I ended up on an unplanned trip with a friend to see a play, and there was one grotty Boots near the theatre. I left my play date (not a euphemism. We literally went to a play because we are thesps.) and ducked inside to quickly print off my photo.

At first, I thought this particular Boots was so grotty there actually wasn’t any photo machine. Why couldn’t I find the machine? Because it was hidden behind some idiots who were trying to print off 700 pictures of them standing in various bikinis on various beaches drinking various stuff out of things (pineapples, coconuts, and the like). I shouldn’t call them idiots. I’m trying to do this thing at the moment where I don’t automatically hate everybody I see, but seriously. I was still standing behind them twenty minutes later, as they discussed the individual merits of each photo and then occasionally accidentally deleted everything from their basket. It was like my tutting and foot tapping meant nothing to these people.

Eventually they walked away, and I could print off my own face several times over. I waited for the little slip for the cashier to scan, which never arrived. I stuck my hand into every available hole in that machine (wahey), hoping it would remember to give me the stupid receipt-y, slip-py thing, and it didn’t. So I went to the counter without it.

I told the man at the counter that I had three prints and, like a diligent employee, he wanted to check. So I handed them over and had no choice but to stand there and take the shame as he flipped through the three copies of my own face. After that, it turned out that he actually didn’t know how to let me pay for them without a slip, and called over his colleague. She had a look at the three copies of the same selfie. She didn’t know how to do it either.

Seven employees later I was able to pay. I wasn’t – and I’m still not – sure exactly how many people really needed to be involved, but the staff of Boots taught me a valuable lesson that day, which is that if you’re going to pay money to print out several copies of your own face, you have to be willing to admit that to several people wearing white tabards.

This is part two in a three-part series exploring how self-obsessed I can really get. We’ve only just started plaumbing those depths, believe me.

The Selfie Saga, Part One

I have been causing myself trouble. Or, more correctly, my selfies have been causing me trouble. And not in any of the ways one would usually assume that a selfie could cause trouble.

I had an exciting thing to go to recently, which required me to come armed with a photo of myself. I took roughly 1000 in the lead-up to try and find one that exuded ‘no, honestly, you do want me to be involved in your really cool thing because I am brainy and a promising talent, but also quite attractive and quietly confident and just generally all around very good people’.

My phone is very perceptive – and/or terrifyingly close to being sentient – and sometimes does this thing called ‘Auto Awesome’, which I have no idea how to control. It pretty much just means that my phone notices when I’ve taken a lot of photos of a thing – case in point, my own face – and edits them in fun ways that it thinks I’ll be into. This week, my phone decided to make a nine-frame collage of my face as well as a GIF. A GIF of me pulling selfie faces. As if to say ‘Well, this is obviously what you want, you self-obsessed knob.’

 

Andy Warhol eat your heart out.

Andy Warhol eat your heart out.

I do not know in what world I thought any of these faces was appropriate.

I do not know in what world I thought any of these faces was appropriate.

Is there a way to explain what’s happening to a phone? I feel like somewhere in the world there’s a really bored Android software developer who is seeing this stuff and judging me. I judge me too. However, I refuse to delete things like this because it is shame I deserve.

But anyway. This is just one in a long line of selfie-based trauma. Tune in tomorrow!

My Kingdom For Some Vegetables

(Originally published 15/3/2013)

I’m still alive in New York. Although at this point it’s worth mentioning that I’m basically in the danger zone for scurvy and obesity. The food here is insane. It’s quite an achievement really, to be able to create platefuls that size and at no point include anything green. Still, I’m not really complaining. The only people who will are the ones who have to look at me in a few months if this carries on. I’m therefore very excited that we move into our flats on Sunday and I can resume normal activities like running, and eating an occasional apple. Aah. It’s the simple things.

On the last night before work we went out to get Mexican food (my third in as many meals, just FYI) and it was great. A nice man made guacamole at our table – which was both lovely and guilt inducing, since I’ve now seen how quick and easy it is and I still have no intention of doing it for myself – and then we ate said guacamole alongside many other nice things which, as mentioned, did not include those newfangled veggie things. Those who did not have work in the morning drank margaritas, and a good time was had by all.

Me? I had to get up at 5am the next day to meet the girl I’m replacing at work. It was a very overwhelming day (not helped by the fact that I didn’t properly wake up until lunchtime), but I got through it and I think (hope) I’m slowly getting better.

I’m going to try not to make this too work-orientated, on account of the fact that the company-that-must-not-be-named had me sign a very long non-disclosure agreement, alongside my ‘welcome to our company’ fingerprinting, drug test, and FBI clearance checks. However, suffice it to say that even though it’s hard, I have a pet fish, and a laugh, and those are not bad things.

Every day I’ve been walking up and down fifth avenue, past the Empire State building, and thinking ‘fuck me sideways, I can’t believe I live here’. Unless my parents are reading this, in which case I think nothing except the most polite and ladylike things.

I still have no internet of any proper kind so I’m using an app on my phone for this. The pictures below include the feted guacamole, my new local landmark, my new ‘home’ station (Grand Central) and my beautiful, sunrise-y train journey.

Pics to follow, but the freebie wifi can’t handle it.

 

 

Of Swift And Sandwiches

I work in Celeb-land.

I also exaggerate sometimes, because, actually, I work in a normal (albeit nice) office which just happens to be close to a super-renowned, super-expensive hotel, which is where a lot of famous people stay. The paparazzi hang around a lot, and occasionally they get really excited.

I went out to get lunch last week, and that was exactly what was going down when I got back, fish finger sandwich in hand. I don’t usually pay it much mind, because I often haven’t heard of the famous person being hounded, so I was about to go inside to enjoy my delicious sandwich while it was still hot. But then one of my colleagues came up to me.

“Nicola. It’s Taylor Swift.”

“Fuck off.”

T Swift is kind of my role model. I mean, she’s not really, but she’s the same age as me so I sometimes hold her up as an example. By which I mean I will sit in front of the TV in my dressing gown and a sprinkling of toast crumbs and say ‘Nicola, Taylor Swift got Apple to back down, you can probably get dressed’, ‘Taylor Swift wrote a whole bunch of albums which are all you want to listen to ninety per cent of the time, I’m pretty sure you can get off your arse and write a couple of jokes’, or even ‘Taylor Swift sings about wearing red lipstick, you should probably try that’, which is a bad example, because I then just look a bit shit if I don’t also have T Swizzle’s makeup artist to apply and then constantly fix it for me.

Anyway, Tay. Exciting times.

We waited around for the next twenty minutes, as my sandwich went soggy. We waited, and waited. We got more and more impatient. A car was waiting, exactly in line with the door to the hotel. The exit was thronged with teenage girls. The paps kept testing their cameras. We were all primed.

Then, it happened.

Kim Kardashian rushed out, climbed into the waiting land rover, and was whisked away, chased by the paparazzi, who are, incidentally, terrifying.

I’ve never felt so betrayed by Kim Kardashian. I’ve actually never had any feelings about Kim Kardashian at all, so that was new.

And with that, the excitement was over. I went back to my office, sat down at my desk, and tucked into what was, by then, a bag of cold mush.

Kim, if you are reading this – and I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t be – you owe me a damn fish finger sandwich.

Just A Quickie

(Originally published 12/3/2013)

Just a quick post to say that I am, indeed, alive and kicking. Although I’m trying to at least not kick anyone too important.

The first couple of days here have been orientations – basically lots of talks by people about things that should mainly be common sense, but that maybe we all needed to hear. Highlights of orientations have included a policeman telling us we shouldn’t be intimidated by the NYPD while clearly wearing a gun, and a ‘dictionary’ in the back of our handbook, which has included such gems as the ones in the picture.

There you go, folks. That mysterious ‘math’ Americans go on about? It’s maths! Don’t we feel stupid?

I’m being glib, but it made me laugh. Anyway, I’m safe and well, and bumming free wifi wherever possible until I move in to my flat and get actual regular internet.

An example of my deep cultural learnings.

An example of my deep cultural learnings.

 

 

Chillin’ At The Bus Stop

This morning I had a dilemma. I was waiting for a bus, as I so often am, and it was late. It was, like, really late. It’s actually late a lot. I’ve been threatening to write strongly-worded letters for a couple of months now, but since I’m not 70 years old and since I still have a life (albeit one where I’m constantly running late for stuff because buses) I haven’t.

ANYWAY.

I was waiting for the bus.

We’re in that awkward time of year now where it’s sort of supposed to be summer, but it’s sort of definitely not that warm. If you happen to be standing in the sunshine in some kind of miraculous ditch that is sheltered from all breezes and also probably covered by the comfy London pollution blanket, then it could probably pass. Otherwise, I still think it’s questionable.

A couple of nights ago I spent a long time in the foyer of my office (for work reasons, nothing weird) and I noticed that most of the women leaving had bare legs. Since I am a massive sheep and I only ever do things when someone else has done them first I decided the time was right for me to do the same. #Summer.

So, the next day, I didn’t wear tights. Fortunately I still had a pair in my desk because whoever controls the air conditioning where I work wants everybody to die of hypothermia. I lasted about 4 hours, which I was proud of, like one of those people who jump into holes in the ice in the Arctic. But eventually it was time for me to wrap myself in a metaphorical foil blanket, and some actual, physical emergency desk tights, and calm the eff down with my ideas that it might already be summer.

So, if I hadn’t mentioned it, this morning I was waiting for the bus.

About 3 minutes into my wait I got chilly. It was cloudy, and breezy, but Carol Kirkwood had promised me I was going to be warm, and the bus was already past due, so I stuck it out.

About 5 minutes in, I regretted that.

About 7 minutes in, I started contemplating whether to duck behind a wheely bin and quickly pull on my emergency desk tights, which I happened to have with me after I wore them home yesterday (What? I only wore them for an afternoon. They probably didn’t need washing yet.). There was a policeman parked over the road, and for a split second I even thought maybe I could ask him if I could duck behind his car to ‘tight up’. After all, if they have to let pregnant women pee in their helmets, surely they have to help out silly girls who made bad outfit choices too.

The wait for the bus ended up being half an hour, and I spent most of it hopping from foot to foot (in an ‘I’m cold’ kind of way, not like I needed the loo or anything) telling myself ‘OK, I’ll duck behind a hedge and put my tights on now. Ok…. Now. No, now.’ I was paranoid the bus was going to turn up mid-tights-application, and so I never took the leap.

I think me talking about ‘taking the leap’ sounds like I’m trying to be quite profound, so at this juncture let’s not lose sight of the fact that I am literally talking about jumping behind a dustbin.

So, tights-amundo. We’ll try again in a fortnight.

Happy Friday!

Shipping Out

(Originally published 9/3/2013)

I love London. I’ve been in and out of the city my entire life. It’s the kind of place where every time you turn a corner there’ a memory. For me, at least. They’re usually not even big or particularly important memories. Just simple things that made me smile at the time. Many of these can be found in the interactive* map.

About once every five years I can draw. It's not looking good til 2018.

About once every five years I can draw. It’s not looking good til 2018.

*Map is not in the least bit interactive.

I walk through London at night, watching tourists taking photos of themselves next to red double decker busses, and inside the red phoneboxes they’ve just discovered are all plastered in photos of naked hookers, and I kind of can’t believe I live so close to somewhere with such a buzz around it.

I like nothing more than walking to a tube stop that’s unnecessarily far away just so I can stare into bars that are too fancy, and restaurants I’ll never afford, and posh hotels they’ll never let me in to because I can’t be trusted near crystal chandeliers and there’s one in every room.

And that’s not to mention places I actually can visit – places I’ve worked, and hung out with friends and family, and laughed, and had fun, and stayed out too late, and eaten too much, and spent too much, and queued for hours with weirdos (of which I obviously am not one) to see the people I most admire.

But I don’t think I’ll miss it.

The fact is, that even though there’s so much for me in London, I’m getting the opportunity to do it all over again in New York. I already have a few memories and favourite places over there. It’s a paltry handful in comparison to what I have on this side of the Atlantic, but it’s something. And I have an entire year to build on that and make a bunch of new memories with new people. It’s basically a blank page and I’m soexcited to fill it in.

Sitting here the day before I leave feels weird. This has all happened so fast that I haven’t had a chance to really register that it’s all happening. I’m still not sure that I’m not going to wake up in the morning and someone’s going to jump and say “Early April Fools!” and I’ll have to go back to the job I was so happy to leave. I’m also waiting to remember at a key moment that I’ve forgotten to do something really important and obvious in my rush.  Everyone’s been so nice, and so understanding and supportive, and I’m so grateful to you all  – I’ve spent the past fortnight saying goodbye (albeit temporarily) to everyone in my life, which is sad. But, ultimately, I’m going on one heck of an adventure and I’m optimistic that that’ll make up for it.  It’s a huge burden to expect one city to live up to all of my expectations, but if anywhere can do it, New York can.

So here we bloody well go!

 

 

You’re Canapé For That

I hate events that involve canapés. As a person whose job sometimes involves being around them, I’m often very uncomfortable.

This week I had to work at a few events involving waiters with pointlessly little bits of weird food on trays, and I had to pretend to have a professional opinion. It’s never a good thing when people want me to have any opinion, let alone a professional one.

The kitchen was a hive of activity. The event manager was stressed, the waiters were stressed, the guests expected a high-quality service of high quality fare. The first thing I did was giggle when a nice man offered me one of his salted caramel balls. That nice man looked at me weirdly.

Shortly afterwards I was given a piece of tuna on a stick. On closer inspection the stick wasn’t stick, it was a pipette. The pipette was full of stuff, and I was required to do things with it. I’m not 100% sure what the stuff in the pipette was, because I had a minor stress blackout at that point. Some kind of sauce. And the sauce had to be squeezed into the seafood.

A tuna - lets just shove a piping bag up its arse and call it a full meal.

A tuna – lets just shove a piping bag up its arse and call it a full meal.

I grabbed the tuna with my bare fingers, and squeezed. Sauce went literally everywhere. I saw the waiter’s eyes twitch when it splattered all over his shoes, but he just smiled patiently, and wearily told me that ‘you were supposed to squeeze the sauce once it was in your mouth’. Now there’s a chat up line and a half.

It’s a weird day when you realise that people probably think you were badly brought up because you don’t know how to eat a lump of fish off of a piece of lab equipment.

On the way out of the kitchen I was offered a waiter’s last salted caramel ball. I giggled.

Nobody looked surprised any more.