Monday, 31 December 2012

BEADS SKIS! Week Five: bruises and snoozes, mostly...

We got the afternoon off on Christmas day, and so it was spent dancing on tables at the Follie Deuce and buying bottles of rose at 40 Euros a pop. Ouchy. Loud DJs, tons of people, Santas everywhere; it was fab. To get into the spirit (/look like a mug) I decorated my helmet in the bows and ribbons from my presents I'd opened earlier. The selotape did a good job (though I wasn't skiing fast enough for them to fall off).
Around 4pm I deteriorated and was very very very drunk all of a sudden. En route to the cable car (ALONE - everyone else was able to ski down, just about) I fell splat on my wrist and was adamant I'd broken it (obvs very dramatic) and my skis clunked on top of me and I whinged a lot to my new French friends I made on the way down.

After a small sleep (not a passing-out) and two types of pasta I felt OK again and we watched the fireworks and the ESF light display down the Face which was ace. My wrist was strapped up into a Lady Gaga/Madonna-esque claw with more black electric tape and we continued the evening.

A strange but awesome Christmas day, and when I woke up on Boxing day I was COVERED in bruises. So mysterious.

The days between Christmas and New Year are always odd, but here it's odder. We have been super ridic busy and have just got on with our early mornings and long shifts. Christmas week passed so quickly with my lovely family, but this week I have another lovely lot to cook and clean for. Yes, my alarm is set for 6.10am but I finish a little earlier which means more time for morning naps as well as afternoon naps!!!? YAY NAPS.

Oh yeah, skiing stuff. Um. Well I went skiing on my own the other day and that was good because I didn't fall over at all and I finished the run on a high with a big grin on my face feeling like a pro. That was the end of skiing for the day though because I wanted to end on a high.

No skiing today because I'm napping and tonight is New Year's Eve so I need a nap. Yep.

My hand is stained black. Not from the electric tape, I'm hoping. where it's cracked and dry something has absorbed itself into my skin and now it won't get out - not even with white spirit. Yes I put white spirit on my cracked dry dying hand skin. GREAT IDEA.


Monday, 24 December 2012

BEADS SKIS! Week Four: I go off piste, I get piste, and try to be adopted. Oh yeah, and apparently it's Christmas?

What day is it?

At some point this week I went out and drank a lot.

At some point this week I had another lesson with Laurent and it was going fine and then I went over some mounds, screamed, then ended up front flipping several times into the powder with both skis lost in neck deep snow. Laurent gave me a Mars bar so I was OK... but yes, that was the end of the lesson and I went back down the mountain in the cable car and in a huff. I hate not being good at stuff. STILL.

I have a new family to cater for this week and they're lovely. Hooray! When I cleaned their apartment before their arrival I got walkie-talkied (yes, I have a walkie-talkie!) about a tree delivery. For a moment I was like WTF a delivery for an indoors tree!? This family must be mega earthy. Then I realised OH YES IT IS CHRISTMAS IN A MINUTE. All the days merge into one and it is weird and there is no Mariah or Noddy Holder playing anywhere. It's Christmas Eve and I just cooked a tuna pasta bake.

About half of the guys who work here have family visiting which is nice because they're all smiley. The other half of us have some expensive wine to drink (left to us as a tip last week), a beautiful massive panetone and some Nutella so YEAH I think we all know who's got the better deal. Ha! My housemate has offered to adopt two of us as family as hers are here, though we're quite content with each others' family-esque company as is. It's not surprising how close you get to the people you spend all of your time (and space) with.

Anyway, happy Christmas and all that. I'll be up at 6.30am tomorrow with a baguette under one arm and a bag of pain au chocolats in the other hand, looking forward to opening my post and presents from friends and fam once I'm finished hoovering the pine needles and toast crumbs from my clients' living space.

I have taped up my split knuckles with black electric tape. Festive.

Joyeux Noel! x

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

BEADS SKIS! Week Three: Hosting, boasting and toasting

Breakfast hosting is my favourite. Bar the initial stress and eeshk of waking up pre 7am and then speed walking to the cash and carry and bakery in a horizontal blasting snow blizzard, it's actually quite good fun. You just have to watch out for the mega snow ploughs and piste bashers as the sun rises and sprint in the opposite direction whilst carrying pastries et une baguette. Luckily all the clients have been lovely though and as long as you poach your eggs right it's easy peasy! I'm currently catering for a little princess who requests princess eggs every morning - luckily they're just the same as boiled.

Val is now packed full of noisy lairy students and so when you suggest going out for 'a quiet one' it never quite goes to plan. They all think seasonnaires are dead cool - and of course you lap it up - if only they knew how long I'd scrubbed a loo for that morning. I think I'm finally adjusting to alcohol at altitude though. Bonus.

My diet now includes a variety of stale bread - toasted, plus 2x yoghurts a day. This has become the norm for all residents of our apartment. We're all addicted. Since I've got over my bug I have been filling every spare minute with eating which is fun.

Breakthrough: for the first time in my life I am able to nap! I believe this is because I'm always knackered from work, not because I'm becoming lazy. A mid-afternoon nap is now a necessity in order to survive the late shift.

I have been skiing. Thankfully I have another lesson on Thursday with Laurent who is the best. He has told me to meditate down the mountain: repeating 'aum', breathing deeply and trusting my skis. Righto.

The snow keeps falling and it's been a whiteout the past few days - obvs can't ski when it's like that as my goggles are for sunshine ONLY… (defo can't borrow anyone elses…) I tried a couple of runs and it was like skiing in a cloud of constant white terribleness. I (will) LOVE SKIING. Promise.

It is our staff Christmas dinner this evening which should be good fun. I will be dressing up as festively as possible, using all the decorations we have in our room because I LOVE CHRISTMAS.


Stop press: it's the day after the night before! Our Christmas meal was delish - such a treat to have a sit down three course meal. Naturally we are all horrendously hungover today having followed the evening through to 6am but a few hours skiing has helped our heads and cleared the fuzziness. Such gorgeous weather today - not too cold and blissful sunshine. I love days off. I feel great.

I had 200g Milka for breakfast.
I have a glass splinter in my finger.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

BEADS SKIS! Week two: Multiple near-death/feeling-like-death experiences not related to avalanches

Note: I'm writing this whilst really ill and PISSED OFF.

No, we haven't had a day off yet.

Yes, I've spent a fortune on food (Milka) and drink (vodka). My diet is basically Milka, cheese, bread, vodka and different varieties of Milka.

I've experienced my first hangover at altitude which is basically quadruple the non-fun and I look like death on a stick.

Our first day of skiing was so beautiful but then I fell down and remembered I'm scared of skiing so I'm having a lesson with Laurent tomorrow. Cool.

All knuckles are split open and bleeding and when I rub my fingers together I make my own skin-textured musical sandpaper instrument.
A dude gave me a high five because my jacket is sick. So that was good.
My average poll age is 20, though given the past few days I reckon it's increased tenfold. Yep, I look 200 years old. *Reaches for Milka.....*

BEADS SKIS! Week One: I live in a box and I might die

'Here's your accommodation - it's cosy!'
Cosy is a word I use for when I'm on the sofa curled up in a ball reading some trashy magazine about some trashy celeb I know nothing about whilst the fire's blazing and I have a blanket and a fat cushion. Cosy is not a teeny one room apartment that combines the kitchen/diner/bedroom adjoined with a shoebox double-bunk room attached to a bathroom that is potentially bigger than bunk room.
There are 4 of us sharing and I am lucky enough to have the bottom bunk in the shoebox room. As I laid down for the first time I stared into the eyes of a young Scandinavian-looking boy as his passport photo stared back at me - a previous seasonnaire had stuck it upon the bed panels last season. Fitty! He's our lucky mascot.

Our apartment is located across one of the main pistes which means sprinting down an indluating hill to get to work - though this also means trying to get up it after you've gone out for a few beers. Difficult.

Our induction consisted of being warned that we may die, mostly. Not whilst hosting- when skiing. We are now very avalanche aware.

Cleaning is hard work. By the third day of cleaning I think that I will die from inhaling polish or Anti-Cal - the 50% bleach cleaner. Plus there's so much wooden furtniture that we are practically doing lines of polish. EeeeEEeee!

The drinks are extortionate and food is too.

We have been practicing our cooking for the past couple of days and that has been a lovely break from dust and grime and duvets. I baked a batch of flapjacks and a carrot cake - at altitude - which basically means you disregard the recipe and add hell loads of oil and butter and stuff and stir until the consistency seems OK, whack it in the oven and pray for the best. Doing this, by the way, alone and in an empty chalet, against the clock. Praying works! Oh, but carrying it a mile back to the office through a -19 blizzards with it wrapped in a tea towel is quite hard. My mascapone topping was squished and slimy but the cake beneath was delish. SO PROUD OF MASELF.

My nails and knuckles are split and I have a splinter.
Danish boys are creepy and whisper creepy Danish stuff in your ear when you're trying to enjoy a Baileys.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Race report: Run to the Beat

Last Sunday I ran my first half-marathon. 5 degrees and a chilly wind meant that even after initial cursing (f f f f-ing freezingggg) it was OK to run in.

Waiting for the start with my fellow penners, I found that crouching conserved warmth and heated the air around me in a little swirl of goodness. Once we were off I started a little fast, I thought, but then I just kinda kept going a little fast...

There was a hill around mile 5 - a short, sharp, steep hill. The bugger killed me! Soon after that was another hill - longer this time. I was fed up with people overtaking me at that point so I got my glutes into gear and did better.

Pre-race my friend and I (mostly my friend) had done some maths to work out where I realistically and optimistically should be at the 1hr mark. Looking at my watch I was speedier than the optimism! WOOP! I knew the course from then on was a lot flatter and hoped my legs would keep pace.

I was looking forward to getting into Greenwich Park after a couple of boring residential miles 9 to 10. The only motivation through there were kids shouting 'TRICK OR TREAT?' which was just odd and actually not motivational at all. On the approach sporadic spectators turned into small groups which got bigger and bustling. I knew my sister was going to be somewhere near so instead of listening to the lactic acid in my legs, I focused on craning my neck around corners and searched for a familiar face.

I spotted her, and saw that mum was there too. When I ran the British 10k earlier in the year, the pissing rain made my eyes sting so much I could barely see the puddly pavement in front of me, let alone the spectators on the sidelines. That time, neither of us saw one another which was a real shame - it was a pretty miserable race. Even if you know someone's out there rooting for you, it's not really the same if you don't see them en route. So this time when I saw them I couldn't have been happier and I waved like a weirdo and skipped and jumped and grinned like a fool and pretended I wasn't hurting.

The DJ stages through the park were ace - the music carried a whole lot better than the other littler ones throughout the course and the bigger speakers allowed for some heavy bass. Around mile 4 I remember hearing Chelsea Dagger by The Fratellis (which was annoying and made me run faster to get away from it), but other than that I can't name anything else they played. I was just 'in the moment', obvs.

It got to mile 11 and I thought it was mile 10, so when it got to 12 I thought it was mile 11 etc. I was very confused and my left foot had crazy pins and needles. I looked at my watch which was a TERRIBLE idea because I started trying to do maths again and goddammit I was lost in a ridiculous mind fuzz for about half a mile.

Then there was loads of people on either side of me and they were saying 'NOT LONG LEFT! KEEP GOING!' But how long is not long!? I tried to ask my fellow runners but some were puffing and panting so hard they didn't even respond - bit rude, but I forgave them.

A few seconds later I saw the bloody finish banner in the distance. I was gutted! I thought I had at least another mile to speed up and finish strongly but had in fact been going at a snail's pace on the finishing straight. How embarrassing. I decided to stop being lame and managed a nifty sprinty 200m and crossed the line not knowing whether my left foot was attached or not but I did not care. Big smile, big relief and a decent time.

I'll be running more half-marathons.

Monday, 29 October 2012


The days are shorter and the cold draws in, shoulders hunch and you catch yawns off sleepy passers by who remind you you're sleepier too.* As your summer freckles fade and you delve into those bottom drawers for opaque tights, there's a little change in everyone.

For me, it seems that this time of year always gives me a good kicking - puts things into perspective and encourages me to do something different. This time last year I was in Nepal halfway through a jungle. Soon, I'll be leaving my job and escaping to the sparkly snow of Val d'Isere for 6 months to do a ski season as a chalet girl. It's been another one of those decisions where I've had to be brave, and selfish. Who's going to cook the Christmas dinner here for 11, hmm? 

What I am certain of is that this is the time to do it. I have no 'real' commitments: I'm not ready to launch my career, I'm not really tied to anyone - for once - and although my puppy will miss me I think he'll probably find solace in the fact he can sneak onto my bed and sleep there every single night if he fancies it. By 'real' I guess I mean 'grown-up', which is something I've tried to be for a few years when perhaps I shouldn't have. What a dumbo!

My friends are so happy and excited for me, and partly I think that's because they didn't expect it. When I came out of school, and then uni, everyone thought I'd go get a super cool job and just 'do well'. Although my work experience is becoming more varied than a bag of pick n' mix I certainly don't think that's a bad thing. Firstly, I'm in no hurry to make megabucks, or dive into a job I could pretend to half-love. Secondly, I've gained so many skills and have learnt so much from my previous placements - both long and short - and there's not one break in my CV. Oh, and people keep telling me i'm 'STILL young' which is good. I wonder when I become un-young...

So I'm going to go out there, get fat from delicious bread and cheese, age my face 20 years and probably get terrible skin courtesy of beer, clean grossness out of strangers' fridges and bathrooms, learn to cope with hangovers at altitude, speak French and get half-decent at skiing. Super combo!

Heaven knows how big my thighs are going to get with all that skiing/boarding. I may as well head straight to the velodrome on my return. Hoy-esque!

I look over the last 6 months and few things stand out: surfing in Fuertaventura, Latitude festival and cheeky holidays to Amsterdam and Portugal. In amongst those awesome bits is simply a blur of impatient, angry, grey bodies barging me out of the way to get to a train seat; a white walled office and an uncomfortable seat for 8 hours a day; the ridiculous tempo of footsteps that only London walkers seem to abide by; 9-5!

Time to ditch the monotony and get gnarlyyyyyy.

*Last week I caught a yawn and passed it on to 5 other people down the carriage! Absolute contagion.

Saturday, 7 July 2012


At the beginning of the year I joined a running club at work. Prior to that, I simply ran for the hell of it. Usually because I'd eaten a whole cake the day before, or something. I'd never taken it seriously, nor particularly enjoyed it. Heckles and beeps from builders and white van men were not taken in my stride* and would result in a speedy change of direction en route.

I was mega self-conscious about everything; from my wonky running style to my patchy beetroot face. I've never been particularly unfit due to playing team sports pretty regularly for years, so the actual process of running wasn't a strain, but the effort to motivate myself to exercise alone was always a huge struggle and a hinderance. I did it to feel less guilty; not to feel good. Boo hiss!

So after a few weeks at run club, I signed up for a 10 mile race in my hometown, the British 10k, and Run to the Beat half-marathon. As you do.

I built up my miles steadily every week and couldn't believe that I managed to complete the 10 mile race in under an hour and a half which was my super optimistic aim. I knew from team experience that hard-work and training pays off, but it was funny to hold that achievement alone - knowing that it was only my pumping heart and big old legs were responsible.

Tomorrow is the British 10k and I am nervous. I have decided that it is the worst distance invented because:
  • I am not very good at pacing myself and have refused to buy an expensive snazzy watch to aid this
  • The only timed training I've done is at run club and is for a 1k distance which is always a full pelt verging-on-collapse spectacle
  • When I run at home I always run to miles, not kilometres. Also, I am very very bad at maths, yet my brain insists on constantly trying to figure out miles/k's sums in my head whilst running. Why? WHY!? Luckily it usually makes me run faster to get home to a calculator so that is one plus point

Not helping myself here am I.

Whatever. So in technical terms, 6.2miles is just that bit too far to run - what I like to call - 'proper fast' the whole way around. And so when I cross that start line tomorrow I expect I will be in excitable crazy sprint mode for a couple of miles/however many kilometres that is. Friggin loving life! Then my lungs will shout and complain and crumple. Maybe my knee will pester me too with its never-ending niggle. I'll get through it though because I am a stubborn mule, and with Heather Small singing 'Proud' before the off, I can hardly let her, or myself down. A bellowing 'WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TODAY...?' will echo in my ears, and when I cross the finish line I will most likely fall over but that is a mere technicality to end this technical analysis. 

Many people have been wonderful and donated their hard-earned dollar$ to aid my chosen charity, the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. I want to smash it for them too. Thank you x

I wouldn't say that since January I've taken my running more seriously - I still skip around during training and get the giggles when my lungs are heaving. My attitude has changed though, and I do enjoy it. I look forward to going out in the drizzle or the baking heat in my stupid clashing colours and mega t-shirts. I embrace the beetroot look, and I'm not embarrassed about being wonky and wibbly. I know that I can run bloody far one day and then eat tons of food and get up the next day with maybe an ache here and there but be like 'Cool. I did that. Just me! Wahoo!'

*massive pun

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Me vs Jeans

I remember my first pair of jeans. They were electric blue, from Gap kids, and had an elasticated waist with a fake zipper and big button. I wore them every weekend with either my Gap hoodie or Next hoodie. One day the button fell off: devastating! That signalled the end of my tom-boy era, I think.

Years later, my love of hoodies and elasticated waists has not faltered, though I have adjusted my everyday preferences slightly: hoodies and body-con skirts (grown-up, heavily restrictive but still elastic-esque I suppose), though more favourably, hoodies and pyjama bottoms.

Unfortunately, I can't wear pyjamas to work, or anywhere outside really. Airports are OK. However, when I wore them out to the Co-Op I might as well have been wearing a Tulisa name-badge judging from the looks I got. Normally, I wouldn't really mind looking like FHMs sexiest, but this year my fave magazine* failed hard, and the looks I got were representative of that. Chavtastic.

Here's the thing: I need jeans because they are useful! I wish I didn't and they weren't.

My search for good jeans never ends. It sporadically 'ends' in tears, or with a miserable pricey purchase.

I've always had shape to my legs - by shape, I mean thunder thighs and muscly calves - and since the sad departure of my grubby jeans in my grubby kiddy era, I have had to cope with the nightmare of trying to find ones that, well, kind of fit my adult figure. Whatabitch.

In contrast to my legs and bum, my waist is small small. So I have this choice to make when I do buy jeans:

1) Tight tight tight tight tight eeeeeshk tight - then have a huge gaping gap at the base of my back. DRAUGHTY.

2) Tight tight TIGHT - pause - tight tiiiiight OMG TIGHT shit too tight shit shit - then frantically peel off like a molty molting snake and then get them stuck on heels and feet and then tread on alternate leg of jean and wobble and crash into mirror and try to fling and flick them off whilst blood circulation returns to thighs.


Before you dare suggest that ghastly JEGGING invention, I'll stop you and say NO they don't work either. Still super gapey and no loopholes for a belt- rubbish. Plus the name repulses me.

So, jean-makers. I wonder if you could make a pair of jeans which are pretty cool, can fit over the legs I actually need to be competitive in what I do and that I've worked hard for, and don't cause me severe physical and emotional trauma. Also, I don't want to flash my pants. I've heard that 7 For All Mankind may be the brand to provide the resolution to my conundrum, but ffs they're over £200.

Whatever, I'm getting back in my pjs.


Friday, 16 March 2012

The Cpine

When I'm travelling anywhere, most likely I'll see the majority of people thumb-smacking their phone keys, swiping a swish swizzle on their iPads, holding a Kindle (woe), or maybe just reading a book or the paper.

We become so engrossed in these activities that our spine suffers: contorting and stiffening while our focus remains with what's held in our hands, our gaze rarely becomes distracted, with our ears plugged in and attached like reins. Our necks lengthen and pull forward away from our bodies.

Where once we stood tall, it seems we are crumpling and creating a shape for ourselves which is unnatural, unattractive, and unhealthy.

Sat on the tube one day, beside me is a man playing a first-person shooter game on his PSP. Volume at full blast, really into it, cursing when he gets shot to pieces etc. Lovely! Sitting beside one another he looks half the height of me. His head barely reaches the level of my shoulder. As he gets up to leave the train, he's at least 6ft. I presume that on every journey his seating position is much the same as he divulges in the luxury of being shot to pieces in virtual reality.

Sat on the train another day I'm opposite a man with an iPad on his lap, thrashing away at some email that obviously determines his life or death in actual reality. Irritatingly, he keeps knocking my knees. He procedes to move his face closer and closer to the device as his anger builds, thus moving his face nearer my lap. Just no. I got up and stood for the rest of the journey while he continued to finger punch his tablet of fate.

We are all guilty of slouching. Heck, I love a good lounge! How comforting it is to slump and sink sometimes. But what is so worrying is the shape in which we are forcing our bodies into for hours and hours a day; at our desks, as we travel, as we sit: a big capital 'C'. Our skulls weigh a ton - sometimes you might've been bored and tried to weigh it by making yourself all relaxed and letting it fall onto your palm? Just me? Whatever. Imagine the strain your back is under trying to hold up that beastly boulder!

I don't remember 'hunchback' ever being the norm. Yet as I look over at young children holding an iPad in both hands, cross-legged and staring into the alluring screen trying to catapult a rabid bird into some domino house made of gold-encrusted bamboo poo sticks - their spine has no purpose. It's unset jelly, slowly and surely growing naturally into that curve.

As you sit, remember your spine. As you stand, remember your spine. As you bury yourself in your Kindletron or get wrapped up in your iPad (both physically impossible, may I add. With a real book you can actually bury your head in it. Have tried; have succeeded.) just remember that yeah, you are bendy, but never take for granted that you have the option to curl up and be a slinky OR stand tall and straight.

It'll be so much harder to straighten yourself up and out than succumb to setting in the jelly mould of a capital 'C'.  

Saturday, 4 February 2012



My blog-writing style combines sitting, looking, tea-making, staring, glaring, cursor-moving, cursing, deleting, deleting more, etc. Not a good combo and hence why there has been so little content on the Kactus Plant for some time. However, I have tried to kick my lazy brain into gear to write a little post on a few things that were important for me in 2011.

Coming back from Nepal I had 4000 Nepalese Rupees to my name, BUT it's a closed currency so I couldn't exchange them at Delhi airport or anywhere back home; making me a penniless fool. Instead of seeking out the black market, I tried my very hardest to find a job. Every day I applied for goodness knows how many and by the middle of the second week I'd bagged one at a media agency.

Applying for jobs makes you weary, and you forget who you are when you've looked at your CV one thousand million times and your name just looks wrong and hideous and you come to the conclusion that all fonts are UGLY. One bonus is that you know every synonym for the word 'responsible' and also 'also'. Sign up to all the agencies, talk to all your contacts and take advice from your friends; something always comes along in the end. Even if it isn't perfect, it's something.

Hair cut
I lopped off about 30cm of my hair last year. Felt good. It's nice to chop off something long and dead and the hairdresser will LOVE you. Double-whammy.

Saying 'yes' usually has means good things happen, and if they don't then at least you can just run away and say you tried it.

See previous post here on being an adventurer.

Being brave
Intrinsically linked to the above, being brave is all encompassing. (And now I'm getting lazy...)

Solves all problems. Always. (That's being truthful and to the point, not lazy...)

I read a lot last year, though this was partly due to the fact I had a little too much spare time on my hands and books therefore in my hands. I have the hench new Murakami novel to read at some point but I know I'm going to have to take a few weeks out to dissect it all. There's nothing better to escape reality and plug into a wonderful fiction. I love sub-plots and unicorns.

Ok so that's one post done for 2012. Insightful. Hopefully a few more will follow and I'll stop being so lazy.