Monday, 29 August 2011

Pandas... fashion icons or fashion victims?

A lot happened last week, people. Work was actually a bit more insane than I care to take it. Plus the coffee machine broke down (and don’t even get the started on the fact that we have just one coffee machine to caffeinate an office of over 500 people). It rained. I saw my lovely friend Kate. I saw my lovely boyfriend. I frequented a new frozen yoghurt establishment. I watched Twilight.

So, sure, not a week to rival the coast of North East America for newsworthiness (earthquake, hurricane, big love to all my friends in the yankee states). But an eventful week nonetheless. And throughout the week, I had more than an ordinary number of encounters with pandas.

Yes, pandas.

Of course at first it seemed like just a pleasant coincidence. I went to Zara to look at nice things and there was a T-shirt featuring a friendly looking panda smiling back at me. I liked it. Then, Accessorize sold me a ring that takes the form of a panda. It’s very beautiful, please see the picture below and I’m sure you will agree.

Paperchase has a new range called jpop and pandas feature extremely prominently. River Island have back in their woolly panda hats (I got one of these a couple of years ago and frankly was disappointed enough at the time that quite so many people were walking about wearing them. Two years later I really wish someone on the winter-wear team at River Island could stretch their imagination just a tad and come up with something new). Anyway, you can see why I was starting to feel like I was being followed by a mob of black-and-white, furry friends. Then on Thursday I picked up a particularly rubbish job at work and to say thanks the project manager running it gave me a packet of panda biscuits.

With panda faces on them. Look!

The world was trying to tell me something.

That’s why on Friday night while taking the train up to Scotland I found myself googling pandas rather than gorging on my new Gossip Girl box set (season 4 – a low point in every sense). Anyway. My panda research left me extremely emotional. Sure, I knew these guys were endangered, but I didn’t know there’s only 1,600 of them left. 1,600. There’s more people on your average Victoria Line tube train in the morning. And I'm quite sure the pandas have better manners and smell a lot better. 

Also, I’d always been led to believe that pandas are endangered because they’re too lazy to reproduce. Not a true story! There’s several factors contributing to their dwindling numbers.

As I watched youtube of the gorgeous things running around, playing with trees, and doing the things that pandas do, I wanted to cuddle one. But I also felt so sad. And so guilty. I mean, if I can’t resist buying clothes with pandas on them, shouldn’t I be doing something to make sure the species doesn’t disappear altogether? If my life was in danger and people were walking around wearing T-shirts with my face on them without giving a second thought to my wellbeing… I’d be furious.

Which is why I am now the proud sponsor of a gang of giant pandas. Just go to if you’d care to join me. No pressure, I know there are plenty of good causes out there that need our support. But I feel like this weekend I got to know pandas a little better, and I can now choose panda fashions while feeling that I’ve taken responsible action to make sure they’re around for a while.

Because a world without pandas just doesn’t sound like somewhere I want to live. 

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Welcome back to 1993

Recently my parents decided to reclaim their attic space. Fair enough, really. I have my own flat complete with storage cupboard. I’m 29 years old. And I can’t expect them to provide a home to boxes of photos, CDs and questionable fashion choices forever. And now I owe my parents a big thank you, because while sorting through everything I came across something I’d completely forgotten. A little grey hardback book with a large, if I’m honest slightly startled looking, cat on the cover. The diary that saw me through the first year of high school. Needless to say that when I should have been deciphering the instructions for my new carpet shampooing machine this weekend, I’ve been stuck to my sofa, reliving the trials and tribulations of 11-year-old April.

It’s hilarious and cringey all at once. A whole two weeks are dedicated to my suspicions that my friend Ellie has stolen my new pen. “She did take my homework diary and my teeth so I need to suspect her.” Excuse me? Teeth? She took my teeth? Well if she was low enough to steal actual body parts, who knows what she was capable of. Incidentally, Ellie and I are still friends despite this CSI-style investigation. There are pages and pages of detailed accounts of my riding lessons. Promises to myself to pay more attention in geography. And downright fury when Rhona and I are wrongly accused of stealing someone’s clarinet. (What was with all the thieving at my school?). But one entry hit a little nerve in a way that dragged me back out of 1993 and made me face up to my 2011 reality.

“I’d like to be a doctor, but I don’t think I’m good enough at science. Law sounds quite cool. But I really want to be a writer. I suppose I should be more realistic. I do wonder where I’ll be 10, 20, even 30 years from now, though.”

Well, other than a bit of an obsession with Grey’s Anatomy, the medical thing never happened for me. Ten years on from writing those words I was, in fact, a law student. But ultimately after graduating I decided it wasn’t “quite cool” after all. (The best careers advice I can offer anyone considering law is to beware – Ally McBeal, disappointingly, did not paint an accurate picture of the profession.) So, nearly 20 years on, what would 11-year-old April think of 29-year-old April? I think she’d be a bit delighted that after years spent trying to be sensible and struggling to get my head around contracts, delictual liability and (gulp) tax, I ended up becoming a writer after all. Go figure.

Just how delighted would she really be, though? She’d like the idea of a creative job in a big advertising agency. She’d love the fact that I get to wear whatever I want to work (cue T-shirts featuring various pandas, ponies and puppies, and – of course – my hoodie with the ears). And I know she’d be over-the-moon that I still watch 90210 (albeit with a new cast).

But I’d be fooling myself if I didn’t admit she’d be a little disappointed. And not because of the demise of Tammy Girl, or her favourite Olsen twin having to go to rehab. She’d be disappointed because 11-year-old April wouldn’t just be writing about the things she’s paid to write about: she’d be writing about the things she loves. Probably ponies, The Babysitters Club and Claire’s Accessories. But, hey, at least she’d be writing. So, I think I owe it to her to start writing outside of work, and to start writing about the things I love.

A few weeks ago I went to a talk about publishing. “Write every day,” was one author’s advice (big shout out to Lindsey Kelk – I love you a bit and have already read ‘I heart New York’ and ‘I heart Hollywood’ since seeing you that day). That’s why – in front of anyone who cares to read my blog - I’m making a promise to 11-year-old April. From now on I’m going to write every day. I’ve got a few projects in mind so, don’t worry, I won’t be spilling my guts on this blog every single day. But I’m dedicating this page to my ramblings on things that give 29-year-old April ants in her pants. Namely, animal-related homeware, fashion, and the curious little ups and downs that make life completely weird. (Although I did recently purchase 42 Babysitters Club books on ebay, so I can’t promise that won’t crop up from time to time – sorry.)

Now, how on earth do you go about shampooing a carpet?