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Life: Spiders, Smoke & Seasonal Change

It was by chance that I walked into a scene from Arachnophobia when I went to watch Brighton v Someone in my local. My three “blind’ friends had caused a right kerfuffle when one of them spotted a spider HIGH up on the wall. Blind friend number one had the poor barman on a stool trying to eliminate the spider, which had caused petrified blind friend number two to seek refuge in the garden. Blind friend number three, was directing the scene from the comfort of his chair. I don’t have 20/20 vision myself, but even I could see that it wasn’t a man-eating spider at all, but a bit of fluff, most probably left over from Halloween, blue tacked to the wall.

Spider season is upon us. The time of year that turns perfectly rational, lucid people into fear-filled humans made of jelly. A time of year when spiders seek refuge in the warmth and comfort of our homes as the temperature outside drops. If I were a spider I would most definitely want to come inside, share a sofa and watch Great British Bake Off, or pop to a comfy pub for a decent roast. I’m not sure though, that I would want to climb up someone’s plughole and into their bath.

Spider season is the time of year when social media is awash with pictures of “have you seen how big my spider is?” “I may have done a Tough Mudder, a triathlon and 1000 push-ups a day for charity, but that’s nothing compared to the size of the spider that joined me in the shower this morning.” #hardasnails.

Spider season is of course also a sign that summer is melding into autumn. No longer will we be able to draw a comparison between the funeral pyres of the Ganges and the beaches of Brighton and Hove, due to the biblical amount of smoke produced by the total and utter overuse of cheap disposable BBQ’s. We will soon once again be able to venture down to the beach without the need to wear a decommissioned WWII gas mask to block out the fumes of burnt sausages and the suffocating smell of copious amounts of warm Rosé. Dogs and bikes will once again be allowed to roam freely on this hallowed ground as the tourists leave and the nights draw in.

I’m always sad to say ‘adios’ to summer, but I do love the change of the seasons. Every year I love the idea of going blackberry picking to make a crumble. And EVERY YEAR I leave it too late and the best places in Brighton to forage these succulent beauties have been totally ravaged of their bounty by the time I get there. And so every year my first crumble of the season is made from fruit courtesy of Tesco Express, however, it still tastes delicious, doesn’t require BBQ-ing and definitely doesn’t contain spiders.

This article also appeared in The Huffington Post and the Brighton and Hove Independent


Life: Successfully not having Sex in the City

Shortcuts has had a busy few weeks. As well as being kept busy hairdressing, I am now a columnist for the Brighton and Hove Independent. Getting my own column is a dream come true. “You’re the next Carrie Bradshaw” was something I heard on more than one occasion and although I brushed it off with a “really?!” it was a comparison I was delighted to hear.

I was in my mid 20’s when I first watched Carrie tip tapping away on her keyboard. Sitting in front of the open window of her Manhattan brownstone, a glass of wine and a fag on the go. Her observations and experiences tumbling from her mind onto the page. I was inspired. I knew that my inner Carrie was just waiting for her opportunity to break out.

The main, and possibly the only difference between the fictitious Ms Bradsahw and myself, is in the title and content of our columns [sic]. Her’s was famous ‘Sex and the City’ and if I were writing in a similar vein, mine would be called “Unsuccessfully having Sex in the City.” Again, it was something I laughed about when the comparison was drawn – my first column for The Brighton & Hove Independent was a tongue in cheek account of how annoying cats are. No mention of sex, although I did mention the City.

So how do you successfully not have sex in the city? I think it’s a niche topic for a column, and I’m certain there are people who can’t help but have loads of sex that need some advice on how to avoid it. So for those of you that fall into that category, here are my top tips for successfully not having sex in a vibrant city with a varied demographic, and hence no reason whatsoever to be stuck at home, on your own, at any time during the day or night.

1. Go to yoga. Although yoga makes you feel great and the benefits are unlimited, yoga attracts a lot of women. If your class of choice is a hot yoga class, you are not going to look your best, and so very unlikely to attract any male attention. If you are a straight woman trying to avoid having sex with a straight male, this is a good place to start.

2. Hang out in parks with your friends who have children and their friends with children and their friends with children – you get my drift. Surrounding yourself with couples with children is a great way of avoiding sex with eligible, single men. This is definitely a good way to spend your weekends.

3. If you are a straight, single woman, another great way to avoid having sex is to not go out in the evening or at weekends, instead invite your friends round for dinner. Avoiding every possible opportunity to go out and mingle with the opposite sex by dancing, drinking and socialising, is definitely a good way to not have sex.

4. Only go to parties that you know are going to be top heavy with couples and gay men. If you get invited to a party and the host says excitedly that there are some eligible friends of her partner going, avoid at all costs. Instead stay in and invite your friends round for dinner – see above.

5. When in need of some male company, give your Gay Best Friend (GBF) a call. On no account, ask out the cute, straight guy sitting next to you in the coffee shop or flick through Tinder. Behaving in such an irrational fashion could lead to sex.

6. Make sure your book group is strictly female only. Reading is sexy and you will only have yourself to blame if a male is introduced and you have sex with him.

So if you are having too much sex in the city of Brighton and Hove I hope the above is of some use, and my thoughts and sympathy are sincerely with you. Short Cuts is off to NYC for a couple of weeks. I hope to successfully avoid having sex in another major city, but hey! Who knows? I might fail abysmally and talk to a handsome stranger, the outcome of which could result in me having to rename my column.

This article also appeared in Brighton and Hove Independent


Life: I’m Planning My Own Personal Brexit
I voted to remain and, like so many people who voted the same, I am finding it hard to come to terms with the uncertain times we now find ourselves in.
I am single, 46, childless and self-employed. I have an interest-only mortgage, no pension and no one ― as yet ― to care for me in my old age. I know I am not alone in my situation, a situation which to others, perhaps with a more secure financial and family plan for their future, could be seen as a bit tragic, but I don’t see it like that at all.
Every now and again you need a good shake up in your life. The end of a relationship, redundancy, death of a loved one, health issues, the turning of British politics on its head. Anyone of these major events can be turned into a life-defining opportunity. You have a choice. Life doesn’t have to floor you when it doesn’t go according to plan, it can give you the guts to follow your heart and turn sadness and fear into liberation and adventure. You choose.
At 32 I was made redundant from my job in telecoms. I was single, had just bought a flat and I knew that if I didn’t do something constructive with my redundancy money I would just fritter it away. I had no idea what career path I wanted to take but, more importantly, I knew what I didn’t want. I didn’t want to be in an office. I wanted to be more creative. I knew that if I banked my money for a rainy day, put on a suit and commuted, I would find myself once again in a job that only met my financial needs and, long term, there was no satisfaction in that. So instead I rented out my flat and went on an adventure. My purpose was to make a decision as to what new career I wanted to pursue when I returned if indeed I was to return.
The thought of travelling alone was terrifying me, and I had it in my head I would be the only 30+ female solo traveller in the whole world. How wrong I was. I met so many awesome people and a lot of them were women on their own and many of them were 40, 50 and 60, I wasn’t as ground-breaking as my ego had led me to believe.
My travels took me from Southeast Asia to a long stay in New Zealand, and then across to Australia. I met a boy in the idyllic setting of Byron Bay and I followed him back to Sydney. When I discovered he was a small time drug dealer and not an electrician, I made a quick escape with a broken heart and flew to Bangkok. I hooked up with a girl – who has now become one of my best friends – and we headed out for the night in that crazy Asian city. We rode elephants, played pool with “Lady Boys” and were so disturbed by a sex show that we did a runner without paying for our drinks. It was a night of many memories and the night that changed my life. I woke up the next morning, dazed, confused and hungover. It was hot and humid and I was sweaty and dehydrated, but the first thought that entered my head was “I’m going to become a hairdresser.”
It was a damascene moment. Somewhere, sometime, I must have a planted a seed in my subconscious. Hairdressing had never been on my list of jobs to pursue, but here it was, presenting itself to me, and it ticked all my boxes. I could travel with it, it was creative, it was a skill that would never be automated, I could be my own boss, I wouldn’t have to put on a suit and sit in an office, tick, tick, tick. And so I declared to my friend that I could now make my way home. I had found the answer to my question. My quest was over.
I am continually grateful for the opportunity I had to be able to take 18 months off and explore the world and myself. Every day whilst doing the job I love I am thankful for that “devastating” redundancy 14 years ago that had the potential to create overwhelming uncertainty, but ultimately prompted me to change my life for the better.
I am now planning my next change. I am determined to live a happy and fulfilling old age without worrying about money or my relationship status. My dream is to be able to work from anywhere in the world from my laptop and the way I want to fulfil this is to become a writer. I am planning my own Brexit, should you be planning yours?
This article also appeared in The Huffington Post 

Life: Holidays, House Music and Hip replacements

I first went to Ibiza in 1988 for my 18th birthday. It was the summer after Paul Oakenfold and Danny Rampling had been to Amnesia, taken ecstasy and danced to the Balearic Beats of the legendary DJ Alfredo, the rest, as they say, is musical history.  I wasn’t hanging with the cool crowd that summer, in fact I have no idea of my whereabouts on the island. I blame too much cheap Malibu, and the overexcitement of being abroad without my parents.

I definitely went to see the fake Four Tops perform at the casino and I think I went to Ku, but I can’t be sure. I remember having a flirtation with a boy who I later saw stumbling down the road with a toilet seat around his neck. My taste in men hasn’t improved much but thankfully my taste in holidays has.

And so it was I sat at Gatwick airport, smelling divine having deliberately emptied a  Tom Ford tester all over myself. Short Cuts was going on holiday, back to Ibiza to spend the week in a villa celebrating a 50th birthday. I did have my reservations. There was a mix of personalities, eighteen in all. We have been friends a long time, but we don’t live in each other’s pockets like we used to. How would it be, all of us together again under one fabulous, sun-drenched roof?

My tips for going on a villa holiday in Ibiza with 18 friends who are almost 50 and haven’t really grown up much.

Shop locally – always worth visiting a couple of supermarkets and sussing out the best one. In our case, the best one was the one which sold an outstanding Cava for €1.85. This became the benchmark for pricing.
“How much was that?”
“Gosh, that’s more expensive than a bottle of cava.”

Unsurprisingly, not many things were cheaper than a bottle of Cava. My bog standard shower gel was more expensive as were Toblerones and cauliflowers. It was suggested that we fill up the jacuzzi bath in the master bedroom with Cava, just for the hell of it, but our middle-aged sensibility kicked in when someone pointed out the hefty deposit we stood to loose.

Poolside – Fill the pool with inflatables. Much merriment is to be had watching your friends mastering the art of riding a blow-up yellow seahorse. Morbidly hanging a pink flamingo from a dead tree and watching it slowly strangle itself in the wind, not quite reaching a point of decapitation is also recommended. By the end of the week, our pool resembled a tragic homage to Sea World. An orca and a crocodile had joined the menagerie, and a second sea horse had been purchased to replace the first one, which unsurprisingly had developed a slow puncture.

Audio books are the way forward. Lying in the sun reading a book is, to me, one of life’s greatest pleasures. Now I’m getting lazier and going slightly blind, listening to a book means I don’t have to turn the pages or get prescription sunglasses.

Eating – Go away with people who like to cook and people who don’t want to cook but are happy to clear up. Also, a couple of petrol heads who are looking for any excuse to get behind the wheel of a hire car are very useful for trips to the supermarket and the general running of errands.
Eat as a group. There is something heartwarming about eating outdoors at a long table pretending you are the Waltons.

Music – The awesome Ibiza Global Radio provided chilled tunes for the day but Spotify took over in the evenings. In honour of the birthday boy, we had an evening of tasteless hits from his teenage years in the 70’s. Tracks by Racey, Brotherhood of Man, Sweet and The Bay City Rollers. I am pretty certain we are the only people – past, present and future – to have danced to Tiger Feet, twice, in Ibiza.

Go Clubbing – You’re on the White Isle, it has to be done. Like the old days, make a big thing of getting ready. We adorned ourselves with gold tattoos whilst drinking Cava – did I mention it was €1.85 a bottle. Our outfits were meticulously picked. Was I a ‘Nana looking like Rhianna’ or was I rocking it in my short skirt and sensible heels? I did feel that I was slightly channelling the look of a LadyBoy as we left the villa.

I go out in my hometown of Brighton with the same crowd, girls and gay boys and the last time I spoke to a straight, single man was in 2012. I go out in Ibiza with girls and gay boys and the only people I talk to are straight, single men. Nothing beats a selection box of tanned men wanting to dance with you and buy you beers at 10 euros a pop to make you feel like a woman again. I danced till dawn in my new M&S memory foam wedges and pleather mini skirt and when we hobbled into our taxi home the sun was coming up happy days.

Hire speed boats – Surprise yourselves as to how easily the life of the rich and famous comes to you whilst casually racing across the Mediterranean at high speed. Diving off the back of a boat and goosing each other whilst snorkelling is all part of the Champagne lifestyle I’m led to believe. Stopping to watch the sunset away from the crowds with some of your oldest and best friends, can get a tad emotional – but that could be the cava. Finish the evening off by begging the bus driver to take you to a Drive-In for a dirty burger.

Follow these tips and I can pretty much guarantee, that like us, you will have a holiday to remember. A harmonious and fun filled time was had by all. However, we did leave one of the party behind in Ibiza. Not because he was having a midlife and decided at the age of 49 to say ‘fuck it’ I’m moving to Ibiza, but because he fell off a bar stool and fractured his femur. How fitting to go away with 18 friends, average age 46 to celebrate a 50th birthday and one of them comes home needing a hip replacement. Enough said. Same again next year?

This article also appeared in The Huffington Post


Life: Raving, Red Stripe and Reminiscing

From my late teens to early thirties, I couldn’t get enough of going out.  My weekly routine started on a Thursday at a late night bar, Friday and Saturday night clubbing, and Sunday all day drinking –  purely because it was a Sunday. Monday, and particularly Tuesday, generally feeling pretty shabby, Wednesdays had a slight sense of normality about them, and then back on it again, because it was Thursday.

So far removed from my routine 20 years later of yoga, eight hours sleep, regular meals and the occasional glass of fizz. Today I gain as much pleasure being in bed by 2300 with a good book as I did queuing for hours in the rain to get into a club or a rave.

My clients are mostly my age and often a song will come on a playlist or the radio during an appointment which sparks a memory – albeit blurry –  of the decadent lives we used to live. Sleep deprivation, lack of nutritional food, in fact, a general malaise when it came to wellbeing, the rite of passage that is ‘the clubbing years’.  We were the first ravers, we danced to acid house and floated through the 1990 Summer of Love.

We were the generation that stuffed ourselves into small cars and drove around the countryside looking for clues in phone boxes, which led us to lose our minds dancing around a field in cycling shorts blowing on whistles. We sweated beyond recognition in badly ventilated warehouses, not concerned in any way that in the next room the floor had just collapsed. DJs were gods and we prayed to them with our ‘hands in the air,’ ‘reaching for the lasers,’ begging for just ‘one more choon.’ Pills and Red Stripe were the usual bounty for a 90’s clubber, a tub of Vicks, an overpriced bottle of water and 20 Marlborough Lights in your handbag.

A couple of weeks ago I found myself in an orderly queue with a legitimate ticket to see the legends that are Mike Pickering and Graham Park ‘spin the wheels of steel,’ alongside a symphony orchestra with their show, Haçienda Classical.

NB: My handbag contained none of the above.

There can’t have been an available babysitter that night in the whole of town; 1000+ middle-aged, middle-class ravers, re-living their 20s. Every track gloriously taking us back to a time before mortgages, mobile phones, glamping and prosecco.  There we were, once again, ‘putting our hands in the air’ and getting a sweat on.  So grateful we had chosen seating instead of standing and weren’t too far from the loo.

A few days later I was with a client, one of those I secretly refer to as a Superwoman.  Most of my clients are Superwomen, they keep their families alive, have jobs or run their own businesses, don’t get much sleep, but still, manage to keep fit and have great social lives. The aforementioned Superwoman had also been at Haçienda Classical. We reminisced on the evening and the debauchery of our mid-twenties.

Midway through her appointment, her boys were deposited back into her care by a tall, dark, handsome man. A tall dark handsome man I recognised.
Who is he?
Why do I think I know him?
He recognised me too I could see him scanning his brain, dipping into the dark recesses of his memory…Who is she?
And both of us silently wondering: Have I slept with you?

Maybe it was just recent events and conversations dredging up memories of distant times. If I’m honest – and I’m sure I’m not alone here – there are a few blurry moments, with a few blurry guys. But was this tall, dark, handsome father of three one of them?

Thankfully not. Transpires he owns a local deli. Phew! Awkward moment averted by the mutual admiration of Superwoman and me for his homemade pasta. It was only his lasagne I had tasted.

As much as I enjoyed my clubbing years, and I wholly believe that we should regret nothing, I wonder how much damage I did to my mind and my body. Mentally I could feel the effects of smoking, drinking and recreational drug taking, and in my early 30s, I started to clean up my act.

But there was a lot to be said for the random conversations and friendships that were made in the girls’ toilets of a sweaty club. Of sharing a ‘cheeky half’ with your mate. Of going back to someone’s house until the early hours – drinking tea and talking drivel.

The friendships I have today with the people I collected from those hazy days are some of my strongest. They may have been built on the unstable foundations of an ‘all-nighter,’ but they have, unlike many of my brain cells, stood the test of time. Long may they, and the odd trip back to the Old Skool, continue.

This article also appeared in The Huffington Post