Apologies for the absence of blogging this week. Life is going through one of its manic phases and when that happens, blogging slides to the bottom of the pile. This week would have been fairly manic, what with a keynote address to prepare and give at a research conference (one of those fairly big-deal moments) and a sermon to prepare for Sunday, but there’s something else going on that compounds the chaos.

Well, two things actually. The first is a very good thing – I’m going on a trip to Texas on Monday for just over a week. It’s a Matryoshka Haus thing and I’m very much looking forward to new places, catching up with Texan (and London) friends and, most of all, a weather forecast that looks like a decided improvement upon London’s current definition of ‘summer’. The other thing is less good – I’m moving house. Again. For the second time in 10 months.

It is actually a good thing – I get an even nicer flat, slightly closer to the church and in glamorous Bloomsbury (and just around the corner from Rupert Everett). But it’s a house move, and they’re chaotic regardless of how far you’re travelling. When it’s less than ten months since you unpacked your belongings, it’s rather gruelling.

So this week I’ve bid a fond farewell to my two Norwegian flatmates and welcomed into the flat one of my students, who’s taking on the flat after we go. I’ve been to Wembley to sort out all the boxes and furniture that a lovely friend has been storing for me. (Bonus of the move: I get all my books back.) I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time fantasising about a piece of DIY renovation work I want to do on one of my bookcases (there’ll be paint and fancy paper I think) and I have spent an inordinate amount of time getting stuff into boxes – and trying to locate further boxes, as my supply dwindles.

Lise & Øystein as they depart. Plus, a tiny part of my large box pile.

The aim is to get virtually everything packed by the end of today. (And get my sermon into decent shape, and my children’s bit for the morning service – what a day to be doing the leading/preaching double.) Then I can have something of a rest in Texas, or rather, a change of scenery. Trips with Shannon and the Matryoshka Haus crew are rarely restful.

So blogging will almost certainly be fairly light for a little while – although I’m confident I’ll return with an absolute wealth of blog fodder and, quite possibly, be very close to launching All very exciting!

Beachwear is not appropriate

Lately, I’ve been thinking rather more than usual about what I should wear and when. It’s partly because, with the arrival of a new job and a new life as a student, I’m meeting a lot of new people; and partly because I have a new status as ‘ordinand’ or church leader, which means I have to think a little bit more carefully about how I’m perceived.

I think I’ve always liked a bit of structure to my apparel. Growing up, there was school uniform and then there was non-uniform – the boundaries between the two were pretty clear. (And I was the kind of geek who never customised their uniform with anything more daring than a Prefect badge…) Over the last few years I’d developed a pretty good working wardrobe, with ‘presentation’ dresses (for important occasions), regular working dresses, skirts and the odd indulgence in a denim Friday. All of a sudden, that structure’s gone…

In America, the pressure of first day of school outfits is well documented – with this Hairpin article from a week or so ago showing that even with the passing of the years, people can remember how they tried to make a good impression upon their peers. It’s a good job that I had a uniform at school, because quite frankly, there’s no way I could have stood the pressure! But last week, I had my own first day of school and the pressure was on. What does one wear to their first day at vicar school? [One can safely assume that a dog collar would be too much, as would a nun’s habit…]

The welcome day was easily sorted – it was a Saturday and I had a social engagement to head to after the day ended, thus the outfit needed to be both respectable and socialising friendly. The induction day was trickier – a smaller group of people and, if other people’s memories work the way mine does, a potential to remembered in the first outfit I was seen in for eternity. [The second week of class is going to be interesting as presumably everyone will have changed their clothes and I will no longer be able to connect a yellow t-shirt with a church plant in Kentish Town. Curse my visual memory…] Jeans were the logical answer, but I don’t really like wearing them much; the denim shorts/tights combo would probably be a tad risque; a dress, though comfortable, might look a little over the top – what’s a girl to do? Ultimately, jeans won, I fitted in and looked perfectly normal. They will be fooled for now…

A more complicated question was what to wear while being introduced to my new church community. Last year, I discovered an interesting difference in church styles – I say ‘interesting’, it’s merely the effect of having worshipped in an uber trendy church for nearly 7 years. I’ve been conditioned into dressing for church, it being a good (and usually safe) place to try out new outfits and get affirmed. It’s also nice to have a place that you know you can dress up for, because dressing up’s fun and sometimes life doesn’t provide enough opportunities for it. What I realised last year is that not all churches are St Mary’s, in fact, only St Mary’s is St Mary’s. In most churches, young adults wear jeans and hoodies. All of a sudden, I’m ‘most churches’.

S’ok though, I no longer need to seek clothes boundaries for work – I’ve been given a sheet with them on. At my second staff meeting, we were issued with a church dress code. [There are so many new staff/interns that our office manager decided we needed a policy – fair enough – and so she took one from another big church whose initials may include B, T & H as a template.] I read through the document confident that I hadn’t fallen foul of it that morning, then reached its third paragraph and sniggered. The sniggers soon became near infectious laughter as the curate and worship leader reached the same point and joined in with my giggles…

“In other words, beach wear is not allowed – strappy tops, vest tops, shorts, crop tops, and flip-flops, bikinis, burkinis etc.”

Yes, that word before ‘etc’ is ‘burkini’. I am banned from wearing a burkini to work, gutted. Turns out our American colleague hadn’t understood the word and assumed it was slang for Birkenstocks [we’ll leave aside why anyone would want to ban Birkenstocks from a church – half the congregation would have to leave]. She was floored when we explained it was an islamic swimming costume. It also makes me wonder two things:
(i) Had anyone ever tried to go to work at our sister church in a burkini, thus meaning that they felt the need to specifically mention them?
(ii) Did anyone ever go in wearing a bikini? Surely even the most empty-headed church worker would realise that such clothing is unacceptable in any workplace other than (potentially) a surf club?

Perfect office wear…

Anyway, I’m sure I’ll figure it all out in due course. Who knows, maybe I’ll delight in the ability to hide in hoodies for a few years before the horrors of clerical clothing manifest themselves?

Quilting London

I’ve long had a mental image of London as a patchwork quilt with squares that turn from black & white to colour as you get to know various neighbourhoods. Through the middle runs a blue, shimmery river, and across the squares run red threads showing familiar bus routes across alongside golden threads of familiar walking routes. Although I’ve been a resident of the capital for most of my life, I still feel a sense of achievement when I make the connections that enable another a square to turn technicoloured.

A significant part of my geographical knowledge of London is derived from bus journeys – by a long stretch a better way to familiarise yourself with the capital than travelling by tube. It’s thanks to my bizarre ability to remember bus numbers and destinations that I began to figure out how one location connected with another. (It’s also my main method of knowing how to drive places, which isn’t especially helpful given the prevalence of bus lanes and bus only roads. Plus, telling someone that they need to go “along the 205’s route” isn’t much good if they don’t know what it is.) Sometimes I can be spectacularly dense when it comes to London’s geography – like the fact that it was only in July ago that I worked out that Mile End, Whitechapel and Bow were all essentially on the same stretch of road. (In my defence, I’d never walked/travelled along the length of the road in one go before.)

From the ‘Magnificent Maps’ exhibition at the British Library last year – Stephen Walter’s The Island, a unique take on London geography. 

Given the length of time I’ve spent as a Londoner, it’s therefore surprising that, despite its central location, my new neighbourhood fell within one of the black squares. Even more surprising given that it is completed surrounded by coloured squares – the neighbourhood of my first year Halls; one of London’s main arteries; the location of my university; and London’s most academic square. [Russell, obviously.] Driving back from the flat after dropping the first load of stuff off, I was stunned to discover just how close Rosebery Avenue was and that I was now just minutes from my 1st year haunts and the fabulous Exmouth Market.

I’m still figuring out routes between my flat and the church, but I have certain landmarks that I aim for – like the wonderful Brunswick Centre (how wrong is it that my nearest decent sized supermarket is a Waitrose?!) and Coram’s Fields (from which you’re banned unless accompanied by a child – I need to find one to borrow). It’s only now dawning on my why this area is such a black hole in my geography – no buses travel between the Gray’s Inn Road and Southampton Row so I’d never have accidentally passed through. In fact, I only discovered the Brunswick Centre by accident when lost a few years ago (lost and hungry, so a total answer to prayer).

There are certainly many, many bonuses of this new neighbourhood:

  • Myriad blue plaques to read and memorise. (I discovered a former residence of Lenin’s on my way to Tesco the other evening.) 
  • Celeb spotting. (Haven’t spotted any yet, but I did have lunch with a view of Rupert Everett’s house yesterday.) 
  • Beautiful architecture, pleasant squares, parks and community gardens.
  • Innumerable pubs that one can actually drink in without being attacked. (In Bermondsey it was a struggle to find establishments that weren’t Milwall FC supporting.) 
  • So many independent coffee places that I need never darken Starbucks’ door again. 
  • Proximity to friends’ workplaces – including one such independent coffee place, and my favourite corporate whore’s post work watering hole. 
  • A multitude of hospitals – it’s an excellent location in which to be taken ill. 
  • More libraries than you could shake a stick at, including the Soviet style Senate House; my own personal Hogwarts; and of course the British Library.
  • I could be in Paris within 3 hours of leaving my front door. [We will gloss over the fact that such a journey would cost me money I don’t have.] 

And probably many, many things I have yet to discover. It’s terribly exciting, and lucky that I’m so passionate about walking the streets of London.

[To clarify, I don’t mean taking to the streets in a lady of the night kind of way. Just because I’ve moved to King’s Cross and changing career does not mean that I’m going in that direction…]

A theory on shortness

I know it’s only a little while since my shallow post on the subject of hair cuts, but my hair was getting birds-nesty so yesterday it was time for another. (This being the important thing I was doing on Friday 13th that needed to go right!)

I always feel rather self-conscious writing this kind of post, but I’ve had requests, so here you go. Haircuts are very difficult to capture in self-portait photography, but I did have quite a good time being self-absorbed this afternoon!

Last time I mentioned that it was my shortest cut ever. Now this one is. Even the back is short. So short I believe clippers were involved at some point! Here’s a shot of the back to illustrate:

(The back’s even harder to photograph, hence the blurriness.)

It was probably a mistake to have dinner with Abidemi immediately afterwards, as her response went along the lines of…
“Nice!” [Goes round to look at the back.] “Shiiiiiiiiit! That’s short.”
“You know, you look far more like your mother now.”
That’s just what I need to hear!!

The boys round the corner were a bit more positive, but one went a bit deep. Rob was keen to know what had prompted this hairstyle change, which is interesting, because men generally don’t get the female attachment to their hair.

Of course, I have a theory for my haircut (I have many theories on many things). For most of my life I’ve been identified by my long hair. I think that there’s sometimes a danger that women hold their identity in their hair – sounds ridiculous, but I know several women who have phenomenally long hair, won’t cut it and it’s their key feature. In my case, growing up it was an easy way to distinguish between me and my sister – she was very short & had short brown hair; I was taller with long blonde hair.

Personally, I reckon my willingness to go short is partly because I’m more sure of who I am as a person. It’s also just down to a bit of risk-taking and wanting a change. To be honest, at 27 it was about time I got over my fear of hairdressers!