Thursday, 30 July 2009

The Best Boy Friend

This week I started Backwards in High Heels, a book given to me by a dear friend who felt, with my current lifestyle, it might prove to be an inspiring reading. I knew she’d got it right on page twenty: ‘There are some men that you will never, ever, want to sleep with,’ authors Tania Kindersely and Sarah Vine stated. ‘This is not an insult, because you know perfectly well that you have leapt into bed with humans whom otherwise you would rationally cross the road to avoid… But it is possible not to fancy someone and still adore them unconditionally.’ ‘Hallelujah!’ I shouted aloud, clutching the hard cover to me chest; surrounded by hormonally charged Frenchies, I was starting to think that I was the only person left in the world who believed men and women could be friends.

‘But surely it is obvious that a relationship between a man and a woman is better with sex than without,’ the Professor said matter-of-factly over a petite cafĂ© on Tuesday afternoon. ‘No,’ I frowned at him, stalling my cup in midair, ‘it is not obvious. Can’t you enjoy a person for their intelligence, their warmth, their sense of humour?’ He smiled slowly, as if charmed by my innocence. ‘I think that when men and women spend a lot of time together, if they enjoy each other’s company, then something physical is simply a natural progression.’ ‘That’s not true,’ I retorted, trying to regain the upper hand, ‘some of my best friends are men and sex has never been an issue with any of them.’ Alright, so the “never” and “any” were added to bolster my argument - like most people I’ve had a couple of perfectly good friendships ruined by a drunken fumble or a declaration of love in a fleeting moment of lunacy – but on the whole, it’s true that most of my best boy friends are, and have always been, just my mates. The Professor shook his head in disbelief, ‘Really? Perhaps this is the way in England but in France men do not have women friends, not unless they are hoping for something more.’ ‘But what about us, Professor, you’re French and we’re friends.’ He didn’t say anything, just gazed out at a boat pulling out of the port, and I realised that it was safer to leave him in his own little world.

In all fairness, there is truth in what the Professor was saying: the concept of platonic mixed-sex relationships doesn’t seem to wash in the continental climate. Sure, you see groups of guys and gals out on the town together but most often they are in couples. When I occasionally come across a French male-female friendship, I nearly always find that there are underlying sexual tensions.

‘Surely, in England, you have… what’s the name? Fuck friends?’ my Argentine Neuroscientist batted his eyelids at me innocently and took a sip of his pression as he waited for my reply. I’d only mentioned my conversation with the Professor because I’d assumed a bright, young brain specialist would understand my point of view; instead, he seemed to have misread my intentions. ‘Yes,’ I nodded, ignoring the predatory nature of his enquiry, ‘but I have a lot of non-fuck friends too. Don’t you?’ ‘Actually nearly all of my mates in Buenos Aires are women,’ he replied, puffing out his chest. ‘Well there you go then. You haven’t had sex with all of them, have you?’ He shrugged, ‘Si. Pretty much all of them,’ he paused to do some mental arithmetic, ‘at one time or another.’ No wonder he prefers having female friends, I thought; like I said he’s a clever boy.

The only place in Nice that I have managed to make bona fide male mates is in the safe haven of the Irish pub. Celts don’t seem to have any problem sharing a few drinks with a lassie without trying to get in her knickers. Okay, they do try sometimes, but only on the off chance that you might be drunk enough to say yes. Where they differ from the Latin-blooded male specie is that, if you’re not up for a bit of intoxicated bed-hopping, they’re happy to hang out with you anyway.

Only the other night I was having a beer with the Scot, watching our friend Frankie play an acoustic set at the Scandi bar. Frankie, another highlander, launched into a song that celebrated his platonic friendships with the opposite sex. I glanced at the Scot and smiled. ‘I know’ he said over the music, ‘that we annoy the hell out of each other but I am actually going to miss you, when you bugger off back to England. We’ll stay in touch, won’t we?’ ‘Of course,’ I said, looking him in the eye, ‘you’re one of my best friends now, even if you do shout at me when I get questions wrong on quiz night.’ ‘Ach,’ he slapped a hand to his chest, ‘stop it, you’re killing me here.’ Getting up to order another drink, he punched me softly on the arm, ‘No ifs or buts, you’re having a pint.’ A Stella and a Magners landed on the table, he settled down and returned to our unresolved argument over the origins of 1990s pop sensation, Whigfield (no matter how much a person says South Africa, it doesn’t make DENMARK any less the right answer, sheesh). At 2am the debate was still raging so we agreed to disagree until the next day, kissed goodnight and stumbled to our own beds. No ifs and definitely no butts.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Confessions of a Teenage Alien Lover

Many years ago, when I was doing my A-levels, I developed an obsession for a US teen drama called Roswell High. It was on BBC 2 at 6pm on Wednesdays and during season one I didn’t miss a single episode. At the end of every show I would sit on my Granny’s living room floor (because she had a bigger television) refusing to avert my eyes from the screen, hoping that if I stared hard enough it would magically fast forward to the next episode.

My appetite was fuelled largely by the on-off relationship between an alien, Michael, and a human, Maria. Unlike the full-blown, starry-eyed love affair between Max (alien) and Liz (human), there was something honest and real about the budding romance between this emotionally stunted extra terrestrial and mouthy waitress. No hormonal seventeen-year-old was as soulful and sensitive as Max but every boy I liked at school reminded me of Michael, only he was a much better kisser. And was better looking. And the actor Brendon Fehr was probably not a spotty teen but a Hollywood actor in his twenties. These were all minor details though. As far as I was concerned Michael was a boy, the same age as me, who had the ability to be passionate and poetic and fall in love. Surely there had to be at least one moody bad lad in my History class who could be as deep and meaningful? Alas, by the end of season one the whole alien-human thing had ruined the romance for Michael and Maria whilst the boys in History continued to ping the girls’ bra straps and throw rubbers at the backs of our heads.

When I started university, I became so consumed by my own, real life romantic traumas that I didn’t have time for the likes of Roswell anymore. Fast forward ten years and my brother, possibly as a joke, possibly not, gave me the DVD box set for my birthday. It was a thoughtful gift; he had remembered my old infatuation when I had long forgotten that the show ever existed (probably he retains mental scars from being forced to watch it week in and week out for half a year). I promptly put the box on my shelf to collect dust next to Pretty Woman and the Peep Show. I once took it down and momentarily considered putting on the pilot episode but I couldn’t quite go through with it. Then, last Sunday, a friend and I lay curled up in my bed after a reckless Saturday night out in Nice. The first disc was missing from my Grey’s Anatomy box set and we weren’t in the mood for a movie. Roswell was all we had left.

My friend and I settled down and got through four episodes. The next night we watched five. I was seventeen all over again and as soon as the credits rolled I immediately wanted to go on to the next one. After my friend returned to London I did consecutive nights propped up in bed: two episodes, three and then another two. I eked out the last disc and had an additional session dedicated to the extras. This morning, when I woke up and realised that it was over, that there would be no Roswell tonight, I felt bereft. I got out of bed and immediately ordered the second and third seasons on Amazon.

I hadn’t been expecting to love Roswell as much now as I did the first time around but, if anything, I think I may love it more. I laughed out loud when Michael and Maria bantered like Hepburn and Tracey, was breathless when Max strapped his biceps around Liz and kissed her for the first time, and was a weeping mess when Maria comforted her distraught boyfriend after he’d had a fight with his abusive foster father. And he may be seventeen and an alien but Michael still makes me swoon. To think that all these years I’ve been hell bent on having a human boyfriend, when what I actually need is something extra-terrestrial.

In all seriousness, I have found it slightly disturbing to discover that my dreams and desires haven’t developed that much since my adolescence. You’d imagine that my experiences with men over the years might have taught me that such intense, absurdly romantic relationships don’t exist anywhere but in American teen dramas. Well apparently not, because I’m still holding on to the slender chance that there’s a Michael out there to make me his Maria. On the flipside, the fact that I’ve clearly not progressed mentally or emotionally since I was a teenager is helping me to view my infatuationist ways in a whole new light; suddenly my fantastical imagination, irresponsible behaviour and short attention span are making perfect sense.

Does this mean then that I am destined to spend the rest of my life snogging boys behind bike sheds? Probably. You never know my luck though, I may happen to stumble across a tortured, poetic, desperately handsome alien on the Promenade des Anglais…or, better still, Brendon Fehr.

Until that day - or until I grow-up - I’ll just settle for a poster.

Thursday, 9 July 2009


This summer has seen me go raving mad. Literally. As in I’ve gone crazy for Ibiza anthems, repetitive drumbeats, glow sticks, whistles – the whole lot. I caught the rave bug after a number of late night dance sessions around a camper van whilst on holiday in Sicily in May. The music of choice was a lurid techno/cheesy house mix and when I got back to Nice the rhythms went on banging and banging and banging in my brain.

Thankfully, at the beginning of June Kitty threw a party up at the villa and I had an opportunity to rave on once again. I was so excited that I deigned the event an official rave-a-thon. One of the boys at the party took to the idea immediately but felt that the concept needed clarifying. ‘Explain to me again, why rave-a-thon?’ he asked. In all honesty, I just liked the word. ‘Imagine raving but seriously, seriously hardcore,’ I tried. ‘What? That’s it?’ he frowned, looking disappointed. ‘I had been imagining something along the lines of a marathon, only with dancing.’ Hmmm, 26.5 miles of raving? I had to admit, this had legs. At that moment Kitty’s DJ brother started to spin 9pm (till I come). It was our starter gun. The boy and I looked at each other and nodded. We were off. For the rest of the evening revellers were split between those sipping rose and having civilized conversations and those bouncing up and down like lunatics and waving their hands in the air. I was, of course, the life and soul of the latter; right up to the point that I stumbled to the lounge and lay down on the sofa. It was intended to be a power nap. Not long after I’d dropped off, a hand shook me roughly. ‘Oi, there’s no way you’re going to sleep yet.’ I swotted at the boy. ‘Seriously,’ he continued, sounding annoyed, ‘what’s happened to the rave-a-thon?’ I lifted my head and managed with surprising force, ‘It’s only a fucking warm up.’ I dropped back on to the pillow, now beyond the realm of napping, and the boy tiptoed away to complete the remaining 24.5 miles by himself.

The following week, I had a chance to salvage my reputation at Kitty’s housemate’s party - same venue, same music, same vibe. Alas, due to my dalliance with the bus stop boy the night before, I’d had an hour’s sleep and was heavy with hangover. By 6pm everyone else was well on the way to having a very merry time, whilst I remained sober and sombre. ’Rave-a-thon?’ Mindy looked me up and down with disgust, ‘More like rave-a-non.’ Realising that I couldn’t take the humiliation of another failed performance, I rallied myself and, ignoring the stabbing pains in my stomach, I forced down a cocktail of gin, cava and larger. It didn’t take long for a wave of Ibiza-esque euphoria to wash over me. Suddenly carried away by this new surge of energy I grabbed JC by the hand. ‘Shots!’ I shouted and dragged him to the kitchen. ‘Steady on raver, we’ve got no mixers.’ ‘And?’ ‘We’re not having neat vodka,’ JC looked at me with concern, he clearly thought I’d had enough. His compromise was to dilute the spirit with citron syrup found at the back of one of the cupboards. I downed five of these in the space of half an hour. Half an hour after that I was passed out on the same sofa as the week before. At 1am I had declared on Facebook: “Rave-a-thon! Whoop whoop!” By 1.30am Mindy had added: “Yeah, rave-a-non.”

The following weekend, I felt the need to prove, if only to myself, that I still had the youthful stamina to pull an all nighter. Unlike the majority of my fellow ravers, I was not having it large in the dance tent at Glastonbury but was rather jigging wildly to a schoolboy folk band at a steam engine rally in the heart of the Kentish countryside – an altogether more hardcore affair. After the live music was shut down at 11pm, my five friends and I felt suitably pumped to take the party down a quiet country lane. We turned up the car stereo, took swigs of vodka from the bottle and jumped without coordination. Despite the attempts of the fairground security crack team to shut us down (at one point we were involved in a high speed car chase around rural Kent) we managed to keep going until the wee hours, and I was up until the bitter end. I’ve now come to the conclusion that the key to a successful rave-a-thon is ensuring that one always dances around a stationary vehicle.

‘Sounds as if you’ll be in need of some peace and quiet when you get back to Nice,’ my mother said on the phone, ‘You’ll probably enjoy having a bit of a break.’ ‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ I scoffed, ‘it’s the Riviera and it’s summer, the next two months will be one long party.’ ‘Dear,’ mother tutted, ‘you’re nothing but a playgirl. Only you’re not rich. I don’t know how you manage it.’ I swear underneath the pretence of disdain, I could detect a little pride.