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London Calling

Over a decade ago I packed up my things at my childhood home and moved to London, U.K.  It was a sudden decision and one that my family-especially my parents- were surprised by. Up until that point I had always lived in Ottawa and never thought I’d leave. I had a happy childhood and a great group of friends, but after finishing my post-secondary education, relationships changed and I was looking for adventure.

Newly out of teacher’s college, I found opportunities were scarce in Ontario, but the U.K. was looking for new teachers. So I jumped at the opportunity, signed a contract and boarded a plane within three weeks to the city I would call home for 8 months.

Those 8 months were the most challenging and exciting of my life. I was enthralled with British culture up until heading there, mainly because of my mother and her love for British dramas and the royal family. I had fond memories of a childhood visit and at 24, I felt like I was once again a wide-eyed child, but this time could appreciate it fully. The busy city streets and vibrant red double-decker buses, the vintage-style cabs lined up at Charing Cross Station, the cobblestone streets and quirky fashion, and sights like the London Eye and the Thames, all fascinated me on my first journey through the core of the city.

The central portion of London proper had an entirely different vibe than the area that I ended up finding a flat-share in. It did not take long for the novelty and excitement to ware off and for me to get saturated in the day-to-day responsibilities. I lived with two Londoners in Hither Green- at the time, a “dodgy area,” as they say there. I taught in an even dodgier area on an estate in Abbeywood.

The novelty of being in a city I had grown up fascinated by quickly fizzled, and days swiftly passed. I enjoyed a romantic relationship with a homegrown Brit, finally became used to the food and cultural differences, and became comfortable in my role as a nursery teacher.

That’s not to say the transition wasn’t rocky. I experienced severe homesickness and talked to my parents daily for the first month, caught a terrible flu that I just couldn’t shake for well over that same month, was mugged twice-once at gun point – and hated not having my usual drip coffee to sip every morning before work.

The 8 months came and went and I was asked to stay on at the school for another year. I initially said yes, but then retracted. I realized that I had experienced all of London 20 times over and a number of the other British regions– – Cornwall was my favourite.

But with that trip to Cornwall came the starting point to the end of my relationship. My partner at the time was so immersed in his own life and family, and proved to not be very interested in mine. My father offered to fly him to Toronto for my brother’s wedding, and when he said no, I knew that the relationship would not work. The distance from my family made me appreciate them all even more, and if my boyfriend at the time couldn’t, it was time to go home, just as I had planned all along.

Eleven years later, whenever I am asked about the most interesting experience of my life, or the one that made the biggest impact, I always think back to those days in London. I was once a quiet and meek woman, nervous to go shopping at the mall on my own. That experience caused me to cross the pond solo to take on a city that is 10 times the size of Ottawa. Naturally, my next move was to Toronto.

Would you wear these clear panel mom jeans?

What has the fashion industry come to? I can sort of understand the distressed-jean look. The frayed-holes-in-the-thighs fad had a little potential in the rock and alternative rock era. But, and as much as I try to review fashion with an open mind,  even I can’t get past the newest denim craze — the clear panel mom jeans.

These retro-style high-waist cropped jeans have a clear plastic rectangle around the knee, allowing your friends, family, and strangers to admire that area of the female body that connects our calves to the rest of our legs. Because, apparently, that is cool.

Topshop clear panel mom jeans

 

This pant, which was released by Topshop, a British fashion retailer that provides clothing to Nordstrom and Hudson’s Bay in Canada, has become an overnight Internet sensation. People are responding with hilarious uses for these “knee windows”, such as using them as message boards or using them to avoid those pesky grass stains. A lot of people questioned the fact that these pants can be washed using a washing machine – but what would happen if you accidentally threw it in the dryer? Would your knee windows melt?

How does Topshop see these jeans? This is what it says on their website beneath a photo for these clear-panel creations: “Off-duty styling never looked so good. Crafted from pure cotton, our MOTO mom jeans come in authentic mid blue rigid-look denim. Cut with a high-waist and a tapered leg, they are finished with multiple pockets, classic trims and cool clear knee panel detail.”

And you can get them for the low-cost of $95!

I’ve stared at these pictures for a solid few hours now and I still don’t get it. Let’s look at the basic facts. The clear panelling disrupts the whole look of the jean. I also imagine they aren’t incredibly comfortable. Have you tried to wear something that is made of plastic? It sticks, makes funny sounds when you move, and is not exactly the most pliable of materials. What happens when you sweat? Topshop claims the paneling adds a “futuristic feel” to the pant, but let’s be real. In the future, I would hope people would be more creative then plastic knee windows.

If it’s meant to be a sexy thing, for people who don’t like the look of their calves but want to show off their awesome knees instead, I think it also fails. The knee isn’t exactly the most sensual part of the body. Yes, in some cases, it is considered one of the erogenous zones on the body, but it’s not going to do much for people simply to look at them, unless you are into that kind of thing.

Ultimately, I think this is an incredible waste of a hundred dollars. As a writer, I wish I had a better word to use than this, but, these jeans are just weird. Hopefully, this is a fad that will come and go. If not…I may have to avoid buying jeans altogether.

 

Do you like this new look? Let us know in the comments below!

“The Two of Us” and the importance of an unfinished ending

The connection between two people can be confirmed in a variety of relationships; mother and daughter, lovers, or a boss and employee. The dialogues and stories that result from the bonds people experience are individualistic and universal at the same time. The Two of Us by Kathy Page is a compilation of short stories that made the longlist for the Giller Prize. This set of stories reflects the commonality of all face-to-face relations between two people, and yet how astoundingly different the partnerships are depending on the role each individual plays in the given scenario.

Initially, it is difficult to find a common association between each of the stories and it appears they are inextricably disconnected.  After meditating on the various stories that Page writes, there is a theme that arises between the tales. Each of the stories is written in intense and vivid detail that hooks the reader in and then concludes before the climax of the story is revealed. “Pigs” is about a husband and wife and ends with the woman thinking about killing her husband, but we never find out what happens next. The setting of the story is carefully laid out and the characters are so well described they feel real, and yet the reader never finds out the concluding element in each of the relationships in the set of short stories.

The lack of a conclusion in the stories is initially maddening, but as they continue it becomes apparent how much these awkward in-between moments reflect reality. Oftentimes in the set-up of a story, it has a distinct beginning, middle and end — it is clear-cut. Life does not work like this, and abandoning the traditional set up of a story gives it more authenticity. My discomfort as a reader reflects my desire for the perfect ending. Instead, abandoning my longing for perfection to embrace the rhythm of Page’s set of stories deepens my acceptance of the never-finished stories in real life.

“The right thing to say” follows a couple who live in Canmore, AB, that are trying to have a baby. The mom-to-be is pregnant and they are having testing done to find out if the child has a genetic defect that would affect the health of the baby. This story hits close to home, and the descriptions of the setting are incredibly vivid. It almost feels as if the reader is sitting next to the worried couple in the hospital. This story reflects the various settings that Page uses, switching between England and Canada. It is interesting because Page is a British author who has resided on Vancouver Island for several years. The stories reflect her intimate familiarity with the two settings and helps the reader to really have confidence in in what is being described.

There is a futuristic element to a few of the stories as well. In “It is July Now”, the tale focuses on a character named Piret who is from Sweden and lives in a socialist society where almost nothing is owned privately. A middle-aged American woman comes to intern at the school and attempts to befriend Piret several times, though it is mostly unsuccessful. There is a stark contrast between the strict and stringent lifestyle of Piret and the American woman who is happier and more free with her money. The story between the two characters ends off without a distinct conclusion and it leaves the reader wondering whether the two women become better friends.

The concluding story of the anthology brings the set of stories together in a fascinating way. “Open Water” features a swim coach named Mitch and one of his swimmers, Tara who lives in Vancouver.  Mitch works with Tara for years on her swimming and when she has the opportunity to go to the Olympics, what happens next will leave the reader shocked.

Page does a very subtle and determined job at showing the reader that life is awkward and the unexpected happens, yet it becomes almost soothing in this series of stories. In one of the stories mentioned, the reader will find intimate commonality with their own life in The Two of Us, and walk away with a stronger understanding of the complexities of the unfinished ending in real life. The anthology comes highly recommended, and definitely a study of the most detailed and intimate way to describe a person and their life through the written word without giving everything away.