An Introvert’s View of The Big Night Out

I need a long time to prepare for a big night out. Like at least three weeks, there’s a lot more mental preparation than just deciding whether to wear the LBD or jeans and sparkly top. I know, I know, spontaneous nights out are usually the best, I know, but I’m not exactly 21 anymore. Gone are my days of a phone call at 7 and you’re in the bar for 9. then up bright and early for whatever I have the next day. I’m definitely shy, but I never really identified it as social anxiety but I have to go out tonight and I’m stressed! I’m writing this post on a Saturday morning and will publish on a random date in October so as not to identify the people or the night out involved.

Frankfurt - fiesta by the Main

Frankfurt – fiesta by the Main, a brilliant spontaneous night about a year ago

Recently I was given this article, 23 Signs You’re Secretly an Introvert. I am definitely an Introvert. I don’t identify to all the points there, but I definitely feel this article.

1. You find small talk incredibly cumbersome. I love the idea of going to parties, meeting new people and expanding my social circle but I run out of things to say once the initial what’s-your-name-where-do-you-come-from-what-do-you-do’s are finished. Once I’m comfortable I’ll open up and find my feet. But how to give the impression I’m not just being closed and ignorant? I find it’s easier in one-to-one situations – to have that long catch-up chat after not seeing someone for a long time. I don’t shy away from it, I mean, small-talk isn’t a nightmare, I’ve got my stock questions and wine always helps loosen my reserve!

I wish!

10. You start to shut down after you’ve been active for too long. This is true, I’m always knackered after a night out. It doesn’t help that bars are open until 3am now. And if you’re really scraping the barrel Subside’s open til 6am. “Everything introverts do in the outside world causes them to expend energy, after which they’ll need to go back and replenish their stores in a quiet environment“. I need a few quiet weekends after any big night, to relax and recharge and get myself straight in the house and in my head before heading anywhere again.

13. You actively avoid any shows that might involve audience participation. Seriously, seriously don’t like this. When I was a child I just felt stupid going to the panto and shouting at actors who clearly knew that the the wicked witch was “behind you!”. Dumbass. People dressed as animals or those gold and silver street performers that follow you down the street, you can chuff off too, I’m on to you.

20. You look at the big picture. This is more a thinking thing, at work I prefer to know why I’m doing a particular task and where this little bit fits into the whole process, and what that means in the context of the company. Knowing where I sit in the bigger picture is really motivating.

23. You alternate between phases of work and solitude, and periods of social activity. It’s all about balance, nights out vs quiet nights in. I need that balance. One spontaneous night and another about six weeks in the planning all I want tonight is to stay in and veg with the TV.

I have to really prepare myself for a night out. If I’ve only got a few days I can’t always get in the mood, I’ll feel crap in everything I try on and if I’ve already got something planned in between I can get really tired easily. Then I need something to buoy my spirits a day or two before, because if not then I can start to have doubts and really not want to go. This morning this is how I feel. Last night I was worse, I just wanted to say fuck it and call my girlfriends and open that bottle of prosecco that we’ve got in the fridge.  But I’m going.

Night-out preparation usually plays out like this :

What the bloody hell am I going to wear?!

What the bloody hell am I going to wear?!

1. Get annoyed at fat arse and fat belly and fat arms and fat chin and fat legs. Nothing to wear so I go back to the old reliable, denim mini-skirt and black top with long sparkly earrings. Get annoyed with hair so just go with the straighten then hairspray upside down look.

2. Leave the house, all excited but bloody hell it’s raining so hair’s going to go all flat. Walk to the bar or the train station or bus stop. Start thinking I’m not going to get drunk tonight, I’m going to be good and not write-off Sunday. I’ll only have two glasses of wine, not spend too much money, then have a really productive day tomorrow doing housework and buying the things I need, like tights and the new series of Modern Family.

3. Arrive at the bar or the house and momentarily become the life and soul of the party. Then I go to the bar and it’s two for one cocktails so I have a cocktail. Well, two cocktails. Or in a house I get a glass of wine that’s not measured and ends up tiny, so I think “I’ll need three or four of those before it kicks in”.

I never thought of it as social anxiety before, that was more for people who had no friends and stayed in playing internet games every night. Maybe it’s not, maybe it really is a matter of feeling comfortable with where I am and who I’m with. Maybe that’s why I prefer house parties, you’re surrounded with people you know, you haven’t had to pay to get in, you don’t have to stand at the bar waiting to get served with all these big men glaring at you because you’re not pretty enough to dare to pop your hand on the bar ahead of your turn. Yes, it’s nights out, not nights “in” that freak me out sometimes. It’s going to bars with all that loud music and beautiful people in lovely dresses with curly hair and  the expectation to be lively and fun.

And the later the start time the less enthusiasm I have, especially if I’ve been kept waiting. the “yeah, yeah see you about 7 o’clock, I’ll text you” turns into “we’re still not ready, should be about eight-thirty”, 9 o’clock comes and I’m bored of waiting, I’m not going now. You’ve messed me around for two hours, man – what makes your time more important than mine? In that two hours I could have had more than a quick sandwich for tea, or put a washing on or stayed a bit longer with my sister or my Mom at lunch-time. Why is your time more important than mine, why do you think you can keep me waiting for so long? Because I’m me, I’m shy and I won’t confront you about it. That’s why.

This is where continental Europe is way better than the UK, there’s not so much expectation on anything, you can go into a bar or a club in jeans and t-shirt and have the same experience as if you were dolled up in heels and a tight skirt. What if you even end up having a better night? Because you’re comfortable with yourself? You can go out at 7pm, or 11pm, the bars will be open, and you never have to pay to get in and you can go home whenever you want because busses and taxis run through the night. You can sit in a bar all night, you don’t have to dance, the music won’t be too imposing and it’s lovely and w·a·r·m. I love Europe.

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Marseille Horizon

I just love this photo.  Taken when I was working in sunny Marseille in 2011, one weekend Daniel visited and we took the boat out to the wilderness on the Îles du Frioul. The coastline around here is beautiful, such clear blue water along the Calanques, and hidden little coves perfect for taking the sun. (Click the photo for the full beauty.)

Ratonneau beauty, Marseille

Ratonneau beauty, Marseille

Posted for Ailsa’s Travel Theme : Horizon

Galletitas – Otro Attempt a la Domesticity Mexicana

I promised Daniel I’d make him a cake this weekend, so 15h00 Sunday comes and I haven’t done anything. I ask him to get me some general cake ingredients in Tesco, and then Daniel buying walnuts, and a message with TheFoodieCoupleBlog inspired me try and make the Mexican biscuits again. So this evening I got the recipe book out, and made Galletitas de Boda, I’ve made them before, at the Mexican Feast, so was looking forward to try and perfect them tonight.

Cream softened butter with sugar, and flour, add orange zest, walnuts and a splash of rum. Roll out and cut into little circles. Freeze for half an hour then bake for 20 minutes. Toss in icing sugar and allow to cool. Enjoy with cajeta, or dulce de leche, or maybe even jam would work. Just – YUM!

But then! We Skyped with Daniel’s parents, who showed me the Pan de Muerto they have ready for the end of this week. I haven’t tried bread yet, Mexico is famous for it’s sweet breads, this one is made and eaten for el Día de los Muertos. The decoration represents the bones of the dead, and in Oaxaca they also include a tear for the sorrows of the living. We will be going to the University of Birmingham’s Mexican Society Day of the Dead Party on Friday – as usual. It’s always a brilliant night, a costume-party with good music and great company.

How to Shop in Birmingham on a Saturday

It’s Saturday, you haven’t had a treat In ages so you decide to hit the shops. You bought a new top to go out in a couple of weeks ago but that was someone’s birthday so it’s special so doesn’t count. And you bought sensible work shoes for the winter, but you needed those so they didn’t count either. So girls, the best person to shop with – much as you might deny it – is  your Mom*. Guys, it’s probably your wife or girlfriend. You want someone that’s always going to tell the truth.

The BullRing on a quiet day from www.visitbirmingham.com

The BullRing on a quiet day from http://www.visitbirmingham.com

1. Plan, plan, plan. Even if it’s just in your head. Write that list of what you want and what you need. Write down which shops you want to try for each item, and make sure you’ve got enough time to try things on. Create a route, because let’s face it you’re going to get annoyed if you have to go back to the shop next door to the one you started in. Even if you’re just mooching, you need to be in the right area for lunch by the canal.

2. Transport. If you take the bus or the train you’re risking having to stand up on the way home with your six hundred shopping bags. I would always choose to drive. There are always places to park for free on the outskirts of the centre whether down a side road or on a housing estate. Plus driving takes the weight off, sling it all the in boot and off you go, door to door.

3. First shop. You’re all glowing from the drive in, excited about bargains and all the clothes you haven’t seen since – last week. Browsing through and trying things on, you probably spend longer than you should in here. For me it’s usually meet my Mom in Marks and Spencer and grab the essentials and head up towards the Bull Ring.

Shopping list

Shop like a pro : List

4. BullRing. Here is where it gets hardcore. There are hundreds of people, with buggies and crutches and iPhones and friends and obviously all clamouring for that same sparkly dress you’re after so here is where your route planning and list comes into play. You need a smart work shirt from Oasis or Zara or Mango, don’t bother with Forever 21 and TopShop. But remember, it is always worth having a quick squizz round H&M (although I do prefer the Pavillions one).

5. New Street. Then if you’ve got any energy left head up New Street towards White Stuff and Urban Outfitters, you’ll also find a quieter Oasis there. There’s always something going on as well, from street performers to farmers markets. There used to be a Shared Earth ethnic fair-trade shop at the top that did lovely little earrings but now unfortunately it’s closed down.

6. Lunch. Decide in advance so that once you get to Victoria Square you know whether you’re heading up to Brindleyplace or down to the MailBox. Or for something different, remember that there are little cafés and pubs in the Colmore Row area, York’s Café does beautiful artisan breads and cakes and Ginger’s next door offers heavenly cocktails. The Old Contemptibles is just cheap and cheerful too, normally quite quiet on a Saturday and bang next to Snow Hill for all you Solihullers and Kidderminsters. And of course the statutory panic when you realise you might have left a bag in the restaurant.

7. Calling it a day. Knowing when to jack it all in is essential. It’s the eleventh or twelfth denim miniskirt you’ve picked up but it’s still not quite right and you’re running out of shops and you had a glass of wine for lunch and can’t really be bothered anymore. So go home. Head back to the car, pop it all in the boot and remember that traffic out of town will be a bit quieter than on the way in.

Personally, once lunch is over I really can’t be bothered anymore. And I don’t go every Saturday, obviously – and I just bought two pairs of boots so I can’t go again now until after I go to Mexico! But Birmingham has this reputation of being ugly and only good for shopping. I won’t go into the ugly part right now, but it is – really good for shopping. You’ve got the BullRing, Pallasades, Pavillions, High Street, Corporation Street, New Street, The MailBox and two enormous markets. It’s full of chain stores, there’s hardly anything independent, but that’s the charm, it’s got everything from a Zara to a Superdry to a Harvey Nicholls. Get your independent fix at lunchtime on the canal, or in Digbeth or in the Jewellery Quarter.

Vegetables and Pitta - Yum!

Vegetables and Pitta at an Independent Café – Yum!

* Here in Birmingham we say Mom rather than Mum. Mum sounds too posh to me. It’s a nightmare at Mother’s Day, I refuse to buy a card with Mum on, because my Mom is Mom.

Hot Chocolate Season

Cola Cao, what can be better?

Cola Cao, what can be better?

Yes it’s Hot Chocolate Season, the weather is turning colder and as I don’t drink tea or coffee I can finally enjoy a hot chocolate with a clear conscience. My absolute favourite is the one at The Green Room, the deluxe is a tall glass with whipped cream, marshmallows and chocolate powder. Just Yum! It’s about half an hour from the house though, so I save it for Spanish Meetups once a month on a Sunday afternoon.

Not San Gil, but not far off!

Then it’s the one in Mexico at the Misión San Gil, Quéretaro in Mexico, it’s so creamy, and chocolatey and comes in a beautiful painted mug. And the grounds of the restaurant are magical, set in a colonial hacienda-type building, the hotel forms part of a bigger estate with a golf course and country houses. We go to the hotel just once when we go to Quéretaro, always for breakfast where you can have as much fruit as you want, eggs exactly how you want them, catcus smoothie and this divine hot chocolate. Then we take a little walk in the grounds, with peacocks and butterflies all around.

And there’s Cola Cao. My Spanish treat. Discovered in my first year at uni in the Spanish girls’ kitchen. It was also our erasmus staple drink. We’d sit waiting for (or skipping) lectures in the Cafeteria Interfacultades, with our cup of milk and sachet of Cola Cao, chatting about what happened at the weekend, who had snogged who and who was sick in a wheelie bin and where we were going to go after lectures were over for the day. For me Cola Cao is erasmus in Spain. And I still have it every time I go back, the one above was in Córdoba in a late night café next to the Cathedral in the main square.

Written for Ailsa’s Travel Theme : Brown

Fiesta del Faro with NWT Languages

Another night at The Light House Media Centre in Wolverhampton for NWT Languages Spanish Speakers. Put on by the Spanish Speaking Meet Up, I really like The Light House. It’s a lovely café-bar with a small cinema and gallery attached, with a lovely big terrace completely covered from the elements, so nobody cared about last night’s rain when there was tapas and dancing and Spanish chatting available all night long. Well – for us – until the last train back to Birmingham. It was a bit Spain-orientated, but our friends had taken some photos of Mexico from my facebook pages, and a piñata painted the colours of the Spanish flag, but let’s not dwell on that – we had a lot of fun trying to persuade Dani, the Mexican expert to show them how it’s done.

There was a flamenco dancer, and her little helpers, then the songs-with-actions came out. I don’t know why in Hispanic cultures a lot of the songs have actions, but it’s just brilliant! We had the Macarena, La Bomba and El Matador. A really really lovely night.

Some photos from Lisa Rowley – member of the Meet Up.

Modern Role Models – Biggest Loser USA

Another series of The Biggest Loser started a couple of weeks ago, on Sky Living we are on season 12 of the US version – The Battle of the Ages. I was glued to Season 11. It really inspired me, if these people can run – at 300lbs – so can I. I don’t often “Like” public figures on facebook but Courtney, Irene and Hannah really touched me. They kept so confident and so positive through the whole process and while I’m happy that Olivia won I really think one of them should have got the prize for their attitudes.

Biggest Loser Season 11 – Courtney

So, I “Like” their pages and it keeps me going. I lost about 35lbs a few years ago, and happily I’m still hovering between my goal and about 5lbs over. It leaves room to eat, to enjoy my life. It was hard, and I started from a really, really low point in my life. But here we are 3 years later and I’m happier with myself – no, ok I’d love a flatter stomach and thinner thighs but I know I’ll never get there. I started running at the gym. Not loads, just 20 minutes run-walk – if they can then so can I.

Admittedly nobody in this season is standing out for me at the moment, but it’s only been two weeks. But we’ve already had a stupid argument about game-playing within the Middle age group, so already I don’t like them. The Young ones are hard-done-by as far as I see too, the Middles are out to attack them because they don’t respect them because they are younger. I think that’s an awful attitude to have, you are all there for the same reason and to that end it makes no sense to be like that. Courtney, Irene and Hannah and everyone else in Season 11 were united, they all knew that their end goals were the same and voting decisions were made by effort put in rather than anything else. Bob is still there but Gillian is gone, and there are two new trainers, Anna Kournikova (of-not-really-winning-anything-in-tennis-fame) and Dolvett somebody – which is a shame because I liked Brett and Cara.

It’s the girls in these programmes I aspire to be like, strong-willed women who finish what they start, not the girls in magazines with flat stomachs that are ridiculed when they reach a size 12. I do understand that weight is purely subjective, you might be only 115lbs and still want to be thinner – and that’s ok. That’s ok until you reach an unhealthy situation. For example, 105lbs is within a healthy range for my height but I’d never want to be there – I’d look skeletal. I want to be on the chubby side of normal. So why are these thin women in magazines the image role-models for young girls? But I remember being young, at 20 years-old that’s what I wanted to be. If you’re always on the chubby-side of your friends, and you’re thrown into a new situation at work or uni, you do want to make the best of how you look, and being thin and beautiful is all you can think about. At school at 15 it’s even worse – I was always just in the middle then I discovered Naj in Year 8 and it all ballooned from there (Naj was the name of the corner-shop by the bus stop). At 15 girls are so horrible to each other, if you’re not wearing your hair a certain way, or colouring in your school tie or rolling your skirt up then you’re nobody. Even worse if you’re clever. I was branded all the names : weird, geek, freak.

Feeling good in Mexico after losing 35lbs

Feeling good in Mexico after losing 35lbs

There’s always going to be that expectation, to be that ideal perfect proportions, with clear skin and shiny hair. Apparently though, there are cultures that praise the fat girls, small island nations like Nauru, Jamaica and Tonga, or in Africa like Mauritania. In a lot of these places being fatter is associated with wealth and fertility, being able to feed your family, so girls are fed-up as children to marry better on the social standings. Most of these countries are still living quite a simple life, without the infiltration of Western popular culture where being thin is a sign of famine and illness. How does this happen? How can the idea of food turn from a symbol of wealth into a symbol of “laziness”? I’m sure back in the 1700s in the UK it was the same as these modern-day nations, feeding up to marry off. Now we are lazy we eat and eat until we start to crack, mentally and physically.