Snow Day

As a reward for surviving the Christmas period and not committing murder, i.e. working 60 to 70 hour weeks on her feet, in heels, in a four storey restaurant without an elevator and doing a thousand covers a day, she and the other cocktail waitresses, along with the bartenders were treated to an afternoon of go-carting, followed by drinks at a nearby pub.

Everyone met at the restaurant in Piccadilly before jumping on the tube together and making their way to North Greenwich. Upon exiting the station she saw an open space of beautiful white powder between her and the private van waiting to pick up the group. A couple of inches of snow had fallen the night before, the first decent amount for the season and it still hadn’t melted away, so she took the opportunity to start her very first snowball fight. There they all were; English, Welsh, Italian, Polish, Latvian, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, Nepalese, Argentinian and Australian adults, both male and female, all screaming, laughing and running around, pelting the shit out of each other with ice rocks they had constructed between their gloves.

Once bruised and wet and bundled into the van, they were taken to The Raceway in Docklands where the competitiveness continued and a number of people crashed into the barriers courtesy of their delightful co-workers giving them friendly nudges. She recorded one of the slowest times on the day, but she preferred that to a case of whiplash.

Afterwards, at the pub, she continued a harmless flirtation with her Spanish “work husband” which had been simmering for a few months. He half joked she should visit his mum in Valencia with him and he would teach her the secrets to making a proper paella. She was enjoying the bar tab and exchanging stories with her colleagues when she happened to look at the time and saw it was magically 10pm. She should have been home hours earlier.

It took another hour for her to reach the front door of her basement flat in Stoke-Newington, where she heard voices coming from inside. She entered and immediately saw to her right two unfamiliar men aged in their 20’s sitting on the blue sofa in her living room. Confused and unsure what to do or say, she just stared at them until her friend visiting from Australia, popped his head around the corner from the kitchen and said hello. They had met six years earlier running in the same social circles and had once shared a cheeky kiss on his nineteenth birthday. Now, years later and on the other side of the world, he was sleeping on an inflatable mattress at hers before moving to Portugal to work in a hostel, and had decided to invite some friends he had in London over for drinks. The strangers introduced themselves to her before quickly dispersing into the night.

As soon as they were gone she began peeling off her layers of winter clothing, while simultaneously searching the kitchen cupboards for anything with an alcohol content. Her friend looked on for a few silent moments before sheepishly confessing he and his friends had drunk everything and that he would walk to the off license around the corner to get something.

Fifteen minutes later he was back with a bottle of spiced rum and a look of wonder on his face. After spending most of the day and night inside, he had just seen Stoke-Newington common, a small triangle shaped park across from where she lived, totally blanketed in snow. As they were both from a place in Australia where it never got cold enough to do so, they decided to layer back up and go build a snowman.

It was light to hold and soft to touch, like desiccated coconut. At first, it was relatively dry when it was loose, but as they consolidated it into a small hard mound, which would become the body of the snowman, it became wetter and like the ice shavings you get in a snow cone. As they knelt, knees soaked through the jeans, sculpturing their friend, she looked around. The leafless trees that lined the edge of the park closest to the train tracks looked like they were dusted with powdered sugar. The London sky was unusually clear and starry. It was nearly midnight, but the combination of the street lamps, the starlight and the snow made everything luminous.

On the other side of the common she spotted three middle aged Indian men giggling on the equipment in the fenced off playground area. She wasn’t surprised by this sight, as she had witnessed drunk Hasidic Jewish men, who lived up the road in Stamford Hill do the same thing on multiple occasions. They were all still kids at heart.

They had finished rolling the head of the snowman and had placed it on the body only to realise they had nothing to use for the eyes and nose. At that moment they heard the gate to the playground area bang shut and saw the three Indian men walking straight towards them. She was suddenly frozen, both in terror and temperature. She saw one of the men reach into his jacket pocket, for what she could only imagine was a knife. This is it she thought. They were about to get fucking stabbed while building a snowman.

“Do you guys need a carrot for that?” the man inquired, as he pulled not one, but TWO out from the pocket his hand was stuffed in. It was one of the most surreal moments of her life. She breathed a heavy sigh of relief and accepted the vegetables, which were broken up to make the finishing touches to their work of art.

It turned out the trio had originally ventured to the park with the same idea as them, which explained the carrots, but they had been quickly enticed by the swings. After a short conversation and once everyone had a photo with the completed snowman, the pair were invited back to the Indians’ flat for some late night curry. She politely declined on behalf of her and her friend, as she thought it was a generous, but also weird offer. They were also about to catch pneumonia any second. They thanked the men for their assistance and walked back to the flat where they had a nightcap of spiced rum and went to bed.

The following morning she went back to investigate if the snowman had survived. Half the snow had disappeared across the park, exposing wet green patches of grass. The snowman had reduced to a third of its size, and she could tell some animal, most likely a fox or a crow had stolen some of the pieces of carrot. She gazed up and saw one of the Indian men walking past on the footpath waving at her. She smiled and waved back.

She’d had her first snowball fight and built her first snowman all in the same day. It was a day she would never forget and a photo she would cherish forever.

 

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DJ Smoggy in Scotland

She sat gazing out of the train window as it moved peacefully through the north east English countryside. The sky was one solid piece of steel grey, while white sheep pin pricked the otherwise hunter green open country side. Intermittently, the train passed through creepy thick woodlands and over stone lined rivers, reminding her of the settings to dark fairy tales she was told as a child.

After the train passed through beautiful old towns like Durham and York the only signs of human life were either the remnants of old cottages and castles in the form of mounds of rubble next to the tracks, or the smattering of chimney smoke along the horizon.

As she reached Scotland, the surroundings became more severe. At one point the train had to veer around a mountain by passing onto a cliff top next to the North Sea. She imagined one strong gust of wind pushing her carriage over the edge and plummeting a hundred and fifty metres into the rocks and waves below.

The dark thought was fleeting though, as she was actually in a joyous mood. She had moved to London four days earlier and in that short amount of time had managed to somehow land both a job and a place to live. She was on her way to Edinburgh to let her hair down before the daily grind began again.

As the train began to slow, about ten minutes out from her final destination, she caught her first glimpse of the city. From a distance it looked a tad depressing. If the city had been a colouring in picture, then an artist had shaded in the skyline by using only the “ugly” colours in the pencil box. However, as she was drawn closer, she found herself charmed by the Scottish baronial architecture and the obvious history attached to almost every building. She loved European history and was convinced even the foot path she stood on outside Edinburgh Waverley train station was older than the white Australia she grew up in.

Her bearings were awry, so she hailed a taxi to take her to Grassmarket in the Old Town. The cabbie sensed her naiveté and drove her the long way around. What should have been a four minute drive and an eight pound fare was twice the time and price. She was then dropped off at the lower end of the street and had to hike up a steep cobble stone footpath, lugging a twenty five kilo bag on her back until she found the hostel she had been recommended to by an ex.

She was checked in by an Englishman and after successfully navigating the labyrinth of hallways was shown to her mixed dormitory. Before he left her alone in the room he informed her the hostel held walking pub crawls every week night, and that he was in charge of the one being held that night. She agreed to go along, so after a quick kip and a shower she made her way down to the hostel bar and communal games room.

All she could remember from that night was being charged five pounds for a long island ice tea, which was served in a pint glass and was nine tenths spirits to one tenth mixer. She had also met a group of Australian guys, but she never made it out to the first bar. It was an embarrassingly poor performance on her first night in Scotland.

The next morning she awoke to familiar voices in her dorm room. The Australian guys from the previous night were staying in the same room as her and were dressing to go for a hike. Somehow, they convinced her to join them. She met them fifteen minutes later downstairs and they lined their stomachs with a full Scottish breakfast; the tweaked version on an English breakfast, but with the disgusting addition of haggis. Half of her hangover instantly disappeared and once they had all finished, they zipped up their jackets, donned their beanies and began their trek to Arthur’s Seat.

In total, there were four Aussies. She learnt three were friends from Sydney, who were in the middle of a five month long world trip, while the other was a random from Melbourne they had befriended a few days earlier, who was in Scotland purely “to get fucked up”.

She quickly learnt she was not in the right state of mind or shape to be climbing steep hills. They had completed approximately one third of their ascent when she stopped and decided to quit. After a momentary meltdown her motivation to move again returned when she saw a dog, which had clearly reached the summit and was then happily running down the narrow dirt path back to sanity. Stupid fucking show off dog she thought to herself as it whizzed past her. If the mutt was able to do it, then she had to too, so she pushed on. Puffing and cursing under their breath, they finally made it to the peak, where they had to immediately brace themselves; not only for the spectacular view of the city and surrounding hills, but because it was windier than a lactose intolerant great uncle, post cheese board. They literally had to hold on to the side of boulders so they wouldn’t blow away. After inhaling the scenery for a few minutes they began their descent, which was much more enjoyable. On a couple of occasions she almost lost her footing from how fast she was running down, nearly wiping out other hikers as if they were bowling pins.

Later that evening she found herself at the hostel bar again. She had recovered from the previous night’s one drink knockout and was ready for her second bout. The Australians joined her on the pub crawl and they quickly bonded with some new faces. First, was a hot Spaniard with dark hair, who had a penchant for chequered scarves. Then there were the four extremely tall, polite, ice hockey obsessed Canadian men; high school friends doing a stint in Europe before heading their separate ways back to University. Then came the crazy Scotsman. He was the type of guy who would always be the center of attention in any social setting, but for the life of him, just couldn’t seem to get his shit together. He was living at the hostel between jobs and a permanent roof over his head. She was the only girl in the group of eleven, but the tomboy in her was completely comfortable with it.

She managed to last four stops on the bar hop before calling it a night. One pound shots served in coloured science beakers were her end game.

The following morning she found herself playing table tennis in the common room with one of the Australians from Sydney. Somehow, she had pulled up completely fine and found herself in a highly competitive mood. In the midst of smacking the shit out of the ball towards each other they discovered they were both often mistaken for people from other cultures. Due to her light hair and eye colouring people usually assumed she was Scandinavian, while he was constantly asked if he was from South or Central America when his heritage was in fact, Iranian. They thought it’d be fun to take on new identities that night at the next pub crawl, so they made a pact to support each other’s back stories. The conversation concluded when the crazy Scotsman entered the room dramatically booming lines from Titanic, with his one night stand from the night before in tow and clearly mortified.

That afternoon she found herself circumnavigating the grounds of the eleven hundred year old Edinburgh Castle, the crown jewel in the city’s landscape and the country’s most visited tourist attraction. It wasn’t even 5pm yet, but it was dusk and the place was already lit up like Christmas. She got the impression it was well and truly haunted. On her short walk back to the hostel she bumped into the Canadians, who had also just visited the castle. As they chatted she found herself particularly attracted to the one with glasses. They had received wind of her persona for that night and were happy to also play along with her. It was gearing up to be an interesting night.

When she made her way to the hostel bar a short time later, she noticed there were more people than usual and they were all dressed in absurd costumes. The staff had decided to throw themselves a party, but had clearly failed to select one particular theme, unless it was called ‘what you can find and afford with no notice’.

Slowly the visitors trickled down from upstairs, including her male posse. She saw the Australian she had made the identity deal with and with a silent nod the game of being a completely fictitious person for the rest of the night begun. She was a Swedish DJ in town for a gig. Her name was DJ Smoggy (a homage to her beloved football team Middlesbrough) and she was supposed to be the next Avicii. The hot Spaniard was her boyfriend and muscle and some of the Canadians were her roadies. Unless someone put her behind a set of decks, pointed a gun to her head and forced her to play them, her story was fairly fail proof. The Australian with Iranian heritage took it to the next level. He pretended to be not only Cuban, but the nephew of Fidel Castro. He was also a world champion Jenga player and was on a holiday, which was paid for by the winnings from the last competition he entered. He convinced some unsuspecting German girls early on by challenging them to a Jenga game and was telling them wild stories about his “uncle” throughout.

By the second bar, word had begun to slowly spread about the Swedish DJ that had decided to join the pub crawl while in town for a show. One man in particular, who could only be described as having Mongolian facial features, with a Polynesian body frame and afro could not stop following her around. He was lovely and harmless, but exhausting. Luckily, her Spanish “boyfriend” helped her escape him.

The next stop was a medieval themed pub. She was told to sit and wait alone at a table while everyone else lined up at the bar. She was minding her own business, studying what she hoped were fake furs on the walls when suddenly the crazy Scotsman approached her. Just as the song that was playing ended he said loudly for all to hear “Hey! Aren’t you that Swedish DJ?” As she nodded suspiciously he turned to the bar and shouted “OI, It’s her!” Suddenly, there was a rush towards her and she was surrounded by her hostel friends, temporarily blinded by the flashing of their cameras. It was in that moment when she felt what it was like to be a celebrity in front of the paparazzi. The stunt had worked, with the entire room whispering and looking at her for the remainder of their stay. A few strangers even plucked up the courage to ask her for an autograph despite not having any clue as to who she was.

They moved on to a night club which had a live DJ. She suddenly felt like her cover was going to be blown any moment.  Her “Cuban, Jenga playing” friend, who had been making out with one of the German girls for most of the night walked straight up to the DJ and exchanged words with him before they both looked in her direction. She was ushered over and allowed into the DJ booth. He knew she was a fraud, but was happy to play their game, so instructed her as to which buttons to press before announcing her over a microphone. The crowd was a combination of the last three venues they had visited, so they all cheered when they saw her behind the decks. She pressed the right things and pulled some fake moves which more resembled aggressively mazzing an invisible man off than impersonating a DJ. Fortunately, everyone was too trashed to notice her skills, or lack of.

After ten minutes in the booth she handed the reins back to the professional with a high five. She jumped down into the crowd and bumped straight into the Mongolian Polynesian who had been following her around earlier in the night. He sung her praises and genuinely asked to join her tour as a roadie. She politely declined his request and ran away from him, through the mass of sweaty bodies, into the arms of her fake Spanish boyfriend. She spontaneously took her act to the next level by grabbing his face and sucking it. He hadn’t expected it, but embraced the moment. She thought it was a great way to end her night, so she said thank you and left him shell shocked for the street.

As she was leaving she glimpsed the crazy Scotsman on the dance floor, flashing what was underneath his kilt to all around him. It had a blinding effect stronger than the strobe lights flashing above them.

It wasn’t until she was on the cobble stone in the fresh air she had no fucking clue as to where she was. Luckily, as she was looking around bewildered she spotted the cute Canadian with glasses talking to some randoms. He happily escorted her back to the hostel and when they reached the front door of the hostel she decided to have one more moment of rock and roll and also kissed him. If they had lived in the same city he was the type of guy she would have taken home to introduce to her mum and dad; a perfect gentleman. But, he didn’t live in the same city as her, so, like the Spaniard, she said good night to him, leaving him speechless and for the comfort of her bed with no one (and no complications) in it.

The next morning, before she was due to head back to London she decided to avoid both the Spaniard and Canadian by tagging along on a walking tour of the city, which was also run by the hostel. After all she had hardly done any sightseeing. The tour was led by a young English woman who had the monster of all hangovers, courtesy of the staff party from the night before. The tour began with a visit to the local cemetery, where the woman pointed to a tomb stone and said “This guy was famous for doing fuck all”. It ended with their guide throwing up loudly behind a bush on Calton Hill as they watched on. Is was the most interesting and memorable tour she had ever been on.

DJ Smoggy’s stint in Scotland was officially over.

 

Tonight I Have To Leave It

She stood at a sink, washing her hands in the upstairs women’s bathroom at a pub in Islington, London. She was tipsy and merry; her body and soul warmed by the alcohol she had consumed. Momentarily, she glanced up at the mirror in front of her, and in the reflection she saw a familiar looking person standing next to her.

“You guys were fantastic tonight” she blurted like word vomit.

“Thank you so much” came the poised, pleased reply with a Scandinavian accent.

The woman was tall and slender, dressed in a black shift dress with a white collar, opaque tights and chunky heeled black ankle boots. Her platinum blonde hair was tied in a ponytail, held together by a thick black satin ribbon. She sported a blunt fringe, her eye makeup was smoky and her lipstick was taffy in colour.

It was the keyboardist from one of her favourite bands, an indie pop group from Sweden and twenty minutes prior had been the second time she had seen them live; the first being seven years earlier and more than fourteen thousand kilometres away.

They chatted animatedly about the show for a few minutes before parting ways.

She exited the bathroom elated and found her mischievous female English friend waiting for her at the bar with whiskey shots. She relayed the encounter she had just had. Her friend was also blonde and gorgeous, but half the height of the Swede, and only the fourth person she had ever met that had heard of the band.

Whenever they went out together it was guaranteed to be a good time, and that night was no exception. They had found out about the show only three days beforehand and managed to snag two of the last twenty tickets available. They had skipped a bus from Kings Cross station to walk to the pub instead, swigging Jamieson from a hip flask and giggling all the way.

“I want a friend in the band too” her friend whined playfully before scanning the room for the other band members.

She watched as her friend locked eyes on someone in the crowd. She followed her gaze and saw the bass player at the end of it. “Here we go” she thought to herself as she watched her friend sink her shot of whiskey, slam the glass on the bar counter and make a beeline for him. She stayed at the bar and watched on in equal awe and terror, downing her shot to help deal with the situation unfolding before her.

While her friend worked her charm, she stood at the bar, lost in drunken hazy thoughts.  When she looked back over a couple of minutes later both her friend and the bass player were gesturing for her to come to them. He appeared highly amused.

There was something Pippin like about him. His hair was light brown and scruffy and his nose was pinched. He didn’t look like a stereotypical Swede. They were introduced by her friend and he offered to buy them a beer. She accepted without hesitation.

He was a highly intelligent and creative human, almost to the point of intimidating, but yet, at the same time he seemed completely humble and down to earth. They chatted about his relatives in her home city, his filming credentials and their mutual love of Stockholm. It was a relief to meet someone she had been a fan of for a while who didn’t disappoint her in person.

The next thing she knew, she and her friend were at the downstairs bar with every member of the band and their entourage, knocking back more whiskey shots. The enigmatic lead singer hovered near them and was like a puzzle to solve. She was highly skilled at reading people, and yet she couldn’t read him. He politely introduced himself and then that was all she got out of him before he disappeared back into the sea of Vikings.

The bass player never left her side however, and made sure she was introduced to anyone he knew that entered the vicinity. There was an ambiguous flirtation between them, which grew as the night went on.

Lord Huron’s ‘I will be back one day’ began playing. He took her hand, walked her to the centre of the room where there was a small clearing, placed one hand firmly on her waist, the other in her right hand, and in front of everyone led her in a slow, but casual dance. Every time he stretched her out away from him like a Yo-yo and brought her back in with a twirl she burst out laughing. She briefly felt like Baby from Dirty Dancing. They continued for two more songs she didn’t know the names of.

She was loving every second of the moment she was living in.

After more shots, beers and conversations she checked the time and discovered it was a lot later than she had thought it was. She had to be up for work in six hours, so regrettably said goodbye to the bass player with a kiss on the cheek and left him with her friend.

She was sitting alone at the bus stop outside the pub, waiting for the 73 to arrive and was reminiscing about the night she had just had when the lead singer and a couple of roadies stumbled out. He looked at her, shuffled towards her, kissed her on the mouth and thanked her for coming to her show before heading to the kebab shop next door. Clearly, a few drinks had coaxed him out of his shell.

She sat smugly until she abruptly threw up in the bin next to the bus stop. All the whiskey shots mixed with English ales had finally caught up to her.

It was definitely the right time to call it a night.