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LONDON AS IT COULD BE NOW

In a second ‘wild swimming’ related post, today I’d like to draw your attention to an exciting new venture being organised by a small group of people connected to London’s ad agencies.

The plan to build a swimming pool in the middle of the Thames.

Of course, everyone’s first thought when you mention being able to swim in the Thames is ‘yuk, it’s poo brown.’

But stay with me a minute.

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As this stunning photo from 1952 shows, swimming in the Thames isn’t a weird or revolting idea at all. It turns out we’ve been at it for centuries. There used to be pontoons all the way along the river, and even a ‘children’s beach’ along Tower Bridge (seen above), where kids who couldn’t afford to get to the seaside could go and learn to swim. As Caitlin Davies (author of a new book called Downstream:a history and celebration of swimming the River Thames) spoke about at the British Library last week, there’s never been any mention of the water being unclean in the history books. Only in 1960 did it formally stop happening, mainly due to safety reasons.

But that’s all about to change, if the Thames Baths – a brilliant wild-swimming venture following the footsteps of the Kings Cross Pond Club – gets off the ground. Its Director is Rainey Kelly’s Strategy Director Matt Bamford-Bowes, and it’s a very well-thought out plan which I think every man and his goldfish should pledge to support.

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The most important thing to mention about this pool is that it will be clean. I know. Thames. Fresh. Water. The mind boggles.

The water will be naturally filtered through an intricate system of reeds.  It will be safe too, with balustrades all around it. It will be warmed naturally, through a heat exchanger. It will be free to visit, and around £5-6 to swim in. You can see more at the Kickstarter campaign here. They have truly thought of everything.

The bath plans first came about as part of an Architecture Foundation and Royal Academy initiative, to find ideas that reconnect Londoners with the river, stirringly entitled London As It Could Be Now.  As well as Matt Rainey Kelly, the Baths vision is being realised by Studio Octopi; an architect firm who have revolutionised the layouts of many of London’s ad agencies. Architect Chris Romer-Lee had just been on holiday in Zurich, swimming in the river, and found himself asking, ‘why is there nowhere similar in London?’ (I couldn’t help thinking the same when I went to the incredible ‘Badis’ all the way along Lake Zurich – they are lovely). Anyway, Chris decided to ‘bring the idea home’, along with his colleague James Lowe. They’re both also now working on the Bring Back Peckham Lido campaign. Basically, what’s not to love.

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And as Guardian writer and swimming blogger Jenny Landreth put it so poignantly at the campaign event at the Royal Academy last week, ‘London is being stripped out from under our feet…swimming outdoors is a place to feel free… We need lidos in London now, more than ever. In the gloom after last Thursday, this is a really bright pocket of positivity.’ More brilliant words from Jenny here.

Here are the very latest designs of the different locations:

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Small point to anyone working in the South Bank area – One of the possible locations is in Blackfriars, very close to the new Bankside Omnicon building. Making it pretty much the perfect place to cool off during Summer lunch times… In 2017, when it opens. Unless they get their funding sooner, that is.

The deadline to pledge is this friday, so please do think about it, if you’re even slightly tempted.

There are a range of lovely incentives for pledging too, from lifetime membership, to a gorgeous limited edition ‘SWIM’ print, designed by Michael C Place:

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The last thing to say is that Kickstarter is only the half of it. The Baths are also open to finding ‘a carefully chosen partner’ to sponsor them. In case you know of any brands that want to “jump in”.

CRAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY? FEAR NOT LOVELIES, I HAVE JUST THE THING 

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Inspiration! Wallpaper from the Victor and Rolf exhibition at Melbourne’s National Gallery

What’s that you say? You couldn’t reach your front door yesterday for all the cards and presents clogging up the hallway? And you couldn’t get any work done because you kept pricking yourself on all the red red roses on your desk? I know, it was tough day for us all, wasn’t it.

If however, like most of the population that wasn’t your yesterday, then don’t worry, I have just the antidote! If you’re single and you’d rather not be…or if you’ve just finished reading Break-Up Club (ta very much!) and don’t know what to do with yourself, then I present to you the perfect follow-up: sign up to this brilliant new course called Project Love. The only possible hazard I can think of is that you may find yourself with a Wet Wet Wet song stuck in your head for about twelve weeks. I kept singing ‘Love is All Around you’ as it was written on a good few of the lesson notes. But if you can handle a bit of vintage Marti Pellow humming to you then read on…

You can’t hurry love. But you can do a 30 day course in it.

In the words of its lovely founders, Selina & Vicki, “Get Ready for Love is an online course that contains the 30 essential lessons that we’ve found to be the most effective and powerful to get you ready for love and on your way to a happy and healthy relationship.” How it works is, you get emailed 30 interactive lessons to do at your own pace, with homework to do when it suits you. I was lucky enough to try out the course, and I heartily recommend it to anyone – even if you’re already in a relationship! One of the reasons I was drawn to it is that the aims of the course are a little like those of Break-Up Club: to become happy single, because only then can you become part of a happy union with someone else. Cripes, if only Holly or any of my other characters had been on the course, the book wouldn’t have been half as long. Sorry! Anyway – once you’re done processing your break-up via the 12 essential rules, I cannot recommend Project Love enough. It makes for the perfect epilogue. Here’s a bit more about why I liked it…

You’ve got the love. Yeah, You do!

Saying ‘you need to love yourself before you can love anyone else’ has become something of a cliché these days. But the difference is, Project Love really gets you doing it, through easy, practical methods that slowly seep into your daily rituals ’til they’re habitual. The world can be a cold and lonely place sometimes if you’re not a smug married. And that loneliness goes out the window when you realise you’ve got someone there standing by you the whole time. You! 

Any fool can fall in love. But Project Love gets you falling in love the right way… into a relationship that’s built to last. And if you don’t know what the frig any of that means – do the course!

Some highlights:

  • Lucy Sheridan on ‘Comparison Coaching’ – There’s a really interesting section on how we all sometimes sabotage our own happiness by comparing ourselves to others. No thanks to Mr Zuckerberg!
  • The Dating is shit, or is it? podcast has an interesting discussion on how more often than not, heartbreak is just grief for the stories we’ve told ourselves. Without knowing it, we sometimes invent narratives about the person we’re falling for. When we break-up, we have to disconnect with that reality, and let go of ‘that individual who didn’t play to the rules of the game they didn’t even know they were playing’ – the poor little mites. 
  • Visualisations – The course explores lots of ways to get you ready for the relationship you want. Imagining what it looks like is one part of that. One exercise I found particularly powerful was when they get you to imagine it playing on a screen. It reminded me of what Holly does in ‘Break Up Club’, only she does it in a really destructive way. She plays constant re-runs of The Holly & Lawrence Show before they broke up. Numpty that she is, she’s unable to let go of the past and ‘delete the tapes’. Of course, the thing to do to help yourself after a break-up instead is this: press play on the positive images of what you’d like to see in your future, and the things that make you happy – rather than poking at the burning embers of your broken dreams. And that’s where Project Love is so helpful.
  • The Tips on dating are brilliant. I loved happiness coach Gail Schock’s guided meditation for your pre-date-jitters. That said, I must confess I still haven’t ever joined a proper dating site before because a) I just seem to always meet people IRL (what can I say, I’m chatty!) and b) every time I’ve ever briefly tried an app in the past it always seems to end up with me watching jpegs buffering of men holding dogs, and me feeling like it’s all too much ‘ladmin’ – but that’s probably just mostly down to me having a shit data package.
  • Lessons in ‘Self-Care’ – This might sound slightly wanky. But all it means is, it’s good to talk to yourself everyday in the kind of tone you would to a good friend – as opposed to a naggy-Mrs-Mangle-on-crack, which I sometimes do. Self-care also means taking yourself for a date once in a while, and nurturing yourself with daily-acts of love. Just the other day I read a really good article in Red Magazine about why we should date ourselves more. To celebrate this, for Valentine’s Day, Project Love are asking people to write themselves a Love Letter:
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Image: Project Love

Instead of making this day of love all about romantic love and focusing your attention on others that you love or lust after, we want you to turn all that love right around and in on yourself, starting with the way that you speak to yourself.  It is a life changer and key to your happiness and success.’ Check out how to write the letter, here. Of course, once again these ladies are bang on. Only last week I was listening to a Guilty Feminist podcast where Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge did an exercise in counting how many times she judged herself in a day. And this is a writer/actor at the top of her game. See, we all do it! We all need to exercise a little more self-care. The more you do that, the more you actually get a sense that there is someone there, catching you. And that’s the breakthrough moment – suddenly you realise you’re  become the controller of your thoughts and your feelings – no one else is. That’s well worth remembering, whether you’re in a relationship or not.

All the Single Ladies

Lastly, another incentive to joining Project Love is that you get free membership to the warm, friendly community that is the Secret Facebook group ‘The Love Zone’. Take it from me – if you’re going dating (on or offline), then you need these girls in your corner.

And rosecallaghan910x380170x170bbwhile we’re at it, you also REALLY need this girl! A frigging hilarious stand-up comedian I’ve met recently in Melbourne, she’s co-host of a sassy-as-shit podcast about sex and online dating – SwipeNight. I bring you the hysterical and lovely Rose Callaghan. If you happen to be in Melbs for the comedy festival, go see!

So there you have it. Between SwipeNight and Project Love, and your old chums the BUC, you’ve got the best possible support group you could ask for as you ride roughshod through The Jungle Of Single on this, the week of Valentine’s. And who knows, with all that going on, maybe it won’t be long before you’re the proud recipient of one of these puppies:

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More Inspiration! An excellent card from an achingly cool shop in Melbourne called ‘Quirk of Fate.’ I bought one as soon as I saw it, to give to my next friend that graduates…

If you’re interested in joining Project Love just head here to sign up (and to get a  very good price discount of £20 – Just type in the code Loreleilove) – Good luck! 

DELETED SCENES – SCENES FROM THE CUTTING-ROOM FLOOR

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Following on from my post on Holly Bookaholic’s blog – about how editing is such an important theme in the book, my brilliant editor Natasha and I thought it would be fun to share some of the deleted scenes from the novel itself.

These ones I’ve dug out were actually deleted way before they made it to Natasha’s desk (thank goodness). I don’t think I need to explain why they were shed, but mostly, they were dragging down the pace of the book.

OK, so the novel isn’t the paciest of reads even now, but with these in, it was even slower. Imagine! Anyway, we all thought it would be fun to share them, in the interests of celebrating the power of editing.

So, in the manner of a DVD Special Features section, we present to you, The Break Up Club Deleted Scenes…

‘Out-Breaks’ – Scenes from the cutting-room floor

 

Deleted Scene 1 “Mont Blanc, and Other Low Points”

 

Eventually, Holly arrived at work with only minor bruising. The rest of the morning was spent in and out of the toilet, in thrall to the ebb and flow of her nausea. In between that, she mostly watched Youtube links from friends, finding them all far funnier than they were. But by mid-afternoon the hangover had changed gear and an unrelenting doom took hold.

This was the trouble with Happy, she was slowly realising. Happy was all well and good, to a point; but you never knew when its sell by date was. The trouble with feeling happy when you were heartbroken was that, at some point you’d remember you were heartbroken again. So any elation was like a rising balloon that you desperately wanted to hold on to; but the higher you got, the steeper the drop would be. You could enjoy the temporary feeling of lightness – but eventually you’d remember again, you’d lose your grip of the balloon, and back down you’d fall.

Maybe, just maybe, alcohol wasn’t actually her friend, she wondered as she tried to distract herself by checking her emails. But all she had was a message from ‘Laterooms.com,’ telling her that there was a brilliant offer on this weekend at The White Room Hotel, St.Ives. As ever, the Internet seemed hell-bent on delving into the vault of romantic e-commerce and spitting out reminders at random – of every mini-break, present and thoughtful little thing she’d ever done for Lawrence in their five year tenure. She quickly deleted the email in the hope that it would stop any happy memories from being stirred. But she was too slow; she’d already been accosted by the thought of an evening they’d spent in one of their favourite restaurants in St Ives. Despite herself, she pressed Play on the memory, sat back and watched.

Holly had arrived late to meet Lawrence, and was stood in the doorway of the restaurant, faffing about with her bags – trying to find her mobile, losing a war against gravity with the many layers she was juggling in her arms. Looking around for Lawrence but unable to see him, she had then begun that funny pantomime-esque dance; the one where you’re walking round the restaurant, knowing full-well that the person you’re looking for can see you and is probably waving at you like mad. Meanwhile the whole restaurant is laughing their head off at how silly you look, because you just can’t see them anywhere. So when Holly had finally reached Lawrence after about three hours of flapping, he was grinning at her, a look of adoration in his blue eyes, and just out of nowhere he’d said,

‘I love you.’

Like he’d just thought of it, that second. She’d been floored at the time. It was just so wonderfully not the way you’d normally say something like that for the first time. Its spontaneity was what she’d loved most about it. What she’d loved most about him.

‘Thank you!’ she’d said, ‘Love you too,’ and she’d kissed him on the lips,

leaning across the table, her long hair only just avoiding a dalliance with the cheesy garlic bread.

As the balloon went rising into the air, Holly decided it was time to take

herself to the toilet, to be alone with her pointless reminiscing. You and Lawrence have done your time. Your sentence is over, she kept telling herself. But the finality of it, and the knowledge he was with someone else already; it was too much.

She headed down the corridor, not before clocking Luke ahead of her in the hallway. Which was brilliant, considering she had pretty much never looked worse? She thought about saying hello, but she couldn’t find her voice box, so instead opted for the much more mature approach: lowering the eyes, and marching on prudently as though you’ve not even seen them. Excellent, good save.

Moments later she was sat in the warm bosom of the women’s toilet. She had a nice long, cathartic cry. She opened her mobile phone and began to flick through which BUC member to call. If only Bella was around to speak to. She tried logging into Skype to see if she was randomly online, but her new-fangled smart phone kept on asking her to log in again and asking her to type in security words that really weren’t words, which was all too complicated in her present state of mind. So she gave up on Skype and put her phone into her pocket, realising her nose was in urgent need of blowing.

As she dispatched another batch of snotty tissues into the toilet, she looked down. Oops. She’d blown her nose so many times, and mopped her tears up with such a mountain of toilet roll that it now seemed as if Mont Blanc had sprouted up then and there in the toilet. Uh oh, time to go, she decided, leaping up and flushing the chain, twice.

But it wasn’t having any of it. She flushed it again. Nothing. In fact, if anything, Mont Blanc was now even sturdier. She began to prod at the mountain with the toilet brush. Nothing. Worse, even. Soggy little bits of loo roll were now caught up in the tendrils of the brush.

Could this get any worse, she wondered, bending down to get a better purchase on the u-bend. As she leaned in, naturally, her new smart phone fell into the toilet, landing at the summit of Mont Blanc. She fished the watery Nokia out and dumped it in her bag, too exhausted to react. She returned to the blockage.

After ten minutes of pretending to be a plumber, she gave up and returned the sopping wet toilet brush to its mother ship. And ran.

Two hours later, she saw through the gap in her doorway that there appeared to be water seeping down the corridor, from under an adjacent doorway. Oops. Maybe the time has come to stop drinking so much, she decided, as she heard a beep and saw a new email come in.

Through the fog of her hangover she could just about make out the words.

‘(High Importance): ALL STAFF: the ladies toilets are currently out of service while we tend to a major blockage/flooding incident. In the meantime we are allowed to use the conveniences in Princely Productions next door. Thanking you, Anthea Jessops, Head of Facilities.’

Holly pressed delete and buried her head in her pillow.

 

 

 

Deleted Scene 2.

 

“Nutrition Advice”

 

‘I’m serious. No food has passed my lips in days. Unless you count my own mucous, from crying so much,’ Bella said. ‘Does nasal mucous have any nutritional value I wonder? It must do. That’s all that’s in me, and I’m still going, aren’t I?’

‘Well, it’s either nutritious or you’re living off fat reserves,’ said Olivia.

‘It’s quite an efficient system,’ said Bella. ‘First, I cry my eyes out for hours. Then the tears begin the mucous production, and that’s enough to give me enough energy to keep crying the whole day. Kind of like a deranged version of The Water Cycle, like you did in school.’

‘Shall I make a diagram?’ asked Bella, reaching into her bag for her notebook.

 

 

 

Deleted Scene 3.

 

“The Name Game”

 

‘Jenny Microwave.’

Holly exploded with laughter. ‘Alright. That’s a good one.’

‘Yeah Hi! I’m Jenny Microwave!’ he said through laughter. ‘Now you.’

‘Oh, I can’t think of any more just now. I’m not really in the zone. How about, Peter… no. Francesca… Francesca Upholstery.’

Lawrence guffawed. ‘Jimmy Cutlery,’ he retorted, barely missing a beat. ‘Hey, I think Jimmy and Jenny would make a nice couple, don’t you? And if Jimbob ever made an honest woman of Jenny, she’d become Jenny Cutlery! Awesome. Your turn.’

Holly thought for a moment, then gave in. ‘I’m sorry, I can’t think of any more. Maybe we can leave it there for today?!’ She gave her boyfriend a nudge.

It was infantile at best, but when no one else was around, Holly and Lawrence would play a few rounds of The Name Game. It was their dark secret, but the rules were simple. You just had to say the most stupid fictional name that came into your head. Usually, the optimum humour could be derived by juxtaposing a regular forename with a surname comprising a domestic appliance of some sort. No one else knew about this game, which had passed the time for them over many a journey on the London Underground.

‘Oh, OK. We need to get off in a few minutes anyway,’ said Lawrence.

Holly was puzzled. ‘No, we don’t. We’re nowhere near Tufnell Park!’

 

 

 

Deleted Scene 4.

 

“Free-Wheeling”

 

‘Yeah! I so know what you mean!’ said Holly. ‘Like, the other day, I was on my way to work when I saw this girl riding past on her bike, pulling a wheelie bag along with it on the ground, while she was riding. It looked so awkward and cumbersome, but she was smiling away, so somehow, she pulled it off! And I just thought, that’s awesome! And I laughed out loud with her, she caught my eye and smiled as if to say yeah, why not… and I got my phone out to ring Lawry and tell him, and then I remembered.’

 

 

Deleted Scene 5.

 

“Eff-Off”

 

‘Well at least you’re not being E-persecuted,’ said Bella as she poured out some Margaritas to accompany the Mexican themed dinner which Olivia had been preparing. ‘Even Amazon is out to get me these days. Through the medium of ‘past-buyer mailings’, it sends me ‘thoughtful’ suggestions related to every gift I’ve ever bought Sam on there. Which is a lot of things.’

‘I mean, really,’ said Holly. ‘What really gets me is when Facebook sends me ‘friend suggestions’ – you know this person and this person ­– ‘why not add Lawrence Edward Hill as a friend’?

‘You’re kidding? I wish FB would F OFF, sometimes!’ yelled Bella, drinking her Margarita like water.

 

 

 

Deleted Scene 6.

 

“Admin Error”

 

‘OK…well, you’re going to think I’m pathetic beyond belief, but… I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Mr Film Buff… So I did a very sad thing. I searched through the ‘groups’ on Facebook around the Hackney and Dalston area, and it turns out there is actually a group for the ‘The Film Shop’ on Broadway Market.’

‘Oh B, you’re actually ill,’ said Holly.

‘And guess who the Admin of the group is? ADAM! His name is Adam! And it’s him! How mad is that! So I’ve added him as a friend.’

‘You really must stop spoiling the surprise about all your prospects!’ reprimanded Harry. ‘Stop stalking them – I bet you know all about his life now don’t you? Also, is he not going to wonder how on earth you found him?’

Bella looked a little worried, as though she’d not quite thought of that. ‘It’s fine. He’ll probably just ignore my friend request anyway.’

‘You can find ANYONE these days,’ said Olivia. ‘Even if they don’t want to be found.’

 

 

Deleted Scene 7.

 

“Blue Cheese”

 

An hour later, Harry came into the kitchen to see her lying on the sofa, an empty packet of Cheddars at her feet. She opened her eyes to see distinct disappointment on his face.

‘Holly, beautiful girl. I don’t think you’re getting on that well without BUC, are you? This compulsive dating certainly isn’t helping. And neither is all this late-night bingeing.’

‘Yes,’ she said as he sat down next to her.

‘Cheese isn’t going to fill the hole, Hol. Temporarily, yes. But not long-term,’ he said slowly, as though it was an ancient Sanskrit proverb. ‘Neither are cheese-ball men, come to think of it.’

‘You’re right,’ she said, mulling over each word, marvelling at his

profound wisdom.

She hugged Harry as they both looked out the window over Fortess Road. ‘Jesus Harry, is this a break up, or a quarter-life-sodding-crisis?’

Harry laughed and squeezed her hand. ‘Come here,’ he said, folding her into his arms, as her hot tears slipped down her cheeks and into his hair.

 

 

LIDO LOVE IS… (An article I wrote for the Guardian) 

When I’m not harping on about break-ups, I’m usually in a lido. Or writing about one. Or trying to help save one.

Here’s a recent Guardian post I wrote about all three.

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Like most lido spotters, I can’t look at a bit of open water without wanting to hurl myself into it. Be it the sea, a pool, a river, a puddle even … I get a twitchy feeling. It must be got into. Ot…

Source: GUARDIAN (Lido Love is…)