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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”.

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…)

Fall In Love With The Museum of Broken Relationships

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From a singular smelly sneaker, to a half-completed Sodoku puzzle book, my fictional characters would have gladly donated their break-up debris to the Museum of Broken Relationships. But when I first wrote the first draft of ‘Break Up Club’, there was no such thing. So the Club had to make do with building a bonfire that led to the fire brigade being called out, and almost being thrown in jail.

Luckily, now there’s a real place you can send your break-up detritus (date-tritus, anyone?). I was lucky enough to go to the sneak preview ahead of its opening today, June 4th, at 6751 Hollywood Boulevard.*

#BrokenshipsLA is a cathedral of catharsis, where only the brave have shed their most intimate, sentimental memories, and laid their broken dreams to rest. Reading the plaques, the relief is palpable. You get a real sense of these people having finally attained peace in themselves, having finally let go.

Being a geek about break-ups (an occupational hazard), I’ve been to the museum twice before over the years. But this time, I was struck dumb by the quality of the writing in all the stories. I feel disloyal saying this, but I don’t remember the plaques in London all being as impeccably written. Perhaps there has been a more shrewd editing process this time, but they are all brilliantly balanced – both as pieces in themselves, and in relation to each other. Sensitively curated, some stories are brutally short; a real power in their brevity. Others are as long and meandering as the lifetimes they span.

The artefacts range from the funny (a mirror weighed down with the memory of a break-up), the freaky (curled up contacts collected in a baggy), the frightening (belly button fluff)… to the heartbreaking (the teddy who no longer has music in his fingertips)… and the adorably mundane:

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At this point I can’t not mention another similarity to ‘Break Up Club’ – which has its own fluoride motif, first mentioned here:

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But back to the museum. Below are some of my all time favourites.

Yard 2
Heavy baggage
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Free in every sense of the word
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Nobody’s hero
The butterfly effect
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When a butterfly flaps its wings… all the way to the rubbish dump
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Bear of little heart
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No picnic
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Uncomfortable silence

After an hour in the Museum, you are bowled over by the universality of break-ups. A sense that Love is the best feeling in the world, whereas break-ups are worse than death. But most of all you come away realising that it’s only by sharing our hoarding with others that we can declutter our emotional attics and finally move on. A break-up shared really is a break-up halved.

In the spirit of sharing, then – if I was ever going to donate an object, it would be one red high-heeled shoe. A symbol of one particularly significant love story I lived through. I won’t bore you with the details, but it began with a romantic Cinderella-esque meet-cute, and ended when the relationship turned into a pumpkin 10 months later. Sadly, I can’t donate the original shoe because the ‘real life Break Up Club’ and I burned it in a bonfire. This was back in 2009, before Zagreb’s first Brokenships had opened. So like my characters, we had to improvise.

I had to laugh when the invite came into my inbox with one red high-heeled shoe on it. 

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*Incidentally, ‘Break-Up Club’ itself has also finally just opened its doors, thanks to Harper Collins. You can join here, or find out more at breakupclub.co.uk