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:

minty fresh

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
comic
Nobody’s hero
The butterfly effect
broken wings
When a butterfly flaps its wings… all the way to the rubbish dump
bearly there1
Bear of little heart
bearly there 2
No picnic
bearly there 3
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

 

 

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GOING GAGA FOR LIDOS ON THE RADIO

I recently had a serendipitous encounter at my local lido with a friendly stranger. He was stood loitering by the swim-suit dryer, recording the sound of it on his phone. Like you do. We got chatting. I quickly unleashed my lido geekery on him (when I’m not writing novels, I’m a nutcase about outdoor swimming and lidos)… and before I knew it, I’d agreed to co-host on his show all about London Fields Lido, on Hoxton.FM.

It was insane amounts of fun. I’m going back on again this Saturday (23rd April), at 3pm to talk all about Break Up Club and its mega-therapeutic sound-track. We’re after recommendations – if you’ve got a song that’s saved your broken-hearted ass – let me know and we might play it.

‘Til then, here’s a handy link to listen to my goofy radio debut here:

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If you don’t have two hours spare and you fancy dipping your toe in to some of it, here’s what we chat about and when…

Break Up Club and my novels: 10 mins 33 to 11

My next book after Break Up Club, and Lidos and their history, and : 12 mins & 46 mins

Peckham Rye Lido and Thames Baths: 15 mins

Darren Hayman, London Fields Lido and Thames Baths: 33- 36 mins

Brockwell Lido: 50 mins and 1 min 50

The Salad Spinner: 52 mins

Lido love, and literature and swimming: 1 min 8- 11

Lucy Blakstad and her film Lido:1 min 11, and 1 min 50

Heavy Petting: 1 min 16

 

 

New Lines for London Underground

A while ago we wrote about the Poetiquette campaign that’s been up on the tubes. A lovely way to encourage people to be less self-involved while they’re travelling.

They’ve now awarded a winner – Jennifer Dart from Rayleigh in Essex, who saw off competition from over 6,000 aspiring poets to be crowned the official winner of the Travel Better London poetry competition.

The poem, which was written on the topic: ‘Avoid Unnecessary Delays. Don’t hold open the doors’, was crowned the winning entry by a panel of judges including Aisling Fahey, Young Poet Laureate for London, writer George the Poet and Sophie Baker from The Poetry Society.

Her verse has since been immortalised in cartoon form, complete with her very own caricature. It is now being displayed on buses and Tubes across the Capital.

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TfL’s Travel Better London campaign was launched in September 2013 when colourful poetry posters designed by the artist McBess were showcased on London transport encouraging people to consider their fellow passengers when travelling.

There was also another lovely element to the campaign a few years ago – something I just discovered that a copywriting-poet-friend of mine called Amy Acre did with M & C Saatchi. She was hired to be writer-in-residence on various sites all over the tube, writing impromptu poems about little stories of TFL etiquette.

My personal favourite is this one – Your Butt is a hero. Go Amy.