That cake shop down the road

I saw her the other day  

in that cake shop down the road.

Mum’s old friend, or should I say

the wife of mum’s old friend?

Or should I say

the wife of mum’s old special friend?

The one who came over when dad was working.

I saw her the other day

standing with her daughter next to that cake shop down the road.

She saw me too but turned away,

probably mistaking me for mum.

Most people do anyway.  

I saw her the other day with her daughter.  

She’s all grown up now; maybe six, seven, eight?

Wearing glasses now, ‘How ironic’

I thought.

He used to tease me about my glasses.

I saw him last at the cake shop too, 

after everything was over.

Mum had taken us there for a treat,

I wanted chocolate cake.

They saw each other and nodded.

It started when they exchanged numbers at church.

He first came over to build a wardrobe with dad.

Mum cooked for him and he went home.

He came again the next day and the day after that

and everyday after that.

Mostly when her or dad were working.

They told us it was a play date but didn’t say who for.

Mum came to sleep in my room one day.

I was woken up to the sound of her talking

to him.

That’s when I knew

that our perfect family was ruined.

Dad found out a few months later.

I saw her the other day,

working in that cake shop down the road.

The door chimed as I walked in.

She stopped. For a second she thought I was mum.

I asked her for the chocolate sponge.

She slid the window open to cut me a slice

and said nothing.

I paid the vendor and left.

Then I heard a quiet voice behind me.

“Have a nice day.”

This poem was submitted by Laura Persson from Sweden.

Radio show

Supposedly, this could’ve been my first ‘Mum, I’ve made it’ moment, or not quite since I never actually told her. Last December, I was chosen to be on episode one of ‘First’. A podcast dedicated to your first time experiencing something as a teenager. This is how I recall my experience:

As I walked into the recording studio on Great Portland street, I felt as nervous as ever. I had never opened up to people about my relationships before, and now it was to be broadcast for the entire nation to listen and relate to.

The producer introduced me to the host and the other two people I’d be sharing the show with. This made me relieved on one hand but I soon realised that more people would be watching me talk as we were recording. This unnerved me a little; the only way to calm myself down was by taking deep breathes and eating many of the mince pies that were on offer at the table.

Stomachs filled, we were taken downstairs to a series of corridors which lead to different recording rooms. The studio was exactly how I imagined; through a triple sound-proofed door lead a small room with a large round table. On top of which were a series of microphones connected to gigantic noise cancelling headphones. Behind me was a tinted window which took up the entire width of the wall. This would be where the producer and technician would sit behind, talking to us through our headphones and saying things such us ‘Can you repeat that?’ or ‘Slow down’. (The intimacy was real).

I was still quite nervous when the recording started, but I slowly began to find my place in the conversation as the recording started. The topic was about my first heartbreak, a story I knew off the back of my hand. Even though I was way out of my comfort zone, in the end I realised that it’s easier to talk about something you already know as there is always so much to say. Now time to record the next episode.

You can listen to ‘First’ on: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07d0tv7

The art of quitting social media

Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter; the apps I had given a profuse amount of my time. Almost 3 hours of my day would be taken up by me scrolling through these apps, absorbing in content which were completely unrelated to my life. I found myself filling my brain with memes – yes, I agree that memes can be funny but I was taking in too much- but my addiction was growing worse. I was living, breathing and speaking in meme. My thoughts, ideas and opinions were being backed up by memes and soon I became fed up. I deleted all time wasting apps hoping to return to the time where I had increased focus on everything and everyone around me. I managed to live without it for a good few hours until I had an itching sensation to take a quick look at what everyone was up to. I could always login to my accounts using my laptop which wouldn’t really count as the format of these social media sites are completely different to how it was displayed on my phone. And so be it, I spent the next few hours stuck between the tabs of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, endlessly scrolling through photos of my ex-boyfriends aunt and old school friends of whom I had no interest in reuniting with. It was only after I put down my laptop and realised how unproductive my day had been that I realised my addiction was serious.

Social Media has 4 core purposes; sharing, learning, interacting and marketing. Sharing information can either be private or public and can come in many forms such as pictures, writing, video and voice recordings. The beauty of this is that you have the ability to share anything; reviews, advertising and leisure. This way, you can learn more about a certain topic, find out what your friends and family are up to as well as interacting and responding to a certain post. I don’t doubt that the concept is overall positive as it brings together communities from all over the world. What if the interaction gets too much, toxic to you and your surroundings? After all, too much of anything does make you sick right? For example, if I didn’t like the colour of the tables at a particular restaurant, I am 99% sure that I will be unlikely to find another person who disliked the same tables through conversions during my day. On the internet, however, I could publicise my thoughts on Twitter, add a few hashtags, tag the restaurant and suddenly I’ve created a cult of cream coloured table haters. Social media’s purpose was to bring people together, though in practice this is just another way of absorbing useless information. 

Internet platforms have been designed to monopolise human attention by any means necessary (New York times). There have been many instances where I sit down to work but ended up scrolling through Instagram. I would then put down my phone and proceed to my actual tasks only to reward myself with some more social media after every new paragraph I had written. This cycle would continue until my tasks are completed in more than double the time I had intended to spend on it. Social media companies essentially use us as products. They thrive off our attention and our constant scrolling for PROFIT. The reason for Instagram’s algorithm to be in a non linear is so that we never reach the end, the scrolling never stop and the profits keep rolling in. Aside from this, the environments of every day life has changed. When was the last time you went walked into a waiting room where no one was on a phone? Or try and think about the last time you rode an entire bus journey without once reaching for your phone and actually enjoying the view outside. In my opinion, social media has caused more damage than good; the irony is that we now live in a world where everything we say has to be filtered and politically correct, a place where hate is spread faster and in a more destructive manner, a world where there are too many opinions from either side leaving you in a state of confusion and unrest.

After realising that I spent the vast majority of my day doing god-knows-what on these apps, I decided it was time for a change. I have now successfully been off Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for 40 days and counting, this is how I did it.

1.   Unfollow everyone and everything. 

 The main aim of this was to reduce the amount of content that was on my feed everyday, hence being able to go through it all in one sitting without having to constantly check my phone. It may sound tough, it’s actually pretty easy. I unfollowed every person that I had neither seen nor spoken to in the past year. This turned out to be quite a lot to my surprise, mostly people I had met once and just people at school. I also unfollowed the meme pages who had the worst quality memes or just spammed my feed with brand deals.

You will probably find that the number of followers you have will also decrease, and I too had an ache in my heart every time I saw the figures drop. However, I learnt not care much about this since I was finally seeing only the interesting content. 

2.   Delete the apps off your phone 

Since my feed had reduced so much, I grew bored of picking up my phone every now and then and watching over the same posts. The need to constantly scroll still hadn’t gone away and I became the first person to watch someones most recent story or the first to like a post. The frustration grew and the boredom grew further. As a result, I deleted the apps from my phone with no intention of getting them back.

If this seems like an extreme move for you try deleting the apps with the knowledge that you could always check your feed on a desktop – but keeping this at a minimum of course. After deleting the apps, I found myself only checking my feed on my laptop once a day, soon this reduced down to zero. 

What I learnt was that social media is not something I aspire to go back to. It did not improve the quality of my life – it was merely a distraction which diverged my tasks and plans. I can now read a book without an itching need to check my phone for notifications every few minutes, I can hold a conversation without keeping my head down and best of all, I can focus on and do my required tasks for the day in a reasonable amount of time, leaving me to do more.


Confronting an old friend

I recently met with a guy that I had dated for a while back when I was at school,  intending to ask him questions about the relationship we had. What I got from him was so personal that it made me reconsider everything about myself hence why I’ve been holding myself from writing this. This was 3 months ago:

It was a chaotic beginning to say the least. We had both arrived at opposite ends of the park and spent a good hour searching for each other. The butterflies were increasing by the minute as I checked my phone, only to receive a tonne of messages from him threatening to leave if I didn’t hurry up. I ignored them since I knew he wouldn’t have left until seeing me. I did find him, eventually, and he seemed to have calmed down from tone of his text messages, making me look like an idiot whilst I was profusely apologising to him. 

I felt safe under his presence, like I didn’t need to look after myself because I felt as if he was doing it for me. He was wearing his usual. Dark coloured jumper, jeans and the light-weight jacket with a sheen of lambency. I could’ve settled for the handshake but he went in for the hug. Just as well because the scent of his aftershave brought back moments of lust. Our relationship began during the school days. He says he noticed me in a maths class. One night, he finally plucked up the courage and messaged me with one of the most ridiculous pick up lines. Before this, I hadn’t even known of his existence. He told me he was drunk but I didn’t care, I liked him. I liked him because he noticed me. Nobody ever noticed me. As we walked under the bridges and along the emptying canals of East London, the sun was beginning to set but conversations only just beginning.

He told me how the failure of our relationship lay on faults of both of ours. Deep down, we both knew – know – that it was my fault. I continued to put him on a status above mine thinking he was far too good for me when the whole time, we were equal. Was it because he was white and that I belonged to an Asian minority? His confidence? Intelligence? Physique? All of this resulted to a feeling of anxiety and resentment in myself. He thought the relationship failed because of communication but really I had trouble communicating with myself. My mind, constantly competing with his gestures. He’s out with his friends today. Why aren’t I out with mine? Oh that’s right, I don’t have any. But he couldn’t know that. I put myself forward as an optimistic conversationalist which knowledge of politics and a tongue of witty sarcasm. He thought of me as a family girl, a vocal in the church choir, a giver. Really, I am all of those. But I failed with him. I gave him the right key to my heart but changed the locks just as he approached it. I was lost, broken, unfixable. All this I was realising during our meeting, all this he was completely oblivious to. All this he is still unaware of.

Rush Hour Crush

I got caught in the midst of rush hour on Thursday. The worst time of the day when you’re in London; crowded trains filled with business people or tourists. Everyone receives a fair amount of pushes, shoves and the occasional elbow to the rib. All in all, we just want to get home.

Somehow I got onto the tube in one piece. Holding a large shopping bag, wearing my backpack over my thick winter jacket and headphones in, a must, whilst listening to heavy metal to drown out the noises of crying babies and enthusiastic tourists. There I was, looking like a right sort. I was tapping my fingers on the pole to the beat of the music when I saw him. I must have been loud because he saw me tapping and smiled. He was standing about an arm’s length in front. But of course, having been rush hour meant that there were at least 3 people inbetween us – like the wall of Verona separating Romeo and Juliet.

He wore a charcoal grey suit jacket and an unbuttoned baby pink shirt. No tie – which I don’t blame because of the humidity. I couldn’t see his shoes but I presumed they were somewhat smart. He had an olive skin tone but it was his hair that had struck me the most. Locks of brown glossy hair, curly and remained at the scalp yet dead straight on the edges.

He got a seat after a herd of people got off at the train at Turnpike Lane, leaving me still standing. I thought it’d be a good idea to bluetooth him a picture of what I was listening to since he had cared enough to smile. He didn’t appear on the Airdrop list. To my unfortune, nothing came up with his image and instead I accidently sent the image to ‘Danielle’s iphone’ – boy I bet she was confused. A few stops went by and the seat next to him became available. A message from the heavens. This was my chance. I sat beside him and took off my headphones and adjusted my hair using the help of my reflection in the window opposite. He smelled strongly of a freshly applied JPG – a smell which was fairly familiar to me.

The remainder of the journey was a quiet one. We both left the train at the same stop via a different set of double doors. He smiled again when I turned to look around for him. Is he just polite or playing with my feelings?

The train jolted to a stop. I ran out through the doors and up the escalators to catch my next bus in time. This was it. Time for the love of my life to run up behind me and ask for my number so we could stay up all night and talk on the phone. Tonight was the premiered night of many that we’d spend together and live to have a life of four children and live in a country home and own the biggest farm. Tonight –

“Excuse me?”

I stop. Eyes wide open in shock. Heart pounding against my chest. Legs turn to jelly. My prayers just keep on getting answered today. The angels are by my side.

That’s when my farce o’clock struck. I turned around to find it wasn’t him. It wasn’t him at all. I knew who this person was though. He sat diagonal to me on the train I had just been on. Gym bag, jogging bottoms, baggy t-shirt, expensive trainers and wearing AirPods. He was probably one of those exercise people – oh no – a personal trainer. He’s not going to ask if I needed any help did he?

“Yes?”

“Would you mind if I had your phone number?”

I politely declined and walked away, still searching for my twilight tube man. He was gone and so was my bus ride home.

Barbie’s problem

A few weeks ago when I was teaching a girl no less than 10, I saw that her pencil case was covered with prints and stickers of Disney princesses. This for me brought back moments to reminisce. I picked up the case and fingered the outlines of it. How I used to look up to all these characters, creating shrines for them in my bedroom and dressing up like them for every birthday. Momentarily, I asked the girl who her favourite was. “Belle” she said. Then I asked her least favourite expecting a villain like Scar or Ursula. “Tatiana”, she said as if it were obvious enough. I asked why. Her response instantly brought me back from my reminiscent high. “Because she’s brown.”

“Brown, but you’re brown too?”. Bearing in mind that the girl, like myself originates from South Asia. “I’m not brown, I’m white” she said almost proudly. I ended the conversation right there. The last thing I wanted was to argue with a child. Her comment angered me but more importantly I was concerned to what made her think this way. What was so wrong with us Asians that made her want to deny the fact that she was brown?

This isn’t the first time that problems have arisen with diversity in fictional characters and toys for children. Take Barbie for example; the doll was first released in 1959 where is wasn’t really a problem for all dolls being identical in skin colour, hair or having the “perfect” body. It was a huge hit with young children and parents since birthday presents had just gotten easier.

The issue relies on the fact that young girls from across the globe will have been conditioned to think that beauty only lies within a woman of white skin, blonde hair and a body shape that is impossible and unhealthy to achieve. Studies show that 40% of children are dissatisfied with the way they look after having received a Barbie doll. This comes from a variety of reasons such as body image and skin colour. Although the demographic for the Barbie is well below the age of ten, the long term consequences are much more severe. Having worries about body image at a young age is more likely to lead to having disorders with eating, social anxiety and body dysmorphia. What Mattel failed to mention is that the real life size of Barbie is frankly impossible to achieve. According to calculations, the doll would have a dress size of 2, this being far below the average dress size of an adult and extremely unhealthy.

It took almost 60 years for Barbie to have a transformation. In 2016 Mattel created dolls with several skin tones and body shapes. One size certainly does not fit all and customers were given a choice of what kind of Barbie they could have. But was it 60 years too late? Barbie’s brand image will always be of a silicon plastic doll with white skin and blonde hair and not the diversity that has recently been introduced. So for the future, children will need to be brought up with the varied dolls, potentially reducing eating disorders in teenagers and a less conditioned vision of beauty.

Barbie body image

Crowd surfer. By Tallulah Stone

Crowd surfer. Me, on a swarm.

Surfing the crowd to search for you, my love. My love?

You look the same. A duplicate. Fourty hundred people. All the same as you. Peach in tone from intoxicant, eating you from the inside through out, bubbling away a new corpuscle.

Hands prodding on my back. Backwards, forwards. Forwards and backwards. Fingers stabbing into my back. Any pain will do, to get to you. My love.

     You look the same as them. Bandana, Bindi, Booze. But different, droned my conscience.

I spot you. Far away. Staring. Stinging.

I spot you. Whiskers, sculpted, hair of blondey auburn. Bern. You’re holding something, Rhine. I told you, same as everyone else. But different. Too good for me.

You see my umbrage from the prodding hands yet you stare. Staring at my beauty or gratifying at my discomfort? I can never tell. That’s why you’re different. Too good for me.

But when I’m released from the prodding hands, you’re gone. Right, Left, Up, Down. Nowhere to be seen.

Gone, but you’ve left something behind. An electrifying sting. I want more.

Unconventional methods of dating

Online dating is not a brand new concept; In fact, it’s been around for almost three decades. Although the discovery of new technology allowed websites such as match.com develop into applications on our mobile phones, the objective of matching with a stranger online and having a potential relationship with them has remained the same. Popular dating apps include Eharmony, Zoosk, Tinder and the budding Bumble. Having previously tried Tinder before, I was keen to use Bumble as I had not really heard of it before and intrigued to find out what was in store.

As ironic as it may sound now, I wasn’t actively looking for a relationship. I strongly believe these things should never be forced and so, without much anticipation or expectation, I opened up the app.

Initial thoughts: I particularly liked the colour scheme; a strong golden yellow, which was attractive to the eye and useful for making your profile radiant. The concept being to find the pollen to your queen bee, in other words, your soulmate/best friend. The app allows you to have up to six images of yourself, a short biography as well as connect your Instagram and Spotify. This is what my profile looked like: (excluding images)

When writing a biography, it’s best to include your passions and something that represents your personality. In my case, this was something quite comical (as I find myself to be quite the comedian). The profiles that didn’t particularly catch my attention and immediately made me swipe left (reject) were the ones that said something along the lines of “swipe right for a good time” or “life-guard, so actually certified to give you mouth to mouth”. Yes, this was a real one.. I mean, it’s good to be a little enigmatic but there is a fine line between mysterious and unpleasant. Additionally, the best profiles also had the most intriguing images. They were often filled with colour and showed a genuine personality. Selfies are mediocre but the bee wants the flower with the most character, so perhaps use pictures of you travelling or partaking in a hobby. 

Unlike other dating apps, an advantageous feature Bumble is that it only allows the female to start a conversation with their match. Having an app that is so female orientated creates a sense of safety and a has a non-traditional value in which the male does not make the first move. Another compelling feature is that there is a 24 hour time cap to begin a conversation with your match including an additional 24 hours in which your match can respond. This gives only 2 days to strike up a conversation with someone, differing to other dating sites where the match can be kept on hold and dragged out for several months. This urges you to make a move as fast as possible meaning more bees buzz faster! Although, if the female does not start a conversation with her match, then there is an option for the male to use a ‘daily extend’, where you can remain matched for an additional day.

In my experience, the best conversation starters go along the lines of “Hey, how you doing?” or simply asking about their day. This will allow your match to open up and get the conversation going. A simple “hello” will not give your match a lot of work with, neither will a cringey pick up line. I started nearly all my conversations with a “Hey, how you doing?” followed by something that intrigued me about their profile. Once I received a reply from my matches, I was able to see who really had a genuine interest in me. 

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This was the only person who responded to the likes and interests of my profile which definitely got my attention, and I was intrigued to know more about them.
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I was a little confused by this one… he loves reading but hasn’t finished a book yet? I didn’t think it would be necessary continuing this conversation.
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And of course some just weren’t as serious as others.
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This was funny and flirtatious, again drawing me closer for more conversation.

The best response were the ones to reciprocate my questions and ask more about me.  My passion for crime novels and English literature was shared with a complete stranger and we were able to connect on a deeper level and speak more personally about ourselves so I began to develop a genuine interest in this person. This was my Bumble boy .That being said, this is how you can ‘over’ do things:

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You will know once the foundations of a potential relationship has been set when you begin to connect on other social media platforms other than the app itself. You begin to have a mix of constant flirting as well deep, meaningful heart to heart conversations and sending each other pictures of what we’ve come across in our day. For example; myself and Bumble boy would send each other pictures of the books we’re reading or bargains we’ve found at the supermarket for a few weeks or so (Yes, this is what adulting feels like). Then came the conversation of meeting up. He was always reassuring me that he did not want to push anything or make me feel uncomfortable in any way. Even so, just like most people, I felt anxious about meeting a stranger from the internet. He would always say “The worst case scenario is that I’m 50 and I’m fat but we are meeting in a public gallery and I most definitely not kill you!” – bearing in mind we both love crime novels and always come up with ways to kill each other when we’re flirting (grim, but sexy). 

The thought of meeting someone from online may sound daunting, and there are correct ways to approach this. Do meet in a public space – you will never know the intentions of the person you are meeting and even if you think you know them, you can never be sure. Make your place of meeting easily accessible for the both of you. You don’t need to travel lengths to meet someone for the first time, why not meet in the middle? Always let a close friend or family member know where you are at all times and what you’re doing – prepare for the worst case scenario. My match and I decided to meet up at a gallery in London during the afternoon. It had many visitors but was also quiet enough so we could communicate with each other clearly. We went on a long walk through Hyde Park and I showed him my favourite spots in London (since he was new to the city). Don’t pressure yourself to make a move with your match, first let the conversation flow and learn to feel comfortable in each others’ presence. If it was not meant to be, you will know so always prepare to be disappointed at least in the slightest.

I have a humiliating history of not being asked out on a second date. To my surprise, Bumble boy messaged me after our meeting and told me he enjoyed my company and would like to meet again. Triumph! I mainly think this was because I went to our date with no expectations. I didn’t put any pressure on myself to look amazing or be funny like I would do on most other dates, I also didn’t have any expectations from him..