30. In Numbers.

One of a series of Quote pieces by designer Julian Bialowas

One of a series of Quote pieces by designer Julian Bialowas

Fretting about bad things that could or have not yet happened is not the wisest use of your time. It stops you sleeping, gives you spots, makes you eat more and even stops orgasms. Get insurance, a pension scheme and a Will. Try some of that Saving-up malarkey. Google potential employers or love interests. Don’t walk around barefoot in a carpentry workshop. Don’t chop onions with a blindfold. (Do watch THIS). Do call your mother. And the big 3-0 is not an entity you should give a toss about in your 20s.

Then it hits. This wet turdpat flung into your Partytastic Chi like a Dyson Airblade of shitspray aimed at your face. The Shizzle for your nizzle. (Going to add more brands and Snoopisms to my pieces as it makes them come up in amusing search engine queries: “Hangover Cure Cheese Banana” “Taylor Swift Yeti Harpoon Gun” “Justin Bieber makes Guacamole for Rihanna”).

Right. Grown up speak. I’m not the first to do turn 30, and seem to share this predicament with a few buddies this year. 3 months in, please find below a statistical ‘summary’ of what’s been taking up my entire life so far, according to an iphone calculator and the Madeleine-Butcher-Law-of-Averages.

(And thoughts like “What about Leap Years?” or “not every month has 30 days”, are appropriate to you, these are approximations. I hate you).

30 years = 10,950 days.  262,800 hours.

If I slept 7.5 hours a day until 23, then an average 6.5 hours a day from then until now, I will have slept 79,570 hours:

30.2% of life asleep.

I give an average 3 hugs a day, for roughly 3 seconds each. Cumulatively I’ve been:

Hugging for 22 days.

I spend 8 minutes every day nomming on a packet of Monstermunch, and usually at least a full hour eating actual stuff divided across the rest of the day, normally paired with other activities. That’s 517 days ingesting the good produce of this planet:

17 months Eating.

No idea how much that would weigh, but probably at least as much as 2 5-bedroom houses in Solihull. Accordingly, if I spend approximately 11 minutes on the toilet each day, (being realistic) that’s a grand total of:

83.65 days on the Throne.

Often on the phone. Often reading. I won’t guess at the weight of the outcome. Actually I will – I think I’ve shat at least a Semi Detached in Milton Keynes.

If I spend at least 25 minutes of every day laughing, (which is realistic) that’s:

190 days Laughing.

No sleep. Just happy diaphram exercise. Good times.

Now factoring in public/bar toilets, supermarket check outs, Dubai Airport’s Passport desks, standing at the bar, the post office, Banks, taxi ranks etc… realistically:

418 days standing in Queues.

Now this one was a bastard: how long on my way somewhere, including the daily commute to school and then work, and every trip across the UK, on planes while living abroad… (This doesn’t even factor waiting times and took about an hour to work out).

106.09 days sitting on Transport.

Let’s cheer it up a bit:

(thinking about how lovely an acquaintance is, how happy I’d make them and what they’d look like with less clothes on etc). …roughly 1 hour of every day, including weekends…


…174.75 days having Crushes.

907 hours Frightening Strangers…

…at weekends, with an inebriated verbal Maddy-Barage when all they wanted to do was drink and dance with people they actually know.

At least 162 days listening to Boring People…

…without hurting their feelings (Non-Work related). This does not include having to read their statuses/comments on Facebook.

950 days reading ‘Stuffs’  (books/web or newspapers).

27 days watching films with Bill Murray in.

4 months working in two thankless jobs, getting out before either could do any permanent damage. (This was written at the last one)

Another of a series of Quote pieces by designer Julian Bialowas

Another of a series of Quote pieces by designer Julian Bialowas


Keep Young and Beautiful

Try this. This is a delightful piece of copy for womens’ cosmetics over 100 years ago. While the vocabulary may have changed, the sentiment has not.

Antique cosmetic copy

  • If you want to be prettier, try this.
  • Pretty and clever people use this.
  • It’s really clever.
  • There’s no way you could make it yourself out of cheaper things or stuff in the garden.

Three differences between this and our modern day beauty-fuel:

  • There is no Faux-Sciencey nonsense – eg Pro-Marine Collagen Organic lifting Serum, 24 hour hydro booster molecular oxi Q10 pro-retinol etc.

(For a serious debunking of all these Bollockisms about cosmetics and other delightful crappages of our times, please, please read Ben Goldacre’s brilliant Bad Science, which explains that if your skin could actually absorb fish DNA, you would have scales. DNA is what makes and keeps you what you are, despite many imaginative science fiction flicks. We should be very pleased our DNA cannot absorb or replicate other DNAs by simply rubbing it in, and no, the Clinique lady in Debenhams should not be wearing a bloody Labcoat. The Edwardians didn’t go that far).

  • Three Flowers Face Powder also doesn’t include our lovely present-day buzzwords either, these words that mean so much: replenish, revitalize, enhance, hydrating. radiance comfort, defense (American spelling) extracts, regenerate,  nourishing, youth-surge, visibly-lifting… you get the gist.
  • This copy is accompanied by a cartoon, as opposed to a photoshopped flawless 20 year old.

I spent five days last month sitting next to a talented designer photoshopping the crap out of a 24-year-old’s face for a product aimed at ladies in their 40s.

And here’s the killer. This kind of advertising is at least 120 years old. And the corresponding vitriol and indignation, that’s nothing new either. But if we’re all so savvy, aware, and won’t be sold to, when it comes to picking up something off a shelf, you’re more likely to pick up the product with the pretty lady on it. Or the funky graphics for a funky price if there’s more in your wallet that day.

We can still be manipulated, but it’s lovely when we’re not, and just appreciate things because we genuinely know they’re great. In that category I can put Monster Munch, Rescued Dogs, the Game of Thrones books, Baby Oil, Hugs, Spaghetti Bolognaise, orgasms, Emeli Sande and a pint in the Golden Rule in Ambleside. Nobody told me why. They just are.

The BishBoshBang Infographic

Stats that won’t end up in your PowerPoint presentation. They may, or may not be true. I’ll let you be the judge of that.

2012 More or Less

Dubai Learnings part 2

In response to the well-received Dubai Learnings Part 1, here’s the next edition>

It is illadvised to invite the chinese weapons salesmen to your friend’s houseparty

A tablespoon of Ghee is not worth eating for 100 Emirati Dirhams.

Sludgy drinks puddle + heels + free bar = Wrist support which makes you look like an IDIOT

If I live on the 26th floor, and work on the 40th floor, and there are 11 feet per story, my median average altitude at any given hour of the day in one month (or Maddiyan height) is 308 feet.

There is a speed bump for every head of the population. Dubai Ladies’  wardrobes do not lend themselves to sports bras. Therefore, 3+ years in Dubai = Saggy boobage due to bumpage.

Dubai is 12 towns on top of one anther like a layered cake, based on nationality, income, profession and religion. Everyone mixes with their tier, with differing opinions about how high or low it tier is. All expats are sociable and confident, soon get to know enough of their lot and then call it a ‘small world’.

Breast Punching is not universally hilarious.

Arabs LOVE Vimto. Not just a little bit.

Do not expect U-turn opportunities. If you need to go left, go straight for 2 miles and back. Then you can turn right. Stupid.

There are no Mosquitoes in Dubai. Or if there are, there are about 11. This is great.

There are no pigeons. This is also great.

750 quid to fly back for your sister’s hen for 4 days is entirely worth it, providing your mother doesn’t have a sulk for 2 of them


Youtube parties get a lot more competitive when there are 5 professional DJs in the room.

It is illadvised to put TV presenters in head locks (observed not perpetrated)

Living out of a suitcase gets irritating after 6 months

Serious pillow fights in hotel rooms with 8 multi-award-winning creatives at 5.30 am + 8 bottles of champagne = a world of pain at the desk 4 hours later.

Dubai is not going to get finished. But it’s good enough.

Someone willing to kiss you after an extreme allergic reaction and exorcist-style vomitousness may have questionable standards

Seeing the British riots through the eyes of Indians, Lebanese, Australians and French was profoundly humiliating and frustrating.

A bidet is not for puking in.

Ramadan – a chance to understand the culture you are in, and be more respectful to everyone and everything. And also go to lots of lovely houseparties and make some lovely friends.

It’s fun to see some of these friends on the telly.

Local film channels are brilliant and beautiful in their random selections. But whoever decides when to cut the films for the advert breaks is TERRIBLE AT HIS JOB.

Prawn Tempura is an acceptable breakfast

If the shop in your work knows you as Oranamin C Lady, this is probably not great.

Oronamin C in Dubai

DishDashes and Abayas – symbols of identity & pride, worn with class, not any form of extremism. Far from it.

Badass cars are not driven by Badasses.

International professional Stand-Up Comics can still be genuinely afraid of your mother.

Filipinos – the hardest working, most courteous, astute nationality I’ve come across in the USA, Dubai, Australia or anywhere – it confounds me that they work so damn hard around the world when such uncharacteristic corruption is in charge at home.

Having a glass of champagne passed to you by an acrobat hanging from the ceiling is very cool but also a bit weird.

Peanuts and Japanese Rice Crackers does not a well balanced diet make.

Rain is a lovely thing.

Dubai Learnings so far.

Week 8. Before we get into the more comprehensive analytics, some basics learned so far, or things I wish I’d known before I came. Mum, I’m OK.

  • Following a compliment with “Shame about your face” is not universally hilarious.
  • Do not expect continuous pavements.
  • Do not try to musically analyse the Call to Prayer.
  • There’s no good time to tell new flatmates there is a dead baby bird in the freezer, and “Viking Funeral” will not wash.
  • If your underpants snap, a windy commando border-crossing will land you in jail. Where possible, purchase childrens’ swimwear and keep a straight face.
  • Camels are out of Star Wars and basically dinosaurs with fur.
  • Hip Hop Karaoke is For Winning.
  • Getting ‘papped’ does not mean you’re important.
  • If you’re at a party, and someone has a monkey with a nappy, don’t get too friendly – there’s a reason it’s wearing it.
  • Opportunities are to be had in places where people are open to them.
  • No I do not want the transparent Belly-Dancer beaded-skirt thing.
  • It’s fun to draw smiley faces on the dusty bins in the neighbourhood, and it will not make you famous.
  • The Dubai traffic system was designed by either a jaded childrens’ party entertainer, a pasta-maker undergoing psychiatric treatment, a traffic-cone manufacturer or Loki, god of mischief.
  • There are some very decent graffiti artists willing to give you cans and show you the ropes. Here they are ON THIS LINK, and THIS LINK.
  • It is folly to expect Taxi drivers to know where they’re going, particularly if they say they do.
  • Do not let the person filming the entire gig beside you on their blackberry ruin your enjoyment of it. A subsequent rant about this person will not get published.
  • A trip to the Mall is more than that – it’s a place to see and be seen. Even if you hate shopping, dress up, watch the people.
  • The Dawn patrol – lovely folks sipping G&Ts in the garden at 7.30 am. Until the flies descend and bug the crap out of everybody.
  • Old Dubai = everything older than 12 years.
  • Staying in a hotel alone for four weeks totally justifies ‘The Shining’.
  • If someone asks if you’re “Ruski” it’s not because you look affluent.
  • You can teach a parrot a new trick but you will never be its friend.
  • Learn to love House music because that’s what you’re getting. Do not suggest putting Chas & Dave on.
  • Arabic food is infinitely more varied & flavourful than Kebabs and Falafels.
  • Cheapo Silly-Sunglasses are more fun than stupidly expensive ones.
  • However snide folks elsewhere in the world may be, you can’t fail to be impressed by what Dubai has achieved and created. Ethos: If you can, do.
  • Don’t assume someone giving you HBO episodes on USB means they have a corresponding crush to your impression of a 14 year old.
  • A Lunar exclipse is even more dramatic viewed from the top of a massive dune in the actual desert.
  • Oranamin C = Hangover cure.
  • Sheikh Zayed Road – the city’s aorta: 12 lanes of comedy chaos. Do not expect indication, signage or use of rearview mirrors.
  • If someone offers you a job, don’t assume it’s an actual job they’re offering (lather rinse repeat X5).
  • If you fall asleep in the Karaoke bar, it’s time to go home. If you are saluted on exiting said Karaoke bar, you did a good job.
  • 5 pints of unlimited-refill pepsi puts you right off 7 oz of perfectly decent steak.
  • Your hair is not falling out because of stress, it’s salinated water.
  • Lebanese popstars are a fusion of Kim Kardashian and Sly Stallone’s mum.
  • Handheld-jets in toilet cubicles lead to detailed conversations about how people clean their behinds.
  • A Sandstorm is thick sandy fog. Not an actual storm, so you don’t have to take everything in from the balcony.
  • Expect a consistent humidity-fro until you can get your hands on extensive/expensive hair products.
  • Sand. Damn sand everywhere. Funny, that.
  • If someone excessively flirts with you, don’t take it personally when they do the same to fifteen other individuals in as many minutes. It’s what they do, male and female.
  • The hard-working labourers will pause to think you are a slut and stare accordingly. That’s helped by the above point, and also because ladies at home cover up and don’t go out drinking or hopping in taxis with men they’ve just met.
  • “It’s rude to stare” does not apply in the UAE.
  • Indefinite celibacy makes total sense, but you will still be the same demographic as a slut.
  • Be nice to passport control people at border crossings – even when they laugh at you while waving your passport around and making your tolerant friend do the Hokey Cokey with her car.

This piece got a great response, warranting a second outing with Dubai Learnings Part 2.

End Credits:

“When I was 27, it was a very good year…” I got back to the UK last night after 13 months in New York.

This is the last year condensed, hopefully to reduce the possibility of boring people witless. Not all, just good bits, silly bits and bits that won’t offend my mother.

A selection of this years shots

What was fun:

Obama 1 and actual Obama in a police cortege past Bloomingdales. Debating speeding fines with intellectually-challenged cops in Tennessee. Debating found subway-signs with emotionally-challenged cops in the West Village. Two-stepping with cowboys in an Austin Honkey Tonk.  “You’re British? Hey, do you know Derek?” The back of Tom Jones’ head as he sang in the Good Morning America studio. The back of Reeba Macintyre’s head. The front of Pharrel Williams’ head winking at my friend’s head. Playing piano in the Peabody in Memphis. The Halloween Parade up 6th. Nerdy pointing at the Ghostbusters Fire Station. Rum in handbags to ‘beat the system’. Independence Day airborne explosives. The Rivington roof. The Empire roof. Friends’ roofs, strangers’ roofs. Glamming it up at Gansevoort and the Ritz Carlton Penthouse. Rooftop films.

Punk moshers restrained by security in a circus tent. Comedy shows good and bad. Couples storming out of comedy shows.  The Daily Show studio & resulting crush on Jon Stewart. Subway crazies doing press-ups to didgeridoos. The Knicks and Amir Khan at MSG. The Mets. 20,000 yoga fans in Central Park before thunderous rain stole everyone’s Chi (videos 1 and 2 – the second one is amusing).  Lady comics discussing beef curtains. Drawing on walls of the Rivington Hotel. Scribbling on tables of the Ear Inn. Drawing on peoples’ faces. Sweaty, brilliant rockabilly clubs in Ashville. Rapping on a Lower East rooftop.

What was seen:

The daily view from floor 44; Midtown to Staten and past, (slightly dull video here). Jersey 8th floor over Target and Modells. From the stage in Nashville. The Adirondacks. The Q train over the bridge. (another exceptionally-dull video here) The Shenandoah driveway. Swamps with Cajuns asking “How y’all are!” (less dull video here) Lake Placid. The Combahee and Cuckold’s Creek. West Virginia dirt roads. Philly Phountains. Washington esplanades. Madam’s Organ in Adam’s Morgan. East to the three bridges from Floor 24 in Tribeca.

What was strange:

Oyster stuffing. The US synchronized swim team in a tank outside my office (a better video here). A soprano-opera-singing Harlem shuffler. Wiping off a friend’s puke at the Brooklyn bowl. Rollerblading with lovers of neon-lycra in the park. Seeing the man with the parrot on his head and rainbow beard 12 times. Marching school bands alongside IRA sympathizers at the Saint Paddy’s parade. A glum Alan Rickman not enjoying Jamaican food at Miss Lily’s, in the same room as a glum Michael Stipe. Hooters, Memphis. The life-size blue whale in the Natural History Museum and hungover siestas under its belly. The Dakota and peoples’ fascination with the death spot of an extraordinary man who lives on.

Zombies in Times Square (the best video here). Flash-mob Santas. Harrah’s frantic batchelor-fest pool party in Atlantic City (less amazing video). The not-very-dangerous Brooklyn ‘Danger Party’. The Russell-Brand/Jamie-Lee-Curtis table dancer with a megaphone in Hogs & Heffers. Meatpacking. Red Rush Zack and ‘promoters’ herding young female out-of-towners to Amnesia, the Green Room or the Hamptons for free booze and the charms of men who should know better.

Who was seen: Celebs:

Discussing volcanic ash with a stranded Chris Moyles. A giggling Kiefer Sutherland in the West Village. An in-depth discussion about stealing chairs from hotels with the Kings of Leon and Ashley Greene in a tiny bar. Talking baseball, Led Zepellin & Birmingham with Bill Murray in Charleston Airport after he’d signed my passport. A fiercely-beautiful Diane Kruger in crimson, and shiny-orange Clare Danes on Fashion’s Night Out. A befuddled Julian Lennon and illusive Jack White at the self-conscious Kenmare. Russell Brand filming Arthur everywhere. Lou Reed at the Mermade Parade and in Central Park. Chasing Jonah Hill across the lobby once he spotted he’d been spotted. A friendly, chatty David Byrne in the queue for Joan as Police Woman. A smoky, boozy Don Hill at smoky-boozy Don Hills.

Who became friends:

The yellow afro with huge heart and huge spirit. The baptist-brick-shithouse journalist with a giant brain. A jewish Ming-Dynasty descendant and panda enthusiast. A quadruplet House DJ. The happiest, brightest couple in the world without making you feel sick. The Armenian tech-fiend with a 100 faces and voices. The Tazmanian-Devil Russian who can sniff out a party miles away. The chatty PA from Queens who smiles through tough times. The soft-spoken surfer figuring himself out. His viking friend, the poet behind the lens. The loveable curmudeon with questionable hygiene. The MC with a fancy toothbrush collection and penchant for shoe-theft. A lebanese diplomat with a crown of curls and dynamite smile. The platinum man-eater pleasure-seeker. The owl-like creative who sees all. The jack-the-lad with secrets. The Glaswegian who loves Marc Jacobs and Vodka. My Greek Pocahontas in neon and lipstick. The dapper neuroscientists who understand mice. The jewelry designer with Mesmer-eyes and squidgy toe. Serbian and Croatian tablestompers in the Poconose and Astoria. The uncertain mastermind with a bow and a bike. A Memphis Cowboy with handwritten business cards. The future of the Tanzanian economy and African Girl-Power. The Polish whirlwind. An Australian popstar. The Norwegian-Imelda Marcos with a pharmacy in her work-drawer. The lobbyist. The bright-eyed jewish grandma with kindness for all. The blue-eyed painter that gets under your skin after five minutes. The never-a-victim BMXer with big hugs. The cherubic Aussie with a vicious tongue. The thoughtful singer full of regret. The Kung-Fu-professor with a fridge full of film and mad-tasty cooking. Cricket-Commentator Action Man.

What was free:

Free mischief & swimming in Asheville Jewish Community center at 4 am. Free handouts in Times Sq and Rockefeller: flip flops, mustard, Shredded Wheat, Mickey Mouse hats. Ketchup and sugar sachets stuffed into empty Mountbatten pockets. Free hugs from strangers. Plants from Corporate flowerbed clearouts. Free Naughty by Nature, Slick Rick, Ohio Players, Salt n Pepa, George Clinton and Busta at Wingate field. Free fear facing the fierce crowds at a Barney’s sample sale. Free Mustang ride to Montauk. Free songs on the subway. Free NERD in Times sq. Free Janelle Monae in Bryant Park. Free praise at a Baptist Church in Bedsty. Boots, perfume and shampoo from a kind colleague. Free night out in Atlantic City courtesy of Perez Hilton and a press pass to see Kelis, La Roux and Natasha Beddingfield camp it up. Free eavesdropping everywhere.

What was heard:

Gospel in Austin. Cajun and Hillbilly in New Orleans. My favourite street-music (and favourite video here). Dub-Reggae at the Blue Nile. Hucklebuck in Charlottesville. Dizzy Gillespie’s band at the Blue Note (great secret video here). Powerballads on the Interstate. En Vogue at BB King’s.

The Black Keys, Hot Chip & a Lennon Tribute in Central Park.  The Philarmonic in the park. The Whose-Line-is-it-anyway folks at Webster Hall. Elton at MSG. Very decent Jazz at Lincoln Center. A flawless Aloe Blacc at Poisson Rouge. Lee Fields, Noah & the Whale, the Budos Band & Tom Green at Bowery. Joan As Policewoman at Mercury Lounge. Snoop, Tribe, KRS1 & a terrible Lauryn Hill on Governor’s Island. The Heartbreaking Apollo Talent showcase. Filming of ‘America’s Got Talent’ (ironic title).

What was eaten:

Grits in Harlem. Devilled eggs at the Spotted Pig. Family Thanksgiving in Houston. Pho noodles in Korea town. Many chicken wings. Many energy drinks. Tourist-schnitzels at Katz’s. Ravioli in Piccolinos with a former chairman of the NYSE. Cakes with a CNBC presenter. South African stew in Fort Greene. Sonic Cherry-Lime-ade.  Bloody Marys & Oysters at City Lobster. Soho meatballs at 3am. Tuna-steak burgers in Bloomingdales. The best fillet EVER at Ted’s Montana Grill. Rabbit at brasserie Ruhlmann. Not-that-bad free hotdogs in Rudy’s. Venezuelan, Argentinian, Armenian, Lebanese, Vietnamese, Iranian. Corn Dogs on Coney. A Diner in Montauk. And in Amityville. And in Franklin West Virginia. Sugary buns in New Orleans. Southern Breakfast in Beaufort. Mamoun’s Falafels. Chipotle. Red Lobster. Popeye’s. Applejack’s.  

What was a little hormonal:

An unnecessary six-month crush. A slow sweet-eyed sailor who understood ‘Two thirds” of what I said. Cartoon-sundays with pasta and Marlboros from a Tribeca balcony. An Indianan techno DJ who left my coat & bag at the table and followed me to the bathroom queue to land on my face (not seen again). A Bostonian Ego doubling as a 41 year old gallery owner and throwback civil war soldier. Two dates that turned out to be gay. The nice-but-dull designer from Minnesota. Don’t tell the man buying you dinner that he’s ‘predatory’. Don’t turn up with an unexplained lovebite (curling tongs!). Don’t agree to date a man because he has a cool dog. Don’t accept offers of marriage that would upset your mother. Don’t play with peoples’ hearts.

I can be sad it’s over, or grateful I made the most of it. Whether I end up in Dubai or London, the last 13 months means New York will have my heart, for the people in it, and the feeling of always travelling without moving.

I didnt do this one but wish i knew who did