Beyonce of Britain

They warned me. And I didn’t listen. I should have known better. Every time I travel somewhere, for any length of time, I get a bit more attention then when I’m back where I grew up. You know what kind of attention I’m talking about. This may or may not have anything to do with the fact that my happy quotient dramatically increases when I’m somewhere new and exciting and amazing. Leading up to my intercontinental move, certain of my friends and family, while supportive, told me to be careful because the male population was going to prostrate themselves at my feet (the unsupportive ones said I would be kidnapped and stabbed – but same idea). And I laughed. Because that would never happen.

I had to think for a long time how best to explain this. Now it isn’t as if I’ve never inspired surprising behavior from men before in my life, or women for that matter, and anyone who has been in public with me knows that I am a crazy magnet (like that guy with one eye who pet my hair in line at the grocery store…and…that’s another blog). But I have not been at university for a while now and working early hours with an early bedtime has meant that I’m used to being treated mostly normally in a professional setting. I naturally assumed that those days of leaving lustful insanity in my wake were in my past.

Wrong. So wrong. Saying it out loud sounds like a lie. I would think I had imagined it if it weren’t for the physical evidence to hand and the baffled looks on the faces of passersby.

I have been undeniably stalked on five completely separate occasions in the last two weeks. Even for someone whom weird things happen around this seems excessive. And because we live in a gender biased world full of assumptions we should be embarrassed by, let me just say that I was not wearing anything particularly provocative and none of these occurrences were in a bar or a club. And I tell you this not to explain or defend myself, but to illustrate the whole picture. One in a shop, one at dinner, one on the tube, one on the street, and one while I was sitting next to a fountain. After the second one it was really hard not to say, “Again?? Really?!”

And the things they said… “Are you sleeping with anyone right now?” “We’ll go to dinner tonight.” (Not a question.) “Where are you going right now?” “So, where is your house?” “You’re so attractive I had to try.” How did they imagine this going?? I don’t know you! I don’t know what the charming way is to approach a complete stranger with an appeal to spend time with them, but I know that these were not it.


When I say stalking I literally mean I was standing and walking and they would place themselves a step behind and right next to me for a significant amount of time before blurting out personal questions and eventually asking for my number, phone in hand. Now, I’ve been out of the game for a while but I’m pretty sure that this is not a generally accepted method of flirting. It can’t be. When my first instinct is to hold my purse closer and scan my immediate surroundings for witnesses you are not putting me in a frame of mind to want to spend time with you in the future. And how are you confident enough in this plan to already have your phone out? I genuinely hope that these were once in a lifetime occurrences for all of these men – even if that’s giving myself way too much credit – because I’m not ready to acknowledge a world where there is enough positive reinforcement to encourage that kind of behavior. I was led to believe that British men were more reticent than the usual and formal introductions would be necessary before any romantic entanglements could even be hinted at. And that still seems to be the case with the ones I actually want to talk to, but my goodness, the ones I don’t. I walk down the street like a normal person and somehow they see this:

Except, you know, much whiter. Most of the time I would love to be mistaken for a Beyonce-like creature, but in this instance I’m only using the simile because she’s the only reference I could think of that seems to be set apart from the typical human experience. Someone for whom this kind of insanity might be commonplace. And she might be the only one I can talk to about it, because the most obnoxious part of this experience has been not the stalking itself – which is bad enough – but the reactions of people I tell, with a few exceptions. Even in the age of #YesAllWomen and #womenshould the general consensus has been “Well, aren’t you lucky”, “You weren’t stripping when this happened?”, and “Have you tried being less pretty?”

I’m really not sure what to do with that. For now my fake boyfriend I’m always on my way to meet is developing a rather complex back story. Beyond that I’ll just have to hope you can think about how “Pretty Hurts” when you’re a “Single Lady” without too much “Resentment”, while I try to avoid those both “Crazy In Love” and “Drunk in Love” in my search for something “Irreplaceable” while I “Run the World”. “XO”.


Did anyone realize that the abbreviation for my blog is HoT? Because I only just recently came to this realization and in three days this blog will have been around for exactly 5 years!!!!! It started with the stories from my first foray into London. People liked to hear them so much that I finally wrote them down and put them on the internet. And a short half decade (interminably long slog through life) later I have come full circle to this city where all the best things seem to happen.

Though I didn’t manage it right when I landed I did eventually make it to Byron Hamburgers, which is a massive English chain and not exactly exclusive or secret, but they do happen to have the best malted vanilla milkshakes in the whole world. Then, with a milkshake induced smile on my face, I wandered my way over to Kensington Palace and Gardens to offer my congratulations in person that we are going to meet a new baby Cambridge in a few short months. I’m sure they noticed and appreciated it. Scoped out the Orangery and the maze for future outings before a mandatory stroll about Hyde Park. And as I walked past the imperious granite gaze of Queen Victoria in front of the Round Pond with the sun setting behind the trees and rooftops of the palace I experienced this clarifying moment of peaceful rightness. Like a weeble that had finally stopped wobbling; I found my center. And then I took my bus back to Shepherd’s Bush.

I’ve also managed to squeeze in a book event with one of my favorite authors and a wander over to Portobello Road to find something to put on my walls where I had my choice between Scarface movie poster or two hundred year old mounted bird. I decided to keep looking for room decor. I did manage to get lost in the wilds of Notting Hill, but I can’t be all that upset about it when it meant accidentally running into the entire Beckham family. “Oh, that looks like the Beckhams. That is because it is.” And then Romeo tried to do the thing on the scooter that Brooklyn was doing and fell over, and I was a nanny for way too long not to go pick him up and ask if he wanted a band-aid. He was fine and got up with a big grin and then his very polite father said “Thank you, appreciate it.” and pushed Harper along. Victoria even gave me a sort of half smile smirk which I decided meant two British Victoria’s had looked kindly upon my new enterprise.

Any visitor to London has seen the soldiers in front of the royal palaces, with their big bearskin hats, bright red coats, and cloppy black boots. If you have ever wondered what would happen should you cross one of these well postured fellows I will tell you. Some very obnoxious tourists tested the chain boundary today and the guard on duty responded with a very prompt (and loud) “Oi!” and stomped his foot. That’s it. The rest of us, cameras at the ready, were very disappointed not to have witnessed a bayoneting, but it was still very exciting to see the notoriously stoic soldiers do something slightly out of the ordinary. I discovered later that this was the back entrance to Clarence House (the official London residence of the Prince of Wales) and that I missed Prince Harry’s birthday party by mere hours.

A visiting friend had the brilliant idea to visit the BBC broadcast center and, to no one’s surprise (ok, the Chinese tourists were a bit taken aback) I took over the tour. What started out as a nice walk through of the old concert hall and taunting the weather man during his live broadcast turned into a fully mic-ed radio play re-enactment with sound effects. Then I intimidated the tour guide with my television experience and he let me read the in-house news broadcast. If the teleprompter is any indication I really do need to start talking slower. Once I got my media career off on the right foot I took a walk through Regent’s Park and ogled the penguins at the zoo. Then crashed some wedding pictures at Primrose Hill.

Later in the week I hit up every gift shop on The Mall – discovered the art galleries along the way that evidently everyone knew about but me – and revisited one of my favorite places in London, the National Portrait Gallery. If they let me I would sleep in there. I love staring at all those faces, from throughout human history, reading their stories, and making up the bits that are missing or just coming up with better versions in my head.

Soon I’ll actually have to spend my time studying and discussing and writing papers. It should be interesting to have the tables turned again and go back to being a student,  but I’m looking forward to a year of someone else coming up with the lesson plans. And shopping for school supplies. Maybe more the latter. No, definitely the latter. Pens….

Anyway, I’ll keep doing some travel journal posts here and there but I do plan to also keep up with my usual ruminations and stories. And if you want up to the minute news and jokes and things remember to find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as well as subscribing to the blog.

HoT x

Hillary and the Royal Mail: A Love Story

She walked onto new shores, with that glint of hope in her eyes. She thought the mail would be just like her postal service back home. Respectful, always there when she called, putting everything she needed and asked for in her box at a convenient and predictable time (except on Sundays). Hillary would come home to her messages in a nice stack. Some words of love, others asking for money, but no one’s perfect. She hadn’t even thought to imagine that service would be so different in her new home.

Recklessly, she ordered boxes and boxes of things she needed for her new flat. “They’ll arrive at my door!” she thought, “I don’t have to carry thirty square feet of mattress pad across three boroughs on the tube!”. Little did she know this relationship would not be like her last. That she would be shackled to her home for days during regular business hours to have even the hope of a chance to see her mailman and receive her packages.

Royal Mail


First, it was an email. “We’ll be by with one of your parcels today.” So she waited for three hours (mostly catching up on youtube videos) until, finally, she couldn’t take it anymore and thought she must take a shower or go mad. Naturally this is when her postie chose to arrive and her hopes of hanging up her clothes with the new coat hangers that were due to appear, were dashed. Another email came through minutes later, “I failed to deliver your order. I’ll try again tomorrow.” She knew what that meant. Hillary had heard of his kind. Just like the cable company. Keeping you waiting all day. Never vacuuming or doing dishes for fear you might miss the knock on the door and sentence yourself to another day of this anxious, anticipatory hell. She even went so far as to change her clothes in hopes that the temptation of being both half naked and trapped in her shirt would be too much for fate to resist and a knock would sound at the door.

She can’t help but wonder, how does a country that once ruled the world function this way? Building relationships based on fear and blackmail is no way to find love, or operate a postal service. She now sees why we had that revolution. The windows, the paper, the tea, and wasting your life away waiting for the Royal Mail. She ordered coat hangers from Fife. Hillary can only imagine waiting for all of your worldly belongings in Jamestown, wondering if they’re coming via freaking rowboat across the Atlantic while you fend off native peoples with nowhere to bloody sit down because all your chairs are in the parcel!

In the early afternoon the knock finally came! (And there was actually a person on the other side of the door, unlike the first three times she answered it to no one) And just like the desperate neglected girlfriend she had become she thanked the postman profusely and took her package into her warm embrace. He doesn’t know there is another way. And she still has five more boxes coming so she really needs not to piss him off. This controlling relationship will continue so long as she lets it.  Or until she stops ordering things. Or moves back to America. But he still has something she wants, namely her stuff. And so she waits. Peeking through the curtains and running to the door at every noise until she gets what she craves.

London Called, I Answered

London Called, I Answered

At first it was just a casual musing. “Gee, that study abroad semester in London sure was a lot of fun.” London was a happy memory while I went about the tedious business of adulthood. Trying out jobs, and cities, and questions. Sometimes things went well and sometimes they didn’t, but I started to wonder, “How hard would it be, really, to go back?” In this age of modern communication and convenience it turns out it’s not all that hard on paper. The other challenges I usually met with “Why should I go while I’ve got this going on?” until the last year or so when that became “Why shouldn’t I go?” This was enormously helped by my acceptance into what I hope will be a pretty cool graduate program.

The view from my bedroom...
The view from my bedroom…

Mere months later, after lining up every duck that got in my way, I’m here in London. This city of history, and accents, and Cadbury, the city that has spurred the best romance novels the world has ever seen, and supports the only monarchy anyone still cares about. It’s not exactly like I remember it- five years will do that to a place. But it’s still London. Full of delectable British people and an irrational number of fried chicken shops. As long as I don’t spend too much time in my tiny West London bedroom (must do something about these bare walls) I can remember why I came so far to walk on these streets instead of the ones back home.

St. Pancras Station

I’m not sure what scribe of fate had a hand in todays script for me, but they clearly had fun with it. After a very lovely and normal lunch date with a friend of a friend that I hope will lead to more friends I decided to walk to my new school that I had never seen in real life. Honestly, part of me wanted to make sure it was a real place. First, I walked the wrong direction down the right street, engaged in some very pleasant eye flirting with the dishy security man in front of the Renaissance hotel and ended up at the British Library. So I popped in to visit the Magna Carta, Jane Austen’s writing desk and Henry VIII’s letters before turning around. As you do. The walking went on for a while, but I did find the school and persuaded them to let me wander about aimlessly. It’ll do, I think. Then I got lost trying to find a tube station hiding in a bend in the road.

photo 4
My university!

Made it to the platform only to hear “Ladies and gentlemen, there was a man on the track at Aldgate, the train will be 11 minutes late.” This is a very British and polite suicide report to which my fellow travelers replied with very quiet and insensitive grumbles. So we all mush onto the very late train and I snag a seat- of course, looking around avidly for a pregnant woman to give it to before she has a chance to glare at me when I take it. A couple stops before I get home, as I read the Evening Standard (my horoscope said that a big change in my life would make things confusing, but things would work out positively soon) a man on the train hands me a page ripped out from the book he was reading with his number written on it before stepping off. I smiled politely and when the doors closed me and a few other passengers/witnesses burst out laughing. I made it home only to tumble down the stairs from the platform when my ankles refused to take another step without an explanation for this crazy walking behavior.

photo (8)

In the strange haze of jet lag I made it home with a skinned knee, a phone number, and a sudden urge to eat lots of dried cranberries. I managed to put together a slightly healthier dinner, ordered more pillows for my bed so that I can nest in them, and questioned all my life decisions before writing this and crashing while staring at a pile of half unpacked neutrally toned shoes.

Dear Abbey

I'm the one with no shoes on.

Because I am a good tourist and an obedient offspring of a baby boomer I made the pilgrimage to Abbey Road. That it was with the entirety of my class and fell under the heading of a field trip was just a happy coincidence. It also created the opportunity to manhandle the group into recreating the iconic album cover with me. While hardly original, there had never been a re-enactment with me in it and I was determined to remedy that. And if I was going to go to all of the trouble of embarrassing myself then it had better be perfect. Which meant that three of my classmates were going to walk when and where I told them to, with the appropriate feet first.

I chose my professor to take the picture, not only for his Britishness- thus knowing when to safely step into the middle of the street (what is so hard about looking to your right? Americans…) – but also for his very encouraging attitude. He and I really seemed to be the only people thoroughly enjoying writing on the studio wall and staring at Paul’s former apartment. So he also got to be the one to hold my gold ballet flats while I marched across the zebra stripes, barefoot, with my reluctant compatriots. There was some traffic stoppage involved, but that’s hardly new for me. Pretty hair really is an irreplaceable tool of power. Anyway, if you’re driving down Abbey Road then you really ought to expect morons to fling themselves into the street anyway. And so, with the lorries at a standstill and a piece of gravel stuck under my baby toe, we walked across the street (like fifteen times).

The picture is a little less than perfect, but I think the spirit of the exercise was preserved. Pretty much everyone thought I was ridiculous, but that could be why I had so much fun. Never let the people around you keep you from enjoying the things you’re excited about in exactly the way you want to. In fact, I find forcible participation rather effective.

London Clubs: A Guide for Hot Girls


Disclaimer: While some people may judge, not incorrectly, that it is discriminatory to exclude advice for guys and all people who are not hot when they venture out to London clubs I must remind you all that I can only discuss the experiences I have had. And in the interest of specificity and accuracy these distinctions are important because if you are male and/or less than hot then there is basically zero chance that you are going to walk into a London club for free, as my ‘hot girl’ friends and I did on all of the occasions we ventured down the streets of Piccadilly Circus and Kensington High St.

Getting on with it, London clubs are really, predictably, very club-like. And though all club owners and habitual club visitors will assure you that they are dramatically different in very important socially dividing ways (oh, London, and your antiquated class divisions) they are all dark, stuffy, slightly too loud, and populated by individuals a few notches skeezy-er than anyone outside of the club. This is because, unlike you, they have paid large fees to get in and they have decided this entitles them to partial ownership of everything inside- most notably, everything your teeny tiny cocktail dress covers up. And you thought it was going to be such a classy joint when there was no sign outside and you slipped in past the chain smoking Kate Moss wannabes waiting outside in the rain.

With the consideration that a hot girl expects a measure of uninvited groping when going out anywhere, there are perks to the club experience worth mentioning. First and foremost- free drinks. Not that you couldn’t get free drinks wearing jeans in the pub around the corner, but at Cuckoo you suddenly find yourself attached to a table with an endless supply of exactly the drink you want without any expectations, because everyone is too rich and wasted to keep track of anything under a ceiling with very distracting color changing lights. Other good things to remember about Cuckoo: the hot guys are downstairs so bring your drink from upstairs, be nice to the coat check girls, and you will meet the coolest girls in the loo. The 2 litre bottle of Belvedere vodka looks pretty awesome with a sparkler on top, too.

Then your life starts to follow the plotline of mob movies- but that can go different directions as movies will tell you. (Want to mention that being kidnapped and  forced into sexual slavery at the service of a mob is not likely, but still a possibility, so please do not go to clubs alone. Bring a buddy and stick with her, your first grade teacher knew what she was talking about. ) On one occasion I was following my friend up a staircase in Boujis with our unbreakable chain of handholding when a man stopped me. There was some nonsense about my smile teasing him and beautiful eyes, but he became a problem when he leaned forward and licked my neck. Not a seductive nibble, a full on tongue bath from shoulder to ear. Eww. This was obviously not okay, which is why the hand holding was so important. I pulled on my chain of safety and was quickly pulled out of range. I’m not sure how one goes about preventing neck licking, but I don’t recommend it if the situation is at all avoidable. Beyond that Boujis is lovely, if you have excellent timing you might spy a royal or two, and it’s in a nice part of town for drunkenly stumbling down the pavement in your four inch heels chasing down a cabbie.

The opposite swing of the pendulum manifested itself in the form of young, wealthy, drunk, European gentlemen inviting us to San Tropez. The thing about this is that he was very likely serious. Apparently there was a private plane leaving the next day. There was a fair amount of debate about this between my friend and I, but ultimately we decided work and not being potentially abducted was the better choice. Won’t tell anyone else what to do, but at least google him or something before you pack your Brazilian bikinis.

Chances are that there will be celebrities. You may or may not know who they are, I mostly didn’t because there are lots of “famous” British people who were on Big Brother or East Enders and I just don’t care. You can’t count on Prince Harry going out exactly when and where you do (rumor has it he asks girls what knickers they’re wearing before talking to them- so wade that mine field forewarned), so brush up on your cricket and football if you want to know when it’s appropriate to gush. One night at Amika I met a famous American basketball player, which likely would have been more thrilling if I watched basketball. He went by Mike and we talked about living in California, so it was fun, but this scenario will probably be more exciting for you if you find someone you actually think is awesome. Amika features an elevated dance cage, every Lady Gaga remix known to man, and sporadic confetti explosions, but watch out for the handsy admirers. Most are so intimidated by all the girls to even speak to you, but being dragged over the booth backwards into some random’s lap once is one time too many.

Then there are the guys who think they are famous or otherwise deserving of your fawning and groveling. Personally I’m not for the fawning or groveling under any circumstances, but don’t let me spoil your fun. At least make sure he is not the scruffy, foreign, smoker man telling you all about his top secret something (mission, movie, or millions) in hopes that you’ll plop down on the light up table in front of him and…yeah.  Sketch, with different themed rooms to suit your pleasure, always has a few of these hopefuls. The dining room is magical if you can get a table in the back, but don’t get stuck in the egg room for too long or you will drown in the pool of preppy.

While I encourage you to wear only what makes you feel unstoppably sexy I found it very funny to wear satin dresses and feel hands quickly slip off as they try to grab your ass. It’s a small kind of victory, but if they’re going to do it anyway then you might as well get your kick out of it. I don’t think any of this could fairly be considered advice, but knowledge is power, and maybe if you know the neck licker is coming you can save yourself. Otherwise, just say yes to the crack baby shots or a redheaded slut if it’s that kind of night…