Thursday, 21 February 2013

It's Not Fare!

There are few things in life that really get under my skin. Poverty, World Wars, Gail from Corrie - maybe, but very rarely will such misfortunes send me into unconsolable fits of rage (although saying that, Mrs Plaitt really can do my head in!). No, what really makes my blood boil and I mean to the point of a Britney-style breakdown except minus the shaved head and infamous umbrella attack, are rotton old mini-cab drivers. It's safe to say that me and my group of friends have had our not so fare share (get it!) of traumatic taxi rides. From broken down vehicles to flat tyres, taxi-driver tantrums to teenagers in tears, it's about time someone did something about the frankly shocking treatment of a worrying number of the country's mini-cabbers.

Here is one of my own and possibly most traumatic experiences courtesy of just one of Romford's finest selection of late-night cabbies.

The journey began like any other taxi-ride home from a night out in notoriously classy Essex hot-spot, Romford town, with three girls bundling themselves into the backseat of a 6 seater car, laughing and reminiscing over the evening's antics. The journey soon turned sour however at around 10 minutes into the trip when the the vehicle quickly began to show signs of a premature hangover. The car puffed and chugged across the eerie, deserted stretch of road, the cabbie insisting on driving at our new snail-like speed. It was only until the three of us managed to pull ourselves together from laughing at this poor guy's attempt at getting us home at 5mph and suggested he should pull over, did he eventually succumb to the 6 seater's fate. Having already listened to the advice of three slightly tipsy eighteen-year-olds by finally stopping the car, the man then turned to us and pondered...

"What do you think is wrong with it?"

Well if the car in which Britney attacked with an umbrella was a cabbie's then I have to say, I don't blame her because in that moment, I was mortified and had an umbrella been handy, I would have been inclined to do the same thing (I am of course joking!).

"Are you honestly asking us what's wrong with your car? Three young girls! Don't you taxi drivers go on crash courses for this kind of stuff?" I ask, "Like a First-Aid course but for your car?"

Surely they must do. A cab-man is responsible for the safety of their passengers and knowing what to do in the event of a break-down must surely be a requirement for passing the cabbie exam...I am assuming of course that they do indeed have to pass one. If what was to happen next was anything to go by, then I demand a recount for our bewildered driver.

After I kicked everyone out of the car, including the cab-man himself, proclaiming that going by what my dear mother always told me 'you should always get out and walk away from a broken-down vehicle', we then asked the driver if he would kindly call us another cab in order to pick us up and take us home, a request in which he would later refuse.

"Give me my money and I call you another cab," demanded the man.

"No, you call us a cab first and then we give you your money," I replied.
"You didn't even get us to our destination," hollered a friend.

It was nearing 3 o'Clock in the morning at this point and the initial hilarity of being stranded in the middle of nowhere was beginning to wear off. As the conversation continued to get heated, it was growing ever more obvious that the safety of three young girls was not at the top of this man's priority list, a sad fact common ground to the majority of my mini-cab experiences.

Worryingly, it is always about money with mini-cab drivers and not about getting their passengers to their destinations safely. Of course understandably I am sure they are sick to the stomach of a handful of drunken teenagers causing trouble in their vehicles but when did being young and having a bit of harmless fun, give people the right to rip you off? Sure we may be a little louder than the normal customer and yes, we may attempt to hit every high note of the Robbie William's classic 'Angels', but not all of us want to leg it away without paying or will throw up in the backseat. We don't want to have to have heated debates that last half an hour and usually end up with someone (i.e. me) in tears as we scramble our money together to prove that yes, as honest 22-year-olds we are planning to pay you before we've even made it a metre down the road.

Of course it is important not to tarnish all mini-cab drivers of Romford with the same brush and I have experienced a handful of lovely drivers who seem genuinely pleased to have people to talk to and actually wait outside each and every one of our houses to ensure we get home safely. Sadly, there just isn't enough of them like that and more often than not, I have no choice but to call upon my infamous albeit not very successful line of "I have a degree and yes I may be a bit drunk but I know when you're ripping us off" line. Sigh.

The truth of the matter is that I know it's not just me and my friends in Romford that get taken for a ride (literally!) by these cabbies who charge extortionate amounts of money to get vulnerable young people home safely just because they know that at 2 o'Clock in the morning, we want our beds and so we have no other choice but to pay it. And the abuse we suffer as a result of utilising their services...

"You said 3 drop-offs, not 4, you liars!" said one cab-man to us.
"I leave you on the side of the street!" says another.

Frankly, if a man can sleep at night knowing that they've left a young girl all alone on the side of the street then karma is going to come around and throw up all in the backseat of their car...a lot hopefully!

Well that's my rant over. Like I said, not many things in life truly rattle me but there is something about the sun going down and the mini-cabs coming out that sends me dizzy with rage. And as frustrating as it is, nothing is going to change and the majority of young people that just want to get home and go to bed, will always be punished. Like Britney, I'm going to go shave my head now.

Oh and if you're wondering how the broken-down car story ended, let me just say it results in three bare-foot girls legging it down a pitch black road, prancing behind street bollards at the mere sight of a car's headlights and one sorry phonecall to a friend's Mum who had to pull herself out of bed and save us. OK so maybe I am the type to leg it away from a cabman but only in life or death kind of cirumstances alright!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

And The Winner Is...

I'm a Celebrity yes, Strictly Come Dancing maybe but definitely, definitely not my purse strings.

After getting over our initial shock at dishing out a staggering £4.20 for one bag of chocolate Munchies and another £4 for a cup of Orange Fanta, (this being after having already scoffed a less than generous dish of chicken and chips costing eight quid by the way), we eventually went in search for the seats that we would find ourselves watching a Gangnam style dancing dog in, a record-breaking Olympic legend and one drunken Dot Cotton from Eastenders making a miserable attempt at reading the auto-cue for the next three hours. Up and up we travelled, jealously shuffling past posh looking private boxes each complete with swanky mini-bars, a butler and their very own personal security, we were directed to our chairs by a friendly-looking usher, of course without any sign of free alcohol, abiding servants or large bouncers. I clutched onto my personal, albeit slightly expensive picnic and followed the man's instructions.

'Just keep going up and you'll find them', he told us and so we did. Immediately we started to do some serious celeb spotting. It was after all, the annual National Television awards hosted by none other than Mr Dermott O'Leary and there were celebs and egos aplenty!

As some of the biggest and the brightest stars of the small screen started to seep into the 02 Arena, they were greeted by not only buff looking men in penguin suits clutching endless trays of expensive champagne but the cries of adoring fans heard echoing around the impressive 20,000 seat venue.
'JOEEEEYYY', one young girl would yell as the crew from TOWIE walked in, tans freshly painted, mini-skirts sparkling.
 'GARRRRY', another could be heard hollering as the latest celebrity panel of X Factor judges waltzed in, first mingling with fellow elite beings and later settling in their front-row seats.

Now if your anything like the celebrity fanatic that I am, the excitement of simply sharing a room with the likes of Nicole Scherzinger, Alan Carr and Holly Willabooby (just to name a few!) is enough to send me into a complete an utter celebrity meltdown. Unfortunately there is something about being in the presence of a remotely famous person that sends me a little loopy, loosing any sense of dignity, self-respect or pride in favour of whooping and hollering in a VIP's sugically enhanced face. I'm not sure what I gain from doing so other than completing and utterly embarrassing myself. A-List, Z-List, the effect is the same, (despite having never actually met an A-Lister, I expect the sight wouldn't be too pretty!)

Take for example Soccer Six, a charity event whereby celebrities, and I use the term celebrity loosely, play football in order to raise money.
'I LOVE YOU!', I scream at one ex-Hollyoaks reject who stood just a few feet away from me, quickly catching myself, head in hands realising that what I'd just said, I'd said out loud and indeed it was that...very loud. The strange thing is, I don't love him and I never have. It's just an instinctive thing that comes out of my mouth as if like a spell sending me from a normal (relatively) girl into a quivering mess in the space of ten seconds. In this instance the guy simply pulled an odd face and laughed at me. Cue some oh so slightly rosy red cheeks.

Luckily to those of you who have been in the O2 arena, you will know that from the heights of the highest tier, yelling I love you at unexpectant celebrities and having them hear it, is near on impossible so this night I settled with eyeing up the TV stars from afar. Thank god I brought my glasses as identifying Paul O'Grady from Mark Wright, Pudsey the Dog from Keith Lemon was proving somewhat a challenging task, the celebs better resembling glitzy little ants, air kissing and posing, waddling carefully in 5 inch heels as they try desperately not to tred on their posh designer frocks.

But oh how fantastic it all was, as I sat munching on my picnic, (a must for any Charlotte outing!) whilst gazing dreamily into the world of the social elite. It was like we were given exclusive access to these mysterious creatures for one night only - I even spotted Michelle Keegan and Mark Wright having a cheeky snog! I found it fascinating seeing how a live show on as large a scale as this one was put together with secrets such as the crowds of extras waiting in the wings who legged it amongst the nominees to replace those who had disappeared kind of ruining the whole illusion of it all.

In terms of the show itself, hats off to Ella Henderson who wowed the audience with her version of Cher's 'Believe' and congrats to Strictly for finally beating X Factor to best talent show and getting the recognition that they deserve! My personal highlights included Pudsey's take on Gangham style and Ant and Dec winning best entertainment presenters for the twelth year in a row! Their stint on I'm a Celeb late last year had me in stitches every evening. Much to my disappointment however, they weren't actually able to attend the ceremony itself, opting instead to have Simon Cowell present their award via satelite. It was probably for the best mind you, given I don't think there was enough space in that room for another two egos!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Tis Snow More

Slipping and sliding, a week's food shopping in tow, I continue to do my best Bambi on ice impression, crawling up Wimbledon hill desperate to reach any kind of snow-free zone. It's Sunday evening and I'm hobbling home in not so sensible heeled boots that were solely (har har) responsible for the twisted ankle and near collapse that I'd suffered only 10 minutes previous. You see it was 4:45pm and we had a mere 15 minutes to successfully complete a weeks Tesco shop. Whilst Supermarket Sweep was always one of my favourite shows as a kid, constantly gazing at the tele wishing for nothing more than free-reign of the local Sainsburys, I clearly wasn't cut out for it. Throw some slippery wet floors in the mix and a soggy Charlotte was left swimming in the slush-pool that was aisle number thirteen. Now I've heard of Dale's pick 'n' mix bonuses, but there was certainly no bonus for picking myself up off the floor.

That was probably the most eventful thing that happened to me this weekend. Of course the snow has swept England and us being the wimps that we are, the whole country goes into one freezing-cold chaos. In all fairness, I don't blame us if it means avoiding a twisted ankle or two, this being the reason that all plans for a good old fashioned boogie were firmly frozen. Maybe as a group of 18 year olds would we have braved the snow in miniskirts and high heels or legged it outside for a snow-ball fight but I guess our slightly more sensible 22 year old selves have learnt our lessons and the idea of watching the snow fall in our onesies seemed just a little bit more desirable than having snow pummelled into our faces!

Meanwhile, I am beginning my third and final week at John Blake Publishing tomorrow and I have to say, it has been a truly positive experience. I have found the team to be extremely friendly and they have really offered me a wealth of opportunities to not only expose me to some of the daily tasks of a professional publisher but to allow me to show them what a 20-something unemployed ex-trainee teacher can really do. From researching and compiling picture sections of upcoming celebrity biographies, complete with writing their captions, to proof-reading and editing unreleased transcripts, I have thoroughly enjoyed exploiting my creativity and keen eye for accuracy in order to complete them (someone will probably tell me that there's a spelling mistake in this no doubt!). Of course the more menial tasks such as making a record number of 7 cups of tea/coffee at one time, each of a different kind (cammomile, peppermint, green, breakfast, Earl Grey, filtered coffee, instant coffee, sugar, no sugar, black, white - who knew there could be so many?), were part of my every day routine, the experience has most certainly wet my tastebuds for a life in publishing and undoubtedly improved my short-term memory! Of course the free liquid lunches and early home-times were by no means contributing factors in my decision to possibly pursue a career in the publishing industry.

Whilst my time at John Blakes is sadly coming to an end, so too is my 3 week lodging experience at my boyfriend's and his housemate's humble abode. Unlike finishing my internship, leaving my boyfriend's flat is a welcomed change! I shouldn't say too much seeing as in all fairness they did let me live here rent-free (which by the way, they wouldn't let me forget!), but lets just say I'm very much looking forward to returning to a home that is warmer than -10 degrees, where I don't have to wear 4 layers, sit in the dark, or listen to farts, or watch hands constantly being shoved down pants. Are they checking to see everything's still there or something? Who knows. All I know is that I'm grateful I don't have a brother.

Till next time...

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Lights, Camera, Planet Hollywood Action!

Despite your first glance, I can assure you that no this isn't me having a bad hair day, or face day or an all over bad body day, this is the beastly like robotic creature that greets you upon arrival at delicious American diner, Planet Hollywood. The restaurant, a top tourist attraction tucked away behind bustling Piccadilly Circus, is designed to export movie fanatics back to the magic of the biggest blockbusters of the past century. Customers dine amongst classic movie memorabilia such as the T-Bird jacket of John Travolta in Grease, the dinner suits of countless ex-James Bonds, the peasant clothing of Oliver's mate the Artful Dodger and none other than Indiana Jones' whip. I'm guessing my new robotic friend here is an extra from the Terminator or Doctor Who or some other violent film given that he has 'exterminate' written all over his flesh-eaten, not so friendly looking face, not to mention that terrifying weapon of his. Admittedly, I purposely chose not to get too close to the statue so I couldn't tell you which film exactly, (you never know if you're going to be on one of those hidden camera shows where they capture the horror on people's faces as the model jumps out and really does exterminate you!)

Thus, surrounded by such Hollywood glamour, it was only fitting to order the Charlotte and Will special, the VIP platter, a dish designed for sharing - something we learned the hard way! Planet Hollywood has often been our 'go to' restaurant in our three year history and each time the menu's stuffed in front of our drooling faces we find ourselves eyeing up the rather expensive platter complete with nachos, cheese and spinach dip, spicy chicken wings, bacon and cheese potato wedges and our personal faves, texas tostadas, commenting on how amazing it sounds to our taste buds but not so amazing to our purse-strings. Then during one visit, we were feeling particularly daring, opting for the VIP platter to start followed by a burger each for mains. Oh what fools we were. Now that visit was one for man vs food and we never did it again. Nowadays, we request two portions of fries only to compliment the starting platter.

"And that's it?" asks the waitress, staring at us peculiarly as if the VIP Platter isn't big enough already.

Today was a fairly uneventful trip to the famous restaurant, refuelling quickly in order to rush home for what I was promised 'a really exciting' Super Sunday football match, (of course this wasn't the case!). This came as a disappointment to us however given our track record of bizarre dining experiences. During one visit we sat next to what seemed at first glance like a normal pleasant American family in London on holiday. It was only until a nervous new waitress spilt a glass of lemonade on their little boys lap and the family went completely psycho demanding free food, clothing and souvenirs before storming out without paying, did we realise that this was definitely not the case. Now that really felt like I was on a hidden camera show! We did get a free milkshake for our 'trouble' however.

'Trouble', I thought. 'I'd happily watch that again and again if it meant free milkshakes upon every visit!'.

Disappointingly, it hasn't happened again, nor did Ashton Kutcher jump out at me to yell 'You've just been Punk'd!'. Maybe that's why we keep going back, not only because the food is amazing but for the chance of another free milkshake! Or maybe next time I'll just fake a dramatic scene to get free food instead! Did I mention I was unemployed?

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

New Year, New...Me?

In my mission to tackle my New Years Resolution head on (clearly what I am doing in the above photo), which was need I remind you, not to dwell on the past or worry about the future, it is a mere one week into 2013 and my mission is firmly taking shape. One last minute email later and a desperate phone call to the boyfriend persuading him that, yes indeed he needs a lodger for 3 weeks, not so spontaneous Charlotte was walking through the gates of a quaint little courtyard that soon led into a impressive library full to the brim of Blake Publishing books. A 3 week placement awaited me and needless to say, I was nervous.

Despite having only been at the independent publishing company for 2 days however, I've already learnt how to use a franking machine to send post (it's like your childhood Post Office Toy come to life!), how to 'sensitively' reject autobiographical proposals written by ex-page 3 models and nudists to name but a few, how to juggle making 5 cups of tea/coffee using a fancy cafetiere and how to sit in a pub for 2 hours on your lunch break whilst being fed free fish and chips!

Although daunting at first, interning is a great way to gain industry experience with the reassurance that if you hate it, your out of the doors sooner than you walked in but with a greater set of skills and knowledge to stick on your CV! The mere thought of chopping and changing within different companies to some, is terrifying, (i.e. me) and despite knocking on the door come Monday morning thinking, 'Oh my god, why am I doing this?', my time spent at Sugar and Closer Magazine and now John Blakes have all been valuable, positive experiences that provide you with, if not much else, great evidence of your motivation to work, learn new things and explore your options.

I shall keep you updated with my progress within the lovely little team of John Blakes. In the meantime, check out these snaps of me and my beautiful best friends on New Years Eve! I wore a somewhat bargain of an outfit including my Christmas sales bargain playsuit for £18 from Topshop and a Statement sequin collar necklace also in the sale at Topshop for £9! We interns have to rewards ourselves somehow eh?

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Oh Ho So Late

Better late than never eh? I thought I would share with you these delightful little chocolate muffins (courtesy of good ole Betty Crocker of course!) that me and my Jamie Oliver esque boyfriend made for New Years Eve as we were just that proud! As one of those people still desperately clinging onto Santa's festive red trousers as he climbs back up the chimney, I kept the Christmas spirit alive by making these Mince Pie inspired muffins taking decoration ideas from this recipe.

Now whilst my cooking skills are notoriously...interesting to say the least (mentioning no names scrambled egg disaster!), I thought it wise to stick to a ready-made cake mix and channel my baking creativity with hand-made decorations. So I purchased a Betty Crocker Chocolate Muffin mix in the hope that I couldn't possibly go wrong stirring some cake mix, egg and water. Could I? Despite faffing with water measurements, (milliletres, letres, pints, what's the difference I say?), the muffins were soon left rising beautifully in the oven as we got to work making holly shaped decorations out of coloured sugar dough. Without a template but with a little tantrum here and there (and that was mainly Will), we managed to create decorations that resembled (sort of) christmas holly and berries.

Once the muffins had cooled down, we ensured the icing was thick enough to drip slightly giving it that mince pie feel. Then we applied the holly decorations, sprinkled a little icing sugar dust on top of the muffins and wa laaa! Christmas inspired Chocolate Muffins that sat centre stage during my New Year's festivities! One friend even refused to believe that we hadn't gone to the supermarket and bought them, (although once she discovered the truth, I didn't actually spot her eating one!) People were happy to argue over them in the morning when hungover however!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

NOW That's What I Call 2012!

Bong. Bong. Bong.

The clock strikes midnight. 1st January 2013. Shock Horror...Charlotte isn't crying.

Rarely does a New Years Eve countdown pass by without a compulsory midnight breakdown complete with spluttering tears and bouts of confused laughter coming from my sorry direction. It has become quite the tradition (and a back-catalogue of embarassing photos) that come 12 O'Clock, as if out of nowhere, I burst into tears. Why you wonder? Well I know New Years is a time for celebration but it is the extent of build up to such a celebration that completely overwhelms me, that and the combination of bottles of wine and the knowledge that yet another eventful year has come to an end results in one over-emotional 22 year old. Thus, as the chimes of old Big Ben echo dramatically around the wooping and hollering group of 9 loved ones, friends are left puzzled as they ask, 'Are you crying Charlotte? Why aren't you crying?". And to tell you the truth, I was as much confused as they were. Not an inkling of water shed from my eyes. Not even endless montages of Mo Farah crossing the finishing line at the Olympics could set me off and ordinarily, the mere sight of the 'Mobot' is enough!

Undeniably, this is the first year where I have openly expressed my desire to see the back of it but equally, 2012 was probably my most monumental yet, complete with my proudest achievement to date, excitement for the Olympics and endless memories of antics in Amsterdam. Sadly, the combination of the disapointment of withdrawing from my course to train to be a Primary School Teacher and a battle with anxiety has tainted my fondness of the year gone by. So here instead, I am taking the first steps to fulfil my New Year's Resolution, not to dwell on the past or worry about the future and have comprised a selection of my favourite highlights of 2012, a year that will undoubtedly go down in History. And when people ask, 'What were you doing when London hosted the Olympics 2012?', I can say with great pride, all of this...

Sorry I just need to go and get a tissue. *Blubs*


"Charlotte Joanna Turner with First Class Honours."

I stumble onto the walkway, gripping my sweaty toes deep into my nude coloured heels. 'Please don't fall over, please don't fall over', I repeat over and over in my head. I'm walking up to collect my English Language and Linguistics degree at the prestigious Canterbury Cathedral knowing that three years of hard-work and a 10,000 word dissertation later, has got me to this point and yet all I can think about is not collapsing in a heap on the historic church floor infront of hundreds of glaring spectators. Despite making a pit-stop for emergency insoles after discovering that my new 'sensible' shoes were two sizes too big and even after warning the fellow graduate behind me to walk s-l-o-w-l-y so as not to catch me up, the Graduating Class of 2012 video on the University website has continued to reassure me, that despite my best efforts, I did indeed collect my certificate like a complete and utter duck!

New Additions

Say hello to Henley. This little chap is the newest adorable addition to an already brimming family of ever-growing little ones. Throughout 2012 I loved being kept updated through the wonders that is Facebook of the antics of my younger cousins. Whether that be news of Award-Winning Young Writers or Gangnam-Style dancing Super Heroes, they continue to keep me thoroughly entertained!


Probably the most I laughed all year. A trip to celebrate a friend's 21st Birthday and the trip that coined the phrase, 'YOLO!'. Complete with death rides on Tuk Tuk's, questionable Muffins, befriending foreign Americans, dodging bicycles, falling up stairs, falling down stairs, getting locked in toilets and being scarred by the sights of one man I don't wish to remember. The weekend bananza was...cultural to say the least but one I will never forget!


Crowding over one blitchy phone, strangers united in hope and pride watch anxiously as Mo Farah runs down the home straight. "Come on Mo, go Mo", people shout. Can it be possible that he becomes a double Olympic Champion?

And the crowd go wild!

We're in the queue waiting to board our plane home. It'd killed me to spend a week away from London forced to stream the Olympics on a dodgy, not very sufficient I-Phone app but if there was anywhere I'd have to be that wasn't London during this momentous time, it was Palma de Mallorca. I'd spent a glorious week with my boyfriend and parents within the family holiday resort of Puerto Pollensa, alternating between serious sunbathing and legging it upstairs to our apartment to catch highlights of the Olympics complete with Spanish commentary. Whilst I may not have been in my home country as Super Saturday kicked off, who else can say they were sipping Pina Coladas in 30 degree heat as they watched Jessica Ennis win Gold?

Fancy Dress

With the help of 21st Birthday parties, the Golden Jubilee and a Come Dine With Me special, 2012 saw the transformation of four normal girls from Essex into a multitude of characters. From old Grannies to Katy Perry, French Tourists to Greek Goddesses, there were enough wigs, face paint and fancy dress to rival the Village People!

Here's to a happy and healthy 2013!