The Amsterdam Journals - Final

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

As my ankles swing and kick at my now almost defunct carry case, I realise why I've not seen a single lady in heels other than the reflection of my own suede pointed toes in puddles.
Amsterdam, I notice all too late into my trip, is not the place for anything other than a good pair of New Balance's with your jeans rolled up an inch above. My red jump suit feels a little sad and my feet a little sore, but my sartorial efforts are as ever an effort that I have grown to love begrudgingly.

I clack through the front doors of Morgan and Mees in West Amsterdam, check into the first room on the first floor and collapse in a heap in the middle of the bed.
For the first time since I've been here, I am alone, properly.
Not alone in Max's house, not alone a canal away from brunch with Raya or drinks with Kelvin and Peter but completely and ineffably alone for the next twenty four hours.
It creeps around me for a while as I open the doors onto the balcony, unsure whether to settle into lonely or rested.
The internal barometer ticks onto rested, wavering over excited and I kick my shoes off and get stuck in.
The evening grows dark and cold quickly, so I shut the balcony doors and dance around my room to 'Back To Me - Moonchild' and slide onto the bathroom tiles to disrobe and get ready to take myself on a date.
Oh sweet, sweet hotel bathrooms, how I love you so- but none more so than this one.
Expensive smelling conditioners are nailed to the tiled wet room, muted corrugated glass contorting shapes of light over my knees and collarbones as I step in and I slip into a long awaited silence of clean. It's one I'd always imagined to have in my own home one day.
It is a push to leave my room for the evening, but the restaurant downstairs with its gentle wafts of pasta and wine and the hungry din of metal pans in an open kitchen are enough to pull me back through the glass key doors and down for dinner.

During dinner, over looking the empty seat in front of me, its space filled with 'If You Feel Too Much', my notebook and a bottle of house red, I'm forced to remember what's brought me here in the first place.
A few days prior to booking my flight and arranging my adventure I was left somewhat startled by the end of something that had just started. C'est la vie, c'est la god damn my bloody vie because I am bruised bitter and bored of this notion now. I imagined by this point I'd be hapless and ruined in my own self pity but as I flit my glances from the empty to seat to the impossibly perfect date setting around me I feel unusually free. I don't know whether it's the fit waiter that had just served me my spaghetti vongole (which was delicious) or the fact that instead of being under my duvet back in London crying my eyes out I was making my way in a beautiful city, staying in a beautiful hotel, writing everyday like I'd always hoped I would be. I'd come out on top. I was absolutely, one hundred and fifty five million percent- living the dream, alone.
And okay.
And being served by a fit waiter.
I could hardly wait to get back upstairs, making a quick side tour to the bar for another glass of wine, I unfolded the spare duvet from the cupboard and made a den on my balcony overlooking the canals.
Four hours later I'd written just over 13,000 words, drunk three more glasses of wine, a cup of orange and jasmine tea and eaten six pieces of shortbread.

In the morning I reluctantly packed my things, said goodbye to the room that I know I will model my one day apartment around and popped for breakfast.
I love cheese. I love ham. I really, really like freshly squeezed orange juice. They nailed it.
The restaurant looked somewhat different to how I'd remembered it from the night before, quiet and bright, each painting showing faces I'd not registered previously. I felt calm, I felt full, I felt home.
I can't recommend Morgan and Mees enough. An utter sophisticated beauty without the pretence. Truly, quite perfect.

I recorded a piece called 'I Fell In Love When We Fell Out' at 2:36am whilst there, which you can listen to here -

Finding Magic In My Skin

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

How weird is skin?
This weird casing that keeps all our stuff together.
It's so magic.
There's this stuff on our body that protects us from falling out all over the place. Mental!
It's absolutely wonderful. What a miracle we've been bestowed!
So why do we spend so much time prodding it with such disdain? Pulling bits back, pinning this here and trying to shrink things between fingers there.
I know it's more the stuff inside of it, the numerous blocks of butter and lard we've watched TV shows stack on a table to show us what we're prodding and hating and crying over.
I don't know about you, but I don't think there's much magic behind butter, or lard, but there's still magic in knowing that we are this solid tangible thing kept together by skin.
I rarely see that magic, I don't feel it very often nor do I tend to think I deserve to.
That other girls and their skin and butter (or apparent lack of) deserve to celebrate that magic more than me. 
A fool that I am, a fool that we all are for joining together on this opinion.
Learned fools and tricked fools, we were smart and in love until bigger greater fools told us there was a more perfect vision.
We saw this idea and bent it into our own until we lost love and lost knowledge and became miserable.
I remember being eight years old and letting the idea that 'some people are much more thin and pretty than me, it's not fair. That's why I don't fit in.' whirr around my brain for hours every time I caught a glimpse of myself. 
I had this thought all throughout the summer and know that at a party next week I'll probably feel the same. I hate that I even know that language. It's not constructive, it's not conducive to anything other than feeling depressed in the only magical thing I've been given as a certain- my body!

A boy some weeks or months ago (the fact that I can't remember when is indicative now of the irrelevance) told me my body drove him insane. Tiny sparks flew around my conscious thoughts and I felt beautiful. I left the next day and forgot how to feel that way again, it didn't matter how often I looked at myself, I couldn't feel what he had told me. 
I saw this as an opportunity to prove to myself I could make myself feel that adoration or approval. That my own body could drive me crazy with magic.
So I blocked the thought. Every time I ran my fingers over my thighs I'd snap them back, for every negative thought I'd replace it with one that screamed how able I am.
For every hour I'd usually spend googling new diets or juices, I used to read a book. 
In the space of two weeks I got through six books and felt marvellous.
I had a lady, Dunja, who is not only the most exquisite photographer but also the first person to ever make me look at myself and feel good, take some photos of me in my skin in my bestfriends house.
So even if I looked at them a week later or in twenty years time, one day through different eyes I could realise how magic it was.
From being the most self conscious body hating fiend, to sharing these photographs with you - is a breakthrough and one I wholly recommend you allow yourself to experience for yourself.
It's not about finding thin or finding curves, it's about finding happiness and that's rooted long before and far deeper than either of those things.
That's magic.

All underwear: Freya Lingerie 
Kimono: Vintage
Shirt: Greg's, probably TopMan.

The Amsterdam Journals - Finding peace In Lessons and Loss

Friday, 25 September 2015

(Max's writing desk at midday, these thoughts written here.)

In life we sometimes win or we sometimes learn.
The truth, in its ardent and dispiriting address, is that we very rarely win.
Understanding this as a meditation ironically became my biggest accomplishment, my most cherished win, but to see it I've had to spend a lot of time flailing and falling and learning.

Learning is often in the mask of loss, in the last few years it has felt like I've lost a lot.
I allowed acts of losing to render me as someone who denominated themselves as an all year loser.
I trudged through the damp and pocketed these clouds of winter wind that felt like they could burst into an aggressive flood that I'd be trapped in forever. 
They've been awful, truly difficult - I allowed the puppet of loss to pull my own strings and lead my hands into temptation, my head into destruction and my heart into self-loathing.

But for the first time in my life, I have allowed myself the opportunity to rip off the mask of loss and see lesson.
It's a difficult structure, this haphazard scaffold you place against the unsure, often feeling ugly and clunky and too high here and lacking width there, but all of the pieces tessellate eventually.
They fit, they mould, they create a utility for leaning and protection. 

It's still mastering in size as I grow, still wobbling even when I see peace, but most importantly I have made the decision to begin the build and know its foundations will remain until I'm ready to advance them further. 
This not a declaration of readiness as a whole, but a wink and salute to welcoming the start line.
Whatever, wherever, whoever - peace is a decision and one you can't make until you've accepted learning and appreciated it just as much as you would winning. 
It's as difficult as it feels profound, in the times I've needed peace I've not felt worth of attaining it, strong enough to hold it.
There have been years and will be more where I don't believe it exists. 
Pain has a comfort that peace cannot see and that's why the latter is brave.

But here in Amsterdam I got to look it in the eyes, study its face and introduce myself as the foreign stranger that I am.
We may not be cosy confidants just yet, merely passers by who lusted for each other, but the joy in knowing that we've been acquainted excites me enough to push out an invitation for us to meet again.
It is here I am letting learning throw me into adventure and in turn discovering teachings that haven't been bred from pain. 

The Amsterdam Journals - Volkshotel

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

So, this is it.
The line of my life where instead of steadily crying into an expensive spinach and lemon juice in Soho, googling how to get those fun concentration meds prescribed and querying why I'm not loved up in Florence writing poetry and supping Prosecco like it's squash - I've booked a flight to Amsterdam alone to curve it around with meditation, running, writing and probably crying into an expensive spinach and lemon flavoured juice along a canal.

My friend Max, who is legitimately the male version of me 
(for all the worst bits, his best bits are nothing like me which is why I adore him and he's not an idiot) has just moved out here for university and I have every intention of using and abusing his hospitality as well as giving him a bloody good cuddle over a large glass of red wine.
His lady was in town the night I arrived, so I booked into Volkshotel for a shelter of safety and to weigh out my first ounce of inspiration.
I have never truly understood the importance of travel or of running away and the notion of 'finding myself' on a distance shore has always induced a strange sort of acid reflux.
Running manically to my gate at Gatwick, sitting still and calm next to a wonderful Dutch lady called Jana on row 23 and smoothing over my bed covers for the night all started to crack open how much I am here to learn.

I settle down beneath a bunker of trinkets, bowling pins and gramophones, typewriters and foreign books in the downstairs bar, swill my wine from clockwise to anti and marvel at how freeing anonymity is but realise how alone I am. 
It's a thought that starts and stops for much shorter than I thought it might.
The staff here are intrusively good looking - their bone structure and milky eyes dancing into my own less milky gaze every ten or so minutes, perfect and clean and cool, checking I'm okay.
I tell them I'd be less okay if they weren't so attentive and sweet.
It's lovely to feel safe, particularly, it's lovely to feel safe here.
The hotel is like an architectural lovechild of a Shoreditch basement bar and a playhouse you'd have dreamt up as a child.
Everything demands to be touched or sniffed at, instagrammed, penned about.
It's these details, the candles at breakfast and the in-house illustrations, the hanging chairs and gaudy signs that spring me up much earlier than usual to find a corner downstairs and scribble my first sightings of clarity into my notebook.

No better introduction could've been wished, a truly perfect first night.
'Volkshotel is a place for dandies and poets, dishwashers, nightbloomers and artists.' it states on their website, I would struggle to find words more fitting.
Good morning Amsterdam, please let you continue to be this wonderful.

Creative Procrastination is good for you

Thursday, 13 August 2015

The pain of creativity is something I spend countless hours mustering courage to fathom.
A friend of mine seldom speaks of his work kindly both during and post creation, he goes through an internal struggle to piece each part together and then when it all fits his eyes cringe to watch it.
I asked him why he does it, why after the seemingly tumultuous process he then bends to make more time to fulfil another idea that will no doubt put him through the paces of that familiar stress.
He laughs without an answer and we nod on the phone giggling at how stupid we must seem.
His work is always beautiful, whether it be comedic or sentimental, it's always beautiful.
I don't know if his modesty blocks his perception or if he truly doesn't see it- but he still seems compelled to return to it week in week out.

I understand it with great compassion both because I observe a huge chunk of my friends go through the same cycle constantly and because I find myself peddling in it too.
I've always said I love writing but I curse it more often than I praise it, lying on the sofa mid afternoon forcing myself to let my fingers tickle the keyboard uninspired and unsure.
I feel angry at writing, unsettled by language, furious that I can't sing or paint or film - which is silly as I'm sure I'd only feel the same frustration if I could.

It's this kind of angst that sometimes makes me feel untalented but what it should be telling me is that I've not yet earned the right to unlock it all yet.
I'm pulling out saplings that haven't had time to understand their purpose and instruction.

As unstable and as unreliable as a method could be, I've stopped forcing myself to make, which means for now it's not my living. That' s okay. It doesn't feel oaky, it feels lazy, but it is more than perfectly okay.

We are often foolish in that we let our obsession with creation, following the force of sizzling anxiety and adrenaline to put the intangible into a product, take over the bare materials we need to do it well: living. Taking stock and thinking. Reading, watching, crying, eating.
Our brains don't just stop because we're not wrist deep in paint or late night loomed in stanzas.
They're preparing for the next project.
They're recuperating, tidying tiny pieces into their boxes to make enough room to lay out the new ones.

Stop watching the blue line on an empty document dance, put the lens cap back on, let something real bother you.
Let the rain piss you off and Loose Women irritate you, let a boy make you dizzy and your mother feel warm.
Read a book you should've studied or a film you never quite understood.
Hell, go out until three in the morning until life throws something at you that makes you feel something mad.

You'll create when it's right, push yourself when you feel, but don't forget it's okay not to live it all the time.
Stop sprinting for the exhibition, you'll run straight past it. 

A Trip To Paris With The Marriott

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

We arrive in Paris and it's hot. Unusually so.
So much so that everyone we meet errs on telling us that our sweaty upper lips are running with beads of luck. 
I like Paris, the architecture has a charm I think London might have once been on the cusp of attaining but just missed. 
I don't however usually feel all that safe.

My senses are knocked as we're thrown into the back of rickety looking  2CV's and get pushed into the middle of the chaotic chords of traffic with no more than a wary metal frame to separate us. 
The fear doesn't last long as it's almost impossible to allow it, our driver Romain is comfortably sweet with a brilliant british nod to sense of humour and we drive avoiding shade for an hour or so.He takes us past recognised landmarks and through a few I've never seen.

We stop at the top of Montmartre outside Sacré-Cœur and I get my first chance to try my secondary
school French with Emma Pelloux, a beautiful Parisian blogger who scoops me under her wing and recites stories of where she grew up across the view. 
The afternoon beats on and we take refuge at Renaissance Le Parc Trocadero and fill our plates with a buffet of incredible food, gazpacho in glass bubbles and serano ham wrapped in newspapers, the grounds of the hotel are like a tiny oasis that you'd never imagine to stumble upon in the middle of the bustle. 
Blissed out and contented but not for too long as we run straight over filled to the brim to the Grand Palais to gorge on a different sort of treat- Jean Paul Gaultier.
I felt so immersed, so relaxed, so ready to take on my own Paris adventure and pushed ahead from the group to reinvent myself as a chic arty local (far from the sticky, sweaty tourist I looked) and glided around the halls.
The evening in short was perhaps the happiest I'd felt all year.
We checked into the Renaissance L'arc De Triomphe, cooled down and headed to the roof terrace for champagne and dinner cooked by this insatiably hot chef who'd won the Euro version of Master Chef.
The champagne continued, a confident Charly Cox paraded, I waved goodbye to the english language and exercised whatever drunken french I could muster. 
We went on a magical after dark tour of the city that I flinched at people watching through a screen, my camera stayed firmly in my bag and I wandered through it all with a drink in hand knowing I'd possibly never get to see anything this special again. 

Ending up in Paris' version of Mahiki I was sceptical, but we celebrated on at new friendships and a successfully organised day and as the others started to flit back to their beautiful hotel rooms I stayed out with one lovely french man to be greeted with Kool and The Gang performing a set.
Kool and the god damn GANG!!!!!
I danced, I danced, I danced, until he reminded me I had a 7:30am Eurostar to catch and he walked me home.
We stopped in the middle of the street, the chaos from earlier asleep, to stand in the rain. 
He kissed me opposite L'Arc De Triomphe and I officially became whatever sophisticated Parisian woman I'd hoped I would before I arrived. 
It should merely be a dream, but for some strange reason, reality granted me a very special few days.
Thank you Marriott, for changing my perceptions of Paris and showing me the best side of travel.

Not Coming Out

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Infatuated by falling in love, I am often the carrier and crisis of my own romantic adventures and tragedies.
From my first heartbroken nosebleed, to the wine washed poetry that proceeds it proudly, the excitement and relativity I feel when getting to know and later idolising a human being is one of which I have the most spiritual space and time for. 
Locking eyes from across a bar or four am instant messages, there is a frightening honesty entwined within the face value and personal discovery of fancying another person that can be easily misconstrued for lust or hormonal confusion. I enjoy it, I relish it, I continue to seek it out in whichever thorny path I must trudge to see it- regardless of gender.

In the past I have been poked at for making connections very easily (something I don't think should be ridiculed) that I treat whoever is interested as my new found soulmate.
Boys whose lips I've kissed and girls whose hands I've held, always have my underlying intentions queried. 'Does this action mean that? Are you sure you should be doing it?'
Why not? Is my simple justification.

We are who we are because of the people we meet and those who we choose to learn from, so why should we limit ourselves from such a beautiful and innate education with a parameter that doesn't have to exist in the crass and conflicting barrier that gender is often negatively presented? You might love a man you might love a woman you might not know whom you love more - who am I to demand your reasoning? Why must we think a resolute understanding is the treasure under the X? The treasure is the discovery writhing around sure or not sure on top of the sand.

As a citizen of a sympathetic and awakened generation - it excites me that I can write this unscathed and fearless of judgement. How lucky I am to argue to my peers against my predecessors that gender holds no limit or anxiety against my fundamental right and need to show love. 

A label and a statement I feel is unnecessary, why when an assumption over my 'stance' will have been cast a thousand times by those who know and care for me and those who have just shaken my hand that has never effected nor bothered me be something I have to justify? To suggest is wrong? To confirm is correct? 

My love is for those who I wish to learn from, those who I can help and those who want to grow together with me. 
Man or woman, compatible energy is not born from their gender but from a shared desire to be. 

Should we now in an ever flourishing and understanding world still have to feel the pressures of coming out? The anxiety of being unsure? 
It seems ludicrous to me, violent to me, backwards to me. 
So this is me not coming out, this is me declaring my personal future as my own private adventure and search for a fulfilment much deeper than massaging societies norms for the sake of conformity. 
I love love, not one sole gender. 

St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel - Kings Cross.

Monday, 29 June 2015

It is a Monday afternoon like no other.
June has finally arrived, sun speckled spots float through the glass onto my face and I cry. 
I stand, shaking with awestruck disbelief at the bedroom before me, turning on my heels to peer at the bathroom once more and try as I might I can't collect enough reasoning for what good things I must have done in a past life to be here in this moment. 
'I saved twelve babies from a burning building,' I settle.
Surely, that must be it.
If only for a moment I manage to harness an iota of composure, after flattening down my nightdress onto my bed for the evening and taking a quick shower, I run down the medieval halls to begin my first sampling of the Renaissance Global Day of Discovery. 
The Booking Office is filled with a sophisticated bustle, crisp white shirts and patterned ties parted straight down the middle by a hoard of London and Parisian bloggers.
As plates fly off waitresses hands, confit pork and artisan burgers take centre stage for all of several brief minutes until they are devoured lens first by excited mouths who wash them down with an expensive trickle of champagne cocktails. 
I was always so certain of what it was that I'd order unrestricted as my last meal but I now know several readjustments will have to be made - I want Booking Office chicken salad and I want twelve servings.
We eat, we drink, we jump into a cab and head straight to Carousel in north London to catch a secret SoFar Sounds gig in the basement. 
Thrown into a whirlwind of adventure in my own city, there is a smile on my face that had been lacking for so long - no unsolicited social anxiety, no '...or I could just jump back into bed',  simply a fever and excitement that lacked such obvious parameter I could only see this feeling for days. 
I giggle with my friend Olivia, Snapchatting arrows and hearts around a beautiful bassist, fifth summer-cup cocktail in hand. 
Arriving back to my new home for the night, we kiss-hug goodbye's until the early morning and I call Adrian to come and check out the strange fairytale I've fallen into. 
"You really are a Baroness now..." He splutters at 2:30am, as I slide around the bath bigger than my own bed at home. 
The St.Pancras Renaissance Hotel is that of my wildest fantasy. 
I want to get married here. I want to have parties here. 
I want to move in and write novels here. 
Instead, all I have time for on this trip is to read a good book in the early morning glow and pack my bags for a 7:30am Eurostar that is conveniently, just underneath us.
The adventure continues on tomorrow's blog post... 

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