How I failed as a young author

Incredible was the satisfaction I felt after I finished my first novel in polish. I was about, I don’t even know, 18? 19? I’ve always been overly dramatic, at the same time keen on social issues. Maybe these two characteristics don’t seem to be too connected at first sight, but they are. After my first boyfriend broke up with me over Skype after, well, two and a half years together, I knew it’s the time to let my emotions out like I’m Kelly Clarkson in Since U Been Gone. That was about the time I dropped out of school and started taking British tourists to bars and clubs for a living. All of these things together made me write this unusual… piece, that many wouldn’t even call a novel. I called it, in translation, The Hookup Culture. It was about being young and gay in Poland, dealing with a break-up by drinking five vodka sodas at once, and also making fun of Krakow’s tiny and little-townish gay scene.

The pride in me was indescribable. 19 year old me was sure he’s going to win some People’s Choice Award for that book, everyone will find it funny, exciting and groundbreaking. Unsurprisingly, that wasn’t a case.

Until that cold Autumn evening at my boyfriend’s flat in Tottenham of Krakow. He cooked dinner, I was being lazy as always. Then, the email notification popped up on my iPhone. This guy from Ha!Art, huge left-wing/gay/feminist/queer/millennial publishing company emailed me, praising my book. I didn’t manage to keep it cool and told literally everyone in the gay scene, and even some people from my family, that I’m going to become a professionally published author, have my work on the shelves of high street bookshops and god knows what else. And that almost happened. They published a chapter of my book on their website(HERE, polish) and invited me for a meeting to talk about the release.

And then they stopped sending me updates. Complete silence. People kept asking about the release date, which wasn’t even a thing anymore. That was such a disappointment. Year or two later, already in England, I knew that I want to keep on writing. (In English of course, since I decided to stay.) At least that experience, however embarrassing, taught me to write for myself, and if someone else likes it one day – great!

London was such a surreal time for me. It almost felt like a girl who used to milk cows all her life was invited to Elton John’s Oscar Party. Even crossing the street felt amazing. I saw normal people on the street wearing things, in Poland only celebrities could afford. And that Hot Dog in Harrods… 20 pounds for a Hot Dog!

One time on Oxford Street, me and my best friend had noticed a guy being chased by Selfridges’ security. He clearly stole something from the ground floor, like jewelry or perfume. My friend said then: “Look at his Eastern European outfit”. I started thinking about us from that perspective. How others see us, think of us. With our Frappucinos from Starbucks, Tom Ford sunglasses, McQueen shoes, trying to be someone we were clearly not. Or at least I was not.

That’s why I started this thing, this “novel”, with all the observations and experiences from London. Parties, sex, drugs, fashion, fake people… After I finished it, I sent it to agents and publishers. I got, like, two emails back from publishers, exchanged like ten emails with one of them, but then thought it’s all not worth the effort. It’s just some short collection of thoughts and events that happened to me at 21. That’s why I decided to put it up on Amazon, firstly as an ebook, now also as a paperback. It’s called Cheap Eastern European Boys and you can buy it by clicking HERE:ebook or HERE: paperback.

 

A closer look at the style of Amy Winehouse

“I don’t think I’m going to be at all famous. I don’t think I could handle it. I’d probably go mad, d’you know I mean? I would go mad.”  Said Amy Winehouse in one of her early interviews. Yesterday would have been her 35th birthday.

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Music stars of numerous genres often appear in fashion magazines. Their outfits are analyzed from head to toe, with almost every single public appearance being a collaboration with a particular designer. The case of Amy Winehouse was different for several reasons. It’s obvious that the number of scandals, tabloid headlines, and digital trash that was thrown all over her was too big for anyone to care about anything else. The tragic day-by-day drama of a girl that loved too much overshadowed not only music but other aspects of that unique career as well.

Brought up in a simple household in North London, Amy remained humble til the end, despite the fortune that happened to credit her bank accounts later on. It didn’t really change her behaviour or style. Charmingly outspoken Jewish jazz princess always loved her dreamy vintage dresses, pencil skirts, big belts, polo shirts and… “fuck me pumps”, obviously.

“I just love beautiful girls” she once said, asked about her choices when it comes to personal style. Known for hair bigger than my future, often accompanied by a colorful hairband, and amount of black eyeliner and mascara that would last you a year without a problem. Her clothing style – most times described as “pin-up” or just “vintage”, without any deeper interpretation. It’s obvious Amy loved this whole Americana, pin-up girl game, but we need to remember – she was a British girl, oh yeah, she was! Winehouse loved her tacky animal prints from time to time, extra large golden earrings, cropped jackets. I can picture her outside some pub in Stoke Newington in a leopard jacket and red denim skirt. Smoking a Marlboro Red of course.

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Amy Winehouse performing at the Brit Awards, picture from Vogue.co.uk

She didn’t seem to care about the label, but the overall presentation and final effect. She was a perfect curator of her personal style. In 2010 Winehouse collaborated with Fred Perry and created her very own fashion line. Sometimes seen on stage in a gorgeous black Dolce and Gabbana retro dress, sometimes in just a cigarette fit jeans and a Fred Perry polo shirt – Amy created a style that later became an inspiration for other artists like Duffy or Lana Del Rey.

Few years after her death, The Jewish Museum of London organized an exhibition of Amy’s belongings – from books to clothes. The polka-dot chiffon dress from Back to Black album cover wasn’t there, as it got sold for over 40 grand on an auction… But other Amy-looking polka dot dresses were. Together with some gorgeous Fendi heels(pumps, as she would often say) and leopard print denim shorts.

Happy birthday Amy!

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Amy Winehouse wearing Dolce And Gabbana during her Grammy Awards 2008 performance in London. Picture from Vogue.co.uk

Remembering Lee: few words about Alexander McQueen then and now.

“You dumb bitch”, I thought while talking to this white, privileged middle class born girl. I met her at one of the London Fashion Week afterparties. After going totally crazy and trying something she’s never done before (drinking beer, like, ugh, working class) she left her 6’5 tall boyfriend inside the pub alone with some Swiss models and went outside with me for a cigarette and a chat. “You know what, Thomas” she started, “I totally love TK Maxx. Once I found a blazer that looked totally like Balmain… I love Balmain…”. I had a quick look at her perfectly clean Gucci Ace Sneakers, brighter than my future, then at Zara uniform trainers I was wearing. “Yeah, I know what you mean…” I answered and slowly exhaled the smoke in the direction of her face.

I really wanted to buy my first designer pair of shoes, but I simply couldn’t afford it. I’m also not good at saving money – sorry, but I’m a boy who goes to Asda after work to buy a £40 champagne just because the work was tiring… With a price tag of good few hundred British pounds I knew I had to come up with some idea. I decided to quit my job then, as I wanted to get extra money for all the earned and unused holidays, in order to be able to purchase… £400 trainers.

Well. That job was shit anyway.

Alexander McQueen is a brand founded by Lee McQueen, Stratford boy with Scottish roots, accepted into Central St. Martins thanks to his unbelievable skills in cutting clothes. Son of a taxi driver, boy who dropped out of school to work as a tailor in Mayfair, later got accepted into one of the most prestigious fashion schools in the world, became the artistic director of Givenchy and after leaving above mentioned house, created one of the most relevant modern fashion brands, owned by “The Gucci Group”, Kering.

One of the tutors at St. Martins, for the interview used in documentary “McQueen and I”, admitted not treating McQueen seriously at the time. No wonder, guy was the same age as students of the school. He got offered a place though, and started his new journey (hate that word) as a MA student of fashion design shortly after.

His first fashion shows were brilliant in their own rebellious and chaotic way. Often organised in old Warehouses or once, even in the actual church, left everyone shocked or even disgusted. Models with their boobs hanging out, sanitary towels, blood – a bit of hardcore porn, a bit of high culture…

Alexander McQueen was never a brand created just to make money. Lee’s collections, with time becoming more and more spectacular and theatrical, were always an honest representation of designer’s feelings, personal demons or views on certain things. With brand getting more recognition (and financial freedom), as much as fashion shows becoming more expensive, McQueen’s label got associated with its own permanent aesthetic – dark British romanticism.

After designer’s tragic death in February 2010, just few days before his own mother’s funeral, Sarah Burton who had worked with McQueen over the years, became brand’s new creative director. Keeping the influences more or less where they were and should stay. Post-McQueen McQueen includes a lot of royal embroidery, sharp tailoring, death symbolism and melancholic references. All of that served with a decent dose of punk energy.

Plato’s Atlantis, which is the name of last collection Lee McQueen designed, is often described as his absolute best. Armadillo shoes that Lady Gaga wore in her Bad Romance video, together with bell dress are two of many pieces that will stay with us forever.

McQueen once said that he’d like to be remembered as the one who started 21st century in fashion. In my opinion though, with his disappearance, the artistic, wild and rebellious part of the game also faded away.

God save the Queen

God save McQueen

My favourite London clubs and bars: Birthdays

From the beginning I knew one day I’ll just get this overwhelming feeling, stand up while Lana Del Rey’s song is playing, drop my glass of red dry Tesco Finest on the Ikea carpet and whisper to myself: oh baby, oh baby, I’m in love, then start writing a post.

I’m not in love, thank god. It’s just a dramatic intro.

I love discovering new places, and even though I currently live in Glasgow, I don’t know much about the city and its unexplored corners… And I want to be honest with you guys, just like 18 year old boy is honest about his first chlamydia with a nurse at the sexual clinic in Archway. That’s why today I’d like to present you with one of my favourite London bars. Because I’m a drinker first, and a human being second. And also because half of my time in the capital I had spent out, living my 2007 Paris Hilton Wannabe life, and I feel like I have a responsibility to educate…

In my first post I have mentioned some misconceptions polish people have about London, and United Kingdom in general. Not gonna lie babes, I thought I’m gonna get outta National Express in vintage Prada sunglasses and just naturally receive all of them invitations to Kensington and Chelsea clubs, I’m gonna twerk with Toff while “Good Time” by Paris Hilton is playing.

But that wasn’t the case. You walk down the Westminster Bridge and motherfucking Evening Standard that someone dropped on the pavement hits you straight in your face. Shortly after you get asked by Japanese tourists to take a series of pictures of them with London Eye in the background. On the bus you sit between a guy who would marry his Kebab if that was legal and someone who smells like vodka from 5 New Year Eves ago that someone forgot about.

After surviving the day, long shift, hour or two on the bus/tube to wherever-in-zone-ten-you-live, you go on social media and connect with your friends. Most of them are skint, lazy, busy consuming their new lover’s body parts or writing an essay on how e-learning influences small businesses. But don’t give up, you warrior! There will always be one who’s getting over a breakup and needs to lose any leftovers of self respect on the dance floor in Heaven on Monday night, or a mate that just bought new Balenciagas and needs someone to take pictures. And what’s better for that than a night out? Let’s go places together and pretend we can afford that!

Birthdays

Dalston, East London. A place where you are likely to see young children stealing sandwiches from Tesco, hear gunshots, and just one moment later – notice extravagant Millennials wearing Alexander McQueen, vintage Burberry and, of course, Champion. Don’t want to be a hypocrite, I bought many things in this designer second hand they have there(Storm in a Tea Cup it is called) in my time, just struggle to cope with wealthy and bored taking over literally every single poor neighbourhood in the country.

The mechanism is simple. Certain people need certain places in areas they live in. Together with hordes of alternative people coming in, new places open. Dalston Superstore is a perfect example of an overhyped, claustrophobic shithole that’s being a response to what local community wants.

It’s a place where youthful crowd drinks Espresso Martinis, talks bullshit like: have you seen that collaboration between Gosha Rubchinskiy and Palace? or I’m thinking about squatting, to save money and go travelling, to like, I don’t know, Kosovo? What do you think?

Not my vibes. But just a two minute walk down the road, there’s a place called Birthdays, which probably is my favourite London bar. Funny enough, every single time I was there, at some point of the night I’m a slave 4 U by the one and only queen Britney Spears came on. It’s a place to be, then!

First time I ended up there, me and my friend met this amazing Italian bartender, probably the friendliest and most fun to be around bartender I have ever met. And she does great cocktails too, even though she has no clue how to make them… Later that night, my friend Ruby convinced a group of STRANGERS they should buy us alcohol and we will let them make an after party in our flat. Struggle was real.

That place reminds me of the best nights: handsome lads smoking outside, great music, my embarrassing conversations with staff. I organised my leaving party there, and I can only say one thing. When you wake up and your bank balance says £2.14 – it means something. I can’t think of a single person that wouldn’t want to go Birthdays and just for once – sit down comfortably without looking for a free seat for forty five minutes.

What’s with this whole difficult partying culture? Especially in London, people are going out to particular clubs just for the sake of being there among everyone else. Spending valuable time with people you sleep with for money like, friends, even workmates, stopped being relevant, or at least disappeared from the front row of priorities.

After an afternoon filled with posting stuff about how epic tonight is going to be, we then spend fifteen minutes in the queue trying to buy drinks, twenty trying to use a toilet, forty waiting for people to go the fuck home so we can have our sits back after a fag break… fabric, Heaven, G-A-Y Bar, Dalston Superstore, Friday, Saturday… it’s all like Madonna – a never ending story.

See you in Birthdays! No matter if you’re a fan of cocktails or just want a cheap lager, if you want to sit down and talk about Drag Race and your manager being a dick or dance in the club downstairs – we’ll have fun there.

birthdaysdalston.com